What do you think is the best way to convey to a skeptic our necessity for intellectual humility?


(Anjeanette "AJ" Roberts) #1

Stuart, what a privilege to have you out here in the community discussion! Thanks for doing this.

I find in some apologetic communities that many people just beginning to learn apologetics are often looking for a home run proof that will answer questions once and for all. I don’t think actual proofs exist. But I still think we can have great rational confidence in the truth of Christianity, and good apologetics can help here.

I think the “proof” comes in our own personal conversion and real encounter with Jesus that leads to radical transformation and relational knowledge/certainty. (Taste and see that the Lord is good.)

This lack of “proofs” along with a call to display intellectual humility will sometimes lead skeptics to pounce on these as defeaters. What do you think is the best way to convey to a skeptic our necessity for intellectual humility and a near constant role for ongoing belief revision in many areas of knowledge and life? What are some good ways to help fellow apologists understand these things too in light of the desire of some to have set responses and home run answers?


Ask Stuart McAllister (March 19-23, 2018)
Introduction: David Balat
(Stuart McAllister) #2

Hi there AJ.

Good to hear from you and trust you are doing well. As you know the question of “proof” is a sticky one, which is used in certain domains with one degree of rigor such as scientific research or solving mathematical equations. In courts of Law it is also used but is subject to more limitations. I think we have to work on defining the meaning of proof and where it can be used or where it has to be used with a degree of caution.

It is often invoked carelessly as in a sense shaped by the Enlightenment era which gave birth to a view called “naive realism”. In a sense the concept was one that assumed a direct capture between something seen or perceived and our understanding or comprehension of it. Much ink has been spilled on the question of what is there (externally and truly) and how we know and how we know that we know (the interpretation process). The key outcome from all this I believe is shedding light on the human knowing process, on its limits and limitations. We bring biases, blind spots, limits and other factors to the interpretation process so that we do not see the data completely as it is.

However, we do see, even if dimly. We CAN know things adequately or sufficiently but not exhaustively. We seek “critical realism” which acknowledges our limits but still can reach judgments. As you rightly point out, we need humility in the knowing process and in our claims. I can garner evidence, produce arguments and offer testimonies about Christ, the Christian faith, the shape of the world and things that seem to offer strong indications or implications of the reality I believe the Gospel unveils. If someone begins to follow the clues, to respond (like C.S. Lewis did) to the hints, prompts and indicators, then they will lead to an encounter, not a set of facts. The encounter reveals the Source and the Source is personal. At that point, proof becomes mute as it is swallowed up by personal knowing.

Evidence, arguments, and the right use of facts and stories have there appropriate place, we just need to recognize there limits and by prayer and faith, rely on the One who ultimately has to reveal Himself. Hope this helps?

Regards, Stuart.

(Kay Kalra) #3