Loftus, for some reason, puts a lot of stock into the: "God could do X, therefore you have no reason to believe He wouldn't do X" argument. I've already discussed this type of atheist strategy elsewhere.
One of Loftus' favorites is this one: "God could deceive you, therefore you have no reason to believe He wouldn't, therefore you can't trust your reasoning."
It's an obvious non sequitur. That Loftus could beat his doggie doesn't entitle me to believe that he would beat his doggie. Similarly, that Loftus could offer a somewhat logical argument does not entitle me to believe that he ever would do so.
Loftus offered his above favorite "God could do X" argument in the combox of the above linked post of mine. He was responding to Steve, and Steve responded to Loftus. And, Steve is right, he's already discussed this issue with Loftus in previous exchanges. But, Loftus goes on living as if people never respond to him, this way he can continue to recycle his bad arguments. Loftus thinks that saying something a multitude of times will change the outcome of his arguments. Loftus is like a man who believes that 0 + 0 = 0 but 0 + 0 + 0 does not = 0. For some reason, he thinks his arguments, which equal zero, can add up to more than zero if he just adds some more zeros to the equation.
I also responded, but since it is buried in the thread I didn't want Loftus to miss it. This post will serve as more documentation to cite the next time Loftus tries to add a zero to his other zeros.
"Steve merely believes what God sovereignly decrees him to believe, and he has no basis at all to think what he believes is true and based on the evidence, or that he will be rewarded after he dies because of what he believes. NONE. All he can say is that he believes what his God decrees him to believe, period."
1. The first thing to note is that (a) if theism is true, and Loftus' claims are true, then Loftus has no reason to believe what he's written. And, (b), via tu quoque, if Loftus' physicalism is true, he has no reason to believe his charges here. So, if either (a) or (b) are the case, and what Loftus says is the case, Loftus has, by believing the conjunction of the two, a defeater for his beliefs, esp. his beliefs in his argument here. On top of that, if Loftus holds to Naturalism and Evolution, he has no reason to believe his cognitive faculties are reliable. Why would evolution select for truth *content?* It would seem that content would be invisible to evolutionary processes. Unless, of course, Loftus wants to identify content with syntax? But then why think that the *truth* of a proposition has any bearing on neural structures. Presumably a "false" neuron is the same, physically, as a "true" neuron - this is supposing we can make sense of "false and true" *neurons.*
2. Loftus' mere say-so that Steve has no basis for his beliefs does not, no matter how much Loftus wishes, mean that what he says has any basis in reality. Indeed, it does not make the argument stronger because Loftus writes "NONE" in all caps.
3. How does Loftus know that Steve has *no* reasons? How could be possibly know that? It’s not an analytic truth, i.e., there's nothing in the proposition "God decreed S's beliefs," that entails the claim, "therefore S has no reason to believe that his beliefs are true." So, how does Loftus propose to argue for this universal negative?
4. Say that something roughly similar to Plantinga's model is correct. That is, say that God designed us with cognitive faculties that were successfully aimed at being reliable in belief production. Surely this isn't a logical impossibility. Hence, Loftus cannot say that there are *no* reasons to think our beliefs are successfully aimed at the production of true beliefs.
"Moreover, the God doing the decreeing of Steve's beliefs could be so much different than the God he believes in."
Notice an instantiation of the type of arguments I discuss in this post. It baffles me how Loftus can think that his mentioning of "could" has any argumentative force, at all. If the fact that God "could" be different that Steve's conception is meant to conclude, "therefore Steve has no reason to believe that God *is* like Steve believes," then it appears that we can prove that God *is* quite like how Steve believes him to be. Counter:
(*) "God *could* be like the God Steve believes to be, therefore, God is (or most probably is) how Steve believes him to be."
So, it appears that (*) counters John's argument. If not, how does John suppose his argument to work?
Furthermore, why suppose that God *would* do something like this? Because of the broadly logical possibility that God *could* be deceiving Steve are we supposed to conclude that God *would* deceive Steve? That's the relevant question. If God *wouldn't* do X, the fact that he *could* doesn’t really matter. Loftus has given us no reason to think that God would do anything like what Loftus suggests.
"There may be no atonement, no creation, no incarnation, no resurrection, and no afterlife at all."
Say I have a model of faith roughly modeled after knowledge by testimony. We must agree that the testimony of others is a valid way to gain knowledge. Some estimates put it that 98% of what we know is based on the testimony of others.
Say that testimony is a basic belief, and hence not subject to having to be "justified" or "proven" by appeal to propositional evidence in its favor.
Further, given this model, and a model of warrant similar to Plantinga's: A person S has warrant W for his belief that P only if the testifier T has W for P. If T is warranted in believing P, then S, the testifiee, has warrant for believing in P. Surely God, as conceived in the Christian tradition, has supreme, or maximal, or super warrant for his beliefes (in an alagous way). And, taking his testimony, which I have no reason to doubt (indeed, a case can be made that it is irrational to doubt his testimony since he is the supreme testifier. If His word should be approached with doubt, then we should never take anything on the testimony of others), I am warranted in believing in those doctrines.
Moreover, taken detailed defenses and explanations of defeaters by those like Bergman, Plantinga, Otte, et al., you can't defeat this by the mere mentioning that God could be lying. Trust in the word of God, especially if it has the epistemic role of ultimate authority, can trump some defeaters. Just like if all the circumstantial evidence pointed to me as being the dognapper of Franklin Loftus, my belief, based on clear and impressive memories that I was walking in the park 50 miles away at the time of the crime, serves to defeat those defeaters. If I have not called in to question the testimony of the word of God, then it remains undefeated for me, and I am warranted in believing in those doctrines because they have warrant (in an analogous way, maximal warrant) for God. Now, *you* may doubt his word, but that doesn't mean that *I* have to. If I should, why shouldn't I doubt every thing I know from testimony? The only thing Loftus can say here would, I think, confuse the *de jure* with the *de facto* questions.
"How in the world could you possibly argue this is not possible? Everything you say to argue against this is something your God decrees for you to believe and to say. YOU CAN'T!"
Well, I gave a few ways above. But, there's two points here:
(i) That ~P is *possible* does not entail that we can't know that P. John's placing an infallibilist constraint on knowledge. He must first defend infallibilism if he wants to proceed.
(ii) Since John is in the realm of *possibility* then all I need to do to refute it is offer a logically *possible* state of affairs where the negation of his conclusion obtains. I have done this (indeed, John cannot claim that my scenarios are logically *impossible,* therefore they are possible). Now, though I think my models are more than "just possible," I think something like it is the case. Nevertheless, I don't need to prove something that strong since Loftus chose to frame the debate in the broadly logically possible.
"So let's have done with this crap that you raise every time I back you in a corner by saying I think there is nothing intrinsically good. You have no reasons for what you believe...at all!"
i. We've seen that, per John's own argument, he has "no reasons" for what he believes; including that Steve has no reasons!
ii. Supposing that John did this, it was Pike he "backed into a corner" (though this is false), and not "Steve." More evidence that John can't trust his monkey mind (i.e., a mind evolved from an ape-like ancestor).
iii. That one isn't *absolutely certain* (granting that Steve isn't) does not logically entail "therefore he has no reasons for what he believes... at all!"
"Pardon me if I'm no Michael Martin, BTW. But you're no John Calvin or John Frame, either."
But certainly that's not the proper analogy. Steve is not John Frame is equal to the claim that John Loftus isn't Brian Sapient.
John Loftus is about 100*100 times below a Martin while Hays is 1*5 times below John Frame (btw, that's no insult to Frame, it's a compliment to Steve!).