‘Christian Humanist’ Daniel Taylor on Freeing Your Inner Atheist
You might expect someone who’s taught for years at Christian schools like Bethel University and Westmont College to be of a certain theological flavor. You certainly wouldn't expect that person to describe themselves as a "Christian humanist." But that is exactly the label Daniel Taylor uses. His recent book, "The Skeptical Believer: Telling Stories to Your Inner Atheist," makes a compelling case for why skepticism isn't the antithesis of faith. Here, we discuss religious certainty, doubt, and why he doesn't resist his "inner atheist." RNS: You call yourself a Christian humanist. What does this mean to you?
DT: Christians have foolishly allowed secularists to define humanism to suit themselves. (For example, the claim that the defining idea of humanism is that “man is the measure of all things.”) There’s a long tradition of Christian humanism that affirms the central orthodoxies of Christianity, one of which is that God made us and the world and that both are therefore valuable and worthy of exploration.
RNS: You grab readers with the seemingly contradictory idea of a “skeptical believer.” What does this mean?
DT: A skeptic is one with a habitual resistance to accepting truth claims—you could say a knee-jerk doubter, though skeptics like to think of themselves as people who look before they leap. A believer is one who accepts something as real or true or worthy of affirmation, often without proof. Sometimes skeptic and believer go together. I use the term "skeptical believer" to refer to Christians who want to believe the claims of faith but whose minds and will are constantly raising objections.
My central claim is that faith is possible for these types of people because God offers us a story to play our part in, not a set of propositions for us to prove. Certainty is a false goal for any thinking person when it comes to most of the important areas of life.