I could write a lot about this, so I’ll just try to provide a brief insight. I should probably put up a poll to see what my regular readers are more interested in: 1) news or 2) apologetics and mentoring.
A word of warning
One thing I’ve noticed about women is that they like it when men treat their mothers nicely and what they mean by that is never judging or disagreeing with their mothers, and never trying to change their mothers. This view of love is, of course, false. I want my mother to go to Heaven and to know and love God, so I have to talk to her about these things and disagree if she is wrong about them. So I think that disagreeing with her about spiritual things is being nice to her. But read on and judge for yourself.
My plan for my mother is not to begin by convincing her that Christianity is true. Instead, I begin by convincing her to approach religious issues just as she would approach any other area of knowledge, such as investing, or nutrition. If she agrees to treat religion as any other area of of knowledge, then I think that she will eventually conclude that Christianity is true. Currently, she is forming her beliefs about God’s existence, character and what he wants from her, using subjective mechanisms, i.e. – intuitions and experience. I want her to try a different method.
My goal for my mother, as with anyone else, is to try to get her to accept Christianity as objectively true, based on arguments and evidence. I don’t think that a person can be an authentic Christian if Christianity is just wish-fulfillment. I don’t think that a person will stick with Christianity when it goes against their own self-interest, unless their belief is anchored on arguments and facts. People act on what they really believe is true, when stressed by reality.
So, what I need to do is to argue for a method of discovery that is not dependent on emotions and intuitions, but is more rigorous. I need to offer my mother tools, such as the laws of logic, historical analysis and the scientific method. These tools can be used to investigate whether God exists, and what he is really like, and what he wants from her. By using these tools instead of intuition and experience, my hope is that I will be able to get her to arrive at a view of God as he really is.
The first question to ask her is “Does a Creator and Designer of the Universe exist independently of whether anyone thinks so or not?”. And then I ask the immediate follow-up question “How do you know that?”.
The second question to ask her is “What is the Creator/Designer’s character like?”. And again, the immediate follow-up question is “How do you know that?”.
The third question to ask her is “How does the Creator/Designer expect you to act?”. Once again, immediately follow up with “How do you know that?”.
And the results of the inquiry were as follows: 1) she thinks that God is exactly like her and approves of everything she does, and more importantly, 2) her method of investigating religion is basically to invent “God” using her own feelings and experiences. Her method of arriving at these conclusions was by using intuition and experience, and she was resistant to the idea of using logic, science and history to find out the truth about God, his existence, his character, and what he wanted.
The next thing I did was to argue that her method of arriving at her religious beliefs was subjective and unreliable, and that she would never use that method of determining truth in any other area of life. I made a list of everything she cares about and started approaching each topic using her subjective method of determining truth, in order to expose the disastrous consequences that would occur if she made decisions in these other areas using intuition and experience.
For example, I explained my theories on how watching TV produces university degrees, how chocolate causes weight loss, how fruits and vegetables cause cancer, etc. All of this to show that subjectivism is not a reliable method of arriving at truth in any area of knowledge, especially in religion. The desire for happiness should not drive the search for religious truth. People need to avoid inventing a self-serving view of God, just because it gives them a feeling of security without any moral demands.
Finally, I introduce a reliable method of arriving at the truth in any area, including religion. I’m sure that you all already know about the concepts of propositional truth, the correspondence theory of truth, and the test for truth (logical consistency, empirical validation, experiential relevance). And you all know about how to use science/history/logic to confirm/disconfirm religious claims, etc. If necessary, I would apply these methods to other areas to show how they produce real knowledge.
A useful thing to do is to show how well-accepted facts like the origin of the universe from nothing and the crucifixion of Jesus falsify various world religions. This helps to make the point that a lot of people believe things that are false. That way, you motivate the question – “am I interested in knowing what is really true or am I interested in engaging in wish-fulfillment and projection in order to make myself feel better about my own selfishness and insecurity?”.
Some things I found out
I found that engaging in these discussions brought out some very interesting data that reminded me of what I see in the church. Each of these is worth a post, so I’ll just throw them out there in point form.
- She viewed my efforts to get her to employ logic and evidence to determine her views as being critical of her
- She felt “constrained” by allowing logic and evidence to override her “freedom” to invent a self-serving God
- She didn’t want to know about the laws of logic, or how religions make conflicting truth claims
- She didn’t want to know about what science and history could confirm/disprove religious truth claims
- She thought that it was better to let everyone believe anything they wanted to believe
- She thought that religion was mostly for making people believe things that made them feel happy and secure
- She didn’t think that God expected her to act morally if it didn’t make her feel happy to do so
- She didn’t care to find out the truth about whether God exists, what he was like, and what he wanted from her
Note: we didn’t get into any fights over this, it was just a friendly discussion, although I could sense her resistance.
My biggest concern about this view is that if it were a common view among Christians, it would increase the incidence of several non-Christian ideas, like moral relativism, inclusivism, postmodernism, pluralistic salvation, the non-reality of Hell, etc. And I think that if a lot of Christians believe Christianity is self-serving, then we will be perceived as being hypocritical by non-Christians when we don’t do the difficult things we are supposed to be doing. Non-Christians want to see some consistency between out actions and what the Bible says.
In a poll of my friends I did a while back, I found that people thought that talking to relatives about Christianity was the most difficult thing to do, higher than talking to people at work. So I’d be curious for readers to share their experiences about who is harder to talk to, and what you found in talking to people.
- the importance of being able to argue both sides of a question
- why does talking about religion make people uncomfortable?
- how to talk to your co-workers about your faith
- does the Bible teach that faith is opposed to logic and evidence?
- the six enemies of apologetic engagement
- why men flee the feminized church
- why won’t Christians defend their faith in public?
And here are some lectures that got me interested in apologetics.