Faith-Based Puzzle Solving Vs Examining Evidence Objectively

I have to admit it, of all the Christian visitors here at DC, Don Camp has been one of the best. He's polite and has more knowledge than most others who have commented here. And he's indefatigable. I had to limit him to ten comments a day lest he hijack my blog, for no other reason than that I cannot engage him as often as he requires. Did I say he's indefatigable? I challenged him to read my magnum opus, and he's doing just that, skipping some chapters and reading others thoroughly. He's also patiently taking the time to write responses to what I wrote on his blog.

I cannot shake him folks. Yet he's just as delusional as others who are not as knowledgeable or indefatigable or polite. One might ask why I'm highlighting him here, since it grants him more credibility that he deserves. So let me tell you why. I don't know. ;-) Maybe it's because he's likeable. Maybe it's because he can help make my case stronger, especially by articulating it better. Maybe it's because he might be reachable. Maybe it's because atheists who comment here might help him see the truth. Maybe he can be used as a test case in how apologists special plead their case when defending the indefensible. How about ALL OF THE ABOVE!

Camp recently wrote two posts on Moses and the Exodus that are instructive. Here is my best response. It probably won't work, but here goes anyway.

1) Did Moses Write Genesis?

2) The New Biblical Scholars and the Problem of the Exodus.

Go ahead and read them both. Judge for yourselves what he's doing.

In the first post there is a clue as to what he's doing in both of them. After saying something he wrote:

"I think that is the best solution to the puzzle."

I highlighted this tendency among apologists in part 2 of my book How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist. Every Christian apologist does this without fail. Without this apologetic strategy, repeated far too many times to count--even when it isn't openly acknowledged--apologists wouldn't exist. For all apologetics is puzzle-solving.

What's wrong with that, you ask? Don't we all seek to solve in pursuit of the truth? Why yes, indeed we do. So what's the problem then? It's the precise NATURE of the puzzles to be solved, the NUMBER of puzzles to be solved, whether they keep GROWING IN NUMBER, and whether those puzzles are actually solved to the satisfaction of others such that they never arise again, having been FINALLY SOLVED. After all, if they're solved we should never see those puzzles rear their ugly head again.

In the first post Camp repeatedly has to explain away the evidence. That's the precise NATURE of the puzzles he's attempting to solve. He doesn't even know that's what he's doing. He's blinded by his faith. He's not thinking objectively, by looking squarely at the evidence. By doing what he's doing he's not seeking the truth. He's simply going through the motions, playing the game of theological charades as if doing so is solving anything. He's only interested in defending what he already believes. You see, for him the Bible is God-inspired in some sense, and he seeks to defend it no mater what the intellectual cost.

Contrast this attitude of Camp's with Jon D. Levenson, Professor at Harvard Divinity School in the Department of Near Eastern Studies and Civilizations. He offered a great definition of what good biblical scholars do when he wrote they “are prepared to interpret the text against their own preferences and traditions, in the interest of intellectual honesty.” [See page 3 of his book The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son]. In other words, good biblical scholars seek to treat the texts as outsiders would, outside their own preferences and traditions. Not Camp, nor any other apologists I know do this. Instead, they seek to defend what their own preferences and traditions have led them to believe, and then defend it at all costs.

The upshot of the evidence Camp is seeking to deny is that since there are so many times where OT scribes tampered with the texts it's reasonable to doubt whether anything can be traced back to a Moses at all. But Camp entirely misses this point. It's a counter-hypothesis he doesn't appear to see. Such an objective viewpoint is not something an apologist can entertain for a second. So an apologist is not interested in the truth to that same degree. I for one, am not interested in listening to someone who is not interested in the truth, who merely seeks to solve puzzles in favor of his faith that he inherited before entering High School, a faith that has continually blinded his later research through his advanced years, much like a Mormon scholar or Muslim scholar, or an Orthodox Jewish scholar.

Next, let's look at the NUMBER of puzzles that Camp must solve. In everything Camp has written he's always attempting to solve puzzles. In almost every sentence he's trying to solve one of them. His whole apologetics is nothing more than puzzle solving. That's because puzzles abound at every juncture in defense of his faith. He ought to see this but his inherited indoctrinated faith blinds him from seeing it. Here's what he should see. If at every juncture there is a puzzle to be solved, then he should objectively ask why his god set upon him the task of defending something so full of gaps and holes which require puzzle solving to remove doubt? Why was his god so inept that he didn't correctly create the universe such that scientists don't think god had anything to do with it? Science consequently destroyed any idea the Genesis creation accounts had anything to say about the universe, and subsequently led people to question other parts of the Bible until many theologians themselves don't see the Bible as inspired in any real applicable sense. Why was Camp's god so inept in inspiring the Bible which led 8 million Christians to kill themselves during the religious wars of the 16th-17th centuries, over what most Christians now think are trivialities? I highlighted this particular puzzle to be solved in a chapter for The Christ8ian Delusion, which also deals with all known attempted "solution" to it.

I recently quoted GearHeded when he said:
Apologetics is damage control applied to an incoherent myth, designed to try and explain difficulties away. It's like trying to compress a balloon between your hands. Every time you think you've squeezed it down, it pops out in another direction, and you can't cover all the bases simultaneously.
That quote highlights the problem with apologetics. It's all special pleading from within one's inherited indoctrinated faith. It never takes a good hard look at the whole case needed to defend the Christian faith. It breaks it into bite-sized pieces, blindly obvious to the number of puzzles that one's inherited indoctrinated faith must solve.

Next, if anything is as clear as day, it's as clear as can be that the numbers of puzzles needing solved have grown and grown with the rise of the Enlightenment and modern science in Galileo's day to Richard Dawkins's day, from Spinoza to Hume to Strauss to Paine to Ingersoll, and too many others. In fact, every discipline of learning has been pummeling faith based puzzle solving for a long long time. This trend doesn't look like it's going to abate anytime in the foreseeable future, leaving reasonable scientifically-minded people living in our present era no hope of salvation from hell as we follow good sound reasoning, based on objective evidence, until some future time when god might reverse this trend where faith might once again be reasonable. ;-)

Now let's end by asking the reason why the many proposed solutions to these puzzles are not accepted by others. You would think that, like when it comes to the consensus of scientists, theologians should come to an agreement on the solutions IF NOTHING ELSE! But THEY cannot even agree! That's why there are theologies stretching from radical to ultra-conservative and many places in-between. What best accounts for the fact that these puzzles are never FINALLY SOLVED to the satisfaction of other believers, other theists, other Christians? Why is it only sect-specific believers accept the proposed solutions of their own sect-specific theologians/apologists, and reject the others? This is evidence, all by itself, that these so-called "solved" puzzles are never finally solved.

What Camp fails to see in his two posts is the objective evidence. That's my point. He's arguing along his inherited indoctrinated faith. He cannot see he's doing nothing more than special pleading his solutions to the ever increasing discovered puzzles. So he fails to see the real puzzle he needs to solve is much larger than his two posts allow. It isn't whether Moses wrote what the texts claim he did. No. The number of puzzles inherent in the story of Moses and the Exodus lead us to reasonably consider if there was ever a Moses, if there was ever an Exodus. What I'm doing here is adequately described by GearHedEd, "It's like trying to compress a balloon between your hands. Every time you think you've squeezed it down, it pops out in another direction, and you can't cover all the bases simultaneously." There's so much information Camp needs to objectively consider. He has never done this yet, partly because his faith blinds him, but also because there is so much of it for him to reconsider, having only considered it from the perspective of his childhood indoctrinated faith.

Maybe he can do it though. This is the best research I can toss his way on Moses and the Exodus. Maybe others can do it, if he can't. Here's wishing upon everyone the truth.

While I may not be responding much in the comments, I ask my readers to hold Don Camp to task. There isn't much he can say that isn't already covered here at DC, or in our books. I can already anticipate some of the things he might say. 'Tis enough for me now.