Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Arguments from Confusion and Biblical Defects

Given the great similarity between the thesis of John Loftus's essay "What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate," and the thesis of this essay by Theodore Drange, I am a little surprised that John didn't help himself to this essay, especially since Drange provides a numbered-premise argument.

This is the Argument from Confusion (AC). 

(A) If the God of evangelical Christianity were to exist, then:
  1. He would love all Christians and want a personal relationship with them.
  2. People would need to have G-beliefs (among other things) in order to have the sort of relationship with God that he would want them to have.
(B) Therefore, if the God of evangelical Christianity were to exist, then he would want all Christians to have G-beliefs.
(C) Thus, if the God of evangelical Christianity were to exist, then he would probably prevent Christians from becoming confused or conflicted about matters that are the subject of G-beliefs.
(D) But some Christians are confused about such matters.
(E) And many Christians disagree with one another about such matters.
(F) Therefore [from D & E], Christians have not been prevented from becoming confused or conflicted about matters that are the subject of G-beliefs.
(G) Hence [from C & F], probably the God of evangelical Christianity does not exist.

The Argument from Biblical Defects (ABD)  is as follows:

(A) If the God of evangelical Christianity were to exist, then the Bible would be God's only written revelation.
(B) Thus, if that deity were to exist, then he would probably see to it that the Bible is perfectly clear and authoritative, and lack the appearance of merely human authorship.
(C) Some facts about the Bible are the following:
  1. It contradicts itself or is very unclear in many places.
  2. It contains factual errors, including unfulfilled prophecies.
  3. It contains ethical defects (such as God committing or ordering atrocities).
  4. It contains interpolations (later insertions to the text).
  5. Different copies of the same biblical manuscripts say conflicting things.
  6. The biblical canon involves disputes and is apparently arbitrary.
  7. There is no objective procedure for settling any of the various disputes, especially since the original manuscripts of the Bible have been lost and there has been no declaration from God that would help resolve any of the disputes.
(D) Therefore [from C], the Bible is not perfectly clear and authoritative, and has the appearance of merely human authorship.
 
(E) Hence [from B & D], probably the God of evangelical Christianity does not exist.

What do you guys think of these arguments? I suspect that Catholics (who comprise the majority of professed Christians in the world) would recognize these arguments, not as arguments against Christianity or theism, but against Protestantism. 

40 comments:

unkleE said...

How to answer your question briefly? Both arguments are plausible but not compelling.

AC:
1. Does confusion over beliefs stop relationship? I wouldn't have thought so unless the confusion was greater than it is.
2. Is God wanting a relationship his only goal? Again, I don't think so - making us like "little gods" (i.e. giving humans autonomy, freewill, rationality, an ethical sense, etc) would surely be another goal, and one not considered by the argument.

ABD:
1. This is really only an argument against inerrancy.
2. See #2 above.

Conclusion:
I think the arguments are superficially plausible, and would be telling if it weren't for other evidence, for the existence of the God of Jesus, which I find more compelling. They leave me thinking belief is a confusing thing, but belief is still where the evidence leads. It still seems to me that unbelievers have to work hard to ignore the strength of the case for belief.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

I'm only going to make a brief comment at this point (I suspect I'll be answering at length to later postings). To me, the argument sound not like one against Christianity, but one in favor of Islam. After all, they're the ones with a single, authoritative revelatory book, with no variant texts and all by the same author.

I, on the other hand, find the ambiguities and general messiness of the Bible to be among its greatest strengths and strongest arguments for its validity.

TDC said...

I do find these arguments troubling, largely because of personal experience (so I'm biased, here). More than once I have agonized for extended periods of time worrying about my salvation largely because I wasn't sure what the Bible teaches, even after my own prayer and study.

It's a bit of evidence against Christianity, in my view. I don't think it really proves either side, but it's evidence.

Blaise Pascal said...

This is why our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, so that she may infallibly preserve and teach the truth of Jesus Christ. She has the last word on interpretation of Scripture (binding and loosing cf Mt 16,18 following).

In my eyes, these Arguments prove that if Jesus is our Lord then the Catholic Church is his true Church.

@Bob Prokop

I dont think it favors Islam. Moslems also lack a central authority and they do not agree on everything. The quran is not so clear as it claims.

Blaise Pascal said...

But of course I do not fully agree with the second argument and its low view of the Bible. Most of the "facts about the Bible" can be answered easily, especially from a Catholic perspective.

BenYachov said...

Amen!

Ave Maria!

Joshua Blanchard said...

I suppose I agree roughly with the Catholics and others who think this is really just evidence against some sectarian doctrines, including some formulations of inerrancy, mentioned above.

If we have some other reason to think these texts (or this history of the church, or whatever) are in fact from God, then the features alluded to in the two arguments really help eliminate certain options for what God might want for us. For example, the arguments might show that God isn't particularly interested in everyone agreeing upon a highly specific theology.

John W. Loftus said...

Joshua Blanchard said: "For example, the arguments might show that God isn't particularly interested in everyone agreeing upon a highly specific theology."

Vic, I assume you have read my chapter. How did I respond to such a response? What did you think of my response?

Anonymous said...

toddes writes:

IMO, the AC fails under (C). The confusion and conflict are the results of the sinful nature of the believers not on any failure in the revelation of GOD.Since He has allowed us free will in the matter of sin then that same free will must be present in regards to our understanding of His revelation.

ABD fails at the same point (C). All the 'facts' presented are not facts but points of contention between believers and enemies of GOD. Despite its form it is not an Argument but argumentation.

Walter said...

IMO, the AC fails under (C). The confusion and conflict are the results of the sinful nature of the believers not on any failure in the revelation of GOD.Since He has allowed us free will in the matter of sin then that same free will must be present in regards to our understanding of His revelation.

Then who among sinners holds the correct interpretation of God's revelation? Each sect of Christianity will claim that they do and that other sects are apostatizing. Note the internecine squabbles between Christians that go on all over the internet and have gone on down throughout history. Of course, you can claim your denomination is the ONE TRUE, but so does the church down the street that does not agree with you. Who is the true believer and who is God's enemy?

awatkins69 said...

Hello. I'm Catholic. Number 1 may be considered a common argument Catholics make against Protestantism. However, number 2 is an argument against Catholicism as well:

" 1. It contradicts itself or is very unclear in many places.
2. It contains factual errors, including unfulfilled prophecies.
3. It contains ethical defects (such as God committing or ordering atrocities).
4. It contains interpolations (later insertions to the text).
5. Different copies of the same biblical manuscripts say conflicting things.
6. The biblical canon involves disputes and is apparently arbitrary.
7. There is no objective procedure for settling any of the various disputes, especially since the original manuscripts of the Bible have been lost and there has been no declaration from God that would help resolve any of the disputes."

Every one of these propositions is heretical according to Catholic dogma. The Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of God. (cf "Dei Verbum" and "Divino Afflante Spiritu")

Victor Reppert said...

John: I take it what you are referring to is the fact that if God isn't so interested in making people agree on doctrine, why did he knowingly permit so many of his followers to shed so much blood in the name of the doctrines they believed in?

Bloodshed in the name of any ideology is going to happen so long as people are passionate about what they believe, and have the power of the sword over other people.

Couldn't God have put us on a faster learning curve and saved us all this bloodshed? Well, I would have preferred one. But knowing how slow my moral learning curve is, I can, through a glass darkly as it were, see why the human race's learning curve is also slow.

Joshua Blanchard said...

I think it's important to emphasize that this issue is a relatively trivial one: we can pick the purposes for which scripture fails, ascribe them to God, and say God does not exist. Alternatively, we can pick the purposes for which scripture succeeds (say, the goal of having a compendium of Hebrew poetry), ascribe those goals to God, and say God is consistent with scripture.

The real task is to figure out what a God of a certain sort would want or desire, if he exists. It is fairly difficult to resist ad hoc principles in this area. Usually there are good reasons for two directions. For example in the divine hiddenness debate, there are various good reasons given for why God would want himself to be known to all, and good reasons given for why God might want to be hidden, or somewhat hidden, or whatever.

I'm pretty skeptical about progress in this area. Certainly the arguments cited in your post don't succeed - they are almost too zealous, and sectarian, to be worthy of mention. But we can probably say generally, some reasonable expectations about God don't obtain, but also that reasonable expectations to the contrary are consistent with God's existence.

Boring, and not a pageview-getter, but this is probably where we stand.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic said: I take it what you are referring to is the fact that if God isn't so interested in making people agree on doctrine, why did he knowingly permit so many of his followers to shed so much blood in the name of the doctrines they believed in?

The specific response of mine is why did professing Christians kill one another to the tune of about eight million of them just after the Protestant Reformation?--That's Catholics against Protestants and Protestants against other Protestants during the eight French Wars of Religion and the Thirty Years War. Germany was decimated in some parts of it.

I think this drives home the point much more clearly than that they merely shed bloodshed, don't you Vic? After all, wasn't it Jesus who prayed that his followers be one (John 17), and didn't Paul command them to be one (I Cor. 1:10). If this was so important to God that Christians be one in mind then wouldn't we have a reasonable expectation that this same God would help them be one in mind by communication his will better to them?

I made my case in my books with answers to every objection.

And what did they kill one another over? Doctrine. This violence could easily have been foreseen by a human being with an above average level of intelligence, so how much more a Being with omniscience, and how much more a Being with foreknowledge of the history of the church, don't you think?

I offered several easy examples of word changes in the New Testament that a foreknowing God who cared about his church being one would have said instead of the ones we find there.

What did you think of these examples Vic?

John W. Loftus said...

So instead of this being a trivial or boring argument, contrary to Joshua, it is quite forceful to reasonable people not already brainwashed to believe. By being more precise during the Last Supper about the nature of the Eucharist many lives would have been saved, mothers would not have lost sons, and wives would not have lost husbands. That's just one change, one small, very small change, something so very easy to do.

My claim is that there is no revealing God and if that's the case then you have no Bible, and subsequently no reason for you to be a Christian.

So I would not characterize it as either trivial or boring would you Vic?

Victor Reppert said...

I guess I would not use the words boring or trivial, just because I don't think any aspect of the problem of evil should be called boring or trivial, which is what this is. It is of a piece with "Why is sex so seductive? Why in cancer so painful? Why is chocolate so tasty, but also so fattening? Why don't we have wings?" What makes arguments like this less than overwhelming for the skeptic is the fact that we are not in a position to see the character of all of God goals for us, and we also can't really make an apples-to-apples comparison between our world and the world we think God should have actualized. When we look at all the implications, including how it would affect everyone's free choices, the comparison is less clear.

If you are married, you know what life with your wife is like in detail. You can, however, if you wish, imagine life with another woman. But if you do that you can "paint in" the advantages of being with another woman, and "paint out" anything that might make your life with this woman difficult, which you, of course, don't know about at this point. If you do that, you, of course, put your wife at an unfair disadvantage. You're already falling into a trap, a trap that, if followed out, will lead to infidelity and marriage breakup.

For someone who finds Christianity on the whole plausible, this argument is no silver bullet. But I would not use the word "trivial", myself.

awatkins69 said...

Hi John. God allows roughly 150,000 people to die everyday. Do you think this is a serious objection to God?

Also, given that a fetus is a human person, is abortion acceptable? I'm not asking whether you you think a fetus is actually a human person.

John W. Loftus said...

But Vic, how is it reasonable to think Christianity is plausible when in order for it to be plausible in the first place you must believe God revealed the Bible to the church (your version)?

You are getting the cart before the horse.

You would reject any other religion because of such an argument outright.

You know that TV commercial where some guy orders fast food and is asked by the cashier, "Do you want that to hurt now or later?" Stunned he says, "huh." Then the food preparer in the back says, "Sir, it's a simple question" and asks it again.

Let me get this straight Vic. It's a simple question. Stop trying to defend what you were brought up to believe and think this time. The three New Testament difficulties that caused Christian on Christian killing to the tune of eight million lives, not counting the lifelong sufferings of injured Christians, and not counting the lifelong sufferings of those who lost loved ones, were the means of salvation, the importance of biblical authority, and the priesthood of all believers.

And, as I showed, all it would take would be a God who could reveal just a few words differently to avoid this carnage. So the simple question is what is the best explanation that accounts for this?

Apparently not even THAT amount of carnage by BELIEVERS THEMSELVES against other believers on one side of the scale against your having good reasons to think what we find in the revealed Bible is plausible cause you to doubt at all?

You really are like the Emperor who has no clothes on, whistling along his merry way while we see what a small dick you have.

I'm simply at a loss for words. I really am. That's why I am tempted so very often to ridicule you, and I am, to jolt your brainwashed mind into your senses. You are deluded.

Ah, but the deluded do not know that they are, do they?

You cloak your cultural faith in reasonable terms but you have lost sense of your reasonable powers.

This makes laughable your whole AFR. How can we conclude there is a basis for reason when you are simply not reasonable.

Sorry, for this outburst but I have lost patience with you. You cannot be reasoned with. The only thing left to do is to ridicule you, and I will.

But I'll say two things. You are right to focus on me. I am determined to debunk your delusions. And, you are also right to finally come down from your philosophical castle in the sky to look at the biblical/historical evidence for your faith.

awatkins69 said...

Sigh..

Anonymous said...

Victor Reppert said... "I guess I would not use the words boring or trivial, just because I don't think any aspect of the problem of evil should be called boring or trivial, which is what this is"

So very true Victor and i agree with you.

But these things happen sometimes when things get personal and the brain gets a little flustered loses control and can aim only for hope of inflicting abuse and revenge and stirring the pot as much as possible.Then what we end up with is a never ending fiery feud thats lots like a merry go round.A hard fire to ever quench when fuels been added for so many years.Faith circles are well known for it.They often even feud and hate among each other.Nastiness is rife and a common trait learned and passed along.

Victor as i see it,mostly you sir are a very fair man.

Victor said .."You can, however, if you wish, imagine life with another woman. But if you do that you can "paint in" the advantages of being with another woman, and "paint out" anything that might make your life with this woman difficult, which you, of course, don't know about at this point. If you do that, you, of course, put your wife at an unfair disadvantage. You're already falling into a trap, a trap that, if followed out, will lead to infidelity and marriage breakup. "

Victor there is also the chance this other woman doesnt even exist right?.Could have been only a dream.I just wonder why it seemed you didnt mention that possibility.

However we do know women exist so there is some possiblity that this other women we think about might exist too,considdering we already do have some real evidence that women do exist.This evidence of some women existing is also freely available to most everyone to see.

But do we have any real evidence that any Gods at all do honestly exist, other than them being mentioned in ancient stories or books?.

Victor said.."What makes arguments like this less than overwhelming for the skeptic is the fact that we are not in a position to see the character of all of God goals for us, and we also can't really make an apples-to-apples comparison between our world and the world we think God should have actualized."

I fail to see how it is yet ok to have even claimed we can see the charactor of God at all.A claim that he doesnt care,is as good as claiming maybe he does.Except maybe ones uncaring and the other not.

Anonymous said...

John Loftus i understand your frustrations.I understand the nasty parts of faith that we experience during our time involved in among faith circles, that often makes us so angry.I understand how this can help form our personalities.

But John just as a friendly suggestion you can choose to take or leave.Please try to go a little easy on Victor.It seems plain for me to see from his comments here, that Victor is not really your enemy at all.Dont let others nasty views taint how you feel about everyone.

John in my opinion Victor was a good friend here who was kind and even stood up for whats fair ! and publically said he didnt see it was kind to use the words boring or trivial.

John i realize shits gotten to you over the years, and i can plainly see why too.Its well know fact faithful folk often despise any of those that leave the fold.

But not every Christian needs to become thought of like they chose to become your enemy.

John W. Loftus said...

Anon, whoever you are *whink*.

I'm not an enemy of Vic's. And Vic does not despise me for what I intend to do (I'm just getting started). I like him very much so. Nor am I angry for having learned I was wrong about my former faith.

He's just delusional, that's all. So if he intends on picking on me, which I've admitted is finally a good target, then I will answer him and then ridicule him.

If he is unreachable then it will not work to argue with him reasonably, just like it won't work to argue with a Scientologist like Tom Cruise. At that point the Tom Crusies and the Vic Reppert's of the world can only be reached by derision if at all. But I will also answer him since reasonable people are reading.

He has never met a person like me. Maybe I am the only person who can shake him out of his indoctrination, enculturation and brainwashing.

But if not, then not.

Victor Reppert said...

I don't want anyone to "go easy on me" if what you are talking about involves real arguments. If it involves ridicule and derision, you're wasting your time. I've heard it all before. If ridicule could have converted me to atheism, I would have become one when I read Bertrand Russell. He's a far more entertaining read than skeptics today.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, do you think Russell understood Christian theology as well as I do? I know, we like to patronize the people of the past. But do you think so? I don't.

Victor Reppert said...

No, on that score, you understand it better than he. He has you, though, in philosophy of mathematics.

And, I think your understanding of theology is mostly based on your acquaintance with Christian evangelicalism, and is not terribly responsive to Catholic or orthodox theology, for example. I don't see any discussion of process theology, a view I certainly don't hold to, but certainly has some currency in at least some circles.

I did notice that in your "Failure to Communicate" essay you didn't really anticipate how, for example, a Catholic might respond to it. They might say "See what happens when you stray from Holy Mother Church?"

Anonymous said...

Victor Reppert said..."I don't want anyone to "go easy on me" if what you are talking about involves real arguments. If it involves ridicule and derision, you're wasting your time."

Hi Victor .

No i dont mean go easy on you that way at all.

I just have found i have grown a lot of respect for you even in the short time i have taken some interest in your blog and the way i have seen you interact with John from time to time.Specially in the way i see you as being understanding kind and fair.

I very much like those traits in people thats all Victor.My opinion is maybe personality traits get passed around alot more than we realize.Maybe thats why the bible talks about things like trying to love thy neighbour.Even though for us all its not always so easy.

Anonymous said...

John W. Loftus said... "Anon, whoever you are *whink*.

I'm not an enemy of Vic's"

Well John im glad.I just think maybe Vics a very good kind of friend to have thats all.Not every friend is fair specially when faith gets in the way.

But ive said everything i had to say.Seems maybe you know who i am, if so you will know i like to try and be fair too.I care thats all.

Anonymous said...

John i know i already said i wouldnt be saying anymore.But i just wanted to highlight something only because i think it a little important.Not every Christian would even bother to care to speak up! and say they personally didnt think they would call your work boring or trivial.

And very sadly very many would even be gladly speaking up and be clapping somebody who did say it.Faith makes many people become nasty.

Experiences has taught me! personally, burning bridges sometimes are hard to rebuild.Treasure your friends John.Specially those who are fair.

Over-and-out.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, I am a former Catholic and attended a Catholic university for my Ph.D. studies. I know the Catholic response. And I used to embrace process theology. Why is it that if I don't specifically mention something people automatically assume I'm ignorant and don't know of it?

Let me spell it out in case you just started reading my stuff. My target is evangelical Christianity. And even though that's my target I still get them saying to me "That's not my Christianity" so many times I could puke. They faulted the so-called New Atheists for not understanding Christian theology because they aimed too high so I aim at a much smaller target and they still say that of me. It's simply ridiculous to me.

But the Catholic response is nonsense for the problem of communication applies to their view of progressive revelation through the church, which I mentioned.

Joshua Blanchard said...

Just to be clear: I used the word "trivial" not about the problem of evil or any form of it, but about the simple inference involved in moving from a view of God's purpose, through a view of Scripture, to a position on his non-existence. Any one of us could think of hundreds of ways to read the Bible which would, when conjoined with the world, imply God's non-existence. That's pretty trivial. For example, maybe the purpose of the Bible is to show that ducks are green. All ducks are not green, so God clearly does not exist.

I used the word "boring," not to describe the problem of evil or any form of it, but to describe my own view on a broad set of related problems, namely, that there are some good reasons to think God would have either of certain mutually exclusive pairs of traits (my example was divine hiddenness).

Joshua Blanchard said...

John: On what basis do you think that "ridicule" is likely to "jolt" someone into their senses?

John W. Loftus said...

Joshua, because we are social creatures and we have a tendency, even a strong one, to want social approval.

John W. Loftus said...

Seeking social approval will cause us to re-evaluate what we think is true if what we believe is not socially acceptable. And ridicule is one way to show that a belief is not socially acceptable.

Stay focused here. Don't go off on unrelated tangents.

Blue Devil Knight said...

So, peer pressure rather than arguments. Explains a lot, and suggests you aren't as far from evangelical nutball Christianity as you think. Run about and witness, young atheist.

John W. Loftus said...

Two things BDK. 1) I am not young; 2) My tactics with people who are unreachable is not an either/or one, but rather a both/and one.

You don't share my passion.

That's okay.

But it does not make me a nut.

You may not like people with passion like I have, but a person with passion changes things.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I didn't mean young literally.

BenYachov said...

>Why is it that if I don't specifically mention something people automatically assume I'm ignorant and don't know of it?


I reply: Well for one thing there is no such thing as "progressive revelation" in Catholicism. We have "development of Doctrine" and "public revelation" stops with the death of the last Apostle & "private revelation" by definition cannot add to the deposit of faith.

nuff said.

Joshua Blanchard said...

John Loftus writes: "Seeking social approval will cause us to re-evaluate what we think is true if what we believe is not socially acceptable. And ridicule is one way to show that a belief is not socially acceptable."

I realize this is your just-so story. I didn't ask for clarification. I asked if it has any basis - say, in any of the sources you cite as the grounds of all knowledge, such as the thing you reify called "science." If it does not have a basis, that's fine, just stop saying it.

John Loftus also said: "Stay focused here. Don't go off on unrelated tangents."
You yourself said you are abandoning reasoned arguments and resorting to mockery, which is clear enough given your failure to comprehend my original comment, demonstrated above. In the future, please indicate which lines of your thought are tangents, and which are worth pursuing.

Tim said...

There are multiple problems with AC. To start with, the plausibility of A2 is inversely proportional to the level of detail packed into “G-beliefs.” If the beliefs about the nature of God are to include the metaphysics of a Chalcedonian formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, then A2 is obviously false. And something similar goes for the details of the fate of the wicked in the afterlife, for discursive knowledge of the requirements for salvation (as what is important is, presumably, that one meets them, not that one be able to discourse about them), for the precise details of the metaphysics of the eucharist or the mode of baptism (since again, clearly, what is important on the human end is that one in fact be obedient and take the eucharist and be baptized, by whatever mode), and for the details of one’s theory of inspiration, belief in which is nowhere in scripture made a requirement for one’s having a relationship with God—for the good and sufficient reason that the first Christians at Pentecost predate the writing of the New Testament.

In each of these cases, one can back up to a far more minimal conception of what is required. But then it is very difficult to go anywhere with the argument in its subsequent steps. If B can be accepted only in a fairly minimal sense, then it is not at all obvious that D is true. Conversely, in the sense in which D is obviously true, A2 and B are just as obviously false. So the argument gains no traction.

To say this is not to say that it would not be desirable for Christians to have better, fuller knowledge on some of these points; nor is it to say that such knowledge is not available. But the hinge of the argument is the claim in A2 that Christians would need a set of G-beliefs in order to have a personal relationship with God. And Drange gives no good reason to think that this claim is both (a) true and (b) substantive enough to support his subsequent chain of reasoning.

Tim said...

The problems with ABD are similar to those in the AC. Premise A depends, I think, on how narrowly one draws the boundaries of evangelicalism; I suspect that C. S. Lewis would not have made the cut on a narrow definition. Drange gives a hat tip to the economist Niclas Berggren, whose 1996 essay “The Errancy of Fundamentalism” is posted on the Internet Infidels site. But Berggren’s argument works only with respect to a dictation theory of inspiration, and Berggren expressly claims that “as a matter of logical consistency ... if it can be shown that any translation of the Bible contains just one error, the Christian god cannot exist.” This is absurd.

But even assuming that a fairly narrow definition is meant, premise B does not follow from A and is not supported by any cogent line of argument; though some hapless evangelicals may fall into it by accident, it is certainly not a claim that would be endorsed by the vast majority of self-described evangelical scholars. Claims C1 - C3 are notoriously disputed; if Drange thinks he has the better of the argument with evangelicals here, he should simply make those arguments rather than assuming them as premises.

I note in passing that he would need far better weapons to establish C1 than those he chooses to employ. Drange understandably chooses the question of what is required for salvation as a point where serious doubt would create a problem. But utterly fails to show that such matters are in doubt. His attempt to pit Luke 13:3 against John 3:16, John 5:29, and Matthew 25:46 is execrable exegesis, amounting to the claim that since the latter three verses do not mention repentance, they teach a doctrine of salvation without repentance. This argument is too poor to deserve a response. And it is his only argument for contradictory biblical teaching on a point of importance.

Even granting arguendo that each of the claims C1 - C3 is correct, Drange’s argument will still miss C. S. Lewis—and that is a very significant target to miss. C4 and C5 are pertinent only to an extremely narrow reading of B that is so far out of the mainstream evangelical view as to render the term “evangelical” in this argument positively misleading. C6 is in part trivially true (there have been disputes about the canon) and in part misleading (the criteria for settling these disputes are well known and not arbitrary). C7 is a canard; the absence of the original manuscripts does not render disputes about the original text impossible to resolve.

Drange also makes some very strange errors. His claim that “the Q document is lost” not only presupposes that there was such a document—itself a point of contention among contemporary biblical scholars—but also displays his ignorance of the ract that, among those who believe that there is such a document, it is taken for granted that we have enough information in the overlapping portions of Matthew and Luke to reconstruct its contents, indeed, to write commentaries on Q. But none of this matters; the canon of scripture is not defined by anyone as the set of all of the things we might have liked to include if we had them.