Emotions and Deciding Whether Christianity Is True
Hello Dr Craig,
First let me thank you for your stimulating podcasts and debates during the last few years. Your intelligent defence of theism in the face of the unwarranted personal attacks and endless strawmen thrown out by your opponents is admirable.
The question I have for you, in short, is the following. What is the role of the emotions in the process of deciding whether Christianity is true?
I ask because you have made it clear that you believe that it is rational to believe in the truth of Christianity, and several Christian converts, e.g. Holly Ordway in her book “Not God’s Type”, have said that it was the desire to know the truth that motivated their examination of the evidence.
Yet it seems to me that the evidence for the Resurrection of Christ is not conclusive or compelling, and that therefore it must be the emotions that swing a person one way or the other. This surely means that a completely dispassionate assessment of the evidence is not possible?
A crucial role in convincing a person is often played by the moral argument, as defended by yourself on many occasions. But this argument depends upon an emotion-tinged second premise: if a person feels strongly enough that some things a really, objectively wrong, then the argument will work and move that person closer to acceptance of the evidence for the Resurrection. Personally, however, I appear to be a lifelong temperamental nihilist and pessimist about the objectivity of morality and the cosmic worth and value of us humans. This makes me skeptical in my assessment of the evidence for the Resurrection this despite my being convinced by the Cosmological arguments that God does indeed exist and my wanting Christianity to be true. It just seems too good to be true though, and the attendant proposition that God cares about us enough to sacrifice his son just does not, for me, gel with my experience of the world. The world seems a pretty harsh place, indifferent if not hostile to us. I’m aware though that my perception of reality may be skewed by the experiences I have had or missed out on during my lifetime.
This emotional disposition is a huge obstacle for me in finding the case the Resurrection convincing enough to accept it. It just feels too much like wishful-thinking, wanting the world to be other than it actually appears to be. But this seems to indicate that I’m letting my (negative) emotions influence my assessment of the evidence. How should someone such as myself approach the Resurrection evidence, given these temperamental obstacles? Is it possible to put pessimism to one side and to assess the evidence objectively and still arrive at a pretty firm conclusion?
Dr. Craig’s Answer: I’m glad that you’re thinking about these things, Grant, and apparently considering becoming a Christian.
As I think about your question, I think it will be helpful if we distinguish between the role of emotions in warranting Christianity’s truth and their role in our deciding whether Christianity is true…
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