Jump to content

The Experiences Versus Evidence Argument.


Cowabunga Jones
 Share

Recommended Posts

The following is a response I sent to a friend who is dialoguing with me about my recent dismissal of Christianity. His argument was that I was not considering BOTH sides of the argument for Christianity. While I am very focused on evidence and rational argument, he claimed the other side is the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life. So, I did some study into his view and read a book. The following is the response I send to him today:

 

 

In William Lane Craig's book "Reasonable Faith" he does mention the two ways in which we can know Christianity to be true. The first is of your particular interest, the Holy Spirit. The second is mine, argument and evidence.

 

For the case of the Holy Spirit's influence, Craig claims that the feelings and experiences Christians associate with God are "such that a person does not need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know, and to know with confidence, that he is experiencing the Spirit of God." Furthermore, he continues by claiming that "arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit".

 

I was immediately taken aback by this claim. He has pushed the authority of argument and evidence aside in favor of subjective personal experiences taking priority. On this merit, the perceived experiences of an individual within any religion then justify their belief and the denial of argument and evidence to the contrary. It is the most non-distinctive argument one could make for their faith. Surely this cannot be what he means.

 

Before I move on, however, I would ask you to consider how much you really know about the "inner testimony" encountered by people of other faiths to justify their religions? Truly, if all of their experiences are false, you would have to believe the Devil's power to deceive far greater than God's ability to convict them of truth. You would also then be statistically inclined to question whether your own experiences were false as well.

 

So, I moved on to the section of Craig's book about argument and evidence to see if he expanded any on his previous comment from the section about the Holy Spirit. He did and I have typed it up for you below:

 

"Therefore, the only roles left for argument and evidence to play is a subsidiary role. I think Martin Luther correctly distinguished between what he called the magisterial and ministerial uses of reason. The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands above the gospel like a magistrate and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs to when reason submits to and serves the gospel. In light of the Spirit's witness, only the ministerial use of reason is legitimate."

 

He goes on to argue that arguments and evidence that lead towards doubt and skepticism are to be placed in the ministerial role. They are to be set aside and our focus must then shift to the "reality" of God's work in our lives to reassure us. He neglects to remember that those questions are still there. Putting our heads in the experiential sand does not make them go away.

 

A child should not trust their sincere belief and experiences of a boogie man under their bed in spite of their parents being able to pull up the bed skirt and show them it does not exist. The same is true of any faith whose followers claim "ultimate truth" that can be strongly criticized by argument and evidence.

 

However, while I absolutely disagree with Craig's point here, let's say he is right and that our experiences should always be the ace up our sleeve when it comes to argument and evidence. How then do we deal with the Ace up the sleeve of the people of many other faiths? Craig's answer is intensely disappointing:

 

"Why should I be robbed of my joy and assurance of salvation simply because someone else falsely pretends, sincerely or insincerely, to the Spirit's witness? If a Mormon or Muslim falsely claims to experience the witness of God's Spirit in his heart, that does nothing to undermine the veridicality of my experience."

 

In other words, the Christian experiences are true and everyone else's are false simply because the Christian chooses perceive them to be. That's it. Never mind how easily Craig discounts the "false" experiences of other faiths. He knows in his heart that his is true and all other men are either misled or liars. Talk about the most close-minded self-aggrandizing statement one could make!

 

This diversion from real discussion is just the same as arguing which flavor of ice-cream is best. Your personal experience is always going to trump someone else's. So, you then go to the data of quality, calories, shelf life, and etc.

 

So, I simply will not pretend to be any different from the rest of humanity who is so easily "misled" by the "false" experiences within religions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a lot of problems with this argument. Ok, if the holyspirit does its work in believers....why are there so many denominations, factions and splits within the church community??

He should be telling everyone the same thing if he has a universal truth to get across. Some xtian experiences are similar to mental illness. So does that mean all mentally ill patients are hearing from god? How can you qualify people's experiences? Some xtians dont believe in tongues, or weird mystical experiences...so how can other xtians claim that their way is the only way and truth.

How can one half of a congregation feel they are hearing from god and they are right and split off from the main branch?

Its all too preposterous. If there is truth out there it should be only one form of truth, available to all mankind and not subjective on how it makes you feel or wether it feels right in your heart. Im sure many muslims feel just before they blow themselves up that they are hearing from god and look forward to eternal happiness with him..so how can you qualify that as whether it is true or false? They believe it in their heart, they put it into practice and for all we know they do end up in eternal happiness.? so are they right or wrong? xtians would say they are hearing from the devil...but my point is who is the judge of that and who qualifies it?

Some xtians think god wants them to do ludicrous things..not necessarily blow people up..but just as weird sometimes, almost eerily like a schizophrenic hearing voices...so who is right or wrong?

Im over it.If I never hear another voice in my head telling me what to do I will be a happy woman. :HaHa:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Kathlene,

You make a good point about the varied experience within Christianity. I hadn't to mention that to my friend yet. It is true though. They also so easily discount the "miraculous" experiences of people within their own faith.

 

In the end, all you have are your experiences and the experiences of those like you. Those people are the ones you will always tend to agree with and believe over those who differ from you. Its a normal thing, but it has nothing to do with whether you are right or not.

 

Great point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's one of the reasons I deconverted.

 

If the believers have the holy spirit, then why aren't they in the streets converting people en masse like back in the Book of Acts? Why isn't massive earth-shattering shit happening, just like in the New Testament? I would ask the leaders and they would say "be patient." One even told me that Moses was in his 80s before all that action took place.

 

Well, I took a look at the church and I thought "what a bunch of lames." I decided that either God didn't give a shit about all those people the church was failing to lead to Christ, or God wasn't real. The latter made more sense.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's one of the reasons I deconverted.

 

If the believers have the holy spirit, then why aren't they in the streets converting people en masse like back in the Book of Acts? Why isn't massive earth-shattering shit happening, just like in the New Testament?

 

Great point VC! As I said in a thread I created over in Lion's Den called"If Jesus is lifechanging, why is the world still so bad?". It's been two thousand years, with that much time, why isn't the whole world saved?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is the real truth of it isn't it? Why should the existence of this "Holy Spirit" be anything less than miraculous? Why is it only inner "feelings" that nonbelievers can so easily be skeptical of when they see the same "feelings" from those of different religions? If this is the spirit of the one god of the entire cosmos dwelling inside of humanity, then wouldn't it change your life that a few small moral improvements (if that)?

 

What is truly sad, is that I taught this to high school students for years. If there is a god, I would thank it for the secular university setting that forces those students to wake up to the reality that supernatural claims require observable supernatural evidence.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe somewhat in the flip side of the inner witness argument.

 

From the ages of 9 to 24, I deeply and sincerely wanted to believe. I wanted a personal relationship with God. I wanted to feel the Holy Spirit working in my life. I prayed. I asked for forgiveness. I professed belief in Jesus. Notice that I said that I WANTED to believe, not that I believed.

 

But as I got a little older, I was told that even someone with one spark of faith could ask God to grow it- faith like a mustard seed and all that. Despite my trouble believing, I did have a spark of faith, and I prayed that God would GIVE me belief. What God would refuse such a prayer? Certainly I had some troubles sticking to a 100% godly life- but salvation comes from faith and not works, right? I beat myself up over God's apparent refusal to be present in my life.

 

I prayed for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is supposed to be a comforter and guide, and additionally, a PERSON rather than a force. If I told you that I'd like to live invisibly with you, but that I would help you through life, you might say- alright, come live with me. If after some time had gone by and you hadn't experienced my presence and my help in any way, would you not think that I wasn't actually living with you at all? No Holy Spirit in my life. No fulfillment of God's promise.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Feelings, people who have feelings, are the luckiest people in the world!!!!

 

OK I'll stop singing. I do find it odd that Xtians celebrate it when your feelings bring you into the church, but when your feelings are leading you out of the church they are not to be trusted. Can I presume you've already presented your friend with the evidence that all feelings are chemical reactions in the brain. Those warm fuzzy feelings are endorphins and seratonin resulting from how we want to feel. In other words warm fuzzy spiritual feelings are not spirit moving within, but chemicals moving within the brain.

 

It's typical that Xtians would discount honest spiritual experiences of non Christians. I once had a "Peak experience" while meditating. It was like a very intense mental orgasm that lasted well over a minute and left me teary faced and gasping for air. It felt like I was being shocked with 10,000 volts of bliss and was much more intense than any warm Jesus fuzzies. It was a very real spiritual experience, but it was also probably just brain chemicals. Try as I might I haven't been able to replicate that experience, but I'll keep trying because it was goooooodddd!!!! REAALLYYY GOOOODDDD!!!!!

 

Steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is weird. The HS came by my place awhile back and I tied it up and threw it into a ditch. It's still there because I check on it frequently. Has no one noticed it's gone? Some friends they are.

 

mwc

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is weird. The HS came by my place awhile back and I tied it up and threw it into a ditch. It's still there because I check on it frequently. Has no one noticed it's gone? Some friends they are.

 

This reminded me of one of my favorite XKCD comics... http://xkcd.com/459/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is weird. The HS came by my place awhile back and I tied it up and threw it into a ditch. It's still there because I check on it frequently. Has no one noticed it's gone? Some friends they are.

 

This reminded me of one of my favorite XKCD comics... http://xkcd.com/459/

That was an awesome comic!!! Good one. I cracked up laughing over that. :HaHa:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's one of the reasons I deconverted.

 

If the believers have the holy spirit, then why aren't they in the streets converting people en masse like back in the Book of Acts? Why isn't massive earth-shattering shit happening, just like in the New Testament? I would ask the leaders and they would say "be patient." One even told me that Moses was in his 80s before all that action took place.

 

My church wasn't into evangelization but Moses' age played somewhat into my situation, too. His life was divided into periods of forty years: forty years of age when he was called of god, forty years being Jethro's shepherd, then leading god's people forty years in the wilderness (and then denied entrance to the promised land after all of that because he got mad once but this is beside the point). Also, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, and forty days on earth after his resurrection.

 

Well, I figured if forty was such an important number to god, when I hit age forty and god still hadn't answered my questions by any method magic or miraculous, mundane or otherwise, there must be no answers. Things began to happen before another year was up. People didn't know what hit them. But I do. A god that never existed failed to keep his promise. And so did his followers--who do very much exist.

 

Jones and nightflight, thanks so much for sharing all those insights on Craig and his book. I have not yet been able to make myself read it but his followers insist that I simply must read it. What both of you (Mark Smith) post fits exactly what I observe in my interactions with them. I think, though, that Mark Smith goes off the deep end in blaming Craig over and above other evangelicals. Craig and all the others are all photocopies of each other. I've tried reading a number of their books. Each has his own field of specialty but beyond that, if you've read one book, you've read them all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does the inner witness of the Holy Spirit trump argument and evidence?

 

Yes it does.

 

Emotion usually trumps reason especially in groups.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

he claimed the other side is the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life.

 

Yes, I remember very well stumbling through this argument. "I uh, well... yeah... I believe because I just know, ya know?"

 

I couldn't articulate it because there was nothing there to articulate. If you can't spit it out then likely there is nothing of substance behind your reasoning.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.