Comment Rescue: Greg on “stinking skeptics”

Here’s another recent comment on the old wordpress.com version of Evangelical Realism. Commenting on Apologetics vs Bible-based faith, “Greg” writes:

I don’t expect you to change your opinion, but I just would like to voice mine. I am a “skeptical” Christian, and following your advice, I would like to know what exactly is the “specialized knowledge and training” and “exposure” you have had?

“he’d just point out that the Bible (if we even needed to have one) could be confirmed by simply asking God.” Before Adam sinned, he spoke to God daily, the very thing you are requiring of Holding to produce. This is now infact impossible, because God doesn’t talk to people that way since sin separates us, as you already know from your specialized training and exposure.

As a skeptic, you stink. Your basic logic is not even logic, it is completely skewed.

“In fact, Holding is quite plainly wrong in asserting that critics of the Bible need to acquire some impossibly difficult list of academic credentials in order to falsify Scripture’s claims to divine infallibility.”

This is exactly what you skeptics expect of Christians. Nice double standard, how “hypocritical” something you skeptics often accuse Christians of. BTW, I have never claimed to be perfect, just forgiven. :)

More of your supremely flawed logic: “You do not need a post-PhD mastery of the mathematics of quantum physics to know that the equation “2+2=17? does not add up.”

This is a classic straw man. You have achieved nothing here other than exhibiting your own ignorance of basic logic. I don’t mean to say this in a harsh or demeaning way, I truly don’t, but you could seriously use some more training and exposure to basic logic before you tackle the monster of Biblical Inerrancy.

Hi, Greg, thanks for writing. Taking your last point first, I think if you look it up, you’ll find that a straw man argument involves misrepresenting your opponent’s argument in some way. When I say that you don’t need to know calculus to recognize arithmetic errors, I’m presenting my own argument, not describing someone else’s. Clearly, then, this isn’t a straw man fallacy.

Regarding the “double standard” charge, I have two replies. The first is to point out that, when you say that skeptics expect Christians to acquire some impossibly difficult list of academic credentials in order to falsify (e.g.) evolution, this is a straw man. You are making claims about what skeptics say, and misrepresenting their claims. If an 8-year-old found genuine fossils of Adam and Eve in a rock formation that was indisputably pre-Cambrian, then the kid’s educational level would be irrelevant to the impact of the find. You don’t need a paleontology degree to falsify evolution, you just need real-world facts to be on your side. It’s not the evolutionists’ fault if the facts are more consistent with scientific theories than with creationism.

Secondly, I don’t think I’m holding any kind of double standard at all. I don’t deny that you need advanced training in theology to speak authoritatively about advanced topics in theology. I’m simply saying that you don’t need the advanced stuff to spot problems in the fundamentals. You don’t need a PhD in astronomy to know whether stars exist. You don’t need post-doctoral studies in gastroenterology to know whether intestines exist. You don’t need to be an experienced psychiatrist to know whether mental illnesses exist. So why should you need advanced theological training to know whether God exists? Thus, it’s not that I’m holding theology up to a different standard than other knowledge domains. Quite the contrary, I’m asking why theology is not held to the same standards as other disciplines.

As for sin separating us from God, I have to say I think you’re just making excuses for God. According to the Bible, all men have been sinners since Genesis 3, but Genesis 3 does not mark the last time the Bible claims that God appeared to men. Clearly, whatever separation sin is supposed to produce, it’s not consistent with Scripture to claim that it prevents God from showing up in real life.  What’s more, the New Testament tells us that Jesus’ death on the cross is supposed to have taken care of that “sin separates us from God” problem, so even if you could argue that God was unwilling or unable to show up for sinners, you’ve still got a problem with the fact that God does not show up in real life for believers either. If the Cross wasn’t enough, what’s next, eh?

Either way, you’re left with the inescapable consequence: in God’s absence, you’ve got no rational, reality-based justification for concluding that Biblical writers were telling the literal truth about God. You say that God spoke with Adam every day, and the writer of Genesis does indeed claim that. But if that’s not consistent with the way we see God behaving in real life, what reason do we have for concluding that the writer (or writers) of Genesis told the literal truth about God and God’s behavior? Men tell you “God did such and such,” and you just take their word for it, even though what they say is not consistent with verifiable reality insofar as we can verify it. Taking man’s word for things that don’t match reality isn’t faith, it’s gullibility. Would God really want you to just be gullible about ancient Bible tales?

Lastly, my credentials are nothing special–I graduated with honors from a conservative Christian liberal arts college with a degree in foreign languages (including one semester of Koine Greek, which I aced :) ), many hours of personal Bible study and exploration of what Biblical scholarship I could get ahold of in those dim pre-Internet times, plus some seminary-level theology training through an extension program of my local church, again with very high grades (I was heading towards ordination when the evidence from history and theology got to be too much for my faith). So bottom line: you should be skeptical of what I say. Don’t just take my word for things. Test what I tell you, and if I get something wrong, let me know and I’ll thank you (as long as it’s a genuine mistake and not just a difference of opinion).

Let me just emphasize that again. You’ve made many accusations to the effect that my logic is “flawed,” “skewed,” and otherwise defective, but unfortunately you’ve not been too specific about what those problems might be. And the one specific example you did give turned out not to be a straw man after all. So please, if you’re going to criticize me, do correct me as well, so that we can see for ourselves whether or not your criticisms have any merit, and so that we can all benefit from them if they do.

Thank you.

 
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Posted in Unapologetics. 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Comment Rescue: Greg on “stinking skeptics””

  1. jorgaba Says:

    I would be willing to agree that, generally, advanced training in an area means you can be trusted to understand methods of inquiry used by people in that field — That is, when I don’t know, I can give you the benefit of the doubt .

    This does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that a person outside the field cannot critique something inside the field. Nor does it free a trained person from having to justify their assertions.

    There is no serious field of study where the viability of methods in the field cannot be verified and critiqued outside the field. None. If theology were a serious branch of inquiry, its methods would be open to analytic scrutiny by anyone, regardless of formal theological training. If William Lane Craig, for example, is saying anything meaningful about gods in the Kalam arugment, anyone who can decode the jargon and follow the form of the argument ought to be able to follow it and evaluate it on its merits. If not, then Craig is simply not contributing anything to human knowledge — the whole POINT of knowledge is that it’s publically shareable. Even literary criticism, insofar as its specific purposes are kept in mind, produces shareable insights that can be understood, appreciated, and evaluated by non-literary-theorists.

    But theology doesn’t work this way. The purpose of theology is to insulate god claims from all non-theological scrutiny. I see no reason why anyone is obligated to take it seriously.

  2. David D.G. Says:

    “‘Skeptical’ Christian”? If that’s how his reasoning works, Greg doesn’t have even the first notion of what skepticism really means. Congratulations on writing another amazingly diplomatic post that shows the vacuousness of trying to use reason while holding religion exempt from it — and, as a bonus, showing how blithe ignorance so often mistakes itself for superior expertise.

    ~David D.G.

  3. Chris (aka MrRage) Says:

    It’s hard to believe Greg can be a skeptical Christian and still take the Adam & Eve story literally. Maybe that’s why he put scare quotes around skeptical.

    “Before Adam sinned …”

    Where in Genesis chapter 3 does it specifically say Adam sinned? According to the story, Adam disobeyed God’s command, but Adam didn’t know it was wrong, i.e. it wasn’t a moral choice. How can one sin without being able to know what good and evil is?

    “… God doesn’t talk to people that way since sin separates us …”

    Then why can Satan show up and talk to God, as depicted in Job? What, God can’t talk to us, but the Prince of Darkness can show up and talk to God?