Monday, November 2, 2009

Dishonest Skeptics

Over the course of the last two years I have had many opportunities to discuss spiritual matters with young people. I find most of them open to learning about spiritual issues and have learned many things myself from these discussions. Though we do not always agree with each other's theology or conclusions, most of the young adults I engage in conversation with enter into the discussion with the honest intention of having an open mind, and I try to do the same.

But occasionally I encounter what my friend Adrian Despres refers to as a "dishonest skeptic." These are people who claim to be looking for truth but actually have already made up their minds about whatever it is they believe in. They are not really interested in learning the truth; they simply want to argue with anyone who will listen. Perhaps they like the attention or perhaps they think they will win people to their cause through their aggressive actions. Adrian calls them dishonest skeptics because they have lied to themselves about being open minded. Dishonest skeptics are narrow minded and have closed themselves to learning and growing. They frequently accuse Christians of ignoring the facts, yet when Christians show them the facts, dishonest skeptics choose to ignore them. It is clearly a hypocritical position for them to take, but they feel self justified in taking it. It is clearly a judgmental position for them to take, but they feel justified in taking it.

One reason it can be frustrating to talk to people like this is because they tend to change the rules mid-conversation. For example, they may say they cannot accept the Bible as truth for a certain reason, but when you show them a logical way to resolve that particular conflict, instead of accepting the logical reason, they discard the logic you showed them and simply come up with another reason for not accepting the Bible. And if you show them the answer to that objection, they just come up with yet another reason. The reality is that they have already decided they are not going to accept the Bible as truth and no amount of logical discussion will convince them. Whether the Bible is true or not is just one example of the many issues about spirituality that dishonest skeptics have closed their minds to learning about.

Though I encounter dishonest skeptics of all ages, in my experience they are most often young adults with little experience in life and often incomplete college educations. They should be at a point in their lives when they are learning new things and expanding their understanding of the how the world works. Regrettably, they think they already know it all. As frustrating as it can be to engage dishonest skeptics, it is something that Christian leaders must remain committed to for the sake of the Gospel.


  1. I think your points are spot on. But we should remember that, in addition to dishonest skeptics, there are honest skeptics as well. For the record, I am not an honest skeptic of Christianity, chiefly because I am a Christian. But as a Christian, I can still reflect on the merits and strengths of skeptical reasons against Christianity. Let the dishonest skeptcs be dishonest. But as Christians let's not lump the honest ones in with the dishonest ones.

    (edited for length, to see the full comments, refer to the link in the previous post regarding faulty logic of deconstructing Christianity.)

  2. Thad,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you that most skeptics are indeed honest, and that is why I began with a statement to that effect. But for those few that are dishonest, it is frustrating, and since they often portray themselves as "honest" then it gives all skeptics a bad name. It seems that we are in a time in our cultural history when it is "cool" to be a skeptic and so everyone wants to jump onboard. But as with any movement, a few bad apples gives the whole crowd a bad name. My intent in writing this particular blog entry is to let the dishonest ones know that we see through their mask and to let the honest ones know that we do appreciate our conversations with them.