Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why I Don’t Argue Evidence Anymore

The Bible is filled with appeals to evidence. God has given signs and wonders since the beginning to mark His revelation and to establish evidence of His authority. In the exodus of Israel, God performed some amazing things for Israel to experience. As they failed His expectations time and again, the subsequent wilderness wanderings were peppered with reminders of how God miraculously delivered them. In the Psalms, there are countless observations of God’s work in creation.

Jesus’ teaching was filled with evidence intended to encourage people of faith. Interestingly, the same evidence evoked a different response from those who lacked faith. The very presence of the Bible is evidence of the revelation of God it contains. It contains accounts of its own writing and its effect on people at different stages of its writing. It is part of the history that it records and we can see how different people have reacted differently to it as evidence of its veracity.

So evidence is important, but evidence never convinces on its own. The reason is that evidence is apprehended differently by different people based on their presuppositions.

Parenthetically, even arguing presuppositions is often pointless. The reason is because of what I have discussed recently regarding the dual nature of theistic epistemology. Lacking the Holy Spirit, making sense of the world is fraught with frustration for those who care to think about it. That’s why many challenge and contend for a pointless existence. In some way, they sense their own pointlessness and are irritated by it. Why even argue if what they say is true? It would be better to let sleeping dogs lie and go find somewhere to be blissfully happy until their inevitable demise. Yet they spend countless hours fretting about it and bothering people who seem to have the peace of mind they lack.

My current MO for dealing with people like this was illustrated recently on Justin Taylor’s blog. I won’t repost anything I wrote there. Just follow the link if you’re interested. Jay, apparently an atheist, made a blanket challenge for evidence and claimed that no evidence was sufficient. I responded enough to point out and illustrate that his problem was a faulty presupposition. That’s not really the core presuppositional argument, but it’s designed to make someone who is really interested in truth question their own presuppositions for flaws.

I did what I usually do at that point and exchanged enough to see if Jay would show signs of enough intellectual honesty to have a fruitful dialog. Two people in a discussion can only grow if both are honest enough intellectually. Usually, people like Jay will not question himself and seek to grow in the exchange, despite his challenge. The challenge is merely a pretense for verbally expressing the angst of a pointless case.

I did say something I’d like to elaborate on here. Children often cling to what respected authorities say unquestioningly among their peers. So a typical children’s argument might go like this:

                “My dad says….”
                “Oh yeah? Well my dad says…”
                “That’s stupid!”

So children grow up and their dad’s lessons are replaced with the likes of various books, professors, pastors, news media, celebrities or peers who appear authoritative by virtue of their insistent assertiveness. Now grown up these same children will draw on the authorities they know as they once did on people like their dads. These are the basis of the average person’s presuppositions. Inherent in assertions is an unmentioned authority as though to say, “Oh yeah? Well my dad said…”

Unless one is willing to address one’s presuppositions, the effect of any resulting argument is no different than the child’s argument above. I’m of the mind that it’s most fruitful not to allow a childish debate to continue, but to cut to the chase and ask people to question their true motives. If they will, then the discussion can continue. If they won’t be honest about it, the discussion should be over.

It’s also good to throw in a quick presentation of the gospel. No telling who is paying attention or if the Holy Spirit will see fit to use it at that time.