Saturday, November 8, 2014

Christianity vs Maturity?

Before I release the initial post of the series I've been working on for a while (regarding our approach to Scripture), here's a nice little article to contemplate :)

To summarise it:

  1. 'Evidence' (e.g. logic, 'science', textual criticism) plays a relatively minor role in 'conversion to unbelief / atheism'
  2. Instead, the deciding factor seems to be that the narrative 'unbelief' offers is one of honesty, problem-solving, maturity in the face of our complex reality - more so than the person's previous / alternative 'belief' system. 
  3. 'Evidence' is then offered as a supporting factor which integrates well with the preferred narrative.
  4. This implies that the church's mission attempts should not be primarily focused on 'evidence', even if we think we have lots which integrates well with our preferred narrative. This will only alienate people who are preconditioned (by their preferred narrative) to reject these 'evidences' in favour of their own.
  5. Instead, the church should seek to provide an alternative attractive narrative - one which is MORE honest, mature, and pro-active in the face of our complex reality, than the person's previous experience of 'belief'.
  6. The best initial step in evangelism, then, is to spend life with people, come alongside them, invite them to church. The goal is to help them grasp a narrative that can handle their complex reality in a way which is mature. 

Some thoughts of my own - If we fail to provide a narrative which is attractive, there are several possibilities:

  • Christianity is not real, and hence can't handle reality. If Christianity is real, an alternative MORE mature narrative must be possible.
  • WE probably need to adjust our understanding of the Christian narrative, so that it becomes mature enough to handle the other person's complex realities. This requires humility, a Christian value strangely lacking in many evangelical strategies.
  • Of course there are other things (besides 'maturity')  which make narratives attractive. Some may be able to be superseded by Christ's narrative, but others may be fundamentally opposed to it. We can't provide a narrative which is exclusively attractive on all fronts, or exclusively supported by all the evidence. Whatever the case, our aim is the same - to provide a narrative which is SUPERIORLY attractive, and which is supported by evidence.

What do you guys think? Especially keen to hear from the atheists out there :)


  1. Great post Josh.
    Once we get past the mere cyclic arguments about which has the most evidence, then we can have more useful discussions. That is, not ignoring evidence, but instead looking at how each narrative as a whole fits observed reality in a practical and a theoretical way.

  2. I agree - a great way to look at it. Humans aren't really rational - we just kid ourselves that we are. We believe what we want or need to believe and justify it with "rational" arguments. We're really just following our hearts - either into Christianity or away from it. Our psychology determines our theology I reckon :)

  3. Joshua- I know that many former Christians became atheists at least partly because of what you say: they didn't see Christians around them living more maturely than they were (in many ways, of course). So you may be right, as far as that goes.

    For me, however, that was never a deciding factor. But I suspect I'm atypical: I was never a believer, although I spent a lot of time with Christians (and other believers, especially Bahai's). Evidence was always important to me.

    cheers from autumny Vienna, Scott

  4. Thanks for chiming in Scott!

    What would you say that constitutes evidence?


  5. Real-world scientific observations, say, of the power of prayer, or of a miracle better than the Grilled Cheese Virgin Mary. Keeping in mind all the motivations people have to believe, and the historical fact (which even you must recognize) that people invent gods all the time.

    cheers from rainy Vienna, Scott

  6. "Real-world scientific observations"... would you say that this is synonymous with my definition of evidence - "Interpretation of observable data"?

    Keeping in mind that scientists also create explanations all the time, supposedly with a motivation to explain things... which of course is impossible in a true reductionist sense.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Yeah, that sounds pretty synonymous, Daniel.

    I would say that explanation is part of reductionism. If science were just a collection of observations with no explanations, then no patterns would be perceived and no extrapolations, say how to land on the Moon, would be possible. But "reductionism" is pretty hard to put boundaries on, isn't it?

  9. Hey Scott, sorry for the long delay! Finished studies now and starting full time work just recently… phew lol.

    Yes, totally agree that explanations are part of reductionism. Ha ha, yes reductionism is hard to put boundaries on, and yet I find many atheists that I come across do.

    My point, which I believe you are most likely well aware of, is that science will never be able to reduce everything and explain everything. Though, I will be just as quick to say that neither will Intelligent Design explain everything in a reductionist manner. Which is more scientific at the end of the day - explanations... or explanations?

    Some explanations make more sense than others, but that is often (if not always) subjective and up for discussion. To hide behind a raw scientific understanding of the world which many atheists do, I believe is misunderstanding and asking too much of science.

    My point being, I think that atheists generally speaking, often assume that their paradigm is solely made up by what is scientifically explained. This is not currently possible and will never be possible. Therefore, arguments against the existence of a deity based on the fact that deities cannot be scientifically be tested are misguided, and demonstrates a misunderstanding of the debater’s own relation and position in reality.

    The discussion about reality needs to be around what we perceive it to be, not how certain those perceptions are. Scientific evidence can be used to build up these perceptions, but ultimately there is much to life that is far outside the realm of science and therefore is more open to our perceptions around what reality means.