Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sancho, saddle up Rocinante

I'll comment on the latest deluded claims by Ed Dingess. He's a guy who likes to make stuff up. 

In this blog, I am going to attempt to point out the fallacious reasoning for the continuationist argument employed specifically by Stave Hays over at Triablogue.

Dingess is the Don Quixote of cessationists:

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, "Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.""What giants?" asked Sancho Panza."Those you see over there," replied his master, "with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.""Take care, sir," cried Sancho. "Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone."

Here are some of the windmills he charges after:

Repeatedly, Hays refuses to draw any line of demarcation between the special revelation of Scripture and the general affairs of everyday life. 

Demonstrably false.

Steve has continually argued what is good for Moses is good for us. 

Demonstrably false

If Paul could heal the sick, then we should be able to as well. 

Demonstrably false.

He has gone so far as to adopt the causative-faith argument of charismatics, asserting that James 5 teaches that any prayer of faith ought to be able to produce healing. To my knowledge, he has not qualified God’s will in the process…

Demonstrably false.

In addition to this, Hays has consistently accused cessationists of employing the argument’s of atheist merely on the ground that we contend that such claims ought to be subjected to rigorous examination and proof.

Demonstrably false.

Steve has reasoned that Jesus and the apostles performed miracles. Scripture does not say that miracles will cease after the apostles, therefore we should expect miracle workers to continue.

Demonstrably false.

Hays has also made the uncharitable argument that atheists deny miracles, and cessationist denies miracles, therefore cessationists argue like atheists.

Demonstrably false. 

What kind of claim then is the claim that miracle workers are still present? What kind of claim is it to say that God is performing miracles today? Steve Hays and other continuationists seem to think it is an exegetical claim. They are wrong. It is not an exegetical claim. There is nothing in Scripture that provides the clear teaching that miracles will continue right up into the Parousia. Hence, this claim cannot be justified on purely exegetical grounds. 

Truth by assertion. 

In principle, these are the logical alternatives:

i) Scripture teaches the continuance of charismatic miracles

ii) Scripture teaches the discontinuance of charismatic miracles

iii) Scripture is silent on their continuation or discontinuation

If you opt for (iii), that, in turn, generates two more logical alternatives:

a) Absent Scriptural statements to the contrary, there's a presumption to the continuity

b) Given the silence of Scripture, we should suspend judgment. Be open to their continuance or discontinuance 

Burden of proof arguments shift the issue to which side shoulders the onus. Is there a presumption to overcome? Or should we withhold judgement, barring confirmatory or disconfirmatory evidence? 

What are we observing? Are we actually observing miracles? We hear some reports, but what we need is something we can actually verify.

Ed simultaneously demands and disregards evidence.

Jesus healed in such a way that His miracles were self-verifying. He didn’t sneak off to someplace else, claim to perform a bunch of miracles and then come back with fancy stories about it all.

Many Biblical miracles occur in private settings. 

A basic Christian belief is that the Bible and all it contains is the self-justifying word of God. Hence, belief that all the contents of the word of God are true is a self-justifying belief. All biblical miracles are infallible records contained in the Bible and given by God Himself. Therefore, belief in Biblical claims of miracles is a self-justifying belief. 

Unfortunately for Ed, he has the cessationist argument exactly backwards. According to cessationism, biblical claims are not self-justifying or self-verifying. Rather, biblical claims must be justified or verified by miracles. Miracles are necessary to verify the claimant. The Bible doesn't verify reported miracles. Rather, miracles verify Biblical reports. 

You may disagree, but if so, you disagree with the classic cessationist argument. 

Plantinga tells us that any proposition is properly basic for an individual if and only if such proposition is incorrigible for the individual or self-evidence. 

Really? To my knowledge, that's not at all how Plantinga defines a properly basic belief. Rather, a properly basic belief is a defeasible belief which enjoys prima facie justification. You can find yourself in an epistemic situation where it's reasonable to believe something without benefit of argument. That's warranted, but it can be overcome by counterevidence. 


  1. I'm greatly benefitting from your continued posts on cessationism/continuationism, Steve. I have been a good Christian materialist for all my life, and you've challenged me beyond that to the point where I find myself siding with you on this more often than not.

    In passing, I work at a hospital and witnessed what I would certainly call a medical miracle this past week. The doctors agree it's an astonishing recovery - we're all baffled. I can't rule out a naturalistic explanation, but it does seem that we have seen an act of God.

    1. Would it be possible to share a few more details about your story (while respecting patient confidentiality of course)?

    2. Sure, I have to be fairly vague with HIPAA as you know, but basically:

      This patient came in with a severe intraparenchymal hemorrhage and presented with a Glasgow coma scale score of 4 (3 is the lowest) at that time. This led to brain surgery and ventilator support. The doctors, nurses, etc. all agreed prognosis was "poor", but the patient was kept on life support (i.e. vent, aggressive blood pressure control, tube feedings, etc.) until the time came when a tracheostomy had to be placed in order to go on, and long term acute care facilities began to be looked into for a patient that was likely to be bedridden needing continued care, if not remain a complete vegetable.

      Keep in mind at this point the patient's pupils were disconjugate and pneumonia had developed in the lungs. The patient was off sedation and totally non-responsive.

      Anyway, fast forward several weeks, when almost overnight (in reality 2-3 days, but that is relatively fast considering how much time has gone by since the surgery) the patient became fully responsive. Ventilator care was removed, and the patient is able to sit up in a chair and carry on a conversation, breathing and eating on their own. One of the doctors labeled it an "incredible recovery" (and that's in the medical documentation, not just a verbal aside). The staff is shocked at the rapid turnaround, and it looks like instead of being a vegetable at a long-term acute care hospital, the patient will be going home after some physical therapy.

      There are certainly more details to the story, but that's all I feel comfortable giving with all the HIPAA regulations. Like I say, there's no way to rule out a completely naturalistic explanation, but my limited experience (3 1/2 years as a critical care dietitian) has not yet given me any such explanation.

    3. Thanks, Tom! That's fascinating, and I appreciate you giving so much info already while entirely respecting HIPAA (e.g. GCS, complications).

      Of course, one could wish for additional info (e.g. if it was a primary or secondary IPH; if the hemorrhage occurred in the basal ganglia and thalamus or one of the cerebral hemispheres; initial IPH volume on CT; hematoma growth in the first 24 hrs). But obviously I certainly wouldn't wish for you to divulge any more info let alone on a public weblog like this one.

      In any case, not that my opinion matters, but I agree it does seem like an amazing recovery!

      BTW, you might be interested in a systematic review like this one.

      Thanks again, Tom!