Don’t Overplay Your Hand

My father taught me many things growing up. He taught me that it isn’t wise to always say what you’re thinking. I should probably work on that; I’m sure he thinks he so. He also taught me that it isn’t wise to tell everything you know. I’ve always loved watching shows where the “bad guys” are plotting against the “good guys” and you know exactly what they are up to. It seems like they are going to take the “good guys” by surprise, but lo and behold, the “good guys” knew all along and were only pretending to be ignorant. It isn’t always wise to reveal your hand.

Similarly, it isn’t wise to overplay your hand. It especially isn’t wise when you are involved in a dialogue, or debate. I see this a lot when I’m in dialogue with an atheist, or Darwinist. Sometimes they’ll say, “Darwinian theory is a proven fact.” Immediately, I know they must be bluffing because Darwinian theory attempts to reconstruct natural history. We cannot reconstruct natural history with certitude. One reason is because of the limited amount of fossils we have. Darwinian theory may be the best explanation (I doubt it), but it cannot be a certain fact. Saying that it is would be a bluff, or an overplaying of one’s hand. On the other hand, theists will sometimes say, “Science proves that God exists.” No it doesn’t. They’re overplaying their hands. Scientific evidence provides premises for a structured argument. Then, we can use reason (philosophy) to arrive at a conclusion with theistic implications based on those premises. For example:

  1. Things that begin have causes.
  2. The universe began.
  3. The universe has a cause, God.

Don’t get hung-up on my cosmological argument here. The point is that science can prove, or disprove, the first two premises. The conclusion, however, is arrived at by logical reasoning. Science doesn’t prove God, it provides premises.

René Descartes famously set-out to see what all could logically be doubted. He arrived at the conclusion that everything could be doubted except one’s own existence. His skepticism used certainty as its guide. What could he know with certainty? He could know with certainty that he exists because in order to doubt his own existence he would have to think, and thinking is only present in conscious, existing creatures. Everyone else could be logically doubted. Descartes couldn’t know with certainty that he wasn’t actually just a brain somewhere that a mad scientist was tweaking with to make him think everything else exists.  As annoying as that sounds, he has a point. There is, logically, room for doubt in many things we hold to be true. However, doubting the external world isn’t reasonable. You would need overwhelming evidence to suggest such a thing and there just isn’t any.

Our goal should be to arrive at truth. If we set our standard of truth at certainty, like Descartes, we can’t really hold much as true. Our standard should be the best explanation based on evidence and good reasoning. We should also hold what we believe to be true somewhat loosely. We may find more evidence, or someone may come along with better reasoning, and our beliefs will have to change accordingly. Our level of belief should be as strong, or as weak, as the evidence and reasoning. If the evidence and reasoning are strong, we should have equal confidence.

Regarding Christian apologists, we especially shouldn’t overplay our hands. Our aim is to win a person to Christ, not to win an argument. We won’t win people, and probably won’t even win an argument, by bluffing and overplaying our hands. Why? Because we’re essentially lying! Who wants to believe something if you have to lie to “prove” it?

I’m not a theist because I know with certainty that God exists. I’m a theist because I believe the best explanation of the evidence, using reason, is that God exists. I’m not a Christian because I know with certainty that Jesus rose from the dead. I’m a Christian because I believe the best explanation of the evidence, using reason, is that Jesus rose from the dead. I say I’m not certain, which means I could be proven wrong. This may worry some Christians, but I don’t need certainty to give myself wholly to Jesus. I don’t operate on a day-to-day basis thinking, “Oh no, what if I’m wrong?” I live my life under the Lordship of Jesus, that is, imperfectly. So, don’t overplay your hands. It isn’t necessary and it doesn’t do anyone any good.

 

19 Replies to “Don’t Overplay Your Hand”

  1. Nicely said, Hayden! We crave certainty, which cannot ever exist within the physical plane of existence. I happen to be a BioLogos (Evolutionary Theism) but attach, like you, the caveat that it cannot be a complete explanation, only a best guess given what we know now.

    The Bible is also not complete. It is accurate as far as it goes, in explaining everything we need for faith and life, but will never be complete until we actually are resurrected and see our risen LORD in the flesh. Then we will know as much as we can of Elohim God within the capacity of a created being. However, we will never know the complete depth, breadth or height of the reality of Elohim God. There will always be “mystery” we shall depend upon our loving and infinited deity to reveal in an if he chooses.

    Good writing and thinking!

    Ray

  2. If everything you accept is based on your understanding of the evidence, using reason & logic only, where does faith fit in? I am not trying to debate here – this is a sincere question.

    1. Biblical faith, as I understand it, is belief that leads to action. My faith in Jesus is based on the evidence and reasoning, but true faith leads to repentance. Hope that makes sense.

      1. I agree that true faith leads to action, especially repentance! As I read your sentence, “My faith…but true faith…”, are you saying that you do or do not yet have the true faith that leads to repentance?

      2. Repentance is a conscious decision to turn away from an old life of sin and turn towards God. It is a change of mind. The faith that leads to repentance is the same saving faith that grants eternal salvation. ALL Christians by definition must have this faith… it defines what it means to be a follower of Christ.

    2. 11 years ago, Jesus revealed himself to me in a very supernatural way… a bright light in a room where no windows existed. It was an incredible day. Before that, for 35 years I was an agnostic/atheist. It was this supernatural event that sparked the “faith” but my logical mind that led me to pursue deep Biblical study…. I wanted to see if all this God stuff could really be true. The more I dug, the more I researched… the more I read the Bible… the stronger my resolve, the stronger my faith became. Still believing in something we cannot see, yet growing stronger in our knowledge of Him each day.

      Reason and Logic are how we make sense of the universe we inhabit… products of a mind God has given us… He wants us to reason and use logic.

      Why? Because he represents the ultimate truth.

      1. Did logic lead you to God or did he open the door so you could see him? I agree that God wants us to use logic, but to really know someone we need to have a personal interaction with him. He initiated that contact and you pursued it with logic. So both are needed to really know who God is, don’t you think?

      2. Interesting questions. I don’t think logic led me to God, but it certainly reinforced what He revealed to me 11 years ago. However if we look at logic and ask… what is it? It’s really just a tool we use as humans to understand the world around us. To make sense of things.

        To answer your last question all we need to know God is have a relationship with Him. Just like people on Earth you develop that relationship by spending time getting to know Him and speaking and listening to Him.

  3. Great thinking…….and intellectually honest. I’ve spoken with many Athiests and agnostics about how it is arrogance to say we absolutely know that there is no God, as that would take the knowledge of all things inside and outside of the universe, both natural and supernatural. To say that there isn’t the slightest chance for God to exist in reality would be intellectually dishonest. They usually respond with isn’t there the slightest chance that God doesn’t exist? To which I reply of course, I do not have the knowledge of God to know everything, but to the evidence I have seen God existing is simply the best answer. I have not always been a creationist Christian, and I love science, in fact, I majored in biochemistry and am heavy into research. God and science aren’t mutually exclusive. In this case, my scientific nature given to me by God helped lead me into heavy years of research that slowly convinced me of the God of the Bible (the one true God), then creationism. While there is still a chance I could be wrong, these are the best answers with the most support of scripturally correct answers I can find, at this time. I have put my own faith and worldview to the same, if not more, rigorous questions and testing than I would put to any other. I tried my hardest to make Christianity fail, but Christians fail, God and the Bible do not. I continue to research God and the Bible. There will always be the a small chance that I’m wrong about God, but He is the best answer with all I’ve seen, read, known, heard of, experienced, and with the evidence we have access to so far.

  4. Evolution is just a theory and there are things that it simply cannot explain such as where do immaterial things such as the laws of logic come from. I do not agree that evolution is the best explanation to us. However your point, that one should not overplay his or her hand is a good one.

    There was a wonderful debate, referred to as “The Great Debate” between Dr. Greg Bahnson and an atheist professor a number of years ago.
    You may be able to find it on the internet.
    I think you’d enjoy it very much.

    All the best to you.

  5. “Our aim is to win a person to Christ, not to win an argument.”
    #bam You couldn’t have said it better. 👍👊💥

  6. Wise counsel… as always. I really enjoy your posts… they are always informative and instructive. Thank you for taking your stand with Christ! M. A.

  7. Beautiful piece of writing! Believing with reason helps us to have a stronger belief rather than just accepting God exists!!!!

  8. Great to find this blog. Nice piece of writing! It is good to hear of other Christians claiming the powerful middle ground where spirituality is in conversation with science rather then at odds with it. Shalom, Lionheart.

  9. Awesome. Yep. Truth is more important than us being right. I believe that seeking truth ultimately has to point to Jesus, but which way? With what premises? We dont know. We need to bring humility and honesty back to Church.

Leave a Reply