Saturday, June 16, 2012

The "Reasonable Doubts" podcast on presuppositional apologetics: Part 3

We continue our review of the Reasonable Doubts podcast on presuppositional apologetics with a few final posts about the alleged deception of the God of the Bible. Since the Doubtcasters mentioned numerous biblical passages to attempt to substantiate their accusation, it will be best to break the review up into more than one post.

The Doubtcasters attempt to level a contradiction between Titus 1:2 and other passages.
Titus 1:1Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago...

The DCers believe they are showing that God is guilty of deception.
Perhaps my favorite comment of the entire episode is when Justin Schieber says that there's a rather large discussion of the deception of God at the urbanphilosophy site, and that unfortunately the biblical arguments were never brought up. What a laughable surprise - that the discussion there would avoid the Bible. How about that?

The first pericope I would like to deal with is the account of King Ahab, his court "prophets", and the true prophet of Yahweh named Micaiah in 2 Chronicles 18:12-28 and 1 Kings 22.

The Doubtcasters charge God with stepping in to make other prophets of the king lie about the upcoming battle, and assert that it's clear that God is not just letting Ahab believe what he already wants to believe, but rather God is actively engaged in the deception. A demonic agent who is going to go spread lies is volunteering for a job that God initiates.

In response, let us note the relevant things from the text:
-Obviously it's known that Micaiah is a real prophet of Yahweh and not of the false gods whose worship Ahab and his queen Jezebel had invested decades in instituting in Israel. Jehoshaphat recognises this fact when he asks for Micaiah rather than the sycophants in Ahab's court.

-Even the messenger knew that Micaiah was something of a misfit.

-Even Ahab knew it. It would appear that Micaiah's original line was delivered with some amount of sarcasm, for Ahab adjures him to tell him exactly what he saw.

-The true prophet of God Micaiah tells Ahab exactly what he saw.

-Ahab acknowledges that the prophecy communicated to him from Yahweh was not good: “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”

-So, to review: Micaiah does tell Ahab exactly what he saw.
God told Ahab the honest truth.
So, right on the face of it, while the Doubtcasters want us to think that God lied to Ahab, here is the exact opposite information.

A few other items:

-Ahab knows that this man speaks for Yahweh and Micaiah doesn't hide but rather explicitly exposes the fact that this lying spirit went into the mouths of these court false prophets. Ahab knows the truth.

-And because Ahab is an evil, faithless fool, he refuses to listen to what God said. The warning is right there in front of him.

-Now, as far as the episode with the lying spirit, the DCers might have a point if God had said "Who will lie to Ahab?" He didn't say that, though. He asked who would be willing to entice Ahab.

-If God wanted to lie to Ahab, He would have given the false message to the guy who was known to be Yahweh's true messenger - Micaiah. But no - He gave Micaiah the true message. But of course, that's not good enough for the DCers that God told Ahab the truth through the trustworthy messenger and permitted the false spirit to take the second-best and give the false prophecy through the useful idiots in Ahab's court.

-Why would a message from false prophets that Ahab knew were not really prophets but were instead just pagan sycophants that he himself had installed for his own pompous arrogance actually deceive Ahab?
Was he indeed deceived? Perhaps, and the DCers would need to show us why it's God's fault for telling him the truth. Rather, it looks like Ahab is self-deceived and believes at some level in his own grandiosity. He installed the false prophets; he can do better for himself than Yahweh is telling him he is going to turn out.

-If poor ol' Ahab was so thoroughly tricked by God and was the victim as the DoubtCasters want to make us think, why did he take care to disguise himself in the battle whereas he encouraged righteous King Jehoshaphat to wear his royal garments?

-It is clearly God's purpose to bring Ahab to judgment through the means of this battle. Interestingly, He chooses to do so in such a way as to highlight the foolishness and idiocy of just another rebel against God who, like the DCers, thinks he can do it better than God can.

According to the Bible, God gets to judge any sinner (read: any person) and put them to death at any time. He is God; we are rebellious, sinful creatures. As noted before, every second we continue to live, every breath we draw, is because of God's great mercy and patience. If God chooses to put this evil king to death via a fight that he himself started, why isn't that God's business?

So, in summary, God didn't lie; He actually told Ahab the truth. Ahab preferred to listen to the guys he knew were fakes and takes action to try to make what Yahweh said not occur. He asked who would entice Ahab, not who would lie to him.
God's accepting the lying spirit's offer to entice Ahab by lying and telling that spirit the future, not by way of encouragement but by way of information, that it would succeed in its task, is the same thing as God using the devil to accomplish His own purposes at any other time and in any other place.
Ours is a robust theology of God's interactions with the devil; the devil plays his own part in bringing about God's purposes. The DCers need to interact with our theodicy on a consistently internal basis before they can make any headway in cases like these. They have barely even scratched the surface so far.

Ironically, any moral objection the DCers might posit even from their own utilitarian position couldn't hold up. This Ahab guy was willing to go to war, putting thousands of Hebrew farmboys in harm's way, for what appears to be little more than a contest over some territory. This is worse than President Dubya and Halliburton invading Iraq! Wouldn't the DCers have positively chortled to see President Dubya suit up and join the men on the front lines like Ahab did?
And Ahab doesn't even have the guts to show himself for who he is, but instead dresses like a common soldier. Is it better for the nation that one power-obsessed king get his just desserts in a fight that he picked? Pretty much all the soldiers got to go home after Ahab died - didn't that drastically increase the well-being and happiness of the whole nation whereas it only took the death of one power-hungry dictator?

Now for a few other notes from DCers' commentary on these passages.
As noted before, Dave Fletcher consistently demonstrates a high level of biblical ignorance, but I think Doctor Professor Luke Galen's ignorance rivals his. Galen asks sneeringly: is this like Job where these demons can just wander up to God and say "OK, I can do some dirty work"?
The answer is yes, that is where the biblical evidence leads. These two passages as well as Zechariah 3 reveal evil spirits' access to God and their, especially Satan's, position as accuser. Galen obviously prefers laughter and his shoddy psychology of religion analyses to a robust understanding of the Bible. Since that's so, he would do well to remain silent during any biblical examinations the DCers might do and let Beahan and Schieber do their marginally less shoddy work without him.

Fletcher goes on: "God's got a pretty good relationship with some of these evil spirits."
Yet what would lead a biblically literate reader to that conclusion? Just because God talks to these evil spirits? Just because they remain in His presence to some extent? Why would we assume that this means a good relationship and not rather a position whereby they are constantly reminded of His power and domination over them, while they nurse their own irrational, foolish, doomed, prideful delusions that one day maybe they can beat God? Of course God knows their thoughts, and at some level they probably know that God knows, but they are so self-deceived that they either ignore or forget this fact.
The Doubtcasters need to give us a reason to think my own explanation is insufficient to explain the verbiage of the passage, given Christian presuppositions.

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