Christianity is possibly false?!: The Benefit of the Doubt

by Travis Dickinson

Here’s the question: Is Christianity possibly false?

My answer: Well yes, of course it’s possibly false.

What? How could I have given my life for something that I think is possibly false? Doesn’t admitting to this swing the door wide for doubting one’s faith? Isn’t this just philosophers stirring the paint– needlessly making trouble for those that already have a solid faith?

All really good questions!

In teaching Christian apologetics, this issue typically comes up. The question is what sort of status does the claim ‘Christianity is true’ enjoy? Students, in my context, are always a bit taken aback by saying that Christianity is possibly false.

Now before you make a call to my institution and insist that they relieve me of my employment, what you need to realize is that the only reason this sounds provocative is that the terms are not well defined. In my experience, once we clarify the terms, then my students (and you too) will say “of course, Christianity is possibly false in that sense.”

Okay, so what does it mean for a claim to be possibly false? Let’s first say what it does not mean. It does NOT mean that Christianity is actually false. And it does NOT mean that Christianity is probably false. It doesn’t even mean that we are 50/50 on whether it is false. All ‘being possible’ means, for our purposes, is that something is conceivable. A claim is possible insofar as one can imagine it or conceive of its being the case. It could be the craziest thing in the world that no sane person believes and yet it is still possible in this sense. So to ask whether something is possible is just to ask whether one can conceive (i.e., coherently hold in one’s mind and imagination) of the claim.

So what things are possible? It is going to be a range of claims far and wide…

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Christianity is possibly false?!: The Benefit of the Doubt