Paul Manata, the Resurrection, History and Logic

Paul Manata sees a problem with the way I argue against the resurrection of Jesus. In the first place I argued that, "A foreknowing and omniscient God should've easily known that history is a poor medium to reveal himself in, especially if he did so in an ancient superstitious era. If he did so, he's not too bright, for there is every reason for us to disbelieve today."

Manata: “Notice that John can't be touched by any historical argument for Christianity. Heads John wins, tails God looses. If God is all knowing he wouldn't reveal himself in history, especially ancient history, when all the morons lived. And, if we could show that God did reveal himself, then God is stupid, and hence not omniscient, and therefore not the God of Christianity.”

Loftus: My point about history is that I should not have to believe anything the ancients believed just because they believed it. I think the same goes for the beliefs of any era. Just because people believe something does not give me a good reason to believe the same thing. I must be able to test what I believe based upon good evidence and sound reasoning.

On the one hand, there is the historical evidence concerning the resurrection of Jesus from the grave, along with the other beliefs the resurrection commits many Christians to, i.e., a Trinitarian God, and the Incarnation. On the other hand, it seems logically incoherent that one God eternally created two others Gods, and it seems logically incoherent that one person can be 100% God and 100% man, as I previously argued.

So we have the historical evidence on one side, and logic on the other side. Which do I choose? I choose logic. This is obvious. Anyone who has done any introductory level studies in the philosophy of history will know the problems in understanding the non-miraculous events of the past. There are philosophers who claim we cannot know what happened in the past at all! That’s what they think about ordinary, non-miraculous history. So how much more does this apply to the claims of a miraculous past?

What I argue for is that logic is of a much greater value than historical evidence when it comes to testing the foundational miracle and doctrinal claims of Christianity. The role of logic is to test these resultant doctrinal claims for consistency. That’s what logic is supposed to do, test beliefs for their internal consistency, so there shouldn’t be any objection with my doing so.

I’m not saying history doesn’t provide evidence one way or the other about the resurrection of Jesus. I actually think the historical evidence for the resurrection is just not there, even if we exclude the logical problems. I think historical evidence is important, and I think I can know what happened in the past, in varying degrees of assurance, but never with certainty. However, given the fact that the evidence of history won’t convince the believer to think otherwise, I use logic to debunk what historical evidence doesn’t do.

So it’s incorrect for Manata to say, “John can't be touched by any historical argument for Christianity.” It is likewise incorrect for him to say, “Loftus is willing to listen, not to history, but to logic.” For the truth is, I “listen” to both. They are both important for assessing the truth claims of Christianity. It’s just that when believers don’t agree with where the historical evidence leads, I turn to logic. And it’s true that logic can deliver a much bigger punch here. For if the historical evidence is debatable when logic can show that the resultant doctrinal beliefs are incoherent, then taken together with how I argue for the historical evidence, it renders faith in the resurrection null and void.

Manata again: "But, in a stroke of genius, Loftus has an ace up his sleeve!"

Loftus: Thanks Paul, for noticing! *Blush* Thank you, thank you very much! ;-)

Manata: “Says Loftus, ‘I am finding that logic doesn't help us much at all in the quest for metaphysical truths.’” To read what I wrote in context see here.

Manata: “So, to avoid any historical argument, Loftus consigns it all (well, all of it that the ancient stupid people said) to the flames. But…he'll accept logical arguments for these metaphysical truths. But, and this is the great part...if ever confronted by a logical argument he can dismiss that as well since it 'doesn't help us much at all in the quest for metaphysical truths.' Hence, we can't touch Loftus."

Loftus: Since Manata quotes this phrase from me so often I should explain.

The next time he quotes this I’d also like him to quote what I said later in that same blog entry where I wrote, “My particular attack on religious faith is to consider how we gained our presuppositions in the first place.” Logic is used in the service of presuppositions, and Paul knows this. That’s why he’s a presuppositionalist. According to Robert McKim, “We seem to have a remarkable capacity to find arguments that support positions which we antecedently hold. Reason is, to a great extent, the slave of prior commitments.” Religious Ambiguity and Religious Diversity (Oxford University Press, 2001), p. ix. [To read more of the limits of logic and reason see here].

Logic does not give us our beliefs. Logic merely helps us to see the consistency of that which we believe. And it allows us to conclude still other beliefs based upon some initial beliefs (i.e., it helps us see the implications of that which we initially believe, or assume). This is all true. It's not that logic cannot help at all; it's that it doesn't help us that much when it comes to acquiring our beliefs in the first place. This is one difference that makes all of the difference.

If logic is helpful in acquiring the true religious and metaphysical beliefs, then why is it that we all disagree with each other? I don't think people who disagree with me have a lower I.Q. at all. And if logic helps us settle our disagreements, then why is Paul still a believer in the resurrection of Jesus? I’ve argued that his doctrinal beliefs in the trinity and in the incarnation are logically incoherent. So why does he continue to believe?

Besides, my main point is that we never find logic in the abstract. None of us are logic machines. Our passional nature gets in the way. We hold to mutually inconsistent propositions and don't realize it, or won't admit it. So we cannot claim that logic will help us concerning world-view beliefs, when logic never exists in the abstract “Spockian” sense. Logic is overwhelmingly used to defend prior religious commitments based upon when and where someone was born. Such an admission first led me to agnosticism, and then later to atheism. This is the same reason I've proposed the Outsider Test for faith [Someone gave me my own entry on this]!

Manata faults me with inconsistency when I say I would go with logic every time, even though I turn right around and argue we never find logic in the abstract.

I will go with what logic tells me, and that's all I can do. Anyway, I challenge him and other Christians to solve for me the problem of the incarnation, and how a being can truly eternally create an equal being if they want to continue to believe. While there is no such thing as logic in the abstract, which means we will still disagree, I don't believe Christians can sufficiently solve these problems even if logic doesn't exist in the abstract. Christians will just have to punt to mystery and to faith, and they will. But that's different than solving these two problems, correct?