Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More "Serious Thinking" From Loftus

Since John Loftus claims that I misrepresented him, and since as a Christian I think we should not violate the 9th commandment in this way, then I will take serious any attempt he makes at trying to show that I did misrepresent him. If it could be demonstrated, I would apologize and make the appropriate qualifications. This would be especially easy since my study of Brian Lewis's Sargon book and arguments against Avalos would not be affected in the slightest if I removed the minor and incidental Loftus content. I threw those comments in to "stir up the hive."

JL: “A serious thinker does not try to misrepresent the views of his opponents.”

PM: But I didn’t “try.” How could you demonstrate that I did? Serious thinkers don’t frequently make claims that go beyond what he can demonstrate. Can Loftus demonstrate that I “tried” to misrepresent his views?

JL: “Paul Manata tries to drive a wedge between my views about history and fellow Blogger and Biblical Scholar Dr. Hector Avolas,”

PM: I did drive the wedge, and I’m waiting with baited breath for Avalos to publicly say he agrees with what you wrote in that section.

JL: “who has soundly refuted the arguments of the Triablogers on the Sargon Legend here and again here.”

PM: Anyone can play this game, John. “Who was soundly refuted by the arguments of Triablogger’s on the Sargon Legend.





And here:

JL: “Manata makes his point in these words:

What is Loftus’s attitude toward history?...What is the position of the book Avalos offers “praise” for, and the leader of the blog he signed up to be a part of regarding matters historical? Simply put, says Loftus, “Historical evidence is poor evidence” (Loftus, 181). Citing Bebbington he claims, “The historian’s history is molded by his values, his outlook, and his worldview. It is never the evidence alone that dictates what was written” (Loftus, 183). He doesn’t “see any problem in claiming that there is room for doubting many if not most historical claims…” (Loftus, 192, emphasis mine, he adds the qualifier “especially claims about the miraculous,” but that is irrelevant for my purposes here).
What should be understood from my chapter on history is that when it comes to establishing the Christian view of history with its claims about the miraculous that historical evidence is poor evidence when compared to personal experience or the findings of science or logic itself.”

PM: John’s misrepresenting his book, so he must not be a “serious thinker.”

First, think about it. It’s just when Christians appeal to history that historical evidence all of a sudden, magically, becomes “poor evidence.” How convenient, John.

Second, John, your claims in your book go beyond what you’re claiming now that you’re running around sticking thumbs and fingers in the bulging dam. For example:


“ANY historian will tell you the problems she faces when researching the past” (183).

“THE HISTORIAN attempts to write an accurate report of what happened in the past given the hindsight implications of the past for her day and age. That’s the goal. Writing this record CANNOT be divorced from the hindsight implications of her era…” (ibid).

“That’s why HISTORIANS have to continue reexamining the past to see how it needs to be rewritten” (ibid).

“HISTORY is written from the perspective of THE HISTORIAN, and it’s unavoidable to do otherwise.

“…the HISTORIAN’S values unavoidable enter into the picture” (ibid).

“Of course THIS HISTORICAL PROBLEM is compounded when we understand that the evidence the historian considers is the stuff of the past, and the past is not immediately available for investigation” (184).

“One school of thought sought to … write history ‘free from prejudices,’ and in so doing write the events of the past ‘as they actually happened.’ But MOST MODERN HISTORIANS think this is impossible to do” (ibid).

“In the first place, modern psychology HAS COMPLETELY UNDERMINED TOTAL HISTORICAL OBJECTIVITY…In other words, total objectivity IN A SUBJECT is impossible” (ibid).

“…verifying [a historical event] IS IMPOSSIBLE because verification would require an infinite regress of documentation” (ibid).

“Some thinkers like Carl Beck have gone so far as to deny that we can know the past with any objectivity at all--that historical facts only exist in the mind, and they advocate a historical relativism with regard to the events of the past” (ibid).


Therefore, John it is demonstrably false that you were simply talking about “when it comes to establishing the Christian view of history with its claims about the miraculous that historical evidence is poor evidence when compared to personal experience or the findings of science or logic itself.” It should be clear to any reader of your book that you were undermining the historical procedure, tout court.

You were not just talking about “when it comes to establishing the Christian view of history … historical evidence is poor evidence.” This can be seen by, again, looking at your own words:

“Even though I think [the above] is true, there is A LOT DOUBT ABOUT MANY, IF NOT MOST HISTORICAL CLAIMS….ESPECIALLY those that involve the miraculous” (185).

If you’re having trouble understanding your own sentence, not the use of “especially.” If you were only talking about Christianity, why put “especially?”

Continuing, you use examples from history to bolster your point: Egyptian pyramids, was Shakespeare a fictitious name, how was the Gettysburg battle fought and won, what was Lincoln’s true motivation for freeing the slaves, what happened at Custer’s last stand, who killed JFK, why did America lose the Vietnam war, etc., (ibid). Not only are many of these not historical questions, strictly speaking, I don’t recall reading about them in my Bible. So what of your claim that you were just undermining the Christian’s appeal to history.

Then, based on your assault on all history (as I demonstrated), you claim:

“Is it any wonder, then, why Lessing and Kierkegarrrd both questioned the reliability of historical knowledge to lead on to believe in Christianity…?” (ibid).

It is obvious that you reasoned from the general to the particular.

Furthermore, to demonstrate that you do not just claim that it is Christians who should doubt their historical-based beliefs, you write:

“But if NONsupernatural events in the past are open to doubt, then how much more is it the case with supernatural events in the past” (ibid).

Though your non-sequitur is laughable, the really funny thing is how I demonstrate, again, that you misrepresented yourself. You must not be a “serious thinker,” John.


“To be critical of the past record, ESPECIALLY claims about the miraculous, [is what historians do]” (186).

I have established beyond a reasonable doubt that your chapter begins by attacking historical method in general, and applies your conclusions to Christianity in particular.

So when you claim in your blog piece, “So it is not irrelevant that I added the qualifier Manata dismisses so easily as 'irrelevant' for his purposes. That's the whole context for my argument in that chapter,” any clear-headed thinker can see that the qualifier was CLEARLY irrelevant since you DO undermine historical knowledge and methods IN GENERAL, and so your OTHER statements applied to what Avalos &c. thought they were doing.

JL: “Manata should also understand that D.W. Bebbington, whom I quoted from, is defending a Christian view of history.”

PM: Why? You quoted him as a source in the part of your chapter where you critique historical knowledge in general.

JL: “He earned a Ph.D. from Cambridge and at the time of his book he was the professor of history at the University of Stirling in Scotland. His book was published by InterVarsity Press, a conservative Christian publishing house. So if Manata wants to take issue with me then let him take issue with Bebbington himself.”

PM: All of this is 100% irrelevant to anything I wrote. It doesn't serve to show that I misrepresented you. It is a red herring.

JL: “Manata again:

So is all of the “massive historical evidence” Avalos brought to bear on us, “poor evidence?”
Yes, it's poor evidence if one wants to establish the Christian worldview, which is what he is not doing.”

PM: I’m unsure if Loftus knows how self-serving and special pleading all of this is, but regardless, I demonstrated that your claims in your book goes beyond this face-saving claim of yours.

JL: “Anyone who actually takes the time to read my whole chapter on the subject of history will see quite clearly that Manata misrepresented me.”

PM: Now with the quotes I gave, everyone can see you eat humble pie.

JL: “What I'm wondering is how his credibility will suffer because of what he wrote.”

PM: John has told me that I have no “credibility” on numerous occasions. Why is he so obsessed with “credibility?” Is he projecting? Anyway, how can I lose “credibility” when Loftus has told us previously that I lost it all?

JL: “I never said I couldn't come to reasonable conclusions about history.”

PM: Care to quote me as saying that you said you ‘couldn’t come to reasonable conclusions about history.” At any rate, it’s funny that you would put it that way when all I did was quote you verbatim and ask if Avalos agreed with you.

JL: “And while there is always the possibility I'm wrong about any conclusions I arrive at, it would be a slender reed for you to hang your faith, as I said.”

PM: Right, and the historical arguments from Avalos &c. are “a slender reed” to hang their belief that the author of Exodus 2 based (his) Moses’ birth on the legend of Sargon on.

JL: “Paul promised a reply to what I just wrote earlier today. I haven't seen him respond. Maybe he will. But I do not expect him to be honest with what I said. Shame really. It'll show him to be the hack that he really is. Not to be taken seriously.”

PM: I looked and looked and didn’t see where you demonstrated where I “misrepresented you.” Of course you did a good job at poisoning the well and going off about matters unrelated to this discussion, viz., how would I defend my view of history, how would I show the historical claims of Christianity worthy to “hang belief on?” All of those questions, John, have nothing to do with what your stated aim was: show how I (tried to) misrepresented you.

JL: “Paul, if you want to be taken seriously then you must deal honestly about what someone like me writes.”

PM: John, I want to be found resting in the finished work of Christ alone. Trusting in his righteousness alone. That’s all I care about at the end of the day.

But you should heed your own advice. Since you misrepresented yourself, you are not a serious thinker.

JL: “Now I understand you don't think I deserve any honesty, since you believe God may have created me for hell.”

PM: But I don’t think that. Can you demonstrate that I do? I did you the favor of backing up my claims. Since you just misrepresented me, you must not be a “serious thinker.”

1 comment:

  1. FWIW, in case you weren't already aware, Phil Johnson of TeamPyro blogged about "Touchstone" and made reference to Peter Pike and Triablogue.

    John Loftus also chimes in on the comment thread.

    Here: Stone-Cold Liar.