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How do we know when to stick to our guns on an idea and when to change our view? Here’s what I suggest: Hold to your view only as tenaciously as the evidence permits.
Philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher scoffed at the concept that God gave good creatures the freedom to do bad. If a being is perfect in its goodness, he held, it would never sin even if it were free to.
A certain atheist professor of philosophy had as a primary goal to prove to his students God couldn't exist. At the end of every semester he would say to his class, "Anyone who believes in God is a fool. If God existed, He could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove that He is God, and yet he can't do it." Then he would drop the chalk and it would shatter into a hundred pieces on the tile floor of the classroom. If you confront anyone who tries this silly trick, here's how to respond.
The statements "One ought not kill innocent people," and "One ought to believe that Kansas is in the United States," are two entirely different kinds of statements. Both make a truth claim, but they are different in that they distinguish between two kinds of "oughts"--the moral ought and the rational ought. The first suggests a moral obligation, the second an obligation based on reason.
Here’s an argument against naturalistic determinism based on the relationship between free will and rationality. Free will makes rationality possible. If there is no free will, then no one is capable of choosing to believe something because of good reasons. One could never adjudicate between a good idea and a bad one. He’d only believe what he does because he’s been predetermined to do so. Arguments wouldn’t matter.
If you encounter someone who thinks he’s a relativist, you can usually prove him wrong in five minutes or less when moral words like “should” creep into his conversation. Don’t him them get away with it. Expose the inconsistency. If morals are relative to the individual, then all “shoulds” are meaningless.
Even if relativists are right that cultures differ radically in their basic moral values, so what? The observation in itself proves nothing, because no conclusion about morality follows. Just because cultures differ on moral viewpoints doesn't mean that objective moral truth is a fiction. In logic this is called a non-sequitur; the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises.
Maybe you don’t consider yourself fast enough on your feet to keep up with someone who’s quicker than you in an intense discussion. No problem. Don’t feel under pressure to immediately answer every question asked or every point made. For tactical reasons you may want to adopt the posture of a neutral observer. Shift from argument mode to fact-finding mode.
A common attack on the Bible goes like this: Man wrote the Bible. Man is imperfect. Therefore, the Bible is imperfect and not inspired by God. This attempt fails for two reasons.
If you’re placed in a situation where you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental, turn the tables. When someone asks for your personal views about a moral issue—homosexuality, for example—preface your remarks with a question.