How does McCormick conclude? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
We have come to the end of our journey and what do we find? McCormick’s book is extremely lacking. In fact, I find it one of the most lacking books out there for someone of the education level of McCormick who should know better. Even when it comes to his subject of philosophy, McCormick still makes numerous blunders.
In this chapter, McCormick tells us that it should have been a trivial matter for God to make the resurrection believable for reasonable people. (Loc. 4220) Of course, note that McCormick never defines what a reasonable person is. Are people who believe in the resurrection unreasonable? It would seem so since we believe in the resurrection. If we believe in it, then it can be believed by reasonable people. If we are not, on what grounds? Is it that anyone who believes in it is unreasonable, but then McCormick’s criteria could never be met because any atheist who came to believe in it would become ipso facto unreasonable.
So what does he mean?
McCormick also has something on the kinds of atheism that are out there. Thankfully, he says an atheist is someone who affirms the non-existence of God. (None of this lack of belief nonsense) McCormick thinks in fact that ultimately, all religious systems collapse when his kind of analysis is used. I suppose that if you treat a religious question in a haphazard way and ignore the best positive evidence and build up straw men constantly against the belief then, yeah, it would collapse pretty easily. We could say the same way that macroevolutionary theory easily collapses. Just define it how you want, build up some straw men, ignore the positive evidence, and presto! You have outdone the scientific community.
What evidence then does he think is left for God? Well of course, you could deal with the Thomistic arguments, the ontological argument (Which I don’t accept but include in the interest of being thorough), the argument from beauty, the argument from conscience, Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Intelligent Design argument, the moral argument, the argument from religious experience, etc.
Or you could just ignore them and hope they go away.
McCormick wishes to do that by pointing to a survey that showed most philosophers find the arguments for God’s existence unconvincing. Do they? The survey certainly looks convincing. Unfortunately, closer analysis shows some problems, as William Lane Craig points out.
He doesn’t footnote his claim, but undoubtedly what he has to be referring to is the Chalmers and Bourget survey of philosophers that has gotten a lot of press. When this survey came out I was immediately puzzled because I thought, “I never received any such survey.” Neither did any of my colleagues at Talbot. There are seventeen professional philosophers on our campus. None of them were surveyed. I wondered exactly who received this survey. Well, when you look into it what you find is that this survey only was sent to 1,972 philosophers – less than 2,000 philosophers. It was sent to faculty only from 99 selected departments of philosophy. Just 99. Only 62 out of the 99 were in the United States. The rest are foreign – in Europe and Australia and so forth. Of the 1,972 that were surveyed, do you know how many actually responded? Less than half. Only 931 philosophers completed this survey. Yet this is supposed to be a comprehensive study of the belief of philosophers about God.
Rodney Stark, who is a sociologist at Baylor University, has pointed out that in his professional training for sociology he says that unless a survey has a response rate of 85% you are not to trust the results of that survey. This survey had a response rate of less than 48%. A mere 931 philosophers. If you look at the list of institutions to which this survey was sent, it was almost entirely secular universities. It wasn’t sent to places like Talbot, or Wheaton, or Westmont, or even many Catholic institutions. So far from exposing the intellectual deficiency of Christian philosophers, the appeal to this survey, I think, shows the intellectual deficiency of John Messerly’s argument. Here he just cites some survey without looking into it in any detail to see whom it was sent to, how many people it was sent to, how many responded to it. Instead he just cites something that confirms what he already wanted to believe. It really shows the intellectual deficiency of his own argument.
One could say that you don’t want to send this to evangelical and religious institutions because they’re biased, but then you’re just saying you’re going to include all professional philosophers who are not religiously inclined and then ask them if theistic arguments are convincing. How is this a fair examination? Is it that again, religious people don’t count?
Of course, McCormick thinks that even if you find a proof of God convincing, how do you close the circle to say which God is the real one? Christians and Jews and Muslims all have answers for this. McCormick doesn’t like the answers, but he needs to show that they are false.
McCormick thinks the teleological argument fails because of the problem of evil. Of course, this is not the classical teleological argument but the modern one. He tells us that in debates, theists have been at great pains to establish that the creator of the universe is possibly good willing or benevolent or morally perfect. (Loc. 4367.)
Really? It would be nice to see an example of this. Do I just need to take it on faith?
McCormick also tells us that centuries ago, God showed Himself regularly. Now, He hides Himself so we can believe by faith. Really? God showed Himself regularly.
God showed Himself to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph, after that, there was 400 years of silence. He was there during the Exodus and the conquest, but in the time of many of the kings of Israel and Judah, there was often silence. After the return from Babylon, there was another 400 years of silence and then Jesus came. Most of history after that has had some miracles taking place and such, but nothing like the time of the apostles.
McCormick’s claim is a misnomer. It seems to be happening everywhere in the Bible because those are the points worth talking about. Imagine reading a book about the history of war in America. You’ll find a historian writing about every time America went to war. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear America was perpetually at war and we never stopped fighting. That would be false. The historian is often just focusing on the times of war instead of the times of peace because those are the times worth writing about.
As we conclude, it has to be said that there is nothing in McCormick’s book that presents a real challenge. McCormick has ignored the best evidence against his position and built up straw men regularly. It’s amazing anyone takes this seriously.