Weighing the Truth

Over time, if one pays attention to this sort of thing, one gets to see or hear a variety of different “reasons” for claiming something as truth. One can also see or hear many different ideas as to how these “truths” were determined to be “true” or not. This is something about which we must be very careful.

Many people have probably heard or read about the Mormons’ “burning in the bosom” as being a method by which they validate truth claims. While many would strongly disregard this as a valid test of veracity, there are other equally invalid ways to “prove” something is true.

I have heard people cite examples such as, “I was just thinking about my friends from years ago the other day and then, suddenly, I just got a phone call from them last night!” In some cases, people will claim that this is evidence for the existence of God. Others might assert something more like what can be found in U. S. Andersen’s “Three Magic Words” and attribute it to some sort of “universal subconscious mind.”

Whatever this “proves,” we must be a bit more careful with our concept of what constitutes “proof” or “validation” for a given belief. This is similar to the idea in a previous post about whether we can accept something is true based on whether or not we like it.

Perhaps a good litmus test for whether or not a given occurrence is a valid way to “prove” something is to take a look at whether that occurrence is subjective or objective. In other words, if it is based on an experience that you my have encountered (e.g. burning in the bosom, voices in your head, coincidental phone call or e-mail from a long lost friend or relative, etc.), then you may want to find something a bit more solid to base your truth-claim on.

For example, if you were to make the claim that “Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion,” then you should probably have something better than just, “because it’s really important to me that He did that” as the basis for your claim. Fortunately, with something like this, we have other reasons to believe such things, though some dismiss this evidence (which is the same idea, only for an opposite claim).

If you are currently in a position where you do not have much better reason than “I hope it’s true” or “I want it to be true” or “My parents always taught me it was true” then I would hope that you’d start working on finding better reasons to believe in your faith. And, when doing so, I would caution that you don’t just base your conclusions on only one side of the issue.

Check out what the opponents of your views are and then research how those arguments are addressed by people with a similar view. Go back and forth several times between the pro and con camps and include your own thinking and your own intuitions about things. I would also point out that prayer is a factor hear as you pray that you would search out the truth in honesty.

The caveat here, of course, is that if you are incorporating prayer, you may fall victim to researching in a way that is going to give an unfair advantage to your current beliefs. Read the article from C. Michael Patton (from the link above) as he has an excellent way of explaining how to be honest and non-prejudicial in your search for truth. While I’m not sure that anyone can be 100% objective, without in some small way trying to confirm our own conclusions, the more one can do this, the better chance you have of coming to find out the actual truth.

I really hate to do this because it just seems a bit cheesy, but I can’t resist the urge to quote the tag line from the old X-Files show: “The truth is out there.”

Grace, love and peace.

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  1. “What I meant was that you don’t rely solely on prayer, ”

    But what you said was…

    “So in other words you imply that you cannot rely on prayer at all,”

    This is why I find it useless to discuss anything with you. A rational discussion is impossible with someone who consistently changes the meaning and/or context of what was said.

  2. See? Was that so hard? What I meant was that you don’t rely solely on prayer, which we both know is true, and as I previously said, you do this because it’s not reliable.

    I’m glad we understand each other.

  3. Again, I’m not running. Just not worth wasting my time with you. You misquote me (again) and twist around things I say. I never said I did not pray. I simply said that I do so in addition to, rather than instead of, going to a doctor.

    There, now you have your not-vague example.

    So, if I have to continue to repeat myself and correct your false assumptions, the conversation is useless and is there for over.

  4. “Once again, I’m not going to continue discussions if every time I say anything you pull it out of context, twist it around and put words in my mouth. That is a pointless waste of time.”

    It’s not taken out of context at all. If you go to a doctor instead of praying for a cure, you have already admitted that prayer doesn’t work reliably. Why else would you pay for a doctor?

    Either prayer works reliable or it does not. And since you don’t kill your children by neglect you know, as well as most people, that your god depends on medicine like the rest of us.

    I notice that you don’t explain *how* I’m wrong, just that you act offended and give me a vague excuse once again.

    I almost feel sorry for you. Need I point out that this is another discussion that you have run away from? That’s a 100% flight rate so far, which is what would expect from a Christian.

    Man up.

  5. Once again, I’m not going to continue discussions if every time I say anything you pull it out of context, twist it around and put words in my mouth. That is a pointless waste of time.

    I wonder if I were to say “I love my mother” if you’d start accusing me of incest or something like that. It’s pointless to even attempt to have a rational discussion with you.

  6. So in other words you imply that you cannot rely on prayer at all, or that prayer cannot persuade your god to heal a child.

    You might not like being stereotyped, but you are more of the extreme end of the scale than the moderate.

    I’m sure Christians that understand science wouldn’t want to be associated with your kind of Ken Ham-ish anti-education brand of religion.

  7. Personally, as a father, if my child is sick I take him to the doctor. Praying for his health, to me anyway, is not something to do “instead of” but “in addition to.”

    And, if I seem to be leaning toward my “particular religion” it is because this site focuses on the Christian faith and so I write from that perspective. I make no apologies for that.

    Finally, I rather don’t like when my faith is stereotyped along with people on such extremes. Those people, to me, only “represent” my religion to the extent that other people generalize.

  8. Congratulations on starting out this post like a true skeptic!

    Regrettably you fell into the trap of special pleading for your particular religion (I’ve gone into more detail in my response to your post here: http://www.jesussite.com/blog/2009/08/sifting-the-evidence ) during the second half.

    I’m not quite sure on your thoughts on prayer, but I think that most people would agree that prayer works equally bad in all religions.

    Which reminds me of the Christian parents who prayed over their child instead of taking it to the doctor. The child died, of course, and the courts gave the parents a very lenient sentence (6 months each spread out over as many years). Surely you don’t like when people like that represent your religion?

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