Thomas Larsen Defines a Proper Fear of God

In a follow-up comment on his blog post about marriage, Thomas Larsen wrote his definition of the fear of God.  Tom said “a proper ‘fear of God’ is understood to involve much joy and a desire to orientate one’s life around God and His purposes.”

I really like that definition, especially the latter part.  Somehow the idea of centering one’s life on God doesn’t always come through when you hear “fear of God,” even when you hear “fear of God” in a very positive way.

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128 Responses to Thomas Larsen Defines a Proper Fear of God

  1. Pingback: Resources – Quotes | Current Events in Light of the Kingdom of God

  2. Lee says:

    I’m speechless; you can’t possibly be serious.

  3. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee, could you be more specific about what gives you pause?

    • Lee says:

      It’s a bit difficult to articulate, as the definition is so outlandish that to nail down precisely what is problematic is a task in and of itself. To begin, lets examine what each word being re-defined means:

      1. Fear: An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

      2. of: Expressing the relationship between a part and a whole

      3. God: the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.

      So, taken together, you have a relationship between this being and an unpleasant emotion. So far so good. What does the “new” definition do? It appears to redefine fear as follows:

      1a. Fear: A pleasant emotion of joy; a desire to emulate or adhere to something or someone’s ideals or wishes.

      This is clearly at odds with any definition of the word “fear” in this or any other language. The only possible way you could get from ‘fear of [something]‘ to a desire to adhere to [something's] ideals or wishes would be BECAUSE [something] will actualize those fears if you do not. Any North Koreans not completely brainwashed into rapturous praise and exultation for the dear leader could point out why, for example, fear of said dear leader is both justified (as not praising as required will get you killed), and not at all joyous.

      Traditionally, ‘fear of God’ has been understood precisely as I defined it, in no way as a positive emotion. You’ve heard the phrase, “put the fear of God into them” and it’s variations. That is just not synonymous with “put the joy of God into them.” Words have meanings, so when you quote the definition as somehow joyous, I am struck speechless. Everyone should be so struck. It requires a fundamental misuse of language, or just plain ignorance of the meanings of words, to publicly attach the phrase ‘fear of [anything]‘ with that feel-good mush that followed in your original post.

      Surely, you aren’t serious.

      Lee.

  4. Lee says:

    Wrong definition for ‘of’ but I think you get the idea.

  5. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee, thanks for expanding your thought.

    Your problem is in 1. You have left off a meaning of “fear” that is found in practically any standard dictionary: reverence, awe, veneration, respect. Obviously, none of these meanings are negative, and all represent a healthy and, dare I say, even therapeutic, way of regarding God. At least I have found it so in my own life. Of course, many biblical writers testify similarly so I am not saying I am unique. And it’s clear Tom Larsen is one of the many today who feel the same way. No need for you to be speechless.

  6. Lee says:

    “You have left off a meaning of “fear” that is found in practically any standard dictionary: reverence, awe, veneration, respect.”

    The definition I used in 1 was from a dictionary. In fact, it was almost identical to all of the other definitions I could find. In addition, having googled reverence, awe, veneration, and respect, I found not one thesaurus willing to equate fear with any of those terms. In the interest of charity, I will attempt to connect the dots as sympathetically as possible, to show that I am not being deliberately obtuse.

    1. Respect, perhaps, as it is certainly wise to respect something that can harm you. But it is not the sort of respect you want from, say, a loved one or a friend. It is the respect you give a hungry lion, or an angry tyrant.

    2,. Reverence, no. Even though this is defined as “deep respect”, it is clearly not the type of respect one would equate with fear. You may respect the lion’s ability to tear you limb from limb, fear it’s intent to do so, but reverence? Afraid not. Not by the definition of the word.

    3. Awe. Absolutely! There is something majestic and terrifying about a predator like the shark, or the lion. But again, in the context of fear, this is a darker side of the awe you would feel at someone doing something wonderful for you, or at your child speaking for the first time.

    4. Veneration: respect or awe inspired by the dignity, wisdom, dedication, or talent of a person. I simply can’t imagine how this can in any way, shape, or form, be equated with fear. You would need at least 3 degrees of separation to get from this emotion to an emotion like fear.

    You see, the problem is not that you “have found it so in [your] own life”, but whether the phrase “fear of God” can be warped such that it actually means what you want it to mean. I understand. I hear you! I don’t like the God of the bible either, and I spent years trying to twist and contort every phrase I was disgusted by into something tolerable, even something worshipful. Eventually you will, as I did, recognize that such mental gymnastics should NOT be required for the words of someone who makes you feel as you do. Obviously, the inner peace and love that animates your thoughts about God make nonsense of most of Christian doctrine.

    I left the church, and I’ve never been more content. Some don’t go all the way to atheism, but the fact is, if you start parsing the meanings of words in order to reshape the religion, you’re already an atheist in regards to that God. Find a new one, or ditch the whole bag.

    Good luck!!!

    Lee.

  7. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee, whether your obtuseness is deliberate or not I cannot say. What I can say is that I looked up “fear” in several dictionaries and thesauri. All of them made mention of synonyms like “awe, reverence, respect, and veneration,” especially when the object is God.

    There is no need to do mental gymnastics with Scripture to come to a healthy and accurate view of Jesus Christ. There is a need, however, to do what He says. He did not leave us the Bible that we might argue about it, but rather that we might think, speak, and act according to its light.

    As the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote at the end of his book, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (NASB) Those who do so find great joy.

    • Lee says:

      “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”

      Right, and what, pray tell, is the penalty for not keeping his commandments? What are the “wages of sin”? You see, even when you attempt to circumvent the negative aspects of the word ‘fear’, the pronouncements still carry with them an inherent THREAT. Call it what you will, the bottom line is: obey or suffer. We both know this, but it seems I’m the only one willing to admit it.

      Cheer up, though! God does not exist! There is nothing to fear from the aether. There are no witches and warlocks, no monster under your bed, no demons to steal your soul, no soul to carry you into an eternity of serfdom. You needn’t fear Allah, Krishna, Zeus, Baldaeg, Eostre, Erce, Freo, Frig, Geat, Helith, Hretha, any of the Haldi, Radien, Sabazios, Kotys, Shiva, Vishnu, etc., ad infinitum. Neither YHWH nor any of the tens of thousands of dead gods offer any reason for trepidation, dread, or “reverential awe”. They are simply equivalent glimpses of the untrue, the fanciful, the ridiculous.

      Ciao,

      Lee.

  8. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    To fear God means to regard Him with reverential awe, We revere Him because He created us, and because it is in His world that we live. Are there rewards for obedience and judgments for disobedience? Absolutely. The good news is that He teaches us how to do the things that bring a rewarding life and avoid the things that bring trouble. In other words, our veneration of Him is not just appropriate, it’s also beneficial.

    Parenthetically, I should tell you about a boy in the neighborhood. He was sweet when he was younger but as he has grown older he’s become very disrespectful to his father. He takes the many gifts that his father has showered on him but shows no gratitude for them. When his father disciplines him for bad behavior, he complains and rails that he doesn’t deserve punishment. He’s rude to the neighbors and has brought much shame to his father’s name. Even though he’s still a teenager, he’s left home rejecting the forgiveness that his father has offered him. No one likes the surly young man, but everyone is hoping he, like the prodigal son in Luke 15, will finally come to his senses and return to his loving father and make things right.

    There is only one God among all those you have mentioned with whom you need to concern yourself: Jesus Christ. Fear Him and you will find deep and abiding joy.

    • Lee says:

      There remain at least two problems with this vision of life you proffer:

      1. There is nothing like a reliable revelation. You say only one among the many is the right way to live, and yet you offer this with precisely the same evidence that can, and has been, and even still is, offered in support of every other option. If there is one right way to live, the sheer volume of incompatible guides claiming supremacy shows, at the minimum, that whoever or whatever is attempting to guide our species could benefit from a few college courses in communication.

      2. The analogy of the prodigal son is a false analogy(and is fairly insulting to boot), as we aren’t talking about finite punishments for finite crimes. We are talking about infinite punishments for failure to abase oneself in the presence of the dear leader. As Christianity teaches, you must both believe in and be in awe of this being, AND follow his commandments. It is not good enough to live as dictated.

      In America, you follow the laws of the country even if you think they are flawed, or the government is sub-par. That you can criticize the government, that there is a process of appeal, that there is a method of challenging the law, is what constitutes true freedom. What you are suggesting is abject slavery, an unchallenge-able, unalterable dictatorship, to which you either submit entirely, without question, or spend eternity in torment.

      The fact that IF you submit entirely, “you will find deep and abiding joy” is frankly irrelevant. Many people, such as myself, cannot by nature bend the knee in worship to a being whose existence isn’t at all established, and whose many dictates often run counter to our own ethical intuitions.

      I’m happy for you that this mental construct (or perhaps this reality) that you have erected (or discovered) brings you such joy! I just wish you, and the rest of the faith-based community, would sit idle in rapturous bliss while those of us who aren’t anticipating an eternity of rewards can get on with the business of fashioning a world according to our best intuitions, and our best attempts at cooperation and collaboration. It’s a lot of very hard work. The incessant proclamations that the faithful make, deeming this or that to be in violation of their particular mythic tradition (mythic for all the rest if you wish), has long ago become tiresome and unhelpful. If you are right, we will spend an eternity in conscious torment for our crimes. SO BE IT. You may spend said eternity saying “I told you so”. Until then, I beg you, let us work in peace.

      Thanks,

      Lee.

  9. Mike Gantt says:

    1.An entire nation was given the purpose of creating a substantive and credible record of Jesus Christ for the whole world. That is, ancient Israel has given us what are called the Old and New Testaments and in them are ample evidence that Jesus of Nazareth represents the way, the truth, and the life. There is no other comparable claim, either in explanatory scope or explanatory power, for our existence in the earth. As for its effectiveness as a communications strategy, our own exchange demonstrates that a receptive listener is an indispensable element.

    2. You have some skewed understandings of Christ. Also, I am not suggesting you become a Christian, but rather that you relate to Christ. There have been many mistakes committed in His name. He, however, is completely true. But as for your wanting to be left alone, note that you are commenting on my blog, I am not commenting on yours.

    • Lee says:

      Among the storm of claims in (1), I’m fairly certain there isn’t a single one that is true.

      1. Ancient Israel did not give us the New Testament. That little gem was officially minted sometime in the 4th century by the church.

      2. Ancient Israel was not tasked with “creating a substantive and credible record of Jesus Christ for the whole world”. Certainly not as an “entire nation”! Just ask a Jew.

      3. There is no evidence in the bible for any of it’s metaphysical claims, they are merely printed there, named “gospel”, and propagated largely by force (then more than now) and indoctrination. Many of it’s physical claims are simply false (aka “metaphorical”).

      4. Science has given us explanatory scope and power, in addition to actual evidence, that far exceeds that of religion, and indeed has displaced religious claims to explanation in almost every aspect of physical reality. If you meant by this that you explain why anything exists at all, perhaps you do, but an explanation is a mere hypothesis until it is corroborated by evidence. As far as I know, you have none, so you get to stand alongside those discarded mythologies I alluded to earlier, having nothing more to offer than a hypothesis, however good it may be.

      5. I am a receptive listener, but I balance what I hear against what seems reasonable to me, what jives with my ethical intuitions, and hold judgement on even ideas that pass those tests until something supports them to the degree that they are more reasonable than their antithesis.

      As for your second paragraph, I find it strange that, though I nearly parroted your previous comment (“fear God and keep His commandments”), I have a skewed view. Of course, since there are a few different points made in (2), the general ‘you got it all wrong’ does more to muddy the waters than bring clarity to the discussion.

      I do relate to the man, Jesus, insofar as I agree with his moral teachings. I relate to him as a fellow human being. I relate to his attempts to speak out in support of things he believes in. I relate to his attempts to improve the society he lived in. However, I do not relate to his claims to divinity, his sleight-of-hand, his propagation of superstitions, or his wholesale endorsement of the barbarism of the Old Testament Law. I think, if he existed at all, that the things I disagree with were likely made up, and the things I agree with were gleaned from his own ethical intuitions or those of his friends and acquaintances. But, perhaps I’m not using the correct definition for the word ‘relate’?

      I’m not sure what you mean by Jesus being “completely true”, or what that has to do with Christian scholars adhering to the literal meaning of the words actually present in the bible. I’ll wait for clarification.

      “But as for your wanting to be left alone, note that you are commenting on my blog, I am not commenting on yours.”

      Really? Surely you aren’t being serious.

      Lee.

      • Mike Gantt says:

        1. Jesus and His apostles were as much Jews as anyone in the Old Testament. As for dating, their work was completed in the 1st Century.

        2. Jews control Judaism and Gentiles control Christianity, but that the Old Testament was written about the Messiah, Jesus made clear in John 5:39-40 and Luke 24:25-27, 44-48. Of course, He was making the specific point in these passages that He was the Messiah of Israel. That the Scriptures pointed to Israel’s Messiah was not a point He needed to make to 1st-century Jews. They were well aware of it and looking for the Messiah.

        3. I find the moral appeal of the Bible so strong that its claims of miracles seem secondary and credible.

        4. As you suggest, science cannot explain why we are here at all. Neither can it explain where morality and immorality come from. As to your point that God wants us to trust Him, I agree.

        5. If you’re interested in details about how your picture of Christ is skewed, see this page (Introduction-Overview) which contains a number of posts that clarify His goodness and modus operandi.

        6. I’m glad you relate to the moral teachings of Jesus. However, part of that moral teaching – in fact a central part of it – is that He is to be the focal point of our affection. By saying that He is completely true, I mean that everything He said is true and that He can be counted upon to keep every promise He ever made.

        As to your last line, I don’t know what else to say.

        • Lee says:

          Not to be overly pedantic, but you said “an entire nation”, not “some jews”, “old and new testament”, not “old testament”, “New testament”, not “original manuscripts that may or may not be a part of the present day New Testament”. That covers 1 and 2.

          On 3, I was making an epistemic point, and it came in two parts (physical and metaphysical). The physical claims, i.e. the genesis account of creation, or the global flood event, for example, is false. Clearly false. The metaphysical claims, i.e. the existence of God, efficacy of prayer, etc., are either unsupported evidentially, in the case of God, or tested and, if not outright dis-proven, certainly did not pass the test. I was not speaking of miracle claims. More importantly, however, even if the “moral appeal of the bible” resonates with you, this does not provide support for the miracle claims. That is a textbook non-sequitor. It is just as likely that some (I would hope not all) of the moral teachings in the bible appeal to you because the bible was written by men LIKE you, as it is that they appeal to you because an invisible arbiter created you with your moral intuitions such as they are, then wrote about them. The idea that because a book contains perfect moral teachings then it’s other claims are true, can be shown to lead to absurd conclusions and therefore must be false.

          On 4, this goes back to an earlier comment I made about unsupported hypotheses. That you can construct a coherent explanatory model does not go to show that it is true. This is an incredibly important distinction between assertions and knowledge. Even if no other explanatory model is available, or if yours is the absolute best explanation on offer, the measure of truth requires an additional step: support.

          I agree with Richard Dawkins, et al, on the further point that the explanation you purport to offer is simply a placeholder. When you say “God is the source of our existence”, or “God is the author of morality”, what you are doing is saying, in response to the question “what is the source of our existence/morality”, simply: “That which is the source of our existence/morality is the source of our existence/morality”. The explanation gets padded out with a lot of details, assuredly, but it never actually explains anything at all. Many questions remain! How is he the source of our existence? By what method or power or process did he make us exist? How is he the source of our morality? By what method or power or process did he make X moral and Y immoral? These are all mysteries, and nothing gets explained when you replace a mystery with a name (think dark matter). It’s also important to point out that science has given us some rather robust, evidence-based theories on the origins and evolution of our moral impulses.

          “As to your point that God wants us to trust Him, I agree.” ~ I don’t know what this is in response to.

          On 5, perhaps if you simply isolated the part I got wrong so as to narrow my research?

          On 6, it seems to me that you are saying his teachings are the requests/demands that he makes of those who love him, and that we would do these things not out of fear of punishment, but out of a desire to please him. These, in turn, would make our lives joyful. This is not rocket science, I really, really do get it. I still object. I object to many of his moral injunctions, I object to his idea of justice as it pertains to infinite punishment for finite crimes, I object to his endorsement of all manner of superstitions. The list is long. If indeed this being created me, I find it a bit counter-intuitive that he would create in me a disposition that views his morality as unethical and immoral. As Ricky Gervais puts it, “If there is a God, why did he make me an atheist? That was his first mistake.”

          “As to your last line, I don’t know what else to say.”

          I never said leave ME alone. I thought I made myself clear, apparently I failed miserably.

          Lee.

  10. Mike Gantt says:

    As for 1 and 2, that only a remnant of the nation was faithful to its task of giving testimony does not mean that the entire nation was not created for that purpose. The testimony of antiquity is that the 27 documents we have called the New Testament are the sole extant documents from the apostles of Jesus Christ.

    Jesus of Nazareth demonstrated the existence of God and the efficacy of prayer like no other. The moral claims of the Bible collapse without the miracle claims because the same voices that proclaim the former proclaim the latter.

    The support for the explanatory scope and power of the explanation given by Jesus of Nazareth is his resurrection from the dead, witnessed by over 500 of His contemporaries.

    To say that God created the heavens and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, is not intended to answer every question. It does, however, answer one very important one. And it does give us a starting place to ask other questions. And it does give us a resting place when all questions are not yet answered.

    As to the statement for which you could not track a reference, I was alluding to your point about the limitations of evidence. Even if God took you to heaven today, showed you around, and answered every question you had about it, you’d still have to trust Him that He’d take you there on the day you died. And even then, you’d have to continue to trust Him that He wouldn’t change His mind some day in the future and cast you out. Evidence has its place, but it also has its limitations. At some point, trust is required if our hearts are to be peaceful.

    As far as your view of Christ being skewed, start with the fact that everyone is going to heaven and no one is going to experience an eternity of torment.

    That you can only follow Jesus to a point doesn’t indicate that He didn’t create you; rather it indicates that He created you, and all of us, with the ability to choose – and that sometimes we exercise it poorly.

    That you don’t want to be left alone is good. I’ll stay with the discussion as long as you like.

    • Lee says:

      What I would like to do is zoom in and focus this discussion on what may seem to be a minor point, but which I think underpins much of our disagreement.

      “The moral claims of the Bible collapse without the miracle claims because the same voices that proclaim the former proclaim the latter.”

      Now, that is simply not true. The moral claims can be objectively true independent of the truth of the miracle claims, and vice versa. That the same voices proclaim both is irrelevant. This can be formulated into two separate arguments, viz;

      1. If an agent makes a true statement, then all other statements that agent makes are true.

      2. Agent X made a true statement (about morality, for example)

      3. All other statements made by agent X are true.

      and;

      4. If an agent makes a false statement, then all other statements that agent makes are false.

      5. Agent X made a false statement

      6. All other statements made by agent X are false.

      These are valid arguments, in that if the premises (1,2; 4,5) are true, then the conclusion follows. Unfortunately, Premises (1;4) are clearly false, and we know this by virtue of the fact that any of us can make a true statement, and follow it up with a false one, thus falsifying both premises. “Today is Tuesday, today is Thursday.” I have just made two statements, and only one of them can possibly be true. The mere fact that agent X above COULD have made all true/false statements is irrelevant insofar as the arguments are or are not sound.

      To give you an example, say you met a spiritualist who told you that murder is wrong. A moment later, that same spiritualist tells you that the magical crystal he holds in his pocket allows him to predict the future and heal the sick. It is clear that he got the moral bit right, but his claims to miraculous crystals is wrong. By your reasoning, however, since he got the moral bit right, the crystal has to be able to predict the future and heal the sick. By virtue of the second argument, I could also say that if the crystal is not able to predict the future or heal the sick, then murder must NOT be wrong. I can sketch a thousand different analogies of this sort, and as you can see, the conclusions quickly become absurd.

      But there is a further problem here, for I think we can both agree that slavery is wrong. However, the bible clearly condones the practice of slavery. This puts Christians like yourself into a bit of a pickle, especially when running this kind of argument. For even if I were to grant you the truth of the above premises, the falsehood of a moral claim about slavery (and other examples can be generated) leads to the conclusion that the miracle claims are false. Alternatively, if the miracle claims turned out to be true, then the claim that slavery is morally permissible is therefore true. If you don’t like the slavery analogy, then replace it with stoning adulterers, stoning or beating recalcitrant children, murder entire towns of non-believers, etc..

      The above analysis applies to the idea that you can support the teachings of Jesus with miracles wrought by him or in his name. I can grant you the virgin birth, healing the sick and the blind, exorcising a herd of pigs, walking on water, even the resurrection, and, in the words of the late, great Christopher Hitchens, “you still have all your work, still ahead of you.”

      Thoughts?

      Lee.

  11. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee, you are spending a lot of time refuting arguments I am not making.

    The Scripture says that “Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Thus His goodness (morality) in inextricably tied to His miracle working. Take away the miracles and you are taking away His goodness (morality).

    Moreover, I am not saying that Jesus, like your spiritualist, merely said something true or did something right. I am saying everything Jesus said was true and everything He did was right. If the miracle claims were false then either He deceived (which would make Him untrue) or His apostles deceived (which would be a betrayal of His cause).

    Find me another human being who 1) articulated a moral code as wonderful, and 2) lived according to it. Otherwise, acknowledge His uniqueness. No one else has ever preached a moral code as demanding, nor lived up to His code so faithfully.

    The Bible does not condone societal wrongs such as slavery, but rather advocates a particular way of righting them – that is by purifying human hearts one at a time. God is not after eliminating some wrongs; His goal is to eliminate them all.

  12. Lee says:

    You made a clear statement in your previous comment, I responded precisely, and now you accuse me of erecting and assaulting a strawman of your position. I feel like I’m playing battleship against someone who keeps moving their pieces. This “new” position is exactly the same as the first.

    “The Scripture says that “Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).”

    You are equivocating goodness with moral claims. A moral claim is something like ‘murder is wrong’ or ‘compassion is praiseworthy’, and a person is only good, or evil, insofar as they do not murder and show compassion, or murder and deny compassion. In addition, while it may be true that God was with him, this is not a necessary condition for “doing good” or alleviating oppression. A person like myself who rejects the very existence of God is capable of being a good person or alleviating oppression.

    “Thus His goodness (morality) in inextricably tied to His miracle working”

    This is the exact (false) claim that you made previously, albeit with different wording. It does not require miracle working to be good, nor does it require you be good to have performed miracles. The connection is fallacious. IF this were true, YOU could not be a good person if you did not perform miracles. YOU could not make true moral statements without having performed miracles.

    “Moreover, I am not saying that Jesus, like your spiritualist, merely said something true or did something right. I am saying everything Jesus said was true and everything He did was right.”

    It was not an exact analogy, only a simple example to make a point. The point holds for one statement just as firmly as for all statements. Your basis for rejecting my analogy amounts to a distinction without a difference.

    “If the miracle claims were false then either He deceived (which would make Him untrue) or His apostles deceived (which would be a betrayal of His cause).”

    What do you mean by “untrue” here? Do you mean simply that something he said was not true? If so, I must again stress that it doesn’t really matter whether he lied about every miracle he ever performed! The moral claims he makes are either true (such as ‘murder is wrong’) or false (such as ‘murder is not wrong’), irrespective of his ability to perform miracles. This is very easy to refute: I will say “murder is wrong” aloud right now, and this is a true moral claim. However, I have not performed any miracles. Is that still a true moral claim? Alternatively, consider for a moment that I am able to perform a miracle (perhaps the devil has empowered me). I perform said miracle, and then say “murder is not wrong”. Is this a true moral claim?

    Consider, for a moment, the possibility that one of the apostles *gasp* deceived. Perhaps, with the best of intentions, he or she embellished a mundane occurrence with a bit of miraculous flair. Now, years later, we somehow discover that said miracle did not occur. Does this now invalidate the moral claim that ‘murder is wrong’?

    It comes down to this: If you discovered that the miracle claims in the bible were not true, i.e. did not happen, would you suddenly feel that murder isn’t wrong? If no, then the moral claims of Jesus are in no way dependent upon, or “inextricably tied to”, the miraculous claims of Jesus. If yes, well, perhaps it’s best you are, and remain, a Christian.

    Lee.

  13. Mike Gantt says:

    Again, Lee, you are refuting positions I am not taking. Moreover, your claim that I am “moving the pieces” sounds contradictory to your immediately subsequent claim that my new position is the same as my old one. That is, one minute you object to my inconsistency and the next minute you object to my consistency.

    I think the problem may be that you are I are using the term “moral claims” in different ways. You seem to use it meaning the stating of some propositional truth. This even a Hitler could do, so it doesn’t seem important to me. My usage of the term was to indicate that those making moral claims for Jesus (that is, those saying He was perfectly moral) were the same people making the claims that He did the miraculous. I added that many of the moral things Jesus did were miracles. For instance, raising the dead son of a widow in the city of Nain was not only an act of kindness but also a miracle. If you disallow the miracle of the story, then you’re left either with a Jesus who did not perform that act of kindness, or with an apostle who has lied about the miracle. If the apostle was willing to lie about the miracles of Jesus, wouldn’t He be just as willing to lie about the morality of Jesus? Thus I am saying that the witnesses who claim that Jesus was moral also claimed that He was miraculous – and did so in one seamless record, not two separate accounts (one testifying to His morals and the other testifying to His miracles). I am certainly not suggesting that one has to do miracles in order to do good.

    Now it is also true that Jesus made “moral claims” in your sense. But here, as I began to point out before, you shouldn’t view these “moral claims” in individual isolation, but rather recognize that He was putting forth an entirely new moral code. And that code was centered on Him – His example and His approval. Such a claim is almost always made by a crazy person. His is the one case in human history where such rhetoric was appropriate.

  14. Lee says:

    “I think the problem may be that you are I are using the term “moral claims” in different ways. You seem to use it meaning the stating of some propositional truth. This even a Hitler could do, so it doesn’t seem important to me.”

    This is what the term ‘moral claim’ means, but this different definition presents the same issues as the first. You may have moved your battleship, but it is still a battleship.

    “My usage of the term was to indicate that those making moral claims for Jesus (that is, those saying He was perfectly moral) were the same people making the claims that He did the miraculous.”

    And my point, for the third time, is that he could have been a “perfectly moral” person even if he never performed a single miracle. The moral status of an individual is not impinged because someone else made false claims about their actions.

    “I added that many of the moral things Jesus did were miracles.”

    Which, if they did not occur, in no way reflect badly on Jesus. If he did not “perform that act of kindness”, that does not mean that he was unkind! It means the event did not occur, and the moral status of Jesus is unaffected. This goes to the ‘ought implies can’ problem in moral philosophy; for Jesus not raising the widow’s son to be an immoral action implies that he was able to do so. If he was unable to do so, he is not to be held accountable for NOT doing so. (As an aside, presumably there were more than one dead widow’s sons in the town. If he was able to raise one, “ought” he have raised them all?)

    “If the apostle was willing to lie about the miracles of Jesus, wouldn’t He be just as willing to lie about the morality of Jesus?”

    Absolutely, but it does not FOLLOW that they lied about the morality of Jesus on the basis that they may or may not have lied about his miracles. This is because Jesus could have been perfectly moral even if he performed zero miracles, or even if the apostles lied about the miracles. Obviously, I think they lied, or were under a misapprehension, about the events in question. This was pre-pre-scientific revolution, pre-Enlightenment. Disease was the product of witchcraft, natural disasters were the products of wrathful deities of every stripe and color, etc.. Jesus, in my opinion, was probably an extraordinary man, ahead of his time on many issues, but he was still a man, and still very much a product of both his time and the tradition of his society.

    “Thus I am saying that the witnesses who claim that Jesus was moral also claimed that He was miraculous – and did so in one seamless record, not two separate accounts”

    The testimony of miracles is irrelevant to whether or not a moral claim, in the sense either of us uses it, is true. I refer you to my “strawman” two comments back, specifically premise (4). That the disciples could lie seems a wholly uncontroversial claim, given Christian doctrine of sin. I assume they were human, even if Jesus was not?

    “I am certainly not suggesting that one has to do miracles in order to do good.”

    You are suggesting it implicitly by the argument you are putting forward. Such a suggestion represents an absurd conclusion following from fallacious reasoning.

    As far as putting forth an “entirely new moral code”, while I can find common cause with you that he was certainly a progressive thinker, his moral code was not all that novel. His foundation was identical to the foundation of the Old Testament, especially when you consider the fact that he was always God in the first place. Further, barring a few slight modifications, he appears to have endorsed all of Old Testament law.

    Now, as to the underlying reason our most recent exchange has been so frustrating for both of us stems from the fact that it is very important for you that Jesus wasn’t simply ‘just a good man’. Your last paragraph contained what appears to be a subtle h/t to C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. The possibility that Jesus was simply a champion of compassion and a progressive moral thinker, but nothing more than a man, is incomprehensible to you. This is why you feel the link between his moral status and his magic is unbreakable. I disagree. I think that many of the things Jesus advocated were moral on their own terms, and required nothing like a miracle to bolster their status as properly good actions or propositions. Whether or not he ACTUALLY raised the son of a widow is irrelevant to the moral status of that action. It would be a kindness for anyone to do so if he or she was able. So even if the disciples lied through their teeth and invented miraculous occurrences out of purely mundane circumstances (a routine happenstance in the ancient world), the picture of Jesus is still one worthy of commendation.

    Clearly, however, C.S. Lewis did get one aspect of this partly right: if Jesus was not god, he would have to be crazy to think he could die for the sins of mankind. I go one step further: regardless of his divinity, he IS crazy to think scapegoating is an effective ethical action. It is simply not the case that anyone, even God, can affect your moral responsibility by being tortured to death. The sins we commit against one another can only be forgiven by the victim. It may be the case that a sin against anyone is ALSO a sin against God, but it is not ONLY a sin against God. We are individuals, and our responsibilities, even if God exists, do not rest entirely on our relation to God.

    If I were to steal something from you that is important to you, lets say your car. I return a week later to give you back the car, but I do not apologize for my actions. When you press me, I simply say that I apologized to God, so my actions are forgiven. Is this sufficient to you? Or would you expect, nay, demand the respect of an apology to you as well (even if you were unwilling to forgive). Or if you owe a man money, can you decline to pay him back and instead donate the money to a church?

    Lee.

  15. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    You are making a point for the third time that doesn’t need to be made at all. Sure, Jesus could have been a perfectly moral person without performing a single miracle…but this is not the Jesus described to us in the New Testament. You’re defining a hypothetical Jesus – not the real one.

    You speculate on a Jesus whose followers bore false witness about His performing miracles…and perhaps other things. You seem to have a magic de-coder ring which allows you to tell which statements about Jesus in the New Testament are true and which are false. I find such a process utterly uninteresting – and, more importantly, unable to be validated and therefore useless.

    You are positing an imaginary Jesus – one of your own making, selected from the bits of New Testament that you like and perhaps supplemented by imaginary characteristics, teachings, and actions. Why should anyone believe your conception of Jesus of Nazareth? Aren’t people better off heeding the testimony of people who actually knew Him, walked with Him, and broke bread with Him?

    You seem repulsed by the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. I don’t care much for it myself.

    As to your point about forgiveness, you are partly right. The part you are leaving out is that even if I steal your car or money, make restitution, seek and receive your forgiveness, I am still not done. Why? Because I need God’s forgiveness as well. I didn’t just sin against you when I took those things from you – I sinned against Him, too.

    I am not interested in defending Christianity or Christians. It’s Jesus Christ I am proclaiming – the One foretold by the prophets who wrote the Old Testament and declared by the apostles who wrote the New Testament. He either is or isn’t. Redefining Him “is not an option he has left open to us. He did not intend to.”

  16. Lee says:

    “You are making a point for the third time that doesn’t need to be made at all.”

    I actually had a few friends of mine read through what you said and how I replied, because I was so utterly mystified by your continued insistence that I was not responding to your actual argument. I was distressed that some aspect of my cognitive faculty was apparently malfunctioning. Having received second, third, and fourth opinions, I really don’t know what to say. All of us don’t know what you mean, quite frankly, if it isn’t what is plainly stated in your comments.

    You are either saying that the miracles MUST be true in order for the moral claims ABOUT or BY Jesus to be true, or you are saying that the miracles provide the only substance to the moral claim about Jesus’ character, such that their falsehood makes the moral status of his claimed actions suspect. Not only are both claims false, but they both assert a CONTINGENCY that does not exist. In the first, the moral claims are either true or false independent of the truth of the miracles, while in the second, at least some of the claims about Jesus moral character do not involve miracles. However, even if all of the claims about Jesus moral character were the result of miraculous interventions on his part, the denial of the miracles does not invalidate the moral status of such actions. Think of fairy tales; it does not require that the boy who cried wolf ACTUALLY cried wolf twice falsely, or was ACTUALLY eaten by the wolf the third time, in order for the message to be valid.

    “You’re defining a hypothetical Jesus – not the real one.”

    Lets get something straight: the Jesus recounted in the bible is a hypothetical Jesus. The picture painted therein is one hypothesis, which I find incredible and therefore less plausible than a more regular Jesus.

    “I find such a process utterly uninteresting – and, more importantly, unable to be validated and therefore useless.”

    Your hypothesis cannot be validated any more than mine can. In addition, even if neither of our hypotheses can be validated, there is a very real difference if we adopt one over the other, and this means that NEITHER hypothesis is useless. If I accepted your view, I would radically change my life, and if you accepted my view, you would do likewise. I would orient my life towards God, while you would have to undertake the humble work of finding your own meaning and purpose.

    “You are positing an imaginary Jesus – one of your own making, selected from the bits of New Testament that you like and perhaps supplemented by imaginary characteristics, teachings, and actions.”

    This coming from a Universalist? ;p Don’t get me wrong, here, I agree with your criticism of my hypothesis. It is cherry-picking the bits I like, but only because I am attempting to extend an olive branch towards someone who takes Jesus very seriously. It would be a lie to say that I don’t agree with at least SOME of what Jesus has said, and I would LIKE TO THINK that Jesus was a great man who did not say and do the things I object to, but I don’t reject the possibility that he was a crazy person or he did preach things I view as immoral. I simply didn’t see the need to focus on the parts I don’t like, given my discussion partner!

    “Why should anyone believe your conception of Jesus of Nazareth? Aren’t people better off heeding the testimony of people who actually knew Him, walked with Him, and broke bread with Him?”

    First, the gospel writers were not Jesus’ disciples. That is as uncontroversial a historical claim as can be made about the New Testament. This doesn’t just have a majority consensus in support, it is nearly universally attested to by all reputable New Testament scholars. Paul, for one, openly admits that he never met Jesus (not counting the vision). We aren’t getting first-hand testimony, it is AT BEST second-hand, and probably more along the lines of a written interpretation of oral history. The only surviving documents are copies of copies of copies of manuscripts, wherein references are made to events that are independently established to have occurred after the lifespan of any of the disciples. This is akin to saying Moses wrote the first five books of the bible; it’s simply impossible, and no serious person who has studied the matter believes it.

    Second, on why my account is more believable than the account of the bible, even if the disciples wrote the New Testament, the incredible parts of their accounts can be rejected quite rationally. Here I must refer you to Hume’s work on induction in his excellent book Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (free on Amazon). Hume explains at length why the impartial observer or receiver of such claims is rationally justified in rejecting that which does not comport with everyday experience, on the basis that it is far more likely that either someone lied, or some aspect of observation or transference of information has resulted in a confusion of reality. The judgement that a missing set of keys is far more likely the result of a careless memory or someone else moving them, than that the ceramic gnome in your garden came alive and swiped them, is what underpins our view of the world. This is the very reason that when you get into your car, you do not account for the possibility that your car will turn into a pig and fly away at some point along the road to the library, leaving you skidding down the pavement at 70mph. The same principle holds for claims about miracles, regardless of their source. This is not a claim about possibility, only believability.

    “As to your point about forgiveness, you are partly right.”

    I agree on the doctrinal point you are making, that the Christian is responsible to both the victim, and to God. My only point was that Jesus having “died for our sins” by being torn apart in a remote corner of Palestine doesn’t absolve us of our sins against one another(a point we agree on, it seems). We part ways, however, in that I have a hard time seeing how God having himself torn apart in this manner is supposed to absolve us of our responsibility towards God, such that we can avoid being punished for our crimes. If God made the law, why can he not simply unmake it, rather than what appears to be a tacit endorsement of human sacrifice as a means of “penal substitutionary atonement”? This strikes me as something that a first century human being would cook up; it doesn’t bear the stamp of omniscience.

    Lee.

  17. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee, you and your friends are on solid logical ground with your argument. It just has no practical application in the case of Jesus because of how finely interwoven the accounts of His morality and miracles are. It’s not as though the apostles recorded a bunch of propositional statements abut morality that He made in the first ten chapters and then recorded a bunch of tricks He did for the crowds in the next ten. Jesus taught about the nature of God, and how it was man’s responsibility to imitate the nature of God – with Jesus offering Himself as the prime example of doing so. Every miracle was a demonstration of the compassionate nature of God, and therefore an illustration of what Jesus was teaching. Much of Jesus’ teaching came in the specific context of performing a miracle. I assume that Jesus showed many acts of kindness that were not attended by miracles, especially during the first thirty years of His life. Yet the gospels are full of miraculous manifestations of His kindness because He had previously given so much from normal means. For example, He multiplied the fishes and loaves for the hungry because He had already given away all His money. He was too poor to give them some lunch money like you and I might do. Therefore, when He had given all that He had that was His own, God supplied Him supernaturally to give more.

    You’ll better appreciate the inexplicability of the miracles from the morals if you begin to take the miracles one by one and work through them. Take the example we used previously: the raising of the dead son of the widow of Nain. Assume the apostles were embellishing. What then did Jesus actually do – give her a sympathy card? Or the feeding of the five thousand – did He simply share His lunch with a handful of people and the apostles blew up the number to impress? Or His walking on the water to rescue His disciples in the boat – did He just swim a long distance and the disciples thought a dramatic embellishment about an unprecedented act would round out the narrative? Such speculations fall under the weight of their own improbability. That is, such speculations are more preposterous than the miracles. Thus the gospel accounts begin to fall apart quickly when you seek to remove the miraculous – just as His teachings begin to fall apart when you remove their egocentric aspects.

    You’ve led a sheltered life if you think there are no reputable Bible scholars who believe Jesus’ disciples wrote the New Testament. I will only concede that Bible scholars who disbelieve this consider those who believe it to be unreputable.

    Hume’s advice is sound for normal day-to-day living, but when a time comes that an unimpeachable source brings you astounding news, it is not wise to automatically discredit it. And this is all the more true when the news is coming ultimately from God about a solution to a problem that everyone knows only God can solve, and therefore about which God could be expected to speak.

    You are on the right track to insist that just because Jesus died for our sins does not mean we shall not be judged for them. Indeed, as Jesus said, we shall give an account for every idle word that comes out of our mouths. Our judgment is exceedingly granular, and people will wonder at the glory of His justice through all eternity. Nevertheless, judgment takes place in the context of everyone going to heaven – thus heaven contains at least as much variety as the earth and is not a place of egalitarian semi-catatonic bliss as is often supposed. As Jesus said, many who are first here shall be last there, and vice versa. The sacrifice of Christ was not to appease an angry God but to demonstrate to us the extent of God’s love for us. Therefore, in following His example we should show love to others to that same degree. Love is the most profound force in the universe. It can be defeated only in the short-run; in the long-run it is indominatable. Therefore, let us love one another to the extent that Christ loved us.

  18. Lee says:

    You keep saying the same thing, I keep telling you why the claim is false. Round and round we go.

    You have misunderstood Hume’s argument, as it applies to the second paragraph, and as you attempted to circumvent it in the fourth. I strongly recommend reading the book, it’s free, and it’s not overly long.

    “That is, such speculations are more preposterous than the miracles.”

    This is completely false. Every element that would need to be assumed for such speculations to be factual, taken either individual or collectively, has innumerable instances of it’s occurrence. You can address this via Hume, Bayesian probability, or just plain common sense; all yield the conclusion that it is less probable for a miracle to have occurred than for a series of perfectly natural events or simply nothing at all. Unless you first admit the existence of God, his intention to perform the miracle, and the absolute inerrant nature of the account, all of which vastly reduce the inherent probability, there is simply no sound basis for inferring the miraculous over the mundane. The intervention by an alien race with advanced technology occupies a space far higher on the scale of probability than the intervention of the supernatural.

    The third paragraph endorses the opinion of “scholars” whose opinions represent a frank denial of the facts of the matter when it comes to these texts. It is impossible that the whole of the New Testament could have been written by the disciples, and so exceedingly unlikely that they wrote any of it as to be dismissed out of hand. The same dismissal is leveled at the few scholars who still hold to this archaic view.

    For the fourth, I would only point out that you have absolutely zero evidence for any of these assertions about heaven, God, his judgement, etc. That you believe these things to be true, and that you think something written in a book somehow bolsters or supports this belief, goes a long way towards establishing why you are a Christian in the first place.

    You see, when I focused our discussion a few comments back, saying I thought this particular point might go to the heart of our disagreement, I was optimistic that perhaps we might build upon a simple agreement as to the logical nature of the claim in question. Instead, what has happened is that you have conceded that the claim is false (“Sure, Jesus could have been a perfectly moral person without performing a single miracle”), changed the subject to textual accuracy (“but this is not the Jesus described to us in the New Testament”), and then reissued the same false claim in that context (“It just has no practical application in the case of Jesus because of how finely interwoven the accounts of His morality and miracles are.”).

    What you are failing to do is admit the possibility that the biblical account of Jesus can be false while the moral message is sustained. Your arguments in support of this contingency waffle between the logical fallacy I pointed out earlier, and dubious assertions of textual accuracy. The most frustrating part of this discussion is the fact that you admit the metaphorical nature of these events. Jesus feeding hundreds is to demonstrate God’s kindness and compassion, that even when you have given all you can give, he will provide what remains.

    But what the heck, I’ll GRANT you the biblical miracles! Now compare this to reality, the millions who have and currently are starving, the tens of thousands who have drowned at sea, the universal inevitability of the death of a loved one. Stack a couple hundred fishermen against a couple million starving children, notice who God feeds, and suddenly I’m not all that impressed. Jesus fed a couple hundred to prove a point, which is subsequently falsified by his apathy for the next two thousand years. Rather than demonstrating an attribute of God, the miracle really seems to establish that God has a fondness for Jewish fishermen.

    Before you start appealing to eternal recompense for these children, remember the context: if such recompense is the message, why did he save the fishermen? Why did he not just let them starve?

    Lee

  19. Mike Gantt says:

    Where do I start?

    I’ll leave it to you to be my authority on Humes and Bayesian probability, and I will restrict my personal efforts to common sense. What you, both in your individual and authoritative spokesman role, seem to be ignoring is that miracles are not the only miracles. By this I mean that miracles are actually uncommon (i.e. non-routine) wonders. We are experiencing many wonders on a routine basis that, if they were non-routine, would be called miracles. We call it a miracle to walk on water, but it is actually no stranger than walking anywhere else on this rapidly spinning ball without falling off. It’s just that the latter is far more familiar to us that the former. The routine nature of the universe dulls us to its wonder. If there had only been one sunrise or sunset in all of eternity, it would command attention as a miracle. Same for spring…and autumn, for that matter. If you, or Hume, or someone else has let familiarity breed contempt for the many miracles that constitute our daily existence, it’s only natural that it would dull your thinking about the brief interruptions to them that we actually label “miracles.”

    I hope you will also come to acknowledge that probability has nothing to do with the subject – except to say that miracles, by definition, are improbable. Even highly improbable. I do not say they are improbable because it’s improbable that God will act. Rather, I say so because it’s improbable that God will act non-routinely. He is a God of routine. Routine wonder. To state that miracles are improbable is to state the banally obvious.

    Is the resurrection of a human being probable? Yes. Highly improbable. In fact, so improbable as to almost be impossible. Almost. Yet when God has promised for centuries to do so, and had these promises committed to writing by His prophets and preserved by the nation established for this very purpose, and some 500 people witnessed the accomplished fact and we have written testimony that it occurred in just the way that the promises had described, then we have warrant to believe that that which was almost impossible is possible. And not only possible, but, practically speaking, certain.

    You exhibit a striking close-mindedness when you say that “it is impossible that the whole of the New Testament could have been written by the disciples.” Are you unaware that the reason scholars today have 27 documents called the New Testament, and not more or less, is that antiquity determined that these 27, not more and not less, can be traced Jesus’ apostles? Can we who are removed from the scene by centuries and thousands of miles assume that we know so much more than those who were so much closer to the actual time and place? Even if we do, should we do so glibly and categorically?

    You are correct that I am not an authoritative source about heaven, God, judgment, and so on. Jesus of Nazareth, however, is an utterly reliable source. Since He bore witness to the veracity of the Scriptures, we have its words as well as His own to inform us. If you don’t believe Him, however, I can understand why this substantial testimony would still not impress you. (I’d have to ask you though, who strikes you are more moral, and therefore more credible, than Jesus of Nazareth?)

    You say that I am failing to admit the possibility that the biblical account of Jesus can be false while the moral message is sustained. I suppose it is possible…in the sense that anything’s possible. But I just can’t find it credible. I can’t figure out means, motive, or opportunity for the apostles to have fabricated or exaggerated the gospel accounts. As to your theory that subsequent authors did the work, those same obstacles and more apply.

    As for your moral objection to the apparent limitations of God’s compassion, you are ignoring the differentiating factor between the gospel age and the others you describe: the presence of a human being fully-committed to the purposes of God, willing and able to sacrifice all that was his for God. If only half the human race were to become half this committed to God it wouldn’t be more than a half a year before we could say that no human being was going to bed hungry at night.

    God never changes; it is we human beings who need to change – to open our hearts and let His compassion flow through us. That is what Jesus did. And He invites us to do the same.

  20. Lee says:

    I’m going to try to keep my responses as brief as possible, so that we can focus on individual levels of disagreement and (hopefully) find common ground somewhere :)

    “We are experiencing many wonders on a routine basis that, if they were non-routine, would be called miracles.”

    This is a purely specious response to Hume, and it’s more than a little question-begging to boot. The implicit assumption here is that miracles happen, they are just far more rare than everyday wonders. Unfortunately, that is precisely the question at issue. We have only experience of the every day wonders, and only this experience can offer any clue as to what we should expect out of the next moment, and the next, or indeed whether we should grant credence to an incredible claim.

    What is more likely: that the laws of nature were suspended, or that a man told a lie?

  21. Mike Gantt says:

    I want to be responsive, Lee, but this sounds like a false dichotomy. For one thing, when I hear something incredible from a source, say, like Ripley’s Believe It or Not, I assume that what I’m hearing is neither a suspension of the laws of nature or a lie but rather a description of a law, or interaction of laws, of nature with which I am not familiar. This points not only to a false dichotomy, but also to the relevance of the source of information in discussions like these.

  22. Lee says:

    OK, good, we’re getting somewhere. So we have a third option, either a suspension of the laws of nature, a lie, or an aspect of nature that we do not yet understand. It should be noted that the third option is not a miracle. If some aspect of nature has thus far eluded our grasp, an event which takes notice of this aspect can, and should, be folded into our growing scientific understanding of the world. However, such an event does not fall under the miraculous, nor should it warrant belief in a supernatural intervention.

    I will rephrase the question, taking your objection into account: what is more likely, that the laws of nature were suspended, or that either a man told a lie, or some aspect of nature remains unexplained?

  23. Mike Gantt says:

    My response would depend upon 1) who was giving me the report, and 2) the nature of the “miracle” being described.  To leave out these two factors and answer the question independent of them is to engage in too artificial an exercise.

    I can tell you that I usually do not take seriously reports of miracles that I hear today.  The majority of my skepticism is due to the first factor mentioned above (think “televangelists” for example).  That is, I deem that either the person giving the report is deceived or else has himself been deceived.  Miracles are rare, as I say in the post Miracles Considered and, as I said to you earlier, this is practically a requirement of the definition.  I should note, however, that when I hear about a book like Craig Keener’s Miracles, in which a scholar takes on Hume by demonstrating that human experience is not uniform in this regard, that I do not dismiss it out of hand.  I don’t have the inclination to study it, so its accounts remain open issues for me – I neither deny nor support them.  I should also add that I think it is possible for a miracle to take place for someone at a televangelist meeting.  I just don’t think it happens as often as the televangelists say, or even according to their direction when it does, if it does, happen.

  24. Lee says:

    I disagree with (1). If miracles do occur, there is no reason to suppose that they will be witnessed by someone you trust, rather than someone you don’t trust.

    You seem to be focusing on the “rarity” of miracles, but as I already pointed out, this assumes the “reality” of miracles, which is what is at issue in the first place. There is nothing inherent to the miraculous that makes them “rare”, unless you actually believe in a very few miracles, while rejecting all others.

    The problem with Keener, well, one of the problems with him, is that he has not “demonstrated” anything at all. He points to instances of unexplained phenomena, trashes the natural explanations, then throws up his hands and declares a miracle has occurred. This is the same strategy employed by fanciers of Intelligent Design. They find a mystery, sort through natural explanations, then declare, from ignorance, that it must be magic.

    The logic is flawed, and you have already provided the very tool necessary to show why this is so!

    “I assume that what I’m hearing is neither a suspension of the laws of nature or a lie but rather a description of a law, or interaction of laws, of nature with which I am not familiar.”

    Simply going through the known natural phenomena that could give rise to these events, then declaring the miraculous upon your failure to explain it thus, ignores the very important possibility I quoted from you. It may come as a surprise to you, but Hume was not so oblivious to the fact that people report miracles as Keener seems to suggest. In fact, thinkers following Hume don’t simply rest his principles of induction on uniform REPORTS of people’s experience, but also on the verification of experience that science affords. The design argument is one example; pre-Darwin, there was no good, natural explanation; ergo Jesus. That we now have a well-established natural explanation for the diversity in nature, bolstered by a veritable Mt. Everest of independently verifiable evidence in support, demonstrates that the principle behind the design argument, and by extension the principle behind Keener’s argument, is fundamentally flawed.

    Another way to consider just how wrong Keener is would be to consider what he is saying when he says “best explanation”. Obviously, he isn’t making the stronger claim that a natural explanation is impossible, because he would have to rule out every natural explanation that is possible, even ones we haven’t conceived of yet. Without reading the book, I can safely say he has not done this. No, he is saying that because the known science at the time cannot explain in detail the precise accounts being considered, the act of an tri-omni deity better explains the account as it has been received.

    First, this goes back to my question two comments back: who is to say that they aren’t simply lying, or have been deceived by their perceptions? This cannot be ruled out a priori on the basis that the individual is intelligent, educated, or has no visible motives to do so, because studies in neuroscience and psychology, among a myriad other disciplines, have established that we are credulous, pattern seeking mammals whose imperfectly evolved cognitive and perceptive capacities are prone to all sorts of errors. Further, Christianity teaches that man is by nature sinful. So even if the person is not deliberately fabricating the account, the circumstances or observations must be subjected to immediate skepticism for the foregoing reasons.

    Second, the “best explanation” in this case is really no explanation at all. We don’t get the how, why, when, where, to what extent, etc., that Keener himself puts to the natural explanation as a means to discredit it. If he were to treat supernatural explanations in the same light as the natural explanations, he would have to conclude that no explanation is the best explanation. That does not get books published, it does not validate gospel miracles, and it does not assist his thesis, but most importantly, it doesn’t falsely discredit one of the most influential modern philosophers the world has ever known.

    Finally, and this really is the most egregious, self-serving error in the whole “miracles happen” literature, why is every investigation of miracles focused on positive changes? Why does Keener not investigate the unexplained cases where, instead of a leg regrowing, a leg rots off and dies, for which no natural explanation can be readily discerned? This same analysis can be leveled against unexplained negative changes, but instead it is only the positive changes that are investigated. A miracle is simply an extraordinary event that manifests an intervention in the normal workings of nature. Why can it not be an extraordinarily unfortunate event? Does this not strike you as even a little intellectually dishonest, that perhaps he has already decided what he’s looking for before he steps out the door?

    Clearly, you aren’t going to read Hume, though I really think you are missing out even if you do disagree with his ideas. There is no substitute for the writings of a brilliant man. For a more contemporary, and less troublesome look at this issue, I recommend a debate between two bible scholars (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1_GYR3xjPQ). I skipped the openers, because the most interesting part was the discussion between the two of them, about 30-40 minutes in length. Hope you enjoy it! (they talk about Keener too).

    Lee.

  25. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee, you say that “there is no reason to suppose that [miracles] will be witnessed by someone you trust, rather than someone you don’t trust.” I agree. I only say that if a miracle is reported to me by someone I trust, I am more likely to believe it than if it is reported to me by someone I do not trust.

    If you are defining miracles as something that is other than rare, then you are defining them differently than I am. All physical laws are God’s laws. This, of course, includes the law of gravity. When the Wright brothers got off the ground, they did not do so by suspending the law of gravity. Rather, they altered its normal effect by the application of the laws of aerodynamics and thrust. Similarly, miracles are but the application of higher laws to those normally prevailing. Thus no law ever gets “suspended” – just “superseded.”

    The natural-supernatural divide is rightly made between that which can be measured and monitored by us (i.e. the realm of science) and the unseen dimension (i.e. spirit world – that which is “invisible” to us) which cannot be measured and monitored by us. I make this point because some people falsely draw that divide between that which is the normal way of things and that which God does. The right way to look at it is that God does all. That which is natural is just as much His as that which is supernatural.

    All that we experience, therefore, is designed and managed by God. A miracle is simply an alteration in the normal pattern of what we experience. To give an example, the God who gave Jesus the power to walk on water is the same God who made Him to sink in water and gave Him the power to swim in water. It’s all a wonder to me. The only difference is the degree of routine involved. God is “intervening” just as much whether you walk on, sink into, or swim through water. None of it takes place without His superintendence.

    Therefore, if you want to argue with me about miracles, it would probably be good to find a definition mutually agreeable. Otherwise, we’ll continue talking past each other.

    As for your many thoughts on Keener, I will not respond to them as it seems strange to me that the two of us should argue about a book that neither of us has read.

    I’ve had some exposure to Carrier, and more to Licona. I will take a look at the debate you sent, though it may be several days until I can get to it all.

    P.S. Regarding your fleeting reference to “an tri-omni deity,” please see:

    There Is No Trinity; There Is Only Christ,

    Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ

    • Lee says:

      Your first paragraph misses the point. I did not mean that it is as likely that you will BELIEVE someone you trust as someone you don’t, only that a miracle is as likely to HAPPEN TO, or be WITNESSED BY, someone you trust as someone you don’t, making your level of trust irrelevant to whether a miracle actually happened or not.

      Your second paragraph is a frustratingly inaccurate synopsis of the interaction between physical laws, but I realized this was small potatoes when I read what came after.

      Halfway through your third paragraph, I felt like I was watching a train wreck in slow motion.

      “I make this point because some people falsely draw that divide between that which is the normal way of things and that which God does. The right way to look at it is that God does all. That which is natural is just as much His as that which is supernatural.”

      Please consider just how over-the-top this defense of the miracle claims of Jesus is. Instead of making the miracles of Jesus something to be admired, this line of thinking makes his actions something of a banality. Who cares, right? He walked on water, he walked on land, both require a miracle, so why should I be any more impressed with his walking on water than his walking on land? The wright brothers didn’t interact with gravity, or aerodynamics, or thrust, or anything! They were moved by God’s whims alone.

      I cannot refute this. It is an unfalsifiable proposition. It’s a shame that modern science is wasting it’s time in such an unprincipled way, but further a shame that God seems determined to persist in this ruse. If this vision of the universe were true, all of science, medicine, engineering, literature, every pursuit of knowledge is a complete waste of time. All of these noble projects should be shelved, and all time spent in fervent worship to this deity (i don’t really care how many omnis he’s got).

      The implications of this worldview are numerous, and utterly damning for the moral character of this being. I highly recommend a swift retraction. Feel free to delete this response as well, if you do choose the wiser path. We all make mistakes. If, however, this is the length you are willing to go to hold on to your beliefs, I am wasting my time, and this will be my last post(or perhaps the last post God will write in my name).

      Lee.

  26. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    As for missing your point in the first paragraph, that is quite possible as I do not know what your point is. In spite of that, I’ve tried to be as responsive as I know how. I agree with you that my level of trust in a person reporting a miracle to me is irrelevant to whether the miracle happened or not; it’s only relevant to whether or not I believe that miracle happened. You seemed to be interested in what I would believe, and so I addressed it.

    I don’t agree with your statement that “a miracle is as likely to HAPPEN TO, or be WITNESSED BY, someone you trust as someone you don’t.” I don’t see how you could know that.

    In any case, I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish and I think we are operating with different definitions of a miracle so this line of discussion seems handicapped.

    As for your second paragraph, I indeed gave a synopsis, which by nature lacks nuance, texture, and depth. I was only giving enough detail to convey the central idea that God is the author of all laws of the universe – natural and supernatural. This includes the laws collectively known by you, David Hume, me, and everyone else, as well as all those laws still unknown to us collectively.  I understand that you are rejecting God as our Creator, but surely you acknowledge that there is nothing incoherent about a person who does believe that God is our Creator believing also that God has created all the laws – natural and supernatural – that govern His creation.

    From the third paragraph to the end, you seem to be bouncing off the walls and I have struggled to understand what has you so worked up, or even the point to which you are objecting. My best guess – though I’m not confident that it’s a good one – is that you lifted the sentence – “The right way to look at it is that God does all” – out of context and took it as a universal statement. If I’m right, it means you think I am saying that God is the one acting in all actions. This could account for some of your statements. I won’t bother defending my view from your objections because I think they’re directed at a misapprehending of my position rather than at my actual position.

    Be assured that I am not attributing to God responsibility for all actions. While it was God’s power and wisdom that allowed it, it was Jesus (i.e. a human being) who walked on the water. If you think it’s banal, try it.

    God has an active, ongoing, and pervasive role in this creation, but so do we – at least within our respective individual realms. We shall be judged appropriately for our every action. Therefore, I am not a Deist. Neither, however, am I a Calvinist (nor, for that matter, am I an Arminian) who would say that God is ordaining everything that happens and we are but acting out what He has predetermined.

    God has given enormous responsibility to human beings in this realm. For this reason, He needed to become one in order to effect the degree of change that He wanted. You asked in an earlier comment why God doesn’t just change His mind or change His decisions if He doesn’t like the outcome they’re producing. The answer is that He is not a God of whims; He’s a God of faithfulness. Thus, while He won’t undo our bad deeds, He can outdo them. The biblical account of what happens at death is a prime example of this. That we had to die was the judgment for sin, but through Jesus Christ, God altered the heavens and earth such that death ceased leading below to Sheol (Hades) and began leading above to heaven. This is explained in more detail in the book The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.

    Think of it this way: Your father tells you that if you break curfew on Friday, you will have to rake the entire yard before you can go out with your friends again.  You break curfew, and the next day you go looking for the rake.   He looks out the window and sees you working with that old broken-down rake and feels compassion for you.  He buys a new rake, brings it to you to use, then he takes the old rake and uses it to help you so that you still have some time with your friends this weekend.  Why didn’t the father just revoke his originally-stated punishment?  Because he’s a man of his word.  That’s why you always know you can trust him.

  27. Lee says:

    OK, so you are simply saying that God is the creator of the laws of the universe, and can, on a whim, alter them. That which we experience, what one might call the laws of nature, is just how it was set up by God. But just as a teacher can set up the rules, and allow them to be broken in certain circumstances, the laws of nature can be interrupted or “superseded” by God.

    Pardon my mistake, but frankly, so what? I can readily see that this is your view, and is precisely what I assumed you were arguing for. However, this doesn’t constitute a relevant response to my question.

    Miracles occur because God made the laws, and can “whatever” them when he wishes. Surely you must understand that this gratuitously begs the question. Instead of an over-the-top reclassification of miraculous, you have chosen to assume your conclusion in order to support your premises.

    The original question, following your objection, was:

    “I will rephrase the question, taking your objection into account: what is more likely, that the laws of nature were suspended, or that either a man told a lie, or some aspect of nature remains unexplained?”

    You said miracles are rare. I responded:

    “You seem to be focusing on the “rarity” of miracles, but as I already pointed out, this assumes the “reality” of miracles, which is what is at issue in the first place. There is nothing inherent to the miraculous that makes them “rare”, unless you actually believe in a very few miracles, while rejecting all others.”

    Since your last two comments, starting with the one I found so objectionable while misunderstanding an irrelevant position for a radical one, failed to answer the question, I suppose I’ll just pose it again:

    What is more likely, that the laws of nature were suspended, or that either a man told a lie, or some aspect of nature remains unexplained?

  28. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    You said:

    OK, so you are simply saying that God is the creator of the laws of the universe, and can, on a whim, alter them.

    No, I am saying that God is the creator of the law of the universe, and will not, on a whim, alter them.

    That which we experience, what one might call the laws of nature, is just how it was set up by God. But just as a teacher can set up the rules, and allow them to be broken in certain circumstances, the laws of nature can be interrupted or “superseded” by God.

    Again, God is not “interrupting” His laws; it’s just that some laws transcend others (e.g. the laws of flight transcend the law of gravity).  All laws are continuously sustained and interoperate.  (Why does this first paragraph of yours blatantly misrepresent what I said?  You sound as if you are getting testy, because you’ve previously demonstrated that you’re not obtuse.)

    What is more likely, that the laws of nature were suspended, or that either a man told a lie, or some aspect of nature remains unexplained?

    For clarity’s sake, let me say that I think the missing part of your question is the preface “If someone reports to you a supernatural claim…”  My answer to this question is the same as it was before: it depends on 1) who was reporting it to me, and 2) the nature of the claim.  So as not to frustrate you, I earnestly tried to answer the question in my mind without those two data elements, but I could not.  Think about it:  there’s no way your scenario plays out without my knowing who is telling me and what they’re telling me.  While those two data elements may be irrelevant to whether or not something supernatural occurred, they are highly relevant to whether or not I would believe it occurred…and that is the question you are asking me.

    By the way, I finished watching the debate you recommended.  Here, as a reminder, is what you said about it.

    For a more contemporary, and less troublesome look at this issue, I recommend a debate between two bible scholars (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1_GYR3xjPQ). I skipped the openers, because the most interesting part was the discussion between the two of them, about 30-40 minutes in length. Hope you enjoy it! (they talk about Keener too).

    My reaction can be found at this post I wrote about it.

  29. Lee says:

    “No, I am saying that God is the creator of the law of the universe, and will not, on a whim, alter them.”

    OK…

    “Again, God is not “interrupting” His laws; it’s just that some laws transcend others (e.g. the laws of flight transcend the law of gravity). All laws are continuously sustained and interoperate.”

    I’m having difficulty in linking this vision of nature with the resurrection. Are you suggesting that there is a law of resurrection that simply transcends the law of people dying, like the properties of lift and motion can overcome the force of gravity? And what do you mean by “sustained” here, since you clearly don’t mean that the operation of these laws requires God’s constant intervention.

    I apologize if my comments came across as testy, but your comments are becoming increasingly difficult to understand.

    “For clarity’s sake, let me say that I think the missing part of your question is the preface “If someone reports to you a supernatural claim…””

    It doesn’t really matter who makes the report. This is like asking whether it is more likely that a coin flip lands heads rather than tails, and you insist on knowing who flips the coin. The “lie” and “law” possibilities are on the same side, opposite the “suspended/transcended” possibility. Do you know someone for whom lying is logically impossible?

    “While those two data elements may be irrelevant to whether or not something supernatural occurred, they are highly relevant to whether or not I would believe it occurred…and that is the question you are asking me.”

    I am asking you what is most likely TO HAVE occurred, not whether you would or would not believe that it had occurred. As the history of other faiths attests to, belief in something is not a very good guide to the truth, or likelihood of truth, of any particular claim. Obviously, you believe miracles occur, this is not in dispute. I have a good idea which miracles you believe in and which you don’t. My question is a general question of the REASONABLENESS of belief in any particular claim of a miraculous event, so as to give you a view through my looking-glass.

    Lee.

    PS – I responded to your review, at the review.

  30. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    You said:

    I’m having difficulty in linking this vision of nature with the resurrection. Are you suggesting that there is a law of resurrection that simply transcends the law of people dying, like the properties of lift and motion can overcome the force of gravity? And what do you mean by “sustained” here, since you clearly don’t mean that the operation of these laws requires God’s constant intervention.

    Resurrection is an act of creation, or, if you prefer, recreation.  Jesus lived and died as a human being.  God raised Him from the dead.  It’s not exactly like lift and motion overcoming gravity because in that case the three are acting in harmony, and that which goes up must eventually come down.  In the case of the resurrection, however, Jesus was born from the dead…never to die again.  Therefore, it’s a case of God taking an age-old process (born-live-die) and appending an additional step:  live again forever.  Man had come from dust, returned to dust, and now comes from dust again…this time eternally so.

    Do you know someone for whom lying is logically impossible?

    God.

    I am asking you what is most likely TO HAVE occurred, not whether you would or would not believe that it had occurred.

    I don’t know how to separate those two.  They sound like the same question to me.

    My question is a general question of the REASONABLENESS of belief in any particular claim of a miraculous event, so as to give you a view through my looking-glass.

    I am willing to take a peek through your looking-glass.  So why don’t you just describe it me since your quiz of me is not satisfying to either one of us.

    I can anticipate that your looking glass is very much like Richard Carriers’s: that is, a naturalistic worldview.  On that view, the resurrection of Christ is a highly improbable, if not impossible, event.  You judge all through what you experience with your five physical senses.  Science is your friend because it measures and monitors physical reality, and takes you where your five senses could go if only they were keen enough.  (Science is my friend, too, but I am unwilling to concede that what it cannot measure and monitor does not exist.)

    The resurrection of Christ takes place outside that naturalistic domain.  Even though natural laws may have been involved (the disciples touched the risen Jesus), such aspects are beyond our ability today to measure and monitor.  Therefore, belief in the resurrection of Christ takes you to uncharted territory.  The question for you to consider is whether or not God has gifted you with senses beyond the five physical senses and whether or not these additional senses are intended to guide you in non-physical matters.  As a starting point, consider your sense of honor and shame, your sense of humor (or irony), and your sense of morality (conscience).  Might these be sensors given to us for the spiritual realm as seeing and hearing are given to us as sensors for the physical realm?

  31. Lee says:

    “In the case of the resurrection, however, Jesus was born from the dead…never to die again.”

    Born from the dead. What does that mean? I know what ‘dead’ means, I know what ‘born’ means, but that particular combination makes zero sense. Moreover, if he was “born”, wouldn’t he then enter into the same cycle (born-live-die)? If no, then I don’t know what you mean by ‘born’. This is what I meant by your comments becoming more and more difficult to understand. You are using words for which the meaning is perfectly clear, but the use of which doesn’t make much sense.

    The strategy appears to be to avoid saying that there is a state of nature, and that the miraculous constitute an interruption in the process that requires divine intervention, and thus something compelling must be marshaled to vindicate a claim for the miraculous. By attempting to fold everything into the actions of God, you attempt to remove this burden. However, you are walking a razor’s edge between admitting that you have no good evidence to support the resurrection on one hand, and saying that God must intervene to maintain the state of nature as such on the other. The balancing act is maintained by being just obscure enough that any objection can be dismissed as a misunderstanding. I’m still here because I have enough humility to realize that I may be mistaken in this judgement, and that you aren’t doing this deliberately, so please don’t take these comments as insults.

    “Do you know someone for whom lying is logically impossible?

    God.”

    Do you know someone, from whom you might receive a report of a miracle, for whom lying is logically impossible?

    “I don’t know how to separate those two. They sound like the same question to me.”

    Simple: instead of someone telling you, you read it from an anonymous source.

    “You judge all through what you experience with your five physical senses. Science is your friend because it measures and monitors physical reality, and takes you where your five senses could go if only they were keen enough.”

    Good so far.

    “Science is my friend, too, but I am unwilling to concede that what it cannot measure and monitor does not exist.”

    That is not my position, nor is it Carrier’s. I don’t say it “does not exist”, I say, ““The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.” ― (Delos McKown)

    “The question for you to consider is whether or not God has gifted you with senses beyond the five physical senses and whether or not these additional senses are intended to guide you in non-physical matters. As a starting point, consider your sense of honor and shame, your sense of humor (or irony), and your sense of morality (conscience). Might these be sensors given to us for the spiritual realm as seeing and hearing are given to us as sensors for the physical realm?”

    I already responded to this fallacious argument in my discussion of Keener’s work, but I’ll just use your words to refute this:

    “I assume that what I’m hearing is neither a suspension of the laws of nature or a lie but rather a description of a law, or interaction of laws, of nature with which I am not familiar.”

    Do you see? Mystery =/= Supernatural. If we have conquered any ground in the history of our rationality, it is on this distinction. You can give it whatever names you want, the simple fact is that agnosticism is, by definition, the only rational conclusion in the face of ignorance. Can I explain these things? NO. Can you demonstrate that a natural explanation is impossible? NO. Can you demonstrate that these things are the product of the supernatural? NO. From this there is no escape but sola fide.

    God, if he exists, saw fit to gift me with an empiricist disposition, while denying me the evidence necessary to believe in him; a pragmatists approach to claims, while making the claims of his novel outrageous and unbelievable.

    By the way, I sent a link to your ‘universalism explained’ book to my sister, a real fire-and-brimstone Christian, in the hopes that even if she won’t drop the hooey, perhaps universalism will assuage her anguish in the face of unbelieving family members destined for an eternity of torment. Wish me luck!

    Lee.

  32. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    You said:

    Born from the dead. What does that mean? I know what ‘dead’ means, I know what ‘born’ means, but that particular combination makes zero sense. Moreover, if he was “born”, wouldn’t he then enter into the same cycle (born-live-die)? If no, then I don’t know what you mean by ‘born’.

    You sound like Nicodemus (John 3:4).  He, too, was so impressed by the physical realm that he found it hard to look beyond it.  This birth is a new kind of birth (a re-birth, if you prefer).  If God can create the kind of birth that is susceptible to sin and therefore death, then He can also create a kind of birth that is not susceptible to sin and death.  Think of death in this case as the inoculation against all future death – the small dose of disease that protects you from the disease.

    “The strategy appears to be…”

    I’m not smart enough to have formulated the strategy you describe.  Nor am I immoral enough to execute it.  My answers to you are given honestly.

    “I don’t say it ‘does not exist,’ I say, ‘The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.’ ― (Delos McKown)”

    That just demonstrates the limitations of a physical sense like “looking.”  Even considering the physical realm alone, an inaudible sound sounds very much like no sound at all – but that doesn’t mean dogs can’t hear things inaudible to us.

    “I already responded to this fallacious argument…”

    I get it.  You subscribe to naturalism – that is, you “reject all spiritual and supernatural explanations of the world and hold that science is the sole basis of what can be known” (Encarta).  I’m just trying to show you that this is an unreasonable position to take.

    Reason tells us that there are forces in this world undetectable to science.  Most fundamentally, we know that there was a designer of this creation because we can detect design in the creation.  Any rational person knows that where there is design, there must be a designer.  If you walk into a room where a table is set for dinner, you know that someone set it.  If you see a clock on the wall, you know that someone made it (or made the machine that made it).  And if a man walks into the room, you can – for the same reason – know that someone made him, too (though the first two cases would have involved human designers because it would be irrational to assume that God had supernaturally set a table and made a clock).

    Do you see? Mystery =/= Supernatural.

    Yes, I do see that.  I would never say that just because something is mysterious that it must be supernatural.

    You can give it whatever names you want, the simple fact is that agnosticism is, by definition, the only rational conclusion in the face of ignorance.

    I respect an agnosticism that placidly says, “I don’t know” more than one that adamantly preaches , “I can’t know and you can’t know either!”  (I perceive you to be closer to the former than the latter.)  Aside from that, and more importantly, we are only partially ignorant.  We have inward witnesses to the truth, including conscience (by which we have much knowledge of right and wrong without anyone having taught us a thing) and reason (through which, when we perceive the order in creation, we can know that there is a Creator of all).  We can also learn from history.  The ancient nation of Israel and its extant documents tell the story of a people singled out by God to bring His message to the rest of us (history is for the empirically minded – and you should count me among them) .  Thus we have multiple sources of information which redeem enough of our ignorance to allow us to know some things.

    “From this there is no escape but sola fide.”

    You speak of faith as if it’s a bad word.  Everyone, however, exercises faith.  It’s just that some extend their faith toward God and some don’t.  Consider the information you take on faith all day long: news and weather reports on TV and radio, your wife telling you that Aunt Nora has a cold, your co-worker telling you the boss is looking for you, your friend promising to pick you up Saturday to go to the ball game, and on and on it goes.  You don’t demand proof before you believe all these statements that are made to you.  We operate with low levels of skepticism with people we know well – and sometimes don’t know well – all the time.  Yet, when the subject of God arises the walls of skepticism are raised immediately like deflector shields on the starship Enterprise.  The Klingons take this as an act of hostility – and rightly so.  God, however, being merciful, overlooks the offense and continues reaching out to us with information and with love.

    The most committed atheist could not go through a day without exercising faith – he’s just careful to make sure that his Creator gets no benefit from that faith.

    “By the way, I sent a link to your ‘universalism explained’ book to my sister…”

    To someone who loves Jesus, but labors under the teaching that disbelievers are going to suffer eternal torment in hell, nothing causes more anguish than that teaching.  Because of this, nothing brings more joy than to learn that mercy triumphs over judgment – that even though all of us will be judged, still all of us will be going to heaven.  Your compassion for your sister’s anguish is commendable in the sight of the Lord.

  33. Lee says:

    “If God can create the kind of birth that is susceptible to sin and therefore death, then He can also create a kind of birth that is not susceptible to sin and death.”

    This doesn’t follow. If God can create an imperfect thing, it does not follow that he can create a perfect thing, or even a less imperfect thing. This goes to the limitations of inference; the best we can infer, if anything at all, is precisely what is necessary to produce what we observe, and no more. If I can create a car that will last 50 years, is it then reasonable to infer, on that basis alone, that I can create a car that will last forever?

    But on the actual line of discussion behind this latest argument, how is this anything like a new law of nature? The closer you get to standard Christian doctrine, the more it sounds like a deliberate interruption of the actual workings of nature. If Jesus were to die, would he be reborn if God had not acted? Or would he have been raised according to the law of rebirth of Jewish messiahs?

    “That just demonstrates the limitations of a physical sense like “looking.” Even considering the physical realm alone, an inaudible sound sounds very much like no sound at all – but that doesn’t mean dogs can’t hear things inaudible to us.”

    Clearly a false analogy, because even an inaudible sound can be measured. We may not be able to hear it with the naked ear, nevertheless it is still detectable and measurable. Sounds, in fact, aren’t physical at all, and yet can be measured (waves). You are arguing for something that cannot, in principle, be detected or measured, which is one way of defining the non-existent. There is nothing to “look” for at all, and all efforts to do so will fail.

    “Reason tells us that there are forces in this world undetectable to science.”

    No, she does not tell us that.

    “Most fundamentally, we know that there was a designer of this creation because we can detect design in the creation. Any rational person knows that where there is design, there must be a designer.”

    False, false, false, false, false. That paragraph would have been intellectually sustainable about 200 years ago, maybe, but no longer.

    “Consider the idea that nature itself is the product of design. How could this be demonstrated? Nature… provides the basis of comparison by which we distinguish between designed objects and natural objects. We are able to infer the presence of design only to the extent that the characteristics of an object differ from natural characteristics. Therefore, to claim that nature as a whole was designed is to destroy the basis by which we differentiate between artifacts and natural objects.” (G. Smith, 268)

    We know that human beings are the product of an evolutionary process, the same process that can comprehensively explain the origins of all species on this planet. This is a natural process, it does not require any intervention from the outside, and this has been experimentally demonstrated time and again.

    “I would never say that just because something is mysterious that it must be supernatural.”

    But you appear to do just that, as Keener does with unexplained events, when you ask whether our capacities for irony, honor, and morality could have been given to us for the “spiritual realm”, whatever that means. The answer is yes, it’s not logically impossible, but listing possibilities does not provide evidence in support of one or another conclusion, thus, Keener’s book of mysteries and your list of conscious states just reiterates the problem, it does not provide a solution. If you agreed, you wouldn’t bring it up!

    “I respect an agnosticism that placidly says, “I don’t know” more than one that adamantly preaches , “I can’t know and you can’t know either!” (I perceive you to be closer to the former than the latter.)”

    I don’t know, and you don’t either. That is my position. You may believe yourself to be correct, but you don’t “know” in any sense that is meaningful.

    Here again, in the remainder of this paragraph, you invoke mystery to support the supernatural. Unfortunately, our perception of right and wrong is no longer as mysterious as it once was. See studies on evolutionary psychology. The more we learn about these conscious states, the more we understand the natural origins of our shared proclivities.

    “Thus we have multiple sources of information which redeem enough of our ignorance to allow us to know some things.”

    Again, you don’t know.

    “You speak of faith as if it’s a bad word.”

    On the contrary, I have no problem at all with faith itself. I have, in this discussion, implored you to recognize the lack of rational ground for your belief, and recognize that it is sola fide that you accept these things as true. I have done this by undermining the arguments you feel rationally support your beliefs, or undermining evidence that you feel demonstrate the truth of your beliefs, but also conceding that I cannot prove that God does not exist, or that he does not have the attributes you claim he has.

    “You don’t demand proof before you believe all these statements that are made to you. We operate with low levels of skepticism with people we know well – and sometimes don’t know well – all the time. Yet, when the subject of God arises the walls of skepticism are raised immediately like deflector shields on the starship Enterprise.”

    Enter Hume. Please, read his book.

    “The most committed atheist could not go through a day without exercising faith – he’s just careful to make sure that his Creator gets no benefit from that faith.”

    It’s not faith if you have good reasons to believe something is true. The threshold between faith and knowledge is NOT absolute philosophical certainty. We gradate our level of skepticism based on the level of skepticism each claim merits. If your wife tells you that Aunt Nora has a cold, there is little cause for doubt; if your wife tells you that Aunt Nora caught said cold on board the Enterprise, yeah, the deflector shields are at 100%. Stop pretending that a ridiculous claim and a mundane claim are the same.

    “Your compassion for your sister’s anguish is commendable in the sight of the Lord”

    I would like to think that my compassion is commendable for it’s own sake. Why do I need an audience?

    Lee.

  34. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    You seem thoroughly committed to your naturalistic worldview.  Given this, I have no doubt that you can come up with a naturalistic explanation on any point that will satisfy you no matter how unsatisfying it might otherwise be.  Therefore, we may have reached a point of diminishing returns in our dialogue.  Nonetheless, I will address the various points in your latest response.

    If God can create an imperfect thing, it does not follow that he can create a perfect thing, or even a less imperfect thing.

    You’re not being logical here, nor are you respecting the biblical construct from which I am arguing.  Everything God created was good.  Man brought in the imperfection by sin.  Even if God had created something imperfect, however, it wouldn’t mean that He couldn’t also create something perfect.  With God all things are possible.

    This goes to the limitations of inference; the best we can infer, if anything at all, is precisely what is necessary to produce what we observe, and no more.

    This is not even logical on naturalism.  You’re essentially saying that nothing unprecedented can occur.  They’re going to have to expunge “new and improved” from the advertisers’ lexicon.

    If I can create a car that will last 50 years, is it then reasonable to infer, on that basis alone, that I can create a car that will last forever?

    Of course not.  But then why would you infer that God is no more capable than a human being?

    But on the actual line of discussion behind this latest argument, how is this anything like a new law of nature?

    You’re interpreting the word “law” too woodenly.  Law is just a word for what God does consistently.  When Jesus was raised from the dead, it was the first time that “law” had ever been exercised – but it will be also be exercised for every single human being who has died or will die.

    The closer you get to standard Christian doctrine, the more it sounds like a deliberate interruption of the actual workings of nature.

    Irrespective of what you consider my proximity to standard Christian doctrine to be, I don’t see the huge divide between natural law and supernatural law that you see.  You seem to regard natural law as “not God” (i.e., laws not attended by God) and miracles as supernatural interruptions of those natural laws attended by God.  Rather, I see creation like a traffic light at an intersection.  It alternates between green, yellow, and red – except during an emergency in which case they’ll flash red or yellow.  In all cases the traffic light is maintained and operated by the same electrical system.  In the same way, all laws are attended to by God whether they be normal or miracle (routine or emergency).

    If Jesus were to die, would he be reborn if God had not acted?

    No.

    Or would he have been raised according to the law of rebirth of Jewish messiahs?

    Here again you seem to be operating under this unwarranted assumption that a law is something unattended by God.

    Clearly a false analogy, because even an inaudible sound can be measured.

    Are you saying inaudible sounds did not exist in pre-scientific times when there was no instrument to measure them?

    Sounds, in fact, aren’t physical at all, and yet can be measured (waves).

    When I distinguish between physical and spiritual (what the Bible calls “flesh and spirit,” or   “visible and invisible”), I am using “physical” in its broadest possible sense – which would include sound waves.  Physical in this sense is anything science can detect and measure.

    You are arguing for something that cannot, in principle, be detected or measured, which is one way of defining the non-existent. There is nothing to “look” for at all, and all efforts to do so will fail.

    You’re simply repeating the central tenet of naturalism: “What cannot be detected by science does not exist.”  Such a view does not seem reasonable to me.  Moreover, you can hardly call such a view agnostic as it claims to know what does and doesn’t exist.

    No, [reason] does not tell us that [there are forces in this world undetectable to science].

    Ah!  What seems reasonable to you seems unreasonable to me, and what seems reasonable to me seems unreasonable to you.  Even unreasonable people usually think they’re being reasonable.

    False, false, false, false, false. That paragraph would have been intellectually sustainable about 200 years ago, maybe, but no longer.

    Time doesn’t change logic.  Nor does Smith’s sophistry.

    We know that human beings are the product of an evolutionary process, the same process that can comprehensively explain the origins of all species on this planet. This is a natural process, it does not require any intervention from the outside, and this has been experimentally demonstrated time and again.

    For an agnostic, you sure claim to know a lot of things that cannot be observed.  I’m no scientist but I do understand what a theory is and I do understand what the scientific method is.  Evolution is a theory about the origins of creation.  I don’t see how one conducts a controlled experiment on something that occurred long before the experimenters were born.

    But you appear to do just that, as Keener does with…

    As I’ve said, I’ve not read Keener’s book so I don’t know where his views and mine might converge or diverge.  It doesn’t make sense for me to comment.

    …listing possibilities does not provide evidence in support of one or another conclusion…

    (Richard Carrier, take note.)

    I don’t know, and you don’t either. That is my position. You may believe yourself to be correct, but you don’t “know” in any sense that is meaningful.

    Hmm.  You’re an agnostic…who knows that I don’t know something about God.  And who knows that I don’t know in any sense that is meaningful.  Agnosticism has wandered far from its etymological roots (Grape Nuts, anyone?)

    Unfortunately, our perception of right and wrong is no longer as mysterious as it once was. See studies on evolutionary psychology. The more we learn about these conscious states, the more we understand the natural origins of our shared proclivities.

    What was the word you used for your sister’s views – “hooey?”  Our sense of justice, to take just one of these senses, is affected by culture but the sense itself is not given to us by culture.  And to say it evolved is just another way of saying, “We don’t know where it came from.”

    Again, you don’t know.

    There you go again.  I just don’t remember being quite so certain about so many things God-related when I was an agnostic.

    On the contrary, I have no problem at all with faith itself. I have, in this discussion, implored you to recognize the lack of rational ground for your belief, and recognize that it is sola fide that you accept these things as true.

    I can’t in good conscience ignore the foundation of reason upon which my faith is laid just because you don’t recognize those reasons as valid.

    I have done this by undermining the arguments you feel rationally support your beliefs, or undermining evidence that you feel demonstrate the truth of your beliefs, but also conceding that I cannot prove that God does not exist, or that he does not have the attributes you claim he has.

    I acknowledge your efforts, but you have just not been convincing.  I have been an agnostic.  I know the reasons I was.  I also know that reading the Bible in my late 20′s gave me reasons to change my view.  By the way, it was not reading it as the word of God that changed my mind but rather reading its contents simply as historical documents.

    Enter Hume. Please, read his book.

    I’ve found Someone to read who is much more logical on the subject.

    We gradate our level of skepticism based on the level of skepticism each claim merits.

    This sounds as if you’re being objective, but the gradation is rigged against any claims having to do with God and is thus subjective.

    Stop pretending that a ridiculous claim and a mundane claim are the same.

    I’m not pretending that.  But neither am I pretending that the idea that God created us or that He can raise the dead is a ridiculous claim.  You can say that God doesn’t exist if you want.  But if He does exist, it’s mundane to say that He can raise the dead.

    I would like to think that my compassion is commendable for it’s own sake. Why do I need an audience?

    Irrespective of whether you need an audience, you have one.

  35. Lee says:

    “You’re not being logical here, nor are you respecting the biblical construct from which I am arguing. Everything God created was good. Man brought in the imperfection by sin. Even if God had created something imperfect, however, it wouldn’t mean that He couldn’t also create something perfect. With God all things are possible.”

    Here is the logical problem with your original statement:

    “If I can create a car that will last 50 years, is it then reasonable to infer, on that basis alone, that I can create a car that will last forever?”

    No, because it does not follow that because I can create an imperfect thing, that I can therefore create a perfect thing.

    “If God can create the kind of birth that is susceptible to sin and therefore death, then He can also create a kind of birth that is not susceptible to sin and death.

    No, because it does not follow that because God can create an imperfect thing, that he can therefore create a perfect thing.

    The analogy is precise, and the logic is fallacious, because if your argument worked, absurdity follows. IT MAY BE THE CASE THAT HE CAN, I did not claim that he cannot, I only pointed out why YOUR logic on this point was flawed.

    “nor are you respecting the biblical construct from which I am arguing.”

    Irrelevant to the validity of your argument. Just because the conclusion is true, does not mean that any premise used to reach that conclusion is true, nor that the argument being used to reach that conclusion is valid. This is logic 101.

    >>”This goes to the limitations of inference; the best we can infer, if anything at all, is precisely what is necessary to produce what we observe, and no more.”<<

    "This is not even logical on naturalism. You’re essentially saying that nothing unprecedented can occur. They’re going to have to expunge “new and improved” from the advertisers’ lexicon."

    No, that is not what I am saying. I am saying that if you are going to reason from, say, the fact that I built a car that lasts 50 years, you have no reason for concluding that, ON THAT BASIS ALONE, I can build a car that lasts forever.

    "Of course not. But then why would you infer that God is no more capable than a human being?"

    The question is why would you infer, from his creation of an imperfect "birth", that he can create a perfect "birth"? Other reasons may get you from here to there, but the mere fact that he created an imperfect thing does not indicate that he can create a perfect thing. I know you will probably shake your head and laugh, perhaps call me pedantic, but these are fundamental logical distinctions. The rules of proper inference form the basis for our reasoning faculties, and if you do not understand the difference between a proper and improper inference, your reasoning will be unreliable. I have made this claim previously, that your reasoning is thus, and I am here (again) attempting to point it out. The first step is admitting you have a problem.

    —————————

    "You’re interpreting the word “law” too woodenly. Law is just a word for what God does consistently."

    So suddenly God "does" gravity consistently? You slipped again, is the razor's edge becoming thinner?

    "You seem to regard natural law as “not God” (i.e., laws not attended by God) and miracles as supernatural interruptions of those natural laws attended by God. "

    And now he "attends" them. I can attend a concert, I can attend to a loved one, I can attend to my duties; what on earth do you mean now? Either the laws are something which is, or they are something which God does. If they are the former, than changes constitute interruption/suspension/alteration; if they are the latter, then they are subject to his whim. Did he set up the universe as a self-sustaining system that he simply “attends” like a concert or a loved one, or is he actually going about pushing objects together to simulate gravity, etc.? It really is one or the other.

    “Rather, I see creation like a traffic light at an intersection.”

    This doesn’t make any sense. In what way does God “maintain and operate” the laws of nature?

    >>”If Jesus were to die, would he be reborn if God had not acted?”<<

    "No."

    Then how can you say that God raising Jesus from the dead was not a deliberate alteration in the normal workings of nature? (surely not everyone is rising from the dead to leave behind an empty grave)

    ——————————-

    "Are you saying inaudible sounds did not exist in pre-scientific times when there was no instrument to measure them?"

    I am saying that sound waves exist in all times, whether we can measure them or not. The point is that they are in principle measurable/detectible. That is the distinction between something that exists and something that does not, but, while this presents a good reason to disbelieve in the existence of something, it does not follow that such a thing does not exist. Before we could measure/detect inaudible sounds, what reason would we have to suppose that they existed?

    “Physical in this sense is anything science can detect and measure.”

    OK.

    “You’re simply repeating the central tenet of naturalism: “What cannot be detected by science does not exist.” ”

    No. I am making an altogether different claim: That which cannot in principle be detected/measured is very similar to that which does not exist. Hence, “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.” I am not saying that what science cannot currently measure does not exist, as that would be fallacious reasoning. I am not saying that what science cannot in principle measure does not exist, as that would also be fallacious. I am saying that what cannot currently, or in principle, be measured shares a very difficult to attain property with the non-existent.

    “Moreover, you can hardly call such a view agnostic as it claims to know what does and doesn’t exist.”

    Clearly, I was not claiming to say what does and does not exist, as my ORIGINAL comment conceded: “That is not my position, nor is it Carrier’s. I don’t say it “does not exist”, I say, ““The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.” ― (Delos McKown)”

    “Ah! What seems reasonable to you seems unreasonable to me, and what seems reasonable to me seems unreasonable to you. Even unreasonable people usually think they’re being reasonable.”

    Yet your reasoning has been consistently fallacious, objectively, and so your claim to reasonableness remains unsupported.

    “Time doesn’t change logic. Nor does Smith’s sophistry”

    On what basis do you call the criticism of the design argument I quoted “sophistry”?

    “For an agnostic, you sure claim to know a lot of things that cannot be observed.”

    You don’t appear to understand what it means to be agnostic about a particular subject. Agnostic does not mean nihilistic.

    “I’m no scientist…”

    This preface is always, ironically, followed by a claim about science.

    “…but I do understand what a theory is and I do understand what the scientific method is.[no, you don't] Evolution is a theory about the origins of creation. I don’t see how one conducts a controlled experiment on something that occurred long before the experimenters were born.”

    The “origins of creation”? No. Just wrong. Go read up on what evolution actually is, then go read up on what the theory of evolution by natural selection claims, then go examine the evidence in favor of both. THEN, if you still think the biological community is lying to piss off God, explain how they are wrong in terms that don’t just sound like, “My daddy ain’t no monkey”.

    “As I’ve said, I’ve not read Keener’s book so I don’t know where his views and mine might converge or diverge. It doesn’t make sense for me to comment.”

    I does make sense for you to comment, because I only drew a comparison with Keener’s work while addressing your arguments. Thankfully, you did comment:

    >>…listing possibilities does not provide evidence in support of one or another conclusion…<<

    "(Richard Carrier, take note.)"

    Evidence that you did not understand the debate. Richard Carrier said that he is presenting natural alternatives that fit with science and explain the facts better than Licona's explanation. He doesn't have to prove any particular hypothesis, he only has to point to possibilities, and point out that the conjunction of natural causes for a given phenomena is inherently more likely than the conjunction of supernatural causes. All of this was covered. If he does make the argument you have put into his mouth, I'll be sure to drop him a line.

    "Hmm. You’re an agnostic…who knows that I don’t know something about God. And who knows that I don’t know in any sense that is meaningful. Agnosticism has wandered far from its etymological roots (Grape Nuts, anyone?)"

    Agnosticism is not nihilism; it is the denial of knowledge on a particular issue, not the denial of knowledge altogether. You're being dramatic, and no thanks, I already ate.

    "What was the word you used for your sister’s views – “hooey?” Our sense of justice, to take just one of these senses, is affected by culture but the sense itself is not given to us by culture."

    Which, if true, would rule out culture as the source of our sense of justice. Lots of possibilities remain, the refutation of one hypothesis (especially one that no one I have met holds) does not show that god dun it.

    "And to say it evolved is just another way of saying, “We don’t know where it came from.”"

    If all the biologists said was "X evolved", with no further support, you'd be right. But biologists, unlike apologists, don't get to make it up as they go along. They've got to test their hypotheses, subject their tests and data to peer review, and not only are they subject to immediate refutation if contradictory data comes along, they must be further supported by tests and data from other disciplines. A true "theory" must also make predictions, which, when tested, either come true or don't show that the theory is false. So when a biologist, or evolutionary psychologist, says "it is likely, for reasons X, Y, Z, and consistent with the results of test A, B, C, that our sense of justice evolved in response to environmental and social factors D, E, F", they aren't just saying "We don't know where it came from".

    Did you know that vaccinations operate on the assumption of the truth of evolution? Have you gotten yours?

    "There you go again. I just don’t remember being quite so certain about so many things God-related when I was an agnostic."

    This is a lot like the "I used to be an atheist, but…" line, which is supposed to indicate that you are an authority on, in this case, agnosticism. Judging from your comments, I'm not sure what you actually were in your 20's, but regardless of what you called yourself, you weren't agnostic. I remember talking to God. It was precisely like talking to an imaginary friend.

    "I can’t in good conscience ignore the foundation of reason upon which my faith is laid just because you don’t recognize those reasons as valid."

    I don't expect you to. I entered this discussion already assuming I would fail to convince you, or deconvince you as it were, by reason alone. It matters to me what is true, what we can reasonably know, and how my fellow human beings arrive at answers. I have to live on the same planet, and my children will accept it in whatever condition I leave it. The Marines taught me to leave a place better than you found it, and this is one attempt at that. I'm not going to burn you at the stake, only hold your feet to the fire ;p

    The rest of your post is unimportant.

    Lee.

  36. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    You and I seem to be merely going back and forth, increasing the sub-points with each iteration – with little progress to show for it. As I’ve said, I’m not a scientist. Nor am I a philosopher. Although I have common sense – and therefore as much reason as the next guy – it was not through my reason alone that I came to have a conviction about God. It was reading the Bible that brought me finally to faith. To be more specific, it was – and is – the person of Jesus Christ who captured my attention and my reason…and ultimately my affection and devotion.

    Although I’m not suggesting that Henry David Thoreau’s “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root” applies directly here, it does speak to a certain economy of effort. Thus I want to be sure point you to the taproot of my faith in God.  All the claims I’ve made to you on His behalf are but leaves growing from that tree. There’s no sense in your continue to hack away at leaves. (I’ll give you a link at the end of this comment that will give you a fuller description of this root so that you can betterfocus your efforts.)

    Jesus of Nazareth was the most unusual human being I have ever known or read about. I cannot think of anyone who comes close to him in moral stature. (By the way, I’m not saying that moral stature is the only way he is so distinguished; it’s just that morality is the issue that is most important to me where he is concerned.) Even when I would consider another candidate to compare with him, that candidate immediately shrinks in comparison because Jesus said things like “I am the way and the truth and the life,” and “unless you love Me more than your father, mother, sister, brother, you cannot be my disciple.” No one else that we consider moral, saintly, or holy talks this way. For this reason, such radical statements by Jesus force me to a binary decision about him.  That is, I cannot take him in stride.

    I aspired to be moral before Christ, but I was never as successful at it as I was afterward. Christ gives a power to be moral that transcends one individual ability. This is primarily because He helps with the secret sins that no one else knows about.

    Why do I believe that with God all things are possible? Because Jesus of Nazareth believed it. Yes, my sense of reason agrees that if God exists, all things should be possible to Him. But I wasn’t getting to that conviction all by myself. It is my absolute trust in Jesus Christ that makes me confident about it. (I could work out the algebra problem in eighth grade and get what I thought was the right answer, but when I could check the answer key in the back of the book and get confirmation, I felt confident.) Why do I believe that God attends (i.e., ensures the execution of) all laws physical and spiritual? Because Jesus of Nazareth believed it. He said not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from God. Why do I have faith and delight in having it? Because Jesus of Nazareth said God likes it.  Why do I fear God?  Because Jesus did (by the way, fear in this context and properly understood, equates to faith).  And on and on it goes. Jesus Christ is the centerpoint of all my thinking. Everything comes back to Him.

    Reason not only led me to faith in Christ, it keeps me from abandoning that faith. When I have been weak in faith, when I have thought about just giving up on Christ, my reason and conscience won’t let me. It would be immoral to do so. There would be no good reason to do so – only bad reasons.

    I think the primary limitation you are placing on your reason is to limit it to natural matters. I never assumed that there was a dimension beyond the physical, but neither was I close-minded on the subject. My view was that if God existed, sure, there was a spiritual dimension. Jesus Christ convinced me that God existed. If you were to prove that Jesus Christ is not real, then my faith in all these things would evaporate – if not immediately, then certainly in due time. In other words, it was understanding Jesus Christ in the natural (i.e. as an historical figure) that I came to believe in the spiritual.  If Jesus Christ were proven false, I could not say that no spiritual dimension existed; I’d just be back where I started: no confidence what was or wasn’t there.

    Here is the link, the source of reason for the beliefs I have that you find fallacious and unreasonable:  I Invite You to Challenge Me at My Most Vulnerable Point.  Of all the things we have discussed, nothing is as important to me, or as foundational, as Jesus Christ.

  37. Lee says:

    When I approach these discussions, I must constantly remind myself that the problem is not the events themselves, or the facts, or the reasoning, it is the person’s belief. What I have done, or attempted to do, is undermine the reasons you use to believe the things you do. Now you say that I must prove JC false. No, I don’t, I only need to show that your reasons for believing the accounts of his deeds are dubious. My humble attempt follows:

    1. The Genesis account of creation, and the early history of man, has been disproven.

    – This is important because there is good reason to reject the idea that a book is written or inspired by the creator of the universe when it gets facts wrong. If it were so authored, the factual statements would be true even if the human writers were not aware of the facts. What we see is that the factual statements are wrong in precisely the way that a human author would get them wrong.

    2. The claim that moses wrote the first five books of the bible is logically impossible.

    – This is important because you appear to rest credibility of the New Testament on the credibility of the Old, and vice versa, in a very circular way. Aside from the problem with a circular argument, since the author of the Old Testament is not who the Old Testament claims it to be, and the credibility of the New rests on the Old, the author(s) of the New is put into doubt.

    3. The authors of the New Testament were not eyewitnesses to the “facts” they relate. You have conceded this already.

    – This is very important because of the nature of hearsay as it pertains to the credibility of testimony. I invite you to explore the problems inherent in second and third-hand accounts, considering the unreliability of our perceptions and memory that I have already alluded to, the ‘telephone’ phenomenon, copy errors that aren’t just likely but are actually documented to have occurred by one demonimation angry at another for inserting doctrinal modifications.

    4. The bible we have today is not the bible that was (if you accept the early dating of the original writing) written originally. We have copies of copies of copies of manuscripts, cobbled together according to their adherence to both the Old Testament prophecies and the doctrinal message of the Church.

    – This is important because, in many cases, one is simply taking the word of the Church, hundreds of years later, that X and Y are the most reliable documents. These judgments came before any rigorous historical methodology was enshrined within academia.

    5. The earliest accounts, the pauline letters, are from someone who explicitly admits that he did not meet Jesus during his ministry.

    – This is important because we are getting, at best, a written record of an oral tradition, with all the problems that entails, from decades after the supposed event, and exclusively from people who already believe in the religious construct in which the stories are framed. One can easily imagine these early Christians passing the story amongst one another, adding a tidbit here, removing a tidbit there, pushing the bounds in order to make the story better, more convincing. They would also, being Jews first, have a motive to justify their claim that the messiah had returned by fitting parts of the story with the Old Testament. Once the tradition reached Paul, Jesus diving into the ocean to save a drowning man could easily have been Jesus walked on water to save a ship of drowning fisherman.

    6. The events in question closely mirror in theme and type other dying and rising god cults

    – This is important because it shows that the material was readily available for a new cult, the practice of forming a cult around a mythic figure was common, and there was a population ready and waiting for just such a figure.

    7. We have contemporary, and modern, accounts of the rise of cults around influential figures; even accounts of cults coalescing around purely fictional individuals.

    – This is important because it shows that the rise of a new Jewish cult can be readily explained by human proclivities, rather than true and/or monumental events.

    “You are right that all you have to do to meet the challenge is present a plausible explanation as to how the New Testament documents were fabricated. But that means more than simply saying, as you have, that one person could have plagiarized another. You have to identify a motive they would have for doing so, and 2) a means for achieving their aim, and 3) the opportunity to do so. Remember: since the New Testament documents were written by different people at different times and places you have to explain a conspiracy – not just the acts of one man.”

    So we have motive (conversion justifications, doctrinal supplementation), means (first to record oral tradition in writing), opportunity (decades to revise the story, centuries of copying, no eyewitness testimony to contradict). Personally, I don’t think it was a complete fabrication. I tend to agree with Robert Price in saying that even if there was an actual historical figure, Jesus, he is permanently lost to us. We just don’t know, of what cannot be objectively verified, which parts are true, which parts are false, so unless you have a moral or religious reason for believing them to be true, the only reasonable position is to remain agnostic about the events, and skeptical about the miraculous. What has been established to be true, or more likely than not to have occurred, are all natural events.

    Now, you can say that most of this is speculation, and indeed it is, but such speculation finds considerable support when you consider the moves you make when you consider other traditions. I would be very interested to hear how you take down Mormonism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. It cannot be denied that other people find the other historical figures that ground their traditions just as morally or factually compelling. Thus, when you approach these traditions, flabbergasted as you no doubt would be that they do not immediately cease to believe these falsehoods upon hearing your reasoning, please recognize that you are looking in a mirror.

    I have provided compelling, logical reasons to doubt the veracity of scripture, the veridicality of the gospel narratives, and the occurrence of the miraculous in general. Your pirouettes on these points no doubt impressed you, but they merely evince an individual in fervent denial of the obvious: you believe these things because you want to believe them, all the rest is smoke and mirrors.

    “All the claims I’ve made to you on His behalf are but leaves growing from that tree.”

    “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” ~ Mathhew 7:17

    Lee.

  38. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    I commend you, generally speaking, for your contribution here.  It addresses the question at hand as well as, and perhaps better than, any previous comment.

    1. This is a moot point for this topic.  If Genesis is false, it cannot validate Jesus of Nazareth.  If Genesis is true, it still doesn’t validate Jesus of Nazareth.

    Jesus accepted the Old Testament as the word of God.  If He is validated, so also is the Old Testament.  If He is not validated, the Old Testament must be validated or not by other means.

    2.  Same as 1.

    3.  I never conceded that the New Testament lacks eyewitness testimony.  What did I say that makes you think so?

    4.  This claim is both misleading and false.  Sure, it’s true we don’t have the originals, but that is true of all documents from antiquity.  Moreover, the copies we have of the New Testament documents are far more numerous and closer in time to the originals those we have for all other documents from antiquity.

    5. This is a red herring.  Paul never claimed to have known Jesus from the days of His flesh.  Moreover, if you’re testifying to the resurrection of Christ, which Christ is it more important for you to have met – the pre-resurrection Christ or the post-resurrection Christ?

    6.  For this claim to even be worth discussing, you’d have to identify the “dying and rising god cults” you’re talking about, and then show how they would be known by the followers of Jesus.  But even if you could, you’d never get past the fact that the earliest Christians were Jews.  Throughout the book of Acts, the gospel was spread through the synagogue system of the Mediterranean Jewish Diaspora.  The worst way to get your message accepted in such settings would be to make sure the story was similar to a pagan cult.

    7. Another red herring.  There were all sorts of false messiahs in the period 200 BC  to 200 AD.  It’s not an issue that “the rise of a new Jewish cult can be readily explained by human proclivities, rather than true and/or monumental events.”  That’s a well established fact, and was even prophesied by Jesus.

    So we have motive (conversion justifications, doctrinal supplementation), means (first to record oral tradition in writing), opportunity (decades to revise the story, centuries of copying, no eyewitness testimony to contradict).

    That’s your motive?  This ragtag bunch is going to take on the Roman Empire, putting their necks at risk at every turn, just so they can justify their conversion?  C’mon!

    That’s your means?  How did they accomplish this when writing documents in various locations, sent to various locations, over a period of decades?

    As for opportunity, the letters of Paul were apparently circulating all around the Mediterranean before the gospels were ever put in writing.  There was no opportunity to alter the key elements of the story.

    I tend to agree with Robert Price in saying that even if there was an actual historical figure, Jesus, he is permanently lost to us. We just don’t know, of what cannot be objectively verified, which parts are true, which parts are false, so unless you have a moral or religious reason for believing them to be true, the only reasonable position is to remain agnostic about the events, and skeptical about the miraculous. What has been established to be true, or more likely than not to have occurred, are all natural events.

    Robert Price is sure that we cannot be sure about much of anything regarding Jesus except for this:  either what Jesus taught about Himself was not true or else He did not teach it.  If you get your understanding of the New Testament from Price and Carrier, no wonder you think the way you do.  They are not historians but rather apologists for a cause – like those “historians” who provide intellectual cover for those who want to deny the Holocaust.

    What has been established to be true, or more likely than not to have occurred, are all natural events.

    When you are thoroughly committed to naturalism, it is not surprising that your conclusion supports naturalism.

    I would be very interested to hear how you take down Mormonism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. It cannot be denied that other people find the other historical figures that ground their traditions just as morally or factually compelling.

    Let’s look at Islam.  I’m not interested in “taking it” or any of the others “down.”  I’m only interested in upholding Jesus Christ our Lord.  Muhammad denied that Jesus was crucified or raised.  Moreover, Muhammad claimed himself a prophet of God – a claim that clearly made Jesus inferior to him.  Therefore, Muhammad’s testimony is false on these important counts.

    I don’t believe in Jesus because he was one of “my people.”  I’m not a Jew.  I was not even a Christian when I decided for him.  There was no ethnic or religious or hereditary or cultural reason for me to bow to him.  Therefore, when you compare my situation to “other peoples who have their own historical figures” it’s just another red herring.

    I have provided compelling, logical reasons to doubt the veracity of scripture, the veridicality of the gospel narratives, and the occurrence of the miraculous in general.

    You were logical in spurts…but never for long enough to be compelling.

    “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” ~ Mathhew 7:17

    Amen!

  39. Lee says:

    Your response to 1 and 2 is circular, and worse, puts you in the position of having to deny Jesus if the Genesis account of creation and early man is false. It is false, this can be proven, but somehow I don’t find it likely that you will accept any evidence that proves it is false, as your clear rejection of evolution attests to. If we can’t agree on the facts of the matter, there is little point in continuing.

    Your response to 3 is spot on, I misread you. However, that objection conveniently avoids addressing the point.

    Your response to 4 is special pleading.

    Your response to 5 is a misuse of the term ‘red herring’. I explained why it was pertinent, and you have not dealt with that explanation. Further, on your question of which I would prefer, I’d have to say both. How else could you be sure it was the same person?

    Your response to 6 levels a degree of skepticism that far exceeds the bounds of reasonableness. The early Jews were not a monolithic group, but individuals within a tradition, which was within a larger multicultural setting. If you’ve heard of mormonism, they had heard of Romulus. The point remains unaddressed.

    Your response to 7 is….strange, and constitutes a retraction of your response to 6. In 6, I have to show that these other cults are known to Jesus’ followers. In 7, they were prophesied by Jesus. See the problem?

    “That’s your motive? This ragtag bunch is going to take on the Roman Empire, putting their necks at risk at every turn, just so they can justify their conversion? C’mon!”

    Why not? It is one possible motive. Perhaps they actually believed these things, as seems likely, even if they are actually not true. Would they then risk their necks? I think so. They do not have to have been deliberately lying in order to believe in something false.

    “That’s your means? How did they accomplish this when writing documents in various locations, sent to various locations, over a period of decades?”

    How did they accomplish what? Being the first to record an oral tradition? What part of your response addresses that means?

    “As for opportunity, the letters of Paul were apparently circulating all around the Mediterranean before the gospels were ever put in writing. There was no opportunity to alter the key elements of the story.”

    “apparently circulating” ~ Suddenly we’re allowed to speculate? Why is Paul not included in this? Why are his letters, of which we do not have the originals (afaik), not subject to the same copy-copy-copy problem as the rest of the bible, which I pointed out in 4.

    “When you are thoroughly committed to naturalism, it is not surprising that your conclusion supports naturalism.”

    I’m all ears, brothah! Show me the money! I am merely saying that the natural world, which we both agree exists, is all that I have any reason to believe in. Your reasoning itself is problematic, as has been documented, your reasons are fallacious, as has also been documented, and your evidence non-existent. Even worse, you deny demonstrable facts about the natural world. This is not the behavior of a person in pursuit of truth.

    A brief, final riposte:

    “Let’s look at Islam. I’m not interested in “taking it” or any of the others “down.” I’m only interested in upholding Jesus Christ our Lord. Muhammad denied that Jesus was crucified or raised. Moreover, Muhammad claimed himself a prophet of God – a claim that clearly made Jesus inferior to him. Therefore, Muhammad’s testimony is false on these important counts.”

    Therefore, another example of circular reasoning.

    “You were logical in spurts…but never for long enough to be compelling.”

    Amen to that!

    Lee.

  40. Mike Gantt says:

    1. and 2.  My understanding is that circular reasoning occurs when the conclusion is baked into the premise.  You don’t demonstrate why you think that’s the case; you just make the accusation.

    You seem to be suggesting that if evolution is true then the Genesis account must be false and therefore cannot be the word of God as Jesus believed it to be.  You must not be aware that there are many people who have accepted evolution as true and simply adjusted their interpretation of Genesis accordingly (i.e. they interpret it non-literally as one would other appropriate biblical passages).  There are also those who believe that because Jesus experienced all the limitations of humanity (except that He did not sin), He took the Genesis passage literally like His contemporaries because they were not privy to modern scientific knowledge.  This would not invalidate Jesus’ faith in the Old Testament as the word of God either.  Therefore, for you to assume that evolution being true would require me to deny Jesus sounds like circular reasoning.  (As I’ve said elsewhere, before accusing someone of circular reasoning it’s always wise to first check and see if you yourself are guilty of it.)

    Regarding evolution, as I’ve said, I’m not a scientist so I’m in no position to opine on it – especially since there are varying versions of it (apparently it is still evolving).  I think science as science is a wonderful thing.  I think science as a worldview or religion, however, is very unhealthy.  When you see me pushing back on evolution, it is from this standpoint.

    3.  You accuse me of not addressing the point.  However, your point was based on a position I don’t take.  Why should I defend a position I don’t take?

    4.  I had to look up “special pleading” as I am not a philosopher.  I don’t see how that criticism applies.  I am pointing out that you are rejecting the New Testament documents by a standard that I can’t imagine you are applying to any other ancient literature.  (By the way, wouldn’t that make you guilty of special pleading?)

    5.  Though I am neither a scientist nor a philosopher, I am a retired businessman and we used the term “red herring” all the time, so I do know what that means.  It’s something brought up in discussion that superficially appears to be relevant but actually draws the discussion off track.  (This idiom arose from the practice of using fish scent to throw hunting dogs off track from their prey.)  Perhaps you weren’t intentionally throwing the discussion off track; you may have initially thought your point was relevant.  However, as I pointed out, Paul’s relationship with the resurrected Christ in no way undermines the case for Christ.  On the contrary, it strengthens it.

    6.  Of course 1st -century Jews didn’t think monolithically.  Even the New Testament describes some of their sects.  But this doesn’t mean that there weren’t some things true of all Jews – most notable of all being their Jewishness.  This distinction made the embrace of pagan cult practices an anathema.  Jews served the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He could not rise because He could not die.  It would be unthinkable for a Jew to suggest so.

    Your analogy, by they way, is off-base.  Mormonism is an offshoot of Christianity, not an entirely separate cult as Romulus would be to Jews.  But your faux paus reveals your more fundamental error: evangelical Christians would never embrace known Mormon theology – when both limbs grow from the same tree.  How much less would the Jews accept theology from an entirely different tree.

    If you’re going to suggest an alternative hypothesis it’s going to have to be something more plausible than “the Yankee fans began wearing Red Sox jerseys so they could get more Red Sox fans to root for the Yankees.”

    7.  What are you thinking, Lee?  Were you watching TV while you wrote your response to me?  Point 6 was about pagan cults; point 7 was about Jewish messiahs.  Jesus prophesied that there would false messiahs, not that there would be pagan cults.

    Returning to the theme of economizing your effort, I suggest you focus on points 3 and 4.  This is because even if I had conceded points 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7, my faith in Christ would still be on firm ground.  Points 3 and 4 get at the heart of the matter.  I accept that the documents of the New Testament are what they present themselves to be.  These are the source from which I learned enough about Christ to put my faith in Him.  If you’re going to pull the rug out from under me, that’s the rug.  This is why points 3 and 4 are at least on topic, even if you haven’t made a very good case for them so far.

    If, on the other hand, this is the best you can do on 3 and 4, and don’t want to continue (“If we can’t agree on the facts of the matter, there is little point in continuing”), that is okay, too.  You are a man of good will, even if you are still not giving Christ His due.

  41. Lee says:

    “Therefore, for you to assume that evolution being true would require me to deny Jesus sounds like circular reasoning.”

    It is! It is precisely the circular reasoning that I accused you of making, and which you, at first, didn’t comprehend. You’re only seeing half of the picture, though. Let me elaborate:

    “Jesus accepted the Old Testament as the word of God. If He is validated, so also is the Old Testament.”

    From the comment previous to your most recent one. IF Jesus is validated, and here I assume validated to mean ‘true’, then the Old Testament is validated, i.e. ‘true’. If this is not what you mean by validated, forgive me.

    Now, lets plug this into a syllogism:

    1. If Jesus is validated (p), then the OT is validated (q)

    2. Jesus is validated (p)

    3. Therefore the OT is validated (q)

    Unfortunately, the conclusion (q) is false. The literal meaning of Genesis, that one man and one woman are the progenitors of humanity, is false(to name just one instance). Jesus, being God, would know this; God, being perfect, would not deceive (logically impossible, according to you) by validating a falsehood. In order for him to validate the OT, AND be God, the OT must be true.

    So, what happens when Jesus being validated logically entails a false conclusion? This means that one of the two premises MUST be false, and since premise (1) cannot be false, according to you, it must be premise (2). Ergo, Jesus is necessarily invalidated. QED.

    Obviously, outs remain. You can deny evolution, or you can take a non-literal view of scripture. Both of these moves are open to Christians. No one, to my knowledge, has been able to tell which parts of the bible are literal and which parts are non-literal, excluding ex post facto conclusions to the non-literal. As to evolution, well, it’s a small price to pay, rejecting established scientific facts, when eternal life is on the line, amirite?

    “I think science as a worldview or religion, however, is very unhealthy. When you see me pushing back on evolution, it is from this standpoint.”

    What on earth does this have to do with the truth of evolution?

    “3. You accuse me of not addressing the point. However, your point was based on a position I don’t take. Why should I defend a position I don’t take?”

    The point, that the gospels were not written by eyewitnesses, remains, regardless of whether you conceded it or not. I haven’t supported it, because frankly, this is consistent with conservative christian scholarship. You’d be hard pressed to find a reputable historian willing to say ONE of the gospels was written by an eyewitness, much less all of them. Luke comes right out and says it.

    “4. I had to look up “special pleading” as I am not a philosopher. I don’t see how that criticism applies. I am pointing out that you are rejecting the New Testament documents by a standard that I can’t imagine you are applying to any other ancient literature. (By the way, wouldn’t that make you guilty of special pleading?)”

    What other ancient literature? Why do I care? They’re all copies of copies of copies of manuscripts, subject to the same problems. When you say closer, you’re talking at least 70 years distant, on the low end, and they are clearly copies. The point remains. I’m not “rejecting” them, I’m pointing out the unreliability of this sort of information, and such criticism applies to all of these ancient documents. As I said:

    “– This is important because, in many cases, one is simply taking the word of the Church, hundreds of years later, that X and Y are the most reliable documents. These judgments came before any rigorous historical methodology was enshrined within academia.”

    “However, as I pointed out, Paul’s relationship with the resurrected Christ in no way undermines the case for Christ. On the contrary, it strengthens it.”

    How is the fact that the earliest accounts of Jesus come from a non-eyewitness, recording a combination of oral tradition, supposed eyewitness or friends thereof, and a voice in his head that may or may not have been Jesus (since he never met the living Jesus, how could he tell), not impinge on the potential accuracy of the account? This isn’t about the case for Christ, it’s about the case for the accuracy of the gospel accounts of Christ.

    “6. Of course 1st -century Jews didn’t think monolithically. Even the New Testament describes some of their sects. But this doesn’t mean that there weren’t some things true of all Jews – most notable of all being their Jewishness. This distinction made the embrace of pagan cult practices an anathema. Jews served the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He could not rise because He could not die. It would be unthinkable for a Jew to suggest so.”

    And yet Christianity exists, while Judaism persists. Moreover, Christianity enshrined many pagan cult practices into their religion, practices which found themselves in among many already present. Tell me with a straight face that you really believe that the cannibalism at the last supper wasn’t a h/t to pagan cults. Tell me how Easter fits into Judaism. Tell me how not a single Jew converted to a Dionysis cult, or the cult of Romulus, etc.. They convert today! What reason do we have to suppose that Jews then wouldn’t “embrace pagan cult practices” when they do so now?

    “Jesus prophesied that there would false messiahs, not that there would be pagan cults.”

    Here is what you wrote, emphasis mine:

    “It’s not an issue that “the rise of a new Jewish cult can be readily explained by human proclivities, rather than true and/or monumental events.” That’s a well established fact, and was even prophesied by Jesus.

    I suppose I should not have taken your word on the matter.

    “Returning to the theme of economizing your effort, I suggest you focus on points 3 and 4.”

    But 1 and 2 turned out to be such fun! I kind of liked pulling THAT rug.

    Lee.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      1. and 2.  You are assuming that the OT is false (something you have declared with zest but not proven), that a non-literal reading of Genesis is illegitimate (when, by your own admission, you have no standard for ascribing literalness/nonliteralness to Bible passages), and that Jesus was omniscient as a human being (an oxymoron).  Thus your arguing has the superficial appearance of rigorous logic (syllogism and all) but is riddled with illogical steps.  Your haste to get to the conclusion you desire short-circuits your search for truth and makes your reasoning circular.  As I’ve explained (go back and read it), it’s pointless for us to argue the OT because, even if we settled it, it wouldn’t settle the question at hand: Jesus.

      But 1 and 2 turned out to be such fun! I kind of liked pulling THAT rug.

      You remind me of the drunk, down on all fours underneath the street light.  His friends came by and asked what he was doing.  He said, “Looking for my car keys.”  They asked, “Where were you when you lost them?”  He replied, “Over there on the other side of the street.”  Puzzled, they asked, “Then why are you looking for them over here?”  He answered, “Because I can see so much better under this street light.”

      3.  “Earth to Lee: you have lost contact with  reality.”  Conservative Christian scholarship is practically defined by its belief that the gospels represent eyewitness accounts.  See Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses:  The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony as a starting point.

      As for your rejection of Luke’s record, do I presume you similarly reject all news stories written by a reporter because they cannot, ipso facto, contain eyewitness accounts?  (No one’s gonna want you on the committee that awards the Pulitzer Prizes.)

      4.  By your logic we’d have to throw out all history BCE (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Greco-Roman culture, other ancient civilizations, and so on) along with the New Testament.  You’re applying a level of skepticism to the NT documents that you’d be unwilling to apply to any other ancient literature.

      5. 6. and 7.  Still red herrings.

      I suppose I should not have taken your word on the matter.

      Yes, you should have.  You quote me and then give this retort as if you’ve caught me being inconsistent, or worse.  Go back and read what you quoted and see that I wasn’t.  Seriously, are you multitasking and not paying sufficient attention to what you’re reading and writing here?

       

  42. Lee says:

    Oh, and I talked to my sister about Universalism, she said, “In Luke, the story of the rich man and the poor man clearly indicates that hell exists as a real place” or something to that effect. I assume you have addressed this in your book-length blog post on the matter, but I thought I would pass along her response. No dice: if Luke is true, hell exists according to her.

    Lee.

  43. Lee says:

    “You are assuming that the OT is false (something you have declared with zest but not proven)”

    I don’t have to prove it. It has been proven for me by science. A literal adam and a literal eve did not seed the human race; this is simply impossible. When YOU said “validated”, I took this to mean true. If you don’t think it is true, or you don’t think it is literal, you’re welcome to adopt those positions. However, according to YOUR statement…

    “Jesus accepted the Old Testament as the word of God. If He is validated, so also is the Old Testament.”

    …the old testament is true if Jesus is true. This has logical consequences (see previous comment).

    “that a non-literal reading of Genesis is illegitimate (when, by your own admission, you have no standard for ascribing literalness/nonliteralness to Bible passages)”

    Any honest reading of Genesis does not deliver the conclusion that the details are metaphorical, or that God is speaking in parables, which explains why generation upon generation of Jews and Christians believed it was true, and still do today despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It isn’t as though evil atheists are coming in and taking these passages out of context, or assigning a literal reading where it has always been understood as metaphorical. It was read, understood, and defended by fire as literally true, for three millenia or more, and only with the advent of science showing it to be false is it suddenly to be understood metaphorically by a fraction of Christians (40% still believe it literally, according to Gallup).

    Let me be clear, here, I am not saying that a non-literal reading is “illegitimate”. I am saying, as I said before, that if the adam-and-eve bit was understood to be literally true by every scholar and thinker, and has been proven false, to now say it must be interpreted non-literally begs the question: How do we know any of the rest of it, that which has not been either validated or dis-proven, is true? This subsumes all claims to magic, and all claims to authorship; every questionable claim, and I do still defend the view that they are questionable, is further discredited.

    “Jesus was omniscient as a human being (an oxymoron)”

    First, it doesn’t really matter whether Jesus was omniscient, God is. So if the OT is the “word of God”, as endorsed by Jesus, and if, as you claim, the validation of Jesus constitutes a validation of the OT, then either God lied or Jesus cannot be validated. God cannot have lied, according to you, so something has to give.

    You may, at this juncture:

    A) reinterpret, bankrupting the already dubious credibility of the book,
    B) deny scientific facts, which veritably embodies the charge of being delusional, or
    C) conclude that Jesus is invalidated, collapsing the rational basis for your faith.

    Obviously, none of these options are attractive to you, but this is not my fault. I didn’t say there were two human beings who started the whole human race, I didn’t claim a global flood occurred, and I didn’t make any of the false claims in the OT. I didn’t endorse these claims, either. I’m simply holding you to your reasoning.

    Second, Jesus was either God, or he was not God. If he is God, he would know these things; if he is not God, does worshiping him constitute a violation of the 3rd and 5th commandments?

    “As I’ve explained (go back and read it), it’s pointless for us to argue the OT because, even if we settled it, it wouldn’t settle the question at hand: Jesus.”

    Actually, it does have the potential to settle this question, and that is why I’m going to remain on this point despite your desperate attempts to redirect. You may claim, as often as you wish, that it does not have this potential, but that does not make it so.

    As to your claims to the position of conservatives, I can only sigh and shake my head. This attempt to shift your claim to something more reasonable, but still radical, is not lost on me. In fact, why don’t you ask Richard Bauckham himself, whose book summary is as follows:

    “This new book argues that the four Gospels are closely based on eyewitness testimony of those who knew Jesus. Noted New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham challenges the prevailing assumption that the accounts of Jesus circulated as “anonymous community traditions,” asserting instead that they were transmitted in the name of the original eyewitnesses. To drive home this controversial point…”

    Even this joker doesn’t believe the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. Seriously, come off it. Your way out on a limb with this “Matthew the disciple wrote Matthew the book”.

    You seem to have even endorsed the view that Luke was not an eyewitness, but you think it’s irrelevant. It’s not irrelevant because that is a contradiction of what you are claiming. In this endorsement, you did address the point, thankfully, so I’ll just respond briefly.

    “As for your rejection of Luke’s record, do I presume you similarly reject all news stories written by a reporter because they cannot, ipso facto, contain eyewitness accounts?”

    I presume that journalists are sourcing their information to real people, and that the Pulitzer committee doesn’t need my assistance as they verify such things. If a news story cannot be verified, the journalist is not going to get a pulitzer. To compare a modern journalist’s work, in which the witnesses can be identified and interviewed independently, to the gospel accounts, for which we cannot do any of that, just goes to show how little you understand the matter at hand.

    “4. By your logic we’d have to throw out all history BCE”

    Only the ridiculous claims. Those we already throw out.

    “5. 6. and 7. Still red herrings.”

    Ignore them all you wish. I’ll drop the points, it’s just not worth it.

    “You quote me and then give this retort as if you’ve caught me being inconsistent, or worse.”

    I’m not going to go back and forth on you over whether you did or did not say something that is plainly written for the world to see. If you can’t see it, that’s not my problem. Don’t want to defend it? Fine, I’ll drop the point.

    Lee.

  44. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    I’m beginning to think you would rather talk about anything other than Jesus Christ!  You appeared to be accepting my invitation, I Invite You to Challenge Me at My Most Vulnerable Point, and I had high hopes for a productive exchange with you about Him.  However, your insistence on talking about the Old Testament instead is something with which I guess I’ll just have to live.  I’ve forewarned you, however, that this is not the rug I’m standing on.

    As for the Old Testament, validated (yes, it means true) is one thing; interpreted is another.

    I have the utmost confidence that Jesus knew what He was doing when He regarded the OT as the word of God.  And because He did, I do, too.  However, that still leaves me a long way from knowing how He interpreted all of it.  I’m spending my life trying to find out.  I’ve made some progress, but I have a long way to go.  The main thing I need to do is to do what is right in His sight every day, and trust that I will know what I need to know when I need to know it.  That is, understanding the Bible is not merely a matter of academic study, though study is involved, it is also a matter of obedience.  You can’t understand what God’s driving at if you’re not interested in doing what He wants.

    It’s amusing to hear you say that you know exactly how Genesis ought to be interpreted – as amusing as me saying I know how the manual of bowling rules ought to be interpreted (I hardly ever bowl).  Less amusing is your misrepresentation of the interpretive history of the Bible (Augustine posited a non-literal interpretation of the creation account in the 5th Century), and your use of pejoratives like “magic” to describe the Bible’s claims.

    Your defining (and confining) worldview is naturalism and this is the common theme that runs through practically all the points you ever want to make.  There are, of course, Bible scholars who, similarly committed to a naturalistic worldview, have interpreted away all the supernatural accounts of the Bible.  Most of them, like you, retain some regard for Jesus – but not enough to worship Him.  As for me, I don’t feel qualified to read the Scriptures with scissors in hand.  Like an honest golfer, I feel compelled to play the ball as it lies, to play the course as I find it.  These documents bear common witness to Jesus Christ, and they stand or fall together.

    Do I understand everything in the Old Testament?  No.  But I’m profoundly shaped – and that for the better – by the parts I do understand.  Do I think that Adam and Eve were actually people?  Yes, I do.  I don’t find that any harder to believe than Jesus walking on water, feeding five thousand people with a few loaves and fishes, or rising from the dead.  Science cannot prove that these things actually happened, but neither can it disprove them.  It can only say that they are unlikely – an assessment with which I’d happily agree.  That’s what makes it a miracle – the unlikeliness of it!

    Even if, however, I am wrong about Adam and Eve, it does not mean that Jesus was wrong about them.  I am supremely confident that He was right about everything He thought.  I’m just not a good enough man yet to know everything He thought.  Therefore, He has validated the Old Testament to me, but He’s still in the lifelong process of interpreting it to me.

    • Lee says:

      “It’s amusing to hear you say that you know exactly how Genesis ought to be interpreted”

      It would be, had I said that. I said that if what has traditionally been taken to be literal is now to be considered non-literal on the basis of independent verification, upon what grounds do warrant belief of what is still considered literally true? I’m all for withholding judgement on whether any passages are literal or figurative, whereas there are parts of the bible that, for you, simply cannot be anything but literal. For many Christians, Genesis is a big part of that, which explains such widespread rejection of evolution in religious communities, for religious reasons. They “feel compelled to play the ball as it lies, to play the course as [they] find it.”

      What I find amusing is that you pretend to a position of skepticism in order to paint me as a dogmatic absolutist, but as can be plainly seen by the next quoted portion of your comment, you aren’t skeptical at all of Genesis, or really any of the bible.

      “Do I think that Adam and Eve were actually people? Yes, I do. I don’t find that any harder to believe than Jesus walking on water, feeding five thousand people with a few loaves and fishes, or rising from the dead”

      I also think it takes as much faith to believe, against all evidence to the contrary (of which there is an abundance), that one man and one woman seeded all of mankind sometime in the near past, as it does to believe in the miracles of Jesus. I’ll call this an agreement of sorts :)

      “Science cannot prove that these things actually happened, but neither can it disprove them.”

      Actually, it can, and has. Suffice it to say that you are not accepting science if you are denying scientific fact on the basis that it’s conclusions are possibly false. The glaring double standard you apply to the claims of science and the claims of the bible can be summed up in that quote from you.

      “It can only say that they are unlikely – an assessment with which I’d happily agree. That’s what makes it a miracle – the unlikeliness of it!”

      That is not what constitutes the miraculous, mere improbability. It is the impossibility of the occurrence under natural law as such that yields a conclusion to a miraculous occurrence. If it were mere improbability, every event would be miraculous, and the term would be meaningless. Moreover, improbability doesn’t require God, which makes this use of the term even more problematic.

      As for the rest of your comment, there is a lot to like in what you have written, and I think it is one of your better posts. I don’t want to let our disagreements overshadow where the common ground lies, as so often occurs in these discussions. Aside from the brief caveats I outlined above, you evince humility, faith, an openness to the virtuous life, whatever that turns out to be, and a willingness to engage and compete in the marketplace of ideas. Your universalism, whether theologically or logically defensible, is commendable on it’s own merits, and I applaud you. I don’t want to get rid of religion, I just want it to stay out of politics and science.

      Lee.

  45. Mike Gantt says:

    Actually, I am a generally skeptical person when it comes to unusual claims – and probably more skeptical than most.  However, there are two factors that cause me to temper my skepticism.  One, when I become convinced of the veracity of a source of information, I’m more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.  And the more trustworthy the source, the more latitude I give.  Two, if there is a God then He is certainly capable of altering or superseding His own normal way of doing things whenever He might choose to do so.  In my case, Jesus Christ benefits from both of these factors and thus invites hardly any skepticism from me at all.  My general skepticism, however, remains intact, so don’t try to tell me that your cousin has cured the common cold.

    This view I take is what you are calling a double standard.  But is it a double standard to trust my wife more than someone I don’t know?  Is it a double standard to trust a longtime co-worker more than someone I’ve never met?  Is it a double standard to trust my doctor’s opinion about hernias over my unemployed brother-in-law’s?  The degree of skepticism warranted in a situation is more a function of the person making the claim than of the claim itself.  Therefore, we are justified in lowering our skeptical shields to the degree that someone has earned our trust.  (This is precisely why betrayal is such a painful human experience.)

    As for science proving things, I think your claims are excessive and enter into that science-as-complete-worldview or science-as-religion category.  I can’t imagine finding a press release in the National Institute of Science archives announcing “Double Blind Study Proves the Bible Is False.”  More circumspect scientists recognize that science cannot speak to spiritual matters – at least not definitively (see Ecklund’s research which demonstrates that science is not as monolithic in its opinion on this subject as you portray).  And even if a scientist believes that what his science can discover is all there is, that there is no God controlling natural laws, and that there is no spiritual realm at all – it is just that: a belief.

    In the end, life is about relationships.  Everything else is just window dressing.  This is true for unbelievers as much as it is for believers.  This is why Jesus Christ is more important than science…and history, and riches, and fame, and anything else to which we can attach value.

  46. Lee says:

    “Actually, I am a generally skeptical person when it comes to unusual claims – and probably more skeptical than most. However, there are two factors that cause me to temper my skepticism. One, when I become convinced of the veracity of a source of information, I’m more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt. And the more trustworthy the source, the more latitude I give.”

    Well this is perfectly reasonable. Lets test it.

    “Do I think that Adam and Eve were actually people? Yes, I do.”

    Did Jesus tell you this? Because if he did, I’m afraid he is feeding you bad information. He gave you a claim that is equivalent to me telling you that I cured the common cold. By your reasoning, you should stop listening to this false spirit. If he did not tell you this, why on earth do you believe it in direct contradiction to an accepted scientific fact?

    Lee.

  47. Mike Gantt says:

    We’ve been over this already.

    By the way, I thought of you earlier today when I came across a review of Alvin Plantinga’s recent book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, & Naturalism.  (I hope you’ll at least read the review, if not the book.) I was struck by this quote of his, which apparently outlines his thesis:

    “[T]here is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, and superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism.”

    In case you haven’t heard of him, he’s a philosopher – and apparently a well-respected one, and not just in theistic circles.  As I’ve told you, philosophy is over my head but I thought it might speak to you.

    Although I am not neither a philosopher nor a scientist, I was struck by the quote because it reminded me that in all the discussion you and I have had, you have presented science as  an antagonist of faith – nay, more as a predator of faith.  Yet there is a whole other side to this issue, which deserves to be emphasized.  To wit: What limited knowledge of science I have, leads me to more faith.  To give an example, if ancient man was filled with the wonder of God just considering the earth and its heavens as all there was, how much more can modern man be filled with wonder at the notion of our earth flying through space as a spinning globe!  It’s gives a whole new relevance to the biblical expression “as many as the stars of the heavens and the sand on the seashore.”  Or consider the quantity of information stored in DNA – who can fathom the greatness of a Creator who does such things!  Just think of what’s yet to be discovered in the next ten years, the next hundred years, the next thousand years.  And He knew it all from the beginning.  What patience He has with us, waiting on us to have enough interest to learn things.

    More importantly, if there’s that much to learn about science, how much more there is to learn about morality!  If we spend the rest of our lives studying the morality of Jesus of Nazareth we will not have begun to cover it all.  He is a universe full of rectitude.  As I wrote in the comment earlier today, relationships are everything.  Morality is what makes relationships what they should be.  The breadth and depth of the physical realm as being discovered by science reflects the depth and breadth of moral spirituality that is even more important to discover – and our relationships will benefit in the process.

    • Lee says:

      I would be interested to hear how you differentiate between the apparent “sophistry” of George Smith, and the thesis of a “well-respected” philosopher, in a way that isn’t blatantly question-begging considering your self-effacing pose as a “not…a philosopher”. You never did respond to Smith’s quote other than that short dismissal, so I think it’s only fair that you respond more engagingly to what he had to say before I patiently explain why Plantinga is playing a very dangerous, and very disingenuous, game with words.

      Take your time.

      Lee.

  48. Lee says:

    You wrote:

    “Reason tells us that there are forces in this world undetectable to science. Most fundamentally, we know that there was a designer of this creation because we can detect design in the creation. Any rational person knows that where there is design, there must be a designer. If you walk into a room where a table is set for dinner, you know that someone set it. If you see a clock on the wall, you know that someone made it (or made the machine that made it). And if a man walks into the room, you can – for the same reason – know that someone made him, too (though the first two cases would have involved human designers because it would be irrational to assume that God had supernaturally set a table and made a clock).”

    I quoted Smith:

    “Consider the idea that nature itself is the product of design. How could this be demonstrated? Nature… provides the basis of comparison by which we distinguish between designed objects and natural objects. We are able to infer the presence of design only to the extent that the characteristics of an object differ from natural characteristics. Therefore, to claim that nature as a whole was designed is to destroy the basis by which we differentiate between artifacts and natural objects.” (G. Smith, 268)

    You responded:

    “Time doesn’t change logic. Nor does Smith’s sophistry.”

    That is utterly unsatisfactory, but the conversation veered away and I didn’t press you on it. Now we are back to the argument from design, perhaps more properly called the argument from wonder, and suddenly this line of discussion is relevant once more.

    You present Plantinga, whose thesis I am well aware of and quite willing to engage with you concerning, but I think it only fair that you give the philosopher I quoted the same treatment. Otherwise, I can simply say that Plantinga’s argument in favor of the thesis you presented is mere “sophistry”, and we’ll never really be discussing anything at all.

    Does that clear it up?

    Lee

    • Mike Gantt says:

      You’ve explained the first half of the sentence, which wasn’t that hard to understand. It’s the qualifying clause that constitutes the second half that makes your request inscrutable.

      • Lee says:

        Give the first part a go, then we’ll work on the second.

        • Mike Gantt says:

          The Platinga quote resonates with the deep sense of wonder at God’s handiwork that’s aroused in me when I consider our universe and its operation. Beyond that, if you want to argue Platinga you’ll have to look for someone besides me. I only recommended him because you seemed to want to engage on these matters philosophically and, as I’ve said, I don’t speak that language.

        • Mike Gantt says:

          As for the Smith quote, superficially read, it sounds erudite. However, when I slow down and read it sentence by sentence I find it practically incomprehensible. The concluding sentence neither follows logically from the preceding ones, nor is it logical on its own.

          • Lee says:

            Please explain where the logic breaks down; where has Smith gone wrong? Your final statement is nothing more than an assertion.

  49. Mike Gantt says:

    “Consider the idea that nature itself is the product of design.

    Okay.

    How could this be demonstrated?

    “Demonstrated?”  What’s to demonstrate?  You either perceive design or you don’t.  If I walk into a room where a table has bee set and a meal prepared, I don’t need anything demonstrated to me.  If I walk into a room where 52 playing cards are scattered across the table and come back an hour later and see four neat piles, one of each suit, I know that someone has brought design to the mess.  I don’t need anything demonstrated to me.  I don’t understand Smith and he loses me in this, only his second, sentence.

    Nature… provides the basis of comparison by which we distinguish between designed objects and natural objects.

    Huh?  That’s not how I perceive design.  Nor do I know anyone else who perceives it that way.  Smith’s point here may apply in some limited way to human artifacts found in archaelogical digs, but that’s a subset of the universe of design in view.

    We are able to infer the presence of design only to the extent that the characteristics of an object differ from natural characteristics.

    Again, where is he getting this?  You showed a disdain above for mere assertion when it came from me.  I don’t know why you accepted it here from Smith.

    Therefore, to claim that nature as a whole was designed is to destroy the basis by which we differentiate between artifacts and natural objects.”

    This rhetorical finishing statement is so convoluted as to be absurd.  How does claiming that nature is designed “destroy” anything?  Even if he had had proven his premises, which he didn’t, this statement doesn’t flow logically from them.  That is, even if we determined what is designed by its difference from nature, there’s nothing about nature being designed by God that would prevent us from continuing to use it as a standard of comparison to determine what has been designed by a human.

    Thus I found reading the Smith quote maddening in its self-satisfied illogical meandering.  Thus the term sophistry came to mind.

    Now, it’s possible that Smith is using the language of philosophy -or some other discipline unfamiliar to me – and I am just too ignorant to understand his argument.  I readily concede that.  I’m just speaking as a man on the street, and I can’t follow what he’s saying.

    Now, back the point that brought us together – or at least led me to produce this blog:  Reason alone is not enough to get you to God.  At some point, you have to apply it to the assertions of Jesus…and see what happens when you do.  Are you willing to consider – or reconsider, as the case may be – His claims?

  50. Lee says:

    How do you know that a table set with a meal is not a naturally occurring object, such that you feel confident asserting agency to explain it’s existence?

  51. Mike Gantt says:

    There is no basis for me to believe otherwise.

  52. Mike Gantt says:

    It’s obvious to me. I don’t dwell on why it’s obvious to me.

  53. Mike Gantt says:

    On the contrary, Lee, it is you who are playing the game…and you’ve become frustrated that I won’t play it with you.

    I complied with your request to explain why I rejected the Smith quote and I honestly answered your follow-up questions. You, however, insist on pursuing epistemology when I have repeatedly told you that I am not a philosopher.

    I am a man who has read some widely-known ancient documents about Jesus of Nazareth and found them profoundly compelling. I write this blog to increase awareness of Him. If you want to challenge me about this, I am happy to respond for as long as you want to challenge. However, if you want to discuss philosophy I’m not your guy, and I have no problem with your moving on.

    • Lee says:

      “However, if you want to discuss philosophy I’m not your guy, and I have no problem with your moving on.”

      I am using plain language. You have presented a number of arguments, arguments which themselves can only be discussed philosophically. I have attempted to steer you down the path, show you, by patiently explaining piece by piece, where your reasoning is problematic. I have witnessed you understanding the arguments, understanding the responses, and offering reasonable, though further problematic, caveats to those arguments. Everyone is an amateur philosopher in their own right, give yourself at least that much credit!

      For example, when I addressed your claim that the validation of Jesus entails the validation of the OT, you rightly pointed out that one can interpret Genesis as non-literal, which would alleviate the force of the argument by undermining the factual basis of one of the premises. So it’s clear you are able to comprehend the structure of an argument and critique it intelligently.

      Your response to Smith’s argument, given the evidence that you can indeed follow arguments, constitutes a deliberate refusal to appreciate the core issue, viz;

      “What’s to demonstrate? You either perceive design or you don’t. If I walk into a room where a table has bee set and a meal prepared, I don’t need anything demonstrated to me.”

      The demonstration is required to determine what reasoning is behind our perceptions of design, and how it is applied to nature as a whole. Whether or not you are aware of it, when you perceive a table with a meal set, your mind is checking what you see against your previous experience. Clearly, it would be foolish to reject that past experience and say that such an arrangement could just be a product of natural processes. It would be asinine to say that a table with a meal set is something one might find in a forest clearing, or at the bottom of the ocean, having been produced by a random process bereft of agency. While not logically impossible, it’s certainly safe to say that such a thing does not occur naturally, but requires agency. It is obvious, in this I can agree, but it is obvious for a reason, and it is this reason that Smith is referring to.

      My follow-up questions were intended to probe your intuitions, to show by example how you come to conclusions; why object X is “obvious[ly]” a product of agency, “obvious[ly]” a product of design. I suspect that you evaded because you are well aware, as you have previously demonstrated, that you can perform this internal truth-testing. You are as capable as any man to introspectively examine how you come to rational conclusions about the world, you just weren’t particularly happy with the answers that cropped up during this exercise.

      However, I can’t, for the life of me, understand what possible reason you could have for this. Surely you believe that your god exists, so what is to fear from an argument? What is there to fear in honesty? If the design argument fails, so what? That doesn’t entail that your god doesn’t exist! All of the arguments for a god’s existence could fail and it could still be the case that such a being exists, and this belief of yours could still be rationally justified by your experience of his or her revelation to you. It has, in fact, been argued that the failure of all arguments for the existence of the Christian God is at least compatible with His existence, and may even be predictable. The suggestion is that God does not desire fellowship with creatures who come to know him by cold logic, but by emotion and affection, etc., etc.. I view this as a rather convenient out, and whether it is logically, or even textually, sustainable is an open question, but I present it here so that you recognize that there is absolutely nothing to fear, even if all of your arguments fail.

      The proper answer to my questions comes in one of two forms:

      1. I perceive X to be a product of agency because I have seen humans setting tables and making meals, and I have never seen such a thing occur naturally. You could also say that to believe such a thing could occur naturally is to reject a perfectly plausible explanation that a human being set the table and made the meal.

      2. I perceive X to be designed because it resembles other objects which I know to be designed, and does not resemble objects which I know to be naturally occurring, i.e. not designed.

      The first response, when applied to the inference to supernatural from the apparent design in nature, begs the question: if your past experience of humans and tables and such leads you to infer human agency for present circumstance, what past experience of gods and universes and such leads you to infer supernatural agency for the universe? You don’t have that experience, therefore the inference is unfounded in the case of nature or the universe (though this doesn’t mean the conclusion is false, only that the inference is invalid).

      The second response brings you right back around to Smith. If you differentiate between designed objects and natural objects by comparing instances of known design, like a watch, and instances of known natural phenomenon, like a rock, you establish a perfectly reasonable basis for this distinction. However, this requires that natural phenomenon are not designed in order for the inference to remain valid. If you say everything is designed, nature included, you have no basis for saying that a watch is any more designed than a rock, or a clump of sand, or a pile of manure, which was the basis by which you inferred that nature was designed in the first place.

      But it is actually worse for the proponent of the argument for design. Even if you reject evolution, which you appear to do, the actual argument leads to false conclusions! Here is the argument in it’s most basic form:

      1. If X appears to be designed (“obvious”), then it is in fact designed.

      2. X appears to be designed.

      3. Therefore, X is designed.

      This is valid, but is it sound? That depends on what ‘X’ is.

      Your belief that all of physical reality is designed makes this a difficult argument to refute if I accept your presuppositions, but I believe this leaves one option open all the same. God appears to be designed. He is complex, causal, powerful, etc.. If humans appear designed, how much moreso does God appear designed? I am aware of your definitional objections (I address them below), but look at what happens when we put this particular X into the argument:

      2. God appears to be designed.

      3. Therefore, God is designed.

      You can summon forth all the might of modern theology and theistic philosophy to refute this conclusion, and I think all theists would readily agree. But notice, here, that this merely proves my point. You reject such a conclusion as impossible! There is no denying that by the standard you use to determine that human agents are designed applies directly to God with even more force. As I have pointed out previously, a valid argument which reaches an impossible conclusion necessarily contains false premises. In this case, the false premise is (1): while God in his majesty and complexity appears to be designed, he is not in fact designed. He is the uncaused cause, prime mover, etc.. He is by definition undesigned. All of that may be perfectly true (I’ll even agree for the sake of argument), but it does not rob him of the appearance of design.

      It is a very small thing to discard the design argument, as all philosophers have done, as fallacious. Many potentially cogent arguments remain, some of which you have presented here (Plantinga may even present one), and you do yourself a disservice if, when attempting to proclaim the “Truth”, you present it in the context of an argument that is widely regarded as fallacious.

      More importantly, however, is the fact that if you continue pressing this argument in spite of what has been demonstrated here and in science, you are essentially saying that you don’t care whether your arguments are fallacious or not. You endorse the idea that it doesn’t matter whether your belief has a rational foundation or not. Your belief is true, so any argument, however fallacious or unsupported, which reaches the conclusion you already hold, must be a good argument.

      That simply isn’t the case. We can come together and discuss these matters openly and honestly, and if what you say is true, the proof cannot hide forever. It will be found, just as the truth about disease was found. Just as all of the truths of science, insofar as they are true, have been discovered thus far, so too will it be for the Kingdom of God. If, that is, it is true.

      Lee.

  54. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    Like every human being, I am endowed with a measure of common sense. You could also call it logic.  Or reason. I use all three terms interchangeably. And, yes, like any human being, I can – and should - use this God-given ability. I should use it for all matters in life – great and small, holy and mundane.  And I should use it not just for myself, but also in my interactions with fellow human beings – being prepared, when appropriate, to share my reasoning on a given subject.

    On the other hand, there is the formal scholastic discipline of philosophy. This includes the formalization of logic, which entails rules, categories of logical fallacy, and so on. It also, of course, includes epistemology and more. For shorthand, let’s call it all philosophy. I have no training in philosophy. It would be pretentious of me to employ its vocabulary and techniques.

    That’s how I distinguish common reasoning (yet a fourth synonym) from philosophy. As I’ve suggested repeatedly, I cling to the former and eschew the latter. You, however, seem to veer from one to the other without even giving a signal that you’re changing lanes. If you want to stick with common sense, common logic, and common reason, we can perhaps interact productively. However, when you want to refer me to “arguments that have been proven fallacious” you are wasting our time. If my common sense is failing me, you ought to be able to point it out without reference to academic literature.

    Because your comments are a mixture of common reasoning and philosophy, it is hard to respond to you in a way that you’ll find satisfying…as experience has proven. Sometimes your elaborate formal logic is constructed on a foundation of common sense error. You want me to focus on the house you’ve built (which I’m not trained enough to fully appreciate anyway) and I’m trying to show you that the house you so love is built on sand. For example, in your latest comment you go to great lengths to show how “the design argument” (see how you’ve taken my common sense statement and converted it into a specimen from the philosophical laboratory?) fails when it is applied to God. However, I could have told you that I don’t perceive design in God. In fact, I know of no person in his right mind who has claimed to perceive the design of God. God is inscrutable to us. We know about Him only what He reveals to us.  That’s why the life He lived as Jesus of Nazareth is so massively important to us.

    As for your parsing of how we know something is designed, I’m not sure it’s quite as neat as those two possibilities you laid out. For one thing, we probably wouldn’t find the shelves of books we have in the Library of Congress on epistemology if everyone agreed on your simple bifurcation. Second, you’ve not allowed for knowledge that comes to us directly from God. When Simon Peter said that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus responded that God – not man – had revealed that information to him. Beyond that, we don’t always know exactly how it is we know something. And, in any case, we’re not running formal proofs through our minds all day long as we constantly imbide data through our senses and interact with it.

    But let’s leave aside the limitations of philosophy for a moment and note that common sense has limitations of its own (albeit not as great, and not as prone to pride).  Common sense alone cannot bring us to God. I had common sense my whole life, but I didn’t come to an understanding of Jesus Christ until I reached my late 20′s and read the New Testament as literature. Thus it was through my common sense employed in that reading that I came to understand, at least in an initial way, the grace that is Jesus Christ. Thus it is that God must speak – in one way or another – for us to come to know Him.  Our thinking alone is not enough. This is doubly true of philosophy where it is easy to get so wrapped up in the mind as to lose sight of the mind’s limitations.

    If philosophy was the path to God, then it would be the philosophy majors who knew Him – and the poor and humble of the earth who ignored Him. Yet it is generally the other way around.

    Therefore, if you want to reason with me, then do so without reliance on philosophers and their treatises.  And let’s reason about something concrete and not just reason about reason.  That something concrete is Jesus Christ and the claims He has made on our devotion.  Those claims are polarizing – calling for acceptance or rejection, and regarding indifference as rejection.  Jesus either lived or He didn’t.  He either said the things attributed to Him or He didn’t.  Have the courage to use your own reason to deal with that.

  55. Lee says:

    “If my common sense is failing me, you ought to be able to point it out without reference to academic literature.”

    Again and again, and again, and again, I have tried. I only suggested that all philosophers have rejected the argument after having given you three simple-to-follow breakdowns on why it was “fallacious”, which is just to say that it does not lead to truth. I did not rest my rejection of the argument from design, nor would I ever expect you to reject it likewise, on majority opinion; truth cannot be gleaned from a popularity poll.

    I laid out the argument that you presented, I accepted your presuppositions, I applied your reasoning, and I demonstrated how your valid argument(‘valid’ simply means that if the premises are true, the conclusion follows; one might call it “truth preserving”) results in a conclusion that you reject. Common sense tells you that if a chain of reasoning results in a falsehood, you made a mistake somewhere. That is precisely the same thing as ‘one of your premises is false’. No mystery here.

    Further, you have responded! It’s hard to pull out, because it is surrounded by a lot of other stuff, but you clearly reject premise 2 (God appears to be designed). However, both responses, coming one right after the other, fail to undermine the premise:

    “However, I could have told you that I don’t perceive design in God.”

    Frankly, I don’t see how you couldn’t, if we are made in his image. He has thoughts, emotions, complex behavior, intentionality, etc.. All of the hallmarks of design. If you do not perceive design in God, I find it hard to believe you perceive it in man. It need not be the case that you know his entire mind, one can perceive design in a factory without seeing the entire factory.

    Your next sentence makes a subtle shift, from perceiving design IN God, to perceiving THE design OF God.

    “In fact, I know of no person in his right mind who has claimed to perceive the design of God. God is inscrutable to us. We know about Him only what He reveals to us.”(emphasis mine)

    To use the same analogy from above, one can perceive design in a factory without knowing it’s true purpose, or the function or purpose of all it’s parts. One can perceive design in a human, as you seem to do so, without knowing entirely it’s mind or it’s purpose, or having known it for more than the time it takes to walk into a room. This is the common sense claim you are making. This is my common sense reply!

    “Therefore, if you want to reason with me, then do so without reliance on philosophers and their treatises.”

    I have been. My last comment was a perfect example. This comment serves as another. I am not simply appealing to authority, I am reasoning.

    Lee.

  56. Mike Gantt says:

    If “one can perceive design in a factory without seeing the entire factory,” it’s only because one has previously seen enough factories – even if that’s only one – to know what an entire factory looks like. I have seen no other God. Therefore, the fact that God has revealed some of His attributes doesn’t give me enough to perceive design in Him.

    Even if God revealed all His attributes to me, I still couldn’t perceive design in Him. Design is something I can tell is the handiwork of another. I can look at trees, and animals, and people and they appear to me as the handiwork of another. I can see a table set and a meal prepared and they appear to me as the handiwork of another…human being. I cannot see God. Therefore, I cannot perceive Him as the handiwork of another.

    I can see Jesus Christ. So many of God’s attributes are revealed through Him. Yet I cannot see the spirit that animated Him. Nor can I see the spirit that animates you, or even the spirit that animates my wife. I know that those three spirits are there, but I cannot perceive design in them because they are invisible to me.

    If I claim to know God through knowing Jesus Christ and cannot perceive design in God, how can you – who seems to deny God – claim that design can be seen in Him?

  57. Lee says:

    “If “one can perceive design in a factory without seeing the entire factory,” it’s only because one has previously seen enough factories – even if that’s only one – to know what an entire factory looks like. I have seen no other God.”

    I don’t think it is true that you cannot perceive design in a factory until you have seen another factory entirely. This would suggest that the first factory you saw, prior to a full visual experience, would strike you as naturally occurring. That doesn’t seem right, to me. You mean to suggest that you couldn’t tell, from merely half a factory floor, that this object was designed?

    Moreover, you haven’t seen any other universes, either. I would further wager that you haven’t seen the entire planet, or any other planets in that kind of detail. So this method would not allow you to infer design for the planet, or the universe.

    “Even if God revealed all His attributes to me, I still couldn’t perceive design in Him. Design is something I can tell is the handiwork of another.”

    I’m still trying to understand how you differentiate between “the handiwork of another” and everything else. You appear to say everything is the handiwork of another, and you don’t know enough about God to say one way or another, but what you have seen doesn’t appear designed. It seems clear to me that if part of a factory, or part of a human, can appear designed, why can part of a God not appear that way as well? If an entire factory, or an entire human, can appear designed, why can an entire God not appear that way? The resemblance between man and his gods is striking, no less so for the Christian God. Your insistence God doesn’t appear designed seems to have no real basis.

    You also say you haven’t seen God, so you cannot perceive design in him. This is strange, to me, as you seem to have seen Jesus. Is Jesus not God?

    “Yet I cannot see the spirit that animated Him.”

    I’m not sure what the “spirit that animates” has to do with anything, frankly.

    “how can you – who seems to deny God – claim that design can be seen in Him?”

    By the attributes that are not, according to you, naturally occurring. I needn’t believe in him to appreciate the concept of him, just as I don’t need to have seen a unicorn to know that if they did exist, you would perceive design in them. The very things you perceive in creation appear to reflect the creator. We have thoughts, feelings, intentions, purpose, meaning; God has thoughts, feelings, intentions, purpose, meaning. We are complex, he is complexity personified, a perfect being which, were he not defined as uncaused, would veritably beg an explanation for his existence.

    Just out of curiosity, what is it about trees that strikes you as designed?

    Lee.

  58. Mike Gantt says:

    This exchange about factories demonstrates how we can get wrapped up in our minds and miss important issues.  Godless man uses his mind and trusts his mind.  A godly man uses his mind but trusts his Maker – because he knows the limitations of his mind.  That said, let me respond briefly about factories.

    We could go round and round for quite a while on just how much a factory one might have to see in order to know that it is a factory.  Half?  One-tenth?  0.0000000000001?

    What if the part of the factory you were in was a four-by-four interior closet with nothing on the floor, walls, or ceiling?  And, further, what if there were no light in the room?

    If you were in a portion of the factory that contained a lathe and a waste basket could you infer design from the lathe, and from the waste basket, but miss that both were part of a larger operation called a factory – if you had never before seen a factory?

    Even if we could come to some agreement on all these things, it wouldn’t advance our discussion because a factory is an inappropriate analogy for God.  I can see a factory; I can’t see God.  God is spirit, meaning He is invisible.  There is nothing from which I could detect design.  So much for factories.

    I don’ t know why you continue to insist that God bears the marks of design.  You’re certainly not getting that idea from the Bible where late in its collection of writings (where revelation is at its most precise) are found “no one has beheld God at any time” (1 John 4:12) and that He “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). That God can reveal aspects of His nature and that we can logically apprehend such revelation is not the same thing as bearing the marks of design.

    The reason you’re “still trying to understand how I differentiate between ‘the handiwork of another’ and everything else” is that you’ve glossed over what I’ve said.  Nevertheless, I’ll repeat myself, trying to paraphrase as much as possible.

    I don’t always know how I differentiate.  I certainly don’t always stop and ask myself how I know to differentiate.  If something is obvious to me, I don’t dwell upon why it’s obvious.  As for the supposed mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive list of two categories you gave, I don’t see that much difference between the two of them.  Maybe that owes to my limitations – whether cognitive or merely educational.  In any case, when Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth, the man himself afterward said, “Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind”  (John 9:32).  In other words, there’s a first time for everything.  Had I been living in that time and place I probably would have assumed that no one born blind was ever going to be healed – until it happened.

    I suppose the reason that I would assume that a set table and prepared meal would mean that a human being had been at work is that this is what all my knowledge and experience tell me.  Yet, is it possible that my knowledge and experience could ultimately be overturned by God doing it?  Yes, but I’m not expecting that.  But if you kept pressing me hard about how I knew that the table and meal I saw were prepared by a human being and didn’t materialize on their own, I would have to finally say, “I just trust.”  Similarly, you could press me and ask, “How do you know that I, Lee, am not a figment of your own imagination – can you prove to me that it is not so?”  I don’t know how I’d respond, except to shrug my shoulders and say, well, I guess I can’t prove it to you.  Some things you just have to trust.

    How do we know that we know what we know?  Here again is the opportunity for a digression that can become a black hole.  Epistemology is for those who are of serious intent about mapping the dimensions of that hole.  I don’t have time.  My life is too brief.  In the end, we have to be practical.  There’s only so much time we can afford for navel gazing.

    I hasten to remind you of another point I made earlier, that some things we know simply because God made us to know them.  In such cases, there was no human agency involved, not even our own.  Jesus pointed this out to Peter in Matthew 16:17.  You yourself have probably experienced this when you found yourself in an unprecedented situation, yet you knew the right thing to do.  How did you know?  The Moral One made it known to you.  Thus even if your mutually exclusive collectively exhaustive list of two were accurate insofar as it goes, it omits reference to those things we know by revelation from God.

    By the way, as point of clarification I probably don’t differentiate between ‘the handiwork of another’ and everything else.”  Rather, I differentiate between the handiwork of one and the handiwork of another, because everything is the handiwork of someone – whether of an  animal, a human being, or God.  In other words, for every effect there is a cause.  Can I prove this to you?  Not if you don’t want it to be proven to you.  But most pragmatic people in this world think that way (i.e. believe in a law of cause and effect even if they don’t believe in God) – and it’s an assumption that serves them well.

    Jesus reveals God the way rustling leaves reveal the wind.  That is, you never see the wind – only its effects.  God is spirit and the spirit animating Jesus of Nazareth was God Himself.  Similarly, there is a spirit that animates your body.  That is the real you.  Death is that point in time when the spirit leaves the body.  If you’ve ever been with someone when they died, that is what happened.  The body did not vaporize; rather, it lost what had been giving it life.  And quickly it decomposes.  So, could I have detected design in Jesus of Nazareth had I been living in that place and time?  Yes, right down to the spirit that animated Him – but not including the spirit that animated Him.  For the body of Jesus of Nazareth – like all our bodies – was the rustling leaf being blown by that which was within.

    Thus “the spirit within that animates” has everything to do with our discussion.  That spirit is invisible.  It belongs to that dimension of reality that science cannot detect, and never will be able to detect.  Science can only detect the effects of the spirit world.  Thus while every effect in the physical realm has a cause, not all of those causes are physical.  Some are spiritual.  Thus creation came into being, thus Jesus fed five thousand people, and thus Jesus was raised from the dead.

    I don’t deny that you as an unbeliever can ascribe design to God.  What puzzles me is why you insist that I – or the Bible, for that matter – ascribes design to God.  You are free to describe the God in whom you don’t believe anyway you’d like to, but it’s silly for you as an unbeliever to describe how I must believe in Him.

    Here are some of the things about trees that strike me as designed:

    1.  There’s variety.  That is, there’s not just one kind of tree.
    2. Though there is variety, within each variety there is some uniformity (pine trees look alike, oak trees look alike).
    3. Trees have practical purposes (e.g. shade trees, fruit trees).
    4. The variety of trees is associated with the climate in which each respectively thrives.
    5. There’s often a correlation between 3 and 4 (e.g. trees suitable for shade in hot climates)
    6. No tree grows to the sky (that is, maximum height is finite)
    7. Rings in the trunk indicate age
    8. Trees produce occasional novel effects (e.g. pancake syrup from a tree)
    9. That the root extension is generally as wide as the branch extension
    10. That there’s so much of the tree underground.

    God came to live as Jesus of Nazareth that we might understand Him.  Consider how much more valuable this method of teaching is than putting us all in a classroom and teaching us invisibly from textbooks about an invisible God.

     

  59. Lee says:

    Your top ten list of why trees are designed contains not a single feature that implies design, and half are either grossly misleading or simply false (3, 5, 6, 8, 10). However, since you don’t even have a coherent method for inferring design, I don’t know why you bothered answering me at all. Number 8 is actually comical, and reminds me of something a child might say. Surely you don’t believe that trees produce “pancake syrup”?

    Your comments on the factory analogy are just off-topic. The question is not whether X is a factory, or a house, or an elephant, but whether X is designed. I don’t know what you are attempting to show by saying we can’t know whether X is a factory, it’s completely irrelevant.

    “We could go round and round for quite a while on just how much a factory one might have to see in order to know that it is a factory. Half? One-tenth? 0.0000000000001?”(emphasis mine)

    What? In order to know that it is DESIGNED, not what it is. If you can perceive that a factory is designed by any part of the factory, up to .99999999999999% of it, which is ABSOLUTELY REASONABLE, then you don’t need to see the entire factory, or have seen any other factory, TO INFER DESIGN.

    “What if the part of the factory you were in was a four-by-four interior closet with nothing on the floor, walls, or ceiling? And, further, what if there were no light in the room?”

    In that case, you would have nothing to perceive or not perceive design in. Why on earth would you even think anything exists to evaluate? I know where you think this leads, but I assure you, this is a sharp turn down a blind alley.

    “If you were in a portion of the factory that contained a lathe and a waste basket could you infer design from the lathe, and from the waste basket, but miss that both were part of a larger operation called a factory – if you had never before seen a factory?”

    Who cares what it is, the question is whether it was DESIGNED. You tell me, can you infer design from a lathe alone? Or is this something you might find naturally occurring? It doesn’t matter whether it is a factory or a saw-mill; the question is whether we can infer design. If you can infer design in a tree, you can infer design in a lathe, and you’ve wasted your time with this response. You don’t need the whole factory, that was my point.

    But even when you remain on topic, the only coherent basis you have offered thus far to infer design allows your perception to be just as valid as mine. You rest perceptions of design on a subjective judgement, assigning conclusions based on what you already believe, rather than a coherent method. I can, therefore, say that anything is not designed, and rather than having to defend my opinion, can just wave my hands and say “I don’t dwell on why it’s obviously not designed.” This is intellectually stultifying, for the reader and the writer, and is why your responses are so muddled. You don’t dwell on your own intuitions, you don’t even seem to care whether your arguments work. You claim that you simply don’t have time to work out the details, to think through your conclusions and the reasoning used to reach them.

    Every attempt at demonstrating error generates a storm of evasions followed by an assertion of your conclusion, and your most recent comment is simply another example. I point out that God has the appearance of design, you wonder aloud what the biblical justification is for this. What? Of course the bible doesn’t claim God was designed! I am going off the attributes the bible claims that he has, attributes which are not naturally occurring according to you. The bible never mentions kangaroos, how can you infer design in them without divine permission?

    All of that spiritual hooey is essentially ad hoc. You’re making it up, and I have absolutely no reason to suppose any of it is true. Even if I granted a spiritual realm, I don’t have any reason to suppose your imagination constitutes an accurate picture of it’s contents. I’m not going to chase you down the rabbit hole in some futile attempt to show you that cats can’t float invisibly and speak English.

    “Thus while every effect in the physical realm has a cause, not all of those causes are physical.”

    This is a factual claim, and it is question-begging. What effect has a “spiritual” cause, and how do you know it is spiritual? I expect the same degree of justification you would require for a natural explanation, for me to establish a natural cause.

    Also: wind is the motion of atoms, it’s not magic.

    Lee.

  60. Mike Gantt says:

    Your top ten list of why trees are designed contains not a single feature that implies design…

    You are simply restating the obvious:  that you don’t think the universe has a Creator.  How could you cling to your worldview and say anything else other than that you don’t infer design in trees and consider foolish anyone who does?

    Number 8 is actually comical, and reminds me of something a child might say. Surely you don’t believe that trees produce “pancake syrup”?

    Where then does maple syrup come from if not from maple trees?

    Your comments on the factory analogy are just off-topic.

    It is the factory analogy itself that is off topic.  I tried to be accommodating since you raised it, but it is so inappropriate that it’s better just being abandoned entirely.

    You rest perceptions of design on a subjective judgement…

    That’s the only kind of judgment we humans can make: subjective.  Only God can be truly objective.

    You claim that you simply don’t have time to work out the details, to think through your conclusions and the reasoning used to reach them.

    You misunderstand.  I have time enough to understand things enough to live properly.  What I said I did not have time for was to become an epistemologist or a philosopher.

    I point out that God has the appearance of design…

    Yes, you keep pointing that out, but I just don’t see it.  You’re really strange: you infer design in a God you cannot see and cannot infer design in trees that you can see.

    Even if I granted a spiritual realm, I don’t have any reason to suppose your imagination constitutes an accurate picture of it’s contents.

    I’m not imagining the spiritual realm – I’m taking the Bible’s word for it.  It seems reasonable me – much more reasonable than the notion that the physical universe is all there is.

    I’m not going to chase you down the rabbit hole in some futile attempt to show you that cats can’t float invisibly and speak English.

    This but one example of a number of irrational statements – dare I say “rants” – that you’ve made in this comment.  I really don’t know how to respond to them.

    What effect has a “spiritual” cause, and how do you know it is spiritual?

    I gave you three examples: creation, Jesus’ feeding the five thousand, and His resurrection.  I know this because the Scriptures say it and I consider them a trustworthy source.  Plus, I know of no natural means by which those three events could have occurred.

     Also: wind is the motion of atoms, it’s not magic.

    Of course.  And God is responsible for this.  He does not do magic.

  61. Lee says:

    “You are simply restating the obvious: that you don’t think the universe has a Creator. How could you cling to your worldview and say anything else other than that you don’t infer design in trees and consider foolish anyone who does?”

    They don’t imply design because they are precisely what one would expect from a natural process like evolution. They also don’t imply design because you haven’t published a method for inferring design, so I don’t even know how you evaluate those 10 points (assuming they were true in the first place). In the absence of any coherent method from you, I am justified in applying the methods of naturalism.

    “Where then does maple syrup come from if not from maple trees?”

    Look, trees don’t “produce occasional novel effects” like “pancake syrup”. This is like saying cows “produce occasional novel effects” like a t-bone steak. All trees produce sap. All sap can be boiled down into syrup. They don’t “produce” syrup, they don’t do so occasionally, the result isn’t novel, and the effect(syrup) isn’t caused by the tree.

    “It is the factory analogy itself that is off topic. I tried to be accommodating since you raised it, but it is so inappropriate that it’s better just being abandoned entirely.”

    No. The analogy is aimed at demonstrating that you can infer design without apprehending the entirety of a designed object. This is in response to your statement that haven’t seen all of God, and thus can’t infer design. I can quote you, if you wish. You keep trying to change the analogy, as I previously pointed out, or you attempt to apply it to the claim that God is invisible, which it was not intended to address in the first place. The analogy is lucid and salient, and you can’t just abandon it because you don’t like what it shows.

    “That’s the only kind of judgment we humans can make: subjective. Only God can be truly objective.”

    This is a misconstrual of the context of my remark. We can establish methods for determining truth about the world that do not rest on subjective judgements. Science is one of those methods. I am haranguing you about your lack of an objective method for differentiating between designed and non-designed objects; such that, rather than merely asserting what you perceive as designed, the method can be applied by anyone. This is so that I can address the logic of your method.

    Of course, you won’t publish a method, because you don’t have one. You simply have no basis for assigning design, so you just invent the facts to fit your conclusion. Why does God not appear designed? Because you don’t think he is. Why does a tree appear designed? Because you think it is. Who is “just stating the obvious” now?

    “That there’s so much of the tree underground.”

    Take this, as a prime example. Why do you think it is that “so much of the tree” is underground? What about that fact implies design? What about that fact implies anything at all? This is foolish, and I don’t need to appeal to my presuppositions in order to ridicule it.

    “You misunderstand. I have time enough to understand things enough to live properly. What I said I did not have time for was to become an epistemologist or a philosopher.”

    ….and I’m telling you that you don’t have to be an epistemologist or a philosopher to avoid making bad arguments, or to think critically, or to actual reason honestly about your view of the world. This is what everyone should be doing, on every subject, but if you do any of that at all, you do so badly, and you don’t apply it to your own reasoning. You don’t “dwell” on why things are reasonable to you. You should, because they just aren’t reasonable, and it wouldn’t take much dwelling at all to figure that out.

    “Yes, you keep pointing that out, but I just don’t see it. You’re really strange: you infer design in a God you cannot see and cannot infer design in trees that you can see.”

    Again, I am inferring design based upon characteristics that God has, and shares with creation. Purpose, intention, feelings, thoughts, meaning, etc.. All the hallmarks of design. This is where your lack of a method is particularly egregious, because you just assert that one is designed and one is not. You have written yourself a blank check on truth.

    “I’m not imagining the spiritual realm – I’m taking the Bible’s word for it. It seems reasonable me – much more reasonable than the notion that the physical universe is all there is.”

    You are imagining it. That it is alluded to, or even described in a book, is no basis for reasonableness, especially not a book rife with factual errors. You haven’t seen it, you have no evidence for it, science cannot discern it; to apply the adjective “reasonable” to these claims is just a misuse of the term.

    “This but one example of a number of irrational statements – dare I say “rants” – that you’ve made in this comment. I really don’t know how to respond to them.”

    The point was, contrary to your opinion that the spiritual realm is an important facet of this discussion, it simply isn’t something we can talk intelligently about as neither of us has a clue what is actually there, if anything. It really is like trying to convince someone that Alice did not actually journey to Wonderland, only to have them use the metaphysics of Wonderland to establish it’s existence. You may pretend to such knowledge all you wish, but the only person fooled is you.

    “I gave you three examples: creation, Jesus’ feeding the five thousand, and His resurrection. I know this because the Scriptures say it and I consider them a trustworthy source. Plus, I know of no natural means by which those three events could have occurred.”

    Here again, we have an argument. A bad one, but there it is. You know it’s true because the scriptures say it and you trust them. I could ask whether this might be metaphorical, like Genesis; I could ask why radical claims don’t discredit the bible like the crazy stuff in the Illiad discredit the trustworthiness of that tome; I could ask why, rather than rejecting the events as unlikely to have occurred, you instead choose to hoist on top of the world this metaphysical realm and all of this other hooey; I could ask all these things, but though I can show you reason, I can’t make you think.

    “Of course. And God is responsible for this. He does not do magic.”

    Magic: an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.

    I really don’t know what other word is more apt to describe what you envision. You may not like the negative connotations, but if you believe you live in a fairy tale world, don’t be surprised when I use fairy tale terminology. The bible treats magic, specifically referred to as messing about with demons (paraphrased), as though it is a serious issue. If you don’t believe in magic, you don’t accept the bible.

    Lee.

  62. Lee says:

    I recommend this video, from a professional philosopher, and tailored for those with no formal philosophical training.

    Enjoy!!!

    Lee.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      You want me to become a disciple of philosophy. I want you to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. I don’t have a video link to give you – just look to your conscience through His eyes.

  63. Mike Gantt says:

    They don’t imply design because they are precisely what one would expect from a natural process like evolution.

    Yes, this is where your science-as-religion comes in.  That is, it provides you an alternate view of creation, one that allows you to reject God’s moral requirements of you.  This view is but a modern deism – evolution becomes “God.”  Given long enough, evolution can create anything.  Thus, the secular scripture is “With evolution, all things are possible.”  Too hard to believe?  Just extend time backwards another billion years and you can conceive it.  Yet it is utter nonsense that this universe could have arisen without a Creator.  And this becomes more nonsensical with each new scientific discovery of the complexity of life.

    They also don’t imply design because you haven’t published a method for inferring design, so I don’t even know how you evaluate those 10 points (assuming they were true in the first place).

    You asked me how I saw design in trees.  I answered you.  I don’t know how to make it simpler for you.  Even on the syrup, you failed to appreciate the irony of our Creator.  Do you really think He has no sense of humor?  As a boy climbing trees, there was nothing more unappealing to me than sap – until I found out that it produced something that went on pancakes.  I could smile at that – and still can.

    I infer design where I can sense that thought went into something.  It’s an intuitive process.  Dissecting it is like dissecting a butterfly – you lose it in the process.

    In the absence of any coherent method from you, I am justified in applying the methods of naturalism.

    These are the methods to which you are committed.  No philosophical argument I give you is going to change that.  Until you have a change of heart and acknowledge your sins to Jesus Christ, you’re going to continue seeing the world the way you do.

    No. The analogy is aimed at demonstrating that you can infer design without apprehending the entirety of a designed object.

    I’m saying you cannot see any portion of God.  Nor can I.

    Take this, as a prime example. Why do you think it is that “so much of the tree” is underground? What about that fact implies design? What about that fact implies anything at all?

    When you see two lines of poetry rhyme, does it not strike you as beautiful…and thus designed?  Chaos is not beautiful.  Order is.  I’m utterly fascinated by the ways trees grow – including the proportion that is below ground.  I see a symmetry in it, an elegance of design.  I thus appreciate the Designer as I do the poet.

    ….and I’m telling you that you don’t have to be an epistemologist or a philosopher to avoid making bad arguments, or to think critically, or to actual reason honestly about your view of the world. This is what everyone should be doing, on every subject, but if you do any of that at all, you do so badly, and you don’t apply it to your own reasoning.

    By the way, I appreciate your dumbing down the philosophical language for me in your last post or two, but you haven’t at all changed your bent.  You want to be philosophical about all this.  And you want me to engage in philosophical debate.  I’m not interested.  Philosophy doesn’t strike me as a way to get to the truth; it strikes me as a way to go around in circles without being aware of it.

    If philosophy was the path to truth, Jesus would have taught the peasants philosophy.  Instead He taught them truth.  I want to be like them and sit at His feet.

    You are imagining it. That it is alluded to, or even described in a book, is no basis for reasonableness, especially not a book rife with factual errors. You haven’t seen it, you have no evidence for it, science cannot discern it; to apply the adjective “reasonable” to these claims is just a misuse of the term.

    I believe about the spiritual realm what Jesus of Nazareth believed about it.  He strikes me as the most credible human being who ever lived.  Also the most noble.  I want to be like Him.  Whatever He believed is what I want to believe.

    The point was, contrary to your opinion that the spiritual realm is an important facet of this discussion, it simply isn’t something we can talk intelligently about as neither of us has a clue what is actually there, if anything. It really is like trying to convince someone that Alice did not actually journey to Wonderland, only to have them use the metaphysics of Wonderland to establish it’s existence. You may pretend to such knowledge all you wish, but the only person fooled is you.

    This is why you want to stick to philosophy and avoid discussing Jesus Christ.  It creates a “safe room” for you to think you are dealing with God when you are in fact avoiding Him at all intellectual costs.

    Magic: an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.

    Substitute “natural” for “supernatural” in this sentence and you have a good description of evolution as defined by science-as-religion.

  64. Lee says:

    You need to learn about evolution. Let me suggest this lecture by Roman Catholic biologist Ken Miller. It opens with a prayer, and addresses criticism of evolution in the context of the attempts to get ID and creationism taught in schools. Please, listen. If God really did create the world, what possible harm could come from learning as much as you can about how it really works?

    “These are the methods to which you are committed. No philosophical argument I give you is going to change that. Until you have a change of heart and acknowledge your sins to Jesus Christ, you’re going to continue seeing the world the way you do.”

    No bad philosophical argument is going to change my mind about the effectiveness of the scientific method. It would have to be very significant, since in order for you to communicate such an argument to me, you would have to transmit it via the technology that was built by the scientific method. Yeah, your computer is a product of science, the exact same methodology that establishes evolution. You’ll have to do better than just projecting your own dogmatic stance back onto me. I’m open to arguments, I am not open to appeals to authority.

    “I’m saying you cannot see any portion of God. Nor can I.”

    Unbelievable. Is this deliberate? Here is what I wrote:

    “No. The analogy is aimed at demonstrating that you can infer design without apprehending the entirety of a designed object. This is in response to your statement that haven’t seen all of God, and thus can’t infer design. I can quote you, if you wish. You keep trying to change the analogy, as I previously pointed out, or you attempt to apply it to the claim that God is invisible, which it was not intended to address in the first place”

    Along with:

    “Again, I am inferring design based upon characteristics that God has, and shares with creation. Purpose, intention, feelings, thoughts, meaning, etc.. All the hallmarks of design.”

    If you can’t “see any portion of God”, and this is meant to be a response to what I have quoted above, then are you suggesting that you don’t know whether God has purpose, intention, feelings, thoughts, or meaning? Are you suggesting that you don’t know whether he is moral, whether he is intelligent, whether he is powerful, whether he is able to interact with the world, whether he has a plan, whether he had a son, whether he has dictated rules for us, whether he wrote a book, whether he created the universe, whether he created heaven, etc.. Are you agnostic? Because if you do know, or can discern, these things, then this comment constitutes a deliberate attempt to evade the implications of the argument. I implore you, cease this nonsense.

    “I’m utterly fascinated by the ways trees grow – including the proportion that is below ground. I see a symmetry in it, an elegance of design.”

    The makings of a method. Fascination implies design; symmetry/order implies design. OK. Are you fascinated by God? Do you feel God to be an ordered being, with a symmetry of character? If so, then God appears designed by your method, despite your protestations to the contrary.

    “You want to be philosophical about all this. And you want me to engage in philosophical debate. I’m not interested. Philosophy doesn’t strike me as a way to get to the truth; it strikes me as a way to go around in circles without being aware of it.”

    Philosophy is nothing more than the academic study of knowledge. It examines what we know, how we know it, and how we can form true beliefs rather than false ones. To engage in a discussion devoid of philosophy or logic is to jabber unintelligibly at one another like cave men. Nothing will ever be solved, nothing ever agreed upon, and everyone is both right and wrong. This may serve your purposes, but it does not serve mine, and I would argue it does not serve humanity, either.

    If your goal is to say whatever makes you feel good, and duck any challenge by dismissing the study of knowledge as unreliable on the subject of knowledge, nothing I could possibly say can make you look more foolish than publicly endorsing that goal.

    “Substitute “natural” for “supernatural” in this sentence and you have a good description of evolution as defined by science-as-religion.”

    Wanna bet your children’s lives on this? Because that is the risk you take by rejecting science for dogma. It’s worse than that, though, because you risk my children’s lives with it, and the children of all humanity. Try harder, pal, there’s more at stake here than you can imagine.

    Lee

  65. Mike Gantt says:

    You need to learn about evolution.

    Why do I need to learn more about it than I already know?  Is there something more I need to know about evolution in order to fulfill my responsibilities as human being?  Will I go to the grocery store differently?  Will I park my car differently?  What has an in-depth knowledge of evolution got to do with loving my neighbor?  I think he’d rather I learn how to keep the dandelions out of my lawn.

    Let me suggest this lecture by Roman Catholic biologist Ken Miller. It opens with a prayer, and addresses criticism of evolution in the context of the attempts to get ID and creationism taught in schools. Please, listen. If God really did create the world, what possible harm could come from learning as much as you can about how it really works?

    There’s no harm in my spending time in learning more about evolution.  However, we each only have a finite amount of time to live on this earth.  We each have to spend it on those things that seem most pressing to us.  I do not have enough time to spend on things that I think are more important than this – why should I take time away from them to spend on this subject?

    Not only that, this video is a polemic against other scientists with whom Miller disagrees.  How many videos will I have to watch before I have enough knowledge to judge between arguing PhD’s?   The answer is – more than a lifetime would not be enough.  They have PhD’s so they’re experts and I am not.

    There are 7 billion people on this planet.  The implication of your view is that unless they all become knowledgeable about science and philosophy they can’t make a wise decision about whether or not to believe in God.  That’s not only a foolish notion, it’s an arrogant and elitist one.

    No bad philosophical argument is going to change my mind about the effectiveness of the scientific method.

    I’m not trying to change your mind about the effectiveness of the scientific method.  I think it’s a terrific method for studying the physical world.  I only say that it has limitations, and it most notable limitation is that it will not help you find God.  Since that is my mission in this blog – to help people find God – I don’t spend time on the scientific method.

    Yeah, your computer is a product of science, the exact same methodology that establishes evolution.

    I’m quite happy with science.  It’s evolution-as-a-religion that I eschew.

    I’m open to arguments, I am not open to appeals to authority.

    Yet you often appeal to authority.  Your recommendation of Ken Miller at the beginning of this comment is a perfect example.  Implicit in much of your argument is an appeal to the teaching of Darwin.  So if I appeal to Jesus of Nazareth as an authority on God, you can’t categorically dismiss the idea of authority without appearing hypocritical.

    Unbelievable. Is this deliberate?

    As incredulous as you are, I am more incredulous that you think that observing a factory – or any part thereof – is analogous to observing God.  It’s ludicrous.

    Again, I am inferring design based upon characteristics that God has, and shares with creation. Purpose, intention, feelings, thoughts, meaning, etc.. All the hallmarks of design.

    You may consider these as hallmarks of design; I don’t – at least not as a group.  I gave you the example of walking into a room and seeing a table set and a meal prepared and inferring design – that is, that someone prepared it and it was not a random, unattended occurrence.  The scene includes hardly anything on your list – but the scene conveys that a human being has been at work.

    What is the proverb about art?  I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.  Maybe that’s what going on here.  Just because I can’t give a definition of design that satisfies you doesn’t mean I don’t know design when I see it.  I’m not even giving a definition that satisfies me.  But I’m quite comfortable that design, like art, is something I can recognize.  Conversely, your attempt at a definition for design is completely unsatisfying to me.  I don’t think you’ve captured the idea at all.

    Thus you continue to believe that you have discovered design in God, and I’m completely perplexed at how you do so.  Maybe it’s the difference between a mind closed to anything beyond the natural world and one open to it.  In any case, you need to calm down about the issue for the sake of your own nerves.

    Philosophy is nothing more than the academic study of knowledge. It examines what we know, how we know it, and how we can form true beliefs rather than false ones. To engage in a discussion devoid of philosophy or logic is to jabber unintelligibly at one another like cave men. Nothing will ever be solved, nothing ever agreed upon, and everyone is both right and wrong. This may serve your purposes, but it does not serve mine, and I would argue it does not serve humanity, either.

    If your goal is to say whatever makes you feel good, and duck any challenge by dismissing the study of knowledge as unreliable on the subject of knowledge, nothing I could possibly say can make you look more foolish than publicly endorsing that goal.

    Here is another example of how you go back and forth from common sense logic to formal academic logic without signaling a lane change.  They are two different things, though you lump them together.  Every human being has a duty and a need to be logical but not every human being has a duty and need to study philosophy.  For you to suggest that because I don’t want to pursue philosophy means that I disregard the importance of logic is a gross misrepresentation of my position.  Since I have previously made this clear, I have to now assume that you are making this false accusation knowing it is false.  I’m disappointed in you.

    Wanna bet your children’s lives on this? Because that is the risk you take by rejecting science for dogma. It’s worse than that, though, because you risk mychildren’s lives with it, and the children of all humanity. Try harder, pal, there’s more at stake here than you can imagine.

    Again, you are lumping two things that are different, and, in the process, misrepresenting my position.  And, again, I am disappointed in you.  To repeat:  I embrace science.  What I reject is the idea of science as a religion, that it is sufficient for a worldview.  And if you think science alone is adequate as a worldview, then it is you who put children at risk.

    The most important issue for us to live, and to teach our children, is morality.  Science cannot teach morality.  Jesus Christ is the world’s foremost expert on morality.  He can teach us the way we should live, the way we should use science for the good of each other, the way we should employ all knowledge, whether practical or academic, in the service of our fellow human beings.

    Jesus Christ is true north for every moral compass.  He lives and He teaches today.  If you think you can be moral without Him then your understanding of morality is limited.  He is prepared to show you the rest.  He is prepared to show us all, if we will but pay attention to  Him.

  66. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    I’ve been thinking about your abiding interest in science and philosophy.  As I’ve said, it’s clear that neither provides a clear path to truth about God for if they did, then all scientists would agree about God one way or the other, which they don’t, or all philosophers would agree about God one way or the other, which they don’t.

    Therefore, since you are a student of philosophy who doesn’t believe in God, you should probably try to interact with philosophers who do believe in God – instead of me.  Notable among them, of course, would be Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig.  Given their fame, getting their attention might be difficult for you.  Therefore, I have perhaps a more pragmatic suggestion.  It is that you visit the blog of Randal Rauser.

    Randal has taught philosophy.  His blog has a disparate readership: theists and atheists, those interested in philosophical approaches and those not.  He’s open-minded, but seems philosophically rigorous.  I think you would enjoy engaging with him.  He knows Craig.  I don’t know if he knows Plantinga.  I think he can satisfy your philosophic, and probably scientific, interests far more than I can.

    None of this is meant to shoo you away.  Just don’t expect me to become Randal Rauser, much less Craig or Plantinga.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Lee, in this regard, another blog you might try is Triablogue (pun entirely accidental).  It has several authors.  The one I think that might interest you most is Steve Hays, as he seems to be very formal in his argumentation.  Personality-wise Steve has a hard edge while Randal comes across more softly.  Both, however, would be able to appreciate your philosophical approach in a way that is mostly lost on me.

    • Lee says:

      “I’ve been thinking about your abiding interest in science and philosophy. As I’ve said, it’s clear that neither provides a clear path to truth about God for if they did, then all scientists would agree about God one way or the other, which they don’t, or all philosophers would agree about God one way or the other, which they don’t.”

      That’s my response to Plantinga’s reasoning. As to whether these disciplines provide a clear path to “truth about God”, this assumes that such a thing exists. If no such thing exists, then no such path exists, and indeterminacy as a function of language is to be expected on naturalism. On Plantinga’s view, such a thing does exist, such a path was paved by God implanting our reasoning, and the disagreement we see is a contradiction of his thesis.

      “Therefore, I have perhaps a more pragmatic suggestion. It is that you visit the blog of Randal Rauser.”

      Did you have a post you wanted me to see in particular? Nothing I saw struck me as worth addressing, as he seems to be writing more as a spectator of thought than a thinker. Moreover, Jag and Clemet seem to be holding the tides of superstition well enough without my assistance, and this post, at least, seems so lonely without me!

      I’m well aware of Dr. William Lane Craig. He is a superb entertainer, and an excellent debater. His philosophy is far more difficult to rate, as he invariably stakes his arguments in areas of genuine scientific and philosophical ignorance. Many of his premises simply cannot be tested as sound or unsound, and thus his life’s work may turn out in the end to be, in a word, indeterminate. He makes philosophical claims that rest on dubious or unsupportable premises, and draws conclusions which, while technically valid, given the status of the premises, aren’t particularly conclusive.

      “I think he can satisfy your philosophic, and probably scientific, interests far more than I can.”

      A master’s in christian dogma and a Ph.D. in “the trinity” is unlikely to prepare one for any great scientific insights. I referred you to a biologists on evolution, a philosopher on philosophy, you send me to a theologian for all of the above. I submit that a theologian is not an expert on everything else.

      One thing I did notice, however, was that he appears to disagree with you on a number of issues, and not ancillary points, either. Perhaps reading his blog will do you more good than it would do me :)

      Lee.

  67. Mike Gantt says:

    As to whether these disciplines provide a clear path to “truth about God”, this assumes that such a thing exists. If no such thing exists, then no such path exists, and indeterminacy as a function of language is to be expected on naturalism.

    I am allowing for the possibility of your thesis in my phrase “the truth about God.”  That is, I mean the truth one way or the other.  If you don’t believe that such a thing as truth exists, then even your investment of time in philosophy is puzzling.

    Did you have a post you wanted me to see in particular? Nothing I saw struck me as worth addressing, as he seems to be writing more as a spectator of thought than a thinker. Moreover, Jag and Clemet seem to be holding the tides of superstition well enough without my assistance, and this post, at least, seems so lonely without me!

    I had no particular post in mind, although The Jesus Double Standard has generated much interaction since mid-December and has recently kicked up again.  Randal often writes in formal argumentative form, referencing philosophical terms and formal proofs as you do.  I thought you’d appreciate the approach, but if you don’t, so be it. As far as “holding down the fort,” I wouldn’t see it that way.  Randal doesn’t seem to be on an assault (after all, he is “The Tentative Apologist”).  (By the way, there is nothing tentative about Steve Hays at Triablogue.)  I have interacted with Clamat about Jesus.  Nevertheless, I appreciate a personal approach to truth through Jesus Christ rather than through philosophic discourse, as you know, so my comments on Randal’s site have been limited.

    I’m well aware of Dr. William Lane Craig.

    He is a good communicator.  However, when he speaks on philosophy and science or even theology, which is the majority of the time, my eyes glaze over.  By contrast, he holds my interest when he speaks on history and particularly on the history of the resurrection of Christ.  In this regard, I have posted on his work a number of times including here.  If you do a search on this blog, you will find other posts referencing him, mostly video clips – some lecture or debate length, and some only two or three minutes on very specific subjects.

    As for Alvin Plantinga, I might not even know who he is but for Craig’s references to him.

    A master’s in christian dogma and a Ph.D. in “the trinity” is unlikely to prepare one for any great scientific insights. I referred you to a biologists on evolution, a philosopher on philosophy, you send me to a theologian for all of the above. I submit that a theologian is not an expert on everything else.

    We should not be surprised that my recommendations to you fall short of your standards.  It is proof that you guys play in league for which I am not qualified.  And in which I have no need or desire to be qualified.

    I must say, however, that I’m sure there are divisions in that league (majors versus minors) which would make some want to compare your credentials to those of the scholars you so easily dismiss.  I would not be among those wanting to know your credentials, however, because while I have respect for those who have earned scholastic degrees, such honors do not impress God.  What impresses Him is humility and faith as Jesus of Nazareth displayed.  And such qualities can be summoned and practiced by the uncredentialed just as well as the credentialed – and, in fact, more often are.

    One thing I did notice, however, was that he appears to disagree with you on a number of issues, and not ancillary points, either. Perhaps reading his blog will do you more good than it would do me :)

    I am not seeking people to agree with me.  I seek people to agree with Jesus Christ.  He is the teacher of the world and we’d all be much better off if we paid more attention to Him.  Though Randal obviously sees Him more clearly than you do, I still find occasional opportunity to bear witness to His truth on his site.

    All seven billion people on this planet have access to truth.  Not all seven billion have access to knowledge of science and philosophy.  You are letting your access to the latter two blind your access to the former one.

    • Lee says:

      “I am allowing for the possibility of your thesis in my phrase “the truth about God.” That is, I mean the truth one way or the other.”

      These disciplines are indeed clear paths to truth as such, science and philosophy that is, and this can be verified by anyone.

      Science simply shows that, insofar as God interacts with the world in a measurable way, no such interactions have been detected, in either testing the present or predicting the future result of a test. Philosophy speaks to the nature of truth, and like science, is just a tool for finding out the truth. My point, rather than a rejection of truth itself, was that if God does exist, there would be a clear path to truth about him; God would not deceive. If God does NOT exist, there is no clear path to truth about his existence.

      To use an analogy (dangerous, I know), if there exists a specific clearing in the woods that people visit, there would be a path to that clearing (how else did people find it). If such a clearing, though believed to exist, does not actually exist, there is no reason to suppose that a path would exist to a clearing that doesn’t. On the latter view, there would be as many trails to as many clearings as there are people searching for a clearing they conceive of. Some would agree that they had found the right clearing, and might bring more to it, others would vehemently disagree, and have their minds set on an altogether different clearing. Some still would say that this special clearing business is hooey, that everyone who claims to have found THE clearing has either been brought there by someone else and told that THIS was THE clearing, or whatever clearing they choose invariably corresponds with their own mental image of what THE clearing should look like.

      But this statement of mine was in reference to Plantinga’s reasoning, that we have no reason to suppose that on naturalism, our reasoning faculties would be reliable. It seems to me that they are reliable when it comes to the natural world, at least for the most part, but that this is not at all implausible given natural selection. However, if we grant Plantinga’s argument, we would expect that our reasoning on both the natural world, and especially about God, would be far more reliable than it is. Thus, the thousands of different religions and billions of conceptions of God that operate, at least partly, as a function of language indeterminacy, offer compelling evidence (if not direct refutation) of this argument’s conclusion. That is to say, it appears that on Plantinga’s reasoning, God does not exist.

      “We should not be surprised that my recommendations to you fall short of your standards. It is proof that you guys play in league for which I am not qualified. And in which I have no need or desire to be qualified.”

      I only meant to point out that if this is where you get your information on science and philosophy, from theologians, you are doing your brain a disservice. I’m not qualified to play in the big leagues, I don’t have the stock-paper-proof that I can sit still and regurgitate whatever the professor feels is correct. In the interests of full disclosure, I am naught but a simple farmer, with little more than a semester or two of actual college attendance. Critical thinking and cogent arguments, along with a laymans understanding of science, does not mean I’m professionally trained on these topics.

      You know, taking the last sentence of your quote above in hand, one is reminded of a time in the not too distant past in which every citizen took it upon him or herself to acquire wisdom. Philosophy, history, and more recently science, was not just something imparted with a top-hat and a red ribbon, but a pursuit as worthy as the pursuit of happiness and goodness. People spent their time reading the latest great thinkers, trying to capture a piece of that mind that, with the invention of the printing press, could be appreciated by anyone with sixpence and patience. This idea that you don’t need to educate yourself in science or philosophy unless you intend to be a scientist or philosopher is a symptom of the wider trend toward anti-intellectualism that very much threatens to turn the modern American democracy into an oligarchic idiocracy. The key to a functional democracy is an informed citizenship.

      Jesus hasn’t fed a single man beyond the supposed 5000. He hasn’t cured a single disease since his death; no offense, but who cares about Jesus. Science, knowledge, critical thinking, and technology has done more for the human race in just the last 150 years than God has done for humanity since it’s “inception”. Your life, in particular as a western man, is so far removed from the horror, filth, and depredation of our ancestors, that to choose to ignore the enormous contributions of MEN and WOMEN who devoted their lives and livelihoods to improving what is now the past, is to stand upon the shoulders of mankind and claim that you are levitating miraculously. Ungrateful is not a strong enough word. Shortsighted doesn’t capture the magnitude of your willful blindness; the problems we face and fix now will be the foundation of the future of our species.

      You have a greater responsibility to your progeny than just teaching them the passwords for heaven. LEARN about the world, think critically in all cases on all matters, because you are as much a part of this political and cultural experiment of secular democracy as I am. I don’t mind if you disagree with me, I welcome it! I do mind, however, if you screw it up by squeezing your eyes as tight as possible and wishing it all better.

      It is hard work, this learning and thinking business, no doubt about it. It takes your time, your energy, some of your resources, and you might not get what you want out of it. As I said before, I can show you reason but I can’t make you think. Judging from your more recent responses, it doesn’t seem as though you are going to do any thinking in the near future, so I’ll just close with this comment. When you do decide to think, to embark on the intellectual journey that is the dividing line between humans and animals, that is the reason we have triumphed to a large degree over the forces of nature, when you do this, please seek me out. I can help.

      Lee.

  68. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee, here is more on “the fear of the Lord” – which, as you’ll recall, is what launched this conversation:  How Psalm 130:4 Changed with the Resurrection of Christ.

  69. Mike Gantt says:

    The context of this exchange is this post at Randal Rauser’s blog.  I’m posting my response here so as not to discourage someone else from responding to it there.

    Lee:  Writing a play and rising from the dead are two very different historical claims. It doesn’t really matter who wrote Shakespeare’s plays, the work itself is, by it’s own merits, beautiful and appreciable. The same with architecture, music, and, even to a large extent, argumentation. A piece of architecture is majestic, a sheet of music sublime, and a piece of reasoning cogent, independent of the architect, composer, or thinker.

    This is not so with the miraculous claims about Jesus. You are comparing apples with oranges.

    Mike:  On that logic, how much more you should be able to appreciate the beauty of a blind man becoming able to see.

    • Lee says:

      Point…missed. Again. This is why I discontinued our conversation. It’s nothing personal, truly, but you just don’t get it. Healing the blind is included in the “miraculous claims about Jesus” that I already mentioned; i.e. it’s an orange. It’s not impressive because it occupies the same categorical space as “who wrote the plays of Shakespeare”. Notice, that is not the same space as the actual plays. We have those, we have the architecture, we have the music; we don’t have a one-blind-but-now-can-see man, or really any reason to suppose such a man existed in the first place. Who cares about the miracles, or the exorcism, or all the other nonsense. What Jesus offered as a moral thinker belongs to humanity now, and it does not require any special status for the thinker in order for the thought to be worth saving. This is the fundamental distinction that you utterly disregard with your incessant appeals to Jesus’ moral teachings.

      What would we do without Jesus? Gosh, I guess we’d have to read Confucius, Socrates and other Greek thinkers, Egyptians, or *gasp* work it out for ourselves. Good thing Jesus told us how to live, or we would actually have to think.

      Lee.

      • Mike Gantt says:

        Lee, it is you who are mixing categories.  “Who wrote Shakespeare’s plays?” would be in the same category as “Who wrote the gospel of John?”  Appreciating “the taming of a shrew,” however, would fall into the same category as “the man born blind now sees” – the latter being only a degree more miraculous than the former.  Thus both are worthy of even your appreciation.

        By the way, if you don’t want to be considered a hypocrite, you’d best show more serious thought about Jesus of Nazareth before you accuse others of being unwilling to think.  I should also tell you that if you do begin to seriously consider the claims of Jesus Christ it will require of you a quality and quantity of thought with which you are not yet familiar.  How do I know this?  Because you cannot properly relate to Him without submitting your every thought to His scrutiny – and that’s an exercise to which your mind, by your own confession, is not accustomed.

        • Lee says:

          The category, occupied by “who wrote the plays of Shakespeare” and the miracle claims of Jesus, is irrelevancy. It simply doesn’t matter insofar as the plays are inspiring or the moral messages are true. As I have pointed out previously, it doesn’t matter who wrote the plays, they are to be valued on their own merits; likewise, it doesn’t matter whether Jesus healed a blind man, or healed a million blind men, his message is either moral or it is not, entirely independent of magic. You further exacerbate the situation when bringing the author of John into the mix, because it does actually matter who wrote the gospel of John. This isn’t about writing, that isn’t the category, the category is stuff that doesn’t impact the product under consideration.

          I can’t make this any more plain.

          Lee.

          • Mike Gantt says:

            What you mean, Lee, is that you can’t make it any more self-serving. Your prejudice against Jesus of Nazareth, and against any line of inquiry that might lead to an honest and serious examination of His claims, is abidingly apparent.

            If you can appreciate the moral tone of a Shakespearean play you ought to be able to appreciate the moral tone of the teachings of Jesus. Why do you find it so hard to do so?

            • Lee says:

              “What you mean, Lee, is that you can’t make it any more self-serving. Your prejudice against Jesus of Nazareth, and against any line of inquiry that might lead to an honest and serious examination of His claims, is abidingly apparent.”

              Gratuitous ad hominum, which I will disregard out of charity.

              “the moral tone of a Shakespearean play”

              What are you going on about here? I never brought up the “moral tone” of Shakespeare’s plays, nor does it relevantly apply in the context of this discussion. You are twisting this discussion, by misunderstanding/misrepresenting my very simple point in response to RR’s blog post, in order that you can avoid dealing with the actual point. You’re so far off base here, the pitcher could drop the ball and wait for the wind to blow it to first and you’d never make it back in time.

              “you ought to be able to appreciate the moral tone of the teachings of Jesus”

              I do, as I have pointed out most recently, and previously, time and again. The fact in question is whether or not the identity of the author of, say, Hamlet, has any bearing whatsoever on the quality or value of the play itself. I submit that it is utterly irrelevant, for the fourth time.

              The same goes for the miracles. I submit that healing a blind man does not, in any way, shape, or form, impact the moral status of a particular message; i.e. murder is wrong, or the golden rule. If Jesus had never performed a single miracle, murder is still wrong, and the golden rule still provides a sound basis for further moral intuitions; likewise, the performance of miracles would not serve to make an immoral claim moral. Thus, the question of authorship of Hamlet, and the question of veridicality of miracles, is irrelevant.

              If it is in fact irrelevant, and I see no reason here or on the original blog to reconsider, then the claim that we treat the authorship of Hamlet differently than the miracle claims of Jesus is the simple fact that men regularly author plays, but they do not regularly(if at all) heal blind men magically. You can write a play right now, though it will probably fall short of Shakespearean, but you cannot heal a blind man with magic. So when a historian, or in this case an atheist, is rather blaise about who authored a particular play, but remains skeptical about magic, it’s not a case of bias against Jesus. The nature of the claims in question, that X wrote a play or that Y used magic powers, are inherently non-symmetrical claims, and the comparison by RR is spurious.

              Indeed, to borrow your phrase, it is a “self-serving” comparison. This touches on a broader strategy within Christian apologetics: the attempt to drag every other belief system, every other philosophical position, every other method of obtaining true beliefs, to the same level as the apologist’s own system. As though the historical status of the miraculous is on par with that of someone authoring a play. It’s patently ludicrous.

              Two claims, tell me which one you think is likely to have occurred:

              1. I wrote a play.

              2. I healed a man of blindness.

              If you don’t believe 2, but don’t find any reason to suspect 1, regardless of whatever contortions you concoct in your next post, you agree with the basic premise I am championing. It’s that simple, and the fact that this would take 500 posts to arrive at another bitter disagreement is a testament to the fact that one of us in utter denial of the obvious. Tell me, who stands to gain the most by holding to their belief and denying the obvious: the guy who is banking on eternal life in rapturous bliss, or the guy who (apparently) wants to cheat on his taxes and lie to his boss without fear of reprisal? Be serious, for once.

              Lee.

              • Mike Gantt says:

                Lee, you need to go back and re-read Randal’s post. You’ve missed the point of it.

                • Lee says:

                  I didn’t miss the point, it is plain. He wishes to level the playing field by couching the events in neutral, historical terminology. However, the fact remains that the Queen of England is more likely to have written Shakespeare’s plays than Jesus is to have resurrected, and this doesn’t change simply because both are part of history. Once the fluff and bluster of RR’s post is stripped away(a feat I spent more time on here than there), we are just left comparing apples and oranges.

                  To quote Robert Price:

                  “As F.H. Bradly showed in The Presuppositions of Critical History, no historical inference is possible unless the historian assumes a basic analogy of past experience with present experience. If we do not grant this, nothing will seem amiss in believing stories that A turned into a werewolf or B changed lead into gold. Hey, just because we don’t see it happening today, doesn’t prove it never did! One could just as easily accept the historicity of Jack and the Beanstalk on the same basis as long as one’s sole criterion for historical plausibility is anything goes.”

                  Perhaps, though, I missed some alleviating proposition? Something that renders my analysis off-base? Do share! Notice that when I accuse you of going off-topic, or missing the point, I actually explain why. This is because I am actually interested in addressing the relevant topic. I would greatly appreciate it if you find me missing the point, that you would elaborate beyond simply stating what is clearly only obvious to you.

                  Thanks,

                  Lee.

  70. Mike Gantt says:

    People spent their time reading the latest great thinkers, trying to capture a piece of that mind that, with the invention of the printing press, could be appreciated by anyone with sixpence and patience.

    …no offense, but who cares about Jesus.

    I’ve juxtaposed these two quotes of yours.  They came from successive paragraphs, and thus vividly demonstrate how blind you are to your own self-contradictions.  You lament that individual citizens no longer seek to educate themselves and then toss aside someone considered by many who don’t even worship Him as one of the greatest moral thinkers the world has ever known.  Self-education in science is good, but without an education in morals to what purpose will that scientific knowledge be applied?

    You extol the beneficial achievements of science, but what about the destruction and death imposed by science?  When man wants to do evil to man in the 21st century does science aid him or hinder him?  Science will serve the evil man as well as the righteous man because it is not moral in and of itself.  Society is decaying all around us and you would jettison a leading voice of moral authority:  Jesus of Nazareth (again, I am using the language of His non-worshiping admirers – Gandhi being an example).

    Science, knowledge, critical thinking, and technology has done more for the human race in just the last 150 years than God has done for humanity since its “inception”.

    Ah, the last 150 years.  Let’s see, that would include World War I and II, the Holocaust, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and much, much more.  Science can be a sword or a plowshare.  We both love it when it’s a plowshare (and most of that plowshare work is inspired by God), but you don’t have license to ignore the sword (i.e. when man uses the tools of science for destructive purposes) when tallying its account.

    You have a greater responsibility to your progeny than just teaching them the passwords for heaven.

    You misrepresent me.  Recall that I have said that Jesus Christ has assured that everyone goes to heaven – keys are not required for that.  The keys He gives are for a more moral life down here.

    This idea that you don’t need to educate yourself in science or philosophy unless you intend to be a scientist or philosopher is a symptom of the wider trend toward anti-intellectualism that very much threatens to turn the modern American democracy into an oligarchic idiocracy.

    It is not I who am anti-intellectual; rather, it is you who are anti-Christ.  Recall the context of our discussion.  I was not writing this post against science.  I was speaking for Christ, specifically extolling the benefit that comes from reverencing the Lord.  Your refrain has been that I need to learn more science, suggesting that if I were more educated I would not be proclaiming Jesus Christ.

    If you have a moral voice with greater authority than Jesus Christ then by all means tell us who it is.  But until then, your implication that science can, without a moral compass, lead to good is preposterous in the light of 20th-century history.

    Ungrateful is not a strong enough word. Shortsighted doesn’t capture the magnitude of your willful blindness; the problems we face and fix now will be the foundation of the future of our species.

    Given how defiantly ungrateful you are to your Maker, and your unyielding blindness to His presence, that’s quite an accusation.

    It is hard work, this learning and thinking business, no doubt about it. It takes your time, your energy, some of your resources, and you might not get what you want out of it. As I said before, I can show you reason but I can’t make you think. Judging from your more recent responses, it doesn’t seem as though you are going to do any thinking in the near future, so I’ll just close with this comment.

    It is hard work, this learning and thinking about Jesus of Nazareth, no doubt about it. It takes your time, your energy, some of your resources, and you might not get what you want out of it (He’s going to identify pockets of selfishness in your life and urge you to rid yourself of them). As I said before, I can tell you about Him, but I can’t make you think about Him. Judging from your more recent responses, it doesn’t seem as though you are going to do any thinking about Him in the near future, so I’ll just close with this comment.

    Animals only do what is instinctive to them.  They do not have a moral compass.  What distinguishes humans is our moral capacity.  We’ve largely lost that capacity through our estrangement from our Creator.  Jesus of Nazareth came to restore us to our moral source.   Our moral sensibilities need regular feeding, just like our bodies.  Animals cannot partake of this kind of food.  Humans must partake of it, else we become like animals, unthinking and instinctive – employing the arts and sciences for corrupt rather than redemptive purposes.

    Therefore, take note of the path you are on: a path of seeking knowledge without sufficient moral underpinnings.  To secure this moral foundation you must think about Jesus.  He must become your emotional as well as your intellectual quest in all that you do, no matter in what field of human endeavor you labor.

    When you do decide to think, to embark on the intellectual journey that is the dividing line between humans and animals, that is the reason we have triumphed to a large degree over the forces of nature, when you do this, please seek me out. I can help.

    You took the words right out of my mouth.

  71. Mike Gantt says:

    As for who’s being anti-intellectual, consider this:

    “Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence… It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule. That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion.”  - John Lennox  (Source:  Apologetics 315 and FaithInterface)

  72. Pingback: Dialogue with Lee (re: Christ, Science, and Philosophy) | Current Events in Light of the Kingdom of God

  73. Mike Gantt says:

    (This answer is from a thread above…which, in its nested form, was getting too narrow to read easily.)

    Randal was not equating the writing of a play with rising from the dead, as you suggested.  Rather, he was saying that when it comes to discussions about historic texts, the opinions of experts are generally accorded respect – the exception being biblical texts where anyone’s speculation, especially when it casts doubt on the text, is used to cancel out scholars’ expert opinion.  (I think the post may be alluding, at least in part, to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.)  In his last sentence, Randal was suggesting – ironically so – that the “downside” of approaching biblical texts like all other historic texts (i.e. having respect for expert opinion, at least as regards their provenance) is that it “might open the door” to the actuality of Jesus’ resurrection.

    Thus Randal is not saying that acceptance of his level playing field means immediately and necessarily accepting Jesus’ resurrection.  Rather, he is saying that the fear of possibly or ultimately having to accept Jesus’ resurrection down the road might be what keeps some people from accepting a level playing field in the first place.

    You should consider whether this applies to you.

    • Lee says:

      “Thus Randal is not saying that acceptance of his level playing field means immediately and necessarily accepting Jesus’ resurrection. Rather, he is saying that the fear of possibly or ultimately having to accept Jesus’ resurrection down the road might be what keeps some people from accepting a level playing field in the first place.”

      I was simply pointing out that even if the initial playing field is leveled in historical jargon, the end result is a comparison between apples and oranges. That was why I said, above, that once all the fluff and bluster is swept away, we’re left with a straightforward dichotomous relationship between two fundamentally non-symmetrical claims, which are juxtaposed as though one is as reasonable, or unreasonable, as the other. Sorry, that just won’t wash.

      I don’t suggest that we use a different methodology for each case, only that we not forget that historical conclusions must, of necessity, find themselves in the company of our experience; such that ludicrous hypotheses like the resurrection hypothesis stands as incomparable to a hypothesis even as outlandish as a particular play written by the Queen of England. Is the latter hypothesis sustainable on the evidence? Probably not, though I don’t know as I haven’t studied it. However, once that hurdle is passed, say we found evidence to suggest it, there is another step entirely that hypotheses of the mundane sort don’t visibly endure: is this hypothesis consistent with what we know to occur? Clearly, people write plays, even queens, so this hurdle isn’t even erected and so such a step is often overlooked or even forgotten. This is where that quote from Bradley, a la Price, comes in. People don’t resurrect (this would be a one-off job, as it were), and the underlying metaphysical framework that would be required to endorse such a conclusion based on mundane evidence is itself at least as implausible as the event in question. Most scholars don’t find the evidence convincing for the resurrection hypothesis, most philosophers (including Plantinga) don’t find the argument or the evidence convincing, and there are very good reasons for this. Not least of which is that if a supernatural explanation is to be permitted on such shoddy, mundane evidence, we’ll have half the supernatural claims made in history upon as “firm” a foundation as the resurrection.

      Thus, given the stumbling block that I referred to above, the non-theist/non-scholar appeals to other potential explanations need only adhere to the reasonableness of its opposition. So when you, or RR, complain about implausible or unsupported natural explanations for the evidence, recognize that this is a text-book case of the pot calling the kettle black. I don’t have to be any more reasonable in my appeal to natural explanations than you are when you appeal to supernatural explanations; I maintain, based on the failure of other arguments for God and the paucity of evidence for this resurrection, that your hypothesis is unreasonable to the nth degree.

      For you to call this “fear” is just to assign psychological motives without any formal training. I’ll leave it up to you to sort out why this might be problematic.

      I appreciate re-posting, by the way. It was getting a tad narrow, but I didn’t want to break the flow of thought by just commenting at the bottom.

      Lee.

  74. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee, it’s ironic that you begin your comment by denying that Randal’s post applies to you…and then proceed at length to demonstrate that it does.

    Obviously, your steadfast opposition to the resurrection of Christ drives all your thinking on this subject. If you are not afraid that His resurrection might be true, what else accounts for such a tightly closed mind?

    • Lee says:

      “Lee, it’s ironic that you begin your comment by denying that Randal’s post applies to you…and then proceed at length to demonstrate that it does.”

      *Yawn*. Again, you assert that which is apparently obvious to you, and utterly fail to substantiate it by pointing out where I have “demonstrate[d] that it does”. Why would you fail to do this, again? I just asked you, two comments back, to be specific. One wonders whether you even care.

      “Obviously, your steadfast opposition to the resurrection of Christ drives all your thinking on this subject.”

      My steadfast opposition to that which is contrary to experience is what drives my thinking on all miraculous claims, especially those resting on hearsay. This is what drives your thinking on every miracle that is not listed in the bible, and you have given no sound reason to differentiate between the bible’s claims and any other claim. You’ve given reasons, surely, but they’re simply bad ones as I have painstakingly demonstrated.

      “If you are not afraid that His resurrection might be true, what else accounts for such a tightly closed mind?”

      Round and round we might go, but I’m really no longer interested. You reject evolution, a fact about the world that is amenable to verification this instant, by anyone, including you were you so inclined, and yet you have the gall to accuse me of avoiding the truth? You speak of irony when the very word should choke you as it emerges; a mind hermetically sealed within the worldview of Abraham is accusing me of being closed-minded.

  75. Mike Gantt says:

    You demonstrated that Randal’s post applied to you by going on to argue that there was no point leveling the playing field because any game that ended with Christ being resurrected was ipso facto unacceptable to you. If you were truly confident that Christ didn’t rise, you wouldn’t be afraid to play the game (of discussing the issues with appropriate respect for scholarly opinion).

    My reason for being able to differentiate Jesus’ claims from those of, say, someone I don’t know in Roswell, New Mexico, is that I have ample reason to trust the claims of Jesus. And so I do.

    A great many things Jesus said and did are outside my experience, but not so far outside that I’d have the nerve to say, “They never happened.”

    I don’t reject evolution. I just say, if it’s true, it’s inadequate to fully explain our origins. In any case, I have no objection to its value to scientists. I only object to it being practiced as a religion. That you believe it is able to fully account for our existence apart from a Creator and, as such, “is amenable to verification this instant, by anyone, including you,” is demonstration that you are practicing and promoting evolution as a religion.

    I am not accusing you of being closed-minded about Jesus Christ and His resurrection; I’m merely acknowledging that you have claimed to be closed-minded about it. I can at least commend you for your candor, but I’d rather be commending you for some intellectual curiosity.

    • Lee says:

      “You demonstrated that Randal’s post applied to you by going on to argue that there was no point leveling the playing field because any game that ended with Christ being resurrected was ipso facto unacceptable to you. If you were truly confident that Christ didn’t rise, you wouldn’t be afraid to play the game (of discussing the issues with appropriate respect for scholarly opinion).”

      My point was that, contra-RR, the “scholarly game” ends well before we reach resurrection. Not at all the same as not wishing to play the game out of fear.

      “That you believe it is able to fully account for our existence apart from a Creator and, as such, “is amenable to verification this instant, by anyone, including you,” is demonstration that you are practicing and promoting evolution as a religion.”

      No. It fully accounts for the diversity of life, but it presupposes the first replicator. No one who understands the theory of evolution touts it’s ability to “fully account for our existence”. Again, please learn about the theory and all that it does, and does not, entail. It is science, not a religion; everything is not religious. I have simply pointed out that evolution undermines the soundness of the analogical design argument, and disproves the genesis account of human origin.

      “I am not accusing you of being closed-minded about Jesus Christ and His resurrection; I’m merely acknowledging that you have claimed to be closed-minded about it. I can at least commend you for your candor, but I’d rather be commending you for some intellectual curiosity.”

      You have a strange way of not accusing people of something. I am open-minded. I have outlined very reasonable ways in which I could be convinced, including a convincing revelation. However, there are limits to what is reasonable based on the evidence I do have, which is the subject of this particular line of discussion. As Richard Dawkins once said, “It is possible to be so open-minded that your brain falls out.”

      But anyways, thank you for the discussion! Still no bites over on RR :(

      Lee.

  76. Mike Gantt says:

    Yes, I like that line about “being too open-minded” and have used it myself.  It would be a point on which you, I, and Richard Dawkins can agree, though I don’t think the quote was original with him.

    Your closed-mindedness about Christ is odd, not just because you profess to be open-minded about Him, but because you’ve come to a site whose stated purpose is to proclaim Him.  Do you go to gardening blogs and insist that the authors ought to discuss auto repair with you instead of gardening?  Do you go to travel blogs and challenge the authors to spend more time on mathematics instead of writing about travel?  Why then do you come to this blog about Jesus and His kingdom and keep pushing me to study and talk about science and philosophy?  Every time I try to interact with you about Jesus you either change the subject or remind me that you consider His resurrection and miracles as implausible…and then change the subject.  I have never seen anyone who is open-minded about discussing Jesus of Nazareth act this way.

    I am encouraged to hear you acknowledge that the scientific theory of evolution cannot fully account for our existence.  For this very reason, it cannot disprove any non-scientific account of our origins – including the Genesis account.  Such explanations will just have to sit alongside each other, at least for the time being, like the explanations of light as waves or particles.

    As for “the scholarly game,” it’s superfluous to say that the game “ends well before we reach resurrection” if you never begin it.  When you decide you’re willing to discuss Jesus, please come back.  He is Lord of all of life – whether that be gardening, auto repair, travel, mathematics, science, religion, philosophy, or any other aspect of our existence.  A mind open to Him can better understand all these domains – their benefits and their limitations.

  77. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    I thought of you when I read this reference to Bart Ehrman’s new book today.  You had written above, “[I]f there was an actual historical figure, Jesus, he is permanently lost to us.”  Ehrman’s book will take away the “if” for you.  And, in case you’re not aware, Ehrman is an ex-evangelical Christian and professed agnostic.  No one would accuse him of having a Christian apologetic agenda.

    By the way, Robert M. Price’s name comes up in the audio clip conversation that’s in the post’s comment thread, but not in a way that will please him.

    Here’s the last sentence of Ehrman’s new book:

    But neither issue – the good done in the name of Christ or the evil – is of any relevance to me as a historian when I try to reconstruct what actually happened in the past.  I refuse to sacrifice the past in order to promote the worthy cause of my own social and political agendas.  No one else should either.  Jesus did exist, whether we like it or not.

    I am no fan of Ehrman.  He is representative of the most skeptical of credentialed and respected biblical scholars today.  But that’s just the point for you: if professional biblical historians universally agree on that Jesus lived – regardless of whether or not they believe in Him, regardless of whether they support or fight His cause – then you have joined a fringe group indeed when you side with Price and Carrier and other “Jesus Mythicists.”

    • Lee says:

      You don’t know what a Mythicist is, you don’t know [if or why] they are wrong, and you don’t even know that Carrier isn’t one of them. This is something you feel you can safely file away in the “doesn’t exist if ignored” bin, along with everything Ehrman says that isn’t “Jesus is a historical figure”. He’s saying all the things you don’t want to hear, but you would have to actually read Ehrman’s books to find that out. You want Ehrman? I’ll give you Ehrman, but if you’re going to harp on his credentials, you should probably adopt his other views as well. You’ll never guess what he thinks about the resurrection, but I bet I can guess where your opinion and his differ! So predictable, you Christians.

      Lee.

  78. Mike Gantt says:

    As you should have been able to see from what I wrote above, I am well aware of Ehrman’s broader views. That is why I assumed you’d deem him a more credible source on the historicity of Jesus than me. As for Carrier, I only included he and Price as supporting “Jesus Mythicism” because Ehrman included them both in his “Jesus Mythicism” bibliography. If Carrier distances himself from Jesus Mythicists, then good for Carrier.

    As for “safely filing away in the ‘doesn’t exist if ignored’ bin,” isn’t that what you are doing with Jesus of Nazareth?

  79. Lee says:

    “As you should have been able to see from what I wrote above, I am well aware of Ehrman’s broader views.”

    Yet it is not his credentials that give weight to his opinions, but how they conform to your own. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, as long as you have good reasons for holding your opinions. You don’t, and I have made that perfectly clear in our discussion thus far.

    “As for “safely filing away in the ‘doesn’t exist if ignored’ bin,” isn’t that what you are doing with Jesus of Nazareth?”

    For the nth time, no. I’ve praised some of his moral teachings, I’ve expressed agnosticism as to his existence, and I’ve discounted the miraculous on principle; the same principle you use to discount the miraculous in other faith traditions. I’ve pointed out that his teachings are moral or immoral irrespective of his miracles. I’ve talked about the historical record, I’ve discussed the philosophical basis for all of this. I’ve done everything but pretend he doesn’t exist, and yet you accuse me of doing just that.

    Tell me, do you honestly think, after this month-long discussion about Jesus, that I am ignoring Jesus? I have comments where I mention his name over 20 times. I’m flabbergasted that anyone can be this obtuse while retaining even a shred of dignity.

    Lee.

  80. Mike Gantt says:

    Since even critical biblical scholars affirm the existence of Jesus, why are you still agnostic about it?

    • Lee says:

      Because I don’t think you can understand the distinction between the “jesus” affirmed by biblical scholars and the “jesus” you proclaim on this website. Let me again stress that I have no qualms about accepting the existence of a Jewish preacher who was crucified by Roman authorities, and whose life may (or may not) have inspired the biblical accounts. There may (or may not) be a man who inspired the herculean tales, perhaps there was even a man named Odysseus; whoever those men may have been, they weren’t as strong as the first tales suggest, nor did they witness the wonders that the second man apparently witnessed.

      I am agnostic about whether Jesus (capital J) existed, because quite frankly, we just don’t know and can’t determine if the preacher jesus (lower-case j) was resurrected, walked on water, or all the rest given what we have to go on(see Ehrman’s work). I don’t really care if there was a lower-case jesus, and neither do you. I highly suspect that the capital J Jesus is a myth, like all the other myths, and I have no reason to suppose otherwise.

      I respect authority, in scholarship and in science, but just as I turn a sharp eye to a theoretical physicist who says there are an infinite number of universes, I turn the same sharp eye to a bible scholar who says some guy was raised from the dead(just look at this book!). I have less reason to suppose the resurrection happened, simply on the basis that at least one universe exists (so why not others?). If I could be convinced of God’s existence, or Allah’s, or Krishna, or w/e, then I would approach these questions differently; until such time, sorry, it’s prima facie ludicrous to conclude such a thing by exegesis, however erudite and scrupulous the scholar might be.

      I’m not sure what it is I’m supposed to do, here, short of lying to myself in order to believe in the resurrection, that would satisfy your queries. I grow tired of being accused of closed-mindedness, when I’ve poured forth my time and effort to address all of your arguments and comments about him, only to be accused of ignoring the case entirely. God would know what could convince me, and I remain unconvinced. Whose fault is that? If I knew what could convince you of the truth of evolution, I wouldn’t withhold it for a moment, to do so would be moral negligence. Surely I’m no more moral than God?

      Lee.

  81. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    If you don’t want to seriously consider the historical claims of and about Jesus Christ, then don’t. But please don’t deceive yourself in the process. Despite your emotional protests to the contrary, you’ve haven’t engaged with me in any material way about the historicity of Christ or His claims. This last post is the closest you’ve come to doing so, and it is not so much an engagement as justification of non-engagement.

    There is no doubt that Jesus of Nazareth is a controversial, even a polarizing, figure. Opinions of Him can be mapped across a broad spectrum. Nonetheless, history provides of a record of Him – a record which can be judged. I have examined the record and found it compelling. It’s clear you have not examined the record. Don’t kid yourself that you have.

    • Lee says:

      The historical record is tenuous at best, but I can grant you the historical record, and it still doesn’t cash out the metaphysical claims. You keep riding this horse like it’s going to get you somewhere; sorry, jack, it don’t wash. Miracle claims of the sort you find in the bible litter the historical landscape, and indeed, can be found “occurring” even today, all over the world.

      You can claim I haven’t “examined the record”, ignoring our month-long discussion in which the historical record played a large part, but you’re only fooling yourself. This is comical; the comment immediately following your most recent missive addresses the historical record, as do many, many others. Yet you have the audacity, once again, to print this:

      “It’s clear you have not examined the record. Don’t kid yourself that you have.”

      I have explained why I don’t find the record compelling. I have explained why other parts of the bible call the credibility of the entire account into question. I have explained why we regard such claims in history skeptically. I have explained why, even if I did find the record compelling, it wouldn’t yield the conclusion to the miraculous. I have pointed to other miracle claims and asked for a differentiating principle that isn’t simply question-begging (“it’s in the bible, therefore it happened”). I have performed my due diligence, this latest tirade against my “closed-mindedness” is insulting and delusional.

      Beyond that, I have addressed the arguments you presented in favor of your God, for which you have either avoided responding (“I’m not a philosopher, etc.”), or just pretended didn’t exist or weren’t relevant (“that’s not the rug I’m standing on”). I have presented arguments against your God, for which I have received more of the same shifty rhetorical smog. In addressing the “design argument”, I even went so far as to accept all of your presuppositions, conceded the validity of the argument, and still showed why it yielded a false conclusion. I have been more than accommodating, and this most recent response of yours is the straw that broke the camel’s back. The only thing that is clear from our discussion is that you have absolutely no interest in considering the case against your position; absolutely no inkling of even the possibility that what you believe may be wrong.

      Lee.

  82. Mike Gantt says:

    Lee,

    Your emotion has clouded your judgment.

    You proudly proclaim in one breath that you are closed-minded about reality beyond the natural world, but in the next breath caterwaul at being described as close-minded.

    As to the historical record of Jesus, you’ve made no serious engagement with it. Yes, I’ve repeatedly sought to take the conversation there…but you never allow it. Just ranting against something is not engaging with it.

    I became serious about investigating the claims of Jesus when I became more interested in making the right moral decisions in my life. He had made great claims to moral wisdom and moral authority. I decided to check them out. If a human being is serious about understanding morality, he cannot afford to be dismissive of Jesus of Nazareth. Even Gandhi acknowledged that. Whenever you decide that morality is something you have not completely figured out, go to someone who knows more about it than you do: Jesus Christ.

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