Do You Want to Be a Christian Apologist? Part 7

I'm doing a series of posts dealing with the way recognized Christian apologists defend their faith. I'll number them and tag them all with the phrase "Christian Apologetics" so you can have a link to them in reverse chronological order. So, let's say you want to be a Christian apologist, someone who defends the Christian faith. Then what must you do? The seventh thing you must do is master the art intellectual gerrymandering against skeptics who disagree by using nearly every informal fallacy in the book. The better you can do this the better of an apologist you'll be in the eyes of the rank-n-file, believers who will read your works instead of reading the original works you're arguing against. Today's lesson, girls and boys, has to do with special pleading one's case and straw-manning arguments to the contrary. I think a lot of what apologists do can be summed up with these two fallacies. Take a look with me at Norman Geisler, Mark Hanna, and Douglas Groothuis, three important evangelical apologists for Jesus.

I've previously argued that this is what Christian apologist Norman Geisler did in a review of my first self-published book, and I've seen it almost all of the time by the best of the best. One of the most egregious cases is found in Mark Hanna's Biblical Christianity: Truth or Delusion?This book is a case study in intellectual gerrymandering to the point that it's little more than special pleading and straw-manning the opposition. In my new book, The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True,I show just how he does it.

If this is all Christian apologists got, then they got nothing. It's like they don't even try to understand our arguments, or are blinded to them, or something more nefarious like lying for Jesus. Douglas Groothuis is another one. He has written a few apologetics books including the massive Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith,where he deals mainly with dead atheists and the popular new atheists, none of whom are biblically or theologically sophisticated, by-passing important liberals in his own religious tradition and important atheologians and atheist/agnostic biblical scholars as if they don't exist (Bart Ehrman is one exception).

Here's what Groothuis posted on Facebook from Blaise Pascal's Pensees:
If [God] had wished to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, he could have done so by revealing himself to them so plainly that they could not doubt the truth of his essence, as he will appear on the last day. . . .This is not the way he wished to appear when he came in mildness, because so many men had shown themselves unworthy of his clemency, that he wished to deprive them of the good they did not desire. It was therefore not right that he should appear in a manner divine and absolutely capable of convincing all men, but neither was it right that his coming should be so hidden that he could not be recognized by those who sincerely sought him. He wished to make himself perfectly recognizable to them. Thus wishing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart, he has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not. ‘There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition’ (149/430). 38 people like this.
Now this is the ensuing discussion (with my commentary in brackets):
John Wesley Robinson: The sheep know the Shepherd's voice

Scott Webber: I see why you like Pascal. He puts his arguments well.

John W. Loftus: Yep, and the almighty merciful Allah is his name, may he be praised forever. ;-) It depends on when and where you were born, now doesn't it?

Douglas Groothuis: John: That is utterly irrelevant. Truth is not determined by location. God judges people by what they know or could know. Sarcasm is not an argument.

[This strawman comment of Groothuis's in defense of special pleading from Pascal is what I want to highlight here. It's from one of the best of the best Christian apologists. He just doesn't get it, or something.]

John W. Loftus: Truth is BELIEVED based on location when it comes to religious faiths, yes, most emphatically, yes. Please state the criticism fairly with no straw-manning to defend what you believe. This fact is not only NOT "utterly irrelevant," it's spot on the point. I was not being sarcastic at all. I was responding as a genuine Muslim or Mormon would do, just as the Roman Catholic Pascal believed (you're not Roman Catholic, right?). So I agree, Allah judges people by what they know or could know, yes. This argument of Pascal's is special pleading. Surely you agree!? You cannot possible disagree, you can't. This isn't an argument to Christianity, your kind. It's taking for granted something Pascal did not do and using it to explain something you already believe. Please tell me you understand this, please. We should not be disagreeing at all here.

Jamie Campbell: John: if it were true that it ONLY depends upon where one was raised, there would be no Christians coming out of other religious systems. Though culture may influence, it doesn't seem to me to dictate what one will ultimately come to believe.

[Notice another straw man with the word "ONLY." Who said that? Not me. Can they even read? It's like faith blinds believers, and I'm serious. Until they can actually respond with understanding then I have a right to call them deluded. What else explains this? I haven't met one yet that can read with understanding.]

John W. Loftus: Jamie, please, don't straw-man the point. Culture is an overwhelming influence on us, overwhelming. One need not say it is the ONLY factor, because it cannot be, there is DNA, gender, sexual preference, age, social status, and so so forth.

Jonathan Cowger: John, the most that follows from the original point you made is that it is possible that some religious beliefs are unwarranted. I would agree. And this is something I think every clear thinking Christian would agree with you on. But be careful in stating this when it clearly seems others are misunderstanding you.

[Notice the wrong conclusion is drawn, that it's merely "possible" some religious beliefs are unwarranted rather than that it's "probable" some religious beliefs are unwarranted (even the word "some" is weak). And look, I'm the one who is blamed for the fact that others are not understanding me. Did you get this?]

John Wesley Robinson: Ho Hum, the politically correct view that humans are only the product of social environment and genetics is without merit and is nothing more than an extension of the movement to monopolize the possibilities of human existence within a false dichotomy, the ancient Nature versus Nurture scale. A scale that does not actually exist.

[Again, see that word "only"? Look how cavalierly the argument is dismissed; "Ho Hum" he says, been there done that. But I think they have never been there and have never done that. They have never taken seriously, really seriously, what one's environment and genetics does to them, especially when it comes to believing in the various religions around the globe. Believers in mutually different religions are as certain their faith is true as Christians are that the present-day sect they accept inside their religious tradition is true, rather than all other Christianities past, present and future.]

John W. Loftus: The way you dismiss the probabilities in defense of your faith is utterly amazing and one of the reasons you are just as deluded as any other believer. Really. Kick against these goads all you want. You will never entertain the possibility your faith is false unless it can be shown to be impossible, which is an entirely unreasonable standard. I don't know why I even bother. I could no more convince a Scientologist his faith is false as I could with you. You won't even admit that this is the case. You were most probably never reasoned into your faith so you cannot be reasoned out of it either. Sheesh. You require so much special pleading, so many straw man and even when I point it out you cannot see what is required to believe because you are just as blind as any other believer in a different religious culture. Take a serious look at the many videos online from Hindu's, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Catholics at Lourdes, Mormons, eastern pantheists who claim to be reincarnated gods, and see for yourselves. It's like you live in a cave or something. You don't even seriously interact with the liberals of your own religious tradition. My new book just came out, "The Outsider Test for Faith." Deal with that if you really want to know which religion is true, if there is one. You won't even read it, I'll guess. If Douglas's point with Pascal means anything and God will judge people based on what they know, then welcome to universalism.

[I did not go there to advertise my new book, I really didn't. It's just that it was relevant to the issues at hand and I usually recommend relevant books on a topic of discussion. The discussion degenerates from here as it would if I went on a Scientologist's Facebook page and said similar things.]

John Wesley Robinson: You do not know what I am talking about? Then how can one state that I am the one who is deluded? In what specific instance is the human experience of imagination bounded by either genetics or environment? We use our imaginations to create a 'future' to adapt to and neither genetics nor environment, dictate what that imagined future might be. Send me a copy of the book and I will show you the errors of your way...

[It looks like he doesn't know what a library is for, either.]

Jamie Campbell: John, how exactly did I set up a straw man? Did you not say, "depends on when and where you were born, now doesn't it?" It seems to me that I responded to your assertion as stated.

[He doesn't know the difference between the words, "depends on when and where you were born" from it "depends ONLY on when and where you were born." With reasoning skills like the ones displayed how can they say they have good reasons to believe? Believers first have to reason correctly to say this, and there is a massive amount of bad reasoning here for the words used.]

Jonathan Cowger: Jamie, it seems that John was being vague to be rhetorical or being vague so someone would accuse him of committing the genetic fallacy. So when this is done he cries "foul". "You're committing straw men!". John is just setting himself up for this on purpose it seems. John clearly implied the genetic fallacy just so he could possibly accuse you of a straw man. Again, this is a possibility. And it may not be Johns intention to necessarily do this.

[Now I'm being accused of setting Jamie up for this. Again, I'm to be blamed. I have nefarious ulterior motives. I am not an intellectually honest discussion partner. I am an atheist and you know we cannot be trusted. It's really that bad folks. ;-)]

John W. Loftus: Sorry to interrupt your fantasy world. It's fruitless for me to continue. Say what you will. I already knew I couldn't convince you. There is no genetic fallacy here. I have probably never heard any person who ever committed that fallacy. Get the book if you want it. I don't care. I deal with the genetic fallacy and every thing else I've mentioned here. If you're interested it's available. If not, then don't. I am so frustrated by Groothuis's drivel I'm unfriending him. It's bad, really really bad.

[This is my honest opinion from the things Groothuis posts on Facebook, and I'm just tired of seeing it. If this is how Christians from Groothuis on down reason, then they will lose this intellectual war. I'm absolutely sure of it, eventually anyway, not in my lifetime.]