Testing Arguments

Recently I made my first stab at an argument in "The Resurrection vs. History". I regret not taking this into consideration but I more-or-less took it for granted that most people contributing to the discussion on here would assume that these posts of mine are attempts by myself to test arguments I am working on.
My first post in which I made an argument was such an attempt. I noticed that on a Christian blog, a fellow by the name of Steve wrote a response, but it was prefaced by an ad hominem attack. I was labeled an "insidious villian" and then he proceeded to critique what I wrote. I am grateful that he wrote a response although I wish that he might have posted what he wrote in the feedback section of our blog. I'm not sure why he didn't. I'm not sure why he felt the need to name-call. I made my intentions known in a post on why I contribute here and I don't believe I deserve any title like "Insidious Villian"! I was thinking of writing something in response and even perhaps taking any good points he might have into consideration as I refine my thinking on the subject. I would try to be the first to confess that an argument of mine has been destroyed, especially if I am testing them out.

The majority of my posts here will consist of testing arguments. For instance, I am working on an answer to a challenge of Dr. William Lane Craig to skeptics over the nature of visions. He has a challenge for skeptics that he complains has never been taken up. I plan to do my best to answer any arguments. It's my hope that if my argument is posted, the folks at Triablogue will provide a friendly critique of what I have written so I can best refine my argument, correct any errors I have made, and if there are any ignorant gaps in my thinking, I can be politely prodded to cure my ignorance with further reading, studying, and thinking on the subject.

Look, I want to say that I do not consider myself an expert on Christian apologetics or ancient history. I am hoping that my participation here can help me to acquire expertise or at least set me on the path to where I need to be. For what it may be worth, I see no shame in admitting that I am a undergraduate student. Graduate school seems a year and a half or so away for me.

Matthew

14 comments:

Sine Nomine said...

It appears that "Steve" over at Triablogue was actually tainting you by association rather than individually, as he named you "One of the insidious villains over at Debunking Christianity." I just happened to subscribe to Triablogue because it was mentioned in a slightly less incendiary apologetics blog (he calls himself a "nutter") He seemed highly impressed by them. This has ultimately led to my subscribing to this blog. The sampling I have made of the posts suggests this is a place with thoughtful posters and not just position takers.

You are quite correct in taking umbrage at the name calling. The Apostle Peter counseled believers to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" and that doing otherwise was doing evil. (1 Peter 3:15-17). There is no excuse for exercising arrogance while defending and explaining our position.

I hope such indiscretions will not deter you from continuing to exercise your intellect with integrity. We all need to test our positions, lest we become defensive, fearful, and self-deceived.

CalvinDude said...

Matthew,

While I am in no position to state difinitively whether it was meant as ad hominem or not, I think the reason he called you an insidious villian was because of this post --> http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/03/we-are-not-insidious-villians.html I don't think he meant anything personal other than just a play on words with that post--but you'll have to ask him to be sure.

Matthew said...

Sine Nomine said: You are quite correct in taking umbrage at the name calling. The Apostle Peter counseled believers to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" and that doing otherwise was doing evil. (1 Peter 3:15-17). There is no excuse for exercising arrogance while defending and explaining our position."

Sine, I appreciate your comment. I agree with you and I regret the fact that many Christian apologists these days seem to ignore or completely disregard this command to be gentle. That Steve's response struck you as arrogant is very telling. Frankly, I have encountered a number of very arrogant apologists. I regret that Steve or anyone else would add their names to the list. I don't mind people acting "gentle" as they believe the word would have been understood in the ancient world, but please, I believe we could all do without the arrogance.

"I hope such indiscretions will not deter you from continuing to exercise your intellect with integrity. We all need to test our positions, lest we become defensive, fearful, and self-deceived."

By no means! I'm just glad that you spoke up about this. I think we need more Christians like yourself as a good reminder that gentleness is part of the package.

Matthew

Matthew said...

Calvindude says: "While I am in no position to state difinitively whether it was meant as ad hominem or not, I think the reason he called you an insidious villian was because of this post --> http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/03/we-are-not-insidious-villians.html I don't think he meant anything personal other than just a play on words with that post--but you'll have to ask him to be sure."

Calvin, you could very well be right but I'm not sure I want to ask him. That I am a member of this blog probably gives him enough reason to dish out the negativity.

Matthew

K7 said...

[I'll post this here since the original post is now far down in the archives... It has to do with the cosmology subject and Triablogue, etc. I was asked about it and so I started the subject over at Triablogue, then I found all my comments over there deleted, so here's some info on Mr. Hays that may help clear some things up. Obviously, I'm a believer and a Calvinist, so I'm not on anybody's side here, but this info should help in further outing the manchild Hays for what he is...]

For the record: Hays just deleted all my comments on this subject. For those who don't know: Hays is somewhat of an imposter as a Christian. He's a juvenile type (he's big on Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek) philosopher with no degree that he admits to who dabbles in Christian doctrine due to, judging by his few autobiographical details, his mother's influence. He's single and, most likely, lives with his mother. He certainly lives in front of a computer. No big. His reputation, though, among Christians in the blogosphere is despite the fact that he's a theonomist (they overlook this because he impresses them with his use of language - i.e. his philosophical style of writing) who thinks children should be put to death for disobeying their parents (he'll deny this, but when it comes down to it this is what he believes). He also is not a Calvinist as he claims. As a theonomist he is merely a parasite on Calvinism to get an audience. When pressed on Calvinist doctrine though that goes against his theonomy he renounces Calvinism quickly. He also is quite the 'gunfighter' in his rhetoric -- until you put some pressure on him. Then he collapses and pulls what is known in the Christian blogosphere as the 'Dave Armstrong defense' which is to basically dismiss your oppoenent, delete all comments, ban, and hide, all the while claiming victory and telling your audience lies about your 'defeated' opponent.

In this recent episode where he's deleted all my comments he was (a) shown up in his fake Calvinism a couple of days ago and threatened to ban me then, and then (b) presented with a subject today he obviously has not thought about, and for his personality the last thing he allows is to be seen not knowing about something.

Basically he's juvenile.

K7 said...

Basically, what you see in the Christian blogosphere is not real Christianity. Real Christianity is the Word, the Spirit, and real life. Just as the churches are shallow and worldly Christianity you encounter on the internet is the same. It's not real. Look at this response I gave to a question on this blog:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/02/evidentialist-challenge-restated.html#c114079936291561926

Of course atheists don't connect with any of it, but this simple, innocent type of experience and statement is mocked by Christians on the internet.

If you want to get at the reality of God look to the prisons. Get out of the illusions and comforts of wherever you live and see what hell really is. See what people without God are like. See what people with ONLY God do.

All the shallowness of the churches and the inane juvenile nonsense of the apologists and atheists and so on is nothing. It's not reality.

evanmay said...

K7:

Let me just say that you are very ignorant about who Steve is. I'm not going to back up behind him and say "my friend can beat up your friend," for Steve wouldn't want me to.

But do you respect John Frame as a Christian and as an apologist? Steve is John Frame's teaching assistant. Well, given your attitude, maybe you are willing to disfellowship Frame as well.

JustinOther said...

It is unfortunate that some must resort to name-calling when their views are challenged. I, like you, try always to keep an open mind. I enjoy nothing more than wrapping my brain around a topic, dissecting it and testing my viewpoint on it with those who dissagree. There is nothing more stimulating than an intellectual argument. On that note, however, there is nothing worse than being attacked for expressing a view for which you hoped to get an honest but cordial response.

Don't let them get to you and never go back at them (as I'm sure you would not). Their plan is often to get you to name-call as well, therefore giving them something by which to discredit your argument.

Keep up the good work.

Kevin Parry said...

This is a fantastic blog! Most atheist and theist blogs that cover the whole reason vs faith debate seem to always fall into the trap of name calling and flaming. I have great respect for blogs, theist or atheist alike, that aim to use argument and reason put their points of view across.

I will definitely put your site on my list of favourites.

Kevin

Memoirs of an ex-Christian

exbeliever said...

k7,

I noticed the argument between you and steve on that blog.

I attended a very large, well-known fundamentalist church (and graduated from the associated school) in Southern California (one I think a brother of yours is very familiar with--if I'm reading the k7, k12 stuff right).

The pastor is famous for what he is opposed to. His books are usually aimed at a dissenting opinion.

When I was at that church and in leadership at the school, there was a lot of pressure to adopt the same enemies. In fact, the best way to get close to a leader in that church and school was to share common "enemies."

I think it is important for fundamentalists to always have a common enemy in sight.

Later, a seminary prof of mine (in a less fundamentalist school) said something I thought was somewhat profound. He said that fundamentalists were naturally contentious people. If they don't have a common enemy, they turn on each other, because they need the "fight" to focus their attention.

It's really a weird phenomenon.

It seems that is what happens with steve. When he runs out of atheists to attack with weak, ad hominem arguments, he turns on other Christians around him.

I don't know anything about steve's personal life, so I won't comment on those issues. He does seem like a dick, though, and hearing that he is a teaching assistant for John Frame doesn't impress me that much either. Frame is a marginal theologian and doesn't even appear on the radar of philosophers outside of the reformed tradition.

steve simply has the time to write, so he does.

K7 said...

Yeah, regarding the personal stuff I was just taking some shots at Hays with the things about living with his mom. He's from Seattle, he has written I think in this profile, and now living in one of the Carolinas working at RTS (or attending or something), so he's probably not living with his mom, not that that's a horrible thing to be doing. He also seems to have some previous academic life (I mean he mentions old college buddies now and then), so he may have a degree (not that I've ever been impressed by those by default, especially regarding theologians). He IS a theonomist, though, which is evidence of a severe lack of discernment on his part. But there is a whole crowd of apologists who entered the faith via theonomic influences, who tend to be hyper-intellectual in their approach, and somewhat dishonest - or stealth as a type - in that theonomy from the beginning attached itself to Reformed Theology (Calvinism) for political expediency and to get instant attention. It's fostered most every mischievous movement within the Calvinist camp ever since. Frame is marginally involved in some of them (Federal Vision, for instance).

This may be too inside baseball for an atheist site.

I was never one of the gang in Hays' part of the blogosphere. I've mostly challenged them in areas of practicing the faith (which isn't moralizing or shallow piety or devotional level things, for the record).

So they call me 'gnostic' and 'pietist'. They don't grasp that Puritans (Calvinists) were called that as a similar smear (Cathari, the 'pure ones'). Fundamentalists traditionally have called Calvinists 'gnostic'. When you are on-the-mark with the faith doctrinally (five solas, doctrines of grace) and you take the step to be practical with the faith, doing the faith, or, leaving the Village of Morality and getting on the Way (to use Bunyan's language) then the visible church targets you and mocks you and smears you. You see it in the blogosphere just as it's occured throughout history.

Their only defense, after the mocking and labeling, is shunning, and they practice it in group-think fashion instinctively.

Here's something about Hays and Manata (both cut from the same cloth in many ways): they both use the van Tilian pre-supp language in not only dealing with atheists but in conversing with everybody regarding anything at all times. It's inane behaviour. Many people know languages most other people don't know but we don't go into a room and badger people using that language. The Bible gives a Christian a language to use, the language a Christian is supposed to use. I know an extra-biblical language that gives me insights into doctrine and practice, but the language is unintelligible to anyone who hasn't connected with it and studied it, so I translate what I have to say into Biblical language solely. Manata and Hays, like sophmoric undergrads, pummel people using their special language, and this influences most of what they are doing, the targets they choose, their inability to just talk like a normal person, their style, etc.

Meanwhile they (their type) are seen as alpha males by other mainstream Reformed Christians because the more timid or genteel mainstream types enjoy seeing them doing their intellectual ultimate fighter thing in debates with non-Calvinists or atheists, but what gets missed in it all is it is not anything to do with the faith. It's only marginally a defending the faith kind of activity, because really they aren't trying to evangelize or teach: they're just trying to score points and indulge their vanity and worldly pride and increase their status in the eyes of the world watching them...

Without practice of the faith knowledge of the faith, if it even exists, gets distorted. If you neglect practical level effort with the faith you may contain alot of knowledge in your skull, but you won't have understanding...

Edward T. Babinski said...

Matt, It's difficult to deal with people who employ name-calling as a means of communication. However, shouting is not argument, nor does it improve one's argument.

It is possible that such people consciously or unconsciously interpret any question about THEIR beliefs as a personal insult aimed at THEM--and hence they view themselves as merely "retaliating" since they view any and all questions you raise as "name-calling" being done to THEM. Though the questions you raise do not appear to be name-calling in your own eyes but reasonable inquiries.

Anyway, keep experimenting! It's always fun trying to find the right key to unlock other people's minds. Unfortunately I doubt that any universal keys exist. You must get to know a person individually if they will let you, and you each must learn to respect the other to some degree, or at least learn how to speak respectfully to each other. Though even then, communication remains an art and only occurs slowly since each life is touched by so many different people, experiences and books that the other has no knowledge of, such that each of you would have to relive entire lifetimes to fully appreciate every factor that led the other person to where they presently are.

So it does not appear likely that anyone can find the right "key" to unlock anyone else's "mind" with any degree of ease. Minds are more flexible than either debater usually realizes or acknowledges, and so minds can make "allowances" for all sorts of data, evidence and arguments, always qualifying or adding ad hoc excuses (that themselves cannot be disproved nor proved since they are ad hoc). So people make adjustments to their less central beliefs, but usually retain rather than change their larger perspectives on things--especially when that person's mind is emotionally attached to a particular idea and their ego intimately joined with it.

(Joining one's ego and beliefs with those of "God" is of course a point beyond which there is no further point anyone can go--and it is unlikely that anyone can be easily talked out of their larger perspective beliefs after they have grown convinced that "God" is on the side of their particular theological interpretation or their church's doctrines and dogmas.

But hey, you're young, if you discover the secret key, let me know.

The only key that I think may dislodge some people's thinking to some degree in an argument is laughter, since it involves a sort of jarring emotional impulse. (Every preacher also recognizes soon enough that if you open with a joke you can gain people's attention.)

Another "key" is simply keeping one's arguments relatively short and easy to follow.

May all of your experiments prove successful in that you continue to learn something from each of them.

Calling them experiments is of course a marvelous way to communicate to others that you seek to understand the people with whom you are having a debate. For all debates are experiments in communication.

Cheers,
Ed

K7 said...

Steve Hays at Triablgue is currently in meltdown. After going into deleting frenzy after having Calvin's own words show him up to a rather glaring degree (his post-mil theonomy was exposed in glaring contrast to the Calvinism he pretends to hold to) a real philosopher shows up and grades Manata and Hays a D- at best in their understanding of those big philosophical words they use, then Hays posts a typically mocking critique of Vincent Cheung prefacing it in a way to make it seem Cheung just won't let them alone. I wrote a comment pointing out it was a third party (me) that dragged Cheung into Hays' world without Cheung's knowing or permission, which just set Cheung up to be mocked relentlessly by Hays and philosopher friends (Christians all). But now, according to Hays, it's Cheung that just won't leave them alone. He's 'dracula' rising from the grave to annoy them some more... (Cheung finally got around to writing a single blog post in response to numerous critiques by Hays and friends, which was his current crime.)

For the record, I don't have a dog in that fight. The whole Clarkian vs. Van Tilian thing is to me a shallow sport played by shallow, philosopher wannabe types... But that's just me.

John W. Loftus said...

Matthew, I asked you on this Blog because I believe you have the passion and intelligence to eventually make a difference. Plus I like noncombative team members (as much as lieth within us, given the nature of those who demonize us).

Keep on testing.