Enough ropeApril 1, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
According to cl, I’ve sabotaged my case by mentioning Joseph Smith, Benny Hinn, Uri Geller and Sylvia Browne.
See, problem is you’ve already allowed more than enough rope to hang yourself on with that statement.
The first of your three-tiered Unapologetic reminds us that “Truth is consistent with itself.” I agree that the above are charlatans, but aren’t they points in favor of the validity of the Bible, which says repeatedly that, “..false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive..? (Mark 13:21-22, Math 24:11, Math 24:24, etc.) You yourself have said, and I agreed, that truth is consistent with itself. Well, the Bible said we’d see false Christs and false prophets who performed signs to deceive, and by your own admission, when we look in the “real-world,” we find false Christs and false prophets who perform signs to deceive.
You should really quit validating scripture, you know, the irrational folks around here might not like it, and might stoop to sneering profferings about your initials because they themselves lack the ability to form a cogent argument.
From his past comments, I’d say cl is pretty sharp, so I suspect that the above is more of a facetious jab than a serious argument. Nevertheless, there are Christians who do sincerely offer this sort of reasoning as proof of the validity of the Bible, and as a refutation of skeptics. So let’s take a look at it, shall we?
First of all, let’s note that the prediction itself is fairly trivial. For as long as it has been possible for people to earn a living off of other people, there have been those who are willing to exploit the weaknesses of others in order to make an easy and comfortable life for themselves. And the combination of superstition plus gullibility is a very prevalent weakness among mankind, sad to say, with a long history of exploitation. For someone “in the business,” it would require about as much insight to predict that There Will Be False Teachers as to predict that there will be politicians who break their promises.
The question is, do such trivialities “validate” the scripture? Cl appeals to the principle that the truth is consistent with itself, but how do we apply this principle? The answer is that we must apply it consistently. If we take a book that refers to both obvious trivialities and to extravagantly extraordinary claims, and argue that we ought to believe the extraordinary claims just because the trivialities work out to be true, we’re not being consistent. We need to apply the same principle to all the claims in the Bible, and only declare it valid when (or if) the book as a whole is able to live up to the standard of real-world objective truth.
This is the same problem Geisler and Turek were having before, when they tried to argue that Jesus must have risen from the dead because Luke happens to mention the names of a handful of people and places that actually existed. Yes, those people and places did exist, but it’s possible for the same book to contain both true statements and false ones. We need to check the book as a whole for consistency with itself and with real world truth.
A book does not have to be 100% untruth in order to fail the consistency-with-the-truth test. There can be individual statements within the book that are indeed true, tempting the gullible to jump to the conclusion that the whole thing is valid. And indeed, that’s the point of mixing truth and untruth: to lead the unwary into swallowing both. You don’t poison someone by offering them a spoonful of arsenic, you mix the arsenic in with something tasty and good for you, to tempt the victim. The mixture of the good and the bad is more dangerous than the pure bad alone, precisely because you can find good in the mixture, and let your guard down.
Cl himself admits that his argument above only validates the parts of the Bible that are trivially correct.
That cited verses find corroboration in the real-world does not entail that all verses find corroboration in the real-world. That would be the genetic fallacy.
Obviously, though, it does not “hang” me nor compromise my case in any way to acknowledge the fact that the Bible is a mixture of things that are true with things that are not true. Why should that even embarrass me in any way? Ok, so a Pharisee named Saul did convert to Christianity, change his name to Paul, and write most of the New Testament. That’s true enough, but it’s also true that the women who first arrived at the tomb could not (a) have gone away without telling anyone and (b) gone straight to the disciples and told them and brought some of them back, telling them (c) “We don’t know where the body is” after having (d) been told that Jesus was risen and even seeing Jesus on their way back. So a mixture: some things that are true, combined with some things that are false.
I think I’ve been pretty clear about where the chief inconsistencies lie. The divine behavior that we (fail to) observe in the real world is more consistent with the conclusion that Christianity is a myth than it is with the conclusion that we really do have a Heavenly Father Who loves us enough to send His divine Son to dwell among us and die for us so that we can be saved by our knowledge of Him and abide with Him forever. Even earthly fathers, for all their flaws and frailties, do a better job of showing up to spend time with the kids (and even the deadbeat dads were there for at least the conception) than God does. If we passed Him in the street, we wouldn’t recognize Him, because He doesn’t show up often enough for us to become familiar with Him. All we can know about Him is what we can glean from our own fantasies, intuitions, superstitions and hearsay.
I may indeed have supplied enough rope, but the only folks likely to hang themselves are those who fail to understand the principle that truth is consistent with itself, or who fail to apply it correctly and consistently. The problem with the Bible isn’t that none of it is true, but that it is not consistently true, and that it fails the consistency test at the most critical places. That’s my case, and I’m glad to have yet another opportunity to document my conclusions.