Well darn.

I had a feeling Mighty Timbo was bailing out when he ended his last comment here by saying, “Contact me again when you’re interested in genuine discourse.” A strange thing to say, considering that “genuine discourse”—as opposed to following a Jack Chick style script—is exactly what I have been doing, and what he appears to be trying to extricate himself from. He did, at least, promise to let me keep reviewing the material on his site: “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.”

Except… quite suddenly, his entire web site has disappeared. This is not just a glitch. As of 5:00 AM GMT, his domain was listed as cancelled, and sortly thereafter someone was able to purchase the domain name and point it at The Secular Web.

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The skeptic’s role

Mighty Timbo appears to be upset with me for failing to follow whatever script he had in mind for my part in his proposed “debate” (which, as he may recall, I declined to participate in). I’ve been examining his post entitled “Why Doesn’t God Show Himself To Us and Prove He Exists?” and showing how (a) it fails to give the full scope of the apologetic difficulties inherent in God’s failure to show up, and (b) it fails to give an adequate answer even to the question as he proposes it. Apparently I’m not supposed to do that. Skeptics, it would seem, are only allowed to raise carefully-framed softball objections that can be easily dismissed by facile and disingenuous sermonizing.

Well I’m sorry, but that’s not really my role as a skeptic. The role of skepticism is to examine both the claims and the evidence, to expose any internal or external inconsistencies, and to prefer those conclusions that are more consistent with real-world facts than competing claims, rejecting any that are manifestly inconsistent with themselves and with the truth.  Thus, when Timbo points out that Bible accounts of God’s appearances are followed soon after by accounts of people rebelling and falling away, there’s an underlying inconsistency there, in that this is a remarkably poor outcome for Someone as great as God is supposed to be. As a skeptic, it’s my role to point out that Timbo is glossing over this problem when he tries to use the disobedience of men as a mere excuse for why God doesn’t show up. I’m not supposed to just blindly follow his script and say, “Ok it must be all man’s fault then.” My job is to cross-examine his evidence and give it a more comprehensive context.

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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.

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The case against Mormonism

I’m going to try something a little different and see how people like it. A little while ago I was approached by a self-described Christian apologist with a request that I write my best case against Christianity, up to 2,000 words, for presentation on his blog, so that he could respond to it. I declined, but I made him a counter offer: write a similar rebuttal of Mormonism, written in terms that would be convincing to a skeptic, and I would publish it on my blog, and make a similar argument against Christianity. I frankly told him that I would use his material to illustrate the extent to which a priori beliefs influence the believer’s perception of an argument’s validity and impact, but he’s still game, and sent me his arguments against Mormonism.

I’ve included his article below, unedited (though slightly reformatted to fit the blog format better). Does he convince you? Would he convince a Mormon apologist? Do his arguments apply equally well to Christianity if you make the appropriate substitutions?

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Damned if he do, damned if he don’t.

Over at Evangelical Realism, I’m having an interesting conversation with one Kevin Harris, who gives his web site as William Lane Craig’s reasonablefaith.org, on the topic of “The 7th Criterion.” If you’ve read the post, you may recall that I proposed a 7th criterion for historical authenticity, in addition to the 6 Craig provides: to be historically authentic, a report must be consistent with real-world truth. Kevin originally criticized the 7th criterion for having an anti-supernatural bias, but I pointed out that it’s really a bias against falsehood, and that if a bias against falsehood is an anti-supernatural bias, that in itself tells you something about the supernatural. Kevin agreed that we want to avoid falsehood, but told me not to equivocate “falsehood” with “the supernatural,” which was ironic. My reply led to Kevin’s latest response to me, which is, shall we say, interesting.

The problem, I think, is that I’m holding up a perfectly fair and reasonable and even fundamental criterion. A true report, by definition, is one that is consistent with the real-world truth. Before we accept an ancient story as historically authentic, therefore, we should first examine whether or not it is consistent with real-world truth. If it isn’t, then by definition it’s a false story, and it wouldn’t do to designate false stories as historically authentic!

For some reason, Kevin appears reluctant to commit himself to agreeing to measure the Gospel according to that standard. I’ll give you a sample below the fold.

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Gospel Disproof #34: Progressive sanctification

Today’s Gospel Disproof comes (again) from our friend Eric, who writes:

Salvation is ALL of grace and none of human merit so there is no grounds for boasting and certainly one is given no reason to think that the unsaved are “ even worse than you”.

Eric is partly correct. No matter what you may hear people say when giving their testimony, no matter what the Bible says about how the blood of Jesus “cleanses us from all sin,” and no matter how earnestly the Apostle Paul argues that believers have been freed from sin, “sinners” without God are no worse than believers with God. Or to phrase it in less negative terms, accepting Jesus doesn’t really make you a better person.

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Gospel Disproof #33: The Word of God

I mentioned in Gospel Disproof #32 that your salvation depends on believing what fallible men say about God. A Christian commenter named Eric replied:

Not at all. God has given us His supernaturally preserved Word which has proved to be a trustworthy guide for life and practice through the ages.

He is referring to the books of Moses, the prophets, the apostles, and the evangelists, collectively known as “the Bible” or “the Word of God.” For almost 2,000 years, the writings of these men have led and guided the Church in their role as God’s Word—even though none of the authors is God. If you grew up Christian like I did, it seems perfectly plausible and natural, but if you stop and think about it, it’s really a very peculiar situation. Why would you need to be led by a humanly-authored book about God if you had a real God to guide you?

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Dialogs with Eric, Part 2: Does God believe what men say?

In my post on salvation by faith, I mentioned the fact that God does not behave as though He believed all the things men say about Him, particularly as concerns His alleged love for us and His alleged desire to be part of a personal, loving and real relationship with each of us. Eric takes issue with this observation, and offers a number of standard Christian responses, but also expresses the wish that I would say more about what I mean. And I’m glad to do so.

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