Friday, July 1, 2011

Looking For The Truth About The Bible

 by Kenneth W. Hawthorne

"The interest I have in believing a thing is not proof of the existence of that thing."  Voltaire
"A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be."  Albert Einstein

If you haven't already guessed, the "it" in the blog title is the Bible. I named this blog after the 1926 classic by Joseph Wheless, Is It God's Word?, and I'm afraid most Christians have not done a real investigation into the answer to this question.

I was indoctrinated from an early age and always just accepted that the answer was yes, and as I got older I only looked for evidence to confirm what I already believed. Uncritical acceptance of the Bible as the verbally inspired word of God was strongly encouraged, and I accepted it as true doing a nominal rather than an actual investigation of the claim. Any of this sound familiar?

Christians have different views about the Bible. Some Christians view the Bible as verbally inspired by God, others view it as only containing the word of God but not verbally inspired by God word for word, and still others believe that God gave his "ideas" to certain men and allowed them to choose the words. Yet most Christians look upon the Bible as the word of God in some sense. But is the Bible the word of God in any sense? And if we really want the truth about the Bible how should we go about finding it?

In any search for truth about the Bible one must be willing to honestly evaluate the subject, and to be able to do this, critical thinking is essential. The following is from Austin Cline's What Is Critical Thinking?:
The term “critical thinking”...what does it mean? Some may get the impression that it simply involves finding fault with others and others’ ideas, but that isn’t really the case. As a general rule, critical thinking involves developing some emotional and intellectual distance between yourself and ideas — whether your own or others’ — in order to better evaluate their truth, validity, and reasonableness.
Critical thinking is an effort to develop reliable, rational evaluations about what is reasonable for us to believe and disbelieve. Critical thinking makes use of the tools of logic and science because it values skepticism over gullibility or dogmatism, reason over faith, science over pseudoscience, and rationality over wishful thinking. 
Avoid Common Fallacies
Most people can reason well enough to get by in their daily lives and no more. If that is enough to survive, why invest the extra time and work to improve? People who wish to have high standards for their beliefs and reasoning, however, cannot make do with the bare minimum just to get by in life — more education and practice are needed.
To this end, good critical thinking requires that a person become familiar with common logical fallacies which most people commit at some time or other without ever realizing it. Fallacies are errors in reasoning which creep into arguments and debates all the time; the practice of critical thinking should help a person avoid committing them and aid in identifying their appearance in others’ arguments. An argument that commits a fallacy cannot provide good reason to accept its conclusion; therefore, as long as fallacies are being committed, the arguments aren’t being very productive.
Robert T. Carroll, in The Skeptic's Dictionary, has this important information to add about critical thinking:
The goal of critical thinking is to arrive at the most reasonable beliefs and take the most reasonable actions. We have evolved, however, not to seek the truth, but to survive and reproduce. Critical thinking is an unnatural act. By nature, we're driven to confirm and defend our current beliefs, even to the point of irrationality. We are prone to reject evidence that conflicts with our beliefs and to attack those who offer such evidence...It is much harder cognitively, but a requirement of good science, to try to falsify a pet hypothesis.   
In order to do a rational and critical evaluation we will need to:
  • Develop an emotional and intellectual distance from our biases toward the subject. (Biases are our preferences, i.e., the way we want something to be).
  • Use the tools of logic and science.
  • Not look merely for evidence that confirms what we already believe or what we want to believe.
  • Make sure that we suspend the natural tendency to reject evidence that goes contrary to what we already believe or what we want to believe.
  • Have the courage to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

For further reading:

No comments:

Post a Comment