Sunday, May 06, 2007

Drawing to a Close

This post is part of an ongoing dialog between my friend Ernie and me about the validity of Christian belief.

As we draw our diablogue to a close, it is time for some reflection on where we have been. Coming so closely on the heels of similar reflections that led to a change in format a few weeks ago, some parts of this may be repetitive.

First, some statistics. This dialog started in toward the end of 2005, triggered by a comment Ernie left after my post on Solomon's Temple, followed by what I would consider the first posts that were explicitly intended as part of an ongoing conversation, Testable Propositions and A Post-Modern Faith in Jesus. Since then, I have written 68 posts (plus this one) and Ernie has written 66 (if I counted right). That works out to almost 3/4 MB of text, maybe 100,000 words.

As I look back on some of the earliest posts, I wonder if we really got very far, because some of the same issues we have discussed recently were introduced then. Of course, along the way, we have travelled here and there, discussing hell, epistemology, morality and touches of historical and modern Christianity. Obviously we have not come to any major agreement, but perhaps that is not so surprising.

For my part, despite the lack of resolution, this dialog has been helpful in several ways. It has forced me to consider more carefully my reasoning on various issues, especially regarding those issues that are treated in very different ways by different branches of Christian thought. It has driven me to study philosophical subjects more deeply and particularly develop a deeper understanding of ethics and morality. And I hope (perhaps unreasonably) that I have improved my ability to express myself and to engage in a thoughtful yet perhaps somewhat adversarial discussion.

But do I really understand Ernie any better? I suppose I do, yet what I understand does not move me, intellectually speaking. The primary evidence that seems to be important to Ernie apparently relates to changed lives on both small and large scales. That is, that Christianity has (in his view) produced and continues to produce positive changes that indicate that Christianity must be on to something. My response has been, over and over, that this type of evidence is problematic in several ways: that false beliefs can have (some) benefits, that other belief systems also produce positive changes, that attribution of the large-scale changes to Christianity specifically is difficult, that any weighing of the evidence must also include the evil that can be attributed to Christianity, and that the moral contributions can exist apart from the metaphysical beliefs so that other kinds of evidence must be adduced to support those other claims.

If there have been other lines of evidence offered, I do not recall them now. I think Ernie has made some other types of claims, but (perhaps due to the conversational trajectory) has not defended them. Similarly, I have not addressed or supported all of the issues that lead me to disbelief.

I might summarize my major themes as: the disproportionality of the evidence for Christianity to the consequences for disbelief and sufficiency of non-theistic explanations for the evidence that Ernie claims support Christianity. While I have advanced other lines of evidence external to our dialog, I think most of my half of this conversation has fallen into those two grand themes.

I respect Ernie for his recognition of some of the flaws of modern Christianity and his intention to improve it. There is a great deal of room for improvement in this world, and while may disagree with Ernie on a number of points, I appreciate his willingness to engage for so long in an attempt improve our small part of it.

Thanks, Ernie.

1 comment:

Dr. Ernie said...

Thanks, Alan. I appreciate your patience, courtesy, and time. My final reply here. I pray you find the truth you seek.
Love always,
-- Ernie P.