Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Atheistic presuppositionalists

The issue wouldn't be inerrancy, but rather something I would call general historical reliability. Using a Bayesian model of evidence, X is evidence for just in case X is more probable given Y than given not-Y.

I would expect accurate reports of miraculous activity to come from sources which make serious attempts to describe the facts, and which have good enough access to the relevant facts to have a great deal of general historical reliability. So, it seems to me that evidence that Scripture has historically accurate content is evidence that the miracle claims contained within are true; that evidence could be outweighed by the overall plausibility of naturalism in the minds of many reasonable persons.

It seems to me you have to distinguish between saying

1) The evidence for X isn't good enough for me

and saying

2) There is no evidence at all.

What I suspect is that, deep down, a lot of skeptics are atheistic presuppositionalists. They think that in order to have evidence for something it has to have a naturalistic explanation, and to use inductive reasoning to support any claims with respect to the supernatural is to abuse the inductive reasoning process.

If that's the case, they shouldn't be saying we don't have the evidence, what they should be saying is that the kinds of claims Christians make are not the sorts of things that it is even logically possible to have evidence for.

19 comments:

Walter said...

I don't think that we can ever confirm or deny ancient miracles simply by sifting through historical anecdotes. Having the stories written with great verisimilitude and in a real matter-of-fact prose does not help much for those of us who have a difficult time believing in the paranormal. Even many conservative Christians doubt the story of Matthew's "Day of the Zombies" recorded in Matthew 27:52,53. And this little tidbit is told in the same matter-of-fact manner as the rest of the tale that it is embedded in.

Belief in these supernatural tales seem to require a leap of faith that some of us are virtually incapable of making.

unkleE said...

"to use inductive reasoning to support any claims with respect to the supernatural is to abuse the inductive reasoning process"
I think you are probably correct in your suspicion. But I think they are not even consistent in this. Richard Dawkins has said there is no evidence for God. He has also said "There almost certainty is no God", which is a proposition.

Did he base it on evidence? Presumably.
Was that evidence scientific? Loosely, but not following the scientific method.
Was he justified in drawing that conclusions from the evidence? He obviously thinks so.
Is his evidence any different in nature to the evidence theists use? No, it is the same evidence (life, the universe, etc), just interpreted a different way.
Is there a double standard here? It looks like it to me.

Hiero5ant said...

Seems a rather petty nitpick about terminology IMO.

A light breeze exerts a precisely mathematically quantifiable force on a 100 ton rock.

Is someone then really being dogmatic or philosophically naiive if they say something like "nothing's pushing this rock", or "it is unreasonable to believe that this rock is about to blow over"?

Victor Reppert said...

Walter: If God exists, then God has the power to perform miracles, so that can't be the problem, can it?

Do we have reason to suppose God wouldn't do this sort of thing?

Papalinton said...

Victor
You say:
"So, it seems to me that evidence that Scripture has historically accurate content is evidence that the miracle claims contained within are true; ..."

and the you say:

If that's the case, they shouldn't be saying we don't have the evidence, what they should be saying is that the kinds of claims Christians make are not the sorts of things that it is even logically possible to have evidence for."

Your two statements cancel each other. How can one posit, by any normal and rational consideration of evidence, " Scripture has historically accurate content is evidence that the miracle claims contained within are true", and when called to test that evidence, atheists are not permitted to comment because " the kinds of claims Christians make are not the sorts of things that it is even logically possible to have evidence for."

How is it that scripture can claim historically accurate evidence yet atheists are excluded from commenting because it is not the kind the "kind of historically accurate evidence" that is 'even logically possible to have evidence for?

The only form of gobbledegook logic that establishes the precedent for this framing of reason is solely and wholly a product of Apologetics. This is called, ..... theo-logic.

Walter said...

Walter: If God exists, then God has the power to perform miracles, so that can't be the problem, can it?

Having the ability does not mean that I am convinced that it actually happened. I see a lot of purely--dare I say it--natural reasons why these propagandistic stories about Jesus may have been written.

Do we have reason to suppose God wouldn't do this sort of thing?

Conversely, do I have good reason to believe that some transcendent deity would play human for thirty years so that he could arrange his own murder as a blood sacrifice to himself in order satisfy his need for retribution against humans for being exactly what "he" created them to be?

toddes said...

Walter: "...in order satisfy his need for retribution against humans..."

Care to explain your rationale for that statement? It differs greatly from a GOD who lowers himself from heaven to live as a sinless example for mankind and to take the punishment due to us upon himself.

He created us in His image. We do not have to sin and we weren't created in order that we would sin. But since we have sinned, He has provided Himself as the means for our returning to Him. It's not about retribution, it's about a self-sacrificing love.

Chris said...

A few questions:

In having himself killed, God forced other people to commit the sin of murder. (I don't think there can be a freewill defense here, since that presumes that God's 'plan' of self-sacrifice could fail, and man would be left unredeemed.) If an omnipotent God manipulates people into murder, isn't that a sin itself?

*

This act also resulted in centuries of (ongoing) persecution of the Jews as Christ killers. Since, as an omniscient being, he would have foreseen this persecution, is this persecution part of his overall plan for (or punishment of) the Jews? If so, why is persecuting Jews wrong? If it is not part of his plan, then why didn't he 'inspire' the gospel writers in a better manner to avoid this persecution, which he could easily have done?

Walter said...

...It differs greatly from a GOD who lowers himself from heaven to live as a sinless example for mankind and to take the punishment due to us upon himself.

If you buy into the notion that you are due horrible punishment for the crime of being born a human, then I suppose the convoluted story will have some psychological appeal for you.

He created us in His image. We do not have to sin and we weren't created in order that we would sin.

Define "sin" and then tell me if it is humanly possible for a person not to commit it during their life. The normal range of human emotions is enough to get one sentenced to hell by most Christians. If there exists a sovereign deity that has engineered my soul, then I posit that I behave exactly as I was "designed" to.

But since we have sinned, He has provided Himself as the means for our returning to Him. It's not about retribution, it's about a self-sacrificing love.

Sorry, I just don't understand why a God can't simply forgive humans for having flaws without having to go through some type of bizarre ritual sacrifice that he apparently made to himself? And the only people who are lucky enough to receive any "mercy" from this blood sacrifice are the ones that convince themselves that the story is true, while the rest of us have to suffer horrible retribution in the "next" life for doing things that we cannot help but do as human beings?

Once the childhood indoctrination wore off the story no longer made any sense to me. YMMV

Dustin Crummett said...

Papa, Victor isn't endorsing your second quoted statement, he's saying it's an implicit consequence of some of his opponents' views. You appear to be in the grip of... illiteracy.

One Brow said...

I would expect accurate reports of miraculous activity to come from sources which make serious attempts to describe the facts, and which have good enough access to the relevant facts to have a great deal of general historical reliability. So, it seems to me that evidence that Scripture has historically accurate content is evidence that the miracle claims contained within are true; that evidence could be outweighed by the overall plausibility of naturalism in the minds of many reasonable persons.

I would expect people telling a story they believe in, and want to convince others of, to fill that story with all kinds of small bits of accurate information, even when they hve no evidence the story itself is true. Since we would expect accurate information to be in stories as well as historical narratives, the presence of accurate information does not distinguish one from the other.

If you are basing atheistic assumptions on inductive arguments, they are not being atheistic presupposationalists.

Also, why do you think having wrong information in a passage would disprove it being supernatural in origin/inspiration?

Papalinton said...

@ toddes
"We do not have to sin and we weren't created in order that we would sin. But since we have sinned, ..."

What the dickens are you talking about here? Sounds like theo-gargle for which there is absolutely no proof.
I'm not sure you even understand what you are saying.

SteveK said...

Walter,
you said:

>>> Having the ability does not mean that I am convinced that it actually happened. I see a lot of purely--dare I say it--natural reasons why these propagandistic stories about Jesus may have been written.

Even so. Having the ability means the potential exits in the nature of the thing doing it - prior to it actually happening. Actualizing miracles would have to be part of its being, its essence.

So...if you subscribe to Naturalism, and if you say that miracles are possible, then you are saying that "nature" has within its being the potential to perform miracles such as raising people from the dead.

That potential in "nature" had to have ALWAYS existed. It had to have existed in the nature of the singularity. Think about that.

Anonymous said...

Chris:

Couldn't God foresee that if He were incarnated at a certain point in history, He would be killed, without forcing this act upon his killers? Wouldn't his foreknowledge be enough to guarantee that the act would take place and mankind was redeemed? In which case your argument would reduce to the general argument that foreknowledge and free will are incompatible. I don't see how the crucifixion would be a special case.

Walter said...

So...if you subscribe to Naturalism, and if you say that miracles are possible, then you are saying that "nature" has within its being the potential to perform miracles such as raising people from the dead.

I am a deist with a strong agnostic bias, so naturalist doesn't quite describe me, although I am sympathetic with those that hold to a "miracle-free" worldview. I don't rule at miracles a priori, but I am highly skeptical of their existence.

SteveK said...

Walter,

>> I don't rule at miracles a priori, but I am highly skeptical of their existence.

I think everyone is skeptical, or they should be. I'm a Christian and I'm skeptical of all miracle claims when I first hear of them. Skepticism doesn't mean that I have to conclude that none occurred. It just means I have to have sufficient justification for concluding that they did occur.

John W. Loftus said...

Victor, I go so far to say that even if all the biblical miracles actually took place there is no reason for us to believe they did in our day. The historical tools don't allow this. Almost all of our important questions of the textual evidence go unanswered.

There are a great many claims we cannot believe even if they are as claimed. Alien abductions. Loch Ness Monster. That someone murdered another when there is no evidence they did the evil deed.

Chris said...

Anon, thanks for your reply.

The crucifixion would be a special case because a supposedly sinless being would be using his foreknowledge to place himself in a situation knowing he would be murdered, i.e., that the murderers would be committing a sin (or would they? Since it's part of his plan, do they get that one 'free'?). Therefore – perhaps – it would place Jesus in a position of causing someone to sin, and thereby Jesus would also be complicit in this sin.

Of course, God orders the destruction of many people and kills many people himself in the Old Testament, so perhaps you're right, the crucifixion isn't a big deal in that regard. I ask less to have some sort of 'gotcha' question than because I genuinely find the Christian mythos to be bizarre and incomprehensible, in particular the crucifixion.

Papalinton said...

Chris,
"Of course, God orders the destruction of many people and kills many people himself in the Old Testament, so perhaps you're right, the crucifixion isn't a big deal in that regard. I ask less to have some sort of 'gotcha' question than because I genuinely find the Christian mythos to be bizarre and incomprehensible, in particular the crucifixion."


As the irreverent Lennie Bruce noted some 50 years ago, :"If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses."

Bizarre indeed.