Showing posts with label Christian Apologetics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian Apologetics. Show all posts

Ian Mills: "Don't Read Apologetics!"

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This "New Testament Review" podcast is fantastic! Listen in as two Christian PhD candidates at Duke University, Ian Mills and Laura Robinson, discuss Lee Strobel's book, "The Case for Christ." While they treat the general outline of the gospels as historical to some degree, they destroy the argument that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. At least listen up to the 21:30 minute mark! Then keep listening to the end to hear them rip into apologetics itself! The whole discussion is good!

Ian says Strobel's book isn't just bad. He says, "This book will make you dumber. No matter how much you already know...you will almost certainly know less by the time you finish this book. It is profoundly deceptive..." (25:45).

It's not just Robert M. Price saying it in his book, The Case against the Case for Christ, or me in my anthology The Case against Miracles--the book apologist Tim McGrew should read before he says anything more about miracles!

The podcasters call Strobel's book dishonest and deceptive from the get-go. It's a textbook case of deceptive apologetics. If this is so, why accept apologetics at all? Ian says it plainly, "Don't read apologetics!" That is, not if your primary goal is to understand the gospels.

Is Timothy McGrew An Expert When it Comes to Miracles?

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Christian apologist Tom Gilson said: "Timothy McGrew is an international expert on epistemology and miracles. If Loftus has come up with a better defense than Tim has already encountered, that would be a miracle all its own."

John Loftus: If Timothy McGrew is considered an international expert on miracles and concluded a virgin named Mary gave birth to the second person of the Trinity, then he's not really an expert. He's certainly not a historian using the standards of the historical method, which is the kind of expert we should turn to for miracle claims in the past, not philosophers. Let's see him respond to this link to show that he's an expert. Can he respond or not? If not, then what atheist Michael Levine says is dead on.

Despite the condescending attitude of Jonathan McLatchie and the McGrews, I think they stand to learn from me. If you know anything about me you know I'm well-read. So I'm telling you there are plenty of critical things said in my book on miracles that I don't think they have considered before. See one of them below.

Recent Trends in Christian Apologetics, Part 1

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As the author of a book that offered good advice to Christian apologists, How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist, I should keep up with how they're doing. Given that Evangelicals concede they are losing in the marketplace of ideas, and that they partially blame this on the rise of the internet, no wonder apologetics is in demand. Everyone is doing it, or so it appears. This is a sign, all by itself, that Christianity of the evangelical kind is dying. For apologetics is necessitated by the need, and the need is dire.

So what's recently been happening in the apologetics publishing world? Let's look at some books.

1) Apologists are making apologetics more accessible to readers.

We've seen the advent of apologetics study Bibles. The first one to be published was The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe, by Holman Bible Publishers, 2007. Sean McDowell put out one for younger people three years later, Apologetics Study Bible for Students, Holman Bible Publishers, 2010.

Apologetics Based On Coincidental "Miracles" Is Dead

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How many times have you heard a believer say God did a miracle, or answered a prayer, based on a very unlikely set of circumstances? All the time, right!! Christian apologists will even argue there are coincidental miracles in the Bible, called "timing" miracles, events that took place naturally at the right time. Not so fast! Become informed. Read the following books. See why they don't count as miracles, or answered prayers.

I've previously highly recommended the book The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day, by David J. Hand, who is an emeritus professor of mathematics, a senior research investigator at Imperial College London, and former president of the Royal Statistical Society. Book description is as follows:
In The Improbability Principle, the renowned statistician David J. Hand argues that extraordinarily rare events are anything but. In fact, they’re commonplace. Not only that, we should all expect to experience a miracle roughly once every month. But Hand is no believer in superstitions, prophecies, or the paranormal. His definition of “miracle” is thoroughly rational. No mystical or supernatural explanation is necessary to understand why someone is lucky enough to win the lottery twice, or is destined to be hit by lightning three times and still survive. All we need, Hand argues, is a firm grounding in a powerful set of laws: the laws of inevitability, of truly large numbers, of selection, of the probability lever, and of near enough.
Other important books by people who know say the same thing, such as: Knock on Wood: Luck, Chance, and the Meaning of Everything, by Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, who also wrote the book, Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities. Rosenthal is a professor of statistics at the University of Toronto, having received his PhD in mathematics from Harvard. Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence, by Joseph Mazur, who is an emeritus professor of mathematics at Marlboro College in Vermont. The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, by Leonard Mlodinow, who co-wrote with Stephen Hawking "The Grand Design", and had previously earned his PhD in theoretical physics from the University of California at Berkeley. What the Luck?: The Surprising Role of Chance in Our Everyday Lives, by Gary Smith, who is the Fletcher Jones Professor of Economics at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and It's Consequences, by John Allen Paulos who is a professor of mathematics at Temple University.

You see evidence of miracles and answered prayers in coincidences not because there's a god doing them, but because you look for them. They are not evidence of anything but your own subjective awareness placing a grid upon these events where you see your god acting on your behalf. They are also evidence that you are ignorant of math and statistics and the probabilities built on them. Q.E.D.

The Meta-Apologetic Problem of Sophistication

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Meta-apologetics is concerned with apologetical issues, especially with regard to which apologetics method is the best one for defending the Christian faith, if one exists at all. I'm introducing a previously ignored meta-apologetical problem for Christian apologists to answer, if they can answer it at all. It constitutes a serious problem aimed at the whole apologetical enterprise. Why does it take so much effort and sophisticated knowledge to defend the Christian faith?
The probability that the Bible is God's word is inversely proportional to the amount of work it takes Christian apologists to defend it from objections to the contrary (that is, the more work its defense requires, the less likely the Bible is God’s word), and it requires way too much work to suppose that it is.

Consider the sheer numbers of Christian apologists/scholars and books that have been published by the following author/editors: C.S. Lewis, Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, Richard Swinburne, Paul Copan, Alvin Plantinga, N.T. Wright, Chad Meister, J.P. Moreland, Gregory Boyd, Gary Habermas, Steven Cowan, Douglas Groothuis, Peter van Inwagen, Randal Rauser, Michael Murray, William Dembski, Richard J. Bauckham, Michael Brown, Dan Wallace, D.A. Carson, G.K. Beale, Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, Stephen Davis, Donald Guthrie, Ralph Martin, Richard Hess, Dinesh D’Souza, and Timothy Keller to name some of the more noteworthy ones. While some of these authors deal with the same issues most of their material is unique to them, for further defending their faith. If we add in their magazine and journal articles we already have a small library of works. If we were to get and read the references they quote from we have a whole library of works in defense of the Christian faith, a comprehensive case. That’s what a comprehensive apologetic requires. The important question left unaddressed by them, as always, is why a defense requires so many books? Why does Christianity need such a defense at all?

The fact that it takes so much work to defend Christianity is a strong indicator, all by itself, that the Christian God does not exist, or he doesn’t care if we believe.

"Follow the Money" Michael Alter and Matthew Ferguson On Apologetics

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On this blog and especially in my book How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist, I have defended several claims regarding Christian apologetics, such as: 1) Honest Evangelical Scholarship is a Ruse. There is No Such Thing!; and 2) All apologetics is special pleading (see my book). Then there's the money problem. Other writers here have mentioned the money, like Robert Conner, who wrote a piece called, EVANGELICAL BAD FAITH V: FOLLOW THE MONEY, and former DC team member Harry McCall, who lamented The Disappearing Atheist Who Holds a Degree in Religion due to the outrageous costs, and hence, financially forbidden to earn the degrees necessary to be taken seriously by our counter-parts.

Here's a recent link to an extremely helpful breakdown of the money problem, first written by Michael Alter, author of the fantastic book, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry, then commented on by Matthew Ferguson, a doctoral candidate in Classics at the University of California, Irvine: Follow the Money. They know the problem well. Michael Alter, because he must fund his own research, and Matthew Ferguson, because for an atheist scholar to be gainfully employed in his field (and be able to pay off his educational loans) isn't too promising, compared to others who are believers. This is good, really good. I especially like Ferguson's comment under the essay itself, from which I'll quote below:

Why Do So Many Christian Apologists Act Like Know-It-Alls?

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No humble people they! Ask them. They'll answer all your questions. They know-it-all about quantum mechanics, able to reject scientists (with a single bound) who have theories opposed to their god concept, while siding with those who support it. Doing this must mean they know as much as the scientists in these fields do! Unlike the wise Socrates who admitted he was not wise, they claim they're wise, thereby making themselves out as fools. Not the fools Paul the Apostle spoke of, who rejected the wisdom of the world, but the kind of fools Peter Boghossian wrote of, who pretend to know that which they don't know. They reject evolution, or the clear implications of evolution, which means they know as much as evolutionary scientists do, and/or theologians! They know as much as biblical scholars do, since they're able to take sides in their disputes (and tell us who wins but not why, except to mindlessly quote--mine from them). They can even read the ancient biblical languages and know which translations are best! They know as much as philosophers who debate god-concepts. They know as much as archaeologists, astronomers, historians, ethicists, cultural anthropologists, geologists, cosmologists, and so on, and so on, because they can tell which scholars are right in every discipline that touches on their faith. And guess what? Surprise! They always judge which of these scholars are correct based on their previously adopted faith with its sectarian interpretation of an ancient pre-scientific book, written mainly by anonymous people! This is either truly amazing or utterly ignorant! It's what you get by pretending to know that which you don't know, rather than practicing the virtue of authenticity. Defending the Christian faith requires special pleading. We already knew that. It's also an exercise lacking the virtue of authenticity, the antonyms of which are found online, with words like, counterfeit, fake, concocted, deceptive, delusory, disingenuous, inauthentic and misleading. "Liars for Jesus" seems to be a phrase that fits. [Hence the tag below].

Deceptive Apologetic Strategies

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The social sciences (which broadly speaking includes psychology) have shown us that people hold to unrecognized contradictory beliefs and that they can deceive themselves to accept their conscious beliefs despite the evidence. People have asked me from time to time if Christian apologists lie to defend their faith and I have repeatedly said that even though there are some Christians who do so, most Christian apologists are sincere believers. I still think that. But what's really going on is that these Christian defenders have become experts at deceiving themselves first. They are therefore deceiving others because they are deceiving themselves.

My task is to show them this is what they're doing. It's very hard to convince the deceived that they are deceiving themselves though. They don’t take too kindly to my doing so. They use several deceptive apologetics strategies and they use them all really well. The following apologetic strategies are used by defenders of the Christian faith to deceive. They are used to convince themselves against the evidence. They are used to convince others to embrace Christianity. Don't buy into their spiel.