Religion in Society

Outsider Test for Faith: This Christian Takes the Challenge

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Mr. Loftus’ Outsider Test for Faith, as I understand it from, involves evaluating one’s personally held beliefs from the point of view of an outsider. He stipulates that Christians object to such a test because they know their faith will not stand up to an honest, skeptical scrutiny. The only outside perspective I can think of that would be completely objective is one that begins with no teaching or knowledge.

Evaluating my Christian faith from the perspective of an Atheist is as obviously futile as examining an Atheistic philosophy from a Christian perspective: both assert points that are fundamentally at odds with the other, and are thus not neutral. Therefore, here is my attempt to test my faith from a completely neutral perspective.

If I abandon all I have been taught, I am still left with the knowledge that I exist. If I doubt my own existence, I have thought, which is an action, and an action requires an actor, which is something that exists; an effect cannot have a cause that does not exist. I think, therefore I exist. In keeping with the original premise, I will refrain from pointing out who originally made that point.

Moving forward, the question becomes how did I get here? I could be self created. I could be self existent, existing without having been created. I could be created by something else. It is impossible for me, or anything else, to be self created as that act of creating myself would require me to already exist; this would be an effect occurring before the cause. I can observe in myself physical growth and development, meaning this phenomena can be traced back either to a time when my cell count was zero, or plateaus into a state of meta-me that has always existed; I would liken this second scenario to an embryo that has existed in a frozen state for an infinite amount of time before starting to form into a human last Tuesday. Logic tells me that it is most likely that my physical development would trace back to a zero state, or a time in the history of existence when I did not exist.

I am left with the conclusion that I must have been created by something else. If the cause of my existence is something that physically exists within the world I encounter around me, the existence of that causal agent is subject to the same three explanations for its existence. Throwing out that causal agent being self created for the reasons above, I am now left with an infinitely long chain of causality. If I am the product of a natural cause, that cause is itself an effect that needs a cause and this “grandparent” cause is itself an effect of a cause.

Departing briefly from the premise, if I am the product of evolution, which was started because the correct variables were put in place during the aftermath of the big bang, what caused the big bang? What caused that? What caused that? Once again, all the matter, energy and space in the universe must either be self existent, or created by something that is self existent.

I must draw the conclusion that either the string of collapsing dominos that lead to my existence stretches back infinitely, and with no primary causal agent, or there exist some causal agent that pushed the first domino over, bringing the universe into existence from non-existence. I can think of only one other example of an infinite change of causality: numbers. There is no “largest number in existence” because it is always possible to add one more. Yet, each number exists because one was added to the number below it, all the way back to zero and the first number, one. One could argue that adding one to zero to get the first number can be traced back to adding one to negative one, however that which we know as zero is different from all others because of its non-existence; numbers arise from the need to quantify things, thus that which does not exist is quantified as zero. Zero is the starting point for all numbers.

Thus, I am left with the conclusion that all things that have a chain of causality must have a starting point, a zero point. Therefore, all that exists must have been brought into existence by some being that operates outside what I understand as time and physical existence, the very definition of a supernatural being.

The Atheist perspective fails my test, as my very existence requires the existence of a supernatural being.  I am left with Theistic perspectives and am content, for the moment, to leave the question there.