The Outsider Test.....

From Paul Manta's link below in "Christianity and Philosophy" who wrote:
Paul taught in Ephesians 4:17-24 that the Gentiles “walk in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding” because of their “ignorance and hardened hearts,” while a completely different epistemic condition characterizes the Christian, one who has been “renewed in the spirit of your mind” and has “learned Christ” (for “the truth is in Jesus”). The “wisdom of the world” evaluates God’s wisdom as foolishness, while the believer understands that worldly wisdom “has been made foolish” (1 Cor. 1:17-25; 3:18-20). The basic commitments of the believer and unbeliever are fundamentally opposed to each other.

Thus Paul refers to thought which opposes the faith as “vain babblings of knowledge falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20), and he insists that the wise disputers of this age have been made foolish and put to shame by those called “foolish” (1 Cor. 1:20, 27). Unbelievers become “vain in their reasonings”; “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:21, 22).

In Colossians 2:3 Paul explains that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are deposited in Christ—in which case we must be on the alert against philosophy which is “not after Christ,” lest it rob us of this epistemic treasure (v. 8). The Old Testament proverb had put it this way: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). Accordingly, if the apologist is going to cast down “reasonings and every high thing exalted against the knowledge of God” he must first bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5), making Christ pre-eminent in all things (Col. 1:18). Upon the platform of God’s revealed truth, the believer can authoritatively declare the riches of knowledge unto believers.

Does this description of the thinking of an unbeliever confirm or deny what I have been saying, that Christianity must devaluate philosophy in favor of believing in historical knowledge of a "special revelation" in the Bible? And if a Christian must place reason below his faith, then how can he properly evaluate his faith in the first place, since the presumption of faith we start out with, will most likely be the presumption of faith we end with? Since the presumption of faith we start out with is something we accept by, what John Hick calls, the "accidents of history" (i.e., where and when we are born), how likely is it that the Christian will ever truly evaluate his or her faith? How is it possible to rationally evaluate the Christian faith when the Christian can only do so from within the presuppositions of that faith in the first place--presuppositions which he or she basically accepted by the "accidents of history."

So let me propose something I call The Outsider Test: If you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim right now, say it isn't so? That is a cold hard fact. Dare you deny it? Since this is so, or at least 99% so, then the proper method to evaluate your religious beliefs is with a healthy measure of skepticism. Test your beliefs as if you were an outsider to the faith you are evaluating. If your faith stands up under muster, then you can have your faith. If not, abandon it, for any God who requires you to believe correctly when we have this extremely strong tendency to believe what we were born into, surely should make the correct faith pass the outsider test. If your faith cannot do this, then the God of your faith is not worthy of being worshipped.

17 comments:

Zachary Moore said...

A good analogy. Anything that gets you to suspend your presuppositions long enough to take a long cold look at your faith.

Chad Goulding said...

"And if a Christian must place reason below his faith, then how can he properly evaluate his faith in the first place.."

I pondered this subject a year or 2 ago. I boiled it down to the following question: "Which comes first, God or truth?"

* If God, then the pursuit of truth is abandonded (including tools of logic & reason).

* If truth, then the Christian is not placing God above all other things.

I independently asked 2 Christians this question. They both replied "God is truth".

Initially, their answer annoyed me because it seemed like a cop-out. But I gave it a few days of thought and eventually figured out what they meant.

Not Reformed said...

this is an excellent post, John. I think christians far too easily dismiss the fact that most of them were born in a "Christian nation." Why aren't millions of people in India rejecting Hinduism to become Christians, or millions of Saudi Arabians being 'called by God' and joining the ranks of faithful Calvinists?

Funny how that call seems to happen mainly in countries were people are brought up believing in the 'God of the land.'

Paul Manata said...

plenty on non-americans are becomming christians, check the records.

Anyway, the objection raised is based on ignorant conjecture. It does *nothing* to disprove Christianity, now does it?

Not Reformed said...

Paul,

Which "records" should I check? Are they official? How so? Do they also contain records of the #1 growing Christian group in the world, the Mormons? ;)

I didn't say it "disproved" Christianity, but it certainly is food for thought, and seems to be often dismissed by believers who do not critical examine WHY they belivee what they do. I'd say you are different, because you did not grow up in a "believing" atmosphere. People change religions all of the time.

I'd say that the post shows an interesting piece of evidence about "WHY" most people believe the way they do.

Plus...there is no guarantee that ANY of these religions are correct...and to my limited knowledge, none have been "proven" so far...otherwise the debate would be settled.

John W. Loftus said...

What we believe does not depend entirely on where we are born. It also depends on when we were born, and what beliefs and conditions were there when we grew up. What would you believe if you were born during the Middle Ages, or during the Ancient superstitious days before the rise of modern science, Frontier days in America, pre-civil war days in the South, and even pre-depression era days, WWII days, Vietnam protest days, the greed decade of the 80's, and the microchip and cell phone revolution now? Is human reason that mallable? I think so.

None of this means there isn't any truth, moral or otherwise. But this is known as the Dependency Thesis, whereby what we believe depends upon these factors world-wide. Yep, that's right, world-wide. And while it doesn't prove anything about truth itself, it should give us all pause to consider the factors of where and when we were born, and whether or not we properly are evaluating our faith.

So, what exactly is wrong with the Outsider Test for your faith here, given what we know about the Dependency thesis? Why not?

Rich Tatum said...

The Outsider Test is a helpful reminde r to think of our faith from outside the religious mindscape we are inexorably trapped within.

Yet, the test fails on a couple key elements that cannot be changed. A) the varying abilities of people to communicate religious truth of whatever stripe and B) the varying abilities of people to apprehend what is being communicated. You might throw in, for good measure, C) the varying effectiveness of techniquies to influence and manipulate decisions--which religious cults that use "love bombing" and mind-control techniques excel at.

Were we all perfect communicators like Jesus, we might have better personal success rates at presenting the truth and eliciting positive response. But note that even Jesus did not persuade the religious leadership of his day for they were in no frame of mind to apprehend his message or accept it.

Truth stands on its own merit, whether or not the prevailing worldview bows to it. Scientific advances through the ages and the slow acceptance of majors paradigm shifts have demonstrated this withour reference to religious belief.

Regards,

Rich
BlogRodent

John W. Loftus said...

BlogRodent, thanks for commenting.

Of course you'd want to stress that Truth stands on its own merit, whether or not the prevailing worldview bows to it.

I'm sure the Muslim born in Saudia Arabia and the pre-civil war Southern plantation and slave owner would say the very exact same thing. Isn't that odd?

Rich Tatum said...

Of course, but disagreement is not grounds for dismissal of the truth claims altogether.

RubySera said...

From Rich Tatum:

Yet, the test fails on a couple key elements that cannot be changed. A) the varying abilities of people to communicate religious truth of whatever stripe"

This assumes that "religious truth" exists. The existence or non-existence of religious truth seems to be the heart of John's question. Hence the need for an "outsider test." Since we have no higher authority than this by which to establish the existence of "religious truth" perhaps we can learn something by stepping into the shoes or hat of another religion for a few minutes and see what things look like from there.

The Avenger said...

"But note that even Jesus did not persuade the religious leadership of his day for they were in no frame of mind to apprehend his message or accept it."

Rich,

could that not be because Jesus in fact wasn't divine? I mean, surely the creator of the universe wouldn't be having any trouble whatsoever to perfectly communicate his will to all men, including religious leaders.

Anonymous said...

Unless, perhaps, his arguments were perfect but the choice they made was not purely down to reason, but because of a corrupt will they were absolutely determined to disbelieve him no matter what evidence he showed them - which rather brings us back to the start of this thread again!
I'd suggest the majority of people in some countries are believers in that countries religion, not because they are unable to rise above their upbringing, but because to do so results in death. State law in Saudi Arabia is the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam for instance.
In India, hundreds of thousands do leave Hinduism for Christianity each year, but you don't always want to endanger peoples lives by broadcasting official documents!!

Michael said...

For the sake of clarification, I would like to say that it is not a "cold, hard fact" that you would be a Muslim if you born in Saudi Arabia. The chances are high, yes, but it is not the only option.

Plenty of people from every nearly every country in the world live overseas in other countries. They raise their kids according to their belief. For example, Swedes, Chinese and Americans live in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran without much problem.

I am an (formerly Christian) atheist living in Japan though I am an American. It would not be fair to say that all those born in Japan are Buddhist, Shintoist or atheists. There are nearly a million non-Japanese families living in Japan who produce their fair share of home-spun religious children (as well as non-religious, as will be the case with my new-born son).

Sorry to be stickler for details, but I couldn't help myself. The overall point is correct though, namely, that you are more likely to be raised agreeing with the nation's religious majority to the country in which you were born. It's simply a popularity/population issue. It's not like there's a Muslim-virus buried beneath the sands of Arabia or anything.

Well, at least not yet...

'Seph said...

I couldn't agree with you more on this issue.

I've addressed this point - mind you, from a different angle.

You can check it out at http://roguechristain.blogspot.com/2007/09/three-syntheses-confession-of-faith-of.html

SRM said...

"Unless, perhaps, his arguments were perfect but the choice they made was not purely down to reason, but because of a corrupt will they were absolutely determined to disbelieve him no matter what evidence he showed them"

God created these people right? So if he was truly omnipotent he would know exactly how to construct the message for these corrupt people to see the errors of their ways. The free will argument sounds like such a cop-out to me.

Nyugen Chix (Chen Xingyu) said...

Curious, you guys say that christians are biased and then you refuse to consider their argument by calling it a cop-out like the free-will stuff. doesn't it haunt you that you yourself are doing the same thing, being biased and just that the words are changed?That's the funny thing

you must note that the dependency thesis does not hold true all the time though. We are generally acutely aware of universal truths like equalizing power of death(no one is exempt from death) that transcend through time

I can't help but notice a tendency for a strong undercurrent of spite. The funny thing remains that for you guys, what you said would eventually do nothing in the long run when all of us are dead. so what's the point in so much anger or showing that you are superior? Even i am aware that my post have proven nothing in light of my impending death, but at least i get a few moments of laughs watching people argue themselves to their deathbeds. of course, this have to hold true for you guys right?

FYI: For this conversation, i am unaligned, except for entertainment purposes. For all other occasions, I'm christian

Quixie said...

"strong undercurrent of spite" you say?

I love the little "FIY" at the end.

Ó