Paul Manata calls me Barker's Bulldog as I attempted to defend Dan Barker in his debate with Manata in the comments section here. I very much appreciate the toned down Manata, whose perjoratives against me, for the time being, seem to be gone. This is the intelligent way to have debates and I thank him for that.
Here's what Paul said:
Now, assume that the Bible is true for arguments sake. Assume that there is no higher weight that can be given to any evidence than God's own word on the matter. Indeed, since He cannot lie, knows everything, etc., then is there any higher authority that I could go to on this matter? If the above is true then why can't I invoke His word? And if I can invoke his word, well that's pretty good evidence for the talking snake. To say therefore that I must give some evidence *other than* God's own say-so is to assume that His word is not the ultimate authority. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God. To say that God's word must be "grounded" in evidence assumes that His word is not ultimate, the point in dispute.
This is a nice and convenient assumption from your standpoint, Paul. But what do you say to someone who asks why they should accept that assumption? If I deny that snakes and donkey's talked, or that an axehead could float, based upon all known experience, you disagree merely because you believe God says they can. But what if I said a cat spoke Spanish to someone yesterday? Well, you wouldn't believe it would you, unless there was enough evidence to overcome your skepticism from all known previous experience. But if such a story were told by someone in an ancient time among superstitious people who wrote it down and included it in the Bible, then, that would be all the evidence you need. And what is the evidence for such a thing happening? That someone told a story among ancient superstitious people that was believed and included in a book that was later accepted and placed in the canon. But if I ask, how can we trust the people who told such a story and who believed it and included it in the Bible, you'd say that they were inspired by God to do so. And if I asked how you know that God inspired all of this, then what? There are other religious stories and books out there that make similar claims. If I asked why you believe the Bible's claims over that of any other story or book, what do you say? That's where evidence is needed. Evidence that can separate between religious truth claims. You cannot just say that you believe the Bible because you believe the Bible, and yet, that's what you do. You cannot even claim that your faith is more reasonable than what I believe based upon your own Calvinistic assumptions.
And what exactly am I to assume here? I am to assume that the whole canonical Bible, as we now have it, is the word of God, that what it says about history and science and miraculous tales are all true, AND that we have the means to interpret it correctly. In the Bible we find a world where a snake and a donkey talked, where people could live 800-900+ years old, where a woman was turned into a pillar of salt, where a pillar of fire could lead people by night, where the sun stopped moving across the sky or could even back up, where an ax-head could float on water, a star can point down to a specific home, where people could instantly speak in unlearned foreign languages, where it was believed that someone’s shadow or handkerchief could heal people, and where stirred up waters in the Pool of Siloam could heal people. It is a world where a flood can cover the whole earth, a man can walk on water, calm a stormy sea, change water into wine, or be swallowed by a “great fish” and live to tell about it. It is a world populated by demons that can wreak havoc on earth, and also make people very sick. It is a world of idol worship, where it was believed that human and animal sacrifices pleased God. In this world we find visions, inspired dreams, prophetic utterances, miracle workers, magicians, diviners and sorcerers abounding everywhere and the superstitious people of that day still didn't know whom to believe even at that (see Jeremiah). It is a world where God lived in the sky (heaven), and people who died went to live in the dark recesses of the earth (Sheol).
Have you looked into any depth about the superstitious nature of the ancient people who believed so much that we wouldn't in today's modern scientific world? Have you looked into the formation of the canon with any depth at all? Have you looked into the transmission of the Biblical texts that we have with any depth at all? Have you looked at the interpretational disputes between Christians themselves with any depth at all? That's a whole lot to assume, isn't it? And most Christians reject Van Tillian presupposiotional apologetics, don't they? You have to assume that you're right about all of this, and that's way too big of an assumption, don't you think? Plus you have to assume that God exists in the first place.
This is where it gets absolutely ridiculous from my perspective, when you say:
God's word as God's word is "grounded" in no other evidence than God's own say-so.
What would YOU say to a Muslim or a Jew (who only believed the OT) or Jim Jones, or any number of cultists who advocate something different than you do, if they made a similar claim as you did here? [Keep in mind that even though a Jehovah's Witness would agree that the Bible is God's Word, they don't mean the exact same thing as you do, becasue they come away with different understandings of what it means ]. You would just laugh, wouldn't you? And you may even deride them and their claims, if I know you well enough.
You claim that I beg the question just like you do, in the same sense. You claim I beg the question when it comes to some kind of objective standard for induction and reason and moral truth, and that only the Christian understanding provides a solid bedrock for such things. In the first place, if you'll look in the comments section here, I already replied to this. Solve the Euthyphro Dilemma before you can speak to me about any objective standards for these things. Give it a try, and I'll piece it apart.
The basis for your beliefs are the word of God, because God said so, because without the Christian God no basis of reasoning is possible, even though the Euthyphro Dilemma stares you in the face. Solve that dilemma. Your whole faith is based upon solving that dilemma. Now, let's say you give it a go and you're convinced that you've solved it. How likely is it that you have solved it? Even though you may be psychologically convinced that you have, given the whole nature of your Calvinistic theology in which God may secretly be causing you to believe something that no reasonable person should believe (as the link earlier suggests), you can't be sure. Even beyond that insoluable problem, which you haven't disputed yet, how can you be sure of the deductions of your mind even granting that a creator God is the basis for logic and deductions? According to your own theology you are totally depraved. Moreover, do you think you're right about everything you conclude? Everything? No? Then even though you're psychologically sure about something you can still be wrong, can't you? That too is a slender reed to base your whole set of presuppositons on. And the best that your presuppositionalism gets you is to a Deist god, and that is far and away from the full blown Christian theology you espouse.
Secondly, you continually talk about an "internal critique" to debunk other metaphysical beliefs, don't you, which leaves your Christian faith the only one left standing after having done that. Are your sure you can actually do this? I have tried offering an "internal critique" of your Calvinism many times, as you have tried to do so with my atheistic beliefs. But we both claim the other didn't offer a true "internal critique," that each of us failed to understand the other's position. Internal to every world-view there are Kuhnsian anomalies. These are problems from within the worldview itself, and every worldview has them--every one of them. By merely pointing out an anomaly within my worldview does nothing to refute my worldview. I already know about my anomalies, as do you in your worldview. How we judge the case for what we believe is personal and cumulative. There is no deductive syllogism that can lead a person to accept your faith, otherwise why doesn't everyone believe, and where is this so-called knock down argument? Until there is a worldview that has no anomalies to it there will never be an internal critique that will satisfy someone who believes the opposite of what you do. All you're doing when you offer an internal critique is satisfying some psychological need to feel confident in your beliefs...it says nothing much about that other world view.
In the third place, I have fewer presuppositions than you do, and since Ockham's razor suggests fewer and simpler is better, mine are better. You must presuppose so much about history, science and theology that it cannot all be correct, and yet you must be correct about it all if you're right.
Since this is an ongoing discussion, that's all for now.