Wednesday, May 31, 2006

An article by Chris Seiple

HT: Jarrod Cochran

by Chris Seiple
“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” - (from C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

There is nothing safe about worshipping a King. Yet for many of us who are Christians, safety is what we daily seek. We take safety in knowing the rules, drawing the boundaries. A black-and-white world feels safer than a world of gray.

We feel safe when we keep score, if only to prove our success in His name. We pray for quantifiable favor and prosperity from God, but forget about our own sin. We draw theological boundaries — determining who’s in, and who’s not — but lose sight of the fact that His body is bigger than our church. We count the souls we’ve saved for our Savior, but do not live out radical obedience to the King who is sovereign over all spheres of life.

Certainly, issues of accountability, prosperity, theology and evangelizing are biblical and important. But in our pious pronouncements of certainty about them, are our means of worship becoming more important than the ends of worship? We “bow down to the work of [our] hands, to what [our] fingers have made” (Isaiah 2:8). Within the simplifying safety of religion, we remove the mystery and majesty of our faith. Or as Jesus said: “You have forgotten the more important matters ... justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23).

Oswald Chambers wisely warns us: “We have shown our ignorance of Him in the very way we determined to serve Him…. Have I been persecuting Jesus by a zealous determination to serve Jesus in my own way?”

Do we dare to be true disciples of Christ, and not merely “pagan Christians” who seek reassurance in empty idols and rituals? Will we center on Jesus and remember that He is the keeper of the scorecard? Will we focus on being a member of His body, letting Him draw the boundaries? Will we see life as a chance to love Him by loving others, knowing that He will provide?

It won’t be safe: we might meet a woman by the well; we might drink wine with a tax collector; we might have to pray for an enemy. We might even meet someone outside of our churches.

But it will be good: because our King does not need our regulating religion, only our faithful obedience.

“He’s the King, I tell you.” He does not promise safety, only the security of eternity with Him.

(Chris Seiple is president of the Institute for Global Engagement.)

A reaction to some comments by Ed Babinski

Why should one believe that someone who ends up in a skeptical position with respect to Christianity is someone who is "has more questions" than someone who is a Christian. Agnosticism is sometimes one of my biggest allies as a Christian. The atheist says that if I don't KNOW who God permitted this, that, or the other evil, that this is proof that God does not exist. I may reply that I don't KNOW why the evil was permitted; it might be this, it might be that, it might be none of the above, why should I be expected to know. In this debate the atheist claims he has all the answers, the theist is open to all sorts of maybes and we're not sures.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More Lewis and Atheism

BDK: The comments link on your "Lewis is a jerk" post is busted.

Calling atheism a "boy's philosophy" is, on the face of it, is a hurtful discussion-stopper, something I can imagine a stupid parent telling their intelligent inquisitive child.

I'll be honest with you. I wish he hadn't said it. Though he did make this statement after having offered arguments against atheism. It's in Mere Christianity. What he actually meant by it, I think, is that atheism is an adolescent philosophy, carry with it the kinds of compensations that go along with adolescent rebellion (the joy of getting it "right" when most of popular culture gets it wrong; the sense that one is tough enough to face the "truth" when everyone else is hugging illusions, etc.

BDK: On the other hand, perhaps it was a case of turnabout as fair play. I know a lot of atheists loudly claim that theists simply haven't matured past a childish world of make-believe (we constantly make allusions to Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, etc). This must be a tiresome claim to confront, and is as insulting as calling them a little child.

Yes, these arguments are tiresome and silly.

BDK: Also, it may be important to remember that he speaks of himself when he pokes fun at atheists, so perhaps he has some license to poke fun at his previous self. For him, atheism was a previous point in his intellectual development, a less matured point, so his psychological claim makes some sense.

The central point of the previous point was that although Lewis does make certain harsh claims about atheism, he also shows profound and perfectly sincere respect for his former teacher Kirkpatrick, and he has certain things he expect of the atheist; he respects atheism that is "high and dry" implying that more recently, atheism has in many cases become low and wet. The overall attitude of Lewis toward atheism is not worse, and considerably better overall, than most people's attitudes toward positions they spend their lives attacking.

BDK: At any rate, his quips make nice bumper stickers, and qua bumperstickers they are ad hominems, not really deserving serious consideration. Appealing only to children, really. :)

My central point is that these quips don't represent Lewis's overall position adequately, which is rather complex. It's important to get beyond the soundbites.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Lewis on Atheism: A Reply to Austin Cline and John Beversluis: Does Lewis Ridicule Atheists?

VR: In another of Austin Cline's hostile posts on C. S. Lewis, he addresses Lewis's attitude toward atheism. He maintains that Lewis has an arrogant and hostile attitude toward atheists. Once again he appeals to John Beversluis's book to support his claims.

JB: “In Mere Christianity, for example, we learn that atheists are like ostriches: they keep their heads in the sand in order to avoid facing facts that damage their position. ...It is noteworthy that in Mere Christianity there is not one word about the “mixed” quality of the evidence for theism. Instead, those who have doubts about Christianity are ridiculed as pitifully unstable creatures who “dither to and fro” and whose beliefs are dependent “on the weather and the state of [their] digestion” (MC, 124). We are told that atheism is “too simple,” that like materialism it is “a boys’ philosophy,” “a philosophy of the nursery” (R, 55). What is the implication of this if not that atheism and materialism are childish errors that are easy to refute and unworthy of the rational man?”

“...Turning to Surprised by Joy, we find that a young atheist "cannot guard his faith too carefully," that danger "lies in wait" on every side, and that a successful adherence to atheism depends on being very selective in one's reading (SbJ, 226, 191). We are again assured that atheism is a form of wish-fulfillment and informed that in its "modern" forms it has "come down in the world" and now "dabbles in dirt" (SbJ, 226, 139). Finally, we discover that atheists are not committed inquirers, that they merely "play at" religion, and that their minds reel "in a whirl of contradictions" (SbJ, 115).”

VR: There are certainly passages in Lewis that would suggest a very harsh view of atheism; I personally cringe somewhat when I Lewis talks about atheism as a "boy's philosophy." However, when you look at Lewis's fiction, you find characters like Trumpkin the dwarf in Narnia and MacPhee in That Hideous Strength, as well as the one scientist Hingest, who refuses to cooperate with the NICE and is murdered, who are virtuous nonbelievers, and indeed even intellectully virtuous nonbelievers.

Lewis's views on atheism was very complex. On the one had atheism was certainly a view that he had come to believe to be false, and that he believed it to be false for what seemed to him to be good reasons. On the other hand, he did retain cordial relations with atheists like Arthur Clarke. He sometimes makes comments in his apologetics with respect to atheism which sound very triumphalistic, and others that do not seem nearly so triumphalistic.

Beversluis, I am afraid, very often leaves a lot to be desired in his interpretations of Lewis's writings. Consider his statement that atheism is a form of wish-fulfilment. What does Lewis actually say? He does say that he had a deep desire not to be interfered with and that the God of Christianity put at the center the transcendental Interferer. But does this mean that his atheism was just wish-fulfilment?

CSL: In this respect, and this only at first, I may have been guilty of wishful thinking. Almost certainly i was. the materilaist conception would not have seemed so immensely probable to me if it had not favored at least one of my wishes. But the difficulty of explaining even a boy's thought entirely in terms of his wishes is that on such arge questions as these he always has wishes on both sides. any conception of reality which a sane mind can admit must favor some of his wishes and frustrate others. The materialistic universe had one great, negative, attraction to offer me. It had no other. And this had to be accpeted; one had to look out on a meaningles dance of atoms (remeber, I was reading Lucretius) to realize that all the apparent beauty was a subjective phosphorescence, and to relegated everything one valued to the world of mirage. That price I tried loyally to pay. For I had learned something from Kirk about the honor of the intellect and the shame of voluntary inconsistency. And, of course, I exultled with youthful and vulgar pride in what I thought was my enlightenment. In argument with Arthur I was very swashbuckler. Most of it, as I now see, was incredibly crude and silly. I was in that state of mind in which a boy thinks it extremely telling to call God Jahveh and Jesus Yeshua.

Surprised by Joy (HBJ, pp. 172-173).

VR: And what about the charge that atheism in its modern forms dabbles in dirt. This is the full passage where that phrase emerges. Lewis is speaking about his atheist teacher, Kirkpatrick, whom he called The Great Knock.

CSL: Having said that he was a Atheist, I hasten to add that he was a "Rationalist" of the old, high and dry nineteenth-century type. For Atheism has come down in since those days, and mixed itself with politics and learned to dabble in dirt. The anonymous donor who now sends me anti-God magazines hopes, no doubt, to hurt the Christian in me; he realy hurts the ex-Atheist. I am ashamed that my old mates and (which matters much more) Kirk's old mates would have sunk to what they are now. It was differrent then; even McCabe wrote like a man. At the time when I know him, the fuel of Kirk's atheism was chiefly of the anthropological and pessimistic kind. He was great on The Golden Bough and Schopenhauer.

VR: This is a far more complex response to atheism than what Beversluis and Cline are trying to portray, to say the least.

Go Suns

I have been following the NBA playoffs, and as a Phoenix native, am of course partial to the Phoenix Suns. They have been left for dead on the side of the road several times this season, but under the leadership of league MVP Steve Nash, they keep coming back. I wish I could provide some links to some articles at the beginning of the season wondering if they would be an eighth seed in the playoffs this year, or if they would miss it entirely, since Amare Stoudemire was going to be out for most of (it ended up being all of) the season. Now they are up one on the Mavericks. To get a sense of this accomplishment, imagine the Spurs without Duncan or the Mavericks without Nowitzki. Would either of those teams be in the Western Conference finals?

Well, enough bragging. I have no idea when, or if, this will all end for the Suns. But it's been a fun ride so far.

Is God outside of Time?

This is a link to the famous Time chapter of Mere Christianity, in which Lewis argues that God is outside of time. I was surprised to discover, when I reread it, that Lewis is using the Boethian outside-of-time theory of God to explain how God can listen to all our prayers at once. This seems patently unnecesary: a simple explanation of the term omnipotent would do that trick. He does offer it as a solution to the problem of foreknowledge and free will. It sounded good when I read it, but those philosophically inclined should read the two chapters on divine timelessness in William Hasker's God, Time and Knowledge. Also for a statement of the opposing view, that God is in time, see Nicholas Wolterstorff 'God Everlasting' in God and the Good eds. Orlebeke & Smedes, Grand Rapids, 1975.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Just Plain Snobbery Again

I think the best I can come up with to explain Ehrman's responses to Craig is to parallel them with the incident that I mention on p. 15 of my book. If you don't have it, the opening chapter can be downloaded in pdf form at the link below. And I think this was a sincere response for this person; he really thought I did show that something was wrong with Anscombe's views on reasons and causes, but that Lewis did not deserve the kind of academic airplay I was giving him.

Why naturalism has problems with consciousness

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

William Lane Craig's CV

This is a link to William Lane Craig's CV. Gosh. Maybe he is engaged in a desperate pursuit of credibility.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Some interesting dialogue on philosophy of mind and science

Is philosophy the janitor in the halls of the sciences? See this discussion here on Maverick's site.

The Celebrity Atheist List

This is a link to the celebrity atheist list. I found it odd that they included Monica Lewinsky among the "ambiguous." Atheists, I thought, we eager to argue that atheism is morally benign, if not morally beneficial. Has anyone forgotten WHY Monica Lewinsky is a celebrity? Should religious skeptics really be touting her lack of faith?

Celebrity status in our culture comes pretty cheap sometimes. It all reminds me of the words of one of my favorite Country-Western philosophers, Brad Paisley.

Someday I'm gonna be famous, do I have talent, well no
These days you don't really need it thanks to reality shows
Can't wait to date a supermodel, can't wait to sue my dad
Can't wait to wreck a Ferrari on my way to rehab

[1st Chorus]
'Cause when you're a celebrity
It's adios reality
You can act just like a fool
People think you're cool
Just 'cause you're on TV
I can throw a major fit
When my latte isn't just how I like it
When they say I've gone insane
I'll blame it on the fame
And the pressures that go with
Being a celebrity

I'll get to cry to Barbara Walters when things don't go my way
And I'll get community service no matter which law I break
I'll make the supermarket tabloids, they'll write some awful stuff
But the more they run my name down the more my price goes up

[2nd Chorus]
'Cause when you're a celebrity
It's adios reality
No matter what you do
People think you're cool
Just 'cause you're on TV
I can fall in and out of love
Have marriages that barely last a month
When they go down the drain
I'll blame it on the fame
And say it's just so tough
Being a celebrity

So let's hitch up the wagons and head out west
To the land of the fun and the sun
We'll be real world bachelor jackass millionaires
Hey hey, Hollywood, here we come

[3rd Chorus]
'Cause when you're a celebrity
It's adios reality
No matter what you do
People think you're cool
Just 'cause you're on TV
Being a celebrity
Yeah celebrity

Dialogue with Babinski on Gretchen Passantino

Ed: I suspect that part of the reason Gretchen has a PR problem convincing fellow Christians that she is genuinely one of them is based partly on the way she debunks many Christian urban myths and fearing mongering excesses:
Satanism and Satanic Ritual Abuse
[Debunked by Gretchen]
Answers In Action Urban Legend Articles [Debunekd by Gretchen]
Gretchen even has an article at her website that comes out in favor of skepticism regarding the ossuary of James.
The folks at the Wittenberg Door
have a problem similar to Gretchen's in getting a majority of Christians to agree that are their fellows, since they debunk Christians who are faith healers or promoters of extravagant promises and miraculous claims.

VR: Oh I'm not sure about that. Her work on this goes right along with that of the Bible Answer-Man, Hank Hanegraaff. Hanegraaff is one of the most popular evangelical apologists today. Gretchen frequently appears on his program. You are implying that evangelical Christians don't want to hear this kind of internal criticism because you think Christians are all mouth-breathing fools who are inclined to believe everything they hear from a "Christian" source. Apparently you think Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind was written by a closet agnostic.

Many of us Christians are sick and tired of the credibility of the Gospel being damaged by such rubbish as the health-and-wealth gospel, the Left Behind series and Hal Lindsey-style eschatology, bugs faith-healers like Benny Hinn, and so forth. Sadly, there are plenty of Christians who fall for this nonsense. I suspect some of them helped sprea the rumor about Gretchen. But many of us are only too grateful for people like her, who tell the truth whether it is the "pious" thing to do or not.

An old post of mine deals with that subject, to which you, true to form, appended a long, irrelevant diatribe.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A note from Bart Ehrman

This is a note Ed Babinski passed along from Bart Ehrman. Thanks, Ed.

"Bart Ehrman" on Friday, May 19, 2006 at 7:26 AM
-0500 wrote:
Thanks for your note. Yes, I did know what Craig's positions were,
quite well, before our debate. And I came away from it thinking that he
had not done a very good job in defending his views -- especially as he
was completely unable to answer the objections I had raised (he evidently
is not used to someone dealing directly with his arguments and raising
hard questions). Most people I talked with thought that I had far the
upper hand in the debate (of course, people already convinced by his views
ahead of time probably thought that he won!). But I also felt that by
publicizing the debate, it would give him the kind of credibility that he
so desparately is seeking (he claims to have written an enormous number of
books: a lot of them are simply his edited transcripts: as if that's the
same thing as writing a book!).

What I'm most surprised about is that he approached my publisher about
publishing the debate, without even once asking me if I thought it was a
good idea or desirable, or asking what I wanted -- as if his own desires
were the only thing that mattered. And now he talks about my reaction,
again without saying word one to me. Why wouldn't he speak to me if he
wanted *our* debate published? Why would he talk about me behind my back?
This doesn't seem like very Christian behavior to me.
Thanks again for your note. Best wishes.

Bart D. Ehrman
James A. Gray Professor
Department of Religious Studies
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thursday, May 18, 2006

On defining matter, and materialism

shulamite said...
Why doesn't anyone bother to define matter in this debate? There is a continual confusion between "matter" which is a certain potency out of which something can be made, and "a material thing" which is something made out of matter and another principle.

VR: These are Aristotelian concepts based on a type of hylomorphism which contemporary materialists are inclined to reject. The material is typically identified with the physical, so materialism is sometimes called physicalism. In fact, I don't see a way to distinguish the two. Naturalism, unlike physicalism, says that everthing is "natural," but is there any scientific scenario according to which something can be part of nature but not be accounted for by the discipline of physics? The physical is supposed to be whatever is quantified over by physical theory. Only there is a problem, because clearly present physics is incomplete. So, for example, if someone were trying to define materialism in the 1960s and it turns out that string theory is true, then that would disprove materialism , since it would not have been true that whatever exists can be defined in terms of the physics of that time. On the other hand, If we say that the physical or the material is whatever some future physics will quantify over, then it could turn out that possibly, ultimate physics will quantify over God, souls, angels, and all that stuff that your average materialist says does not exist. Of course, you can turn around and say that of course these entities will be ruled out of the ultimate science by methodological naturalism, but since we are trying to figure out what "natural" means so that we can define naturalism, this isn't going to get us anywhere.

At this point I would like to point out something weird. We often get attempts to define "natural" in terms of the absence of the supernatural. Consider the following quote from the front page of the Secular Web:

In the words of Paul Draper, naturalism is "the hypothesis that the physical universe is a 'closed system' in the sense that nothing that is neither a part nor a product of it can affect it. So naturalism entails the nonexistence of all supernatural beings, including the theistic God."

I see lots of problems with this. Draper's trying to define naturalism, right? So he first defines it in terms of the physical universe, as if we knew what physical meant. And then he simply asserts that God would have to be supernatural, and therefore ruled out. But if we don't know what natural means we sure as heck don't know what supernatural means.

What J. J. C. Smart suggested once was that physicalism means that what exists are entities which are similar to those entities postulated by current science. Ok, but similar in what way? Is a string similar to an atom? Is the soul dissimilar to an atom? How do we use this criteria.

Following William Hasker, I have defined materialism in the following terms:
1. The physical level is to be understood mechanistically, such that purposive explanations must be further explained in terms of a non-purposive substratum. This will be called the mechanism thesis.

2. The physical order is causally closed. No nonphysical causes operate on the physical level. The physical is a comprehensive system of events that is not affect by anything that is not itself physical. (I really should have said physical in the final analysis.)

3. Other states, such as mental states, supervene on physical states. Give the state of the physical, there is onely one way the mental, for example, can be. Somethings this is called the supervenience and determination thesis. The idea is thatthe state of the supervening state is guaranteed by the state of the supervenience base. Thus it might be argued that biological states supervene on physicals tates. Imaginae a scenario in which a mountain lion kills and eats a deer. Even though "mountain lion" and "deer" are not physical terms, nevertheless, given the physical state of the world, it cannot be false that a mountain lion is eating a deer.

This is the best I can do on the matter. The link here links back to an old post of mine on the matter.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What Jesus Wouldn't Do

This is an excerpt from Jim Wallis's book "God's Politics: Why the Right gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get it.

Mary Midgely on the concept of matter

Here is an interesting quote which was included in a note from Ed Babinski last October, quoting Mary Midgley. Ed wrote:

See the Royal Institute of Philosophy, Supplement 56, Mary Midgley's article, "Souls, Minds, Bodies, and Planets":

"When physicists abandoned the notion of solid particles the word 'materialsm' lost its original meaning. Though this word is still used as a war-cry it is by no means clear what significance it ought to have today. That change in the ontology of physics is one scientific reason why it is now clear that the notion of matter as essentially dead stuff--hopelessly alien to conscious life--is mistaken. But an even more obvious reason is, of course, the Darwinian view of evolution.

"We now know that matter, the physical stuff that originally formed our planet, did in fact develop into the system of living things that now inhabit its surface, including us and many other conscious creatures. So, if we are still using a notion of physical matter that makes it seem incapable of giving rise to consciousness, we need to change it. That notion has proved unworkable. We have to see that the potentiality for the full richness of life must have been present right from the start--from the first outpouring of hydrogen atoms at the big bang. This was not simple stuff doomed for ever to unchanging inertness. it was able to combine in myriad suble ways that shaped fully active living things. And if it could perform that startling feat, why should it be surprising if some of those living things then went on to the further activity of becoming conscious?"

VR: But this whole discussion plays into the notion that I have been discussion earlier. If we are content to simply say that matter is just whatever occupies space and time, then one could postulate that there exists something that does everything dualists say a soul does, including leave the body at death, and say that it exists in the space between our ears. We could, for example, allow explanations in terms of purpose and intentionality to be basic explanations. We could say that it is the nature of this "matter" that it is aware of realities that are not in space and time at all, such as number, Platonic Forms and God. All of this is compatible with something having a spatiotemporal location. If we do that, however, we ought to hear screaming and yelling from people like Blue Devil Knight saying that materialism is no longer meaningful. If on the other hand materialism is to be serious, then materialism has to have something like the three characteristic outlined in tbe book ; that the basic level of analysis is nonpurposive, that the material realm is causally closed, and that whatever else is real supervenes on what exists on the physical level.

One way to change our concept of matter would be to accept something like Aristotle's hylomorphism, according to which there are no purely material objects and everything, for rocks to humans, is a combination of matter and form. This, however, would be to fo against what for many are the great gains achieved by the Scientific Revolution.

A note from Markus on Swinburne and Searle, and the Maverick

Hi Professor Reppert,

It's interesting that Swinburne draws metaphysical conclusions from the argument that you make in your post "The Trouble with Materialism" and John Searle, who makes essentially the same argument, claims that the argument has no "deep consequences".

Swinburne argues:

"The history of science is punctuated with many 'reductions' of one whole branch of science to another apparently totally different, or 'integration' of apparently very disparate sciences into a super-science. Thermodynamics dealing with heat was reduced to statistical mechanics dealing with velocities of large groups of particles of matter and collisions between them; the temperature of a gas proved to be the mean kinetic energy of its molecules. The separate science of electricity and magnetism came together to form a super-science of electromagnetism. And then optics was reduced to electromagnetism; light proved to be an electromagnetic wave. How is it that such great integrations can be achieved if my argument is correct that there could not be a simple and so probably true super-science that predicts the connections we find between mental events and brain events? There is a crucial difference between these cases. Every earlier integration into a super-science, of sciences with entities and properties apparently qualitatively very distinct, was achieved by saying that some of these entities and properties were not as they appeared to be. A distinction was made between the underlying (not immediately observable) physical entities and physical properties, on the one hand, and the sensory properties to which they gave rise. Thermodynamics was initially concerned with the laws of temperature exchange; and temperature was supposed to be a property inherent in an object that you felt when you touched the object. The felt hotness of a hot body is indeed qualitatively distinct from particle velocities and collisions. The reduction to statistical mechanics was achieved by distinguishing between the underlying cause of the hotness (the motion of molecules) and the sensation that the motion of molecules causes in observers,and saying that really the former was what temperature was, the latter was just the effect of temperature on observers. That done, temperature falls naturally within the scope of statistical mechanics---for molecules are particles; the entities and properties are not now of distinct kinds. Since the two sciences now dealt with entities and properties of the same (measurable) kind, reduction of one to the other became a practical prospect. But the reduction was achieved at the price of separating off the felt hotness from its causes, and only explaining the latter. All other 'reductions' of one science to another and 'integrations' of separate sciences dealing with apparently very disparate properties have been achieved by this device of denying that the apparent properties (such as the 'secondary qualities' of colour, heat, sound, taste) with which one science dealt belong to the physical world at all. It siphoned them off to the world of the mental. But then, when you come to face the problem of the mental events themselves, you cannot do this. If you are to explain the mental events themselves, you cannot distinguish between them and their underlying causes and only explain the latter. The enormous success of science in producing an integrated physico-chemistry has been achieved at the expense of separating off from the physical world colours, smells, and tastes, and regarding them as purely private sensory phenomena. What the evidence of the history of science shows is that the way to achieve integration of sciences is to ignore the mental. The very success of science in achieving its vast integrations in physics and chemistry is the very thing that has apparently ruled out any final success in integrating the world of the mind and the world of physics. (Existence of God 2nd edition pp. 205-206)

Searle makes what amounts to the same argument yet he claims that the irreducibility of consciousness is "a trivial consequence of our definitional practices" and that it "does not reveal a deep metaphysical asymmetry ". See his argument in the Rediscovery of the Mind pp. 116-124 and his comments in Mind:A Brief Introduction pp. 121-122

William Vallicella has a great post at the Maverick philosopher that argues that Searle's naturalism doesn't sit well with his views on the irreducibility of consciousness.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

C. S. Lewis and apologetical sophistication

I found the following passage from one of Austin Cline's anti-C. S. Lewis posts.

"Even one of Lewis’ most sympathetic biographers, A.N. Wilson, writes that Lewis “has become in the quarter-century since he died something very like a saint in the minds of conservative-minded believers.” At the same time, though, you won’t find professional theologians and sophisticated apologists citing C.S. Lewis or relying on his arguments in their own efforts."

VR: Oh dear. based on this, one could generate the argument:

1. Professional theologians and sophisticated apologists do not cite C. S. Lewis or rely on his arguments in their own efforts.
2. Victor Reppert relies on C. S. Lewis and his arguments for his own efforts.
Therefore, Victor Reppert is neither a professional theologian nor a sophisticated apologist.

Though, I would hope the argument would go like this:

1. Victor Reppert is a sophisticated apologist.
2. Victor Reppert relies on C. S. Lewis and his arguments for his own efforts.
Therefore, 1 in the above argument is false.

AC: Theology builds upon the insights and accomplishments of those who have come before, but Lewis doesn’t even appear to function as a minor plank in anyone’s platform. This combination of general popularity and professional dismissal is very curious — either the average believer knows something which the professionals have missed, or Lewis isn’t the apologist he is popularly believed to be.

VR: Or maybe the professionals are starting to come around. I mean, when Alvin Plantinga acknowledges a similarity between one of his own arguments and an argument found in Lewis, you would think maybe Cline would think twice before making statements like that. Unless you want to say that Plantinga is not sophisticated. As Flew would say, no true Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge.

On impressionable Lewis disciples

In his book, C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion, John Beversluis complains about the reverential attitude of Lewis admirers in writing about him:

“Sections devoted to biography read like hagiography. We seldom encounter a mere fact about Lewis; accounts of his behavior, attitudes, and personal relationships are instead reported in the wide-eyed manner of the impressionable disciple. To describe him as a wonderful friend is a lamentable understatement; we must be assured that no one ever was a better friend. To praise him as brilliant in debate is entirely too lukewarm a compliment; we are told that C. S. Lewis could have matched wits with any man who ever lived. To endorse him as a Christian apologist of the first rank is altogether inadequate; his apocalyptic Vision of Christianity must be likened to that of St. John on the Isle of Patmos. After a while, one longs for patches of sunlight to dispel the reverential haze. One tires of enduring these excesses and of having to plow through equally ecstatic testimonials in book after book.”

I think that although this passage strikes me as hyperbolic, it makes a legitimate point. Those who admire Lewis have sometimes overstated their case, and what this ends up doing is setting up stumbling blocks for people hwo come to Lewis with a more critical eye.

I think Lewis possessed a first-rate mind, but he was far from infallible. What is more, too many people writing about Lewis just quote him and leave it at that. At least in the area of philosophy, one hs to bring a whole host of further considerations to the table when considering the claims he makes. The claim I make on behalf of Lewis's apologetics is this: that after a doctoral-level education in philosophy at a secular institution, I believe that Christianity is credible for approximately the reasons that Lewis said that it was. And I do mean approximately. The arguments in Lewis need further development, almost invariably. If you want to make them credible in the present day, Lewis can do nothing more than point you in the right direction. After that, you're on your own, buddy.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Also from Gretchen Passantino

There is an insidious rumour circulating that I have "abandoned apologetics," am no longer in ministry, have retired, left Christian work, or something like that. I don't know where this false rumour started, what skewing of reality it is based on, or how widespread it has become, but it is very important that this vicious attack of the enemy is stopped in its tracks! The millions of people who reject the gospel & have had their consciences pricked by more than 30 years of Passantino/Answers In Action apologetics would like nothing better than to silence the truth & keep it from those who are genuinely seeking help. I am not a paranoid conspiracist or demon chaser, but the Bible says that the principalities & powers thrive on lies, gossip, character assasination, deceit, misdirection, & illusion. I do not care for myself, but for those who are prevented from receiving ministry through Answers In Action because the Enemy has obscured its light behind a cloud of falsehood.

Those who read our monthly newsletter, regularly benefit from our continually expanding website, enjoy my classes & lectures, receive help by e-mail or phone, alert to our upcoming events through our website calendar, attend Mars Hill Club, & who see God working daily through Answers In Action know that this rumour is a lie.

What especially saddens & surprises me is that my supporters, friends, & colleagues have a much better than average appreciation for evidence & sound argumentation, & yet some have apparently fallen for this unsubstantiated gossip & haven't even thought to check it out.

Let me say clearly, unequivocally, & adamantly: I am completely committed to working for God's kingdom in the field he prepared for me more than 30 years ago &, God willing, I will never take my hand from the plow or look back until I have breathed my last breath. Answers In Action is alive, vibrant, moving forward vigorously in fulfillment of its vision statement & will continue to do so.

If you have heard this rumour, track it back to its source & squash it! You know me well enough to know that if time & energy constraints force me to choose between defending myself & defending the gospel, I will ignore personal attacks & throw myself into the gospel, so I am counting on you to help turn this vicious lie away while I keep focused on doing what God called me to do. With your continued support & prayers, the plans of the Enemy to trivialize truth will fail. Rebuke anyone you know who repeats this rumour or speculates on my commitment or fitness and challenge them to contact me directly for the truth.

Now that I've responded & appealed for your help, there's work to be done for the Lord.

Blessings in Christ,
Gretchen Passantino

PS -- My husband Pat's hard work, encouragement, love, care, protection, wisdom, & partnership is the God-given source of my confidence & enthusiasm for the future of this ministry.

Gretchen Passantino will be on Good Morning America tomorrow

From Gretchen Passantino:

I will be featured on an ABC news story airing on Good Morning America tomorrow, Tuesday, May 16 at 7:30 AM (EDT). The segment investigates Bob Larson, a self-described exorcist who has made himself prominent in Christian media for nearly 30 years via radio and/or television with variations of his "demons under every bush" message. His teaching is both unbiblical & makes Christianity vulnerable to mockery & ridicule from non-believers. Most spiritually dangerous, however, is that he persuades hurting people that if they will trust him for their spiritual deliverance, his sensationalistic stage exorcisms will solve their problems; & that by investing financially in his program, they will receive continuing spiritual protection.

I spent most of Mother's Day with a film crew & interviewer at our home. As is common in television, it was a case of "hurry up & wait" -- the roughly 5 hours of set up, interview, & break down may translate into a total of a couple of minutes spliced throughout the report. My prayer is that what is aired will be respectful of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, & that it will credibly distance the truth of God's Word from Larson's perfromances, which strike me as manipulative, exploitive, & self-serving.

Having no knowledge of or ability to affect what is chosen from my comments to be aired or in what context, I focused on what I could do -- yield myself to God's will & seek to represent his will "on earth as it is in heaven." May God's truth shine, & viewers be protected from my inadequacies.

It is because of your continuing prayers & support that I could be available & prepared for this opportunity. Thank you & God bless you.

Blessings in Christ,

Assessment of the Carrier-Wanchick debate

This is the link to my, and others' assessment of the Carrier-Wanchick debate. Wanchick has expressed disappointment that the judges did not more closely follow what he thought was agreed to, that we have to go by the points actually made in the debate, and if a point was made that is fallacious but not effectively rebutted, it should go to the person who made it anyway.

I had a short space in which to write my report and a relatively short time to write it, but I didn't think I was simply supposed to create a mechanical point total. I looked at the debate in terms of how well the arguments were understood and presented, but also to what extent the debate aided our understanding of the relevant issues.

What's appropriate in college debate, such as putting out a lot of arguments in hopes that some points will be dropped and you can win a few that way, is just, to me, inappropriate when we are trying to, hopefully, not just win debater's points, but actually give people in doubt a rational reason for accepting one's own position. In this area Wanchick was a worse offender than Carrier, altough I think even Carrier could have done with fewer arguments. I thought the parties were stronger on defense than on offense, though I thought Carrier's repsonses to the cosmological arguments were not adequate. However, Carrier effectively showed the danger of debating based on scientific authorities.

On the whole, I was not a happy camper in being a judge for the debate. But I am reasonably convinced that both sides made worthwhile points, but that neither side won.

The Concept of Matter

One important key to understanding materialism, and the debates surrounding materialism, is to get a clear idea of what matter is. I think one of the big problems with the idea of a materialist account of mind is the idea that matter has to be defined in contrast to mind, as lacking in mental characteristics. If it were sufficient for something to be material for it to have a space-time location, then I'm not even sure that I would be disqualified as a materialist. Descartes was the first dualist to define dualism in the face of the contemporary materialist understanding of matter. However, for most materialists, matter must be devoid of intrinsci purpose, meaning, or consciousness, otherwise it just isn't matter.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sabatino gets some clarification

Sabatino has told me that Ehrman has told him that the problem Ehrman percieves is with Craig's attempt to provide a mathematical proof of the Resurrection. This, actually, renders Ehrman's position more understandable. While philosophers use mathematical models based on Bayes' theorem to evaluate miracle claims, this may have been understood as claiming that the evidence provides some kind of absolute mathematical certainty about the Resurrection, which, of course, isn't really possible. Interestingly enough, it was the atheist Keith Parsons who introduced Bayes' theorem into his debate with Craig in 1998. It's a familar stock in trade of philosophers of religion on both sides of the aisle, but it may have seemed strange to Ehrman, and evidence that Craig was off the deep end.

Friday, May 12, 2006

William Lane Craig: Not even false?

I was under the impression at first that there had been some kind of prior agreement to publish the debate, perhaps there was not, only talk about the possibility. That would make Ehrman's position more understandable, but only somewhat. I am not saying that someone in Ehrman's position couldn't come up with a reason to not have a book published. The reasons might be several. He might have discovered, after the debate, that he simply is not cut out for a debate format. Theodore Drange, for example, debated William Lane Craig at my doctoral institution of the University of Illinois. I think most observers, including Jeff Lowder, concluded that that format was not for him. I'm not sure I would be all that great of a debater. I didn't debate in college (though I did play chess). Or one could say that the debate format was counterproductive to the pursuit of truth. One can make that argument up to a point at least. Or one could say that Craig used debate tactics that are unethical, or that he was rude, or used ad hominem arguments. from what I've seen of Craig, that would be false, but if any of these things could be truly said, that would be a perfectly legitimate reason for not wanting a book published.

Instead, Ehrman plays what I call the Not Even False card. Wolfgang Pauli, the physicist, once described a scientific theory he disliked as "not even false." The idea is that the view you are opposing is so absurd that to even engage it would be to give it more credit than it deserves. I hate the NEF card. I've heard it used on C. S. Lewis more times than I can count. It is used against dualist philosophies of mind all the time. It is popularly used against Intelligent Design. But I could use it against eliminative materialism or Mormonism if I wanted. But that would not be good either. Most of the time when it is used, it is a mask for intellectual laziness. One has no desire to engage views that one thinks are way on the other side and so one uses the prestige of one's position in certain academic circles to avoid engagement. But to use it after one has had a debate with someone strikes me as disingenuous. I'm sorry. If there is anyone whose beliefs are easy to find out about it's William Lane Craig. It's not as if he found out "Gosh, this Craig guy, he's really over the wall. He actually believes that Jesus walked out of his tomb on his own two feet!" Craig is a leading representative of the view Ehrman opposes, a view that is held by millions of orthodox Christians. If Craig is really irrational, and Ehrman demonstrated this in the debate, he should be jumping up and down for a chance for this achievement to be broadcast as widely as possible. If not, there are various reasons he might want to offer for not wanting a debate book published. the Not Even False card is not one of them.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bart Ehrman responds

I got this message via John Sabatino

I didn’t back out of doing a book with him. There never was any agreement that we would do a book together. We agreed to stage a public debate, and afterwards I thought some of his arguments were so far removed from anything rational, that I decided giving him a platform to air them was conceding way to much.

Best wishes,

-- Bart Ehrman

Sabatino replies:

Dr. Reppert – here’s an email from Ehrman. I find it hard to believe that, if he felt his arguments were on more rational grounds in a *debate* with Craig, he would not want this to be given a “platform” – especially when he seems to have a fondness of the limelight himself. I suspect that he was simply frustrated with Craig’s arguments, given that he himself concedes many of the premises his own publications (e.g. the empty tomb, Paul’s notion of resurrection as bodily, etc.) in.


Property Dualism vx. Substance Dualism

Is property dualism more plausible that substance dualism?

If these remarks from on old essay of Jaegwon Kim are correct, apparently not.

First, the general argument: philosophers have observed, in connention with the mind-body problem, that a thoroughgoing physicalism can no more readily tolerate the existence of irreducible psychological features or properties than irreducible psychological object (e. g. Cartesian souls, visual images). The thought behind this is some thing like thisIf F is an irredcucible psychical feature, then its existence implies some thing that is F,,,This means that there would be a physically irreducible event or stateof this thing being F, or a physically irreducible fact, namely, the fact that this thing is F. So the world remains bifurcated: the physical domain and a distinct, irereducible psychical domain; and physical theoyr fails as a complete and comprehensive theory of the world. Moreover, we m ight want to inquire as to the cause of something's b eing F. This gives rise to three possibilities, none of them palatable to the physicalist: first, the cause of the psychical event is a mystery not accessibleto scientific inquiry, second, an automonous psychical science emerges, third, physical theory providesw a causal explanation of the psychical phenomena. The last possbility may be the worst, from the physicalist point of view, this would mean that physical theory would lose its closed charcter, countenancing within its domain irreducible nonphysical events and properties.

Jaegwon Kim, 'Epiphenomenal and Supervenient Causation" Midwest Studies in Philosophy 9 (1984) 267.

William Lane Craig vs. Bart Ehrman

Has anyone heard anything about a debate between William Lane Craig and Bart Ehrmann? I had heard that the parties had agreed to publish a book about it, but that Ehrman was pulling out of the agreement on the grounds that he did not want to give a venue for Craig's views. Doesn't make sense to me, Craig's views are about as well-known as anyone's could be, and Ehrman agreed to a debate. Am I misinformed about this?

I have included a link to the website where the debate will be posted in June. Thanks, Jason.

Christianity Today on the Gospel of Judas and the DVC

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Lewis's voice on the BBC

I put this up some time ago. It's the very last chapter of Mere Christianity entitled The New Men.

Radio Interview on the Apologetic Influence of C. S. Lewis

Another portion of my interview with Ken Samples is up on

Monday, May 08, 2006

Ben Witherington responds to the Da Vinci Code

Vallicella's anti-materialist argument from truth

N. T Wright on various things

Including the Da Vinci code. You know, I wonder if there isn't some embarrassment on the skeptical side of this issue with respect to this movie. It offers an alternative to the Resurrection scenario, but one that is simply lacks plausibility upon close examination. It opens the door for apologists to argue for the Resurrection against the Da Vinci Code. But I think the skeptic can do better than the Da Vinci code, so maybe the Internet Infidels, not the Catholic Church, should be protesting against it.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A paper on humannness and the natural sciences

By Del Ratzsch. HT: Tom Gilson.

Against the San Diego mafia

Does a map of the streets of San Diego have propositional contents? I am frankly not sure. If you think they do, then you'll think that Churchland's theory is just an implementation of propositional attitudes. If they do not, then you'd be an eliminativist. Note this isn't the same as saying that we can make statements (in language) about the map that are true or false. We can do the same with our phenomenal experience, which you have admitted has nonpropositional contents. The key, then is, is the maps representational format propositional or nonpropositional?

Churchland thinks they are nonpropositional, and that neural spaces have the same type of content as maps. To the extent that we can judge a map's accuracy, it is based on the relative locations of points on the map, not the properties of individual points.

I think you are missing the real question. That is, does a map (or whatever else you want to put in there) satisfy the three requirements for a successful successor to propositional attitudes laid down by Baker. Unless you think those requirements are somehow unacceptable. I think the end-of-the-world consequences that are typically attributed to EM actually do follow unless the replacements have these characteristics.

To do the job required by Baker these states have to pick out propositions. If we want to accuse Bush of lying about WMDs, we have to posit a relationship between President Bush and the proposition "Saddam has weapons of mass destruction." If no relationship obtains, then we can't call him a liar. Or a truth-teller.

If there is no relation between persons and propositions, then we cannot be said to lie or tell the truth, we cannot be said to make assertions, and we cannot perform rational inferences, including those rational inferences that establish. We in fact to not know what the sentences we are now asserting mean.

Do maps lie? How do we explain the difference between a lying map and some other kind of inaccurate map? You can look at the map all day and not find out. In order to answer that question you have to look at the states of the person who made the map. And I don't see any alternative other than to ask whether the mapmaker believes that the map is accurate, or not.

I'm still arguing that either the "successor" states to the work of propositional attitudes as per Baker's criteria, in which case they are propositonal attitudes, or they don't do that work, in which case epistemic Armageddon ensues.

Isn't this obviously true?

Either God exists, or God does not exist. If God exists, than the people who believe that God exists are right, and the belief that God does not exist are wrong. On the other hand, if God does not exist, then the people who believe that God does not exist are right, and the people who believe that God does exist are wrong.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Self-Refutation Argument Against Eliminativism

Having gotten into some exchanges on eliminative materialism, it seems time now to take a look at how the argument that eliminative materialism is self-refuting should go, but perhaps also how it should not go.

To review, eliminative materialism is best understood in terms of a typology, developed by the Churchlands themselves, of scientific reductions. A conservative reduction keeps the reduced item intact, but simply gives it an scientifically accurate description. By describing heat in a gas as its mean kinetic energy we are not eliminating the idea of heat, we are just giving it an accurate scientific description. A reforming reduction asks us to accept an altered idea of what the reduced object is, but it does not make sense to say that the relevant object does not exist.

However, eliminativists promise that successor concepts will emerge from a matured neuroscience that will replace the concept of belief, so that an argument against eliminativism that ignores the promise of successor concepts can fairly be accused of begging the question.

Consider for example this argument.

1. The eliminativist sincerely utters, "There are no beliefs."
2. So, the eliminativist believes that there are no beliefs.
3. So eliminativism about beliefs involves realism about beliefs.
4. So eliminativism is incoherent.

This argument ignores the eliminativist claim that belief-successors will emerge. Eliminativists are never clear about whether "sincere utterance" will be retained in the brave new eliminativist world, or whether it will itself be eliminated and replaced with a successor.

Lynne Rudder Baker was, it think, the first philosopher to develop the argument against eliminativism in a way that takes into consideration the promise of successor concepts. How are these successor supposed to work. She offers three criteria for what they must accomplish:

i) Without appeal to the content of mental states, the alternative account of assertion must distinguish assertion from other audible emissions.
ii) The alternative account of assertion, against without appeal to the content of mental states, must distinguish sounds that count as assertiojn that p rather than assertion that q.
iii) The alternative account of assertion must at lest have conceptual room for a distinction between sincere assertion and lying.

BDK, our resident EM defender, answered the last of these questions as follows:

To lie is to know X is false, but to assert X anyway. The EM advocate would just say that knowledge is a property of internal nonpropositional representational states that can be true or false, or if you prefer, can provide a better or worse fit to the world. This, of course, is the positive story Churchland has been developing with his state space semantics, or recently he's been calling it 'domain portrayal' semantics.

or again

Chapter 2 of Paul's new book covers, in detail, his theory of conceptual content and concept acquisition in neural nets.

He also spends about five pages explicitly discussing the realism question. He lays out in more detail how he thinks we can get more or less accurate internal maps of the world which we use to navigate (and we do know that brains use internal maps to steer about in the world: and the maps aren't just of space but more abstract features of the world). He also admits that there is no way to stand outside our own conceptual framework to compare it to the things themselves and see how good the fit is between the two. He discusses what this means for the pragmatic realist like himself.

I'm not sure when it will be out, but the working title is 'Outer Spaces and Inner Spaces: The New Epistemology.'

It is pretty clear that his theory does not employ propositional contents. Even Fodor agrees with this. If you wanted, therefore, to say that truth and falsity are properties of Paul's conceptual spaces, then you would have to say that truth and falsity can be a property of nonpropositional contents. Otherwise, some other normative target is required for the conceptual spaces, and I think Paul has found a natural, and reasonable, one.

But here I start to have trouble. The trouble I have is that these states pick out propositions. They can be true or false in virtue of their relationship to their propositional contents. The fact that they don't satisfy Jerry Fodor's idea of what a proposititonal attitude is supposed to look like does not strike me as especially critical.

Either these states pick out propositions or they do not pick out propositions. If they pick out propositions, then they have a property (picking out p) which is going to be inconvenient to the project of reducing everything to physics and unifying science. Whether they look like sentences in the brain or not makes no never mind to me, if the state of a persons picks out a proposition well enough so that we can distinguish between assertion and nonassertion, then we have a belief. If on the other hand, no states of the person pick out propositions, then there is no way that there can possibly be successors that do the work that Baker, quite rightly, has pointed out that they must do.

Plantinga's famous paper on two dozen theistic arguments

John Sabatino's Argument from Reason Resource Page

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Interview with here

They played part of my interview at with Ken Samples here.

Philosopher bobblehead dolls?

HT: Keith Burgess-Jackson

On the lighter side, literally

A light bulb joke. HT: Jarrod Cochran

How Many Christians Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

Charismatic: Only 1 - Hands are already in the air.

Pentecostal: 10 - One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians: None - Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

Roman Catholic: None - Candles only. (Of guaranteed origin of course.)

Baptists: At least 15 - One to change the light bulb, and three committees to approve the change.

Episcopalians: 3 - One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks, and one to talk about how much better the old one was.

Methodists: Undetermined - Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb. Bring a bulb of your choice to the Sunday lighting service and a covered dish to pass.

Nazarene: 6 - One woman to replace the bulb while five men review church lighting policy.

Lutherans: None - Lutherans don't believe in change.

Amish: What’s a light bulb?

American Fundamentalist Evangelicals: We will rally and organize to have our government overthrow activist judges who would liberally interpret laws to allow such evil lightbulbs to go unchanged. We will attempt to create a theocracy to keep anyone with another opinion about the lightbulb out of the public arena. Preemptive war will be declared on this dim bulb and all those who are against our efforts. Mid-way through this war of the lightbulb change our God-fearing president will land on an aircraft carrier and declare that the mission to change the bulb is accomplished! And there will be much rejoicing and reelecting.

The entry on dualism at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Jason Pratt responds to Steven Carr

Since there isn't much connection between Steven's various complaints,
I'll be taking them somewhat out of order.

Presumably , Jason is now going to rewrite what Paul says by adding
words not found in the Greek. He is now going to say that Paul wrote 'it is sown a natural body. It
is raised a spiritual body'. But there is no 'it' in the Greek."

The sentence Steven refers to is 1 Cor 15:44a, and reads in the Greek
(with no significant textual variation in the critical apparatus):
"spleiretai so_ma psuchikon egeiretai so_ma pneumatikon."
(I've put an underscore to differentiate the omega from the omicron.)

I am supposing that Steven is aware that in koine Gree, the subjects of
verbs (especially as pronouns) frequently don't exist in sentences, and
are implied by the suffix of the verb. If he wasn't aware of that when he
made his complaint, then his attempt at a point is utterly negated (since
that would be the first answer.)

Having said that, I suppose the sentence could be translated "A soulish
body is sown, a spiritual body is raised." I would have no objection,
though the grammar still may not parse out as well as "It is
is raised." (I'm slightly iffy about whether the form of 'soma' can match
grammatically with 'spleiretai' as subject to verb.)

In any case, if Steven would render the sentence "A soulish body is
sown, a spiritual body is raised" (with the noun as the subject of the verb
instead of serving as a predicate nominative object); then how does he intend
to translate the previous phrases which this sentence serves as a parallel
summary to? It is simply impossible to cogently render "spleiretai en
phthera egeiretai en aphtharsia" with the 'sown' and 'raised' verbs
meaning anything other than "It is sown; it is raised": the nouns, here and
afterward, clearly belong to the preposition "en" (English 'in').

More shortly: even if the meaning of v.44a can be read with 'body' as
the subject, it provides no positive support for Steven's contention; and
doing so would conflict with a series of immediately preceding phrases where
the exact same verb forms have to be meaning an equivalent to English 'it
is verbed'--and where complaints about "adding words to Paul" become
totally spurious.

Steven certainly seems to be admitting that if 44a is to be read (in
parallel with the meaning as the previous phrases have to be read) 'it
is is raised', then the case for Paul not meaning the same body
is in ruins. But I find it to be more interesting, that Steven is hanging
so totally on Paul not meaning the body itself was raised--why not simply
accuse Paul of lying about the body? That would synch a whole lot
better with the clearest meaning of what is written; and it isn't like Steven
has any reluctance to make such accusations in other cases.

"What Paul does say is 'You do not plant the body that will be'."

I could be facetious and point out that there is no "you", "do", "that"
or "will" as words in the phrase Steven has quoted, with the conclusion
that Steven is simply adding in whatever words he wants to get the meaning
he wants--but I suspect that no opponent (Steven included) would consider
that to be a respectable objection for even a single moment. At least,
they'd be entirely correct to dismiss such an objection is being spurious,
possibly even as being merely contentious.

Besides, I'm isn't like I'm desperate to save my position. {g}

As it happens, I don't even consider the quote to be a threat to the
position traditionally understood here. Paul makes it as clear as he
possibly can, later in the chapter, that what is sown will be _changed_
into the new body: indeed, that sooner or later this is going to happen
even to bodies which _haven't_ been sown. And, he makes _exactly_ the
same point where Steven just quoted (1 Cor 36b-37): "What you are sowing is
not being brought to life if it should not be dying. And what you are
sowing, you are not sowing the body that shall be coming to be, but an
unclothed kernel, such as of wheat or something like that."

Put into a bit straighter English: 'What is being sowed is what will be
brought to life, but first it has to die. And when it is sowed, it
isn't yet what it will become, but is only an unclothed seed.'

Now, we can make fun of Paul's 1st-century Palestinian notion of
herbology, if we like--namely, that the seed will be clothed in the plant that
will be coming. But that's the analogy he's working from, and that's how he
ends out as well: "For this corruptible must be _putting on_ incorruption,
and this mortal be _putting on_ immortality. And whenever this [happens,
repeating the phrases], then shall come to pass the word which is
written [etc.]" (1 Cor 15:53-54)

The same body that is dying, then, and being buried, is being brought
to life again in the resurrection, clothed in an immortality which will
swallow up the death. In order for the "flesh and blood" to enjoy the
allotment, it has to be _clothed_, as "this corruptible must be putting
on incorruption".

The body is being changed into something it wasn't before. The plant
doesn't leave the seed behind (whether or not exactly as it was when it
was planted) and go off to do its own thing: the seed _becomes_ the plant.

"Paul would have known, that a seed is discarded. The whole point
of separating the wheat from the chaff is to keep one and discard the

Paul would have known that the chaff-and-wheat is an entirely different
metaphor, which has nothing in the least to do with a seed being buried
in the ground and creating a new plant.

Come to think of it, Paul would also have known that the whole point to
separating the seed from the chaff (in its own proper metaphorical use)
is not to discard the seed. (It's hard to believe Steven was paying
attention here: what was supposed to be the point of keeping the chaff, again, in
relation to 1 Cor 15???) In fact, he would have known that the seed is
not discarded in the metaphor he _was_ using, either. The seed _becomes_
the plant.

Beyond all this (which could be detailed rather further): as I
mentioned in a previous letter (on which there may be some reply by now), the
advocates of the notion that Paul was not talking about a dead body being
transformed into something new and raised, still have to account in their theory
for two rather difficult things (even aside from a close contextual reading
of the passage). If Paul is so comfortable with this notion, and is trying
to teach it--then what exactly is it he is so sharply admonishing the
Corinthians about? (The standard attempts to defend this hypothesis
leave Paul in the peculiar position of defending _and_ attacking basically
the same thing in the same chapter! Something other than the standard
defense is required, at least.) And second, if this notion was such an easy
option for Jewish Christians (much moreso Gentile ones) to take, then why
_didn't_ they in fact take it?--for the missing body is a key feature of all four of
the earliest story-accounts which mention a Resurrection at all.

There are simply too many problems, at too many levels, for me to
accept this as being a live option of interpretation.

I suspect that the reason these problems are elided past, by
con-apologists, is because they've been told so often that Paul's
testimony on the subject constitutes definitive proof of the Res (or at least of
a missing body), that any stick looks good enough to beat that idea with.
(I have an even stronger suspicion that much the same is true about how
pro-apologists frequently use the reference to the 500 witnesses; I
cringe every time I hear or read the typical use of it. That's a lot of
cringing... {g}) If it is any consolation, that is _NOT_ what I am
trying to argue here. I think the most reasonable conclusion to be drawn,
without overreaching the position, is:

Paul was teaching the Resurrection and transformation of dead and
buried bodies, specifically Christ's and anyone who dies in Christ; a teaching
he claims to have received as being authoritative and of first importance,
and which he claims to have already taught the Corinthians (who at the time
accepted what he was passing along, though now he's hearing they're
believing something different, which he's opposing)--a teaching he says
the previous apostles and leaders in the church are teaching.

The first (and possibly only) extension to this claim, from 1 Cor, that
I myself would make, is a connection to the situation (and person) Paul
is writing against in the whole first six chapters of the same letter.

"None of the early Christian creeds found in Paul have a
resurrected Jesus walking the earth or having a flesh and bones body."

Perhaps not; but neither do any of the creeds found in Paul have a
resurrected Jesus either walking the earth or appearing spiritually
having left his flesh and bones body behind--do they?

"If they had believed in a resurrected Jesus walking the earth, or
having a flesh and bones body, they would have said so."

Ditto. If it counts against me, it counts against Steven, too.

"The creeds summarised what they believed."

'was buried, was raised.' Can hardly be more summary than that. Paul
can unpack and expand on it; without requiring the kind of convolution of
thought involved in going from the basic meaning of that, to 'was raised
but what was raised was not what was buried; that stayed etouffed {g}
in the ground unchanged'.

Moving on:

"We have not one word from Jews saying this unbelievable story that
the Roman guard agreed to say that they were sleeping on duty (so
consigning them to the death sentence)."

Not that I expected Steven to pay attention to subtleties (and given
how briefly I mentioned it, he has some excuse for that this time); but I
didn't reference the part where the guard _agreed to say_ this.

I _do_, in fact, have a pretty good understanding of religious (and
anti-religious) polemic--a better understanding than Steven does of the
use of chaff and metaphor {g}--which is exactly why I conclude that the
core of the GosMatt polemic makes no plausible sense unless two antithetical
traditions were agreeing a body was missing. (The recent Pilate example
on the SecWeb, though colorful, is not really a good parallel; but I would
have to go into a lot of detail before that could become apparent, so I
don't blame Stephen for drawing it.)

Since it would take a while to go through the various options with an
eye toward assessing their historical plausibility, I'll save that for a
subsequent letter. (It isn't something to be briefly waved off, any
more than it can be briefly presented--a close analysis of options and
implications took me something like four chapters to go through.)

And, of course, Paul is clear in Galatians 6 that observance of the
law (not resurrection) is what was at dispute between Christians and Jews.

Um. I have no idea what this was supposed to do with anything in Part 1
of my letter. Did Paul write ("with what size letters, with my own hand")
that the disputes between Christian and Jew had nothing to do with the Res?
Not in any text of Galatians, or textual variant, _I_ know about. (Talk
about adding words to Paul...)

I suspect this was supposed to be a comment to Part 2 of my letter, and
Steven simply missed his aim. In which case, is he trying to say that
if Jews and Christians (assuming Paul is talking about a dispute with
non-Christian Jews) are disputing about observance of the law, then
they can't be, or couldn't have previously been, or couldn't subsequently be
disputing, about whether someone stole the body? (If so, I think I'll
simply reply that it's good thing I don't have to rely on logic like
that for _my_ side of such debates... But he's welcome to clarify himself if
he wishes.)

It _is_ rather interesting that no (extant canonical) text preserves
something like the GosMatt polemic. (I can bring that up myself
directly--better than vague references to Galations 6, yes?) It's a
fact which does have to be taken into the account, sooner or later; and I
think it's a pretty important fact. But it still leaves the oddity of the
polemic exactly where it is.

OK, I give up, why didn't they just fake showing a body?

It's quite an intriguing question, once one arrives at it. And I didn't
bring it up just for kicks. I think it has an important place in the
overall picture. But it isn't something that should be used simply in
abstraction from the overall picture. (Though I'm sure it'll be used
that way by the uncautious. I have an idea of where it fits in, but I'd
rather think about it for a while.)

I may start running abridged or summarized drafts of book chapters by
Victor for possible posting. That may be the best way to cover the
initial issues of what can be learned from the existence of the GosMatt polemic.
(There are subsequent issues related to it, too; but I think those
should wait until other pieces are considered in the interim.)


Steve Lovell's discussion of the Argument from Reason

Steve Lovell's treatment of the argument from reason is excellent, though he is less than fully confident of the argument itself. Steve's dissertation was on the philosophical assessment of Lewis's apologetic arguments, done at the University of Sheffield

John Depoe's treatment of the argument from reason