Re: Self-deception, faith, and scepticism

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Tue Feb 14 2006 - 16:57:22 EST

*So I sense that a demand for solid proof is actually more a need
within ourselves for some relief from the intense pressures of
having to live by faith. But it is also, I suspect, a cheap and fashionable

device that has become the elusive desire of many evangelicals to
use in their efforts to persuade masses of people to repent, much like
the older (and now less fashionable) standard of threatening them with
Maybe so. But I think the American evangelical focus on "proofs" is mostly
a reflection of history. Evangelicalism responded to German Higher
Criticism and subsequently to modernist theology by vigorously defending the
integrity of the Bible and ultimately producing the doctrine of inerrancy.
It did so, however, while remaining planted firmly on the skeptics' playing
field, that of a foundationalist epistemology in which human perception and
reason set the boundaries of the game. The game became all about battling
for the Bible and defending the faith against modernism. Evangelical
apologetics are largely still all about that today.

Some evangelical theologians have lately been reexamining this -- Nancey
Murphy's "Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism" provides some interesting
critiques of evangelicalism's reliance of foundationalist epistemology, for

The curious thing is that science is the strongest bastion against
postmodern critiques of foundationalism generally in the culture, and yet we
seem to be shying away here from rationalistic apologetics. IMHO, digging
deeper into faith / science questions, including the apologetic issues faith
/ science questions generate, ultimately requires some reorientation of our
epistemology. That's why I said the arguments for theism, while not
offering "proof," do support the "coherency" of a theistic worldview.
"Proof" is a foundationalist way of looking at things, "coherency" a
non-foundationalist one.

On 2/14/06, <> wrote:
> Quoting Iain Strachan <>:
> >
> > The point is that in order to cope with life, we all have to indulge in
> some
> > form of what might be self-deception. To an atheist, religion is
> > self-deception - to us believers, we cannot say it's self deception
> because
> > we believe it is the truth - though we don't have a shred of scientific
> > evidence to prove it, despite what creationists and ID'ers would have us
> > believe.
> I would strengthen the 'cannot' as much as possible -- "must not?". It's
> easy
> enough to indulge in self-deceptions when little is on the line. I can
> easily
> enough say I believe in God if I think I gain by doing so. But can you
> imagine
> how flimsy that would be if I lived in a country where I and my family
> were
> jeopardized by such a belief? If my real self suspected this was a
> self-deception, then my real self would quickly dominate and the false
> "belief"
> would quickly crumble.
> Once somebody fancies that they managed to peek behind the curtain at the
> great
> Oz, they will never regard him in the same way as they did before. This
> seems
> to be how many anthropologists and intellectuals today regard
> religion. But I
> think the more honest ones will admit they haven't really looked behind
> the
> significant curtain -- and most of us doubt that such a thing would be
> possible
> anyway.
> I concur, Iaian, that nothing we can present will be compelling to a
> determined
> atheist (or vice versa). If God himself descended and gave an audience to
> a
> determined atheist, the latter would afterwards immediately set about
> trying to
> discover the cause of his hallucinations. He would be sure of a physical
> (non-theological) explanation for his apparent sensory experience. And if
> God
> did something even more impressive like relocating Pikes peak into the
> pacific,
> making a new island somewhere, then the efforts to determine the causes of
> this
> dramatic event would immediately be the focus of a new investigation. And
> as
> Keith has noted in his posts, such causes would still be assumed to exist
> even
> if they had not yet been discovered.
> --merv
Received on Tue Feb 14 17:00:03 2006

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