Transcending Proof: In Defense of Christian Theism


Transcending Proof: In Defense of Christian Theism


My new book, available at Amazon. 

 
Contents:

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


From the back cover:

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

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

 
From the Preface:

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

Comments

Gary said…
I just finished reading an apologetics book entitled, "Making the Case for Christianity" written by a group of conservative Lutheran theologians. The authors present an excellent case for the existence of a Creator, but not one shred of evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian god, Yahweh. The book should have been entitled, "Making the Case for Theism".

I certainly hope that this book does not make the same mistake.
Don McIntosh said…
Thanks for the remarks Gary. I suppose you'd have to read the book to decide that for yourself. Certainly some arguments are more specifically Christian than others. But I didn't want to subtitle my book "In Defense of Generic and/or Christian Theism." :-)

Besides, it's not as if the existence of a Creator is irrelevant to the truth of Christianity. To the contrary, if God does not exist Christianity is false.

Gary said…
I agree, Don. However, I'm sure you will agree that the existence of a Creator (or many co-Creators) in no way automatically translates to evidence for Yahweh. For instance, I personally believe that it is certainly possible that the Big Bang occurred due the decision of an intelligent Creator/s due to evidence such as the inviolable laws of nature, etc.. However, I believe that the evidence for the existence of Yahweh is poor. For instance, do the majority of historians believe that any event in history was accurately predicted by prophets of the OT. I don't think so. Of course you will find some Jewish and Christian historians who believe that there have been accurate predictions, but I don't think you will find a consensus majority on this issue. For instance, will you find any public college history text book that states that the prophet Ezekiel correctly prophesied a certain event. I don't think so.
Don McIntosh said…
Gary, I think you're right that "Creator" doesn't entail "Yahweh." We might say, though, that the existence of a Creator is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the truth of Christianity to obtain.

As for historians and prophecy: What interests me there is why various historians do or do not accept that prophets may accurately prophecy future events. If they believe that such activity is "impossible," for example, then their belief will very likely muddy their reading of the evidence.
Gary said…
I agree, Don. We all have our biases, and before we accuse others of having a bias, we need to take a good, long look in the mirror. I am just as guilty as anyone else. We all look for evidence that supports OUR worldview and tend to skim over evidence that appears to contradict it.

In regards to OT prophecy, I think we should use the same standards that we use for any other alleged prediction. Can we be reasonably sure that the author of the alleged prophecy was who Jews/Christians say he was? Can we be reasonably sure that the author wrote in the time period that Jews/Christians say he did? And, are we interpreting/translating the passage in question correctly?

For instance, if we were to find a book which states in the inside cover that it was written by a man who lived and died in the early 1800's, with a copyright date of 1825, how should we treat the "prophecy" within that book that a man named Donald Trump will win the American presidential election on November 8, 2016?

I think that most of us would be very skeptical of such a "prophecy". We would want to investigate the origins of this book, extensively, prior to believing that a man living almost 200 years ago predicted the election, almost one week ago, of the next American president.

That is the issue that most skeptics I know have with OT prophecy. Can we be reasonably certain that a man named "Daniel", living during the Babylonian defeat of Judah, wrote a book which prophesied so many future events? Or, is there good evidence that the "prophecies" in question in the Book of Daniel had already occurred, and the true author (not named Daniel) had written about these prophecies as if they were events in the future (an act of fraud)?

As in the case of the early 1800's book predicting Donald Trump's election, probability based on cumulative human experience says that "Daniel" did not write the Book of Daniel, someone else did living in a much later period than the writer wants us to believe.

Don McIntosh said…
Gary, whereas fulfilled prophecy is scarcely addressed at all in my book, I do think a powerful argument can be made from various prophetic pronouncements concerning the history of Israel, especially since Israel's history continues to unfold. Prophets from Moses to Ezekiel announced a pending worldwide dispersion of Israel to be followed by a re-gathering and restoration to her homeland in the "latter days." Now, I don’t know many scholars who would date the books of Deuteronomy or Ezekiel after 1948...
Gary said…
True. I don't believe that there is any way that I, a non-scholar, could prove that all the alleged prophecies in the OT are false. It would take years of schooling and post doctorate study for me to achieve the status of an expert on this issue. However, as a non-expert, I can investigate the opinions of experts (historians) on this subject, and if I do, I will find that there exists not ONE consensus statement by historians that ANY alleged prophecy has EVER been fulfilled.

I can find a consensus statement by Muslim theologians who believe that Islamic prophecies have been fulfilled. I can find a consensus statement by Mormon theologians who believe that Mormon prophecies have been fulfilled. And I can find a consensus statement by Christian theologians who believe that Judeo-Christian prophecies have been fulfilled. And many of the prophecies of each one of these religions directly contradict the teachings and prophecies of the other two religions.

But no consensus statements from non-theologian historians on the existence of accurate fortune telling (prophecies).

I would say that that is a BIG problem for the credibility of your Christian prophecy claims.
Don McIntosh said…
Gary, with respect I think the search for consensus statements from scholars is bound to yield sparse results on most any topic, let alone a topic loaded with religious-philosophical implications. In any case an appeal to the majority is a fallacy. Was there a consensus on general relativity in the early twentieth century? A consensus on heliocentricism in the fifteenth? If not, does that somehow mean those theories were actually false? Of course not.

Now again consider the nation of Israel. As prophesied repeatedly throughout the OT, Israel was dispersed throughout the world (following the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70), subjected to horrific persecutions, and then restored to her homeland – immediately following the Holocaust no less. Consider the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel was surrounded and outnumbered, facing an imminent attack from all sides, and managed to not only fend off her enemies but enlarge her territory, partly through a series of critical miscommunications. Consider that to this day the still-tiny state of Israel remains surrounded by hostile enemies and somehow remains prosperous and relatively secure.

To me the history of Israel is a big problem for atheism, not Christianity.
Gary said…
A people who once had a homeland will naturally yearn to be restored to that homeland. The fact that after 2,000 years the Jews were restored to their homeland is therefore not an out of the blue shock.

If Judeo-Christian prophecies were as accurate (100%) as Christians tell us they are, this incredible track record should be noted somewhere in public university history textbooks. But it isn't. Christians may resort to inventing conspiracy theories in an attempt to explain away this glaring fact, but the fact remains: fortune telling, Christian or otherwise, does NOT have a good track record.
Joe Hinman said…
If Judeo-Christian prophecies were as accurate (100%) as Christians tell us they are, this incredible track record should be noted somewhere in public university history textbooks. But it isn't. Christians may resort to inventing conspiracy theories in an attempt to explain away this glaring fact, but the fact remains: fortune telling, Christian or otherwise, does NOT have a good track record.

that is a totally fallacious assumption. I can think of several reasons why it would not be. not the least of which is bias.
Joe Hinman said…
the prophesies for Messiah an Jesus fulfilling them is a very strong argument, I will do posts on this on Monday so watch for it.
Joe Hinman said…
here are my messiah pages on religious a prori where I talk about these arguments

Jesus Christ: King Messiah



Jesus story spells out the prophesies
Joe Hinman said…
hey Don looks like a good book. you have spelled out soje of the key issues. I c't wait to read it.
Gary said…
Christians appeal to the majority opinion of scholars and experts until the consensus expert opinion disagrees with their preconceived notions of truth. At that point, the experts are no longer credible. They are biased. They are participants in a grand, clandestine, conspiracy.

Most educated people don't buy conspiracy theories. A college education has taught (most of) us that we can trust consensus expert opinion.

There is no conspiracy against Christianity, my conservative Christian friends. Conspiracy theories are for the uneducated. It is unbecoming of you to appeal to such ignorance.
Don McIntosh said…
"Christians appeal to the majority opinion of scholars and experts until the consensus expert opinion disagrees with their preconceived notions of truth...", etc.

Gary, consider these various ad hominem generalizations duly noted. Now is there a specific argument you'd like to make with all this?
Gary said…
No. I was responding to Joe's comments.

My initial comment remains: I hope your book presents good evidence for the existence of Yahweh, and not just that of a generic Creator.

Peace and happiness, Don.

:)
Joe Hinman said…
Christians appeal to the majority opinion of scholars and experts until the consensus expert opinion disagrees with their preconceived notions of truth. At that point, the experts are no longer credible. They are biased. They are participants in a grand, clandestine, conspiracy.

First of all you are steriotypoing, you are speaking of all Christians as though ghey al think alike that is obviously just bigotry.

Secondly, there's no conspiracy there is a very open and obvious anti-religious bias in academic circles a lot of it is created by the stupidity of fundamentalists.

ThirdlyI was an atheist so I know that such bais exists, When I was a sociology major I talked openly withv professors about their anti religious views, I heard then say things like "here;s a job applicant who says he's a christian we don't want him in the department," I was an atheist so they weren't hiding it around me,I shared that bias at that time.





Most educated people don't buy conspiracy theories. A college education has taught (most of) us that we can trust consensus expert opinion.

you are trying to dodge the issue by painting it as a conspiracy theory,everyone in academia knows there are biases. you seem to have forgotten that issue came up because you asked why Christian arguments are accepted as fact by academic journals bias was one answer among others.

There is no conspiracy against Christianity, my conservative Christian friends.

I am not a conservative! call me that again and I will let fly a host of very un-Christian epithets I can use of atheists,


Conspiracy theories are for the uneducated. It is unbecoming of you to appeal to such ignorance.

as are slippery slope fallacies
Joe Hinman said…
No. I was responding to Joe's comments.

My initial comment remains: I hope your book presents good evidence for the existence of Yahweh, and not just that of a generic Creator.

Peace and happiness, Don.

you did not answer anything i said,. you merely demonstrated your armature ignorance by making a slippery slope fallacy out of one of my many arguments and then using that to ignore all the rest,
Joe Hinman said…
I hope your book presents good evidence for the existence of Yahweh, and not just that of a generic Creator.


I just gave you six links that blow away your entire thesis and you are too afraid to examine them how will you know good evidence when you see it? you afraid to look at evidence
Joe Hinman said…
"evidence for the existence of Yahweh, and not just that of a generic Creator."

my post on Monday will answer this
Don McIntosh said…
Gary, thanks for clarifying. But note that in responding to Joe's comments you castigated Christians in general for their biases, and addressed "my conservative Christian friends." As a Christian, one more conservative than Joe, I naturally took issue with those remarks.

As for the book: Don't just hope it presents good evidence for Christian theism; buy a copy and decide for yourself. You can post a review on Amazon, and I would be happy to read it. I appreciate your interest in any event, and likewise wish you all the best.
Don McIntosh said…
Hey Joe, thanks for your encouraging comments on the book. I almost missed that amid all the (usual) argumentation taking place here.
Gary said…
Thank you, Don. Nice talking to you.
Joe Hinman said…
do you get the feeling he never looks at evidence others present to him?

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