Friday, December 30, 2011

"Apologetics Through Internet Videography"

After being sick for almost a week, my writing muse isn't healed yet, so I'll close the year with a note about an article I have in the latest Christian Research Journal titled, "Apologetics Through Internet Videography." It's a how-to for Christians to learn the ins and outs of producing videos (and for doing so for YouTube specifically). Hopefully this will get a few more good apologetics minds participating there in a place where there are way too many fundy atheists without a semblance of intelligence running their own shows.

See you in 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pastor Tim Rogers, Godly Man in Authority

Today’s post requires background from the Ticker.

Relating to the Licona-Geisler controversy, Dr. Thomas Howe issued a blog entry of interest. For reasons unknown at the time, the blog entry was removed some days later, and then returned, updated.

In between, another Geisler supporter, one Pastor Tim Rogers (of a small church in NC) took it upon himself to reprint Howe’s posting in full. I’ve watched Rogers for a while and have been duly unimpressed; his support of Geisler earned him a spot in my vid Geisler’s Christmas Carol (see pic), and he’s a guaranteed chicken when it comes to being confronted with his errors, as shown below. (By the way, he also refuses to allow Nick Peters to post on his blog, and gives varied excuses for that as well.)

Those that know me what came next.

I posted as a comment on Rogers’ blog:

Do you have Dr. Howe’s permission to reprint his entry?

If not, do you know what “intellectual property rights” are, or is that sort of moral concern beneath your radar as a “godly man in authority”?

I knew the answer, of course. “Godly men in authority” like Rogers don’t respect the intellectual property rights of others, especially when they think that some higher purpose of theirs is at stake. In what followed, Rogers hemmed and hawed and dodged the issue, with such pointless questions as to whether I was asking for myself or on Howe’s behalf; he responded at one point to my detailed exposition on why he was wrong with nothing but a “Merry Christmas” greeting. That's a Santariffic way to dodge the issue, isn't it?

To be fair, though, Rogers in reply comments demonstrated a dismal ignorance of copyright law as well – which is just a further hallmark of the ignorance of such “godly men in authority”. Among other things, Rogers:

1) Implied that it didn’t make any difference because Howe had taken the blog entry down. (Wrong. Howe is still the owner of the intellectual property of his blog entry.)

2) It was “in the public domain.” (No, it was not. This manifest ignoramus
apparently thinks that “public domain” means “it’s publicly available.” It does not. It means a work where the copyright has either expired, or the author has freely released the work to be used by the public. The music I use for my TektonTV vids is an example of the latter. Neither of those descriptions applies to Howe’s post. And though I corrected Rogers on this point, he later reiterated the same asinine understanding of “public domain” to another commenter.


3) He gave full credit to Howe as author. (Also does not matter. “Fair use” means credit is a good idea – it’s not always required, depending on the circumstances -- and it also means you can’t reprint the whole work, as Rogers did.
)

4) Later, he also suggested that it was Howe’s responsibility to contact HIM and let him know he didn’t want it used. That too is false. Copyright law is quite clear on this matter:

How do I get permission to use somebody else’s work?

You can ask for it. If you know who the copyright owner is, you may contact the owner directly. If you are not certain about the ownership or have other related questions, you may wish to request that the Copyright Office conduct a search of its records or you may search yourself. See the next question for more details.

How much of someone else’s work can I use without getting permission?


Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances. See FL 102, Fair Use, and Circular 21, Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians.


Somebody infringed my copyright. What can I do?


A party may seek to protect his or her copyrights against unauthorized use by filing a civil lawsuit in federal district court. If you believe that your copyright has been infringed, consult an attorney. In cases of willful infringement for profit, the U.S. Attorney may initiate a criminal investigation.


Could I be sued for using somebody else’s work? How about quotes or samples?

If you use a copyrighted work without authorization, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement action against you. There are circumstances under the fair use doctrine where a quote or a sample may be used without permission. However, in cases of doubt, the Copyright Office recommends that permission be obtained.

By the way, the Government's stuff isn't covered by copyright...so I can quote THAT all I want.

Additionally, one of Rogers’ airheaded supporters – also a pastor of the same mold – arrived at the ludicrous conclusion that the same objections ought to have applied to eg, 2 Peter and Jude (whoever copied whom). Not only is that absurd because it applies laws and concepts that did not exist for another 1800 years at least; it is also oblivious to the point that the Bible, ultimately inspired by God, is God’s property to freely inspire others to use – or, even if you are not one who believes in the inspiration of the Bible, the Bible is itself the property of the community (Body of Christ), and so its members are free to reproduce it. Morever, if the Bible’s purpose is to evangelize and exhort everyone (in line with the Great Commission), that would be the equivalent of a “public domain” purpose.

The same airhead also professed that it was not as simple as I made it out to be with the Internet in the mix. That’s true – the Internet makes it much easier for moral indigents like these pastors to get away with, and engage in, such wholesale intellectual theft. But has it made it any less immoral or illegal? Nope.

In the end, Howe’s updated reposting of his entry saved this poor schlep the moral question of what he ought to do and enabled him the ultimate dodge on the central issue. But it didn’t save him from exposure as a moral failure. All he had to do, really, was say, “Oh. OK. I’ll ask Howe by email/phone. Be right back.” That wouldn’t have been that hard.

But no, that is not how it is with “godly men in authority.” They are godly, so their rule is law. They can’t be troubled to make sure they’re doing right, or to look up things like “public domain”. Everyone else can take the rule of law and stick it somewhere dark and comfy when they’re busy with their work for the Kingdumb. Shut up, you idiot, I'm preaching the Word of God.


If you ever wonder why I’m so insistent on making an issue of authoritarian bullies – look no further. They’ll help kill the church in America faster than even John Loftus can.

***

Update: Hours after this post, Rogers professed to have in hand the permission I requested to reprint. Notably, he very carefully failed to indicate that he only got this permission AFTER being called down for his moral failures.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tekton Tenure, Oct-Dec 2003

It's time for a look at what's up with our past opponents, this time from the last quarter of 2003.

Mike Ledo continues to be active in the Atlanta area and is still publishing nutty books. He's not short on egomania either, as this description of his latest book shows:

This is a landmark book that will change forever how the scholarly community views the Bible, history, and myth. In spite of what appears to be a New Age title, this book is built upon scholarship. There are three major tenets to this book.

1)The current notion of Wellhausen’s document hypothesis and the unified text theory are both wrong. The Bible was constructed as a “living” document using the same identical techniques already known to us via Tigay’s work on Gilgamesh.

2)Knowing the techniques used to expand texts, one can do some deconstruction of the text in order to uncover the original or proto-Bible text. Why this has never been done I don’t know. It would be the logical net step to do once we discovered exactly how it was done to Gilgamesh.
When this is done what is left is an Middle Bronze Age text, about 1000 years older than what is currently believed by “accepted” scholars. This text dates to circa 1930 BCE..

3)This proto-text is a huge cosmic myth. It follows the constellations in a contiguous fashion leaving no doubt that this is indeed an ancient cosmic myth.

4)There are interesting corollaries to this also. The stories are not entirely fictional, nor were they intended to be. They combine history and myth. I have been able to positively identify Biblical characters with known historical figures and events including Moses, David and Solomon.

And even worse, he can't count, either.

Darwin Fish: Speaking of nuts, he's still around, and these days he has a blog called The Wrath of the Gods (!) where he highlights bad things like the air crash in Reno, or a child being run over in China, and posts them with Bible verses predicting God's judgment. I guess that's the sort of thing that entertains small minds.

Kevin Graham: My friend Kevin, who used to be Mormon, has long since abandoned that faith after a public tussle with leading Mormon apologists over the Book of Abraham, and last I heard is in a sort of spiritual limbo. I suspect he's more concerned with spending time with his family these days.

Tracy VanWyngaarden: This hyperpeterist's work still gets cited, but as far as I can find, he has written nothing new since 2002 and the article I critiqued by him.

PTET: This nuisance is still around; he has a blog (though last updated May 2011, and rarely used at that). He seemed to run in spurts before and I'd guess he still does.

Liberated Christians: These free-sex loonies still have their site but haven't updated it since 2007.

And that's it for 2003.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How You Should Use the Internet

This week's been busier than I'd like, but it ended up with two object lessons we can use for today's entry.

Case #1: We're happy owners of a Prius -- one of those nifty gas-electric hybrids. After 2 1/3 years and 88000 miles, we'd had no serious trouble with it until this week, when we went out to find it essentially "dead" -- the electronics would not respond, and the car could not be started.

Until we waited about 30-60 seconds. Then the car would resurrect itself, and we could be on our way.

It's not Easter Sunday, so this was obviously some sort of electrical problem. I brought it to the mechanic, who had a hard time figuring it out. To aid the process, I put my search skills to work looking for similar problems with a Prius by other owners. I also signed on to a Prius owners' forum and related the story (in an area reserved for such stories).

I found one account that seemed close to what had happened, I shared it with the service adviser, who carefully and intently read it. However, based on the evidence, he said it wasn't quite a match. The quest continued as other owners made their own suggestions and I related them to the service adviser. They were able to eliminate each suggestion.

In the end, by process of elimination, the problem was discovered and fixed. The solution hadn't matched anything I found online, but now there's a record of the problem and the solution -- a short in the Prius' 12V starter battery (not the large hybrid battery) which required it to be replaced. From here on, the story is available for any other owner with the same problem to find.

Case #2: Last month, readers may recall I had a personal encounter with a kidney stone -- my third in 7 years. Unfortunately, unlike the last two, this one doesn't seem to want to follow Elvis out of the building. It's been stuck for the last 4 weeks at a place called the uterovesical junction (you can look that up if you're morbidly curious). It's causing no pain or discomfort, but it's apparently not a good idea to leave it there. Unfortunately, the only option other than waiting it out is a rather unpleasant surgery.


In coordination with my doctor, a Tekton reader who is a doctor, and my own online research, I've sought out ways to get rid of it, in addition to prescribed medication and exercise (which so far hasn't done the job). Someone along the way recommended a herbal remedy -- marshmallow root tea. I conferred with my Tekton reader and did online research, but found only anecdotal evidence; thus far there have been no scientific studies.


In the end, I found that the tea was cheap enough that I had nothing to lose by trying it. If it had been too expensive, I wouldn't have bothered, but since both anecdotes and my physician reader agree that it certainly can't hurt, and it's available for a low price -- why not?


And so the object lesson. These are two examples of how the Internet -- and personal experience -- are supposed to work: As a balanced network of sources, governed as needed by expert advice (eg, my service adviser and physicians). Not with one at the expense of the other. Not by just taking one or the other at their word and walking away down Wikipedia Lane as though that's the end of it.


One of the Christian goombas I've been tormenting lately is making one of those mistakes right now with respect to the issue of whether agonistic, collectivist peoples experience what we call conscience. In his little mind, because he finds such a notion hard to believe, it must not be true; it's outside his experience, which is enough for him. Never mind the experience of "native witnesses" who affirm that it is true. Never mind the scholars who say it is true (dahhh, they must have an agenda or something!). His experience says no, and that's the end of it. (Kind of reminiscent of Hume, isn't it?)


On the other hand, you're also not supposed to grab whatever pops up first on the Internet and assume that someone there knows the heck what they're talking about. This week I was advising a reader who was concerned about some material on Yahoo Answers -- a reader response tool which rates in my mind as only slightly less offensive than Wikipedia, if only because so few people use it, comparativeyt speaking. As I asked the reader, why give any credence to a rant by some user of unknown qualifications when he says that the Gospels are anonymous -- and that's the extent of their "argument"?


Some people think that the Internet gives us a chance to buck authority and thereby open minds, so that we need not be in thrall to experts like physicians and mechanics or even Biblical scholars. But in reality, they've just traded one authority for another -- themselves, and other equally ignorant people. If they're lucky their angry defiance of authority won't end up doing more harm than good. If they've extremely lucky they might learn something their particular expert didn't know -- but which another one did.


Either way, the supreme error would be to assume that a "5 second Google search," as one atheist put it, is enough to find the truth that will set you free. And that's the sermon for today.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Atonement and Honor

Today's entry will be answering a set of objections and questions raised to my TektonTV vid below by a critic whom we will refrain from naming, for reasons that veteran readers will deem obvious.



Why do we have to follow this notion of honor when we interpret the Bible? Why does the culture have any relevance to God?

The simple answer is, because this is the context that the Biblical authors lived and moved in, and which governed their words, their actions, and their motives, and that context was used to reveal the structure of the theology.

The question, beyond this, is frankly an absurd one: Why would this NOT be the context within which these matters would be considered? Are we to impose a 20th century Western context? A 13th century British context? A 5th century Japanese feudal context? Or some context we simply make up out of thin air? If so, why?


There is an irony beyond this. Given that 99.9% of persons ever to have lived, and even 60-70% today, live in a social setting dominated by honor concerns, it is especially absurd to suppose that any other context ought to serve as an interpretive template for the Biblical text.

The real question is: Did man simply invent the concept of honor? Or is it derived from some notion of how God actually views reality? Those that take Scripture as a revealed product will have little choice but to take the latter option, since God speaks and acts and reveals himself in such a way that indicates a concern for honor. The alternative is to suggest that, eg, God and Jesus were merely acting that way coincidentally, such that it looked like they behaved with concern for honor, when they really did not.


If God has infinite inherent honor, then no matter how much you damage God’s acquired honor, His total honor remains infinite.

This point simply lacks cognizance of how honor works. One cannot add together acquired and inherent honor to come up with a concept of "total honor." The categories of honor are exclusive of one another and do not mix.

Relatedly, an error was made by the commentator in assuming that I regard hell as an “infinite reduction in honor.” That is completely incorrect; I do not regard the reduction as “infinite” – indeed it cannot be, since humans have only a finite amount of honor they are able to assume, and honor, like any limited good among humans, cannot ever be totally allocated to a single person. Rather, honor is reduced in hell (a state of shame) accord with ones works in life. So likewise honor is raised in heaven on the same basis.

The Bible compares us to sheep, and calls us children of God, servants, slaves, etc but nowhere calls us clients or God a patron.

This is again little more than a serious lack of cognizance of how Biblical society worked. The terms client and patron are what we have chosen to broadly describe a wide variety of relationships that existed in the ancient Biblical world, and indeed, dominated its functions. To object that these terms or concepts are not found in Scripture is no more a valid objection than saying the word “Trinity” is not found in Scripture. The terms accurately describe what is present in Scripture and in the ancient world.

Technically, master/slave is not reckoned as typical of the patronage relationship in the Roman era because the slave was property (though some scholars have assumed that it is). However, as we note in our review of MacArthur’s Slave, the use of that term in the NT for us must be reckoned by the Jewish Old Testament relationship, which was more in line with a suzerain-vassal agreement. This would be more closely akin to a client-patron relationship in the NT era. Further, note that Jesus qualifies disciples as “friends” which indicates something more substantial than an owner-property relationship.

What it amounts to is that a patron was anyone a client was in debt to, or owed loyalty to – and we are surely to be regarded as indebted to God for the gift of salvation.

Doesn't this concern for honor make God seem like an egomaniac?

Only to those who judge the text by anachronistic standards. Since honor was the concern of all persons in this society, one would have to then conclude that all members of honor-based societies -- meaning, 99.9% of all who have ever lived -- have also been egomaniacs. I think such a presumptuous conclusion speaks for itself in terms of its inherent socio-cultural imperialism.

As well, the entire concept of "ego" is an entirely modern one, limited to individualistic societies. In an honor setting, frank and honest recognition of one's own worth and capabilities is not "egomaniacal" but normal and expected. Indeed it would be considered just as offensive to understate one's qualifications and abilities.

Nor is it proper to say that God’s response is one of “revenge”. That too is a modern evaluation of ancient values. Rather, to seek restoration of rightly-held honor would be seen as a matter of righteousness and justice.

By your understanding, humans are a threat to God’s honor that need to be pacified, not made to actively help Him.

This is utterly false. One of the most basic functions of a client was to aid and serve the patron. At the same time, this is far from exclusive of the honor aspect; a client, too, could easily bring disgrace on his patron, which in turn would require action from the patron.

In close, we would recommend that those who foster objections of this nature read the texts listed in the link below in order to have a full-orbed understanding of these issues.

http://www.tektonics.org/books/socialbooks.html

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tekton Tenure, Continued

Been a while since we had an entry in this series…let’s check history from July-September 2003. Got some big names here!

Darrell Doughty – this fringe fellow – one of the Robert Price crowd – passed away in 2009.

Richard Packham – still maintains his website, though it still looks old school in terms of web design. He updates only infrequently; last time was October 2011, and before that, March 2011. His main focus remains on his former Mormon faith.

Bandoli.no – speaking of stupid, this Norwegian website, which I did a parody of on my toon site, is still around and has grown in terms of subjects addressed, but still has the same old garbage I refuted on the pages which I did address back then – unchanged.


Michael Martin – the famous atheist prof who endorsed the Christ myth and thought Jesus’ prohibition on swearing had to do with saying words like %$^$*! Still around teaching at Boston U.


Paul Jacobsen – critic of Lee Strobel – also still around, but only updates his site infrequently.


Randel Helms – still teaching at Arizona State, but hasn’t published a book on the Bible since 2005.


John Lynch – his ten reasons for not being a Christian are no longer online except in my rebuttal. His name is too commonplace for me to search further.


Dan Barker – still around in his same (in)capacities.


Stephen Smith – a hyperpreterist. Since his name is commonplace I can’t check further.


Back next week to round off 2003!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 7

Nick Peters now has this portion ready for us, and since I'm still stoned (ha ha -- kidney stoned) we'll use it this week.

***

We return again to our study of Krueger and “What is Atheism?” Krueger is going to attempt to answer the charge today on “Wouldn’t someone need to know everything in order to say that there is no God?” Granted, this is not the kind of argument I’d use, but Krueger does attempt argumentation here, so let’s see what he says.

Krueger starts off with ECREE, which is “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence” and that someone needs strong evidence to show that God exists. He tells us most people believe it is common sense that an extraordinary claim is false until evidence is shown for it.

Well, no. It’s just not proven true. That’s a long ways from saying that it is false. Has it been proven true that X committed the crime in the court? Well, no. Therefore, we ought to believe it is false? No. I have no problem with skepticism. It will not work to say that because one side has insufficient evidence, then the other side must have sufficient evidence.

Krueger also defines extraordinary claims as those that would require us to drop a common sense belief. What is a common sense belief? Considering most people today and throughout history have believed in some form of theism, then it would seem that Krueger is the one who has the extraordinary claim. Upon what basis can he say “Common sense says there is no God.”?

I could point to what most people believe in order to say that this is a common belief. This does not make the belief true. Many people can believe something and be wrong. Many people could have terrible reasons for believing in God, and in fact I’d say they do. That also does not make it wrong.

To the atheist, that God exists is an extraordinary claim, but to someone like myself, the claim that God does not exist is an extraordinary claim. Why should Krueger’s common sense belief not be considered an extraordinary claim, but my claim should be considered one?


And here we have the problem with ECREE. ECREE is way too subjective. Besides, what is considered extraordinary evidence? Does it glow? Does it leave you feeling minty fresh? Does it provide a burning in the bosom? Would it not be best to say a belief should not be believed without sufficient evidence instead?


Krueger decides to defend God’s existence by saying it is an extraordinary claim according to Christians. Pascal is said to have implied that some people needed to dull their reason to become Christians and Luther is said to have said that reason should be destroyed in all Christians. I would love to respond to these, but unfortunately, as expected, Krueger gives no citation. In what writing did Pascal and Luther say this? Who knows? What is the surrounding context? We don’t know.


There’s even a problem on the face of it. This is talking about becoming Christians and not becoming theists. One can be a theist without being a Christian. Is Krueger trying to claim all non-Christians for the side of atheism? Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Mormons, etc. would all be interested in knowing they’re atheists.


Furthermore, what is meant by reason? Luther used reason in a number of ways and he didn’t necessarily mean the thinking facility. Pascal’s usage could have been the same seeing as in their own right, both of these men were intellectuals.

Krueger then tells of a book by Michael Jordan (Not the basketball star) called “The Encyclopedia of Gods” and asks why Christians don’t think about those gods and wonder if they exist. The problem is that Krueger assumes the reason we don’t believe in those gods is the same reason that he doesn’t. His reason is because he has already ruled out the belief in any gods. Our reason as Christians is that we know that there is only one true God and we have strong evidence He exists, thus eliminating any competing theories.

Krueger claims that the criteria for evidence is different for Christians with their God than with other gods. This could be the case, but this needs to be argued for and not assumed. Can Krueger tell what my criteria is? Krueger thinks the atheist alone is being consistent. I will say the atheist is being consistent with regards to how he treats all theistic claims, but not with how he treats all claims. If he accepted evidence for the historical claims of Christianity and metaphysics, the way he accepts other claims, I believe he would be a Christian. It is because he raises the bar when it comes to other beliefs that he does not accept them.


Krueger now wants to show that the concept of God is incoherent. Krueger starts by saying that all religions disagree on their claims and they cannot all be true. True enough. The conclusion he reaches is there can be no being described by these religions. It does not follow. They could all be seeking to describe the ultimate being, but some of them are describing him wrong.


He says the same is true of Christians. Some Christians say that God knows the future and therefore there is no free-will. (Krueger overlooks that a lot of us do believe God knows the future and that we have free-will.) Some Christians say God does not know the future. Both of these views cannot be true. Certainly. No problem with that. Saying both cannot be true does not show that both are false. Let us look at it this way.


Either mankind is here by a purely naturalistic process or mankind is here by a process of creation.


Both of these views cannot be true.


Therefore both are false.


Krueger would not accept such poor argumentation in any field. Are we to say that because contradictory things are believed about something, that that something cannot exist? Could it not be the simpler explanation that someone is just wrong?


Of course, Krueger tells us about the other great contradiction in Christianity, namely that 1 = 3, meaning the Trinity. Had Krueger actually read someone on the Trinity who was informed, he would have not made such an embarrassing blunder. See link below on the Trinity.


What about omniscience? How could it be that God knows some things that supposedly have to be known by experience? To begin with, it is an assumption to say one has to have experience to know something. There is a subjective knowing and an objective knowing here. My main stance with omniscience is simply that God knows all propositions that are true. God could know all experiences however by knowing all persons. All this would show is that omniscience is a difficult concept. It does not show it is false.


With omnipotence, Krueger asks the classic “Can God create a rock so big He can’t lift it?” Yes everyone. Someone wrote a book with an objection that’s high school level as if it was a powerful argument. Well, Krueger: If you’re reading this, I’m going to give you a simple answer to your question.


No.


And I say that saying God is omnipotent because power cannot do contradictions.

God is able to do anything that power can do and nonsense does not cease to become nonsense because one adds the words “God can” before it, as C.S. Lewis said.


What about God being eternal? Can God act in time if He is eternal? Yes. God’s actions just take place eternally. God does not progress on the timeline but rather God is always acting in all things at once as He is not limited by time. Right now, God is creating man and judging the world both.


Krueger goes on to list that the Bible says God is male, but He cannot be if He has no body. To begin with, I think the body is an expression of maleness, but that is a reflection of an aspect of man that is male. (At least in men.)

Furthermore, the Bible does not say God is male (In fact, it explicitly says in passages like Hosea 12:9 that God is not a man.) but rather He is described in male terms. One might as well think our planet is female since we think of Mother Nature and ask where her female parts are.


Finally, Krueger goes with the problem of evil. I have written on this before in my review of John Loftus’s usage of the Problem of Evil. See link below.


Krueger returns to the Bible now to support nonbelief assuming the Bible is the only reason for believing in God with the objection of “Why did God not cause Bibles to rain from the sky.” JPH has written extensively on thinking like this with examples of the blue fairy and such. See link below.


From this point on, I don’t consider the arguments against the Bible relevant as it is a dismissal of the theistic arguments I do not believe Krueger has dealt with.


Next time I write will close up this topic.


http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/2008/07/21/why-i-rejected-christianity-review-natural-evil/

http://www.tektonics.org/jesusclaims/trinitydefense.html

http://www.tektonics.org/uz/vector01.html

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rauser on Licona

Since I'm behind on my work thanks to the latest kidney stone, I'll take this week's entry to offer a link to Randall Rauser's blog in which he discusses the Licona-Geisler controversy. This again reflects why I consider it so important that Tekton retains its independence from other entangling alliances.

Link

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tekton Tenure, Part 2

We continue our look back at Tekton opponents, picking up in April 2003:

Stephen van Eck – Eck is not the sort of guy who learns that it would be a good idea for him to shut up, and he hasn’t. He’s still there and still nuts – even recently (September 2011) suggesting that atheists can make a solid case for Jesus not existing by using sources like Freke and Gandy, or Burton Wolfe.

Mark Bonocore – when I ran into this guy he had a serious anti-intellectual bent. He seems to still be around – I found a debate he had with Jason Engwer, and another with Matt Slick (the latter dated 2008), but I don’t think he does this for a living.

Not an opponent, but in May 2003, current Tekton ministry partner Nick Peters wrote what we think is his first piece for us, on the angel of the Lord.

Joe Wallack – this fruitcake has had a site with “1001 Errors in the New Testament” for years. It’s also been stuck on #736 for at least 7 of those years. I think in no small part because Wally (as I call him) knew I was answering them as he posted them. He’s still around on debate forums.

Darrell Conder – this loudmouth was accused of some rather odd stuff in a blog here: http://livingarmstrongism.blogspot.com/2010/06/does-darrell-w-conder-teach-jewsih.html As hateful as he was, this wouldn’t surprise me. I don’t find any evidence that he is actively writing online now. One thing I didn’t know is that he was once a high placed member of the Worldwide Church of God.

Sid Green – has written nothing for Internet Infidels since I addressed him in 2003. However, I found him debating on Yahoo these days (2010).

Edgar Jones – wacko in charge of Voice of Jesus. The site is still up, and still being updated now and then, but it hasn’t improved in quality.

Apostasy Now! – this nutjob Christian site is also still around and updated infrequently (last in 2010).

That gets us to June 2003. We’ll do another quarter next time. In 2003 I was updating every weekday at times; that slowed as I found less to do, so future entries in this series will cover longer periods as we progress.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tekton Tenure: A Look Back

As an observance of Tekton’s tenth year of full time service, I’ve decided on a project some may find of historical interest – a look back at “opponents” we’ve dealt with in those years, and what (if anything) they’re up to now. The caveat on that is that I only have kept records of this sort of thing from the start of 2003, so this will be a survey starting 8, not 10 years ago; and I expect we can stop our survey at the end of 2008, since we wouldn’t expect much change from now to then. So let’s say this is a five year window we’re gazing through. I’ll leave out any dead guys I rebutted (like Remsberg) since there’s obviously nothing news about them.

Kenneth Harding – we took on this poor schlep in late 2002 and ended the treatment in January 2003. He featured a challenge to Christians asking that they fulfill Mark 16:18 by drinking poison. Harding is still around, and his pissant website is still up, though a random check shows he still has very old nonsense up from as long ago as 1998 that he has never updated. He still publishes now and then, and even has a blog, though the latter has not been updated since May 2011.

Farrell Till – we commented on Till in a prior entry here some time ago; no need to say more.

Skeptics’ Annotated Bible – of course these guys are still around; I’d hardly expect otherwise. It’s still updated maybe 3-5 times a month. I would guess Sam Harris’ endorsement has been a big help. But has the scholarship improved? You know better than that.

Edgar Foster – JW apologist. He’s still around, and he has a blog (who doesn’t??), and he also managed to get a credible doctorate in 2008. How he did that while staying a JW is one of those mysteries we’ll have to ponder.

Truthbearer.org – “Christian” site that promotes polygamy. Still around, though apparently not updated often.

Lenny Flank – I took this guy on for my creationist friends. His website is now defunct, though it is mirrored by another Skeptic’s site. He also seems to have gone into more political arenas; I found a recent article by him on the crank political site Daily Kos.

Not an opponent, but TheologyWeb opened in January 2003 as well.

Kevin Graham – formerly a Mormon opponent and friend of mine, he had a rhubarb with some lead Mormon apologists and is now (at last report I got) a deist.

Donald Morgan – one of the more polite infidels out there, he’s still updating his stuff now and then at their main website.

Barry Bickmore – Mormon apologist. He seems to have gotten more into issues related to his real expertise, geochemistry, and has gotten involved in the climate change debate. It doesn’t look like he’s doing much in the way of apologetics any more.

Vincent Sapone –I noted long ago that this guy’s web presence had been substantially deactivated, but you can still find bits and pieces of it preserved. He seems to have started at some point a career as a teacher, which probably keeps him busy.

Uri Yosef – Jewish anti-missionary, and a much older fellow than I thought he was. His personal website, the Virtual Yeshiva, no longer exists, but he is associated with a site called Global Yeshiva which seems to be a team effort. I gather he is still around but has retired overall from his activities.

Wayne Harrington – what a nutcase. He’s still around with his own website, though.

Darren Geist – I’d noted in 2005 that this guy’s writings I addressed had vanished.

Joe Alward – another of the few decent Skeptics I’ve met out there, although a little weird at times. I found a website of his filled with family photos, but little indication that he’s actively doing atheist apologetics.

Frank Zindler – obviously, he’s still active today, but no smarter than he was back then.

Kyle Gerkin – best for last. I’d say the most decent of all the Skeptics I’ve met online. He wrote a piece on Mormonism in 2004, and wrote me infrequently after that; I suspect he’s still around (I found what may be personal pages of his) but doesn’t seem to be active in atheist apologetics any more.

That’s all for January through March 2003 – if you see something on any of these people I missed, let me know!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ten Years of Tekton

On this day ten years ago -- give or take a day or two; my memory isn't that precise -- Tekton took a headlong jump from part time pastime to full time ministry. As a sort of observation, here are some reflections on those past ten years.

What was the nature of the decision to pursue full time ministry, in retrospect? It was more of a risk than had been expected at the time: The actual decision to pursue ministry full time was one I had made only days before the World Trade Center disaster, and at that moment, the world seemed a safer place to most people. Economically, there was no sign we were in for several years in which we would have especially lean tidings. I imagine many people would have rethought their decision in light of those events.

Would I have made the same decision had this all be foreknown to me? Yes, I certainly would have, though I'm also fairly sure I would have planned things differently. Out of the past ten years, there have been four so far in which the ministry's finances have touched on bleak, and only two in which such worries were far from consideration. It’s too early to tell what 2012 will be like, but there are a couple of unhealthy signs ahead. Tekton has been -- probably always will be -- a shoestring operation; it's the sort of ministry that inevitably relies on assistance that is transient and sporadic, and is often the first sort of thing on the chopping block when someone's personal finances need trimming. That's just the way it is -- and it's the result of the low priority our churches have placed on education and the emphasis they have placed on experience. (It's too bad apologetics doesn't give people an emotional high, isn't it?)

I suppose I could change that some -- by making Tekton something it isn't, by compromising certain pinciples. Not something immoral, of course: I mean, for example, that I could solicit for and accept live debate challenges, which tend to be relatively significant paydays. And by now more than a few atheists would relish the chance to (so they think!) take a bite of my hide, so that'd be a considerable source of income.

But no, that's not temptation enough, sorry. I accepted a debate with Richard Carrier so that my beloved could see, probably for the final time, an elderly uncle in his 80s who lived nearby; nothing else is enough to waver the principles that I hold when it comes to thinking live debate a useless sideshow that teaches people nothing. (She has one other uncle, but -- sorry, atheists -- he's somewhat younger and not in bad health. Check with me again in 10 years.) And besides, I've had it with extended travel for a while, too.

There have been a lot of changes in ten years. For example, I'm typing this entry on a notebook computer that didn't even exist in 2001. Tekton is also doing a lot of work today on the making of films for YouTube -- which in 2001 didn’t even exist, and would not for another 4 years. One of Tekton's first projects immediately after the switch to full time was a response to "cowboy" atheist Scott Bidstrup -- who today is still around, but still has the same versions of his articles up that I addressed in 2002, and also doesn’t seem to have written on the subject of Christianity any further after that. Bidstrup is just one of several opponents who have sunk into the woodwork since then; while of course others have risen to take their place. (The quality of opposition hasn't improved, though -- if anything they've gotten worse, and that's amazing when you consider that Farrell Till was in that earlier set.)

Beyond the ministry, there's also been a delightfully heavy chunk of freelance work for other ministries. When I'd made the switch to full time, I'd had one article for the Christian Research Journal, with one more in process: not by any stretch would I have imagined that the number of articles would reach two dozen (along with other articles for my friends in creationist ministry, and a few other places). There's also been unexpected as well as humbling recognition in the form of references (citations) in books by persons I never expected recognition from when all this first started: Lee Strobel, Daniel Block, Wayne House, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Robert Stacy McCain. There have been references in some very odd places as well: Perhaps the oddest of all, Tekton's article on Esther is referenced in a book by Matthew Stroud titled Plot Twists and Critical Turns: Queer Approaches to Early Modern Spanish Theater. If you'd told me in 2001 that there'd be a reference like that, I'd have probably suggested a place for you in a mental health facility.)

In all, rather unexpected for a shoestring operation that to this day operates out of one corner of a second bedroom. It remains to be seen what changes and morphings the next ten years will bring, but this much can be said: What has happened has exceeded my expectations, and what remains to be accomplished will be a matter of exploring new ground. I'd like to continue to put out books, whether e-books or standard print; I've also set a goal of having more YouTube apologetics vids on my channel than any other channel with an apologetics focus. That may not be hard; I've seen no channel with more than a few hundred such vids, though it is hard to count at times because some of them also upload personal vids on their channel. It would also be nice to drive a few more atheists there into submission. But it's likely TektonTV will reach 100 vids by the end of the year, and I'd like to reach at least 1000. With the current level of production, that will happen well before the end of the next ten years.

At the very least -- it'll be interesting!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 6: What About the Theistic Proofs?

Nick Peters continues his review.

***

As we continue our journey through Krueger’s work on atheism, we come to his chapter on theistic proofs. Keep in mind that Krueger has an allergy to citing in this book. Who are the people giving the arguments? We don’t know. Where do they say them? We don’t know. How do they defend them? We don’t know.


Krueger starts with the design argument. I won’t say anything about the science aspect of this. I am not a scientist and if someone wants to read that side, there are plenty of books on the topic. In some ways, I agree with Krueger. If all you have is “The universe is designed” it is not enough to establish classical theism. Philosophy has to take over at that point. I do agree that it can be a good start and that would be fine.


Krueger does say that God in Genesis uses magic words to create the universe, a comment laughable in itself. No surprise that he uses the argument of “Who designed God?” The argument assumes God is designed, something I dealt with in my argument of Dawkins and the 747 Boeing. (See link.)


Krueger does have some criticisms as well on what the argument does not show. It does not show that this God is the Christian God. It does not show that there is only one creator. It fails to show that God still exists, is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, or omniscient. I agree with all of those. However, I do agree that it establishes likely some kind of theism and that is all that is needed.

Next we move to the cosmological argument. At least at this point he does mention Aquinas, but like Dawkins, Krueger does not understand Aquinas. One hopes that there is some glimmer of light coming through when Krueger says that a contingent being is that which is caused to exist by something other than itself. A necessary being is not caused to exist by another. I could disagree with some aspects of that, but I will explain that soon. The problem is that Krueger states that a necessary being is caused to exist by its own nature. If he is speaking of God, God is not caused by anything. I do agree that something could be necessary but always be dependent on another. I don’t think this is the case, but I am open.


Krueger says that it does not follow that there is only one first mover. With this, Krueger shows he does not understand the argument and likely is thinking motion refers to physical motion when it refers to any change whatsoever. There can only be one being who is being itself for if there was another, they would have to differ in some aspect of being and how could pure being differ from pure being?


How can it be sure that God still exists? Because the first mover has divine simplicity and cannot change and going out of existence would count as a change. He is eternal and outside of time. The same kind of thing can be said for all of Krueger’s other objections and had he actually read the Summa Theologica, he would have seen that Aquinas argues for the love of God, the knowledge of God, and the power of God from reason.


Krueger also says that Aquinas assumed an infinite regress was impossible. He did no such thing. In fact, he was open to an infinite regress. He would disagree with Craig today in saying that the universe cannot be proven to have a beginning by an infinite regress argument that is horizontal. This is stated in Question 46, article 2, of the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologica. Aquinas believes the universe had a beginning because Scripture says so. He says philosophy cannot show that.


But some of you are saying “But in his divine proofs, he does say we have to avoid an infinite regress.”


You are correct, for there are two kinds of infinite regresses. The first is a per accidens. In this one, the existence of that which is present in no way requires the current existence of that which was past. Suppose my wife and I want to start having children and while deciding this, in a horrible tragedy, our parents die in car accidents. Does this mean we cannot have children? In no way. Our ability to have children does not depend on our parents.


Now suppose a chain of gears is moving and they are all being moved by one big gear. This is going on for eternity. Then all of a sudden, we find a way to remove the big gear. Do the little gears stop? Yes they do. Their motion is dependent on the big gear and this is a different kind of regress called a per se regress.


Aquinas’s classic example is a hand moving a stick that is moving a rock. If the hand goes away, all movement stops. This is the kind of regress he is speaking of in his divine proofs. There has to be something that is the cause of motion in all other things to explain their motion, yet it itself is not in motion.


Could the first cause have been the universe itself as Krueger says? No. The universe is material and that which is material in Aquinas is that which is always in a state of potential and thus cannot be purely actual. Again, this is really basic Aquinas and that Krueger writes on this shows he does not understand the basics of Aquinas.


These are the only kinds of arguments dealt with. Krueger might think he’s dealt with other arguments like the moral argument or the argument from the resurrection, but he does not. He also seems to coalesce all of Aquinas’s arguments into one, but they are each different in their own way.


Chapter 7 next time.


Link

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Defeating the Dingbats

This past week there was a most revealing exchange with a head-between-the-cheeks fundy named Ed Dingess, who came out in support of Norman Geisler's stance with respect to Mike Licona. Having claimed to have read the defenses offered by Geisler, Licona, and myself, Caveman Ed, as I now call him, then proceeded to "respond" -- by doing no more than reiterating Geisler's own stance as though nothing had been said in reply to it.

Was that all? No, not quite; there was also an extended, sermonizing admonition about not making scholarship into a "trophy" that one held dear to self. An admonition all the more ironic from Caveman Ed, since he plasters himself as “Dr. Dingess” and proudly lists his degrees on his blog...even though they come from a non-accredited school (Tyndale Theological Seminary) which makes them about as useful as toilet paper.

The mode of his response on Geisler is, as noted, most revealing. At its heart is an implacable arrogance that is so pure that it becomes almost innocent -- an obscene sort of innocence, to be sure, but one so insulated in its arrogance and self-assurance that it sees no need to respond to arguments made against its position. Instead, the assumption is made that the position is secure, and impossible to improve upon; thus all that is left to do is to turn the "debate" into an occasion to warn possibly wayward souls away from the dangers of dissent; to affirm that there is no reason to disagree with the status quo aside from being a wretched sinner in need of dispensed grace. It is furthermore a chance to remind the guilty and gullible Christian that “Satan” is behind such interpretations as the one Licona used (presumably when Satan isn’t busy ruining Joyce Meyer’s BBQs).

The ills of the modern, Western church are a multifaceted problem, and this in itself is one facet, closely related (though it seems not on the surface) to the problem of pathological literalism as an interpretive tool, and anachronism as a guideline for exegesis Licona's initial suggestion -- that Matthew interrupted historical narrative to use a poetic device -- is, as we have pointed out in Ticker posts, not an unreasonable supposition given the nature of ancient composition; it does bear a significant burden of proof, but it cannot simply be dismissed on the assumption of uniformity.

Uniformity, however, does lies at the heart of such objection as Geisler made, as well as the sort of objection made by one of similar mindset, Robert Thomas, as we have recorded:

I've answered points claiming contradiction between Matt and Luke's versions of the Sermon on the Mount by noting that Matt's version is likely to be an anthology -- a collection of Jesus' teachings, organized by Matthew according to his purpose as the composer of a handbook of faith; whereas Luke is more on the historical side, and reports what was actually said on that occasion.

No big problem. Both writers were following standard literary and historical practices for the time. But Thomas insists that such an approach "inevitably leads to diminishing historical accuracy in the Gospels" -- for you see, Matthew 5:1-2 "indicates Jesus began at a certain point to give the Sermon's contents." And what of the literary-device explanation above? Thomas wonders, then, "why would (Matthew) mislead his readers" into thinking that Jesus made this full sermon on one occasion?

What is missing here: This was a normal practice for the day. No one would be "misled" into thinking this was a full sermon because no one would have thought it was meant to be recorded as such in the first place. But Thomas, clearly, does not agree, with comments like this in response to Blomberg's assertion that Biblical writers followed the typical practices for composers of the day: "Despite what the practice of ancient historians may have been, Matthew's intention to cite a continuous discourse from a single occasion is conspicuous. Was he mistaken?" "No matter what the alleged motives of the writers in so doing, that kind of action is fundamentally problematic at best and dishonest at worst." (!) The only difference between these comment and comments like C. Dennis McKinsey's "read the Bible like a newspaper" is that McKinsey is nastier in his formulations. And yet we are told that it is we who propose such solutions who are "run(ning) roughshod over the historicity of the Sermon's introductory and concluding formulas".

You might wonder, of course, how Thomas suggests that we resolve the differences in the Sermon, and his answer is: By harmonization -- of an extreme, unnecessary sort. Put it this way: Did Jesus say, "Blessed are the poor" or "Blessed are the poor in spirit"? Thomas replies: He said both, and on the same occasion. Matt and Luke just chose to report one or the other: "Most probably Jesus repeated this beatitude in at least two different forms when he preached His Sermon on the Mount/Plain, using the third person once and the second person another time and referring to the Kingdom of God by different titles." Odd here how omission is not a sin; but commission is. I thought it was Matthew's intent to show he was citing a continuous discourse? If that is the case, isn't he "misleading" his readers by not giving a full report and leaving things out?

Thomas is also responsible for a great deal of the book's panic-polemic, and some of his claims (and others in the book) are either misrepresenting their source or are just plain wrong. "(Craig) Blomberg attributes a higher degree of accuracy to modern historians than to Spirit-inspired writers of the Gospels in ancient times." If by this you mean, Blomberg says that modern historians revere "accuracy" in the sense of not being inclined towards literary practices that we would consider "inaccurate", but the ancients would NOT consider "inaccurate," then you are right: But to frame the matter in a way that suggests that Blomberg thinks that the Gospels contain fabrications is off base.

There is a sentiment in such arguments that, first of all, the Bible should reflect the perception of order held by the reader -- in this case, modeled upon Western precision-literalism, and the alleged “Christian ethic” developed in Western churches. Any suggestion that the text might vary from this order or ethic is looked upon as a deception. We have commented on this enough times, but would now add this dimension: That there is likely also a sort of psychological security sought by those like Thomas and Caveman Ed, in saying that the Scriptures present that uniform face. It is this same psychology that also rejects external contexts (like the social sciences) as interpretative lenses, and results in the objection that such factors are "not in the text" and are therefore off limits. (Thus as well, linguistics -- Hebrew and Greek -- are the only context admitted; for it can hardly be denied that the Scriptures were written in these languages; it's "in the text". But this is also overcome easily by assigning modern values to the semantic range of the words used; eg, "love" is not collectivist and utilitarian care under God's umbrella, but modern sentimentalism.)

Thus, Thomas and Caveman Ed, in their arrogance, also presume to rewrite the Bible in their image, and remake God in their image as well. The extreme of this is the "buddy Jesus" construction, or the health and wealth gospel. But the less spectacular manifestations are no less false for their lack of sparkle.


And thus as well, our point for today: Leaders and followers like Geisler, Thomas, and Caveman Ed in essence hold us hostage to their own insecurities. That is why it is so crucial that they be confronted, that they be challenged, and that they not be permitted to peddle their deceptions without rebuke. They must not be allowed to spread their insecurities and thereby weaken the Body of Christ. It is to the end of stopping such deception that we will continue pressuring Geisler to answer our challenge.

Friday, September 30, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 5: Krueger and Miracles

Nick Peters continues his series:

***

In our continuing look at Krueger’s “work” the fifth chapter is about miracles. Do they prove that God exists? You know that it’s going to be a highly errant look at the topic when the first sentence is just wrong.

“A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature because of supernatural influence.”

Well, no. A miracle is what happens when God intervenes in a situation that disrupts what would normally happen had He not intervened. It is not a violation of the laws of nature as the laws of nature still remain intact. The loaves and fishes were miraculously created, but the digestion process went on as normal. God created a sperm in Mary for the virgin birth, but the birth process went on for the same nine months.

Such a way of phrasing the topic poisons the well. Unfortunately for Krueger, he cites no theological or philosophical dictionary that gives such a definition. Make it a point readers to watch the way people define terms. Often they can set it to win at the outset with just how they define their terms.

Of course, the argument is Humean (see link below) and has been dealt with. By this point, most every Christian philosopher and their mother has answered Hume. Still, his ghost keeps coming back. (Hmmm. Perhaps that should be considered a miracle.)

As an example of the idea, Krueger says that if we hear about a man who was holy and floated in mid-air because he was in a trance, we must either believe everyone has been mistaken about gravity, or that the report misunderstands or is lying. Instead, it could simply be that if said case was true, God was working but not violating a law of nature as gravity still holds throughout the universe. One can believe in gravity and also believe a higher power can cause something to float that normally wouldn’t.


Interestingly, Krueger goes on to say the laws of nature are not known completely. While I agree with this tentatively (I still hold out questions on if we can really speak of laws of nature), I see this as a great weakness in the argument. It means that whatever happens, Krueger can just say “Well that’s not a miracle. We just don’t understand the law yet.”


So if Krueger is presented with evidence that he cannot deny that Jesus rose from the dead, he’s really going to try to look for a law of nature that will explain one resurrection that took place at one point in time rather than thinking about eschatological fulfillment, the honor-shame dynamic, etc.?


Keep in mind, we theists are the ones who are supposed to examine our claims.

Krueger says there are also always alternative explanations. Sure. So what? That doesn’t mean they’re right. One shouldn’t go with an explanation because it’s an alternative to one you don’t like. You should go with it because it is true. In a revealing sentence at the end of the page on this part he says “Almost any other proposed explanation for a seeming miracle would be more likely to be true than theism because the other claims would not assert the existence of a supreme being, a situation which would place the theistic proposal at a great disadvantage.”

In other words, we have to assert any possibility that could be true except theism and since we cannot accept the theistic claim, that puts theism at a great disadvantage.


No joke. Really?


Krueger also says that even if the laws were violated, it would not show God’s existence since gods are usually thought to bring about events by magic powers or uttering certain words and that it could never be established that one god chose to do a miracle instead of another.


Well, maybe unless we could do something like establish that only one God exists which has been done….


Krueger also dismisses any biblical testimony since he thinks he’s shown the Bible to be unreliable. (See link to previous blog post on that topic)


Finally, Krueger says all such claims outside the Bible have not held up under examination. He tells about CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. An example worth mentioning is the Shroud of Turin. I have not seen word yet of this being refuted. Even if one does not accept it, there are a lot of unanswered questions about it. I wouldn’t use it in an apologetic argument, but it is something fun to think about.


I conclude that Krueger is simply dismissing every miracle claim too fast not also aware that even the Catholic Church has its own branch to investigate miracle claims thoroughly.


Not much here today folks. We’ll see what chapter 6 has next time.


On Hume

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Panic in the Henhouse

About a week ago, I issued a challenge to Norman Geisler (link below) regarding his presuppositions concerning certain aspects of his arguments against Mike Licona.

A day or so later, someone posted a link to that challenge on Geisler’s ministry Facebook page.


Sometime in the last day or two, it was deleted – with no comment.


We want to know why – and we’ll keep the pressure on until an answer is produced.


Of course, it is possible that Geisler doesn’t manage his own ministry Facebook page (I don’t), and that it was deleted without his knowledge. But that still calls for an explanation. And to paraphrase his original open letter to Licona, he owes us one. (That’s being facetious, by the way.)


While we’re at it, I’m in the process of investigating this point made by Geisler:


…[t]here are far bigger and better scholarly circles than this, such as, the nearly 300 international scholars who formed the ICBI statement on inerrancy and its statements which declare that views like Licona’s were incompatible with the view of full inerrancy which declared that the Bible is wholly and completely without error and denied all dehistoricizing of the Gospel record.


I had an idea that “scholars” here was used a little too liberally, so I received a list of those “300 international scholars” to see how many actually qualify. I am up to the Es as of this typing, and the results are appalling. The list is top-heavy with pastors so far, most of whom we have no reason to believe would have sufficient knowledge to judge the issue Licona was writing on, and are decidedly undeserving to be called “scholars” in any real sense. Theologians are also top-heavy on the list: People whose scholarship is not in the right field. A handful are utterly unqualified; the list includes Josh McDowell, Hal Lindsey (!), Bill Bright, and a couple of businessmen so far. Many names cannot be further identified with anyone, presumably for reasons such as that they were deceased before record of them reached the Internet. I hope to confer with someone about any names I cannot correlate with known persons once I get done with my initial survey.


OT scholars are found in fair number (but still not many), while so far only 8 people out of 87 checked could be regarded as having some sort of competence in the subject area of concern to Licona (among them, D. A. Carson). And of course, Licona had gotten two of those 300 to sign in his favor already.


I’ll publish the results of my survey when it is complete. In the meantime, perhaps it is not hard to see why Geisler deleted that challenge.


Link

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 4

We're back to Nick Peters taking on this dreary little tome. Maybe we could make Krueger more entertaining by drawing him in a monkey outfit.

***

For our fourth installment, the argument Krueger wishes to look at is if the Bible proves that God exists. This is not often an argument I see being used although I do think if one can establish prophecy, that counts for something, but that can turn into debates on textual criticism and hermeneutics way too easily. If there was any argument I’d use, it’d involve the Bible as a historical document and use it to establish basic facts about the resurrection of Jesus and from there show that God exists.

Krueger starts with prophecy and says that before we show a prophecy is truly what it is, we must rule out every other hypothesis. In a revealing statement on page 95 he writes “Given the extraordinarily strong claim about the nature of the theistic god, however, it would seem that almost any other explanation would be more likely than that of theism. Time-traveling human beings, amazing coincidences, carefully planned hoaxes, all would be more likely explanations for the supposed fulfillment of a prophecy than the god hypothesis because these claims are weaker than the theistic claim.”

Such a statement says much about Krueger. Because of the nature of the God claim, he is ready to believe anything else other than that. Do we have evidence of time-traveling human beings? No. They’re more likely however. Do we have any evidence of a major hoax the Jews had been planning on humanity for thousands of years? No. It’s more likely though. Krueger will say that we also lack evidence for God. We will deal with that later.

Kreuger then lists five criteria for prophecy.

#1-It must be clear and contain sufficient detail to make fulfillment by a wide variety of possible events unlikely.

On this one, I’d have some concerns about what is meant by clear. Does Krueger want everything to be spelled out? I would consider it sufficient to show it was understandable to the people of the time.

#2-The event that can fulfill it must be unusual or unique.

I really don’t have much issue with this one.

#3-The prophecy must be known to have been made prior to its fulfillment.

Obviously no problem.

#4-The event must not be what could be the result of an educated guess.

I would think it less likely to be divine, but in some cases, I could accept such an event. To have an educated guess fulfilled hundreds of years in the future however seems quite unlikely.

#5-It cannot be staged or manipulated by those aware of the prophecy.

No problem with this either.

Before we get to this point, Krueger has some statements about the Bible. In the midst he says that most of the books of the Old Testament were written centuries after the death of the person for whom it is named. Krueger states this as “known” but he gives no source whatsoever for this claim. He goes on to state the same of the NT saying the gospels were written decades afterwards.

Now of course in a sense, that’s true. 30 years later for some would count as decades. What Krueger does not state however is that in the ancient world if you had an account written decades after the event, scholars of ancient history would be drooling with excitement to see such an account so close to the events.


For some false prophecies, Krueger cites 2 Kings 22:20 and Ezekiel 26:3-36. (See links below) Krueger also thinks Jeremiah 31:4 could only point to 1948. It is doubtful that Krueger is aware that this event was fulfilled much sooner by the return of Judah from captivity.


For the New Testament, Krueger points to Jesus being supposedly in the heart of the Earth for three days and three nights. (See link below again) Next is Jesus being born a Nazarene in Matthew 2:23. (See link below) Of course, there’s Isaiah 7:14 being misunderstood. (See link below)

Krueger is unaware of preterist interpretations as he cites Matthew 16:28 and Matthew 10:23. It’s odd that he’d do this seeing as he believes the gospels were written late. Does he believe that they were written afterwards and with prophecies in them that would have been known to be false? Of course, there’s also that Jesus got the time of His second coming wrong, something I would most certainly disagree with. Of course, to make it most hilarious, Krueger recommends Callahan’s book on Bible Prophecy for those doubtful.

Krueger next wants to show that the Bible is unreliable and says that “The best unbiased bible scholars hold that there are good reasons to believe that the books of the bible are unreliable sources.” To begin with, this seems like a No True Scotsman Fallacy. How do you recognize the best unbiased scholars of the Bible? They hold that it is unreliable. Second, who are these scholars? What are their books? Where can I read their arguments? Your guess is as good as mine. Krueger gives no information.

Well what are Krueger’s reasons?

#1-Almost all the books of the Bible are anonymous. (Tekton has several articles on this issue according to book.)

#2-They were written decades after the events recorded. (Likewise, and note that this is still a blip in the ancient world)

#3-We have no original documents. (Likewise)

#4-The NT was written in Greek. (This isn’t a problem, and note that Krueger begins this part saying “If Jesus did exist.”


#5-At some points in church history, lying to promote Christianity was not only not discouraged but encouraged. There is unfortunately no source on this.

#6-Documents critical of Christianity were sought out and destroyed. (See link below and how this relates to textual criticism is anyone’s guess. Note his source on this is Joseph Hoffman.)

#7-Some manuscripts are different from copies of the same book. Krueger doesn’t say that this is the same for any ancient work and seems to think he’s ripped a hole into Christianity by pointing out that 1 John 5:7 is an interpretation. (See link below)


#8-Most NT books are known to be forgeries. There is no source here given. It is simply assertions. (See link below)

#9-The gospels are not independent accounts. This is amusing since he complains so much of contradictions, but if there was literary dependence going on to this level one would think there would be no contradictions.

#10-The development of the Bible undermines its reliability. For this, we have troubles with canonization saying that the first attempt to canonize the NT text was in 367, unaware there was for all intents and purposes an accepted canon at the time. Ironically, Krueger says this while on the very next page mentioning the Muratorian Canon and references to other fathers. His dispute of some is along the lines of “But they did not include Hebrews.” That the topic was even being discussed however shows that canonization was being attempted and that there was criteria.

#11-Biblical accounts contradict facts about nature and the ancient world.

For this, he has a few subheadings. To start with, he questions the credibility of the destruction of Ai based on an article in Biblical Archaeology Review. Second, Darius the Mede becoming king when Cyrus conquered the throne. Third, Daniel was written in the second century B.C. Also, that the conquest narratives are unhistorical with only a citation of William H. Stiebing Jr.

For other errors, there’s Leviticus 11:6 and Deuteronomy 14:7 stating hares chew the cud, the usual canard about bats being birds, Leviticus 11:23 about insects having four legs, (You think no one in thousands of years ever picked one up and counted?) and the events of Genesis 30:37-42.

Then, there are events such as the sun standing still in Joshua and the verses used to condemn Galileo. Finally for the OT, there are counting discrepancies between Ezra and Nehemiah. No shock that Thomas Paine’s opinion is cited. (Needless to say, Tekton's had articles on all these issues for quite some time; sample links below.)

For the NT, there’s the lack of mention of the atrocity of Bethlehem, and the darkness over the Earth and the mass resurrection in Matthew 27. Krueger states that historians like Philo-Judaeus lived in Jerusalem at the time but don’t mention Jesus or resurrections. There is no source that shows he was living there at the time.

#12-The Bible contains many contradictions.

Of course, this is a favorite one. What do we have? The following, all of which are again old news (sample links below):

Does God repent?
Does God punish children for the sins of their parents?
Is anyone righteous?
Are we justified by faith or works?
Does God keep his promises?
Is everything possible with faith?
Will all who call upon Jesus’s name be saved?
Will god always be there in times of need? (Hard to believe Matthew 27:46 and Psalm 10:1 are used here.)
Was Jesus God?

This last one needs to be expanded on. To begin with, Krueger says that in John 8:42, Jesus says he is sent by God. Krueger tells us that if he is sent by God, he cannot be God. He also reminds us that he admits he did not send himself as he did not come on his own. Krueger has done two things here. First, he has given us a good argument against modalism. Second, he has revealed his own ignorance. Note to atheists out there wanting to write a book against Christianity. Make sure you get the basic information right. I can easily say Krueger is an unreliable source on Christianity at this point due to mistakes such as these.

Of course, Krueger compounds this by asking who Jesus prayed to if he was God. Does he honestly think no one in thousands of years of church history notice that Jesus prayed?

Krueger goes on to state about how enlightened Christians don’t take the Bible literally because of this. Well some of us don’t take it literally in some parts simply because we pay attention to genre.

After this, there is nothing new and worthwhile in this section. It would help Krueger to actually cite what his opponents say and show some understanding of the text. He does neither.

http://www.tektonics.org/TK-2KIN.html
http://www.tektonics.org/uz/zeketyre.html
http://www.tektonics.org/af/bucknerj01.html#days
http://christianthinktank.com/fabrach.html
http://christianthinktank.com/fabprof2.html
http://www.christianthinktank.com/qburnbx.html
http://www.tektonics.org/af/comma.html
http://www.christianthinktank.com/pseudox.html
http://www.tektonics.org/af/danieldefense.html
http://www.tektonics.org/af/batbird.html
http://www.tektonics.org/lp/paydaddy.html
http://www.tektonics.org/gk/jamesvspaul.html

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An Ode to Independence

Nick Peters will have more to say on Doug Krueger, but I wanted to break in for something else this week. Over on the Ticker I'd been giving an account of what's happened to Mike Licona as a result of Norman Geisler's misplaced crusade. I won't be writing about that directly here, but it does illustrate the point I do want to make, along with an entry I wrote some months back about a person who had an equally misplaced doctrinal issue with me (concerning the nature of hell).

That incident ended in failure for my accuser, which is how it should have been. My views did not threaten orthodoxy, though they did threaten some people's views of what orthodoxy should be. Unlike Licona, neither pressure nor sanctions were applied to me by anyone. (I was disgusted to have brought to my attention, by Nick, a blog by a pissant North Carolina pastor who was observing, with a self-gratifying smugness, that Licona was no longer listed as a speaker on certain conference lists now; such pastors as this one, who are self-manifestly ignorant dolts, are a sort I have had to deal with before who ought to have their pastorate taken from them, and will end up as toilet scrubbers in New Jerusalem because they have misled their flock. His type will send their youth next door to have their faith shattered by Bart Ehrman, and will scratch their heads not understanding why, or else blaming pride, sin, or some other rationalized excuse for their own miserable failure.)

Why no sanctions on me, though? Obviously, there's a huge difference between the way Mike and I are employed. He is (soon to be was) part of a much larger organization, the North American Mission Board, which in turn is a small part of the Southern Baptist Convention. That means he had a vast network which supported his work financially and in other ways. But in the end, he was also beholden (I do not say agreeably, of necessity) to the strictures placed on him by whoever was in authority -- even if that authority happened to be a pompous jackass who thought apologetics was a useless distraction and what we really needed was more and better praise choruses.


In contrast, Tekton has always lived on the edge in terms of finances and all else a corporate machine like NAMB/SBC provides. On October 20 of this year, Tekton will have been operating as a full time ministry for 10 full years, and for at least 7 of those years, it was open to doubt whether another year could be had of it. The current bad economy likely assures us of another year on the edge ahead.


But then again -- Tekton has also never had to worry about being lorded over by a pompous jackass. I don't have to toe a "party line" of some denominational organization. I can speak freely, being accountable not to some distant board of stuffed shirts who wouldn't know Greco-Roman rhetoric from a roasted pig, but to those who actually find the information Tekton provides and consider it helpful.


In the past 10 years I have asked myself more than a few times which situation I'd rather be in -- and in the end, I have to say that the situation as is, always wins out over what Mike has had to deal with. It is worth far more to be able to be free to say and do what needs to be said and done, rather than be thumbed under by a dense bureaucrat.

As an illustration of this, there was a time (before NAMB cut budgets) when I did some freelance PPTs for NAMB. One of those referenced Hindu practices of meditation, and to illustrate it, I found a picture of a somewhat older gentleman in a yoga position. Some yahoo at NAMB, however, had been given some kind of oversight over the project, and this yahoo wasn't an apologist. They were, however, deeply concerned because the man in the yoga picture was dressed in nothing but what was equal in coverage to men's bicycle shorts.


Stories like that remind me why I never wanted to be part of a larger organization, and still don't. Oversight is an excellent thing in principle, but it doesn't actually work unless the "overseer" has their priorities straight and also has some idea what they're overseeing.

***

ADDENUDUM

Shortly after I posted this, Mike sent out the following to several people which he said could be posted and distributed as seen fit. So here it is! With that list of signators, if I were Geisler, I'd find a deep place to hide. (9/10/11: Licona has requested a revision, explained below.)

***

An Open Response to Norman Geisler

Norman Geisler has taken issue with a portion of my recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, in which I proposed that the story of the raised saints in Matthew 27:52-53 should probably be interpreted as apocalyptic imagery rather than literal history. In response, Dr. Geisler has offered strong criticisms in two Open Letters to me on the Internet. Until now I have been unable to comment because I have multiple writing deadlines, two September debates in South Africa for which to prepare, and, consequently, no time to be drawn into what would probably turn into an endless debate. I shared these first two reasons with Dr. Geisler in an email several weeks ago. Yet he insisted that I “give careful and immediate attention” to the matter. I simply could not do this and fulfill the pressing obligations of my ministry, which is my higher priority before the Lord.

Dr. Geisler questions whether I still hold to biblical inerrancy. I want to be clear that I continue to affirm this evangelical distinctive. My conclusion in reference to the raised saints in Matthew 27 was based upon my analysis of the genre of the text. This was not an attempt to wiggle out from under the burden of an inerrant text; it was an attempt to respect the text by seeking to learn what Matthew was trying to communicate. This is responsible hermeneutical practice. Any reasonable doctrine of biblical inerrancy must respect authorial intent rather than predetermine it.

When writing a sizable book, there will always be portions in which one could have articulated a matter more appropriately. And those portions, I suppose, will often be located outside the primary thesis of the book, such as the one on which Dr. Geisler has chosen to focus. When writing my book, I always regarded the entirety of Matthew 27 as historical narrative containing apocalyptic allusions. I selected the term “poetic” in order to allude to similar phenomena in the Greco-Roman literature in general and Virgil in particular. However, since Matthew is a Jew writing to Jews, “apocalyptic” may be the most appropriate technical term, while “special effects” communicates the gist on a popular level.

Further research over the last year in the Greco-Roman literature has led me to reexamine the position I took in my book. Although additional research certainly remains, at present I am just as inclined to understand the narrative of the raised saints in Matthew 27 as a report of a factual (i.e., literal) event as I am to view it as an apocalyptic symbol. It may also be a report of a real event described partially in apocalyptic terms. I will be pleased to revise the relevant section in a future edition of my book.

Michael R. Licona, Ph.D.

August 31, 2011

We the undersigned are aware of the above stated position by Dr. Michael Licona, including his present position pertaining to the report of the raised saints in Matthew 27: He proposes that the report may refer to a literal/historical event, a real event partially described in apocalyptic terms, or an apocalyptic symbol. Though most of us do not hold Licona’s proposal, we are in firm agreement that it is compatible with biblical inerrancy, despite objections to the contrary. We are encouraged to see the confluence of biblical scholars, historians, and philosophers in this question.

It has come to my attention that this matter may become a political/theological hot potato. The scholars on the list have stood with me. It was not my intent to amass a huge list. It was my intent to demonstrate that a significant number of the most highly respected evangelical scholars, all of whom are members of ETS, see no incompatibility between the position I took in my book and the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. The list has served its purpose. I have no desire to be the cause of pressure brought on those who have stood with me or on their academic institutions. Therefore, I have decided to remove the list of names for the present time at least. In no case, did an institution demand that their professors withdraw their names.

A number of scholars have suggested that this discussion is better played out in the theatre of an academic forum. I could not agree more! Southeastern Theological Review (STR) has offered to host a ‘virtual’ roundtable discussion involving several significant scholars commenting on my book. A main subject of this roundtable will be the raising of the dead saints in Matthew 27:52-53. This roundtable discussion(s) will be posted on the STR web site and will precede a full journal devoted to my book in the Summer 2012 edition of STR.