Book Plunge: Faith vs Fact Conclusion

What are our concluding thoughts on Coyne’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s time to wrap up our look at Coyne’s book with asking why this matters. Now I do agree on this point. This does matter. As you can imagine, I disagree greatly with the conclusion of Coyne.

Coyne does list a number of evils that have been done by religious people. This cannot be denied. What can be denied is that Christians themselves aren’t doing anything about this. When I lived in Charlotte, I worked at the Christian Research Institute. Hank Hanegraaff who ran it is quite well-known for dealing with the prosperity Gospel movement, including such ideas as that healing is guaranteed in the atonement. The overwhelming majority of Christians would look at the events that Coyne talks about and say that they condemn them as well. Now some could say that this is based on promises of Scripture, but such promises are read through modern lenses instead of understanding the social and linguistic context of the first century. For instance, ask anything in my name is not a blank check. It means that you will receive anything you ask for that is in line with the will of the Master, and sometimes healing frankly isn’t in line with that.

If Coyne wants to say the kind of thinking done by these people should be stopped, I wholeheartedly agree. The reason it got this way is sadly, anti-intellectualism did sneak into the church. Such a view is really the exception to what has gone on in church history. I also contend that it has made its way into atheism, especially in the age of the internet where we live in a soundbite culture where someone thinks if you just put up a meme, the meme itself is an argument. Memes can be hilarious illustrations of arguments, but they should never be used as arguments themselves.

On page 229, Coyne warns about missionizing, which is an attempt to force your unsubstantiated beliefs on others.

The irony is so rich….

For one thing, I would really like to know how anyone can force a belief or even attempt to. We can only attempt to persuade. Some people will do a terrible job because frankly, they haven’t done their homework and don’t know about the historical evidence for their claims. (People like Jerry Coyne for instance and people like fundamentalist Christians) These people want to argue for what they believe but they don’t read the best scholarly works out there that disagree with them. (Again, people like Jerry Coyne and fundamentalist Christians.) When they meet people who know what they’re talking about, it’s quite apparent that the person wanting to make the argument just isn’t prepared.

So if I wanted to point to a clear example of missionizing, I’d point to Coyne’s book. Remember everyone, this is someone speaking on philosophical terminology who says

Another problem is that scientists like me are intimidated by philosophical jargon, and hence didn’t interrupt the monologues to ask for clarification for fear of looking stupid. I therefore spent a fair amount of time Googling stuff like “epistemology” and “ontology” (I can never get those terms straight since I rarely use them).

And as for theological arguments he says

This is an area about which I’m completely ignorant, and happy to remain so, because it sounds like a godawful cesspool of theological lucubration. It of course begins with three completely unsupported premises: that there is a God, that that God has a mind that has “beliefs,” and that how we act now somehow influences God’s beliefs about our actions long before we performed them. It sounds as if what we do now, then, can go back in time and change God’s beliefs. (That, at least, is how I interpret the gobbledygook above.)
Given those three bogus assumptions, the candidate will then spend many dollars ruminating about how God’s prior beliefs relate to the philosophy of time and metaphysics of dependence, whatever that means.
In other words, all the money is going to work out the consequences of a fairy tale. So much money for so much “sophisticated” philosophy!

So here we have someone who has to google basic terms in philosophy and who confesses to being ignorant in theology and happy to remain so, but yet wants to teach us on both of these.


Coyne also says that Natural Law on page 245 refers to innate morality supposedly vouchsafed to Catholics by God and understood by reason.

This from the one who complains about missionizing.

Natural Law is a rich tradition that goes back to the Greeks prior to Christianity. It is the simple idea that there is good and evil and we can all know them by virtue of being human beings and learning. We don’t need any divine revelation for that. It’s also not just a Catholic thing. Muslims and Jews could argue the same. So could Protestants. Perhaps it would have helped Coyne had he, you know, actually read something on Natural Law.

I’d also like to share how on page 250 ending a section on global warming, he talks about how the Vatican has an observatory, which is surprising to most people, and how Father Guy Consolmagno of it says it serves “to make people realize that the church not only supports science, literally….but we support and embrace and promote the use of both our hearts and our brains to come to know how the universe works.” Coyne takes this as a clear expression that people believe what they like to be true rather than what science tells us. How is that so?

It’s hardly necessary to add that the heart is not an organ for thinking, and that we can never understand ‘how the universe works’ by using our emotions, via faith, instead of reason. Father Consolmagno’s heart, for example, has convinced him that if extraterrestrial beings exist, that they have souls like ours.”

It’s hardly necessary to point out to most people on planet Earth, which sadly do not include Coyne, that it’s quite clear that Consolmagno is using metaphorical language here. He is not at all saying that he thinks with the heart any more than someone is denying science when they tell their wife “I love you with all of my heart.” We can easily picture Coyne saying “The heart is not an organ for loving!”

For anyone out there who thinks like Coyne, the claim is simply that with our very beings we can work to know the universe. While it could include emotions, the quote does not refer to them. (It would be a mistake also to say love is an emotion. It can result in powerful emotions we call love, but love itself is not an emotion.) I am sure if Coyne was to debate Consolmagno, he’d find Consolmagno actually has reasons for what he believes, including about aliens.

So where does this all end? Coyne’s big mistake here is the same one that many people make on the Christian side. By making the debate to be science vs. the Bible, most people in America will actually choose the Bible. God does more for them in their minds than science does. God gives them more wonder and purpose in their lives than science does. This is also tragic because Coyne would have to be able to admit that many Christians do have wonderful minds (Who wants to say people like Francis Collins are idiots?) and yet if he makes it an either/or proposition, then he is keeping some of those minds out of science.

Unfortunately, the way many Christians have handled issues like evolution has perpetuated this. Perhaps evolution will fall as bad science some day like some other theories have. I cannot say, but let us be open to the possibility. If it does, let it fall because it is bad science. There is no place for making it be the Bible vs. Science. If you believe the Bible, then you should believe that it won’t contradict science. If that is the case, then the way to show something is wrong in the world of science is to do so scientifically. Using the Bible to do this just perpetuates the stereotype.

Coyne then in wanting to end the problem is in fact making it worse by his works. This is especially so when he writes about topics that he does not know about. It’s really ironic that someone who wants to talk about evidence-based belief takes such a light approach to evidence in what he critiques. The objections that Coyne thinks are stumpers could be seen as parallel to what evolutionists think when they’re told “Well if we came from apes, why are there still apes?” Now could I answer that question? No, because I’m not a scientist and I won’t even try. That’s why I don’t speak on it. I do trust that regardless of my stance on evolution, it would be a bad argument anyway.

This gets us to the tragedy that in one sense, Coyne is right. Faith is opposed to fact. How? Because if science is really that evidence-based belief including history, had Coyne actually read the evidence, he would see a strong case that Christianity is true and Jesus rose from the dead. Since he does not treat evidence seriously but only cherry-picks what is in line with what he already believes without interacting with the best scholarship on the other side, then Coyne is acting on faith. In that case, had Coyne done a proper scientific inquiry, he would have seen that Christianity is true, but as a priest of his religion of scientism, Coyne cannot allow evidence that goes against his faith. The religion of Coyne and the science that demonstrates that Christianity is true are certainly incompatible. It looks like Coyne has decided to be a person of faith instead of a person of science in this case.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 4 can be found here.

Temple of the Future on Morality

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’d like today to write on something that Justin Brierley presented on the Unbelievable Facebook page. It’s an article on a site called “Temple of the Future” concerning morality and biblical truth. It can be found here.

Temple starts off with discussing recent programs of Unbelievable. To be fair, I have not got to listen to the most recent one yet on women in ministry. However, does the first one mentioned of a look at Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” really have much to do with morality? It’s quite likely that most evangelicals would agree with Bell on several moral issues. My opinion on “Love Wins” is coming sometime soon, but regardless of whether Bell is right or wrong, the question is not about whether an action is right or wrong. Bell could be a universalist or not be a universalist and still believe murder is wrong.

What of the program on the true face of Islam? It’s a wonder that this is being seen as something on the Bible when this is really something on the Koran if anything. An atheist could have been a guest on the show and could have stated that Bin Laden was or wasn’t the true face of Islam. If he knew what the teachings were in the Koran or Hadith, then he could have presented what he believed to be an accurate argument for whatever position he held. Again, whether Bin Laden was or wasn’t the true face of Islam doesn’t matter to me at this point.

The last one is the closest one we have to a moral issue, but is it really so much a moral issue? Does anyone really believe someone would go to Hell, for instance, for having a female minister? Augustine dealt with a question similar to this back with the Donatist teaching. What if someone was baptized by someone who was a heretic? Does that mean their salvation is null and void? Augustine said no.

Temple says it is foolish to let the questions of morality become exercises in literary criticism.

However, what is actually meant by literary criticism? Here are the main issues that we can raise.

Is the text that we have what we had then? This would be textual criticism. Whether what the text says is true or not does not really matter. Even if all that say, Paul wrote in Romans, is wrong, does that mean we don’t have what he originally wrote? All we want to know is if we have what he wrote.

What style is the writing in? Are we going to take Revelation in a literal sense? When Jesus says “Pluck out your eye if it causes you to sin” is he to be taken literally? At the same time, when he says “Love your neighbor as yourself” is that to be taken literally, and how do we know when to take the text literally and when not? This is part of hermeneutics, that is, the art of interpretation of a text.

Finally, we come to the questions of “What does the text mean?” and then for our personal application “What does it mean to us personally today?” The first question is the most important one although we usually skip to the second. What does the text mean? This can also be a difficult one, but it’s not just with the biblical text. It’s with any text. We wonder what the text means in Plato, the Upanishads, the Koran, Nietzsche, government laws, or just ordinary conversation. ALL texts must be interpreted and some interpretations are right and some are wrong.

Turning to the program on church leaders, Temple simply says this is a dumb question to be asking. Why? Because it’s not the way most people in the 21st century think. So what? If someone wants to remain faithful to a text, it’s an important question to ask if there’s debate on what the text means. Granted, it’s not the most fascinating topic to the secular man, but again, so what? Are Christians forced to have debates and define debates in the way that the secular person prefers?

Temple sees this as discrimination when we don’t allow women to be in ministry. To begin with, it is discrimination, but that assumes all discrimination is wrong. My work place is discriminatory. They only allow men to go into the men’s room and they only allow women to go into the women’s room.

The Boy scouts are discriminatory. You have to be a boy to participate. Places that give senior citizen discounts are discriminatory as you have to be at least 65 to get one. Restaurants that say kids eat free are discriminatory since you have to be a kid in order to eat for free.

The question is “What is the basis for the discrimination.” Does the Bible say women should not be in ministry because they are inferior? It would be good to see such a text. The closest Temple points to is Ephesians 2:22-24. Nowhere mentioned however is that the man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church which is hardly a dominating theme. As a married man, it calls me to constant self-sacrifice for my wife. Now do some people misuse this text? Of course. People can misuse any text, but does Temple want us to think the text has no meaning and is open to any interpretation. If so, then can he really say that the text teaches the inferiority of women? Can I not say “That’s just your interpretation.”?

Temple writes about two scholars of Shakespeare’s works and how they disagree over the meaning of what Shakespeare said and asks if we could ever come to a conclusion on what Shakespeare meant. Temple tells us that of course we couldn’t. Temple tells us that like any complete text, it’s open to interpretation.

Okay. Agreed. It is open to interpretation.

Then he says multiple valid interpretations.

Is this really the case? He would have to demonstrate this. Is he saying that supposing Paul wrote Ephesians that Paul believed in the inferiority of women and didn’t believe in the inferiority of women both? How could this be? If Paul puts the meaning into the text, then the text can only mean one thing. It could be difficult or even impossible for us to find out what he meant, but that does not mean that there is no meaning.

Furthermore, why should I believe that we could never reach a conclusion on what Shakespeare meant? Who knows what the future will hold. I’m certainly open to the possibility that we could someday. Temple just takes it as a foregone conclusion that we won’t. Where does this knowledge of the future come from?

Temple says to build our morality on the Bible is to be build it on sinking sand.

We’ve seen this song and dance before. One would think that Temple would have some familiarity with Natural Law thinking. Does he not read any Christian ethicists who argue not from Scripture but from the basis of Natural Law? Does he read someone like Budziszewski in a work such as “The Line Through The Heart”?

Of course, in the comments, he does present the Euthyphro dilemma as if this is something embarrassing to Christians. Granted, most don’t know how to answer it, but the answer is to ask what goodness is and if it can be defined apart from God. I believe it can just like Aristotle did and when we define goodness, which is that at which all things aim according to Aristotle, we eventually realize that God is that which is goodness in being being itself. Temple could read Aquinas in the Summa Theologica for information on goodness and the goodness of God.

The point is that this is the same idea we’ve seen over and over. So many today arguing against morality believe that Christians use the Bible and only the Bible, not realizing the Bible itself argues against such a claim in passages like Romans 2. Are we to think when the Israelites got the Ten Commandments that they had no idea murder was wrong before that? Of course not. Moses himself made sure, though not doing a good job of it apparently, to make sure no one was watching when he killed an Egyptian.

Hopefully atheists and others will soon stop making this argument and start actually interacting with Christian positions.

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