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Jun 06 2014

On Sye Ten Bruggencate’s response to Islam and the Outsider Test

Twice during the debate between Matt and Sye, audience members asked Sye a good question that is reminiscent of John Loftus’s “outsider test.” The first questioner comes up at 1:18:30 in the video and asks if Sye agrees with “God’s word” as represented by a passage in the Quran. Sye says no, because the Quran is not God’s word, and then he goes on to give a “proof” that Islam cannot be true.

In a nutshell: The Quran says that the Bible is handed down by God; the Quran also says that God’s word cannot be corrupted; but later the Quran also says — as most Muslims argue — that the Bible is corrupted. If you want a more detailed version of this argument, including verse citations, you can visit this Matt Slick post at Carm.org.

It is, actually, a pretty good sounding argument. Here’s the logic boiled down: The Quran cannot be the true word of God, because the true word of God cannot be corrupted. If the Quran is true, then the Bible is the word of God, and the word of God cannot be corrupted, and the Bible is corrupted, therefore the Bible is not the word of God. This is a contradiction, hence the Quran cannot be true.

While this is superficially sound reasoning, the flaw is that not all Muslims are Quran fundamentalists, just as not all Christians are Bible fundamentalists. Therefore, a Muslim could say: “I believe that Allah is the one true God, and I believe that the Quran is generally and mostly correct about most things, but there are flaws and corruptions. I believe that the Bible isn’t true, and I also believe that the parts of the Quran that would imply the Bible is reliable, are themselves not true either.” There is absolutely nothing inconsistent about taking this position.

Sye assumes throughout the debate that once he has made the case that God must exist (which he doesn’t successfully do anyway), it must follow that there is at least one uncorrupted text that accurately and truly represents the word of God in all aspects. This does not follow at all. There are lots of Christians who believe that God exists, and God doesn’t lie, and the Bible is a good reference book, but it is not reliable in every single aspect. Sye is not only saying that his personal revelation trumps the reasoning of atheists or the claimed revelation of Muslims; he is stating that every self-identified Christian who doesn’t subscribe to Sye’s particular theology is not receiving true insight into God.

Which means, of course, that Sye knows that people can sincerely believe in God and still be mistaken about many aspects of God’s nature. Which means that as far as the rest of us are concerned, there is no reason whatsoever to accept Sye’s claims that he has any clue of what he is talking about (and obviously, most people don’t accept it).

When trying to verify whether God exists, we aren’t just pitting atheism against one or more fundamentalist religions. We need to compare every possible perspective of God and revelation, and ask ourselves whether it’s reasonable to believe any of those things. Believing in a perfect Bible is just one of many overall outlooks that I feel free to reject. And while Sye says over and over again that he’s right and it’s true, there’s no need to take Sye seriously for a moment.

56 comments

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  1. 1
    richardelguru

    [sigh!]

    1. 1.1
      Pete G

      Helpful!

  2. 2
    David Marjanović

    So, the Qur’ān is wrong because it contradicts itself on important matters?

    Then what about the Bible?

    1. 2.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      This is where Sye fails the outsider test utterly and completely. He will bend over backwards to make the Bible not inconsistent, but will not apply the barest amount of that towards other religions.

    2. 2.2
      venatus

      a few people actually asked sye questions like that. his response fell into two categories “I don’t discuss scripture with atheists” or “lets study the bible sometime and future out why they don’t contradict” yeah intellectual dishonesty at it’s finest.

      1. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

        If you saw Sye’s behaviour on The Place (see here) then he refuses to discuss scripture with theists who know a lot more about it then he does. It’s a fairly long video, but well worth it if only to see David Silverman’s expressions!

        1. EnlightenmentLiberal

          Thanks for the link. I’m struggling to get through it, which is rare for me. God, Sye and the moderator are both such obnoxious twits.

          1. Sir Real

            He’s a prejudice bigot that chooses to discriminate against the innocent without having any evidence that would substantiate his claim, that everyone knows his god to the point that they themselves could be judged and held accountable for sinning. It is an unjust and unreasonable biased opinion that he holds and he refuses to give anyone the consideration that they might be right and he could be wrong. He is too narrow-minded, ignorant and biased to give anyone who he find beneath his contempt any consideration. In other words he refuses to be objective.

  3. 3
    MrTrex

    Watching that debate was *painful*. I would have loved to see more of Matt returning fire during his rebuttal as opposed to a prepared speech though. It was good, but it seems to me that contextual dialogue would be more effective to the viewer to expose the folly of presuppositionalism. Pin him to the wall with “why?”. Ah well. There’s plenty of simple material for simple folks out there. Its admittedly refreshing to hear a lucid, well written and verbose tirade. Makes me long to hear new hitch material…

    1. 3.1
      MrTrex

      (Probably should have posted in the previous debate thread. :/ Sorry)

  4. 4
    Sili

    So if the Quran is corrupted, why should we trust it when

    The Quran says that the Bible is handed down by God; the Quran also says that God’s word cannot be corrupted

    ?

    1. 4.1
      Russell Glasser

      Don’t ask ME, I’m an atheist. I think both the Bible and the Quran have false statements and contradictions, and we shouldn’t trust either one.

  5. 5
    specialffrog

    Surely Sye Ten and Matt Slick can’t think that any Muslims take this as literally as they want them to. I don’t think any Muslim claims that it is literally impossible to write down a verse from the Quran or the Bible and change part of it, either deliberately or accidentally, as if God is some ultimate autocorrect.

    1. 5.1
      Russell Glasser

      Fundamentalist Muslims exist. I think the primary distinction between Sunni and Shia is that one believes the revealed words of the prophets are unquestionable.

      1. specialffrog

        I don’t think it is a question of fundamentalism. I’m sure lots of Muslims insist that passage is literally true but claim it doesn’t say what Sye Ten thinks it does.

        A quick look at some Muslim commentary on this seems to indicate that the phrase used in all of these passages basically means that the decrees of Allah will always hold true.

        It’s at least as good an explanation for the seeming contradiction as most of the ones Christian fundamentalists use to explain four-legged insects and so forth.

        1. Matt Gerrans

          Well, I’m sure any Muslim would be able to elucidate the point for Sye, were he a Muslim, but since he isn’t they aren’t going to be discussing scripture with an unbeliever.

      2. Pete G

        I liked Sunni and Shia. River deep, mountain high was my favourite.

        1. MrTrex

          HA!

      3. Ceres

        I don’t think so. Most Muslims are just usually inconsistent on this part. See for example Shabir Ally’s debates with James White

    2. 5.2
      bora bosna

      I am from Turkey, and some Muslims do believe that it is literally impossible to change the Quran. They believe that God will always magically correct it.

  6. 6
    newenlightenment

    Reminds me of this debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX-Aldx-LM0

  7. 7
    Mark Massingill

    Can we just say Sye’s nuts and go with that? Anyone who claims that all people already know his god is real because it is divinely implanted into us to know of god and then calls me a liar (as he did Matt when Matt asked Sye if he was calling him a liar) for saying I believe in no god(s) has immediately lost any respect I could have possibly ever held for their beliefs or opinions. If anyone expects me to be open minded and willing to listen then they need to be open minded and willing to listen to me as well. Sye’s mind is about as closed and deluded as they come.

    1. 7.1
      Jasper of Maine

      I can’t imagine he thinks this is persuasive… or that it’s meant to persuade anyone. Whenever he makes that claim, I go through the following process.

      1) I’m told I know God eixsts
      2) I access my mind – find it’s unambiguously not true
      3) Claim flat rejected
      4) Claimant credibility obliterated

    2. 7.2
      canonicalkoi

      How old is STB, anyway? He’s acting like a 3 year-old, plugging his ears and screaming, “My invisible friend Bobby Joe *IS, TOO,* real!! You’re lying!”, as his face gets redder and redder. If someone says, “I’m an American”, the correct response isn’t, “No, you’re not! Everyone is Dutch! You’re lying!”

      Sye, I believe in no gods. I have *never* believed in a god. And reading your bible, just to rub a tad bit of salt (Lot’s wife?) into your wounds, was the major reason I don’t believe in any gods. Stamp your little feet all you like.

    3. 7.3
      mond

      Sye is only interested in getting a platform from which to preach.
      He is a deluded buffoon who should be ignored.
      Reasonable doubts podcast did a couple of eps on presup apologetics a good while back. They were far more interesting and informative than Sye could ever be.

    4. 7.4
      AhmNee

      The thing that got me is when confronted on the mechanism of the revelation, he says he doesn’t understand how it works. So how the f**k does he know beyond doubt that he hasn’t been hornswoggled by “god”. He still can’t get around that his revelation could be a lie.

      1. somnus

        In fact, there’s a story in Chapter 22 if First Kings where God does, in fact, send lies to his prophets. And tells another the truth but has him lie about it. It’s explicitly there in the Bible that communications from God can be lies. How does anyone trust anything in this book?

      2. AhmNee

        SON OF A B**CH!! He did it again.

        Alright. I’m listening to the post debate interview with Sye and Eric (58:15). Once again someone (David Smalley) asks Sye how do you determine the difference between someone who has had revelation and someone who is crazy and he goes off on using scripture. No, that dishonest halfwit! Sye claims that scripture is true because god revealed it in such a way that it can’t be wrong. But when pressed he says that he goes by scripture so he just completely bypasses even explaining how he knows that scripture is true. His only answer to that is “how do you know it’s not true”.

        I don’t know what it is that infuriates me about this guy so much but his bullshit makes my blood pressure skyrocket.

  8. 8
    xscd

    Islam and Christianity are both highly-flawed man-made creations, so I personally don’t really care how the Bible and the Quran reflect upon each other, or how Muslims and Christians want to fight over “my Allah’s absolute truth is better than your God’s absolute truth!”

    Who cares? Sye doesn’t “know with certainty,” he merely “believes with conviction,” and no amount or depth of conviction creates reality or truth.

  9. 9
    Pat

    Ugh, watching that debate was cringe worthy!

  10. 10
    Pete G

    Actually. both Christians and Muslims are wrong. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the true god. It says so in The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    R’Amen!

    1. 10.1
      Jasper of Maine

      It’s the only way our world views can be internally noodley, and thus, correct.

  11. 11
    L.Long

    Never bothered to listen.
    because it went like this………
    Matt….You can’t KNOW this and you have not shown any evidence for anything.
    Xtian Nut…. Blah blah blah …BS BS BS BS BS BS BS BS BS
    repeat as needed.

    1. 11.1
      AhmNee

      While I can understand not wanting to put yourself through the frustration of listening to Sye talk about anything.

      Being proud in your ignorance of something is never a good thing.

  12. 12
    Ed

    It seems to me that the Quran is saying is that the other Abrahamic religions eventually mixed the true revelations they had originally received from God with error whereas Islam does not. How does this contradict anything? It accuses people who came along later of making mistakes or lying, not God or the original Prophets. Thus the need for a final revelation.

    P.S. I don’t believe it (or its competitors), but it’s internally consistent.

    1. 12.1
      Matt Gerrans

      Yeah, I think it is pretty hard to argue that the Bible is not corrupted, as there are such a large number of variations and translations known to exist. Ready any of the several eminently readable works by Bart Ehrman for starters (except “Did Jesus Exist,” which unlike his other books, was pretty weak and not scholarly). If any two manuscripts differ by even one letter, then you have to admit that one or the other is “corrupted” even if just a little. Since there are many thousands of differences ranging from typos to major revisions, it simply cannot be denied by an honest person (a designation which clearly exempts Sye).

      So, if the Qur’an is saying that there was once a pristine version of the Bible that got corrupted, then it would no longer be “the word of God,” which is what I think the Qur’an means to say. It is corrupted, so it is no longer the word of God. The Qur’an is not corrupted, so it is the word of God. Of course, the Qur’an is full of shit, but that doesn’t mean this little bit of reasoning is unsound. It is perfectly sound and the first part is true; these are true statements of fact: 1.) The Bible is corrupted. 2.) The Bible isn’t the word of a god. Of course, the Qur’an isn’t the word of any god either, but that doesn’t necessarily invalidate any of these points about the Bible.

      The Jews made up a religion, the Christians created a variation (or several thousand as it were, but who’s counting?) and the Muslims added another variation (or three, or four, or whatever). They are all based on fan fiction based earlier fiction, so when one calls the other “false,” we can all heartily agree.

      1. Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

        The Jews didn’t make up a religion ex nihilo either. It was a descendent and cousin of other Mesopotamian and Near Eastern religions.

    2. 12.2
      xxxxxx

      It seems to me that the Quran is saying is that the other Abrahamic religions eventually mixed the true revelations they had originally received from God with error whereas Islam does not

      You have it exactly right (in what the Qur’an is actually saying and the fact that all three Abrahamic religions are all bullshit in the first place, so who really cares who is making the better argument here….but nonetheless) — this is why its so important to Muslims that the Qur’an be thought of as an entirely new revalation (rather than part of the old Jewish/Christian hand-me-down), presented to a single revelator (rather than dozens), transcribed to paper immediately upon transmission of the revelation (rather than suffering through centuries of oral traditions prior to reaching ink and papri), and why Muslims believe the Qur’an was validated, even canonized, directly by it’s revalator, Muhammed, as it was literally first written to paper (rather than suffering from centuries of separation between revelator and writers and cannonizers, with no chance of communication or consensus and validation between these three bodies of people).

      All of these points the Muslims trumpet above reflect obvious and serious objections, known both to Muhammed and the people of the seventh century as well as to everyone today, about how human corruption has undeniably entered into the Bible and Torah through its transmission to the present day. So, for Bruggencate and Slick/CARM to suggest that some surahs in the Qur’an actually somehow validate the Bible as true is simply wrong. It is true that the Qur’an clearly validates the revelation behind the Bible and the Torah to be true, but it is silly to think this endorsement of revelation also validates the documents themselves as reliable vehicles of transmission of that revelation. According to the Qur’an, all three books are inspired by the exact same set of revelations from God. That is to say, Muslims believe that God revealed the exact same information to Muhammed as was revealed to the many unknown authors of the Torah and BIble centuries before. However, the Bible and Torah — as forms of revalatory transmission to mankind — was never presented in the Qur’an to be an accurate form of transmission whatsoever. To the contrary (as Sye and CARM clearly point out) the Qur’an clearly states many times that these older revelatory documents as greatly flawed vehicles of communication due to the points Muslims often harp on (and were emphasized be me above). Bible literalists, like Slick and STB, seem incapable of making a distinction between the propsed revelation event itself, from the vehicle that documents said revelation, which would be the Bible, Torah, or Qur’an. To them the Bible IS the word of God, so there is no distinction — but in Islam, the Qur’an is merely the human document that relays the revelation of God. This, among other things, is why people say people like Sye worships the book, rather than God. Muslims, for all their many foibles and flaws, at least don’t worship their Qur’an. They recognize it as a human document of a revelatory event that happened centuries ago. They still over-revere the damned thing just like Christians do with their Bible and Jews with their Torah (and the Muslim nutters will still kill you for disrespecting their book) but they still fundamentally have a different relationship — a more sane relationship I might add — to the scriptural document itself than literalists like Sye and Slick, have with their Bibles.

      1. Mark Watt

        XXXXXX…I think you need to do some more research about when the Qu’ran was actually written down. It was not written down immediately, rather was revealed to Muhammad over a 26 year period, and was compiled after his death and written down.

        1. Matt Gerrans

          “Revealed to” should of course be in quotes, since it is much more plausibly “made up by.” Do we say that the Book of Mormon was “revealed” to the con artist Joseph Smith? Or that Dianetics was “revealed” to L. Ron Hubbard? Only a fraud like Karen Armstrong can use such nomenclature with a straight face.

  13. 13
    Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    There are a couple of angles that could be taken, from the Islamic point of view:

    1) The Bible was incomplete

    2) The Bible has been corrupted by human editing and translation

    #2 is more interesting IMO. The Qur’an is supposed to only be valid in it’s original language (which in my view means that God is a crappy communicator but that’s beside the point) whereas the Bible has been translated pretty much since it’s inception. With the KJV being, erm, not the most accurate of translations, Qur’anic literalists could quite legitimately point at the Bible and say “that was the word of God but you fucked it up. The Qur’an fixes all of your mistakes”.

    I’d really like to see STB go against a Muslim literalist. I think that it would be hilarious.

  14. 14
    Karen S

    During the debate, Sye talked about what he does when he talks to Muslims. But has he ever debated a Muslim presuppositionalist who is trained in the same way he is? I don’t think so, but this is where the concept of incommensurability in the presuppositional method would rear its ugly head (for Sye or any pre-sup).

    All the Muslim pre-sup has to say is “I deny that contradiction in my worldview” just like Sye did at the end of the Dogma debate last year with Aron Ra, when he brought up Newton’s differing revelation which Newton said was “revealed to him in a way he can be certain” as a contradiction. In other words, any contradiction is “resolved” as soon as you become a Muslim. He’s not going to get pissed off at Sye the way Sye claims, because the Muslim pre-sup is going to make use of the same cop-out to get around contradictions as he is.

    To me that’s the best way to put the knife through the heart of presuppositionalism. Anyone hearing such a debate would see how both sides were making the same unfalsifiable, vacuous argument.

    1. 14.1
      Matt Gerrans

      To me that’s the best way to put the knife through the heart of presuppositionalism.

      Yeah, I would love to see a debate where someone uses the presuppositional line with the Invisible Pink Unicorn (PBUH) against Sye. That would be a hoot! Or maybe a hoof…

      1. xxxxxx

        The Invisible Pink Unicorn (PBUH) shall not be mocked.

        1. Matt Gerrans

          Verily! I love that phrase! I want a t-shirt that says that.

    2. 14.2
      Robert Smart

      You shouldn’t have Sye debate a Muslim, rather have him go against an orthodox jew.
      I suspect he wont have an easy out, for why he’s right.

      1. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

        Lewis Black makes a great point about that.

  15. 15
    BluePrint

    All I heard from Sye on the Quran, is:
    Standing on a stepladder means I’m able to reach the top shelf.
    Being able to reach the top shelf means I don’t need a stepladder.

    1. 15.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      Seriously. I know Sye’s an idiot, but it’s not that hard to recognize an argument by absurdity, reductio ab absurdum, when one is implied.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum
      Specifically, Sye’s argument: Let’s assume for the moment the Quran is true. That leads to contradictions. Thus the Quran is false.

  16. 16
    xscd

    To me, the only thing that presuppositionist Christian apologists prove is that you can’t argue with a crazy person who refuses to question his delusions.

  17. 17
    Sir Real

    It would appear that Sye Ten Bruggencate suffers from a Religious Superiority Complex in which he believes that his beliefs in his god somehow makes him superior to others and their non-beliefs or beliefs in some other god(s). This poor man is obviously delusional and perhaps insane.

    1. 17.1
      EpicAthiest

      … Well said Sir Real.

      Religious Superiority Complex. He is smug and self assured in an extremely arrogant way.
      This image is conveyed in pretty much everyone of his talks with athiests

  18. 18
    somnus

    So I finally got around to listening to the “debate,” and it seems that Sye’s argument is this:

    1) Solipsism is a problem.
    2) I added “solves solipsism” to my definition of God.
    3) Therefore, God exists.

    The whole thing is nothing more than trying to define his god into existence. And his rebuttal to the obvious criticism that you could substitute any imaginary thing for the “god” in that argument without altering its validity one iota is to flatly assert that “If you say you don’t believe me, you’re lying.” It boils down to asserting that his god exists because he is willing to assert that which he can’t know when his opponents are not.

    And seriously… he denies that a tribe ever existed that didn’t believe in God on the basis that Christians sent missionaries to tell them about God? The mind boggles.

    1. 18.1
      BluePrint

      To me, it seems he argues to be god by proxy.

  19. 19
    KsDevil

    Does this mean that Sye Ten is going to have fatwa placed on him? Some Muslims can be very picky when the Qur’an is insulted.

  20. 20
    Robert75

    “…When a Muslim dogmatically asserts that the Koran is the word of God, we need only ask “Which Koran?” After Muhammad’s death in A.D. 632, there was no collection of his revelations. Consequently, many of his followers tried to gather all the known revelations and write them down in codex form… As Islam spread, we eventually had what became known as the Metropolitan Codices in the centers of centers of Mecca, Medina, Damascus, Kuta, and Basra…

    …At present in modern Islam, two versions seem to be in use: that of Asim of Kufa (d. A.D 744) through Hafs, which was given a kind of official seal of approval by being adopted in the Egyptian edition of the Koran in 1924; and that of Nafi of Medina through Warsh (d. A.D. 812), which is used in parts of Africa other than Egypt…

    …Since the very existence of variant readings and versions of the Quran goes against the doctrinal position toward the holy Book held by many modern Muslims, it is not uncommon in an apologetic context to hear the seven [versions] explained as modes of recitation; in fact the manner and technique of recitation are an entirely different matter…

    …Any variant version or reading poses serious problems for orthodox Muslims. Thus it is not surprising that they should conceal any codices that seem to differ from the Uthman text.”

    From Why I Am Not a Muslim by IBN WARRAQ

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