Posts Tagged ‘new atheists’

Book Plunge: Apologetics for the 21st Century

November 26, 2014

What do I think of Louis Markos’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

For all interested, yes, I am going to be continuing my reviews of some Christ-myth literature, both pro and con, but I’m also busy reading several other books now so I plan on reviewing those as I finish them, so I should have plenty to keep me busy. This also includes a comment posted earlier this week by a Robert G. Price. I have it on my Kindle and when I finish the reading I need to do first on there I plan to get started and write a response. For now, let’s move on to Markos’s book.

Markos’s book is divided into two parts. The first part is looking at major names that have been influences in the world of Christian apologetics. The second part is looking at an apologetic case for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, and the reliability of Scripture, as well as looking at questions about the Da Vinci Code, the new atheists, ID, and the conversion of Antony Flew to theism.

The first part of the book is without a doubt the better part. If you’re familiar with apologetics, you’ll still get something out of this, particularly on the parts about C.S. Lewis. If Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, then in Markos’s view, Lewis made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Christians.

Not that Lewis was without his influences. Although a whole chapter isn’t on him, J.R.R. Tolkien would be among this group. There is a chapter devoted to Chesterton, who is a man more apologists, and in fact everyone for that matter, should be aware of. Chesterton’s writings are brilliant and some of his fictional works are quite entertaining. I can still recall my former roommate before I got married borrowing my copy of the Complete Father Brown Mysteries and planning to read a little bit before going to sleep one night. He had a bone to pick with me the next morning because he didn’t get to sleep until about 1:45 A.M. or so due to having to finish three of the mysteries.

Part Two will give some good information to people who are learning apologetics, though if you’ve read a lot of literature, you probably won’t find much new here, but that’s okay. Writing has to be done on different levels. While I do prefer the first part, I find Markos’s style here is down-to-earth and easy for all to grasp.

What are some areas I’d improve on?

The first is that I would have liked to have seen some citations. Markos does have a bibliography to be sure and he does recommend books and tell you who some big names are in the field, but that could be improved simply by having notes of some kind so you can see where these arguments that you’re getting come from.

Second, I would have preferred to have references made not to apologists so much as scholars. Some of the apologists cited are scholars in the field. The reason is that too often if you’re in debate and you cite someone and you say they’re an apologist, an atheist will be more prone to dismiss them.

Third, there were some claims that I think are incorrect. For instance, on page 168 we’re told that a whole generation is not enough time for a resurrection myth to form let alone a few years, but this is false. There have been people who have had myths made about them in fact the very moment that they died. This has even happened in the ancient world. What the real claim being referenced is is that there’s not enough time for a myth to totally replace the true account. That one I stand by.

Finally, I think there can be a danger of casting one’s net too wide. I understand wanting to have a comprehensive case, but I think too many apologists think they have to make an argument on history, philosophy, science, and everything else out there. I find it better to be more specialized in fact and rely on other members of the body to make arguments where you’re lacking. For instance, I avoid debating science as science. Evolutionary theory doesn’t matter a bit to me to my interpretation of Genesis or the reality of the resurrection.

I would have liked to have seen more in the first part overall. The first part was for me the most engaging of all. The second part is still a just fine introduction, though if you have read widely already, you will not find much that is new. Still, if you’re someone who is just getting started in learning about a defense of the Christian faith, this would be a fine gateway.

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: True Reason

February 28, 2014

What do I think of Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

TrueReason

True Reason is being released today as a response to several of the new atheists. Why? Because the new atheists have championed themselves as the heroes of reason and as a result of reason, they’re atheists, and those who are reasonable will also be atheists.

Yet as I have observed, those same atheists making that claim are usually guilty of the greatest crimes against reason. This was best exemplified to me recently when a street epistemologist on Peter Boghossian’s Facebook page was asked if she’d read any books on logic and she replied by naming the new atheists that she had read.

This also consists in what I call “The Jesus Allergy” where atheists are afraid to admit anything whatsoever could be true in Scripture or that there could be anything good about religion or that intelligent people can be within their epistemic rights while being Christians. Want to see this best shown? Look at how many atheists are Christ-mythers. Even those who aren’t can often say that a reasonable case can be made that Jesus never existed.

No. No it can’t.

True Reason is meant to expose this. Now to be sure, this is a volume that I think is meant to be an introduction to people who are not familiar with the apologetics world. For those of us who have been in it for years, there won’t be much new here, but there will be a new formatting of it and a new presentation.

The book certainly has its range of excellent authors. William Lane Craig, David Wood, Sean McDowell, David Marshall, Matthew Flannagan, and Tim McGrew, for instance, each have their own say in it. There are also several chapters by people that you might not have heard of, which is fine to me because I think the apologetics community does need to promote from within.

Many of the chapters do cover subjects that I am pleased are being discussed. Slavery in the OT, for instance, is not often addressed in apologetics books. Flannagan’s chapter on the genocides of the OT will be extremely helpful as well. I enjoyed as well Tim McGrew and David Marshall’s chapter on the history of reason in Christianity and I appreciated that Marshall had a chapter devoted entirely to John Loftus’s “Outsider Test for Faith.”

There are areas I would like to see some more on for another edition of the book.

I think despite it being absolutely bunk, there needs to be a section on Christ-myth thinking and why historians and scholars view it as a joke. That could be a good focus on Richard Carrier and Robert Price. The Christ-myth idea is I think one of the greatest examples of the lack of reason in the new atheist movement.

I also think that since the new atheists target Christianity, we need a chapter on the central claim, the resurrection. There is one on the reliability of the NT overall, but we need something that is devoted to solely defending the resurrection and answering criticisms of it.

Yet since this one is also engaging several apologists together and some of them being new, I think that gives readers plenty of places to go to and I encourage that. We need to be building up others and it’s excellent to see noted names in the field working with names that haven’t been as well established yet, but are well on their way.

If there is someone out there who is wanting a good case against the new atheists claim to be the bearers of reason, I recommend this one. It will be a good start to demonstrating that the emperor truly has no clothes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/8 2013, Lighting Up Dark Ages Science

June 7, 2013

What’s coming up on this Saturday’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We had hoped to get Mike Licona to join us, but he is with his mother who is in the final stages of brain cancer. We ask for your prayers for her and the rest of our family in this time.

Instead, it looks like our guest is going to be James Hannam. James Hannam is the author of the book “God’s Philosophers”, also known as “The Genesis of Science.” In this book, Hannam takes a look at the period of time known as the Dark Ages where the church led the world and as a result, science and education languished while people dwelt in superstition, until finally came Galileo along to renew an interest in science.

That’s the popular belief, and as is often the case with many such beliefs today, it is entirely false. Hannam goes to great lengths in this book to demonstrate that the Christian church not only encouraged science, but carried it forward so that people like Galileo were just standing on the shoulders of those who came before them.

We will hopefully be talking about people such as Andrew Dickson White who kept going the myth that in this time there was a warfare between science and religion. This could include also discussing how modern disciples of ignorance, such as the new atheists, keep these claims going.

We will find that certainly not everything the medievals believed about science and nature was accurate, but it wasn’t because they were blinded by religion. If anything, it was because they did not have the best information available, yet for what means that they did have to obtain knowledge, they made several excellent observations that we still hold today.

We will be looking at the way Scripture did play a role in this. Did it hinder the learning that took place or did it encourage it? Was it a rule that the Scriptures had to be interpreted “literally” or did the church allow for a variety of ways in which a passage could be translated? Were there any real conflicts going on between science and religion?

Were those who were doing science supported by the church or where they doing their work in isolation? If you had a sickness, could it have actually been better for you to go to your local priest rather than to the actual medical doctor? Were cadavers allowed to be used for the study of the body?

And of course, some time will have to be spent on Galileo. Was he really the victim of persecution from the church trying to put a stop to his science, or was there something more going on?

In the end, I suspect you will be surprised to find that the so-called dark ages were not really dark at all. If anything is actually in the dark today, it is the idea that is spread perpetually by those who wish to paint the time period as a time of great ignorance.

Please join in from 3-5 EST this Saturday to listen to the podcast here

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Ideological bullies

January 18, 2013

Is all bullying physical? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I blogged on bullying. I had in mind more physical and social bullying than anything else. I appreciate the insights of a commenter on TheologyWeb as well who pointed out most of the advice we give is terrible. For instance, a kid is to go tell an adult? Yeah. That’ll really help the next time the adult isn’t around. No. That will mean the kid gets teased even more.

The best advice I know of to deal with a physical bully is simply that when he throws a punch, you punch right back.

“But aren’t we to turn the other cheek?”

Turning the other cheek refers to receiving a private insult at worst. A slap on the cheek was not really a physical assault, although it involved a physical action. We have no record of Jesus saying “If you get punched in the face, you stand there and just bleed.”

“But Jesus went to the cross and did not resist.”

Jesus was also not dealing with bullies per se but was dealing with the government of the time and He was not seeking to be a revolutionary. Furthermore, Jesus’s own purpose in coming to the Earth was to go to the cross. Why would He go and resist it then? Not only that, there is a difference between standing up and foolhardiness. Peter would be taking on a crowd of about 200 who came to arrest Jesus. The disciples reportedly had two swords.

There is courage, and then there is rash stupidity.

Therefore, I strongly believe in self-defense. If someone goes after my family, I can assure you there will be no cheek turning going on. This is the well-being of my family at stake and I will do what I can to defend it.

What about social bullies? These are bullies who simply give insults and don’t give physical confrontation. They’re the ones who stand on the side and say “You’re ugly! You’re stupid!” and things like that.

Ignore them.

These people often want any reaction that they can get and if you react to them, it is just giving them what they want. Pay them no attention because frankly, they’re not worth it.

Now let’s move on to ideological bullies.

Case in point: Richard Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins is the man who at the Reason Rally said to the audience of atheists that when you meet people who are religious, mock them. Ridicule them in public.

With people like this, I say return the favor.

“Whoa. That sounds like a different line than what I’d expect.”

These people are not just insulting you. They are wanting you to apostasize. They want you to be embarrassed because you’re a Christian. Maybe you know enough to see through their shallow reasoning, or lack thereof, but what about others. Do you want this to be the mindset of people who your loved ones will interact with who don’t know apologetics like you do?

In the OT, if you were encouraging someone to apostasize, the penalty was death. Now I’m not saying we do that today since we are no longer a theocracy in that way, but I am saying we ought to take it seriously. Note also that anyone who has read the God Delusion and is somewhat informed knows that Richard Dawkins does not have a clue about what he speaks. I could easily teach high schoolers to deal with Dawkins.

This is the mindset that makes someone like Dawkins even worse. They think they know so much about religion and they don’t. They will say they don’t need to study it because it is not worth studying. Don’t believe that? Just look at the Courtier’s reply, which is an exercise in laziness. It is even mocking the idea that one should study theology and philosophy and history.

And it is an idea I encounter most every day.

“I don’t need to read scholarship! I don’t need to study! I just go by the plain literal sense and the literal sense is nonsense!” (Unfortunately, too many Christians also think they don’t need scholarship and study.)

“Who cares if all NT scholars think Jesus was crucified?” (Would we get the same if we said “Who cares if all biologists think macroevolution is true?”)

“All you have is faith!” (I have yet to see a new atheist show me a definition of “pistis” which is the Greek word for faith, that means to believe without evidence.)

The list goes on. Everyone believe the Earth was flat! We oppose science! There’s no evidence for what you believe! You just have an emotional need! I find it quite amusing when people say it’s because of how I feel or that I think God is talking to me, particularly since being an Aspie, the feeling side of faith is not that strong and I don’t buy into the “God told me” mentality. If anything gets me excited, it’s really reading a good book on history or theology or something of that sort. Learning is exciting.

These people are usually not interested in truth. They don’t care about why you believe what you believe. They care about tearing you down. They want to not only tear you down. They want to tear down any Christians they meet. On the internet, they’re rampant. Always keep this in mind. The person who will go after you will also go after those who are less capable of defending themselves and will delight in getting someone to abandon Christianity.

They are what the Bible calls wolves.

They are the reason a good shepherd carries a rod.

They are the reason a good shepherd uses a rod.

Now to be fair, being confrontational is not something everyone does. I realize that, and I think that’s also good. We need all types in evangelism. Some people are quite good at friendship evangelism. God bless them. We need them. Some people will not respond until you stand up to them, and that is where those of us who confront step in, following right in line with what Jesus does in Matthew 23.

Does that make a confronter a bully?

Let me ask you this. You are the parent of a boy who is about 8 years old, and he comes home one day crying because a 10 year-old bully knocked him to the ground and laughed about it. You are the parent. You tell your son to not stand there and take it. Next time, he is to fight this bully back and not take it.

Your son is standing up for himself.

Is he then a bully?

Change the situation a bit. Your son is ten and is on the playground and sees a little girl of about seven being pushed over by an eight year old boy. Your son goes after and knocks the boy to the ground and gets the girl up.

Is your son being a bully?

In both cases, no. He is defending himself in the first case and defending another in the second.

You are here in defense of the gospel and of your fellow believers. I can already hear the objection of some people.

“Don’t defend your faith. Let God do that.”

My question is always the same. “Do you take the same approach to evangelism?”

Someone else might quote that Spurgeon when asked about defending the Bible said he’d rather defend a lion.

This sounds so good and holy, but it is oh so not. Josephus wrote, for instance, that Jews of his day were to die for the Torah if need be. Are we to treat our Scriptures any less sacredly? The Bible if not accurately studied will not defend itself. It is not its own thinking book. If you throw a Bible into a fire, it will burn like any other book. Now of course the Bible has cut to the heart of many people who read it, but for those who despised it, they can often get nothing but more mockery. These people are treating our Scriptures, which we say come from God, with contempt. That means they are mocking our God. God is the one we claim to be the greatest good and yet we think we can say “Go ahead. That’s fine.” Would you settle if someone made mockery about your mother for instance?

For those of us who can defend our faith, let’s remember that on this playground, we have brothers and sisters who can’t. We are their line of defense. We are the ones that they are counting on and if we do not stand up to the opposition, then they will not stop. This happens not just in religion, but also in politics.

Why do so many people get their way who shouldn’t? Because they know they can run ramshackle over anyone else. They know that their opponents are more concerned about how they will be seen in the eyes of the public instead of caring about what’s right and wrong. They know that their opponents don’t want to be seen as “intolerant” or “closed-minded.”

Well yes. I am intolerant and closed-minded in many ways. I do not tolerate good ideas and I am closed-minded to what I think is evil. If you wish to push something on me, my loved ones, or my society that I think is evil overall, it would be wrong of me to not do something just because I’m afraid of how I’ll look to the public.

When bullies are stood up to, after awhile, they back down. They want to look out for #1 because most all bullies are incredibly insecure. They are concerned about their own social status. To give them what they fear is something that they cannot handle. For opponents of Christianity they will either stop or they will just keep embarrassing themselves by showing that they have no good arguments.

“Well don’t you want to win these people over to Jesus?”

No.

“No?”

It’d be nice to win them over some day of course. These people right now don’t care about truth. They care about attacking the flock. I am more concerned about the well-being of the flock than I am about the well-being of wolves.

There are times you stand up to an ideological bully like this and they do back down. They do admit they were in the wrong about something. You know what you learn about that person then?

They really aren’t a bully. Or at least they were and they are willing to change. What happens then? This person gets the red carpet of friendship. After all, there are people out there who honestly have real questions keeping them from Christianity. There are people who really want to know if Jesus rose from the dead and don’t dismiss it. They’re skeptical, and that’s excellent, but they’re not dismissive. These are people who are actually willing to read a scholarly book that disagrees with them. These are people who come to the debate having done their homework. I have people I know who are like this. When I stand up to someone and they back down after that, we often have an excellent dialogue and I am pleased to call them friend.

How do you know which is which? If you don’t know, by all means, be cautious. Again, if this isn’t you, don’t be someone you’re not. For me, I have always enjoyed sarcasm and satire and a finely crafted barb. Often times, my replies to my opponents can be more subtle but still meant to embarrass, because they are being embarrassing and attacking the cause of Christ.

Do you want what you think is moral to be shown in the world around you? Stand up for it and fight the ones opposed to it on ideological grounds. (To go into physical confrontation during an ideological debate is to lose the debate) If you will not stand up for what you believe in, why should anyone else think it’s worth believing in? If you will not stand up for Christ, why should it be that He would stand up for you on the last day?

Friends. We have truth on our side. We can deal with ideological bullies. The question is, will we?

In Christ,

Nick Peters