The Incoherence of God and Time.

Is God in time or is he timeless? Either stance a Christian takes leads to some kind of incoherence. Let me simply use Christian philosopher Paul Helm’s analysis of this in “God and Spacelessness,” Philosophy55 (1980).

Helm begins with two authors who made similar claims against the timelessness of God. J. R. Lucas made this claim: “To say that God is outside time, as many theologians do, is to deny, in effect, that God is a person.” He reasons that to be a person is to have a mind, and to have a mind requires that it be in time (i.e., thoughts require a sequence of events, etc.). A.N. Prior claimed that a proposition such as “It is raining now” is not equivalent in meaning to “It is raining on Tuesday,” and that an omniscient God who knew the latter would not necessarily know the former, and would not know it if he were timeless, since he could not be present on the occasion on which it was raining.”

[These are pretty persuasive arguments, I might add].

But Helm argues against both authors by merely showing that such a claim also entails the denial that God is spaceless, which in turn denies that God is infinite--something these authors want to maintain. Helm writes that “the arguments used to show that God is in time, in effect support the view that God is finite, and so anyone who wishes to maintain that God is infinite, as the traditional theist does, will either have to find other arguments for the view that God is in time, or eschew the idea of God being in time altogether”—this is the dilemma Helm presents to these authors. And he claims, "if the timeless existence of God is incoherent then so is the spaceless existence of God."

[I happen to agree that they are both incoherent].

Helm does not try to show that God is in fact timeless, nor is his purpose to show that the logic of these two authors is wrong. He admits that he doesn’t even fully understand what it means to say God is both timeless and spaceless. He’s only claiming that a denial of God’s timelessness is also a denial of God’s spacelessness.

After making his arguments he leaves the reader with three alternative consequences to choose from:

1) "Theism is even more incoherent than was previously thought, in that it requires unintelligibilities such as a timeless and spaceless existence." [To this I completely agree with him here.]

2)Recognize that since the belief in God requires an infinite and spaceless God "there must be something wrong" with the arguments against the timelessness of God." [However, it's far from the case that the Bible describes anything but God's activity in time, especially with the purported incarnation. Nicholas Wolterstroff's essay, "God Everlasting" has more than sufficiently shown this, as has Clark Pinnock's essays and books.] The Bible simply does not require that God is timeless. This view of God has been something fully adopted because of neo-Platonism and finally codified by Anselm's conception of the "greatest conceivable being."

3)These authors must "supply an argument against God’s timelessness that does not have a spatial parallel." [To date this challenge has not been sufficiently met].

That is, Helm argues that one can either, a) Deny (or accept) the unintelligible existence of both a timeless and spaceless God, b) Accept the consequences of a God who is both in time and finite, or, c) Supply other arguments on behalf of a God who is in time which does not also deny God’s spacelessness. Not being able to do (c) presents the dilemma of choosing either (a) or (b).

Here is a Christian philosopher of some note who recognizes a very serious problem in reconciling God and time. He makes my case for me. On the one hand we have the Bible, which clearly shows God responds to us in time, along with the philosophical arguments of J.R. Lucas and A.N. Prior. On the other hand, a being in time also denies that God is spaceless. Which is it?

24 comments:

Dave Armstrong said...

Is God in time or is he timeless?

Obviously the latter.

Either stance a Christian takes leads to some kind of incoherence.

No; saying He is in time leads to insuperable logical and biblical difficulties. Being out of time does not.

Let me simply use Christian philosopher Paul Helm’s analysis of this in “God and Spacelessness,” Philosophy 55 (1980).

Helm begins with two authors who made similar claims against the timelessness of God. J. R. Lucas made this claim: “To say that God is outside time, as many theologians do, is to deny, in effect, that God is a person.” He reasons that to be a person is to have a mind, and to have a mind requires that it be in time (i.e., thoughts require a sequence of events, etc.).


For finite created beings, sure. But an infinite, self-existent, timeless, omniscient being overcomes this limitation, it seems to me. If a being knows everything at once, no sequence is required to "work through" the patterns of thinking and analysis that we are familiar with, as finite creatures.

A.N. Prior claimed that a proposition such as “It is raining now” is not equivalent in meaning to “It is raining on Tuesday,” and that an omniscient God who knew the latter would not necessarily know the former,

I don't follow this reasoning. I'd have to see the basis for why this person thought that.

and would not know it if he were timeless, since he could not be present on the occasion on which it was raining.”

Omnipresence would overcome that. Omniscience, too. I don't see the point of projecting inherent human limitations onto God. Atheists often complain that God is a projection. Yet here the sub-orthodox thinkers do exactly the same thing. The Christian, on the other hand, accepts God as He has revealed Himself to be. The Christian God is not the sort of being Who could readily be made up by man, precisely because His nature is so much more complex than ours and difficult to comprehend.

[These are pretty persuasive arguments, I might add].

Really? I don't see that they are, based on the summary. I wold need to see more to understand how they argued their case in full.

But Helm argues against both authors by merely showing that such a claim also entails the denial that God is spaceless, which in turn denies that God is infinite--something these authors want to maintain. Helm writes that “the arguments used to show that God is in time, in effect support the view that God is finite, and so anyone who wishes to maintain that God is infinite, as the traditional theist does, will either have to find other arguments for the view that God is in time, or eschew the idea of God being in time altogether” - this is the dilemma Helm presents to these authors. And he claims, "if the timeless existence of God is incoherent then so is the spaceless existence of God."

A spirit does not have spatial qualities.

[I happen to agree that they are both incoherent].

Big surprise! LOL

Helm does not try to show that God is in fact timeless, nor is his purpose to show that the logic of these two authors is wrong. He admits that he doesn’t even fully understand what it means to say God is both timeless and spaceless. He’s only claiming that a denial of God’s timelessness is also a denial of God’s spacelessness.

After making his arguments he leaves the reader with three alternative consequences to choose from:

1) "Theism is even more incoherent than was previously thought, in that it requires unintelligibilities such as a timeless and spaceless existence." [To this I completely agree with him here.]

2)Recognize that since the belief in God requires an infinite and spaceless God "there must be something wrong" with the arguments against the timelessness of God." [However, it's far from the case that the Bible describes anything but God's activity in time, especially with the purported incarnation. Nicholas Wolterstroff's essay, "God Everlasting" has more than sufficiently shown this, as has Clark Pinnock's essays and books.] The Bible simply does not require that God is timeless. This view of God has been something fully adopted because of neo-Platonism and finally codified by Anselm's conception of the "greatest conceivable being."

3)These authors must "supply an argument against God’s timelessness that does not have a spatial parallel." [To date this challenge has not been sufficiently met].


I would argue, as always, that the Bible is presented in pre-philosophical language. Therefore, one can say that the doctrines later developed to a very high degree by theologians, are usually not found fully-deveoped in the Bible. Again, this is because it is not presented in philosophical, or "Greek" terms, for the most part, excepting some portions of Paul, and things like "Logos" ("word") in John, which was, I believe, Greek philosophical terminology.

On the other hand, it is obvious that God must be outside of time, if one accepts the description of Him that the Bible offers.

For example: how does God create everything that exists, while still being in time? How does He create the universe in such a fashion? There is no time, according to modern physics, without the matter which time entails in order to have any meaning. An eternal, omniscient spirit is not subject to time because there is no sequence to either its existence or "thoughts."

One has to explain how there can be some mysterious thing called "time" before there was a material universe. What would it be? How could it be defined? What sense does it make to say that an eternal spirit-being is "in" it? What then changes when matter is introduced to the set of "real" things?

Either Newtonian or relativistic Einsteinian time depends on a material universe by which it is determined and measured: it involves the relationship of matter with other matter. Time is indeed another dimension (at least as I understand relativity, in layman's terms).

Therefore, it is impossible, even by modern physics standards, and any reasonable form of philosophy, to say that God could be "in time" and create the universe while being in such a state. It's a meaningless concept. Whatever the truth is, it can't be that, because it is nonsensical and uterly illogical.

Secondly, the Bible gives ample indication of timelessness; e.g., the description of God, "I AM," from the burning bush and Moses (Exodus 3:14-15). Jesus later repeated this (because He, too, is an eternal being), in saying, "Before Abraham was, I am" [ego eimi] (John 8:58). See also: Gen 21:33, Ps 90:2, Is 40:28, Hab 1:12, Rom 16:26, 1 tim 1:17.

Greek scholar Gerhard Kittel (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) explains the "I am" clauses:

"The formulas [eimi: 'to exist' and ho on: 'I am'] express God's deity and supratemporality. Similar formulas occur in Judaism. The Greeks also use two- and three-tense formulas to express eternity (cf. Homer, Plato . . .). These possibly came into Revelation by way of the Jewish tradition, though a common source may lie behind the Greek and Jewish traditions.

"ego eimi as a self-designation of Jesus in Jn. 8:58 (cf. 8:24; 13:19) stands in contrast to the genesthai applied to Abraham. Jesus thus claims eternity . . . The point is not Jesus' self-identification as the Messiah ('I am he') but his supratemporal being."

(pp. 206-207 of one-volume edition; written by F. Buchsel)

The section on aion ("age, aeon") elaborates:

"The double formula 'for ever and ever' (Heb. 1:8), especially in the plural (in Paul and Revelation; cf. also Heb. 13:21; 1 Pet. 4:11), is designed to stress the concept of eternity, as are constructions like that in Eph. 3:21 ('to all generations for ever and ever').

"a. aion means eternity in the full sense when linked with God (Rom. 16:26; 1 Tim. 1:17; cf. Jer. 10:10)

b. In the OT this means first that God always was (Gen. 21:23) and will be (Dt. 5:23), in contrast to us mortals. By the time of Is. 40:28 this comes to mean that God is eternal, the 'First and Last,' whose being is 'from eternity to eternity' (Ps. 90:2). Eternity is unending time, but in later Judaism it is sometimes set in antithesis to time. The NT took over the Jewish formulas but extended eternity to Christ (Heb. 1:10 ff.; Rev. 1:17-18; 2:8). Here again eternity could be seen as the opposite of cosmic time, God's being and acts being put in terms of pre- and post- (1 Cor. 2:7; Col. 1:26; Eph. 3:9; Jn. 17:24; 1 Pet. 1:20)."

(pp. 31-32)

The word was used in the Septuagint translation of the OT (LXX). Plato had used it in the sense of "timeless eternity in contrast to chronos as its moving image in earthly time (cf. Philo)." (p. 31)

So this is how the word was understood. The Greek translators thought it was best to apply this word to God, and the increased development of understanding of philosophical-type issues of this sort added clarification to the Jewish and later Christian doctrine of God.

For further extensive treatment of ego eimi and its meaning, see the article, "What does the Bible say about Jesus?" (about the last quarter of the paper):

http://answer-islam.org/Answering-Osamarebuttal.html

That is, Helm argues that one can either, a) Deny (or accept) the unintelligible existence of both a timeless and spaceless God,

I suspect that he would frame the question as being ultimately mysterious and difficult to human minds, but not "unintelligible" - which implies an irrationality and unreasonableness to the Christian doctrine of God. Helm appears to be an orthodox Christian, from what I can tell (he and I would agree on the doctrine of God).

b) Accept the consequences of a God who is both in time and finite, or,

This is radically unbiblical; hence no Christian who accepts biblical inspiration could possibly take this view.

c) Supply other arguments on behalf of a God who is in time which does not also deny God’s spacelessness. Not being able to do (c) presents the dilemma of choosing either (a) or (b).

God cannot be in time, according to the Bible, or any rational belief that He created the universe. The first scenario is impossible exegetically, the second, logically, and scientifically (i.e., if one presupposes a creator and then subjects such a concept to theoretical scientific analysis).

Here is a Christian philosopher of some note who recognizes a very serious problem in reconciling God and time. He makes my case for me.

I suspect you are slanting his full argument. If he is orthodox, he wold not put it in such despairing terms. He would say it was ultimately a mystery (meaning we can't fully understand or comprehend it; not that it is literally irrational).

On the one hand we have the Bible, which clearly shows God responds to us in time,

Yes, of course. It must do so, in the sense of anthropomorphism, precisely because we can barely comprehend a timeless being. But God does break into time. We see that with the incarnation. Jesus lived in history. When God took on matter and a human body, the incarnate God subjected Himself to time, because that is the nature of matter and human bodies. It's not a contradiction because God created time and matter; therefore he can partake of it if He so chooses, in terms of becoming incarnate.

along with the philosophical arguments of J.R. Lucas and A.N. Prior. On the other hand, a being in time also denies that God is spaceless. Which is it?

I have given the orthodox Christian, biblical view of God. It is not incoherent or illogical at all.

John W. Loftus said...

Dave: For finite created beings, sure. But an infinite, self-existent, timeless, omniscient being overcomes this limitation, it seems to me.

John: But the question is how an infinite, self-existent, timeless, omniscient being overcomes this limitation. You presuppose this being and then you merely assert, without argument he can.

Dave: I would need to see more to understand how they argued their case in full.

John: Good, then look these arguments up before you comment further. Please do my readers a favor here. Read up on this topic before you continue to waste space. Let other more informed people comment.

Dave: A spirit does not have spatial qualities.

John: Good! Then how can a spirit do anything in space and time? This is the question, okay?

Dave: On the other hand, it is obvious that God must be outside of time, if one accepts the description of Him that the Bible offers.

John: That he walked in the cool of the Garden of Eden? That he showed Moses his back side? That he appeared to Abraham? That he changed his mind? That he visited us in Jesus? You are ignorant if you think what you just said is obvious.

Dave: ...in the sense of anthropomorphism, precisely because we can barely comprehend a timeless being.

John: Anthropomorphism. That saves you, doesn’t it? Then show me one verse in the Bible that could not have been written by an ancient superstitious person. Just one. Show me where there was a prediction of the computer chip, or a vaccine for Polio. Show me where God told people about the vastness and age of the universe.

Dave: For example: how does God create everything that exists, while still being in time?

John: Have you even heard of the “B” concept of time? And have you never heard of the many scholars who are moving in the direction of Open Theism? Besides, if God is not subject to time then he does not know when to answer a prayer in time either. He must know that it is 10 AM to be able to answer a prayer regarding an event at 10 AM.

Dave: Secondly, the Bible gives ample indication of timelessness; e.g., the description of God….

John: Interesting, but then tell me how God also acts within time. This is the incoherence referred to. You simply don’t understand the problem here. As you said, you need to look up and read more on the topic. Look up Wolterstorff’s essay then get back to me.

Dave: I suspect you are slanting his full argument. If he is orthodox, he would not put it in such despairing terms.

John: Read it yourself. Why is it that you distrust what I say? If you distrust what I say then why bother to comment on this at all? Just say you don’t believe he said this and move on.

R10B said...

Is God in time or is he timeless?

I am not a philosopher. I am not even very smart. This may account for my difficulty with the definition of timeless presented in this post. As I read Prior, he implies that time is off limits to a timeless being. To Prior is seems that time and timelessness are contradictory ideas.

I have never thought of timelessness this way. To me, saying God is timeless means He is not bound by time, not that He is restricted from time. He existed before the universe began and He will continue after the universe ends. He can also see the end from the beginning and vice versa. He can observe and even interact in time while remaining timeless.

As it stands I don’t accept premise of the argument and therefore I think that any incoherence it purports to expose is unfounded. I will continue to (try to) digest the argument.

Thanks for your time.

Anonymous said...

Most of this went right over my head...you guys are sure smarter than I am!

John, I saw some recent comments of yours over at Triablogue, and I wanted you to know that not all Christians are as angry as those guys apparently are.

God loves you, and you need a Savior. Deep down, you still feel this. I'll be praying for you.

John W. Loftus said...

Dave, you present your uninformed arguments as if everyone should agree with you, and that is what I object to.

You used the words "obvious" and "obviously" twice in this last comment alone, when not even all Christians will agree with you, much less atheists. Why do you continue to insist that the things you believe are obvious? That's what I think is ignorant of you, for if they were obvious no one would disagree.

But that's not all. You state "it is nonsensical and uterly [sic]illogical." You state "This is radically unbiblical," and "impossible exegetically."

You annoy me, not because of your arguments, but because of your ill placed confidence. Any educated person would not state the things you do with such arrogance. That's all.

Besides, it does nothing for your argument to add the word "obviously" to it. And if you were informed as you say about this, then you would know that such interpretatons are not impossible since Christians themselves think otherwise.

I mean, really, with you there is no discussion to be had for any topic you write about. You are the answer man. Everyone else is ignoring the obvious. And that's the hallmark of an ignorant and uneducated man.

Which scholar, for instance, would you point to who says his arguments are obvious?

Dave Armstrong said...

You keep being personally insulting, John, and I'll keep making arguments (just like when I critiqued your deconversion). People can see through that.

If I'm as big of a dolt and an ignoramus as you endlessly contend, then surely you'll be able to blow my arguments out of the water.

But of course, since you're far less "confident" than I am, this handicap (or virtue, depending on one's point of view) would OBVIOUSLY present an opposing counter-weight to your doing so.

Which scholar, for instance, would you point to who says his arguments are obvious?

I don't know who's a scholar or who isn't, but I'll use examples from this very blog:

"Obviously, the problem is that each author of the various books treats 'Faith' as something differently."

(DagoodS, 11-1-06)
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/11/faithable-reason.html

"(I won't argue whether such a conception of "degrees of individuality" is "true or not" in a philosophical sense, which will obviously get us no where, since how could one prove any of my assumptions above at all)?"

(Ed Babinski, 10-20-06)
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/10/problem-of-evil-alvin-plantinga-victor.html

"Obviously, this passage presents some theological difficulties for early Christians. This passage seems to run against the notion that Jesus is God."

(Bill Curry, 11-6-06)
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/11/evaluating-evidence-for-resurrection.html

". . . God must take the sum total of His wrath out on the most unworthy recipient, a wholly guiltless individual, who also happens to be Himself? Why is such a belief necessary? And why do Christian creeds insist on the necessity of such a belief, when it obviously does not appeal to all, nor even make sense to all?"

(Ed Babinski, 10-20-06)
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/10/four-points-concerning-problem-of-evil.html

"Conclusive proof that the Bible is NOT inerrant. [title] . . . The God who created the Universe, stars, planets, and our own Sun, obviously wasn't aware of the very astronomical phenomena he created."

(Desolate-Paladin, 6-21-06)
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/06/conclusive-proof-bible-is-not-inerrant.html

"Steve is obviously committing a fallacious appeal to authority, considering he hasn't yet even evaluated my writing in order to refute it on the grounds of 'no formal credentials'."

(Daniel Morgan, 5-11-06)
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/swine-and-science.html

"The Establishment Clause is best understood by the Lemon Test. This situation fails the test on obvious grounds, . . ."

(Daniel Morgan, this very day: 11-30-06)
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/11/my-interview-on-hannity-colmes-re.html

"The message was as obvious as anything, but I tried to look for answers. I read up on the responses from all the theological camps, from the conservatives (Blomberg, Marshall, McKnight, Wright, Witherington) to moderates (Meyer, Brown) to the Jesus Seminar."

(exapologist - almost a scholar, going for his doctorate in philosophy, 9-9-06)
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/09/exapologists-de-conversion-story.html

"Rather it is a book easily proven to be filled with errors and of obvious human origin."

(s burgener, 11-5-06)
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/11/unexpected-journey-to-truth-part-2.html

"Now let's say a Calvinist offers an answer and is unconvinced by any of my replies. I never said I could convince those who hold to absolutely idiotic beliefs such as this one, that they are wrong. Any thinking person not already blinded by their faith would see the obvious and serious problem here."

(John W. Loftus, 10-15-06)
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/10/should-i-debate-calvinist-on-problem.html

"[I]t is apparent that upon careful examination, several fundamental elements of the Christian faith do not stand up to outside critiques, or even, in some cases, to several passages in the same book. In the case of the 'virginal birth' and the accompanying prophecies, it is obvious that the two critical parts of the faith of Christianity can not logically coexist. But then, logic is not what religion is based upon."

(C.J. Baserap, 5-14-06)
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/introduction-part-two-in-accordance.html

But here's one scholar, at least: William Lane Craig:

"There’s another version of Dr. Ehrman’s objection which is even more obviously fallacious than Ehrman’s Egregious Error. I call it “Bart’s Blunder.”

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/06/comments-on-craigs-first-rebuttal.html

In this paper, presented by you 96-6-06), you yourself state that Craig is a pretty decent scholar, not an idiot and deluded and presumptuous fool like you think I am:

"Craig understands symbolic logic, and uses it to his advantage whenever he can. . . . Craig does a masterful job of it."

Since Dr. Craig used the outrageous word "obvious" with regard to one of his own arguments, or regarding the "obviously fallacious . . . Egregious Error" [his capital letters] and "Blunder" of an opponent, then he, too must be (as you say I am) "the answer man. Everyone else is ignoring the obvious . . . the hallmark of an ignorant and uneducated man."

Nice little foray into symbolic logic there, John . . .

And again you (5-7-06) cite NT scholar James Dunn (one whom Ed Babinski has tried to cite against my position):

"John’s Gospel is 'obviously different' [Dunn] from the other three earlier Gospels in terms of style and content."

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/response-to-jason.html

So there is another "ignorant and uneducated" scholar, using this dreaded word "obvious" and thus proving that he has no business commenting on anything at all, with such unmitigated gall and hubris, leading him to possess such inappropriate confidence!

Matthew said...

"Most of this went right over my head...you guys are sure smarter than I am!"

Eh, don't beat yourself up! You are probably a lot smarter than you think you are and you sound to me more Christian than a lot of professing Christians that I have encountered. I can tell you're rather humble and that is refreshing!

"John, I saw some recent comments of yours over at Triablogue, and I wanted you to know that not all Christians are as angry as those guys apparently are."

Wow! I take it that you are serious about this! Just curiously, which Christian would you regard as being the angriest one over there? Do you think all of them are? Do you think any of those Christians over there are arrogant and self-righteous at all?

"God loves you, and you need a Savior. Deep down, you still feel this. I'll be praying for you."

Look, we know you mean well, but this is one part that we could've done without including John. If you feel inclined to pray for us- go ahead. But can you just pray for us and not tell us that you are going to do it? Otherwise we have a hard time distinguishing you from the self-righteous bigots who pray for us out of sheer spite and condescension. I trust that you are not one of those and so I ask that you would be willing to demonstrate it to us by just praying and if your prayers are answered, then tell us that it was you who prayed for us.

Otherwise, thanks for your message.

Matthew

John W. Loftus said...

Okay Dave. Fine. Where do you get the time to search these things out? For me to answer you I would have to search out the context of every one of these uses of "obviously." But let me guess. Craig does this only in debates for rhetorical effect. Others were talking about their own notions and personal experiences. Still others are indeed fairly obvious. There are other usages you pointed to which I'll let those who used them speak for themselves. But if I'm arguing against a viewpoint that I know my opponent doesn't agree with, or if I'm arguing a minority viewpoint, or a contestable viewpoint then it's ignorant to use the word for anything contestable, especially as much as you use it. And even when you don't use such a word it's in the whole tone of what you write.

For instance it is "obvious" to me that Christianity is false. That's my personal belief, and it's proper to use this word to describe my personal feelings about Christianity. But to say it's "obvious" that Christianity is false in an argument that attempts to show another person that it's false, is ignorant, unless done for rhetorical effect, which is merely rhetorical and has no force at all. Ehrman could've simply said "this is not obvious to me."

I am annoyed by people like you, and it may be a personality problem. I'm annoyed with pompous self-righteous know-it-all's, especially when I know they don't. And that is how you come across. Now it might go over well with your supporters and visitors to your site, but not here. Here you will find people who disagree with you a lot more often.

Not only do you think you're right when you haven't read the relevant literature. Now you are attempting to defend the arrogant way you argue. You're just right about everything, or, at least you always come across that way. And in my book that reveals you are an uneducated, ignorant, arrogant know-it-all.

What I am probably going to do is to delete these comments tomorrow so that we can start this discussion all over again. You may copy them if you want to, but they are off track.

Anonymous said...

Matthew, thanks for the kinds words. You're named after a disciple of Jesus!

You said:

" Wow! I take it that you are serious about this! Just curiously, which Christian would you regard as being the angriest one over there? Do you think all of them are? Do you think any of those Christians over there are arrogant and self-righteous at all?"

I don't know anybody over there yet, and I don't really like gossiping. yes, some of them are arrogant and self-righteous. But all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. I just don't think they'll be very useful in reaching the lost if they are constantly showing a spirit of anger. There is a time for anger...but not as much as they display.

But that is just me...I've brought many to the Lord, and I'm not an angry person. Maybe they are effective in converting non-believers, but I sure don't see much "good fruit" being produced by some of their attitudes.

John W. Loftus said...

gentle_savior, I think people who argue in the manner I see over at Triablogue, and even Dave Armstrong to some degree, don't care about us as persons. They only want to show to others, whom they do care for, that we are wrong. Many of them think we are ignorant or willfully ignorant deceivers who don't care about the truth at all. So they treat us like non-persons.

But thanks for your kind words. There are others like you can see the difference.

Dave Armstrong said...

Isn't it fascinating that, just three days ago, John Loftus wrote quite differently about a paper of mine having to do with the problem of evil. See:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/is-strong-logical-argument-from-evil.html

He wrote:

"Dave, thanks for this detailed and educated response. Very well done. I've gotten a lot of negative responses to what I wrote at a discussion board. So you are in good company. I may be the odd man out on this one."

http://www.haloscan.com/comments/davearmstrong/116453140311030196/#120941

The difference is that this paper wasn't directed towards his argument (only in part). so I was "detailed and educated" about a complex philosophical argument there, a mere three days ago. But somehow, remarkably, today the same person says about me:

"Any educated person would not state the things you do with such arrogance."

"I am annoyed by people like you, . . . pompous self-righteous know-it-all's"

"you are an uneducated, ignorant, arrogant know-it-all."

How, then, did I write the previous paper, which even he thought was "detailed and educated" and "Very well done"? How is it possible for an "uneducated, ignorant" person to write an "educated" paper?! LOL

Dave Armstrong said...

And of course when Joe E. Holman writes the following in the funeral thread:

"No way I'm going to be preached at by some shit-for-brains religious psychotic in a suit who thinks a ghost will set people on fire to torture them."

. . . that's not arrogant and cocksure at all. Only my remarks about an argument (!!!!) are that, in John's schizoid mind.

Anything goes for atheist disdain of Christianity and the Christian God, but nothing goes when we dare offer non-insulting criticisms back, or defenses of our doctrines that y'all love to make fun of and trash.

Atheist ethics acknowledge double standards and fair play too, do they not?

Glenn Dixon said...

Dave,

It is obvious that you're just way smarter than any theologian who has ever lived. Why waste time with the peons? We'll never learn...

John W. Loftus said...

Dave, I pose a problem and you answered it, even though you admit you haven't read the relevant literature, and you do so with overwhelming confidence. You take up a great deal of space so that no one else wants to deal with the problem and interact with it, and you call me schzioid?

And you point to something you wrote that did show some level of study as evidence you do this all of the time? But when you don't do it, it's because it was about me, eh? You have excuses for everything. The ignorance I'm speaking of, which has yet not crossed your mind, is the ignorance that thinks you are right about everything, or nearly so. That's ignorance. That betrays a person who has been indoctrinated, not educated.

Now listen. You have caused me to waste too much time responding to your stupidity. Go away. You annoy me way too much. You are not worth my time. If only you would be more reasonable. You have a fairly bright mind. It's too frustrating for me becuse it only degenerates into shouting matches.

John W. Loftus said...

About Joe Holman. Dave, there is a context to everything. He's not making an argument at all. He's expressing how he feels. It's no different than when I say it's obvious to me that Christianity is false. You however, stated that something was obvious inside an argument. What I wrote about it still hotly contested within Christian philosophical writers. And if you had read the literature you would know that such things are not obvious to smarter people than you and I. No one on the opposing side of a discussion like this would try to come off as a know-it-all, like you do most of the time. I understand your personal feelings when you think what you believe is true, maybe obviously true, but you simply cannot come into a hotly debated issue and express those same personal feelings toward an issue and not be thought of as uneducated, which you are on this particular issue. If I were uninformed about an issue I would step in with a measure of healthy intellectual humility, or I would state what I do know about the issue, but I would never act like an answer man. As I said, this is a personality problem of yours, and it annoys me, because it treats me as an ignorant person. That's how it comes across. I'm not ignorant on this issue. You are. You admitted as much. So you can see how you have provoked my ire. What I think of you could be changed if you just admitted something to this effect, but your personality seems to be such that you can't do this. You will turn it back on me, as if this is my problem...but it's not. Whenever I am treated as if I'm ignorant, because my detractor states an argument as if it's obvious, or whenever I am treated as an enemy, I get upset. The reason I fire back at you, claiming you are ignorant, and you admitted this, is because you first treated me this way. I don't take kindly to someone who is admittedly more ignorant on an issue who treats me as if I am, when I am not. Then there is no possible way for a civil discussion from that point on. The thread gets sidetracked, and little light is shed on this issue, which is what I want. But this seems to be a contest to you, to see who is smarter...who has the answers...who is king of the hill. I, on the other hand like to learn something from people who can teach me. I don't think they can convince me I'm wrong, but I like to learn the best that the opposing side has to offer so I can argue more effectively against it. For me it's a learning process, even thoug I have my opinions, because I truly believe there is so much to learn about every topic I write about that I am ignorant about it. [Let me be clear here, I believe that when it comes to all the available information on most topics, that I know only a small portion of it, even on those topics I know a great deal about]. And what I write reflects this attitude for the most part, not always, but with you it comes across with everything you write. And that's the difference between us.

Dave Armstrong said...

Now listen. You have caused me to waste too much time responding to your stupidity. Go away.

Are you saying you don't want me to post on your blog anymore?

As to your opinion of me; whoop-de-doo. It's just yours. You have no basis for thinking that it is true across the board in how people relate to me. I have a long history of dialoguing with atheists; for the most part, amiably and constructively.

There is also a very common dynamic in atheist-Christian relations that I have long noted: someone like me goes into an atheist environment, making arguments, and a certain portion of the atheists will talk nicely and there is no problem, but another faction (usually smaller), think you are a pompous, know-it-all ass, precisely as you (and glenn dixon) are doing.

Two polar opposite reactions to the same exact behavior. The interesting thing is that I have seen this change after a certain amount of time passes. People who didn't like me at all when I first showed up, later came to respect me and even enjoy dialoguing. I distinctly remember individuals who have done this.

Most of that I chalk up to the generally poor relations between our camps and willingness on both sides to attribute base motives to the other, because of many bad experiences in the past.

You've done this yourself, on exactly this basis. You've claimed that I supposedly think atheists are immoral, and hardly even people, and not devoted to seeking truth. All of that is rank falsehood. It's lies. Yet you spouted it, with nowhere near compelling evidence to warrant such cynical, despairing conclusions.

I get along fine, it seems to me, with several people on this very blog. I won't name them, because I don't want to draw them into your paranoid controversies, but they know who they are. There is even one I had trouble with here, with whom I am getting along relatively better in another place. It's not perfect, but there is hope. But you cut off any prospect for good discussion by your irrational, insulting outbursts.

If you say I shouldn't post anymore, I'll be more than happy to comply, but I will still check in and see what others are writing (because there are a lot of sharp people here, who are fun and challenging to dialogue with), and offer replies on my blog. They can then respond there if they wish.

Just say the word.

In the meantime, you are making yourself a laughingstock by your boorish, rude, hyper-sensitive reactions to me. This does you no good. I have no desire to see any thinker (atheists included) make a fool of himself. That cheapens intellectual discourse and turns people off of it. It's already tough enough to find a good discussion and thinkers willing to engage in the thrust-and-parry of challenging intellectual discourse.

John W. Loftus said...

Dave, I meant "go away" if you want to continue in the same vein, because if you do then I personally am not interested in dialoguing with you, even if others here may be so inclined.

I think I have been patient with you, but since you do in fact have something to say, I let it slide. I'm not into banning people if they have well expressed opinions like you do, for the most part. I want to learn from you (believe it or not). I just want it to be respectful of the fact that we do disagree with each other.

I'm willing to start all over with you. I think we understand that our relationship is tenuous at best, so let's both understand that about it, and we'll do okay. Deal with the arguments. Leave personalities out of it.

Do not claim any more than your arguments conclude and we'll be okay. I can learn from you. Just don't act like you have a corner on the truth, that's all. You may feel like you do all you want to. But don't express this in an argument if you want a healthy dialogue with someone like me who objects to that kind of argumentation, and who can see it as the rhetoric that it really is.

Agreed?

Dave Armstrong said...

John wrote on my blog:

just think what kind of response you would be writing right now if I had posted something like you just did along with a crying baby

I've had far, far worse done to me, by fellow anti-Catholic Christians.

I've had entire blogs (fake ones, done supposedly by "me") devoted to my supposedly nefarious character, with wholesale mockery and defamation.

Two caricatures were done by James White's artist comrade: one implying that I am spewing hatred towards White.

Eric Svendsen did a National Enquirer-type spoof which implied that I am in league with Holocaust deniers.

I've been accused of being a pretender, a fake, someone who doesn't work for a living, an out-and-out liar and sophist, insane, etc. Everything in the book.

Posting a poke-in-the-eye picture of a crying baby is NOTHING! The real question is, what would John do if he were subjected to all the insults that I have received in the course of my apologetics? I shudder to think, if he can't even take a vigorous counter-reply without wilting into goo and thundering like Thor on a bad hair day.

Dave Armstrong said...

Dave, I meant "go away" if you want to continue in the same vein,

I deny that I am In any "vein" that you think I am in. I don't have this problem with several others here, with whom I have dialogued. Some people react that way; most don't. It's just a certain personality or temperament; I've learned, that has a problem with mine. I imagine we all have those clashes (not necessarily of the same type, though).

because if you do then I personally am not interested in dialoguing with you, even if others here may be so inclined.

Onviusly, nothing I do is good enough for you, so I'm happy to simply interact with others, who have shown they can do so without your personal attacks and histrionics. There was NOTHING in my latest reply that was at all personal or blameworthy, other than that it disagreed with your position (and, I think, soundly refuted it). You don't like that. You don't like confidence. You thnk confidence proves that I think I am a know-it-all. This is your problem, not mine. I don't apologize for being confident of my positions.

You think I am so cocksure that I can never change my mind? How, then, did I convert from Protestant to Catholic? You think that is insignificant? I think it is almost as great a change as from evangelical to atheist.

How could I change from liberal to conservative politically, or from pro-choice to pro-life, or from sexual liberalism to rather conservative sexual beliefs? I've done all this in my life, and much more.

I think I have been patient with you,

Isn't that obvious!?

but since you do in fact have something to say, I let it slide. I'm not into banning people if they have well expressed opinions like you do, for the most part. I want to learn from you (believe it or not). I just want it to be respectful of the fact that we do disagree with each other.

I challenge anyone here to look at my response on the God and time issue and fiond anything - ANYTHING - that could only be construed as pompous and arrogant. You tried to show that my simple use of the word "obvious" proved all this BS. But that was quickly blown out of the water when I proved that everyone here does exactly the same thing.

You object because I make definite statements. What do you expect me to do? There are such things as liberal theologians. Christians have agreed for centuries that God is out of time. Just because some fashionable new liberal theology comes around (process theology / open theism), doesn't change the definition of Christian orthodoxy or what the Bible teaches. You may think it does, because you have adopted an approach whereby things can transform into something essentially different and still somehow be the same thing. But we Christians reject that. And so that accounts for my strong language.

You think I am so ignorant about the God and time issue? I was reading and arguing about this twenty years. I've had extremely elaborate discussions on Molinism and middle knowledge: one with a guy who later became a philosopher: Alex Pruss (and he said he was convinced by my argument at the time). I took philosophy of space and time in college. So think again. I don';t claim to have read all the recent literature on this or any other philosophical issue; nor am I required to do so to have any opinion at all. I'm simply a lay apologist who likes discussion; not any kind of scholar.

If my reasoning was so terrible, then ANSWER it (I barely keep my composure here, because I am absolutely disgusted with whining and put-downs as a "replacement" of rational argument). Blow it out of the water! If I'm so damned stupid and ignorant as you make out, why wait? You'd love to put me in my "place," given your personal opinion of me as so arrogant and derisive of atheists as I allegedly am. What stops you? You have all your mighty education . . .

I'm willing to start all over with you.

There's nothing here. You take the lowest possible view of me, and refuse to interact on an intellectual level. It's all personal and melodramatic fluff.

I think we understand that our relationship is tenuous at best, so let's both understand that about it, and we'll do okay. Deal with the arguments. Leave personalities out of it.

I've already done that. A lot of good it did. When I critiqued the arguments in your deconversion, you claimed it was entirely personal. At least two others on your own blog didn't see it that way at all. RubySera tried to make a big deal out of it again, but when I showed that she was in basic error about what I did, she disappeared and was never heard from again. You are the only one making everything personal. You're making all the insults and calling names. You called me an "idiot" and a "joke." Basically, all I've ever said about you is that you overreact, unnecessarily make stuff personal, and refuse to make counter-replies.

Do not claim any more than your arguments conclude and we'll be okay.

MAKE a cotton-pickin' argument in response to me once in a while and we'll be okay. Daniel Morgan does that. DagoodS does. You don't see me fighting and wrangling with them. We simply have interesting discussions. Jon Curry (I think you guys know him) wants to get together for lunch.

I used to have an atheist come to group discussions at my house every two weeks for months. We got along fine. I really liked this guy. He was cool. Everyone else was Christian. But he kept coming back, because my circle of friends don't treat atheists like dirt. We treat them with respect, as fellow human beings and thinkers. You are WRONG about me.

I can learn from you.

You haven't shown the slightest outward evidence that you have ever done so.

Just don't act like you have a corner on the truth, that's all.

I do NOT. I deny this. Having confidence in one's beliefs, always subject to correction at a future time, is not wrong at all.

You may feel like you do all you want to.

You don't even know how I feel, since you continually misrepresent my alleged interior feelings and thoughts and dispositions.

But don't express this in an argument if you want a healthy dialogue with someone like me who objects to that kind of argumentation, and who can see it as the rhetoric that it really is.

Again, I deny doing this, and I challenge anyone here to look at my latest reply to you and find anything of the sort in it. It's simply confident. I felt I had a strong case and acted accordingly. If I feel I have less of a strong case I act differently. E.g., in the logical argument from evil thing I did recently, someone asked me a question about a point in Plantinga and I sinlpy pleaded ignorance and said I may not understand that element in his argument correctly.

Agreed?

There is nothing to agree with. You're the one who has to start acting differently, not me. All the time you are writing your put-downs, I'm discussing things with lots of other people with no problem at all. It's only relatively rarely that I run into these things. You happen to be one of them.

But if I'm going along getting along with most people I meet, and having huge problems with one, a rational mind would conclude that the problem probably lies in him, not with me. WQe all act this way. If we get along with 99 people and then have trouble with one, we conclude that it is probably his or her primary fault, because it is the exception to the rule (1% in that case). This is rational and common sense.

Dave Armstrong said...

What YOU need to do is admit that there was NOTHING in my formal reply on God and time to warrant you going off into the stratosphere and making out that this (like my terrible sin of using the word "obviously") proves I am the most arrogant, know-it-all cuss in the history of the world (or at least A.D.).

If you do that, then I'll take down the crybaby picture and Munch's Scream, etc. As far as I am concerned, they are precisely appropriate, given your behavior.

And I'll change the title. But the post itself will stay because it is important to document these little episodes. People have a habit of revising history later. I want people to see what actually happened, on both sides.

And you have the nerve and gall and chutzpah to ask me [i.e., on my blog] to apologize, with all the rotgut you have called and insinuated about me: not a single one ever - to my knowledge - taken back? I'm supposed to apologize basically for the fact that I have a lot more confidence in my positions than you do in yours, and you don't like that? Somehow it threatens you, and so you deal with it by pretending that I am an arrogant, presumptuous ass and intellectual pretender?

Sorry . . . . (that's the only "sorry" you'll get from me over THIS business). If I do something wrong towards you, that is clearly, objectively wrong (not all this subjective mush and goo), I'll be more than happy to publicly apologize. It'll be right on top of my blog. I've done it many times on my website and blog. But I can't apologize for something I didn't do.

Dave Armstrong said...

Another thing I find hilarious, in light of John saying that I am so excessively confident, pompous, know-it-all, utterly ignorant, lack nuance and intellectual humility, etc., are his comments just two days ago in another thread, directed towards me:

"You seem so confident, just like I once was. You defend the notion of hell. That's utterly ridiculous from my perspective. If you were not so blinded by your faith you would see it as I do. Hell is disproportionate to the sins, the purported atonement of Jesus cannot be made sense of, the incarnation has never been sufficiently explained philosophically, a trinitarian three separate consciousness Being is nonsensical, along with the concept of an all-perfect God who created this particular world with the amount of horrible suffering in it.

Defend this all you want to, but you are deluded."

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/#c116489542041134522

This is all, of course, marvelously charitable, objective, scholarly language; respectful of other positions.

But if I DARE to use the outrageous, offensive word "obviously" in reference to ONE particular argument I feel confident about (GASP!), then I am full of myself, arrogant, etc. ad nauseum.

amber said...

Dave, as a bystander with no axe to grind, I agree John was being a jerk. I don't know where he gets off ragging on you.

And for the record, I'm an atheist.

Drunken Tune said...

amber,

As a bystander, I think Dave is kin with a pseudo-troll - he means well, John responds, and Dave continues as if nothing happened. It is not a purposeful style, but the conversation was dead by about the third comment.

John may be acting like a jerk, but I believe in this case, Dave has brought it upon himself: Neither are innocent.

And for the record, I happen to like both John and Dave.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Amber,

Thank you very much. I appreciate it. I don't see what I did so wrong in that reply, to bring on such a tirade. I really don't see it. No one has pointed out anything specific that I could re-examine, either. If the word "obviously" is my unforgivable offense, then I am guilty as charged!