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Mar 27 2012

An inadequate apologia

Mighty Timbo says he has now “fixed” the wording in his attempt at excusing God’s failure to show up. It no longer explicitly declares that “It doesn’t seem like knowing him personally did a whole lot of good,” but instead now only implies it. Semantics aside, though, the thrust of his argument remains the same: in the Bible stories, God’s presence among men was typically followed very shortly by disobedience and rebellion, sometimes while God was still there. It does indeed seem like this allegedly mighty, loving, and wise deity was singularly incapable of doing much good, whether the apologetic comes right out and admits it or not.

Of course, that’s not the point Timbo is trying to make. He’s just trying to indulge in a little bit of blame-shifting. It’s not God’s fault He fails to show up in real life, you see. It’s all those darned atheists and skeptics (and that stupid dog?) who are to blame. And perhaps they are, because if God is just a figment of people’s imaginations, then it’s true, a failure or refusal to imagine Him is going to make it impossible for Him to “show up” for them. But somehow I don’t see that as being an effective Christian apologetic.

The big weakness of this apologetic is that it is completely irrelevant. Suppose some do indeed rebel. So what? That would not prevent God from showing up in real life. I see real people all the time to whom I do not submit and obey and devote my entire life to serving them. Real people don’t find my independence any obstacle at all to their ability to show up in real life.

What’s more, it’s not even Biblical to suggest that my independence is somehow preventing God from showing up. As Timbo himself has kindly pointed out, virtually all of the alleged appearances of God have occurred in the context of people being disobedient and independent. If independence actually prevented God from showing up, then none of those Biblical stories can be true either—especially the story of the Incarnation!

And that’s true in general: any excuse you can think up for why God can’t show up today also becomes a reason why He could not have done so in the Bible either, and contrariwise the alleged appearances in the Bible disprove the claim that some greater factor must prevent Him from showing up today. This is one of the inherent contradictions in Christianity. The Bible is all about how willing and able God is to be here with each of us, in person, to participate in the personal relationship He Himself wanted badly enough to literally die for. Not any relationship that we demanded of Him, as though we were somehow seeking to rudely impose upon Him, but the relationship He allegedly initiates and wants to offer to us. And yet we can clearly see, in real life, that no such God cares enough to even show up and say “Good morning” now and then—not even for believers.

So I’m not asking for anything. I’m not defying God or demanding that He show up and “prove” Himself to me. I’m just pointing out that the stories of men say one thing, but when we look at the real world, we don’t actually find any real-life deity showing up and acting as though He had the slightest belief in any of the things men are saying about Him.

That’s not anything any atheist has any control over. God’s failure to show up is God’s failure, not the skeptics’. Only imaginary gods are so susceptible to the moods and beliefs of ordinary mortals. Timbo’s attempt to shift the blame onto ordinary people just goes to show how subjective and illusory his so-called “God” really is.

 

20 comments

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  1. 1
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    And how does he justify the appearances of all the other gods? We have stories of Krishna, Isis, Athena, Aesclepius, Hermes, and others meeting with and having personal relationships with their followers.

  2. 2
    lordshipmayhem

    I have to agree with Timbo this far: “It’s not God’s fault He fails to show up in real life.” If you don’t exist, you can’t show up. Even the most powerful of imaginary beings would find that an impossible barrier to overcome.

    Only when the True Believer goes off his medications for a few days can the Supremely Nonexistent Being manifest itself to him.

  3. 3
    Bob Jase

    “It’s not God’s fault He fails to show up in real life, you see. It’s all those darned atheists and skeptics (and that stupid dog?) who are to blame.”

    I trump the creator of the universe – gaze upon my power and be awed!

  4. 4
    Tim

    Deacon-

    At some point it just starts to sound like you’re writing just “to hear yourself speak”. Your response here has veered so far away from the argument I’ve made at http://Christian-apologetics.tk That I wonder if you’ve even read it.

    At no point did I ever argue that God “Can’t show up”. I didn’t even argue that he shouldn’t. The crux of my reply to the question was that despite evidence presented to the contrary (and you were presented with actual evidence)many people like yourself simply rationalize God away. Therefore if God stood on your doorstep, sat on your couch, or slapped you upside the head, it’s likely that you’d find an explanation for that as well.

    I am disappointed that you have found the basic literal concepts of my articles too difficult to address and have instead had to descend into this manner of warped distortion of statements in order to bolster your own position.

    This does not seem to be in the spirit of “free thought” which claims to take an honest well-reasoned approach to evaluating and exploring arguments and evidence.

    I would have really enjoyed having a good solid debate with you, and I appreciate our conversations; but I have no reason to defend my articles when they are twisted, or respond to statements that don’t actually address the legitimate content contained within them.

    You are always free to use quotes from my site. It is my request that when you do so you provide a link to the page you took the quote from. And you can certainly use anything I say as a springboard for any future articles.

    Contact me again when you’re interested in genuine discourse.

    1. 4.1
      Jon H

      Deacon, I think I understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, but I also understand where Tim is coming from. He’s put a good amount of work into answering your claims and while I don’t find them particularly convincing I do recognize that they might be compelling to Christians and as such deserve your thorough response.

      I’d understand if you don’t want to put the time into the sort of debate Tim is looking for, but I really must say I’ve been a lot more interested in visiting your blog ever since you started sparring with an opponent who is actually willing to show up and throw punches himself.

      Ultimately you’re free to do whatever you want Deacon, but I’d suggest you hear this guy out and try to accommodate him, not in the interest of giving him any advantage but in the interest of being as fair and thorough as possible, which I think Tim has been even if I feel his arguments fail.

    2. 4.2
      Kevin

      Evidence required that your god has EVER intervened ANYWHERE at ANY time.

      And is your god so completely puny and impotent that it can’t overcome rationalization of mere mortals?

      What a tiny little god you worship. One that can disappear with the mere wave of an atheist’s hand.

      1. Jon H

        If you read his blog you’ll see that he has provided evidence and argument that God has intervened in human history. Now, the question is whether the evidence he presents is the extraordinary kind required to justify the extraordinary claims made by Christians. I personally think not, but I would like to see some more engagement with his arguments rather than just hand waving.

        I’m personally not a fan of atheists asserting that there’s no evidence for God because it seems like a nonsense statement to any believer who’s had what they consider to be a personal spiritual experience. The truth is that these experiences are admissible as evidence. I would say the real problem is that such experiences are almost universally incredibly bad evidence when closely examined, but that doesn’t change the fact that they can still be rightfully called evidence.

      2. Deacon Duncan

        Don’t worry, I intend to go into a lot more detail concerning Timbo’s claims. As long as it doesn’t get boring for the rest of you, that is.

      3. mikespeir

        Everything is “evidence,” and I share your concern to some degree. We’re not saying what we really mean when we say there is no evidence. What we’re saying is there’s no evidence that justifies making belief anything like compulsory. And, yet again, historically Christianity has insisted belief is mandatory. So insofar as it’s clear to some of us that the kind and quality of the evidence–evidence though it may be–doesn’t rise to anywhere nearly that level, historic Christianity is effectively disproved.

      4. iknklast

        I think you mistake the concept of evidence. As any scientist can tell you, quite simply, Anecdotes are not evidence. Personal testimonial is not evidence. And that is what discussions of personal experience, no matter how deeply felt, amount to. Anecdotal evidence is no evidence AT ALL. To call everything evidence is simply inaccurate.

        Evidence of god would need to be extraordinary, but so far, I think it’s safe to say that there is, in fact, no EVIDENCE. There is personal conviction, there is deeply felt experiences, but NO EVIDENCE; not no extraordinary evidence, but in fact no evidence at all. Deacon is not being dogmatic or dismissive to state that there is no evidence.

      5. Jon H

        iknklast,
        Personal testimonial may not be evidence in science, but it is in a court of law. I do see that it’s easy to run into a problem using words that have no single unified definition.

        My big concern here is mainly with how one should argue with apologists, especially those who feel they have good evidence. I just want to stress that it is much better to point out why what they’re presenting as evidence doesn’t come near the level it should to justify their extraordinary claims rather than trying to set up a standard by which we throw out supernatural claims a priori.

      6. amhovgaard

        The evidence for the Christian god is on a par with evidence for all other gods and weaker than the evidence for gnomes, fairies, leprechauns, hulderfolk and such creatures (detailed interviews with people who claim to have seen these in the flesh, much more recent than the Bible), not to mention ghosts, or aliens visiting our planet. None of this is evidence in the scientific sense, just anecdotes. It might be considered evidence in the sense that eye witness testimony is – but as we all (should) know eye witness testimony is extremely unreliable, so that’s obviously not going to convince anyone except those who already believe (or really, really want to).

      7. Sunny Day

        Personal testimonial is the weakest and most useless sort of “evidence” in a court of law. Without corroboration its just BS.

      8. Jon H

        I completely agree Sunny Day.

      9. steve oberski

        How does one engage “personal spiritual experience” ?

        And why would one waste one’s time doing this ?

        Which in my opinion is the primary goal of apologetics, keep the critics of religion so busy waving away the pretty coloured smoke emerging from the backsides of apologists that an end run is made around skeptical refutations of religious claims and victory is unilaterally declared much to the glee of the flock.

    3. 4.3
      Don Cates

      For your argument to have purchase,, one must believe that the bible is an accurate report of historical truth. And in the bible, God appears (2nd, 3rd, or more hand report) as some sort of disembodied voice that performs some sort of miracle to one or a few people who do accept him or as a man who claims (or someone else claims) is God. For some reason this never happens anymore. (Well, we occasionally get some man claiming to be God, but I don’t think even you ever believe them).

      Why don’t we get God appearing as, well, a GOD. Say a non-consumed burning bush healing an amputee? Instead we get a report from someone who is already a believer report a subjective experience and a cancer remission that may or may not be lasting.

  5. 5
    Tony Hoffman

    Mikespeir: “Everything is “evidence,” and I share your concern to some degree.”

    I disagree. I think there’s something like data, but it’s wrong to call some data “evidence” for something when it is not. And this happens in real life all the time.

    If I type that I am sending this message from Mars right now, you might then say that you have evidence that there is life on Mars, but you would be mistaken; you would have evidence that I lied to you.

    I understand that there’s a bit of chicken-and-egg going on with evidence and explanations in normal discourse, but I think it’s better to talk about data and explanations and leave the term “evidence” out of it, as evidence seems to beg the question and prevent us from looking at all the data.

    1. 5.1
      mikespeir

      Not buying it, Tony. It is evidence. It’s just not good evidence. Relabeling it “data” doesn’t rob it of its evidentiary value. My truck is a vehicle; it’s also a hunk of steel. It’s not either a truck or a hunk of steel. It’s both. The one in no way contradicts the other.

      Yes, if someone comes up to me and tells me he was abducted by aliens, that’s evidence he was abducted by aliens. Believability is intrinsic to the definition of “evidence,” but it says nothing about to whom the proposition might be believable. It certainly says nothing about the objective truth of that proposition.

  6. 6
    frankb

    I think the term ‘evidence’ is being used a little too loosely here. If a marble statue of Mary weeps tears of wine, is that evidence for Christianity? There are a number of logical barriers that stand in the way of that claim. Just one of those problems has to do with the shape of that bit of marble. Does it matter if the statue is of Mary or Howard Cosell? No one, including the sculptor knew what the Virgin Mary looked like. So this perceived link between the statue and Christianity has a problem. Is there any evidence for religion that stands when compared to reality?

  7. 7
    Tony Hoffman

    Jon H: “I just want to stress that it is much better to point out why what they’re presenting as evidence doesn’t come near the level it should to justify their extraordinary claims rather than trying to set up a standard by which we throw out supernatural claims a priori.”

    I think this potentially sets up a misperception that implies something like a larger number of anecdotes would comprise good evidence for an extraordinary claim. I think this misleads the proponent of the claim about the standards they should be using.

    I am concerned about leading to an to epistemological problem that would invite someone to, say, conduct an experiment where a million participants observed that water bends sticks to conclude that water does indeed bends sticks. But the experimenter has been too hasty, and this should be pointed out to them — what they have uncovered is that a million people PERCEIVE that water bends sticks, which is very different than finding evidence that water bends sticks.

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