What is Agnosticism?


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This presentation examines the claims of agnosticism

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What is Agnosticism?

  1. 1. What is Agnosticism?Examining the Truth Claims of Agnosticism www.confidentchristians.org
  2. 2. A Brief Definition of Agnosticism“A person who holds thatthe existence of theultimate cause, as God,and the essential natureof things are unknownand unknowable, or thathuman knowledge islimited to experience.” www.confidentchristians.org
  3. 3. A Brief History of AgnosticismThomas Henry Huxley wasan English biologist whowas nicknamed “Darwin‟sBulldog” for his staunchsupport of Darwin‟s theoryof evolution. Huxley is alsocredited with coining theterm “agnostic”. www.confidentchristians.org
  4. 4. A Brief History of AgnosticismFollowing in his footsteps, his grandsonJulian Huxley wrote the following aboutwhen a person should assume a position ofagnosticism:“I believe that one should be agnostic whenbelief one way or the other is mere idlespeculation, incapable of verification; whenbelief is held merely to gratify desires,however deep-seated, and not because itis forced on us by evidence; and whenbelief may be taken by others to be morefirmly grounded than it really is, and socome to encourage false hopes or wrongattitudes of mind.” www.confidentchristians.org
  5. 5. Two Forms of Agnosticism1. Hard Agnosticism2. Soft Agnosticism www.confidentchristians.org
  6. 6. Hard Agnosticism – Impossible to HoldThe hard agnostic says that one can‟t know anything for sure.However, this is a self-defeating position as the hard agnosticsays that they know for sure that they can’t know anythingfor sure. Hard agnosticism simply has no container that cankeep its universal solvent, and therefore it becomes an untenableposition to hold and must be discarded. www.confidentchristians.org
  7. 7. Soft Agnosticism – How Can I Know?In contrast to hard agnosticism, the softagnostic says he/she doesn‟t knowanything for sure. At issue is not the lackof human ability for knowing a particulartruth, but rather the agnostic struggleswith how a truth claim can be verified orshown to be true. It is the ancient pursuitof what in philosophy is calledepistemology – how do we know, andhow do we know that we know? Whenthe issue of determining the existence ofthe Christian God is added to the mix,things get even stickier. www.confidentchristians.org
  8. 8. But What If…?But perhaps that doesn‟t need to be the case. What if a person truly followsand applies Julian Huxley‟s criteria for determining when to be agnosticabout a particular truth claim? What would be the end result when Huxley‟smeasures are applied to the claims of the New Testament, and specificallyits account of Jesus Christ? Let‟s find out… www.confidentchristians.org
  9. 9. Huxley’s First ConditionHuxley‟s first condition is that a beliefcannot be mere idle speculation or beincapable of verification. This firststandard seems reasonable as pureconjecture or hearsay should not be abasis for committing oneself to a belief.The second part appears logical alsoand is sometimes termed the principleof falsification, which was used byphilosophers such as Anthony Flew inhis initial writings on religion. www.confidentchristians.org
  10. 10. A Look at the New TestamentHow do the claims of the New Testament and Christianity hold upunder Huxley‟s first criterion? When the legal/historical methods fordetermining truth are applied to the New Testament, it stands very firmunder Huxley‟s standard. www.confidentchristians.org
  11. 11. Eyewitness AccountsThe writers of the New Testament never statethat their beliefs were based on hearsay orwere events that could not be authenticated.Quite the opposite, apostles such as Petersay, “For we did not follow cleverly devisedtales when we made known to you the powerand coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but wewere eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter1:16). The disciples recorded occurrencesthat happened in actual space/time, sawthese events with their own eyes, andrecorded Jesus‟ life, death, and resurrectionso that others would know the truth of whathappened. www.confidentchristians.org
  12. 12. How to Easily Falsify ChristianityIn terms of falsification, the apostle Paul gave the enemies of Christianity asingle truth claim that, if proven untrue, would crumble and destroyChristianity in an instant: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, noteven Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then ourpreaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (1 Corinthians 15:13–14). www.confidentchristians.org
  13. 13. How to Easily Falsify ChristianityPaul says if the resurrection of Christ did not occur, then the Christian faithis literally “empty” (vain). That, Paul says, is how Christianity can befalsified: find the body of that Jewish carpenter, and the Christian faith isundone. www.confidentchristians.org
  14. 14. More Eyewitness AccountsBut earlier in that same chapter, Paul actuallychallenges his readers of that day to go check forthemselves that the tomb of Jesus was trulyempty: “He appeared to Cephas, then to thetwelve. After that He appeared to more than fivehundred brethren at one time, most of whomremain until now, but some have fallen asleep;then He appeared to James, then to all theapostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born,He appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:5–8).Paul is literally asking his readers to verify hisclaims with many others (over 500) alive at thattime who saw Christ and could act as witnesses tovalidate the fact that Jesus‟ resurrection actuallyoccurred in space / time history. www.confidentchristians.org
  15. 15. But wait a minute…!But, given that we cannot talk toany eyewitnesses today, howcan modern day people knowthat Paul and the other apostleswere telling the truth? www.confidentchristians.org
  16. 16. The Apostle’s AnswerThe apostles answer that question through their grave markers. All exceptJohn were martyred for their testimony. People may be deceived and die fora lie, but no one dies for what they know is a lie. All the apostles had to doto save their lives was recant their testimony, and say they didn‟t see Jesusalive, but none did. Greater evidence for believability cannot be had. www.confidentchristians.org
  17. 17. Huxley’s First Condition – Passed!Huxley‟s first condition was: “I believethat one should be agnostic when beliefone way or the other is mere idlespeculation, incapable of verification”.Because the New Testament accountsof Christ are not speculation and can beverified, it passes Huxley‟s first test. www.confidentchristians.org
  18. 18. Huxley’s second/third ConditionsMoving on from Huxley‟s first criterion bringsthe discussion to his second and thirdstandards, which are nearly identical innature. Huxley says that a belief should bediscarded if the sole purpose is to satisfysome psychological desire, and if the belief isnot well-grounded from a reality perspective,and thus produces false hopes in its target.This benchmark measure for a belief iscertainly rational as the only reason to believeanything is because that particular „thing‟(truth claim) is true. www.confidentchristians.org
  19. 19. Sigmund Freud’s ViewsOftentimes, the psychiatrist SigmundFreud is quoted to show how religionfails such a test. Speaking of religiousbeliefs, Freud said: “They are illusions,fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, andmost urgent wishes of mankind. We callbelief an illusion when a wish-fulfillmentis a prominent factor in its motivation,and in doing so we disregard its relationto reality, just as the illusion itself sets nostore by verification.” www.confidentchristians.org
  20. 20. Freud’s Double-Edged SwordHowever, Freud‟s criteria do nothing to prove or disprove God as Freud‟ssword cuts in both directions. Could it not be true that the atheist haswishes and urges of their own? Perhaps a wish that a God does not existwho will call them to account one day for their actions? Such a desire canbe very motivating and drive a person to hold an atheistic position. So inreality, Freud‟s words have no power whatsoever to determine if the truthclaims of Christianity are valid or not. www.confidentchristians.org
  21. 21. A Look at the New TestamentFreud‟ thoughts aside, how does the New Testament stand up againstHuxley‟s second and third standards? As it does with Huxley‟s firstmeasure, the New Testament does extremely well. www.confidentchristians.org
  22. 22. The Criteria for Judging Historical Works First, from a legal/historical perspective, no document from antiquity comes even close to the New Testament where passing the general criteria for judging the validity of a historical work is concerned. The New Testament passes the bibliographical test (manuscript reliability and early dating), internal evidence test (multiple key testimonies all of which match), and the external evidence test (outside evidence that corroborates the document‟s testimony) with flying colors. www.confidentchristians.org
  23. 23. Not Written like a LieSecond, as many have said, the NewTestament is not written like a lie. TheNew Testament writers would not haveinvented accounts such as Jesusbeing buried by a member of theSanhedrin, women being the firstwitnesses of Christ‟s resurrection, andother such things. www.confidentchristians.org
  24. 24. Strong Commitment to AccuracyRather, what is found is a strong commitmentto accuracy no matter where the evidence ledthem. Such dedication is seen in the pen ofLuke: “Inasmuch as many have undertakento compile an account of the thingsaccomplished among us, just as they werehanded down to us by those who from thebeginning were eyewitnesses and servants ofthe word, it seemed fitting for me as well,having investigated everything carefully fromthe beginning, to write it out for you inconsecutive order, most excellentTheophilus; so that you may know the exacttruth about the things you have been taught”(Luke 1:1–4). www.confidentchristians.org
  25. 25. The Ultimate TestimonyLastly, as has already been pointedout, the New Testament writers diedfor their testimony. As theologian andprofessor Peter Kreeft points out:“Why would the apostles lie? . . . Ifthey lied, what was their motive . . .?What they got out of it wasmisunderstanding, rejection,persecution, torture, and martyrdom.Hardly a list of perks!” www.confidentchristians.org
  26. 26. Huxley’s 2nd/3rd Conditions – Passed!The treatment Kreeft lists certainly is notdesirable from a psychologicalperspective, and would produce no falsehopes in the disciples as they wouldobviously know their claims were false ifthey were lying. Adding this toarguments above, we see that the NewTestament accounts overcome Huxley‟ssecond and third hurdles for beingagnostic. www.confidentchristians.org
  27. 27. ConclusionsIn the end, a person who claims to be agnostic about Christianity,but uses Julian Huxley‟s own criteria for determining whether oneshould be agnostic, will have to seriously reconsider theirposition. www.confidentchristians.org
  28. 28. ConclusionsWith the hard agnostic positionbeing ruled out as self-defeating,and the soft agnostic positionbeing challenged by thecompelling evidence of the NewTestament, the more reasonableconclusion for the agnostic toreach once everything has beenexamined seems to be thatChristianity is true. www.confidentchristians.org
  29. 29. For More Information www.confidentchristians.org www.confidentchristians.org
  30. 30. What is Agnosticism?Examining the Truth Claims of Agnosticism www.confidentchristians.org