Posts Tagged ‘science’

Do Religious People Have Shaky Foundations?

January 2, 2015

Are you standing on shaky ground if you’re a theist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, an article showed up at Salon.com by John Messerly. In it, the author claims that those who are religious have a shaky foundation for what they believe in and was trying to explain the religious mind. Naturally, I saw no citation of people who would consider themselves religious to ask why we really believe what we believe and think what we think. I have no doubt that many do so for flimsy and superficial reasons. I have spent much time at this blog condemning such a mindset. (You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!) I’ve long said our intellectual foundations need to be strong and we need to wrestle with the big questions of life.

The article starts by pointing to a survey stating that 14% of professional philosophers are theists. However, I do think the data is not really as conclusive. Nearly 2,000 faculty members at various institutions were asked what they thought and less than half of that number actually responded. That means more than half of them did not respond and that’s out of only the number surveyed. What institutions were asked as well?

For instance, let’s suppose that there was a survey sent to the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic university. There you’ll find Alvin Plantinga. Do you think you’ll find others like him there who are theists? Absolutely. It’s not a shock that many Christian philosophers might want to teach at Christian seminaries because they want to educate fellow Christians. Were such institutions excluded? If so, could that also not just as much show a bias? Does that mean you should only examine Christian institutions? Absolutely not! Examine all of them.

So right at the start, color me suspicious. I want to see more data.

What about the claim that 7% of the National Academy of Sciences are theists? Rob Bowman in an excellent article answering Victor Stenger nearly a year ago said the following about that:

“Assuming that’s true, how does one get into the NAS? Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences website says: “Because membership is achieved by election, there is no membership application process. Although many names are suggested informally, only Academy members may submit formal nominations.” In other words, it’s an exclusive club that decides who may even be considered for membership. According to a 2010 article in Scientific American, about 18,000 American citizens earn PhDs in the sciences or engineering every year. There are only about 2,200 members in the NAS, and no more than 84 new members are inducted each year. Even the geniuses in the NAS can figure out that its membership does not represent an adequately representative sampling of well-trained scientists.”

So again, we have the same sort of problem. If you have a good ol’ boys association, they can choose who gets in and gets out and can conclude that real scientists aren’t theists so don’t accept them. We are regularly told how Christians do this at Seminaries and such where you have to have such and such beliefs to get in the door. Does it seem ludicrous to think other people could do the same thing?

Messerly is certainly right when he says this doesn’t say anything about the truth of theism or atheism, but it could cause believers discomfort. But why? Is this supposed to be something we don’t know? For those of us who are Christians, we expect people today to not accept the Gospel just as has often been the norm. Messerly attributes the disbelief to a rise in modern science as well as claims that the traditional theistic arguments don’t work.

Well both of those need to be shown rather than just asserted.

For instance, if we are told science has disproven theism, then how? When was this done? What branch of science did it? What experiment? Can we point to a conclusive date? Now someone might ask me if science has proven theism. Absolutely not. This is not the realm of science. I happen to agree with Francis Beckwith. Science can provide interesting data and it is useful in many areas, but it is not the final arbiter on the theism debate. The arguments I use for believing in God and establishing His existence do not depend on modern science. Suppose tomorrow an eternal universe is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt,. So what? My arguments are safe. Suppose evolution is shown to be false beyond the shadow of a doubt tomorrow. So what? My arguments are safe.

Science however does make sense in a Christian context. If there’s a rational God behind the world establishing order and acting with purpose, we can expect to find his purpose. This is why so many of the scientists in the Middle Ages and beyond were Christians and never saw a conflict between Christianity and science. The supposed warfare between science and religion has been a myth foisted on us by post-enlightenment thinkers. James Hannam gives an excellent look at this myth here. You can also listen to my interview with him here.

I know a lot of atheist readers are ready to scream “Bias” at this point. If so, because a lot of them like to look at supposed bias instead of looking at the data, then how about Tim O’Neill? How does his bio on his page describe him?

“Wry, dry, rather sarcastic, eccentric, occasionally arrogant Irish-Australian atheist bastard.”

How about also a book edited by the agnostic Ronald Numbers that deals with many of these bogus claims as well? That would be Galileo Goes To Jail.

Now if Messerly meanwhile wants to say theistic arguments have failed, okay. How about listing them and going through them? How about pointing to references that show where this has happened? Peter Boghossian has done the same thing in his book, A Manual for Creating Atheists. On page 28, he says all the arguments have been refuted. Demonstration? None. The endnote he gives points to no works on the topic at all. It’s simply a statement of faith.

Which at this point is all Messerly has given.

So now we get to how to explain religious belief, and right at the get-go there’s a problem here. What is religion exactly? Does Messerly ever define it? Not at all.

So what is it? Is it something that believes in God? Does anyone want to say classical Buddhism which denies a creator is a religion? It is hard to think of something that all religions would have in common, except perhaps ethical practice, which atheists today regularly say they follow. In America, atheists even have 501c3’s for their organizations, just like various religious groups do. Could we consider atheism a religion?

If Messerly wants to say religion is problematic for smart people, it would be smart of him to tell us what exactly religion is.

But alas, it looks like Messerly has already concluded without sufficient evidence that theism is just not held by smart people so let’s treat it like an anomaly and see how it arose. Maybe it arose because people wanted social cohesion!

So let’s get this straight. Atheists that tell us how often it is that people have been killed in the name of religion and how many wars have supposedly been fought in the name of religion want to tell us that people believe in religion because it helped to provide social unity?

Chesterton wrote years ago on how Christianity was blamed for different things. It was blamed for being too pacifist by people and then it was blamed for being too aggressive and hungry for war. It was blamed for people wanting to attribute money and wealth and it was blamed for keeping us in poverty. When Christianity was blamed for both ends, Chesterton started wondering how this was possible. It was looking at Christianity then that got him to come to Christ. He would say he became a Christian based on reading the skeptics of Christianity.

Let’s also look at the three great monotheistic systems.

Judaism came first. Judaism is said to have committed genocide on the Canaanites, (though that can be disputed) and was seen as an anomaly in the Roman world. The only reason it was granted any leeway was because it was an old belief. Christianity comes next. Christians could have cohesion with themselves, but the rest of society saw them as deviant. In fact, Judaism itself saw them that way. If they wanted to create a belief for social cohesion, they went entirely wrong with that one!

And how about Islam? Islam was also deviant at the start. Why was Muhammad rejected at first? What provided the unity? Muhammad went to war and there were great benefits for being a Muslim then. You got wealth and women for instance. Now don’t we think most men would like to have those things? But do we see Islam today really providing the social unity that we see? If you want to say that people of like mind establish unity with one another, sure, but this also happens in atheist churches, which do exist, and we could say it can happen in anti-theistic scientific communities. One does not need a religion for social cohesion.

How about coming up with deities to explain natural causes? What would be good for this is if we have some evidence that this was so instead of a just-so story. (It’s amazing that those who scream for evidence so much seem to think they’re excluded from it.) Why should I think that god was made to fill in the gaps? Why not think that people were theistic at the start? Since we have found so many remnants of ancient practices that were theistic or polytheistic or animistic, shouldn’t we consider that that was the original belief? What about the work of scholars in this area like Win Corduan that also argue that monotheism was the original belief?

But alas, if you are looking for evidence for Messerly’s position, you will be waiting for awhile. It’s just a look at the start that say “The really smart people are the ones that agree with me and they say you’re wrong so now we’ll just study why you believe the way you do.” You kind of get the idea that religious people, again whatever those are, are being treated like lab rats whose strange views must be explained.

Messerly also wants to say that much of what is believed in religious circles is influenced by where we are born. This is true. Of course, many non-religious beliefs are also affected. You are more likely to believe in evolution if you grew up in the modern west than if you grow up an Aborigine in Australia. If you grow up an Eskimo, you are quite likely to believe that whale blubber is extremely healthy for you. If you grow up in a Christian culture, you are more likely to believe ethical statements like “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We could ask is it possible that if you grow up in a society that believes strongly in social conditioning, could not then be socially conditioned to believe that beliefs rise up from social conditioning? How does that belief not refute itself? Note again I do agree you are more likely to believe X if you grow up in a culture that teaches X. That says nothing about whether X is true or not and that applies to non-religious beliefs as well. Why should religious beliefs be treated differently? My same parents who taught me about Jesus also taught me about mathematics and the value of reading and the moral system that I hold to. They taught me the world really exists and that it is not an illusion and that evil is a reality in the world. Should I reject all those other beliefs as well?

We’re also told religion could result from a lack of a good social safety net. Yet how would this follow? It again never occurs to people that religious belief could develop for intellectual reasons. This is especially so since so many of us are screaming out that we believe in God for intellectual reasons. The reply is “Be quiet! That can’t be the answer! We want to find out why you really believe! We’ve already decided it’s not intellectual!” Atheistic presuppositionalism at its finest.

Interestingly, we are also told religious belief is responsible for social dysfunction resulting in homicides, incarcerations, infant mortality, teen pregnancy, STD’s, abortions, etc. Now this is quite amazing. We are told that religion is there for social cohesion and in the same article we are told that it causes social dysfunction. Once again we have the paradox of Chesterton taking place.

The reference cited in the article contains a number of straw men, including the idea that it’s important to point out that atheists can be moral without believing in God. It gets so tiring to see this straw man. I don’t know a single Christian intellectual that has argued that belief in God is necessary to be moral. We have in fact all argued against it and said that this is not the statement. It is being said instead that God provides a necessary foundation for moral truths and this is so whether one believes in Him or not. If God is real and God is necessary for moral truths to be real, then that is so. Those moral truths can still exist and be observed if one does not believe in God. In fact, Romans 2 and other passages like it make it clear that those who do not know God still have the moral law written on their hearts. Knowledge of God is not necessary for the knowledge of moral truths.

But if he wants evidence of what Christians are doing differently, he can see this piece by Brian Stewart.

As for other countries, many of these still have a Christian background. Perhaps the government is not religious, but the government is not the culture. What we need to see is what’s going to happen more and more when the background is removed and how will the country be in comparison to where it was. For saying America is a religious country, why should I really think that? Many pay lip service to Christianity here for instance, but is it really followed? Perhaps we should compare to societies in the past where Christianity was taken seriously and see what their crime rates and such were like.

We’re also told believers in scientific ideas don’t take public opinion polls to see if their beliefs are true. I would like to know though who the religious people are that determine if a religion is true by looking at public opinion polls. If I saw a poll that indicated belief in Scientology was rapidly increasing in America, does that mean I’m jumping on the Scientology bandwagon? Not at all. I need the data. For someone who is stating about not needing polls to defend a belief, why is it that he’s pointing to polls of the NAS and polls of professional philosophers and a poll indicating more people believe in the virgin birth than biological evolution?

We are told science attests to its own truth. It works. Why yes. Yes indeed.

Science works!
That’s a photo of Hiroshima after the bombing. Note that that took place in Japan which the article cited stated had very little Christian influence and Christianity is in the minority and that’s the country we were at war with. Was it a religious war? Hardly. Still, we dropped the bomb and you know what? The bomb worked! It caused the devastation it was meant to. I’m not arguing whether it was the right or wrong decision. I’m just arguing that it worked.

Did “religious people” fly the planes into 9/11. Yes. Atheists could just as easily have done the same. We could just as well say science still works when Mengele performs his twisted experiments on Jews. Science is a tool and it can be used for good or for evil. In the hands of the good, it can do tremendously good things, and this includes good people who are religious. In the hands of the evil, it can do greatly evil things, and this includes non-religious people who are evil.

Note also that for many of us who are religious per se, the claim has never been that we believe in Christianity because it works. The concept doesn’t even make sense. Works for what? Is it meant to make us good people? It does that, but that’s not the purpose. We believe in Christianity because it’s true. Interestingly, Messerly himself in the same paragraph drops this little gem.

“The simplest answer is that people believe what they want to, what they find comforting, not what the evidence supports: In general, people don’t want to know; they want to believe. This best summarizes why people tend to believe.”

Why should Messerly be excluded?

I could argue it could be very comforting to some people to know that there is not a God who is going to judge them one day. It could be comforting to know you don’t have to risk exclusion from intellectual circles for believing in a deity. Because of that then, you can dismiss the claims of evidence (You know, like saying that the arguments are unconvincing without telling why and making claims like science has disproven theism without providing evidence) and go on with your life.

Maybe Messerly wants to believe that there is no higher power and wants to believe he is one of the intellectual elite. Why not?

Let’s suppose Messerly replies saying I believe in God because I want to believe in Him. Okay. That’s false, but let’s suppose it was true. If I give intellectual arguments, how does pointing to insincere motives disprove the argument? The argument works or it doesn’t. Let’s suppose there is an atheist who wants to live a sexually promiscuous lifestyle and in doing so, knows he needs to exclude God, so he argues for evolution because he wrongly thinks that if he demonstrates evolution, then he has proven God does not exist.

Would it disprove evolution if any of us said “Well see here now! You do not believe in God because you want to live a sexually promiscuous lifestyle. Your arguments are invalid because you are believing what you want to believe because of emotional reasons.” Not at all. This is the old weak excuse of bias. The atheist could have all the bias in the world and his argument could still be true.

But people like Messerly like to point to insincere motives because it just blows their mind to think that people could believe on the basis of evidence.

So what else do we have? I think it’s important to quote this next section entirely.

“Why, then, do some highly educated people believe religious claims? First, smart persons are good at defending ideas that they originally believed for non-smart reasons. They want to believe something, say for emotional reasons, and they then become adept at defending those beliefs. No rational person would say there is more evidence for creation science than biological evolution, but the former satisfies some psychological need for many that the latter does not. How else to explain the hubris of the philosopher or theologian who knows little of biology or physics yet denies the findings of those sciences? It is arrogant of those with no scientific credentials and no experience in the field or laboratory, to reject the hard-earned knowledge of the science. Still they do it. (I knew a professional philosopher who doubted both evolution and climate science but believed he could prove that the Christian God must take a Trinitarian form! Surely something emotional had short-circuited his rational faculties.)”

A number of us can come to beliefs for non-smart reasons at the start. Suppose you believe in heliocentrism and your reason is your parents told you so. That would hardly be an intellectual reason, but then you later study astronomy and find more reasons to believe in heliocentrism. That you find later reasons for a belief you held as a child for less than stellar reasons is not a proof that you held the belief falsely.

Second, this also doesn’t explain how many people come to believe in God later on after a search and that is one based on finding evidence. What of people like Alister McGrath, John Polkinghorne, C.S. Lewis, Chuck Colson, Francis Collins, and others?

Messerly writes of the hubris of those who know little of biology and physics and yet denies the findings of those sciences. Sure. That’s a problem. Those who don’t know those areas should not argue them. What of the atheist who knows little of history and philosophy and argues Christ-mythicism and says philosophical theistic arguments do not work? Should I accept Richard Dawkins as an authority on history or philosophy? Not at all, yet how many atheists eat up his work on the topic and pass it off as Gospel?

This hubris works both ways. The difference is I’m willing to leave areas of science to those who study science. Would that atheists would return the compliment! Practically every NT scholar and ancient historian out there says it’s certain Jesus existed, yet how many atheists tout out his non-existence regularly on the internet and instead point to those who are seen as the fringe. (If you want to say ID is the fringe, you must be fair and do the same with Christ-mythicism.)

Messerly then points to a professional philosopher who doubts evolution and climate change but is convinced that he can show God must be Trinitarian. Okay. Who is he? What were his reasons for thinking such? Messerly does not tell us. Is it a crime to ask questions of biological evolution? What kind did he doubt? Did he doubt evolution without any guiding hand whatsoever? As for climate change, there are plenty today who do doubt climate change. It’s not written in stone. Meanwhile, perhaps theism is a specialty area of his. Should Messerly not follow his own advice and listen to someone who is a professional in this area? It is quite amusing to hear Messerly argue that one should listen to the professionals and then disregard a professional and claim that there must be some emotional reason. Does he give any evidence for this? Nope. It just must be there.

Could it be Messerly is just believing what he wants to believe instead of really looking at the evidence?

The next reason?

Second, the proclamations of educated believers are not always to be taken at face value. Many don’t believe religious claims but think them useful. They fear that in their absence others will lose a basis for hope, morality or meaning. These educated believers may believe that ordinary folks can’t handle the truth. They may feel it heartless to tell parents of a dying child that their little one doesn’t go to a better place. They may want to give bread to the masses, like Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor.”

This must be it! They’re just lying! They don’t believe the claims are true. The claims are just useful! We cannot take their words at face value.

Yes. That’s a great attitude to have. Enter the debate assuming your opponent must be lying about what he believes! He has deep emotional reasons! Okay. Let’s do that.

Messerly has deep emotional reasons for not wanting theism to be true. I do not know what these are, but hey, who needs evidence? Now he can say all he wants to that this is not so, but we cannot take his words at face value! He might present a lot of arguments, but we must realize those can’t be taken at face value because those arguments were made after the fact and are just written to support what he already believes. Truly we must study Messerly and find out what the deep emotional reason he has for not supporting theism is.

Would anyone accept this? Doubtful. Should anyone? Hopefully not. Yet this is exactly what Messerly has done. He has chosen to think that it’s more probable that people like me are lying about what we say and should not be taken at face value.

Gotta love that kind of attitude.

The next reason is control. One does not want to look bad in the face of others.

Because, dude, we all know the totally cool thing in our American society today is to say you’re a Christian! Don’t you know how awesomely we are treated? I mean, look at how respectfully we’re treated on American television and in movies. Look at how we’re proclaimed as the champions of tolerance and reason! Society just so regularly goes out and celebrates Christianity.

I wonder what color the sky is in Messerly’s world because he sure isn’t living in mine.

Moving on….

Third, when sophisticated thinkers claim to be religious, they often have something in mind unlike what the general populace believes. They may be process theologians who argue that god is not omnipotent, contains the world, and changes. They may identify god as an anti-entropic force pervading the universe leading it to higher levels of organization. They may be pantheists, panentheists, or death-of-god theologians. Yet these sophisticated varieties of religious belief bear little resemblance to popular religion. The masses would be astonished to discover how far such beliefs deviate from their theism.”

Once again, the person is not being honest. Now of course, Messerly has not defined what religious is, but perhaps the person is really a process theologian or a pantheist. Of course, these are the “sophisticated” versions of religious belief. (It’s so nice of Messerly to tell us what is and isn’t sophisticated isn’t it?) Messerly just can’t bring himself to say “Some people do believe in a monotheistic God for intellectual reasons.” There HAS to be something else. There just HAS to be.

“But we shouldn’t be deceived. Although there are many educated religious believers, including some philosophers and scientists, religious belief declines with educational attainment, particularly with scientific education. Studies also show that religious belief declines among those with higher IQs. Hawking, Dennett and Dawkins are not outliers, and neither is Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.”

So let’s get this straight. If you go to an institution of higher education where atheism is normally taught, then lo and behold, you become an atheist. This from the same person who said that religion is socially conditioned. Is it not possible that atheism could be conditioned just as much and that by intelligentsia? If you say intelligent people don’t believe in God and then exclude those who do and don’t let them teach at such institutions, what a shock that such institutions produce atheists!

This just in. Catholic Universities have a tendency to produce graduates who believe in God! Seminaries have a tendency to produce graduates that are theists! Shocking! Details at 11!

Instead, we get an appeal to popularity with people with higher IQs. Naturally, these are atheists. Again, what about people like Polkinghorne or Swinburne or McGrath or Collins? Do these people just not count? It’s really easy to make the game work in your favor when you decide what evidence you will include and only mention smart people who don’t believe in God.

“Or consider this anecdotal evidence. Among the intelligentsia it is common and widespread to find individuals who lost childhood religious beliefs as their education in philosophy and the sciences advanced. By contrast, it is almost unheard of to find disbelievers in youth who came to belief as their education progressed. This asymmetry is significant; advancing education is detrimental to religious belief. This suggest another part of the explanation for religious belief—scientific illiteracy.”

Anecdotal evidence. Now if a believer stands up and gives a personal testimony, that’s anecdotal and not accepted, but when an atheist stands up and gives a personal testimony of how he abandoned theism and came to be an atheist, that is not anecdotal and that works. It looks like many atheists just can’t seem to escape a “religious” mindset and want to give a a personal testimony. All Messerly needed after this section was a YouTube clip of “Just as I am” for all ready to deconvert.

And as for scientific illiteracy, yes. We can be sure that Francis Collins, Alister McGrath, John Lennox, and John Polkinghorne must simply be scientifically illiterate. Could it be the problem of atheism is that too many atheists are philosophically and historically illiterate? Why assume that science is the supreme arbiter? Has Messerly given any argument for that?

“If we combine reasonable explanations of the origin of religious beliefs and the small amount of belief among the intelligentsia with the problematic nature of beliefs in gods, souls, afterlives or supernatural phenomena generally, we can conclude that (supernatural) religious beliefs are probably false. And we should remember that the burden of proof is not on the disbeliever to demonstrate there are no gods, but on believers to demonstrate that there areBelievers are not justified in affirming their belief on the basis of another’s inability to conclusively refute them, any more than a believer in invisible elephants can command my assent on the basis of my not being able to “disprove” the existence of the aforementioned elephants. If the believer can’t provide evidence for a god’s existence, then I have no reason to believe in gods.”

Of course, we naturally have the natural/supernatural dichotomy, a belief some of us question. Interestingly, the same article that says that these polls do not indicate the truth of a belief system and that scientists don’t go to polls to establish belief, has now used those same polls and said that religious belief is probably false. It’s just so amusing to see this take place.

Naturallythere’s the claim that the burden of proof is on the believer always. Why should this be so? How about this bizarre idea? Anyone who makes a claim should have a burden of backing it. If I make a claim of theism and can’t demonstrate it, that does not prove theism is false, which is the claim that Messerly is making. If he makes the claim of atheism and cannot back it, does that prove theism is true? Nope.

Oh. He might be tempted to say that atheism is not about denying God but rather is a lack of God-belief. Not going to work.

“Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

William Rowe The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy p.62

“Atheism, as presented in this book, is a definite doctrine, and defending it requires one to engage with religious ideas. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a personal, transcendent creator of the universe, rather than one who simply lives life without reference to such a being.”

Robin Le Poidevin Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion p.xvii

Of course, the burden of proof argument is one too many atheists like to make so they can make the theists do all the work and feel justified at the end of the day since they don’t have to put forward actual arguments. Thankfully, there are atheists who do not accept this, but on the internet, they are too often in the minority. The simple solution is that anyone who makes any claim has the obligation to back that claim.

“In response to the difficulties with providing reasons to believe in things unseen, combined with the various explanations of belief, you might turn to faith. It is easy to believe something without good reasons if you are determined to do so—like the queen in “Alice and Wonderland” who “sometimes … believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” But there are problems with this approach. First, if you defend such beliefs by claiming that you have a right to your opinion, however unsupported by evidence it might be, you are referring to a political or legal right, not an epistemic one. You may have a legal right to say whatever you want, but you have epistemic justification only if there are good reasons and evidence to support your claim. If someone makes a claim without concern for reasons and evidence, we should conclude that they simply don’t care about what’s true. We shouldn’t conclude that their beliefs are true because they are fervently held.”

Of course, one wonders what things unseen are being talked about since many of us believe in things unseen. I believe in triangularity. I have never seen it. I have seen examples of triangularity in triangles, but I have never seen triangularity itself. I have never seen morality or goodness itself. I have seen things that are good and moral, but not goodness and morality. I have never seen numbers. I have never seen existence itself. I have seen things that exist, but never existence. I have also never seen laws of nature. I have seen things acting according to so-called laws of nature, but I have not seen the laws themselves.

Is Messerly a total nominalist?

But yet, Messerly again goes to faith, a favorite canard of skeptics. Does he show any understanding of faith? Nope. He just assumes his definition. Meanwhile, some of us have a counter-definition of faith. Messerly assumes that it is belief without reason or evidence, but this is a nonsense claim. No one can truly believe anything without reason or evidence. It could be poor reason or insufficient evidence or some other combination, but it is still some reason and some evidence.

“Another problem is that fideism—basing one’s beliefs exclusively on faith—makes belief arbitrary, leaving no way to distinguish one religious belief from another. Fideism allows no reason to favor your preferred beliefs or superstitions over others. If I must accept your beliefs without evidence, then you must accept mine, no matter what absurdity I believe in. But is belief without reason and evidence worthy of rational beings? Doesn’t it perpetuate the cycle of superstition and ignorance that has historically enslaved us? I agree with W.K. Clifford. “It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” Why? Because your beliefs affect other people, and your false beliefs may harm them.”

Yes. The cycle of superstition and ignorance. It’s so amusing that those who complain about emotional reasons for belief often give their own emotional reasons. Could Messerly point to this time of superstition and ignorance? Will he use the Dark Ages myth dealt with already in the links above?

“The counter to Clifford’s evidentialism has been captured by thinkers like Blaise Pascal, William James, and Miguel de Unamuno. Pascal’s famous dictum expresses: “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.” William James claimed that reason can’t resolve all issues and so we are sometimes justified believing ideas that work for us. Unamuno searched for answers to existential questions, counseling us to abandon rationalism and embrace faith. Such proposals are probably the best the religious can muster, but if reason can’t resolve our questions then agnosticism, not faith, is required.”

Of course, the people he cites as responding to Clifford first off, have all been dead for decades so he points to no contemporary replies, and in fact, Pascal had been dead long before Clifford was even born. How was Pascal replying to Clifford then? Pascal was hardly anti-evidence either. He did base a lot on a personal experience, but he was also a champion of reasoning and a genius in his time with many inventions including in the area of mathematics. To base all of Pascal’s arguments on one statement of his is frankly dishonest.

Messerly also says these statements are probably the best religious people can muster. Probably the best? Probably? How about going out and actually interviewing people who are “religious” and intellectual and even believe in monotheistic deities, you know, those less sophisticated forms of religion, and see why it is that they believe what they believe? How about reading their works and grappling with their arguments?

But for someone like Messerly, this is not required. Just pull up three different people and assume that represents the whole of theistic defense and then say that’s the best. There is no interaction with an Alvin Plantinga or William Lane Craig or Richard Swinburne or Edward Feser. Could it be that an anti-religious person like Messerly is just comforting himself with what he wants to believe. For someone who says you should not believe based on insufficient evidence, and he’s totally right in that by the way, it looks like he gathered insufficient evidence to believe what he believes about religious people.

Like too many of the anti-religious, it is foreign to the mind of Messerly to talk to modern scholars in the field who actually hold to theistic belief and ask them why they believe. Of course, if he did, he would just say he couldn’t take what they say at face value anyway so he always has an out.

“Besides, faith without reason doesn’t satisfy most of us, hence our willingness to seek reasons to believe. If those reasons are not convincing, if you conclude that religious beliefs are untrue, then religious answers to life’s questions are worthless. You might comfort yourself by believing that little green dogs in the sky care for you but this is just nonsense, as are any answers attached to such nonsense. Religion may help us in the way that whisky helps a drunk, but we don’t want to go through life drunk. If religious beliefs are just vulgar superstitions, then we are basing our lives on delusions. And who would want to do that?”

If religious answers are untrue, yes. They’re worthless. So it is also with non-religious answers. If they’re not true, they’re worthless. Yet it is those of us who are said to be “religious” who need to comfort ourselves. Could I not just say that Messerly writes a piece like he does because he needs to get social approval from his anti-religious kin and provide comfort and try to convince himself? I could, but I would have insufficient evidence, yet this does not stop Messerly from doing the same kind of thing to his critics.

“Why is all this important? Because human beings need their childhood to end; they need to face life with all its bleakness and beauty, its lust and  its love, its war and its peace. They need to make the world better. No one else will.”

It is strange that Messerly ends this piece talking about things unseen. Has he seen bleakness and beauty? I don’t doubt he’s seen things he calls bleak and things he calls beautiful, but has he seen the things themselves? Does he have a material measurement by which he can measure beauty? Could he take some beauty and put in a jar for me and scientifically study it?

How about lust and love? Why not be consistent and believe like the Churchlands do? There is no love or lust. It’s all just chemical reactions taking place. If Messerly wants to point to an unseen reality called love, perhaps he should give some evidence that it exists, unless he just has faith.

And we need to make the world better? What does that mean? Has he given evidence of this unseen thing called good? As for making the world better, the article by Brian Stewart shows that Christians are doing just that. Many of us who happen to believe in another world treat this world so seriously because it is the creation of God and it is to be treated as a great good that He has provided.

By contrast in atheism, what about what Bertrand Russell said?

“Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

Or someone like Alex Rosenberg who when answering questions in his book says

“Is there a God? No.

What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is.

What is the purpose of the universe? There is none.

What is the meaning of life? Ditto.

Why am I here? Just dumb luck.

Does prayer work? Of course not.

Is there a soul? Is it immortal? — Are you kidding?

Is there free will? Not a chance!

What happens when we die? Everything pretty much goes on as before, except us.

What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad? There is no difference between them.

Why should I be moral? Because it makes you feel better than being immoral.

Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden, permissible, or sometimes obligatory? Anything goes.”

Interesting with those last bits since we were just told about how religion makes those worse and a modern atheist like Rosenberg says “anything goes.”

In conclusion, Messerly is just writing from the position of atheistic presuppositionalism not wanting to actually engage in any arguments and hand wave away that which disagrees with him. It would be nice to see Messerly do some real research asking contemporary minds what they believe and why they do, but we know he will just not take them at face-value. He has reached his conclusion already and who cares what the future data is.

And of course, too many internet atheists will eat it all up.

Perhaps those who are believing what they want to believe could actually be in the other camp.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Passionate Intellect

December 2, 2014

What do I think of Alister McGrath’s book? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Passionate Intellect

First, my thanks to IVP for sending me a copy for review purposes of this book. IVP I have found to be an excellent publishing company and their books consistently meet a high standard of excellence.

The Passionate Intellect is a look at the life of the mind from the viewpoint of Alister McGrath, himself a former atheist heavily interested in the sciences who became a theologian after his conversion to Christianity.

In some ways, I got a lot of good out of the book, but I’m not sure it was the good I was wanting to get. I would describe myself as one who has a passionate intellect. My wife would be more likely to connect to God through art and music and things of that sort. For me, I connect more through apologetics and through study of the historical Jesus.

Something I had been hoping for was a look at how exactly study was to be done with a passionate intellect. What do you do if you do not connect the most through music? After all, for me, one time I like to hear in a church service is “You may be seated.” I want to jump right into the study of Scripture and see what it has to say. This is not intended to disrespect the band at our church. They do a great job much of the time, but I can only stand and hear the songs for so long.

McGrath doesn’t do that as I would have liked. Still, he does bring out the importance of theology. Theology should definitely inform our worship and then in turn our worship will inform our theology. Too often we have worship going on in the church that has no real content to it and ends up focusing on us and our emotional experiences.

McGrath recommends studying the minds of the past and seeing how they deal with different circumstances, such as the problem of suffering. Here we see a contrast between Martin Luther and C.S. Lewis. What would these two have thought of each other? Could it be that we can have an idea of what the solution is to suffering but then we suddenly see how difficult it is when the real suffering takes place?

The second part of the book does focus largely on apologetics. Those who are interested in the question of the relationship between science and religion will always find something interesting to read in McGrath. You will find discussions on Darwin as well as looking at what has happened when atheism comes to power. McGrath even has a little bit on suicide bombers and asking if they’re primarily religious or if they instead happen to be more political.

So in conclusion, while I did not get what I was necessarily wanting, I did get something that was helpful and I do agree with McGrath that we need some passionate intellects in the church. Those who would see themselves as having a passionate intellect are encouraged to get this book and see if it helps them on their Christian journey.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Godbuster

November 17, 2014

What do I think about Elliot George’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Godbuster

When I heard Elliot George debate Jonathan McLatchie on Unbelievable? I wanted to see exactly how bad George’s book was for myself. Maybe what happened on the show was a fluke after all. I wasn’t expecting that, but hey, hope springs eternal. So I bought the book and proceeded to go through it.

It wasn’t at the level of the debate he had with Jonathan I must confess.

No. It went far lower.

Even the art work on this book is ridiculous with a challenge of “Dare To Read This?” Well I did read it and I can say that if you ever have an urge to kill a few hours of your life, you can consider going through this book. Like another bad book I read recently, It left me tempted to be an environmentalist. Why? Because I have great pity for trees that have to die to print this kind of stuff.

So what’s so bad about this book?

A foreword by John Loftus should have told me enough and everything that I thought from that point was confirmed as I got in. Reading George is like reading the rant of a small child and one who by his own admission does not know the subject that he talks about. Yet for a follower of atheistic presuppositionalism this is no excuse! After all, if you know about science, that’s all that matters!

For George, science is at the centerpiece of his worldview. Everything revolves around science. Why is it that we are suffering? We are ignorant of science! This must be news to people who were suffering in Communist Russia under poverty where there was a great interest in science so much so that we were in a race with them on studying space.

You can know plenty about science and live in a culture that knows science and still be suffering for any number of reasons. Having said that, I do not think a society should be ignorant of science. Science is extremely important and we need people who will learn it. I will say at the start it is not something I study. I can read many things on science with great fascination. (Reading material about space, for instance, is quite incredible) Still, it is a subject I do not invest serious study in. I prefer historical questions far more. I leave questions of science as science to those who study it.

George starts at location 132 (I got the Kindle format so I at least spared some trees) with saying that religions have been fighting against accepting science since the acceptance of the scientific method. It would be nice to know what evidence there is of this. George doesn’t give any. He said on the show that he wanted it to be simple that even an 8 year old could read it and they wouldn’t be interested in citations. (Because we know a little number after a claim would just really go against an 8 year-old’s reading)

Color me skeptical of this claim and it’s not just a Christian theist like me. Even an atheist like Tim O’Neill says the same thing. Have there been interpretations of Scripture that have disagreed with science? Yes. Does that mean there is a fundamental essential disagreement? No. More on this when we get to discussions of science.

But unfortunately at this point, George has fired an opening shot without evidence other than his say so and the unsuspecting reader is just going to go along with it. It’s amusing considering how repeatedly he speaks about claims with no evidence throughout the book and regularly fails to give evidence for his claims.

He in the same area tells us that believers tend to seek material that backs what they believe and avoid opposite opinions. Belief is then put in a locked safe of sorts in the mind of the believer.

This is certainly true of many Christians.

This is also certainly true of many atheists.

In fact, I would wish to ask George when the last time was that he read a work of scholarship that disagreed with him. For my part, I’m constantly encouraging Christians to read both sides of the argument and learn from it. I have more respect for an atheist that argues for atheism and has read the best in Christian scholarship, than a Christian who argues for Christianity and does not read atheistic and skeptical scholarship.

George tells us also that science has the best method for investigating and understanding the world around us. I wish to know how he knows this. Now I do not doubt that it is an excellent method, but the best? For many of us, the most important questions we have cannot be answered by science.

What is the good? Who do I marry? Do I marry? What am I here for? How do I raise my children right? Is there a God? Does my life have any meaning? Is there such a thing as right and wrong? Why do we suffer? These are all important questions and before dismissing any of them, let’s pause to realize they are all real questions. Most of us have at some time in life asked ourselves these kinds of questions. Science can help with some of them, but it does not give the final answer.

George has much to say about belief which quite frankly is bizarre. He is certainly right that believing in something doesn’t make it true, but no one is arguing that. Belief is just giving intellectual agreement to a claim. It is saying “Yes, I hold that the claim stated is true.” George keeps thinking his idea of belief is the true one and imposes that on every claim that he sees.

Starting on location 234, he says

Raising such speculation to the level of a ‘belief’ is where religions come into the picture. Since this sort of belief is not supported by evidence, religious leaders have found it necessary to counter the inevitable difficult questions by claiming immunity from questioning.

He goes on to say

They have even managed to elevate unquestioning to a position of virtue and ‘righteousness’ in our societies by calling it ‘Faith.’

Well Mr. George, you might be surprised to hear that at my church, we have a saying. “Come as you are. Text in your questions.” Yes. We want people to ask questions. If you come to our church and during the service have a question, there’s a number you can text it in to that we tell you before the service starts. When you do, the pastor will receive it at the end of the service and come out and answer your question. If it’s a question that is rather extensive, he will say that he will make a video log that week where he will answer your question.

By the way, all questions are welcome. We’ve had questions on evil, if Scripture has been changed, sexual ethics, homosexuality, etc. No question is forbidden.

Second, as for faith, George is simply wrong on this. George does not bother to interact with any evidence on this position. He could have at least cited Hebrews 11:1. That would have been the start of an argument, though it would still be wrong. In fact, I have argued elsewhere that faith spoken of in the sense used by most atheists is not a virtue.

Faith instead is trust in what has been shown to be reliable. It is loyalty. Suppose you live in the ancient world and want to open a bakery. You don’t have the funds to do it. You go to someone who does. They give you a gift of money. That gift is called charis, which is translated as grace in the New Testament. In turn, you live your life in loyalty to this patron giving thanks for them and letting everyone know who it is that supplied you with the bakery. That loyalty is called faith. The word in Greek is Pistis.

Faith involves an element of risk. It’s easy to say you believe that the doctor can perform the surgery on you and that you’ll wake up. It’s faith when you act on it. You don’t have faith that 2 + 2 = 4 because there’s no element of risk involved with it. You don’t have faith that you exist for the exact same reason.

George says that the church benefits by keeping the flock in a juvenile mode. He gives a quote from John Shelby Spong, though he doesn’t give a reference of course, and says Christianity is in the business of guilt and control. This is interesting since in the ancient world the internal concept of personal guilt was a misnomer just as it is in many societies around today. A man in a church in Indonesia for instance can have an affair and have no guilt until someone calls him out on it, and then he has guilt. Spong and others assume a modern individualism and then push that on the rest of the world and on the Biblical text.

When talking about why people believe in a deity, George gives reasons such as desire for an afterlife, a sense of belonging, etc. For some, this could be true, but he ignores the reason of many of us. We believe that there is good evidence. Again, you are free to say that there is not good evidence, but that is not the same as saying we are believing without evidence.

On location 401 he says

Dogma is the repeated, arrogant, stubborn assertion of opinion as though it is fact. It is no credible substitute for evidence, and the enlisting of it by religions should be a clue to their weakness, their lack of foundation. Worse than that, believers put their beliefs in a strong box in their heads and secure it with the padlock of ‘faith’. We must guard against dogma and ‘faith’; together they outlaw freethinking and compel conformity and submission.

In many cases, I agree with this. I agree with it so much I think Elliot George should stop it. He regularly repeats in his book a dogma of “no evidence” without interacting with the disagreement against his position. It is as if he is teaching a dogma. That gives me a clue to the lack of foundation for his atheism. In fact, he has padlocked his position in a box called reason. Does that mean I am opposed to reason? Absolutely not! I am opposed to someone saying that atheism = reason. It doesn’t. There are atheists that can reason. There are Christians that can reason. There are atheists that can’t reason. There are Christians that can’t reason. The danger of atheism is a sort of presuppositional atheism that assumes that it is the true worldview from the outset without interacting with the best arguments against its position.

You know, like George’s.

George speaks about a time of profound ignorance when men thought the sun went around the Earth. This is a strange position since it was originally Christians that challenged this and since the reason people believed this was the science showed it at the time. The people were just going with the science of the time. If this is the standard that George wants to use, then perhaps people can disregard him even 100 years from now and say “George’s atheism should be disregarded. It was written about in that time where people were ignorant and believed X” which is whatever scientific dogma we have today that will be falsified by then.

Is George against people going against the science of the time? If so, then why is he complaining about Christians going against evolution? If not, then he should have no complaints whatsoever. For the time being, we had the system of Ptolemy and it worked. In fact, even in Galileo’s time we did not have the evidence we needed yet. That came later on.

Starting on Location 432, George argues that the argument of believing by tradition is that lots of people held a belief for a long time and they can’t all be wrong.

I would like to know very much who is making this kind of argument. Now I will say if a stance is traditional to experts in the field, it takes a lot to overcome it. Still, it is possible to do so if you have a strong enough case.

On Location 477, he says there are about 41,000 denominations. Did we really survey the whole field? This is a misunderstanding of denominations. For one, the claim is just false. There aren’t that many (The number is changing so much) and most denominations are really just fine with each other for the most part. Denominations really refers to a self-governing entity.

By this standard, there could be two independent Baptist churches in a town but on opposite ends of the town since not everyone wants to drive all across town. These churches could have the exact same beliefs, but since they’re independent, they’re each counted as a denomination. George does not realize this. (Probably because he doesn’t really do research in this field and believes claims without evidence.)

He also asks if a person could become a Jain if they wanted to or worship any other number of gods and ask if we have a full working knowledge of all the beliefs. Did we really make a fully informed decision?

We could ask George the same. He has chosen that all of them are wrong. Does he know the ins and outs of every system out there? If not, then has he made a fully informed decision? Has he examined all of them to say that there is no evidence for all of them? This seems like a strange case to make.

And can anyone have exhaustive knowledge in any field? No. Can one have sufficient knowledge to make a decision. Yes. George talks about having a wife in the book, though apparently he has been divorced before. Should we say this “George. Before you decide to marry a woman, did you go and meet every other woman on the planet? Can you say you are fully informed that this is the person you want to be with?” That would be ridiculous. None of us who are married check with everyone. We just have sufficient knowledge to choose the one we have.

George also asks if your faith position is an accident based on the location of birth and faith of your parents.

Since I know many Christians who were born in non-Christian households and are devout Christians today, then no. It is not. I could just as well say if I was born in a third world country today, i would likely believe the sun goes around the Earth. Since I was born in a culture that values science and can do it, I don’t. Should I doubt that belief because of where I was born?

George also says that since we can be fickle and change our beliefs, they can’t be very important. Right? This is an incredible statement. It is as if George believes all beliefs were created equal. At one point, I did not know my wife. At another point, I said I know her and I believe she could be a person I can marry so I kept dating her. Then I believed she is a person I can marry so I proposed. Now I believe I love her today and she loves me. That is not fickle. If I am to change my mind on anything, it is not just because I want to. It is because I have a reason. No one can change their mind just because they want to.

Suppose I had a brain scan device that could actually read your mind. I hooked it up to you and said “I can tell what you’re believing right now, so I want you to really believe there’s a pink elephant flying over your head and if you do, I will give you a million dollars.” Suppose you knew I had the money and that I was reliable and would do so. You still would walk out without the money because you could not just force yourself to believe it.

George meanwhile says scientific facts are believed because they are
supported by evidence, but religious beliefs are not like that and are just personal choices. This again is a false notion of belief. It’s not what any of us mean by the statement. If I say “I believe the Earth is 13.7 billion years old” I mean that I give intellectual agreement to the proposition even though it is supported by evidence as far as I’m concerned.

He also argues that since mankind has had a number of deities that have gone away and aren’t believed in, surely one shouldn’t think any one is true. We might as well say since man has believed in many scientific theories, then surely since those were seen as defunct, we shouldn’t believe in the ones today.

He also says

Imagining that your beliefs, your ideas, your opinions, your choices are important is the height of arrogant conceit, Isn’t it?

This from a man who published a book with his beliefs, ideas, opinions, and choices, that we should think are important enough to buy and read about. I guess George is guilty of arrogant conceit.

Interestingly, he rightly has the quote in the book by Feynman that the first principle is not to fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. It looks throughout the book like George has fooled himself.

Location 601 has two pargaraphs together worthy of full quoting.

‘Scientists understand that it’s acceptable to change their minds.’ Just think what that means: scientific facts are not fixed and ‘true’ forever. They are simply the best current understanding of reality. If new evidence comes in, the model may have to be revised. Scientists are prepared to listen to opposing opinions; they do not claim to have perfect answers or even be able to provide proof, only probability.

How unlike the unbending culture prevalent in most faith based organisations. Believers tend to make unfounded assertions, stifle opposition and try to strength their doctrine by unceasing repetition. Do you think they have to dogmatically protect their doctrine because they perceive that the lack of supporting evidence makes it vulnerable to dissent?

This from a man who makes numerous unfounded assertion in his book, as we will see, tries to stifle the opposition by making false statements about them regularly, and goes by unceasing repetition of the mantra of “No evidence.” Do you think George has to dogmatically protect this doctrine because the lack of supporting evidence makes it vulnerable to dissent? If he actually studied Christianity, for instance, he might find out people have reasons beyond feeling and emotion for believing in it.

To which, now we can start getting into some of these facts. How about Mithras being born on December 25th? That would be news to the scholars of Mithras I’ve read! None of them have said that! How about 3000 years ago the Romans believe in Dionysus who was also born on December 25th? First off, no he wasn’t born on that date. Second, the Romans weren’t even around at that time. The Roman World which is an Oxford classic, dates the start of the Roman Empire to 753 B.C. and that’s when it’s a fledgling state.

Next he says that 2,000 years ago in Judea there was a man who was claimed to have many of the same characteristics of these pagan gods.

Congratulations to George for having some of the best scholarship of the 19th century.

Of course, George has the Stephen Roberts quote of how he just goes one god further than us and when we understand why we dismiss those other gods, we’ll know why he dismisses ours.

It’s really a shame atheism has fallen for such soundbite thinking. Imagine being on a jury and hearing the defense attorney say this.

“Men and women of the jury. You all believe that many people did not commit the crime and I agree with you. I just ask that you go one person further with my client. When you realize why you believe the others didn’t commit the crime, you’ll know why you should not think my client committed the crime.”

No lawyer on Earth should be stupid enough to try such an argument.

Yet atheists think it’s a powerful stumper.

George also says that there are billions of people on the planet and there were billions before us. Numerically, each of us is insignificant like an ant. From there, he draws the conclusion that we are as unimportant as ants. How does this follow? Does this mean that if we had more people born today, our lives are somehow less important? If instead a meteor hit the planet and killed half of us, our lives would somehow be more important? Shouldn’t our value be based not on how many of us there are, but what we are?

George says repeated observations are the strongest form of evidence. It’s the gold standard.

Can George give me any evidence of this? If he does, he needs to repeat that, then he needs to repeat it again and again and again. Repeated evidence is a good standard in science where you can repeatedly test claims, but it does not work in other areas. You cannot repeat history for instance. You do not do this in Math. You do not do this in philosophy. There are other ways.

George also argues against experience as evidence because there is no way of telling one from another. There is however. The evidence! In fact, we have to use experience. If we are doing some testing on a patient, we sometimes have to ask how the patient feels. The only way we know that is the experience of the patient and what they tell us. Does George really think we learn nothing from experience?

George also says we can’t trust testimonies because people giving a testimony are performing before an audience and naturally making the story more gripping by embellishing it and thus it gets less accurate.

It would be nice to see our court system learn this fascinating truth. It’s a wonder George believes it himself. Does it not occur to him that some people will want to make their statement as true as possible and thus not embellish it so that people will take them seriously? This assumes on George’s part that people will lie and be dishonest. No doubt some will, but why think everyone will?

Amusingly in his very book, he says books should be viewed with suspicion. After all, he is modifying his text right now. They are records and not evidence unless verified.

This from a book that avoids citations and telling us that we should not trust books.

I can’t help but wonder how the publisher passed this book on….

With religious books, he asks if we’ve ever heard of Chinese Whispers, which we also know in America as the game of telephone with an example. A captain says to a messenger in the trenches to tell the general to send reinforcements. We’re going to advance. The messenger says to the general to send three and four pence. We’re going to a dance. Because of this, we can’t trust oral tradition, just watch breaking news.

Or you could do something unusual and actually study oral tradition, unless you want to make claims without evidence. (Well that’s not accurate. George has evidence, but it’s poor ignorance based on a lack of knowledge of the kind of society he’s critiquing. Isn’t it arrogant of him to think he knows how these societies function without studying them?)

Has he considered reading ANYTHING on oral tradition, such as The Lost World of Scripture? Does he not know that in these societies, memory was much better due to not being able to write things down? Stories weren’t just told one time as in Chinese Whispers without the ability to go back and ask again what was said. Stories were repeated and there were select gatekeepers who guarded them. The stories were told in group settings. Some minor variations were allowed, but you could not change the thrust of the story.

This is why people who do not study these things should not write about them. No scholar of oral tradition would take George seriously. George is to religious scholarship what he thinks Christian fundamentalists are to evolution.

He then tells us that different Scriptures disagree and events in them contradict the Laws of Physics. There is no interaction with Craig Keener’s Miracles. There is no interaction with the agnostic John Earman’s look at Hume’s Abject Failure. Does George not know the kinds of things ancient people did believe in with a rudimentary science? They knew it took sex to make babies. They knew people don’t walk on water. They knew that if no one intervened, dead people stay dead.

On location 899 he says

The Bible was edited in the 4th century AD under the command of Emperor Constantine and it has been translated, transcribed, and re-edited many times since.

Not even Bart Ehrman would support this nonsense.

No. Constantine did not order the editing of the Bible. We have manuscripts of the Bible pre-dating the fourth century that can easily demonstrate this. Again, this is scholarship of the 19th century. Constantine ordered the printing of fifty Bibles, but he had nothing to do with any editing and had zip to do with choosing what books went into the canon. If George thinks the Bible has been edited so many times since then, then he is free to take a modern translation, compare it to the ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts we have, and then tell us what the drastic difference is.

We are all eagerly awaiting it.

He also says the Koran dates to the 6th century. This is false. The revelations to Muhammad would have come in the 7th century. A basic Google search even could have shown that.

On 927, he argues no one can prove a negative.

Really?

Has he proven that? If not, then why should I take it seriously. If so, then a negative has been proven. Either way, he is taking this as a proof and in any case, cannot demonstrate it.

On 935, he goes after Constantine again saying he sent one of his women to the holy land to search for evidence to support Christianity. Why? Because Constantine adopted it as the state religion of the Roman Empire.

This is false. Constantine’s mother did go searching for famous Christian sites, but not at the order of Constantine. Constantine also made Christianity a legal religion, but he did not make it the official religion. That happened decades after his death. Again, this was basic knowledge George could have easily checked on. Could it be he didn’t read anything that disagreed with him but read some rubbish from skeptical sources? Why would he do that? Is he trying to protect his faith? Did he not bother to verify? He must be a man of faith!

But most hysterical along these lines is that George has the quote of Pope Leo X of how profitable the fable of Christ has been.

Oh please George! Please do tell me the source for this quote! I so eagerly anticipate that!

On location 984, he says that before science, when a question was asked, someone just guessed and told their children. The answer got passed down and that’s how religions originate.

Well first, I’m wondering what question was asked with the answer of “A divine Messiah was crucified and rose again.” Second, I’m wondering if George has read ANYTHING on the history of science and philosophy? Even in the Middle Ages, questions were answered with scientific answers. Many times, they were bad answers since science was just coming into its own, but they were not God-of-the-Gaps answers.

On location 1019, he says the scientific method has provided us with everything we know.

Okay….

Can you show that using the scientific method?

After all, George says we know that. Surely he can show it.

Can he use the method to show there is a real world external to his mind? Maybe we live in Berkeley’s world or even the Matrix. Can he use it to show that reason is valid? Can he use it to show the scientific method is valid?

It is a tragedy such nonsense like this is printed.

In case you’re wondering, since George believes this and he believes science can only provide probabilities, then there is no absolute truth.

Yes. He really says that….

On location 1100, he says external truth is relative. It’s subjective. He even says your truth may be different from mine.

Okay George. It’s my truth that God exists and it’s yours that He doesn’t. Why are you arguing against my relative truth?

He then tells us what the truth is somehow. That is that we live in an illusion created for us by our sense organs and brain.

This is the point where my wife asked me if I had a headache or something.

Moving into creation accounts, no shock that George reads them like a fundamentalist thinking that everything happened in one week of 24 hour days and that God really needed to rest. It would be nice to see him interact with works like The Lost World of Genesis One or on a more scientific note to consider Hugh Ross and Reasons To Believe. Alas however, if you’re a presuppositional atheist, you have no need of evidence of what your opponents believe. It’s no wonder he thinks the light being made on day one and the sun on day four is a major stumper.

It’s quite amusing then when he has a little diatribe about double-standards and how they aggravate him. You know, like the double-standard of Christians better study evolution before the speak about it, but atheists don’t need to study Christianity before they speak about it. And George, in case you ask, yes. I do think Christians who don’t study evolution and argue against it need to be quiet.

Naturally, he has a list of beliefs with no evidence such as God (Did you bother reading any theistic arguments whatsoever) or the resurrection (Did you bother reading Mike Licona or N.T. Wright?) and a few miracles. (Did you bother reading Craig Keener?)

It’s easy to say there’s no evidence when you just ignore what your opponents say.

On 1321, he argues that a view today seems to be God kick-started life and left it to evolve and asks how that works with a Bible that is ‘gospel truth’ and the ‘word of god’ and ‘inerrant.’

It works just fine. Thanks!

He also says that according to a creation account, creatures must be made fixed and unchanging. This isn’t according to any account I’ve heard. Now some might put limits on evolution, but no one I know doubts there is some degree of evolution. George also has a hang-up on a perfect creation. Some might say that, but I have for a long time been a contender of the idea that this world was not created perfect, nor was it meant to be. In fact, considering what perfection is, I don’t see how that is even possible.

On 1342, he says believers tend to have a distorted view of evolution. This is compared to the way politicians misrepresent the ideas of their opponents.

Oh the irony….

This from someone who extensively misrepresents Christianity in his book.

Oh by the way, he hates double standards….

And FYI, on 1372 he says he doesn’t believe in evil. He prefers the word heinous, though one wonders what the difference is.

Of course, on 1389, George thinks the evidence of science produces cognitive dissonance.

It’s a wonder to think what atheists would do without the words “cognitive dissonance.” It’s become a mantra practically. But hey, what can you say about people who believe in dogma?

George also says that Christian apologists claim the word day can refer to a longer unit of time and asks if we hear the bottom of a barrel being scraped.

Well, he could just look at linguistic evidence. Did he consult any Hebrew works on the meaning of ‘yom.’? Not a bit.

By the way George, with my interpretation, since mine is not a scientific reading but a functional reading, I can believe in the Earth being 4.5 billions of years old, even in evolution, and still hold to 24 hour days and a traditional week. Again, try reading Walton sometime.

On 1546, he says that sadly most believers just haven’t read the latest facts and their information is from sources with bias, like the creation museum.

Oh please do tell us your sources on Christianity, George! You’re not up to the latest facts since you use 19th century arguments! Please tell me also your sources are not “biased.” Every source has a bias. Your own book has a bias. Bias is an excuse.

Well he does give us one source. For missing links, he directs us to a Wikipedia article.

That’s right. Wikipedia.

He then asks why no one questions missing links in faith? Isn’t it a leap to go from “The Bible is true” to “There is a supernatural creator.”

Well first off, I don’t accept this natural/supernatural distinction. Second, the answer to the question itself is no, it is not a leap. If the Bible is true, then all that it says is true and that means that it is true that there is a God. That’s not a leap of logic. That’s just basic facts. Watch.

Whatever the Bible says is true.
The Bible says God exists.
It is true that God exists.

This is basic logic George….

On 1674, he tells us that we are taught in houses of worship that morality comes from the Scriptures.

Sorry George. Not my position again. I hold the Scriptures have teachings on morality, but not that the Bible creates morality. You can know morality apart from the Bible. Even Romans 2 shows that.

Yet of course, George thinks the Bible has awful teachings. He of course thinks no one has said anything about these, such as slavery, or stoning children to death. With passages like marrying a rapist, he does not realize that was to punish the rapist and to protect the woman who would be seen as not worthy to be married by others. Again, some basic study of the Ancient Near East would have helped.

With the Ten Commandments, he actually uses Wikipedia as a source and says rape is not mentioned nor is assault and the text is obviously misogynistic.

Rape would be included under adultery and the later law worked out assault. The Ten Commandments are a start and in a didactic society are not meant to be exhaustive. George just keeps showing his ignorance.

He also says that many Christians will say the quotes atheists use of Scripture are taken out of context and not read in their proper historical context. That’s true. George just sees this as ridiculous and then says so many in the next breath say the Bible should be interpreted literally. This is one reason I think we should just kill the word “literal.”

With forgiveness, he actually thinks it means you are released from your responsibility on Earth. No. It doesn’t It means you are put in right relation again with the person that was wronged. There could still be consequences. He even says the Catholic church has made a business out of forgiveness.

Hate to tell you George, but indulgences died out centuries ago.

He tells us that in the Crusades, 9 million were killed. Half were Christians.

Let’s see. We have George saying this without a quote. What do we have here?

We have a statement like

The information required to answer this question was not recorded, and so it is impossible to know how many people died. In general, contemporary commentators recorded only the names of leading crusaders who were killed, and gave large rounded estimates of the numbers of ordinary knights and other soldiers who died. They usually did not mention non-warriors at all, except in a sweeping and vague statement. The writers would sometimes record, for example, that the crusaders had killed everyone in a city, but they gave only round figures for the numbers of dead. We may suspect that in fact they were boasting about how wonderful their warriors were and what a fantastic victory they had won (which they interpreted as a sign that God was on their side), but that in fact many people had escaped.

We only have a professor here. I guess she needs to be acquainted with George’s work.

George also tells us to beware of men who are certain that God is backing them. Doubters are much more harmless!

You know, doubters like Stalin, Mao, Pol-Pot, etc.

He also gives us a Telegraph article that was published on what readers thought were the ten worst Bible passages.

1 Tim. 2:12. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

George. You might want to do what I did. I interviewed a female scholar on this, Dr. Lynn Cohick. You can start listening around 46:51 to see what she says.

1 Samuel 15:3. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

This is said without any knowledge of the history of Amalek and Israel. He could consider Paul Copan’s book and of course, my interview with Copan on the topic.

Exodus 22:18 “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.”

In a society like Israel where you were to remain loyal to YHWH, going to outside powers would be an act of divine treason in the community. Treason has been punishable by death in America. Sorcery was a dangerous practice then.

Psalm 137:9 Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
    and dashes them against the rock!

George is unaware that in ancient societies, this was the trash talk of the day where you were open with your emotions and feelings. The Jews sang this in reply to the Babylonians who had captured them and were tormenting them and had done this to them and saying “May God judge you as you have treated us.” It was not at all saying they were doing it!

Judges 19:25-28.

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.

27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home.

George claims this says the Bible permits group rape of servants. No. It records it. In fact, Judges treats this as one of the darkest times in Israel’s history. The whole passage is saying “Don’t become like this Israel!” This part of Judges tells us that in those days Israel had no king and each person did what was right in his own eyes.

Romans 1:27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

For George, this is the start of Homophobia. Is he unaware that Plato condemned homosexuality in the laws? Some ancient doctors who were pagans condemned the practice as well. Sure, some Greeks had no problem with it, but some did. Only someone ignorant of the ancient world would say this. Perhaps he should consider Robert Gagnon and his book on the topic.

Judges 11:30-1, 34-35 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord‘s, and I will offer it[b]up for a burnt offering.”

34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.”

George again is unaware of how this passage has been interpreted. A number of Christian interpreters of the text say that the daughter was instead sold into temple service. No priest would have accepted her as an offering. That’s why she mourned not that she would never die, but that she would never marry, which would also mean she would not have to share the inheritance….

Genesis 22 is the passage of Abraham offering Isaac which George takes to mean God wants your sons burnt. He ignores that this passage was a sign of the faith of Abraham and loyalty and the sacrifice never went through as Abraham had planned. Again, no scholarship read.

Ephesians 5:22. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Yes George. It was obviously written by a misogynist. Did you just ignore everything a man is to do for his wife? Oh yes. You did. Fortunately, not all of us do.

1 Peter 2:18 “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.”

We’ve already addressed slavery in this post. No need to do so further.

Perhaps George should have read about “study to show yourself approved” and if you do you need not be ashamed.

And of course, why can’t God express Himself clearly? Clear to whom? What person? What culture? What time period? Isn’t it arrogant to think the Bible should be clearly written to you instead of everyone else.

Also, in the books, he cites Brian Flemming. I guess this tells us where he gets the pagan copycat stuff from.

Getting back also to atheist regimes that kill as he talks about how religions aren’t peaceful, he says those weren’t inspired by ‘supernaturally’ authored Scriptures.

I’m sure that’s a great comfort to all the people that were killed in the Gulag! Hey! Sorry you were killed, but at least it wasn’t because of Scriptures!

Nope. It was because some people took George’s argument to its conclusion.

There is no good. There is no evil. There is no Heaven to gain or Hell to shun. There is no God to judge me. I have power here. I have enemies. Why not do something about them?

In 2225, George says to not believe it when believers say that atheists are immoral, cold, empty, etc.

Again, I’m not sure who’s saying this….

He also says it’s necessary to use a pen-name for this book to avoid damaging the Christian market for his other books.

No George. It’s good that you used a pen name because if other people found out your writing was so bad in this one, they wouldn’t want your science books. If I wrote material this embarrassing, I’d want to use a pen name also.

He says why would knowing more about something detract from it?

I agree. That’s why I have no hesitancy to letting people study science. I want them to learn as much as they can. Perhaps you should try it George in the area of religion. Why would knowing more about it be so harmful, especially if you want to argue against it? If your belief is true, the best scholarship will show that. Right?

On 2249, he says if you want a purpose, make your own.

Again, like Stalin, Mao, Pol-Pot, and others did.

Of course, he also says 98% of criminals in jail call themselves Christian.

This ignores that if you call yourself a Christian, you can get perks like air conditioning and getting out of a cell for chapel services. You’re told to list a position when you go in. Why not list one that will give you perks?

On 2273, he says

To those who accuse me of stepping outside my own specialism to take on religion, a subject they like to think I know little about, I say “It’s you who are stepping on my turf with your ‘explanations’ of the origins of the universe and everything in it.”

Christians speaking on science without knowledge? Bad!

Atheists speaking on Christianity without knowledge? Good!

Keep in mind, George hates double-standards.

Sorry George. I’m saying squat about the origins of the universe. I don’t study it. You are saying a lot about what I believe and you don’t study it. Don’t step on my turf. Okay?

He also says atheist should not be taken to mean no god. This is false. It comes from the Greek word as he rightly says. Theos is God and alpha is the negative. It’s simple. No God. If he wants to say it just means belief, then he needs to say theism is just God belief and you don’t need to prove it. What would you do to prove you believe something? He should want this since he hates double-standards.

But consider this. Imagine that God exists and there are atheists. By this standard, atheism (Lack of belief in God) would be true and theism (God exists) would be true. But this would mean two contradictories were true. The result is nonsense.

He then gives another howler with

We are all born without a faith so we all start life as atheists and, until evidence for the existence of a god is produced, we will all be living ‘without god’ – we are all atheists! Tell that to your theist friends!

What a powerful argument! We are also born crying and gurgling and peeing and pooping on ourselves as well and until we’re taught otherwise, we will continue to do so! Tell that to your atheist friends!

And this man used to be a teacher. I pity those students. I really do.

George wraps things up with some unholy questions as he calls them.

Does God give us free will?

Yes?

How can He have a plan then?

God is like a stage master that knows where the plot of the play is going but lets His actors ad lib some and can work everything to that plan still.

Is God in Hell?

No.

He’s not Omnipresent then!

Actually, this is a misnomer. Hell is not a place. Hell describes a relationship. 

Is God omniscient?

Yes.

Well if He knows everything, including the future, He can’t be omnipotent because He won’t be able to change known things.

Omnipotence means power to do that which power can do. If God knows He will do something, that will not change as He eternally knows it and eternally does it and no new information is coming in. God could have done otherwise but chose not to.

Is God omnipotent?

Yes?

Well, he can’t be omniscient then because he can alter what he was supposed to know.

See above.

Did God make Eve from Adam’s rib?

Yes?

She had the same DNA then and must have been male! It was Adam and Steve!

Specifics of how this were done are not given. We can be sure she had different DNA since she was female and if God can make a universe, creating female DNA should not be a problem.

Did God create light on the first day?

Yes?

But the sun wasn’t created until the fourth day!

See Walton again per above. This one doesn’t make me blink at all.

Did God create plants on day three?

Yes?

What powered their photosynthesis on day three then? There was no sun until day four!

See Walton again.

Seriously George. Do you think these are stumpers?

Such brings us to the conclusion of George’s book, and I didn’t even touch everything I highlighted.

If you are a self-respecting atheist, please disavow this and tell George to stop writing this material as it is an embarrassment. Please learn instead to do some real research into Christianity and learn what we really believe. People like George only make atheism look bad in the end.

There’s a reason even atheists on the Unbelievable page are not defending George. He’s embarrassed himself and only shown his ignorance.

He could have prevented that if only he really didn’t practice a double standard, which you know he hates.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Where The Conflict Really Lies?

September 17, 2014

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

Since this book has been one talked about highly in the modern science debate, which I do enjoy, I figured I should take a look. Alvin Plantinga is one of the biggest names in Christian philosophy today. He has also written some on what he sees going on in the new atheism today so I was eager to see where he would say the real conflict in the science and religion debate lies.

Plantinga starts off with a case that I have been making. He looks at the idea that many atheists will say evolution is true, therefore theism is false. Plantinga is willing to grant evolution for the sake of argument and contends that it could be that God would use an evolutionary process to bring about the creation the way that He wants to.

I find this an important point to stress.

Too often, fundamentalist atheists and fundamentalist Christians think the exact same way. If evolution is true, then Christianity is false, and if Christianity is true, then evolution is false. It could be that they’re both true. It could be that they’re both false. There is nothing in one that necessarily contradicts the other. To be sure, some forms of Christianity would face contradictions with evolution and some understandings of evolution would contradict Christianity.

For instance, if you hold evolution is an unguided process, then for the most part, this would go against Christianity, yet the problem with that position is that that position is not known through science. It is a metaphysical idea. Meanwhile, if you hold to a view like young-earth creationism, then you will no doubt find a conflict with evolution.

It’s my stance with Christians that if you are not science-minded, don’t argue evolution. Leave that to those who are science-minded. If you are science-minded and you want to present a scientific argument against evolution, have at it! Now if you are a skeptic who holds to evolution and receives such an argument, it behooves you to really look at it. I contend that if evolution falls, it will fall because it is bad science and will do so when better science shows up.

Plantinga also points out that the theist in fact has the most options at this point. For a naturalist, at this point, evolution is the only game in town. The theist can be open to evolution or he can go with fiat creation if he thinks the evidence warrants that. Neither one will be harmful to his views.

If we instead go with the route of the fundamentalists, we create a false gap between science and religion. When it is asked why so many don’t believe in evolution today in America, it is because for the most part, most people in this country are theists and if it comes down to choosing God who most people would claim to know through a personal experience (Not validating that. Just stating it) and it comes down to choosing God or evolution, the majority of them will choose God. We could argue that they should sit down and weigh out the evidence and make a decision, and I agree they should, but that sword also goes the other way.

If many atheists are taught that belief in Christianity means that they have to give up evolution and then in their eyes be anti-science, then it becomes a no-brainer just as much. If they want to be scientifically-minded people, then they will just have to reject the resurrection. This is why so few that I meet no doubt have really failed to interact with the evidence and in fact taken knee-jerk positions. (Jesus never existed for instance. The sad part is that there are more scientists who hold to a YEC view than there are historians who hold that Jesus never existed. If the atheists see YEC as a joke, they should see Christ-mythicism as a bigger one.)

I contend that too often the evolution debate has been a knee-jerk debate as well based on people thinking that the “plain reading” of a text must be the right one and that Genesis must have been written to address scientific issues. Both of these are modern presuppositions. The problem that we really have is not with what the Bible says, but with the modern thought processes we read into the Bible.

What about miracles? Plantinga again sees no contradiction there as well. It is this idea that we often encounter that if you believe in miracles, you believe in a God who is constantly intervening in the system. While we would say God intervenes, we do not think it is constant. In fact, I consider this to be based on a large misnomer. God is constantly interacting with the system holding it all together. Much of the modern debates assume that if God is doing anything with the creation, it is when He directly acts in the form of a miracle. Other than that, the creation can run just fine on its own, all the while ignoring that it requires God’s upholding of it for it to just exist.

The reason that we recognize miracles is because we do have an organized system. Why is it a virgin birth would be seen as a miracle? Because we know darn well what it takes to make a baby. Why would walking on water be seen as a miracle? Because we know what happens when people try to walk on water. Why would a resurrection be seen as a miracle? Because we know that dead people stay dead.

It has never made sense to me to say that because we live in an era of modern science, we now know miracles don’t happen. Sure, the ancients weren’t as scientific as we are, but did they have to be to know what it takes to make a baby, that people don’t naturally walk on water, and to know that dead people stay dead? Are these recent discoveries since the scientific era?

Plantinga does briefly touch on biblical criticism and I would have liked to have seen more replies to what is going on in that area since too many atheists just read the people that agree with them and go on from there. (I think of Victor Stenger who on Unbelievable? decried people who use just one source and then said for the questions about the Bible, he relies on Bart Ehrman. By all means read Ehrman, but read his critics as well and if you read the NT scholarship that is conservative, then read people like Ehrman as well) This was a part that Plantinga looked to have brought in and then just let drop.

Plantinga goes on to talk about two areas of agreement he sees between Christianity and science. Both of these are in the areas of fine-tuning. One is the intelligent design of the cosmos. Plantinga is a bit more hesitant there, but he does lean to the idea that fine-tuning of the universe if demonstrable, and to some extent I think it is, does fit in well with theism.

The next area would be in the area of the research of Michael Behe with Darwin’s Black Box. Plantinga does think that Behe is on to something here. To go with Behe would not rule out evolution either, but it would point to evolution needing to be guided and he spells out what he thinks would be needed to have a defeater for Behe’s beliefs. Those wanting more on these last two points will need to read the work itself since I don’t discuss the science as science.

The next area of concord that he sees is that science arose in a Christian milleu and this was because the Christians saw themselves in the image of God and that God made a creation that is rational and meant to be understood. Plantinga makes the case that it is incredible that mathematics of a complex nature that we can do would be that which is just what we need to understand the universe.

Finally, he brings out the deep conflict. For this, Plantinga uses his famous evolutionary argument against naturalism where he says you can believe in one or the other, but you will face a problem if you believe in both because you will have a defeater for your belief in naturalism. The argument is an interesting one worthy of consideration.

So this gets us to where the conflict really lies and that is….

Do you really think I’ll spoil it for you? This was a great ending to the book and I recommend instead of my sharing it, that you go read it for yourself.

A downside to the book however is that I did often wish when historical questions came up, like Biblical criticism or the history of science, that a historian had been called on to write those. Also, sometimes, the writing in Plantinga’s book becomes highly technical and thus it will not be as accessible to the layperson. Still, there is plenty here for all readers to consider. I recommend this one for an excellent look at the modern debate between science and religion.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Inventing The Flat Earth

August 20, 2014

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

inventingtheflatearth

Recently, I had a conversation at a store with a salesman who was telling me that people in the past believed the Earth was flat, which I raised disagreement with. Online, one can hear this as a common objection. Often it is treated as an axiom and with the idea that the church was teaching otherwise. Consider this quote from Ingersoll in his essay Individuality

 

It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions,—some one who had the grandeur to say his say. I believe it was Magellan who said, “The church says the earth is flat; but I have seen its shadow on the moon, and I have more confidence even in a shadow than in the church.” On the prow of his ship were disobedience, defiance, scorn, and success.

 

A flat-earther is used to refer to someone today who is a fool and is going against the progress of science. It’s certainly easy to write off people as believing this. I know in Elementary school and beyond I was taught that Columbus sailed around to demonstrate that the Earth was round and not flat. (Which even if that had been the case, considering he didn’t circumnavigate the globe, he did not prove that anyway. 

If only I had know about Russell’s book back then.

Russell’s book is incredibly short. You can easily read it in a couple of hours like I did. In doing so, you will have invested those hours well. Russell points out that after the time of Christ, there were only two people who really brought out the idea that the Earth was flat. How many followers did they get on that count? None. They were certainly the minority. Alas, these two are thought to be representative of the time as a whole, ignoring all the other evidence that indicates people knew it was round.

Now of course, it could be that this did not extend to the masses, but frankly, we have no real way of knowing that. I would wager that for most people who were working hard to put food on the table and care for their families, they did not really think about the shape of the Earth. In fact, if they had, well you just go and ask the local priest and the local priest will tell you what the fathers of the church have said and you’ll hear that it’s round.

Russell also shows how this fed into a false idea of a warfare between science and religion, started mainly by people like John Draper and Andrew Dickson White. In many cases, this because a round of a group of people quoting each other as their own authorities and thereby seeking to establish their case as if it was heavily documented. (Read new atheist literature today and not much has changed.)

While Russell’s thesis is certainly correct and he goes into great detail to show a meeting Columbus had with officials never brought up the shape of the Earth and while his work is filled with scholarly notes, I would like to see future editions contain quotes within the text itself. What would most complete this book is to have a series of quotations from people in this time period on how the Earth was indeed spherical, such as Thomas Aquinas’s in his Summa Theologica in the very first question.

Still, this is a valuable book to read on the controversy. I wish I’d had it in the past instead of just buying into what my teachers taught me.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Debunking 9 Truly Evil Things Right Wing Christians Do Part 5

July 30, 2014

Do Christians undermine science? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Once again, I’m letting Allie have this one. Please let me know what you think about what my Mrs. has to say.

“We are half-way through with the going through the topics in the article: http://www.alternet.org/belief/9-truly-evil-things-right-wing-christians-do?page=0%2C1 We are now at 5. Undermining science is evil. This could be another long one like the first one because this is a very touchy subject. A lot of people are under the opinion that Christians do not support science at all. People are under the opinion that Christians are stuck in the Dark Ages and believe all science is bogus unless the Bible says it clearly. There are even people who think all Christians do is pray and refuse medical care that could help them (mostly the Jehovah Witnesses refuse medical care though). Let’s get started in clearing up this up.
The first thing the article does is talk about how the scientific method has helped the world greatly, “It’s the reason most of our children don’t die before hitting the age of five. It’s the reason broken legs heal straight, sky scrapers don’t collapse, and our houses are warm in the winter. It is what alerted us to the fact that our carbon consumption has become an existential threat.” Okay, there’s no disagreement there, I’d say the majority of Christians would agree with you (writer) there. The article then says “the scientific method has also become an existential threat to Bible belief.” No surprise they would think this, this is a common argument that if I might be frank is a stupid one; but is unfortunately leading so many young people away from Christ because that is what our schools are teaching in grade school and universities. “We know now that the Genesis creation story is myth,” this is an assumption, not a fact. There are many scientists who even show through the scientific method the Genesis creation story actually happened. Take Dr. Hugh Ross for example, he’s well respected and you can watch one if his videos on this here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPvO2EkiLls). He also has a ministry covering this called Reasons to Believe (http://www.reasons.org/) or even check out his book “Creation As Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation/evolution Wars” (http://www.amazon.com/Creation-As-Science-Testable-evolution/dp/1576835782). The next accusation “neurotransmitters rather than demons cause mental illness,” can be true for some cases and not for other cases. This is a very difficult and delicate matter. There are extremes on both sides. There are those like the author of this article who say “Nothing is caused by a demon” and those who say “Everything is caused by a demon!” They are both wrong. I recommend Jeff Harshbarger’s book “Dancing With the Devil: An Honest Look Into the Occult from Former Followers” (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1616386959). I know him personally and he does not have a mental illness. He was formerly a Satanist and God rescued him from death and a path of darkness! He now runs a ministry to help people involved in the occult. The next issue they bring up is “mandrake roots and dove blood don’t improve female fertility or cure skin diseases”. I agree, in today’s culture. They had a link to to this; it discussed how this was in the Abrahamic Law (because honestly I had never heard of this before). Again, they accuse Christians of only praying instead of having any other healthcare. They quote James 5:14-15 to support their argument. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up. No doubt for a Christian, prayer is very important. It’s how we communicate with God. It’s not just Christians who pray, other religions pray. In fact, there are some religions who pray today even more dedicated and often than most Christians do (such as Muslims). I do not wish to be Muslim, but I often wish I was dedicated in my prayer life like Muslims often are. Even Eastern religions pray in the form of meditation. Now, none of these religions pray to the same God, but they still pray. Prayer can also be very helpful. There are many medical cases where prayer has helped, but there are times prayer did not help (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090617154401.htm). This is not because God wasn’t there or not listening, but as cliche as this sounds, he had different plans. I have lost close family members to cancer, and even now I still wonder, “Why God? Why did you take them away? Why didn’t you heal them? Don’t you know I still need them? Don’t you know the rest of their families still need them? You let them suffer only to die? Why?” I can’t imagine what some of you are going through, who have lost a spouse or a child. I am so sorry for your loss and the pain you have. But God has not abandoned you, not even for a moment. Remain in him, and he will remain in you. So this link from the article then says “Throughout the Bible, both Old Testament and New, physical health is largely a spiritual matter. Healings come from prayers, rituals of repentance, and miraculous intervention. In Chronicles King Asa, who has a severe foot ailment, is held up as a bad example for seeking help from physicians and not from God. By contrast, King Hezekiah prays when he falls ill, and Yehovah adds fifteen years to his life.” King Asa was a wicked king and because he wouldn’t turn to God and repent of his wickedness, he was cursed with the severe foot ailment. He’s not held up as a bad example because he saught out help from physicians. He’s a bad example because he was wicked and even after he was cursed with the foot ailment, he still did not turn to God. He refused to turn to God and kept seeking out for help from others. Now King Hezekiah, when he saw what he had done, he turned to God and repented. He felt remorse and changed his pride and with that, God blessed him. Then Hezekiah humbled himself and repented of his pride, as did the people of Jerusalem. So the LORD’s anger did not fall on them during Hezekiah’s lifetime. (2 Chronicles 32:26 NLT) Next they say, “Like prescriptions against homosexuality, Hebrew and early Christian health practices appear to be shaped largely by surrounding cultures and the ‘yuck factor.'” We really don’t have time to get into this debate right now, but homosexuality was a sin – an abomination to God. It wasn’t a “yuck factor.” It was what God deemed to be wrong. If you’re going to call homosexuality a yuck factor, you might as well call ALL sins yuck factors. Yes, I said all of them. Stealing, adultery, lieing, murder (including hate), etc. All of them are yuck factors in the eyes of God just as much as homosexuality. You can’t just single out one sin and say one sin is greater than the other. They are all sin. They all have consequences to them. You can get some pretty nasty STD’s for example from homosexuality practices (http://www.cdc.gov/stdconference/2000/media/stdgay2000.htm). They were being obedient to God and at the same time helping their fellow brother and sisters when they fall into temptation. That’s why today there are Christians who try to help people with their homosexuality. It’s not because they hate them, but the opposite – they love them! I love my husband dearly, but ever since I was a teenager I have struggled with bisexual tendancies. It’s something not very many people know about me. Don’t get me wrong, I was always “boy crazy.” But there was always a dark part of me that was attracted to girls too. I kept this side of me quiet mostly because as a Christian, I knew it was wrong and I didn’t want to act out on it. I remember being so ashamed of myself of sometimes being more turned on when I saw a woman than when I saw a man. My dad was in ministry and I felt if anyone ever found out, it could ruin his ministry! I remember asking my mom once, “If it turned out I was a bisexual, would you still love me?” and she said, “Of course we would!” Then I told my dad once that I was a bisexual and he laughed and didn’t believe me. It really hurt because this was a real struggle for me and yet he didn’t think it was real. There were times at school I would have visions of me kissing girls I knew and I would try to shake them out of my head, how they haunted me! Before I got married, I thought “Surely this will go away! I’m going to be married and I’ll get to be with him whenever I want however much I want!” Even so, it’s still a struggle. I still have visions of being with other women and I still have to shake them out of my head. It even happens while I’m praying and I just have to trust God and ask him to help me through those times. I was abused by men, so it only makes sense that I’d be attracted to women. Anyway, I’m saying all this because I know it’s a struggle. It may be even more of a struggle for you. I know for me there have been times, even now, where I have almost started making out with a woman. The temptation is so strong, and the temptation seems to only get stronger the older I get. I’m so glad my husband is so patient with me and he still cares about me even through this struggle I have. But we can get through this! You have to fight it! This is an on-going war and some people get over it completely, and some people struggle with it all their lives. For me, I know I will probably struggle with this all of my life. But I’m a fighter! We are soldiers in Christ and when we fall he helps us back up! When we are weak and feel like we can’t fight it anymore, rely on him and he will be our strength! God is not going to abandon us no matter what our struggle is! Keep fighting it and in the end you WILL be victorious! So the link moves on to talk about Dermatology with dove blood by quoting these verses from the Book of Leviticus.
Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!’”As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46).
The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot. (Leviticus 14:14)
I recommend watching this humerous video that explains this by J.P. Holding (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qhB_8ge88o). The next thing the link talks about is how they believed mandrakes were a fertility agent and they quoted Genesis 30:9-22 – Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?” So Rachel said, “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. Genesis records this, it does not say the mandrakes gave Leah the son. Leah also gave up the mandrakes to Rachel, so how could the mandrakes have given her the fifth son if she gave up the mandrakes? Some of the other things the link goes through (if you get a chance to look through) I’m not answering because they have to do with the cleanliness and the video J.P. Holding did explains all this. The link then talks about how psychiatry and neurology are treated through exorcisms, mainly in the New Testament by Jesus and early Christians. Demons would cause things such as muteness, epilepsy, and abnormal strength. It’s easy to dismiss demons when you’ve never experienced demons or don’t believe demons exist. Personally, I have experienced them since I was very little – four years old to be exact. I was never posessed but they haunted me much of my life. It’s funny, a lot of people are more willing to believe there are ghosts roaming the world than to believe there are demons. The things I saw as a child, others saw around me, so it could not have been a hallucination. There are no such things as group hallucinations. You can have mass hysteria, but a group hallucination is clinically impossible. Believe me, I know from personal experience. I have delt with demons in the past, and I have also delt with hallucinations. You may ask, “How can you tell the difference?” It’s difficult to tell the difference now honestly. You see, I didn’t always have hallucinations. The hallucinations started after I had a massive drug overdose when I tried to kill myself five years ago (God was gracious enough to protect me through that). I have a brain injury from that which causes me to have hallucinations now (which I am being treated for). The only way now I can really tell if it’s a hallucination is mostly how my cat reacts when I see/hear something. My cat mostly follows me around the house everywhere I go and if I see something unusual, I look at how my cat reacts. If my cat is relaxed (my cat is very skittish – he’s a rescue and we believe he may have been abused before we got him), I know it’s in my head. But if my cat runs away frightened or acts defensively (like he is protecting me from something), I know something isn’t right. Animals can detect things we humans typically can’t. Next they talk about preventive care and say all they do for that is worship. They don’t do any nutrition or exercising, just worship. They quote these verses:
There is no other God beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal. (Deut. 32:39)
Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span. (Ex. 23:25-26)
The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. (Deuteronomy 28:27)
First of all, nothing in the Bible says they didn’t exercise or do nutrtion. In fact, Paul in the New Testament uses many metaphors to sports! Not to mention think of all the walking they had to do, everywhere they went. There were no cars. Sure they had camels, donkeys, and horses. But not everyone had the luxery of riding animals or chariots. All the walking people did back then going city to city had to have burned some major calories! Plus, if Paul used metaphors with sports, it must mean they understood sports and probably played some (finishing the race). Therefore, this is automatically an assumption they made, not a fact. As for using these verses to prove their point, God is so powerful. I mean, he created the entire universe. He created life itself. If someone is so powerful that they created all life, could they not just as easily take any life away? If this being has the ability to heal, could they not also have the ability to wound? Let’s take it even deeper: if this being is able to create life, does this being have the right to do whatever he wishes to do with them? Doesn’t he have the right to choose to wound them or heal them if he wishes? Doesn’t he have the right to give life or take life if he wishes? When I am working on my artwork, I have every right to do as I please to do with my artwork. Now of course my artwork is not a living being, but my artwork has a different sense of life in itself. I can choose to make any edits I want. I can choose to frame it or toss it in the trash. I have a right to what I created. Doesn’t God have rights to what he’s created? Of course, there’s a difference between the artwork I make, and the artwork God has made. My artwork comes to life in a different sense. But God’s artwork is literally alive! It literally lives and breathes! We are made in his image and he is constantly forming us and changing us to be more like him. But when we die, it’s not like he’s tossed us into the trash! When Jesus reaches his hand out to us and tells us to “Follow me,” we either give him our hand back and follow him or we walk away. If we follow Christ, we will be with him when we die. If we walk away from him, we will be in a place of destitute. A place filled with pain and anxiety beyond anything you could ever imagine and I pray that you will not reach that place, reader. God blessed his people when they followed him and he still blesses us today. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get rich. That doesn’t mean your aches and pains are going to go away. God blesses us in so many different ways, we often times don’t even realize it. Blessings can even come in disguises. When we go through good times, we can often forget about God. We forget about the things he’s done for us and the things he’s blessed us with. We even get arrogant and prideful and think, “I did this” or “this is MY doing.” Then when when things go wrong and we have nowhere and no one else to turn to, we get down on our knees and cry out to God for help. We realize we don’t have everything together. It’s during those times when we are so vulnerable and weak that God shows his love for us and comforts us. He gives us strength to get through it and he leads us through it. We realize “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NLT) So we go back to the main article and they say, “the cognitive structures of the human mind predispose us to certain kinds of religious belief.” They link to the book “Religion Explained” by Pascal Boyer. My question is, “If all religions come from a certain part of the brain, why are there so many different religions that disagree on so many factors?” If religion comes from a certain part of the brain, then morals must also according to the author right? But different people have different morals (though there are many morals that people will agree on – such as don’t kill people). A lot of people like the author of the article would probably say morals are relative and only matter to individuals. “Your morals work for you and my morals work for me.” If morals are relative and basically mean nothing, what if that person went to a country where there are cannibals living there. According to the morals of those cannibals, there’d be nothing wrong with eating this particular person. But is this particular person going to say, “Hey it’s all good, I’ll be your dinner”? No way! They’re going to do whatever they can to get away from there as quickly and safely as possible! How about another example. Say you get a new laptop and you invite a friend over to show them. The friend admires the laptop for a moment, then picks it up and starts heading out the door. You yell at your friend, “You can’t take my laptop! You’re stealing!” What if your friend says in response, “Your morals call it stealing, but according to my morals there’s no such thing as stealing! I can just take whatever I want!” Are you going to let them take your laptop because their morals say it’s okay? No! If you can’t get it back you’re going to call the police and file a theft complaint about your friend! Morals are relevant to these sort of people unless it interrupts their morals. It’s a double-standard. Morals come from the Law in the Torah (Old Testament) which came from God. But God also imprinted these morals onto our hearts.The last paragraph the article says on this topic is, “It may boggle moral credibility that believers intent on propping up the Bible would sacrifice humanity’s best hope of beating the enormous threats we face, threats like resource depletion, food and water shortages, climate change, and rapidly evolving superbugs. But if there’s any overarching theme to Christian history it is this: the end justifies the means.” This is more assuming. Christians worry about these things too. There are Christians working on solving some of these problems more than governments are. Places in Africa for example that don’t have any clean water, Christians are digging wells there and getting filters, as well as feeding many poor communities. Many soup kitchens for example are run by Christians. You don’t see the government feeding the poor. You don’t see the government digging wells to access more water and handing out water filters for people to have clean water. A lot of governments around the world actually take these things away from people instead of giving them these necessities. Even medical care. There are many Christians who will go to some of the poorest places and give out free medical care. So before accusing Christians of not caring about these issues, actually do your research and quit your complaining!
Our next topic is: 6. Promoting holy war is evil.”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/5/2014: Aspergers and Apologetics

April 3, 2014

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

RTB_Hugh Ross

As I hope you know, April is Autism Awareness Month. Back in January then, I set to work booking a guest to come here and talk about Aspergers for our audience. Who is that?

Get set for a good show. My guest this Saturday is Dr. Hugh Ross. Why Dr. Ross? Because Ross himself has Aspergers.

As readers of this blog know, my father-in-law is Mike Licona. Someone had told my wife and I that there were a lot of astronomers who had Aspergers. One year at an apologetics conference, Mike agreed to ask Hugh Ross for us if he knew anyone in the field who had Aspergers. The response Mike got to the question was “I have Aspergers.”

I have found some people to be surprised by this but frankly, it makes sense to me. Whether you agree or disagree with Ross, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the areas that he talks about and definitely has an obsessive interest in them. This is something that is common in the Aspie community.

Here in fact are some of Ross’s credentials in this field.

Director of observations for Vancouver’s Royal Astronomical Society (age 17)
Recipient of a National Research Council of Canada fellowship
BSc in physics (University of British Columbia)
MSc and PhD in astronomy (University of Toronto)
Postdoctoral studies researching distant galaxies and quasars (Caltech)

Of course, Hugh Ross is also the founder and president of Reasons To Believe, a science and apologetics think tank that has a ministry dedicated to showing skeptics that science and Christianity are not incompatible and aimed at giving people reasons to believe.

Readers of the blog also know that I do not talk about science as science so I will be leaving much of that to Dr. Ross. We will for the first part of the show be talking about two of his books. These will be “Why The Universe Is The Way It Is” and “Hidden Treasures In The Book of Job.”

The second part is the part that I hope will connect with the most people and that will be when we talk about life with Aspergers and raising awareness of what it is like. I after all am one who is diagnosed with the condition as is my wife. I am not surprised when I meet other Aspies in the field of apologetics and often times, we latch onto it strongly and make it a life’s work.

If you know someone who is on the Autism spectrum or suspect you know someone, such as you are a parent of a child who you think might have autism of some sort, then please be listening to this show. I would hope the existence of this show alone would show the contributions someone can make even if they have Aspergers. In fact, I would say my Aspergers is a benefit to the work that I do, although it does have difficulties. Dr. Ross however, has achieved international prominence in his work and he has had to learn to watch himself in some ways and overcome some quirks of Aspergers. These will be talked about in the course of the show.

The show will air from 3-5 PM EST on 4/5/2014. I will open the lines for calls when we talk about autism. The call in number will be 714-242-5180. Please be listening and encourage others to listen and please remember this month to be mindful of those of us in the autism community.

The link can be found here.

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: Hidden Treasures In The Book of Job

February 21, 2014

What do I think of Hugh Ross’s book on Job? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

hiddentreasures

In Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job, Hugh Ross, astronomer as well as president and founder of Christian science and faith ministry Reasons To Believe, takes on a journey through the book of Job looking at it through the eyes of a scientist.

As I started going through the book, I think Ross could say the first lesson to learn is “Don’t write a book about Job.” Why? Because shortly after he started, he tells about great tragedies that came in his life, such as the loss of his father and of his wife’s father. Now of course, I don’t think the writing on Job causes that, but I do think that writing about Job can make you more in tune to the suffering in the world.

Ross starts off with talking about the history of the book and much of this I found interesting. For instance, I had not considered how far Job’s friends traveled to see him. The image showing this was quite revealing. I also do agree that Job is the oldest book in the Bible and so I started wondering about how it would be that if Moses had a copy of Job that it influenced his writing. I cannot say for certain if I think it did or not, but I do think that this is something that is worth research by leading scholars of the OT if it has not been done already.

Also a fascinating question if this is the case would be to ask how Moses got this information. Could it be that it came from Abraham since Abraham came from near the area of Job? Could it be then that Abraham might have had some knowledge through knowing Job or his story? These are questions worth considering.

Unfortunately, on the science aspect of the book, I really can’t comment. I make it a point to not comment on science as science. If something is a good argument against evolutionary theory, I could not show it and therefore make it a point to not comment.

I also found the chapters on animals to be fascinating. I cannot say that I think there is a message specifically in the animals named or if they’re general examples used for various purposes. That would have been good to see. We are told in the book about how these animals could be used for our good, but I do not recall seeing the lessons that we were to learn from them that would have been more readily apparent to the people back then.

I also found the section on what the great animals were described in Job that many people think are dinosaurs. In these areas, I did find that Ross’s explanations were convincing.

Naturally, when it came to some ideas, I was more skeptical. When it came to places where eschatology is commented on, I did not find those persuasive seeing as Ross interprets such passages in a much more literalistic sense than I do. (Something that he has said in one of his books surprises many people)

The last chapters are about the problem of suffering and evil and here I think Ross definitely writes with a pastor’s heart. There is not much in these chapters that was really scientific, but it is more written I think with the purpose of helping people who are undergoing suffering.

Some other reviews I have found elsewhere by skeptics note that they do not find much convincing them there is a God. I think Ross writes some books for that purpose, but I do not think this is one of them. I think instead this was written more to inform Christians on the book of Job from Ross’s perspective. There are some arguments that deal with scientific matters and I’m sure they’re worth investigating if they haven’t been already.

I cannot say at this point I agree with all of Ross’s readings, but I will say there is still material in here to spark conversation. I made sure to share many of the statements about animals with my wife who happens to be an animal lover. It gave us a delightful conversation together.

Still, if someone is interested in the book of Job, there is a unique view here you probably will not find elsewhere so by all means, see what you think.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Clarification On Discussing Evolution

February 10, 2014

Is Evolution an important question to discuss? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

My post on the Ham/Nye debate has been getting a lot of attention and it’s been getting a lot of questions, which is understandable! A number of people have wondered about my position and asked if I really think the question of evolution is unimportant.

Yes and no.

Suppose you want to know if Christianity is true. All you need answered is one question. Did God raise Jesus from the dead? If that is true, then Christianity is true and Jesus is the King of this world. If that is not true, then Christianity is not true and you can move on.

How do you establish the resurrection question? You do a historiographical study of the evidence that we have such as found in the NT and in the surrounding culture of the time and other writings outside of the NT. You find the explanation that best explains the data.

Do you need Inerrancy to do this? No. Inerrancy is an important topic, but if there was an error in Scripture, it would not mean Jesus did not rise. The Bible is not an all-or-nothing game and it would be ridiculous to treat it as if it was.

So let’s make a hypothetical situation here. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument, and I do not believe this at all, that the first two chapters of Genesis are in error. Does that mean the whole NT is untrustworthy? No. It does not. It just means we need to change our doctrines of inspiration and Inerrancy. Note I am taking a scenario that is unfavorable towards us intentionally and using it to show that the central truth can still stand.

So in that case, I again repeat, if you want to know if Christianity is true, you don’t need to answer the question of evolution. If evolution is wrong, I would rather someone come to Christ with a belief in evolution, than to avoid Christ while having a true belief that evolution is wrong. I am more interested in getting people to Christ and removing as many hurdles from them as I can. I don’t want them to think they have to overcome a hurdle with evolution. Just show them what alone is essential.

So then, is the question of evolution important? Yes. But this is in a scientific sense.

The Bible is a book of history. I do not believe it is a book of science nor is it intended to be. This is not to fault the Bible or science. It is simply to admit the Bible is interested in teaching us God’s activity in the history of the universe and is not interested in telling us how the planets in our solar system move. It is also not interested in telling us how to do math, how to paint a masterpiece, or how to get in shape, even though there is nothing wrong with any of these and many are important.

Of course, I say this realizing the Bible contains other aspects such as moral teaching and Wisdom, but these are not to be separated from its history. The history is central to the text and the moral teachings are an outworking of that history.

As I said, the view I take on the matter is that of John Walton. You can hear my interview with him here. In this view, the creation account as it were is not a scientific account but is a functional account. You can have literal 24-hour days where God gives the orders on how everything is to behave and still have billions of years of Earth history prior.

What does this say then about how God created? Nothing. Not one thing. God could use fiat creation in Genesis 1 and 2 and Walton’s view is safe. God could also use evolutionary processes and Walton’s view is safe. Now where do you go to determine which view is accurate? You go to the sciences.

Evolution is a scientific question and if it is to fall, and I care not if it succeeds or falls, then it will fall scientifically. Right now, it is the leading naturalistic theory. There is no denying that. That does not mean it is true, but it means it is a serious contender.

So why do I not speak on if evolution is true or not? Simple. I am not a scientist. I do not possess the knowledge in the field. If I was up against a scientist and had to discuss it as science, I would not stand a chance whatsoever. I could not critique evolution from a scientific perspective. I could not defend it from a scientific perspective.

And I’m fine with that.

Too often in the apologetics field, someone can think they have to master everything and have an answer for everything. You don’t. It’s okay to say you don’t know some matters. Many of us have seen the atheists who think they are such experts on history and philosophy and really, they are just embarrassing themselves. Unfortunately, too many Christians when they speak without knowledge on scientific matters are also embarrassing themselves and this only presents a barrier to those atheists who are skilled in the sciences that will keep them from entering the Kingdom. It will give them the impression that Christians just believe what they are told without thinking about it. (Like we do when we see atheists quote “The God Delusion” as an authority.)

Now if you want to critique evolution, then have at it! Go for it! Just make sure that it is a scientific critique and not a Bible critique. The last thing we need is to have this be the case of science vs. the Bible. As soon as we put that to the world, guess which one they will go with.

Also, we must be clear on evolution. I am fine with anything that can be established scientifically as I believe fully that God wrote two books, Scripture and nature, and all truth is God’s truth. If something can be shown through science, then we should accept it.

So could it possibly be shown through science that mankind evolved through a long process of time? Sure. The process could be possibly shown scientifically. Could it be demonstrated that there is no God behind the process whatsoever? No. That is then philosophy and not science. In the same way, I do not think we could use science to PROVE that there is a deity. I think we could establish probabilities either way, but hard proof relies on metaphysics.

This is one reason I hesitate with Intelligent Design. If one takes Intelligent Design to mean do you believe there is a designer behind the universe, where every Christian would be an IDer, but it depends on what kind of universe. What I see most in the ID field is concern about the mechanism which makes God more of an engineer.

The mistake we often make is thinking that if evolution is shown to be true, God is out of a job. Atheists and Christians BOTH make this mistake. This is a concept that I do not think does justice to the Biblical concept of God. For instance, in Colossians 1, we are told that God by His power sustains the universe. The same is said in Hebrews 1.

It is not the case that the universe can just exist on its own. What is holding it in existence? What is sustaining it. Evolution does not answer the question of existence, the most important question to answer.

What this means for me is I can go to someone like Richard Dawkins and say “I will grant you anything about evolution you can show scientifically. Now what is your argument against theism?” If he wants to establish an eternal universe, fine. We’ll do it! If he wants to establish an eternal multiverse, well he can knock himself out! We’ll do it! None of those answer the question of existence itself as you need to explain not just the existence of the universe, how it came about, but the existing of the universe, how it is today.

If someone wants to go out and argue against evolution, I say let them. Just make sure the case is scientific. If evolution will fall, it will fall because it is bad science and the God who gave us Scripture is the one who gave us science as well. Bad science can be shown scientifically. Maybe it cannot be shown right now. Maybe it can be. I don’t know. I just know that I won’t comment on it because it is not my field and the truth of Christianity does not depend on it.

I am an active defender of the new creation beginning in Christ. I am anxiously awaiting its full fruition. My salvation does not lie in Genesis. My salvation lies in Easter Sunday.

In Christ,
Nick Peters