Submitted Question/Comment from Elise (in Vancouver):
Once one has already decided that faith and God seem to make more sense as a cultural creation, rather than a reality, is it possible to unbiasedly search for truth? It seems to me that it is impossible to look into the issue of God without it being coloured by one side or another. For example, even though I would desperately like to believe, I do not see a lot of historically convincing evidence, nor do I find the Christian worldview befitting of the complexities of the human/world condition. I don’t feel comfortable just starting to pray and reading the bible, because I feel like I would simply be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Want to believe -> belief. To me, a desire to believe is absolutely no indication of absolute truth; especially as this desire for me is deeply rooted in culture and family upbringing.
Thank you for your website submission, Elise. You raise some very important issues, and I appreciate your honest approach to your search for God. In many ways, I can relate to how you feel. I grew up in a Christian home, but I always had doubts and questions. Like you, I very much wanted to believe the Christian message. The idea of living forever with a God who created me and loves me in a place without death and suffering was very appealing to me. More than that, the idea that God loves me enough to pay for my sins appealed to me greatly, and I liked the sound of receiving God’s grace as a free gift with no strings attached. It all seemed great to me, but I remained a holdout for a number of years as I wrestled with my doubts. So I am encouraged that you want to believe, and I appreciate how important it is to you that your belief does not contradict reason.
You asked whether it is possible to be unbiased in seeking to know the truth about God. Let me be upfront in telling you that this is difficult, if not impossible, to do. The reason for this can be seen as follows. Consider an algebra problem like 2X + 1 = 5. It is not hard to seek the answer to this problem (X=2) with very little emotion or bias. Why? It is because finding the answer to this problem is not going to change your life. It has no existential significance. And, your prior beliefs or assumptions are not relevant to solving it.
But now consider these questions: Does the Christian God exist? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Does God require me to place faith in Christ to receive forgiveness of my sins? The answers to these questions obviously have deep existential implications. And, what we already believe or assume to be true will influence what we consider to be an adequate answer. But we should not conclude from this that our search for answers cannot appropriately overcome our prior biases.
If Christianity is true, then it is true whether a person likes it or not. Some people (like you and me) do find the truth of Christianity appealing. Others very much prefer that God does not exist and that Christianity is not true. For example, consider this quote from Thomas Nagel, Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University, in his book The Last Word (p. 130):
I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
Clearly this man is not unbiased in his atheism; yet he is honest enough to admit that he has a strong preference in assessing the question of God’s existence, and that preference is atheism. He is also honest enough to admit that he finds it unsettling that many intelligent people believe in God. So I hope you can see that the question of God’s existence is a question that matters to many atheists as well as believers. Approaching the question in an unbiased way is thus a very difficult thing to do for all of us.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that when we set aside our biases as much as possible and explore all of the arguments and evidence for and against the truth of Christianity as objectively as possible, we have very good reason to walk away with firm confidence that Christianity is true. Many former atheists and skeptics, such as Lee Strobel (who is a contributor to this website) and Josh McDowell, have been convinced by the evidence that Christianity is true despite their previous bias against Christianity .
When it comes to the Christian faith, I have been amazed to discover how powerful the evidence is that it is true. For example: The universe is fine-tuned for the existence of life to an incredible degree of precision, defying all improbability and pointing dramatically to an intelligent designer. DNA is a sophisticated code more complex than any computer program, and such information points to an intelligent mind who designed it. The universe (all of space, time, matter, and energy) began to exist a finite time ago, and this points to a timeless, spaceless, non-physical, incredibly powerful cause that brought the universe into existence. The fact that I am aware of objective moral truths points me toward a perfectly holy, personal source of moral truth. The historical evidence for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus amazes me. I could go on, but you can learn more about such evidence on this site and in outstanding books like William Lane Craig’s On Guard.
You are correct that our desires do not change what is objectively true, and this is important to realize. I can step into the street believing that a bus is not coming, but my belief does not change the truth. If the truth is that the bus is coming, then I am going to be flattened whether I believe it or not. So I want to encourage you to seek God with an open mind and an open heart. It’s certainly okay that you would “desperately like to believe” (in God). Don’t let that concern you. Instead set out to determine as objectively as possible what the truth is about God. I promise that it will be an exciting journey.
I want to leave you with three suggestions to help you along this journey:
- I encourage you to pray to God that He will reveal Himself to you. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit will convict us and testify to the truth (Jn 15:26). God promises to reveal Himself to those who seek to find Him (Mt 7:7-8). I suggest to you that asking God to reveal Himself will not make you biased. You might think of it this way: If it should be the case that the Christian God does exist, then asking Him to reveal Himself to you will definitely help you in your search. God is a personal Being and wants to reveal Himself to you in a personal way. You can still proceed with an open-minded search of the evidence and strive for objectivity in doing so.
- I encourage you NOT to discontinue your Bible reading. If the Christian God exists, then God has revealed Himself not only through nature (Rom 1:18-20) but also through the Bible (2 Tim 3:16-17). You should explore the evidence that God exists by looking at nature and investigating what science reveals. You should also pursue philosophical and historical evidences for God. But your search will not be complete without reading and evaluating the Bible. Doing so does not imply any bias on your part. After all, how will you be able to examine science, history, and philosophy to determine whether there is evidence for the truth claims of Christianity without reading the Bible to know what Christianity’s truth claims are? By reading the Bible with an open—but objective—mind, you will then be able to investigate and evaluate the truth of its claims.
- I encourage you to further explore the resources on the Room for Doubt website and read On Guard with an open mind. Dr. Rich Knopp’s “Home Tour” will give you an overview of why he believes that a Christian perspective and way of life makes the most sense out of “life, the universe, and everything.” A number of posts and articles on the website address many common questions about the truth of the Christian faith. Also, William Lane Craig’s book On Guard is easy to read and provides an excellent overview of key issues that you will want to consider carefully in your evaluation of the truth of Christianity.
May God’s grace direct you in your journey! I will be praying that He will make His truth known to you in a way that changes your life forever. (And of course, we are here to continue the dialogue.)