Acquiring True Beliefs

By: Jim Virkler; ©2007

How do we acquire our scientific and theological beliefs? Do those beliefs depend more upon objective evidence or our own subjective choices? Do our beliefs depend upon truth (what is really real), or do they depend upon what we choose to believe, regardless of the reality of truth?

There are many examples of evidence, strong and weak, we could either accept or reject. Let’s take just three examples — evidence for the Big Bang (subject of our three previous posts), evidence for molecules to man evolution (strong Darwinism), and evidence for divine creation (sudden appearances of new species in the fossil record with no antecedents). Believing or disbelieving should not be merely a matter of selecting our preferences, like choosing among menu items at a restaurant. Have we ever observed people rejecting good, reasonable evidence to embrace, instead, a belief contrary to that evidence? On the other hand, sometimes folks choose to accept beliefs for which good, supporting evidence is weak or non-existent. Acquisition of our belief systems is driven by the manner in which we accept or reject evidence.

Big Bang cosmology has profound theological implications. The Big Bang concept is an example of a scientific proposal which has generated sharp disagreement among theologians and even some scientists. Convincing evidence for it was discovered in 1965 and it received a powerful evidential boost in 1992. Scientific support for it has been accelerating ever since. Most scientists now accept it as a true picture of cosmic history and reality, but a few continue to challenge the concept. Many theologians endorse it as exciting evidence that our universe had a beginning (Genesis 1:1) in a stunning, transcendent creation event, while others mock it as preposterous. Doubting scientists and theologians alike find their previous beliefs challenged and threatened.

Overshadowing our beliefs, whether they relate to the physical reality of our universe or to our theology, is the concept of truth. There are hundreds of references to truth in sacred scripture. Truth sometimes stands apart from what we choose to believe.

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