Making Belief Our Focus

Making Belief Our Focus June 10, 2013

I want tointroduce you to Al. Nice guy, good neighbor, six-figure job, loves his wife,involved with his kids, volunteers in the community, politically unaffiliated,and adamantly irreligious. Although Al grew up in a nominally religious family,he’s come to believe since college that most of the stories in the Bible aremyths, especially the miracles. “Miracles can’t happen,” he says. “Science hasproven that. So there go the virgin birth, the healings, and most of the otherstuff Jesus did.”

How do youproceed? No matter what evidence you give Al for the credibility of the Bibleor the plausibility of miraculous events, he’ll counter it with some excuse.Introduce him to someone who was miraculously healed, and he’ll say it was acoincidence. Show him the doctor’s report, and he’ll say the doctor wasmistaken. Bring in a whole crowd of people who experienced the same miracle,and Al will say it’s a conspiracy. See the problem? His presuppositions governhow he interprets the evidence. No matter how much evidence you give him orwhat kind it is, his presuppositional belief against miracles leads him to adifferent conclusion from you every single time. (cf. Lk 16:31)

Practicallyspeaking, then, we often have to work with people at the level of theirpresuppositions. In Al’s case, once we learn he doesn’t believe in miracles,we’ve identified an important clue that will lead us—via a few humble andgentle questions—to one of his main beliefs. Turns out, Al believes thatscientific observation is the only reliable route to real knowledge. He thinksthat we should not believe anything that is outside the realm of our fivesenses. “Seeing is believing” is his motto. In his opinion, accepting thebeliefs of the Bible is foolish, since you have to embrace these things simplyon the alleged authority of God, whom he has never heard, seen or felt.

Inresponse, you might ask Al how he came to believe that all knowledge has tocome from our five senses. What you’ll find is that, whatever hisanswer—whether he took Intro to Philosophy in college or just thought this ideaup himself—he’s going to have to name a source other than one of his fivesenses. That’s because you can’t see, smell, feel, hear, or taste that“seeing is believing.” In other words, Al’s presupposition is self-defeating;hence, his worldview can’t support itself.