Posts Tagged ‘Carrier’

Along Came Poly.

February 20, 2015

Comments have been moved here:http://deeperwaters.ddns.net/?p=8410

Does the covenant of marriage really matter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Two days ago on February 18th, prominent internet blogger Richard Carrier, who seems to be the answer to all conservative NT scholarship in the eyes of internet atheists everywhere, wrote a post about how he is coming out polyamorous.

So what does it mean to be polyamorous?

A visit to the Polyamory society defines it this way:

Polyamory is the nonpossessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultanously.  Polyamory emphasizes consciously choosing how many partners one wishes to be involved with rather than accepting social norms which dictate loving only one person at a time.  Polyamory is an umbrella term which integrates traditional mutipartner relationship terms with more evolved egalitarian terms.  Polyamory embraces sexual equality and all sexual orientations towards an expanded circle of spousal intimacy and love.  Polyamory is from the root words Poly meaning many and Amour meaning love hence “many loves” or Polyamory.  Of course, love itself is a rather ambiguous term, but most polys seem to define it as a serious, intimate, romantic, or less stable, affectionate bond which a person has with another person or group of persons.  This bond usually, though not necessarily always, involves sex.  Sexualove or eromance are other words which have been coined to describe this kind of love.  Other terms often used as synonyms for polyamory are responsible, ethical or intentional non-monogamy.

Now if you want to say as I seem to take it that this entails a desire to have sex with many people other than one’s own spouse, then I will tell you that there are many many people who I think are really polyamorous.

Namely, every male on the planet, including myself.

But you know, rather than admit that you’re a person who has to learn to practice self-control and rather than admit that maybe sex is meant to be between two people who make a covenant together, it’s often easier to just come up with a name for it and in fact define it as a sexual orientation. In fact, Carrier himself says this. “The ability to be more transparent, public, and open about my sexual orientation is a major part of what I’ve needed in my life.”

And note that. “What I’ve needed.”

Of course,we can’t overlook the fact that there truly is someone for whom to have great sympathy in this situation, and that’s his wife who he has said he is divorcing after twenty years. One can only imagine what is going on in Jen’s world right now and we as Christians should indeed pray for her. After all, she has invested twenty years of her life in a man only to have him leave her.

It’s especially tragic if one really thinks there is a need for multiple partners. It’s going to a woman and saying “You’re not enough for me. I need more than you.” That hits at the core of a woman’s identity very often. This is especially the case of a woman who wants to be a one and only and not simply one among many. Whether Jen falls into this category or not, I cannot say, but I can say I’m quite sure she’s not a happy camper right now and I mean this with all honesty. I have the greatest of sympathy right now for her in this and plan to keep her in my prayers.

We can also be sure Jen is another victim of the “It won’t hurt your marriage” line.

Remember this. When marriage gets hurt, it is not just marriage that hurts. It is real people that get hurt.

So how did all this start? Carrier has the answer:

Several years ago, after about seventeen years of marriage, I had a few brief affairs, because I found myself unequipped to handle certain unusual circumstances in our marriage, which I won’t discuss here because they intrude on my wife’s privacy. In the process of that I also came to realize I can’t do monogamy and be happy. Since this was going to come to light eventually, about two years ago I confessed all of this to Jen and told her I still love her but I would certainly understand if she wanted a divorce. Despite all the ways we work together and were happy together, this one piece didn’t fit anymore.

You see, most of us find ourselves unequipped to handle some events in our marriage, and when we do, we go and get the help we need. Why? We are absolutely devoted to the person we love and want to be the best that we can for them. It is for that reason that on Facebook, my wife and I both have set up marriage groups. Mine is for Christian men only and hers is for Christian women only. These are men and women who are married, engaged, dating, or planning to marry. In both groups, it is about learning to love our spouse the way we’re supposed to.

This is monogamous marriage? Is it hard work. You absolutely bet it is. It’s one of the greatest lessons in self-sacrifice you learn. It is indeed about dying to yourself and learning to live a life where you actually have to realize what it’s like to not only put one person’s good above your own, but you have to learn what it is to do so with one who is so radically different from you, and even if you marry someone very similar to you, their being of the opposite sex makes them really much more different than you realize.

Yes. It is hard work, but it is also worth it.

Now you can go out and form many relationships with many people on a sexual level and just never really get to know them but have a time of pleasure with them, but as for me, I have decided already I have no desire to go wading in the shallow waters of multiple women. I have decided to dive deep into the ocean of my one. The key to real sex, I am convinced, is not going to be some technique or your physique or anything like that. Now these are all fine in and of themselves. If married people want to try a new technique in the bedroom that they both agree to, that’s fine. If they want to get in better shape to please their spouse and be able to do more, that’s fine. But you know what will make it best? It will be the raw unbridled passion that each person has for the other as a passion. It is knowing that the other person wants you for you and not just for sex. Sex is the icing on the cake of having one another.

This is something I have to keep in mind. I have to look at Allie and make sure constantly that I am treating her right. Am I using Allie as a means to get sex, or is sex the means that I use to get Allie? There is a world of difference between the two. If all you want is sex, go out on the streets with enough money and you can get that pretty easily. If what you want is another person, well that requires a lot more.

For many of us, that requires a covenant.

And that is really the great tragedy here. A covenant has been broken. The reason given includes the following:

But one of those things is the mutual understanding that we aren’t compatible with each other.

Most of us find this out before twenty years of marriage, but it does conveniently come out after affairs.

In reality, are any of us really “compatible” with one another? We all will change in the relationship, but if you really love the person, you change with the other person in mind and seek to grow in love towards that other person. If your main focus is on yourself, you won’t think about the other person. Granted, all of us have some areas of self-interest in a relationship and none of us do perfect in it, but we should all seek to strive for that.

Carrier says about this that:

It actually doesn’t make a lot of sense to expect a monogamous relationship to last, given that it assumes the contra-factual that people never change. If we never changed, we would never be learning, never growing or improving as a person. Which is not a commendable goal. And as both members of a couple change, as unavoidably they will, and even if each changes for the better, statistically, just on a basic bell curve reasoning (and thus simply as a matter of mathematical necessity), half are still going to change divergently rather than convergently, so we could predict on that basis alone that half of all monogamies will become non-viable. Which oddly matches observation.

We might want to learn something from that.

This is news for people who did monogamy for centuries and found that for some strange reason, it seems to work pretty well. Could it be that the problem is not that monogamy is hard but that divorce is easy? It doesn’t take much to say “I give up” when things get difficult. In reality, as you change, you learn to love through the change. Divorce in that way becomes a way of saying “I can’t love you the way you are.” It really says nothing about the way the other person is. It says plenty about the person who makes the claim.

Is the other person hard to live with? So are you. Is the other person someone who can annoy you at times? You do the same to them. Is the other person someone who makes no sense to you at times? You don’t make sense to them at times. This is all part of the reality of the covenant. You made a promise to this person when you married them to love them forever and they trusted you in that promise. What does it mean to be the kind of person who breaks that promise?

Now does this mean divorce is never an option? No. There are sad cases where it is. Two such cases I can think of are abuse and adultery. And still in these cases, while divorce can be a necessity, particularly in the case of abuse, it is still a tragedy. None of us should really celebrate when a divorce takes place. We should all have great sorrow. Even if in the case of a woman better off than with an abusive husband, it is still sorrowful that a covenant was broken and a woman has to live with that. As I’ve said before, pray for Jen.

As for those of us who are Christians, let’s make this a favorite case to show Carrier wrong in by loving our spouses the way we’re supposed to and striving for that every day. If you’re in the field of apologetics and you’re able to refute Carrier, but you do not do the job of loving your spouse the way that Christ commands you to, I could call you a fine apologist, but I can’t say I’d call you a fine Christian.

To that end, we do need to establish better places in churches where men and women can come together. Men need to be able to connect with just men and talk about what is on our minds. Women need to have the same. In both cases, sexual issues should not be off the table. It seems often we talk about every aspect of marriage enrichment in church except the sexual one. That should definitely be discussed. Carrier’s embracing of polyamory should be a reminder to Christians that this stuff is becoming more and more acceptable. It’s not going to go away. We need to be prepared to handle it and not just with an apologetic defense of marriage, but a lived out defense of marriage.

Then of course, couples need to come together and be able to discuss the issues that they have, because all marriages have areas that can be improved on. The more we do this, the better able we are going to be to fulfill our duties as Christians. When I was dating Allie, I was studying philosophy. Now it’s New Testament, and I would change that part of what I said to her parents at the time that described my goal in life which is still the same. One goal is obvious, to get a Ph.D. in New Testament. The other goal? To get a Ph.D. in Allie. I want to be a student of learning who she is constantly and growing in my relationship with her more and more. Do I screw up at times? Obviously, but a mature man learns from his mistakes and strives to not repeat them. I just pray I be a mature man.

Keep in mind people that this is something that we should read about as a tragedy. I still do. The problem is not the institution of marriage. The problem is the people entering into it. Let’s try to change ourselves to be better at marriage. Too often we’re trying to change marriage to fit it to ourselves. If you are married, renew that drive today to be the best spouse that you can be.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How Jesus Passes The Outsider Test.

January 21, 2015

What do I think of David Marshall’s latest book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In the interest of admitting bias at the start, I will say I consider David a friend and he did send me this Ebook to review. I will still try to be as objective as I can, though I must admit the book is a joy and delight to read so it might not seem that way.

As I was going through Marshall’s book, I tried to think of a book that I could compare it to. Here we have a work dealing with the negative arguments of the day with a good touch of humor and stories and in simple layman terms that expresses the joy of who Jesus is. Mere Christianity as a comparison came to my mind a few times and I can’t help but wonder if a work like this if properly appreciated by the public could be a work like that of our own time.

In the book, Marshall is responding to John Loftus and his Outsider Test For Faith (OTF) as he calls it. Now Loftus has been criticized numerous times by even his fellow skeptics on this one, but still he trudges on with it. Marshall has taken a different approach and said “Let’s not go against the argument. In fact, let’s improve and refine it and see just how it is that Jesus stands in response to it.”

Marshall does remind us that this should change how we look at Jesus as well. We have made him so familiar and he quotes Dorothy Sayers in saying that we who follow Jesus have “declawed the lion of Judah and mad him a house-cat for pale priests and pious old ladies.” (Location 85)

Indeed, this is a benefit of Marshall’s book. You will come away from it with a greater wonder of exactly who Jesus is and frankly, that can be a sad rarity in many works today. We get so caught up in the academic side but Marshall’s book covers that as well as getting into the personal side which as I have said earlier, is because Marshall will regularly throw in some great humor and speak just like the man on the street speaks.

For an example of the humor, consider how he speaks about the OTF at location 378 and says “Is it simply an Ad Populum argument in a cowboy hat off the rack of the Fort Wayne, Indiana Wal-Mart?” For those of us who do know about Loftus and know about his signature cowboy hat, this is a passage that cannot really be read without cracking a smile and it comes at the reader unexpectedly. Regular dashes of humor like this keep the book moving smoothly. Michael Bird would be pleased.

It’s style like this that makes me think that this book could be easily read by non-Christians. Consider when talking about the sex market in Thailand at Location 905. Marshall says many Japanese and Westerners seemed welcome to the idea of the sex market. As Marshall says “And why not? Whatever feeble instinct we might have towards universal compassion, the male instinct for getting laid (our “selfish genes” on the prowl!) is visceral!”

Indeed it is, which is what makes the fact that Christianity has often overcome this so incredible. It is not because Christians are anti-sex, though no doubt some have been, but because Christians recognize the value of every human being, including the women that we are so often accused of being misogynistic towards. It is a Christianity that says every person is valuable for who they are that makes a Christian want to destroy the sex market.

Marshall also shows that he can have a touch of sarcastic humor and get his point across. In a criticism of Hector Avalos who actually thinks Luke 14:26 means that Jesus taught us to hate our family, Marshall says “And that was the only such passage Avalos could locate. With a little imagination, cults are largely (able) to find more convincing proof texts to show Jesus eloped and ran off to France to start a dynasty, or rode to Earth on the comet Haley-Bopp. But perhaps the best response to Avalos’ entire attack on the Christian tradition lies in Jesus’ own words also in Luke: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!’ (Luke 23:34)”

I could go on throughout but there are several places this occurs. That being said, what are many of the main arguments.

I will not cover everything and certainly not in the same detail. Marshall starts with the boldness with which Christianity spread and it must be said that aside from Jesus’s followers, everyone was an outsider at this point, and yet this outsider religion which would have been viewed with suspicion due to its being new was within a few centuries the dominant faith and began to go on to shape Western Civilization. In this chapter, Marshall does deal with objections from people like the prominent blogger Carrier. I leave that for the reader to see for themselves.

But this also ties in with another idea that Christianity fulfilled prophecy. One might think at this point that Marshall will go to Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22 and say “See? Look! Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecies!” He does not. His point is that from even Genesis on, long before Christianity showed up, even if we went with a JEPD hypothesis, it was predicted that all the world would be blessed through Abraham. Messages of reaching Gentiles show up regularly in the Old Testament and when Christianity came, lo and behold, that happened.

But it wasn’t just Hebrew prophecies that were fulfilled! Marshall will show throughout the book that it was the hopes and dreams of pagans that were fulfilled too! So many of our myths rather than making the mythicist claim show a longing for the true God to intervene and save the world. Later, he will point to people like Buddha and Confucius who predicted that a great sage would come to speak. Confucius even said it would take place in around 500 years. Now one could go with a zany mythicist hypothesis that says all these cultures were being borrowed from, or one could go with a view more akin to Lewis and Tolkien that says that this is true myth being fulfilled.

Marshall also shows the gifts Christianity brought to the world. There was no dark age period where science was being oppressed. Christianity had been encouraging the usage of science. It was Christians who were building hospitals and universities and cathedrals and ending slavery and encouraging literacy. Of course, there was bad that came with the good and Marshall does deal with that in the book, but let us not ignore the great good, such as the efforts to shut down sex markets as spoken of earlier.

In fact, many who are non-Christians and reading this could be thinking it is good to get rid of slavery and the sex market, but why? Do we stop to think about that question? How many people today have been shaped by a Christian ethic and don’t even realize it? Now if one wants to point to Scandinavia as a sort of secular paradise, be prepared. Marshall has something to say about that too.

Marshall also does show that this does not show Christianity is true, but the hopes of all peoples being found so well in Christ and his answering the Hebrew and pagan longings of the day and the impact He has had on the world should at least give pause. While the approach is more of a defensive one, he does include a bibliography to look up claims made in the book that he has not had the time to address but that other scholars have.

This is one of the really good ones to read and it is very difficult to put down. If a print version comes out this year, I would rank that book as one of the best books already in Christian apologetics to read in 2015. We can be thankful that while atheists like Loftus try to undermine the teaching of Christ with objections like the OTF, that apologists like Marshall are able to put them to the service of the kingdom. In the end, because of Loftus, we now have a greater reminder of how awesome and unique Jesus is and that yes, he does pass the OTF.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 12

February 4, 2014

Does Carrier give us any good reasons to be godless? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

It’s been awhile since we’ve gone through Carrier’s book, but it’s time to continue. This time, we’re going to at least start a look at his reasons to be godless. Carrier starts off with his conclusion that God doesn’t exist based on years of study and investigation and examining all the evidence of every argument presented in its defense.

All of them? Every single piece of evidence for every single argument?

So that means that for proponents of Intelligent Design, for instance, Carrier has read every book, every article, and heard every lecture on the topic?

That for Craig’s Kalam argument, Carrier has also done the same with that one?

For Aquinas’s five ways, that Carrier has read every book and philosophical treatise on the topic?

Well aside from this unbelievable claim right at the start, I can inform you I went into this chapter eager to receive a good argument against the positions that I normally use. So therefore I set out to find a refutation in there against the five ways of Aquinas.

Which weren’t covered….

Well, maybe those just aren’t commonly used as much! Let’s look at the argument that Bill Craig uses, the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Which also isn’t covered….

Could it be he deals with the ontological argument? I don’t like that argument, but Plantinga and Craig both like it. I think it’s fallacious, but it’s an important one that philosophers have had something to say about. Surely that’s there.

And no, it isn’t….

Well definitely the argument from morality! He has a chapter on morality later on. Surely there’s an argument at least here.

And again, there’s nothing….

I consider it quite important that a chapter claiming to show that there is no God at all does not argue with any of the arguments put forward. It’s just a statement of faith.

Would anyone find it convincing if I wrote a book and said “Some people make strong arguments that God doesn’t exist. Reality is, He does. I know this because I studied every argument against His existence and every piece of evidence used and found them all lacking.”

If you were convinced by that, shame on you.

On page 254, we also have a howler with him talking about religious claims and saying that they all believe love has something to do with the meaning of life. “On virtually everything else they disagree–so virtually everything else is probably false.”

It’s because of statements like this that philosophers everywhere should cringe when Carrier describes himself as one.

For instance, classical Buddhism is atheistic. Christianity is theistic. Since virtually everything else is probably false aside from love, we can assume theism is false, but we can also assume that atheism is false.

Islam says that you should kill the infidels wherever you find them. Christianity says you should love your enemies and forgive them. Neither of these have to do with the meaning of life, so both of these claims are probably false.

We don’t even have to stay there. Let’s go to worldviews.

Christianity and atheism both agree that there is a material world, but on everything else they disagree, so every other position is probably false. Therefore, again, atheism and theism are both false by Carrier’s argument.

More examples could surely be given.

On pages 254-5, we are told that atheism is simply a way of saying you lack God belief, but this does not work. Let’s consider for the sake of argument that God does exist. (Yes. Atheists reading this blog please try this thought experiment.)

By this standard, theism is true.

Now if atheism is lacking God-belief, then well, there are still atheists out there.

But in Greek, the a in front of a word is the negation of it.

Therefore, theism and atheism can be both be true. One claim and its contradiction are both true. In order to hold Carrier’s view, you have to deny the Law of Noncontradiction then.

Also, quite problematic is that the atheist is then seeking to make a statement not about reality but about their personal beliefs. If that’s all it is, why should I care? This atheism cannot be refuted because after all, you cannot refute one’s psychology in this sense. If I come to you and I say “I’m depressed today,” you can’t say “No you’re not! You feel great!” You don’t argue against the feeling. You argue against why I feel that way.

Yet despite this claim, Carrier does say he denies the existence of God as on this page he has the argument of “believers deny the existence of hundreds of gods. I just go one god further.”

“Gentlemen of the jury! You believe several persons in this room did not commit the murder. I just ask that you look at my client and go one person further!”

I happen to look at Carrier’s work and realize he rejects many views of atheistic cosmology. Unlike him, I just go one view further.

The same applies to views of atheistic morality.

On 257 Carrier says that there is no reason to think that God would need billions of years and trillions of galaxies to work his purpose, but that is what we’d expect in a godless universe.

How can we make this comparison though? We have no other universes we know of that we can compare to to say this is the kind of universe a god would create and this isn’t one? This is the way a universe will naturally run and this is an example of a universe that did not naturally run! The only way a comparative statement can be made is if there are two things to compare, and there aren’t.

On this page also, we see him argue that if he was God, he would give clear evidence, and yet he doesn’t see that, and since Carrier could not be better intentioned than God, then it follows that God does not exist.

There’s something amusing about making an argument against God based on what you’d do.

Let’s look at this claim of clear evidence.

There are many claims that we often think are quite clear and some people still deny. I think it’s clear that the material world exists. Some people deny it. Most of us would say it’s clear that other minds exist, but yet Solipsists exist. I would say it’s clear that it’s wrong to torture babies for fun, but yet moral relativists exist. Carrier and I would both agree that truth exists, but yet so do postmoderns who deny objective moral truths exist.

Basically, there are arguments to believe anything and while some people want to believe in God for emotional reasons, there are also emotional reasons some would have for not believing in God, such as anger at growing up in a highly fundamentalist home, personal evil in one’s life, or not wanting to believe in God so you can keep having sex with your girlfriend.

Now we’ll move on to some of Carrier’s complaints about religious texts, starting with the Bible, which is the only one we’ll cover. Leave it to others to defend their holy books.

We’ll start with Deut. 13:6-11. (Carrier mistakenly says it’s only 8-10)

6 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. 9 You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.

Carrier might want to know we still treat treason seriously in this country. In Israelite society, they did too. They were under a covenant relationship with YHWH and to have someone come and move them away from that relationship would spell disaster for the populace. (As we see in their judgment later on.) Carrier will need to say more than “I don’t like this.”

“The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.”

This is Psalm 14:1 and yet Carrier does not consider that this is hyperbole. (Keep in mind at the beginning of the book, Carrier said you should read his own works with charity. Apparently, you are to do as he says, not as he does.) Had Carrier read the Psalm, he would have known that the Psalmist was not just describing atheists, but he was describing EVERYONE! He was saying all are corrupt and none do good. This is the way that Jews often thought. We can do the same when we get depressed and think about our problems and say things like “No one cares about me.”

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

This is one of the most often quoted passages by atheists and one misunderstood. It occurs to no one apparently that Jesus’s own followers had families whom they loved and according to Paul in 1 Cor. 9, many apostles took their wives with them on their journey.

So what is being said? It is a comparative statement. Your family is certainly a great and important reality in your life, but if you put it above the Kingdom of God, you are not going to be worthy of the Kingdom. The Kingdom must be your first priority.

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18.

“49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:49-50.

What of it? God is a God who judges. (Note I do of course contest that Mark 16:16 was part of the original writing) For Carrier to show that it is wrong for God to do this, he will need a better argument than “I don’t like it.”

Carrier goes on to state that since there is a threat delivered, it must be a wicked belief, because threats are the hallmark of a wicked creed. I suppose we must say the military has a wicked creed when they deliver a deadline to an enemy. A parent must have a wicked creed when they tell a child they will be spanked if they do something. Police must have a wicked creed if they warn someone about the consequences of their actions under the law.

Carrier says that Christianity started to flourish in 313 A.D. after the Edict of Milan. I would like to know how it even got to that point. It’s quite interesting to hear that Christianity was one of the most intolerant religions in history.

Why does Carrier say that? Because Christians denied the existence of the Roman gods and said there was only one God and he had revealed Himself in Christ. In other words, the Christians were killed for being intolerant.

It’s quite amusing isn’t it to read about people killing other people because those killed were not being tolerant….

Rome itself obviously was not tolerant since they could not handle dissent. (Where would Carrier find himself in Rome since he denies the existence of all gods? Would he be suddenly complaining that the Romans weren’t intolerant.) Yet Carrier sees Rome killing the Christians and decides that the Christians brought it upon themselves. It never seems to occur to him that maybe the people who were doing the killing were not the tolerant ones.

And Rome would have no problem with other gods, provided you included them in the Roman pantheon and still did your service to the emperor. Step outside of that and all of a sudden, you are not going to be tolerated. As has been said before, tolerance is always a one-way street.

Carrier says on page 266 that salvation belongs only to those who have faith in Christ is the very heart of New Testament teaching.)

Don’t get me wrong on this. Salvation by grace through faith in Christ is indeed an important teaching, but it is not the heart of the NT. It is a result of another teaching. That is the teaching that Jesus is the resurrected king of this universe. Trusting in Him for salvation is a result of having that prior belief. Does Carrier really know the NT he claims to critique?

Well that’s enough for now. Next time we’ll look further at Carrier’s reasons to be godless.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God: Part 11

January 15, 2014

Can a compelling case be made for prophecy? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’m not a fan of prophecy ministries.

Really. I’m not.

My position as I have said is a Preterist of the orthodox variety which I have defended here and my reasons for Preterism itself can be found here.

So when I see many prophecy ministries that focus on what is going on in Israel today and who is the next target to be the antichrist, I really can’t take them seriously at all. So many prophecy books will be gathering dust in the back of Christian bookstores soon, but their writers have already cashed in and will write again on the next topic.

For all these prophecy experts, it’d be nice to see them get something right.

So when Carrier critiques prophecy, in many cases, I agree. Yet not in all. I do admit the Bible contains prophecy, though I don’t think it necessarily had the distant distant future in mind. I do think the coming of Christ was prophesied and Jesus is a fulfillment of the Scriptures. Yet I try to be very conservative with that.

One point Carrier brings out I find quite odd is the idea of selection bias. Maybe the Jews just chose those books that happened to have fulfilled prophecies in them and threw away the ones that didn’t.

This is a proposition without evidence. If Carrier wants to say this is a possibility, well that’s fine, but do we have any evidence this possibility took place? Besides, if the Jews were wanting to improve their image, they could do any number of things, such as write a detailed prophecy after the fact. (And to be fair, many think that happened in a book like Daniel) They could also clean up their own image in their sacred books. Why would someone have sacred books that regularly recorded their own failures if they were trying to make themselves look good?

Now Carrier says one of the best cited prophecies is the destruction of Tyre prophesied in Ezekiel. Now it could be, but I honestly rarely see this one used. I suppose most Christians would instead look at prophecy fulfillment in the life of Jesus.

Carrier tells us Ezekiel was likely producing propaganda to get on the good side of Nebuchadnezzar. Does he have evidence of this? Does he really think King Nebby was going to be paying attention to a lone priest out in the area preaching to the people? Carrier also tells us that Ezekiel could likely have intelligence about the king’s plans to attack Tyre. These are a lot of coulds, but there is no evidence given for them.

Note also that in Ezekiel 26:3 we are told that many nations will rise up against Tyre. Babylon is just one nation and is just the start. Babylon wore Tyre down a good deal, but did not conquer, hence Ezekiel 29:18. Babylon did a lot of work, but got no reward. The final victory would not be theirs. (And by the way, if this prophecy was shown to be wrong supposedly in the book, wouldn’t this one have been retracted per Carrier’s theory?)

Instead, who did destroy the city? Alexander the Great, and did so with the people of many nations in his army. Of course, Tyre did become something again later on, but did not reach its past glory that it had. The prophecy has language of hyperbole to be sure, and part of the problem with many people reading texts like this, atheists and Christians both, is a wooden literalism. The irony is that atheists often condemn Christians for this and then do the exact same thing.

Now if I was to point to a prophecy, I’d point to Daniel 9 and Matthew 24. For those interested in those prophecies, I highly recommend The Preterist Podcast by my good friend DeeDee Warren. You will find the most extensive look at Matthew 24 there and Daniel 9 is her next project.

Next time we discuss matters, it will be Carrier’s case for atheism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 10

January 14, 2014

Why do I not buy Carrier’s “refutation” of the resurrection story? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As we continue through Richard Carrier’s “Sense and Goodness Without God” we come to a favorite piece of mine. In this, Carrier compares the evidence for the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar to that of the evidence for the resurrection.

Now to be sure, I am not making any claim about the quality of the evidence for Caesar crossing the Rubicon in 49 B.C. I am simply looking at Carrier’s argument to see if it holds up or not and I contend that it does not.

So what are the points? Carrier’s first is that this event is a physical necessity. Rome’s history would not go as it had without it. Yet is this the case? Caesar did have to move his troops into Italy of course, but did he have to cross the Rubicon? We can say that would be the most convenient way to do so, but it was not the only way that it could have happened.

Carrier says all that is needed to explain Christianity is a belief, but this is not the case. Of course one would need to believe in a resurrection, but what events would have to happen for there to be a belief in the resurrection?

First, you would need a historical Jesus, which Carrier does not accept

Second, you need to have it known that he died.

Third, you need something to explain that this death was not the end.

This isn’t even counting all the social factors that go into play with Christianity.

The next piece Carrier points to is physical evidence. To begin with, what kind of physical evidence does Carrier want to see? He really thinks the evidence for a crucified Jew in Palestine should be compared to that of a major event by Julius Caesar?

Well actually, we do have some physical evidence. We do in fact have documents. We have the Gospels, the Pauline Epistles, Acts, and of course the rest of the New Testament. We also have writings outside of the NT such as Tacitus, Josephus, Suetonius, etc.

We also have the claim that the tomb was empty, which would be a physical claim that could be checked, and the claim that one could talk to eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus. Carrier also says it has been proven the Shroud of Turin is a forgery. Unfortunately, he does not say by who or when this was done. Perhaps he wants me to take it by faith.

Carrier also says we have unbiased or counterbiased corroboration for Caesar. Well not really. His enemies could attest to this in fact to show that Caesar was a threat. It is also interesting that Carrier says we have unbiased sources when he says his friends wrote about it. How are those unbiased?

Yet what does he expect for the resurrection? Obviously, if someone believes Jesus was raised, then they are going to be biased. Who will write a testimony saying Jesus was raised and still reject Christianity in Jesus’s day? (I say then because today, Pinchas Lapides is a Jew who holds that Jesus was raised but does not believe He was the Messiah.)

On the other hand, if someone writes against the resurrection, we can just as well say they are biased. The resurrection would focus on the claims Jesus made for Himself so you could not approach the subject or speak about it without some bias.

The fourth one is my favorite. In this, Carrier says the crossing of the Rubicon appears in almost every history of the age, and this is by the most prominent scholars. Who are these guys? Suetonius, Appian, Cassius Dio, and Plutarch.

What about the resurrection? It’s not mentioned until two to three centuries later. There’s also the point that the ones who wrote about the Rubicon were quite scholarly and show a wide range of reading and citation of sources, whereas the historians of Christianity in the first century did not.

Yes. Paul was definitely a slouch in scholarship. Only trained under the best of his time and his writing shows a great skill in Greco-Roman rhetoric and argumentation.

Also, the Gospels do cite eyewitnesses in their own way. For an example, in Mark’s Gospel, Peter is the first and last disciple mentioned. What’s the point of this? It shows it’s an inclusio account whereby Peter is thus known to be the source. Aspects like this can be found in “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham.

But what’s most interesting about this is the fact of every scholar of the age. Let’s use a site like this.

Here we find Suetonius was born in 71 A.D. At the start, this puts us at 120 years+. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Suetonius waits until he’s 30 to begin writing. That would mean this reliable account is 150+ years later.

Appian?

He was born in 95 A.D. That puts us at 144 years+. Let’s suppose he waited until the age of 30, and it’s more likely he waited until later. If we give 30, then that means he wrote 174+ years later.

Cassius Dio? He was born in 164. This puts at at 213 years+. He started writing the Roman Histories at the earliest in 211. That puts us at 260 years+.

Someone had said something about the accounts of the resurrection being two to three centuries later….

But strangely enough, Cassius Dio two to three centuries later is okay.

Plutarch would be the earliest being born in 46 A.D., but this puts us at 95 years+ and if he waits till thirty, well that’s 125 years+.

That means not ONE of these sources could have talked to an eyewitness of the event. Not one of them was a contemporary of Caesar either. Not one of them would have been a firsthand account.

And yet they’re all accepted.

And you know what? I have no problem with that. That’s the way ancient history is done, but when Carrier gives these names, he doesn’t tell the audience when these people lived and wrote. It’s a double-standard.

The final piece of evidence is that apparently, we have Caesar’s own words. Unfortunately, we have no such statement of “I crossed the Rubicon” or “I crossed the river” that I know of in relation to this event. So how do we have Caesar’s own words?

Carrier then says we don’t have any writings of Jesus. This is true. We also don’t have writings of Socrates. As is pointed out in “The Lost World of Scripture” most teachers did not write out their works. Instead, they left it to their disciples. Most teachers also did not care for writing their works since they feared their works could be misunderstood. For those interested in where to find information on this, see here and here.

Carrier also says the names of the Gospels were applied later and on questionable grounds. What were these grounds? Well he doesn’t tell us. Here you can listen to Tim McGrew answering this question and if one is interested in charges of forgery, go here.

Carrier also says Paul saw Jesus in a vision. Evidence of this given? None. Of course, if Jesus did not rise, it would have to be a vision, but what if He did rise? And further, did Paul really think He had just had a vision, or did he think that Jesus physically appeared to him?

In the end, I conclude that Carrier’s argument is just based on false assumptions all throughout and at times, not entirely honest.

We’ll wrap up on history next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God: Part 9

January 10, 2014

Can miracles work with the historical method? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re going to return today to our look at Carrier’s Sense and Goodness Without God. This one will largely focus on history.

Carrier chooses to look at a number of miracles. The first is the rain of Marcus Aurelius. Let’s look at some statements.

Carrier says it is incredible that there would be Christians in the army, let alone an entire legion of them, but saying something is incredible is not the same as showing that it is. In fact, we do have testimony from church history of Christians in the army.

Let’s start with Eusebius.

8. This persecution began with the brethren in the army. But as if without sensibility, we were not eager to make the Deity favorable and propitious; and some, like atheists, thought that our affairs were unheeded and ungoverned; and thus we added one wickedness to another.
324
And those esteemed our shepherds, casting aside the bond of piety, were excited to conflicts with one another, and did nothing else than heap up strifes and threats and jealousy and enmity and hatred toward each other, like tyrants eagerly endeavoring to assert their power. Then, truly, according to the word of Jeremiah, “The Lord in his wrath darkened the daughter of Zion, and cast down the glory of Israel from heaven to earth, and remembered not his foot-stool in the day of his anger. The Lord also overwhelmed all the beautiful things of Israel, and threw down all his strongholds.”

Here we have testimony from Eusebius that there were in fact Christians in the army.

We can go further here.

Others passed through different conflicts. Thus one, while those around pressed him on by force and dragged him to the abominable and impure sacrifices, was dismissed as if he had sacrificed, though he had not. Another, though he had not approached at all, nor touched any polluted thing, when others said that he had sacrificed, went away, bearing the accusation in silence.

Now the situation in all of this is that the Roman army was running out of water and needed the rain in the face of the enemy and the Christians prayed causing rain to come and a storm routed out the enemy. There is no reason to question the rain and storm came. There is a monument depicting that that is soon after the event by the emperor himself. Christians at the time said a Christian legion prayed. Others said it was Egyptian magic.

Which is it? I couldn’t tell you honestly. I wouldn’t even rule out magic if you could show some evidence for it. Is it any shock though that the emperor would attribute it to Jupiter? The emperor is going to defend his honor and he has the power to shape the story the way he thinks it should be shaped as well. Will he go with a belief with honor or a belief with dishonor?

Also discussed is the healing of Vespasian. Again, I have no problem with saying this healing could happen. Yet there is a problem here. The healing took place in Alexandria where Vespasian healed a blind man by spitting on his eyes. What is not mentioned normally is that even the doctors were not convinced the man who was healed was fully blind. Also, the healing took place in Alexandria whose patron deity was Serapis. Wanna guess what one of the first cities was to endorse Vespasian on the throne? If you guessed Alexandria, give yourself bonus points. They had something to gain from this.

Moving on, when we get to Carrier on historical methodology, I do agree with much of what Carrier says. He starts with textual analysis making sure the document is handed down accurately. I agree. He also says this on page 237.

We must ascertain what the author meant, which requires a thorough understanding of the language as it was spoken and written in that time and place, as well as a thorough grasp of the historical, cultural, political, social, and religious context in which it was written, since all of this would be on the mind of both author and reader, and would illuminate, motivate, or affect what was written.

I find this highly agreeable. I just wish Carrier would do this. As we see later on when we see his view on certain biblical passages, he doesn’t. In fact, this is advice I would give to atheists wanting to understand the text, and of course to Christians. Both groups consist of fundamentalists who too often read a modern American context onto the text.

The second recommendation of Carrier is

always ask for the primary sources of a claim you find incredible. Many modern scholars will still get details wrong or omit important context or simply lie.

I would hesitate to say a modern scholar is lying. One needs really good evidence to make an accusation of moral turpitude. It’s important to also realize that sharing information that is false is not the same as lying. Sharing information as true you KNOW to be false is lying. I also would disagree at the start. Don’t ask for primary sources on claims you find incredible. Ask for primary sources on any historical claim!

Carrier also says the historian must try to gather all the evidence and not just rely on one item. I agree. Of course, one could never truly say they’ve examined ALL the evidence, but one must try to find as much as they can.

Carrier also gives characteristics of a good explanation.

First, it has explanatory scope. It explains more facts than other explanations. I have no problem with this.

Second, explanatory power. This means the explanation will make the facts more likely than any other.

Third is plausibility. It is historically reasonable that such a thing happened, which Carrier wishes to add even if it was improbable.

Fourth is ad hocness. It will rely on fewer undemonstrated sources. Most theories will have some aspects that are ad hoc, but not entirely. The fewer, the better.

Fifth, it fits the evidence. It will not contradict other facts that we know about the event and the context.

I have no problem with these.

Next time, we’ll get to see some of this at work as Carrier deals with the claim that the resurrection has more evidence than the crossing of the Rubicon. It is my plan to finish this chapter on that and move on then, but it is a lengthy section so I will save it for the next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God: Part 8

January 1, 2014

Is there a place for the paranormal? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re returning now to Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier. I’m skipping over a couple of chapters because there’s not much I really want to cover in them other than some minor details. I’d just say on the chapter of reason that I trust in reason because of a good Thomistic common sense realism.

I use paranormal in the opening line because that is the term Carrier uses, but it is not a term I prefer to use. I do not even prefer to use supernatural. I go by the terms suprahuman and supranatural instead. To say supernatural often implies that nature is just fine on its own and needs no deity sustaining it. This is a point that I disagree with so why should I use a term that automatically grants credence to a position I find highly questionable?

As we go through the chapter, on page 213, Carrier says that there is an approach that bypasses science altogether by pointing to a superior metaphysics and going under the name of first philosophy. Carrier is never clear on what this is. Does he mean all of metaphysics in general? This is the only conclusion I can reach. If so, there is a great problem here as metaphysics is never defined.

As one who has studied metaphysics, I often find this to be the case. People dispute metaphysics, but they don’t really know what it is. Metaphysics is simply the study of being as being. This does not go against science as the sciences often study being in a certain condition. Physics studies material being in motion. Angelology would study angelic being. Biology would study material living being. Astronomy studies being in space. Zoology studies animal beings. We could go on and on.

Interestingly, Carrier places metaphysics dead last, but on what authority? Why should I accept that? Am I to think studying the nature of being itself is dead last in understand the nature of truth, that is, in understanding that which is? It looks like knowing what “is” would come first.

The first method of finding truth that Carrier speaks about is, SHOCK, the scientific method. Now as readers know, I am not opposed to science, but I am opposed to a scientism approach that places the natural sciences as the best means of determining truth. Now if everything is purely matter and there are no essences to things, then this would follow, but that is the very aspect under question.

On page 215, Carrier says

“But htis is another strength of science: science is not only about testing facts for truth, but testing methods for accuracy. And thus science is the only endeavor we have that is constantly devoted to finding the best means of ascertaining the truth. This is one of the reasons why science is so successful, and its results so authoritative. Yet metaphysics has no room for means of testing different methods for accuracy, and if it ever started producing surprising predictive successes, it would become science.”

The problem I see here is yes, metaphysics is not done the same way the natural sciences are. So what? The whole idea starts off presuming the natural sciences are the best way to know something. Yet the natural sciences are more inductive than deductive while metaphysical arguments are designed to be more deductive. The conclusions are to be known with certainty. Metaphysical arguments also do for most of us start with sense experience and what we see.

Yes, science is successful, but as has been pointed out earlier with using the analogy of Feser, a metal detector is the best tool for finding metal objects at the beach, but that does not mean that the only objects to be found are metal objects. Science is the best tool for finding truths about nature, but that does not mean those are the only truths to be found.

On the next page he says

“And science does not simply undergo any arbitrary change, as religious ideology or clothing fashions do, nor does it hold out long against contrary evidence, asserting that the facts must surely be wrong if they do not fit the going dogma.”

Now this is interesting since any changes that were made would not be arbitrary. I am not Catholic, but it isn’t as if the Pope woke up one morning and said “What a beautiful day. I think I’ll declare the perpetual virginity of Mary.” There were historical debates and discussions. I do not think the perpetual virginity claim is true, but it did not just happen arbitrarily. The same with fashion tastes. People change tastes in fashion for a reason.

Yet the great danger in Carrier’s statement for him is that the sword cuts both ways. For me, for instance, if macroevolution is true, cool. I’m fine with that. What happens to the atheist position if macroevolution is not true? I do not doubt there will still be atheists, but an extremely important beliefs of theirs being gone would cause some doubt I suspect.

Another example is the case of miracles. Let’s take a work like Keener’s book “Miracles.” Let’s suppose it has 500 miracles in it. I haven’t counted. Let’s suppose only 50 of those are shown to be real honest miracles. Okay. I’m disappointed some, but hey, I have 50 miracles right here. My worldview is still fine. I have evidence of miracles which backs Jesus rising from the dead.

What about the atheistic worldview? Can the atheist say the same if he has to admit that there is no known natural explanation for what happened and that the event did indeed happen? He can say “Well we’ll find a natural reason.” He’s entirely allowed to do such, but if he is assuming there has to be one, is he not then using a naturalism-of-the-gaps? Could it not be that just as much, the fact of a miracle must be wrong if it does not fit the dogma?

And no, I am not going to deny that too many Christians think this way as well. There are too many Christians who stick their heads in the sand and don’t even bother to interact with different evidence. This is what I call the escapist mentality.

Before moving on, it’s worth noting that Carrier says on page 217 that metaphysics sets the lowest bar for credibility, but yet has not defined metaphysics once.

Carrier says that if faith is placed before truth, it will lead to conflict. With this, I agree. Everyone should. Truth must be paramount. Yet Carrier goes on to say that if faith is what someone has because something is true, then science becomes the one true faith.

Why should I think this?

I believe several claims that are not established by science and act on them. I believe in the laws of logic. I believe in rules of mathematics. I believe that there is a world outside my mind. I believe propositions about morality and beauty. Can there be knowledge outside of the natural sciences? Yes there can be. If so, why think the scientific method is the best method?

Before moving on, once again on page 219, metaphysics is denigrated and once again, it is not defined. The same happens on page 221.

Carrier then goes on to talk about how science was in the medieval period. Yet this is not an accurate history at all. I would like to know his sources, but unfortunately, he never gives them. I will instead give some counter sources. First off is my interview with James Hannam on this topic that can be found here. Atheists can also consider the work of Tim O’Neill, an atheist himself who disputes this dark ages claim. An example can be found in his look at Hannam’s book here. In fact, he has a graph there that is common on the internet that is supposed to show the lack of scientific endeavors in the period and refers to it as “The Stupidest Thing on the Internet Ever.”

And once again, worth noting, is that on page 222, again metaphysics is secondary to science, but again, no definition.

On page 223, Carrier asks why it is God supposedly packed up his bags and stopped doing miracles when he had supposedly been doing them in abundance.

Well first, there has never been a period of abundant miracles.

“Wait! Don’t you believe in the Bible?”

Yes. Yes I do. And the miracles are actually sparse in it as well. There are three times where miracles become more abundant but they never reach the kind of idea Carrier has. Those are the time of the Exodus wandering, the time of Elijah and Elisha, and the time of Jesus and the apostles.

Yet miracles have not ceased. Indeed, Keener indicated earlier has made a strong case they are still ongoing. You can find my review of his book here and listen to the interview that I did with him here.

Carrier expects a world where guns turn into flowers and churches are protected by mysterious energy fields. Why should we expect any of this? Because God exists and can work miracles, He should work miracles in the way we think He should? Why?

Much has been said today, but there is more coming on history. I prefer to save that for a fuller approach and will do that next time I blog on Carrier’s book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 6

December 18, 2013

Is there anything to reports of NDEs? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’m not going to get too much into the mind-body subject of this chapter, but I wish to comment on one aspect of it that I think is highly lacking and that is Carrier’s treatment of NDE’s, otherwise known as Near-Death Experiences.

Near-Death Experiences are experiences where the person is on the verge of death (Or in some cases now is actually dead) and they have some sort of experience where they have a separation from their body and give an account of what happened to them when they were dead. Naturally, they do return to their body or else we’d never hear about it.

Now there are some NDEs that we cannot really do anything with in the area of verification. If you die and claim you went to Heaven and met your grandmother there or talked to God or saw an angel, I cannot verify that. It could have happened, but we cannot verify that it happened.

But let’s suppose you die and while apart from your body, you see events that take place. You see meals that your family is making in your absence. You see car accidents that take place. You hear comments that are made in the waiting room.

Also important with such events is that the person is spoken to as soon as possible about what happened. This is one reason among several others that I’m skeptical about the account in “Heaven is for Real”. The account of what happened came much later and very little of it has any verification and as a Christian, I think much of it contradicts Scripture.

In this chapter, Carrier will speak of both NDE’s and OBE’s, but for our purposes, what unites them is the same. A person sees something when we have no reason to think that they would be capable of seeing anything else. (If you’re under anesthesia in the hospital, it’s quite certain you’re not seeing anything for instance.)

On page 155 he writes “Many fanciful legends have grown up boasting of amazing proofs that a particular OBE was genuine, but they have always dissolved under scrutiny; investigations turn up no corroboration for any of the story’s details, or often uncover evidence that flatly contradicts it.”

Little problem here. Not one such case is mentioned. When looking at recommended reading, I see nothing that in fact records accounts that are favorable towards NDEs. You won’t find, for instance, Michael Sabom’s work on this topic. You also won’t find Habermas and Moreland on this topic, and surely Carrier knows of this since he interacts with Moreland some in this book.

What accounts do we have? Those interested in more are free to read Sabom’s book as well as Habermas and Moreland’s. You can also find interviews of Habermas. One of him on the Sci Phi show in two parts. Here is part 1 and part 2. Also in parts one and two are him at the Veritas forum. You can listen again to part 1 and part 2.

Those interested in a debate can hear the debate he had with Keith Augustine in three parts. part 1, part 2, and part 3.

One caseI think worth mentioning right off is the story of Pam Reynolds, who gave an account of what she saw while she was dead in a sort of standstill operation. She gave a highly detailed account of various things she saw when she definitely had no way of seeing them.

My biggest problem with what I saw here was that once again, there was the sound of one-hand clapping. We are told to value evidence, but only one side of the story was given in the case of NDEs. Evidential NDEs were not presented. Again, the recommended works are highly lacking. No doubt there are several fake accounts out there, but it takes more to say all of them are fake.

Next time we will look at the question of how we got here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters