Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Marshall and Loftus on the Outsider Test for Faith

David Marshall thinks it passes the test. Loftus, of course, disagrees. The debate, on Brierly's Unbelievable, is here. 


B. Prokop said...

Oh, good grief! Have things really come to full circle? I do believe that the OTF was the topic of the very first discussion I ever participated in on this website, lo these many years ago. (If not the first, then close to it.) I'm fairly certain that everything that can be said about Loftus's Dangerously Stupid Idea has been said - many times over. But let's review the bidding:

1. It's not even Loftus's idea in the first place. The "OTF" (though not under that name) was described in detail in G.K. Chesterton's 1925 book The Everlasting Man. By refusing to recognize this, Loftus is essentially a plagiarist.

2. Loftus's ground rules are disingenuous, in that he allows for one and only one acceptable outcome to the "test". If you fail to enthusiastically embrace atheism (and then buy all his books), he tells you you haven't done the test correctly.

3. In any case, Christianity has decisively passed the test - billions of times over. After all, the Faith started out with a mere handful of people at the far edges of civilization in an environment of extreme hostility. Yet the Apostles and evangelists somehow managed to persuade untold numbers of "outsiders" to abandon the religions of their childhoods and embrace Christianity. Christianity is the ultimate Outsider Faith.

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

Youza! If I didn't have a raging head cold, and were it not pouring frigid rain outside today, I doubt I would have ever been able to stomach listening to that entire "debate" - but I heroically stuck it out to the end. Main Take Away - Loftus is no better on tape than he is in print. Repeated howlers throughout his talk:

1. Roman persecutions were all made up - never happened
2. Suffering Servant in Isaiah is Israel, not a person
3. One must use methodological rationalism (and nothing else) to evaluate one's beliefs
4. 1st Century Gnostics were Christians
5. There were only 1000 Jewish Christians in the year A.D. 100
6. Constantine invented what we now know as Christianity (Dan Brown, anyone?)

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Poor Marshall could hardly get any point across, he was too busy fact-checking Loftus.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Joe Hinman said...

J0ohn "buy my book" Loftus. there was an atheist on CARM who used to argue that Christianity is two billion different religions because two people have the same idea of God. That's an outsider test no one could pass. Or you could say Christianity passed it two billion times.

B. Prokop said...

I forgot that one, Joe. In the linked debate, Loftus responds to Marshall's talking about millions of people converting to Christianity, by claiming they were all converting to different religions! (that there was no one Christianity)

Edgestow said...

I noted that Loftus made mention of Victor Reppert responding to his writings, but forgot to mark the time.

Joe Hinman said...

" forgot that one, Joe. In the linked debate, Loftus responds to Marshall's talking about millions of people converting to Christianity, by claiming they were all converting to different religions! (that there was no one Christianity)"

The guy I was talking about may have gotten it from Loftus. Thats like saying there are 7billion earths.

John Loftus said...

Here is my review of that debate.


B. Prokop's first comment discredits him from being a legitimate critic of the OTF, for a few reasons. 1) By claiming I plagiarized from GK Chesterton Prokop shows he has not read my book. 2) If the OTF is stupid but essentially plagiarized from GK Chesterton, then Chesterton originated a stupid idea. 3) If Prokop actually believes we can legitimately develop a test for something but exclude a negative result then he is the stupid one. 4) If Prokop doesn't have the money to buy any of my books he should know how to get it from through the Interlibrary loan system. 5) If he's not interested in reading one of my books then he should not comment as he did, which reveals his ignorance. 6) If I'm indeed defending a stupid idea then I'm in good company with several credentialed scholars who blurbed my book:

John Loftus said...

"Over the past ten thousand years there have been tens of thousands of religions and thousands of gods. Which one is the right one? To believers in each one they all appear unique. To an anthropologist from Mars they all look the same... . This clever book gives you the intellectual firepower you need when engaging believers, pointing out, for example, that they are religious skeptics, too—of all those other faiths. Some of us go one faith further in our skepticism. You will, too, after reading this testament to the power of reason." --MICHAEL SHERMER, publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Believing Brain

"A must-read for believers and any atheists who want to debate them. Superbly argued, air­tight, and endlessly useful, this should be everyone's first stop in the god debate." --RICHARD CARRIER, author of Proving History

"Loftus makes a convincing case that believers who are willing to honestly apply the outsider test cannot but fail to see the irrationality of their faith." --VICTOR J. STENGER, author of God and the Atom

"Without doubt one of the best books I've ever read on faith. A masterpiece." --PETER BOGHOSSIAN, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists

"Because one's religious faith is almost completely an accident of birth, believers should be highly skeptical about whether their own faith is correct. This eminently sensible prin­ciple, outlined in Loftus's admirable book, is rarely followed in practice; but if it were, then the dominance of religion in our world, with all its bad effects, would be severely eroded." --JERRY A. COYNE, author of Why Evolution Is True

"The Outsider Test for Faith is an ingenious way of helping the religious take a step back so that they can fairly and impartially examine what they believe, which can only be a good thing." --STEPHEN LAW, author of Believing Bullshit

"John Loftus has done it again! He has produced a lucid and exhaustive explanation of the simple proposition that individuals should examine their own faith with the same skepticism they show toward the claims of other faiths. No significant objection is left unexamined and no major objector escapes unscathed. This is a potent antidote to those who elevate faith above reason, and superstition above science. It is a bravura performance." --HECTOR AVALOS, author of The End of Biblical Studies

"John W. Loftus will be remembered a century from now for The Outsider Test for Faith." --DR. FRANK ZINDLER, former president of American Atheists and editor of American Atheist Magazine

"Perhaps the most intractable argument against Loftus's outsider test for faith is some version of 'I can't do it. I can't get far enough outside of my emotions and beliefs to examine my own religion like I would any other.' As a psychologist I find that credible. We all have a very imperfect and fragmentary ability to see ourselves as others see us. But this in no way undermines Loftus's foundational argument that the outsider test should be the gold standard." --DR. VALERIE TARICO, psychologist and author of Trusting Doubt

"John Loftus has written a bold book based on a simple premise: the unexamined faith is not worth believing... . He demands that believers examine their own faith with all the rigor and skepticism that they direct toward other faiths. To those who condemn the beliefs of others while elevating their own dogmas, Loftus's message could come straight from the Gospel: remove the beam from your own eye before you seek to remove the speck from another's." --DR. KEITH PARSONS, professor of philosophy, University of Houston-Clear Lake, and author of God and the Burden of Proof

John Loftus said...

...in other words, all of these scholars would have to be stupid too. Now I may be wrong but I am not stupid. The only ones saying otherwise are ignorant, willfully so.

John Loftus said...

Lastly, contrary to David Marshall and B. Prokop, to say there are millions of converts coming to a particular faith does not show that faith has passed the OTF, for a few reasons. 1) Then mutually inconsistent religious faiths like Scientology, Mormonism and Islam would all be shown true since they are growing exponentially. 2) Since people are raised to believe by their parents, the fact that later on in life wayward people come back to the faith they were raised to believe says nothing significant. 3) There are people of faith who switch religions in part, because they share a similar religious outlook. But that says nothing objective about that religious outlook. 4) Hardly anyone studies the various religious options in any depth from a skeptical disposition before choosing to believe one of them. If they did this intellectual feat it would be more significant than a dramatic conversion to a religious faith inside a culture that already embraces that faith. The few who claimed to have done this intellectual feat still don't undermine the rule, based on overwhelming numbers of people, that most all believers don't do this. Even then, the fact a few may have done this intellectual feat, it doesn't exonerate anyone else from doing likewise, since we must all do this task ourselves. We must do so because there are people who claim to have done this feat who subsequently embraced mutually different religious faiths. Moreover, since we have no access to their minds we cannot say their claims are true. Depending on what we conclude from the OTF, we can however, argue these few people of faith didn't actually take and pass the OTF. 5) What David Marshall and Prokop need to do is show that prior to conversion these converts shared a reasonable doubt about the religious faith they were about to critically examine. This is a reasonable doubt that I explain in my book. It's reasonable. Everyone should share it. It's the adult attitude.

Victor Reppert said...

I wouldn't use the word plagiarism in talking about your book, since I hardly think you got your idea from Chesterton. Nor would I say the idea was stupid. I think some of the grandstanding you have done on behalf of the test is badly misguided. Of course we are going to be interested in seeing whether there are reasons available to someone who doesn't have my cultural background to believe what I do. If the answer is "no" to that I am not persuaded that, in every case, the belief ought to be given up. I'm not a classical foundationalist. I think your test presupposes that it is possible to separate out content in our belief system that comes from epistemically irrelevant sources and discount them, when I think that is far more difficult than you imagine.

It also seems to me that in advancing the test you make the perspective of one type of outsider, a science-oriented materialistic skeptic, normative, when there are lots and lots of ways of being "outside" one's beliefs.

There are plenty of people who have come to accept Christianity after being outside of it, C. S. Lewis would be an example. Antony Flew was "outside" of theism and became a theist at the end of his life. Of course you can go in and try to explain people like that away and say that they somehow weren't REAL outsiders, but then we can start doing that with everyone and start thinking we've got to explain away anyone who disagrees with us. I think that is a dangerous precedent.

Materialistic atheism doesn't deserve to be treated with some kind of exceptionalism, when you are a materialistic atheist you are an outsider to Christianity, but when you are a Christian you are an outsider to the atheist faith. And yes I do mean to say just that. You have faith that there are naturalistic explanations for everything even though, in many cases, you have no idea what they are. I call that punting to faith. There is no getting out of it.

John Loftus said...

Vic, the default position as I've argued, is agnosticism. This is a position Craig and Moreland both agree is more defensible than the presumption of atheism, per Flew's earlier essay, before his cognitive facilities ceased functioning properly.

David B Marshall said...

As usual, John misrepresents my argument. I do not, as he claims, "say there are millions of converts coming to a particular faith (so) that faith has passed the OTF."

I urge readers to consider my actual arguments -- which is only nominally or in small part a response to Loftus -- by reading How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story for themselves. It will I think change how any open-minded person sees Christian history and the relationship between the Christian faith and world religions, and give you fresh reasons for Christian faith. Reviews by people who have read it (which does not seem to include Loftus, who only cites the book to about page 29 in his recent "rebuttal") have compared the book to the works of Chesterton and Lewis.

David B Marshall said...

Since John has posted blurbs for the "testimony to the power of reason" that is his OTF book, here are some blurbs for mine, which refute the force of his. Note the last review in particular:

Miriam Adeney, Seattle Pacific Missiologist:

"Widely traveled and widely read, David Marshall unlocks a wealth of wisdom in this book . . . Greek and Roman Christianity, Viking Christianity, Indian Christianity, and Chinese Christianity are visited by a scholar who is fluent in the major languages of Asia. What is truth? How do we know? What is love? Such questions are explored with flashes of dry humor and wit. Christ's many gifts to humankind are described from an original perspective. By turns, Christ is seen as a koan master, a sage, a guru, a messiah, and a reformer, as well as the center of the cosmos, the suffering sacrifice, and the risen Lord. "Christ fulfilled the archetypes and prophecies given by Plato, Homer, Confucius, Lao Zi, Mencius, the Norse poets, and the great Vedic and Zhou texts. This book is a treasure chest. Read it and you will be enriched."

Brad Cooper:

"I found myself being carried along as if by an incoming hurricane, swept along by David's wit and mastery of metaphor. But unlike a hurricane, David did not leave behind a barren wasteland in his wake. Instead, fresh insights from the history of religions sprung up page after page, and an original and cogent argument had grown tall and strong as a redwood when the winds finally died down . . .

"At one point, I was thinking to myself: "I can't remember the last time I enjoyed reading a book this much." (And I read a lot.) Then I remembered that it was when I read Chesterton's Orthodoxy. Quite honestly, I think this book even surpasses that for me."

Randal Rauser, Canadian philosopher:

"For some time now, Christianity’s cultured despisers have claimed that the Christian faith fails the so-called outsider test for faith. In this delightful riposte, David Marshall demonstrates the opposite is the case: Christianity, of all faiths, is most adept to pass this test. Nor is this a dry academic volume: Marshall presents his case with rhetorical wit and the cosmopolitan vision of a true world citizen. A must have for any apologist."

Ivan Satyavrata, theologian, Chairman, Kolkata Mission of Mercy:

"Marshall’s undertaking is breath-taking in its scope, as he brings together an amazing array of factual evidence from history, literature, religions and an unbelievable diversity of other sources in a brilliantly woven case that effectively invalidates the sceptical claim that people of faith live in a `closed door’ universe that could never survive the rigorous intellectual scrutiny of the `Outsider Test’. Marshall is uniquely gifted as a writer – his careful scholarship, depth of insight and logical analysis is matched only by his illustrative genius as he skilfully blends inspired prose and vivid imagination in a much-needed, readable counter to the contemporary assault of the new atheists. This is a book you will not want to put down once you begin to read it, and a `must-read’ for any thoughtful follower of Christ. It has immense value both as a apologetic and pastoral tool - to help demolish obstacles to faith among genuine skeptics, and to encourage the weak and equip the strong within the community of faith."

Tom Gilson, Thinking Christian blog:

"In the earliest days of the church there was a skeptic named Celsus whose works have been lost, and whose name would be forgotten had not Origen written his important rebuttal, Contra Celsus . . . Much as Celsus has become a footnote to Origen, I suspect (skeptic John) Loftus is destined to become a footnote to Marshall . . . an outstanding read by a terrific storyteller, broad in scope, great in depth."