Too often when we present historical or scientific evidence for God’s existence, it seems to fall on deaf ears because those we’re trying to reach cannot come to our conclusions from the evidence. In fact, they might even say that the evidence points away from God. Before we get discouraged, it may help to remember that oftentimes, there are unspoken biases at work that we Christian apologists don’t consider.
Why Is This Still A Thing?
Initially, I was going to write a piece entitled something to the effect of, “Jesus Mythicism: Why is this still a thing?” because a couple of weeks ago, I watched a fascinating debate on whether or not Jesus ever existed between Dr. Bart Ehrman and Dr. Robert Price. (Thankfully, our own Nate Sala reminded me to put my “grace cap on” so I shelved that snarky apologetic idea.)
However, one of the telling exchanges (see the 6:23 mark) was when Dr. Ehrman asked Dr. Price, “You think Paul didn’t write Galatians?” and Dr. Price’s said, “Right.” Dr. Ehrman’s response was, “Wow. Okay.”
I started thinking, how can this happen? How can someone like Dr. Price look at historical facts and come to a completely different conclusion than Dr. Ehrman (and the vast majority of scholarship as well)?
I believe there is some truth to Dr. James White’s statement that, “The internet has turned bad arguments into the Walking Dead. You shoot ’em in the head and they keep shuffling forward.”
However, while the advent of the internet may play a role in “bad arguments refusing to die” (Flat-Earthers, anyone?), I think there’s more to it than that.
It May Not Be A Problem of ‘Post-Truth’
In a piece entitled, “Alarmist evangelical apologetics and the so-called post-truth world” Randal Rauser states, “The problem is not that we are becoming post-truth about religious or political beliefs but rather that we are more apt to exhibit cognitive bias about these beliefs.” Rauser may be onto something.
The fact is that generally, we only want to hear or read opinions that agree with our biases. Studies have shown that oftentimes, you can’t even pay people to read opinions differing from their own.
That said, it’s a good reminder for us in the world of apologetics that people often have unspoken biases that will often prevent them seeing the evidence that we provide as evidence for God’s existence in the same manner we do.
As Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer stated in my piece about cultural apologetics, “Too often evidential apologetics makes the mistake of thinking that people are rational. Romans 1 says that they suppress the truth.”
The late R.C. Sproul also stated in his book, “Classical Apologetics” that many people have a vested interest in rejecting God. They simply don’t want it to be true because the God of the Bible is a direct threat to their autonomy. Therefore, those who do not want God to exist may very well harbor unspoken biases toward arguments or evidence in favor of God.
Check Your Blind Spot
This isn’t to pick on skeptics. We Christians can be just as guilty of cognitive bias, too! We all carry biases that cause “blind spots” in our lives and how we view information. The trick is to identify where we have biases and make sure that they aren’t clouding our ability to see things for what they are.
I believe that Professor John Lennox had the best prescription against cognitive bias,
“One should always be careful to record all the evidence against one’s theories; indeed, one should bend over backwards to consider it, since the easiest person to fool is oneself.”