Frozen Indecision

In Inside Baseball we presented what really amounted to a criticism of Christian practice, in adding an elevated kind of “knowing” to the project of ascertaining truth about ultimate reality.  That practice, we suggested, has seeped out into the culture at large in a way that now causes people to become alienated from the truth, when they don’t feel they’ve achieved that special kind of knowing.  It’s what makes many self-described “agnostics.”

False Neutrality

One can search and explore and reason and settle upon agnosticism after investigating the competing claims to truth about ultimate reality, but that doesn’t salvage agnosticism from being correctly described as “frozen indecision.”  If one concludes his investigation in a position of agnosticism, then he’s necessarily adopting a position of neutrality.  But there is no position of neutrality on the question of ultimate reality.

Understand, we’re not talking neutrality as being among the possibilities for thinking about reality.  We’re not talking about neutrality as being among the possible claims one can make about reality.  The question is not what the agnostic (or anyone) thinks about reality.  We’re talking about reality itself, and as to that objective reality, there are two and only two possibilities.  Either we live in a mechanical universe of matter in motion; or there is that material reality plus more.  Only two options.

Agnosticism attempts neutrality because it adopts neither of those two possibilities. Even if an agnostic says that this question about ultimate reality is unknowable, rather than merely unknown, he is still by definition not committing either to there being a supernatural component to reality, or to there not being such.  So he necessarily positions himself as neutral as to the reality options.  He may have what he feels are good reasons to do so.  But he’s subjectively neutral.  That’s just what it means to be agnostic.

What does it mean to adopt subjective neutrality on a matter for which there is no objective neutrality?  It just means indecision.  But what all too often happens is that someone in the position of “not knowing” comes to think of that point of view as being a substantive belief about reality itself.  That leads to continuing in that position of indecision — being frozen in it.

How to “Know”

We have to consider what it means to say we “know” something.  What we referred to in Inside Baseball was a gnostic-type knowing that is an interior, experiential knowing, equivalent to knowledge of one’s own existence.

Contrast that with simply being persuaded to the truth of a proposition based on the strength of the evidence and the reasoning applied to that evidence.

Agnostics are frozen in indecision because they adopt neither of the only two possibilities that exist, and often they do so because they believe that this gnostic-type knowing is required for anyone to be able to adopt one of the two positions.

Within a proper understanding of what it means to “know” something, we can know that there is supernatural reality.  Evidence for it is overwhelming, for those with eyes to see.  Only by requiring, in addition to all that evidence, a kind of absolute sure-as-I-breathe kind of knowing, can one get to the point of asserting that the truth is “unknowable.”

The Bible

The proper way of “knowing” is accessible to all of us without even opening the Bible.  That’s why, from a philosophical standpoint, the Christian faith is not based solely on the Bible.

It also explains how it is possible even from a materialist understanding how someone might be totally isolated from the Bible and yet come to find it and accept Christianity as true.  In the course of making sense of reality, one would first reason that there has to be a God, and then that He cares about us, and that people are manifestly sinful and “not-God;” but that there is something significant about people that makes us realize a special connection to that God.  And those things would cause the seeker of truth, if he is persistent, to seek out revelation of God to us (like a bible of some sort, if not yet The Bible), and they would seek, in that revelation, an indication of some means by which God redeems us to himself, because of that connection. This seeking would get him to the Bible, and–again, if he is persistent in his truth-seeking–he would see it for the revelation of God that it is.

 

2 thoughts on “Frozen Indecision”

  1. No, no, no. I self describe as an agnostic not because I am indecisive but because I know data can change as we learn more. I don’t believe there is a god because I have not seen any evidence–ANY evidence–that there is a god. But if a Monty Python-like god face appeared on the sky I guess I would have to reevaluate. Does that make me neutral? No. I think that you and other believers torture logic to find a way to believe in some magical mythical creature that DOES NOT EXIST.

    I am an agnostic.

    1. It sounds like you’re saying that you’re simultaneously an agnostic and an atheist. I understand you’re leaving open the possibility of a God because the data could change, and you could see evidence for God though you feel there is none now. But if that’s the case, then why are you adamant that “the magical mythical creature . . . DOES NOT EXIST?” If only tortured logic gets one to God, then why do you insist on the label “agnostic,” rather than atheist?

      Let me try to get to the heart of the matter without getting caught up in the word meanings. You’re saying that there is no evidence of God and no untortured logic applied to what we observe that could reasonably cause us to conclude that there is a God. You’re saying that you conclude that there is no God until it is proven to you that there is a God. So your default position is that atheism is the truth; that theism bears the burden of proof, so to speak. Am I getting that right?

      If so, then this bears out what I’ve been trying to say in recent posts: that this version of “agnosticism” is really atheism, because we’re talking about a binary situation. If you’re not a “1,” you’re a “0.” If you believe that theism must be proven, and that it has not been, then you’re an atheist. If you believe that atheism must be proven, and that it has not been, then you’re a theist.

      To understand this, you might think through the question that is really under consideration. It’s not whether there is a God. It’s what comprises all of reality. Is the material all that there is? Is matter in motion the sum total of reality? Or is there more? Theism is the idea that there’s more. If you distill the question this way, you’re less likely to get hung up on the baggage you associate with God (as hinted at by the Monty Python imagery).

      I wish I knew what logic you think must be “tortured” to get one to theism. It is significant that you’re saying not merely that you’re unpersuaded by the evidence of theism, but that there is in fact no evidence of theism. I talk about all kinds of evidence for it on this site, but for purposes of illustration, let me pick just one: the fact that something exists rather than nothing. The simplest explanation is that stuff was created. We can imagine that stuff somehow spontaneously generated from nothing, but doesn’t that have less appeal to sound reason?

      I pick this one example just to make the point that there is some evidence, not necessarily to say that you should be persuaded by that piece of evidence by itself. But there is much more to add to this, like reason itself. We both appeal to logic (hence your comment that mine is “tortured”) but why? Because there is an underlying orientation to truth that we both share. That is evidence of God, because the alternative view of reality cannot have an orientation to truth. The only atheist explanation for humans seeking and telling the truth would be that it confers some evolutionary advantage, but in that instance it is the evolutionary advantage that is the ordering principle, not truth in the abstract. If evolutionary advantage is served by falsehood, then falsehood results.

      As with truth, moral good and beauty are similarly ordering principles to our lives that are explained by the presence of God, and not persuasively explainable without a God. I would add to those ordering principles the fact that we have a bone-deep desire for purpose and meaning. You might not think it’s persuasive merely that this desire exists, but consider that even if our only ordering principles were survival and reproduction, why do even those ordering principles exist? Where does the impetus to live instead of die come from?

      You can add to these evidences the mystery of human consciousness. Atheists dismiss this on the ground that, they say, the mind is only the brain, so that people are only biological machines. Some people become more persuaded to that point of view as neuroscience advances, but I don’t think that brain function by itself can explain the subjectivities and intentionality of consciousness. You may disagree, but again, this is some evidence.

      I’m not trying to outline here all the evidence, nor all the untortured logic applied to it. I’m only highlighting a few elements to demonstrate that there is some evidence, and that evidence is substantial. In fact, I take the sum of all the evidence to be overwhelmingly persuasive that there is a God. I get it that you disagree, but I don’t see how you can base your disagreement on there being a complete absence of evidence.

      If there is reasonable, contestable evidence on both sides, why does atheism enjoy the presumption of validity? Why would theism have to carry the burden of proof? Why would you place yourself in the position of atheism, until such time as you think this artificial burden is carried?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *