Sunday, January 01, 2006

The confutation of atheism-5

“When Justin appeals to the retroactive demon-activity who imitated Jesus' attribute before Jesus was born, this is a very desperate attempt to try and justify why the greek gods look and sound so much like Jesus, and in this way he pretty much seals the coffin lid on top of modern apologetic claims that the parallels between Jesus and earlier greek gods are not significant enough to merit serious consideration.”

Justin offers them as examples of false records, myths of demons not as equal parallels. He does not offer them to say “Look, this is why you should believe in Christ,” as if Jupiter is a type of the biblical God, he offers them saying, “We acknowledge that there a some parallels, but they are demonic in origin and denigrate the truth.” As such the argument is comparison by way of contrast.

There is a difference in the way Justin cites them and the way you cite them. There is also a difference in the way Celsus, for example, cites them. He engages in comparative mythology at some points himself. The tendency of the early pagan critics was to cite them as disanalogous, not analogous, and the Christians that cited them as falsely analogical; they did not cite them as geneaological. They are cited as comparisons for the sake of contrast.

In contrast, modern comparative mythologists allege not that they are analogical but that they are genealogical. In order for a parallel to be valid, it has to genealogical, not simply analogical.

From Metzger: “Even when the parallels are actual and not imaginary, their significance for purposes of comparison will depend upon whether they are genealogical and not merely analogical parallels. That is to say, one must inquire whether the similarities have arisen from more or less equal religious experience, due to equality of what may be called psychic pitch and equality of outward conditions, or whether they are due to borrowing one from the other. Interesting as the parallels are which Sir James G. Frazercollected from the four corners of the earth in his monumental work, The Golden Bough, by no means all of them are to be regarded as the result of demonstrable borrowing. In seeking connections it is not enough (as F. C.Conybeare pointed out) “for one agent or institution or belief merely to remind us of another. Before we assert literary or traditional connection
between similar elements in story and myth, we must satisfy ourselves that such communication was possible.”

It is a fact that in various spheres close similarities even in phraseology have been discovered which are related to each other by nothing more direct than analogy. For example, in a letter published in The (London) Times at the end of July, 1938, the late Professor Harold Temperley pointed out two quite remarkable parallels between speeches made by Canning in 1823 and 1826 and their modem counterparts in Neville Chamberlain’s utterances on July 26, 1938. In a subsequent letter, the Prime Minister disclaimed having previously read either of Canning’s speeches, and concluded that the parallels “indicate simply the continuity of English thought in somewhat similar circumstances, even after an interval of more than a hundred years.”

Or, to take an example from ancient times, a close parallel to the docetism expressed in the apocryphal Acts of John has been discovered in Ovid’s Fasti. It would be vain, however, to imagine that Greek Christian writers were indebted to Ovid for their docetic interpretation of Christ’s sufferings. So too, as Toynbee points out in his Study of History, the uniformity of human nature sometimes produces strikingly similar results in similar situations where there can be no suspicion of any historical bridge by which the tradition could have been mediated from one culture to the other.

Even if the parallels are genealogical, you have to be able to prove they moved in a particular direction. You need to prove, not assume, that Christians borrowed from the pagans and not vice versa, and you need to come up with a reasonable argument that Jews would be easily persuaded to borrow from those pagan myths, when the evidence is to the contrary. Why would a Jew, whom the pagans of the 2nd century tell us were renown for their separatism, find a myth constructed from Greco-Roman pagan myths persuasive?

See Metzger, M. “Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Christianity,” Historical & Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, & Christian
(Eerdmans 1968), 1-24

Celsus himself cited the myths of Danae and Antiope is parallels from which he alleges the Christians copied their virgin birth story. Yet in both of those, Zeus impregnates the ladies through sex, so we do not have a virgin birth, because the women who give birth are not virgins. So, Celsus has made an invalid parallel.

Those who pilfer the pagan myths for such parallels need to look to the most obvious place first: the Old Testament. They would save themselves much time. Of course, this might mean actually dealing with the text of the Bible fairly. God forbid you make that attempt. The virgin birth is the climax of several types: Seth, Isaac, Moses, Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist. That is the universe of discourse in which the narrative of the virgin birth moves.

Additionally, basing your assertions on the priniciple of uniformity in historiography requires a supporting argument.

You are basing your use of the principle on highly disputed grounds. Historiography is a highly fragmented discipline.

Structural determinism is only one principle in historiography. There is another: liberty and contingency, the idea that it is uniformly true that we should expect the unexpected. I have a decree in history, and I still remember my professors'lectures on this idea. The classic charge is that structural determinism tends to make for error laden explanation, particularly at the macro-level, a tendency toward single factor explanations, and a tendency toward ignoring the multiplicity of possible pathways by which an explanation may be reached. These obscure and do not illuminate the events under study.

This is not a position held exclusively by Christians or theists. A Christian can argue his position on the basis of this principle of contingency without appeal to his own worldview and as means to justify his inclusion of the miraculous. One need simply hold the principle of contingency over the principle of uniformity, look over the textual data, the character of the witnesses, et. al., and judge the material reliable.

Low probability does not rule out contingent explanations. I believe it was Whaley that argued that if we make the principle of uniformity stipulative we end up excluding many historical events including those surrounding Napolean. History does not depend on repeatability. It depends on testimony.

The odds of being dealt a 13-card suit in Bridge is 1 in 159,000,000,000; if we have several witnesses of high character who record this event at the level of the resurrection, should it be believed or rejected on the basis of probability? It happened. Probability is not a reason to reject it having happened if the testimony is reliable.

# posted by GeneMBridges : 1/01/2006 2:28 PM

The readers should recognize by now that Dave Wave is a poor writer, and that he often is incoherent and inconsistent. If you show him to be wrong on a subject, he'll change his argument in the middle of the discussion or say that he accepts your refutation, but only for the sake of argument. He'll claim at one point that he needs evidence for a resurrection other than Jesus' resurrection before he can consider the possibility that Jesus rose from the dead. But when you explain to Dave that we would never be able to prove the first resurrection if every resurrection claim needs a prior example before being considered, he changes his approach. He doesn't admit that he was wrong. Instead, he claims that he's willing to accept your approach, but only for the sake of argument. Or he'll act as if his new position is what he's been arguing all along. In other words, instead of admitting that he was wrong, he adopts his opponent's position and claims that he's only doing it for the sake of argument, or he changes his argument without admitting the change.

Despite the incoherence and inconsistency of so much of what Dave writes, he does occasionally say something that's clear and so easily refuted as to not allow him much room for revision. In his reply to Steve Hays in this thread, Dave wrote:

"I've never seen a bad naturalistic explanation for any alleged miracle, that's why I refuse to include miracles as part of true history. When you come up with the kind of miracle evidence that I cannot find a naturalistic explanation for, NOW you are talking the possibility of miracles."

Notice the multiple flaws in Dave's reasoning. The fact that a naturalistic explanation is possible doesn't make it the best explanation. According to Dave's logic, we would still be justified in rejecting the resurrection of Jesus even if we had multiple video tapes of the event and thousands of eyewitness accounts. After all, it's possible to come up with naturalistic explanations of such evidence. Maybe all of the video tapes were altered by some means that we don't know how to detect. And maybe all of the eyewitnesses were hallucinating. Therefore, since a naturalistic explanation is possible, we're justified in dismissing multiple video tapes and thousands of eyewitnesses.

The readers should know, also, that Dave Wave's latest arguments in this thread are largely repetitions of what he argued earlier. He was refuted in the earlier discussions, but he keeps repeating himself over and over.

# posted by Jason Engwer : 1/01/2006 3:58 PM

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4 comments:

  1. empiricism101 response to Jason, 1-2-06


    Jason E. said:
    There is a difference in the way Justin cites them and the way you cite them. There is also a difference in the way Celsus, for example, cites them. He engages in comparative mythology at some points himself. The tendency of the early pagan critics was to cite them as disanalogous, not analogous, and the Christians that cited them as falsely analogical; they did not cite them as geneaological. They are cited as comparisons for the sake of contrast.

    empiricism202:
    Apparantly you’d rather water down Justin’s specification that what the Christians believe about Jesus is no different than what they believe about their gods, instead of taking Justin seriously, and a case in point would be:

    And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth45 of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: (Justin Martyr)

    Did you get that? ‘NOTHING DIFFERENT’, at least with the case of Jupiter and Jesus.

    Jason E. said:
    In contrast, modern comparative mythologists allege not that they are analogical but that they are genealogical. In order for a parallel to be valid, it has to genealogical, not simply analogical.

    empiricism202:
    But Justin Martyr was about 1900 years closer to the sources than are you “moder comparative mythologists”. Until you have some serious evidence to dispute Justin’s argument from parallels, the pagan-copy-cat-thesis stands. “NOTHING DIFFERENT”, remember?

    Jason E. said:
    From Metzger: “Even when the parallels are actual and not imaginary, their significance for purposes of comparison will depend upon whether they are genealogical and not merely analogical parallels. That is to say, one must inquire whether the similarities have arisen from more or less equal religious experience,

    empiricism202:
    False, if any of the parallels are “nothing different” from Christ, then it doesn’t really matter whether the pagan side arose from equal religious experience or not. All that need be established is that Jesus fits the motif and that at least SOME of the parallels to jesus, existed BEFORE Jesus did, which is what Justin does for us when he cites retro-active demon activity before Christ to explain why Christ, coming later, looks so much like them. He would hardly refer to the activity of demons BEFORE THE BIRTH OF JESUS, in creating those parallels, if it is true, as apologists say, that the pagan stories mimicking Jesus only came AFTER Christianity.

    Jason E said:
    due to equality of what may be called psychic pitch and equality of outward conditions, or whether they are due to borrowing one from the other. Interesting as the parallels are which Sir James G. Frazer collected from the four corners of the earth in his monumental work, The Golden Bough, by no means all of them are to be regarded as the result of demonstrable borrowing.

    empiricism202:
    just for the record, I find Frazer’s “Golden Bough” thesis to be a very sad plight for skepticism. Shame on such an idiot for citing parallels so utterly uncritically, and I distance myself very far from uncritical toying such as that book. No, I also don’t give the least bit of respect to the author of “The World’s 16 crucified Saviors”.

    Jason E. said:
    In a subsequent letter, the Prime Minister disclaimed having previously read either of Canning’s speeches, and concluded that the parallels “indicate simply the continuity of English thought in somewhat similar circumstances, even after an interval of more than a hundred years.”

    empiricism202:
    First, I’d like to see the sources for the parallels, because I cannot simply accept the Prime Minister’s disclaimer. If the parallels are weak enough to be explained by continuity of English thought, then fine, but I’d have to see them in order to judge whether the parallels are more striking than that. Either way, Justin’s “we propound nothing different” qualification on his own parallels regarding son so Jupiter makes this a whole lot more serious case of borrowing than simply continuity of Greek thought a hundred years later.

    Jason E. said:
    Or, to take an example from ancient times, a close parallel to the docetism expressed in the apocryphal Acts of John has been discovered in Ovid’s Fasti. It would be vain, however, to imagine that Greek Christian writers were indebted to Ovid for their docetic interpretation of Christ’s sufferings.

    Again, I’d have to see the parallels myself and then judge their strength accordingly.

    Jason E:
    So too, as Toynbee points out in his Study of History, the uniformity of human nature sometimes produces strikingly similar results in similar situations where there can be no suspicion of any historical bridge by which the tradition could have been mediated from one culture to the other.

    empiricism202:
    This is a general statement, which cannot be logically used to refute a specific statement, and Justin cites numerous specific parallels which merit closer inspection than just saying humans have a tendency to think the same way about stuff all over the world.

    Jason E. said:
    Even if the parallels are genealogical, you have to be able to prove they moved in a particular direction. You need to prove, not assume, that Christians borrowed from the pagans and not vice versa, and you need to come up with a reasonable argument that Jews would be easily persuaded to borrow from those pagan myths, when the evidence is to the contrary.

    empiricism202:
    I’ll wait to see how you handle “we propound nothing different” first.

    Jason E said:
    Why would a Jew, whom the pagans of the 2nd century tell us were renown for their separatism, find a myth constructed from Greco-Roman pagan myths persuasive?

    empiricism202:
    I already explained that. Justin was citing the parallels to show that Jesus should be believed by the Greeks, if their criteria for a true god-man was virgin-birth, miracles, resurrection, ascension, etc. If that was the case, Justin is arguing that that Jesus is “in no way inferior” to them. Yet while he uses the close parallels in a different way for a different audience, that doesn’t erase a single one of them.

    Jason E. said:
    Celsus himself cited the myths of Danae and Antiope is parallels from which he alleges the Christians copied their virgin birth story. Yet in both of those, Zeus impregnates the ladies through sex, so we do not have a virgin birth, because the women who give birth are not virgins. So, Celsus has made an invalid parallel.

    empiricism202:
    First, you don’t have any evidence that Mary WAS a virgin after she conceived Jesus. The mere fact that Matthew and Luke insist she was, doesn’t suddenly mean there’s no borrowing from pagan sources. God appeared as a man many times in the Old Testament, so the only thing going for the “she was still a virgin after conception” is the question begging reliance on Matthew and Luke, who records in this case are the very question at issue.

    Second, you should realize that failure to be an exact parallel doesn’t suddenly mean there’s no borrowing. The very fact that Jews, as you said, wished to be seen as unique, would argue that the Christian Jews would also, if they did indeed borrow, make sure that Jesus wasn’t a perfect mirror image of the pagans. If my truck is stick shift with a blown tire, and yours is an automatic sitting on the bottom of the ocean, does that argue that one isn’t a copy of the other? No way. They could BOTH be Toyotas.

    Jason E. said:
    The virgin birth is the climax of several types: Seth, Isaac, Moses, Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist. That is the universe of discourse in which the narrative of the virgin birth moves.

    empiricism202:
    Actually, I DO accuse the Christians of copying the Jews just as much as I accuse them of copying the pagans. You think that is absurd because you are so convinced that Jesus fulfilled the OT truthfully, however, I see no evidence that Jesus fulfilled the OT or was ever predicted for that matter, in the OT.

    Jason E. said:
    Additionally, basing your assertions on the priniciple of uniformity in historiography requires a supporting argument.

    empiricism202:
    Yes indeed. There are many arguments. I’ve already given some, but since you ask again, I’ll give more. If you refuse to accept that Mary really did appear in Portugal some years back, in spite of thousands of reports to the contrary, then you are perfectly well apprised of the fact that “we solemnly testify that this is true” doesn’t even BEGIN to provide proof. Let’s agree now that you reject thousands of eyewitness testimonies to miracles because you personally feel that those people have seriously misinterpreted the evidence they claim they saw. Then I’ll move forward.

    Jason E. said:
    You are basing your use of the principle on highly disputed grounds. Historiography is a highly fragmented discipline. Structural determinism is only one principle in historiography. There is another: liberty and contingency, the idea that it is uniformly true that we should expect the unexpected. I have a decree in history, and I still remember my professors'lectures on this idea. The classic charge is that structural determinism tends to make for error laden explanation, particularly at the macro-level, a tendency toward single factor explanations, and a tendency toward ignoring the multiplicity of possible pathways by which an explanation may be reached. These obscure and do not illuminate the events under study.

    empiricism202:
    I fail to see how any of this refutes my “present is key to past” principle. Your professor wouldn’t even be able to compile his notes for that lecture nor could you even know what college you are supposed to be attending let alone what class you should be sitting in, if you reject “the present is the key to the past”. Sounds like pretty solid criteria to me.

    Jason E. said:
    One need simply hold the principle of contingency over the principle of uniformity, look over the textual data, the character of the witnesses, et. al., and judge the material reliable.

    empiricism202:
    I’m willing, as I said before, to deal with your evidence for miracles without appealing to my “present is the key to the past”. If you want to give an argument for trusting any specific miracle-claim in the NT, please cite the biblical passage, the author of the testimony, and your reason for accepting it.

    Jason E. said:
    Low probability does not rule out contingent explanations.

    empiricism202:
    Straw-man, I never said low probability DID rule them out. What I think rules them out is the fact that naturalistic explanations for your miracle-data have more evidential force. Again, cite one biblical example and I’ll show you why.

    Jason E said:
    I believe it was Whaley that argued that if we make the principle of uniformity stipulative we end up excluding many historical events including those surrounding Napolean. History does not depend on repeatability. It depends on testimony.

    empiricism202:
    I don’t reject Napolean’s unique life and times because being lucky in life and war isn’t comparable to alleging that somebody rose from the dead or walked on water. If there are any miracle-claims in Napolean’s life, then yes, I’d reject those without saying his whole lifestory is too lucky to be real. I think the way we won the first world war was very lucky, and nothing in my historical criteria rules the possibility out. Sometime people sleep on the job, it’s been known to happen before!

    Jason E. said:
    The odds of being dealt a 13-card suit in Bridge is 1 in 159,000,000,000; if we have several witnesses of high character who record this event at the level of the resurrection, should it be believed or rejected on the basis of probability? It happened. Probability is not a reason to reject it having happened if the testimony is reliable.

    empiricism202:
    I would deny that anybody was dealt a 13-card suit in bridge until I actually talked with the claimers so I could know more about their general character reputation. My first observation is that people are known to lie in order to impress their friends, such as people that like to be the center of attention, or have big egos, especially when they tell of personal experiences which it is very unlikely that their hearers will actually go check the facts on. So you haven’t refuted me from this angle either. If one of my friends said they won the Lottory for 10 million, I’d call him a liar to his face until he showed me a ridiculously sized bank account in his name. Yes, the fact that something is improbable DOES influence me to first deny it until I can interview the claimers to have a better idea of the place the miracle-claim originated.


    Jason E. said:
    #posted by GeneMBridges : 1/01/2006 2:28 PM
    The readers should recognize by now that Dave Wave is a poor writer, and that he often is incoherent and inconsistent.

    empiricism202:
    I’ve also launched an attack against the very book that you’ve staked your entire life and integrity upon. It’s therefore also probable that you lapse into these irrelevant spouts of preaching because of your comfort zone being attacked.

    Jason E. said:
    In his reply to Steve Hays in this thread, Dave wrote:
    "I've never seen a bad naturalistic explanation for any alleged miracle, that's why I refuse to include miracles as part of true history. When you come up with the kind of miracle evidence that I cannot find a naturalistic explanation for, NOW you are talking the possibility of miracles."

    Jason E. said:
    Notice the multiple flaws in Dave's reasoning. The fact that a naturalistic explanation is possible doesn't make it the best explanation.

    empiricism202:
    I said I’ve never seen a BAD naturalistic explanation for miracles. Obviously that means I find all naturalistic explanations, of which I am aware, to be GOOD.

    As such, I never never never relied on the mere POSSIBILITY that they might be correct, as grounds to believe they were in fact, correct. You commit here then the straw-man fallacy. I accept naturalistic explanations because I find them to be “NOT BAD”, thus “GOOD”, not simply because they are “POSSIBLE”.

    Jason E said:
    According to Dave's logic, we would still be justified in rejecting the resurrection of Jesus even if we had multiple video tapes of the event and thousands of eyewitness accounts. After all, it's possible to come up with naturalistic explanations of such evidence.

    empiricism202:
    You have thousands of eyewitnesses to the appearance of Mary in Fatima Portugal, and you don’t believe ONE of them because you say they have seriously misinterpreted the evidence. So YOU are your own worst enemy when it comes to having thousands of eyewitness reports of a miracle. And yes, videotapes don’t count, because rising from the dead could be easily faked outside of rigously controlled scientific conditions that make the natural explanations impossible.

    Jason E said:
    Maybe all of the video tapes were altered by some means that we don't know how to detect.

    empiricism202:
    If I couldn’t explain the video, then I’d desire to interview the people IN the video. Or would that be too much reliance on evidence and not enough use of faith?

    I’d like to see the videos before I assert that they were probably altered by some means that we don’t know how to detect. Indeed, now that you mention videotapes, how WOULD a video “prove” that somebody resurrected from death after being dead for most of three days? What, somebody climbing out of grave captured on video?

    Jason E said:
    And maybe all of the eyewitnesses were hallucinating. Therefore, since a naturalistic explanation is possible, we're justified in dismissing multiple video tapes and thousands of eyewitnesses.

    empiricism202:
    see above.

    Jason E. said:
    The readers should know, also, that Dave Wave's latest arguments in this thread are largely repetitions of what he argued earlier. He was refuted in the earlier discussions, but he keeps repeating himself over and over.

    empiricism202:
    The readers should know, also, that Jason E’s latest arguments in this thread are largely repetitions of what he argued earlier. He was refuted in the earlier discussions, but he keeps repeating himself over and over. Convinced? I didn’t think so.

    ReplyDelete
  2. empiricism202 reply to Steve, 1-2-06

    empiricism202:
    The confutation of atheism-4
    “Second, will you accept my own testimony that miracles can't happen, or will you insist that evaluation of my claim calls for looking at more evidence than simply my personal testimony?”

    Steve said:
    These are hardly symmetrical claims. The fact that folks living along the equator have never seen snow doesn’t prove that snow can’t happen. And it doesn’t cancel out the experience of those living in snowy regions of the globe. The local absence of evidence for x does not negate the positive evidence for x elsewhere.

    empiricism202:
    Straw-man, I don’t argue that miracles don’t happen simply because I’ve never seen them. Go back and read my arguments. I said that their true occurance as reported has lower probability than do the naturalistic explanations of the same. I might be wrong or right in my evaluation of the evidence, but the irrelevancy of your analogy from people at the equator not seeing snow is assured.

    empiricism202 said:
    “THird, I think it's extremely stupid for modern medical science to assume that they know everything about the natural possibilities of the human body. How about you? As such, I am NOT prepared to rule out a natural cause merely because current medical science cannot figure out how the human body healed itself. Now, do you have evidence that modern medical science has plumbed the absolute limitations of the body's natural ability to heal itself? Or does there exist the possibility that the human body can do things naturally that modern medical science cannot currently explain?”

    Steve said:
    Many things are possible. But bare possibility is a very poor rule of evidence.
    In the nature of the case, there is no evidence for an unknown ability, while there is evidence of the existence of a prayer-answering God.

    empiricism202:
    Look back on the dark ages with your precious hind-sight, and imagine the very likely scenario of a theologian asking an atheist-doctor to explain why that man over there is throwing himself on the ground, frothing at the mouth, and screaming at people. The theologian says “demons!”, the atheist says “current medical science cannot provide a naturalistic explanation for that phenomena.”

    Do you agree now that your “god-of-the-gaps” reasoning is fallacious? Or, do you consider the existence of bi-polar epileptics too improbable to worry about?

    “I hoped to find a $20 bill on the ground one day last year when i was without work and hungry. Lo and behold....I found a $20 bill that very same day in the parking lot of the labor union downtown. Do you conclude that the atheist mind has the ability to create material objects via sheer wishful thinking? Or are you slow to discount the possibility of conicidence?”

    Steve said:
    It might be a coincidence. It might also be an instance of what we call God’s uncovenanted mercies.

    empiricism202:
    You are avoiding the point. My point was to show from the example of finding a $20 bill on the ground coincidentally at the time when you have no food or work or money, that convenient coincidences DO occur. As such, your story about your aunt finding the man who antagonized her in class, dead the next day after prayer to god for her to be relieved of that man, doesn’t qualify just yet as proof of a miracle, or that prayer was answered by god. Convenient coincidences happen all the time. And if Occam’s razor has anything to say about it, then the fact that “convenient coincidence” is far less complex a solution than “god did it”, suggests that until better evidence arrives, convenient coincidence is the most likely explanation.

    Steve said:
    “My proof that your #2 miracle was only coincidence then, would be to ask you how many times you prayed for something and DIDN'T get it.”

    Steve said:
    Once again, these are hardly symmetrical claims. Some answers to prayer are so counterintutive that they demand a supernatural explanation. If I’m in a poker game, and every hand my opponent plays is a royal flush, I infer that the deck is stacked.

    empiricism202:
    Why? Jesus said “with god all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26)

    Steve said:
    The fact that in most games the sequence is random in no way cancels out my well-founded suspicion that, in this case, the player is in collusion with the casino. Indeed, it is precisely because a royal flush is so rare that I attribute such an extraordinary run of luck to the illicit dexterity of the dealer.

    empiricism202:
    The uniformity of your life experience is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? I’m happy to see that although god might actually give the dealer several royal flushes in a row, you’ll still side with David Hume and say the deck is more than likely stacked.

    Steve:
    And if God deals me a miraculous hand, that evidence is not diluted by however many cases of unanswered prayer.

    empiricism202:
    But you cannot fully discount the absence of god as a way to explain miracles. If I pray to the corner-of-the-coffee-table god, for more coffee in my cup right now, and my coffee cup doesn’t fill up, am I wrong to conclude that my prayer went unanswered because the god I prayed to didn’t actually exist in the first place?

    Or should I rather think, as you do, that maybe the corner-of-the-coffee-table-god knows what’s best for me, and doesn’t always give me what I want, for his own mysterious ways, which are past tracing out?

    “Yeah, i'd like to see you argue against it being a conicidence. Surely you agree that life is full of coincidences which have no deeper significance that statistical certainty?”

    Steve said:
    As a Calvinist, I don’t believe that anything is merely coincidental.

    empiricism202:
    Thanks for the info, but you now appear to be leaning on “that’s the way I see things” more so than in actually discrediting my arguments for coincidence. I realize that as a Christian you don’t view anything as mere coincidence, however, do you have anything more than this to refute my naturalistic interpretation of your miracle-claims?

    “Maybe because no self-respecting investigator will accept anecdotal evidence as successfuly refuting his personal world-view?”

    Steve said:
    This is a self-defeating statement from someone who believes in the possibility of reconstructing history. Most of our historical knowledge is anecdotal.

    empiricism202:
    Straw-man fallacy, you know perfectly well that should I give you an anecdote from my personal life such as “my friend Billy came up with an irrefutable argument against god’s existence” you would NOT suddenly stop being a Christian (i.e., give up your world-view) on the basis of anecdotal evidence alone, amen?

    Steve said:
    “You yourself, in your hasty rejection of my "talking-crayon" analogy, contradict your above response, since by denying the possibility of talking crayons, you have denied all possibility of them ever being proved to you at any time, and this means you think historical causation is too uniform to allow the possibility of such things. Are you therefore subjecting yourself now to the very criticism of being "self-serving" which you throw at me? As a skeptic, I doubt it.”

    Steve said:
    One doesn’t have to be a signatory to the principle of uniformity to disbelieve in the existence of something. Lack of evidence for the existence of something is sufficient reason to disbelieve in its existence.

    empiricism202:
    I’ve never seen evidence for god that couldn’t be explained naturalistically, so I guess you thus approve of my atheism?

    “I committ no special pleading, I depend primarily on my own personal experience of life to decide whether some report of an event is more probably true or more likely false.”

    Steve said:
    To extrapolate from your provincial experience to categorical claims about the uniformity of cause and effect throughout time and space would be an embarrassment to any self-respecting empiricist.

    empiricism202:
    You are right, and I DON’T make “categorical claims about the uniformity of cause and effect throughout time and space…” I rather state that miracles as true occurances have a very low degree of probability in contrast to the higher degree of probability in the naturalistic explanations. Sure, the miracle could nevertheless be true, but that’s irrelevant to people living 2000 years after the fact who have nothing but ancient religious propaganda to substantiate their claim. I don’t categorically claim anything black or white about cause and effect, I rather stay away from categorical and argue from probability, which is far more relevant to historical criticism.

    Steve said:
    I’d had that if you spent more time around more Christians, your experience might be quite different.

    empiricism202:
    I was a church-going bible-believing Calvinist for 20 years up until 1998. Does that count as sufficient experience with Christians? Or will you try to open a hole to maintain your previous claim by asking me which denomination I was in, so you have the chance of saying “well those guys aren’t true Christians!” ?

    Steve said:
    “Silly? Artificial? Sure sounds like you only label my pink elephant analogy with those words because you are relying on the uniform absence of such monsters from your personal past experience of life. If not, then how exactly did you come to know that such things as flying elephants are indeed safely presumed to be ‘silly’ and ‘artificial’?”

    Steve said:
    To begin with, you are using them because you yourself regard them as silly, and you then try to tar the Biblical miracles with the same brush of guilt by association.
    Second, I don’t have to believe in the principle of uniformity to say that flying elephants are artificial. I know where they come from. They are imaginary counterexamples introduced into the discussion for no other reason than to construct a ridiculous argument from analogy.

    empiricism202:
    Do you say they are imaginary because of your reliance upon your uniform consistent experience of life from the past? Or because you can read my mind?

    Steve said:
    Third, my personal experience is not the same as yours. My experience includes more than one brush with the supernatural or paranormal.

    empiricism202:
    I realize everybody has different experiences. What I would say is that you have mis-interpreted your experiences. If you handing me three uncheckable cases of alleged miracles from your personal family history over the internet says anything about what you think constitutes “evidence” for something, then I think this confirms my theory that your experience with the paranormal involved you in concluding something was supernatural LONG before the naturalistic explanations were found insufficient.

    Steve said:
    Fifth, you continue to the absence of evidence as if that were positive evidence for the impossibility of a given phenomenon. That is a completely invalid leap of logic.

    empiricism202:
    You now just contradicted your own statement from before in which you said: “Lack of evidence for the existence of something is sufficient reason to disbelieve in its existence.”

    Well, does lack of evidence justify a denial, yes or no?

    Steve said:
    Sixth, is it possible for God to levitate an elephant? Yes, but I have no reason to believe that he has done so.

    empiricism202:
    And probably because your uniform experience of life involves no cases of god levitating elephants, amen?

    “What then have you proven I did wrong, since you agree that the gospels are promoting the cause of Jesus (i.e., propaganda)? Just because I also doubt their veracity doesn't mean I'm wrong to refer to them as promoting the cause of Jesus.”

    Steve said:
    “Propaganda” can either have a neutral meaning or, more commonly, in popular usage, a pejorative meaning. You are deliberately trading on this ambiguity to insinuate that the Gospels are propaganda in the pejorative sense, which doesn’t follow from the mere fact that they promote the cause of Christ.

    empiricism202:
    if you had to choose, whose version of the Holocaust would you accept, Hitler’s or the Jews’?

    Steve said:
    Now you’re quoting me out of context. If you ask me about the NT, you are posing a specific question. If you ask me about unspecified “extra-biblical reports,” I have no comment since your question is too vague to be answerable. Moreover, there’s no burden on me to comment on extra-biblical reports” since their truth or falsity is independent of the Bible’s veracity.

    empiricism202:
    I find it highly suspicious then, that with so many tons of reports of miracles outside the bible, mentioned in ancient religious propaganda, you don’t prefer to comment on a single one of them.

    You are also wrong anyway. I’ve asked other apologists the same exact question, and they cited a few ancient miracles reports from outside the bible and then told me why they did or didn’t accept them as true. You wrong, my general question is NOT unanswerable. I’ve been given various answers to it by apologists for the last 5 years. Could it be that your belief about the bible being totally sufficient for all things in life, left you very little reason to pursue other ancient religious miracle-claims? Indeed, what Calvinist would?

    Steve said:
    I’m under no obligation to go down a rabbit trail just because you order me to play fetch the ball. I have my own priorities.

    empiricism202:
    The fact that apologists have had no problems before in citing the extra-biblical miracle-claims they believe and don’t believe, in answer to my question, makes me wonder how exactly you think that extra-biblical miracle claims in ancient religious literature is a “rabbit trail”. Do you even KNOW of any? If so, why not just list one or two and tell me why you don’t or don’t accept it? Wouldn’t your views on specific ancient miracle-claims outside of the bible, function as a major test of your objectivity?

    “Again, you call flying pigs "ridiculous". Is this because of your prior committment to the uniformity of historical causation, which you are keeping secret from us? Or do you deny the existence of flying pigs only because you've never seen evidence of them

    Steve said:
    I don’t say that atheists are not justified to disbelieve in God for lack of evidence. Rather, they are not justified because they disbelieve despite the evidence.

    empiricism202:
    So why exactly do you deny the existence of flying pigs, if it’s not due to your own experience of life, which you condemn atheists for using to deny stuff?

    Steve said:
    The existence or nonexistence of God makes a world of difference regarding what, if anything, is possible. And apart from divine providence, there’s no good reason to believe that the past will resemble the present.

    empiricism202:
    But if I drop a ball 7 million times in a row, and it keeps heading toward the ground every time I release it…..would that be a reason to think that when I release it the 7,000,001st time, the chances are greater that the present will conform to the past?

    Go ahead and assume god doesn’t exist for the moment, and then tell why an atheist who does the above experiment should, if she is consistent with her atheism, think “there’s no good reason to believe that the past will resemble the present.” In this case of dropping a ball.

    Steve said:
    In the nature of the case, the only evidence for uniformity is uniform evidence. Hence, uniformity will always be, at best, underdetermined by the evidence. There can be no evidence for uniformity short of observing uniformity throughout time and space, of which our infinitesimal sampling on planet earth amounts to the tenth part of nothing.

    empiricism202:
    Do you think “our infinitesimal sampling on planet earth amounts to the tenth part of nothing, “ is nevertheless fully sufficient beyond reasonable doubt to deny the existence of flying elephants, yes or no? And don’t call my analogy here silly unless you have a good reason for why you believe flying elephants are silly.

    I think my logic is starting to penetrate your senses, because when I ask the real tough questions, you start dancing around more than John Travolta did in the 70’s.

    Steve said:
    By contrast, you only need one well-established exception to disprove uniformity.

    empiricism202:
    Got exceptions? I’m all ears, and like when I evaluated the evidential merit of your previous citations of miracles, I will likewise refrain from using “the present is the key to the past” to automatically reject your future citations of them.

    “I fail to see how my failure to distinguish personal causation from impersonal causation, somehow refutes my general observation of seeing the same result over and over. I don't care if a tree falls off a mountain because the wind blew it off (cyclical process of nature, impersonal causation) or because you cut it off (personal causation), the distinction between personal causation and impersonal causation doesn't threaten my reliance upon the uniformity of the applicable natural law (i.e., gravity still exerts a force on the tree after it, for whatever reason, detaches from the mountain.”

    empiricism202:

    Steve said:
    The flaw in your comparison is that both the tree and the lumberjack are subject to gravity. God, however, is not subject to gravity. His personal agency can suspend gravity or any other “natural law.”

    empiricism202:
    But you said I failed to distinguish personal causation from impersonal causation, and I still fail to see how failing to do this refutes the uniformity of nature that I observe. Uniformity is uniformity, regardless of whether it is a human being needing water to live, or leaves falling off trees, right? Why then say I need to distinguish between the different types?

    “By the way, since I can never tell the universe what to do, and it is in fact an open system (according to you), and thus not guaranteed to work the same way as it has in the past, what are the chances that you will stand under that brick while I let it go, in order to show everybody on the street how utterly fallacious the atheist version of the principle of uniformity really is? Naw, you are just as confident in the uniformity of natural law as any atheist, at least when it comes to standing under bricks that people are releasing above your head. You live by that principle everyday and only choose to controvert it in philosophical discourse because it actually can be used to threaten the very book and faith you have staked you whole life and entire reputation on.”

    Steve said:
    You seem to suffer from a mental block when it comes to thinking outside your own conceptual box. To be an effective critic you need to cultivate critical detachment—the ability to appreciate the implications of the opposing position.

    empiricism202:
    First, ad hominem fallacy. Whether I suffer mental blocks when it comes to thinking outside my own conceptual box is irrelevant to the force and logical consistency of my arguments. Please stop following Jesus and Paul into this fallacy in the future. Just because your favorite two people do something, doesn’t automatically mean it surely isn’t a fallacy of logic.

    Steve said:
    All other things being equal, I believe that God’s ordinary providence obtains. Absent a reason to the contrary, I assume that if I release a brick it will fall to the ground. That is not based on belief in some ironclad system of natural law. Rather, that is based on belief in the ordinary providence of God.

    empiricism202:
    And WHY do you believe God’s ordinary providence obtains? Obviously the only reason you trust the bible’s statement to this effect is because you find that the real world operates exactly the way the bible says it does, right? Isn’t that a Calvinist relying on the uniformity of history to conclude that the bible’s world-view is correct?

    If so, then can the uniformity of history be relied upon to accurately gauge the probable truth or falsity of an ancient historical report, yes or no?

    Steve said:
    But all other things are not always equal. In Scripture, God tells certain men that he’s going to perform a miracle, and he does so. If you had good reason to believe that ordinary providence was not in place, then you’d have good reason to depart from standard operating procedure.

    empiricism202:
    I don’t understand why you are now quoting the bible, when not very long ago, you were trying to show objective rational and logical reasons to discount one’s full acceptance of the uniformity of historical causation and natural law. Have you switched the subject to simply telling me what you believe?

    “...your distinction between prescriptive and descriptive is necessarily false, since it would be logically impossible to have a natural law that is only descriptive and not prescriptive. For example, how can the natural law "gravity affects all material objects on the face of the earth" be ONLY descripive, without such description logically necessitating a PREscription (i.e., it always works that way, or, no material object is an exception)?”

    Steve said:
    There are a number of things wrong with this claim. You reify natural laws as if a natural law were making things happen.

    empiricism202:
    If a ball hits the floor when it falls off a table, what more is causing the ball to travel toward the earth, other than the law of gravity?

    Steve:
    A natural law is simply a relation. No one has ever seen gravity. Gravity is an unobservable. All we perceive is a certain effect. We then postulate a hidden mechanism to account for the correlation. Newton had one theory. Einstein had another. But then there’s the problem of quantum gravity.

    empiricism202:
    David Darling is a Christian, and possesses a Ph.d in science, and thinks that quantum physics is more speculation than it is science. That doesn’t prove quantum theory wrong, but it sure shows that with a little research, a person can discover that quantum physics ain’t everything it’s cracked up to be by it’s supporters. No scientists deny gravity, but they do disagree on quantum physics. Therefore you should argue any of your case from the existence of quantum physics, because it’s far too speculative to ground any argument we have here.

    Steve said:
    More to the point, this is irrelevant to the case for miracles. Natural laws are only binding on the creature, not the Creator. They are no barrier to God’s field of action.

    empiricism202:
    We haven’t gotten to god yet, we are still at the miracle level and trying to figure out whether atheist naturalism makes best use of historical evidence or whether some other world-view does.

    Steve said:
    My reasoning is not the same as yours. There is evidence for miracles. There is no evidence for talking crayons.

    empiricism202:
    And your denial of the existence of talking crayons probably arises from your life experience (past), which never gave you a reason to believe they actually exist (present), right?

    “Since you obviously know that I would claim the resurrection of Jesus is silly AND bereft of all evidence, you are obviously talking more to the Christian readers than you are to the person whose presuppositions you should be able to anticipate.”

    Steve said:
    This is another example of your incapacity for critical detachment. Even if you don’t believe in the Resurrection, yet considered as a hypothetical proposition, it is a purposeful event in a way that a talking crayon is not.

    empiricism202:
    Well, just because you haven’t seen a talking crayon before, doesn’t mean……

    “My point was your rejection of certain miracle claims in ancient literature, and had nothing to do with how closely the details of the Christian virgin-birth story parallel other divine-birth stories.”

    Steve said:
    I have neither affirmed nor denied the miracle claims in ancient literature. That is only a question I could answer on a case-by-case basis. There is no uniform answer to such a vacuous question.

    empiricism202:
    I’m not demanding you give a uniform answer for all miracles reported in ancient extra-biblical literature, I’m rather waiting for you to mention just ONE miracle-claim in such literature (say, the 1st thru the 3rd centuries), and then tell me why you either do or don’t trust it.

    Steve said:
    “In spite of this irrelevancy, you also commit the no-true-scottsman fallacy, by trying to get rid of the similarities via the citation of different details. By your logic, if two trucks have different sets of tires, are colored differently, one is stick, the other automatic, one is 4x4, the other not, and one has tinted windows, while the other doesn't, then they must not be the same make and model. ridiculous. We learn from your mistake then that the general similarities require explanation if we allege that both items are originate from entirely different points, and that citation of differences in various details does NOT ‘outweigh’ the similarities.”

    empiricism202:

    Steve said:
    The problem is not with superficial differences in detail. The problem is with the differing and diverse background conditions. If you are going to indulge in comparative mythology, and if you are trying to establish a relation of literary dependence, then the fact that literary allusions ground the accounts of the virgin birth in OT motifs should tell you that those accounts are literarily dependent on the OT rather than Greco-Roman mythology. If there are any genealogical parallels, that’s where to look. Your extraneous illustration of two trucks is irrelevant to responsible literary analysis.

    empiricism202:
    Justin Martyr said “And if we even affirm that He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you accept of Perseus. (First Apology, Cha XXII.)
    Steve said:
    Citing Justin Martyr does nothing to change the fact that the life of Christ is modeled on various OT paradigms.

    empiricism202:
    First, citing the parallels between Jesus and the OT doesn’t erase the parallels Justin mentined between Jesus and pagan gods, which still require explanation.

    Second, I DO accuse the Christian religion of borrowing ideas from the Jewish scriptures, so that Jesus is in just as much trouble for imitating them as he is for imitating the pagans. Now if you had just a SINGLE example of fulfilled messianic prophecy, then I’d be open to the idea that Jesus fulfilled, not just stole from, the OT.

    Steve said:
    The NT is a Jewish book. You need to read the NT through Jewish eyes. Justin was a Gentile, not a Jew. He assumes a Greco-Roman point of reference because that represents his intellectual background. To confound his intellectual background with the background of the NT writers is a pretty serious blunder.

    empiricism202:
    His assumption of a Greco-Roman point of reference doesn’t mean he was lying to the greeks. The parallels are either real or not. If they not, the Justin is more stupid than is believable, for citing parallels that actually didn’t exist. But if they are real, then the only question that needs to be answered is, which virgin-born son of god came first? Jesus, or some other? And what scholar in the world would say one didn’t borrow from the other? Is there just something about the human mind that inevitably causes them, wherever they are, to insist their god-men were born to virgins? Hardly. Virgin birth is a very specific thing, and ancient myths prove that it wasn’t the only way it was believed a god could become a man. Therefore the virgin-birth of Jesus and it’s parallels as cited by Justin, do call for an explanation. No, it wasn’t just luck that they look so similar.

    Steve said:
    Justin is doing the best he can with the intellectual resources at his disposal, but he reflects the limitations of his cultural conditioning. Second Temple Judaism is the proper point of reference.

    empiricism202:
    I have no intention of letting you off the hook, by getting away from this piece of ancient evidence that cites parallels between Jesus and the pagan gods.

    “What's wrong with making sure that my eyes haven't decieved me, except that such a test makes it harder on miracle-workers to dazzle me?”

    Steve said:
    Nothing wrong with that except that your dogmatic commitment to methodological naturalism precludes you from ever accepting a supernatural cause, as when you say, just a few lines below, that “even if you were to come up with a modern-day miracle report that I couldn't explain away naturalistically, that STILL doesn't suddenly mean that miracles are true or possible.”

    empiricism202:
    What’s wrong with having a dogmatic commitment to a world view which precludes one from ever accepting a certain explanation as a cause? Does your dogmatic world-view preclude you from ever accepting that atheism is best explained as the most logical and rational world view? If so, why are you worried about my world-view precluding certain explanations when your own dogmatic world view precludes you from accepting certain explanations?

    Steve said:
    The fact that Jesus is not a dead man amoldering in the grave, but is a living, risen Savior, is asserted or assumed throughout the NT. That’s multiple-attestation.

    empiricism202:
    I’ve got about 50,000 more witnesses to Mary appearing at Fatima Portugal, than you have for your resurrected Jesus, so that’s attestation multiplied an awful lot more than those from the NT. And MARY’S testifiers in this case are still alive, to be interviewed if you wish to do so. But you fully reject that it was Mary they saw, and you fully believe they seriously mis-interpreted the evidence.

    Now, are you still interested in depending on “eyewitness testimony” and “multiple attestation” to ground your case that atheism is ridiculous for denying Jesus resurrection?

    Or do you now admit, in light of the Fatima evidence above, that many sworn eyewitnesses to something miraculous can easily be nothing more than mass hysteria?

    Steve said:
    Without eyewitness testimony you have no evidence for the uniformity of physical laws. And, unfortunately for you, that same database includes testimony to the miraculous.

    empiricism202:
    Did you forget that I use “the present is the key to the past”? my own experience in life is my ultimate criteria through which I test the personal experiences claimed by others, and it must necessarily be in that order. You are ill-informed if you think you can step out of your Calvinist/Theistic frame of reference and interpret historical evidence apart from your biases or world-view.

    By the way, doesn’t your rebuttal of my methodology call the scientific method into question? If I drop a ball 500 times, and it falls to the ground 500 times, am I a fool for thinking it will do likewise on drop # 501? If not, then what’s your problem with personal experience as a criteria? Wouldn’t your own personal experience of gravity cause you to doubt or suppose some natural explanation for a report that somebody made a ball float in the air?

    Steve said:
    “That's exactly right. If 6,000 people swore on a stack of bibles that they saw someone walking on water, I would rest upon the confirmed physical laws to laugh in their faces.”

    Steve said:
    Which bears out my point that, for you, it isn’t a question of the quality or quantity of evidence.

    empiricism202:
    That’s right. I don’t care if the whole world swears that the true god is a flying pig who gives birth to talking crayons, the natural laws and their uniformity put the lie to it safely and automatically.

    “Am I wrong for using uniformity of physical laws to discount thousands of eyewitnesses to a single event which they further interpret as a miracle? Why? Isn't eyewitness testimony more prone to false reporting and prone to complex problems such as group-think and cognitive dissonance, than is, say, the unanimous consent of the scientific community that earth's gravity affects all material objects? WHo among the two groups, has more probability of being wrong?”

    Steve said:
    All you’ve done is to arbitrarily privilege one set of observers over another. Scientists are just as subject to groupthink and cognitive dissonance as anyone else.

    empiricism202:
    Sure, but I asked you who would be more probably wrong. If you can’t answer that, think of your automatic denial of thousands of eyewitnesses to the virgin mary in Fatima Portugal, and then get back to me.

    “Should we also look through history to see how many times the scientific method has resulted in incorrect results and how many times people misinterpreted some event as a miracle?”

    Steve said:
    This question is too vague to be answerable—a favorite tactic of yours.

    empiricism202:
    “Should” is not vauge.

    “Therefore, you either need to argue that the bible deserves to be trusted far more so than other similar religious docuents…”

    Steve said:
    Yes, it does deserve to be trusted for more since there are many reasons for believing the Bible that do not carry over to other religious documents.

    empiricism202:
    Give ‘em to me one at a time, starting with your best one first.

    Steve said:
    “Or you need to admit that you are cornered when asked to produce a single example of extra-biblical religious propaganda which you trust to tell the facts only, no embellishments or errors. You dance around my request that you name this extra-biblical source you trust like the bible, because the fact is that you dismiss the full facticity of ALL non-biblical ancient religious propaganda, which then makes your acceptance of the bible look like a child's game of playing favorites, also known special pleading.”

    Steve said:
    I don’t produce a single example because the burden of proof is not on me to produce a single example. I’m not trying to prove “extra-biblical religious propaganda,” and the veracity of the Bible is independent of that question.

    empiricism202:
    Of course the burden of proof is on you. I’m asking why you have this extremely high view of bible inerrancy, which you flatly refuse to accord to any book in the world outside the bible. I ask “why” because I know the real reason, but I want you to actually admit it, because if you do so, you will then supply me with justification for part of my world-view, since you obviously don’t dare condemn me for what you yourself do.

    Steve said:
    All you’ve done is to pose a trick question. I am not privy to what you have in mind by “extra-biblical religious propaganda.” The onus is not on me to divine what examples you may have in mind. If you want a specific answer, pose a specific question.

    empiricism202:
    Do you trust as basically factual A N Y miracle-claims in extra-biblical ancient literature whatsoever, yes or no?

    If yes, which ones?

    If no, why not?

    Let me know if you need further clarification.

    Again, what evidence do you use to support your premise that the New Testament, for example, is completely historically trustworthy, while you deny this high trust to every other non-biblical ancient religious document? Can you answer that directly by actually giving said evidence? I'm betting you can't. Prove me wrong.”

    Steve said:
    Once again you’ve rigged the question by assuming that the case for the veracity of Scripture can only be made in comparison and contrast to the case for “extra-biblical religious propaganda,” whatever that means. These are two logically distinct and separable questions. In addition, there’s a difference between proof and persuasion. Persuasion is person-variable. There’s no uniform answer to what different men will find persuasive since different men are impressed by different types of evidence.

    empiricism202:
    I’m debating you, so here, only your views count as rebuttal to me or support for your arguments.

    Steve said:
    Some men are more empirical, others more philosophical, still others more existential. There are many possible reasons for believing in the Bible.

    empiricism202:
    I wasn’t asking you about biblical miracle reports. I was asking you your view on NON-biblical (read: extra-biblical) reports of miracles, in ancient literature.

    Existential readers are impressed by its psychological realism, by the way in which the men and women depicted in Scripture act just like you’d expect real men and women to act in real life situations.

    empiricism202:
    Sorry, the many instances of rank unbelief in the Israelites not only during but after their miraculous exodus from Egypt, makes them appear more than a bit too stupid for real life. By the way, are you gonna answer the question directly yes or no? Why have other apologists been able to cite book chapter and verse examples of ancient miracle-claims and then discuss them with you, while you do nothing but skirt the issue?

    “But you haven't demonstrated how my belief that the causal system is closed, is any less warranted by the evidence, than is your automatic rejection of talking crayons from the causal system.”

    Steve said:
    That’s a short question with a long answer--which would involve us in the theistic proofs, a la the alethic, ontological, cosmological, teleological, axiological, and transcendental arguments, &c.

    empiricism202:
    Give it yer best shot. Wanna start a new thread, or take the debate somewhere else?

    “Yes, that's because any such idea as ‘outside the universe’ sounds like utter nonsense to me. Don't you mean "everything that exists" when you say "universe"? If so, then logically there CAN't be anything outside the realm of existing things to enter that box. But if not, where is your proof that ‘universe’ doesn't refer to all existing things? What then.....will you tell me you believe that certain things exist outside the realm of all existing things? Please justify your seemingly arbitrary limitation upon a word that is supposed to refer to ALL because it starts with ‘UNI’. I've got space, matter, time and energy, and it's the universe. If you got something more than these things, please give your evidence of it.”

    Steve said:
    The “universe” denotes the physical universe. That doesn’t encompass the whole of reality by a long shot. The universe concretely exemplifies abstract universals, properties, propositions, numbers, possible worlds, consciousness, qualia, minds, souls, spirits, &c.

    empiricism202:
    Whoa there. What is a spirit? (reminder: if I asked somebody what a tree was, and they said “a non-walkie talkie”, would you think that they told me what it IS, or were they telling what it ISN’T? As such, keep that in mind as you answer “what is a spirit?” Since I’m not asking you what a spirit is NOT, all negative definitions are by definition irrelevant to the question.)

    Perhaps we should back up and ask you to sustain your more general thesis that matter and energy aren’t the only things that exist? If that’s what you believe, what evidence did you base your belief in them on? Choose any specific example you currently believe in.

    Steve said:
    That’s another reason you can’t reduce the universe as a closed system.

    empiricism202:
    I notice that you refer me to books which support your belief. However, you are debating ME here. What would this debate come to if I followed your example? I could just say “and that’s another reason why you can’t view the universe as an open system…” and then quote a bibliography that supports my view point. Please try to refrain from giving me bibliographies, and instead actually support your statements with specific evidence or arguments. Referral to books that support your viewpoint doesn’t a rebuttal make.

    “First, what is your advice to people who ask you whether they should believe a miracle report from a personal family situation reported by somebody else to them over the internet?”

    Steve said:
    I am simply playing by your own rules. A little below this you said: “our own life experience also tells us what is more likely true and what is more likely false. Whether it's always right or not is irrelevant to my point that past testimony from those who went before us is NOT the only source of information we have on the subject of uniformity of natural law. “ As well as: “I depend primarily on my own personal experience of life to decide whether some report of an event is more probably true or more likely false.”

    Steve said:
    So if personal experience can supply evidence that miracles don’t happen, then personal experience can also supply evidence that miracles do happen. Or do you take exception when I borrow a page from your own playbook?

    empiricism202:
    I take no exception at all, in fact, I enjoyed the opportunity to show you that some naturalistic explanations for your miracle-claims still loomed over you. None of my comments you cited, however, opened me up to accepting everything that everybody says about THEIR OWN life experience. I was talking about MY own life experience. You might have been taking a page from a playbook, but it sure wasn’t from my playbook

    Steve said:
    If so, there’s also an extensive body of literature documenting the occurrence of events which defy the laws of physics, such as

    empiricism202:
    None of which qualifies as evidence, of course, since you would never accept a bibliography of naturalist books purporting to explain miraculous or paranormal claims, as proving my point to you here in this debate. Now, thanks for the references, but please don’t base your assertion that I am wrong on A, B and C, because the following books say so. That’s called the fallacy of argument by assertion. You are free to take single examples one at a time, and discuss them with me, which would be far more germane to our discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dave Wave,

    You've attributed comments to me that I didn't write, your responses are once again highly unreasonable, and you keep making claims that warrant documentation without giving us that documentation. When you quote Justin Martyr, for example, it isn't sufficient to give "Justin Martyr" as your source. You've done this sort of thing repeatedly, here and elsewhere. You don't have much familiarity with the original sources or modern scholarship, and you repeatedly present your side of an argument without apparently having given any other perspective much thought.

    I've read everything Justin Martyr wrote. Have you? I know what sort of parallels he cites in pagan mythology, and the similarities are far too vague to carry the weight you're claiming for them. We know what content these mythologies had. We're not dependent on Justin Martyr for all of our information. If Justin thinks one similarity or another is significant, we can make judgments case-by-case about whether we agree. You need to be specific rather than just quoting general comments made by Justin Martyr. Tell us what specific parallels you have in mind and what specific significance you think they have.

    From my reading of Justin Martyr, I would agree with J.P. Holding's assessment:

    "[Richard] Carrier appeals to Justin Martyr's retort that Christians 'propound nothing new or different' when they proclaim Jesus' resurrection, as reason to suppose a lack of distinction between resurrection and pagan ideas of rising again. Our answer to Tom Harpur recently, who abused this quote in the same way, is just as relevant here: Please note, as a reader of ours once said of this passage, that Justin Martyr is making these stretches to try to justify Christian belief by making it sound similar to what pagans (who ridicule it) believe in the first place. Strangely enough, it is the pagans themselves who don't appear to be recognising these similarities. This destroys any contention by Carrier of recognizable similarities. If the pagans didn't recognize it, and Justin had to perform these stretches of analogy to create parallels, how likely is it that they are genuine?" (http://www.tektonics.org/lp/nwjcarr3.html )

    Though Dave didn't give us a source for the quote of Justin Martyr in his latest post here, I know what he's citing. It's chapter 21 of Justin's First Apology. In that same chapter, Justin goes on to mention some differences between Christianity and paganism:

    "And what kind of deeds are recorded of each of these reputed sons of Jupiter, it is needless to tell to those who already know. This only shall be said, that they are written for the advantage and encouragement of youthful scholars; for all reckon it an honourable thing to imitate the gods. But far be such a thought concerning the gods from every well-conditioned soul, as to believe that Jupiter himself, the governor and creator of all things, was both a parricide and the son of a parricide, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions. But, as we said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things."

    Yes, Justin says that Christianity and paganism are similar in that they both believe in some concept of sons of gods. But that's a vague parallel without much significance, and Justin goes on to mention differences between Christianity and paganism. Your emphasis on Justin's phrase "no difference" is misleading, since anybody reading the context can see that Justin was saying that there's no difference in one vague sense, whereas there are differences on other issues. Would you explain to us how the fact that pagans believed in some form of sons of the gods, for example, is significant evidence against Christianity?

    Elsewhere, after noting some vague similarities between paganism and Christianity, Justin goes on to mention some differences:

    "I confess that I both boast and with all my strength strive to be found a Christian; not because the teachings of Plato are different from those of Christ, but because they are not in all respects similar, as neither are those of the others, Stoics, and poets, and historians. For each man spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the spermatic word, seeing what was related to it. But they who contradict themselves on the more important points appear not to have possessed the heavenly wisdom, and the knowledge which cannot be spoken against. Whatever things were rightly said among all men, are the property of us Christians." (Second Apology, 13)

    I don't see how any of this does anything significant to help your argument, Dave.

    You go on to say:

    "God appeared as a man many times in the Old Testament"

    He did appear sometimes, but only briefly, as a grown man, and without people having expected it. N.T. Wright comments that “no second-Temple Jews known to us were expecting the one god to appear in human form” (The Resurrection of the Son of God [Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003], p. 573).

    Richard Swinburne writes:

    “It is indisputable that there was no Jewish expectation that God would become incarnate. Pagans believed that their ‘gods’ had taken human form from time to time; but their ‘gods’ were lesser gods with limited powers, not God, omnipotent and omniscient. There simply was no precedent, Jewish or pagan, for expecting an incarnation: God almighty truly taking a human nature. And that again is reason for supposing that the first Christians were not reading back into history something which they expected to occur.” (The Resurrection of God Incarnate [New York: Oxford University Press, 2003], p. 115)

    Furthermore, not only were Gentiles not expecting God incarnate, but the concept even repulsed them. This is seen, for example, in Celsus, a second century pagan critic of Christianity:



    "This assertion [the incarnation], says Celsus, 'is most shameful and no lengthy argument is required to refute it' (c. Cels. 4.2). God is not the kind of being who can undergo mutation or alteration. He cannot change from the purity and perfection of divinity to the blemished and tarnished state of humans." (Robert Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984], p. 102)

    Dave goes on to say:

    "the only thing going for the 'she was still a virgin after conception' is the question begging reliance on Matthew and Luke, who records in this case are the very question at issue."

    I've already given you, on the NTRM boards, a large amount of evidence for the reliability of Matthew and Luke. At one point, you argued against the significance of Luke's historical accuracy by saying that he may have taken notes as he traveled with Paul. But I fail to see how such a scenario does anything other than hurting your case. If Luke was so careful to take notes, then we have good reason to trust him, and we know that at least one of the people he met was a member of Jesus' immediate family (Acts 21:18). Luke would have had access to reliable information on Jesus' childhood. I don't know of any Christian who claims that we can prove the virgin birth in the same manner in which we can prove something like Jesus' resurrection, but testimony from a reliable source like Luke, who was in contact with Jesus' immediate family, is significant.

    Dave continues:

    "Second, you should realize that failure to be an exact parallel doesn’t suddenly mean there’s no borrowing. The very fact that Jews, as you said, wished to be seen as unique, would argue that the Christian Jews would also, if they did indeed borrow, make sure that Jesus wasn’t a perfect mirror image of the pagans."

    In other words, your argument is unfalsifiable.

    But why should we think that the Jews merely wanted to "be seen" as different? They were different before they came into contact with these pagan mythologies, and they continued to be different afterward. It wasn't just an appearance. They were actually different, and they had a low view of paganism. It's not as if they thought highly of pagan mythology.

    Dave goes on:

    "I see no evidence that Jesus fulfilled the OT or was ever predicted for that matter, in the OT."

    Well, let's start with two of the most basic Messianic expectations. The Messiah would be a son of David, and the Messiah would have great influence over Gentile nations, including Gentile rulers, despite being Jewish. Regarding Jesus' Davidic descent, Craig Keener writes:

    “there is little doubt that Jesus’ family historically stemmed from Davidic lineage. All clear early Christian sources attest it (e.g., Rom 1:3); Hegesippus reports a Palestinian tradition in which Roman authorities interrogated Jesus’ brother’s grandsons for Davidic descent (Euseb. H.E. 3.20); Julius Africanus attests Jesus’ relatives claiming Davidic descent (Letter to Aristides); and, probably more significantly, non-Christian Jewish polemicists never bothered to try to refute it (Jeremias 1969: 291). Jesus’ relatives known in the early church seem to have raised no objection to the claim of their family’s background (Brown 1977: 507)….B. Sanh. 43a, bar., may preserve a [non-Christian Jewish] tradition that Jesus was of royal lineage (unless it suggests connections with the Herodian or Roman rulers, or that he was about to take control of the people; both views are unlikely).” (A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999], p. 75 and n. 9 on p. 75)

    We know that genealogical records were kept (D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Chapters 1 Through 12 [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995], p. 63).

    Concerning Jesus' influence over the Gentile world, do you deny that many hundreds of millions of people in the world today are Gentiles who profess to be Christian, and that many Gentile nations have had Christian leaders?

    If you're going to claim that Jesus didn't fulfill any Old Testament prophecies, let's begin with these two and see what case you have.

    Dave continues:

    "I fail to see how any of this refutes my 'present is key to past' principle. Your professor wouldn’t even be able to compile his notes for that lecture nor could you even know what college you are supposed to be attending let alone what class you should be sitting in, if you reject 'the present is the key to the past'. Sounds like pretty solid criteria to me."

    As we've told you already, believing that the supernatural is possible doesn't require a rejection of physical laws. God can intervene in a world that operates with physical laws, much like we as humans can intervene when an apple is falling from a tree by reaching out our hand and catching it. We prevent gravity from bringing the apple to the ground, even though it would fall to the ground if left to itself. You're burning a straw man, as you often do.

    Dave continues:

    "What I think rules them out is the fact that naturalistic explanations for your miracle-data have more evidential force."

    Here we have another example of Dave's self-contradictions. Earlier, in another thread, Dave said that a naturalistic explanation only needs to be possible. He said that he's justified in rejecting a claim of something he considers supernatural even if there are thousands of witnesses to it. But now, instead of appealing to mere possibility, he says that the naturalistic explanation would have to "have more evidential force". This is one of the difficulties in interacting with Dave. Which of his contradictory positions do you interact with, and how do you figure out just what argument he'll use from moment to moment?

    Dave says:

    "Again, cite one biblical example and I’ll show you why."

    Tell us what naturalistic explanation of the resurrection appearances of 1 Corinthians 15 is better than the Christian explanation. Remember, if you appeal to hallucinations or some other psychological disorder, you must document that the data we have is consistent with what we know about that psychological disorder, and you have to explain why your naturalistic theory is preferable.

    Dave goes on:

    "Yes, the fact that something is improbable DOES influence me to first deny it until I can interview the claimers to have a better idea of the place the miracle-claim originated."

    That's not what you argued earlier. You didn't just say that you wanted evidence before believing something. You repeatedly said that you automatically reject all miracle claims, that we have to have a prior resurrection before we believe any resurrection account, etc. You aren't being consistent. But you act as though your latest revisions are what you've been saying all along.

    Dave continues:

    "I accept naturalistic explanations because I find them to be 'NOT BAD', thus 'GOOD', not simply because they are 'POSSIBLE'."

    First of all, why should we accept an explanation just because it's "not bad"? That doesn't make sense. What we look for is the best explanation, not just one that's "not bad". And here's what you said earlier:

    "If 6,000 people swore on a stack of bibles that they saw someone walking on water, I would rest upon the confirmed physical laws to laugh in their faces. Am I wrong for using uniformity of physical laws to discount thousands of eyewitnesses to a single event which they further interpret as a miracle?...I've never seen a bad naturalistic explanation for any alleged miracle, that's why I refuse to include miracles as part of true history. When you come up with the kind of miracle evidence that I cannot find a naturalistic explanation for, NOW you are talking the possibility of miracles."

    You said that you only needed "a naturalistic explanation", and you gave us an example of "6,000 people" experiencing hallucinations or other psychological disorders. You said that you would "laugh in their faces" on the basis of nothing more than what you know of physical laws. Yet, now you claim to be doing research into each miracle, accepting naturalistic theories only if they better explain the data. Again, as I told you on the NTRM boards, you're either a really poor communicator or you aren't being consistent, if not both.

    Dave said:

    "You have thousands of eyewitnesses to the appearance of Mary in Fatima Portugal, and you don’t believe ONE of them because you say they have seriously misinterpreted the evidence."

    You need to get specific. Tell me what it is about the Fatima reports that convinces you that 1.) they're false and 2.) they're comparable to the accounts of Jesus' resurrection. Remember, as Steve has told you repeatedly, we as Christians have no need to dismiss all claims of the supernatural, and we need you to be specific when you cite alleged parallels to Christian miracle claims. Vague comments like the one quoted above won't do.

    Dave writes:

    "And yes, videotapes don’t count, because rising from the dead could be easily faked outside of rigously controlled scientific conditions that make the natural explanations impossible."

    Would you explain how a faking of Jesus' resurrection would be done? Remember, your naturalistic explanation must account for the empty tomb, the wounds in Jesus' resurrection body, His ability to walk through walls and perform other supernatural actions in that body, the conversion of the apostle Paul, etc. And you have to tell us how your naturalistic theory better explains the facts than does the Christian view.

    Dave writes:

    "Indeed, now that you mention videotapes, how WOULD a video 'prove' that somebody resurrected from death after being dead for most of three days? What, somebody climbing out of grave captured on video?"

    I said that the resurrection was on tape, not just somebody walking out of a grave. We could extend it to having people video tape everything, from the moments before His death to the resurrection itself. Even if all of that happened, with thousands of witnesses and no detectable altering of the tapes, you could still offer a possible naturalistic explanation. The issue should be what explanation is best, not whether a naturalistic explanation is possible. But, in this latest post of yours, you seem to have acknowledged that fact. You've changed your position again.

    What we're now waiting for is for you to stop making vague references to mass hallucinations and other psychological disorders and to start addressing the specific historical data and the specific relevant psychological data. My guess is that you aren't prepared to do it. You're largely making these things up as you go along, hoping that vague references to Justin Martyr's comments on paganism, Marian apparitions, etc. will mislead us into thinking that you're more knowledgeable than you actually are.

    Dave concludes:

    "The readers should know, also, that Jason E’s latest arguments in this thread are largely repetitions of what he argued earlier. He was refuted in the earlier discussions, but he keeps repeating himself over and over. Convinced? I didn’t think so."

    You've repeatedly responded to us in that manner, but you're overlooking the fact that different people have different degrees of credibility. The fact that we say something doesn't mean that it would be equally credible coming from your keyboard.

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  4. Dave Wave writes:

    "Straw-man, I don’t argue that miracles don’t happen simply because I’ve never seen them. Go back and read my arguments. I said that their true occurance as reported has lower probability than do the naturalistic explanations of the same."

    That's your latest argument, and you probably got it from reading my citations of William Craig. But you weren't using that argument earlier. Here's what you wrote on the NTRM boards a few days ago:

    "to be plausible, he [Jesus] would have to have been resurrected, which I don't think is plausible, since historical reconstruction cannot occur unless one uses the present to interpret the past (principle of uniformity), which rule of historiography automatically excludes all allegations that would require suspensions of the known physical laws." (http://p102.ezboard.com/fntrmindiscussionboardfrm9.showMessage?topicID=1472.topic&index=3 )

    "Do you have any non-controversial established cases of resurrection from the dead, so that I might stop seeing Jesus' resurrection as impossible and at least grant that it was within the realm of possibility?" (http://p102.ezboard.com/fntrmindiscussionboardfrm9.showMessage?topicID=1472.topic&index=3 )

    But now you're telling us that we don't need any prior resurrections, that you examine miracle claims case-by-case, and that any naturalistic explanation must better explain the historical data. You began by ruling out all miracle claims with philosophical presuppositions. Now you've changed your approach. What will your approach be the next time you post? Who could possibly know?

    Dave goes on to repeatedly miss Steve's point and misrepresent what Steve said. For example, Steve said:

    "Fifth, you continue to the absence of evidence as if that were positive evidence for the impossibility of a given phenomenon. That is a completely invalid leap of logic."

    And Dave replies:

    "You now just contradicted your own statement from before in which you said: 'Lack of evidence for the existence of something is sufficient reason to disbelieve in its existence.' Well, does lack of evidence justify a denial, yes or no?"

    So, Steve makes a comment about impossibility, and Dave responds by equating impossibility with lack of belief. But you can think that there's insufficient evidence for something without considering it impossible. Dave has ignored the context, in which Steve was replying to Dave's earlier comments about the alleged non-existence and impossibility of miracles. When Steve says that he would want evidence for something before believing it, Dave equates that comment with his own comment about concluding that miracles never happen. But the two aren't equivalent.

    Then there's Dave's misrepresentation of sola scriptura:

    "Could it be that your belief about the bible being totally sufficient for all things in life, left you very little reason to pursue other ancient religious miracle-claims?"

    Who ever defined sola scriptura in such a way that "all things in life", including the truthfulness of "ancient religious miracle-claims", are completely addressed in scripture?

    Then Dave goes on to make many other false arguments, including a repetition of the claim that pagan mythology involves virgin births, even when it's been explained to him that the pagan myths involve sexual intercourse and other significant differences from the Christian account.

    Dave doesn't know much about the issues he's discussing. But he keeps writing anyway.

    Before finishing this post of his that I'm responding to, Dave once again changes his standards in mid-discussion:

    "I don’t care if the whole world swears that the true god is a flying pig who gives birth to talking crayons, the natural laws and their uniformity put the lie to it safely and automatically."

    If natural laws disprove a miracle report "safely and automatically", then why has Dave claimed at other points that he doesn't reject miracle reports automatically, and that he accepts naturalistic explanations only if they better explain the historical data from case to case? If what Dave means is that naturalism is always the best explanation, regardless of the historical evidence cited for a miracle claim, then what's the significance of saying that he looks for the best explanation of the historical data? He's already decided, before examining the historical evidence, that naturalism offers the best explanation. Apparently, all that Dave is doing is assuming naturalism at the start, then defining his terms in such a way that only a naturalistic explanation of an event can be considered the best explanation.

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