Like Button

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The New Agnostics

Around the start of the 21st century we saw the rise of the "New Atheists". They're "brighter" and louder and more "anti" than merely "not" theists. Now, they can discuss among themselves whether this is really new or whether the term is even applicable, but in the same sense I think we can see a rise of the "New Agnostics".

First, as a matter of basis, we need to define "agnostic". While "atheist" refers to those who are making a positive claim -- "There is no God" -- the "agnostic" term refers to those who make no such claim. They simply say "We don't or can't know if there is or isn't a God." The word is based on the Greek which starts with the "a" prefix for "not" and is followed by the "gnosis" term meaning "to know" -- to "not know". I, then, am suggesting a "New Agnostic" in this more literal sense, those who claim "we cannot know" about other things.

These "New Agnostics" are not "outside". The original atheists and agnostics are "outside". That is, they aren't claiming to be Christians because they either don't know if there is a God or they are sure there isn't. By definition, then, these would have to be outside the realm of believers ... because they don't believe. Seems simple enough. But we've largely shoved ordinary logic aside far enough that we can in this day and age have a pastor in good standing in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who is a self-professed atheist and considers himself a Christian. He would be an extreme example. Don't worry. There are lots more and far less extreme.

Most popular among these "insiders", these "New Agnostics" within Christendom (using the term loosely), are those who argue precisely what agnostics argue: "You cannot know." These, of course, cannot argue "You cannot know if there is a God." Not that. But they're happy to tell you, "You cannot know the truth of Scripture." And they are insidious. They make themselves out to be the "humble" ones. "Look," they'll tell you, "there is disagreement about most of Scripture. Are you so arrogant as to believe you know what's true or not when there is so much disagreement? Can't you see that it's pure egotism?" The unspoken suggestion (unspoken because as soon as it is spoken it becomes ludicrous) is "You should be more humble like I am."

These "New Agnostics" wend their way into churches (or, perhaps, are part of church-looking places already converted to this) to assure believers "You don't know what to believe." They argue, "It's not 'Did God say ...?' That's just Satan-talk. It's that you can't know for sure what God said." (It's amusing, too, because, generally speaking, these types will deny that the incident of "Did God say ...?" ever actually took place.) They'll protest, "You can't say 'God says this' just because you read it in the Bible. You have to be humble and say, 'It's just my opinion.'"

These "New Agnostics" are perhaps more destructive than the Atheists, new or old. The atheist attack is clear. It's easy to see and we can take a stand knowing that we do know there is a God. But these others are in among us urging biblical-sounding virtues like "humility" and "tolerance" while they assure us that, in other words, Jesus was wrong when He said that His Spirit would lead us into all truth. And that, to me, is neither humble nor tolerant. They so twist the Word of God that they require doubt. Confidence in the Word is wrong. Doubt is a virtue even though James says, "The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind" (James 1:6), claiming that the doubter is "a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8) They love to prey on the weak -- the new Christian or the young Christian or especially that new college-bound Christian no longer tied to his family moorings, but they also like trying to take down the confident Christians. Confidence, to them, is a pretty big sin, at least when it is a confidence that they're wrong and the Word is knowable. Like waves against the shore, they lap away at the rocks, hoping to erode confidence in God and His Word and leave you without foundation, but feeling superior because you're humble.

You probably know some of these "New Agnostics". They may be in your family, in your church, at work, in your neighborhood. They're certainly in your social media. Rest assured that a "superior thinking" of "doubting everything" is not superior. In a vacuum, I suppose, it might be, but we live in a theistic world where Christ promised to send His Spirit to lead His own into all truth. Truth, then, can be known. And it will be known by all whom the Spirit leads. So you can be reasonably sure you are in the truth if you are diligent with the Scriptures (2 Tim 2:15), practicing the Scriptures (Heb 5:14), and of course, seeking first God and His righteousness (Matt 6:33) rather than the world's (1 John 2:15). Despite their denials, the voice of the "New Agnostics" that asks, "Did God say ...?" is not a superior voice; it is a voice from the father of lies.


Neil said...

They are loaded with false humility. And they seem very sure that we shouldn't be sure. They claim to KNOW that we can't KNOW about God but they can't defend their position. Yes, they are more dangerous than atheists.

Neil said...

Glenn posted this on FB. Seems pretty clear, unless you are an agnostic.

Proverbs 30:5–6 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

Stan said...

Wow! Two visits from Neil in one day. Haven't seen that before. :)

Bob said...

How can they know, that they cannot know? can we assume that they do not know what it is that they cannot know? because they claim that they cannot know, they must know something about what it is they do not know. and this something that they claim that they do not know, requires a lot of thinking about a thing that is no thing. this thing that they say may be no thing, requires a certain knowledge about its being a non thing. if they want to ride the fence post they have to be creative in mis-managing their minds with great skill.

Stan said...

I don't know, Bob. :)