Thursday, January 13, 2011

Has Archaeology Disproven the Exodus?

This is a Jewish source that suggests that, at the very least, the case is controversial, and not an assured result. And this is a companion essay.

79 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Wow, Vic, your God is brilliant! At best he offers controversial evidence for believers. When we couple that with natural explanations for religious phenomena and philosophical counter-arguments against what you defend no wonder it's difficult to believe, and no wonder your God rewards faith since it kicks against the goads, and no wonder atheists define faith as an unjustified blind leap.

All you have to do is say over and over and over that people who do not believe do not want to believe.

Say it. The more you do the more you'll actually believe such nonsense.

RoBe said...

Wow, I do not have thick enough skin to be a scholar, philosopher, critic, or part of the intelligencia! But Kudos to both of you for putting out some thought provoking and hard hitting material! Keep it up guys!

Anonymous said...

Natural explanations? Philosophical counter-arguments? Funny, I saw a certain atheist deriding philosophy very recently. The philosophical arguments against theism are almost universally horrid. And the philosophical arguments for atheism are worse, which is why atheists have almost universally abandoned offering them.

But keep on bluffing, John. Between the fake blogs, the fake comments on other sites, and your general habit of holding your hands over your ears and yelling whenever your lack of intellectual rigor is exposed, you're a hell of a sight. But you don't seem to realize it - just as science would predict. ;)

GREV said...

Vic:

Interesting articles. I find the subject fascinating.

I read last year a very good work on the last days and crucifixion of Jesus by a Jewish archaeologist. Accepted that it all occured and provided good material but did not accept Jesus for who He claims to be.

Fair enough. Good research.

Victor Reppert said...

John, you made a claim. You said that the archaeological evidence disproves the occurrence of the Exodus in much the way that DNA evidence disproves Mormon claims that Native Americans are descended from Jews. (To be fair, Mormons nowadays back away from that claim). I provide arguments against that claim, namely, citing a Jewish article which argues that archaeological evidence has not in fact disproved the Exodus. To stick to the subject, you should either have to say "Yes, you're right, it isn't disproven," or "No, here's are some arguments rebutting the arguments made in the two pieces which show that, indeed, archaeological evidence has refuted the Exodus, or at least shown strong inductive support for the claim that it did not take place. But you do neither. You then come up with this argument that you often imply, that epistemic ambiguity with respect to God is somehow a disproof of his existence. You are implying, I take it, that God wouldn't be very bright unless he showed us beyond the shadow of any doubt that he existed, and if there were statements in a book that He wanted us to believe, he ought to make that so obvious that not even a fool could say in his heart, "There is no God."

But that's a whole different subject, and before you come to the line of scrimmage, I think it's time to walk off a 15-yard penalty for changing the subject. It is a subject that does interest me, and one I was thinking of saying something about, but the point of this post.

Bob Prokop said...

I'm baffled as to why John thinks I or any other orthodox Christian should feel a need to defend Mormonism? He keeps bringing that up as though it were somehow relevant.

Newsflash, John. I have no interest in shilling for Mormonism, Islam, Scientology, or any for that matter any creed other than that faithfully proclaimed by the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church ever since Pentacost Sunday, 33 A.D.

In all seriousness, what is your point? I doubt there are any Mormons participating on this website, so why bring it up?

Victor Reppert said...

John thinks that if he could just get us to be as critical of Christianity as we are of Mormonism, we would instantly see that Christianity is false, just as Mormonism is false. The fact that we accept Christianity and not Mormonism is evidence that we are operating with a double standard.

Does anyone know what this line of argument is called?

Jake Elwood XVI said...

Q. Does anyone know what this line of argument is called?

A. The OTF™

Bob Prokop said...

Well, if that is his point, then he'd better be careful. reasoning like that can come round and bite one in the backside. By that logic, Loftus cannot trust in what he calls "science", because he cannot defend Ptolemaic Cosmology or the Steady State theory.

steve said...

John W. Loftus said...

"Wow, Vic, your God is brilliant! At best he offers controversial evidence for believers."

i) Of course, that objection is circular. Controversial to whom? Unbelievers? So he's appealing to disbelief to justify disbelief. Why is it unbelievable? Because he doesn't believe it! That makes it "controversial."

ii) In addition, Loftus is confusing evidence with corroborative evidence. But if the Bible said it happened, then that, of itself, is prima facie evidence that it happened.

For instance, Loftus talks about his affair with a stripper. He provides no corroboration. Yet he expects the reader to take his word for it.

John W. Loftus said...

Listen up and think, okay? No really, think. I am not an archaeologist in case you haven't heard. But I have read Israel Finkelstein and William Dever and Hector Avalos on the matter. And I have watched a really great PBS program called The Bible's Buried Secrets (which takes a bit to load but is really excellent).

Sooooo, what am I to conclude?

No really. What should I as a non-specialist conclude?

And your God thinks that with this archaeological evidence that has convinced most all Biblical scholars, along with the natural explanations for religious phenomena that are available, and the counter-arguments philosophical against the existence of God that Keith Parsons thinks have so decisively debunked them that he quit teaching philosophy of religion, that I should believe?

Doubt is the adult attitude.

I know you don't want to hear this. That's why several of the comments above are utterly uncharitable toward my views. You don't even try to understand me.

Anonymous said...

No really. What should I as a non-specialist conclude?

That sliding in the name of a co-contributor to your own blog as "someone you've read" as a statement of authority is pretty funny?

And your God thinks that with this archaeological evidence that has convinced most all Biblical scholars

Apparently not, given that it's a controversial position with plenty of counterargument to it.

along with the natural explanations for religious phenomena that are available,

Oh, those pretty slipshod, horrid, badly argued ones?

and the counter-arguments philosophical against the existence of God that Keith Parsons thinks have so decisively debunked them that he quit teaching philosophy of religion,

“There are certain things William Lane Craig takes to be metaphysical intuitions, like that it’s undeniable that the universe must have had a cause—and for me it’s not. My intuitions are quite different,” Parsons says. And what then? He adds, “And then, once we’ve reached that point, there’s just no further to go.”

Funny. Parsons is taking a line that sounds vastly more like Reppert's than yours in that quote. And Parson's personal opinion of the opposing views matters as much to me as would a theistic philosopher's claim that the arguments for atheism are all bunk and ridiculous (As WLC and others suggest). Would that matter to YOU, John?

Doubly funny since Parsons also reportedly said his decision to quit the field should in his opinion be of "zero epistemic significance" to others. He was making a statement of his personal evaluation. Many others disagree (in fact, the majority of his field disagrees). Such is life.

What's more, last I checked you had deistic leanings yourself. What do you think of deism, John? Do you realize yet that even deism is not atheism?

I know you don't want to hear this. That's why several of the comments above are utterly uncharitable toward my views. You don't even try to understand me.

I think most of us understand you better than you understand yourself. Do you think the surprise of you changing topics, insulting others, complaining about insulting others, operating fake blogs and fake comments, and the rest isn't familiar to everyone by now? That it just gets forgotten?

You do atheists and atheism a grave disservice. But then, how much of this is even about religion or atheism anyway?

Victor Reppert said...

Fair and balanced on biblical archaeology aren't we? As a layperson, you are NOT in a position to say that archaeology has debunked the Exodus. You don't know that. I linked to an article that challenges the position of Finkelstein. That's what you were doing. You were saying that archaeology had disproved the Exodus, and that we know this. You would do well to admit that you were wrong on that, or show me what is wrong with the counter-arguments. What you as a non-specialist should conclude is that the question of the Exodus is still open to debate.

The evidence has convinced almost all biblical scholars? Of what? You have percentages? Are you going to discount the ones that teach at places like Talbot and Trinity? That would be convenient!

In an earlier thread you talked about the difference between what science has firmly established, and what is still debatable and controversial. That's a good distinction to make. But you are in the habit of just grabbing something coming from somewhere in science, and if it supports your agenda, you grasp it with both hands and say "Science said it, I believe it, that settles it."

A good example would be that business about the gene for marital infidelity. You were all over that one, without stopping to consider whether this research was really well-established. Pretty obviously, it isn't. Is this the way to follow science and be objective? Doubt is the adult attitude? Can you try using a little about something other than religion?

As for Parsons' assessment of the arguments concerning God, he's a competent philosophers of religion, but he is not more qualified nor more of an authority than I am, or than Bill Craig is. This is not to denigrate his work, although of course I differ with his conclusion. It's just that the appeal to authority here cuts in every direction, and therefore no direction.

I don't try to understand you? You don't try to understand anyone on the other side from you, because you think since you were there once you understand it all perfectly. Sorry, but it just doesn't work that way.

Anonymous said...

I don't try to understand you? You don't try to understand anyone on the other side from you, because you think since you were there once you understand it all perfectly. Sorry, but it just doesn't work that way.

Does John really think he understands it all perfectly? Or does he just think it's important to try his hardest to pretend he thinks that? Remember what he's said about rational argument in the past. And frankly, given the past fake blog incident among others, it's not like you're dealing with someone who doesn't have a bluffing history.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, watch the PBS program I linked to. It represents solid mainline scholarship.

I do not have much regard for conservative scholarship, that's true. Their interest is in defending their faith not actually examining it.

And to be fair there are always people who argue differently from mainline scholarship. So what?

My point stands.

Doubt is the adult attitude.

And look at you saying: "You don't try to understand anyone on the other side from you, because you think since you were there once you understand it all perfectly."

I understand it all perfectly? Really, perfectly?

Until you can fairly represent my views I cannot take you seriously either.

Anonymous said...

I do not have much regard for conservative scholarship, that's true. Their interest is in defending their faith not actually examining it.

And many people are interested in attacking other faiths and not actually examining them.

And to be fair there are always people who argue differently from mainline scholarship. So what?

So exaggerating one view's acceptance and persuasive power on Exodus (and talking about mainstream scholarship) while rubbing elbows with Jesus mythicists says a lot.

Dustin Crummett said...

Can somebody explain to me what this business about a fake blog is?

Tom Talbott said...

Hi John. You wrote: “I do not have much regard for conservative scholarship, that’s true. Their interest is in defending their faith not actually examining it.”

I have a mythical friend, named Jake, whom I’d like you to meet. He is a pretty rigid fundamentalist, I’m sorry to say, and insists that you are in danger of eternal damnation. But even as he and I have debated this and other implications of his fundamentalism, I have been struck by how many of his own statements appear, at least initially, to be mirror images of some statement or another that you have made. Just the other day, for example, he said this: “I have little regard for Loftus’ approach to scholarship; that’s true. His interest is in debunking Christianity, not in actually examining it.”

So here is my question: Would you say that these two statements, your statement about conservatives and Jake’s statement about you, are equally cogent? Or, would you say that your statement is, for some specifiable reason, more cogent than Jake’s?

-Tom

cl said...

Victor,

[Loftus claimed] that the archaeological evidence disproves the occurrence of the Exodus... I provide arguments against that claim, namely, citing a Jewish article which argues that archaeological evidence has not in fact disproved the Exodus. To stick to the subject, [Loftus] should either have to say "Yes, you're right, it isn't disproven," or "No, here's are some arguments rebutting the arguments made in the two pieces which show that, indeed, archaeological evidence has refuted the Exodus, or at least shown strong inductive support for the claim that it did not take place. But [Loftus does] neither.

Yes, Victor, that's exactly right. It appears that Loftus prefers to puff his chest, denigrate his interlocutors and change the subject instead of A) successfully responding to their claims, B) supplying the necessary emendations for his own, or C) conceding to the paucity of his claims if B cannot be done. Not that you need extra support here, but, I think you've done a superb job, both in your extended rebuttal on punting to science, and here, by providing exactly what Loftus asked for: positive evidence. The companion paper completely annihilated Loftus' claims, and I thought the following was especially salient:

In the subjective field of Biblical Archaeology, anyone making a definitive statement like "archaeology has proven..." has probably chosen to take sides and is not presenting the whole picture.

Make that a 25-yard penalty.

John W. Loftus,

I am not an archaeologist in case you haven't heard. But I have read Israel Finkelstein and William Dever and Hector Avalos on the matter. And I have watched a really great PBS program called The Bible's Buried Secrets (which takes a bit to load but is really excellent).

Sooooo, what am I to conclude?


That you're too under-read on the subject to form a reliable and unbiased conclusion. You need to investigate a variety of sources, not just those that are favorable to your preferred philosophical position of atheism.

Doubt is the adult attitude.

No. To think critically is the adult attitude, and I suggest you apply the Outsider's Test to your own arguments here. Your "science debunks Christianity" piece exhibits really poor scholarship, and I'm not just asserting emptily, I've detailed the offenses and provided upwards of ten links in rebuttal. Likewise, Victor has made compelling points and provided you with links. Other commenters have also offered valid criticisms. Yet, you refuse to cede even an inch of ground when you're clearly in the wrong on several points.

If you say doubt is the adult attitude, then why not doubt yourself a little here? Why don't you, as Victor suggests - and I concur - take some responsibility for your arguments? You've been handed strong refutations from several angles. Can you deal with them, please?

John W. Loftus said...

Tom, I think I understand you better from our last discussion so I appreciate your attempts at truly engaging me.

Yes, it's true that my interest is in debunking evangelical Christianity specifically. But this has not always been the case. I have studied evangelical apologetics at or close to the highest level and found the liberal biblical critique to be spot on time and time again, even though I myself was an evangelical and wanted evangelical apologetics to win the day. The liberals changed my mind despite me kicking and screaming against their arguments.

Did your hypothetical friend do the same?

I have found nothing from evangelical biblical scholarship that can deal with their arguments. In fact, most (though not all of them) are ignorant about liberal scholarship or if they do understand it, they ignore it.

Off the top of my head take for example the book, "The Historical Jesus: Five Views". The overwhelming dominant understanding of Jesus is that he was an apocalyptic prophet. This IVP book was edited by evangelicals. And guess what, when I told Dale Allison the book had just been published he hadn't known of it. This view of Jesus, the dominant one, was not given a chapter all it's own and the editors did not ask Dale to write that chapter, which he would have had they asked him.

I don't want this sidetracked into the that particular topic, It's just an example. Those editors had to make a conscious choice if they were not ignorant. They had to exclude the dominant view of Jesus by most biblical scholars.

Care to tell me why?

John W. Loftus said...

In the subjective field of Biblical Archaeology....

Another science basher. Only people with an agenda will characterize archaeology as subjective.

Take some time Vic, but don't neglect to watch that PBS program.

John W. Loftus said...

Doubt is the adult attitude.

And only people who refuse to doubt with ask that I doubt my doubts. Doubt is a filter that helps me sift out what to believe from what not to believe. I cannot do away with that filter and remain an adult person who thinks critically.

cl said...

Another science basher. Only people with an agenda will characterize archaeology as subjective.

You've misunderstood the context. Nobody characterized archaeology as subjective. The author was noting the differences between the objective field of archaeology [extant artifacts], and the subjective field of archaeology [the body of inferences drawn therefrom].

Stop trying to stereotype people, and quit stalling. Those are not the tools of reason. Address the arguments before you and take responsibility for your claims.

GREV said...

I believe the articles talked about a minimalist and maximalist approach to interpreting the evidence.

What separates the approaches? Why is one more favoured then the other?

GREV said...

I believe history tells us that the Jerusalem of the time of Constantine and his mother, who journeyed there, was in may ways a wreck. Lots of rubble. Lots of building and walls torn down and reused.

So evidence disappears, the hard evidence. If it happened there it happened elsewhere in the world.

So it makes the task of archaeology a difficult one. To either prove or disprove the Bible.

A greater question arises; is the idea of a Creator and His actions entirely dependent for proof on the efforts of the creature to find such evidence?

Notice that I wrote entirely dependent. The argument is dependent on that phrase.

John W. Loftus said...

cl you appear to be just another person on a long list who has not read much of anything I have written who assumes incorrectly that I am ignorant because I am wrong.

How much of what I have written have you read?

John W. Loftus said...

Vic said: What you as a non-specialist should conclude is that the question of the Exodus is still open to debate.

Oh yes, and because creationism is taught and accepted only in conservative seminaries whereas the overwhelming scientific consensus is that they are buffoons for thinking so I should say that is open to debate too?

You see, on independent biblical grounds I know that the stories in the OT are edited ones, made-up ones, or borrowed ones. The OT was edited from hindsight as the Israelite religion evolved.

I know this. Mainline scholarship knows this.

So this makes me much more open to an honest understanding of whether archaeology can actually support these OT stories.

You might want to watch a primer on this biblical scholarship right here. And don't neglect clicking on the "JEDP in a Nutshell" link below that video either.

Then get back to us.

John W. Loftus said...

GREV said, A greater question arises; is the idea of a Creator and His actions entirely dependent for proof on the efforts of the creature to find such evidence?

We don't see eye to eye, but your question is mine. Thanks for your honesty about this.

John W. Loftus said...

And while there are a number of books I could recommend on the reliability of the Bible, Vic, I like the recently released one by Thom Stark called The Human Faces of God.

You have said you have questioned your faith and still believe. I accept that you have. My problem is that until now you have mostly asked philosophical questions about your God. I encourage you to continue your questioning, as you have begun to do, by looking into the Bible.

You had asked what book everyone could read and discuss. I have recommended that one by Stark.

Why is it you won't accept my suggestion? Surely I must know something. This book by Stark is a great discussion starter. Come on. Why not?

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, you and I have a five year history online bantering back and forth. Your site also seems to be an outlet for conservative scholars to read and discuss the issues that separate us.

So, I've decided to come here and make you squirm, as time allows.

As I have said elsewhere I'm not afraid of being the only person in a room who will stand up and disagree with the crowd, your crowd. For me it's equivalent to standing up among a group of Scientologists and saying I disagree. I expect your crowd will attack me just as they will. But that doesn't matter much to me since I expect it in both cases. You see, I don't care much what your crowd thinks of me just like I wouldn't care much what a crowd of Scientologists think of me.

steve said...

John W. Loftus said...
“Listen up and think, okay? No really, think. I am not an archaeologist in case you haven't heard. But I have read Israel Finkelstein and William Dever and Hector Avalos on the matter. And I have watched a really great PBS program called The Bible's Buried Secrets (which takes a bit to load but is really excellent). Sooooo, what am I to conclude?”

I conclude that you arrived at a foregone conclusion. You went into it an infidel, and you came out of it an infidel. What a surprise!

“No really. What should I as a non-specialist conclude?”

You could always start by reading the other side of the argument, viz. John Currid, James Hoffmeier, Kenneth Kitchen.

“Doubt is the adult attitude.”

As an adult, I doubt Finkelstein, Dever, Avalos, and PBS.

“Vic, watch the PBS program I linked to. It represents solid mainline scholarship.”

“Mainline scholarship”=scholars who agree with me.

“I do not have much regard for conservative scholarship.”

Funny. I could say the same thing about The Christian Delusion.

“Their interest is in defending their faith not actually examining it.”

And the militant atheist is only out to attack the faith.

“Doubt is the adult attitude.”

As an adult, I doubt John Loftus.

“Doubt is the adult attitude.”

Actually, the fact that John keeps mouthing this slogan is symptomatic of his arrested development. Truly mature adults don’t feel the constant need to remind people of how adult they are.

“Doubt is a filter that helps me sift out what to believe from what not to believe.”

Loftus has a one-sided filter.

“cl you appear to be just another person on a long list who has not read much of anything I have written who assumes incorrectly that I am ignorant because I am wrong.”

False antithesis. Both wrong and ignorant.

The “adult attitude” slogan is emotive language. Because John can’t win the argument, he tries to shame his opponents into submission by telling them they aren’t “adult.”

But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Christians lack an “adult attitude.” In a godless universe, what does it matter if you’re mature or immature? In the end, everyone winds up dead. End of story.

Bob Prokop said...

John,

My Catholic upbringing (Oh dear, there’s that nasty upbringing problem again!) inoculated me against fundamentalism and literalism, so I never had to worry about whether the OT stories were historically accurate or not. In fact, I never really did care one way or the other. I do remember (Victor probably does as well) that back in college, my default position on the issue was an assumption of accuracy until proven otherwise. That attitude dramatically changed while I was doing research for my book on the U.S. in Morocco during WWII. I got an in-depth and very practical education in the handling of source materials and personal accounts of historical events. This forced a re-evaluation of my thinking about the historicity of the OT historical books. I now wanted corroborating evidence before accepting as “factual” the narratives about Moses, David, etc.

But here’s the funny thing. After an initial new default position of skepticism (Remember, my faith does not depend on the historicity of the OT.), everything (and I do mean everything) I have subsequently learned about archeology, textual criticism, and the historical method has forced me back to a position very similar to what I held in the 1970’s – that the OT historical narratives are by and large historically accurate.

Does this mean that I think, for instance, that the conversations recorded in Samuel and Kings are word for word accurate? Of course not. I don’t even believe that about the Gospels! But I have come to the conclusion, BASED ON THE EVIDENCE, that the stories are reliable accounts of events that truly occurred.

But in the last analysis, the issue of historicity is completely irrelevant. What matters is what the stories are telling us about ourselves, about God, about the meaning of history itself – and there is no inaccuracy there.

John W. Loftus said...

I linked to a few things in this post Bob. Check them out.

My direction was in the opposite direction based on the evidence. I see though, that perhaps you take a more liberal viewpoint about it all and that's to be commended.

BenYachov said...

>Remember, my faith does not depend on the historicity of the OT.)

Pius XII said it better.

"What is the literal sense of a passage is not always as obvious in the speeches and writings of the ancient authors of the East, as it is in the works of our own time. For what they wished to express is not to be determined by the rules of grammar and philology alone, nor solely by the context; the interpreter must, as it were, go back wholly in spirit to those remote centuries of the East and with the aid of history, archaeology, ethnology, and other sciences, accurately determine what modes of writing, so to speak, the authors of that ancient period would be likely to use, and in fact did use. For the ancient peoples of the East, in order to express their ideas, did not always employ those forms or kinds of speech which we use today; but rather those used by the men of their times and countries. What those exactly were the commentator cannot determine as it were in advance, but only after a careful examination of the ancient literature of the East" (Divino Afflante Spiritu 35–36).
-Pius XII

I don't believe the English translations of conversations recorded in Samuel and Kings are always accurate in conveying that actual inerrant message of the Old Testament. I don't believe Scripture is clear or the sole rule of faith but I am very conservative in my belief in inspiration and inerrancy.

It's not that Catholics are "liberal" that is a joke. Rather we deny the Perspicuity of scripture. Ironically Ex-Evangelicals like Loftus still assume it and have talked themselves into believing it's the normal way Scripture was always understood by Christians and Jews.

Loftus is an Atheist but ironically he is still a Protestant.

John W. Loftus said...

Son (ben) I target evangelicals. This does not mean I could not target liberals or Catholics, both of which I was at one time. I was raised a Catholic and studied with the Catholic scholars at Marquette University.

Catholic scholars are liberals depending on the reference point, and my reference point is from the evangelical perspective because they are my target audience.

What other language do you demand I use when speaking to them?

Joe said...

John,
I would be interested to hear some of your responses to the main article that Victor has linked.

For example, what do you think about this quote? "Interestingly, the Torah is unique among all ancient national literature in that it portrays its people in both victory and defeat. The Jews -- and sometimes their leaders -- are shown as rebels, complainers, idol-builders, and yes, descended from slaves.

This objective portrayal lends the Torah great credibility. As the writer Israel Zangwill said: "The Bible is an anti-Semitic book. Israel is the villain, not the hero, of his own story. Alone among the epics, it is out for truth, not heroics."

Do you believe that it is true that the Torah is unique in the way the author claims?

Bob Prokop said...

The article reminded me of an experience I had in Seoul, Korea some time back. I visited their national history museum (well worth it, by the way), and was struck by the many room-sized dioramas of old battle scenes between the Koreans and various invaders going back to ancient times. The interesting thing about all the displays was that every single one of them was a Korean victory. Also, while countless enemy soldiers were depicted as wounded or slain, not one single Korean soldier was hurt in the slightest in any of the dioramas. No Korean dead whatsoever.

I guess the old Mesopotamian habits of historiography havent died out yet!

BenYachov said...

>Catholic scholars are liberals depending on the reference point, and my reference point is from the evangelical perspective because they are my target audience.

So what your saying Loftus is I'm right?

>This does not mean I could not target liberals or Catholics,

You could but you would need way more education in the subject area than you claim to have now based on my observations of your past interactions. For example let's face it your argument against the existence of God based on animal suffering would be laughed at by a Thomist.

>both of which I was at one time. I was raised a Catholic and studied with the Catholic scholars at Marquette University.

I have met many an ex-Catholic turned evangelical who would make claims like that "I was Irish RC & I graduated from Notre Dame! Then I found the Lord". Not one of them knew Session VI Canon One of the Council of Trent condemned "works salvation".

>What other language do you demand I use when speaking to them?

I think you should admit the claim you once made on Feser's blog that QUOTE "the the method I use in my book debunks all religious claims equally." is logically absurd even if God doesn't exist.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/01/walters-on-tls.html

Tom Talbott said...

Hello again, John. You asked: “Did your hypothetical friend do the same?” That is, did Jake ever struggle as you say that you have struggled with the critical scholarly literature on the Bible?

Well, all I can do is report that he at least claims to have done so. Like C. S. Lewis, he started out as an atheist and claims to have been brought to the Christian faith “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape.” Because he believes in original sin, he also agrees with you that “we’re not reasonable [in our natural state] about much at all, especially when we have a vested interest in what we believe.” And that’s the rub. He thinks that too many secular scholars have a vested interest in undermining the Bible and will continue to have such a vested interest until (or unless) God transforms their hard and stony hearts so that they can see more clearly.

Of course, you and I might properly put to Jake the following question: Given your vested interest in defending the faith, how can you know that you are assessing the hard empirical evidence, such as it is, objectively? To which, I fear, he would reply, at least to you: Given your vested interest in debunking Christianity, how can you know that you are assessing the hard empirical evidence, such as it is, objectively?

So is there a way, as you see it, to break the impasse here?

-Tom

John W. Loftus said...

Yes, Tom, yes. We must trust the sciences and become skeptics until such time as there is some evidence pointing in one direction or another.

I hardly think believers who desire to defend their faith do this. Hell, they all seem to rail against the OTF even though it should be non-controversial and uncontested. Come on now. Christianity must pass that test otherwise there are billions of rational non-Christians who were raised in different cultures who could not believe by virtue of the fact that they were born as outsiders.

If anything this denial itself tells you believers do not want to objectively know if their faith is true that should surely do it.

Their basic response at that point is to say Christianity is converting outsiders in Asia and the southern hemisphere, but I have already discussed that option in my book. These people share a similar superstitious outlook on life as the Bible portrays, so it's not a big step for them to take. And nowhere do I ever find a missionary in these cultures offer a potential convert the ugly side of the church, the problems Christian scholars wrestle with, or hand them books written by several different religious apolosists including atheist tomes and give them a few weeks to decide.

Besides, whether they convert as outsiders is not what the OTF calls for anyway. The OTF is something that adult Christians dhould take when re-examining what they were led to believe from their family and friends and Christian culture. It's the adult thing to do.

Doubt is the adult attitude.

steve said...

John W. Loftus said...

"Yes, Tom, yes. We must trust the sciences and become skeptics until such time as there is some evidence pointing in one direction or another."

Which nicely overlooks antirealist philosophies of science.

steve said...

John W. Loftus said...

"Doubt is the adult attitude."

In that case I doubt the motives which apostates cite in their deconversion testimonies.

John W. Loftus said...

While philosophers of science debate the minutia of what makes science science, science continues to make progress.

steve said...

John W. Loftus said...

"While philosophers of science debate the minutia of what makes science science, science continues to make progress."

Antirealist philosophers of science address the appeal to scientific progress. That's hardly a defeater for their position.

And, no, it's not just about the "minutia" of what makes science science.

John W. Loftus said...

No Steve, along with many philosophers of religion you have faith. You do not doubt. You have faith that since Christianity is true we are not actually deconverts at all. We either never were saved or we will return to the faith.

That's faith. Just dismiss the evidence of thousands of us, perhaps millions since the Enlightenment. Naw. the Bible says otherwise. Not one of us can be right. Not one.

Have you read Ruth Tucker's book, "Walking Away From Faith?" She says it's not likely at all we will return to the faith. You want to know why? It's because in order to walk away from it in the first place we had to be nearly certain that your particular faith is wrong lest we wind up risking Pascal's Wager and find ourselves in hell. It's a real struggle and for some of us it takes years.

This leaves you inside your Calvinist delusion that even though we did believe God never fulfilled his promise to save us. According your faith God doesn't have to keep his promises then, does he? According to your faith his revealed will cannot be trusted. So therefore there are no promises in it to be believed. The Bible doesn't tell us what God really wants us to do or believe on Calvinist grounds.

So who's to say on Calvinist grounds that God will not choose to save skeptics and atheists because we do not believe? You can have no reasonable response to this at all. you want to talk about reason. Go ahead.

Your faith fatally undercuts your whole theology.

Vic would agree with me on that.

toddes said...

If you tried to doubt everything you would not get as far as doubting anything. The game of doubting itself presupposes certainty.

— Ludwig Wittgenstein #115 from On Certainty

John W. Loftus said...

Son of Yachov, yes, I think the OTF "debunks all religious claims equally" although it has more of an effect on revealed religions in the ancient past than on philosophical and metaphysical philosophical positions.

BenYachov said...

>So who's to say on Calvinist grounds that God will not choose to save skeptics and atheists because we do not believe?

Well if one presupposes a Theistic Personalist God then yeh. But Mr. Hays is a Classic Theist. This sounds like Stephen Law's Evil God argument. (WWhy can't God be evil? Why can God save you because you have no faith?

see here:
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/laws-evil-god-challenge.html

here:
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/harlan-ellisons-evil-god.html

here:
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-obligation-and-euthyphro-dilemma.html

Heck I don't believe in Calvinism at all but I wouldn't make Loftus' argument. It's invalid.

BenYachov said...

If the OTF is not itself a philosophical argument and does not presuppose certain metaphysical or philosophical presuppositions then it is objectively worthless as a rational argument.

It seems to me it's just rehashed philosophical skepticism with some pop sociology thrown in but it has no coherent structure.

It's meaningless.

BenYachov said...

edit:

Should say "Why can't God save you because you have no faith?

BenYachov said...

Actually forget the edit. The original is correct.

Sorry my grammer sucks and I don't pretend it is otherwise.

cl said...

cl you appear to be just another person on a long list who has not read much of anything I have written who assumes incorrectly that I am ignorant because I am wrong.

Have you carefully read what I've written? I do not argue that you are ignorant because you are wrong. I argue - with evidence and explanation - that various arguments you use to support your claim that science debunks Christianity appear willfully ignorant, and and are certainly wrong. Do you see the difference?

Nonetheless, is that a concession that you are in fact wrong on one or more points as delineated in my rebuttal? If so, which claims would you like to retract and/or supply the necessary emendations for?

GREV said...

Vic:

Really like the site but the discussions get side tracked.

Do we really nned to bring up the OTF again?

Expand the discussion beyond the Exodus to more general issues with the Bible and Archaeology but that should be enough.

GREV said...

"If you tried to doubt everything you would not get as far as doubting anything. The game of doubting itself presupposes certainty."

— Ludwig Wittgenstein #115 from On Certainty

LOVE THIS QUOTE!!!

Bob Prokop said...

John, John, John,

You write: "believers ... all seem to rail against the OTF even though it should be non-controversial and uncontested."

All believers? All??? I have repeatedly brought up the fact that the OTF did not originate with you, but with G.K. Chesterton, in 1925. And I have also pointed out that in his book-length examination of Christianity from an outsider's point of view ("The Everlasting Man"), Chesterton definitively demonstrated that a truly honest look at the Faith from an outsider vantage point will result in one concluding that Christianity is TRUE!

Game, Set, Match!

GREV said...

Bob:

I'm reading a biography on Nietzsche and it appears he probably thought up the OTF.

Bob Prokop said...

Grev,

Thanks for that.

In all probability, the OTF was probably first thought of by one of the original 12 Apostles.

GREV said...

Bob:

I canot cite the comments directly from Nietzsche. But I remember your other reference to Everlasting Man and the OTF, and while reading, your comments came to mind.

Victor Reppert said...

It's a bit of a fine distinction, but I don't rail against the OTF per se. I think there is a sensible version of the OTF that is a perfectly worthwhile thought experiment, from which all of us can learn. What I object to is what gets piled on top of the OTF, which is used to debunk Christianity.

steve said...

John W. Loftus said...

"No Steve, along with many philosophers of religion you have faith. You do not doubt. You have faith that since Christianity is true we are not actually deconverts at all. We either never were saved or we will return to the faith."

Having lost the argument on philosophy of science, you change the subject.

"That's faith. Just dismiss the evidence of thousands of us, perhaps millions since the Enlightenment. Naw. the Bible says otherwise. Not one of us can be right. Not one."

i) Of course, "millions" disagree with you.

ii) I present arguments for my view of Scripture.

"Have you read Ruth Tucker's book, 'Walking Away From Faith?' She says it's not likely at all we will return to the faith."

Why should I accept her testimonial at face value? Remember, "doubt is an adult attitude." Therefore I ought to doubt her testimonial.

"This leaves you inside your Calvinist delusion that even though we did believe God never fulfilled his promise to save us."

You keep reheating the same stale objections, John. I already dealt with that objection years ago in my review of The Empty Tomb.

John W. Loftus said...

Grev, I would most definitely like to have the reference and exact pages from Nietzsche himself if you would please.

While the OTF doesn't appear new Thomas Jefferson thought it made sense.

But I have not seen into antiquity any major defense of it.

Is the Kalam new with Craig? No. But he seems to be the best defender of it.

That's my aim with the OTF.

GREV said...

For John and anyone else interested I have begun the process and it appears that what I was thinking about was a longer passage where Nietzsche comments on the work of Arthur Schopenhauer.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Vic, I'm late to this show, but the article strikes me as a whitewash. As I understand it, the biggest problem with the historicity of the exodus comes from its alleged size:

According to Exodus 12:37-38 NIV, the Israelites numbered "about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children," plus many non-Israelites and livestock.[9] Numbers 1:46 gives a more precise total of 603,550.[10] The 600,000, plus wives, children, the elderly, and the "mixed multitude" of non-Israelites would have numbered some 2 million people,[11] compared with an entire estimated Egyptian population of around 3 million.[12] Marching ten abreast, and without accounting for livestock, they would have formed a line 150 miles long.[13] No evidence exists that Egypt ever suffered such a demographic and economic catastrophe, nor is there evidence that the Sinai desert ever hosted (or could have hosted) these millions of people and their herds,[14] nor of a massive population increase in Canaan, which is estimated to have had a population of only 50,000 to 100,000 at the time.[15]

The linked article just repeats the line that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," but this isn't true if the thing in question is something we would expect to have evidence of, if it existed.

As far as I can tell, in the judgment of the most credible archaeologists, we would have more evidence of such a massive event if it really happened. And I can't see that the article makes a serious attempt to rebut that conclusion.

I'm inclined to think the best that Biblical inerrantists can do here is to say that the numbers have been mistranscribed, or mistranslated, or were only ever intended as hyperbole. I don't regard those as plausible solutions, but they strike me as more plausible than saying, "oh, the evidence just hasn't been found yet."

GREV said...

The reference is from a German compilation of the works of Nietzsche. So as I do not speak or read German, I will reproduce the English translation later along with the German reference.

Tom Talbott said...

You will be happy to know, John, that I shared your latest response to me with Jake, and it will probably come as no surprise that he found it utterly unpersuasive. We may set aside, I suppose, his initial response, which was little more than a joke. For in response to your quasi-Cartesian assertion that “Doubt is the adult attitude,” he exclaimed: “Well, then, I guess I am definitely an adult, because I doubt almost everything that John Loftus says!”

In point of fact, however, Jake actually agrees with you concerning this: “We must trust the sciences and become skeptics until such time as there is some evidence pointing in one direction or another.” Where he differs with you is in his conviction that lots of evidence, including various lines of scientific evidence, support his Christian faith in a host of very broad and complicated ways. You will no doubt object (with considerable justification, for all I know) that Jake’s commitment to his Christian faith and a strong desire to defend it has influenced his assessment of the evidence. But he would likely reply (with considerable justification, for all I know) that your commitment to atheism and a strong desire to debunk Christianity has influenced your own assessment of the evidence. So I guess I still don’t see how the statement quoted above helps to break the impasse between you and Jake.

As for the outsider test, I personally see no reason to reject it. But I also find myself wondering: What’s the big deal? Like you, I was raised a Christian fundamentalist; and if I had been switched as a baby and had been transported somehow to a Muslim culture, I might have been raised a Muslim fundamentalist. So what? Why should it even matter where one’s spiritual journey begins?

-Tom

Tom Talbott said...

You will be happy to know, John, that I shared your latest response to me with Jake, and it will probably come as no surprise that he found it utterly unpersuasive. We may set aside, I suppose, his initial response, which was little more than a joke. For in response to your quasi-Cartesian assertion that “Doubt is the adult attitude,” he exclaimed: “Well, then, I guess I am definitely an adult, because I doubt almost everything that John Loftus says!”

In point of fact, however, Jake actually agrees with you concerning this: “We must trust the sciences and become skeptics until such time as there is some evidence pointing in one direction or another.” Where he differs with you is in his conviction that lots of evidence, including various lines of scientific evidence, support his Christian faith in a host of very broad and complicated ways. You will no doubt object (with considerable justification, for all I know) that Jake’s commitment to his Christian faith and a strong desire to defend it has influenced his assessment of the evidence. But he would likely reply (with considerable justification, for all I know) that your commitment to atheism and a strong desire to debunk Christianity has influenced your own assessment of the evidence. So I guess I still don’t see how the statement quoted above helps to break the impasse between you and Jake.

As for the outsider test, I personally see no reason to reject it. But I also find myself wondering: What’s the big deal? Like you, I was raised a Christian fundamentalist; and if I had been switched as a baby and had been transported somehow to a Muslim culture, I might have been raised a Muslim fundamentalist. So what? Why should it even matter where one’s spiritual journey begins?

-Tom

Anonymous said...

Loftus: We must trust the sciences and become skeptics

Dang, it may be too late for that irony-pool...

cl said...

Victor,

It's a bit of a fine distinction, but I don't rail against the OTF per se. I think there is a sensible version of the OTF that is a perfectly worthwhile thought experiment, from which all of us can learn. What I object to is what gets piled on top of the OTF, which is used to debunk Christianity.

I agree. I do see a certain self-defeating flaw of Loftus' OTF, however. On the one hand, he claims that humans are irrational creatures, and that this is why we need the self-correcting mechanisms of science. Okay, let him have that. If that's the case, however, then, how are irrational creatures supposed to accomplish this?

Nonetheless, I think a "sensible version of the OTF" is really nothing more than being skeptical of oneself, and playing devil's advocate with one's own conclusions. Challenging oneself to think outside the box. Trying to see what one is immersed in from the POV of someone not immersed. That sort of thing. None of that logically entails atheism, so it would be nice if John stripped the chauvinism from his argument. Instead of, "Oh, you don't think like me, you're deluded," it should be, "Tell me more about your position," or something along those lines. Something that indicates a willingness to be taught or at least a willingness to hear and respect the opposition. Somebody implied here that maybe John thinks he's heard it all because he used to be a Christian - and I'm not making that claim just alluding to it - but it's hard to completely discard the notion given what's transpired over the past few days.

In Loftus' case, I think the perfect challenge would be for him to document and respond to the plethora of evidence that challenges his claims. You, myself and others have handed him ample ammunition. He needs to round himself out, be his own set of checks and balances. Not just John, but anybody in the habit of writing and debating. It's all too easy to become a caricature when we need to be thinking at every turn.

John W. Loftus said...

“Well, then, I guess I am definitely an adult, because I doubt almost everything that John Loftus says!”

Tom, I have a friend named Bull who thinks Jake is not making an effort to understand me. Semi-Cartesian? Give me a break. Yep, he says, "that's exactly what Christian's do with their definitional apologetics. Just paint their opponents into a corner as 'semi-Cartesians.' And when an extraordinary claim is mentioned just say 'Hey, I'm clueless as to what you mean.'" Yep, Jake is clueless all right.

Evidence? Jake means the lack of evidence, right? That's pretty much all you have, Bull says, the lack of evidence--the god of the gaps evidence.

And apparently Jake cannot read, Bull says, because he didn't read what I had said about not always having been where I am right now. I was a believer.

An impass? Let's see, Bull says. On the one hand you have the lack of evidence as a support for Jake's faith and on the other is mountains of evidence that disconfirms faith.

But in one sense we are at an impass he says. "Faith based reasoning has a blinding effect of the faithful." - Bull

Tom: "What’s the big deal? Like you, I was raised a Christian fundamentalist. So what? Why should it even matter where one’s spiritual journey begins?"

Because the reasons for starting where you do are the result of the accidents of birth and therefore no more reliable than the number of faiths taught on any person's Mama's knees. Because people all over the globe most often end where they begin with only slight modifications.

Tom Talbott said...

I’m truly sorry, John, if my little joke that I put into the mouth of Jake--a joke that was not intended as an argument and that I explicitly stated should be set aside--offended you. I honestly thought that you would see the humor in it. But to be accurate, it was I, not Jake, who described your remark about doubt as quasi-Cartesian, which I thought an accurate description. But if I am mistaken about that, could you perhaps identify a single difference between your attitude towards doubt and Descartes’ famous method of doubt?

Incidentally, I thought it very clever of you to name your fictional friend “Bull,” and I got a great kick out of that. But the rest of your post merely illustrates, so far as I can tell, the impasse that I have described. It illustrates how your desire to debunk Christianity influences your assessment of the evidence even as Jake’s desire to defend his faith influences his assessment of the evidence.

You wrote: “Evidence? Jake means the lack of evidence, right?” No, Jake means evidence. He thinks there are mountains of evidence in support his faith just as you think there are mountains of evidence disconfirming it. He even thinks that you are the one who confuses the absence of evidence (concerning the resurrection, for example) with evidence of absence. Perhaps he is utterly confused about this, utterly confused about what does, and does not, count as evidence, as you no doubt believe. But my point is that his view is just the mirror image of your own, as the following quotation illustrates:

“On the one hand you have the lack of evidence as a support for Jake's faith and on the other is mountains of evidence that disconfirms faith.” Jake’s response: “On the one hand, you have a lack of evidence in support of Loftus’ atheism; on the other, you have a mountain of evidence in support of my faith.”

I rest my case. In any event, perhaps you and I are at an impasse on the subject of the impasse between you and Jake. So I’ll let you have the last word--unless, of course, I detect something that might, as I see it, advance the discussion further. But I would like to take up in a separate post or in some other context your response to my question: “Why should it even matter where one’s spiritual journey begins?"

Thanks for your latest response.

-Tom

John W. Loftus said...

Tom, I'm not personally offended. You are a respectful interlocutor.

Cartesian doubt is hypothetical, mine is reasonable doubt about extraordinary claims.

And you're still not listening. I came to the conclusion after being trained to be an apologist that I was almost certainly wrong to believe. When believers leave the faith they have be be almost certain of it since there is Pascal's Wager to be concerned with. Along this pathway I was in defensive mode. Now I'm merely sharing what I learned. You might fault me for being uncritical now but I am of the same mind about these things as I concluded after years of believing which you cannot fault me for being critical since I went kicking and screaming against what I wanted to be true.

Oh, but I've said that at least twice now.

Evidence? Either you argue for the god of the gaps or you do not. If you do it's a fallacy. If not, then a universe plus god in it looks indistinguishable from a universe without god in it. That is, unless there is positive evidence for the the existence of your god.

Finally you pit your brand of Christianity against atheism as if those are the only two options. They aren't, not by a long shot. I've said this before too. There are a myriad number of religious faiths all denouncing the others; even sects within Christianity do this. They all share a faith-based reasoning. And guess what? Each one of them will argue against the atheist from their own culturally dominant religious faith and conclude their faith wins over all other contenders because it wins over atheism. It doesn't work that way. There is no privileged religious faith like that.

Work it out between yourselves first and then present the religious faith that wins over all other contenders and then we'll have a debate. The atheist is in a category all his own. The atheist is a skeptic who doubts religious claims with science-based reasoning.

Tom Talbott said...

Hello again, John:

As I said in my previous post, you and I seem to be at an impasse on the issue of the impasse between you and Jake. I have had my say, and you have had yours. I’ll also concede your point about Descartes, even though I seriously doubt that anyone could give coherent sense to the idea of an extraordinary claim. But a few things in your latest post are relevant to another topic that I have not yet addressed: Your response to my question: “Why should it even matter where one’s spiritual journey begins?"

You wrote: “There are a myriad number of religious faiths all denouncing the others; even sects within Christianity do this.” For the record, I personally know many Christians, many Jews, quite a few Buddhists (having meditated in a local Buddhist temple), a few Hindus, and even some Muslims who have never, so far as I know, denounced another religion. For my own part, though I am no expert in non-Christian religions, I absolutely love some of the Upanishads and parts of the Bhagavad Gita, have great respect for the Persian mystic and poet Rumi (who may, for all I know, have started out as a Muslim fundamentalist), and find genuine value in the writings of the Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, author of Living Buddha, Living Christ and Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers. Nor have I ever, at least not since graduating from a fundamentalist high school, wasted my time denouncing another religion.

How are we even to understand, moreover, the sentence I have quoted above? Human nature being what it is, there are no doubt a host of individuals who (a) identify with some specific religion and (b) waste their time denouncing other religions--particularly since, as I see it, this “us verses them” mentality is the perennial religious heresy (although the same heresy too often manifests itself among individual atheists today as well). But within all of the great religions (as well as among atheists) you can also find individuals who have risen above that perennial heresy.

All of which brings me back to your previous response to my question: “Why should it even matter where one’s spiritual journey begins?" which I still need to address, if I can ever find the time.

-Tom

Tom Talbott said...

Hey John,

You have inspired me to start a paper tentatively titled “The Outsider Test for Faith: What’s the Big Deal?” I have written a brief introduction, which I reproduce below (sans the relevant footnote), and I’ll of course share the paper with you when it’s completed. But I can make no promise at this time when that will be, and neither can I guarantee that my introductory remarks will remain unchanged. When I write a paper, I typically begin with an introduction, then write the main body, and finally rewrite the introduction in light of whatever discoveries I have made along the way.

Anyway here are the two introductory paragraphs and an outline of the rest of the paper. If you have any thoughts that you would like to share with me, I’ll certainly try to take them into account.

------------------

The crusading atheist John Loftus, formerly a fundamentalist preacher who left the faith of his youth and set up the Debunking Christianity website, has made quite a splash in the blogosphere with his so-called Outsider Test for Faith. He and others, many of whom frequent his website, seem to think that this Outsider Test represents a formidable challenge to faith of any kind. But I disagree. I cannot, for the life of me, see what the insurmountable problem is supposed to be here.

So, for starters, just what is the Outsider Test for faith (OTF), according to Loftus? In one place he puts it this way: “The outsider test … calls upon believers to ‘Test or examine your religious beliefs as if you were outsiders with the same presumption of skepticism you use to test or examine other religious beliefs.’” That, of course, is but a preliminary statement, and Loftus has a lot more to say. A fuller and more rigorous account would no doubt require, first, a clear explanation of this “presumption of skepticism,” as Loftus calls it, and second, a clear explanation of who does, and does not, count as an outsider with respect to a particular religious belief. So, after examining each of these matters in turn, I shall argue that the OTF is simply too vague and general to have any epistemic usefulness; I shall even suggest that, if a personal God should exist and should seek to reveal himself in the most appropriate ways, then the kind of religious diversity that we find around us is just what one should expect. Nor do I see why (from the perspective of one’s spiritual growth and ultimate destiny) it should even matter where (or in what cultural context) one’s spiritual journey begins.

The Presumption of Skepticism

Who Counts As an Outsider?

The Spiritual Journey

Conclusion

Tom Talbott said...

Hey John,

You have inspired me to start a paper tentatively titled “The Outsider Test for Faith: What’s the Big Deal?” I have written a brief introduction, which I reproduce below (sans the relevant footnote), and I’ll of course share the paper with you when it’s completed. But I can make no promise at this time when that will be, and neither can I guarantee that my introductory remarks will remain unchanged. When I write a paper, I typically begin with an introduction, then write the main body, and finally rewrite the introduction in light of whatever discoveries I have made along the way.

Anyway here are the two introductory paragraphs and an outline of the rest of the paper. If you have any thoughts that you would like to share with me, I’ll certainly try to take them into account.

------------------

The crusading atheist John Loftus, formerly a fundamentalist preacher who left the faith of his youth and set up the Debunking Christianity website, has made quite a splash in the blogosphere with his so-called Outsider Test for Faith. He and others, many of whom frequent his website, seem to think that this Outsider Test represents a formidable challenge to faith of any kind. But I disagree. I cannot, for the life of me, see what the insurmountable problem is supposed to be here.

So, for starters, just what is the Outsider Test for faith (OTF), according to Loftus? In one place he puts it this way: “The outsider test … calls upon believers to ‘Test or examine your religious beliefs as if you were outsiders with the same presumption of skepticism you use to test or examine other religious beliefs.’” That, of course, is but a preliminary statement, and Loftus has a lot more to say. A fuller and more rigorous account would no doubt require, first, a clear explanation of this “presumption of skepticism,” as Loftus calls it, and second, a clear explanation of who does, and does not, count as an outsider with respect to a particular religious belief. So, after examining each of these matters in turn, I shall argue that the OTF is simply too vague and general to have any epistemic usefulness; I shall even suggest that, if a personal God should exist and should seek to reveal himself in the most appropriate ways, then the kind of religious diversity that we find around us is just what one should expect. Nor do I see why (from the perspective of one’s spiritual growth and ultimate destiny) it should even matter where (or in what cultural context) one’s spiritual journey begins.

The Presumption of Skepticism

Who Counts As an Outsider?

The Spiritual Journey

Conclusion

John W. Loftus said...

Great Tom! I doubt very much you'll come up with anything I haven't heard before, but go for it. I encourage you. If I'm wrong show me.

John W. Loftus said...

Oops, it looks like your comment went into Vic's spam filter. Why doesn't he figure out how to release these posts. It's easy, very easy.

Come on Vic. Go to "Comments," then "Spam." Publish it.

John W. Loftus said...

Tell ya what Tom. Write it. I'll respond. Then we'll see if we can publish the exchange in a journal.

Tom Talbott said...

I would certainly welcome your response, John. And who knows, maybe we could even go through a couple of rounds. But first I have to write the damn thing!

One thing really puzzles me. How is it that you managed to see my post when, so far as I can tell, it never appeared on this site?

John W. Loftus said...

Tom, I subscribed so I received an email with your text. There's a button that if you click it allows you to follow the subsequent comments like that. I see Vic is still clueless how to release Spam though.