Evaluating Pastor Paul Washer’s Advice To Doubters

 

Advice for the “person who wants to believe, but they don’t, or are trying and they can’t.”

In this video Paul Washer says,

“True faith is not the elimination or removal of all doubt.”

This is considered by Paul Washer as a reliable approach to the truth claims of Christianity. Faith, or a desire to believe, is the recommended pathway to the truth. Now, let’s think this through a bit more. If true faith is not the elimination or removal of all doubt, is this then as a result setting one up to make a decision that isn’t sufficiently objective in nature?

In other words we have 1) The truth claims of Christianity being met with 2) A form of belief and/or faith that need not be arrived at in an objective manner. It can derive simply from some stated desire for Christianity to be true. Does this seem like a fair representation?

“Faith and repentance are both Christian virtues, now like all virtue they are subject to sanctification.”

What this appears to be implying is that a “faith approach” to the truth claims of Christianity just needs to start somewhere with something, namely, a desire to believe. From there sanctification is assumed to strengthen one’s belief over time.

Now, I have another relevant yet challenging question. Is this idea of sanctification arrived at objectively? If not, we can consider this belief to be an additional assumption that is arrived at subjectively. So, now we have the idea of exercising faith and assuming a process of sanctification as the recommended approach to the truth claims of Christianity.

Does this approach convey any potential for being logically problematic? Is this a reliable way to arrive at the truth? I’ll let my readers ponder that for themselves.

“The fact that you are now desiring God and wanting to know God is evidence that God is already at work in you. And He who began a good work in you will finish it.”

In response to this it can be asked, Pastor Paul, does one’s desire to believe and know a God truly make it evident that this God exists and is at work within people? So, with that reasoning, if one is desiring to believe and know one of the Hindu gods, is this evidence that one or more of the Hindu gods are at work behind the scenes? In the end, would Pastor Paul be willing to apply this standard outside of a Christian context? If not, perhaps this logic is more likely faulty and should be avoided?

“If you find that there is a desire to seek the Lord genuinely within you, He is already at work in you.”

Again, is this being offered by Pastor Paul from a place of objectivity or subjectivity? Which is more likely in this instance?

“It’s your prerogative to seek Him, (God), but it is His prerogative, when He decides, to be found.”

Now here’s another important question to add into the mix. Going by this logic, is it then up to each seeker of God to subjectively decide the moment at which they have found God? At which God decides to be found by them?

It needs to be asked, if this is the case, is this a reliable standard by which to arrive at the truth? It seems that people give many different subjective descriptions of what their so called “God moment” is or was. I’m brought to wonder, is this a way to discover truth or is this a way to cultivate and enhance belief out of some meaningful subjective experience or experiences?

“Where you are right now, with what you can believe Him, and how you can, follow Him, just, with whatever you have, keep going on, keep going on, keep going on, He’ll make Himself known to you.”

At this point, any objective seeker of the truth deserves to ask, how? How is this not potentially a recipe for erroneous thinking and belief? It’s a worthy question because the bar appears to be set rather low in this instance. Whatever one’s subjective experience of God becomes, no need to question. Latch on! The assumption is, “that’s God! That’s His voice, that’s His answer!” “That moment you had during worship, don’t forget that. That moment you were overwhelmed with feelings of hope and love, don’t forget that. Pick the mountain top moment, pick the heightened emotional experience, call it God and rest in faith. Rest in assurance. It’s more real than anything.” Well, maybe, maybe not, right?

“If you desire to be saved, you can be.”

Finally, I think I would slightly agree, however, the question is not whether one can become convinced that they are saved. That happens a lot. Especially with the type of questionable reasoning we’ve been examining here. The question is whether this is the reality of what is going on when people approach the claims of Christianity in this way? Are we encountering an approach to the truth that relies more or less on objectivity? What is the price that one pays in doing so? It’s a valid question, a valid question indeed.

My conclusion is that there is no issue or problem at all if one experiences doubt towards the truth claims of Christianity. In the larger scheme of things it’s good to ask, “Is Christianity guilty or not guilty of offering truth claims that can be arrived at objectively in the world? In my recent conversations with other Christians, most of them would agree with a ruling of “not guilty.”

I think that’s quite a significant admission. It means that people are arriving at their belief that Christianity is reliable, subjectively, rather than objectively. It’s a gamble. Well, if it is a gamble and a question mark on whether Christianity is true, is anyone really at fault for doubting? Perhaps in a case like that, this God would want to consider rewarding those who doubt? We are after all attempting to be cautious about how to best arrive at true beliefs.

Do we doubters and skeptics deserve a little credit? I guess we’ll find out sooner or later.

 

The Problems With This Evangelist, Are They Also Yours?

 

In this video the Evangelist (name unknown) is attempting to convince an open minded Agnostic Atheist that being guilty of lying, theft, lust, and anger directly relates to breaking the commandments of the Bible’s God. While it is true that the Bible makes such claims about a God, what isn’t known or really provable is whether such a God actually exists. Experiencing guilt for having lied, stolen, lusted, or being unfairly angry at others does not, I emphasize, does not make it clear that people have a God given conscience. Feeling bad about our regretful choices and actions could instead have a lot to do with how those choices and actions naturally impact others and ourselves negatively.

In other words, there’s this little thing called empathy which a large majority of humans are able to exercise in some capacity or another. This sense of empathy forces us to reflect upon how our choices and actions impact other people. We can see that lying to others who trust us, once found out, has a direct impact upon another person’s ability to keep trusting us. Think about the story of the boy who cried wolf, right? If we steal something from our neighbor, well, good luck on not being viewed as a threat to the community.

Again, it comes down to trust. Do we live lives that demonstrate integrity and trustworthiness, or do we disregard the ability of others to trust us and keep causing trouble? Thus we see why it is quite natural for society to create a system of justice, as well as for our communities to offer rewards and punishments. In the interest of keeping peace, trustworthiness, and a level of order, we make ourselves accountable to the other folks we share space with.

What the Evangelist wants, is he wants to incite guilt through his questioning. Though a healthy measure of guilt is good in the context of evaluating the consequences of our actions and how others are impacted, it certainly can be overly stressed and it’s implications overly drawn out. In this instance, the overly drawn out implications could be the insinuation that our thoughts and actions violate the laws of a God. This I would argue isn’t known. If God is a human invention, then it could be the case that we are being asked to direct our guilt toward a nonexistent being. That wouldn’t be very beneficial, would it? It’s certainly important to keep in mind.

Some other assumptions that this Evangelist holds are as follows.

1) It is simply being assumed that it is fair for a faultless God to apply a flawless standard upon imperfect human beings. Well, is it fair?

2) It is assumed that human beings deserve eternal punishment for finite choices and actions. In other words, the rather limited length of a human life and the temporality of our impact in the world and on others, even if we do choose to call such an impact evil and deserving of punishment, somehow translates to eternal and unending punishment? Does that seem even handed or just a tad extreme? It’s worth mulling over.

3) It is being assumed that sin exists and that there must be a system in place to remedy the problem. Well, what if the real issue is that this is a false hypothesis?

4) It is being assumed that it was good for the Bible’s God to punish an innocent human on behalf of everyone else’s wrongdoing. Is that fair? Regardless of this idea that Jesus was both God and man, the fact remains that we are being asked to find a solution by pouring the guilt and responsibility of everyone else upon someone that is supposedly perfectly innocent. Is that a fair way to carve out a path for justice and forgiveness? Punish the innocent one and apply such innocence to the guilty?

5) It is being assumed that breaking the ten commandments is an objective truth. Is it? Let’s think about this, if many believers in God admit that they don’t actually know if a God exists, and if many others who do not believe in the existence of God do not know this for a fact, then how objective is it to think that one has broken the stated commandments of a God? Would one not be concluding such a set of offenses subjectively? If it were objective that a God is offended by our actions then wouldn’t we all know this effectively? Wouldn’t it be obvious? Food for thought.

 

Why All The Doubting Believers?

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People who honestly put it out there that they disbelieve in a God’s existence are not the only one’s plagued with uncertainty. Christians of all backgrounds are filled with doubts about their beliefs. Evidence for this is not hard to come by as many Pastor’s and their congregants admit this within their prayers and their musings on an almost daily basis.

There’s a common prayer extracted from the New Testament, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” For whatever reasons, and the justifications are often varied, Christians insist that their beliefs are true and that it isn’t necessary for them to provide reasons that would seem to speak to the legitimacy and reliability of their position.

There are many important fronts where faith is unable to distinguish itself from myth. In example, the teaching that Christian conversion is a supernatural event wherein the living God now resides within a person’s heart for the first time, is a belief largely taken on faith alone.

It is recognized that subjective feelings and experiences can fail the test. The test for what? The test for distinguishing God from our own intuitions. The other side of this argument which favors conversion as a supernatural event is that one could be entirely mistaken. One’s sense of guidance, confirmation, and intuition could be failing them due to an inability to actually know whether Christian claims are reliable.

Another avenue that provides little certainty is whether there is actually any agency and guidance behind people’s prayers? Certainly many sincere Christians have some measure of confidence that something or someone is at work behind the scenes but how well supported is this notion? It remains an ongoing in house debate as to whether a God’s handiwork can be deciphered from mere coincidence and the way events unfold with or without prayer as the common variable.

Miracle claims and claims of healing, almost as a rule, are met with a lot of skepticism within many Christian circles. The Charismatic movement appears to be riddled with false claims and a lack of discernment as to how to establish legitimacy. The examples go on and on.

What this may indicate is that many Christians handle their doubts in such a way that maintaining a belief in belief is the desired goal. Rather than believing Christian claims because the claims themselves can be understood as legitimate in their own right, it is now a prominent attitude to harbor a strong belief in belief itself.

This is because faith is very much stressed as a commitment. Just as marriage carries the common theme, “till death do we part,” belief in Jesus is handled quite like marriage is handled. The point I would stress is this, this approach to maintaining belief in God carries within itself the potential to be entirely mistaken.

This kind of approach toward truth claims doesn’t appear to be presenting itself as deeply concerned with whether or not Christianity can be known as true without a doubt. This is sometimes done knowingly, but often unknowingly. As a final clarification my phrasing, “without a doubt,” that I used above is not an unrealistic appeal to absolute certainty. It is an appeal to being able to adequately make a ruling in favor of Christian claims being able to be presented as true with a high degree of accuracy. “Without a doubt” is an appeal to being able to establish a claim as a known fact and ruling out falsehoods.

 

Christian Conversion (Part 2) What Could It Be?

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” -Titus 3:4-7

Continuing on from my previous post, if Christian conversion is not a supernatural process, what is it? How can we best understand it? In the case that we are mistaken, in example, if it is the case that we are unable to discern between God and a deep intuitive feeling, then it is important to grasp that this may be the best way to sum up what faith is psychologically.

This sense of the Spirit of God dwelling within us, whether that seems more accompanied by certain feelings or not, could simply be, at best, a deep and heartfelt sense of intuition. An intuition that could be failing us as a barometer for truth because of the distinct possibility that past miracle claims and claims to divinity cannot be guaranteed as either reliable or legitimate.

The New Testament seems to teach that receiving the Holy Spirit is a kind of guarantee of one’s salvation, but many honest believers, including myself when I believed, admittedly have a difficult time knowing this claim tangibly. That is, in a way that can be confirmed as reliable. It is recognized that this is what Scripture seems to teach, but as to whether one can be reliably certain that they have the Holy Spirit, well, that too often becomes a matter taken on faith.

One may be beginning to notice a pattern here? Regarding New Testament miracles, including the resurrection, and regarding Christ’s claims to divinity, the question remains, can we make a definitive ruling that such claims are reliable? If so, what is our process for determining that?

Then as it relates to discerning whether one has the Holy Spirit this conundrum pops up yet again. How is it that I can reliably know that I do in fact have the Holy Spirit? It begins to be a matter of not whether we desire to believe these claims, but are these claims in fact presenting themselves as without a doubt able to be relied upon? Are these claims, as a rule, true in their essence? If so, how can we know this for ourselves?

The alternative to this supernatural interpretation, again, could be that at best what Christian conversion appears to be is a heartfelt sense of intuition that wants, perhaps even feels like it needs Christianity to be true. This sentiment is often expressed in worship.

“I need Thee every hour, teach me Thy will.”

At the core of the gospel message it is stressed that one of our greatest human needs is being met. The need to be forgiven. The need to be reconciled to God. Now, this is probably deserving of another blog post. What human needs is Christianity claiming to meet? What role does this play in our ability to distinguish between reliable and potentially unknowable information?

It is certainly a tedious process to begin the journey of attempting to discern how reliable a set of claims present themselves to be? What can we know personally? How certain can we be? Once we’ve determined how certain we are, based upon what can be known, how should this inform belief? What does this reveal about a mindset of faith in contrast to these important questions about determining reliability?

As a reminder, here’s what we are trying to determine.

1) Assuming that you presently believe that Christian conversion is a supernatural process, how are you attempting to rule out the distinct possibility that it could simply be a deep sense of intuition, one in which you deeply desire for these claims to be true without actually knowing it?

2) How important is it to be able to know to some degree that Christian claims are reliable? Does it seem fair that discerning reliability would serve to best determine how to judge whether it is true?

3) If, while in the process of investigation it would seem that the reliability of these claims is unable to be determined, how does this go on to inform your sense of certainty? Are you more certain or less certain? What is the relationship between certainty and belief?

Thank you for taking the time to consider these important questions. Perhaps if you know something that I don’t know, something that deeply convinces you that Christian claims can be determined with a high degree of certainty as reliable, you’ll want to share that with me below? We may or may not see eye to eye in how to determine reliability, but I am definitely always open to other arguments.

By the way, I’ve decided that I will be doing a third post to this blog series. We’ll be exploring the human needs that Christianity claims to meet and trying to gauge how deeply that may come into play when informing one’s sense of certainty? Should be a pretty fun topic so don’t go away!

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Christian Conversion: Part 1: Questioning Assumptions

There is a mindset, yes, dare I say it, a process of religious conversion that can be explained. Particularly, the supernatural language that is used within Christianity to incite and explain a conversion response. I am a person that has, as a rule, reevaluated many things about my own past.

In my attempt to be transparent and demonstrate how it is I believe that I was mistaken, and how many others today are likely mistaken, I have come to pinpoint as exactly as I can how it is that supernatural conversion can be explained naturally.

I write this to Christians who believe that they are born-again. Evangelical Christianity, especially, stresses this idea that becoming born-again is in fact a supernatural experience. It is quite literally thought of as God transforming the human heart. It is quite literally this idea that through the process of regeneration God is now, for the first time, residing within a person’s heart.

It is important to be able to extract a big assumption out of this. That assumption being that coming to Christ is without a doubt a supernaturally driven event? The point I’d like to stress with my Christian friends is this, it might not be. It truly, as a matter of serious evaluation might not be.

It may feel to us as a matter of deepest heartfelt longing and desire that it is God. God speaking to us, God moving us, God leading us, God transforming us from within, but whatever these feelings, these inklings, these intuitions are, it may in fact be all that they are.

We need to take note of this, we need to be aware of this. WE CAN BE MISTAKEN. Especially as it relates to seemingly supernatural phenomena. So it is that I now have a challenge for the Christian. How is it that you can reliably know for yourself that you have met the living God? Is it important for you to be able to discern this for yourself?

A problem that arises here, both for myself when I believed, the duration of that belief commitment being for ten years, and for those who still believe today, is that this is a bit of a Wizard Of Oz scenario. It appears that we have no idea who or what is behind the curtain, and this should be a matter of concern.

Based on some rather obscure miracle claims from thousands of years ago, we are willing to commit without knowing? To worship and adore without truly knowing whether there is a receiver of it? Even right now many are whispering to themselves, well, that’s the whole point of having faith.

I suppose that at least one is being honest in admitting that they won’t know the truth of these claims until they die, that is, if there even is a chance to know after death? The thing of it is that Christians aren’t taught to live silently. They are taught to spread this message to the world as gospel truth, and this is now where I have a valid contention with faith.

Faith acts as if it is true without knowing it is true. It heralds good news to the world without knowing in all actuality if it is legitimate. To any logician this should raise some red flags. So that’s why I’m now here, working in the trenches, attempting to make it clear just how presumptuous faith appears to be.

To state it plainly, it appears as if faith is all too willing to ignore the process in which we can legitimately come to know a set of claims as true. Like a broken record I tend to stress that there appears to be no valid way to establish whether miracles and claims of divinity are even reliable. This could be a logical disaster.

In part two of this blog post I will delve further into how Christian conversion can go on to be understood as a natural process. It involves concluding differently about basic assumptions and seeing how it plays out in reality. Stay tuned!

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Is The Christian God Failing Us?

1) If the God of the Bible exists
2) And it is generally accepted that he wants the world to believe in him (1 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:23, John 3:16-17).
3) Why is it that roughly two-thirds of the world, possibly more, lack the basic underlying assumptions needed to conceive of this God correctly?
4) Not only that, but why is it that even when many people are confronted with the Bible’s claims, they remain in a place of uncertainty and/or disbelief?
5) Would this be attributed to human choice or would it seem more evident that if this God exists he has failed to provide the means to bring the world into a correct understanding?
Thanks for your input. I’m trying to help all of the Apologists out there!
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Reliability Isn’t Merely Assumed And Then Believed

Miracles, divinity, presence. Say it again with me, miracles, divinity, presence. These are three separate categories which would appear to incite skepticism within many open but cautious inquirers into Christianity as well as into the world’s religions at large.

Contrary to what some folks may think I am actually quite ready, willing, and open to meet my maker if in fact it is accurate to think about my existence in those terms. I am not opposed to a good God existing, but I am also not in favor of giving credence to such beliefs if I cannot gain a reliable foundation from which to build certainty.

When I used to identify as a devoted Christian I was under the mistaken impression that doubt was a terrible trap to fall into for too long. It took a little time for me to adjust to the fact that being skeptical is yet another useful tool in the arsenal for discovering and highlighting what is true.

As it pertains to claims about miracles, the divinity of Jesus, as well as the idea that God is present, more specifically, in the form of the Holy Spirit residing within a person, it would appear that there are good grounds to question whether there is sufficient reason to believe that these claims are inherently reliable.

What makes this project challenging is that I am presenting a case for the Christian to reevaluate how he or she is presently building their own foundation for sufficient certainty. My argument is that Christians do not have sufficient means from which to conclude that miracles, divinity, and presence are reliable avenues from which to gain certainty. I would equate gaining a sense of certainty to forming a belief that Christian claims are in some way reliable.

I will first focus on the nature of these claims and what they appear to require from the Christian in order to solidify belief. From the very onset Christianity requires assumptions that are not necessarily legitimate to accept as it relates to making a solid case for inherent reliability.

Miracles

  • At most it would seem that one can only assume that miracle claims are inherently reliable. Assuming that a historical Jesus literally turned water into wine, walked on water, and rose from the dead is not a clear indicator that he actually did. The question remains, would beginning with this assumption actually merit a belief that such claims can be understood as reliable? This brings into question whether gaining a sense of confidence about this issue is warranted in light of an inability to discern what is factual?

Divinity

  • At most it would appear that one can only assume that Jesus was divine by accepting Christian doctrine. This does not establish whether he was actually divine. Again, this brings into question what is actually contributing to one’s belief that such claims are even reliable to accept in the first place? How is the Christian bridging the gap between the assumed reliability of this claim, a form of reliability that cannot be guaranteed, and their belief that it is in fact true? Assuming reliability does not actually show that the claim that Jesus was divine is legitimate in its essence. If not even the Christian can gain insight into the inherent reliability of the claim that Jesus was God, what exactly does a Christian understand as their own source of assurance? What rests at the foundation for properly forming one’s beliefs?

Presence

  • Let’s narrow in on the claim that a Holy Spirit resides within a person. How is it that a Christian gains certitude about the reliability of this claim? Could it be just as likely that a Holy Spirit does not reside within a believer? That it may not even exist? How would one attempt to discern the difference? How does one evaluate and conclude that such a claim is trustworthy?

It is fair to note that not everyone thinks in the same way. That being said, I am trying to honestly inquire into how an assumption about the inherent reliability of miracles, divinity, and the presence of God in one’s life leads to a sense of assurance? My honest evaluation is that this appears inconsistent. In other words, it appears insufficient and not well supported given what can be known about these matters. I don’t see how assuming reliability should further lead into a belief that these claims have shown themselves to be legitimate in their essence, especially as it relates to these three very questionable categories.

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Are You Sure About Your Christian Beliefs?


I find this to be an intensely interesting inquiry into trying to understand the essence of one’s confidence as it relates to miracle claims, claims that someone is/was divine, or even that a Holy Spirit is thought to somehow reside within a person. How is it that one gains and remains in a state of assurance, trust, or certitude about the assumed reliability of the claims I mentioned above? 

Let’s just narrow in on the claim that a Holy Spirit resides within a person. How is it that a Christian gains certitude about the reliability of this claim? Could it be just as likely that a Holy Spirit does not reside within you? How would one attempt to discern the difference? How does one evaluate and conclude that such a claim is trustworthy?

Faith And Not Knowing, A Call To The Carpet

 

 

The number one reason I remain so vocal about the problems within faith-based thinking is because I am deeply concerned about intellectual honesty. It pains me to see people being closed off to total transparency. It is by far the worst way to represent what is true.

Is it unfair to call faith a lack of total transparency? I want my readers to be the judge. Though one may be completely honest about the fact that they have a high amount of confidence in faith-based claims the other side of this coin is where I would like to focus.

The other side of faith-based thinking is the fact that it is an inherently ignorant position. I am not hurling this as an insult, I am saying that inherent within a faith-based point of view is the fact that believers don’t know what actually happened in the past.

Muslims don’t know whether their prophet Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse and Christians have no idea whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. How this builds up people in their faith, I’m not sure.

That’s one big “if” and it doesn’t stop there. As far as I can humanly discern, and many believers would back me up, people are inherently ignorant as to whether a God actually exists. What this means is that faith involves leaning into what we don’t know. There is a very real possibility that a God is not behind the scenes.

People must see this and admit this in light of what they don’t know. There isn’t seventy-five percent certainty or ninety-five percent certainty, we either know that a God exists or we don’t. The rest is intuition. Now, just envision the world we live in. Envision the billions of people who don’t intuit the same religious beliefs you have, ask yourself, really ask yourself what gives you the better edge on what is true?

Is it the eloquence of your own teachers and philosophers? Is this how belief without knowledge gets justified? This is calling faith to the carpet and I am fairly and legitimately asking my audience to try to pinpoint for themselves what makes intuition without proper knowledge of miracles and invisible beings reliable?

Within your own system of thinking and forming beliefs what is it exactly that makes faith a reliable avenue to discern between true and false miracles or true and false God beliefs?

I’d like to provide a list of how this species of ignorance is affecting people of faith everywhere.

Faith worships what it doesn’t know

Faith prays to who or what it doesn’t know

Faith obeys and loves what it doesn’t know

Faith assumes that miracle claims are reliable

Faith claims to know the mind of God, if there even is one?

Faith claims to have the correct revelation without a built in mechanism to demonstrate the falsehood of competing religious claims

Faith, as a form of intuition, often claims that it stands as evidence for God all by itself. In other words, faith claims to be getting a read from God all the while not actually knowing it

Faith often sees itself as immune from the kind of mistakes that other religions clearly make

Faith, as a set of beliefs is often highly resistant to being revised or discarded in light of opposing evidence

Faith is viewed as a virtue without being able to produce evidence of its object

 

At the end of the day we need to ask ourselves this question, “does ignorance merit belief?” There’s a price to pay for this intellectually and it looks like this.

Earlier I purposely brought up the Islamic miracle of Muhammad flying to heaven on a winged horse and the Christian miracle of Jesus rising from the dead. I set these two miracle claims side by side.

I did this because somehow it is okay for people within either religion to believe in their specific miracle claims without even knowing whether they actually took place. Then, on top of that it is somehow justified to make a call on which miracles from other religions are mythical and didn’t take place.  

People argue for the resurrection by saying, “with God all things are possible.” Well, then what reason has the Christian to negate the possibility that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse to receive instruction from Allah? From an outsider looking in it would appear that the only mechanism being used to determine the truthfulness of one claim and the falsehood of the other is which religion one is more predisposed to believe in.

Faith is unable to separate supposedly true claims from supposedly false claims and this is why it is an unreliable avenue from which to determine what is true.