25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 7)

25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 7) October 20, 2014

stupid Christian arguments apologeticsLet’s wrap up our exploration of stupid arguments Christians would do well to avoid (Part 1 here).

Stupid Argument #23: Atheism is an empty philosophy. “There is no basis in atheism for morality. A consistent atheist would admit that the holocaust was not evil based on atheism. All that he can say is that stuff happens” (from commenter Al).

No basis in atheism for morality? There’s also none in chemistry, but so what? Atheism doesn’t propose to define or explain morality; it is simply the lack of god belief (or some close variant). That’s it. If you’re looking for a formalized approach to secular morality, consider the Humanist Manifesto or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Seriously, Christians, avoid this one. It invites a critique of your own worldview which, unlike atheism, does claim to provide moral guidelines. And they suck. With a God that commands genocide and condones slavery, you live in a glass house.

Stupid Argument #24: You really believe in God. You must just hate God. Or you’re an atheist because you are too proud to bend the knee. Or because you had a bad father. Or you don’t want to give up your hedonistic lifestyle. Or you had a bad experience with a religious person.

“You really believe in God, you just hate him” was the laughable punch line in the move God’s Not Dead. The mean professor, when a child, pleaded with God to not take away his mother, but she died anyway. (My review here.) Someone who believes in God is not an atheist. And not me.

Some Christians seem determined to begin with “all men are without excuse” from Romans 1:20. If there is no excuse, then atheists’ arguments must somehow be invalid, and they must actually be believers who willfully reject the truth.

I’ve responded to the weak “atheists must’ve had a bad father figure” argument here. The same kind of Freudian analysis by which some Christians imagine that atheists had a poor father figure (and so reject their supernatural father) just as easily argues that Christians who grew up with strong fathers invent a supernatural father to avoid the fear of being alone.

Stupid Argument #25a: Rationalization. “Life is … like a ray that starts with a point called birth and extends on into eternity. … That gives you a very different perspective on suffering, on evil, on anything bad that might happen to you in your life. … Any period of suffering … becomes smaller and smaller relative to eternity [as you proceed along the ray of life—it becomes] a quick, brief instant.” (from Christian podcaster J. Warner Wallace)

Any injustice you might experience in the world? Just shake it off because we should compare it relative to the all-you-can-eat buffet and bottomless coffee that is heaven. (And you thought Christians didn’t like relative arguments!)

This is like hitting a random person and then giving them a million dollars in compensation. Yes, you’ve given compensation, but that doesn’t justify the injury! In the same way, “God compensates for the injustice in your life” doesn’t get God off the hook.

Rationalization has its place. If you have conflicting claims X and Y and you are certain that X is true, it makes sense to assume that Y fits in somehow. The problem is when X (for example, “God exists”) is assumed true with insufficient evidence.

C.S. Lewis’s rationalization for the Problem of Evil was, “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” He can’t imagine a bungling god and he can’t imagine no god, so somehow evil must be there for a good reason. Here again we have the Hypothetical God Fallacy where God is presupposed so that we can imagine that omniscient God must have good reasons for things we just don’t understand.

The Bible itself has these rationalizations. Remember when Jesus predicted the imminent end? Rationalization becomes damage control when it doesn’t happen on schedule.

In the last days scoffers … will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” …

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:3–8).

So Jesus was wrong by 2000 years and counting? Well, yeah … but … but that must’ve been part of the Plan® all along. Yeah—that’s what it was! All along, God wanted to bring as many believers as possible to the Kingdom, so he’s just delaying the inevitable. So rationalize a catastrophe by assuming God’s plan is right on course.

Or take the embarrassing conquest of first Israel and then Judah. What happened to Yahweh’s protection? Was he weaker than the gods of the other countries? Well, you have to understand that Yahweh was just using the Assyrians and Babylonians to teach God’s people a lesson (Ezekiel 36:19, for example). Yep, he was in charge all along. No other option is conceivable.

(Ideas on avoiding rationalization here.)

Stupid Argument #25b: God as the unfalsifiable hypothesis. “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter” (Christian apologist William Lane Craig).

If prayer works, that’s because of God, and if it doesn’t work, that’s also because of God.

If good things happen, God is blessing you, and if bad things happen, God is testing you.

If God does something good, praise the Lord, and if God does something bad, you just misunderstand.

For some people, nothing will falsify God belief. (I’ve written more here and here.)

Conclusion

Christians, get out of the echo chamber. These arguments sound good only before they’re tried out in the real world. Arming yourself with these arguments is like walking the Hollywood set of a Western town—everything is pretend.

(But now that we’ve gotten these bad arguments out in the open, no Christians reading this will use these useless and embarrassing arguments, right? Surely, that’s the last we’ll see of them.)

Christian apologists might say that these 25 arguments (and the ones I’m sure to be blogging about in the future) are ridiculous. Who would use them? I’m afraid that I’ve seen these arguments and more. If you’re saying that these arguments are ridiculous, yes, that’s the point. Spread the word.

Continue with Part 8 (yes, there are more than 25!).

The chains men bear they forged themselves.
Strike off their chains and they will weep for their lost security.
— John Passmore

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  • Jess Grew

    Christians, get out of the echo chamber.

    Bob means his own blog, which has more echo than King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown.

    • hector_jones

      If you actually read this blog you would have noticed that at least half the comments here are posted by christian dickhead morons much like you. It’s hardly an echo chamber around here. Christian blogs, on the other hand …

    • Pofarmer

      If you want an echo chamber, go to the Catholic Channel, where several blogs have comments completely disabled and most of the others are heavily moderated.

    • Kodie

      These shitty Christian arguments Bob posted only make sense to a gullible moron. But at least you’re here trying to open up and learn something.

    • Dys

      Bob means his own blog

      Doesn’t one of your precious commandments say something about lying?

      • busterggi

        That’s one of those OT things that only applies to Jews ya see, Real Christians can tell which is which.

    • TheUnknownPundit

      All of us need to be mindful of immersing themselves into an echo chamber of some sort. Echo chambers have been known to reverberate with bad ideas. With that said, religion may be the longest running echo chamber known to man. Its lifeblood is childhood indoctrination and weekly (or daily) worship for all lest the indoctrination wear off. And it takes as its authority the superstitions of primitive, barbaric men who lived centuries ago. One of the best things to ever happen to me was escaping the echo chamber of religious belief.

      • When Christians are eager to see Christian prayer in schools or at city council meetings, one wonders what they’re afraid of. If the Christian truth is obvious for all to see (“people are without excuse”), why are they so anxious to get the government to vete their religion?

  • MNb

    “Christian apologists might say that these 25 arguments are ridiculous”
    This provides us with stupid argument nr. 25c.

    “Your arguments against christianity show that you take the Bible as literally as fundamentalists.”
    But those apologists never answer the question why don’t educate fundamentalists and literalists instead of atheist me ….. Why care about atheists misunderstanding the Bible?

  • KarlUdy

    C.S. Lewis’s rationalization for the Problem of Evil was, “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” He can’t imagine a bungling god and he can’t imagine no god, so somehow evil must be there for a good reason. Here again we have the Hypothetical God Fallacy where God is presupposed so that we can imagine that omniscient God must have good reasons for things we just don’t understand.

    It is not a fair representation of the facts to say that CS Lewis could not imagine no god. He was an atheist for many years. In writing a book explaining how he could reconcile God’s existence with the existence of pain and suffering, he is demonstrating that such a position is not necessarily contradictory. This is not a fallacy, whether or not you believe his appraisal of the situation to be the truth or not.

    • Dys

      Lewis simply did what most apologists do with the problem of evil – duck and hide behind “mysterious ways” and presuppose that there must an ultimate good reason for it all. You can escape just about any theological conundrum with “mysterious ways”; it’s an apologistic “get out of jail free” card. But it’s not a meaningful answer in any sense.

      • KarlUdy

        DyslexicDNA, what have you read of what Lewis wrote about the problem of evil?

    • smrnda

      Lewis uses a lot of elaborate, poetic language and flat out sophism at times. A banal thought, expressed in a literary enough way, becomes a deepity The whole of most of his books are non-answer deepities of the worst sort.

      • KarlUdy

        smrdna, what, of what Lewis wrote on the problem of evil, do you consider to be a deepity?

      • His omission of Legend from his famous trilemma is inexcusable.

  • avalon

    “(But now that we’ve gotten these bad arguments out in the open, no
    Christians reading this will use these useless and embarrassing
    arguments, right? Surely, that’s the last we’ll see of them.)”

    But if they did that, could you still have a discussion with them? I’m curious, what (if any) argument you’d suggest Christians use?

    • Scott F

      I have tried to put together a short list of reasonable or understandable (if not ironclad) reasons to believe in God. I would love to see some other (thoughful!) views:

      Each of these are seductive to one raised marinated in religious language and thought. They are avoided only by force of will, training oneself to doubt basic instincts.

      1. Religious Experience – Although no one should be convinced by the internal state of another, to the experiencer it is very real. Learning to doubt the workings of your own mind usually takes some rather harsh encounters with reality.

      2. Creationism – I know, “Science” But for many the intuition is very strong and at least somewhat understandable.

      3. Alienation – The sense that we are strangers in a strange land comes to all of us. I am sympathetic to those who conclude they must belong somewhere else.

      See full blog post for : http://donttakemyword.blogspot.com/search/label/Belief

      • Good list. I would add: The Example of Respected Citizens.

        We can’t investigate that every food we’re given is safe or healthy; instead, we trust what society tells us. Usually, that advice is pretty good, but sometimes it’s wrong–superstitions, prejudice, and so on.

        • avalon

          It seems to me that there is one argument, but paradoxically, they can’t articulate it. It’s a mix of morality and experience (but not the bogus OMV moral argument).

          First, experience: they experience something. Their interpretation of that experience may be objectively wrong, but the feel-good nature of the experience is what’s important. Their faith in their interpretation of their experience is like a placebo.
          Then, there’s the morality of atheists telling theists that what makes them feel so good is really just a placebo. For them, the question of God’s existence is a moral one, but like a placebo they have to believe it’s factual.
          A theist once asked you (Bob) if you’d tell a dying child that there was no afterlife. You agreed that would be immoral. For the theist, it’s just as immoral to tell an adult theist that there is no God.
          You’ve admitted that your moral decisions are emotion-based, which is true of everyone. For the theist, God is a moral question to be decided by emotion. But for the placebo effect to work they have to believe it’s also rational and logical and factual. So the only argument that’s valid (the moral/emotional dimension) is one they can’t admit to because they’d be admitting belief is just a sugar pill.
          The question for atheists is whether to tell the ‘patient’ the truth about the placebo. Passing off a sugar pill as a powerful medicine might be a lie, but it’s a comforting one. The same seems to be true of the God experience for some people who need it, So the best argument seems to be one that atheists must present to them selves rather than hear from a theist.

        • You’ve seen the research that says that some of the placebo effect remains even when you know it’s just a sugar pill? Maybe that’s the future of Christianity.

        • Kodie

          You have maybe heard of the Christian atheists? For no reason other than they find the system appealing on some level, they use it as a guide. I do not really find flaw in this hypothetically. All religions are some sort of system to guide people and organize them, so if you find some help in it without believing all of it, or all the supernatural parts, or if you for some reason find Jesus’s sacrifice a beautiful poetry, or something like that, I don’t think I have a problem with personal usage. It is when you try to bludgeon people with it that I have a problem with any of it.

          People sometimes need a way to anchor themselves, and organize their thoughts and try to go in some direction, that even religious believers will seek another denomination when their old one just doesn’t sit right personally that they can no longer use it as a guide for living. And I would even go so far as to say that people who have turned their lives over to Jesus can reform in some way, and are not changed by the lord, but by organizing their shit according to some system that they previously lacked. It goes too far by attributing the change to god’s loving grace.

          As far as a placebo or whatever, are people resistant to adopting a life system because nobody’s counting? Is the only way to discipline people by threatening them with ultimate judgment?

        • Do you mean the Sunday Assembly?

          As far as kicking bad habits once you become a Christian, I’d imagine that any discipline that one embraces might do that–exercise, yoga, veganism, maybe even blogging–in addition to religions.

        • Kodie

          Is Sunday Assembly that church for atheists who need church? It’s sort of my worst nightmare, but for some, church is one of the only free-for-all networking type of deal that’s for whole families, not just for parents waiting for their kids at an activity, or for just adults, but maybe people don’t get along with their neighbors as much. But no, that’s not what I mean by Christian atheists. A Christian atheist is an atheist who admires and intentionally chooses to follow the philosophies of Christianity minus the supernatural belief.

          You got it, though. Religion is just one way to accomplish something. If your life is down the tubes, and you need to resolve change, following a plan, maybe even strictly, can be helpful. Life is hard when you don’t know what you’re doing and any plan can be a lifeboat. But it’s not from divine magic. I always have a feeling that the main parlor trick of attracting someone to a religion is that god is “proven” to the subject by following part of the plan, and when doing so, an improvement is noted.

          Several months ago, I went on some medication and I also hit an impulse to paint and reorganize my kitchen (finally after having the paint on hand for 3+ years). I felt great! It seemed to correlate to the medicine but I really felt good because I accomplished something and it gave me an emotional boost. Since I haven’t accomplished anything since then, and I feel worse, but I’m still on the medication, I see it’s not the medicine. I occasionally am motivated to go to it like that and done so without medication. I also hit an obstacle in my schedule and when I got my time back, I did not return to the track.

          But sometimes you need something to tell you what to do if you can’t tell yourself to do it. People need a framework, and religion is a framework. Some people’s framework is just their routine, and routine is responsibility, but is also maybe bad or unhealthy habits, it is just whatever you do when you don’t do anything new. If you have bad habits, it’s just hard to make up a new structure, you need to borrow one from someone else. That’s why Christians like to prey on the vulnerable, desperate people whose routine lacks responsible habits, while people with responsible habits may be looked on as stiff, inflexible, or afraid of change, or afraid of sliding downhill if they diverge from the routine. They can also be the least sympathetic to people who are not as together.

        • I may try out a Sunday Assembly next Sunday. I hate singing, though I know some people miss that from church, so I don’t think it’ll be a fit.

          If atheists want to take from Christianity its structure, its rituals or customs, its community, its grandeur, or whatever, I’m happy for them assuming there isn’t the meddling in civic life, the ungrounded thinking, or the politicans using them as pawns, like we have with Christianity today.

        • avalon

          You both might enjoy this article:
          http://nautil.us/issue/17/big-bangs/to-understand-religion-think-football

          @Kodie:
          “I don’t think I have a problem with personal usage. It is when you try to bludgeon people with it that I have a problem with any of it.”

          I agree and thankfully all of my believer friends fall into the ‘personal usage’ variety. The three reasons you gave doesn’t apply to any of them.

          “I try to figure out what goes through a religious person’s mind, what they see when they are looking at the same things as me.”

          What I’m saying is they aren’t thinking or seeing, they’re FEELING. They decide the God question the same way you or I decide moral questions, with emotion playing a part.
          I keep thinking of “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein where the morality of the aliens is more logical than earth’s. (For example, they use dead bodies as “meat”.) It’s a good example of how emotion shapes our morals. Science backs that up as well with brain scans showing the emotion centers of the brain lighting up when we think about moral questions. I imagine the same would be true of believers thinking about God.

          @Bob:
          “the ungrounded thinking, or the politicans using them as pawns, like we have with Christianity today.”

          Unfortunately, I’ve seen this in atheists as well. I’ve been hanging out at an atheist forum where some atheists haven’t really rejected religion, they’ve just adopted politics as their new religion. And they display the same emotion-based, ungrounded thinking as fundamentalists, only they’ve channeled it into their political views.
          It seems in the area of politics and religion there is a debate about what role (if any) emotions should play. But if an atheist claims to be one because of logic and reason, shouldn’t that guide their politics as well?

        • Good reminder. Just because someone claims to be an atheist doesn’t mean that they’re as logical as Mr. Spock.

          Interesting article. I’ll take a look. I’ve often thought that the passion for sports teams (us vs. them; maintaining allegiance even after you move; feeling beleaguered [for perennial loser teams]; allegiances formed in childhood) had parallels with religion.

          One difficulty is it’s hard to make that point to Christians without being insulting.

        • Kodie

          I don’t think that’s a valid argument either.

          1. Their comfort comes at a cost to them and their comfort is a result of being threatened by the people who offer to save them, for a substantial outlay of cash, usually.

          2. Just because they believe it, and are comforted by it, they are charged with the task of spreading like a cancer. They are not only comforted by the religion, they are frightened of being without it, and they are not frightened by what they see, they are frightened by what they are told to see – manipulated by their own gullibility. And they cannot believe that I can quite comfortable without their beliefs that when teaching me about it doesn’t work, they resort to threatening me, and when threatening me doesn’t work, they try to force me to adhere to their beliefs by law. . .

          3. So in order not to upset their delicate insecurities and awaken them to reality, we’re supposed to be tolerant and generous, and they come to expect that they can have their way such that any little pushback or reminder that not everyone believes in Jesus, or any god or gods, is persecution. They’re insensitive to my comfort, and I know two wrongs don’t make a right, but avoiding telling someone something to be sensitive to their comfort is how they are allowed to spread their ignorance to others, manipulated by their church into scaring them so they can sell comfort at the going rate of 10% of a believer’s annual GROSS income.

          In essence, if you tell someone there’s no afterlife and that causes exceptional grief, it could be that they have already been scared by the people trying to sell them their afterlife through fear tactics.

        • I wonder if there’s any symmetry with Christians having doubts. Do atheists have doubts about there not being a god or hell? Some do, I suppose. Perhaps just recent converts. But I never worry about that (that is, doubt my atheism).

        • Kodie

          I sometimes think about it. I feel like if I don’t test myself occasionally, I might end up in a vulnerable position. No matter how much I argue for atheism or against theism, whatever, sometimes I intentionally check myself if that’s what I really think or if I’ve gotten caught up in something like an idiot. I think it’s a good idea but maybe some people don’t need to work it out that way. I also try to believe, it’s sort of the same exercise. I try to figure out what goes through a religious person’s mind, what they see when they are looking at the same things as me.

        • Scott_In_OH

          Certainly. And it may be even worse when thinking about whether or not to pass your religion along to your kids. It’s one thing for me to condemn myself to hell (accidentally), but taking that risk with your kids’ lives can be an order of magnitude more difficult. It’s Pascal’s Wager with even higher stakes, and the emotional pull can be hard to resist.

        • Susan

          Do atheists have doubts about there not being a god or hell?

          No one has ever explained why we should call anything a god, let alone provide evidence for an agent behind things and, well, ‘hell’ needs its own explanation even if someone was able to fulfill the first two criteria.

          (Which they haven’t.)

    • I approach every argument now assuming that I’ll find convincing and devastating holes, either by myself or by searching online. I’ll change that initial hypothesis if I get disconfirming evidence.

      To your point, the only effective arguments I see are the confusing ones, and I’ve addressed many here. But that still doesn’t address your question of arguments I’d suggest Christians use. I guess: something new, not a retread of an old, discredited argument. (But then I’m not on the same page with them there, so I don’t see much chance of progress …)

  • TheUnknownPundit

    25b – A good description of confirmation bias. Flip a coin and “Heads” God wins and “Tails” God still wins. The “hits” count for God, the “misses” are ignored or explained away.Intercessory or petitionary prayer is a perfect example of this. If a prayer is “answered” then the believer counts that as evidence of God. But when prayer isn’t answered or, in fact, the opposite happens, the believer then makes excuses for God like: I was praying for the wrong thing; I didn’t have enough faith; God said “no”.For the believer, God always has to win or come out on top. And intellectual honesty isn’t going to stand in the way from making that happen.

  • Bradley Bowen

    Stupid Argument #23: Atheism is an empty philosophy. “There is no basis in atheism for morality. A consistent atheist would admit that the holocaust was not evil based on atheism. All that he can say is that stuff happens” (from commenter Al).

    ================

    We agree that “There is no basis in atheism for morality” and that this point is insignificant, since atheism is simply the rejection of theism.

    But the second claim is not as easily dismissed: “A consistent atheist would admit that the holocaust was not evil based on atheism.” What is intended here, I believe, is that the occurrence of some events or actions are evil is logically incompatible with atheism. This point cannot be easily dismissed.

    However, it is far from obvious that this claim is true, so there is a burden of proof on the religious person who makes this claim. Also, in essence what is claimed here is that “The only worldview that is logically compatible with the occurrence of evil events or actions is theism.” which is a fairly strong claim.
    So, we need an argument from the religious person to defend this strong claim. Once such an argument has been put on the table, then we can determine whether it has any merit.

    Of course, one obvious response is to ask whether theism is logically compatible with the occurrence of evil, especially with the occurrence of the large amount and terrible degree of evil and seemingly pointless evil that we observe in this world. Another question is whether the alleged problem with atheism not being compatible with the occurrence of evil events or actions also applies to theism, thus creating a stalemate situation.

    • MNb

      “the occurrence of some events or actions are evil is logically incompatible with atheism.”
      I don’t get this. How is this the case? As soon as I adopt an ethical system that does not need some immaterial, transcendental, supernatural higher power I can evaluate some events and actions as evil. Such an ethical system is logically totally compatible with atheism.

      • Bradley Bowen

        As soon as I adopt an ethical system that does not need some immaterial, transcendental, supernatural higher power…

        ===========
        This begs the question at issue. The question at issue is whether there can be such an ethical system (which yields judgments that some events or actions are evil).

        • Pofarmer

          There are myriad of them. Just do a little searching.

        • This site collects weird coincidences:

          http://www.theoddsmustbecrazy.com/

        • MNb

          “whether there can be such an ethical system”
          In the west there have been such ethical systems since about 200 years. Go over at Camels with Hammers to find one very close to us. So I still don’t get you. Are you going to pull off the “objective morals exist, they require god, hence god exists” nonsense?

  • Bradley Bowen

    Stupid Argument #25b: God as the unfalsifiable hypothesis. “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter” (Christian apologist William Lane Craig).

    =======================

    I’m not convinced that this is an obviously bad bit of reasoning.

    However, even if it is obviously bad reasoning for some people, it is a very important bit of reasoning that needs much more attention and careful analysis.

    This bit of reasoning reflects the thinking of many religious believers, perhaps most religious believers. I think WLC takes this very seriously, and his failure to see a serious problem in this reasoning is an indication that it is not easy, at least for believers, to see what is wrong here, to see why such reasoning is a mistake.

    • Since people make this argument, I’ll grant that they must see value in it. (Though I’m never sure with WLC. His stupid arguments are so stupid that one wonders if a smart guy like that actually knows that they’re flawed and uses them for rhetorical purposes.)

      But expand on your thinking. Tell me why you think they’re justified in making this argument (or at least justified in not seeing the obvious flaw).

      • Bradley Bowen

        I think the basic idea is that a highly reliable/trustworthy witness or source could provide very powerful evidence for a claim. On the other hand, the sort of arguments used to confirm or disconfirm theological beliefs are usually philosophical arguments, which many people view with skepticism (Hume, for example, could only remain skeptical about causal connections so long as he focused on skeptical philosophical arguments, but then in everyday life belief in causal connections became difficult to doubt).

        The Holy Spirit, if there is such a creature, presumably has first-hand knowledge of things theological (even the certain knowledge of introspection! ‘I think, therefore I am’).

        So, one might reasonably place more confidence in the testimony of a highly reliable/trustworthy witness or source of information over even one’s own rational conclusions based upon philosophical arguments.

        One problem, though, is that if one is skeptical about the force of philosophical arguments against the existence of God, for example, then one also ought to be equally skeptical about the force of philosophical arguments for God (this is a two-edged sword).

        • Bradley Bowen

          A slightly different way of thinking about this Christian view is that we are like blind persons, and the Holy Spirit is like a person who has sight. The nature and activities of God are invisible to us mere mortals, but the Holy Spirit is not limited in this way. The Holy Spirit has direct experience or knowledge of God, and has no need to infer conclusions about the nature or character of God on the basis of abstract metaphysical arguments. We who are “blind” to spiritual reality are reasonable to rely upon the testimony of the Holy Spirit even when that testimony comes into conflict with our conclusions based on abstract metaphysical arguments.

          A blind person might be able to make reasonable guesses about his/her physical surroundings by making inferences from various sounds and smells, but if there is a sighted person present, whom we have found to be honest and helpful in the past, then why not rely on the testimony of the sighted person, even if our best guesses about the physical surroundings are in conflict with that testimony?

        • MNb

          This leads to circularity. “the Holy Spirit is like a person who has sight” means that arguments only will be accepted if the conclusion will be that there is a holy spirit. This circularity is unreasonable, hence WLC contradicts himself. If he is serious here it is enough to say “I have faith there is a god, who by means of the holy spirit has given me my christian belief.” He should throw all his books and lectures into the dustbin and abandon the claim that his faith is reasonable.

          “We who are “blind” to spiritual reality are reasonable to rely upon the testimony of the Holy Spirit even when that testimony comes into conflict with our conclusions based on abstract metaphysical arguments.”
          That’s not what reason means. Reason means relying on argument and evt. evidence. WLC just has said that he rejects arguments and evidence if the outcome conflicts with faith.

          A simple example. You tell be blood is red. I maintain that blood is green. You give an argument and show evidence. I say “Never mind, I rely on a holy spirit, who has installed a belief system in me and that belief system tells me that blood is green. Hence it’s green.” I have no doubt that you – and WLC – will conclude that I’m unreasonable. Still WLC asks us to do exactly the same with his christian belief system if argument and evidence conflict with it, while still maintaining that he is reasonable.

        • Yes, one of the many areas where WLC is confusing is where he justifies his apologetics while saying that that is nothing compared to the evidence of the Holy Spirit, which can’t be transferred from person to person.

        • Bradley Bowen

          That’s not what reason means. Reason means relying on argument and evt. evidence.

          =============
          This comment begs the question.
          From the point of view of calvinist epistemology, argument and evidence are NOT the only way for a belief to be rational or warranted.

          To insist that your epistemological theory be built into the meaning of the word ‘reason’ is to stack the deck in favor of your epistemological theory. That is not playing fair. You need to argue for your theory or at least argue against calvinist epistemology.

        • You’re not saying that reason is optional, are you?

        • Bradley Bowen

          I don’t think I’m saying anything about reason myself. I’m commenting on what appears to be a question-begging definition of reason.

          From the point of view of calvinist epistemology (which I don’t accept myself) a belief can be rational or warranted even if the believer cannot INFER that belief from some other more basic or more certain belief. To build into the definition of ‘reason’ the view that there can be no such thing as a properly basic belief is to beg the question against calvinist epistemology.

          To build into the definition of ‘reason’ the idea that the only way a belief can be rational or warranted is if the believer can INFER that belief from some other more basic or more certain belief is to build into the definition of the word ‘reason the view that there can be no such thing as a properly basic belief.

          Therefore, to build into the definition of ‘reason’ the idea that the only way a belief can be rational or warranted is if the believer can INFER that belief from some other more basic or more certain belief is to beg the question.

        • MNb

          This totally neglects again the point I made previously several times: deduction and induction are objective, faith is not. If WLC thinks it reasonable to prefer faith to arguments and evidence, ie subjectivity to objectivity, then I think the meaning he gives to reason totally empty. But yeah, that’s just my opinion.
          Further on I’m not really interested in this part of the discussion. This is just semantics. Semantics don’t show anything.

          “is to beg the question”
          You’re unfair here. Am I wrong to assume that WLC and evt. you think me reasonable if I maintain that blood is green because of my faith backed by a holy spirit? You haven’t addressed this.

        • MNb

          “Reason means relying on argument and evt. evidence.”
          I’d say only on argument, but never mind. When I claim that blood is green you provide arguments (theory of physics about light and frequency) and evidence (measuring that frequency) to debunk my claim. According to WLC we can dismiss this because of faith grounded by a holy spirit.

          “From the point of view of calvinist epistemology ….”
          Too bad for calvinist epistemology. May I refer you again to Philipse’s God in the Age of Science? I’m not capable of summarizing several chapters in one short comment.

          “your epistemological theory”
          It’s not mine. It’s how science works. That’s crucial if we want to find out how WLC looks at it.

          “You need to argue for your theory”
          I have done so, not in my previous comment, but in others. Science uses both deduction and induction. You already admitted that WLC places faith opposite to it.

        • Greg G.

          But if different blind people are getting conflicting information from the sighted spirit, then the spirit is either an unreliable trickster or most, or possibly all, of these blind people are listening to imaginary voices in their heads. Craig’s argument then is that he can still rely on that voice in his head to be the real spirit and it does not trick him, solely on the testimony of that voice in his head. He could still be right, just as the Solipsists could be right, but if the voice is telling him that everyone else is getting the same message, his argument is self-refuting.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Craig’s argument then is that he can still rely on that voice in his head to be the real spirit and it does not trick him, solely on the testimony of that voice in his head.
          ===================
          If that is Craig’s argument, then clearly there is a problem of circularity.
          But it is not clear to me that this is Craig’s argument. I’m not sure he has gone into sufficient detail on this point to have made such an argument. But if he has, then please point me to where he has gone into such detail, because I’m very interested in how he and other thoughtful believers think and argue about the ‘witnesss of the Holy Spirit’.

        • Greg G.

          I think he gets the notion from Plantinga’s sensus divinitatis, who got it from John Calvin. If you aren’t a Christian, then yours is broken. Then I suppose it would be that if two Christians disagree, the other guy needs his sensus divinitatis calibrated.

        • See WLC’s arguments summarized at that link I pointed you to.

        • MNb

          “a highly reliable/trustworthy witness or source could provide very powerful evidence for a claim.”
          There you go. This is inconsistent with

          “conflict between faith …. and beliefs based on … evidence”
          WLC places faith opposite of evidence. Then faith can’t produce evidence.
          Moreover WLC and you fail to tell us how you decide which witness or source is reliable/trustworthy and which one not – without relying on argument and/or evidence, because WLC just has told us he doesn’t need those two to determine reliability and trustworthiness.

          ‘I think, therefore I am’
          You do hopefully realize that this is a non-sequitur – by no means Descartes has shown that “I am the one who is doing the thinking”. Moreover this statement is the foundation of deduction, ie argument, something WLC just said he is willing to reject when it conflicts with his faith.

        • Bradley Bowen

          This is inconsistent with
          “conflict between faith …. and beliefs based on … evidence”
          WLC places faith opposite of evidence.
          ============
          Good point.
          Taken literally and straightforwardly, you are correct that WLC contrasts the ‘witness of the Holy Spirit’ on the one hand with ‘beliefs based on argument and evidence’.
          However, I suspect that what WLC means, is something like ‘ordinary empirical/sensory evidence’, and that he would consider the ‘witness of the Holy Spirit’ to be analogous to the testimony of an eyewitness to a crime in a criminal trial, and thus to be a kind of evidence, though obviously not ordinary empirical /sensory evidence.
          I will have to go back and read WLC on this point to see if there are any indications that confirm (or disconfirm) my interpretation of him.

        • Here’s a summary of some of WLC’s nutty claims.

        • Bradley Bowen

          I have done a quick check and am now convinced of two points:
          1. WLC considers beliefs grounded in the witness of the Holy Spirit to be properly basic beliefs (and thus not ‘evidence’ in the terminology of calvinist epistemology).
          2. WLC considers the witness of the Holy Spirit to provide proper warrant for various Christian beliefs (i.e. to provide rational grounds for those beliefs).

          “Plantinga’s model involves crucially what is usually called the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. In his model the Holy Spirit functions on the analogy of a cognitive faculty, producing beliefs in us. I myself prefer to think of the Spirit’s witness either as a form of literal testimony or else as part of the experiential circumstances which serve to ground belief in God and the great truths of the Gospel. In either case His deliverances are properly basic.” – WLC

          Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-witness-of-the-holy-spirit#ixzz3IJwCavYW
          So, yes Craig would not consider the witness of the H.S. to be ‘evidence’. But since he appears to accept calvinist epistemology, esp. Plantinga’s version of it, he believes that many of our beliefs (such as the belief in the existence of other minds) are rationally grounded even though NOT based upon evidence.

        • Bradley Bowen

          There is an unclear reference in my point (1). The witness of the Holy Spirit is NOT considered to be ‘evidence’ in the terminology of calvinist epistemology. Christian beliefs that are grounded in the witness of the Holy Spirit are thus not inferences from the witness of the Holy Spirit.

        • Are you quibbling over the word “evidence”? The point is that WLC says that the witness of the HS trumps conventional reason, logic, evidence, and arguments. That’s the problem.

        • Bradley Bowen

          I am trying to be clear about what I (and we) mean by ‘evidence’ since that is a key term in this discussion. There is a significant ambiguity in this word, as WLC also recognizes:

          Kevin Harris: Arguments and evidence come in as
          support, they come in as further…

          Dr. Craig: Sometimes they do, but sometimes these beliefs are incapable of being inferentially argued. Take the belief in the reality of the past. How could you refute someone who says the world was created five minutes ago with built-in appearances of age? There is no way to
          disprove that because any evidence that you give would assume the reality of the age of things as they appear to us.[3] So, this is a properly basic belief that is rooted in our experience of the world, it is not something that you
          arrive at by argument and evidence. Now, of course if the non-theist says, well, but I am construing evidence here in a very broad way to mean that you have the experience of things in the past. Well, in that broad sense of evidence, then Christian belief is not without evidence. It has the evidence of the Holy Spirit, but when Plantinga talks about evidence, he is using the word in a very narrow sense to mean beliefs that are formed by inference from more basic beliefs, but Plantinga himself, would say that, of course, these beliefs have evidence in this very broad sense of the word evidence, namely in this
          case, the evidence of the witness of the Holy Spirit.

          Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/critique-of-holy-spirit-epistemology#ixzz3IL5ANrJO

          So, to be clear WLC claims that the witness of the HS constitutes evidence in the broad sense for Christian beliefs although it is not evidence in the narrow sense of the term, i.e. believers do not INFER Christian beliefs on the basis of beliefs about what the HS is doing or saying to them.

        • Pofarmer

          WLC is using philosophy to muddy the waters and engage in special pleading.

        • MNb

          ‘evidence’

          In my dictionary evidence refers to experiment and observation.

        • MNb

          Look, I am just an amateur in this field. May I make a suggestion for a thorough examination of these issues?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_the_Age_of_Science%3F

          Philipse spends several chapters to calvinist epistemology. I have tried to represent Philipse’s research as well as I can, but I’m not convinced that I have succeeded.

        • Bradley Bowen

          I am not an expert on reformed epistemology. I have read some of the early writings by Plantinga and other proponents of it. I have a copies of some of Plantinga’s more recent books on Warrant, but have not had time to read them.
          My focus has for several years been on Swinburne’s case for God, and Swinburne does not buy into reformed epistemology. He does have an argument from religious experience, but it is an ARGUMENT, an attempt to based belief in God on EVIDENCE and inductive reasoning. Furthermore, Swinburne thinks the argument from religious experience only works if one can first show the existence of God to be somewhat probable (based on evidence).

        • Pofarmer

          Thomas Paine wrote that personal revelation to one person, even if it were real, cannot act as,evidence for another person. So, even if the Holy Spirit reveals something to you, I don’t care. I think the strong argument against this, is that the holy spirit apparently reveals a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Thomas Paine was a cool dude, but I’m not sure he was correct on this point. What was his reason or argument for saying that ‘personal revelation to one person, even if it were real, cannot act as, evidence for another person’?
          Your objection that ‘the holy spirit apparently reveals a lot of different things to a lot of different people’ may be a good objection, but it does NOT show that Paine’s position is correct, because it does NOT show that personal revelation CANNOT “act as evidence for another person”.
          Suppose, for example, that people who claim to have personal revelations from God or the Holy spirit were in close agreement on almost all theological points? In that case, your objection would fail, which shows that your objection depends on contingent empirical and historical conditions.

        • Pofarmer

          Very simple. I can’t verify your revelation. The age of reason is free on amazon.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Do you mean that if person A has a personal revelation at time t, that person B cannot (ever,under any circumstances) verify that person A had a personal revelation at time t?

          Isn’t this also true of pains and other subjective phenomena? If person A has a headache at time t, person B cannot (ever, under any circumstances) verify that person A had a headache at time t.

        • Pofarmer

          Not only can you not verify that person a had a revelation, even if they did, you cannot verify the contents of that revelation.

        • Bradley Bowen

          “Not only can you not verify that person a had a revelation, even if they did, you cannot verify the contents of that revelation.”

          OK. That is your opinion. Can you give a reason or argument to support this opinion?

        • Pofarmer

          Thomas Paine already wrote the long version. Might I suggest you read it?

        • By “personal revelation,” I assume you mean “personal revelation from the Holy Spirit.” No, that would be pretty tough to verify. Indeed, if you had such a revelation, I don’t know how you could conclude you had such a revelation from the Holy Spirit since so many other explanations are likelier.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Verification is probably not the right focus. Verification is tough in general. We probably ought to focus more on confirmation than verification.

          I have argued that confirmation of personal revelation is possible.

          It seems to me that FALSIFICATION is not so tough. If what seems to me to be the Holy Spirit talking to me and telling me that my mom is going to be killed in a car accident tomorrow evening on Highway 1 at 5:25 pm, and if tomorrow comes and there is no accident. Or there is an accident but it is on Main Street and nobody is killed, then I can rationally conclude that I was mistaken about the Holy Spirit talking to me. Either there was no spirit at all or there was a spirit but not the Holy Spirit (i.e. not God). So, Karl Popper might not have an issue with personal revelation, since it would meet his test for being a factual/scientific claim.

          ‘tough to verify’ is not the same as IMPOSSIBLE to verify, and it is the question of possibility or impossibility that is at issue. One reason that it might be ‘tough to verify’ that the Holy Spirit was talking to me, is that it might be ‘tough to verify’ that there is a Holy Spirit, i.e that God exists. However, we cannot ASSUME the non-existence of God here, because that would beg the question against WLC.

          Swinburne’s argument from Religious Experience might be useful to consider here. Swinburne focuses on the religious experience of the presence of God; that is, experiences which seem (epistemically) to the person having the experience to be of the presence of God.

          Swinburne argues for principles concerning experiences and memories, that basically we should presume and experience which seems (epistemically) to be of a certain sort of thing to be a veridical or valid experience of that thing unless we have good reason to doubt the reliability of that experience or to doubt that the experience was caused by the alleged object of the experience.

          Swinburne argues that if the existence of God is somewhat probable (has at least a low probability but NOT a very low probability- which I interpret to mean a probability of at least .2), then religious experiences that seem (epistemically) to the experiencer to be of the presence of God are probably veridical or valid experiences of God.

          So, according to Swinburne, I can confirm (though perhaps not verify) that I have had an experience of God as follows:
          1. I examine the various inductive arguments for and against the existence of God, and (correctly) conclude that the probability that God exists is at least .2 (two chances in ten).
          2. I have an experience which seems (epistemically) to me to be an experience of the presence of God.
          3. There are no special considerations that cast doubt on the reliability of that experience or on the belief that God cause that experience.

          Is there something that is logically impossible here?
          Perhaps, but it is not obvious that there is a logical impossibility here.

        • MNb

          “I have argued that confirmation of personal revelation is possible.”
          Yes. But when done so according to scientific standards it invariably falls flat on its face. You are invited to provide research that indicates otherwise – that distinguishes a correletation from pure chance.

        • Pofarmer

          The whole problem with Swinburne here is that he doesn’t have a method to seperate the “feelings of God” from naturally occuring responses to stimuli. Does he even try?

        • Sure, if you make a testable claim that supposedly came from the Holy Spirit. Problem is, (1) I’ve never heard of such a thing (testable, that is) and (2) the Christian would simply back away from it. The HS had a special reason for saying that, or maybe that utterance wasn’t actually from the HS (but loads of others were), or he was fooled by Satan, or whatever.

          Isn’t a personal experience of God’s interaction/communication inherently untrustworthy? Sure, it might be just like the witness says it, but there are loads of other explanations—self-delusion, mental illness, confusion, wishful thinking, etc.

          I don’t know how we start with an a priori 0.2 probability for God. Sounds way high to me, given that we have hundreds of examples of other religions that people have invented, and Christianity looks like yet one more.

        • MNb

          “Isn’t this also true of pains and other subjective phenomena?”
          Guess what? Doctors and other medical experts are honest enough to recognize that this is a serious problem. So it would suit you to take over this attitude. Of course they being loyal to the scientific method are working on it:

          http://www.pnas.org/content/102/36/12950.abstract

          I am not aware of any philosophers and/or apologist working on developing a method to identify revelations. So an eventual conclusion “pain is subjective, still we accept it, so we should accept revelation as well” in the end is just another god of the gaps (assuming that revelations come from some supernatural/immaterial/transcendental entity).

        • Bradley Bowen

          John, my religious nut-job neighbor, knocked on the front door on Monday evening. He told me “I just had a conversation with God, and he tells me that your mother is going to die in a car accident on Highway 1 at 5:23 pm tomorrow. So, you might want to give your mom a call tonight, and tell her you love her.” I blew him off, because he has all sorts of wacky religious beliefs. But on Tuesday night I got a call from my sister informing me that mom had been killed in a car accident on Highway 1 earlier that evening, a little after 5 pm.

          Hmmm. Maybe John did have a conversation with God recently.
          =======================
          This is just a hypothetical example, and I realize that the evidence is not conclusive, but it does seem to be significant and relevant evidence that supports a claim by John to have had a conversation with God. I take it that having a conversation with God is (generally) a private experience, so this would be an example of evidence supporting a claim to have had a personal revelation.

          This example casts doubt on the claim that one person CANNOT know that some other person had experienced a personal revelation. So, if Thomas Paine claimed that one person CANNOT know that some other person had experienced a personal revelation, this example is evidence against his claim.

        • Pofarmer

          You are giving a hypothetical, not an example.

        • Bradley Bowen

          I am using the word ‘example’ in the way philosophers commonly use the word. So, apparently, you are not familiar with philosophy, which is what we are doing here in these comments, by the way.

        • Kodie

          “Example” is not one of the technical terms of philosophy that I could find on any philosophy page’s glossary of terms. http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/ix1.htm#e

          “Hypothetical” is described on some of them much more technically than the typical English usage, however.

          But your outlandish fantastical hypothetical example would not indicate that your neighbor received a revelation from god, only that your neighbor was coincidentally correct about something he could not know.

          An example, as defined in the dictionary says nothing about making up an imaginary scenario. Def 4 comes close, but it would have to be used to illustrate a rule, which your neighbor predicting accurately the time and manner in which your mother dies does not. It does not indicate shit about revelation. It does not support any conversation with god that your neighbor had, especially since it didn’t actually happen. We cannot use imaginary scenarios to deduce an actual conclusion that you are hoping to reach.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Some advice: read some philosophy.

          Then you will learn how the word ‘example’ is used in philosophical discussions.

        • Kodie

          I don’t think you know what you’re talking about, but you just like to think you do.

        • Bradley Bowen

          “But your outlandish fantastical hypothetical example would not indicate that your neighbor received a revelation from god, only that your neighbor was coincidentally correct about something he could not know.”

          Hmmm. Does every single skeptic here really have to beg the question at issue in every single comment?!

          You are simply asserting that I am wrong, and making absolutely NO ATTEMPT to give me a REASON why I’m wrong. The expression “something he could not know” ASSUMES that either it is impossible for God to exist, or that if God did exist it is impossible for God to know the future, or that if God did exists and knew the future that God could not then communicate this to some particular human being.

          ANY one of these assumptions ASSUMES that theism is false, which begs the question against WLC.

          This is the same sort of BAD REASONING that Bob is trying to get Christians to avoid. We skeptics need to follow our own advice.

        • Kodie

          Your assertion was following a hypothetical coincidence that it was significant and relevant evidence that your neighbor had had a conversation with god. That is a leap of logic. Why are you making shit up and then accusing everyone else of “bad reasoning” (in all caps)?

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, which is why philosophy without science is useless. You can get whatever result you want by how you set your priors.

        • Kodie

          1. This is hypothetical. Anything strange can happen when you make shit up.

          2. Coincidences happen. You are highlighting one specific instance of John being correct, and see point 1, but how often can he foretell the future so specifically? When believers credit god for something, it’s usually something with a statistically small probability of happening at all happening to them, like I used my own hypothetical example a while ago – something like: a car jumps up on the sidewalk and into the parking lot and hits your car, meanwhile you are just walking out of the restaurant with your kids. Something like 15-30 seconds later, you’d have one kid waiting, coincidentally in the path of this rogue vehicle, while you had your eye on the other kid you were buckling in their car seat. How close you came to a tragedy, so thank god, right? God must have been looking out because these things don’t “just happen.”

          In fact, they happen quite often. I used to talk to my mom very early in the mornings every day, and remarked that nearly every day, the news would report on a vehicle hitting a building, could be a car or a truck, could be a business storefront or a residence. EVERY DAY. Most of the time, nobody was hurt. A lot of these stories didn’t happen locally, it was just some creepy fetish my local news channel has for reporting stories where a vehicle hits a building.

          The problem you’re having is with statistics. If you were walking along the road an hour ago, and just this second, a car plowed into a telephone pole, you wouldn’t say “that was close!” I was in World Trade Center Tower 2, 3 months before 9/11, delivering a package for my job, and I remember the security, how it felt going up the elevator, how disoriented I was being up on the 91st floor and not seeing a window. Nobody cares. That is an ordinary story. Someone on 9/10 doing the same thing would suddenly become a fascinating coincidence.

          Have you ever heard of someone, unprompted, giving you specific information about an unexpected time of death for a loved one of yours, urgently telling you this would happen the next day, like you did in your example? Why would they tell you to call your mother and tell her you love her? Why wouldn’t you call to tell her instead to stay at home and don’t get in the car to go anywhere tomorrow? Because it sounds crazy, and it is. What if it happened a week later at 5am instead of pm? Why would god have a conversation with your neighbor about your mother? Why wouldn’t god prevent it from happening?

        • Bradley Bowen

          1. This is hypothetical. Anything strange can happen when you make shit up

          True but irrelevant.

          Logic is all about POSSIBILITIES.
          If you cannot handle hypothetical scenarios, then you cannot handle LOGIC.

        • Kodie

          You are giving an example of an extreme coincidence and using it to reach an impossible conclusion. Who can’t handle logic? If xyz happens in the exact order that I suppose, it is not “significant and relevant evidence” that John had a revelatory conversation with god, as he claims. You hedge a lot in your post, so I will give you that, but that is not evidence of anything more than a coincidence, which I go into in the second point, which you completely ignore.

        • MNb

          “I realize that the evidence is not conclusive, but it does seem to be significant and relevant evidence.”
          Perhaps Kodie and others should study some philosophy, but you should study some statistics if you think this seems to be significant and relevant evidence. Also I recommend you to study why such observations require “double blind” research. Then you’ll get that one such observation says exactly nothing.

          This example of yours is not any better than someone claiming that getting out of bed with the left leg will lead to a day of bad luck, just because that happened once. Pofarmer is right underneath. You only have shown that philosophy tends to go astray very quickly if it ignores science.

        • Suppose, for example, that people who claim to have personal revelations from God or the Holy spirit were in close agreement on almost all theological points?

          In a blinded trial?? That would be impressive evidence. But you’re not saying that what we have today is anything like that, I’m sure. Christians’ “revelations” are similar because they’re all in contact, just like UFO abductees describe similar big-headed, big-eyed aliens that come from the same cultural trope.

        • Bradley Bowen

          I was speaking hypothetically, not making a factual claim.
          The conceptual question is whether we can conceive of circumstances in which ‘personal revelation’ would legitimately count as evidence for someone who was not on the receiving end of that revelation.
          I agree that theological agreement between Christians could reasonably be attributed to socialization/cultural conditioning (i.e. reading the Bible, going to Sunday school and church, etc.).

        • Yes, if the experiment did come out the way you suggest, that would be interesting.

          However, given how interconnected we are–especially since, as Christians, they must share fundamental ideas–I’m not even sure it’s a useful thought experiment.

        • one might reasonably place more confidence in the testimony of a highly reliable/trustworthy witness or source of information over even one’s own rational conclusions

          I agree, but who is this reliable witness/source in Craig’s case? Craig would say that it’s the Holy Spirit, but that claim is so bizarre that we first must establish this dude’s existence.

    • MNb

      It’s quite easy to see what’s wrong here.

      “argument and evidence”
      Argument refers to deduction, evidence to induction. Both are objective; together they form the scientific method. Faith at the other hand is subjective.
      So what WLC says here is that he rejects science the moment it conflicts with his personal preference (because that’s what faith is). Ultimately he prefers to live in a self-build fantasy. If you don’t think that a problem – well, neither do some people who think they are Napoleon.
      WLC is contradicting himself here. He admits that his faith is not reasonable.

      • Bradley Bowen

        “So what WLC says here is that he rejects science the moment it conflicts with his personal preference (because that’s what faith is). ”
        That is NOT at all what WLC is saying, even if you are accurately describing his actual (unconscious?) thought process.
        What WLC is saying is that there is a kind of evidence or knowledge that can trump ordinary empirical/sensory knowledge about physical reality. He might be wrong. He might be fooling himself. But you are not accurately characterizing what he says.

        • adam

          Without any demonstrable evidence of such ‘evidence or knowledge that can trump….physical reality’ he really is talking about his own personal preferences.

          Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11 1

          It is WLC who is doing the hoping.

        • Bradley Bowen

          WLC gives examples of ordinary beliefs that are (allegedly) properly basic beliefs that trump any conceivable contrary evidence.

          I’m not sure what you mean by ‘demonstrable evidence’, but in philosophy it is common to use examples to establish the sort of epistemological points he is making.

        • MNb

          Alleged or not, properly basic beliefs are based on personal preferences (which is just a disdainful term for subjectivity, no matter how hard WLC tries to hide it). There is no reliable, objective method to decide which beliefs, properly basic or not, are correct and which one are incorrect. WLC is not capable of deciding that the Papuas are wrong except for his personal preference – which in his case is the holy spirit, as he himself admits with the (in)famous quote.
          I paraphrase Richard Feynman: no matter who you are, no matter your authority, no matter how beautiful or convenient your theory, if the facts contradict it you are wrong. WLC says EXACTLY the opposite, properly basic beliefs or not. Hence WLC rejects science when it suits him. This has become painfully clear in his debate with Sean Carroll. A superficial examination of his Kalam Cosmological Argument shows the same.

        • “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”

          — Richard P. Feynman

        • adam

          I understand philosophy, essentially mental masterbation.

          But we engineer our lives and philosophy does not provide us with tools to understand and manipulate our shared Reality.

          Allegedly is the proper term, thanks.

        • Dys

          I understand what you were going for here, but feel you’re being far too dismissive of philosophy. Philosophy is not mental masturbation. In fact, science itself requires a philosophical basis.

        • adam

          Please elaborate if you will.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Do you have a reason or argument for the claim that philosophy is ‘essentially mental masterbation’? or is this just a personal prejudice that you are expressing?

        • adam

          Perhaps I should have that it CAN BE.

          Like in the case of WLC.

        • Bradley Bowen

          I disagree with most of what WLC has to say in defense of Christianity, but I think he is a sharp and well-informed Christian philosopher and he is head and shoulders above the crowd of Christian apologists.

          We skeptics should be grateful that not all Christian apologists are idiots and knuckle draggers. It is good to have at least a few worthy opponents.

        • adam

          He is head and shoulders about the crowd as a DEBATER, but his philosophical skills are still down with the idiots and knuckle draggers.
          IMHO

        • We disagree about what WLC brings to the table. He’s smart, well educated, and is experienced as a debater. From my standpoint, that’s it. I’ve never seen any interesting insights from him, and I’m frustrated that he puts forward such weak arguments.

          If he would anticipate and respond to the obvious rebuttals, that’d be one thing, but I think he figures that he doesn’t have to. He pats his readers on the head, and that’s what his job is.

        • MNb

          Does that “sharp and well-informed” include the Divine Command Theory? See, when applied to the Canaan massacre this was the result:

          “So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.”

          http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites

          Do you think WLC is sharp and well informed enough – are you btw? – to recognize where this point was made before? I am.

          http://izquotes.com/author/paul-blobel

          Do you think WLC is sharp and well informed enough to know who more had such worries?

          http://www.holocaust-history.org/intro-einsatz/#xiv

          “Von dem Bach addressed Himmler: “Reichsfuehrer, those were only a hundred….Look at the eyes of the men in this commando, how deeply shaken they are. Those men are finished [“fertig”] for the rest of their lives. What kind of followers are we training here? Either neurotics or savages.””

          Finally – do WLC and you know that this kind of defence was rejected at the Nürnberg Trials? Apparently the judges and prosecutors there weren’t smart and well informed enough to buy this kind of defence. “Befehl ist Befehl” was not tolerated. WLC thinks it OK though:

          “The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command.”
          Yup – god like an immaterial Hitler. How smart and well informed. No wonder Dutch orthodox protestants, who played a major role in anti-nazi resistance, rather prefer to ignore him. Plantinga is way more popular.

        • I’d like to get WLC’s take on properly basic-ness. Can you recommend a web page or book?

        • Bradley Bowen

          I’m no expert on calvinist epistemology.

          I was planning to do my PhD dissertation on William Alston’s book Perceiving God, but although it is an interesting book, epistemology is a very challenging area (for me at least) – it hurts my brain. Anyway, I changed to the issue of the resurrection, did lots of research, but never completed the dissertation.

          More recently my attention has been on Swinburne’s case for God, which (thankfully) has nothing to do with (or at least is not based on) calvinist epistemology. Swinburne’s case is based on a systematic series of inductive arguments.

          Just the other day I went to WLC’s website and did a search on ‘witness of the Holy Spirit’ and several items popped up. One of the first few items seemed quite good to me:

          http://www.reasonablefaith.org/critique-of-holy-spirit-epistemology#ixzz3IL5ANrJO

          Another page on WLC’s web that seemed relevant:

          http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-witness-of-the-holy-spirit#ixzz3IJwCavYW

        • Thanks for the links.

        • MNb

          “That is NOT at all what WLC is saying.”
          Of course that’s what WLC is saying. It’s quite simple.
          Faith is subjective. It depends on the subject – faith of Papuas is very different from WLC’s faith. Yes, I’m not charitable, but in the end this only means that WLC’s faith is just his personal preference.
          Argument (ie deduction) + evidence (ie deduction) = the scientific method. According to WLC faith trumps both arguments and evidence when there is a conflict. So WLC rejects science the moment it conflicts with his personal preference.

          Later edit: there is a typo. I meant to write “+ evidence (ie induction). I won’t change it because BB has quoted it.

        • Bradley Bowen

          “Argument (ie deduction) + evidence (ie deduction) = the scientific method.”
          No, I don’t think that is correct. Inductive and deductive reasoning have been around longer than the scientific method.
          ==================
          “According to WLC faith trumps both arguments and evidence when there is a conflict.”
          ==================
          This sounds like a mischaracterization of WLC’s views to me. In the passage from WLC that was the basis for this discussion, WLC talks about the Christian faith being supported by the witness of the Holy Spirit.

          So, he is NOT saying that Christian beliefs are based on faith. He is saying that Christian beliefs (i.e. the Christian faith) are based on the testimony of the Holy Spirit. But these Christian beliefs are (allegedly) properly basic beliefs. They are beliefs that are rational and warranted even though not INFERRED from other beliefs or propositions.

        • MNb

          “he testimony of the Holy Spirit”
          The assumption that that testimony is reliable, credible and correct is faith based, even if WLC denies it.

          “Inductive and deductive reasoning have been around longer than the scientific method.”
          This is either silly or a sign of ignorance. The fact that induction and deduction are older than the scientific method is totally irrelevant. Of course they are. The scientific method is the synthesis of induction and deduction. This started historically with Tycho Brahe and was finished around 1800 CE, thanks to David Hume.
          That’s why we distinguish Theoretical Physics (which only uses deduction) and Experimental Physics (which only uses induction). One cannot do without the other. So by no means you contradict what I wrote:

          “Argument (ie deduction) + evidence (ie induction) = the scientific method.”
          But if you think the scientific method is more or less than deduction + induction you’re welcome.

          “a mischaracterization of WLC’s views”
          Oh please, come on.

          “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter”

          The holy spirit is supposed to support faith. “Taking precedence” is just a fancy synonym for “trumping”.

          Somewhere else I already gave a clear example. WLC’s Kalam Cosmological Argument is based on the assumption that The Big Bang was a causal event – ie that the correct theory describing it is a causal one. Modern Physics has rejected it because it neglects Quantum Mechanics, which is probabilistic (the Bohm-De Broglie interpretation is an exception; but it has its own serious problems and WLC doesn’t refer to it anyway). So we have a conflict between arguments (probabilistic theories describing The Big Bang) and evidence (indirect observations) and WLC’s faith (which requires causality) as coming from the holy spirit. WLC rejects science of course as he never has withdrawn his KCA.

        • Bradley Bowen

          I suspect that there is an unstated assumption here:

          The ONLY way for a belief to be rational is if it is established on the basis of the scientific method.

          And I also suspect there is an unstated conclusion:

          It is irrational to hold a Christian belief which is not established on the basis of the scientific method.

          If my interpretation of your argument is correct, if it does involve the above unstated assumption and unstated conclusion, then your argument (as I interpret it) begs the question.

          Based on how you define ‘the scientific method’ there can be no such thing as a properly basic belief. But that is a key question at issue here between you and WLC. So, if you are assuming (as a premise) that the ONLY way for a belief to be rational is if it is established on the basis of the scientific method, then you are assuming, in that premise, that calvinist epistemology is false.

          You might be correct in assuming calvinist epistemology is false. I would tend to agree with that assumption myself. But it is unfair to assume this in a premise of an argument against WLC.

        • MNb

          Do you agree that in the WLC quote argument refers to deduction and evidence refers to induction? If yes you can’t deny that WLC places faith opposite to the scientific method.

          “The ONLY way for a belief to be rational is if it is established on the basis of the scientific method.”
          I’m afraid we attach different meanings to the word “belief”. The scientific method doesn’t produce believes in my terminology and sorry for you, I’m not going to change it for you. It’s annoying that WLC does, but that’s what he is an apologist for. Faith based beliefs are not in the same category as scientific theories and hypotheses.

          “It is irrational to hold a Christian belief which is not established on the basis of the scientific method.”
          Though I have some issues with the word (ir)rational here (it should also refer to deduction a la Descartes) this still is not my conclusion. For the sake of argument taking over the meaning you give (ir)rational here (but only here) I reformulate:

          “It is irrational to hold any belief which contradicts the results of the scientific method.”
          I’m not in the camp of those atheists who argue that science disproves religion. I can imagine a belief system (ie based on faith, not on the scientific method) that doesn’t contradict science, at least a priori. The theology of The Flying Spaghetti Monster seems to confirm that.

          “But it is unfair to assume this in a premise of an argument against WLC.”
          I wouldn’t know why.
          You’re unnecessarily complicating things. WLC places faith opposite to arguments and evidence. If they conflict he choses faith. I have argued that he shouldn’t, simply because faith is subjective and arguments (ie deduction) and evidence (ie induction) are not. It’s remarkable that you totally ignore that point.
          Of course as soon as an apologist manages to develop an objective methodology based on faith, ie a method that reliably can distinguish correct faith-based claims (according to WLC christianity) from incorrect ones (I suppose according to WLC the ones hold by Papua’s) the game totally changes. I’m not going to hold my breath though.

  • Bradley Bowen

    One of the problems with Christian apologetics is that Christians often put forward Questiong Begging arguments for God or other Christian beliefs. They also often make Straw Man objections to atheism and other skeptical positions. This is an indication that these believers lack strong and solid arguments for God and other Christian beliefs.

    But the same criticism seems to apply to many of the comments here about WLC’s view of the witness of the H.S.. If WLCs views were obviously false or stupid, then there would be no need for question begging arguments and Straw Man objections. But there seems to be a lot of that going on here. So, my suspicion that WLC’s views on this issue are NOT obviously false or stupid is being confirmed.

  • Bradley Bowen

    I found an interesting quote of WLC that might shed some light on the question of whether there is a problem of circularity in his view about the witness of the Holy Spirit:

    =================

    Kevin Harris: This writer says that there are some differences between your warrant basic belief model and Plantinga’s. What difference is he pointing out here?

    Dr. Craig: Well, I was glad to see that he was familiar with Plantinga’s reformed epistemology and correctly interprets my view as a species of that. Where we would differ is that Plantinga thinks of the Holy Spirit as akin to a cognitive faculty, whereas I think that the Holy Spirit’s witness to us is more akin to testimony; beliefs based on testimony. For example, if I meet you and you say to me “my name is Kevin,” I believe that in a properly basic way based upon your testimony. And I think that the witness of the Holy Spirit is more like that than like an inter-cognitive faculty that I have. So, this would be a minor difference between us, but nevertheless, a difference.

    Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/critique-of-holy-spirit-epistemology#ixzz3IR5nqTHD

    ===============================

    Some comments about WLC have characterized his view as being that the witness of the Holy Spirit is superior to arguments and evidence. I initially objected because I thought WLC viewed the witness of the Holy Spirit as a kind of evidence (thus he was just elevating one bit of evidence over other bits of evidence). I was partially right and partially wrong. The witness of the Holy Spirit provides the ‘ground’ for key Christian beliefs, according to WLC, but strictly speaking (in terms of reformed epistemology) this is not EVIDENCE for those Christian beliefs. Specifically, the witness of the Holy Spirit does NOT provide beliefs that are then used as premises for arguments or inferences to those Christian beliefs as conclusions. Those Christian beliefs are (allegedly) properly basic beliefs, which means that they are NOT inferred from any other beliefs; the rationality or the warrant for holding those beliefs is based on something other than reasoning or inference from another belief.

    [PAUSE…] I would like to point out here that one important motivation, perhaps even a reason or justification, for the idea of properly basic beliefs is TO AVOID CIRCULARITY. It is, on the face of it, the opposing view (which seems to be the view of some of the commenters here who think WLC’s views about the Holy Spirit are obviously mistaken) which has a fundamental problem of circularity. If you insist that every rational belief must be justified or warranted by an inference from some other belief, then, given the very plausible assumption that we human beings have only a finite number of beliefs, it follows that to have even just one justified belief, there would have to be an infinite regress of inferences (this argument goes back to Aristotle by the way), and therefore, since we have only a finite number of beliefs, some beliefs will have to be re-used in the infinite chain of inferences, thus creating a circularity in the reasoning that is the basis for any particular justified belief.

    Back to WLC. I thought that WLC viewed the witness of the Holy Spirit as being evidence, because I thought that in using the term ‘the witness of…’ he had in mind an analogy with witnesses giving testimony in a court trial. When a witness gives testimony in a court trial. We evaluate the credibility of the witness, and use that evaluation to give greater or lesser weight to the things claimed by that witness. Thus, it seems clear that we are using that testimony as evidence, as the basis for an inductive inference. If the witness says “I saw John stab Susan in the chest with the chef’s knife”, there needs to be some reasoning to arrive at the conclusion that “John stabbed Susan in the chest with the chef’s knife”. Part of that reasoning will be a belief about the credibility of the witness who gave this testimony. If I strongly suspect that the witness is lying through his teeth, and is just trying to make John’s life miserable, then I will not conclude that it is highly probable that “John stabbed Susan in the chest…”, at least not on the basis of the testimony of this one questionable witness.

    But in the quote of WLC above, he indicates that there is no reasoning involved when the witness of the Holy Spirit provides rational warrant for some Christian belief. What is particularly surprising, is that WLC apparently views ordinary human testimony as (at least in some cases) as being of the same epistemic nature: “For example, if I meet you and you say to me “my name is Kevin,” I believe that in a properly basic way based upon your testimony.” This seems like a very odd and implausible way of viewing ordinary human testimony. People often lie, and one of the things that people sometimes lie about is their name. So, when someone declares that his/her name is X, it seems to me that some judgment about the credibility or honesty of that person is being made in order to arrive at the (inductive) conclusion that “His name probably is X”.

    • Which raises the question of what is proper basicality? How do you define it?

  • Bradley Bowen

    I’m trying to learn more about WLC’s views on faith and the witness of the Holy Spirit, so that I can attempt to defend his views here. My purpose is not to persuade anyone that WLC’s views on these matters are true, just that they are NOT stupid or obviously false.

    Chapter One of Reasonable Faith (by WLC) is called “Faith and Reason: How do I know Christianity is True?” So, that seems like a good place to start. The book was originally published under the title Apologetics: An Introduction back in 1984. Reasonable Faith came out in 1994. So, WLC’s views might have evolved a bit since this publication.

    I found a passage in Apologetics: An Introduction (1984) that appears to support some of the objections to WLC raised in comments here:

    …it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the ultimate assurance of Christianity’s truth. Therefore, the only role left for reason to play is a subsidiary role. …The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel like a magistrate and judges it. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel. Only the ministerial use of reason can be allowed. Philosophy is rightly the handmaid of theology. Reason is a tool to better understand and defend our faith…. Should faith and reason conflict, it is reason that must submit to faith, not vice versa.” (Apologetics, p.21)

    I’m inclined to argue that Craig is failing to accurately characterize his own views in this passage. But, even if that last sentence did accurately characterize his views in 1984, it is questionable that he still maintains that strong position. It is very interesting to compare the parallel passage from the more recent book Reasonable Faith, published in 1994 (EMPHASIS added by me):

    …it’s the Holy Spirit who gives us the ultimate assurance of Christianity’s truth. Therefore, the only role left for ARGUMENT and EVIDENCE to play is a subsidiary role. …The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel like a magistrate and judges it on the basis of ARGUMENT and EVIDENCE. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel. Only the ministerial use of reason can be allowed. Philosophy is rightly the handmade of theology. Reason is a tool to help us better understand and defend our faith;…Should a conflict arise between THE WITNESS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on ARGUMENT and EVIDENCE, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa.”

    Notice that in the passage from Reasonable Faith Craig has dropped the whole FAITH vs. REASON terminology that occurs in the original passage. Instead of opposing REASON to FAITH, he opposes the witness of the Holy Spirit (which provides the rational ground for properly basic belief in God, for example) to “beliefs based on argument and evidence” (which are justified or warranted on the basis of inference from other beliefs).

    One problem with both the earlier book and the more recent revision of it, is that WLC never provides a definition or analysis of “reason”, nor does he provide a definition of “faith” (as far as I can see). This is a fundamental philosophical weakness that leads to issues of unclarity and ambiguity in these chapters. So, in Apoligetics, though he contrasts REASON and FAITH, it is also clear that he believes that the Christian’s belief in the existence of God, for example, is a rationally justified (or warranted) belief. It’s rationality is grounded in the witness of the Holy Spirit, but it is (in his view) just as rational and just as warranted as any other foundational or properly basic belief. So, in effect, he does believe that REASON plays a role in the Christian’s belief in God. But because he never defines the word “reason” he cannot express his views clearly and unambiguously.

    The version of the paragraph that originally opposed FAITH to REASON is clearer in the book Reasonable Faith. He indicates that what he really had in mind was NOT reason in general, but a certain aspect of reason, namely justification or warrant for beliefs that are not foundational or properly basic. The rational justification or warrant or of beliefs that are not properly basic do require ARGUMENTS and/or EVIDENCE. But since he has adopted reformed epistemology, he thinks that there are some beliefs which are properly basic and which do not require ARGUMENTS and/or EVIDENCE in order to be rationally justified or warranted.

    • Bradley Bowen

      The passage quoted from Reasonable Faith above is from p.36.

    • The quotes in my post on WLC’s ideas in this area are from the 3rd edition of his book.

      I’m inclined to argue that Craig is failing to accurately characterize his own views in this passage.

      Huh? Why are you bending over backwards to find a way to make sense out of WLC? Let’s just let him hang himself with his own book.

  • Bradley Bowen

    WLC agrees with the reformed epistemology of Plantinga, for the most part. So, when WLC describes and explains Plantinga’s reformed epistemology in Reasoable Faith, we should assume that he agrees with Plantinga, unless he specifically points out a disagreement with Plantinga. Based on this reasonable presumption, it looks like WLC’s view is that the Christian’s belief in the existence of God is not only the product of the witness of the Holy Spirit, but is based on REASON (the EMPHASIS is added by me):

    “Plantinga thus insists that his epistemology is not fideistic; the deliverances of REASON include not only inferred propositions, but also properly basic propositions. God has so constructed us that we naturally form the belief in his existence under appropriate circumstances, just as we do the belief in perceptual objects, the reality of the past, and so forth. Hence, God is among the deliverances of REASON, NOT FAITH.” (Reasonable Faith, p.29)

    According to WLC, Plantinga views the Christian’s belief in the existence of God to be based on REASON not FAITH. WLC says nothing about disagreeing with Plantinga on this point, at least not in the more recent book Reasonable Faith. Given that WLC removed his previous statement that “Should faith and reason conflict, it is reason that must submit to faith…” (Apologetics, p.21), and given that WLC has replaced the word ‘reason’ with a more specific reference to “argument and evidence” it seems fairly clear to me that either (a) WLC noticed a contradiction in his own thinking and revised the passage about reason vs. faith to be about properly basic beliefs vs. beliefs based on inference from other beliefs in order to eliminate the contradiction, or (b) WLC noticed that he had expressed himself unclearly and ambiguously concerning the relationship of reason and faith, and clarified his statements to more accurately reflect hs actual views (I favor the second hypothesis).

    In conclusion, a comparison of Chapter One of Apologetics (1984) with the parallel Chapter One of Reasonable Faith (1994) supports my contention that WLC thinks that the Christian’s belief in the existence of God is both grounded in the witness of the Holy Spirit AND is a “deliverance of reason”, i.e. is based on REASON and not on FAITH.

    • Why are you determined to rehabilitate this guy?

      Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter.

      Reasonable Faith, Third Edition, 48

      • MNb

        Better ask him: why doesn’t he think that it says what it says – namely that WLC rejects science (argument refers to deduction ie theory and hypothesis; evidence to induction and empiry – both are integral parts of science) when it conflicts with his faith?
        What’s more, the famous WLC-Sean Carroll debate has shown that WLC indeed does reject science. He wasn’t capable of accepting Carroll’s explanation of modern physics. And now I’m not talking about his reactions during the debate – I’m talking about WLC’s comments afterwards, when he had had enough time to rethink everything.
        WLC is more intelligent and hence capable of discussing stuff on a level that’s way beyond yours and mine. But in the end he does the same as Ken Ham. And that is what has disappointed me most in philosophers of religion. I would totally have accepted it if they could admit something like “yeah, yeah, this poses a genuine problem, we’ll have to think this over.” That’s what serious research is about, isn’t it? Identifying problems. But no – philosophy of religion is apologetics, ie finding excuses, no matter how lame.

        • WLC indeed does reject science

          WLC rejects evolution.

        • MNb

          Wow. “The irony will then be that the community of evolutionary biologists, rather than admitting that the criticisms of the creationists were justified, will say.”
          Once a piece of shit, always a piece of shit.

        • Bradley Bowen

          “I would totally have accepted it if they could admit something like “yeah, yeah, this poses a genuine problem, we’ll have to think this over.” That’s what serious research is about, isn’t it? Identifying problems. But no – philosophy of religion is apologetics, ie finding excuses, no matter how lame.”

          I suspect you are correct on this point about WLC. In any case, that is how most Christian apologists think, and it would not surprise me if that is how WLC operates too.

      • Bradley Bowen

        I’m not trying to “rehabilitate” WLC. I am an atheist and a skeptic who has devoted most of my free time to criticism of the Christian faith for the past 30 years. I have written a number of blog posts arguing that WLC’s case for the resurrection is a complete failure.

        So, why am I trying to show that WLC’s views on the Holy Spirit and on faith and reason are not stupid, not obviously false? For one thing, I don’t believe that his views on this are stupid or obviously false, and I’m simply arguing for my own opinions. But there is another motivation as well. I’m fed up with fans and followers of Dawkins who follow his arrogant, anti-intellectual and anti-philosophical views and attitudes. I smell the stench of Dawkins in the responses to my comments, and that just makes me all the more determined to make my point.

        I’m grateful to Dawkins for raising awareness of atheism and problems with theism and religious beliefs and religious practices. However, I do not appreciate his bull-in-the-china-closet approach to philosophy of religion, and I’m trying to push back against an already existing tendency of fundamentalism among atheists that Dawkins appears to have successfully promoted.

        • Dawkins isn’t present here. Let’s just talk about Craig. The quotes of his that I’ve pointed to seem pretty damning.

        • Bradley Bowen

          It is pretty damning IF you ASSUME that evidence and arguments are the ONLY way that a belief can be rationally justified or warranted.

          The problem is that this assumption is controversial. It begs the question against reformed epistemology. According to reformed epistemology some beliefs are properly basic and can be rationally held, and are rationally justified or warranted without the need of evidence or arguments.

          Actually, the assumption that the ONLY way for a belief to be justified is by means of evidence and argument ALSO begs the question against the opposing view, called evidentialism. Even evidentialists believe that there are properly basic beliefs which DO NOT REQUIRE evidence or arguments to be rationally justified.

          If someone rejects the idea that there are some beliefs that are properly basic, and takes the strong position that EVERY belief must be justified on the basis of evidence or arguments, then that person creates the requirement for an infinite regress of arguments and inferences.

          Since we only have a finite number of beliefs, the requirement for an infinite regress of arguments or inferences equates to the requirement to use CIRCULAR REASONING in justifying any belief that one holds. An infinite chain of inferences that only has a finite number of beliefs to draw upon necessitates that some beliefs will have to be re-used. Thus, the position that there are no properly basic beliefs appears to entail the conclusion that any justification of any given belief must use CIRCULAR REASONING.

        • According to reformed epistemology some beliefs are properly basic and can be rationally held, and are rationally justified or warranted without the need of evidence or arguments.

          And that seems to fall apart when we put it into practice. He doesn’t simply want to label his belief properly basic. He doesn’t simply want his properly basic view to be on par with evidence and reason. He wants it to trump evidence and reason.

          That seems to be a problem to me. How many ways can you imagine that his belief that the HS communicated with him is wrong? He could be lying, delusional, mentally ill, confused, a victim of wishful thinking, and so on.

          If someone rejects the idea that there are some beliefs that are properly basic, and takes the strong position that EVERY belief must be justified on the basis of evidence or arguments, then that person creates the requirement for an infinite regress of arguments and inferences.

          Where’s the regress? I believe that my pencil will fall to the ground. Y’know why? I have evidence: I just dropped it 10 times, and guess what happened. Evidence stops the regress. That’s why it’s not crazy to have axioms at the bottom—they’re tested continually.

        • Bradley Bowen

          What is the evidence for your claim “I just dropped my pencil 10 times and it fell to the ground each time.”?

          Also, what is the evidence for your unstated assumption that “If I just dropped my pencil 10 times and it fell to the ground each time, then it is likely that the next time I drop my pencil, it will fall the ground.” ?

          Or do you believe these premises without having any evidence or arguments to support them?

        • Bradley Bowen

          By the way, if you are struggling to come up with an argument to justify the premise “If I just dropped my pencil 10 times and it fell to the ground each time, then it is likely that the next time I drop my pencil, it will drop to the ground.”, don’t feel bad!

          Philosophers have been trying to come up with a solid justification for that sort of assumption since at least as far back as 1740, when David Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature was first published. In other words, philosophers have failed to produce a good argument to support such claims after about 274 years of struggling against ‘the problem of induction’ that was raised by Hume (see A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Section VI, p.89.)

        • don’t feel bad!

          I don’t. Whatever problem you’re concerned with, I’m not seeing.

        • My evidence is the obvious evidence of dropping a pencil 10 times and observing what happened.

          If I get the same result 10 times, what is my prediction for the 11th time? Let’s test that. Oh–it fell to the floor, yet again. Gosh–I guess the hypothesis is supported by evidence. Not a lot of evidence–not a million tries, for example–but some. No, I don’t believe this without evidence.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Here is your “evidence” put into an argument:

          1. The obvious evidence of dropping a pencil 10 times and observing what happened.
          Therefore:
          2. Bob Seidnesticker dropped his pencil 10 times, and it fell to the ground each time.

          As it stands, this will NOT do, because (1) is not a clear and complete sentence, so it does not actually make a statement that can be evaluated as true or false.

          I think I know what you meant, so will try to fix the statement of your evidence and thus create an actual argument:

          (1a) Bob Seidnesticker OBSERVED the following events: Bob Seidnesticker dropped his pencil 10 times, and it fell to the ground each time.
          Therefore,
          (2) Bob Seidesticker dropped his pencil 10 times, and it fell to the ground each time.

          Is that what you meant? Does (1a) describe the evidence that you think supports (2)?

        • yes, yes

        • Bradley Bowen

          There is an ambiguity in the word “observed”. On one interpretation, your argument would be no good, because it would beg the question. But there is another interpretation which would not have this problem. First, let’s set aside the BAD argument.

          In one sense of the word “observed” to say ‘Bob observed event X’ logically entails that ‘event X occurred’. On this interpretation of “observed”, (1a) logically implies (2). However, it begs the question, since in order to know that (1a) was true, we would have to FIRST determine that (2) was true. Because (1a), on this interpretation, entails (2), the argument begs the question and is a BAD argument.

          But there is an alternative sense of the word “observed” which is such that ‘Bob observed event X’ would NOT logically entail ‘event X occurred’. This is a more subjective interpretation of the word that means something like it SEEMS to someone that he/she is experiencing a certain event:

          1b. Bob Seidensticker had an experience which SEEMED to him to be an experience of the following events: Bob Seidnesticker dropped his pencil 10 times, and it fell to the ground each time.
          Therefore:
          2. Bob Seidesticker dropped his pencil 10 times, and it fell to the ground each time.

          This clarified version of the argument does NOT beg the question. The premise (1b) does NOT assume the truth of the conclusion. We can know that (1b) is true without first having to establish that (2) is true. So, this version of the argument has a chance at being a good argument.

          Assuming you agree with this clarification, I have another question for you.. What EVIDENCE do you have that (1b) is true?

          Or do you believe (1b) is true without having any evidence or arguments to support (1b)?

        • You’ve lost my interest, I’m afraid. I don’t know where you’re going or why you care. Or why I should care.

        • Bradley Bowen

          We are discussing a fundamental concept of epistemology; a concept that anyone who wants to intelligently discuss epistemology NEEDS to understand.

          If you do not understand the problem of infinite regress, then you have no business discussing epistemology, or at least no business criticizing WLC’s reformed epistemology.

          If you hang in there with me for just a little bit longer, I think you will see what I’m getting at, and that will help you in all future discussions of epistemology, esp. in discussions about reformed epistemology, which you will NOT be able to avoid (unfortunately) if you want to discuss Christian beliefs and Christian apologetics with well-informed Christian believers.

        • OK, if you can make it brief, I’ll be interested to read what you’ve got.

        • Bradley Bowen

          OK. My question to you was do you have any evidence to support your belief that (1b) is true? Or do you hold this belief without having any EVIDENCE or ARGUMENTS to support it?

          To speed things up, I will respond for you, using the name Tom instead of Bob (so that nobody thinks I’m quoting you).
          ===============================
          Tom:
          Well, let me think a moment. The pencil-dropping experience occurred yesterday, so I’m no longer having that experience. But I do have a clear memory of that experience, so my evidence is my memory of that experience:

          3. Tom clearly remembers the following:
          Tom had an experience on Monday afternoon which SEEMED to him to be an experience of the following events: Tom dropped his pencil 10 times, and it fell to the ground each time.
          Therefore:
          1c. Tom had an experience on Monday afternoon which SEEMED to him to be an experience of the following events: Tom dropped his pencil 10 times, and it fell to the ground each time.
          Therefore:
          2a. On Monday afternoon, Tom dropped his pencil 10 times, and it fell to the ground each time.
          So, premise (3) describes the evidence that I have that justifies my belief that (1c) is true, and (1c) is my evidence that justifies my belief that (2a) is true.
          WLC:
          Very good. Tom, I have another question for you. Perhaps you can already guess what my question is going to be. Here goes:
          What EVIDENCE do you have for believing that (3) is true?
          Or do you believe that (3) is true without having any evidence or arguments to support that belief?
          Tom:
          Wait just a minute! If I give you an argument or bit of evidence to support my belief that (3) is true, then that reason or evidence can be treated as a premise, say premise (4), and you will just turn around and ask me if I have any EVIDENCE that justifies my belief that (4) is true.
          WLC:
          Yes. You are correct. As long as you put forward reasons or evidence, I can ALWAYS ask you for more evidence to support the truth of whatever reason or evidence you just provided.
          Tom:
          But if you keep on demanding evidence for my evidence, then we can NEVER come to any sort of conclusion, and nothing can ever be proven.
          WLC:
          Precisely. That is my point. If you accept the general principle that “A belief is rationally justified ONLY IF it is based on some EVIDCENCE or ARGUMENT” then no belief can ever be rationally justified, because this principle requires the generation of an infinite regress of evidence (or reasons) for evidence (or reasons) for evidence (or reasons)…on and on to infinity.
          In order to avoid this infinite regress, there needs to be some beliefs which are rationally justified, but NOT on the basis of EVIDENCE or ARGUMENTS. Such beliefs are called foundational beliefs or ‘properly basic beliefs’. Without properly basic beliefs, we cannot have ANY rationally justified beliefs.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Bob –
          Thank you for your time and for your responses to my comments, and I appreciate your giving me one more chance to present my views about the problem of infinite regress and the related epistemological concept of ‘properly basic beliefs’.
          Good luck with your upcoming debate. I will try to make it to this event if at all possible.

        • Thanks for the well wishes. You’re local to the Seattle/Tacoma area?

        • Bradley Bowen

          Yes. I live in Kirkland. My wife works in Seattle at Children’s Hospital. Like you I work in IT. Unlike you, I’m not a techie. I do project management for IT at a large NW corporation, mostly just scheduling – no budget control, so not REAL project management. I hope to retire next year, and then start working on a multi-volume critique of Christianity. I have a ten-year plan for working on that intellectual project.

        • I appreciate your effort, but this conversation bores me completely. It’s useless. It’s mental masturbation. I’m afraid I don’t have the interest to pursue it.

          Perhaps others will pick up the baton.

  • Bradley Bowen

    OK. We have had a number of opportunities to express our opinions about WLC’s views on the witness of the Holy Spirit and on the relationship of faith and reason.
    I propose that we try to make further progress as follows:

    1. Bob and MNb each formulate an initial statement of the following form:

    “WLC’s view about the witness of the Holy Spirit is stupid (or obviously false) because…”
    and/or
    “WLC’s view about the relationship of faith and reason is stupid (or obviously false) because…”

    2. I will then attempt to respond to these objections as if I were WLC. I have read Chapter One of both Apologetics and Reasonable Faith, plus the two lengthy web articles on WLC’s website that are clearly relevant to this discussion, so I feel better prepared to represent his views (though I do NOT agree with his views, except that I am inclined to the view that some beliefs are properly basic).

    3. Bob and MNb then can respond to my replies to their objections.

    4. We can engage in some back-and-forth discussion of my replies and their responses, if desired.

    5. We then close off the discussion with summary statements by me, and by Bod, and by MNb.

    Does this sound reasonable?

    • Bradley Bowen

      Typo: by Bob (not ‘Bod’).

    • You have more energy for this question than I have. I might be more intrigued if I saw the outline of your argument and needed more to see it take shape.

      Wary that I just enjoy having yet another argument where WLC comes out the loser (I do), I don’t see much here.

      If MNb accepts your challenge, I will follow the conversation with interest.

      • Bradley Bowen

        You have kindly given of your time to respond to many of my comments, so I cannot complain if you don’t want to continue this discussion.

        However, since you have made several comments, I can probably construct your side of the argument on my own, and will probably do so (to the best of my ability) if you chose to move on.

        I’m fully capable of debating with myself.

        • I agree that you’re likely to do a good job representing my side of the argument. If I notice any big errors, I’ll let you know.

        • Bradley Bowen

          That is fair. I will do my best to avoid creating a Straw Man.
          Before I begin debating myself, I will see whether MNb wants to accept my proposed format for continuing the discussion. If so, I will focus on discussion with MNb first, then go into constructing a debate between your viewpoint and WLC’s.

        • Happy debating!

        • Bradley Bowen

          MNb has not accepted my proposed way to continue this discussion/debate. So, I will study Bob’s comments, and then create a fictional dialogue/debate between ‘Tom’ (who I will model after Bob) and WLC (based on my understanding of William Craig’s views).

        • MNb

          MNb hasn’t even read your proposed way to continue this discussion/debate, because MNb is bored of it. Now if MNb is bored he doesn’t have fun. And if MNb doesn’t have fun he quits, especially on internet.
          Of course if some other Don Quixote wants to replace MNb he’s got MNb’s permission.

        • Oh, dear. MNb gets more excited about philosophical discussions than Bob S. does, so if it bores MNb you can imagine how interested Bob S. is.

        • Bradley Bowen

          I’m having a great time! I’m learning more about reformed epistemology, which I have generally avoided in recent years. And in trying to express and defend my opinions about WLC and reformed epistemology I am developing, clarifying, and modifying those opinions. Sorry that you are bored. I’m just starting to get warmed up on this topic.

          When I was just a toddler, my parents would put me in the corner of a room and give me an old pot and a spoon, and I would happily play with those things for an hour or two.

          You two can move on to other topics and discussions if you wish. I will stay right here in this corner of the room and continue on, entertaining myself for hours with a fictional dialogue/debate.

        • MNb

          “You two can move on to other topics and discussions if you wish.”
          Thank you for your permission. I wasn’t aware that I needed it.
          Good to read that you enjoy yourself.

  • Bradley Bowen

    WLC: So, Tom, your belief that you dropped a pencil ten times and it fell to the ground each time is RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED because you had a certain EXPERIENCE, and experience in which it seemed to you that you dropped a pencil ten times and it fell to the ground each time.
    Tom: Yes. That’s right. My belief about the pencil dropping is based on my experience, which seemed to me to be an experience of dropping the pencil…
    WLC: And your belief that you had an EXPERIENCE that had that character is based on your having a clear MEMORY of having had that experience the other day?
    Tom: Correct.
    WLC: So your belief that you had a certain sort of EXPERIENCE the other day is RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED because it is based on another belief, namely the belief that you have a MEMORY of having had that experience:
    3. Tom clearly remembers the following:
    Tom had an experience on Monday afternoon which SEEMED to him to be an experience of the following events: Tom dropped his pencil 10 times, and it fell to the ground each time.
    THEREFORE:
    1c. Tom had an experience on Monday afternoon which SEEMED to him to be an experience of the following events: Tom dropped his pencil 10 times, and it fell to the ground each time.
    THEREFORE:
    2a. On Monday afternoon, Tom dropped his pencil 10 times, and it fell to the ground each time.
    So, your belief that (2a) is true is RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED on the basis of your belief that (1c) is true, and your belief that (1c) is true is RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED on the basis of your belief that (3) is true.
    But is your belief that (3) is true RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED? If it is not, then your belief that (1c) is true is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, and if your belief that (1c) is true is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, then your belief that (2a) is not rationally justified.
    Tom: I agree, if my belief that I had a certain memory concerning a pencil-dropping experience is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, then my belief about there having been actual physical pencil-dropping events described in (2a) would also NOT be RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED.
    WLC: OK. So, is your belief that (3) is true a RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED belief?
    Tom: I have already given you EVIDENCE that (3) is true.
    WLC: What evidence did you give me?
    Tom: My word. My testimony. I have told you that I have a clear memory of having had what seemed to be an experience of dropping the pencil ten times, etc.
    WLC: Yes you have. That is evidence for ME to believe that (3) is the case, but it is NOT evidence for YOU to believe that (3) is the case. You cannot base YOUR belief that (3) is the case on YOUR testimony that it is so. I can base my belief that (3) is true on YOUR testimony, but YOUR testimony to having a certain memory is not the basis of your KNOWLEDGE or RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION of (3). We are right now focusing on the question of whether YOUR belief that (3) is true is RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, not on whether MY belief that (3) is true is RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED.
    So, do you have any evidence to support your belief that (3) is true? Or do you believe that (3) is true without having any evidence for this belief?

    • Perhaps other readers enjoy this argument. Thanks for expanding on your thoughts here.

      But a bit of personal feedback: this kind of argument is, to me, whatever is beyond boring. It doesn’t make a good blog or debate topic because you’ll lose your audience. WLC goes a little in this direction, but I’m sure he’s also concerned about presenting content that will appeal to at least some sort of audience.

      If ivory tower philosophers are actively debating such things, then it’s good that you’re bringing this to our attention, but this kind of topic will make a boring book.

      Just a thought.

      • Bradley Bowen

        I’m not much interested in being exciting or dazzling or being entertaining or popular. I’m interested in truth and knowledge.

        Most people don’t care about whether what they believe is true or even reasonable. Most people want to be entertained, to have fun and excitement. Nothing wrong with that, but entertainment is not truth, fun is not knowledge, excitement is not wisdom.

        I realize I’m in a tiny minority of people on this planet who care about truth and knowledge, and that any book I write is unlikely to be a best seller like Dawkins The God Delusion. But I would rather write books about God and Christianity that were clear, logical, well-informed, and deep, than a book that was exciting, dazzling, entertaining, and popular.

        • I care about truth and knowledge, but tedious arguments (it’s me, not you) are at the bottom of the list. If I get through all the interesting ones, I’ll get there.

  • Bradley Bowen

    Tom & WLC continue their discussion…
    Tom: I’m not sure.
    WLC:
    So, you don’t know whether you have any evidence to support your belief that (3) is true? Does that mean that your belief that (3) is true is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED? Because if it is not, then your belief that the pencil-dropping events actually occured is also NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED.
    Tom:
    Hold on. I have a clear memory of that experience. It is not a vague or foggy memory. I’m quite certain that I do have such a memory.
    WLC:
    Your certainty or confidence in the truth of (3) is a subjective matter. People can be completely confident in beliefs that are completely false and completely irrational. So, even if you feel very certain that (3) is true, that does NOT provide RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION for that belief. What EVIDENCE do you have for (3)? or do you believe (3) without having any EVIDENCE to support that belief?
    Tom:
    I do have EVIDENCE for the truth of (3). I am aware of the contents of my own mind. I know my own thoughts and feelings. I can “observe” events in my mind, including memories. If I ask myself, what happened the other afternoon? Did I have an experience of doing something with a pencil? I can focus my attention inward and have a memory of a previous experience.
    WLC:
    You have INTROSPECTIVE AWARENESS of the events in your own mind, including memory events?
    Tom:
    Yes. Introspective awareness is analogous to observing physical events, but it is a direct awareness of events in my own mind, such as remembering an experience.
    WLC:
    OK. Let’s formulate this as another premise or belief:
    (4) Tom has INTROSPECTIVE AWARENESS of the following mental event:
    Tom now has a clear MEMORY of the following:
    Tom had an EXPERIENCE on Monday which SEEMED to him to be of the following events:
    Tom dropped a pencil ten times, and it fell to the ground each time.
    THEREFORE:
    (3) Tom clearly REMEMBERS the following:
    Tom had and EXPERIENCE on Monday afternoon which SEEMED to him to be of the following events:
    Tom dropped a pencil ten times, and it fell to the ground each time.
    Tom: That seems right to me. (4) states my EVIDENCE for my belief that (3) is true.
    WLC: Once again, your belief that (3) is true is based on your belief that (4) is true. If your belief that (4) is true is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, then your belief that (3) is true is also NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, and that would mean that your belief that (2a) was true is also NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED. Thus, if your belief that (4) is true is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, then your belief that the pencil-dropping experiment actually occured is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED.
    Tom: OK. The rational justification of my belief that (2a) is true ultimately rests on my belief that (4) is true.
    WLC: Do you have any EVIDENCE that (4) is true, or do you believe that (4) is true without having any EVIDENCE to support your belief that (4) is true?

  • Bradley Bowen

    More of Tom & WLC…

    WLC:
    Your belief that you actually dropped some pencils the other day and that they actually fell to the floor appears to be based on this INTROSPECTIVE belief:

    (4) Tom has INTROSPECTIVE AWARENESS of the following mental event:
    Tom now has a clear MEMORY of the following:
    Tom had an EXPERIENCE on Monday which SEEMED to him to be of the following events:
    Tom dropped a pencil ten times, and it fell to the ground each time.

    Tom, do you have any EVIDENCE that (4) is true, or do you believe that (4) is true without having any EVIDENCE to support your belief that (4) is true?

    Tom:

    I don’t know. I’m not sure what to say. Usually, people simply take my word for it when I tell them what is going on in my mind. When I tell people what my current thoughts or experiences are, they usually just believe what I say. I’m not used to having to defend this kind of belief.

    WLC:

    Are you saying that you have NO EVIDENCE to support your belief that (5) is true? If that is the case, then you appear to be admitting that your belief that (4) is the case is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, and thus that your belief that you dropped a pencil several times the other day is also NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED. For, you appear to accept the principle that “A belief is RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED only if it is held on the basis of EVIDENCE”. If you have no EVIDENCE for (4), then it follows from your principle that your belief that (4) is true is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED.

    Tom:

    I don’t see what kind of EVIDENCE I could give in support of (4). Maybe if I was hooked up to an MRI machine, we could detect a certain pattern of brain activities that would confirm that I was having a clear memory of a recent event. I’m not sure.

    WLC:

    That won’t do the trick. An MRI can only tell us what sort of electrical and chemical processes are going on in your brain, an MRI does not read minds, and does not show us the thoughts and feelings and experiences that you are having.

    Furthermore, suppose that we could somehow figure out a way to translate between the patterns of electrical and chemical events in your brain and certain kinds of mental events, such as having a vivid memory. That still would not solve your dilemma here.

    The question is NOT whether you can dig up some EVIDENCE someday in the future to support (4), but rather whether you have such EVIDENCE right here and right now. Evidence that you dig up in the future can only provide rational justification for your belief in the future; it cannot make your belief here and now RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED.

    Since you are NOT a brilliant brain scientist at this moment right now, and since you are not sitting inside an MRI machine right here and right now, it is clear that you do NOT possess any MRI evidence is support of (4) right here and right now. So, if MRI evidence is needed to support (4), it follows that your belief that (4) is currently NOT supported by such EVIDENCE. If MRI EVIDENCE is required for your belief that (4) is true to be RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, then your belief (here and now) that (4) is true is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, and neither is your belief that you actually dropped a pencil several times the other day.

  • Bradley Bowen

    Tom:
    But I have a very clear memory of having had an experience that seemed to me to be of droppng a pecil ten times and watching the pencil fall to the ground each time.
    WLC:
    But you appear to have NO EVIDENCE to support your NTROSPECTIVE belief that you have such clear memory of such an experience. And your belief that an acual pencil was actually dropped and actually fell to the ground ten times is ultimately based upon this INTROSECTIVE belief.
    If a belief is RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED only if the person who holds that belief has EVIDENCE (at the time the belief is held) for the truth of that belief, then your INTROSPECTIVE belief about your having a clear memory of certain experiences is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED. If that belief is NOT RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, then neither is your belief that an actual pencil actually was dropped ten times and actually fell to the ground each time. In other words: You don’t know know whether you actually dropped a penci ten times the other day, and you don’t know whether a pencil dropped to the ground ten times the other day. At most you have a GUESS or a SUSPICION that this happened, but no good reason to believe this is what actually happened.
    Tom:
    But I do know what happened. I was right there. I dropped the pencil myself. I was wide awake and carefully watched the pencil drop each time. I most certainly do know that this actually happened.
    WLC:
    Yes you do. That is precisely my point. Your principle that a belief can be RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED only if the person who holds the belief has EVIDENCE that supports the truth of that belief is clearly mistaken. That principle creates a requirement for an infinite regress of reasons or EVIDENCE which neither you nor anyone else can possibly satisfy.
    It has taken you nearly an hour to generate a chain of just three reasons in support of your belief about pencils being dropped and falling to the ground, and now you are stumped and appear unable to come up with a plausible reason or bit of EVIDENCE to support claim (4). Furthermore, I had to help you just to get a chain fhree reasons. Suppose that you eventually get over the hurdle of coming up with a reason or EVIDENCE to support your belief that (4) is true. Suppose that you do come up with that EVIDENCE. We will state that as premise (5), and then I will demand EVIDENCE for (5), and suppose you come up with premise (6) to support (5). If you manage to continue to produce EVIDENCE at the rate of three reasons an hour then you will be able to produce a chain of 30 reasons in ten hours, and in ten days working ten hours per day you could produce 300 reasons. In 100 days you could produce a chain of 3,000 reasons (theoretically – most people would go crazy after a few days of this).
    Suppose you work very hard at this for 100 days and miraculously are able to produce a chain of 3,000 reasons in support of your belief that you dropped a pencil several times the other day. There still remains a very BIG problem:
    Is belief number 3,000 in this chain of reasons a RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED belief? If it is NOT, then your 100 days of extraordinary effort are a complete waste because the ultimate reason or belief or EVIDENCE at the beginning of your chain of reasons might well be FALSE, and would be NOT be RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED, so no other beliefs that are based on belief number 3,000 would be RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED.
    In conclusion, it appears that you have NO EVIDENCE to support your belief that (4) is true, and even if you can eventually figure out some sort of EVIDENCE that does support your belief that (4) is true, you will NEVER be able to arrive at the conclusion that (4) is a RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED belief, so long as you insist that EVERY belief be supported by EVIDENCE. Your basic epistemological principle leads to extreme skepticism which denies the possiblity of having knowledge or RATIONALLY JUSTIFIED beliefs about common events that we expereicne in everyday life.

  • Bradley Bowen

    Instead of developing a fictional dialogue on our disagreements about how to interpret WLC’s views concerning faith and reason, I have written a blog post that lays out how I interpret WLC’s views and some of the evidence in support of my interpretation:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2014/11/29/dont-criticize-what-you-cant-understand/

    • I’ll take a look, thanks.

    • I’m confident that this is NOT WLC’s view now, and I’m somewhat confident that this was not his view even back in 1984, when the above paragraph was published.

      All the quotes that I used in my post are from the third edition, which was published in 2008. If he had an “oopsie” that wasn’t accurate to what he actually meant, he had plenty of time to correct it. He didn’t.

      it seems to me that either (a) he held contradictory views about faith and reason in 1984 and later eliminated this contradiction from his thinking, or else (b) he expressed his views about faith and reason in an unclear and misleading way in the above passage, creating a false impression that his view was that the Christian’s belief in the truth of Christianity was a matter of faith, when in fact he believed it to be a matter of reason.

      Oh, no problem then. I see that it was all my bad. Craig was either confused or wrote poorly (through three editions). I responded to the plain meaning but somehow I’m at fault here. OK, got it.

      WLC does not provide a definition of either ‘faith’ or ‘reason’. … Craig could be criticized with some justification for engaging in ‘mental masturbation’ in the above passage, precisely because he is using the vague and ambiguous words ‘faith’ and ‘reason’ as if everyone would know exactly what he meant by those words, when in fact that is clearly NOT the case. … the problem was that WLC was failing to follow a basic principle of philosophy (and of critical thinking) : define your key terms.

      Let me guess: my fault again, right?

      [WLC said:] Thus I would agree that belief in the God of the Bible is a properly basic belief, and emphasize that it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit that supplies the circumstance for its proper basicality.

      Proper basicality is something that I need to read more on to have an opinion on. You know me—always careful to avoid badmouthing things I don’t understand—but it does sound like basing proper basicality on the existence of a particular religious doctrine (the existence and action of the Holy Spirit) makes for a weak argument. I suppose Christians will believe it all day long, but that doesn’t go far in making it a general-purpose argument.

      So, if you want to object to WLC’s reformed epistemology, be my guest, but please (1)learn about the elements of epistemology before you call his epistemology ‘stupid’ or claim that it is obviously false, and (2) carefully read what he actually says about faith and reason before raising objections to his views about faith and reason. If you don’t follow this advice, then I’m afraid that your objections to WLC’s reformed epistemology will amount to nothing more than ‘mental masturbation’.

      The field of apologetics is enormous, and I need to focus. I have no use for arguments of the form, “OK, I got this great argument that you’re going to love, but first read these two books of philosophy so that you’ll understand it.” I won’t put that burden on my audience, and if there are fabulous arguments in that domain, I’ll probably have to give them a miss. If the only good arguments are the obtuse ones, the God who loves us dearly unaccountably doesn’t make his existence known. I don’t think I’m missing much.

      • Bradley Bowen

        I’m going to respond to your first three points, and then focus in on your first point.

        Basically, in your first three points, you are pointing out that Craig was unclear or confused in some of his statements about the relationship of ‘faith’ and ‘reason’ and so you should not be criticized for misinterpreting his views on this topic.

        I agree that Craig must bear the greatest share of responsibility for being misinterpreted on this subject. He is a professional philosopher and he specializes in the philosophy of religion. He ought to know better than to use the problematic words ‘faith’ and ‘reason’ and to simply assume that everyone would know what he meant, without giving a clear and concise definition of these words.

        I take it that you are not a professional philosopher and that you have not studied philosophy in great depth. So, you should not be held to the same high standards as Craig on this matter.

        However, as an intellectual who comments on Christian Apologetics, I think it is reasonable for me to expect you to have some sensitivity to the problem of unclarity of some key words used in discussions about religion and Christianity (e.g. the words ‘religion’ and ‘Christianity’ are vague and unclear words). So, Craig’s goof does not let you off the hook entirely.

        The first point you make initially struck me as a minor, even trivial point. But on reflection, it has implications that amount to a very powerful objection to my post.

        Since you apparently did not notice this implication, it is very tempting for me to keep the implication to myself and thus avoid dealing with a very powerful objection. But intellectual integrity and fairness are more important than my ego, so I’m going to serve myself a slice of humble pie and raise the objection for you against my own post, in just a moment.

        First, I want to re-iterate a few points that I still think I got right in my post. First, the passage I quote from Apologetics is an important one for understanding Craig’s view of faith and reason. Much of the chapter is his discussion of the views of other thinkers about faith and reason, but in that paragraph he strongly expresses his own views.

        Second, interpretation of that passage is indeed difficult or problematic because he uses the unclear words ‘faith’ and ‘reason’ without providing clear and concise definitions of these words.

        Third, the parallel passage in the later book Reasonable Faith provides important clues about his view of faith and reason, because he revises his earlier statement in a way that makes it clearer and more specific.

        OK. Now I will serve myself a slice of humble pie.

        Here is how you could have objected to my post:

        “Mr. Bowen, in my post I quoted from the 2008 edition of Reasonable Faith. I did NOT quote anything from Craig’s earlier book Apologetics. Your post implies that I have misinterpreted a passage from the book Apologetics, but I never quoted or referenced a passage from Apologetics, so it is simply FALSE that I have misinterpreted any passage from the book Apologetics. Perhaps, I did not interpret the quote from Reasonable Faith exactly right, or in accordance with your interpretation of Craig’s views, but that is another matter. Furthermore, the passage I quoted does not even use the word ‘reason’, so I clearly have not misinterpreted the word ‘reason’ in the passage that I actually quoted.”

        I have more to say about this, but will pause for now and have another mouthful of this pie.

        • I interpreted WLC’s well-polished (through 3 editions and 24 years) words fairly. We seem to be in agreement. Doesn’t sound like there’s much else to talk about.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Not quite.

          I basically accused you of misinterpreting a passage in Apologetics, and I admit I was mistaken on that point, since you did not quote a passage from Apologetics in your post, and (I believe) never quoted from Apologetics in your comments.

          However, that does NOT mean that you correctly interpreted the passage from Reasonable Faith correctly or fairly.

          But before I make any further accusations, I need to go back and re-read your original points in the post and your comments, and be more careful about what you said and did not say, so as to not repeat my original error.

        • That’s confusing because it seemed that you leveled a substantial list of charges at WLC. Seemed to me that you had put any blame for misunderstanding the passage on him.

          I found your argument tenuous. The plain meaning is right there for all to see, and you had to pull in lots of other sources to justify a far different interpretation of WLC. Sure, that meaning is possible, but what could possibly explain that he mean that but wrote it the way he did?

        • Bradley Bowen

          I think I will try to move this discussion in a more positive direction.

          Instead of looking for mistakes or errors in your understanding of WLC’s reformed epistemology, I will simply take the questions you have raised and work on them for myself, attempting to be careful and accurate in my own analysis and evaluation of WLC’s reformed epistemology:

          1. Is WLC’s reformed epistemology stupid?
          2. Is WLC’s view of faith and reason stupid?
          3. Is WLC’s view that the witness of the Holy Spirit is indefeasible stupid?

          At this point, I would answer all three questions ‘No’.

          But to be confident in my answers, I need to take a closer look at WLC’s reformed epistemology, and WLC’s view of faith and reason, and WLC’s views about the witness of the Holy Spirit. As I get clearer about his views and his reasons for those views, I will be in a better position to answer the above three questions with greater confidence.

        • My focus wasn’t on his reformed epistemology but just on a small section of his Reasonable Faith (third edition) where I got the quotes that I used.

          You raise an interesting question, but my question is much narrower: is that small section of WLC’s book, understood charitably of course, sensible or stupid?

        • MNb

          I’d say it’s neither. It’s unreasonable as reason in my dictionary consists of argument (logic, deduction etc.) and evidence (observation, experiment). WLC just admits that “reasonable faith” is a contradiction in terms. The only way to escape this – and BB has tried it – is stretching or changing the meaning of the word “reason”. That
          a) will invariably result in a semantic discussion;
          b) will rob the word “reason” much of its relevant meaning.

          That’s why I lost interest so quickly, no matter if BB can justify another meaning of the word “reason” with quotes from WLC or not. Why would I care who’s wrong, BB or WLC? Let them play undisturbedly with their pans and spoons, I say.

        • I’m a bit confused why Bradley B. is so anxious to rehabilitate WLC. My guess is that I’ve offended philosophy, and BB is stepping in to defend it.

        • MNb

          Personally I think WLC is the one who offends philosophy.

  • David Allan Carnes

    Congratulations. You have just refuted the superstitious belief in the Great Straw Man in the Sky. I invite you to read Alvin Platinga if you want a real Christian argument to refute, especially the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.

    • epeeist

      I invite you to read Alvin Platinga if you want a real Christian
      argument to refute, especially the Evolutionary Argument Against
      Naturalism.

      Been there, done that. So have Stephen Law and Massimo Pigliucci.

    • Greg G.

      William Lane Craig considers the combined weight of Plantinga’s two dozen (“or so”) best arguments for God to favor the existence of God. If there was one of those arguments that actually proved there was a God, WLC would tout that one. But if the two dozen (“or so”) best arguments for God are failures, then every other argument for God must also be failures. Therefore, the combined weight of the failure of every argument for God is evidence for the non-existence of any gods.

      The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism doesn’t seem to get that reliability of a representation of reality is a selective advantage so it is selected for by evolutionary processes. We should not be astonished that a complex brain can recognize its limitations and develop means to compensate for the limitations. But we can see how the limitations would lead to belief in imaginary beings and how religion can exploit the limitations.

    • Search this blog for my take on that argument. Plantinga may be a smart guy, but how good can his arguments be if he’s backing the wrong horse? And if he’s backing the right horse, I’ve seen no evidence.

  • David Allan Carnes

    BLASPHEMY!!! I sentence you to have the bottom of your feet tickled by a demon with a feather FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER.