Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Library of Historical Apologetics

is up and running, directed by Tim McGrew.

One observation Tim has made to me is that the anti-apologetic arguments that we see from skeptics today are not at all new, and were answered by apologists long ago. But since their work is largely forgotten, apologists today sometimes find themselves re-inventing the wheel.

Hume's essay on miracles is in every philosophy of religion anthology under the sun. But how many of these anthologies also include contemporary rebuttals to Hume, by people like Campbell? Or Richard Price, who introduced Bayes' theorem into the discussion? Or Richard Whately's Historical Doubts Relative to Napoleon Buonaparte, from the early 19th Century?

54 comments:

Squat said...

There is also an audio interview with McGrew here: http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.6076221/k.2F5/Audio_Interview_with_Robert_Stewart_on_Apologetics.htm

Walter said...

I would say that the arguments from both sides are nothing new. I often hear the same apologetic arguments and skeptical rebuttals getting repeated ad nauseam around the web.

What little evidence exists is either good enough for you to believe or it is not. Literary evidence will never be sufficient evidence for many of us to believe in the supernatural tales found in ancient religious texts. In my opinion apologetics is not about convincing the skeptic, it is about assuaging doubts in believers who have already made a prior faith commitment but whose faith may be flagging a little due to exposure to skeptical arguments. The apologist has to be seen as having an 'answer' for every skeptical argument.

reborn1995 said...

Victor,

Walter brings up an interesting point--what exactly are apologetics designed to do? Linda Zagzebski brought up a similar point to me a few years back. Suppose tomorrow that one of the classic theistic arguments--let's say the cosmological, but you can take your pick--was clearly proven false. Would you give up your faith? Would you stop believing that God started it all?

If i'm completely honest, i'm not sure much of my faith rests squarely on these classical arguments. But i also don't think i can say that reason has *nothing* to do with my faith. So what about the flip side? Is it the case that a skeptic's lack of belief rests squarely on the inconclusiveness of these arguments? If tomorrow someone came up with a demonstration which clearly showed that one of the classic arguments was true, would skeptics start believing in droves?

--guy

Shackleman said...

"I would say that the arguments from both sides are nothing new. I often hear the same apologetic arguments and skeptical rebuttals getting repeated ad nauseam around the web. "

You don't just hear them ad nauseam, Walter. You repeat them ad nauseam yourself. Why bother? Just go live your life and be happy, man.

"In my opinion apologetics is not about convincing the skeptic, it is about assuaging doubts in believers who have already made a prior faith commitment but whose faith may be flagging a little due to exposure to skeptical arguments."

Not true. I was once an atheist, and like most of my atheist friends, spent most of my time reading atheist material. That was dumb. Then one day I decided to read up on the best that my opponents had to offer. I'm glad I did. I'm glad those arguments were repeated in the modern blogosphere. Having *never* been exposed to even the names of historical apologists, let alone their arguments, I would never have found them had it not been for the ad nauseam repetition of them on the web.

Further, for some apologists, the motivation is to save souls, not just to assuage doubt. Even if that's offensive to the unbeliever, it is, at least, an altruistic goal. I happen to think that Jesus already did all the work necessary for soul-saving, and so my own motivation is to help people who are lost find their way home---for their own benefit while here on Earth in this life. Not for the next life as, again, Jesus already handled that part of it.

What's the motivation for the atheist and skeptic though? When I was an atheist I didn't find it at all useful to evangelize my atheism. I didn't ever want to be responsible for ruining someone's ignorant bliss and awakening them to the truth of the meaninglessness of existence. If they were content in their fantasies and dreams, I didn't want to wake them, and in fact, hoped for their sakes they never woke up.

Shackleman said...

" If tomorrow someone came up with a demonstration which clearly showed that one of the classic arguments was true, would skeptics start believing in droves?"

No, but whatever helps, man.

One never knows what will turn the heart of a man toward God. But, it isn't up to us to know. What's up to us, is to be a witness to what turned our own hearts. Doing so, may well plant the seed of faith in another.

Walter said...

You don't just hear them ad nauseam, Walter. You repeat them ad nauseam yourself. Why bother? Just go live your life and be happy, man.


Guilty as charged. I have jumped on what Ken Pulliam has aptly described as "an endless treadmill."

Perhaps you are the exception, but it seems to me that emotional appeals are far more effective a conversion tactic than historical apologetics can ever hope to be. Most human beings tend to feel guilty about things we have done in our life. Evangelical Christianity can play on those feelings of guilt by insinuating that we have offended the creator of the universe instead of just our fellow man.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

Apologetics share a number of traits in common with prayer and the liturgy. In the Gloria, for example, the congregation recites (usually in song) a number of divine attributes, ostensibly directed toward God in prayer, but in reality directed to the worshipers themselves, as a chance to reflect on, and rejoice in, said attributes. So, for example:

“Lord God, Heavenly King, Almighty God and Father…
You alone are the Holy One,
You alone are the Lord”, etc.

The people singing the Gloria are of course aware that God knows these things perfectly well, and has no need to hear them addressed to Him. But those very singers, by recalling these attributes, are given the chance to remind THEMSELVES of them, and of their significance.

In the same way, apologetics give believers the chance to refresh their minds, and to simply enjoy hearing the Truth.

Walter said...

Just go live your life and be happy, man.

Many of my non-religious friends do just that. They could care less about the arguments for or against any particular religion. I guess it is interesting to me to engage in discussion with people who challenge my own current assumptions, but I do weary of the same arguments over and over and over...

Do the believers here wish us skeptics would just go away? An echo-chamber seems a little boring to me.

I am fortunate that I live in a country where I can "live my life and be happy" without persecution from those who would try to force their dogmas onto others. I am not sure that a skeptic should never speak out, though, for the simple reason that beliefs matter, and people will vote their beliefs. If freedom of expression were allowed in Islamic countries, then I think skeptics would be praised for speaking out against Islam. I guess the question is: should skeptics speak out on what we think is the truth, or should we just ignore the religious in our country and "live and let live" as long as we are not being persecuted for our unbelief?

Paul Manata said...

Brief Sketch, FWIW:

Apologetics has many functions.

1. It can be used to remove obstacles/objections to belief in God/Christianity from unbelievers

a. This could result in believing in God/Christianity, or

b. Withdrawing a particular objection to God/Christianity

2. It can be used to flesh out the inferential reasoning that makes up spontaneous inferences to belief in God (say, looking at a sunset from a mountain top which produces a spontaneous inference to the conclusion, "God made all of this")/

3. It can be used as a means God uses to keep his people in the faith

a. Insights from contemporary epistemology may help here:

i. Believers may know God exists/Christianity is true in a basic way, yet this knowledge is not diachronic. Defeaters may lessen the degree of warrant a Christian has for his or her belief. If warrant comes in degrees, then the believer may still have a warranted belief in God/Christian, just not enough for knowledge. Apologetic arguments could restor knowledge by raising the degree of warrant. Here we'd have defeater-defeaters.

ii. Apropos 3.a.i, apologetic arguments may also protect the degree of warrant a believer has. Insights from epistemic defeaters is also helpful here. For example, apologetic arguments may function as defeater-insulators or defeater-deflectors.

iii. So we can have a view of apologetics where arguments play the apologetic role of confirming or strengthening the faith of believers. Arguments here wouldn't necessarily be aimed at *producing* belief in God, but in *showing* what is known (often, what we know outstrips what we can show). Here we'd see reasons *for* belief that aren't necessarily the same as *causes* for belief.

These are some of the several functional roles the task of apologetics can take.

Steven Carr said...

Are you actually putting forward that Napoleon stuff as something worth keeping?

I honestly thought it was just a bit of levity to keep your blog light-hearted,and add a touch of humour.

A bit like the way somebody might play 1. g4 as a change from the serious stuff.

Steven Carr said...

I'm sure McGrew claims anti-Christian works have been answered, just like Mormons claim all the anti-Mormon stuff has been answered.

Christians are no more bothered than Mormons that there is no evidence for Judas, Thomas,Lazarus, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea in their Holy Books.

Paul Manata said...

Steven Carr said:

"A bit like the way somebody might play 1. g4 as a change from the serious stuff."

Of course, McGrew could beat you using that opening move. A pattern is a pattern.

Paul Manata said...

Steven Carr said...

I'm sure McGrew claims anti-Christian works have been answered, just like Mormons claim all the anti-Mormon stuff has been answered.

Christians are no more bothered than Mormons that there is no evidence for Judas, Thomas,Lazarus, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea in their Holy Books.

August 09, 2010 9:38 AM



I'm sure Carr claims Christian works have been answered, just like flat earthers claim all the anti-flat earth stuff has been answered.

Atheists are no more bothered than flat-earthers that there is evidence for God, Jesus, the resurrection, &c. than there is evidence from space (staged!), math (gerrymandering!), geography (faked!), and testimony (liars!).

Shackleman said...

Walter,

" I guess the question is: should skeptics speak out on what we think is the truth, or should we just ignore the religious in our country and "live and let live" as long as we are not being persecuted for our unbelief?"

You tell us.

My suggestion for you to "just live your life" had a much deeper meaning, brother. You missed it for the obvious.

Walter said...

My suggestion for you to "just live your life" had a much deeper meaning, brother. You missed it for the obvious.

I got what you meant. For those of us who believe that this life may be the only one we get, perhaps we should not waste time arguing with believers? True maybe, but what if we enjoy arguing with believers and it is fun for us :)

Or did you mean something else?

Shackleman said...

Walter,

I'm kind of smitten with you. We're like two sides to the same coin.

That said, no. That's not what I meant.

But, you're getting closer. Ecclesiastes is good medicine.

R O'Brien said...

"Christians are no more bothered than Mormons that there is no evidence for Judas, Thomas,Lazarus, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea in their Holy Books."

Allow me to repost my response to this pseudointellect from another thread:

Steven Carr lacks the native intelligence to distinguish between the lack of archaeological evidence for specific individuals, none of whom were emperors, kings, high priests, etc. and the lack of evidence for entire civilizations.

Also, if Steven Carr were honest, which is apparently not the case, he would mention that the witness Martin Harris mentioned the plates were observed with "spiritual eyes." This same Martin Harris joined about a dozen sects over his lifetime, including after he (allegedly) witnessed the gold plates. (In fact, when Harris was a Shaker, Brigham Young's brother reported that Harris claimed he had a greater testimony of Shakerism than he ever had of Mormonism.)

Steven Carr isn't just a moron; he is a pretentious moron (like Avalos, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, etc.), which is the worst species of moron.

Steven Carr said...

'Steven Carr lacks the native intelligence to distinguish between the lack of archaeological evidence for specific individuals, none of whom were emperors, kings, high priests, etc. and the lack of evidence for entire civilizations.'

IN other words, not one single Christian ever named himself as having seen Judas, Lazarus, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea,Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome,Barabbas, Simon of Cyrene.

They never exist in Christian talk for decades after the alleged events, until 'Mark' writes a Novel which claims that Christians somehow tracked down a random bystander at the crucifixion, and found out that he was called Simon of Cyrene.

How did they do that?

Steven Carr said...

How did they do that? How was Simon of Cyrene tracked down?

Did Christians put out an ad asking if anybody knew who had carried the cross of Jesus?

Did they find out the same way 'Matthew' found out about the secret meeting where it was plotted to explain that the guards had been asleep?

Did they find out the same way people 'found out' about the secret meetings where the Bush administration had planned 9/11?

David B. Ellis said...


Steven Carr isn't just a moron; he is a pretentious moron (like Avalos, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, etc.), which is the worst species of moron.


It's nice to see everyone's keeping things civil.

It does little for one's witness as a Christian to insult someone who has, so far as I've seen, remained civil and kept focused on examining the intellectual issues (however much you may disagree with him) rather than issuing insults.

Anonymous said...

Although R. O'brien's use of the term moron to describe Steven Carr may have been over the top, we might perhaps want to give him a little latitude on this one. He was probably driven to it by Steven's maddening repetition of the one and only thing he has to say - which he says,often using the identical words, over, and over, and over, and over again.

Squat said...

David says,

"It does little for one's witness as a Christian to insult someone who has, so far as I've seen, remained civil and kept focused on examining the intellectual issues"

O'Brien made a factual claim, with factual content. Instead of crying insult, you should engage with the evidence that O'Brien presented for his claim. For my part, I believe the claim is well substantiated.

David B. Ellis said...

Hey, if you guys are OK with hurling insults I say have at it. The impression it's likely to leave on those visitors who're on the fence does half our work for us.

Anonymous said...

It's actually evidence that the Christian gospel has now power to change those who accept it, contrary to the promise of Jesus. In other words, it's a decent C-inductive argument against Christian theism (as Swinburne would put it).

Paul Manata said...

David,

You don't read many of Carr's comments, do you?

For those "on the fence,"

Despite what you've been told, Christianity isn't about making you a better you. If you want a better marriage, a better job, a better house, a better relationship with the kids, or a better presence in blog comboxes, why, you can get that from any number of religions, or even secular self-help books.

Christianity is primarily and most profoundly a historical claim about a real man who was also very God, who lived a perfect life in the place of those who trust and rest in him, taking their just punishment, and rising from the dead for our legal justification.

One element of Christianity is that all men are sinful; sometimes even those who trust in Christ are more sinful in their actions than non-Christians (assuming the modern, Western notions of civility in play here, ad argundo).

So, a doctrine of Christianity is the doctrine of sin. That people will act sinfully is entailed by Christianity. So it would be odd indeed for you fence sitters, who desire to be "rational," to think that empirical verification of a claim made by a worldview actually counts against that worldview.

Walter said...

I thought God's chosen elect were supposed to have the Holy Spirit indwelling within them? Funny, that many of them act no better than those of us who are supposedly "totally depraved."

The Calvinists will assure us that God chooses some due to no merit of their own, so the elect are often as bad or worse than reprobate heathens whom God has ordained for eternal hell. Makes one wonder why God would even bother to elect one human over another?

Anonymous said...

Nope, the New Testament teaches that those who follow Jesus can become Christlike in character, a process that noticeably starts in this life for those who truly follow him.

Paul Manata said...

"I thought God's chosen elect were supposed to have the Holy Spirit indwelling within them?"

They do, now exegete the relevant passages and explain what this means.

" Funny, that many of them act no better than those of us who are supposedly "totally depraved."

As the Westminster Confession of faith describes it, total depravity is the doctrine that “Man, by his fall Into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.”

The doctrine of total depravity also does not specify that man is as bad as he could be, it speaks to the extent of the corruption of sin in man's constitution. So, all of man's faculties are affected by sin, noetic, moral, etc.

And, the doctrine of regeneration and progressive sanctification does not impy some unbroken upward line of moral advancement. Moreoever, one must look at where people start.

I won't comment on the Calvinism stuff since this isn't a Calvinist blog and I don't need to debate atheists and Christians :-)

Paul Manata said...

Oh, and I think it's a little much to take the deserved comments to troll Carr as some kind of indictment on the moral depravity Christians have vis-a-vis the pure-as-the-driven-snow atheists.

Moreoever, as New Atheists are wont to point out, the Bible is full of unethical teaching and Jesus isn't a moral exemplar. So which is it? If the new atheists are right, Christians are acting consistent with the Bible when they act in ways atheists find disagreeable to their Puritanical sensibilities.

David B. Ellis said...


So, a doctrine of Christianity is the doctrine of sin. That people will act sinfully is entailed by Christianity. So it would be odd indeed for you fence sitters, who desire to be "rational," to think that empirical verification of a claim made by a worldview actually counts against that worldview.


LOL

I'm not referring to myself when I mention fencesitters (I deconverted from your religion over 20 years ago and am as firm in my nonbelief in Christianity as I am in my nonbelief in Scientology).

And I'm not interested in debating you on the issue. Quite the contrary. By all means, carry on!

Walter said...

"I thought God's chosen elect were supposed to have the Holy Spirit indwelling within them?"

They do, now exegete the relevant passages and explain what this means.


No thanks. The bible is the work of men, not the Word of a God. I am not interested in Paul's opinions on any matters that concern me.

Paul Manata said...

David,

I wasn't calling you a fence sitter. Notice I addressed a comment to you and next to fence sitters. But your lolling to a serious point (which was what you complained was happening to Carr) was very rude and uncivil, which is ironic given the fact that you earlier wore the uniform of moral police. So my hunch was right, you didn't really care about the comments toward Carr, you just used him as a way to get in a jab at Christians. Gottcha.

Squat said...

"Hey, if you guys are OK with hurling insults I say have at it."

"Funny, that many of them act no better than those of us who are supposedly "totally depraved.""

I guess I'd need an argument from truth of Christianity to the obligation never to call anyone an idiot, even if they act like one. Absent that I can't really take these complaints seriously. (Note that no-one called Walter or David an idiot!)

Paul Manata said...

Walter said...

[Walter] "I thought God's chosen elect were supposed to have the Holy Spirit indwelling within them?"

[Paul Manata] They do, now exegete the relevant passages and explain what this means.

[Walter] No thanks. The bible is the work of men, not the Word of a God. I am not interested in Paul's opinions on any matters that concern me.

August 10, 2010 4:48 AM

Works of men can be exegeted. Regardless of your opinion of the Bible, you made a claim that its saying that X means or implies that Y. I asked you to substantiate this charge, which you should be able to do regardless of your view on the Bible's (ultimate) authorship.

So, it appears you made a facile appeal to the Bible to "score a point," but when you were asked to show that the Bible means what you intimated it meant, you then toss out some irrelevant objection and act as if you've made some kind of smart and witty rejoinder.

* So the skeptics used Carr as a mere means to an end.

* They claimed that some Christians' behavior toward Carr was inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible or other Christian doctrines.

* Arguments are given to undermine the charge of inconsistency.

* They respond with "LOLs" and irrelevant red herrings.

So if I may throw out my charge of inconsistency between beliefs and behavior: I thought atheists were supposed to be all rational and intellectually virtuous, never making naked assertions they couldn't back up?

Walter said...

So if I may throw out my charge of inconsistency between beliefs and behavior: I thought atheists were supposed to be all rational and intellectually virtuous, never making naked assertions they couldn't back up?

Did I say that I was an atheist? I assumed that Christians were supposed to behave better than heathens like myself, but you have thoroughly set me straight. I guess I should have known better since I have seen the behavior of good Christians like Fred Phelps in action before.

R O'Brien said...

"They never exist in Christian talk for decades after the alleged events, until 'Mark' writes a Novel which claims that Christians somehow tracked down a random bystander at the crucifixion, and found out that he was called Simon of Cyrene."

1. If Simon of Cyrene were fictional, then the reference to his sons, Alexander and Rufus, would be completely gratuitous.

2. As I wrote to Ed Babinski:

Apparently, your incredulity does not extend to the claims of modern NT scholarship. I claim John is a primitive gospel; there is no good reason to believe otherwise. (The canard about John being late because of his "high Christology" falls flat when one considers that Paul also has a "high Christology" and he was writing in the 50s and 60s.) There is also no good reason to believe Mark was written as late as 70 AD/CE, as the gospel most certainly lacks the hallmarks of vaticinium ex eventu.

Quit while you are behind.

R O'Brien said...

"It's actually evidence that the Christian gospel has now power to change those who accept it, contrary to the promise of Jesus. In other words, it's a decent C-inductive argument against Christian theism (as Swinburne would put it)."

In the alternate universe where Spock has a beard, perhaps, but not in this one.

Paul Manata said...

Walter said...

Did I say that I was an atheist? I assumed that Christians were supposed to behave better than heathens like myself, but you have thoroughly set me straight. I guess I should have known better since I have seen the behavior of good Christians like Fred Phelps in action before.

August 10, 2010 5:48 AM

1. I assumed you were an atheist given your many comments I've read, like "this life is all there is." But maybe you're not.

2. I have been granting, ad arguendo, that the behavior you and David pointed to is, in fact, worthy of your indictments. I actually don't think so.

3. However, having said that, what do you mean by my having "set you straight?" I certainly haven't done anything uncivil or immoral toward you.

4. The standards of Western notions of combox civility isn't, exactly, the marks of a "new life" such as we see in laid out the Bible.

5. Again, the line of sanctification isn't an unbroken upward line. So pointing out *incidents* of bad behavior won't serve to make your point. Christians are sinners. Paul could call himself the chief of sinners. Paul could bemoan his struggles with sin. So pointing out that Christians sin isn't really doing much, since that's what the Bible predicts.

6. I deny that Fred Phelps is a Christian. There's a special place in hell for people like him.

Walter said...

I deny that Fred Phelps is a Christian. There's a special place in hell for people like him.

That is interesting. Why do you judge Phelps to be not of the elect? The man seems upfront teaching the same thing that most Calvinists believe--that God actively hates most people on earth. By what criteria do you condemn another believer?

Paul Manata said...

Walter said...

[Paul Manata] "I deny that Fred Phelps is a Christian. There's a special place in hell for people like him."

That is interesting. Why do you judge Phelps to be not of the elect? The man seems upfront teaching the same thing that most Calvinists believe--that God actively hates most people on earth. By what criteria do you condemn another believer?

August 10, 2010 6:38 AM

1. In discussions like this one I find it best to use the term "professing believer."

2. Bracketing your understanding of Calvinism off for the moment, surely it isn't sufficient for being a true believer rather than a professing believer that you teach the same doctrines. The Apostle Paul could point to heretics who preached the same gospel as he did. Preaching or believing the propositions (James says even demons believe) of the Bible are not sufficient for salvation.

3. The Bible gives us several tests for demarcating believers from false professions of faith. We make fruit-to-root inferences. To see some of these tests, read I John.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

Personally, I think the tone of this particular thread has become rather infantile. But no one has ever accused me of wisely keeping silent when I should, so I'll venture to weigh in at this point.

Gratuitous insults and incivility on the web help no one, but there is no call to simply pretend that one shouldn't call out a serial offender when they are clearly and repeatedly over the line (such as Steven Carr). As for the ridiculous idea that Christians should be "meek and mild" at all times, and never use harsh language against such, witness the words of Christ Himself directed at the First Century's equivalents of today's scoffers:

"Hypocrites"
"Blind Men"
"Whitewashed Tombs"
"Brood of Vipers"

And yes, that was "Christian Love" in action! A person resolutely antagonistic to the Evangel will never get to "Come to me, all you who are weary and overburdened, and I will give you rest".

Walter said...

As for the ridiculous idea that Christians should be "meek and mild" at all times, and never use harsh language against such, witness the words of Christ Himself directed at the First Century's equivalents of today's scoffers:

"Hypocrites"
"Blind Men"
"Whitewashed Tombs"
"Brood of Vipers"


Yes, Jesus occasionally got nasty with others. He can be excused, though; he was after all, only human. :)

Anonymous said...

Bob prokop writing:

Walter, you're partly right. As stated in the Athanasian Creed, Jesus is FULLY (not "only") human and fully God. Good job, you're halfway there! Keep going, we know you can make it!

Walter said...

Just a man, Bob. Just a man.

Anonymous said...

I love it when Atheists act like moral dirt bags & provoke Christians to lower themselves to their level and then pull the "oh why are you asking so un-Christian?" Meme out of their arses.

Nice people.

R O'Brien said...

Allow me to disagree with the Christologies of those who have opined thus far. Jesus Christ was neither a mere man nor was he the incarnation of the second person of the trinity, as God is not triune.

In 380 the world awoke one day and groaned to find itself Nicene-Constantinoplean.

Walter said...

Allow me to disagree with the Christologies of those who have opined thus far. Jesus Christ was neither a mere man nor was he the incarnation of the second person of the trinity, as God is not triune.

I am intrigued. Are you Christadelphian? Jehovah's Witness?

R O'Brien said...

"I am intrigued. Are you Christadelphian? Jehovah's Witness?"

I am neither. I am a freelance non-trinitarian Christian. (As far as I am concerned, the trinity is both unscriptural and illogical.)

Blue Devil Knight said...

Those concerned about the tone here should spend some time at Pharyngula :)

Victor Reppert said...

I am far less concerned about the tone here than I am about the collapse of substantive discussion.

Blue Devil Knight said...

No better way to derail a discussion that to turn the topic into the degree of civility (or lack thereof) being displayed. If you are going to argue religion in an unmoderated blog, you better turn your skin to 'thick'. Trolls wither away from inattention. Don't feed them, and they will die. If you complain about them, that is reinforcing their behavior. Just ignore them.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Tim's site is cool. OTOH, I did have a laugh at one of the quotes on the home page "How unreasonable then is it to reject these facts, so sifted, so examined, and so attested, as no other facts in the world ever were..."

For over a millenium if you espoused any other facts, your life would literally be threatened. What a shock that this one allowable region in conceptual space was so thoroughly attested by the most brilliant minds. It's not as if Christianity was subject to intense critical scrutiny since its inception!

While I would agree that earnest Christians are characterized as the trailer park of academia (for better or worse), we should remember that this is an extremely recent phenomenon. The scales were tipped extremely strongly in the other direction for many centuries. It's a relatively recent phenomenon that academics cast a truly critical eye on Christianity.

As I've said before, logic and evidence are not sufficient to compel a naturalist to be a Christian (or even a theist, for that matter). Logic and reason may be part of the conversion experience, but a relatively trivial part for most. What matters is the experience of God, the humbling experience of His Grace and Goodness, often delivered through extremely charismatic and persuasive vehicles (i.e., other Christians). For most people, anyway. Christians can tell me if I'm wrong.

My standards for accepting a resurrection now would be extremely high (multiple days, multiple witnesses, DNA tests, caught on camera, independent corroboration that I am not hallucinating). I am not unusual. Even Christians wouldn't believe a resurrection tale told by some tribe of Aborigonal tribespeople in Austrailia. I'm not about to believe the testimony of some 2000 year old manuscripts transmitted by extremely biased institutions!

That said, I think the kind of project Tim is engaged with is useful for those that are already weak believers, those sympathetic to Christianity and needing a push, and those Christians that need some responses to the more common skeptical arguments. I think the historical apologetics will have great traction in those with high prior belief in supernatural stories, in particular the Christian story.

Note I realize the same could be said in the opposite direction. Logic and reason aren't sufficient to make a staunch Christian an atheist. There are responses to each criticism of Christianity, there is no single knock-down argument against Christianity. I do think the cumulative case is stronger for nonbelief, but I know that many Christians think the same is true of their worldview. I believe they are mistaken, but not in ways I can prove conclusively. There are two main islands, the staunch believers, and between them logic, evidence, emotion, personal relationships, and all sorts of other facts determine which direction they walk (and let's admit it most people don't walk at all they just stay where they are!).

Victor Reppert said...

Rule number one for fruitful discussion here: KNOW WHAT TO IGNORE.

Edward T. Babinski said...

@Vic, "ANSWERED?"

There is a difference between merely responding to a question and "answering it."

Admittedly many people assume that their responses are universally acknowledged "answers," and that merely by having submitted a response they have shut the mouths of those with questions.

But the latter is not so.