This morning, I posted the following as a tweet:
Atheists often challenge me by asking the conditions under which I would reject the Bible as God’s Word, or say that God isn’t perfectly good or conclude that Christianity isn’t true. The assumption is that if I don’t provide those conditions, the faith I now have is somehow illegitimate. But that’s like telling a newlywed that their marriage is only legitimate if they give the conditions under which they’d seek a divorce.
Meh, it don’t work like that.
In other words, it is absurd to insist that one must provide falsification thresholds for one’s belief and existential commitment in order for that belief and commitment to be genuine or legitimate.
Within a couple of minutes, I received the two most predictable replies, one from an atheist and the second from a Christian. By the way, I don’t mean “predictable” in a disparaging way. Rather, these are the two responses that are most readily suggested by my original statement.
The atheist asked: “I know exactly what would trigger divorce in my marriage don’t you ?”
I replied: “If it turned out that my wife was a psychopath and she tried to kill me and my child, then sure, I’d divorce her. That’s not the question. The question is whether the legitimacy of a marriage depends on stating a threshold for divorce. That’s absurd.” (emphasis added)
In other words, it is easy to identify extreme cases where one would surrender their belief and existential commitment. If I died and appeared before the throne of Allah, I’d say, “Well gee, I was wrong!” It isn’t hard to come up with such scenarios. The key is that it is absurd to demand that one must be able to identify precisely that straw that breaks the camel’s proverbial back, i.e. that moment at which one would conclude that their belief was false. With complex beliefs and deep existential commitments, it is very difficult if not impossible to identify precisely that moment: you don’t know it until you live it. Consequently, it is absurd to demand it.
The theist commented: “I think the Bible offers its own conditions of falsifiability, such as if the universe were infinite, or if the resurrection were demonstrated to be false. I am surprised they don’t consider those points.”
I replied: “You should read my chapter on Christians who question the resurrection in my book “You’re not as Crazy as I Think.” It’s more complicated than to cite 1 Cor. 15:14. But the point is that the genuineness of the faith doesn’t depend on identifying falsification thresholds.”
To conclude, I listed three points for which the atheist commonly demands falsification thresholds: belief in the Bible as God’s Word, belief that God is perfectly good, and belief that Christianity is true. The legitimacy of my belief in and existential commitment to the Bible, the goodness of God, and the truth of Christianity is simply not contingent upon my ability to say the precise conditions under which I would find myself surrendering those beliefs and that commitment.