October 21, 2013

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Hi, Dr. Craig, I'm currently reading "Disproving Christianity" by David McAfee. I've also been listening to Richard Dawkins. I want to believe in God, but I'm having trouble with my faith. I've always been a Christian, but since I started talking to my atheist friends, I find it hard to believe in God. When I think about it, it doesn't make much sense to me to belive in a creator of the universe. It makes even less sense for me to believe in a God who intervines in our lives. Please, I want to believe in God, any suggestions?


- country not specified

I find myself utterly baffled by the cavalier way in which many ill-equipped Christians expose themselves to material which is potentially destructive to them. It’s like someone who doesn’t know how to swim deciding to take the plunge in the heavy surf. Wouldn’t it be the sensible thing to do to first prepare yourself before venturing into dangerous waters?

I remember vividly that when I first became a Christian I was very careful about what I read because I knew that there was material out there which could be destructive to my newfound faith and that I had a lot, lot more to learn before I was ready to deal with it. Do we forget that there is an enemy of our souls who hates us intensely, is bent on our destruction, and will use anything he can to undermine our faith or render us ineffective in God’s hands? Are we so naïve?

In your case I strongly suspect that, despite your having been a Christian for most of your life, you have not properly equipped yourself before reading and watching anti-Christian material. I say this, not merely because you fail to see the obvious fallacies in arguments like Dawkins’ (see http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-new-atheism-and-five-arguments-for-god and http://www.reasonablefaith.org/dawkins-delusion ), but also by your admission that “it doesn't make much sense to me to belive in a creator of the universe,” thereby evincing your unfamiliarity with the powerful arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe, such as the argument from contingency, the kalam cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, the argument from mathematical applicability, the argument from intentional states of consciousness, and so on. Even if you don’t find these arguments rationally compelling, they at least show that belief in a Creator of the universe makes sense. Equally astonishing, you report that “It makes even less sense for me to believe in a God who intervines in our lives.” Obviously, you’ve not digested Alvin Plantinga’s fine reflections on divine intervention in his chapter on “Divine Action in the World” in his Where the Conflict Really Lies (Oxford University Press, 2011). Have you looked carefully at the evidence for Jesus’ miracles or resurrection, as laid out, for example, in Graham Twelftree’s Jesus: The Miracle Worker (IVP, 1999) or my Reasonable Faith (Crossway, 2008)?

What would prompt you to feed on the garbage you’re reading and watching, thereby polluting your mind, rather than diligently studying the work of, say, Alvin Plantinga? We are called to be disciples, which in the Greek means “learners.” Is what you’re doing your idea of what Christian discipleship looks like? Is this the path to transformation by “the renewal of the mind” (Romans 12.1-2)?

Certainly, someone does need to read and interact with secular material, but that person is not (yet) you. You first need to prepare yourself.

So, you ask for suggestions:

1. Make first and foremost a recommitment of your heart to Christ. Examine yourself to make sure there is no unconfessed sin in your life and daily ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Make sure that you have a regular time of private prayer and Bible study and regularly participate in corporate worship. Look for ways to serve in a local community of believers. Your spiritual formation is just as important as your intellectual formation.

2. Quit reading and watching the infidel material you’ve been absorbing. Confess your recklessness and irresponsibility to God. Notice: I’m not saying, quit asking questions. I’m saying, quit going to the wrong people for answers.

3. Begin a program of equipping yourself in Christian doctrine and apologetics. A good way to do this is to start going through our Defenders lectures (series II) (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast), starting at the beginning. You might also go slowly through On Guard (Cook, 2010). This would be best done with a mentor or a group if you can find one.

4. Put yourself in the way of learning. Attend some apologetics conferences, like the annual apologetics conference of the Evangelical Philosophical Society every November. Try to find some like-minded Christians with whom you can discuss your questions. If there’s a Christian college or seminary in your area investigate enrolling in night classes.

Though I’ve been rather hard on you, that’s only because I’m genuinely concerned for you. I don’t want you engaged in self-destructive behavior. I’m really glad you wrote. There are good answers to your doubts, if you’ll look in the right places.