Lack of Posting
It’s been a while since I’ve last posted, but I’ve still been hard at work.
Back in May of 2010, John W. Loftus began what he called a “reality check” series:
I’m going to start a series of posts describing what must be the case if Christianity is true. When done I’ll put them all together so Christians can see the formidable obstacles there are to their faith at a glance. (source)
In other words, assume:
- Christianity is false
- Naturalism is true
- Liberal interpretations of archeology are accurate and they prove the Bible 100% false
Those, of course, are all prospects that must be argued rather than assumed, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Loftus ended up with 30 propositions in that series and promised more as of 7/2010, but none materialized.
I had planned on answering all 30, even though I have noted several are not arguments and have no bearing on the truth of Christianity, nor on anyone’s interpretation of reality. I think Loftus believes all are self-evidently nonsense, and once stated immediately show how false they are. Which leads to a few questionable items, such as #2 — which is neither an argument nor a physical impossibility. Rather, it is one possible interpretation of God, most often associated with open theism.
I had copied all 30 into an open document text file, did some fancy bells and whistles with formatting (I’m particularly proud of the cowboy hat graphic that accompanies each of the top-level headings, since Loftus’s trademark is the cowboy hat), and prepared to answer them.
Then did absolutely nothing.
Now, over a year later, I decided to dust off the e-book file and actually complete it. I’ve been answering one or two at a time, and posting them on the e-book sharing site Scribd, under my account. A link now appears under promotional links on the right, but here are the documents so far:
- Nature of God
- God’s Eternal Decree
- Nature of Satan
- The Fall
- Existence of Similar ANE Mythology Disproves the Bible
That’s what I have so far. I may not have been active here, but I’m always writing. Check those out and give me some feedback, as when I complete all 30 I’m planning on releasing a final e-book copy, collating the full collection. Updated, of course, to reflect criticisms of my replies.
Posted on October 12, 2011, in Apologetics, Christian Delusion, God and tagged E-book, John W. Loftus, Scribd. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.
1. Can I suggest you make one post here per document there? It’s impossible to address it all here as each document in itself needs tomes to be addressed. As such, I’ll only address the first one, as doing it all would be exhausting.
2. As a general criticism, Loftus didn’t say he’d write 30 arguments against Christianity which you seem to imply / want. He’s just writing out in plain-text what the Christian belief entails, what you must believe for it to be true.
Anyway, about “Nature of God”.
It’s a bit disheartening to see that you make a big ontological mistake in your very sentence, but maybe pointing this out might explain some of my further comments and help you clarify stuff a bit better. You write “John Loftus first objects to God’s very nature.” No. No, he doesn’t. He makes a statement that resonates with what Christians believe. Don’t say at this point that he objects, when he *clearly* doesn’t. A big part of arguing and searching for the truth is to be accurate and diligent, and here he is not objecting. It’s a statement of purported fact which you can agree or disagree with to various degrees.
Further, “Loftus takes it to mean that God never learns […]” when actually what he writes is “[God] therefore never learned anything new”. Perhaps semantic nitpicking, but again, we need to be clear and honest about the material. But let’s address what lies at the core, the thing you *haven’t* addressed; if you are omnipotent and omniscient, what exactly can you learn?
More, “Immutability refers only to God’s ontology, it doesn’t refer to his agency.” Spoken like a true theologian, however how can an omniscient and omnipotent being even have an agency shared with us mere mortals?
And then you say, “However, since we who are made in the imageof God are capable of learning, it only stands to reason that God has the capacity to learn.” We are also capable of masturbating and having homosexual sex, so I guess it also stands to reason that God has the capacity to masturbate and have homosexual sex? And yes, this is a serious argument, just as serious as you made yours, and in fact, it’s the same argument, but I doubt you think the argument is valid when the words you wanted it to support is exchange with mine?
Further, “That is why most criticisms of God on moral grounds fall apart – it is God who defines morality.” Right, so I guess then that slavery is fine, that homosexuals should be killed, that it’s ok to kill people who pick up sticks on a Saturday or Sunday, that child sacrificing is perfectly fine, that a tooth for a tooth is perfectly fine and on and on? That if you hear a voice in your head purported to be your god to kill your child, everyone around you (and I assume including your god) are fine with you killing your child, and that there’s no repercussions for you, that you in fact were a very fine, godly man? And the pertinent question is this; is it fine for your child? I doubt your child will think much good of your god …
I hope your answer is going to be more sophisticated than “God changed his mind along the way” because you’ll have a hell of a time trying to find biblical grounding for that position.
You say; “The Scriptures do speak of God repenting. Repentance is not an attribute, but an action. Therefore, this does not conflict with God’s immutability”
Since you’re talking about immutability as a response to Loftus you seem to gloss over your gods’ purported omniscience and omnipotence in lieu of dealing with free-will (which sits at the core of Loftus’ argument). I’m not sure whether you’re in the “God’s nature doesn’t change, only God’s behaviour” camp or the “nothing about God changes” camp (but with your Calvinist leanings I take it the latter?), but in order to take any of your arguments seriously you need to address the bound human / unbound god problem straight on, otherwise I fear you’re just doing special pleading and crafty theology.
Also, on a smaller note, “It is little wonder that Loftus, an atheist, would think that God is inexplicable.” Be careful; he wasn’t always an atheist.
“The Bible has little problem defining each person of the Trinity in fair detail. ” What? Are you kidding me? It’s taken thousands of theologians to try to suss out that particular conundrum, a battle that is still raging. It’s only a coincidence that the trinity (of Athanasius fame) won over other forms during the 3rd and 4th century, it equally well could have been binitarianism, unitarianism, modalism, tritheism polytheism, or some of the lesser known theological models (yet widely practised); the heretic debates were and still are rife, and the *bible* does not give any conclusive hints one way or the other. The trinity is one model decided by committee, nothing more.
“Loftus finds it incredible”. Again, stop. Just stop asserting stuff that isn’t true. Loftus says nothing of the kind here, only lists 30 statements of belief and do not even pass a single judgement of finds anything incredible. This is all in your head. You made it up, maybe for presentational effect, but it’s made up none the same. Just stop it.
“So, none of the problems with the nature of God really are problems.” Again, he didn’t state any problems, only statements of belief. And you have yet to actually explain what about the statement is not believed by a majority of Christians; you’ve just spent three full tight pages of theology trying to address one somewhat long sentence, and I can’t see that you’ve done so in any meaningful way except in the model of accepted theology. (There’s another word for that, but I won’t use it here in public :). If you are serious about dealing with these statements of Loftus you must look at them first outside of theology, use exegesis with references that are conclusive (ie. have no biblical references countering your position), and make them free from opinion. Because as far as I can see, I see your opinion only which may be fine as far as your own personal belief goes, but doesn’t stand up to the community scrutiny of Christianity.
who is your target audience?
For that quote, Christians.
I don’t ONLY post to unbelievers here. I like to edify my brothers and sisters in Christ, and rebuke the error of those who stray from Scripture. That was one such post.
what I meant was: who is the target audience for these ‘reality check’ posts ?
You will have to ask Loftus, but I think Christians.
My replies would be for the Loftusites who think they are good arguments.
“Can I suggest you make one post here per document there?”
that’s a good idea – one blog post for each ‘reality check’, a total of 30 blog posts.
To Alex and Boz:
I was planning on only syndicating one article per post from now on. The only reason I did it this way this time was because I didn’t think of linking to the Scribd pages from the blog when I first started uploading them. So that was a big ooops!
Okay, now the long awaited reply to Alex’s criticisms of my first response to John Loftus’s Reality Check series.
Alex, you have literally one useful criticism, and the rest are just tiresome. They can generally be categorized as actual criticisms on the subject of God’s nature, as objections to God’s omnipotence/ omniscience specifically, as pure silliness, and as nitpicks in how I stated something. Let’s look at the nitpicks, where we find the one useful criticism, then on to the remainder of this mess.
I understand that, and I will make that clearer in the future.
However, understand that Loftus might say he’s simply stating what Christians believe, but the way he’s doing it is to show it as self-evident nonsense. Meaning the mere restatement of Christian “truth” is meant as a criticism. So I feel that I’m justified in calling these “criticisms” or “objections,” even if you don’t.
I know. But that’s irrelevant to the critique I’m offering. Loftus is an atheist now, and has written one book and edited two with another on the way filled with reasons he’s not a Christian anymore. That is distancing oneself enough that I don’t have to “be careful.”
In regard to statements like “Loftus finds it incredible . . .” you ask me to stop asserting things that aren’t true, that:
It’s not in my head, and Loftus is judging these beliefs, if not expressly then by implication.
Speaking of bare assertions, you assert that your own moral semantics are better than God’s. This is exactly what I’m talking about in the piece itself when I say that God defines morality. It is meaningless to first decide what morality is, then use this definition to judge the God of the Bible as unworthy of your attention. You need to do that the other way around: look at what the God of the Bible says is moral and judge your own values by that. God isn’t God unless he challenges you and changes you.
I’m not answering any of your talking points. They are tired and irrelevant. Move on to something else, please.
Exactly: semantic nitpicking. I left a word out. Big deal.
Now, on to criticisms relevant to the actual subject: God’s nature.
I debated on categorizing that as “silly” despite your insistence to the contrary. This can’t be a serious argument, and if it is then I have overestimated you as an intelligent objector.
God would be incapable of homosexual sex and masturbation. First, God is a spirit being. Masturbation and homosexual both sex require the possession of a material body.
It would still be possible for you to argue that Jesus had a material body, in full likeness of sinful flesh, here on earth. And that would be true, but Jesus is presented as holy and blameless, remaining free of sin though he was tempted the same as us.
What about now? Jesus has a Resurrection body, which is holy and perfect as God is; therefore he would not behave in a manner inconsistent with his own pure nature. So Jesus wouldn’t do this act now.
Really? Because last I checked, there is general agreement on the Father’s role as Creator and Sustainer, the Son as Redeemer and Mediator, and the Spirit as the active mover who convicts and indwells the believer making him capable of beating his own sinful nature.
There are some differences of opinion, but the general attributes I just listed are only in dispute by heretics and the Emerging Church. But, even the one Emergent Voice I’ve read, Rob Bell, is in general agreement with what I’ve just put there.
It’s not a coincidence. The Trinity works as a model. That’s the reason it has stayed on top as an explanation. Again, only heretics and Emergers question this stuff.
Please demonstrate that any of what you just listed were ever widely practiced. Yet you yell at me for bald assertions.
Still objecting to God’s nature, we have the infamous set of objections to the “omnis.” God’s omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, etc. Let’s begin:
I suppose the “spoken like a true theologian” was meant as a mild insult. Now, why would an omniscient/omnipotent being have a problem sharing agency with us mere mortals? I’m not sure I understand your problem.
I’m not sure that this is a problem. Loftus states it as if it is a problem. My reply is that God retains the capacity to learn, but not the necessity. If anything, you’re just re-enforcing my reply.
This is the subject of part 3.
Further, I have no clue what you mean when you say I must address the problem of the unbound God/bound human “problem.” I fail to see why this is even a problem, let alone why it prevents you from taking my arguments seriously.
Now, let’s talk about the objections I find to be plain silly.
That’s just stupid. God would not command someone to do that which is inconsistent with what is in Scripture, which forbids child sacrifice.
Ironic from someone who chided me in a previous comment for referring him to another apologist because he wanted to hear my opinion. Now, how does my opinion on this subject not line up with Christianity in general? Because, my friend, my articles been recommended and reprinted by Christians, and some of my stuff has seen print in e-newsletters. Tell me where I’m going wrong, since you know Christianity better than us Christians.
I absolutely do not. Loftus is giving us his summary of Christian belief from outside of Christianity. I’m giving a rebuttal, the belief as seen from the eyes of the Christian. I absolutely do not have to look at them neutrally. That’s in your head.
Loftus is implying problems, he is implying an incongruence with reality. I am showing that is not the case by explaining these things in the framework of Christian theology.
In closing, I’d like to ask you: Why do you say here that I’ve addressed the problems within “generally accepted theology” when elsewhere you’ve accused me of going my own way and departing from generally accepted theology?
“Because I’m an atheist; consistency is too much to ask from me!” I couldn’t resist. And I meant it as a joke, don’t come down on me for being an a**hole.
“Alex, you have literally one useful criticism, and the rest are just tiresome.”
“However, understand that Loftus might say he’s simply stating what Christians believe, but the way he’s doing it is to show it as self-evident nonsense.”
That is for you to say, but don’t say it for Loftus. Now, the thing is of course, that we both know how he’s written these statements and why; to summarize a belief so that it is easier to analyse, and his goal is that in making it as clear as possible root out some of the more bizarre aspects of it. I’m sure we both can agree to that, yes?
Note that what I criticized you for doing, is saying that Loftus speculates, thinks, implies, states as a problem or coughs up a conundrum. He *specifically* do not speculate nor state these as problems in these statements. *Specifically*. And for good reason, too, and I wanted to point this out in order to proceed with an analysis that’s based on actuals rather than implied or assumed information that muddles the point of them.
“Meaning the mere restatement of Christian “truth” is meant as a criticism. So I feel that I’m justified in calling these “criticisms” or “objections,” even if you don’t.”
No, it’s meant as the clearest possible way in which to define the Christian belief. I get it that you don’t agree, however I don’t feel that your rebuttal carries a lot of weight; you’re attacking Loftus and assumed positions more than the actual statements, mostly probably because there are big problems within you feel you should solve theologically (while often there are none).
“But that’s irrelevant to the critique I’m offering. Loftus is an atheist now”
It is *not* irrelevant that Loftus was a die-hard believer and preacher, far from it; he understands Christian doctrine better than most, *despite* the fact that now he’s an atheist. This is why I said “careful”; don’t dismiss him with simple shrugs of “he’s just atheist.”
In regard to statements like “Loftus finds it incredible . . .” you ask me to stop asserting things that aren’t true […] It’s not in my head, and Loftus is judging these beliefs, if not expressly then by implication.”
And I’m kindly asking you to stop making assertions by implication as it makes people take *your* arguments far less seriously. I can assume lots of stuff about *you* by implication, so I can say that by implication I can call you a number of things, some flattering, others definitely not. But a) they don’t add to the discussion, and b) they could be spectaculary wrong and should be avoided for that reason alone.
“Speaking of bare assertions, you assert that your own moral semantics are better than God’s.”
Do I? As far as I can tell I’m addressing you, not some fictional character … 🙂
“This is exactly what I’m talking about in the piece itself when I say that God defines morality.”
And already here I feel I must arrest you. No, he doesn’t. It is said he does, but where exactly does he do it? Throughout the whole bible there are rules, parables, stories, commands and statements of moral value, and *then* there’s 2000 years (at least) of theology and Christian doctrine that tries to suss out what is and is no longer applicable as “the law”, included such gems as killing those who pick sticks on a Saturday or Luke 14:26 and try to say that he’s talking about the sin within and not the person (hate the sin, love the person) and so forth. But these things are *not* clear. The bible is not clear on what is moral and what is not. Look to the old testament for far too much horrible violence and gore, as I’m sure you would agree, but even the new testament is not clear. For example, if the old testament contains something horrible that the new testament overrides (the new covenant) then by what guidelines do we know that homosexuality is still a sin but killing the Saturday stick-pickers is not?
There’s a clear distinct *human* scent to theology where the bible’s moral code seems wrong, even to lots of Christians.
“It is meaningless to first decide what morality is, then use this definition to judge the God of the Bible as unworthy of your attention.””
Unfortunately for you, “morals” and “ethics” have a definition outside of the biblical framework long before there was a bible, so you’re not getting a free pass here.
“You need to do that the other way around: look at what the God of the Bible says is moral and judge your own values by that.”
Well, luckily for us, I can do both. And I do.
[on “We are also capable of masturbating and having homosexual sex”]
“I debated on categorizing that as “silly” despite your insistence to the contrary. This can’t be a serious argument, and if it is then I have overestimated you as an intelligent objector.”
Or, perhaps, you didn’t understand what was being said. I’m happy to expound on this, because, yes, it is actually important. Here’s why ;
“God would be incapable of homosexual sex and masturbation.”
But you didn’t say what your god could or could not be capable of, you said that *we* have the capacity to do X, and since *we’re* created in his image, then *he* can be capable of that. So here’s why this is important to point out; you are using an argument that Y can do X because *we* can do X, and I am pointing out a major flaw in your argument; I can make up any odd nonsense or horrors which you *don’t* want to attribute to your Y (ie. God) using the same argument. *We* are capable of homosexual sex and masturbation, I doubt you will fight me on that? So if *we* are capable, then your god is capable. We’re capable of telling lies, and since we’re created in his image, your god is capable of lying, which is an oxymoron according to Christian definitions. Remember, that was *your* argument. I was pointing out the absurdity of that argument. In other words, don’t use that argument, because it doesn’t work.
“There are some differences of opinion, but the general attributes I just listed are only in dispute by heretics and the Emerging Church. But, even the one Emergent Voice I’ve read, Rob Bell, is in general agreement with what I’ve just put there.”
Christian Scientists, Iglesia ni Cristo, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Oneness Pentecostals, and the United Church of God (and more less know fractions); that’s a fair amount of millions of Christians who don’t share your trinitarian belief.
“I suppose the “spoken like a true theologian” was meant as a mild insult.”
More as a warning, or perhaps a gentle reminder.
“I[f you are omnipotent and omniscient, what exactly can you learn?] I’m not sure that this is a problem. Loftus states it as if it is a problem. My reply is that God retains the capacity to learn, but not the necessity.”
But the crux of the question is; if you know everything, how can you learn? You haven’t addressed this at all. Remember what omniscient actually means; he knows everything, past and future, and it’s a state where things like “learning” becomes nonsensical.
[… if you hear a voice in your head purported to be your god to kill your child, everyone around you (and I assume including your god) are fine with you killing your child, and that there’s no repercussions for you, that you in fact were a very fine, godly man?] “That’s just stupid. God would not command someone to do that which is inconsistent with what is in Scripture, which forbids child sacrifice.”
Where does it do that? (Hope you don’t mean Leviticus 20:2-5?) I faintly remember Abraham and Jephthah. You are simply wrong that your god would not command such a thing, and we don’t have to venture further than Abraham to disprove your point, so I’m not sure if you are keeping your thoughts straight on this?
” [… I see your opinion only which may be fine as far as your own personal belief goes, but doesn’t stand up to the community scrutiny of Christianity.] Ironic from someone who chided me in a previous comment for referring him to another apologist because he wanted to hear my opinion.”
But notice that I said that your opinion is fine as your own belief goes, I’m not criticising you for having one, in fact, I’m happy that you’re willing to engage and share it. My point, however, is that in apologetics it’s not about your opinion as *much* as it is about more general lines of Christian belief. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know you’re big on trying to represent Christian dogma and doctrine (your line of “true Christianity”, for example), but I’m saying that a lot of what you say doesn’t seem to agree with a lot of what Christians believe. (And as a note, for each post you write I verify independently with a few believing friends that what you write isn’t as mainstream as you claim it to be) Maybe my limited amount of Christian friends who also reads these posts is n-incomplete for real answers, however I don’t see the opposite in a stronger light.
“Now, how does my opinion on this subject not line up with Christianity in general?”
For example that God can learn, despite being omniscient. Or that he can’t masturbate, despite being omnipotent. (And yes, perhaps the latter example falls down on sinful grounds, but the theology of it is, as you know, shaky) Of course, the definitions of omniscient and omnipotent will always rage, but that’s just the point; your opinion do not always match Christian doctrine on a number of things, simply by the fact that there are * many* doctrines and *you* have only one of them.
“Tell me where I’m going wrong, since you know Christianity better than us Christians.”
Again, don’t dismiss your opponent for what they look like, because who they *are* might surprise you.
“[If you are serious about dealing with these statements of Loftus you must look at them first outside of theology […]] I absolutely do not.”
Yeah, I know you don’t, because, frankly, I don’t think you take this seriously, at least not in the capacity of dealing with the statements as is for anyone but those who are in the fold. And that’s my point. Rebutting Loftus for your own fold is a bit pointless. Rebutting them for everyone else, now that’s a different thing, and that’s what I’m trying to say.
“In closing, I’d like to ask you: Why do you say here that I’ve addressed the problems within “generally accepted theology” when elsewhere you’ve accused me of going my own way and departing from generally accepted theology?”
Because you are capable of doing both, of course, and depending on context the difference matters.
“And I meant it as a joke, don’t come down on me for being an a**hole.”
No, I won’t do that. But I will point out that the lack of consistency you see might not be what you think it is. Within the framework of theology, the axiom of god is never questioned. And that might very well be why these discussion never really get anywhere.
But here’s to keep trying!
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