When having important conversations with unbelievers, you will likely come across folks who seem very sincere in their beliefs. As a matter of fact, they may even appear to hold their beliefs even more sincerely than you do!
Does such a person have the right to claim that their worldview is superior?
This question works both ways. For example, Christian thinkers often argue that the willing martyrdom of the apostles demonstrates that they sincerely believed Jesus rose from the dead. However, the same Christian thinkers would argue against the idea that Islamic Jihadist martyrdom can be used as evidence for the existence of “Allah” (rather than Yahweh).
The uninitiated skeptic will often use the above example to demonstrate that sincerity must not be taken as evidence that a view is correct.
And the skeptic would be correct about this, except that in the above case, it is not the sincerity itself of the respective party which determines the “apologetic” value, but rather the circumstances surrounding the events. While the Islamic martyrs die for blind faith and spurious promises, the Christian martyrs died for claims they–and many others–witnessed with their own eyes.
They were defending what they knew for certain to be true, and paid with their lives.
Below, I’d like to note three observations about the relationship between truth and sincerity–two negative and one positive.
#1. Truth does not logically follow from sincerity
A non-sequitur is an informal logical fallacy which occurs when the conclusion of an argument does not follow from the premises.
In this regard, one should note the lack of a logical connection between these two concepts. So while there are many factors which could discount the above argument concerning the apostles, one of them is not their sincerity.
A poignant example is the person who visits their doctor for an annual checkup, only to find out that they have an advanced form of cancer. This person likely sincerely wishes they did not have cancer.
In fact, we have medically-documented cases of denial. In such cases, a person may actually convince themselves–sincerely–that the doctor’s diagnosis is incorrect.
Nevertheless, it’s obvious that the patient is misguided. One’s sincerity may affect her emotional perception of a given situation, but her sincerity alone is not an indicator of truth and/or falsehood.
This sounds obvious, but many miss this point! Again, this often happens as a result of misunderstanding theistic arguments. Another possible cause could be the legitimate misrepresentation of the argument by the theist.
When we take the time to think clearly and articulate arguments with intellectual rigor, we can avoid these petty issues which distract us from the point of the discussion–evangelism of the lost.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Steve Schramm