Saturday, June 16, 2007

The care and feeding of puppy dogs

"Even a cute cuddly dog can get mean and take a bite out of a person if provoked. Likewise, it’s the mitigating factors that dictate under what circumstances you might be classified as a violent person. All we can say is that under those same set of circumstances you might get violent. Under normal circumstances you could be as cute as that cuddly dog."

I see that his apology over the Turkel deception was short-lived. Now he's reverted to self-justification.

For some reason, Loftus is very fond of canine metaphors. And there’s a certain propriety in canine metaphors. For example, the Bible uses a canine metaphor to describe apostates like Loftus. Cf. 2 Pet 2:22.


“Every once-in-a-while I get drug down in the mire when I can’t tolerate what others say about me, and I respond in kind. But it takes quite a lot to push me in that direction, I think.”

Is that a fact? David Wood, for one, was pretty nice to Loftus. That didn’t inhibit Loftus from turning abusive as soon as he starting to lose the argument.


“All I’ve ever wanted was a reasonable discussion of the ideas that separate us, and that’s still what I want.”

No, all he wants is a platform from which to serve up his wormy warmed over arguments for the umpteenth time.


“Anyone who reads what I write on a daily basis can plainly see for themselves that’s what I want.”

Once again, just pay a visit to the combox over at and see for yourself how he conducts himself.


"What I find interesting is the hypocrisy of this. Some Christians can taunt, demean, ridicule me, and be dishonest with me by gerrymandering what I write all of the time and plaster it all over the web. When I finally get fed up with it and respond in kind they take a snapshot of me and plaster that all over the web too, as if this is what characterizes who I am. There’s even a video on YouTube claiming I’m a lying homosexual. The only thing bad about it is that it’s a lie! But I don’t see any condemnation of that video or of it’s creator from fellow Christians. Why not? Do Christians hold other Christians to a lower standard than they hold us atheists to? That would be amusing to me, if so."

I agree that we should not engage in defamation of character.

That said:

1. He's assuming that we're all acquainted with the YouTube video. But why make that assumption?

Why presume that Christians are surfing the web to keep up to date with what someone said about Loftus? I can understand why he would care about that sort of thing, but why should anyone else spend his time that way? It's none of my business one way or the other.

2. I'm in no position to comment on Loftus' sexual orientation one way or the other. How do I know if he's heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or transsexual?

3. Why would he be offended at the insinuation that he's homosexual? As an atheist, he doesn't believe that sodomy is immoral.

Indeed, one of his politically correct objections to the Bible is that Scripture is “homophobic.”

Here's another case, of many, in which Loftus instinctively reacts in a way contrary to his stated creed.

4. Moreover, after his cover was blown in the Turkel incident, why should we not suspect that Loftus is behind the YouTube video as well? Accusing himself for propagandistic purposes so that he can then attack the Christians for allegedly resorting to character assassination.

For all I know, he used that same tactic to shut down the Discomfiter.


"I have to understand that they feel personally attacked by the simple fact that this very blog exists."

Aside from the fact that he's projecting, if you suffer from a persecution complex, then you shouldn't operate a blog devoted to attacking the Christian faith. For you thereby invite a counterattack.

Loftus whimpers a lot. Maybe he needs a tummy rub or a pat on the head. Maybe he needs to be dewormed. That’s a common affliction among puppy dogs.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Beginner's Guide to Eschatology

Places to Begin:

A Case for Amillennialism by Kim Riddlebarger
The Man of Sin by Kim Riddlebarger
The End Times Made Simple by Sam Waldron

A Little Deeper:

The Returning King by Vern Poythress
Understanding Dispensationalists by Vern Poythress
The Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema


The Eschatology of the Old Testament by Geerhardus Vos
The Pauline Eschatology by Geerhardus Vos

Fallen Idol

In answer to a couple of emails I recently received:


The answer depends, in part, on whether you’re asking an intellectual question or an existential question.

Are you asking about the theology of sin? Anthony Hoekema has several chapters on this topic in his book Created in God’s Image.

Likewise, Tom Schreiner discusses the subject extensively (see index and table of contents in his book on Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ.

And, from a more pastoral perspective, there is the first chapter of J. C. Ryle’s book on Holiness.

Or are you asking an existential question in terms of how you internalize the theology of sin?

Because, in this life, our knowledge of God, while pervasive, is somewhat oblique, the idea of sinning against God tends to be a bit abstract. Something we may grasp at a cerebral level, but not identify with at an emotional level.

It also depends on our persona experience with sin. Some converts to the faith have a strong sense of the power of sin because they were once enslaved to destructive, compulsive-behaviors

Likewise, some converts to the faith have a strong sense of the guilt of sin because they have gravely wronged people very dear to them.

However, even if that is not your experience, human beings have been endowed with a capacity to imaginatively empathize with the situation of others. This is why we find fiction so appealing, whether in film, TV, or literature. So it’s possible to analogize from the experience of others to sinning against God.

Imagine if your dad was a hopeless alcoholic. You would certainly appreciate the power of sin, even if you yourself were not a hard drinker.

Imagine, further, if you were raised by your big brother. Your father was too drunk too much of the time to be a father. So your brother had to take up the slack. He became your guide and guardian.

And suppose, despite everything your older brother had done for you, there came a day when you betrayed him. Suppose you were using drugs. They were in your possession.

While you and your brother were driving, suppose you were stopped by the police. Maybe for some minor traffic infraction. Or maybe at a random checkpoint to catch drunk drivers.

In your fear and panic, you plant the drugs on your brother. So he is the one who's arrested, charged, convicted, and imprisoned instead of you.

Or, to vary the illustration, say you had a falling out with your supplier. As a result, there’s a drive by shooting in which you survive, but your brother is killed. And all because of you. Because of your illicit habit.

Imagine the guilt you would feel! Then consider how much more we owe to God than we do to any human mentor or parent.

That should help to give you and me a sense of sin’s ingratitude and gravitas.


There's no firm answer to this question, and one reason is that it's not necessarily the right question to ask.

1. As you know, idolatry has a very specific meaning in Scripture. It's tied up with polytheism.

Preachers often use idolatry as a metaphor. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this generic application, but it's a mistake to read the application back into a passage like Ps 16, as if that's what the Bible is talking about.

2. Another problem with the speaker's position is that it's feelings-oriented. How do you feel about God in relation to "worldly" things?

But, of course, we have little direct control over our feelings. And there's no way to quantify our feelings. How much is too much? How much is too little?

It confronts the Christian with an impossible task.

3. There are many different ways to experience God in this life. Through nature and natural, common grace goods. Through the Bible and other means of grace, like prayer, hymnody, Christian fellowship.

But these are all indirect. In this life we don't get to know Jesus the way the disciples got to know Jesus.

By contrast, we can get to know other people directly (friends, family members).

It's unnatural to suppose that we can feel the same way about a person we've never but, but only read about, than we can about a person we can actually see and hear, hug, live with, or do things with. That's just the way that human nature is wired.

I'd add that God has also be present in the people he's given to us. The people he's brought into our lives.

Some people are emblems of his grace. Embodiments of grace.

4. Instead of trying to focus on our feelings, which is an effect of something else, we should focus on the cause. We should cultivate a spirit of thankfulness. Thank God throughout the day for the many blessings he brings our way. That's one way of finding God's presence in our lives. Even keep a spiritual diary or daily journal, since we tend to forget from one day to the next the many, sometimes unexpected, ways we've been blessed.

And we should apply ourselves to the means of grace, like prayer, Bible-reading, hymnody, devotional reading, Christian fellowship.

And we should also enjoy the good things of life. That's a way of thanking God.

Gratitude doesn't exist in a vacuum. One needs to cultivate a life-experience that gives us reason to be grateful.

That also helps to tide us over during the dry seasons in the walk of faith.

Posturing about the Bible

Chris Tilling has graced the world with yet another miniseries on the inerrancy of Scripture.

He says that he “would love to hear any thoughts about this approach,” and “appreciate feedback as to test his thoughts here.”

Being the kind, caring guy that I am, who am I to refuse a brother in need?

He prefaces his remarks by saying that “At the risk of more personal abuse from certain conservative quarters, in two posts I want to suggest a new statement of inerrancy.”

Tilling lacks a capacity for self-criticism. He’s an emotional child.

He was the one who, in his original series, made abusive comments about the intellectual capacity of Christians who affirm the inerrancy of Scripture. But when you repay him in his own coin, he plays the victim.

And he continues his abusive rhetoric in his new series. Consider this gem:

“If you confess the Chicago Statement of inerrancy, this is no promise that you actually have a high view of scripture. It may simply mean that one is wallowing in self-righteous anti-intellectualism, and loveless, close-minded, aggressive, needlessly defensive dogmatism.”

This might strike some readers as a loveless, aggressive, self-righteous, and dogmatic attack on Christians who affirm inerrancy. But Tilling is too pleased with himself to see in himself what he is quick to see in others.


“One model for scripture, one title, whether it be 'Word of God', 'Witness', 'Inerrant', 'Infallible', or whatever, cannot capture or adequately signify the variety and importance of God's gift of scripture to us.

And that’s because, for Tilling, the word of man, errancy, and fallibility best capture God’s gift of scripture to us.


“Believing that inerrancy simply affirms all in scripture necessary for salvation is without error also doesn't guarantee orthodoxy, or an appropriate posture towards scripture, nor healthy scripture reading habits.”

Actually, this would be a statement of so-called limited inerrancy. Where inerrancy only applies to whatever “in scripture necessary for salvation.”

Incidentally, does Tilling believe that faith in Christ is necessary for salvation? Or does he believe that someone can be saved apart from faith in Christ?

If so, then nothing in Scripture is necessary for salvation, in which case, nothing in Scripture is inerrant.


“Believing the flood 'actually happened', for example, as posited in the Chicago Statement, doesn't guarantee orthodoxy, or an appropriate posture towards scripture, nor healthy scripture reading habits.”

Suppose we substitute a few other Biblical events for the flood, and see how the same statement reads:

Believing the call of Abraham 'actually happened', for example, doesn't guarantee orthodoxy, or an appropriate posture towards scripture, nor healthy scripture reading habits.

Believing the Exodus 'actually happened', for example, doesn't guarantee orthodoxy, or an appropriate posture towards scripture, nor healthy scripture reading habits.

Believing the Incarnation 'actually happened', for example, doesn't guarantee orthodoxy, or an appropriate posture towards scripture, nor healthy scripture reading habits.

Believing the Crucifixion 'actually happened', for example, doesn't guarantee orthodoxy, or an appropriate posture towards scripture, nor healthy scripture reading habits.

Believing the Resurrection 'actually happened', for example, doesn't guarantee orthodoxy, or an appropriate posture towards scripture, nor healthy scripture reading habits.

Believing the Parousia will 'actually happen', for example, doesn't guarantee orthodoxy, or an appropriate posture towards scripture, nor healthy scripture reading habits.

Or, to vary the formula a bit more:

Being a doctoral candidate at Tübingen, for example, doesn't guarantee orthodoxy, or an appropriate posture towards scripture, nor healthy scripture reading habits.

As you can see, Tilling is very concerned that we adopt the appropriate “posture” towards Scripture. To judge by both his series, his conception of the appropriate posture involves the liberal use of the middle finger towards whatever portions of Scripture he can’t bring himself to believe.


“The proclamation of a strict definition of inerrancy – such as the Chicago Statement – is meaningless if one does not live life in such a way that reflects a high view of scripture, by which it is meant that one doesn't maintain and pursue certain practices, nor come with expectancy and faith that God will speak in scripture.”

This is another dumb assertion. In the nature of the case, a standard of conduct must be prior to personal conduct, for the standard is the yardstick by which one measures moral conformity.

It is therefore quite meaningful to begin with a high view of Scripture. And it is because Scripture is inerrant that Scripture can stand in judgment of unscriptural conduct.

“Such a definition doesn't affirm the important and the worthwhile, that which inerrancy does at its best, namely encouraging a daily practice and an internal and communal posture that treats scripture as if God speaks through it.”

Notice the caveat: “as if” God speaks through it.

So is this Tilling’s position? Scripture is really just another uninspired book, but we play a game of make-believe? We pretend that Scripture is the word of God? Pious play-acting?

But the important thing, for Tilling, is that we are engaged in “communal” make-believe. A communal “posture” of make-believe—with appropriate digital gestures.

“While propositional statements are important, an obsession with precise and strict formulations of inerrancy can simply foster the playing of meaningless metaphysical word games.”

i) One wonders if he feels the same way about Christology. Does he apply this disclaimer to the Nicene Creed or Chalcedonian Creed or Athanasian Creed?

ii) More to the point, Tilling is guilty of the very thing which he fallaciously imputes to the opposing side. The faithful are not obsessed with “precise and strict formulations of inerrancy.” For the faithful can simply affirm whatever the Bible teaches.

The faithful only feel the need to define their position in more precise terms when it comes under attack by faithless demagogues like Tilling. Because the silly Tillings like to raise specious objections to the inerrancy of Scripture, the faithful have to formulate their position to address the specious objections.

By contrast, it’s the silly Tillings who have to demarcate the residual kernels of Scripture they still believe in from all the surrounding chaff.

“One can no more define, for example, 'childhood' in a proposition than 'inerrancy'; it needs to be lived and experienced or it is meaningless.”

A self-refuting claim since he is making a propositional statement about “childhood” in the very course of his denial.

“Inerrancy cannot be boiled down to propositional truth claims without violence being done.”

Yet another self-refuting denial since he is having to make a propositional statement about inerrancy in order to negate it.

It’s a pity that a doctoral candidate in NT studies at a prestigious European university is so deficient in mental discipline.

“Don’t want it to remain the sole possession of those who feel they must believe the historicity of the flood, for example.”

Why doesn’t he show the reader a complete list of what Biblical events he still believes in, and what Biblical events he denies ever happened? Maybe in parallel columns.

Tilling draws the boundaries of inerrancy to coincide with what he is willing to believe. It has nothing to do with the witness of Scripture, and everything to do with Tilling.

If Tilling wakes up on Monday morning believing that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, then the raising of Lazarus will fall within the bounds of inerrancy.

If Tilling wakes up next Monday morning disbelieving that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, then the raising of Lazarus will fall outside the bounds of inerrancy.

The outer limits of inerrancy expand or contract to match what Tilling is in the mood to believe from one day to the next, one week to the next, one month or year to the next. Whether or not Lazarus is still rotting in the grave depends on whether Tilling woke up with a hangover.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Force of a Resolution


A resolution has traditionally been defined as an expression of opinion or concern, as compared to a motion, which calls for action. A resolution is not used to direct an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention to specific action other than to communicate the opinion or concern expressed. Resolutions are passed during the annual Convention meeting.

The Southern Baptist Convention also passed a resolution in the early 1980s recognizing that offices requiring ordination are restricted to men. However the BF&M and resolutions are not binding upon local churches. Each church is responsible to prayerfully search the Scriptures and establish its own policy.

From BP:

When the back-and-forth on alcohol finally ended, the messengers passed with more than a four-fifths majority a resolution not only opposing the manufacture and consumption of alcohol but urging the exclusion of Southern Baptists who drink from election to the convention’s boards, committees and entities. Like other resolutions, it is not binding on SBC churches and entities.

From Twelve Witnesses (Art Rogers) Primer on Resolutions:

No resolution is binding on anyone, particularly agencies of the convention.

Any attempt to force an agency to do anything, either through resolution or motion, will be ruled out of order.

The power of the resolution is to make a statement, based on Scripture, heritage and whatever else is appropriate and call for the convention to live up to such and such standards - such as the ability to withstand principled dissent at any time.


Resolutions are not binding. Nobody has to do anything that a resolution calls for, but they are supposedly a “snapshot” of the convention. Media picks up on the resolutions [remember Disney?] and so do the pastors and therefore the churches.

Moreover, if the convention passes a particular resolution and an entity of the convention has policy or procedure that is in conflict with that resolution, which supposedly expresses the “will and mind of the convention,” then during the question and answer time of that entity’s report to the convention, the entity may be asked to account for the discrepancy. Egg on the face does have an impact.
If this is true, then how is the Committee on Resolutions excuse that the resolution on integrity in membership infringes on local church autonomy true? How can people argue that, unless the truth is that the resolutions of times past have been considered binding?

Is this year's resolution on global warming binding?

Is last year's resolution five on alcohol binding?

Is this year's resolution on repentance and prayer binding?

Was the the resolution on Disney binding?

Unless the answer to each of these is "yes," then the excuse given by the Committee on Resolutions and those arguing along the same lines is utterly without merit.

There are many parties in the SBC. Dr. Ascol has stated that there is widespread agreement among those parties that this is "the" big problem in the SBC at present. I submit that this is one issue where the often divided Baptist bloggers can speak this year with a great degree of unity, demonstrating the very spirit that we all know has been lacking in the past year, and for which men like Wade Burleson have called. Can we not at least agree on this? Art Rogers and Marty Duren have committed to follow Steve McCoy's example this year and get away from SBC politics and do more, if they blog at all, with respect to their local churches. The battle for reforming the SBC in this area will be won not by politics but by grass roots efforts. That said, I think there are things the bloggers can do in their writing, if only to keep this issue alive and before the eyes of the SBC's members. Remember, we aren't reading each other's blogs alone, there are folks reading them all the time whom we do not know. I am convinced the average person in the pew is unaware of these issues, and the blogs can help them understand them. I submit that, because of the widespread agreement, this is an issue to which we can each contribute on a regular basis, so that next year, when this resolution comes before the Convention (and it will do so), the messengers will be better educated. The goal is not to force the SBC to pass a binding resolution. Rather, the resolution is a statement of the mind of the Convention. It calls the attention to the problem publicly. The goal is to get the churches to act if only to raise their awareness. A resolution gets people talking.

Let me tell you, from personal experience in my own state convention, what happens when this very problem goes unaddressed. Here, we have a number of churches that are promoting homosexual relationships as a valid lifestyle choice. These are also churches that have for some time been dually aligned with the Alliance of Baptists and/or the CBF. Their contributions to the CP have been minimal at best. Last year, this state convention voted to expel churches that did this after a review process if a complaint was lodged and the church was judged guilty.

As a result, many here are crying about local church autonomy, as if the association of churches / convention has no right to set boundaries for whom it will associate with, as if autonomy is absolute. Simply put, if the local associations had been doing their duty the state conventions would not have to do something. It is true that we believe in local church autonomy. It is not true that autonomy is absolute. When things get out of hand, somebody has to step up to the plate and do the unpopular and exceptional thing. However, that was a motion, not a resolution, so how does a resolution rise to this level?

I would add that absolute local church autonomy is patently, unbiblical. Where in the NT do we find that sort of absolute independence? We don't. What we find in the NT and in the Ante-Nicene church is a loose connectedness. There is some merit to the Presbyterian argument for connectedness in that period, for the churches did communicate to each other and lament declension. 1 Clement is a prime example of one church voicing its concerns to another.

It also flies in the face of Baptist tradition. I believe George Paschal himself noted that the Sandy Creek Association was known for its rather dictatorial supervision of its churches. Stearns and the mother church were so iron handed that the Regular Baptist churches, when they united, purposefully did so with the SCA only if they would stop that sort of behavior. At the same time, Baptist history in the US is littered with associational minutes calling churches to repent for declension. At some point, if the greater group does not draw declension to the attention of the churches in the group, it will get out of hand. I find it rather ironic that those who want to be identified as "Sandy Creekers" relative to Calvinism (or rather the lack thereof) become quite selective when the role of the association arises.

Currently, this denomination can't get half it's people into church on Sunday, not due to sickness or being otherwise accounted for, but for reasons unknown! This should not be. Some are apostate. Some are dually enrolled (or worse) in multiple churches because the churches have not been faithful in keeping records and sending letters. Some are dead, and that's no exaggeration.

Tom Buck said, "Our Baptist history shows that they believed “the first sign of sinning was to stop attending.” Therefore, our own Baptist forefathers used to discipline people over this very issue you are presenting." Amen!

"Attested To You By God" (Acts 2:22)

Jon Curry often makes false and misleading claims about Christianity. (See, for example, here, here, and here.) In a recent thread, he repeated a bad argument he's used before:

It looks more like a biblical proclamation. Kind of like Peter in Acts. He tells a beautiful story, full of claims that will appeal to his listeners desires and thousands convert on the spot without ever checking the claims. It's not logical, but it works....

Even a person that doesn’t have a “problem” with miracles should still be hesitant to just accept any miraculous claim hook, line, and sinker. Even if God does act in miraculous ways this doesn’t mean that he does it on a regular basis. Jews of the first century should be hesitant to accept such a claim, just as you should be skeptical of Benny Hinn’s supposed resurrection performances as well....

Whatever it was that persuaded them [the Jews who heard Peter speak in Acts] it was true, it wasn’t a checking of the facts, which is exactly what it should have been. I’m sure there were other factors beyond just the fact that the message was appealing to them. The persuasiveness and sincerity of the speaker was probably also a factor. You perhaps can think of other things that influenced the decision. My point is simply that what ought to have influenced there decision (fact checking) doesn’t appear to have played a major role, or a role at all for that matter.

I doubt that getting crucified like Jesus, or being treated as Jesus and His followers were treated by their surrounding society in other contexts, would "appeal to the desires" of Peter's listeners. Some of what Christianity offered them would be appealing, but much of it wouldn't be. Judaism was already providing them with a purpose in life, the hope of an afterlife, and other benefits.

Jon tells us that the people who heard Peter speak should have been "hesitant". He tells us that they should have sought evidence.

They were hesitant. And they had evidence.

Before Peter began speaking, they witnessed some of the miraculous results of the coming of the Spirit (Acts 2:5-7). Rather than accepting what they heard from these Christians who were speaking to them in tongues, the people who heard these Christians asked questions, and some opposed them (Acts 2:12-13). As we see repeatedly in the gospels, some people offered a naturalistic explanation in an attempt to dismiss a miracle claim (Acts 2:13). Peter then reasons with these people on the basis of common standards (Acts 2:15) and the similarity between Old Testament prophecy and what had just been witnessed (Acts 2:16-21). Peter then goes on to remind his listeners that Jesus had already been attested in their midst by miracles (Acts 2:22). He appeals to the common theme of a Davidic Messiah and how that theme is applicable to a resurrection (Acts 2:24-35). Peter's listeners were in the region where Jesus' execution took place and would have had weeks to hear reports of a resurrection and discussion of what had happened with Jesus' tomb, for example. They would have known that men like Peter were risking the same sort of treatment Jesus received from the governing authorities by making the claims they were making. Thus, the testimony Peter was offering, corroborated by the testimony of other witnesses (Acts 2:32), including people who had formerly opposed Jesus (Acts 1:14), carried much more evidential weight than Jon Curry suggests. Peter wasn't addressing people who had never heard of Jesus before. Rather, he was reminding them of, and expanding upon, something they had been suppressing (Acts 2:23). The blade was already in their chest, so to speak. Peter just pressed it further (Acts 2:37). Even after all of these things occurred, there are indications that the people still hesitated. Some rejected what Peter said. Those who were more receptive asked what they should do (Acts 2:37), but Peter spoke to them further before they did what he suggested (Acts 2:40). These people seem to have been hesitant both before and after Peter spoke.

Notice, also, that confirming signs continued afterward (Acts 2:43). Nobody honestly and thoughtfully reading the book of Acts should miss the fact that evidential concepts such as eyewitness testimony, fulfilled prophecy, and other confirming miracles are prominent. Much of what I've said about Acts 2 above is present in Acts 3 and beyond as well.

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that these people had never heard of Jesus before, hadn't witnessed the miraculous speaking in tongues, etc. Since Christianity believes in the supernatural convicting and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, it isn't required, within a Christian worldview, that every person have evidence such as what I've described above. Such evidence is useful for making an objective case for a belief system in a public forum like this one, but such an objective case isn't needed to justify personal conversion.

Since Jon mentions Benny Hinn again, readers may be interested in an article I wrote last year regarding the differences between the alleged miracles of Benny Hinn and those of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership - Strike 2!

June 13, 2007, San Antonio, TX, for the second year in a row, the resolution on integrity in church membership was relegated to File 13 by the SBC Resolutions Committee.

Tom Ascol reports:

Every number has a story. That has been a recurring theme of the Southern Baptist Convention this year in San Antonio. We have heard speaker after speaker as well as numerous video presentations make this point. Some of them have been very moving stories of individuals and people groups who have either recently been reached by the Gospel or stand in need of being reached.

This morning, the Resolution Committee and messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention took actions that confirmed that theme--every number has a story. Sadly, the numbers involved tell a sad, sad story.

The Resolutions Committee refused to submit my resolution on integrity in church membership to the convention for vote. As promised, I brought a motion to overrule that decision. It takes a 2/3 majority to overrule that committee. President Page gave me an opportunity to read my resolution on the floor of convention. The debate was for the most part healthy and appropriately spirited. It was very respectful.

My appeal for allowing the convention to consider this resolution was that we had just passed a resolution calling for corporate repentance and "every number has a story." I read the statistics again from our Annual Church Profiles. I emphasized the fact even in the most generous analysis only 37% of our members even care enough to attend a worship gathering once a week. I have addressed the shame of this statistic repeatedly and will not belabor the point again here.

The chairman of the Resolutions Committee, Gerald Harris, responded to my appeal by saying that the committee thought it inappropriate to bring my resolution before the body because they feared it would infringe on the auntomy of local churches. We should not try to tell churches what to do, he said. Well, anyone who read my resolution and the resolutions that were passed this year and other years will recognize that this argument holds no water. However, it is a tremendous advance over last year's response from the chairman that, if churches took my resolution seriously we would lose our most promising prospects for evangelism!

The convention failed to overturn the committee and therefore my resolution never formally came before them for a vote. Several people--of various theological persuasions--came up to me afterwards to express appreciation for the attempt and dismay over the failure of the committee and convention to allow the resolution to be considered. While I am disappointed by these events and, quite honestly, surprised, I am in no way despondent! Think about it, for two years in a row a resolution calling for integrity in church membership has been read on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention. We have discussed these matters. What the discussion has exposed is just how spiritually sick we are. While I don't like the fact that we are spiritually ill, I rejoice that this is being made increasingly apparent. Until we admit we have a problem, we will never seek to address it. In other words, until we see our sin, we will never repent of our sin.

I am encouraged because this conversation will continue for another year and, as promised, I will, by God's grace, be in Indianapolis next year to submit the same resolution. The passing of my resolution is not the goal. The goal is the recovery of the Gospel and reformation of local churches. If the events surrounding the efforts to get this resolution before the SBC can contribute to that by shining the light on how desperately sick we are, then praise God!

1. Did the resolution passed just before not affect local church autonomy?

2. How do resolutions, which are actually nonbinding anyway, an infringement on local church autonomy? Notice that this isn't the excuse given last year.

3. What makes this particularly distressing is the fact that this subject gained positive momentum this past year.

4. I submit it will take the bloggers (again) to pick this up and discuss it with some frequency. It will also take some grass roots work by supporters in their state conventions and associations. I will even distribute literature on this subject at Ridgecrest in November if it will help!

5. I further submit the average person in the pew doesn't understand the issues, because most are poorly taught anyway. That's why 4 is important.

6. I also submit that the SBC still things bigger is better and healthier. I think the time has come to do some tallying from the ACP's for our "flagship" churches, the ones held out as models to emulate, the ones the Pastor's Conference crowd often represents, patting each other on the back in the process. Let's see how they stack up. Will it take shaming the SBC to get their attention? I pray not. This one should be a no-brainer, so what's the problem?

Challenge: Throwing Down The Gauntlet

I'm done with my old style of doing apologetics!

They never work.

Atheists didn't like my arguments.

So, I have new ones. I doubt there's an atheist in the world who can deal with them. When they attack Christianity, my "defense" (apologia) will stop them dead in their tracks.

I made arguments from morals and universals and logic and reasoning and history and how evolution + naturalism undermines our cognitive faculties, etc. These all stink!

So now, bow down to my new set of arguments. I dare atheist to answer them. I dare T-pebble to critique them like he has every argument we've given here. I doubt he can.

Without further ado, check out my rational defense of the faith. Check out my evidences for believing. See if Loftus et. al. can answer these bad boys:

1. Read the Bible. All of it. Twice. Perhaps three times if you need to. 'Til it sinks in and you finally "get it."

2. Ask yourself if the Bible doesn't present the most coherent and compelling account of the story of man, and answers to life's questions, viewed against any and all competing accounts.

3. Consider the challenge of the Gospel: You are a sinner, condemned to death for your transgressions. God loves you despite those sins, so much that he sent His own Son to die in your place, a substitutionary atonement for your sins, if only you are willing to repent, believe and follow His Son.

If you repent, believe, and follow, you shall be saved, eternally. Following Christ isn't easy -- it amounts to dying to yourself, day in and day out, for the rest of your life, so that you may serve God fully -- but this sacrifice is key to freedom from the bondage and slavery all men labor in without God's salvation.

4. Look for the evidence of God's power in the lives of His people. Jesus said you will know His followers by their love, and see for yourself how the love of Christ transforms those who serve Him."

How 'bout 'dem apples?

The Tooth Fairy

As anyone familiar with antireligious polemics knows, a recurring atheist criticism of religious belief is that it is infantile—a childish delusion which ought to have disappeared as humanity reaches its maturity. Throughout his career Dawkins has developed a similar criticism, drawing on a longstanding atheist analogy. In earlier works he emphasized that belief in God is just like believing in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. These are childish beliefs that are abandoned as soon as we are capable of evidence-based thinking.

And so is God. It’s obvious, isn’t it? As Dawkins pointed out in his “Thought for the Day” on BBC radio in 2003, humanity “can leave the crybaby phase, and finally come of age.” This “infantile explanation” belongs to an earlier, superstitious era in the history of humanity. We’ve outgrown it.

Hmmm. Like many of Dawkins’s analogies, this has been constructed with a specific agenda in mind—in this case, the ridiculing of religion. Yet the analogy is obviously flawed. How many people do you know who began to believe in Santa Claus in adulthood? Or who found belief in the Tooth Fairy consoling in old age?

I believed in Santa Claus until I was about five (though, not unaware of the benefits it brought, I allowed my parents to think I took it seriously until rather later). I did not believe in God until I started going to university.

Those who use this infantile argument have to explain why so many people discover God later in life…A good recent example is provided by Anthony Flew (born 1923), the noted atheist philosopher who started to believe in God in his eighties.

Alister McGrath, The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (IVP 2007), 19-20.

Intellectual Laziness

Recently, T-Stone and Loftus have gone to the trouble of admitting what everyone already knew: they don’t read what they respond to. Now, they certainly have the “right” to do this, of course. And on one level I don’t mind it. If they want to show the world they can’t be taken seriously intellectually, I’m all for it (less work for me). On the other hand, it gets really old.

Here’s a perfect example. In comments on this post, I pointed out that T-Stone hasn’t ever responded to my challenge that he prove evolution from the fossil record.

T-Stone said (all of T-Stone's comments will be in bold to differentiate between what he said and my responses):
Still waiting for your answer about whether T and F stand as scientific theories in the syllogism you gave.

(BTW: The syllogism is located in comments on this post).

This doesn't say much for your intelligence, T-Stone, since I've already answered in the very comments you reference. I said:
The point is that my "observation" about gravity (which was used as an illustration, not like I actually believe in "Object X") is identical in structure to the "observations" provided by Newton. That is the point.

Thus, if you agree that Newton's laws of motion are scientific theory, then so too is my hypothetical gravity claim.

And yes, F is a theory too, as I said in the comments:
In other words, if you say that observations are falsifiers, the observations themselves must be expressed in the form of a theory. If you say, "I have observed X to be the case" that is the same thing as saying, "I theorize that X is the case."

Continuing, T-Stone said:
Still waiting for your response on what you would expect for a review of the fossil evidence.

Again, I already told you in those very comments:
By the way, I also note that T-Stone has still not provided us with proof from the fossil record of evolution (proof including, as I stated many times already, the mechanism of evolution, i.e. mutation followed by natural selection).

My comments referred to my previous comments on this post where I said:
Evolution, on the other hand, needs a process by which it can function (genetic mutation followed by natural selection). Mutations cannot be demonstrated by fossils since mutations require looking at DNA. Likewise, natural selection cannot be demonstrated by the fossil record either (except when natural selection is taken in its completely irrelevant tautological sense).

Again, you cannot prove a mechanism for evolution from the fossil bed (natural selection using genetic mutations). All you can prove is that there were organisms that have similar-looking physical structures. But similar-looking physical structures do not prove evolution, for they do not address genetic mutations (something fossils do no preserve in the first place) nor natural selection (which is impossible to "store" in a fossil).

Again, I challenge you to "defeat" this claim. Prove evolution by using fossils alone. Prove linear descent with genetic mutation followed by natural selection.

Notice that T-Stone has not done what I asked him to do. I asked him to demonstrate evolution from the fossil record. I even specifically stated the exact problem he would face--the fact that the fossil record cannot demonstrate a mechanism for evolution (genetic mutation followed by natural selection).

Now all I can say in response to this, T-Stone, is only a complete freaking IDIOT would still be "waiting" for me to explain what I'm looking for.

Look, I know you're not one to read other people's posts and all...but if you're going to post your disagreements and expect to be taken seriously, you're gonna have to do the legwork and actually read what I wrote.

There is no God but Darwin, and Dawkins is his prophet

Since the publication of my book Dawkins’ God in 2004, I am regularly asked to speak on its themes throughout the world. In these lectures, I set out Dawkins’s views on religion and then give an evidence-based rebuttal, point by point.

After one such lecture, I was confronted by a very angry young man. The lecture had not been particularly remarkable. I had simply demonstrated, by rigorous use of scientific, historical and philosophical arguments, that Dawkins’s intellectual case against God didn’t stand up to critical examination.

But this man was angry—in fact, I would say he was furious. Why? Because, he told me, wagging his finger agitatedly at me, I had “destroyed his faith.”

His atheism rested on the authority of Richard Dawkins, and I had totally undermined his faith. He would have to go away and rethink everything. How dare I do such a thing?

Alister McGrath, The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (IVP 2007), 18.

A Tidbit on the Nature of the Will

Posted at Reformation Theology

"For clarity, when the majority of Synergists say that man has free will, what he really means is that causal determinism is false – not that the natural man has the moral ability to chose Christ. Secondly, when a Calvinist says that man does not have free will, what he means is the natural man is spiritually impotent (his affections are in bondage to a corruption of nature) and thus does not have the moral ability to chose Christ.

In this both both sides agree: the desires of the natural man (who do not have the Holy Spirit) are naturally inclined toward evil, thus all he does does not spring from a heart that loves God, even his so-called "good works" since they are not done in faith. And if your "good works" are not done from faith, that is, to please and glorify God, then they have no redemptive element. This inclination is the result of being born in Adam ... fallen, that is, born into a broken relationship with God, and a person (by nature) can be no other way unless he is set free by Christ so that the relationship is mended.

Unbeknownst to many, these are truths that every true follower of Christ knows, even if we do not mean the same thing when we use the phrase, “free will.” Thus, these truths form part of the common ground shared by all true followers of Christ. The question is whether the freedom granted to us in Christ is effectual or ineffectual? Whether we are quickened (regenerated) while we are still dead in transgressions or whether those without the Spirit can understand and love Christ apart from regeneration. The Scriptures answer: "Even, when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ..." (Eph 2:5). So, according to Scripture, while we were still unregenerate, Christ, through the Holy Spirit, quickened us by grace, making us alive in Him. Since a natural man cannot understand spiritual things unless God grants his Holy Spirit to renew our hearts, he will not come unless first quickened. Those dead spiritually (without the Holy Spirit), by definition, do not have faith. Faith is the result of a renewed heart, not the cause of it.

But with regards to the ideas of “free will” and determinism: the central issue has to do with whether things happen contingently or by necessity. Do our natures drive us to make choices by necessity or may we choose against what we are. "You do not believe because you are not of God," Jesus said to those Jews he was debating with. When set free when united to Christ, He gives us a new heart that willingly and voluntarily chooses Christ of necessity.

Libertarian free will and molinism simply do not square with what we believe to be true about God as plainly revealed in Scripture. Therein lies the main issue. (see John chapters 8 and 10)."


Reproduced here by Alan Kurschner

Commentaries Starter Kit

Want to begin to collect commentaries but don't know where to start? Here are just a few to get you going:


NIV Application Commentary on Genesis by John Walton


Exodus by John Currid


Leviticus by John Currid


Psalms: Three Volumes by James M. Boice


Proverbs by Charles Bridges
Proverbs by Tremper Longman

Song of Songs:

Song of Songs by Richard Hess


The Prophecy of Isaiah by J.A. Motyer
God Saves Sinners by Ray Ortlund



Matthew by Craig Blomberg
Matthew by Leon Morris


Gospel According to Mark
by James Edwards


NIV Application Commentary on Luke by Darrell Bock
Luke by Robert Stein


The Gospel According to John by DA Carson


Acts by Darrell Bock (forthcoming)


The Epistle to the Romans by Douglas Moo
The Justification of God by John Piper

1 Corinthians:

The First Epistle to the Corinthians by Gordon Fee
The NIV Application Commentary on 1st Corinthians by Craig Blomberg


The Letter to the Ephesians by Peter T. O'Brien


Hebrews by John Owen
Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul by R. Kent Hughes


The Letter of James by Douglas Moo

Touchstone's Evidentialism, Weighed And Found Wanting

T-pebble and Loftus made, and subsequently defended, a problematic claim. Hating all things T-blog, they have now been forced to equivocate on, and alter, angle, belie, change, collapse, color, contort, deform, deviate, disfigure, distort, doctor, fake, fudge, garble, gnarl, mangle, melt, misconstrue, misinterpret, misrepresent, misshape, pervert, phony up, sag, scam, slant, torture, trump up, twist warp, whitewash, wiggle wrench, and writhe out of the rather precarious position they’ve now put themselves in.

This morning I shot a mouse that I had caught in a glue trap point blank in the head. Unfortunately, there’s no way to put T-pebble and Loftus out of their misery that easy. We must watch them squirm and wiggle, possibly for years.

We should note that I have argued against them here, here, and here. I would wager that probably 75-80% of my arguments have been ignored. Loftus even claims to “not read what I write.” Amazingly he can still respond, though! Did he learn that at TEDS?

T-pebble says: “Paul,

No time tonight to give this more than a quick skim and one quick observation. So you argue here via the "copy-and-paste" method... that strikes me as quite lazy Paul. I think paste in quotations is useful, but in *support* of arguments (I quoted Darwin's Origins over on Pike's post in support of my claim that Darwin relied on fossil evidence in forming his theory), not *as* your argument. I actually did try something like this in an entry-level Philosophy course in college. I was not treated kindly by my professor, nor should I have been. Lesson learned. But this is a blog and you can do what you want.

My response: So you avoid the argument via the “you copy and pasted” red herring? Sorry, I missed that chapter in my logic text books where an argument suddenly isn’t an argument if one copies and pastes it. The purpose of my post was not to be original, as was the case with your philosophy paper, and so your claim is disanalagous, but it does serve to poison the well quite nicely. My post was a bringing together, with supplied commentary, analysis, and original argumentation, of at least 5 separate philosopher’s views on the subject. I furthermore noted, had you cared to read, that I had hoped that the arguments would be taken more seriously because they weren’t made by a T-blogger. I guess I was wrong and arguments are even poisoned if they are “pasted” by a T-blogger.

T-pebble says: “I can't engage with Plantinga or Sudduth, as they aren't participating here; it's fine for you to "adopt" their arguments, verbatim, even, but it's not clear that's what your doing here. As it is, it appears to be "see all these philosophers who have trouble with evidentialism???" To which it occurs to me invites a similarly lazy response: should I paste in selected passages from Bonjour, or Feldman, or DePoe, or the McGrews (or... how many of these do I need to supply to match Paul's name-dropping, again?) and leave off, even knowing that that I don't hold to evidentialism, strictly construed?”

My response: Surely you can engage their *arguments,* for that is what people do *all the time.* They write books and engage other people’s arguments found in other books.

I was not merely saying “see all these *philosophers* who have problems with evidentialism,” but, rather, “see all these *arguments* against evidentialism.”

I would furthermore *welcome* your arguments against my arguments, whether they be your own or other philosophers who you copy and paste, since that would be *at least some kind* of interaction on your end. If you want to “stand by” their arguments, then you fall with them to. So, refute them, refute you.

Lastly, you do hold to evidentialism as I showed and will show. I didn’t think the fact that your thoughts are incoherent and your statements inconsistent was the “evidence” you were going off to say that I haven’t pegged you.

T-pebble’s strong [sic] point: “But all that is really secondary to the strong point I want to make here for tonight: Paul remains incorrigible with respect to the claims and arguments that he is reacting to in the first place, here. This "reminiscence" is not something I recognize at all from my arguments, and do not recognize in my understand of Loftus' arguments:”

My reply: Of course this is what we’ve been over before and T-stone has totally failed to interact with the vast majority of all my posts. So, I guess we’ll go through it again. It’s funny that he called “copy and pasting” more “wasted bandwidth.” Certainly repeating refuted arguments is “more wasted bandwidth,” no?

I previously had written: Paul said:

John Loftus claimed: "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."

Obviously reminiscent of Clifford's The Ethics of Belief: "To sum up: it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

There's nothing new under the sun. Loftus was claiming what Clifford was.

T-stizzle fo shizzle claims: Loftus can speak for himself (or not) here; for my part, I reject this "reminiscence" as wholly mistaken in its understanding of what was claimed by me, and as far as I can tell, by John as well.

If this post is committed to a premise that I am defending the arguments of Clifford, then there's no point in proceeding at all, for my part: it's fundamentally mistaken in its premises.

In that sense, I suppose it's good that Paul has opted for a "cut-and-paste" job for his... arguments here, as this is all aimed at -- again, let the record show -- boxing shadows. No point in investing the time to argue in your own words against a scarecrow, right?

My reply: Surely T-stone doesn’t think that his “say-so” is enough to overturn my claim, right? If I say, “New York is smelly,” then it makes no difference if a group a New Yorkers corner me in an alley way and threaten to feed me to the fishes for saying that and I respond, “I didn’t say New York is smelly.” I mean, I could punk out and deny what I claimed, but then I’d be a punk. So, T-stone certainly can deny the implications of his claims if he has no problem with being a punk who’s afraid to stand behind his words (or the *logical* implications of his words.). With that caveat in mind, let’s proceed…

T-stone claims: “Specifically, I reject the "always", the "everywhere", the "anyone" and the "anything" in your quote from Clifford as being necessary qualifiers for my claim. Which means you've got it completely wrong, Paul, if you suppose this is my position (or Loftus' so far as I can tell). I've specifically rejected these extremes previously, yet you apparently are unwilling to engage on what is asserted, and instead stand up Mr. Clifford as some kind of proxy to argue against. Why is this, Paul?”

My reply: Oh really? Okay, let’s analyze this. We’ll need to quote the John Loftus Thesis again for the context:

(JLT) = "Whatever we believe we should demand evidence for that belief.”

Logically, “whatever” is the same as “anything.” So, that knocks T-stone’s denial that he does not accept Clifford’s “anything.”

Logically, in context, “we” means “anyone.” If not, this is not the case then John’s Thesis is:

(JLT*) = “Some things that some people believe, some people should demand evidence for that belief.”

If I have (JLT*) correct then note: (a) John needs bigger help than I do in writing and grammar! And, (b) this is *my* position and is what *I* have argued from since *post 1.* They should have agreed with me from post one then. Therefore, granting that John knows how to use the English language, and that T-stone and Loftus are not the type to debate with people they agree with just for the sake of debating them, we can say that (JLT*) is not correct.

In fact, to prove that I have never denied (JLT*) I quote myself from a PREVIOUS thread (actually, from my *first* post on this subject, we‘re on the *4th,* now!):

Paul Manata‘s Previous Agreement With (JLT*),: “ 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. (emphasis original)

Therefore, any claim that Loftus or T-stone are supporting something like (JLT*) is to agree with me and admit that something like (JLT) is subject to the infinite regress argument. So, at best, I was wrong because I mistook “everything” for “some things.” But since I’ve admitted this before, and they keep going, we can assume that they do not agree with (JLT*).

Since “whatever” is logically the same, in this context especially, as “anything,” and since “we” is the same as “anyone” then we could also write (JTL) this way:

(JLT**) = “"Anything anyone believes we should demand evidence for that belief.”

(JLT) and (JLT**) are logically the same and to deny it forces one to hold to (JLT*). If (JLT) and (JLT**) are the same then T-stone *does not* disagree with Clifford’s “anything” and “anyone.” If T-stone agrees with (JLT*) then T-stone agrees with me. If (JLT*) is correct, then my position in this debate is correct. T-stone has made it clear that he doesn't agree with me. He has made it clear that he is talking about everyone and all beliefs. Hence he agrees with Clifford so far.

Lastly, Clifford includes parameters like “everywhere” and “always.”

This would makes Clifford’s Claim look like this:

(CC) “All times and places are times and places where it is wrong for anyone to believe something on insufficient evidence.”

T-stone disagrees? Okay:

(CC*) “Some times and places are times and places where it is wrong for anyone to believe something on insufficient evidence.”

Oh, he disagrees with “anyone” too. Okay:

(CC**) “Some times and places are times and places where it is wrong for some people to believe something on insufficient evidence.”

But of course I *agree with* (CC**). My posts have made this clear. My posts have made this clear from the beginning.

Unfortunately, once cannot *logically* get out of (CC**) the claim that: “All beliefs are things that should have evidence demanded of them.”

Furthermore, T-stone clearly thinks that “ALL” beliefs “SHOULD” have evidence for them. Here are some statements:

- “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.”

- “That's a solid, empirical basis for the belief that beliefs should have evidential bases underneath them.”

- “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.”

- “We believe 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.

- “I don't doubt there are beliefs that have no evidence. That's not controversial at all, and not what John or I asserted. Rather the assertion is that beliefs *SHOULD* have evidence supporting them.”

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

And T-stone unequivocally responded:

- “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.”

Therefore, it is painfully obvious that T-stone is arguing that every single one of our beliefs, whether it’s about “survival,” religion, or “getting the Higgins account closed to make your numbers for the quarter,” are things that “SHOULD” have evidence for them. Moreover, “we” is best translated as “anyone.” And, no matter the place you’re at (e.g., at work trying to close the Higgins account), or what time it is (e.g., a time when we need to survive,), the beliefs we have then and at that time "should" have evidence for them. Hence John agrees with Clifford's "always" and "everywhere." Furthermore, since “should” is the claim T-stone makes, and assuming it is “wrong” to do things we “shouldn’t do,” and if “all” our beliefs “should” have evidence for them, then, logically, this can be translated to, “none” of our beliefs “should not” have evidence for them,“ then it is “wrong” to do what we “shouldn’t do.” The logic is undeniable. Therefore, T-stone argues that “anyone” in “anyplace” and at “any time” is someone who “ought” to have evidence for their beliefs. Let’s look at Clifford’s Exact Quote, which T-stone said he categorically denied:

(CEQ) = “To sum up: it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

I therefore claim, on the basis of the logic and argumentation above, that T-stone and Loftus are indeed agreeing with Clifford. As I said, just because T-stone can’t see the *logical implications* of his statements and so *merely asserts* that he’s not arguing Clifford’s thesis, does not mean that T-stone is *nevertheless* in fact arguing for Clifford’s thesis! Therefore, I’m showing that T-stone agrees with (CC) and not (CC* or CC**). I am the one who agrees with (CC* or CC**), see above.

So, how does T-stone get out of the clear implications of the logic of his position? He claims he’s making an “inductive” argument. But I don’t see how this gets him out of anything. We already saw that he clearly believes that “all” beliefs “should” have evidence for them. Since this is so, he believes that “no” beliefs “should not” have evidence for them. To say “it is possible that a belief might not have evidence for it, since my claim is inductive,” is extremely ambiguous. First, I have admitted that plenty of our beliefs do not have evidence for them. So, I’m not denying that. No, his claim would have to be: “it is possible that some beliefs should not have evidence for them.” But, if this is *true,* then it is *false* that “all” beliefs “should” have evidence for them. But, T-stone doesn’t believe this. In fact, he believes that though a belief “might not” have evidence for it, it nevertheless *should* have evidence for it.

- “Sometimes we have little to no evidence in view for decisions or beliefs that are required. That's life. But those pragmatic constraints don't diminish the truth of what John asserted, based on our experience; we *should* have evidence for our beliefs.


- “I don't doubt there are beliefs that have no evidence. That's not controversial at all, and not what John or I asserted. Rather the assertion is that beliefs *SHOULD* have evidence supporting them.”

Therefore, it is obvious that T-stone is arguing that **EVERY SINGLE ONE** OF OUR BELIEFS **SHOULD** HAVE EVIDENCE FOR THEM. T-stone’s claim then, is not inductive. He’s claiming that “If there’s a belief, there should be evidence for it.” This is a *normative constraint.* Perhaps we should break the analysis out this way - the Two Options:

(TO) = Either we should have evidence for every single one of our beliefs or we shouldn’t.

So if T-stone denies the first half of the disjunct we’d have this premise P2:

(P2) It is not the case that we should have evidence for every single one of our beliefs.

To which the conclusion would follow:

(C1) Therefore, we shouldn’t have evidence for every single one of our beliefs.

Call this TO Argument 1. I obviously have been affirming (TOA1). This can be seen from the fact that it does not follow from the claim that we shouldn’t have evidence for “ALL” of our beliefs then we shouldn’t have evidence for “SOME” of our beliefs. It is obvious that T-stone denies the second half of the disjunct given my quote from him directly above. Hence we can fill out the argument:

(P2*) It is not the case that we should not have evidence for every single one of our beliefs.

(C1*) Therefore, we should have evidence for every single one of our beliefs.

Call this TO Argument 2. T-stone has been shown to affirm (TOA2). Now, since we “should” have evidence for “all” of our beliefs, then it would be false to say that we “shouldn’t” have evidence for all of our beliefs. And it would be false to say that we "shouldn't" have evidence for *soem* of our beliefs. This is not an "inductive" claim, then. Indeed, given the force of “should,” if T-stone notes that he does indeed hold beliefs without evidence, he should give them up. No belief shouldn’t have evidence for it. This is not inductive. To see that, let’s look at a More Obvious Example:

(MOE) = We shouldn’t torture little children for the pure pleasure of it.

Now, one could say that, “To sum up: it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to torture little children for the pure pleasure of it." Thus I would *never* say that it “may” or “might” be acceptable to torture little children for the pure pleasure of it, in some cases! Thus (MOE) shows us the true nature of a claim like this. T-stone’s position is that one should *never* violate the conclusion of (TOA2). If they are then they’re doing something that they “shouldn’t” be doing. If it is okay, acceptable, etc., *in some cases* to believe things without people saying that we “should” have evidence for it, then it’s wrong to say that we “should have evidence for all of our beliefs.” If that is wrong then (TOA1) is the case, This is my position.

As I had previously argued. If it is true that there can be warranted beliefs of which we have positive epistemic status when holding them, then we "shouldn't" have to have evidence for them. I pointed this out this way: Not all beliefs need propositional evidence in support of them to be warranted or justified or have positive status. Likewise, not every street requires me to go 25 MPH. On *this street* [the one requiring me to go 25] it would be “good” to go, and I “should” go, 25. If I am on a street that doesn’t require 25, but, rather 45 MPH, then it is neither “bad” nor immoral for me to not go 25! So, no, if I can and do have positive epistemic status for beliefs without propositional evidence in its favor, then I deny the claim that I “should” have this evidence for all my beliefs. If I “should” not rape, then NO INSTANCE of rape is “good.” Therefore, if T-stone thinks this about beliefs then NO INSTANCE of beliefs without propositional evidence in their favor are “good” things. And thus we’re back at the regress.

Therefore, since T-stone’s claim is that “every single one of anyone’s beliefs should have evidence demanded of it,” I then “demand” evidence for *that* belief. For him to resort to past experience raises two problems: (a) John Loftus, the claim he’s defending, said that “evidence from history,” which past beliefs are, “is not good evidence,” and (b) this is a *belief* about his past and reliability of his memory. Since *this belief* should have evidence demanded of it, then I so demand. Ad infinitum….

Now, T-stone goes on to make some comments which he thinks clarify his position, but they actually serve to elucidate his muddle-headedness. Let’s look at them:

T-stone sez: “Just as a baseline, I do assert this:

(1) Evidence is a proven, (and undeniable) basis for forming true beliefs.

I sez back: Though I could quibble here that based on T-stone’s relativistic presuppositions, things he’s asserted before (and I have the quotes) he has no basis to say that (1) is “undeniable.” In fact, it *is* deniable by many skeptics, see Stroud, (the former) Unger, Sextus Empiricus, et al. I agree with (1) even though it‘s roughly stated.

T-stone: “(2) Justified bases for true beliefs that obtain without any evidence *may* exist, but their warrant and justification are problematic, whereas evidence-as-warrant/justification is not problematic.”

My reply: First, T-stone said that they *do* exist, not “may.” I had asked him, “So, would you and John admit that I can be justified and warranted in a belief that has no propositional evidence in its favor?” And T-stone replied, I hope so, as I'm confident that some beliefs I hold would probably qualify under that distinction…, and so T-stone is “confident” that he *has* beliefs that “do not” have evidence in their favor! His claim is not a “maybe” but a “sure does.”

Second, Why are their “warrant and justification problematic?” Because they don’t have evidence? But this *begs the question.* T-stone may say, “because then you might not have a “basis for forming true beliefs?.” Why? T-stone may say, “because you have to have evidence as a basis to form true beliefs.” But this *begs the question.* T-stone may say, “because it helps you accomplish your goals.” Why? Furthermore, this is a *pragmatic* argument. That we can accomplish the ends we want does not mean our “evidence” or “beliefs” is *true.* And, people can accomplish goals with false beliefs. As Gordon Clark as pointed out:

“How science can be useful though false is illustrated in a delightful textbook on inductive logic. Milk fever, the illustration goes, until late in the nineteenth century, was a disease frequently fatal to cows. A veterinarian proposed the theory that it was caused by bacteria in the cows’ udders. The cure therefore was to disinfect the cow, which the veterinarian proceeded to do by injecting Lugol solution into each teat. The mortality under this treatment fell from a previous ninety percent to thirty. Does not this success full treatment prove that the bacteria were killed and that Lugol cured the disease? Unfortunately another veterinarian was caught without the Lugol solution one day, and he injected plain boiled water. The cow recovered. Had water killed the bacteria? What is worse, it was found later that air could be pumped into the cows’ udders with equally beneficial results. The original science was wrong, but it cured the cows nonetheless.”

Philosophers of Science like Larry Lauden have offered us lists of successful theories which turn out to be false. Examples are: “Ptolmaic astronomy, chemical affinity theory, subtle fluids chemistry and physics, Newtonian Mechanics, classical thermodynamics, wave optics, humoral theory of medicine, phlogiston theory of chemistry, caloric theories of heat, vibratory theory of heat, the theory of circular inertia, theories of spontaneous generation” (MNoreland, Christianity And The Nature of Science, p. 155). The list could be extended. Indeed, pragmatism as a species of Instrumentalism is a famous anti-realist position!

Or, perhaps T-stone will say that “evidence helps us form true beliefs and hence survive.” Why? “Because those with evidence survive better.” Never mind that this still doesn’t prove his universal claim, it has other problems. (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. 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.

Lastly, given an externalist and proper function epistemology, it is not a “problem” to have warranted beliefs without propositional evidence. T-stone is just making assertions and failing to address me where he knows I’m at. That is, his enthymeme is terribly bias. It’s only true if a debated and problematic epistemic position is assumed. Thus one shouldn’t offer enthymemes which rest on hotly disputed premises.

T-stone: (3) Because of (2), evidence is a naturally preferable basis for obtaining true beliefs. (this is the underpinning for "should" in John's original claim, in my view)

My reply: I’ve undermined to and so anything that is “because” of (2) is suspect. Furthermore, I’ve shown that “should” applies to every belief and therefore it applies to (3) as well. So, I “demand” evidence for (3), and (2) for that matter. Lastly, even if this is true, it doesn’t prove T-stone’s claim which I have painstakingly laid out above: “All beliefs, universally, should have evidence for them.” That’s what he’s trying to prove. And, he cannot allow even *one* belief to pass this test because that would be like allowing *one* person to torture a child for pleasure in (MOE) above.

T-stone: “(4)Cases *may* exist where evidence is not possible as underwriter for a belief, even in principle. In such cases, it is reasonable to ask a) what, if not evidence, does serve as the warrant/justification for this belief? and b) does a commitment to this belief *need* to be made?”

Reply: Typical. T-stone can’t even keep track of the discussion. No one is disputing that some beliefs “may” not have “evidence” for them. Indeed, there are thousands. We’re also not disputing that some “true beliefs” may not have evidence for them since they’re lucky guesses. We’re arguing that T-stone is committed to the claim that “ALL” beliefs “SHOULD” have evidence for them. Since he can’t deny this, then he has the regress problem.

And, to answer (a) and (b): (a) the fact that it has been produced by cognitive faculties that are properly functioning, successfully aimed at producing true beliefs, and you are in the right environment, I.e., one sufficiently similar to that which your cognitive faculties have been designed for. As for (b); it does if you want to be warranted in your belief in other minds, the past, induction, etc.

T-stone asserts: “In my view, John Loftus' statement -- "We should demand evidence for all our beliefs" -- reflects (1)-(4) above. I quote John as saying in his clarifying comments posted at 6/08/2007 3:22 PM:

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.

This alone should be enough for Paul to avoid equating Loftus' (or my) arguments with Cliffords. If he is to be responsible here, he will take note of Loftus' words and my words, which are incompatible with Cliffords ("always", "everywhere", "for anyone", "anything").

My reply: And of course we should not that neither T-stone nor Loftus has as of yet interacted with my response to JL’s claim. Furthermore, I have shown above that the only way that *this claim* lets them off the hook is for them to *deny other claims* that they have made. My argument is that they are holding a irrational position in that they are holding inconsistent beliefs and have been made aware of this. Thus if “the need for evidence doesn’t apply to said beliefs” means “evidence shouldn’t be demanded of said beliefs” then T-stone’s claim here, for instance, is wrong: “I don't doubt there are beliefs that have no evidence. That's not controversial at all, and not what John or I asserted. Rather the assertion is that beliefs *SHOULD* have evidence supporting them” (emphasis original). If JL’s claim means “evidence shouldn’t be demanded of them,” then we have something similar to a denial of (MOE)-type claims. If “evidence shouldn’t be demanded of them,” then we affirm (TOA1) above, my position. Thus if JL is correct, then it is *true* that “not all beliefs should have evidence demanded of them,” and hence T-stone is either wrong or shown to be agreeing with me yet debating me.

T-stone claims: “Paul tries to justify this gross misrepresentation by asserting that "always", "everywhere", "for anyone", and "anything" as offered by Clifford are *necessary* by virtue of the normativity of epistemology.”

My reply: With the above work on my part, I can now easily dismiss this. In fact, I showed, logically, that T-stone agreed with Clifford. The only way for his claims to disagree with Clifford is if we grant him problems with grammar worse than mine, and problems with clear-thinking worse than Sloth from the Goonies! “Ru, ru, Baby Ru.”

T-stone sez “I will note that in this case, his straw man is quite capable, and while it's not my argument, the only way I can see that Paul manages to wrestle his opponent of straw to the ground is through selective cut-and-paste. If a *real* evidentialist -- and I have engaged and debated some at considerable length -- were to stand in the place of Paul's straw opponent, the exchange would be quite different than the heroic victory Paul portrays with the command-v key on his keyboard.”

My reply: Of course given that I have argued in the combox of one post, as well as two original posts from me, way before I ever did the “cut and paste” job, I must take the above as creamy sophistic filler intended to add form to the soft and spongy Twinkie shell his ‘arguments’ have been laid out in. And, we can note that T-stone has admitted my arguments against him have been “quite capable.” Just because he irrationally and illogically doesn’t *think* his position is the one I’m refuting, that doesn’t mean that it *isn’t* the position I’m refuting.

T-stone off-roads: “Naturalist epistemologies do not rely on a priori norms as the building blocks for their normativity; if a theist proposes a set of norms for their epistemology as *prescriptive*, the naturalist will offer norms that are *descriptive* -- norms that are the distillation of empirical and observational evidence.”

My reply: Of course this doesn’t have much to do with the convo, but of course the naturalist will have something like “proper function” to go off of. And this runs into Plantinga’s argument.

And, simply claiming that there are *descriptive norms* doesn’t come close to *showing* that there are. Descriptions don’t get prescriptions, and that’s what T-stone has been arguing. Furthermore, this doesn’t help *Loftus* since he’s an internalist, and I have quotes upon quotes to prove it. For example: “How do you know that you know God is not deceiving you?” Be that as it may, I’d love to see the *norms* that are distilled from “empirical observations.” Indeed, the norms are there *before* you form them! That is, to assume that “empirical observation is evidence for the claim that we should have evidence for all our beliefs” is “good” evidence to “build” your norms from assumes that you “should” have “good evidence” to “build your norms from.” Thus you have the norms *before* your supposed “building up from evidences.”

And, lastly, see this idea of yours get run through the ringer here:

T-stone claims: “In this sense, then, Paul's "should" problem breaks down into a conflation of differing models of normativity -- prescriptive and descriptive. It's a non-starter to wonder how a naturalist establishes epistemic normativity in the *prescriptive* sense; her norms obtain descriptively, and she points to the witness of experience as the basis for what we "ought" to require in terms of justifying our beliefs.”

My reply: Of course T-stone is now trying to do more shuffling. He’s now trying to dodge my arguments against “should.” Descriptive normativity is like the normativity involved in saying, “my heart ‘should’ beat so many times a minute.” That is to say, these are physical processes which are byproducts of the evolutionary workshop, and something works the way it “should” if it does what it was “designed” to do, or what its “purpose” is. But of course when one claims that all beliefs should have evidence “demanded” of them, one isn’t assuming *this kind* of normativity. To say that it can be “demanded” of us is to assume an internalist approach to epistemology. And, naturalism isn’t internalist. But, say it is. What worldview can make sense of the claim that our “design plan” is to “produce mostly true beliefs?” This assumes Plantinga’s arguments and T-stone failed to interact with my arguments for this, and my defenses of his brief comments about it.

Furthermore, a failure of this kind of normativity is that, the first time an organ did have some consequence that was useful to the organism, that did not constitute being functional for the organism, because there was not yet any evolutionary selection history for that useful consequence. So, *this belief* that was based on “evidence” wasn’t “normative” and, therefore, T-stone’s claim is falsified.

And, next, what about *this belief* itself? “Ought” it to have “evidence?” If not, then experience doesn’t say that “all” beliefs “ought” to have evidence. If it does, what is the evidence? And, once you give it, do you believe that it is evidence for your claim? If so, what is *that evidence?* Ad infinitum

Lastly, how is experience alone a “basis for what we ought” to do?

T-stone admits: “The "should" then, in Loftus' claim, is only pinned to a *descriptive* construction of normativity, and is manifestly at *odds* with a prescriptive construction of normativity. That means that "should" means "should" in the sense of "this has been proven to work on a wide array of truth problems", a sense which disavows "always", "for anyone", etc.”

My reply: Okay, and if this is denied then, according to (TOA1), I’m right. We “shouldn’t” have evidence demanded for all our beliefs.

Furthermore, “should” means “this has proven to work on a wide array of truth problems.” But I’ve agreed that evidence is fine for many beliefs since post 1. So, how was this *my* confusion? Looks more like T-stone’s backpedaling to me. If they now want to admit that it is false that: “All beliefs are things that should have evidence demanded of them,” I’m all ears. And, let’s redo the original claim:

(JLT***) “Some beliefs are things that have been proven to work well on a wide array of truth problems.”

And from the first combox discussion I never even came close to intimating that I denied (JLT***). I even asserted that I agreed with it. But, we don’t know what the “demanded” part means.

Lastly, T-stone is again his worst enemy. Previously he had claimed:

- “You will be maintaining "controlling beliefs" that have no apparent epistemic foundation. As such, they represent a risk to your ability to make sense of the real world around you. That very well may not lead you to murder, but empirically, we observe that more accurate models of the world around us are assets in the pursuit of our goals, and less accurate models are liabilities in pursuit of same.


- If you are entertaining beliefs that have neither a) evidentialist support or b) any other kind of epistemic support, then such a worldview *would* result in a visit by the "worldview police", in the form of the real world being both practically and fundamentally unintelligible for you. And I think such a position would often lead to what can be called "torment" -- the inability to make headway against the challenges of the real word.

Obviously we can see the “prescriptive” element in T-stone’s claims here. A “descriptive” normativity simply tells us *how we function,* but a “prescriptive” one tells us how we “should” function! I highly doubt that if it was the case that we formed beliefs without evidence all the time, and happened to succeed and survive simply because of a wild case of epistemic luck, T-stone would deny that we “should” have evidence. In fact, I noted above that he claimed that “whatever we believe,” even something like the Higgins account, we “should” have evidence for it. This is prescriptive, especially since T-stone has granted that we do, *in fact* believe things without evidence all the time! This is a *description.* In fact, *most* beliefs people have probably have insufficient evidence. Therefore should I be a good T-stonian naturalist and reason that “we *shouldn’t* have evidence for most of our beliefs because we don’t!”? Thus T-stone is laying down a prescription. What if T-stone met a fellow who did “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” as a way to pick things. Say do to luck he always picks the things which helps him succeed. Would T-stone tell this guy that he *shouldn’t* try to base his beliefs on evidence? What if the guy said, “My experience shows this has been a proven way to work on a wide variety of truth problems.”? On T-stone’s logic he would have to tell the guy that he shouldn’t believe things based on evidence. No, this is prescriptive. T-stone is telling us how we *should* believe, even if we *didn’t* believe this way. So, I highly doubt T-stone is saying, “No, you shouldn’t have evidence for your beliefs, it just is the case that some of our beliefs are more successful or closer to truth if we have evidence for them.” Never mind I pointed out that this “evidence” is not necessary and sufficient for knowledge, no one disagrees with this. Please tell me T-stone has been pretending to disagree with me this entire time!