Last time, I defined faith-based thinking as excepting propositions without sufficient evidence. Another way to put it is to accept propositions without question, and by question, I mean critical examination. I was baptized at the age of seven, so I accepted everything without critical examination. That is not to say that I couldn’t prooftext you to death. I most certainly could. I had an answer for every argument, and could give a reason for the faith that was within me. But that has nothing to do with critical examination of religious propositions. I simply didn’t have the mental, emotional, and academic tools for that.
Here is a small list of things I realized I had accepted before I ever had the tools to evaluate them:
- In the beginning, god: that is two propositions. first, there is a god, second, he was there from the beginning.
- Created: Anyone who mentioned evolution was a fool of the highest order. The world did not evolve; it was created whole and complete.
- The heavens and the earth: This is a subtile assumption that the earth is the central creation and that everything else is just the supporting cast.
- Six days: The universe could not be billions of years old. Scientists were just wrong.
- The bible is the only sacred book that matters because it was somehow dictated by the one, true god.
- The bible is perfect: Whatever the bible says is truth. There can be no errors. It had no human influence or input. Everything is in there that should be there. Nothing is in there that shouldn’t be there. Everything in the bible is historically factual and accurate.
- I was a sinner: Since all have sinned, I must be a sinner. I was guilty of something just by being a son of Adam.
- There is a such thing as sin.
- I needed a savior: Without someone to save me from my 7 year-old wickedness, I was bound for hell.
- There is a hell.
- There is a heaven.
I could go on like this for some time, but I hope you get the point. I did not carefully evaluate any of these claims before accepting them as truth. I was raised on these claims with my mother’s milk. I never once critically considered where the bible came from. It just was. Once I did start sniffing around the edges of the question, the only answer forthcoming is that it came from the inspiration of god. It says so right in the bible. At the time, I was not familiar with the term, “circular argument”. If you are not familiar with that term. the above is a good example. We know the bible is from god because it says so. With that kind of reasoning, how do you ever examine the bible’s authenticity? You either look beyond the bible and the authorities of your church for answers, or you never question it.
The same holds true with all religious propositions. How do you even go about questioning if there is really a god as described in the bible. You can’t, because if you do, you will burn in hell. That is what you have to risk to even ask the question. asking someone to prove there is a god is just a sign that you do not have a saving faith, because if you did, you wouldn’t be asking for proof.
All of these things must be accepted presuppositionally, which is to say, without critical examination or sufficient evidence. We are easily satisfied with a few proof texts and a bit of rhetorical sophistry. That is troubling because we all know the adage, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” It is one thing to accept that Jesus was a real person, even though we do not have much evidence to support that claim. It is quite another to contend that he rose from the dead. That proposition requires extraordinary evidence that is simply not forthcoming. It is one thing to claim that the bible is an interesting collection of texts. It is quite another to claim that salvation can only be found in the bible because it is the one, true word of god. That requires extraordinary evidence which has never been produced.
Rather than extraordinary evidence, the church requires extraordinary faith. That changes the adage to, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary faith. Evidence: extraordinary or otherwise, not required.” This is not a worldview that I can live with in any aspect of my life. I see no reason why religion should be an exception. Just show me the extraordinary proof.
If someone would like to convince me of the power of prayer, just pray that any one of my physical maladies are healed. If, in biblical fashion, I am healed, that would be extraordinary evidence that is hard to ignore. If, however, you pray a generalized prayer of healing without expectation of healing. Then even you do not believe in what the bible says about prayer. If you can’t prove that your own prayers are effective, why should I believe mine will be any more so? I have tested prayer at every level. It did not pass the test on any level. Therefore, I don’t pray.
If the answer is that you can’t test god, or ask for proof, then religion is a non-starter. You must accept everything presuppositionally, as a small child, not as a reasoning adult. Well, I am not a small child. I am a reasoning adult. If religion cannot deal with examination from the likes of me, then it is a closed system to the likes of me.