Paul Manata, the Resurrection, History and Logic

Paul Manata sees a problem with the way I argue against the resurrection of Jesus. In the first place I argued that, "A foreknowing and omniscient God should've easily known that history is a poor medium to reveal himself in, especially if he did so in an ancient superstitious era. If he did so, he's not too bright, for there is every reason for us to disbelieve today."

Manata: “Notice that John can't be touched by any historical argument for Christianity. Heads John wins, tails God looses. If God is all knowing he wouldn't reveal himself in history, especially ancient history, when all the morons lived. And, if we could show that God did reveal himself, then God is stupid, and hence not omniscient, and therefore not the God of Christianity.”

Loftus: My point about history is that I should not have to believe anything the ancients believed just because they believed it. I think the same goes for the beliefs of any era. Just because people believe something does not give me a good reason to believe the same thing. I must be able to test what I believe based upon good evidence and sound reasoning.

On the one hand, there is the historical evidence concerning the resurrection of Jesus from the grave, along with the other beliefs the resurrection commits many Christians to, i.e., a Trinitarian God, and the Incarnation. On the other hand, it seems logically incoherent that one God eternally created two others Gods, and it seems logically incoherent that one person can be 100% God and 100% man, as I previously argued.

So we have the historical evidence on one side, and logic on the other side. Which do I choose? I choose logic. This is obvious. Anyone who has done any introductory level studies in the philosophy of history will know the problems in understanding the non-miraculous events of the past. There are philosophers who claim we cannot know what happened in the past at all! That’s what they think about ordinary, non-miraculous history. So how much more does this apply to the claims of a miraculous past?

What I argue for is that logic is of a much greater value than historical evidence when it comes to testing the foundational miracle and doctrinal claims of Christianity. The role of logic is to test these resultant doctrinal claims for consistency. That’s what logic is supposed to do, test beliefs for their internal consistency, so there shouldn’t be any objection with my doing so.

I’m not saying history doesn’t provide evidence one way or the other about the resurrection of Jesus. I actually think the historical evidence for the resurrection is just not there, even if we exclude the logical problems. I think historical evidence is important, and I think I can know what happened in the past, in varying degrees of assurance, but never with certainty. However, given the fact that the evidence of history won’t convince the believer to think otherwise, I use logic to debunk what historical evidence doesn’t do.

So it’s incorrect for Manata to say, “John can't be touched by any historical argument for Christianity.” It is likewise incorrect for him to say, “Loftus is willing to listen, not to history, but to logic.” For the truth is, I “listen” to both. They are both important for assessing the truth claims of Christianity. It’s just that when believers don’t agree with where the historical evidence leads, I turn to logic. And it’s true that logic can deliver a much bigger punch here. For if the historical evidence is debatable when logic can show that the resultant doctrinal beliefs are incoherent, then taken together with how I argue for the historical evidence, it renders faith in the resurrection null and void.

Manata again: "But, in a stroke of genius, Loftus has an ace up his sleeve!"

Loftus: Thanks Paul, for noticing! *Blush* Thank you, thank you very much! ;-)

Manata: “Says Loftus, ‘I am finding that logic doesn't help us much at all in the quest for metaphysical truths.’” To read what I wrote in context see here.

Manata: “So, to avoid any historical argument, Loftus consigns it all (well, all of it that the ancient stupid people said) to the flames. But…he'll accept logical arguments for these metaphysical truths. But, and this is the great part...if ever confronted by a logical argument he can dismiss that as well since it 'doesn't help us much at all in the quest for metaphysical truths.' Hence, we can't touch Loftus."

Loftus: Since Manata quotes this phrase from me so often I should explain.

The next time he quotes this I’d also like him to quote what I said later in that same blog entry where I wrote, “My particular attack on religious faith is to consider how we gained our presuppositions in the first place.” Logic is used in the service of presuppositions, and Paul knows this. That’s why he’s a presuppositionalist. According to Robert McKim, “We seem to have a remarkable capacity to find arguments that support positions which we antecedently hold. Reason is, to a great extent, the slave of prior commitments.” Religious Ambiguity and Religious Diversity (Oxford University Press, 2001), p. ix. [To read more of the limits of logic and reason see here].

Logic does not give us our beliefs. Logic merely helps us to see the consistency of that which we believe. And it allows us to conclude still other beliefs based upon some initial beliefs (i.e., it helps us see the implications of that which we initially believe, or assume). This is all true. It's not that logic cannot help at all; it's that it doesn't help us that much when it comes to acquiring our beliefs in the first place. This is one difference that makes all of the difference.

If logic is helpful in acquiring the true religious and metaphysical beliefs, then why is it that we all disagree with each other? I don't think people who disagree with me have a lower I.Q. at all. And if logic helps us settle our disagreements, then why is Paul still a believer in the resurrection of Jesus? I’ve argued that his doctrinal beliefs in the trinity and in the incarnation are logically incoherent. So why does he continue to believe?

Besides, my main point is that we never find logic in the abstract. None of us are logic machines. Our passional nature gets in the way. We hold to mutually inconsistent propositions and don't realize it, or won't admit it. So we cannot claim that logic will help us concerning world-view beliefs, when logic never exists in the abstract “Spockian” sense. Logic is overwhelmingly used to defend prior religious commitments based upon when and where someone was born. Such an admission first led me to agnosticism, and then later to atheism. This is the same reason I've proposed the Outsider Test for faith [Someone gave me my own entry on this]!

Manata faults me with inconsistency when I say I would go with logic every time, even though I turn right around and argue we never find logic in the abstract.

I will go with what logic tells me, and that's all I can do. Anyway, I challenge him and other Christians to solve for me the problem of the incarnation, and how a being can truly eternally create an equal being if they want to continue to believe. While there is no such thing as logic in the abstract, which means we will still disagree, I don't believe Christians can sufficiently solve these problems even if logic doesn't exist in the abstract. Christians will just have to punt to mystery and to faith, and they will. But that's different than solving these two problems, correct?


raquel said...

first of all most "logic" is just what you want to believe secong, their is only too much proof that Christ is real. I've been in an argument with an atheist evolutionist, and I have something for you.

-Darwin knew his hypothesis was incorrect and stated that towards the end of his life. Evolutionists never said that, why would they hide that? Do they want to find the truth, or do they want to force a theory?

- Evolutions ‘Origin of Life’ has been discredited. Miller’s experiment was by putting methane, ammonia, and hydrogen together he was able to from basic monomers, such as amino acids. But later science proved that this theory (saying these floated down to Earth and produced life) was incorrect because if so the Earth’s early atmosphere would not have been able to hold in the hydrogen. Therefore, if hydrogen would have escaped from the atmosphere, it completely falls apart if the right components are put in the experiment.

- Evolutions “Tree of Life” in non-conclusive with their theory of one origin.

-How could evolution possibly give us:
·Land masses
·And orbital path
·Our moon (which we would die without)
·Our star (the sun)
·A magnetic field
·Perfect position in the spiral galaxy
·And several more which I couldn’t write fast enough to copy down
How could chaos and chance bring this about to the exact measurements all at the right time? Science has proved that the chances of this are 10-5. Can chaos make that. Can the components of a watch suddenly form, then come together as a working watch that shows the right time? Don’t even think to say that the earth isn’t more than 100x more complex than a watch!!

-A simple cell is one tenth of the tip of a needle. It is like a factory with dozens of machines. AND WE HAVE TRILLIONS OF CELLS! Is that by chance to?

-A Flagellum is “a long, lashlike appendage serving as an organ of locomotion in protozoa, sperm cells, etc.” ( A flagellum has a motor (so to speak), a hook, a rotor, a drive shaft, forty protein cells, and a propeller. It is considered the most efficient machine there is. How could that have come gradually?

- Darwin knew that if gradual life was disproved the Evolution Theory would fail. Well its failing. In the Cambrian Explosion, there should have been skeletal remnants of the effect of evolution. But instead the skeletons looked exactly the same as they do today. What happened to the gradual change?

David B. Ellis said...

Darwin knew his hypothesis was incorrect and stated that towards the end of his life. Evolutionists never said that, why would they hide that? Do they want to find the truth, or do they want to force a theory?

I have heard this claim from creationists many times but I have two problems with it.

First is the simple fact that I can find no credible evidence that its true. Please direct me to the evidence for this claim if you are aware of any.

Second, and perhaps even more important, is the simple fact that Darwin in not someone we nonbelievers imbue with any authority. He was simply a man with a new scientific model concerning the origin of the various species of life. We base our belief in evolution on the evidence for it----not on the authority of Darwin.

-How could evolution possibly give us:
·Land masses
·And orbital path
·Our moon (which we would die without)
·Our star (the sun)
·A magnetic field
·Perfect position in the spiral galaxy
·And several more which I couldn’t write fast enough to copy down

I presume you are arguing that conditions on the earth are too "fine-tuned" for life to be accident.....which might be a good argument if there were only one planet in the cosmos....however we live in a galaxy with a couple of hundred billion stars and a universe of hundreds of billions of galaxies so I'm afraid its not so terribly remarkable that some planet somewhere had the necessary conditions for life.

Paul Manata said...


I'm afraid your words come back to bite you, again. If you think that my having "mysterys" means that my belief isn't rational, then what of your beliefs? Let's see how Loftus' claims about logic over history meshes with what he's said in the past. Afterall, you did say:

"If this universe took place by chance, then the fact that reason cannot figure it all out is exactly what we would expect. We would not be able to ultimately justify our use of reason..."

So, why does Loftus hold Christians to a double standard? Is this what he's pushing as "open minded skepticism?"

Lastly, you never answered the question. Why would you "go with logic over history anytime?"

Let's look at some statements Loftus has made about logic and reason:

* "...logic and reason may have no ultimate foundation, much like morals do not have an ultimate foundation."

* "Maybe reason has merely shown itself trustworthy by pragmatic verification based in the anthropic principle evidenced in the universe--it just works."

* "... it may be that reason doesn't work as well as the presuppositionalist proclaims."

* "If this universe took place by chance, then the fact that reason cannot figure it all out is exactly what we would expect. We would not be able to ultimately justify our use of reason..."

* ..."reason is impotent to help decide between ultimacies..."

* "I am finding that logic doesn't help us in the quest for metaphysical truths, anyway."

* "Tell me again about the usefulness of logic when it comes to metaphysical beliefs. Go ahead. Tell me."

And so we're all wondering what Loftus means by "accepting logic over history?" If this is his view of logic, I'd hate to see his view of history! :-)

Izgad said...

What method could God use to reveal himself that did not involve history? We as human beings live in time we are dominated by history.

John W. Loftus said...

Paul, thanks for your response.

Maybe I'll have to write up something that is more specific with regard to the necessary distinctions I'm making here, for it doesn't appear we're talking about the same things here when we speak of logic.

There is the question about the ultimate foundations for logic, which you seem to be focused on. You do not have a superior foundation to logic in God than I do without God. You just don't agree with me on this.

When it comes to morality, as an illustration, we can both agree that an action is wrong, without agreeing on why it is wrong. You could appeal to the divine command ethic, whereas I might appeal to an Aristotelian virtue ethic as interpreted in the recent literature.

When it comes to logic, we both agree to the logical rules of inference and the informal fallacies regardless of how we each justify them.

And this is what I'm speaking about. Given that we both agree about the rules of logic, I'm asking how you can explain the trinity and the incarnation.

Now you don't have to believe the trinity and the incarnation simply because you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, I know. You could be like Pinchas Lapide who believed Jesus arose from the dead and be a Jew!

But if you think these two doctrinal beliefs follow from what you claim happened in history, then you should at least be able to show from the logical rules we all agree on that such beliefs as the trinity and incarnation are not illogical.

This is the point when I say "I'll go with logic every time." Since history is fallible, and capable of so many different interprestations, especially when it comes to purported miraculous claims of the ancient past, then test your historical understandings by the use of logic. Your belief in the resurrection should be able to handle both the historical evidence and also the logical problems.

Again, I understand you must punt to mystery here. That's reasonable for you to do. We all do it from time to time. But whenever you're forced to do so, this means that you have to lean on the other web of beliefs you have to support this weak strand.

Your web of beliefs can only handle so many weak strands, that's all.

John W. Loftus said...

izgad, God could reveal himself in every generation in a myriad of ways since he is supposedly an omniscient being.

He could become incarnate in every generation and do miracles for all to see. If peole wanted to kill him again and he didn't need to die again, he could simply vanish before their eyes.

He could spontaneously appear and heal people, or end a famine, or stop a war.

He could raise up John F. Kennedy from the dead. He could provide a blazing cross in the sky. He could restore an amputeed limb in full sight of an onlooking crowd which would include all of the best magicians along with the Mythbusters and James Randi, who would all find fault if fault could be found. The list of things God could do in each generation is endless.

If God has foreknowledge in the Bible he could've predicted certain events in history like the rise of the internet, the exact time of the Mt St. Helens euruption, or described the vastness of the universe before we could verify this, or prophesied the day that the TV was invented.

He could do any and all of the miracles he did in the Bible from time to time, including miraculously feeding 5000 men with their familes.

Then he could also help us to figure out the logic of what he has done. If God can eternally create two equal beings, with an equal omniscience, then he could've created human beings so that they could understand more of such things as the trinity, the incarnation, free will and predestination, and the problem of evil. If these things are not a problem with God to understand, then he could surely have given human beings a better understanding of these things.

exapologist said...

For those arguing that logic needs a "ground", and that God could "ground" logic:

(i) Read Matt Davidson's "A Demonstration Against Theistic Activism" (just Google it to find it).

(ii) Then come back to this thread and explain exactly where his argument goes wrong.

If so, that would really help me out.

Preacher said...

In a small response to Paul's bit about logic over history, I personally have some reasons:

One, God is not supposed to be history, he is supposed to be now. So, if one agrees with this, we should see things now, a long with things in the past. So, where are the now reasons to believe in God?

Two, Logic is superior in dealing with beliefs in general as opposed to history for a couple of reasons. History is based on writings from the past, many of which scholars disagree on when and how the writings were made, and what purpose they had, etc. With so many things to disagree on and so many varying interpretations of the information available, anyone can easily say that things fit their viewpoint. I have posted a link to a document which states reasons that the resurrection (physically speaking) did not occur on another post on this site, and Paul would undoubtedly disagree with this interpretation of history, and I would undoubtedly disagree with his viewpoint as well. It happened in the past, and neither of us can really prove their point 100% by using it. Another obvious objection is that understanding history also requires logic, as does pretty much any other kind of serious thinking.

"I preach logic and reason, the cornerstones of understanding."

Preacher said...

To answer the comment about the creation/evolution argument:

First, just because life (as we know it) requires oxygen, water, etc. does not necessarily mean that there aren't other forms of life somewhere in the universe that don't require these things. As I see it, life depends on these things because they were readily available when life was forming.

Second, simply because one experiment goes wrong, and a hypothesis of one man doesn't pan out, that does not disprove the entire theory of evolution. It simply means the hypothesis was wrong, and there probably is another explanation. It is not necessary for man to recreate life in a test tube for evolution to be true, even though it would help, it is not necessary.

"I preach logic and reason, the cornerstones of understanding."

Shygetz said...

Abject apologies for off-topic posting, but I couldn't let raquels' tripe stand largely unanswered. If you decide to relocate or delete her post, please do so with my response as well.

Wow, raquel, was that your first time reading creationist propaganda? I'll let you in on a secret...It's not my first time.

Darwin knew his hypothesis was incorrect...

Really? Where did he say that? I've seen some false quotes from Origins, and the discredited Lady Hope story, but that's it. You got something new?

Also, as it was said earlier, it doesn't matter what Darwin believed. Science does not rely upon cults of personality. If Darwin was wrong, the evidence would show us. Turns out, Darwin was largely right, but left some stuff out.

Evolutions ‘Origin of Life’ has been discredited...

No such thing; abiogenesis is not a part of the evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory works equally well with any hypothesis that provides a simple progenitor and ample time, including panspermia and, yes, Old-Earth Creationism. Also, the Urey-Miller experiment is one of the classical works of abiogenesis; it is not the state-of-the-art. Many, MANY other papers have been published on the topic, including experiments that seek to recreate other possible primordial conditions. Look it up if you don't believe me; PubMed is a publically-available resource. Some relevant keywords are "last universal common ancestor", "origin of life" and "abiogenesis".

Evolutions “Tree of Life” in non-conclusive with their theory of one origin.

First of all, this is not a sentence, this is a word omlette. If I take you assertion to mean that the "tree of life" is incompatible with the theory of a universal common ancestor, the response is "How?" It's like looking at a family tree writ large--eventually, you can break it down to a single ancestor.

How could evolution possibly give us (list of non-biological stuff)...

That's not evolution. That's cosmology. Learn the difference and you'll not only be smarter, you'll sound smarter.

All that list shows is that our planet supports life. Big surprise. If it didn't, you wouldn't be here to write it. Instead, you would be writing "How could evolution possibly make Ceta IV have all these things to support life?" Note, you would still sound just as ignorant, but you would be light years removed spatially.

Science has proved that the chances of this are 10-5.

No, it really hasn't. We can't begin to calculate the probability of this, as we do not know the range of values possible, the probability of each value, or the number of trials. Interestingly, almost every time a creationist trots this old chestnut out, the number seems to change. It's always large, but its usually larger than this. So I will at least give you credit for that: your (unintentional?) lie is smaller than other liars (unintentional?) lies.

A simple cell is one tenth of the tip of a needle...

Yep, and there's nothing simple about it. That's why it took millions or more years to evolve. Usually, a large part of people's problem with grasping evolution is that we cannot get our heads around the length of time involved. It's difficult, but it's key.

And it's not like a factory with dozens of machines; it's more like a bag with thousands of chemicals in a careful and dynamic balance.

AND WE HAVE TRILLIONS OF CELLS! Is that by chance to?

Let me ask you a question...which is cheaper, to custom design a new home with a new floor plan, or to modify an existing floor plan to match what you want to build?

The answer should be obvious--it's almost always easier and cheaper to modify the existing floor plan. That's why you can get so much more for your money by purchasing a home in a mass-built development; you don't have to devise a new plan for every home. Similarly, it's cheaper and easier in energy and time to generate a cell from an existing cell than to generate a cell from scratch. So, once the first cell has evolved, the second will come VERY easily. This is simple to demonstrate in the lab (or in your own home). Take some bread--it will take a week or more for the mold to appear, but much less time for it to spread.

A Flagellum is...

It does not have a "motor" or a "drive shaft", and there is no such thing as a "protein cell". It is NOT considered the most efficient machine there is; that is a flat-out lie. It has been shown that the flagellum is directly evolutionarily related to a toxin-injecting system, which functions with fewer parts. You don't need a functioning flagellum to be conserved; it just needs to have some function (like injecting stuff into other cells).

Darwin knew that if gradual life was disproved the Evolution Theory would fail. Well its failing...

No, it is flourishing. Don't take my word for it, go to PubMed and look it up. Publications about evolution or using evolution to generate results in another field are rampant.

The fossils from the Cambrian Explosion are NOTHING like modern animals. There are no mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, and spiders. There are no plants, not a single one! There are worms with legs!

Someone lied to you, and you should be furious. And now that you know, you have a moral obligation to stop lying to others. There is no Lying for Jesus clause in the Bible.

Anonymous said...

Great post Raquel! There is no way perfect order could have come from nothing. Now, even evolution scientists are turning from evolution and going to "intelligient design".

Shygetz said...

Now, even evolution scientists are turning from evolution and going to "intelligient design".

I told you exactly how to see for yourself the state of evolutionary theory among scientists, and yet you still spout falsehoods like this. It's almost like you're being willfully ignorant. But no creationist would ever be willfully ignorant, would they? Why, that's as unheard of as a creationist lying or misquoting someone! I apologize for my uncharitable thoughts...

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Thanks, Shygetz, for handling Raquel and this Mr. Anonymous, more politely than I would have. (Though I repeat what is becoming a mantra: If ID/Creationism or whatever proves a creator, how do you prove your God is this Creator? I'm still waiting for an answer, even a bad one.)

Another challenge I have yet to get answered. There is a qualitative difference in the reliability of both history and documents once printing is invented. (For anyone who doubts that -- have a friend handwrite a portion of the Bible, maybe 5 chapters of an obscure section of it like a section of Judges. Have him give it to you, then go into an unheated attic or basement, and using no other illumination than candlelight or natural lighting, make a copy of his copy. And, btw, don't have a big meal before you do this, and start about five in the morning if you really want to simulate the conditions.
(THEN compare your copy with the original text.)

Okay, given that difference, I challenge any believer (Paul Manata?) to answer this:
Why did God choose THEN to make his revelation, rather than waiting for the invention of printing?

If your argument is that Jesus HAD to come before the destruction of the Second Temple -- an arguable point of view -- then answer this. Printing, at least carved-block printing, was well within the technology of the Romans, Greeks, and even the less technological Hebrews. (To quote GEICO "It's so simple even a caveman could do it.") Why didn't God simply 'inspire' someone to come up with the idea -- since the Chinese would within two centuries. (Speaking of printing on cloth, Wikipedia says "the earliest surviving examples from China date to before 220 , and from Egypt to the 6th or 7th centuries." But this could have been used with papyrus or parchment as well.)

I'm waiting still for an answer to this.

Anonymous said...

It really takes more to believe all this came from nothing than for God to have created it, perfectly.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Mr. Anonymous (8:58)
I will leave it to others to question 'perfectly,' and they will. But until now I have made a general challenge. Now I will specifically challenge you to respond. Let's grant your premise that a God created 'all this' (and remember that 'all this' does not just include the Earth, but a 'billion galaxies of a billion suns').

Now give me any demonstration, any evidence whatsoever that this God was the Christian God rather than
The Jewish Unitary God -- YHWH,
The Muslim God -- Allah,
The Zoroastrian God -- Ahura Mazda (who unlike the Jewish God is supposed to have sent a 'redeemer son' to Earth, whose 'Evil Adversary' is closer to the Christian Devil than is the Old Testament Satan, and whose 'place of torment' is NOT permanent but ends with the Redemption and Final Battle, thus removing the dispute over the eternal nature of hell).

(All of these have purportedly given Scriptures to humanity, btw. Can you explain why the New Testament has more credibility than the Tanakh, the Qur'an, or the Avesta?)

Or dispute the following possibilities for God:

a 'deistic God' who observes but does not interfere with his creation (possibly because he is not 'omniscient' and just wants to see how it all comes out, possibly because he is eternal and 'replays' Creation the way I replay CIVILIZATION II),
a 'theistic God' whose concern is with the sentient creatures of Betelgeuse 7, Mizar 4, or Vega 3, and to whom our existence is a trivial by-product of creation, or
a 'theistic God' concerned with Earth and humanity who has not yet revealed himself to us, having decided to wait until communications were advanced enough that we could get his message ungarbled.

(And I can think of other possibilities as well.)

I challenge YOU, specifically, to argue in favor of your God over these others. And my apologies to those who've 'heard it before,' but I've yet to get a believer who argues from Creation to respond to me on these points.

Anonymous said...

The God of the Jews is the same God as the Christians. And God does interfere with creation with us spiritually which is more important than physically. Yet there will come a time when his wrath will be poured out on the earth.