Sunday, February 28, 2016

Reply to Cal Metzger

Cal Metzger: VR: "It depends on what kind of explanation is needed for the factual information."
It would seem to me that the kind of explanation needed is that the stories were compiled by men who lived in the time and setting in which they wrote. I think that explains things best.
VR: "In the case of the Book of Acts, the author had extensive knowledge of lots and lots of facts concerning locations all over the Empire, from Jerusalem to Rome."
So what? Wouldn't we expect that from literate men who lived in the time and setting in which they wrote? This seems like one of the the most mundane "problems" I can imagine.
VR: "Putting that much accurate detail in an ancient document which also contains a significant amount of supernatural content cries out for explanation."
I can imagine few things less surprising in a document written by religious proselytizers. Truly, this is one of the least remarkable features of the NT.
VR: "The technique of the modern realistic historical novel was not known in that time."
By this logic no literary genre could ever emerge. Cervantes couldn't have written the first novel because the first novel wasn't known at that time. Capote couldn't have written In Cold Blood because non-fiction novels weren't known at that time. Etc.
Also, if you were going to be consistent you should find this equally persuasive (from a Muslim who believes in his book the same way you believe in yours): "When we study the Quran even superficially from the viewpoint of its wording, styles, and meaning, we will certainly conclude that it is completely different from all the other books in the world. So, in rank and worth it is either below all of them-even Satan cannot claim this, nor does he conceive of it-or above them. Since it is above all of them, it must be the Word of God."
Notice how the above paragraph relies on 1) fuzzy and arbitrary standards ("completely different") and 2) flights of logic ("Since it is above all of them, it must be the Word of God.")
Then notice how your words above rely on 1) fuzzy and arbitrary standards ("the amount of factual data") and 2) flights of logic ("It is evidence, and I am tempted to say, it's extraordinary evidence.")
And that is why you are inconsistent, and that is what the OTF reveals. Because the method, the process, the way that you say you are selecting and evaluating your evidence, if applied consistently, should compel you to accept other, competing religious claims (like the common argument for the divine writing of the Koran, based on it's literary qualities and concordance with mundane facts known to the writers of the time).
I assume that you're being honest, and that you can't see how obvious the above is to those of us who see how all religions are similar. So your situation is like that of a man who has a sign pinned to his back. How many people have to point out that you have a sign pinned to your back, and describe it to you in the same, exact detail whenever you ask, in order for you to accept that you have a sign pinned to your back?

VR: I think you are the one who is missing the point. Look once again the the detailed list posted by Jayman, based on Colin Hemer, and simply ask yourself how he could have known all he needed to know in order to write Acts.
Suppose I were to write a story about getting arrested in various countries. Suppose, careful investigation of police procedures in each country, which are varied, showed that for each country I knew exactly how police operated differently in each of those countries. Obviously I am going to be treated somewhat differently whether I am arrested in the New York City, in Mexico, in Boone County, KY, in Thailand, in Tokyo, or in Saigon. Today, I might learn about all these differences in police procedures in all these countries through library research. But how could someone get such information about getting arrested all over the Roman Empire? I can't think of any way of doing that except by, well, getting arrested all over the Roman Empire. It is a story of people who became convinced that they had come to know a world-changing truth. It starts with Peter standing in front of the Beautiful Gate and telling the PEOPLE WHO HAD JESUS KILLED that they guy they crucified was both Lord and Christ, to Paul's arrival in Rome, this is the story of people convinced that this was true and were prepared to put their lives at severe risk to advance the story.
Why should I believe the stories in the Book of Mormon? In spite of the admitted lack of evidence, ultimately the reason why you should believe it is because you feel it in your heart. Why believe the Qu'ran. Because it comes in the just the right form, in the perfect language of Arabic. Why does Luke say that we should accept his claims? Because he has carefully investigated it, and made a serious attempt to get things right.
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
In short, he made a serious effort to be accurate, and he gets so much right because he, and other biblical writers, worked as hard as he possibly could at being accurate. No competing religious document is built on so much fact.
Recognizing the factual foundation of Christianity is not sufficient to show that Christianity is true. The facts in the foundation are not in themselves supernatural. It is certainly possible that the supernatural elements were got wrong even though so many natural facts were got right. However, even a skeptic should acknowledge:
1) The degree of the factual foundation for Christianity vastly exceeds the factual foundation of all competing religious claims.
2) The factual foundation of Christianity is something that is surprising and stands in need of explanation. Made up supernatural stories usually take off from reality pretty thoroughly, as in Philostratus' account of Apollonius of Tyana. Why didn't that happen in the case of Christ?
3) The reasons why someone might reject these other supernatural claims, namely the lack of a factual foundation, do not apply in the case of Christianity.
“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”- Stephen Roberts
Suppose archaeologists were to start saying that they had found the Book of Mormon peoples. We translate a bunch of old Native American documents, and, lo and behold, those Native American documents had names, places, magistrates, and other leaders that corresponded precisely to accounts in the Book of Mormon. Lehi, Nephi, and the rest of them are all there in the Native American documents. Suppose parts of the book of Mormon were confirmed as strongly as, say, oh, say, the New Testament.
Suppose, further, that DNA evidence matched Native Americans to Jews to such an extent that this disconfirmation of the Book of Mormon would not exist. If the evidence looked like that, it would radically alter my assessment of Mormonism. I couldn't rule out shopping for sacred underwear if I were to discover that.
These are two major problems I see with Mormonism, and no, Christianity doesn't have those problems. So, sorry,Roberts is wrong. I think it's just plain delusional to think there are no relevant differences between Christianity and other religions.


Joe Hinman said...

I don't think Cal understands the importance of the evidence about titles. He is speaking as though there is this one area where any number of people living would know all the titles. Not the deal Take second missionary journey. Here is a map, look at it Looking at the map you can see how extensive the travels were. Jerusalem, to Cilicia to Macedonia and back by way of a different route thus making great circle.

This was in an age when going 20 miles would take two or three days. Travels was dangerous. no rest stops, can't call cops if you are attacked. Can't call a toe truck and they were probably walking. The guy who wrote that account was obviously on the journey. Most people just didn't make that kind of trek.

It is possible that some merchant or solider made that journey a d supplied the info to help make it look realistic. The you still have to account for the circle of churches and the letters a Paul wrote to them, obviously having been there. It is much mower likely that they really made the journey.

If you have to deny the supernatural then deny it. so they made this naturalist journey, that still means the factual nature of the accounts are more likely.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "The degree of the factual foundation for Christianity vastly exceeds the factual foundation of all competing religious claims."

Um, no it doesn't. At all. Mundane factual inconsistencies abound in the NT. Starting with three men following a comet (what?) to Bethlehem, even though Jesus was pretty clearly from Nazareth, for the inexplicable reason that the Romans thought this one time that a census should count where people were born instead of where they lived and worked. That's quite the factual trifecta of nonsense right out of the box, and only the religiously blinkered could think otherwise.

But that doesn't even matter. Because factual consistence and inconsistencies have nothing to do with the superstitious (supernatural?) claims for Chrisitianity (and all other religions). It would, of course, be much more impressive if they NT contained NOTHING that was corroborated by facts known around the time and setting of the NT, BUT INSTEAD actually gave us something (more than stories) that wasn't mundane or ordinary. Mudane and Ordinary, plus Stories = All Religious Claims.

Isn't it kind of sad that the best the religious can do, when asked for a demonstration of their religion's claims, is refer back to those mundane parts of reality around their story that have nothing to do with their religious claims. As if, for instance, the height of Joseph Smith's collar could lend credence to the claims around the golden plates, or that his persistence in his beliefs that led to his death meant anything more than that he was vested in the claims he had laid on record.

You think of the reasons you don't find Mormonism credible. But Mormons don't believe that DNA evidence invalidates their religious belief in tribal migration. And Christians don't believe that DNA evidence invalidates their religious belief in special creation. Somehow, you see your position as special and privileged compared to that of Mormons and other religious believers, all of whom rationalize in similar way to you. To those of us who are free of religious conviction, you all have the same sign pinned to your backs. You all see some special significance in the mundane facts around your religions, and ignore those problems in your religious claims that you can clearly see in others. And that's because, if we choose to, we can all rationalize (through ad hoc reasoning and any number of other fallacies) any belief we'd like to retain.

This entire 'consistency with mundane facts' approach to religious claims reminds me of the movie Ghostbusters, where Dr. Ray Stantz points to a stack of books in the library as evidence of supernatural involvement. As Peter Venkman points out sarcastically (and correctly) "You're right, no *human being* would stack books like this."

Joe Hinman said...

you did not answer me Cal. Does that mean you don't understand what I than most people would ever see in their lives in that era.So the argument you made about they are just familiar with where they live does not apply.

Cal Metzger said...

@Joe, I sincerely have problems understanding a lot of your comments. You seem to be missing crucial words in sentences, you seem to be referring to things you think I wrote but didn't or just misconstrue my criticism, etc. I don't have a lot of time to break down most of your comments, and so if I can't figure out what you're saying I just choose to move on.

If you could more carefully explain your objection, quoting the relevant parts of my comments that you are addressing, that would be a huge if you would like me to respond.