Conflicting Miracles

“Saint Jnanadeva is revered for his Bhagavad Gita translation and commentary in the Maharastrian language. Among several miracles that established this 13th-century saint’s reputation, the most famous involved a water buffalo. Challenged by the arrogant brahmins of Paithan that he was not qualified to recite the Vedas, Jnanadeva replied, ‘Anyone can recite the Vedas.’ He placed his hand upon a nearby water buffalo, which proceeded to correctly chant Vedic verses for more than an hour.”

http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1995/12/15_miracles.shtml

“Thousands flocked to temples in Sri Lanka in early August 2006 after media reports that ‘miracle rays’ could be seen emanating from statues of the Buddha. As news of the extraordinary phenomenon spread, traffic was held up throughout the capital city of Colombo and its suburbs as large numbers of people visited temples and roadside Buddha statues.

…’Thousands vouched for having seen rays emanating from the chest of the Buddha statues and considered it a miracle,’ according to an article in a Sri Lankan newspaper.”

http://www.einterface.net/gamini/buddhist.html

“I was heartbroken that my boyfriend decided to leave the relationship, so I had the Retrieve A Lover spell cast. Within a week of the spell casting, he called ‘just to talk.’ After some pleasant talks and catching up, he asked to see me again.

I felt he had started to turn around. I decided to date someone else just to see. He is absolutely crazy about me now and DOES see the good in me that I had hoped he would.

I am a college grad with a highly professional job. I was looking for answers. I got them.

I was so thrilled that I had the Money Spell cast a few months later. Within days I got a letter from the child support office that my child support was increasing by $172 a month!”

http://www.calastrology.com/spelltestimonials.html

“In Kirtland, Joseph Smith made friends with a local resident, John Johnson. The Johnsons and several others visited Joseph at his home in 1831. Mrs. Johnson had been ill for years with a lame arm. It made her unable, for example, to lift her hand above her head. One of the group asked Joseph if God had given any man power to heal Mrs. Johnson. A non-member of the Church records what followed:

A few moments later, when the conversation had turned in another direction, Smith rose, and walking across the room, taking Mrs. Johnson by the hand, said in the most solemn and impressive manner, ‘Woman, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I command thee to be whole,’ and immediately left the room. The company was awe-stricken at the infinite presumption of the man, and the calm assurance with which he spoke. The sudden mental and moral shock – I know not how better to explain the well-attested fact – electrified the rheumatic arm – Mrs. Johnson at once lifted it up with ease, and on her return home the next day she was able to do her washing without difficulty or pain.”

http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_prophecies.shtml

“Narrated Anas:
A man came to the Prophet on a Friday while he (the Prophet) was delivering a sermon at Medina, and said, ‘There is lack of rain, so please invoke your Lord to bless us with the rain.’ The Prophet looked at the sky when no cloud could be detected. Then he invoked Allah for rain. Clouds started gathering together and it rained till the Medina valleys started flowing with water. It continued raining till the next Friday. Then that man (or some other man) stood up while the Prophet was delivering the Friday sermon, and said, ‘We are drowned; Please invoke your Lord to withhold it (rain) from us.’ The Prophet smiled and said twice or thrice, ‘O Allah! Please let it rain round about us and not upon us.’ The clouds started dispersing over Madinah to the right and to the left, and it rained round about Madinah and not upon Madinah. Allah showed them (the people) the miracle of His Prophet and His response to his invocation.”

http://members.tripod.com/maseeh1/advices7/id154.htm

“On May 13, 1917, a vision appeared to three shepherd children near the village of Fatima in Portugal. On a cloud that hovered above an oak tree they saw the shining figure of a woman, ‘a beautiful Lady from Heaven’. The lady told the children – Lucia, 10, Francisco, 9, and Jacinta, 7 – to meet her in the same place on the 13th of each month until October.
On the first two visits only the children claimed to have actually seen the lady, but on the third and last visit, a crowd of 50,000 gathered, on a wet and dismal day, to see the last apparition. This time the shining lady, again invisible to all but the children, announced her identity: she was Our Lady of the Rosary, and she told them three ‘secrets’ about the future.
Then something shocking happened.
The rain suddenly stopped and the sun came out. At first it seemed to start spinning and then it began to plunge crazily toward the earth. The crowd was terrified. After a moment the sun returned to its normal position and then, twice more, repeated the same maneuver.”

http://www.mystae.com/restricted/streams/scripts/fatima.html

“These miracles were common enough in Rome, and among others this was believed, that when the Roman soldiers were sacking the city of Veii, certain of them entered the temple of Juno and spoke to the statue of the goddess, saying, ‘Wilt thou come with us to Rome?’ when to some it seemed that she inclined her head in assent, and to others that they heard her answer, ‘Yea.’”

—Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius (1517)

Although our age is somewhat less credulous than past eras, human society is still awash in miracle claims. As the above examples show, they come from every faith and belief system, and they run the gamut: faith healings; weather miracles; snake-handling and poison-drinking; speaking in tongues; statues that move, weep, bleed, speak, eat or drink; miraculous prophecies and foretellings; psychics who claim they can view distant locations or communicate with the dead; “deliverances” from demons and evil spirits; spells and prayers to bring love, health and prosperity; “incorruptible” bodies; levitation and bilocation; divine manifestations in burned food and water damage; stigmata; multiplication of food and oil; speaking animals; and many more.

One of the greatest English-speaking philosophers of all time, David Hume, saw the fundamental problem with all these miraculous stories in his 1748 book An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding:

To make this the better understood, let us consider, that, in matters of religion, whatever is different is contrary; and that it is impossible the religions of ancient Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, and of China should, all of them, be established on any solid foundation. Every miracle, therefore, pretended to have been wrought in any of these religions (and all of them abound in miracles), as its direct scope is to establish the particular system to which it is attributed; so has it the same force, though more indirectly, to overthrow every other system. In destroying a rival system, it likewise destroys the credit of those miracles, on which that system was established; so that all the prodigies of different religions are to be regarded as contrary facts, and the evidences of these prodigies, whether weak or strong, as opposite to each other.

…This argument may appear over subtile and refined; but is not in reality different from the reasoning of a judge, who supposes, that the credit of two witnesses, maintaining a crime against any one, is destroyed by the testimony of two others, who affirm him to have been two hundred leagues distant, at the same instant when the crime is said to have been committed.

In other words, Hume says, the conflicting miracle claims of various religions cancel each other out. These religions cannot all be true, since they make incompatible theological claims. (I note for completeness’ sake that they can all be false.) We can safely assume that, if a religion is false, any miracle claims advanced in its name are exaggerations or frauds. It follows that when considering whether any particular miracle claim is true, we must consider all the miracle claims of all other religions to count as evidence to the contrary. And since there are so many of these, no matter which religion’s miracle claims you’re considering, the vast number of miracle claims from other religions which stand in opposition to it make the claim under consideration very probably false. It’s as if there was a vast crowd of people, and whenever any one person stands to assert a claim, the entire rest of the crowd shouts out to contradict him.

Although it’s useful to debunk particular miracle anecdotes – and I have nothing but admiration for the dedicated skeptics who go out to investigate every new wild-goose chase – this argument shows why we don’t need to. Seven hundred years later, no one can really know for sure whether a water buffalo spoke on one occasion in the 13th century. But the burden of proof is not on the doubter to disprove. The burden of proof lies on the person making the claim, and no apologist for any religion can offer any evidence for their miracles that is superior to the evidence offered by any other. Thus, these stories offer no grounds for making a decision among all the faiths that promote them. If any miracle could be repeated, tested, under reliable and controlled conditions by independent observers, that would be something. But, so far, no religion has come anywhere close to meeting this high burden of proof.

The sole argument a theist could offer to dispute any of this, which I have no doubt will be offered by some, is for them to say that their miracles are from God, while the “miracles” of other religions are false signs performed by demons to mislead the unwary. But since any member of any religion can use that argument in exactly the same way, it is no help in deciding among them. It may soothe the troubled minds of the faithful, but it cannot have any persuasive force to anyone who is not already committed to one belief.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Alex Weaver

    He placed his hand upon a nearby water buffalo, which proceeded to correctly chant Vedic verses for more than an hour.”

    Just as a preliminary comment, is the miracle here supposed to be that he placed his hand on a water buffalo and survived? (I’ve heard numerous stories about how dangerous and aggressive they can be). ;/

  • Alex Weaver

    …after looking them up, it appears I was confusing them with Cape Buffalo. (Any apologists want to try for a miracle touching one of those? :P)

  • http://kinsman.is-a-geek.net/blog/ The 327th Male

    There is also another defence for certain theists; not all religions are mutually exclusive. Some people believe in a god or creator, but don’t necessarily subscribe to a specific doctrine. They believe that all religions are just different manifestations of the same deity. Consequently they could believe that all of these occurrences are true miracles.

  • TEP

    That would give a pretty schizoid deity. So presumably, Prometheus, having previously decided to help humanity by stealing fire (from himself, of course, since he is also Zeus), and having made great personal sacrifices out of his love for humanity, suddenly decided to manifest himself as Qetzatcoatl, and demanded that people murder thousands every night by ripping their hearts out. Then he turned into Thor and started smiting giants, before getting bored with that, and decided that he would fight on their side instead as Loki. He then turned into Set, and murdered himself (Osiris), before avenging himself as Horus. However, before he did that he became Isis, and resurrected himself (Osiris), but unfortunately he (Ra) wouldn’t allow himself to stay in the land of the living, so he decided to rule over the land of the dead, with his son and self (Anubis) as the judge of the dead. He found ruling over the land of the dead rather lonely, so he turned into Hades and kidnapped himself (Persephone) so that he could be his queen. This caused him (Demeter) to be rather upset at losing himself (his daughter Persephone), and so he stopped his duties as fertility goddess in order to look for himself. This upset himself and himself and himself, because he was worried that the mortals would die and he wouldn’t get any sacrifices from them. Fortunately he (Zeus) was able to negotiate with himself (Hades) and allowed himself (Persephone) to spend half the year with himself (Demeter) and the other half with himself (Hades). Then, after spending some time as the feminist goddess Artemis, he then became Yahweh and founded a mysoginistic religion.

    The Trinity is crazy enough into combining only three gods into one – but it is quite rational compared to combining every god which has ever been thought of.

  • spaceman spif

    “And they believe that this Saint Jnanadeva laid his hand upon a water buffalo, and this buffalo started reciting holy verses! This buffalo talked for an hour! Can you believe that stuff?? Can you believe they actually believe it??? Oh, that’s too much!! Okay, so where were we? Oh yes, in today’s lesson we will discuss Balaam and his donkey…”

  • lpetrich

    From Porphyry’s Life of Pythagoras, some miracles allegedly worked by that great mathematician:

    At Tarentum, in a pasture, seeing an ox [reaping] beans, he went to the herdsman, and advised him to tell the ox to abstain from beans. The countryman mocked him, proclaiming his ignorance of the ox-language. So Pythagoras himself went and whispered in the ox’s ear. Not only did the bovine at once desist from his diet of beans, but would never touch any thenceforward, though he survived many years near Hera’s temple at Tarentum, until very old; being called the sacred ox, and eating any food given him.

    Yes, Pythagoras believed in the wickedness of eating beans.

    Porphyry also tells us that Pythagoras convinced a bear to stop killing and eating animals, that he convinced some fishermen to release the fish they had caught by telling them exactly how many there were, that he demonstrated that he was a reincarnation of Trojan War hero Euphorbus, etc.

  • MisterDomino

    I remember reading that passage in Hume’s “Enquiry.” The second part of the argument was something to the tune of, “one should only believe a miracle if NOT believing it proves to be more foolish than believing it.”

    Given the examples that Ebon has posted, I think I’ll keep right on not believing, thank you.

  • 2-D Man

    The problem with saying that much, MisterDomino, is that most believers feel that it is foolish not to believe. After all, they assume that one is going to hell if they don’t, so why wouldn’t you?

  • random guy

    TEP did you have that saved somewhere, or was it just off the top of your head? Either way that was brilliant.

    As Ebon stated the conflicting miracles problem are only a problem for nonbelievers. The cognitive dissonance required to maintain faith in any deity over any other deity already makes in impossible for the faithful to seriously consider the arguments of other faiths.

    Its like the problem with Pascal’s Wager, it’s only true if your options are belief or non-belief, but when compared to the near infinite combination of real world options it is useless. In other words, christians don’t stay awake at night worrying about whether or not they will go to muslim hell. Similarly when muhammad flies to heaven on a white horse it’s silly. But when jesus ascends to heaven on a white cloud it’s a miracle of the one true faith.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    TEP did you have that saved somewhere, or was it just off the top of your head? Either way that was brilliant.

    I was going to say the same thing, because that’s something I hear all the time. “It’s all the same god”.

    I’m bookmarking this.

  • Dave Homiak

    Interesting article, and thanks for reminding us of Hume’s argument! As mentioned, the proposition that all religions claim to have miracles does not mean all are false. In the Christian framework, it is quite evident that both Yahweh and Satan perform miracles, although the latter’s are constrained, unlike the former’s. In this case, it is expected that Satan would try to mislead us by performing miracles in other religious contexts, so many miracles are not worth pursuing.

    The one miracle that is worthy of serious investigation, and for which significant evidence exists, is the resurrection of Christ. As the Apostle Paul states, Christianity rises or falls on the truth of this event, which also happens to exclude Satan as the author. Skeptics like Harvard law professor Dr. Simon Greenleaf, who wrote An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice and English poet Gilbert West, who wrote Observations on the history and evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, examined the evidence and came to the same conclusion that millions of others have regarding it. I have not seen a convincing argument from the evidence that is more reasonable than considering it as a true miracle.

    In response to TEP’s statement about the crazy trinity, it makes more sense to understand God as three personalities in one godhead, rather than only one, when you consider that Yahweh is partly defined by His love for others. Before creation, the only love a single personality could exhibit would be self-love, or narcissism. However, in a plural godhead, the members of the trinity are able to display complex relationships including sacrificial love. I don’t mean to indicate that things are that simple, but I wouldn’t find a god I could completely comprehend to be worthy of my worship. Indeed, the trinity is the basis for the biblical forms of family, government, economics, labor, etc., which should not be surprising.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Hi Dave,

    The one miracle that is worthy of serious investigation, and for which significant evidence exists, is the resurrection of Christ.

    This is just patently contradicted by the facts. Why should your particular miracle be the only one worthy of serious investigation? Thousands of people claim to have seen miraculous rays emanating from the chest of the Buddha. The miracles of Joseph Smith are more recent and supported by better records. Magic spells that can be ordered through the mail would be far more open to experimental verification than a resurrection that allegedly took place two millennia ago and has come down to us only through hazy, anonymous, contradictory records. And frankly, I think making a statue or a water buffalo speak would be a more impressive miracle than raising someone from the dead – which, after all, non-miraculous modern medical science already has the ability to do for brief periods after clinical death.

    As the Apostle Paul states, Christianity rises or falls on the truth of this event, which also happens to exclude Satan as the author.

    In the massively popular Left Behind series, the Antichrist is killed and then raises himself from the dead. It seems that not all your fellow Christians agree with your point here.

  • terrence

    Damn, TEP, I wanted to be the first to say “Brilliant!” I think SNL once did a skit called “5-Second Death of a Salesman” which went something like this:

    Knock, Knock.
    “Good morning M’aam, my name is-
    BLAM! BLAM!
    The End

    I think you have given us “The Whole of Theology, in 60 Seconds”

  • Alex Weaver

    In response to TEP’s statement about the crazy trinity, it makes more sense to understand God as three personalities in one godhead, rather than only one, when you consider that Yahweh is partly defined by His love for others.

    ….dude, have you READ the Old Testament?

  • OMGF

    Mr. Homiak,

    The one miracle that is worthy of serious investigation, and for which significant evidence exists, is the resurrection of Christ.

    You might want to provide proof that Jesus existed before you try to prove that he died and came back to life.

    In this case, it is expected that Satan would try to mislead us by performing miracles in other religious contexts, so many miracles are not worth pursuing.

    You know, it’s funny, but just the other day, someone was telling me that all this Xianity miracle stuff was really just planted by Loki to fool people because he’s such an excellent trickster and he loves watching you Xians fall all over yourselves to worship such a monster of a god as he’s planted. He derives considerable delight when you guys think your god is omni-benevolent. It’s obvious that these are Loki’s tricks on you and you are falling for them.

    I don’t mean to indicate that things are that simple, but I wouldn’t find a god I could completely comprehend to be worthy of my worship.

    Why am I not surprised?

    Indeed, the trinity is the basis for the biblical forms of family, government, economics, labor, etc., which should not be surprising.

    What kind of non-sensical statement is this? The trinity is the basis for the biblical family? I didn’t know that families were made of sons, fathers, and ghosts. Government? The biblical government is a totalitarian theocracy where god says jump and you do it (you better not ask how high, you better know or else it’s off to hell with you). Economics? What does a trinity have to do with, “Pray and the lord will provde,” or, “Take what you want from the heathens,” or, “Give your money to others?” Should I go on?

  • Alex Weaver

    I don’t know; I can see how the Trinity has some connection to economics.

    After all, she cracked the IRS d-base… ;)

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    Before creation, the only love a single personality could exhibit would be self-love, or narcissism.

    And you know this, how?

  • bassmanpete

    Before creation, the only love a single personality could exhibit would be self-love, or narcissism.

    Assuming both that there is a god & that there was a creation (which I don’t), what single personalities could there have been before creation to exhibit anything?

  • 2-D Man
    Before creation, the only love a single personality could exhibit would be self-love, or narcissism.

    And you know this, how?

    Actually, Spanish Inquisitor, this makes sense, according to the creation myth. God is supposed to be eternal and have no beginning. If the universe had a beginning, God was there before that. If God is love, then the only object of that love could be God. As I said, it makes sense, but I have to suspend my disbelief too far to accept the premises.

    …I wouldn’t find a god I could completely comprehend to be worthy of my worship.

    I find this disturbing. How do you know that it is worthy of worship if you don’t comprehend it?

  • Dave Homiak

    I knew I was walking into the lion’s den here, but I’ll try to respond to most of the points made, albeit briefly over lunch (others have done so at length much more eloquently, e.g., Reasonable Faith and Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment?: A Debate Between William Lane Craig and Gerd Ludemann by William Lane Craig, and even the older references I previously mentioned). I have not read extensively in this blog yet, so I may be covering well-trod ground,

    I consider the resurrection of Christ more salient than other miracles, because the entire Christian belief system depends on its veracity, which is why it has been examined exhaustively through the ages. As you no doubt realize, Christianity is based on a personal relationship, with creeds and religious practices secondary, so it matters that the other part of the relationship is not resting in a grave somewhere. Neither Buddhism, Mormonism, Islam, or other religion systems that I am aware of depend on a single miracle. Without the resurrection of Christ and biblical prophecies, I would probably be in your camp.

    The reason Satan is excluded is that the sacrifice of Christ was God’s plan for bringing salvation to the world, which Satan constantly attempted to thwart in the Gospels. The entire sacrificial system of the O.T. is a foreshadow of what God would do Himself. Isaiah 40-56 teaches that Israel failed to be the servant that God desired, and so He would raise up an ideal Servant in the Messiah (Isaiah 53 does not make sense applied to the nation of Israel or the prophet Isaiah, IMHO).

    On the question of Jesus’ existence, outside of my personal experience, I find the conservative view that the New Testament and references by Tacitus, the Talmud, etc. are reliable to be adequate. I also believe that Yahweh is the same in the O.T. and N.T., having perfect justice, holiness, righteousness, and goodness balanced with perfect love, mercy, and compassion. If you only consider the O.T. judgments, and not the expressions of His love for and identification with the people of Israel, the poor, oppressed, and alienated, then you are guilty of creating a straw god, as it were. Are you disturbed that you believe in things you do not totally comprehend, perhaps the 10 or 24 dimensions of string theory or why the quantum reactions in your brain make you feel love? There is enough evidence in the Bible and history for me to trust the Creator/Redeemer so portrayed, without thoroughly understanding everything. Faith is not blind, but is based on evidence, yet it is faith because some things are still unseen.

    Re the trinity, God stands outside of time as the First Cause; you may as well ask yourselves where the material and impetus for the Big Bang came from, but physics breaks down in that singularity. If not narcissism, then please explain how relational love can be expressed by a single personality apart from anything else? Finally, the trinity is represented in the similar accountability relationships God has designed into creation. For example, the family has God->Parents->Children, government has God->Kings/Rulers->Citizens, economics has God->Stewards->Material Things, and the church has God->Shepherds->Laity (all with an “->” from God to the third item as well) in a pattern that reflects how the Son is obedient to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is directed by the Father and Son. Since this is off-topic for this thread, any further discussion should be continued elsewhere.

    Please keep a respectful and open mind; I once was an advocate of Camus’ philosophy (e.g., in the face of the Absurd, the only legitimate question is suicide). After all, atheists have faith in life arising, may I say “miraculously,” from matter and energy; if you believe in panspermia/exogenesis, then you’ve only relocated the issue to a different galaxy. I don’t have that much faith, but am willing to listen to the evidence for your miracles.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Hi Dave,

    Neither Buddhism, Mormonism, Islam, or other religion systems that I am aware of depend on a single miracle. Without the resurrection of Christ and biblical prophecies, I would probably be in your camp.

    Does that single miracle qualifier make the claim any different? Whether your religion rests on one miracle or many miracles hardly makes a difference in my book, so long as evidence can be provided for their existance. I’m not sure where to find it here, but if someone here would be nice enough to link the article on Jesus’s existance as a historical figure, that should be a good start.

    The entire sacrificial system of the O.T. is a foreshadow of what God would do Himself.

    Why do you suppose that god would need to sacrifice his son, who is also himself, to himself in order to forgive humanity for something he caused in the first place, after waiting for thousands of years after the fact? The whole idea of sacrifice is ludicrous; provided god exists and how christianity describes him, there is nothing one can offer to god – he would already own everything and nothing he wants is out of his power to create on a whim. To think a human can offer something to god somehow seems arrogant to me.

    I also believe that Yahweh is the same in the O.T. and N.T., having perfect justice, holiness, righteousness, and goodness balanced with perfect love, mercy, and compassion.

    I’d like to know how you deduced that god was all those things; I’ll work under the assumption you got to that conclusion because the bible says so until I hear about any other means of doing so. I’ll let you know right now that it’s circular reasoning if you did.
    Two things to say on this, kind of in one; On what scale are you measuring ‘justice, holiness, righeousness’ and so on? If you’re starting for the vantage point that god is automatically these things, that makes the position the ultimate in moral relativity. I’ll give you two solid examples; according to the bible, one of the commandants is “thou shalt not kill”, yet god is the most genocidal figure in the bible. In other words, is killing intrinsically wrong, or is it only wrong if god says it’s wrong? What if god came down tomorrow and said “killing and raping are now holy acts”, would you start to rape and kill people? Is it automatically right if god were to do it?
    As for the other stand point, if you feel that justice, holiness and whatever can be objectively measured somehow (if you think you can I’d love to hear how), and that god just happens to be all of these things, then we can develop a system of morals outside of any divine word; it just wouldn’t be needed. Of course, I’d also like to know how condemning a vast majority of people to suffer for all eternity for not believing in him, despite his best efforts to not put forth any evidence, is just and loving.

    Are you disturbed that you believe in things you do not totally comprehend, perhaps the 10 or 24 dimensions of string theory or why the quantum reactions in your brain make you feel love?

    I accept there is a lot about existance I’ll never know or understand; I would rate my reaction towards them as indifference. The feeling I get from trying to understand the world I live on and the vastness of space around me, from the very little to the very large makes me feel awed and humbled.
    I wouldn’t say any of those things make me feel loved; that’s something my friends and family do, very well I might add.

    There is enough evidence in the Bible and history for me to trust the Creator/Redeemer so portrayed, without thoroughly understanding everything. Faith is not blind, but is based on evidence, yet it is faith because some things are still unseen.

    Using the bible to prove the bible is true is illogical and I hope you can see why.
    As for outside evidence, what evidence do you feel points towards a creator/redeemer?
    And as for faith, faith based on evidence is the exact opposite definition of faith. By it’s very definitation, faith is not something based in evidence; it’s a belief in lack of or in spite of evidence.

    Re the trinity, God stands outside of time as the First Cause; you may as well ask yourselves where the material and impetus for the Big Bang came from, but physics breaks down in that singularity.

    I ask myself how it all happened, but I don’t pretend to have an answer for you. I suspect the ‘answer’, if one exists, exists beyond the abilities of our mind to logically understand, since that is how evolution has shaped our minds; in order to develop the mental capacity to understand such a thing, incredible amounts of resources would need to be devoted towards a cause that does not aid our survival or reproduction in the world.
    However, if you think god is the answer, how do you feel god came into being? Did god just happen? Are you really proposing something infinitely larger, more powerful, intelligence, conscious, and even moral just happened? You might as well just assume the universe just happened and doesnt’ need a cause; after all, you can SEE the
    universe, unlike some other things I can mention.

    After all, atheists have faith in life arising, may I say “miraculously,” from matter and energy; if you believe in panspermia/exogenesis, then you’ve only relocated the issue to a different galaxy. I don’t have that much faith, but am willing to listen to the evidence for your miracles.

    I can honestly say I don’t know how life arose. I have my ideas, but at the moment that’s all I have. I find it odd though, how you don’t have ‘enough’ faith
    to believe life can just happen, yet you have more than enough faith to believe something like god (who would be considered life, be it an incomprehensibly vast form of life) can just happen and doesn’t require a creator himself. It seems like a contradiction to me, but I’m open to hearing your take on it (despite all the efforts of others falling far short).

  • spaceman spif

    Hiya Dave! Lemme address just a few of your points:

    Neither Buddhism, Mormonism, Islam, or other religion systems that I am aware of depend on a single miracle. Without the resurrection of Christ and biblical prophecies, I would probably be in your camp.

    True, Buddhism not as much as others. But both Mormonism and Islam require the miracle of an angel appearing before mortal men and speaking out loud to them to provide them with insight direct from God. Plus you have the seerstones, golden plates, etc.

    The reason Satan is excluded is that the sacrifice of Christ was God’s plan for bringing salvation to the world, which Satan constantly attempted to thwart in the Gospels. The entire sacrificial system of the O.T. is a foreshadow of what God would do Himself.

    Stoning to death, breaking bones, spilling blood, crucifying, lashes of the whip, killing of innocent children…these are the only things that your God of “love” would accept for an apology when he was upset. Why couldn’t “I’m sorry” be enough? For a God of love, he sure is bloodthirsty and brutal!

    Isaiah 40-56 teaches that Israel failed to be the servant that God desired, and so He would raise up an ideal Servant in the Messiah (Isaiah 53 does not make sense applied to the nation of Israel or the prophet Isaiah, IMHO).

    This is an aside, but did you ever find it odd that God spent thousands of years devoting all his focus on Israel and the surrounding area? Not a word to the Chinese, Mayans, Aztecs, and all the other civilizations alive during all this time. Wonder why?

    On the question of Jesus’ existence, outside of my personal experience, I find the conservative view that the New Testament and references by Tacitus, the Talmud, etc. are reliable to be adequate. I also believe that Yahweh is the same in the O.T. and N.T., having perfect justice, holiness, righteousness, and goodness balanced with perfect love, mercy, and compassion. If you only consider the O.T. judgments, and not the expressions of His love for and identification with the people of Israel, the poor, oppressed, and alienated, then you are guilty of creating a straw god, as it were. Are you disturbed that you believe in things you do not totally comprehend, perhaps the 10 or 24 dimensions of string theory or why the quantum reactions in your brain make you feel love? There is enough evidence in the Bible and history for me to trust the Creator/Redeemer so portrayed, without thoroughly understanding everything. Faith is not blind, but is based on evidence, yet it is faith because some things are still unseen.

    The topic of “evidence” has already been well discussed on here. The problem you are going to run into on here is when you say something in general like “The historical evidence proves the Bible”, we have heard it before and we will ask you to not just mention the evidence but provide that evidence. And usually what you will find is the specific evidence you do provide is not so bullet-proof after all.

    As for your comments on Yahweh’s love and compassion and mercy…that’s been well discussed as well, so I’ll spare my rant on that, even though I touched on it a bit previously. And again…why the focus on Israel for thousands of years? Because it’s part of “his plan”? Wow. Too bad for all those people who lived on other continents during those times. They had no idea any of this stuff existed, and they obviously went to hell since they did not know that the *only* way to God was through his son, Jesus, who they never even heard of.

  • heliobates

    Are you disturbed that you believe in things you do not totally comprehend, perhaps the 10 or 24 dimensions of string theory or why the quantum reactions in your brain make you feel love?

    What a load of presupposition!

    * do you know that any of us “believe” in string theory or quantum reactions in our brains make us feel love? I don’t recall believing either.

    * do you have some experiment which validates or falsifies string theory, rather than the presumption that any of us accept it as a valid explanatory paradigm?

    * do you have some (peer-reviewed) research that demostrates that quantum reactions in our brain produce the emotion of love, rather than the presumption that any of us accept such a simplistic definition and model of love?

    Please keep a respectful and open mind;

    I will once you stop trying to convince me to abandon positions which I do not hold.

    After all, atheists have faith in life arising, may I say “miraculously,” from matter and energy;

    No, you may not say “miraculously”. And you may not say that I have “faith” that life arose that way. Accepting the “most probable–if incomplete–explanation given our current understanding” is light years away from “faith”.

  • heliobates

    Are you disturbed that you believe in things you do not totally comprehend, perhaps the 10 or 24 dimensions of string theory or why the quantum reactions in your brain make you feel love?

    What a load of presupposition!

    * do you know that any of us “believe” in string theory or quantum reactions in our brains make us feel love? I don’t recall believing either.

    * do you have some experiment which validates or falsifies string theory, rather than the presumption that any of us accept it as a valid explanatory paradigm?

    * do you have some (peer-reviewed) research that demostrates that quantum reactions in our brain produce the emotion of love, rather than the presumption that any of us accept such a simplistic definition and model of love?

    Please keep a respectful and open mind;

    I will once you stop trying to convince me to abandon positions which I do not hold.

    After all, atheists have faith in life arising, may I say “miraculously,” from matter and energy;

    No, you may not say “miraculously” when talking about my understanding. And you may not say that I have “faith” that life arose that way. Accepting the “most probable–if incomplete–explanation given our current understanding” is light years away from “faith”.

    You’ve typed a fair bit about what you believe we believe. That doesn’t bode well for the prospect of informed discussion.

  • OMGF

    Mr. Homiak,
    I’m well aware of Dr. Craig’s apologetics and I’m not sure you should hold them up as something to hang your hat on. His apologetics are filled with begging the question among other problems. He presumes that the Bible must be true because he assumes that the people in the gospel were real, but also that they were skeptics that would not have believed in Xianity unless it were true, which is a very tenuous position to take. Not only can he not prove that they existed, but he can’t prove that they only believed because they were convinced by the miraculous happenings that supposedly happened. And, even if they did believe, it doesn’t constitute proof that those things happened. I find his reasoning to be rather underwhelming.

    Without the resurrection of Christ and biblical prophecies, I would probably be in your camp.

    What actual proof do you think you have for this event?

    On the question of Jesus’ existence, outside of my personal experience, I find the conservative view that the New Testament and references by Tacitus, the Talmud, etc. are reliable to be adequate.

    Then you rely on very shoddy scholarship indeed. There is not a single contemporary account of Jesus, which is rather odd for someone causing so much trouble and doing so many miraculous things. All references come from well after the fact. The Biblical references are contradictory, the non-Biblical references are more along the line that person or people X proclaim that they worship someone named Jesus who supposedly died on a cross. No Roman records remain of Jesus being crucified. The timelines in the Bible are all off. (Herod was king when? When was the census?) This is shoddy and poor scholarship. Also, I’d like to know what “personal experience” you have that can be counted as evidence for Jesus’s existence 2000 years ago. That’s a ludicrous concept.

    I also believe that Yahweh is the same in the O.T. and N.T., having perfect justice, holiness, righteousness, and goodness balanced with perfect love, mercy, and compassion. If you only consider the O.T. judgments, and not the expressions of His love for and identification with the people of Israel, the poor, oppressed, and alienated, then you are guilty of creating a straw god, as it were.

    If Yahweh were the same from OT to NT, then why would it be possible to get an incorrect view of Yahweh’s nature from only reading one of the volumes? Face it, your claim is on the rocks by your own admission.

    Are you disturbed that you believe in things you do not totally comprehend, perhaps the 10 or 24 dimensions of string theory or why the quantum reactions in your brain make you feel love?

    Actually, I don’t tend to believe in things I can’t wholly understand. That said, I believe that quantum mechanics is the best explanation that we have for the phenomena it seeks to explain, because I know enough about it to know it works. Do I understand it completely? I’ll go with Feynman here and say that no one does, and anyone who says they do is lying or flat out wrong, but that’s quite different from what you said, isn’t it? You said that you can only worship something that you don’t understand. None of us are worshipping QM, nor would I care to worship something that strives to remain beyond my comprehension.

    If not narcissism, then please explain how relational love can be expressed by a single personality apart from anything else?

    Way to go. You’ve refuted the idea of god all by yourself and you didn’t even know it. If god were perfect, then he would have no need to create our universe, yet he had to create our universe else he would only be engaging in narcissism, hence god is not perfect. Also, god is not immutable for the same reasons. Good job.

    For example, the family has God->Parents->Children, government has God->Kings/Rulers->Citizens, economics has God->Stewards->Material Things, and the church has God->Shepherds->Laity (all with an “->” from God to the third item as well) in a pattern that reflects how the Son is obedient to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is directed by the Father and Son.

    It’s amazing how people can create patterns in the world around them that really aren’t patterns at all, but only appear that way to the person making them because they so want to see the patterns. The family could operate in threes through grandparents, parents, and children as well, or it could be fours if you add god. Or, exclude god, which would be true for many families, and there isn’t three there at all. This is especially true with government, considering that we have a secular government. If you really think this is some sort of compelling argument for anything, I suppose you probably also think the Bible codes are compelling as well? Tsk tsk.

    After all, atheists have faith in life arising, may I say “miraculously,” from matter and energy

    No, what atheists have is a lack of faith in your beliefs that you have not proven or given evidence for. This does not constitute a separate faith in itself, thank you very much.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    …others have done so at length much more eloquently, e.g., Reasonable Faith and Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment?: A Debate Between William Lane Craig and Gerd Ludemann by William Lane Craig, and even the older references I previously mentioned.

    As I pointed out in my most recent post, Craig has said that even if he were transported back 2,000 years in a time machine and personally witnessed Jesus’ body lying motionless in the tomb until it decayed away to nothing, he would still be a Christian and believe in the resurrection. I venture to suggest that he is not the most objectively reliable of investigators.

    I consider the resurrection of Christ more salient than other miracles, because the entire Christian belief system depends on its veracity, which is why it has been examined exhaustively through the ages.

    If anything, the centrality of the resurrection to Christianity makes it less likely that Christians would have examined it objectively – because they have more to lose by doing so. If a religion is not essential to faith, theists can freely examine it and conclude it might not have happened without seriously shaking their belief. Christianity, on the other hand, absolutely depends on the resurrection, which means Christians have a strong preconceived reason to believe in it regardless of what the evidence indicates.

    Neither Buddhism, Mormonism, Islam, or other religion systems that I am aware of depend on a single miracle.

    Then I’d suggest you need to look into those religions more carefully. As others have pointed out, both Mormonism and Islam most certainly are dependent on single miracles – namely the miraculous revelations of their respective holy texts to Joseph Smith and Mohammed.

    …I find the conservative view that the New Testament and references by Tacitus, the Talmud, etc. are reliable to be adequate.

    As Earl Doherty points out, this conservative view amounts to a “consensus of necessity”. The historical case for Jesus is so threadbare that Christian scholars have little choice but to cling to the accounts of these authors, unreliable as they might be. See part 2 of my essay, “Choking on the Camel“.

    I also believe that Yahweh is the same in the O.T. and N.T., having perfect justice, holiness, righteousness, and goodness balanced with perfect love, mercy, and compassion.

    You may “believe” that, but it doesn’t follow that the facts support it. My essay “Shadow of Turning” details multiple instances in which the Old Testament god and the New Testament god are faced with similar circumstances and react in diametrically opposite ways. One of my favorite examples is how the OT god explicitly forbids his followers to pray for their enemies (Jeremiah 11:14).

  • Dave Homiak

    Thanks for the many responses and good points. I’ll try to summarize my answers. Regarding the significance of the resurrection miracle, I submit that no other miracle has been examined by believers and non-believers to such a great extent, and I guess I don’t classify angelic visitations as miracles per se. The main reasons I believe in the resurrection are covered in the references I’ve cited. Regarding no contemporary accounts of Jesus, I guess we all wish that investigative newspapers had been publishing in the Roman backwater of Palestine circa 30 A.D., yet I suspect many of you believe that Achilles was a real person despite no evidence other than the later stories of Homer, Xenophon, Brad Pitt, etc. When viewed in the full perspective of all evidence, I am satisfied with the Gospels of Matthew and John, eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.

    Heliobates, I apologize if my question was presumptuous, but I have had both issues presented to me by skeptics as explanations for the materialistic origin of the universe and human behavior. They were just suggestions of what one might believe without full comprehension, but accepting the materialistic view of life as more probable, if incomplete, hopefully does not mean you have excluded non-scientific, historical testimony in calculating your probabilities. Otherwise, you are guilty of circular reasoning.

    OMGF, I believe you misinterpreted my comment about narcissism, which was a response to the previous question of how I knew only self-love was possible if God were postulated as a single personality; I am in fact arguing for the trinity for that reason, which does not require creation to express relational love in the Godhead! I’ll ignore your comment about bible codes, and just say that I was explaining what the Bible teaches about the ideal relationships in those social spheres; you are free to create whatever patterns you like.

    I try not to be guilty of using the Bible to prove itself for your sake, although self-reference within the revelation of God should not be excluded out of hand. The Bible is fully grounded in history as a record of God’s dealings with mankind, and God uses historical events as important markers. I shouldn’t need to cite (cf. Biblical Archaeological Review) the numerous times that archaeology proved the Bible correct when scholars had thought otherwise. Unlike Nostradamus, the prophecies of the Bible are specific. An example that is testified to by extra-biblical history is the prediction in Isaiah 45 that Cyrus of Persia would become the anointed servant of God in allowing the Hebrews to return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. This was written during Isaiah’s life ~150 years before Cyrus was born. Herodotus states that Cyrus ascended to the throne of the Persian empire in 559 B.C. The Encyclopedia Brittanica and atheist H.G. Wells in his Outline of History state that the Jews returned to Jerusalem under the auspices of Cyrus. Josephus in Antiquities (http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/ant-11.htm) even describes how the captive Jews showed Cyrus the O.T. prophecies and his role in their liberation, which led to his edict for their return. Also see http://www.livius.org/ct-cz/cyrus_I/babylon01.html. I am aware that scholars who do not believe in predictive prophecy have postulated that a later author wrote the prophecy after the fact under Isaiah’s name. The problem with this unsupported speculation is that Isaiah uses the Cyrus prophecy as an example of why Yahweh is greater than the Caananite false gods and idols that Israel had embraced in their syncretistic religion of the time; it is because Yahweh can predict what comes to pass that He is the true God, which would be nonsensical to the ancient Jews if it was written after the fact.

    God devotes so much time to the Hebrews because they are His chosen people to receive His special revelation first, and be witnesses of the true God to the other nations. Due to the general revelation of creation as a witness to God’s power and our consciences, Paul, once a persecutor of Christians and highly educated in Judaic law, makes the case in Romans 1 that men have no excuse for recognizing that God exists, and it is clear from Hebrews 11:5 that God is a rewarder of those who faithfully seek Him. Indeed, Hebrews 11:1 says faith is the evidence of things unseen, but it is not a blind, hopeless faith because of the divine conviction that makes confident faith possible. This conviction is supported by the evidence of God’s Word and works in history. Do you think it is impossible for God to bring the knowledge and conviction of His sacrifice to those sincerely seeking Him?

    Progressive revelation is the explanation for why different views of Yahweh may be arrived at by reading the O.T. or the N.T. A principle of biblical interpretation is that the O.T. should be read in light of the N.T., the later revelation. It is clear that God deals with man by faith in both testaments, and the development of salvation history is continuous and remarkably consistent in theme through many centuries and authors. Jesus made many references to the O.T.

    I recognize myself from the past in the various comments maligning the character of God, and would spend the time to explain how I worked through the superficial and out-of-context interpretations to a more satisfying understanding of God’s nature and the reason for evil, but I don’t see the cost-benefit in this forum, where so many are unwilling to even entertain the existence of God or absolute morality for other reasons. If interested, I would first refer you to The Many Faces of Evil: Theological Systems and the Problems of Evil by John S. Feinberg. Now, point me to the forum where you discuss how you find meaning in life as a result of an atheistic, materialistic philosophy.

  • spaceman spif

    Regarding the significance of the resurrection miracle, I submit that no other miracle has been examined by believers and non-believers to such a great extent…

    And found the evidence to be extremely flimsy, written many decades after the fact, and contradicting in the few accounts found.

    …and I guess I don’t classify angelic visitations as miracles per se…

    Why not?

    I guess we all wish that investigative newspapers had been publishing in the Roman backwater of Palestine circa 30 A.D…

    Ahh, but Jerusalem was far from a “backwater” area, and there were historians alive at the time of Jesus who were documenting the history of Jerusalem during the Roman occupation. There were also historians who documented Herod’s reign as well. Guess what? None of the historians alive during the time of Christ ever mentioned him. Neither did they mention Herod calling for firstborn males to be killed. Neither do they mention any Roman census at this time. Neither do they mention any miracles performed by a “Jesus”. Neither do they mention all these dead priests coming back to life and wandering the streets of Jerusalem when Jesus died.

    Do you find it odd that Jesus traveled from city to city, performing incredible miracles before crowd after crowd, for several years…and not one single witness to any of these events took the time to write it down, or paint a picture, or make a statue, or write to their friends about it? And please don’t give me the “they were mostly illiterate” reasoning. There were plenty of literate priests, scholars, soldiers, etc, around who bore witness.

    …yet I suspect many of you believe that Achilles was a real person despite no evidence other than the later stories of Homer, Xenophon, Brad Pitt, etc…

    You tell me there was a Greek soldier named Achilles who fought in the Trojan war, then I won’t have much problem with that. You tell me there was a Greek soldier named Achilles who was invulnerable except for his heel and he was the son of a sea nymph, and he was killed when an arrow fired at him was guided by a god to strike his heel, then you betcha I’m going to ask for a LOT of evidence to believe that one. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    When viewed in the full perspective of all evidence, I am satisfied with the Gospels of Matthew and John, eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.

    When viewed in the full perspective of all evidence, the Gospels of Matthew and John were written decades after the fact, most likely around 70-85 AD, if not later. And unfortunately you will find most Christian scholars will agree with these dates. Paul is estimated to have died around 65 AD, and throughout all his letters you will notice he never quotes from any of the Gospels, which is very unusual given that he often quoted from the Old Testament. The names of Matthew and John, as well as with other gospels both canonic as well as non-canonic, were applied to the writings to help lend them an air of authenticity.

    The Bible is fully grounded in history

    While the Bible mentions historical facts such as the Egyptian Empire, the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, etc, that does not mean that everything else in it must be true as a result. If that’s the case, then let’s go back to Achilles and say that since it’s a fact that the Greeks existed, and they had soldiers, than the entire story of Achilles must be true.

    This conviction is supported by the evidence of God’s Word and works in history. Do you think it is impossible for God to bring the knowledge and conviction of His sacrifice to those sincerely seeking Him?

    You may be right on this one. I’m going to study the Quran now. After all, there was plenty of contemporary evidence that Muhammed existed. Be back later!

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Do you think it is impossible for God to bring the knowledge and conviction of His sacrifice to those sincerely seeking Him?

    No, I don’t think that’s impossible, which is why it struck me as odd that he wouldn’t when I was. The only reasons I could think of for why were that he was either hiding for some reason or he didn’t exist. Guess which answer I leaned towards.

    Now, point me to the forum where you discuss how you find meaning in life as a result of an atheistic, materialistic philosophy.

    I think that you’ll find that the general consensus, at least around here, is that you make your own.

  • heliobates

    but accepting the materialistic view of life as more probable, if incomplete, hopefully does not mean you have excluded non-scientific, historical testimony in calculating your probabilities. Otherwise, you are guilty of circular reasoning.

    I just caught you moving the goalposts. We were vaguely discussing abiogenesis and now you’re trying to insinuate the alleged “historical evidence” for much later biblical occurrances.

    Please demonstrate that the Genesis accounts are “non-scientific, historical testimony” worth revising the balance of probabilities away from naturalistic presumptions. I don’t even have to get out of bed in the morning to show how the Genesis accounts do not correspond with the observable age of the Earth and age of the universe. They are, at most, mythical accounts preserved because of their religious value and therefore worthless in any discussion involving empirical assertions. I also invite you to consider Finkelstein and Silberman’s work before you try to hold up the Pentateuch as “historical testimonial evidence” worthy of empirical consideration.

    So then you probably meant that you feel there’s adequate historical evidence for the existence of Jesus (as if proof that he existed automatically guarantees that everything said about him is also true), and because of this you can somehow bootstrap the rest of the Bible. If I’m right, you’d do well to avoid tossing around accusations of “close-mindedness” and “guilty of circular reasoning”.

  • spaceman spif

    Now, point me to the forum where you discuss how you find meaning in life as a result of an atheistic, materialistic philosophy.

    I just caught this last bit. This view really irritates me, as it implies that non-Christians can’t be happy or feel content.

    Why does life have to have “meaning” in the first place? Besides, “meaning” in life goes against atheism, as “meaning” implies that we are to “find our purpose”, and any purpose had to have been put in place by some type of greater power.

    I take life for what it is, and I don’t spend countless hours of energy and frustration trying to make some things try to fit ancient books of superstition. I enjoy the much simpler process of examining the evidence and allowing it to lead me to my conclusions, rather than having my conclusion already made up and trying to force the evidence to fit that.

    I have no problem loving my children, and laughing with them and enjoying the time I spend with them. I have no problem caring for others around me, and sharing in the joys and trials of this life. I have no problem marveling at the universe above, and the amazing variety of life here on Earth.

  • heliobates

    ….it is clear from Hebrews 11:5 that God is a rewarder of those who faithfully seek Him. Indeed, Hebrews 11:1 says faith is the evidence of things unseen, but it is not a blind, hopeless faith because of the divine conviction that makes confident faith possible. This conviction is supported by the evidence of God’s Word and works in history. Do you think it is impossible for God to bring the knowledge and conviction of His sacrifice to those sincerely seeking Him?

    God chose to “reveal” his divine plan for humanity to an illiterate group of peasants in an effectively backwater Roman province. At that time, the world population was probably less than 300 million and the Roman Empire was about 60 million. It took until the 4th century CE before Christianity had spread widely enough and attained enough influence to become the Roman state religion. How many people never got the memo that, to ensure eternal happiness, they had to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour?

    Even during the supposed lifetime of Jesus, millions of people died in complete ignorance of their creator. This includes Jesus’ neighbours in the Hellenic world and what would become the Jewish Diaspora—initially the only people that could receive this revelation because it was available first in Aramaic, then in Koine. So tens of thousands in the Polynesian archipelago and on the Australian continent, hundreds of millions in the Americas, northern Europe, what is now China and the Indian subcontinent… all of them died outside of the Grace of the one person God sent to redeem all of humanity.

    Do you see why anyone who advances a claim of historicity while adhering to this hopelessly myopic version of events is simply not credible?

  • heliobates

    I just caught this last bit. This view really irritates me, as it implies that non-Christians can’t be happy or feel content.

    As far as I’m concerned, Taoists, Greeks, Bhuddists and Hindus had already worked out complex, relevant and coherent systems of meaning, conduct and morality centuries before Jesus had his kick at it. Heck, the Code of Hammurabi was already inscribed while the Judaic tribes were, according to legend, conquering the Canaanite cities and putting every man, woman and child to the sword.

  • Dave Homiak

    I just caught this last bit. This view really irritates me, as it implies that non-Christians can’t be happy or feel content.

    I didn’t mean this sarcastically, because it is a serious question. Let’s not conflate happiness with finding meaning and purpose in life, since the latter does not necessarily cause the former, and the hedonists I know could care less about purpose as long as there is pleasure. I am coming from the perspective of Camus and other non-believers, who found the absurdity of this existence to mitigate against any real meaning. Is suffering just par for the game in survival of the fittest? The Christian framework gives me a way to understand this apparent absurdity and provides meaning to life, despite your opinion of it.

    If there are any atheists here over 70 years old or approaching death, then I’d really like to here your perspective on this issue. Has Michael Martin, et al, written on this topic, or has it been discussed elsewhere here? If not, or if you think it is unimportant, then I am very disappointed…

  • spaceman spif

    Dave,

    The problem with your questions about the purpose and meaning of life is that you have to start with the assumption that a purpose or meaning was ever installed in the first place. And for that to happen, you have to assume there is a higher being that put that purpose or meaning into place for us to find.

  • Dave Homiak

    Understood. I am asking if there is anything more significant in regard to the meaning of life in the materialistic worldview than simply being survival mechanisms for our “selfish” genes to propagate? Are you really satisfied with that? It does not have to come from a higher power; I would think it might derive from the character of humanity (is there something that sets us apart from other species in this respect, say the ability to reflect?) and evolving social systems, but I want to know what you really think and have worked out to your own satisfaction, not the party line.

  • OMGF

    Mr. Homiak,

    When viewed in the full perspective of all evidence, I am satisfied with the Gospels of Matthew and John, eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.

    Oh, so sorry, but those are not eyewitness accounts. Who lied to you and told you that?

    They were just suggestions of what one might believe without full comprehension, but accepting the materialistic view of life as more probable, if incomplete, hopefully does not mean you have excluded non-scientific, historical testimony in calculating your probabilities.

    If you mean religious testimony, I’ll stop excluding it when a theist brings some/any evidence for their beliefs.

    OMGF, I believe you misinterpreted my comment about narcissism, which was a response to the previous question of how I knew only self-love was possible if God were postulated as a single personality; I am in fact arguing for the trinity for that reason, which does not require creation to express relational love in the Godhead!

    That’s fine, but my point still holds. Your god is only 1 god in the OT, not 3, so you’ll have to explain that. Either way, your god is still lacking in perfection and immutability, and on top of that you are now proposing a polytheistic system.

    The Bible is fully grounded in history as a record of God’s dealings with mankind, and God uses historical events as important markers.

    Actually, there is no evidence at all in history that god has ever dealt with mankind in any way, or that any god exists. As for the historical record of the Bible, let’s examine it a bit, shall we? The creation story in Genesis did not happen. The flood did not happen. The exodus did not happen. The Jews did not spend 40 years wandering the dessert. The Tower of Babel story is obviously manufactured. The sun did not stand in the sky for a full day. Etc. etc. etc. Is this what you mean by “fully grounded in history”?

    I am aware that scholars who do not believe in predictive prophecy have postulated that a later author wrote the prophecy after the fact under Isaiah’s name. The problem with this unsupported speculation is that Isaiah uses the Cyrus prophecy as an example of why Yahweh is greater than the Caananite false gods and idols that Israel had embraced in their syncretistic religion of the time; it is because Yahweh can predict what comes to pass that He is the true God, which would be nonsensical to the ancient Jews if it was written after the fact.

    Problem number 1. Your first sentence makes it appear as if people are only doubting this because they want to prove it wrong, while forgetting that many people want it to be right and could just as easily fall prey to bias. Problem number 2. Your reasoning is pretty faulty and on par with Mr. Craig’s. You presuppose that this was written before the events took place, because people wouldn’t have believed it if it weren’t true or something. People believe things that aren’t true all the time. Second, if it were written after the fact, then the Jews in question would be looking back and it would make for a great story to say that god is so powerful that he prophecied that what happened would happen, just as it happened.

    God devotes so much time to the Hebrews because they are His chosen people to receive His special revelation first, and be witnesses of the true God to the other nations.

    I’m glad that the all-powerful, all-loving god has to focus on a select group of people because he can’t see fit to love all people equally and try to get them all to be saved. Apologetics like this make god out to be an ineffectual weakling.

    Progressive revelation is the explanation for why different views of Yahweh may be arrived at by reading the O.T. or the N.T.

    Which again does not support your conclusion that god is the same throughout. You have just admitted that you have no support for your claim.

    …where so many are unwilling to even entertain the existence of God or absolute morality for other reasons.

    Oh please. The guy who comes on here to defend Mr. Craig for admitting that he can’t be swayed by evidence also feels that he can chastize us for not being open minded? Sorry but that dog don’t hunt. Being open minded is what got most of us to where we are today.

    …but I want to know what you really think and have worked out to your own satisfaction, not the party line.

    What party line are you talking about? Your insistence that we all have some agenda that is being given to us is rather off-putting, and makes me think that all your misgivings is just a case of projection on your part. It is religions that tell people what to think and how to act, so if there’s any part line, well that’s your department, not ours.

  • heliobates

    but I want to know what you really think and have worked out to your own satisfaction, not the party line.

    Right: a complete philosophy, starting with epsitemology and working up to moral theory, posted in the comments section of Daylight Atheism. With an index, neh?

    I’ll get right on that.

    Dave, I’m sure some who post here will take a kick at answering your question, but based on what you’ve posted, we couldn’t even agree on first principles. Are you sure there’s a point to your question? Why not read some of Ebon’s essays and then ask us about specific points of agreement or disagreement?

    Seriously, people have been pondering these questions for thousands of years and entire forests have been felled to hunt this snark.

  • lpetrich

    This discussion is getting sidetracked. I’d like to return it to the question of the credibility of various miracles. Dave Homiak, why don’t you address the question of the miracles of religions and sects other than yours? Like the numerous miracles already mentioned in this thread, miracles by Pythagoras, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, the Buddha, …

    And as to raising someone from the dead, Apollonius of Tyana did that too, according to his biographer Philostratus. He resurrected a young woman who was just about to get married, meaning that Jesus Christ was not exactly alone in that feat. Even the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha raised some people from the dead (1 Kings 17:22, 2 Kings 4:34), among several other miracles. Elisha also did that posthumously, to someone’s corpse which had touched his bones (2 Kings 13:21).

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    …I suspect many of you believe that Achilles was a real person despite no evidence other than the later stories of Homer, Xenophon, Brad Pitt, etc.

    No, actually. Given that the mere occurrence of the Trojan War is still a matter of fierce debate among archaeologists, I know of no compelling reason that has yet been presented to believe in the personalities of the Iliad as historical individuals.

    When viewed in the full perspective of all evidence, I am satisfied with the Gospels of Matthew and John, eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.

    It is widely accepted by biblical scholars, even many conservative scholars, that the gospels are not eyewitness accounts. The first references to them don’t appear until well into the second century, and there is no strong evidence fixing their composition to an earlier time.

    An example that is testified to by extra-biblical history is the prediction in Isaiah 45 that Cyrus of Persia would become the anointed servant of God in allowing the Hebrews to return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity.

    Again, it is fairly well accepted by textual scholars that Isaiah chapters 40 and onward (referred to as Deutero-Isaiah) are the product of a different, later author. This is not a prediction, but was simply written after the fact.

    I am aware that scholars who do not believe in predictive prophecy have postulated that a later author wrote the prophecy after the fact under Isaiah’s name. The problem with this unsupported speculation is that Isaiah uses the Cyrus prophecy as an example of why Yahweh is greater than the Caananite false gods and idols that Israel had embraced in their syncretistic religion of the time; it is because Yahweh can predict what comes to pass that He is the true God, which would be nonsensical to the ancient Jews if it was written after the fact.

    Dave, your conclusions here are obviously being directed by what you want to be true. There are numerous ways a book written after the fact could be passed off as an earlier prophecy. For example, it could be “rediscovered” by the author, who presented it not as an original composition but as a past record that had been lost. Something very like this appears to have happened with the “book of the law”, probably the book of Deuteronomy, that Hilkiah the scribe supposedly found and presented to Josiah during renovations to the temple (2 Chronicles 34:15). (Remarkably, this book contained strong support for the very religious reforms Josiah had wanted to carry out.) The Jews seem to have accepted this book without much question, despite its lacking any earlier provenance. How do you rule out a similar scenario in the case of Deutero-Isaiah?

    …accepting the materialistic view of life as more probable, if incomplete, hopefully does not mean you have excluded non-scientific, historical testimony in calculating your probabilities.

    Dave, the point of this entire post was to show why testimony of miracles cannot be accepted as historically accurate. I hope that didn’t just go over your head. The only way we could rationally give credence to a miracle story is if that miracle could be replicated under controlled, scientific conditions. Otherwise, we’re just arbitrarily choosing one bit of hearsay from a sea of thousands of similar accounts.

    Now, point me to the forum where you discuss how you find meaning in life as a result of an atheistic, materialistic philosophy.

    That discussion is well beyond the scope of this comment thread, but you can begin by reading the Foundational Essays at Ebon Musings.

  • lpetrich

    Mr. Homiak has gotten into a sort-of miracle, successful prophecies. But are there any prophecies in the Bible that are (1) reasonably unambiguous, (2) requiring information not accessible to their makers, and (3) not self-fulfilling? Prophecies of wars and rumors of wars violate both (1) and (2), while the prophecy of the Jews returning to Israel violates (3). The prediction of the lunar eclipse I saw last night satisfied (1) and (3), but not (2).

    And Jesus Christ was far from the only legendary hero who had fulfilled some prophecies, often despite efforts to thwart that fulfillment.

    When Oedipus was born, his parents discovered that he would grow up to kill his father and marry his mother.

    King Acrisius discovered that his daughter Danae would have a son, Perseus, who would eventually kill him.

    King Amulius discovered that his niece Rhea Silvia would have a son, Romulus, who would one day kill him.

    King Kamsa discovered that his cousin Devaki would have a son, Krishna, who would some day kill him.

    King Suddhodhana discovered that his son Siddhartha Gautama would grow up to become a great religious leader (the Buddha).

    Kronos discovered that his partner Rhea would have a son (Zeus) who would grow up and overthrow him as Ruler of the Universe.

    And likely others.

    It is not quote a legendary-hero prophecy, but Cassandra’s prophecy of the fall of Troy was eventually fulfilled.

  • Dave Homiak

    Thanks for your comments, Ebonmuse. I think there may be a strong bias in this forum toward accepting liberal-critical viewpoints without critiquing them or representing contradicting evidence.

    It is widely accepted by biblical scholars, even many conservative scholars, that the gospels are not eyewitness accounts. The first references to them don’t appear until well into the second century, and there is no strong evidence fixing their composition to an earlier time.

    Please see F.F. Bruce’s book, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, for a representation of the views held by many conservative scholars. Unless you claim the Chester Beatty papyrus, dated to about 200 A.D., is an original, rather than a copy, of most of the N.T. (and few would dissent that the epistles were written before Paul’s death about 67 A.D.), then the original Gospels are earlier. Sir Fredric Kenyon stated the following about this manuscript in The Bible and Modern Scholarship:

    The net result of this discovery — by far the most important since the discovery of the Sinaiticus — is, in fact, to reduce the gap between the earlier manuscripts and the traditional dates of the New Testament books so far that it becomes negligible in any discussion of authenticity. No other ancient book has anything like such early and plentiful testimony to its text, and no unbiased scholar would deny that the text that has come down to us is substantially sound.

    It appears Luke wrote Acts before Paul’s death, since he ends with Paul alive in Rome, which would make his “former treatise” (Acts 1:1), the Gospel of Luke, even earlier. Charles E. Raven states in Jesus and the Gospel of Love:

    That Acts was written before St. Paul’s trial at Rome seems a strong probability, and the case for a subsequent incorporation of Mark is not strong. The general habit of placing the Synoptic Gospels in the period A.D. 70-100 is inexplicable; for the evidence is weaker than the objections. They reflect a time before the scattering of the Palestinian Church and the dispersion of the local and conservative community, a time utterly unlike the age of experiment and syncretism which followed Nero’s persecution and the sack of Jerusalem.

    The Rylands Papyrus 457, dated on paleographical grounds around A.D. 130 and containing part of John 18, and the Egerton Papyrus 2 have caused rejection of earlier late dating of the Gospel of John, which claims to be an eyewitness account. I believe the majority of scholars now accept a date between 90 and 110 A.D. From the 150 A.D. writings of the Gnostic school of Valentinus, most of the books of the N.T. were well known among the people of this sect (cf. Bruce).

    Again, it is fairly well accepted by textual scholars that Isaiah chapters 40 and onward (referred to as Deutero-Isaiah) are the product of a different, later author. This is not a prediction, but was simply written after the fact.

    I am well aware of the theories about Deutero- and even Tritio-Isaiah, and would say that most liberal textual scholars hold that opinion; there are many Hebrew scholars who do not. The tone changes at chapter 40, because Isaiah is moving from judgment to hope and restoration. I think this article is well worth reading, since it discusses the general problem with respect to the prophecy of Cyrus in Isaiah, e.g.:

    For example, Robert H. Pfeiffer in his introduction comments in this sarcastic fashion on the two Cyrus notations: “Of course this anachronism offers no difficulty to those who believe that God predicted through Isaiah’s pen what was to happen two centuries later.” It is, then, quite clear from Pfeiffer’s own words that the thing which makes the mentions of Babylon and Cyrus so repulsive to the critic is that if the single authorship of Isaiah be maintained, then clearly the Book of Isaiah contains predictive prophecy. And to admit to the existence of predictive prophecy is to admit to supernatural intervention in history. But as already pointed out the critic because of his own assumptions could not find such intervention in the historical process. Thus he refuses to allow such and therefore must posit some alternative explanation. The real point of tension then in the Cyrus notations is that conservatives are most willing to allow for divine intervention in history, while the critics will not allow such intervention.

    Ebonmuse, you say my conclusions are driven by what I want to believe, and that may be true at times. However, I challenge you (and others) to read Isaiah 44:24 through 48:22, and honestly argue that Isaiah’s arguments make sense if authored after Cyrus allowed the Hebrews to return to Jerusalem. Would you really accept that another author “rediscovered” the manuscript, and added the Cyrus annotations to bolster an argument that its audience would know was an obvious fraud and serve to discredit Yahweh? Or must you believe that, because your worldview does not allow you to entertain the possibility of predictive philosophy? The Jewish people were pretty picky about how they transmitted the received word of God through the ages. As far as I know, you stand alone in suggesting that the rediscovery of the Law during Josiah’s reign included tampering with the original text. I find the internal evidence of the book of Isaiah to stand without the need for introducing interpolations, but I do not exclude the possibility of predictive prophecy in history.

    The only way we could rationally give credence to a miracle story is if that miracle could be replicated under controlled, scientific conditions. Otherwise, we’re just arbitrarily choosing one bit of hearsay from a sea of thousands of similar accounts.

    That may be a scientific way of measuring whether an extraordinary event can occur, but it fails to verify whether any particular historical miracle occurred. You cannot replicate, say, Lincoln’s assassination or other historical events in a lab, but you can weigh the evidence for whether it is probable that the event occurred or not; this is done every day by our judicial system. It is not necessary for God to have Jesus crucified and resurrected again in a lab for there to be enough evidence for reasonable faith. I have already addressed the potential origin of miracles of other religions/cults in my first post, in the expected way; I can add that I hold to the veracity of the Christian miracles due to support from my view of the Bible as inspired and the “self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit” that corroborate for me the truth of the entire belief system, although I recognize this will be an unsatisfactory answer in this forum.

    I’ll be glad to read the essay you suggest. Thanks.

  • Dave Homiak

    I’m glad that the all-powerful, all-loving god has to focus on a select group of people because he can’t see fit to love all people equally and try to get them all to be saved. Apologetics like this make god out to be an ineffectual weakling.

    OMGF, it is not a question that God does not love other people than the Hebrews, e.g., read about His rebuke of the prophet Jonah and concern for pagan Nineveh in Jonah 3 & 4. His general revelation is the starting point for all to come to salvation, but he revealed His plan through the Jewish race for how that would be accomplished, by looking forward in faith to the incarnation of the Messiah (Christ) at His appointed time. I can’t answer for God as to why He didn’t do it a different way; it’s like the philosophical issue of whether this is the best of all possible worlds. One thing I do know, people in this forum who have done their research don’t have to worry about not having had an opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel.

    What party line are you talking about? Your insistence that we all have some agenda that is being given to us is rather off-putting, and makes me think that all your misgivings is just a case of projection on your part.

    Hmmm, “Nighttime is for dreaming. Daylight is for action.” The recent rise of militant atheism strikes me as having the agenda of eliminating religious faith from society. Religion I can do without, but as evidenced by what happened with the home of Voltaire and the desk of Ingersoll after their deaths, the Word of God and faith will not disappear so easily. By party line, I meant the tendency for famous atheists to insist publically that there is no need for meaning in life beyond survival, yet I suspect there is actually a great deal of diversity on that point among the laity.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    By party line, I meant the tendency for famous atheists to insist publically that there is no need for meaning in life beyond survival, yet I suspect there is actually a great deal of diversity on that point among the laity.

    I suppose it’s entirely possible that famous atheists have been saying that, and I just missed it. However, I can’t help but wonder if the reason you think famous atheists are saying that is merely because they aren’t pushing the same kind of meaning you push. (Please do read those essays by Ebonmuse, won’t you? That way, at least you’ll be fully briefed on the fact that that’s certainly not the party line around here!)

    When Dawkins waxes eloquent on his joy in the natural world and in the knowledge of it that he has spent much of his life seeking, when he writes about science with the passion that allowed him to title the first chapter of The God DelusionA Deeply Religious Non-Believer“, can you really call that the attitude of a man who is insisting that there is no need for meaning in life beyond survival? If you find Dawkins too abrasive, then, heck, read Carl Sagan!

    One thing I do know, people in this forum who have done their research don’t have to worry about not having had an opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel.

    That’s a misleading statement, though. It’s one thing to hear the claims of a religion; it’s quite another thing to actually have evidence that supports those claims. Without concrete evidence, we are hardly better off than if we had not heard the story at all.

  • OMGF

    Mr. Homiak,

    OMGF, it is not a question that God does not love other people than the Hebrews, e.g., read about His rebuke of the prophet Jonah and concern for pagan Nineveh in Jonah 3 & 4. His general revelation is the starting point for all to come to salvation, but he revealed His plan through the Jewish race for how that would be accomplished, by looking forward in faith to the incarnation of the Messiah (Christ) at His appointed time.

    And, as I’ve pointed out, this apologetic makes god ineffectual. A truly all-powerful god would have no problem ministering to all peoples, yet he seems to focus on only one set of people. The others he treats with disdain, and tells his people to massacre them, over and over. god is portrayed as a provincial god that is petty, vindictive, and cruel.

    I can’t answer for God as to why He didn’t do it a different way; it’s like the philosophical issue of whether this is the best of all possible worlds.

    And I like how you simply sidestep the question, probably because you know you can’t give a satisfactory answer to it.
    One thing I do know, people in this forum who have done their research don’t have to worry about not having had an opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel.
    Which is nothing more than a veiled threat. Perhaps after you die, some other deity will claim that you had every chance in the world to read its favorite scripture and you didn’t, but no excuses for you.

    The recent rise of militant atheism strikes me as having the agenda of eliminating religious faith from society.

    Through reason and rational discourse? Sure. What is good about religious faith?

    Religion I can do without…

    Oh, are you one of those people that think that you aren’t in a religion, but a personal relationship (as if the two are somehow different)?

    By party line, I meant the tendency for famous atheists to insist publically that there is no need for meaning in life beyond survival, yet I suspect there is actually a great deal of diversity on that point among the laity.

    Again, knock off the projection. No one here takes marching orders from Dawkins or anyone else. No one here is told how to think. That’s your department, remember. It is your religion (and others) that tells people how and what to think.

    Further, I don’t recall Dawkins or anyone else saying that there’s no meaning in life beyond survival. Perhaps you should read Unweaving the Rainbow before continuing to make such ignorant statements about your opponents. You’re doing nothing more than creating straw men.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dave,

    it is not a question that God does not love other people than the Hebrews

    Remind me, off the top of your head, what is the punishment proscribed in the bible for worshipping a different god? For a family member? How about a whole city?

    Now considering god only ‘revealed’ himself to one culture at the time, somehow managing to skip over all the other ones (which is werid, being that if we all came from two people who had direct contact with god[without getting into incest matters], how would you explain the rise of different religions at all? Did people just forget that little, non-important detail after a time?), can you say that god was equal about sharing his love in the bible?

    The recent rise of militant atheism strikes me as having the agenda of eliminating religious faith from society.

    I want to know too; what good is religious faith?

    By party line, I meant the tendency for famous atheists to insist publically that there is no need for meaning in life beyond survival, yet I suspect there is actually a great deal of diversity on that point among the laity.

    I don’t know anyone who has said that. Not one. I find plenty of meaning in my life beyond survival

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    It appears Luke wrote Acts before Paul’s death, since he ends with Paul alive in Rome, which would make his “former treatise” (Acts 1:1), the Gospel of Luke, even earlier.

    Dave, I think the discussion in this thread so far, if it demonstrates anything, demonstrates just how thin your case for dating any of the books of the Bible is. Isaiah must have been written before Cyrus conquered the Babylonians because it says it was. Luke-Acts must have been written before Paul’s death in the mid-first century because it doesn’t mention it. Again, there are extremely obvious alternatives which you’re not considering. How about this: Luke-Acts was written later, but its author sought to make it seem earlier by leaving that part out? By what evidence do you exclude that simple alternative possibility?

    Attempting to date a book solely from the contents of that book, without reference to external evidence anchoring its composition at a specific time, is like building a foundation on quicksand. If you read a modern-day history of the Civil War that stops before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, do you conclude that the author must have written the book at that time? If you go to a bookstore and pick up a novel set in the eighteenth century, do you automatically assume it was written in the eighteenth century?

    The Rylands Papyrus 457, dated on paleographical grounds around A.D. 130 and containing part of John 18, and the Egerton Papyrus 2 have caused rejection of earlier late dating of the Gospel of John, which claims to be an eyewitness account. I believe the majority of scholars now accept a date between 90 and 110 A.D.

    I have no wish to dispute the dating of either of those documents, but they don’t help your case much. Both of them are extremely fragmentary, and are no proof that a complete gospel existed at that time or that, if it did, it was substantially identical to our present version. (I note that the Egerton Papyrus contains fragments of a story that does not appear in any canonical gospel.) At best, they show that some of these ideas were beginning to circulate by the second century CE, which is not in dispute.

    From the 150 A.D. writings of the Gnostic school of Valentinus, most of the books of the N.T. were well known among the people of this sect (cf. Bruce).

    Again, I’m quite happy with the conclusion that the NT gospels became established by the middle of the second century. That falls in line with my position, since then – and only then – do the first unambiguous references to them start to appear, in the writings of evangelists and church fathers like Irenaeus and Justin Martyr. (If anything, I’m being generous to you: Justin Martyr doesn’t specifically name any gospels or even say how many there were. Irenaeus, the first one who does, is later still.)

    Would you really accept that another author “rediscovered” the manuscript, and added the Cyrus annotations to bolster an argument that its audience would know was an obvious fraud and serve to discredit Yahweh? Or must you believe that, because your worldview does not allow you to entertain the possibility of predictive philosophy?

    If there was actual external evidence tying the composition of Isaiah to a particular date, it wouldn’t matter what I wanted to believe. As it is, there are at least two possibilities: Isaiah was written earlier by an author with miraculous prophetic powers; or Isaiah was written later by an author with post hoc knowledge of the events it depicts. Which of those, a priori, seems more likely to you? Which would you consider to be more likely if we were trying to date an analogous passage of any religious text other than the Bible?

    As for me, I don’t invoke the supernatural in preference to the natural unless there is compelling evidence to do so, and you don’t have any evidence like that.

    That may be a scientific way of measuring whether an extraordinary event can occur, but it fails to verify whether any particular historical miracle occurred.

    Precisely! And this is where your case runs smack into the strongest point of Hume’s argument: since this is not something that can be tested in a lab, as you say, all the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is testimonial. As such, it must be weighed against the far larger, stronger, and better-attested body of testimonial evidence which states that people who have been dead for three days do not ever return to life (as well as the smaller, but not insignificant, body of testimonial evidence attesting to comparable miraculous events in other, mutually exclusive religions). Balance these against each other, and it’s no contest. As Hume said so well:

    A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.

    …It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle; nor can such a proof be destroyed, or the miracle rendered credible, but by an opposite proof, which is superior.

    The murder of a historical figure is not comparable to this. Although we can’t reproduce Lincoln’s assassination, we have abundant evidence that people can and do assassinate political leaders. It violates no natural law; it is not an event outside human experience. In short, it is not an extraordinary claim, and requires no extraordinary evidence to believe. Resurrection is and does. Assassination by material means is the sort of claim that our judicial system is well-equipped to handle. Your claim, however, would be analogous to a prosecutor arguing that the alleged killer used telekinesis to give his victim a fatal aneurysm while hundreds of miles away. No evidence supports the possibility of such a thing, and the whole of human experience testifies against it.

  • http://deleted MisterDomino

    If you read a modern-day history of the Civil War that stops before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, do you conclude that the author must have written the book at that time? If you go to a bookstore and pick up a novel set in the eighteenth century, do you automatically assume it was written in the eighteenth century?

    Heh, touché. For some reason, this is an argument that many theists have trouble with, though I can’t imagine why. I mean, was A Tale of Two Cities written during the French Revolution?

    It was written 1859, if you care. ;)

  • Dave Homiak

    And this is where your case runs smack into the strongest point of Hume’s argument: since this is not something that can be tested in a lab, as you say, all the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is testimonial. As such, it must be weighed against the far larger, stronger, and better-attested body of testimonial evidence which states that people who have been dead for three days do not ever return to life (as well as the smaller, but not insignificant, body of testimonial evidence attesting to comparable miraculous events in other, mutually exclusive religions). Balance these against each other, and it’s no contest. As Hume said so well:

    A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.

    …It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle; nor can such a proof be destroyed, or the miracle rendered credible, but by an opposite proof, which is superior

    Since Hume’s argument is apparently fundamental to your reasons for rejecting miracles, let’s take a closer look and see if he has rigged the table in his favor. I hope you will apply the same critical evaluation to Hume’s arguments that you have to Craig’s. Let’s start with the quote above, which smacks of circular reasoning, i.e., since uniform experience amounts to a “proof” against miracles, miracles cannot occur, since, by his definition, miracles are events that contradict uniform experience. For Hume, no miracle is possible, no matter how great the integrity of the witnesses and testimony, unless the falsehood of the testimony would require an even greater miracle! The evidence for miracles can hardly, in Hume’s rigged game, overcome the “firm and unalterable” experience establishing the laws of nature and unreliability of human testimony.

    James Arlandson wrote an article that cites this and other flaws, which have been previously examined by Christian scholars such as C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, and Norman Geisler. I strongly encourage the participants of this forum to read it for balance. I will summarize some of these points here:

    By basing his argument on “uniform experience”, Hume begs the question since he cannot possibly know all human experiences, and engages in the fallacy of special pleading by ignoring the unfavorable evidence of those who have testified to having witnessed miracles.

    Extreme events in economic markets have taught traders that they can no longer base their risk on a normal distribution, but must consider the extreme events that occur in the tails of the empirical distribution. Similarly, a rare, “black swan” occurrence like a miracle should not be discarded since it falls outside the realm of common probability. Hume appears guilty of a consensus gentium fallacy in arguing that something should be believed to be true simply because it is believed by most people.

    Hume’s argument does not prove that miracles have not happened, only that we should not believe them if they occur. It is unfair to say that rare events are untrue, even if there is exceptional evidence is support of the miracle. In the very paragraph following the one quoted in the beginning of this thread, Hume discusses “one of the best attested” miracles,” a healing by Vespasian recorded by the historian Tacitus, whom Hume praises. Yet, after describing all the evidence, Hume concludes “it will appear, that no evidence can well be supposed stronger for so gross and so palpable a falsehood.”

    In considering miracles, there must be an option to judge that they could be possible. Hume argues that human testimony is unreliable because our empirical knowledge is unstable, yet, when it comes to miracles in this same empirical realm, our experience mitigates against them because it is unalterable. Hume seems to recognize this inconsistency in arguing that past experience cannot be used to predict the future. To deny future miracles based on past experience is inconsistent with his own principles.

    If God performs a miracle, then it is no longer a “violation” of the “laws” of nature, since He is the final authority with respect to His creation. Spinoza, more extreme than Hume, is also constrained by his naturalistic understanding: “if anyone asserted that God acts in contravention to the laws of nature, he, ipso facto, would be compelled to assert that God acted against his own nature – an evident absurdity” (Tractatus Theologico- Politicus, Sect. 6). C.S. Lewis explains how nature naturalizes the immigrant or miracle, so it is not a violator, but a welcome guest, which then conforms to the laws: “The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform, but of feeding new events into that pattern.”

    There are more issues mentioned in the article, but I’d like to address Hume’s position in regard to prophecies like Isaiah’s prediction of Cyrus. Hume concludes his treatise with these words:

    What we have said of miracles may be applied, without any variation, to prophecies; and indeed, all prophecies are real miracles,and as such only, can be admitted as proofs of any revelation. If it did not exceed the capacity of nature to foretell future events, it would be absurd to employ any prophecy as an argument for a divine mission or authority from heaven. So that, upon the whole, we may conclude, that the Christian Religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one. Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its veracity: And whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts all the principles of his understanding, and gives him a determination to believe what is most contrary to custom and experience.

    Hume is arguing that Christianity must require the belief in miracles, but such belief should involve an act of faith and not reason. I agree that “mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its veracity,” but do not agree that it “subverts all the principles of his understanding.” While I cannot prove without a doubt that Isaiah’s prophecy was dated before the exile, I can have faith in it because it is contextually consistent with its argument and requires the unreasonable presupposition of deception among a people who were taught to stone false prophets. I submit that the biblical miracles and prophecies are God’s evidence for us to consider rationally with faith, and such miracles make sense within the special revelation we have been given. If only blind faith were necessary, such evidence would not be necessary. Following Christianity involves both faith and reason, as the apostle Paul shows in his carefully reasoned arguments to non-believers (Acts 17) and believers (Romans), tempered by his warnings against relying only on worldly wisdom (I Cor. 1). I like how Clement of Alexandra expressed the reason that is found in faith: “I believe in order that I may know” (credo ut intelligam).

  • goyo

    Mr. Homiak:

    One thing I do know, people in this forum who have done their research don’t have to worry about not having had an opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel.

    You’re right. I actually used to teach it! And I reject it!

    The problem with this unsupported speculation is that Isaiah uses the Cyrus prophecy as an example of why Yahweh is greater than the Caananite false gods and idols that Israel had embraced in their syncretistic religion of the time;

    Listen to what you’re saying: That the creator of the universe, the omnipotent god that can destroy mankind with a single thought, has to prove his power to the nations by ridiculous means such as tribal warfare and magical tricks. That somehow, some prophet somewhere has prophesied that these things will come to pass. Why doesn’t he just appear to everyone all at once and declare himself? Why doesn’t he post his message on the moon? Why even deal with puny humans at all? Where are your miracles today, Dave?
    Chris Angel does everything that jesus supposedly did. And he admits it’s a trick!

  • OMGF

    Mr Homiak,

    By basing his argument on “uniform experience”, Hume begs the question since he cannot possibly know all human experiences, and engages in the fallacy of special pleading by ignoring the unfavorable evidence of those who have testified to having witnessed miracles.

    My reading of that is that the “uniform experience” is the laws of nature. He’s not talking about personal experiences, which would be absurd. Even if you testify that you witnessed a miracle, why should I believe you if what you are claiming violates the physical laws of the universe?

    Hume appears guilty of a consensus gentium fallacy in arguing that something should be believed to be true simply because it is believed by most people.

    I would argue that most people believe in miracles, so he’s probably not actually doing this.

    It is unfair to say that rare events are untrue, even if there is exceptional evidence is support of the miracle.

    We aren’t talking about rare events, but events that violate the laws of the universe. And, I’m not aware of any miracles that have exceptional evidence. Most have some purported eye witnesses that have human brains and therefore are very susceptible to seeing what they want to see and interpreting through their biases. This does not make for very reliable witnesses when considered against the bulk of science and reason.

    If God performs a miracle, then it is no longer a “violation” of the “laws” of nature, since He is the final authority with respect to His creation.

    Sorry, but I disagree. Let’s take Lewis’s example of god creating a sperm cell inside a virgin. This is creation from what? It violates the physical laws since these things do not simply spontaneously create themselves in women. Whether natural law is able to take over from there doesn’t mean that the act itself did not violate natural law. Why do people take Lewis seriously when he writes such horrible stuff?

    I submit that the biblical miracles and prophecies are God’s evidence for us to consider rationally with faith, and such miracles make sense within the special revelation we have been given.

    So, we are to rational consider the evidence that god has given us through irrational means, including violating the natural laws of the universe through miracles and prophecies and not giving us ample evidence for them, but also through some sort of special revelation that is in itself also irrational? Sorry, but that don’t fly. It is not rational to believe in god, because you have to beg the question to even consider the existence of god. You can’t get off the ground without committing logical fallacy, so you can not rationally believe in god.

    If only blind faith were necessary, such evidence would not be necessary.

    Blind faith in the religious sense is the only faith there is in reality. People don’t like that though, since we live in the age of science, and most have a “show me” attitude. Unfortunately, our psychology is such that we can be easily tricked and we pick up most of our attitudes regarding religion when we are most susceptible (during childhood) so we delude ourselves into thinking we have actual proof of god’s existence, which comforts us enough to believe that we are not engaging in blind faith. It’s all a deception, however.

    Following Christianity involves both faith and reason, as the apostle Paul shows in his carefully reasoned arguments to non-believers (Acts 17) and believers (Romans), tempered by his warnings against relying only on worldly wisdom (I Cor. 1).

    Which is rather contradictory. His arguments are based on not following worldly wisdom, but instead follow my beliefs, which you should rationally follow, yet it’s impossible because they are not rational beliefs.

    I like how Clement of Alexandra expressed the reason that is found in faith: “I believe in order that I may know” (credo ut intelligam).

    Which is utter dreck. What he believes has no bearing on the state of the material world around him. No matter what he thinks he believes, it does not mean that it gives him any insight into the world around him nor does it shape the world around him. I’m not surprised that you like the comment, however, in that it seems to express something that you wish were true yourself. That if you believe the prophecies in Isaiah are true hard enough, then they are. Unfortunately for you, this is simply not the case. There are many parts of the Bible that are simply not true, and you can believe really hard that the Bible is grounded in history (or however else you put it) but your act of believing does not make it so.

  • goyo

    Mr. Homiak:

    Re the trinity, God stands outside of time as the First Cause;

    Just think: Because god stands outside of time, all of our puny human history has already happened. He already sees you in heaven or hell.
    He just sits back and plays a game with his creation. And you want to worship this?

    Now, point me to the forum where you discuss how you find meaning in life as a result of an atheistic, materialistic philosophy.

    Why don’t you answer some specific questions posted by the others first, rather than declare victory and move on to another post to conquer. You can’t say what you’ve said, without providing evidence. And so far, you’ve provided none.
    How conceited!

  • Dave Homiak

    goyo, since you say you used to teach the Gospel, i’d be interested in what turned you from it.

    Listen to what you’re saying: That the creator of the universe, the omnipotent god that can destroy mankind with a single thought, has to prove his power to the nations by ridiculous means such as tribal warfare and magical tricks. That somehow, some prophet somewhere has prophesied that these things will come to pass. Why doesn’t he just appear to everyone all at once and declare himself? Why doesn’t he post his message on the moon? Why even deal with puny humans at all? Where are your miracles today, Dave?

    In revealing Himself to the nation of Israel and sending prophets, God was communicating truth to a world that had become corrupted and disobedient. Sure, God could have instantly judged everyone, but he provided the way of faith and demonstration of His power to reach them. Some nations did not respond to this witness, and God chose to judge them then. If you remember the story Jesus told in Luke 16:19-31, you will have your answer why God does not post his message on the moon. Why do you think there aren’t any miracles today?

    Just think: Because god stands outside of time, all of our puny human history has already happened. He already sees you in heaven or hell. He just sits back and plays a game with his creation. And you want to worship this?

    I don’t know the raesons for this bitter caricature, but the capricious entity you describe bears no relation to whom I worship.

    Why don’t you answer some specific questions posted by the others first, rather than declare victory and move on to another post to conquer. You can’t say what you’ve said, without providing evidence. And so far, you’ve provided none.

    I can’t respond to every question; there is one of me and many of you. And I did not mean to imply I was declaring victory, which I sense is impossible in this forum. In good Humean fashion, the arguments for the Cyrus prophecy presented by myself and the article I linked have been dismissed, in the absence of external evidence, because the possibility of predictive prophecy would violate the naturalistic worldview and therefore must have been a deception. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that conclusion.

  • spaceman spif

    goyo, since you say you used to teach the Gospel, i’d be interested in what turned you from it.

    I can’t speak for goyo, but I also used to teach it. I turned from it after spending years looking for more evidence to bolster my faith, and the more I studied the Bible and the history of Christianity and the history of Israel, I instead found more holes in it all. I grew tired of the logical twists and turns I had to use to try to explain how God could be “love” yet kill so many people, and why he would make belief so darn difficult and then turn around and punish those who didn’t believe. That’s a very, very brief version of my story.

    In revealing Himself to the nation of Israel and sending prophets, God was communicating truth to a world that had become corrupted and disobedient. Sure, God could have instantly judged everyone, but he provided the way of faith and demonstration of His power to reach them. Some nations did not respond to this witness, and God chose to judge them then.

    You continue to ignore the point that God left so many civilizations completely in the dark for thousands of years. Yes, we know why Christians believe God worked through the nation of Israel, so you can stop bringing that up. What you need to address is why God *only* focused on the Middle East for thousands of years. The ancient Chinese, the Mayans, the Aztecs, etc, knew nothing. How can they respond to something they had no idea existed?

    Why do you think there aren’t any miracles today?

    Thousands of Sri Lankans will disagree with you.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Dave Homiak,

    If you remember the story Jesus told in Luke 16:19-31, you will have your answer why God does not post his message on the moon. Why do you think there aren’t any miracles today?

    So, basically, you’re convinced by this argument:

    ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

    I disagree. Indeed, I find the smug certainty of this argument entirely unwarranted. It is possible to imagine a world in which miracles, though rare, nevertheless did occur often enough and undisputably enough, with regard to one particular religion, that testimony of a miracle would not be so unlikely as to be unbelieveable. If God were to make a nice big voice come down out of the sky every hundred years or so to remind us all that Jesus really did die for our sins, I guarantee you that nearly everyone on the planet would be Christian. To assert that “Moses and the Prophets” are really so reliable as to make anyone who disagrees with them obviously incapable of listening to any evidence at all is just patently absurd.

    See also The Theist’s Guide to Converting Atheists on Ebonmusings.

  • Dave Homiak

    I grew tired of the logical twists and turns I had to use to try to explain how God could be “love” yet kill so many people, and why he would make belief so darn difficult and then turn around and punish those who didn’t believe.

    I hear you, spaceman spif, but for me (coming to Christ) it was the absurdity of a world of suffering without purpose and the illogic of a naturalistic explanation for creation that started me on the path of faith. I don’t understand why, for example, Richard Dawkins and Alister McGrath, both highly educated Oxford professors and atheists (before McGrath’s conversion), can look at the same evidence and come to opposite conclusions, but I think it hinges on heart attitude rather than intelligence.

    How can they respond to something they had no idea existed?

    This objection has been widely covered, so I expect you have not found the answers acceptable. I would not presume to persuade you then, but my answer is found in a combination of Romans 1 and Hebrews 11:6. I believe that God will reveal what is necessary to those who accept the evidence of general revelation for His existence, and are willing to honestly seek in faith where He will lead them, as Abraham did. I needed to have my pride broken before I could take that journey.

    As a note of clarification, I do believe there are miracles today; I was asking goyo why he appeared to discredit them.

  • OMGF

    Mr. Homiak,

    In revealing Himself to the nation of Israel and sending prophets, God was communicating truth to a world that had become corrupted and disobedient.

    Which must be exactly as god wanted it or else god is not omni-max. So, he punishes us for being exactly as he planned. This is righteous to you?

    If you remember the story Jesus told in Luke 16:19-31, you will have your answer why God does not post his message on the moon.

    Then god is capricious and cruel. He torments one man for being rich and rewards another for being poor, then asserts that the teachings of Moses and the prophets should be enough for all. Well then, how about those that have not received those teachings? How about those, like me, that god knew would not believe in the teachings? If god truly wants us all to be with him in heaven, then he knows that the writing of Moses and the prophets are simply not enough for many people (especially since we’ve learned that they simply didn’t happen through archaeology as I already pointed out). god knows all this, but instead of taking any extra steps out of love, he simply says, “It’s my way or the hell way.”

    I don’t know the raesons for this bitter caricature, but the capricious entity you describe bears no relation to whom I worship.

    Then I suggest you take another look at your Bible. This god of yours killed almost all of the life on this planet and for what? What good came of it? Did he eliminate evil? No. Should he have known that it would not eliminate evil? Yes. So, why did he do it? How can you worship such an evil god? Your problem is that you’ve decided a priori that god is good, and so you disregard any evidence that runs counter to that.

    And I did not mean to imply I was declaring victory, which I sense is impossible in this forum.

    It is not impossible so long as you actually bring logic and good argumentation. We are the rational ones here, and we are open to evidence and logic.

    In good Humean fashion, the arguments for the Cyrus prophecy presented by myself and the article I linked have been dismissed, in the absence of external evidence, because the possibility of predictive prophecy would violate the naturalistic worldview and therefore must have been a deception.

    Bull. The Cyrus prophecy was dismissed because the evidence points to it having been written after the fact. Your “evidence” consists of “I have faith,” which is not an argument at all. The writing style changes, the textural scholars are indicating a later date, and it makes sense in light of everything we know, so why should we except an earlier date that violates both the evidence and common sense? Unless you can bring actual evidence and not episodes of “I believe” or instances of begging the question, then we can talk. Until then, you’ve gotten a fair hearing on this board and it’s insulting for you to continually whine about how unfair us blind, unthinking atheists are, when in reality it is we who actually use reason and logic, not you.

    I hear you, spaceman spif, but for me (coming to Christ) it was the absurdity of a world of suffering without purpose and the illogic of a naturalistic explanation for creation that started me on the path of faith.

    So, you turned to the most illogical, irrational explanation you could find? That makes sense. What makes it more logical to think that some loving god that loves you is the one that created all this suffering for you? Further, how are natural explanations for this universe illogical or irrational? How are they more illogical or irrational than “goddidit”?

    I don’t understand why, for example, Richard Dawkins and Alister McGrath, both highly educated Oxford professors and atheists (before McGrath’s conversion), can look at the same evidence and come to opposite conclusions, but I think it hinges on heart attitude rather than intelligence.

    Yes, and it hinges on people who think that simply because they want something to be true, they can make it so. Please.

    This objection has been widely covered, so I expect you have not found the answers acceptable.

    Actually, I’ve never heard an answer for it beyond, “Well, god knows what is in their hearts.” This answer presupposes that all people who haven’t heard god’s word would never have accepted it anyway, so why try? This coupled with the vile teaching of Xianity that all men are evil and wicked and deserving of hell, and you’ve got quite an uplifting philosophy there.

    I believe that God will reveal what is necessary to those who accept the evidence of general revelation for His existence, and are willing to honestly seek in faith where He will lead them, as Abraham did.

    In other words, “I don’t actually have an answer.” How does one “accept the evidence of general revelation” if one has never seen the scriptures? Tell me honestly, if you were not brought up in a Xian culture/household would you be a Xian today, or do you think you would be some other religion? How do you think god would feel about that? My guess, you’d be on the express train to hell, because your god loves you.

    As a note of clarification, I do believe there are miracles today…

    For instance?

  • Dave Homiak

    OMGF,

    Which must be exactly as god wanted it or else god is not omni-max. So, he punishes us for being exactly as he planned. This is righteous to you?

    If this is really how you understand Christian theology, then please start reading C.S. Lewis.

    How about those, like me, that god knew would not believe in the teachings? If god truly wants us all to be with him in heaven, then he knows that the writing of Moses and the prophets are simply not enough for many people (especially since we’ve learned that they simply didn’t happen through archaeology as I already pointed out). god knows all this, but instead of taking any extra steps out of love, he simply says, “It’s my way or the hell way.”

    According to Hume, you cannot know whether or not you will believe in Christ in the future. I cannot speak for God on things He has not fully revealed, but I ask you to consider this: God sent many major and minor prophets to Judah and Israel prior to their exiles to plead with them to repent from their stubborn, prideful, and idolatrous ways, yet they still did not listen. God does not force us to listen; truth cannot be forced upon us. I think God has reached out to us more than we deserve with the incarnation. He has taken the extra steps.

    This god of yours killed almost all of the life on this planet and for what? What good came of it? Did he eliminate evil? No. Should he have known that it would not eliminate evil? Yes. So, why did he do it? How can you worship such an evil god? Your problem is that you’ve decided a priori that god is good, and so you disregard any evidence that runs counter to that.

    On what rational basis do you decree what is good and what is evil? If God exists, He defines absolute morality; I don’t get to decide what is good or bad. If He does not exist, then your morality is based on your personal opinion, the opinion of others, or perhaps majority vote of society, and is likely relativistic and situational. Since God has the 30,000′ view and we see through a glass darkly, you need to ask God those questions yourself. I am not interested in debating the philosophical question of whether this is the best of all possible worlds.

    The Cyrus prophecy was dismissed because the evidence points to it having been written after the fact. Your “evidence” consists of “I have faith,” which is not an argument at all. The writing style changes, the textural scholars are indicating a later date, and it makes sense in light of everything we know, so why should we except an earlier date that violates both the evidence and common sense? Unless you can bring actual evidence and not episodes of “I believe” or instances of begging the question, then we can talk. Until then, you’ve gotten a fair hearing on this board and it’s insulting for you to continually whine about how unfair us blind, unthinking atheists are, when in reality it is we who actually use reason and logic, not you.

    Despite your monopoly on reason and logic, I presented arguments that were not based on faith, and cited an article, which I wonder if you even read. Let’s examine your evidence. A change in tone or style in no way requires the addition of another author; Isaiah is changing emphasis from judgment cycles to declarations of God’s restoration plans, so it makes sense that the style would change. Your textual critics for the most part have admitted their presupposition that predictive prophecy is impossible, so it is hardly surprising that they attempt to justify a later author. Other scholars have textually supported single authorship, so you have selectively ignored evidence contrary to your position. It means nothing to say a miraclous prediction does not make sense in light of everything we know. By Occam’s razor, common sense supports one author rather than the invention of another, for
    which there is absolutely no external evidence.

    Let me summarize the evidence cited in the article for single authorship. If the five or so references to Cyrus and Babylon in chapters 40-66 were removed, there would be no difficulty in assigning the text to the Palestinian period. Some critics claim the Hebrew radicals were changed or confused in the Cyrus notations of 44:28 & 45:1, but this does not explain the surrounding context that contains descriptions that match Cyrus without naming him. Other critics claim the names are an interpolation or gloss added to the text, but the context best argues for the inclusion of the name and for a distant future. Adding this specific prediction post-exile would undermine the surrounding argument for Yahweh’s superiority to idols due to his ability to predict the future, and it seems likely that a second author would have added more references to the Babylonian period beyond the half-dozen given if writing from a later period. If the possibility of predictive prophecy is not summarily excluded, then the article concludes that:

    The only conclusion which seems appropriate for one who reverences the text of Scripture is to assume that the reading of Cyrus in the text is the only acceptable reading. Further, it is certain that the simpler understanding of the text is that Isaiah did, indeed, write the name of Cyrus. Any other interpretation of the text must struggle against the overwhelming evidence of the context.

    A fair hearing? Convince me with specific textual arguments rather than hand-waving that I should not accept the article’s conclusion.

    What makes it more logical to think that some loving god that loves you is the one that created all this suffering for you? Further, how are natural explanations for this universe illogical or irrational? How are they more illogical or irrational than “goddidit”?

    Christianity gives me a systematic framework to understand the origin of the universe, of life, and of evil; it was Christ, not Darwin, that transformed my life. Philosophically, I find the existence of a supreme being and first cause to be less illogical than believing life and consciousness arose from matter, that the laws of nature came about without a lawgiver, and that the universe began with no impetus from a nucleus of material that happened to come from, excuse me, God knows where. That’s my opinion, not evidence.

    Actually, I’ve never heard an answer for it beyond, “Well, god knows what is in their hearts.” This answer presupposes that all people who haven’t heard god’s word would never have accepted it anyway, so why try?

    Well, you’ve heard my answer, which goes beyond it. As I said, I believe God will reveal what is necessary to those seeking Him in faith, but they must still make a choice, like Abraham did.

    How does one “accept the evidence of general revelation” if one has never seen the scriptures? Tell me honestly, if you were not brought up in a Xian culture/household would you be a Xian today, or do you think you would be some other religion?

    The Scriptures are special revelation; general revelation is what is common to all men from observing creation. I was not raised in a Christian home, but was involved with a Christian cult for awhile before embracing Camus’ philosophy, and later trusting in Christ. I know Dawkins makes the argument that where you are born determines your religion, and cultural influences are certainly powerful, but I accept Hebrews 11:6 that believing God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him will lead us on the path to truth.

    Regarding contemporary miracles, see for example:
    http://www.jesusfilm.org/progress/special.html?type=regular&id=346
    http://www.jesusfilm.org/progress/special.html?type=regular&id=345

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dave,

    If this is really how you understand Christian theology, then please start reading C.S. Lewis.

    How about the bible; it seems like that would have a pretty good grasp on Christian Theology. The bible says god is all powerful and all knowing and beyond time. So, according to your belief structure, he should know my every action before I do it and be able to change that according to a whim with no effort whatsoever. He should know exactly what it would take for me to believe and it shouldn’t be any hard work for him to convince me.

    But here’s a question for you: According to your belief, how did any other religions come into being? If it all started with two people in direct contact with god (adam and eve), and also restarted with a family who had direct contact with god (Noah), how did the message get lost anywhere along the line? Why is the flood not written in all our history books? Why is there not any evidence of it? How could different beliefs arise? Did some people just leave out the “oh yeah, and this is what god is like and what he wants”? How do you propose any, let alone all, the different religions sprung up that worship their god(s) in entirely different fashions?

    God sent many major and minor prophets to Judah and Israel prior to their exiles to plead with them to repent from their stubborn, prideful, and idolatrous ways, yet they still did not listen. God does not force us to listen; truth cannot be forced upon us. I think God has reached out to us more than we deserve with the incarnation. He has taken the extra steps.

    God doesn’t force us to listen? You’re right there, but I’d go even further to “God never attempts to communicate to me himself, and if he exists and his message is that important, he can tell me himself; after all, he never seems to have any trouble talking to those prophets”.
    The problem here is that it’s not god talking to me, it’s people talking to me, saying they heard on their walkie talkie with god. Whether anyone is on the end of that line is an open question, but I have no reason to believe there is, and many to not.

    If God exists, He defines absolute morality;

    Says who? More importantly, would god define absolute morality because he always acts morally or because he’d be the strongest strong man and no one could do much about it?

    Christianity gives me a systematic framework to understand the origin of the universe, of life, and of evil; it was Christ, not Darwin, that transformed my life. Philosophically, I find the existence of a supreme being and first cause to be less illogical than believing life and consciousness arose from matter, that the laws of nature came about without a lawgiver, and that the universe began with no impetus from a nucleus of material that happened to come from, excuse me, God knows where. That’s my opinion, not evidence.

    It’s cool that getting down with Jesus totally changed your life, but as you seem to understand evidenced by your last statement there, that doesn’t make it true. Same way people believing in Feng Shui doesn’t make it any less of a crock.
    So you find it illogical that life, which is made of fundamental particles common to every part of our galaxy interacting, can arise on it’s own.
    Why then, do you find it logical to think that a creator (who already fufills that pre-requisite of being alive, that you have such a hard time believing can just happen) who is infinitely vaster, creative, intelligent, moral, all knowing, etc, can just happen without any cause itself?. All you’re doing is adding a new layer to the puzzle that’s even bigger and more complicated than the one below it even though it suffers from exactly the same problems you have trouble understanding with the layer below.
    If life can’t just happen, then how come god (who is also alive, among other things) just happen?
    Did you ever consider the idea that something(s) existed that were precursors to life (with DNA), but once life came around it was simply better at self-replicating and replaced it’s forerunners?
    Yes, at some point, many points as a matter of fact, you’re going to run into things that our minds weren’t ever evolved to understand. But by adding god, not only do you NOT sidestep the problem, you just make it bigger.

    I know Dawkins makes the argument that where you are born determines your religion, and cultural influences are certainly powerful, but I accept Hebrews 11:6 that believing God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him will lead us on the path to truth.

    Again, just because you believe something doesn’t make it true.

    After watching “JESUS,” Ram asked the team what he needed to do so that Jesus would heal his son: “Should I sacrifice a goat or hen to Him?” “No, Ram. All you need do is receive His salvation, personally, by faith—nothing more.” Both Ram and Hari gladly prayed to receive Christ. The team gave them and others in the village audiocassettes of “JESUS,” New Testaments and Bibles.

    About 25 days later, the film team returned to the area. They found Hari. The boy was hearing and speaking! At a subsequent outreach meeting, the team acknowledged and praised God for the miracle—so did Ram. When others saw God’s power, eight more people indicated decisions for Christ and, along with Ram and Hari, now attend a local church. Pray for their safety, and for boldness in witnessing.

    So if that works, as the site claims, it should be able to be recreated. Care to venture how many observed miracle healings there have been in the field of science?
    Care to venture a guess (getting back to the original topic) how many other religions have/do claim the exact same things, with entirely different beliefs?

    Got any explaination for those?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    A reply to Dave’s earlier comment:

    Let’s start with the quote above, which smacks of circular reasoning, i.e., since uniform experience amounts to a “proof” against miracles, miracles cannot occur, since, by his definition, miracles are events that contradict uniform experience.

    Incorrect. Hume explains clearly under what circumstances he would accept the occurrence of a miracle:

    The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), “That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish.”

    He also gives a hypothetical example of something that might qualify:

    Thus, suppose all authors, in all languages, agree, that, from the first of January 1600, there was a total darkness over the whole earth for eight days: suppose that the tradition of this extraordinary event is still strong and lively among the people: that all travellers, who return from foreign countries, bring us accounts of the same tradition, without the least variation or contradiction: it is evident, that our present philosophers, instead of doubting the fact, ought to receive it as certain, and ought to search for the causes whence it might be derived.

    And, as I’ve said, I would extend this argument in a different way. The principles of scientific enquiry were rudimentary in Hume’s time, but now they are well-known and their effectiveness is solidly established. As I’ve said, if any miracle could be studied and consistently replicated under controlled, scientific conditions, that would be firm proof of its occurrence that would overrule the less reliable category of anecdotal testimony.

    While I cannot prove without a doubt that Isaiah’s prophecy was dated before the exile, I can have faith in it because it is contextually consistent with its argument and requires the unreasonable presupposition of deception among a people who were taught to stone false prophets.

    Again, your certainty that the Jews would not accept a new book of the Bible under any circumstances is fatally undermined by the fact that, according to the Bible itself, this is precisely how they reacted to the previously unknown “book of the law” – probably Deuteronomy – which Hilkiah and Josiah supposedly “rediscovered” during renovations to the temple. This occurred even in spite of the fact that the book strongly supported the very program of religious reforms Josiah had wanted to carry out, a coincidence which should make any reasonable observer suspicious.

  • heliobates

    About 25 days later, the film team returned to the area. They found Hari. The boy was hearing and speaking!

    Meh! I’d be more impressed if an amputee found Jesus and had a limb regrown. Un-diagnosed psycho/physical problems which magically “heal” themselves don’t impress me much.

  • heliobates

    From Dave’s second link:

    Two weeks later he returned. He unlocked the door, expecting to be hit by the stench of death. Instead, he was greeted by his wife and daughter, both standing before him, with joy on their faces. He was incredulous. How could this be? They explained, “You meant to kill us, but Jesus saved us. Every day a hand has appeared giving us food and water. Sometimes it came through the door. Other times the hand appeared through a window. Sometimes it came down through the roof.”

    The scholar scoffed and refused to believe. Suddenly, the hand appeared and offered him food and water as well. Severely shaken, he immediately went to a local Christian pastor in the community and told him what had happened. The pastor shared the gospel with him. He became convinced that Jesus was the true God, and he prayed to receive Christ.

    This is the standard of evidence you’ve conditioned yourself to accept, Dave?

  • OMGF

    Mr. Homiak,

    If this is really how you understand Christian theology, then please start reading C.S. Lewis.

    Actually, it’s straight up logic. If god is omni-max, then everything that happens must be according to his plan/design. This is logical. Therefore, all our “sins” are according to his plan, and when he punishes us, it is according to his plan. Therefore, god planned to punish the majority of us in hell. Still want to argue that god is omni-benevolent?

    According to Hume, you cannot know whether or not you will believe in Christ in the future.

    Ah, but I do know that there are some who have gone to the grave not believing in Jesus. So, obviously god does not reveal himself to all.

    I think God has reached out to us more than we deserve with the incarnation. He has taken the extra steps.

    If that were the case then all people would believe. god knows what each of us would need in order to be convinced, and god does not do these things. Instead, he drew a line in the sand and said, “I know that only X people will believe that which I have done and all the others will simply go to hell.” There is no wiggle room here, unless you wish to jettison the idea that god is omni-max. So, how about it? Is god omni-max, or is he not perfect?

    On what rational basis do you decree what is good and what is evil?

    The same way that other people have done throughout history. That which leads to more suffering is evil, that which leads to less suffering is good. That god would wipe out almost all the life on this Earth instead of changing people’s hearts leads to more suffering (especially if all those people went to hell). And, we know for a fact that it didn’t lead to more good, because evil still exists, even though he said he wiped them all out because he was trying to wipe out evil.

    If God exists, He defines absolute morality; I don’t get to decide what is good or bad.

    And hence you run right smack into Euthyphro’s dilemma. Is it good because god decrees it (so rape and torture would become good if god decreed such) or is it absolutely good and god is just the messenger? Take your time before you answer, considering no one has been able to give a good answer to this for thousands of years.

    Despite your monopoly on reason and logic, I presented arguments that were not based on faith, and cited an article, which I wonder if you even read.

    I have read your article, and I call shenanigans with your assertion that the arguments are not based on faith. The author admits that textual scholars agree that the chapters in question were not written by Isaiah, then goes on to insist they were because god has prophetic powers, as well as a couple other lame reasons, like that Jesus thought the author was Isaiah, which isn’t a compelling argument (I can explain why if you can’t figure it out).

    A change in tone or style in no way requires the addition of another author; Isaiah is changing emphasis from judgment cycles to declarations of God’s restoration plans, so it makes sense that the style would change.

    Well, the best textual critics disagree with you, so take it up with them.

    Your textual critics for the most part have admitted their presupposition that predictive prophecy is impossible, so it is hardly surprising that they attempt to justify a later author.

    Where did they do that? Your author claims that, but there’s a lot more to textual criticism than looking for the supernatural part and then insisting that it must be changed. I suggest you read Bart Ehrman’s book “Misquoting Jesus.” Although it doesn’t deal with Isaiah, it will give you a primer on how textual scholars go about their business.

    Other scholars have textually supported single authorship, so you have selectively ignored evidence contrary to your position.

    Previous scholars that believed in the authenticity of the scriptures? Sure, but so what? The latest evidence leads us away from that interpretation. Textual criticism uses a more scientific approach than it used to, where new evidence leads to new understandings and we revise what we know through it. Pointing to old conclusions that didn’t have the benefit of the new knowledge is like pointing to the theories of ether.

    By Occam’s razor, common sense supports one author rather than the invention of another, for which there is absolutely no external evidence.

    Only if you don’t understand how to apply Occam’s Razor. All things being equal, the simpler explanation is generally the right one. In this, we have one author with a layer of god and prophecy that defies natural law and therefore is very complicated, or we have multiple authors which simplifies the god layer and the natural law layer, as well as the physical evidence that the writings are stylistically different, which is the physical evidence. Occam actually points to multiple authors in this case.

    If the five or so references to Cyrus and Babylon in chapters 40-66 were removed, there would be no difficulty in assigning the text to the Palestinian period.

    IOW, you accept that the writing can easily be ascribed to the later period, but you think that the highly improbable inclusion of miracle prophecy makes the problem writing more likely to be earlier? Did I read that right? Are you serious?

    Adding this specific prediction post-exile would undermine the surrounding argument for Yahweh’s superiority to idols due to his ability to predict the future, and it seems likely that a second author would have added more references to the Babylonian period beyond the half-dozen given if writing from a later period.

    Nice job of begging the question. And, what do I care about Yahweh’s superiority?

    The only conclusion which seems appropriate for one who reverences the text of Scripture is to assume that the reading of Cyrus in the text is the only acceptable reading.

    Yes, the only acceptable conclusion for one who believes the text is the word of god is that the text was written by one author. Too bad this is not at all compelling, since it assumes that god exists, that god authored or inspired the text, and requires one to believe in god and the scripture. I thought you claimed the evidence was not faith based! Were you lying or were you simply mistaken? If the former, how does Jesus feel about your lies? If the latter, did you actually read the article that you are pushing? If you did read it, how could you have possibly missed this?

    A fair hearing? Convince me with specific textual arguments rather than hand-waving that I should not accept the article’s conclusion.

    It sounds like you know the arguments (some of them anyway) and you don’t care, because you believe. The vast majority of textual critics agree that Isaiah did not write those chapters. Do you really think that all of them are anti-Xian and are only saying that because they want to disprove god?

    Christianity gives me a systematic framework to understand the origin of the universe, of life, and of evil…

    Oh yeah, and what is that systematic framework? That some illogical, irrational god that is beyond all our understanding (and was created or something how?) somehow created the universe ex nihilo for some purpose to send some people to hell and have others go to heaven, because he wants us in heaven, but he couldn’t figure out how to just create us in heaven, instead putting us through the test of this world even though he knows how we will do before we even do it, thus obviating the need to test us at all, and he sent us Jesus to die as a sacrifice in order to allow himself to forgive us from himself for doing exactly what he knew we would do when he created us to do that? Have I left anything out?

    Philosophically, I find the existence of a supreme being and first cause to be less illogical than believing life and consciousness arose from matter, that the laws of nature came about without a lawgiver, and that the universe began with no impetus from a nucleus of material that happened to come from, excuse me, God knows where.

    And you would be wrong that it is less illogical than to not include the god layer, which violates Occam’s Razor. What you are doing here is a god of the gaps argument, or argument from incredulity. You don’t understand how the universe came to be, so you default to some other, even more improbable idea and say, “Viola.” Yet, this is fallacious as all god of the gaps reasoning is.

    Well, you’ve heard my answer, which goes beyond it. As I said, I believe God will reveal what is necessary to those seeking Him in faith, but they must still make a choice, like Abraham did.

    And yet, some people never become Xians. Is it because they chose not to follow the Xian god even though they knew he existed and would send them to hell, or is it because god didn’t do whatever it is they needed in order to believe? What about those who deconvert from Xianity? Don’t they seek god and find nothing there? Most of the atheists on this board started as Xians and obviously didn’t find god.

    The Scriptures are special revelation; general revelation is what is common to all men from observing creation.

    And yet, it’s not at all intuitive that someone would proclaim that god created the universe and everything in it simply by looking at it, especially if one had never been told of god.

    …I accept Hebrews 11:6 that believing God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him will lead us on the path to truth.

    And yet, this is obviously false by the fact that many of the people on here sought out god with all their hearts and found nothing and finally became atheists.

  • goyo

    Mr. Homiak:

    goyo, since you say you used to teach the Gospel, i’d be interested in what turned you from it.

    Ditto Spaceman. I studied and taught the different theories of the atonement until I finally realized how much I was fooling myself, and in turn, fooling others. I was in the same boat you’re in, trying to interpret scripture to fit my preconceived ideas of what it was supposed to say. I was having so many doubts about xtianity and all other religions. Then, I re-read Cosmos by Carl Sagan, where he explained how primitive man believed that we were basically puppets on a string controlled by capricious deities. That hit me like a ton of bricks!

    Dave, the ultimate proof that there is no god, is that your life is no different than mine.

    I know, the old standby, “the rain falls on the just and the unjust”. But if that’s so then , what’s the use?
    Use your analytical brain and admit that you have doubts also. That you also know there are contradictions in the bible that you can’t explain. Stop reading what other people say about the bible, and do what OMGF suggested. Just read the bible.
    You know in your heart of hearts that as science continues to explain the mysteries of the universe and technology continues to expand, god continues shrinking.
    What will you do?

  • Dave Homiak

    Thanks again for your responses. Due to the number of comments, I’ll skip quoting and address as many points by some of you as I have time:

    Mrnaglfar,
    Reading the Bible is ideal, but there seems to be a shortage of patience for understanding the Scriptures in their context objectively. Jesus spoke in parables so those who were willing to hear would understand, but those who were invested in justifying their own views, like the Pharisees, would not. God has always dealt with man via faith, and, if you have rejected what evidence He has given you thus far, then He will leave you to your desires. Other religions began, and even Christianity became fragmented, because of fallen manking following its own will instead of what God had revealed. There are flood stories in various cultures; there are graveyards, such as caves in France and Malta, where ungnawed bones of disparate land and sea animals are mixed together chaotically at the same strata, and the Turkish government is preventing exploration for the remains of a large structure reported on Mt. Ararat. God defines morality, because he is the Creator and sets the rules based on His character. As the First Cause, nothing can cause God to exist; He hasn’t revealed how He has always existed, but I can still function by what He has revealed, the same way your lack of an explanation for the origin of the universe does not prevent you from going about your daily business. And just because you believe Science has proven something doesn’t make it true either; there are continual paradigm shifts that cause theories to be discarded. God is not like David Copperfield, miraculous events will not be performed like magic tricks, and historical events are not subject to the scientific method; Jesus responded to requests for signs – go read what He said.

    Ebonmuse,
    You’ll note that I mentioned Hume’s allowance about testimony being a greater miracle in my post, but he still will not allow a miracle to be a foundation for a religion by his own criteria that are circular. The resurrection of Christ is reported as having significant testimony by Luke (Acts 1:1-3) and Paul (1 Cor. 15:3-8), and even atheist Bertrand Russel finds Hume unreasonable in his analysis of miracles (cf. Dr. John Lennox’s discussion at http://www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=59). See my comment above on replicating historical miracles as a scientific experiment. The situations of Josiah’s reign and the hypothetical second Isaiah are similar in that the evidence does not appear to point to a late Deuteronomy either; please see http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=980. Your perspective takes a low view of the reverence faithful Jews had for handling the Word of Yahweh.

    heliobates,
    That miracle is an example I was able to find reported by a credible organization, and gives testimony to a supernatural event before three eyewitnesses, leading to the conversion of a skeptical scholar. Overall, I’d say that’s not bad evidence, and the scholar can probably be tracked down for further testimony. It appears your presuppositions prevent you from accepting its possibility, prior to further investigation. Miracles of this nature appear more common in third-world areas, where the Scriptures are not easily available.

    OMGF,
    God foreknew our sin, but our free will is the cause of it; this is a subject that does not lend itself to brief exchanges, and is off-topic, so please refer to the book by Feinberg that I previously referenced. How do you know all people with free will would believe, short of God forcing them to? The contention of the Bible is that God desires all to repent, but the truth is many people choose to refuse to accept the exclusive way He provided in believing by faith in Christ, whose sacrifice was necessary to cover our transgressions. Perhaps my posts in this forum are God’s way of further attempting to reach you, but, even if my arguments were perfect without further external evidence, would you be willing to give up your naturalistic worldview? Funny, it seems many societies have justified as a good thing (for them) the conquering of others and causing their enemies much suffering. Stalin believed that suffering by some was necessary for the greater good of the State. Without an absolute standard, can you claim your morality is superior to their’s? I’ll have to read up on Euthyphro’s dilemma. Your analysis of Occam’s razor could be fine if we were talking about an issue of Good Housekeeping, but this is a book written by a man claiming to be a prophet of God, containing predictive prophecy and arguments fully compatible with other examples in the O.T., from a race that had been entrusted with the accurate transmission of God’s revelation. Would you be willing to enumerate the critical textual experts who do not hold this bias against predictive prophecy? No, you did not read my point correctly; by Palestinian period, I mean the earlier period prior to the Babylonian captivity. There are only a few references relating to the later period of exile to Babylonia, and they are the predictive parts – if removed, there is little reason to date Isaiah 40-66 to the later Babylonian period. You don’t care about Yahweh’s superiority, yet, if He exists, you want Him to convince you beyond a doubt? That’s a rather arrogant position to hold before the Creator of the universe, who has told you what you need do in Hebrews 11:6 and the Gospel of John. The quote is from the article’s conclusion; I enumerated several arguments based on the context of the style change and arguments, and then more from the article itself. Your caricatures of Christian theology are not amusing, and compare well with the caricatures of evolution that atheists claim creationists use. I don’t thinkOccam’s razor is
    properly applied to the origin of the universe, because there is no simple view available. I suspect most people who do not accept Christ prefer to follow their own will rather than God’s. Based on Romans 1, Paul is saying that there is enough evidence of God in creation to get people started; unfortunately, many have turned to worshipping the creation instead of the Creator. I am saddened that many in this forum did not find truth in God, but I can only relate what God has revealed in His Word.

    goyo,
    We are all human and have doubts. Some of you may be interested in the short book by the minor prophet Habakkuk, to read how God’s own prophet questioned God’s actions regarding the Babylonian captivity and how God replied. The key verse is 2:4: “the righteous shall live by faith.” Ancient rabbis claimed all of Moses’ 613 commandments were reduced to one in this verse, and it goes to the heart of the issue here. If you come to God asking for scientific proof, you are not going to get anywhere. Humility is necessary. Our lives may look the same on the surface, with similar circumstances, achievements, and failures, but it is what we believe that matters. Frankly, almost all of the supposed contradictions I have seen have been resolved by understanding the context or cultural practices; cf. the New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason L. Archer., and various books by Norman Geisler. Just the opposite, I find scientific progress equally leading us toward God, e.g., the elegance and complexity of the 3.1 billion letters of the human genome. I’ll also offer, tongue-in-cheek, that past famous atheist Antony Flew now believes there is scientific evidence for a supreme being. Remember that scientific enquiry was substantially begun by Christian scientists, who expected to find order and reason in creation due to the design of a Creator.

  • Eric

    Dave Homiak said:

    “And just because you believe Science has proven something doesn’t make it true either”

    Well, that pretty much tells me all I need to know from Mr. Homiak.

    I guess all those vaccinations I got as a child where all for not. I heard recently too, that the Laws of Gravity were going to be repealed because Kansas doesn’t believe it to be true. And all this cell phone technology and computer internet nonsense isn’t real, so prepare for a black out tomorrow.

  • heliobates

    Dave:

    You persist in your special pleading for Christianity, as if the miracles claimed by its believers are authentic because people say they believe that these events occurred. The problem is, as you present above, this testimony is accepted uncritically because of your presuppositions, and those of fellow believers.

    Further, the problem isn’t the ability to recreate a miracle in a laboratory, although the damning fact that miracle cures occur at a rate below chance doesn’t help you with your empirical claims. No, the problem is that you’re making empirical claims (“this happened”) but you don’t want to have to follow the “rules” which validate your claims empirically.

    So what if I do track this scholar down? What if I speak with him and he sincerely relates the events of his conversion to me? Why should I believe that the events took place as he described them? Note that even in the retelling of this event, the pastor learned of it from the scholar, not from the scholar, his wife and daughter. You don’t have three eyewitness accounts, you have one, at best, and that’s if we consider the pastor to be credible (I’m not even prepared to concede that yet—on the basis of responsible scholarship, if nothing else).

    Well then I’ll decide to be generous and pretend that all three did speak to the pastor. Now this story, taking place in a heavily patriarchal part of the world, could not possibly have been related by the scholar alone, while his wife and daughter were present but obediently silent? Let’s say it went down that way: a Christian would still claim that because Mrs. and Miss nodded that they agreed with the story—not that they were separately interviewed by individuals who had made an attempt to establish their objectivity prior to collecting the testimony—they were therefore credible witnesses. Even if the wife and daughter did speak up, can we corroborate their story in any way? Did the scholar in fact take this trip? How do we know?

    Had the “credible organization” given even a nod to objectivity, this account might be a tiny bit more problematic. Instead, a pastor, with certain obvious predispositions, tells a story about three people which corresponds neatly to his predispositions, and suddenly you present it as the testimony of three eyewitnesses to a miracle. You Christians do this shit all the time. You never admit that human beings exaggerate, lie, confabulate, hallucinate or just plain get stuff wrong. Or if you do acknowledge this, you make no attempt to demonstrate that it could be happening in this case.

    Miracles of this nature appear more common in third-world areas, where the Scriptures are not easily available.

    That is a masterpiece of rationalization. To say that it’s my presuppositions that are problematic is disengenuous and stupid, Dave.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dave,

    Your entire ‘point’, if you want to call it that, reminds me of a little story. Call it a parable for your faith.

    One night, a man walking home sees another searching the ground under a street light. The first man stops to ask the second one what he’s look for, and gets the response
    “Oh, I dropped my keys about 3 blocks back”.
    When the first man asks why he isn’t searching in the place where the second felt he dropped his keys he was told
    “because the light’s better over here”.

    And now to the reponse:

    Other religions began, and even Christianity became fragmented, because of fallen manking following its own will instead of what God had revealed.

    Well that really doesn’t answer the question at all; I’m not sure what part of ‘mankind’s’ will involves worshipping mutlitple deities with animal features or spirits, or human sacrifice, or whatever superstition you want to talk about.

    You know, it seems to me that all the people in the bible who followed god had, I don’t know, more than a little evidence. Either through being a first name basis with god and talking to him regularly, or perhaps through lepers and blind people getting suddendly and miraclously healed by the truckload. Why do you suppose there has been a distinct lack of anything considered even statistically unlikely, much less miraclous, in the modern day and age?

    Now I know Im not going to get a level answer to this because you either don’t have one or will try to simply brush the question aside. I’m not asking for my benefit; I’m asking for yours (and because it’s always fun).

    There are flood stories in various cultures

    and still approximately dick in the way of any evidence of a global flood.

    As the First Cause, nothing can cause God to exist; He hasn’t revealed how He has always existed, but I can still function by what He has revealed, the same way your lack of an explanation for the origin of the universe does not prevent you from going about your daily business.

    Why do you have such certainty that god doesn’t need a cause, but simple forms of life, or even simple self-replicating non-life, need one that so much more incredibly vast and overarching?
    If he hasn’t revealed this knowledge to you (and I can’t imagine why that hasn’t happened yet), how can you even say god wouldn’t need a first cause? You don’t know that.

    And just because you believe Science has proven something doesn’t make it true either; there are continual paradigm shifts that cause theories to be discarded.

    I never said science was written in stone and always right about everything. Indeed, science depends on being constantly undated as we get new information because that’s how science works. It means or understandings are getting better. Faith, however, is the polar opposite of that; you have already predesided on your conclusion and now try to force everything into it.

    Now, if you have any scientific theories you’d like to present evidence against, I’d be happy to hear what you have to say. Just make sure it’s evidence, and not more bible quotes.

    God is not like David Copperfield, miraculous events will not be performed like magic tricks, and historical events are not subject to the scientific method; Jesus responded to requests for signs

    How do you know god isn’t like Mr.Copperfield – you have no direct knowledge, so for all you know David Copperfield could actually be god. I don’t see why miracles couldn’t be performed consistently, or on request; it would certainly stop people in the billions from going to hell. But hey, I guess then god wouldn’t be just, or people are fallen, or someting like that right?

    I’ll let the others respond to their own bits.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dave,

    One more thing I just realized;Sorry OMGF, but I gotta take this one.

    Perhaps my posts in this forum are God’s way of further attempting to reach you,

    You don’t care about Yahweh’s superiority, yet, if He exists, you want Him to convince you beyond a doubt? That’s a rather arrogant position to hold before the Creator of the universe, who has told you what you need do in Hebrews 11:6 and the Gospel of John.

    See the post “The Aura of Infallibility”.

    Also, Dave, you have yet to even try and answer for the miracle claims of other religions. I’d still like to here about how that happens because man is fallen. Maybe god can speak through you again.

  • heliobates

    Reading the Bible is ideal, but there seems to be a shortage of patience for understanding the Scriptures in their context objectively.

    Objectively most of the Old Testament didn’t happen. At least, it didn’t happen the way in which bibilical authors said it did. For example, the Exodus could not and did not happen. Sinai and Canaan were both part of the Egyptian empire at the time and actively patrolled. None of the known history of Egypt and the near East corroborates this story in any way, never mind the logistical impossibility of 600,000 people surviving in a desert with only bronze age technological support.

    The conquest of Canaan didn’t happen. At the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, many near East civilizations declined or collapsed. One reason for this general collapse was an invasion of coastal tribes so the invaders who torched Canaanite cities were probably Philistines or related Phonecian tribes. All of the “proto-Israelite” settlements from around the 12th Century B.C.E., in what would eventually become Israel and Judah were so similar to surrounding Canaanite rural settlements that there is no evidence to support the contention that the Israelites arrived in the area from somewhere else. They were indigenous Canaanite tribes who began to go their own way in the 12th Century BCE. So much for the 12 tribes of Israel (whose names are mostly geographically derived, hmmm!). Judah didn’t even exist before David’s time.

    There’s more, but Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, as well as Raphael Patai and Donald Redford got paid to research all of this stuff and I’m not paid to retype it.

    Whatever the bible tells you to believe, the archaeological evidence does not support the continuous existence of a chosen people from the Bronze Age until the time of Augustus Caesar. Instead the Old Testament begins with a collection of legends that a 7th century B.C.E. Israelite nation was telling itself in order to forge a sense of cultural and ethnic identity in the face of an impending Babylonian invasion. They “retconned” their monotheism in order to elevate their tribal god above the rest of the semitic pantheon.

    Diacritical marks bedamned! In this context, should we seriously consider assertions that the Bible is a coherent document whose purpose is to reveal God’s truth?

  • lpetrich

    DH: Reading the Bible is ideal, but there seems to be a shortage of patience for understanding the Scriptures in their context objectively.
    Which is what we try to do, however much you dislike the results of our doing so.

    DH: Jesus spoke in parables so those who were willing to hear would understand, …
    So he HID his message by expressing it in obscure fashion rather than try to make it as clear as possible?

    DH: God has always dealt with man via faith,
    What gives you that idea? It seems like a very dorky sort of god who prefers blind faith to reason and understanding.

    DH: Other religions began, and even Christianity became fragmented, because of fallen manking following its own will instead of what God had revealed.
    A very misanthropic comment. Are we really that evil?

    DH: There are flood stories in various cultures;
    And many rivers have floods.

    DH: there are graveyards, such as caves in France and Malta, where ungnawed bones of disparate land and sea animals are mixed together chaotically at the same strata,
    Where in particular? And are fossilized former swamps a real mystery?

    DH: historical events are not subject to the scientific method;
    There are historical sciences.

    DH: Jesus responded to requests for signs – go read what He said.
    A classic charlatan’s response; he acted like he had something to hide.

    (lots of Bible-thumping snipped…)
    You ought to realize that we don’t give the Bible any privileged status. We think that the story of Jesus Christ being the son of a god and a virgin is as fictional as the story of Romulus and Remus being sons of a god and a virgin.

    DH: I find scientific progress equally leading us toward God, e.g., the elegance and complexity of the 3.1 billion letters of the human genome.
    Except that comparisons to other species’ genomes have been VERY helpful in understanding it and its origins. The evolution of life gets clearer and clearer as we go.

    DH: I’ll also offer, tongue-in-cheek, that past famous atheist Antony Flew now believes there is scientific evidence for a supreme being.
    He wasn’t exactly very famous, and he believes in a mostly-absent deist god.

    DH: Remember that scientific enquiry was substantially begun by Christian scientists, who expected to find order and reason in creation due to the design of a Creator.
    A rewrite of history. Greco-Roman pagan philosophers were the real originators of science; Europeans only got interested in science again only after rediscovering the ancients’ work — a millennium later.

    Furthermore, you Xians like to jump between whichever conceptions of your god are expedient at the moment. If you want to take credit for getting people to do science, you claim that God had created an intelligible Universe. But if you run into theological difficulties with the way that the Universe is, you claim exactly the opposite, that we cannot know why God had decided to do what it did.

    Furthermore, many early modern scientists — and most later ones, for that matter, would likely be heretics by your standards. Consider Sir Isaac Newton’s rejection of the Trinity; do you agree with him on that? And do you agree with Albert Einstein on the nature of God?

  • heliobates

    lpetrich: I’ll piggy back on this:

    He wasn’t exactly very famous, and he believes in a mostly-absent deist god.

    He may actually be senile. And his latest book was ghostwritten by evangelical Christians. Flew seemed very confused to Mark Oppenheimer.

    Richard Carrier has taken Flew’s “conversion” head on.

  • OMGF

    Mr. Homiak,

    Reading the Bible is ideal, but there seems to be a shortage of patience for understanding the Scriptures in their context objectively.

    How does one understand the context “objectively” anyway? It’s all due to interpretation, and your interpretation is no more holy than mine. The closest we’ve come to “objective” study of the scriptures is what leads us to reject a single authorship of Isaiah, and many other things.

    The resurrection of Christ is reported as having significant testimony by Luke (Acts 1:1-3) and Paul (1 Cor. 15:3-8)…

    You’re kidding right? These people claim X number of people saw Jesus risen, but where are all their testimonies? No, you don’t have significant testimony, you have zero testimony (since Paul never claimed to meet Jesus, except in some ghost form and Luke wasn’t there as has already been established).

    God foreknew our sin, but our free will is the cause of it

    Follow along if you can. If god knew our sin would happen before he started the universe, then he caused it to happen by creating the universe as he did and giving us a free will that causes us to sin. He could have created a vastly different universe, but didn’t. Further, can we really have free will with an omni-max god? No, we can’t. So, your defense is in shambles right now.

    The contention of the Bible is that God desires all to repent, but the truth is many people choose to refuse to accept the exclusive way He provided in believing by faith in Christ, whose sacrifice was necessary to cover our transgressions.

    So many problems, so little time…If god desires all to repent, then all will repent, else god is not omni-max. If many people refuse to repent through Jesus, then it is as god has foreseen, so he chose a bad way of going about this if he really wanted us all to repent. Further, he created a system where we would all be in need of repentance, which seems backward for an omni-max deity that wishes we would all be saved. Further, he is the one that is casting us into hell, even though he supposedly doesn’t want to? This makes no sense. Finally, why would an omni-benevolent god demand a human sacrifice for atonement? What is good about human sacrifice? How does killing an innocent somehow absolve me of any crime I may or may not have committed? Again, this makes no sense.

    Perhaps my posts in this forum are God’s way of further attempting to reach you, but, even if my arguments were perfect without further external evidence, would you be willing to give up your naturalistic worldview?

    If god truly wanted you to convince me, then he would know what it takes to convince me and have you argue that way. For my part, I’d like to see some actual arguments that are logical, coherent, rational, and make sense. You have not demonstrated any of those yet.

    Funny, it seems many societies have justified as a good thing (for them) the conquering of others and causing their enemies much suffering. Stalin believed that suffering by some was necessary for the greater good of the State. Without an absolute standard, can you claim your morality is superior to their’s?

    What does this have to do with anything, except your misconception that morality can’t be absolute unless it comes from god (which Euthyphro’s dilemma shows is wrong).

    Your analysis of Occam’s razor could be fine if we were talking about an issue of Good Housekeeping, but this is a book written by a man claiming to be a prophet of God, containing predictive prophecy and arguments fully compatible with other examples in the O.T., from a race that had been entrusted with the accurate transmission of God’s revelation.

    Thank you for your condescension, but I see nothing in here to destroy my argument. It doesn’t matter what the author or supposed author claimed, the facts are the facts and adding a layer of god is more complicated than not. Period. Also, you’re begging the question again.

    No, you did not read my point correctly; by Palestinian period, I mean the earlier period prior to the Babylonian captivity.

    Yes, I got the periods mixed up. I disagree with you. The textual critics are finding that the tone of the piece is different, not just in the couple of verses in question, but in the chapters themselves. Your own argument admitted as much.

    You don’t care about Yahweh’s superiority, yet, if He exists, you want Him to convince you beyond a doubt? That’s a rather arrogant position to hold before the Creator of the universe, who has told you what you need do in Hebrews 11:6 and the Gospel of John.

    It’s arrogant for god to say that he loves me, yet not do what he knows he must do to convince me. It’s arrogant for god to lay down a line in the sand that he knows most people will not cross and claim that he loves us all, even though he will send us to hell for not doing exactly what he knows we won’t do. These are not the actions of a loving god, but a god that is cruel, vindictive, and evil. The fact remains that you’ve done nothing to counter the argument. If god knows what it would take to convince me or anyone else, it is no skin off his omnipotent back to do what it takes for us to believe and be saved, which is what he claims he wants. Yet, he does not do so and instead will send us to hell. This is not loving no matter how much you stick your head in the sand and cry, “I’m not listening.”

    Your caricatures of Christian theology are not amusing, and compare well with the caricatures of evolution that atheists claim creationists use.

    Really, because I think they are amusing, simply because people actually believe that stuff. Well, it’s also a bit scary that otherwise sane and intelligent people can believe in that crap. I’ll note that you didn’t deny any specific part of them, and how could you, since that is literally what your theology boils down to, no matter how hard you try and deny that it is that silly.

    I don’t thinkOccam’s razor is
    properly applied to the origin of the universe, because there is no simple view available.

    Because you’ve shown time and again that you don’t know how to apply it. You have two views, neither of which can tell you what happened to create the universe. One says, “I don’t know, but I have some scientific theories.” The other says, “I don’t know, but I believe that the most complicated thing imaginable (or rather beyond imagination) did it.” By resorting to god, you’ve used the most complicated explanation possible, hence it violates Occam’s Razor.

    I suspect most people who do not accept Christ prefer to follow their own will rather than God’s.

    Yes, that must be it. All those Muslims that follow even more stringent specifications for their religion must be doing it because they don’t want to follow god. Is it possible that you could be more arrogant and condescending?

    Based on Romans 1, Paul is saying that there is enough evidence of God in creation to get people started; unfortunately, many have turned to worshipping the creation instead of the Creator.

    This either shows that Paul has overstepped himself in speaking for all when he should have been speaking for himself, or it shows god’s arrogance and stupidity.

    I am saddened that many in this forum did not find truth in God, but I can only relate what God has revealed in His Word.

    That’s great and all, but it totally sidesteps the fact that our existence disproves your assertion that god shows himself to all who seek him. You are plain wrong, and it would be nice for you to admit that, instead of trying to change the subject.

  • goyo

    Mr. Homiak:

    God is not like David Copperfield, miraculous events will not be performed like magic tricks, and historical events are not subject to the scientific method; Jesus responded to requests for signs – go read what He said.

    Actually, god did respond to requests for tricks, remember the fleece soaked in water? And the sacrifice again soaked in water? So all the scriptures in the new testament about ask and it shall be given, whatever you shall ask in my name… are useless?

    Miracles of this nature appear more common in third-world areas, where the Scriptures are not easily available.

    So you do admit that god performs miracles. Just not in the USA? Why not?
    Has he healed any amputees? Seriously, that would be an easy way to prove to me that he exists.

    If you come to God asking for scientific proof, you are not going to get anywhere.

    Why not? God created science, why can’t he talk to us about science? Why didn’t he help us with science from the very beginning instead of letting us figure out everything on our own?
    Mr. Homiak, this is getting tedious. Why do you insist on using the bible to prove your points? WE DON’T BELIEVE IT!

  • Thumpalumpacus

    “Perhaps my posts in this forum are God’s way of further attempting to reach you”– DM

    You flatter yourself; a perfect god would have no need for any messenger. I personally am of the opinion that your posts posts on this forum are just further attempts to assuage what must be ponderous doubts. The amount of seeking you have done looking for evidence to support your faith is indicative of these doubts; your supposed “defeat” of atheist arguments must make you feel all nice and cozy.

    Glad we could help. Sort of.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    The resurrection of Christ is reported as having significant testimony by Luke (Acts 1:1-3) and Paul (1 Cor. 15:3-8)…

    Dave, you really don’t get it, even after all this time. These are not independent testimonies! They are fellow believers backing each other up, even though none of them were witness to the events they claim to be reporting. If atheists already considered the Bible an authoritative source, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We don’t consider the Bible trustworthy, and if you want to convince us, you need to present independent evidence. It’s not going to help you to quote a book in support of itself.

    There are flood stories in various cultures; there are graveyards, such as caves in France and Malta, where ungnawed bones of disparate land and sea animals are mixed together chaotically at the same strata, and the Turkish government is preventing exploration for the remains of a large structure reported on Mt. Ararat.

    An honest-to-goodness flood believer! Dave, I think I can tell you with confidence that if you seriously believe that all living things on earth are descended from breeding pairs which were carried on a boat and tended by just eight people during a yearlong global flood – a flood that created the geological record ex nihilo, producing dozens of interleaved strata of different igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, as well as fossils strictly sorted in their order of evolutionary appearance, but leaving behind none of the geological evidence typically associated with massive floods – if you really and truly believe that, then I can assure you you’ve just surrendered whatever remaining hope you might have had of being taken seriously by this site’s regular commenters.

    The first installment of my series Do You Really Believe That? points out just a few of the impossibilities associated with this silly tale.

  • OMGF

    Mr. Homiak,

    Would you be willing to enumerate the critical textual experts who do not hold this bias against predictive prophecy?

    I’ve been doing some research on Deutero-Isaiah and found some very interesting things. It seems the progenitor of the idea of multiple authors was a 12th Century Rabbi who I doubt you can claim only made this observation because he thought god couldn’t create miracles. Later on, a fellow named Doderlein made the same observations, and he was a preacher and theology prof. during the 18th century, which means I’m sure he didn’t reject Isaiah’s single authorship simply because god couldn’t create miracles.

    Other names include Rev. John Mackenzie, who was a Catholic Priest, which means that I doubt that he could be accused of thinking Isaiah must have had 2 authors because god can’t create miracles. There’s also W.O.E. Oesterley, T.H. Robinson, and a whole host of others that are believers, follow god’s words and still think Isaiah had multiple authors. Face it, your insistence that all the proponents of Deutero-Isaiah are unbelievers that don’t think prophecy can happen or that god can create miracles is simply wrong.

  • lpetrich

    In particular, according to Jesus-mythicists like Earl Doherty, Luke got the idea from Mark, who in turn got it from Paul. So the Jesus Christ story was one that grew in the telling, with storytellers and writers adding details as they went.

    Also, I’m disappointed by Dave Homiak’s unwillingness to address many of the miracles that we’ve discussed; miracles of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Pythagoreanism, etc. He was also unwilling to discuss some of the fulfilled prophecies I’d mentioned. And according to Livy’s History of Rome, here is another prophecy about Romulus:

    At the end of his life, Romulus mysteriously disappeared from a swamp called Goat’s Marsh, but he briefly returned to assure aristocrat Julius Proculus that it is the will of Heaven that Rome rule the world, and that Romans ought to learn the arts of war so that they can do so.

    Although the Roman Empire was not much of the Earth’s land surface, it was most of the world that Romans knew much about, so it is only a mild stretch to say that that prophecy had been fulfilled.

  • Dave Homiak

    Sorry the delay in responding, but it’s been a busy week. I’ll try to address some of the recent issues and comments regarding miracles.

    Thumpalumpacus,
    Thanks for the psychoanalysis, but don’t hang up a shingle just yet. I am interested in dialogue; any doubts I may have would be brought to God rather than seeking assurance in a forum where evil is considered a byproduct of religious faith.

    Ebonmuse,
    I continue to mention the Biblical record, because it is valid internal evidence for those who do not accept only the extreme view espoused by Hume. Even atheist Bertrand Russell, often lumped with Hume as a skeptic, wrote this in his History of Western Philosophy:

    ‘Hume’s philosophy, whether true or false, represents the bankruptcy of eighteenth-century reasonableness. He starts out like Locke, with the intention of being sensible and empirical, taking nothing on trust, but seeking whatever instruction is to be obtained from experience and observation. But having a better intellect than Locke’s, a great acuteness in analysis, and a smaller capacity for accepting comfortable inconsistencies, he arrives at the disastrous conclusion that from experience and observation nothing is to be learnt. There is no such thing as a rational belief.

    Regarding young-age creationism, this is not the forum to discuss it, but I’ll make this comment in reply to your disparaging remark. I recently saw a debate between Dr. Kurt P. Wise, a PhD geologist and creationist who studied paleontology at Harvard under Stephen Jay Gould, and another paleontologist, and found that both sides had pieces of evidence that were creditworthy. I though Wise made a good point that creationism has a lot more evidence to reinterpret before it can claim a standing similar to that held by evolutionary theory, since creationist scientists have only recently been examining the evidence compared with how long and how many evoltuionary scientists have. Yes, I’ve read Dawkins’ article on “honest creationist” Wise, and would agree that faith is also necessary, but I do not completely agree with his position.

    OMGF,
    Thanks for finding those references for early scholars favoring multiple authors for Isaiah. I tried to find original source material for them, but could only find some credible commentators. For Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra, see this article, in which Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs claims:

    In a sense, Ibn Ezra was the forerunner of biblical criticism. He held that the second part of the book of Isaiah could not have been written by the prophet Isaiah, since it speaks of events that occurred well over a hundred years after Isaiah’s death and there is no indication that these were prophesies about future events.

    Regarding Johann C. Doederlein, Prof. Herbert M. Wolf in his book Interpreting Isaiah states on p.28:

    Modern criticism of the Book of Isaiah began with the German Johann Doerderlein, who in 1789 argued for an exilic date for chapters 40 through 66. He believed that an eigth-century writer could not have predicted the fall of Jersualam in 587 B.C., much less the rise of Cyris the Great, who restored the exiles in 538 B.C.

    I recommend reading the following pages in Wolf’s book on Google for a balanced analysis of both the single and multiple author positions. Despite all the miracles recorded in the O.T., believing in Yahweh does not necessarily translate into accepting that He spoke predictive prophecy through His prophets. Isaiah also predicts the ruination of Babylon and characteristics of the suffering Messiah, which are at least earlier than the second century B.C. due to the record of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    lpetrich,
    You are correct that I have not addressed miracles in other religions, except in my earliest remark mentioning that Christian theology certainly allows Satan to perform miracles to lead willing people astray. I understand that this cuts both ways, so I will say that, in the “miracles” I have examined, such as the angel Moroni’s revelation to Joseph Smith of the golden plates that formed the basis for the Book of Mormon, I find the evidence much less conclusive than for the resurrection. For example, did you know that significant portions of the KJV translation of Isaiah appear in the Book of Mormon, complete with translation errors (see, e.g., this article)? With regard to Mohammed receiving the Quran directly from Allah, his experience does not compare well with how O.T. prophets respected by Muslims received their testimony (see, e.g., this article). In my opinion, the testimony for the character of Jesus Christ is also superior to that of either Smith or Mohammed. None of us have studied every miracle that has been reported, but I stand with former skeptics Dr. Simon Greenleaf, Gilbert West, Frank Morison (Who Moved the Stone?), and C.S. Lewis as one who finds the testimony for the resurrection to be credible.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dave,

    I continue to mention the Biblical record, because it is valid internal evidence…

    I’m far from convinced of it’s internal validity since it contradicts itself and/or messes up or omits details that are far from trivial (and only recorded in the bible, as opposed to nowhere else). No matter how many times I hear someone say “The bible is valid because the bible say it is” it never sounds any less silly.

    I recently saw a debate between Dr. Kurt P. Wise, a PhD geologist and creationist who studied paleontology at Harvard under Stephen Jay Gould, and another paleontologist, and found that both sides had pieces of evidence that were creditworthy.

    And what evidence would that be? I’ve heard a lot on that debate and the best arguments I’ve heard were terrible. Isn’t creationism the ‘science’ that god created everything with a purpose in mind (and I use science losely since it normally relies on observed evidence, and I don’t recall anyone observing anything of the like, nor do I understand a way to falisfy that idea, which is vital to science)?

    since creationist scientists have only recently been examining the evidence compared with how long and how many evoltuionary scientists have.

    They’ve had thousands of years, and everytime science proves them wrong on a point they used to hold, they just move the goal posts back to some yet unproven point. All they have left is the god of the gaps, which is why they try and keep those gaps wide. I remember something about the sun orbiting the earth, or the earth being flat. Guess they really dropped the ball then huh? 6000 year time frame? Get out of here. Not explaining how life recovered after noah’s arc (see the post on “Do you really believe that”). Not explaining how hundreds of thousands of jews could survive wandering the desert for 40 years and somehow leave absolutely no evidence behind (or that tricky bit about how egypt never recorded once any of the plagues or enslaved jews). How about that part that says bats are birds? Mistakes like that don’t become the wisdom of a god that supposedly created all of it… I think I see something sinister at work….

    believing in Yahweh does not necessarily translate into accepting that He spoke predictive prophecy through His prophets

    Imagine for a moment, just for a minute, that the bible isn’t inspired by god but written by people who had access to the previous material. If a previous prophecy said “the messiah will ride into town on an ass”, and you were writing the story, it would really fuck it up if you wrote that the messiah rode into town on a camel. Imagine something similiar to that is happening. I say imagine because ‘realize’ seems like too hard.

    You are correct that I have not addressed miracles in other religions, except in my earliest remark mentioning that Christian theology certainly allows Satan to perform miracles to lead willing people astray.

    So you’re saying god allows satans (does it say this in the bible anywhere or is it coming from out of your ass?) to create miracles (all undocumented in history texts and unrepeatable in nature)that he knows will lead people astray from Jesus and thus they will go to hell. Naturally, all this is done without once offering a shred of evidence for your views, yet still:

    I understand that this cuts both ways, so I will say that, in the “miracles” I have examined, such as the angel Moroni’s revelation to Joseph Smith of the golden plates that formed the basis for the Book of Mormon, I find the evidence much less conclusive than for the resurrection.

    Evidence of the resurrection? What evidence is that? And don’t say the bible, because, as you have not yet understood, the bible is not evidence that the bible is true, same reason the book of mormon is not evidence that the mormon faith is true.

    For example, did you know that significant portions of the KJV translation of Isaiah appear in the Book of Mormon, complete with translation errors (see, e.g., this article)? With regard to Mohammed receiving the Quran directly from Allah, his experience does not compare well with how O.T. prophets respected by Muslims received their testimony (see, e.g., this article).

    Unless, of course, satan has cunningly tricked you, and it was actually satan that inspired and wrote the bible, knowing you’d be led astray. He even created miracle stories (he doesn’t even seem to need to make miracles happen) that he knew would lead you astray from mormonism, which was actually written by god. Because of this, you can now join me in hell.

    as one who finds the testimony for the resurrection to be credible.

    Credible on what grounds? (p.s. it’s a trick question, because any evidence you present was actually the result of satan tricking you. How can you be sure you ruled that possibility out?)

  • goyo

    Dave:

    Christian theology certainly allows Satan to perform miracles to lead willing people astray.

    I’ve heard this before. Please answer these questions:

    1. Is Satan omnipresent also? Is he everwhere at once like god is, or can he only work miracles one at a time? If so, he is a very busy individual.

    2. Can his demons work miracles also?

    3. How do we know if a miracle is from satan or god?

    4. Also, if a miracle is suspension of natural laws, then is satan as powerful as god?

    5. What are your scriptural references for these answers?

  • Dave Homiak

    goyo,
    Sure, here is a brief response to your good questions and elaboration of my position. As you know, there is not a great deal of specific information about Satan in the Bible, but it is clear he is an accuser and deceiver, and has a limited extent of power to cause unusual events that do not appear to be explainable by natural causes.

    1. No, the Bible only speaks of God as omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10); there is no hint of the type of dualism that characterizes religions like Zoroastrianism. Satan appears to roam about (Job 1:7, I Peter 5:8). He apparently has a large number of fallen angels, i.e., demons, doing his bidding (Matthew 12:24, Rev. 12:3-9), as well as humans who have allowed him to control them (e.g., Acts 16:16; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; 2 Cor. 11:13-15).
    2. It would seem so, as far as potentially fooling people wih counterfeit signs and wonders (Matthew 24:23-24; Rev. 16:14). Miracles are described in the O.T. and N.T. with three words translated as “sign,” “wonder,” and “power,” which supernatural creatures like Satan and demons can appear to perform. God performs true miracles, but Satan and demons perform counterfeit miracles.
    3. This, as you probably know, has been the subject of much debate. It can be difficult to tell, because Satan is a deceiver (John 8:44, Rev. 12:8), and disguises his work and intentions with an appearance of goodness (2 Corinthians 11:14). There are deceptive tricks and counterfeit signs and wonders mentioned in the Bible that are not of God, e.g., those by the Pharoah’s magicians and by the anti-christ. However, the Bible gives tests to determine a true prophet from a false prophet, and mentions various occult practices (e.g., Deut. 18:10-11) false teaching (e.g., 1 Tim. 4:1), idolatry (1 Cor. 10:19–20), etc. associated with deceptions. Samuel Clarke argued that the context and doctrinal content of a miracle would determine if it was truly from God. God’s miracles are not associated with occult practices, denial of biblical truth, denial of Jesus Christ as God come in the flesh, glorification of man, or with false prophecies. in 1956, Jeane Dixon predicted the death in office of the winner of the 1960 presendential election, but also made many false prophecies, such as predicting WW III would begin in 1954, so she fails the test.
    4. Satan has been cast out of heaven, but has power within the human and physical spheres (Ephesians 2:2). He is not as powerful as God (1 John 4:4; Revelation 12:8; 20:2,10). Satan can perform impressive counterfeit signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 13:13-14; 16:14). However, the extent of the power of Satan and demons is finite, limited by their own nature and the power of God (Job 1:12; 2:6-7). I believe Satan cannot perform true miracles of the quality of God’s (e.g., the Pharoah’s magicians miracles vs. the Mosaic miracles), but can cause counterfeit miracles of unusual events/phenomena to deceive in such a way that they appear truly miraculous.
    5. See references above. Dan Korem, a professional magician turned investigative journalist who unmasked the famous psychic James Hydrick, has a section in his book Powers: Testing the Psychic & Supernatural discussing why the resurrection of Christ is not a deception.
  • Eric

    Dave Homiak said:

    “See references above. Dan Korem, a professional magician turned investigative journalist who unmasked the famous psychic James Hydrick, has a section in his book Powers: Testing the Psychic & Supernatural discussing why the resurrection of Christ is not a deception.”

    You are kidding right? I mean you have to be either using this as parody or you are off your nut.

    I am so stunned and aghast someone would actually try and use that book as a source of proof for the Zombie Christ trick. Mr. Homiak, this says more about you and your capacity for logical and intelligent discourse than anything you have presented before. It is obvious you are never going to see the light of reason, logic, or clear thought and therefor it accomplishes nothing to talk with you further.

    Folks like you are not the ones who can be dealt with and talked with. The people we need to talk to are the ones who are open to thinking for themselves and have a capacity to absorb fact from fiction.

    Your logic isn’t. Your arguments are just one step away from claiming Spiderman is real because issue #172 of The Spectacular Spiderman said he is real. And then to prove the existence of his miraculous web-spinning, you quote your source of prove as Dr. Strange #327 – the one where his magic orb shows him the secret behind the web-spinning.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    Is there really a magic orb in the Spiderman comics?

  • heliobates

    You are kidding right? I mean you have to be either using this as parody or you are off your nut.

    What took you so long? He lost me when he started posting “my sister’s friend’s cousin’s boyfriend…” stories as evidence of contemporary miracles.

  • heliobates

    @Dave

    I believe Satan cannot perform true miracles of the quality of God’s (e.g., the Pharoah’s magicians miracles vs. the Mosaic miracles), but can cause counterfeit miracles of unusual events/phenomena to deceive in such a way that they appear truly miraculous.

    And your sophisticated system for the detection of counterfeit miracles consists of what, exactly?

    So the “hand of Jesus” that fed the “scholar’s” wife and daughter—was that a real or a counterfeit miracle, and how, specifically, do you know?

  • Eric

    And when and if Mr. Homiak responds, he will use the tried and true “I believe what I believe to be true because it is true because I believe it and you can’t tell me otherwise.” That is certainly his choice to bury his head in the mythological sands, but the problem comes in that he has a vote. He can also try to influence PTAs, school boards, etc…and that is where the real crux of this back and forth rests. People like Mr. Homiak use falsehoods to influence politics and until the day religion adopts that live and let live philosophy, people like Mr. Homiak will be viewed as irresponsible, immoral, and dangerous.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Hi Dave,

    I continue to mention the Biblical record, because it is valid internal evidence for those who do not accept only the extreme view espoused by Hume.

    Hume’s “extreme” view is simply that a lesser quantity of evidence cannot outweigh a greater quantity of evidence. Granted, I can see why this would be a problematic view for a theist who believes in miracles to accept.

    Even atheist Bertrand Russell, often lumped with Hume as a skeptic, wrote this in his History of Western Philosophy:

    If your quote is an accurate representation of Russell’s position, then Russell was simply wrong: Hume obviously does believe that one can learn things from observation. I quoted a paragraph written by him in which he explained the kind of evidence it would take to persuade a reasonable person that there had been a miraculous darkness over all the earth. In a different part of the book, he also explains how the existence of ice could be proved to a person who lived in a tropical climate and had never experienced conditions cold enough for water to freeze.

    For example, did you know that significant portions of the KJV translation of Isaiah appear in the Book of Mormon, complete with translation errors (see, e.g., this article)?

    There’s nothing unusual about that: the New Testament likewise quotes significant portions of the Old Testament, but in some cases misinterprets them or otherwise gets them wrong. For example, the author of Matthew makes an erroneous claim about who wrote a particular OT verse:

    “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.” (27:9-10)

    But the verse Matthew was referring to is actually in Zechariah, not Jeremiah:

    “And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.” (11:13)

    None of us have studied every miracle that has been reported, but I stand with former skeptics Dr. Simon Greenleaf, Gilbert West, Frank Morison (Who Moved the Stone?), and C.S. Lewis as one who finds the testimony for the resurrection to be credible.

    If that’s really your position, then I have a simple challenge for you. Dan Barker’s essay “Leave No Stone Unturned” explains what it consists of:

    In each of the four Gospels, begin at Easter morning and read to the end of the book: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also read Acts 1:3-12 and Paul’s tiny version of the story in I Corinthians 15:3-8. These 165 verses can be read in a few moments. Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened.

    It seems to me that, for the resurrection to be credible, one of the most basic conditions is that the accounts which we have of it do not contradict each other. Do you think you can do this? If so, I’ll create a new open thread for it.

  • heliobates

    @ Ebon

    If your quote is an accurate representation of Russell’s position, then Russell was simply wrong: Hume obviously does believe that one can learn things from observation.

    I’ve ordered A History of Western Philosophy so that I can read that passage in context. I’m not suggesting that an apologist would ever “quote mine” [cough cough], but I find it hard to accept that this would be Russell’s final word on the philosopher who had such a massive impact on him.

    This is discussed nowhere online. Even the Stanford archives are silent on this issue and I strongly doubt that if Russell really took aim at Hume then the apologists would be the only ones who noticed. I suspect that this apparently damning paragraph will turn out to be something like Darwin’s supposed admission that the human eye could not have evolved. Seen in context the quote probably intends to convey a completely different message.

  • Dave Homiak

    Eric,

    It is obvious you are never going to see the light of reason, logic, or clear thought and therefor it accomplishes nothing to talk with you further.

    By all means, stop reponding to my posts, since your practice of logic appears limited to ad hominem attacks, which are a waste of everyone’s time. In discussing Satan’s deceiving, I mentioned Korem, not as a proof, but as an expert on deception who had examined the testimony for the resurrection and not found it to be deceptive.

    heliobates,

    So the “hand of Jesus” that fed the “scholar’s” wife and daughter—was that a real or a counterfeit miracle, and how, specifically, do you know?

    I cited various conditions for judging whether or not a miracle is from God; based on the testimony, judge for yourself whether it qualifies.

    This is discussed nowhere online. Even the Stanford archives are silent on this issue and I strongly doubt that if Russell really took aim at Hume then the apologists would be the only ones who noticed.

    To the contrary, check your search engine again; there are many references to that quote. See more context below. Obviously, Russell agrees with Hume on many points, but not with respect to induction. You may also wish to order Karl Popper’s The Problem of Induction, since he addresses this very position by Russell, and claims to correct Hume’s irrationalist consequences.

    Ebon,
    The quote is from Russell’s discussion of Hume’s problems with induction (Russell, Bertrand, History of Western Philosophy, George Allen & Unwin: London, Second Edition, reprint, 1993, pp.645-646). Here’s some more following the quote I previously gave:

    Even in his most sceptical chapter, in which he sums up the conclusions of Book I, he says: ‘Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous: those in philosophy only ridiculous.’ He has no right to say this. ‘Dangerous’ is a causal word, and a sceptic as to causation cannot know that anything is ‘dangerous’. In fact, in the later portions of the Treatise, Hume forgets all about his fundamental doubts, and writes much as any other enlightened moralist of his time might have written; he applies to his doubts the remedy that he recommends, namely ‘carelessness and inattention’. In a sense, his scepticism is insincere, since he cannot maintain it in practice. It has, however, this awkward consequence, that it paralyses every effort to prove one line of action better than another.

    Regarding the Zechariah misquote in Matthew, possibilties are a copyist’s error in transcribing the name, or that Matthew is seeing Zechariah’s prophecy as a continuation of Jeremiah’s prophecy in chapter 19. However, the the exact recording of the KJV translation errors into the Book of Mormon is not a case of mistaken translation by Joseph Smith.

    I’ll read Barker’s essay, but expect he doesn’t raise any new objections which have not been answered already. The resurrection chronology is not linear, as the Western reader expects; e.g., it is not necessary that all the women mentioned had the same experiences together at the same times. This Eastern nonlinear handling of time is quite common in the O.T., where prophecies move back and forth bewteen the present and future.

  • OMGF

    Mr. Homiak,

    I cited various conditions for judging whether or not a miracle is from God; based on the testimony, judge for yourself whether it qualifies.

    You’ll have to do better, because nowhere in your verses from answer 3 (and I looked at them all) did you cite anything that tells you how to tell the difference between a miracle from god and one from the devil. The only passages I know of are in Deut (I believe) that talk about false prophets, where god says that if a prophet says he speaks for god and he’s right, then he does speak for god. If he’s wrong, then he’s a liar trying to deceive and should be stoned. If he says he speaks for other gods and he’s wrong, then he’s a liar and should be stoned. If he is right, then god actually gave him the ability to prophecy but put him there as a test for others to see if they would follow these other gods and the false prophet should be stoned for being right and attributing it to other gods. Hopefully even you can see the problems inherent in that.

    Mrnaglfar got it right and it’s such a simple knock-down argument. You can’t tell whether god or the devil is involved in any miracle that you assess. You think the Bible was written by god? How do you know it wasn’t written by the devil as the greatest deception of all? You don’t and you have no way of knowing. Jesus might have been the devil himself – both are referred to as the “morning star”. Again, you have no way of knowing. Or, maybe one of the previous immaculately conceived persons that was resurrected that you think the devil made up was the actual Messiah, and the devil made up Jesus to trick people like you. Then again, maybe it’s all Loki having a poke at you and laughing at your expense the whole time. Again, you can’t ever know or be sure…you can’t even provide a shred of evidence.

    I understand that this cuts both ways, so I will say that, in the “miracles” I have examined, such as the angel Moroni’s revelation to Joseph Smith of the golden plates that formed the basis for the Book of Mormon, I find the evidence much less conclusive than for the resurrection. For example, did you know that significant portions of the KJV translation of Isaiah appear in the Book of Mormon, complete with translation errors (see, e.g., this article)? With regard to Mohammed receiving the Quran directly from Allah, his experience does not compare well with how O.T. prophets respected by Muslims received their testimony (see, e.g., this article). In my opinion, the testimony for the character of Jesus Christ is also superior to that of either Smith or Mohammed.

    There’s so much wrong with this passage….where do I begin?

    How can you assert that the resurrection of an individual in which there are serious doubts that this individual actually existed is better attested to than the “miraculous” actions of people that we know existed? We know Joseph Smith and Mohammed existed, we can’t say the same for Jesus. In order to Jesus to have been resurrected, wouldn’t we first have to know that he was alive? Also, didn’t Moses receive personal communiques with god just as Mohammed is said to have done? Oops.

    Despite all the miracles recorded in the O.T., believing in Yahweh does not necessarily translate into accepting that He spoke predictive prophecy through His prophets.

    That much is true, but what you are claiming is akin to the claims of creationists that scientists are all lying or denying the obvious evidence for creationism when they accept that evolution is the best explanation we have for the diversity of life on the planet. IOW, your accusations against these textual critics – that they all deny a priori the power of god to have followers prophecy which leads them to a bad conclusion about Isaiah’s authorship – is unsubstantiated and so absurd as to be laughable. There are differences in the writing which were picked up by the scholars as well as other pieces of evidence. Your evidence consists of arguments of the type that later Jews were unaware of multiple authors (like the gospel writers) so there must have been only one. This argument is laughable and I can’t believe you would seriously use it here.

    Regarding young-age creationism, this is not the forum to discuss it, but I’ll make this comment in reply to your disparaging remark…Yes, I’ve read Dawkins’ article on “honest creationist” Wise, and would agree that faith is also necessary, but I do not completely agree with his position.

    First off, debates don’t determine what is or is not science. Second, if faith is required, then it ain’t science. Third, creationism, really? You are aware of the overwhelming evidence for an Earth that is about 4.5 billion years old aren’t you? You’re also aware of the problems associated with the Creation account, right?

    Well, to that last one you probably aren’t. You seem to be very well read on the apologetic side of things and have swallowed it all hook, line, and sinker. The misarguments in the apologetics side are widely cited and read, but most don’t know how bad the arguments can be. For instance, you probably weren’t aware that the Exodus didn’t happen. If you take Barker’s challenge, you probably will use Mark 16:9 and the rest of the story (I hope you are at least aware that that is a late addition). Anyway, creationism has serious problems, like how the Earth repopulated with the diversity present after Noah’s flood (which in itself is stolen from ealier mythologies). If you can explain that bit, then maybe you’ll have a chance, but that’s a knock-down argument that is insurmountable for creationists.

  • heliobates

    @ Dave

    Obviously, Russell agrees with Hume on many points, but not with respect to induction. You may also wish to order Karl Popper’s The Problem of Induction, since he addresses this very position by Russell, and claims to correct Hume’s irrationalist consequences.

    This would this be the same The Problem of Induction wherein Popper asserts:

    To put it in a nutshell, Russell’s desperate remark that if with Hume we reject all positive induction, ‘there is no intellectual difference between sanity and insanity’ is mistaken. For the rejection of induction does not prevent us from preferring, say, Newton’s theory to Kepler’s, or Einstein’s theory to Newton’s: during our rational critical discussion of these theories we may have accepted the existence of counterexamples to Kepler’s theory which do not refute Newton’s, and of counterexamples to Newton’s which do not refute Einstein’s. Given the acceptance of these counterexamples we can say that Kepler’s and Newton’s theories are certainly false; whilst Einstein’s may be true or it may be false: that we don’t know. Thus there may exist purely intellectual preferences for one or the other of these theories; and we are very far from having to say with Russell that all the difference between science and lunacy disappears. Admittedly, Hume’s argument still stands, and therefore the difference between a scientist and a lunatic is not that the first bases his theories securely upon observations while the second does not, or anything like that. Nevertheless we may now see that there may be a difference: it may be that the lunatic’s theory is easily refutable by observation, while the scientist’s theory has withstood severe tests.

    What the scientist’s and the lunatic’s theories have in common is that both belong to conjectural knowledge. But some conjectures are much better than others; and this is a sufficient answer to Russell, and it is sufficient to avoid radical scepticism. For since it is possible for some conjectures to be preferable to others, it is also possible for our conjectural knowledge to improve, and to grow. (Of course, it is possible that a theory that is preferred to another at one time may fall out of favour at a later time so that the other is now preferred to it. But, on the other hand, this may not happen.)

    We may prefer some competing theories to others on purely rational grounds. It is important that we are clear what the principles of preference or selection are.

    You need to appeal to authorities that support your over-arching point. In Knowledge Without Authority Popper has this to say about eyewitness testimony:

    As to eyewitnesses, they are important almost exclusively in a court of law where they can be cross-examined. As most lawyers know, eyewitnesses often err. This has been experimentally investigated, with the most striking results. Witnesses most anxious to describe an event as it happened are liable to make scores of mistakes, especially if some exciting things happen in a hurry; and if an event suggests some tempting interpretation, then this interpretation, more often than not, is allowed to distort what has actually been seen.

    He then goes on to elaborate a system of empirical enquiry:

    (1) There are no ultimate sources of knowledge. Every source, every suggestion, is welcome; and every source, every suggestion, is open to critical examination. Except in history, we usually examine the facts themselves rather than the sources of our information.

    (2) The proper epistemological question is not one about sources; rather, we ask whether the assertion made is true – that is to say, whether it agrees with the facts. (That we may operate, without getting involved in antinomies, with the idea of objective truth in the sense of correspondence to the facts, has been shown by the work of Alfred Tarski.) And we try to find this out, as well as we can, by examining or testing the assertion itself; either in a direct way, or by examining or testing its consequences.

    (3) In connection with this examination, all kinds of arguments may be relevant. A typical procedure is to examine whether our theories are consistent with our observations. But we may also examine, for example, whether our historical sources are mutually and internally consistent.

    (4) Quantitatively and qualitatively by far the most important source of our knowledge – apart from inborn knowledge – is tradition. Most things we know we have learnt by example, by being told, by reading books, by learning how to criticize, how to take and to accept criticism, how to respect truth.

    (5) The fact that most of the sources of our knowledge are traditional condemns anti-traditionalism as futile. But this fact must not be held to support a traditionalist attitude: every bit of our traditional knowledge (and even our inborn knowledge) is open to critical examination and may be overthrown. Nevertheless, without tradition, knowledge would be impossible.

    (6) Knowledge cannot start from nothing – from a tabula rasa – nor yet from observation. The advance of knowledge consists, mainly, in the modification of earlier knowledge. Although we may sometimes, for example in archaeology, advance through a chance observation, the significance of the discovery will usually depend upon its power to modify our earlier theories.

    (7) Pessimistic and optimistic epistemologies are about equally mistaken. The pessimistic cave story of Plato is the true one, and not his optimistic story of anamnesis (even though we should admit that all men, like all other animals, and even all plants, possess inborn knowledge). But although the world of appearances is indeed a world of mere shadows on the walls of our cave, we all constantly reach out beyond it; and although, as Democritus said, the truth is hidden in the deep, we can probe into the deep. There is no criterion of truth at our disposal, and this fact supports pessimism. But we do possess criteria which, if we are lucky, may allow us to recognize error and falsity. Clarity and distinctness are not criteria of truth, but such things as obscurity or confusion may indicate error. Similarly coherence cannot establish truth, but incoherence and inconsistency do establish falsehood. And, when they are recognized, our own errors provide the dim red lights which help us in groping our way out of the darkness of our cave.

    (8) Neither observation nor reason is an authority. Intellectual intuition and imagination are most important, but they are not reliable: they may show us things very clearly, and yet they may mislead us. They are indispensable as the main sources of our theories; but most of our theories are false anyway. The most important function of observation and reasoning, and even of intuition and imagination, is to help us in the critical examination of those bold conjectures which are the means by which we probe into the unknown.

    (9) Every solution of a problem raises new unsolved problems; the more so the deeper the original problem and the bolder its solution. The more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, specific, and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do not know, our knowledge of our ignorance. For this, indeed, is the main source of our ignorance – the fact that our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.

    @ Dave

    I cited various conditions for judging whether or not a miracle is from God; based on the testimony, judge for yourself whether it qualifies.

    You appear to be missing my point by several lightyears.

    I’m surprised that someone who claims to have read Popper could be so clueless about minimum acceptable standards of proof for empirical claims.

    There is no testimony in the example you gave. It’s an anecdote, presented on the internet without attribution or corroboration. You’ve put it in the “win” column and even marked it down as evidence from 3 eyewitnesses.

  • lpetrich

    Dave Homiak: You are correct that I have not addressed miracles in other religions, except in my earliest remark mentioning that Christian theology certainly allows Satan to perform miracles to lead willing people astray.

    That’s a VERY poor argument, because other religions can make the same claim. Muslims can make that claim about the miracles of religions other than Islam, and a Pythagorean could claim that Xian miracles are caused by believing that 1 = 3.

    (Parts of the Book of Mormon cribbed from Isaiah…)

    Like how parts of the Bible had been cribbed from other parts, as Ebonmuse points out. In particular, the NT has lots of word-for-word quotes from the Septuagint Greek translation of the OT, and the Gospels of Matthew and Luke have word-for-word copies of much of Mark in them.

    (Quotations from Bertrand Russell about David Hume…)

    That was only about knowledge in general; Hume’s point about the credibility of miracles is still sound. And it is only amplified with what’s been learned since then. Where have all the big miracles gone?

    DH: The resurrection chronology is not linear, as the Western reader expects; e.g., it is not necessary that all the women mentioned had the same experiences together at the same times. This Eastern nonlinear handling of time is quite common in the O.T., where prophecies move back and forth bewteen the present and future.

    Pure special pleading — is there ANY evidence of that outside of the Bible? Yes, OUTSIDE of the Bible.

    I’m reminded of what Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said a month ago about his being behind in delegates: “I know people say that the math doesn’t work out. Folks, I didn’t major in math. I majored in miracles, and I still believe in those, too.”

    But McCain kept getting delegates, and the score now is:
    Math: 1
    Miracles: 0

    So Mike Huckabee ought to consider converting to Pythagoreanism, complete with believing in reincarnation and swearing off beans.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dave,

    In discussing Satan’s deceiving, I mentioned Korem, not as a proof, but as an expert on deception who had examined the testimony for the resurrection and not found it to be deceptive.

    What evidence did he examine? What was his logic behind deciding it wasn’t deception (did he read the bible really hard, or perhaps he rigeriously interigated the bible)? I don’t care who thinks what, I want to know WHY they think such. If people didn’t have any good evidence for it, everyone on earth could believe in the resurrection but me and that still wouldn’t constitute proof.

    I cited various conditions for judging whether or not a miracle is from God; based on the testimony, judge for yourself whether it qualifies.

    I did judge, and it didn’t hold up.
    For instance, as mentioned above, lets say Jesus actually was the devil in disguise, or that the devil wrote the bible; if that’s the case you’re shit out of luck.
    Why would god even allow such things? Is he not powerful enough to put a stop to it, or maybe does he just want people to get tricked and sent to hell?
    What about modern miracles (whatever those happen to be)? Don’t you think satan could make the image of a girl miraclously appear on a grilled cheese sanwhich? Do satan’s miracles manifest themselves below statistical significance too? Can satan do good miracles, like healing cancer or regrowning a limb (which still has yet to happen by the way)?
    Of course, all those questions are redundant because you don’t know. You don’t know god or satan exists, you don’t know miracles have occurred, you don’t know any of it. You believe it, and seem to have an uncanny ability for making up any answer you want to fit.

    You also never answered any of my questions before, so those still stand as well. You know, all those ones about that evidence for any of this you don’t have.

    The resurrection chronology is not linear, as the Western reader expects; e.g., it is not necessary that all the women mentioned had the same experiences together at the same times. This Eastern nonlinear handling of time is quite common in the O.T., where prophecies move back and forth bewteen the present and future.

    You’ve got to be kidding me. Are you really claiming that the resurrection happened one way, then went back in time and happened another way to a different group of people, then jumped into the future again with yet another group?

    I see through that line of BS like you think you see through satan’s miracles. You’re simply covering for yourself and your faith because you know, using the bible as your source, you cannot create a timeframe of this because *drumroll please*, it’s NOT internally consistent. You’d be trying to make one story from 4 different ones that have radically different details (none of which are recorded anywhere outside the bible). You’re don’t have a leg to stand on, and by trying to dodge the question, you not doing anything but deceiving yourself.

  • OMGF

    The resurrection chronology is not linear, as the Western reader expects; e.g., it is not necessary that all the women mentioned had the same experiences together at the same times. This Eastern nonlinear handling of time is quite common in the O.T., where prophecies move back and forth bewteen the present and future.

    Adding onto lpetrich’s and Mrnaglfar’s comments, I’m reminded of the conclusions of Bart Ehrman where he says that it’s a mistake to try and harmonize the gospel accounts as to what happened during and after the resurrection. The accounts aren’t meant to be harmonized, but are competing accounts meant to paint different pictures of Jesus to answer pagan critics. Pagans scoff at Jesus because he’s not god-like enough, so Luke writes a competing account that portrays Jesus as stoic and god-like in the face of danger, doom, etc. He wasn’t trying to simply show another side of Jesus, he was trying to create the legend that would live on.

  • goyo

    Dave:

    The resurrection chronology is not linear, as the Western reader expects; e.g., it is not necessary that all the women mentioned had the same experiences together at the same times. This Eastern nonlinear handling of time is quite common in the O.T., where prophecies move back and forth bewteen the present and future.

    What a bunch of bullshit!!!!!! This is exactly what I was talking about when I said I used to teach this. I used to use this same method of explaining the contradictions of passages.
    If this is the case, that prophecies move back and forth between the present and the future, how can anything in the bible be intepreted?
    As a matter of fact, how can we “westerners” understand anything in the bible, since it is from the “east”?
    This sounds like a trick of satan. Or maybe god is playing with you.
    Dave, why would god write the most important message to the world in an ancient language, then expect people to understand it, when, as you say, we can’t understand it? Does that sound logical to you? What you’ve just admitted, is that a person can’t just pick up a bible and understand it, because they would interpret it wrong.
    So much for all the bibles in the motel rooms.

  • heliobates

    Came across this most excellent comment on Pharyngula.

    Dave, this one’s for you.

  • Caiphen Martini

    (What a bunch of bullshit!!!!!! This is exactly what I was talking about when I said I used to teach this. I used to use this same method of explaining the contradictions of passages.
    If this is the case, that prophecies move back and forth between the present and the future, how can anything in the bible be intepreted?)

    With comments like this. It must be a relief to be an atheist! What has this to do with the topic anyway?


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