Paul Manata Believes Snakes Can Talk Because.....

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 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.


exbeliever said...

Snipped from here.


Presuppositionalism: Assume all the most undemonstratable and controversial aspects of our faith and we can answer all of the other questions by reference to these undemonstrable and controversial aspects of our faith.

Hmmm. . .

Physicalist: "You asked me to account for the laws of logic. What is your answer to this question?"

Christian: "God did it."

"But why should I believe a 'god' exists?"

"Well, you must either presuppose it or I can demonstrate it through the transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG)."

"Gee, presupposing something so outside of my experience doesn't seem wise on my part. It seems as if almost anything I presuppose could be defended. Maybe the TAG argument is better. What is the TAG argument?"

"It can take many forms in that there are many ideas that need the Christian God in order to exist, but one form is, 'God is a precondition of logic. Logic exists, therefore, God exists.'"

"Why should I believe the first premise that God is a precondition of logic?"

"Well, I don't have an answer for that. No presuppositionalist ever actually defends that premise. I think you have to just presuppose it."

"That sounds odd. Suppose I made an argument that read, 'Non-corporal beings cannot exist. The Christian God is a non-corporal being, therefore, the Christian God cannot exist.'"

"There's no reason for me to believe your first premise. You have given me no reason to believe non-corporal beings cannot exist."

"Just like you have given no reason for me to believe that the Christian God is a precondition of logic. What if I told you that you had to presuppose my first premise that a non-corporal being cannot exist?"

"I wouldn't be willing to do that without reason."

"Neither am I willing to presuppose that the Christian God is a precondition of logic without reason."

"Forget that then. What I'm talking about is 'explanatory power.' If you presuppose the most undemonstratable and controversial aspects of our faith, then our worldview has greater explanatory power than yours."

"But referring to something undemonstratable and controversial (like the non-corporal Christian God or the inerrancy of the Bible) doesn't seem like much of an 'explanation.' I mean it doesn't hold a lot of power."

"But it is more of an explanation than a physicalist can give."

"Well, that is certainly debatable, but let's assume that it does offer 'more of an explanation.' Does 'more' mean 'better'? I mean, suppose Socrates and Euthyphro were having their dialogue when a bolt of lightening hit the tree beside them. Euthyphro says, 'Aha, how do you explain lightening? My worldview says that Zeus throws those lightening bolts down from heaven. If you presuppose that Zeus exists, I have a worldview that accounts for lightening.' To this, Socrates responds, 'I don't know how lightening works, but my worldview says the answer will somehow be something natural.' At the time, Euthyphro's worldview had more 'explanatory power' than Socrates'. Would that make Euthyphro's worldview truer than Socrates'?"

"Well, no. We now know that there is a naturalistic explanation for lightening that involves static electricity. Socrates' worldview was, ultimately, more correct."

"That's my point. I disagree with you that a physicalist cannot better account for logic, morality, etc. than Christianity, but that is a long debate. My point is that even if I assumed that Christianity has more explanations than physicalism, that doesn't mean that Christianity is truer than physicalism. In my example, Euthyphro had 'an answer' and Socrates didn't, but that didn't mean that Euthyphro's worldview was better than Socrates' because, as it turns out, Euthyphro's 'answer' wasn't true at all."

"You mean you don't believe that the worldview with the most 'explanatory power' is superior to another worldview with less 'explanatory power'?"

"Again, it depends on the power of the explanations themselves. Just having 'an answer' is not enough as my Euthyphro illustration demonstrates. It must be a good answer. Your 'answer' is that God did it, but you have offered me no reason to believe that something like a god can exist. Your TAG argument is unsupportable and presupposing something undemonstratable and controversial does not provide a powerful 'explanation.'"

"So what would convince you?"

"A good reason to believe that something like the Christian God can exist. Your TAG argument has promise if you can support its bold assertions. That is a good place to start. Or if you want to abandon TAG, provide and support some other kind of argument that proves the existence of something like a god likely."

Aaron Kinney said...

Well written Loftus. Passionate yet precise.

And kudos to Manata for debating in a more civil manner as of late.

I am wondering if Manata will switch his "I believe God word cause I believe Gods word" argument into something a bit more, how shall we say, theistic?

Something like "I believe Gods word because he appeared to me one night and told me personally."

Strangely, it would probably be a better defense than the one Manata is currently using.

But where does Manata's faith come in to all of this? He doesnt mention faith too much, but always tries to rationalize his belief through logic and reasoning. And what is a Christian without faith anyway?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone here know how to speak in laymans terms? What is the Euthyphro
Dilemma? I've never heard of it. If you're kind enough to acknowledge my question you'll save me some time on
the net.

John W. Loftus said...

Anon, see here