Saturday, March 02, 2019

Is Scripture evidentiary in its own right?

Thus, Robinson Crusoe follows a similar pattern of thought in deciding that he is not alone: it is likely that anyone else on the island will leave some sign of being there, and this apparent footprint would certainly be such an indication if another's presence is possible; it is, therefore it is probable that someone else is about. But unless he has reasons to believe that another's presence on the island is possible, or in the absence of knowing what human footprints are like, this evidence would not count as any proof of Friday. Consequently, the thesis that the Bible on its own is a warrant for the existence of God is mistaken. 

This seems to reflect the methodology of classic apologetics, according to which making a case for Christianity requires a linear, multistage argument in which proving God's existence is a preliminary step. However, the comparison is very odd. Is it necessary to have reasons independent of the footprint to credit the footprint as evidence of human occupation on the island? Why isn't the footprint in itself evidence for the possibility that the island is habitable? Why can't that be direct evidence? What's actual is possible. Isn't a human footprint unmistakable evidence that a human being made it, and made it there? Even if the footprint was faked, it had to be faked by a human being (a la Bigfoot hoaxes). 

Likewise, why can't the fact that the Bible contains so many testimonies by or about different individuals who say they experienced God in unmistakable ways at least be prima facie evidence that God exists? In that respect (among others) it differs from one-man productions by Muhammad, Joseph Smith, and Swedenborg. 


  1. "But unless he has reasons to believe that another's presence on the island is possible"

    What's the alternative?

    1. Atheism? Atheism is hardly a reasonable alternative. Suppose it were true. In that case, Robinson Crusoe might as well make-believe that his man Friday exists, as Tom Hanks did with Wilson in Cast Away, for human nature couldn't bear the existential nihilism of living forever alone on a deserted planet without cracking then breaking like an eggshell.

    2. That God exists but is silent? A Deistic "God"? For one thing, we are persons and the Judeo-Christian God is not an impersonal God, but a personal God. As such, would not the One who created all persons wish to relate to his created persons? Why would a God create persons with personhood and personality and so on, yet remain silent himself? Why not simply make impersonal robots if he did not wish to relate to them as persons?

    3. Indeed, isn't it really only the Judeo-Christian traditions and their corruptions that even claim a speaking God? By "corruptions", I have in mind Mormons, Christian Scientists, JWs, even Islam.

    4. The Eastern religions are ultimately impersonal, though Hinduism mixes that with pagan polytheism. As does folk Buddhism.

    5. Paganism, animism, and modern forms of spiritualism often go hand-in-hand. Paganism is what atheists like Sagan and Dawkins are really sparring with when they talk about religion as superstition, though even on atheistic grounds, it's not as if atheism gets the upperhand, given there is a lot of evidence to support pagan claims like communications and experiences with non-physical entities or non-physical worlds.

    "or in the absence of knowing what human footprints are like"

    I realize this footprints bit is supposed to be analogous to the Bible itself. However, just to take a different tack that still gets us to the Bible (I think), consider that Robinson Crusoe could just look at his own footprints to know what human footprints are like. In which case, if Crusoe saw other recently made footprints he knows aren't his own, then it would be quite logical to surmise there might be another human being around.

    Likewise, we could look at ourselves to know what it is to be a person. Then it goes back to my earlier point (#2 above) about a personal God speaking to created persons. Indeed, if God can endow at least some humans with sensory faculties to perceive the external physical world, why couldn't it be argued that God can endow at least some humans with spiritual faculties to perceive God's voice in the Bible?

  2. The difference with the footprint is that it was not left there for Robinson Crusoe’s benefit. Friday was not trying to send a message to Crusoe. In one sense Friday did end up sending a “message” to Crusoe but that was not his intention. If we don’t take into account God’s intentions we will have a warped view of things. Suppose we assess the “evidence” for God in scientific terms. We start by constructing a theoretical model of God which generates certain predictions. Then we compare those predictions with the evidence. If the evidence matches the predictions sufficiently well then we conclude, perhaps tentatively, that God exists. That could never be the basis for faith.

    On the other hand, if God intends to communicate with us then the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If we end up believing what God wanted us to believe then God has achieved his objective. Richard Carrier once said that if he was God then he would have appeared to the whole world after his resurrection. Since God failed to do what Carrier thinks He should have done, Christianity is false. This fails to take into account an obvious fact about communication between persons. The person (or Person) who sends a message wishes it to reach the right people. Perhaps God has reasons for not wanting someone like Richard Carrier to receive His message.

    As Epistle of Dude has said, this is about personal communication.