Traditional Faith? Reviewing Mittelberg's "Confident Christianity" Part 6

I'm reviewing Mark Mittelberg's book Confident Faith: Building a Firm Foundation for Your Belief (2013)—which won the Outreach Magazine's 2014 apologetics book of the year award. So far his book has been flying under the atheist radar. I aim to rectify that with a few posts offering my thoughts and criticisms of it. [See the "Mark Mittelberg" tag below for others].

The Six Paths of Faith are as follows, of which I'll deal with the second one below:

1) The Relativistic Path: "Truth is Whatever Works for You"
2) The Traditional Faith Path: "Truth is What You've Always Been Taught"
3) The Authoritarian Faith Path: "Truth Is What You've Always Been Told You Must Believe"
4) The Intuitive Faith Path" "Truth Is What You Feel In Your Heart"
5) The Mystical Faith Path" "Truth Is What You Think God Told You"
6) The Evidential Faith Path: "Truth Is What Logic and Evidence Point To"

If you want to see first-hand how the power of the brain can deceive its host, take at look at #2, the Traditional Faith Path, in chapter four. Mittelberg truly understands the problems in adopting a handed down faith from one's parents. But he utterly fails to offer any way out of it. He says, "if you got your faith as a hand-me-down, then it's sort of the luck of the draw. If you think about it, you're just banking on the hope that somewhere back in your family history, somebody carefully examined the whole realm of questions about God, spirituality, and what is before coming to a conclusion about faith. But that's a huge roll of the dice." (p.47) He goes on to say,
Here's the point we need to grapple with: our parents could have been wrong! And their parents could have been wrong before them. And our religious leaders and teachers might also be wrong. Looking at things more broadly, somebody's parents and teachers must be wrong. Why? Because so many contradict each other....So the question for us is this: Are we willing to step back and examine our inherited beliefs and make sure that we've thoroughly and intentionally adopted a faith worth following? (p. 50)
He even issues the same challenge I've made. Rather than avoiding this question or getting angry with him for raising it, he says,
Wouldn't it be freeing to just relax and decide that you would rather be a lover of truth than merely a defender of a tradition? Wouldn't you rather know that you are sincerely...building your beliefs on ideas that are supported by the facts? You see, traditional beliefs can be a wonderful thing...insofar as they are actually based on truth. So the testing of the tradition can serve you in of two beneficial ways: either you'll find out it's based on falsehood and myth...or you'll discover that there is a real foundation of truth underlying those traditional teachings, and end up confirming that this is something to hold on to. Either way you win. (pp.52-53)
Mittelberg offers just one line of advice to readers who accept this challenge. "You simply need to decide to weigh the reasons and evidence for what you have accepted up until now." (p. 53) This is the course of action he tells readers he took:
I vigorously went to work reading books, listening to recorded talks, researching answers, and interacting with wise people who could contribute to my understanding. I thoroughly tested my traditions with logic, evidence, and frequent prayers for guidance, trusting that the truth would make itself clear. This process...ultimately served to deepen my Christian faith. (pp. 53-54).
Let's unpack some of the key phrases here. He was researching into answers to the skeptical questions, not researching for the truth. For as he had already told us, he was, well, let me quote him again: "My Christian conclusions were, I'm convinced, correct, so I needed to go back and shore up the foundations underlying my faith." (p. 21) He sought out wise people, strongly implying he sought out people who knew those answers, that is, evangelical intellectuals. And he *cough* offered frequent prayers for guidance (to his evangelical god, no doubt) as he sought out these answers. Given these strong indicators, or Freudian slips, we can make intelligent guesses as to which books he read, and whose talks he listened to. They were mostly Christian authors he read, an overwhelming representation of them were probably evangelicals.

Actually from the endnotes we can see which authors Mittelberg read and heard from as he was reassessing his faith. We see books by apologists C.S.Lewis, Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, Norman Geisler, Frank Turek, Norman Nix, Ron Brooks, Thomas Howe, Paul Copan, Paul Little, Gleason Archer, William Lane Craig (of course), Pascal, Augustine, Stuart Hackett, Chad Meister, Hugh Ross, Patrick Glynn, Francis Collins, Stephen Meyers, Michael Brown, Josh McDowell, Paul Vitz, Craig Evans, Simon Greenleaf, Alister McGrath, Warner Wallace, William Ramsay, William Albright, as well as John A.T. Robinson (I recommend his book “Honest to God” which helped change my mind), Thomas Kuhn, and Robert Jastrow, Louis Lapide, and especially Lee Strobel (who is mentioned the most). All of these authors are used to answer skeptical questions and to provide confirmation of his traditional faith. He also refers to Stephen Hawking, Rudolph Bultmann, Aldous Huxley, Nietzsche, Antony Flew and Richard Dawkins who raise the skeptical questions that the others mentioned are used to answer.

If Mittelberg read other books, especially the original sources for the questions he seeks to honestly examine, then where is the evidence for them? Which other books did he read that represented what he was arguing against? I would think if he really read Bart Erhman's works, or those by Hector Avalos, Richard Carrier, David Eller, Victor Stenger, Robert Price, Russell Blackford, Valerie Tarico, Matt McCormick, and so many many others including my works, he would mention them and destroy them with the logic and evidence he says he employed to confirm his faith. But he doesn't mention them. At all! Did he read them in his quest? I doubt it. For they raise many significant points he never addresses, ones I don't think he can answer.

Look, does anyone but a dolt think Mittelberg was doing nothing more than seeking to confirm his faith, which is the complete opposite of honestly and truly reassessing it?

How can someone accurately describe this problem, issue a challenge to reassess one's traditional faith, then not do what is required to meet the challenge and yet think he had done it? It's quite baffling to me, but is best understood by the brain's power to deceive its host. For Mittelberg's brain has convinced him--surprise of all surprises--that he honestly accepted this challenge, and that he just happened to be lucky enough to be raised to believe in the one true faith out of perhaps hundreds of thousands of others, both living and dead (or, please explain why a religion that's no longer practiced or believed means anything about the truth of that religion).

No where does Mittelberg offer any advice on how to overcome the strong tendency for the brain to seek confirmation of what it already believes. Such a thought probably never even occurred to him. About this I'll repeat what one of my favorite authors said, since I cannot stress it too much:
If that's what reassessing one's faith is about, Muslims would end up shoring up their faith as would Hindus, and almost everyone else. That's because, as Warren Buffett tells us, “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” [Quoted in Confirmation Bias: Why You Should Seek Out Disconfirming Evidence.] In fact, it's worse than that. The brain treats questions about beliefs just exactly like they're physical threats to its host. This means you must really want to know the truth in order to find it. You must force your brain to go against what it tells you to do. The only way to properly reassess one's childhood indoctrinated faith is to treat it as an outsider would, a non-believer, by requiring--no demanding--nothing less than sufficient objective publicly verifiable evidence for your faith, the same kind of evidence you would require of any ancient Chinese religion that made a claim about a virgin giving birth to an incarnate god. Think about this. What would it require? I've said agnosticism is the default outsider perspective, but one could also say if you're a Christian, treat your faith as if you're non-Christian, and if you're a Muslim, treat your faith as if you're a non-Muslim, and so forth. --John W. Loftus.

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