Meet the Skeptic

Today is the National Day of Prayer. There’s a lot of hubbub surrounding the alternative National Day of Reason—as if faith and reason are mutually exclusive. Seems fitting to turn our attention to the skeptics, people who express disbelief of Biblical truth. For that, we call in an expert.

Meet the Skeptic by Bill Foster

Meet the Skepticby friend Bill Foster, reached number one in Amazon’s Science and Religion category earlier this week. Congratulations, Bill!

In Meet the Skeptic, Bill presents skepticism as an opportunity to see where the need for truth lies in each individual. Bill is Gen X, so expect references to pop culture alongside illustrations and Biblical support. All this is packed into a mere 144 pages. You can read that in one sitting, people.

I asked Bill a few questions about his book. He was gracious to share these answers with me.

What inspired you to write this book?

Bill: Two main things. First, my own frustrations in talking with skeptics and feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere even when I had answers. Second, realizing there are a lot of apologetics resources out there but people are intimidated by many of them.

What makes this different than other ways to share the Gospel?

Bill: Meet The Skeptic is more about asking the right questions to get underneath surface-level objections than it is about trying to answer every objection. It’s more about understanding worldviews and where a conversation will likely go than it is about regurgitating data. Facts and evidence are always valuable and the more knowledgeable we are about a subject the better. But I think the evidence is best used as supporting information after the skeptic’s worldview is uncovered rather than as lead-off material.

What one thing would you like people to know about sharing the Gospel with the skeptic?

Bill: We don’t need to “win” the discussion. Intellectual arguments alone will never convince anyone, only God can do that. When we engage skeptics and really try to find the deeper obstacles to their faith, we have a better chance at seeing whether or not God is working on them. If He is, great! They may be receptive to truth. But if He’s not, it doesn’t mean that He never will. It just might mean that on this occasion we’re only scratching the surface of hard ground rather than gleaning the harvest.

Find Meet the Skeptic books and study resources on the book’s website and on Amazon. God bless you, Bill, as you aid in the harvest.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:2-3 NIV

I’m For You by TobyMac.

Bill Foster and his wife Karla live in North Carolina. You may remember Karla from Don’t Save the Marshmallows.

In addition to writing and speaking about apologetics, Bill is an accomplished graphic designer, business owner, and publisher.

Follow Bill on his blog, Facebook page, and Twitter @meettheskeptic.

Are faith and reason compatible? Do you consider yourself a person of faith, reason, or both?

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27 Comments

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27 Responses to Meet the Skeptic

  1. It’s extremely frustrating to me that faith and reason are seen as mutually exclusive…this looks like a book I’d like to read!

    • I agree, Nicole, and I would bet this is a source of frustration to a lot of Christians. Historically, many institutions of higher learning and reason were founded by institutions of faith. It’s sad they often seem to be at odds now.

      PS: Workbooks and leader’s guide versions of the book are available. Could spark some lively discussions and practical application in a small group or church!

  2. If you have faith, why do you need reason? If you have reason, why do you need faith?

    I see no reason to use faith in any part of my life. At least not ‘faith’ as most religious people use the word, in regards to their religion.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting! It’s great to have new voices here.

      You make an interesting point. It leads me to wonder if some of the apparent tension between “reason” and “faith” comes from how people define the two. Those words are broad terms and could mean a lot of different thing to a lot of different people.

      The Biblical definition of faith from the book of Hebrews is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. There’s an implied certainty to that kind of faith that is as sure as what we see reason or science prove tangibly true here and now. I know though that’s not how everyone defines faith and reason. And I know life is colored and complicated by our experiences. Black and white is hard to see through shades of gray.

      • kdeneenm

        Faith -> commitment to or trust in some person. Why does that have to be considered a mindless determination, a blind decision? We all put faith in what is reliable, substantial and what proves itself to be real.

    • From Charles Townes, Nobel laureate and inventor of the laser:

      “Faith is necessary for the scientist to even get started, and deep faith necessary for for him to carry out his tougher tasks. Why? Because he must be personally committed to the belief that there is order in the universe and that the human mind–in fact his own mind–has a good chance of understanding this order.”

      • OK. I fundamentally disagree with Mr. Townes, in that case.

        The belief that there is order in the universe is backed up by evidence, not faith.

      • Right, it’s backed up by evidence, but he’s just saying that one must presuppose (have some degree of faith) that the universe has some order worth investigating or else there is no reason to start. For any event that happened in the past (e.g. origins), all sides must rely on a worldview/presuppositions/assumptions/faith in order to interpret the evidence they find – everyone brings a particular “lens” with them to the investigation.

      • stavage

        Again this comes down to semantics. The evidence is not there until it is discovered, and it takes some ‘faith’ to bother doing all the hard work to find that evidence. I think the difference is that the ‘faith’ that Townes talks about is different to the faith that makes someone sure of a God without the need for evidence. Townes faith was faith that there was a truth that could be uncovered, not a faith about what that truth specifically was. Indeed, even evidence requires a certain degree of faith. Evidence provides us with a reason for faith though. (Many people believed in Newton’s Laws before they were superceded by Quantum Mechanics and Relativity. But their faith in Newton’s Laws were backed by strong reason. And even now, we find that Newton’s laws are almost perfect approximations for most day to day applications.

        But we will never know any absolute 100% truths. A person of reason will choose what to believe (or what to strongly suspect) based on empirical evidence. I say I believe what comes up comes down, but really, the theory of gravity is so strong, that I merely suspect it is true so strongly that it approximates belief (and hence faith).

        • Excellent points. I especially like your last line. Helps describe what Biblical faith is, as well as scientific. The “evidence” of God and His love for us is so strong therefore I suspect it is true so strongly therefore it approximates belief/faith.

          It reminds me of another verse, 1 Corinthians 13:12 from the NLT. Speaks to a time when we won’t approximate belief bc we will know: “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

        • I agree – I should have made that clarification. The kind of faith I was talking about is the general kind that is equivalent to a presupposition/assumption that gets the investigation going, not religious faith that is attached to a particular belief system. Christians are not ashamed to say that the presupposition with which we start is that the Bible is authoritative and true, but atheistic scientists are not so forthcoming about their presupposition that the natural world is all there is (naturalism). We are supposed to believe that their conclusions are based purely on objective, demonstrable analysis which is impossible.

  3. This looks like an amazing book, and has taken a place on my must-read list! Thank you for sharing! (And for sharing my post yesterday!)

  4. “but he’s just saying that one must presuppose (have some degree of faith) that the universe has some order worth investigating or else there is no reason to start.”

    Again, I disagree.

    One investigates and looks for evidence to see if the universe has some order. If we can’t find order, then we stop, because investigating isn’t worth it.

    “For any event that happened in the past (e.g. origins), all sides must rely on a worldview/presuppositions/assumptions/faith in order to interpret the evidence they find”

    Wrong.

    For any event that happened in the past, you use what evidence you have. Where you don’t have evidence, you make suppositions, but you don’t presuppose or assume. That’s just bad science.

    • I’m afraid the quote I posted probably sent this in a direction unrelated to your first comment.
      Feel free to respond to may last reply, but maybe the more important question to ask you is, “Why not?” regarding faith not being part of your life.

  5. Sounds like a great book! I often describe myself as “living in the tension” between skepticism and faith. You’re right; reason is not the opposite of faith. My skepticism and doubting has always been just as much emotional as it is logical, which is why no one has been able to sufficiently convince me of some things. Some things just don’t make sense to me. But faith is a gift and I’m so grateful God continues to bless me with it. The hard part is learning to trust Him even when you don’t understand.

    • Thanks for saying that Ariel. Faith is a gift from God. Trusting when I don’t understand is the hard part for me too.

      Another book I like on that subject is When God Doesn’t Make Sense by James Dobson. Our pastor friend who married my husband and I suggested it to me when God allowed something to happen in my life that didn’t make sense. I keep a copy of it on my bookshelf. I know some people bristle at Dobson’s hard line on cultural issues, but this book is a gentle, empathetic, steady reminder to hold fast to what we believe. I think it should be required reading for Christians.

      Here’s a link to the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/When-God-Doesnt-Make-Sense/dp/0842382275

  6. “Where you don’t have evidence, you make suppositions.”
    Exactly – it’s the same thing.
    From Merriam-Webster > supposition: “an assumption or concession made for the sake of argument”

    Please understand that I’m not saying that holding a prior worldview (presupposition) is a bad thing – it is what must be at the core of the investigation – that’s how all investigation works for past events that can not be observed or repeated.

    This is the fundamental difference between operational (observed/repeated science) and historical (origins) science.

    What I object to is that some scientists pretend that all their conclusions are purely objective and reached via evidence. If that were true then all scientists would come to the same conclusions, but they don’t (not all evolutionists are Darwinian; not all cosmologists are string theorists). Likewise, creationists and evolutionists are both looking at the same evidence, but they come to different conclusions based on their worldview.

    They disagree b/c they have to *interpret* what they see, and it’s within the process of interpretation that they draw on their prior held beliefs. They come from different schools of thought which inform their interpretations.

    The larger question is, do the conclusions they draw require informed faith or blind faith? For past important events such as the following, which one is dictating the conclusions:
    – Is the universe creating itself a scientific idea backed by evidence?
    – Is life coming from non-life backed by evidence?
    – Is one creature changing into another kind of creature backed by evidence?

    So the larger question to ask of any investigator is, “How much faith is required to believe __________ .”

    • “- Is the universe creating itself a scientific idea backed by evidence?
      – Is life coming from non-life backed by evidence?
      – Is one creature changing into another kind of creature backed by evidence?”

      Yes, yes and yes.

      “but maybe the more important question to ask you is, “Why not?” regarding faith not being part of your life.”

      Because to use faith to believe things is the equivalent of not caring whether what you believe is true or not.

      I care whether what I believe is true. So I don’t use faith. I use evidence.

      • You all are having a terrific exchange here. I don’t want to jump in and get run over, but at my own risk, I must ask: aren’t these three scientific ideas like a host of others still theories? I mean, the “evidence” can be interpreted to “prove” them true or not, depending on who’s interpreting it. A measure of trusting what we can’t see is required no matter which side you take.

      • I’m happy that we can agree on something. I also care about beliefs being true and am very thankful for evidence.
        I’ll close here and say that the Bible itself never asks anyone to rely on blind faith (the idea to which Aimee was alluding in Hebrews). It actually claims that what is unseen (God) is based on what we *can* see (evidence) (Rom. 1:20) so it never asks us to discard reason.
        Thanks for the discussion. Take care.

    • “They disagree b/c they have to ‘interpret’ what they see, and it’s within the process of interpretation that they draw on their prior held beliefs.” Excellent point.

  7. Bought the book. Great post, cuzn. <3

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