Saturday, June 09, 2007

Mother knows best

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

The reasons for Francis Beckwith’s reversion to Rome continue to dribble out:

Let’s examine a few of his reasons in a recent interview.
Having said that, I do think that there is something about philosophy and the natural law tradition that makes a transition to Catholicism easier for an Evangelical trained in philosophy and open to natural law. The latter goes hand-in-hand with natural theology, which claims that one can discover some truths about God and ultimate reality apart from special revelation. So, for example, when I read the Nicene Creed and come across the line that the Lord Jesus Christ is "not made, being of one substance with the Father," I understand that this scripturally supported truth is made coherent by a philosophical notion of substance that the Council of Nicea brought to the text of Scripture in order to illuminate its content and to make sense of the phenomena of God found there. After all, if one denies the realist view of substance assumed by Nicea, then it becomes difficult to make sense of what it means for God the Son to be of one substance with God the Father. Although Nicea is saying that Jesus and the Father are different persons, it is also saying that they share both the same nature as well as the same being or substance. These distinctions, though subtle, are philosophically profound, and for that reason, they were instrumental in helping the council to properly fix the historical trajectory of the Church and its theology. That is why it is plain to me that these carefully crafted, well-reasoned creeds could not have arisen from a church that had an understanding of theological knowledge that isolated sola scriptura from the authority of a visible ecclesiastical body. Those who think it is possible to do this are like a son spending his rich father's inheritance but calling it salary.

I say all this because the Council of Nicea spoke authoritatively for the church universal, and did so in order to publicly and visibly resolve a theological controversy. And in the end, it offered to us a creed that is a model of clarity and economy, one that resulted from weaving together an elegant tapestry of scriptural, historical, and philosophical arguments. As someone trained in philosophy, it is a marvel to behold, for it is a testimony to the undeniable fact that the church derives its doctrine from a reading of Scripture through the inherited eyes and practices of its theological predecessors and with the assistance of philosophical reflection. And once an issue like this is settled, future generations of believers, including Protestants, are provided a bequest that assists their reading of Scripture that makes it unlikely that the Church will stray from sound doctrine.
This statement is odd in several respects:

i) He appeals to natural theology to underwrite the Nicene Creed. Let’s assume that this is correct.

He then appeals to ecclesiastic authority to underwrite the Nicene Creed.

But these two arguments are obviously inconsistent. An appeal to natural theology is an appeal to reason rather than authority. If it’s natural theology that underwrites the Nicene Creed, then ecclesiastical authority is superfluous.

ii) Another problem is that he acts as if the Roman Catholic church holds the copyright to the Nicene Creed. How is the Nicene Creed an argument for Roman Catholicism? It wasn’t produced by the Church of Rome.

iii) In what sense did the councils speak authoritatively for the universal church? At the councils, there were winners and losers. And dissent was criminalized. It was illegal to be on the losing side.

Is this the kind of authority that Beckwith has in mind? Coercive authority? Not persuasion, but the force of law?
The issues on which many Evangelicals and Catholics are united, such as the sanctity of life and the institution of marriage, have helped forge alliances that would not have seemed possible three decades ago.
It’s true that Evangelicals can form political alliances with conservative Catholics on certain social issues. But even in this respect, our views intersect rather than coincide.

i) On the one hand, Catholicism denies any Scriptural grounds for divorce. On the other hand, Catholicism has a very lax policy on granting of annulments.

By contrast, conservative evangelicals generally admit at least two Scriptural grounds for divorce (infidelity and desertion).

ii) In contemporary Catholicism, the sanctity of life has come to include opposition to the death penalty as well as practical pacifism.

By contrast, conservative evangelicals generally support capital punishment and the right of self-defense.

iii) Catholic opposition to abortion also includes opposition to artificial birth control, whereas evangelicals generally support contraception.
Something else concerning authority factored into my internal deliberations as well. But I do not think I can conjure up the words to properly express it. So, I will just rely on an elegant insight offered in First Things by a recent Catholic convert, R. R. Reno, which perfectly echoes my own sentiments: "In the end, my decision to leave the Episcopal Church did not happen because I had changed my mind about any particular point of theology or ecclesiology. Nor did it represent a sudden realization that the arguments for staying put are specious. What changed was the way in which I had come to hold my ideas and use my arguments. In order to escape the insanity of my slide into self-guidance, I put myself up for reception into the Catholic Church as one might put oneself up for adoption. A man can no more guide his spiritual life by his own ideas than a child can raise himself on the strength of his native potential."
i) That’s a telling comparison. On this view, the layman plays the child, while the bishop plays the grown-up. The layman can’t be left unsupervised. He’s a life-long minor. He never outgrows curfew. He must be chaperoned by the episcopate whenever he leaves the house.

For their own part, the bishops do not require adult supervision. The laity is answerable to the hierarchy, but not vice versa.

ii) Some of us have seen what this sort of thinking leads to. It leads to the Renaissance papacy. It leads to a subculture of clerical pederasty.

iii) What is also lacking here is an adequate doctrine of providence. For Beckwith, the only form of spiritual guidance is institutional guidance. Otherwise, we’re thrown back on our own individual resources.

This is the same thinking that underwrites fortunetelling and witchcraft. Fear of the future. So we must either know the future or control the future.

But it’s because a Biblically grounded Christian believes in providence and prayer that he has no use for divination or witchcraft. He doesn’t need to discover God’s will. Between Scripture, providence, and prayer, he has all the resources he needs to do God’s will.
I've not read all of them. I did read the first one published in 1994 as well as "The Gift of Salvation." The latter was particularly important to me, since it said things about salvation in a way that were inconsistent with what I had read by Protestant authors on Roman Catholicism. I also read some of the Protestant criticisms of the document. But some of these critics, though certainly not all, seemed bent on not allowing the Catholics to speak for themselves. It was almost as if these critics were jealously guarding the Catholicism that even the Catholics didn't believe.
This raises more questions than answers.

i) Who is speaking for Catholicism? The Vatican? Or did this document express the private opinion of a few catholic theologians and Bible scholars?

Needless to say, this document hardly enjoys the same dogmatic authority as Trent.

ii) And which Catholicism are they speaking for? Tridentine Catholicism? Pre-Reformation Catholicism? Counter-Reformation Catholicism? Vatican II Catholicism? Post-Vatican II Catholicism?

Once wonders how deeply he’s bothered to work through either the exegetical permutations of this debate or the church historical permutations. For example:

But embracing such a view means that Dr. Mohler has to qualify sola scriptura to include certain interpretative requirements that cannot themselves be derived from Scripture since they are necessary conditions for the reading of Scripture. In fact, it was just such reasoning that pushed me toward Catholicism. I thought to myself that if sola scriptura can result in everything from the philosophical theology of Calvinism to the Open View of God, from Nicean Trinitarianism to social trinitarianism to Oneness Pentecostalism's rehabilitation of Sabellianism to 19th-century Unitarianism, then sola scriptura is not a sufficient bulwark for sustaining Christian orthodoxy.
i) Is he saying that each of these positions is equally scriptural? Is he a postmodern relativist who believes that one interpretation is just as good as another?

ii) If he thinks that Christian orthodoxy is underdetermined by Scripture, then does he believe in continuing revelation? An open canon?

How does Sacred Tradition function in his mind? Is it revelatory? If not, then how does it supplement the witness of Scripture?

iii) Does he think that sola scriptura commits an evangelical to the belief that Scripture is the only source of knowledge? Even if some of our beliefs are underdetermined by Scripture, this doesn’t negate sola scriptura. Rather, it simply means that some of our beliefs are more or less authoritative than others.

vi) Why does Beckwith suppose that if sola Scriptura cannot immunize the reader from error, then this means that certain interpretative requirements that cannot themselves be derived from Scripture since they are necessary conditions for the reading of Scripture?

Does a belief in Sacred Tradition immunize Beckwith from error when he reads the Bible or the Nicene Creed or the church fathers or the Council of Trent or Vatican II or Unam Sanctam?

vii) One can have all of the right hermeneutical principles in place and still misinterpret Scripture—or any other document. For one thing, human beings are fallible.

For another thing, there is more to error than ignorance. There can be an element of willfulness in the way a document is understood. Just consider the way in which some Supreme Court justices discover hidden rights in the text of the Constitution. Rights which even the Founding Fathers were unable to perceive.
For example, the open theists claim that classical theism is just Greek philosophy Christianized and all that they are doing is getting us back to the pure, non-corrupted, view of God in Scripture. The emergent church charges traditional Evangelicals with corruption as well, but in this case the corruption is Enlightenment rationalism and an overemphasis on American culture war issues such as abortion and homosexuality. But both groups are simply taking the Protestant Principle to its logical conclusion. For this reason, unless Evangelical critics of these movements are willing take a more modest view of sola scriptura and a more charitable posture toward tradition, they do not have the resources to respond to these movements in an effective way.
Other issues aside, cults and heresies take the status quo as their point of reference. In a Protestant nation, cults and heresies will tend to be a parody of Protestant ecclesiology. You will have Protestant heresies. Quasi-Protestant cults.

But in Catholic countries, the cults and heresies will tend to be a parody of Catholic ecclesiology. Indeed, religious cults ordinarily mimic a high-church rather than a low-church polity. Religious cults are generally authoritarian personality-cults, with a hierarchical command-structure. Cult-members are accountable to the cult-leader, while the leader is answerable to no one. The same is usually true with various breakaway sects and splinter groups.

Beckwith can point to Evangelical excesses because he’s an American. And America is traditionally Protestant, but allows for freedom of dissent.

If, however, the whole world were Catholic, then there would be parallel developments of a Catholic cast. Even now, consider the sedevacantist organizations. Or consider the Old Believers in Russia.

The difference is that back when Catholicism was strong, it suppressed dissent; and after it weakened, there was a public backlash in the form of anti-clericalism—which afforded more radical alternatives to Catholicism.
But this means that "the gospel" is not reducible to one theory of justification, one theory of ecclesiology, or one theory of scripture's sufficiency. For someone like my friend, who equates the gospel with the doctrines that arise in 16th century Christianity as a unified and interdependent set of beliefs for the first time in the church's history, the thought that one may have the gospel without the Reformation is conceptually unfathomable. But unlike my friend, I do not believe one is saved by embracing one particular cluster of contested theories on justification, authority, and scripture. One is saved by Jesus Christ and his grace alone, which is exactly what the Catholic Catechism, the Council of Trent, and the Bible all teach.
Two problems:

i) His disclaimer is quite disingenuous. By rejoining the church of Rome, Beckwith has committed himself to one particular theory of ecclesiology. And that, in turn, commits him to whatever theories of justification or other dogmas that Rome has chosen to formally define as de fide articles of the faith.

ii) No one is claiming that you need to be doctrinally inerrant in order to be saved. But that’s no excuse to trivialize sound doctrine.

St. Paul, in writing to the Galatians, didn’t regard every theory of justification as equally valid. Indeed, he regarded the theory of the Judaizers as downright damnable. For St. Paul, the integrity of the true Gospel was very much bound with which “theory” of justification you espoused.

Calvinism and the FLBC: Episode 2: A New Hope

Yes, I know, the Star Wars metaphors are cute, aren't they...but if SBC Outpost can use them so I can I!

Dr. Hargrave from Riverbend Community Church has posted an open letter to Brothers Sullivan and Searle and Dr. Vines and Johnny Hunt, in rebuttal to Dr. Vines' sermon.


It is not Dr. Vine’s right to preach it that I question, nor Woodstock’s right to believe it. My concern relates to the forum that has been provided by Dr. Sullivan and the Florida Baptist Convention for the dissemination of Dr. Vines’ views through funds which come from local churches who vehemently disagree with the misrepresentations presented in the sermon on Calvinism.

…If this is the official view of the Florida Baptist Convention, it needs to be communicated forthrightly. If it is not (which is the case), it should not have been sent with funds from our local congregations. Now that the damage is done, I would call on Dr. Sullivan to do the right thing and send a rebuttal sermon from the other side of the issue to the same recipients who received Dr. Vine’s sermon — with the same official endorsement given to the Vines sermon. To be balanced, it would be four sermons on the same subjects, with the exception of replacing Calvinism with Arminianism.

HT: Nathan White

Answering Muslims

The world famous David Wood has a new weblog called Answering Muslims which would be well worth bookmarking and following. There are currently five contributors, but David tells us that more will follow. These guys are on the frontlines, too, as some are both former Muslims as well as current missionaries in Africa. And a well-known Christian publisher is set to publish one of David's debates on Islam. So, mad props to David and crew for their faithful witness of Christ to Muslims!

Dumb And Dumberer

Loftus’ Turn:

Okay, so originally John Loftus made this claim:

Loftus’ Original Claim: “Whatever we believe we should demand evidence for that belief, and historical evidence in the past simply isn't good enough. What we need is evidence."

Me now: To which I, naturally of course, asked for the evidence he had for *that* belief. I then said that if he believed his evidence then he would have new beliefs, and I would demand evidence from them, as well.

But then Touchstone came barging in and said that my infinite regress argument against the claim that ALL beliefs had to have evidence fro them was wrong.

This lead to me dismantling his arguments.

To avoid the force of my arguments he made the claim that Loftus was making an inductive generalization about all beliefs, and that Loftus could answer the regress argument. To this day I don’t think he’s answered my post, but that is besides the point for now. The point here is that T-stone asked Loftus to side with him and say that I had misunderstood him. To which Loftus, seeing himself unable to back up his original assertion, happily obliged.

But, I must say, and I do not say this lightly, I think Loftus is flat out lying through his teeth. Let’s look at his claims and my reason for this accusation. I doubt a more plausible story than mine can be given. In fact, the *only* story that I will accept is that Loftus is perhaps the second dumbest individual on the planet. That would be the only excuse. But, since I don’t think he is said person, that option is not open to him. But, he is free to take it if he so chooses. And so let’s look at the situation:

John Loftus: "Touchstone, once again you are correct. Mine is not a deductive argument."

Reply: First off, why should I believe an admitted liar? Why wouldn't you lie especially since you saw your position get sliced and diced?

Second, I never said that it was a "deductive argument."

John Loftus: "And I think what I said should be placed in its context. I wrote:

Whatever we believe we should demand evidence for that belief, and historical evidence in the past simply isn't good enough. What we need is evidence.”

Reply: Right, Gotcha. John's Thesis looks like this:

(JT) All beliefs are things that should have evidence demanded of them.

So, let's flesh this out:

1. All beliefs are things that should have evidence demanded of them

2. (*) is a belief.

3. Therefore (*) is a thing that should have evidence demanded of it.

But, amazingly, John didn’t mean for (JT) to read how it most naturally reads. Says John,

John Loftus: "What am I referring to when I use the word "believe"? Believe what? I was referring to worldviews--whole systems of thought--although I didn't spell that out too clearly.”

My reply: You said "beliefs." You said, "WHATEVER we believe we should demand evidence for that belief. So, as we now have it, John meant "worldviews" but instead wrote "beliefs." That's a pretty big blunder. I mean, yeah, I always write "belief" when I mean "worldview."

So Loftus does the debunkers shuffle, stop, stammer time. So, "belief" meant "worldview."

And, you ask, "believe what?" Well, you told us! You said... "WHATEVER." So you're saying that you ONLY had 'worldviews' in mind when you wrote 'WHATEVER??' C'mon, I was born at night, but not last night, John.

I don’t buy this. Here’s why:

In response to his claim I said:



Paul Manata said:

John said,

"Whatever we believe we should demand evidence for that belief..."

Paul: I demand evidence for that belief.



P.S. Just so I don't have to post again, if you give me evidence for that belief then I assume you'll believe that evidence supports your original belief. So, while I'm here I'll demand the evidence for all your beliefs about the evidences you've provided. Ad infinitum. So get busy John, you don't have all day.

6/06/2007 8:53 AM


And so it is OBVIOUSLY clear that I assumed that John meant actual *beliefs.* That is, I OBVIOUSLY assumed that Loftus meant positive cognitive attitudes towards propositions.

Furthermore, T-stone then came in and tried to argue against my Original Claim.

Said T-stone: “I don't know who got you into your van-Tillian-Humean Frankenstein Approach to thinking, but they were pulling your chain. At some point (an usually quite quickly) the regression bottoms out at raw perception and experience; people value evidence because their most basic experiences suggest through trial and error that having some evidence for what you believe aids in survival, and maintaining beliefs without empirical support is a good way to get killed quick (or starve to death slowly, or, insert your favorite method of demise here...).”

Reply: Okay, so it is OBVIOUS that T-stone understood John the way I did, and me the way I meant for my post to be taken.

But the problem is that **John Loftus never comes in to straighten this mess out!** He let’s T-stone and I spend thousands of words on debate over it!

But this isn’t the only evidence I have. If it were, I may not be warranted in my harsh accusation that Loftus is a lying weasel. So, here’s more evidence:

Not only was my response CLEAR that I understood Loftus to mean “beliefs” and not “worldviews,” Loftus actually responded to my claims and gave no indication that we were equivocating, which was PLAIN to see, remember. So, Loftus responded to my Original Claim by saying:



John W. Loftus said:

Paul, how do we guarantee that our assumptions are not viciously circular? They must be grounded in some evidence, correct?

Best to you too.

6/06/2007 1:04 PM


Reply: So, rather than correct me by saying, “Paul, I didn’t mean what you clearly thought I did, I meant 'worldviews' but said 'beliefs' instead." No, he didn’t do that. That would require being helpful. Rather, he went on and responded to my CLEAR understanding of (JT) that it was a claim that all *beliefs* (not “worldviews”).

Not only *that,* but Loftus doesn’t use “worldviews” again! He rather uses a synonym for *belief!* And so am I now to assume that "assumptions" meant "worldview????" In what world has "belief" or "assumption" ever meant "worldview." And, one can understand being terribly unclear once, but to continue on making unclear statements which 99.99% of readers would construe in the prima facie and intelligible way is a bit much to swallow. For a mistake, this is too big!

On top of that, T-stone continued to understand John as I and every other normal human did. Here are some gems from T-stone:


T-stone Gems:

  • That's doesn't obtain from what John said, by my lights. Beliefs rest on concepts which rest on perceptions. That doesn't imply that *perceptions* are beliefs. They are predicates for concepts which are predicates for beliefs. So when John says "We should demand evidences for our beliefs", there's nothing more complicated to it than saying that predication should hold: perceptions -> concepts -> beliefs.
  • I *should* base my beliefs on evidence (derived from experience) because this same experience shows that I can accomplish my goals much more surely and effectively by demanding evidence for my beliefs than divorcing my beliefs from any evidential basis.
  • (Paul Manata clearly asked) Further, how does this prove that ALL BELIEFS "should" have evidence demanded of them?
    (T-stone responds) It's a truism, Paul. Don't be pedantic. Our experience is evidence for the belief that evidence is a beneficial underwriter for our beliefs. We SHOULD demand evidence for beliefs, and this belief is based on our experience.


And so are we to believe that T-stone meant “worldviews” here? No! Of course not. It is therefore likewise OBVIOUS that both T-stone and I were on the same page at least. We knew what we were debating. We were using terms the same way. These gems show that the thread makes clear that both T-stone and I were not talking about “worldviews” but had (if John is telling the truth) been talking about *beliefs.* This is plain as day. But nary a word from Loftus. He lets to people continue to debate a subject, when it is CLEAR that they have misunderstood him, without saying a single word.

But, it gets worse. T-stone asked John a point blank question:

T-stone’s undeniably clear point blank question: “My understanding of what John wrote/is saying is that his experience -- which includes the view he has of others and their experiences on the same question -- is evidence in support of the value of evidence as a basis for belief.”

And so given the context of the ENTIRE thread, where we made it painfully clear how we were using the term belief, John replies:

John Loftus’ unconscious admission: “Yes, indeed.”

My reply: Got that? Loftus point blank agrees with T-stone that his position had been about BELIEFS, not worldviews. Why didn’t he correct T-stone and say, “Oh, I meant ‘worldviews’ and not ‘beliefs?’ I mean, this was at the end of the discussion when it was CLEAR that both T-stone and I had been using the term differently than John.

No, I’m afraid John Loftus is making up a story to get out from under the critiques I leveled at him. This is a tacit admission of defeat on his part.

Furthermore, his response to T-stone supplies more evidence that he was lying (or maybe he really is dumb). That is because if John is correct and he meant ‘worldview’ for ‘belief’ then he also meant that “historical evidence” was not “good evidence” for a “worldview” but he admits to T-stone that “past experience” (I.e., historical evidence!) is good support for his “worldview!”

And for those reasons I claim that John is a liar and a snake. But, this is to be expected when one defends such a shoddy position as atheism.

However, I'm a gracious fellow and I will now accept your admitting that not all *beliefs* should have propositional evidence in their favor. Unfortunately for T-stone, he had been arguing for your claim as understood by all normal people. Therefore, T-stone was ALSO wrong (if John is correct) about John's interpretation. In fact, since T-stone was wrong about John's interpretation, then John is lying in saying that T-stone is correct if John also holds to his song and dance that "beliefs" meant "worldviews." All this will turn out quite unfortunate for T-stone and his responses covered with bravado and chest thumping. Let's now look at Loftus' new claim:

Remember, beliefs = worldviews:

Loftus: "Whatever we believe we should demand evidence for that belief,"

Reply: Restated: "Whatever worldviews we believe we should demand evidence for that worldview,"


(*') All worldviews are things we should demand evidence for.

Now, since (*') is not a worldview, then the regress won't work here. But, we immediately want to know how John knows (*')?

The problem here, though, is that worldviews *determine* what counts as "evidence!" So any evidence he gives for his worldview assumes that his worldview is true! Say that John's worldview says that evidences from the senses are allowed. To give evidence from the senses in support of his worldview assumes his worldview! Thus rather than the regress with have a vicious circle!

And, furthermore, how would something like empirical evidence falsify a worldview? The arrow of modus tollens points both ways! If my worldview included the belief that Apollo was a god, all gods are immortal, and then I see Apollo die in battle, what element of my worldview would be falsified? Well, the belief I am less committed to, of course. Assuming my worldview allows the evidence of the senses to count as evidence, then if I was more committed to Apollo being a god I could say his death falsified the idea that all gods are immortal. Or, if I was committed to the latter, I would then give up my belief that Apollo was a god!

Nest, why "should" we offer propositional evidence for our worldview? What is supposed to happen to me if I don't? I mean, I "should" not murder. if I do, I very well may be put to death. But, what happens if I do not have propositional evidence in support of my worldview (this is all rather silly because some beliefs of a worldview will have propositional evidence, while other beliefs will not, but we'll play along). Perhaps the worldview police will torture me? Perhaps they will make me wear a cowboy hat for a year? What? What is wrong with me, or my worldview, if I don't offer propositional evidence in support of it?

Perhaps John will says, "well then you'll have no reason to believe that it's true!" But of course this means:

"If a belief(s) does not have evidence for it, then there is no reason to believe that it/they is true."

Well we can't have that, otherwise we're back at the regress.

So, perhaps Loftus means,

"If a *worldview* does not have evidence for it, then there is no reason to believe that it is true."

But why suppose a thing like that? What justifies the move that only worldviews are things that need evidential support? Why them and not the individual beliefs? Is it entire worldviews that need evidence for them, but John's particular belief in Santa Clause doe snot need evidence for it? No, I'm afraid that it's nothing but mere sophistry and special pleading to argue thus. So, we're back at the regress.

Moving on....

John Loftus: "I do think with Paul that there are some things we believe without evidence, but this in no way can apply to a whole system of thought like Paul probably wants it to."

My reply: This is ridiculous. Now it's not just T-stone who can't understand and misrepresents me, but Loftus joins the fun too. (a) I know there are some things we believe without evidence. The issue here is, "should" we believe anything without evidence? Or, is a belief *warranted* or *justified* if it does not have evidence in its favor? Therefore, the fact that we may have some beliefs that have no evidence, the question arises: "If I come to reflect on this belief, and realize that I have no propositional evidence in its favor, should I reject it?"

(b) Above I said that some of the constituent beliefs in a worldview do and should have evidence for them, but not all. And the ones that don't, if they are the appropriate ones, can nevertheless be warranted, justified, or items of knowledge. Does Loftus agree with this? if not, we have the evidentialist constraint. If so, he disagrees with T-stone; along with allowing Christians warranted knowledge of God!


John Loftus: "He believes (or presupposes) his whole system of thought and uses that system of thought to look for evidence. That's like putting the cart being before the horse. With such a system I liken his belief to the paranoid schizophrenic, although in no way do I think this is any diagnosis of him as a person. I'm arguing there isn't anything different between what he does and what that schizophrenic does. That's what I mean. We need evidence before we believe any whole system of thought."

My reply: (i) Presuppositions and systems determine what will and what will not count as evidence. Who died and made John Loftus king of decreeing what kind of evidence is acceptable? Who told Loftus that he gets to determine how much evidence will suffice? John Loftus himself said “historical evidence is not good.” Well, in my worldview it is. See, John’s view of history, man, etc., are determinative in his not allowing historical evidence. Hence, ones worldview determines the evidence accepted and allowed.

(ii) John is free to “liken my system to a paranoid schizophrenic,” though he must realize that that is an argumentum ad baculum. Schizophrenics will *build* an entire paranoid outlook from various bits of evidence, John. Schizophrenia doesn’t determine or give anyone a *worldview.* It’s not a *worldview* a schizophrenic gets from his disease, it’s cognitive malfunction. If this is “exactly what I do,” then where’s the argument for *that* controversial thesis.

(iii) Schizophrenics act on evidence, John. Ever seen “Beautiful Mind?”

(iv) Before someone accepts a system of thought he had another system of thought. So, he had to have evidence for that system. How did he get that one? If he changed from a previous one then he had to get evidence for that one. How did he get that one? If you say that at one point the had *no* worldview, just bare facts, then I ask for an argument. I don’t believe that there are bare and brute facts. Uninterpreted data.

John Loftus: I'd also argue that the fewer things we believe without evidence the better. And those things which we believe without evidence are limited to those things which by their nature are evidence translucent, that is, the need for evidence doesn't apply to said beliefs.”

My reply: See, again, the main point is missed. No one denies that people can or do believe things without propositional evidence, the question is *should* they. So, if it is “better” to believe “fewer things” without evidence, then certainly it is “the best” to believe “nothing” without evidence. Hence it looks like Loftus is now affirming his original statement!

Second, this isn’t an inductive generalization, but a *normative* constraint placed on the epistemic enterprise.

Third, what are some things that are “evidence translucent?” Who determines what they are? Why doesn’t evidence “apply” to them? How does a “thing” have a “nature” that makes it “evidence translucent?”

John Loftus: “And in this scenario the question is whether or not the God belief is one of those beliefs which doesn't require evidence. I think it does. But let's say it doesn't. Then what? All one can do is presuppose the "god of the philosophers," or the deistic God, which is a far cry from a full blown Calvinistic Christianity. One cannot rationally presuppose a trinity, or the God of the Bible, otherwise Mormons and Muslims can do likewise with their whole system of thought, and within such a system of thought there are only Kuhnian anomalies, not full blown refutations.

Reply: Why can’t one “rationally presuppose a trinity?” One whose view of “rationality?” Does wearing a cowboy hat mean you’re the sheriff and can lay down and enforce laws? Why can someone rationally believe in a deistic god in a warranted way? What view of warrant? How does it work? Explain it and show us how they can do so. What is a presupposition? How am I using the term? Based on this usage, why can’t I presuppose that Christianity is true? Or, take someone like Plantinga. On a Plantingian model, why cannot he believe in God and “the great truths of the gospel” in a basic way? Please don’t tell us that you’ve rested your atheological hopes and dreams on a list of unargued assumptions? Please tell us you’ve thought through all of these things. Given my model, my view of epistemology, the testimony of another person is non-propositional evidence in support of a belief, and it has warrant for me if it does for the testifier. So, when I believe in, say, the doctrine of election I believe it on the testimony of another - Christ speaking in the Scriptures - and hence am warranted in believing it even though I have no propositional evidence in its favor. How does your argument defeat this? How does it defeat it on my terms? Surely you didn’t mean to thump your chest and say that “Because John Loftus disagrees with a Christian approach to epistemology, then it must be false,” right?

Touchstone’s Turn:

Okay, so now I have proven that if Loftus is correct then BOTH T-stone and I misunderstood him. But, rather than thinking through how stupid Loftus made himself look, T-stone supports this and uses it as evidence to bash me. Unfortunately, it only serves to bash him. In response to John’s admission T-stone had this to say,

T-stone: John,

Thanks for clearing that up.


There you go. You spanked me again with the "misunderstood the basic argument" gambit. Didn't see it coming... masterful.

For my part, I don't suppose that an argument like John's exhausts the *possibility* of warranted beliefs that derive their warrant from something other than an evidential foundation. But the empirical observations we do accumulate give rise to the understanding that evidence is *good*, generally speaking, and a lack of evidence represents epistemic *risk*. That's just not controversial, which is why it's strange to see you pull out your regress gun on.

Chalk it up to the hair-trigger, I guess.


My reply: LOL! T-stone obviously misunderstood John’s argument as well! He wasn’t defending John’s claims EITHER, then. But, this does nothing to get T-stone off the hook of his defense of Loftus original position that we both had been arguing. I’m still right there and falling back on Loftus’ debunkers shuffle doesn’t meant that I was wrong in *our* debate given the context we *both* understood.

But, again, I must point out that I have, since day one, admitted that “evidence is good generally speaking.” I mean, this is vague and ambiguous, but I go along. I have always maintained, as is CLEAR from my posts, that the idea that EVER SINGLE ONE OF OUR BELIEFS should have propositional evidence in its favor is irrational and subject to serious arguments, including the regress argument. This was clear from my post, and so why didn’t they just admit that I was right? If they don’t want to, well we’re back at the original debate. At best, therefore, all they can get me on (and T-stone failed here too) is that I thought John Loftus meant “beliefs” when he says “beliefs” and not “worldviews” when he said “beliefs.” Okay, you got me there. My mistake. How stupid can I be, right?


T-stone: “Paul, you've just gone done parachuting in with your regress gun pip-pip-pipping away against an inductive argument. I suggest the statement in question was inductive in nature, you insist it wasn't. Now the author of the statement weighs in and affirms it *was* made on inductive grounds. And you are telling me *I* don't understand what's being said here?”

My reply: LOL! Uh, T-stone, did you read Loftus’ response? Your “suggestion” of the statement was WRONG TOO!

At any rate, as far as the debate T-stone and I had, I falsified the inductive argument. I posted actual beliefs that do not have propositional evidence in their favor, and they are perfectly warranted beliefs.

I had asked: So, would you and John admit that I can be justified and warranted in a belief that has no propositional evidence in its favor?

T-stone replied: I hope so, as I'm confident that some beliefs I hold would probably qualify under that distinction, even and especially in the view of Loftus.

My reply: Amazing. This is what I had been arguing for the ENTIRE time. It is CLEAR that I had been arguing for this. Now T-stone admits that he has beliefs that are warranted and or justified without propositional evidence in their favor.

If he is correct, then he is wrong that ALL beliefs should have propositional evidence in their favor for one to be justified or warranted in believing them.

Lastly, please tell me *which* beliefs you hold qualify as warranted and justified in the absence of propositional evidence in their favor, and how do they receive their warrant?

T-stone: “John made claim on inductive grounds. From the specific to the general. Remember the talk about gravity? Specific to the general. Well, just as we can't rule out the possibility that gravity may not work the same everywhere (translational symmetry), we can't preclude the possibility of true beliefs that obtain without evidential bases.”

Reply: Uh, T-stone, maybe you can’t rule out the claim that gravity may not work the same everywhere, you didn’t say that true beliefs obtain without evidential basis though, you said they DID occur. You said, ‘you had them.” So, to make an accurate analogy, you’d have to say that we HAVE FOUND a place where gravity (given the same factors) did not hold!

T-stone: “That's how induction works; it's implicit in going from the specific to the general. So, if you are just figuring out that an inductive doesn't nuke your (or my) room for possible exceptions, all I can tell you is to take another look at what the probabilistic nature of induction means. We haven't tested gravity everywhere, and we never we be able to. Nevertheless, we look askance at someone who says "gravity doesn't apply here" without some explanation and demonstration.”

My reply: Incredible. T-stone has left the conversation and doesn’t even seem to know which way he’s going. I’m trying to take the kill shot but he’s bouncing all over the room. Stand still, wabbit.

I know how induction works. If someone says that “All x’s are y’s,” and then we find and x that is not a y, we have falsified the claim.

So, you had, granting you a lot, said that it is an inductive claim that “All beliefs should have evidence demanded of them.” But you now admit that you are “confident” that some of your beliefs are warranted and or justified without propositional evidence in their favor. Those types of beliefs are warranted and so “shouldn’t” have evidence “demanded” of them. Hence we have falsified “All x’s are y’s.” get it? Even your two-stepping, back-pedaling has been refuted…. Not just by me but by yourself as well

Lastly, you made the claim that “ALL beliefs SHOULD” have evidence demanded of them. And so I demand evidence of every single one of your beliefs. Infinite regress is back. Now, if you say that you hold some beliefs without propositional evidence, then you admit to doing things you shouldn’t. Like a person who says that you “shouldn’t” rape women, but nevertheless goes out and rapes women, no matter how scant the number of women is! So, perhaps you’ll now admit that you do not believe that “all” beliefs “should” have evidence demanded of them. Okay, fine. That has been *MY* argument. So, either you end up agreeing with me, or you look like a hypocrite on the intellectual level of the rapist!

By the way, you still have all those other arguments hanging over your head. So, given that what you argued, which was not in defense of Loftus since you misunderstood Loftus, was indeed representative of your position, I've still dismembered your position.

Glad I could clear all this up for you,


Friday, June 08, 2007

Josh McTouchstone's Evidence Ad Infinitum That Demands A Verdict

A continuation from a dialog in this com box:

Hi T-stone,

First let’s note that T-stone has called me David Hume because I have denied the evidentialist constraint. But, let’s note what Hume actually says,

“(…) We may observe, that there is no species of reasoning more common, more useful, and even necessary to human life, than that which is derived from the testimony of men, and the reports of eye-witnesses and spectators. (…)"

And so T-stone is actually the Humean here. This is the start of a bad day for T-stone. Read on, it gets worse.


John Loftus wrote: "Whatever we believe we should demand evidence for that belief,"

Paul Manata translated: " All things we believe are things we should demand evidence for.

Now, as any standard logic book will tell you, "whatever" should be translated "all." For example, "whatever you do, whether you eat drink, do it for the glory of God," would be appropriately translated "all things you do are things you do for the glory of God." So, so far my understanding of Loftus is correct - he said ALL our beliefs need evidence.

I then said: "Now, I assume that T-stone here is defending John by saying that the regress argument would bottom out because John had a raw perception or experience of the belief that ALL things believed are things which we should demand evidence for. Hmmmm, I'd like to see that perception."

T-stone replied: "That's doesn't obtain from what John said, by my lights. Beliefs rest on concepts which rest on perceptions. That doesn't imply that *perceptions* are beliefs."

My reply: Well, if one reads what I wrote one can see that I didn’t say that perceptions are beliefs. So, T-stone either didn't read what I wrote, skimmed it, or didn't get it. I suggest he read it again. Furthermore, he said that perceptions are not beliefs. Okay. Does he believe that? If so, where is the evidence. And, after he given me the evidence, I want the evidence for his beliefs about the first set of evidences. And then, lastly, I want him to show me the perception he had that beliefs are not perceptions.

T-stone claims: "So when John says "We should demand evidences for our beliefs", there's nothing more complicated to it than saying that predication should hold: perceptions -> concepts -> beliefs."

My reply: Well, (a) that's not predication. (b) Some beliefs are not based on perceptions. Given (b) then we have SOME beliefs that don't fit into T-stone's evidence pattern and hence it can't be all that John meant since I showed that John said that ALL beliefs should have evidence. And, (c), I'd like T-stone to show me the perception he had that this is what "John meant" as well as the perception that shows that "all beliefs are based on perception." Lastly, (d), not to get on a tangent, but this is simply warmed over Locke and Aristotle, etc. Of course Hume said that given the above, since no one perceives necessary causation or the self, we could not have ideas of either. Indeed, since there is no perception for the belief that ALL beliefs are based on perception, then T-stone can't believe his own theory here.

T-stone asserts: "When you demand evidence for the belief that beliefs should be supported by evidence, John simply points back at past experience -- experience which shows that concepts that are based on evidence (directly perceptual or logically derived) provide better approximations of the real world than concepts that do not have such support."

My reply: Uh, (a) John points back to BELIEFS about past experience, so where is the evidence for this? Remember, John said ALL beliefs can have their evidence demanded of them. So, I'm following John's claim out. (b) Uh, this assumes that memory is reliable, that's a belief. What "evidence" do you have for this belief? Past experience? But that assumes that memory is reliable? And, where did you have a "perception" that memory was reliable that doesn't assume the reliability of memory? So far, T-stone, you haven't escaped the infinite regress that made me "look so unthoughtful." This doesn't bode well for you. Makes you look like you can't back up your talk. And, (c), there are plenty of beliefs that do not have evidence from the senses, nor evidence logically derived from the senses, and so your concept of "evidence" would kick out most of our beliefs, including THAT belief itself! Furthermore, (d) your thesis depends on doxastic voluntarism. This is hotly disputed. So, you enthymematic argument needs disputed premises to make it work. I don't grant doxastic voluntarism. If you believe it to be the case, then show me the perceptual evidence, or the logical argument derived from perceptions. Now, (e) take knowledge by testimony. Thomas Reid shows what would have happened to us had we held this evidentialist constraint: "I believed by instinct whatever my parents and tutors told me, long before I had the idea of a lie, or a thought of the possibility of their deceiving me. Afterwards, upon reflection, I found that they had acted like fair and honest people, who wished me well. I found that, if I had not believed what they told me, before I could give a reason for my belief, I had to this day been little better than a changeling. And although this natural credulity hath sometimes occasioned my being imposed upon by deceivers, yet it hath been of infinite advantage to me upon the whole, therefore I consider it as another good gift from [God]." Lastly, (f). Your above constraint only allow propositional evidence and the evidence from the senses to count as "evidence." Tell me, what "evidence" do you have for the belief that only those kinds of evidences can support a belief?

T-stone says: "If John wants to walk up a case of stairs, he can learn by experience (if he has not already -- heh!) that using the perceptions from his eyes as evidence of the location of the steps gives him a significantly better probability of navigating the staircase without difficulty versus trying to do the same without those perceptions/evidences."

My reply: Hmmm, and that shows that ALL beliefs need to have propositional evidence in their favor how, exactly? Here's been your argument:

1. Some things that help us survive are things we need evidence for.

2. Some beliefs are things that help us survive.

3. Therefore, ALL beliefs are things we need evidence for.

T-stone asserts: "If you agree with the value of vision as a means of collecting evidence of what's about in the real world -- for climbing the stairs, say -- then you should have no trouble understanding the chain of beliefs derived from concepts derived from experience. Beliefs are *not* raw perception, which is the point that's being offered to you here; that's what breaks the regress you suppose presents a problem here. "

My reply: I have no problem with the evidence of the senses, I have a problem with ALL beliefs having to have evidence demanded of them.

I never said that beliefs were raw perception (though your terminology is off here, I won't quibble).

The regress has not been broken, certainly not by you. And, I note that when I asked you for the "raw perceptions" of all your assertions you failed to back it up. So, why don't you show me the "raw perception" that "all beliefs should have evidence for them." And, when you do, avoid the fallacy above of the conclusion going beyond the premises -- granting you could supply what no philosopher yet has been able to.

I had said: "Furthermore, how would an *experience* lead to a *normative* conclusion like saying that we *should* have evidence for our beliefs?"

T-stone replied: "It may *not* lead to a normative conclusion in an "authoritative" sense, and it doesn't need to. It can be simply empirical. I *should* base my beliefs on evidence (derived from experience) because this same experience shows that I can accomplish my goals much more surely and effectively by demanding evidence for my beliefs than divorcing my beliefs from any evidential basis."

My reply: Funny; I don't see the "raw perception" I asked for.

And, I never said anything about "authoritative." I am asking how a description gets to a prescription. Lay out the reasoning pattern for us to see. Let us see the steps involved, trying to avoid the "is implies ought" falalcy.

Again, he's basing his argument on his BELIEFS about past experience. I want evidence for those beliefs.

And, I shouldn't fail to point out, again, that this nowhere proves that ALL beliefs need evidence.

Also, if this is not “authoritative,” then by whose authority is he “demanding” my “evidence?” You can’t “demand” what you don’t have the “authority” to “demand."

We should also note his pragmatic justification for his evidentialist constraint: “If you want to achieve good ends, then base your beliefs on evidence; for if you do not, bad things will happen, therefore the evidentialist constraint is true.” But, what would T-stone say if I argued for Jehovah in this way: If you want success in life, and to avoid bad things, then believe in Jehovah; thus it is true that Jehovah exists. Despite the rhetorical value of T-stone’s arguments, they have little by way of commending them as true.

T-stone continues: “Or, like I said, John can walk up the stairs without difficulty when he has his eyes open, and can develop beliefs about the location and orientation of the stair steps based on the perceptions his eyes afford him. With his eyes closed, he has learned he is like to stumble and fall. So, empirically, he has good cause to include this experience as empirical evidence for *should* in his decisions about evidence.”

My reply: Funny, I can make it up my stairs with my eyes closed. Is T-stone saying John has problems moving up a flight of 13 or so steps with his eyes closed?

Anyway, he includes his *beliefs* about his past experience as evidence. Hence, I want evidence for those beliefs.

Now, if you want to say that experience provides noninferential and immediate support for beliefs, fine. But then if beliefs can be formed in us immediately and noninferentially, then that pretty much screws your (and John’s) arguments against presuppositionalism.

I had said: “But, let's let T-stone tell us all about the experience which grounds the universal claim that "*all* beliefs are things that *should* have evidence given for them."

T-stone replied: “John's experience demonstrates that visual perception (construed as evidence about the real world) is a valuable asset in the task of navigating the staircase.

John's experience demonstrates that his visual perception (construed as evidence about the real world) is a valuable asset in the task of driving a car.

John's experience demonstrates that his visual perception (construed as evidence about the real world) is a valuable asset understanding emotional cues in the facial expressions of his wife when she talks to him.

On and on an on... over thousands of tasks and experiences (and I've just been using visual perceptions by way of example here, and haven't even touched on other forms of perception), John accumulates a large pile of experiences that, when reviewed, strongly suggest that evidence represents a means to improve or clarify his model of the real world, as demonstrated by his ability to accomplish his desired objectives.

My reply: Hmmm, and so particular experiences ground the claim that ALL beliefs should have evidence demanded of them? Come again? How does that follow?

Furthermore, these are BELIEFS based on John’s PAST experience. That is to say, these are beliefs based on “history.” Now, since the context of our discussion is my response to John’s post, then his claims determine what evidence you offer will be allowed to support HIS position. Fair enough? Now, John Loftus had said: “Whatever we believe we should demand evidence for that belief, and historical evidence in the past simply isn't good enough.” Emphasis mine! Thus it is not “good enough” evidence for John that his historical past supplies evidence for his current belief that “all beliefs should have evidence demanded of them.”

Next, what non-question begging perceptual “evidence” can be marshaled for beliefs like this: (1) other minds exist, (2) the earth is older than 5 minutes, (3) nature is uniform, (4) I am a numerically one self that persists through time?

In fact, since your arguments assume that the belief that there is a past (e.g., “past experiences”) is correct, then you must have evidence for this belief. But all the evidence would be, as John says, “viciously circular.” Now, if that belief was considered as a basic belief, not in need of propositional evidence in its favor, then you’d have a philosophical pou sto. But, those kinds of beliefs are not allowed by Loftus, hence T-stone has failed to show that my original response to Loftus made me come off as “unthoughtful.” In fact, this looks quite ironic indeed!

T-stone concludes: “That's a solid, empirical basis for the belief that beliefs should have evididential [sic] bases underneath them.”

My reply: You’ve *got* to be kidding me, T-stone. Do you *believe* that this is a “solid, empirical basis for the belief that beliefs should have evidential bases underneath them?” If so, what is the evidence for *that* belief, which is different than the original? Looks like you’ve not escaped the regress. And I thought the regress argument was “silly” and “ignorant?” Why so hard to “debunk,” eh?

I had mentioned that T-stone was holding to classical foundationalism. He replied quite interestingly:

T-stone: “Paul you have that backwards. Classical foundationalism holds that the basis of knowledge -- the fundamental pillars of knowledge -- must be secure, infallible, skeptic-proof. That's quite opposite from what I'm suggesting, and in fact would say that demands for a "normative conclusion" are more indicative of such an orientation than anything I've said.”

My reply: From Dr. Sudduth: “Ancient Foundationalism: (a) Properly basic beliefs are either self-evident or evident to the senses. (b) The evidential relation between beliefs is typically deductive. (e.g., Aristotle)”

Dr. Groothius: “Roughly put, classical foundationalism is an approach to knowledge that claims that a belief only becomes knowledge if (a) that belief is true and if either (b) the belief is self-evident or necessarily true or evident to the senses or (c) the belief can be supported in some way by what is self-evident, necessarily true or evident to the senses. Beliefs of type (b) serve as the foundation for all other beliefs of type (c) and not the converse.”

Dr. Kelly James Clark: “Recall classical foundationalism (CF): A proposition p is rational if and only if p is self-evident, evident to the senses or incorrigible or if p can be inferred from a set of propositions that are self-evident, evident to the senses, or incorrigible.”

Dr. T-stone: “experience which shows that concepts that are based on evidence (directly perceptual or logically derived)”

And, some have argued that evidentialism entails infallibilism:

T-stone claims “I'm comfortable with a pragmatic bit of bootstrapping. We have experience, we form concepts, build beliefs on top of them, and subject them to the rigors of daily life. There's nothing indubitable about that at all. ook [sic] thoughtful.”

My reply: Funny, pragmatist William James offered some trenchant arguments against Clifford’s evidentialism - which T-stone and John are supporting.

T-stone fumbles: “Paul, the reason people believe evidence is valuable is because they have evidence to support that notion -- their experience. So when you say you don't deny that people value it, you are affirming that they have a belief in the value of evidence -- a belief that people SHOULD have evidence in support of their beliefs.”

My reply: I agree that people SHOULD have evidence to support SOME of their beliefs. I never argued that. I never denied that SOME beliefs SHOULD have evidence for them. I denied the universal claim of Loftus that “ALL beliefs should have evidence demanded of them.” Or, the obverse of which is: “No beliefs should fail to have evidence demanded of them.” So, given those two logically equivalent claims, we can see that my argument was against the idea that ALL beliefs should have evidence for them, not SOME. That it is valuable to have evidence for SOME or even MOST of our beliefs does not logically equate to the universal proposition I’m arguing against. These are basic rules of inference, T-stone.

T-stone talks about my mouth while his foot is in his: “As it is, it looks like you are talking out of both sides of your mouth. One one [sic] hand you affirm (or at least don't deny) that people value evidence, then suggest that people (or maybe just John) do not/cannot have evidence for such belief. The *evidence* for the belief in the value (should) of evidence is our experience, which we've been accumulate since we were born.”

My reply: I have never affirmed that people need evidence for ALL of their beliefs. And, I never denied that John “cannot” have evidence for his belief that one needs evidence for all beliefs. I haven’t seen the evidence yet (and you haven’t offered any logically compelling or non-fallacious evidence either), but let’s say that he was able to offer it. Given his maxim, I’d ask for the evidence which supports his BELIEF in the evidence he offered me. Got it?

T-stone claims: “If you drive a car, and you do so with your eyes open, then you're endorsing this belief. If not, try driving to your local 7-11 for a pack of smokes with your eyes closed. You can report back what your experience suggests about the SHOULD of evidence (visual evidence as to the location and attributes of the objects you will be driving on/near/around).”

My reply: At best this supports that SOME beliefs need evidence for them, not ALL.

Further, I don’t view beliefs based on immediate reports of sense-perception as inferential beliefs.

And, do you believe all this stuff I’ve quoted? If so, and if you are defending John’s claim that ALL beliefs should have evidence for them, then where is your evidence for this belief?

I had said: “And, beliefs aimed at survival don't = beliefs aimed at truth. You can survive with false beliefs and bad evidence, ya know.”

T-stone uncritically blurts out: “That's just foolish, Paul. Truth -- an accurate a model of the real world as we can achieve -- is a huge asset in the quest for survival. If you deny this, well, try to drive to the local 7-11 for a pack of smokes with your eyes closed!”

My reply: That’s just ignorant, T-stone. (a) First, I never denied that true beliefs are an asset for survival. That’s an invalid converse of my claim. (b) Talk to materialists and evolutionists in your own camp, like Patricia Churchland for example, first : “Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F's: feeding, fleeing, fighting and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organism's chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.” And, try this: © I drive to the local 7-11 and believe that crashing into the fanciest car is the best way to magically transport myself to the front of the line at 7-11, but, always looking for a better option than the fancy car right in front of me, I continue to steer clear of all the cars on the road while looking for a better prospect than the Lexus in front of me. Or, perhaps you don’t like that, okay, how about this: I think that I am in a huge video game, call me Mario, and by avoiding objects on the “road” I am racking up points that will be seen after I “die.” Of course being the competitive gamer that I am, I strive as hard as I can to rack up points. Thus my beliefs are not true, but they have survival value. Therefore, beliefs aimed at survival don’t equal beliefs aimed at truth.

T-stone says: “We seek an accurate model of the real world because our experience shows that we are generally penalized in our efforts to accomplish our goals when our model is less accurate, and generally rewarded when our model is more accurate.”

My reply: A model of the world that says we came into existence 5 minutes ago, with all our memories and beliefs implanted in us, would allow me to accomplish all the same goals as you, yet MOST of my beliefs are *radically* false; read, “inaccurate.”

And, again, you are assuming that beliefs based on experience are reliable, what evidence is there for this belief? That is, answer Loftus’ maxim.

T-stone says: “A more accurate model of the real world is definitely a survival advantage over a less accurate model of the real world.”

My reply: How does my belief that EVERTHING other than God is “created” give me a survival advantage over the atheist? Or, assuming I’m wrong, how does the atheist have a survival advantage over me? In fact, atheists like Hitchens and Dennett have argued that it was a *survival advantage* to believe falsely about religion. Take a sample quote from a book review I’m writing on Hitchens’ latest book “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything:” “The reason people have this tendency to believe in the wild claims of religious hucksters is because it is genetic. “In primitive times, is it not possible that those who believed the shaman’s cure had a better morale as a result, and thus a slightly but significantly higher chance of actually being cured?” (p.165, emphasis his). And so Hitchens finds common cause with Daniel Dennett who notes that there might have been survival value in holding religious beliefs and thus “it seems possible, moving to the psychological arena, that people can be better off believing in something than in nothing, however untrue that something may be” (p.165). Seems like the “Evangolutionist” (AKA T-stone) disagrees with the evolutionary arguments of his intellectual heroes.

T-stone sez: “But it goes beyond just survival. More accurate models help us achieve all sorts of goals and objectives we have in life, from the mundane task of climbing the stairs to more complex task, say, of earning a living as an economic forecaster.”

I sez back: Yeah, and here’s another humdinger for T-stone. Just as beliefs aimed at survival don’t equal beliefs aimed at truth, beliefs aimed at success don’t equal beliefs aimed at truth. And, again, I shouldn’t fail in pointing out that this does not prove that ALL our beliefs (like those in other minds, the past, the reliability of the senses, etc., God) need propositional evidence in support of them. Perhaps this will sink in if I say it enough.

I had asked where T-stone’s “raw perceptional” evidence was for the belief that “raw perceptual” evidence provides evidence for his beliefs,

And He responded: “The evidence is my experience (perceptions) of what results when I base my beliefs of evidence and what happens when I don't. If I close my eyes and try to climb the stairs, my "bottomed out" evidence is pain from a bleeding shin, caused when I stumbled, thinking the stairs were somewhere else than where they actually were.”

My reply: Tell me you’re not serious. And this avoids the regress how, exactly? Let’s see, maybe this will help:

John T-stone: “All beliefs require evidence for them.”

T-blogger: “Where is the evidence for that belief.”

John T-stone: “It’s based on my experience.”

T-blogger: “Do you believe that?”

John T-stone: “Yes.”

T-blogger: “Okay, where is the evidence for that belief?”

John T-stone: “My experience of what happens when I don’t base my beliefs on experience/evidence.”

T-blogger: “So you’re basing it off your belief about your memory of past experiences? Do you believe that your experiences of what happened when you didn’t base your beliefs on experiences/evidences supply good evidence for the claim that experience has shown that you should have evidences for all your beliefs?”

John T-stone: “Yes, I do.”

T-blogger: “And the evidence for this belief is where, exactly?”

John T-stone: “Uh, blank out.”

Second, your “pain” is a “belief,” a subjective one at that, that is, not something material. Anyway…, where’s your evidence for that belief? Remember, John said “all beliefs” should have evidence demanded of them, and you said I was “unthoughtful” for questioning this assumption. So, show me how thoughtful you are and give me the evidence which backs up your immediate cognitive attitude toward the proposition: I am in pain.

T-stone boldly asks: “Is *pain in the shin* a raw enough experience for you, Paul?”

My reply: Do you *believe* that it is, T-stone? If so, follow John’s maxim.

I asked how I look unthoughtful since T-stone switched from defending John, which was the context behind his claim that I was unthoughtful, and T-stone replied:

T-stone: “Oh, I've read enough of your posts, including some of the links you have below to have a fuller sense of where you are coming from than what's obtained from your short, initial post here. That's just shorthand for a schtick I've come to know too well from you. “

My reply: I don’t see how this answered the question, T-stone. But, just as I expected, T-stone never interacts directly, he simply shows off his skill of rubbing fish across the trail the dogs are on, attempting to get them off track. Vague and ambiguous references to some secret and hidden agenda I have aren’t really answers to my questions.

T-stone argues ad baculum: “If you want me to quote some of what I'm referring to for you, please advise.”

Me now: Consider yourself advised.

I had said: Lastly, I've blogged on the problems with all this before:

T-stone came back with: “Yeah, I know. It's a mess. I've read some, and I think more than I need to to understand. But you can correct me if I'm mistaken and you now have gotten to the point of accepting the terminus of your epistemological regress in the brute fact of consciousness and perception.”

My reply: How about this response against some of your posts arguing for theistic evolution: > “Yeah, I know. It's a mess. I've read some, and I think more than I need to to understand. But you can correct me if I'm mistaken and you now have gotten to the point of accepting the terminus of your epistemological Pelagianism and theological anthropocentrism in the exegesis by sola Scientifica and knowledge strictly via sense Percepta. How would you feel if a T-blogger gave you that response? You now have your answer how I feel about your response.

T-stone claims: “Experience is the evidence for the belief that John was expressing.”

My reply: (a) John said evidence from “history” is not allowed. (b) Does John believe that this experience is evidence for his belief? If so, evidence please! © Which experience(s) did John have which lead to the conclusion that ALL beliefs should have evidence demanded of them?

T-stone continues to repeat himself: “We belief [sic] we should demand evidence for our beliefs because our experience shows that such demands translate to improved abilities to pursue our goals, whether it's mere survival, or getting the Higgins account closed to make your numbers for the quarter.”

My reply: (a) This isn’t an argument for ALL beliefs. (b) Where is the evidence for *this* belief, ad infinitum? © How does the belief that I have over 5,000 blades of grass on my lawn “translate to improved abilities to pursue my goals?” (d) Further, say that one’s cognitive faculties are malfunctioning, and so all things he things are evidence *for* his belief are, in reality, evidence *against* his belief. Would he then be warranted in believing some proposition P on the basis of faulty evidence? Now, assume that one believes that his cognitive faculties *are* malfunctioning. He therefore should reject all the “evidence” for his beliefs. Thus we see that we should believe that our cognitive faculties are not currently subject to malfunction. But, where is the “evidence” for *that* belief? All “evidence” would *assume* the proper function of our cognitive faculties. Therefore the belief that our cognitive faculties are properly functioning is not a belief that is *grounded in* some kind of perceptual or deductive evidence. (e) How much evidence should we demand for our beliefs?

T-stone asserts: “If you assert that you intend to question the basis for such a belief, ad infinitum, that's a clear indication that you do not recognize the groundedness of that belief in John's (or anyone else's) experience.”

My reply: (a) Not all beliefs are grounded in experience. (b) If John *believes* that his experience grounds his first belief, then where is the evidence for the second belief? Ad infinitum.

I asked: “Further, how does this prove that ALL BELIEFS "should" have evidence demanded of them?”

T-stone wildly asserts: “It's a truism, Paul. Don't be pedantic. Our experience is evidence for the belief that evidence is a beneficial underwriter for our beliefs. We SHOULD demand evidence for beliefs, and this belief is based on our experience; we fare better with evidence-based models than models that are not evidence-based, according to our experience.”

My reply: Tell me you’re not serious!

T-stone’s cherished “Wiki” defines “truism” as: “A truism is a claim that is so obvious or self-evident as to be hardly worth mentioning.”

Webster’s: “an undoubted or self-evident truth; especially : one too obvious for mention”

I deny that it’s a truism. It’s not obvious to me. Indeed, it seems deeply problematic. In fact, I guess I could respond by saying that the falsity of the evidentialist constraint is a “truism.”

Next, how am *I* being “pedantic? John Loftus is the one who said that **ALL** beliefs should have evidence demanded of them, I just applied his Own logic to T-stone’s case! This is how it would look in argument form:

1. All beliefs are things that should have evidence demanded of them.

2. (1) is a belief.

3. Therefore (1) should have evidence demanded of it.

So, every single belief, include the belief about ALL beliefs, are things John Loftus has allowed me to “demand evidence of.” But when I do this to *every single belief,* T-stone calls me pedantic!

Lastly, note that all he said above does not (a) prove that ALL beliefs are things that should have evidence demanded of them, (b) and it itself is a belief and so needs evidence for it, ad infinitum. But I’m just being pedantic again. Anyway, T-stone likes to conjugate irregular verbs:

I pay attention to detail. You are a bit nit-picky. He is downright pedantic.

Bertrand Russell once quipped:

I am firm. You are obstinate. He is simply pig-headed.

Now an AMAZING turn of events transpire.

I had argued: It doesn't The simple fact is that we have beliefs that seem to have no survival value, such as detailed beliefs about modal logic and possible worlds, for example. Furthermore, not all beliefs that have evidence for them help you survive. Remember, T-stone, you're trying to defend (1) above. So far you've not come close.

T-stone replied: “Sure, but I'm no sucker for your pedantry. We live in the real world, and of course, we don't have all the evidence available that we would prefer. Sometimes we have little to no evidence in view for decisions or beliefs that are required. That's life.”

My reply: Sure, what? That I am right? Look, if you have “little or no evidence” for your belief, then you shouldn’t believe it! John Loftus said that all beliefs should have evidence demanded of them. You say, “that’s right, but we don’t always have the evidence and so we just go on believing things without evidence.”

When talking about believing a claim John Loftus writes, “I would need sufficient evidence to lead me to believe.” And so if T-stone is defending Loftus, then if there is “no sufficient evidence” for a claim, then you shouldn’t believe it. So, again, the context of the debate is my response to John. T-stone is free to shift the goal posts for Loftus, and present his own tattered case, but he should have some integrity and apologize for claiming that my response *to John* made me look “unthoughtful.”

So, I have been arguing that the evidentialist constraint is false, and now T-stone agrees with me.

Moreover, he isn’t quite right. Does he think he’s warranted in believing this without evidence? If so, that’s what I claimed. But, if he thinks that he is not, then that’s the whole debate. And so, I would ask what is the evidence for the belief that for a belief to be warranted one must have perceptual or deductive inferences is support of that belief. The former agrees with what I’ve set forth here, and so by agreeing t-stone has effectively called *himself* “unthoughtful,” and if it’s the latter, T-stone is either warranted in believing it or not. If he is not, then why believe it? If he is, then where is the evidence ad infinitum for it?

Twighlight Zone T-stone says: “But those pragmatic constraints don't diminish the truth of what John asserted, based on our experiece; [sic] we *should* have evidence for our beliefs. Obviously, if no evidence is available, then no evidence is available. We should question whether it's necessary or beneficial to have a belief at all on that matter at that point. If we must, well, it's the real world, Paul. We try to do our best with what resources we have available.”

My response Sure they diminish it. If one makes a claim about ALL beliefs, and then one admits that even ONE belief does not need to fit into the class defined by the first claim, then one has shown that that the first claim is false. If I said “all swans are white,” and you show me ONE black swan, guess what, my original claim was “diminished.”

Now, if you’re claiming that for a belief to be justified or warranted one must have evidence for it, then defend that claim. If you’re not, then I’m right and you’re “unthoughtful.” If not, then John is wrong when he says that one *must* have propositional evidence in support of religious claims if he is to rationally or justifiably believe in God. Of course you might employ the “difference thesis” and argue that only religious beliefs must meet this standard, if so, Dr. Vallicella has some insights on that:

Now, interestingly, T-stone is using, verbatim, arguments employed by Sam Harris in “The End of Faith.” Says Harris:

“Our "freedom of belief," if it exists at all, is minimal. Is a person really free to believe a proposition for which he has no evidence? No. Evidence (whether sensory or logical) is the only thing that suggests that a given belief is really about the world in the first place. (71-72) “

And Vallicella slices and dices all the arguments T-stone has been offering here. I quote Dr. Vallicella at length:


“By "freedom of belief," Harris is presumably referring to the right, not the ability, to believe whatever one wants. We CAN believe all sorts of things – I once met a woman who thought that the moon glowed by its own light – but we MAY believe only some things, namely, those propositions for which we have sufficient evidence. But why should we accept this normative claim? Because evidence is what makes a belief about the world in the first place.

One of things that makes this argument suspect is that Harris appears to be inferring a normative conclusion from a nonnormative premise. Thus, he appears to be moving from

1. Evidence is what makes a belief a belief about the world


2. We may hold only those beliefs for which we have evidence.
Now even if (1) is unproblematic, how does one validly infer the normative (2) from it? But there is a second way to read the above passage, and that is to take Harris to be reasoning from (1) to the nonnormative

2*. We can (are able to) hold only those beliefs for which we have evidence.

On this reading we avoid the Is/Ought fallacy, but trade it in for something just as bad: a false conclusion. Surely, (2*) is false. People are able to hold all sorts of beliefs for which they have no evidence.

But there is worse to come: (1) is highly problematic. There is an ambiguity in it. Is Harris talking about aboutness, or about truth? Is he saying

E1 Belief B is about the world only if there is evidence for B


E2 Belief B is true only if there is evidence for B?

E1 is obviously false. Beliefs have the property philosophers call ‘intentionality’: they are necessarily object-directed. Beliefs, like many other mental states, intend an intentum: they possess aboutness. Thus one cannot believe without believing something. But it doesn’t follow that the proposition one believes is true. Thus the belief that God exists is about God’s existence whether or not God exists, and thus whether or not there is any evidence for God’s existence. Aboutness is not the same as truth. A belief can have the first without the second. Harris may be confusing them.

Charitably construed, Harris is asserting E2. He is saying that a necessary condition for a belief’s being true is that there be evidence for it, whether sensory or logical. But why should we accept this? What is Harris’ evidence for it, whether sensory or logical? Clearly, one cannot have sensory evidence for E2. If you think otherwise, tell me which sense provides the evidence. I know by sight that there is a computer in front of me, but I do not know by sight (or by any other external or internal sense) that a belief is true only if there is evidence for it.

Nor can one have logical evidence for E2. The proposition in question is not logically true (true in virtue of its logical form), nor is it analytically true (true in virtue of the meanings of its constituent terms). Of course, ‘logical evidence’ could mean inferential evidence: a proposition has this sort of evidence if it is a logical consequence of a another proposition. But then which proposition is E2 supposed to inherit its evidence from? And what about the evidence of that proposition? Where does it come from?

One can see that E2 applies to itself. But we have just seen that there is no sensory or logical evidence for it. Given that these are the only two kinds of evidence, it follows that if E2 is true, then it is false. And if it is false, then of course it is false. Therefore, E2 is necessarily false.

So far, then, I see no coherent argument for the thesis that one may (can?) believe only propositions for which there is logical or sensory evidence. How then will Harris get to his thesis that the core beliefs of religious people are "absolutely mad"? Isn’t his claim that only beliefs for which there is sensory or logical evidence are true equally "mad"? Even if religious beliefs are unsupported by evidence, the same is true of Harris' epistemological beliefs.”


So much the worse for T-stone, then.

T-stone repeats himself: “Sure. Got it. My understanding of what John wrote/is saying is that his experience -- which includes the view he has of others and their experiences on the same question -- is evidence in support of the value of evidence as a basis for belief.”

I repeat myself So you’re saying that the evidence for Loftus’ *universal* claim is his beliefs based on his reliance on memory traces of *particular* past experiences. Boy John with “friends” like T-stone, you don’t need any enemies, do ya?

T-stone insults Loftus: “I get the sense that you think you are really on to something profound with your regress schtick. It's "not even wrong", Paul. It's an imaginary set of constraints that don't exist in the real world.

My response: So Loftus makes a claim about ALL beliefs, I then ask him about ALL his beliefs, and this is “imaginary?” Well, tell Loftus not to make claims subject to infinite regresses then, T-pebble.

I had said: Actually, I'm not an internalist nor a deontologist. And, I do believe that we have warrant for our inductive beliefs. So, keep arguing against that straw-man you've constructed. So much better than fighting the real man.

T-stone shows how out of touch he is with the context of the conversation: “If that's true, then you've got no basis for pressing such a regress as you declared with John. By means of induction, John, I and you develop beliefs about the value of evidence as basis for belief. You [sic] belief we *should* have evidence for our beliefs, too. If you deny this I have a set of questions for you, which I believe the answers you provide will demonstrate that you operate on this very principle yourself.”

My response: Poor little T-pebble, can’t follow the argument he’s defending.

T-stone, here’s a news flash: *I* am not the one who says that I need evidential support for ALL my beliefs. John said that, not me. You defended that, and then equivocated later, and now seem to have totally dropped your original argument. You see, T-stone, if JOHN says that ALL BELIEFS need evidence demanded of them, then I certainly can, on Loftus’ own terms, “demand” the evidence for his inductive beliefs. You need to study up on reductio ad absurdum a bit, T-stone. I can ask John about EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HIS BELIEFS, based on JOHN’S ASSUMPTIONS. Then, when he tries to “back up” his beliefs with other beliefs, I’ll ask him about *those* beliefs, ad infinitum.

Lastly, I deny that we should have evidence for ALL of our beliefs. But, John actually said that we must, or else he won’t believe it. I deny that too, T-stone.

Now T-stone loses track of the discussion almost entirely.

For the context, I’ll quote my response to T-stone’s claim that even without evidence for our inductive beliefs we are still warranted in believing the inductive principle because “we still do. We just can’t help it.”

I had replied that there's a distinction between optimistic-over rider proper function rationality, and alethic rationality by arguing:

Of course proper function would demand continued belief in the Inductive Principle IP, but this is not because this portion of your cognitive faculties are aimed at truth, but, rather, at the avoidance of cognitive disaster. A person S may be in a situation - say, lost in a snow storm on top of a mountain - and S may see a ridge that S thinks could be leaped to. Based on perception, this belief is basic to S. But, S would not have thought this if S were not in this survival situation. So S maintains this belief that the chasm is able to be jumped. Proper function requires this belief to be maintained. The optimistic over rider has kicked in. But the faculties governing this have some other virtue in mind - survival rather than true belief. In normal, reflective situations, S would not form said belief.

T-stone responded: “Paul, that's a neat story. Now why do I care that S is thinking one thing in panic mode, when he might make another assessment if he weren't? This doesn't attach to what John was suggesting. John is (or at least I am) suggesting something quite different; an accurate belief as to the probability of making it across the chasm (assuming that jump somehow saves S) is an *advantage* to survival. Evidence here, say pine trees in the chasm that help you gauge the distance across, is an advantage to survival. If the evidence keeps you from jumping to your death, where you would not have made it across to the ridge on the other side, then this would be yet more experiential evidence for your belief that evidence matters. If that evidence encourages you to jump and you make it, again, more evidence in support of the idea that evidence matters.”

My reply: It flew right over his head, didn’t it? My “story” showed that though in some instances proper function demands we “believe” certain things, that is not sufficient to providing warrant for that belief. So, that T-stone continues to assume the IP does not mean that he is warranted in doing so. Furthermore, in a blinding blizzard your “evidence” from your senses are invalidated! You’re not in the proper environment for your senses to provide you with warrant. The “evidence” is skewed, especially since the optimistic over rider has kicked in. In this case, you might “just believe” that you can “make the jump.” But, this doxastic forming process is not formed by cognitve faculties aimed at *truth,* but, rather, at *survival.*

I then offered a second analogy which flew right over T-stone’ little noggin: Or, suppose S ingests agent XX, a hallucinogenic drug, producing hallucinations in 90% of those who take XX. Proper function would require assuming the IP so as to avoid cognitive disaster. So, S has powerful inclinations to continue on in belief in the IP, even though S has come to believe that the probability that her beliefs are true is low or inscrutable, and S may take it in a basic way, but of course these powerful inclinations don't count as evidence for the IP. S would have this inclination whether she was in or out of the lucky 10%.

T-stone misses the boat, again: “Well, you might as well just go all the way, and take Peter Pike's line: what if we are in something like the movie The Matrix??? What if all of this is kind of Cartesian hallucination? Should I take the red pill, Paul?

It's precisely because you think this is a meaningful concern that I think you may have ingested XX prior to typing up your post. What bearing does this have on the value of our experience as basis for the belief in the value of evidence for our beliefs??? If you are hallucinating, or stuck fighting with Mr. Anderson in The Matrix, all this becomes a moot point. Blank out.”

My response: Again, the point was that a “strong inclination” to believe that P does not mean that you are warranted in believing that P. My analogy is not trying to argue that we can’t be certain whether we’ve ingested XX, it’s designed to show that there are cases where S would not be warranted in believing in P, even though S “can’t help” but to continue to believe P. Therefore, T-stone’s argument that he continues to believe in the IP does not show that he is warranted in believing in the IP. Given the evidentialist constraint, and John’s quotes, if we don’t have “evidence” for a belief then we shouldn’t believe it. Since there is no non-question begging propositional evidence for the IP, then Loftus et al has a defeater for that belief. To say that you still “continue to believe” in the IP isn’t an appropriate defeater-defeater. If it were, then our friend who ingested XX could defeat the defeater XX gives by simply noting that she still believes in the IP or in the reliability of her cognitive faculties. Blank out.

Hopefully that was slow enough for T-stone. Hopefully he can get back to discussing Tetra-Hydras and beakers and elixirs and stuff. But, I must say, watching T-stone take some baby steps into the philosophical room made me so proud. He’s learned so much coming here. Sure he stumbles every step along the way, but you gotta admit, isn’t it one of the cutest things you’ve ever seen?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Florida Baptist Inquisition Or "Rise of the Empire"

Southern Baptists have been told, rather consistently I might add, that Calvinists are dividing churches. We're told that there are "extreme Calvinists" like those at Founders who are not evangelistic. (I'd like to the their names). We've been told that Calvinists are getting called to SBC pulpits by less than honest means by hiding their Calvinism.

Yeah, right...I have a really, really hard time believing it with these recent developments in the great state of Florida.

First, we have this event in Holmes Association.

You can read the notes from the meeting here.

And this isn't the first time Brother Cecil has been involved in such behavior.

And if that's not enough, Jim Sullivan the Executive Director of the Florida C0nvention has decided to mail out anti-Calvinist propaganda to the churches.

Oh, but that's not enough. He's defending Brother Cecil, while Brother Cecil asks "Are you calling me a liar?" Well, I'm not as nice as some, so I'll just say it. Brother Cecil, I have read the minutes of the meeting, and five of the six persons there were not Calvinists and have no need to lie. So, unless you can produce a motive for them to lie and the evidence for it, yes, Brother Cecil, you are a liar, and you need to repent, and Brother Jim needs to step up and do his duty to Florida Baptists and remove you if you refuse correction. Further, lest you think I am not an equal opportunity kind of guy: If these charges are false, and I truly hope they are, then those who have bore false witness against you need to repent and they should step down or be removed. Whatever happens, there needs to be complete transparency.

Further, Roger Moran has been outspoken in Missouri Convention.

Let us not forget Brother John Connell who has been handing out anti-Calvinist material, if Timmy's report is correct, to Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian students at his school. This brother claims in the meta, if you read carefully, that he's just voicing the concerns of average Southern Baptists in the pew. He then discusses Calvinism as settled in Presbyterian churches. Pray tell, then, why is he handing out material to Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian students if he's fine with the matter being settled in such churches? Let's not forget, too, that apparently on page 63, he called for the dismantling of SBTS' Abstract of Principles as its governing confession and he's the one who called for the study on Calvinism's effect on the SBC at last year's Convention.

Yeah, Calvinists are "dividing churches" and "sowing disorder." Riiiight. Most of us speak up these days to reply to this sort of material. When we reply, we're told we're the ones who are making offense. So apparently, "sowing division" and "dividing churches," and "extreme" are defined as "engaging the matter in defense." We have to suck it up, while they dish it out. It’’s like we’re getting mugged in the street and when we fight off the muggers, we’re the ones that the police arrests and charges with a crime. What is wrong with this picture?! Is this the Inquisition? Maybe Brother Ben Cole is right about Baptists and Rome.

This isn't about Calvinism as such. This is about truth. This is about integrity. This is also about the autonomy of the local church. Don't start talking about how divisive and dishonest Calvinists are when this is the level to which the anti-Calvinists are stooping. Further, if you're going to start mailing Dr. Vines' material to the churches of the FLBC, then by all means follow up with a mailing of material from the other side. My brother, Timmy Brister is right:

The problem in the SBC is not that we have too many Calvinists in the Convention but that we have too many liars in the Convention. Brothers, whether you agree with Calvinism or not, we must agree that we must be people committed to the truth, to being truthful people, and at all costs, maintain the integrity of visible church which is the pillar and buttress of truth. If what Roger Moran is allowed to say and do what he wants in MO and Sulivan/Seagle in FL, there will be no questions why churches are dying and Southern Baptists are leaving.
This sort of systemic dishonesty and underhandedness needs to called into the light. I feel like I'm watching Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and Count Dooku manipulate the Galactic Senate in the Star Wars Prequels, while Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Mace Windu struggle against them. Will there be a Queen Amidala to sit back and say, "So this is how liberty dies...with thunderous applause." I pray not.

It does not matter if you are a moderate or a conservative, a Calvinist or a rank Arminian, Landmark or Whittsitite, it needs to be called out. The days when this sort of thing can go on unchecked are over. People are wise now. They take notes, and what you say is in writing for the world to see. They also post it on the internet, where it will be picked apart and analyzed by many. The days when you could hide what you're doing in the dark are long gone. Some have said blogging is irrelevant. Others have viewed it as gossip. Well, I submit, this is precisely why we Baptists need to blog. The people in the pews are having their eyes opened. Indeed, some who once doubted what some of us have been saying are now persuaded otherwise.

Brothers, when you go to San Antonio this week, every one of you needs to shake the hands of these men and then tell them they need to resolve this issue. Most, if not all, of the parties involved will be in TX for the Convention next week. You will all be in a place with plenty of privacy in your rooms to sit down face to face and, if Brother Cecil has been wronged, expose it. If the charges are true, then Brother Cecil needs an intervention, as does Brother Jim. Brother Jim needs to explain why he's using churches' dollars/God's money to send these mailings, and he needs to be urged to agree to a mailing of another point-of-view if nothing else. The same is true of Brother Roger and Brother Cecil. Do the right thing, brethren. I would love nothing more than for you all to come back home and blog next week about a powerful movement of God's Spirit, where offenders and offended repented and forgave and where monologues became dialogs.