The Honest Skeptic, On Faith
Skeptic: Here is my one big objection to your religion: Faith is the opposite of real knowledge. It is the enemy of skepticism. As a skeptic, I doubt everything and I explore and I search out…but a person of faith simply says, « I believe it » and that settles it. If we followed this process in the sciences, we would have no light, electricity, or nuclear power, etc.
Apologist: Are you talking about blind faith or all faith?
Skeptic: All faith, I suppose.
Apologist: Think carefully about that. I think you mean to make a distinction.
Skeptic: I suppose blind faith is worse, but all faith cuts discussion and skepticism short.
Apologist: Do you « believe » in the periodic table?
Skeptic: Of course. It was scientifically proven. Many experiments were made, and they were re-made and cross-checked.
Apologist: Have you done any of these experiments?
Skeptic: Actually, yes. In High School I did a few of them.
Apologist: Have you done all of them?
Skeptic: No, but others have, and they wrote about their experiments.
Apologist: Have you read the reports they wrote?
Skeptic: No, but other people read these reports, and summarized them. I suppose others read those people, and wrote text books. Then my teacher read the text books and taught me. A few experiments were used to substantiate the whole theory.
Apologist: And you believe it?
Skeptic: Of course I do! Everybody does! It is grounded on the information gathered by really professional people.
Apologist: So you have faith in these people?
Skeptic: I suppose. But it is not a blind faith. These people are known, their work is cross-checked. When it is disproven, people make their findings known. There is no heirarchy, saying what does and does not go in science – the facts always rule the day.
Skeptic: Well, at least that is the theory (laughs).
Apologist: So you see now my distinction between blind faith and tested faith?
Skeptic: I suppose I did make that distinction, didn’t I?
Apologist: Do you think it is a bad thing for the rank-and-file of the scientific students to have a fairly « blind » faith in the periodic table?
Skeptic: Well, a lot of very reputable people have tested that out. So sure – I suppose that it makes sense that every Joe-Blow college student doesn’t try to go back and re-invent the wheel. At some point, you need to just trust the findings of somebody else.
Apologist: Exactly. Exactly. You need to trust somebody at some point, or you will never know anything. I know about Australia, Antarctica, the Moon, and the ocean floor – places I will probably never go – simply because I trust people. Einstein was one of the most important scientists of our time – but he never did any experiments himself. He simply trusted the findings of others, and thought really hard about them. He was a man of faith in more ways than one, I suppose! Here is a real powerful thought from Augustine, who also struggled with the faith aspect of Christianity young in life: if you did not trust anybody for anything, if you had to test everything yourself, if you never took anybody’s word for it, if you assumed that if it could not be proved it was not true – if this was your method, you would be a bastard.
Skeptic: Excuse me?
Apologist: Lol. Sorry – just seeing if you were still awake! But let me ask you…no, let me use myself. I have always believed that I am the legitimate son of my father. If I stopped to think of it, so much of my life has been built upon this one fundamental fact. But what evidence is there? I have never done genetic testing, and if I did, I have heard these tests are not 100% accurate. What can I do to prove this? There is only one place this evidence can come from: my mother. She is the only person who knows who my real father is. My knowledge of my history, my ancestry, my genes – my very name – all that rests on the word of my mother.
Skeptic: But you trust her?
Apologist: Yes, definitely. Think carefully: if I had to assume that anything I could not prove did not exist, I would have to assume that I am a bastard, or else I would have to take genetic testing. Of course all of this is uneccessary if I just trust my mother.
Skeptic: I suppose it’s all about that – who you trust.
Apologist: Exactly. The writers of the New Testament were very well aware of this. They said, « we have seen this. We have touched this. We have heard this. » (1 John 1:1) At one point they said, ‘The person who saw this and testified to it is true.’ (John 19:35). They were adamant that their stories were not stories invented or cleverly devised, but actual eye-witness accounts (2 Peter 1:16). On several occasions, they urged their readers to check the evidence for themselves – to go and ask, for example, one of the many people healed by Jesus, or raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:6). Christianity has always held up the example of « Doubting Thomas » as a good example of a skeptic who was only convinced with the facts. Christianity is willing to supply those facts, if you are willing to dig.
Skeptic: Can I put it in a test-tube? Can I look at it myself, can I touch it?
Apologist: You cannot put your own mother in a test tube! The rules of historical investigation are different from the rules of chemistry. I think it would be quite silly to say that the rules of chemistry should be applied to all of life, and that nothing which could be proven by these rules did not exist – but then there are a lot of people who believe just that. To be really consistent, though, these people would have to be equally skeptical about Napoleon or the Vikings as they are about Christ.
Skeptic: No, it’s different. We have writings and letters directly from Napoleon and people who knew him.
Apologist: Yes. And we have real accounts of Jesus of Nazareth. No serious historian doubts that he existed. Those who spend serious time researching have made a very good case for his birth in fulfillment of prophecy, his healing and miracle-working powers. There is even good proof of his resurrection, so long as one does not assume from the beginning such things are impossible.
Skeptic: Where would I find such information?
Apologist: Josh McDowell’s « Evidence that demands a verdict » is the logical place to start. But before we move on – let me just summarize: so you agree that faith is not the enemy of science?
Skeptic: I suppose true skepticism, investigation and, yes, science, is built in large part upon trusting the right people. So yeah – I guess that’s what I will do. Check the information, to see what the really credible sources say about Jesus.
Apologist: Let me know what you find out!