Victor Reppert Is Determined to Crack The Outsider Test for Faith, But Once Again Fails

Over the years no other Christian apologist has tried to find a fault with the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) as much as Victor Reppert has, even though I'm fairly convinced he has not read the book on it. I would think if a scholar wants to critique an idea he should read the book first, wouldn't you? Anyway, once again Victor Reppert is at it, with a bit of a different twist.
Isn't fear of religion at least a possible biasing factor? And if so, shouldn't any real test concerning religious belief have the capability of counteracting it. If the test only counteracts pro-religious biases but not anti-religious biases, then the test is faulty.
I find this to be a very self-serving. The mother of all biases is confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias), which is the strong tendency to search for and/or interpret information in ways that confirm one's biases. People of faith have this problem evaluating their own religion because faith itself is a cognitive bias that misjudges the probabilities in favor of faith. Faith gets in the way of dispassionately evaluating one's inherited faith. Surely Reppert cannot disagree with this. If nothing else, just think of the millions of people who have inherited a different faith, and ask what keeps them from leaving their faith. The OTF is meant to help people with faith overcome their faith bias precisely because they need it. Non-believers don't have it precisely because we are non-believers. Take for example a Hindu raised in a Hindu culture who accepts the Hindu religion but is evaluating Islam to see if it's true. What real concern (as opposed to a feigned concern in the service of an apologeticial Jedi mind trick) would Reppert actually have that such a Hindu might have a confirmation bias problem when it comes to Islam, since s/he is not a Muslim? None, none that I can see. Any confirmation bias s/he has would be for Hinduism.

When it comes to the fear of religion what is he talking about? From my experience, and the experience of countless ex-Christians, the fear of hell kept us in the fold much longer than we would have been if we didn't fear hell. Hell is the cradle to grave threat that keeps Christians in the fold. It's THAT fear, more than any possible fear of religion, that needs to be overcome by far, hands down, no iffs ands or buts about it.

But Reppert isn't done. He just used this as an example to introduce his main point.
Loftus maintains that the test commits us to a methodologically naturalistic investigation. Methodological naturalism, if we accept it, as I understand it, makes it methodologically unacceptable to include a supernatural conclusion even if it were to be correct. If our investigation discovers, and does not merely presuppose that the supernatural isn't there, then our methodology would have to have allowed for the possibility of discovering it had it been there. LINK.
Reppert has said this before and I have already answered him decisively right here.

If it's reasonable to adopt methodological naturalism when desiring knowledge about the nature of nature, and if this means scientists must suspend judgment when science doesn't solve a problem--rather than conclude "god did it"--then bite the bullet. Believers like Victor Reppert should just admit that science cannot find god. Whose fault would this be, if so? It would be God's fault for setting up the universe such that in order to gain objective knowledge about the nature of nature scientists must adopt methodological naturalism. It would be God's fault for not doing enough miracles to convince us he exists. It would be God's fault for not alleviating the most horrendous kinds of suffering in the world. It would be God's fault for providing an incompetent revelation in the superstitious past that lacks sufficient evidence to convert outsiders, a revelation that got so many things wrong in the first place.

To see this so-called problem for what it is, I have a new anthology coming out at the end of July, titled, Christianity in the Light of Science: Critically Examining the World's Largest Religion. In it I lined up experts to write fifteen chapters on various topics where science shows Christianity (or Christianities) to be false. The evidence was overwhelming and sure in every case. [So far I've received two blurbs, see below.] I defy anyone to read that book and still say the conclusions arrived at were determined in advance by a pre-theoretical commitment to naturalism, via methodological naturalism. I said as much in my Introduction. You will not find it affecting the authors. Methodological naturalism did not bias their conclusions. In fact, you won't even see a trace of it, which makes me think methodological naturalism is a non-issue. By throwing up the smoke screen of methodological naturalism Reppert shows he needs the OTF badly.

Lastly, Reppert jabs at the test by saying,
It's not a test if it can have only one possible outcome.
I think this last sentence of his tacitly reveals the main reason he argues against the OTF. He's looked at the test for years and he sees only one possible outcome, only one conclusion, that he should not accept his faith any longer, nor accept any other religious faith. I agree with these conclusions of course, but that does not undermine the fairness of the test itself. Reppert cannot bring himself to admit that it just may be the case that no religious faith is true. That drives him more than anything else when it comes to the OTF. So it's interesting we agree about the results of the test. I embrace them. He is futively trying to kick against the goads.

So let me respond in kind:

It's not a legitimate test if it excludes a negative result. A legitimate test for religious faith must allow for the possibility that no religion passes the test.

The OTF bothers Reppert. Good! In responding to it his cognitive bias is showing. The OTF is meant to help people with faith overcome the bias of their faith precisely because they need it. I think if anyone needs the OTF it is Reppert.


"This is the best compilation John Loftus has done to date and I have enjoyed reading his others. I truly couldn’t put it down. He has assembled leading authors to write essays in an easy to read manner that are well annotated. If you find a particular subject of interest in a couple of authors or more, check out their larger body of work. I highly recommend this book for those who want to delve deeper into why religion persists in our world and why it shouldn’t."

Karen L. Garst, PhD, editor of the book, Women Beyond Belief (Fall 2016) and blogger at


"In this fascinating collection of essays by noted scholars from a wide range of fields, Loftus promises to expose the dog and pony show that is Christianity in a scientifically advanced world—and this series of cohesive and compelling treatises delivers on that promise. This absorbing book is a must read for minds open to critical thought about who we are, what we know, and where we came from as human beings."

—Dr. Elicka Peterson Sparks, author of The Devil You Know: The Surprising Link Between Conservative Christianity and Crime.