Thursday, April 20, 2006

Intellectual Arts and Crafts

John W. Loftus said:

evanmay, it’s really interesting to me, on the one hand, how that you will never admit to an internal critique by an outsider. There’s always something wrong with it. In my opinion this is simply because your Christianity does not rest on one isolated belief, but instead rests on them all. Your beliefs all stand or fall together and I can never talk about the whole system but only about isolated belief at a time.

On the other hand, you think you can internally critique another’s belief system as an outsider, when you have the same intellectual problem that I do as an outsider to your faith. Just as I cannot cause you to doubt your brand of Christianity by isolating one of your beliefs for a critique, so also you cannot do so of another religious (or non-religious) belief system. And you claim that you can do this.

4/20/2006 6:44 AM

I believe my fears that John Loftus does not exactly understand the concept of an “internal critique” are now being realized.

No, Mr. Loftus, it isn’t that I’ll never admit to an internal critique performed by an outsider. Rather, and frankly, it is that you are terribly handicapped when it comes to internal critiques. You clench to your presuppositions so tightly that you are unable to prevent yourself from forcing them into the claims of Christ.

John Loftus doesn’t agree with me that worldviews can be critiqued internally alone. Fine. But when he does enter an internal critique, I will surely hold him accountable within the realms of the worldview he is critiquing. I mean, his last post even started with the question, “What if I’m wrong?”! In other words, he set himself up to adopt Biblical assumptions. But then he fails to adopt all of the Biblical assumptions. For instance, he’ll begin to talk about the doctrine of temptation, but then he fails to take into account the doctrine of depravity. He’ll set up arguments against one particular Biblical doctrine, but fail to recognize the other doctrines with which it is in harmony. The doctrine of temptation was not meant to be isolated from the doctrine of depravity. Loftus can’t embrace a “devil-made-me-do-it” mentality (a mentality that presupposes the Christian worldview’s doctrines of Satan) while ignoring his own deadness in sin (another mentality that presupposes the Christian worldview).

Likewise, Loftus fails to remain within the internal critique when he argues that God is unjust to punish sinners. The argument itself presupposes the Christian worldview and is therefore an obvious internal critique. Loftus wouldn’t be talking about the claims of Christianity if he didn’t intellectually agree to assume its principles. Why, then, is he willing to assume a couple of doctrines for the benefit of his arguments (such as the doctrines that God exists and that he punishes sinners), but unwilling to assume the totality of Biblical truth (such as the doctrines of depravity, sin, justice, and God’s intrinsic goodness)? You see, Loftus’ “internal critiques” (using the phrase loosely) are completely self-serving: he’ll pick and choose Biblical principles that he needs for his arguments, divorce them from the context of the Biblical worldview, marry them to his own presuppositions from his own worldview, and then say “Ahah! They don’t match!” Well, of course they don’t! Mr. Loftus, Biblical principles weren’t meant to be coupled with atheistic assumptions! You aren’t free to play “match-maker,” picking and choosing a couple of concepts from a few worldviews, combining them together, and creating your argument against Christianity from recycled dogmas. This isn’t arts and crafts.

Loftus states, “Your beliefs all stand or fall together and I can never talk about the whole system but only about isolated belief at a time.”. The problem here isn’t that you fail to recite a Systematic Theology work to me every time you argue against Christianity. Rather, the problem is that you isolate doctrines and divorce them from their Biblical contexts before you even position yourself to critique them. Just imagine if I would do this in everyday life. Imagine if I picketed outside of the local Wal-Mart, claiming that they were unfair to require money from their customers while I obstinately ignore the fact that they are exchanging goods and services for the customers money. Or imagine if I stopped by the local prison and accused the cell-guards of slavery because they were keeping men locked up in “cages” while I refuse to take into account both the crimes the men have committed and the law that states that they must be imprisoned. You see, that is exactly what you are doing every time you isolate a Biblical doctrine and rip it from the context of the Christian worldview.

Loftus’ problem is that Christianity, being a rational worldview, has covered itself well. It has left nothing open for Loftus to attack, and Loftus can’t stand this. So his only option is to pick-and-choose which doctrines he will take into account, throwing all of the rest into the trash, that he might declare himself triumphant because he defeated that one child that was removed from its parents.

Evan May.

5 comments:

  1. evanmay. You surprise me: For instance, he’ll begin to talk about the doctrine of temptation, but then he fails to take into account the doctrine of depravity.

    Depravity. Really, do tell me more. I must've missed that class somewhere.

    What I said is that I cannot offer you an internal critique that you will accept because I cannot adopt all of the Biblical assumptions that you share in my critique. If I did, then I would be stuck inside your belief system, simply because your beliefs are circular in nature, supporting each other.

    That's why you can legitimately, and rightly say In other words, he set himself up to adopt Biblical assumptions. But then he fails to adopt all of the Biblical assumptions.

    So tell me this. Do you know whether or not your control beliefs are impervious from any internal critique? Which Christian belief of yours do you not support with other beliefs of yours? Can you explain the incarnation, or do you resort to divine mystery? Can you explain the atonement, or not? What about the problem of suffering? Hell?

    Every one of your beliefs are supported by the whole system. They either crash down all together or they don't crash down at all. But all I can do is isolate a particular belief and try as much as possible to show that belief is wrong, but you will never accept my critique because no matter how hard I try there will always be another set of control beliefs you have which will come to the rescue on that issue, and at that point you'll be able to claim I'm ignorant about the sum total of the Christian set of control beliefs. You do this regularly. I'm not ignorant of your control beliefs, I just disagree. Maybe someday you'll get it. Or not.

    Respectfully yours....

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  2. Depravity. Really, do tell me more. I must've missed that class somewhere.

    That's what I figured.

    What I said is that I cannot offer you an internal critique that you will accept because I cannot adopt all of the Biblical assumptions that you share in my critique. If I did, then I would be stuck inside your belief system, simply because your beliefs are circular in nature, supporting each other.

    So...since when did logical consistency equate to circularity?

    Are you saying that the beliefs in your worldview don't support each other? Are you saying that there is no connection between your views on morality and your views on the existence of God? Do your views contradict each other, or are they able to complement each other?

    Every one of your beliefs are supported by the whole system.

    None of my beliefs were intended to be taken out of the context of the system. I suppose you believe that I would be right in picketing in front of Wal-Mart because they require money from their customers while I obstinately ignore the fact that they provide goods and services for their customers in exchange for money. Is that what you are advocating?

    By the way, as I'm sure you know, for years the classical approach has supported Christianity, but it has adopted unbiblical assumptions. I find many of these apologetics to be useful, but not one of them can prove the rationality of the Christian worldview without the presupposition of the Christian worldview. I'll use the same arguments for the Resurrection as William Lane Craig. But, unlike Craig, I'll make the arguments from within the construct of my worldview. Unlike Craig, I won’t begin the discussion by sharing the biases of my opponent.

    But do you not see the mistake in taking your own, yet-to-be-justified presuppositions and comparing them to Biblical principles? You see, what you are doing is asking all of us to assume the principles of your worldview (though you live under the mistaken perception that everyone shares some of your basic assumptions). You want everyone to test Christianity in light of your atheism. You want Christianity to be guilty until proven innocent. You want everyone to share the worldview of John Loftus before they even begin to approach the Christian worldview.

    But do you not see how inconsistent this is? What would you think if I judged all of the principles of your worldview based upon the assumptions of my worldview? What if I just said, "Your worldview does not affirm the existence of God, but mine does, therefore, yours is wrong"? Would you accept that?

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  3. What would you think if I judged all of the principles of your worldview based upon the assumptions of my worldview?

    Ahhhhhh, but you do this...it's almost completely unavoidable!

    I believe the cumulative case approach is the only apologetical/anti-apologetical approach that actually causes us to change our minds. And I believe you are trying to spin a great many plates above your head in defending Christianity. At some point they may just all crash down, and the only way for that to happen is for people like me to ask a whole bunch of questions that will cause you to think. Then all of a sudden something just clicks, if it is to happen at all. Sometimes after you have been asked these questions a crisis may cause to you ponder them like never before, and at that point these plates may all crash down, like dominoes but quickly, if they are at all.


    So I consider the fact that you are even talking with me to be dangerous for your faith. A major crisis will happen in your life, and maybe more than one. That's when you re-evaluate things. That's what happend to me.

    The more you know in your defense of Christianity, the more reasons you will have to abandon your faith when a major crisis takes place in your life.

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  4. 1. I'll take the above comment as your allowing me to critique your worldview from the assumptions of mine, since you persist in doing that to me. So, Mr. Loftus: Your worldview is wrong because mine is right. How's about that?

    2. No offense, but I've been defending Christianity longer than you've been debunking it.

    3. What makes you assume that a "major crisis" has not already occurred in my life? You need to be educated about the lives of the T-bloggers. We are an interesting group of folks, many who have suffered severely.

    4. Trials produce perseverance for God's elect (James 1:4), and this has ever been the case in my life.

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  5. Your worldview is wrong because mine is right. How's about that?

    I don't think worldviews, as you call them, are totally incommensurable, but almost so. I actually feel as if this is how YOU argue with me, though.

    There are Kuhnsian anomalies to every worldview. The intelligent adherent knows about them but believes despite the problems.

    That's where debate comes in. I press you on your anomalies and you press me on mine.

    But then magically, especially during a major crisis (maybe not yet, and maybe never for you), something just clicks and you see things differently. Although, it doesn't always take a crisis, and many times it's not about more information, either. It's about "seeing."

    I try to help you see things from my side of the fence. The more clearly I can help you see this, the more you may consider seeing as I do. You are trying to make me see things from your side of the fence. But I've already been there as an apologist, and from your side of the fence it's ugly.

    For instance, I do understand Calvinism. But when I say that there is no way you can exonerate God for decreeing every evil we experience and do, I'm speaking from my perspective at that point. I try to find ways to help you see this, because it's not more information you need. It's clear to me you have all the information you need to conclude as I do. You only need to see it. And in order for you to see it, I've got to find a Kuhnsian anomally to press on you. But yours is a very ugly God--maybe by my saying this often you might actually consider it.

    However Christians are mostly motivated by fear of change to allow themselves to see things differently. There are a lot of other fears: fear of dying, fear of hell, fear of God's wrath; fear of being kicked out of the safe Christian community, fear of a loss of income (those in the paid ministry), fear of what it'll do to your family when they learn, fear of rejecting everything you have studied for too long, fear of knowing how to act and behave ethically in a world that has no absolute guidance, fear of being alone in the universe with no guidance from outside, fear of becoming what I am with misguided notions about how we atheists are evil people who cannot be trusted and are perverts (which just isn't true, but you don't know me do you?).

    I believe you could produce an argument against the very faith you defend here each day. I know you could do it. But you won't try. You won't allow yourself to even conceive of trying. You're afraid that allowing yourself to doubt is borderline sinful, if not sinful. So the blinders stay on, in my opinion.

    Respectfully yours....

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