Many people think religious claims are untestable, making it impossible to make an objective, reasoned choice as to which religion you should adopt. You just have to pick the one that fits your personal preferences, your family tradition, etc. Mark Mittelberg challenges this view in his book, Choosing Your Faith In a World of Spiritual Options.
Mittelberg starts with a question that religious people often do not even consider: Why choose any faith at all? His answer is interesting: because you don’t have an option. We all place our faith in something. The question is whether or not that faith is justified or not; true or not. Contrary to popular belief, answering this question is possible.
Before he delves into the principles by which we can test worldview claims, he discusses and evaluates six faith paths that most people use to determine their beliefs, showing how each is deficient:
- Pragmatism and Relativism = Whatever works for you is true for you. Problems: 1. Competing truth claims cannot both be right; 2. No one really believes that their worldview is just true for them.
- Tradition = That’s what I was taught, and I’ve always believed it. Problems: 1. It is always possible to be taught something that is false; 2. It provides no way of adjudicating between competing traditions, and thus provides no basis for thinking your traditions are true and others’ are false.
- Authority = I believe it because so-and-so says it’s true. Problems: 1. Authorities can be mistaken; 2. Authorities contradict one another, so some authorities must be mistaken; 3. What reasons does the authority have for claiming X is true?
- Intuition and Feelings = I believe whatever feels right to me. Problems: 1. Other people feel competing truth claims are right, but both can’t be right. This demonstrates that feelings are not reliable guides to truth; 2. Our hearts can deceive us.
- Mysticism = “God told me X is true,” or “I had an experience that confirms X is true.” Problems: 1. Just because you feel something does not mean what you are feeling is real; 2. We can mistake feelings for spiritual realities; 3. Feelings and experiences may be real, but that does not mean they are good (such as demonic encounters).
- Empiricism = I’ll only believe what I can see and experience. Problem: Some knowledge is not dependent on empirical or sensory experience to be justified, such as history.
Mittelberg rejects these faith paths in favor of the evidential faith path, by which he means a combination of good reason and experience. This faith path employs basic principles by which all worldviews can be tested, sifting the credible from the incredible until we finally narrow down our options to one.
One principle for sifting worldview claims is to test them logically and empirically. Mittelberg offers 20 evidences of this nature that support the Christian worldview including the beginning and exquisite fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of biological information, the existence of an objective moral law, confirmation of the historical accuracy of the Bible, miracles, fulfilled prophecies, and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Mittelberg ends the book appropriately by discussing barriers to faith, and helping his readers overcome them:
- Lack of information
- Lack of openness
- Intellectual doubt
- Lack of experience
- Lifestyle issues
- Personal hurts
- Sense of control
I would highly recommend this book for both believers and unbelievers alike. It will help Christians be confident that they have chosen the proper faith, and help guide unbelievers through the process of choosing their faith wisely, all the while gently leading them toward Christianity through an application of the principles of the book as it proceeds along.