My Response to Dr. Craig Blomberg

I engage Christian scholars all the time and have even allowed a few of them to post something substantive here at DC, including Craig. So after having said he has read my stuff extensively and after both admitting neither one of us will likely change our minds, Craig asked me this:
John, I guess my question for you is, from your perspective, how should people who hold views like you and I, respectively, proceed in conversation, if at all? The consistent pluralist would say that we should each tolerate each other's perspectives. But you and I are apologists, and you are an evangelist ("de-evangelist?") as well. You aren't content to let Christians believe what they want; you positively want to "deconvert" them and show them how and why their views are delusional. I don't engage in much overt evangelism but I certainly want people who haven't thought about the classic reasons for Christian faith to at least give them serious thought. We can't both be right. We could both be wrong. But the more interesting question for me is how, as two persons who both want to be guided by reason but believe that reason has led us in quite opposite directions, proceed from here? Link
Well, Craig, we could always call each other names! Or, we could talk about the weather, the Colts and stuff. But most likely we'll just carry on carrying on. I still think you're deluded. I still think you believe what you prefer to believe. I still think an educated evangelical is an oxymoron, because at this point the facts will not change your mind, which is a scary thought to me.

At this point realize that I no longer write for you. You may want to read what I write since as an apologist you may want to ward off my attacks on your faith, and I may want to read what you write in order to attack a strong man rather than a straw man, but that's the way it goes I suppose.

Cheers, my deluded friend. ;-)

37 comments:

Wes Widner said...

"Well, Craig, we could always call each other names!"

And later..

"Cheers, my deluded friend. ;-)"

Good to see that you chose to take the intellectual high ground.

Did you ever answer Dr Blomberg's question? I am curious to know what your answer to his question was.

John W. Loftus said...

Wes, I forgot that I can't try a bit of humor here. Sorry you're such a sour puss.

What do you think Craig was getting at? There is no proceeding from here for us. But that doesn't mean it's a stalemate or that we should become pluralists. Nor does it mean I should change my mind about his beliefs. We've apparently hit rock bottom. But cheer up, it is not required of an argument that it must also be convincing to be good. I have plenty of good arguments. That's all anyone can expect from me.

Marcus McElhaney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marcus McElhaney said...

So, Lofuts does not think that Dr. Blomberg is deluded? Obviously he does and I don't see how that isn't supposed to be offensive or name-calling. Seriously, I think Dr. Blomberg is really asking a good question. He's not saying we can all just hold hands and sing "Kum Bah Yah". I'm sure that Loftus would agree with that. I want to know why the facts don't change Loftus' mind? Is it that he does not find it compelling or he denies the existence of those facts. He referred to Blomberg's arguments as being strong. Are "good" arguments also "strong" arguments? What does Loftus means by "good arguments"? If arguments are not convincing, how are they still good?

Read more

3g.nursing said...

I would suggest that believers should resolve their own differences first before trying to convince others.
The biggest denomination worldwide is the roman catholic church. Many fundamentalist protestants think they are heretics and will go to hell. As another example, our own irritating troll Lvka thinks one of the strongest reasons to believe in the Christian faith is miracles performed by relics kept at eastern orthrodox churches. I don't think our other irritating troll, Marcus, would be quick to embrace that idea.
So guys, will you please first answer Craig's questions among yourselves and then get back to us, OK?

Marcus McElhaney said...

@3g.nursing

I would suggest that believers should resolve their own differences first before trying to convince others.

What about disagreement and difference between atheists? Are you trying to argue that atheists are just a monolith with no difference of opinion? Should I just dismiss what you think because not all atheists agree with you? Okay.

Steven said...

Marcus,

All atheists agree that you are wrong. Sure we quibble amongst ourselves on various issues, but we are universally in agreement that all conceptions of God are false (even if we might not agree on the reasons why, or on what constitutes good arguments against the notion).

On the other hand, Christians can't even agree on what they believe about God in the first place and have yet to even begin to come up with reliable methodologies to determine which one of you is right (if any of you are).

It's more than a little silly and disingenuous of you to claim that the relatively small disagreements within the atheist community are in any way comparable to the breadth of opinions (and disagreements) about the supernatural that can be found within religion at the most fundamental of levels.

Keith said...

Oh good comeback Marcus. Again, let me direct you to a post by John a couple of days ago One More Time Atheism is Not a Religion. Again, weak atheism does not hold to any tenets that must be agreed on. However within a religion, such as Christianity, this is the case.

Marcus McElhaney said...

Steven. All theists agree that you are wrong. So what?

Keith, I never said that atheism was a religion. It's a worldview that makes truth claims: Namely that the Christian God does not exist. You all agree to that, right. So why the straw man argument? You don't all have to agree on the details, but you do have to substantiate your conclusions just as much as I do.

Keith said...

Okay so you are saying that all Christians claim the Christian God exists, right? Which one? (I used to believe in the "true" Christian God until about a year ago too.)

3g.nursing said...

Eh...Marcus, there is no difference among atheists about what not to believe and why. None whatsoever. But there are tons of differences among believers. Not least, about precisely why one should believe. And what to believe.
Which is why you should settle craig's question among yourselves first.

Steven said...

Marcus,

The burden of proof is on you, not us. It doesn't matter if there are disagreements amongst atheists, because what we actually believe is not at issue. We don't need to justify a non-belief, all we're doing is pointing out the weaknesses in your beliefs. It is you that has to make a justification for what you believe and why, you're the one making the positive claim. Your responses are nothing but an attempt to shift the burden of proof.

If you want to come up with a valid, coherent justification for your beliefs, the first step is to come to some agreement amongst yourselves to determine what are the actual truths of your beliefs. Something that Christians haven't been able to do for 2,000 years (longer if you include Judaism). That's not a very hopeful track record.

brosho7 said...

What I find interesting about believers like Marcus is that none of them really believe what they say they believe. Believers generally justify reasons why they continue to disobey Jesus. For example, Matthew 7:6 states "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." I suspect Marcus will have a great come back for this one. Many non-believers on this board have stated over and over that we will not accept a belief in God, yet believers like Marcus will continue to debate this issue with us. Why continue to share your holy bibles passages with non-believers when we have made it perfectly clear that we will not accept your belief system? Many believers have a problem of letting us remain non-believers, yet the Jesus they claim to believe in had no problem letting non-believers remain unbelievers.

Marcus McElhaney said...

Steven said:

We don't need to justify a non-belief, all we're doing is pointing out the weaknesses in your beliefs.

Where and when did you do this? So do you disagree with "positive atheism"? I think you may wanna respond to Greg Kokl. You can find his comment here:

Christians do have a valid,coherrent, justification for belief: The Bible.

3g.nursing...are you really willing to prove that all atheists agree "about what not to believe and why. None whatsoever."? I'd like to see that.

@Keith - a Christian believes the Bible. Name a single denomination or group you would consider to be a Christian and explain why you consider them a Christian.

Marcus McElhaney said...

@brosho7...are you saying that all y'all are swine?!!!If you do, I'll leave you all alone in your unbelief and never post here again. I want to obey Jesus.

Samphire said...

Marcus,

"Namely that the Christian God does not exist. You all agree to that, right. "

No. Even RD does not say that. What we all say is that, even after 2,000 years, there is no convincing evidence that the Christian (what species of Christian you do not say) God exists and that therefore the probability of such a god existing is extremely small.

So where's your evidence?

Marcus McElhaney said...

Greg Koukl answered the objection that was just raised that atheism does not have to substantiate anything Stand to Reason Blog: Atheists' Non-belief (Video)

Steven said...

Marcus,


Where and when did you do this?

This is what atheists are doing all the time. That's what is going on on this blog, everyday.

So do you disagree with "positive atheism"?

Yes and no. In the strictest, deductive logic sense, positive atheism is a non-starter, but the majority of atheists are not positivists in this sense. Matt McCormick has written some good essays on this subject.

I think you may wanna respond to Greg Kokl. You can find his comment here:

Christians do have a valid,coherrent, justification for belief: The Bible.


I do not accept the bible as a valid historical source (anthropology has called a great many things into question, and that's before we even get into the problems found through textual analysis), it is certainly not coherent (even though apologists have been going through all kinds of mental gymnastics for centuries to try to make it seem so). It is therefore not a proper justification for belief.

As for Koukl's video, wow, so many fallacies, so little time. Koukl equivocates so-called "atheist belief" with what is more properly called atheist criticisms of faith, and then implies that because atheists have a motivation to engage and criticize Christian beliefs that there is some underlying belief there that needs justifying.

Pointing out that there is a problem with your arguments for theism has absolutely nothing to do with what I may or may not believe about God. A bad argument is a bad argument, period, and any beliefs or motivations I may have in pointing that out to you are irrelevant. He's committing a form of the genetic fallacy here.

Then he goes on a strawman attack, where he equivocates the non-belief of agnosticism with more concrete (and justifiable positions) that are made specifically against Biblical claims. These are not the same things. I can give all kinds of well justified reasons to believe that the Christian or any other conception of god doesn't exist without denying that a god in some form might still exist Koukl doesn't seem to understand this difference. For example, I don't really have any means to argue against deism or pantheist style religions. I still think they are unlikely, but I can't really say any more than that about them. At most, all I can say is that there doesn't appear to be any need for them. The history of the Christian religion is an abject lesson in how faiths back pedal from the sort of falsifying objections that I'm talking about.

Finally, for the creme de la creme, Koukl dismisses the lack of evidence objection made by atheists on the basis of an argumentum ad populum fallacy. That's really shoddy thinking. He is trying to make a valid point there, but he loses it in committing the fallacy. If he had properly made his point, my response would have been similar to my previous paragraph. In the end, Koukl fails.

Marcus McElhaney said...

@Steven

I do not accept the bible as a valid historical source (anthropology has called a great many things into question, and that's before we even get into the problems found through textual analysis), it is certainly not coherent (even though apologists have been going through all kinds of mental gymnastics for centuries to try to make it seem so). It is therefore not a proper justification for belief.


Bold assertions. i would like to engage further on this. Would you like to povide the sources and research that has led you to these conclusions?

As for your Greg Koukl comments, I entirely agree that bad afguments are just bad arguemtns. My issue is that you have them on your side as well. Especially this argument that you don't have to substantiate your truth claim. I mean look at that the things you stated about the Bible, no way does even everyone who studied the facts come away with the same conclusions.

And on a lighter note you said:

This [pointing out the weaknesses in Christian beliefs] is what atheists are doing all the time. That's what is going on on this blog, everyday.


Is that wah you call this?

Steven said...

My "assertions" about the Bible aren't bold, you just don't agree with them. You would undoubtedly say the very same things about the Koran, or the Vedas of Hinduism.

I don't have a lot of time to engage in further discussion on this topic, but let me just give you a flavor of where I'm coming from. Let's just take Jesus, for example, the corroborating historical record is quite weak, and there is very little outside the Bible to back up the story of Jesus. And yet, we have quite a fantastic event here! The lack of evidence is telling in this case...and that's just one example. Essentially, Christians' defense of their faith (and of the Bible) ultimately boil down to showing that there's a possibility that they might be right, but can not make their beliefs plausible, much less probable in the face of what we now know of human nature and the sciences.

Religions put forth no probable hypotheses, and those theologians who realize this and are intellectually honest about it wind up retreating to such a liberal version of theology, that you're left with meaningless prose, like Karen Armstrong's last book.

And yes, atheists do put forward bad arguments, it happens, I won't deny that. We're humans, we're biased, and we make poor judgements and bad decisions based on a poor understanding of the facts all the time. All the more reason to treat all human enterprises and conclusions with good bit of skepticism. In Koukl's case, he didn't actually point out any of these though. He misunderstands the points being made by the arguments he responds to, puts forth several very poorly thought out criticisms of those arguments all the while accusing atheists of being intellectually dishonest in arguments where that wasn't a valid criticism. It was boiler plate apologetics.

Is that wah you call this?

Well, blogs aren't exactly the most scholarly in their treatments, are they? :) But yes, within a rather limited scope. When John isn't lobbing bombs, his posts, and the posts of some of the others here, do verge on some pretty high quality thinking and criticism that could be expanded into scholarly arguments and rigorously sourced.

GearHedEd said...

Marcus said,

"Where and when did you do this? So do you disagree with "positive atheism"? I think you may wanna respond to Greg Kokl. You can find his comment here:

Christians do have a valid,coherrent, justification for belief: The Bible."

PFFFFFFT!

If I'vee said it once, I've said it a thousand times:

You can't prove what's in the Bible by quoting the Bible!

Give us some FACTS that don't end with attribution to the Apostle Paul!

(Here's a hint, Marcus: you can't, because there isn't!)

Craig Blomberg said...

John replied: "Well, Craig, we could always call each other names! Or, we could talk about the weather, the Colts and stuff. But most likely we'll just carry on carrying on. I still think you're deluded. I still think you believe what you prefer to believe. I still think an educated evangelical is an oxymoron, because at this point the facts will not change your mind, which is a scary thought to me."

I did catch the humor, and appreciate the willingness not to be unrelentingly serious. :) I also appreciate the willingness to discuss the most fundamental issues of life and ways in which our views differ, unlike so many multiperspectival settings where such conversations are out of bounds because they transgress borders of tolerance. I'm slowly getting used to being called deluded, now that I've heard the term so often. It does seem unnecessarily offensive; "misguided," "confused," or even "unaware of inherent contradictions in his views" would all seem to communicate the same points in a bit more kindly fashion. But, of course, whichever terms we choose, I would want to argue that they more accurately apply to atheists, and that atheists believe what they prefer to believe, and that when they will not be changed by facts it too is a scary thing. So it seems the stalemate continues. But John and I have both lived long enough to have seen people convert, deconvert, convert again, convert to something else, etc., etc. So neither of us can really know that the other will never change from his current perspective. And that makes the conversation worthwhile. If John really believes that I hold to something I need to be rescued from, I WANT him to care enough to try to change my mind. I would hope he would feel the same way. It's conversations like these that really matter, and what freedom of religion in this country was designed to allow and perhaps even encourage, not the silly, bland, freedom from religion notions where no one is allowed to share what really matters to them (except sometimes atheists). So I hope this blog continues and that the participants continue, as in these posts, not to "pull any punches" (even while doing their best not to "hit below the belt" as well). Blessings!

GearHedEd said...

Marcus said,

"...are you saying that all y'all are swine?!!!If you do, I'll leave you all alone in your unbelief and never post here again. I want to obey Jesus."

Promise?

Gandolf said...

"...are you saying that all y'all are swine?!!!If you do, I'll leave you all alone in your unbelief and never post here again. I want to obey Jesus."


Oink oink oink-ity oink oink

Dude, I'm Free said...

@Marcus,

There is so much to say. I won't because you are so delusional.

John W. Loftus said...

Craig, thank you so much for your kind words. I'll confess that having argued with Christians for six years online and in person there is a tendency for me to become impatient with them. I think this is inevitable. Even Keith Parsons recently got burned out. He called it quits.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Craig Blomberg recent wrote (in response to a post by Paul Tobin at DC), "I've read numerous documents in my life, from business documents, to history books, to legal contracts, to lofty poetry, that as far as I can tell are without error."

I suspect that by applying the same principle Dr. Blomberg could declare ALL ancient Near Eastern writings "without error," not just the books and tall tales canonized as the "Hebrew Bible."

That also reminds me of something I read at the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog concerning the biblical flood narrative: "Ancient texts like the Atrahasis Epic and Gen 6-9 were intended to be read as free of error in all that they affirm in terms of the particular genre in which they were written. . . [He then supplies exegetical and archeological reasons why Genesis 6-9 is most probably a reworking of Sumerian flood mythology] Finally, given that the balance of probability lies with a reconstruction along those lines, it will be surmised that tradition universalized a local occurrence in the process of elevating it to an occurrence of protological and universal import. No wonder then that the ark lands on the “mountains of Ararat,” the highest mountains of the known world from the perspective of people in the ancient Near East. Where else could it have been said to have landed? That is how great literature works, regardless of genre: poetry and prose, parable and history, protological and eschatological narrative. The particular is universalized according to genre-specific techniques."

Papalinton said...

Dr Craig Blomberg
Hi Craig
In your response to John, you write, ...".. that atheists believe what they prefer to believe, and that when they will not be changed by facts it too is a scary thing."

Papalinton
In relation to your claim of 'atheists not changed by facts', I am curious which of these traditional doctrinal substantive claims should be taken as fact claims. Which of these should be read as literal [facts, as you posit], figurative, allegorical or simply illustrative? :

. visitant impregnation
. virgin birth
. physical ascension
. the physical Jesus as part of the 3-in-1 godhead

I say ‘visitant impregnation’ in that visitant= a supernatural being or agency [chiefly poetic/literary].
There are two separate issues here, as I see them; the act of impregnation by a supernatural agency, and ‘virgin birth’; i.e. parthenogenesis. In respect of the current state of embryological studies it seems feasible, perhaps possible for virgin births to occur, but perhaps not without technological assistance. The question remains, are these aspects of doctrine to be read as literal, figurative, allegorical or simply illustrative?

I ask this question because I am unable to reconcile the link between these concepts and what presents as knowledge of the natural world as we know it now. And I am unable to reconcile the link between the physical ascension, together with a Jesus (the one who walked the earth) as part of the 3-in-1 godhead] and what many religionists claim as the manifestation of god: that is, 'Existence itself. Something must account for contingent existence. Anything beyond the quantitative study of material bodies.'

And why is it necessary to affirm by way of a written document, the Nicean Creed, or its varying permutations at institutes of higher learning [universities, seminaries etc] of the nature of these fact claims if indeed these claims are factual?

It seems to me this form of knowledge rather, has been repeated so often, for so long down history's path they have acquired the status of factoids, and unfortunately indistinguishable to facts as understood not only by the general population but by believers. The learning pattern from childhood howls enculturation and indoctrination, a process of imparting doctrine in a non-critical way, as in catechism.

They say, repeat something often enough it begins to evolve a life of its own.

Surely, you have considered this aspect, no?

Cheers

Russ said...

Craig,

You said,

I'm slowly getting used to being called deluded, now that I've heard the term so often. It does seem unnecessarily offensive; "misguided," "confused," or even "unaware of inherent contradictions in his views" would all seem to communicate the same points in a bit more kindly fashion.

At merriam-webster's site, they give as their primary meaning of delude: 1 : to mislead the mind or judgment of : DECEIVE, TRICK (emphasis theirs)
[http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/delude]

You clearly consider deluded as a pejorative. You call it "unnecessarily offensive," and yet you still say that, for yourself, "But, of course, whichever terms we choose, I would want to argue that they more accurately apply to atheists."

I think you would be moved farther along the road of enlightenment if, rather than following the beaten path of taking offense from deluded, you instead allowed yourself the freedom to see it as a simple statement of fact.

In Mr. Loftus' post, part of the quote has you telling him,

We can't both be right. We could both be wrong.

When we look out on the wildly varying terrain of stated beliefs throughout the Christianities, in the simplest of philosophical senses it must be the case that in their conflicting and contradicting claims they can't all be right; they could all be wrong. In that sense the great lot of Christianities disagreeing with the version of Christianity you consider true are misleading the mind or judgment of its followers, and are, thus, definitionally deluded.

The deluded nature of Christian thought is underscored within the Christianities themselves. Outside thought doesn't need to factor in. Even if you adopt the approach, as many apologists do, of restricting your definition of "Christian" to your preferred model, you have gained nothing, since studies repeatedly show that ordinary Christians have no idea what they believe. Catechismic training gets lots of churchgoers to say the same words in mechanical ritual, but the words are empty; everyday Joe Christians don't know what the words mean. The distances between theologians - who write primarily for other theologians - are almost nothing compared to the light-years separating a typical theologian and the believers of his own sect.

Theologians believe one body of ideas while the man in the pew believes things rather different. This is observed. This is known. This is typical. This is misleading the mind or judgment. This is deluded.

Craig, rather than taking offense at being called deluded by those of us outside your religion, take the time to understand why you are called deluded by other Christians, that is, why what you believe about your god is misleading your mind or judgment. Then, perhaps, the word deluded will have goaded you to understand instead of turning to apologetics. And, then too, perhaps, you will understand why those of us outside Christianity don't want our lives dictated by embattled delusions.

Rob R said...

Ed B.


I suspect that by applying the same principle Dr. Blomberg could declare ALL ancient Near Eastern writings "without error," not just the books and tall tales canonized as the "Hebrew Bible."

I didn't read Bloomberg's comment in context, but from what you quoted, I don't see a universal application. He just said that he sees that inerrancy is not such a magical unattainable aspect of literature. How you get a universal statement from that really isn't clear at all.

Dan DeMura said...

...are you saying that all y'all are swine?!!!If you do, I'll leave you all alone in your unbelief and never post here again. I want to obey Jesus.

Don't make promises that you have no intention of keeping... that would be a lie and last I checked that's a sin.

Ignerant Phool said...

Yeah Russ, it should be something similar to what Stephen Roberts said:

"When you understand why you dismiss other Christians beliefs and views, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

GearHedEd said...

Papalinton said, re: parthenogenesis:

"...In respect of the current state of embryological studies it seems feasible, perhaps possible for virgin births to occur, but perhaps not without technological assistance..."

The thing the B'lievers always pass by (genetically speaking) is that if Jesus had only an earthly mother, from whence did he get his "Y" chromosome, and if parthenogenesis is a suitable scientific response, then why wasn't He a "She"?

Papalinton said...

Hi GearHedEd
re your question, ...."The thing the B'lievers always pass by (genetically speaking) is that if Jesus had only an earthly mother, from whence did he get his "Y" chromosome, and if parthenogenesis is a suitable scientific response, then why wasn't He a "She"?"

Papalinton
C'mon mate! You are not studying the bible deep enough. You're just cherry-picking and misreading scripture. There's no way jesus could be a 'she', because he's a boy. Haven't you seen the paintings by Giotto, or Raphael or Michelangelo? God can change a 'Y' chromosome to a 'Z' if he wanted to. : )

Cheers :-)

Papalinton said...

Hi Steven
You reply to Marcus, ..."Let's just take Jesus, for example, the corroborating historical record is quite weak, and there is very little outside the Bible to back up the story of Jesus. And yet, we have quite a fantastic event here!"

Papalinton
Indeed there is evidence to the contrary growing daily. The paucity of evidence for a man at the turn of the millennium having such influence and causing discernible social unrest in the middle east at the supposed time of 'jesus' is simply not in the historical record, nothing. You would think that the tearing of the curtain at the Jerusalem temple, the holiest of Jewish places, at the moment of jesus' death would have been such an inexplicable and momentous experience that someone, SOMEONE, would have recorded it. Nothing. There are hundreds of unexplained happenings, both significant and historical at the core of the christian claims that would have caused such a stir in the community. Nothing, simply nothing is recorded.
Every other external mention has shown to be an interpolation, in other words, a forgery. The more modern textual criticism and scientific techniques are applied, the greater the disparate nature, of what goes for evidence, becomes. Indeed the hero figure of jesus, if anything, is an agglomeration of a number of figures known in oral history at the time, fashioned into an ideal. If jesus was gifted as the religious claim he was, and the eternal maker of the earth, then surely he would have been smart enough to have been able to write, have the foresight to record his thoughts, as we are told he was capable of foreseeing the future. Everything is sheer theo-speak.

Steven
You note, ..."Essentially, Christians' defense of their faith (and of the Bible) ultimately boil down to showing that there's a possibility that they might be right, .... "

Papalinton
But the tragic irony of it all, regardless of the silly claims theists make, they do not go to church to worship a 'possibility'. Sheesh!

Cheers

GearHedEd said...

I WAS wondering about that obvious beard...

:o)

Papalinton said...

Hi GearHedEd

Like this one?

: 0 )>

Cheers