Front-loading the Christian Argument

Front-loading the Christian Argument January 15, 2014

On the John Shore post that I just wrote about he links to a older post of his own.

In his latest post he suggests that Christianity is logical. In context, I think he means that if you accept the subjective religious experience that is itself outside of logic, then you can begin to apply the logic that proceed from that insight and arrive at his brand of Christianity. I point that out because his older post is titled The rational genius of Christianity, and that might seem like waving a red flag when you’re three inches from the bull.

I want to take a poke at this older post. While Shore is an ally, particularly in the area of gay rights, I see a lot of the same problems I fumblingly wrote about in my first post about Tony Jones, and I want to take another crack at them.

Shore is arguing that his brand of Christianity is logical, so we start with this:

If it’s true that God exists (and the chances are exactly even on that either way …

Even chances implies 50-50 odds. Flip a coin; heads means God exists.

We could debate whether this is a misuse of probability, but I have to ask: where does polytheism fit into this? My guess is that it doesn’t. Sorry Pagans, but your stance is so obviously wrong that we’re not going to lay odds on it.

This is the same sort of problem I had with Jones. In order to support his Christianity, Jones lumped “95%” of humanity into monotheism so that he could stand in solidarity with them. Jones later backed down to “the divine.” We can argue whether that works for Jones, but I don’t think it will work for Shore.

Shore’s logic requires a single, personal God, so he’s just going to ignore the staggering diversity of human thought about the divine. Any kind of polytheism or abstract theism would complicate arguments like these:

God’s love for us also prohibits his violating our free will …

Alright, so it’s not just that a single God exists, that God is also capable of feeling something for us that is analogous to human love. All the nattering of the philosophers about how God is so far beyond us as to be indescribable is thrown out: God loves.

And God loves us. Of course he does. If a God exists and if he can feel love, then of course He’d love us. We’re so lovable. We’re the Corgi puppies of the multiverse.

What follows is a rather arcane argument about guilt and free will, which I’ll leave to the philosophers. I just have to wonder why the sacrifice of Jesus is a better way of communicating that we’re absolved of our guilt than the preachings of the Jewish prophets that God is always willing to forgive and all the Rabbis said about teshuva.

I think that Shore’s argument is plausible. By that I mean, if you believe in a God, then it’s possible that God might be able to love as a human loves, and He might love us, and he might be concerned about our free will, and He might be active in the world, and so on and so on. And all that might lead to an outcome like Jesus’ sacrifice. But Shore is insisting that his argument is not just plausible but necessary:

If you start with the reality of God, then the story of Jesus Christ follows, as inevitably and naturally as can be.

What’s happening here is that Shore is front-loading a lot of Christian assumptions into his argument. He’s proven that if you accept ¾ of Christian theology, then the last quarter naturally flows from that. What’s worse is that I think he’s doing so unconsciously, which makes him look parochial. No religion other than Christianity is a live option for him, so he doesn’t even think to factor in any other religious beliefs into his equations.

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