The End of Christianity? A Skeptical Review (Part 4)

Posted on 08/11/11 34 Comments

In this installment of our ongoing review of Loftus, ed., The End of Christianity we turn to an evaluation of chapter 3 which is an essay by John W. Loftus titled “Christianity is wildly improbable”.

The essay begins with John’s characteristic Braveheart-styled bravado:

“When it comes to Christianity, two thousand years are enough. It’s time this ancient myth was put to rest.” (75)

Okay, and how exacty will that be done? John makes a bold promise:

“In this chapter I”ll use a smorgasbord of arguments to show that Christianity, especially Protestant Evangelicalism, is wildly improbable. Evangelical Christian beliefs are so wildly improbable to me that they are ridiculous, preposterous, absurd and bizarre.” (76)

So John finds Christianity ridiculous, preposterous, absurd and bizarre (henceforth: RPAB) Ouch. Well at least he didn’t claim that it is crazy, outlandish, utterly implausible, and nuts-o.

But why does John find Christianity RPAB? John then lists “ten [Christian] creedal affirmations” (76-77) which cumulatively make Christianity look (to John anyway) as RPAB. Let’s consider a partial sampling of these “creedal affirmations”:

1) There exists an eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing creator God, who, though of one essence, exists as three distinct, but not separate, persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

3) The earth is not billions of years in age, but created by God six to ten thousand years ago.

Wait a minute. I don’t remember reading 3) in John Leith’s Creeds of the Churches, 3rd ed. (Westminster John Knox, 1982). Apparently John considers not only creedal affirmations but also non-creedal popular conservative Christian beliefs. But if he is including the latter then why not add the following to his list?

a) Good Christian girls don’t drink, smoke or chew or go with boys who do.

b) The GOP is God’s chosen political vessel for actualizing his will in the United States and the world.

Anyway, I digress. Let’s get back on track by considering our final two samples from John’s ignominious list of incredulity:

6) A first-century Galilean Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, was born of a virgin as an incarnate God in the flesh and performed numerous miracles during his life, including walking on water, turning water into wine, and feeding thousands with a small serving of bread and fish.

9) A collection of sixty-six ancient texts, composed by numerous persons, nearly all unknown, over a period of over a thousand years, in their original versions, contained no inconsistencies, absurdities, or errors of fact or morality.

John believes these ten beliefs are hopelessly RPAB. (Grammatically ought one say they’re rpabic? Or perhaps rpabish?) John then concludes:

“Any professing Christian who literally believes more than five of them has a wildly improbable faith (and that’s being very generous). And any professing Christian who literally believes them all has an incredibly bizarre faith.” (77)

That sentence is a good illustration of the degree to which John’s argument depends on us sharing his personal incredulity. Given that John is so dependent upon personal incredulity he could easily make those two sentences more forceful by ratcheting up the level of personal incredulity conveyed. Boldfaced and italicized font would be effective intensifiers:

“Any professing Christian who literally believes more than five of them has a wildly improbable faith (and that’s being very generous). And any professing Christian who literally believes them all has an incredibly bizarre faith.”

Even better, John could also resort to the use of all-caps:

“Any professing Christian who literally believes more than five of them has a WILDLY IMPROBABLE FAITH (and that’s being VERY generous). And any professing Christian who literally believes them all has an INCREDIBLY BIZARRE FAITH.”

And for the coup de grace John could add exclamation points (at least two per sentence) and a parting, sardonic snort of condescending mirth:

“Any professing Christian who literally believes more than five of them has a WILDLY IMPROBABLE FAITH (and that’s being VERY generous)!! And any professing Christian who literally believes them all has an INCREDIBLY BIZARRE FAITH!! HAH!!

Unfortunately this method does have a downside: it is ineffectual at persuading anybody who does not already accept the prior probability assessments. Consequently, it is like trying to persuade a metalhead that Toby Keith is good music by turning up the volume every time he complains about the country twang. If one doesn’t already accept John’s initial claim that the truth claims of Christianity are improbable then adding “wildly”, “incredibly bizarre” and even italics, boldface, caps, exclamation points and sardonic laughter does nothing to make the reader more likely to accept John’s claim. What John needs to do instead is provide that person with a reason to think their Christian commitments are improbable (wildly so or otherwise).

Ordinary and extraordinary according to John

Fortunately John does attempt to root his personal incredulity in something more than his own tortured psychology.  His purported objective ground for personal incredulity lies in a distinction between “ordinary” and “extraordinary” with incredulity extended only to beliefs that are of the latter category.

(A) “An extraordinary claim is a claim about an alleged event considered improbable because it’s outside the realm of the ordinary, something we wouldn’t expect to happen.” (81)

At this point we must identify a regrettable error in the above cited definition because it extends only to claims about events. But go back to the list John provides of ten RPAB Christian beliefs and look at the very first one, cited above. It concerns not an event but rather a state of affairs, namely the claim that God (defined in a certain way) exists. Yet John clearly considers (1) implausible which means he intended to include states of affairs as well. This prompts me to offer a friendly addendum to his definition:

(B) “An extraordinary claim is a claim about an alleged event considered improbable because it’s outside the realm of the ordinary, something we wouldn’t expect to happen, or about an alleged state of affairs considered improbable because we would not expect it to be the case.”

While this is a better definition than John provides, it is also rather long-winded. With that in mind I offer two additional (more concise) ways John might want to define the “extraordinary” which seem to be consistent with his views:

(C) “An extraordinary claim is one that we would expect to be false because it diverges very far from common experience.”

(D) “An extraordinary claim is one that we would consider statistically to be very likely false.”

Personally I think either (C) or (D) is better than (B). But so long as we’re clear that we cannot go with (A) we should be okay.

The case of the surprising neighbor

Let’s begin to assess John’s ten RPAB Christian beliefs by considering another situation which concerns descriptions of Charles’ new neighbor. Without knowing anything of Charles’ neighbor what do you think the likelihood would be that the following claims about that neighbor are true?

(1) The neighbor is a Swede named Mario.

(2) Mario was born “Maria”, if you get my drift.

(3) Mario is a retro-gamer who holds the first highest official score at Galaga.

(4) Mario lived at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica for three months.

(5) Mario has an unrestored 1966 Mustang with a 351 Windsor in storage.

A transsexual Swede named Mario? Are you kidding? This definitely is a highly improbable state of affairs! And that doesn’t even get into (3)-(5).

But what if, when you ask Charles to describe his new neighbor, he lists off (1)-(5)? Do you balk and pull out a napkin so you can explain the enormous statistical improbability of (1)-(5) being true? Of course not. Assuming you have no defeaters to the general reliability of Charles’ testimony you toss your prior probabilities out the window because actuality trumps probability.

Actuality trumps probability

The problem with John’s reasoning can be illustrated by an insurance commercial (which, alas, I failed to find on youtube). The commercial features two insurance agents standing on a busy street corner doing risk assessments based on the statistical probability of various events playing out. As the scenes of a busy city play out around them they say things like this:

“There is a two percent chance that that guy will stumble on the curb and spill his coffee.”

“Well there is a .5 percent chance that that car will hit the pothole and lose a hubcap.”

Then one of them asks something like this: “What is the chance of a guy riding by on an ostrich?” A moment later a man in a business suite rides by on an ostrich after which the other guy turns and, in a perfect deadpan delivery, answers the question: “One. Now.”

A probability of one. Now. In other words, the probability of a particular claim or set of claims being true might be enormously improbable until it occurs. But once it does occur its probability leaps to 1 (or 100 %). Once again, actuality trumps probability.

From the perspective of a Christian John is like that analyst calculating the enormous implausibility of the ostrich riding man before the fact. But the Christian is like the man who has just witnessed the otherwise unexpected event. Once a person believes an event has occurred approximate calculations of the probability of the event are no longer relevant.

You know what this means, don’t you? John still has nothing driving his essay but his own personal incredulity.

A new set of criteria for ordinary/extraordinary

John attempts to further his case by posing a “Greater Extraordinary Claims Scale” which purports to chart a scale from ordinary claims to downright extraordinary ones. The chart goes like this:

[Most ordinary] Atheist/ Pantheist / Deist / Jew / Muslim / Christian  [Most extraordinary]

 So atheists have the most ordinary set of beliefs while Christians have the most extraordinary set (with conservative Christians being the most extraordinary of the extraordinary). John explains:

“On the left side is the atheist (or agnostic) who makes no extraordinary claims about supernatural beings or forces at all.” (82)

Wait a minute. John quietly changed his criterion for distinguishing ordinary and extraordinary claims. His criterion is no longer that which is outside of common human experience simpliciter. Rather, he is now identifying as extraordinary claims about “supernatural beings or forces”.  Surely John must be aware of the enormous difficulties in defining “natural” over-against “supernatural”. (This problem is well illustrated in the philosophical consensus that attempts to define naturalism as a coherent and defensible set of claims about the world have failed.) But rather than focus on that enormous topic, I’ll engage John’s scale in two other ways.

To begin with, let’s consider his assessment of pantheism as being almost as plausible as atheism. Consider that God is by definition, a supernatural being. But if extraordinary claims are those which appeal to supernatural beings (or forces) then wouldn’t it follow that a view which says everything that exists is a supernatural being is maximally extraordinary?

Atheism or naturalism?

The quibble about the placement of pantheism is merely the opening act however. Now let’s turn to the main event: John’s treatment of “atheism”.

Those of us who were raised on “Sesame Street” will recall the segment “One of these things is not like the other”. In the segment you might have three red things and one blue thing and the viewer (typically 3-6 years old) would have to pick out which thing does not belong (the blue one!).

John’s credibility continuum is like this. One thing doesn’t belong in the following list: Atheist/ Pantheist / Deist / Jew / Muslim / Christian.  The thing that doesn’t belong is “atheist”. You see, an atheist is simply a person who affirms the proposition “God does not exist”. This contrasts markedly with each of these other positions which offer not a single affirmation or denial of God’s existsence, but rather a much more robust set of interrelated claims about the nature of existence. (Deism, for example, claims that God is metaphysically distinct from the world and that he created it but is not involved in it. Moreover, deism denies the existence of special revelation and affirms a divinely given moral law.) To compare atheism to pantheism, deism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity is akin to comparing an automotive chassis to a Ford, a Chevy, a Hyundai, a Volkswagen and a Honda. Atheism doesn’t belong.

So what then is the “atheistic alternative” to these different views? It is a position known as naturalism. As I noted above, we will not be considering the difficulties with defining naturalism here. Rather we will limit ourselves to a consideration of the equivalent list of “creedal statements” for the typical naturalist.

So what does a typical naturalist believe? Let’s consider five typical beliefs that are widely held by naturalists:

1) The universe came into existence uncaused out of nothing.

2) The information in the DNA double helix was generated through undirected, non-intelligent processes.

3) Consciousness is supervenient on the brain and as a result our minds are not causually effectual in the world.

4) Morality is a social construction.

5) There is no meaning to life even if people can identify meanings in life.

What is the likelihood of a universe springing into existence uncaused out of nothing? What is the likelihood of DNA arising through undirected natural processes? What is the likelihood of 1) multiplied by 2)? Who could possibly believe something so implausible?

The naturalist of course finds recourse to the actuality trumps probability principle. They believe DNA has, in fact, been generated by natural processes so as statistically unlikely as this may be they accept it. Naturalists have also often appealed to actuality trumps probability as an explanation for the enormous implausiblity of a universe leaping into existence uncaused.

I don’t think these are legitimate appeals to the actuality trumps probability principle. But that is not my concern here. Rather, my concern is that John Loftus’s self-serving continuum masks the enormous implausiblity of his own view by substituting atheism — a mere chassis — for a fully developed naturalist automobile.

John’s hypocrisy part 1

John Loftus is well known for peppering his criticisms of Christianity with distracting invective and he does not disappoint (or, more accurately, once again he does disappoint). Consider the following example:

“Now we have a Trinity who will forever exist with an embodied human being attached to the Logos, the human side of Jesus. If conceiving the Trinity isn’t hard enough to swallow, picture that three-headed monster with a human head attached to one part of it!” (89, emphasis in original)

Consider for a moment the enormous hypocrisy in this. John would no doubt be outraged by a Christian fundamentalist who snidely dismisses Neo-Darwinian evolution with the quip “I’m not gonna let no evolutionist make a monkey outta me!” But instead of rising above that schoolyard invective, once again John descends into the quagmire. I hope he grows up soon.

Incidentally a reader at the Christian Post named unkleE responded to my earlier critique of John by making the following comment about John’s method:

“There is an old joke about a preacher whose speaking notes included: ‘Point weak here – shout a bit louder.’” The point is sadly apposite for this essay as well.”

Sadly apposite indeed.

John’s hypocrisy part 2

As if one glaring example of hypocrisy were not enough, I cannot help note one more. Over the years John must have declared hundreds of times that Christians should not talk merely about what is possible but what is probable. Here’s a typical example:

I’ve heard it all. And it disgusts me. Christians demand that I must show their faith is impossible before they will see that it is improbable. This is an utterly unreasonable demand.”

But now consider how he reacts to purported miracle claims in the essay under review:

“What believers must show is that an alleged biblical miracle could not have happened within the natural world because it was impossible (or else it’s not considered miraculous).” (102)

Really? How about I take John’s first statement and turn it back on his dismissal of miracles:

“I’ve heard it all. And it disgusts me. Atheists demand that I must show a natural explanation of a miracle claim is impossible before they will see that it is improbable. This is an utterly unreasonable demand.”

Looks to me like hypocrite is spelled “J-O-H-N  L-O-F-T-U-S”.

Conclusion

At the beginning of his chapter John promised “a smorgasbord of arguments”. I stopped eating at smorgasbords a long time ago (except for the occasional luxury hotel) because inevitably you get a large variety of insipid food: cheap buns, warmed over macaroni salad, limp pizza and mushy mashed potates topped off with the choice of bland lime jello or dried out chocolate cake.

Unfortunately, John made good on his promise of a “smorgasbord of arguments”. Food, food everywhere, but nothing good to eat.

 

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  • http://ochuk.com Adam Omelianchuk

    I give your humor in this post a 6 for the line about mirth, but I was hoping for you would have found a way to weave PBRMEASAP in there. :D

    • randal

      Everyone’s a critic…

  • Eric

    Randal, haven’t you heard what Richard Carrier has said about the book you’re reviewing?

    Carrier: “‘The Christian Delusion’ was an awesome book. ‘The End of Christianity’ is even better. Indeed, I think the two volumes together amount to a decisive refutation of Christianity. A bona fide litmus test. No rational person can read both volumes and not walk away a skeptic.”

    How dare you raise doubts about the quality of the arguments in TEC! Why, if you keep this up, you just might persuade some people that Richard Carrier is making wildly exaggerated claims! Oh, wait a minute — here’s what Carrier is saying about his chapter in TEC on his moral theory:

    Carrier: “The last of these is “Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them),” a formal, peer-reviewed philosophical defense of my moral theory in Sense and Goodness without God. This shall be for a long time the go-to chapter for arguing and defending my theory of moral facts. It includes deductive syllogisms establishing every key point, and extensive argument and references. There is no room left for any rational objection.”

    Yeah, um, never mind.

    • http://ochuk.com Adam Omelianchuk

      Oh good grief. Don’t people in academia realize that your views aren’t widespread or accepted just because they are peer-reviewed?

    • randal

      “There is no room left for any rational objection.”

      I wonder, does Richard Carrier wear his rubber Spock ears when he writes things like that?

  • sunburned

    “1) The universe came into existence uncaused out of nothing.”

    There isn’t a naturalist or atheist alive that would say this.

    Because we don’t know the reason, does not make it more probable that a deity caused all of existence using his magical powers of special pleading to make it all happen to put a stop the inevitable infinite regression that is known as the cosmological argument.

    • randal

      sunburned/lol:

      For any event there are two possible causes: an agent cause or a non-agential event cause. Thus the big bang has either an agent or event cause. Given that the big bang brought the entire spacetime continuum into being, in order to posit an event cause as the explanation you have to go beyond what science can establish since science is limited to this space-time continuum. What is the source of your dogmatism that in the case of this particular event the cause cannot be an agent?

    • Papalinton

      Hey lol

      “1) The universe came into existence uncaused out of nothing.”

      All I can say is, God made everything out of nothing, but the nothingness shines through.

  • lol

    “1) The universe came into existence uncaused out of nothing.”

    There is not a naturalist or atheist alive that would make such a statement.

    The universe came into existence because of a yet known cause. It is far less probable that it came into existence as a result of a deity extending his magical powers of special pleading to escape the infinite regression of the cosmological argument. See if this one sticks:)

    • randal

      What are your reasons for making these claims?

  • Eric

    “I wonder, does Richard Carrier wear his rubber Spock ears when he writes things like that?”

    That’s especially funny in light of this (from page 3):

    Oppenheimer: “Richard Carrier, a 37-year-old doctoral student in ancient history at Columbia, is a type recognizable to anyone who has spent much time at a chess tournament or a sci-fi convention or a skeptics’ conference.”

    Hmm, just what kind of “sci-fi convention” did you have in mind, Mr. Oppenheimer?

  • Torgo

    “From the perspective of a Christian John is like that analyst calculating the enormous implausibility of the ostrich riding man before the fact. But the Christian is like the man who has just witnessed the otherwise unexpected event. Once a person believes an event has occurred approximate calculations of the probability of the event are no longer relevant.”

    Perhaps you could clarify this point. It seems question begging. Loftus is questioning whether the Christian God is real, or whether beliefs in him are true, not whether any given Christian has a belief in God. You can’t say “God exists” has a probability of 1 just because a given Christian believes it. Also, all things being equal, the likelihood that a guy went by on an ostrich is 1 after we witness it. But claims about a God are not empirically justified, at least not by empirical means alone and certainly not by ordinary empirical means, such as seeing the ostrich. But again, perhaps I missed your point. Can you restate it?

    Moving on, with comments inserted:

    “So what does a typical naturalist believe? Let’s consider five typical beliefs that are widely held by naturalists:

    1) The universe came into existence uncaused out of nothing.
    Come on. You know naturalists wouldn’t agree with this phrasing. At worst, naturalists simply don’t know what caused the universe, and many of the going scientific explanations don’t posit the universe appearing uncaused out of nothing.

    2) The information in the DNA double helix was generated through undirected, non-intelligent processes.
    Close, but it’s not undirected. Natural selection (and perhaps other natural mechanisms) can direct the course of evolution, even of DNA molecules. The process is not thoroughly random but is constrained by a variety of factors.

    3) Consciousness is supervenient on the brain and as a result our minds are not causually effectual in the world.
    Again, poor phrasing. You make it sound as if, for the naturalist, the mind exists, but has no connection to the brain. But of course it does. The mind is what the brain does and thus the mind/brain can cause effects in the world.

    4) Morality is a social construction.
    The nature and ground of morality is a vigorous discussion among naturalists, so it’s premature to say that “typical” naturalists would agree with this. Also, the history of moral philosophy, for the past two thousand plus years is full of counterexamples. Very few moral philosophers have ever argued that morality is purely a social construction, in fact most explicitly reject that claim. But even if morality is a social construction, that doesn’t necessarily make it relativistic or illusory (depending, of course, on what we mean by those terms).

    5) There is no meaning to life even if people can identify meanings in life.
    That one sounds fine to me.

    Criticisms aside, you’re right to take Loftus to task for his overblown rhetoric and constant self-promotion.

    • randal

      “Come on. You know naturalists wouldn’t agree with this phrasing.”

      What are you objecting to exactly? The naturalists I know accept the core claim of the big bang that the universe came into existence out of nothing. And yes, naturalists have proposed that this event could possiby be self-caused or uncaused. Since uncaused is a little less bizarre than self-caused, I charitably presented the more plausibl belief.

      If naturalists don’t know what causd the universe then what makes them so sure it wasn’t an agent cause? Hmmm?

      “Close, but it’s not undirected. Natural selection (and perhaps other natural mechanisms) can direct the course of evolution, even of DNA molecules. The process is not thoroughly random but is constrained by a variety of factors.”

      You’re misunderstanding the terminology. A directed cause is the result of intelligence. An undirected cause is not the result of intelligence. Naturalists believe the storehouse of information in DNA was produced by nonintelligent (undirected) causes. And you cannot invoke natural selection to explain abiogenesis.

      “Again, poor phrasing. You make it sound as if, for the naturalist, the mind exists, but has no connection to the brain. But of course it does. The mind is what the brain does and thus the mind/brain can cause effects in the world.”

      No it isn’t. Many naturalists today are epiphenomenalists which is precisely the view I described according to which the brain is causally effectual but the mind (e.g. intentional states) are not. Either that view or functionalism is likely the majority position among naturalists today.

      “The nature and ground of morality is a vigorous discussion among naturalists, so it’s premature to say that “typical” naturalists would agree with this.”

      Eye roll. There are many “typical” Christians who don’t agree with John’s list of what Christians believe.

      Now don’t miss the wood for the trees. You have to compare a robust naturalism to Christianity for a proper evaluation of “probabilities”, not mere “atheism”.

  • Torgo

    “John would no doubt be outraged by a Christian fundamentalist who snidely dismisses Neo-Darwinian evolution with the quip “I’m not gonna let no evolutionist make a monkey outta me!””

    Again, fair point about Loftus’s rhetoric, but I don’t think you’ve addressed his fundamental point in the passage you quote. The concept of the Trinity is absurd enough, but gets even more absurd when we try to understand it as including a flesh-and-blood human. Your counter-example about evolution is a clear straw man. Is Loftus’s comment about the Trinity a straw man? Does it not include a material Son? Even if so, you still have the difficulties of making sense of the Trinity.

    Regarding “John’s hypocrisy part 2″: This point deserves more consideration. The crux of the matter turns on how we define miracle. Loftus seems to assume that a miracle is, by definition, a violation of the laws of nature. If that’s the case, then natural explanations will always be more probable for a purported miracle than supernatural explanations, since our background knowledge has nothing but natural explanations for everything (or nearly everything). So, when faced with alleged miracle A, even if we can’t give a natural explanation of it, this doesn’t mean that a supernatural explanation (a miracle) is the better and more likely explanation. We don’t have a wealth of background information that would make supernatural explanations likely. The natural explanation is always more likely, even if we don’t know what it is.

    • randal

      Thanks Torgo. I’ll respond this evening (Mountain Standard Time), partially in the comment thread and partially in a new post.

  • lol

    “The crux of the matter turns on how we define miracle.”

    Exactly. Otherwise it then turns into a probability game within natural phenomenon.

    I.E. I was dealt two Royal Flushes in a row in six card stud. Would that meet a quasi definition of a miracle? Whereas miracles are nothing more than a side effect of statical improbability?

  • Brad Haggard

    Randal, John has stated that he wouldn’t believe even if presented with actual “extraordinary” evidence.

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/01/what-if-i-personally-witnessed-miracle.html

    What do you make of that?

    • randal

      Having skimmed the post you linked to, I can sympathize with what he says. The fact that he wouldn’t automatically conclude the Christian God resurrected the person points to the need for context in interpreting purported miracles.But if Ken Pulliam was resurrected at a church in Jesus’ name and when he came back he told John that Christianity was true,who knows? In that case I suspect not even John knows how he’d respond.

      I find myself in the same boat. If I experienced a seemingly supernatural experience which, in context, seemed to confirm the truth of Islam (like Cat Stevens did) then I’m not sure how I’d process that.

      • Brad Haggard

        At the end of the post didn’t John write how he would respond? By begrudgingly feigning obedience, right?

        I just got the feeling that John thought his arguments were so air tight that they could not be swayed by first-hand experience. In that case, it seems irrational to listen to a resurrected person preach the gospel and still not “believe” because of prior arguments.

        Unless “believing” is much more than a simple intellectual pursuit…

        • randal

          He did have some protest atheism stuff in there which was interesting. Actually this just made me think of something which I’m going to blog about….

          • Brad Haggard

            Can I start getting a cut? ;-)

  • lol

    Brad,

    If you mean that he (Loftus) wouldn’t believe like this:

    “If I was convinced Christianity is true and Jesus arose from the grave, and if I must believe in such a barbaric God, I would believe, yes, but I could still not worship such a barbaric God. I would fear such a Supreme Being, since he has such great power, but I’d still view him as a thug, a despicable tyrant, a devil in disguise; unless Christianity was revised.”

    Oh, wait…never mind….

    • Brad Haggard

      Not sure what you’re talking about there, lol.

      My point was about John’s irrationally high standard for warrant.

  • lol

    “My point was about John’s irrationally high standard for warrant.”

    Considering your talking about a miracle sent from an omnipotent and omniscient being, complaining about a *high* standard for attribution and recognition seems a bit silly:)

    • Brad Haggard

      Are you saying that if you personally experienced a miracle you wouldn’t have warrant to believe it?

  • LOL

    Nope. I’m saying that it’s neigh impossible to produce a miracle within the confines of natural phenomenon that would be able to be attributed to *a* particular god that it’s a moot point.

    Now hypothetically speaking, if given a *undefined miracle* that is of sufficiency, I would believe.

    Of course everyone knows that it isn’t *going* to happen:) Because the miracle fountain has kind of run dry:)

    • Brad Haggard

      Just as a matter of understanding, is *this* the same as “this”? I’m genuinely not sure whether you are highlighting a word or not.

      Besides the fact that I think your claim that the “miracle fountain” has run dry is false, I think you should take a look at what Randal has to say about context and the miraculous, it’s really good, IMHO.

      http://randalrauser.com/2011/03/when-is-a-medical-anomaly-a-miracle/

      (there’s more extended discussion as well, but I can’t find it on the search right now, maybe Randal can link it later)

  • LOL

    Also, there is the corollary, what specific *proof* would have to be presented to make someone disbelieve?

    I would submit that there is none. Since dogged faith persists without the existence of evidence…in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    • Brad Haggard

      An orthodox Christian would most likely give up their faith if the ossuary of Jesus were unearthed. But since that is very unlikely, perhaps a dissenting disciple or evidence of fraud on the part of the early apostles would be enough to cause me to seriously doubt, if not disbelieve totally.

  • LOL

    “An orthodox Christian would most likely give up their faith if the ossuary of Jesus were unearthed.”

    Provided there was an actual Jesus who existed in the biblical sense.

    “But since that is very unlikely, perhaps a dissenting disciple or evidence of fraud on the part of the early apostles would be enough to cause me to seriously doubt, if not disbelieve totally.”

    LOL. Not to pick at semantics but you realize that the testimony in the bible isn’t first hand information…and was essentially anonymously put to paper after being passed around in oral tradition include at least one or two oral translations….

    Meaning that any *evidence* would have been lost to editing…right?

    In reality you have *no* idea that information contained is accurate to begin with… Wanting *proof* of fraud or dissent is farcical since you cannot even be certain of the authenticity of the original claims to start.

    • Brad Haggard

      This is perfect, LOL.

      You just referenced two theses which are widely panned by historians, namely 1) Jesus of Nazareth didn’t exist (in the “biblical sense”…?) and 2) that Paul didn’t write any part of the NT, namely 1 Corinthians and Galatians. These aren’t prima facie improbable, they have been concluded to be false after centuries of historical study.

      So you were saying?

      • Beetle

        Sorry, where’s the hard evidence that:
        1) Jesus of Nazareth existed.
        2) That Paul directly authored part of the NT.

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