Episode 32 - Thinking For Two

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Last week, I shared an experience I had while teaching Sunday school recently and speaking on world views. What should each world view think if they're consistent about certain issues? Speaking about atheism, one of the students spoke up and said, “My friends that are atheists at school, they don’t believe all of this. They haven't even thought about it.” What this girl hit on is very key. Sometimes in conversations, we’re going to need to think for the other person, not in derogatory way but in a way to show them where their view leads.

Today, I want to talk about two things briefly. The first would be the problem of inconsistency. The second would be some areas where, sometimes, people are inconsistent and we need to help them think through issues. Dr. James White has said that inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument. If you make an argument, a well-laid out train of thought that is, and all the pieces don’t fit together, well, that’s a failed argument. It should not be compelling. In the same way, I think we can adapt that principle and say that, “Inconsistency, in a world view, is the sign of a world view in trouble.”

If you think about a world view like a puzzle, where you have all these different positions you hold on certain issues as puzzle pieces and the whole puzzle completed is the world view, well then, a world view in trouble might be when someone has most of their puzzle together but some pieces that don’t fit anywhere. They’ve got some holes and no pieces to fill them with. What's worst is the pieces that don’t fit. When they're trying to use the pieces from someone else’s puzzle, this is a world view in trouble. This happens all of the time.

I want to say right up front that all of us hold incorrect positions on something. None of us, most likely and statistically, know all truthful things. We hold some incorrect positions. Our goal should always be to be refining, always reforming, always improving, always finding these incorrect beliefs we hold and exchanging them for new correct beliefs. This doesn’t mean that the only ideal that we search for in life is change. The change is the byproduct, hopefully, of an ever-increasingly accurate world view and the pursuit of that.

What are some of these pieces people hold that don’t really fit together? Here's one. I'm just going to use atheism as an example. Sometimes, atheists, like maybe the ones this girl was talking about at her school, just simply say God doesn’t exist. They’ve heard someone speak on TV or on some PBS special and the person presented what, to them, was a compelling case that God does not exist, and by extension, there is nothing supernatural. They go to school the next day and they say, “I'm an atheist.”

What might that person do if someone steals their iPad or breaks their phone or cheats off of them and yet says that, in fact, they plagiarized their paper? This newly formed atheist is going to be very upset. They're going to feel wronged. They're going to think that something actually objectively wrong happened. Does morality actually fit in an atheistic world view? No. A consistent atheist, and this is key, would have to say that objective morality, morality that’s true for everyone like we’ve talked about recently, does not exist. Moral law is not something you can experience with the senses. It is immaterial. It is non-physical. It doesn’t fit in what is traditionally an atheistic view of the world where the only things that exist are physical things and there are no supernatural, non-physical objects or things.

All too often, people who claim to be atheists say there is no supernatural, there is no God, but they want to hold to this idea of morality. Often times, they're the most vocal about some of the evils in the world. Often times, it’s the atheist who is most appalled by the genocide in another country. They think something is really wrong and it’s happening. They don’t just say, “Well, I'm emoting. This offends my emotional sensibilities as a civilized person in the West.” No. They think deep down in them, they know something evil is happening. This moral knowledge they have and this moral intuition they feel and experience does not fit in their world view. It is a big glaring jagged piece of a puzzle that does not fit in their puzzle box. That would be one example of an inconsistency.

You may have noticed that we applied both of the points for today in this example. The first was we spotted an inconsistency: this person has moral claims that they make. They have moral intuitions and moral feelings. They believe in objective morality. You can pick up on this often by listening to the things people say when they say something is wrong or when they say something is right. Are they just expressing their thought or their opinion, or they trying to describe reality?

We’ve noticed that this person acts like they believe that objective morality exists. We also have heard such a person say that they don’t believe in God, that there's nothing supernatural. That’s an inconsistent position. In a conversation or in a relationship when I notice that, and it’s appropriate, I'm going to put my finger on that and push. Here's what I'm thinking of in this example. I'm thinking of a weak spot in a wall. If you put a little pressure to weakest spot, you're more likely to affect change. I don’t want to destroy a person. I don’t want to make their whole world fall in around them. That is by no means the goal. I want them to realize that there are some cracks in the foundation of what they rest on when they look at the world. Their puzzle is not complete. It’s got some pieces that don’t fit.

In order to make this effective, I'm going to have to show them what the problem is. I'm going to have to think for them also in this conversation. It may not be fair but as Christians, we have to know what the other side believes often times better than they do. I hope that’s becoming obvious here. In order to say what a consistent atheist should believe, you have to know what atheism entails in its consistent form. That’s extremely important. As Christians, it is not enough for us to just know our Bible. That is in no way enough to empower us to fulfill the example Jesus set in defending the faith, the example Paul set in defending the faith, the example Peter set in defending the faith, on and on and on, people throughout all of the centuries tracing back to Jesus. It doesn’t allow us to fulfill 1st Peter 3:15 which says, “Always be ready to give an answer” give a defense, an apologia.

In order to defend against something you need to know something about that thing. Knowing your side is not enough. That's often why on this podcast, and when I write, I tackle topics from other people's perspective, so we're going to talk about what a consistent position “over here” look like. We need to know more about atheism. We need to know more about Roman Catholicism, if that's the topic, or Mormonism, or _________. We need to know about it in order to be able to understand the differences between their position and ours. In a conversation, if we see an inconsistency, we can push a little there. We want to give the person something to think about, to realize “I hold these positions and they don't fit together.” A lot of times we don't spend the time to stop in life and think about these things. 

I do think as people lay their head on their pillow at night and go to sleep, there's that time when they're not staring at their phone, they're not talking, they're not on social media, and I think people sometimes ponder the great questions of life, if they allow themselves to. I want to line up something for them to think about when they get to that point where they're going to think about important things. 

We looked at morality as an example of something that doesn't fit in the atheistic worldview. I would also say that our existence does not fit in an atheistic worldview. The consistent atheist position really is that everything that exists came from nothing for no cause with no purpose. That the universe popped into existence from nothing and for no reason. Now the tendency sometimes is to say “doesn't that make you sad that life doesn't have a purpose on an atheistic worldview? Without a creator, you weren't created for something.” I don't really want to argue that way. I don't want to argue by tugging on people's heartstrings and saying you should have my view of the world because on my view there's a purpose. That's not a reason to hold a view. People can find purposes in religions that are false. A lot of times these purposes move them to do very good things and be great humanitarians. But I want to move a person by an appeal to something that's logical and consistent. 

Now it is true that the Christian life is full of purpose. We were designed by our creator to do good works that he has prepared for us to walk in. That is the Christian life lived fully, and oh so much more. However, I'm going to want to point out that the bigger problem in this position that the person holds is that we exist, and what could possibly cause something to come into existence from nothing. It can't have been something, so what caused the big bang? Now this is a huge topic in and of itself, but some people haven't considered that being an atheist commits them to the idea and the statement that the universe came into existence from nothing for no reason, for no purpose. How does that even make sense? How can everything come from nothing? Why don't things continue to come from nothing? Why don't we leave our house in fear that some giant rhinoceros is going to appear in our living room and ransack the house? Why don't pastries or Pavarotti or those type of things just pop into existence from nothing? How come the only thing that's ever popped into existence is EVERYTHING that exists? That does not seem like a reasonable position to hold. That is another example of a piece people are trying to use from someone else’s puzzle.

We've talked about morality. We've talked about the fact that the universe is actually here. There are so many other puzzle pieces that don't fit, but I wanted to focus on those two because I think they're easy to explain, they're easy to remember, and we see them all the time. You will often hear atheists or non-Christians making moral claims and acting like morality exists, when it doesn't fit in their worldview. That's an opportunity for us to have a conversation, to point that out with a question. 

“I'm curious, on your view, where does morality come from? Does it actually exist? Can something be true for you and not for me?” I'm trying to see if they agree with subjective morality. Or, is genocide wrong for everyone? “If anyone were ever to commit genocide, would that be wrong, even if their culture thought it was okay?” We can have a dialogue with this person and hopefully lead them through the use of questions to an understanding that they have an inconsistency in how they view the world. They should fix that. 

The best way to choose a worldview is by finding the one that best reflects reality. We shouldn't choose a worldview because we like it. We should choose a worldview because it's true, because it's the most accurate way to see reality. That's really what we're talking about here is reality and how we see it. This is why it's very interesting to me when people say about their children, “well I'm not going to teach them any type of religion. I'm just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves.” Would you say the same thing about gravity? “I'm not going to teach my child about gravity. I'm not going to teach them about American history. I'm not going to teach them about chemistry. I'm going to let them grow up and then just decide what they want to believe for themselves”?

No, no one would ever say that. Well, I can't say that because you can't parody some of the things that happen today. For instance, some person in New York doesn't want to raise their child as a human being. They don't want to inflict that species label on their child. They want the child to grow up and decide for themselves what he or she - if they even apply a gender - wants to be. It's just crazy. Back to my point. You're not going to say to your child,” I'm not going to teach you about chemistry and history and all this stuff. You just decide for yourself.” You're going to teach them about that because that's reality. That's exactly the way we Christians should approach looking at worldviews; they are statements of belief about reality. As such, we need to train our children and each other and the new people in the faith to see reality as God sees reality. The best match for that is the Christian worldview. Is it perfect? No, but it's the best worldview out there. It's the most consistent. It has no contradictions. It doesn't answer every question, though, but a worldview is not going to answer every question unless you're omniscient. However, we should never hold a worldview intentionally that has contradictions. That is the key point. 

I hope this is helpful. I hope this is something a little more tangible that you can apply in conversations. Sometimes we're going to need to think for the other person. We need to know their position well enough to help them see where their view should lead, and show them I don't think you really want to hold that. Now, an update about the book, Unapologetic. Same name as the podcast. It is available for pre-order on Kindle. The print version should be coming within a month, hopefully by November 1st. I hope you will all be looking forward to that. Go ahead and sign up to get the Kindle version if you want it. It will just automatically download to your Kindle on November 1st. I'll have a link at the top of the podcast page and on Facebook if you're interested. As always, if you have questions, I would love to hear them. This show recently has definitely taken direction from the input of you all. I greatly appreciate that. It's good to hear that you're listening, that you have questions that are inline with this topic area. Hopefully I can help a little in those areas. I look forward to talking with you next week on Unapologetic.