Posted: Oct 21, 2013 10:48 pm
by willhud9
The purpose of this post was as THWOTH stated a chance for Byron and I to go back and pick up several points the other said in each of the sections and address those issues.

I have chosen to stick with one point each from the individual sections.

On the Existence of God

The Christian god is internally incoherent, inconsistent, and his means of communication is consistently found to be drowned by static and confusion. Everything we "know" of him is rooted in human assertion, which paints a veneer of reason on a rusting heap of received assertion, assertion that, when challenged, swiftly retreats to the authority fallacy. Rational terms are used to defend an irrational spirit-realm, which contradicts everything we have been able to observe of material reality, and overturns the observed norms of the universe at a whim.


This is an often claimed fact by many arguing against Christianity. God is just inconsistent throughout the Bible, God doesn't make any sense, his means of communication are not clear etc.

I want to take this time to clarify an issue I have always had with this line of argument.

First of all, notice that this is a rebuttal for God. God is irrational therefore God most likely doesn't exist. That is a non-sequiter. The conclusion does not follow the premise. Byron makes the argument that because he does not understand God in a rational, or consistent manner that his existence is cast into doubt and I have to ask why?

First of all, this does not point in a direction of a rebuttal of the rationality of his existence. God could be irrational and still rationally exist because of a variety of evidences which I presented in my first argument post.

Second of all, my opponent relies on pinning the blame on an authority fallacy. I have not argued God exists because the Bible says so. Sure the Bible gives good support for God, but there is extrabiblical evidence for God which I have poignantly given.

So what is my point exactly?

Well the Bible actually tells us that humans, as subjects in God's creation cannot fully understand God:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” ~Isaiah 55:8

Essentially meaning God will do and think of things that we cannot fully comprehend. In many ways, we may even find these ways to be irrational or inconsistent with what we have come to expect. But that by no means offers evidence against God's existence. It gives support to the idea that God cannot truly be rationally understood. But for the matter of the rationality of Christianity, it does not hinder the case at all.

Miracles

To which I reply: what's God got to prove? God in Christ is, according to Christian orthodoxy, omniscient and omnipotent, and intends to remake the world into paradise, where none suffer, and none want, and all shall be well. This is God's stated desire (as "revealed" by his self-appointed mouthpieces in the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the church). Miracles are a "sign" of a destination that God in Christ could bring about this instant. Moreover, by Christianity's own terms, God had no reason to create this imperfect reality to begin with: he doesn't learn anything from it (he's all-knowing); we don't need to learn anything from it (one day, God will reveal all); it is, literally, pointless. It is not rational for an all-powerful god to create a reality that is opposed to his desires and revealed will. The conclusion is at war with the premise.


My opponent in his rebuttal to my miracles post jumped through many of my holes in my argument and I will concede on many of those points that they are indeed weak, but the one hole Byron attempted to hurdle himself through was in this statement and I feel he missed the mark.

First of all, God doesn't have to prove anything. He performs/allows the miracles because he wants people to recognize Him. But He doesn't want faith through seeing, but faith through believing. Now you may say that is irrational, but is it really? I can see that my mother is giving me gifts and she is telling me she loves me. But I don't believe her. I believe she is trying to manipulate me. See that faith is weak. Oh sure I saw my mom's love, but I don't believe it. Likewise, the same is said about God and miracles.

Second of all, I felt Byron casually tossed aside my point about omniscience. Since Omniscience is nowhere found in Biblical literature, but is actually inferenced through certain passages, we do not have to assume a total omniscience for God.

My opponent would be correct in stating that God does desire a remake of the world into His new Kingdom. But where my opponent falls off is that he assumes God created this imperfect reality. If God chose to remain ignorant about whether Adam and Eve would disobey Him, it is very well that God chose to remain ignorant about such a thing. Since Adam and Eve are obviously allegory for the nature of man, man chose to disobey God's natural laws. Paul explains this in Romans.

As for what we learn from it: Lots actually. You see, as I mentioned in my last post I wrote, mankind is living in a state of total depravity according to Christian theology. The point of living on Earth, which God said was good, so I would hardly call it imperfect, is to prepare us in our depravation to understand the mercy and love of God. This reality is not opposed to His desires or will. Therefore I disagree with my opponent strongly on the matter.

Historicity of Jesus Christ

The resurrection stories conflict with Paul's account and with each other. The divergence between Paul and the gospel material is the greatest. Paul groups his resurrection experience with those of the other apostles, the same in kind.


Byron uses this, and the differences in the resurrection accounts as evidence for the fact that it is unlikely the resurrection occurred. But I don't think that is a fair assessment. For example, the resurrection stories do not conflict with Paul's account.

Paul states in Galatians 1:11-12 that it was through a revelation of Jesus Christ that he received the Gospel he was preaching. This reaffirms "Luke's" writings within Acts where Paul has the Damascus Road experience where Jesus reveals himself to Paul. This is not contradictory, nor was it seen as contradictory. Furthermore, let us look at the verse in Acts:

And as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" And the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.”

So we see that Paul did not physically see Jesus, and nowhere does he say he physically did. But Jesus did reveal himself to Paul. John 7:39 says that Jesus was not yet glorified. What does that mean? It means he was not yet given his new "form" (for lack of better term). The resurrected Jesus had open wounds that did not bleed, could appear and disappear at will, could still perform miracles, could disguise himself, and death has no power over him. Paul writes in Corinthians that this is the Spiritual body that is promised onto the Church through the death and resurrection of Christ.

So what does this mean for Paul's story? It means the light and voice Saul was experiencing was the glorified Jesus. Sure, Jesus was ascended, but that means nothing to the glorified Christ, and he could still reveal himself to Saul, whom he chose as an apostle. But does this mean that Paul did not experience the resurrection? Of course not. The only way a glorified Jesus could reveal Himself to Paul would be if he did rise from the dead. Therefore I think it is safe to say the Gospels are not contradicting themselves with Paul's accounts.

Reliability of Scripture.

Textual criticism is devastating to claims of biblical reliability. It's found that swathes of the Bible aren't written by their claimed authors: the Pentateuch isn't the work of Moses, but a compilation of sources; the gospels are anonymous and copy one another; half of Paul's letters are forged, as are the New Testament letters in the names of Simon Peter and John.


This particular part of Byron's rebuttal was I think devastating to just let fester so I decided to tackle this one most of all.

Too begin with, aside from the several forged letters of Paul, in of which many of those suspect letters are still heavily debated within Biblical scholarship and so should not casually be dismissed as fake, many books in the Bible give no author. Therefore tradition has taken it upon itself to attribute authors to the various books. This is the fallacy of tradition, however, and not of the Bible.

Why would the Bible's reliability not be affected by a change in author/many authors? Because the Bible is a tool used by God to assist his people. Just like the church is. The main help for Christians God sent was the Holy Spirit, but the study of Scripture can put perspective and understanding in a Christian walk. It is still useful for teaching, and correction, but only with the Spirit. It is like operating a motor vehicle without a key, or trying to bake a cake without egg or flour. It won't get you anywhere unless you possess everything.

Now the reliability of Scripture is still not called into suspect as much of the information given in Scripture is not factually incorrect. It may be exaggerated, as is fitting for an early middle eastern nation, but it is not incorrect.

So to address various of things. 1) Sure the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but there is no evidence saying the origins of the books did not occur with Moses especially via oral tradition. 2) The Gospels may be anonymous but the tradition of the church in attributing authorship actually makes sense. While sure the community of the church eventually developed them on a whole, there is no reason to doubt a Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John from having any influence on the works at large. Yes they were modified over the course of years, but there is nothing to suggest a sudden authorship in the late 1st century. In fact, because of the meticulous nature of all the Gospels, an early draft hypothesis makes reasonable sense. 3) Paul's letters are highly contested. The pastorals are the only ones that are generally disregarded as being authentically Paul's. 4) The authorship of Peter and John remains contested. While it is unlikely Peter himself wrote the epistles, the rhetoric found with those epistles bear striking resemblance to Peter's rhetoric found within Acts and the Gospels. Bart Ehrman, while he says it is pseudographical even admits that a disciple of Peter most like wrote it in honor of Peter. That doesn't dismiss its importance as the disciple was speaking with the authority of Peter's teachings. So in conclusion, the change in authorship does not truly change the significance or reliability of the Bible, as Byron makes it out to do.

And finally:

Salvation

Will's scheme also falls into the trap that, as Calvinists rightly say, Arminians fall into: Christianity teaches that all salvation is undeserved, bought through the death of Jesus the Christ, yet if people get into heaven for belief, they're being rewarded for backing the right horse. They've earned their slot in paradise by accepting God into their lives. This isn't grace, it's a payout.


My opponent believes I miscatergorised the Calvinist position and indeed I changed several features of it. Why? Because Calvinism, as much as I once was a strong 5 Pointer, falls flat in light of the truth of Orthodoxy. It was a product of John Calvin's time in which Luther was challenging salvation by works with Bone Fide and Calvin took it one further with predestination. My opponent does I feel misrepresent Calvin's theology with the double predestination. God does not choose whom to send to hell as we have no idea whom the elect is or how God chose the elect in the first place. Making a statement like that has no backing from the Calvinistic theology is a criticism based on a nitpicking. The basis of Calvinism is God's sovereignty.

But as I said I disagree with a lot of Calvinism and Arminianism both. But when you combine the two, the theology gets closer to the foundational Christianity. Essentially, what does the Bible, in particular Paul say about salvation?

Romans 10:9-13

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Out of the preacher's mouth. Salvation is not complex. It is based on a belief, all those who call out to the Lord will be saved. But it is man's nature to rebel against the law's of God. It is against man's nature to obey God. How can man save himself when man is so full of doubt and sin? Ergo the Holy Spirit gives a person the power to do so. But some people reject the Spirit by quenching him, or grieving him, thus they can never experience the grace of God.

So no it isn't a payout in the slightest. God made it clear he wanted humankind to return to him and he even sent Jesus to die for that measure. It isn't a matter of Pascal's Wager, but rather a matter of biblical love.

So these were my points I have chosen. I am curious to see what Byron has chosen!