Book Plunge: How Do We Know

What do I think of Foreman and Dew’s book on epistemology? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Foreman and Dew have written this in order to explain epistemology to people who have never really considered it and in our day and age, it’s more necessary than ever. After all, you have people like Peter Boghossian out there wanting to train up “street epistemologists” to deconvert Christians from their faith. In addition to that, there is a rampant scientism in our society that says science is the way to know the truth. If what you say is not scientific, then it is not a fact.

So how is it that we do know anything at all and what is knowledge? Naturally, you won’t find a comprehensive refutation of positions in this work. Instead, it’s more to get you thinking about what the different positions are. The authors themselves do not come down on either side in the debate. After reading it, I cannot tell you what position either one of them holds.

The authors also go through the classical problems in studies of epistemology. One such example that will be well-known to students of philosophy is the Gettier Problem. (To which, I remember when this was discussed in my epistemology class one of my classmates immediately asked the professor about Gettier. His question? “Did he get tenure?” Yes. He definitely did get tenure after that.)

Gettier’s problem was to show that you could have a belief that was justified and that was true, but even then that might not be enough to say that you had knowledge. This is problematic since the prior definition of knowledge has been justified true belief, which means that now philosophers are looking to see if a fourth item might need to be added to the list.

Those dealing with new atheist types will be pleased to see the authors make a statement about faith and how faith is not a way of knowing but is rather a response of trust to what one is shown to be true. Of course, we seriously doubt that Peter Boghossian and others like him will pay any attention to anything that goes against their beliefs.

Along those lines, there is also a section on whether one can know through divine revelation which includes a short apologetic for Christianity. The authors are both Christians and do hold that divine revelation can be a valid way to possess knowledge.

If there’s a concern I have with the book, I would have liked to have seen more interaction with the medieval period. Too often we talk about Plato and Aristotle and then jump ahead to Descartes. A few times Aquinas is cited but not often. I do not remember Augustine being cited but that could have been something I overlooked. There were plenty of great thinkers as well in the medieval period and it does help to see how we got from the ancient to the modern era.

Despite this one misgiving, I find that this book will be an excellent start for those wanting to learn about epistemology. You won’t walk away with a firm conclusion most likely, but you will walk away hopefully knowing that you need to look.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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31 Responses to “Book Plunge: How Do We Know”

  1. tildeb Says:

    Those dealing with new atheist types will be pleased to see the authors make a statement about faith and how faith is not a way of knowing but is rather a response of trust to what one is shown to be true.

    The sentence was fine up to and including the word trust… but went too far claiming this trust is based on what has been shownto be true.

    Using that word ‘shown’ means a claim that has been demonstrated to be reasonable, demonstrated to be roughly the same for everyone everywhere all the time to equate with being in any way similar to the kind of trust granted to the method of science. Science SHOWS its work or it’s not science. After all, this is the central thesis of Bogossian’s book: asking those who make claims about how reality operates to show their work, to demonstrate how they know what they say they know.

    This is the tool for de-conversion… because believers can’t demonstrate – can’t SHOW – why faith claims deserve trust (independent of simply committing one’s self to believing it to be true). This effectively undermines the claim to knowledge.

    Revelation is rotten epistemology because it is subjectively dependent… unless and until it can be shown to be validated by reality. And this is EXACTLY where faith steps in an preempts reality’s arbitrating role to make the claim objectively independent of whomever makes it. That’s why it’s given this differentiated term: faith.

    Before dealing with New Atheist types – whatever disparaging characterization that might mean – you may want to better understand why faith-based claims are not trustworthy and see how that demonstrable evidence reflects on any religious claim to being true.

  2. apologianick Says:

    How about starting off then by going to a Greek or NT Lexicon, and looking up the word “pistis” which is the word translated as “faith” and find out where it ever says “Belief without evidence” or something of the like?

    Then we can discuss specific claims. The main one is the resurrection of Jesus.

    • tildeb Says:

      This is a diversion from how people use the term ‘faith’ in our lexicon: a matter of trust. What’s important is to examine what justified this trust, and this is the subject of epistemology, of how we import confidence, on what merit, by what method, nicely summed up by the question, “How do you know that?”

  3. apologianick Says:

    I do not doubt most Christians are ignorant as to what faith is. Why am I obligated to defend their ignorance? I want to know what the Biblical authors meant by it.

    • tildeb Says:

      Why should you care what the biblical authors meant by the term? In other words, the care you place in their opinion must be caused by something, namely putting the cart before the horse; I suspect you care because you want to justify your confidence you’ve already placed in them. And the reason you want to have confidence in them is because you require this to justify your ‘faith’ that you’ve already assumed is deserving.

      Boghossian’s thesis is not aimed at people who hold views of sophisticated theology; these folk are impenetrable because the terminology they infuse with personal meaning is too nebulous to ever hope to pin down and expose using straightforward epistemology. The thesis is aimed at normal folk who have made use of a method that works to help fool ourselves into believing – placing confidence and trust into – what we wish for rather than respecting reality’s role to arbitrate our wishes for truth value. “How can we know?” is a really important question before we examine our level of trust in any claim. I think you’ve pre-empted this endeavor by assuming that your trust and confidence in biblical authority is well placed first and that it will provide justification later. This is faith in action.

      • Derek_M Says:

        Tildeb, I can’t help but notice a trend of oppressive cult-like tactics among Boghossian and his followers. The use of the term “sophisticated theologian” is now being used in a same functional manner as “suppressive person” is by Scientologists. The street epistemologist categorizes a group of people as “impenetrable” and puts them in a category of not worth talking to, why not just go ahead and start calling them STs like they use SPs? There are other parallels but this is enough for now.

      • tildeb Says:

        In the same way that I know I can have no effect by reason on someone who is absolutely convinced that aliens have long abducted people (and cattle) for medical experiments, that tin foil hats deflect controlling radio waves, that there is Jewish conspiracy to rule the world, I know that sophisticated theologians rely on a lexicon that is impenetrable to any evidence-based criticism I can possibly offer. The Deepak Chopras and Karen Armstrongs of this world can be corrected on their abuse of quantum mechanics and metaphysics until the abducted cows come home and it matters not one whit because their models are impervious to anything reality can provide. When someone doesn’t care enough about reality to allow it to have its say in the matter, then having a ‘dialogue’ about claims imposed on reality is absolutely useless because I will never be allowed to share understanding the same meaning that these folk rely on.

      • mike Says:

        “The thesis is aimed at normal folk who have made use of a method that works to help fool ourselves into believing – placing confidence and trust into – what we wish for rather than respecting reality’s role to arbitrate our wishes for truth value. ” And I’m sure nobody in your movement wants atheism to be true. Yep. Absolutely no wish-driven reasoning on your side at all.

      • tildeb Says:

        Hey Mike, I think all of us – at one time or another – convince ourselves something is true because we want to be. What seems obvious to me is that the same method is used by people to install faith in homeopathy and reiki and climate change denial and ghosts and so on… the same method used to justify buying lottery tickets and falling for con jobs, the same fallacious thinking to demonstrate magic tricks and tarot card reading, and so on. All I’m saying is that we need to be aware that this faith-based method of trying to justify confidence and hope in claims about how reality seems to work because we wish it were so puts us in danger of being credulous and gullible and fooled much more easily than if we correctly identify that our wishes do not define the reality we share. This would go a very long way in making faith-based claims understood to be personal and subjective… and that’s fine. Where I draw the line is promoting faith-based claims in the public domain to affect public policy, governance, law, education, defense, research, morality, and so on. Wishful thinking is no way to to create knowledge and does a very great deal of real harm to real people in real life. We can do better.

      • Derek_M Says:

        Your post just solidified my point. How could you possibly know who can and cannot be reasoned with? Peter seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth on this one, saying that anyone can be reached but placing people that are currently shut off as “pre-contemplative”. As I mentioned previously, his view and your view are functionally no different than the belief in SPs.

        Anyway, who gets to decide what and who a sophisticated theologian is?

      • tildeb Says:

        How could you possibly know who can and cannot be reasoned with?

        By interaction. By reading and listening and talking and writing and finding out whether or not someone is impenetrable. I’m sure you’re the same way… deciding whether or not someone is worth your efforts to communicate or if you’re simply to take on the role of being a non-interacting audience for whatever sales pitch they want to throw at you.

        In general, New Atheists want to cause effect in the younger generation by way of promoting scepticism and critical thinking and feeling empowered to challenge assumptions by asking better questions. Boghossian’s thesis is to try to promote this by understanding that how we figure stuff out matters a very great deal determining what we figure out. I think that’s a very positive approach… but one that won’t have any affect on someone who empowers assumptions to be unassailable to compelling contrary evidence and already knows the truth without having done the work necessary to instill justified confidence in it. Yes, there really are unreasonable people.

      • derekhowardm Says:

        Tildeb, I appreciate your response and, while that is a reasonable way of assessing people to interact with, Boghossian is claiming something much stronger. He wants atheists to view every religious person as mentally defective and in need of treatment. This is an objective claim about the person you are interacting with, not your subjective claim about how they appear to be. This is classic cult leader behavior and I have been trying to get you to address it.

      • tildeb Says:

        Boghossian criticizes the DSM V for making an exception to the diagnosis of delusion if it is religious. This is not the same as calling all religious people as mentally defective and in need of treatment. When we privilege religion in this way, we do so for all the wrong reasons.

      • derekhowardm Says:

        I guess you missed parts of his book. He plainly states that anyone who has the faith virus is mentally defective but some are treatable. Others, “sophisticated theologians”, are brain damaged and there is no hope. Just like an Alzheimer’s patient.

        If you are going to defend Boghossian please be accurate in how radical his claims are.

      • tildeb Says:

        Fair enough. I have not read his book but only articles by Boghossian and criticisms of them.

  4. apologianick Says:

    Tilde: Why should you care what the biblical authors meant by the term? In other words, the care you place in their opinion must be caused by something, namely putting the cart before the horse; I suspect you care because you want to justify your confidence you’ve already placed in them. And the reason you want to have confidence in them is because you require this to justify your ‘faith’ that you’ve already assumed is deserving.

    Reply: Why do I care? Because I believe if you’re going to talk about a viewpoint, you should accurately represent that viewpoint, and if the Bible talks about faith, we should be accurate to see what it means by faith.

    My worldview doesn’t rest on the book of Hebrews anyway. It rests on the resurrection.

    Tilde: Boghossian’s thesis is not aimed at people who hold views of sophisticated theology; these folk are impenetrable because the terminology they infuse with personal meaning is too nebulous to ever hope to pin down and expose using straightforward epistemology. The thesis is aimed at normal folk who have made use of a method that works to help fool ourselves into believing – placing confidence and trust into – what we wish for rather than respecting reality’s role to arbitrate our wishes for truth value. “How can we know?” is a really important question before we examine our level of trust in any claim. I think you’ve pre-empted this endeavor by assuming that your trust and confidence in biblical authority is well placed first and that it will provide justification later. This is faith in action.

    Reply: No. I have justification at this moment for my current worldview. That is the resurrection. I trust based on the resurrection that the future promises will come true. While it is true that Boghossian writes to the unsophisticated, the difference is that he does apply terminology as if Scripture endorses it and that is being dishonest with the text.

    • tildeb Says:

      Most people who read Hebrews 11:1 will encounter something along the lines of this definition: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Pistis – as I’m sure you know – in Greek mythology was the name of the spirit that represented honesty, trust, and well placed confidence. The bible uses this meaning throughout, but its use doesn’t affect the message to trust all manner of biblical claims. We now know that many OT claims are factually wrong even if metaphorically useful. This means that we should reasonably transfer this realization to other biblical pistis claims that should reduce our confidence in claim to explain the world we inhabit. But many people are taught that faith – especially in the modern lexicon – is a virtue, that to place our trust in biblical claims and explanations – especially promises we cannot verify independently – is an act worthy of respect and honour. I think we need reminding that in any other area of human endeavor, inserting unearned confidence (where contrary evidence is available and still acting on the pistis assumption as if nevertheless true) is a vice because it is a shortcut around earned knowledge that usually leads to avoidable if not tragic problems and results. The specific use of the pistis assumption based on scriptural authority indicates why its a problematic approach. Take, for example, faith healing and watch its use cause real but unnecessary harm to real people in real life. The efficacy of prayer, the promise of a future kingdom, and so on. When we turn this life into a staging ground for the next based on an assumption, are the effects a net benefit or net harm to real people in real life? This is an area of dialogue worth pursuing with the presentation of evidence adduced from reality to reach a level of confidence for or against the proposition. But when the assumption is unassailable that it must be a net good because true based on scriptural authority, then we’re not prepared to seek knowledge; we’ve answered the question by taking a shortcut that ends any useful role for reality to arbitrate. This is the epistemological danger we encounter every day when this method of assigning confidence rather than having to earn it first is applied to the real world… and its arbitration is rejected by the faithful (whether this is religious or medical or political or social or what have you). Boghossian’s thesis is still applicable in all these areas.

      • apologianick Says:

        Tildeb: Most people who read Hebrews 11:1 will encounter something along the lines of this definition: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

        Reply: A text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext. Could you tell me what else is going on in Hebrews? Could you tell me what the surrounding context says about pistis?

        Tildeb: Pistis – as I’m sure you know – in Greek mythology was the name of the spirit that represented honesty, trust, and well placed confidence. The bible uses this meaning throughout, but its use doesn’t affect the message to trust all manner of biblical claims. We now know that many OT claims are factually wrong even if metaphorically useful.

        Reply: This sounds relevant, but it really isn’t. It doesn’t mean to believe all claims blindly. Jews treated all of these events as real events that happened and thus they would be real examples of trust. It could be for argument’s sake that the OT events are completely unreliable, but the audience did not see that. They saw these past people as acting in trust on what they had already received.

        Tildeb: This means that we should reasonably transfer this realization to other biblical pistis claims that should reduce our confidence in claim to explain the world we inhabit.

        Reply: The claim that I bank everything on is a simple one. Jesus rose from the dead. Feel free to present the contrary data that best explains the rise of the Christian church.

        Tildeb: But many people are taught that faith – especially in the modern lexicon – is a virtue, that to place our trust in biblical claims and explanations – especially promises we cannot verify independently – is an act worthy of respect and honour.

        Reply: If you mean without evidence, then please talk to those people about that. The Bible knows nothing about that kind of trust. Instead, it always points to evidence of some kind. I have no desire for that kind of faith and I’ve written just as much condemning it as the new atheists have. If you go after that faith here, you’re just preaching to the choir, but you’re not making an argument that that’s what the Biblical writers had in mind.

        Tildeb: I think we need reminding that in any other area of human endeavor, inserting unearned confidence (where contrary evidence is available and still acting on the pistis assumption as if nevertheless true) is a vice because it is a shortcut around earned knowledge that usually leads to avoidable if not tragic problems and results.

        Reply: I’ll think the new atheists are not doing the exact same thing when I see them stop asserting Christ-myth nonsense. There’s enough contrary data there to convince scholarship universally. There is no debate amongst scholars on this topic, and yet new atheists consistently teach this as a viable possibility.

        Tildeb: The specific use of the pistis assumption based on scriptural authority indicates why its a problematic approach.

        Reply: Actually, if you mean people just saying “The Bible says so and I think so because it’s the Bible” then I agree. If someone instead says “I’ve gone through the Gospels and I’ve found them to be a reliable record of the life of Christ and therefore I trust the Bible, I don’t agree.

        Tildeb: Take, for example, faith healing and watch its use cause real but unnecessary harm to real people in real life.

        Reply: Would you care to show where Scripture espouses the kind of faith healing you see going on today? That having been said, I think Keener does show that miraculous healing does still take place today and I have numerous testimonies from my own experience and that of others that attest to that.

        Tildeb: The efficacy of prayer, the promise of a future kingdom, and so on.

        Reply: If you mean prayer tests that are often done, why should I consider those valid in any way? I’ve never placed any stock in them even if they did show a positive correlation. As for the future Kingdom, it is because I believe in a future Kingdom that I care so much for this present world. If not, then hey, let’s eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

        Tildeb: When we turn this life into a staging ground for the next based on an assumption, are the effects a net benefit or net harm to real people in real life?

        Reply: Depends on which understanding you take. I think you’d be much more favorable to N.T .Wright’s approach rather than a modern dispensational approach.

        Tildeb: This is an area of dialogue worth pursuing with the presentation of evidence adduced from reality to reach a level of confidence for or against the proposition. But when the assumption is unassailable that it must be a net good because true based on scriptural authority, then we’re not prepared to seek knowledge; we’ve answered the question by taking a shortcut that ends any useful role for reality to arbitrate. This is the epistemological danger we encounter every day when this method of assigning confidence rather than having to earn it first is applied to the real world… and its arbitration is rejected by the faithful (whether this is religious or medical or political or social or what have you). Boghossian’s thesis is still applicable in all these areas.

        Reply: And this is still going after a straw man. Take what Boghossian says about Gary Habermas. I know Gary Habermas. Gary Habermas did not begin with the assumption that the Bible is true. In fact, he doubted it severely and nearly became a Buddhist. No amount of evidence was enough. Boghossian just assumes that Habermas must have started with the assumption. He did no such thing.

        If he wants to talk about if the Bible is reliable, then we can talk about that, and I will focus on the NT accounts to the resurrection of Jesus. The problem is Boghossian makes the mistake many fundamentalist atheists make. He assumes the Bible is an all-or-nothing game. If he finds one mistake in one part, well you throw the whole thing out. That’s why he even says “If you assume that an historical Jesus existed.”

        Boghossian and the rest of the new atheists are just dragging down atheism more and more. It’s why I thank God regularly that the new atheists are here.

  5. apologianick Says:

    Tildeb: I think that’s a very positive approach… but one that won’t have any affect on someone who empowers assumptions to be unassailable to compelling contrary evidence and already knows the truth without having done the work necessary to instill justified confidence in it. Yes, there really are unreasonable people.

    Reply: *cough cough* Christ-mythers *cough cough*

    • tildeb Says:

      Well, there’s hardly slam dunk historical evidence… so we are left with the question that if there are a lot of inconsistencies between the accounts used in its favour that raise the specter of doubt combined with a lack of evidence where there should be compelling evidence, is this cause to be sceptical? Whether or not any one account is true isn’t the point; the point is whether or not legitimate doubt is a valid reason for scepticism. To be told such scepticism makes me of a lower moral rank than another is just cause for me to become an activist against the epistemology used to justify this kind of hurtful and broken reasoning.

      • apologianick Says:

        Tildeb: Well, there’s hardly slam dunk historical evidence…

        REply: Yeah there is. The Annals of Tacitus for instance. If you want to know what scholars deny a historical Jesus, you can count them on one hand, and I mean scholars in the field. Robert Price and Richard Carrier. Have their works on the Christ-myth passed peer-review? Nope. Do they teach at accredited universities? Nope. Do their works on Christ-mythicism get shared in prestigious journals? Nope.

        So if you want to go against every historian and scholar out there in the field and say “Well I don’t know” be my guest, but then you’re exemplifying the very characteristic you just condemned.

        Tildeb: so we are left with the question that if there are a lot of inconsistencies between the accounts used in its favour that raise the specter of doubt

        Reply: Actually, most of these inconsistencies really aren’t. They’re just different ways of telling the story. See Mike Licona’s research on Plutarch for instance.

        Tildeb: combined with a lack of evidence where there should be compelling evidence,

        Reply: Facts about Jesus.

        Jesus grew up in a part of the world that the Romans tolerated but was thought to have strange customs. The people were deviant. Anti-Semitism was quite common.

        Jesus never traveled outside of his country. (Save the little time he traveled to Egypt as a baby.)

        Jesus never ran for political office.

        Jesus never went into battle.

        Jesus was known to be a miracle worker, which equals fraudulent in the ancient world.

        Jesus was crucified, the most shameful death of all.

        Why should anyone have mentioned him?

        Tildeb: is this cause to be sceptical?

        Reply: Not to professional historians and schoalrs.

        Tildeb: Whether or not any one account is true isn’t the point; the point is whether or not legitimate doubt is a valid reason for scepticism. To be told such scepticism makes me of a lower moral rank than another is just cause for me to become an activist against the epistemology used to justify this kind of hurtful and broken reasoning.

        Reply: It’s a fundamentalist skepticism. Now you can say it’s hurtful, but then you’re no longer making a decision based on rationality but rather on how you feel about something. What should be asked is “If I am stepping out of step entirely with the scholarly consensus in the field, am I doing so on fair grounds?”

        Go read the books on the historical Jesus. The Christ-myth idea is lucky if it gets a footnote.

        btw, I also think it’s funny to talk about how hurtful it is when those of us who are Christians are regularly mocked by new atheist thinkers including Peter Boghossian. We’re often told we’re illogical and irrational and indoctrinated and brainwashed and everything else.

        Being mature people, we roll it off and laugh. No need to play a persecution complex.

      • tildeb Says:

        We can listen to Jewish scholars about the Pentateuch who agree that “Currently, there is broad agreement among archeologists and Biblical scholars that there is no historical basis for the narratives of the patriarchs, the exodus fro Egypt and the conquest of Canaan, nor any archeological evidence to make them think otherwise.” (from Israel’s oldest daily Newspaper, Hareetz) Include the commentary about camels (who didn’t even appear in the Middle East “until centuries after the Age of the Patriarchs (2000-1500 BCE). In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes.” (from the PhysOrg article by Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures)

        We have compelling reasons to assume that the OT is an inventive myth, yet it is from these writers that we supposedly have Jesus’ god, namely, Yahweh… the god of the Pentateuch to whom the law Jesus upholds is owed.

        If you do not see a rather profound problem here with your claims, then you are not exercising scepticism; you’re exercising apologetics.

      • tildeb Says:

        Also, you may want to reconsider the notion that biblical scholarship is one-sided on this issue of the historicity of Jesus:

        “There is a Jesus as a political revolutionary by S.G.F. Brandon (1967), as a magician by Morton Smith (1978), as a Galilean charismatic by Geza Vermes (1981. 1984), and a Galilean Rabbi by Bruce Chilton (1984), as Hillelite or proto-Pharisee by Harvey Falk (1985), as an Essene by Harvey Falk (1985), and as an eschatological prophet by E.P. Sanders (1985) … But that stunning diversity is an academic embarrassment. It is impossible to avoid the suspicion that historical Jesus research is a very safe place to do theology and call it history, to do autobiography and call it biography.” (from John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant, xxviii, in Hector Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, 198)

  6. tildeb Says:

    I Borrow these words from my friend John Zande, who expressed more eloquently than I that Christians believe that

    “Jesus was supposedly the greatest person ever; a god born of a virgin who as a two year-old toddler slaughtered an entire gaggle of hideous fire-breathing DRAGONS, performed mass exorcisms, breathed life into clay statues, brought eight very dead people (two of whom he murdered) back to life, blew snakes apart with a word, transformed into a ball of light and met with spirits, controlled the weather with a wave, walked on water, fed 5,000 awestruck people with next to nothing (not once but twice), healed the blind, reanimated limbs, defied chemistry by turning water into wine, and performed so many other miracles that John (21:25) said “If every one of them were written down the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” All this and more was done, we’re told, and yet no one in all of Palestine was apparently moved enough by any of it to scribble down a single word.”

    So you bring up Tacitus… written about a hundred years after the supposed ‘fact’ as if this is a slam dunk? Come on…

    Again, I comment this way to point out the reasonableness of justified doubt and scepticism.

    • Derek_M Says:

      Tildeb, I don’t know who John Zande is but his knowledge of Christianity is abysmal (or he is dishonest) and that quote reads like the blog of an angry teenager. What Christians believe that Jesus was “a god” or accept the stories from Infancy narratives like Thomas that he alludes to here? Is is so difficult to properly represent what Christians believe? Also, as Nick pointed out, at least four people wrote about Jesus and His miracles.

      • tildeb Says:

        Is is so difficult to properly represent what Christians believe?

        Well, it’s variable, isn’t it? What’s of particular interest is why any Christian accepts, say, the resurrection, but rejects that Jesus slew dragons. The objects for the beliefs aren’t the issue; what’s at stake is to examine the method used to accept one and infuse it with confidence but reject the other because it’s somehow insufficient (answering the question, HOW do you know this one is worthy and that one is unworthy?). Upon examination, the method is shown to be untrustworthy for any confidence in any claim… regardless of the objects under consideration. And when the method isn’t trustworthy, then any conclusions reached using it are untrustworthy.

      • derekhowardm Says:

        Then why did you post references to scholarship regarding Biblical matters? If you believe that miracles cannot happen then just state that up front instead of wasting time.

      • tildeb Says:

        To counter Nick’s claim that biblical scholarship is one-sided. It’s not; scepticism is warranted.

  7. apologianick Says:

    Tildeb: We can listen to Jewish scholars about the Pentateuch who agree that “Currently, there is broad agreement among archeologists and Biblical scholars that there is no historical basis for the narratives of the patriarchs, the exodus fro Egypt and the conquest of Canaan, nor any archeological evidence to make them think otherwise.” (from Israel’s oldest daily Newspaper, Hareetz) Include the commentary about camels (who didn’t even appear in the Middle East “until centuries after the Age of the Patriarchs (2000-1500 BCE). In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes.” (from the PhysOrg article by Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures)

    Reply: That’s interesting because I just got two books in the mail today by a scholar writing on the historicity of the Exodus. Yes. I hope to have him on my show after reading them. Note also I don’t expect the Exodus to be referred to. After all, I don’t expect this to show up in Pharaoh’s journal sometime.

    Dear Diary. Today, that Moses guy had got done with ten plagues where his one God devastated so many of my other gods and then, he led a group of slaves out of my kingdom. I chased after them, but their god parted the Red Sea for them and they got away as they passed through and my chariots and army were submerged.

    Keep in mind also the Scythians wandered around for 1,000 years. What remains do we have of their existence? Only the tombs they built for their kings. In other words, all that survived was what they meant to survive. Without those, we’d have no record of them.

    As for camels…

    http://christianthinktank.com/qnocamel.html

    Tilde: We have compelling reasons to assume that the OT is an inventive myth, yet it is from these writers that we supposedly have Jesus’ god, namely, Yahweh… the god of the Pentateuch to whom the law Jesus upholds is owed.

    If you do not see a rather profound problem here with your claims, then you are not exercising scepticism; you’re exercising apologetics.

    Reply: I have no problem with skepticism. I have a problem with not interacting with scholarship. I’m thinking particularly also people like John Walton and Kenneth Kitchen.

    Tilde: “Jesus was supposedly the greatest person ever; a god born of a virgin who as a two year-old toddler slaughtered an entire gaggle of hideous fire-breathing DRAGONS, performed mass exorcisms, breathed life into clay statues, brought eight very dead people (two of whom he murdered) back to life, blew snakes apart with a word, transformed into a ball of light and met with spirits, controlled the weather with a wave, walked on water, fed 5,000 awestruck people with next to nothing (not once but twice), healed the blind, reanimated limbs, defied chemistry by turning water into wine, and performed so many other miracles that John (21:25) said “If every one of them were written down the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” All this and more was done, we’re told, and yet no one in all of Palestine was apparently moved enough by any of it to scribble down a single word.”

    So you bring up Tacitus… written about a hundred years after the supposed ‘fact’ as if this is a slam dunk? Come on…

    Reply: Actually, people were moved to write. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Luke says there were other written accounts. A lot of other people didn’t write because writing was expensive and more people were illiterate than literate. Why bother writing it down?

    Furthermore, all the miracles that were done? So what? If you’re in Rome, you’re going to be skeptical. If you’re in Judea, well Jesus was crucified so he’s under the curse of YHWH so why write about him?

    And Tacitus as a slam dunk? Yep. Tacitus was not using hearsay, is the greatest of the Roman historians, and no Christian would make up that passage. It’s hideous the way it treats Christ and Christians.

    Also, if you want to use arguments from silence, let’s talk about Hannibal. Remember him? He’s that great general who nearly conquered Rome in the Punic Wars. How many contemporaries wrote about him?

    Zero. None. Not a one.

    How about Socrates? A very famous figure at his time. How many times does Thucydides mention him?

    Not once.

    And Thucydides himself isn’t even mentioned until at least a couple of centuries later.

    This is why the argument from silence is weak.

    Tildeb: Also, you may want to reconsider the notion that biblical scholarship is one-sided on this issue of the historicity of Jesus:

    “There is a Jesus as a political revolutionary by S.G.F. Brandon (1967), as a magician by Morton Smith (1978), as a Galilean charismatic by Geza Vermes (1981. 1984), and a Galilean Rabbi by Bruce Chilton (1984), as Hillelite or proto-Pharisee by Harvey Falk (1985), as an Essene by Harvey Falk (1985), and as an eschatological prophet by E.P. Sanders (1985) … But that stunning diversity is an academic embarrassment. It is impossible to avoid the suspicion that historical Jesus research is a very safe place to do theology and call it history, to do autobiography and call it biography.” (from John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant, xxviii, in Hector Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, 198)

    REply: Actually, I say they’re one-sided in that they all affirm that Jesus existed. Sure there’s debate on who he was and his self-understanding, but not his existence.

    Btw, I notice you cite your source secondhand by going with Avalos. Have you ever read Crossan on the Historical Jesus? I have. Have you ever read any scholars that disagree with you on the historical Jesus?

    One final note. I notice you’re defending Boghossian’s book and you haven’t even read it.

    Why defend a book you’ve never read?

  8. apologianick Says:

    Tildeb: To counter Nick’s claim that biblical scholarship is one-sided. It’s not; scepticism is warranted.

    Reply: My claim is that it’s one sided on the existence of a historical Jesus. There is no debate about that.

    I have never said it’s one-sided in regards to miracles. How could it be since a large portion if not a majority of SBL is non-Christian?

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