Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sceptics, Seekers and Opponents

Vox Day has an interesting piece on the subject of A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian, a book written with the purpose of teaching, in Boghossian’s own words, “how to talk people out of their faith”.

Day makes the point that Boghossian’s position could not be more distant from that of an authentic sceptic in the traditional sense: “Boghossian’s very stated purpose is in direct and explicit opposition to everything Sextus Empiricus advises, beginning with ‘suspension of judgment’ ”. A reader imprudently engages him on this and Day responds (with my italics):
“Scepticism does not mean ‘I am dubious about X.’ It does not mean ‘I am going to convince you that X is better than Y’. It does not mean ‘I will only believe X if there is sufficient evidence to justify it’. It means: ‘I have no opinion about either X or Y, and if you assert that X is better, I will argue that Y is better in order to produce a contradiction of equal weight and thereby allow me to suspend my judgment.’ What virtually no one who talks about scepticism seems to understand is that for the sceptic, suspension of judgment is not the method or the initial approach, it is the objective.”
— Vox Day
I had not thought of this before, but it provides a good jumping-off point for looking at the issue of how people respond to the preaching of the gospel.

The Lord Jesus taught that there is no middle ground. There is no fence. There is no lofty position upon which a human being may safely perch to pass intellectual judgement on the truth of God. In other words, scepticism itself is a false position, a lost cause.

People asked the Lord why he spoke in parables, and he replied like this:
“Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’ ”
His teaching was not offered for the purpose of being subjected to the sort of emotionless, intellectual criticism characteristic of scepticism. It was offered so people would “see”, “hear”, “understand” and — most importantly of all — “turn, and I would heal them”.

Because the sceptic, like all men, is a sick man in need of medical attention, he just doesn’t know it. He sees himself outside and above the issue, when his own healing is desperately necessary.

But there is no fence. Jesus said:
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30)
“Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:50)
That pretty much covers all the bases. With respect to the gospel, nobody is outside the discussion. You are either for or against.

Peter Boghossian completely fails to qualify as a sceptic, but even if he did, sceptics are intellectual poseurs, however they may see themselves. There is no fence.

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