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What would it take to change your mind?

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The recent bushfires in NSW were a real shock. The severe fires left many homes and properties damaged or destroyed.

Yet these fires have stimulated many questions concerning the reality of climate change. Climate change advocates were strongly advocating that these fires were the direct result of a changing climate and the prevalence of more extreme weather events. Yet climate change sceptics were not so quick to draw a causal link between the October fires and climate warming.

To consider changing our minds on our topic we must first honestly ensure that our arguments are not built on ignorance or prejudice. Have we truly considered the evidence fairly against the position we hold?

At the height of the bushfire crisis I watched a number of televised discussions between climate change advocates and sceptics. At one point a panellist asked a pertinent question to the climate change denier – ‘what would it take to change your mind?’

Interestingly this is the very question I find myself regularly asking Christian faith ‘sceptics’. These people are sceptical about the truth claims of the Christian faith and deny there is enough evidence for Christianity or even for the existence of God.

The climate change debate is primarily one of scientific evidence, whereas the Christian message is primarily about history. It’s about history because the Christian message claims that God has revealed himself to the world at a variety of times and in a variety of ways, most importantly and decisively in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

So what would it take to change your mind? About climate change or Christianity?

This is a great question because it gets to the heart of the issue. Are there good reasons to be sceptical? Or is scepticism unnecessary?

To consider changing our minds on our topic we must first honestly ensure that our arguments are not built on ignorance or prejudice. Have we truly considered the evidence fairly against the position we hold?

If the issue is climate change – have we engaged the strength of the scientific arguments of those for and against the proposal? Have we looked at some real data? Read some real scientific reports?

If the issue is the Christian faith – have we genuinely examined the strongest cases made for the historical trustworthiness of the New Testament or for the reality of the resurrection of Jesus?

Assessing the evidence is one thing, but we also need to remember that we never view evidence from a completely neutral position. We have preconceptions and predilections to data presented to us. For example the atheist philosopher Thomas Nagal admitted that he didn’t want God to exist. We need to be careful that these predilections don’t unduly prejudice our assessment of the evidence.

Overcoming these predilections can be difficult. But the key way of overcoming them is through humility. We need to accept the possibility that we might be wrong. Without humility, we are impervious to argument or change.

An atheist I once engaged with claimed that nothing would convince him that there was a god. I wondered why he bothered continuing the conversation! We need to have humility to at least be open to the possibility that we could be wrong.

Interestingly, humility is what God desires – Isaiah 66:2 “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit”. The Christian message requires humility because we need to acknowledge that we’re wrong and fail in many areas – we fail morally and relationally. Our natural state is to ‘reject’ the evidence of God – we want to ignore him.

Hence we need humility. We need humility to acknowledge the reality of God, his revelation in the world and that ultimately our moral and relational failures highlight that we need to trust someone more capable.

So what would it take to change your mind?

By humbly assessing the evidence, we may behold the truth – and the results might surprise us.

Food for thought.

Robert Martin is the Victorian State Director of City Bible Forum.

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