Monday, April 12, 2004

Agape Press Gives Lectures on Skepticism Mark Creech is a columnist for the fundamentalist website Agape Press. In his most recent column he presumes to lecture the rest of us on the difference between an honest skeptic and a dishonest skeptic. He writes:

An honest skeptic is someone who may have doubts about certain religious truths or doctrines, but when confronted with the evidence will face up to it and alter his life accordingly. A dishonest skeptic, however, is a person who has doubts and will never face up to the evidence. When blasted out of one foxhole of unbelief, he only takes refuge in a second. If blasted out of that foxhole, he'll just start looking for another.

It's always amusing to hear a fundamentalist talk about evidence. After all, there is no world-view more evidence-proof than the sort of Christianity preached by Creech. Apparently it is his view of things that the only honest non-believers are people who have not been exposed to the Gospel. People familiar with Christianity who reject it nonetheless are, according to Creech's dichotomy, dishonest.

In reading Creech it is important to keep in mind that he is writing for an audience composed primarily of other fundamentalists. To them, skeptics are mostly an abstraction. In parts of the country where fundametalism is strong, skeptics are a tiny minority. As such, they are easily demonized. Creech is not trying to convert the lost, here. Instead, he is giving a pep talk to his readers, trying to persuade them of their own moral and intellectual spueriority over the godless infidels who run the country.

Creech goes on to say:

Perhaps you are a skeptic. You say there is much in the Christian Gospel you can't understand. I agree; there is much I don't understand. You say most everything you comprehend seems contradictory to everything you previously thought. That's not surprising. For God's thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways (Isa.55:8). You say you can't be sure of the Bible's credibility. This is not uncommon of persons who have never been exposed to the overwhelming evidence of the Bible's inspiration and total reliability. These may be partially valid and seemingly reasonable excuses for one's hesitation to embrace the Christian faith. But have you ever faced the evidence of the power of Christ to transform the lives of those who see His love revealed in his wounds?

Of course, the problem is not in understanding what the Gospel says. It's clear enough. The problem is in finding what it says remotely plausible. Dumbass skeptics like me require some evidence for believing that more than 2000 years ago a particular dead body behaved in ways that no dead body before or since has ever behaved.

Creech asserts that he has overwhelming evidence of the Bible's inspiration and total reliability. Trust me, he doesn't. Actually, he knows he has no such evidence, which is why he immediately goes on to play the “religious experience” card:

This is the impetus behind the incredible phenomena of the movie, The Passion of the Christ. Many people who watch this film, which so graphically depicts Christ's sufferings, come away changed. A neo-Nazi confessed to two-decade-old bombings in Norway after watching the death of Jesus in The Passion. After viewing The Passion, an Arizona man walked up to police and confessed to numerous burglaries. In Florida, a fugitive from a bank heist that happened two years earlier turned himself in after watching the movie. A man in Texas confessed to having killed his girlfriend after the death had been ruled a suicide, saying he was moved to the confession because he had seen what Christ had done to forgive him in Mel Gibson's film. In Orlando, Florida, a teenage boy who watched the film and had been bitter for years at his negligent and abusive father, found strength to forgive his father just before the young boy unexpectedly died. There is no greater proof of Gospel truth than its power to radically alter a life; making it to shun sin and want what God wants more than anything else.

A handful of people saw The Passion and were moved to confess to old sins. This is the overwhelming evidence Creech has in mind? Is it evidence against God that a large number of certifiable assholes also went to see the movie and made no subsequent attempt to improve themselves? If Creech is trying to convince me that people who put themselves into a suggestive frame of mind find it easier to believe than those who don't, then mission accomplished.

Incidentally, lest you think I am being unfair to Creech, consider the following:

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying we should throw away our intellects. What I am saying, however, is that if you are an honest skeptic as Thomas was, our Lord will provide answers for your inquiries. God gave you a mind as well as a heart, and He is willing to address your intellectual needs. But I suggest what will ultimately convince you of the truth of the Gospel will not be the reasoned arguments, though they may be important stepping stones, but an experience with the living Christ and His love demonstrated in His death for you. Such revolutionizes a life and causes one to fall on their knees before Him, saying, "My Lord and my God."

This can happen to you, but only if you are honestly open to it.

To me this seems like an admission that the reasoned arguments for fundamentalism are weak indeed.


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