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!