More on The Outsider Test for Faith

Daniel Florin said: "If more people were willing to honestly submit themselves to the outsider test, I think our debates and conversations would be far more intelligent and productive." Jeffery Amos said something stronger, that the Christian faith fails The Insider Test for Faith. He wrote: "One criticism that many have of Christianity is that it fails the outsider test: when viewed from the outside, it doesn't make sense. I was an evangelical Christian until April 2008, when I discovered that Christianity fails the insider test as well."


Jeffrey said...

Thanks for the link(s)!

Somewhat ironically, I don't actually know to what degree your outside test for faith influenced the naming of my blog. I first remember hearing the phrase in a private e-mail conversation spring 2007 in which the articulation of “the outsider test” was one sentence. When I named my blog, I hadn't read your book or learned that it's most well-known for the Outsider Test for Faith. I thought it was just like “the problem of evil,” “the problem of God's invisibility,” or dozens of other arguments that aren't usually associated with any particular articulation or person.

But on the other hand, I had been a regular reader of DC for at least a month (including old posts) so the odds are very good that I was thinking about the Outsider Test for that reason.

John W. Loftus said...

Jeffrey, the first time I proposed the OTF was February 11, 2006. Iron Chariots Wiki picked it up and the last time the entry was edited was on July 22, 2007, so it was already there before that date. Just like I deliberately chose the title to this Blog to catch attention, so also I choose the title to this particular argument. And it has indeed caught on.


manning_is_john said...

I just finished reading your book Mr. Loftus. I think it suffers from one fatal flaw: By dealing with so many issues it actually deals with none of them. There were many places where I felt you did not present the BEST argument for a Christian position (though most of the time you presented a decent argument). You also did not always include the counter arguments to your arguments.

After reading your book I got the same feeling that I got after reading the Case for Christ by Lee Strobel: Ok, that makes sense, you presented a decent case and answered some questions BUT how do people counter YOUR arguments?

Now of course you can't go back and forth ad infintum but like a public debate most of the issues are laid out to be evaluated after a little back and forth (though by no means are they all solved!). I do not feel your book did this adequately. Of course, it seems like your intention WAS to create a "Case for Christ" type book and thus in that case it succeeds. But I don't think a "Case for Christ" book actually succeeds in accomplishing the goal that you want it to and in actuality it shouldn't.

Just as someone becoming convinced of Christ because of "Case for Christ" is poor intellectualism anyone who is convinced of atheism or not being an evangelical by your book is also committing poor intellectualism.

Thus, at most, I think your book provides a good introduction to this issue. It in no way should convince someone of one position or the other. Much further reading and debate would be needed.

I think what you should do now is take each individual chapter in your book and make a book out of that chapter. Then this first book would be an excellent summary of the larger series. You should also think about getting a PhD and developing an even more powerful argument for atheism that way. Not only would you garner more respect and more respectable speaking opportunities you would have a much more developed and convincing argument for atheism. You could eventually even get paid by a university to then develop more arguments for an atheistic worldview. Why view your previous education as a waste of time? Take advantage of it and make a lasting contribution to the debate.

Anyway, those are my 2 cents. Probably not even worth 2 cents :p

David said...

Did someone just compare Why I Became An Atheist with The Case For Christ? There's a back handed compliment if I've ever heard one! I don't even know where to start......

I'll just say this, you find approximately ONE sentence in each chapter of The Case for Christ that contributes the the overall argument. Its mostly filled with Lee praising each interviewee and tossing a few softballs at him. This is not the case with Loftus' book.

openlyatheist said...

In defense of Loftus' book, it is not for the uninitiated. Many sections I've had to read multiple times. My impression is that it is definitely not an introduction, but written for the studied Christian.

Eric said...

John, here are two simple questions that go, I think, to the heart of our last discussion:

(1) If one's religious faith is sociologically dependent, is one's rejection of other faiths sociologically dependent? For example, is the response a Christian has to a Muslim's claims -- i.e. the Christian's skepticism if Islam -- sociologically dependent?

(2) If a person (S1) from one culture intentionally adopts the sociologically dependent position of a person (S2) from another culture, isn't it the case that S1's position is 'just as' sociologically dependent as S2's? (And, if the OTF requires us to be skeptical about S1's beliefs, wouldn't it require us to be skeptical of S2's beliefs if they were socially transmitted by S1 to S2?)

If (1) and (2) obtain, then isn't it the case that a Christian's 'outside' position, if he undertakes the OTF, could be roughly identified with a Muslim's (or a Jew's, etc.) 'inside' position with respect to Christianity? That is, if the Christian were to step outside his faith, his skepticism towards his Christianity would be roughly identical with the skepticism towards Christianity that results from being inside, say, Islam (or Judaism, etc.); and that, therefore, every inside position is also, for someone else, an outside position? And if the skeptical part of everyone's inside position is roughly identical with the outside position you're asking someone to take, then isn't it the case that 'inside' and 'outside' are relative terms? And if 'inside' and 'outside' are relative terms, why are we to prefer the one to the other -- especially if *both* are sociologically determined (which is the case if (1) and (2) obtain)? And if both are sociologically determined, aren't you just asking, say, a Christian to 'trade' sociologically determined beliefs with a Muslim? And if all sociologically determined beliefs are dubious, isn't the OTF therefore a non-starter?

John W. Loftus said...

There are so many trolls that comment here I have no reason to know if someone like manning_is_john is one or not and is slapping me while appearing to be reasonable for some effect. In any case, does any Strobel book get the kind of recommendations that mine has gotten? Didn't think so.

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, I've said pretty much all I want to say to you. I'm going to spend some time on Vic Reppert's additional criticisms if you'll stop repeating yourself. You refuse to understand even though you're much smarter than the average bear.

Yes, a Muslim is critical of Christianity precisely because s/he is a Muslim. And a Christian is critical of Islam precisely because s/he is a Christian. But that has nothing to do with the amount of skepticism they use to evaluate each other's faith. They are skeptical because they demand evidence and reasons to believe. That describes all of us with regard to the religious faiths we reject. That's the point. That's being an outsider, a skeptical person, for only an insider can believe. I'm just being much more consistent than you are with my skepticism, that's all. You must find a way to weasel your way out of this for you are clinging to your faith in the most desperate way. In nothing you have said have you presented anything by way of either an understanding of what the test is, or a good criticism of it that defeats it. I'd say keep trying but then I have other things to do, sorry.


Eric said...

"In nothing you have said have you presented anything by way of either an understanding of what the test is, or a good criticism of it that defeats it. I'd say keep trying but then I have other things to do, sorry."

No problem. Sometimes -- actually, most of the time -- discussions such as this one do reach an impasse (though I haven't simply been 'repeating myself,' and I think you know this; I've offered a few different criticisms of the OTF). I think my criticisms are strong, and you don't. Hey, it happens all the time in philosophy (and everywhere else), so it's no big deal! I look forward to reading your responses to Victor, and I appreciate the time you have taken responding to me since this discussion began.

John W. Loftus said...

Yes, Eric, sometimes we just reach a point where we've said all we can say for now. Thanks for the cordial and friendly dialogue (sometimes it is I who lose patience first).

Andre said...

Eric, where does it gets one if one keeps asking what you're asking?

Isn't one implication of the OTF, is to think about or to question your faith, since the obvious varieties indicates you might be in the wrong one. And in order to do that, doesn't one have to "think". Now since you and I have different beliefs that we both came by through thought, wouldn't this be a starting point? If this is so, then what you're asking of the OTF, is like asking someone not to think.

Obviously, all of us here are thinking, but we all come to different conclusions sometimes, and sometimes the same. The issues you/we then must deal with is why we come to those same, and different conclusions. This is evident when some do the test and fail (so to speak), and some will pass. Why would this be the fault of the test? By arguing the way you are only makes it seem that you're worried about what the power of the OTF can do, if applied

And since you don't think it's the best starting point, what would be you're suggestion? (Sorry if I missed it and you've already stated.)

Daniel Florien said...

For the record, I also think Christianity fails the outsider test. I should have made that more explicit. :)