CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Unmasking Jesus Myth 
[Following is a slightly revised version of a review that can be found at Amazon.)
The back cover to Stephen J. Bedard’s Umasking the Jesus Myth reads, "This book puts forward the evidence for Jesus and exposes the false claims of the Jesus Myth theory." I give Unmasking the Jesus Myth five stars because it fulfills its stated purpose effectively and succinctly.
Having previously coauthored (with Stanley Porter) the award-winning Unmasking the Pagan Christ, and now leading the Hope's Reason Ministries, Bedard is well equipped to unravel the often tangled web of Jesus myth speculations. His relatively compact survey first traces the history of the movement, beginning with the theologically-stripped “historical Jesus” proposed by Albert Schweitzer, followed by the increasingly skeptical concepts of, for examples, Bruno Bauer, G.A. Wells, Earl Doherty, Robert Price, D.M. Murdock (aka Acharya S.), Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, and  of course, Richard Carrier.
This is followed by an overview of evidence for Jesus, which naturally begins with the Gospels as prima facie historical (specifically biographical) narratives, but also includes the writings of Paul, the Testimonium of Josephus, and others. A critical evaluation follows, of various presumed Pagan parallels to Jesus, such as Osiris, Horus, Dionysus and Mithras. An ensuing discussion of Jesus Mythicism and the New Atheism helps the reader to better understand mythicism by locating it within its larger social and ideological contexts. For apologists, the most valuable portion of the book might be the brief guide for seeking a fruitful dialogue with skeptics of the Jesus revealed in the New Testament.
Supplementing the five chapters comprising the body of the book are three quite useful appendices. These address, first, Paul and the historical Jesus, then methodological problems associated with the Jesus Myth movement, and finally, a brief critique of the popular but transparently biased "Zeitgeist" movie.
Unmasking the Jesus Myth is a great resource for anyone (like me) with an interest or active involvement in apologetics but perhaps lacking familiarity with the ideas and personalities underlying the arguments of the Christ myth movement in particular. For Christian believers and apologists generally, most of us would do well to be reminded of the importance of Christ's historicity, an issue with which the apostles were familiar and the truth of which they were ever ready to defend. With the recent resurgence of Gnosticism, and a corresponding rise in the popularity of mythicism (a revival of Docetism, essentially), believers in the twenty-first century would be well advised to get a copy of Bedard’s book and likewise equip themselves to answer myth with fact.


This is one of the most complex issues there is,especially Hartshorne's version which I use,or one similar to his. On Victor Reppert's Dangerous Idea Blog I found our old friend Stardust makimng the claim that there are no valid arguments for God. As it turns out he didn't know what valid meant. He didn't know in logic it refers to the technical presentation of the argumet Arguments must be both valid and sound, soundness refers to truth. After dancing around that for a bit I decided to just challenge him to debate the modal argument.

My argument:

1. God is either necessary or impossible.
2. God can be conceived without contradiction.
3. Whatever can be conceived without contradiction is not impossible.
4. God is not impossible.
5. God is necessary.
6. That God's existence is necessary is a good reason to believe that God is real.
7. Therefore, believe in God's reality is warranted.

Notice I don't say god's "existence," Those of you who follow my blog and have seen my discussion of Tillich will understand this, for the rest of you it';snot important. Notice also that I argue in terms of warrant and not proof. Both Hartshorne and Plantinga refuse to contend they have prove the existence of God but Plantingia argues that the nodal argument is warrant for belief.[1]

Dusty argued:

"IF God exists THEN it is logically necessary that(God exists)"Only in the tautological sense that this statement applies to all existent things. If a thing exists then it is necessary that it exists since it is existent. That makes god nothing special.
Metacrock (me): 
wrong, you are not paying attention ,What is being said is that there are only two possibles regarding God's modal status, either necessary or impossible. In other words no middle ground, if God exists he must exist he can't be a maybe, he could not have failed to exist, if there is a God there had to be a God. The only alternative is that if God does not exist it's impossible that God could have existed God either exists and it is necessary that he does or he doesn't exist and if so it's because he could not exit.

If you mean some notion of alternative possibilities that makes god special necessarily then no, one can speculate that something gave rise to god, god's god, but maybe god's god died, though previously greater than god, but now dead, so now god exists.
Nope doesn't work that way. God has to be eternal or he can't be at all., he could not have a cause.If God exists he exists as a necessity, A necessity doesn't have a cause,if it did it would be contingent.

The speculative alternative formulations are unbounded, hence the assertion of necessity is false.
wrong modal operators are not "unbounded." Yes there is a limitless field of speculation concerning God but NOT where modal operators are concerned.

Fail from the git go, but then, you did not fully define your terms so you might think you have some definitional alternatives to these failings.

Line 3 is a non-sequitur. Just because we can imagine something that does not contradict itself as we imagine it does not mean the reality of the universe can possibly accommodate a realization of that fantasy.
p3 is the lynch pin of the thing, it's anything but irrelevant, the argent turns upon it. 

[This argument is about logic and it came in the discussion when we where arguing about validity.So how constriction is regarded in logic really matters.The concept of impossibility is about logical contradiction. Since impossibility is obtained by being illogicality contradictory the lack of contradiction means possibility,]


Hartshorne is asserting that mere fantasy is sufficient to allow for external realization. He obviously has a hard time separating fantasy from reality, but that is typical of the theistic mind.

No logician in the world thinks that, he is not saying that,

[He's equating using logic to Establishment of truth by logic with fantasy because he thinks empiricism is the only form of knowledge. As iv say below his position of empiricism as the only true knowledge cannot be proved empirically, He has to use logic to establish probability then to connect probability to empiricism.We know logic can tell us some things about the world. For example we don't have to go look for square circles we  know there are none because the concept contradicts itself. For positive understanding of truth content thorough logic see below.]


The whole argument hinges on thinking makes it so, an absurd notion. Why anybody takes this nonsense at all seriously is truly a wonderment for me.

It's so sophomoric to reduce the work of a recognized great thinker to "he thinks thinking makes it so." No he did not think that.He thought that the ontological principle is true. in other words if the terms of a proportion spell out the truth content of the proposition when understood then we have to assume the truth of the argument if the prepositions are valid.

Tillich's example of this principle is that the principle of truth cannot be disputed without admitting to the validity of the principle. One can only say the principle is false if one is willing to admit that truth exists and this principle departs from it, Thus to dispute the truth of truth is to accept the proportion that truth exists. Truth can never be disputed as truth or as sound based upon a logical denial. This is 
Duane Olson explaining Tillich's view:
The indubitability of the norm of truth is shown by a reductio argument regarding the process of knowing. In different places and in different ways Tillich points out that denial and doubt in knowing presuppose the norm of truth.[17 in the article] I want to systematize Tillich’s reductio argument at this point to show that all major theoretical postures presuppose this norm.

We can imagine four major postures taken by a subject to any theoretical judgment. One could affirm the judgment, claiming it corresponds with reality; one could deny the judgment, claiming it does not correspond; one could doubt, question, and debate the judgment; or one could claim a decision cannot be made about the judgment. All of the options presuppose the subject’s ability to apply a correspondence-norm, or norm of truth. Certainly one must apply a norm to affirm a judgment. One must also apply a norm, however, to deny a judgment. Any negative judgment presupposes and lives from the positive bearing of a norm of truth by the subject. One cannot deny that a judgment corresponds to reality without presupposing the subject’s ability to make judgments about reality. Doubting, questioning, or debating a judgment presuppose a norm of truth as well. One could not debate the veracity of a judgment without presupposing the capacity in the debaters to determine that veracity. Doubting or questioning a judgment is only meaningful under the presupposition of a norm that gives validity to that questioning and doubting. Finally, the claim that one cannot know whether a judgment is true presupposes the bearing of a norm to determine how or why a decision cannot be made.

It is important to note that the argument for a correspondence-norm, or norm of truth, is on a different level than arguments about the specific nature of the correspondence between subject and object. The correspondence itself may be conceived in terms of naïve realism, idealism, or a multitude of positions in between. Every theory about the nature of the correspondence, however, relies on the presupposition of a correspondence-norm that would make it possible to formulate, and affirm, deny, debate, or declare uncertain that theory. Put differently, the theory of the specific nature of the correspondence between subject and object is another field of knowledge that is subject to the ultimate criterion of knowledge, which is what is disclosed in the idea of a correspondence-norm.

To claim that the capacity to apply a norm is indubitable is the same thing as saying the subject bears an indubitable awareness of truth. In other words, when one analyzes the major postures toward judgments and shows how a norm of truth is presupposed as something borne by the subject in every posture, one is pointing out an awareness of truth the subject has, though it is something the subject may overlook, especially in doubting or denying particular truths. Through the reductio argument, one focuses attention on the fact that the subject bears a norm of truth, thus raising it to conscious awareness. I speak more below about the character of this awareness, but for now I simply affirm something Tillich presupposes, which is the identity between the affirmation that the subject bears a norm of truth and the subject’s awareness of this norm.[2]

Heartshorne's version is the evocation of necessity with the possibility of God. In other words necessity is such that if X is necessary and possible the possibility of X means it must exist because it can't be merely possible if it's necessary. That's where no p3 comes in. The only two possibilities for go are necessary and impossible, If God is possible hes not impossible and thus must be necessary. This is all guaranteed by the nature of modal operators. Modal operators are words that disclose the modes of being; hence"modal" logic. Modes of being are states such as necessity or contingency.  Donald Wayne Viney and George W. Shields document:
Hartshorne considered the empiricist position regarding the ontological argument as the least tenable. The second premise says, colloquially, if God is so much as logically possible, then it must be the case that God exists. Hartshorne calls this “Anselm’s principle,” or more forcefully, “Anselm’s discovery.” The discovery is that God, as unsurpassable, cannot exist with the possibility of not existing. Put differently, contingency of existence is incompatible with deity. Anselm’s formula that God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” means, among other things, that any abstract characteristic for which something greater can be conceived cannot properly be attributed to deity. [3]

Dusty also tried to confuse soundness with empirical knowledge, after I pointed out the distinction between sound and valid, That is not the case either, its not abouit empirical evidence we are still dealing in logical argument. Here is the distinction on these terms:

I. Truth, Validity, and Soundness: probably the three most important concepts of the course.
A. First, let us briefly characterize these concepts.
1. truth: a property of statements, i.e., that they are the case.
2. validity: a property of arguments, i.e., that they have a good structure.
(The premisses and conclusion are so related that it is absolutely impossible for the premisses to be true unless the conclusion is true also.)
3. soundness: a property of both arguments and the statements in them, i.e., the argument is valid and all the statement are true.
Sound Argument: (1) valid, (2) true premisses (obviously the conclusion is true as well by the definition of validity).
B. The fact that a deductive argument is valid cannot, in itself, assure us that any of the statements in the argument are true; this fact only tells us that the conclusion must be true if the premisses are true.[4]

Empirical evidence is not the issue, Most atheists on the net make the assumption that empiricism is the only real form of knowledge and logic is just made up and doesn't prove anything this something no one can prove with any empirical standard.I dom't argue that i can prove the existence of God. The issue originally was validity,I shewed the argument here is valid, It's also sound because the preemies are true  and the argument is valid. Does that prove god is real? No but it's a good reason to think he is, Therefore belief in god is warranted,


[1] Donald Wayne Viney and George W. Shields  "Charles Hartshorne Theistic and Anti-theistic Arguments," Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: a Peer Reviewed Academic Resource. Internet online resource. no date indicated, URL: (accessed 1/15/17).

Donald Wayne Viney
Pittsburg State University
U. S. A.

George W. Shields
Kentucky State University
U. S. A.
[2]Duane Olson, “Pual Tiillich and the Ontological Argument,” Quodlibet Journal vol. 6, no 3, July-sep 2004, online journal, URL: visited 8/4/10
Olson has two foot notes in this quotation which are important to examine:

1) “In one of the more significant recent monographs on Tillich’s thought, Langdon Gilkey flatly states “[Tillich] denied that an argument for the transcendent power and ground of being was possible” (Gilkey on Tillich (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000), 105). Gilkey never discusses Tillich’s use of the traditional arguments.” (2) “In his detailed and extensive volume on the ontological argument, Graham Oppy mentions Tillich’s name only once in the literature review, and he never analyzes any of Tillich’s statements (Ontological Arguments and Belief in God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 275). To Oppy’s credit, he discusses a type of argument to which Tillich’s is related. I comment on Oppy’s analysis of this argument in the final section of this paper.”

[3] Donald Wayne Viney and George W. Shields  "Charles Hartshorne Theistic and Anti-theistic Arguments," op cit

[4] Introduction to Logic, PLE

One of the various disagreements I had with IM Skeptical regarding my recent post, "Should Philosophy of Religion Be Ended?", concerned whether there are possible worlds in which the laws of logic do not hold. I maintain that the laws of logic must hold at every possible world if the very concept of "possible worlds" is to have any meaning whatsoever. Once it is permitted that the rules of logic are not themselves necessary truths, we are left with no means to distinguish possible truths from necessary truths, let alone possible worlds from impossible worlds (e.g., worlds that both exist and do not exist at the same time). Skeptical, in order to refute arguments for God from logic – like the "Lord of Non-Contradiction" paper by Anderson and Welty – to the contrary contends that there may be possible worlds in which rules of logic do not in fact hold.
Skeptical then suggested that despite their appeals to logic theists make special exceptions for theism, and asked me this: "Do you believe that the doctrine of the trinity is true? If you do, then how does that square with the rules of classical logic?" Now I believe that question is worthy of a considered reply. For clarity's sake my own reply to the first part of the question is simply "Yes" But of course what skeptics are more interested in is the second part: why Christians like me believe in the Trinity, especially when we claim to place such a high premium on the validity of logic in understanding God and the world he created.
Theologians have written volumes on the Trinity as a church dogma, as a description of divine ontology drawn from biblical statements, and as a model of divinity that lends itself to the activity of securing human redemption. Apologists, however, are the most interested in whether or not the Trinity is actually, or least potentially, coherent. That issue in turn concerns the logical relations among Father, Son and Spirit. According to Wayne Grudem, the set of propositions underlying the doctrine of the Trinity can be stated succinctly as
1. God is three persons [hypostases].
2. Each person is fully God.
3. There is one God. 
…the problem being that these appear inconsistent. However, there are no explicit contradictions here. Additional premises would be required to create an explicit contradiction, such as
4. God is not three persons.  – or –
5. Each person is less than fully God.  – or –
6. There are many Gods (gods). Etc.
Now I have already mentioned Plantinga's free will defense in the context of my ongoing discussion with Skeptical, but I believe it bears mentioning again. The free will defense appears analogous to a defense of the Trinity, in that the one who argues that the problem of evil renders God's existence impossible, like the one who charges that the Trinity is illogical, bears the burden of proving that the initial set in question is formally inconsistent and not merely counterintuitive. 
Clearly it would be logically problematic to say that the one God is actually three separate beings. After all, that seems to be directly translatable to 1 = 3, which is contradictory (in that something, God, is said to be both one and not-one at the same time). At issue, though, is whether the relations among the members of the godhead are absolute reflexive identity relations. To put it another way, we need to ask ourselves: what exactly does it mean to say "God is Father, Son and Spirit," and to also say, "Father, Son, and Spirit are God"? If it's right to say that God is strictly equal to – nothing more and nothing less – all three members of the godhead, and vice-versa, then we are saying that one equals three and effectively speaking nonsense. But I don't think it's necessarily true that the relations among the members of the godhead are absolute reflexive identity relations.
Some theologians, for example, have suggested these are "relative identities," wherein identity relations are still logically valid but in terms other than shared properties. Deutsch comments in the Stanford Encyclopedia: "It is possible for objects x and y to be the same F and yet not the same G, (where F and G are predicates representing kinds of things (apples, ships, passengers) rather than merely properties of things (colors, shapes)). In such a case ‘same’ cannot mean absolute identity. For example, the same person might be two different passengers, since one person may be counted twice as a passenger." Now this "passenger" analogy, like most other analogies, does not apply all that well to the Trinity, but for present purposes the fact that relative identities are possible is enough to undercut the argument that the Trinity is explicitly illogical. 
While analogies proposed for the Trinity are typically imperfect (as analogies are generally), they do often serve to underscore that the Trinity is a mystery in need of an explanation rather than an example of explicit illogic. It should not surprise anyone that there are few, if any, applicable worldly analogies for a spiritual reality. And skeptics, at least those familiar with scientific theories, should know that on naturalism, nature houses numerous mysteries of its own: How an entropic universe can come into existence unaided; how quantum mechanics can be reconciled with general relativity; how chemical evolution can take place apart from replicators that only operate within living systems. Etc. Meanwhile there are some serious Trinitarian models that purport to provide solutions – or at least potential solutions – beyond merely pointing out that the Trinity is not formally contradictory. Those will have to be addressed by someone else, or at least at some other time.


Atheists on the internet are always talking about contradictions in the Bible. These alleged contradictions fall into many categories. Most can be extinguished simply by remembering that all language had connotative meanings and all good writing uses literary devices, but many are based upon an inadequate understanding of the nature of divine revelation. The problem is that most of these atheist notions of "contradiction" are only contradictions becuase they are judged according to the fundamentalist model, veral plenary inspiration, (aka "inerrancy") by which the Bible is understood as literal and perfect. Actually the model used for this concept is similar to the notion of the boss of company writing a memo to the employees. Dictated to a secretary but every word in the memo is exactly what the boss wants to say, the whole is literally the word the of the boss.

The problem with the notions of revelation in the Christian tradition is that they are based upon the human understanding of what God would do. The human notion can be seen with the Book of Mormon—handed down from angels on high on Gold tablets—or the Koran—dictated by an Angel who grabbed Mohammed by the throat and forced him to write. The human notion tells us that there should be no mistakes, no problems, and the revelation should be ushered in with fanfare and pomp, clear and indisputable. But that is not the way of many religious traditions, and certainly not Christianity. There are problems, and even though most of them are conceived by ignorant people (most of the Internet atheists claims to "contradictions in the Bible" are based largely on not understanding metaphor or literary devices), there are some real problems and they are thorny. There are even more problems when it comes to the historicity of the text. But the important thing to note is that the revelations of the Christian faith are passed through human vessels. They contain human problems, and they are passed on safeguarded through human testimony. Even if the eye-witness nature of the individual authors of the NT cannot be established, the testimony of the community as a whole can be. The NT and its canon is a community event. It was a community at large that produced the Gospels, that passed on the Testimony and that created the canon. This communal nature of the revelation guarantees, if not individual authenticity, at least a sort of group validation, that a whole bunch of people as a community attest to these books and this witness.

What is needed is a new model. We need a model that allows for the mistakes of culture and the presence of the kinds of texts we find in ancient lore, mythological and symbolic in places, becuase this is what we find in the Biblical text. The memo from the boss doesn't work as a model for the Bible becasue it's not faithful to the real way the word is handed down. A better model  would be a personal reminiscence with someone who interviewed the boss. That would allow for the personality of the author to get between the reader and the original subject matter, becuase that is what we find in the Bible. 

The Traditional view of "Inerrancy."

Most people tend to think in terms of all or nothing, black and white, true and false. So when they think about the Bible, they think it's either all literally true in every word or it can't be "inspired." This is not only a fallacy, but it is not even the "traditional" view. Even in the inherency camp there exists three differing views of exactly what is inerrant and to what extent. Oddly enough, the notion of verbal inspiration was invented in the Renaissance by Humanists! Yes, the dreaded enemy of humanism actually came up with the doctrine of inerrancy which didn't exist before the 19th century, in its current form, but which actually began in the Renaissance with humanists. The documentation on this point comes mainly from Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, New York: Double Day, 1985. The humanist argument is documented on p. 36. He also demonstrates that the current Evangelical view basically dates form the 19th century, the Princeton movement, and people such as Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921). Proponents of this view include Carl C.F. Henry, Clark Pinnock, James I Packer, Francis Shaffer, Charles Warwick Montgomery, and others.

Not all of those guys stayed in the camp of the evangelicals. The late Clark Pinnock for example, who started out as a read hot fundie who taught Paige Patterson, wound up being identified with "open theology" Regarded as a defector. Yet these are all models of revelation that were found in the evangelical camp. These are conservative views, at least according to Avery Dulles, in his ground breaking book Models of Revelation.

Dulles Lists Five Versions of Inerrancy.

*Inerrency of original autographs and divine protection of manuscripts.
Proponents of this view include Harold Lindsell.

Inspiration of autographs with minor mistakes in transmission of an unessential kind.
Carl C.F. Henry.

*Inerrency of Textual intention without textual specifics.
Clark Pinnock.

*Inerrancy in Soteric (salvation) knowledge but not in historical or scientific matters.
Bernard Ramm

*Inerrent in major theological assertions but not in religion or morality.
Donald Blosche and Paul K. Jewett

I would isolate three major concerns in discussing why I reject inerrency (verbal plenary) model. I'm not putting these over as "contradictions in the Bible," but they problems with the model:

(1) Doesn't account for different types of text

(2) Idealized history

(3) no room for mythology
Knowing the kind of text is important because not all texts are meant to do the same things. Gensis is not intended to be a scientific text book or a literal history of creation. It's a borrowing of pagan myth (Sumerian, Babylonian) that was probably re-worked when Israelites were in the exile. It doesn't matter if it's not scientific, the author of Genesis had no concept of modern science it wasn't written to convey to us anything scientific. The spiritual truths that it communicates are communicated mythological, Mythology is a powerful psychological means of communicating certain kinds of truth. The History offered of Israel's sojurn in the wildernes and the establishment o the kingdom in the promised land is all idealized history. Modern archeology basically rules out most of the events in the conquest of Canaan. The point is they were making idealized history, recounting the glory of the past because they were slaves in exile.  There are better models of revelation that more accurately reflect these concerns. 

Basic Models of Revelation:

Dulles presents five models of revelation, but the faith model really amounts to little more than "the Bible helps you feel good," so I am presenting only four. This core summery will not come close to doing justice to these views. But time and space limitations do not allow a discourse that would do them justice.

Revelation as History:

The Events themselves are inspired but not the text. John Ballie, David Kelsey, James Barr. This view can include oral events; the inspiration of the prophets, the early kerygma of the church (C.H. Dodd) Creedal formulation, as well as historical events such as the atonement. This view was largely held by a flood of theologians up to the 1960s. According to this view the Bible is the record of revelation not revelation itself.

Revelation as Inner Experience:

This view would include mystical experience and views such as Frederich Schleiermacher's feeling of utter dependence (see argument III on existence of God). Religious doctrines are verbalizations of the feeling; the intuitive sense of the radical contingency of all things upon the higher aegis of their existence; part of the religious a priori.

Revelation as Doctirne:

This is the basic doctrine of inerrancy as stated above. In most cases it is believed that the autographs were inspired but some allow for mistakes in transmission and other inaccuracies of an inconsequential nature. This means that 90% of the criticisms made my atheists and skeptics on the internet don't count, because most of them turn on metaphorical use of language or scribal error. I take this position based upon personal experience on many apologetic boards.

Revelation as Dialectical Presence:

The view that there is a dialectical relation between the reader and the text. The Bible contains the word of God and it becomes the word of God for us when we encounter it in transformative way. Karl Barth is an example of a major theologian who held this view.

No one of these views is really adequate. I urge a view based upon all of them. In some sense, that is, the Bible manifests versions of each of these views. So it is not just governed by one revelatory model, but is made of redacted material which exhibits all of these views. For example, the prophets spoke from their experience of God--their inner experience of God's prompting. Their words are recorded as the books of the prophets in the Bible. The Biblical prophetic books are then the written record of the inner experience of these men. The Gospels exhibit all of these tendencies. Passed on from oral tradition, redacted by members of the communities which passed on the traditions, they represent the written record of the events of Christ's life and ministry. In that sense the events themselves were inspired. But Jesus teachings, which we can assume were transmitted accurately for the most part, represent the word actually spoken by Jesus, and thus by God's perfect revelation to humanity. Jesus is the revelation; the Gospels are merely the written record of that revelation passed on by the Apostles to the communities. Thus we see both the event model and the revelation as doctrine model (traditional view). In the Epistles we see the inner-experience model clearly as Paul, for example, did not know that he was writing the New Testament. He demonstrates confusion at points, as when (in I Corinthians) he didn't recall how many of Stephan’s household he had baptized, but when it came to his answers on doctrinal matters he wrote out of the inner-experience of God. We can also assume that the redactions occurred in relation to some sort of inner-experience, they reflect some divine guidance in the sense that the redactors are reflecting their own experiences of God.

I know these views sound wildly radical to most Christians, but they are based on the works of major theologians, including those of the most conservative schools. The dialectical model is vague and sounds unimpressive. It really seems to be tautological statement: the word of God becomes meaningful when we encounter it in a meaningful way. Therefore, I adopt a model of revelation based upon all four models (granting that we do encounter it in more meaningful ways at some times than at others, but provided we understand that this is not saying that it ceases to be the word of God when we don't so encounter it), and of the doctrinal model accepting the views that say inerrant in intent but not specific transmission. The transmission includes some mistakes but of a minor kind.

My own model is a dialectical encounter model. It sees the Biblical text as the product of an encounter between humans and the divine. The upshot of the counter could take many forms. In some cases its a straight forward reporting of "this is what the Lord says." In some cases a reminiscence, in some cases a redaction of a borrowed myth as in the re-telling of the Sumerian Garden of Eden story. It's political propaganda and idealized history told by slaves in a foreign land to memorialize the glories of their bygone people, to preserve the faith. The purpose of all of that is to form a framework for the mission of Jesus as messiah. It's dialectical in that it works through an encounter between the reader and the text. The reader must have her own "divine-human" encounter in coming to understand the nature of the text and the truths it reflects for her own life.

For Part 2 of my look at Rodger Cragun's The Ultimate Heresy (TUH), which claims that the doctrine of inerrancy is heretical, we first look at examples in which he supposes he has shown that what is found in the text is incompatible with inerrancy. As we have noted last time, however, while what Cragun presents would cause problems for a hyper-fundamentalist view of inerrancy, it would have little bearing on a contextualized understanding of the doctrine. He also presents far fewer arguments than I expected him to provide -- in fact, what he offers amounts to three broad arguments:

  • Jesus broadened or sometimes placed restrictions on the law. This shows that he didn't consider it inerrant.
  • Cragun offers multiple examples of how Jesus either broadened or narrowed the OT law, but Cragun could have saved himself the trouble, and spared the reader pages of irrelevant examples. As we have noted in numerous contexts, the OT law was didactic, which means that it was never meant to be understood as a wooden, "follow to the letter", procedural handbook. Within that context, the adjustments made by Jesus (and rabbis, as Cragun notes) to the OT law are within the proper bounds of understanding that law as inerrant.

    That Cragun fails to understand the didactic nature of the law is shown when he complains that, e.g., Deut. 22:13-22 does not consider that an unmarried girl might have a ruptured hymen for reasons other than that she had sexual intercourse before marriage. A didactic code leaves it to the discretion of local judges and officials to make such determinations.

  • The NT misuses OT texts like Is. 7:14 as prophecies of Jesus.
  • Yet again, Cragun unwittingly imitates the worst sort of atheist critic with this charge, and also unwittingly adopts his own fundamentalist hermeneutic of the text. As we have also pointed out in numerous venues, the NT's use of the OT is perfectly in accord with Jewish exegetical methods of the period, in which a text like Is. 7:14 is not seen as a prophecy of the future, but in which present events are seen as a re-enactment of Is. 7:14. That means that the NT is not using texts like Is. 7:14 "out of context," because the idea is that only that single verse is being re-enacted.

  • There were a lot of different ideas about what should be in the canon.

  • Again, like some of the worst atheists, Cragun appeals to "specter of diversity" arguments as though they have any relevance or merit, which they do not. All they would mean is that humans may not have recognized the contours of what was inspired as inerrant but not that the texts themselves weren’t inerrant. The contours of the canon would have no bearing on the matter, whether the text was inerrant or not.

    And that, oddly enough, is all Cragun has to offer before he once again returns to the prior non sequitur routine e.g., "inerrancy is a heresy because it has led to divisions." He also offers what he presents as a survey of the historical development of inerrancy as a doctrine, but even if it is 100% correct (and it may well be), it would still be a non sequitur to raise it as though it had any bearing on the truth of the matter.

    In contrast to the above, I would raise a point of agreement with Cragun. I would agree that 2 Tim. 3:16 would not really bear the exegetical weight put on it by some inerrantist commentators. Cragun spends a great deal of time on this verse, but as far as my views are concerned, all that he offers is moot.
    We will close with a look at places where Cragun professes to find "loud dissent" with inerrancy within the text of the Bible itself. His first example, which he alleges to be "most decisive and destructive," fails to produce anything but another massive non sequitur. He notes that in Acts, after his vision of a sheet from heaven, Peter acknowledged he was wrong about something; namely, Gentiles in the Kingdom. From this Cragun concludes that he has demonstrated that Peter "could be in error." Oh? By that rubric, if I find one mistake in Cragun's text, we have thereby proved that he could never produce any text without errors -- no matter how short it is, or no matter what the conditions are. Indeed, by that logic, even if he writes "2 and 2 is four" he is immediately under suspicion of error. Cragun's error is again typical of the "all or nothing" mentality of the very fundamentalism he decries.

    Cragun's next argument is that because some prophets like Jonah were able to resist their prophetic call, they were only human. What bearing this has, again, on inerrancy, and on specific conditions associated with producing an inerrant text, is hard to say, but it would once again place Cragun under suspicion, even if he told us the sky was blue.

    Third, Cragun points out that some pagans, like Balaam, were inspired. Yet again, we're not sure what the point is. Apparently, Cragun thinks the only way someone could produce an inerrant text is if they were being inerrant on everything 24/7. I know of no one, not even a fundamentalist, who believes such a thing.

    Fourth, Cragun delivers some arguments against a mechanical view of inspiration. Since I don't hold to such a view, there is nothing for me to address, though there may be something there requiring an address by some fringe fundamentalists.

    Fifth, Cragun argues that church fathers did not "idolize" the Scriptures, but that is not really the point. What he needs to show is that the church fathers thought Scripture erred. As it is, he can come no closer to this than e.g., Jerome discussing problems in the text (such as Matthew referring to the "thirty pieces of silver" passage in Zechariah -- an issue, by the way, that is easily resolved under Jewish exegetical and citation procedures). Although Jerome discusses the problem, he does not say, "this is an error." What Jerome does do is suppose that e.g., Matthew might be charged with "falsehood" for such things as adding, "I say unto thee" to the translation of "Talitha cumi." But as Cragun admits, this sort of thing comes more of Jerome's perceived neurotic compulsion for detail than from any real problem.

    Thus concludes our look at Cragun, and all in all, he could have spared us the trouble of what amounted to his own exercise in neurotic compulsion.

    One of the classes I teach at the university is a course on Ethics, and I am using a book by Ralph Dolgoff, Donna Harrington and Frank M. Lowenberg entitled "Ethical Decisions for Social Work Practice" as the text. Overall, I think that it is a good Ethics textbook largely because it provides a balanced viewpoint on the need for values in social work. For example, the book makes the argument (without committing to it) that those engaged in social work cannot avoid making value judgments in ethical decisions because trying to do what is right necessarily involves making an value choice. Also, I book notes that some (including me) think it is ethically wrong for a social worker to cover-up her own values when counseling another person because it creates a false (and ultimately unproductive) relationship with the person being counseled.

    Still, one of the exemplars in the book gave me pause – not because I thought it raised a deep ethical quandary, but because I wondered how any discerning person could conclude that the answer was anything but clear. The exemplar involved abortion and reads as follows:

    Arlene Johnson, 18 years old and single, is nearly six months pregnant. Yesterday, she came to the Women’s Counseling Center to request help in getting an abortion. At the time of the abortion procedure, the fetus was considered viable and was placed in a neonatal intensive care unit as a high-risk premature baby. Arlene was extremely upset when she learned that the “abortion” had resulted in a live infant. She refused to look at the baby or take care of it. Instead, she threated to sue the doctor and the hospital if the infant survived despite her expressed wish for an abortion. Arlene asked Robin Osborn, the hospital social worker, to make sure that the baby not be given intensive care, but rather be left alone so that it would die quickly. In the follow-up material, the book comments on the exemplar: “Arlene Johnson does not want to have the baby, but now that a live infant has been born, her expectations of the obstetrician (and the request she made to the social worker) conflict sharply with the rights of infant and what society expects from the professionals. 
    Now, what troubles me about the exemplar is two-fold: First, Arlene is apparently surprised to find out that the baby inside her was living. That's one of the puzzles about abortion - people somehow accept the lie that the "fetus" is not a living human being. It should be obvious to anyone that the "fetus" is a living human being despite the fact that it has been labeled with a term that dehumanizes it. I suspect that society has adopted the term "fetus" into the general language at the urging of those that favor abortion because it would be harder to justify abortion if we clearly identified the "thing" being aborted as "a baby" (as every mother who would want to keep the child would call it). But notice that she is surprised to find out that the baby has somehow survived the abortion. (And yes, it does happen in real life as the group for abortion survivors demonstrates.)  Yet, pro-choice advocates want to deny the existence of these survivors, and even try to deny that such events ever happen (as Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards did in her testimony to Congress).

    It makes one wonder exactly what do people who are seeking abortion imagine about the fetus inside them? Don't they know that the fetus is growing? Don't they know that it has a heartbeat as early as 22 days  and brainwaves as early as six weeks, two days? These are changes to the baby that can only occur if the baby is living and growing inside of them. If the baby stops growing, doctors use this lack of growth to tell the mother that the baby has died naturally in the womb.

    Does the aborting mother believe that by having the abortion, it is like the growing child was never alive in the first place? Is it like a mulligan in golf?

    Make no mistake about it, the pro-choice advocates misrepresent what is happening. They tell expectant mothers that the infant inside of them is not alive and not a human being, but they do so by presenting unpersuasive arguments such as arguing that a fetus is akin to a flake of dandruff -- after all, both are alive and both have human DNA such as this blogpost by some abortion advocate in Canada.  But if the baby is no different than a flake of dandruff, then why the abortion? (Responding to all of the myriad of misrepresentations in the link is another post for another day, but for right now, that quick comment will do.)

    But once the baby is "born" (in the sense that it survived the abortion), there is no hiding behind clever (or attempts at clever) arguments. The living, breathing baby lying there makes a farce of any such fancies that the baby in the womb is anything but a baby. Certainly, it is a baby that desperately needs medical attention after being ripped prematurely from its mother's womb (in a horrifyingly turn that any good novelist would love) at the direction of the mother who is supposed to love and nurture him, but nonetheless clearly a baby. It is nothing less, and wasn't anything less just because it was inside the womb.

    What does Arlene Johnson want to do? This is the second thing that troubles me about the exemplar: Arlene wants to leave the baby to die. Unfortunately, Arlene is not alone. Stories abound of aborted children having to be terminated after a "botched abortion." For some, this is not a problem since the baby was set to be terminated before it left the womb (when we could still pretend it was just a mass of fetal tissue). However, for most people, once it is clear that the baby survived the efforts to kill it and it is clearly a living, breathing baby, it should be entitled to all of the protections to which we all should be entitled just as the result of being human beings, including the right to life (a right actually specifically identified in the U.S. Constitution).

    To me, this exemplar would not present an ethical quandary if people would just recognize the "fetus" for what it is - a living human being inside the womb who should be protected in every bit the same way as it should be protected outside the womb. But even accepting that I am not free to ignore the right for a woman to choose to terminate that living human being while it still resides in the womb (a right that we call the "right to an abortion" but which is ethically as wrong of a right as the world has ever witnessed), it is absurd to think that once the baby survives the abortion it can be denied medical care because the woman who carried it demands it. To the best of my knowledge, infanticide is still illegal in all fifty states, and if it isn't, it should be. Killing helpless, living children for the convenience of the mother should be morally repugnant to every person who cares about ethics.


    In the discussions of miracles several atheists have made some big misconceptions.

    (1) mistaken assumptions about my knowledge of correlation and cause.

    some assume that since they are clever enough to know the very basic information, the difference in correlation and causality, that I must not know that because I'm a Christian and Christians are stupid, and they are so very clever to know some basic fact that all high school kids should get, correlation is not causality.

    But what they don't get is that just as I argue inductively that correlation is indicative of a cause if certain conditions obtain, that doesn't mean I don't know the difference.

    (2) Correlation is indicative of Cause.

    What these very clever atheists don't get is that correlation is indicative of cause. part of the problem is that certain people don't seem know whatindicative means. Be that as it may, there is an epistemological gap in our knowledge it is a problem at the most fundamental philosophical level. We can only establish causality in one way, buy making very tight correlations and eliminating alternate causes. This is the only way there is, and that's what Hume really proved with the billiard balls.

    Science can't prove causes. We can only prove correlations. When I assume causes on miracles, it's the only way we ever establish cause. Hans (HRG the atheist guru on CARM) says "only if we eliminate the alternate causes." Yes, that's true, but it also leads to recursion of the original problem. Because if we can't observe causality and it must be inferred from correlation, then you can't say "I have eliminated an alternate cause by showing causality and eliminating it." That's just a repeat of the same problem. The alternate causes are only possibilities, they are not proven either. What it boils down to is in the final analysis a really tight correlation is the only way to determine cause. Although it is important to eliminate the alternative possible causes, essential in fact. What this means is I am right to assume causes from correlations, given that I can eliminate alternatives, and I usually can. There is also the need to show a mechanism. Yet causes have been inferred without knowing mechanisms, as with smoking = cancer, but mechanism is also inferred from correlations. That is what we always come back to.

    All of this means that medical evidence showing the disease went away, when examined by scientific medicos is good evidence for miracles. It's not absolute, there is no absolute. There will always be a gap in our epistemology. We will always have to make epistemic judgment.

    (3) Don't need to show hit rate

    The argument is made we must show the percentage of those healed vs not healed.

    That's ridiculous. The reason is because we do not know the reason when someone is not healed. We cannot assume "O not being healed means there's no God, because some are healed." Knowing the hit rate is important in many cases. such as prophesy, "so and so is a true prophet he predicted x," but how many predictions did the make that did not come true?

    Knowing the hist rate is not true in terms of empirical evidence of healing because:

    (a) We don't know if the not healing is the result of no God, or God just didn't want to heal. Because a will is on the other end of the prayer we cannot treat it like a natural process and expect it to behave like a drug in a field trial.

    (b) Miracles are supposed to be impossible. they violate natural law. that's the whole theory of naturalism in a nut shell; nothing happens apart form natural law.

    Thus if one miracle happens that proves miracles and all it takes is one. proving that x% are not healed doesn't prove anything. miracles are supposed to be impossible and can't happen, if one of them happens, or we can assume it happened, then that proves they do happen. We don't know the rate because God is not a drug. Divine healing is a matter of God's will.

    (3) God's action in healing is not indicative of God's feelings about those healed or not healed.

    This is the whole fallacy of the God hates amputees thing. You might as well say God hates breakfast because not once in my Christian walk has God ever made me scrambled eggs in the morning.

    St. Augustine proved that there is no correlation between worldly prosperity or success and God's love. Rome was sacked by the vandals and everyone was saying "this disproves Christianity." but Augie said "no it doesn't, divine favor is not based worldly success. Stuff happens to Christians too, God causes it rain on the just and unjust."

    (4) No double blind

    Lourdes evidence does not need to be double blind First of all these are not "studies." They are not set up as a longitudinal study to see if healing works. These are real people and their journey to Lourdes is part of their journey in life in a search to be healed, they are not white lab mice plotting world conquest.

    Secondly, double blind is used as a means of control so we know data is not contaminated by the subjects knowledge of the test. People suffering from an incurable disease cannot cure themselves. So it doesn't matter if they know. If the data shows the condition went away immediately and it can be documented that all traces are gone, the of course can assume healing, provided there is no counter cause such as he took a wonder drug before he left for Lourdes; they do certainly screen for that.

    Of course there are still epistemological problems. There will always be such problems. That's why you can't prove you exist. But just as the answer to that problem is "Make epistemic judgment based upon regularity and inconsistency of data," so it goes with miracles, proving smoking causes cancer or anything else.

    Thomas Reid got it right, we are justified in assuming empirical evidence provided it's strong evidence.

    One more problem. When I say "correlation" this invites the question "how can you find a correlation if you don't know the hit rate? A correlation implies X and Y are seen together a lot, not just in one instance. But we can't go around giving people cancer and praying for them over and over to see if they ar always healed. We have to let multiple cases stand for correlation. But since we can't say why healing didn't take place we have to use empirical means to assert on a case by case basis.

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