Tim Keller: Dishonest and Deceitful
New York City Pastor Tim Keller has provided Christians with a fresh reminder of how to convert atheists to their world view. This article appeared on The Christian Post’s website and is titled, “Tim Keller on How to Provide a Rational Justification for the Christian Faith”. Similar to all other attempts at apologetics, it is false, attempts to misdirect the reader/non-believer, has no basis in anything rational, confuses the distinction between knowledge and faith, and fails miserably. Let us take a look.
Keller writes, “I try to show that it takes faith to doubt Christianity, because any worldview (including secularism or skepticism) is based on assumptions.” This statement is just plain wrong. It does not take “faith” to doubt Christianity at all. I doubt Christianity because I can point out many holes in the narrative of the Christian faith over the last 2,000 years. This does not require faith. It requires critical thinking and some reading and studying. Faith is not needed. In much the same way that faith is not needed to doubt the existence of unicorns in my backyard.
Keller continues this line of thought with the following:
“[T]here are all sorts of things you can’t prove rationally or empirically. You can’t prove to me that you’re not really a butterfly dreaming you’re a person. (Haven’t you seen The Matrix?) You can’t prove most of the things you believe, so at least recognize that you have faith.”
Statements like these really annoy me when it comes to apologists. The above statements are foolish, incorrect, and an attempt to deceive the credulous. Keller is correct, I cannot prove to him that I am, in fact not a butterfly dreaming this entire episode. However, there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that I am not a lone butterfly and all that I experience is not a dream. The Matrix? Really, is that where apologetics has progressed? Let us say that Keller is right. If I am a butterfly dreaming the entire universe as I perceive it, who cares if I believe in god or Christianity? Why is he(Keller) concerned enough to even write his piece as attempt to convert atheists to Christianity. In fact, Keller doesn’t even exist, after all I am just a simple butterfly dreaming this whole thing up right? I must be a very confused butterfly. What a strange dream this must be too. I mean, there are people acting on this post right now, trying to convert people to Christianity all over the place, using Keller’s advice and I will never even know about those mini-dramas, yet I suppose they are all a part of my matrix-like dream. Keller’s own argument of the butterfly works against him. If he is nothing more than a dreaming butterfly, why even bother to do what he does?
He also writes that we cannot prove most of what we believe. That is also false. Most of what I believe is quite provable—even if not by me. For example, I do not have the scientific knowledge to explain exactly how evolution works—yet most evolutionary biologists have zero trouble fielding that question and pointing to the many experiments, data, and science to prove it. The same holds true for all of the scientific fields. Can I personally explain all of the mathematics and science involved? No. But they can.
At this point the careful apologist says “A ha—you have to take what they on faith because you personally cannot verify it”. This too is a false statement. If one lone biologist was out promoting evolution the apologist would be correct. However, when a theory such as evolution has been vetted by supported by the entire community of experts on the matter, my faith is not needed. They have checked each other’s work, the evidence exists. I have simply chosen a different life path than that of evolutionary biologist. Faith is not needed at all to support anything that I believe.
Keller’s statement is pure and utter nonsense. Anyone, and I mean anyone, with any ability for critical thinking should be able to see that. It is nothing more than an attempt to deceive the credulous into thinking that they hold beliefs which they cannot prove. Baloney. Simply because each of us cannot prove by demonstration everything we believe, does not at all mean that those beliefs have not been proven by many people, many times over. If we were to live as Keller suggests, then none of us would believe anything is true other than what is right in front of us at that moment. Heck, I can’t even prove to you that I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast at this point in the day.
Keller then addresses objections to Christianity such as why does god allow suffering. To this he “answers”:
“Really? There could be all sorts of good reasons why God allowed something to happen that caused suffering, despite our inability to think of them. If you’ve got an infinite God big enough to be mad at for the suffering in the world, then you also have an infinite God big enough to have reasons for it that you can’t think of.”
I put the word “answers” in quotes above because Keller does not actually answer anything. His entire statement is a cop-out. It assumes that a god exists in the first place. It then assumes that we cannot possibly what this god is thinking or why he does what he does. Anyone with a clear head on their shoulders would ask for some explanation as to why we should assume any of that.
It is sheer nonsense to imply that god may see suffering as an ultimate good. Further if he did, he would be, by our standards one evil bastard. And let us be honest, that is not the description that most Christians portray or believe of their god. They portray him as all loving, all forgiving, omni-benevolent, etc. They cannot claim that god is mysterious and we cannot know his ways, then at the same time, run around preaching about how great god is and what he wants (no abortions, anti-gay marriage, etc). Either they know his mind or they do not. The reality is that whenever a tough theological question is asked the answer is “we can’t know god’s mind”; yet they can know his mind when it comes to social and political issues is nothing more than a cop-out.
The article has many more statements of a similar nature in the middle few paragraphs, all of which are as nonsensical as the above. However, I want to move to the end of the piece. Keller writes:
“What needs to happen at some point is a presentation of the Christian story “in a way that addresses the things that people most want for their own lives.”
Show how Christianity can give them what they are trying to find outside of Christianity, he summed.
“There is a way of telling the gospel that makes people say, ‘I don’t believe it’s true, but I wish it were,’” said Keller. “You have to get to the beauty of it, and then go back to the reasons for it.”
This is dangerous stuff here. These are the types of statement that we must be sensitive towards. Keller is describing the cornerstone of religious success—hook people by giving something they want then they will not care if the reasons for it are rubbish. This is one major reason why apologetics is dishonest. Keller is advocating for a new successful PR campaign of the Christian story. Christianity needs to be a story that will fill the needs of people in this century, so that people become hooked on it. We see this all of the time in our lives. When we want to believe something really badly—for any reason, because it is easier to face than the truth or relieves us of some pain, us humans are quite adept at rationalizing and talking ourselves into things. We all do it at times. This is what Christianity is seeking: Get people hooked, and they will not want to question the validity of the entire religion or care to seek answers to the tough questions. In truth, most of my friends and family are Christian—that is exactly how they live their lives. Religion provides them with something, they do not want to even think about its validity.
This is why Christianity, like all religions is a virus on this planet. The only goals are preservation and propagation. Keller, like all apologists before him will deceive the credulous to further those ends. It is up to critical thinking and free thinking people to stand in the way.
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