Greg Koukl was taken to task by a caller on his Christian apologetics radio broadcast (Stand to Reason—str.org) for a statement he often used at the end of his discussions on spiritual and moral things: “At least that’s the way I see it.”  Greg was asked if he truly believed that he could be wrong in his views, and about Christianity in general.  His answer was “yes,” and his reasoning was as follows:

There are two categories of truth: necessary truths, contingent truths.  Necessary truths are truths that cannot be otherwise.  For example I cannot be mistaken about my own existence.  Renee Descartes made this clear when he pointed out that we cannot doubt our own existence.  It requires the existence of a mind to doubt, so the presence of doubt proves that there is a personal mind doubting, and thus we must exist.  This led to his famous dictum: Cogito Ergo Sum (I think, therefore I am).  Neither can we be mistaken that about the fact that there are no square circles because this is an inherently contradictory concept.  We know these things necessarily.

Other things are contingent.  While we have good reasons to believe they are true, they could be otherwise.  Anything that could be otherwise, may be otherwise, and we could be mistaken on those things.  It may be that it is so improbable for something to be otherwise that reasonable persons would have no reason to doubt that what they believe to be true is indeed true, but certainly we have to admit that any truth that must not be so may not necessarily be so.

Because we are not omniscient we cannot know the way (most) things actually are without error, so we may be in error on those things.  Are we left to complete skepticism, then?  No.  We cling to our persuasions on contingent matters with the strength of conviction that our justification allows.  If there is sufficient justification for our view of truth to the extent that we have no good reason to doubt that it is true, then we can hold that view to be true with great certitude.  However, if there is minimal justification for our particular view (particularly when other views have good justification as well) we may only hold to that view with reservation, allowing for the fact that there is a good chance we could be wrong.  So the more justification we have for our view the more tenaciously we can hold it; the less justification we have for our view the more trepidly we ought to hold it.  We should not promote our beliefs in an inappropriately dogmatic fashion when the evidence supporting our view does not allow for such dogmatism.  Christians should not have the attitude that we’re right, everyone else is wrong, and we cannot be mistaken.  It is good for us to be aware that we can be mistaken, and that we probably are on some things.

Greg made it clear that while he is persuaded Christianity is true based on the available evidence—and has no reason to believe that he is mistaken—he recognizes that his persuasions concern contingent things, and thus he could be wrong and is open to changing his view should evidence arise that would demonstrate his error.  I found his reasoning and approach to truth to be quite refreshing.  Indeed we must approach truth from this perspective both for our own benefit (intellectual humility allows us to grow in truth), and for the benefit of non-Christians.  We must convey our sense of intellectual humility to the non-Christian if we hope for them to respect our position and claims.  Nobody likes dogmatism these days, even if such dogmatism is justified.

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