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Evidence of Irrationality (Or Not)

August 26, 2015

Why are Twitter debates so enticing? Well, in my case it’s very much a desire for people to know and understand the truth; pure atheist statements don’t draw my fire as much as those that seem to be misrepresenting the facts about my faith.

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And so I got involved in another one a few weeks ago. I decided to stop, as we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere; but I can’t quite get some of the issues out of my head, and since 140 characters really isn’t enough for a good discussion, I decided to record some of my thoughts here instead.

  • The discussion started with me pointing out that not all Christians have been brought up as believers. My own dad became a Christian in his early thirties, having no church background at all, and in virtually every church there are people who came to faith from a non-Christian background.
  • I tried to explain to my opponents that there’s no real point in discussing “religion”. I’m not defending “religion” as such! Most of what goes under that label has nothing to do with my trust in Jesus, and I whole-heartedly agree that a lot of it is dangerous and/or stupid.
  • This wasn’t accepted, on the grounds that “You have a lot in common with Muslims, Hindus…its the same emotional need.” I agree that there is an element of “emotional need” in many people’s religiosity; I vehemently deny that that’s all there is to it, and I don’t see that in myself. I’m not a Christian because it fulfils some vague emotional need; I’m a Christian a) because I had an experience of encountering God and b) because the evidence points towards Christianity being a true (=factual) explanation of the world.
    It might be worth pointing out that while I started with an experience of God, not everybody does, and that “emotional need” is definitely not always a factor. C.S. Lewis didn’t want to become a Christian; he called himself “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England”. Lee Strobel (“The Case for Christ”) set out to disprove Christianity after his wife’s conversion, but found instead that it was true; Frank Morrison (“Who Moved the Stone”) also meant to write a book to disprove Christianity, but found himself “compelled by the sheer force of circumstances” to defend it instead. And those are just people who wrote books about the facts that caused them to believe; there are millions of others who find themselves compelled by the evidence to turn to Jesus.
  • And that’s where the discussion got stuck. I insisted my faith is based on evidence, and that there are facts to consider; my opponents wouldn’t acknowledge that there was evidence to weigh and facts to be considered:

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Which all seems to be partly a misunderstanding of what I’m referring to. Religious experiences in themselves aren’t evidence (at least not to others); but the fact that people have them might be evidence of some reality beyond them. Scripture itself is a fact: it’s there, it makes certain claims, and those claims can be investigated – as Lewis, Strobel, Morrison and many others did.

And the Christian church is a fact: it’s clearly there, and has been for nearly 2000 years. I asked my debate partners how they explain the birth and expansion of the church, if the message it preaches is a hoax. Here’s the response I got:

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Now, this is just laziness – or maybe fear that closer investigation will show up something they don’t want to see? “Atheism doesn’t try to offer explanations” – what?? You’ve just told me that people are religious because of an emotional need – isn’t that an explanation? What are astrophysicists doing, if not looking for explanations?

No, this is just a cop-out. Of course you should try to explain any facts that your opponents use in their defence – and I think the birth of the church is very strong evidence for the truth of the gospel.

Fact: by the middle of the first century, there were Christian communities all over the Roman Empire, that weren’t there a few decades earlier.

Fact: these Christians proclaimed a Messiah who had been crucified – a ridiculous concept, and not one that was likely to attract new followers.

Fact: the early Christians were prepared to die for their faith, rather than deny this Messiah.

Any serious investigation has to take these facts into account. What made the first Christians leave their inherited religion (whether Judaism or paganism) and claim allegiance to a Saviour who had been executed as a criminal? An emotional need? Seriously??

Another fact: their proclamation didn’t focus on a new set of ethics, but on the crucified Messiah himself – because they were convinced he was alive again.

Any serious investigation has to ask: Where did that conviction come from? Mass hallucinations, or just a stupid mistake – they went to the wrong grave? In that case, the Jewish leaders would have been quick to point out where the body was. A deliberate hoax? Nobody goes to their death for something they know to be a lie!

So, my friends, there are facts to consider, there is evidence that strongly suggests that Christianity is true. You may choose to ignore it, but that’s hardly the honest thing to do. I know you find my “irrationality” fascinating; I’m afraid I find yours more frustrating… because I love the truth.

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From → Christianity, Faith, Jesus

7 Comments
  1. A good post raising some very good points, and as you said, the sound bite nature of Twitter is not the best means of exchanging meaningful views. But neither is the “comment” facility associated with blogs.

    I respect your right to choose your world view, but I have to admit that I totally disagree with you. I disagree with you, simply because I can offer rational explanations for all of the valid points you raised in defense of your world view. I can in fact explain the origins of both Christianity and the Gospels, simply and rationally, without resorting to divine intervention.

    Sounds a little crazy I know, but I’ve documented my argument in a book called The Christianity Myth, available via most online retailers. Whether you read it or not, is entirely up to you.

    • Thanks Ken – I’ll have a look around and see if I can find your book. I’m just wondering: if your arguments are valid and convincing, how come I’ve not come across them before? All the arguments I present for my faith are well known and repeated in books, blogs, websites etc.
      And I do object to the use of the word “rational” in the sense of “non-supernatural”, as if accepting the existence of God is automatically irrational… I know that’s how atheists tend to use the word, but I don’t think that’s correct, since I use just as much reason and logic to defend my faith as you do to defend yours!

      • Point taken about use of “rational”. We all tend to think we are being rational. My argument is very convincing, but I would say that wouldn’t I. You haven’t come across it before because my argument is new and unique. Book readily available at Amazon etc. Called The Christianity Myth by K.A.G.Thackerey.

    • Hello again Ken – if you get notified of this… Just to let you know I’ve bought your book, and will comment in a blog post once I’ve read it.

    • My response to your book has now been posted on my blog – feedback welcome!

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