Dave Armstrong vs. the Atheists

Dave Armstrong is a braver man than I: he attended a “secular Bible study” in his native Detroit in order to answer questions about the Christian (in Dave’s case, Roman Catholic) position on Scripture. In all, 16 atheists attended to ask Dave questions.

Dave was fortunate to get a good group. They were open to dialog. Not like the group of militant anti-Christian atheists that populate the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees discussion board. (That was a waste of my time; why did I even sign up and post at all?) The majority of Internet atheists are the militant variety who refuse to listen to any Christian response to their nonsense.

Dave had a few great insights into the atheist mindset that are worth a short discussion. First:

DagoodS asked the group (17 including myself) how many believed that miracles occur. I was the only one to raise my hand. Then he asked how many believed that miracles might possibly occur. Jon raised his hand, and possibly one other. Only one or two even allowed the bare possibility. This exactly illustrated the point I was to make.

DagoodS was saying that it is more difficult to believe an extraordinary miracle or event than to believe in one that is more commonplace. True enough as far as it goes. But I said (paraphrasing), “you don’t believe that any miracles are possible, not even this book raising itself an inch off the table, so it is pointless for you to say that it is hard to believe in a great miracle, when in fact you don’t believe in any miracles whatsoever.” No response. . . .

This being the case, for an atheist (ostensibly with an “open mind”) to examine evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, is almost a farcical enterprise from the start (at least from a Christian perspective) because they commence the analysis with the extremely hostile presuppositions of: (1) No miracles can occur in the nature of things; (2) #1 logically follows because, of course, under fundamental atheist presuppositions, there is no God to perform any miracle; (3) The New Testament documents are fundamentally untrustworthy and historically suspect, having been written by gullible, partisan Christians; particularly because, for most facts presented therein, there is not (leaving aside archaeological evidences) written secular corroborating evidence.

It’s funny to me how atheists start, as Dave points out, with the three-fold notion that no miracles are possible, the New Testament documents are worthless as history, and that God doesn’t exist and can somehow say with a straight face that they are being open minded about whether the Resurrection happened and that they are examining the issues honestly and without bias. Sure.

Dave rightly concludes:

[T]hey think that such an examination of the Resurrection is an objective endeavor on their part, as if they will come to any other conclusion than the foregone one that they have already decided long since, upon the adoption of their atheism? And we are the ones who are constantly excoriated for being so “inflexible” and “dogmatic” and “closed-minded” to any other truths besides Christian ones?

Next, Dave observes:

I noted . . . that people . . . are always criticizing popes (and the Church as a whole) for supposedly declaring things by fiat and with raw power, apart from rational deliberation and intellectual reflection (which is a myth), yet on the other hand, if they take centuries to let the Church reflect and ponder important issues, . . . by not yet declaring something at the highest levels of authority, then they get blasted for being indecisive and wishy-washy and lacking authority.

He’s absolutely right. I note a variation of this theme in a reply to John Loftus. Christians (in the eyes of atheists) are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. A similar sentiment is expressed (rather crudely) in a Reddit thread of questions theists can’t answer. If we engage the arguments, then we make ourselves look bad because we’re making it all up anyway. But if we don’t engage the argument, then it means the atheist is on to something and we’re refusing to acknowledge it. As Dave continues:

If we do one thing we are wrong and stupid and illogical because of thus-and-so. If we do the exact opposite and contrary of that, we are still wrong and stupid and illogical for reasons that utterly contradict those of the prior criticism. And so on and on it goes. The only thing that critics of Catholicism “know” is that the Catholic Church is always wrong. That is the bottom line.

I like how Dave compares the skeptics approach to the Bible to a butcher approaching a hog:

DagoodS’ specialty (like that of many atheists of a certain sort; especially former Christians) is relentlessly trying to poke holes in the Bible and dredging up any conceivable so-called “contradiction” that he can find. It’s the hyper-rationalistic, “can’t see the forest for the trees” game. As I’ve often said, such a person approaches the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog. Their mind is already made up. If they go looking for errors and “contradictions” they will assuredly always “find” them.

Confirmation bias. They see a perceived error, but what happens when the Christian clarifies the perceived error, demonstrating that it isn’t really an error? They ignore us:

And if a Christian spends the great deal of laborious, tedious time required to debunk and refute these in order to show how they are not, in fact, contradictions (as I and many others have done), they simply ignore that as of no consequence and go their merry way seeking out more of the same.

It never ends. Dave says it’s like being on a boat where the atheist is drilling holes that the Christian has to patch. Each time the Christian patches a hole, the atheist happily drills another, this time on the other side of the boat.

It’s appropriate that Dave notes the new hole is often drilled on the other side of the boat. I’ve found that atheists, once having been refuted on one topic, will immediately switch to a completely different topic. For example, if they bring up three Bible “contradictions” which the Christian easily fixes, they will immediately switch to philosophical worldview arguments.

This scatter shot approach gives the atheist a big advantage. They just keep flinging charges from all categories of apologetics until they hit an area where the apologist under fire isn’t very strong. (In my case, that would be history.) Then they declare victory by default, since the apologist is forced to say “I don’t know.”

Saying “I don’t know” is the mark of an excellent scientist, according to the Reddit thread I referenced earlier, but a terrible apologist. Of course, according to that same Reddit thread, the very fact that some theists don’t ever admit they don’t know is a sign they’re full of it. So theism really loses either way, I guess!

Dave hits the goal of apologetics on the head:

In all likelihood, judging from his [DagoodS's] past responses, any such replies will have no effect on him, but they can help Christians see the bankruptcy of atheist anti-biblical arguments, and those on the fence to avoid falling into the same errors of logic and fallacious worldviews built upon such errors.

And that is the whole goal of apologetics, and particularly the dialogical apologetics that I specialize in: to help people (by God’s grace) avoid theological and philosophical errors and to be more confident in their Christian and Catholic beliefs, by understanding solid intellectual rationales for same. We remove obstacles and roadblocks. What the person will do with that information is a function of their minds and free wills and God’s grace, and that is out of the apologist’s hands.

That’s just it. This is the reason I’ve quit the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees forum. None of those people will be affected by anything I have to say; they’ve made up their minds and are totally set in their rebellion against God. I don’t see honest seekers delving into that forum and finding my apologetics. Therefore, since my goal is to work on those who are honestly seeking truth, it is worthless to speak in a forum where everyone has already made up their minds. No good can come of this.

Dave is absolutely right. The goal of apologetics isn’t to argue someone to faith. The road to the Cross is something a person must walk down of their own volition. We can’t make them do this. But we can fill in some of the potholes on the road for them.

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian who prays that this blog will be used solely for furthering God's plan of salvation and for His glory. See my "About Us" page for further information about me and about my wife.

Posted on December 4, 2010, in Apologetics, Roman Catholicism, WWGHA and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 76 Comments.

  1. Dear Cory, dear Dave,
    This is a rather shy contribution, I am a Roman Catholic contemplative Nun – and a convert to Christianity from no faith background. We just did our public Advent Service, curiously enough, about the dialogue with atheism – and miracles, it might just entertain you, it is on:

    http://www.poorclarestmd.org/clareway/journal.html

    yours very humbly,
    Sr Maria

  2. “It’s funny to me how atheists start”

    I can only speak for myself. That being said, I didn’t start there. I concluded that after lots of investigation. And, as is true with anything, I’m always open to changing my mind if I’m shown to be wrong.

  3. Hi Cory,

    Thanks for the mention, kind words, and your helpful insights into the atheist-Christian interactive dynamic. I will make a link to your post from the combox of mine.

    Just a small clarification. On this occasion, I was not the focus of the meeting, to answer questions. That was a previous meeting that I referred to (the first time I went). I was strictly a visitor to this one, and didn’t get to say much in the regular meeting. But the relationship is ongoing so there will be future installments!

    This particular group is highly unusual, due to its lack of manifest emotional hostility to Christianity and Christians.

  4. Since I am the DagoodS discussed above…I offer a few words in my defense.

    First and foremost, you are getting only one side of the story—one perspective. Dave Armstrong’s. I respect his right to provide his view of the conversation, and have no intention of degrading into a conversation of “I said this,” “No, you said that.” I will state, my viewpoint of what happened in our dialogue is……..not the same as Dave’s.

    We did respond to his statement regarding our lack of belief in miracles; there wasn’t silence. There were plenty of responses. (Primarily we utilize evidence to demonstrate miracles, and how viable is the evidence regarding the Resurrection when it wasn’t sufficient to convince Doubting Thomas—a person who was far more intimately available to investigate claims we cannot.) But again, I have no intention to argue with Dave as to who said what when. He presents his position; I (and others) consider it incomplete and leave it at that.

    I do not say, did not say and have never said the New Testament documents are worthless as history. Again… this is coming from one perspective. I DO say we must treat the documents for what they are. They are not history as a 20th century historian would record them, the gospels (for example) are bios as a 1st Century Mediterranean author would present them.

    I confess slight pique at being compared to a “butcher approaching a hog” when referring to my treatment of the Bible. I have studied it at some length; I know some things; I clearly do not know everything. If one disagrees with my argument, or my consideration of what is being presented…so be it. Present your own, and let the better argument win. If I am missing something, or am being biased–please, please, please feel free to point it out.

    But Dave Armstrong has said all this about me before. I’ve learned (mostly) to shrug off the invectives and let the arguments speak for themselves. If one is left with the impression I am a “butcher approaching a hog” I evidently need to better my presentation to correct that misrepresentation on my part. All I ask is this: Please don’t take the word of one (1) person without hearing other’s impressions, or my own perception.

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

  5. Q:(Primarily we utilize evidence to demonstrate miracles, and how viable is the evidence regarding the Resurrection when it wasn’t sufficient to convince Doubting Thomas—a person who was far more intimately available to investigate claims we cannot.)……..

    Sorry, Dagoods, You think Thomas was not convinced?!!!!!!!!!

  6. Sister Maria,

    I think John 20:24-29 is a non-historical pericope incorporated to address certain concerns in the Johannine community. However, lest I be accused of treating the story like a “butcher approaching a hog,” (*wink*) let us assume arguendo the story is historical.

    Remember, it is claimed the primary reason we are unconvinced Jesus’ resurrection did not occur is that we “…don’t believe that any miracles are possible, not even this book raising itself an inch off the table, so it is pointless for [a non-believer] to say that it is hard to believe in a great miracle, when in fact [the non-believer doesn’t] believe in any miracles whatsoever.”

    All we need is one counter-factual to defeat this argument, and Doubting Thomas presents us with such a counter-factual.

    According to the Gospel accounts, Thomas was one of the Twelve. Presumably a Hebrew, making him a theist. A miracle-believing theist. (Unless one wants to claim Thomas was not a Hebrew, or did not believe in miracles. I would like to review such an argument as to why a person would be claiming that.)

    Thomas had travelled with Jesus for some time, observing water turned to wine, people walking on water, blind regain their sight, cripples walk, 1000’s fed, storms calmed, trees cursed, and people brought back from the dead.

    Would you agree with me that Thomas believed miracles were possible? Even people coming back from the dead?

    Thomas, on Easter Sunday, was informed by his friends they had seen Jesus post-mortem. (John 20:25) Thomas—a miracle-believing theist—was presented with the actual Disciples telling him they had seen Jesus [evidence I do not have access to], could observe the empty tomb [evidence I do not have access to], could interview, discuss and investigate the facts surrounding the crucifixion [evidence I do not have access to], and had observed Jesus in both word and deed for some period of time. All being evidence I do not have access to.

    Yet all this evidence [more than I have] was not enough to convince a miracle-believing theist who had immediate capability to confirm the factual basis for the claims being made.

    If this evidence was insufficient to convince a Jesus-following, miracle-believing, dead-come-back-from-life-observing Doubting Thomas, why should it convince me—a person with even less evidence?

    Yes, Doubting Thomas was eventually convinced when he received even more evidence—Jesus appearing to him—but I am not hearing any Christian apologists claiming we skeptics are correct in not being convinced until Jesus personally appears to us, like he did to convince Thomas. I am hearing we should be convinced by less evidence than Thomas had prior to the appearance.

    Worse, by the way, is Matthew 28:16-17, where it is recorded the eleven Disciples saw Jesus in Galilee—this would have been at least the 4th appearance, the first three recorded in John 20-21—and it is noted that some still doubted or waivered. That is after the evidence of physical apparition!

    We skeptics have thought about these things. We aren’t dismissing apologetic claims off-handedly or disdainfully. Certainly I have considered my own naturalistic bias, and whether it presents a hinderance to believing the resurrection stories. (Although in my case, being a deconvert, I was actually biased the other way—FOR the story.)

    I just don’t see many apologists addressing the story of Doubting Thomas as to why, if he wasn’t convinced by MORE evidence than I have, that I should be persuaded by LESS evidence. I don’t see many grappling with the fact a miracle-believing theist was not compelled to believe when he had so much more access to the evidence than I ever could.

  7. Go Dave, those atheist just don’t understand.

  8. DagoodS needs to lighten up a bit. I thought my criticisms were very mild, all things considered. I told him right outside the meeting that I thought he did a good presentation. I get along fine with most of his group of friends. The only ones I didn’t were a guy who was later kicked out, and a woman who writes on the discussion board but apparently doesn’t attend the meetings in person. The leader has been to my house to do a presentation and has been invited again. It was all perfectly cordial.

    But DagoodS’ presentation was a lecture punctuated by brief comments invariably cut off by him; it was not a group discussion in any way, shape, or form (at least not in my definition of the word). He has been able to have his say and do his counterpoint far more here than I was allowed to do during his presentation. I usually had a minute: two at the most, and then he quickly took up his lecture again. There was very little dialogue.

    But I’m sure Cory is happy (as I am) to let our atheist friend have his say here. He also had his say on my blog. I carefully responded to what he wrote in the combox and have not yet heard back from him (unless I missed it).

    I fully intend to look over some of his recent posts in order to make some critiques, but it so happens that I found out a few days ago that I have lost my part-time job that helps me make ends meet beyond my book royalties (because of the economy, of course; nothing to do with my performance). So I have to work relatively more on creating income to make up for the loss.

    But it is on my docket, along with critiquing some more deconversion stories.

  9. Thank you Dagood, dear.
    I was reared by an atheist and a sceptic, so I came to the Gospel with the minimum of preconceptions. I had not, really, even heard of the resurrection of Christ! So I considered the New Testament as I would any other piece of historical information. Cicero and Livy are older than the NT, but they are a different culture, the OT is much older than the New and is the same culture; but old as they are they are all comprehensible; writing styles change a little but humans are oddly consistent!

    A number of points struck me:
    1: The Nt texts were in circulation within living memory of the event – yet there is no big contemporary effort to contradict them. If they were fabulous lies it would have been easy to say so.
    2. Nobody attempted to tidy them up: the datings of Easter and even misappropriation of a quote to Isaiah have never been regularinzed up. Nor have the personalities of Peter and Paul! (especially Pete!)
    3. People confronted with the good news act in the strangest way; many of them lose all fear of death and pain and rush off ‘as to a wedding’ to get hideously martyred. And the historical and text evidence of this is very strong.
    4. The willingness to die for the truth is still with us in even greater numbers and the evidence of miracles is still researchable! Christ said, “Either believe in me because I speak with the Father’s authority or because of the evidence of the miracles I have done”. And he added, “I tell you the truth. He who believes in me will also do the miracles that I do – and greater miracles than these, he will do!”
    (John 5:37-40) You cannot check up Christ’s miracles, but you can research those of Juan Diego and John XXIII
    5. In the last 30 years the Catholic Church beatified 1340 people and canonized 176 (give or take a saint). Unless they were martyred, there has to be a miracle each time. Look up some of them; a lot are in living memory.
    The RCC is a grimly exacting judge of fools and fallacies, it does not pass miracles with out the most excruciating conditions. In October, Benedict XVI canonized Mary McKillop. Veronica Hopson, who was healed of myeloblastic leukaemia and Kathleen Evans, who was healed of inoperable lung and brain cancer were in St Peter’s with their children and grandchildren for the event. Mary McKillop is one of hundreds of recently blessed people whose miracles are contemporary: you can meet them and see their hospital records.

    With respectful love
    (and please pardon my spelling)
    Sr Maria J

    • Hello Sister Maria,

      You mentioned healings. Have you read Norman Cousins? He survived three fatal illnesses in his life, seemingly miraculously. He wrote about them in his books. But religion was not involved.

      Have you heard of Jason Winters? He believed a “tea” cured his inoperable fatal throat tumor (he was given three months to live). But no one knows for sure how the tea works, though his website continues to receive testimonies of miraculous healing from other users of his tea:

      http://www.sirjasonwinters.com/testimonials.htm

      What I am saying is that the history of health cures, placebo research, stress reduction and visualization, includes tales of miraculous healings.

      Perhaps there is some connection between mental states, including religious mental states among others, and miraculous cures. But is that connection necessarily the one that devout Catholics believe it to be?

      See also this important article:

      The Body Can Beat Terminal Cancer — Sometimes

      They should be dead. But a tiny number of people conquer lethal diseases.
      by Jeanne Lenzer

      http://discovermagazine.com/2007/sep/the-body-can-stave-off-terminal-cancer-sometimes/article_view?b_start:int=1&-C=

      ON THE DEBUNKING OF MIRACLES

      Protestants have spent a fair share of time and effort debunking centuries of Catholic miracle stories, including tales related to healing relics, visions, etc. So Protestants were debunking Catholic miracle stories even before deism and later atheism arose.

      On the miracles reported to have taken place in the early [Catholic] church Rev. Dr. Conyers Middleton (18th century British Anglican clergyman, Cambridge graduate and author) says, regarding the early church fathers who reported them:

      “I have shown by many indisputable facts, that the ancient fathers, by whose authority that delusion was originally imposed (that miracles existed in the early church), and has ever since been supported, were extremely credulous and superstitious; possessed with strong prejudices and enthusiastic zeal, in favour, not only of Christianity in general, but of every particular doctrine, which a wild imagination could ingraft upon it; and scrupling no art or means, by which they might propagate the same principles. In short; they they were of a character, from which nothing could be expected, that was candid and impartial; nothing but what a weak or crafty understanding could supply, towards confirming those prejudices, with which they happened to be possessed; especially where religion was the subject, which above all other motives, strengthens every bias, and inflames every passion of the human mind.” [Conyers Middleton (1749), A FREE INQUIRY INTO THE MIRACULOUS POWERS WHICH ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE SUBSISTED IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH FROM THE EARLIEST AGES THROUGH SEVERAL SUCCESSIVE CENTURIES. Reprinted (1967). New York: Garland Publishing. Preface, pp. 21-22.]

      Then in the 19th century one can read the Protestant theologian (and father of modern inerrancy), B. B. Warfield, to see how he debunked Catholic miracles and resurrection stories in his famous work, COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES. Which just goes to show, as Dr. Robert M. Price (an ex-fundamentalist Protestant), wrote, “The zeal and ingenuity of conservative evangelical scholars in dismantling the miracles of rival Christian groups (and exploding rival interpretations of Scripture used to support such miracles), is worthy of the most skeptical gospel critic.”

      Neither are Catholics the only ones with miracle stores to share. Jews have always had their own miraculous tales shared amongst their communities. As Spinoza pointed out in his day:

      “The miracles they [the Jews] relate are enough to weary a thousand gossips. But what they chiefly pride themselves on is that they number far more martyrs than any other nation and daily increase the number of those who with extraordinary constancy of mind have suffered for the faith that they profess. And this is not untrue. I myself know [have heard], among others, of a certain Judah, whom they call the Faithful, who in the midst of the flames, when he was believed to be dead already, began to sing the hymn that begins, ‘To Thee, O God, I commit my soul,’ and died in the middle of the hymn.”

      The person to whom Spinoza is referring was a Spanish nobleman who was converted to Judaism via the study of Hebrew and who had adopted the named “Judah” as his Hebrew name. His given name was Don Lope de Vera y Alarcon de San Clemente, and he was burnt at Valladolid, July 25, 1644 according to Gratz’ book Gesch. der Juden x. 101. This reminds me also of the famous story of a rabbi facing the Inquisition who was asked to deny his faith. He requested time to think it over. The next morning he said, “I will not become a Catholic, but I have a last request — before I’m burnt at the stake my tongue should be cut out for not replying at once. To such a question ‘No!’ was the only answer.”

  10. The very fact that many are willing to die for their faith should show many that there is something to the gospel of jesus Christ. Not to mention love that changes lives.

  11. Sister Maria,

    Likewise, thank you for the pleasant conversation.

    I was raised in a protestant home; it would seem you and I criss-crossed paths. My upbringing is demonstrative of the position I am taking here—that these claims of “We can’t convince you because you don’t believe in miracles” are unfounded.

    We Protestants were unimpressed and unconvinced by Catholic claims of miracles. (I am sure this is no surprise to you.) Understand—we shared the same belief in God. We both hold to the trinity, to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, to Sacred writings, to salvation, hell, heaven. We both certainly believed miracles occurred both past and present. On Sunday we would thank God for curing some person in a hospital, or miraculously finding employment for another, or some other event. But if a Catholic claim for a miracle was presented, we would review it with skeptical precision, often dismissing it as “not supported by the evidence.” Specifically Marian appearances were not considered miracles.

    Here was a situation where we had a theist (the protestant) who absolutely believed in miracles, yet was not persuaded by the evidence presented by the Catholics. It was NOT that the Protestant didn’t believe in miracles, so the Catholic didn’t stand a chance; it was the Protestant not being convinced by the evidence presented.

    Certainly there was an anti-Catholic bias present…but notice what you did in your comment. You did the correct thing—gave evidence you felt could be convincing upon investigation. You didn’t whine. You didn’t complain, “Oh, DagoodS…I’ll list some information but you will never believe it because you don’t believe in miracles.”

    Nope. And I appreciate what you did—bring forth the evidence! If it isn’t convincing, so be it. It will not be the first (nor the last) claim made that some other person didn’t believe.

    What I tire of is the presentation of evidence and when I remain unpersuaded, my lack of belief is dismissed as “that’s because you don’t believe in miracles.” Thomas believed in miracles; he wasn’t convinced. Protestants believe in miracles; they are not convinced. It isn’t the belief/non-belief in miracles—the evidence presented is not compelling to that person.

    Thank you for NOT doing that.

    If you don’t mind, I would love to address some of the points you raised. Not in a “let’s put on boxing gloves and bash at each other,” but rather because I love these discussions. I cannot learn to be quiet about it.

    1. New Testament Writings in circulation around the time of the events.

    Well…that is not clear. A few points to consider:

    1. When were they written? Take Mark, the first gospel. It could have been written as early as 30 CE, but if Jesus was referring to the Bar Kokhba rebellion, it was written after 135 CE. A broad range, the latter part which would be more than 100 years after the events. I generally place it around 65 CE, but we should note that date is not set in stone.

    Paul’s letters were written in the 50’s, yet they contain few “events” to be confirmed. No Jesus miracles, no sermons, no parables, no locations. Even the 1 Cor. 15:3-8 creed contains bare information that is contradictory to the Gospel accounts.

    2. Who was reading them? The culture maintained an in-group/out-group mentality where information was shared within members of the same group, but denied to outsiders. Were the gospel stories even being read by non-Christians? Think of Paul—did he know the Gospel accounts prior to becoming saved? If he did, then (again) the evidence was unconvincing to a person who had more access to the historical nature of the claim. If he did not, this is demonstrative the claims were NOT being shared with outsiders, such as Paul.

    3. Even if an outsider DID read them, would they bother to debunk them? How many people were debunking Heaven’s Gate before the suicide? Or take a major religion—like Islam. How many people have even read the Qur’an, let alone worked at debunking it? See, as humans, if our belief precludes another, we often do not spend time or energy debunking it, because we already presume it to be false. Christians don’t bother debunking Islam, because their Christianity inherently already precludes Islam. Protestants don’t debunk Catholicism because their Protestantism inherently already precludes Catholicism. (I’m talking in generalizations, of course. There are some apologists.)

    In the same way, Jewish leaders wouldn’t have bothered debunking Christianity—their beliefs they already felt were true necessarily made Christianity false. (Not to mention they had their own hands full with other Jewish beliefs between the Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, Samaritans, Essenes, Nazarenes, Qumran Society, and Galileans, not to mention the pesky Romans and their polytheism! Some sect claiming the Messiah came, but died? Meh…why bother?)

    4. Life expectancy was much shorter than. 35 was the average age (although this includes infant mortality). Still, a person living to 65 was above average—not normal. Not to mention the Jewish War that caused so many deaths. If these stories promulgated in the later third of the First Century, there would be very few around who could confirm or deny the claims.

    2. No one attempted to clear up the accounts.

    Hmmm…Matthew certainly attempted to clear up Mark. Including Aramaic expressions, difficulties in geography, etc. Luke attempted to clear up Matthew, with both the birth narrative and the Resurrection account. John 21 attempted to rehabilitate Peter. How Matthew corrects Herod back to a tetrarch rather than Mark’s incorrect titling him a “King.” But Matthew leaves Herod sorrowful at John the Baptist’s death, (Mt. 14:9) even though Matthew had Herod disliking John the Baptist, (Mt. 14:5) demonstrating fatigue in copying Mark. (See Mark 6:20-26 where it makes sense for Herod to be sorrowful.)

    In fact, part of how we come to recognize the Synoptic Problem IS their various attempts to “clean up” the other’s accounts.

    3. Willingly die for a lie

    Ah…perhaps my favorite topic. The problem is that our evidence is extremely late as to how the apostles died, and demonstrates myth. James, the brother of Jesus is killed for political ambition, not for his beliefs. Yet once the story is passed through the Second Apocalypse of James and then Hegesippus, it becomes the myth surrounding his death.

    Or take Peter. Our earliest account surrounding his death is from “Acts of Peter” (150 – 200 CE). Which states he was killed because he was convincing wives and concubines to stop having sex with their husbands. Unfortunately for Peter, the husbands had enough political clout to have Peter killed. Nothing to do with Peter willing to die for what he claimed he saw.

    The closest we have is James, the son of Zebedee, and yet Luke spends only a clause on his death, as an introduction to a story on Peter. Curiously, 1 Clement has no knowledge of James or James or any other apostle’s death, other than Peter and Paul, and even THAT author doesn’t claim Peter died by crucifixion or Paul by beheading.

    The sources are not very supportive for the argument of “not willing to die for a lie.”

    As to the miracle claims, I look forward to investigating these a little later when time allows.

    Again, thank you for the conversation.

  12. I’ve also left Christianity after spending 25+ years deeply studying the bible. You can read about my deconversion by googling “reason for my deconversion”.

    Cheers.

  13. I was raised and confirmed Catholic, became Born Again, later, spoke in tongues, was baptized in the Holy Spirit, then read Reformed Apologetics, as well as moderate Evangelical & Anglican works, and eventually left the fold after years of letter debates and after reading and discussing different theological and comparative religion books with some intelligent friends (two of whom had left the fold years before I did). I remain mostly agnostic, but hope there’s an afterlife.

    Eight Books Every Christian Should Read

    http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/09/seven-books-every-christian-should-read.html

  14. DagooDs: What I tire of is the presentation of evidence and when I remain unpersuaded, my lack of belief is dismissed as “that’s because you don’t believe in miracles.”

    The insinuation is that this is my position, but of course I have never said this. It is projected onto me as a straw man. I don’t think that this is the key or only factor, only that it is one of many relevant factors for why someone disbelieves in miracles.

    I’m all for evidence. That’s what apologetics is about. There are plenty of books documenting hundreds miracles, often with medical documentation: both by Protestants and Catholics. I have them in my library. Let DagoodS go read several and then come back and tell us if he thinks the evidence is compelling for any one of them.

    If he says “no” to all, then excuse me if I suspect (not positively assert) that his original presuppositions have something (not everything) to do with it.

    All I’m saying (as a socratic who examines root assumptions) is that the hostile presupposition is indeed a relevant factor. If there is no God, there can be no miracles, period; therefore, there can be no particular miracles. The entire edifice stands together, in unity. It simply can’t possibly be denied that this is a relevant consideration. I think it is mostly a case of DagoodS not liking when anyone points this out because atheists such as himself pride themselves on their intellectual openness and willingness to go wherever “evidence” leads, yet in fact they are quite closed-minded, and they hate when a Christian has the audacity to point this out. That’s why they detest critiques of their deconversion stories. They don’t want to deal with someone who may know more about some of the particulars of certain beliefs that they rejected, than they do.

    It is relevant to suspect that no evidence is sufficient to convince an atheist of a miracle if said atheist actually examines hundreds or thousands of documented cases and never met a miracle that he liked (i.e., believed). Sorry; presuppositions are always A factor in things, whether the person who holds them thinks so or not.

    If DagoodS wants to deny that (and it is what I am saying), then he merely shows himself to be quite philosophically and epistemologically naive. I was trying to get at some of this during his presentation bit was never really allowed to.

  15. Phil Stilwell: You can read about my deconversion by googling “reason for my deconversion”.

    Thanks for the reference. If your account has some glaring misunderstandings of Christian positions, leading to the rejection of straw men rather than the actual thing (which is true of every deconversion story I have yet read), I may critique it myself. I was planning to do some of that in the near future.

    I do honestly appreciate the fact that some former Christians are willing to articulately lay out the reasons for their apostasy, thus making it possible for an apologist to objectively examine same and offer a counterpoint, and provide another side of the story.

    • Dave, I will admit that the bible is vague enough to be interpreted in a myriad of ways, and that the evangelical church I attended will no doubt have interpreted the scriptures differently from the way you do. Before I pass judgment on your theology, could you send me a copy of your standard of hermeneutics. That would be very helpful so I can determine whether your standard is coherent and that you are applying it correctly. You can send that to my email address.

      I attended 2 bible colleges, read the greek NT through 11 times, and was ordained. Let this inform your response to me.

      I look forward to your comments on my apostasy.

      Cheers.

  16. Cory and Dave,

    Read, Kenton Sparks, God’s Word in Human Words?

    Chapter 2 constitutes a defense of historical criticism as it has been applied to the Bible. Many conservative Christians presume that the critical eye that has been trained on the Bible is the result only of bias against religion and the supernatural, but as Sparks shows, with Assyriology as the case study, the same critical eye forms the foundation of other scholarship. It is not bias that compels scholars to question the unity and inerrancy of the Bible, it is intellectual curiosity and methodological conventions developed over the years in a variety of disciplines.

    Sparks also relates his own personal crisis of faith as an Evangelical and how his Christian faith developed afterwords.

    See also these other books:

    http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/09/seven-books-every-christian-should-read.html

  17. Dave, You mentioned miracles, please see my reply above to Sister Maria. I included in my reply to Sister Maria stories and links to amazing healing that sometimes occur, not just miracles related to religious beliefs.

    Protestants were the first to question and debunk Catholic miracles, and continue to do so, and I included mention of specific works by Protestants that I shared with Sister Maria above.

    Protestants also debunk each others’ miracles as in the case of Mike Warnke’s list of miracles in The Satan Seller (investigated by Cornerstone journalists and found severely wanting, see their book, Selling Satan), or, in Michelle’s Story, or in Like a Mighty Wind (the latter containing stories of miracles that arose during a revival in Indonesia in the 1970s).

    And Dave, you don’t mention Islamic miracles, or New Age miracles, or Native American visions and miracles, or ancient pagan healing sites and stories of miracles. Nor the way general sensations of transcendental experiences, as well as visions, and OBEs, and NDEs cross over religious and philosophical boundaries.

    I find some stories of miracles relatively more well attested than others. But not having been there nor experienced what they did, I can not say 100% even concerning the most well attested stories. Neither do I have time in my life to examine the sheer variety of transcendental experiences, miracle stories, though I’ve read many, as I’m sure you have too.

    Consider the testimony of Andrew Lias , who had a near death experience (NDE). Quoting from : “I had one during my suicide attempt that ended up with me (I kid you not) in a carnival being faced by a loud, cigar chomping man with a paisley tie who was laughing his head of. I remember clearly thinking, ‘Oh no, I’ve gone to the Silly Place!'”

    Or consider these experiences: Eleven Thai Visionary, OBE, NDE Experiences

    http://www.shaktitechnology.com/bkknde.htm

    I read an ad in The Fortean Times about two years ago for a video that included the testimony of a Muslim on pilgrimage who says he “saw Mohammed” standing at a particular holy site.

    As pointed out by professor W. Andrew Terrill (professor at the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, and the top expert on Iraq there), “I don’t think that you can kill the insurgency in Iraq. If you are a Muslim and the community is under occupation by a non-Islamic power it becomes a religious requirement to resist that occupation. Most Iraqis consider us occupiers, not liberators. There’s talk of angels and the Prophet Mohammed coming down from heaven to lead the fighting, talk of
    martyrs whose bodies are glowing and emanating wonderful scents.” — W. Andrew Terrill, [Cited by Sidney Blumenthal, sidney_blumenthal@yahoo.com, “Far graver than Vietnam,” The Guardian, Thursday September 16, 2004

    Muslim Near Death Experiences

    http://www.near-death.com/muslim.html

    See also the “turning point” in the life of this Islamic apologist: The Chairman of the International Islamic Propagation Center http://www.iipc.tv/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13&Itemid=42
    TURNING POINT IN LIFE — An event that had a profound effect on Mohammad Shaikh occurred on 15th December, 1986, when some armed criminals broke into his office in Karachi. Soon a struggle ensued and one of the men pulled the trigger, but miraculously Brother Shaikh was not hit. It was at this point in time, he recalls, that he closed his eyes and prayed to Allah deep in his heart, that if his life were spared, he would dedicate it to His cause – it was as if his prayer was heard, that the armed men all of a sudden broke loose and fled, leaving him physically and psychologically drained at the ordeal. After this experience he would decide to study and teach the Qur’an fearlessly and take a firm stand on what was stated within its pages irrespective of the status quo opinions. This experience, along with
    spiritual experiences gained during the Hajj, and dialogues with Christian missionaries would motivate him to defend his faith and learn the Qur’an in more detail so as to answer allegations. All of this would eventually pave the way for an organized mission to promote the Qur’an.

    The same fellow, above, was voted 4th most influential Muslim in the world per a Reuters poll http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/11/17/poll-the-worlds-top-500-muslims-read-and-vote/

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Islamic-Miracles/209140485072

    Islamic Miracles

    http://farhan-ali-qadri.com/discussion/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1133&start=0&sid=8982227b423292d44963b213f037812e

    And as I told Sister Maria, the Jews also have their own miracle tales, and tales of “faith unto death,” in the face of persecution from Catholics no less!

    As Spinoza pointed out in his day:

    “The miracles they [the Jews] relate are enough to weary a thousand gossips. But what they chiefly pride themselves on is that they number far more martyrs than any other nation and daily increase the number of those who with extraordinary constancy of mind have suffered for the faith that they profess. And this is not untrue. I myself know [have heard], among others, of a certain Judah, whom they call the Faithful, who in the midst of the flames, when he was believed to be dead already, began to sing the hymn that begins, ‘To Thee, O God, I commit my soul,’ and died in the middle of the hymn.”

    The person to whom Spinoza is referring was a Spanish nobleman who was converted to Judaism via the study of Hebrew and who had adopted the named “Judah” as his Hebrew name. His given name was Don Lope de Vera y Alarcon de San Clemente, and he was burnt at Valladolid, July 25, 1644 according to Gratz’ book Gesch. der Juden x. 101. This reminds me also of the famous story of a rabbi facing the Inquisition who was asked to deny his faith. He requested time to think it over. The next morning he said, “I will not become a Catholic, but I have a last request — before I’m burnt at the stake my tongue should be cut out for not replying at once. To such a question ‘No!’ was the only answer.”

  18. Hi Phil,

    To answer your question:

    Catholic Encyclopedia: “Hermeneutics”

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07271a.htm

    “Catholic Scripture Interpretation,” Eric Sammons

    http://sammonsonline.net/article/Catholic_Scripture_Interpretat

    “Interpreting the Holy Bible,” Eric Sammons

    http://sammonsonline.net/article/Interpreting_Bible

    “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church,” Pontifical Bible Commission (1994)

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/pbcinter.htm

    “Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations
    and Approaches of Exegesis Today,” Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (1988)

    http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/ratzinger/biblical-crisis.htm

    “Historical-Critical Scripture Studies and the Catholic Faith,” Michael Waldstein

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/HCSSCF.TXT

    “Neo-Patristic Exegesis: Its Approach and Method,” John F. McCarthy

    http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt75.html

    “Catholicism and the Bible: An Interview with Albert Vanhoye,” by Peter Williamson (First Things, June/July 1997)

    http://web.archive.org/web/20070513124424/http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=3712

    “Hermeneutics: Understanding Revelation,” Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl

    http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ap031000.htm

    “The Catholic Understanding of the Bible,” John A. Hardon, S. J.

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=21&ved=0CBkQFjAAOBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.therealpresence.org%2Farchives%2FSacred_Scripture%2FSacred_Scripture_015.pdf&rct=j&q=catholic%20biblical%20hermeneutics&ei=aMQBTZ2BB8K78gbUvOTmAg&usg=AFQjCNF1jzSqwpNr0tiakI3YfsMMjJAC9Q&cad=rja

    See also many links at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology (Scott Hahn):

    http://www.salvationhistory.com/library/scripture/wordOfGod/interpissues.cfm

    See further links:

    “Catholic Church Documents related to Biblical Studies,” by Felix Just

    http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/

  19. Hi Phil,

    To answer your question (my blog post):

    Catholic Interpretation of Scripture (Hermeneutics / Exegesis): Resource List

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/06/catholic-interpretation-of-scripture.html

    • Hi Dave,

      Sorry, but I don’t want a lengthy textbook. I just need a simple list of the principles you used when deciding whether a passage should be taken literally and when it should not, when a passage is a prophecy and when it is not.

      I’m looking for a clear and objective standard of hermeneutics that is worthy of a “word of truth” that is allegedly clear and objective.

  20. Dear Dagood
    Unlike Cory and Dave, I do not know who you are, but I assume (from the way in which you write) that you are a gentleman and that Dagood is a pseudonym composed of Da (Latin: imperative of give) and Good (Old Saxon: God-empowered, good) and it is an invitation to respond by giving good and, equally, giving as good as you get!
    If this is not so you may laugh!!!!!!!!!!

    I want to apologize to Cory, who accidentally acquired my company by an act of kindness on his part, which I may be repaying very badly.

    NT writings.
    Mere common sense. Christ prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem which happens in AD 70. If the texts had been compiled after that it would be decidedly irrational not to mention it had happened.
    The non biblical documents you mention were all rejected from the canon of scripture in the 4th Century. The people who did this were much nearer the event than we and had much more information than is at our disposal about the authors. (You note, dear friend, that I do not appeal to the fact that this was done at the Councils of Laodicea and Rome and confirmed by Innocent I, because to fully appreciate their goodwill you would have to accept God’s existence and only an overwhelming love for God and your fellow humans will enable you to put up with anything so messy and human as the Church)

    Judaism, I am afraid had every reason to rid itself of the Gospel evidence. Those of my sisters who are converts from Judaism tell me the Mishna has attempts to rewrite the Gospel narrative – but – they are not contemporary with the event, they are much later.

    2 Retouching – you are saying what I am saying – and saying it very well. The Gospel accounts differ from each other But no one has rewritten the texts to make them agree Luke did not rewrite Matt’s text and burn the original…!

    3 Miracles – no, dearest, I am not asking you to believe ‘miracles’, I am asking you to rationally acknowlege mere facts. The mere fact of people who provably had cancer or whatever and provably have it no more. We are talking of thousands of incidences and as Einstein said, there is no such thing as a co-incidence!
    I love your loyalty. Loyalty is a beautiful thing. You have parted with God but you are still loyal to the prejudices of your protestant upbringing and you don’t want to have to do with Mary the Mother of Jesus. Her appearances (if judged worthy of belief – and the Church compels none of its adherents to believe in any of them) are not miracles. But mere miracles are often associated with them. Lourdes, for example, has a medical bureau for those who want to see the evidence. And again you are dealing with mere facts – many people who have been healed there are still alive and their medical information is available. All I ask is that you acknowlege mere facts. And ponder on them.

    I am a Poor Clare Colettine Nun, living in Wales GB. I cannot answer at further length just now, but I will try to come back by Wednesday. There is a reason for this! I am at present making a bride’s dress for one of our little sisters who will receive the habit of our order, founded by St Francis and St Clare 8 centuries ago – to try to simply live the Gospel life without pretensions. And the next few days will be full ones of celebration and joy

    People go on laying down their lives for love. Our little sister is 23, she came half way round the world from New Zealand to throw her life away in God’s company. His company is terrific and worth it. Like most of my sisters she is a convert, with no religious upbringing; at the age of 14, when her mother brought home yet another resident male, she cleared out and brought herself up. Think of us – as we think of you. In this world of blinding horrors and blinding excitements there is still a home for love and humbleness.

    If you – or Cory- would prefer that we consider making this conversation more private. I can be found at newlife@poorclarestmd.org

    Your loving little sister,
    Sr Maria j

  21. Dave Armstong,

    I am sorry you feel as if you were “not allowed to” speak during our study. Unfortunately, that is going to happen in such a group.

    Look, we have a wide continuum of persons there. Some people have spent decades studying the Gospels; others have never read them. Not once. It makes little sense (to me) to jump into a debate regarding…say…the existence of Joseph of Arimathea when some people have never heard of him, let alone how he fits in the story. A couple have degrees in history; one fellow is a post-modern historical skeptic. Some people never say a word; others would gladly consume the entire time with their input.

    Some learn orally; some visually. Some like white board; some hate it. Some come to learn a bit; some a lot.

    I understand much of what I discussed you already knew. I am sure that was boring. (I DID try to add some elements to engage those who were more knowledgeable.) I am sure you would rather have more back-and-forth discussion. Me, too.

    But the meeting wasn’t just you and I. It consisted of numerous other people whose needs, wants and desires I have to address…just like yours. The easiest way I could divine to reasonably portray the Christian position was to role-play a Christian apologist, presenting what I think (both as a Christian and atheist) is the best argument for the Resurrection. In the presentation, I allowed comments, but if I didn’t rein it in, we could have tangented off into numerous rabbit trails for hours.

    I confess–I was not expecting us to discuss post-modern historical method, or Roman time schemes. Yet those were the comments raised, by people who thought it important, and I addressed them best as I could, and then kept going. Believe it or not, they complained too. Again, if it was just them and me, I would be happy to have more back-and-forth discussion. But then other people would be bored.

    Other people said they enjoyed it. *shrug* What can one do?

    So I hoped to please some of the people some of the time. You didn’t like the format…O.K. That’s certainly your privilege. You wanted more back-and-forth…again your privilege. And you certainly have the right to publish a blog indicating your thoughts on the matter.

    As you say, that is why we have blogs.

    And in reviewing your blog entry on the topic (as referred to here), you didn’t raise MORE evidence I missed. You didn’t indicate I presented the evidence incorrectly. You didn’t deal with the evidence regarding the resurrection at all. The only thing you complained about was the predisposition of non-believers.

    Just like you have the right to not like my format or presentation, I reserve the privilege to respond to what you say and see it as complaining. As a poor argument. I argue, for the reasons discussed at the meeting when you first presented it, for the same reasons I listed above, that the argument fails.

    Sure I am biased. Always admitted it. So is every human…yet to claim we must first change our presuppositions, and THEN be convinced by evidence appears to me to be backwards. We change our presuppositions BY evidence—it is what causes us to change!

    You didn’t change from a Protestant to a Catholic because you changed your presuppositions from pro-Protestant to pro-Catholic. You changed because you reviewed evidence that caused the change. The evidence comes first; not the presuppositions.

    Not to mention we have the additional problem that the evidence—in fact BETTER evidence—was not convincing to those already pre-disposed to believing it, i.e. Doubting Thomas.

    Could it be “A” factor? Sure. So could being raised in a Christian home, being left-handed or having a tragedy in one’s life. Rather than deal with the peripherals, I prefer to deal with the hard stuff first. I prefer to deal with the evidence.

    If, as you say, the the evidence is sufficient then I say, leave it at that. Good evidence overcomes even the most hostile opponent, regardless their presupposition. It does every day.

  22. Sister Marie,

    I am neither gentleman nor scoundrel; I am human. You are quite correct; I am loyal to my upbringing which includes being courteous in other people’s houses. While a blog may not qualify as a house, I do try to respect the blog-owner’s desires, and not cause too much ruckus whilst there. At my own blog, one would see more of my scoundrel. *grin*

    As to my moniker—DagoodS—that came about by a comedy of errors on my part. I kept it to remind me I make mistakes, and to have a bit of a laugh at myself every time someone wonders how I came up with it.

    You are quite correct works I cited were determined to be non-canonical. Although 1 Clement is perhaps more interesting in that regard, as it was initially determined to be canonical, and 3rd Century is much nearer to the event then 4th Century. If “closer to the event” is our determining factor, should 1 Clement be back in? Should Acts of Peter be considered more historical than Tertullian or Hippolytus, since it was closer to the event?

    I was replying to your statement regarding the “willing to die for a lie” was supported by “historical and text evidence” that was “very strong.” Unfortunately for everyone except James, son of Zebedee, all we have are non-canonical works to tell us how they died.

    If you were only referring to canonical works, I am not quite sure what you are referring to.

    As to the common sense dating of the gospels pre-70…how familiar are you with apocryphal work? I apologize if I am repeating something you already know; perhaps some lurker would not.

    Apocryphal work would claim to be written in the past, give (amazingly) accurate predictions up to a point (namely, the time it was actually written), and would then say, “See? See? See how accurate that ancient document was up to now? We can rely upon what it claims will happen in the near future.”

    Daniel is an extremely good example of this. It was written around 164 BCE, but claims to be written in the 600-500’s BCE. It gives us visions with amazing accuracy up until about 164…and then it falls off, primarily because it didn’t predict the Macabees to do so well.

    Let me give an analogy. Imagine we are back in the 1950’s, and I thought there would be a war with Russia. I compose an apocryphal book and claim it was written back in the 1600’s where a person fell into a vision:

    “I saw a great Lion stretch its paws across the world. But an eagle grew from its shoulder, slashing at the lion, and after a great battle, tore itself away. Then the eagle grew strong.

    “Then a great and terrible black machine arose in the East, attacking the Lion with fierce claws. The Eagle and the Lion and the Bear joined together to fight the machine, and prevailed. But the Bear grew fat, ever consuming, and challenging the Eagle.

    “Then the Eagle and the Lion joined together to fight the Bear, and after a terrible battle, won over, killing the Bear.”

    I would then claim, “See? See? This fellow writing way back in the 1600’s would never know America would assume an Eagle as its national bird. Clearly this person had prophetic vision—they predicted America (the eagle) would separate from England (the Lion.) They predicted Nazi Germany (the machine) and USSR (the Bear.) They accurately portrayed World War II. Clearly we can rely upon their prediction that war is soon coming between America, England and USSR, where USSR will be defeated.”

    Do you see how neat that is?

    The Christians of late First Century were anticipating the parousia–the Second Coming of Christ. So Mark writes a work, incorporating apocryphal type, by having Jesus predict the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13:2) followed by wars, and then the Abomination of Desolation (here the question is whether this was the destruction of the Temple [70 CE] or Hadrian’s attempt to erect a statute on the Temple grounds [135 CE]). This was to be followed by the coming of the Son of Man. (Mark 13:26)

    Again, under the apocryphal format, the idea was to re-assure Christians the Son of Man was coming, and we know its true, because Jesus (way back in the 30’s) accurately predicted things we see happening around us. Clearly what he predicted next was about to happen.

    So the Gospels did mention the destruction of Jerusalem—they utilized it in apocryphal form to emphasize what was really important—the parousia.

    I hope that made sense to anyone unfamiliar with the topic.

    As to the correcting…

    For all we know Matthew DID burn his copy of Mark. Or at least hope Mark disappeared into anonymity, and Matthew’s work replaces it. More so with Luke, who acknowledges in his introduction others have written, and tacitly implies he is providing a “correct” account.

    Finally, as to miracles, I will be happy to ponder them. And the facts. I quite agree there are people diagnosed with diseases who are subsequently determined to be disease-free. Happens all the time. Sometimes because of mis-diagnosis, sometimes because the body cures itself.

    And certainly some of these people attribute the condition of being disease free as a “miracle.” Some do not.

    [I found your statement regarding Marian appearances to not be miracles interesting. Do you also say the appearance of Jesus to Paul on the road to Damascus was not a miracle? If it was a miracle, what is the difference? Thanks.]

    I’ll confess three (3) major reluctances of mine as to miracles.

    1) The sources are not the best evidence. What I have typically seen is, “_____ [insert name] was diagnosed with incurable cancer, but later was determined to be disease-free. The doctors cannot explain how it happened.” But I don’t have the actual medical reports, the actual doctors statements, the doctor’s names, (just “doctors”). These are hearsay statements…not the best evidence to convince something outside our normal experience.

    Further, I have seen Christians make claims (like “willing to die for a lie”) and upon reviewing the actual sources, find the source doesn’t say what was originally claimed.

    2) The methodology is troublesome. How do we determine between:

    a) A natural cure we do not know yet;
    b) A natural cure we will never know; or
    c) A supernatural cure?

    3) And (I hate to mention it because Cory Tucholski apparently has not had a favorable run-in with the folks there) I do think the question “Why does God hate amputees?” has powerful weight.

    Why is it the one cure we never, ever, ever, ever see happens to be the one cure that is so readily demonstrable? A hand come back after an amputation? For all the cancers, injuries, heart conditions, back conditions, tooth aches, broken bones, achy muscles, emphysemas, infections, aneurysms, blood clots, blood pressures, lymph nodes, meningitis, muscular dystrophy, rheumatism, goiters, varicose veins, glaucoma, diabetes and any other disease you could possible think of…why is it God never seems to cure an amputee? Not……one.

    There is something terrible wrong with that.

    And, if Cory or you would prefer, I would be happy to take this conversation to e-mail. Or some other format if you desire.

  23. Sister Maria,

    I apologize for misspelling your name. Don’t know where that came from.

  24. Sorry, but I don’t want a lengthy textbook. I just need a simple list of the principles you used when deciding whether a passage should be taken literally and when it should not, when a passage is a prophecy and when it is not.

    Context and literary type. Is that simple enough?

    If you were a pastor, certainly you don’t need me to go over the ABCs of hermeneutics with you. You already know that. Catholics are not all that different; we simply take a more historical approach and have a few more dogmatic boundaries within which we interpret.

  25. This is the text from a post on my site. It deserves to be here, since it’s aimed at DagoodS’s need for evidence.

    Post begins:

    My friend, Dave Armstrong, whose Catholic apologetic books we sell at Nineveh’s Crossing, maintains a very active apologetic blog at Biblical Evidence for Catholicism. The link you just passed, connects to Dave’s report of an interesting ocassion when he was the guest of 15 atheists who tried to poke holes in his Catholic thinking. I guess it was a friendly dialogue, and not a typical angry debate as such occasions seem often to be.

    The center of their discussion was whether or not miracles have occurred in the past or can occur. In particular they were discussing the Resurrection of Christ. This particular group, and one person in particular (DagoodS) found it difficult to discuss the plausibility of miracles because the group defined a miracle as an event that defied or broke the laws of nature. Dave pointed out that unless the group could get off it’s “no miracles allowed” mind-set, there was no chance to have an intellectual discussion regarding the possibility of miracles. That is, the firm bias of “miracles are impossible” prevents any intellectual investigation into the possibility of the same. It’s like saying, “I choose not to believe in it, therefore it doesn’t exist.” My anti-Catholic children will say to me, “That’s not what I believe” … as if their ability to believe or not was the criteria for reality.

    The Atheists’ Beef with Miracles

    DagoodS put his “beef” this way. I’m editing to pull together his salient comments:

    As to naturalistic presupposition [regarding miracles]…I agree that is a difficulty for the [Christian] apologist to [objectively] discuss the Resurrection. Alas, it is part of human make-up. We all have biases. As a naturalist, I am going to look for a natural explanation. As a theist, [the Christian would look] for a supernatural explanation.

    Many apologists…appear to claim the evidence (for the Resurrection) is sufficient to … convince a naturalist. In those situations I try to explain why the evidence is not enough. Why we have legitimate (often un-addressed) concerns regarding the evidence claimed.

    If I can interpret and expand for DagoodS (he can correct me):

    Producing evidence in favor of miracles is not sufficient because the atheist will have legitimate concerns about the evidence.

    Of course this is short hand, but is it the whole argument? Because it sounds like DagoodS is shutting the door before there’s even a knock on it. It sounds like this:

    Any evidence presented in favor of miracles would be illegitimate because the evidence is flawed…and we don’t even have to test the evidence to know it’s flawed.

    Such is the character of prejudice and fallacious argumentation. The fallacy has two names in material logic: (1) Ignoring the counter evidence, and (2) Denying the counter evidence. Under the color of logic the atheist claims “I don’t see it, therefore it must not exist.”

    Ah, there is the rub…and the solution.

    Miracles and the Laws of Nature
    The problem atheists have with miracles should be the same problem Christians have with miracles. The common definition is fallacious: An event that breaks one or more laws of nature. Such a definition, if not pure arrogance, is a fallacious assumption. What follows in an explanation.

    Let’s start with one of Dave’s favorite priests, Fr. John Hardon. In his Modern Catholic Dictionary (Eternal Life Publishing, 1999) he has this definition:

    MIRACLE. A sensibly perceptible effect, surpassing at least the powers of visible nature, produced by God to witness to some truth or testify to someone’s sanctity.

    I don’t expect atheists or skeptics to accept Fr. Hardon’s definition. I provide it here for Catholics to help them see the fallacious nature of their definition. To understand why the common miracle definition is wrong, let’s parse Fr. Hardon’s definition. Note he says, a miracle is:

    * Something that is “sensibly perceived.” That is, a miracle is not a vision or a dream that one or only a few see. A miracle is something that is commonly witnessed by everyone present at the time.
    * Is an “effect” – that means it is physical, not an “affect” which refers to the psychological state of a person.
    * The event or effect surpasses our understanding of the powers of visible nature. That is the miracle APPEARS VISIBLY to contradict the laws of nature.
    * It is produced by God (not mankind)
    * It has a higher moral purpose. It’s not just eye-candy or entertainment.

    The important concept in Fr. Hardon’s definition that applies to the current issue, is that the miracle visually appears to break the laws of nature.

    Knowledge

    As physicist (in part) and a Christian (hopefully, not in part) I have never believed that miracles need to break a natural law. The concept of “breaking a natural law) is that a contradiction has occurred. Natural Laws, however, are understood to be immutable and not exist in contradiction with one another — something cannot be both TRUE and FALSE. Science would look at an apparent contradiction in nature and call it a paradox. That is, we just don’t have all the knowledge about what is happening. Until we have most of the data we might call the event a phenomenon…and theologians and people of faith might call the phenomenon a miracle. I submit, therefore, that miracles, which happen in the natural world, are paradoxes, not contradictions. (BTW: The term contradiction is used in logic, for propositional statements that, to our thinking, are both true and false at the same time. )

    In other words, when we “SEE” a contradiction we are mistaken, it is a paradox. The laws of nature cannot be broken, but they can be misunderstood.

    Worlds in Collision

    My thinking about miracles was informed by Worlds in Collision, a controversial book by Immanuel Velikovsky, in part, about the Plagues of Egypt (Moses). Velikovsky hypotheses that the miracles of the plagues were actually the natural result of Earth’s collision with the tail of a comet. He explains them all as paradoxes. That does not make them less miraculous.

    Another example is the fictional (but logical) account of the protagonist in “A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” who knows a solar eclipse is about to occur and uses it to his advantage. But such an event seems like a miracle or magic to the less knowledgeable characters around him.

    Then there are the scientific and mathematical discovers of physical dimensions beyond the three physical dimensions (length, height, and depth) and the thing we call the dimension of time, although we can only perceive a dot along the time line, and not a full linear dimension as we do a ruled line on a piece of paper. We cannot directly perceive a 4th-dimension of space, but quantum physics tell us it must exists for certain scientific observations to be true. Take for instance the spectrum’s red-shift observations of deep space objects that indicate the objects are moving away from us a tremendous speed. That movement is not in the three dimensions of space as we perceive it, but is on the surface of a 4th-dimension that is ever expanding. We see the effect but we can’t see the dimension.

    The existence of this 4th-dimension easily explains how Christ can seemingly appear to walk through a wall in the Upper Room, or how the Apostles and Christ can be appear to be transported instantly from one place to another. Or how the Red Sea is apparently parted. In all of these instances the laws of the natural universe are not broken, but rather we are allowed to physically experience what is always there. It’s as if I go from bright sunlight into a dark room. For a while I can see nothing, until my eyes adjust, and then I see everything that has always been there. It’s not a miracle. Things do not suddenly appear out of nothing.

    All such “miracles” do violate our current understanding of Newtonian three-dimensions of space and time, but they obviously don’t need to violate the laws of the universe when completely understood.

    Monkeys and Witchcraft

    This throws a monkey wrench into the atheist’s arguments about needing “legitimate” evidence to “unanswered questions.” In effect the atheist is demanding omniscience of the universe of knowledge. He is claiming to be, ironically, God. They are either claiming to know all or are expecting God to give them all knowledge. But that is something he/she will never have (unless they are “lucky” enough to get to heaven). Arrogance that they are important enough to have such knowledge cuts them off from God, who demands that we trust him for what our minds are too small to understand. “Now we see through a glass darkly.” Their illogical demand to be “god-like” in terms of knowledge (either now or at sometime in the future) cuts them off from the revelations that only faith and inform them about.

    Did you see the “typo?” It wasn’t. That last “and” was to be a “can”. (See what mistakes and knowledge can impart?) Something does not make sense (like my last sentence) until new data is provided (it’s a “can”) suddenly makes sense. All human history is filled with such examples, especially in the history of science. What mankind thought was witchcraft of the 18th century is today “modern medicine” or “medical miracles.”

    Thus, the atheist, by his claim of of omniscience (there IS no God), and by his demand, “I need to know all to believe,” errors on two fronts. If he’s honest, he “knows” he is not perfect, and that he is fully capable of making a typo.

    Science Assumes Order

    This leads “naturally” to the role of Christian Faith, without which few scientific discoveries would have been possible. Faith is irrevocably tied to scientific discovery because science assumes there is a natural order, to be discovered. The universe is not random or chaotic. That order fulfills a mystical purpose, is the scientists assumption. That supposition allows science to use syllogisms to construct hypotheses, and then use logic to test them. The correct syllogisms lead to constructive universe, not a destructive one. Without faith in a higher entity that designed and maintains the order, there is no purpose of the universe, and thus no order.

    Atheists are Logical Cowards

    But we are sidetracked by all this talk of the need for evidence. What is really going on is this: Atheists hide behind the color of logic and evidence for fear of confronting the moral code of a just and gracious God. Atheism is a cowardly way to avoid natural law — the natural moral code — of the Creator. It’s really not about evidence. Thus, the atheist isn’t saying, “There are no miracles.” or “There is no god,” as if he was omniscient on that point. But he can say, and he has full right to it: “There is no God — I will obey.” Ah! Now that’s evidence that makes logical sense.

  26. Hi DagoodS,

    I am sorry you feel as if you were “not allowed to” speak during our study. Unfortunately, that is going to happen in such a group.

    You did not want to do any lengthy interaction with me during your presentation (or much of any at all: all was short and perfunctory). That is simply a fact. I was there, and I am talking about my own interactions only. You let, e.g., one guy go on and on who was an extreme historical skeptic (much more than you are). But he was the type who wanted to keep talking and talking during someone else’s presentation, and I am not that sort. I just wanted a little back-and-forth.

    It’s your prerogative to do your talk however you like. But you did say that folks could ask questions. In my discussion groups at my house, that I have had off and on for 20 years, we always tell the guests that if they want to do the talk uninterrupted, that’s fine, or they can open it to questioning. You can do whatever you like. I was merely observing that I like dialogue better (my own preference). It isn’t even that I don’t like a good lecture. I would have listened to Cardinal Newman or John Wesley preach all day long.

    I just like conversation better. Since I am socratic in method, that is obviously the case. It was also a lot different from the two other times I attended your group, so I was surprised a bit. I’m not claiming that it was some conspiracy to shut me up or run from my questions or something. Much too much is being made of this.

    Look, we have a wide continuum of persons there. Some people have spent decades studying the Gospels; others have never read them. Not once. It makes little sense (to me) to jump into a debate regarding…say…the existence of Joseph of Arimathea when some people have never heard of him, let alone how he fits in the story. A couple have degrees in history; one fellow is a post-modern historical skeptic. Some people never say a word; others would gladly consume the entire time with their input.

    That’s right. Of course it has nothing to do with what I was saying, but I agree. I enjoy the group a lot: lots of sharp and thoughtful folks, as atheists usually are.

    Some learn orally; some visually. Some like white board; some hate it. Some come to learn a bit; some a lot.

    I understand much of what I discussed you already knew. I am sure that was boring. (I DID try to add some elements to engage those who were more knowledgeable.) I am sure you would rather have more back-and-forth discussion. Me, too.

    But the meeting wasn’t just you and I. It consisted of numerous other people whose needs, wants and desires I have to address…just like yours.

    Fair enough. I didn’t find the presentation itself boring at all. I thought it was well-done, as I told you afterwards. It was like being in a graduate class.

    The easiest way I could divine to reasonably portray the Christian position was to role-play a Christian apologist, presenting what I think (both as a Christian and atheist) is the best argument for the Resurrection. In the presentation, I allowed comments, but if I didn’t rein it in, we could have tangented off into numerous rabbit trails for hours.

    Of course. But I never had more than a minute to say anything. And I wasn’t trying to dominate at all.

    I confess–I was not expecting us to discuss post-modern historical method, or Roman time schemes. Yet those were the comments raised, by people who thought it important, and I addressed them best as I could, and then kept going. Believe it or not, they complained too.

    Well, they had their say! They talked on and on!

    Again, if it was just them and me, I would be happy to have more back-and-forth discussion. But then other people would be bored.

    True. I was bored with the hyper-skeptical guy (but never you). I found him to be quite pedantic and tendentious.

    Other people said they enjoyed it. *shrug* What can one do?

    it is a balancing act; I agree.

    So I hoped to please some of the people some of the time. You didn’t like the format…O.K. That’s certainly your privilege. You wanted more back-and-forth…again your privilege. And you certainly have the right to publish a blog indicating your thoughts on the matter.

    I just want you to understand exactly what I am saying. It was not my own preference: doesn’t make it bad through and through. It was good. I didn’t have as much fun as I did at the other two meetings because I didn’t get the back-and-forth that I prefer. That happened in the restaurant, too, because I got with a talker and there was little dialogue. I always say there are three types of people: the listeners, the talkers, and those who dialogue.

    As you say, that is why we have blogs.

    And in reviewing your blog entry on the topic (as referred to here), you didn’t raise MORE evidence I missed. You didn’t indicate I presented the evidence incorrectly. You didn’t deal with the evidence regarding the resurrection at all. The only thing you complained about was the predisposition of non-believers.

    Why do you have this notion that I have to discuss all that? It is your perspective on what I may want to write about, that has nothing to do with what I either write about in fact or should write about. I was simply giving a narrative account, not even doing apologetics per se. You in effect demand that I gotta write about what you want me to write about. In other words, it is not to your particular taste. But then you are making the same minor complaint that I did when I said a lecture was not to my taste. So why does my slight criticism bother you, since you make one of the very same nature back to me?

    Just like you have the right to not like my format or presentation, I reserve the privilege to respond to what you say and see it as complaining.

    And to complain about it! LOL

    As a poor argument. I argue, for the reasons discussed at the meeting when you first presented it, for the same reasons I listed above, that the argument fails.

    So you say. First you need to accurately understand your opponents’ argument. You have been caricaturing my opinion on this and making a straw man up till now. perhaps you finally get it, now that I have clarified.

    Sure I am biased. Always admitted it. So is every human…

    Absolutely. That is what I have always believed, too.

    yet to claim we must first change our presuppositions, and THEN be convinced by evidence appears to me to be backwards. We change our presuppositions BY evidence—it is what causes us to change!

    It is both. I don’t think we can choose. It’s a variation of the old universals vs. particulars debate in philosophy. It simply can’t be denied (as my friend Stan points out above) that a starting point of “no God; therefore no miracles; therefore no particular miracles” is neither open-minded nor conducive to a conclusion that a miracle has occurred in Instance X. That is not rocket science. If a thing is deemed impossible from the outset, then it is not likely to be arrived at, no matter what evidence is presented. This is what you don’t see.

    One has to allow the possibility. In this sense, the only people who were open-minded to all possibilities in that room was myself and your friend Jon, who runs the group. He doesn’t rule out the possibility of a miracle. Everyone else did (unless there was one other; I’m not sure).

    Take examples from science. Say that a person 50 years ago denied the very possibility of continental drift or warm-blooded dinosaurs (I believe that neither idea was accepted then). A second person hears about those theoretical concepts and accepts the possibility that they may yet be proven to have occurred. According to you, it makes little difference what presuppositions are involved, as long as the evidence is compelling. But it clearly does make a difference. The person who is open to a possibility is more likely to accept a demonstration of the possibility as a fact than the one who has ruled out the possibility from the outset.

    I don’t see that it is even arguable. Yet you seem to be (incredibly) asserting that it makes no difference.

    You didn’t change from a Protestant to a Catholic because you changed your presuppositions from pro-Protestant to pro-Catholic. You changed because you reviewed evidence that caused the change. The evidence comes first; not the presuppositions.

    Generally yes, but it is still both factors. Accumulations of details and facts and evidences can cause one to change their basic premises (God exists or He doesn’t, morals are absolute or relative, the universe is materialistic or dualistic, etc.) and tghen many other things change along with them.

    You don’t want to believe in a miracle (have a vested interest not to) because to do so also requires you to believe in God. You are predisposed not to believe in God because then you would be accountable to Him and would be bound by certain rules that may not be to your liking. It’s always more than merely abstract reasoning. The will and grace are also involved. This is Christian belief.

    Not to mention we have the additional problem that the evidence—in fact BETTER evidence—was not convincing to those already pre-disposed to believing it, i.e. Doubting Thomas.

    He simply needed more evidence. He is like your typical atheist. But Jesus made it clear that his case was not normative, but excessive, by saying, “have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29 (RSV).

    Again, presuppositions come into play. You pass off the whole thing as a later interpolation anyway, so why even bring it up? If you want to argue from historical example, you can’t use one that you yourself don’t regard as historical fact.

    Could it be “A” factor? Sure. So could being raised in a Christian home, being left-handed or having a tragedy in one’s life. Rather than deal with the peripherals, I prefer to deal with the hard stuff first. I prefer to deal with the evidence.

    It’s not peripheral at all. It is smack dab in the center of the issue: how one arrives at fundamental premises and how these go on to affect all their reasoning that is a result of the prior premises and presuppositions. You want to do Aristotle only (particulars and sensory evidence). I want to do both him and Plato and Socrates (universals and premises and ideas prior to experience). My epistemology is far broader than yours. What you see as a trifle and peripheral issue and complaint is to me central and crucial to the whole discussion.

    If, as you say, the the evidence is sufficient then I say, leave it at that.

    It is sufficient. That’s why I don’t feel compelled to go out and argue about it (you’re the one who is hung up about that), because it is quite sufficient for any fair-minded inquirer open to it.

    Like I said above, if you’re so enthralled about evidences for miracles, go out and read 1100 books giving documented accounts of miracles and come back and tell us how many convinced you (or why they didn’t; why no evidence was ever sufficient for you to accept a belief [factuality of miracles] that would require you to again believe in God [Who performs them] ).

    Good evidence overcomes even the most hostile opponent, regardless their presupposition. It does every day.

    Absolutely not. If a man doesn’t want to believe something, he will not, no matter how compelling the evidence is. Like the saying goes, “a man convinced against his will retains his original belief still.” Very true. I see it all the time in my apologetics rounds.

  27. I neglected to italicize three paragraphs from DagoodS near the end. They start with:

    “You didn’t change . . .”

    “Not to mention . . . ”

    “Could it be ‘A’ . . .

    Also, a further comment:

    Rather than deal with the peripherals, I prefer to deal with the hard stuff first. I prefer to deal with the evidence.

    What you overlook is that you already have to have an interpretive grid or framework in place in order to interpret the evidence in the first place. There is no such thing as a clean slate. If you deny that prior interpretation is required in order to weigh the evidence and have some method of determining what is compelling evidence, then you are epistemologically naive.

    I would recommend that you read a critic of positivism such as Michael Polanyi or even Cardinal Newman’s Essay of the Grammar of Assent.

    This is true of miracles and it is true of theistic arguments and interpretation of the Bible. Thus, my notorious statement that you and other atheists who are obsessed with finding alleged Bible contradictions approach the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog. You have no intention of giving the documents even minimal respect. It’s pure skepticism. You disrespect it as your presupposition and therefore you keep “finding” out information that causes you to hate it all the more.

    Don’t give me this line of hooey that you are approaching it with total objectivity and fairness, that just so happens in each and every case to cause you to then conclude that (surprise!) it is untrustworthy and contradictory. You find what you want to find because your mind is already made up before you begin any particular “study.”

    If I’m wrong, it is easy for you to prove it (at least in a single example). Show me a time when you set out to show that the Bible was contradictory, but then you discovered that it wasn’t, and that the Christian argument was more plausible. If you can show me one instance of that on your blog, great! But just one would not prove you were fair-minded about it, either. That’s just one instance. Several such instances would show me that you were truly open-minded and didn’t have an “anti-Bible” agenda. But if you never conclude other than what we expect from you (biblical contradiction) then don’t expect us to stop questioning your hostile premises and a hostile overall agenda. It’s perfectly reasonable and plausible for us to conclude what we do, from the “evidence” of your relentlessly skeptical conclusions.

    You are biased against it and the Christian is biased for it. But in terms merely of literary study or research, clearly the person who loves and respects a document (whether it is a religious document or not) is in a much better place to accurately interpret and understand it (despite quite possible mistakes arising from too much favorable bias) than the one who hates the same document for some reason: thinks that it fosters immorality, is a bunch of fairy tales, is the result of cynical after-the-fact tampering, contains moral and logical ludicrosities, etc.

    Once again, I don’t see how that is even arguable. But you have to fight against it in order to maintain this farcical facade of supposed neutrality, extraordinary open-mindedness and superior intelligence and logical acumen, that most agnostics and atheists seem to assume is true of themselves as a matter of course, over against us evidence- and reason-fearing, gullible Christians.

    It’s part of the atheist persona and self-perception: “we are the open-minded, smart ones. We go where evidence leads; those Christians don’t do that; they are dogmatic, anti-science, anti-reason, and prone to belief in fairy tales and myths.”

    For this reason I wrote an entire book lately, showing the overwhelming historical influence of Christianity and a larger theism on the history of science:

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/10/books-by-dave-armstrong-science-and.html

    I’ll send a MS Word version to any atheist who requests it, for free. :-)

  28. Without science and history Christianity is still true and I’m sure DAve will agree. However, for atheists, they will not believe unless God gives them faith. Praying for them is something I will do.

  29. How can Christianity be true without history? That would take out the incarnation and Jesus’ Resurrection and the book of Acts.

  30. I have compiled statements from DagoodS here and on my blog, along with my replies, in a new paper:

    Dialogue With an Atheist About Miracles and the Influence of First Premises on One’s Methodology and Openness to Evidences and Proofs

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/12/dialogue-with-atheist-about-miracles.html

    If DagoodS replies further, those comments will be added, along with my counter-replies.

  31. Stanley D. Williams, Ph.D.

    To be fair, there is quite a bit of misunderstanding in this depiction of the talk and my position. Comes from only discussing a very, very small portion of what went on. Thank you for requesting on opportunity to clarify.

    Actually we were not discussing miracles—we were discussing the Resurrection from a purely historical position. I was utilizing the minimal facts method; if you are familiar with it, it utilizes historical rather than theological approach. It claims our documents are sufficient, if treated like any other historical documents, to prove Jesus rose from the dead. How, and why are up to a person’s worldview.

    In fact, I repeatedly stated, “You will notice there is nothing supernatural about this claim,” or “This statement does not require supernatural intervention.”

    We didn’t define miracles. We didn’t discuss the plausibility of miracles in general.

    Secondly, I am not saying the evidence is “flawed.” (What a curious statement to make! How can evidence be “flawed”? Evidence is simply…evidence. A document written within a certain time period, with certain words on it. We may argue over when it was written, whether it was copied from an original, etc… but I think we agree the Codex Bezae is…the Codex Bezae.)

    I am questioning whether the evidence is sufficient. Perhaps it would help for me to repeat what I said immediately before Dave Armstrong made his statement about how it doesn’t matter because no evidence will convince a non-theist:

    “The farther a claim is outside our common, everyday experience, the more, and better and more independent we require the evidence to support the claim. Imagine I made three claims:

    “Claim One: I had lunch with my brother.
    “Claim Two: I had lunch with the President of the United States.
    “Claim Three: I had lunch with Elvis Pressley.

    “Now, for the first Claim we would accept my statement. Why? Because it is well within our normal experience for brothers to have lunch. Absent extenuating circumstances, my testimony is sufficient.

    “But look at the second claim—eating with the President. Here one’s testimony is not enough. As humans, even though we know people eat with the President ever day, we would expect a little more. Not just testimony. Perhaps a ticket to a press dinner, or an article showing he was in town for a fund-raiser. While testimony is insufficient, a little more independent demonstration would be enough.

    “But now look at the third claim—Elvis Pressley. This is way, WAY outside our common experience. Testimony is not enough. A lunch tab would not be enough. Even a picture with me and a person of appropriate age and resemblance to Elvis Pressley would not be enough. We would expect some very strong, very independent evidence to support this claim. Perhaps even DNA!

    “Now notice that NONE of these claims are supernatural—all are natural claims. (Although the third would have a bit of conspiracy theory attached to it.) Yet even within natural claims, the more the claim is outside our experience, the more, the better the more independent we require supporting the claim.

    “This is no big deal, we see it happen in court cases day in and day out.

    “Christians, using this method, are asking us to believe a claim that is even farther outside our normal experience—that a body self-regenerated back to life after being dead for a number of days with no ill effects. This is greater than Claim Three…yet they request us to believe it on evidence less than we have for Claim One. We don’t even have first-hand testimony.”

    At this point Dave Armstrong indicated it doesn’t really matter, because non-theists wouldn’t believe it regardless of the amount of evidence, because we are predisposed against theism. And now we’ve been discussing it ever since in these blog entries.

    Hope that clears it up.

    • DagoodS

      Thank you for the clarification about your discussion. But your supposition “I am questioning whether the evidence is sufficient,” which you repeated in your response to me, is still at the heart of my rebuttal.

      Your distinction about the level of evidence is true in itself but it still does not explain the “rationality” of atheism in general. In other words, it is only a small bush you hide behind logically and does not refute how atheism’s suppositions are retrograde to scientific discovery. Because atheism postulates that there is no “god effect” (however you describe a benevolent intelligence that has ordered the universe and nature) you have no basis for forming scientific hypotheses. Logically you must assume natural law is disordered and chaotic. If you for an instant disagree with that then you fall into the supposition arena where Sir Isaac Newton made most of his discoveries. He said, “This most beautiful system [the natural universe] could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” His discoveries were the result of the supposition that there is, as Newton called him, a “Lord God” who ordered things in a way that they could be discovered. Thus, 98% of all great scientific discoveries where made by men and women with that “god effect” “scientific” supposition. It’s what Pope John Paul II wrote about in Faith and Reason, faith inspires reason, and reason tests faith.

      Using your reasoning about claims outside the norm, I will claim that you embrace many “facts” of history that are farther from your normative experience than having lunch with Elvis Pressley. You have no personal experience I would guess with the moons of Jupiter, but you are willing to believe what science and others tell you about it. The same goes with the origin and manufacture of perhaps a 1,000 items in your everyday experience. You hold something in your hand, but you have no clue (based on your normative awareness) of it’s origin or the “miraculous” processes that it got to you. You accept such things on a secular faith. And because you accept those things you are predisposed to learning other similar things, whether or not you have personally or commonly experienced them.

      That you “reject” the evidence of hundreds of observers in the first century to the Resurrection of Christ, but you accept the lesser evidence about other things and ideas that you are exposed to, gets at the heart of Dave’s objection to your predisposition, and pegs the needle in my conclusion about “why” you reject the evidence. First, you haven’t honestly investigated and openly considered the evidence. You reject the evidence out of a dishonest logic, because if you were to publicly acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of the Resurrection you would have to acknowledge the need to obey God will instead of your own.

      Your model would better be based on Sir Isaac Newton, who was far more productive as a Christian and was candid in stating: “Atheism is senseless.” I’m not sure he meant it as a pun, but it is. The atheist does not use the common, everyday sensory perceptions about the world in which he lives. You cannot explain the functionality of your thumb, although you have two, without resorting, logically, to an intelligent, benevolent creator who loves you deeply. The same is true about everything that allows you to live, breath, sleep, eat, enjoy life and at times hate living. Everything about the common surroundings of your existence screams “there is a god effect” and yet you reject the evidence. That is what Dave Armstrong is saying.

      Our point is that it’s not a matter of intelligence or evidence. You have plenty of both. It’s a matter of the will. You have one that is prideful and stubborn. I do, too. But more frequently than not I acknowledge what I don’t know. I don’t know most of everything. Which was the point of my post. But you claim that to believe in God you must be granted omniscience. God says that’s not necessary. You have plenty of evidence, and you don’t need to understand The Resurrection. You might start with the budding of trees in the Spring.

      But God is always there, right next to your heart. All you need to do is acknowledge his love for you and the floodgates of understanding will turn on the light that lived inside Newton. It’s the “Leap of Faith” that you are afraid of. You are surrounded by thousands of pieces of evidence. The heavens declare the glory of God.

  32. Dave Armstrong,

    Doubting Thomas is a counter-factual that undermines your claim it is predispositions that determine belief…not facts. Yes, you are now retreating back to it being “A” factor, but Doubting Thomas still demonstrates the problem with your claim.

    Claiming he is “not normative” doesn’t resolve the problem—it is still a counter-factual. You only need one to undermine a logical argument. [And I am not sure “normative” is the applicable word. Christianity did not become the majority religion in Judea following its proclamation. In fact, it fairly quickly turned to gentile emphasis. Therefore, it would seem “normative” would be that making the claim, “Jesus rose from the dead” was NOT convincing to those most accessible to determine the validity; the majority—the “norm”—did not.]

    Your example of continental drift is exactly what I am talking about. Thank you. You are correct–it WAS initially rejected because people were predisposed to believe something else. How did it eventually rise to the predominate theory?

    Evidence, evidence, evidence! The more that was presented, the more Continental Drift Theory was demonstrated as the better answer for the evidence presented.

    The scientists and geologists didn’t whine and complain, “Aww…we can’t convince you because you believe differently.” Nope—they rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They presented for more evidence. They searched for evidence that would confirm their theory.

    They used Evidence.

    Evidence.

    Is there a common theme starting to appear?

    Yes, I do tend to focus on discussions surrounding the evidence. No, you are not required to do so. I think (and this is my opinion, obviously) discussions are better when we focus on the actual arguments and evidence. The discussions can degrade when we start to talk about the other person’s motivations, or claim they only want to believe this way because they have some vested interest, or want to become a drug-using pimp.

    Finally, I love this bit about my showing a blog entry on a contradiction where a Christian argument was “more plausible.” You know I cannot present such a blog entry, because no inerrantist ever, EVER uses the “more plausible” standard of proof. I’ve only encountered one such person who did—you. Although it appears to me you tend to vacillate between “more plausible” and “any logical possibility” and I am never quite sure (from your writing) where you land at any particular moment.

    For the lurkers, let me explain. (Dave Armstrong and I discussed this at some length here )

    The problem in the inerrancy debate is NOT whether there is a resolution to the contradictions—the problem is that the inerrantist uses a lesser standard of proof than the non-inerrantist. The inerrantist uses “any logical possibility”—where it is claimed as long as any logical possibility is presented, there is no contradiction. Therefore we come up with such claims as Peter denying Jesus 50 times, but each gospel only decided to record three different instances. (I am being a bit hyperbolic here. A bit.) Or that there is “Galilean time” measured sun-up to sun-up. (Now I’m not being hyperbolic.) Or that Judas hanged himself, and the rope broke and he fell on some rocks. (I should note for the lurkers, Dave Armstrong does consider this a contradiction. Or did at one point.)

    We come up these crazy solutions…yet they all are “logically possible.” I agree under the “any logically possible” standard of proof, the Bible is inerrant. So is every Yellow pages, grocery list—and billions and billions of other documents. Including the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, Hallmark Cards, Instruction manuals. Even things we know have errors end up being non-contradictory under this standard.

    I prefer the standard we use on every other claim—if it is more plausible there is a contradiction–there is a contradiction. If it is more plausible there is a resolution, then there is a resolution.

    If you review the link above, Dave Armstrong agrees with this, although that gets a bit gray toward the end of the comments.

    So here is why this “blog request” is so humorous to me. If I think the Christian position of a resolution is “more plausible”–then I don’t list it as a contradiction! Therefore I am never going to list such a contradiction. If I DO list a contradiction and some inerrantist debates me on it, they aren’t using the “more plausible” standard they are using the “any logical possibility” standard.

    Again, I agree under “any logical possibility” there are no contradictions. (Not very credible, and not very special, but no contradictions.)

    So I will never have a blog entry where a Christian position is “more plausible,” because they aren’t using this standard, and I am!

    For an analogy, its like my stating Dave Armstrong is not objective when it comes to Scientology’s claims regarding volcanoes, and if he DOES think he is so objective, show us a blog entry where he set out to show Scientology’s claim regarding volcanoes is not true, but he became convinced it was.

    Dave Armstrong could rightly claim (I think, unless you did??) “I’ve never HAD a blog entry addressing Scientology’s claim on volcanoes, so I can’t produce what doesn’t exist!”

    In the same way, I have never had a blog entry where the Christian inerrantist approached it with the “more plausible” standard of proof, so I cannot produce a blog entry where they convinced me of something they weren’t trying to convince me of!

    Now…if you are saying I became convinced other Christian claims were more plausible…I have a plethora of such items. I learn (so I guess it is “more plausible”) to the gospels being apocryphal. It is Christian scholars who claim that. I agree with Christian Richard Bauckham that Matthew did not write the Gospel of Matthew, and John the son of Zebedee did not write the Gospel of John. Although at one time, I thought that to be true.

    I agree with Christian Bruce Malina that this was a honor/shame society, and many of these events arose out of “altered states of conscience.” I agree with Christian Dan Wallace that Matthew and Luke utilized Mark in writing their gospels.

    I could go on for hours.

    • To all, in reference to this post by Dagoods:

      The problem with using “more plausible” and “any logical possibility” is that they are subjectively determined, and equivocation results.

      In referring to Christianity vs Judaism in the first century — the term “normative” to imply “majority,” is also a linguistic fallacy. Something can be normal and common but not the majority.

      Comparing something that is “more plausible,” to a “standard” is empty rhetoric until you start using Newtonian empiricism.

  33. DagoodS stated:

    At this point Dave Armstrong indicated it doesn’t really matter, because non-theists wouldn’t believe it regardless of the amount of evidence, because we are predisposed against theism.

    This is again somewhat of a caricature of what actually happened, and my own position. One tires of this. DagoodS can — like anyone else — read my report of my own remark at the meeting. Here it is again (it was in my original paper that this post referred to):

    “DagoodS was saying that it is more difficult to believe an extraordinary miracle or event than to believe in one that is more commonplace. True enough as far as it goes. But I said (paraphrasing), ‘you don’t believe that any miracles are possible, not even this book raising itself an inch off the table, so it is pointless for you to say that it is hard to believe in a great miracle, when in fact you don’t believe in any miracles whatsoever.'”

    Note the limited point that I was making. I wasn’t denying the validity of evidence at all; not in the slightest. As I have already reiterated: I love evidence. I think it is wonderful. As an apologist I deal with evidences all the time. In fact, I think the evidence for the Resurrection is not only relevant but more than sufficient for a fair-minded inquirer. I didn’t make some idiotic observation that evidence “doesn’t really matter” (even for an atheist or otherwise skeptical person). I was specifically commenting on his particular point about it being “more difficult to believe an extraordinary miracle or event than to believe in one that is more commonplace.”

    DagoodS said it was hard to believe the more uncommon thing; I merely replied in effect that of course it would be, if the thing being discussed is part of a larger category that a person has already rejected before he even starts the inquiry. In other words, if one can’t even be convinced of the most minor miracle, then why would anyone think he could be convinced of a truly extraordinary miracle?

    Therefore (I reasoned) it is (from DagoodS’ own perspective) a non sequitur to make a relative analysis of small and great miracles or extraordinary non-miraculous events, since both things are in a category already ruled out at the presuppositional level.

    That requires a discussion of whether any miracles can occur that is logically prior to a discussion of whether one particular one did. And that discussion in turn requires a discussion of God’s existence.

  34. Replying to DagoodS:

    Doubting Thomas is a counter-factual that undermines your claim it is predispositions that determine belief…not facts.

    Sheer nonsense. His case is at least as much evidence of what I am saying as it is of your position. You want to say that the facts are all that matter and not predispositions and larger theories and presuppositional frameworks and (in some instances) excessive, irrational skepticism. I say that both things matter, not just one of them, as you are saying.

    The Bible presents Thomas as a skeptical, hard-nosed type. It’s not enough for him to even see the risen Jesus. He has to put his hand in His wounded side. The saying, “seeing is believing” doesn’t apply to him. This is no proof that he alone is the rational, evidence-respecting one and all the 500 who witnessed the risen Jesus a bunch of gullible fools. We can just as easily say that he is so skeptical that he needs more than is required for most men to believe in the extraordinary event. How can you, prima facie, prove one scenario any more than the other?

    The Bible’s own account of the incident (that you conveniently discard as myth and after-the-fact rationalization, anyway) would suggest my position, because Thomas is rebuked for being “faithless” (Jn 20:27) and for only believing because he has “seen” Jesus (20:29) — and touched Him. The clear implication is that this is a demonstration that is not required for a person of faith to believe in the Resurrection (the very opposite of your claim). There is more in play here than mere eyewitness observation and a sort of empirical criterion for belief in anything. There is (as I’ve already stressed) both faith and grace involved, and necessarily so.

    Lack of belief, from a Christian perspective, is inevitably tied in to a lack of faith and grace, and those are gifts of God. As an atheist, you deny those categories, too (and as a former Christian you have personally rejected them as factors in your own life and outlook, and try to reduce everything to reason only — and that in a mostly empirical sense only, which is by no means the only way of knowing, as many secular philosophers (not just Christians) will argue.

    Yes, you are now retreating back to it being “A” factor,

    No, you are finally beginning to grasp what my position was all along. I have made no retreat; you have made discoveries about my true position: not the caricature you have been bandying about.

    but Doubting Thomas still demonstrates the problem with your claim.

    Not at all. It is an insubstantial, circular argument.

    Claiming he is “not normative” doesn’t resolve the problem—it is still a counter-factual. You only need one to undermine a logical argument.

    Eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection and various facts related to it (such as the empty tomb) are not “logical arguments” but claimed factual occurrences that lead one to the conclusion that this amazing event did indeed occur. It may have some force against a position that any person must indubitably believe in the Resurrection from the facts of the matter alone, true, but that is already an epistemologically naive and simplistic point of view insofar as it neglects the elements of faith, grace, and hostile presuppositions in various sorts of people.

    [And I am not sure “normative” is the applicable word. Christianity did not become the majority religion in Judea following its proclamation. In fact, it fairly quickly turned to gentile emphasis. Therefore, it would seem “normative” would be that making the claim, “Jesus rose from the dead” was NOT convincing to those most accessible to determine the validity; the majority—the “norm”—did not.]

    I meant “normative” within the context of the primitive Christian community: an internal criterion. The Christians sees one example of excessive skepticism (and even he does eventually believe; he just needed more proof) over against 500+ who already believed. So we say he is not the norm. But you want to place one person against the 500+ and say that he is the norm and they are all abnormally gullible and prone to mass hallucinations (or whatever the theory is that you adopt: and they are all silly and implausible, in my opinion).

    Your example of continental drift is exactly what I am talking about. Thank you. You are correct–it WAS initially rejected because people were predisposed to believe something else. How did it eventually rise to the predominate theory?

    Evidence, evidence, evidence! The more that was presented, the more Continental Drift Theory was demonstrated as the better answer for the evidence presented.

    But that wasn’t my point (yo again missed it, and it is remarkable how often that happens). I wasn’t arguing that evidence isn’t necessary for belief, but rather, that the person who says beforehand that something isn’t possible is far less likely to believe it even when it is scientifically demonstrated, than the one who accepts the possibility beforehand. If you doubt that this is a factor even within a purely scientific paradigm, read Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It confirms the presence of profound hostile biases that work against new and newly established scientific theories with fact after fact. I say those biases are a general fact of life that apply to anything, including religious claims.

    [to be continued]

  35. [continuing]

    The scientists and geologists didn’t whine and complain, “Aww…we can’t convince you because you believe differently.” Nope—they rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They presented for more evidence. They searched for evidence that would confirm their theory.

    They used Evidence.

    Evidence.

    Is there a common theme starting to appear?

    Yes; that you and I are perfectly agreed that evidence is a good thing. Since I never denied this, it is a perfect non sequitur insofar as I am concerned. If there is a fideist or presuppositional apologist reading, your issue would be with them, not me. I am presently defending my assertion that premises and presuppositions are also in play in any adoption or rejection of anything. For some reason you deny this, even though it is philosophically virtually self-evident. And in Christian matters, faith and grace are also relevant factors.

    Another thing that is silly in your discussion is that you have this notion that I or any other Christian apologist could theoretically present some additional fact that would convince you. You urge us on, challenging us to offer facts that can change your mind. Anything is possible. But from a purely time-management standpoint, why would I think it is worth my time dong any of that, knowing that you have already read most or all of the leading Christian defenses of the Resurrection already? What would make me think that I would come up with some startling discovery that would make the light bulb go off in your head, when all these experts in the field of Resurrection apologetics (who know far more than I do about it) have failed?

    I don’t bother, because I believe it is exceedingly impossible to convince you from the outset, for reasons I am explaining. If you are to believe, and the reason will be “evidence,” then you would have already done so after reading the folks you have read. But you haven’t, and gee, I wonder why that is? Could it possibly have a wee bit to do with what I am saying?

    Yes, I do tend to focus on discussions surrounding the evidence.

    Really??!! Man, I wouldn’t have noticed that! :-)

    No, you are not required to do so. I think (and this is my opinion, obviously) discussions are better when we focus on the actual arguments and evidence. The discussions can degrade when we start to talk about the other person’s motivations, or claim they only want to believe this way because they have some vested interest, or want to become a drug-using pimp.

    I have only touched very tangentially on motivations, if at all. I prefer to stick to hostile presuppositions (thinking, ideas, not moral issues) as counter to sufficient evidence. The will is definitely a factor, but it is difficult to speculate on that without hard facts from a person’s life. For example, if there are several things that Christians regard as sins, that you now freely indulge in (having no particular constraint, with no God to watch over you or judge you anymore) then one could construct an argument that freedom to commit those sins would be one motivator for continued atheism. Aldous Huxley was actually honest to admit this once: that he took the beliefs he did in order to have sexual freedom. A refreshing candor indeed, and I respect that.

    Finally, I love this bit about my showing a blog entry on a contradiction where a Christian argument was “more plausible.” You know I cannot present such a blog entry, because no inerrantist ever, EVER uses the “more plausible” standard of proof. I’ve only encountered one such person who did—you.

    Well, that shows the narrowness of your experience with Christians, doesn’t it? What kind of Christian did you used to be, by the way? But I take this as a concession that you can produce no such example in your work. You always arrive at the skeptical, anti-biblical, anti-Christian, anti-inspired, anti-infallible, “Bible contradiction” conclusion, 100% of the time. Thank you for this wonderful confirmation of my suspicion of your profound biases. I couldn’t have asked for more!

    You do a great slippery fish routine, but not so well at actual back-and-forth dialogue, because you have been mostly caricaturing or ignoring my arguments: making editorial comments about them (or caricatures of them) rather than doing the work of a solid point-by-point refutation. That’s why anyone can see me (as I so often do) replying to you line-by-line, while you do little of that back.

    Although it appears to me you tend to vacillate between “more plausible” and “any logical possibility” and I am never quite sure (from your writing) where you land at any particular moment.

    More proof that you only dimly comprehend what my positions are in the first place (especially epistemological ones).

    For the lurkers, let me explain. (Dave Armstrong and I discussed this at some length here )

    The problem in the inerrancy debate is NOT whether there is a resolution to the contradictions—the problem is that the inerrantist uses a lesser standard of proof than the non-inerrantist. The inerrantist uses “any logical possibility”—where it is claimed as long as any logical possibility is presented, there is no contradiction. Therefore we come up with such claims as Peter denying Jesus 50 times, but each gospel only decided to record three different instances. (I am being a bit hyperbolic here. A bit.) Or that there is “Galilean time” measured sun-up to sun-up. (Now I’m not being hyperbolic.) Or that Judas hanged himself, and the rope broke and he fell on some rocks. (I should note for the lurkers, Dave Armstrong does consider this a contradiction. Or did at one point.)

    I don’t recall that past discussion of ours. I would have to look at it and see what occurred. But I would caution readers to not place much trust in any of your reports about my positions.

    We come up these crazy solutions…yet they all are “logically possible.” I agree under the “any logically possible” standard of proof, the Bible is inerrant. So is every Yellow pages, grocery list—and billions and billions of other documents. Including the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, Hallmark Cards, Instruction manuals. Even things we know have errors end up being non-contradictory under this standard.

    And I ask again: have you ever concluded that any of these “logically possible” scenarios offered by Christians for your alleged contradictions were the superior and more plausible arguments: even once? If so, please show me the post. If not, you again confirm my opinion about your profoundly hostile presuppositions, making you impervious to evidence and reason alike (from a Christian perspective).

    I prefer the standard we use on every other claim—if it is more plausible there is a contradiction–there is a contradiction. If it is more plausible there is a resolution, then there is a resolution.

    Contradictions are what they are, and they are obvious. What I think I have shown in cases of your alleged contradictions (when we have debated this in the past), is that the category is wrong in the first place: the supposed contradictions simply are not that, by the rules of classical logic (or due to some linguistic or literary consideration that you neglected in your analysis).

    If you review the link above, Dave Armstrong agrees with this, although that gets a bit gray toward the end of the comments.

    I’d have to look back at it.

    So here is why this “blog request” is so humorous to me.

    That’s a very clever evasion of the challenge. The humor is in the evasion and unwillingness to directly reply to my questions. But it is very illuminating, and I thank you for the strong confirmation of what I am saying.

    If I think the Christian position of a resolution is “more plausible”–then I don’t list it as a contradiction! Therefore I am never going to list such a contradiction. If I DO list a contradiction and some inerrantist debates me on it, they aren’t using the “more plausible” standard they are using the “any logical possibility” standard.

    I was asking specifically whether you ever set out on a study of some particular perceived biblical “problem” and wound up concluding that the Christian opposing views were the superior reasoning and conclusions. If there is a paper, please direct myself and all here to it. Thanks.

    It’s real simple. Just say “no, there is no such event or paper chronicling it,” or say yes and give us the URL. Do one of those rather than the dancing around the issue.

    Again, I agree under “any logical possibility” there are no contradictions. (Not very credible, and not very special, but no contradictions.)

    So I will never have a blog entry where a Christian position is “more plausible,” because they aren’t using this standard, and I am!

    See my above comments.

    For an analogy, its like my stating Dave Armstrong is not objective when it comes to Scientology’s claims regarding volcanoes, and if he DOES think he is so objective, show us a blog entry where he set out to show Scientology’s claim regarding volcanoes is not true, but he became convinced it was.

    Dave Armstrong could rightly claim (I think, unless you did??) “I’ve never HAD a blog entry addressing Scientology’s claim on volcanoes, so I can’t produce what doesn’t exist!”

    In the same way, I have never had a blog entry where the Christian inerrantist approached it with the “more plausible” standard of proof, so I cannot produce a blog entry where they convinced me of something they weren’t trying to convince me of!

    Now…if you are saying I became convinced other Christian claims were more plausible…I have a plethora of such items.

    Great, then give me the URLs. I was asking specifically about issues of purported contradiction in the texts.

    I learn (so I guess it is “more plausible”) to the gospels being apocryphal. It is Christian scholars who claim that. I agree with Christian Richard Bauckham that Matthew did not write the Gospel of Matthew, and John the son of Zebedee did not write the Gospel of John. Although at one time, I thought that to be true.

    Not relevant to my question.

    I agree with Christian Bruce Malina that this was a honor/shame society, and many of these events arose out of “altered states of conscience.” I agree with Christian Dan Wallace that Matthew and Luke utilized Mark in writing their gospels.

    Again, off-topic (in terms of what I asked).

    I could go on for hours.

    I guess I will have to do the same if you keep evading direct questions and misunderstanding my positions and arguments. But it is fun overall and I am quite pleased with what has been made fairly apparent in the dialogue.

  36. I thought it would be interesting to try and get some of DagoodS’ thoughts about the Bible, in order to establish more about his hostile presuppositions.

    And so I ran across on his blog, a piece entitled, “This Leopard Can’t change its Spots” (6-27-08):

    http://sandwichesforsale.blogspot.com/2008/06/this-leopard-cant-change-its-spots.html

    How did he view the Bible as a Christian? Well, there were already many indications and danger signs that he was misinterpreting it even then: so many that I could have easily predicted that he had a good chance of forsaking his faith and going atheist if I had met him ten years ago. He talks about what Christians do, as he observes them now:

    “They don’t want to discuss the creation, content or context of the Bible. They want to discuss, ‘I feel.’ They want to discuss their perception of God.”

    Then he acknowledges that he (the “leopard”) used to do exactly the same:

    “I realize, in retrospect, this is exactly what I did as a Christian. Christians wanted Bible study to be, ‘Let’s read a verse and tell each other what we feel about it.'”

    So now we have one of the hundreds of cases in which a former Christian, who wasn’t adequately informed of his faith when he still had it, projecting his past shortcomings onto most Christians that he meets. He rejected a straw man in the first place and now he fights straw men incessantly in order to justify his decision to abandon the straw man.

    This is what we learn in examining deconversion stories. It’s always the same. I’ve yet to find one that is any different (perhaps I will one day if I keep looking hard enough).

    DagoodS proceeds to give examples of what he didn’t believe the Bible taught, even as a Christian. He didn’t think it taught equality of the sexes. And sure enough, he didn’t hold (as a Christian) that the condemnation of abortion was taught (directly or indirectly) in the Bible:

    “I was squeamish on the topic of abortion. Oh, there are plenty of arguments against abortion without needing to go to the Bible, but when people say, ‘God is against abortion’ I became very, very silent. All the verses regarding God recognizing children in the womb are glorifying his knowledge. There is no specific verse saying ‘deliberate abortion is wrong.’ Inferences and exegetical manhandling—yes. Specifics; no. Without those specifics, I thought it was better to be quiet than find out some day, in heaven, I was wrong.”

    Wow. Isn’t it strange?! I look at the very same Bible and find about 100 passages (take out the deuterocanonical ones if you must) having to do with abortion in many of its aspects:

    The Bible’s Teaching on Abortion

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/03/bibles-teaching-on-abortion.html

    But DagoodS couldn’t “see” all those! I guess he didn’t know his Bible very well, and since he is a leopard who can’t change his spots (his own description, not mine), he continues to not know it very well today. So he fights against it, to justify his decision to stop believing that it is inspired and infallible.

    There is no question whatsoever that the Bible condemns abortion: in many different ways. It defines the preborn child as indeed human and a person, and it forbids murder of persons. Case closed. End of story. That is really all that is required: A+B. Elementary logic. Moreover, when it condemns, e.g., child sacrifice, logically, the preborn are included, since they are considered children as well. It has passages like:

    2 Kings 15:16 At that time Men’ahem sacked Tappuah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on; because they did not open it to him, therefore he sacked it, and he ripped up all the women in it who were with child.

    It’s wrong to do such things; therefore, abortion (as an act that is exactly the same in essence: “ripping up” a woman with child) is also wrong. The goal is to murder the child, which is an especially evil and despicable act.

    But is this an exercise in logic that was too difficult for DagoodS as a Christian and now? It’s not difficult to grasp these simple logical deductions.

    Yet he says, “What I don’t see are Christians who actually know their Bible.”

    To use another well-known proverb (like the leopard and its spots): talk about the pot calling the kettle black . . .

  37. …and all I want to do is discuss the evidence surrounding the claim of Jesus’ Resurrection…

    Alas, it seems we must engage in personality assessments, instead.

    Stanley D. Williams, Ph.D.: First, you haven’t honestly investigated and openly considered the evidence. You reject the evidence out of a dishonest logic, because if you were to publicly acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of the Resurrection you would have to acknowledge the need to obey God will instead of your own.
    .
    Since you seem to be more familiar with me than…well…I am…perhaps you can help me out.

    Humans are very good at rationalizing our actions. We can also be very bad at determining our own motivations. I recognize the combination may cause me to cloud my perception as to why I deconverted.

    So here is what I am looking for: What method do you propose I could utilize to objectively determine why I deconverted? It obviously can’t be something where I am the determinate (such as “Look within yourself” or “read this article and what do you think”) for the reasons I cited above—I could be rationalizing my own motivation.

    Was it for intellectual reasons? Was it because I was angry at God? Was it for moral reasons? Was it because I thought it would be cool? Was it to get the atheist discount card?

    Understand, I am NOT looking for the reasons you think I deconverted. (Because you have the same rationalization problem as a human as I do. And you have significant lack of data, by not knowing me either as a Christian or now.)

    I am looking for a method to apply where I can step back, and as objectively as possible determine what motivated me to deconvert.

    I will tell you I came up with a method and employed it. But I don’t want to tell you what it is, yet, to prevent tainting your own suggestion.

    • DagoodS. The answer to your question is in the context of my earlier and longer post to you about accepting evidence of common things around you. You accept much around you with less evidence of their reality than is available about Christ’s Resurrection. My conclusion about you is based on what is common to every living person. Your reasons are inconsistent at best because you accept historical evidence about events and people and their lives with far less evidence than is available (to the true seeker) about Christ’s resurrection. It doesn’t matter why you think you “deconverted.” What matters is your inconsistency about everyday evidence. You are spending your time throwing out fallacious objections (hiding behind a shrub of logic), when indeed the best logic and evidence would not convince you against your will.

      This is evident because of your claim that you were once converted. In your case I’m inclined to agree with Calvin — you were never a child of God. Your claim to have been a Christian reminds me of the “going-through-the-motion” Catholics I know. They meet all the outward qualifications of being baptized, and taking communion, but they are so carnal in nature, it’s hard to really classify them as Catholics. In your case, you sound like a empty drum because there is nothing in your attitude or words that even lightly suggests that you were once a son of God. I posit you are lying, and thus cannot be trusted with all this other stuff you are saying. You obviously are not seeking or you’d be in seminary, as I suggest in another post. And you are being judged likewise. So, let’s start with your claim that you were a Christian. Prove it. Your answer will reveal much about your understanding of Christianity.

  38. Dave Armstrong,

    Let me make sure I understand your position. Is the historical evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection sufficient to convince a non-theist that Jesus came back to life after being dead for more than one day?

    • Dagoods,

      On the face this is a baited and fallacious question. The “bait” here is your phrase “sufficient to convince a non-theist”. Before anyone can take this question seriously you have to convince us that your ego (will) is not biased against honest purist of truth. So far you have avoided the hard questions. Your words are hollow without action. You will be judged by what you do, not what you say. How might you do that? Prove through time and effort that you are really interested in truth and not arguing a biased and prejudicial position. Enroll in a Catholic seminary for a semester and take only those classes that deal with historic criticism. In other words, really learn the reason for the bias of the other side. It is far more rigorous than your retorts. You remind me of an “old” friend, who wanted to argue philosophy by redefining the classical terms of the discipline. I suggested he audit a class at the local secular research university in philosophy to learn the terms so we could have an honest discussion. His response: “I don’t agree with how classic and historic philosophy defines terms.” End of discussion. None was possible.

  39. Let me make sure I understand your position. Is the historical evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection sufficient to convince a non-theist that Jesus came back to life after being dead for more than one day?

    And let me restate my position that I have stated several times now:

    The historical evidence is sufficient in and of itself to convince a fair-minded inquirer. But it will usually not convince the non-theist because:

    1) he doesn’t believe in God;

    2) God is required for miracles to occur;

    3) most atheists and agnostics deny the possibility of any miracles (because of #1 and #2), therefore are predisposed against the resurrection;

    4) he may not desire it to be true, for several reasons (hostile will);

    5) he lacks faith, given by God;

    6 he lacks the grace to believe, given by God.

    This is the usual case; but there can always be exceptions. Every former atheist who later becomes a Christian overcomes all these odds.

  40. What method do you propose I could utilize to objectively determine why I deconverted?

    To dialogue with Christians who understand the Bible and Christianity far more than you did before and do now.

    Was it for intellectual reasons? Was it because I was angry at God? Was it for moral reasons? Was it because I thought it would be cool? Was it to get the atheist discount card?

    I concentrate on the first one. It is quite obvious to me that you greatly lacked skills in biblical hermeneutics and exegesis, simply from looking at the conclusions you came to. You could look at the Bible and not see that it condemned abortion. You didn’t get it that Christianity teaches the equality of men and women. So the problems were in place long ago, and they were primarily what caused you to deconvert, in my opinion, because you believed in a caricature of Christianity and so rejected the same caricature when you found it inadequate.

    As Hosea 4:6 states (RSV): “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;. . .”

    Understand, I am NOT looking for the reasons you think I deconverted.

    Sorry’ already gave them . . .

    (Because you have the same rationalization problem as a human as I do. And you have significant lack of data, by not knowing me either as a Christian or now.)

    I know this little tidbit of information that you offered: you’re atrocious exegesis of the Bible and inability to decipher its contents in areas like abortion. You yourself said such things caused you to start questioning biblical inspiration. It’s not even speculation on my part to note what you said about yourself. And so that is an objective way to analyze your defection: you say there is nothing about abortion; I say there are about 100 passages. You can try to explain all those away if you wish. I won’t hold your breath: the way you are systematically ignoring dozens of questions and arguments in this combox thread.

    I am looking for a method to apply where I can step back, and as objectively as possible determine what motivated me to deconvert.

    I just gave you one. I’m sure you’re absolutely delighted that I have done so, right? :-)

    I will tell you I came up with a method and employed it. But I don’t want to tell you what it is, yet, to prevent tainting your own suggestion.

    I’m not interested in games and ring-around-the-rosey, but serious analysis and comparison of the plausibility of opposing positions.

  41. Typos corrected!! Plus a few more additions.

    What method do you propose I could utilize to objectively determine why I deconverted?

    To dialogue with Christians who understand the Bible and Christianity far more than you did before and do now.

    Was it for intellectual reasons? Was it because I was angry at God? Was it for moral reasons? Was it because I thought it would be cool? Was it to get the atheist discount card?

    I concentrate on the first one. It is quite obvious to me that you greatly lacked skills in biblical hermeneutics and exegesis, simply from looking at the conclusions you came to. You could look at the Bible and not see that it condemned abortion. You didn’t get it that Christianity teaches the equality of men and women. So the problems were in place long ago, and they were primarily what caused you to deconvert, in my opinion, because you believed in a caricature of Christianity and so rejected the same caricature when you found it inadequate.

    As Hosea 4:6 states (RSV): “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;. . .”

    Understand, I am NOT looking for the reasons you think I deconverted.

    Sorry; already gave them . . . as usual, the atheist despises any analysis of his deconversion, because that is what he hangs his hat on. It’s scary to realize how flimsy the rationales are. They don’t wanna go there . . .

    (Because you have the same rationalization problem as a human as I do. And you have significant lack of data, by not knowing me either as a Christian or now.)

    I know this little tidbit of information that you offered: your atrocious exegesis of the Bible and inability to decipher its contents in areas like abortion. You yourself said such things caused you to start questioning biblical inspiration. It’s not even speculation on my part to note what you said about yourself. And so that is an objective way to analyze your defection: you say there is nothing about abortion; I say there are about 100 passages. You can try to explain all those away if you wish. I won’t hold my breath, given the way you are systematically ignoring dozens of questions and arguments in this combox thread.

    I am looking for a method to apply where I can step back, and as objectively as possible determine what motivated me to deconvert.

    I just gave you one. I’m sure you’re absolutely delighted that I have done so, right? :-)

    I will tell you I came up with a method and employed it. But I don’t want to tell you what it is, yet, to prevent tainting your own suggestion.

    I’m not interested in games and ring-around-the-rosey, but serious analysis and comparison of the plausibility of opposing positions. The abortion-in-the-Bible discussion offers us one of many ways to do so.

  42. Stanley D. Williams, Ph.D.,

    Thanks for the discussion. Luckily for me, I can choose my conversations amongst many. And continuous internet psycho-analyzing becomes boring to me.

    However, since you asked, I will part ways with my qualifications as a Christian. I confessed Jesus as Lord, and believed with my entire being that God raised Him from the dead. (Rom. 10:9). I loved fellow humans as best I could (although I sometimes failed.) 1 John 2:10, 1:9, 3:11-14. John 13:34-35. I even tried to love my enemies (more times failing at that) Matt. 5:42-47; Luke 6:27-36. Not out of a sense of obligation, but to please God; understanding it was only though His help I was able to do so. 1 Peter 3:13-15.

    Its funny…those who knew me as a Christian never ask me to “prove you were a Christian.” Because they knew me. They know me. They lived with me. Only internet apologists are unsatisfied I was ever a Christian. *shrug*

    Your choice, of course. After the first 1,000 or so such conversations with people who don’t know me, yet are fully convinced of who or what or how I was…well…like I said–Gets boring. I am sure you will either dismiss what I say as not being “true Christianity” (c) or determine I am lying. Again…*shrug.* Again—after 1,000 or so, why bother continuing the conversation with 1,001?

    It is why I much prefer to discuss the evidence. Far more interesting to engage and learn and develop.

    • DagoodS

      And discussions with insincere “atheists” is not just boring but a distraction for the Lord’s work. 1,000 such discussion huh and no progress other than polemics such as are exposed here?

      You may have confessed Jesus as Lord, but what is obvious is that you had no formation in my heart or mind. Lip service isn’t enough. A Christian has committed ever fiber of his being to following and obeying Christ. At some point, if you were ever there, you turned away. You are a Christian out of a loving disposition to Christ and God for the grace he gave you to believe and obey. Any other reason is is playing the game but not a life commitment.

      I’m out of here. You have no serious interest in being enlightened. If you did you’d find some good books that meet your need and perhaps go to seminary and audit classes. but you are not sincere. goodbye.

      1,000 discussions and you claim what?

      Who’s psycho now?

  43. Dave Armstrong,

    I must define “sufficient” differently than you. To explain the confusion, I define “sufficient” as “enough,” “as much as needed,” or “equal to what is specified or required.” It is a base; a minimum. It is the least one needs to satisfy the condition.

    The concept “This is sufficient, BUT one also needs _____” is as anomalous to me as “very unique.” “Unique” means singular—it is a word without a qualifier. In the same way, adding necessary conditions to something “sufficient” in order to satisfy the condition means it wasn’t “sufficient” in the first place!

    It seems to me (and with our current track record, I am sure you will disagree *grin*), I am saying, “In order to convince a non-theist that Jesus came back to life after being dead for more than one day, it is sufficient…

    DagoodS: “The historical evidence of the Resurrection.”

    Whereas, by adding these factors which prevent convincing, you seem to be finishing that sentence:

    Dave Armstrong: “Historical evidence + Grace from God + Faith from God + Desire for it to be true + a predisposition for the Resurrection (obtained through a belief in a God and a belief in a God that performs miraculous Resurrection).”

    If all those things are required, then historical evidence is not sufficient (in my definition). If they are not required, then I don’t know why we are adding them to make the historical evidence sufficient.

    I hope that explains the quandary.

    I wasn’t really looking for a method from you…but thanks for responding.

    Dave Armstrong: To dialogue with Christians who understand the Bible and Christianity far more than you did before and do now.
    .
    Aye…and there’s the rub. I did. I spoke with Pastors and Deacons and Professors and learned men. I spoke with friends I respected, men I revered, and strangers recommended. I spoke in person, through e-mail and on-line. And they were unable to provide satisfactory answers.

    Apparently what you are claiming is I spoke to the wrong ones. Fair enough. What method do I use to determine who the “correct” Christians who “understand Christianity far better” are, in order for me to dialogue with them?

    Considering one Christian group tells me “that particular Christian group” is wrong, yet “that particular Christian group” tells me the first Christian Group is wrong, and they ALL agree the Mormon Christian group is wrong. The Calvinists tell me the non-Calvinist group is wrong; the Protestants tell me the Catholic group is wrong. The Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Charismatics…all bickering and fighting as to who the “correct” group of Christians must be.

    All I am looking for is a method. What method do I use to determine whom I should be dialoguing with?

    And of some humor to me (demonstrating you don’t know me very well) the very people I was dialoguing with would agree with your position the Bible teaches men and women are equal. Separate…but equal. The very men I was talking with would whole-heartedly agree the Bible addresses numerous verses toward abortion. Not sure you understand Christianity I came from if you think otherwise.

    The problem came when I stopped being convinced by their claims. THAT is the question I am asking; THAT is the method I am looking for. Why did I stop believing their arguments? What method can I use to determine why I was no longer convinced by the arguments I had heard (and employed myself) for decades previous?

    Weird that when I want to talk about the Resurrection; you prefer to focus on my predisposition. Now that I am asking how to determine why my predisposition changed…you want to talk particulars. I can’t keep up. *grin*

  44. Only internet apologists are unsatisfied I was ever a Christian.

    I have not claimed that and I am an Internet apologist if there ever was one. Calvinism requires that (since it denies that a true Christian can ever fall away from Christianity), and I am not a Calvinist. I wouldn’t have said that as a Protestant, either, because I was an Arminian, and they believe that Christians can fall away and commit apostasy. Therefore, I call you a “former Christian.” Pretty hard to do that if I thought you never were one, ain’t it? It’s possible, of course, that you never were one, but I don’t assert that. I accept your report at face value.

    That[‘s a different position than my friend Stan takes, so that shows you we Christians (and Catholics) are not all clones. :-)

    I have said that I think your knowledge of important issues within your Christianity was woefully deficient. In other words, you seem to have had only a poor acquaintance with the apologetics that may have kept you a Christian. It’s why I do what I do. So many times people reject Christianity because they falsely believe that it is something that it is not. My job is to show that it is 1) a great thing; 2) a true thing; and 3) that the reasons in favor of it are far better than those against it.

    This causes the Christian to have confidence and to be spared from various counter-influences. And of course within the Christian paradigm I argue that Catholicism is the fullest and most true expression of Christianity.

    Generally when dealing with atheists, though, I defend general Christianity and don’t get into Catholic issues unless I am asked something specific about that.

  45. I must define “sufficient” differently than you. To explain the confusion, I define “sufficient” as “enough,” “as much as needed,” or “equal to what is specified or required.” It is a base; a minimum. It is the least one needs to satisfy the condition.

    The concept “This is sufficient, BUT one also needs _____” is as anomalous to me as “very unique.” “Unique” means singular—it is a word without a qualifier. In the same way, adding necessary conditions to something “sufficient” in order to satisfy the condition means it wasn’t “sufficient” in the first place!

    Fair enough, and a good point. I should qualify my statement, then (or more accurately, better explain what I already meant), by saying I think the evidence for the Resurrection is sufficient in terms of a theoretical plane of reason alone being the consideration and the criteria. In a larger sense, I asserted, however, that reason is NOT all that is in play. There is also the will, faith, and grace. One can have a will against something, that works against even sufficient reasons for said thing. And they may lack faith and grace if they have spurned it from the hand of God.

    It seems to me (and with our current track record, I am sure you will disagree *grin*),

    Probably will! I hope we can at least do so cordially and lightheartedly.

    I am saying, “In order to convince a non-theist that Jesus came back to life after being dead for more than one day, it is sufficient…

    DagoodS: “The historical evidence of the Resurrection.”

    Whereas, by adding these factors which prevent convincing, you seem to be finishing that sentence:

    Dave Armstrong: “Historical evidence + Grace from God + Faith from God + Desire for it to be true + a predisposition for the Resurrection (obtained through a belief in a God and a belief in a God that performs miraculous Resurrection).”

    If all those things are required, then historical evidence is not sufficient (in my definition). If they are not required, then I don’t know why we are adding them to make the historical evidence sufficient.

    I hope that explains the quandary.

    You articulated that well. I hope my additional clarification has made my view more clear. Did you actually think that from a Christian perspective, faith and grace had no relevance at all: as if they had no part of the belief-structure and worldview at all? They may be meaningless categories for you but they certainly are not for us or for a biblical worldview.

    I wasn’t really looking for a method from you…but thanks for responding.

    Anytime. Many aspects of my critique remain unresponded to. Your choice. I have replied tro everything of yours to the best of my ability.

    Dave Armstrong: To dialogue with Christians who understand the Bible and Christianity far more than you did before and do now.

    Aye…and there’s the rub. I did. I spoke with Pastors and Deacons and Professors and learned men. I spoke with friends I respected, men I revered, and strangers recommended. I spoke in person, through e-mail and on-line. And they were unable to provide satisfactory answers.

    Then why do you still seek them out? You still think someone out there can convince you to return to Christianity? Are you trying to do the Karl Popper falsification thing? You will always find the answers satisfactory, no matter how good they are. That is the whole point! You do, I believe, because of the reasons I have outlined, not because the answers were always insufficient in and of themselves, or untrue.

    Apparently what you are claiming is I spoke to the wrong ones.

    I have no idea about these people unless I see something concrete. What I have seen myself shows me that you were abysmally ignorant of sensible, proper biblical interpretation, at least in those particular areas. But you refuse to pursue that line of critique, to try to prove me wrong. I’d be happy to go over my hundred or so proofs of the biblical prohibition of abortion (the example I have highlighted), that you claim are actually not there, and therefore that Scripture is wildly eisegeted and mishandled by those with a pro-life agenda that they then wrongly project onto the Bible.

    Fair enough. What method do I use to determine who the “correct” Christians who “understand Christianity far better” are, in order for me to dialogue with them?

    The same one that enabled you to figure out who the best defenders of the Resurrection are. You managed to find those. So you can figure out who the best defenders of Scripture are. But you have to truly interact with them (assuming they have the time and/or interest to do it with you). You can’t skirt and evade the issues and refuse to answer direct questions and ignore direct critiques, as you have been mostly doing with me. People don’t have the patience for that. It has to be a real dialogue.

    Considering one Christian group tells me “that particular Christian group” is wrong, yet “that particular Christian group” tells me the first Christian Group is wrong, and they ALL agree the Mormon Christian group is wrong. The Calvinists tell me the non-Calvinist group is wrong; the Protestants tell me the Catholic group is wrong. The Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Charismatics…all bickering and fighting as to who the “correct” group of Christians must be.

    Yes, that is a real problem, and a major reason I am Catholic, but that is not your immediate issue. That comes later. Right now you need to even be convinced of matters that all these groups (apart from rank heretics like the Mormons who reject historic Christianity) hold in common: does God exist; Who Jesus was, etc.). First things first.

    But in passing, note that Catholics do not claim to be the sole true or correct group. We claim to be the fullness of Christianity, but we don’t deny for a second that other Christians possess large amounts of Christian truth as well. We’re not like the anti-Catholic Protestants who ridiculously deny that we are Christians at all.

    All I am looking for is a method. What method do I use to determine whom I should be dialoguing with?

    At a bare minimum, If they know their faith well and can offer up halfway decent defenses of it and substantive critiques of your view. If you think I fill these criteria, dialogue with me. If you don’t, find someone else.

    And of some humor to me (demonstrating you don’t know me very well)

    Never said I did, so that is neither here nor there. But I can tell if you don’t know something, when I read statements on your blog that prove that.

    the very people I was dialoguing with would agree with your position the Bible teaches men and women are equal. Separate…but equal. The very men I was talking with would whole-heartedly agree the Bible addresses numerous verses toward abortion. Not sure you understand Christianity I came from if you think otherwise.

    Of course they did. So what? This is a problem in your thinking; not necessarily theirs.

    You won’t even tell me what brand of Christian you were, Why not? Maybe you’re like the hostile guy I met at Jon’s meetings. Turns out he was a former Jehovah’s Witness. So he was never a Christian at all.

    I was asking YOU why YOU think anti-abortion is not taught in the Bible. I think that is a ridiculous position to take. It couldn’t be any more untrue than it is. Keep ignoring the challenge if you must. People reading this will see who had the better argument. They can read my linked paper with the biblical data and compare that to your ignorant bald statement to the contrary and see who knows what they are talking about when it comes to the Bible on that issue.

    The problem came when I stopped being convinced by their claims. THAT is the question I am asking; THAT is the method I am looking for. Why did I stop believing their arguments?

    Lots of reasons, I’m sure.

    What method can I use to determine why I was no longer convinced by the arguments I had heard (and employed myself) for decades previous?

    I have already dealt with that. Talk about concrete issues and deal with them one-by-one.

    Weird that when I want to talk about the Resurrection; you prefer to focus on my predisposition.

    I never claimed to be having a huge discussion about the Resurrection evidences. You simply wanted to make a huge point about my socratic perspective and my talking about premises, because you don’t like that. So we have been talking about it ever since. I haven’t forsaken talk about the evidences because I never began it. You can go read books about that. You don’t have to get it from me.

    If you want to think the socratic method is weird, feel free. This is what socratics do: they concentrate on first premises.

    Now that I am asking how to determine why my predisposition changed…you want to talk particulars. I can’t keep up. *grin*

    I’ve answered everything meticulously. You keep ignoring most of what I bring up. You can play the game of sophistry if you like, but it doesn’t impress anyone who knows what sophistry and constant tactics of evasion are.

  46. I have added a second dialogue with DagoodS to my blog (from these exchanges):

    Dialogue With an Atheist About How Much He Actually Knew About Biblical Exegesis as a Christian (Especially, Abortion in the Bible)

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/12/dialogue-with-atheist-about-how-much-he.html

  47. When I was 7 years old and pleading with god every evening to make sure he had accepted my faith, I was assured by all the christians around me that I was indeed a child of god. After I was 8, I never doubted my salvation…until I actually began to doubt the coherency of the god-myth. When, as an adult, I went door-to-door witnessing and leading people to the lord on my own apart from any church program prompting me to, I was lauded as a fine example of a christian. Now I find christians claiming I was never at any time a real christian. I guess I’m too far removed from that cute 7 year old I once was. It’s rather ridiculous to watch christians desperately attempting to rewrite the histories of apostates, and their own assurances they gave those apostates when they were young. Google “reasons for my deconversion” to learn more about my apostasy.

  48. I don’t have to do any of this, Phil. It is perfectly possible, biblically, that you were a Christian and later fell away. Lots of passages. So I say “former Christian” and speak of apostasy; that means falling away from something actually had. “Deconversion,” likewise, refers to converting to one belief away from another. I take the report at face value. I lose nothing in doing that, anyway (from a purely tactical perspective). If you were not in fact, my argument doesn’t suffer from assuming that you were.

    This particular argument is with Calvinists. Let them defend their own beliefs. I just wrote a book where I devoted more than a hundred pages refuting TULIP from the Bible. :-)

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/10/books-by-dave-armstrong-biblical.html

    TULIP is a non-biblical tradition of men.

    So if someone wants to deny you or DagoodS or any number of atheists were ever Christians, they should at least be careful to be more precise in their terminology.

    My critiques of deconversions don’t have to distort or deny what anyone was before at all. I ain’t fightin’ straw men, but [self-reports about] “former men.” Thus, I am now analyzing what DagoodS says about his past Christian self, and I think I am showing that, though he was a Christian, he was an abysmally ignorant one when it came to understanding the Bible (abortion being our present test case).

    So I am taking him at his word and critiquing what he himself tells me he thought as a Christian, and I’m showing that the seeds of his apostasy were already quite apparent. Like I said, if I had known him then, I could have easily posited a real possibility of his falling away, because he wasn’t grounded firmly enough. He didn’t know his apologetics; nor did he know how to properly exegete the Bible. This is what I invariably discover when analyzing deconversion accounts. If it is not the case with you, it’ll be the first time, and I’ll congratulate you for being a pioneer and will buy you a cigar and bottle of wine (being the wine-bibbing Catholic that I am).

    Wrong thoughts, bad logic, lack of acqaintance with relevant facts: all of these can eventually cause a lack of faith, or erode a real, true faith, because the mind is always involved in the overall equation. This is why truth and true doctrine are supremely important. The soul or the heart cannot rejoice and abide by what the mind rejects as false.

  49. DagoodS and I are further debating what the Bible teaches about abortion in the combox for the paper of mine that I referenced above:

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/12/dialogue-with-atheist-about-how-much-he.html

    I have just shown, I think, how the Bible supports the fact that human life and persons begin at conception. It’s not a prior assumption merely eisegeted into the Bible (as DagoodS argues). It’s really there. That’s why the Church Fathers condemned abortion and all Christian traditions did as well until 40-50 years ago or so when many liberal denominations began caving into the secularist zeitgeist. There is a reason for that. It is because this is what the Bible had always taught.

  50. Your response, Dave, is fair enough. I’ll address your position rather than the evangelical position I’m most familiar with.

    I’ve been looking for a coherent explanation of redemption among evangelicals, but have found none. I’d like to ask you some questions about your position, but do not know whether you’d like this posted here in the middle of another discussion. What’s your preference?

  51. Hi Phil,

    If Cory has no objection (this being his place), that’s fine. I cross-post any lengthy discussions I am in on my blog, too. This is a good site for Christian-atheist interaction. Cory is focusing on that sort of apologetics, as I am myself in recent times.

  52. All right. I’ll just post and let anyone who wishes respond.

    It seems to me to be rather absurd to claim a loving god needs bloodshed to forgive. Some respond to this by invoking Jehovah’s holiness that presumably demands penalty. Yet we are instructed, at the same time, to be holy as god is holy, and to forgive without bloodshed. What constraints prevent a loving god from forgiving without bloodshed as he instructs us to do in our holiness?

    • Phil,

      I’ll jump in here and then look for Dave’s response. Two things leap to mind:

      a. I think the answer to our question has to do with the motivation and disposition behind the bloodshed. Man’s is not purely just, God’s cannot be anything but. If we were not fallen and given over to sin, we might be able to be as holy as God is, and judge as he does. Catholicism teaches that approaching and participating in a physical act, like the sacraments or something that might appear to be sinful, or even something that might appear to be a righteous act to an outsider, depends a great deal on the person’s disposition of heart and the knowledge of the act, and the state of the will in committing it — to determine it’s goodness or badness. Of course, man cannot know another’s disposition perfectly and thus for man to being doing bloodshed is a risky task. The Catholic Church approaches war and capital punishment with a good deal of skepticism concern about its justice.

      b. Here’s another answer. Like the vastness of the physical universe and the knowledge required to understand it perfectly, so is the vastness of such moral paradoxes like you raise. Continuing the parallel, many things in science are first understood one way only years later to discover the “closer” truth is quit opposite. This is the problem for atheists in general about many things in creation. They expect to understand and know all tings and make blanket, declarative, absolute statements like, “There is no god,” when so much of the physical world is unknown. They also make statements of assurance and great confidence about apparent contradictions when as far as their knowledge goes what they see or experience may be a paradox. Likewise it would follow that man’s finite information and understanding of the physical universe would extend to other aspects of the universe, that is, the moral integrity and justice and love of God. What you raise appears to be a contradiction, but if you have learned anything about investigating the physical universe, then you must likewise conclude there’s a paradox involved… or be inconsistent.

      Faith is required to make science work as an investigative discipline, and likewise, for the same reasons, faith is required to make Christianity work. The faith that a Christian exercises is the same kind we find in science — they are both extrapolations of what is already known. Christian faith is NOT belief in something for which there is no evidence. There is no such thing as BLIND faith in Christianity, regardless of what some theologians may say. If there was no concrete, physical proof for many things in Christianity, the religion would not be as poignant as it is. Thus, we accept, based on the extrapolation of other experiences with God, that the bloodshed he has required in the past is trustworthy and for our good.

      Lastly, there is no evidence that God’s judgment is anything but fair and loving, and long suffering. The Bible leads us to believe that that he long suffering … but eventually a fair judgment must be had.

      My wife and I made an interesting observation about the colors today. There is one color that stands out from all the rest in terms of its recognizability. (I should look into the spectrum, as this may be empirically measured, not sure). But the color RED is unique in how human’s perceive it. We think it has something to do with God’s love for us that when we see “red” we are alerted to possibility that life may be in the balance.
      b.

  53. I don’t see the necessary connection between holiness and bloodshed.

    If you were completely holy, would you want to extract blood from those who offended you?

    Why would not holiness require complete forgiveness without bloodshed, especially when the holy being claims to love the offender?

    What is the necessary connection between holiness and bloodshed?

    If you were a father who loved his child, and were at the same time perfectly holy, would you feel obligated to eternally torture your child upon his first offense?

    Is there something I’m missing here?

    You also say…

    “Lastly, there is no evidence that God’s judgment is anything but fair and loving, and long suffering.”

    How can damnation to eternal torment upon the very first offense of any offender be considered “long-suffering”?

    If your English professor neighbor claim to be “long-suffering”, then tortured his son he claimed to love upon that son’s very first lie? Would you say your neighbor is “long-suffering” because he know more about English than you did and could define “long-suffering” any way he pleased, or would you say that his claim to be “long-suffering” was a perversion of the conventional use of the term?

    I propose that the fact Jehovah condemns every human upon their very first offense to eternal torment clear evidence against his claims to be “long-suffering”…unless you have perverted the term to be opposite to its conventional usage.

    Could you give me a counter-analogy of a just neighbor who truly love his son, call himself “long-suffering”, yet eternally tortured that son upon that son’s very 1st offense?

    Or do your comment about accepting paradoxes on faith mean we should take a disposition towards the claims of the bible that is wholly unskeptical and requires illogic? Why would this sort of “faith” be virtuous for me, yet not for Muslims? (Perhaps, too many questions. My primary question is on the father analogy.)

  54. Was my post deleted about miracles in other religions, and even non-religious miracles?

  55. How can you discuss miracles and presuppositions without adding that religious people have been the greatest debunkers of each others miracle stories?

    JEWS QUESTIONED CHRISTIAN PROPHECIES AND MIRACLES.

    PROTESTANTS QUESTIONED CATHOLIC MIRACLES.

    DEISTS BELIEVED IN GOD, but QUESTIONED BIBLICAL MIRACLES.

  56. Dagood, I saw that your computer ate your post to Dave about abortion on his blog, so I added some comments, so maybe you won’t have to reconstruct everything you lost from scratch. http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/12/dialogue-with-atheist-about-how-much-he.html

  57. Phil,

    You asked: “If you were completely holy, would you want to extract blood from those who offended you?”

    Answer: I have no idea exactly how God defines holy except that theologians define it as “being set apart for God’s purpose.” It seems you are assuming a definition that is different than what it may actually mean. Fallacy here is called an equivocation.

    You asked: “Why would not holiness require complete forgiveness without bloodshed, especially when the holy being claims to love the offender?”

    Answer: Justice and love are both derivatives of truth. Does the holy being love both equally? Does love mean being tolerant of evil? Not necessarily.

    You asked: “What is the necessary connection between holiness and bloodshed?”

    Answer: Holiness means to be set apart for God’s purpose, and that includes justice. Holiness is NOT defined by being tolerant of sin, evil, or forgiveness at any cost. TRUTH wins the day here, and sometimes what is true is not pretty.

    You asked: “If you were a father who loved his child, and were at the same time perfectly holy, would you feel obligated to eternally torture your child upon his first offense?”

    Answer: Fallacious question. It involves equivocation for the term “love” and “holy” and begs the question by assuming definitions for both that are not necessarily accurate. Also, God follows what is true. Truth sometimes demands judgment. Also, in the case of the son, you have avoided the reason for the judgment. You are not God that can determine what is the just punishment or reward for the child. The father’s feelings for the child, especially a human’s father’s feelings, are not equivalent to the justice or love God projects toward another. Read the book of Job where God questions Job’s demand for justice: ” Who are you to decide? Who are you to determine in God’s eyes what is right and just? Where were you when the Earth was formed, etc. ”

    You asked: “How can damnation to eternal torment upon the very first offense of any offender be considered “long-suffering”?

    Answer: Who is to say “the very first offense” deserves eternal torment? You make a grand assumption here; and maybe it’s an assumption by the Christianity you were exposed to. It’s inaccurate, maybe. The Catholic Church would rely instead on God’s grace and mercy, and say “We don’t know.” Indeed, committing suicide is considered a grave sin, but the Church refuses to say that a man who commits such offense will end up in eternal punishment. The Church doesn’t know, but it prays for God’s grace. Man does not know why the man did what he did, and indeed the definition of sin is not limited to the action alone. The disposition of heart, the motivation, the state of mind, all enter in. We don’t know. God is the only one that does. The definition of sin in historical Christianity (Catholicism) is not so simple as you suggest. And while the Church does proclaim that some are in heaven as saints, it refuses to say that any are in hell, although it’s pretty sure some are. The difference in our perspective may be the difference between some legalistic brands of Christianity and what the Catholic Church teaches. Catholicism, when understood, is consistent and without fallacy. I can’t say that for the dozen or so Protestant churches I was a part of for decades.

    —– Your next paragraphs are hypothetical, involve the same fallacies and are answered by the above.—–

    You asked: “Or do(es) your comment about accepting paradoxes on faith mean we should take a disposition towards the claims of the bible that is wholly unskeptical and requires illogic?

    Answer: “I’m unsure what you are asking here. Healthy skepticism is good even for a Christian. The truth may be unknown to man. Catholicism teaches that many things are a mystery. We don’t know, and may not know this side of heaven what God has judged or how. The Church teaches that understanding what is true (if we can know it) requires both reason and faith. One without the other leads to falsehoods. (See John Paul II’s FAITH AND REASON).

    You asked: “Why would this sort of “faith” be virtuous for me, yet not for Muslims?”

    Answer: “I’m not sure what you mean by “this.” Christian faith is based on fact, both historic and personal experience and observation through the senses. That is one way in which FAITH is connected to REASON (observation through the senses is reason-based evidence). Where Muslims rely on fact to support their faith, I suppose that aspect of the faith, if the observation is truly understood, may be trustworthy. But faith in something that is not verifiable by extrapolation or interpolation of evidence is not a valid faith. Again, FAITH IS NOT BLIND. Here’s what I mean. Of the things we can verify with our senses, and through historical research, we determine that a great, great deal of what Christianity teaches us is true. (based on observable physical evidence, e.g. when I come out of the confessional after making a thorough and contrite confession, my blood pressure lowers, my spirits are raised, I have a positive perspective on life… everything changes for me in a physical, visceral, measurable way. I conclude that there’s something trustworthy abut confession. Where before I felt dread, now I feel hope and it sticks with me until I start to sin again. Is it psycholoigcal, a state of mind? You bet it is. Is it guilt I experience when I sin? You bet it is. And guilt is good because it keeps me obeying natural law. Such psychological experiences are every bit as real as the touch of my hand to hot or cold object. (Now this is one sliver of evidence that fits into large system of consistently logical teachings.) Therefore, we are disposed to believe other things the Church teaches. Where we find by reason, logic, history that things are not true, then our faith is undermined. For example, some Protestants claim that the Bible is and always was composed of 66 books. But simple historical research reveals that there were originally 73 books that were decided upon by multiple ecumenical councils in the 300s. And there still are 73 books (or something close to it in the case of Orthodoxy). Further research will reveal that the 66 books only began to appear in the early 1800s as the result of political pressure on publishers. No council. No ecumenical decision. So, I have faith that I can trust Catholicism in this regard (about the construction of the Bible), but my faith in Protestantism with regard to the Bible’s constructon is undermined because the facts don’t support the faith.

  58. Stanley, you said…

    “You asked: “If you were completely holy, would you want to extract blood from those who offended you?”

    Answer: I have no idea exactly how God defines holy except that theologians define it as “being set apart for God’s purpose.” It seems you are assuming a definition that is different than what it may actually mean. Fallacy here is called an equivocation.”

    No. For there to be an equivocation, I would have to have used the word in 2 different ways. I didn’t. I’m using “holy” in the way it is conventionally defined.

    If the bible is the “word of truth” given to humans for their edification in that truth, then I’d expect an god behind this word of truth to employ words in the conventional way rather than employing “love” to mean “hate” and “patient” to mean “impatient”.

    But I’ll let you introduce an alternative definition of “holy” if you have one. I’ll then only see whether you apply that term consistently.

    You can’t, however, claim our “deserved” eternal torment is based on god’s “holiness” without rigorously defining “holy”.

    Please rigorously define “holy”.

    Feel free to use the analogy of a neighbor who was holy, and had a disobedient son. That will provide a context to assure clarity.

  59. Rather than try to debate three people at once (Babinski has now made a million arguments for childkilling on my site), I’ll let Stan wrangle with Phil.

  60. Dear Mr Dagoods

    I hope you are still here, under the avalanch!
    (I still can’t spell!)
    When I said ‘gentleman’ I was refering to the gender male. But having glossed through the above at speed I think you qualify for the English compliment too!

    There are a number of points

    Miracles:
    Whilst I experience existence as a miracle, I am using the word in sense of ‘not in the order of nature’.

    Unlike Dave, I do not feel that I can defend the ‘Christianity’ of others. I would not be qualified to defend other than the Catholic position (if I am qualified to do that!) Dr Arnold said that he believed all Christ’s miracles would, eventually, be explained by science. When this was quoted to John Henry Newman he responded, startled, ‘Is Arnold a Christian!?” John Henry was speaking lightly!

    As Dave and I have said, if you take the time to investigate, for example, the exhaustively documented miracles of Lourdes et alia you will find historic instances of such things as pieces of absent bone and tissue reappearing.

    I am, in Scripture and life, all for hard results; there is no Effect without a Cause. Note that I do not say that ‘I believe’ there is no Effect without a Cause. It goes on being the absolute basis of fact whether I care for it or not.

    I do understand about apocalyptic, and your illustration I found highly entertaining! I fully appreciate that parts of Daniel and Revelation use code for political situations.

    Now the exciting bit. You have given me an insight! Thank you. I see now that all ‘miracles’ flow out from the event of Christ’s resurrection. I experience life, because once death has turned back anything is possible.

    Being what I am, my whole existence is oriented to adoring God and interceding for the needs of the Church and the world. My life and the lives of thousands of others for 8 centuries has been directed solely to this.
    I do this simply because I know Christ; I live with him, I have seen ‘miracles’ I am myself a ‘miracle.’

    Christ speaks to me – as he spoke to Paul – because he is living. The Mother of Jesus might be expected to speak to people, because she is living, the saints may definitely be expected to demonstrate the power of their intercession with God because they are living.

    I am now off to finish a vestment order and to start putting up the Christmas crib which has 200 or so figures…..

    Your loving little sister,
    Sr Maria J

  61. Phil, the equivocation is occurring because there are two different definitions floating around. One is yours (“conventionally defined” you claim) and the other is how other Christians defined the term “holy” — in my case Catholicism. This is the problem in so much communication. We’re using different definitions for the term. If we could agree on the terms and their clear definitions we might have a chance to agree on a few things.

    You wrote: “I’d expect an god behind this word of truth to employ words in the conventional way rather than employing “love” to mean “hate” and “patient” to mean “impatient”.”

    My response: There you go again. First you are requiring God to use terms as YOU define them. Whoa! But what you mean is that you want a 2000 year old church with thousands of theologians in history to start defining terms that you like. This reminds me of a friend of mine who always wanted to argue philosophy with me, but he refused to define terms as taught in every History of Philosophy course in the Western World. He’s an engineer. He refused my suggestion that we stick to the terms as defined in Flews dictionary, saying all the Philosophy dictionaries were wrong. End of discussion. Not sure what Prot group you were part of, but there are thousands of different ones, and one of the reasons is the existence of equivocation. the other is Diffvocation, or making distinctions without a different — the opposite fallacy.

    And your claim that God (or the Church) is using “love” to mean “hate” and “patient” to mean “impatient” — does not even deserve a retort. You know that isn’t true, so I’m not sure what kind of response you expect.

    Now, I must bow out as I am on deadline, and you haven’t read carefully my first post, which makes this a distraction. I did define holy as the Church has defined it for 2000 years. Indeed as Judaism has defined it for millennium before that. Four line of my earlier post, in quotes.

    Gotta go. I have to earn some money. this has been “fun” but duty calls.

  62. MIRACLES! HEALINGS! THE EVIDENCE DOES NOT POINT IN A UNIFORM DIRECTION

    You mentioned healings. Have you read Norman Cousins? He survived three fatal illnesses in his life, seemingly miraculously. He wrote about them in his books. But religion was not involved.

    Have you heard of Jason Winters? He believed a “tea” cured his inoperable fatal throat tumor (he was given three months to live). But no one knows for sure how the tea works, though his website continues to receive testimonies of miraculous healing from other users of his tea:

    http://www.sirjasonwinters.com/testimonials.htm

    What I am saying is that the history of health cures, placebo research, stress reduction and visualization, includes tales of miraculous healings.

    Perhaps there is some connection between mental states, including religious mental states among others, and miraculous cures. But is that connection necessarily the one that devout Catholics believe it to be?

    See also this important article:

    The Body Can Beat Terminal Cancer — Sometimes

    They should be dead. But a tiny number of people conquer lethal diseases.
    by Jeanne Lenzer

    http://discovermagazine.com/2007/sep/the-body-can-stave-off-terminal-cancer-sometimes/article_view?b_start:int=1&-C=

    ON THE DEBUNKING OF MIRACLES

    Protestants have spent a fair share of time and effort debunking centuries of Catholic miracle stories, including tales related to healing relics, visions, etc. So Protestants were debunking Catholic miracle stories even before deism and later atheism arose.

    On the miracles reported to have taken place in the early [Catholic] church Rev. Dr. Conyers Middleton (18th century British Anglican clergyman, Cambridge graduate and author) says, regarding the early church fathers who reported them:

    “I have shown by many indisputable facts, that the ancient fathers, by whose authority that delusion was originally imposed (that miracles existed in the early church), and has ever since been supported, were extremely credulous and superstitious; possessed with strong prejudices and enthusiastic zeal, in favour, not only of Christianity in general, but of every particular doctrine, which a wild imagination could ingraft upon it; and scrupling no art or means, by which they might propagate the same principles. In short; they they were of a character, from which nothing could be expected, that was candid and impartial; nothing but what a weak or crafty understanding could supply, towards confirming those prejudices, with which they happened to be possessed; especially where religion was the subject, which above all other motives, strengthens every bias, and inflames every passion of the human mind.” [Conyers Middleton (1749), A FREE INQUIRY INTO THE MIRACULOUS POWERS WHICH ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE SUBSISTED IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH FROM THE EARLIEST AGES THROUGH SEVERAL SUCCESSIVE CENTURIES. Reprinted (1967). New York: Garland Publishing. Preface, pp. 21-22.]

    Then in the 19th century one can read the Protestant theologian (and father of modern inerrancy), B. B. Warfield, to see how he debunked Catholic miracles and resurrection stories in his famous work, COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES. Which just goes to show, as Dr. Robert M. Price (an ex-fundamentalist Protestant), wrote, “The zeal and ingenuity of conservative evangelical scholars in dismantling the miracles of rival Christian groups (and exploding rival interpretations of Scripture used to support such miracles), is worthy of the most skeptical gospel critic.”

  63. MORE ON MIRACLES AND HEALINGS!

    The majority of people on the planet do not have extraordinary experiences, and even among those who do, such experiences do not point uniformly in the direction of orthodox Christian dogmas.

    Conversely, Christians have to deal with the fact that “amazing coincidences,” as well as “visions, OBEs, NDEs, etc.,” do not point uniformly in the direction of orthodox Christian dogma being the only truth. Catholics see the Virgin Mary, and claim they have further evidence of the truth of their church being the “true” one via miraculous stories of hosts turning to flesh and wine to blood? They also have centuries of miracle tales.

    Most people remain attached to the religion in which they were raised, and find it difficult to convert to another. I’ve read of a priest in India whose family converted to Catholicism, but who still admits he loves Krishna. I’ve read about atheists raised Catholic who when in a difficulty will pray to Mary. I’ve read about Buddhists who experienced born again like fears of hell and salvation within a Buddhist worldview.

    Some testimonies are just plain weird, including NDEs. A talking Buddhist turtle god as experience by someone in Thailand during their NDE, a talking KJV Bible in heaven? A person who was comforted during his NDE by a guy named “Bob.” Most people whose hearts stop don’t remember any NDE, or if they do they meet no one during their NDE, just experience the tunnel, or if they meet someone, it’s not a religious figure.

    Or consider the crazy testimony of Andrew Lias , who had a near death experience (NDE). Quoting from : “I had one during my suicide attempt that ended up with me (I kid you not) in a carnival being faced by a loud, cigar chomping man with a paisley tie who was laughing his head off. I remember clearly thinking, ‘Oh no, I’ve gone to the Silly Place!'”

    Or consider these experiences: Eleven Thai Visionary, OBE, NDE Experiences

    http://www.shaktitechnology.com/bkknde.htm

    I read an ad in The Fortean Times about two years ago for a video that included the testimony of a Muslim on pilgrimage who says in dead seriousness that he “saw Mohammed” standing at a particular holy site.

    As pointed out by professor W. Andrew Terrill (professor at the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, and the top expert on Iraq there), “If you are a Muslim and the community is under occupation by a non-Islamic power it becomes a religious requirement to resist that occupation. Most Iraqis consider us occupiers, not liberators. There’s talk of angels and the Prophet Mohammed coming down from heaven to lead the fighting, talk of martyrs whose bodies are glowing and emanating wonderful scents.” — W. Andrew Terrill, [Cited by Sidney Blumenthal, sidney_blumenthal@yahoo.com, “Far graver than Vietnam,” The Guardian, Thursday September 16, 2004

    Muslim Near Death Experiences

    http://www.near-death.com/muslim.html

    See also the “turning point” in the life of this Islamic apologist: The Chairman of the International Islamic Propagation Center http://www.iipc.tv/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13&Itemid=42
    TURNING POINT IN LIFE — An event that had a profound effect on Mohammad Shaikh occurred on 15th December, 1986, when some armed criminals broke into his office in Karachi. Soon a struggle ensued and one of the men pulled the trigger, but miraculously Brother Shaikh was not hit. It was at this point in time, he recalls, that he closed his eyes and prayed to Allah deep in his heart, that if his life were spared, he would dedicate it to His cause – it was as if his prayer was heard, that the armed men all of a sudden broke loose and fled, leaving him physically and psychologically drained at the ordeal. After this experience he would decide to study and teach the Qur’an fearlessly and take a firm stand on what was stated within its pages irrespective of the status quo opinions. This experience, along with spiritual experiences gained during the Hajj, and dialogues with Christian missionaries would motivate him to defend his faith and learn the Qur’an in more detail so as to answer allegations. All of this would eventually pave the way for an organized mission to promote the Qur’an.

    The same fellow, above, was voted 4th most influential Muslim in the world per a Reuters poll http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/11/17/poll-the-worlds-top-500-muslims-read-and-vote/

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Islamic-Miracles/209140485072

    Islamic Miracles

    http://farhan-ali-qadri.com/discussion/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1133&start=0&sid=8982227b423292d44963b213f037812e

    Jews have their own miracle tales, and tales of “faith unto death,” in the face of persecution from Catholics and Protestants. (Even Anabaptists were persecuted by Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation. And even Calvinists were not recognized as a legitimate church until after the Thirty Years War tore Europe apart.) As Spinoza pointed out concerning tales of Jewish miracles in his day:

    “The miracles they [the Jews] relate are enough to weary a thousand gossips. But what they chiefly pride themselves on is that they number far more martyrs than any other nation and daily increase the number of those who with extraordinary constancy of mind have suffered for the faith that they profess. And this is not untrue. I myself know [have heard], among others, of a certain Judah, whom they call the Faithful, who in the midst of the flames, when he was believed to be dead already, began to sing the hymn that begins, ‘To Thee, O God, I commit my soul,’ and died in the middle of the hymn.”

    The person to whom Spinoza is referring was a Spanish nobleman who was converted to Judaism via the study of Hebrew and who had adopted the named “Judah” as his Hebrew name. His given name was Don Lope de Vera y Alarcon de San Clemente, and he was burnt at Valladolid, July 25, 1644 according to Gratz’ book Gesch. der Juden x. 101. This reminds me also of the famous story of a rabbi facing the Inquisition who was asked to deny his faith. He requested time to think it over. The next morning he said, “I will not become a Catholic, but I have a last request — before I’m burnt at the stake my tongue should be cut out for not replying at once. To such a question ‘No!’ was the only answer.”

    Jews tell some great miracle stories, like one I read in scholarly journal of religious studies that mentioned a charismatic old rebbe I think from the Schneerson movement, who advised a person who was desperately seeking a woman to marry his slightly mentally handicapped son. The rebbe told him to go to Jerusalem carrying a specific item, that’s all. The man went and bumped into another man on the bus who asked him about the item he was carrying, and showed the man an item that his rebbe (I think it was the same rebbe) told him to bring to Jerusalem. The other man had a daughter who was slightly mentally handicapped in need of a husband! And thus a match was made.

    Speaking of religious experiences the topic of conversion statistics provides more questions. For instance, we know where the conversions fall, statistically speaking, which tells us that the continuance of Evangelical Christianity depends heavily on adolescents who “accept Christ” before they reach the age of 18. And adolescents do not know much about the Bible, history, science, psychology or religion; they are far from having peaked in their acquisition of worldly wisdom; and they are not known for their emotional maturity. Therefore, we have reason to doubt that such “decisions for Christ” are well informed. Yet Evangelical Christianity relies heavily on such decisions in order to continue at all.

    Below is the statistical data, shared from articles that appeared in Christianity Today:

    http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/09/stick-to-issues-debate-them-forcefully.html

  64. Stanley, language does not belong to a god. What would it mean for a god to utter a word that is contrary to conventional meaning. If that god wants to stipulate a meaning, that is fine, but he will not need theologians to do that for him. But it seems you’ve only introduced this to be evasive. Why not provide your unconventional definition of holy in your response?

    Here, simply explain what it means when Peter uses the phrase Αγιοι ἔσεσθε, ὅτι ἐγὼ ἅγιος. This is merely the 1st step. Merely giving the definition is not enough since my question was why holiness as you define it necessarily leads to the eternal torment of any who offend the holy individual.

    Take whatever definition you can extract from your definition, and plug it into the scenario of a neighbor who is holy and has a disobedient son. How long would such a neighbor necessarily need to torture his son to justify his holiness?

    I’m not asking you what holiness is not; I’m asking you what it is so we can make some progress here.

  65. Stanley, let me remind you what you said.

    You are not God that can determine what is the just punishment or reward for the child.

    This is no answer. If you were looking through your kitchen window and saw your neighbor torturing his son, you don’t need to first determine how holy your neighbor is before you can determine whether you neighbor is justified in torturing his son. If that neighbor claims that he, as the father, has every right to define paternal justice his own way, you’d hopefully call him on his absurdity. Holiness is not a term that your god or any god can hijack and claim any action he commits is “holy”. Words do not work that way. For words to remain meaningful, they must fall in line with conventional meaning. If a word is far from its conventional meaning, then it is best to employ a different word. This is true for humans, and for gods who wish to communicate with humans. When you’ve taken a perfectly legitimate word such as “holy” and define it as “anything my god does”, then you’re engaging in self-deception at minimum, and possibly general dishonestly.

    Here, consider the logical possibility of Jesus having a son. Jesus was holy. Would he necessarily need to eternally torture his wayward son? How long?

    Just show the link of necessity between holiness and the need to eternally torture. This is the only question that is important to this discussion, and if your reread your posts, you’ll discover you have not answered it.

  66. Stanley claims the proper definition of “holy” is “being set apart for God’s purpose”. Then he suggests his god is holy. What could it possibly mean for god to be set apart for his own purpose? If the church has used this definition for 2,000 years as Stanley claims, the church has obviously incoherently defined “holy” for 2,000 years. Fix your definition of holy to include the holiness you ascribe to your god. Then explain why holiness necessarily requires eternal torture for offenses. I’m claiming you can’t do it coherently.

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