Book Plunge: Godless Part 4

Where does a preacher go after they apostasize? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So now that Barker is no longer a preacher, what’s he to do with himself? Part of what he does he says is to continue growing with nicely pointing out that religious conservatives don’t want to move on. This is after saying that for some, growth and progress are a threat. You see, those of us who are religious conservatives have always resisted progress because we’d rather hold on to tradition.

Okay Barker. Just because you were like this does not mean the rest of us are. It’s a comment like this that makes me sure that Barker holds to the Dark Ages myth as well. If you’re a religious conservative like myself and reading this blog, this I hope means you are interested in growth and progression.

Of course, the word progress is tricky. Yet I think it is trickier for the atheist than for the theist. Progress implies a goal, a purpose, something to move towards. That also implies that each of us has a nature and progress is befitting that nature. This is much easier to account for on theism where such things can be grounded in an eternal mind. For many, progress is defined as just going where you want. But what if man has a specific nature and a specific end and it might not be based on what we want but what we need? Could that not change things?

To get back to Barker, Barker is clear that he is still in essence a preacher. He just preaches a different gospel, though it could hardly be called a gospel. He now does this as part of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He talks about doing several debates, with most notably saying that his first one was in Nashville and it was on the topic of the historicity of Jesus. It’s revealing to know that when Barker pulled a 180, he immediately went to the total fringe extreme on the opposite side of the spectrum. (As we’ll find later in the book, he has a whole chapter devoted to arguing Jesus never existed.)

Barker also has a statement in here saying “Faith is what you need when you don’t have certainty. The more you learn, the less you need to believe.” This would be news to all the epistemologists out there who hold that whatever knowledge is, it is at least justified true belief. Even if we bring up the Gettier Problem, there is still agreement that knowledge is at least these three things. Why so many atheists like Barker want to put this radical dichotomy between knowledge and belief up is a mystery.

As will be no shock to anyone, Barker also does not have any clue what faith is. For all the talk that I hear about definitions like this and that faith is believing something without evidence, I just wish that I could get some evidence for this position. I guess those who espouse it just want me to take it on faith and ignore all the evidence to the contrary. Again, Barker is just assuming his old mindset is the same as Christians today. Sorry, but most of us are not that fundamentalist as Barker was and still is.

One other point is that during a debate, Barker asked a Christian “If God told you to kill me, would you?” What Barker misses is that when Christians are to think God is telling them something, it’s not because we’re driving down the road and get an impression that we should turn in various directions until we realize we’re in the middle of nowhere and then think God is congratulating us for testing our faith. (Incidentally, this happened to Barker.)

In fact, in their book Did God Really Command Genocide?, Copan and Flannagan spend a chapter on this. They point out that there must be strong evidence that God is behind it, this evidence needs to be public, and it needs to be verified by miracles of such a scope that they call them G2 miracles. These are miracles that you can be sure are not just sleight of hand but are actually the work of a supreme being.

In describing his debate with Swinburne, he states that he argued that God is not a simple being but infinitely complex. Barker makes the same mistake that Dawkins does. He assumes God must be like a material being and thus have composition, such as a massive brain that connects this part of God to that. This has not been the historical view of the church. Indeed, we have said God is simple. He is simple in that He is not made of parts. It is not that He is easy to understand.

Barker also tells of another debate where he says theistic claims are not falsifiable and if a statement is to be seen as true, there must be other statements that if true would make that false. Does this follow? Is the principle of falsifiability falsifiable? If so, then perhaps the principle is wrong. If not, then the principle itself cannot be true. Barker could not have it be both ways. Besides, it seems odd to show that he thinks it is not falsifiable when he has done debates on the existence of God.

But besides that, it still doesn’t matter. Theism is falsifiable. You can show a necessary contradiction in the nature of God or give another positive disproof for his existence. You can also try to show that there are fallacies in all of the theistic arguments. The latter would not show that theism is false, but it would show that theism was believed for poor reasons. Yet it gets worse for Barker’s case as he goes on to say

“Falsifiability cuts both ways, of course. I am often asked what would cause me to change my mind. “What would you accept as proof that there is a God?” I can think of dozens of examples. If you were to tell me that God predicted to you that next March 14 at 2:27 a.m. a meteorite composed of 82 percent iron, 13 percent nickel and 3 percent iridium, approaching from the southwest and hitting the Earth at an angle of 82 degrees, would strike your house (not mine, of course), penetrating the building, punching a hole through your Navajo rug upstairs and the arm of the couch downstairs, ending up 17.4 inches below the basement floor and weighing 13.5 ounces, and if that happened as predicted, I would take that as serious evidence that atheism is falsified. If Jesus would materialize in front of a debate audience, captured on videotape, and if he were to tell us exactly where to dig in Israel to find the ark of the covenant containing the original stone tablets given to Moses—well, you get the idea. Atheism is exquisitely vulnerable to disproof. Theism is not”

So please note this. Barker wants theists to tell some evidence that would change their mind. What evidence does he say would change his mind? Something no theist could provide. That means already that if I were to debate Dan Barker, he’s already set the bar for what would count as falsifiable evidence of atheism and it’s not rational argument. Instead, it’s dependent on his having an experience.

As I have said before, this is atheistic presuppositionalism.

Barker also claims at one debate that he had a list of 75 highly qualified Bible scholars, most of them believing Christians with at least one Ph.D. in biblical languages and other subjects related to the topic. He also showed where they taught at and that each of them is convinced the resurrection is a legend or a myth.

One would like to see such a list. For one thing, if they’re Christians, they do not hold that stance. A believing Christian is one who believes Jesus rose from the dead. I cannot help but be suspicious of this and wonder if this is anything like Ken Humphreys had in his debate with me. When he told me he had a list of scholars who upheld his view of the Gospels, I asked him for that list. Knowing what list he was speaking of, I asked his definition of a scholar. That’s when the wiggling really started.

Maybe someday I’ll get to see this list.

For now, we’re going to let this be a wrap-up. Next time we post on this, we’ll have a look at why Barker is an atheist.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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8 Responses to “Book Plunge: Godless Part 4”

  1. alegler Says:

    I am reading this book right now too and I have to disagree with what you say about atheistic presuppositionalism. I think Barker goes a long way to show how he fought being atheist but that once he decided on it, the way he saw faith and religion fit better in that paradigm. Just like the way Christians are more prone to fit things into their faith paradigm.

  2. Vincent S Artale Jr Says:

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

  3. David C. Says:

    I like what you said about the “trickiness” of the word “progress” in the opening of the article. Others have noted that progress is not always linear and is relative to the person pursuing it. It can have positive consequences for some and negative consequences for others. Dinesh D’Souza has noted that it has been said if termites could talk, they would call what they do progress.

    • apologianick Says:

      Certainly. Zuckerman did the same thing recently in an article on family and social values. Secular families can raise children with values! Those values conveniently happened to align with secularism! Funny how that works out!

      • jbsptfn Says:

        Especially when you consider where they probably get the values: From themselves, not God. That is the way the Atheist void is. You can fill it with anything you want.

      • alegler Says:

        jbsptfn,
        If you read atheist literature you see that that they make the case that atheists don’t just make up any ole values they want to feel the void but base it on what the natural consequences in nature would be. Such as, if a child disobeys his parents and runs into the street, he could get hit by a car. The obedience is for the sake of safety and health, not just because it’s a command. Barker does a good job of explaining this in this book.

  4. labreuer Says:

    Barker also has a statement in here saying “Faith is what you need when you don’t have certainty. The more you learn, the less you need to believe.”

    What a throwback to Descartes! Someone needs to read Stephen Toulmin’s Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity. Nobody has this kind of certainty, and the better educated people know it. The key word is Fallibilism, and even if it’s not 100% correct (I don’t think any picture of the thing is a perfect representation of the thing), it’s much better than Cartesian Doubt and the resultant ‘certainty’ which allegedly comes.

    One other point is that during a debate, Barker asked a Christian “If God told you to kill me, would you?”

    Welcome to Voluntarism, an attempt to protect the freedom of God via exploding any possible knowledge of his character, on our part. If Voluntarism is true, then Barker has a point. But if John 15:15 is true, then we can know what God’s will is [increasingly well], and thus have a clue when some things don’t match up with it. So yeah, down with Voluntarism and its concomitant naturalism, as Roger Olson well-criticizes in A much neglected basic choice in theology and The Almost Completely Unknown Difference that Makes All the Difference….

    Theism is falsifiable.

    Yep: 2 Tim 3:1–5. Well that doesn’t quite falsify it so much as say that if a congregation exhibits certain qualities, the Holy Spirit is not active and thus there may be no [appreciable] truth present.

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