A Refutation of David Marshall's Book Rebuttal of My OTF, Part 3

This should be my final post refuting Dr. David Marshall's “rebuttal” to my book The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF). Marshall's book, How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story,is really bad. In fact, it's so bad I'm using the word "refutation" for what I'm doing in these posts. If I'm largely successful then it also says something about Dr. Randal Rauser, that he will say and endorse anything in order to defend his Christian faith. No educated intellectual worthy the name would have written Marshall's book. No educated intellectual should think it's worthy of any kind of a blurb either.

I must admit I like Marshall. He's probably the Christian counter-part to me. He's highly educated, knowledgeable about a wide range of issues, pretty damn smart, very passionate, and kinda funny, like me. He's written and edited a number of books and maintains a blog, like me. If you search the web you'll find him almost everywhere there's a serious debate between Christianity and atheism, sort of like me. He reviews books on Amazon and comments there, like me. He's polite until he meets up with what he considers sheer ignorance or is personally maligned, like me. He's indefatigable, like me. I gotta love a guy like that! By contrast I don't like Randal Rauser. He has been eating sour grapes ever since it dawned on him that I trashed him in our co-written book, "God or Godless?" Since that time he's exhibited an uncharitable mean-spirited attitude toward me. Sore losers are like that. *Sheesh* Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Get over it. [He will almost certainly deny this].

Now Marshall is very happy at the reviews that have come in on his book. He's been likened to GK Chesterton and CS Lewis, who represent the best of the best Christian apologists of the last century. Whether this is true of him or not (surely not), I don't think much of Chesterton or Lewis. For my part I've been likened to David Friedrich Strauss, David Hume, Thomas Paine, and I've been called the Babe Ruth and Tiger Woods of atheism! I kid you not! I'll bet Marshall can't beat THAT! Oh, well, what do reviewers know anyway? ;-) So you'd expect some kickback when arguing Marshall's book is "little ado about something." It's his baby. Of course, he's writing about my baby. We're like two fathers protecting our babies from attack. But what isn't the case is that my dislike for Rauser plays an important motivational role in my rebuttal of Marshall's book, as he has claimed. I would've said the same things anyway. For proof, just listen to part 2 of our pre-recorded discussion/debate on Justin Brierley's Unbelievable? podcast this coming Saturday. Note well the very last thing I said.

Directly below is page 29 of Marshall's book, which attempts to reformulate the OTF in four different ways. Keep in mind the OTF is a test for faith in order to determine which religion is true, if there is one. In other words, the goal of the OTF is to help us determine the truth about religion. Marshall thinks he has created four better formulations of that single simple non-double standard test of faith. Look closely at the highlighted words. I ask any fair-minded person (which Randal Rauser is not one of them) to tell me how this "reformulation" offers us any help at all in knowing which religion is true, if there is one.

Keep in mind Marshall says he accepts the core of the OTF. Also keep in mind he has not offered any legitimate criticism of the OTF, per earlier posts of mine.

In every single thesis of his, wait for it, agreement and disagreement do all the heavy lifting, all of it. But that is of little or no help to us at all. If we were to test any pre-scientific belief accepted by a great deal of people it would pass his reformulated theses too, which, come to think of it, is the basis for Marshall's faith. I've already shown there is no significant agreement among religionists on even the four minimal beliefs Marshall and Chesterton say they have (Remember?: God, gods, philosophy and demons). So what reasonable basis is there for Marshall to say we should continue to look for consensus when no consensus about these fundamental beliefs have been produced in thousands and thousands of years? Majorities simply don't exist among religionists because faith is the problem. Marshall said, “If widespread disagreement renders a religious tenet less credible, then agreement must render it more credible. One cannot make the argument, without implicitly admitting the other as well.” (p. 18-19) Agreement means something, I'll admit, but not much depending on the issue and how it's to be resolved. People who all agree with each other but denigrate or deny observable data aren't being reasonable at all. The OTF leads us to a reasonable skepticism that demands sufficient evidence before accepting a claim about the nature of nature as true. People who reject the need for sufficient evidence when it comes to the nature of nature, don't get any traction at all with me. Reasonable skepticism becomes the default adult attitude, the one the OTF forces upon us all.

Modern observational science is the new boy on the block and it has settled many questions, too many to mention. So we should wait on it to settle future questions as well. Marshall is still denying what science can do here, since he never mentioned science in his four theses. I find that amazingly ignorant. The one thing that can help in our quest for truth Marshall never suggests that we use it.

The bottom line here, is that given Marshall's four theses there would never have been a time in the past when atheism would be embraced based on cultural agreement or consensus. So Marshall's four theses exclude atheism as an option. Since any real test should allow for all options to be on the table, Marshall is offering a very bad way to find out which religion is true, if there is one. He's stacking the deck just as surely as any thieving dealer of blackjack would. Additionally, I think atheism is the wave of the future, as it marches extremely slow but inexorably over time and place. So let's say in the year 2100 the earth in almost completely inhabited by atheists. The question then becomes what a future David Marshall living in that era would think of the David Marshall of our era, who argued in his book for these four theses based totally on the consensus of majorities of people. My bet is that a future Marshall would sing a different tune and reject all four theses of our own Marshall, just as he would reject them if Islam was the religion of the planet in 2100. So what we have here folks, is an attempt at special pleading. Use an argument that is clearly faulty in favor of your own religious faith which you would never accept if circumstances were different. Typical Christian. No wonder Randal Rauser thinks highly of Marshall's book, right? It says what he wants it to say regardless of the fact that it is plainly false and ignorant at its core. The only redemption for Rauser the philosopher is for him to apologize like the Fonz refused to do, publicly reject Marshall's book, or defend it from my criticisms. He could just keep quite about it in hopes no one notices, which would again be the typical Christian thing to do.

Agreement means something I suppose, but the consensus among those who accept, rather than deny, the results of objective evidence and sound reasoning based on that evidence are the only things that count when it comes to the nature of nature, and which religion is true, if there is one. Science and reason are the necessary tools we need for getting at the truth, which are the hallmarks of atheism. They are used by the wisest men and women of the past, the present and the future.

By contrast, scientific thinking is the basis for the OTF, as I wrote in my book:
(1) It assumes one’s own religious faith has the burden of proof; (2) it adopts the methodological-naturalist viewpoint by which one assumes there is a natural explanation for the origins of a given religion, its holy books, and it’s extraordinary claims of miracles; (3) it demands sufficient evidence before concluding a religion is true; and most importantly, (4) it disallows any faith in the religion under investigation, since the informed skeptic cannot leap over the lack of evidence by punting to faith. (OTF, p. 21)

Now take a look at page 11 of Marshall's book, which provides the structure of the rest of Marshall's chapters. These four tests of his correspond to the four theses I just discussed.

If first century people had actually accepted these four tests of Marshall's, Christianity would have been rejected outright by the people in that era, since Christianity was still in its infancy and had no track record yet. [For anyone who thinks that was an impediment to Christianity leading us to think there really must have been solid evidence to believe against the tide of opinion, then I recommend Richard Carrier's book, Not the Impossible Faith.]I see no reason at all therefore, to accept tests like Marshall's when they cannot even in principle apply to all religions, especially new ones who don't have any track record at all, and much less to non-belief in its earliest stages. None. So until he can show how these four tests can apply to first century Christianities along with any new religion, or the rise of non-belief itself, there is no reason to accept them at all. Q.E.D.

But let's look at them anyway.

When it comes to the first test several mutually exclusive religions pass it. Buddhism (an atheist faith), Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, and even Hinduism pass this test, as even Marshall acknowledges. Here then is a good solid reason to reject Marshall's first test. Any test for truth which allows mutually exclusive religions to pass it cannot be a good test for truth. These religions cannot all be true. Therefore this test is faulty to the core. Q.E.D. (I like using these initials).

What Marshall means by the second test may stun my readers. He's not using the so-called prophecies about a virgin born incarnated son of God, who resided in Nazareth, and the Messianic Suffering Servant's death on the cross (there was no prediction about a resurrection). No. siree, bob. What Marshall is referring to are the prophecies about the reach of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Pffft, seriously? Any budding religious movement that has an agenda or a passion to convert others would predict that their movement would grow and grow and be a worldwide phenomenon. All of them. But until these religious groups predict when their movement will reach such and such a place, and it's global reach for a particular time period, along with the circumstances of that growth it's merely wishful thinking and propaganda used to gain more followers, nothing more. And what constitutes growth anyway? Isn't the Muslim faith currently worldwide, and many others, given the global communications network? Maybe we should wait on these other religious movements, give them time, before we settle on the winner of these types of prophecies? A test that offers nothing conclusive while we wait on history is not a good test to know which religion is true, if there is one. We want to know now. Q.E.D

The third test is a religion's impact. Marshall argues Christianity has bettered the lives of people around the world. Again, Pffft (I like using this as well). I have already dispensed with such ignorant and uneducated reasoning in my anthology Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails.And Marshall still disagrees but does so ignorantly, go figure. Marshall focuses on Yahweh's promise to Abraham, that his seeds (the original Hebrew word is plural, which Paul the apostle fails to get right in Galatians 3:8, and 3:16) would bless all nations. But Jews and Muslims trace their ancestry to Abraham too, and they would certainly claim they are blessing the world and will eventually dominate it too. Listen up people, even if a religion has been good for people this doesn't tell us whether that religion is true in part, or especially in whole. Someone recently argued against evolution by saying that if evolution is true there would be no basis for morals. I simply responded by asking what morality or the lack of it has to do with the evidence for evolution? The answer is nothing. So this third test of Marshall's doesn't help us know which religion is true, if there is one. Q.E.D

The fourth test is whether a religion can infuse itself into a different culture and how it transforms that culture with its message. Rather than bother with this any longer I want to refer my readers to David Eller's chapters in my anthologies, who is an anthropology professor and expert in these matters. If you want a definitive answer to this so-called "test" then read Eller. The bottom line is that every religion can infuse itself into a different culture. Every major religion has already done so, and by its own standards would say it brought peace and a good life to the people who live there. Or does Marshall not know that many people in different cultures think the capitalistic scientific materialistic militaristic western world is ugly. CS Lewis, you know, was the one who argued Christianity is a materialistic religion. Many other religions would reject Marshall's religion and say their culture is better for it. Even the Amish people would claim their religion brings a better world than other Christianities. What results when a religion and a different culture come into contact is a different culture AND a different religion. I would think, if anything, that any religion that comes into contact with a different culture and remains the same exact religion would have more going for it, but we never see that of any religion, do we? The Christianities that exist in Russia, China, Europe, America and Africa are simply NOT the same kinds of Christianity. Marshall knows this but ignores its implications when in defense lawyer mode. Q.E.D

Having now completed my refutation of Marshall's self-published book and concluded it is bad, really bad, I freely confess that to believers who are looking to confirm their faith it is a treasure trove of facts and stories. It gives the appearance of defending the truth of whatever brand of Christianity the Christian reader has before opening it.

The problem is that Marshall offers nothing in rebuttal to the OTF. He provides nothing as an alternative to the OTF. And his four tests offered in defense of his particular brand of Christianity are extremely lame, a case in special pleading pure and simple. The book as a whole is almost completely irrelevant to the truth of Christianity and religion itself. Anyone who doesn't see this is blind as a bat. Q.E.D.


I think believers are blinded by their faith. It's quite the amazing thing for us to behold, but maddening at the same time. They need new eyes. They are indoctrinated brainwashed people, paranoid people akin to conspiracy theorists. Every fact is forced to fit with their delusion. The facts that cannot be forced to fit in the Procrustean Bed of their making are cut off at the knees.

Christians will typically assert in reply that I am the brainwashed one, the blind one, the paranoid one, and so forth. So here is a test case. The question is why David Marshall, Randal Rauser and the other PhD.'s did not see the things I saw in Marshall's book, things which are clearly seen for people interested in the truth. Why? Who are the blind ones again? Not me, that's for sure. I may still be wrong but at least I can see this book for what it is, "Little Ado about Something."