Q: Can you admit you might be wrong? A: It doesn’t matter

This is me

As someone who discusses controversial topics both online and in my personal life, I’m used to challenges to my views.  Whether it’s religion, politics, abortion, or same-sex marriage, there’s always someone who eventually asks: Can you at least admit it’s possible you’re wrong?  For as many times as I am asked you’d think I’d be used to it, but there is always a bit of tired annoyance on my part.  It’s not that I don’t want to answer, or that I think there is some liability in answering in the affirmative (See: What If You’re Wrong?).  I just think it is an irrelevant question.

I get the impression that the asker probably retreats to this in frustration when discussing an issue with someone who is adamant in their positions.  Someone who wont even budge an inch from their view.  I can relate.  I have dealt with people like this, and on some issues I am this person.

But what new information do we really get with an answer?  Just because it’s possible I could be wrong doesn’t mean I’m probably wrong.  Or even that it’s just as likely that I am wrong as I am right.  I think some people believe that by gaining this concession they have gotten me to practically admit I might be wrong.

Now what if I answer ‘no’, that I don’t think it’s even possible I could be wrong?  All that means is I am firm that I believe my view is true.  For me, I’ve been exposed to virtually every angle of nearly every political, religious and social issue imaginable.  I have adopted my convictions based on what I consider sound reasoning.  This isn’t to say I refuse change where I stand on a particular issue, but having taken careful consideration in forming my views, I believe they’re correct.  So among the few issues I will not budge, it’s not out of stubbornness, it’s because I am thoroughly convinced I’m not wrong — which is another issue all together.

So, for readers who have asked of someone if it’s possible they could be wrong, what do you hope to achieve, and what do you believe the answer tells you?

Comments

  1. John, the reason we (I) ask that question sometimes is because it is an important gauge of several things:
    1) Is the argument even worth continuing. If the other person is not willing the entertain the possibility of being wrong, then the conversation is over. Or at least it steers the conversation towards other issues, like “Ok, we disagree – but how can we still work together”.
    2) When asked of me, the question helps me gauge how sure I am of the proposition in question. For instance, in the debate over Hell: I am absolutely certain that the Bible teaches that Hell is a real place that should be feared. But I am rather uncertain of who goes there and if it is a permanent situation. I argue for a particular position, but I am very willing to admit that I’m wrong. But on the existence of Hell, I’m reluctant to even entertain the idea that I’m wrong.

    I actually don’t like to ask people this question — but I do like to readily ADMIT that I might be wrong. We all agree that humility is a good quality and admitting that we might be wrong about our opinions is a great reminder to ourselves and to our listeners that we are all in the same boat. None of us have a direct-dial line to God. We are all just individuals who have a very weak grasp of Truth are we are all struggling to understand the meaning and significance of our lives. A person unable to admit this is someone who really who I can’t even begin to relate to. I might as well just walk away and save my time and energy for a more useful discussion.

    • Tumeyn

      But I don’t think people have equal chances of being wrong. If you believe 2+2=4 and I believe it’s 7, for example, should I throw up my hands with you because you won’t concede its possible you’re wrong?

      Some things are right, others are wrong. On some issues there is no way Im wrong and won’t move. It doesn’t mean I’m unreasonable, just firmly convinced.

  2. To me asking this question is pointless. If you or I are so firmly set in our beliefs, clearly we’ve thought the stuff through *and* the possibility that we might be wrong. So, I might be wrong- but this is what I believe and the possibility of me being wrong is just as probable as you being wrong. Thank-you very much, I’ll stick with my opinons/beliefs. ;)

  3. A paradigm shift for my thoughts. Very true. Different personalities, different planes and different perspectives. There is never a single solution to a single problem. So does the take-away on a topic. Every one has a different view. :)

  4. I’d agree that the question is quite pointless. After all, if you thought you were wrong you would change your beliefs to what you thought was right. So everyone thinks they are right. Which makes the question quite pointless

  5. Marshall Art says:

    The question is often asked of those seeking validation for their position more than any acknowledgement from you. If you tell me that you might be wrong, it is as if you are saying I might be right and it provides me solace and to an extent, allows me to continue believing in a view opposite or different from yours regardless of how lacking my arguments are as regards the truth of my position. It gives credibility to my position despite my position being undeserving of credibility. It is similar to the surrender of “agreeing to disagree”, which really means, “I have no logic, proof or substance to my position, nor can I articulate a good argument to support it, but now I have permission to pretend I believe it anyway. Thanks.”

  6. John, the problem is that issues that we discuss on blogs like this are far less certain the 2+2=4. I’m confident in the truth of Christianity (meaning the basic claims about Jesus), but I am not NEARLY as confident of it as I am about 2+2=4.

    Moreover, there is (nearly) a universal agreement about 2+2=4. There is not universal agreement on these sorts of topics. If 25% of mathmeticians told me that 2+2 = 7, then I would take their “truth claim” seriously and begin to have some doubt about whether was as smart as I think I am. Likewise, I am convinced of the claims of Christianity, but I would be a fool (and a liar) to say that I am absolutely convinced beyond doubt. Just the simple fact that so many (otherwise) intelligent people deny my faith gives me pause and suggests to me that I *may*, in fact, be wrong. I agree, it is not a 50/50 shot. I personally think that there is enough evidence of Christianity to stake my life on it. But, on the other hand, there are enough things that don’t quite add up that I can genuinely understand why some people reject it.

    I’m a scientist. One thing that I bring to the table as a scientist is an appreciation for the “messyness” of how real science is done. We build up evidence for a particular scientific claim. But that evidence sometimes doesn’t make complete sense. But the theory we are postulating is the best explanation we can make of a set of observations. This is the way I view Christianity: It isn’t perfect. It doesn’t explain everything to my satisfaction. But it does the best job of any “theory” that I’ve encountered to-date. I’m staking my life on it because I have no other place to go.
    I love John 6:67-8: “So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’

  7. Well, you hold two fingers in front of your face then you hold up another two fingers in front of your face. Count your fingers.

    Then try it with apples. Then try it with rocks. Then try it with ants. It seems to work every time.

    I’m not sure what point you are getting at.

    We all agree that we can’t determine truth by popular argument. But if 99.99% of experts (and even non-experts) agree on something, then we can be pretty sure it is “true” (at least, in-so-far as our human experience allows us to determine truth). But it only 50% of experts agree on a particular truth, then prudence would argue that we should be very cautious in making a judgement.

  8. Marshal, I couldn’t disagree with you more. “Agreeing to disagree” is a cordial way of saying that we both feel that we are perfectly justified in our position. Your post seems to be the epitome of arrogance. Perfectly rational people disagree all the time.

    I, for one, will readily admit that there is a great deal about life that I don’t understand and about which I am uncertain. I do my best to formulate coherent opinions, and I sometimes argue vehemently for them. But at the end of the day, I do not believe that I am any “more rational” than you are. I believe my opinions have good evidence and logic. But we all weight various evidences and logic differently and therefore come to different conclusions. It is simple arrogance to be unwilling to admit that you (or I) may, possibly, be wrong about something.

  9. I visit lots of blogs where people debate issues. To make progress on issues, often side issues need to be settled. Admitting you are mistaken is a way to help move a discussion along. The point is not to a personal confession as much as to show establish or close an important point of an argument line. We do this in medicine and science all the time. We train people to do it. We have to train people to admit they are wrong.

    I find it pretty interesting that you address this issue here instead of the last post where you were mistaken on a notion. Which is fine, but we need to establish the point to move on clear-headedly on the line of discussion.

    I visit lots of sites, as I said. And many opinionated bloggers who like you may say:

    I’ve been exposed to virtually every angle of nearly every political, religious and social issue imaginable. I have adopted my convictions based on what I consider sound reasoning. This isn’t to say I refuse change where I stand on a particular issue, but having taken careful consideration in forming my views, I believe they’re correct.

    And yet, when wrong, they admit it and the conversation moves on. I have noticed and thought time and again that you don’t admit you are wrong. It is part of your MO.

    When you say,

    So among the few issues I will not budge, it’s not out of stubbornness, it’s because I am thoroughly convinced I’m not wrong – which is another issue all together.

    It is one thing to say, “No, I don’t think I am wrong.” — Agreeing to disagreeing is great. No problem with that. But quite another to avoid the question and never really admit to a mistake that you know you have made and is obvious from the tread. Admitted parts of the arguments as mistaken can be most helpful in good reasoning.

  10. Marshall Art says:

    @ Tumeyn,

    How is it arrogance to stand firmly behind what one knows is true? Take that 2+2 example. Are you arrogant to insist that any opposing point of view is correct, or is there any real possibility that 2+2 might add up to a number other than 4? Anyone who would insist otherwise might also view you as arrogant for refusing to budge from your position. I will suffer such accusations because they are also desperate moves on the part of my “opponent” and lead me to conclude that, if perhaps I am not 100% right, they surely are further away. It is similar to the “Hitler” accusation.

    @ Sabio,

    To admit to being wrong requires proof that one is. To concede the possibility to move the discussion along is wimpy surrender. I’d much rather agree to simply put the issue aside, as if it is on hold, if another point is more on topic.

  11. Marshal, when I get into an arguement with my 7-year old daughter about something, I am generally not willing to admit that I might be wrong. But, when I get into an arguement with my wife, I am almost always ready to admit that I’m wrong. Why the difference? Because I view my wife as my intellectual equal. Not being willing to admit that you might be wrong is just another way of claiming intellectual superiority.
    (by the way, she gets mad at me all the time for refusing to admit that I was wrong. Imagine her anger if I refused to admit that I *might* even be wrong!)

    Admiting that you might be wrong is part of being human and part of creating a level playing field where people are respected. It doesn’t mean everyone is right. It doesn’t mean that some ideas aren’t more convincing than others. But it means that we are all humans that, at times, have flawed intellectual and logical capabilities.

    Yes, I would be perfectly willing to admit that I *might* be wrong about 2+2=4 if a group of mathmaticians (experts) told me that the answer was 5.

  12. @ Marshall,
    Your reply does not surprise me. To admit to being wrong does not demand a rigorous proof. I admit it to my kids all the time without proof. It is very useful.

    Oh, that is funny, I just read tumeyn’s comment. I agree with him totally. But I understand that people’s temperaments can also determine how they feel on such issues.

  13. Hmmm… I don’t get that particular question often, but when I do, it typically comes at a point in the debate when the person I’m debating has run out of ways to counter my argument. In other words, I have already repeatedly given evidence to show that *their* position is wrong, they have not been able to counter my evidence with their own, so they resort to possibilities, abstract notions, and their feeeeeellllings.

    The problem with the question for me is that, discovering I was wrong in the past is how I reached the position I hold now. I’d gone through my atheist phase, but once I actually questioned the position, I became firmer in my Christian beliefs then I was before. I used to have a much more maleable position on abortion, but on examining the facts, my position changed. I used to accept anthropogenic global warming/climate change/whatever they call it now, right up until I examined the actual data, and now I know different.

    So the position they hold is one *I* held until I discovered I was wrong. Which makes the question particularly illogical. If I discovered I was wrong before, leading me to the position I hold now, the position I hold now cannot also be wrong. There is no in between. It would be like believing 2+2=7, discovering it actually =4, but someone wants me to agree that maybe it =5 or 6. Or watermelons. Anything but 4. It makes no logical sense.

  14. I just don’t get it. Marshal, John, and now Kunoichi:
    If your views changed in the past, how are you so confident that they won’t change in the future? We should all be humble enough to realize that our views DO change over time as we encounter new facts and as our perspective changes with age and maturity. The entire belief set I hold right now is based on evidence and I believe strongly in it. BUT I AM FULLY WILLING AND READY TO ADMIT THAT I MIGHT BE COMPLETELY WRONG.

    Kunichi, you write that you encounter this question when “I have already repeatedly given evidence to show that *their* position is wrong, they have not been able to counter my evidence with their own…” This is bullshit. Most people are quite rational. If you had given them sufficient evidence to change their view, then they would have changed it. Don’t put the onus completely on the listener. It is sheer arrogance to say that you have everything figured out but they are too stupid to understand and accept your arguments.

    This subject actually really strikes a nerve with me. Christians today are often viewed as simpletons. Why? It’s EXACTLY because of this attitude. The typical Christian attitude (even on this web site) is “I have it all figured out and if you would just listen to me I would be glad to tell you exactly where all of your theology is wrong.” We should stand up for the truth as we see it. But we all need to be fully ready to admit that we might not have this “truth” thing quite as figured-out as we think. When we do this, we level the playing field and are able to have a more open dialog with non-believers. The last thing that non-Christians need is a lecture from some arrogant Christian who thinks that they have all this faith-stuff figured out. That’s a sure turn-off that will push them further into unbelief.

    • “Kunichi, you write that you encounter this question …This is bullshit. Most people are quite rational. If you had given them sufficient evidence to change their view, then they would have changed it.”

      I note you ignored the part where I said I don’t get this question often. I am describing the times when I *do* get the question. Also, no, when it comes to contentious issues, I don’t find most people are rational. This is true whether it is in regards to religious beliefs, abortion, homosexual behaviour, climate change, organic food, being “green,” and so on.

      Just to give a non-religious example: organic food. I know a lot of people who spend huge amounts of their money buying expensive organic food, at great sacrifice to their families, convinced that this food is better then food that doesn’t have the organic label. They are convinced it tastes better, looks better, doesn’t have pesticides or herbicides and has better nutrition. Now, I grew up on a farm 2 sticks ahead of the stone ages, so just about everything we did was organic (more because of cost then ideology), and I could never tell the difference in taste between our chickens and store bought chickens, yet over the years I *still* became convinced by the media, etc. that food produced through large scale agriculture was worse then that produced organically. After all, farming practices have changed a lot over the years. Eventually, the dogma became too much for me to accept, because of my own experiences, so I started looking into it. That’s when I found the extensive research that showed that not only is organic not any better then food produced without that certification, but is potentially more dangerous and actually worse for the environment overall. On top of that, it has been repeatedly found in controlled tests, people couldn’t actually see or taste the difference between organic and non-organic. So when people I knew (some of them only online) would talk about the evils of Big Food and how terrible non-organic food production is and talk about demanding our laws force producers to all be organic, etc. I would challenge them with the research. They not only rejected the research, but they would blow a gasket, become extremely angry and offended, and resort to name calling or worse (my stance on climate change is why I maintain an anonymous blog; I didn’t want some of these people showing up on my doorstep, threatening my family).

      “If your views changed in the past, how are you so confident that they won’t change in the future?”

      If I did not make it clear before, let me make it clear now. When I held those positions, it was NOT because I had looked at any evidence. I believed those things because it was what others around me said, and I believed them. Basically, it was part of the culture I lived in, and I didn’t really think about it much. It was only when I *did* think about it, question it, examine the evidence, etc. that I realized I was wrong. No, I am not arrogant enough to think I have it “all figured out.” I had that arrogance *before* I actually examined my positions and I must say, looking back, I am often embarrassed by how gullible I was. That’s where, in my experience, you have it backwards. The few that I *do* encounter that make the statement this blog post is about are the ones who arrogantly believe they have it all figured out; they don’t need actual proof, because they are going by what they *feel* is right and true – even those that believe that truth is always relative.

    • Tumeyn

      Maybe it would help if I gave an example. I used to be neutral, as in held no opinion either way on the abortion issue. Only recently (the last few years) have I become pro-life. On this issue there is no possibility I am wrong on this. a unique human life begins at conception. Human life is inherently valuable. It is morally wrong to intentionally take a human life without proper justification. Elective abortion intentionally takes a human life without proper justification. Abortion is morally wrong. Case closed.

      Think of the philosophical concession I’d be making if I capitulated that I might be wrong about this. I would be effectively saying it’s possible human life doesn’t begin at conception, which is scientifically and biologically false. I would be saying human life might not be valuable and worth protection, which I think is properly basic truth about human beings. I have to say that it might be ok to intentionally take a human life without proper justification, which I think also is self evident.

      So by admitting I might be wrong about this issue completely undermines my entire view. It doesn’t just leave open the possibility that I could reconsider. Do you see this?

      On the other hand, I could admit I might be wrong about other things like the existence of God. If it could be shown that it is impossible for a God to exist then I’d have to change my theistic view.

      This post is not advocating a blanket application. There are some issues where a concession is reasonable. And there are others where it would be unreasonable to admit I might be wrong. Is this more clear?

  15. @ tumeyn,
    If anything, all this banter should make clear that “Christian” vs. “non-Christian” is the least meaningful of categories to evaluate people. I agree with you.

  16. There seems to be a major misunderstanding at work here. One must focus on the type of discussions that led to this post. None of them are on the level of a marital spat, where a husband untruthfully admits he was wrong to keep the peace, or a weak parent gives in to his children to provoke a desired response or action.

    Even on matters of the faith, the discussions common to this blog are normally based on actual Scripture and the words it uses to get its message across. For example, would I be arrogant to insist that God desires that we not steal? I not only am completely right on this broad statement, but on what would constitute an allowable breech due to some pretty clear examples in Scripture.

    Knowing the truth and being firm that it is indeed truth is not arrogance in the least. It’s honesty and one does not level any playing fields by conceding falsehoods. Rather, it tilts the playing field away from the one who professes truth toward the one who doesn’t, regardless of whether or not the one who doesn’t is aware of how false his position might be.

    But even on matters that we as humans are unable to confirm, there is still that which is truth, fact and absolutely right upon which to make one’s case. An example (where there is a lack of proof) would be the previous discussion wherein claims regarding origin of the universe was made. One wishes to take a completely science based position in direct opposition to a “Creationist” position. I step in and notice that the scientist is making claims for which he has no absolute proof, but only conclusions based on available evidence. Yet, he uses those conclusions and passes them off as absolutes of his own. I don’t claim I am absolutely right regarding my own belief (not that I have a firm one regarding the beginnings of all things), but only that the scientist (secular) position is not as solid as they can only wish it to be. The mere fact that we can’t use any available knowledge to prove the theory is why. That is, we can’t duplicate the creation of the universe to prove ANY theory. (We don’t have a lab big enough)

    But the bottom line is that admitting one might be wrong is only to salve the sensitive feelings of the person who desires that admission for the other guy . It does nothing more and what good is that? Lefties, atheists and Packer fans insist I’m wrong all the time. I don’t wet myself over it. I consider the source and soldier on. I want the truth. I demand that my opponent stop stomping his feet and holding his breath and provide evidence for his side or against mine for the sake of the truth. That’s what is important. Not level playing fields or the sensitive nature of anyone participating in the discussion. I refer again to the “agree to disagree” notion. Why must I agree to such a goofy notion? It’s a given, is it not? It’s clear there is disagreement, and now I have to agree to it? It doesn’t make sense.

    Finally, confidence in what one believes does not imply absolute certainty that conflicting evidence might one day be presented. It only means that absent that evidence, we have every right, and indeed a duty, to stand firmly upon what we believe is true, BECAUSE we believe it is true. Can you prove otherwise? Do it. I can handle the truth. Until then, I am not wrong. What’s more, why would anyone waste time and get bent out of shape because someone is so confident? Insecurity?

  17. Marshal said,

    a weak parent gives in to his children to provoke a desired response or action.

    I didn’t read his long comment after he showed us he had no desire to understand the point. “Weak parent” — wow!

  18. Rejoicing in overthrown pet theories is a mark of a scientific mind. I just wrote a post on this principle. Having found great pleasure in saying “I was wrong” is something many scientists would say they have often experienced.

    Here is a list of things I have gladly confessed that I was wrong about — plus confessions of scientists and others doing the same.

  19. I can appreciate your example. (abortion) I guess I was more thinking about some of the Truth claims that I’ve struggled with like the inerrancy and origins of scripture, the existence of God, the purpose and meaning of our existence, the origins of mankind (evolution), and the nature and meaning of evil. Anyone who is so certain of those issues that they are unwilling to admit that they might be wrong is simply foolish.

    But I might be wrong… :-)

  20. Marshall Art says:

    Sabio,

    Perhaps you should review the title of this post before you presume I don’t understand the point. It’s not about admitting one is wrong. It’s about admitting one might be wrong.

    If you’re referring to your comment about admitting to your kids you are wrong without the benefit of proof, that would be on you for not making yourself more clear. But I don’t think you can make a silk purse out of that sow’s ear anyway. To admit to anyone that you are wrong without the benefit of proof to back it up doesn’t do anyone any real good, particularly children who are losing the benefit of learning. Indeed, I would be even more demanding regarding a need for proof where children are concerned. (Of course if being wrong is obvious, no evidence is required. This would be a situation where being wrong is exposed in the course of events for all to see.)

    But there simply is no legitimate purpose for admitting one might be wrong, except as a balm for the other persons unnaturally high sensitive nature. It suggests that purpose is not convicted in his own beliefs. That puts no onus on me to pretend I also lack conviction. Instead, it merely lets him off the hook. No progress occurs if such a person then believes he is not obliged to expend effort to find the truth and instead carries on as if he already has it in hand. Thus, I’ve done no service to that person in letting him so carry on.

  21. Marshall Art says:

    Sabio

    I’ve read both your links. The first contains this bit of drivel:

    “For me, like many atheists, the greatest, non-compatible difference between the two is that those who value science are taught to rejoice when their favorite and most
    inspiring theories are empirically overthrown, while religions teach their adherents to hang on stubbornly to their beliefs in spite of what counter evidence appears — they call that “faith”.”

    First of all, I don’t have much respect for anyone who teaches that failure is a reason for rejoicing. Failure leads to success for those who are not afraid to fail then carry on, but success is the goal, not failure. Yet for the benefits failure can bring about as a learning experience, it is not a reason for rejoicing. Success is.

    As such, having some long held belief proven wrong is also no reason to pop the cork. Only an idiot would celebrate being proven wrong. More rational is to celebrate that true knowledge has been discovered, even if at the cost of that long held belief. If one seeks answers, the truth, fact, then to have one’s long held beliefs overturned in favor of the RIGHT answer, the REAL truth, the ACTUAL fact is NOT cause for celebration by rational people. Having been introduce the RIGHT answer, the REAL truth, the ACTUAL fact is.

    Which of your professors or teachers taught you to rejoice in being proved wrong? I wish to warn off any kids who might seek their teaching.

    As to your perception of religion, I’ve never been exposed to any minister, priest or nun who demanded irrational adherence to proven falsehoods. Nor have I seen or heard of any counter evidence appearing to contradict what my faith teaches. This indicates you have no idea of what religions teach their followers (though I cannot speak for any but the Judeo-Christian traditions.

    Your second link has no relevance at all even if each of your examples of other people changing their tune is prefaced by some claim by each of rejoicing at being wrong.

    BTW, Christianity IS the answer and Jesus IS the way. You haven’t been shown any proof that this is not true. You simply don’t believe.

  22. @ Marshall Art

    (1) Your blog
    Dude, you really need your own blog. It would be fun to see if you could culture conversation there is such a way that you actually got comments on your posts and what type of people visited.

    (2) My Post
    If something from my post relates to this post, I will try to respond since you took the time to read my “drivel” (love the rhetoric, as always.) So I won’t discuss “benefits of failure” here. You can comment on my blog and I will respond there – not here.

    As for things that are pertinent to this OP

    (3) Proven Wrong
    You said,

    Only an idiot would celebrate being proven wrong.

    You comment is nitpicking and showing you are not seeking the real point of my post and merely love rhetoric. I too agree with you that:

    …celebrate that true knowledge has been discovered, even if at the cost of that long held belief

    . The rest of your distractions I will ignore.

    (4) Religion encourages Undoubting Faith
    You said,

    celebrate that true knowledge has been discovered, even if at the cost of that long held belief

    Well, we have different experiences OR we interpret experiences differently. I am sure it is a combination of both.

    (5) The ONLY way — Marshall’s Way
    Loved the sermon.
    You haven’t been shown any proof that Islam is not true, you simply don’t believe it. Or substitute any number of beliefs you don’t have for the word Islam.
    “Proof” is a key word for you. Proof is a very hard thing. Instead, we usually decide based on the preponderance of evidence — and even that is highly subjective. Decisions are complex and full of pitfalls. Thus, scientific method has helped advance knowledge. And thus we are fortunate if we have family and friends to help us see our blind spots. Ignorance is the human starting point. I totally agree with the comment above of tumeyn at 12:13 am.

  23. Marshall Art says:

    @ Sabio,

    Point 1: Thanks. I’ll think it over.

    Point 2: You linked to your blog in reference to the discussion here. You should be willing to provide an argument for why it is relevant to this discussion or there is no point to linking aside from shameless self-promotion, which I can dig.

    Point 3: Nitpicking? “Rejoicing” in one’s own failure is distinct from rejoicing in finding the truth. To rejoice in anything is to give it a great deal of value. Perhaps you need to choose your words more carefully.

    Point 4: I won’t speak for all religions, but the Christian religion encourages reason for faith, not blind faith in the face of contradictory evidence. Perhaps you weren’t as knowledgeable about the Christian religion as you thought.

    Point 5: In some ways, this point agrees with all my previous comments rather than contradicts them. But again, you stray from the point of the post. Proofs and evidences lead one to confidence that one’s opinion is true, factual, or at least the best explanation. It does not lend one to belief that one might be wrong, even if it is true to say. But it still is worthless to say it except to salve the feelings of one with an different opinion. It still does no more than allow the other to carry on believing what I see as false and thus is not honest of me to enter into any such agreement.

    As to islam, I don’t believe it because evidence exists for the truth claims of the Christian faith that do not exist for the truth claims of a despotic pedophile whose revelations were not experienced in any way by anyone else, as the miracles and prophesies in Scripture were.

  24. Marshal writes:
    “But there simply is no legitimate purpose for admitting one might be wrong, except as a balm for the other persons unnaturally high sensitive nature. ”

    That’s exactly the point. It *is* a balm. We are all highly sensitive. We need to constantly remind each other that our understanding of the universe is tenuous at best. In spite of our cries for certainty, God hasn’t set the universe up in another way – a way that requires humility and free-dialog in order to most fully appreciate the complexities of the world He made.

    I promise this will be the last time I’ll say it: Admitting that I *might* be wrong on particular issues (not every issue) is a way to open up a dialog of genuine communication. It treats the other person with dignity. It shows that I have a degree of humility and humanity. It shows the other person the humility with which Christ treats us. Remember Jesus serving others and washing their feet? Admitting that I don’t have a monopoly on truth is a way of elevating the other person and putting myself in a humble position where I can be used by the God of the universe to do great things.

  25. (1) Good luck on your blog

    (2) Yes, and I addressed the pertinent areas

    (3) You get my point. No further conversation needed.

    (4) It all matters on how you spin the theology

    (5) You said,

    “Proofs and evidences lead one to confidence that one’s opinion is true, factual, or at least the best explanation. It does not [They do not] lend one to belief that one might be wrong, even if it is true to say. ”

    I agree.

    I see two situations:

    (a) Admitting you may be wrong when you are pretty sure you are right is a way about admit lack of proof — which is the usual case. But to admit you are pretty certain is also good.

    (b) It is silly to avoid admitting you are wrong, when you realize you have contradicted yourself, confused or just plain wrong.

    Confessing a mistake is a very good method to avoid future mistakes. Admitting vulnerability and possible error is a good method to avoid pride. Neither are required, but they are valuable skills.

    Even though tumeyn and my theology is different, I agree with all the principles he mentioned in his above comment. (again) I have far more in common with tumeyn, it seems, than you boys — both fellow believers. It goes to show what I have always said, the heart is far more important than stated beliefs.

  26. Marshall Art says:

    @ Tumeyn,

    “We are all highly sensitive.”

    Not true at all. I’ve already stated that being shown I am wrong does not bother me (except where having done so has cost me dearly in one way or another—then I grieve for that whilst rejoicing in the knowledge that it won’t happen again). Being told I’m wrong when there is nothing to back it up bothers me even less (except where my inability to persuade allows the other to continue his improper beliefs), though it does lead me to double check my understandings (when being so told instilled unjustified doubt).

    But when someone is firm and convicted in his beliefs, I am more likely to be persuaded to re-examine than I would be if someone pouted and sought agreement that I might be wrong. It opens up nothing more than contemptuous feelings that anyone would seek such a lame way out of backing up their contradictory position.

    Furthermore, the is nothing arrogant about being convicted in one’s beliefs. One does not lack humility simply for not agreeing to disagree or for not admitting one might be wrong when one does not feel that to be true on the subject at hand.

    And perhaps that is the distinction. I don’t claim to be right about everything because there is no way anyone can make that claim. But when I know something to be true or very likely to be true given the available info, it would be dishonest to admit the possibility of being wrong. Frankly, if I am NOT sure of myself, I ALWAYS add the caveat “I could be wrong here, but as I understand it…” If that’s not good enough, concerns of my level of humility is the least of your problems (by “your” I’m speaking in general terms, not of Tumeyn or anyone else)

    A better way to open communications is to cast aside personal egos and simply discuss the merits of every participant’s point of view until all angles are exhausted to everyone’s satisfaction.

    BTW, I can’t recall Jesus ever suggesting that He might be wrong about anything. I also do not recall ever claiming a monopoly on truth. But I know it when I see it, as do most people who claim I have attitude problems instead of addressing the point of my comments.

  27. Marshall Art says:

    @Sabio,

    Point 4: I don’t spin the theology of Christianity.

    Point 5a: I believe you have made a typo that confuses the point you were trying to make here. However, this is not about admitting one might be wrong when one is “pretty sure” he is right. It is about being told one must admit one might be wrong when the opponent isn’t making headway in persuading one that he is wrong or could be. If I’m not sure I’m right, I don’t claim I’m absolutely right.

    Point 5b: I don’t have a problem admitting I’m wrong when so shown. Why do you keep bringing this up? The issue is “Q: Can you admit you might be wrong? A: It doesn’t matter” Does that not sound familiar at least a little? It’s not about confessing mistakes when mistakes are shown to have been made. It’s not about pride (false or otherwise) in being convicted in what one believes. It is not prideful to stand firmly behind or for what one believes to be true and factual.

    Indeed, it seems to me that the one who struggles with pride issues is the one who demands that the other person must admit that he might be wrong. Such a person cannot bear to be wrong so he begs the other to admit the possibility that he is wrong in order that such a person won’t have to suffer being known as wrong before the multitudes. The sad part is that his being wrong generally won’t leave his reputation as soiled as he fears, if it gets soiled at all.

    As to the heart, it is often deceived and often deceives. And it isn’t mere beliefs, but what one believes that matters.

  28. Marshal,
    I perused Sabio’s blog for a few minutes this morning. I notice that he is a former-Christian. That got me thinking a bit. When we teach our Christian faith to others, we have to be very careful how we “sell” it. It relates very much to this question we’ve been debating. If we come across as too “certain” of all our convictions and theology, then it quickly leads to the impression that Christianity should solve all my doubts and questions about meaning of life and the meaning of existence. But that just isn’t true. This is a setup for failure.

    The core of Christian faith is NOT that it brings certainty in an uncertain world. The core of the Christian message is that it brings HOPE to a situation that looks otherwise bleak and meaningless. Even though I’m full of doubt sometimes, I’ll be the first to admit that I am not strong enough to face the world without my faith. I couldn’t do it. I can live with uncertainty. I can’t live without hope.

    • @ tumeyn, Hello!

      It would be fantastic if you had a blog — my quest, you’d have lots of people dialoguing with you.

      I absolutely, strongly agree with your first paragraph and feel it is sound advice — for any ideology.

      As to your second paragraph, when people embrace Christianity, they embrace it to fill any number of needs. Family, friends & identity are a most common reason — they were born in the faith and it is binds and links them to others that matter. This hold for all faiths. For some it is the perversion of power, status and control. This too happens with all faiths — and non-faiths.

      So use it as “Hope” but they confuse the anxiety they have with possible rejection by friends, family and community with “hope”. They may say they could not live without it but I think largely the are feeling (subconsciously) that threat as the emptiness — not eternal damnation.

      Some may really believe the theology and get the Hope of salvation and forgiveness of sins thing offered by Christianity. Buddhists may feel the comfort of pursuing a right path. Jews may feel deep belongingness of the chosen, Muslims may feel the hope of a better life after death. But I think the former explanation are probably primary.

      Sure, what Christianity really offers and what people go into it for may be very different things. And we know Christians vary widely on what Christianity really is — thus all the sects. So here we are talking about Marshal and John’s Christianity, which I wager is significantly different from yours — even if you use similar terms, texts and confessions.

      I may be wrong, of course. :-)

  29. Good point – I guess everyone’s faith rests on different needs. I didn’t mean hope for salvation from Hell. (although, I certainly believe Hell is a real place that we need to consider)

    Instead, I mean hope in the following way: I need some hope that this world, in the end, really is meaningful and purposeful. Hope that evil isn’t an illusion – but it really is something bad that will ultimately be defeated. Hope that my existence isn’t just a flicker in the vast emptiness of the universe, but instead that God really does have a plan and that I really can be a part of it. Hope that the love I feel for my family and friends isn’t meaningless – that instead it is a reflection of the love that my Creator already has for me.

    That’s the hope I need and the hope that my faith provides.

  30. That’s splitting hairs. If redemption and reconciliation weren’t true, I would have no hope. Hope in a God that offers no pathway to a relationship with him (deism) is no hope at all. Of course I agree with you. The Christian message of redemption and reconciliation makes sense to me precisely BECAUSE it offers hope – it makes sense of an otherwise rather arbitrary and senseless existence. But the one thing it doesn’t offer is absolute certainty, at least not in the way we think of it in the 21st century.

  31. @ tumeyn:

    You are refreshingly straightforward and rawly honest — thanx. Thus I think you would have an interesting blog.

    I think for many people feel that life would be meaningless and without purpose without a god, but when you ask people who leave Christianity (or any number of other religions), that is simply not the case.

    As I said, their anxiety of meaningless and purposelessness either comes from their fear of loss of community, family or friends, or it comes from indoctrination since youth (a common cause). People who marry outside their ethnic groups go through similiar anxieties.

    The other component of your hope is about justice: that the bad “will ultimately be defeated”. And indeed, most religions address this issue too. Though real life shows this not to be the case, we tell like telling ourselves that in the long run there will be justice. I think that is a universal desire.

    But love is real — with or without gods, spirits, demons or all that. Animals care for their young just as we do — and some other mammals lament their dead as we do. Their love is not more empty than ours — it is real.

    Oddly, on this site and thread discussions I read little about Christianity being about service — and the hope to be a better servant. It is that sort of Christianity which I think has done the world much good. Here, instead, as you point out, we hear about “getting it right”.

    Right Belief
    Certainty
    Knowing the Answers
    Being on the RIGHT team

    This sort of emphasis comes with many problems in every religion. And perhaps we agree there.

  32. Marshall Art says:

    @ Tumeyn

    “Selling” anything requires certainty, or at least confidence that that which is being sold will deliver as advertised. “Hope” alone will not do the trick. As to my “style”, I fall back on a sales philosophy that states, “you cannot say the wrong thing to the right person, and you cannot say the right thing to the wrong person”. This is even more the case with Christianity as it involves God’s calling which touches the heart of the “consumer”.

    I have no doubts about my faith in the existence of God. There is far too much evidence for that. My “hope” is in my own ability to maintain my faith in the face of all the world offers in terms of temptation, and I have no doubts about the Holy Spirit backing me up.

    What seems most at issue here, at this point, is the tender nature of those you believe will run weeping at my less than gracious (read: touchy/feely) prose in these here blog comments. I am more than weary with dealing with such accusations when the truth, hard, cold facts unswayed by human emotion, is the point. Which is more important? Edification or ego massage? I’ve no time for the latter and far less concern that it is I who must adjust my “style” for the sake of whomever is involved with the discussion at the time. Why not instead assume I am being honest, sincere and attempting to spread the truth as I understand it?

    It’s diversionary tactics to point to the person professing a truth claim and speak of his “style” and manner as opposed to focusing on the claim itself. It seems that you’ve fallen victim to this tactic, and I’m not surprised that one who has leveled this charge finds your position agreeable to him. This is the same guy who does not show the same sentiment that he “might be wrong” about having walked away from Christianity. He seems rather certain that was the right move. (Note that my use of the word “seems” suggests a lack of certainty on my part regarding Sabio’s current state of mind. These types of less than hidden clues are common in my comments.)

    I will again state that I firmly believe that the most Christian thing I can do in a medium with the limitations of a blog comment space is to go right for the facts, the truth and the best explanation as I understand the issue and not fret over the tissue-thin feelings of the reader. On whatever the issue, the truth is the main thing. Argue my perception of it all you like, but don’t waste my time assuming what you cannot know regarding my level of humility, arrogance or Christian manner (which I freely admit is not where it ought to be). Doing so says more about you (I use the word in the general sense) than it does me.

  33. Marshall Art says:

    @ Sabio,

    “You are refreshingly straightforward and rawly honest…”

    Clearly you are biased as to when this is a virtuous thing.

    Your ideas of love are less than intellectual and indeed emotional and superficial. Love in animals does not exist as it does in humans if it exists in animals at all. They are creatures of instinct and their attachments are more matters of species survival than the type of love that matters amongst humans.

    I find it arrogant that you find it odd what is discussed on this blog, as if you have any right to expect anything from another blog. I have no doubt you only post on matters of importance to you. I have no doubt that there are many things of importance to you that you never address. Where do you get off daring to judge what others find important to them? Your statement “…I read little about Christianity being about service — and the hope to be a better servant.” is accusatory and denies the service that John’s thoughts provide to others on the issues he chooses to discuss.

    It is not certainty that cause problems within the faith community (and by extension, those with no faith), but the refusal to accept those things of which the faithful are certain, i.e. the teachings of the faith.

  34. We hear your righteous indignation Marshall. I bow to you having the last words.

  35. I can’t account for what you and the voices in your head hear, Sabio. What is clear is another attempt by you to imagine what you cannot know. It seems clear that for you demonizing is the first weapon of choice. I hope you feel better now.

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