Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Gap for God



Suppose that members of a religious movement, such as Christianity, maintain that the existence of some powerful god and its goals or laws can be known through their scriptures, their prophets, or some special revelation. Suppose further that the evidence that is available to support the reliability of those scriptures, prophets, or special revelations is weaker than that God is hypothetically capable of producing.  That is, suppose that Christians maintain that Jesus was resurrected on the basis of the Gospels, or that God’s existence can be known through the Bible, or Muslims insist on the historical authenticity of the Koran.  Could God, the almighty creator of the universe, have brought it about so that the evidence in favor of the resurrection, the Bible, or the Koran was better than we currently find it?  I take it that the answer is obviously yes.  Even if you think there is evidence that is sufficient to prove the resurrection, a reasonable person must also acknowledge that it could have been better.  And there’s the problem. 
If the capacity of that god is greater than the effectiveness or quality of those scriptures, prophets, or special revelations, then the story they are telling contradicts itself. “We know our god is real on the basis of evidence that is inadequate for our god.” Or, “The grounds that lead us to believe in our god are inconsistent with the god we accept; nevertheless, we believe in this god that would have given us greater evidence if it had wished for us to believe in it.”
Given the disparity between the gods that these religious movements portend and the grounds offered to justify them, the atheist is warranted in dismissing such claims. If the sort of divine being that they promote were real and if he had sought our believe on the basis of the evidence, the evidential situation would not resemble the one we are in.  The story doesn’t make internal sense.  A far better explanation is that their enthusiasm for believing in a god has led them to overstate what the evidence shows.  And that same enthusiasm has made it difficult for them to see that an all powerful God would have the power to make his existence utterly obvious and undeniable.  Since it’s not, the non-believer can’t possibly be faulted for failing to believe.  

82 comments:

Ron Cram said...

Matt,

Just so I'm clear. Is this the argument you are making?


1. Any god that wants to be known and worshipped will provide conclusive and undeniable evidence of his existence
2. No god has provided conclusive and undeniable evidence
3. Therefore, no god exists.

Do I have it right?

Matt DeStefano said...

Ron,

While I can't speak for MM, here is a rough sketch of how I read the argument:

(1) If God exists, according to some religious traditions, God wants us to believe on the basis of the available evidence. (Revelation, Scripture, the miracles of Jesus, testimony, etc.)

(2) If the God described in these traditions did exist, the evidence available to us could be much better than what we have.

(3) Therefore, the type of God purported by (1) does not exist.

I don't think there needs to be "conclusive and undeniable evidence" (although such evidence would certainly be within this God's capabilities), but that the quality of evidence should be much higher than it is in our situation.

Ron Cram said...

Matt D,
Yes, that was how I was reading the argument also. The problem is it is not a well-specified argument. "Much higher" is a relative term which leaves open all kinds of psychological and personal questions. That's why I was asking the question.

Matt McCormick said...

It's a very simple question: If God is real, then why isn't the evidence better than it is? There are billions of reasonable people who don't believe this story. Yet they all readily acknowledge that the Earth is round, that 2 + 2 = 4, that the moon orbits the Earth, and so on. Even if you think that the evidence currently shows that God is real, surely it could have been better, and surely an all powerful being could have brought that about. So what gives? The story that evidential theists tell is internally incoherent.

Ron Cram said...

Matt,

I think the problem is that no matter how much evidence is available, there will always be people who ask "Why isn't there better evidence?"

People have all kinds of reasons for choosing to believe or not to believe. People's actions are not always rational. In fact, I would argue that people's actions are rarely rational. Psychologists tell us most buying decisions are emotional. Most of life's major decisions - who are you going to marry, where are we going to live - these are emotional decisions.

Are you going to buy into the existence of God? For most people, that is an emotional question. They want to know "What do I get out of it?"

The answer comes "You get your past forgiven, a purpose for living and a home in heaven." For many people that is incentive enough as long as belief in God is not unreasonable.

Others are emotionally driven to disbelieve in God. It simply doesn't matter how much evidence is provided to them - they will not believe because there is always another doubt that can be raised.

A relative scale argument such as you are putting forward is not going to win the day. In choosing between whether God exists or does not exist, the best standard of evidence is the greater weight of evidence. It is a binary decision. Either God exists or he does not. Which side of the scale is more heavily weighted?

Of course, once you decide God exists - the next question is "Which God?" There are compelling answers to this question also.

Bob H said...

Hi Guys,

I think a quote from George H. Smith is warranted here:

the concept of God -- the concept of the Christian god in particular -- once you strip away all of the verbiage that surrounds it, the concept of God always turns out to be some kind of unknowable being…a being which by the theists' own admission is unknowable. How can you talk about, conceptualize, or demonstrate, the existence of such a thing? It is, in principle, impossible …If God is incomprehensible to man ..You simply cannot intelligibly discuss, much less prove, the existence of an unknowable creature. It's philosophical nonsense. The concept itself is meaningless.


Quoting Dr. Matt, “The story doesn’t make internal sense”, because the concept itself is meaningless.

The theist claim:

1) God exists, and is capable of confirming his existence to those he deems worthy.
2) God has confirmed his existence to me.
3) Therefore, I KNOW that God exists.

The atheological claim:

Let G = God exist.
Let P = God has confirmed his existence to man with conclusive evidence.
(G ⊃ P)
Gods confirmation is invalid/unsound, therefore the contrapostive is
(¬P ⊃ ¬G)
¬P (modus ponens)
Conclusion ¬G

A bumper sticker on a 1972 VW bus that says Jesus Lives is not confirming evidence.

Matt McCormick said...

I appreciate all of your taking the time to read and think about my blog.
Ron, I think your reaction is evasive subject changing. In an earlier post, you said,
"Yes. Based on all the available evidence, it is reasonable to believe God is real, the creator of the universe who came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and rose from the dead."

Now, I have a simple question, that you still haven't addressed:

Either A) an almighty God could have made that available evidence better than it currently is, or B)the almighty God could not have made the evidence for his existence better than it currently is.

So just answer A or B. There are no alternatives to this disjunction.

Now, if he could have, then why is it not any better than it is? God has. What's keeping him from settling the issue. And if he couldn't have, then why not?

The paltry evidence we have just doesn't fit with the hypothesis. I could just as well insist that I am the almighty creator of the universe, and then as evidence for my impressive creative powers, I cook an omelet. Why would anyone but a gullible dupe believe the superlative conclusion on the basis of such paltry evidence?

Now, again, answer the question.



Bob H said...

Ron,
This is a continuation of Some Varietiess of Disproof thread (sorry guys).

In my career (EE, master degree, doctoral candidate), I had an opportunity to work with several theoretical physicist at Stanford Linear Accelerator, Palo Alto, Ca. Each and everyone of them would consider your “miracle of creation” hypothesis as FUBAR.

If your hypothesis could be developed into an actual theory, then you would win a Nobel Prize and there would be no need to spend billions of dollars on particle accelerators.

sam said...

“It's a very simple question: If God is real, then why isn't the evidence better than it is? ….The story that evidential theists tell is internally incoherent.”

I guess what you would call “non-evidential” theists (those positing an internal witness of the holy spirit or a sensus divinitatis) at least have a more internally coherent, if less ethical, story. For a Calvinist, say, evidence is of no interest to their deity. The deity is “saving” everyone it wants to “save”. Those who don’t believe are not the ones it wants to “save”. The biblical inerrantist, evidential theist would have to convince the Calvinist that his straightforward reading of the following passages is, somehow, not accurate:

MK 22:14, MT 7:14, LK 13:23-24- Are only a few people going to be saved?...Many will try to enter & will not be able to. (Presumably, this refers only to believers in general, as atheists are not among those “many” who “try” to be “saved”).

RO 9:18-24 – Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for honorable use & another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath & to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; & what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy”

2TH 2:11-12- “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie & so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

These passages together indicate that, statistically speaking, you the believing christian are, more likely than not, actively being deceived by your deity in order for the deity to demonstrate his power & glory to those few objects of mercy whom the deity _has_ chosen to be saved.

This conclusion would explain very well the enormous amount of xian nonbelief worldwide and throughout history. Of course, the Calvinist would then have to answer to the evidentialist theist’s charge that “John’s” deity performed miracles explicitly for the purpose of providing evidence for belief (JN 14:11).

“I could just as well insist that I am the almighty creator of the universe, and then as evidence for my impressive creative powers, I cook an omelet. Why would anyone but a gullible dupe believe the superlative conclusion on the basis of such paltry evidence?”

If you’re trying to be flippant, you’ve hit the mark unintentionally.

I wonder how many people were dying worldwide from floods & simple drowning during the time it took the author of the gospel of John to write down the story of Jesus walking on water. How many children worldwide were dying of cholera, dysentery & dehydration during the time it took the same author to write down the story of Jesus turning water into wine? How many human beings were dying globally of starvation & famine during the time it took the author of Mark to write down the story of Jesus withering a fig tree with a command?

The hypothesis that there exists a being worthy of worship, who is more interested in violating the laws of physics to ensure that guests at a party had enough liquor to drink (and that this is sufficient evidence of a universe creator), rather than preventing the genocide of 6 million+ Jews in the Holocaust, is not tenable. Highly limited, parochial minds invent highly limited, parochial gods.

Ron Cram said...

Matt,

You write:
"Now, I have a simple question, that you still haven't addressed:

"Either A) an almighty God could have made that available evidence better than it currently is, or B)the almighty God could not have made the evidence for his existence better than it currently is.

"So just answer A or B. There are no alternatives to this disjunction."

This is a little like a scene from a courtroom where the prosecutor wants the witness to answer the question with a yes or no answer but the witness wants to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

I would be doing you a disservice, Matt, if I answered with a simple yes or no without a fuller explanation. The point is that the answer does not get you to the destination you want.

The answer is yes. God could have supplied more evidence, but the same question could be asked and answered the same way no matter how much evidence was provided.

Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller how much money was enough and he replied "Just a little bit more."

How much evidence is enough? For some people the answer is "Just a little bit more."

New evidence is being found, cataloged, analyzed and reported on all the time. But for some people, no amount of evidence will ever be enough.

Another answer is that you probably don't have all the evidence that is available. And if you did, you might be surprised how persuasive you would find it and you might want to withdraw the question.

A better question is how much weight do we give to the evidence we have?

For example, historians universally agree that Julius Caesar conquered Gaul. Why? Caesar was the only one to write about it. And we have very few manuscripts of this claim (if memory serves correctly, only one manuscript). Why should we trust his claim? For one thing, we have Roman ruins in the region which show Roman occupation. But those could be from some other Roman conqueror.

Should historians demand better evidence that Caesar conquered Gaul before they put his name in the history books? Why not demand that any event in ancient history have at least as much manuscript evidence as the New Testament before being considered credible?

If that was the standard, we would not know anything about ancient history. There is not a single document with as many manuscripts or as old of manuscripts as the New Testament.

And a new book is coming out in the next month or so about the oldest New Testament manuscript found so far. I can't wait to read about it.

Bob H said...

Ron,
Here is my objection to your little thesis.
You are confirming what I said in my characterization of the theist claim (see above), evidence is personal.
If we trust Aquinas, there is a dualism of knowledge required to know divine truth , Natural theology and Faith. St. Thomas states “ with respect to the divine life requires that we avail ourselves of truths revealed by God and held by faith”.

If all of your “preponderance of evidence” is sufficient why is faith a requirement?
If all of your “preponderance of evidence” is sufficient why is the Self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit required?

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

You write:
"If all of your “preponderance of evidence” is sufficient why is faith a requirement?
If all of your “preponderance of evidence” is sufficient why is the Self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit required?"

The "preponderance of evidence" is required to show that belief in God is not unreasonable. Faith is trusting. Everyone trusts everyday. You cannot live your life without faith. When you sit in a chair, you are trusting the chair will hold you up. When you drive through a green light, you are trusting other drivers will stop at their red light. Faith is not unreasonable but it goes beyond certain knowledge. Have people ever trusted a chair that was unworthy of trust? Yes. Just watch America's Funniest Videos. But it is not unreasonable to think the chair will its job.

The self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit is not something that is easy to describe or explain. Have you ever heard anyone say "You had to be there?" The self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit is kind of like that. You have to experience it to understand it. You ask why it is required. I don't know that it is required but it is something God has provided to believers. It doesn't mean believers never have doubts. Doubts can still come in what believers call "the dark night of the soul." Thankfully, the dark night of the soul does not usually last a long time.

Matt McCormick said...

The suggestion that the lack of evidence for God's existence is somehow our fault is still an evasion. It's like blaming the rape victim. We're making a perfectly reasonable request: if God is real and all powerful, then it would certainly be within his power to make his existence manifest and obvious. An all powerful being could make it as obvious as the existence of the moon, as obvious as 2 + 2 = 4, as obvious as the existence of the Atlantic Ocean. This is an omnipotent being, by your own hypothesis. There is nothing that is logically possible that is beyond his ability. Is it logically possible that the evidence for God's existence could have been better than it is? Certainly it is. Ron, you want to say that it is our stubbornness, or our willfulness, or our refusal to ever accept what we've got in front of us. That's nonsense. I don't have any problem accepting the existence of tigers, the moon, the truths of geometry. The number of truths that are supported by vastly better evidence, and that we all accept readily and without any stubbornness is countless.

So I've got a friend, Ron, who says he believes in Zeus. I said to him, "Well, if Zeus is real, and he wants us to believe in him, then why isn't there any better evidence in support?" And my friend said, "Well, you see that's complicated. I can't give you a simple answer. Zeus could have supplied more evidence, but the same question could be asked and answered the same way no matter how much evidence was provided. How much evidence for Zeus is enough? For some people the answer is "Just a little bit more. New evidence is being found, cataloged, analyzed and reported on all the time. But for some people, no amount of evidence in favor of Zeus will ever be enough. Futhermore, you don't have all the available evidence about Zeus. If you did, you might be surprised how persuasive you would find it and you might want to withdraw the question."

So what do you think, Ron, should I accept what he says and become a Zeusist?

Do you see how ludicrous this sounds? If someone was making this argument about any other god besides the one your favor, you'd wouldn't buy it for a second.

As for the historical evidence for the Bible, you really need to read my book and go back and read the hundreds of posts and comments I've made for the full set of problems there. The evidence in favor of the resurrection is shockingly poor. But enthusiasm and over-zealousness has led people like yourself to grossly overstate it.

Matt McCormick said...

Could the all powerful creator of reality have made it so that we don't have to scrounge, dig, bicker, and squabble over the evidence for thousands of years? Yes.
Could an omnipotent God have made it so that we don't have to wait for some new book about the Bible in 2013 in order to see that God is real? Yes.
Could an all powerful God have made his existence more obvious than Caesar's? Yes.
Could an all powerful being have done better than burying the information about himself in a set of fragmented, cryptic, hearsay writings from Iron Age illiterate peasants? Yes.
Could an all powerful being have made his existence and his chosen religion look less like the thousands of other misguided religions from natural, psychological, pathological sources in human history? Yes.
Could an all powerful being have made cognitive doxastic systems so that his existence was undeniably obvious? Yes.
I'll resist the temptation to go on.

Bob H said...

Ron, et al
Extraordinaire claims require extraordinaire evidence!
Julius Caesar, was not born of a virgin, did not rise from the dead after three days, and did not violate any natural laws. If we are to believe in some extraordinaire supernatural being was a reality then such an entity should have provided extraordinaire evidence that at least is indubitable.
Ron, obvious you are not a design engineer. An engineer does not live by faith. Lets take, for instance your chair example, I know as an engineer that the chair I am sitting on has certain design features so that it will support and sustain a 200 pound load. The material, wood in this case, has a tensile strenght that can be tested for 50 percent margin of safety, ie it is fail safe. When I see a bridge that is rated for a load limit of 30,000 lbs, I do not need faith to cross that bridge. I know that the design and testing as provided for the safe crossing as long as I do not weight 31,000 lbs.
The theist pseudosciencist who trys to posits the teleological argument, or intelligent design, obviously would have never worked on the design of a complex system. If God was the design manager at Intel, he would have been fired after the an hour on the job. The first criteria for an intelligent design is the concept of Fail Safe. God has not demonstrated that he has any concept of design.
I suspect now I am going to get your hypothetical “Goldilock” scenario.

Eric Sotnak said...

Theists generally hold that the theistic position is "reasonable enough." That is, although the evidence could be better, it doesn't really need to be.

There are plenty of cases where it is reasonable to believe some claim even though the evidence for it is less than ideal. But is the claim that God exists such a case? If the answer is 'yes', then Matt's challenge has been answered. The evidence could be better, but it doesn't need to be because it is already reasonable to believe that God exists on the basis of the evidence currently available.

There is a complication, however. Although there are people who happily maintain that disbelief in God is manifestly irrational, this position is rare among professional philosophers of religion and theologians. A major topic of recent work in philosophy of religion has centered on God's 'hiddenness' - the fact that the evidence for God's existence is quite thin.

Furthermore, the standard theistic model imposes severe penalties for nonbelief. This would suggest that the evidence for theism should be better than merely adequate. Suppose Augusto is on trial for murder and the prosecution is seeking the death penalty. Given the stakes, justice would seem to demand that evidence of Augusto's guilt should be more than just 'ok'. Similar considerations apply to the case for theism.

Ron Cram said...

Matt,
You write:
"Do you see how ludicrous this sounds? If someone was making this argument about any other god besides the one your favor, you'd wouldn't buy it for a second."

There is no evidence for Zeus so it is not a good analogy. You talk about "lack of evidence" regarding the God of the Bible as if it is a real entity. It isn't. There is lots of evidence.

Contrary to your claims, the evidence for the resurrection of Christ is far better than the evidence for any other event in ancient history. Compare the evidence of the resurrection to the evidence Caesar conquered Gaul or any one of a hundred accepted facts of history and the resurrection has more manuscript evidence and more corroborating evidence than any of them.

Perhaps the best evidence for the resurrection is the change in the lives of the disciples. Do you really think they would die for the cause of Christ if they were not completely convinced he rose from the dead? Of course not. People may die for a cause but no one will die for a lie. The people with the best knowledge of the resurrection were willing to pay the ultimate price for their belief. Show me another place in history when a group of men were willing to die because of the fact one of their friends rose from the dead. This is extraordinary evidence that more than backs up the extraordinary claims.

Ron Cram said...

Eric Sotnak,

Look at the issue from God's point of view for a minute. He sent a stream of prophets into the world. A few had long and successful ministries - Moses, Isaiah, and Daniel come to mind. Most of the prophets - Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, and on and on - were persecuted and oppressed for telling the truth. Finally God sends his son Jesus Christ and men kill him too.

Mankind does not have a good track record for dealing with new evidence for God. Given the track record, how much evidence is enough?

When Christ came into the world, his message was confirmed by miracles like some of the other prophets. By the way, the Jewish Talmud talks about the fact Jesus performed miracles. Why would Jesus's religious opponents talk about his miracles? Because they were undeniable and they had to come up with an excuse for how he performed them. The Talmud says he performed the miracles through magic and that Jesus was justly condemned to death. It is interesting because this is the same claim the Jews made for the miracles in the gospels.

Jesus was far greater than the other prophets because he performed the ultimate miracle in that he rose from the dead. The manuscript evidence for this is quite strong. Not only did Jesus biographers - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - write about the resurrection, so did other ancient historians including Pliny the Younger and Tacitus.

Just as the Roman ruins in France is strong corroborating evidence that Caesar conquered Gaul, there is also strong corroborating evidence Jesus rose from the dead. The disciples of Jesus all suffered persecution and many of them were martyred because they would not stop talking about the fact Jesus rose from the grave. Within just a few decades, this teaching had spread from Palestine all the way to Rome

If you want extraordinary evidence, this is it. This is unique in human history. You will never find another group of men willing to die because they will not stop talking about their friend who rose from the dead.

Now I ask you - how much more evidence is needed? I certainly welcome new manuscript evidence. But is it needed? Not at all.

clamflats said...

"Show me another place in history when a group of men were willing to die because of the fact one of their friends rose from the dead."

The New Testament records one martyrdom for one disciple, James. What are the sources for the other Apostles manner of death? I think it is mostly based on tradition. Is even their "willingness" attested to anywhere?

What are generally accepted as historical facts are open to revision. A manuscript written by Caesar's scribe emerges detailing how Caesar took undeserved credit for conquering Rome, another general was the commander. If deemed authentic, historians would include this as possible evidence that perhaps Caesar did not conquer Gaul. Historians would attach more certainty to this notion if more evidence emerged to corroborate the manuscript. Eventually history may have to be re-written. The existing evidence that the New Testament is not a fully accurate history is discounted by many Christian scholars, plain contradictions within it are waved away as meaningless minor details or hoops of possibilities are jumped through to justify the claims. This is different than how we treat other history.

Matthew's gospel claims that upon Jesus' death "The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people." The resurrection of one person is rather phenomenal. But here we have many resurrections being witnessed by many people. It seems quite incredible that this occurrence is not recorded anywhere else in the New Testament and was unnoticed by any other contemporary chronicler.

Ron Cram said...

clamflats,

Paul's writings are full of stories about the persecution he received and how he was stoned and left for dead. He survived many attacks, but he did die a martyr.

According to Wikipedia's article on Paul:

"In June 2009, Pope Benedict announced excavation results concerning the tomb of Paul at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. The sarcophagus was not opened but was examined by means of a probe, which revealed pieces of incense, purple and blue linen, and small bone fragments. The bone was radiocarbon dated to the 1st or 2nd century. According to the Vatican, these findings are consistent with the traditional claim that the tomb is Paul's.[79] The sarcophagus was inscribed in Latin saying, "Paul apostle martyr."[80]"

Wikipedia on Peter:
"The death of St. Peter is attested to by Tertullian at the end of the 2nd century, and by Origen in Eusebius, Church History III.1. Origen says: "Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer."[25] This is why an upside down cross is generally accepted as a symbol of Peter, who would not have considered himself worthy enough to die the same way as his Savior.[42]"

John, the brother of James, lived to a ripe old age of about 90 or so. According to church tradition, he was the only one of the disciples not to die a martyr's death. But he lived much of his life in exile on the island of Patmos.

clamflats said...

Ron, so your challenge to, "Show me another place in history..." should go unanswered because you are not able to produce evidence that the apostles, as a group, were willing to die for their belief in Jesus' resurrection. This defeats your claim that best evidence is, "the people with the best knowledge of the resurrection were willing to pay the ultimate price for their belief" and supports Matt's claim that, "the non-believer can’t possibly be faulted for failing to believe."

Bob H said...

“This is extraordinary evidence that more than backs up the extraordinary claims.”

All of the so called evidence is confirmation bias. Is the evidence dubitable and impeachable? Yes!

Jeffery Lowder develops the proposition of “criteria of indepent confirmation”.
He posits that:

“When skeptics question the existence of Jesus, they often assume that anyone who accepts the historicity of Jesus must be able to provide extra-Biblical confirmation of his existence. According to this view, the New Testament does not provide prima facie evidence for the historicity of Jesus; independent confirmation is needed.”

Is there non-Christian testimony for Jesus, not really. For instance, the so-called Testimonium Flavianum is an obvious interpolation, and Philo of Alexandria says nothing of Jesus.
I can already here Ron’s objection to Philo. Here is my reply, how far is it from Tarsus to Jerusalem (~375 miles) and how far is from Alexandria to Jerusalem (~314 miles). If Paul knew the legend of Jesus then Philo would have certaintly known about Jesus, and if the legend had merit would have mentioned it.

Ron Cram said...

clamflats,

"Ron, so your challenge to, "Show me another place in history..." should go unanswered because you are not able to produce evidence that the apostles, as a group, were willing to die for their belief in Jesus' resurrection."

I disagree. There is limits on time and space here so you haven't seen all the evidence, but the evidence I provided is enough to show the disciples perseverance in the midst of persecution and martyrdom.

Would you have kept going working for the cause after being stoned like Paul did? Not unless you had seen the risen Christ.

The early believers were persecuted and killed for centuries. They were able to persevere because the disciples showed the way. Christians hid in the catacombs in Rome to avoid being thrown to the lions in the Coliseum. The sign of the early church was the empty tomb. In the catacombs you can see paintings on the walls of the empty tomb. The empty tomb is the central point of the gospel message and the central point of history.

Again, this is unique in history. No other religion or movement has been established because a group of men were willing to be persecuted and killed because their friend rose from the dead.

This evidence cannot be used to attempt to "force" anyone into believing. Christianity does not work like that. Christianity is a religion of the heart. But I do believe any honest person will admit that Christianity is different from other religion. The evidence demands that much.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

What are you trying to say exactly? That Jesus never lived? That all these people who claimed to know him died because of an hallucination?

Actually, there is lots of non-Christian manuscript evidence for Jesus. The most compelling is in The Talmud. And there are no no Christian interpolations in that because there is no way the Jews would allow Christians to copy it. The next best is probably the Annuls of Tacitus. Anain, absolutely no Christian interpolations there either. Next Pliny the Younger followed by Josephus. Now Josephus has a few Christian interpolations but must of the witness to Jesus in Josephus is solid.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

Suetonius also has an interesting mention of Christ that dates to 49 AD. This corresponds well with a statement in the Book of Acts regarding Claudius at about that time. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suetonius_on_Christians

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

Another interesting non-Christian witness to Jesus is Thallus. See http://christianthinktank.com/jrthal.html

John V said...

This is yet another version of a common argument.

That God could do something doesn't necessarily imply that he would or should do it.

The argument is particularly weak against Christianity, as the NT plainly admits that God chose a method of revealing himself that many would consider foolish by worldly standards.

Ron Cram said...

Another interesting non-Christian witness to the historicity of Jesus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucian_on_Jesus

clamflats said...

History is replete with the stories of people who willingly face death for a belief. Some we admire and use as role models, the Freedom Riders of the civil rights movement, for example. Some we detest or ridicule, the 9-11 jet bombers or the Heaven's Gate cultists. It is easy to imagine that the legendary tales of martyrdom of the Apostles would bolster the resolve of the Christian waiting his turn at the Colosseum and remains today as an effective morale-booster. You shouldn't move the goal posts - either there is evidence that historians would accept of the Apostles manner of death or there isn't. Your post is evidence for the fact that you and millions of Christians before you believe the legends of heroic death of your Founders without evidence. It's a common and uninteresting human frailty. However, it is a scandal that Sunday School hagiography is forced on innocent children as history and should be an embarrassment to you to recommend it.

Bob H said...

Ron, Dude, Friend

Are you kidding?

“But I do believe any honest person will admit that Christianity is different from other religion. The evidence demands that much.”

On this one you have a written a check that logic can not cash. This is close to epistemic bankruptcy.

Most of the Christian tradition is closely related to Paganism, Mythology, Mithraism, and Zoroastrianism to mention a few. This does not include Hellenistic, Roman, and neo-Platonism influences.

The only uniqueness that Christianity has is the non sense of the Trinity! And some Christian cults deny the Trinity.


In Philosophy of Religions classes, Wikipedia is generally not accepted as a reliable source for citation. How is http://christianthinktank.com/jrthal.html a non bias source?

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

Were you following my argument? The fact the disciples of Christ were willing to face persecution and death because of the resurrection is unique in history. If you disagree, show me another time and place in history were a group of men suffered and died because they would not stop talking about a friend who had risen from the dead. You cannot do it. Christianity is absolute unique.

It is true that throughout history the Church subsumed a number of pagan practices and Christianized them - like celebrating the birth of Christ with Christmas trees. That is certainly not a biblical tradition.

When you look at the essence of Christianity, it is unique. It is unique in its claims (that the Son of God came to earth as a baby and grew into a man), its message (forgiveness because the penalty of your sin is paid by another), and the miracles that attested the message (healings and especially the resurrection).

The strongest evidence for the resurrection is the changed lives of the disciples. The Apostle Paul is a peculiar case. We have not talked of his conversion yet. As a devout Pharisee, Paul hated Christians - until he met the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. That event changed his life and changed world history.

No, most definitely Christianity is unique.

Bob H said...

Ron, John V,

The problem has been properly stated by Dr. Matt and Ron as agreed that the evidence could have been better. Here is another problem with the NT.

Dan Barker, No Stone Unturned, post’s the Easter challenge for Christians, The conditions of the challenge are simple and reasonable. “In each of the four gospels, Acts, and I Cor. begin at Easter morning and without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple chronological narrative of the events of the resurrection and the ascension.”

I tried this, it required an Excel spreadsheet. The narrative is full of inconsistency, contractions and purely speculative materials. I sent this to an apologists website, the response was, some events had order, some events could have happened in any order and then they tried to use the five blind men examining an elephant analogy to cover up the holes.

Dr. Matt, address the problems of the resurrection on page 46 of his book.

You would think that if the resurrection is the foundation of Christian belief, this is one place where an Omni-God would have necessarily got it right.

It can be argued that Ron and John V. could be consider foolish by worldly standards.

Ron Cram said...

clamflats,

I understand people are willing to die for a cause or for a belief. I said that earlier. But people are not willing to die for something they know is a lie.

The people who knew Jesus best would know if he rose from the dead or not. If it was not true, they would not be willing to die for that lie.

My statement was that no group of men in history has ever been willing to die because they were unwilling to stop talking about their friend who rose from the grave. If you think you disprove that statement, give it a go.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

Minor discrepancies in the story are not a problem for people who deal with ancient literature. The first century did not deal in precision like we do today. For example, quotation marks were not even invented in the first century. Every quotation is an indirect quotation. You do yourself and the text a disservice when you think of it as a direct quotation. I admit, the editors of the English language Bibles are also to blame because they show quotation marks and that is confusing for people.

Regarding a chronological order of events, this is not difficult. The gospel writers were not mainly concerned with chronology. Luke seems to be the most precise in this regard. Use Luke as the starting point and all the details fit in nicely.

Bob H said...

Ron,

Prove IT.

Ron,

Albert Churchward has a little essay in The Book Your Church Doesn’t Want You to Read, Editor: Tim C. Leedom,page 13 titled Horus, The Way, The Truth, The Life. The essay gives a very detailed account of equivalence of Jesus and Horus. There is nothing unique about the Jesus legend.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

Regarding Wikipedia, you are right that it is not generally considered reliable. However, I looked over the articles I linked and they looked good.

There are two good things about Wikipedia: 1. it is accessible to everyone and 2. it tends to provide links for controversial statements.

If there is a statement in the Wikipedia articles you doubt, click on the link the article provides and check it out. If you think the the link does not support the statement in the article, let me know. I will be happy to look into it.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

Horus is recognized by all as a legend. No one was martyred because he believed Horus rose from the dead. My statement stands.

Christianity is unique in its message and in the fact the disciples kept talking about their friend Jesus's resurrection even though it cost them their lives.

clamflats said...

Ron,
"My statement was that no group of men in history has ever been willing to die..." and "If you think you disprove that statement, give it a go."

Misdirection. Your statement actually was, "Show me another place in history when a group of men..." "Another", implies that you can show that this of group of men were martyred or were even merely willing. I've asked you to demonstrate that. You haven't.

Ron Cram said...

clamflats,

Are you seriously suggesting I haven't shown evidence that Paul and Peter were martyred? You provided evidence yourself that James was martyred. And Josephus writes about the killing of James also.

How much evidence do you need? Just a little bit more?

Bob H said...

Ron,
The world experience, in one Equation .

No Creator need apply!

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

There are lots of things that equation does not explain. The Big Bang still needs a banger. The speculation the Big Bang happened from a vacuum fluctuation is not science in the normal sense. Science is based on observation. We have zero observations of large scale vacuum fluctuation. Besides the initial conditions are a problem too. Krauss says it can happen from nothing and that's not true. A vacuum fluctuation needs a quantum state as an initial condition. Krauss does not explain how the quantum state came into existence. Neither does the equation explain the extreme fine-tuning or several other factors.

Positive yet perplexed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Positive yet perplexed said...

Please note the link below to a full interview/debate with Professor Richard Dawkins at the Oxford University Debating Chamber. You will see that Richard Dawkins shines in this context and all the more so when his clear and precise language is juxtaposed to the questions from the religious people in the room (including the interviewer).

And here is a short link: http://bit.ly/12xSgGP"

Brad Lencioni said...

So, after reading through this exhausting back and forth (which has hardly progressed McCormick’s initial argument), I gather that the response to McCormick can be boiled down to the following:

Yes, the evidence for God’s existence could be better; but the available evidence is sufficient, according to the epistemic precept that ‘for any proposition X, one is warranted in believing X is true if a person (or people) has ever likely sacrificed their own wellbeing in a fanatic way on account of their belief that X is true.’ The proposition that ‘Jesus rose from the dead and is God’ meets this criterion; therefore, such a belief is warranted (or at least “not unreasonable”).

This is (1) dubious, (2)most definitely not a respectable response to McCormick, and (3) a waste of time arguing over; if one insists on such levels of “reasonableness”, then he has excused himself from the table of serious inquiry…

Ron, focus your attention on the following passage from McCormick’s essay:

“Even if you think there is evidence that is sufficient to prove the resurrection, a reasonable person must also acknowledge that it could have been better. [And we KNOW this by relating it to other rationally supported facts—e.g. that the Earth is round, 2+2=4, etc). And there’s the problem. If the capacity of that god is greater than the effectiveness or quality of those scriptures, prophets, or special revelations, then the story they are telling contradicts itself.”

Your rebuttal, “The answer is yes. God could have supplied more evidence, but the same question could be asked and answered the same way no matter how much evidence was provided”, is infuriatingly weak. If it is within the power of God to always provide more evidence, then an infinite amount of evidence should exist, and the debate should hinge on something else (like on whether or not Jesus was kind of a jerk, or on why atheists are so irrational that they refuse to believe things like that the Earth is round, that 2+2=4, that God exists, that the sun exists, etc.). Otherwise one is committed to the belief that the available evidence is the best God was logically capable of providing, which demands either an excellent explanation or rejection (of the whole Christian theistic project, because what is hypothesized is inconsistent with what exists).

And I am flabbergasted by your blatant dismissal of the analogy between God and Zuess, due to the existing evidence (!?!?). (See Plantinga and Dennett’s debate “Science and Religion” where Dennett uses the analogy of his created religion, “Supermanism”; Plantinga’s refutation was, not concerned with evidence, but with a disanalogy between Superman’s superpowers—which were not awesome enough to govern the universe—and God’s superpowers.)

“Do you see how ridiculous this sounds?” If one wants to maintain that Christianity is not merely a faith-based cult, but a rational enterprise concerning reality, then one needs strong replies to these serious critiques.

Ron Cram said...

Brad,

You write:
"Yes, the evidence for God’s existence could be better; but the available evidence is sufficient, according to the epistemic precept that ‘for any proposition X, one is warranted in believing X is true if a person (or people) has ever likely sacrificed their own wellbeing in a fanatic way on account of their belief that X is true.’ The proposition that ‘Jesus rose from the dead and is God’ meets this criterion; therefore, such a belief is warranted (or at least “not unreasonable”)."

I must not have made myself clear because this is not my view. The view hinges on the fact the disciples were close personal friends of Jesus. As such they would know whether his resurrection was the truth or a lie. This is not a matter of second hand belief based on a legend either written or oral. This is based on the fact they saw him and talked to him and ate with him in a group. You can try and explain this as mass hallucination if you want, but I don't believe mass hallucination exists. The disciples had first hand knowledge Jesus had risen from the grave.

Of course, I dismissed the analogy between Jesus and Zeus. Matt was not seriously suggesting there is anything like the same level of evidence for historicity of those two. Did you happen to click on any of the links I provided on non-Christian manuscripts that talk about Jesus' life on earth? You cannot explain these away. The Talmud is not a Christian document and has no Christian interpolations.

I think it is incumbent on Matt to say how much historical evidence is necessary before he admits it is reasonable to believe in the historicity of Christ? How much evidence is needed to believe in the historicity of his miracles? And how much evidence is necessary to believe in his resurrection?

I think there is more than enough evidence available now but if Matt wants more - how much more?

Perhaps even more fundamental is the question I asked on an earlier thread - Are you willing to follow the example of Anthony Flew and follow the evidence wherever it leads?

Bob H said...

Ron, et al.
Everyone is missing the mark on evidence. What Ron is really saying is that the evidence and arguments for God and Christianity is just good enough for the believers to believe without being considered insane. We could call this just in time evidence. The preponderance of evidence only needs to be sufficient enough to satisfy the required for the believer to believe. If Ron is trying to convince Dr. Matt that by following the evidence he would, like Flew, see the light, the evidence is not enough. Dr. Matt is within his epistemic right to say, I need just a “little bit more evidence and justification of your knowledge.”

A rebuttal to the argument from martyrdom. If martyr = df. a person who sacrifices something of great value …for religious reasons, then the 916 followers of Jim Jones in Guyana, 1978 committing suicide proves that Jim Jones was at least a disciple of Christ, if not the second coming of Christ himself. There have been many that have gave their lives for beliefs, that are unfounded. Just because someone is martyred for some cause or idea does not make the case for belief.

Ron,
“The Big Bang still needs a banger”.
You rejected my deductive disproof of the argument from contingency, now you want to make a deductive argument from first cause?
Whats up with you man? You are so just all over the fricken place!

Matt McCormick said...

About a third of my book is about this so-called powerful evidence for Jesus' resurrection.

But again, petty bickering over the historical documents completely misses the point. If the almighty creator of the universe wanted to make his existence manifest in some fashion that would be utterly undeniable, he could have easily. He would not have buried the occurrence of the most important event in human history under layers of obscurity, hearsay, gossip, politics, distortions, illiteracy, ignorance, and controversy. He could have made this event plainly, undeniably manifest to all humans everywhere for all times. The fact that he did not speaks volumes about God's alleged existence, power, and his desire for us to believe. Even if the evidence for the resurrection was as good as Ron has claimed (it is not), reasonable people would still have the question: why did the all powerful creator of the universe not make his favored religion and his favored miracles as plain as the existence of the moon? Christians would do well not to bark up the historical-corroboration-of-the-Bible tree; there's no rational justification for their views to be found there.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

I was not making a deductive argument. The equation you provided does not explain the Big Bang. There has to be an explanation how it all got started. Why is that hard for you to understand?

Ron Cram said...

Matt,

One of these days I will get a chance to read your book and see how much of the manuscript evidence you dealt with and what you had to say about it. You say I overstate the evidence, but you don't say how. It would interesting to know why you think that.

It is not just about the manuscript evidence. The strongest possible evidence for the resurrection is the apostles, whose lives showed they had first hand knowledge Jesus was alive. As I mentioned, this corroborates the manuscript evidence. And it is analogous to the ruins in France that corroborates that Julius Caesar conquered Gaul.

You don't want to admit power of this evidence, but it cannot be avoided. This is unique in human history.

If you could name another time when a group of men were willing to suffer and die because they were unwilling to stop talking about their friend who rose from the dead, then you would have done so by now.

You write:
"Even if the evidence for the resurrection was as good as Ron has claimed (it is not), reasonable people would still have the question: why did the all powerful creator of the universe not make his favored religion and his favored miracles as plain as the existence of the moon?"

Reasonable people will have varied reactions to any set or subset of evidence. Some reasonable people will understand that when the evidence for God's existence (or the resurrection of Jesus) is overwhelming, it effectively eliminates the issue of choice (faith) which is what life on earth is all about. It is the reason Adam and Eve were given a choice in the garden. Life is a test.

The Bible says that someday Jesus is going to return to earth again. At that point he will be visible to all. But at that point, the test will be over because it is time to grade the test.

If you want to disprove the miracles of Christ, the resurrection should be the easiest one to disprove. But if the resurrection is true, then there is no reason to disbelieve any other miracle in the New Testament. Do you agree?

Brad Lencioni said...

Ron, you must still not be explaining yourself clearly, because your response was entirely consistent with my comment. You are justifying your belief by citing the actions of others, while explicitly assuming that they must have “know[n] whether his resurrection was a truth or a lie,” and that they would not have lied.

Furthermore, I find these assumptions of yours to be a curious, especially when combined with your following statement:

“People's actions are not always rational. In fact, I would argue that people's actions are rarely rational. Psychologists tell us most buying decisions are emotional. Most of life's major decisions - who are you going to marry, where are we going to live - these are emotional decisions.”

If you are aware of peoples disposition to act irrationally—even when concerning their life’s most “major decisions”—then I wonder what makes you so confident that the actions of the early Christians were based on sound reasons???

Ron Cram said...

Matt,

I just noticed this line from your last comment:

"Christians would do well not to bark up the historical-corroboration-of-the-Bible tree; there's no rational justification for their views to be found there."

Not true. In fact, it is an incredibly naive statement. Historical corroboration of the Bible has happened time and time again. Skeptics used to say "The Bible talks about Hittites. The Hittites never existed. The Bible is just telling stories of tough battles to make the Jewish people look impressive."

Archaeologists kept digging around and what do you know... Hittites. And guess what? They were fierce warriors.

More recently, in 1999, a book was published titled "Is the Bible True?" US News and World Report did a story on it. Here's the link to the story.

http://www.uhcg.org/news/is-bible-true.html

Don't ever bet against the Bible.

Ron Cram said...

Brad,

I guess I am not making myself clear.

You wrote:
"‘for any proposition X, one is warranted in believing X is true if a person (or people) has ever likely sacrificed their own wellbeing in a fanatic way on account of their belief that X is true.’

I am taking what you have written here as different that what I am saying. When you write "belief" in this sentence, I am taking you to mean belief in the sense of someone who has an intellectual assent to facts that he does not have a first hand knowledge of. Let me see if I can give an example.

Let's say someone is told or reads that they will get 70 virgins in the afterlife if they blow themselves up in an attack. Let's say the person wants the 70 virgins and blows himself up. Your sentence would apply to a person like this.

Let's take a different example. It is really hard to fool someone close to you about a resurrection. Let's say you wanted to start a new religion and so you got a group of men together, taught them some stuff that helped their lives and then you faked your death and reappeared to them claiming to have risen from the dead. They know you. They like you. But they are not buying it. "So how did you fake your death?" they ask. Will these people be willing to suffer and die for you? Nope. Not a chance. People may die for something they believe in but they will not die for something they suspect is a lie.

Let's take another example. This time your group of friends watched as you were publicly tortured and hung on a cross. The hours dragged by as you bled profusely from the beatings and nails in your hands and feet. Finally you breathe your last. Someone sticks a spear in your side to confirm you are dead. And then your body is put in a cave and a large stone rolled in front of it. Three days later you appear to your friends alive. Your friends are shocked. They know you. They watched you die. They ask "How are you alive? We watched you die!" And you say "I told you I am the Son of God and I was going to rise again. Now I want you to go and teach others about me."

Do you see now? In the last example, these are people with first hand knowledge of you, first hand knowledge of your death and first hand knowledge of your resurrection. This is not "belief." This is knowledge.

What I just described happened with Jesus Christ. His friends KNEW the resurrection was true. If they didn't "KNOW" it in this sense, they would not have agreed to suffer and die for Christ.

Would you be willing to suffer and die for something if you thought it might be a hoax? Of course not.

This set of facts is unique in human history. You cannot find another leader or religion or movement in which the followers who knew the leader best and watched him die would be willing to suffer and die for the claim he rose from the dead.

Just as the Roman ruins in France is lasting proof that Rome conquered Gaul, the changed lives of the disciples is also lasting proof that Jesus rose from the dead.

Bob H said...

Ron,
1) For an infinite time Tp₋ₓ God does not have the will to create, because God is perfection, and would not have needs or wants.

2) At some point in the infinite past of nothingness, God has the will to create (Why)?

Please support your answer with preponderance of evidence

Bob H said...

Ron,
As you well know, the person making claims must be able to provide some veracity for the claim.
You are arguing for the inerrancy of the Bible and the resurrection.
It should be a simple 5 minute exercise for you to meet the Easter Challenge.
You stated:

“Luke seems to be the most precise in this regard. Use Luke as the starting point and all the details fit in nicely.”

Show the Biblical reliability and accuracy of the resurrection, with a detailed accounting from the Biblical narrative.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

You ask why God would have a will to create. My only is answer is that creation is consistent with God's nature. God is love. And God is creative. Just as a poet wants to write poetry or a painter wants to paint, God wants to create

Ron Cram said...

Bob,
I have never mentioned inerrancy. I did mention that the first century did not have the same ideas about precision that we have today. I mentioned the fact quotation marks were not invented in the first century. Most of the gospel writers convey the story of Jesus reliably but they were not sticklers to get the events in chronological order. In the first few verses of Luke's gospel, he mentions that he made an effort to write the story in chronological order. As a physician, Luke was more highly educated than most of the other Bible writers - except for Paul who is one of the most highly educated men in the first century.

If you wish to read a harmony of the gospels, I can recommend two. "Harmony of the Gospels" by A.T. Robertson (1932) and "Harmony of the Gospels" by Robert Thomas and Stan Gundry (1986).

Bob H said...

Ron,
Thanks for your replies.
There is a problem of justification of knowledge concerning God and the Bible.
In an earlier post, I quoted Smith “the concept (of God) itself is meaningless.” What makes God meaningless is what I characterized in my categorical syllogism for self-consistence.
I asked why would an Omni-God, with ontological perfection (Descartes), and who no other greater being could be thought of (Anslem) would have needs and wants. Your answer was God has human traits. There is an inconsistence between an Omni-God and a anthropomorphic, personal God. Then you add the “internal witness of the holy spirit or a sensus divinitatis” you have left the realm of monotheism, in there is clearly and distinctly at least three Gods, I know your reply is going to be the church doctrine of the Trinity address that issue. However, God the Father is just another personification of human features as is Jesus, and that does not explain why an Omin-God who is external and exists in infinity created the universe. There is no justification of knowledge by stating the universe exists, therefore God exists. Zeus and Horus are just as qualified to be the God of Christianity despite your blatant dismissal of the analogy. Any just in time evidence can be applied to Zeus and Horus.

Based on historical/textual criticism and exegesis the Bible is not the word of God, but composite literature composed by superstitious men. Biblical scholars know Moses did not write the Pentateuch. There is a preponderance of evidence for “Documentary Hypothesis.” There is a preponderance of evidence for the “Dual Sources” for Matthew and Luke (Mark and Q). You acknowledge that the writers of the gospels were not concerned with the chronological events, but there is harmony of such events that were written by barbarous and ignorant goat herders who follow religious mysticism. There is no justification of knowledge that would make betting on the Bible as true a sure thing.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

To say the concept of God is meaningless is patently false. There are many concepts of God, each competing in the open marketplace of ideas. The concept of the Christian God is not only consistent logically, it has significant historical support from evidence relating to both the Old Testament and the New Testament. I have provided numerous links to some of this evidence on this page.

You ask why a god believed to have ontological perfection would have needs and wants. And you want to know how an omni-god can have personal attributes. My reply is that the concept of the Christian God is internally consistent logically.. If you have in your mind some philosophical construct of what God should be like, then you will most likely be led astray.

here is the Christian answer. God, even though he is spirit and omnipresent, is also a personal God. This means he has a personality. He has likes and dislikes. The Bible tells us God created man in his image. So, we should not be surprised when we see some similarities between us and God. We are not going to become gods ever as some religions teach, but God did create us as intelligent, communicative and creative beings. Artists like to express themselves in their art. God likes to express his creativity also, but he has a much larger canvas. There is no inconsistency within the nature of God.

Regarding Zeus and Horus, these are both mythologies. They have no basis in historical fact. Jesus does. You cannot get around the manuscript evidence, especially in the Talmud.

Regarding the historicity of the Bible, there is a track record. The Bible has come through time and time again. Did you happen to read the article in US News that I linked? If not, how can you comment on the historicity of the Bible if you are not willing to examine the evidence?

Bob H said...

Ron,

Good response, but not very compelling.
Logic: The study of correct reasoning. The right way and the wrong way to argue. The study of the structures of arguments that guarantees correct or true conclusions from correct or true premises.
Deductive: attempts to prove the truth of its conclusion with certainty. In a valid deductive argument with all true premises, the truth of the conclusion is necessary and its falsehood is impossible [Certain, Valid and Sound]

You have blatantly rejected deductive proofs and disproof’s.

Inductive: attempts to establish its conclusion with some degree of probability. In a strong inductive argument with all true premises, the truth of the conclusion is merely probable and its falsehood merely improbable. Arguments are weak to strong. A posteriori considerations depend on their probability and on their respective explanatory power therefore they are not conclusive evidence.

Your just in time evidence, is just sufficient to convince a believer that they are not insane.

Propositions or Statements: expressed by a declarative sentence and takes a truth value. A proposition is something that can be asserted or denied (T or F).

Based on the above vocabulary provide an argument that it is highly probably, say > .9 that “The concept of the Christian God is internally consistent logically.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

I think the burden of proof is on those who claim the Christian God is inconsistent logically. The challenge anyone wishes to prove inconsistency or incompatibility is they first have to understand the Christian God. I would recommend to you the fine book Knowing God by J.I. Packer.

Most people will be more interested in the question of evidence, scientific and historical, to support the existence of God. As I mentioned earlier, I have started writing a booklet with the working title "Does science prove God exists?" When I finish the booklet, I will be happen to send you one free of charge if you promise me you will read it. So far, I cannot tell you have read any of the links I have provided so far.

Bob, are you willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads?

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

I should address a couple of your other comments. You write:

"You have blatantly rejected deductive proofs and disproof’s."

I do not reject all deductive logic. I do reject deductive proofs and disproofs because the history of philosophy clearly shows that none of them work.

You also write:

"Your just in time evidence, is just sufficient to convince a believer that they are not insane."

Not true. The evidence I have brought forward is some of the evidence that has persuaded brilliant atheists like Francis Collins, Lee Strobel, Allan Sandage and Anthony Flew that God exists.

Bob H said...

Thanks, Ron.

A intelligent internet user, who wants someone to follow URL links would learn how to use HTML tags!

I am willing to read anything that can be considered reputable, for instance Stenger, Krauss, and Feynman. I have read for instance, Strobel and Flew as an atheist.

The evidence has also convinced Dan Barker, John Lofuts and Gary Lenaire to leave the faith. Touche’!

You recommending books to read is a copout. I could recommend that you read Everitt, Rowe, Martin, Gale and McCormick. I have read them and as a student of philosophy have formed my own arguments and are willing to post them.

It is the responsibility of the person who is asserting a claim to provide the supporting evidence or arguments. You can not shift that responsibility. You asserted “God is internally consistent logically.” It is your responsibility to defend that claim. In philosophy such statements get you a big fat F. In philosophy it is required to posit a thesis statement, “The puropse of this posting is to argue in favor of the Logically interally consistency of a Christian God.” Then there better be something of substance, not just a some sort of language game, that follows.

It should be obvious, that Dr. Matt, et al on this thread, have study the evidence in great detail. If there was any ground breaking, earth shattering new evidence in the world we would know about and certaintly entertain studying it.

Bob H said...

Ron,

Dr. Matt has probably taught at least 15 terms of Philosophy of Religion. If you look at his syllabus for last term he has given up on a textbook per se because he knows the subject matter so well. It is condescending almost to the point of ad hominem to suggest that he does not understand the evidence. He has published a book that has been excepted by the community of his peers.

As a lowly student of philosophy with an emphasize on religion, I have read Plato (Socrates), Aristotle, Augustine, Boethius Anslem, Aquinas along with James, Taylor, Pascal, Wolterstorff, Wittgensein, Moore and even the pseudoscience of W. L. Craig just to mention a few names that are on the Western tradition of Christian Theology. It is condescending to suggest that I have not or will not consider what ever evidence or writings that are available.

We would not be considered philosophers or students of philosophy if in fact we did not take an analytical approach to the question of “Does God exists”. Any philosopher or student who is to be taken seriously will willingly with an open mind consider a legitimate argument or defense of Christianity.

In addition, atheist are well educated in historical/textual criticism and exegesis of the Bible. The philosopher does not approach the Bible with a devotional position as you do. The philosopher does not make the assumation that God exists. Bart Ehrman is well known in our community. Paul Tobin’s excellent volume, The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager is well researched (over 1500 citations), is considered authoritative, and is part of literature.

Positing to this site with an attitude of I know more than you do, and you don’t know what you are talking about, is arrogant and egotistical.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

So the lack of html tags is your excuse for not following the evidence? I didn't know. Here you go:

The strongest evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is the changed lives of the apostles. They were willing to suffer persecution, deprivation and even death because they would not stop talking about their friend who rose from the dead. Evidence for this persecution is everywhere - throughout the New Testament, the Talmud and in the writings of Roman historians. No one doubts the early Christians suffered persecution.

Martyrdom of St Paul
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Apostle#Arrest_and_death

Martyrdom of St Peter
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Peter#Martyrdom

But there is also strong manuscript evidence for the
historicity of Jesus and his miracles based non-Biblical manuscripts:

The Talmud called the miracles of Jesus sorcery. In the New Testament the Jews claimed Jesus did his miracles by Beelzebub which is exactly the same time. No Christian interpolations because the Jews always did their own copying.

"Eddy and Boyd, who question the value of several of the Talmudic references state that the significance of the Talmud to historical Jesus research is that it never denies the existence of Jesus, but accuses him of sorcery, thus indirectly confirming his existence.[46] R. T. France and separately Edgar V. McKnight state that the divergence of the Talmud statements from the Christian accounts and their negative nature indicate that they are about a person who existed.[187][188] Craig Blomberg states that the denial of the existence of Jesus was never part of the Jewish tradition, which instead accused him of being a sorcerer and magician, as also reflected in other sources such as Celsus.[45] Andreas Kostenberger states that the overall conclusion that can be drawn from the references in the Talmud is that Jesus was a historical person whose existence was never denied by the Jewish tradition, which instead focused on discrediting him.[47]"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus#The_Talmud

Tacitus is also helpful. There are no Christian interpolations as the passages are clearly not complimentary to Jesus.

"Scholars generally consider Tacitus's reference to be genuine and of historical value as an independent Roman source about early Christianity that is in unison with other historical records.[5][6][7][41]
Van Voorst states that "of all Roman writers, Tacitus gives us the most precise information about Christ".[40] John Dominic Crossan considers the passage important in establishing that Jesus existed and was crucified, and states: "That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus... agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact."[52]"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Jesus

Pliny the Younger writing to Emperor Trajan sometime between 98-117 AD. Again, no possible Christian interpolations and no question that Christians were dying for their faith in Christ and his resurrection.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pliny_the_Younger#Epistle_concerning_the_Christian_Religion

to be continued

Ron Cram said...

continuation

Lucien witing between 150-180 AD. Again, there are zero Christian interpolations as the passages are not complimentary to Christians.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucian_on_Jesus

Thallus is another ancient historian believed to have written in the first century AD. He would be the earliest non-Christian historian to write about Jesus. Unfortunately, his manuscript is not available. We have several ancient historians who mention his work.
http://christianthinktank.com/jrthal.html

Josephus. Jesus is mentioned several times in Josephus but there is also strong evidence of Christian interpolations in some of the mentions. Scholars agree the James passage is genuine with no Christian interpolations. The fact Josephus says Jesus is "called the Christ" does not mean he has trusted Christ but it accurately reports that others call him as the Christ.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus#The_James_Passage_2

Are there people who doubt the usefulness of certain of these witnesses? Of course. But the preponderance of evidence is clearly on the historicity of Jesus, on his death by crucifixion ("the extreme penalty") and his resurrection.

Bob H said...

Ron,

We all accept there is some evidence. Is the evidence sufficient, maybe. As you acknowledged, the evidence is dubitable and impeachable. If there was at least one historical Jesus then there were many historical Jesuses. There is nothing in the legend that would exclude the ideas of several Jesuses. You keep refering to the Talmud. All reference in the NT to the Hebrew text would be taken from the Greek translation, the Septuagint. The only argument for a singalur Jesus and not many Jesuses to be the Christian Messiah is the monotheism of Judaism.

My 11 year old granddaughter can copy and paste from Wikipedia. My 15 year old grandson has written a webpage entirely in html.

Every engineer and scienctist that I worked with could write scripts (Perl, Java, Unix shell), that is the nature of their jobs. Most of them had to report findings and data, and that was usually on an intranet and writing some html.

You are claiming to be writing a booklet on the fine tuning of the universe. I am skeptical of your qualifications, why should I take you seriously.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

I don't like to talk about my qualifications. That doesn't mean I don't have a formal education. I do. But the point is that either my evidence and logic stand up to scrutiny or they do not. Telling you which degrees I hold and which private colleges and universities I attended is beside the point.

You write: "You keep refering to the Talmud. All reference in the NT to the Hebrew text would be taken from the Greek translation, the Septuagint."

Actually, the Talmud is highly respected (second only to the Old Testament for Jewish people) collection of ancient Rabbinic writings based on Jewish oral tradition. The Talmud consists of the Mishnah and the Gemara. The portions about Jesus date back to the first century. The Talmud has nothing to do with the New Testament (except they both mention Jesus). The Talmud views Jesus has a heretic who used sorcery to perform his miracles. The fact the Talmud does not deny the miracles is very telling. Instead of denying them, it attempts to explain them away by sorcery (which is the exact argument the Jews used in the New Testament). So this is good evidence the Talmud accurately the events around Jesus.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

Regarding the extreme fine tuning of the universe, I cannot provide the evidence here but I can quickly describe it.

Brian Greene did a wonderful TV show for NOVA seen on PBS titled The Elegant Universe. You can buy the DVD or possible borrow it from your local library. On Disc 1 Part 2 Scene 8, he stands in front of a "universe machine" with 20 big dials and explains the universe can exist if each dial is set to precisely the right number. Screw one of them up just a little and the stars go out.

It's a great illustration only the extreme fine-tuning exists on every scale - universe, galaxy clusters, galaxies, planetary systems, planet earth, ecosystem. And we now know there are than 20 constants that need to be fine tuned. On average, each of the scales (universe, galaxy clusters, etc) have about 100 known constant and ratios which are fine-tuned.

Very few people grasp the level of evidence for fine-tuning. When you see a book like Victor Stenger's claiming the universe is not fine-tuned, well, it's just laughable. When Stenger claims if one dial is off, you can make up for it by adjusting another dial - well, that doesn't work because it will throw another ratio out of whack. The interconnectedness of the fine-tuning is just amazing.

Matt McCormick said...

Sharpshooter fallacy.

Bob H said...

Ron,

I can respect no brag, just the facts.

Dr. Matt is correct. There is difference between accuracy and precision.

I don’t know who your booklet’s intended audience is, but if its target is for the engineering or scientic community that is atheistic in nature, you have a huge mountain to climb.

As a design engineer with 32 years experience, and a hobby of SCCA road racing for 12 years, I understand fine tuning. Off the top of my head, there are major obstacles that you have to over come. For instance, 1) proving that the non-contingency grounding of contingency is conscious. 2) proving the ontological gap 3) proving the analogy of a machine and the fallacy of composition 4)showing an objective design that is tuned and fail safe 5)showing the steps from tuned to fine tuned.

Calling Dr. Stenger’s book and writings laughable is just plain arrogant.

Ron Cram said...

Matt,

The charge of sharpshooter fallacy is an interesting one. Typically sharpshooter is claimed when one wants to point out that correlation is not causation. But causation is exactly what the evidence is describing. If the strength of the strong nuclear force was off just a little bit... or the strength of the electroweak force was just a little different... the universe as we know it would cease to exist.

Please explain to me how the sharpshooter fallacy applies to these observations.

Ron Cram said...

Bob,

The intended audience are students and faculty of colleges and universities. Step one is simply informing them of the level of evidence for extreme fine-tuning and the interconnectedness of the various parameters. Suffice it to say that this is not well understood.

Ron Cram said...

Matt,

This is off topic but I just read a rather interesting op-ed piece in the Washington Post published about a month ago. It is by William Lane Craig.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/humanism-for-children/2012/12/10/624efd8c-42e9-11e2-9648-a2c323a991d6_blog.html

I was surprised to see the claim by Quentin Smith regarding the rise of theists in philosophy departments since the 1960s. As a Christian, I find the claim encouraging even if it is surprising. I am certain the percentage of theists in physics departments is far greater than the percentage in philosophy departments, but it is nice to hear of the increase among philosophers.

Would you be willing to comment on Craig's view that the humanist is obliged to defeat both the nihilist and theist viewpoints?

Bob H said...

Ron,

Are you smarter than a 5th grader?

Any 5th grader can copy and paste.

If you want someone to follow a link, use HTML tags..

WL Craig

And you want us to beleive that you are capable of writing a booklet for college students and professors!

I am not impressed.


Bob H said...

typo >> believe <<

Brad Lencioni said...

I was impressed by this post and have been mulling it, as well as the subsequent discussions it sparked in the message board, over in the back of my head; and I have since determined that the logical framework of Bayes theorem would greatly clarify things, as it is precisely the tool for calculating the degree of belief warranted of any given hypothesis.

Bayes theorem is: P(h | e & b) = P(h | b) x P (e | h & b)/ [P(h |b) x P(e | h &b) + P(~h | b) x P(e |~h & b)

In Bayesian logic, the primary focus of your argument, McCormick, can properly be seen as one for determining the value of the positive consequent statement under the hypothesis that the Christian God exists (i.e. the likelihood of the existing evidence if the given hypothesis is true: P(e | h & b)); the argument convincingly points out that the existing evidence is not at all what the hypothesis predicts; i.e. P(e | h & b) → 0.

Furthermore, you point out that the evidence is far better explained by an alternate hypothesis, which is what the negative consequent measures in Bayes theorem; i.e. P(e | ~h & b) → 1.

However, before we can conclude that the atheist is warranted in his unbelief, we must determine the prior (i.e. the probability of the hypothesis on our background knowledge of the world: P(h | b); in this case, this number is measured according to the likelihood of superstitious, prescientific folk theories being true: which is highly unlikely; i.e. P(h|b) → 0.

When we plug these results into Bayes equation: the probability of the Christian theistic hypothesis being true is approximately = .000001 x .000001/ (.000001 x .000001) + (.99999 x .99999) = a tiny fraction of 1%.

Furthermore, Bayes theorem tells us what is wrong with Ron Cram’s endless frustrating rebuttals: First, it tells us precisely how much evidence is enough; it is that amount which produces a posterior probability of at least more than 50% for an objective observer (given the problem of evil, though, it more realistically should be over 90%). Also, Ron’s ad hoc rationalizations, which he intends to improve the positive consequent value which this post attacks, actually only hurts his case. Because they complicate his hypothesis, lowering its prior, and require even more evidence as a result which he cannot produce (because they consist of mere speculation).

Slam Dunk! :)

Matt McCormick said...

Nice Brad. Write this up with a little more explanation and we'll make it a guest post on the blog proper.
MM

Brad Lencioni said...

That would be cool :) I'll see if I can put something together that is both interesting and deserving.

Bayes theorem, I think, can be very satisfying and useful here because (1) its a formal, logically sound expression of how atheists already intuitively process the theistic debate; and (2) it properly frames the debate, demonstrating that we are really arguing over just three statements of probability [e.g. (i)the "prior" probability of a hypothesis being true against our background knowledge; (ii) the "consequent" probability of the existing evidence if the hypothesis were true; and (iii) the consequent probability of the existing evidence if the hypothesis were false]; and so it moves the argument away from the intuitive realm and into the logical realm, promising to give some conclusions which stick and cannot be evaded (at least not if the Believer wants to claim his faith to be reasonable!).

magnus08 said...

Ron, you said, "The strongest possible evidence for the resurrection is the apostles, whose lives showed they had first hand knowledge Jesus was alive."

What evidence do you have that the stories about the apostles are accurate? Do you have any original first-hand statements from them? Any corroboration from Romans, Jews, or other Pagans? I don't think so. How do you know the stories aren't just myths?

Supposing the apostles were real people, how do you know they didn't simply have visions (dreams and/or hallucinations) of a risen Jesus? After all, belief in rising gods was common at the time. The Romans said the same thing about their emperors. Justin Martyr admits as much and fails to offer any evidence that Christianity's case is any stronger.

Furthermore, strength of conviction does not equal truth. Otherwise, why not become Buddhists? After all, a number of them have burned themselves to death for their beliefs. Why not become Muslims or Mormons? After all, many of them have died for their beliefs too.

Nahru said...

Hi.

I know it's quite late, and I may be writing in vain (from a certain point of view), but I've nonetheless decided to share my thought about this. So, here it goes...

It would seem that the content of your article/post doesn't differentiate between two terms, one of them "to believe" and the other one "to know". Because, according to a definition of the verb "to believe" (via Wiktionary.org), it means, among other things, "To think something is true without having proof or empirical evidence."

As you've already answered, yes, the God could have made his existence utterly obvious, as obvious as the existence of Sun, or as obvious that we're breathing the air, and countless other examples. Also, yes, the evidence about His existence, which he provided us (let us for now suppose that there is evidence, and that God did provide us with a at least some evidence of his existence), is far from what He should be capable of. If He is the creator of the universe and everything within and beyond it (if there's something beyond universe, and if there is such a thing as "beyond" universe), then He should, without doubt, be capable of producing better evidence for His existence.

But why did He not do that, now that's the problem isn't it? Why did He not make His existence so obvious, so that nobody, with reason, would possibly even think about doubting His existence? What is there to hide?

The answer, of course, is not an easy one, and I won't pretend that I'm here to give an answer. I'm just as intrigued by these things as you are, and wan't to know the truth, whatever the truth might be, and whatever it might mean. So, I'm here just to give another perspective on looking at the problem.

(SEE MY SECOND POST FOR CONTINUATION)

Nahru said...

(CONTINUING FROM MY PREVIOUS POST)

One possible explanation would be that God wants to "gift" (give) a reward for believing in Him. Because, why would he provide His gifts to people, if He would make His existence obvious, and because of that everyone would "know" (not believe) that He exists. There would be nobody who wouldn't know Him, and thus, everybody would be equal. So how could He than differentiate between people, and give to some more, while to some less, of His gifts, based only on the part regarding His existence (there are other parts, of course, like doing good deeds and whatnot). (by "gift" I mean a variety of things, such as Heaven, peace, pleasures, integrity...)

My point is, if everybody knew that He exists, than nobody could be given more, or less, of His gifts based only on that variable (knowledge of His existence). And there is a religion in which it's stated that "no one who believes in God will burn in hell" (I quote, but perhaps I shouldn't as I'm typing this from my memory; nonetheless I know that there is a part where it's meant like that). So, if everybody would know of God's existence, than nobody would burn in hell. This means that today's believers and nonbelievers, regarding the same religion, would be the same, so believers wouldn't be given any advantage over the nonbelievers for their belief. It is of importance to note that a nonbeliever can, of course, be a more useful, helpful member of a society than a believer. But belief itself, it would seem, carries great weight, and is the first thing that God commands. Everything else comes afterwards.

In short, if there would be obvious evidence of God's existence, than there wouldn't be necessity to "believe" in Him, everyone would know. And God wishes not to make His existence obvious, for whatever reasons, so that He could reward those who believe, in spite of weak and/or small number of evidence. Belief itself is among things that counts as "good deeds", not only how one lives, or does one commits "good" or "bad" physical deeds. Thus, asking for clear evidence of His existence is practically asking not to believe, if you understand me. And belief, as I've said, is something that matters to God.

I don't know if I should mention this or not, or if it even matters to anyone, but... err, no I won't yet say in which God I believe. It's not a secret or anything, and yes, it's only one God.

I shall stop here. Have a nice day.

Edit: wait, I have to post 2 times, because this post is too large? ZOMG!

John Sanders said...

Nahru,
I don't understand what reward is due someone for believing something without good evidence. Also, for much of the prescientific age the overwhelming majority of people in the western world did believe in God. Also most believers believe because of parents' and community infuluences. Reward for believing in these circumstances seems silly. Also, to get the whole game started need to believe in God, why leave playing the game an option? Again most people don't choose to believe or not.