Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Summary of the discussion with Steve Hays

I maintained that even if the self-deception theory goes through, then we still should say that there are atheists, however self-deceived they may be. I don't think Hays responded to that beyond saying that it was a boring semantical issue. I just think that Christian apologists should not be making absurd claims (even if it turns out the obvious meaning is not what is intended).

I posed some questions about exegetical basis for the self-deception claims, asking, for example, if they are really meant to be applied to individuals as opposed to pagans as a whole. I was told that these passages refer to "the unregenerate," which of course merely asserts the standard Reformed exegesis of the relevant passage, which I was calling into question. Hays pointed out that there are relevant passages, which I am sure there is, but we have to focus somewhere, and I wanted to point out that there is more than one way to interpret the relevant passages.

I also indicated being closer to C. S. Lewis than to Francis Schaeffer on inerrancy (the difference between these two views on inerrancy is laid out in Burson and Walls' book on those two apologists).

I also argued that my study of the reasons for believing and denying belief in God convinced me that reasons could be given both for and against the existence of God, and that based on my study of the reasons on both sides I could not see why one would have to be in self-deception to be a non-believer. It is possible to honestly hold the view that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq even if there were none, and it is possible to honestly hold the view that God does not exist even though God does exist. I can sympathise with someone who rejects theism based on, say, the problem of evil. I have seen plenty of intellectual dishonesty in the atheist camp, but not enough to make a sweeping judgment.

Now, if I could be convinced that God was telling me that these people are really self-deceived and that I am wrong in my assessment of the evidence for and against God, then that would be another matter, but my reading of the relevant passages and my understanding of Scripture permit me to go with my common sense on this matter.

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