Friday, May 6, 2011

Warranted Belief

"If Christ was never resurrected from the grave, He was not who He said He was, we are still in our sins, and our faith is worthless. Paul even says that of all men, we would be the most pitied – meaning that we would be the biggest losers of all. Why does he say these things? Because if our beliefs are wrong, it is foolish to dedicate our lives to something false. Rather we ought to just 'Eat, Drink, and Be Merry; for tomorrow we die!'" ~ Adam Powers in his post "Is 'Belief' Foolish, If It's Wrong? YES!"

My friend, Adam, makes a very good point in his recent blog post about belief. I highly recommend you heading over to Pleasing Pain and reading the whole post. Wait! Finish mine first... :-)

Have you ever heard someone say something like this, "It does not matter what you believe, just believe in something."? Does it ever make you want to cut in on their conversation and say, "Are you kidding? Does truth matter to you?" If you believe something and it is wrong then you are, like Paul says in I Cor. 15:19, "most to be pitied." I can really believe in my heart that gravity is false but is that going to help me when I jump off a building? Not at all! When you believe the wrong thing it costs you.

The same goes for the truth about God. If what we believe is not true, how does that help us at all? It may make someone be a little more moral in some situations, but if you have spent any time watching Christians and non-Christians, then you know that does not make a big difference. What is the difference? If Christian belief is true (and I will argue that it is), then we are forgiven in Christ, and that makes a world of difference now and after we die. If it is not true, then we are like foolish people claiming not to believe in gravity as we plummet to our deaths from the top of a skyscraper.

In Adam's post title he asks the question, "Is 'belief' foolish?" and he answers "If it's wrong, YES!" The opposite is also true: if belief is right, it is not foolish. That should go without saying, but in today's academic world it does not. Christians are often treated in the academic realm as "cute children", who will "grow up" one day and realize they are believing in something on the level of fairies. It is often treated as axiomatic by many critics that Christianity (or theistic belief in general) is irrational, unreasonable, or not intellectually respectable. Those with such a belief are often assumed to be derelict in some fashion or patronized as if they were intellectual children. However, rarely is a specific charge leveled against Christian belief.

For anyone who has ever been patronized by a professor or treated like a child by a fellow academic because of their Christian belief, I would recommend Alvin Plantinga's book Warranted Christian Belief. In this book he looks for the specific charge leveled against Christianity by these types of critics. He finds that the charge is that Christian belief, whether true or false, is without warrant. Then he argues that is simply not the case. He shows that no one can say that Christian belief is unwarranted without actually attacking the factual claims of Christian belief. Then, if the factual claims do hold up, the belief is in fact not foolish. "...what it shows is that a successful atheological objection will have to be to the truth of theism, not to its rationality, justification, intellectual respectability, rational justification, or whatever." (Warranted Christian Belief pg. 191)

I recommend reading the book but it is difficult because it is written for an academic philosopher audience. I wrote a two-page summary of the book that you can read here. Now, two pages is woefully inadequate to capture the genius and power of Plantinga's argument but it will at least give you a taste of it; then you can go read it for yourself.

By His Grace,

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