Friday, November 19, 2010

Basic Fairness, Unbelief by Default, and the OTF

John: I never said this was simply a debate between Christianity and atheism. These are probably the leading options in our culture, and so sometimes you have to debate one issue at a time.

The website that I have been discussing with respect to the Outsider Test was a site in which Christianity and Islam were compared. To give the short answer to Arizona Atheist, the site may not itself be completely even-handed between those two religions, but the evidence it provides in the area of documentary evidence and of archaeological evidence, shows that the evidential situation with respect to each religion is different, and that Christianity has some advantages that Islam lacks. So an "outsider" would clearly, I think, rate the evidential situation for Christianity better than Islam. Someone coming in with the same level of skepticism for each religion could pick Christianity. And since I don't think any other books can match the Bible or the Qu'ran on those criteria, the case could be made for Christianity as opposed to all other faiths. With some religions I'm not sure they even have apologetics.

As I said, the OTF is an onion. On one layer there is what we might call the Basic Fairness Doctrine, that says we shouldn't try to give other religions as fair a treatment as we give our own. We should attempt to compare, as fairly as we can, the believability of religions. To use McGrew's terms, this is the heuristic use of the OTF, and I don't object. However, such fairness isn't easy, but we all have to work on it. It means making sure that we are looking at the inconvenient truths for whatever view we adopt, and it applies generally to Christians, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, etc.

However, as the OTF is typically presented, it attempts to give a kind of special default status to the denial of religion, and in doing so it starts to engage in anti-religious special pleading. Then we start getting the diagnostic use of the OTF, where we look at what we think is true in the area of, say, Biblical studies, and then we conclude that anyone who comes out a believer somehow isn't performing the duties prescribed in the "heuristic" side of the OTF.

When I give my more detailed response to Arizona Atheist, I am going to look at an argument by Robert Price, and ask whether anybody could possibly take that argument seriously who was not infected with what I would call a hostility bias toward the New Testament.

You like to bring up psychological and sociological evidence suggesting that, epistemologically, we're all sinners. Fine. But then you presume that you can become a saint just by rejecting religion, as if confirmation bias comes to an end once you get out the church door and leave the fold. Not fine.

174 comments:

Thrasymachus said...

This seems about right. I think we can add a bit more to the OTF along the lines of a 'demographic undercutting defeater'. That as religious beliefs strongly covary with sociocultural stuff (technical term), then it seems reasonable to conclude that most folks' religious beliefs are driven by this sociocultural stuff. Yet it is obvious that believing whatever your socialcultural millieu tells you too is poor epistemic practice.

Yet this is only a generality, and doesn't many that every religious believer believes in this way. Surely a better way of demonstrating epistemic defect in your opponents is to present a case they can't answer.

finney said...

This is a bit random, but I found something that looks like the AFR (or AFM, for morality) in a paragraph Thomas Nagel writes about Harris' book here:

http://tumblog.nutregurgitations.com/tag/thomasnagel

here's the paragraph that piqued my interest:

(Nagel is here talking about two scientists whose ideas about morality opposes those of Harris.)

"Haidt relies primarily on psychological research, whereas Greene observes the blood flow in different parts of people’s brains when they answer morally loaded questions. Both of them identify a substantial subset of moral judgments that are associated, affectively and physiologically, with emotion rather than with rational thought. We are all familiar with such gut reactions, such as my feeling that Lieutenant William Calley (who initiated the My Lai massacre) should have been executed. But even though they are not the product of reasoning, those who have them will produce elaborate justificatory reasons if asked why they are correct. Haidt and Greene both hold that these are confabulatory responses, made up to satisfy an illusory norm of rationality. The real explanation is generally some combination of evolutionary psychology and social conditioning."

Interestingly, Harris, in opposition to these fellas, argues that morality and rationality are similar in that they both set normative standards. I find the analogy of this discussion to that of the AFR cool. What say you?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Total aside: Loftus' site is now unbearable, not in terms of content but the ads now take so long to load I don't even bother anymore.

Gregory said...

Blue Devil Knight wrote:

Total aside: Loftus' site is now unbearable, not in terms of content but the ads now take so long to load I don't even bother anymore.

Hehe. Here's a bit of commonsense analysis about the "world wide web" from Sci-Fi author Bruce Sterling. Pay close attention to his closing comments:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYb1MAsPgvQ

Bilbo said...

"On one layer there is what we might call the Basic Fairness Doctrine, that says we shouldn't try to give other religions as fair a treatment as we give our own."

Typo on the "shouldn't"?

Mr Veale said...

For pities sake, don't let these guys apply an outsider test to liberal democracy!
A Chinese political theorist might be very happy to point out that it isn't obvious to outsiders that this is the best form of government in pluralist societies!

Mr Veale said...

Finney

Excellent link! And I think it's entirely relevant to this thread.

It seems to me that the OTF conflates the Presumption of Atheism (which is dead) with the Genetic Fallacy. And then declares victory! And Nagel discusses popular genetic fallacies in the article.

I cannot see why tradition should be summarily dismissed without detailed argument. A belief may be supplied by tradition, but that does not The OTF just perpetuates a modern myth (that secularism is not itself a tradition).

Graham

John W. Loftus said...

Robert Price loves studying the Bible and even has a Bible study in his home. He's hostile to conservative defenders of the faith who gerrymander it to fit their preconceived notions. That's the difference.

And if you read him carefully he takes the NT seriously without prejudice to see what we can learn from it. The NT itself sows the seeds for doubt. It's in the writings themselves properly understood. He regularly says he arrives at his conclusions without having an anti-supernatural bias. In fact he once believed them with the supernatural bias you have now. It's just that when he studied the NT in depth he came away came away with a different conclusion than when he started. The texts themselves led him to reject his supernatural assumptions as it did with me.

Mr Veale said...

In defence of tradition, I would cite three propositions that, generally, we find obvious. Yet in different conditions we might not find these obvious at all. Those conditions pertained for most of our history, and also hold in many places in the world today.

1) Human beings have at least some rights
2) Each human being is of equal worth
3) No human being should ever be the property of another.

It is a historically contingent fact that we find these truths obvious. Good arguments could, and have been, advanced against them. Economically it is advantageous for us to believe in these truths.

Yet they can all be defended, and I firmly believe that they are true. I am glad that I have been educated and raised to believe in these truths. I am glad that I find it easy to believe in them - and that my belief in them exceeds the evidence for them.

Anonymous said...

When I read the five views on Jesus book, I quickly became convinced that Price simply holds his position for the notoriety.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I look forward to a sober analysis of what is taken to be top-notch secular historical analysis of scripture that is sympathetic to the skeptic. Enough beating up on Loftus and helping him promote this skeptical attitude that everyone with a brain is aware of, repackaged as the OTF. Enough already.

Is there a name for picking on the weaker intellectual enemy to attack rather than the strongest? Is that an informal fallacy or just plain old bullying? It would be like me picking on some internet yokel who said silly things about consciousness (e.g., conscious experiences do not have weight, but the brain has weight, therefore conscious experience cannot be identical to brain processes), rather than Chalmers.

Is there any essay/book that Loftus/Tim different folks would agree stands out as good secular biblical scholarship, that is toughest for the Christians to handle? That's what you should be attacking, not Loftus. No offense to John, but he's no scholar, and doesn't pretend to be. He's a preacher, not the deepest thinker around.

Do Victor or Tim think any of these books would fit the bill as a worthy adversary? It would be fun if Victor/Tim picked the best, the toughest, from their point of view, and we walked through it here. Forget Loftus, he's not a philosopher/historian, he's a preacher. Let's analyze something good, enough we know the weaknesses of the outsider heuristic.

I'd be curious if Tim/Victor would list the books from that list that they would consider decent.Especially those with a historical bent.

Mr Veale said...

Tim's taken on Hume recently; I think that's a worthy opponent!

Mr Veale said...

And Victor has taken on Mackie!

Blue Devil Knight said...

More historically oriented stuff would be interesting, given Victor's recent historical arguments.

Victor Reppert said...

Actually, I had gotten a substantial response from Arizona Atheist on the OTF, which I thought went further than Loftus did himself in defense of the OTF against my criticisms. Specifically , he took seriously my discussion of a comparison between the Bible and the Qur'an, which indicated to me that it is perfectly possible, on the basis of evidence, to choose Christianity over Islam, even from the perspective of an outsider.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

To John Loftus,
I have yet to see you respond to my observation that G.K. Chesterton took the Outsider Test (in his book, "The Everlasting Man") long before either of us was born, and concluded that it strengthened the case for Christianity.
I've read both you and Chesterton, and as of now, you are down for the count (and the ref is about to say "10")!

Mr Veale said...

The McGrew's article on the Resurrection addresses many naturalistic attempts to explain the Resurrection, including Crossan's.

I'm not really sure that there are many scholars just as sceptical as Price or John, though. One book on John's list is Thiessen and Merz's wonderful textbook. I was rather surprised to see it there. It contains a demolition of the sort of historical scepticism towards Jesus practised by Price. I didn't feel my faith challenged one iota Thiessen's work.
For example, Thiessen demonstrates an openness to Pannenberg's defence of the historicity of the Resurrection. He's very helpful on the criteria of Historical Plausibility. And I think everyone should read his "Shadow of the Galilean"

Graham

Graham

Mr Veale said...

BDK

To be clear, once you get to good solid secular scholarship, the discovery of Empty Tombs (and the like) becomes far more plausible than John can afford.

Graham

John W. Loftus said...

BDK said...No offense to John

Really? No, really?

I actually like it when Vic ignores me. I wish he would. What, me change any educated minds? Naw, that can't happen. I'm no "scholar."

Move along. There is nothing to see here.

Nice choice of books though.

A great new one is by Thom Stark, The Human Faces of God. I wrote a blurb inside of it.

In it Stark says of the case I made that it "cannot be ignored by Christians." p. 168, footnote 15.

But again, enough of Loftus.

Here, here.

Victor Reppert said...

John, I just ask that you pay attention and respond to criticisms of your position in some sort of reasonable way, so that the discussion actually goes forward instead of descending in to silliness.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks for the note Mr Veale I'll look at that book if I get the chance. I'd be curious to see what Tim thinks he seems to know the literature better than anyone here.I trust that he'd be able to note a good secular-oriented book, and bad ones (e.g., my impression is that Price is not considered a particularly impartial source: there is a small cabal of skeptics that seem to like to stroke each other, I'd like something outside of that cirlce, which is basically an extension of internet blogging and not very impressive).

Thrasymachus said...

Random aside:

I don't endorse any of the 'secular' fringe of biblical scholarship (then again, I don't 'unendorse' them either - I simply don't know enough about the issue), but I wonder whether mainstream biblical scholarship would be the best place to find the arguments BDK is after. It seems there'd be a clear selection effect for committed Christians to get involved in this sort of thing, and so they'd be a bit of a slant on this sort of thing.

Compare to the views of mainstream scholarship of the Quaran about Muhammad's literacy, Uthmanic revision, etc. etc. Obviously none of this gives carte blanche for people to simply make up whatever view they please.

Gregory said...

John Loftus wrote:

"Robert Price loves studying the Bible and even has a Bible study in his home. He's hostile to conservative defenders of the faith who gerrymander it to fit their preconceived notions. That's the difference."

This underscores a real problem with Protestantism, not Orthodox Christianity. The Reformer's emphasis on "sola scriptura", indeed, leaves the Bible open to any number of conflicting "interpretations". We can see this in the Reformer's own contradictory understandings of the "sacraments", as well as divergent views on issues like "predestination" and "salvation".

From the beginning, the Church was adamant upon the "unity" of the faith; with the Church as the repository of the "mind of Christ" (Eph. 4:4-6). There is, in fact, a division of labor given according to "spiritual gifts", but not a division concerning sacred teaching (Eph 4:11-16; 1 Cor. 1:10).

And anyone familiar with early Christian history ought to be aware of the fact that the early Church was fighting for a unity of teaching and doctrine. The condemnation that a later Ecumenical Council pronounced against Origen, for example, was precisely over Origen's novel understandings of Scripture; which was viewed by Orthodoxy as the well-spring of all the heresies that followed in his wake.

I say this not so much to find primary fault with Robert Price's heretical teaching, but rather to point to the error of "sola scriptura". This doctrine has allowed "Christian Theologians" to. then, promote unparalleled schisms and heresies throughout the Western hemisphere since the Protestantizing of 16th Century Europe. One need only look at the uprising of 19th Century Millenarian sects to see the tragic consequences of this doctrine.

Eastern Orthodoxy, though less affluent in America and Western Europe, has preserved the notion of "unity" by maintaining a "living Tradition"....which emphasizes "unity" in important doctrines and practices while giving Orthodoxy breathing space in areas of lesser concern (i.e. the "proper" way to cross oneself, the "proper" language of the Liturgy, etc.). Which is only to say that Orthodoxy is fluid in the accommodation of cultures and peoples who are just beginning to make it their own.

I cannot see anything but problems when the heart of Orthodoxy has begun to come to terms with the spectre of the Reformation and the pervasive illness it [Reformation] has left in it's wake.

Anonymous said...

There's something darkly amusing about a self-proclaimed skeptic who seems patently unable to be skeptical when it comes to, of all things, semi-anonymous comments on amazon.com. Doubly amusing when the skeptic in question himself has a rollicking history of sockpuppetry himself.

Victor Reppert said...

The problem in dealing with biblical scholarship is precisely the one that C. S. Lewis was responding to when he wrote "Miracles: A Preliminary Study." Why is it a preliminary study? It is preliminary because, on his view, you have to sort through the question of who antecedently probable the miraculous is before you can figure out who to trust in biblical studies. Although NT scholars tend to be Christians, perhaps the most famous of all biblical scholars from the last century was Rudolf Bultmann, who believe in a demythologized Christianity and was an unabashed methodological naturalist.

unkleE said...

"I wonder whether mainstream biblical scholarship would be the best place to find the arguments BDK is after"

I agree with this. EP Sanders is one of the most respected NT scholars of the last few decades and an agnostic as far as I can gather (so more impartial than either a believer or a sceptic). In his books he listed what he regarded as "almost beyond dispute" historical facts about Jesus, which included:

*Jesus was born about 4 BCE
*He grew up in Nazareth in Galilee
*he was baptised by John the baptist
*He was a Galilean, and an apocalyptic prophet
*He called 12 disciples
*He taught in Galilee, and his main theme was the kingdom of God
*He gained fame as a healer and exorcist
*About AD 30 he went to Jerusalem for the Passover and caused a disturbance in the temple
*He had a final meal with his followers
*He was arrested and interrogated by the Jewish authorities and crucified by the Roman Pontius Pilate
*His followers initially fled, then they had resurrection experiences (though he cannot say of what nature)
*His followers continued as a movement, believing Jesus would return to establish his kingdom

Michael Grant, who was a respected historian of the Roman period and not a believer, accepted as historical all this and more, including:

*welcoming "sinners" was part of his teaching and he claimed to be able to forgive people's sins
*he believed his death would be redemptive
*Jesus' tomb was found empty

That is a fairly impartial start to any discussion about Jesus and history, and pretty supportive (as far as it goes) of the christian case, surely?

Mr Veale said...

Uncle E

That's an important list. Luke Timothy Johnson would be very sceptical of historical reconstructions of Jesus, yet he would endorse a similar list.

I would add - I think that it is historically very probable that Jesus followers believed that he performed miracles, and that they believed this during his ministry. (That doesn't prove that Jesus performed miracles...but it is worth noting that even Crossan takes this seriously)

However, a historian is more than a chronicler. He has to explain the data. We need some account of the Historical Jesus that puts these facts into a coherent structure.

Michael Bird has pointed out that Jews believed that the Kingdom could arrive in stages. (Jubilees 23; 1 Enoch 91v12-17; 1 Corinthians 15 v23-24). This is a very important observation, because it means that we do not have to choose between traditions that remember Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom has arrived, and traditions that remember Jesus proclaiming that the Kingdom was to come.

It seems highly probable (this is the best that history can do) that Jesus believed that he was bringing the Kingdom to earth, but that he would do this in stages. His miracles showed that it had arrived, but that he must return and judge the world for it to arrive in fullness.

Which brings us back to the trilemma. Jesus was a liar,a lunatic, or an eschatological Lord.
We do not need to show that Jesus explicitly claimed parity with YHWH to get the trilemma off the ground.

Jesus' ethic was bound up in his eschatology. So if we believe that his message of grace (a 'brokerless kingdom') has any merit, then we'll be hard pressed to dismiss him as liar or lunatic.

And the facts surrounding his death, burial and purported Resurrection give his claim to be eschatological Lord credibility.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

“This is always the fatal flaw with the “Jesus Myth” thesis; the improbability of the total invention of a figure who had purportedly lived within the generation of the inventers, or the imposition of such an elaborate myth on some minor figure from Galilee. [The thesis] is content with the explanation that it all began with “a more or less vague savior myth”. Sad, really”

James Dunn“Response to Robert M Price” in The Historical Jesus:Five Views Beilby and Eddy eds (IVP 2009)

Mr Veale said...

BDK/Eric

Craig Keener observes that"...reconstructions vary widely based on whether we use minimalist historical criteria (admitting only the most certain evidence) a more maximalist approach (admitting any evidence not clearly inadmissible) or some approach in between these two extremes. Minimalists and maximalists both keep us honest about the outer limits of our historical evidence. The former, for example, help us not to assume more certainty for the elements of our reconstruction than is publicly defensible; the latter invite us to work creatively with as much evidence as possible to produce a cohesive portrait rather than arguing from silence beyond the boundaries of our knowledge.”

“The Historical Jesus of the Gospels” xxxiv-xxxv

So we need to choose the best from among competing explanations. And we need to keep the evidence that most requires explanation sharply in focus.
On this approach every historical approach, from the minimalists (like the 'Jesus Seminarians') to the maximalists (like NT Wright and Richard Bauckham) need to be read, and taken seriously, by every participant in this debate. And I think that Keener has insight here. The historian should not merely chronicle what very probably happened. The historian should seek to explain this also.


(Keener is working on a book about miracles and the historian. I'm looking forward to that!)

Graham

Mr Veale said...

I'll be quiet now. I've a tendency to go on a bit. Apologies to one and all!

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...

Mr Veale thanks that's all very useful stuff I think I need to read broadly myself (from maximalistst to minimalists) to get a feel for what is true.

Note though we don't just use history, but knowledge of how the world works now. If an old text says that stones began to "fall" upward, I will be much more skeptical than if they say that a stone fell and hit the ground. We don't go in with a blank slate, but a great deal of modern knowledge of how the world works, coupled with a complete lack of modern evidence for miracles in the present day.

In other words, don't turn off your modern intellect when you read ancient texsts written by superstitious goatherders.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Warning: long and rambling ahead....

unkleE: that list mostly seems good, from what I've read from the Gospels and Ehrman. Except perhaps the claim that a bunch of people had resurrection experiences. That's one I'd need to be convinced of as historical fact.

The earliest versions of Mark, for instance, don't mention such things, but basically the empty tomb, which was taken by many as evidence that it was all a hoax (especially given that it was a follower of Jesus that seems to have offered to take his body and store it in his tomb "Oh, no worries mate, let me take his body to a nice safe tombe" -wink-). Matthew 28:13 seems to have the embellishment, to try to undercut this argument, that the soldiers were paid to make up this story of a hoax.

So, for that one claim I'd want a good trustworthy (i.e., not some weirdo with an ax to grind) argument, and convincing that there is a consensus of reasonable historical scholars that this is the case.Especially atheist or skeptical scholars, as then I'd have less reason to worry they were just selling their religion to me.

ThE problem is that the NT is a work of propaganda, so the skeptic always has a kind of out when she doesn't want to buy certain claims. In that sense I think Victor is right, you need to sort of be settled on the miracle question to some degree before you will be convinced.However, that seems a major concession from someone who wants to use historical arguments to establisht he truth of the resurrection!

At any rate, I am after good historical scholarship. Problem is I am not a historian, and am largely ignorant of history, so don't trust myself to know if someone is full of crap. But I also don't trust Christians to be objective in this matter (confirmation bias all around).

I suppose I could commit to a couple of books. One I'd like to read is Ehrman's textbook itroduction to the New Testament, I've heard it is pretty good. Maybe as a tribute to Ken Pulliam, who seemed like a great guy, a good thinker, who cared about scholarly quality, I should read Jesus Beyond the Grave, as Ken recommended that book to me here at Dangerous Idea. This was in response to when I explicitly asked him what single book he would recommend I read for the skeptical perspective. Coming from him, that meant a lot, and now that he is gone, it means even more in that I want to honor him in some way.

That would at least give me a baseline for the range of skeptical views out there. If Pulliam hadn't recommended it, I wouldn't even consider it, as it has the usual list of skeptics that I tend to not trust (though partly because of apologetics going on at this site).

It would be fun if Victor got that book and we all analyzed each chapter together. Not asking too much is it Victor :) lol

Maybe I'll start a blog just for that book, and turn it into a series. After that we could discuss a more neutral source, or a response to it. This is the kind of thing I always wished Loftus would do, as he obviously is well read. It really disappoints me that when it comes to the internet, he is such an uninspiring and superficial skeptic.

At any rate, I probably won't have the time to do it, but if someone else starts such a blog I'll participate! Otherwise I'll think about it. Not sure if there would be interest, ideally it would involve skeptics and Christians, and wouldn't degenerate into stupid name calling. That would be a miracle in itself.

Mr Veale said...

BDK


BDK
1) You are sceptical that anyone had “resurrection experiences”, and you would like to hear the views of “a skeptic, a reliably skeptical skeptic, who has a good case that people beleived they experienced Jesus after his death”

“I conclude that the evidence for early appearances , from the women to St Paul, is unimpeachable, but we should not believe in the literal truth of the resurrection stories” Maurice Casey “How Did Christianity Begin” (Bird and Crossley eds.)2008

“The Disciples’ conviction that they had seen the risen Christ, their relocation to Jerusalem, their principled inclusion of Gentiles as Gentiles – all these are historical bedrock, facts known past doubting about the earliest community after Jesus’ death.” Paula Fredriksen ‘Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews’. Fredriksen, like Casey, does not believe that the earliest Christians believed in a physical Resurrection.
Their confidence is warranted.
The appearances feature in Paul, are referred to in Mark (8v31; 9v31; 10v33-34); Q (Luke 11v29-31; Matt 16v1-4), and in Matthew, Luke and John. There is no literary dependence. There is disagreement on chronology, and on minor points. But there is broad coherence on the central points – empty tomb, Mary of Magdala’s involvement, the command to tell the disciples, initial scepticism or fear, and an appearance to the twelve (implied in Mk 8v31 etc remember!) Most importantly it is impossible to explain faith in a Crucified man without some set of experiences to cause that faith. So we have multiply attested independent sources that cohere, and explain the birth of the first Christian communities.
Most commentators, including Michael Grant (who Uncle cited), and Maurice Casey, go so far as to affirm that the first appearance was to women. It seems odd for the first Churches to invent a story that lacked credibility in a patriarchal society, and unnecessary. They had traditions that gave that Peter and the Apostles seen Jesus. So the best, if not only, explanation is that women seen Jesus first, and that Mark and Paul sought to suppress the fact.
Odd also that the same commentators (like Casey) do not follow the same logic when it comes to assessing the testimony to an empty tomb. But each to their own.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

2)You assert that “the NT is a work of propaganda”. It’s a little anachronistic, but I imagine that most historians would treat the Gospels as something like propaganda. But Julius Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” is notoriously self-serving, (as is Winston Churchill’s history of the Second World War. It wasn’t just the ancients who wrote with an eye fixed on the reading public.) That does not mean that solid history cannot be recovered from those sources.
I'm an evangelical, so I believe in the inspiration of Scripture. I believe that the portrait of Jesus in the Gospels brings us into a true and fuller knowledge of Christ. And I don't believe that this belief is undermined by historical data ( Craig Blomberg's "The Historical Reliability of the Gospels" is a robust and plausible defence)
But I fully understand that those who do not share my faith commitments must treat the Gospels as historical documents, and that means approaching them with a critical attitude.
Even after the acid bath of a thoroughly critical reading, I believe that the Jesus of History is not substantially different from the Christ of Faith.

Walter said...

BDK

I would recommend reading L. Michael White's book Scripting Jesus:The Gospels in Rewrite

S.D. Parker said...

Since we're recommending books on the resurrection of Jesus, I thought I'd throw a couple more out there. Resurrecting Jesus by Dale Allison is a solid assessment. I just got Mike Licona's The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, and though I haven't got far enough to comment on it one way or the other, it certainly looks promising. Licona gets bogged down with respect to philosophy-of-history matters; but whether that is a pro or con will depend on what the reader desires.

GREV said...

Hello:

The comments are as usual very good.

One of the problems with an evidentialist/argument from reason approach seems to be illustrated here and in other places.

A problem highlighted by C. van Till -- whatever one may think of him, I think he gets this right.

That being -- a strictly evidentialist approach assumes too much of the ability of reason to create the conditions to enable a person to come to faith.

Reason can only present the reasonableness of the faith. If it is a matter of spiritual things being spiritually discerned then reason can only help so far and then the person is dependent upon God and His calling to enable one to see. Reason is not negated it is only put in its proper place of being limited.

Now that is an offensive idea to some as it cuts away any ground for boasting.

I have read Erhman only because I found them at good buys. Sorry, not interested in enriching him too much. I would do the same to others I disagree with if I can get a deal.

In the end I find opponents of Christianity rest their arguments on factors over and above reason anyways and I find myself not persuaded.

Walter said...

In the end I find opponents of Christianity rest their arguments on factors over and above reason anyways and I find myself not persuaded.

Not sure what you mean by "over and above reason." My 'reason' is the reason that I am skeptical of the Christian mythology. I hope you are not implying that all skeptics hate God and that is why we don't believe.

John W. Loftus said...

In the end I find opponents of Christianity rest their arguments on factors over and above reason anyways and I find myself not persuaded.

Which Christianity? You realize there are many of them right from the very beginning, some of which died out and would be rejected as unorthodox by today's standards. Care to specify? Next time you write such a thing say something like:

In the end I find opponents of the liberal Disciples of Christ, or Benny Hinn, or snake handlers, or the African Witch hunter, or the Eastern Orthodox, or The KKK, or the Assemblies of God, or the Mennonites, Amish, Reformed, Catholic, Anglican (or what have you) rest their arguments on factors over and above reason anyways and I find myself not persuaded.

And while you're at it you could say that of Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Chinese tribal religions, cargo cults, Scientologists and so forth, that you find they "rest their arguments on factors over and above reason" too.

Why single out skeptics or agnostics or atheists? It's because you have probably only seriously considered Christianity in your culture, and the only opposite view to you is us.

That's utterly ignorant.

I'm co-writing a book with a Christian scholar (Yet to be revealed). Here is what I plan on writing for my part of the introduction.

WE ARE MERELY WAITING IN THE WINGS!

GREV said...

Had to correct a spelling error:

Ah John:

Your usual over the top remarks -- That's utterly ignorant.

No attempt to ask a reasonable question. Your conduct is why I decided to no longer interest myself in your blogs which I did read extensively for awhile.

Like -- what other religions have you studied? Answer -- Islam quite extensively and continue to do so.

Buddhism a little and look forward to doing more.

African tribal religions some in connection with my international politics and development studies and look forward to doing more.

In the beginning was the Word. He remains the unfolding of the Truth that can and does set a person free.

Blue Devil Knight said...

GREV:
In the end I find proponents of Christianity rest their arguments on factors over and above reason anyways and I find myself not persuaded.

There is a gap between Christian and nonchristian worldviews that logic and argument will not cross, such that you cannot pull someone across inexorably via the strength of evidence and reason alone.

Hence, given someone who is a strong nonbeliever like me, you will have a lot of trouble pulling me to your side solely based on reason (because people can reasonably settle in either camp). Therefore, you must pull me over via some other social, emotional, or other factors (in concert with your best evidence and logic of course!). And this is what we see in practice, very few people convert solely because of philosophical arguments or by studying the historical evidence.

To be convinced that a leader of a religious movement was resurrected even yesterday I would need more than propaganda from his followers reported the next day. In the NT we don't even reach that standard, as the first accounts (by True Believers) weren't written until at least 20 years after the putative events, mostly not written by eyewitnesses (which are not very reliable anyway), and people were much more gullible and superstitious back then, which makes it even harder to believe.

Carrier's argument gist, plus or minus some details, seems reasonable. He seems much better when talking about history than when talking philosophy or cognitive science.

Note despite what I said above, I do think there is an asymmetry here. I think that logic/evidence come down more strongly in favor of the nonbeliever than the believer, though not conclusively so. Based on this weak asymmetry, I would predict that more of the nonrational factors are at play in "conversions" from nonbeliever to believer. But that may be because I'm a nonbeliever and want to think I'm rational. :)

GREV said...

Walter:

Thanks for the following:

“Not sure what you mean by "over and above reason." My 'reason' is the reason that I am skeptical of the Christian mythology. I hope you are not implying that all skeptics hate God and that is why we don't believe.”

Not at all! If I understand Van Till and others correctly, and one is always trying to learn, he and others are positing that these matters are ultimately a spiritual matter which a person who if they are a sinner and in rebellion against God cannot understand completely with just the use of reason. Or to put it another way perhaps, a person cannot reason their way to God on their own.

I do not posit automatically that a person hates God in the sense of some who post in the vein of unending vitriol or name calling or other modes of conduct.

I will always encourage a person to read, to study and to consider deeply these matters. I just do not bother much with what I call right wing fundamentalists on both sides of the fence who cannot grant that their opponents might have something good or truthful to say.

I am just trying to understand the limits of reason in my effort to be faithful to a Biblical understanding of the person. It is amazing how often emotion enters into the debate and how it can cloud reason; is it not? I believe CS Lewis had some comments to that effect in one of his essays in God in the Dock.

Shalom for now

Blue Devil Knight said...

Note also I realize life decisions are more than just about where logic and evidence lead us, and don't mean to imply that basing decisions on things other than reason is a bad thing. Hell, I had a cheeseburger for breakfast this morning.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

To BDK, Cheeseburger for breakfast? I'm jealous!

But seriously, I wish to contest your (quite unfounded) idea that people in earlier ages were more gullible and superstitious than today. Have you been around at all, lately? I mean, with real people? Believe me, the level of gulliblity and irrational belief among the populace is as great as ever! How else to explain the midterm election results?

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop wrote:

"Believe me, the level of gulliblity and irrational belief among the populace is as great as ever! How else to explain the midterm election results?"

As opposed to a campaign based on 'Hope and Change' by a inexperienced Senator who spent more time on the campaign trail than fulfulling the duties that his constituents elected him to do.

But you're correct. People are just as gullible and naive now as they have ever been. Our eyes have been blinded and our reason corrupted. Thankfully we have One who continues to guide the spiritually blind, deaf and dumb that is man to care for us.

Gregory said...

Victor Reppert wrote:

"The problem in dealing with biblical scholarship is precisely the one that C. S. Lewis was responding to when he wrote "Miracles: A Preliminary Study." Why is it a preliminary study? It is preliminary because, on his view, you have to sort through the question of who antecedently probable the miraculous is before you can figure out who to trust in biblical studies. Although NT scholars tend to be Christians, perhaps the most famous of all biblical scholars from the last century was Rudolf Bultmann, who believe in a demythologized Christianity and was an unabashed methodological naturalist.

Quite true. But this wasn't an issue for the New Testament writers, nor the Church and the Patristic writers who followed. This has only, really, become an issue since the advent of the "Enlightenment", where every tradition and position has been challenged by the so-called "enlightened" status quo.

What happened to the 60's "death of God" and "Gospel of Christian Atheism"? I'll tell you: nobody really wants a non-religious, non-supernatural "Christian religion". That's why we don't hear about, or even care about, that "hippy" religion of the 1960's. Perhaps a book ought to be written about it called "The Death of the 'Death of God'".

What I wanted, and I think most seekers want, from Christianity is "supernaturalism". And this is the most natural thing to desire and expect from the Christian Faith.

If somebody doesn't want that, then they can sit at home on Sunday drinking beer and watching football while the rest of us are sitting in pews....perhaps waiting to get home and watch football and drink some beer.

But I like these words from the seminal Brit band "The Clash":

"Everyone turn around and face the new 'religion'...everyone is sitting 'round watching television. London's burning with boredom now"

Indeed, it is. That's one reason why "supernatural" Christianity is so important. It ain't boring.

Gregory said...

GREV wrote:

"That being -- a strictly evidentialist approach assumes too much of the ability of reason to create the conditions to enable a person to come to faith.

Reason can only present the reasonableness of the faith. If it is a matter of spiritual things being spiritually discerned then reason can only help so far and then the person is dependent upon God and His calling to enable one to see. Reason is not negated it is only put in its proper place of being limited.


Is this supposed to be "evidence" for something? If so, then it, too, has presumed too much.

Interestingly, Van Til's position is very much in line with those "critical" scholars who want to divorce "faith" from "history". But in Van Til's parlance, "autonomous reason" can't rightly discern either "faith" or "history".

So where does that leave Van Til, himself? A "prophet", perhaps?

Apparently, he presupposes that he can rightly discern both "faith" and "history".

If this man believed that he was "elect", how else could he know but by some sort of "evidence"....which the Bible prefers to use the words "works" (James 2:14-26) and "fruit" (Matthew 7:15-20).

This is the Biblical use and application of "evidence". It doesn't presuppose or need any "election epistemology".

If any man, Christian or not, wants to know whether someone is with, or against, God, then they need only observe his/her "works" and "fruit".

or as Jesus might have put it:

"Let his 'yes' be 'yes' and his 'no' be 'no'....any other surmising is of the Gnostics"

Gregory said...

After thought:

Who gave us "reason", except for God Himself? Or we might say that God, by breathing His Spirit into Adam, had given mankind "reason" (Gen. 2:7).

Elsewhere, God--speaking through the prophet Isaiah--implores Israel:

"Come now, let us reason together" --Isaiah 1:18

Several things can be noted from this text:

1) God is reasonable and just
2) Mankind can "reason"
3) God is not Calvinistic
4) Mankind has an obligation to use his "reasoning" for the glory of God.
5) "Sin" does not negate man's "ability" to reason, nor his responsibility to do so (read the whole verse and then re-read point #3). Because even though Israel's "sin's" were as scarlet, yet he still appeals to their own "reason".

GREV said...

Gregory and others:

One -- I never said that reason is a useless instrument.

Two -- the following paragraph contains some paraphrasing of an argument used by the Apostel Paul:

"Reason can only present the reasonableness of the faith. If it is a matter of spiritual things being spiritually discerned then reason can only help so far and then the person is dependent upon God and His calling to enable one to see. Reason is not negated it is only put in its proper place of being limited."

I will not give the direct citation. I invite people to use their minds and find the passage.

So -- I do not believe that I am overstating or presuming anything.

I hope anyone claiming the invitation of God to come and reason with their Maker also understands the clear Word that the clay cannot tell the Potter how to do things. Again I leave it to the perrson to find the passage.

And also that the Word translated as Reason has about 11 different definitions attached to it in the standard Hebrew lexicon.

Anonymous said...

>I do not posit automatically that a person hates God in the sense of some who post in the vein of unending vitriol or name calling or other modes of conduct.<


Be careful GREV you will upset Steve Hay discussing his manners on here.

Mr Veale said...

“In the NT we don't even reach that standard, as the first accounts (by True Believers) weren't written until at least 20 years after the putative events, mostly not written by eyewitnesses”

Yes, but I’m not asking you to believe the Resurrection because someone claimed to be an eyewitness to it. I’m saying that we can conclude that certain propositions should be regarded as facts.

1. Jesus was put to death by crucifixion – he was publicly shamed. This was not an ideal death for a martyr.
2. Death at the hands of Roman authorities ended every other Messianic movement of that period
3. Jesus’ body was honourably buried in a tomb.
4. A few days later several of his female followers claimed to find that tomb empty.
5. The male disciples all initially disbelieved the women’s account; they were not expecting Jesus’ Resurrection
6. Later Jewish apologetic, which claimed that the disciples stole the body, implicitly agreed that the Tomb was identifiable and empty, and followers of Jesus had been at the Tomb.

7. Multiple appearances took place in which many people believed they had seen Jesus alive again. One of the first was to Mary of Magdala.
8. The Christian movement started in Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified, shortly after the crucifixion.
9. The message of the early Christians focussed on the death and resurrection of Jesus.
10. The early Christians met on the first day of the week.
11. The first Christians probably worshipped Jesus – and at the very least had a remarkably High Christology. (I’d like John Loftus to provide *any* concrete evidence for a 1st Century Church with a “low” Christology. Rewriting “Q” to suit you purposes doesn’t count.)
12. The disciples (including at least some of the first witnesses) were willing to die for their faith
.
13. Jews had many ways of conceptualising life after death and “visions” of dead people – (eg. Translation into heaven, being made an angel or a star)Yet the first Christians chose “Resurrection” which was meant to happen to all the righteous at the end of history - not to the Messiah in the middle of history.

14. The Early Church grew fastest in a Hellenistic context which would have been hostile to the idea of bodily Resurrection.

Mr Veale said...

I think that these propositions should be counted as part of Fredriksen's "historical bedrock".
And I think that these facts can only be reasonably explained if (a) Jesus' tomb was empty and (b) individuals in the Jesus movement genuinely believed that they had witnessed Jesus physically raised from the dead.

Given that rationalist conspiracy theories and "just so" stories have long been considered as improbable as supernatural events, and given the unexpected nature of these events, it seems that there is no naturalistic explanation for these facts.

Now unless you have some argument that shows that 'supernatural' explanations are *always* irrational, you have evidence for a miracle. (And we need something beyond a methodological principle that applies to one domain of discourse)

Graham

Mr Veale said...

That argument needs a bit of tidying, and will need some defending.

I'm using an 'explanationist' approach. Interestingly, the McGrews probabilistic approach seems to provide a much more powerful argument.

Graham

Warren said...

Mr. V,

Good summing up! But I disagree with your last statement.

I, myself, eventually came to believe in the Resurrection on the basis of just such an "explanationist" approach as you have laid out (and a number of other points could be added to your list as well). But probabilistic arguments leave me cold. Even if they convince my frontal lobes, they don't convince my gut - whereas the "explanationist" type of argument does. But maybe that's just me.

Walter said...

For me the question is: Do the gospel accounts have a high degree of historical accuracy, or are they dramatizations scripted to make a theological point? If the gospels are the equivalent of first-century CNN documentaries, then a supernatural resurrection is probably going to be the best explanation of the facts. If the gospels are dramatizations scripted to drive home certain theological points, then a naturalistic explanation for resurrection belief begins to have a higher probability. I am not convinced that the gospels are anything other than scripted stories, written for purposes of theological propaganda.

Mr Veale said...

Walter

I'm working on the assumption that there is a great deal of "fiction" in the gospels when I present this argument.
(As I've stated before, I'm an evangelical who doesn't actually believe this - I think they're more like CNN, (which can edit facts to present an appealing story, and can be justified in doing so by the way. You're operating with a false dichotomy, script v fact).

But I can set my convictions aside for the sake of discussion, and move forward with a very critical methodology.

So I'm not arguing that Peter seen Jesus cook fish, or Thomas doubted etc. I'm gleaning facts that a critical scholar should accept (and many do.)

Assume the gospels are the result of Christian "social memory". Social memory isn't history, but it doesn't have a wax nose. So it can only change so much in 30 years. Certain "facts" can be recovered, even if we make the assumption that there is a lot of fiction in the Gospels.

So, for example, I say the women *reported* the tomb was empty. Not that they discovered an empty tomb. Jewish polemic agreed. Then I move to an empty tomb. I'm using a "minimalist" approach.

If you take a "maximalist" approach like Bauckham, the case for the Resurrection seems practically undeniable.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Take a movie like "Hotel Rwanda"

Scripted, yet it relies heavily on good journalism like Samantha Power's "A Problem From Hell"

Or Julius Caesar's "Gallic Wars", or Josephus "Jewish War". Propaganda, but a source of good history.

Pointing to "scripts" proves nothing, one way or the other. The work needs to be critically assessed.

graham

Walter said...

I think the gospels are closer to the SciFi Channel than CNN.

I have never been very impressed with the "minimal facts that most scholars accept" approach, because the scholars in question are New Testament scholars, which means they are predominantly believers. Seems like a case of selection bias.

Mr Veale said...

I said "should" accept. I'm not for taking a vote. I was only talking about critical scholars in any case. And I'm trying to use the most critical approaches consistently. (By critical I don't mean obdurately sceptical. Any fool can play that game.)

I'm not sure that anyone seriously wants to dismiss the Gospel traditions as "fantasy" through and through.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

If it helps you any, I mean facts that should be (and often are) accepted outside the ranks of the faithful.

For example Jewish scholars and liberal protestants have no (religious) stake in the historicity of the Gospels. There's nothing on my list that they couldn't, and shouldn't, subscribe to.

IMHO (-:
Listen to me talk like I'm an expert, lol
Graham

Graham

Blue Devil Knight said...

We've hashed through a lot of these arguments here. I still mostly agree with my thoughts there, and as I said I think Carrier's page that I linked to is decent as well.

Mr Veale said...

Here's a sad story. You hear that some internet infidels, with historical training, are claiming that historical Jesus research has become an academic ghetto with it's own methods. It no longer pursues historical research in a manner that other historians would recognise as legitimate uses of the historical method.

Now you know that academic ghettos can form very easily (as in philosophy departments in England when Wittgenstein's circle decided who got the best appointments; post-modern theorising; liberal theology and so forth...) so you think, "this is a legitimate concern. I'd better do some research.

Apparently these infidels are also sceptical of ancient history. So you decide to research modern history, and compare it with the methods used by Wright, Keener, Witherington, Dunn, Sanders and Thiessen (a good spread, from conservative to liberal). You dig out your old text books, and you go through them, jotting down notes. And you but Richard Evans' "In Defence of History" and John Tosh's "The Pursuit of History"

Mr Veale said...

Having ploughed through all this, then, you read "The Twelve Axioms of Historical Method". And you realise, "there's three weeks of my life that I'll never get back." Carrier's scepticism is not only idiosyncratic. It's idiotic. You've read and researched, only to realise that you'd be trying to carry out a conversation with the deaf.
Carrier's axioms are either trivially true - " Overconfidence is fallacious; admitting ignorance or uncertainty is not"/"Every logically possible claim has a nonzero epistemic probability of being true or false" - or are demonstrably false - "An effective consensus of qualified experts constitutes meeting an initial burden of evidence...[because] the methods that generate such a consensus far more frequently discover the truth than err". Not only would this stifle any controversial thesis in the cradle; it makes you hope that Carrier never strays near a lynch mob.

Worse - "The correct procedure in historical argument is to seek a consensus among all qualified experts who agree with the basic principle of rational-empirical history."

Well, whatever that principle is, he'd better tell Evans and Tosh. But he'll quickly find that he won't get "95%" of historians behind him. And which historians is he referring to anyway? Polybius? Gibbons? von Ranke? The Annales School? Or do you need to be alive to grasp the principle? And does Carrier know where history is going? Will the historians of the future also grasp his principle?

In any case, as Tosh has a section (p186-187) entitled "The Impossibility of Consensus".(Tosh is referring to "explanations" at this point - but he is also clear that (a) explanation is the whole point of history and (b) consensus on the facts can be reached for **practical purposes**, but the history books are full of "ex-facts.")
Why is it impossible? It isn't that the methods are irrational - rather "the reason for this diversity of opinion lies in the complex texture of historical change...each historical situation is unique in the sense that the exact configuartion of casual factors is unrepeatable".

Mr Veale said...

In any case, with all his axioms being trivial or false, he can't say anything true or interesting. Which leaves you wondering why you bothered in the first place.

Mr Veale said...

For the record, the methods used by Historical Jesus researchers are the same as those used by mainstream historians. There is a concern to understand the past in it's own terms; a refusal to condescend to ancients simply because they are ancients. A respect for the "otherness" of the past with the attempt to explain it by putting it in "context" and by examining the "historical process" (the relationship between events) are all present in these works. (These are Tosh's terms). The term 'Primary' sources can indeed apply to documents written 30 years after events (Tosh p92). These historians all endeavour to acquaint themselves with the primary sources, and these sources are critically analysed. The assumption is that they cannot be taken at face value, so the historian goes beyond "the immediate concerns of those who created their sources, they..learn how to interpret the sources more obliquely." They "follow Marc Bloch's injunction to "follow the witnesses in spite of themselves."" (Tosh p137-138).
Rather than assuming that there is one set of historical sources (the Gospels, canonical or otherwise) which should be exploited for all they are worth, "the procedure is rather to amass as many pieces of evidence as possible from a wide range of sources - preferrably from all the sources that have a bearing on the problem in hand. In this way inaccuracies and distortions of particular sources are more likely to be revealed, and the inferences drawn by the historian can be corrborated." (Tosh p 134-135). This is what sets history apart from mere source criticism.
This mastery of all the available sources does more that corroborate or disconfirm a puported fact. It allows the historian to "recreate the past on it's own terms", to put the sources in the context of wider knowledge of the period. The aim is not (just) to establish whether or not Jesus said "The Kingdom of God is near" or "Render unto Caesar what is Caear's", but to understand what those terms would have evoked in First Century Palestine. And if those sayings sound plausible on the lips of a First Century Palestinian you not only increase your understanding - you have confirmed that your source contains some reliable information.
"The mastery of a variety of sources is one of the hallmarks of historical scholarship" (Tosh p134) - and, true to form, the historians above all attempt to master an impossibly wide range of sources - in Aramaic, Greek and Latin; pagan and Jewish and Christian; archaeological, social scientific and written. All of these are used to assess the primary sources, and to place them in their historical context with a mind to know, understand and explain what occurred. The methods used to interrogate the sources are remarkably close to the processes that modern historians use, and the problems of bias and gaps are faced by modern historians also. (Tosh pp119-138).
In any case, Evans, who if anything is more of an objectivist than Tosh, is open to a plurality of methods in historical research, and in fact encourages creativity in interpreting sources. His reasoning is sound. The methodology of history is constantly changing, from von Ranke's use of philology, to the influence of the social sciences and the insights gained from literary theory, historians are constantly learning how to gain a better grip on the past.

So getting a set of demarcation criteria for history will be problematic, to say the least.

Whatever the snake-oil salesmen might say.

Tim said...

Wow -- I take a few weeks off, and come back to find that there are 25 pages of comments on this thread!

BDK, I think you'd get a reasonable sense of some of the better mainstream scholarship regarding the NT by reading Raymond Brown, Martin Hengel, E. P. Sanders, and Gerd Theissen. For this purpose, I couldn't recommend most of the books on the Amazon list to which you linked; many of them are by authors with positions that are on the fringes of present-day scholarship (e.g. Price, Finkelstein). That's not to say that a position on the fringes must be wrong, but if you're trying to figure out where the scholarly center is, I think those four authors would provide a fair representation.

Mr Veale said...

Mostly my fault Tim.

I go on a bit.

It's my wife and kids that I pity most...

Mr Veale said...

Thiessen's "Shadow of the Galilean" is a wonderful place to start

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks Tim I will check out those books, I want to see what is considered sober mainstream scholarship.

Gregory said...

GREV wrote:

"Two -- the following paragraph contains some paraphrasing of an argument used by the Apostel Paul:

'Reason can only present the reasonableness of the faith. If it is a matter of spiritual things being spiritually discerned then reason can only help so far and then the person is dependent upon God and His calling to enable one to see. Reason is not negated it is only put in its proper place of being limited.'


Here is what St. John wrote in his Gospel:

"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which gives light to every man coming into the world."

He further explains:

"He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God; to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

The phrases "born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh", nor of the will of man" are referring to the same thing: child birth

So John is contrasting "natural" child birth from "spiritual" birth. But notice that John has claimed that God has made provisions for all men to be born "spiritually"; that is, through the "true Light" (i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ), who "gives light to every man coming into the world".

St. Paul agrees with John when he writes:

"God has bound all men over to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all." (Romans 11:32)

And St. Peter also agrees:

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Pet. 3:9)

So, if a man does not "receive" the Light, then neither can he/she be "born again".

St. John is very clear on the "synergy" between the grace of God and the will of man. There is a division of action between the Provider and the provided. God certainly provides, but mankind must accept the provisions.

However, this is reckoned as "anathema" among the Calvinists; however, it is the surest testimony of the Word of God.

Calvinism, with it's "secret" will of God towards the "elect"--and of it's "unconditional" salvation towards them alone, etc.--is nothing more than ancient Gnosticism repackaged, and sold, by a 16th Century Swiss Lawyer named "Jean Calvin".

Gregory said...

There is a definite problem with the concept of "monergism", as construed by Protestant theologians.

If by "monergism", theologians mean to say that God does all the "work" for salvation, then there comes a deep confusion when understanding scripture. How does a monergist understand these words of Christ?

"My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work." (Rev. 22:12)

Or, elsewhere, as St. Paul writes:

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will, of the flesh, reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will, of the Spirit, reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap...if we do not lose heart" (Gal. 5:7-9)

That is why we must "work out salvation with fear and trembling", as "fear and trembling" are indicators that "God is working in you".

And as the pinnacle of "wisdom", St. Solomon, has said:

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"

But advocates of monergism leave all "work" in God's hands, as though man had no responsibility or obligation in his/her obedience to God.

We cannot afford any longer to let men continue in a "gospel" of license...if we are to be shepherd's of the true Gospel.

Men and women are growing increasingly "sick" and dying in sins, even as they sit in Churches on Sunday, being fed a false "gospel" which tells them a message of "I'm OK, You're OK"...which is no gospel at all.

Even Pastors and Church leaders, as seen in the media, are falling into egregious sins that lead only to "death" and "alienation from God".
Families are falling apart. Sex, health and prosperity are now worshiped in the media...even in so-called "Churches"; to the shame of both. Individuals are cracking "mentally" for lack of a "sane" culture, and we scratch our heads and wonder "why?"

The only remedy for this is the true Gospel. But how can the Gospel be of any use to the person who is growing more and more sick with the idea of "monergism"?

Unless, and until, such "monergism" is rejected, chaos will continue to rule and reign in the West.

Mr Veale said...

http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2010/03/three-grades-of-presuppositonal.html

Mr Veale said...

On a different topic, I should add that I'm not entirely happy with Tosh's epistemology - he tends towards subjectivism.

My point was that Carrier's "12 Axioms" made a consensus the litmus test of good history. But it falls at the first hurdle. It will not gain the support of 95% of historians.

And secondly, if we accept Tosh and Evans research, Carrier's article is very poor history.

Third, if we accept Tosh and Evan's testimony, the twelve axioms would lead to the end of historical theorising.

Fourth, Historical Jesus research - across the spectrum - follows the norms of the profession. It can be good history.


G Veale

Tom Talbott said...

Jon Loftus writes: “I'm co-writing a book with a Christian scholar (Yet to be revealed). Here is what I plan on writing for my part of the introduction.” And in his introduction Loftus writes: “…but before debating an atheist he [a given Christian] should show that his brand of Christianity can successfully win prior debate contests with the many other religionists found around the world. He should earn his right to be here in the championship game, something he [Loftus’ co-writer] has not done. Why? Because the bottom line is that atheists are skeptics. That places us in a bracket all our own. We are not affirming anything. We are denying the claims of religionists. We do not think there is sufficient evidence to believe in supernatural beings and forces. Since this is the case, religionists must first determine among themselves who is their best contender.”

I guess I don’t follow this at all, John. Why would you expect a Christian to resolve all differences with other theists (not to mention other Christians) before he or she joins with Jews, Muslims, many Hindus, or even some theistic Buddhists (despite their distaste for rational debate) in defending various arguments for, or in criticizing various arguments against, the existence of a personal creator of the universe? Why can’t all such theists be equally right (or equally wrong) on the single issue of whether such a creator exists?

Incidentally, you would have a hard time persuading me that you are a true skeptic concerning the existence of God. For a characteristic of true skepticism, as I view it, is a kind of open-mindedness. If you were a true skeptic, for example, you would be just as open to the existence of God as you are to the non-existence of God. Or, to put it another way: You would be just as skeptical of arguments against the existence of God as you are of arguments for the existence of God. Would you say that this describes your own stance accurately? Would it not be more accurate to say that, like William Rowe, Michael Tooley, and other well-known atheistic philosophers, you are affirming the non-existence of God?

-Tom

John W. Loftus said...

Tom, thanks for your reply.

What I wrote was about the difference between atheists as skeptics and religionists who believe in gods, demons and spiritual forces.

Logically speaking we are atheists because religionists have not made their case. They cannot even convince each other. So let them. Let's see if one religion can rise to the top of the heap. None do. That's my point. Religionists debunk themselves.

While I do not require them to resolve "all" their differences, I think one religion should surely rise to the top as the one that the others look pathetic in comparison.

As to a creator there is only one reason religionists argue to a creator, and that is because when theists think they've succeeded they proceed to argue for their specific religion. In other words they have a vested interest in the argument by virture of their particular culturally accepted religion. Take away that vested interest and they will be like me, one who is interested in the results of science.

I ask it this way: if the Bible did not exist, if there was no book from which you were taught to believe in your Christian culture, what would you believe and defend then? Would you be so passionate about any conclusion of yours to bother on a blog like this, or in debates?

And for your information scientists are skeptics. If I am to be skeptical of skepticism then what is the alternative? That's a redunadant request--a double negative--meaning I should be gullible and non-scientific. But let's say it's okay to entertain gullible thoughts. Then which religion should I be gullible about?

If there is a god of some kind he is not the Christian one. Of that I am so sure I'm willing to risk Pascal's Wager on it as nothing but someone crying wolf too many times. But if one exists then he can be safely ignored as irrelevant to life, and as such I'm an agnostic atheist, willing to entertain the idea but so far not seeing anything convincing.

Cheers.

John W. Loftus said...

...and for naysayers, the Christian scholar I mentioned has had several books and articles published, and is a tenured evangelical professor. No guesses. We're in the proposal stage right now. But I think I trash him so badly I'm wondering if a Christian publisher would want it.

But that's what you guys love about me, right? ;-)

Mr Veale said...

Yip, you have to love a man who never knows when he's beat (-;

Mr Veale said...

John

the problem is that your atheism is socially conditioned. If you lived in Russia, or China, during the late 20th Century you may have been an atheist because you were a communist, and Communism was scientific.
If you were a generation X arts major, you might have been an atheist because you were suspicious of meta-narratives. But Marxism would not have been as appealing.

And so forth for existentialism, positivism and the like. They all reject Theism for mutually exclusive reasons. And they are only "live" options if you live in a particular time and place.

You're in the same boat as the rest of us, John. You don't have a 'view from nowhere.'

John W. Loftus said...

Graham to be in the same boat with me would mean you would be a skeptic like I am. You would trust science for what you could know. So you would demand hard cold evidence for that which you believe like I do, knowing how easily the mind is swayed by non-rational cultural factors.

Victor Reppert said...

Graham: Kind of like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

Tom Talbott said...

Wow, John, judging from the time of your post, you do respond rather quickly. But anyway, thanks for a very interesting reply. Because my own inclination in any discussion is to proceed slowly, taking one tiny baby step at a time, I shall here restrict myself to a singly issue.

You wrote: “And for your information scientists are skeptics.” That is indeed news to me, if it is true. Are you suggesting that all scientists, biologists and geologists no less than physicists and chemists, are skeptical about, for example, the existence of a physical order? That is, do they all take seriously the hypothesis that, for all we know, the universe itself is an apparition? Perhaps you could help me out here by explaining further how you are using the term “skeptic.” That might also help me to understand your remarks about gullibility, which I did not follow. Here I have in mind your remark: “But let's say it's okay to entertain gullible thoughts. Then which religion should I be gullible about?” I should have thought that a true skeptic would try not to be gullible about anything, including the scientific method and, especially, the supposed epistemological implications of religious and cultural diversity.

Perhaps, however, my own remark about open-mindedness was a bit confusing, and perhaps I can illustrate my intended point in the following way: As a boy delivering newspapers, I once saw a UFO. What I saw was not a light in a nighttime sky; it appeared to be instead a huge solid object floating silently across the sky in daylight; then, it disappeared within a few seconds, almost as if someone had turned on a Star Trek type cloaking device. Nor was I the only one to see this apparent object in the sky; indeed, a man on whose porch I had just tossed a newspaper came out just in time to see it, and we both exclaimed together, “What in the world was that!” If I recall correctly, there was even a picture in the local newspaper, though no one seemed to have an explanation for what we saw.

So now we can imagine two groups of dogmatists: a group of UFO enthusiasts who insist that what I saw was definitely an alien spacecraft, and a group of UFO debunkers who insist that it simply couldn’t have been an alien spacecraft. For my own part, I am a true skeptic in this matter. (Whether I am entitled to such skepticism is beside the point of my illustration.) I do not rule out the possibility that I saw an alien spacecraft, and neither do I rule out the possibility that I saw no such thing. In that respect, I am open to both possibilities and not so gullible as to accept either hypothesis as fact.

Anyway, that is how I understand the idea of a skeptic. Could you say something more about how you understand this idea?

-Tom

John W. Loftus said...

Tom said: Are you suggesting that all scientists, biologists and geologists no less than physicists and chemists, are skeptical about, for example, the existence of a physical order?

How is it possible for you to use the word "all" in two comments to me when I never hinted at such a thing? Isn't this a strawman? Please use the principle of charity if you want to seriously engage me.

I suppose you have no clue what an extraordindary event is too? Theists typically say this. And I see you question the scientific method. Some believers even claim they don't even know what it is.

And yet while philosophers debate the minutia of what makes science science, science (three in a row and I think it's legitimate!) proceeds to deliver the goods in chemistry, astronomy, geology, medicine, physyics, biology meterology and so on and so forth (hint: science is a human enterprise which includes philosophical analysis fraught with human biases but still it's the ONLY game in town and the only way to overcome our biases).

There is a reason why atheist groups state that they promoke science and reason. And there is a reason why faith based groups disparage them both (no Vic you only use reason when convenient for your argument, the rest you take on faith).

And so like most philosophical theists you want me to chase you down the rabbit hole of definitions as if you might possibly define the problem away. A skeptic is someone who doubts extraordinary claims unless there is a lot of evidence to support those claims, and science provides the evidence.

I can tell you why you probably didn't see an alien vessel if you'd like me to. Hint, it's an extraordinary claim (some of these claims are supernatural in origin, the most improble of all, while this one is naturally possible but still improbable).

Tom Talbott said...

Part I

In a previous post John Loftus wrote: “And for your information scientists are skeptics.” A sentence of that form is, of course, quite ambiguous. It might be taken as the universal generalization: “All scientists are skeptics,” or as the rather trivial particular statement: “Some scientists are skeptics,” or perhaps as a stand in for some more precise statement, such as: “All real scientists or all good scientists are skeptics.” Because I had no idea what more precise statement John might have had in mind and no idea how he understands the idea of a skeptic, I put to him the following question: “Are you suggesting that all scientists, biologists and geologists no less than physicists and chemists, are skeptical about, for example, the existence of a physical order? That is, do they all take seriously the hypothesis that, for all we know, the universe itself is an apparition?”

And, finally, John responded as follows: “How is it possible for you to use the word "all" in two comments [questions?] to me when I never hinted at such a thing? Isn't this a strawman? Please use the principle of charity if you want to seriously engage me.”

In point of fact, John, I was not so much trying to engage you as I was trying to understand you. Neither can I, for the life of me, see how a simple question, aimed at resolving an obvious ambiguity and at achieving a better understanding, could possibly qualify as a strawman argument. A simple question is not an argument, strawman or otherwise. As for the principle of charity, is there any better way to apply it than to ask questions in an effort to clarify someone’s view before rushing in to criticize it?

Tom Talbott said...

Part II

Incidentally, I fully expected something like the following: “I can tell you why you probably didn't see an alien vessel if you'd like me to. Hint, it's an extraordinary claim….” May I suggest, as gently as possible, that you have just made my point about skepticism? I am clearly more skeptical than you are in this particular matter. You may have some rational argument against the appropriateness of skepticism at this point; for example, you may employ some argument about extraordinary claims in an effort to show that one cannot rationally be as skeptical as I am in this matter. But even if you should be right about this and your lack of skepticism should be more rational than my own full-blown skepticism, it still would not follow that you are more skeptical than I am.

So I guess I’m still unclear how you understand the idea of a skeptic or why you claim to be a skeptic about God. Are you just as skeptical about the anti-theistic argument from evil, for example, as you are about various cosmological arguments for the existence of God? If so, then can Christians perhaps count on your help in defeating the ant-theistic argument from evil?

-Tom

John W. Loftus said...

Tom, there is no way as a self-proclaimed "skeptic" you could believe in an eternally existing three headed God who created this universe to test us for some inexplicable reason that must be taken on the same kind of faith children do with the tooth fairy. There is no reason why this God would not give us the evidence that our minds were created to require. There are so many implausibilities with the story including the fact that the human side of Jesus is now connected at the hip to this three headed God that you are lying to yourself to say you're a skeptic.

You can pat yourself on the back all you want for gerrymandering around the definition of a word but you are not a skeptic. That's balderdash. What amazing kinds of contortionists theists must be in order to defend their faith! This is a circus full of sideshows of deformed people we can see for an extra quarter!

Again: "A skeptic is someone who doubts extraordinary claims unless there is a lot of evidence to support those claims, and science provides the evidence." Now a skeptic can doubt more than this but I think its more reasonable to doubt that which is doubtable for the good reasons I have.

I do lose impatience here when it feels as if I'm not dealing with an honest person. Cognitive dissonance and an intelligent person can make anything all right.

I just wish there was a way to slap some people on the face to get them see what they have just said. You know, like those pictures of a duck/rabbit and an older woman/young lady? I wish there was a way to help people like Tom refocus and see just how stupid and ignorant what he just said was, but like with a brainwashed person he is impervious to reason, as are those cult groups like the Manson clan or the Applewhite groups--I can only be thankful he was not taken in by one of them at an early age since they were more self-destructive. But their cut from the same cloth once you claim to be more skeptical in the sense he claims.

John W. Loftus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John W. Loftus said...

People here are upset when I tell them Christians are deluded and brainwashed. Tom has just provided us with a prime example of this.

He's a Christian philosopher correct? That is my assumption, correct me if I'm wrong.

You see, I'm smart enough to know what he's getting at before he does, so I cut to the chase. What he's saying is in vogue among Christian defenders today, along with Eddy and Boyd. They know that in order to defend their faith they must employ Orwellian double-speak where words no longer mean what they used to.

Openmindedness is the same thing as skepticism, you see. And Tom is open to things I am not, so he's more skeptical than I am. But his kind of openmindedness means that technically everything is on the boards, every claim that a witch flew through the night to have sex with the devil, and so on and so forth. NO, I am not open to that extraordinary claim without a lot of evidence to support it.

Tom has also disparaged science.

This is the warp and woof among Christian defenders and it's utterly ignorant especially since every religionist could make the same epistemological claims as he does leaving us with no reasonable way to decide among them, which gets back to my point, that they are in one bracket and atheists are in another one altogether.

Mr Veale said...

John

To take your comments one at a time, but in no particular order

"You would trust science for what you could know."

We'll follow Paul Moser's analysis here.
'core methodological naturalism: every cognitively legitimate method of acquiring or revising beliefs consists of or is grounded in the hypothetically completed methods of the empirical scientists (that is, in natural methods).'

The problem with core methodological naturalism

(a) core methodological naturalism is not itself a thesis offered by any empirical science
(b) There is no reason to suppose that core methodological naturalism will be included in the hypothetically completed empirical sciences. In fact, the turbulent and sometimes revolutionary history of science would make such speculations dubious.
(c) core methodological naturalism has a universality of scope (every legitimate method, ) that the empirical sciences avoid.
(d) We do not even have any reason to believe that the completed empirical sciences would include any cognitive principles that would justify core methodological naturalism, never mind entail core methodological naturalism.
(e) So opposition to core methodological naturalism logically cannot be identical with opposition to Science in general.
(f) Some philosophers might object that core methodological naturalism is just part of the definition of Science. This is historically inaccurate - see Jame's Hannam's "God's Philosophers" (to be released in the US as "The Genesis of Science", but available over 'Amazon'.) It is also an arbitrary move. There is no reason to accept this definition.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

John

'People here are upset when I tell them Christians are deluded and brainwashed.'

Not at all---I find it very amusing. I notice that you haven't responded to my claim that your atheism is every bit as historically conditioned as my Theism.

"So you would demand hard cold evidence for that which you believe like I do, knowing how easily the mind is swayed by non-rational cultural factors."

I'm not sure what 'hard, cold' evidence is, to be honest. Evidence that cannot feature in an argument for Christian Theism, I suppose.

In any case, you seem to be acknowledging that atheism can be swayed by non-rational cultural factors. That's good. Secularism has much to do with industrialisation and the bureaucratisation of society. And that assumes a certain set of historical conditions.

What you fail to notice is that scepticism can be produced by non-rational cultural factors. For example, some cultures are horrendously suspicious of state led solutions to social problems, and demand a ludicrously high degree of evidence before they will accept that a state led solution is necessary.

Other sub-cultures demand unreasonably high standards of scientific theories. (See Mach's empiricism and his attitude to atomism; also the Cartesian response to Newton's theories).

It takes a particular set of historical circumstances for a scepticism towards religion to become not only acceptable, but practically required, in academic circles.

Mr Veale said...

And before you cite the success of science, I've just pointed out that this gives no logical strength to atheism.
However, it might be a driving force in the non-rational factors that underlie the success of secularism.

In many cases, rejection of Theism has little to do with a cool appraisal of the evidence. Dennett and Searle, to give just two names that immediately come to mind have both demonstrated an astonishing ignorance of Theistic philosophy recently.

Now maybe better atheistic/agnostic philosophers have better arguments. But it raises the question - what's driving Dennett's atheism? It isn't a cool headed appraisal of the evidence.

Graham

John W. Loftus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John W. Loftus said...

The problem with core methodological naturalism as far as I'm concerned is that it doesn't tell us the supernatural realm doesn't exist. That's easily granted. What it means though, is that all you have left is the claim that a supernatural realm might possibly exist despite the onslaught of science. Fine.

Graham 1 Loftus 0

...that is, all you need to be concerned about is what's possible. My claim in my magnum opus is that the more often a Christian must resort to this kind of reasoning ("hey, it's not impossible after all") then the less likely their faith is true. I hammer this home at several crucial junctures in the apologist case.

John W. Loftus said...

At the risk of offending you (but wait, it's okay to offend me and then say "no offense," so why not?), let me see if you can grasp what I said earlier:

Graham to be in the same boat with me would mean you would be a skeptic like I am. You would trust science for what you could know. So you would demand hard cold evidence for that which you believe like I do, knowing how easily the mind is swayed by non-rational cultural factors.

The "cold evidence" phrase is a rhetorical thing that probably stands in distinction from evidence that changes in time, who knows?

Take a moment now. Breathe deeply. Think. Re-read it. The pain you're feeling in your head right now is called cognitive dissonance. To reduce it you must make a choice, and cognitive dissonance theory predicts that you will almost always dig your feet in deeper because of the vested interests you have with regard to what your faith means to you. It also predicts that to overcome your objections I must make a completely overwhelming case that leaves you no where else to run before you will change your mind--something unavailable in our kinds of debates.

John W. Loftus said...

Graham, let me answer you with a counter-example.

Reppert, Talbott and McGrew to give just three names that immediately come to mind have all demonstrated an astonishing ignorance of Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Haitian, Voodoo, Scientology, Mormonis, and Islam philosophy recently.

Now maybe better evangelical Christian philosophers have better arguments. But it raises the question - what's driving Reppert's Christian theism? It isn't a cool headed appraisal of the evidence.

Become a true skeptic. Become an agnostic. That's the default position if these kinds of statements can cut across the boards, and they can.

Mr Veale said...

John
I'm fairly convinced by the evidence. And I'm not feeling any pain...but I'm off to Church now, so things might change over the next hour or so...I'll get back to you.

(Not at all offended, by the way. Your tone's fine with me!)

Graham

Victor Reppert said...

JWL: "A skeptic is someone who doubts extraordinary claims unless there is a lot of evidence to support those claims, and science provides the evidence."

I'm sorry, but this strikes me as a deviant definition of skepticism, one that would not be recognized by people in the skeptical philosophical tradition, going back to Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus, and even going through Hume. Hume, of course, provided an argument for skepticism about the miraculous, an argument that is based on an embarrassingly bad probability theory. But he was a skeptic about a lot of other things, such as an external physical world, cause and effect, induction, etc. What this kind of skepticism is is a skepticism specifically aimed at religious claims, or, rather, what you are calling "extraordinary" claims, and notice that a definition for extraordinariness is not provided.

By the way, it seem that the outsider test is framed in such a way as to say we need to exercise the same skepticism about our own religion that we do with other religions to pass the test. Couldn't you also pass it by being as (antecedently) credulous about other religions as you are about Christianity?

John W. Loftus said...

Vic said, I'm sorry, but this strikes me as a deviant definition of skepticism...

Sometimes in order to save a long discussion about definitions I cut to the chase about the specific kind of skepticism I'm arguing for in this particular case.

Words are tough to define. Just ask the Sophists in their debates with Socrates, I know.

But it seems as though you're dancing on the rim without an outright statement to the effect that you don't know what an extraordinary claim is, Vic. Come on now. I know there is a material world even if it's at rock bottom comprised of a series of interconnected waves. Waves are something you know. Or do you seriously think there isn't a material world? If you do present the arguments, otherwise such a mere possibility at best only reinforces why I think Christians are delusional for they have to act as if they take seriously some ideas no scientifically minded person could ever consider. But then, you'll also probably deny the validity of science in some sense too.

Sheesh.

Let's just throw science and reasoning out the window to believe. Let's cut off our heads while we're at it.

No wonder your friend Keith Parsons quit taking the philosophy of religion seriously enough to present it respectfully in class. I can't do this anymore either.

Victor Reppert said...

Do you have an objective standard for what is extraordinary? Or do we simply have to refer to our own prior belief systems to figure that out? I have a detailed argument against frequentism in probability theory, which was part of my paper on miracles that appears on Infidels.

What I was arguing was that the concept of skepticism that you are using is not the concept of skepticism that comes through the skeptical tradition in philosophy. What you are advocating is some form of scientism. Lewis argues that science is a truncated mode of thinking that operates effectively within a delimited realm of discourse, but he also claims that extrapolating and broadening claims made by science can get us the wrong answers. I also think that the demarcation lines between science and nonscience are much more difficult to draw than most people have been led to believe. Positivism is dead, you know.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, science is a human enterprise that is fraught with problems coming from human passions, emotions and our cultural baggage. But it is the ONLY game in town. It alone has the power to break down cultural differences as a check on our passions. It sometimes takes a long while for it to break through to us but eventually it does.

Science cannot operate without reasoning, so reasoning is involved. If your faith can stand up to scientific reasoning then let's see it. That's all. If a god exists he would know this is what is required in our generation.

Is this to be called "scientism" (that sounds really bad since we hate "isms"). No, I don't claim all knowledge must come through the sciences. There is imagination, pure thought, reflection on thought, and so forth.

I truly think that if scientism were properly understood rather than mischaracterized by theists they couldn't have a reasonable objection to it. But just to be sure I'm still allowing for the possibility that science may miss some truths I admitted a weak or modified kind of scientism (in that book of mine you haven't read).

And when it comes to extraordinary events I refuse to chase you down that rabbit hole, Instead let's talk turkey, specifics, like a man walking on water, an ax that floats, a pillar of fire that led millions of people in the night, a woman who turned into a pillar of salt, a donkey and snake who talked, or the graves of dead saints being opened and resuscitated and walked around on the day Jesus was crucified.

Victor Reppert said...

God has the power to do all of that. Nothing extraordinary about it at all. At least in one sense.

Victor Reppert said...

Lewis's Miracles tries to provide an account of what kinds of miraculous activities are fit God's purposes. Based on my own antecedent ideas concerning what God is most likely to do, some of these miracle claims are more plausible than others. But the idea that I have to use the idea of the causal closure of the physical as a baseline idea, and then only accept claims that deviate from that in the face of "extraordinary" evidence, I don't see that that is rationally required at all. That is explained in my paper on miracles on Infidels, as well as the paper I wrote for the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion.

John W. Loftus said...

God, eh? How can you know that he did, that's my question. Even if they happened there is no way we could ever know that he did.

Think just a minute about Balaam's ass. Let's say it talked. So Balaam goes into his local bar and tells his friends. Let's say you are one of his friends. Would you believe him? And how did this story get into the Bible in the first place (or others like it) when you wouldn't believe him? You'd say "Let's see the donkey talk!"

This skepticism is not in any way affected if we throw a god into the mix, for then we still need to know whether that god did this particular miracle--or do you believe everything Benny Hinn reports?

And so what are your background "priors" prior to examining the evidence for this case, or for the resurrection of Jesus? There is a chronological listing of "priors" otherwise they would not be called priors. List them in order. I'd like to see you do this. If you do you'll realize you must simply trust what ancient superstitious people claimed happened, even though there were no investigative reporters who reported about it, and you do not do that with any other ancient claim.

John W. Loftus said...

"Lewis's Miracles tries to provide an account of what kinds of miraculous activities are fit God's purposes."

Richard Swinburne does this same kind of apologetics in his book Revelation. As I argue in my forthcoming book this is nothing but special pleading and begging the question.

John W. Loftus said...

You guys continually want to catch this tiger by the tail, eh?

When will you ever learn to leave me alone?

Mr Veale said...

John
I'm just back from Church, and I won't get time to look at your exchange with Victor until tomorrow. So I'll respond to your counter-example.

1) You are dodging my claim that your atheism/scepticism is dependent on non-rational factors.

2) If Tim and Vic have good evidence that the Resurrection happened, they don't need to constantly check up on other Theistic or quasi-Theistic worldviews. They also have strong evidence against any worldview that is not compatible with the Resurrection.

3)Vic can also disregard any worldview that cannot deal with his AFR. So polytheism and animism can be disregarded.

4) I notice that your objection to the Resurrection seems to depend on something like methodological naturalism, applied to history. But the arguments for MN seem very weak in this case. And you have conceded that MN is not required by Science.

5) Your approach to the varieties of religions is muddled. There is actually very little room for manoeuvre when you are inventing a religion.
For example, Scientology and Mormonism are very similar in their underlying philosophy. They are variants of gnosticism. If you have arguments against gnosticism you can dismiss both, without an examination of the details of Scientology or Mormon.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

6) I'm also astonished that you know these three philosophers so well! You know their reading lists?

7) I'm not as familiar with Talbott's work as I am with Vic and the McGrew's. But two of the three philosophers that you have named are pretty big on evidence. That is, they believe that Christianity performs better than atheism, pantheism, polytheism etc. given the publicly available evidence

In Tim's case
[personal aside - I feel a bit weird calling these guys by their first names(!)]
he believes that the evidence for the Resurrection on it's own establishes Christian Theism. When other evidence is factored in, it would be insane for Tim to feel that he had to examine every other Religion as if he did not have evidence of a Resurrection!

8) I'm not at all convinced that you can put scepticism on one side, and every religion on the other. Zen and Theravada Buddhism, for example, would have much more in common with a thorough going scepticism than they would with Theism

9) In fact, a good Buddhist might consider that you are irrationally naive in your belief in the external world.

10) And what about someone who believes in Platonism re: mathematics, or numbers? Where do they get lumped? With the sceptics? Or the Religious?

Or is there a sort of limbo for these characters? (-;

Hope you get time to read through all that! (don't worry about responding - I'll just kid you about 'dodging issues when you don't get time to!)

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, John, and thanks for the conversation. It's always good fun!

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Leave you alone! Where's the fun in that?

(You're right, though...a bit of special pleading in Revelation. A lot of Theists have pointed this out ...CS Evans in "The Historical Christ and the Jesus of Faith " for example.)

Graham

Mr Veale said...

I'm not sure that Balaam's Ass was meant to be taken literally by the author!

There! I said it! Now my Church can run me out of town, tarred and feathered!

GV

Victor Reppert said...

Benny Hinn? Don't we have good reason to believe this guy's a charlatan? I wouldn't buy a used car from him. If you think the founders of Christianity were charlatans in the same sense that Hinn is, I've got some oceanfront property right here in Arizona I could sell you. From my front porch you can see the sea.

John W. Loftus said...

Tom, here's a link to a good video about open-mindedness enjoy.

Walter said...

Mr. Veale says...If Tim and Vic have good evidence that the Resurrection happened, they don't need to constantly check up on other Theistic or quasi-Theistic worldviews. They also have strong evidence against any worldview that is not compatible with the Resurrection.

Even if you could prove that a Galilean preacher beat death 2000 years ago (and I don't think you can), how does that verify Christian theism? How does evidence for a miraculously, resurrected human somehow prove that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, three-in-one deity who has a plan for all mankind?

Just curious.

GREV said...

Gregory:

Your comments while interesting are certainly noteworthy for leaving little to no room for discussion by your rather nasty label that you attach to Reformed thought.

Ancient Gnosticism repackaged?? Sad and not even amusing because of how sad it is.

So, many potential areas of disagreement can be demonstrated, and your exegetical skills properly questioned, but I will pass it by as your adherence to a sort of Arminian/Universalistic approach is quite apparent.

I will pass it by because I note with interest as the years go on an increasing intolerance amongst Arminian and Universalist types to any theology that differs from theirs. You being but one of many examples I have encountered.

The mystery of salvation is that God call, I or no one can know who God calls. Hence the free offer of the Gospel is made to all.

Don't see where that is ancient Gnosticism repackaged.

So, if you want to get your facts straight about Reformed thought and have an exchange on certain Scripture passages. Fine by me.

GREV said...

"...and for naysayers, the Christian scholar I mentioned has had several books and articles published, and is a tenured evangelical professor. No guesses. We're in the proposal stage right now. But I think I trash him so badly I'm wondering if a Christian publisher would want it."

So he is a tenured professor with stuff published. Big deal. I have suffered under several of those type in my studies.

GREV said...

Gregory:

I must note you did finally publish some interesting comments on monergism that seem to be almost reasonable in their content.

My congratulations.

Mr Veale said...

Walter

Simply put, the Resurrection is far more probable on the hypothesis of Theism than on any other hypothesis.

And, by definition, you have Christian Theism.

Whether or not that leads to Trinitarian theology and the like is a matter of investigating Christ's teachings. If God raised him from the dead, I'd say we should take those quite seriously.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Walter

I'd also refer you to my (very) modest version of the "Trilemma"

1) From Weiss and Schweitzer onwards, the "meek and mild" Jesus has seemed less and less plausible. Despite Crossan and the Jesus Seminar it seems that the majority of historical reconstructions of Jesus conclude that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet.
2) In fact, just about any set of criteria of authenticity leads to that conclusion. Even if most historians will not use "Messiah" to describe Jesus self-understanding, it does seem to be widely held that Jesus expected to have a central and exalted role in the Kingdom.
3) We can accept that Jesus is a failed prophet, who made delusional claims about his role in history, and therefore dismiss his religious and moral significance. But if we want to accept Jesus' religious and moral significance, then we have to accept his claim that he would be elevated to YHWH's right hand, and that he will return to judge the nations.
4) Now if Jesus rose from the dead, we can rule out failed prophet and delusional madman. We have to take his claims seriously. And this leaves us, with the Apostles, with a historical figure who claimed the same power and authority as YHWH, and who does what only YHWH can do (bring the Kingdom of God into history).

So if the Galilean Rabbi cheated death, then we have good grounds for accepting Christian Theism.

Graham

Walter said...

Whether or not that leads to Trinitarian theology and the like is a matter of investigating Christ's teachings. If God raised him from the dead, I'd say we should take those quite seriously.

I am not convinced that the stories we have "preserved" in our canon of scripture accurately reflects the teachings of the historical Jesus--whether he resurrected or not. It is my belief that the gospels simply reflect the theological views of the authors that crafted those tales. And those authors placed words on the lips of Jesus to provide some authority for their own particular doctrinal beliefs.

It strikes me as odd that Jesus never wrote a single thing down to be supernaturally preserved for all generations to come. He [Jesus] waits for some of his followers to be "inspired" to write somewhat inconsistent stories down, relating what is supposed to be the most important event in all of human history. God then allows those original documents to be lost to the ravages of time until all we have left are copies of copies of copies that may or may not have substantial deviations from the autographs. Would it have been so difficult for the son of, or incarnation of Yahweh to have set the record straight right from the horse's mouth? And to have written his teachings down on a more permanent medium like stone tablets rather than fragile papyrus?

The story of how the New Testament came to be simply does not suggest the work of an omniscient deity that cares to communicate in an unambiguous manner; it suggests--to me, at least--a man-made mythology that evolved over time.

Morrison said...

What is being overlooked in all this is that in the case of John Loftus, he clearly states in WIBA that Two of the Three main reasons he became an atheist were simply emotional.

He took no "outsider test" or anything else, he simply reacted badly to being caught cheating on his wife and lying to his congregation.

And the fact that by his own admission he continued preaching after he no longer believed shows that you can't rely on what he is saying...his arguments about why he deconverted are just too tainted.

And then even as an atheist he continued making stuff up...the fake J P Holding blog is a hilarious example.

GearHedEd said...

Mr Veale said,

"...Simply put, the Resurrection is far more probable on the hypothesis of Theism than on any other hypothesis."

(Paraphrased) "If we accept that magical sky-beings are a reality, then we can accept that our favorite magical sky-being magically gave life back to a dead guy for the purpose of redeeming the rest of us."

Right. I'm convinced...




NOT!

Tom Talbott said...

Part I

John Loftus wrote: “Tom, there is no way as a self-proclaimed ‘skeptic’ you could believe in an eternally existing three headed God who created this universe to test us for some inexplicable reason that must be taken on the same kind of faith children do with the tooth fairy.”

Where on earth, John, did you get the idea that I am a self-proclaimed skeptic? Yes, I confessed to being a full blown skeptic (and much closer to a true skeptic than you are) with respect a single issue: whether an apparent object I saw in the sky was an alien spaceship. But that hardly makes me a self-proclaimed skeptic on other matters. I have an absolute subjective certainty, for example, that minds other than my own exist.

Nor am I any more of a skeptic than you are with respect to some of your own claims--e.g., your claim that empirical science is “the ONLY game in town and the only way to overcome our biases).” You are a non-skeptic with respect to this claim, which strikes me as utterly dogmatic and in the very nature of the case incapable of scientific confirmation, because you think it true; and I am a non-skeptic with respect to the same claim, because I think it quite false.

Tom Talbott said...

Part II

In another post you misdescribed my view in a way that makes me wonder whether you have any regard for accuracy at all. You wrote: “Openmindedness is the same thing as skepticism, you see. And Tom is open to things I am not, so he's more skeptical than I am.”

Huh? Where have I said anything remotely like that? Certainly a skeptic is open to certain possibilities that a non-skeptic, such as myself, will reject. But being open to the proposition that minds other than my own exist will hardly suffice to make me a skeptic with respect to other minds, and neither will being open to the proposition that God exists suffice to make me a skeptic with respect to the existence of God. Such openness may indeed be consistent with true skepticism, but it is hardly sufficient for it. A true skeptic, after all, will have the same degree of openness to the proposition that God does not exist.

In any event, I have never claimed to be more of a skeptic than you are, though I do believe you to be far less of a skeptic and far more dogmatic than you realize. Although you and I will probably never agree on this point, perhaps we can agree that our current discussion, for whatever reason, is not going anywhere fruitful. There has been no meeting of the minds, so to speak, of a kind that makes it fruitful to explore areas of agreement and disagreement. But as the one who initiated this exchange, I do want to thank you for your various responses.

-Tom

Morrison said...

Notice how Loftus describes opposing views in a derogatory, Straw Man, fashion?

Like his "three headed God" dexcription of the Trinity.

This kind of marginalization tactic is typical of Loftus and reflects his fundamental dishonesty, as I mentioned a few post back.

The man is motivated by his bitterness at having been caught screwing a Stripper...who was also an employee...and then lying his stages to his congregation.

And no JOHN, these are not Ad Hominems...they are all things that you talk about IN YOUR OWN BOOK.

From the fake Holding blog to deleting posts without admitting it, while acting that you don't have moderation on your blog, you keep it up!

SERIOUSLY JOHN, I think you are now having Delusions of Grandeur with your constand bragging bout how you superficial team produced books are a "tour de force".

John W. Loftus said...

Tom, thanks again for responding.

When I said science is the ONLY game in town and the only way to overcome our biases this is a conclusion I came to over the years. I did so gradually. Initially I didn't trust the sciences to tell me what to think, just like you.

Let me put it to you this way. You accept the results of science in a vast number of areas, too many to list here, in every field. The only areas where you don't like the results of science are in those specific limited ones that a bunch of ancient superstitious people said otherwise about, concerning prayer, virgin births, resurrections, creation, and so forth.

Now I have every right to ask why you have a double standard here. Why do you accept the results of science everywhere except there? You will no doubt accept the results of science when they seem to bolster what these ancients said, and then turn around and deny these results when they contradict the ancients.

Why? If science has been so fruitful then be consistent. Or else, tell me why you probably disagree with scientific studies showing no detectable efficacy to petitionary prayers, when there is no other way to test them. I'm all ears on this. All you have is anecdotal evidence, wishing thinking, selective observation (count the hits, discount the misses) and faith in the promises of these ancient writers.

You require scientific confirmation for my trusting science before you will trust science like I do. It cannot be done. All I can do is point to its successes and ask you to provide how faith provides us with any knowledge at all. Faith goes beyond where the evidence stops. Faith will lead people to believe all sorts of things, crazy things, and the faithful will say as you do (with less sophistication) that they are skeptics of science, full-blown ones.

You think "it quite false" that science is the only game in town. What then is the alternative? THAT'S what I want to know.

So once again what we have here is a possibility. It's possible that science is not the only game in town, yes. At crucial junctures in what a believer accepts this is the response. It happens far too many significant times to have any reasonable assurance Christianity is true. I document these things in my book WIBA. Over and over and over when push comes to shove the ONLY apologetic response is that despite the lack of probabilities it's still possible I am wrong.

It oesn't seem reasonable to me at all when we add them all up.

John W. Loftus said...

Tom, having read part I perhaps I misunderstand you. If you are an agnostic as you say you are then we are not far apart. I am an agnostic. Over time I decided that there just wasn't enough evidence for supernatural explanations, so now I am an agnostic atheist affirming a weak or modified scientism.

If you are not an agnostic then you are playing a language game that is deceptive, and dishonest.

Anonymous said...

Hey Gregoyd, I wonder are you Gregoyd Boyd? just let me know...

Winston Smith said...

LOFTUS suggesting that someone is
"deceptive and dishonest"???

Hahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mr Veale said...

Ed

1) I wasn't attempting to convince anyone with that brief comment! I was asked how evidence of a Resurrection would confirm Theism.
2) If you want to provide defeaters - reasons for thinking that Theism is so implausible that it cannot explain anything - fine.I'm prepared to discuss the plausibility of Theism as a hypothesis. But don't think caricatures score any points in the real world.
3) You would also be conceding that, practically, no amount of evidence could convince you of Theism. Again, fine. But if that is the case, please say so up front.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Morrison

I'm more that happy to concede that there are non-rational factors at work in my Christian belief.

But as long as I can point to evidence (public or private), and genuinely attempt to use this to assess my beliefs, then my beliefs can be rational.

So I don't think that John should feel embarrassed by the non-rational factors at work in his deconversion. And he does admit to these in interviews and in his books. That's a good practice to my mind.


I think this leaves the "outsider test" in trouble - at least it doesn't work as an argument for atheism.

His critique of the Church could be much more powerful than the "outsider test" in any case. (Francis Schaeffer said that the Church should be our "final apologetic". It isn't functioning that way).

Graham

( I think I'm offering praise by faint condemnation)

GREV said...

Hello:

I'm confused. Why is limiting science to its legitimate fields of inquiry and not to other areas where it has really nothing to say a double standard? A trained biologist and philosopher who is agnostic, told me there is nothing wrong with that. In fact he tells me that most of the faculty where he teaches, a major university in my country, has little problem with a person being religious and a scientist.

Imagine that???

JS Allen said...

BDK said: "Is there a name for picking on the weaker intellectual enemy to attack rather than the strongest? Is that an informal fallacy or just plain old bullying?"

Personally, I've found this series of exchanges to be immensely helpful.

First, I wouldn't call OTF the "weaker" argument. It's only weak in the sense of "I can't believe anyone is parroting such a terrible argument". Similarly, a month ago, I was saying, "Those tea-baggers are clowns, nobody would be stupid enough to vote for such a weak platform".

Unfortunately, in the case of the tea-baggers, the weakness of their intellects did not absolve us from having to steadfastly oppose them. That mistake is going to cost us two years of gridlock.

When I first read TCD (which I still recommend), my first reaction was that the OTF was the weakest part of the book, and was complete nonsense. This series of exchanges has opened my eyes to a few things:

1) Just because I think it's nonsense, doesn't mean that people won't pick it up and act like geniuses for parroting it. I've been increasingly surprised that people repeat variations of OTF; especially after all of the devastating challenges that have been leveled at it. To me, it's akin to the way Christine O'Donnell's supporters tried to make up excuses for her ignorance about the 1st amendment.

2) The arguments in favor of OTF are more subtle and involved than I imagined from reading TCD. That doesn't mean it's a good argument; but that it's not quite as nonsensical as I first assumed.

Mr Veale said...

Walter

1) It is entirely possible to be a "mere" Christian, and to reject an "evangelical" view of Scripture. The history of the canon is beside the point at the moment. However, I find "Ebon's Musings" questionable in places.
2) Regarding the Gospels - one of the insights of Source Criticism is that the Gospels are collections of "pericopes" - little oral traditions that circulated in the Early Church (although some may have circulated in written form.)
3) So it will not do to dismiss Mark or Matthew (or John for that matter) as biased, and therefor unreliable. Each pericope needs to be examined on its own merits.
4) If a pericope fits the culture of 1st Century Palestine, if it is multiply attested etc. it is likely to be true.
5) But if you take your suspicion of the Gospel writers seriously, you'll find that you've another criteria for the authenticity of a pericope. If a pericope undermines a gospel writers purposes, yet it is included in the writer's Gospel, then it is likely to have been a memory that the first Churches wanted to preserve.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

In any case, the Early Church preserved traditions in the Gospels that
(a)embarrass the disciples or Jesus (eg. rejection by his family and Matthew 10v23),
(b)have features that only make sense in a pre-Easter context (like questions about the Temple Tax, or the lack of a post easter perspective in the Lord's Prayer) ,(c)preserve titles like Son of Man that the Early Church did not use
(d) contain information that would only make sense in a 1st Century Palestinian environment. Gerd Thiessen ("The Shadow of the Galilean" pp210-214) points out that Mark 1v5, Matthew 11v 7, Matt 15v26 demonstrate knowledge of the reeds on Herod Antipas' coins, that the Jews of Galilee made bread for the rich of Tyre, and that one could baptise in the Jordanian wilderness.
He also points out that many of the Jesus traditions ahve not been adapted for conditions outside Galilee

and the Gospel writers, and the Early Churches, resisted the temptation to create

(d) teaching on the Gentile mission,circumcision etc
(e)teaching on baptism and community membership, justification proto-gnosticism etc

This is evidence that something more than a post-Easter faith lies behind the Gospels.
The evidence points towards a community that wanted to preserve knowledge of it's founder.

Walter said...

This is evidence that something more than a post-Easter faith lies behind the Gospels.
The evidence points towards a community that wanted to preserve knowledge of it's founder.


Since I am not a Jesus Mythicist, I have no problem acknowledging that the gospels represent attempts at "remembering" the revered leader of their cult which spun-off from Judaism . It's just that I consider the gospels to be a genre of literature known as "Lives." This particular genre mixes some true history with legendary embellishments and novelistic elements to create a story that is neither literal history, nor pure fantasy. The hard part is determining what is true history versus legendary expansion. As a skeptic of miracles, it is obvious which parts of the gospels that I consider to be legendary. ;-)

It is also my view that we cannot know with much certainty what are the actual teachings of Jesus, and what parts are the words of the early church, placed on the lips of Jesus.

I am rambling off-topic, so I'll shut up now.

GearHedEd said...

For Mr. Veale:

"so, up front."

GearHedEd said...

A small caveat to my previous comment:

You can't prove that what's in the Bible is true by stuffing a Bible in someone's face.

I await the REAL evidence.

Anonymous said...

Morrison And no JOHN, these are not Ad Hominems...they are all things that you talk about IN YOUR OWN BOOK.

Exactly Morrison like you say Johns talked about it and its recorded in his own book for all to read.

So why do you feel need to keep on parroting on about it time and time again like some childish school kid who thinks he is telling us tattle tales.

When will you write a book Morrison and record some of your own problems for all to read about .Or are you here to also tell everyone you are the only perfect one.

After dealing with many theists like you for a number of years Morrison is it really any wonder John gets irate.You and your nasty theist friend Holding are exactly the type who will drive almost anyone to anger.

Do you really think you are doing yourselves a favour by coming here and proving the type of underhand tactics you use.And then you wish us here to all condemn John for anything he also got involved in.

Learn to grow up a little Morrison the only time we ever see you say anything at all is whenever you set out to attack John.You act like some perverted serial undie sniffer who forever hangs around certain peoples clothes lines at night.

Morrison said...

"Anonymous", you sure sound like JOHN LOFTUS...you even use some of his same phrases.

An oh nooooooooooo...you don't believe in ad hominems or personal attack, now do you?

Who ya kiddin, John? I know its you.

And when are you gonna get rid o that hat, or at least change the liner?

It must smell like dirty undies by now! LOL!!!

Tom Talbott said...

Hey John,

I had intended for my previous post to bring my side of our conversation to an end. But then I ran across this: “Tom…if you are an agnostic as you say you are….” That puzzled me more than a little. Where have I even hinted that I am an agnostic? Honestly, John, do you ever read a post carefully before replying to it?

You go on to write: “If you are not an agnostic then you are playing a language game that is deceptive, and dishonest.” Well, I am not an agnostic, and I certainly don’t want to be deceptive and dishonest. So could you perhaps help me out and point to some specific statement of mine, or some combination of statements, that is “deceptive and dishonest?”

Thanks,

-Tom

Mr Veale said...

Morrison

1) I quite like the hat.
2) I'm not sure that your tone is very helpful.

Anonymous

1) I'm not sure that comparing anyone to a pervert will help a debate.
2) "He started it" isn't an excuse.


Everyone Else..
Why do I feel like I'm back in a classroom?

Mr Veale said...

Walter
I'll to get back to you...but I'll wait until others stop teasing each other. It ruins a civilised conversation.
Thanks for the chat so far, and for putting up with my long winded posts!
Graham

John W. Loftus said...

You know, I hate it when anonymous people try to defend me from Morrison's distortions and personal attacks (a.k.a. Winston Smith, a.k.a. KC_James, and so many others names I've lost track). Then he repeatedly does the thing I could predict in advance. He comes back to say it was me defending myself. I do not post anonymous comments but there's no convincing people like him otherwise. I have nothing to hide. Morrison is a liar for Jesus--just ask him if he is all of these people. He'll lie. I have nothing more to say about his ilk.

John W. Loftus said...

Tom, I stand corrected. I guess rhetoric doesn't work with you and I should have known that. I was calling you back. ;-)

You said you were not as skeptical as me. That's what I read. So you're somehow wanting to make a distinction between skepticism and a true skepticism that makes little sense.

Is a true skeptic by your lights someone who questions everything, otherwise he's not a skeptic at all? Why must anyone doubt to the degree Descartes hypothetically did before he can be characterized by the word skeptic?

You claim to be a skeptic not a true skeptic, right? What does that mean? Are you open to believing in the little men of Iceland, the trolls of Norway or the Loch Ness monster? My mind is pretty much closed on these beliefs until some new scientific finding shows otherwise (with the elves and trolls the door is shut).

You wrote:

A true skeptic, after all, will have the same degree of openness to the proposition that God does not exist.

While you said we will disagree on this it is as I say, a language game of yours. You are muddying the waters for a clear presentation of what best characterizes what we think.

Tell ya what. You and I are probably both skeptics about the troll of Norway. Call us skeptics then. What are we when it comes to the existence of the Christian evangelical concept of God. Would YOU say that you are a skeptic when anyone asks you? Or a believer?

That's why I think philosophical definitional apologetics (what, you don't know what an extraordinary event is, really?) is like rearranging chairs on the Titanic. Nice sounds but no substance.

Now I may be misreading you but it seems clear to me that a true skeptic by your lights is skeptical of skepticism.

What can that possible mean? Like me you are NOT open to the many other religious claims made by the thousands of other religions, or is it you think there is a guy in Texas right now who is Jesus come back to earth?

John W. Loftus said...

Oh, and on second thought I wonder if Morrison was the one who posted anonymously in defense of me so he could in turn make yet another false accusation against me. It happens too often to be a coincidence coming from a guy who posts under so many names I can't keep them straight.

I can't believe a self-respecting philosopher would allow anonymous comments on a Blog for that and many other reasons, if he wants a respectful discussion of the ideas.

Enough.

Anonymous said...

Mr Veale said... 2) "He started it" isn't an excuse.

Everyone Else..
Why do I feel like I'm back in a classroom?


I need not excuse myself.I feel i speak the truth.And if somebody is calling the truth childish then i will let that be their problem not mine.Rather than simply insinuate im being childish i had thought maybe a Christian school teacher might first atleast care enough to considder the evidence thats available,and provide some other alternative evidence if my truth is found out to be very wrong.

Failing that i shall be wondering why it is im not receiving an apology after being chastised for speaking what seem to me like the simple truth.

Anonymous said...

Notice your site continually loses parts of comments people make.

I had also said before my comment went missing,i simply see no reason to sign in when i dont need to.When my being anonymous or not does nothing at all to change the truth.

Anonymous said...

Besides Victor need only look at the code numbers that come with the comments to see that my comment originates from a differnt place than Johns.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

Anonymous writes
"Failing that i shall be wondering why it is im not receiving an apology after being chastised for speaking what seem to me like the simple truth."



Sounds like our friend 'Physicist Dave'. Its the sense of indgination anonymous portrays and wanting an apology for said injustices.

Anonymous said...

No Jake wrong about the name and wrong again about sense of indignation.Why would i feel indignation.I have no need to feel anger.Im more likely to feel bemused if people here do feel comfortable chastising people who simply speak the truth.

Why such need to try and define who i am.Are you looking for any reason to attack me.Is that because you cannot prove my truth about Morrison to be wrong

Anonymous said...

If it makes people feel happier it really doesnt matter to me if Mr Veale doesnt offer me an apology.I fully understand Mr Veale is one of the good guys.A very decent man.

I only made mention of Morrisons antics.Because i felt it was the simple truth.If it wasnt the truth then the alternate evidence should be available.

Anonymous said...

The fact is part of the topic of this thread is about basic fairness.

I dont understand that its basic fairness for Morrison to only arrive on dangerous idea to attack John Loftus.

GREV said...

"I await the REAL evidence."

On the basis of what posited view of reality will REAL evidence be accepted as REAL evidence?

Anonymous said...

Morrison recites the same things everytime.John Loftus got caught screwing a Stripper.John carried on preaching even as a non believer (as if that is something unheard of)Reminds us all that John even wrote it in his book.Reminds us of the Holding blog saga.

And im accused of telling tales for pointing out how he almost acts like a serial undie sniffer with a special personal fetish for John.

Anonymous said...

And another thing quite often whenever this Morrison arrives on the scene this Winston Smith isnt far behind.

And yet people might wonder why John gets irate.Wonder why John might have got involved in the Holding blog saga.

John is far from perfect.But John is also far from being the only person ever to be driven to feel very irate about faith either.Im not offering an excuse.Im simply pointing out some things that could easily be overlooked sometimes.

Morrisons predictable antics might go unoticed by many.But not by me.

Morrison said...

John, why are you posting as "anonymous"? Frankly, since you are using the same smears about me that you have used many other times, its too darn obvious, old pal! LOL!

Come on, use some imagination!

As far as your posts coming from different "codes", so what? We know you have more than one computer.

Victor Reppert said...

John: I didn't say that I didn't know what an extraordinary event was. I said that extraordinariness has to be assessed relative to what one believes already. Let's take the case of the resurrection of Jesus. A Christian not only believes that Christ was resurrected, he also believes that he walked on water, healed the sick, raised Lazarus, etc. An atheist believes none of these things. So an atheist is going to rate the extraordinariness of the Resurrection considerably higher than will a Christian.

A person also may have experience miracles in their own life, or maybe events that they think look to them to be miracles, and that may affect how extraordinary the Resurrection may be. I am told that miracles are common on the mission field, for example.

John W. Loftus said...

Tom, I carry on a multiple number of discussions every day, some extending over the weeks, sometimes by emails, sometimes on blogs. It's like playing a number of chess games simultaneously. Sometimes I get lost. Sometimes I don't stop to think you may not hold the beliefs I attribute to you.

In any case, I'm lost at this point and don't care to re-read to catch up. I don't know what you actually think about anything and I'm not inclined to read about you either. As a Christian philosopher you've probably gerrymandered your theology to become more palatable to a modern world, but it's no doubt the same thing Christians have done from the beginning and will continue doing to the end. You cannot be changed from your definitional apologetics and will probably even feign that you don't know what I'm talking about. And I'm not here to win friends especially on a blog that allows anonymous comments.

You're argument as stated does likewise with me. You don't know what I think nor have you taken into serious consideration what I have said. So I'm not a true skeptic? So, I am "far less of a skeptic and far more dogmatic [in your atheism] than I realize" eh?

That's crazy talk coming from a deluded person. You show no awareness you know what atheism is, or what it means to be dogmatic. You apparently didn't try to understand what it means when I said I'm an agnostic atheist. You think it's important to say I should be skeptical of skepticism when skepticism is not a conclusion about a particular claim but a method of doubt.

C'ya round.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, where did Tom's comment go? It's probably in your spam folder. My comment directly above was in response to it.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, list your "priors" prior to coming to your conclusion that Jesus bodily arose from the dead. List them in chronological order. Keep in mind the ones that your were raised to believed in your given Christian culture.

I'm curious, very curious.

GREV said...

My priors that I held prior to coming to belief.

1) Christianity was nothing more then a nice social club, where people gather to do nice things.

2) A basic belief that there had to a God but in a deistic, you were responsible for yourself type of way. God was a necessary add on but an add on that did not demand much.

These are my main two priors (subsections flow out of them),, prior to coming to understand and believe that God is much more then what #'s 1 and 2 posited.

Was not raised a fundamentalist -- briefly flirted with fundamentalist ideas and finally rejected the fundamentalist approach as being too wooden and unable to sustain a person.

Continue my reading on many different levels and love this life long adventure of loving God with all of my being and my neighbour as myself.

John W. Loftus said...

Tom, come on over to my house and let's discuss anything there. on the front page.

Victor Reppert said...

Here's a post from Tom Talbott that seems to have gone missing:

Hello again, John:

In response to your suggestion that I have been “deceptive and dishonest,” I requested that you “point to some specific statement of mine, or some combination of statements,” to illustrate why you think this is true. And though your reply included several inaccuracies, I shall here restrict my attention to the single halfway accurate quotation that you present. Call this quotation statement S:

S: “A true skeptic [concerning God’s existence]…will have the same degree of openness to the proposition that God does not exist.”

I call this a halfway accurate quotation because, even here, you have lifted it from the very context that might have given sense to the expression “same degree of openness.” But in any event, it is utterly non-controversial, I presume, that a skeptic concerning God’s existence will be open to the idea that God does not exist; at the very least, surely, you and I can agree on a point as obvious as that. So what could possibly be deceptive about S? Here, incredibly, is your explanation: “While you said we will disagree on this [i.e., disagree about S] it is as I say, a language game of yours.”

Oh dear. For starters, I never said that you and I would disagree about S; that would have been absurd. I did write this: “I do believe you to be far less of a skeptic and far more dogmatic [in your atheism] than you realize,” and I did concede that you and I may never agree on that particular point. But where did I even hint that you and I would never agree on something as non-controversial as S? This is a simple matter of accurate reading, John. If you can show that my own prose was confusing or insufficiently clear, then I will happily concede the point. For this would not be the first time. But if statement S is not itself deceptive and S is the only halfway accurate quotation you can offer as evidence of my deceptiveness, then I find it hard even to take your charge of deceptiveness seriously at this point.

With the best of wishes,

-Tom


John has already responded to it.

Anonymous said...

Morrison Come on, use some imagination!

Yeah Morrison great idea.Point out how often otherwise we ever see you post here on dangerous idea.Cant can you.Funny how honest truth stands up strong on its own steam.

Tom Talbott said...

John, your previous reply (and others) has inspired me to write the following meta-comment on our conversation:

I initiated our exchange not because I wanted to defend my theism or to refute your atheism (after all, some of my best friends, as some say, are blacks…oops, I mean atheists in this case!). I simply found your introduction to your debate book intriguing and found myself bewildered by your statement that “atheists are skeptics…. We are not affirming anything.” And because more than a few atheists would find this remark no less bewildering than I do, the differences between atheists and theists seemed to me irrelevant to the issue I initially raised. It seemed to me then, even as it does now, that atheists affirm a lot of things--about the nature of reason and evidence, for example--and many of your own posts seem to underscore the point that you have a positive belief that God does not exist (which is fine with me).

But you and I seem to view these conversations very differently, as your previous reply confirms. When I raise a point or put a question to someone, I typically have something very specific in mind, have no preconceived notion of some larger conclusion that the conversation as a whole should support, and certainly have no apologetic intent. The last thing I am interested in is debating the merits of theism and atheism in some highly generalized way and in an us verses them fashion. So when I put to you a clarifying question and immediately got back a lot of silliness about straw man arguments and the principle of charity, I quickly lost interest in the conversation and started looking for a way to end it politely.

Even as I am impatient with quick back and forth exchanges, which seem to me a huge waste of time, and with those who respond quickly off the top of their head as they try to talk about everything at once, so you appear to be impatient with someone who prefers to move slowly from one point to another and also prefers to ignore all the background noise while doing so. I’m not even saying that one of these approaches is necessarily better than the other. It all depends upon one’s overall purposes, as you would probably point out. But perhaps you can see why my own approach is pretty ill-suited for these electronic fever swamps.

Anyway, I thank you again for your part in our discussion.

-Tom

Mr Veale said...

John
(1)I'm pretty sure that you can't argue "I don't know what you've written and I won't try to find out because I know the sort of thing that you write"
(2)Once again you assume that the beliefs and assumptions that you use to assess Christianity are not the products of non-rational social forces. I'm happy to accept that what seems plausible to me has been shaped by nature and nurture (but not only by nature and nurture). Whereas for the OTF to work as an argument against religious faith, you must assume that a person can escape the effects of nature and nuture altogether. This seems to be a hangover from Enlightenment rationalism, uncritically accepted.
(3)That said, some of the ad hominems aimed at you seem less than helpful. On other Christian sites I've noticed that you are the victim of gossip. This helps no one, least of all orthodox Christians.

Morrison said...

Mr. Veale, there is one thing for sure that Loftus is NOT.

He is NOT a victim.

Athough he like to portray himself as one, as he laments and whines about the poor treatment other Chrsitians gave him.

Like how they did not fall all over themselves telling him how great he was when he cheated on his wife.

But let me make clear my problem with Loftus...

He cheated on his wife...and then he blamed HER for "lacking
passion".

And the Stripper? He blamed HER for tempting him.

What a PUSSY.

And then he had the GALL to say he liked to be WORSHIPPED! That gives it away right there.
Hell, his own cousin didn't trust him!

And these are not ad hominems, they are just things LOFTUS was STUPID enough to put in his book, thinking that this "oh so great honest" would make people admire him.

Well, it didn't. LOL!

Victor Reppert said...

Morrison: This is off-track. Cease and desist. People can draw their own conclusions about John's character. He seems well-enough liked by many of his commentators on DC.

Mr Veale said...

Thank you Dr Reppert.
I hope that I haven't made things worse by drawing attention to some of the unhelpful comments (and it was foolish of me to think that I could stop the acrimony).
If I have made a bad situation worse, I apologise to you and to John

Graham

Tom Talbott said...

Hey Morrison,

You seem to have misunderstood the nature of ad hominem arguments. Even if I record all of my character flaws in a book and the whole world knows about them, these have no relevance to the soundness of some argument I might formulate for or against the existence of God. So in general you can’t say, “This is in John’s book; therefore, my pointing it out is relevant to my argument and does not qualify as an ad hominem argument.

-Tom

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks Vic, Graham and Tom. And Tom, I probably misread your intentions and jumped on you without merit. I am attacked so many times it's hard not to know.

But listen to this. Morrison, who goes by so many names I forget them all, is so obsessed with me that within 15 mintues or more of posting something on my Blog there he is spitting out this garbage. I banned time and again without the power to actually kick him off Blogger, but he said he didn't have any regard for an atheist's wishes and kept coming back, over and over again. This has gone on for over four years. Sometimes I he gets tired of me deleting his comments and goes away for a time but he comes back before long. He hates me with the hatred that God has for sin, you see. He thinks I'm dangerous.

He is a liar for Jesus who's goal is to poison the well against me and my arguments, a Christian who for all I know is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, but I don't know for sure. Since I linked to this discussion he followed.

Hey, they say you can always tell how famous someone is by the number of stalkers he has. He's one. I have others. JP Holding has one blog dedicated to me, lil ole me.

tee hee.

Anonymous said...

"TE HEE HEE", yourself Johnny!

I am LMFAO reading about you calling people liars, and belly aching about Holding.

We all know you are a liar, since you have admitted it, and that you faked a blog about Holding.

And now you are making claims about the obnoxious Morrison.

The trouble is, how do we know any of that smack you are talking is true? After all, you may be LYING!!!

Te he he.

John W. Loftus said...

Hey, Tom perhaps I should just give up. After all, I've concluded that atheism can't win. Look at the insurmountable odds we have, whereas so far, Christianity has it easy.

Cheers.

Mr Veale said...

It all depends on the context John. Industrialised and bureaucratised societies seem to favour atheism - Justin Barrett has interesting suggestions about why these conditions seem to work against our inbuilt tendency to believe in supernatural agents.
The academy seems to accept atheism as a default position. Different types of atheism seem to affect different departments. Relativism for the arts, scientism for the biological sciences.

A Christian might complain that secularism sets the agenda in Europe - even in lil' ol' Ireland. (A vague "belief in belief" seems to be the norm).

As for existential reasons for belief, I think that they can be used as evidence for premises in theistic arguments. And a Pascalian might argue that they can motivate a rational belief in God. So I don't think that you can cite these as disadvantages for rational discourse!

(One thing that Dawkins does not do is compare the Science faculties with the Arts. I don't have the reference to hand, but Michael Argyle in "Psychology and Religion" points to research that shows that the Arts tend to greater irreligiosity.)

Graham

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