Sunday, July 30, 2006

Defining ignorance

***QUOTE***

Believers in Christianity are not like they were decades and centuries ago. When confronted with harsh biblical criticism, they will not tell you things like "just have faith because nobody really 'knows' anything", nor will they admit "I can't prove the Bible or Christianity, but I believe in them." No, those days of quaint and humble honesty are long gone.

What believers of today will tell you is a minimum of ten ways to explain the days of Genesis 1 and the snake of Genesis 3 as figurative rather than literal. On accepting Jesus, they will present the trillemma, "Lord, liar, or lunatic" and try to buff it up with skewed logic. They will refer to Blocher's Thesis time and again, and wax eloquent quoting Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig on issues of common dispute. Concerning the problem of evil, instead of admitting that the existence of evil troubles them, they shine on asking skeptics to "define evil," as though this somehow helps to alleviate the problem. Looking to score points in a debate, believers want a formal definition, which is fine, though it is unnecessary. I suppose, if someone wanted me to, I could give them a definition of sadness, though we all know what it is! Even so, there is no one alive who doesn't know what evil is. Well, I will accommodate them here anyway.

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/07/defining-evil.html

***END-QUOTE***

One of the common denominators uniting so many apostates is their deficient knowledge of Christian theology.

In this respect, Holman is your run-of-the-mill know-nothing. If, say, he were to read The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament by F. F. Bruce, followed by A History of Apologetics by Cardinal Dulles, he could never have ventured such a pig-ignorant statement about the fideistic piety of Christians living decades or centuries ago.

Concerning the problem of evil, what about the Irenaen theodicy repristinated by John Hick, or Augustine’s privative theory of evil, or Aquinas’ commentary on Job, or Calvin’s nuanced discussion of evil and providence*, or the supralapsarian theodicy of William Twisse, or the modal theodicy of Leibniz, or Jonathan Edwards’ analysis of original sin—to name a few?

*Cf. P. Helm, Calvin’s Ideas, chap. 4.

I confess that I’m unacquainted with the “trillemma.” Is that a coloratura apologetic pioneered by Joan Sutherland?

I don’t have ten different ways of explaining the days of Gen 1. What about one or two?

The fact is that modern-day Evangelicals are much more likely to take the days of Gen 1 as calendar days than Christians were several decades ago in the time of Warfield or Bernard Ramm.

As to the identity of the serpent in Gen 3, I’m sorry if it’s inconvenient for Holman to consider the fact that Gen 3 was written in Hebrew rather than English, which is why we need to be sensitive to the possible presence of puns in the original—or that Gen 3 was revealed at a time and place when the cultural frame of reference was not supplied by the local pet store, but by a world immersed in ophiolatry, ophiomancy, and demonology.

What Holman is really smarting from is his frustrated desire to kill him a few Yankees and be home in time for supper.

He’s mad at Christians because we won’t roll over and play dead. He’s mad at us because he was hoping that he could dispatch the Christian faith in three easy steps.

And then he makes the unwelcome discovery that Christian theology is far more sophisticated than he ever was or ever will be.

Continuing with Holman:

***QUOTE***

What I am needlessly laboring to prove here is one simple fact -- that defining evil in it's many forms was never a problem. It is impossible to turn away from even by the most staunch standards of optimistically warped theists who refuse to see reason on the issue. Evil is all around us, and regardless of which side of the debate on the existence of God our convictions may fall, we cannot help but recognize it when we see it. Yet Christians, in the spirit of trying to blend in with the academic mainstream of western thought, have resorted to making silly formalized arguments against the problem of evil and asininely quibbling over definitions of the word itself! An entire world is losing faith in God over the abundance of evils, and all the while, we are being told by Christian philosophers that we can't even define the term! I can, and just did, but don't have to. I see it every time I see a hospital, a police car, an ambulance, or when I turn on the local 6'o clock news. I see it every time I see a pair of reading glasses, a walking cane, or a sign on the highway that says "Buckle Up for Safety." I see evil, and everyone around me sees it too, even those who swear up and down that it doesn't shake their faith.

The buck of the existence of evil cannot be passed from God. He will never escape his appointment to stand forever convicted in the court of human reason as the most evil and fiendish being ever conceived. The standard by which we convict is that of the senses, the same senses with which we judge all of reality, and who could ask for a more objective standard than that?

***END-QUOTE***

i) Consistent with his invincible ignorance, Holman acts as if Christians treat the problem of evil as a semantic problem. No, we don’t—although certain elementary distinctions are in order: ends and means, primary and secondary causality, natural and moral evil.

ii) Holman betrays his philosophical naïveté when he says that our senses supply the standard of right and wrong.

This is especially ironic when you consider that most unbelievers, for whom matter is all, subscribe to radical empiricism.

Is evil red or yellow? Smooth or fuzzy? Does evil have a distinctive fragrance? How much does evil weigh? Is evil long or short? Thick or thin? Round or square? Liquid or solid?

What we see around us are events. The events don’t come stamped with good and evil labels.

That’s a value-judgment we bring to the events, not a sensory impression we read off the events. Moral norms are invisible and intangible.

iii) It wasn’t Christians who resorted to making “silly, formalized” arguments for the problem of evil. No, it was unbelievers like Mackie who proposed the logical problem of evil.

This, again, is another common denominator of apostates. Not only don’t they know Christian theology, but they’re equally clueless when it comes to their own side of the argument.

Christians like Plantinga merely responded to the logical problem of evil in the way it was framed by unbelievers.

If Plantinga’s formulation is silly, then it’s a silly counterargument to a silly argument. And the silliness originates with Holman’s side of the debate.

iv) Is the entire world losing faith in God due to the problem of evil? Does Holman have any statistical data to back up such a sweeping claim?

Rodney Stark (The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success) and Philip Jenkins (The Next Christendom: The Coming Global Christianity) inform us that the demographics are just the reverse.

But that’s one of the fringe benefits of being an unbeliever. You can get away with brazen falsehoods and fact-free claims.

v) Finally, Holman’s real problem is not with the definition of evil, but with a secular outlook which logically leads to moral relativism as well as the dehumanization of man. For a consistent secularist, there is no problem of evil because there is no evil—and even if there were moral absolutes, a meat machine has no transcendent rights.

10 comments:

  1. I assume then that Cardinal Dulles does not possess a "deficient knowledge of Christian theology", but rather possesses a deficient knowledge of Ecclesiology. Would you be a bedfellow with Cardinal Dulles in other "Christian" venue?

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  2. On what our senses tell us is evil. My senses tell me homosexuality is an evil, as is pornography. But most people disagree with me. What then?

    Cramdon, we can stand with Roman Catholics and the Orthodox against atheists, then disagree internally as much as we like. Given that the debunkers have a self-promclaimed deist on board, they can hardly yell 'yah! Inconsistent!'

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  3. Hays - “most unbelievers... subscribe to radical empiricism”

    Hays – “Does [Hays] have any statistical data to back up such a sweeping claim?”

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  4. My disagreements with Dulles would span the spectrum of systematic theology, viz., bibliology, theology (proper), protology, anthropology, hamartiology, soteriology, ecclesiology, sacramentology, and eschatology.

    However, his History of Apologetics is just that—a historical survey, and it’s the standard reference work of its kind.

    He isn’t doing apologetics, but reviewing apologetics. This isn’t his case for Catholicism. And he covers Protestant as well as Catholic apologetes in the course of his historical overview.

    We shouldn’t allow our principled points of disagreement with Catholicism blind us to the occasional value of a Catholic writer on some particular subject.

    We must never permit our Calvinism to degenerate into a knee-jerk chauvinism which is too partisan to admit anything worthwhile outside the confines of our own tightly-wound tradition. At that point, Calvinism ceases to be about the truth of God and degenerates into a loyalty-oath.

    Dulles converted to Catholicism from atheism and nominal Presbyterianism. Like many converts, he takes a keen interest in apologetics. And the fact that he went from one theological tradition to another probably accounts, in part, for the diversity of his coverage.

    I recommend it because it’s the best work of its kind. If reading it would destroy the faith of an Evangelical, then his faith was a house of cards to begin with.

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  5. One of the common denominators uniting so many apostates is their deficient knowledge of Christian theology.

    LOL...

    Perhaps if the countless different historical sects and cults of this nebulous thing called "Christianity" ever agreed on their theologies, the non-believer wouldn't be so deficient.

    Thank goodness we have unemployed, pretentious dolts like Steve setting us straight with all his free time.


    In this respect, Holman is your run-of-the-mill know-nothing. If, say, he were to read The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament by F. F. Bruce, followed by A History of Apologetics by Cardinal Dulles, he could never have ventured such a pig-ignorant statement about the fideistic piety of Christians living decades or centuries ago.

    LOL...

    F.F. Bruce and Dulles can put as much lipstick on the Christian pig as they want, and charge 49.95 for their babbling efforts. Christianity remains a collection of sects, cults and endless contradictory statements about some Iron age, Canaanite tribal deity, some first century messianic Jewish cult myth, other assorted spirits and demons and virgin demi-gods, and of course...what it takes to be "saved" so you can become an immortal god yourself.

    I guess the poor confused pew warmer should quit his job, learn ancient Greeek, and spend all his days reading mind numbing tomes by egotistical dolts to try and make "sense" of the latest theology fashions.

    Then we all can be just like Steve!

    ACK!

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  6. non-George anonymous7/31/2006 11:57 AM

    Oh great, he of the juvenile insult has graced us with his presence, whoopee!

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  7. Perhaps if the countless different historical sects and cults of this nebulous thing called "Christianity" ever agreed on their theologies, the non-believer wouldn't be so deficient.

    Well, if the unbeliever is criticizing Christian truth-claims, is it unreasonable to ask the unbeliever to familiarize himself with the material he's calling into question -- even if it means ploughing through "the countless different historical sects and cults of this nebulous thing called 'Christianity'"?

    In fact, were he to do so, perhaps he would actually find out something about Christianity, that Christianity is not so "nebulous" a beast as he might think it is.

    Or, to take a different tack, as Richard Baxter noted, certainly there's a "mere Christianity" that certain Christians can agree upon. For instance, on Triablogue, and as a minimum entry point into further discussion, you'll discover the authors are Reformed Calvinists.

    And as others have pointed out in previous discussions, a parallel problem is that, for example, atheists don't all believe in precisely the same things.

    Moreover many unbelievers aren't consistent in their own philosophies, either with one another or with themselves.

    Thank goodness we have unemployed, pretentious dolts like Steve setting us straight with all his free time.

    As Steve might say: Thank goodness we have anonymous, pretentious unbelievers like Anonymous setting us straight on our beliefs with all his free time.

    F.F. Bruce and Dulles can put as much lipstick on the Christian pig as they want, and charge 49.95 for their babbling efforts.

    Have you read Bruce or Dulles? If so, why not cite which of their arguments you find deficient, and explain why you do?

    Christianity remains a collection of sects, cults and endless contradictory statements about some Iron age, Canaanite tribal deity, some first century messianic Jewish cult myth, other assorted spirits and demons and virgin demi-gods, and of course...what it takes to be "saved" so you can become an immortal god yourself.

    This is a woefully ignorant caricature of Christianity.

    But I suppose it only proves that Steve's assessment of unbelievers like Anonymous is spot-on: "One of the common denominators uniting so many apostates is their deficient knowledge of Christian theology."

    Continuing, it's odd that Anonymous (1) tells us what we actually believe and then (2) criticizes us for what s/he's told us we believe.

    So perhaps Anonymous would care to spell out where Christianity makes these claims rather than putting words into the mouths of Christians? In particular I'd be interested in claims that Christians believe in "virgin demi-gods" and seek to "become an immortal god yourself"?

    I guess the poor confused pew warmer should quit his job, learn ancient Greeek, and spend all his days reading mind numbing tomes by egotistical dolts to try and make "sense" of the latest theology fashions.

    First, whoever said anything about quitting jobs, learning koine Greek, or studying all day? Is Triablogue a medieval e-monastery filled with monks and friars? Where's Michael Spencer, anyway?

    But perhaps Anonymous has never heard of people -- non-Christians -- working day jobs, or attending schools, or both, or spending time with their families and friends, etc., and yet are somehow able to do other things in life? Such as watch movies, travel, learn languages, read books they're interested in, etc. It's not some sort of magical sleight of hand, but a wee skill known as "proper time-management."

    Not all of us can (or should) be scholars but does this preclude us from being informed and voicing as best as we can informed opinions?

    Otherwise on what grounds is Anonymous voicing his/her opinion?

    Anyway, this aside for the moment, which Christian doctrine(s) would Anonymous consider part of "the latest theology fashions"?

    Then we all can be just like Steve!

    From your lips to God's ears! Yes, if more of us were as well versed in theology, philosophy, history, literature, languages, etc., and plain old common sense, as Steve is, we'd very likely be much better off for it. Certainly, at least, I would've had a far easier time responding to you if this were the case.

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  8. steve --

    I dunno if someone else cleared up the tri-lemma for you, but I think this person is talking about Lewis' Trilemma that modern man must admit that if Jesus said what the Bible says he did, he was either a liar -- meaning, he meant to deceive -- a lunatic -- meaning he was wrong but couldn't help himself -- or Lord and Christ -- forcing one to bend the knee and, well, you know the drill.

    Anyway, your new blogger portrait is classic. People think you're a vile sniper of an apologist, but those people miss all the jokes.

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  9. Cent,

    He may have meant the "trilemma" popularized by Lewis, but what he said was "trillemma," and a trill is something one associates with Lily Pons or Joan Sutherland, a la the Bell Song from Lakmé.

    No doubt the mental image of Lily Pons in a belly dancer's costume would epitomize the problem of evil for a culture in which women should don a burka, but I'm afraid that my Western values are too warped to appreciate the way in which this functions as a defeater for the existence of God.

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  10. A critic who actually has something weighty to say doesn't need to resort to mockery or insults. The power of his/her argumentation will explode like a bomb on the opponent. In other words, why yell "Nyah nyah, doody doody-head" if you're firing real live rounds and not blanks?

    Which is why anti-theists and anti-Christianity-ites just vent flatulence. After a while you begin to actively wish for a genuine skeptic who actually wants to test and try out real ideas, instead of these knucklehead refugees from MoveOn.org.

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