The Trouble With Natural Theology

I love the way Dr. Jaco Gericke describes the reformed philosophy of Alvin Plantinga as fundamentalism on stilts. The stilts metaphor pictures Plantinga as rising above the mire of Biblical criticism without actually dealing with the basis of his faith.

William Lane Craig repeatedly says he does not intend on debating the reliability of the Bible. Of course not, because he can't. Recently he turned down a debate against Jaco Gericke on whether Yahweh of the Old Testament exists. Yep, that's right. He said it wasn't his specialty. But wait just a minute. He's going around debating whether or not God exists, right? Then that means he believes Yahweh exists. So why can't he defend the existence of his God? It's because he can't do it. It would require him to get down off his stilts and wallow in the mire of biblical criticism which completely undermines his faith.

Which brings me to Bill Craig's specialty, Natural Theology.

When I was in school back in the 80's Natural Theology was in a state of disgrace. Not that there weren't people working in that area, because there were. Catholics have always espoused it since the time of Aquinas, and the Gifford Lecture series based on the desire to "promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term" has been going on uninterrupted since the late 1880's. It's just that Protestants and evangelicals didn't think that much of it for the most part. The consensus seemed to be that Christians could not argue for a theology based in reason and science. Karl Barth's voice as the greatest theologian of the past century might perhaps have been the most significant among Protestants to argue that natural theology was doomed from the start.

But a revival has taken place. Norman Geisler and his student William Lane Craig, who has become the leading voice for natural theology, have made their voices heard loud and clear in works like Geisler's Christian Apologetics, Bill Craig and J.P. Moreland's The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology and in other works like James F. Sennett and Douglas Groothuis's In Defense of Natural Theology: A Post-humean Assessment, along with the revival of intelligent design proponents like Michael Behe and William Dembski.

But let's not forget that the reason why Natural Theology fell into a state of disgrace was due to the onslaught in the 19th century with Biblical criticism. Because of Biblical criticism defenders of the faith had to resort to faith not evidence. The evidence from Biblical criticism undermined the reasons to believe. That's why Barth called upon a his generation of believers to simply preach the Bible for God will speak through it. The Bible was a witness to God's revelation not that revelation itself. It was an existentialism that derived from Kierkegaard in the midst of reasonable arguments that the Bible contained myths, legends, and forgeries that other similar cultures in ancient times shared.

The fundamentalists were put on notice and they fired back with several replies to these critics called Fundamentals but those arguments didn't win the day for a growing number of believers who became Barthians. Others like Rudolf Bultmann argued for demythologizing the New Testament to discover the kerygma, or gospel proclamation, by stripping it of elements of the first-century "mythical world" that had the potential to alienate modern people from Christian faith.

What I see as the rise of Natural Theology in recent times is based on a complete ignorance of critical Biblical studies. It's like these people never open a book published by Fortress Press, or an Anchor Bible Commentary, or a Cambridge Bible Commentary, or the many monographs published by the Society of Biblical Literature. With archaeology in the past few decades it's even worse than what Barth himself knew. Now we know ancient people shared similar views of cosmology as seen in this book by Wayne Horowitz: Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, from which Ed Babinski argues for in a chapter for my new book, "The Christian Delusion."

These recent Natural theologians continue to act as if they know what they're defending and that it has a historical basis to it. It reminds me of the emperor who had no clothes on. They act like they have the arguments on their side and strut around like they have clothes on when in reality they're naked. Biblical criticism completely destroys the historical foundations for their faith. They are naked as jaybirds. Hello? You're naked. Get some clothes on and stop embarrassing yourselves.

Natural theology will not last long. That's my prediction. It's a passing fad. And evangelicalism is on it's way out. Evangelicals will have to get down off their stilts and see what it is they're wallowing in.

There's something else. It seems odd these authors never speak about how they came to believe in the first place. Victor Reppert didn't come to believe because of the Argument From Reason, nor did Bill Craig come to believe because of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. What they have done is to defend what they were led to believe because of an initial commitment, usually in their youth, which controls how they approach these arguments. Now they find themselves defending an Anselmian conception of God arrived at by a long process of theological gerrymandering. But they have never taken seriously the scholarship that Barth did.

There are some evangelicals who recognize the results of biblical criticism though, like Kenton Sparks, John Walton and Peter Enns. Sparks, for instance has embraced Barth. More and more will be forced to do so. Then as history moves on they will become liberals and many of them will become agnostics. It's a really slow process but it's been taking place ever since the enlightenment and reflected in how new seminaries and new publishing houses have to be started by conservatives every decade as these seminaries and publishers become more and more enlightened.

This is why I focus my critique of the Christian faith on Biblical criticism. I intend to undermine the whole basis for natural theology. My goal is to knock these natural theologians off their stilts to see the basis for their faith is not there, and in so doing show them as much as I can that they're naked. Naked as jaybirds. It's laughable to me. In my opinion that's the best way to debunk their sophisticated attempts at natural theology. And it doesn't require an immersion in that kind of philosophical literature. While it is important and I do engage them in it, I think it's not actually an undercutting defeater to what they argue for. The really true undercutting defeater is Biblical criticism.

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100 comments:

Victor Reppert said...

The argument from reason was helpful in sustaining my belief in God, and convincing me that in many philosophical discussions, naturalism and even materialism was presupposed instead of being argued for and defended.

When I was in college, I majored in philosophy because I considered my Christian beliefs to be sufficiently important that, if there were good arguments against it, I had better hear about it sooner rather than later. In fact, my Christian friends in college thought I was particularly good at coming up with arguments against Christianity.

Of course, the AFR is just a role-player in a cumulative case. It did play a role in Lewis's conversion, but it only got him out of naturalism and into Absolute Idealism, then a very popular philosophy.

Had I assessed the cumulative case more negatively for theism, would I still believe, perhaps as a more skeptical or even theist? I'm not going to pontificate on what might have happened had things gone differently.

I have heard from people who have told me my arguments played a role in their conversion.

Were you converted to atheism by some particular argument you defend, like the argument from evil? Thought not. The case you make sounds pretty cumulative to me. And there are plenty of emotional factors involved as well.

Mike D said...

Mind my deleted post. I wanted to comment more substantively.

Theology as an intellectual endeavor is doomed from the beginning, because it is the only intellectual endeavor that requires you to begin inquiry with an immutable conclusion. That's why all of Dr. Craig's arguments are riddled to the brim with a priori assumptions that are transparent to those of us who aren't making them.

This affinity for circular reasoning is not only evident in the presumptions required for arguments like the Kalam argument to make sense (the assumption of a non-physical causality existing independently of the universe), but perhaps most plainly in Bill Craig's use the Bible to defend the historicity of the Bible. The rest of us, not drowning in a priori assumptions, see these arguments and say, "Really? That's all you've got? Really?"

And yes... I will shamelessly pimp my own blog, as I am a big fan of dissecting Bill Craig's arguments and just posted on him tonight. Cheers.

Steven Carr said...

The Argument from Reason presupposes that magic works and we all think by magic.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Victor,

How do you reconcile an objective reading of history and the atrocities men and women have performed while claiming to have access to God's Holy Spirit. And I don't mean depraved Roman Catholic priests but, giants of the faith like Calvin and Luther and more recently Ted Haggard who obviously committed acts of murder and adultry despite special access to God's Holy Spirit. How do you reckon that? I do so by being charitable and acknowledging those men were fearful and flawed most notably illustrated by their belief an imaginary Holy Spirit would guide their reasoning. You?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Mike D. Very cool blog. Vic if you want to see an argument why I began my move from Calvinism to Atheism then read Mike's analysis of Craig's lying (e.g. The Newton Appeal) to defensively support his cosmological argument. It was a similar select rendering of history I read in a debate between Craig and Ehrman that started me thinking the triune god stuff and biblical historicity a bunch of bs. This, combined with a personal crisis that demanded cognitive behavorial therapy helped me see Christianity as a non-material control belief and, as such, it is harmful.

John W. Loftus said...

Jaco Gericke gave me permission to share his email:

Hi John

I hope you are doing well.

Last Sunday I listened to the radio when some guy from a local apologetics ministry came on the show to tell about W L Craig coming to South Africa this May. Apparently he is going to debate a few people and after the show contact information was given for further inquiries.

I wrote an email to the people and they told me Craig might be willing to debate but first I'd have to send them a CV and some topics for debate along with what my critique would involve (thus Craig can choose his debate opponents and come prepared, of course without having to reveal anything of what his own arguments will involve beforehand).

I sent them the following proposal, which was accepted by them, so now they have to wait for a response from Craig who will have to decide whether he'll debate me or not.
_______________________________________________________________

Suggested topics for the debate (variants of a single theme)

1. "Does Yahweh exist?"
2. "Can we still believe in Yahweh?"
3. "Is Old Testament theology a problem for Christian philosophical theology"
4. "Is the history of Israelite religion a problem for Christian philosophy of religion?
5. "The God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob"

My assumption is that in all his arguments for the existence of God, Dr Craig assumes that he is talking about Yahweh, the deity depicted in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.

The core of my argument will involve the claim that Dr Craig's Christian philosophy of religion brackets the history of Israelite religion. I shall suggest that his philosophical theology fails to take cognizance of a number of problems discussed in Old Testament theology during the 20th century.

In my own presentation I shall provide arguments why I believe a) Yhwh does not exist and b) Dr Craig's concept of God is anachronistic and only selectively biblical. He is welcome to try and prove that a) Yahweh as depicted does exist and that b) the God whose existence he is trying to prove is in fact also the God depicted in the Hebrew Bible.
_____________________________________________________________

This is what I sent them and what Craig is now considering.

I'll keep in touch. I really relish the possibility of such an opportunity, but we'll have to wait and see what happens before its time to get excited.

Regards
Jaco Gericke


----------

Craig rejected this proposal because it was not his specialty. Craig chooses who to debate and what topics he'll debate.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, there are a few disciplines of learning that lead to a rejection of religion: Higher Biblical criticism, cultural anthropology, physical cosmology, the cognitive sciences, evolutionary science, and psychiatry. This is what I've found.

None of the current natural theologians have much by way of any expertise in these disciplines of learning (with the exception of cosmology, i.e., Sinclair and Craig). The polls all show scholars in these disciplines believe less than the general populace, and in the case of Biblical criticism they are dominated by liberals like Dale Allison, Burton Mack, James Dunn and James McGrath,. The National Academy of Science reports only 7% of its members are believers.

Now while I came to reject religion as a whole based on everything I experienced and everything I learned, it was Biblical Criticism more than anything that undercut my faith. Reading the philosophical works of Bertrand Russell, J.I. Mackie or Michael Martin's philosophical arguments didn't do it. Philosophy can sometimes be little more than sophisticated special pleading. I thought at the time that these philosophical arguments are a wash. It's because of Biblical criticism that I now see the force of their philosophical arguments. It opened my eyes to see, you see.

Since you don't plan at this point in being a psychiatrist or a cognitive scientist then the only other relevant area I could push you in is Biblical criticism. I'm sure you know a lot about it, don't get me wrong. I would want you to immerse yourself in it. Start by reading Kenton Sparks book. If that doesn't whet your appetite for more and if that doesn't get your intellectual juices flowing I don't know what will.

Cheers.

Mike D said...

None of the current natural theologians have much by way of any expertise in these disciplines of learning (with the exception of cosmology, i.e., Sinclair and Craig).

For the record John, I think that people like Craig have an exceptionally distorted view of cosmology. I'm no physicist, but I have read numerous popular science books on it by people like Stephen Hawking, Lisa Randall and Brian Greene, and I subscribe to Scientific American which regularly features articles on cosmology.

In other words, I know enough about cosmology for a layperson to know when someone is wrong about it. Craig's stubborn insistence that the Big Bang is proof that the universe "began to exist" is utter unscientific garbage, and it drives me crazy that more of his opponents don't take him to task for it (Victor Stenger did, sort of). Most aggravatingly, he even tried to quote mine Hawking in one of his debates to support that point – never mind that Hawking has an entire chapter in A Brief History of Time explaining that the universe does not have a beginning. Craig is a scientific charlatan who cherry picks the facts and then uses the debate format to confound an ignorant audience.

Brad Haggard said...

John, I think I need to call your characterization of Biblical criticism as spin. If there weren't so many believers in Biblical criticism, then what was the point of Avalos' book?

One concession: my Bible college training didn't introduce me well to the rigors of higher criticism. But that doesn't mean that it isn't helpful for belief.

Now if you're going to rely on 19th century criticism and Bultmann, I can't help you. The most recent works in the field of NT studies argue on the side of orthodoxy (e.g. Pannenberg, Keener, Wright, Bauckam, I think even Allison accepts the resurrection). And as for OT archaeology, it seems like the minimalists are doing most of the special pleading nowadays.

Let me offer my theory. When some people come out of a fundy background, anything not of their tradition is "liberal" and the enemy. So instead of embracing a more catholic Christianity, the whole thing is rejected because the black and white categories remain.

You say that you agree with fundy criticisms of liberals and liberal criticisms of fundies, etc. The problem with that argument is that they univocally argue against atheism/materialism. Some just deal with tension a little better.

How about this: since you reject the full picture of Jesus from the gospels, does that drive you to mythicism? (I'll understand if you duck this issue, because of the nature of mythicist discussion, but you've had to give up black and white categories at least in this issue.)

Barth has some good things to say, but I think that Pannenberg draws a more sustainable balance. At any rate, I think it doesn't help to distort the picture of biblical scholarship to make an argument.

Brad Haggard said...

Oh, BTW, don't rely on Spong too heavily, either ;)

Anthony said...

John,

Excellent post. As you know it was Kenton Sparks book that was the last straw for me and essentially ended my faith. Actually I read Sparks with the hope that he could shore up a lot of doubt that I had, but instead the doubt only increased exponentially.

Brad said: If there weren't so many believers in Biblical criticism, then what was the point of Avalos' book?

Yes, there are a number of evangelical scholars involved in higher biblical criticism and the number is increasing, but very slowly. Part of the problem is that many of these scholars just simply do not go far enough, Sparks talks a bit about this in his book. Secondly, many become ostracized once it becomes known that they are going down this road.

Victor Reppert said...

A lot of biblical criticism is done by people who either accept Hume's essay on miracles, or are influenced by people who accept Hume's essay. This goes all the way back to David F. Strauss in the 19th Century. This poses a profound question as to whether the biblical-critical dog is wagging the philosophical tail, or whether the philosophical tail is wagging the biblical-critical dog. This was the point that Lewis was making when he wrote his book Miracles; A Preliminary Study. Preliminary to what? Preliminary to the actual study of the biblical documents. If you are coming to those documents thinking that miracles are maximally improbable, then you get one set of results. Bultmann was the representative figure of a scholar of that persuasion. All Bultmann said was you couldn't live in the modern world and consistently believe in the New Testament miracles. Bart Ehrman is another example of present-day vintage, as are the scholars of the Jesus Seminar.

Now if I want to know whether the New Testament miracles have occurred or did not occur, having the testimony of some expert who has claimed to have "discovered" that they didn't might be a tad suspicious unless I know that this is a scholar who would have accepted the miracle claims had the evidence been there. If we know, in advance, that miracles cannot occur, then perhaps the scholar is applying Sherlock Holmes' maxim: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." However, if the scholar is entering the field thinking that the miraculous is not the impossible, then we are likely to get different results.

In 1990, when I was a junior fellow at Notre Dame's Center for Philosophy of Religion, I attended a conference in which a number of biblical scholars got into it with some Christian philosophers, and there it seemed to me that the biblical scholars were on the whole more skeptical than the philosophers, and that they were largely unconscious of the philosophical presuppositions underlying their own work.

I took Critical Introduction to the Bible from two professors at the liberal Candler School of Theology in the mid-1970s. The New Testament professor was Dr. Arthur Wainwright, and his overall conclusion was that you can bring anti-miraculous presuppositions into biblical scholarship and end up like Bultmann, or you can go in thinking miracles possible, in which case you end up believing in the central Christian miracles, as Dr. Wainwright in fact did.

Nothing I have read in biblical studies since has altered the perspective I took from Dr. Wainwright's course.

Doug Groothuis said...

John:

One cam make the case for basic monotheism without going into all the historical-critical ideas pertaining to the Bible. That is a legitimate pursuit. However, Craig, Moreland, myself, and others are defending the Christian God, so we need to address the matters you raise. I do so in my forthcoming book, but it is impossible to be an expert on all these topics. The argument, though, looks like this:

1. There is good evidence from human nature, the cosmos, and religious experience, etc., that God exists.

2. Given (1), what religion is the best candidate in light of the evidence of natural theology? Here one brings in arguments from history and the person of Jesus Christ.

Anthony said...

Doug Groothuis: I do so in my forthcoming book

What is the name of your forthcoming book as I would like to add it to my wishlist?

Steven Carr said...

VICTOR
Now if I want to know whether the New Testament miracles have occurred or did not occur, having the testimony of some expert who has claimed to have "discovered" that they didn't might be a tad suspicious ...

CARR
Well, what we do when assessing claims in anonymous, unprovenanced books that claim Jesus told people how to get free money by looking in the mouth of a fish, is to assess the works using techniques developed by Christians to look at The Book of Mormon and the Koran

And , to nobody's surprise, we find that the New Testament miracles are frauds and lies.

Just like all other religions are based on frauds and lies.

Such a shock.

I had to sit down when I found out that yet another religion was based on frauds and lies, just like all the other ones.

But I soon recovered from the shock.

Of course, there is one religion that is not based on frauds and lies.

Just ask any Jew, Mormon,Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh or Scientologist and they will be only too pleased to tell you the name of the religion that is not based on frauds and lies

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks for the responses Vic and Doug. Doug, I too look forward to your magnum opus which hopefully will replace many other mediocre apologetics books with a good one.

But I must say that the vast majority of Biblical scholars started out as conservatives. Have you ever heard of someone who entered into Biblical scholarship as a liberal who wound up a conservative? Have you ever seen a liberal seminary or publishing house become conservative? If so, I suspect that is a very very rare case.

You see, that's the trend since the enlightenment.

Now Vic raises the ugly head of anti-supernaturalism. I myself raised it when a believer because I didn't understand it. Hume's argument allows for miracles, since we should never discount out of hand such a possibility. But his argument, as Ronald Nash repeatedly wrote about in Christianity Today Eternity and elsewhere, including his book Faith & Reason, that Hume's argument is that he couldn't be able to know that one happened even if it did. His argument is not a metaphysical one but rather it's an epistemological one. This is the same thing Bob Price claims in a chapter for The Christian Delusion and the same one I make. And you must know Bob and I started out with a supernatural presupposition. We were turned to the dark side by Biblical studies as has Hector Avalos, Jaco Gericke and Bart Ehrman. William Dever turned away from his faith because of archaeology. Kenton Sparks is on the way.

In any case, here are just a few quotes that you may consider:

Raymond Brown: “A review of the implications [of what he said so far] explains why the historicity of the infancy narratives has been questioned by so many scholars, even by those who do not a priori rule out the miraculous. Despite efforts stemming from preconceptions of biblical inerrancy or of Marian piety, it is exceedingly doubtful that both accounts can be considered historical.” Anchor Bible Dictionary: “Infancy Narratives in the NT Gospels"

According to James D.G. Dunn, “it would be flying in the face of too much evidence and good scholarship to deny this basic affirmation: that the Pentateuch is the product of a lengthy process of tradition." James D. G. Dunn, The Living Word (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), p. 71.

James Dunn also argues with regard to 2nd Isaiah: “we can speak of an overwhelming consensus of biblical scholarship that the present Isaiah is not the work of a single author….It is not simply a question of whether predictive prophecy is possible or not. It is rather that the message of Second Isaiah would have been largely meaningless to an 8th century Jerusalem audience. It is so clearly directed to the situation of exile. Consequently, had it been delivered a century and a half before the exile, it would be unlike the rest of Jewish prophecy." Ibid.

Cheers.

Mike D said...

We really cannot independently verify whether the miracles and other supernatural events in the Bible took place.

So, I just look at it through the lens of Occam's Razor. Which is more parsimonious and logical an explanation:

1. That there may indeed have existed someone like Jesus – a rabbi, teacher, etc. who had some devoted followers; and, years after he died, his life became the stuff of myth and legend as his story was passed around by a primitive, unscientific and superstitious peoples; and that there is no particular reason to believe these supernatural myths over those found in any other culture at any other time in history; and that just as people believe in faith healing, homeopathy and astrology (among innumerable other things) today, people in the tribal middle east were probably even more likely to accept such things as true than those of us living in this modern, scientific age.

OR

2. That all the other supernatural stories in history are probably just baloney, but the ones in the Bible aren't. That we really do have eternal souls, and Jesus cares about them, and God really did send his son... who is also himself... to sacrifice himself to himself to pay the price he mandated to free us from a curse he put on us; and that if we "believe" in those things by acknowledging them as true historical events and ask God to forgive us of our wrongdoings, our eternal souls will live in paradise with him forever...

Clearly the first option, by virtue of not requiring me to make a litany of baseless supernatural assumptions, is a far more parsimonious explanation. I don't have to prove that the miracles in the Bible didn't happen; I only need to show that there is no particularly good reason to believe they did.

John W. Loftus said...

Doug, if you want to really address the concerns and questions of skeptics then you must consider that your point number 1 can be countered with this argument.

And the move from 1 to 2 is stopped by Hume's Stopper, despite what Jim Sennett wrote. I think the minimal god (deist one) is just as ad hoc as any other one, don't you? He never considered a trickster God, or a God who is nothing but a mad scientist who is watching what we conclude from it all and how we will live our lives, or a God who created the quantum wave fluctuation as his last dying act before committing suicide. These too are possibilities since once you allow supernatural explanations into your equations any one will do. How can you and Sennett dismiss them as ad hoc? That would be an interesting question to answer. Why are those suggestions ad hoc when yours isn't?

And which Yahweh do you believe in? There were two you know. And if there is a Trinity then who atoned for the righteous indignation that the 2nd person of the trinity had toward sinners?

Then there is the impassible Lessing's Ugly Broad ditch on top of Hume. And the double standards needed to defend your faith in light of my Outsider Test for Faith. As well as explaining why you do not agree when the father of history, Herodotus, who wrote that a horse gave birth to a rabbit and that cooked fish were raised from the dead, but turn around and think Jesus along with all of the saints came out of their tombs. What's a religious context for these things? There is always a religious context. Herodotus was a polytheist and THAT'S his religious context.

My claim given these things is that we should all be agnostics, all of us.

Sorry for the length here. I wish you well.

Breckmin said...

This was a thoughtful post, John..and natural theology (particularly mathematics) is one of my favs. What is interesting is that you can actually USE mathematics as a biblical hermeneutic (as long as it is consistent with scriptura scripturum interpretor)to build systematic theology (which much prayer for protection - logically).

Several things I might think differently on:


JWL -"Natural theology will not last long. That's my prediction. It's a passing fad."

I believe as we move toward progressive systematic theology in evangelical conservatism..not only will natural theology "stay around" but I believe it will possibly become integrated with conservative systematic theology.


JWL - "And evangelicalism is on it's way out."

Or headed for reformation... Reformation has been needed since Chicago 1978, and we see a trend in Evangelical Textual Criticism to consider alternatives to verbal inspiration of the original text.

What you consideer "cherry picking" we consider using logic. Since the Holy Spirit of God convinces us of this logic I don't think you will EVER see an apostasy from some form of creationism... (particularly when universal common descent theory has such a bad hand of cards).

Breckmin said...

"So why can't he defend the existence of his God? It's because he can't do it."

Perhaps Bill Craig knows it is a much more massive presentation and argument to look at comparative religions and the logical reasons for identifying the God of Abraham as the most logical choice among alleged other deities. Keeping it simple has its advantages...and you are not off on a thousand tangents.


JWL -"The evidence from Biblical criticism undermined the reasons to believe."

Perhaps for you it created "doubt." Perhaps you have over reacted as a result of Biblical criticism and become an atheist because you felt it was incoherent. The fact remains that there are NO human authorities of any kind that are PERFECT. Not being perfect does NOT undermine authority.

Question everything... including invalid arguments regarding Perfection (and the idea that an Infinite Creator could somehow be "incomplete" or creating out of "need" rather than logical will because it is good to create - so LOVE can exist)

Anthony said...

Breckmin: Perhaps you have over reacted as a result of Biblical criticism and become an atheist because you felt it was incoherent.

Breckmin have you read Kenton Sparks God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship? I would like for you to engage his arguments and tell me how you can remain a conservative evangelical holding to any form of biblical inspiration.

Breckmin: universal common descent theory has such a bad hand of cards

I would like to challenge you to engage the arguments by Darrel Falk in his Coming to Peace With Science or Denis Lamoureux's Evolutionary Creation on the topics of evolution and common descent.

Pastor Tom said...

Rhetoric, rhetoric, freaking rhetoric. I've gone through a B.A. in Biblical Studies (biblical criticism) as well as an M.A. in Philosophy and these have not undermined my faith in any way--they've merely exposed me to all types of interpretations, worldviews, etc. and allowed me to absorb them, asses them, and reject the junk. Biblical criticism only undermines faith when it's taken indiscriminately.

People seem to forget that J.P. Moreland got his M.A. in Philosophy from UC Riverside (secular), his Ph. D. from USC (secular), etc., etc. Many of the faculty at Talbot Seminary (where Moreland and Craig teach) have received their Doctorates from Oxford, USC, etc., etc. Quit pretending that exposure to academia is the solution to brain-washed religion.

Anthony said...

Pastor Tom, sorry but I am convinced that what you have written is itself rhetoric and misses the point. Most of these scholars (Moreland, Craig, etc.) do not have expertise in historical criticism and for the most part ignore it.

Evangelical scholars are notorious for selectively using these tools and only within their presumptions regarding the nature of the Bible. This is why most historical critical scholars simply ignore evangelical scholarship.

Breckmin said...

"I would like for you to engage his arguments and tell me how you can remain a conservative evangelical holding to any form of biblical inspiration."

Sparks uses too much inductive reasoning which is open to error. I partial agree with the concept but I would explain it a little differently. Appeals to scholars who are heavily influenced by naturalism (and often are not fully aware of how the nomenclature they use influence their thinking - at the point of definitions (or limited definitions) with the words they use.

"I would like to challenge you to engage the arguments by Darrel Falk in his Coming to Peace With Science or Denis Lamoureux's Evolutionary Creation on the topics of evolution and common descent."

Been there...done that. I used to be T.E. Until macro evolution addresses genetic entropy and the emergence of new information (new genes) emerging from non-existant templates of information necessary for such genes (it can NOT be an arrangement of the same information...that fails), I don't think I will be fooled again.

Universal common descent theory does NOT have a monopoly on common descent with modification within genera of existing species...nor does it have a monopoly on "survival of the fittest" we see in creation nor does it have a monopoly on observable speciation/mutation itself or its mechanism to make scientific discovery.

Yes, I would love to discuss this subject, but perhaps not in this particular thread.

Breckmin said...

"This is why most historical critical scholars simply ignore evangelical scholarship."

It seems like this is an appeal to consensus gentium or an ad populum fallacy because all you need is one scholar in historical criticism to disagree to invalidate the whole line of reasoning.

What good is generalizing about higher criticism, or historical criticism? Without addressing the specifics of the inductions which are being made this is a "he said" "she said" circular appeal.

Our PhD's verse your PhD's only expose the fact that people can have access to the exact same information and yet choose to disagree with you (based on
assumptions).

Perhaps prayer is everything.

Question everything.

Brad Haggard said...

John,

1. Re: Humean skepticism. You're right to point out that Hume's argument is an epistemological one, but that would have little bearing on ontology. There have been various rebuttals to that argument, especially the charge of circularity (which is a valid criticism), but I think the stongest argument against it is Hume's own skepticism. When he applied it rigorously, he even had to deny knowledge of cause-effect relationships. You don't carry it that far, no one does, but you still appropriate his argument (and its circularity) for your ends.

2. Whenever you bring out your scholar quotes, I think two things. 1: Will he rely on any scholarship written after 1990? and 2: What is the big deal? Honestly, if deutero-Isaiah and JEPD destroyed your faith, it was pretty brittle to begin with. I get the feeling sometimes that you think you're the only one who has actually studied this. Once again, the antagonistic categories of fundamentalism appear.

Let me say that I think you came to your loss of faith on a personally honest investigation, but that does not mean that people can also honestly look at the evidence and disagree with you.

John W. Loftus said...

Pastor Tom, where did you receive your B.A. in biblical studies? You seem so sure of yourself. Just to bring you up to speed have you considered reading my WIBA book? I cannot tell you all I know in one short post. You have to actually read my whole case. And when you're finished you might want to consider reading my next one coming out in April called The Christian Delusion.

You cannot dismiss me as easily as you think, that I can guarantee. Until then you can remain as confident as many Mormons are today. Do you think there's a difference? I don't.

Cheers.

John W. Loftus said...

Brad, epistemology is everything here. If we cannot know that a miracle happened then it means that we have no reason to believe one did. The ONLY thing you have left is a possibility, and if possibilities are all you need for belief then become a Mormon. After all, it's possible they're right too. Possibility is not probability. THAT is the point. I do not understand why any believer does not see this.

As far as the scholarly quotes go, conservatives have tenured positions in evangelical colleges where they can write 20 tomes for every one skeptical book. They're ALWAYS talking about the latest research coming from the conservatives as if that research undermines the growing consensus by virtue of the number of works they write. This does not follow. Hume, for instance, cannot be refuted although every year someone from an evangelical college says he has been. Proof in the pudding is that YOU apply Hume's standards to any miracle of any different religion you reject. The problem is that you do not apply those same standards even-handedly across the board to your own religion.

And they is no one single piece of evidence that destroyed my faith. But at some point the weight of evidence crushed my religious house of cards.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Breckamin

I agree with you so, I question you. When you or your family get sick, do you take advantage of FDA approved pharmaceutical solutions? If yes, then you endorse common descent. Phase I clinical safety trials using animal studies are predicated on that aspect of evolutionary theory. How far do you go in denying useful scientific theory? Do you reject modern medicine? If so, then I suppose you can pray if you contract cancer or lupus but, the scientific technologies built from the theory of common descent indicate a more efficacious route is medicine.

Al Moritz said...

Doug:

The argument, though, looks like this:

1. There is good evidence from human nature, the cosmos, and religious experience, etc., that God exists.

2. Given (1), what religion is the best candidate in light of the evidence of natural theology? Here one brings in arguments from history and the person of Jesus Christ.


Exactly. This is essentially the route that has helped me sustain my faith while studying and seriously contemplating all arguments in favor of atheism. I do not believe that an argument from personal religious experience is a good one though (it is not transferable to other persons), but the evidence from human nature (especially the argument from reason) and from the cosmos are important.

I would not care what the Bible and the Church says if I would not find arguments for God from the world around us convincing. On the other hand, once the acceptance of the existence of God appears reasonable and highly probable, I can accept divine revelation and any difficulties with it(e.g. supposed contradictions within the Bible) become secondary.

Chuck O'Connor said...

And yet Al, your adherence to the Roman Catholic Church catechism in regards to the sacraments ans salvation contradicts Doug's Evanelical assertions to the same end. You both claim the council of the same Holy Spirit in your assertions. Now, that seems dubious. Either this Holy Spirit is capricious, crazy or a liar then you both can't be correct. Or your interpretation from god while well intentioned has led you to a narrowly applicable superstition which is contradicted by the faith of those you look to support it.

Breckmin said...

"When you or your family get sick, do you take advantage of FDA approved pharmaceutical solutions?"
I would, possibily, depending on what it is..but we haven't needed to take anything other than tylenol or ASA (acetylsalicylic acid).


"If yes, then you endorse common descent."

Common descent is observed. Universal common descent *theory* is NOT observed.


"Phase I clinical safety trials using animal studies are predicated on that aspect of evolutionary theory."

what you call "evolutionary theory" does not have a monopoly on natural selection.. so this fails to address legitimate areas of dispute.

"How far do you go in denying useful scientific theory?"

I don't deny "useful" scientific observation. I DO deny foolishness that violates basic information entropy and common sense.

I don't deny the principles that are useful since they are observed. Speciation/mutation as well as natural selection (although I would define it slightly differently) are all principles in creation and Darwinianism (UCD theory) does NOT have a monopoly on them.

"Do you reject modern medicine?"
No.

"If so, then I suppose you can pray if you contract cancer or lupus but,"

sometimes in a diagnosis of something terminal - prayer for a miracle is the only thing you can do to prevent it from being fatal.
We all die eventually...it is just a matter of how.

"the scientific technologies built from the theory of common descent indicate a more efficacious route is medicine."

Common descent and mutations are part of creation. These processes are not in dispute (universal common descent IS).

Chuck O'Connor said...

Universal common descent allows us to estimate probable safety effects o animals prior to controlled human studies with the same molecule. Do you get it now Breck? Put down the Christian apologists and learn about the realities of science, okay? You come across as an ignorant narcissistic conspiracy theorist to one like me who observes the practical application and nearly universal therapeutic acceptance of consequence from that practical application you deny. You don't know what you are talking about when you speak of commondescent and its implications on applied biochemistry or genetics. Praying for revelation will not change the facts about animal study safety trials within the pharmaceutical industry.

Al Moritz said...

Chuck:

And yet Al, your adherence to the Roman Catholic Church catechism in regards to the sacraments ans salvation contradicts Doug's Evanelical assertions to the same end. You both claim the council of the same Holy Spirit in your assertions. Now, that seems dubious. Either this Holy Spirit is capricious, crazy or a liar then you both can't be correct. Or your interpretation from god while well intentioned has led you to a narrowly applicable superstition which is contradicted by the faith of those you look to support it.

I don't see any problem here. Why don't you read the documents of the Catholic Church that address these issues? Evangelicals participate in the truth of salvation too, and can be saved. Mulims, Jews etc. can be saved as well if they are sincere in their worship of God along what they know to be best. We are all brothers and sisters in God.

I also don't have any problem with the idea that the Holy Spirit may act wherever He wants. In fact, I am humbled by the exemplary faith of many Protestants, whose relationship with God I perceive to be deeper than mine.

Walter said...

I don't see any problem here. Why don't you read the documents of the Catholic Church that address these issues? Evangelicals participate in the truth of salvation too, and can be saved. Mulims, Jews etc. can be saved as well if they are sincere in their worship of God along what they know to be best. We are all brothers and sisters in God.

So one simply has to believe in a deity or deities to attain salvation? What about virtuous atheists and agnostics? Do they have a shot at the pearly gates, or is "belief" the foremost requirement?

Just curious.

Breckmin said...

"Universal common descent allows us to estimate probable safety effects o animals prior to controlled human studies with the same molecule."

pre-clinical studies involving in vivo in non-human primates do NOT require common ancestry to achieve the same result (or any other animal you wish to use to test).


"Do you get it now Breck?"

I get that you/they are assuming commonalities equals relatedness rather than common design of the same biological functions. To study pharmocodynamics on any subject in pre-clinical studies does NOT require a belief in common ancestry with Homo sapiens and therefore is NOT an endorsement of universal common descent theory (which you accused me of).

My reference to natural selection was incongruous to your point and I apologize for not paying closer attention.

"...therapeutic acceptance of consequence from that practical application you deny."

I do NOT deny the pracitical application. I deny the assumption that commonalities must equal relatedness.

"....commondescent and its implications on applied biochemistry or genetics."
An observation of God's Trademark in creation can just as easily explain commonalities we see in similar species. ERV's and ARG's are perfect examples of this..and we are basically addressing the same type of argument as it relates to assumed twin nested hierarchy. Until you address opposing arguments and their identified areas of dispute you will not be looking at your own a priori as it relates to the 10's of thousands of inductions which you use to interpret universal common descent (which I have dissented from).

Chuck O'Connor said...

Al,

Evangelicals don't believe in infant baptism as a means of removing Original Sin so . . . reckon that for me.

I was a devout Catholic with Jesuit training and a five-point Calvinist who rejected Catholicism.

A Calvinist would strongly disagree with you on Muslims ability to be saved by the way.

I know very well of which you speak and I know they are irreconcilable.

I also don't believe the Holy Spirit exists as evidenced by the lack of reconciliation.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Breckamin,

What opposing arguments to evolution have led to useful technology built on falsifiable information?

Please direct me to them and I will consider them.

Until then, all I see is your misunderstanding of how pre-clinical trials are run and a denial of agreed upon science for the sake of your superstitions.

Yes, I a priori reject supernaturalism in the world of medicine because it has been sufficiently dismissed as unreliable.

Breckmin said...

"What opposing arguments to evolution have led to useful technology built on falsifiable information?"

What you don't understand is I could ask the same question as to "what opposing arguments to creation have lead to useful technology, etc." because it is the same useful technology and falsifiable information that is used to differentiate between the equivocation with regard to the word "evolution."

Common descent with modification within genera or speciation as well as (a correct view of)natural selection are all part of creation.
There is no legitimate opposing argument to creationism that identifies areas of dispute that would affect research.

"Please direct me to them and I will consider them."

It is irrelevant to specified areas of dispute
which need to be correctly identified.

Chuck O'Connor said...

So by your response Breck, can I assume you either won't or can't direct me to the white papers that support creationism as science?

You don't get it do you.

pre-clinical trials rely on the fact that other animal species are our "cousins" thus, common descent.

Your need to deny this is insulting and then accusing me of a priori bias is insulting.

Project much?

unkle e said...

John Loftus said: "Biblical criticism completely destroys the historical foundations for their faith."

I note many of the examples you give i the ensuing discussion are from the Old Testament. CS Lewis was one of the most influential christians of the 20th century. He also had expertise in ancient literature and history. His view on the Old Testament was something like this: The first 11 chapters of Genesis are legendary or mythical ("hanging in the clouds") - God's revelatory myth which contains truth, but myth nonetheless. As the OT progresses, the truth becomes more focussed and historical until it "becomes small, solid - no bigger than a man who can lie asleep in a rowing boat". Your arguments may cause difficulties to fundamentalists, but fundamentalism is not held by all, or even most, christians. To anyone who, like me, thought the same as Lewis or was influenced by him, your OT examples present few difficulties.

And when I studied theology almost 40 years ago, most of the textual problems raised by Bart Ehrman were known and caused little consternation. So Biblical scholarship does not necessarily create new problems for us christians. But increasingly, as NT scholars (e.g. Wright, Bauckham, Evans, Twelftree, Theissen) move away from the gross scepticism of the recent past (as Lewis himself predicted), your view is increasingly being questioned.

"Hume, for instance, cannot be refuted "

From where do you draw this conclusion, John? My reading, summarised briefly in comment #14 on Victor Reppert's blog, is that the majority of current scholarship is tending towards a total refutation of Hume, although there are still many who think something worthwhile can be rescued from the ruins.

So on both NT scholarship and Humean philosophy, I believe the tide is running against the views you express so confidently here. Are you willing to take your own medicine and go with the scholarship?

Best wishes.

Al Moritz said...

Walter:

So one simply has to believe in a deity or deities to attain salvation? What about virtuous atheists and agnostics? Do they have a shot at the pearly gates, or is "belief" the foremost requirement?

Please read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extra_Ecclesiam_nulla_salus

heading: Roman Catholic interpretation

Chuck O'Connor said...

Unkle E,

You are good at quote mining.

Nice job.

Breckmin said...

"pre-clinical trials rely on the fact that other animal species are our "cousins" thus, common descent."

This is completely untrue. Our commonalities in our biological systems displays God's trademark in the order of creation as well as our ability to metabolize and eat other species. The creationist uses panina as evidence that we are uniquely created in the Image of God and that Pan troglodytes or any observed Homininae are merely animals that do not possess human consciousness which is capable of complex creativity, complex mathematical understanding or complex philosophical understanding or philology itself.

Until you address human consciousness, you can not logically assert common ancestry unless you build a worldview in science based upon tens of thousands of invalid inductions which are clearly open for error and can be exposed at the point of genetic entropy/information entropy for which all falsifiable observation supports the Law of Biogenesis and the necessity for already existing templates of information to form genes.

As far as bias goes..this is in the circular reasoning of naturalism/materialism itself and definitions which eliminate theistic implication.

Everyone is biased by knowledge, btw.

Chuck O'Connor said...

OK Breck,

Just point me to the peer-reviewed white papers where any of what you say is shown to be germane to clinical science. LOL.

Breckmin said...

an appeal to infra structures which do not identify their own influence of naturalism/materialism and their elimination of theistic implications in science is nothing more than a consensus gentium appeal.

Unless we address scientific observation itself (information entropy in the genome)all such appeals in science are circular at the point of "requirement for publication" rather than the evidence itself.

I'm certain I could find an article from the Discovery Institute or Answers-in-genesis if I looked. One set of peer review against another is NOT a valid basis for scientific observation which is falsifiable. We need to understand *why* universal common descent is scientifically unviable as a naturalistic explanation.
We can start with Mike Behe's argument for a population of non-flagella gram negative bacteria to ever produce a baterial flagellum without the gene.

New genes don't emerge without the information for them. That is why going from simple living cells to complex mammalia over the process of billions of years is completely unrealistic without the information for new genes.

Requiring peer-review is a Red herring to this needed informaion.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Breckamin,

You need to take your own advice and "question everything."

Why have been there incremental positive advances in the practice of medicine and, how does peer-reviewed research aid in these developments?

If you can show me how your ideas aid in furthering health and wellness than I might consider them. Absent that, all you have is rhetoric, paranoia and what looks like a pretty advanced persecution complex.

You have the 1st Amendment son. Your delusion will not be taken away. Stop trying to pretend it has anything to do with actually helping people and alleviating their suffering.

It is arrogant and insulting.

Anthony said...

Breckmin,

It seems that the primary argument that you have against evolution (understood as universal common descent) is information, specifically biological information. All I can say is that I am not a scientist engaged in research regarding information theory and biology, but those who are tell me that the concepts put forth by creationists (Werner Gitt for example) and intelligent design advocates (Dembski, Behe, Meyer, etc.) are wrong.

Put simply what creationists/IDists claim to be information is not what information scientists regard as information. Kind of reminds me of the difference between the popular understanding of "theory" versus the scientific one.

Breckmin said...

"Why have been there incremental positive advances in the practice of medicine and,"

Falsifiable research which is independent of explanations for origins.

"how does peer-reviewed research aid in these developments?"

Accountability (or refereeing the guided processes) which lead to the funding of research which is relevant and on topic (unlike our drift here into UCD theory vs.creation models - OR your references to me personally which are ad hominem in nature and draw attention to me personally rather than the scientific data itself).


"It is arrogant and insulting."

This has nothing to do with the specifics of information entropy in the genome or any specific find which is falsifiable having to do with natural theology. Instead it is a general accusation (without justification) which gives the impression of wrong doing which is evasive to the truth itself or the logic of it.

Natural theology is its own proprietor and does not regard accusations of insults or arrogance.

It is in and of itself dogmatic and oblivious to human emotion.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Yes, labeling your superstition and your endorsement of it as "arrogant and insulting" has everything to do with your position. You want to claim a standard of truth based in useful information simply on your cultural superstitions. That is a bad idea and you doing it without providing proper data is both the things I stated. I will add another one since you seem to stand lecture us on skepticism but fail to practice it yourself, you are a hypocrite as well.

Your need to make us all accept your superstitions as somehow equal to peer-reviewed falsifiable science is bad for healthy progress.

So, Breck, I could care less if you want to label my perspective ad hominem, I have the entire practice of clinical medicine on my side to indicate what I state as logical. You have nothing.

Anthony said...

Chuck: You have nothing.

Well actually Breck does have Answers in Genesis and the Discovery Institute. You know, those bastions of science and scientific research.

From one Calvinist turned atheist to another! :-)

Breckmin said...

"Put simply what creationists/IDists claim to be information is not what information scientists regard as information."

Not only is this information schematic in nature it is clearly identifiable. Skirting to word associations of English words such as "information" is evasive to the arrangement and identifiable sequence of the code itself. I've heard skirts to "not call it a code" because codes require Code Makers. Information that is translated and transcribed is easily identified in such arrangement which does not result from random processes.

Whether we use the English word "message" (mRNA) or Code or Information...it is still the arrangement of the identifiable sequences of codons and amino acids which are useful in performing biochemical functions.

Denying the arrangement only exposes a resistance to honest evaluation which results in theistic implication.

This is just one area of theistic implication.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Breck,

I don't deny your conclusions. I just want to see the researched, peer-reviewed evidence you base your conclusions.

Right now, you sound like a fundamentalist preacher whose ideas might be successful in filling the collection plate but, will not lead to any functional information that can lead to observed solutions.

Believe all the superstitions you want but I hold your ideas in the same esteem as I would an Imam or Scientologist's. And, the clinical medical community would feel the same.

Breckmin said...

"Yes, labeling your superstition and your endorsement of it as "arrogant and insulting" has everything to do with your position."

The problem with this is that it fails to address the progression from logical fallacies of explicit
atheism to agnostic theism to specifics which lead us to conclude an infinite Creator which then lead us to orthodox monotheism and then (based on eternal evidence) to born-again Christianity. Until you deal with the evidence itself...all accusations of arrogance have nothing to do with the scientific and historical evidences which are independent of the believer.

The process of examining evidence instead of generalizing about superstitions should logically remove ad hominem attacks which are Red herrings to specific evidence.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Give me the peer-reviewed evidence that allows creationism and Jewish superstitions to have equal footing as falsifiable theory which has led to beneficial and life-saving medical technology. Still waiting. And until you provide it, you will be arrogant, insulting and hypocritical.

Brad Haggard said...

John,

I think that Uncle E summarized my view of the direction of scholarship pretty well. You can complain that it is because of an inherent discrepancy between the number of conservative seminaries, but I don't think that argument washes. Plus, you have to apply your universal acid of "brainwashing" to all the scholars in those seminaries and universities.

But the real problem is that you aren't a Humean, either. Hume's skepticism led to a strident agnosticism. He actively disassociated from the French intellectual atheists of his time because he thought that no one could confidently make a claim either way. He didn't even think we could proclaim the law of cause and effect, for that matter. So I don't think you take his skepticism to its conclusion. It really isn't a sustainable epistemology.

Also, I don't think you know just how I look at miracle claims from other religions or areas. I've got a few quick things to say to that end. 1. Christianity is pretty unique in its miracle claims, while Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. are more a set of teachings (see Pannenberg if you don't agree) 2. If I open up my scope of investigation, a la Boyd and Eddy, then I can truly be open. I can apply historical criteria to events and really interact with their testimony. 3. I may even accept the testimony of someone for an event but reject their interpretation of the event's meaning and 4. it frees me from this western cultural imperialism that "skepticism" imposes on the rest of the world's body of knowledge.

With that said, enjoy your time off. I have to do it periodically and I just comment every now and then.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Brad,

I recommend listening to the James Sennett interview at Common Sense Atheism and Luke's podcast entitled "Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot". Remember the focus of John's page is to debunk evangelical Christianity and if you listen to Sennett's view on salvation he is not properly Evangelical. His view came about when analyzing natural theology. His view would get him labeled a "practical atheist" by the Evangelical Free Church I once attended.

It might be a good idea to put your religious views within a modern context and see how rare they are and how violently they would be opposed by supporters of inerrancy. Your religious views are closer to John's than they are to the sold-out believers I knew during my 7 years identifying as an Evangelical Christian.

Russ said...

Doug Groothuis said,

John:

One cam make the case for basic monotheism without going into all the historical-critical ideas pertaining to the Bible. That is a legitimate pursuit.

Some Christian theologians make a case for a god that ships transgressors off to hell after they die. Other Christian theologians make a case for a god that sends no one off to hell. Since these assumptions define different gods, Christians themselves, including the venerable theologians, make the case for polytheism. So monotheism clearly is not important to the Christian enterprise.

Satan, too, is a Christian god. Sure you choose to draw semantic distinctions but Satan is a god in every sense of the word. For that matter, the Bible itself depicts Satan as a much nicer fellow than any of the other versions of Christian gods. Satan is treated as an eternal omnipresent being capable of supernaturally causing changes in people's behavior. Satan can do miracles, just like the various versions of Jehovahs, Gods and Yahwehs.

The Bible confesses the existence of other gods in many places.

Roman Catholics delegate their one true god's power to a committee of saints. So, it's largely irrelevant whether there's a god acting like a pantheon, or a pantheon calling itself a god. The current Pope, absolutely the best of Christian theologists, says it plain: for anyone to make it to heaven, they must be Roman Catholic. That clearly means that the Pope's version of a Christian god opens the Pearly Gates only to those who have been stamped with the RCSA, the Roman Catholic Seal of Approval - non-Roman Catholics need not apply.

Wow, what if he's right? Maybe all Christians should accept this as Pope's Wager and convert to Roman Catholicism. Not gonna happen is it? since other Christians prefer to cling to their version of a Christian god. You don't believe the Pope, do you, Doug? Just like other Christians don't believe you. It seems that other Christians, like the Pope, despite all your study, prayer and divine guidance and inspiration, just don't take you seriously. Monotheism isn't important to Christians. Christians even contend there are magical relics - bone, wood, blood, hair, cloth, trinkets and amulets like crosses - that can heal and perform miracles. Who needs a god when you can get what you want from a magical bloodclot?

When Christians try to define their version of god, their gods are so varied, inconsistent, and contradictory that we know they are envisioning completely different deities. Some Christians have abandoned these clearly fruitless attempts and settled on the non-existence of gods as the correct interpretation of the data.

You say these efforts are "a legitimate pursuit," but what is observed is that while they occasionally raise each other's dander, theologians produce nothing of real value to the world. How do we know? The man in the pew doesn't listen to theologians or even know who they are. It's telling that half of self-identified Christians in the US can't name the first four books of the new testament or identify the preacher who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. The man in the pew doesn't care about Christianity as a whole, and he certainly does not care about the tired ponderings of theologians.

We can see that your statement

Craig, Moreland, myself, and others are defending the Christian God

is meaningless since Christianity has a great many gods. You no doubt define your god for philosophical interlocution, laying out your omni-this and omni-that, which, all by itself, tells us that you have made it up, and it could be made up differently by you or someone else. You place some rough constraints on your imaginings, but you're simply creating a god for the sake of argument. You might think you've defined it in the only way possible, but so do other theologians who play with a different Christian god imagined on different assumptions.

Russ said...

You people should start assigning model numbers to Christian gods and keep them in a Christian god database so the nickel plunking pew-dwellers can keep up on the lastest and greatest, new and improved versions of Christian gods.

You said,

so we need to address the matters you raise.

Of course, you will create apologetic workarounds for this shared reality we all inhabit but which you wish was different, which you wish was exactly as you dream it to be.

You say,

The argument, though, looks like this:
1. There is good evidence from human nature, the cosmos, and religious experience, etc., that God exists.

Uh, no. You will presume the existence of some god, defined from your assumptions which themselves you will have chosen to prove your point. Aside from using ignorance as "evidence," there is no way to get to some god from evidence in the natural world. You will beg the question every step of the way.

Doug, you frequently make the disclaimer "it is impossible to be an expert on all these topics," after which you then proceed to pass yourself off as an expert. You would do yourself a great service to actually study some of the science rather than relying on frauds like those at the Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, or the Creation Research Institute. Rather than relying on those paid to exert extreme bias, why not do your own research? Study the original works of those you seem to want to denigrate. Why not follow the work of the Nobel Prize winners in the sciences rather than a bunch of disreputable self-proclaimed "experts" with publicly-stated prior agendas like the Wedge Document? It really isn't necessary for you to wallow in scientific ignorance, depending on frauds like Wells, Dembski, and Behe, when the work of respected scientists is freely available. Wouldn't it be nice if you really could rely on your version of a god to help you out?

You said,

2. Given (1), what religion is the best candidate in light of the evidence of natural theology? Here one brings in arguments from history and the person of Jesus Christ.

That first one is a real doozy of an assumption, unjustified, unwarranted, untrue, and unbelievable. If you can get your audience to swallow that one you are pretty much all the way home. Anything can be proven if you permit yourself to pick your assumptions with an observed objective in mind. Let's guess: you think your assumptions allow you to prove that your version of Christianity, not Christianity as a whole, has the right god.

If such a case hasn't been unequivocably made these last couple thousand years, it's not likely that you're machinations are going to be any different.

Empirical studies demonstrate that Christian churchgoers do not even know what they believe. This is really sad. What they say they believe is not the same as what their behavior tells us they believe, and neither of what they say or do agrees with many others called Christian. But, I guess we can't really expect those lowly Christian laymen who haven't studied these things in great depth to be any closer to agreement than they are, since we can see that those esteemed Christian theologians who have made it their life's work, now and down the ages, have come no closer to comprehending any of it, than have those lowly laymen.

Al Moritz said...

The current Pope, absolutely the best of Christian theologists, says it plain: for anyone to make it to heaven, they must be Roman Catholic. That clearly means that the Pope's version of a Christian god opens the Pearly Gates only to those who have been stamped with the RCSA, the Roman Catholic Seal of Approval - non-Roman Catholics need not apply.

Wrong, see above.

unkle e said...

Doug said: "Since these assumptions define different gods, Christians themselves, including the venerable theologians, make the case for polytheism."
Russ said: "You people should start assigning model numbers to Christian gods and keep them in a Christian god database"

These comments raise an interesting question - when does a different description entail a different entity?

Let's start with people. If two of us agree that Bob Dylan is a great American composer and musician who wrote "Hurricane" and "Jokerman", but you think Dylan was his original surname and I think it was Zimmerman, are we talking about two different people, or are we talking about the same one, but one of us has a fact wrong? I think we all know the answer "the same", but why? I suggest it is because the definition of "Bob Dylan" that most people would use doesn't contain the detail of his original surname, certainly not as an essential component.

Now consider God. Most people would agree with a definition like that given in Wikipedia: "God is the English name given to a singular omnipotent being in theistic and deistic religions (and other belief systems) whom is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a principal deity in polytheism.
God is most often conceived of as the supernatural creator and overseer of the universe."


So Doug, since that definition doesn't include as an essential the detail of whether God sends people to hell or not, people with both beliefs can be taken to be believing in the same entity, as defined above, but believing some different things about that entity.

Applying this quite logical principle resolves many of the apparent difficulties raised. That's partly what definitions are for.

Al Moritz said...

Doug said: "Since these assumptions define different gods, Christians themselves, including the venerable theologians, make the case for polytheism."
Russ said: "You people should start assigning model numbers to Christian gods and keep them in a Christian god database"


Actually, Russ made both these comments.

since that definition doesn't include as an essential the detail of whether God sends people to hell or not, people with both beliefs can be taken to be believing in the same entity, as defined above, but believing some different things about that entity.

Pope John Paul II once reportedly said to a group of cheering Muslims, "we all believe in one God".

Chuck O'Connor said...

Al,

If Pope John Paul II said that in the Evangelical Free Church I formerly attended he would be considered an atheist by the good old "Five pointers" there.

You are arrogant to assume that your Roman Catholic dogma (I mean that in the terms the church means it) harmonizes with other denominations understanding of salvation.

I was raised Catholic and have 14 years of Catholic Education, I also held multiple lay-ministry positions in a few Protestant Churches and did work supporting missionaries in Kenya.

The idea that Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are compatible on the doctrine of Salvation is confusing to me.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Unkle E,

Do you believe that it is necessary to believe in a triune god with a demand that faith in its second person wins salvation by grace?

The Christians who call themselves Jehovah's Witnesses would disagree with you.

A Muslim would kill you.

And a Thai Buddhist would wonder why you aren't building a spirit home for this person to live in.

The idea of god and the word is a place-holder for what we think is morally correct.

If you think free-thinking and social justice are morally correct than Jesus was a revolutionary.

If you think making-money is morally correct than you think Jesus was an entrepreneur.

If you think there is only one true god, Allah, then Jesus was a prophet.

You are trying to convince us that Bob Dylan (nee Robert Zimmerman) could be a woman cellist who played free-jazz and we can all say that is okay.

It's not the name of god that Russ is questioning, it's his competing personhood that christians never harmonize but then claim there is a universal Christian church bound by the Holy Spirit.

It's silly mumbo jumbo that begins to sound a lot like special pleading.

Al Moritz said...

Chuck:

The idea that Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are compatible on the doctrine of Salvation is confusing to me.

I have simply outlined the Catholic position; whatever Protestants may say is another issue. I did, however, feel warmly welcome as a brother in faith with several Protestant acquaintances in The Netherlands where I lived for a few years.

Metacrock said...

"This is why I focus my critique of the Christian faith on Biblical criticism. I intend to undermine the whole basis for natural theology. My goal is to knock these natural theologians off their stilts to see the basis for their faith is not there, and in so doing show them as much as I can that they're naked. Naked as jaybirds. It's laughable to me."

Ok, when are you going to learn what the basis of it is? It seems like you are saying Natural theology requires the Bible if you think you don't know what Natural theology is. To undermine it you mus undermine logic.

Metacrock said...

Theology as an intellectual endeavor is doomed from the beginning, because it is the only intellectual endeavor that requires you to begin inquiry with an immutable conclusion. That's why all of Dr. Craig's arguments are riddled to the brim with a priori assumptions that are transparent to those of us who aren't making them.


theology is inherently intellectual, nothing you can abou it. the most billiant minds in hsitory have been theologians. Yes, I know that's hard to believe beause you meausre btrillance by scinece, so by that defintion it can't be true. I meausre it by intelligentce and ideas and Berkely and Schweitzer, two of the most brillliant minds ever.

the vast lion's share of great thinkers have been religious. the tiny pathetic list of atheist thinkers pales in comparison. so theology is inherently intellectual.

The idea that to be intellectual you must start open ended inquiry and only come to the conclusion that your experiment validated empirical, like a scientist, is bull! That's just garbage. there are all kinds of ways of thinking about what is intellectual, one need not be science to be intellectual.

poetry is intellectual, so is art, so is literature so is film. So is literary criticism, so is political activism of a certain kind, social criticism, even bird watching!

Russ said...

Al,
You said,

Pope John Paul II once reportedly said to a group of cheering Muslims, "we all believe in one God".

John Paul ll is dead, Benedict XVI calls the shots now. For instance, in this article from July 2007, [http://www.wnd.com/index.php/index.php?pageId=42509] it says,

Pope Benedict XVI has ignited controversy across the world by approving a document saying non-Catholic Christian communities are either defective or not true churches, and the Roman Catholic Church provides the only true path to salvation.

"Christ 'established here on earth' only one church," said the document, reasserting the primacy of Catholicism.

It said other Christian communities such as Protestants "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" since they don't have what's known as apostolic succession – that is, the ability to trace their bishops back to the original 12 apostles of Jesus.


Here, in another article is a theological "proof," as its author says, "genuine theological demonstration of the Church’s necessity for salvation" from a 1948 article by Joseph Fenton published by the Catholic University of America Press.[http://www.romancatholicism.org/fenton-proof1.htm]

It is commonplace among teachers of scholastic theology that the thesis on the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation is one of the most difficult to impart accurately and effectively. Part of this difficulty is inherent in the subject, since the necessity of the Church is one of the basic aspects of its character as God’s supernatural kingdom on earth. Thus this truth properly belongs to the central mystery of God’s dispensation to His adopted children. In some measure, however, this difficulty stems from the fact that students are affected by certain fairly widespread but utterly untheological presentations of the doctrine of the Catholic Church’s necessity for salvation. Unfortunately, some presentations of this dogma are obviously attempts to explain it away, rather than objectively to explain its meaning.

The intolerably bad effects of this untheological teaching can best be obviated by the use of the genuine theological demonstration of the Church’s necessity for salvation.

Remember, this is theology, so it must be true. Isn't that right, Al? Isn't it true that all theology is true?

Doug Groothuis knows beyond all doubt that his theology is correct, but then Ratzinger and Fenton know beyond all doubt that their theology - which contradicts Doug's - is correct.

You say you've "simply outlined the Catholic position" but as we can see that's not the case.

Roman Catholics, layman, clergy, and theologian alike are every bit as confused about what they believe as the rest of us are concerning their beliefs. They are literally making it up as they go along. So willy nilly is their mumbo jumbo that they even contradict themselves. Theology is worthless whether it's done in the Denver Seminary, the Holy See or in an L. Ron Hubbard novel.

I concur with Metacrock's statement,

Theology as an intellectual endeavor is doomed from the beginning, because it is the only intellectual endeavor that requires you to begin inquiry with an immutable conclusion.


Theology fails as an intellectual endeavor precisely for what is observed here both within the Roman Catholic church and between it and other Christianities. Theology is completely arbitrary codswallop. As intellectual gamesmanship it can be a lot of fun. As far as importance to mankind is concerned theology is less important to us than bacteria. We need bacteria; we do not need theology.

Thanks Chuck. You stated my point rather well when you said

It's not the name of god that Russ is questioning, it's his competing personhood that christians never harmonize but then claim there is a universal Christian church bound by the Holy Spirit.

Scott said...

Unkle E wrote: These comments raise an interesting question - when does a different description entail a different entity?

When does any description of agency necessitate the existence of an actual agency?

We can imagine of a group of vehicles and electronic devices that transform into "good" robots which do battle with another group transforming of "evil" robots. However, this does not necessitate these things are actually agents that are good or evil in reality.

That you describe whatever caused the visible universe to come into existence as having agency doesn't mean it is necessarily an agent in reality.

So Doug, since that definition doesn't include as an essential the detail of whether God sends people to hell or not, people with both beliefs can be taken to be believing in the same entity, as defined above, but believing some different things about that entity.

The Calvinist God, who creates some human beings with the full intent of eternal torture, would have a significantly different nature that the Christian God, who supposedly want's all beings to be saved. And the Christian God, who sentences people to eternal torture if they do not believe he died for our sins in the form of a God-man, would have a significantly different nature that the universalist God who gives everyone eternal life regardless, or even a God that chooses annihilation over eternal torture.

These descriptions point to an agent with radically different natures and views on what is morality right.

Choosing to believe in one of these Gods commits one to a radically different "objective" moral reality; the choice of which seems to be a based on the personal moral views of the believer.

If you believe it's moral to create beings with the intent of torturing them eternally, then you might be a Calvinist. If you think it's moral to torture people eternally based on a decision made on incomplete information, then you might be a Christian. But if you think it would be immoral for God to torture people eternally without a chance to learn anything from said torture, then you're likely to be a universalist instead.

Scott said...

E, here's what you need to convince me of: God, who is all knowing and perfectly self-sufficient, would be concerned if I believe he exists or not.

Clearly, if there is a being who is all knowing, he need not be reassured that he himself exists or has any specific properties, attributes or abilities. He would know this with complete certainty. Furthermore, if this being is changeless and perfectly self sufficient, he would not become "greater" or "lesser" regardless if anyone thinks he exists or any particular opinion we might hold of him.

However, Christianly claims God will sentence me to eternal torture if I do not believe he died for me in the form of a God-man. Why would he care?

You might say that God wants us to think he exists so we avoid eternal punishment, but this punishment is supposedly due to a lack of belief that he exists. It's non-sensical and circular.

You might say that God "loves" us and want's a relationship with us, but God intentionally hides from us and keeps us in the dark about critical matters regarding reality. Why would he do this?

Applying this quite logical principle resolves many of the apparent difficulties raised. That's partly what definitions are for.

If, despite all of this, God is offended by a lack of belief that HE exists, then why wouldn't HE be offended if I didn't get the details about HIS nature right? I mean, supposedly there is one particular God who is offended, right? Or is this all purely intellectual endeavor which need not actually exist in reality?

Al Moritz said...

Russ:

Pope Benedict XVI has ignited controversy across the world by approving a document saying non-Catholic Christian communities are either defective or not true churches, and the Roman Catholic Church provides the only true path to salvation.

"Christ 'established here on earth' only one church," said the document, reasserting the primacy of Catholicism.

It said other Christian communities such as Protestants "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" since they don't have what's known as apostolic succession – that is, the ability to trace their bishops back to the original 12 apostles of Jesus.


This is know theology and does not contradict, if you compare carefully, what the Catholic Church says in other documents. From the link that I posted above and that you apparently did not read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extra_Ecclesiam_nulla_salus

As indicated above, the Catholic Church rejects both Feeneyism and (by stating that "they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it") the contrary notion that one can be saved while knowingly and deliberately rejecting the Catholic Church.

It holds that, among those who "do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter… those who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church" and that "(t)hose who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 838-839).

Al Moritz said...

Continued:

The Second Vatican Council further explained the status of non-Catholic Christians ("separated brethren") as follows (Unitatis Redintegratio, 3):

But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church. Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ. The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation. It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church. Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those to whom He has given new birth into one body, and whom He has quickened to newness of life - that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help towards salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one body of Christ into which all those must be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God…

Al Moritz said...

Please, Russ, before you respond, read carefully what I have posted.

Russ said...

Al,
I read it. It looks like jury rigging and gerrymandering. It gives me a sense of funhouse mirrors so arranged as to avert one's attention from reality, to avoid seeing the world as it truly is. I understand why it's done: reality is hard to grasp since the pieces arrange and assemble in one and only one way. Religion's essential add-on for putting reality in its place, magic, eliminates the need to discover how it is that reality's parts mesh and move together.

Since it eliminates the need to understand, religion's magic appeals to those masses of people who want easy answers rather than truth. Religion's magic appeals to those who are so impressed by easy magical answers that they will call such insipidity truth, and in so doing disclose their lack of understanding of what it takes for an idea to be demonstrated as belonging to that deservingly esteemed class of things true. Truth is so much more than a silly magical assertion accepted only because it flows from the mouth of some revered authority figure. Revered authority figures are very frequently wrong. Truth is independent of authority, especially independent of that silly authority figure, the theologian.

As I mentioned earlier, Doug Groothuis, from the Denver Seminary knows his theology is correct. You tell me, is he wrong? Doug would want to go toe to toe with theologians who are at odds with his religious notions, including Roman Catholic theological types. All are wrong but him concerning many issues claimed to be of eternal consequence. Why don't you convert to Doug's version of Christianity? Call it Doug's Wager. Is it an acceptable risk to remain Roman Catholic given the eternal consequences of not being a Dougian? But, you think it is, don't you? Why? Because like almost all other Christians you don't care what Doug Groothuis the theologian has to say. You simply don't believe him and you don't care. You know you're right, don't you? You know Doug's wrong, don't you? I'm sure he'll return the sentiment. There are those of us who see all of you in the same light as you see each other: wrong.

So which one is the real one? Tell me. There are so many conflicting theologies amongst the Christianities that no one, theologian or not, has any idea what is or isn't right. There are no standards for correctness in theology, literally anything goes. How do I know this? My family, for starters. We have wacked-out Fundamentalist preachers with sociopathic tendencies, theologians, atheist philosophers of religion who know theology is a game, active atheist Christian clergy, retired atheist Christian clergy, lots of time spent in seminaries and divinity schools. It's laughable, Al. So, tell me, tell us, which one is known to be the correct one. Hint: you don't know any better than anyone else, and no one else knows any better than you. Another hint: faith doesn't mean shit or count for anything of value.

The farcical theologies among the Christianities are but the tip of religion's absurdity iceberg.

I appreciate your having sought out sources for your position but in reality the populace in the pew doesn't care what the church's mucky mucks have to say, just like you don't believe in Dougianism. Roman Catholic pubahs screech against abortion, but every year Roman Catholics duke it out with Fundamentalists for the US Christian self-identity having the highest abortion rate. The Roman Catholic central committee rails against contraception, but most Roman Catholics take advantage of birth control. Roman Catholic congregants do not care what the immoral dolts running the show have to say. They know they are members of a club and they just follow the herd.

Russ said...

Al,
Of course this is not unique to Roman Catholics or even Christianity, but it does not speak well for the myriad claims by the Christianities that they provide moral guidance or provide a connection with the divine or show the path to some purported afterlife. Christians pay so little attention to what their clergy, and those theologians whispering sweet nothings in their ears, have to say that we can be confident that despite what Christians say in polls, we know they do not believe what they claim to. Hell, few Christians even know what their own church teaches.

Frankly, Al, I don't care what learned Christian theologians have to say since empirical results demonstrate that the masses have no idea who those theologians are or what their ideas are. What's more, Christianity shows no signs that it differentially benefits its believers, devout, pious or indifferent. Scandinavians are largely atheists, yet they have better lives and life outcomes and are morally better grounded than US Christians of any ilk. Until Christianity demonstrates that it actually has something to offer beyond its being a club wherein everyone agrees to say they believe absurdities incompatible with the absurdities in other Christianity clubs, it and its theology will be deserving of ridicule and mockery.

Metacrock said...

I concur with Metacrock's statement,

Theology as an intellectual endeavor is doomed from the beginning, because it is the only intellectual endeavor that requires you to begin inquiry with an immutable conclusion.


Theology fails as an intellectual endeavor precisely for what is observed here both within the Roman Catholic church and between it and other Christianities. Theology is completely arbitrary codswallop. As intellectual gamesmanship it can be a lot of fun. As far as importance to mankind is concerned theology is less important to us than bacteria. We need bacteria; we do not need theology.

so you don't know what concur means do you? I said the exact oppossite did you cath that?

it really gets me how all you guys you have never been to semainry and probably never read a single page fo theology are so buy flapping your ignorant gums about how stupid somethihng is that you nkow abaotleyl nothing at all about! nothing nothing nothing.

you know what? science is stupid. scientists are fools and suck sux. science is for idiots!

Metacrock said...

Frankly, Al, I don't care what learned Christian theologians have to say since empirical results demonstrate that the masses have no idea who those theologians are or what their ideas are. What's more, Christianity shows no signs that it differentially benefits its believers, devout, pious or indifferent.

I know you don't because athesim is total absolute intelelectual dishonesty. Atheists aer fools and idiots. I know faar more than you do and moer than you ever will I am much muc much more hintellectual than you ever thought of bieng.

you don't even know the meaning of the word. Moreover, you have not concept of truth and you don't care. you just said you don't care. this is not about thinking for you its' about your will you want to sin that's all you care about.

you hate God because he let you screw period. O terribly intellectual.


you are all cowards. I challenge and or all of you to debate. you wont accept because you know I'll beat the crap out of your arguments.

Metacrock said...

What if I started saying dentists are fools. I don't know anything about dentistry but they are fool sand their occupation is a joke. Wouldn't someone out there think "gee, are you a dentist? have you ever been to dental school?" Wouldn't that seem rather foolish of me? But hey these guys must all about beccuase they know one thing only: it's not atheist so it must be stupid!

Metacrock said...

the propagandistic bs about Scandinavia and the lies that Suckerman told about do not constitutre scial science. the research I've done proves the reason there is a social welfare state in Sweden is because in the ninteenth century those evil stupid Christian theologian who have not read and hate so much faought to make it hapen.

it's not the result of atheist it's the result of Christians. most Scandinavians are not atheist. do some deeper research. learn to care about facts for a change. there are more important things than nookie.

Metacrock said...

Through Europe the role of religion in the rise of modern secular liberal states is coming to be re-evaluated. Many historians are finding now that religion always played a more vital role than previously thought. Here'sa quote from a new ground breaking book:


Religion, Class Coalitions, and Welfare States



Series: Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics
Edited by Kees van Kersbergen
Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Philip Manow
Universit├Ąt Konstanz, Germany




This book radically revises established knowledge in comparative welfare state studies and introduces a new perspective on how religion shaped modern social protection systems. The interplay of societal cleavage structures and electoral rules produced the different political class coalitions sustaining the three welfare regimes of the Western world. In countries with proportional electoral systems the absence or presence of state–church conflicts decided whether class remained the dominant source of coalition building or whether a political logic not exclusively based on socio-economic interests (e.g. religion) was introduced into politics, particularly social policy. The political class-coalitions in countries with majoritarian systems, on the other hand, allowed only for the residual-liberal welfare state to emerge, as in the US or the UK. This book also reconsiders the role of Protestantism. Reformed Protestantism substantially delayed and restricted modern social policy. The Lutheran state churches positively contributed to the introduction of social protection programs.

• Radical revision of established knowledge in comparative welfare state studies based on a combination of country case studies and comparative accounts • Introduces a new perspective on why and how religion shaped modern social protection systems and gives a new comparative account of the formation of different welfare state regimes • Systematic inquiry into the role of the state–church conflict for social policy in advanced industrial societies
Contents

1. Religion and the Western welfare state: the theoretical context Philip Manow and Kees van Kersbergen; 2. Western European party systems and the religious cleavage Thomas Ertman; 3. The religious foundations of work-family policies in Western Europe Kimberly J. Morgan; 4. Italy: a Christian democratic or clientist welfare state? Julia Lynch; 5. Religion and the welfare state in the Netherlands Kees van Kersbergen; 6. A conservative welfare state regime without Christian Democracy? The French Etat-providence, 1880–1960 Philip Manow and Bruno Palier; 7. Religion and the consolidation of the Swiss welfare state, 1848–1945 Herbert Obinger; 8. The church as nation? The role of religion in the development of the Swedish welfare state Karen M. Anderson; 9. The religious factor in US welfare state politics Jill Quadagno and Deanna Rohlinger; 10. Religious social doctrines and poor relief: a different causal pathway Sigrun Kahl.
Contributors



(contributors include:Philip Manow, Kees van Kersbergen, Thomas Ertman, Kimberly J. Morgan, Julia Lynch, Bruno Palier, Herbert Obinger, Karen M. Anderson, Jill Quadagno, Deanna Rohlinger, Sigrun Kahl).

Anthony said...

Metacrock, first, most of what you've written here is a "crock!" Secondly, the topic of the blog is natural theology, how has anything you have written related?

Can we get back to the subject at hand?

On a side note (but related) I just got a copy of Alister McGrath's book "A Fine-Turned Universe" and will be adding it to my collection of books on natural theology. I hope to get around to reading it sometime this year.

Gandolf said...

Metacrock said... "Wouldn't someone out there think "gee, are you a dentist?"

Look out Metacrock you`ll go getting yourself so worked up, your dentures will fall out and then you`ll be left trying to gum all us nasty non believers into shape.

Naturally someone might have good reason! to wonder if somebodys actually a dentist,dentists tend to mostly all follow some (common scientific teachings) with regards to research done into the practice of dentistry.They follow procedures that have been proved to work.

It makes a very big difference if a dentist is actually qualified.

This has not got much in common with matters of faith though.Faith is not scientific.Somebodies guess is about as good as anybody elses guess.A qualified theologian, is just somebody thats been taught to become skilled in reciting a certain type of dogma.

There is no reason to have any trust of the faithful,their attempt at "faith science" shows its kinda useless.They all end up willy nilly with all manner of ideas,and yet nothing much that can ever be shown as being conclusive.

Meaning there is far much more very valid reasons to double question and not trust the ideas of faithful folks,than one would ever likely have reason to question or not trust many qualified dentist.

Russ said...

J.L. Hinman, Joe, JL, Metacrock,

You obviously have some sort of cognitive defect. You would be better understood if you use a spell checker. You say,

I know faar more than you do and moer than you ever will I am much muc much more hintellectual than you ever thought of bieng.

Today's intellectuals can and do use spell checkers. Cognitively or perceptually handicapped intellectuals employ such tools as a matter of course to decrease the likelihood that they might be misunderstood. Clearly, you don't care if you communicate well. You're an apologist for your version of a Christian god, but make no effort to make your message clear. You are fortunate that your god does not exist, since you are an appallingly bad emissary.

Undoubtedly, many of the heroes from your Bible's hit parade shared your lack of concern concerning being understood. For example, your version of a Christian god simply commands Believe in me or burn forever! Like you, your version of a god fails to communicate adequately, yet, like you, it insists on being respected. Like you it screams and throws tantrums and threatens, rather than facilitating communication through evidence.

That your god does not exist becomes obvious when we consider that it has no action in the world and those who represent it, you for instance, are little more than buffoons and jesters, falling and screeching over one another to proclaim to us all what their version god told them in private. The rest of us don't get to hear what they say their god told them, yet we're supposed to accept that it applies to each of us, even when what they say is observably wrong.

No extant god wanting its message to be brought to the world would choose you to make it happen. But, because gods don't exist, even someone like you who can't give his words the respect of a spell check can do the hawking. Are you perhaps transliterating your own speaking in tongues?

I don't understand why you aren't more careful, more considerate of the words you write, since you claim to believe that those words can impart beliefs. Those beliefs become emblazoned on a soul. You further believe that your god performs a post mortem inspection of that soul looking for defects in those beliefs to decide if its owner gets shipped off to hell.

Joe, if the words you write could be the difference between heaven and hell for some of your readers, they deserve more respect, more care, more love from you. If you know you have a cognitive impairment, deal with it. Don't create strings of words like "you hate God because he let you screw period," or strings of letters like "abaotleyl" and "intelelectual."

To gain respect as an "intelelectual" you must act like an "intelelectual," which in part means dealing with your cognitive defects so that the language constructs you employ can be understood. Religious language is obviously human created and plenty stupid on its own without you creating an even more impenetrable drivel by fabricating random lexical and grammatical constructions.

Since you clearly don't know this, let me tell you, in Real-Honest-To-God Christianity, only one species of sinner goes to hell: he whose language constructs interferes with other's understanding. Beware!

goprairie said...

Metacrock: No one will debate you because your points have all been refuted and you still think you won. You are not debatable because you don't follow the rules. I would not play Scrabble with you either, because you would redefine the rules, make up new words with wacky definitions, declare foul if I rejected your non words, and when I had more points in the end, you would declare that I did not play fairly and declare yourself the winner. When you then asked someone else to play you, the self-declared champ, and they declined, you would be on here telling us no one will play Scrabble with you because of your superior Scrabble prowess. No one will debate you, true, but it is not for the reasons you claim. The reasons are obvious to everyone but you. You keep coming back with the same delusions and errors. Why?

Anthony said...

Goprairie: You keep coming back with the same delusions and errors. Why?

Not only does he keep coming back with the same erors, but with the same nasty attitude. People talk about the angry atheist, Joe exemplifies the angry theist.

goprairie said...

Breckmin: New genes: Obviously you don't know how genes and genetics work. There are not unique genes for every characteristic, rather, there are 4basic kinds of genetic material. They are linked together to mean different things depending on how their order and lenghth. Words are made of letters. There are 26 letters. How many words are there. What does it take to make a new word? NOT new letters, just existing letters combined in a novel sequence. By using some existing stuff, letters, in a new combination, it is easy to make up a new words with new meanings. The new word did not require new material arising from scratch, merely that existing material be combined in a slightly new way. Some combinations work as words and many do not. For example, I can add ge from genetics to turf from landscaping and get gerf and it makes no sense. It won't enter common usage. Or I can take gen from genetics and combine it with idiot and call people like you who make up objections to evolution based on crappy understanding of the basics of genetics a 'genidiot' and if the audience here finds it to their liking and uses it a few times, it has become a new word. No new letters appeared out of nowhere but a new word came into being. Take your genidiocy somewhere where gullible people live.

goprairie said...

Breckmin: You seem to take a position that dogs and chimps and rats have similar biology because God like the design and reused it. Except if that were true, why did he include wacky stuff like the route of certain essentials of the male repoductive system where things loop around in ridiculous routes. The route makes sense if seen as a result of the ancestral animal switching from standing on four legs to two, causing the routes to get stretched out to work in this circuitous way. God would just use a direct route, you'd think. I.e., not reuse the parts that could be done more efficiently and effectively? So also for the routes of nerves in the human neck that make sense only as seen in the context of the horzontal spine becoming vertical. God would reroute those too, eh? If he was smart? Read "Why Evolution is True" before you trot out ideas like design reuse to explain animal body similarities. Evolution fits with how things are. God as an explanation requires us to accept ridiculous claims about God, like that he would think those things were good design.

Metacrock said...

Metacrock, first, most of what you've written here is a "crock!"

that's not an argument. calling it names doesn't make it go away. I used several academic source, I am an academic historian. If you look at what John said about jme he says "this guy is the real deal." he called my school and he knows that I was a Ph.D. candidate nnwo you tell me my that's crock? hu? because just saying that is not an argument. you are not an intellectual.

Secondly, the topic of the blog is natural theology, how has anything you have written related?

Russ alluded The Sucker man study you tell me! ask Russ, I was just answering him.

can't you guys even follow argument? you want to propagate this myth that Christians are stupid and you are so Superior and you can't even follow a simple line of reasoning!




Can we get back to the subject at hand?

you never got to it to begin with. Natural theology is not about science and not about who is intellectual and it about Sweden having a better from of government.

On a side note (but related) I just got a copy of Alister McGrath's book "A Fine-Turned Universe" and will be adding it to my collection of books on natural theology. I hope to get around to reading it sometime this year.

you are the one who wanted to get back to the topic! what does that have to do with it?

Metacrock said...

J.L. Hinman, Joe, JL, Metacrock,

You obviously have some sort of cognitive defect. You would be better understood if you use a spell checker. You say,

you have a cognitive defect yourself. Mine is called dyslexia. yours is called being stupid. you would be better understood if you a had a brain.

Metacrock said...

Goprairie: You keep coming back with the same delusions and errors. Why?

Not only does he keep coming back with the same erors, but with the same nasty attitude. People talk about the angry atheist, Joe exemplifies the angry theist.

aahahah what a pack of fools. you sit over patting each other on the back acting liek you are supuiror and you jus ta bunch of know nothings who never went to gradute school ridiculing great thinkers whose sandels you are not fit to clean, whose words you can never complrehend bu ti hav ethe attutide.

Look at this, not one of you has managed to make a single substantive arguer about the subject matter. in this whole chlorophy of stupidity there are massive statements of how stupid theology is not but one single intellectual response to the empirical evidence taht I posted. you cannot respond to an augment intelligently. you even have to attack my dyslexia because that's the level of your stupidity.

Plantinga is an idiot, you are the great intellectuals, not one of you can make a single substantive argument against what I said. I bet you can't even remember the original point that I made.

Yea yea Plantinga and Harsshorne what idiots the why who spells stuff right he's the real intellectual.

Metacrock said...

Metacrock: No one will debate you because your points have all been refuted and you still think you won.


they have all been called names, is that the same thing?

what a gang of great intellectuals you are. why you are so far up ther you are almost on the level with the Governor of Texas!

Scott said...

Al wrote: It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation.

Al,

The problem here is that it would be just as easy to proclaim that these people will NOT be saved as any negative claim is just as defendable as a positive claim.

God could take or make exceptions in specific cases and use divine revelation to inform some specific group, which you're not apart of. You must accept this as true because much of what you hold to be authentic communication from God was "revealed" to only a few. Should this not be the possible, then God hasn't revealed anything in particular, except for extremely vague propositions, such as that he exists.

While there might be elaborate accounts for why this these individuals "have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation.", it's just as easy to create an elaborate account as to why they would be excluded. In fact, many have done just that throughout history and even today.

It just happens to be that some are more culturally accepted than others.

There simply isn't any clear, difficult to vary, causal chain of events that results in salvation. It's all theological conjecture based on stolen concepts of human motivation and past attempts to create accounts of what we observe.

On one hand, God is all powerful and created everything out of nothing, including logic, etc. But on the other hand, God had to sacrifice himself to himself to remove our "sins", and we have to believe this actually occurred in reality to receive salvation?

Take Baptism, for example. There isn't anything remotely causal about the act (in it's many forms) which could lead us to think it is actually 'necessary' for salvation. Instead, it seems to be more of a symbolic requirement "issued" by God. But if a requirement that could stand in the way of salvation is completely metaphorical, then how could you be sure it some other symbolic act was actually required by God instead? We simply couldn't tell as baptism has no more causal basis for endowing salvation than some other act, such as planting a seed.

Without any hard to vary reason to prefer one symbolic act over another, it becomes one of many contradicting archetypes that claim to be a requirement made by God to receive salvation.

Russ said...

I think Karl Barth had it right when he said,

The best theology would need no advocates: it would prove itself.

Of course, we never see a theology proving itself. Theology never provides evidence for its own veracity. What we see instead is theology's advocates passing off their own personal ideas as insights from god. There's nothing consistent or coherent among these advocates claims. Supposedly, Christians and Muslims grovel to the same god, but if that's the case no one can bridge the abyss that separates their theologies. To Christians Jesus is their religion's entire raison d'etre, but to Muslims Jesus was just a nice guy.

The god of Islam is clearly not the same god of Christianity. So, natural theology's notion that reason and non-supernatural experience are sufficient to demonstrate the existence of a god refutes itself when Christians conclude Yahweh via natural theology and Muslims conclude Allah with the same. To be sure the gods of the Norse, Celtic, Greek and Roman pantheons could all be resurrected through natural theology. Since in natural theology all reason, experience and evidence lead without discrimination to all gods, natural theology shows itself to be nothing but one more toy for philosophy playtime.

Again, I think Karl Barth was spot on:

The best theology would need no advocates: it would prove itself.

Russ said...

Scott,
Regarding natural theology and baptism, I wonder how using reason and experience, the tools of natural theology, does one conclude there to be a need for baptism. Clearly, natural theologians must use the Bible as a source of propositions that they then argue for using their own experience and reason. Never mind that all persons have differing suites of experience and capacities for reason to draw on and thus it would be perfectly reasonable to expect them to reach different conclusions.

It seems disingenuous to me that one would want to start with a Bible-based, and thus questionable, conclusion and then set out to justify it with subjective reasoning capacity and experiences. To me it is exactly as John stated in his post,
What they have done is to defend what they were led to believe because of an initial commitment, usually in their youth, which controls how they approach these arguments.


These natural theologians are often educated in fields requiring analytical and critical thinking skills like philosophy. However, when those first few drops of theology condense from that philosophy still, these guys get so intoxicated they immediately abrogate their well-honed mental faculties. I don't understand why natural theologians bother with studying the tools of the philosophers, since, when they are stoned on theology, they are every bit as dazed, daft and dumbfounded as Fred Phelps, David Koresh, Joseph Smith or L. Ron Hubbard.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Russ said,

"There are those of us who see all of you in the same light as you see each other: wrong."

Well said.

And, Metarock, what about dyslexia would keep you from using spell-check software?

Russ said...

Metacrock,
I concur with your having said,

it's not atheist so it must be stupid!

Gandolf said...

Russ said... "I think Karl Barth had it right when he said,

The best theology would need no advocates: it would prove itself.

Of course, we never see a theology proving itself. Theology never provides evidence for its own veracity. What we see instead is theology's advocates passing off their own personal ideas as insights from god. There's nothing consistent or coherent among these advocates claims."

Yeah Russ, its like a idea thats always been found lacking any real convincing evidence.For most good ideas, more and more conclusive evidence usually arrives over time,but not evidence for gods.We have the idea,then nothing.

Gravity and wind didnt really even really need any advocates did it,apples and coconuts dropping onto peoples heads, while they noticed the trees moving! around each time they felt great gusts of wind on their faces, soon enough taught most punters exactly the same! thing.

The only thing i see coming through that looks "consistent" or "coherent" among these faith advocates claims is (faith), its become obvious they are all followers of guesses!.

It cannot even be said one person is even any the wiser, even after thousands and thousands of years now.

Sure ideas have chopped and changed to suit the time and culture, but not one person has yet made any brake-through to prove they can say they are starting to understand gods.Not one

It does seem quite "consistent" and "coherent" to start to be able to conclude, it seems obvious! these peoples ideas all stem from myths back in a superstitious and fearful era, when knowledge was very lacking!!.Back then even killer lightning bolts and killer earthquakes,tsunami desease drought etc, were all often thought personally to do with anger of the "gods" by most everyone.

The fact that ALL these ideas began back in times of great ignorance seems what honestly looks the most consistant and coherent thing.Its what looks most logically connected.

Our Christian friend Metacrock comes here and says stuff like..> "the most billiant minds in hsitory have been theologians." .Im thinking yeah go crock! you great bundle of intellectual joy,but maybe some "brilliant minds" of long ago in history, also once thought maybe gods actually threw the killer lightning bolts at us too .

Simply having a brilliant mind, doesnt always stop people from being stupid.Some people are even brilliantly stupid

Gandolf said...

Russ said... "Scott,
Regarding natural theology and baptism, I wonder how using reason and experience, the tools of natural theology, does one conclude there to be a need for baptism"

Were people even allowed to use reason when involved in natural theology?.

John suggested .."The consensus seemed to be that Christians could not argue for a theology based in reason and science"

But anyway i was wondering maybe the idea of baptism, came from the idea of water also often being used to clean many other things like clothes and kitchen utensils etc.Someday some bloke watching the contrite women doing the dishes thought, hold on governor,maybe its water that cleans the soul also

Russ said...

Metacrock,
I wholeheartedly agree with your statements,

Plantinga is an idiot

and

Yea yea Plantinga and Harsshorne what idiots

and

how stupid theology is.

You are spot on with these statements. Such bare-knuckle frankness will earn you many friends among us atheists. It's so nice seeing you working so assiduously to impress us.


And I want you to know that we are honored by your assessments of us in your statements

you are the great intellectuals

and

what a gang of great intellectuals you are

Speaking for myself, I'm deeply moved.


And, though it makes my heart sing to see you write about

those evil stupid Christian theologian

I do have to differ with your opinion that

there are more important things than nookie.

I guess even the best of friends won't agree on everything.


Also, I think you show yourself to be a man of great humility when you confess to us that,

you are supuiror

and then repeat the sentiment in

Christians are stupid and you are so Superior.

Since you state the blatantly obvious with such eloquence, none of us can disagree with you on these two points.


It's so good to know that you think so highly of us atheists and that you acknowledge that "Christians are stupid." Not everyone will be so boldly honest as to admit their reverence for atheists. You are a rare breed.

Papalinton said...

"But a revival has taken place. Norman Geisler and his student William Lane Craig, who has become the leading voice for natural theology ..."

As David Eller says, .. " with science we get better, with religion we get more."

Never a truer word spoken. Once again, Geisler and Craig are continuing the time-honoured tradition of presenting and recirculating old and rehashed religious bunkum as 'new' theological thought. Old ideas proliferate alongside new ideas in a woefully undiscriminating, random and thoughtless mire of mythology, mysticism, astrology, alchemy, 'hero worship', magic, shamanism, and non-human supernatural [that is, unnatural] tripe [all that anthropomorphic stuff].

The DNA of Theology is more profoundly and demonstrably related to Mythology than Philosophy.

The basis for Natural theology is not an accumulative process, rather it is an accretion, an agglomeration of disparate data, hypotheses, 'truths' [?], all bundled into an amorphous mass predicated on undiscriminating faith and indiscriminate belief.

With science we get far greater predictive and more nuanced explanatory power. With natural theology, the best on offer is the nonsense of prophecy with all its predictive power resting in the rear-view mirror, retrojecting through search for an appropriate phrase or statement in the bible to substantiate the claim. What a pathetic excuse for a field of study that has absolutely no value, merit or worth in a modern community.

Cheers