Norman Geisler on Evangelical Scholarship and Following the Evidence Wherever It Leads

An Internet search engine quickly led me to Dr. Norman Geisler’s website, where he has posted his side of the story regarding the Michael Licona inerrancy controversy. In one of Geisler’s responses to Licona, he writes:

Tenth, Licona claims that to reject a view like his is to “stifle scholarship.” In response, we do not wish to stifle scholarship but only to reject bad scholarship. Further, as Evangelicals we must beware of desiring a seat at the table of contemporary scholarship, which is riddled with presuppositions that are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity. Indeed, when necessary, we must place Lordship over scholarship (2 Cor. 10:5). We do not oppose scholarship, but only scholarship whose presuppositions and methodological procedures are opposed to the Faith once for all committed to the saints. (emphasis mine)

This is exactly the sort of comment that has caused me to previously express my concerns about evangelical scholarship. Again, I am not suggesting that Evangelicals are not intelligent, rational, well-educated, members of the Academy, or anything of the sort. What I am saying is that it is troubling to read yet another prominent Christian scholar suggest that if there is a conflict between scholarship and Evangelical belief, Evangelicals have a (moral?) obligation to uphold their Evangelical beliefs in spite of contemporary scholarship. This sounds suspiciously similar to the statement: “We do not oppose the use of logic and evidence, but if logic and evidence are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity, then we must place Evangelical Christianity over logic and evidence.”

I know that, in the quotation above, Geisler is talking about scholarship “riddled with presuppositions that are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity.” It’s reasonable to assume that Geisler would say there is no actual conflict between reason (or “true” reason) and faith, only an apparent conflict (because of the anti-Christian presuppositions of contemporary scholarship).” But what would Geisler say about the hypothetical (for him) scenario where there is a real conflict between reason and faith? Would or can Geisler say that Evangelical Christians should place reason over faith and follow the evidence wherever it leads? Would he try to dodge the question by saying the hypothetical scenario is impossible? Or would he join William Lane Craig and say that, in such a hypothetical scenario, an Evangelical should believe in spite of the evidence against Christianity?

It may come as a surprise to some, but I actually want to believe that Evangelical scholarship can be, and is, better than that. Can I justifiably hold such a belief? If any Evangelical Christian scholars are reading this and disagree with Geisler’s and Craig’s approach to epistemology, I would love to hear from you.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Call me a Cynic if you will but, no Scholarship is better than that. Everyone, including Atheists, impose their religious biases onto their work. Yes I know, Oxymoron as Atheists have no Religion… as I’ve said before I don’t buy that and still say everyone has a religion, for Religion is just a Set of beliefs about the way the world works.

    The problem with being Human is that we tend to congregate around those of Like Mind and allow a sort of echo chamber effect to take place. A Humanist Scholar who is around other Humanists may do the same, Dr. Geisler is simply being more honest about it.

    But in principle I agree, we should pursue truth wherever it leads. However, as David Hume noted, you cannot derive and is from an ought. We all tend to fudge things so they fit our preconceived notions.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16360897119962486447 Andyman409

    Zarove- I think "worldview" would be a more accurate term for whatever atheism is than "religion". I always felt that religion described the ritualistic part of the worldview (ie: praying and attending mass)

    Anyways, I understand that everyone has there own presuppositions- but were talking about a story in which many dead people were raised from the dead and marched through a city. historians would have recorded that if it happened. It seems almost delusional to think it could have happened the way they said it did. And what's sad is that most learned christians probably agree with me!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09915579495149582531 exapologist

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Andy-

    “”” I think "worldview" would be a more accurate term for whatever atheism is than "religion". I always felt that religion described the ritualistic part of the worldview (ie: praying and attending mass)”””

    Religion is not really defined as Ritual, and no one in these conversations uses it as such either. When Atheists debate Religious people its over Ideas, not Rituals.

    I have hard the word “Worldview” before and really don’t like it. Everyone has a Worldview, but some people have a Religious worldview and others don’t. My question is, what’s the real distinction between a Religious Worldview and a nonreligious worldview? They both basically do the same thing and answer the same questions. What is a Worldview itself? A Worldview is, well, ones view on the world. Its all about how we answer the basic questions of our existence. But that’s what Religion is too.

    Worldview and Religion basically mean the same thing, we just started using worldview as we became accustomed to thinking of some people as Religious and others not but noticed how even the Nonreligious did the same sorts of things mentally as do the Religious, but couldn’t bare to admit it is the same thing.

    But it is, so I shant use Worldview, ill use Religion.

    It’s the same thing.

    “””Anyways, I understand that everyone has there own presuppositions- but were talking about a story in which many dead people were raised from the dead and marched through a city. historians would have recorded that if it happened.”””

    Well at least one Historian did. Lets not forget that Historians at the Time wouldn’t have marvelled too much at this since Julius Caesar himself is recorded to have healed the sick and given prophetic Pronouncements.

    You forget the period of Time when this occurred…

    “”” It seems almost delusional to think it could have happened the way they said it did. And what's sad is that most learned christians probably agree with me!”””

    I think the word Delusional is far too often employed in these discussions in Liu of a real argument. Suffice to say, your opinion on whether or not the story is believable is secondary to the Issue. I realise that this is an Atheist blog and the topic is about hwo Evangelical Christian Scholars behave but I’ve seen the same thing happen when someone broaches a popular Theory in Psychology, and Historians who challenge popular figures like Abraham Lincoln are often treated badly. I really don’t think this is an Evangelical Christian problem, but a Human one.

    But the problem is still one of Academic Freedom, not your opinion on Mathew 27’s account of the Raising of the Dead.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Zarove — There is no doubt that Evangelical Christians, Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, pantheists, atheists, agnostics, etc. can be guilty of irrationality and resisting what they think is shown by the evidence.

    My point was different from that. The Geisler quotation, along with the Craig quotation in an earlier post, seems to indicate a normative approach to epistemology, as if it were a matter of doctrine. I think it's far from obvious that there is an analogy with atheism or agnosticism. It is obvious that neither atheism nor agnosticism have a doctrine which says that atheists should be atheist, even if the evidence supports theism, for the simple reason that atheism and agnosticism have no doctrines!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Mr. Lowder, let me go back to my central premise. Everyone has a religion, but some do not admit theirs is a religion. s much as its popular to say Atheism is not a belief, but a lack of beleif in gods, and as popular as its become to say that nothing united Atheists but a shared lack of belief in a god, ands it has no doctrines or dogmas, the Truth is that the word “Atheist’ has come to mean more than just “I don’t believe in God”, and Atheists tend to share far more in common than “lack of belief in a god”.

    Modern Atheism has an intellectual History that Traces back to the 18th and 19th Centuries, and most of today’s Atheists follow some form of Humanism. This Humanism most assuredly does have Doctrines, and even the “I must be an Atheist” Doctrine exist as assuredly as “I must believe in God” does for Christians.

    The mythology surrounding Atheism simply makes that fact harder to see and inn fact almost necessary to deny.

    I’ve been around long enough to know that common Philosophical perspectives and tenets of belief do most assuredly exist within today’s Atheism, irrespective of the specific Dictionary Definition. (Which itself is not mere Lack of belief but rather rejection of belief in a god).

    This blog is proof enough of that. Atheists here sometimes disagree, butt so do Christians on Christian Blogs. Most Atheists still have a common “Worldview” as Andy out it. Even those who don’t embrace Humanism will inevitably embrace some other Philosophical model, be it Randian or Neitchean or something else.

    Even if they make on up themselves, once its there it can easily misguide.

    That said, I did acknowledge agreement that this ought not to be but I just think Geisler is being Honest, and still think most Academic studies suffer from the same thing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Zarove — Even if we define "religion" in a way that somehow includes atheism, it still wouldn't follow (or even be probable) that the following normative principle is true:

    "If there is a conflict between reason and atheism, atheists ought to maintain their atheism in spite of the evidence."

    Let's call that principle the "doctrine of atheistic faith."

    In contrast, two very prominent Evangelicals (Geisler and Craig) appear to be saying that Evangelical Christianity entails the following normative principle:

    "If there is a conflict between reason and Evangelical beliefs, Evangelicals ought to maintain their belief in Evangelical Christianity in spite of the evidence."

    Let's call this principle the "doctrine of Evangelical faith."

    Again, for the sake of argument, we can assume that atheism is a religion and, to go with the metaphor, further assume that most atheists subscribe to the secular humanist 'denomination' of the atheist religion. What is the evidence that secular humanism subscribes to the doctrine of atheistic faith? Can you identify a single statement in any of the Humanist Manifestos which supports or otherise indicates such a doctrine?

    (And, again, if any Evangelical Christians are reading this and happen to disagree with Geisler and Craig's apparent positions, your comments would be most welcome. I don't want to be guilty of criticizing a straw man version of Evangelicalism.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    "otherise" should be "otherwise"

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15033045667174704346 airevolt

    Zarove, can you give some examples of the mythology surrounding Atheism?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Mr. Lowder, my next post shall be long. I had to segment it. I hope you don't mind, I rather extensively quote the Manifestos.

    Airvolt, yes, if you accept what the term emans. I am using the Academic term, not "Make beleif stories". Though Myths my be complete fabrications, tjhey can also be based on reality. EG, I refer sometimes to Hitler as a Moddern Myth, as he is, to our Culture, the Personification of Evil. But he and WW2 were still real.

    Also keep in midn that when I discuss Atheism I usually add the word "Modern" to it because Im not discussing the Position of theism proper, but Atheism as it is thus used in these discussions. Really its more a discussion of Secular Humanism or Modern Secularism and Secular Culture.

    I'll post more later. With kind Regards.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Mr. Lowder, if I may,

    Even if we define "religion" in a way that somehow includes atheism,

    This I think is where I am lost on most people. Of course I don’t define Atheism as a Religion. But, Theism is not a religion either. Both Atheism and Theism are simply beliefs about one, and only one object. What I’m actually saying is that the belief system held by an Atheist that explains his existence to him and tells him who he is is a religion.

    So, Secular Humanism is not a Non-Religious Philosophy and an Alternative to religion, its simply another Religion itself. So is Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, and so is Neitche’s Philosophy. I would classify them as Atheistic Religions. The usual objection is that they are more of Philosophies than Religions, but if a Philosophy explains the same Questions religion explains and serves the same purpose as Religion then what’s the real difference?

    Eveeyone needs to have a Foundational understanding of their existence so everyone develops a mental framework that serves to define it for them, and that is what Religion in the end actually is, and why I say everyone has a Religion.

    That is not the same as saying belief that there are no gods is a Religion in and of itself. What I’m actually saying is, such a belief is not itself the opposite of being Religious and is a part, note I said part, of a Religious system in itself.

    To Be Continued.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    it still wouldn't follow (or even be probable) that the following normative principle is true:

    "If there is a conflict between reason and atheism, atheists ought to maintain their atheism in spite of the evidence."

    No, and I agree that it is troubling. But my point is, oftentimes people will treat the subjects like that and even have a standing practice of doing that, even Atheists, they just don’t usually come out and say it. Or at least haven’t since the Soviet Era came to an end.

    All I’m saying is that, just because its an unstated principle doesn’t mean that others don’t themselves follow it, even if they deny it.


    Let's call that principle the "doctrine of atheistic faith."

    In contrast, two very prominent Evangelicals (Geisler and Craig) appear to be saying that Evangelical Christianity entails the following normative principle:

    "If there is a conflict between reason and Evangelical beliefs, Evangelicals ought to maintain their belief in Evangelical Christianity in spite of the evidence."

    Let's call this principle the "doctrine of Evangelical faith."

    Again, for the sake of argument, we can assume that atheism is a religion and, to go with the metaphor, further assume that most atheists subscribe to the secular humanist 'denomination' of the atheist religion.

    Actually Secular Humanism would be the Religion; Atheism is simply a central tenet of the Religion of Secular Humanism…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Zarove — I don't mind extensive quotations of the Manifestos.

    Biographical aside, FWIW: I don't claim to be a secular humanist–I am undecided about the humanism part of secular humanism–but I am skeptical of your apparent belief that secular humanism teaches a doctrine of atheistic faith. I will look forward to your quotations.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE


    What is the evidence that secular humanism subscribes to the doctrine of atheistic faith? Can you identify a single statement in any of the Humanist Manifestos which supports or otherise indicates such a doctrine?

    Well, actually yes.

    In Humanist Manifesto 1, Article 6.

    SIXTH: We are convinced that the time has passed for theism, deism, modernism, and the several varieties of "new thought".

    That seems rather unambiguous, but it carries on from there.


    SEVENTH: Religion consists of those actions, purposes, and experiences which are humanly significant. Nothing human is alien to the religious. It includes labor, art, science, philosophy, love, friendship, recreation–all that is in its degree expressive of intelligently satisfying human living. The distinction between the sacred and the secular can no longer be maintained.

    EIGHTH: Religious Humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man's life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now. This is the explanation of the humanist's social passion.

    NINTH: In the place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer the humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal life and in a cooperative effort to promote social well-being.

    TENTH: It follows that there will be no uniquely religious emotions and attitudes of the kind hitherto associated with belief in the supernatural.

    At least the Manifesto 1 Admits Humanism is a Religion, this was the case till the word Religion became the bad word for Humanists…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Here is a bit from Manifesto 2.


    Religion
    FIRST: In the best sense, religion may inspire dedication to the highest ethical ideals. The cultivation of moral devotion and creative imagination is an expression of genuine "spiritual" experience and aspiration.
    We believe, however, that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species. Any account of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence; in our judgment, the dogmas and myths of traditional religions do not do so. Even at this late date in human history, certain elementary facts based upon the critical use of scientific reason have to be restated. We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of survival and fulfillment of the human race. As nontheists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity. Nature may indeed be broader and deeper than we now know; any new discoveries, however, will but enlarge our knowledge of the natural.

    Some humanists believe we should reinterpret traditional religions and reinvest them with meanings appropriate to the current situation. Such redefinitions, however, often perpetuate old dependencies and escapisms; they easily become obscurantist, impeding the free use of the intellect. We need, instead, radically new human purposes and goals.

    We appreciate the need to preserve the best ethical teachings in the religious traditions of humankind, many of which we share in common. But we reject those features of traditional religious morality that deny humans a full appreciation of their own potentialities and responsibilities. Traditional religions often offer solace to humans, but, as often, they inhibit humans from helping themselves or experiencing their full potentialities. Such institutions, creeds, and rituals often impede the will to serve others. Too often traditional faiths encourage dependence rather than independence, obedience rather than affirmation, fear rather than courage. More recently they have generated concerned social action, with many signs of relevance appearing in the wake of the "God Is Dead" theologies. But we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.

    SECOND: Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans from present concerns, from self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices. Modern science discredits such historic concepts as the "ghost in the machine" and the "separable soul." Rather, science affirms that the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces. As far as we know, the total personality is a function of the biological organism transacting in a social and cultural context. There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body. We continue to exist in our progeny and in the way that our lives have influenced others in our culture.

    Traditional religions are surely not the only obstacles to human progress. Other ideologies also impede human advance. Some forms of political doctrine, for instance, function religiously, reflecting the worst features of orthodoxy and authoritarianism, especially when they sacrifice individuals on the altar of Utopian promises. Purely economic and political viewpoints, whether capitalist or communist, often function as religious and ideological dogma. Although humans undoubtedly need economic and political goals, they also need creative values by which to live.

    That does sound rather a bit like it precludes the possibility that those Religions may be correct, doesn’t it?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Humanist Manifesto 3, while shorter and less focused on the Religion question, does make plain an Ideological Materialism.

    Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

    And that’s the Three that are generally accepted. The Manifesto 2000 also makes this Ideological Materialism known, though admittedly the Manifesto 2000 is not Universally endorsed by all Humanists like 1 and 2 and for the most part 3 are. Still, its worth the quote.

    III. Scientific Naturalism

    The unique message of humanism on the current world scene is its commitment to scientific naturalism. Most world views accepted today are spiritual, mystical, or theological in character. They have their origins in ancient pre-urban, nomadic, and agricultural societies of the past, not in the modern industrial or postindustrial global information culture that is emerging. Scientific naturalism enables human beings to construct a coherent world view disentangled from metaphysics or theology and based on the sciences.

    Its also built from the now discredited but still popular Conflict Thesis.

    I think that I’ve proven that Secular Humanism dos have an Ideological Atheism at its root, and that a Secular Humanist must adhere to at least an Agnostic position to be consistent with the texts.

    They must also be Materialists and to an extent believe in Linear progressivism and Scientific Naturalism. Its something that I’m afraid can’t be divorced from Humanism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE


    (And, again, if any Evangelical Christians are reading this and happen to disagree with Geisler and Craig's apparent positions, your comments would be most welcome. I don't want to be guilty of criticizing a straw man version of Evangelicalism.)

    I am confident that there are Evangelical Christians who do disagree with it, what I’m more worried about are those, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, or yes, even Atheists who agree with it but only in regards to their own beliefs, but who claim they only go where the Evidence leads.

    As I said, at least Geisler is Honest about it.

    OK, that's the end.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Zarove — I am trying to be as charitable to your argument as I know how, but I find the word "religion" in your posts to be a distraction. I don't define the word "religion" as you apparently do, but for the sake of argument, I will stipulate that "the belief system held by an Atheist that explains his existence to him and tells him who he is a religion."

    So what? From the fact that that belief system is a "religion," it does not follow that that 'religion' entails what I earlier called a doctrine of atheistic faith. Now perhaps there are atheistic 'religions,' such as secular humanism, Objectivism, Nietzsche's philosophy, etc., which do have a doctrine of atheistic faith. But, again, if we define those things as 'religions,' it still needs to be shown, not assumed, that they have a doctrine of atheistic faith. I have not yet seen such evidence in your posts (but I know that quotations of the Manifestos, at least, are on the way).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Zarove wrote:

    In Humanist Manifesto 1, Article 6.

    SIXTH: We are convinced that the time has passed for theism, deism, modernism, and the several varieties of "new thought".

    That seems rather unambiguous, but it carries on from there.

    The sentence you quoted is descriptive, not prescriptive. In other words, it is not making a normative claim that secular humanists should remain secular humanists no matter what the evidence says. Rather, it asserts the secular humanist assessment of the evidence for varieties of supernaturalism.

    SEVENTH: Religion consists of those actions, purposes, and experiences which are humanly significant. Nothing human is alien to the religious. It includes labor, art, science, philosophy, love, friendship, recreation–all that is in its degree expressive of intelligently satisfying human living. The distinction between the sacred and the secular can no longer be maintained.

    EIGHTH: Religious Humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man's life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now. This is the explanation of the humanist's social passion.

    NINTH: In the place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer the humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal life and in a cooperative effort to promote social well-being.

    TENTH: It follows that there will be no uniquely religious emotions and attitudes of the kind hitherto associated with belief in the supernatural.

    I have the same response as above. None of these quotations express a doctrine of atheistic faith, i.e., a normative principle that secular humanists should believe atheism (or secular humanism) in spite of the evidence.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Now, Airvolt.

    Mythology is an explanatory story that transcends its story and becomes the embodiment of Abstract Ideals, or else is a set of Abstract Ideals believed to be Universally True.

    Atheists today have all sorts of Myths, by which I do not mean made up Stories. I mean explanative ones. EG, Evolution is an explanation of how we got here and where we came from and what we are. It functions the same way the Biblical Creation account does, or the Hindu Creation event, or the Ancient Egyptian, in that, while the narrative is different, it still serves to tell us how we came to be. While you may say its different because its Science, not Religion, something I will get to in a moment, functionally it’s the same. It serves the same purpose and fulfils the same Human Need, the need to know about our Origins. That is what makes it a Myth.

    But it’s a rather poor example in this context. While Evolution is a huge, to some central part of Atheistic beliefs, it’s not really about Atheism, and plenty of people who are not Atheists accept it. It also doesn’t really define what it means to be an Atheist.

    That is where we turn to the big Myth that still makes the rounds and often controls the debate on the Internet. The Draper-White Conflict Thesis. This is the belief that Science and Religion are two forces that are in competition and which are Hostile to each other. It states that Science seeks Truth by study of our world, but will inevitably run afoul of the Religious Authorities who see these discoveries as dangerous and realise that the new Theories the Scientists come up with undermine the Faith they serve. So, they oppose, fiercely, all Scientific advances. Yet, in the end, Science and Truth win against Primitive Religious Fable and Superstition.

    Every Tome Religion and Science comes into conflict, Science Wins.

    Oh, and the world will be made perfect and a Utopia by Science.

    And being Scientific and Rational leads to Atheism.

    That belief set, linking Reason, and later Science, and acting as if Atheism and Logical Thought are synonymous with each other, combined with the veneration of Science ( In word at least) and depiction of Religion as the opposite of Science allows the Atheist to see all Religious people as both intellectually his Inferior, and as a Rival force promoting a different “Worldview” that’s base don “Faith” rather than Reason. (Faith is in quotation marks because its usually here defined as belief without Evidence, which is not the Historical Definition, or even the only one now.)

    It doesn’t even matter that the conflict thesis has been disproven.

    Or what about the entire Middle Ages? They are still thought of as the Dark Ages, a Time when all progress stopped and Culture Stagnated, and the Knowledge of the Ancients was Lost. This was, of course, caused by Religion which suppressed knowledge and forbade Science, leading to loads of needless wars and death…

    Those are Myths for Modern Atheists.

    If you want more, just read the Humanist Manifestos or Anticipations by H. G. Wells, or the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, or Sam Harris’s Moral Landscape, they are chalked full of Modern Atheist ( really Secular Humanist) Mythology.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Zarove wrote:

    Here is a bit from Manifesto 2.

    (quotations omitted)

    I don't want to sound like the proverbial broken record, but, again, none of these quotations express any sort of normative principle that secular humanists ought to believe secular humanism, regardless of the evidence.

    That does sound rather a bit like it precludes the possibility that those Religions may be correct, doesn’t it?

    Again, you've confused facts with values, what secular humanists believe is the case (regarding the evidence for or against supernatural claims) vs. what they believe about how the evidence ought to be evaluated.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Mr. Lowder, oftentimes “Descriptive’ becomes Proscriptive. As I said, I’ve been in enough of these discussions to know that Atheists can be vehemently attached to their Ideas and do start with them as Unquestionable Truths sometimes.

    I just don’t think that Atheists are always open minded, rational, or Scientific. I don’t think the Humanist Manifestos ideas are taken as mere suggestions but often define how a Humanist Understands his world.

    But this isn’t even a Humanist problem, but a Human one. The same basic problem exists in all Humanity irrespective of the beliefs held. A Hindu may favour Hindu beliefs over what evidence and reason who him, simply because its how he understands himself and his world, and he doesn’t want to alter that. Or, a Liberal who supports Abortion may blind themselves to any argument that the fetus is a Baby. A Conservative may blind themselves or any Research that would demonstrate that Homosexuality is innate.

    Its not really about Religion, its about how people won’t let go of what they already “know to be True”.

    As for my use of the word, my use of the word Religion is accurate, and not meant to be distracting. I just stopped pretending that there was a fundamental difference.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Zarove wrote:

    Humanist Manifesto 3, while shorter and less focused on the Religion question, does make plain an Ideological Materialism.

    Again, I think you've confused secular humanist beliefs about the evidence with secular humanist approaches to evaluating the evidence.

    I think you're barking up the wrong tree. There is no secular humanist equivalent of Geisler's troubling imperative: "we must place Lordship over scholarship." In fact, I think you will have to admit the Manifestos directly or indirectly talk about the scientific method as a means of knowledge. Implicit in the scientific method is the idea that if the evidence disconfirms a hypothesis (and there is no other evidence which supports the hypothesis), you abandon the hypothesis. This directly contradicts the alleged secular humanist doctrine of atheistic faith.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Mr. Lowder, oftentimes “Descriptive’ becomes Proscriptive. As I said, I’ve been in enough of these discussions to know that Atheists can be vehemently attached to their Ideas and do start with them as Unquestionable Truths sometimes.

    I'm not denying that atheists, like all other human beings, can be dogmatic and even irrational. Rather, my point is there simply is zero support for the idea that atheism or even secular humanism logically entail or make probable a 'doctrine' of atheistic faith.

    But this isn’t even a Humanist problem, but a Human one.

    I agree with that!

    I must say, despite appearances to the contrary, I am not convinced we actually disagree with one another. I think we have a "violent agreement" going on, LOL. ;-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Oh I didn’t explain it well last Time.

    Your right, the text doesn’t say Secular Humanists must remain Secular Humanists no matter what, but I was merely answering your other question. You asked where the text supported Atheistic Faith. Well, these quotes make it apparent that to be a Secular Humanist you must possess Atheistic Faith.

    If you want a comment that says “If evidence proves you wrong, believe in Humanism anyway”, then you won’t find it. But you won’t find that in the Bible either, instead you find Jesus saying the truth shall make us free.

    Perhaps I misunderstood your intention, but I merely wanted to show how Humanists are rather attached to their Atheism. It’s the same sort of attachment an Evangelical Christian will have to his own faith. Do you honestly think that the Secular Humanist would react differently? Perhaps they’d never say it, but they’d still refuse to admit error in their own beliefs even if confronted with contradictory evidence. Why? Its not so much the fault of Humanism itself, but of people. Once you “Know the Truth’, its easy to disregard pesky things that contradict you.

    I have no doubt many humanists act in integrity, but I also have no doubt that many Humanists would subordinate any evidence to their own Ideological and Philosophical Biases, based on the same Human Weaknesses the Evangelicals here show.

    In the case above though, its not even real Evidence but interpretation of a text. Its very much easier to dismiss.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Mr. Lowder, not only do we have a Violent Agreement, but as I type this rhen post, you post too to address it, which frustrated my tendancy to write novels for internet posts.

    Im certain I shall need my solicitor now.

    I’m not sure on what grounds I shall sue you but I am certain that I will get loads of money because we live in todays world and my feelings were hurt, if I understand them correctly as outlined in the legal settlement.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    ZAROVE wrote: "So, Secular Humanism is not a Non-Religious Philosophy and an Alternative to religion, its simply another Religion itself. So is Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, and so is Neitche’s Philosophy. I would classify them as Atheistic Religions. The usual objection is that they are more of Philosophies than Religions, but if a Philosophy explains the same Questions religion explains and serves the same purpose as Religion then what’s the real difference?"

    Compare to Scott Atran's anthropological definition of religion in his book, In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion:

    (1) a community's costly and hard-to-fake commitment (2) to a counterfactual and counterintuitive world of supernatural agents (3) who master people's existential anxieties, such as death and deception [... and] (4) demand ritualistic & rhythmic co-ordination of 1, 2, & 3.

    Not great as a philosophical definition given the presumption of counterfactuality in (2), but it is clear that his definition captures a more prototypical concept of religion than one so broad as to include any philosophical worldview that proposes answers to cosmological questions.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Mr. Lippard, the concept of the Supernatural itself is not even rpesnt in all forms of Christianity, making Chridstianity not a Religion…

    Nor do all Religiosn fixate on Anxiety. Look at Jainism, or Ba'Hai.

    Altran's view was obviously created to be self serving, to prtomote the idea that Religion came alogn to give us solice and answers that we had yet to elarn the real Truth behind, and that Science woudl replace. I donn't realy find any use in his Definition.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    ZAROVE: While I agree with you that there are religions that do not involve deities or the supernatural, they appear to me to be outliers. I am familiar with a few varieties of Christianity-without-supernaturalism, such as "Christian atheism" and "Christian non-realism."

    You misrepresent Atran's views–he does not promote the idea that "Religion came alogn to give us solice and answers that we had yet to elarn the real Truth behind, and that Science woudl replace." Rather, he promotes the idea, as does anthropologist Pascal Boyer in _Religion Explained_, that religion has its root in evolved human tendencies of pattern-seeking and agent attribution.

    I think both Boyer and Atran have provided interesting and likely accurate explanations of at least a large portion of religious behavior and belief, even if there are outliers that they don't explain.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    As much as you think I misrepresent their views, I think you misrepresent mine. You don’t even know what I mean when I say some forms of Christianity do not accept the Supernatural, and I doubt you’d understand if I told you that Angels are not Supernatural beings. You are too accustomed to them being treated as Supernatural beings by definition to even contemplate that they’d be seen as anything different. But, no one in the Ancient Church even had a concept of “The Supernatural”, and Medieval Theologians were clear that only God was Supernatural in the original meaning of the word, with Angels being subjected to Natural laws. They were not envisioned to live in a Supernatural Realm outside of our Reality, that is inherently a modern view. Even a personal, all powerful God who created everything is not necessarily understood as Supernatural, but I’d wager you think such talk is insanity.

    I’m not misrepresenting their views, I’m simply saying their views are fatally flawed. I actually agree with part of it, but not all. I’d say Science and Religion have as their root the same basic idea, to discover and make sense of the world around us. I also reject the notion that they answer the questions differently. Religion can employ any number of avenues, but usually comes along after the Observation is made, whilst Science is a Methodology and not a Philosophy.

    Religion is nothing more than the internal Narrative that tells you the story of how the word is suppose to work, and Science, when the word is not Hijacked to mean the body of current thinking and is restored to its actual meaning, is simply a Methodological system of Inquiry designed to formalise and standardise the process of Observation in the Hopes of generating a way to guide our observations and help us seek Truth.

    I do not think Religion is all about Theism, and I don’t think its about embodying our Anxieties like Death or Invasion. Its about how we understand who we are, both as a collective people and as Individuals. Its about addressing what sort of world we live in. Its about telling us how we should live our lives and what our Relationship towards our world and each other should be.

    To try to reduce it to merely primitives developing Religion as a part of pattern recognition that helped overcome Anxieties or build Tribal Bonds is as off-putting to me as the common but wring definition of Faith as belief without Evidence.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    ZAROVE wrote: "As much as you think I misrepresent their views, I think you misrepresent mine. You don’t even know what I mean when I say some forms of Christianity do not accept the Supernatural, and I doubt you’d understand if I told you that Angels are not Supernatural beings. You are too accustomed to them being treated as Supernatural beings by definition to even contemplate that they’d be seen as anything different."

    I didn't attempt to represent your views, so I don't see how I could have misrepresented them. You presume that I not only don't understand, but can't understand, on the basis of what? I have no problem comprehending at least one possible meaning of alleged supernatural beings being natural and subject to natural law–e.g., the way they are depicted frequently in fiction. A "supreme being" that is subject to natural laws is analogous to a super-powerful alien entity like Q in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." But if you mean something yet different from that, an explication or reference would be appreciated. If you are going to insist a priori that no one understands you nor can understand you, then what's the point of entering into a discussion?

    ZAROVE: "Even a personal, all powerful God who created everything is not necessarily understood as Supernatural, but I’d wager you think such talk is insanity."

    You would lose that wager.

    ZAROVE: "I’m not misrepresenting their views" — stop right there. The passage I quoted from you *is* a misrepresentation of Atran and Boyer. They do not argue that humans appeal to the existence of gods for comfort and solace, that claim is false. Have you read _Religion Explained_ and _In Gods We Trust_? If not, then how do you purport to know what their views are? If you have, then I suggest you look again at pp. 204-206 of Boyer, where he argues *against* the common idea that religion exists for the purpose of giving comfort in the face of death. Similarly, it is not an explanation that Atran gives any credence, just as it is the first of the "spurious explanations" Steven Pinker discussed in his 2004 talk to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Jeff Lowder said…

    "If there is a conflict between reason and Evangelical beliefs, Evangelicals ought to maintain their belief in Evangelical Christianity in spite of the evidence."

    Let's call this principle the "doctrine of Evangelical faith."
    =============
    Comments:

    Since you are not getting any feedback from an Evangelical Christian viewpoint, let me try to fill in for them here.

    It is not 'Evangelical beliefs' which are normative, but beliefs that are clearly taught by the Bible.

    The key assumption in Geisler's critique is that the Bible is without error, at least in the original manuscripts.

    If God exists, and if the Bible is God's primary communication to humans, then one must conclude that the Bible is without error, at least in the original manuscripts.

    So, when it is clearly the case that the Bible teaches claim C, and the (other) non-biblical evidence that we have clearly implies that C is false, should one believe C or reject C?

    It all depends on how strong the evidence is for the assumptions that God exists and that the Bible is God's primary communication to humans. If the evidence for these assumptions is strong, then the evidence in favor of C (from the Bible) is strong.

    But, suppose the other (non-biblical) evidence is strong for the falsehood of C. In that case we would, from an Evangelical view, have strong evidence for C, and strong evidence against C. In such circumstances, it is not irrational to favor the biblical claim over the denial of that claim.

    So, from an Evangelical viewpoint, there is strong evidence for God and for the Bible being without error. Given these assumptions, strong (non-biblical) evidence against a claim that is clearly taught by the Bible is either outweighed or at least counter-balanced by the weight of the credibility of the Bible.

    However, to the extent that there are several examples where some claim is clearly taught by the Bible but is also clearly implied to be false by non-biblical evidence, a rational person must take those examples to be evidence against the initial assumptions that God exists and that the Bible is God's primary communication to humans.

    In other words, if one finds several contradictions in the Bible, or several historical claims that are contrary to available historical facts and data, then one ought to seriously question and doubt the assumption that the Bible is without error.

    Anyway, I think an Evangelical would argue that following biblical teachings over non-biblical evidence is not going contrary to reason, because there are good reasons (they would say) for believing the Bible to be without error.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Mr. Bowen, that is an excellent statement, but I do wonder one thing. Suppose Dr. Licona where to say he still affirms that the Bible is innerrent and True?

    The proplem as I see it, at least if I understand Liona's position, si that he has not denied this. he has stated instead that he interprets the Ressurection ofthe Saitns in a fashion that precludes it as a Manifest Physical Act. While most Evangelical Christians may disagree with him on that point, Licona did not say that the Bible contained error. He didn't even say that the Ressurection of the Saitns was not Literally True, only that they were not bodily ressurected.

    So how does he violate Evangelical beleif directly? he only indirectly does inasmuch as the general interpretation of this passage is that it was an actual Physical ressurection.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Mr. Lippard, as I have often been subjected to harsh treatment and ridicule for statign facts I have learned from years of study, I rather enjoy loosing wagers liek the one Imade.

    That said, I still am not misrepresentign their premise. Im simplifyign it beyond what woudl be acceptable if I was primarily writtign abotu it.

    There is a distinction.

    I still think that religion is not all abotu gods, and we all have Religion. its simply opur paradigm for understanding ourselves and our world, and nothign more.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    ZAROVE wrote: "hat said, I still am not misrepresentign their premise. Im simplifyign it beyond what woudl be acceptable if I was primarily writtign abotu it."

    I fail to see how your description of their position as "religion exists because it gives comfort" when their position is "religion does not exist because it gives comfort" is a simplification rather than a contradiction. You also didn't answer whether you've actually read either of the books in question.

    ZAROVE wrote: "I still think that religion is not all abotu gods, and we all have Religion."

    Neither Boyer nor Atran say nor imply that religion is all about gods, and much of what they discuss is applicable to other areas of human social life beyond religion. If you have not read their work, I do recommend it to you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    ZAROVE said…

    The proplem as I see it, at least if I understand Liona's position, si that he has not denied this. he has stated instead that he interprets the Ressurection ofthe Saitns in a fashion that precludes it as a Manifest Physical Act. While most Evangelical Christians may disagree with him on that point, Licona did not say that the Bible contained error. He didn't even say that the Ressurection of the Saitns was not Literally True, only that they were not bodily ressurected.

    ========
    Response:

    I agree.

    Geisler argues that Licona's position is contrary to belief that the NT is without error.

    I'm not familiar with Licona's discussion of the Matt. 27 passage, but it seems to me that Geisler and Licona just have different interpretations of what the author of Matthew was trying to say, and Licona's interpretation seems quite reasonable to me; it even supports the doctrine of inerrancy in that it removes one significant objection to that doctrine.

    I suspect that Geisler is basically worried about a slippery slope. If one admits that the author of Matthew intentionally used legend or myth to make a theological point, then the natural inference is that there are likely to be other instances in that gospel where legend or myth is intentionally used to make a theological point. Geisler is worried that if one opens the door to interpreting one passage that way, then eventually most supernatural passages in the four gospels will end up be interpreted non-literally.

    But, of course, it is far from obvious that there is such a slippery slope; a more reasonable attitude would be to allow some passages to be treated as legend or myth used to make theological points, while treating other passages as more literal history, and still other passages to be a mixture of legend and history. Such subtlety frightens dogmatic thinkers, and the real slippery slope here is that once one starts making such subtle distinctions, the whole dogmatic uncritical mode of thought becomes more and more difficult to maintain. Black-and-white thinking is better for preserving a dogmatic, closed-minded approach to the Bible.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Donald Hagner has a lengthy footnote on the question of the historicity of the resurrection of the saints incident in his commentary on Matthew(Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 33B, Matthew 14-28, p.850-852).

    Hagner held the George Eldon Ladd Chair of NT at Fuller Theological Seminary. So, he is presumably an Evangelical scholar, although Fuller is considered somewhat liberal in the Evangelical world.

    Hagner's conclusion:

    "I side, therefore, with such recent commentators as Gundry, Senior (Passion of Jesus), Gnilka, Bruner, Harrington, D.R.A. Hare (Matthew, Interpretation…), and R.E. Brown (Death of the Messiah) in concluding that the rising of the saints from the tombs in this passage is a piece of theology set forth as history. Sabourin is probably correct when he writes: 'Matthew took for historical facts popular reports of what would have taken place at the time of Jesus. He used these stories to convey his own theological message' (919, so too R.E Brown, Death of the Messiah, 1138)."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    mr. Lippard, I think you misunderstood my post. I am sayign I do not beelive Religion to be mere explanation thats made up to tell us of the world and by that fidn solace, I did not say specifically comfort.

    Mr. Bowen, I don’t even think it is introducing an idea that Mathew used legends and Myths. The resurrection can be literally True, yet still not bodily. EG, when Jesus died, he is said in classical belief to have gone to hell and released those in Bondage. As no one enters Heaven prior to Jesus’ Sacrifice, the Open Tombs and Saints being resurrected could simply mean that they were taken from this purgatorial existence into the new Life that Jesus offered. That even can have literally happened but not been a Physical event on Earth. So, I myself am perplexed at the Threat his views pose to Evangelical beliefs.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Matthew 27:50-54 (NASB):

    50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
    =====================
    In order to take the position that the saints were not bodily raised from the dead, one must see the details in this passage as fictional:

    'many bodies of the saints…were raised' – A purely spiritual event would not involve their bodies.

    'coming out of the tombs…they entered the holy city and appeared to many' – This description fits a physical resurrection much better than a purely spiritual event.

    'the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened' – The fact that Roman soldiers 'saw..the things that were happening' implies a physical event rather than a purely spiritual one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    I didn't say the interrpetation was perfect or obvious. However, some interpret "Holy City' as heaven instead of Earth, with the bodies "Raptured" or whatever.

    Keep in mind Im not really sure what Licona means as I've yet to read his statements. I'm simply postulating.

    I also do not agree with Dr. Licona. But that is not sufficient for me to say he denies Innerency.

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