Skeptical Thinking vs Logical Thinking

In the world today it is often the case that those who claim to follow Jesus are ridiculed as irrational, bumbling idiots. This kind of mocking is common place in the popular media. Most of the time when a character calls him or her self a born-again Christian on television or in a movie, at somepoint in the plot he is madeout to be a bigotted jerk or an ignorant intolerant hypocrit. Now it is possibly true that many if not all so-called or even genuine Chrisitians are ignorant, intolerant, and hypocritical according to their own standards as well as the standards of secular culture. However, as anyone who has an even elementary understanding of logic will tell you, this does not make Christianity false. The reader of this post will be well advised to note that the denial of potentially true propositions simply because of the character or lack there of, of the communicator of the propositions is a very basic logical fallacy.

My guess is that some of you, especially if you are non-christian, are motivated to some degree to be critical thinkers and yet you are not outraged by the logical falacies of the popular media. For others, you are neither outraged nor are you critical thinkers because you do not particulary care to use your mind to rationally distinguish truth from error. And since you disdain truth (though you don’t admit that you do), you don’t mind when the popular media in various ways attacks those who claim to be all about truth. Of course, you are really not much different than those Chrstians who claim to know the truth because you think your opinions are true. Even if you wouldn’t make the claim that your opinion is truth, your actions and your disdain are indications of value judgements being made about claims to knowledge. Therefore, you get upset with those who claim that your ideas are actually false- especially if the person to point them out is in your view a Christian similar to that ridiculous character in your favorite sitcom. More than likely, you have bought into the often false “deafter beliefs” of the culture. Every culture that is hostile to Christianity believes a set of what it considers “common sense” beliefs that automatically make Christianity seem unlikely to be true. When a culture develops a bunch of defeater beliefs it becomes what pastor and philosopher Tim Keller has termed the “Implausibility Structure” of a culture. One such Western cultural defeater belief is the idea or claim that there can’t be just one true religion. Thus, because Christianity claims to be the only true religion, in our society it becomes implausible to most that it is true and so people won’t even give it a good hearing. They supposedly know that it just can’t be true. For me, this is very sad because eventhough the foundation for all claims to knowledge- the existence of truth/logic is a self evident fact of reality and that the nature of truth is itself a separation of what is false from what is true, thereby necessitating “just one way,” many fail to realize this critical aspect of human reasoning and maintain beliefs that are self-refuting.

My hope through this blog site is to be part of the movement to chop down the deafeter beliefs that have edificed into a relatively massive implausibility structure against Christianty in our culture. In this post, I simply want to challenge you to consider on the one hand the idea that critical thinking does not necessitate skepticism, and on the other hand that critical thinking which assumes skepticism is not logical thinking- a difference that is of importance in the life of every human being.

Many of you have probably seen the bumper sticker- “Question Authority?” This is the slogan for the contemporary movement of so-called critical thinkers. My response to this in jest might be, “says who?” or “who are you to say?” It is assumed by critical thinkers that we ought to question, or challenge any authority or point of reference. According to philosopher Doug Wilson, this critical thinking, “thinks critically about the proposed answer because it doubts that there are any answers. In short, it doubts everything except the reliability of its own doubting. It teaches skepticism as a religious absolute.” Of course, this kind of approach to knowing, this skepticism, is self-refuting because at some point it claims to know that it does not know or that it can not know- which is a knowledge claim itself. 

This kind of skeptical  thinking gives all the authority to the questioner and results in a totaly pragmatic and relativistic worldview. The doubter or skeptical questioner will inevitably come to the conclusion that whatever he/she believes is what works for them. This will be their conclusion because for them there is no point of reference- the authority is the questioner. This is a totally subective authority.

This is obviously an unacceptable position for those who genuinely want to be critical thinkers discerning truth from falsehood. What is the alternative? The alternative is logical thinking. Logical thinking is different from skeptical thinking in that logical thinking presupposes that there is such a thing as absolute unchanging truth, and that this truth is our authority.

I was once asked by a co-worker as they handed me the phone to give the person on the phone directions. The person said that he didn’t know where he was. I thought to myself that if he didn’t know where he was then I could not help him get to where he wanted to go. I would first have to help him figure out where he was. Luckily, he did know the closest cross streets and so I was able to guide him from his starting point to where his destination was. This illustration is helpful in illustrating the distinction between skeptical thinking and logical thinking. The sceptical thinker claims that he does not know where he is or even where he is going. He has no foundation point from which to begin and thus is not able to get anywhere. He claims to have no knowledge and yet this claim is itself a claim to knowledge formulated using the laws of logic. The skeptical thinker if his claim to know that he has no knowledge is true, then by his own terms has no starting point for knowledge and so his claims become false. They self-destruct. The logical thinker, however, who claims to know at the very least that logic exists, has a starting point. He has a foundation (logic) for knowledge from which he can begin. Without this starting point no knowledge is even possible. For there to be any knowledge at all, there must be a foundation for that knowledge. This foundation is objective truth expressed in logic. Therefore, the logical thinker does not contradict himself whenhe claims to have knowledge. 

Instead of falling into the bankruptcy of skeptical thinking which denies that there are unchanging truths, we should be testing our views to see if they matchup with reality as it is- to see if our beliefs are logical. The logical reasoner therefore is not at all interested in answers that will simply work “for him.” Rather, he is interested in ideas that would be true even if he had never existed. In other words, he is interested in objective truth.

I hope that in bringing to light a very important distinction between logical thinking and skeptical thinking- i.e the difference between truth and falsehood, knowledge and ignorance, objectivity and subjectivity, that I have begun to erode the defeater beliefs contributing to the implausibility structure against Christianity in your mind.

In future posts I would like to develop further the concept of logical thinking and its extreme importance for our life. Lord willing!


6 thoughts on “Skeptical Thinking vs Logical Thinking

  1. You say: “My hope through this blog site is to be part of the movement to chop down the deafeter beliefs that have edificed into a relatively massive implausibility structure against Christianity in our culture.” Let’s consider this “in a nutshell” synopsis of Christianity: God incarnated himself in order to sacrifice himself in order to atone to himself for an infraction of a rule that he made committed by a man and woman that he created whom he knew would disobey him so that he would not have to punish them and all their children and descendents eternally after death even after he had already cursed them in perpetuity…
    I could go on, but is your implausibility meter starting to tick yet? Nothing, really? Of course, Christianity creates its own set of implausibility structures against other religions as well as against atheism and science. It is the nature of religions and memes in general to create defenses against competing memes.
    There is truth in all religions except B’hai. That is to say that B’hai doctrine claims that there is truth in all religions and they include atheism as one of those religions. This is clearly illogical nonsense. All other religions contain at least one truth that the other religions are false. We are both atheists, Rand. I merely disbelieve in one more god than you do.

  2. Neil,

    Every worldview has its teachings about reality. You paint a picture of Christianity that is scewed. Simply because you don’t like the teachings of Christ does not mean they are not true. The atheist worldview is much less likely to be true because it has no foundation for truth in the first place. Everytime you write a comment you are borrowing the very concept of truth from the Christian worldview because you assume that the universe has rationality- the kind of thing impossible in your worldview. God exists and has made that very evident. He came into the world to reconcile us to Himself by dying on the cross for our sins proving that this fact is true by rising from the dead which he also made very evident. You can continue to suppress the truth and deny God and His reality and instead place your faith in atheist doctrines which are fundementally irrational. Such as the teaching that life came from non-life, rationality came from non-rationality, there is no=purpose, there is no universal moral values, information came from non-intelligence, and so on. Your religion is much more implausible at the most foundational level. We are not both atheists. I have justified true belief in the living God. You deny Him.

  3. My point was that our culture has developed an implausibility structure around Christianity because Christianity is implausible – really implausible. It may be possible that Christianity is true, but then again it is possible that I may receive an honorary degree from Hogwarts School – just because J.K. Rowling’s books are considered novels doesn’t mean the school doesn’t exist.
    I was not trying to be flattering in my synopsis of Christianity, but have I been inaccurate? How? It sounds much nicer when you say: “[God] came into the world to reconcile us to Himself by dying on the cross for our sins proving that this fact is true by rising from the dead which he also made very evident.” Still I think my synopsis is more accurate as to the big picture context of the Christian scenario.
    So were the Greeks, the Chinese, the Indians and the Egyptians and all of the other civilizations that developed substantial ideas about “truth” merely borrowing from the Christian worldview before Christianity ever came along? Is it more rational to form our ideas of who we are and what our life might mean by examining what has actually occurred on earth or by creating arguments calculated to give ourselves a special status by fashioning a God in our image who just doesn’t have all the problems that we do because he’s infinite and non-material and outside of time etc.?

  4. Neil,

    You will not likely come to the knowledge of the living God because your heart is hard like Pharoah’s in the OT and like the Apostle Paul’s in the NT before he converted to Christ. Christ is alive and you deny Him because your heart is spiritually dead. No matter how much reasonable evidence I put before you, you will deny it because your presuppositions do not allow for them. If I say Christ has risen from the dead, you say “no way” because miracles are impossible. If naturalism is true then of course miracles would be impossible as would be rationality. To you and all unbeleivers the cross is foolishness and a stumbling block just as it is written. However, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are historically verifiable facts- facts which confim the truth claims of Christ the Lord.

    And yes every worldview which denies Christ the Creator, the One true God, the source of everything that is true, good, and beautiful, cannot ultimately account for universal of any kind consistently and yet lives according to them. People, although they deny God, cannot escape from Him and from living in the world in which He made and continues to sustain. The atheistic worldview is the most obvious example of a worldview which inherently cannot account for the existence of universal and invariant logical information and yet uses logic to reject the very foundation of logic…God. Christian Theism can however, very easily explain the existence of logical information as well as other universal truths. You continue to use words like “rational” but you have no reason to be rational because your worldview is fundamentally irrational. I would challenge you to stop using or talking about concepts like logic and reason until you can explain them without simply saying they are just there.

  5. Rand, Rand, Rand… I have given you explanations of what logic is and how we perceive it. You have not shown why these are inadequate or even given a definition of logic that fits with the claims you make about its transcendental origin. You repeatedly say that logic is information. What is this information? How is any “information” universal? What is an Axiom?

    As for my supposed cardiac sclerosis, I’m just trying to live my life in the most thoughtful and compassionate way that I can. Jesus’ disciples, whom I don’t find particularly admirable, got to see miracles and wonders for proof. Why do I deserve less? John 20:29 says: 29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is a chump line written for one purpose only: Indoctrination. I have more to say about the resurrection of Jesus including the efforts of Craig and Habermass (I do pay attention to your suggestions). You have not addressed the points that I have already put forward.

    My worldview does not deny rationality. There are laws of energy and matter which give rise to space and time. Logic and the “laws of thought” are necessary properties of the fabric of space and time. What my worldview does deny is an absolute teleology of existence. I do not believe that our universe arose out of some other heavenly universe to play out some melodrama proving that God is lovable after all.

  6. Neil

    Naturalistic explanations presuppose the Christian God without realizing it. You have attempted to account for logic but all you have said is that it is just there. Your worldview of Naturalism which is only materialistic is a worldview in which rationality supposedly evolved in creatures and somehow those creatures became capable of perceiving an objective reality outside of themselves…the idea of this is extremely implausible..almost ridiculous.

    Are you joking about logic being information? What about the first principles of thought? The self-evident laws of logic are concepts that your worldview presupposes but since your worldview is materialistic it has no basis to presuppose them. This is inescapable.

    Your are right in that your worldview does not deny rationality, it presupposes it. But it has no basis for such a presupposition because a solely materialistic cosmos can not produce universal, abstract, invariant, “things” like the information of logic, or any supposed law forthat matter. You say the laws of energy and matter give rise to space and time of which the laws of logic are necessary properties. Even if this were true, you would have to account for the beginning of the universe and the impossibility of an infinite series of past events in time and space. MAterialism cannot account. Rather than say as your worldview must maintain that hearts don’t pump “in order to” pump blood because there is no final causation or teleology, I would rather use common sense and hold to a view of the world that has very simple and yet reasonable explanations. I can provide a coherent and plausible explanation for all aspects of reality including universals.

    Finally, since the universe began to exist it is surely ok to ask who, what, when, where, why, and how? And since the universe contains things like love, which is very difficult to explain materialistically, I find the idea that a Necessary Being, who must exist as the source of such a virtue and ideed all contingency, exists as a sufficient explanation.

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