Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Leaving the fold and losing faith in Lewis

I would be interested in people's reactions to this story of leaving the Christian fold after having confidence in Lewis's apologetics shattered.

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jsku/memoir.html

11 comments:

Joshua Frear said...

Either the link does not exist or my computer cannot find it. Could you post the url itself (http://www etc.) here?

Victor Reppert said...

OK I put it in. Sorry.

Edward T. Babinski said...

I be another former Lewis fan, and Chesterton fan, and Macdonald fan, who no longer labels himself a "Bible believer" nor a "Christian," though I also eschew labels such as "atheist." My testimony is in Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists.

I tend to view people as people, and strive to see beyond the labels. We each are no doubt attracted to different philosophies and different passionate tales, while religious folks are those who tend to identify with particular theologies and passionate tales moreso than the rest of us do.

Cheers to All,
Edward T. Babinski

Jason said...

I think the brief recount of Lewis' conversion process given above is wildly inaccurate as to sequence and detail; but as there is something more important to discuss, I'll skip over that.

It's true that most people who convert to Christianity do so without in-depth examination and acceptance of the relevant philosophical and historical topics. Nevertheless, people still are reasoning when they convert--they are choosing to believe something based on reasoning they have done.

The reasoning may be highly vulnerable; it may be mistaken as to facts being reasoned about; it may be inept as to validity; it might even be intentionally fudged to some extent. Even so, the reasoning still is reasoning; no less so (sometimes no moreso) than when people convert away. When weaknesses (real or only apparent) are exposed (which is also done by reasoning), then persons are put into a position where they must choose what they can and will do about the evident exposure. It isn't fun, but it happens; and it isn't limited to Western Religious types (nor to religious types at all.)

Victor's earlier anecdote about his respondent who would answer objections to Mormon belief, makes a suitable example. What did he suggest Victor do? Go pray over a Bible, and find thereby whether there was a 'burning in his heart' that felt like God was saying LDS doctrine was true anyway.

This would still be an inference, however: if feeling-of-true occurs, then true. And with a little examination, we could probably uncover other inferences upon which this one depends.

Even a hyper-fideist will have reasons for being a fideist rather than some other kind of deist (or agnostic or atheist or pantheist or whatever.) Even a Buddhist will be giving because-es, even if only tacitly, as grounds for his beliefs. (Ex: God is the sound of one hand clapping; your feeling on contemplating this is the beginning of enlightenment.)

Embarrassingly weak reasons, still are reasons. We can't legitimately sidestep the 'embarrassingly weak' part by ignoring the 'reasoning' part. We'll only be deluding ourselves, shrouding ourselves (and anyone else we can convince to do the same) in fog. And even _this_ we'll be doing for reasons--possibly embarrassingly weak ones, the examination of which we'll want to avoid, the avoidance of which we'll be training ourselves to do.

This is (a reason!) why we shouldn't rest our faith on our faith. Neither can we dispense with 'faith', either--which is our beliefs. We will only be trading one set of beliefs for another even more unexamined set, if we try.

Am I saying, then, that no one can be accepted by God unless they reach perfectly accurate conclusions on the thousands of philosophical and historical topics touching Christianity? No! I don't think God judges that way at all. I don't for a moment believe He judges even according to whether a person gets even one single answer correct on such questions, much less merely professes a factoid in a gnostic passcard fashion.

Still, neither can I deny that my belief (and teaching) on this rests on and among inferences I have drawn toward hundreds, perhaps thousands, of conclusions; certain ones of which must be correct for my inference on this to be correct. The super-doctrinaire (along with some other super-doctrinaires, such as Lewis and MacDonald) is saying that correct doctrine saves no one. God saves, by the action of God; although to complete the salvation, the person, as a person, must accept it. This claim is itself a doctrine, of course, which of itself saves no one; but to discuss such things, and make claims of truth about them (pro or con, as believers or sceptics), we use doctrines.

Now, my trust in God is not the same as my beliefs about God, whether those are correct or incorrect (and notice that this is a doctrine, too); but the shape of my trust, including how I enact this trust, will depend to some extent on what I believe to be true about God.

Which is a further topic.

Joe McCarron said...

Well I have never read Lewis. But I have had very similar thoughts as you when I majored in philoshphy in College. Like you getting "to the bottom" of the issue of Gods existance was one of the major philosphical issues that occupied my mind.

Growing up Catholic it was also quite traumatic at times to read arguments that suggested my whole world view was wrong. At times emotion got in the way of my normally clear thinking. The problem of evil was also a big issue.

The proofs of Gods existance were never all that convincing to me so it wasn't a big deal to read rebuttals etc.

The problem of evil lead me down many analytical roads though. I was panicing thinking what does this mean when I die? At fist the idea of no God sounded terrible. Then I read some philospher who basically said who cares if I die. That just means I won't be around in the year 2123. Well i wasn't around in the year 1323 either and that doesn't bother me so why should not being aroudn in the year 2123 bother me? This was a comforting thought. Being an unbeliever isn't so bad.

That is until I then started thinking about being an Unbeliever that should have been a believer! More worry. :) It sort of funny but the same fear that kept me wanting to continue to believe in God and clouded my vision came back Just as strong if not stronger at times when I hoped there was no God.
Emotions can take hold and cloud your vision on whichever side of these issues you stand.

Anyway, I always kept in my mind a very clear understanding that contrasting beliefs on this issue meant adopting completely different world views. There is no rational middle ground. Too many of my beliefs just made no sense if we evolved in a way described by Darwin without any God. Too many of my beliefs made no sense if my death was the end.

When I would think in terms of the hypothetical world without a God I ran into problems as well. Alvin Plantinga has explored some of these problems. But I had similar thoughts on my own.

In the end I had to make a choice about how I was going to live my life. My actions would obviously be different depending on what I believed on this matter. So I weighed the pros and cons of each way of life in light of the uncertainty of Gods existance and the choice was clear. The choice has been clear for about 13 years. I thought long and hard before I decided what to do but I made my choice and I'm running with it! Although I still read and enjoy philosophy on this issue, especially if anyone addresses my viewpoint, I find my time better spent reading the Gospels. :)

John Ridley said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BK said...

I found the story that you linked to be rather shallow for a couple of reasons. First, the author claims that one of Lewis' main arguments were "analyzed and invalidated" "with the utmost clarity, precision and sympathy" by Beversluis. Of course, the author doesn't even attempt to identify which of the arguments were invalidated or exactly how it was invalidated.

I have spent many years on discussion boards on the web debating with skeptics like this author. They are all very quick to say "Lewis has been discredited" but very few of them can put forth a rational argument as to why or how. This article reminds me of this typical skeptical ploy: state your belief as fact and it becomes so.

Second, even if Beversluis somehow did invalidate one of Lewis' main arguments, such a move would have little impact on my faith. There are many, many, many arguments for the existence of God which I find compelling. I have debated many of these arguments often, and the overall result of these debates is to strengthen my faith. I fear that if this author really became an agnostic due to some arguments by Beversluis that knocked out one of Lewis' arguments, then his faith was not in God but in Lewis. A real problem.

BK said...

Oh, and John Beversluis' book is not exactly considered one of the better ones on Lewis' thought. The Discovery Institute puts it on the bottom 10 list of books about C.S. Lewis. Consider the following from http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/cslphilos/intro.htm:

Of the books and articles that do examine Lewis’ work, the majority seem to be utterly uncritical; they swallow nearly everything whole. A notable exception is John Beversluis’ C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion (1985). This book errs in the opposite direction. Thomas V. Morris, himself no partisan of Lewis, has this to say:

My main overall philosophical criticism of this book is that Beversluis seldom comes anywhere near digging deep enough to really appreciate a line of thought suggested by Lewis. All too often he gives a facile, fairly superficial reconstruction of a line of argument, and after subjecting it to some critical questioning, declares it bankrupt and moves on. What is so disappointing to the reader who is trained in philosophy is that in most such instances a few minutes of reflective thought suffice to see that there are very interesting considerations to be marshalled in the direction Lewis was heading, considerations altogether neglected by [Beversluis]. (R.L. Purtill 1990: 41)

test said...

JSKU's memoir said:
"Regardless of how intensely I desired the consolation of my familiar beliefs, I desired the truth even more."
--------------
I think Lewis might approve of that. :-)
On a very quick skimming of the memoir, I wonder if the key might be (as it usually turns out) JSKU's basic assumptions about default positions and burden of proof.
There's a good overview at the beginning of PROBLEM OF PAIN, of Lewis's position as to the strength of the overall logical case for religion. "It does not amount to logical compulsion." It can be rejected "without absurdity."
Even the first, pre-Anscombe, edition of MIRACLES doesn't claim to have a proof of Theism, iirc. It claims a disproof of 'Naturalism', but I'm not sure how far in the Deist direction the claim extends. SURPRISED BY JOY told how far his own philosophical reasoning took him (to some sort of 'Idealism' iirc).
Assuming, as Lewis would, that all positions can be held sincerely -- we can't say "X is disproven because we cannot convince all modern philosophers of it; therefore we have to adopt their anti-X position ourselves." Not to say JSKU is doing this ... but he might consider whether modern Western philosophy is the standard, and if so, whether it deserves to be.

Moordarjeeling

Moordarjeeling said...

Ok, I've got my blog set up,
http://moordarjeeling.blogspot.com/
and I'm going to try reposting my previous comment at my blog also in case anyone would like to comment on it there.

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