I Am that I Am

No, it’s not a quote from Popeye. It’s the response of the biblical God to Moses’ request for His name. We can read about it in chapter 3 of the book of Exodus, verses 13-15:

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

It’s a common misconception, and one that wasn’t corrected until centuries after Moses. Fortunately, the Council of Nicea came along in the third century and set us all straight. God is not an “I AM THAT I AM,” He’s a “WE ARE THAT WE ARE.”

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Posted in Unapologetics. 17 Comments »

XFiles Friday: Context! Context! Context!

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 12.)

Dominic Crossan, of the Jesus Seminar, once said that if the trees in his back yard suddenly moved 5 feet overnight, he wouldn’t immediately assume that the cause must be supernatural. Geisler and Turek take this hypothetical scenario and use a variation of it as an illustration of the principle that context ought to determine how you interpret things.

So let’s suppose that Crossan’s tree-moving event occurred in the following context: Two hundred years in advance, someone claiming to be a prophet of God writes down a prediction that all of the trees in one particular area of Jerusalem would indeed move five feet one night during a particular year. Two hundred years later, a man arrives to tell the townspeople that the tree moving miracle will occur shortly. This man claims to be God, teaches profound truths, and performs many other unusual acts that appear to be miracles.

Then one morning numerous eyewitnesses claim that the trees in Crossan’s Jerusalem yard—including several deep-rooted, 100-foot oaks—actually moved five feet during the night, just as the God-man predicted. These eyewitnesses also say this is just one of more than thirty miracles performed by this God-man. They then suffer persecution and martyrdom for proclaiming these miracles and for refusing to recant their testimony. Opponents of the God-man don’t deny the evidence about the trees or the other miracles, but offer natural explanations that have numerous fatal flaws. Many years later, after all the eyewitnesses are dead, skeptics offer additional natural explanations that prove to be fatally flawed as well. In fact, for the next 1,900 years skeptics try to explain the event naturally, but no one can.

Question: Given that context, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that the movement of the trees was supernatural rather than natural in origin?

I think that’s an absolutely brilliant illustration, and for once I agree with Geisler and Turek almost completely.

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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Uncategorized, XFiles. 28 Comments »

Science and rationalization

In a comment on yesterday’s post, Jayman raises a very good question.

DD, I don’t see why additional information about ghosts is necessary to test my hypothesis. If we identified a ghost as a deceased person my hypothesis would be confirmed. It doesn’t matter whether you would still have additional questions about ghosts or souls or spirits.

Ok, so it’s not exactly phrased as a question, but the implication is there. Why isn’t the test, taken in isolation and without regard to other factors, sufficient to establish the hypothesis? It’s a good question and it points up an important principle that I neglected to cover in yesterday’s post.

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Posted in Science. 55 Comments »

More than a theory

Jayman writes:

I get the sense that skeptics want even more than a theory and predictions. Perhaps you can tell me why the following theory and prediction does not cut it?

One may theorize that ghosts are the spirits of deceased humans that generally inhabit a location known to them when they were alive. Such a theory allows one to predict that at certain locations ghosts will be observed and that one may be able to identify the ghost as a deceased person who lived at that location.

Have at it.

Technically, of course, Jayman is describing a hypothesis rather than a theory, but that’s a quibble. Let’s look at the larger question(s). What do skeptics really want? Why isn’t it necessarily scientific to have just a theory and some predictions? And how can we tell when someone’s theory (or hypothesis) is just superstition in disguise?

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Posted in Science, Superstition, Unapologetics. 27 Comments »

Claiming omniscience

Cl’s argument with me continues:

A God Who is willing and able to show up in real life is a God Who is willing and able to be found by those who seek Him.

That’s your opinion of what God should be. Why should I be constrained by your opinion of what God should be?

I make no arguments about what God should or should not be, I merely observe the logical consequences implied by Christian premises. It is logically inconsistent to claim both that God is willing and able to show up in real life, and that He is unwilling or unable to be found by those who seek Him. The whole point of the Gospel is for people to find God. If God’s absence prevents men from finding Him, or worse, results in them thinking they’ve found Him when they really haven’t, and if God is willing and able to solve this problem by showing up, then everybody ought to be able to find God. And they ought to all be finding the same One.

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Posted in Unapologetics. 21 Comments »

XFiles Friday: Straight from the source

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 12.)

Geisler and Turek have a fun trick their Christian readers can try at their next party or social gathering.

Those who have alternative theories for the Resurrection should be asked, “What evidence do you have for your theory? Can you please name three or four first-century sources that support your theory?” When honest skeptics are presented with this question , they typically answer with silence or a stuttering admission that they have no such evidence because none exists.

That’s a great tip for a popular book on apologetics, because most Christians, in casual discussions with their fellow laymen, aren’t going to be able to discuss “first century sources” in any great detail any more than their skeptical opposites. Even among skeptics, there’s just not that much that was going on back then that would justify most people spending significant amounts of their time becoming authorities on who said what 2,000 years ago.

The catch is that this is actually a faulty approach to determining the facts of the matter. Because God does not show up in real life, Geisler and Turek have to base their beliefs exclusively on the words of men, and therefore they assume that any skeptic would need to do the same thing, and would need to find some person or persons in the first century who said the same things that skeptics believe.

What G&T overlook, however, is the fact that we don’t need a first-century Richard Dawkins writing a 2,000 year old version of Ye Godde Delusionne in order to have first century support for our conclusions. We can effectively cross-examine the Christians own sources, by applying the principle that truth is consistent with itself. We can look at all the evidence, both ancient and modern, and ask ourselves, “Which hypothesis would produce consequences most consistent with what we observe, the hypothesis that Jesus literally rose from the dead, or the hypothesis that the ‘resurrection’ was the product of a combination of psychosocial factors plus a possibly misplaced corpse?”

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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Unapologetics, XFiles. 13 Comments »

Founded on fallacy

In my discussion of miracles, I compared two types: Type A miracles, in which God actually shows up in person to do something supernatural, and Type B miracles, in which people observe some poorly understood phenomenon which they merely attribute to God because they don’t know what the real cause is. My question is, why would people only cite Type B miracles if they had any Type A miracles to offer as evidence of God’s existence? Commenter cl, however, takes it a step further.

If Type A miracles didn’t exist even in the Bible, why are you justified in expecting them to exist now? Further, wouldn’t even Type A miracles retain capacity for doubt? How would you know the perpetrator in the videotape or photograph was God and not really Satan or some other deity?

When I say, “God does not show up in real life,” what I’m saying is that there are no Type A miracles, because if there were, they’d be at the top of the list.

So you’ll believe if someone can produce videotape of God performing a miracle? How would you know it was real? How would you know it was God? How would you know it wasn’t a hoax? I sure wouldn’t, and you’ve really got me confused.

This is a very crucial point, because Christianity in particular claims to be the product of God showing up to reveal the Gospel Truth to men, so that they might be saved. If, however, Type A miracles didn’t exist even in the Bible, then the people who invented the Judeo-Christian tradition have no way of knowing whether the source of their religion is actually God. Christianity is therefore founded on the fallacy of drawing positive, declarative conclusions based on not knowing what you are talking about.

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Posted in Unapologetics. 7 Comments »

Nazis in Kentucky?

The Associated Press is reporting that the creationist museum is at least partially admitting that Darwin was right:

A new exhibit at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum argues that natural selection — Darwin’s explanation for how species develop new traits over time — can coexist with the creationist assertion that all living things were created by God just a few thousand years ago.

“We wanted to show people that creationists believe in natural selection,” said Ken Ham, founder of the Christian ministry Answers in Genesis and frequent Darwin critic.

What makes this story particularly interesting is the fact that natural selection, popularly known as “survival of the fittest,” was featured as the centerpiece of Ben Stein’s argument blaming Darwin for the Holocaust. According to Stein, Hitler’s justification for trying to wipe out the Jews was that nature itself allegedly teaches us that weaker kinds don’t deserve to survive. Evolutionists (aka “Darwinists”) obviously disagree with this particular interpretation of natural selection, but Stein sided with Hitler. According to Stein, natural selection implies a justification for genocide, and therefore anyone who says natural selection is true is supporting genocide.

And now the Creation Museum is saying natural selection is compatible with creationism. Fun times, eh?

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Posted in Science, Society. 2 Comments »

More clarifications

Commenter cl has a couple more points I’d like to address briefly, just to clarify my position.

Incidentally – regarding superstitiousness – would you say it’s superstitious to attribute the cause of an unexplained phenomena to any deity at any time? When would such not be superstitious in your opinion? Only when the deity lays tangible claim?

There’s a bit of an inherent contradiction in this scenario. If the phenomenon is “unexplained,” that means we do not know what the cause is. If we attribute this phenomenon to a deity, we’re saying that we do know what the cause is. My first question, then, is whether we do or do not know what the cause is for the given phenomenon. If we don’t, then why are we claiming that we do? And if we do know, my next question is how do we know?

If we do not know what the cause is, and are merely giving gratuitous credit to some unverifiable purported cause, then yes, that’s always superstitious. It is not scientific, because it does not describe the operation of the cause in sufficient detail that we can analytically work out what real-world consequences would necessarily result from such a cause in action. A truly scientific explanation would need to provide a description that specific, and the expected consequences would need to show up in real life, before we would have a valid basis for accepting that explanation as being a reasonable cause.

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Posted in Unapologetics. 4 Comments »

Followup to yesterday’s post

Sorry, I don’t mean to belabor the point, but I got up this morning thinking of a much better way to illustrate why the “recapitation” scenario fails to give us a reasonable basis for assigning credit to any particular deity. Same situation as before: guy is suddenly decapitated and lies dead on the ground, and an hour later his head magically re-attaches itself to his neck, all his wounds are healed, his spilled blood is replenished, and he walks away unharmed. This time, however, a whole crowd of people shows up to pray for him. Some Catholics are there praying to various saints. The Buddhist monk is there praying to Buddha. Muslims show up and pray to Allah. Mormons show up and pray to a polytheistic Jesus. Pentecostals show up and pray to the Holy Spirit. Asians show up praying to their ancestors. There’s even a few neo-pagans praying to various members of the old pantheons.

Now, the guy gets up and walks away, and each of the pray-ers want to claim their God or god or saint or spirit is responsible. Which of them has a reasonable basis for claiming that it was their deity/entity, and no one else’s, that worked the miracle?

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Posted in Realism, Unapologetics. 4 Comments »