CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth






Bradley Bowen of Secular Outpost, argues William Lane Craig can't prove that Jesus died on the cross. His ultimate goal is to negate Craig's proofs of the resurrection, he does that by arguing that there is no proof that Jesus died on the cross. No death = no resurrection. There's a secondary issue of interpreting a Bible scholar whose works we used at Perkins (Luke Timothy Johnson), I'll deal with that in part 2. My point here is to argue that Jesus' death on the cross is well warranted for belief. That is the only point with which I will concern myself. Moreover, I will not defend Craig but come at it from my own perspective.

Bowen points out that Craig assumes that scholarly acceptance (of Jesus' death) proves the evidence for it is strong. He then argues that this is not proof that the evidence is strong, he then argues that Funk and Johnson doubt it. He uses them to leverage the idea that there are a lot more doubters of that point than Craig knows. [1] I doubt that that Craig doesn't know that, he studied with Ernst Kasemann who was a student of Rudolph Bultman and a major liberal himself. Kaemann also believed in the resurrection. (I will argue to defend Johnson in part 2). First, he's right, scholarly consensus as a whole is not "proof" of anything. Come to that I don't argue proof even in terms of God arguments. I do argue that the historical evidence is strong enough to warrant belief in the Res. While scholarly consensus doesn't prove the evidence is strong it is anindication. There is more important evidence and I'm abouit to get into it.

He then uses Johnson and Funk against Craig's assumption of "Historical fact" that Jesus was alive and walking around in Jerusalem on Easter morning."[2] He specifically argues that the probability of a claim is relative to the information and assumptions one takes to it. Of course that's true but the evidence is not bound up in Funk and Johnson. First they are opposed to each other. Johnson wrote against the Jesus Seminar.[3] Funk was a major member of the Jesus seminar.They make different assumptions. Nor does Bowen deal with all the evidence. The probability of an argument being true is also effected by using the right evidence or ignoring major portions of it. I will get to that presently.

Again he uses Johnson as though he were really opposed to the Bible. As I say above I will define Johnson in my own reading latter. I'm going for the the larger point here.
First of all, the typical Evangelical Christian will think that the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion and death of Jesus are sufficient to prove that Jesus was crucified and died on the cross. But Johnson would not agree with this assumption, because he has a more skeptical view about the historical reliability of the Gospels. Johnson compares the Gospel accounts about Jesus with the accounts that we have of Socrates, and he finds the Gospels to be more questionable and problematic than the accounts we have of Socrates:.[4]
I don't deal in "proof." The evidence warrants belief it is not proof. Proof would mean all must give ascent. Warrant means one is justified rationally in inferring a conclusion. I can be justified in faith and the skeptic not be compelled to join me. The proving is not strong but the warrant is. Secondly Bowen seems to make a neat dichotomy writing off all "evangelical scholars" by the use of all liberal scholars whom he sees as skeptical, so it appears, although I may be wrong. He brought Funk and Johnson into it because Craig used them in his example to Bowen. Major liberals such as Kasemann and Moltmann accept the resurrection, Crosson says the Gospels are enough to accept that the belief of the early church was in the Resurrection.

The problems facing the seeker of the historical Jesus are even more severe [than the problems facing the seeker of the historical Socrates]. Although the biographies of Jesus…were composed within forty to sixty years of Jesus’ death, that is still greater than the memoirs about Socrates composed by Xenophon and Plato. Socrates, furthermore, was remembered by disciples who were longtime companions and eyewitnesses. Although the Gospels undoubtedly bear within them evidence of firsthand sources and even eyewitnesses, such material is not identified as such, and the narratives as a whole were most probably composed by authors of the generation after that of Jesus’ immediate followers.[5]
First he speaks of the gospel's as biography. NT scholars don't really think of them that way. They are their own unique genre. The expectations are different. They are sermonic not illustrative or historical, although much in them can be verified historically. Secondly, they are the memory of the community. I address the time differential between event and writing below. Bowen's statement vastly under estimates the role and extent of eyewitness testimony lying behind the communities. The community is the author not the namesakes. It was Johnson who first taught me that (through his bookThe New Testament Writings).I don't have that source now but I do have a quote by the same author from a different book that makes the same point:
"...Non narrative New Testament writings datable with some degree of probability before the year 70 testify to traditions circulating within the Christian movement concerning Jesus that correspond to important points within the Gospel narratives. Such traditions do not, by themselves, demonstrate historicity. But they demonstrate that memoires about Jesus were in fairly wide circulation. This makes it less likely that the corresponding points within the Gospels were the invention of a single author. If that were the case than such invention would have to be early enough and authoritative enough to have been distributed and unchallenged across the diverse communities with which Paul dealt. Such an hypothesis of course would work against the premise that Paul's form of Christianity had little to do with those shaping the memory of Jesus.".[6]
There is little doubt that the community is laced with and started by the witnesses. Two of them show up being nammed 50 years latter by Papias(?)[7] There are witnesses at all different levels. The witnesses do not have to be the name sakes. Johnson is right that we can't say witness X saw Jesus here and joined the Matthew community on August second, 37AD. We do know the communities were full of witnesses and they show up here and there. The personal relationships that emerges in John between Jesus and the family of Bethany, for example. How do we know they were in the community? Lazarus was said to be loved by Jesus, he's a good candidate for BD of john's Gospel. The story of Mary of Bethany anjounting Jesus is in all four Gospels that's a good indication. Buckingham makes extensive arguments along these lines..[8]He also argues based upon names that the gospels are replete with eye witness testimony..[9]

They were a real community. The Christian community began out of the mundane community of Bethany. At the end of Luke the risen Christ walks through the streets of the Little town where his dear friends lived. That not only links the eye witnesses of John to the Gospel of Luke but it also sets up a logic for the communal structure. Then when they moved in and had things in common many of them had known each other all their lives anyway, That could be the 500 Paul referred to as witnesses:

Acts 2:42-47
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. 43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. 46 And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added those being saved to them.
What were they doing in the commune? teaching and studying. That means telling their oral tradition. We all know the Gospel material was first oral tradition. Most people think oral tradition means wild rumors floating around at random, it is not so. Oral tradition is more like the Bardic tradition where a Bard such as Homer will memorize huge discourses the size of the New York phone book and spit them back word for word. I don't know if first century Jews could do that but they did have an oral tradition. They did have a practice of learning the teachers words and echoing them back. They probably told them orally before the group and with the witnesses present. How do I know that? That's how the Talmud got going. That's why the early church lived communally. They studied scripture together every day and it just stands to reason they would listen to the witnesses talk in front of the group. Of course the witnesses would correct mistakes. That's obvious, why doubt it?

As Stephn Neil said:
"No one is likely to deny that a tradition that is being handed on by word of mouth is likely to undergo modification. This is bound to happen, unless the tradition has been rigidly formulated and has been learned with careful safeguard against the intrusion of error" Tradition was controlled....[Neil adds in a fn:] "This is exactly the way in which the tradition was handed on among the Jews. IT is precisely on this ground that Scandinavian scholar H. Risenfeld in an essay entitled "The Gospel Tradition and its Beginnings" (1957) has passed some rather severe strictures on the form cuticle method. [10]
As N.T. Wright tells us:
Communities that live in an oral culture tend to be story-telling communities. They sit around in long evenings telling and listening to stories--the same stories, over and over again. Such stories, especially when they are involved with memorable happenings that have determined in some way the existence and life of the particular group in question, acquire a fairly fixed form, down to precise phraseology (in narrative as well as in recorded speech), extremely early in their life--often within a day or so of the original incident taking place. They retain that form, and phraseology, as long as they are told. Each village and community has its recognized storytellers, the accredited bearers of its traditions; but the whole community knows the stories by heart, and if the teller varies them even slightly they will let him know in no uncertain terms. This matters quite a lot in cultures where, to this day, the desire to avoid 'shame' is a powerful motivation. [11]
Bowen demands an exactitude one should not seek in history.

If we knew that half of the information in a particular Gospel was based on “firsthand sources and even eyewitnesses”, then we might infer that at least half of the events or details in the Gospel were historically reliable (although without knowing anything about the personality, character, history, mental health and intelligence of the persons who were the supposed eyewitnesses, this would be a questionable inference), but since we don’t know which events or details have such backing, it would be the toss of a coin as to whether a given event or detail had such eyewitness evidence behind it. But we don’t even know this much. We don’t know whether 10% of the events and details of a particular Gospel are based on “firsthand sources and even eyewitnesses” or whether 30% or 50% or 70% of events and details are based on such evidence. Thus, the weak concession that Johnson makes here is of little significance.
That's a standard misconception about the nature of Biblical criticism and its a standard historians don't use. No historian tries to quantify the percentage of truth in a document. I realize Bowen is saying that metaphorically. He is right that we can't look at the Gospels as history books. But historical critical methods are better than just assuming that we can't know anything. He says we don't know 10% and that's ludicrous. We know much more than that. If we could quantify it, it would probably be more than 50%. Yet the idea is foolish. The apostolic father's truth tree gives us more than that. The concerns he raises about the pitfalls of not knowing the exact authors are just standard atheist message board reasoning that historians and scholars don't do. Moreover, when he says, "without knowing anything about the personality, character, history, mental health and intelligence of the persons" (previous quote) that really assumes one author thinking. The community is the author not one guy. Some may have been insane but not all. It's a community witness. We do know that apostles and eye witnesses had a closer link than that. It's not just a guy decided to write down the rumors. It was told carefully with the witnesses present and the original attempts at writing are done by witnesses.

Bowen says, "According to Johnson, the Gospels were NOT written by “disciples who were longtime companions and eyewitnesses” of the life or death of Jesus."

Johnson allows that the authors of the Gospels might well have used some information from “firsthand sources and even eyewitnesses”, but he points out that we don’t know when they are doing so. He does not say that in order to promote unbelief or to erode confidence in the text. Let's look at what else he says:
As I have tried to show, the character of the Gospel narratives does not allow a fully satisfying reconstruction of Jesus ministry. Nevertheless certain fundamental points when taken together with confirming lines of convergence from outside testimony and non-narrative New Testament evidence, can be regarded as historical with a high degree of probability. Even the most critical historian can confidently assert that a Jew named Jesus worked as a teacher and wonder-worker in Palestine during the reign of Tiberius, was executed by crucifixion under the prefect Pontius Pilate, and continued to have followers after his death. These assertions are not mathematically or metaphysically certain, for certainty is not within the reach of history. But they enjoy a very high level of probability."[12]
The important thing I took away from the book, The real Jesus, was (aside from the Jesus seminar sux) is an argument I've been making since the book came out. Namely, there are several different trajectories from which attestations to Jesus' career come to us. Some of them include the Gospels and new testament but not at all. I will not have time to lay all of that out but I don't have to because I've already done it. This is not the exact "trajectories" Johnson uses but the concept is one I learned from his book then did more research. I will give a basic outline then link to those pages on my site.

8 levels of verification click the link to documentation for each point in the outline.

1 pre mark redaction
2 P)auline corpus
....(a) what he got form people who were there
Quoting Paul himself: quotes James, the Jerusalem church's creedal formula and hymns.

....(b) his saying source.
Koester documents
synoptic saying source

........(c) the chruch tradition he learned in Jerusalem

3 extra canonical gospels
4 Oral Tradition
5 The Four Gospels themselves
6 Writers who write about their relationships with Apostles

Six major sources enumerated but 8 counting three levels of Paul's writings.

see these points fleshed out with quotations on my page: "Gospel Behind The Gospels", also,"Historical Validity of the Gospels Part 1"

So the mechanisms were in place to spread the word and control the telling according to eye witness testimony. Of course I'm not saying that happened. It did not. The communities began to proliferate, doctrinal differences developed, new communities sprang up, people got the story in bits and pieces. yet in all of that there is only one story of Jesus' death. It was established in the beginning that he died on the cross and that's the way it stayed. No other version ever came along. Even when Gnostics denied his death they still explained what appeared to be the crucifixion. Why? Because it probably really happened and everyone knew it.

In fact out of 34 Gospels found in whole or in fragment (about four theoretical such as Q) not one of them has any other death for Jesus but the cross..

The Gospel of the Saviour, too. fits this description. Contrary' to popular opinion, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not included in the canon simply because they were the earliest gospels or because they were eyewitness accounts. Some non canonical gospels are dated roughly to the same period, and the canonical gospels and other early Christian accounts appear to rely on earlier reports. Thus, as far as the physical evidence is concerned, the canonical gospels do not take precedence over the noncanonical gospels (in terms of history--they do in doctrine). The fragments of John, Thomas and the Egerton Gospel share the distinction of being the earliest extant pieces of Christian writing known. And although the existing manuscript evidence for Thomas dates to the mid-second century, the scholars who first published the Greek fragments held open the possibility that it was actually composed in the first century, which would put it around the time John was composed.[13]
Ray Brown proved that the Gospel of Peter followed a tradition independent of the canonicals that dated to first century. GPete as it's called has Jesus die on the cross. It also has guards on the tomb. Not derived from Matthew. Independent tradition.[14] Moreover, The versions we have of the canonical Gospels are only the final versions. There are older readings that can be traced to the first century even though they show up in latter copies. These early readings indicate a shared narrative used by the four canonicals and GPete. That much is fairly standard now. Koester, Rossson and several others date that "pre Mark Passion narrative" at mid first century. Jurgen Denker argues that the Gospel of Peter shares this tradition of OT quotation with the Canonicals but is not dependent upon them. Koester writes, "John Dominic Crosson has gone further [than Denker]...he argues that this activity results in the composition of a literary document at a very early date i.e. in the middle of the First century CE" (Ibid). Said another way, the interpretation of Scripture as the formation of the passion narrative became an independent document, a ur-Gospel, as early as the middle of the first century.(empahsis mine). [15]The crucifixion of Jesus was circulating in oral testimony before it was written about, but it was written as early as just 20 years after the events, when there were still a lot of witnesses left. The witnesses weren't just running around unnoted and alone, they were living in the communities and teaching the gospel. Everyone agreed Jesus was executed and on a cross and one denied it. Hundreds of documents no counter claims.

We have every reason to believe Jesus was crucified. The Romans were not slackers about crucifixion. The inference is warranted that Jesus died on the cross. That is not proof. We don't need proof. The belief is warranted. That still leaves the possibility that Jesus was crucified but didn't die. As I say the Romans were not slackers in such matters. The Passover plot kind of scenario is, in my opinion, an extraordinary claim, we all know what atheists do with those. They can't prove that either. Maybe it undermines the big William Craig style apologetic. I guess my next move is to discuss the nature of apologetics.



Sources


[1] Bradley Bowen, "Response to Dr. William Lane Craig part 2" Secular out Post, (Nov 4 2015) URLhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2015/11/04/response-to-dr-william-lane-craig-part-2/ 
[2] Ibid
[3] the real Jesus
[4] Bradley Bowen, "Response to Dr. William Lane Craig part 3" Secular out Post,http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2015/11/12/response-to-william-lane-craig-part-3/#disqus_thread
[5] Johnson,The Real Jesus,San Francisco: Harper, 1996, 1st paperback edition, 107, quoted in Bowen part 3.op cit
[6]Ibid. first hard back ed. 121 [7] Papias quoted in Documents of the Christian Church, edited by Henry Bettonson, Oxford University press, 1963, 27.
very famous quotation:

"I shall not hesitate to set down for you along with my interpretations all things which I learned from the elders with care and recorded with care, being well assured of their truth. For unlike most men, I took pleasure not in those that have much to say but in those that preach the truth, not in those that record strange precepts but in those who record such precepts as were given to the faith by the Lord and are derived from truth itself. Besides if ever any man came who had been a follower of the elders, I would inquire about the sayings of the elders; what Andrew said, or Peter or Philip or Thomas, or James, or John or Matthew, or any other of the Lord's disciples; and what Aristion says, and John the Elder, who are disciples of the Lord. For I did not consider that I got so much from the content of books as from the utterances of living and abiding voices..."

[8] Richard Bu8ckingham, Jesus and The Eye Witnesses: The Gospels As Eye Witness Testimony, Grand-Rapids, Michigan: William B. Erdmans Publishing Company, 2006, 39-40.
[9] Ibid 472
[10]Stephen Neil, The Interpretation of the New Testament: 1861-1961, London: University of Oxford Press, 1964,250.
[11] N.T. Wright, "Five Gospels But No Gospel," Authenticating the Activities of Jesus,Netherlands Knoinklijke Brill ed. Bruce D. Chilton, Craig A. Evans, 1999, 112-113.
[12] Johnson, Real Jesus...op.cit.
[13] Charles W. Hendrick, "34 lost gospels," Bible Review, (June 2002): 20-31; 46-47
[14] Raymond Brown, Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave, A commentary on the Passionnarratives in the Four Gospels. Volume 2. New York: Dobuleday 1994 1322 [15] Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development. Bloomsbury: T&T Clark, 1992, 218.



The Trace of God 
 


[My recent review of our own Joe Hinman's book at Amazon, slightly edited here.]
 
The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief
Joseph Hinman
2014, Grand Viaduct
418 pages
 
In The Trace of God, author Joe Hinman has presented a sophisticated argument for rationally warranted belief in God, on the basis of religious and mystical experience. As an avid reader of all things theological, apologetic and scientific, I found The Trace of God both illuminating and compelling. It quickly became evident to me, as it should to any reader, that Hinman has done his homework (and then some) in order to lay out a fresh and powerful presentation of the old argument from religious experience to the existence of God for a twenty-first century readership.
 
Hinman constructs his case like a high rise, meticulously laying his foundation and building on it layer by layer. He thus begins with a very useful and interesting explanation of “Preliminary Concepts and Definitions,” introducing readers to technical concepts (the “religious a priori,” religious experience and mystical experience), found throughout the book but not likely to be encountered often outside the fields of theology, psychology or sociology. This is followed by a discussion of his “Decision Making Paradigm,” one tailored for the subject at hand: Given that God is (by definition) not an object of empirical knowledge, we must decide whether belief in God (as opposed to empirical confirmation of God) is rational. Hinman proposes that in principle the evidence of religious experience is sufficient to meet a prima facie burden of proof – that is, on the strength of these experiences belief in God should be deemed rationally warranted until and unless someone presents reasons or evidence to overcome the warrant.  In the process he offers a keen analysis of Thomas Kuhn’s depiction of scientific revolutions and an insightful critique of the logic behind a concept often used (and abused) by science-minded naturalists: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
 
From there specific arguments are presented, of two distinct types: “the argument from co-determinate,” and “the argument from epistemic judgment.”  The argument from co-determinate is roughly analogous to an inference from footprints in the snow to people having been present recently. Evidence of God’s activity in the form of very basic and culture spanning religious experiences leaves a psychological imprint upon the human psyche, leaving recipients of the experience in turn understandably, and quite rationally, inclined to believe in God as a result. This, essentially, is the trace of God. Experience of the numinous – of the holy, transcendent, awe- and fear-inspiring presence of God – has been recorded at all times and cultures, and therefore constitutes empirical grounds for belief. Moreover, these experiences confer universally beneficial effects upon those who have them: an enhanced psychological outlook, physiological health, and hence overall well-being. The related argument from epistemic judgment concerns the reliability and validity of the experiences reported. These experiences are consistent in character, regular in occurrence, and shared by a majority of people. And again the effects upon the persons who have them are demonstrably and overwhelmingly positive. 
 
Having presented the arguments, Hinman bolsters those arguments by revisiting the studies used to derive the data for human religious experiences. Here the book takes a decidedly technical turn, examining the criteria for identifying religious and mystical experience, then the methodology chosen to elicit and record human responses to those experiences, for a large and wide-ranging number of studies. This for me was the least interesting portion of the book, but for the serious-minded atheists Hinman intends to challenge it may be the most important. By carefully describing the empirically focused instruments and methods used to collect the data, Hinman preempts any objection to the effect that the argument from religious experience can be reduced to so much unscientific subjective tale-swapping. Along the way various other objections are considered and rebutted, e.g., that emotions are unreliable indicators, or that religious experience is mental illness.
 
The way I see it, the remainder of the book consists of mopping-up operations in the form of rebuttals to actual or potential objections and counterarguments. This includes a review and defense of the idea of “religious a priori” as a rational default position for believers to take. With direct experiences of God at hand believers have “no need to prove” – that is, no burden to justify – their faith, either to themselves or to others. Also in this part of the book is a critique of Wayne Proudfoot’s skeptical arguments against an inference to theism from  religious experience, arguments which (per Hinman) proceed from a faulty assumption that the experiences are purely subjective and ineffable. This is followed by consideration of various other forms of “alternate causality” other than the presence of God: brain chemistry, as postulated by researchers like Michael Presinger (this recalled a fascinating online debate I had years ago involving what we called the “God module” part of the brain); the effects of drugs; evolutionary mishaps; and the like.
 
Reading The Trace of God was for me decidedly positive. This is not to say that the book will be a page-turner for everyone. The material is highly technical in places, even if well-researched and erudite, and the presentation almost unfailingly methodical. Those accustomed to popular-level inspirational writing, theology or apologetics will need to buckle down and concentrate to take in the information and appreciate the arguments. And whereas in the interest of disclosure I should mention that Hinman is a friend of mine, I should also mention that I do not agree with everything he has to say in this book – particularly his take on New Testament atonement and soteriology. Still, he comes close to my own view with this: “…(T)he universal nature of mystical experience does not invalidate either religious truth in general or the Christian tradition. God is working in all cultures, and what he’s doing in all the cultures of the earth is moving people toward Christ” (p. 365). Amen.
 
All in all, this book has more than earned its place on my shelf. Much like the life-transforming religious experiences it describes with such meticulous care, The Trace of God left me with not only better informed, but with a strong desire to seek God in my experience and to share the good news of that experience of God with others. For this believer that makes The Trace of God a worthwhile spiritual and intellectual investment.   
 

 


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An atheist guest comes knocking at the door of the comment section with a string of canned arguments we've answered a million times, hurled lake a gauntlet as though we have never see it before:


God is asserted to be all good, all loving, all knowing, all powerful, in possession of free will and having imparted free will to human beings as well as being eternal and uncaused as well as outside of space and time while acting in a time sequence of events within space and time.
Sorry, one simply cannot make rational sense to reconcile all these asserted properties. They contradict each other in various ways making the whole package incoherent by it's own theistic definitions.
Here is an old answer I put up on Metacropck's blog in 2011, again in 2013:

Atheists think it is. I've seen many a knock down drag-out fight, multiple threads, lasing for days, accomplishing nothing. I wrote that dilemma off years ago before I was an internet apologist, so long ago I don't remember when. I wrote it off because at an early date I read Boethius who, in his great work The Consolation of Philosophy (circa 524), puts to rest the issue by proving that foreknowledge is not determinism. In this essay I will demonstrate not only that this is true but the atheist error about omniscience and omnipotence contradicting are actually hold-overs from the pagan framework which Boethius disproved.

___________________ 
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
(480?-524)
 Aurthor The Consolation
 of Philosophy
___________________

For years my debates on the matter were marked by silly repetition. I would constantly argue that just knowing that someone does something is not controlling it. But atheists were always cock sure that it was. I used the following analogy: I know how the Alamo turned out. Travis and the men stepped over the line and chose to stay and die. I know they did that, does my knowledge of it mean that I made them do it? Of course the atheist say "O of course not, but you are not in the past, you are knowing this by a look back in history to see what they already did." Of course, but God doesn't know about events before they have happened in time, he knows about them because he's beyond time and he sees everything in time as a accomplished fact. From our perspective in time God's knowledge is "foreknowledge" because from our perspective in time knowledge comes before the event. But it's not foreknowledge for God, he doesn't know before it happens, he knows about events because form an eternal perspective its a done deal. Just as my knowing what the men at the Alamo already did does not give me control over their choices, so God's knowledge of facts we have already accomplish does not give God control over our choices.

Of course, predictably, the atheists dismiss this idea as "nonsense" and go right on asserting that to know of an action is to control, but they can't tell me why. They can tell me a  theoretical reason but they can't tell me why if my knowing about the Alamo ex post facto does not control those actions why would God's knowledge of a past event already done control the past event? Why are these not analogous if God is outside time and sees all things in time as accomplished facts? They can't tell me but they are certain the idea is nonsense. The reason they give initially is this. Say that God knows today that I will go to the store tomorrow. That means that i can't tomorrow morning decide "I don't want to go to the store, I hate the walk." I can't decide that and follow it because God already knows I went so I have to go. But the problem is they are not following a modern concept of God knowing because he's outside of time. They are still stuck in the pre Christian framework which has clung to modern Western Philosophy lo these many centuries. That frame work can be clearly seen in Boethius because that's what he was arguing against. The fame work is the Greek Gods were controlled by the fates, but they also had foreknowledge, so they were trumping the fates, to whom they were really subject. That creates an issue. Moreover, foreknowledge was about things that had not yet taken place, thus that is a contradiction; it hasn't taken place, how can it be known what one will do, to know it is to set in stone and thus not free will. But that only holds in the case of God in time not outside of time. It doesn't apply to the idea of God transcendent of time and thus that's why they can't answer me, but because they know the philosophers they read still assert the old Greek idea they must cling to it.


We can see the exact kind of thinking the atheists use in the Consolation and it is the framework against which Boethius toils. This quotation is form a summary in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The summary is by John Marenbon.


The first point which needs to be settled is what, precisely, is the problem which Boethius the character proposes? The reasoning behind (7) seems to be of the following form:
  1. God knows every event, including all future ones.
  2. When someone knows that an event will happen, then the event will happen.
  3. (10) is true as a matter of necessity, because it is impossible to know that which is not the case.
  4. If someone knows an event will happen, it will happen necessarily.(10, 11)
  5. Every event, including future ones, happens necessarily. (9, 12)
The pattern behind (8) will be similar, but in reverse: from a negation of (13), the negation of (9) will be seen to follow. But, as it is easy to observe, (9–13) is a fallacious argument: (10) and (11) imply, not (12), but
  1. Necessarily, if someone knows an event will happen, it will happen.
 (emphasis mine)
 The summary of the problem he's working against indicates exactly the problem I frame it, that the atheist (following the Greeks) is not assuming transcendence of time but is working on the assumption that God's knowledge is prior to the completed nature of the action. This was framework in which Boethius found the problem in his own contemporary scene which came from the pre-christian Hellenistic world. Even when the philosopher writing the article sums it up he still speaks form the same perspective:


The fallacy, therefore, concerns the scope of the necessity operator. Boethius has mistakenly inferred the (narrow-scope) necessity of the consequent (‘the event will happen’), when he is entitled only to infer the (wide-scope) necessity of the whole conditional (‘if someone knows an event will happen, it will happen’). Boethius the character is clearly taken in by this fallacious argument, and there is no good reason to think that Boethius the author ever became aware of the fallacy (despite a passage later on which some modern commentators have interpreted in this sense). None the less, the discussion which follows does not, as the danger seems to be, address itself to a non-problem. Intuitively, Boethius sees that the threat which divine prescience poses to the contingency of future events arises not just from the claim that God's beliefs about the future constitute knowledge, but also from the fact that they are beliefs about the future.There is a real problem here, because if God knows now what I shall do tomorrow, then it seems that either what I shall do is already determined, or else that I shall have the power tomorrow to convert God's knowledge today into a false belief. Although his logical formulation does not capture this problem, the solution Boethius gives to Philosophy is clearly designed to tackle it.
He's speaking form the perspective of future events which have not yet happened, being known before they happen. But that leaves out the assumption that's God's is not actuality using real foreknowledge so much as transcendent eternal knowledge that sees the events as an accomplished fact because it sees the the end result from a perspective after the event is accomplished. That's the wider perspective. Transcendent eternal knowledge is the knowledge of all time as the "eternal now" not "foreknowledge" in the sense of known only prior to the doing of the event. Then there is also an issue about the nature of the knower. This is a point Boethius may be making but it's hard to say. God knows form the standpoint of eternity but he speaks within times arrow to us so it appears to be foreknowledge, knowledge of that which has not yet transpired. Thus the illusion of determinism is created. But the fact of it is the knowledge comes from viewing all events as accomplished facts. It's in the perspective of timeless transience which only God can have.

This latter issue of the nature of the knowledge is marked by the summary and by the text itself as "modes of cognition." The Constellation of Philosophy is the old fashioned Philosophical dialogue which no one writes anymore, the kind Berkelely write (out of date in his day--early 1700's).

Erronious: "hi fallacious how's it going?"
Fallacious: "great, I'm now considering a new idea"
Erronious: "prey tell good sir what idea might that be?"

And they go on to discuss and provide endless house of fun writing Monty Python style paradiges of themselves. Then burst into a course of "Rene Descartes was a Druken fart, 'I drink therefore I am.'

But before they do that they discuss issues and the philosopher places his arguments in the mouth of the character. In the Consolation the Character Boethius is agonizing over philosophy when Philosophy personfied as a beautiful woman comes to him and gives him the answers. That's the context in which this reviewer states the following:

Her view, as she develops it (in V.5 and V.6), is based on what might be called the Principle of Modes of Cognition: the idea that knowledge is always relativized to different levels of knowers, who have different sorts of objects of knowledge. Although she initially develops this scheme in a complex way, in relation to the different levels of the soul (intelligence, reason, imagination and the senses) and their different objects (pure Form, abstract universals, images, particular bodily things), for most of her discussion Philosophy concentrates on a rather simpler aspect of it. God's way of being and knowing, she argues, is eternal, and divine eternity, she says, is not the same as just lacking a beginning and end, but it is rather (V.6) ‘the whole, simultaneous and perfect possession of unbounded life.’

Boethius did not have the knowledge of modern cosmology, the big bang, quantum theory or any of the other scientific data that we have so he did not possess the concepts of being outside of time. He did however have an understanding of eternity that came form his own spirituality, and it seems to coincide remarkably with the modern notion. What's he's saying is that God's is an eternal perspective. He can see the events of what to us are the future but to him is an eternal now. So he's not knowing something that hasn't happened yet, he knows something that to him has happened, but to us has not yet happened. Without the big bang Boeithius still has the concept of God being outside of time and he saw that as the basis of non-deterministic events in time which known to God as completed events due to God's unique respective.

A being who is eternal in this way, Philosophy argues, knows all things—past, present and future—in the same way as we, who live in time and not eternity, know what is present. She then goes on to show why, so long as God knows future events by their being present to him, this knowledge is compatible with the events’ not being determined.

Through the mouth of philosophy Boethius speculates that there two kinds of necessity. The first is:

Simple necessities are what would now be called physical or nomic necessities: that the sun rises, or that a man will sometime die. By contrast, it is conditionally necessary that, for instance, I am walking, when I am walking (or when someone sees that I am walking); but from this conditional necessity it does not follow that it is simply necessary that I am walking.

Although some philosophers disagree,  she is not noting the scope fallacy above but is actually using Aristotelian modality to argue about the eternal perspective. All things are known to God as though they were in the present. Future events for God are necessary in just the way that present events are necessary for us. What I'm doing writ now I am necessarily doing because I'm really doing it. But because it's my choice to do it and I'm doing it now (as opposed something I already did five years ago) my will to do it is not negated. I can stop doing it and so something else. But I can't go back five seconds ago and stop doing it in the past. All moments are known to God from this perspective.

Now so far so good. But there are two problems:

(1) Most philosophers today do not accept this reading of the issues.

It is important to add, however, that most contemporary interpreters do not read the argument of V.3–6 in quite this way. They hold that Philosophy is arguing that God is a-temporal, so eliminating the problems about determinism, which arise when God's knowing future contingents is seen an event in the past, and therefore, fixed.
That's going to be a problem for me becasue it means that timeless state of "beyond time" would mean God is "frozen" unable to act and thus can only act in time and thus the temporal problem. Rather, God sees as past and while may not control past is also not free to act in the past becuase it is a done deal.

(2) Philosophy seems to swing to a predestination view at the end.

She make God the determiner of events. There are also interpreters who see the Consolation as a satire that should be called "the insufficiency of philosophy." The only problem for me is that atheists will read this part of hte article and say "O see Metacrock is stupid because he didn't read the whole article." Marenbon argues that Boethius purpose is complex it can't be summarized as either "philosophy is insufficient" or "the whole issue is decided." what he's really saying is that philosophy is an ongoing concern. The true consolation of philosophy is not that such issue can be put to rest and summed up easily in nice little easy to understand phrases that only take a few syllables but we can have partial solutions and we can continue to work on problems and continue to seek answers and the act of so doing is a consolation even if we never find clear and easy answers. The interpretation of the Consolation is a literary problem, not a theological one. I will, therefore, bracket that until such as a time as I work on literary criticism.

The first problem is of much greater concern but I have an answer. I think I've analyzed Boethius' claims in the section where philosophy answers the issues of foreknowledge,I think I have that right and it works. It doesn't seem to work when we extract it form the framework of his day and place it in the world of modern cosmology, but it works again when we extract it from the framework of modern cosmology and place it in the framework of my theology (the Berkeley-Gaswami argument). My theological frame work differs from the modern cosmological in this way: I do not see God as a big man in the sky existing beyond the big bang which is a timeless void. I see God as the mind that thinks the universe, and the universe is therefore, analogous to a thought in a mind. I say "analogous" becuase it's a metaphor. If it was literal it might be more deterministic than any other view because it would mean that all events are thoughts in the mind of God in a litteral sense. I do not think that. The Gaswami part comes in where I take a page form the book of physicist Amit Gaswami (a Hindu vedantist who teaches physics at University of Oregon. Like Gaswami I see mind as the fundametnal stuff of the universe rather than energy or mater. I don't mean that in the sense of the universe being a mind, but that is related to mind in the way that a thought is related to a mind. I take that as a metaphor because like
Bishop George Berkeley I accept the premise "to be is to be perceived." God is the observer that collapses the wave function and causes the universe to be by beholding it. God is observing a thought that he has set up to run on it own. He's not making it happen or thinking every event at a microscopic level.

Two analogies that will clarify the difference. In the standard view God's relation to the world is like that of a man standing in a big room holding a world globe. The room is the timeless void beyond our space/time. The man is God, of course, and the globe is our space time. That puts God as a thing in "creation" or at least a timeless void, it makes God subject to the laws of physics and the problem of time. It makes God out to be a big man in the sky, although really far up in the sky. My view we have the room and the globe, no man. The room is the mind of God. the globe and the empty void of "timeless" are both thoughts in the mind of God. What this means is God is not subject to either time or the problem of non time. Both are pseudo problems for God because they are just ideas he thought up to create a framework for our world, which is a further thought of that preliminary thought in his mind. God is no more subject to the problems of time or even non time than we are to our day dreams and momentary fleeting fantasies that cross our minds.

This has many implications that have to be weighed. For one thing we just forget about the issues surrounding the omnis,, let them go completely. Not that God is not all knowing or all powerful, but the concepts "all knowing" and "all powerful" are hazy shadowy concepts that do more to confuse us than to help us. These are Aristotelian ideas and they hold overs from Greek philosophy. These things enter Western philosophy from Greek thought and they preserved by the prejudices of Western European philosophers. Modern philosophers still think the Greeks were the summit of human civilization, even the Church adopted ht language of Greek philosophy to discuss doctrine so we should look to the Greeks. The Hebrews were corn pones and the early Christians were Greeks themselves so Greek ideas hang on in philosophy. Thus the older meaning of "foreknowledge" and it's problems adhere to all modern discussions. The chruch began to use the language of Aristotle after the Apostolic age so we continue to speak of "omnipresent." "Omnipotent" even though the Bible doesn't so speak. We should scrap the language of "all knowing" " all powerful" because it communicates badly. Rather than these we should say, not that God is the "most powerful" that's a mistake too (from a Tillichian perspective) but that God can do whatever is logically doable. God knows whatever is logically knowable.

The problem is ni speaking of God as "doing" and "knowing' we give the importation of God as a big man and God's knowledge as the kind of knowledge city zoning board use to plan things. All of this anthropomorphic language is bring God down to the level of a thing in creation. It's not preserving the transcendent nature of God's knowledge which so different form ours we can't even know what it's like. What we can be sure of is that God has left us free will and he's not violating it. God knows whatever is logically knowable. It may not be logically knowable for God to know how it feels to be not God. But at the same time, he does know empathy, he knows the heart he knows the mind, he can take a much better intuitive feel of what that might be like than even we can ourselves. He doesn't know first hand what it's like to be human.

God does not have to make rocks he can't lift. That is a childish trap set for eighty grade apologetic hobbyists in Sunday school classes. I know because I'm still smarting from falling for it in eighth grade.God can't smell next Tuesday because days don't have smells. The eager beaver atheist can say "there's something God can't do." I say "so?" God cannot do nonsense, ok so what? We need to redefine the omnis and come up with a new term  ( I don't like "maximal greatness" too easy to confuse with "most power being"). The import this has for this issue is that there is no contradiction between omniscience and omnipotence because those are not helpful words and they don't really mean that much so they don't really describe God's attributes well. Since God is beyond the problems of either time or non-time he is not in the big room of timeless void so he's not frozen. Thus God's knowledge can come form all perspectives, from the eternal now and from time's arrow.

Might there actually be aspects of time God chooses not to see? The problem with that question is it assumes God is a rubber-necking tourist roving the expanse of all  existing matter and observing it as one would observe the country side of France from a  train window. Because God is not a big man in the sky, not anthropomorphic we can come up with other metaphors to compare God to, and that indicate that God's relationship to time is one we can't understand. Compare God to the strong force, to the unified field, to the laws of physics, the Hegelian dialectic. The Zeitgeist. I don't believe that God is impersonal but I do think it's a good exercise to think of him that way at times just to break the habit of thinking of God as a big man in the sky.

Such a God cannot waste his time worrying about conflicts between one badly worded phrase that doesn't really describe him and another badly worded phrase that doesn't describe him. Thus the problem is now reduced to a pseudo problem. It' an antiquated problem because it's rooted in the pre-Christian Greek understanding of God and time and the world, and it's also rooted in thinking of God as a big man in the sky rather than the transcendent and immanent ground of all being that God is.

As Christian apologists we naturally get annoyed at various leaps of anti-logic thrown around by our opponents. But there's an important psychological factor frequently involved here, which we should keep in mind -- and I'm not talking about a factor worthy of derision either.

To make a potentially long article much shorter (a relevant concern when I'm the author {wry g}), and to also give credit where it's due, let me first link to this July 26 commentary article at The Federalist, written by Denise C. McAllister, on why Sansa Stark -- a fictional character of G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels (better known nowadays by its TV series title Game of Thrones) -- can't bring herself to trust one of the only clearly good characters in the whole story, her half-brother Jon Snow.

http://thefederalist.com/2016/07/26/why-sansa-stark-cant-trust-jon-snow-and-many-people-are-like-her/

McAllister's thesis, which I think is sound, is that this isn't just convenient plot tension from Martin (and/or the screenwriters, so far as the show may be deviating now from the books having passed them as its source material recently). It's a psychologically realistic behavior from someone who has been so abused in her life that she finds it highly difficult to trust anyone again -- even where she could have rational reasons for doing so.

Nor is this a problem external to McAllister as a sympathetic observer: she herself has suffered several kinds of physical abuse and sexual assault, as she mentions in the article, and as she goes into more detail about here. (Be aware that this later article, from October this year, is also highly political and critical of the Clinton campaign and the Obamas. Reading it isn't necessary for this article, but I thought it important to reference for context.)

Anyone who has now read McA's earlier article, should be able to make a reasonable and correct guess about what I'm going to follow up on: her finale, where she writes that, with difficulty, she has come to accept that only God is both perfect in love and strong enough to do something about it, and so serves as a standard for her to work from in coming to trust (both provisionally and actually) creatures who are necessarily less perfect in love and less able to protect others against abuse. "If we truly want to be happy, if we truly want to overcome the effects of abuse, we need to draw close to the One who loves us perfectly and choose to let down our stony guards and open our hearts to others."

What a sceptic (particularly) will notice quickly in the finale to her argument, is that she runs directly foul of typical anti-theistic arguments from evil (and/or from inconvenient suffering more generally). She doesn't blame her mother anymore for not protecting her from her father even though she once regarded her mother as somewhat complicit, because her mother didn't have the ability to stop what was happening.

Most anti-theists, not merely disbelievers in the existence of God (of a Judeo-Christian version anyway) but morally (or at least personally, depending on their beliefs about morality per se) opposed to the idea of theism, will quickly observe and retort that if the God she believes in exists, then God, unlike her mother, could have stopped her father, and all the other abuses -- but didn't.

Now, McA is clearly a thoughtful woman and seems intelligent enough to have noticed this, not least because of how strongly it has impacted her personal life, so I don't think it would be a good idea to conclude she just hasn't thought this out sufficiently to notice the problem. I expect she has answers to those criticisms, and I expect they're at least somewhat similar to various technical answers and arguments Christian apologists (including ourselves) provide for theodicy purposes. (She's clearly a fan of C. S. Lewis after all: The Four Loves isn't a casually popular part of his body of work!)

But Christian theological and philosophical arguments about morality and the problem of evil (and suffering), aren't why I'm writing this article -- I have hundreds of pages of discussion about that elsewhere. (Here's an article from 2013, for example, on the question of how far God is authoritatively responsible for my own sin.)

I'm writing this article because I think it's important to understand that most anti-theists are directly or indirectly in the position McAllister is defending in her article, even when not to the same degree as herself or Sansa the fictional character -- but abuses of those degrees do happen, and did happen in the past, and until some radical change (or many such changes) they will continue to happen in the future. They happen to people we love, they happen to us directly, and even when the abuses aren't that extreme different people have different thresholds of what counts psychologically as a critical shattering of trust: a shattering so strong that the person will have trouble ever, ever trusting people again -- or people of a particular sort.

It literally doesn't matter whether there are, objectively, good reasons or rational explanations, even hypothetically, for why God might or might not do this or that (aside from whether such explanations are valid and accurate as to facts, but where they are perceived not to be -- and at least sometimes accurately perceived to be faulty explanations! -- that only makes matters worse.) Because, even if God exists, it is blatantly obvious from the totality of past human history that God is (at best) not always going to act to stop every injustice from afflicting victims, or even always act to stop accidental inconvenient suffering regardless of the extremity of that suffering.

Now, it's true that anyone who thinks Christians and similar such theists are living in ivory towers oblivious to the true amount of suffering in the world, and denying it in order to spare their beliefs about God, is flatly and maybe willfully ignorant. As I occasionally quip, the guy nailed up there on the big plus sign stands forever as a reminder to Christians that pain hurts and injustice really happens and God doesn't always spare people from it -- if any Christian actually needed that reminder from living such an otherwise insulated life. (Jews, whether Christian or not, have their own reminders, whether inflicted by Christians or Muslims or others; ditto Muslims for that matter.) All the great religions of the world, as Lewis observed, were instituted and long practiced for centuries before the invention of chloroform. It would be more accurate to infer that where religions are only human inventions, however many religions that includes, they are intended as rationalizations about a world of horrifying levels of suffering and injustice, not in denial of it -- strictly speaking, sceptics are never going to understand even the falsity of religions (however many are false), much less the truth of any religions (however many are true or to what extent), until they approach the topic from that direction.

But there's a flip side to this observation that Christians (and other theists) ought to keep in mind, whether we're technical apologists or not. And that's that anti-theists have reasons of their own not to trust God, and not to trust defenders and allies of God, which we ought to be able to recognize as natural, and to at least some extent even proper, responses to endemic personal catastrophe. Because we go through those catastrophes, too; and we have the same psychological trouble trusting any proposed or actual goodness, too, to the same various extents. We should be able to understand that there comes a point where, rightly or wrongly -- but sometimes rightly! -- trust simply cannot be placed because too much has happened to allow a person to infer anything other than that such trust would be mis-placed. Much moreso when strong feelings rise up, as they naturally and sometimes properly do, against the threat of mis-placing that trust again and being hurt again as a result.

This week, my report is about the POE (Problem of Evil).

On Bernardo Kastrup’s blog, there was an interesting discussion recently about the POE in the comments section of this entry:

Bernardo Kastrup: Realities of Academic publishing

A commenter by the name of Steve Turnbull seems to believe strongly in the POE:

I certainly understand the appeal of idealism - you (username tjssailor) make a very good case. But I have yet to be persuaded on the problem of evil. Like you and countless others I have suffered a lot in life. My parents divorced. My brother committed suicide. My marriage broke up (happily I’m with a new partner). And lots more besides So there’s certainly more than enough there not to believe in God;) But there’s also more than enough in nature/the universe to keep me searching for answers. And I’m open to any avenue that might provide them - both scientific and spiritual/religious. Let me ask you then - how do you know the ‘judicial thugs’ will transition to another state of being and suffer the consequences of their actions?
Steve also shared this article from BeThinking.org from William Lane Craig:

Be Thinking: WLC and the Problem of Evil

In this article, WLC distinguishes between two different kinds of POE:

During the last quarter century or so, an enormous amount of philosophical analysis has been poured into the problem of evil, with the result that genuine philosophical progress on the age-old question has been made. We may begin our inquiry by making a number of distinctions to help keep our thinking straight. Most broadly speaking, we must distinguish between the intellectual problem of evil and the emotional problem of evil. The intellectual problem of evil concerns how to give a rational explanation of the co-existence of God and evil. The emotional problem of evil concerns how to comfort those who are suffering and how to dissolve the emotional dislike people have of a God who would permit such evil. The intellectual problem lies in the province of the philosopher; the emotional problem lies in the province of the counselor.
 On the Kastrup link, someone made a comment on how the concept of evil comes from humans. I agreed with him, and then I posted something about the POE from another site (I won’t share the location here):

There is no problem of Evil -- as you guys have rightly said here. Atheists cannot define evil -- as my discussion with them about the justification of lies on CARM exposed. If they do define evil (as HRG did), they rely on theist definitions, which is it’s own self-contradictory thing.

Atheism has the root problem of being based on things placed in the wrong ontological position. Placing Man at the center of the universe is as equally-indefensible as geocentric cosmology.

Then, I posted a link to Joe’s blog entry about the POE:

Religious A Priori: Answer to Theodicy-Soteriological Drama

Here’s Joe’s argument:

(1)God’s purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil choices.

(4). The possibility of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpose of creation would be thwarted.

This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn’t just tell everyone that he’s there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined to sin.

This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it. Argument on Soteriological Drama:

(5) Life is a “Drama” not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultimate goals, ends and purposes for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us.

(7) We can assume that the reason for the “big mystery” is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probably all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus are obedience would be lip service and not from the heart.

(8) Therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; introspective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.
On Kastrup’s blog, Damien said this about Joe’s article:

Thanks Jbsptn, the article does make some good points, however I get the feeling that it is talking of ‘God’ being something entirely separate.
Check out these articles and the comments (on Kastrup’s article). Lots of good stuff there. Have a nice day!



Transcending Proof: In Defense of Christian Theism


My new book, available at Amazon. 

 
Contents:

Foreword by Stephen J. Bedard                                            
Preface                                                                                                                                              
1. A Theodicy of Incompleteness                                                                                          
2. Why I Am Not a Metaphysical Naturalist (and Why I Am a Christian Theist)
3. Extraordinary Claims, Ordinary Fallacies, and Evolution
4. Transcending Proof: A Reply to Richard Carrier                                 
5. A Brief Critique of Theological Fatalism                                                      
6. The Presumption of Naturalism and the Probability of Miracles: A Reply to Keith Parsons
7. History, Archaeology, and the Veracity of Scripture                                    
8. The Dusty Web of Gnosticism                                                                              
9. On Belief as Inductive Inference                                                               
10. Classical Apologetics: Traditional Arguments for the Existence of God                                     
11. Is God Incoherent? A Reply to Dan Barker                                            
12. Out of the Whirlwind                                                                                            


From the back cover:

This selection of writings by a seasoned apologist offers some creative answers and insights concerning issues that challenge the intellectual integrity of the Christian faith:

·         Theodicy and the problem of evil
·         Creation and the logic of evolutionary theory
·         Evidence and rational justification of belief
·         History, probability and miracles
·         The coherence of Christian theism
 
" Don’s work is a valuable addition to the growing apologetic library that is so needed by the Church."
-- from the Foreword by Stephen J. Bedard

 
From the Preface:

.… I can think of no subject more interesting, or important, than the "defense and confirmation of the gospel," as Paul put it in Philippians (1:7). The title is taken from the fourth essay, a reply to historian-philosopher Richard Carrier, who has argued that the presumed lack of evidence or “provability” of Christian theism essentially proves it false. The basic idea behind my rebuttal, initially inspired by the incompleteness theorems of mathematician Kurt Gödel, is that some truths (indeed the most obvious, basic truths) cannot be proven. If it holds that within a given mathematical system certain statements can be true yet unprovable, it seems reasonable to suggest that within the system of this present world certain theological truths – articles of faith – may likewise "transcend" proof.
 
“The madman’s explanation of a thing," Chesterton once observed, "is always complete.” Apart from an acknowledgment of transcendent truths and our own incompleteness, the human sense of imagination, perspective and hope becomes dangerously stunted. This is not to suggest that reason and evidence have no place in the acquisition of truth. Indeed for believers struggling with skepticism and skeptics struggling with belief, the pages to follow contain many reasons and much evidence to justify the claim that God exists and has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. What I do suggest rather is that when reasons and evidence for a proposition have been examined in full, we are still free to believe or doubt as we will….

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