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Hardball Skepticism

Responding to objections from three seasoned skeptics Richard B. Keyes

Dick Keyes is director of L’Abri MA, a residential study center in Southborough, Massachusetts.

See www.labri.org/branch_mass_intro.htm.

L’Abri was founded in Switzerland by the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer in 1955. Mr. Keyes is also an author and lecturer. Since 1997 he has served as an AIIA Resource Associate (worldviews).

The following is an original article.

SKEPTIC #1…to Keyes
I am perfectly content as a non-Christian. I do not believe in an afterlife and would never consider a religion so restrictive and exclusive as Christianity anyway.

KEYES…to Skeptic #1
You are content as you are – fair enough. If contentment is what you are after, the Christian faith may not have much to say to you for a while. But lots of things that bring contentment are not true. Would you be willing to consider something if it disturbed your contentment, but might actually be true?

How do you know that there is no conscious existence after death? The main reason that people claim to not believe in an afterlife is that they think that the idea is a naive wish-fulfillment in the face of the fear of death. But disbelief in an afterlife could have the same intellectual status. It could be the hopeful wish that there might be no accountability to anyone after we die, and the hope that there is no intrusive authority in our lives before that time.

Christian exclusiveness starts with the idea that the Gospel of Christ is true in a way that will exclude some other claims to truth. Is this so arrogant? Everybody in the world who has any religious or metaphysical convictions believes that the majority of people in the world are wrong about their religious and metaphysical convict-ions. For example, you exclude my convictions. But that’s okay. We can talk about it much better knowing where we both stand – two absolutists having a civil discussion.

SKEPTIC #2…to Keyes
I have a real problem with an alleged omnipotent god using fallible people to tell others who he is. Why should any one have to accept ancient hearsay as evidence for the existence of a god? If Jesus is who he said he was, then he shouldn’t have any problem personally convincing me of that fact, especially considering the penalty with which he is supposedly ready to zap anyone who doesn’t believe. In fact, I’d say, all things considered, he is a twisted monster for not doing just that.

KEYES…to Skeptic #2
You are right to be suspicious about fallible people. But if God really is omnipotent, there is no reason why He cannot use fallible people to carry out His plans – including plans to reveal Himself and get it right. God does not promise to prove Himself unequivocally to those who believe that He is a “twisted monster,” but to those who approach Him in humility. It may be a good idea to think about your own fallibility as a judge in these things.

The apostle Paul, writing to people in Rome, did not appeal to “ancient hearsay” at all, but to their own present experience. He pointed to their awareness of the fingerprints of the Creator in the grandeur of creation. He also pointed them to their need for salvation because they all fell short of the moral judgments they made of others. They (we) are all hypocrites, in need of mercy.

SKEPTIC #3…to Keyes
The bible makes a lot of claims about Jesus’ miraculous feats. But if all these amazing things really did happen, why didn’t reputable con-temporary historians write about them? You’d think that phenomenon like a great darkness at Noon (crucifixion), or bright stars moving across the sky toward Bethlehem (Christmas), would have been reported by other historians. Yet we only have the biased claims of Christ’s supporters.

KEYES…to Skeptic #3
The reporting of the events around the life and death of Jesus are just about what you would expect in the first century, given that Jesus’ following was so small during His lifetime, that He lived in such a remote corner of the Roman Empire, and given the state of astronomy at that time. Despite these limitations, Josephus (the first century Jewish historian), and Tacitus (an early second century Roman historian) make significant reference to Him. And actually, the very thing that you call for does exist. The mid-first century Roman historian Thallus makes reference to the darkness of the sun at the time of the crucifixion as he tries to refute the apostles’ claim. He argues that the crucifixion had, by chance, taken place during a solar eclipse.

Your position discounts the experience and witness of those who were “biased” – presumably referring  to the New Testament writers, biased because they believed in Jesus. But who was unbiased? Can we count on those who rejected Jesus to have been unbiased? Why? Those closest to the events had high stakes in trying to protect their power base. The reports of Jesus’ followers [actually] gain a certain authority because of their willingness to die for their witness to the resurrection.