Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Egotistical apostates

Recently I had occasion to comment on two apostates. The first was in response to an email correspondent. Here's my terse reply:

I skimmed it, as well as taking a quick general look at his blog. 
There's really nothing new here. It's more about rearranging stereotypical objections to the Bible. Rearranging old furniture. The only thing that's new is the arrangement, not the content. 
I'm struck by how self-important apostates are. It's not enough for them to lose their faith. They think it's terribly important to tell their story. As if everyone should be as interested as they are in themselves. 

The second was in response to an apostate on Win Corduan's Facebook page: 

Steve Hays Scott, what Bible scholars, church historians, and Christian scientists have you read?

Steve Hays I ask because you raise canned objections which conservative Bible scholars, church historians, and Christian scientists have repeatedly addressed. It's not enough for you to raise objections. You need to acknowledge the responses and detail why you think the responses are deficient.

Steve Hays Take some books defending the inerrancy and/or historicity of the Bible. For instance:

Daniel Block, Israel: Ancient Kingdom or Late Invention? (B&H 2008)

Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP; 2nd ed., 2007)

Steven Cowan and Terry Wilder, In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture (B&H 2013)

James Hoffmeier & Dennis MaGary, eds., Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? (Crossway 2012)

Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans 2003)

Jonathan Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely (Baker 2012)

Vern Poythress, Inerrancy and the Gospels (Crossway 2012)

I. Provan, V. P. Long & T. Longman, eds. A Biblical History of Israel (WJK 2003)

Robert Stein, Interpreting Puzzling Texts in the New Testament (Baker 1997)

How many of them have you read? If you've read some of them, why do you find their evidence/arguments unpersuasive?

Take some books on science. For instance:

W. Dembski & J. Wells, The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems

S. Meyer, Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design

A. Gauger, D. Axe, C. Luskin, Science and Human Origins

Have you read them? If so, what in particular is wrong with their arguments?

Steve Hays Just to wrap things up, let's put some additional evidence on the table:

Here are some good books on the historical Jesus:

Paul Barnett, Finding the Historical Christ

_____, Gospel Truth: Answering New Atheist Attacks on the Gospels

Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony

Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel

P. Eddy & G. Boyd, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition

Craig. A. Evans, Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence

Craig Keener, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels

And here are some good books on Messianic prophecy:

T. D. Alexander, The Servant King: The Bible's portrait of the Messiah

Alec Motyer, Look to the Rock: An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ

O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets

Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is theHebrew Bible Really Messianic?

And here's a standard reference work on theistic proofs:

The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology

That's just skimming the surface. There are so many lines of evidence.

Steve Hays BTW, your self-description reflects a standard apostate trope. The "discovery" that you were hoodwinked all those years. The sense of betrayal. As if this was all part of sneaky plot to keep the faithful in the dark.

Steve Hays You commit a common fallacy of imagining that you aren't making a claim, therefore you shoulder no burden of proof. But you've been asserting many things to be the case. Those are truth-claims on your part. So you're the one who's guilty of shifting the onus onto your opponent.

Steve Hays A claim needn't be a positive claim to be a truth-claim. A negative claim is just as much a truth-claim as a positive claim. The burden of proof is the same.

Steve Hays It's not my job to remind you of what you said. You need to keep track of your own statements. Take your confused notion that "negative claims have no burden of proof. By that logic, if I say "Chain-smoking ups the risk of lung cancer," I shoulder a burden of proof, but if I deny that chain-smoking ups the risk of cancer, I have no burden of proof. If I say there are Redwoods in CA, I shoulder a burden of proof, but if I deny there are Redwoods in CA, I have no burden of proof. Really?

Steve Hays The fact that you rely on Wikipedia is quite revealing.

Steve Hays The very article you reference even states that negative claims have their own burden of proof. You don't understand what you read.

Steve Hays Another common problem is that apostates typically fail to appreciate how much they leave behind by leaving Christian theism behind. They don't grasp the self-defeating implications of a consistently secular outlook. For instance:

Steve Hays I'm not going to go down a series of rabbit trails with you. I'm not responsible for what you do with your life. If you're serious about raising intellectual objections to Christianity, then it's your responsibility, not mine, to inform yourself of what the opposing position has written in reply to the kinds of stock objections you mention.

Steve Hays To begin with, you're not a truth-seeker. You're not asking questions for information. You're not genuinely curious about the answers. If you really wanted to know the answers, you would have done so before you abandoned ship. People who first jump ship (apostates), then ask questions, have already made up their minds. 

And when I call your bluff by directing you to excellent resources, you make it abundantly clear that you're not really interested in finding the answers. 

I'd add that it's futile to debate with someone who doesn't know his own limitations. You don't even recognize when you're making truth-claims, and you fail to grasp that even "negative claims" carry a burden of proof. Under the circumstances, you disqualify yourself from criticizing Christianity. 

i) Internet apostates are typically bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about their newfound infidelity. It's like a high school crush. They are quick to share their liberating discovery with everyone else. They retain a residual idealism, which is carryover from the Christian faith they left behind. They labor under the superficial illusion that they can jettison God, but leave everything important intact, after making some adjustments to their political views. 

This instantly reveals the fact that they fail to understand the far-reaching implications of atheism. That's in part because apostates usually read hortatory popularizers. There are some secular philosophers like Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, the Churchlands, David Benatar, and Alex Rosenberg (among others) who are fairly candid about the moral and/or intellectual costs of atheism. Some of them are consistent to the point of self-referential incoherence. 

ii) Internet apostates fail to appreciate the radical asymmetry between atheism and Christianity. If atheism is true, Christians and atheists alike have nothing to gain and everything to lose. If Christianity is true, Christians have everything to gain and atheists have everything to lose. So atheism isn't even worth discussing. Why waste time debating the merits of nihilism? 

iii) It's not enough for internet atheists to lose their faith. They feel the emotional need to announce their apostasy, then say: "Prove me wrong!" Why do they imagine it's incumbent on Christians to refute their infidelity? It's the apostate who will pay the price.

Imagine if I'm walking along the river, and I see a guy about to dive in. I warn him that it's dangerous to swim there because there's a large crocodile that frequents that river. 

He responds by challenging me to prove there's a crocodile in the river, even though I was doing him a favor by warning him. Why is it incumbent on me to prove myself to him when I was doing him a favor in the first place?

But suppose I show him some photos I took of the crocodile. Suppose he asks me how I know that's a real crocodile and not an inflatable toy. Why should I try to accommodate him at that point? 

Suppose he dives in. The crocodile surfaces and heads straight for him. He yells at me, telling me to jump in and rescue him.

Sorry, but it's not my duty to risk my hide to save his hide because he chose to disregard my repeated warnings. He has no right to put me in danger. 

There are 7 billion people in the world, most of whom never had the advantages of the apostate.


  1. Thanks for posting this interaction, Steve. It's quite interesting how brash he started off, and then how quickly he cut and run. The height of new-atheist arrogance is the dismissal of the need to be informed of the opposing position, instigated by the likes of PZ Meyers and Richard Dawkins. Ironically, look how inflamed they get if a Christian gets something wrong about evolution.

    It's good that you pressed him on the full implications of the burden of proof. A denial isn't enough to avoid proving something, since it's assumed that the opponent has a good reason for denying something.

    Thanks for the book recommendations...I'll add them to my already-gigantic amazon wishlist. Do you know of a good "Bible difficulties"-type book that you would recommend? Of course, it would be best to have quality commentaries on every book of the Bible, but that will take a while.

    1. Hard to say because unbelievers raise different kinds of objections to the Bible. So there are monographs that address different kinds of objections.


      I'm considering this one.

    3. Were you going to buy a used copy or rob a bank?

    4. Ha. Used or paperback.

  2. Good list of good books. I need to update. My main book on Inerrancy is from seminary days (1983-1988) is Norman Geisler, editor, Inerrancy. (various scholars contribute.) I have Inerrancy and Worldview by Poythress. I have the book by Richard Bauckham; but see I need to look into the other titles you have mentioned.

  3. I've tried to find the post where Steve interacted on an Amazon forum but cannot remember the name of the post. It was over a year ago. Can anyone help?

  4. Maybe this?

  5. That's it yes, thank you.