Showing posts from May, 2007

Worse than a Lie--John Loftus Deceives His Readers and Tars his Co-Bloggers

John Loftus is one of the lead contributors to the anti-Christian blog, Debunking Christianity. He has commented here a number of times; most recently--ironically--on the issue of whether atheists can have a coherent philosophy of morality.

On May 22, 2007, he posted an entry attacking J.P. Holding. Nothing new here; Holding is enemy no. 1 for the online skeptics. Loftus began by linking to a blog by another atheist attacking Holding. Then, Loftus linked to another blog devoted to attacking Holding, in this manner:

I recently noticed another blog that apparently started up in March which is very critical of J.P. Holding, here. I personally do not like Holding, but I'm probably not going to waste my time on him, except to point out what others are saying about him....
When you go to the referenced anti-Holding blog, you see a picture of Holding and the title of the blog, "J.P. Holding." This in itself is deceptive as such pictures and titles usually identify the autho…

SBL: the root of all evil?

Hector Avalos has reflected recently on his membership in the Society of Biblical Literature and on biblical studies more generally. I cannot say that I am impressed with the maturity or the soundness of his views. In fact, I find myself disagreeing with him in just about everything he says. But it should be noted that this is not just because he is a secular humanist complaining (unjustly, I usually think) about the supposed dominance of faith-based scholarship in the academy. As a reflective Christian I welcome legitimate prophetic criticism which can help us believers remove the beam that is in our own eye when it comes to unwarranted assumptions, complacency or abuse of power. But I certainly don't think that Hector Avalos has given us such a critique.

Avalos charges that "The vast majority of SBL members are engaged in an elite leisure pursuit called "biblical studies," which is subsidized through churches, academic institutions, and taxpayers. Keeping biblical …

A Preface to Mark -- Recommended Reading

A while ago, Richard Burridge wrote one of the most influential books in New Testament studies in the last 30 years: What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with Greco-Roman Biography. At the time Burridge began his study, the prevailing view of the genre of the Gospels was that they were sui generis -- of their own unique genre as pioneered by Mark. While Burridge was undertaking his study, some stirrings had arisen questioning the majority opinion (most notably by Charles H. Talbert and his books arguing that the Gospels were ancient biographies). As Burridge began his inquiry, he expected to refute the notion that the Gospels were akin to ancient biographies, but ended up confirming the dissenting view. So influential was Burridge's argument that the majority opinion has shifted and the view that the Gospels were written according to the genre of ancient, Greco-Roman biography is ascendant.

Burridge's work, however, is not easy reading. If someone is looking for the case…

Ethics and the Third Person--an introduction to rationally invented ethics

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: I am here appending in several parts some excerpts from an unpublished book of mine, originally composed late 99/early 2000, wherein I work out a progressive synthetic metaphysic. The current topic is ethical grounding, and an analysis of problems along the three general lines of ethical explanation. The previous entry, which introduced the topic and provided distinctions of explanation for discussion, can be found here.

I am still in chapter 30, “an introduction of the question of ethics”.

This entry features several footnote comments, which I will include as bracketed notes in the text below.

....... [text excerpt begins here]

In the first class, ethics are proposed to be an invention of us humans. This is one way that ethics are proposed to be rational. [Footnote 329: But only so long as the underlying philosophy self-consistently affirms that we are capable of active reason.]

Notice I said an invention, not a discovery; a discovery would entail one o…

In Memoriam


Ethics and the Third Person--distinctive categories of explanation

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: In relation to a discussion I was having with Paul (last name currently unknown) on a topic begun by Chris Price (aka “Layman”) down in a post here, I am here appending in several parts some excerpts from an unpublished book of mine, originally composed late 99/early 2000, wherein I work out a progressive synthetic metaphysic. The current topic is ethical grounding, and an analysis of problems along the three general lines of ethical explanation. (Meanwhile, BK has begun his own discussion of the discussion, so to speak, here.)

Please keep in mind that I am discussing these things in light of something like 510 manuscript pages of previous analysis already. Which I may decide to inflict on the journal (in a hopefully somewhat more abbreviated form), at a later date, if I am sufficiently provoked. Be warned--be very awarned. {g}

(More seriously, I only mean that I am aware that a bunch of other topics really need to be discussed first. I haven't wr…

Atheism and Cultural Morality

As I was reading through the discussion that is taking place between Paul and Jason Pratt in the post by Layman, below, entitled A Future of Atheistic Morality?, a few thoughts occurred to me that I wanted to run past the assembled readers. Paul, in writing in response to Jason, said:

If you're looking for atheistic morality to provide a grounding or foundation that is as secure as, say, mathematics or logic, or provides the surety of an absolute morality, it won't happen. Evolutionary morality is a scientific hypothesis of what is, not what should be (it's not a contradiction that this is a theory about morality, which is a code that says what should be).

We may at times let rationality rule, or at other times allow our natural feelings to rule. We are probably more rational when we seek to impose our morality *within* our own group that is assumed to share our morality, as a matter of consistency (if you're for freedom, as an American, then you should favor specific po…

Musings on the Multiverse

Dr. Jeffrey Zweerink, one of the bloggers for Today's Reasons to Believe the blogging arm of Dr. Hugh Ross' Reasons to Believe, has undertaken the task of tackling some of the arguments and implications arising from the multiverse theory for the origin of our universe. The first in the series of posts on the subjects is entitled Multiverse Musings -- Introduction, and more parts will follow in which Dr. Zweerink examines the four main models comprising the multiverse theory.

In the Introduction, Dr. Zweerink notes:

My intent is to lay out what I believe to be the most exciting, difficult to understand, and apologetically impactful issues in a clear and concise way. While I believe there are significant issues in multiverse models (described in coming articles), they are not inherently antibiblical. While it certainly affects the advancement of various arguments, the multiverse concept dramatically expands our view of reality and, I will argue, ultimately strengthens the case fo…

Five Reasons God Exists Video

A new, short (less than 10 minutes) video is available on YouTube entitled 5 Reasons God Exists. It does a pretty nice job of touching upon five of the classic arguments for the existence of God. It serves as a nice introduction to the cosmological, teleological and other arguments that have been used for many centuries to support such beliefs.

Before any skeptics write telling about how the video doesn't answer objections A, B, C, D, etc., it should be noted that this is a very short overview of these five classic arguments. It is not intended to be an exhaustive overview and analysis of each of the arguments. I expect that any video that would seek to exhaustively cover and analyze any one of these five arguments would need to be at least two hours in length to do a reasonably good job. Moreover, raising objections about the arguments made in this video doesn't mean that the objections haven't been countered elsewhere as every objection I have ever encountered to these a…

Well, We Didn't Say for Certain . . . .

When it comes to scientific theories related to origins, the authors and proponents for such theories with any common sense are reluctant to make absolute assertions. There is a reason for that: most informed authors recognize that, in the area of origins, there is little that is proven. Most of the answers to the questions of origins are based on extrapolations from evidence that can be found. These extrapolations are often quite reasonable, and I am willing to consider them in that vein.

The problem arises when you go beyond those in the know to the less-informed individual who wants to take the extrapolation of the informed person and turn it into an absolute. For example, remember "Lucy"? No, not Lucy Van Pelt of Peanuts fame (pictured above right). Lucy, the Australopithecus afarensis and so-called ancestor linking apes and humans. Her picture is on the left, below.

Now, I recognize that it isn't the scientists who are proclaiming Lucy as the missing link. They have…

New Book on the Gospel of Thomas

Nicholas Perrin has authored a new study on the Gospel of Thomas, entitled Thomas, the Other Gospel, that "tells the story of the gospel from its discovery to its current reception among academics and in more popular circles. It provides a clear, comprehensive, non-technical guide through the scholarly maze of issues surrounding the Coptic text." Michael Bird has helpfully posted some excerpts of Perrin's conclusions on his blog. From Bird's post and the description on Amazon (U.K.), here are the highlights:

First, the Gospel of Thomas was not even written in Greek, but is a Syriac document.

Second, the Gospel of Thomas is not particularly early, having been written in the latter part of the second century.

Third, the primary source of material used by the author of the Gospel of Thomas was Tatian's Diatessaron (a mid-to-late second century document), but "also undoubtedly drew on his memory of a number of oral and written traditions."

Fourth, although…

A Future of Atheistic Morality?

It is often argued that theism provides a basis for a coherent system of morality, whereas atheism offers no such guidance and indeed suggests that there can be no such thing as morality traditionally understood. It is just as often responded that atheists are moral people too and there is no evidence that conversion to atheism leads people into gross immorality or crime.

True enough, but that is not really the point. The issue is not, as I put it in my article Is it Possible to be Good Without God?, whether an atheist can be a good person, but whether goodness and evil are concepts sustainable in an atheistic milieu.

However, if atheists are just as moral, if not more so, than self-identified Christians, is this a distinction without a difference? Does it matter that the atheist's morality system may not be coherent so long as he acts morally?

Such thinking is shortsighted. Today's atheists have the benefit of 1500 years of Christian morality. This morality has affect…

Miracles and skepticism

I'd just like to post some excerpts from Craig Keener's excellent two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John, on the subject of miracles in the Gospels and their relationship to miracles which (apparently) still happen today:

"It is impossible to examine the historical question of miracles without being explicit concerning presuppositions informing much traditional historiography in the Gospels. If one assumes a priori that neutrality in the historical quest demands that one must not find data that could favor the truth claims of any particular religious movement or movements, one potentially subordinates the objectivity of one's method to desired conclusions...In its rightful reaction to medieval dogma, later Enlightenment rationalism itself eventually transgressed the bounds of both reason and empirical data, excluding even the hypothesis of divine intervention from consideration in explaining the data of even the best attested miracle claims. Is there not something…

Visualizing the Number of People Killed by Abortions

In doing some research, I came across a webpage entitled U.S. Abortion Deaths Compared to U.S. War Deaths. As the title suggests, it compares the total number of people killed in the various wars with the number of people killed in abortions since 1973. The comparison is put on a chart where a little man (like the one pictured at right) represents 10,000 people killed.

While I am aware that some would dispute that the people killed in abortion are "people", for those of us who recognize that the entity killed is a living human being who should be entitled to all of the same rights and privileges as full grown adults from the moment of conception, the chart's comparision really drives home the point of how horrendously large the numbers of people killed has been.

Addendum: For a related post on the numbers related to abortion, see Abortion by the Numbers.

Alister E. McGrath, Addresses, Lectures, Sermons and Articles On-Line

A collection of addresses, lectures, sermons and articles (largely PDF format) by Alister McGrath is now available on-line here. Among the titles available are the following:

A response to A.C. Grayling's criticisms of religious belief: An article for Good Friday, published in The Daily Telegraph (London), 6 April 2007.

A dialogue on religion between Richard Dawkins and Alister McGrath at the Oxford Literary Festival, Friday 23 March 2007, introduced and moderated by Joan Bakewell.

“The questions science cannot answer: The ideological fanaticism of Richard Dawkins’s attack on belief is unreasonable to religion - and science”. Published in The Times (London), 10 February 2007. Note that the title is due to the editors, not the author.

"Atheist Interpreters of Darwin: Richard Dawkins on the God Delusion." A lecture given at the Darwin Festival, Shrewsbury, on 7 February, 2007.

"Dawkins God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life." A lecture given at the University…

Standing Up Against Child Sexual Abuse Enablers

A few days ago, I wrote an essay calling on all Christian bloggers to speak out against child sexual abuse by persons in authority in the church as well as the efforts to cover up incidents and protect the perpetrators. At this point, no other Christan blogger (of which I am aware) has published their own statement against protecting pedophiles, but I remain confident that the great majority of the church membership despises such activity. I will return, from time to time, to this call to the Christian body of bloggers to join with their own statements.

As horrendous as child sexual abuse by pastors or Sunday School teachers may be, I have just read a report that I found much more outrageous -- the enabling of Child Sexual Abuse by an organization that is praised by most non-Christians and which is seen in many circles as anti-Christian: Planned Parenthood.

The first news I received about this came from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. According to his report, a case in Ohi…

An Interesting Review of Hitchens' God Is Not Great

From Hitchens' flat world by Father Raymond J. De Souza as published in the National Post:

God is not Great -- lavishly excerpted in the National Post these last four days (the final instalment appearing on the opposite page) -- has lots of arguments like that. Isn't it silly for religious believers to bring themselves before God in certain places when God could see them wherever they are? And why do we need to tell an omniscient God what we need? And what if different believers pray for mutually contradictory things? And didn't you know about inconsistencies in sacred texts? And -- this example must be included because Hitchens is mightily annoyed that religion seeks to restrain the sexual appetite -- why would God create human beings with their hands close to their genitals if he didn't intend for them vigorous onanistic exertions, of which all religions take a dim view? You see, such puzzles can only be solved by realizing that the whole putrid mess is pure fabricati…

A Case Study In Presuppositional Apologetics

Presuppositional apologetics does not get a whole lot of attention on Cadre Comments or anywhere else for that matter.

Rather than explain what it is, I would refer you to a debate being carried by Christianity Today between Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens. Part one is here. Part two is here.

Here is the money paragraph written by Wilson (the Christian) to Hitchens (the atheist):

"Among many other reasons, Christianity is good for the world because it makes hypocrisy a coherent concept. The Christian faith certainly condemns hypocrisy as such, but because there is a fixed standard, this makes it possible for sinners to fail to meet it or for flaming hypocrites to pretend that they are meeting it when they have no intention of doing so. Now my question for you is this: Is there such a thing as atheist hypocrisy? When another atheist makes different ethical choices than you do (as Stalin and Mao certainly did), is there an overarching common standard for all atheists that yo…

The examined faith

Christianity Today has a portion of its regularly updated weblog devoted to a new Frontline documentary on Mormonism. Apparently it has gotten quite favorable reviews, except for the usual strident insistence on behalf of some church members that nobody EVER gets Mormonism right. But one comment in particular stands out from one of the media reviews:

"The documentary, narrated by David Ogden Stiers, also suggests that the Mormon religion, simply by virtue of its recent origins, is subject to greater scrutiny than other faiths. The ancient religions were established at a time of imprecise science and murky record-keeping. While there might be contradictory scientific evidence, it isn't strong enough to shake the faith of most adherents.

Smith, however, is a relatively contemporary figure. In addition to official church accounts, there is no shortage of articles, diaries and journals to confirm or dispute his words and deeds. While the real motives of Moses and Jesus, seen throug…

The Main Webpages are Moving

Please be aware that due to what appears to be a failure in an automatic pay feature, the site has been taken over by someone completely unrelated to the CADRE who has put up his own material to sell. This person is not part of the CADRE and we have nothing to do with what he is selling (general Christian merchandise of some type). But he was like a vulture who swooped in and took over the domain the very day that our rights to it expired.

The CADRE site will be reappearing soon under a new domain. We will announce the move here once it is completed. In the meantime, we encourage no one to visit the old site.

Bede is Back!

After a short break, Bede is back and blogging again at Bede's Journal, discussing theories of the mind and consciousness.

A Call Out To Christian Bloggers: Child Sexual Abuse

Recently, I have been hanging around a blog called Deep Thoughts that is run by a skeptic. He has recently been posting a number of entries about Christians (especially pastors) who have been accused of, been charged with, or admitted to committing child sexual abuse. My feeling was that he was trying to paint Christianity in a false light by making it appear that pedophilia was running rampant in the Christian church but nowhere else. So, I commented (with a couple of typos corrected):

Pedophilia is not limited to priests and pastors. All types of people have committed pedophilia from a position of authority from day-care workers to youth sport coaches. The crime is horrible and should be neither accepted, covered-up nor tolerated.

The fact that you are focusing on pastors and priests who have done so but not others simply mirrors a viewpoint that is being hoisted on the world that Christians are worse than others in this area. That's not true.

Also, it should be noted that the vas…

Atheism: the view from nowhere?

In his recent bestseller Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris writes the following about what atheism is:

“Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, ‘atheism’ is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a ‘non-astrologer’ or a ‘non-alchemist’. We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.” (p.51)

These words are quite surprising from someone who claims to be trained in philosophy and neuroscience. What he is claiming here in effect is that atheism, as "an admission of the obvious" and "nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs" represents that coveted 'view from nowhere' that …

Naturalism of the Gaps has an interesting article by Frank Pastore entitled Why Atheism Fails: The Four Big Bangs where he examines four areas where atheists must exercise a great amount of faith in naturalism because evidence is lacking. Pastore, a radio host on Los Angeles Christian station KKLA, asserts that atheists have no answers about origins in four fundamental areas:

1) What is the origin of the universe? Why is there something rather than nothing? How do you get matter and energy from nothingness? How do you get a rock out of nothing?

2) What is the origin of life? How do you get life from non-life? How do you go from a rock to a tree?

3) What is the origin of mind? How does a living thing become a self-conscious being? How do you go from a tree, to an animal, to a human?

4) What is the origin of good and evil? How does an amoral being become morally aware?

Atheists respond to all these types of questions with essentially the same style answer. "We know God doesn’t exist. Therefor…