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September 23, 2015

NuclearExplosion
Nuclear explosion on April 18, 1953 at a Nevada test site. [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
(12-6-06)
See my critique of John Loftus’ deconversion story. His words below are in blue.

[Note of 9-23-15] Many of his hysterical, vitriolic reactions to my critique were lost to posterity, because they were on an old commenting system on my older blog. But there are plenty of other representative (and quite humorous) ones preserved below.* * * * *

Will this silliness ever end? John W. Loftus of Debunking Christianity fame just won’t let it rest. With relentless irrationality and hypersensitivity, he keeps calling me names and misrepresenting our past interactions. His latest tirade resulted from one (undeniable) half-sentence I wrote yesterday on his blog, in the midst of commenting on someone else’s deconversion story:

I make no claims on either your sincerity or the state of your soul or moral character. None whatsoever. I simply critiqued the reasons you gave for your deconversion. I don’t see why that would be insulting to anyone (as it is merely entering into the arena of competing ideas), yet John Loftus blew a gasket when I examined his story.

John then responded with his usual irrational vehemence:

You are an idiot! You never critiqued my whole deconversion story. Deconversion stories are piecemeal. They cannot give a full explanation for why someone left the faith. They only give hints at why they left the faith. It requires writing a whole book about why someone left the faith to understand why they did, and few people do that. I did. If you truly want to critique my deconversion story then critique my book. Other than that, you can critique a few brief paragraphs or a brief testimony, if you want to, but that says very little about why someone left the faith. You walk away thinking you have completely analysed someone’s story. But from where I sit, that’s just stupid. That’s S-T-U-P-I-D! If you truly want to critique a deconversion story, then critique mine in my book. I wrote a complete story there.

And (three minutes later):

Dave, I can only tolerate stupidity so long.

I challenge you to really critique the one deconversion story that has been published in a book. It’s a complete story. A whole story. It’s mine.

And (some hours later):

Do you accept my challenge?

I replied:

1) First of all, why would you even want to have your book critiqued by someone whom you routinely call an “idiot,” an “arrogant idiot,” a “joke,” a “know-it-all,” and so forth? I’ve never understood this. I have four published books (soon to be five). The last thing in the world I would want (on amazon or anywhere else) is for a blithering idiot to either praise or bash one of my books. I want respectable people to do so.

I have less than no desire in any of my dialogues to interact with the worst examples of opposing views. I want the best. Of course, if someone has a personal ax to grind, that’s different, isn’t it, John? If your goal is to embarrass and belittle someone who disagrees, then this would explain the big desire to wrangle with so-called “idiots.”

2) It is a hyper-ludicrous implication to maintain that deconversion stories are immune to all criticism simply because they are not exhaustive. It’s embarrassing to even have to point this out, but there it is.

3) I have already long since taken up your “challenge.” I said many weeks ago that if you sent me your book in an e-file for free, I’d be more than happy to critique it. I won’t buy it, and I refuse to type long portions of it when it is possible to cut-and-paste. That is an important factor since my methodology is Socratic and point-by-point. I actually try to comprehensively answer opposing arguments, not just talk about them or do a mutual monologue.

You railed against that, saying that it was a “handout.” I responded that you could have any of my (14 completed) books in e-book form for free.

4) One wonders, however, with your manifest “gnashing teeth” attitude towards me, what would be accomplished by such a critique? You’ve already shown that you can’t or won’t offer any rational counter-reply when I analyze any of your arguments. You didn’t with the deconversion thing and refused again when I wrote about God and time. On both occasions you simply made personal insults. There is no doubt about that. It’s all a matter of record.

Why should I think it would be any different if I were to spend a month writing a detailed critique of your book? Maybe then you would get so mad you would sue me for libel or hire a hit man? LOL

John’s original Cliff Notes version” of his deconversion story, posted on his blog (2-19-06), ran 2701 words. That’s a pretty hefty article. Yet John claims that a summary of this length “says very little about why someone left the faith” and calls it a few brief paragraphs or a brief testimony.” He implies that it is improper to critique such a thing because it is so incomplete; people ought to read his book (nice sales pitch there, by the way; how ingenious).

Why, then, post it at all? Are we supposed to believe that it was posted with no possibility that anyone should respond with any critique of it? Is it merely a sermon; preaching to the atheist choir and rah-rah sis-boom-bah cheerleading “amen” brigade (John used to be a Church of Christ preacher)? What’s the point? Why have comments capability if no one is supposed to interact with posts at Debunking Christianity? If I am told that this is a version which offers far less detail compared to his book, then I readily accept that as a truism (DUH!). But there is no reason to think that it should be immune to all criticisms simply because he has a longer version elsewhere.

My own conversion story to Catholicism, that was published in the bestseller Surprised by Truth and read by (literally) several hundred thousand people, is available online in my original draft. It runs 3,469 words (only 1.3 times larger than John’s; his is 78% as long as mine). I have never stated that no one should ever reply to that because it is so short, or that I have 375 pages somewhere else (actually, all the various arguments I have made in the course of my apologetics, that would be the “full and exhaustive” account as to why I am a Catholic) that anyone would have to read in order to issue any analysis at all: critical or otherwise. To do so would be (how did John put it?): rather S-T-U-P-I-D.

His posting of his story drew 33 comments [it now has 85, in 2015], including many lengthy ones from Christians. But John nowhere hinted that this was improper, or that anyone would have to read his entire book in order to intelligently make a critique of his odyssey into apostasy. He apparently saves that irrational ire, for some reason, for me. But what was so terribly different about my own critique? I just don’t see it. Was it hard-hitting? Yes, for sure; absolutely, like most of my critiques. I don’t mince words. But on the other hand, I don’t personally insult. I stick strictly to the subject and don’t cast aspersions on either motives or intelligence.

Remember, too, that John is arguing against the truth of the Christian faith. This is a very serious charge, and it deserves to be firmly dealt with. A Christian has every good reason to respond. This is a public attack; hence open to public examination and scrutiny. He thinks I was very personal. I deny this (and I have noted that even fellow atheists on his blog have understood that it was not personal, or intended to be so, at all).

A recent critique, strictly on the subject matter of God and time, was even less “personal”, yet John got mad about that, too, and called me more names, rather than simply respond and make some semblance of a counter-argument. Pretty impressive showing for a guy who has the “equivalent” of a Ph.D. and “several” master’s degrees, isn’t it?

But there is more insight we can glean concerning this fiasco, by looking at another stink having to do with his deconversion. This time the person (Protestant apologist and frequent critic of atheism, Steve Hays) actually read his book. Did it matter? Not much. John replied according to his usual modus operandi (even granting that Steve can be quite acerbic and insulting far too often: I know from his anti-Catholic critiques of some of my writing). Nevertheless, granting all that, it is another instance of John not being able to handle at all, any serious critique of his fabled odyssey from Christian to atheist.

John made a “challenge” to a Protestant who had also critiqued his story, similar to the one he made to me, complete with prognostications of inevitable loss of faith upon completeion of his profound and unanswerable tome and Pascal’s wager-like clever sales pitches:

I’m saying the case I make in my new book is overwhelmingly better.

Again, are you going to read it and critique it for yourself? Hey, I dare you! I bet you think you’re that smart, don’t ya, or that your faith is that strong – that you can read something like my book and not have it affect your faith.

If Christianity is true, then you have nothing to fear. But if Christianity is false, then you owe it to yourself to get the book. Either way you win.

And even if you blast my book after reading it here on this Blog, I’ll know that you read it, and just like poison takes time to work, all I have to do from then on is to wait for a personal crisis to kill your faith.

Want to give it a go? The way I see you reason here makes me think it’ll make your head spin with so many unanswerable questions that you won’t know what to do.

But that’s just me. I couldn’t answer these questions, so if you can, you’re a smarter man than I am, and that could well be. Are you? I think not, but that’s just me.

Yet one of John’s droning complaints about me is that I am way too confident! I never claimed that someone would inevitably become a Christian or a Catholic Christian upon reading any of my books or many online papers!

Even fellow atheists can see that John is acting like an ass. One (“amber”) wrote on John’s own blog:

Dave, as a bystander with no axe to grind, I agree John was being a jerk. I don’t know where he gets off ragging on you.

And for the record, I’m an atheist.

Another atheist wrote to me privately (today), and said that I was one of the few polite theists that he had come across. To top it off, in John’s latest insult-post, he makes it clear that he has no interest in dialogue with me (after previously almost begging me to interact with his material; on the problem of evil). All the more reason not to do a critique of his blessed apostate story:

Dave, there are just some people I don’t care to dialogue with and you are one of them, for various reasons I’ll not state. People can come to their own conclusions about why this is so. To me you are the Catholic mirror image of JP Holding [a Protestant apologist that John and his friends intensely dislike]. I can’t hear what you say because you offend me too much with your attitude.

Why you mentioned me at all in response to what Theresa said is beyond me. This is her Blog entry. DO NOT SIDETRACK IT ANYMORE WITH ANY MORE OFF-TOPIC COMMENTS! I’ll delete them if it’s not on topic.

I replied:

I’ll say whatever I want, as long as it is relevant to the subject matter, and/or factual (as that statement was). This is what free speech entails. If you don’t like it, then ban me. I won’t be muzzled by anyone (nor do I muzzle anyone on my blog). If I have insulted you at all, it is one-tenth as bad as all the crap you have thrown my way.

If you keep abiding by a double standard, I will be more than happy to keep pointing it out.

So tell me John: what is the purpose of my critiquing your book if you have no desire to dialogue? I couldn’t care less about the book (just as I imagine you care nothing about any of mine). If you refuse to interact with me about it (big surprise there!), you take away practically the only reason I would have to justify spending my time dealing with it.

[this post was promptly removed by John; so the censoring has already begun; perhaps he’ll reply here, where we allow free speech]

How personal insults against me are on-topic, either, is a great mystery: just one of many where John is concerned. His own “policy paper” on discussion on his blog states:

I invite people on as Team Members who have passion and who wish to test and defend their arguments in a public forum.

. . . Any intelligent comment that is relevant will be allowed here, so long as it’s not disrespectful of us as persons. . . . we reserve the right to ban anyone who abuses this forum by willfully mischaracterizing what we say in order to belittle us, or by personally attacking us.

. . . This Blog is an intelligent and friendly place to debate ideas in a mutually respectful environment.

We think that educated people can disagree agreeably. Only people not fully exposed to alternative ways of thinking will claim their opponents are stupid merely because they disagree.

. . . But we have no animosity toward Christian believers as people.

. . . We will do our best to treat our opponents with some dignity and respect, even if we do not believe what they are claiming. We choose to follow the Golden Rule, for the most part, . . .

All of this high and noble rhetoric about discussion ethics, yet John is on record describing me as all of the following (none yet retracted in the slightest):

You’re a joke. I’m surprised you have an audience. You’re also a psychologist, eh? Wow! . . . Again, you’re a joke.

To think you could pompously proclaim you are better than me is beyond me when you don’t know me. It’s a defensive mechanism you have with people like me.

It’s called respecting people as people, and Dave’s Christianity does not do that with people who don’t agree with him.

I’m just tired of pompous asses on the internet who go around claiming they are superior to me in terms of intelligence and faith. Such arrogance makes me vomit.

. . . self-assured arrogant idiots out there, like Dave, who prefer to proclaim off of my personal experience that they are better than I.

(all on 10-16-06)

You are ignorant

you present your uninformed arguments as if everyone should agree with you

Any educated person would not state the things you do with such arrogance.

with you there is no discussion to be had for any topic you write about.

You are the answer man. Everyone else is ignoring the obvious. And that’s the hallmark of an ignorant and uneducated man.

I am annoyed by people like you, . . . pompous self-righteous know-it-all’s

Now you are attempting to defend the arrogant way you argue.

You’re just right about everything, or, at least you always come across that way.

you are an uneducated, ignorant, arrogant know-it-all.

(all on 11-30-06)

September 23, 2015

Implosion
 Imploding vacuum tube photographed with high speed air-gap flash (by Niels Noordhoek) [Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]
(10-15-06)
John’s story was posted on his Debunking Christianity blog. His words will be in blue.
* * * * *

In my book Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains I’ve written 40 pages about my conversion to Christianity, my deconversion away from Christianity, what I believe now, and why. . . . But let me offer the Cliff Notes version:

I grew up being taught to believe in the Christian faith. In fact, until I converted at the age of 18 I never remember encountering anyone who didn’t believe. I just thought everyone around me believed. So when I found myself down on my luck at the age of 18 there was no one else I knew to turn to but Jesus, and I did.

I had a dramatic conversion as an 18 year old. I had dropped out of High School, and was arrested six different times for offenses like running away, theft, and battery. I had also hitchhiked around the country with a friend. I was heavily into drugs, alcohol, sex, fast cars, and the party scene.

But one night I gave myself over to this Jesus in repentance and faith in response to what I believed at that time was his substitutionary death on the cross for my sins. At that time I claimed to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and a new calling to spread God’s news of salvation to anyone who will believe.

And my life radically changed. Here’s how I later described my new life and new sense of mission in a newspaper devotional column that area ministers took turns writing every week: “I can identify with the apostle Paul who said, ‘But by the grace of God I am what I am’ (I Cor.15:10). I knew I needed help, but no one could break through to me, until I turned my life over to Jesus. Only he could save me. Only he could change me. I have totally changed due to the grace of God. When I look back on those years, it’s like I’m talking about someone else. Without God I shudder where I would be today. Now, I gladly preach the message that God can change you too. Believe it. It happened in my life. Believe that it can happen to your rebellious teenager. Believe it because we serve a miracle-working God who answers prayer, and who intervenes on our behalf.” Then I ended the devotional with these words: “From out of my own personal experience my heart bleeds for the victims in our society, for I know what it’s like to be a victim and a victimizer. That’s why I fight for the unborn, the poor and homeless, those victimized by pornography, but especially for those trapped in sin. People need the Lord.” [Herald Republican, August 10, 1990].

This is all fine and good, and I believe God’s grace was working there. Every good thing comes from God. A turn from all these sins must be by God’s grace. But notice that John gives no information as to the reasons that he converted, apart from wanting to forsake his civil and spiritual rebellion. So now he believed, but what were his reasons for adopting Christianity? Did he have any intellectual reasons: something beyond experience and wanting to get off of the rock-bottom of wild adolescent rebellion and the supposedly unretrained “free” life?

This is extremely important too. It’s a great reason why I have devoted my life to apologetics, because unless we develop a thinking Christianity, that can provide reasons and rationales for belief, we leave ourselves open to being deceived by any number of things. It’s a foundation of sand, in an apologetic sense. We’re easy prey. Without it, the next attractive vision of life that comes around could lead us away, because we never really could give solid reasons why we were Christians in the first place.

John may have had some sort of reasons, but he provides none here. Insofar as he didn’t (and I suspect that was the case, at least in this early stage, not as much later, since he got a theological education), then his quick conversion could be easily explained on a non-rational basis. And it is often seen that folks who will convert so quickly without the proper reflection may later do so again. In this case, it was from Christianity to atheism (and again in part due to personal crises, which often have little or nothing to do with competing truth claims).

With such a passion for my purportedly new relationship with God-in-Christ, I began to understand my faith and to minister it. I graduated from Great Lakes Christian (Bible) College, Lansing Michigan, in 1977. Afterward I became the Associate Minister in Kalkaska, MI, for two years. Then I attended Lincoln Christian Seminary (LCS), Lincoln, IL, and graduated in 1982 with M.A. and M.Div. degrees, under the mentoring of Dr. James D. Strauss. While at LCS I was the founding editor for the now defunct apologetical quarterly, A Journal For Christian Studies. After LCS I attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), and graduated in 1985 with a Th.M degree, under the mentoring of Dr. William Lane Craig, considered by many to be the foremost defender of the empty tomb of Jesus and his bodily resurrection from the grave. I also took classes at Marquette University in a Ph.D. program with a double major in Philosophy and Ethics, but I didn’t finish because I lacked the needed funds to stay in school and because I wanted to be close to my Dad who was dying of cancer.

From 1987 to 1990 I was the Senior Minister of the Angola Christian Church, Angola, Indiana. I served in the Steuben County Ministerial Association, and for a year I was its President. Before that I had several ministries in Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. I was in the ministry for about fourteen years, or so. After leaving the church, I’ve stayed in Angola, and now I own my own business here.

Note and beware, Christians, that even a solid Christian education like this may not necessarily protect one from a slide into apostasy. The devil is very clever. He has ways to bring anyone down. We need to be vigilant, and to maintain an active, vital faith and spirituality. Cultivate it. Don’t squander opportunities to live out your faith and to be stretched in your obedience to God.

I was a Christian apologist with several master’s degrees set for the express purpose of defending Christianity from intellectual attacks.

Even that won’t suffice to prevent apostasy if there are other deficiencies because the mind is only one aspect of a well-rounded faith. That can get distorted too far in one direction, too. We don’t yet know what these might be in John’s case (as analyzed from a Christian perspective), but I will reply as I see fit, as we go along.

I was not afraid of any idea, because I was convinced that Christianity was true and could withstand all attacks. I have taught both apologetical and philosophical classes for a few different Christian and secular colleges. I was in the “Who’s Who Among America’s Best Teachers” in 1996.

Much philosophy can make one go astray as well, if too much skeptical and fallacious philosophy takes hold on one’s brain. But in the end it comes down to God’s grace and whether we accept it and continue to live by it, or reject it.

I knew most of the arguments against Christianity, and as a philosophy instructor in a secular college I could debate both sides of most any argument.

One can see the danger there, too. As G. K. Chesterton said, “one can become so open-minded that their brains fall out.” There is a reason many Christians lose their faith in college. If we expose ourselves to skepticism and don’t have the equipment to defend our faith (and especially if we like to blend in with the crowd and not be different and the “black sheep”), then we’re dead meat.

As a philosophy instructor, in many ways, I am a purveyor of doubt. Too many people have a superficial faith handed down from their parents. As a teacher my goal is to cause them to doubt much of what they believe, be it atheist or believer, or in between. Doing so is what’s needed for them to develop a deeper faith, and it allows them to see points of view they’ve never considered before, thus making them more tolerant of other people’s beliefs. One thing that I must do as a philosophy instructor is to eliminate from my students a smug, simplistic, and dogmatic belief system. Such beliefs are childlike and unbecoming of the adults they should become.

Philosophy and many other subjects can easily be taken in a direction that is hostile to Christianity. It doesn’t have to be that way. I believe that virtually all academic fields can be approached in a way that is either favorable to Christianity or neutral towards it. But note how easy it might be to go from opposing a “smug, simplistic, and dogmatic belief system” to equating all religious systems in such a manner, as if they are all simplistic, or as if all religious dogma is somehow improper, or fundamentally hostile to philosophy.

Hence, a famous atheist like Bertrand Russell could believe that truly Christian thinkers cannot, by definition, be philosophers. St. Thomas Aquinas and Leibniz and St. Augustine and Kierkegaard weren’t philosophers? Alvin Plantinga and William Alston aren’t philosophers today, simply because they are Christians and accept some “dogma”? That’s an odd categorization, isn’t it? But is that not far more dogmatic and closed-minded than a Christian simply holding his faith and doing philosophy too? We need to be aware of the trends of our own thought, lest we succumb to a slippery slope of an unbelieving heart taking hold and lest we get duped by truly stupid, utterly unnecessary dichotomies such as this “dogma vs. philosophy” or “faith vs. reason” claptrap.

Anyway, I have told people time and time again that I could teach philosophy until I was blue in the face so long as I knew I had a loving, caring, and faithful Christian community to fall back on after my class is over. When that fell through the floor, the doubts crept in my life.

Whether Christians in general or those in one’s own community are loving or hypocritical has nothing whatsoever to do with the truth claims of Christianity. Nothing. You could argue, I suppose, that if you see a great many Christian hypocrites, that what they present is (at least arguably) false. They haven’t shown the transformation or exemplary love and kindness that Christianity claims to especially produce. On the surface that appears plausible, but then the Christian can always produce an equal or greater number of those who are profound, stirring examples of Christianity in loving action: saintly, holy people.

So at best it would be a wash, I think. But in the end, belief-systems must be analyzed of their own accord. Whether people consistently live up to the ideals they professedly espouse is another question altogether. We would fully expect many to fail to live up to the extremely high and noble ideas of Christianity. It’s been said that of all Christian doctrines, original sin is the easiest to grasp as true. Saints are marveled at precisely because they are such exceptions to the rule.

There are three major things that happened in my life that changed my thinking. They all happened in the space of about five years, from 1991-1996. These are the three things that changed my thinking: 1) A major crisis, 2) plus information, 3) minus a sense of a loving, caring, Christian community.

#3 was just disposed of as a rational reason above. It’s rather self-evident. Personal crises (#1) are of the same nature, unless they can be tied to some actual problem in Christian theology or philosophical, apologetic rationale for same. The fact that my wife or child may die or that my reputation is ruined, or that I go bankrupt or get a fatal disease, or become handicapped due to an assault has nothing to do with, that I can see, of whether the truth claims of Christianity are acceptable or not. The fact of some Christian community manifesting some sin of lack of support or sympathy or empathy, or slanderous, gossipy conduct does not prove Christianity false, either. I agree that it is scandalous and a shame and a terribly bad witness, but it disproves nothing by way of doctrine and theology. “Information” is another story. We shall see what “information” was instrumental in turning John the pastor and Christian apologist into an atheist.

For me it was an assault of major proportions that if I still believed in the devil would say it was orchestrated by the legions of hell.

Many people can say that. Look at Job. Yet his crisis didn’t make him lose belief. Carrie Ten Boom was in the Nazi concentration camps, and Solzhenitsyn in the Gulag. They didn’t lose faith. The latter even credits the horrible experience with bringing him to faith. Such horrific experiences “orchestrated by hell” often have the opposite effect from the devil’s intentions: deepening faith. That’s why the number of early Christians grew by leaps and bounds, even though the movement was being persecuted to the death. The martyrdoms themselves became an extraordinary witness that something special was causing these people to willingly die with joy in the most outrageous ways rather than deny their faith. People know that’s not possible on merely human power alone. It contradicts everything we know about ourselves.

Let me just briefly mention the information that changed my mind. I carried on a correspondence debate with my cousin who was a Lieutenant in the Air Force (now a Colonel) and teaches Bio-Chemistry at a base in Colorado. I handed him a book arguing for creation over evolution and asked him to look at it and let me know what he thought of it. After several months he wrote me a long letter and sent me a box full of articles and books on the subject. Some of them were much too technical for me to understand, but I tried to read them. While he didn’t convince me of much at the time, he did convince me of one solid truth: the universe is as old as scientists say it is, and the consensus is that it is 12-15 billion years old.

Great. That has absolutely nothing to do with whether Christianity is true or not or whether God doesn’t exist. The fact that John managed to get up to speed with conventional geology proves nothing about the truth of a thinking, mainstream orthodox Christianity. So this has no bearing on any serious reason to deconvert. The choice is between Christianity and science? That would be the implied dichotomy and choice, but of course it is a fallacy. Most Christians accept this standard geology and indeed most even accept the theory of evolution in some form.

Now that by itself isn’t too harmful of an idea to Christian thinking. But two corollaries of that idea started me down the road to being the honest doubter I am today.

It’s good that he makes this statement. Yet he himself chose to include this as a starting-point of his unbelief, so it can’t be completely insignificant.

The first is that in Genesis chapter 1 we see that the earth existed before the sun, moon, and stars, which were all created on the fourth day. This doesn’t square with astronomy. So I began looking at the first chapters of Genesis, and as my thinking developed over time I came to the conclusion that those chapters are folk literature – myth. You can see my studies on this later in this book.

Okay; now we’re getting to the meat and potatoes and the brass tacks. Here we have something that can be analyzed, to see if it is any sort of legitimate rationale for rejecting Christianity. If John is correct, Genesis has a glaring contradiction. If he is not, then a big reason he gives for his apostasy is shown to be much ado about nothing. of course the latter is the case, as I will now proceed to show.

John assumes (as so many do) that Genesis was intended to be presented in some rigidly (modern) scientific, rationalistic framework, including a literal chronology of events, as it is written. But is this required by the text we have? No, not at all. And herein lies his fallacy and disinformation. He shows poor hermeneutical skills here. This never had to be a “reason” to make him start doubting the inspiration of Holy Scripture.

John H. Stek, in a book whose purpose is to examine the biblical account of creation from a scientific perspective, wrote about Genesis 1-2:

As representations of what has transpired in the divine arena, they are of the nature of metaphorical narrations. They relate what has taken place behind the veil, but translate it into images we can grasp – as do the biblical visions of the heavenly court. However realistic they seem, an essential “as if” quality pervades them.

. . . He stories “events” that are in themselves inaccessible to humans, inaccessible not only as information (since no human witness was there) but conceptually inaccessible.

. . . From the perspective of this account [Gen 1:1-2:3], these seven “days” are a completed time – the seventh day does not give way to an eighth . . . because this narrative stories unique events in a unique arena and a unique “time,” the lack of correlation between the chronological sequences of 1:1-2:3 and 2:4ff. involves no tension.

. . . The speculations that have continued to fund the endless and fruitless debate have all been triggered by concerns brought by interpreters to the text, concerns completely alien to it. In his storying of God’s creative acts, the author was “moved” to sequence them after the manner of human acts and “time” them after the pattern of created time in humanity’s arena of experience.

(Portraits of Creation: Biblical and Scientific Perspectives on the World’s Formation, Howard J. Van Till, Robert E. Snow, John H. Stek, & Davis A. Young, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990, 236-238)

Charles E. Hummel, in a similar book, further elaborates:

Our interpretation of a passage should also be guided by its structure. Narrators have the freedom to tell a story in their own way, including its perspective, purpose, development and relevant content. The importance of this principle comes to focus in the Genesis 1 treatment of time. The dominating concepts and concerns of our century are dramatically different from those of ancient Israel. . . . we automatically tend to assume that a historical account must present a strict chronological sequence. But the biblical writers are not bound by such concerns and constrictions. Even within an overall chronological development they have freedom to cluster certain events by topic. For example, Matthew’s Gospel has alternating sections of narrative and teaching grouped according to subject matter, a sort of literary club sandwich. Since Matthew did not intend to provide a strict chronological sequence for the events in Jesus’ ministry, to search for it there would be futile.

By the same token our approach to Genesis 1 should not assume that the events are necessarily in strict chronological order.

. . . Our problem of how the earth could be lighted (v. 4) before the sun appeared comes when we require the narrative to be a strict chronological account.

. . . The literary genre is a semipoetic narrative cast in a historico-artistic framework consisting of two parallel triads. On this interpretation, it is no problem that the creation of the sun, necessary for an earth clothed with vegetation on the third day, should be linked with the fourth day. Instead of turning hermeneutical handsprings to explain that supposed difficulty, we simply note that in view of the author’s purpose the question is irrelevant. The account does not follow the chronological sequence assumed by concordist views.

(The Galileo Connection: Resolving Conflicts Between Science and the Bible, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986, 203, 209, 214)

So this “problem” that caused John to begin an unbelieving, skeptical descent culminating in atheism, is in actuality no problem at all. He just didn’t look into the passage in the depth that it required.

The second corollary is this: if God took so long to create the universe, then why would he all of a sudden snap his fingers, so to speak, and create human beings? If time is not a factor with God when he created the universe, then why should time be a factor when it came to creating human beings?

Speed is not indicated in the creation account of man. Genesis 2:7 says that “the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground . . . ” I see no necessary requirement that this be instantaneous. It is not inconsistent with longer periods of time or possibly evolution. The text then says that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life . . .” This might be taken to indicate that man had a soul (unlike the animals): “breath” being a common biblical metaphor for “soul”. One could therefore take a view that what became man could have possibly evolved and then God decided to create a soul in man that set him apart (and made him truly man, which would be a quick process as far as it goes). Christians believe that this supernatural soul is a direct creation of God. You can’t see it in a microscope, etc. In any event, a quick creation is not required by this account; nor do all Christians believe that. As long ago as St. Augustine and later St. Thomas Aquinas, Christians theorized about a creation somewhat akin to an evolutionary process. so this, too, is much ado about nothing. If this is one reason why John rejected Christianity, it is an illogical one. He only rejected one small brand of Christianity.

If God took his time to create the universe then why wouldn’t he also create living creatures with greater complexity during the same length of time?

He could do so. He can do whatever He wants and whatever is logically possible. Many Christians believe this. So why should it be a reason to reject Christianity, pray tell, or the accuracy and inspiration of the Bible? There is nothing here.

In other words, what reason can be given for the different ways God created? Is this the same God?

Why must there be a reason for this? If God chose to create in different ways, that would be limited only by logic. If He did, so what?

Why did it take God so long to create the stuff of the universe, which is less valuable and presumably less complex to create, than it did to create the most valuable and highly complex creatures to inhabit that universe? Astronomy describes the long process of star, planet, and galaxy formation. It then becomes uncharacteristic of God to do otherwise with human beings. I concluded that God created human beings by the same long process he created the universe as a whole, if he created us at all.

But John assumes that this is necessarily what the Bible teaches. It is not. His “objection” is one long irrelevancy.

I carried on a correspondence with Dr. Virgil Warren for about 6 months, who was a professor at Manhattan Christian College, Manhattan, Kansas. I was asking him what he thought about the issues raised by the age of the universe. In a final letter to him on March 19, 1994 I wrote: “My problem is that I earnestly desire the truth whatever the result. I do not concern myself with the results just yet, although I know I’ll have to face them sometime. Right now I just want to make sense of it all, results be what they may. When I consider the possible results, they scare me, but that’s only because they are unfamiliar to me. This is natural. The real question for me right now is the truth question. If the answers upset other cherished beliefs then I’ll have to re-examine my answers, and perhaps revise them in order to maintain those cherished beliefs. On the other hand, my answers might cause me to give up on some of these cherished beliefs – there’s no way to tell at this point which way I’ll go. But as time permits I am committed to finding answers that produce the least amount of tension among the things I believe.”

So he sought truth, as he tells it. Nevertheless, I see nothing thus far in his acount that casts the slightest doubt on the veracity of the Bible or Christianity. If this is the sort of stuff he claims was his “reason” for accepting the worldview of atheism, then his change was intellectually groundless. I can only critique what he presents, and so far it is a big zero. It’s like peeling an opnion down and ending up with nothing.

Nearly two years later and I came to deny the Christian faith. There were just too many individual problems that I had to balance like spinning plates on sticks in order to keep my faith. At some point they just all came crashing down.

Again, it’s easy to refer to “many” problems. Unless we see what they are, then we can’t critique them. We see how flimsy were his reasons that he does present. I have every reason to suspect that the additional ones would be just as flimsy and insubstantial.

I personally think more than anything else, it was a deeper knowledge that caused me to leave the faith. But it was my faith that inspired me to gain that knowledge in the first place. I was so sure and so confident in my faith that I didn’t believe I could learn anything that would ever cause me to doubt my faith. I believed I served a God of reason, so I was not going to be afraid of any argument to the contrary. And with this assurance I sought to understand and argue against those who would debunk my faith.

That’s the view of many of us Christians, and we’re not all losing faith like John. Quite the contrary. I’ve been doing Christian apologetics for 25 years now, and I’ve never been caused to doubt my faith as a result of further study (and I’ve done tons of that). I’ve always had my faith strengthened, in defending the faith, seeing how solid it is on rational grounds, and observing the weakness of attacks upon it. Consequently, John himself has been mocking my confidence, seemingly thinking it is impossible to have (since he had so little of it himself as a Christian), and has started labelling me as “the answer man” and “cocksure” and so forth. That’s fine. I wouldn’t be worth my salt as an apologist if I didn’t have confidence in that which I defend. It would be pretty silly. I’d have to find some other line of work. But it all comes from God.

It is quite ironic, really. I started with faith. That faith inspired me to understand. With more understanding, my faith increased to the point where I was confident no argument could stand up against my faith. So I proceeded to gain more and more knowledge for the express purpose of debunking the skeptics. But in so doing I finally realized that the arguments on behalf of the Christian faith were simply not there. The skeptics were right all along. Even though everything I studied was done from the presumption of faith, and in the service of the faith, my studies ended my faith.

Easy to say. When his “arguments” are carefully examined, however, they are found to be lacking as any remotely plausible reason to reject Christianity.

My doubts were simmering these last few years. I didn’t think much about them. But when Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ came out, it made me think about them again, intensely. Plus, while I was describing in class how, with Arthur Peacocke, I believe God could’ve used chance as a radar beam searching the possibilities for the direction of creation, one of my students laughed at the thought. It was these last two things that have put me on course to finally come out of the closet and tell what I think. I have always had reasons for what I believed. Only recently have I begun sharing my doubts. I want people to know that I have thought through answers for the way I life my life.

While the things I have just written might explain to some degree why my thinking has changed, I want to stress the fact that my thinking has indeed changed. You cannot explain away my present doubts by pointing to bad experiences in my life.

Nevertheless, John himself said these were important factors, so he cannot dismiss experiences and crises as of no relevance to his change of mind. I think it would be foolish to minimize their influence.

They may be what provoked my thinking, but they don’t explain my thoughts.

No, but they could explain how a person would be more open to thoughts of a contrary nature to Christianity, if one is going through a period when he wonders about why God might do thus-and-so, or not do this or that, and if Christians are not being particularly consoling or understanding of his crisis. We don’t develop in a vacuum.

I am an atheist regardless of the experiences that led up to my present way of thinking. In talking with me you will have to deal with my arguments.

I have: flimsy and inadequate though they have been . . .

Otherwise, I could point to your past experiences and explain your beliefs away as a product of what you have experienced too! People believe and doubt for a wide variety of reasons, and that’s all there is to it.

I agree. One mustn’t go too far in “environmental” or “psychoanalytical” explanations of beliefs (of course atheists subject Christians – e.g., Freud, Marx, Feuerbach – to this treatment all the time). But they are certainly one variable in the equation.

Now there will be those who might say I chose my theology based on how I wanted to live my life.

Possibly. He wouldn’t be the first. For example, Aldous Huxley admitted that he rejected Christianity basically for the reason of wanting to have sexual freedom. There is no question that this happens, and that intellectual rationales are only the merest facade for the real or far more important reasons. Everyone wants others to think that they made these big changes in opinion based on complete rationality and objectivity. But any look at ourselves quickly disabuses us of that notion: at least in any pure sense.

In other words, my ethics dictated my viewpoint. But the chronological historical truth is that first my theology changed, and then I started living my life differently.

John said he used to defend the unborn. I wonder if he still does, and if not, why atheism would change a respect for the rights of the most defenseless and innocent of human beings? It seems to me that the pro-life position is almost self-evidently right and moral, without the necessity of any theological basis.

My theology of doubts began to dictate my personal ethics. I started to live my life in keeping with my new set of beliefs.

One would expect that.

I tried as best as I could to be a faithful Christian, and good minister. I accepted God’s grace, and it radically changed my life when I was a teenager, as you have read.

It did? Not if it doesn’t exist! If indeed there is no God, then how is this change now explained?  It is a proven fact that religious conversion does more to rehabilitate criminals than anything else. The semi-religious AA-type programs for alcohol and drugs and other addictions illustrate this too.

After being saved I wanted to show God how grateful I was for his gift of salvation by committing my life over to him with all I had.

So now he is not grateful to a Being Who doesn’t exist for a change that . . . did occur??!!

Even though I knew it was by grace that I had been saved, I almost always felt guilty that I wasn’t doing enough in response to God’s love.

We can always do more for God, but it should never be out of a motivation of guilt. Rather, it is from a motive of gratefulness to God and of love towards others. Truth and the right thing to do become their own motivations if we pursue them long enough and with the appropriate fervor, whether we get any reward or not. That ceases to be the motivation. This is what we see in the saints.

Whether it was spending time in prayer, evangelizing, reading the Bible, tithing, forgiving someone who had done me wrong, or whether it was struggling with temptations of lust, pride, selfishness and laziness, I almost always felt guilty.

So did Luther. Some people are like that, by temperament. We even have a name for it: overscrupulosity. But Christianity (rightly understood) is the remedy of that, not its cause.

It may just be because I was so passionate about Christianity that this was the case, and so it just might be my particular temperament.

Indeed. I am answering as I read, so John said basically the same as I did, in my second sentence.

But I never could understand how Christian people could come to church every Sunday but never get involved much in the Church’s programs, because that’s what believers should want to do.

Yeah, me neither. Very good question.

To be quite frank here, if Christians really believed that the non-Christian was going to hell, and that God loved them enough to send his Son to die for them on the cross, then how would they behave? How many true believers are in the churches today?

I couldn’t agree more. This is what motivates me to do apologetics and evangelism. I’m trying to share the good news and defend it as best I can. And I am often amazed at how many Christians think 1) what I do isn’t work, 2) what I do isn’t important, 3) the work I do isn’t important enough to support financially, even if they have been themselves helped by it, to convert or to grow in their faith, 4) somehow it is improper that I have devoted my life (as a matter of calling from God, or vocation) to this mission, etc.

So John actually makes a very good point here. But of course it is no reason to forsake Christianity. People en masse will always let us down. We’re all blessed if we can have even a few true friends (I’ve sure learned that too!). It seems to me that this becomes evident fairly early in life: certainly, I should think, by age 30, if not earlier. So if we have a naive view that people won’t be the sinners that they are, then we’re in for a fall, but it is based on faulty conceptions of the nature of human beings.

Today I am pretty much guilt free. That is, I have no guilt in regards to the Christian duties mentioned above. I am free of the need to do most of the things I felt I had to do because I was expressing my gratitude for what God had done.

So what does this mean? Does John give far less to charity than he used to, because he is free from guilt? Now he doesn’t care about the unborn, etc.? If ethics aren’t based on Chrtistianity, as atheists tell us, why should John’s change all that much? We understand that he won’t evangelize any more, but what else changed? I’d love to find out.

And yet, I am still grateful for my present life, even more so in many ways. I love life. I’m living life to the hilt, pretty much guilt free, primarily because my ethical standards aren’t as high.

I see. So the more we can sin, the less guilt we feel? That couldn’t be more opposite of the truth than it is. But human beings are very good at deluding themselves, too. Most of us are masters at it.

In fact, I believe the Christian ethical standards are simply impossible for anyone to measure up to.

Absolutely. That’s why we have a thing called grace, and the Holy Spirit to help us. But it’s tough even for God to do that if we’re not willing to actively participate or cooperate in God’s plans for us.

Think about it, according to Jesus I should feel guilty for not just what I do, but for what I think about, lusting, hating, coveting, etc. I’d like every person who reads this book to experience the freedom I have found. It is to you that I dedicate this book.

In other words, the more people who start thinking as he does, the more justified he will be in his increased sinning and in his apostasy. That’s how I (admittedly, probably cynically) read this. So he has simply gone from overscrupulosity (one extreme, and a distortion of Christianity and discipleship), to another (a marvelously “guilt-free” existence: so he says, anyway). But I don’t believe it. I believe guilt is there, down deep, and knowledge of God is there too (buried and suppressed). But I know that God will keep working on John to bring him back to faith, as long as it is possible, and long as there is any remote flicker of light there, or tiny flame of light or willingness to be persuaded back to God. That’s the sort of God He is.

[and now a few comments John made in the thread below his post]

It would prove almost impossible to return to that which I rejected later in life, having once defended it.

Let’s hope and pray not, for his sake.

I just almost always felt guilty because of my thought world, even if I did nothing wrong. In fact, according to my experience, the closer I purportedly got to God, the more I felt guilty.

Those who have this temperament (like Martin Luther) misunderstand how Christianity works in this regard. This is very foreign to my own committed Christian experience, now coming up to 30 years. It’s not a major factor at all. In fact, if anything, I should probably feel a lot more guilty than I do. But I have never doubted the fact that God loves me and that He is merciful and all-loving. Nor do we see even a trace in this in someone like the Apostle Paul, who has a confident, almost boasting faith. So this becomes a major factor. Personal elements that made John feel this excessive guilt and inability to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness, are neither Christianity’s nor God’s fault.

I’ll end with some wise words from John himself:

Sometimes we only see the things we want to see, and with tunnel vision we fail to realize the implications of what we do see.


* * * * *

Be sure to read my follow-up paper, too: Atheist John Loftus Reacts to My Analysis of His “Deconversion”

November 30, 2006

Clock
Art Deco clock over the entry doors in the lobby of the Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh; photo by David Brossard: 4 May 2013 [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license]

***

(11-30-06)

***

The following exchange took place at Debunking Christianity blog, with John W. Loftus, former Church of Christ pastor and now an atheist. His words will be in blue.

***

See the follow-up post, where John blew his gasket, as usual.
* * * * *


Is God in time or is he timeless?

Obviously the latter.

Either stance a Christian takes leads to some kind of incoherence.

No; saying He is in time leads to insuperable logical and biblical difficulties. Being out of time does not.

Let me simply use Christian philosopher Paul Helm’s analysis of this in “God and Spacelessness,” Philosophy 55 (1980).

Helm begins with two authors who made similar claims against the timelessness of God. J. R. Lucas made this claim: “To say that God is outside time, as many theologians do, is to deny, in effect, that God is a person.” He reasons that to be a person is to have a mind, and to have a mind requires that it be in time (i.e., thoughts require a sequence of events, etc.).

For finite created beings, sure. But an infinite, self-existent, timeless, omniscient being overcomes this limitation, it seems to me. If a being knows everything at once, no sequence is required to “work through” the patterns of thinking and analysis that we are familiar with, as finite creatures.

A.N. Prior claimed that a proposition such as “It is raining now” is not equivalent in meaning to “It is raining on Tuesday,” and that an omniscient God who knew the latter would not necessarily know the former,

I don’t follow this reasoning. I’d have to see the basis for why this person thought that.

and would not know it if he were timeless, since he could not be present on the occasion on which it was raining.

Omnipresence would overcome that. Omniscience, too. I don’t see the point of projecting inherent human limitations onto God. Atheists often complain that God is a projection. Yet here the sub-orthodox thinkers do exactly the same thing. The Christian, on the other hand, accepts God as He has revealed Himself to be. The Christian God is not the sort of being Who could readily be made up by man, precisely because His nature is so much more complex than ours and difficult to comprehend.

[These are pretty persuasive arguments, I might add].

Really? I don’t see that they are, based on the summary. I would need to see more to understand how they argued their case in full.

But Helm argues against both authors by merely showing that such a claim also entails the denial that God is spaceless, which in turn denies that God is infinite – something these authors want to maintain. Helm writes that “the arguments used to show that God is in time, in effect support the view that God is finite, and so anyone who wishes to maintain that God is infinite, as the traditional theist does, will either have to find other arguments for the view that God is in time, or eschew the idea of God being in time altogether” – this is the dilemma Helm presents to these authors. And he claims, “if the timeless existence of God is incoherent then so is the spaceless existence of God.”

A spirit does not have spatial qualities.

[I happen to agree that they are both incoherent].

Big surprise!

Helm does not try to show that God is in fact timeless, nor is his purpose to show that the logic of these two authors is wrong. He admits that he doesn’t even fully understand what it means to say God is both timeless and spaceless. He’s only claiming that a denial of God’s timelessness is also a denial of God’s spacelessness.

After making his arguments he leaves the reader with three alternative consequences to choose from:

1) “Theism is even more incoherent than was previously thought, in that it requires unintelligibilities such as a timeless and spaceless existence.” [To this I completely agree with him here.]

2) Recognize that since the belief in God requires an infinite and spaceless God “there must be something wrong” with the arguments against the timelessness of God.” [However, it’s far from the case that the Bible describes anything but God’s activity in time, especially with the purported incarnation. Nicholas Wolterstroff’s essay, “God Everlasting” has more than sufficiently shown this, as has Clark Pinnock’s essays and books.] The Bible simply does not require that God is timeless. This view of God has been something fully adopted because of neo-Platonism and finally codified by Anselm’s conception of the “greatest conceivable being.”

3) These authors must “supply an argument against God’s timelessness that does not have a spatial parallel.” [To date this challenge has not been sufficiently met].

I would argue, as always, that the Bible is presented in pre-philosophical language. Therefore, one can say that the doctrines later developed to a very high degree by theologians, are usually not found fully-developed in the Bible. Again, this is because it is not presented in philosophical, or “Greek” terms, for the most part, excepting some portions of Paul, and things like Logos (“word”) in John, which was, I believe, Greek philosophical terminology.

On the other hand, it is obvious that God must be outside of time, if one accepts the description of Him that the Bible offers.

For example: how does God create everything that exists, while still being in time? How does He create the universe in such a fashion? There is no time, according to modern physics, without the matter which time entails in order to have any meaning. An eternal, omniscient spirit is not subject to time because there is no sequence to either His existence or “thoughts.”

One has to explain how there can be some mysterious thing called “time” before there was a material universe. What would it be? How could it be defined? What sense does it make to say that an eternal spirit-being is “in” it? What then changes when matter is introduced to the set of “real” things?

Both Newtonian and relativistic Einsteinian time depend on a material universe by which they are determined and measured: this involves the relationship of matter with other matter. Time is indeed another dimension (at least as I understand relativity, in layman’s terms).

Therefore, it is impossible, even by modern physics standards, and any reasonable form of philosophy, to say that God could be “in time” and create the universe while being in such a state. It’s a meaningless concept. Whatever the truth is, it can’t be that, because it is nonsensical and utterly illogical.

Secondly, the Bible gives ample indication of timelessness; e.g., the description of God, “I AM,” from the burning bush and Moses (Exodus 3:14-15). Jesus later repeated this (because He, too, is an eternal being), in saying, “Before Abraham was, I am” [ego eimi] (John 8:58). See also: Gen 21:33, Ps 90:2, Is 40:28, Hab 1:12, Rom 16:26, 1 Tim 1:17.

Greek scholar Gerhard Kittel (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) explains the “I am” clauses:

The formulas [eimi: ‘to exist’ and ho on: ‘I am’] express God’s deity and supratemporality. Similar formulas occur in Judaism. The Greeks also use two- and three-tense formulas to express eternity (cf. Homer, Plato . . .). These possibly came into Revelation by way of the Jewish tradition, though a common source may lie behind the Greek and Jewish traditions.

ego eimi as a self-designation of Jesus in Jn. 8:58 (cf. 8:24; 13:19) stands in contrast to the genesthai applied to Abraham. Jesus thus claims eternity . . . The point is not Jesus’ self-identification as the Messiah (‘I am he’) but his supratemporal being.

(pp. 206-207 of one-volume edition)

The section on aion (“age, aeon”) elaborates:

The double formula ‘for ever and ever’ (Heb. 1:8), especially in the plural (in Paul and Revelation; cf. also Heb. 13:21; 1 Pet. 4:11), is designed to stress the concept of eternity, as are constructions like that in Eph. 3:21 (‘to all generations for ever and ever’).

a. aion means eternity in the full sense when linked with God (Rom. 16:26; 1 Tim. 1:17; cf. Jer. 10:10)

b. In the OT this means first that God always was (Gen. 21:23) and will be (Dt. 5:23), in contrast to us mortals. By the time of Is. 40:28 this comes to mean that God is eternal, the ‘First and Last,’ whose being is ‘from eternity to eternity’ (Ps. 90:2). Eternity is unending time, but in later Judaism it is sometimes set in antithesis to time. The NT took over the Jewish formulas but extended eternity to Christ (Heb. 1:10 ff.; Rev. 1:17-18; 2:8). Here again eternity could be seen as the opposite of cosmic time, God’s being and acts being put in terms of pre- and post- (1 Cor. 2:7; Col. 1:26; Eph. 3:9; Jn. 17:24; 1 Pet. 1:20).

(pp. 31-32)

The word was used in the Septuagint translation of the OT (LXX). Plato had used it in the sense of “timeless eternity in contrast to chronos as its moving image in earthly time (cf. Philo)” (p. 31).

So this is how the word was understood. The Greek translators thought it was best to apply this word to God, and the increased development of understanding of philosophical-type issues of this sort added clarification to the Jewish and later Christian doctrine of God.

That is, Helm argues that one can either, a) Deny (or accept) the unintelligible existence of both a timeless and spaceless God,

I suspect that he would frame the question as being ultimately mysterious and difficult to human minds, but not “unintelligible” – which implies an irrationality and unreasonableness to the Christian doctrine of God. Helm appears to be an orthodox Christian, from what I can tell (he and I would agree on the doctrine of God).

b) Accept the consequences of a God who is both in time and finite, or,

This is radically unbiblical; hence no Christian who accepts biblical inspiration could possibly take this view.

c) Supply other arguments on behalf of a God who is in time which does not also deny God’s spacelessness. Not being able to do (c) presents the dilemma of choosing either (a) or (b).

God cannot be in time, according to the Bible, or any rational belief that He created the universe. The first scenario is impossible exegetically, the second, logically, and scientifically (i.e., if one presupposes a creator and then subjects such a concept to theoretical scientific analysis).

Here is a Christian philosopher of some note who recognizes a very serious problem in reconciling God and time. He makes my case for me.

I suspect you are slanting his full argument. If he is orthodox, he would not put it in such despairing terms. He would say it was ultimately a mystery (meaning we can’t fully understand or comprehend it; not that it is literally irrational).

On the one hand we have the Bible, which clearly shows God responds to us in time,

Yes, of course. It must do so, in the sense of anthropomorphism, precisely because we can barely comprehend a timeless being. But God does break into time. We see that with the incarnation. Jesus lived in history. When God took on matter and a human body, the incarnate God subjected Himself to time, because that is the nature of matter and human bodies. It’s not a contradiction because God created time and matter; therefore He can partake of it if He so chooses, in terms of becoming incarnate.

along with the philosophical arguments of J.R. Lucas and A.N. Prior. On the other hand, a being in time also denies that God is spaceless. Which is it?

I have given the orthodox Christian, biblical view of God. It is not incoherent or illogical at all.

October 21, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue; words of fellow atheist John Loftus in green, and those of eric in purple.

*****

Presently, I am responding to his article, “God Is Unfair – An Accident of History and Geography Syllogism” (10-21-21).

[I]f you were an Arab born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1996, you are incredibly unlikely to be a Hindu; indeed, it is almost certain that you will grow up being a Muslim. Likewise, you are unlikely to grow up with primal-indigenous beliefs of the Amazon growing up in a Lutheran community in Bible Belt USA. Parents, families, communities and societies so often define who we become and what we believe.

There are, and this is an indisputable fact, distinct concentrations of religions around the world. Christians may be concentrated in Europe, South and North America, and other pockets of colonial history. Islam prevails in the Middle East, North Africa, subcontinental India, and the islands of the Indian Ocean. Shintos primarily exist in Japan, Hindus in India and thereabouts.

The challenge for religionists is that most religions have it wrong. That is, religions are mutually exclusive. If I am a Muslim, I believe that the Muslim religion and revelation are correct, and a more accurate representation of reality than that which Jain believes (almost certainly) in India. And if access to heaven or hell, or nirvana, or whatever afterlife it is, or if access to God (whichever god this is), or if access to the fruits of belief in the correct god, depends upon believing in the correct god, then there is a lot on the line.

However, given the serious implications of belief, it seems rather bizarre that OmniGod would design, create and arrange the world (or allow the world to develop) in such a way that most people don’t rationally survey the smorgasbord of religious offerings and then, using logic and reason, assent to the correct one. Instead, they are overwhelmingly born into any given religion.

The belonging to a particular religion depends on where and when they were born.

And that might well be the component of their existence that informs the verdict of whether or not they access the good stuff or get condemned to the bad stuff. Perhaps for eternity.

It gets worse when you consider the vagaries of history. Imagine being born into Egyptian or Aboriginal Australian culture in 5,000 BCE, before the events of the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Bible (i.e., Old and New Testaments). Now imagine that Christianity is the one true religion. How is it fair, when one has no control over when and where one is born, that one is born into one of those contexts? The person would have absolutely no chance of being able to access the correct divine revelation upon which rests the reward of heaven or the punishment of hell.

Okay, now back to me again. (As opposed to me.)

What I meant to know is if this syllogism works, or could be improved. It’s informal, language-wise:

But with most versions of God as we understand them, and given religious exclusivity, the scenario presented in this argument is as follows:

(1) Our beliefs will define whether we get the good stuff or don’t (heaven, hell, loving union with God, etc.).

(2) Our beliefs (globally) are overwhelmingly defined by when and where we are born.

(3) From (1) and (2), whether we get the good stuff or not is overwhelmingly defined by when and where we are to be born.

(4) We have no control over when and where we are to be born.

(5) Most people are born into the “wrong” places, where beliefs prevail that preclude them from getting the good stuff.

(6) From (3) – (5), most people, overwhelmingly, have no control over whether they get the good stuff (reward) or not (punishment).

(7) It is unfair to be punished or rewarded for things over which we have no control.

(8) God, being ultimately powerful and responsible, has control over everything – when and where we are to be born, the entire world into which we are to be born, who is to be rewarded and punished, and how, etc.

(9) God designs and creates a world in which it knowingly allows most people to overwhelmingly have no control over the good stuff or not.

(10) From (5), (8) and (9), God designs and creates a world in which most people are punished and, overwhelmingly, have control over their punishment.

(11) From (7) – (10), therefore, God is unfair.

***

[the material below comes from combox exchanges]

Although being born into a particular religion may depend on where one is born, staying in that faith, or finding another is up to the individual, not his birthplace, or even his family.
*
So how can someone in an Amazon rainforest realistically do this? Don’t look at things from your projected Christocentric point of view. Remember, your system might be wrong and Shintoism might hold, instead.
*
By learning to read and at length think critically, by means of education, becoming familiar with the options of what one can believe, and making his or her own choice, rather than just automatically being what is surrounding him and her.****

The belonging to a particular religion depends on where and when they were born.

If we apply this analysis to you and I, we see that it fits far more in your case: with your atheist worldview. England is one of the most secularized and post-Christian societies in the world, with a population of atheists at or around 50% or so (what a wonderful place: my ancestral homeland!). Some 2% of Christians there go to church regularly (I’ve heard that more Catholics do so than Anglicans now).

So you have simply adopted the prevailing view around you (more atheists and agnostics than anything else), just as someone in the jungles in a primitive tribe grows up animist, or someone in lower western Michigan (my state) tends to be a Calvinist, or the New Englander tends to be very theologically liberal (lots of, e.g., Unitarians) or agnostic. We are what we eat.

In my case, on the other hand, I started out with what might be said to be the prevailing religious view in America: a nominal, vague Protestantism (in my family’s case, Methodist): not talked about much and merely a private, subjective affair (very typically sociologically “Methodist”). I stopped going to church regularly at ten years old and did not again do so till I was 22. That was not the norm at all in the US in the late 60s and 70s. Then I converted to evangelical Protestantism in 1977, which was indeed a sociological trend at that time, but still by no means the majority of the population.

Then I became a Catholic at age 32. That’s in no way the norm in the US, which is about 25% Catholic. Then if you break down Catholics to those (like myself) who attend Mass every week and believe all that the Church teaches (including all the dreaded sexual stuff), it’s probably 10-15% of Catholics and so 2.5-4% of the entire population.

That makes me quite the nonconformist, as I always have been in my life after age 10. I have the belief of between 1 out of 40 people and 1 in 25 folks in the US. If I am walking down the street in the downtown of a large city, I’d have to work very hard to find someone with my same general observant, “orthodox” Catholic beliefs. But I could easily find a religious nominalist or even agnostic within the first three or four people I talked to.

Therefore, it comes down to the individual: to education, ability to think critically and compare the relative plausibility and rationality of competing belief-systems and acting accordingly. We have both become educated, made those choices, and written in defense of our views. In that way we are alike,. But if we do your present analysis and look to see who is more similar to what surrounds him, it’s you, far and away.

It follows that your present analysis (the recycled “outsider test of faith”) casts your own choice of belief in question far more than it does in my case. How ironic, huh?

***

This [argument in the OP] is nothing new. You’re simply recycling (as you must know) Jittery John Loftus’ “Outsider Test of Faith” argument. I’ve refuted that twice (of course with no counter-reply from him, as usual; not even the volcanic explosion for which he is infamous):
*
Reply to Atheist John Loftus’ “Outsider Test of Faith” Series [9-30-07]
*
Loftus Atheist Error #4: The Outsider Test for Faith [9-5-19]*So what does the self-respecting atheist do when a Christian refutes their argument (or — to be more neutral, puts up something clearly plausible as a possible counter-explanation)? He or she ignores it, with or without the put-downs and insults, waits a few months, and repeats the same argument again, as if repetition is an indicator of the strength of an argument.
*
This is not the outsider test for faith, as far as I can tell.That argument is something like “looked at from an external perspective, Christianity makes little sense”This argument is more classically theological, and is better summarized as a version of “it is unfair to send people to hell for not believing in Jesus, when they had no practical way to believe in Jesus.”
*
Yeah, I’m taking what Loftus’ book discusses in the beginning in order to take it’s off into a problem of evil argument. Loftus, on the other hand, uses this same basis to express his otf [outsider test of faith] from there. But that is an epistemological argument. I’m glad you recognise this even if David didn’t…
*
It’s simply a variant. The original argument is obviously construed as reflecting on God and His alleged abominable “unfairness.” All you do is make that more explicit (Loftus eventually gets to blaming God, too, just like all good atheists do). It’s nothing new. Atheists see the problem of evil behind every rock and do all they can to ignore their own far more thorny “problem of good.”
*
Of course he blames god. Who else do you think has ultimate control of the universe and designed and created it knowingly?[responding to eric]

You need not take my word for it. Listen to John Loftus himself, from his book, Why I Became an Atheist (revised version, 2012, 536 pages):

His chapter 3 is entitled, “The Outsider Test for Faith” (pp. 64-78). Loftus summarizes this argument of his as follows:

(1) Rational people in distinct geographical locations around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and defend a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their upbringing and shared cultural heritage.

(2) [T]o an overwhelming degree, one’s religious faith is causally dependent upon cultural conditions.

From (1) and (2) it follows that:

(3) It is highly likely that any given adopted religious faith is false.

Given these odds we need a test, or an objective standard, to help us determine if our inherited religious faith is true, so I propose that:

4) The best and probably the only way to test one’s adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider with the same level of skepticism one uses to evaluate other religious faiths.

. . . I’m not arguing that religious faiths are completely culturally relative and therefore all false because of religious diversity. I’m merely arguing that believers should be very skeptical of their faith because of these cultural factors. . . . (p. 65)

If you were born in Saudi Arabia you would be a Sunni Muslim right now. . . . If you were born in the first century BCE in Israel, you’d adhere to the Jewish faith, and if you were born in Europe in 1200 CE, you’d be a Roman Catholic.. . . In short, we are overwhelmingly products of our times. (p. 66)

At the very minimum, believers should be willing to subject their faith to rigorous scrutiny by reading many of the best-recognized critiques of it. For instance, Christians should be willing to read this book of mine and others I’ve published. (p. 68)

[T]hey can no longer start out by believing that the Bible is true . . . nor can they trust their own anecdotal religious experiences, since such experiences are had by people of all religious faiths who differ about the cognitive content learned as the result of these experiences. (pp. 68-69)

If after you have investigated your religious faith with the presumption of skepticism, you find that it passes intellectual muster, you can have your religious faith. It’s that simple. If not, abandon it. (p. 71)

I proceed to refute this in my two papers linked above. In my longer reply to Jonathan [in the combox; seen above], one can see (basically) how it is done. It applies just as much to atheists as it does to anyone else, and so the argument essentially reduces to a “wash.”

You literally don’t get it. My argument above is not an epistemological argument in that same way.
*
In the past, when you actually still argued point-by-point with me, you yourself asserted that saying God is “unfair” in your analyses, is essentially the same as saying that He doesn’t exist. You summarized your viewpoint twice, as follows:

(1) God is OmniGod (classical theism: -potent, -scient, -benevolent).

(2) Part of OmniGod’s necessary characteristics would be fairness.

(3) God desires humanity to believe in him and to enter into a loving relationship with him.

(4) Belief isn’t just blind faith and requires some basis in evidence for what is to be believed (e.g., the Bible, being able to touch Jesus, personal revelation etc.).

(5) This evidence is unevenly distributed amongst the population over time and place (i.e., from 0% to 99.9% – e.g., perhaps Thomas).

(6) Unfair distribution of evidence (over which God has sovereign control) is unfair and favours certain people.

(7) Therefore God is either unfair (not OmniGod) or does not exist.

And a more compact version:

1. God is fair (as part of OmniGod theism).
2. We live in a world where humans appear to not have “equality of access to God” (EOAG).
3. If God was to be fair, he would give every human identical EOAG.
4. To give every human identical EOAG, God would have to create some sort of homogenous world.
5. Homogenous worlds are in some sense less perfect/good/desirable than the sort of world we live in.
6. Therefore, there is some good reason (skeptical theism) – a greater good – that God has created a world where humans appear to not have EOAG.
7. (Or god does not exist or is not OmniGod.)

From: “It Turns out the Whole Unfairness of Evidence Apportioning Boils down to “Free Will” “ (3-21-21). I have dealt with this “unfairness” business at least six times in the last seven months:

Debate w Atheists: Doubting Thomas & an “Unfair” God [3-17-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #17: Doubting Thomas & an “Unfair” God [3-17-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #18: Doubting Thomas & Evidence [3-18-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #19: Doubting Thomas & a “Mean God” [3-19-21]

Debate w Atheists on the Allegedly “Unfair” & “Hidden” God [3-21-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #20: Unfair Meanie God & Unfree Will [5-7-21]

Saying god is [not] fair is saying the OmniGod doesn’t exist.

Exactly my point. You end by asserting “God is unfair” (one of your favorite mantras). Of course, you don’t believe God exists, so in effect you are saying, “this unfairness that results from the way things are is proof that God doesn’t exist in the first place, because by definition He is supposedly ‘fair’ and benevolent.” You don’t think there is an “unfair” God up there somewhere. You think God is nonexistent, and you provide as one evidence of that, the supposed massive unfairness of the way things are.

As usual, I go right to your presuppositions, like a good socratic.

I was grappling with philosopher Ted Drange, using a variant of the same argument, in 2003. He wrote a good capsule summary of his position:

It is not that atheism is obviously true, but that ANB [argument from non-belief] (which very few people know about) is obviously sound. The concept is so very simple: If God were to exist then he would want people to be aware of the gospel message (what his son did for them) and could cause them to be aware of it. But most people on our planet do not even believe the gospel message. Hence, God does not exist.

See:

Atheist Argument From Non-Belief (vs. Dr. Ted Drange) [2-26-03]

Debate: Argument from Non-Belief (ANB) (vs. Steve Conifer) [2-26-03]

As usual you are already employing your increasingly frequent tactic of completely dismissing what I say without even grappling with it at all. In other words, you’re becoming more and more like Loftus, Seidensticker, and Madison every day. At least in the “old days” you would put up some kind of fight and counter-reply.

But to do so puts you in hot water with 90% of the commenters here and (I get it from the human perspective) you just don’t have the energy and will power to resist all that social pressure. It’s much easier to join in on the fun and play the game of “Armstrong [and by extension all Christian nonconformists posting here] is a clueless ignoramus who need not detain us even for five minutes.”

The argument in the OP is one big whopper. God judges based on what people know and what they do with that knowledge (see Romans 2 and other similar passages): not based on what they don’t know; supposedly punishing them for ignorance that they can’t help. This is simply atheist mythology. It plays well to the choir, but unfortunately for the argument it’s not Christian teaching. The only ones you could pin such a teaching on is the Calvinists, who are a tiny minority of Christianity now and always in the past (after they sprang into existence 1500 years after Christ).

***

All these arguments along these lines amount to the same thing: “God is an unfair meanie in fact; the Bible presents a fair, benevolent God; therefore the biblical God is a fairy tale, like leprechauns and unicorns.” In a broader sense, it’s merely an application of the good ol’ Problem of Evil (atheism’s favorite argument by far).

I think I show how the argument fails. I engaged in three long dialogues with Jonathan on this in the past. In charity, I’ll assume that’s why he isn’t engaging me now. But he generally doesn’t engage me at length anymore. I continue to engage his arguments.

I would say that reason and evidence (if only folks come across them and are willing to look for them) do clearly point to one true religion: Christianity. I’m not denying that at all. Atheists and radical secularists, Marxists, etc. do their best to suppress any such evidence by mocking and ignoring (processes that are literally constant on this forum and others like it) and even legally suppressing it, so it’s more difficult to get it out.

The difficulty (I agree it is one) is to account for large portions of the world who are not Christians and who have never heard the Christian saving Gospel of God becoming man and dying on our behalf, to make a way to go to heaven.

The biblical solution was for Christians to communicate the Gospel far and wide (the missionary impulse). We have miserably failed in that task and very few Christians are interested in doing that. Of course, God knew this would happen (that had been “Plan A” so to speak), and so He has a way (“Plan B”) that those who haven’t heard can also possibly be saved (therefore, He is “fair”).

Those who never heard the Gospel or learned of true Christianity (not the many counterfeit versions) are judged by what they truly know and how they act upon it. So, for example, if a person grasps and accepts the ethical precept of the Golden Rule, and consistently acts upon it, that counts for a great deal in God’s eyes, and He will respond accordingly and be merciful on Judgment Day.

On the other hand, Christians who know that and much more, and fail to act upon what they know; fail to love others, are — we have strong reason to believe, right from Jesus — in distinct danger of damnation. Just calling themselves Christian doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. In the Bible, the goal is always not just correct belief (orthodoxy) but also correct action based on those beliefs (orthopraxy).

Jonathan made it clear, by saying “Saying god is on fair is saying the OmniGod doesn’t exist” [I take it he meant “unfair” or “not fair” there].

Atheist arguments in the end always seek to disprove God’s existence; not to prove that He does exist, but is a terrible moron and a Beast (which would be the position of something like Satanism). Seeking to show He is “unfair” is simply a reductio ad absurdum technique, in order to seek to force the Christian to admit the alleged dilemma and give up belief in the benevolent God of Christian, biblical theism.

***

The outsider test for faith is not the problem of evil.

It’s asking whether a true outsider would derive Christianity from the evidence they see around them. Or would they derive Hinduism, or some
other religion. Do the facts of the world support the existence of souls that go on to heaven? Do they support the existence of souls that
reincarnate into other animals? Or do the facts not really support any soul hypothesis at all? Or do they support some other hypothesis?
That’s the outsider test.

It would be entirely possible for the world to be such a way that everyone, even aliens and other radical notions of ‘outsider’, agrees there is some entity behind it. In that case, entity-belief would pass the outsider test. And it wouldn’t matter how much evil or suffering there would be in the world, because they are two entirely different arguments.

And Loftus arguing both on different occasions doesn’t make them the same argument, any more than your argument for a localized flood is “simply a variant” on your argument that the Christmas star was Jupiter. Same person, different aspects but the same theology, two different arguments.

What you describe was indeed the first part of Jonathan’s argument in the OP.

The arguments differ in some secondary characteristics, but the bottom line (and that’s what I always focus on, as a socratic) is that God is unfair (itself a version of the Problem of Evil), which for the atheist is “evidence” that He doesn’t exist, just as Jonathan stated twice in one reply to me:

(7) Therefore God is either unfair (not OmniGod) or does not exist. . . .

7. (Or god does not exist or is not OmniGod.)

***

[replying to Joe DeCaro above] Atheists believe that:

1) God doesn’t exist, but that nevertheless,

2) they (at least the online anti-theist types like Jonathan) must be obsessed with Him 24-7 and become angry at how mean and terrible this non-entity supposedly is; how unjust the world with God, er, without God, is: so unfair and tyrannical.

Don’t try to make rational sense of it. It’s impossible. Their thoroughly inconsistent behavior gives them away every time.

***

As I said, the two [arguments: “outsider test of faith” and Jonathan’s current one] are not absolutely  identical. Much ado about nothing. They’re identical in the first part [which is what I was initially referring to] and then go off in different directions, like intersecting circles. Nearly all atheist arguments, however, have the goal of showing or at least heavily implying that God doesn’t exist. That’s my main focus: challenging the atheist as to the route they take to reach such a conclusion.

***

Photo credit: Darrenjsmith (1-30-11). Monks outside the temple at the Tibetan Buddhist monastery, Rato Dratsang, in India [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license]

***

Summary: Atheist JMS Pearce regurgitates his “Unfair God” argument, which is a variant of the “outsider test of belief” & “argument from non-belief” (failed) atheist arguments.

October 17, 2021

Former Christian Dr. David Nicholls wrote his deconversion story, entitled, Real Deconversion Story #19 – David N. (10-15-21). His words will be in green. I responded to one particular claim of his, and then PsiCop picked it up from there and counter-replied to my comment. His words will be in blue.

*****

I lost count of how many Christians I met who presented a sickly-sweet, caring facade that suddenly disappeared once they realized their faith was being challenged, and their initial demeanour was swiftly replaced with fierce hostility and resentment.

I imagine many unbelievers who have attempted to have a meaningful exchange with Christians on the internet have witnessed this disagreeable phenomenon. Such hostility by Christians is not only apparent if their beliefs are challenged, but is also demonstrated by an intolerance of anyone of whom they disapprove.

I respectfully submit that this is not a peculiar characteristic of Christians, but of all human beings (and now more than ever, as the culture becomes more and more immersed in postmodernist subjectivism). The above attitudes are precisely how many people here (with very few exceptions; I hasten to add that Jonathan himself is generally kind and friendly) treat any Christian who dares dissent from the atheist “orthodoxy.” . You can look through a few threads to quickly verify this. I simply block perpetual insulters, so I don’t see most of them. I don’t have time for juvenile mud fights. Life is too short. But the insults are legion and the hostility palpable.

The exact atheist analogy to the Christian having their faith challenged is to have their deconversion story scrutinized (as to various claims made therein that can be challenged). You wouldn’t believe how angry atheists get: more than a match for any Christian anger and insecurity you observe, believe me! And that is my point: the contempt of facing critique is very much a human characteristic: that cuts across all social groups, and it is unfair to pin that solely on Christians, or to act as if they are uniquely sensitive, thin-skinned, and defensive when critiqued.

Other atheists simply ignore any critiques. I’ve gone through that routine literally 144 times, with Bob Seidensticker (74 times), Dr. David Madison (46 times), and John Loftus (24 times): all very active online, criticizing Christianity and the Bible in a polemical and mocking fashion on a daily basis. But question anything they assert, and they flee to the hills, while sending a few pointed insults on their way up the hill . . .

It’s interesting you’d defend Christians by portraying them as no different from other humans.

I did no such thing. What I stated was: “I respectfully submit that this [oversensitivity to criticism] is not a peculiar characteristic of Christians, but of all human beings.” And that is a true statement. No one could know this better than I do, as an apologist, with the experience of over 1000 dialogues with folks of almost all major worldviews.

Dr. Nicholls was trying to imply that somehow Christians as a social group are uniquely prone to being defensive when criticism is offered, and hostile, if it continues to be offered. My counter-point was that this is, in fact, a general shortcoming of all human beings, across all social groups. People are generally insecure, and this includes not liking much at all being told we are wrong, even about what we believe. Again, as an apologist by trade, I know this firsthand, with massive experience; since we defend certain things as true and critique things that we believe are wrong. People (all people, speaking generally) don’t like to be told that they are wrong.

And I would add that in the case of Christians, often their insecurity derives from insufficient training in what they believe (catechesis) and particularly an ignorance concerning why they believe what they do (rational defense of faith, or apologetics). This makes them insecure, sensitive, and/or angry, because they can’t answer sincere, valid questions, and they should be able to in many cases, or at least get the inquirer a source that can answer.

Doesn’t Christianity present itself as a life-changing, and person-changing, belief system?

Absolutely, but this almost always isn’t an instant phenomenon (like, e.g., St. Paul). It’s a lifelong process. Overall, there is much transformation in serious Christian, from what was before. Many of us have been remarkably transformed out of a life of perpetual serious sin.

Shouldn’t following that faith make Christians less prone to hostility after being challenged, than other sorts of people? If not, why not? Does Christianity not have the power to make its followers better human beings than they would be without it? It has a divine origin, does it not? Was it not founded by a deity who actually walked the earth and supposedly established it? If Christians are, in fact, better than other kinds of human beings, what makes them just as hostile to challenge as others?

It should, ideally make them respond in a more “healthy” way, yes, but this would normally require being educated properly in the faith and knowing how to defend the propositions and ideas / doctrines involved. Christians don’t magically receive all knowledge. We have to learn things just as anyone else does.

What’s more … assuming their faith is unassailably and incontrovertibly true, why would any of them actually be hostile to it being challenged? Veracity is its own defense. It makes no sense to be angry, or hostile, toward someone who challenges something that’s absolutely true. To use a different analogue … if someone were to say the earth is flat, or that division by zero is possible, no one would be “hostile” to, or angered by, a challenge to those items of common knowledge. Such people are laughable and pathetic, but they don’t arouse hostility or anger. Just dismissal as deluded cranks.

I totally agree, but again, this requires prior knowledge. This is why I marvel at atheist hostility to Christians, which we see constantly in this very forum. Y’all ought to be ecstatic that you have an opportunity to preach your views to us outsiders, but for some reason it ain’t that way at all.

If you want to insist that Christians are no different from other kinds of people when their beliefs are challenged, you’re tacitly saying their belief system itself is no different from other human belief systems.

Not at all, because here we are comparing one aspect concerning one situation to an entire worldview and the results it produces. I would say that even secular sociology verifies that Christians are different (more charitable and more happy and fulfilled), in, for example, how much charity we give compared to atheists, and in the happier marriages (and even more fulfilling sex lives) in committed Christian couples:

Seidensticker Folly #1: Atheist vs. Christian Generosity [8-12-18]

Christian Sexual Views and Support from Sociology (Discussions About Christian Sexual Morality and Marriage with Atheists) [12-8-06]

Sociology: Devout Married Christians Have Best Sex [2-29-20]

That in turn means it’s just as uncertain as all those other belief systems. And that, by extension, diminishes its presumed veracity and even undermines its claimed divine origin.

Not at all, because you already have a false premise that you are burdened with, as explained above.

I’m not sure what the point would be of challenging someone’s deconversion (or even conversion) story. A person’s personal experience is what it is, and a deconversion story is a narrative of that. Are you suggesting atheists’ deconversion stories are lies? That when, for example, they say they were religious, but then became non-religious, for whatever reasons … are you saying the events they relate never happened? That certainly is possible. It’s very possible, in fact. But, if you make it your business to challenge these deconversion stories, on what grounds can you ever claim any of them are fraudulent? Do you have direct knowledge of the life of an atheist, to the point where you can show his/her deconversion story is false? That too is certainly possible* … but I doubt you could do that with every one of them you come across.

I’ve explained the perfectly sensible, justifiable reasoning employed in the idea of a Christian critiquing an atheist deconversion story in my article: Why Do I (or How DARE I?!) Critique Deconversions?

I virtually never accuse someone of lying or being deceitful. My main critique has to do with lack of knowledge and getting facts wrong, or logical fallacies, which are very common.

What you’re going to end up doing, is calling atheists liars and frauds — and it’s hard to imagine you could do that, and back that up with evidence, in more than a tiny handful of cases. That certainly will arouse hostility in them. Why would it not? What human being would want to be called a liar by you? I wonder if your game is to run around calling atheists liars and frauds, then sit back and call yourself a “victor for Christ” for having done so. That has to be a hollow victory.

Well, this is an incorrect description of what I do. I say they were incorrect, in error, lacked knowledge, were led astray, not that they are liars and frauds. Even with the three men I mentioned, who have literally ignored scores and scores of my critiques, I don’t say they are liars or even that they are insincere. I say they are misinformed, and intellectual cowards, lacking the courage of their convictions. The demonization of everyone who disagrees with us is a child’s game and the ploy of mental midgets.

If this is your way of reaffirming your faith in Christianity — a religion you’ve earlier implied isn’t anywhere near as true, nor as divine, as you’d probably like to think it is — then all I have to say is, good luck to you. Because you need a lot more help than anyone else can give you.

Now your “conclusion” is based on two prior false premises. The entire chain is only as good as the links in it.

One last thing: You appear to believe that making atheists hostile or angry also means they’re wrong.

I never claimed such an idiotic thing. What I have repeatedly noted is that atheists get as angry as anyone else when critiqued, and that most of those even among your “champions” run from constructive criticism and want no part of that or a serious, civil dialogue. They are certainly no better than Christians in this regard, and I would say they are worse.

That, however, is not true. Whether or not someone is angry doesn’t, by itself, make anything they say or believe untrue. Angry and hostile people can be, and often are, right about lots of things. Don’t confuse hostility or anger with error. To do so is illogical.

I totally agree!

* Personal testimonies, memoirs, etc. are always questionable, whether they’re offered by atheists or others. The examples of Mike Warnke and Lee Strobel attest to that, along with many others.

That’s not my position. I accept people at their word, as sincere, short of overwhelming reason to question their credibility and truthfulness (such as hostile witnesses in courts could establish). So it looks like you are merely projecting your own cynicism about people’s own reports on their own lives onto me, where it isn’t present.

And I take this position because Christianity (particularly St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13) commands us to believe the best of other people, not the worst.

PsiCop replied, but never really responded directly to my arguments. He became more and more harsh and accusatory (sadly: the same old story with so many atheists). Here’s the link if you want to read. Best wishes slogging through all that!

***

Photo credit: Dean Drobot [public domain / Shutterstock / The Epoch Times]

***

Summary: Two atheists argued that atheists are far less sensitive to criticism than Christians. I disagreed, and contended that all human beings tend to dislike criticism.

***

October 5, 2021

This issue has come up again, after my critique of former Catholic and singer Audrey Assad raised a firestorm of protest among several leftish Catholics. It turns out that I retracted it and apologized, after she informed me that she had read a lot of apologetics, whereas my “primary theory” for her departure from Catholicism was a lack of reading of same. She graciously accepted my apology, yet these other Catholics (including one really well-known and widely published one) seem — oddly — quite unfamiliar with Jesus’ injunction to forgive others 70 x 7, and continue on with their slander of my name and reputation.

While I retracted my article because it had erroneous information (that I learned about after I wrote it, but which was too presumptuous for me to assume or posit), I made it clear on her Twitter page in several comments, that I was not renouncing the very principle of critiquing deconversion stories that are already “out there” in public. Nor did Audrey herself object to that, as she stated (“I have no qualms with people publicly commenting on my public confessions”).

Reading my loudmouthed, acid-tongued critics, one might get the impression that all I do with my time and in my life’s work (according to their jaded, inaccurate perception) is pick away at, condemn, totally misunderstand, have no sensitivity towards whatsoever, personally attack (without cause) folks who have been brought to an agonized place where they feel they must abandon Catholicism. I have written literally 3,850 online articles. Out of those, I can recall only five — not counting my retracted one — that were devoted to people who left the Catholic faith (Anne Rice, Rod Dreher, Damon Linker, Michael Boyle, and Mindy Selmys: all quite vocal in public about their departures). This is one out of every 770 articles that I write, or 0.13%. Nor does this “genre” play any part whatsoever in any of my fifty published books.

I have, however, done quite a few critiques of atheist deconversions out of Christianity, that can be seen in the second-to-last section on my Atheism & Agnosticism page.

But why do this at all (I can “hear” many people wondering)? How is it not personally “intrusive” or “abusive”? It’s a fair question, and I have explained it in the past, with regard to former Christians who become atheists. The same basic rationale is present in critiques of former Catholics: just substitute “Catholicism” for the wider category of “Christianity”.

The following was written to a former evangelical Protestant; now an atheist; someone I have met in person several times and even invited to my house:

One can listen and extend sympathy in one situation and critique ideas in another. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I simultaneously critique atheism and try to find common ground with atheists, too, in an attitude of respect and listening (exactly what I’m doing right now). When we got together at the restaurant, I spent a great deal of time listening: probably at least as much as I talked (especially with [name]); and there was only one o’ me and six o’ y’all.

If you and I were sitting somewhere and you said something like, “these are the reasons why I left Christianity; what really hurt me and caused me a lot of pain . . .” etc., then absolutely that would be a time for listening, friend to friend, man to man. Surely you would know that I would disagree with many of your reasons, but I would listen and hopefully be a friend.

But as an apologist, generally speaking (in the public arena), I have to defend Christianity, and that includes critiquing reasons given to reject Christianity. If those reasons are inadequate, then it is my task to show how and why they are, in order to prevent existing Christians from using them as reasons to leave (which is, of course, a large part of the reason for these deconversion stories: to persuade others to forsake Christianity as well).

In effect, these deconversion stories are the atheist equivalent of Christian preaching or evangelism. They are intended to persuade; to make the movement grow; to embolden others to “come out” and do the previously unthinkable thing: reject Christianity: very much in internal purpose like our own testimonies.

Therefore, we are equally entitled to critique them; since they are presented in public in the first place, not in private, man-to-man, eye-to-eye, sitting by the fire or in some restaurant talking about the problems of life, kids, work frustrations, etc. Public material (that attacks Christianity) is fair game. Surely you can’t object to that!

If you want to encourage listening in a friendship context, I’m all for that. If you want to say atheists should be treated charitably, I’ve always said that and try to model it as best I can. And I think you know that, having met me at least half a dozen times now.

If you say, on the other hand, that we can’t defend our beliefs against frontal attacks or critique the ideas in deconversion stories, I must respectfully disagree. But we do have to do that without attacking people. (9-16-15)

In a debate on this topic with several atheists, I wrote:

Anyone with an IQ above that of a pencil eraser understands that legalistic fundamentalist sects do not represent all of Christianity. That’s not even arguable. It’s perfectly self-evident.

In my critique of [Name]’s story, I chided her for seemingly equating the despotic form of Christianity she was raised in, with larger Christianity. In another paper, she was more nuanced, and I praised her for it (she wrote: “I didn’t blame Jesus or Christianity for the actions of these angry Christians”).

That’s all I’m calling for: rudimentary fairness in defining a thing and critiquing it, rather than the straw man fallacy.

***

I agree with you that conversion processes are extraordinarily complex. I don’t question that aspect in my recent critiques, and confine myself mainly to the question of, “is the reasoning in these stories sufficient to compel one to abandon Christianity?” Since that is the realm of ideas only, and not experience and social milieu and Kuhnian transformations, and all the rest, I can do one thing without disagreeing with you on the complexity of conversion processes. I’ve been through them myself, so I know firsthand.

I’m merely objecting to writing entire pieces about extreme, fundamentalist versions of Christianity (all three stories I have recently critiqued were of this same nature), and then implying again and again that these represented “Christianity” period. That’s the logical fallacy, and is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

What struck me is how they ditched that and then went right to atheism, as if there weren’t any alternative forms of Christianity that weren’t simple-minded, or abusive, or whatever. It seems to me that if someone is committed to Christianity in the first place, and finds that the brand they are in falls short, that they look for other better forms, before tossing the whole thing.

I can’t sit here as an apologist and let these stories go out uncritiqued, when they unfairly portray Christianity in such an unfavorable light, by equating it with its worst extremes.

It would be like me saying, “I rejected atheism because of Stalin and Mao.” You will certainly say, “hey! That’s not what atheism is about!”

***

I often delve into the fact that most of these people (indeed most Christians, period), don’t study apologetics, so as to know why they believe what they believe. Lacking that, they are then left wide open to rational criticisms. Since they can’t explain their Christian beliefs upon the first bit of questioning from non-Christians, they can easily be dissuaded from them — especially in environments that are hostile. And so we see exactly that happening on college campuses.

This is a major reason why I am an apologist. I try to help Christians synthesize reason and faith, so they don’t get taken in by fallacious and insufficient reasoning and intellectually inferior alternative worldviews.

***

There’s nothing whatever wrong with it. It is a public, respectful critique of public material that directly takes on a major world religion, of which I am an apologist.

The only objection to it would be from a postmodernist subjective (virtually relativist) viewpoint, whereby no one is allowed to criticize anyone else’s views at all because that is fallaciously thought to be a “personal attack.”

A person is not his or her views. (7-19-17)

And from a dialogue with two atheists:

Since these are public (else I wouldn’t know about them in the first place), it’s reasonable to assume that they are more than merely subjective / personal matters, that have no bearing on anyone else. No; it is assumed (it seems to me) that these stories are thought to offer rationales of various sorts for others to also become atheists or to be more confirmed in their own atheism. This being the case, since they are public critiques of Christianity (hence, fair game for public criticism), as a Christian (Catholic) apologist, I have a few thoughts in counter-reply.

I am not questioning the sincerity of these persons or the truthfulness of their self-reports, or any anguish that they went through. I accept their words at face value. I’m not arguing that they are terrible, evil people (that’s a child’s game). My sole interest is in showing if and where certain portions of these deconversion stories contain fallacious or non-factual elements: where they fail to make a point against Christianity (what Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga calls “defeating the defeaters”), or misrepresent (usually unwittingly) Christianity as a whole, or the Bible, etc.

Agree or disagree, that is my motivation. (7-23-17)

And yet another discussion with one atheist:

I’ve been catching all kinds of hell lately from many atheists for having the audacity to critique atheist deconversion stories as inadequate arguments against Christianity. You’d think I had attacked mom or apple pie or summer days at the lake, to see all the fuss and stink.

But we see that — as always — it’s open season on Christian conversion stories. Why would that be? Is it that we’re so relentlessly unreasonable and y’all are invariably so reasoned (and love science, etc., like we supposedly don’t), so that a critique from us of your stuff is impossible beforehand, by the nature of the case? :-)

I’m all for atheists critiquing our arguments in our conversion accounts (insofar as they are there). I just marvel at the thin skin of so many atheists when we deign to do the same thing back. (7-24-17)

Here’s an exchange with an agnostic, with whom I am on quite friendly terms:

The deconvert who takes the trouble to publicly write about their reasons for leaving Christianity, is making the claim, “Christianity [and the Bible] are false because of d, e, f , . . .”

In other words, if they want to “just not believe” and go about their business and not pester Christians for their beliefs, or in effect, “preach atheism” then the question to be asked is, “why are they making this a public issue and making claims that can now be examined in the public arena of ideas and inquiry?” If they aren’t willing to engage on that stage, then why did they write their story? Just for the atheist choir?

If they write about it in public, then they are in effect implying that they are willing to engage one who disagrees. Yet when I come around and disagree, it’s 90% rank hostility for even daring to think of doing such an outrageous thing (with some of the more well-known atheists, like John Loftus, getting the most angry and out-of-control offended). It makes no sense.

If you want to be a blissfully happy atheist who can’t defend why you are one (just like most Christians can’t defend their beliefs, either: which is why I do what I do), then go do it and be silent. But if you “come out and fight,” don’t urinate your pants and moan if an apologist like me attempts to be a gadfly and puncture this bubble of reality that you have constructed.

All I’m doing as an apologist is taking a critical look at d, e, f, and any other reasons given, to see if they can stand up to scrutiny. So far, in my opinion, with over 25 or so such analyses done, I’ve yet to find a former Christian whose reasons d-f, etc. could stand up to and withstand critique. That is my experience. I can’t change it. I don’t claim that it’s universal. But it is a striking unanimity of theological ignorance and straw men.

Therefore, I conclude that the given rational reasons in these particular cases, for rejecting Christianity, fail.

In order to overcome those arguments of mine, the atheist or agnostic has to show how my counter-reasoning goes astray. So far, few if any want to do that. (5-2-19)

From my article, Cordial Dialogue with a Deconvert on Deconversion (10-7-19):

I come along — the Christian apologist — turn the tables, and show that any given deconversion story (including one I found on your site) does not in fact provide a plausible rationale for rejecting Christianity. At best, the typical one (from the ubiquitous former fundamentalist) shows how fundamentalism is unworthy of belief. But that’s like saying that a rejection of the Detroit Lions is a rejection of the NFL or football, period.

***

[I]t is posted in a social setting where the overall thrust and goal is to discredit Christianity. This is patently obvious. Such stories provide the backdrop and framework for those who are struggling or on the fence or doubting as Christians, to start thinking in a different way, because “we are what we eat.”

The deconversion story serves precisely the same “exhorting” or “confirming” function in atheist circles that the Christian testimony (we used to jokingly refer to them as “testiphonies”) does in Christian circles. We hear those (in either camp) and think, “hey, I’m not the only one who thinks and feels like that!”).

The deconversion story remains one piece in the overall atheist agenda (especially in online sites like yours) to undermine and discredit Christianity as untrue and harmful.

Thus, it makes perfect sense for  the defender of Christianity to point out what we believe are the inadequacies and glaring logical and factual shortcomings of any given such story. Why should this surprise you?

And from Part II (10-9-19):

I am responding (with these deconversions) to what is written, not what is not written (which is only common sense). There may be all the submitted reasons in the world for why they changed their view, but I can only respond to what I see. And in this case, and all others so far in such analyses, I have not seen sufficient reason to reject all of Christianity.

You guys are always demanding reasons from us. I’m simply doing the same thing back. And it’s universally disliked, believe me.

To critique another’s reasoning is not to make a personal attack. I could see how it might feel that way, but it is not, because a person is not the same as his or her beliefs. They are two different things. I’m disagreeing with you now, but I am not attacking you personally to the slightest degree.

The above, then, are some of the many reasons why I think critiquing a deconversion is perfectly permissible and even a necessary part of apologetics. People may disagree in good faith, but what they can’t do is assert one or both of the following about me:

  1. That I have no thought-through reasons for believing why I do about this, or
  2. That I am motivated by ill will and malice and hostility and contempt, rather than by a Christian concern for souls and their well-being.

And of course it would be nice to actually have normal, mature conversations with all (or any of) these critics of mine. I’m all for that. You disagree with me? Come talk to me (and get the chip off your shoulder or it’ll be a futile effort). Let’s have a meeting of minds and souls. But that virtually never happens. My most vocal, vehement critics almost always prefer getting into an echo chamber with like-minded folks and gossiping and slandering. Heaven forbid that my side is ever fairly aired or interacted with!

***

Photo credit: Zorba the Geek (4-7-17). Broken stained glass window in St Andrew’s, Langford. [Geograph / CC BY-SA 2.0 license]

***

Summary: I explain the various reasons why I feel that it is perfectly ethical and necessary as part of apologetics, to critique deconversion stories (of former Christians or Catholics).

October 1, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

*****

Jonathan managed to scrounge up a desperate pseudo-pseudo-quasi-“reply” [choke] to my most recent paper on Noah’s Flood with passing references to my earlier primary one: Local Mesopotamian Flood: An Apologia. He completely ignored another preliminary paper (Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought), that dealt with biblical language, and why virtually all Christians scholars believe in a local, not a universal Flood.

It’s a case study of intellectual evasion and cowardice and relentless unwillingness to engage point-by-point, with the usual mockery and condescension that we have come to know and love from almost all atheists (at least of the anti-theist variety) who interact online with Christians at all. He calls his “reply” God, Floods, Miracles and Evidence (10-1-21).

It’s an argument about physical evidence, and, of course, there is no physical evidence for it – whether global or regional. 

It’s also an argument from analogy, dealing with the science of what is possible and what could have been entailed in Noah’s Flood. Part of Jonathan’s argument is that even a local Flood, such as what I proposed, is not possible according to the laws of science and specifically of the behavior and characteristics of water, storm systems, etc. Therefore, if I show that it is indeed possible, his counter-argument is defeated. In that respect, it is not simply about literal physical evidence. But there actually is some of that (that Jonathan ignored or never read: per his usual sloppy and unsystematic modus operandi.

The scientific article that I mostly relied on, from geologist Carol A. Hill, was “Qualitative Hydrology of Noah’s Flood”Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (Volume 58, Number 2, June 2006). She maintained:

At Shuruppak, and also at Uruk, the last Jemdet Nasr remains are separated from the subsequent Early Dynastic I Period by clean, water-lain clay deposited by a flood. This clay is nearly five feet thick at Uruk [60] and two feet thick at Shuruppak. [61] Since the Sumerian King List mentions that Noah (Ziusudra) lived in Shuruppak (today the archaeological mound of Fara), and since Noah is believed to have lived during the Jemdet Nasr Period, [62] then these sediments date from the right time and place and may be deposits left by Noah’s Flood. [c. 2900 BC]

A popular misconception is that a great inundation such as Noah’s Flood should have left a widespread layer of sediment all over Mesopotamia. If flood deposits occur at Shuruppak (Fara), then why not at nearby Kish? Why have no flood deposits been found at Ur that correspond to Noah’s Flood, and why in the city-mound of Ur do some pits contain thick flood deposits while other pits nearby contain no flood deposits?

This presumed problematic situation is completely understandable to hydrologists—in fact, it is what they expect. Floods erode sediment as well as deposit sediment. Rivers in vegetated terrain (like in northern Mesopotamia) are capable of eroding less sediment than in unvegetated, clay-silt terrain (like in southern Mesopotamia). Rivers may scour and down cut sediment along steep gradients, whereas they may deposit sediment in shallow-gradient situations. Or, sediment left from the waters of one flood may be removed by erosion in a later flood. Most Mesopotamian cities were located close to former river channels or canals since commerce and transportation depended on these waterways.

Apologist Dave Armstrong was complaining that I wasn’t interacting with his apologia for a localised flood. So I half-read it. I say half because I got halfway down and couldn’t take any more. I declared, “I literally don’t understand how someone can rationally assent to the claim.”

There you have it folks. He not only refused to grapple with my paper (or it’s preliminary / introductory precursor) point-by-point, he also didn’t even read the whole thing. By his own estimate he only read “half” of it. This is not the response of one who is confident of his own positions, or who has a robust courage of his convictions. It’s sophistry and special pleading, obscurantism and obfuscation.

His first piece (linked above) essentially boils down to “God did a miracle” (we’ll get onto this in a bit) as well as, “but just in case he didn’t, here’s a bunch of modeling and ‘evidence’ to suggest it could well be natural”. He’s eating his cake and keeping it, too.

This is a gross caricature of my thought (what else is new with Jonathan?). Christian thinking with regard to the relationship of God, natural laws, and miracles is far more sophisticated than Jonathan thinks. I wrote:

Sometimes in the Bible God is described as having caused something that is actually natural. In these cases, the meaning would be that God “upholds” creation and/or caused the origin of natural laws in the first place, which now govern natural events, short of the rare miraculous divine intervention with a miracle. Other times it is purely miraculous . . .

Then I cited Carol Hill:

One does not have to invoke the notion of the suspension or violation of natural laws in “nature miracles.” Divine action can simply be understood as higher-order laws (God’s ultimate purpose) working seamlessly with lower order laws (God’s physical laws). Is it any less a miracle because it can be explained by natural processes? This is the nature of “nature miracles”: to have the timely intervention of God into natural processes.

One of the best examples of a “nature miracle” that comes to mind is Jesus rebuking the winds and sea (Matt. 8:23–26). In Matt. 8:26, the calming of the winds and sea could be explained by a sudden change of barometric pressure—which was probably the case. But it was God who caused this change to take place exactly when Christ commanded the waves and wind to be still.

The argument I made, accordingly, can and should be construed as a purely natural one, insofar as scientific analysis is brought to bear. Christians simply refuse to exclude God as the creator and upholder of the laws of nature that are capable of being observed and more deeply understood via the scientific method.

And when he does try to present natural evidence, he presents someone saying it might just about be done if x, y, z happened and there is a 40-day model of 2.75 inches of rain per hour and tapering off to “just” 1 inch per hour every hour for the next 110 days. Solid.

Yeah, as I said, I stopped reading after that.

That’s not interaction with an exceedingly nuanced and detailed argument that involved far, far more than the above. It’s selective presentation, mockery, and dismissal.

It also inaccurately reports what Dr. Alan Hill argued as to the rate of rainfall. It wasn’t 2.75 inches per hour for all forty days. It was a “peak” of 2.75 inches, then gradually “tapering” to one inch per hour at 40 days. As Figure 3A on page 135 shows, it’s actually two inches, thirty days in, gradually going down to one inch by forty days. Dr. Hill stated “in forty days”: meaning in context, “by forty days.” It then continues to drop, whereas Jonathan mischaracterized it as “1 inch per hour every hour for the next 110 days.” The graph in Figure 3A shows how this is false. The rate decreases to one-half inch by about 85 days and one-quarter inch by 110 days.

Dr. Hill notes: “Such rainfall rates are not unreasonable for large hurricanes.” Indeed, we can match and exceed them (for a 24-hour period) in examining the greatest historical rates of rainfall (since it has been recorded). Dr. Hill’s peak rate is 66 inches in 24 hours. That was surpassed on January 7-8, 1966, when 71.8 inches of rain fell in 24 hours on Reunion Island: approximately 670 kilometers east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, during Tropical Cyclone Denise. Therefore, we know it is possible to rain that much in a day. But that’s only the “peak” figure, that only lasts a few days at most in Hill’s mathematical model.

The world record for a month’s rainfall is 366 inches [30.5 feet] at Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, India in July 1861. That’s 0.49 inches per day, which matches over a month’s time, Dr. Hill’s calculation for the rate of rain at Day 85 of the Flood. Now, granted, we can’t match the figure for the entire 150 days, but we can get close enough to render it at least thinkable or possible to conceive of the Ultimate Superstorm: Noah’s Flood. We only have an accurate record of global weather since 1880. We can’t rule out much larger storms during all of history before that. 141 years of weather-keeping is so low of a percentage of the world’s age (4.543 billion years) that it actually comes out to 0% in calculations. It’s 32.23 million times more time in earth’s history than the vanishingly tiny and miniscule length of time we have been recording weather.

Consequently, there are huge meteorological and climatological / catastrophic events that we know of such as the Altai flood in Siberia, from 12-15,000 years ago, the Black Sea Deluge (about 5600 BC), the Missoula floods in northwest United States, from 13-15,000 years ago, the Zanclean flood that refilled the Mediterranean Sea 5.33 million years ago, and the Bonneville flood in Utah and Idaho (14,500 years ago). One article on prehistoric “monster hurricanes” stated:

A new record of sediment deposits from Cape Cod, Mass., show evidence that 23 severe hurricanes hit New England between the years 250 and 1150, the equivalent of a severe storm about once every 40 years on average. Many of these hurricanes were likely more intense than any that have hit the area in recorded history, . . .

There is even a field of study called Paleotempestology, which is “the study of past tropical cyclone activity by means of geological proxies as well as historical documentary records.”

It stands to reason that in all these millions and billions of years of earth history, that something like Noah’s Flood was entirely possible and did indeed happen.

You are absolutely right. I did misread that and therefore mischaracterise his figures to some extent. But it makes absolutely no difference at all. I will try and respond to this in greater detail when I’m not just about to go to bed…

However, one of the main problems is the fact that Hill and yourself are comparing record statistics over a tiny area of concentrated rain during a cyclone that had limited time, area and scope and extending that to a massive geographical region over a huge amount of time. This is just simply impossible. It is literally impossible. There is more, to boot, but I am not sure I have the energy. We shall see.

***

He relies heavily on Alan Hill’s “Quantitative Hydrology of Noah’s Flood”. 

That’s one of my two main sources, yes. At least he got that right.

However, even the author of this calculation admits God ‘having performed a “nature miracle”‘ (p. 130). 

The notion of “nature miracle” was explained above by his wife.

He also admits, “First, this model, and the nature of the assumptions it embraces, are crude at best” and “we are unable to realistically determine what actually happened to any level of detail during Noah’s Flood” (p. 131).

Of course: just as would be the case with virtually any other scientific analysis of events estimated to have occurred some 4,900 years ago. Any good argument doesn’t claim more for itself than is warranted. Such straightforward and realistic honesty doesn’t disqualify his and his wife’s articles as serious, worthy scientific analyses: not at all of the anti-intellectual, fundamentalist type that Jonathan and many atheists used to be part of (and which still highly influences their thinking in their deeply flawed understanding of Christianity).

The piece relies on an incredibly unrealistic storm surge that lasts for an inordinate amount of time, relying on a whole set of variables. Due to the “paper’s” complete lack of citation, I imagine no one takes this stuff seriously.

Note the mocking dismissal, which (again) is not any attempt at seriously interacting with the argument. He’s so out to sea he doesn’t even seem to realize that the main component of my argument is Carol Hill’s presentation, not Alan Hill’s. Carol Hill isn’t even mentioned! That’s how far he is from actually interacting with and grappling with my actual overall argument. He picks and chooses what he thinks will be best for his purposes of sophistry and mere mockery.

As to a supposed “complete lack of citation”, this is untrue. Anyone can look at the 12-page presentation (complete with very complex mathematical calculations), go to the end, and observe 15 citations. Three are from two articles by his geologist wife. The rest, as far as I can tell, are completely secular scientific citations. Carol Hill’s article, that Jonathan ignores, is copiously footnoted, with 74 footnotes.

So here we have the spectacle of Jonathan MS Pearce, who doesn’t seem to have earned a doctorate even in philosophy (I’ve never been able to ascertain what the case is there, and he got angry about it when I asked him one time), in effect lecturing a geologist and physicist about true science, as if they are quacks and frauds. Near the end of his farcical “reply” Jonathan takes another shot at Dr. Hill:

It’s just, you know, for me, I need good rational evidence. And that, I’m sorry to say, doesn’t include Alan E. Hill and his hydrological winguttery.

“Winguttery” is, I confess, a new term for me. I couldn’t find it in any online dictionary, but it seems to be a term of abject scorn, used mostly by leftish and skeptical-type folks, looking for a colorful insult. Ad hominem, straw men, non sequiturs, switching topics, ignoring, sophistry,  anything at all used in the service of avoiding serious interaction at all costs with a serious Christian and scientific argument: setting forth views he disagrees with, is Jonathan’s goal. It’s pathetic and a disgrace.

In fact, Alan Hill was formerly a Distinguished Scientist of the Institute For Quantum Science & Engineering at Texas A&M University. He has spent some forty years inventing and developing lasers of the Star Wars variety, and in the early 1960s, while at the University of Michigan, Alan and co-workers on a study, were the first to discover nonlinear optics and second-harmonic generation. Wikipedia describes the latter discovery:

Second-harmonic generation was first demonstrated by Peter Franken, A. E. Hill, C. W. Peters, and G. Weinreich at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1961.[7] The demonstration was made possible by the invention of the laser, which created the required high intensity coherent light. They focused a ruby laser with a wavelength of 694 nm into a quartz sample. They sent the output light through a spectrometer, recording the spectrum on photographic paper, which indicated the production of light at 347 nm. Famously, when published in the journal Physical Review Letters,[7] the copy editor mistook the dim spot (at 347 nm) on the photographic paper as a speck of dirt and removed it from the publication.[8] The formulation of SHG was initially described by N. Bloembergen and P. S. Pershan at Harvard in 1962.[9] In their extensive evaluation of Maxwell’s equations at the planar interface between a linear and nonlinear medium, several rules for the interaction of light in non-linear mediums were elucidated.

Here is the article that Dr. Hill contributed to: “Generation of Optical Harmonics” (P. A. Franken, A. E. Hill, C. W. Peters, and G. Weinreich; Physical Review Letters, 7, 118 – Published 15 August 1961). This highly significant and influential article has been cited by no less than 4,392 scientists.

No doubt, Jonathan will interact point-by-point with that, too, and show us all how he is the real, bona fide scientist. Yes, I’m sure (but hey, I won’t be holding my breath waiting. I value my life). Dr. Alan Hill is quite obviously not a nutcase or some fundamentalist pretender. This is a real scientist, and Pearce doesn’t even pretend to overthrow his calculations.

He knows when he is over his head. And so he childishly mocks and lies about a supposed lack of citations (about a scientist whose most famous article has been cited 4,392 times), to try to cover it up. If he insists on embarrassing himself with emptyheaded pseudo-academic displays like this, I will be more than happy to host such novelties on my blog.

The main issue appears to be his reliance on a fairly arbitrary 40-mile conduit into the Persian Gulf  as being the only place where the water can escape. Of course, Mesopotamia is BIG and VERY FLAT. In fact, there is a 1200-odd km southern flatness where, you know, an absolute deluge of water could flow and no storm surge could keep it in.

Again, this is not a comprehensive, point-by-point attempted refutation of the actual argumentation. It is a caricatured, cynical summary of arguments and a mere dismissal. It’s sophistry. The Mesopotamian floodplain being “VERY FLAT” is actually part and parcel of the overall argument, rightly understood and comprehended. But this was in Carol Hill’s article that Jonathan (conveniently) makes no note of, whatever:

The Mesopotamian alluvial plain is one of the flattest places on earth. The surface of the plain 240 miles (400 km) inland from the head of the Gulf is less than 60 feet (20 m) above sea level, [25] and at An Nasiriyah, the water level of the Euphrates is only eight feet (<3 m) above sea level, even though the river still has to cover a distance of more than 95 miles to Basra (Fig. 1). Once As Samawah and Al ‘Amarah are passed, the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers are lost in an immense marshland-lake region (Fig. 1), where water flows very slowly to the Persian Gulf. During spring this whole region—from the Euphrates east to the Tigris—can become severely inundated. [26] The level surface of the plain and shallow river beds of the Euphrates and Tigris, which offer the right conditions for irrigation, [27] can also cause immediate, widespread flooding. And, however difficult it is to get water to the land via irrigation canals, it is just as difficult to get it off the land when it floods. [28] Before any dams were built (before ~1920), about two-thirds of the whole area of southern Mesopotamia (Babylonia) could be underwater in the flood season from March to August. [29] . . .

There are historical references to floods in Mesopotamia in the tenth, eighteenth, and twentieth centuries BC and seventh and eighth centuries AD. 33 From AD 762–1906, thirty major floods were recorded in and around Baghdad. [34]

Footnotes

25 J. N. Postgate, Early Mesopotamia—Society and Economy at the Dawn
of History (London: Routledge, 1992), 180.

26 M. C. DeGraeve, The Ships of the Ancient Near East (c. 2000–500 BC)
(Lewen: Department Orientalistich, 1981), 8.

27 C. A. Hill, “A Time and Place for Noah,” Perspectives on Science and
Christian Faith 53, no. 1 (2001): 28.

28 Postgate, Early Mesopotamia, 180.

29 Semple, “The Regional Geography of Turkey,” 346.

30 H. F. Vos, Beginnings in Bible Archaeology (Chicago: Moody Press,
1973), 13; DeGraeve, The Ships of the Ancient Near East, 11.

31 S. N. Kramer, “Reflections on the Mesopotamian Flood: The Cuneiform Data New and Old,” Expedition 9, no. 4 (1967): 16.

32 K. Smith and R. Ward, Floods: Physical Processes and Human Impacts
(New York: John Wiley, 1998), 10.

33 Kramer, “Reflections on the Mesopotamian Flood,” 16.

34 Harza Engineering, Hydrological Survey of Iraq (Baghdad: Ministry
of Agriculture, Government of Iraq, 1963), 3–2, 3–3.

And, before I go on, none of Armstrong’s piece or the sources overcome the problems I set out in my own piece, particularly the theological issues (A regional flood is a retribution on all of humanity? How does this fit with Cain and Abel, and the Tower of Babel etc.?) and the idea that, if this was a localised flood, then anyone could have just, you know, escaped the region or run up a taller hill… I mean, what proportion of all of humanity that is supposedly evil and requires punishment lives on this floodplain? None of this makes nay sense of the Hebrew Bible.

It’s all so desperate.

This sort of (silly, hackneyed) objection was, of course, dealt with in my article, Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought), that he has chosen to ignore, now, and when I announced it on his blog, almost three months ago now.

Let’s look at world records to quickly check Hill’s thesis:

Wettest place on earth by year: 1041 inches over 365 days = 2.85 inches A DAY = 0.1 inches per hour (your figures require 27.5 times that).
Wettest place on earth by month: 370 inches over 31 days = 11.9 inches per day = 0.49 inches per hour (your figures require over 5 times that).

Here again, as noted above, Jonathan distorts what Dr. Alan Hill actually argued. I think he had such derision for it that his mind simply didn’t process the words properly. That’s what extreme bias does. In both calculations above, he is using the figure of 2.75 inches per hour over the entire period in question, that was in actuality, only a short-term peak figure, and comparing that to the wettest place on earth by year and month. It’s invalid, because he’s using incorrect figures. Noah’s Flood still has a lot more water, but it’s comparatively much less than it would be, using these inaccurate numbers.

He’s also completely neglecting in his equation, as I noted last time, additional water from snow melting off of the surrounding mountains, from the abundant springs in the area, and from surging seawater. Genesis 8:2 refers to “the fountains of the deep” in conjunction with the Flood: presumably a reference to these springs.

You would be demanding, with ALL SORTS of extra variables in place (such that the water doesn’t just rush away into that big flat desert area to the south, there), at least 2046 inches per month, and then for an extra ten days, and then a whole big bunch more thereafter. That is over double the rate seen in one month than over one year in the single wettest place – a village.

It gets worse, though, because those rainfall stats I provided are for a tiny place, not a whole region. So for that amount of rain to fall over a behemoth region is – well – impossible. Actually impossible. There is simply not that amount of rain possible in the world, and no example of this ever having happened. The atmosphere cannot collect that. For clouds to hold that much rain and dump it over THE ENTIRETY of Mesopotamia is utterly ridiculous.

Just think about it

And I’m not convinced it would not flow away too quickly due to…storm surges.

That’s all fine and dandy, but doesn’t deal with the dual arguments of husband and wife (physicist and geologist) Alan and Carol Hill: laid out in the greatest detail. If Jonathan wasn’t merely firing blanks or throwing manure pies, desperately hoping some of it will stick, and hoping that no one will notice his unsavory and unworthy tactics, he would certainly attempt (in his allegedly oh-so-superior academic excellence) a serious systematic interaction and refutation. But he ain’t interested. All he cares about is maintaining the illusion that all Christians are stupid and anti-science.

His “paper” is…

a) demanding things that have never even remotely been experienced in the history of the planet, and
b) demanding things that are still physically impossible.

He replied “Nonsense. There have been several floods of the magnitude that my model posits: from storm surges, tidal waves, etc. And there have been instances of a great deal of water remaining for months.”

Yeah, but no. Not to that degree. Ever.

That was the purpose of my last article: Pearce’s Potshots #47: Mockery of a Local Flood (+ Striking Analogies Between the Biblical Flood and the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927). That was but one example of a flood with remarkable similarities to the biblical description of Noah’s Flood (with an even longer sustained rain and longer overall drying time) and to my proposed local model in Mesopotamia. Jonathan dismisses it with an eight-word “sentence.” That’s not rational dialogue, folks. It’s just . . . silly. Don’t fall for this crap. It’s not a serious reply at all, and as far from a “refutation” as east is from west.

And he seems to have reduced his flood theory scope over time so now this really, really is a local flood: “It’s only the floodplain of Mesopotamia, and it doesn’t have to be all that deep.

Wow. Quite the climbdown.

There is no “reduced” scope or “climbdown.” This has been my view for (at the very least) almost 40 years. I wrote in a related paper, dated 5-25-04 (that’s over 17 years ago):

I formed my view on this during the early 80s due largely to Bernard Ramm’s book, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1954). He pointed out things like the 18 layers of forests on top of each other in Yellowstone Park, which blows away the young earth and flood geology alike.

As for a universal flood (if by that one means that the waters literally covered the entire earth), the Bible doesn’t require this. The theory also suffers from several serious flaws having to do with what would happen with that much water around, even covering the mountains.

So, nice try at misrepresenting my views (in the effort to — you guessed it! — make me look silly), but no cigar.

I suggest you go and read Genesis 7-9 and see whether the Bible is talking about the Mesopotamian floodplain, and not at all that deep. “It doesn’t have to be all that deep” also happened to kill every human being and animal, including swarming insects. All dead. From a floodplain flood.

I suggest Mr. Science and Mr. Bible go and read my paper, Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought), that deals with all this in infinitely more detail than Jonathan’s self-serving tidbits of tedium.

I could go on looking at Armstrong’s apologetics but it’s a waste of time, it really is. 

Yet another elegant evasion, that fools no one but himself and his sycophant, clonish, groupthinking followers.

But perhaps this is a “win” of sorts. He is moving goalposts because evidence has actually forced him to admit a smaller and smaller scope for the huge inundation so that perhaps we will get to some real local flood that he admits was the foundation of a mythologised biblical account like, you know, we see in every other culture of the world.

Nice bit of “wishful mythologizing” there.

He’s written another piece on how a Mississippi flood can be used as evidence for such a flood. That reasoning, too, was erroneous for a whole bunch of reasons. A 30ft flood that took a year to subside (without having a massive flat desert to the south). I think it, at peak, rained 15 inches in 18 hours, not remotely near 2.75 inches every hour for 40 days, and then another 1 inch every hour for 110 days…

This article absolutely refuted Jonathan’s idiotic claims about proposed analogous floods: Not to that degree. Ever” and “No – not for that amount of time and over that area. There have not.” So he uses his usual vacuous method: 3-4 sentences of hyper-biased, jaded “summary” followed by the breezy dismissal. “How the mighty have fallen.”

Perhaps my favorite Armstrong quote is this: “Then we wouldn’t have the wonderful story, laden with spiritual meaning. Obviously, he did what God told him to do. If one believes in God, and this God communicates, the follower listens and obeys.”

Nothing says wonderful story and spiritual meaning like human and animal genocide. Oh yeah, hmm mmmm, just feel that spiritual goodness seeping through like…moral poison.

Holy crud. It’s worse than I thought.

So when God righteously judges, it’s “genocide.” But when us oh-so-good and holy human beings decide to wickedly, heartlessly torture and murder innocent, helpless children in their mother’s wombs (some 2.5 billion times over the last 50 years or so; certainly more than the entire population of the world in Noah’s time), it’s “choice” and “a woman’s right” and “spiritual goodness”. Gotcha.

Jonathan cites in agreement some anonymous idiot saying, “Physics, obstacles, boundaries and rules don’t apply when you’re talking about God’s magnificence.” This is rich in irony and farce. Here I have cited an actual physicist bringing his expertise to bear on the topic of proposed models for a local Flood, and Jonathan claims thatno one takes this stuff seriously” and that Dr. Hill is a proponent ofhydrological winguttery.”

No true interaction; no serious examination of either his or his (utterly ignored) geologist wife’s extensive and fascinating arguments. Only mockery. And why? Well, obviously, it’s because Jonathan is way over his head here and he knows it. He’s not fooling anyone not already in his adoring choir. But (here’s his dilemma) he can’t ever be “shown up” by a Christian apologist (and above all: not one who is utterly despised by his sycophants on his blog) and so this is what we get: fatuous silliness and verbal diarrhea.

In all honesty, I did plan on a section on this in my previous piece, but it would have dragged on even more. As this one has.

We could have all sorts of scenarios where God can do perpetual miracles, can do something insanely big like a flood and then clean up afterward to make sure no evidence exists and so on.

Sure, you can always find anything you want to find out there somewhere. It has nothing, however, to do with my analysis, so it’s a perfect non sequitur.

If God can do crazy miracles, and can set up scenarios where we have no natural evidence of those miracles, then there’s no point arguing with believers. 

I already went through this above.

They can just assert anything. But we shouldn’t believe it because the only evidence are the claims in a single 2000-year-old book (or their heads). And when we do textual and anthropological analysis of that text, things don’t look good for the believer. This is a conversation ender.

That’s not all there is. One can analyze the biblical claims made about the Flood and see if such a Flood is possible or impossible, based on what we know as a result of scientific inquiry and discovery.

But if such massive miracles are not miraculously cleared up afterwards, then there would be evidence of them happening. A global flood should leave mountains of evidence across heaps of domains. The same can be said of a regional flood.

Not necessarily, as explained by Carol Hill (and ignored by Jonathan).

What we have is a confluence of criticisms against people like Armstrong. Not only do your claims not even work scientifically,

. . . as he ignores virtually every scientific argument that I cite, and mocks one scientist I cite and ignores the other . . . impressive!

but there is no positive scientific evidence for them, and your book is textually, anthropological, historically, linguistically, theologically, philosophically problematic to boot.

We have evidence of a sort by possibility and analogy. It’s not a book; it’s a series of articles.

Or, Mr Armstrong, you have no rational justification for believing what you do. 

Whatever you say, Jonathan, o inexhaustible font of wisdom and knowledge!

Psycho-socially? Why, yes, you were born where you were to the family and community you were. So, of course, you are Christian, and, of course, your entire life revolves around sustaining your worldview.

I was born into a nominally Methodist family; didn’t know diddley squat about Christianity for my first 19 years (wasn’t even aware that Jesus claimed to be God), was a practical atheist and didn’t go to church for ten years, became politically and socially ultra-liberal in high school and college, and became an evangelical Protestant based on my own choice (not my nominal family’s) at age 19. Thirteen years later, I became convinced (through very extensive research) of Catholicism, which is even more remote and further away from my all-Protestant immediate family. Nothing was “of course” about it at all. No one could have predicted wither my theological or intellectual path.

If I had followed my initial upbringing, I would be a typical secularist, far left Democrat today who probably wouldn’t go to church and who would accept a vague “God” at best: One Who had no effect on one’s day-to-day life (more like the deists’ “god”). One would have seen no outward indication at all in 1975, that I would be a fervent evangelical two years later, or in 1988, that I would become convinced of Catholicism two years later.

So this bullcrap pseudo-psychoanalytical “analysis” doesn’t work with me. I don’t fit into Jonathan’s arbitrary boxes that he puts Christians into. As soon as I was old and equipped enough to do so, I adopted positions and worldviews based on my own reasoning and research: not caring one whit what anyone else thought or thinks of my choices.

Moreover, I have refuted this line of argument in-depth, twice (twelve years apart). Author of multiple books and webmaster John Loftus (one of Jonathan’s mentors and inspirations), calls this “the outsider test of faith.” He challenged me to grapple with it. I have, two times, with (according to the usual anti-theist atheist intellectual cowardice) no reply from him:

Reply to Atheist John Loftus’ “Outsider Test of Faith” Series [9-30-07]

Loftus Atheist Error #4: The Outsider Test for Faith [9-5-19]

***

I wrote on Jonathan’s blog (in response to a post of his that did exactly what I critique here):

Once again, folks are doing anything and everything except interacting point-by-point with my very extensive argument. Now it’s fine if any given person chooses not to do so. But don’t pretend that my argument has been interacted with when it hasn’t. Jonathan has taken a few chunks of it and replied. At least he has done that.

This could actually be a fun and enjoyable discussion about science.

You guys should be overjoyed that a Christian has taken science seriously, and tried to harmonize it with the Bible, that he takes equally seriously. That’s what you always demand: show how the two are compatible. Others here have sought to do so with a Universal Flood view.

Instead we get the “101 topics” routine. I’m not gonna go down that rabbit trail. I made my argument and I defend THAT. So far no one has offered any comprehensive reply to it. All the questions are just a way to avoid grappling with my argument as I have constructed it.

That’s not to say they have no validity in and of themselves. Many of them do. But I don’t address them based on a methodological gripe: if someone makes a methodical, systematic argument, then IT needs to be taken on. If folks want to talk about a million other Flood-related things, more power to them. I continue to stand by my argument and wait for someone to actually interact with it in a sustained, comprehensive fashion. So far, no takers.

My overall argument for a local Mesopotamian Flood (c. 2900 BC) has three parts:

Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought

Local Mesopotamian Flood: An Apologia

Pearce’s Potshots #47: Mockery of a Local Flood (+ Striking Analogies Between the Biblical Flood and the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927)

***

Photo credit: Hans [Pixabay / Pixabay License]

***

Summary: Anti-theist atheist Jonathan MS Pearce displays a “flood of irrationality & cowardice” in his desperate non-answers to my elaborate arguments for a local Flood.

July 4, 2021

Also, a Summary Statement on Catholics and the Documentary Hypothesis

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

*****

Jonathan Pearce, in his concerted effort to absolutely avoid engaging in any exegetical debates about Genesis with me, lest the sky fall down (see my first and second reply to him concerning the Flood, and a third related paper), has repeatedly noted that the stories about the Flood in Genesis are redundant and needlessly repetitive. This, in turn, so he assumes without adequate evidence, is an irrefutable indication of multiple authors being in play (the Documentary Hypothesis [“DH”]). My current reply is an effort to show that a biblical literary technique known as chiasmus can more plausibly explain this, without necessary and/or knee jerk recourse to DH.

First, let’s document his cocksure magisterial utterances in this regard:

For those uninitiated, the Pentateuch contains some irreconcilable issues that fall into four categories: repetition (redundancy), contradictions, discontinuity, terminology and style. There is only one coherent solution: it was compiled using multiple sources, and written at multiple times. (6-29-21)

The Pentateuch contains some irreconcilable issues that fall into four categories: repetition (redundancy), contradictions, discontinuity, terminology and style.

The basic principle is that these four issues demand an explanation.

The only thing that makes sense of this is that there are multiple sources (over multiple time periods) that have been redacted to produce the finished document. (7-2-21)

What a pointless repetition [Gen 6:19] even if it didn’t contradict. This is known as redundancy and is a major reason why the DH/SH exists. There are doublets and triplets all over the Pentateuch that have no discernible raison d’etre (and even some things four times). (7-2-21)

Look at this passage and tell me it makes sense on its own without needing a theory that proposes multiple sources woven into a single narrative: [cites Gen 7:6-13] . . .

Repetition, redundancy and contradiction.

I really wish Armstrong would read his Bible. (7-2-21)

I will also furnish you with an account of redundancies in the Torah (from Baruch J Schwartz’s chapter “The Documentary Hypothesis”, . . . (7-2-21)

[T]he Noah’s flood myth is a good example of the multiple sources of the Pentateuch evidenced by both redundancies through repetition and contradictions. (7-3-21)

Of course, the key to repetition was the word “redundancy” that he conveniently forgets. The issue with redundancy in the Torah is that the repetitions serve no purpose. That’s the point. (7-3-21)

. . . the days, the number of animals and every other instance of contradiction, repetition (redundancy), discontinuity, and stylistic and terminological divergence. (7-3-21)

There is simply no use for the repetition in the Genesis flood accounts. What is it we are so obviously going to forget about those details that we so desperately need to remember? (7-3-21)

Before we begin, let me make a comment about Catholics and the Documentary Hypothesis / Theory. Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, writing about the Documentary Hypothesis (1-1-13) stated: “It is . . . possible for a Catholic to hold a number of positions, from full Mosaic authorship, to the documentary hypothesis, to intermediate positions, depending on how one sees the evidence.”

After yet another exercise of sheer mockery and pompous “know it all” condescension from Pearce in his combox, including his revelation that once again he read virtually none of my paper that he supposedly “responded” to, and describing my argument as “apologetic nonsense” and “disingenuous construction”, I wrote there:

Catholics are free to accept or reject DH / Mosaic authorship as they please, and at least one pope (St. John Paul II) believed in it. You seem to worship DH as the Holy Grail. To me it’s something I don’t believe in, based on what I have seen. I’m free to do so as an orthodox Catholic. There is no requirement that I must believe it. If someone else does (up to and including great heroes of mine, like Pope John Paul II) that’s fine. Live and let live. It’s a big ho hum and a yawner.

Pope St. John Paul II referred to the “Yahwist” source (the “J” in “JEPD”) in 16 of his addresses or writings: 15 of these were general audiences (1979-1980), and the other usage was in his papal encyclical Evangelium Vitae (1995). He referred to “Elohist” in three general audiences (1979-1980). But Pope Benedict XVI never did so. Nor did Pope St. Paul VI, Pope St. John XXIII, Ven. Pope Pius XII, or Pope Francis. Benedict XVI was certainly as good of a Bible scholar (if not better) than John Paul II. I note also that he did refer to DH before he was pope (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) in his book, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall: a book that I have in my library and which I have cited several times.

But back to the immediate topic:

There can certainly be various reasons for repetition: one obvious one being its obvious utility as a teaching and memorization device (as I have already noted in this larger exchange). Another quite plausible thing is something I was excited to learn about this very day: a Hebrew literary technique called chiasmus. Jimmy Akin (in whose article I first saw it mentioned) provided a good basic summary:

The biblical authors commonly structure their material according to a literary form known as chiasmus.

This involves a sequence of elements that can be divided into two halves, with the second half being a mirror image of the first, like steps leading up one side of a pyramid and down the other.

A simple example is Jesus statement that the “first will be last, and the last first” (Matt. 19:30), which has an A-B-B’-A’ structure.

This chiasmus occurs in a single sentence, but there are much more involved ones in the Bible, ones that span large blocks of text and that serve as a major organizational principle for an entire book.

This is the case with Genesis. Much of the book is organized into large chiastic structures.

Pearce, who ludicrously fancies himself as a big expert on the Bible, never mentions “chiasmus” or “chiastic” on his blog. So he can learn something from this, too (i.e., making the huge assumption that he reads this article, and doesn’t give up in a hissy fit after the second paragraph.

Wikipedia (“Chiastic structure”) offers an excellent overview. After noting the basics of chiasmus, as Akin did, it elaborates:

Chiastic structures that involve more components are sometimes called “ring structures”, “ring compositions”, or, in cases of very ambitious chiasmus, “onion-ring compositions”. These may be regarded as chiasmus scaled up from words and clauses to larger segments of text.

These often symmetrical patterns are commonly found in ancient literature such as the epic poetry of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Classicist Bruno Gentili describes this technique as “the cyclical, circular, or ‘ring’ pattern (ring composition). Here the idea that introduced a compositional section is repeated at its conclusion, so that the whole passage is framed by material of identical content”.[1] Meanwhile, in classical prose, scholars often find chiastic narrative techniques in the Histories of Herodotus:

“Herodotus frequently uses ring composition or ‘epic regression’ as a way of supplying background information for something discussed in the narrative. First an event is mentioned briefly, then its precedents are reviewed in reverse chronological order as far back as necessary; at that point the narrative reverses itself and moves forward in chronological order until the event in the main narrative line is reached again.”[2]

The article continues:

Mnemonic device

Oral literature is especially rich in chiastic structure, possibly as an aid to memorization and oral performance. In his study of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Cedric Whitman, for instance, finds chiastic patterns “of the most amazing virtuosity” that simultaneously performed both aesthetic and mnemonic functions, permitting the oral poet easily to recall the basic structure of the composition during performances.[6] Steve Reece has demonstrated several ambitious ring compositions in Homer’s Odyssey and compared their aesthetic and mnemonic functions with examples of demonstrably oral Serbo-Croatian epic. [7]

Use in Hebrew Bible

In 1986, William H. Shea proposed that the Book of Daniel is composed of a double-chiasm. He argued that the chiastic structure is emphasized by the two languages that the book is written in: Aramaic and Hebrew. The first chiasm is written in Aramaic from chapters 2-7 following an ABC…CBA pattern. The second chiasm is in Hebrew from chapters 8-12, also using the ABC…CBA pattern. However, Shea represents Daniel 9:26 as “D”, a break in the center of the pattern.[8]

Gordon Wenham has analyzed the Genesis Flood narrative and believes that it is essentially an elaborate chiasm.[9] Based on the earlier study of grammatical structure by F. I. Andersen,[10] Wenham illustrated a chiastic structure as displayed in the following two tables.

Chiastic structure of the Genesis Flood Narrative
A: Noah and his sons (Gen 6:10)
B: All life on earth (6:13:a)
C: Curse on earth (6:13:b)
D: Flood announced (6:7)
E: Ark (6:14-16)
F: All living creatures (6:17–20 )
G: Food (6:21)
H: Animals in man’s hands (7:2–3)
I: Entering the Ark (7:13–16)
J: Waters increase (7:17–20)
X: God remembers Noah (8:1)
J’: Waters decrease (8:13–14)
I’: Exiting the Ark (8:15–19)
H’: Animals (9:2,3)
G’: Food (9:3,4)
F’: All living creatures (9:10a)
E’: Ark (9:10b)
D’: No flood in future (9:11)
C’: Blessing on earth (9:12–17)
B’: All life on earth (9:16)

A’: Noah and his sons (9:18,19a)

[Dave: see a much nicer, more visually appealing version of this]

Within this overall structure, there is a numerical mini-chiasm of 7s, 40s, and 150s:

Chiasm of the numbers 7, 40, and 150
α: Seven days waiting to enter Ark (7:4)
β: Second mention of seven days waiting (7:10)
γ: 40 days (7:17)
δ: 150 days (7:24)
χ: God remembers Noah (8:1)
δ’: 150 days (8:3)
γ’: 40 days (8:6)
β’: Seven days waiting for dove (8:10)

α’: Second seven days waiting for dove (8:12)

Use in New Testament

Form critic, Nils Lund, acknowledged Jewish and classical patterns of writing in the New Testament, including the use of chiastic structures throughout.[11]

The article, “Literary structure (chiasm, chiasmus) of Book of Genesis: Chiastic Structure and Concentric Structure and Parallel of each pericope” is a marvelous compendium of no less than 81 spelled-out uses of the technique in the book of Genesis alone. If it weren’t already obvious, I note that it would be extraordinary for four authors to construct such obviously deliberate literary techniques or devices, across their allegedly intertwined stories. Thus, chiasmus is a strong argument for single authorship and/or Mosaic authorship of Genesis. And there are massive examples in the other five books of the Torah as well, as I will document.

As just one example from this article, I offer the section on the covenant with Noah: which occurred right after the account of the Flood:

[8]The Covenant with Noah  (Gen 9:1-17)
A(9:1-7)
Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat (9:4)
(בשׂר)
B(9:8-11)
never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood (9:11)
(המבול)
C(9:12)
A sign of the covenant
(אותהברית)
C'(9:13)
A sign of the covenant
(לאותברית)
B'(9:14-16)
the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings (9:15)
(למבול)
A'(9:17)
This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all mortal creatures that are on earth (9:17)
(בשׂר)
A: Flesh. B: All creatures never be destroyed by the waters of a flood. C: A sign of the covenant.
Gen 9:1-7
A(9:1) Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth (9:1)
B(9:2) the human is in charge of beast, birds and fish (Human as the administrator of the animals)
C(9:3) Eating creatures is permitted
D(9:4) Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat (9:4)
C'(9:5) Shedding blood is prohibited
B'(9:6) If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed (9:6) (Human as the administrator of the human)
A'(9:7) Be fertile, then, and multiply; abound on earth and subdue it (9:7)
Gen 9:8-11
A(9:8-9) covenant with you and your descendants after you (9:9) (covenant for future)
B(9:10) Covenant with every living creature
A'(9:11) covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; (9:11) (covenant eternal)
Gen 9:12-17
A(9:12-13) The sign of the covenant
B(9:14-15a) God will recall the covenant with all living beings
C(9:15b) the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings (9:15)
B'(9:16) God will recall the covenant with all living beings
A'(9:17) The sign of the covenant

Biblical Chiasm Exchange: a site devoted to comprehensively listing all instances of chiasmus in the Bible, lists no less than 100 of them in Genesis, 55 in Exodus, 26 in Leviticus, 38 in Numbers, and 64 in Deuteronomy. This is 283 times in the Pentateuch. Lots of “pointless repetition” and “redundancy”: as Pearce (who is likely no longer reading this article) would put it.

The book of Psalms contains a whopping 196 instances, which is more than one per Psalm. As an elegant example from a very well-known passage of Scripture, here is the chiastic structure of Psalm 23:

A. 1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

B. Food and drink

He maketh me to lie down
in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.

C. security

He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

D. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:

C’. security

for thou art with me; 
thy rod and thy staff
they comfort me.

B’. Food and drink

Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.

A’. 6 Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life:
and will dwell in the house of the LORD
for ever.

Isaiah, my favorite Old Testament book, contains 119 chiasms in 66 chapters. Jeremiah has 87, Ezekiel, 71.

The New Testament continues the technique, with the Gospels exhibiting 101, 63, 92, and 81. For a relatively famous example, see a portion of the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:22-48.

The book of Acts has 84 chiasms. Romans leads the way in the Pauline letters, with 33.

See another paper specifically about Noah’s Flood and chiasmus, and a second.

An in-depth examination of chiasmus in classical literature, noted many examples in Homer and cited another scholar who found 1257 examples in Livy and 1088 in Tacitus.

Bible scholar E. W. Bullinger catalogued “over 200 distinct figures [in the Bible], several of them with from 30 to 40 varieties.” That’s from the Introduction to his 1104-page tome, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (London: 1898): a very useful volume in my own library. He devotes 31 wonderful pages to a slightly larger category of literary devices that he calls “Correspondence” (pp. 363-393).

***

ADDENDUM: Exchange with Pearce on His Blog

[this was his preliminary “response” to the above paper]

Jesus wept, your first paragraph.

Another item for your not-to-read list. First paragraph and out. LOL

Dude, to think I’m not engaging with you is ridiculous.

You’re right. Far from me to think you don’t engage. You do, after all (just going by your own reports) read one paragraph of each of my lengthy new articles responding to you. Credit where due. Seidensticker, Madison, and Loftus don’t read my rebuttals at all and never ever respond (and ban me from their sites as an extra bonus). At least you respond with fine comedic material and non sequiturs. You’re funny and entertaining, whereas those guys are grim as the grim reaper.

I’ve just spent 2 solid weeks researching the documentary hypothesis and writing a chapter on it for a forthcoming book. Have you actually read any source material on the documentary hypothesis? I mean, really? or have you only read conservative evangelical supposed critiques of it?

I use your method. I get through one paragraph and think to myself, “this is hogwash!” and then stop reading.

Oh, okay, so that’s how to dismiss an entire discipline of rational scholarship…

I haven’t dismissed it at all (in the sense of claiming that no orthodox Christian could possibly believe in it). To the contrary, I have noted how Pope St. John Paul II believed in it, and to some extent, also Pope Benedict XVI. I do not. I simply have no interest in it and it has no bearing whatsoever on my arguments. Can you not grasp that? Go argue with someone who actually believes in the thing!

You have dismissed something I think you barely understand.

Whatever the case, I’m not the one to wrangle with about it. It’s not my burden to defend it, anymore than it is your burden to defend the existence of God. I defend the non-contradictory nature of Sacred Scripture, which is an issue that goes far beyond DH.

As I mentioned recently, you assumed there was a contradiction in a particular passage and then went on to say that DH adequately accounts for it. I denied the presence of a contradiction in the first place. Thus, that discussion was prior to the application of DH. It was at the level of premises.

It is your burden of proof since you are asserting a single authorship of a book that is clearly not. You need to provide positive evidence of this. You have it the wrong way round.

I am not asserting that at all in these particular arguments. I’m simply defending what we have in the text, as non-contradictory, and a local Flood (and often, non-literal texts) as opposed to a universal one.

My arguments stand on their own, whether the Pentateuch was written by one person or a hundred.

I do think that my recent discovery of chiasmus is quite consistent with single authorship and makes little sense if it is four or more. But I wasn’t trying to prove that. I was showing that this remarkable technique truly is present in the text: massively in the Flood story and at least 81 times in Genesis.

You’ll likely simply ignore it. That’s your frequent “out” and technique of avoidance and evasion, as I’m discovering more and more.

Yesterday you were carping on and on about how I completely ignore the Epic of Gilgamesh Deluge story and had nothing to say about it. In fact, I was addressing it in my second paper published on the same day you were making the false claim, and had done so a few times in my writings. So you were dead wrong. And you simply ignore what I said.

Yesterday you were also waxing delusionally about how DH would shut my mouth and how I couldn’t possibly have any reply to it in any possible universe. Yet here I am today offering a fairly striking explanation (the literary technique of chiasmus) of the “redundance” that you see everywhere in Genesis. So you were dead wrong again. And you will in all likelihood ignore what I said about this, too, lest you stumble into what could be a very interesting and fascinating discussion indeed.

You have no interest in that, in the final analysis. Your goal is to make out that I am an imbecile, idiot, and ignoramus. Your increasingly shrill and boorish comments about me personally and my beliefs and research are specifically designed to give precisely that impression to your adoring, fawning audience.

***

Photo credit: bytrangle (1-19-18) [PixabayPixabay License]

***

Summary: Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce has taken to belittling Genesis as “redundant” & then using the Documentary Hypothesis as his “go-to” answer to everything. But Chiasmus better explains this.

June 30, 2021

ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE BIBLE / BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY  

Abraham

Abraham, Moses, Camels, & Archaeological Evidence [5-22-21]

Abraham & Beersheba, the Bible, & Archaeology [6-9-21]

Was Abraham from This City Ur That One? [7-20-21]

Abraham Lived in Haran, Which Did Exist at the Time! [7-22-21]

Abraham’s Shechem Lines Up With Archaeology [7-23-21]

Abraham, Salem, Mt. Moriah, Jerusalem, & Archaeology [7-24-21]

Abraham & Hebron: Archaeology Backs Up the Bible [7-24-21]

Was Sodom Destroyed by a Meteor in Abraham’s Time? [7-27-21]

Abraham, Warring Kings of Genesis 14, & History [7-31-21]

Amorites

Arameans, Amorites, and Archaeological Accuracy [6-8-21]

Camels, Domestication of

Abraham, Moses, Camels, & Archaeological Evidence [5-22-21]

OT Camels & Biblically Illiterate Archaeologists [5-24-21]

When Were Camels Domesticated in Egypt & Israel? [5-25-21]

Camels Help Bible Readers Get Over the Hump of Bible Skepticism [National Catholic Register, 7-21-21]

Chariots, Iron (Judges and Joshua)

Pearce’s Potshots #41: 13th c. BC Canaanite Iron Chariots [7-16-21]

David, King

Rarity of Non-Biblical Mentions of King David Explained [9-16-21]

Edomites

Edomites: Archaeology Confirms the Bible (As Always) [6-10-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #42: 12th c. BC Moabite & Ammonite Kings (The Broad Definition of “King” in the Ancient Near East, + Biblical Use of  “Chiefs of Edom”) [7-19-21]

Exodus

Seidensticker Folly #5: Has Archaeology Disproven the Exodus? [8-15-18]

Pearce’s Potshots #31: How Many Israelites in the Exodus? [5-27-21]

City of the Exodus (Pi-Ramesses), Bible, & Archaeology [6-28-21]

Moses’ “Store-City” Pithom & Archaeology [6-29-21]

Egyptian Mud Bricks and Straw: Bible = Archaeology [6-29-21]

Archaeology: How Many Hebrew Slaves in Pi-Ramesses? (And Could 20,000 Nomadic Hebrews Survive in the Sinai Desert for Forty Years?) [7-1-21]

General

God: Historical Arguments (Copious Resources) [11-9-15]

Archaeology: Biblical Maximalism vs. Minimalism (+ Dates of the Patriarchs and Other Major Events and People in the Old Testament) [9-9-21]

OT & Archaeology: 25 Fascinating Confirmations (From Noah to Joshua”: the Hebrew Scripture is Extraordinarily Accurate & True to History) [9-21-21]

Genesis: Table of Nations

Genesis 10 “Table of Nations”: Authentic History [8-25-21]

Table of Nations (Gen 10), Interpretation, & History [11-27-21]

Gerasenes / Gadarenes

Gadarenes, Gerasenes, Swine, & Atheist Skeptics  [7-25-17]

Gerasenes, Gadarenes, Pigs and “Contradictions” [National Catholic Register, 1-29-21]

Goliath

Goliath’s Height: Six Feet 9 Inches, 7 Feet 8, or 9 Feet 9? [7-4-21]

Hebrew Language

Archaeology, Ancient Hebrew, & a Written Pentateuch (+ a Plausible Scenario for Moses Gaining Knowledge of Hittite Legal Treaties in His Egyptian Official Duties) [7-31-21]

Hittites

The Hittites: Atheist “DagoodS” Lies About Christian Apologists Supposedly Lying About How Biblical Critics Once Doubted Their Historical Existence [1-10-11, at Internet Archive]

Habitually “Lying” Christian Apologists?: 19th Century “Hittites Didn’t Exist” Radical Skepticism and Examination of Atheist DagoodS’ Replies and Charges [1-15-11, at Internet Archive]

Hittite Skeptics Chronicles, Part III: Specific Citations of Denial (Budge, Sumner, & Conder) and Biblical Historical Accuracy (in the Time of Elisha) [1-19-11, at Internet Archive]

Great Hittite Wars, Part IV: Lying Christian Egyptologist M. G. Kyle?: Atheist DagoodS Disputes Sir A. E. Wallis Budge’s Reported Hittite Skepticism  [1-21-11, at Internet Archive]

“Higher” Hapless Haranguing of Hypothetical Hittites (19th C.) [10-21-11; abridged 7-7-20]

“Israelites” as a Title

Pearce’s Potshots #27: Anachronistic “Israelites”? [5-25-21]

Jesus

The Census, Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem, & History [2-3-11]

“’Bethany Beyond the Jordan’: History, Archaeology and the Location of Jesus’ Baptism on the East Side of the Jordan” [8-11-14]

Archaeology: Jesus’ Crucifixion, Tomb, & the Via Dolorosa [9-18-14]

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: Herod’s Death & Alleged “Contradictions” (with Jimmy Akin) [7-25-17]

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: “Contradictory” Genealogies of Christ? [7-27-17]

December 25th Birth of Jesus?: Interesting Considerations [12-11-17]

Seidensticker Folly #4: Jesus Never Existed, Huh? [8-14-18]

Was Christ Actually Born Dec. 25? [National Catholic Register, 12-18-18]

The Bethlehem Nativity, Babe Ruth, and History [National Catholic Register, 1-1-19]

Are the Two Genealogies of Christ Contradictory? [National Catholic Register, 1-5-19]

Jesus’ Resurrection: Scholarly Defenses of its Historicity [4-12-20]

Jesus’ December Birth & Grazing Sheep in Bethlehem (Is a December 25th Birthdate of Jesus Impossible or Unlikely Because Sheep Can’t Take the Cold?) [12-26-20]

Pearce’s Potshots #11: 28 Defenses of Jesus’ Nativity (Featuring Confirmatory Historical Tidbits About the Magi and Herod the Great) [1-9-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #52: No Tomb for Jesus? (Skeptical Fairy Tales and Fables vs. the Physical Corroborating Evidence of Archaeology in Jerusalem) [11-10-21]

Joseph (Patriarch)

Genesis, Joseph, Archaeology, & Biblical Accuracy (A Brief Survey of Evidence for “The King’s Highway” in Jordan in the Bronze Age: Prior to 1000 BC) [6-8-21]

Joseph in Egypt, Archaeology, & Historiography [8-7-21]

Joshua’s Conquest of Canaan

Archaeology & Joshua’s Altar on Mt. Ebal [7-22-14]

Pearce’s Potshots #32: No Evidence for Joshua’s Conquest? [5-28-21]

What Archaeology Tells Us About Joshua’s Conquest [National Catholic Register, 7-8-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #43: Joshua’s Conquest & Archaeology (Including a Plausible Theory as to Why Late Bronze Age Jericho (after 1550 BC) has Virtually Completely Eroded) [8-3-21]

Archaeology Verifies 13th c. BC Cities Listed in Joshua [8-5-21]

Jericho and Archaeology — Disproof of the Bible? (Here is one possible explanation for the high level of erosion in Jericho) [National Catholic Register, 9-26-21]

Moabites & Ammonites

Pearce’s Potshots #42: 12th c. BC Moabite & Ammonite Kings (The Broad Definition of “King” in the Ancient Near East, + Biblical Use of  “Chiefs of Edom”) [7-19-21]

Moses

Abraham, Moses, Camels, & Archaeological Evidence [5-22-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #29: No Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt? [5-26-21]

Moses, Kadesh, Negev, Bronze Age, & Archaeology [6-10-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #34: Atheist Throws a Screwball Pitch (Part II of “Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt”) [6-12-21]

Did Moses Exist? No Absolute Proof, But Strong Evidence (Pearce’s Potshots #35, in Which Our Brave Hero Classifies Moses as “a Mythological Figure” and I Reply!) [6-14-21]

City of the Exodus (Pi-Ramesses), Bible, & Archaeology [6-28-21]

Moses’ “Store-City” Pithom & Archaeology [6-29-21]

Egyptian Mud Bricks and Straw: Bible = Archaeology [6-29-21]

Using the Bible to Debunk the Bible Debunkers (Is the Mention of ‘Pitch’ in Exodus an Anachronism?) [National Catholic Register, 6-30-21]

Archaeology: How Many Hebrew Slaves in Pi-Ramesses? (And Could 20,000 Nomadic Hebrews Survive in the Sinai Desert for Forty Years?) [7-1-21]

Archaeology, Ancient Hebrew, & a Written Pentateuch (+ a Plausible Scenario for Moses Gaining Knowledge of Hittite Legal Treaties in His Egyptian Official Duties) [7-31-21]

In Search of the Real Mt. Sinai (Fascinating Topographical and Biblical Factors Closely Examined) [8-16-21]

The Tabernacle: Egyptian & Near Eastern Precursors (Archaeology Entirely Backs Up the Extraordinary Accuracy of Holy Scripture Yet Again) [9-8-21]

Noah’s Flood

Tower of Babel, Baked Bricks, Bitumen, & Archaeology (Also, Archaeological Verification of Sufficiently Available Bitumen and Wood for the Building of Noah’s Ark) [8-26-21]

Summary of Archaeological & Scientific Evidences Concerning Noah’s [Local] Flood [Facebook, 9-9-21]

Peter

Archaeology & St. Peter’s House in Capernaum [9-23-14]

Philistines

Pearce’s Potshots #33: No Philistines in Moses’ Time? [6-3-21]

Sodom and Gomorrah

Sodom & Gomorrah & Archaeology: North of the Dead Sea? [10-9-14]

Was Sodom Destroyed by a Meteor in Abraham’s Time? [7-27-21]

Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel, Baked Bricks, Bitumen, & Archaeology (Also, Archaeological Verification of Sufficiently Available Bitumen and Wood for the Building of Noah’s Ark) [8-26-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #54: Tower of Babel; Who’s the “Idiot”? [11-24-21]

* * *

Helpful General Articles from Others

53 People in the Bible Confirmed Archaeologically (Bible History Daily / Biblical Archeology Society, 10-13-20)

 

SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY AND THE BIBLE / SCIENTIFIC HARMONY WITH THE BIBLE

Adam and Eve (and Genetics)

Bishop Robert Barron: Adam Wasn’t a “Literal Figure” [9-23-11]

Defending the Literal, Historical Adam of the Genesis Account (vs. Catholic Eric S. Giunta) [9-25-11]

Adam & Eve of Genesis: Historical & the Primal Human Pair? (vs. Bishop Robert Barron) [11-28-13]

Adam & Eve & Original Sin: Disproven by Science? [9-7-15]

Dialogue with Philosopher Dr. Lydia McGrew on Adam and Eve and the Polygenism vs. Monogenism Genetics Issue [Facebook, 5-11-17]

Only Ignoramuses Believe in Adam & Eve? [9-9-15]

Animals: Mythical

Loftus Atheist Error #9: Bible Espouses Mythical Animals? [9-10-19]

The Bible and Mythical Animals [National Catholic Register, 10-9-19]

Demonic Possession

Demonic Possession or Epilepsy? (Bible & Science) [2015]

Disease / Germ Theory

Vs. Atheist David Madison #37: Bible, Science, & Germs [12-10-19]

Seidensticker Folly #36: Disease, Jesus, Paul, Miracles, & Demons [1-13-20]

The Bible on Germs, Sanitation, & Infectious Diseases [3-16-20]

Bible on Germ Theory: An Atheist Hems & Haws (. . . while I offer a serious answer to his caricature regarding the Bible and genetics) [8-31-21]

Earth: Creation of

Cosmological Argument for God (Resources) [10-23-15]

Genesis Contradictory (?) Creation Accounts & Hebrew Time: Refutation of a Clueless Atheist “Biblical Contradiction” [5-11-17]

The Genesis Creation Accounts and Hebrew Time [National Catholic Register, 7-2-17]

Earth: Sphere

Biblical Flat Earth (?) Cosmology: Dialogue w Atheist (vs. Matthew Green) [9-11-06]

Flat Earth: Biblical Teaching? (vs. Ed Babinski) [9-17-06]

Evolution, Theory of

Catholicism and Evolution / Charles Darwin’s Religious Beliefs [8-19-09]

Dialogue with an Atheist on Evolution [9-17-15]

My Claims Regarding Piltdown Man & the Scopes Trial Twisted [10-10-15]

Scripture, Science, Genesis, & Evolutionary Theory: Mini-Dialogue with an Atheist [8-14-18; rev. 2-18-19]

Catholics & Origins: Irreducible Complexity or Theistic Evolution? [6-17-19]

Why I Believe in “Non-Miraculous” Intelligent Design [6-20-19]

Debate: Can Intelligent Design Be “Non-Interventionist”? (vs. Dr. Lydia McGrew) [6-21-19]

Exodus and Moses

Plagues of Egypt: Possible Natural Explanations [8-11-21]

Parting of the Red Sea: Feasible Scientific Explanation? [8-11-21]

Quails, Wandering Hebrews, & Biblical Accuracy [8-17-21]

Acacia, Ark of the Covenant, & Biblical Accuracy [8-24-21]

Moses & Earth Swallowing Sinners: a Miracle? [9-13-21]

Moses and (Natural?) Water from a Rock [9-14-21]

Science, Hebrews and a Bevy of Quail [National Catholic Register, 11-14-21]

Flood & Noah 

Old Earth, Flood Geology, Local Flood, & Uniformitarianism (vs. Kevin Rice) [5-25-04; rev. 5-10-17]

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures [2-20-08]

Noah’s Flood & Catholicism: Basic Facts [8-18-15]

Do Carnivores on the Ark Disprove Christianity? [9-10-15]

New Testament Evidence for Noah’s Existence [National Catholic Register, 3-11-18]

Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought [7-2-21]

Local Mesopotamian Flood: An Apologia [7-9-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #47: Mockery of a Local Flood (+ Striking Analogies Between the Biblical Flood and the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927) [9-30-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #48: Flood of Irrationality & Cowardice [10-1-21]

Noah’s Flood: Not Anthropologically Universal + Miscellany [10-5-21]

Debate: Historical Local Flood & Biblical Hyperbole [11-12-21]

General

Dialogue w Atheist on Christianity & the Scientific Method [7-19-01]

God and “Natural Evil”: A Thought Experiment [2002]

Atheist Myths: “Christianity vs. Science & Reason” (vs. “drunkentune”) [1-3-07]

Richard Dawkins & “Religion vs. Science” Mentality (+ Galileo Redux) [3-20-08]

Reply to Atheist Scientist Jerry Coyne: Are Science and Religion Utterly Incompatible? [7-13-10]

Christianity: Crucial to the Origin of Science [8-1-10]

Books by Dave Armstrong: Science and Christianity: Close Partners or Mortal Enemies? [10-20-10]

Typical “Science vs. Catholicism” Criticisms (and Myths) from an Agnostic Scientist Refuted [7-29-11]

Science and Christianity (Copious Resources) [11-3-15]

Dialogue with an Agnostic on Catholicism and Science [9-12-16]

Richard Dawkins: D- Grade for Science & Christianity [5-23-18]

Seidensticker Folly #21: Atheist “Bible Science” Absurdities [9-25-18]

Seidensticker Folly #23: Atheist “Bible Science” Inanities, Pt. 2 [10-2-18]

Loftus Atheist Error #7: Christian Influence on Science [9-9-19]

The Bible is Not “Anti-Scientific,” as Skeptics Claim [National Catholic Register, 10-23-19]

Modern Science is Built on a Christian Foundation [National Catholic Register, 5-6-20]

Seidensticker Folly #44: Historic Christianity & Science [8-29-20]

OT & Archaeology: 25 Fascinating Confirmations (From Noah to Joshua”: the Hebrew Scripture is Extraordinarily Accurate & True to History) [9-21-21]

“Nature Miracles”: Natural Hypotheses for God’s Actions (For Example: Noah’s Flood, Parting of the Red Sea, Quails, Earth Swallowing up Sinners, Sodom & Gomorrah, & Water from the Rocks) [10-30-21]

Goliath

Goliath’s Height: Six Feet 9 Inches, 7 Feet 8, or 9 Feet 9? [7-4-21]

Jericho

Jericho and Archaeology — Disproof of the Bible? (Here is one possible explanation for the high level of erosion in Jericho) [National Catholic Register, 9-26-21]

Jesus

Resurrection Debate #4: No “Leafy Branches” on Palm Sunday? [4-19-21]

Resurrection (?) #10: “Blood & Water” & Medical Science [4-25-21]

Jordan River Crossing

Joshua & the Parting of the Jordan: A Natural Event? [9-13-21]

Miracles and Science

The Resurrection: Hoax or History? [cartoon tract; art by Dan Grajek, 1985]

Silly Atheist Arguments vs. the Resurrection & Miracles [2002]

Biblical and Historical Evidences for Raising the Dead [9-24-07; revised for National Catholic Register, 2-8-19]

Dialogue with an Atheist on Miracles & First Premises [12-18-10]

Exchange on Miracles & Hyper-Rationalism [12-7-15]

Dialogues with Atheists on Miracles [6-8-16]

Does God Still Perform Miracles? (Some Evidence) [5-26-18]

Miracle of the Sun at Fatima: Brief Exchange [7-3-18]

Dialogue w Agnostic on Proof for Miracles (Lourdes) [9-9-18]

Miracles & Scientific Method: Dialogue with Atheist [2-22-19]

Atheist Desire for Amazing Divine Miracles / Incorruptibles [2-23-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #6: Chapters 5-6 (Supernatural & Miracles / Biblical Literary Genres & Figures / Perpetual Virginity / Healing & Belief / Persecution of Jesus in Nazareth) [8-18-19]

Seidensticker Folly #39: “The Sun Stood Still” (Joshua) [4-16-20]

Reflections on Joshua and “the Sun Stood Still” [National Catholic Register, 10-22-20]

Patriarchs: Old Ages of

969-Year-Old Methuselah (?) & Genesis Numbers [7-12-21]

Souls and Spirits

Seidensticker Folly #8: Physics Has Disproven Souls? [8-16-18]

Seidensticker Folly #71: Spirit-God “Magic”; 68% Dark Energy Isn’t? [2-2-21]

Dark Energy, Dark Matter and the Light of the World [National Catholic Register, 2-17-21]

Star of Bethlehem

Star of Bethlehem, Astronomy, Wise Men, & Josephus (Amazing Astronomically Verified Data in Relation to the Journey of the Wise Men  & Jesus’ Birth & Infancy) [12-14-20]

Timeline: Star of Bethlehem, Herod’s Death, & Jesus’ Birth (Chronology of Harmonious Data from History, Archaeology, the Bible, and Astronomy) [12-15-20]

Who Were the “Wise Men,” or Magi? [National Catholic Register, 12-16-20]

Conjunctions, the Star of Bethlehem and Astronomy [National Catholic Register, 12-21-20]

Star of Bethlehem: Refuting Silly Atheist Objections [12-26-20]

Route Taken by the Magi: Educated Guess [12-28-20]

Star of Bethlehem: More Silly Atheist “Objections” [12-29-20]

Astronomy, Exegesis and the Star of Bethlehem [National Catholic Register, 12-31-20]

Pearce’s Potshots #12: Supernatural Star of Bethlehem? (Biblical View of Astronomy, Laws of Nature, and the Natural World) [1-11-21]

Star of Bethlehem: Natural or Supernatural? [1-13-21]

Bible Commentaries & Matthew 2:9 (Star of Bethlehem) [1-13-21]

Star of Bethlehem: Reply to Obnoxious Atheist Aaron Adair (Plus Further Related Exchanges with Aaron and a Few Others in an Atheist Combox) [1-14-21]

Star of Bethlehem: 2nd Reply to Arrogant Aaron Adair [1-18-21]

Star Researcher Aaron Adair: “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!” [1-19-21]

Star of Bethlehem & Magi: 20 Fascinating Aspects [1-22-21]

Universe, Origin of: Cosmological Argument / Big Bang

Cosmological Argument for God (Resources) [10-23-15]

Cause of the Big Bang: Atheist Geologist Challenged [4-21-17]

Seidensticker Folly #14: Something Rather Than Nothing [9-3-18]

Seidensticker Folly #38: Eternal Universe vs. an Eternal God [4-16-20]

Seidensticker Folly #42: Creation “Ex Nihilo” [8-28-20]

Creation Ex Nihilo is in the Bible [National Catholic Register, 10-1-20]

Universe, Origin of: General

Atheism: the Faith of “Atomism” [8-19-15]

Clarifications Regarding My Controversial Atheist “Reductio” Paper [8-20-15]

Exchanges with Atheists on Ultimate Origins [11-19-15]

Atheists Seem to Have Almost a Childlike Faith in the Omnipotence of Atoms [National Catholic Register, 10-16-16]

Atheists & Inherent “Omnipotent” Creative Qualities of Godless Matter [7-26-17]

Dialogue w Atheist on the Origin of the Universe [6-23-18]

Dialogue with an Atheist on “God of the Gaps” [6-24-18]

Vs. Atheist David Madison #38: Who is Insulting Intelligence? (. . . with emphasis on the vexing and complex question of the ultimate origins of matter and life) [12-11-19]

Seidensticker Folly #75: Why a Universe at All? [11-5-21]

Debate: a Universe Self-Created from Nothing? [11-9-21]

Universe, Origin of: Teleological Argument / Intelligent Design

Albert Einstein’s “Cosmic Religion”: In His Own Words [originally 2-17-03; expanded greatly on 8-26-10]

Theistic Argument from Longing or Beauty, & Einstein [3-27-08; rev. 3-14-19]

Teleological (Design) Argument for God (Resources) [10-27-15]

Dogmatic Materialist Scientists vs. Intelligent Design [10-29-15]

Seidensticker Folly #41: Argument from Design [8-25-20]

God the Designer?: Dialogue with an Atheist [8-27-20]

Universe: Sustained by God

“Quantum Entanglement” & the “Upholding” Power of God [10-20-20]

Quantum Mechanics and the “Upholding” Power of God [National Catholic Register, 11-24-20]

***

Photo credit: Kenneth A. Kitchen is the dean of biblical archaeologists in our time. His book, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, was published in 2006. [from the Amazon book page]

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Summary: I collect hundreds of my blog posts having to do with the Bible & archaeology (scientific evidence that supports its accuracy) & also the relationship between the Bible & science, generally.

Updated on 27 November 2021

June 12, 2021

Part II of “Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt”

Anti-theist atheist Jonathan M. S. Pearce wrote the article, Exodus Sidebar: Refuting Armstrong’s “Refutation” on Pitch (but Oddly Not Sargon…) (6-11-21), to which I respond. He was replying to my older article, Pearce’s Potshots #29: No Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt? (5-26-21)

His words will be in blue.

*****

Oh David, David, David.

David “I love science as much as any atheist” Armstrong

Yes I do. It’s been one of my favorite things for over fifty years, back when I was following the NASA space launches with avid interest. For many years as a kid, I thought I would grow up to be an archaeologist (so I love doing “amateur archaeology” and reporting on the scholars’ findings in defending the Bible).

You see that as a mocking opportunity. I see it as common and fertile ground for constructive discussion, with the few atheists who are willing to engage in normal discussion about the usual issues. Should I call you Jonathan “I love to encourage on my blog insults towards Christians as much as any atheist” Pearce, since that is manifestly true? But you can’t prove that I do not love science.

It’s much of what I have been writing about lately, after five straight archaeological replies to another atheist Bible skeptic named Adam Lee (and likely many more to come). I’ve rarely enjoyed myself so much in my forty years of Christian apologetics. It’s exciting to see the Bible confirmed again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again (I’ll stop for brevity’s sake) by secular archaeology.

likes to see himself as the white knight, tackling my “screeds” articles and refuting them. Except, this is rarely what actually happens. He recently claimed to have refuted me on camels but after further inspection, er, hadn’t.

Whether I refuted you many times is for readers to decide. I think it kind of / sort of suggests that I have done so several times, in light of the fact that you haven’t responded at all to probably fifteen of my critiques. It took three times mentioning this “pitch” issue (an entire paper and two mentions, after you threw out the same tired claim that I already refuted) to get you to actually grapple with a serious counter-claim. It’s progress, but there is a lot more left to go. I offered no less than six replies to claims in just one of your articles:

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I also wrote a similar archaeology-based reply (thus far ignored) to an earlier related paper of yours about the Exodus: Pearce’s Potshots #33: No Philistines in Moses’ Time? [6-3-21]. You were notified of all of them on your blog.
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All (save one, now) have been ignored. But now you have finally decided to tackle the pitch issue and the archaeology we can find about that. I commended you for it today in your combox, saying, “Bravo!” Now let’s see what argument you can come up with (in-between all the potshots).

 

I wrote a 2500-word piece on this that included the 250-word section at the end on whether pitch was available contemporaneously in the Nile region at the time. This was an additional nugget to my piece, but not the main thrust at all.

What I responded to with my “pitch” refutation was your article, “Debunking the Exodus II: A Ridiculous Story with Ridiculous Claims” (5-19-21). It was not devoted solely to Sargon: who was mentioned in only one section. It was a laundry list of all the supposedly “ridiculous claims” regarding the Exodus. You included 21 bullet-points. I dealt with six at length, in as many reply-papers (listed near the top). I chose to write about (as one of my six reply-topics) pitch: mentioned in your potshot about Moses’ birth, precisely because it was a concrete issue which could be objectively considered by means of archaeological analysis.

This is what you don’t understand about what I’m doing. It’s a deliberate methodological strategy, so to speak. Wrangling about subjective matters with atheists rarely accomplishes anything, though I do discuss the problem of evil (as I did again this very day) and other non-scientific topics with them occasionally, because the former is a serious objection and deserves — even demands — to be dealt with. But by and large I want to deal with specific objective matters that can be addressed by archaeology or other forms of science, by a method Christians and atheist both accept.

As I explained to someone recently: I’m not trying to prove biblical inspiration. That’s several steps down the line and a much more involved and complex argument. What I’m doing is “defeating the defeaters” offered up by atheists. If they argue that such a town wasn’t in existence when the Bible said it was, then I go to archaeology and prove that it was.

I have done this recently with regard to the Edomites in the Late Bronze Age in Jordan, whether Beersheba was a city when Abraham visited it (in this case it wasn’t, and the claim that the Bible claimed it was, is incorrect), whether Arameans derived from the Amorites, and details of the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers: all utilizing massive archaeological support. I did it with you, on this issue of pitch, the camels, and other things.

This defends the Bible’s accuracy. So I am showing that atheist arguments against biblical accuracy are almost invariably incorrect and fallacious. In other words, if an atheist says, “The Bible is inaccurate history and therefore, not inspired because of errors a, b, c, d, e, and f”, I go and show through secular archaeology that supposed errors a, b, c, d, e, and f are actually not errors and that it’s merely atheist mythology and polemics regarding the Bible. In doing so I also show how these matters can almost always be resolved in a way that is consistent with belief in biblical inspiration.

If the Bible is inspired, then it should and would be historically accurate and not self-contradictory as well. And so I deal with biblical archaeology and also (repeatedly and in-depth) alleged Bible contradictions (basically an internal textual issue). This was my overwhelming emphasis in my 72 unanswered and ignored refutations of atheist Bob Seidensticker and my 44 unanswered and ignored replies to David Madison. And I do mostly the same with you. You also saw it in my debates with one of your friends about the star of Bethlehem, which entailed all sorts of fascinating scientific elements. I had a blast doing that, and learned so much.

I described myself recently as a “termite”: eating away at all these atheist false premises, one-by-one, until one day the anti-theist atheist “house” collapses because the foundation was so weakened by the constant eating of the termite. So you and your minions can mock and ridicule my writing about pitch all you like. My rationale for it and other objective, historical issues that we can analyze through the means of scientific analysis is perfectly reasonable and logical, as explained.

You initiate your erroneous argument about pitch in Egypt with a guy who has a blog, who goes by only a nickname: about whom we can learn nothing further (by his non-existent profile). So we know nothing about his credentials, but hey: I’d bet the farm that he’s not an archaeologist. I cite actual archaeologists (!!!) when I make my argument about, well, archaeology. 

The same anonymous person thinks himself qualified to argue physics with Einstein. Very impressive. You’d read me the riot act if I tried to pull a stunt like that. The next article down delves into JFK conspiracy theories. His murderer was CIA director John McCome, dontcha know!: according to your source for pitch in ancient Egypt, “Straw Walker”. In a 2015 article he states dogmatically — massively against current cosmological consensus — that “Dark Matters [sic] does NOT exist.” In February 2014 he remarked: “The universe has existed and will exist forever” — except that the vast majority of cosmologists disagree, since they hold the Big Bang theory, which says that the universe had a finite beginning and will have an ending as well. 

Yeah, great source there, Jonathan. This is who you went to to support your view from “science.” It’s a joke, and embarrassing (especially given all your shots taken at me as if I am hostile to science). At least I cite scientists and studies from peer-reviewed journals when I am talking about a scientific issue.

Let’s remind ourselves of Moses’ supposed dates:

Generally Moses is seen as a legendary figure, whilst retaining the possibility that Moses or a Moses-like figure existed in the 13th century BCE.[11][12][13][14][15] Rabbinical Judaism calculated a lifespan of Moses corresponding to 1391–1271 BCE;[16]Jerome suggested 1592 BCE,[17]and James Ussher suggested 1571 BCE as his birth year.[18][note 2]

So somewhere between 2171-1571 BCE. (Already, Armstrong is outside of what people generally believe, but that us to be expected.)

And how is it that you arrived at this cynical conclusion? You pulled it out of a hat and then chided me for supposedly believing it. I swear I don’t know how you arrive at many of your conclusions. I made it quite clear in my reply, which cited the same information from my previous reply to you, what I thought regarding Moses’ birth and death dates:

Encyclopedia Britannica (“Moses”informs us that he “flourished 14th–13th century BCE”. . . . “the most probable date for the Exodus is about 1290 BCE.” Therefore, Moses’ birth was “probably . . . in the late 14th century BCE.” The latter is deduced from the Bible’s statement (Ex 7:7) that Moses was eighty in the year of the Exodus, which would makes his birthdate around 1370 BC, his death in 1250 BC . . . 

What part of “1370-1250 BC” is so difficult to comprehend? Is Encyclopedia Britannica “fundamentalist” too? Actual fundamentalists place Moses’ life 100-200 years before this. I reiterated again in the most recent article I wrote, posted yesterday: “I accept the life and death dates of Moses to be c. 1370-c. 1250 BC.”

You go on to make an analysis that seems to totally misunderstand what I was driving at. I see no sense in responding to it. It looks like you just rushed off this response with little thinking: just to “get Armstrong off my back.” You write:

None of this is about waterproofing. 

I didn’t say it was. I was documenting from archaeology that bitumen was used for mummification in Egypt, but only after a certain date (1250-1050 BC) which postdates Moses. Then at the end I wrote: “But of course, mummification was not the only use of pitch / bitumen in ancient Egypt. Therein lies the rub, and Pearce’s blatant error.”

The source relies a lot on radiocarbon dating and mass spectrometry – so I hope Armstrong and his supporters also defend its use in evolutionary theory, right?

Armstrong does! Because I am a theistic evolutionist, and have utilized the data of carbon dating in most if not all of my many recent articles about archaeology and the Bible. I did yesterday in my most recent article (go see!). What my “supporters” may believe on this and that is irrelevant to my own opinions.

This is a really important point: Armstrong’s case is built on science that creationists do not accept. So if you are a creationist lauding Armstrong’s case, you are being dishonest and employing double standards.

Then that’s their problem, isn’t it?: not mine. It has nothing to do with me. Most folks who follow my writing regularly are Catholics, and most Catholics are not creationists. But we all believe that God was the Creator. How He did that is a separate matter. This is just more obfuscation and silliness, to divert from the main topic at hand. But it is entertaining. I’ll give ya that.

So what of these mummies? Well, the Glasgow male mummy (MTB G44) does not fit into the timescale. . . . So Armstrong’s source actually supports my claim.

Mummies had absolutely nothing to do with my argument. That stuff was only a prelude to the data that (rather dramatically) supported pitch being in Egypt during Moses’ lifetime. 

So his claim of my “blatant error” is blatantly erroneous.

Not at all. I was referring to your error of saying that pitch wasn’t present in Egypt during Moses. The mummy stuff isn’t directly relevant to that because it was from after the time of Moses. The relevant portion came from later in the same article:

archaeological discoveries and chemical analyses have revealed molecular evidence for trade during the earlier Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age periods (3900–2200 BC; [12]).

Or is it?

Armstrong’s second piece [3], however, is a better defence of his position, although he only quotes the abstract. I have read the piece. 

Ah; now I have found the entire article for free, too. And I’m delighted that I did, because now my case is that much stronger. You do your best to minimize the compelling evidences found in the entire research article, by means of summarizing without citing more than literally only thirteen words of it. But the evidence is too strong. I quote (all bolding mine):

This study demonstrates that detailed organic geochemical analysis permits the identification in Maadi excavations (3900-3500 BC) in Egypt of asphalt imported from the Dead Sea and enables the reconstruction of the bitumen trade routes within Canaan and to Egypt. (p. 2743)

Remember, folks, that I was responding to Jonathan’s bald statement: “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses.” Here, even the latest date is 2130 years before the approximate date of Moses’ birth. This is a pretty spectacular mistake on Jonathan’s part (not only being wrong about its presence, but wrong about up to 2130 years or more of its presence; and as we shall see soon, he resolutely refuses to retract it in the face of this hard evidence.

USES OF DEAD SEA BITUMEN IN ANTIQUITY

Natural asphalts were widely used in the ancient world. Perhaps their earliest use was in making reed baskets impermeable to liquids. (p. 2743)

Well, ain’t that somethin’?! The first use mentioned is precisely the one in question: sealing reed baskets to waterproof them. The article couldn’t be any more relevant to our inquiry than it is.

Evidence for this was found in the preceramic Neolithic excavation of Gilgal, Israel, dating back to about 9000 BC (Connan and Nissenbaum, unpubl. data), and in the Neolithic excavation of Beidha (9000-6500 BC; KIRKBRIDE, 199 1 ), north of Petra in Jordan. (p. 2743)

AND the only actual example of bitumen caulking referenced in the paper is not actually in Egypt but in Samaria, Israel, in Gilgal.

This is incorrect, as anyone can see, above. There is also evidence from “Beidha, . . . north of Petra in Jordan”: the same use as the Moses story, from 7,630-5,130 years earlier. And the most well-known ancient Gilgal was near Jericho: not in Samaria at all: which was north of Jerusalem.

This would also accord with my claim: that “Israelite” biblical authors would be using their own cultural knowledge to project onto events that happened in Egypt!

It could also be that a practice that has been verified as in Israel from 7,630 years before Moses’ birth, had become common knowledge (several thousand years of use have a tendency to do that). After all, it was Israelites in question, who resided in Egypt. They still would have had knowledge of these things. It’s not rocket science to figure out that pitch could serve as caulk on a basket, anyway. Any smart, inquisitive 4-year-old child could figure that out within an hour.

Twice more on this same page, mention is made of using pitch  “to caulk boats” and “for waterproofing vessels.” The latter is described as a “major” use. We learn that asphalt was actually available in Egypt, too (so that it wouldn’t necessarily have to come from outside trade):

[A]sphalt is found in only a few localities in Egypt (in oil springs at Jebel Zeit, termed Mons Petrolius by the Romans, or in sandstones at Helwan, south of Cairo; . . . (p. 2744)

I won’t bother to figure out exactly where Moses was born, and how close it would be to these two sources, but they may not have been all that far away. I didn’t know this before I accessed the entire article, so I thank you for your intransigence. When atheists fight against hard scientific (or internal biblical) evidence, I dig in and find more, and my case becomes all the stronger. So keep it up! This is already two major new revelations from the article (specific use of pitch for reed baskets, and native asphalt in Egypt) in the first two pages.

See further archaeological verification for Gebel El Zeit (Jebel Zeit) as a source of bitumen in Egypt: from the western shore of the Gulf of Suez. Another article from Archaeometry (12-16-02) states:

Bitumen used as a preservative in ancient Egyptian mummies was previously thought to come only from the Dead Sea in Palestine. Other, closer sources of bitumen were investigated at Abu Durba and Gebel Zeit on the shores of Egypt’s Gulf of Suez. Bitumen from these localities and from five mummies was analysed using molecular biomarkers derived from gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. It was found that four of the mummies contained Dead Sea bitumen, and the fifth and oldest (900 bc) had bitumen from Gebel Zeit, thus providing the first evidence for the use of an indigenous source of bitumen in ancient Egypt.

Moreover, your goofy “source” who has no discernible credentials as an expert on archaeology or ancient Egypt, stated (and you cited a few days ago and again in this article of yours):

Contrary to Moses [sic] account, bitumen does not exist in the Nile river or the Nile delta. In Moses [sic] haste to plagiarize Sargon’s birth account he failed to realize that the Nile and the Euphrates have a different geology. A simple mistake, but with huge ramifications.

This is untrue, also, according to the article (written by real, not pseudo-scientists), since Helwan is “part of Greater Cairo, on the bank of the Nile, opposite the ruins of Memphis.” Those pesky facts! They’ll getcha every time!

Between 3900 and 3100 BC, the raw asphalts from the floating blocks of the Dead Sea exported to Egypt were not used there for mummification purposes. Embalming with conifer resins mixed with bitumens did not appear before the Fourth Dynasty, i.e., around 2600 BC (PECK, 1980; BUCAILLE, 1987). Consequently, the most likely utilization of bitumens during the earlier epoch would be for using glue to attach flint implements in sickles, as in Arad ( NISSENBAUM et al., 1984), or as a waterproofing agent to caulk baskets, as seen in Gilgal (9000 BC, Israel) and elsewhere (Beidha, Jordan; Mehrgahr, Pakistan; Susa, Iran; Tell el Oueili, Iraq, etc.). (pp. 2757-2758)

Thus, the “most likely” use of pitch in Egypt, 1730 to 2530 years before Moses was born, was “as a waterproofing agent to caulk baskets.” That’s a good confirmation of my argument once again, wouldn’t you agree, Jonathan? I fail to see what else I could find to make my argument any stronger than it already is. The article concludes:

Unfortunately, the utilization of the raw bitumen discovered in excavations cannot be discerned; but, most likely, uses for the raw bitumen are as a glue to fix flint implements to wooden handles and as a proofing agent for caulking baskets. (p. 2758)

This is scientific rigor: the desire not to go beyond the facts. Yet they can’t help (being inquisitive) at least speculating in passing about the uses, and when they do, they come up with two things: one of which is “caulking baskets”: a use already mentioned several times in the article.

But there is further compelling archaeological evidence closer to the time of Moses. Steve Vinson’s article, “Seafaring” [see link],  in Elizabeth Frood and Willeke Wendrich (editors), UCLA Encyclopedia of EgyptologyLos Angeles, 2009, stated (my bolding):

A fascinating letter, in Akkadian, from the court of Ramses II [1303-1213 BC; r. 1279-1213, which overlaps the life of Moses] speaks of an Egyptian ship that had been sent to the Hittites, evidently for the purpose of allowing Hittite shipwrights to copy it (Fabre 2004: 96). The only constructional details we get are that the ship apparently had internal framing (ribs), and that it was caulked with pitch (Pomey 2006: 240), a practice now paralleled archaeologically by a water-proofing agent observed on some planks salvaged from New Kingdom sea-going ships found at Marsa Gawasis [see link on that] (Ward and Zazzaro fc.; cf. Vinson 1996: 200 for the practice in Greco-Roman antiquity and one occurrence in Roman Egypt). Whether this was a traditionally constructed Egyptian hull, or a new-style hull based on Eastern Mediterranean/Aegean principles, is unknown.
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SOURCES
Fabre, David 2004 Seafaring in ancient Egypt. London: Periplus.
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Pomey, Patrice 2006 Le rôle du dessin dans la conception des navires antiques: À propos de deux textes akkadiens. In L’Apport de l’Égypte à l’histoire des techniques: Méthodes, chronologie et comparaisons, Bibliothèque d’étude 142, ed. Bernard Mathieu, Dimitri Meeks, and Myriam Wissa, pp. 239 – 252. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale.
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Vinson, Steve 1996 Paktou/n and Pa,ktwsij as ship-construction terminology in Herodotus, Pollux, and documentary papyri. Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 113, pp. 197 – 204.
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Ward, Cheryl, and Chiara Zazzaro 2007 Finds: Ship evidence. In Harbor of the pharaohs to the land of Punt: Archaeological investigations at Mersa/Wadi Gawasis, Egypt, 2001 – 2005, ed. Kathryn Bard, and Rodolfo Fattovich, pp. 135 – 153. Naples: Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”. fc. Evidence for Pharaonic seagoing ships at Mersa/Wadi Gawasis, Egypt. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

The New Kingdom of Egypt is the period from 1570-1069 BC, which includes the entire lifetime of Moses.

[undaunted, Pearce was still claiming on 6-15-21: “They wouldn’t have the first clue that pitch wasn’t particularly available in Egypt, and there is no evidence it was used at all for caulking, during the supposed Moses time.”]

You conclude about me: with the utmost charity:

Wow, a lot of effort for little payoff. What have I learnt? That Armstrong is disingenuous, and that’s putting it mildly, in his claims about refuting me, employing cherry-picking, and even then not reading his sources correctly.

Let the reader decide!

Has his work made me change my mind? Broadly, no. I will concede this: there is a possibility pitch might have ended up in the Nile area in the time required and used for the purposes see out in Exodus. There is no positive evidence for this, only an inference from some raw material found once nearby, and then seemingly only as a rarity.

I have probably moved my probability analysis about 10%. So, thanks to Armstrong for making me more accurate. Was it worth it? You decide.

I have more than proven what I had to establish. Was pitch present in Egypt at the time of Moses? It was, according to archaeological research long before, by trade, and it was also available near Cairo, probably relatively close to where Moses was born.

Archaeology can’t prove absolutely everything: every minute particular. It operates in generalities. But for what it has shown us in this regard, everything fits perfectly in harmony with the biblical account of a basket of bulrushes being waterproofed by pitch and bitumen in c. 1370 BC. To put it another way, it’s very difficult for you to assert, in light of this: “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses”, and your conspiratorial, goofball “source” saying that “bitumen does not exist in the Nile river or the Nile delta” has also now been shown to be wrong.

But you won’t actually concede what is quite obvious (not to a Christian!), so you play this game of “10%” more probability, as if that proves that you are open-minded and accept scientific findings that just blew up the myth you constructed. You’re grasping at straws (no pun intended).

So, Dave – if you’re going to litter your pieces with grand (Danth’s Law-style) rhetorical flourishes, make sure your claims back them up.

Good advice; but of course it applies far more to you than to me in this instance.

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ADDENDUM 1

Jonathan wrote in a related paper on 6-15-21:

The pitch thing is incredible in the technical sense – or more accurately “improbable”. But not in the Torah being constructed in a place that uses pitch and by a culture that uses pitch. Because it is only by doing modern archaeology that we have come to find this out. This isn’t modern palaeontologists finding a rabbit skeleton in the pre-Cambrian rock strata. This is ancient parochial people developing their own national identity, because they are in exile, and using ideas from the culture within which they are set.

My reply:

This is ingenious spinning and obfuscation, I’ll give you that. The pitch debate was as simple as can be. My two responses, with massive archaeological evidence presented, were a reply to 15 words of yours (written on 5-19-21): “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses, but was in Sumeria.”

These words were part of your effort to show that the Exodus was “ridiculous”: as were claims supporting it.

I have shown from secular archaeology (not biblical arguments) that it was available then and there. Case closed. Game, set, match. You can spin and obfuscate and say I am disingenuous and dishonest all you like, and ignore archaeological data. I definitively proved that case with as much archaeological evidence as is possible to muster.

We’re not gonna find a reed basket that says on it “this is the one that Moses floated in, in 1370 BC!” with residue of pitch. But even if we had, you’d find a way to avoid the evidence anyway.

An open-minded thinker who followed archaeological evidence, as some sort of objective criterion for determining various factual claims for antiquity, would concede the point and move on. But not you. That would mean conceding to a Christian and that can never happen. But as they say, “there’s always a first time . . .”

As I have said, whether pitch existed in Egypt in Moses’ time is not the foundation of your atheism, which can exist whether that is a fact or not. It would simply be one less argument you can use for the Exodus being so “ridiculous”: as you claim.

ADDENDUM 2

After I pointed out to him research from Vinson about boats in Egypt in Moses’ time caulked with pitch, Jonathan replied directly to it:

Even before I begin to look into this – again let me refer you to the claims of general pitch usage, and particularly in the Nile River basin. No evidence for caulking baskets (the nearest comes from Israel) or even gluing tools (again, Israel iirc); such use in Egypt, and then in our reference period and exact place, is inference only from some sparse evidence of raw pitch being found a few times about the whole nation – ie uncommonly.

Egyptian vessels generally didn’t need caulking because they were too light, or were caulked between planks with reeds. This we have a whole BUNCH of evidence for.

Now, because I am a skeptic, I check sources. Here is the quote from Ward & Zazarro (that returns no “pitch” results in the paper):

A 3–4 cm wide black coating along plank seams (T13, T14, T41) probably represents a waterproofing agent on the outer planking surface. The coating has not been analyzed chemically. No petroleum-like odour, such as bitumen might produce, was detected when a small fragment was burnt. In 2005–06, all Type 4 planks were acacia or sycomore; in 2006–07, Zazzaro and Claire Calcagno recorded a Type 4 plank of cedar, reworked from a Type 2 hullplank. Acacia and sycomore planks were less well preserved than the thicker Type 2 cedar examples. All examples excavated in 2005–06 had been recycled as ramps leading into the entrances to Cave 3 and Cave 4 (Fig. 1).

It absolutely does not support your claim in any way whatsoever. This is waterproofing with a different substance altogether. So the whole mention of New Kingdom and reference to Marsa Gawasis is irrelevant. They did not use pitch for caulking. I’m sure you went to the trouble of checking your own sources to verify this yourself, right?

Now let’s think about the boat mentioned by Pomey. This is fsr more nuanced. I will forgive you for not checking this source as it is in French. Bear in mind that he is sending a letter to the Hittites detailing what appears to be a NEW design and technology precisely because it had not been seen before (certainly by the neighbouring Hittites).

Luckily, I have a degree in French, so I’ll give the analysis tht proceeds the Akkadian letter a stab:

“…For the outside, the Pharaoh recommended using asphalt, that’s to say mineral pitch, in order to seal the hull so that the boats wouldn’t sink. [ie, this is new to them.] The interest in the last passage concerns sealing procedures highlighted by Dimitri Meeks. He notes, in effect, that the original character of the testimony appears unique for the Pharaonic era. [ie, that such suggestions are unique for this age.]”

So far, this looks pretty understandable. The Pharaoh advises the Hittites take on this new-fangled technology, not seen before, for caulking boats. This would also imply it was not being used to caulk baskets, because you can rest assured, the King’s navy would be using this tech before washerwomen or randos on the edge of the Nile who want to send their babies downstream. And it doesn’t look like it is actually widespread (or even occasionally used!) with the Egyptians since there is precisely zero evidence of it being used. From your previous source, we know that IF THEY DID caulk,. they would use alternative oils.

The next part I disagree with. I will include it (being honest with my sources), though I somewhat disagree with the analysis:

“He also deduces, rightfully, that the usage of pitch or bitumen for the sealing of seafaring ships hulls however had to be well-known to the Egyptians in order for it to be an object of recommendation by the Pharaoh.”

This should play into your hands. Except I would argue not. So Pomey agrees that this letter is asking the Hittites to copy this new tech, including pitch caulking, because it looks sensible, but Pomey then states (in reference to Meeks) that the Pharaoh must have well known about this already in order to recommend it. Well-known? Hardly, since next door have no idea about it, he is having to explain it, and there is no evidence of it being used in Egypt during this time. This looks like a pretty new tech to the Egyptians because ALL the evidence we have elsewhere is that they caulked between planks (if they did at all) with reeds and other wadding. I’m not even sure there is widespread contemporaneous use of the ribbing either, though I haven’t looked in detail. He is sharing a new thing, I would reason.

The whole point of the letter is to say “look what we’ve got- new fangled awesomeness! I recommend you copy it!” Which is the point of Pomey’s paper – about new ship design for the Egyptians.

Now, I am admittedly doing some inference myself here because we have to fill in the gaps. I definitely know this is new tech to the Hittites because that’s the whole point of the letter and why Rameses is explaining it. He literally explains what pitch does in his letter. Now, the Hittites are literally next door. Part of this letter is about, I presume, offering a fig leaf after the peace treaty they had just signed.

So I would conclude somewhat opposite to this paper, though using other inferences as well: knowing that there is no actual evidence that the Egyptians did widely use (or at all?) this technique themselves as we have no extant evidence of them doing so, though there IS evidence they waterproofed with a DIFFERENT natural oil substance. So perhaps they recognised the usefulness of pitch, but opted to use more locally available substitutes.

What have we learnt from this? Not a lot. We’re pretty much back to where we started. (6-15-21, in his combox)

I replied:

I see. So your argument runs as follows:

1. Pitch was indeed used for this Egyptian ship referenced by a Pharaoh in the general time of Moses. I don’t deny it.

2. But hey, it was a new practice at the time.

3. Because it’s new, it’s [Dave: somehow, in some alt-logic] not evidence that pitch was known and available and used in Egypt during this period.

4. Therefore, this admitted use of pitch in Egypt supports my initial claim: “pitch wasn’t particularly available in Egypt [Dave: it was, by trade and a few local spots, including in the Nile Delta], and there is no evidence it was used at all for caulking, during the supposed Moses time.”

5. And this proof of use of pitch that proves [Dave: doublethink!] there was no use of pitch for caulking at that time, certainly has no relevance to the outrageous impossibility of “washerwomen or randos on the edge of the Nile who want to send their babies downstream.”

I certainly can’t argue with that! But I can’t, of course, because it’s not logical or rational in the first place.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, to recall how you have shifted your position on this, every time you have been proven wrong. First you wrote:

1. “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses” [what started this whole debate]

2. I showed that it was available long before Moses’ time, by trade and also in at least two spots in the country (which was expressly denied by your conspiracist kook anonymous “source”; endorsed by yourself), one right in the Nile Delta: in Helwan, which is “part of Greater Cairo, on the bank of the Nile, opposite the ruins of Memphis.”

3. Having been shown to be dead wrong, you then switched to saying it wasn’t in use at exactly the time of Moses, and not for caulking (which is a completely different claim: going from outright denial to now quibbling about times and uses of what was formerly denied altogether as being present, let alone used).

4. So I showed with the information we are now discussing that, yes, pitch was used precisely for caulking boats during the period of Moses, according to his dates that I accept from the Encyclopedia Britannica.

5. Faced with this horror of being proven wrong a second time about the same topic, you play the game of conceding the fact of the presence of pitch, but denying that it has any significance at all, because it was 1) “new”, and, anyway, 2) would never ever (in any conceivable universe) have been used to caulk / waterproof a reed basket by a woman putting her child in such a basket, in the Nile, because, well, “you can rest assured, the King’s navy would be using this tech before washerwomen or randos on the edge of the Nile who want to send their babies downstream.”

You concede that this evidence shows pitch being used for caulking boats in Moses’ Egypt, yet somehow simultaneously also assert: “there is precisely zero evidence of it being used.” This is doublethink and literally nonsense. It makes no sense because it’s viciously self-contradictory. But in your rush to defend the indefensible and defeat the “disingenuous” / “dishonest” Christian, who can never be right about anything, even this crazy irrational “thinking” will do.

It’s one of the most amazing displays of intransigence and absolute refusal to concede an error that I’ve ever seen, and I’m in a line of work where one observes such things regularly. (in his combox on 6-15-21)

Have you accepted your terrible use of sources in this discussion? (6-16-21)

ADDENDUM 3

Pearce tried to chip away at some of my sources (delving into highly technical textual disputes), in order to bolster his relentless skepticism, in a new paper. I found additional evidence (four different instances) of use of pitch in Egypt or (in the case of Nubia) an Egyptian-occupied area, during the lifetime of Moses:

“Bitumen from the Dead Sea in Early Iron Age Nubia”, Kate Fulcher, Rebecca Stacey & Neal Spencer, Scientific Reports,  5-20-20:

Abstract

Bitumen has been identified for the first time in Egyptian occupied Nubia, from within the town of Amara West, occupied from around 1300 to 1050 BC. The bitumen can be sourced to the Dead Sea using biomarkers, evidencing a trade in this material from the eastern Mediterranean to Nubia in the New Kingdom or its immediate aftermath. Two different end uses for bitumen were determined at the site. Ground bitumen was identified in several paint palettes, and in one case can be shown to have been mixed with plant gum, which indicates the use of bitumen as a ground pigment. Bitumen was also identified as a component of a friable black solid excavated from a tomb, and a black substance applied to the surface of a painted and plastered coffin fragment. Both contained plant resin, indicating that this substance was probably applied as a ritual funerary liquid, a practice identified from this time period in Egypt. The use of this ritual, at a far remove from the royal Egyptian burial sites at Thebes, indicates the importance of this ritual as a component of the funeral, and the value attributed to the material components of the black liquid.

Introduction

Black materials were excavated from different contexts in the pharaonic town of Amara West in Upper Nubia, dating from  around 1300 to 1050 BC  (19th–20th dynasties), and its cemeteries (1250–800 BC). The materials were of three types: black paints on ceramic sherds used as palettes; a black coating on a coffin plaster fragment; and a black friable material excavated from a tomb. . . .

Amara West lies between the Second and Third Nile Cataracts, in the heart of Nubia, a region that stretched from Aswan in southern Egypt southwards to the Sixth Nile Cataract (Fig. 1). This region was intermittently occupied by pharaonic Egypt in the third and second millennium BC; during the New Kingdom (c. 1548–1086 BC), pharaonic towns were founded to control and administer resource extraction. . . .

Molecular evidence for bitumen from the New Kingdom (pre-dating the Third Intermediate Period) [prior to 1070 BC] is limited to the black coating on the coffin of Henutmehyt [c. 1250 BC; the approximate death date of Moses] in the British Museum (EA48001)46 [see source], the balm of a mummified man from Thebes13, an identification of Dead Sea bitumen in a 19th Dynasty [1292-1189 BC, which overlaps the life of Moses] “mummy balm”12, and the presence of hopanes in the black coatings on an 18th Dynasty [1550-1292 BC, which overlaps the life of Moses] canopic chest and anthropoid coffin49. . . .

Conclusion

. . . Given that evidence for bitumen use in Egypt in the New Kingdom has previously been limited to a few individual samples from objects with poor provenance, this study provides proof for a much more extensive use than might have been suspected, with a secure archaeological context.

See also: “Pigments, incense, and bitumen from the New Kingdom town and cemetery on Sai Island in Nubia”, Kate Fulcher, Julia Budka, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Volume 33, October 2020.

See a further listing of articles (many on related topics) by Kate Fulcher.

Pearce responded with his usual cavalier, clueless dismissal: “This is entirely consonant with what we previously discussed of raw bitumen trade, and to do with mummy embalming. You are rehashing the same old stuff. These might even be the same specimens mentioned.” (6-16-21)

My reply:

You read very poorly (especially when you are determined to disagree with what you’re reading). None of the new evidence had to do with embalming.

You wrote: “Pitch appears not to have had widespread use, including for waterproofing, at the time and place (Egypt, New Kingdom era).”

Egyptologist Kate Fulcher of the British Museum, who actually works in a field having to do with these things, wrote, on the other hand, just 13 months ago in a peer-reviewed scientific journal: “Given that evidence for bitumen use in Egypt in the New Kingdom has previously been limited to a few individual samples from objects with poor provenance, this study provides proof for a much more extensive use than might have been suspected, with a secure archaeological context.” [my bolding and italics]

You still haven’t retracted your original statement: “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses”. This is what started this entire debate. Isn’t it funny how soon we forget what we ourselves stated not long ago? Once I refuted that, you retreated (minus retraction or concession) to “pitch wasn’t particularly available in Egypt, and there is no evidence it was used at all for caulking, during the supposed Moses time.” [my bolding and italics, to show the sneaky evolution]

You dispute the caulking of boats now, with more textual arguments. That’s fine. As they say, two archaeologists have three opinions about any given thing; so they disagree with each other. What else is new?

Then you make your usual sweeping claim, which is refuted by Fulcher, who has now produced compelling molecular evidence of several previously unknown uses in an Egyptian-occupied area (Nubia), during the general time of Moses (and refers to three other instances from his time that I had not mentioned before in my presentation of evidences).

You can be sure that if it comes down to the report of an expert in the field, vs. your opinion as a non-scientist (that you have essentially forced yourself to take, because of having to shore up your several past ridiculous, unfounded, and unduly dogmatic statements), I will go with the former, because she is 1) credentialed, and 2) doesn’t have the outside agenda that you do (to disprove any remote harmony between archaeology and the Bible as regards Moses in Egypt).

Hilarious. I’ll get to the main thrust tomorrow as it is bedtime now. However, I do like the accusation that I haven’t retracted something but, hang on, I’ve changed what I had said. Exactly, I’ve changed what I’ve said. That’s the point. That is exactly what I admitted above. Well done. (6-16-21)

Yes, you tried to act as if you had never made the dumb statement of a universal negative about pitch in Egypt, so you wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of your fan club. All I had to do to refute that from the beginning of this, was show any evidence at all of pitch in Egypt during Moses (which wasn’t hard to do). Then it became more technical, with you demanding proofs of caulking, etc.

But your original point that I responded to has been decisively refuted. An open-minded thinker would have conceded or retracted and admitted that he was wrong in his initial comment (which would also entail changing several of your articles to reflect that). And you have done none of those things. Instead, you upped your rhetoric and accusations against me as “disingenuous”, anti-science, etc.

The increased insults you throw out are yet more proof of your overall shaky case.

Sorry, just to confirm that I am the one insulting you? Really? Do you want me to list all of the insulting things you have said to me across all of your pieces? (6-17-21)

Yes, really, and sure, go ahead. To my knowledge, I haven’t insulted you as “disingenuous” or “dishonest” or questioned whether you love science. I haven’t attacked you personally, as you have increasingly done to me. Now, of course, I may have slipped here and there, as we all do. If you show you where I have done so, I will apologize here (publicly), retract, and remove it. Would you do the same? Well, we’ll see. I challenge you.

Otherwise, it’s all about the strength of arguments, which is fair game.

Dude, all my articles are there for you to see. And I have not redacted any of them. You know, like you did. I stand by my original statement: pitch was an anachronism. That was the strength of my statement. We have now looked at a whole bunch of extra data you have provided and I have changed my probabilities on that by a small amount, all of which I said in my articles. I am not being dishonest in any way. Can you say the same? (6-17-21)

Yes. Dishonesty (including intellectual dishonesty) is a form of lying. That’s one of the Ten Commandments, and Jesus said that the devil is the father of lies. It’s not a trait viewed very favorably by Christians (or any other major ethical system in the history of the world).

Modifying a paper (which could be for any number of legitimate reasons) is not necessarily “dishonest.” There is a dishonest form of it, but it doesn’t follow that any change is of that nature. I openly explained why I removed the Sargon stuff.

ADDENDUM 4

Pearce put up yet another paper on the topic (dated 6-17-21), which he claimed will be the last one.

My reply:

There’s a lot I could say in response to this, but there is no reason to waste further time on this. You still completely misinterpret what I was saying about mummification, even though I explained that. But now that you have reiterated several times that you don’t even read my papers (in one case you said you stopped right in the middle, even before I presented new archaeological evidence that I had found), I can see why you repeat things that are absurd: arguments that never crossed my mind. That’s what people do when they don’t read the replies of their opponent in a debate.

You throw in my face a portion of the latest article I cited: “Given that evidence for bitumen use in Egypt in the New Kingdom has previously been limited to a few individual samples from objects with poor provenance…” You then use that to “prove” that I refuted myself.

It never occurs to you that if I were special pleading and not properly exercising a scientific attitude, that I never would have included that in my citation (which was just a small portion of the article). But because I have a scientific attitude and am honest and open about research being done, I included it. It’s her opinion. But so also is what she concluded immediately after saying this: “this study provides proof for a much more extensive use than might have been suspected, with a secure archaeological context.” This shows her own open-mindedness. She acknowledges that the evidence was rather weak overall, but that now she has produced “proof” for “much more extensive use.”

So once again, your original statement was roundly refuted, because it was more evidence for bitumen use in Egypt and areas it dominated (Nubia) during the time of Moses: precisely what I had to prove, according to my original interest in your false sweeping statement. I never set out to prove, or claim that one could find an actual reed basket covered in pitch. I was merely disproving your false sweeping statement (which if true would expressly contradict the biblical account), just as I did regarding camels and many other alleged anachronisms. What I replied to in the first place with all this “pitch” business was eleven words in one of your papers: “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses”.

Note that you were not saying that it wasn’t used for caulking, or for reed baskets, etc. Your “argument” was much more sweeping than that (and thus much harder to prove from archaeology): it was not available, period. End of story. No subtleties, no academic / scholarly nuances, no exceptions. And this was one of the many reasons given in that article for thinking that the Exodus story was absolutely “ridiculous.”

And this tidbit (like many along the same lines) you got from an archaeologist who wrote a chapter in one of John Loftus’ books. She should know way better than that, by simply surveying the literature on the topic (as I have now done). But she apparently didn’t do that (the first major counter-article I produced was written in 1992). You and I are not archaeologists, but she is, and thus has no excuse for saying such a false statement in the sweeping way that she did. I don’t say it was dishonesty, but at best it was incompetence and letting her atheist bias overcome her professional expertise.

I have since produced many instances of bitumen use in Egypt, that you yourself tacitly recognize; you simply say it’s a weak argument because isn’t about caulking / waterproofing or reed baskets, etc. But you don’t deny that there was any use or presence at all, when you get down to analyzing particulars. And (I can’t emphasize enough) that was all I set out to prove from the outset: that it did exist in Egypt during the time of Moses. That’s all! I got into more particulars as time went on because you kept demanding it, so I kept looking.

This is how you were self-contradictory all along: acting as if you had never made the statement you did. And I called you on it. I don’t say it is intellectual dishonesty, but I would speculate that it was embarrassment that you were shown to be so wrong from archaeology, and a failure to retract that.

Again (repetition is a great teacher, and you still don’t seem to grasp this), my task, when all was said and done, was simply to prove that pitch / bitumen was available in Egypt at the time of Moses (what it is used for is a different question, and not what I was setting out to prove at first). You have in effect admitted that several times, though now you want to say that you still believe it was an “anachronism.” That makes no sense, but neither does much of your reasoning in this debate, so I can’t figure out this odd Orwellian “logic” you apply, where a thing can both exist in a certain place and time and not do so.

To end on a positive note: glad to hear that you “enjoyed doing this.” So did I (notwithstanding all the frustrations), because I always enjoy a challenge and a debate. So we have that in common, if nothing else. Maybe we both like pizza and beautiful sunsets, too.

ADDENDUM 5

More evidence for bitumen use in Egypt (and for caulking reed baskets) during the time of Moses might possibly be found in the shaduf: “an early crane-like tool with a lever mechanism, used in irrigation” (Wikipedia). This very useful machine was “invented in Mesopotamia and Egypt around 2000 BC” (The Technology of Mesopotamia, by Graham Faiella, Rosen Publishing Group, 2006,  p. 27). That’s about 630 years before Moses.

The article, “Evolution of Water Lifting Devices (Pumps) over the Centuries Worldwide” by S. I Yannopoulos et al in the journal Water (9-17-15) stated that the shaduf  “appeared in Upper Egypt sometime after 2000 BC, during the 18th Dynasty (ca. 1570 BC).” That’s 200 years before the birth of Moses. And: “Danus of Alexandria in 1485 BC dug the wells of Argus on the coast of Peloponessus and installed the Egyptian chain-o-pots as pumps, in place of the ‘atmospheric’ or ‘force’ pump.” That’s about 115 years before the birth of Moses.

The Wikipedia article adds (importantly for our discussion):

The sweep is easy to construct and is highly efficient in use It consists of an upright frame on which is suspended a long pole or branch, at a distance of about one-fifth of its length from one end. At the long end of this pole hangs a bucket, skin bag, or bitumen-coated reed basket.

The sources it lists don’t appear to mention bitumen, however, or reed baskets covered with them, in Egypt during Moses’ time; so it will require more digging to verify that practice. I could find nothing, after quite a bit of searching. Many sites mention it, but they are not from scientists or professional historians, and that’s not good enough to nail down the point.

***

Photo credit: Moses with the Tablets of the Law, by Guido Reni (1575-1642) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

Summary: Atheist Jonathan M. S. Pearce insists on the non-availability of pitch (bitumen) in Moses’ Egypt. I offer massive archaeological documentation that supports the notion of wide availability.




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