A Discussion Between Peter Kreeft and Sam Harris

An audio discussion between Boston College philosophy professor Dr. Peter Kreeft and atheist (who says he shouldn't be called an atheist because there shouldn't be such a word) Sam Harris is available at K2. In my opinion, they are much too complimentary to Sam Harris, and Harris (as he did when he appeared on Laura Ingraham) talks so much that he leaves little time for Dr. Kreeft to respond. I personally think that the hosts did a poor job of moderating the discussion to allow both people to have a fair amount of time to put their points into the discussion.

One part that amuses me is that Harris tries to make the case that the Bible supports slavery. That idea was already decided decisively against his position in the 1800's. Personally, I find that when a person feels they need to play the slavery card, that's comparable to arguing that the earth is flat. To hold that position in light of history deserves not only to be dismissed, it needs to be held up for derision.


John W. Loftus said…
You just shouldn't dismiss the slavery card so easily. see here. The pain that your God caused for not explicitly condemning slavery is unforgiveable. Just think how you would feel if you were born and died as a slave in the American South. How would you feel if someone flippantly wrote what you just did about slavery? Think about this and you'll see exactly what I mean.

You can blame it on slave holders all you want to, but then why wasn't God clear on the issue? Charles Hodge himself defended slavery with a 40 page paper. How do you explain that? Do you now think that despite all he wrote on theology that he was just dumb? Hardly. It wasn't clear. So who's fault is that? Be honest, if you can. Whose fault was it. No excuses. No chronological snobbery, either, that would have you claim you would've seen the issue clearly.
BK said…
Yes, the ideas of John Hodge and/or any other slaveholder that the Bible supports slavery is ancient history. No one accepts it and any effort to try to dredge it up at this late date shows no discernment in what how even our understanding of the Bible grows over time. If you want to defend the position that the Bible promotes slavery, I think you should also go over and join the "Holocaust didn't happen" conference in Iran. They welcome people who like to beat dead horses.
John W. Loftus said…
"ancient history" eh? But what if you lived as a slave in that "ancient history"? You write as if you refuse to feel their pain, which could have easily been avoided if your God was clear on the issue of slavery.

God wasn't clear here because the Bible was not authored by God! It was authored by an ancient people who just didn't consider slavery wrong. In fact, there is nothing in the Bible that couldn't have been written by the people of their day. But this is what you refuse to consider. If it was authored by God and if he was good and if he could predict how Christians would misunderstand what he said (as you would claim), then what he did is unforgiveable.

Now it's one thing to give unclear directions on how to get to a particular place, if you lack an idea of how to get there, or if you don't communicate very well. But how do you exonerate God. Did he lack understanding? Does he have the ability to communicate so we could all understand what he wants us to do? Or not?

Just once, let me help you feel their pain:

Former American slave, Frederick Douglass, described how his Christian master whipped his aunt right before his young eyes. “He took her into the kitchen, and stripped her from neck to waist. He made her get upon the stool, and he tied her hands to a hook in the joist. After rolling up his sleeves, he commenced to lay on the heavy cowskin, and soon the warm, red blood came dripping to the floor.” “No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood clotted cowskin.”
BK said…
Feel their pain? Who are you, Bill Clinton? Seriously, what does that have to do with anything? You are going to put the blame on God because men twisted His words? But that's alwasys the argument. People can go all the way back to the beginning and argue that God shouldn't have created man because we have done all kinds of evil, and God, if he were perefectly good, wouldn't have allowed it. But that fails to take into account that God has many things that He wants and which motivates his actions. It doesn't matter how clear the language is, if people want they can twist it (see, e.g., people who argue that abortion is acceptable in light of the Biblical teachings). So, I reject the idea that God is responsible for our abuses.

Oh, and thank you for republishing that bit from Frederick Douglas. Of course, it helps to remind all of us that slavery in America was an exceptionally pernicious practice. But, as I'm sure you're aware, Frederick Douglass was a Christian throughout his life, and made his case against slavery on Christian principles.

But really, it boggles the mind to think that you're wasting time like this. If you have this amount of time, go back to the Christianity and Science blog entry. At least you weren't arguing that the earth is flat there.
zok said…
A couple things to keep in mind:

1) Slavery in the ancient world was differnet than slavery in the West.

2) People more or less can twist the Bible to support whatever they want. (Not just the Bible, in fact, but other documents as well). People claim the Bible supports all kinds of weird stuff. If John Hodge and other slaveowners wanted to justify their slavery, they would've found a way to do it.

3) The Bible is a history of the redemption of man and God's grace. Listing all the cans/shoulds can'ts/shouldn'ts would completely defeat this purpose (as well as turn it into an encyclopedia).

4) The basic guidlines the NT provides are enough to illustrate that Jesus did not condone Western slavery. For example, Mark 12:30-30: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these," as well as Jesus' message of love in general is enough to illustrate that He did not condone inequality, brutality, mistreating people, etc (which is what Western slavery did).
John W. Loftus said…
BK, actually, much of the stuff I've been posting here and there comes from my book [you know, the one you won't pay to read ;-)]

It doesn't matter how clear the language is, if people want they can twist it (see, e.g., people who argue that abortion is acceptable in light of the Biblical teachings). So, I reject the idea that God is responsible for our abuses.

So now we move on to whether or not God chose a poor medium to reveal himself. Why couldn't God have created language so that we could understand what he said, and if he couldn't do that then why not say things over and over again until we understood the point, and if history is such that it does not have the same force as personal experience then why not reveal himself to every time period? If things are so easily twisted, then shouldn't God have done better?

I think we all got the point about not murdering, and about not lying or stealing. Sure, even Christians do these things, but they don't have any doubts about what they should do. So why not add an eleventh commandment that reads, "Thou shalt not buy, own, or sell slaves." [Or is 11 not a perfect number to the ancient people who believed numbers contained significant meaning?]

And I do think the case with abortion is similar. If it's so clear why do Christians today disagree about it? They simple DO NOT agree about what the laws of our land should be on this issue, and that's the issue, and once again it's because God isn't clear on the issue.

It just seems to me you cannot see what is obvious. And the only reason I can think of is that you are blinded by your faith.
Hallq said…
Newsflash, BK, slavery was abolished by superior force of arms, not superior Biblical exegesis. Yor only real argument that the Bible doesn't support slavery, beyond name-calling references to Holocaust denial and flat-earthism, seems to be that that's not how Christians interpret it today, and modern exegesis is necessarily better than past exegesis. However, there's good reason to think that past exegesis would be more faithful: society has changed a lot since the time the Bible was written, and with social change comes a questioning of the ideas people had 2-3,000 years ago. Given this, holding on to texts that old will mean reinterpreting them to suit modern understanding--making the modern exegesis less reliable.
BK said…
Yes, I won't pay to read your book, and if your arguments here are what is in your book, then its clear to me that I have made a wise decision.

Why did God choose a poor medium? Well, I think Zok has already pointed out the flaw in that thinking. You can always say that another medium is better. And even though Jesus taught around 30 BC there are skeptics who say "what about the first 100,000 years of man's existence." And now you want to wait another 2,000 years? And to add to that, if my earlier post is right, there may never have been the invention of these other medium of Christianity hadn't come into existence first.

There are ten commandments, and they were boiled down to two: love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. As Lurching has forcifully pointed out, there is no way to reconcile that with the type of slavery that was practiced in the South in America prior to the Civil War. So, what part of "thou shalt not buy, own or sell slaves," do you find not included in "love thy neighbor as thyself"?

And while we're at it, what pagan culture saw the light and found slavery to be an atrocious practice? I don't know of any that outlawed slavery before the Western European (read, Christian) countries began doing so in the 1700s.

Finally, as far as I'm concerned, the Bible is perfectly clear that if the fetus is a baby (which it is) then it's wrong to kill that innocent human being. Few dispute that (in fact, those that do are generally not Christian). Within the Christian view, the debate is about whether the fetus is a human being. The fact that it is and other people can't see that is simply part of our fallen nature preventing us from seeing reality. Again, as Lurching has already pointed out, anything can be twisted by those who have a motivation to do so.

I think that if there is anyone having difficulty with the obvious, it is you. And the only reason I can think of is that you are so blinded by your rejection of Christ that you have lost your ability to think clearly. See? We can all play that game.
zok said…
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets" (Matt 7:12). I think it's pretty safe to say that covers slavery, and that's pretty clear too. The message and medium are fine.
Michael said…
"Newsflash, BK, slavery was abolished by superior force of arms, not superior Biblical exegesis."

Amazing how weapons, unmanned by people with ideologies, just seem to jump up every once in a while and solve the world's problems. No wonder the NRA has such faith in them.

"there's good reason to think that past exegesis would be more faithful: society has changed a lot since the time the Bible was written,"

Yes, it has changed, because of _Christian movements_ in Britain and the United States which forced societal change. If I recall correctly the *enlightened* deists who founded this country still had slaves and even fathered children with them. Furthermore, secular powerhouses like David Hume promoted the idea of blacks being inferior to whites. When it was pointed out that some blacks could perform art or intelligent duties, Hume replied that a parrot can be taught to mimic human speech but that doesn't prove the parrot is anything special.
BK said…
Hmmmmmm. I got a newsflash from HNN (the Hallq News Network), but I don't remember signing up . . . .

But that's okay, because it shows how unreliable some news networks can be. Here, for example, he says that slavery was done away by superior force of arms not Biblical exegesis. Well . . . yes, it was certainly ended by the Civil War, but it wasn't started by the Civil War. The reason why it became politically wise for Lincoln to free the slaves was because earlier Biblical exegesis paved the way for making the abolition of slavery the move that would gain him the support. Or do you disagree with that?

And if you think that my only arguments are name-calling and claims that that's how it's defined today, you haven't read to closely. So, let me try again: slavery is wrong. It is a violation of the commandment (the second greatest) to love your fellow man as yourself. Now, there are some things that suggest that slavery was okay, but that position lost in the same way that the position supporting the god of gnosticism lost. It was the interpretation that lost and rightfully so.

I do intend to continue to cast my derision on any argument that tries to make a contrary case because those arguments don't deserve attention. They are the equivalent of holocaust denial. But then, so is the entire Jesus Myth movement . . . .
Lurchling said…
BK - you addressed zok as "Lurching" and I'm pretty sure you meant for the credit to go to him. Thank you, though. For a moment I thought I had done something productive.
Hallq said…
First, if the argument doesn't deserve attention, why have you spent one blog post and four comments on it?

I realize that those on the abolitionist side claimed Biblical support for their views, but the fact that remains that they won through military means. The Emancipation Proclamation may have endeared the North to Europe and raised morale among its own citizens, but I doubt it was looked upon favorably in Southern pulpits.

The argument that slavery is inconsistent with loving your neighbor is good, excepts that it proves too much: to give just one example, it proves that it is wrong to kill people for failing to be disgusted by religions other than your own. I trust, my friend, that you will find such a conclusion perfectly absurd, and for that reason we cannot trust common sense too far in interpreting God's Word.
BK said…
1. You're right, it is stunning that anyone is arguing the position you are arguing.

2. My argument proves that "it proves that it is wrong to kill people for failing to be disgusted by religions other than your own"? I have read that through 3 times now and think that you either made a typo or you are more confused than I thought.
Hallq said…
In response to 2, I appologize, I should have made my reasoning more explicit. Common sense would say that loving your neighbor means not killing him, as I said, for "failing to be disgusted by religions other than your own." Therefore, if we try to interpret the Bible with common sense, we come to the conclusion that the Bible says it is always wrong to do that. Don't you agree that such a position is absurd? So it would seem we cannot use such common sense arguments in exegesis.

But I said exactly what I meant; there was no typo.

Also, on another issue, do you really think that Jesus Mythicism is as implausible as Holocaust Denial?
Jeff Downs said…
Newsflash, BK, slavery was abolished by superior force of arms, not superior Biblical exegesis.

The following article maybe of interest Slavery, Human Dignity, and Human Rights, John Warwick Montgomery.
John W. Loftus said…
I'm finding that those who who continue to tell me what the Bible says about slavery are being obtuse, and I really mean this. The whole reason why we now have a consensus on what the Bible says about slavery is because the progression of history and everything that happened in history has helped us reach this conclusion.

So what? Big deal. Tell me this till you are blue in the face. It doesn't change the fact that in Christian America people of a different race were brutalized, ripped from their mothers arms, whipped, hunted, transported in the bellows of a ship, auctioned off, stripped naked, and made to work without much food for their entire short lives by a nearly unified consenus of Christian people who all agreed that what they were doing was justified by the Bible.

You think you could convince these Christian slaveholders otherwise from the Bible? NO! You couldn't, not with all of your arguments, since they believed the Bible and the Bible talks about the slave being his master's "property." (Exodus 21). Go back in time and use your arguments. They would reject them. Have you ever read their arguments? They are persuasive. Yep. That's right. The arguments of slave holders were persuasive using the Bible. Just see Willard Swartley's book, Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women (Herald Press, 1984), for example.

My question is why God wasn't clear on this. My question is why God didn't forsee this? My question is why God didn't condemn slavery and do so as often as needed for us to get the point just like he did about lying, stealing, adultery and murder? Why? What your God failed to do is completely unforgiveable.

Just read the horrors of salvery in the American South by Peter Kolchin in American Slavery: 1619-1877 and then picture yourself being one. Now with that picture in mind wouldn't you want to know why God failed to condemn slavery in such a way that the Christians in the South would know it was wrong?

And as far as Frederick Douglass condemning slavery from his Christian perspective goes, so what? My point is that there were Christians on both sides of this fence depending upon their cultural, geographical, and racial background. Why didn't God create a unified Christian consensus on this by speaking clearly? Why? Answer the question. The same question does apply to abortion. Most people who claim to be Christians DO NOT OPPOSE making abortion legal in America under the Roe V Wade distinction. Most of them do oppose late term abortions, as do I. But why wasn't God clear here too? Why?

There is nothing in the Bible that could not have been written by a person in those times. You'd think God could've shown later generations he knew what he was talking about by telling us of the vastness of the universe, or predicting events and inventions as evidence for every time period, but ghe didn't. For our era he could've predicted the invention of the computer chip. But no. He didn't give us any predictive evidence, because he didn't author the Bible. Since you won't accept that conclusion you continue to be obtuse. I wish you well on this, but that's what you end up being.
BK said…

Even with your revision, your statement still makes no sense to me. I don't know if I'm being dense or you are not making sense. So, I leave it to others to try to reason through it.

And I do think that the Jesus Myth position is close to the same thing as Holocaust denial. The only differences are that there are still people who can testify to the holocaust who are alive today whereas there aren't any people who can testify about the events of the NT, and there are pictures today whereas there were clearly no pictures during the NT. But other than that, they are pretty much the same.
BK said…

Thank you for your opinion. I think that it is incredibly wrong and misguided. I agree that people acted in a way that was inconsistent with the Bible when they engaged in the American slave trade and that they used the Bible to support it. I think those efforts were unsupportable and wrong, and history and ALL of Christian thought is now universally in agreement that it was wrong.

We can spend hours on this and not come to an agreement. You can ask questions until you're blue in the face, and all I can do is come up with reasons that you will dismiss because my answer will not be "because God doesn't exist and the Bible was written by people who supported slavery." I am convinced that is the only answer you will find acceptable. So, I leave you to your conclusions, but be aware that simply because you think it doesn't make it so.
John W. Loftus said…
Okay, BK, round two is now over. Catch you sometime later, who knows when? Come visit me here for round three if you want to.
Hallq said…

First, had any luck finding contemporary newspaper reports of the resurrection? If you have, that is something I would very much like to see.

On the other question, let me make this as simple as possible: Do you, or do you not, think it is always wrong to kill people for failing to be disgusted at some religion other than your own? Simple, yes or no question.
BK said…
There weren't newspapers in 31 A.D. But I do have something which is every bit as good: the eyewitness accounts of Matthew and John, the researched account of Luke (which is like an investigative newspaper report) and the account of John Mark who wrote down what Peter told him and the people of Rome about Jesus. Moreover, there's very good reason to believe that they were all written within 40 years of the death and probably much earlier than that. When speaking of history that is that old, that's excellent evidence.

Now, as to your really . . . weird question. Do I think that it's wrong to kill people for failing to be disgusted at some religion other than my own? Well, again, the question seems extremely obtuse (to borrow John Loftus' word) to me. But if I am understanding it correctly, and assuming that you are asking the question without any hidden assumptions (as I fully expect you hold), I will answer this way: today, it is wrong for people who believe in religion A to kill other people (unknown which religious or non-religious belief these other people hold or if it is even relevant) for failing to be "disgusted" (i.e., for failing to have a feeling of extreme revulsion) by religion B if there are no other factors involved. In fact, without any other factors involved, I would go farther and say that it is wrong today to kill other people over religious differences alone.

Now, why don't you tell me why you are asking this rather obtuse question?
Lurchling said…
"First, had any luck finding contemporary newspaper reports of the resurrection? If you have, that is something I would very much like to see"

would you believe the resurrection if there was a newspaper back then (I doubt it)? do you believe everything in newspapers today (I doubt it)? would you believe a newspaper today if it claimed a resurrection (I doubt it)? Do you believe other historical events from antiquity without the benefit of contemporary newspapers (probably)?

If my expected responses from you are correct, why bring it up in the first place?
zok said…
Even if there was a contemporary newspaper report of the resurrection, I'm sure skeptics would reply with some variation of: Yeah, well the newspaper report came from a Christian (of course no report confirming the resurrection is going to come from a non-Christian), so they're biased an unreliable. Show me video of the resurrection, then I'll believe it.
Lurchling said…
"Show me video of the resurrection, then I'll believe it."

And even then there would be skeptics who claim the video was manipulated in some way or there was some trick with the camera. It must be some kind of fraud, because resurrections cant ever possibly happen in the fundie skeptics head. anything to not believe, really.
Hallq said…

You know damn well that your claims about the gospels are not anything like the consensus of modern scholarship. Do you, then, equate the views of a Raymond Brown with Holocaust denial?

As for the other point, I will say why I asked my question as soon as you answer it. You did not do this, however, but rather changed a key word in your answer. The fact that you did this suggests to me you know why I asked my question.
BK said…
I don't give a rip what you think the consensus of scholarship says or if you are accurate on that point (I don't think you are)because I am defending the position that has been the position of the church for a long, long time. There are many good Christians who defend and have defended the views that I am advocating, and I happily stand in their footsteps. If you don't think that my view is accurate, I suggest you go read some more because the case has been made and made convincingly on many occasions and in many places.

When I used to go into court, I would object to questions like yours because they are hypotheticals that may or may not have any relevance to the issues of the case. The judge would always sustain my objection. Thus, since you feel it necessary to try to trap me into an answer to spring out the old "Ah-ha!", I simply refuse to answer until you tell me why you want to know. Other than that, you are simply playing games. If you don't want to tell me what you're asking for, I don't see any reason to converse further.
Weekend Fisher said…
The particular type of slavery practiced in the Southern U.S. in the colonial era was, in fact, outlawed in the Law of Moses, and carried the death penalty for whoever did the kidnapping / vending.

Anybody interested in facts, or is this mostly just a rantfest?
zok said…
Even if the skeptic conceded that even one of the Gospels was written by an eyewitness, he would simply fall back on: "So what? They come from Christians who were biased; thus they’re unreliable." Or: "So what? They weren’t attempting to report history. They fabricated words and deeds for theological purposes."

They already easily dismiss the fact that the author of Acts' (whether or not it's Luke) knew the disciples and would then have reliable information about Jesus (Acts 28:1-6), and his firsthand eyewitness accounts of the miraculous (e.g., Acts 20:7-12; 21:17-18), as well as Paul's direct claim to have performed miracles (2 Cor 12:11-12).

Of course no non-Christian would affirm Jesus' resurrection, but if we had non-Christian attestation that Jesus' followers believed He was resurrected, they would simply fall back on: "So what, they received this information from Christians; we can’t rely on it." (They already even do this with Tacitus' report of Jesus’ existence). What if we actually did have non-Christian contemporaries of Jesus affirming His resurrection (something we could never expect to happen): "So what? Ancients were gullible and superstitious; they’re not reliable." (As John Loftus demonstrates).

Even if they conceded that the disciples actually did believe they saw the risen Jesus, as most scholars believe, they fall back on: "So what, it was a hallucination or 'objective vision.'"

Even when you point out that we have modern eyewitness accounts of the miraculous and you can even find these people posting on the blogs, they fall back on: "So what? They’re gullible too."

There’s absolutely no way to win. Ah, how easy it must be to be a skeptic. Deny everything; no amount of evidence is enough.

Anybody interested in facts, or is this mostly just a rantfest?

Seems to be that it's pretty much a rantfest, but I'm enjoying it. The skeptics' denial is getting to be humorous.
Hallq said…
I am defending the position that has been the position of the church for a long, long time.

And Muslims have long believe that the Qu'ran is infallible. Now go convert to Islam.
BK said…
Gosh, Hallq. With such a devastating critique, I don't see what I could possibly say in response . . . other than, "keep trying, someday you may string together a convincing argument along those lines, but not today."
Beowulf said…
I think it’s safe to say that Hallq is trying to set up ‘trip wire’ questions. Unfortunately for him, BK is a little too sharp and just walks around it. Nevertheless, we have seen just how impressive the moral arguments from the Hallq are on Gene Cooks show:


Gene: Is it safe to say then that you don't have a rational justification for human dignity? And you don't have a rational justification for morality?

Christopher: Uh, yeah, I guess you can say that, though I... I mean... a little bit... when you ask for, uhm, I mean, there's different... there's different levels of rationality. There's... I... I take it... I... take it...

Much thank to F. Walton for the transcription.
Frank Walton said…
Hey BK,

Thank for linking to my blog. This is off-topic: We're still known as "Atheism Sucks" not "K2." That picture of the K2 mountains had the "k2" sign superimposed over the scene. We couldn't get rid of it (without it looking obvious) so we just left it. Besides, the K2 mountains are inspirational, don't you think?


Lurchling said…
zok - you are correct, again, as with the case of Robin Lane Fox accepting some of the gospels traditional authorship yet still remaining a faithful atheist. There is really good evidence that Luke, Mark, and John are all authors of those gospels by their Titles, external and internal evidence.

I think the "modern consensus" is a reflection of a double standard held against religious writings, not necessarily good argumentation or even consistency with how secular historians would treat the same kind of evidence with other writings from antiquity (i.e. Tacticus and his Annals).

yeah, hallq sure did get that intellectual last laugh in there.

and the irrelevent parallel of the day goes to.....
zok said…
I'm aware of the general arguments for and against traditional authorship but tend not to focus on it. Reliability can be determined apart from authorship -- eyewitnesses can report poor history and non-eyewitness can report accurate history. But anyway, realize that the consensus of modern scholarship does not accept Matthew and John, but I was under the impression that they're generally accpeting of Mark and Luke. Anyone know if this is true?
Lurchling said…
At James Hannam's webpage his review of the literature supports the consensus of accepting Markan and Lukan authorship, but not John and Matthew. So, I have no idea, I assume he's done his homework on it.

That's true about authorship, but I do think it is honest to let the arguments speak for themselves in accepting traditional authorship of some of the gospels (though admittedly I do not think Matthew wrote that gospel). The evidence for Luke and John's authorships is very strong in my opinion and Mark to somewhat of a lesser degree but still convincing.

I think strictly historical arguments and evidence without all the combating agendas yields the belief that some of the names on our gospels today matches up with who wrote them. I mean, this is common historical practice in other fields of history, why not in NT studies as well?

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