Atheists Who Don’t Care About Arguments

What does it take to convince an atheist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend of mine on Facebook started a thread asking for a quote by someone indicating they need an experience to believe God exists. This is not knocking experience. It happens many times that experiences that are a divine encounter change someone’s mind. My problem is with saying that has to be the requirement.

Also, not all atheists are like this. Some of them are people who have reasonable discussions and look at the evidence. However, if you are an atheist who says you will only change your mind if you have an experience, then you are not a reasonable person. You’re just not.

After all, if you engage in a debate with me with that kind of attitude about the existence of God, what you are telling me right at the start is that your mind is not open to being wrong. If evidence cannot convince you that you are wrong, it is not evidence that your position is based on.

You also should not deny any Christian who is a Christian based on their experience. If an experience is a valid argument for you, it is a valid one for them. You can question the experience happened or their interpretation, but you should be consistent and let it be a valid basis for them.

So what kind of statements do I have in mind?

How about a start with Jerry Coyne and keep in mind, he says this evidence is tentative. One wonders what conclusive evidence would look like.

“The following (and admittedly contorted) scenario would give me tentative evidence for Christianity. Suppose that a bright light appeared in the heavens, and, supported by winged angels, a being clad in a white robe and sandals descended onto my campus from the sky, accompanied by a pack of apostles bearing the names given in the Bible. Loud heavenly music, with the blaring of trumpets, is heard everywhere. The robed being, who identifies himself as Jesus, repairs to the nearby university hospital and instantly heals many severely afflicted people, including amputees. After a while Jesus and his minions, supported by angels ascend back into the sky with another chorus of music. The heavens swiftly darken, there are flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, and in an instant the sky is clear.

If this were all witnessed by others and documented by video, and if the healings were unexplainable but supported by testimony from multiple doctors, and if all the apparitions and events conformed to Christian theology—then I’d have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.” Faith vs. Fact p. 118-119

Or Peter Boghossian. In his Manual For Creating Atheists he says that if all the world went outside at night and saw all the stars in the sky spell out something like “I am YHWH. Believe in me,” that could be suggestive. He doesn’t rule out that we could all be experiencing a mass delusion.

Bill Maher is reported to have said that if he thought he heard God speak to him, he would check himself into a mental institution and so should you. If this is accurate, then we have someone who argues that God does not exist. When he has an experience that could be evidence, he denies it.

Richard Dawkins in this video starting around 12:30 is asked what would it take to convince him God exists. In the end, he says nothing. There is always some other explanation and he admits this goes against the grain because he has always paid lip service to the idea of following the evidence where it leads.

Note that it’s lip service.

Now Christians can be sadly just as resistant to evidence, but it’s often atheists that are priding themselves as being people of reason. The problem with this is that if reason does not change your mind, your mind is not based on reason. Again, this doesn’t apply to all atheists, but if this is you, you’re not a genuine debater or reasoner. You are debating with a Christian wanting them to change their mind based on your arguments, all the while saying you will not change your mind based on their arguments.

This is just a small sample of quotes. I have no doubt that if I wanted to do a more in-depth project of this, I could find many more quotes. If you have some, feel free to share them with me.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Everybody Is Wrong About God?

What do I think of James Lindsay’s book published by Pitchstone Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Remember the old days when Peter Boghossian was heavily pushing the idea of street epistemology? Good times. Good times. Well now his main fan James Lindsay has decided to follow in his footsteps. Lindsay’s book even has a foreword by Boghossian as well (And I did review Boghossian’s book here.). Unfortunately, Lindsay’s book falls drastically short of Boghossian’s, which is saying a lot since Boghossian’s was a train wreck to begin with.

Lindsay’s main idea is that everyone is wrong about God because we’re talking as if theism even makes any sense whatsoever and that we know what we’re talking about when we talk about God. Of course, one would expect at this point to see interaction with sophisticated systematic theologies such as those in the past of people like Augustine and Aquinas, or even today people like Erickson or Grudem or McGrath. If you are expecting that, you are going to be disappointed. Actually, if you’re expecting any engagement with contrary opinion, you are going to be disappointed.

The laugh riots really begin on page 17. What we are told there is that the New Atheists succeeded in their quest. It defeated theism at the level of ideas and destroyed the taboo of atheism. At this, we can see that James Lindsay is in fact the Baghdad Bob of atheism. The new atheists can’t hold a candle to the old atheists of the past. All we got from the new atheists was a rant largely about topics they did not understand, much like people who critique evolution without bothering to read the best works in science.

Of course, in all of this, don’t expect Lindsay to do anything like, you know, actually interact with the arguments for theism. If you expect to see the ways of Thomas Aquinas interacted with or a refutation of Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument or a response to the twenty ways listed in Kreeft and Tacelli, you will be disappointed. For new atheists, it’s enough to declare victory and then stand up and have the celebration.

From this point on, rather than actually engage in arguments and evidence, which like many atheists I encounter Lindsay doesn’t seem to care for, it’s best to jump straight to psychology. Why do we believe in something that’s so utterly obviously false? (A step forward I suppose. Boghossian wanted us to be listed as having a mental illness.) The problem here is you can psychologize anything. We could come up with psychological reasons for atheism, and they could apply to some people, but that does not refute atheism any more than psychological reasons for theism refutes theism.

Well let’s try to find some interesting parts and see what can be said about them.

On p. 60, we are told that many theologians and apologists will argue that theism has evidence, but that is false. There is a note here and one would expect to see some reply to some arguments or perhaps at least a book dealing with these arguments. Well, one would expect that were we dealing with a real sophisticated argument for a position. Considering we’re dealing with a fan of Boghossian, we’re not surprised to find another assertion.

Lindsay’s main argument is that we might have some arguments for theism and even if we did succeed at that, how do we get to what religion is true? Yes. You read it. That’s his argument.

Of course, Maimonides, Aquinas, and Avicenna would have all used the same arguments for general theism. That’s because theism itself is a metaphysical and philosophical claim so metaphysics and philosophy work there. First point to establish is that if theism is established, then atheism is false. Even if we could go no further, we would still have refuted atheism.

Second point is that Lindsay’s argument is just weak. Maimonides, Avicenna, and Aquinas could all then point to historical reasons for their faiths since all of them claim that events happened in history. I as a Christian would face my “All but impossible” task, in Lindsay’s words, by pointing to the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. A Muslim could point to why he thinks the Koran is the Word of God and a Jew could point to the Torah while showing problems with the New Testament. It could be that any of the arguments would work, but it shows that it is not all but impossible.

Again, if we were dealing with a real case, we would see some interaction. We are not, so we do not. High schoolers just starting apologetics study could have answered the question of Lindsay.

On p. 70, Lindsay says we have a right to shoot bull wherever we see it. Indeed we do. I make it a habit of doing such and I make it a point to shoot it down from atheists as well as theists. That’s one reason I’m doing this review. There’s a whole lot to shoot at.

On the very next page, he writes about a debate Sean Carroll had with William Lane Craig. This is a debate that I really didn’t care for. For one thing, as a non-scientist, I suspect most people in the audience spent a lot of time during the debate saying “What the heck are they talking about?” Lindsay is convinced Carroll won. Maybe he did. For Lindsay, this is a huge victory.

Well, let’s go to another debate. This is the one that took place between Peter Boghossian and Tim McGrew. In fact, someone with an interesting opinion on that was James Lindsay himself. What does he say?

“I also won’t comment about winners because I think the idea of winning a conversation is stupid to the point of being embarrassing for people that we make a sport of it.”

Well Unbelievable? is a debate show with a moderator so apparently, it’s stupid when we talk about a victory on Unbelievable? It’s not when we talk about it between Carroll and Craig. Got it.

“(Full disclosure: I think the debate was a draw because the substantive point of the matter could not be settled because the relevant data concerning how Christians and other religious believers use the word “faith” is not available.)”

It certainly is available. You just have to be able to, you know, go out and research and study it. Unfortunately, Boghossian did not do that. He had anecdotal evidence. McGrew actually went to scholarly sources. We’re sorry to hear that Lindsay does not consider that good enough.

“McGrew, the far more experienced debater, came off tighter in what he had to say and hid his weaknesses well, better than did Boghossian.”

And Tim McGrew’s other debates prior to this that we have are…

ummmm….

errrr…..

uhhhh…..

I think he told me he did some debating in high school. I suppose that counts in Lindsay’s book. Obviously, McGrew had to have more experience. I mean, how else can we explain what happened? It couldn’t be that (SHOCK!) McGrew actually had better arguments and Boghossian was uninformed? Nah! Can’t be that! Let’s look for an excuse!

The comments section, which I participated in, is immense damage control. If I think a theist lost a debate, and I think they do sometimes, I can admit it. It doesn’t change the truth of theism. It just means we had a bad debater at that point.

On page 87, Lindsay refers to Harris’s work of The Moral Landscape. The book is hardly what Lindsay thinks it is. All of my reviews can be found here. Michael Ruse, who I consider to be a much better thinker, trashes the book as well here. Strange also that considering how Lindsay wanted to show a debate earlier, he said nothing about Craig’s debate with Harris.

Naturally, we soon come to faith. Ah yes. The favorite weapon of the new atheist. Just pick your bogus definition that you have no evidence for other than anecdotal experience and run with it! A real researcher would go to the Lexicons and the study of the Greek language and see what the New Testament writers meant by faith. Lindsay does no such thing. Lindsay has studied the meaning of faith in the New Testament about as much as I have studied Brazilian soccer matches. For my take on faith, go here.

On p. 100, Lindsay talks about Poseidon falling away as we gained more knowledge of how the world works. Well this is odd. I thought science didn’t really get started supposedly until we got out of those horrible dark ages. (That is in fact false. Go here.) Is it really scientific knowledge that destroyed Poseidon?

No. What actually destroyed it was Christianity. As Larry Hurtado shows us in Destroyer of the Gods (For my interview with him, go here.), the reason we speak about asking if you believe God exists and not the gods is because of Christianity. Christianity became a dominant worldview and with it monotheism. When monotheism dominated, Poseidon died out. It was known then that the true God was in charge of this and science started to take off as we sought to understand how God works in the world.

This helps deal with a common misnomer. Skeptics like Lindsay think that Christianity is in danger the more gaps science fills in. The early Christian scientists saw no such danger. They thought they were establishing theism more by filling in the gaps. They sought to know how God did His work. Lindsay will need to search the medieval literature to see where a gap exists and they just plugged in “Goddidit” for an answer. One could say their answers were bad and wrong as science was just getting started, but they were still trying to be scientific.

One such case of this is with evolution on p. 118. Lindsay is convinced that if you establish evolution, well you destroy Adam and Eve and you destroy original sin and then everything else falls apart. Sadly, Lindsay is just as fundamentalist as the fundamentalists he wants to argue against. The ludicrousness of this can be shown in that I can have a case for the resurrection of Jesus and be told “Well, that can’t be true because of evolution.” How does that explain the data? It doesn’t.

Meanwhile, I and many other Christians have no problem whatsoever if evolution is true. I don’t argue for it or against it. I just don’t care either way. It doesn’t mean that Adam and Eve were unreal figures and the fall never happened. If I am wrong on Adam and Eve, then oh well. At the most, I only lose inerrancy. I still have the resurrection of Jesus and my Christianity is just fine. That’s the benefit of not being an all-or-nothing thinker, like Lindsay is.

p. 120 tells us that Jefferson in his writings referred to Nature’s God and the Creator and not to YHWH or Jesus or something specific. Of course. Jefferson was a deist and he was not wanting to establish a theocracy. That doesn’t mean that God was seen as an add-on. God was essential. Jefferson himself even held worship services in the White House.

On p. 122 we start to explain concepts like goodness finally. Interestingly, Lindsay points to how we feel about these things, almost as if they’re intuitive to us. Perhaps they are, but absent in any of this is even if they are, why should we think those feelings explain reality? Some people strongly feel God, and yet Lindsay would disagree that they are feeling God. If the God feeling is a falsehood of sorts, why not the feeling of goodness?

The real question one should ask at this point is “What is goodness?” Here, we come up empty again. Lindsay doesn’t begin to answer the question. If there is goodness, how do we know it? No answer once more. Even stranger, in an atheistic universe where we just have matter in motion, why should there be such a thing as goodness to begin with? If Lindsay praises the new atheists, why not go with Richard Dawkins in River Out Of Eden?

“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

After all, as Dawkins goes on to say, our DNA neither knows nor cares. It just is and we dance to its music. If it doesn’t know or care, why should we?

These are the kinds of questions one would want to have answered, but Lindsay comes nowhere close. If he wants to accuse theists of jumping too quickly to “Goddidit” (And no doubt some do), then we can say he jumps too quickly to “Goddidn’tdoit). The evidence does not matter. There has to be an explanation without theism.

On p. 156 he defines a delusion as “a belief held with strong convictions despite superior evidence to the contrary.” This is quite fitting because on p. 154, he talks about the problem of evil and says “no amount of theological mental gymnastics has or ever can satisfactorily surmount the problem of evil.” It’s bad enough to say that it has not been surmounted. Most atheistic philosophers would even concede that the logical problem of evil has been defeated. It’s even stranger to say that it never can. Where did Lindsay get this exhaustive knowledge? Never mind the question of not being able to define good and evil which is still another hurdle. It would be nice to see if Lindsay has responses to people like Clay Jones or Alvin Plantinga or any other works on the problem of evil. He doesn’t.  Sadly, this doesn’t shock me any more. I’ve reached the point where I expect atheist works to not interact with their opposition. Lindsay does not disappoint.

On p. 180, Lindsay wants to point to the historical record of what religion has done. Absent is any mention of what atheism did in the 20th century. One supposes that Lindsay just wants us to have faith that atheism if established today would be different. All of a sudden, we would all unite in love and harmony and be singing Kum-Bu-Yah.

On p. 181, he tells us that the responses from the peanut gallery that say that faith means something more akin to trust is irrelevant. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. It’s certainly not because of interaction. It’s certainly not because of researching the evidence. Lindsay just wants us to take him on faith that this is so. It’s a shame he provides no evidence. Could we just say this is what Boghossian would call “a deepity”?

On p. 184, we get to something that could be considered an argument. This is that the Bible lists bats as birds. That’s nice. It would be also nicer if Lindsay looked up the words. We translate it as birds often today, but the word really refers to a winged creature. There was not a modern taxonomical idea of bird then. There were just creatures that were not insects but had wings. Last I checked, bats had wings. Now maybe Lindsay has come across some scientific research that shows bats don’t have wings. Still, by the ancient standards, we are just fine. If they were just referring not to a modern idea of taxonomy but to the ancient definition of a creature with wings, then bats qualify.

At 185, Lindsay says street epistemology is for inducing doubt to foster intellectual honesty. Those of us who are apologists are not doing the same thing. We create doubt to manufacture vulnerability and perhaps fear to lead to a conclusion. Nice that Lindsay believes in mind reading. I in fact want to encourage better thinking as well. I just think better thinking leads to Christianity, but hey, apparently Lindsay believes in mind reading. Who knew?

If street epistemology wasn’t bad enough to promote, Lindsay also promotes John Loftus’s “Outsider Test for Faith.” Lindsay says no sources have passed this test. His note reference for this? Just do a google search. None of them are worth citing. Well there you have it! Lindsay has spoken. The case is closed! Of course, he could have interacted with a case, such as the book by David Marshall directly written on this. My interview with Marshall can be found here.

It’s also amusing to find that on p. 198-99 that the Inquisition and radical Islam are put right in line with Stalin and Mao. One would hope for historical sources, but alas, there are none. He could find one such source here. Of course, Islam is central to radical Islam and I would argue a consistent outworking of it. What about Stalin and Mao? Does Lindsay just consider atheism incidental to them? Hard to think that since they were on a warpath against religion entirely.

On p. 210, he points to the opinion of the National Academy of Sciences. After all, very few are theists. Unfortunately, Rob Bowman responded to Victor Stenger on this point here. I will quote a relevant part.

Assuming that’s true, how does one get into the NAS? Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences website says: “Because membership is achieved by election, there is no membership application process. Although many names are suggested informally, only Academy members may submit formal nominations.” In other words, it’s an exclusive club that decides who may even be considered for membership. According to a 2010 article in Scientific American, about 18,000 American citizens earn PhDs in the sciences or engineering every year. There are only about 2,200 members in the NAS, and no more than 84 new members are inducted each year. Even the geniuses in the NAS can figure out that its membership does not represent an adequately representative sampling of well-trained scientists.

In conclusion, Boghossian’s book at least had something redeemable in it about political correctness, which I agreed with. Lindsay’s book has no such feature. The main benefit we get from it is that we see further the bankruptcy of the new atheists. Apparently, it is a mark of pride to not interact with your opponents and not treat their arguments seriously. Lindsay can keep up his position. I hope he does. It’ll just further dumb down the atheist community while theists in the academy will be doing our further research and strengthening our position. With the idea of movements like Jesus mythicism and such being jumped on by atheists on the internet, I would not be surprised to see them intellectually bankrupt in a generation or two.

Thanks for helping the cause Lindsay.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Defend The Faith Conference Day 1

What’s going on at the Defend the Faith 2015 Conference? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you’re noticed my presence on Facebook has been lacking lately, it’s because I’ve been at the 2015 Defend The Faith Conference in New Orleans. It’s been a big thrill for me. The only other time I’ve been west of the Mississippi was as a small child when I was visiting Memphis and we went across it just so I could say that I had been in Arkansas once.

The day started off with a great talk by Douglas Groothius. He spoke on the necessity for God in order to have a foundation for moral law in society. It relied on an essay that was actually written by the atheist Arthur Leff. The talk left us all a lot to think about including the increasing danger that is going on in a society that wants to give more and more power to the state.

After that came one of my best moments. Finally, I got to meet the one and only Tim McGrew.

NickandTim

Tim McGrew is the professor of philosophy at Western Michigan University. In fact, when he was introduced later this evening, it was said that he had fan boys and some people had traveled for miles just wanting to meet Tim McGrew. I turned to Allie and said I couldn’t help but wonder who would be so excited about traveling for miles to meet Tim McGrew. In the Christian Apologetics Alliance, McGrew is a legend.

Meeting him was a thrill because he is also so much of what I want to be. Do I mean all the knowledge he’s gathered over the years? Obviously. But I include in it that Tim has a great heart. He has become one of my dear friends who I can turn to when I’m in need and the investment he’s put into my own self has been stellar and I hope to be able to give back to others the way Tim has to me someday.

He and Tom Gilson gave a talk then on Peter Boghossian, quite appropriate since on Unbelievable?, Tim had massacred Boghossian’s chickens. Gilson and McGrew showed how Boghossian is trying to dissuade people with his street epistemology. I’ve written on Boghossian’s work myself. Boghossian does want an army of street epistemolgists who I have also had run-ins with. The church is blessed to have a presentation like that of Gilson and McGrew’s that shows the problems with Boghossian’s approach.

After lunch, we went to some break-out sessions. I wish I could talk about them all, but I can’t, but for those interested it is my understanding they will all be available online afterwards. The first one we went to was by Tawa Anderson. At this point, I had left every choice to my wife since I wanted to see what she’d be interested in. She made a fine first choice. It was a talk on worldview thinking and I was highly pleased to see it involve a scene from the Matrix. Worldview thinking is extremely foundational and so many people just miss it.

Next was a talk by Justin Langford. This one dealt with the topic of forgery in the NT. I have reviewed Bart Ehrman’s book as well here and here. Langford did something interesting in showing us two texts and have us guess which one was canonical. I must confess that I did not get each one right. To be fair, the first one did throw me some since I recognized Jude but knew he was quoting 1 Enoch which left me wondering a bit. We also had a good discussion on if a new book had been found and we knew it had been written by Paul should we accept it into the canon. I argued no since part of it was recognition by the church universal. Someone else answered yes. I think Langford went more for my side, but it was an interesting discussion.

Finally, we went to a talk by Tim McGrew and Tom Gilson that turned out to be about how we could do apologetics faithfully. McGrew asked us what we would like if we could have one wish that would help our ministries. I answered financial stability, which I think several people resonated with. Allie asked about how she could incorporate apologetics into her art. McGrew really liked her question and is still thinking about it.

The evening ended with McGrew giving a talk on how not to read the NT which dealt with Jesus Interrupted and yes, I have responded to that as well. McGrew gave a devastating presentation that showed that Ehrman quite frankly isn’t really honest with the data a number of times. It was quite a thrill also to have him refer to my work on Raphael Lataster. It’s a great way to see members of the body working together and building one another up.

On our way back to the hotel, we also got to ride some with James Walker of Watchman Fellowship. Expect him to show up on a future episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

Overall, we’re having a great time here in Louisiana at the conference. That’s about all I can say here. It’s getting late and I’m tired so we’re going on to bed because we have to get up early for another day of apologetics tomorrow. I have been pleased with this conference so far and I suggest if you’re interested in apologetics, try to make it out next year.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/14/2014: How Do We Know?

What’s coming up when I record the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

For those wondering when the episodes will be up soon for your listening pleasure, we are working on that. I will be meeting a techie friend of mine tonight who is going to show Allie and I everything that we need to know to get them online. We are working to do all that we can, but we would appreciate any support from those of you who do like the podcast and want it to keep going.

But for now, let’s move on to this Saturday’s show. What are we talking about?

Epistemology.

Dang. That sounds exciting. Some of you might be wondering what that is.

Epistemology is the study of knowledge. What is knowledge and how do we know anything at all? In fact, the book we’ll be looking at is by two Christian authors named James K. Dew Jr. and Mark W. Foreman. The book is “How Do We Know?” It is an introduction to epistemology.

So who are these guys?

Let’s start with James Dew since he’s listed first on the book.

“Dr. Jamie Dew grew up in Statesville, NC but moved to Raleigh, NC in 1994. Through the witness of some of his friends, he came to Christ when he was 18 years old and surrendered to vocational ministry shortly thereafter. He earned a B.S. in Biblical Studies from Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, GA in 2000 and then moved to Wake Forest, NC to work on his graduate degrees. He earned his PhD in Theological Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2008, and is working on a second PhD in Philosophy from the University of Birmingham in England. He is the author of Science and Theology: An Assessment of Alister McGrath’s Critical Realist Perspective (Wipf & Stock, 2010), co-author of How Do We Know?: A Short Introduction to the Issues of Knowledge (IVP, 2013), and co-editor of God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain (IVP, 2013). Dr. Dew pastored in NC for 10 years, and also served in various churches as a Youth Pastor and Minister to Adults. Now, Dr. Dew is the Vice President for Undergraduate Studies and Academic Support and is the Dean of the College at Southeastern. He has been married for 13 years to his wife Tara and they have two sets of twins: Natalie & Nathan (6) and Samantha & Samuel (3).”

Dew_2

And who is Mark Foreman?

“Mark W. Foreman is professor of philosophy and religion at Liberty
University where he has taught philosophy, apologetics, and bioethics for 25 years. He has an MABS from Dallas Theological Seminary and an MA and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He is the author of Christianity and Bioethics (College Press, 1999, [reprint Wipf and Stock, 2011] ), Prelude to Philosophy: An Introduction for Christians (InterVarsity Press, 2014), How Do We Know: An Introduction to Epistemology (with James K. Dew,Jr., InterVarsity Press, 2014) and articles in the Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (Harvest House, 2008) as well as chapters in Come Let us Reason: New Essay in Christian Apologetics (B&H, 2012) Steven Spielberg and Philosophy (with David Baggett, University of Kentucky Press, 2008) and Tennis and Philosophy (University of Kentucky Press, 2010). Mark has been a member of Evangelical Philosophical Society for over 20 years and is currently serving as vice-president of the society. His specializations are Christian apologetics, biomedical ethics and ethics.”

Foreman

Please be looking for this broadcast as we discuss their books and questions related to it such as “Is faith an epistemology” as Peter Boghossian claims, and “Is science the only way or the highest way of knowing?” as many internet atheists claim.

I hope to have everything up shortly. Be watching!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Tim McGrew vs. Peter Boghossian

What did I think of the debate on Unbelievable? Let’s talk about it on the Deeper Waters Podcast.

Recently on the Unbelievable podcast hosted by Justin Brierley, there was a debate between Tim McGrew and Peter Boghossian. The subject was Boghossian’s book “A Manual For Creating Atheists” which I have reviewed here. It was my high hopes that Tim McGrew, a real professor of epistemology, would be the one to expose Boghossian before a listening world.

Request granted.

Boghossian could not reply to a single source that Tim McGrew had on the meaning of faith. Boghossian defined it as “belief without evidence” or “pretending to know things you don’t know.” McGrew defined it as “trust in evidence.” All Boghossian was able to use was his “personal experience” of talking to Christians. McGrew said his experience was different. Now of course, when two people get together who have different personal experiences, then they need to look for something outside of their personal experience. McGrew went to the Oxford English Dictionary and how it shows that faith is best to be understood as trust. Boghossian could not counter this nor did he ever even attempt to. For Boghossian, he was just repeating the same refrain again and again about what he encountered.

Now I don’t doubt that there are many Christians who have a false view of faith, but is that really the way to say you’re going to go around creating atheists? Boghossian says atheism is a result of criticalthinking. Of course, if atheism is true, critical thinkers should be atheists, but that is the very premise in question. Is atheism true and you don’t say “I’m an atheist, therefore I’m a critical thinker” or “X is a Christian, therefore X isn’t practicing critical thinking” nor could the reverse apply.

McGrew points out at the end that he could not define atheists as people are ignorant about reality because they deny God exists. Now of course, if God does exist, then atheists are ignorant about reality, but that would be a terrible way to define an atheist before the debate even gets started and every atheist should rightly call McGrew on that if he does that, as McGrew himself agreed.

Boghossian also asked McGrew if he had read the Koran which no doubt gave the shocking reply of “Yes.” He went on to name other holy books that he has read. I am quite confident in my position that McGrew has read far more scholarly works that he disagrees with than Boghossian has.

Boghossian also wanted to know if the Muslims believe without evidence that Muhammad flew on a horse. McGrew rightly answered that they do not. They point to what they think is the beauty and elegance of the Koran and conclude it is a divine work and then trust it. Is that conclusion right? Of course, McGrew and Boghossian and myself don’t think so, but that does not mean that Muslims lack a reason or what they think is evidence for their claims.

This is an important distinction McGrew kept coming back to. What matters most is what one counts as evidence and what is considered reliable. One could even agree with the conclusion and disagree with the evidence presented. Suppose I meet someone who is a Christian and says they are because the Holy Spirit just told them that Jesus rose from the dead. I would really want them to have something more than that, but I cannot deny that they have reached the right conclusion.

Boghossian wanted to know about the difference between faith and hope. McGrew pointed out that faith is when you’re willing to act in a way where you’re venturing something. You can’t absolutely 100% prove something but you’re going by evidence. This is a mistake I think Boghossian doesn’t realize. He had said you needed to examine every religious worldview before you could choose one. No. You just need sufficient evidence to choose one.

For instance, if that is the case, Boghossian no doubt considers himself a macroevolutionist, yet he has said he is not an evolutionary biologist. Before siding on his worldview, is he going to go out and examine every claim of say, young-earth creationism, before he’s willing to sign on the line of evolutionary biologist? He has said he is now studying the Koran. Does that mean he chose a position on God, namely that He does not exist, before studying all the evidence?

If the only way we can reach any decision is by studying all the evidence, no one will ever conclude anything. There are always books that are going to be unread. There will be arguments unheard and in fact, arguments unanswered. What one has to say is “On the whole, which explanation best explains all the evidence.”

To get back to faith and hope again, McGrew used the illustration of sky diving with the statistic that over 99% of people who jump out of a plane while skydiving land safely. The person who jumps is still venturing something. He needs more than just “I hope my instructor packed the parachute properly.” He needs to have good reason to think it was done that way. Then he acts and that act is referred to as faith. Boghossian is right one point. Faith is not an epistemology. He’s wrong on the point that he always treats it that way and unfortunately, his whole book is built on this false premise.

Also noteworthy is Boghossian’s view on how people of faith should be treated. Faith for Boghossian should be classified as a mental disorder and a virus of the mind and the person who is trying to reason someone out of their worldview is doing an intervention. It is hard to see how Boghossian is not just outright dehumanizing his opponents. For all the talk Boghossian has about practicing doxastic openness, it looks like he needs to learn some.

This means Boghossian is a bully and in fact, one of the worst kinds of bullies. He thinks those of us who are Christians are wrong. Okay. I get that. That is not being a bully. I have several friends who think the same way. What’s next is that he thinks that we automatically have a mental illness. This is when we start getting into bigotry. If that was where it stayed, that would be bad enough, but it is not. In his own book he says to treat faith as a public health crisis. He says that there are things we cannot do obviously due to freedoms we have here, like the freedom of speech, but it is scary to think about what Boghossian would do if he had power in a country like a Muslim country or in a place like Russia where those little restrictions didn’t get in the way.

Even worse is that Boghossian is not basing this on evidence. If his interventionist strategy works so well, why did it not work here? The simple reason is Boghossian is just highly uninformed and has unfortunately convinced himself that he is right. He is engaging in what I call atheistic presuppositionalism.

This is the idea that right at the start, he is right and a critical thinker by virtue of being an atheist. If anyone else disagrees, they are obviously not engaging in critical thinking and there must be some reason why they don’t see the light. Perhaps they are “Suppressing the truth in faithfulness” or “Their eyes are blinded by a bias they do not see and they need the scales removed from their eyes.” Either way, Boghossian knows he cannot be wrong because of his personal experience with walking his life of atheism for years and because of the inner testimony of his “voice of reason.”

In fact, it’s the same for some of Boghossian’s biggest fans who just can’t bring themselves to admit that Boghossian got, as one skeptic put it, his chickens slaughtered by McGrew. A sad example of such a fan who cannot seem to accept this reality can be seen here and you can see my comments to him on the blog.

Boghossian has strangely enough said he’s interested in a round two. We would like to see it, but it is certainly clear that Boghossian is going to have to improve his game dramatically before he steps into the ring again with McGrew. Perhaps it would help if Boghossian practiced more doxastic openness and avoided his idea of “Avoid facts.” For now, all he has his personal testimony while McGrew and those like him have data from scholarly sources. Therefore, by Boghossian’s own standards, Boghossian should be sitting at the kid’s table until he can bring forward some facts.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Interacting With Street Epistemologists

What’s been my experience so far interacting with Street Epistemologists? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was asked by an apologetics group I belong to to describe what has been my experience thus far dealing with street epistemologists. You see, I was thrilled when I heard Peter Boghossian, author of “A Manual For Creating Atheists” (which I have reviewed here and interviewed Tom Gilson on here) had decided to come out with a show called the Reason Whisperer where he plans to have live conversations with people of “faith” and get them closer at least to deconversion.

I think this is a Godsend really.

I’ve long been waiting to see if there is something that will wake up the church from its intellectual slumbers and this I hope is it! We’ve had more than enough warnings and yet too many Christians are too caught up in themselves to realize they’re to do the Great Commission.

So I wanted to see what these street epistemologists were made of. Myself and some others with the same interest went to the Facebook page of Peter Boghossian. There we began asking questions and challenging what was said. It’s noteworthy that Boghossian himself never responded to us.

In fact, one post at least was a practical dare on Boghossian’s part when he linked to Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman and said the apologists won’t post on this one. He sure was wrong! More of us posted than ever before!

I’d like to report on how that has kept going and that Boghossian is being answered every day, but alas, I cannot.

Why? Because he banned us all.

Keep in mind, this is the same one who sees a great virtue in “doxastic openness.”

What I did find from the interactions I had is that street epistemologists are woefully unequipped. They read only that which agrees with them. They will buy into any idea if it goes against Christianity. The Earth was believed to be flat? Sure! I’ll believe that! Jesus never existed? Sure! I’ll believe that! Not having the originals of an ancient document is a problem? Sure! I’ll believe that! I still think about the person who recommended I read “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross”, a book so bad that even the publisher apologized for it.

For street epistemologists also, science is the highest way of knowing anything. Now this is something understandable. If matter is all there is, then the best way to understand the world is to use a process that studies matter specifically. The problem is science can never determine that matter is all that there is any more than it could have determined that all swans were white. Science is an inductive process and while one can be certain of many of the claims, one cannot say they have 100% certainty.

Edward Feser has compared the use of science to a metal detector at the beach. Let’s suppose I was looking for a treasure map I’d heard had been buried at the beach. I go all over the local beach with a metal detector and say “Well I guess the map isn’t here. The detector never pointed it out.” Sure. I found several other objects that had some metal in them, but I never found the treasure map.

You would rightly think this is bizarre. After all, a map is made of paper and while a metal detector does a great job of picking up objects that are metal, it simply will not work with paper. This is not because a metal detector is a terrible product. It is because it is not the right tool for the job.

So it is that in order to determine if matter is all that there is or if there is a God, science is not the tool for the job. Now some might think science can give us some data that we can use, but it cannot be the final arbiter.

Yet for street epistemologists, it seems enough to just say “Science!” and that rules out everything else that’s religious. This would be news to many scientists who are devout Christians and see no disconnect between science and their worldview.

Yet here, the street epistemologists once again have an out. It is why I in fact call them atheistic presuppositionalists. They will simply say that these people are experiencing a kind of cognitive dissonance. They are compartmentalizing themselves and not seeing that their worldviews contradict.

This would be news to someone like Alister McGrath, Francis Collins, or John Polkinghorne.

As I said, these only read what agrees with them. They will read Bart Ehrman on the Bible, but they will not read Metzger or Wallace in response. They will read Boghossian and follow him entirely, but they will not bother to read his critics. They will read about how people in the Middle Ages thought the Earth was flat, but they will not read James Hannam’s book on the matter, see Thomas Madden’s scholarship there, or even read the atheist Tim O’Neill who disagrees with them.

Street epistemologists will also go with extreme positions. They will tout on and on about how Jesus never existed and only say “Richard Carrier” or “Robert Price” in response. They will not acknowledge that the majority of scholarship, even scholarship that ideologically disagrees with Christianity, says it’s certain that Jesus existed. They do not realize that biblical scholarship is an open field where anyone of any worldview can join and writings go through peer-review.

Interestingly, these same people will go after Christians for not believing in evolution because, wait for it, there’s a consensus that this happened! The consensus of scientists is to be trusted. The consensus of scholars in the NT and ancient history is not to be trusted!

Also, if you do not hold to their view, well you are obviously emotional in nature in some way since you only believe because you want to believe and because of how you feel. It never occurs to some people that there could be intellectual reasons. In fact, it follows the pattern that if they don’t think the reasoning is intelligent, then it is just emotional.

It’s in fact a direct contrast to what is often said in many religious circles. “Well you’re just living in sin and are blinded to the truth.” Now I don’t doubt for some atheists, they don’t want to give up an immoral lifestyle. Also, I don’t doubt that for too many Christians, their only basis for being a Christian is how they feel and an emotional experience. Both of these groups have reached their conclusions for the wrong reasons.

Yet psychoanalyzing is seen as an argument to street epistemologists. If they can say you just believe for emotional reasons, then they can dismiss what you say. Note that it is dismissal. It is not a response.

I consider this a form I see of what I call atheistic hubris. Note please as well that this does not mean all atheists are this way. It just means that there’s a sizable portion of what I call “internet atheists” that are this way. The idea is that if someone is an atheist, then they are rational and intelligent. Therefore, all their thinking is rational and intelligent and all their conclusions are rational and intelligent.

The reality is we must all be constantly watching ourselves and one of the best ways to do this is to read our critics. Our critics will show us our blind spots and if we are wrong, we are to change our minds accordingly with the evidence.

An excellent example of something Boghossian and others constantly get wrong is faith. Boghossian says it is believing without evidence or pretending to know something that you do not know. Now in a modern vocabulary, I don’t doubt this. Too many Christians use faith this way and treat this kind of faith as if it is a virtue. It isn’t.

The question is, when the Bible uses the word faith, does it mean this? The answer is no.

In all of the writings I’ve read by the new atheists speaking this way about faith, not one of them has ever consulted a Greek or NT Lexicon in order to make their case. They have just said that this is what the word means. Oh they’ll sometimes quote Hebrews 11:1, but a text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext. I have also given my own exegesis of what the passage means here.

Also, I do have another great source on what faith is.

Faith/Faithfulness

“These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.”

As it stands, the most I get told to this is that it is an appeal to authority, which indicates that street epistemologists don’t even understand the appeal to authority. Strange for people who claim to champion logic.

Sadly, they’re just following in the footsteps of Boghossian himself. Boghossian’s techniques will not work for any Christian who is moderately prepared to defend his worldview. It’s a shame that he who teaches so much about doxastic openness is so often incapable of doing what he teaches.

I conclude that if this is what we can expect from street epistemologists, then we really have nothing to be concerned about with them. Street epistemologists are just as unthinkingly repeating what their pastor, in this case Boghossian, says to them, as the fundamentalist Christians that they condemn. They are really two sides of the same coin.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How Do We Know

What do I think of Foreman and Dew’s book on epistemology? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Foreman and Dew have written this in order to explain epistemology to people who have never really considered it and in our day and age, it’s more necessary than ever. After all, you have people like Peter Boghossian out there wanting to train up “street epistemologists” to deconvert Christians from their faith. In addition to that, there is a rampant scientism in our society that says science is the way to know the truth. If what you say is not scientific, then it is not a fact.

So how is it that we do know anything at all and what is knowledge? Naturally, you won’t find a comprehensive refutation of positions in this work. Instead, it’s more to get you thinking about what the different positions are. The authors themselves do not come down on either side in the debate. After reading it, I cannot tell you what position either one of them holds.

The authors also go through the classical problems in studies of epistemology. One such example that will be well-known to students of philosophy is the Gettier Problem. (To which, I remember when this was discussed in my epistemology class one of my classmates immediately asked the professor about Gettier. His question? “Did he get tenure?” Yes. He definitely did get tenure after that.)

Gettier’s problem was to show that you could have a belief that was justified and that was true, but even then that might not be enough to say that you had knowledge. This is problematic since the prior definition of knowledge has been justified true belief, which means that now philosophers are looking to see if a fourth item might need to be added to the list.

Those dealing with new atheist types will be pleased to see the authors make a statement about faith and how faith is not a way of knowing but is rather a response of trust to what one is shown to be true. Of course, we seriously doubt that Peter Boghossian and others like him will pay any attention to anything that goes against their beliefs.

Along those lines, there is also a section on whether one can know through divine revelation which includes a short apologetic for Christianity. The authors are both Christians and do hold that divine revelation can be a valid way to possess knowledge.

If there’s a concern I have with the book, I would have liked to have seen more interaction with the medieval period. Too often we talk about Plato and Aristotle and then jump ahead to Descartes. A few times Aquinas is cited but not often. I do not remember Augustine being cited but that could have been something I overlooked. There were plenty of great thinkers as well in the medieval period and it does help to see how we got from the ancient to the modern era.

Despite this one misgiving, I find that this book will be an excellent start for those wanting to learn about epistemology. You won’t walk away with a firm conclusion most likely, but you will walk away hopefully knowing that you need to look.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: True Reason

What do I think of Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

TrueReason

True Reason is being released today as a response to several of the new atheists. Why? Because the new atheists have championed themselves as the heroes of reason and as a result of reason, they’re atheists, and those who are reasonable will also be atheists.

Yet as I have observed, those same atheists making that claim are usually guilty of the greatest crimes against reason. This was best exemplified to me recently when a street epistemologist on Peter Boghossian’s Facebook page was asked if she’d read any books on logic and she replied by naming the new atheists that she had read.

This also consists in what I call “The Jesus Allergy” where atheists are afraid to admit anything whatsoever could be true in Scripture or that there could be anything good about religion or that intelligent people can be within their epistemic rights while being Christians. Want to see this best shown? Look at how many atheists are Christ-mythers. Even those who aren’t can often say that a reasonable case can be made that Jesus never existed.

No. No it can’t.

True Reason is meant to expose this. Now to be sure, this is a volume that I think is meant to be an introduction to people who are not familiar with the apologetics world. For those of us who have been in it for years, there won’t be much new here, but there will be a new formatting of it and a new presentation.

The book certainly has its range of excellent authors. William Lane Craig, David Wood, Sean McDowell, David Marshall, Matthew Flannagan, and Tim McGrew, for instance, each have their own say in it. There are also several chapters by people that you might not have heard of, which is fine to me because I think the apologetics community does need to promote from within.

Many of the chapters do cover subjects that I am pleased are being discussed. Slavery in the OT, for instance, is not often addressed in apologetics books. Flannagan’s chapter on the genocides of the OT will be extremely helpful as well. I enjoyed as well Tim McGrew and David Marshall’s chapter on the history of reason in Christianity and I appreciated that Marshall had a chapter devoted entirely to John Loftus’s “Outsider Test for Faith.”

There are areas I would like to see some more on for another edition of the book.

I think despite it being absolutely bunk, there needs to be a section on Christ-myth thinking and why historians and scholars view it as a joke. That could be a good focus on Richard Carrier and Robert Price. The Christ-myth idea is I think one of the greatest examples of the lack of reason in the new atheist movement.

I also think that since the new atheists target Christianity, we need a chapter on the central claim, the resurrection. There is one on the reliability of the NT overall, but we need something that is devoted to solely defending the resurrection and answering criticisms of it.

Yet since this one is also engaging several apologists together and some of them being new, I think that gives readers plenty of places to go to and I encourage that. We need to be building up others and it’s excellent to see noted names in the field working with names that haven’t been as well established yet, but are well on their way.

If there is someone out there who is wanting a good case against the new atheists claim to be the bearers of reason, I recommend this one. It will be a good start to demonstrating that the emperor truly has no clothes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/15/2014: Tom Gilson

What’s coming up Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Tom600

I’d like to give a little caveat right at the start.

This show might not happen.

I’m going to treat it as it will. I’m going to be making my plans accordingly, but I’m wanting all to be aware of the possibility. Why might it not? Because Wednesday I was diagnosed as having an inflamed prostate, so bad that I had to go to the ER last night. (My wife and I were suffering both from this seeing as I was regularly screaming during the night making it hard to sleep.)

I went home yesterday afternoon and I have been recovering since then, but I have just been in a lot of pain from all of this and so I want you to know that if the time comes and there is no show going on, do not panic. I am sure my guest will be glad to come back another time, though it would have to be much later. I am thoroughly booked as a look at our podcast schedule will show.

But let’s assume the show is going on. What’s the topic?

My guest will be Tom Gilson and we’ll be talking about his reply to Peter Boghossian, author of “A Manual for Creating Atheists.” This could also tie in to an ebook he co-edited called “True Reason.”

Tom Gilson is the National Director for the Ratio Christi Students Alliance Ministry. This puts him in charge of 100 chapters. He is also the blogger who runs Thinking Christian. This blog is according to Technorati one of the top 100 influential blogs on the area of religion.

Peter Boghossian is an important topic to be discussing, not the least of which because he has a show coming out that he calls “The Reason Whisperer.” In this show, he will go out live with a television crew to record conversations he has with people to show how to deconvert. (To which, I’ve been hopeful that he will please come to my church sometime!)

Gilson and I have both read Boghossian’s book and we will be talking about the many problems that exist in it. (In fact, if anyone is interested, I have been over on Boghossian’s Facebook page enjoying dealing with the “street epistemologists” that he has on his side.)

And again, let me issue a reminder that it is my sincere hope that this show will take place. Even now, I do not feel my best, but I am sitting here working to bring you this post and to prepare a show just in case. I do sincerely ask that you be praying for me and for my family in this time. This has been a difficult time for us and I hope that it passes soon. As some can imagine, in the heat of the struggle, it feels like it will never pass.

So be listening in hopefully this Saturday from 3-5 PM EST to hear Tom Gilson on the Deeper Waters Podcast. The call in number will be as always 714-242-5180. The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: A Manual For Creating Atheists

Manualforcreatingatheists

What do I think of Peter Boghossian’s book on creating atheists? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Boghossian’s book in the past month or so has been the subject of great conversation on the internet. Why is this the case? Is it because there’s a new argument in here? No. There’s nothing new. Is it because there’s a really powerful demonstration of atheism in here? No. That’s not here also. It’s because now, Boghossian claims to have a way to apply principles of critical thinking and train others in them so that they can become “street epistemologists” with the goal of deconverting others.

Unfortunately, what I’ve seen is that these epistemologists are thoroughly unequipped for the job, and it’s no surprise because the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

And yet at the same time, I found great confirmation for so much of what I’ve been saying for years. I have for years been correcting Christians on their definition of faith. I have been telling them that their testimonies will not be persuasive to many skeptics out there and to avoid emphasizing their feelings, and in fact I’d prefer they not discuss feelings altogether. I’ve also been encouraging them to study, and not just the Bible, but good history and philosophy and any other field they have a passion for.

Well now those proverbial chickens are coming home to roost.

In fact, Boghossian wants to start a show called “The Reason Whisperer” where he will show conversations with the faithful seeking to deconvert them. If this show takes off, I have high hopes that he will come to my church. I really want to see that.

So to get to the meat of the matter, how is a street epistemologist supposed to do his job? He starts with faith and it all goes downhill from there. Boghossian defines faith as “belief without evidence” or “Pretending to know things that you do not know.”

In this section, he also talks about deepities. These are statements that sound profound, but are really meaningless. An example that he gives of this is Hebrews 11:1, a passage that Boghossian does not understand, probably because he didn’t really look into any major commentaries on the work. (You know, what we call, looking for evidence)

Therefore, Boghossian has the deck stacked in advance. Want to make a statement about faith? The street epistemologist is to read it as saying one of the two things Boghossian says it is. There is no concept that perhaps the other person might have a different definition. Perhaps the other person has done proper exegesis and study of the Greek word pistis to show that it more accurately refers to loyalty in the face of evidence that has been provided.

Boghossian regularly sees faith as a way of knowing. It is not. No one should know anything by faith. Faith is rather a response to what has been shown. The medievals would hold, for instance, that you could know that God exists on the basis of argumentation that was deductive, such as the five ways of Aquinas. They held that you believed that God was a Trinity, since this could not be known by reason alone but required trust in revelation. You can know historically that Jesus died on the cross. You believe that He died for your sins on that cross.

Unfortunately, Boghossian does not have any understanding of this and this straw man runs throughout the whole book. As soon as any street epistemologist comes across anyone who knows better, then they are caught in a bind. It is a shame also that Boghossian insists that these are the definitions of the word, since he is the one who encourages practicing “doxastic openness” which we shall get to later.

Boghossian gives a brief look at the resurrection which starts off with saying that it is assumed that a historical Jesus existed. For atheists who always want to talk about evidence, it amazes me that so many of them buy into this Christ-myth idea. To go to studies of ancient history and the NT and say Jesus never existed is on par to going to a geologist convention and telling them that the Earth is flat.

Boghossian says even if you grant the burial and the empty tomb, there are all number of ways to explain it, including the theory of space aliens. All of them require faith because of insufficient evidence. Any interaction with a Habermas, Licona, or Wright in this? Nope. We should ask Boghossian what methodology he took to arrive at this conclusion. By what methodology should street epistemologists accept it? Will it be a faith claim?

On page 28, Boghossian says that not a single argument for God’s existence has withstood scrutiny. He lists the five ways of Aquinas, Pascal’s Wager, the ontological argument, the fine-tuning argument, and the Kalam. He is emphatic that these are all failures and has an end note for that.

So when you go there, what will you find? Will you find a listing of works where these arguments were refuted? No. Will you find descriptions saying why these arguments are problematic? No. What will you find? A long statement on epistemologies?

On what grounds am I to believe these arguments have all been refuted? Boghossian’s say so? Is that the way a critical thinker should work?

Boghossian also says believers are told that ignorance is a mark of virtue and closeness to God. Sadly, I’m sure this is the case for several. In reality, if this is the Christianity Boghossian wishes to take down, more power to him there. I’ve been trying to take down this kind of Christianity for years. It has nothing to do with what Jesus taught and what the church has defended intellectually. Several decades ago in fact, the church was repeatedly warned the greatest threat to the church was anti-intellectualism.

It is at the end of the third chapter that we start seeing interventions, these are dialogues that Boghossian tells us about. The only one worth mentioning is a professor at an evangelical university who goes unnamed. Unfortunately, we have no idea what he teaches so I don’t know why we should take his opinion seriously. Most of these interventions consist of talking to people who I have no reason to believe are informed on their faith. It’s a reminder of what Bill Maher did in Religulous. It is like saying to tune in when a bodybuilder takes down a little old lady in a street fight.

Also in this chapter, he talks about doxastic openness. Closure is when someone is impervious to a reasoned argument and will not change their beliefs. The sad reality is this is a good description of street epistemologists and as we will see later on, Boghossian himself.

I fully think we should all be open to seeing if our beliefs are wrong. It is why I, as a Christian, have changed my stance on numerous issues over the years. This is something quite simple to do when your positions are based on evidence and argumentation.

One could think Boghossian has this view since in chapter 4, he does say to be willing to reconsider and be open to the idea that the faithful know something you don’t. (Such as the proper definition of faith in its proper social and historical context. Those who study the language might know this better than someone like Boghossian who does not.)

Interestingly, one of his strategies in this chapter is to avoid facts.

I’m not kidding. p. 71 and part II. The heading is “Avoid Facts.”

This strikes me as odd. If I am supposed to change my worldview, aren’t the facts relevant to that? Boghossian says that if people believed on the basis of evidence, they wouldn’t be where they are today. Isn’t this part of the doxastic closeness that he earlier condemns? Could it be the evidence just might be on the side of the Christian. Maybe I’m wrong on that of course, but should we not be open?

Boghossian says it is how we arrive at our conclusions that matter. Now I do agree this is important to discuss. Yet I tell people I am an empiricist. Knowledge begins with sense experience. I use that to reason to God. (Say the ways of Aquinas for instance.) Then with history, I try to read the best scholarship on both sides of the issue in forming an opinion on what happened to Jesus. I am also actively reading what I disagree with, such as Boghossian’s book, to see if I might have missed anything.

Does Boghossian fault that procedure?

Now Boghossian could say my conclusion is reached in advance and I have confirmation bias, but that needs to be shown rather than just asserted. The best way to show it if my methodology is sound is to show how I am not following it properly and that is done by looking at the evidence.

It is amusing to see him say Gary Habermas reached his position by starting with the divinity of Christ and the truth of Scripture and reasoning backwards. Anyone who has heard Habermas speak on doubt before knows that this is not the case. Knowing him personally, I have heard far more than most readers I am sure and know about the hours he spent agonizing over questions and not being wiling to commit to Christianity. He was quite close to being a Buddhist in fact.

It is a wonder where Boghossian gets his information then. Did he just assume it? Has he taken a faith position?

In actuality, what this can allow Boghossian to do is to discount any opinion that disagrees with him by claiming “confirmation bias.” The problem is anyone else could do the same with Boghossian’s position. A Christian could say “Well of course he’s not going to let the evidence lead him to God. He doesn’t want that.”

For example, let’s suppose there was an atheist who held to his atheism for known emotional reasons. Let’s suppose these were reasons such as he grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and hated his parents and everything to do with Christianity. Let’s also suppose he wants to sleep with any girl he meets and knows that Christianity would require him to give that up. This man has reasons to want to be an atheist that can cloud how he views the evidence. I don’t think anyone would doubt this.

Does that mean that he’s wrong?

No. The only way you know if he’s right or wrong is by looking at the evidence.

This is also shown with Boghossian in, like I said, he does not practice doxastic openness. For instance, he has been asked what it would take to make him believe, he uses a line from Lawrence Krauss. If he walked out at night and saw all the stars in the sky aligned to say “I am God communicating with you, believe in Me!” and every human being worldwide saw this in their native language, this would be suggestive. (He adds it would be far from conclusive. It could be a delusion.)

Yes. This is from the one who says we should practice doxastic openness.

What does this mean? It means formulating an argument for God’s existence will not work with Boghossian. What he requires for himself is a personal experience, and even then a grand personal experience is only suggestive. Why should anyone attempt to reason with someone like Boghossian who says the arguments won’t convince him but that it will require a personal experience?

Shouldn’t we go with the arguments instead of personal experience?

The sixth chapter spends much on interventions, including arguments over a topic such as if the universe had a beginning. Boghossian has this idea that an eternal universe would mean no God. I, meanwhile, say I’m willing to grant an eternal multiverse. What is needed is to explain not just its existence but its act of existing.

Seeing as I plan to focus more later, I’m going to move on to chapter 8, because in many ways I found this an excellent chapter. I really appreciated Boghossian’s viewpoints on relativism and the modern definition of tolerance being bogus and the problem with adding “o-phobia” to something.

Boghossian is certainly right that ideas need to be open to criticism and if he says “faith ideas” need to be open, I fully agree! In fact, I am one who goes out in public really hoping someone will see me reading a book by an atheist and think I’m one and try to talk me out of it, or see me reading a book about the resurrection of Jesus and try to talk to me out of that. I have always said that I want us to just come together and discuss the evidence and let Christianity work in the marketplace of ideas. Which case should we go with? Whoever brings forward the best arguments and evidences.

I also agree with what is said about faith-based claims. Those students who stand up in class and have nothing else to say except “The Bible says” are a sign of a problem that we have. It is not a problem with the Bible, but with a claim on how Christian education is done. It has too long been made that Christians are just told what the Bible says. Say anything about why you should trust the Bible? Nope. Say anything about worldviews that oppose the Bible? Nope. It’s part of what I’ve called the escapist mentality.

In fact, that’s what’s so ironic about Boghossian’s book. There is much in there that I could agree with generally on reasoning, and ironically, much of the attitudes that he sees in the faithful are the same attitudes that I see in the faithless. The atheists I meet more often than not have a hubris built into them where they think they are rational and right by virtue of being an atheist. I will also not deny many Christians have that same mindset to them as well.

As I plan to write on this further, I will conclude at this point by saying that Boghossian is someone to take seriously, not because he has new information, but because he is an evangelist for atheism that is seeking to make other evangelists. Boghossian would say someone like me is upset about a show like “The Reason Whisperer.” On the contrary, I am thrilled about it. I adore it whenever something like this happens. The Da Vinci Code, The New Atheists, and now this. Hopefully more and more soon the church will wake up and realize it needs to get up and do something and actually start learning what we believe. I think a show like this could be the shot in the arm the church needs. Of course, if the church does not wake up soon, I think it will only be around for about another generation or so in America.

The reality is the arguments are still simple to deal with and the street epistemologists are thoroughly unequipped in their quest. The problem on the side of the church is not lack of information. The problem is desire to have that information and awareness of the problem a lack of information causes. When someone abandons the life of the mind, it is sad. When a Christian does it, it is a travesty.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

For more information see the following:

My look at Hebrews 11:1

The Escapist Mentality