Posts Tagged ‘Boghossian’

Defend The Faith Conference Day 1

January 6, 2015

What’s going on at the Defend the Faith 2015 Conference? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you’re noticed my presence on Facebook has been lacking lately, it’s because I’ve been at the 2015 Defend The Faith Conference in New Orleans. It’s been a big thrill for me. The only other time I’ve been west of the Mississippi was as a small child when I was visiting Memphis and we went across it just so I could say that I had been in Arkansas once.

The day started off with a great talk by Douglas Groothius. He spoke on the necessity for God in order to have a foundation for moral law in society. It relied on an essay that was actually written by the atheist Arthur Leff. The talk left us all a lot to think about including the increasing danger that is going on in a society that wants to give more and more power to the state.

After that came one of my best moments. Finally, I got to meet the one and only Tim McGrew.

NickandTim

Tim McGrew is the professor of philosophy at Western Michigan University. In fact, when he was introduced later this evening, it was said that he had fan boys and some people had traveled for miles just wanting to meet Tim McGrew. I turned to Allie and said I couldn’t help but wonder who would be so excited about traveling for miles to meet Tim McGrew. In the Christian Apologetics Alliance, McGrew is a legend.

Meeting him was a thrill because he is also so much of what I want to be. Do I mean all the knowledge he’s gathered over the years? Obviously. But I include in it that Tim has a great heart. He has become one of my dear friends who I can turn to when I’m in need and the investment he’s put into my own self has been stellar and I hope to be able to give back to others the way Tim has to me someday.

He and Tom Gilson gave a talk then on Peter Boghossian, quite appropriate since on Unbelievable?, Tim had massacred Boghossian’s chickens. Gilson and McGrew showed how Boghossian is trying to dissuade people with his street epistemology. I’ve written on Boghossian’s work myself. Boghossian does want an army of street epistemolgists who I have also had run-ins with. The church is blessed to have a presentation like that of Gilson and McGrew’s that shows the problems with Boghossian’s approach.

After lunch, we went to some break-out sessions. I wish I could talk about them all, but I can’t, but for those interested it is my understanding they will all be available online afterwards. The first one we went to was by Tawa Anderson. At this point, I had left every choice to my wife since I wanted to see what she’d be interested in. She made a fine first choice. It was a talk on worldview thinking and I was highly pleased to see it involve a scene from the Matrix. Worldview thinking is extremely foundational and so many people just miss it.

Next was a talk by Justin Langford. This one dealt with the topic of forgery in the NT. I have reviewed Bart Ehrman’s book as well here and here. Langford did something interesting in showing us two texts and have us guess which one was canonical. I must confess that I did not get each one right. To be fair, the first one did throw me some since I recognized Jude but knew he was quoting 1 Enoch which left me wondering a bit. We also had a good discussion on if a new book had been found and we knew it had been written by Paul should we accept it into the canon. I argued no since part of it was recognition by the church universal. Someone else answered yes. I think Langford went more for my side, but it was an interesting discussion.

Finally, we went to a talk by Tim McGrew and Tom Gilson that turned out to be about how we could do apologetics faithfully. McGrew asked us what we would like if we could have one wish that would help our ministries. I answered financial stability, which I think several people resonated with. Allie asked about how she could incorporate apologetics into her art. McGrew really liked her question and is still thinking about it.

The evening ended with McGrew giving a talk on how not to read the NT which dealt with Jesus Interrupted and yes, I have responded to that as well. McGrew gave a devastating presentation that showed that Ehrman quite frankly isn’t really honest with the data a number of times. It was quite a thrill also to have him refer to my work on Raphael Lataster. It’s a great way to see members of the body working together and building one another up.

On our way back to the hotel, we also got to ride some with James Walker of Watchman Fellowship. Expect him to show up on a future episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

Overall, we’re having a great time here in Louisiana at the conference. That’s about all I can say here. It’s getting late and I’m tired so we’re going on to bed because we have to get up early for another day of apologetics tomorrow. I have been pleased with this conference so far and I suggest if you’re interested in apologetics, try to make it out next year.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Tim McGrew vs. Peter Boghossian

May 26, 2014

What did I think of the debate on Unbelievable? Let’s talk about it on the Deeper Waters Podcast.

Recently on the Unbelievable podcast hosted by Justin Brierley, there was a debate between Tim McGrew and Peter Boghossian. The subject was Boghossian’s book “A Manual For Creating Atheists” which I have reviewed here. It was my high hopes that Tim McGrew, a real professor of epistemology, would be the one to expose Boghossian before a listening world.

Request granted.

Boghossian could not reply to a single source that Tim McGrew had on the meaning of faith. Boghossian defined it as “belief without evidence” or “pretending to know things you don’t know.” McGrew defined it as “trust in evidence.” All Boghossian was able to use was his “personal experience” of talking to Christians. McGrew said his experience was different. Now of course, when two people get together who have different personal experiences, then they need to look for something outside of their personal experience. McGrew went to the Oxford English Dictionary and how it shows that faith is best to be understood as trust. Boghossian could not counter this nor did he ever even attempt to. For Boghossian, he was just repeating the same refrain again and again about what he encountered.

Now I don’t doubt that there are many Christians who have a false view of faith, but is that really the way to say you’re going to go around creating atheists? Boghossian says atheism is a result of critical thinking. Of course, if atheism is true, critical thinkers should be atheists, but that is the very premise in question. Is atheism true and you don’t say “I’m an atheist, therefore I’m a critical thinker” or “X is a Christian, therefore X isn’t practicing critical thinking” nor could the reverse apply.

McGrew points out at the end that he could not define atheists as people who are ignorant about reality because they deny God exists. Now of course, if God does exist, then atheists are ignorant about reality, but that would be a terrible way to define an atheist before the debate even gets started and every atheist should rightly call McGrew on that if he does that, as McGrew himself agreed.

Boghossian also asked McGrew if he had read the Koran which no doubt gave the shocking reply of “Yes.” He went on to name other holy books that he has read. I am quite confident in my position that McGrew has read far more scholarly works that he disagrees with than Boghossian has.

Boghossian also wanted to know if the Muslims believe without evidence that Muhammad flew on a horse. McGrew rightly answered that they do not. They point to what they think is the beauty and elegance of the Koran and conclude it is a divine work and then trust it. Is that conclusion right? Of course, McGrew and Boghossian and myself don’t think so, but that does not mean that Muslims lack a reason or what they think is evidence for their claims.

This is an important distinction McGrew kept coming back to. What matters most is what one counts as evidence and what is considered reliable. One could even agree with the conclusion and disagree with the evidence presented. Suppose I meet someone who is a Christian and says they are because the Holy Spirit just told them that Jesus rose from the dead. I would really want them to have something more than that, but I cannot deny that they have reached the right conclusion.

Boghossian wanted to know about the difference between faith and hope. McGrew pointed out that faith is when you’re willing to act in a way where you’re venturing something. You can’t absolutely 100% prove something but you’re going by evidence. This is a mistake I think Boghossian doesn’t realize. He had said you needed to examine every religious worldview before you could choose one. No. You just need sufficient evidence to choose one.

For instance, if that is the case, Boghossian no doubt considers himself a macroevolutionist, yet he has said he is not an evolutionary biologist. Before siding on his worldview, is he going to go out and examine every claim of say, young-earth creationism, before he’s willing to sign on the line of evolutionary biologist? He has said he is now studying the Koran. Does that mean he chose a position on God, namely that He does not exist, before studying all the evidence?

If the only way we can reach any decision is by studying all the evidence, no one will ever conclude anything. There are always books that are going to be unread. There will be arguments unheard and in fact, arguments unanswered. What one has to say is “On the whole, which explanation best explains all the evidence.”

To get back to faith and hope again, McGrew used the illustration of sky diving with the statistic that over 99% of people who jump out of a plane while skydiving land safely. The person who jumps is still venturing something. He needs more than just “I hope my instructor packed the parachute properly.” He needs to have good reason to think it was done that way. Then he acts and that act is referred to as faith. Boghossian is right one point. Faith is not an epistemology. He’s wrong on the point that he always treats it that way and unfortunately, his whole book is built on this false premise.

Also noteworthy is Boghossian’s view on how people of faith should be treated. Faith for Boghossian should be classified as a mental disorder and a virus of the mind and the person who is trying to reason someone out of their worldview is doing an intervention. It is hard to see how Boghossian is not just outright dehumanizing his opponents. For all the talk Boghossian has about practicing doxastic openness, it looks like he needs to learn some.

This means Boghossian is a bully and in fact, one of the worst kinds of bullies. He thinks those of us who are Christians are wrong. Okay. I get that. That is not being a bully. I have several friends who think the same way. What’s next is that he thinks that we automatically have a mental illness. This is when we start getting into bigotry. If that was where it stayed, that would be bad enough, but it is not. In his own book he says to treat faith as a public health crisis. He says that there are things we cannot do obviously due to freedoms we have here, like the freedom of speech, but it is scary to think about what Boghossian would do if he had power in a country like a Muslim country or in a place like Russia where those little restrictions didn’t get in the way.

Even worse is that Boghossian is not basing this on evidence. If his interventionist strategy works so well, why did it not work here? The simple reason is Boghossian is just highly uninformed and has unfortunately convinced himself that he is right. He is engaging in what I call atheistic presuppositionalism.

This is the idea that right at the start, he is right and a critical thinker by virtue of being an atheist. If anyone else disagrees, they are obviously not engaging in critical thinking and there must be some reason why they don’t see the light. Perhaps they are “Suppressing the truth in faithfulness” or “Their eyes are blinded by a bias they do not see and they need the scales removed from their eyes.” Either way, Boghossian knows he cannot be wrong because of his personal experience with walking his life of atheism for years and because of the inner testimony of his “voice of reason.”

In fact, it’s the same for some of Boghossian’s biggest fans who just can’t bring themselves to admit that Boghossian got, as one skeptic put it, his chickens slaughtered by McGrew. A sad example of such a fan who cannot seem to accept this reality can be seen here and you can see my comments to him on the blog.

Boghossian has strangely enough said he’s interested in a round two. We would like to see it, but it is certainly clear that Boghossian is going to have to improve his game dramatically before he steps into the ring again with McGrew. Perhaps it would help if Boghossian practiced more doxastic openness and avoided his idea of “Avoid facts.” For now, all he has his personal testimony while McGrew and those like him have data from scholarly sources. Therefore, by Boghossian’s own standards, Boghossian should be sitting at the kid’s table until he can bring forward some facts.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Interacting With Street Epistemologists

March 26, 2014

What’s been my experience so far interacting with Street Epistemologists? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was asked by an apologetics group I belong to to describe what has been my experience thus far dealing with street epistemologists. You see, I was thrilled when I heard Peter Boghossian, author of “A Manual For Creating Atheists” (which I have reviewed here and interviewed Tom Gilson on here) had decided to come out with a show called the Reason Whisperer where he plans to have live conversations with people of “faith” and get them closer at least to deconversion.

I think this is a Godsend really.

I’ve long been waiting to see if there is something that will wake up the church from its intellectual slumbers and this I hope is it! We’ve had more than enough warnings and yet too many Christians are too caught up in themselves to realize they’re to do the Great Commission.

So I wanted to see what these street epistemologists were made of. Myself and some others with the same interest went to the Facebook page of Peter Boghossian. There we began asking questions and challenging what was said. It’s noteworthy that Boghossian himself never responded to us.

In fact, one post at least was a practical dare on Boghossian’s part when he linked to Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman and said the apologists won’t post on this one. He sure was wrong! More of us posted than ever before!

I’d like to report on how that has kept going and that Boghossian is being answered every day, but alas, I cannot.

Why? Because he banned us all.

Keep in mind, this is the same one who sees a great virtue in “doxastic openness.”

What I did find from the interactions I had is that street epistemologists are woefully unequipped. They read only that which agrees with them. They will buy into any idea if it goes against Christianity. The Earth was believed to be flat? Sure! I’ll believe that! Jesus never existed? Sure! I’ll believe that! Not having the originals of an ancient document is a problem? Sure! I’ll believe that! I still think about the person who recommended I read “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross”, a book so bad that even the publisher apologized for it.

For street epistemologists also, science is the highest way of knowing anything. Now this is something understandable. If matter is all there is, then the best way to understand the world is to use a process that studies matter specifically. The problem is science can never determine that matter is all that there is any more than it could have determined that all swans were white. Science is an inductive process and while one can be certain of many of the claims, one cannot say they have 100% certainty.

Edward Feser has compared the use of science to a metal detector at the beach. Let’s suppose I was looking for a treasure map I’d heard had been buried at the beach. I go all over the local beach with a metal detector and say “Well I guess the map isn’t here. The detector never pointed it out.” Sure. I found several other objects that had some metal in them, but I never found the treasure map.

You would rightly think this is bizarre. After all, a map is made of paper and while a metal detector does a great job of picking up objects that are metal, it simply will not work with paper. This is not because a metal detector is a terrible product. It is because it is not the right tool for the job.

So it is that in order to determine if matter is all that there is or if there is a God, science is not the tool for the job. Now some might think science can give us some data that we can use, but it cannot be the final arbiter.

Yet for street epistemologists, it seems enough to just say “Science!” and that rules out everything else that’s religious. This would be news to many scientists who are devout Christians and see no disconnect between science and their worldview.

Yet here, the street epistemologists once again have an out. It is why I in fact call them atheistic presuppositionalists. They will simply say that these people are experiencing a kind of cognitive dissonance. They are compartmentalizing themselves and not seeing that their worldviews contradict.

This would be news to someone like Alister McGrath, Francis Collins, or John Polkinghorne.

As I said, these only read what agrees with them. They will read Bart Ehrman on the Bible, but they will not read Metzger or Wallace in response. They will read Boghossian and follow him entirely, but they will not bother to read his critics. They will read about how people in the Middle Ages thought the Earth was flat, but they will not read James Hannam’s book on the matter, see Thomas Madden’s scholarship there, or even read the atheist Tim O’Neill who disagrees with them.

Street epistemologists will also go with extreme positions. They will tout on and on about how Jesus never existed and only say “Richard Carrier” or “Robert Price” in response. They will not acknowledge that the majority of scholarship, even scholarship that ideologically disagrees with Christianity, says it’s certain that Jesus existed. They do not realize that biblical scholarship is an open field where anyone of any worldview can join and writings go through peer-review.

Interestingly, these same people will go after Christians for not believing in evolution because, wait for it, there’s a consensus that this happened! The consensus of scientists is to be trusted. The consensus of scholars in the NT and ancient history is not to be trusted!

Also, if you do not hold to their view, well you are obviously emotional in nature in some way since you only believe because you want to believe and because of how you feel. It never occurs to some people that there could be intellectual reasons. In fact, it follows the pattern that if they don’t think the reasoning is intelligent, then it is just emotional.

It’s in fact a direct contrast to what is often said in many religious circles. “Well you’re just living in sin and are blinded to the truth.” Now I don’t doubt for some atheists, they don’t want to give up an immoral lifestyle. Also, I don’t doubt that for too many Christians, their only basis for being a Christian is how they feel and an emotional experience. Both of these groups have reached their conclusions for the wrong reasons.

Yet psychoanalyzing is seen as an argument to street epistemologists. If they can say you just believe for emotional reasons, then they can dismiss what you say. Note that it is dismissal. It is not a response.

I consider this a form I see of what I call atheistic hubris. Note please as well that this does not mean all atheists are this way. It just means that there’s a sizable portion of what I call “internet atheists” that are this way. The idea is that if someone is an atheist, then they are rational and intelligent. Therefore, all their thinking is rational and intelligent and all their conclusions are rational and intelligent.

The reality is we must all be constantly watching ourselves and one of the best ways to do this is to read our critics. Our critics will show us our blind spots and if we are wrong, we are to change our minds accordingly with the evidence.

An excellent example of something Boghossian and others constantly get wrong is faith. Boghossian says it is believing without evidence or pretending to know something that you do not know. Now in a modern vocabulary, I don’t doubt this. Too many Christians use faith this way and treat this kind of faith as if it is a virtue. It isn’t.

The question is, when the Bible uses the word faith, does it mean this? The answer is no.

In all of the writings I’ve read by the new atheists speaking this way about faith, not one of them has ever consulted a Greek or NT Lexicon in order to make their case. They have just said that this is what the word means. Oh they’ll sometimes quote Hebrews 11:1, but a text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext. I have also given my own exegesis of what the passage means here.

Also, I do have another great source on what faith is.

Faith/Faithfulness

“These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.”

As it stands, the most I get told to this is that it is an appeal to authority, which indicates that street epistemologists don’t even understand the appeal to authority. Strange for people who claim to champion logic.

Sadly, they’re just following in the footsteps of Boghossian himself. Boghossian’s techniques will not work for any Christian who is moderately prepared to defend his worldview. It’s a shame that he who teaches so much about doxastic openness is so often incapable of doing what he teaches.

I conclude that if this is what we can expect from street epistemologists, then we really have nothing to be concerned about with them. Street epistemologists are just as unthinkingly repeating what their pastor, in this case Boghossian, says to them, as the fundamentalist Christians that they condemn. They are really two sides of the same coin.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: A Manual For Creating Atheists

January 20, 2014

Manualforcreatingatheists

What do I think of Peter Boghossian’s book on creating atheists? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Boghossian’s book in the past month or so has been the subject of great conversation on the internet. Why is this the case? Is it because there’s a new argument in here? No. There’s nothing new. Is it because there’s a really powerful demonstration of atheism in here? No. That’s not here also. It’s because now, Boghossian claims to have a way to apply principles of critical thinking and train others in them so that they can become “street epistemologists” with the goal of deconverting others.

Unfortunately, what I’ve seen is that these epistemologists are thoroughly unequipped for the job, and it’s no surprise because the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

And yet at the same time, I found great confirmation for so much of what I’ve been saying for years. I have for years been correcting Christians on their definition of faith. I have been telling them that their testimonies will not be persuasive to many skeptics out there and to avoid emphasizing their feelings, and in fact I’d prefer they not discuss feelings altogether. I’ve also been encouraging them to study, and not just the Bible, but good history and philosophy and any other field they have a passion for.

Well now those proverbial chickens are coming home to roost.

In fact, Boghossian wants to start a show called “The Reason Whisperer” where he will show conversations with the faithful seeking to deconvert them. If this show takes off, I have high hopes that he will come to my church. I really want to see that.

So to get to the meat of the matter, how is a street epistemologist supposed to do his job? He starts with faith and it all goes downhill from there. Boghossian defines faith as “belief without evidence” or “Pretending to know things that you do not know.”

In this section, he also talks about deepities. These are statements that sound profound, but are really meaningless. An example that he gives of this is Hebrews 11:1, a passage that Boghossian does not understand, probably because he didn’t really look into any major commentaries on the work. (You know, what we call, looking for evidence)

Therefore, Boghossian has the deck stacked in advance. Want to make a statement about faith? The street epistemologist is to read it as saying one of the two things Boghossian says it is. There is no concept that perhaps the other person might have a different definition. Perhaps the other person has done proper exegesis and study of the Greek word pistis to show that it more accurately refers to loyalty in the face of evidence that has been provided.

Boghossian regularly sees faith as a way of knowing. It is not. No one should know anything by faith. Faith is rather a response to what has been shown. The medievals would hold, for instance, that you could know that God exists on the basis of argumentation that was deductive, such as the five ways of Aquinas. They held that you believed that God was a Trinity, since this could not be known by reason alone but required trust in revelation. You can know historically that Jesus died on the cross. You believe that He died for your sins on that cross.

Unfortunately, Boghossian does not have any understanding of this and this straw man runs throughout the whole book. As soon as any street epistemologist comes across anyone who knows better, then they are caught in a bind. It is a shame also that Boghossian insists that these are the definitions of the word, since he is the one who encourages practicing “doxastic openness” which we shall get to later.

Boghossian gives a brief look at the resurrection which starts off with saying that it is assumed that a historical Jesus existed. For atheists who always want to talk about evidence, it amazes me that so many of them buy into this Christ-myth idea. To go to studies of ancient history and the NT and say Jesus never existed is on par to going to a geologist convention and telling them that the Earth is flat.

Boghossian says even if you grant the burial and the empty tomb, there are all number of ways to explain it, including the theory of space aliens. All of them require faith because of insufficient evidence. Any interaction with a Habermas, Licona, or Wright in this? Nope. We should ask Boghossian what methodology he took to arrive at this conclusion. By what methodology should street epistemologists accept it? Will it be a faith claim?

On page 28, Boghossian says that not a single argument for God’s existence has withstood scrutiny. He lists the five ways of Aquinas, Pascal’s Wager, the ontological argument, the fine-tuning argument, and the Kalam. He is emphatic that these are all failures and has an end note for that.

So when you go there, what will you find? Will you find a listing of works where these arguments were refuted? No. Will you find descriptions saying why these arguments are problematic? No. What will you find? A long statement on epistemologies?

On what grounds am I to believe these arguments have all been refuted? Boghossian’s say so? Is that the way a critical thinker should work?

Boghossian also says believers are told that ignorance is a mark of virtue and closeness to God. Sadly, I’m sure this is the case for several. In reality, if this is the Christianity Boghossian wishes to take down, more power to him there. I’ve been trying to take down this kind of Christianity for years. It has nothing to do with what Jesus taught and what the church has defended intellectually. Several decades ago in fact, the church was repeatedly warned the greatest threat to the church was anti-intellectualism.

It is at the end of the third chapter that we start seeing interventions, these are dialogues that Boghossian tells us about. The only one worth mentioning is a professor at an evangelical university who goes unnamed. Unfortunately, we have no idea what he teaches so I don’t know why we should take his opinion seriously. Most of these interventions consist of talking to people who I have no reason to believe are informed on their faith. It’s a reminder of what Bill Maher did in Religulous. It is like saying to tune in when a bodybuilder takes down a little old lady in a street fight.

Also in this chapter, he talks about doxastic openness. Closure is when someone is impervious to a reasoned argument and will not change their beliefs. The sad reality is this is a good description of street epistemologists and as we will see later on, Boghossian himself.

I fully think we should all be open to seeing if our beliefs are wrong. It is why I, as a Christian, have changed my stance on numerous issues over the years. This is something quite simple to do when your positions are based on evidence and argumentation.

One could think Boghossian has this view since in chapter 4, he does say to be willing to reconsider and be open to the idea that the faithful know something you don’t. (Such as the proper definition of faith in its proper social and historical context. Those who study the language might know this better than someone like Boghossian who does not.)

Interestingly, one of his strategies in this chapter is to avoid facts.

I’m not kidding. p. 71 and part II. The heading is “Avoid Facts.”

This strikes me as odd. If I am supposed to change my worldview, aren’t the facts relevant to that? Boghossian says that if people believed on the basis of evidence, they wouldn’t be where they are today. Isn’t this part of the doxastic closeness that he earlier condemns? Could it be the evidence just might be on the side of the Christian. Maybe I’m wrong on that of course, but should we not be open?

Boghossian says it is how we arrive at our conclusions that matter. Now I do agree this is important to discuss. Yet I tell people I am an empiricist. Knowledge begins with sense experience. I use that to reason to God. (Say the ways of Aquinas for instance.) Then with history, I try to read the best scholarship on both sides of the issue in forming an opinion on what happened to Jesus. I am also actively reading what I disagree with, such as Boghossian’s book, to see if I might have missed anything.

Does Boghossian fault that procedure?

Now Boghossian could say my conclusion is reached in advance and I have confirmation bias, but that needs to be shown rather than just asserted. The best way to show it if my methodology is sound is to show how I am not following it properly and that is done by looking at the evidence.

It is amusing to see him say Gary Habermas reached his position by starting with the divinity of Christ and the truth of Scripture and reasoning backwards. Anyone who has heard Habermas speak on doubt before knows that this is not the case. Knowing him personally, I have heard far more than most readers I am sure and know about the hours he spent agonizing over questions and not being wiling to commit to Christianity. He was quite close to being a Buddhist in fact.

It is a wonder where Boghossian gets his information then. Did he just assume it? Has he taken a faith position?

In actuality, what this can allow Boghossian to do is to discount any opinion that disagrees with him by claiming “confirmation bias.” The problem is anyone else could do the same with Boghossian’s position. A Christian could say “Well of course he’s not going to let the evidence lead him to God. He doesn’t want that.”

For example, let’s suppose there was an atheist who held to his atheism for known emotional reasons. Let’s suppose these were reasons such as he grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and hated his parents and everything to do with Christianity. Let’s also suppose he wants to sleep with any girl he meets and knows that Christianity would require him to give that up. This man has reasons to want to be an atheist that can cloud how he views the evidence. I don’t think anyone would doubt this.

Does that mean that he’s wrong?

No. The only way you know if he’s right or wrong is by looking at the evidence.

This is also shown with Boghossian in, like I said, he does not practice doxastic openness. For instance, he has been asked what it would take to make him believe, he uses a line from Lawrence Krauss. If he walked out at night and saw all the stars in the sky aligned to say “I am God communicating with you, believe in Me!” and every human being worldwide saw this in their native language, this would be suggestive. (He adds it would be far from conclusive. It could be a delusion.)

Yes. This is from the one who says we should practice doxastic openness.

What does this mean? It means formulating an argument for God’s existence will not work with Boghossian. What he requires for himself is a personal experience, and even then a grand personal experience is only suggestive. Why should anyone attempt to reason with someone like Boghossian who says the arguments won’t convince him but that it will require a personal experience?

Shouldn’t we go with the arguments instead of personal experience?

The sixth chapter spends much on interventions, including arguments over a topic such as if the universe had a beginning. Boghossian has this idea that an eternal universe would mean no God. I, meanwhile, say I’m willing to grant an eternal multiverse. What is needed is to explain not just its existence but its act of existing.

Seeing as I plan to focus more later, I’m going to move on to chapter 8, because in many ways I found this an excellent chapter. I really appreciated Boghossian’s viewpoints on relativism and the modern definition of tolerance being bogus and the problem with adding “o-phobia” to something.

Boghossian is certainly right that ideas need to be open to criticism and if he says “faith ideas” need to be open, I fully agree! In fact, I am one who goes out in public really hoping someone will see me reading a book by an atheist and think I’m one and try to talk me out of it, or see me reading a book about the resurrection of Jesus and try to talk to me out of that. I have always said that I want us to just come together and discuss the evidence and let Christianity work in the marketplace of ideas. Which case should we go with? Whoever brings forward the best arguments and evidences.

I also agree with what is said about faith-based claims. Those students who stand up in class and have nothing else to say except “The Bible says” are a sign of a problem that we have. It is not a problem with the Bible, but with a claim on how Christian education is done. It has too long been made that Christians are just told what the Bible says. Say anything about why you should trust the Bible? Nope. Say anything about worldviews that oppose the Bible? Nope. It’s part of what I’ve called the escapist mentality.

In fact, that’s what’s so ironic about Boghossian’s book. There is much in there that I could agree with generally on reasoning, and ironically, much of the attitudes that he sees in the faithful are the same attitudes that I see in the faithless. The atheists I meet more often than not have a hubris built into them where they think they are rational and right by virtue of being an atheist. I will also not deny many Christians have that same mindset to them as well.

As I plan to write on this further, I will conclude at this point by saying that Boghossian is someone to take seriously, not because he has new information, but because he is an evangelist for atheism that is seeking to make other evangelists. Boghossian would say someone like me is upset about a show like “The Reason Whisperer.” On the contrary, I am thrilled about it. I adore it whenever something like this happens. The Da Vinci Code, The New Atheists, and now this. Hopefully more and more soon the church will wake up and realize it needs to get up and do something and actually start learning what we believe. I think a show like this could be the shot in the arm the church needs. Of course, if the church does not wake up soon, I think it will only be around for about another generation or so in America.

The reality is the arguments are still simple to deal with and the street epistemologists are thoroughly unequipped in their quest. The problem on the side of the church is not lack of information. The problem is desire to have that information and awareness of the problem a lack of information causes. When someone abandons the life of the mind, it is sad. When a Christian does it, it is a travesty.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

For more information see the following:

My look at Hebrews 11:1

The Escapist Mentality