Part 3, in this series addresses doubt.
What about Doubt?
Is commitment to a belief compatible with criticism of that belief? Put differently, is there any value in doubting my beliefs? How much doubt can I have in my beliefs and still hold them to be true? Consider the following:
- I can be justified in holding the belief that my wife loves me while still being aware of the logical possibility that she may not love me. To say that I can recognize what it would look like if my wife did not love me is not to say that she in fact does not love me.
- To say that my belief could be false is not to say that I’m unjustified in holding to my belief. It may be in fact false that God exists, but that possibility does not mean that I’m irrational for holding the belief that God does exist.
- Moreover, I can hold a belief with certainty and still have some doubt. A belief only requires 51 percent certainty or better before I am justified in committing to it.
Sometimes we hold a belief on the basis of someone’s authority and then seek reasons to support our belief. We accept the testimony of a doctor when we’re told we have cancer, but then we also look for the evidence or reasons to believe it. Many of you may not have seen New York City but you have reasons to believe it exists on the basis of reliable authorities (friends, newspapers, magazines, internet, media, etc.). Should you have an opportunity to visit New York City, then your belief in New York City would become a belief with understanding based on first-hand evidence. Sometimes we know our beliefs are true without understanding all the reasons why they’re true.
I’m indebted to Gregory E. Ganssle’s Thinking About God for most of this material.