The Difference between Critical and Sceptical Thinking

SteveB

Well-known member
An important concept to consider when dealing with biblical, indeed, any ideas.....
Critically thinking is one thing. Using skeptical thinking, while claiming it's critical--- is another altogether!

(A clip from the article-- you'll have to read the rest for yourself)
I’ve been re-reading J.B. Lightfoot’s most polemical, but also in some ways his most interesting book, ‘Essays on Supernatural Religion’. It was compiled from his various responses to the anonymous broadside entitled ‘Supernatural Religion’ which attacked B.F. Westcott (Lightfoot’s colleague and friend at Cambridge) and particularly Westcott’s John commentary, advocating instead for a miracle free Christianity focusing on Christ’s ethical teachings. The compilation was released at the very end of Lightfoot’s life in 1889. I draw attention here to a quote from near the end of the Introduction of the book, which must clearly have been one of the last things Lightfoot ever penned:​
“It seems to be assumed that, because the sceptical spirit has its proper function in scientific inquiry (though even here its excesses will often impede progress), therefore its exercise is equally useful and equally free from danger in the domain of [historical, including Biblical] criticism. A moment’s reflection however will show that the cases are wholly different. In whatever relates to morals and history– in short to human life in all its developments– where mathematical or scientific demonstration is impossible, and where consequently everything depends on the even balance of the judicial faculties, scepticism must be at least as fatal to the truth as credulity”. (Essays on Supernatural Religion, p, 26, emphasis added). In other words, how did ‘trust but verify’ degenerate into ‘distrust and vilify’?? Richard Bauckham has quite rightly lamented of late that “Such skepticism has become endemic in Gospel studies as a result of form criticism.​

If you're going to think critically, don't hide that behind skepticality!
You're only deluding yourself by doing so.
 

Gus Bovona

Active member
An important concept to consider when dealing with biblical, indeed, any ideas.....
Critically thinking is one thing. Using skeptical thinking, while claiming it's critical--- is another altogether!

(A clip from the article-- you'll have to read the rest for yourself)
I’ve been re-reading J.B. Lightfoot’s most polemical, but also in some ways his most interesting book, ‘Essays on Supernatural Religion’. It was compiled from his various responses to the anonymous broadside entitled ‘Supernatural Religion’ which attacked B.F. Westcott (Lightfoot’s colleague and friend at Cambridge) and particularly Westcott’s John commentary, advocating instead for a miracle free Christianity focusing on Christ’s ethical teachings. The compilation was released at the very end of Lightfoot’s life in 1889. I draw attention here to a quote from near the end of the Introduction of the book, which must clearly have been one of the last things Lightfoot ever penned:​
“It seems to be assumed that, because the sceptical spirit has its proper function in scientific inquiry (though even here its excesses will often impede progress), therefore its exercise is equally useful and equally free from danger in the domain of [historical, including Biblical] criticism. A moment’s reflection however will show that the cases are wholly different. In whatever relates to morals and history– in short to human life in all its developments– where mathematical or scientific demonstration is impossible, and where consequently everything depends on the even balance of the judicial faculties, scepticism must be at least as fatal to the truth as credulity”. (Essays on Supernatural Religion, p, 26, emphasis added). In other words, how did ‘trust but verify’ degenerate into ‘distrust and vilify’?? Richard Bauckham has quite rightly lamented of late that “Such skepticism has become endemic in Gospel studies as a result of form criticism.​

If you're going to think critically, don't hide that behind skepticality!
You're only deluding yourself by doing so.
History is a scientific discipline, just with lesser confidence. Historians still have to examine the evidence and make logical conclusions from that evidence, just like scientists do. See atheist Richard Carrier's "Proving History" for more.

So the distinction that the quotation is based on is flawed from the get-go.
 

Gus Bovona

Active member
An important concept to consider when dealing with biblical, indeed, any ideas.....
Critically thinking is one thing. Using skeptical thinking, while claiming it's critical--- is another altogether!

(A clip from the article-- you'll have to read the rest for yourself)
I’ve been re-reading J.B. Lightfoot’s most polemical, but also in some ways his most interesting book, ‘Essays on Supernatural Religion’. It was compiled from his various responses to the anonymous broadside entitled ‘Supernatural Religion’ which attacked B.F. Westcott (Lightfoot’s colleague and friend at Cambridge) and particularly Westcott’s John commentary, advocating instead for a miracle free Christianity focusing on Christ’s ethical teachings. The compilation was released at the very end of Lightfoot’s life in 1889. I draw attention here to a quote from near the end of the Introduction of the book, which must clearly have been one of the last things Lightfoot ever penned:​
“It seems to be assumed that, because the sceptical spirit has its proper function in scientific inquiry (though even here its excesses will often impede progress), therefore its exercise is equally useful and equally free from danger in the domain of [historical, including Biblical] criticism. A moment’s reflection however will show that the cases are wholly different. In whatever relates to morals and history– in short to human life in all its developments– where mathematical or scientific demonstration is impossible, and where consequently everything depends on the even balance of the judicial faculties, scepticism must be at least as fatal to the truth as credulity”. (Essays on Supernatural Religion, p, 26, emphasis added). In other words, how did ‘trust but verify’ degenerate into ‘distrust and vilify’?? Richard Bauckham has quite rightly lamented of late that “Such skepticism has become endemic in Gospel studies as a result of form criticism.​

If you're going to think critically, don't hide that behind skepticality!
You're only deluding yourself by doing so.
I don't get what the distinction is between skeptical thinking and critical thinking. Can you provide a succinct definition of both?
 

The Pixie

Active member
An important concept to consider when dealing with biblical, indeed, any ideas.....
Critically thinking is one thing. Using skeptical thinking, while claiming it's critical--- is another altogether!
Interesting. Can you give an example of when you have used critical thinking with respect to the Bible, rather than just accepting it is true?
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Interesting. Can you give an example of when you have used critical thinking with respect to the Bible, rather than just accepting it is true?
how many years do you have?
According to Acts 17:11, and 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, we who follow Jesus are instructed, and engendered to do it daily.
The problem I think you're having here is that you think "belief" just entails "just accepting it as true."
Biblical faith requires that we actually follow the instructions given.

11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.​
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.​

Jesus deals with this doing part in his Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’​
Build on the Rock​
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Biblical Christianity isn't a matter of intellectual assent to a bunch of "nice" sounding ideas. It's about a life in action, and a life in being.
Because of what God has done, we can choose differently, and live as Jesus calls us to.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
History is a scientific discipline, just with lesser confidence. Historians still have to examine the evidence and make logical conclusions from that evidence, just like scientists do. See atheist Richard Carrier's "Proving History" for more.

So the distinction that the quotation is based on is flawed from the get-go.
And here I think is where the problem is--- people think that as long as someone can claim history didn't actually take place as is documented, they can dismiss it, offhand, without regard to the copious records to the contrary.
 

Gus Bovona

Active member
Here's an article to help.

I think that article is a fine one, and makes important distinctions. But there are two problems:

1. Lighfoot's first usage of "skeptical" in what you quoted doesn't match the article's usage: it matches what the article calls "skeptical."

2. I think you mean "scepticality" with a "c" and not "skepticality" with a "k" at the end of your OP, according to the distinctions made in the article.

It's confusing to cite that article - which is a fine one - but then have its distinctions mis-applied more than once.

Or maybe I'm missing something?
 

Gus Bovona

Active member
And here I think is where the problem is--- people think that as long as someone can claim history didn't actually take place as is documented, they can dismiss it, offhand, without regard to the copious records to the contrary.
Carrier doesn't just claim that some history - not all - surrounding Jesus didn't happen as claimed; he provides evidence in "On the Historicity of Jesus." A lot more than I could weigh through, and I have a doctorate (not in History or Biblical Studies or anything remotely related, but still, it counts for at least a little - more than if I never, say, went to college, in all likelihood).

Now, anyone can disagree with what he has presented as evidence, and how he weighs it up, and whether it is sufficient or not, but you can't claim that he has made a claim without providing evidence. He is not dismissing it offhand. He spends hundreds of pages giving over the issues and the evidence for and against in excruciating detail.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Carrier doesn't just claim that some history - not all - surrounding Jesus didn't happen as claimed; he provides evidence in "On the Historicity of Jesus." A lot more than I could weigh through, and I have a doctorate (not in History or Biblical Studies or anything remotely related, but still, it counts for at least a little - more than if I never, say, went to college, in all likelihood).

Now, anyone can disagree with what he has presented as evidence, and how he weighs it up, and whether it is sufficient or not, but you can't claim that he has made a claim without providing evidence. He is not dismissing it offhand. He spends hundreds of pages giving over the issues and the evidence for and against in excruciating detail.
Well, I suppose it's a good thing I don't depend on other's claims about Jesus, which don't fit the biblical narrative, and my experience.

HEre's the problem I have with carrier's ideas......

In another 50 years, whoever does remember me, is going to have a problem documenting my life's events, and activities. Same with yours. In a couple of hundred years, we'll be no more than a name on a tombstone, if we're not cremated. In 500 years, whatever formaldehyde did to preserve our bodies, will be turned to dust, and if the tombstone isn't obliterated by some war's bombings, that's all that'll remain.

In a thousand years, there'll be nothing remaining of our existence.
And I'm taking into account whatever technology we use today, will have since morphed into something far more advanced, leaving all this digital conversations we're having--- lost to antiquity.

So, I have no problem that people want to believe that the real Jesus isn't whom the bible says he is.
The Jesus in the bible is making some pretty serious claims on our lives.
But in the end, he either is, or isn't who he said he was. If he's not who he said he is, then whatever he said is literally, entirely irrelevant.
The resurrection being the key here. Even Paul says if the resurrection didn't happen, none of this matters.
So...... you can indeed continue to believe stranger's claims about Jesus not being who he said he is. Or, you can do your own, firsthand investigation, as we who follow Jesus do.
I for one have found that the Jesus of the bible, is exactly who he says he is, and he is quite alive. I.e., he actually was resurrected from the dead.
I have no time for other, unbiblical Jesus'. And I don't recommend you waste your time on non-biblical Jesus' either.
I do however strongly encourage you to confront the biblical Jesus.
As both our lives will be dust in a few decades, and we'll be spending our respective eternal destinations where we've chosen, it seems to me that relying on the work of people who don't actually want to know the biblical Jesus is a fools errand.
 

Gus Bovona

Active member
Well, I suppose it's a good thing I don't depend on other's claims about Jesus, which don't fit the biblical narrative, and my experience.
Before depending on another's ideas, it's best to first consider them skeptically.

HEre's the problem I have with carrier's ideas......
I'm not clear that you know what Carrier's ideas are about Jesus.
In another 50 years, whoever does remember me, is going to have a problem documenting my life's events, and activities. Same with yours. In a couple of hundred years, we'll be no more than a name on a tombstone, if we're not cremated. In 500 years, whatever formaldehyde did to preserve our bodies, will be turned to dust, and if the tombstone isn't obliterated by some war's bombings, that's all that'll remain.

In a thousand years, there'll be nothing remaining of our existence.
And I'm taking into account whatever technology we use today, will have since morphed into something far more advanced, leaving all this digital conversations we're having--- lost to antiquity.

So, I have no problem that people want to believe that the real Jesus isn't whom the bible says he is.
Before that, you need to believe that some Jesus (close to the Jesus of the Bible) existed at all.
So...... you can indeed continue to believe stranger's claims about Jesus not being who he said he is. Or, you can do your own, firsthand investigation, as we who follow Jesus do.
I have done my own investigation, and I come to a different conclusion than you did.
I do however strongly encourage you to confront the biblical Jesus.
I have, but have found that there is nothing there.
As both our lives will be dust in a few decades, and we'll be spending our respective eternal destinations where we've chosen,
I don't see any reason to think it's a matter of choice.
it seems to me that relying on the work of people who don't actually want to know the biblical Jesus is a fools errand.
I rely on any and all information that stands up to logic and is evidenced properly.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Before depending on another's ideas, it's best to first consider them skeptically.
I disagree. I think it's best to consider Jesus critically.
All other's counter-biblical claims--- I treat them skeptically.

I'm not clear that you know what Carrier's ideas are about Jesus.

Very little. I have more responsibilities in life than I have time to read people who don't want to know the truth.

Several years ago there was a woman who used to post here, and she said she wanted to talk about Dan Barker's book--- godless.
I read the book, and we talked about it.

After 4 chapters she just up and disappeared. She reappeared 4 or 5 months later, and said she could no longer be bothered talking about it.
So, while I still have the book, I stopped reading it because it wasn't that difficult to disassemble his ideas, and show he based his cessation of belief on false ideas, and his own desires.

Reading books like this is difficult when there's no point to it (giving a book report on things like this I find boring... actually discussing them with a counter-point party is more interesting). I only engage in these forums because they're focused discussions. (even the mindless banter with 3 of the members has a point).

I never heard of Carrier until I showed up on this forum. I'd only vaguely heard of Dawkins, and Hitchens, and Harris.
I don't find much value in arguing. It's always been my view that you either want to know, or your don't. If you don't, then beating you over the head isn't going to change your mind.



Before that, you need to believe that some Jesus (close to the Jesus of the Bible) existed at all.
Well, History says Jesus existed.
Several years ago, a fellow atheist/agnostic said you'd have to have not studied history to not know Jesus was a real historical character.
Here's one article I find amusing....
And another.



I have done my own investigation, and I come to a different conclusion than you did.
That's too bad.
I was looking forward to meeting you in eternity.



I have, but have found that there is nothing there.
Did you just look at a what, or at the Whom?
I wasn't interested in what....
I wanted to know if the Whom was real or not. and I knew looking at books, talking to people weren't going to demonstrate to me that the Whom is real.
So... as the old proverb says--- I went directly to the Horse's mouth.

To me, apart from the resurrected Jesus, this whole thing is not of any value. As Paul said--- if the dead are not raised, then we of all men are the most to be pitied!

Life is cruel enough without adding more cruelty to it by placing our faith in a risen savior who isn't actually risen if the dead are not raised. I'd never have come this way if I hadn't been convinced Jesus is risen.

I don't see any reason to think it's a matter of choice.
To me, once I came to learn that Jesus is who he claims to be, and God really is real.... it was an easy choice.
This is why I keep asking you guys to do what Jesus said, so you can know for yourself.
I rely on any and all information that stands up to logic and is evidenced properly.
then you should watch out for the cliff you're going to be walking off when death comes.
 

Furion

Active member
how many years do you have?
According to Acts 17:11, and 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, we who follow Jesus are instructed, and engendered to do it daily.
The problem I think you're having here is that you think "belief" just entails "just accepting it as true."
Biblical faith requires that we actually follow the instructions given.

11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.​
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.​

Jesus deals with this doing part in his Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’​
Build on the Rock​
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Biblical Christianity isn't a matter of intellectual assent to a bunch of "nice" sounding ideas. It's about a life in action, and a life in being.
Because of what God has done, we can choose differently, and live as Jesus calls us to.

Amen. It is the doer who discovers.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
Interesting. Can you give an example of when you have used critical thinking with respect to the Bible, rather than just accepting it is true?
I would like to see this too. Unfortunately I don't think we'll ever see an example.
 

Furion

Active member

Critical thinking leads me to considering the scriptures, consider that they claim it is for the doer of the word, not the hearer alone.

So I have a dilemma for my critical thinking skills.

Do I attempt to prove them by doing them, or do I not do them, and thus not know.

The one thing not available in my critical thinking toolkit is to turn skeptical.
 
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