Posted: Nov 03, 2013 7:52 pm
by Byron
I thank Will for his rebuttal, but it's a rebuttal that serves only to reinforce the points in my opening. The underlying issues are avoided, or worked around, and the case for Christian rationality is D.O.A.

The image conjured up by such tactics is not of an advocate striding back and forth as their rhetoric enchants and persuades, but of the sweating, twitching subject of a Senate hearing, whispering in their counsel's ear, trying to explain away the evidence against them, and when their explanations run out, giving up and claiming the Fifth. At times, it's of a suspect chained to an interrogation table, plaintively begging for a lawyer and a telephone call and just wishing that it would all be over.

That, of course, isn't Will. It's what anyone who argued his case would be reduced to when stripped of Christianity's rational tactics for masking the irrational. If I was tasked with defending the rationality of the Christian religion, and denied its props of pulpit, obfuscation, mockery and threat, denied the theater of power, then I too would be shackled by my borrowed arguments, begging for the end.

Not to worry, it's close at hand.

It just goes to illustrate what I've claimed from the beginning: Christianity is objectively irrational. No one, however skilled, can succeed in its defense.

The only rational thing about Christianity is its aversion to rational tactics. Will admits as much in his first rebuttal.

Strike One: God

Will says, "God could be irrational and still rationally exist because of a variety of evidences which I presented in my first argument post."

Well yes, God could. What you would have then is an irrational being who happens to exist. The debate isn't, "Does a god of some kind exist?" but, "Can Christianity be rationally defended?"

The claim is not that Christianity is internally senseless. Just the opposite, Will has been trying to give a rational defense of five of its tenets. To switch, at the eleventh hour, to "It might be irrational and exist for all that" would be an example of the elastic goalposts that I highlighted in my opening. The proposition defended at the end would not be the proposition defended throughout.

It would be a bait and switch, and it would fail for that reason.

Strike Two: God's Works

Just as before, Will does not even address, let alone rebut, my claim that we can't make probability judgments about miracle claims, due to the absence of a stable frame of reference.

Instead, he attempts to operate within Christianity's system, by comparing one biblical account to another. As I said the first time around, "This game can be played all day long, and it is. People make careers of making the Bible into what Christian dogma needs it to be." Now, as then, I won't play within a rigged deck. To do so would be to allow myself to be distracted from the underlying issue that Will utterly fails to overturn: biblical authority is a fallacy.

Instead of Will producing a case that biblical authority isn't fallacious, the yo-yo does its thing, and Will rows back from liberalism to orthodoxy, with a retreat to his argument that "Scripture is not factually incorrect. It may be exaggerated, as is fitting for an early middle eastern nation, but it is not incorrect." The underlying issue is once again cast aside, but for naught, as Will serves up a procession of claims that undermine the very critical scholarship that he previously defended!

When you attack your own case for deserting you, it really is best to avoid incriminating your position further, and to reserve the right to remain silent.

Advice that also holds true for when Will selects cherry-picking over avoidance, as he does in defending his inventive take on the Christian god's omniscience. To give Will his due, this is real tap-dancing angels stuff, impossible to refute -- not from rational merit, but from its incomprehensibility. God chooses to remain ignorant of something, but to make that choice, God must first foresee it, then, presumably, induce divine amnesia. This introduces a swathe of problems to the Christian notion of God, foremost among them its implication that a timeless, unchanging deity thinks in a linear way.

God once again resembles a human creation.

It not only fails to address God's responsibility for human actions, it exacerbates it, by implying that God resorts to trickery and loopholes to allow his creation to do something that goes against God's stated desires. "God cannot truly be rationally understood," says Will. When the claims about him rest on obfuscation like this, it's no wonder.

Strike Three, You're Outa Here: Salvation

We done yet?

Nearly. Just the incoherence of salvation to cover. It starts with a factual claim to refute, for which I thank Will. At least we have something tangible to work with:-
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.

In Calvin's words*,
We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment.

Will once again produces a non sequitur: our ignorance of God's reasoning does nothing to absolve God of responsibility for God's decision of who to save and who to damn. That responsibility is an unavoidable consequence of Christianity's premise: God is all-power; God therefore must decide who goes to heaven, and who to hell. To deny this would be to deny Christian orthodoxy and concede the debate even more conclusively than it's already been conceded. If such were possible, and I don't believe it is.

Will ends by retreating once more to scripture, Paul's letter to the Romans. Paul asserts that we must accept Jesus as Lord. Paul also, I believe, thought that God would save all, a universalist bent that Will rejects. It's no matter. Will does not explain how this mechanism, if it works as he claims it does, is not a reward for human choice, contradicting his own (and Calvinism's) assertion that humanity is worthless, deserving hell, and receiving salvation only through God's mercy.

Will has done everything he can to acquit God of responsibility for the reality that Christian orthodoxy claims God created, and fails, because even if you're as good at this as Will, you can't do what can't be done.

* * *

So, that's Will's opening dealt with. As I've not even hit the halfway point yet, I'll address some of the points raised in his rebuttal.
* * *

God's Inconsistency

Will says that I haven't introduced evidence of God's inconsistency from the Bible. I disagree, since, to pick one example of many, the inconsistency of God's actions in the Genesis story comes from the Bible. Much the rest of Christian orthodoxy is similarly tied back to its canon of scripture.

If Will means instead proof-texts, what would be the point? He can come up with an explanation for any of them. A God of love ordering that men, women and children be put to the sword? Butchery in love, obviously!

Will says that I have not addressed his points here. If he means finding inconsistency from within the canon of scripture, as noted above, I believe that I have done so. If he means something else, he hasn't specified it, so I cannot answer. His method of sola scriptura, by scripture alone, says only that all of Will's arguments must be rooted in scripture. It does nothing to absolve them of the burden of being coherent, which they fail time and again.

Miracles Ahoy?

"The why question is answered. Because God," says Will succinctly. Truly, truly, I tell you, no more concise a summary of Christianity's irrationality could you ask for. Thank you, Will.

Will's claim that we live in an imperfect reality in order to know God "to a fuller extent through our life in this reality," and thus improve our relationship with him, collapses, as before, in the face of Paul's claim in his first letter to the church in Corinth that we will come to know all.


In answer to the logical mess of biblical authority, Will, literally, gives up the ghost, and hands over to the magic of the Holy Spirit. This is not a rational answer. It in effect says, "It works because it works," as the Spirit comes and fixes the problem without addressing it. A Pentecost for the information age. Assertion over reason. Where else can an irrational faith go?

In the words of N.T. "Tom" Wright, "It will not do!"

On You, God

And we wrap, appropriately, with divine responsibility.

Will says,
My opponent makes an assertion which I find strange. God made humans with the capacity of free will. Is that a flaw? Not at all. Human erred in the sight of God and therefore sin entered the world. God did not create sin, as sin is simply the disobedience of God.

The evasion fails. According to Christian orthodoxy, God created people with the capacity for sin, in giving them free will. If God did not like this consequence, God did not have to bring it on himself. If God values free will so much that he was willing to burden himself with disobedience, he should suck it up, not cast people into eternal torture by fire for acting within the constraints of a nature that God created.

God is acting as irrationally as a programmer would if they created an Artficial Intelligence and then complained that it wouldn't obey them. Don't like it, don't use those parameters.

* * *

And so it ends.

Christianity has been tied down, interrogated, and exposed time and again as an irrational system based on assertion, assertion rooted variously in texts, subjective experience, and institutions. The unreasoned cruelty that arises from vesting human opinion with infallibility has also been exposed and lamented.

All that is left is to be kinder to Christian orthodoxy than it ever would be to us. Your lawyer is here, you've been exposed for what you are, you're free to go. Try and sin no more, and enjoy the time you have left to you. I suspect that your next 2,000 years will be a lot less enjoyable that your first.

* Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapter 21