4 Pieces of Wisdom from a Street Level Apologist

By Billy Dyer

One reason I believe in Christianity is because it speaks of reality closer than any other worldview. This isn’t the only or even the main reason but it is one of the reasons. Even if Christianity is not true (I do not doubt Christianity) I am convinced that atheism is wholly false. That is because atheism contradict the real world at every turn. I try to point this out to skeptics all the time and I’ve learned a lot about how to deal with people. Here are four observations I’ve made about our culture.

  1. Understand our culture is hypocritically skeptical about history

    Have you ever noticed that modern man is very skeptical about what happened in history? Of course he isn’t skeptical at all about the information we have in the Present. As if the present is some sort of infallible guide to truth. To our culture it seems as if the present contains the whole field of vision for truth. That is, if we believe it today then it must be true. Furthermore, they have the snobbery of believing that ancient man has nothing to teach us. But what I find most interesting is that this skepticism about history only goes back so far. Once you get back to the pre-historic days then somehow history becomes a matter of science and we all know science is infallible. Therefore, the study of dinosaurs is reliable but the study of the early church are ransacked with error.

  2. Realize they have a strong distrust of ancient text

    Modern man just cannot stomach the concept that the Bible has been copied. If it has been copied then assuredly it has to have been corrupted many times over. Admittedly this is a difficult topic to address not due to the evidence being in their favor but because of time. That is, we simply do not have the time, during those moments of objection, to sit down and teach them about textual criticism. At the same time, though, we can use their faith in science to our aide. They do call textual criticism a science. Therefore, we can ask the skeptic, “why should you doubt the science of textual criticism if their data findings conclude that the Biblical text has been preserved?”.

  3. Any sense of sin is virtually lacking

    The Apostles went into the world of pagans to preach the Gospel. It was full of mystical religions who worshipped the dead, conjured up spirits, had ancestor worship, idol worship, gross immorality, etc… But at least they had a concept of moral obligations. That is why the Gospel was called “good news”. For the pagans finally understood they could be truly forgiven for what they knew they had done wrong. I know it may seem weird to think about but please think about it for a minute. A person can be highly immoral in the Christian sense yet still have an understanding of a moral code. I’ve noticed this in my study on gangs. They are very wicked people. In fact, if women want to enter the gang they have to allow themselves to be raped by all the members as an initiation rite. Men sometimes have to kill an innocent person or allow themselves to be brutally beaten to show their loyalty. As wicked as this may be they still have a moral code. There are a set of rules that they still abide by. In our day and age America is forsaking the concept that morals even exist. As apologists we don’t even have grounds to start on to talk about sin. We have to convince the world that sin, in any sense of the term, even exists first. They do not want to know if they can be acquitted for sin but whether God can be acquitted for creating such a world as this. 

  4. We must learn the language of our audience

    Not too many Bible students have had the opportunity to study this out so I am just going to mention it here. But the New Testament authors actually took words from the contemporary culture and redefined them to fit what they were teaching. I think this is brilliant because it builds a bride of understanding. That is, we can take a concept that they do understand simply help show them the fuller truth of the nugget they seem to already agree with. This is why I try to stay away from using Christian-eze language when talking to non-church going people. That is language that is virtually only understood by Church people (atonement, propitiation, justification, sanctification). Don’t get me wrong. We shouldn’t ignore the concepts. I am only imploring you to speak of the concepts using words that make sense to your audience. If you cannot translate your theology into the common man’s vernacular then you are too confused about theology to teach it. So instead of saying God “justifies” us, we can say God acquits us. When speaking of “God’s wrath” I often use the illustration of a bounty hunter. We are criminals who are being tracked down by the bounty hunter known as God’s wrath and He always catches his victim. But God has provided a means of payment to satisfy this bounty hunter and it is only through Jesus. Another word to stay away from is “faith” When our culture hears faith they think of a blind leap in the dark or believing in spite of the evidence. Instead I like the word trust because our audience understands it and it actually better defines the Greek word.

If you keep these four things in mind it will help you to know your audience and present the case for Christ better.

For more articles like 4 Pieces of Wisdom from a Street Level Apologist visit Billy’s website: Dyerthoughts.com 

Billy Dyer is a CrossExamined Instructor Academy Graduate.

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51 replies
  1. Andy Ryan says:

    “Therefore, the study of dinosaurs is reliable but the study of the early church are ransacked with error.”

    This is an odd comparison. People are only claiming to be able to date dinosaur bones to the nearest few thousands years, aren’t they? That’s not a huge claim of accuracy. If you have any better, more accurate ways of dating bones, why not offer them. And ‘textual criticism’ is a completely different discipline to carbon dating.

    “Furthermore, they have the snobbery of believing that ancient man has nothing to teach us.”

    Who is the ‘they’ here? Study philosophy and you’ll find Plato and Socrates are still offered as sources of wisdom. And questioning whether Jesus was the son of God isn’t the same as rejecting his ideas.

    Reply
    • Brian says:

      “This is an odd comparison. People are only claiming to be able to date dinosaur bones to the nearest few thousands years, aren’t they?”

      To follow your comment, I might ask you, who are the “they” to whom you are referring?

      More importantly, ‘they’ seem to claim much more than you state. For example, using Wikipedia as a referenced source, the authors claim the following based on science: “There is general agreement that some behaviors that are common in birds, as well as in crocodiles (birds’ closest living relatives), were also common among extinct dinosaur groups. Interpretations of behavior in fossil species are generally based on the pose of skeletons and their habitat, computer simulations of their biomechanics, and comparisons with modern animals in similar ecological niches.”

      They are making claims about social order. Claims are also made as to the sound the dinosaurs made, and even color of their skin/scales. This is far beyond simple age estimates. The author of the post is simply observing that many people he interacts with do not question these claims, but do question claims regarding the bible and its historicity.

      My opinion is that many people don’t question the interpretations of scientists, but do question the claims of theologians, because the claims regarding dinosaurs are thought to have little impact on one’s day-to-day life, but religious claims, by their very nature, are known to impact all aspects of daily life.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        ” I might ask you, who are the “they” to whom you are referring?”
        Scientists and the people quoting scientists.

        “My opinion is that many people don’t question the interpretations of scientists, but do question the claims of theologians”

        On the contrary, the interpretations of scientists are questioned by other scientists – peer review means that papers are subject to review by the experts in that field, all trying to falsify the claims or findings. That’s how science works, and it works pretty well or we wouldn’t be able to have this conversation through computers (or whatever electronic device you’re using).

        “Claims are also made as to the sound the dinosaurs made, and even color of their skin/scales.”

        If these claims are made using the scientific method then this isn’t a problem – it’s the same method you rely on when you go to the doctors and put your life in their hands. It’s special pleading to get annoyed about it when it’s in a discipline that may contradict your worldview.

        “but religious claims, by their very nature, are known to impact all aspects of daily life”

        Sure. If you ask why someone is more questioning about the life of Jesus than the life of Socrates then it’s fair enough to point out that no-one is trying to make laws affecting my life based on the supposed teachings of Socrates.

        Reply
        • Chavoux says:

          I do not think the author is attacking science, as you seem to think. He is simply pointing out the “blind faith” that many/most non-scientists seems to have in anything “scientific”, even when it is actually about historical issues (like evolution, palaeontology, archaeology, but excluding textual criticism?), but in contrast, are very sceptical of historical issues (about which we can actually have much more confidence, since at least there were actually eyewitnesses and it is not only based on indirect evidence and inferences). This is not about religious claims, although the history can be used to support religious claims.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “since at least there were actually eyewitnesses”

            What eyewitnesses? Who are these people? What do we actually know about them? What evidence do we have from them?

            And belittling scientific evidence for not having ‘eyewitnesses’ is absurd. Put an eyewitness against DNA evidence in court and the court will go for the DNA evidence. It’s seen as more reliable.

          • Kevin Haug says:

            Mark’s eyewitness was the apostle Peter. (Richard Bauckham. _Jesus and the Eyewitnesses_) As related by the ancient writer Papias.

            Matthew included Peter’s eyewitness account from Mark and then included his own testimony (Bauckham.)

            Luke included the testimony of the women who were with Jesus. (Bauckham)

            And John himself was an eyewitness who was elderly at the time he wrote his gospel. (Bauckham, Papias.)

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Kevin, that’s not much of an answer. Who actually ARE these people and what do we know about them?

            Do we have their handwriting, contemporary portraits of them, their full names, a family tree, birth certificates, contemporary accounts of who they were outside of the bible? Who were these women Luke refers to? All you’ve given me is some first names.

          • Kevin Haug says:

            If you are asking for these things in regards to the biblical writers, then you must think that no ancient historical document is reliable at all because we have none of these things for almost all ancient historians.

          • Louie says:

            I’m trying to think of any last name offered in the biblical text. What was Jesus’s last name? I quickly searched the web for Alex the great’s last name and couldn’t find it… Anyway, even if Jesus had been born and died and wrote about in the 1800’s, there is a good chance that NONE of the documentation you asked Kevin for would exist. So 2000 years ago? I don’t think so. If that data is what it would take to save your soul, then I fear for you; and that saddens me but I’ll pray for you anyway.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “So 2000 years ago? I don’t think so”

            That sounds pretty much like a concession, Louie! I didn’t say one would expect it to exist, or that its absence meant that it wasn’t true. I was countering Chavoux’s claim that there was reliable eyewitness testimony. You’ve said nothing to counter what I said in return – you’ve just offered a shrug.

            Your comparison with other historical figures is irrelevant with regards to the claim of Chavoux that I was addressing, and I’ve already explained why above.

          • Louie says:

            Andy – These are eye witness accounts. You are free to set your own standards for proof, but you do not get to impose them on me. I’ve already done the research, and when its all stacked up, the scale points to eye witness accounts.

        • Andy Ryan says:

          Kevin, the comparison someone was making was scientific evidence to ancient historical documents. I was answering that. Someone said there were eyewitnesses and I questioned that. Now you’re comparing the historical documents of the bible to OTHER historical documents, which is a completely different question.

          “we have none of these things for almost all ancient historians”

          I disagree. Look at what we have for Julius Caesar, compare it to Jesus. We have contemporaneous portraits. And we know a lot about the people who wrote about Caesar while he was alive. We have portraits of THOSE people, and know when they were born and died. e.g. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Asinius Pollio, Ovidius Naso. etc

          Reply
          • Kevin Haug says:

            I carefully selected my words in regards to other ancient historians. I purposely included the word “almost” because that is the reality of dealing with ancient history.

            And you might want to read Chavoux’s comment one more time because he is arguing the validity of history–not science.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            I’ve read Chavoux’s comment again, and their point is pretty much what I thought it was first time around. He/She says we can have ‘much more confidence’ in historical issues than in ‘evolution, palaeontology, archaeology because there were ‘actually eyewitnesses and it is not only based on indirect evidence and inferences’.

            I think my point stands fine. Forensic evidence in court beats eyewitness testimony. If there’s DNA evidence that a man was at a crime scene, that will be generally seen as superior evidence to someone else saying they saw that man elsewhere while the crime was being committed. So the idea that ‘eyewitnesses’ means we can have ‘much more confidence’ in historical matters than in ‘evolution, palaeontology, archeology’ is simply not true. And that’s before we get into the problems I already mentioned about the claimed ‘eyewitness testimony’ of the Gospels.

          • Kevin says:

            I understand your point better now, Andy. You are correct that forensic evidence is more readily accepted in a court of law than eyewitness testimony. But, eyewitness testimony is crucial in reconstructing most events–even with its limitations. This is why multiple attestation is so very, very important. Historians are thrilled with multiple attestation, and the New Testament is a multiple source document– because of this Jesus has more attestation than many other historical figures. The “problems” you cite are not problems to the vast majority of historical scholars. They seem to be a major problem in atheist circles only. Wonder what that is? 🙂

            And archaeology could very well nullify the central claim of Christianity: the resurrection. The day Jesus’ bones or body is found is the day I cease calling myself a Christian–and even a theist.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “The day Jesus’ bones or body is found…”

            What a bizarre standard to set to falsify your claim! How’s about I claim that a dragon flew around my house several times before disappearing. You can nullify my claim by producing the body of the dragon, thus proving that it didn’t disappear! And how many bodies from 32AD do we still have? How would anyone convince you it belonged to Jesus? And if that happened, how long before an apologetic arose explaining it away anyway?

            “You are correct that forensic evidence is more readily accepted in a court of law than eyewitness testimony”

            Right, and the point that I was specifically addressing was Billy’s in his blog above: “But what I find most interesting is that this skepticism about history only goes back so far”. He was comparing claimed eye-witness testimony with various scientific disciplines and saying it was a double standard to be more sceptical towards the former.

            “Historians are thrilled with multiple attestation, and the New Testament is a multiple source document– because of this Jesus has more attestation than many other historical figures”

            You’ve basically got four people attesting, and some of those appear to have used one of the others as their main source. And we don’t know much about the four people either. Do we have signatures, portraits, biographies, dates of birth, dates of death, family trees? And when one of them claims there were, for example, 500 witnesses, what ways do we have of testing this claim? Do we have interviews with any of those 500? How many of them do we have names for?

          • toby says:

            Andy, don’t forget Paul. Often lumped in as an eye witness, but the older i get the more and more I begin to see him as the Joseph Smith of his day. An opportunist and the the televangelist of the time.

          • Kevin Haug says:

            “And how many bodies from 32AD do we still have? How would anyone convince you it belonged to Jesus? And if that happened, how long before an apologetic arose explaining it away anyway?”

            Your dragon example is superfluous. Your other questions are not. Archaeology finds bodies all the time–some from even before 32 A.D. There are also ossuaries and other such things found all the time. There is the distinct possibility archaeology could discover such bones if they existed. There is the possibility archaeology could discover that the resurrection was an elaborate hoax–such documents could be found, dated, and authenticated. Again, this is a distinct possibility that hasn’t happened, but that could nullify the claims of Christianity. Your reaction is a bit mystifying given that I am perfectly willing to say that my hypothesis could be nullified. I am quite guessing that you aren’t quite free to do the same?

            “Do we have signatures, portraits, biographies, dates of birth, dates of death, family trees?”

            We have absolutely none of these things for hardly any ancient biographers. Your line of questioning here is quite astounding because you have effectively called into question the ability for us to use almost any ancient documents as accounts for historical analysis. Again, my statement goes unanswered in your diatribe: the vast majority (99%) of ancient historians consider the biblical witness to be a reliable source to show the existence of Jesus. It is in only atheist circles that this becomes an issue. Why?

            “And when one of them claims there were, for example, 500 witnesses, what ways do we have of testing this claim? Do we have interviews with any of those 500? How many of them do we have names for?”

            Frankly, we don’t have any way to test this claim. No, we don’t have interviews. We don’t have many names. What we must decide is whether or not Paul, in this case, is a trustworthy source. That is a debatable topic.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “We have absolutely none of these things for hardly any ancient biographers.”

            Compare what we have for Caesar. You can reply that we would EXPECT there to be much more information about a man in charge of a huge empire, to which I’d reply ‘sure, we would’. I’m not saying that expected information about Jesus’s biographers is missing, I’m just saying that we don’t have much information.

            The claim being made is that someone rose from the dead. That’s a big claim. Whether or not we’d expect to have much information on someone who wasn’t that famous in his lifetime 2,000 years ago, the fact is we don’t have much information.

            You can say “We also have little information on Socrates”. Sure, that’s true. But no-one’s basing a world religion on the actions of Socrates. We can base a philosophy on the supposed SAYINGS of the man, but those sayings exist regardless of who said them.

            “There is the distinct possibility archaeology could discover such bones if they existed”

            But if the real Jesus had very little following in his lifetime – if almost everything we think we know about him was elaborated on decades after his death – then there would be no way of identifying the bones. Even saying that his bones could be discovered and identified ASSUMES that many of the NT stories are true. That was my point about the dragon – you have to accept that at least a lot of the dragon story was true to even believe that it’s possible to falsify it by finding the body!

            “the vast majority (99%) of ancient historians consider the biblical witness to be a reliable source to show the existence of Jesus. It is in only atheist circles that this becomes an issue. Why?”

            Isn’t this a bit of a circular argument? Obviously Christian historians will believe that it’s a reliable source. I’m not saying they believe because they’re Christian, I’m saying that at the least they’ll be Christian because they believe.

            What’s more, I could similarly say that the vast majority of biologists accept evolution as the primary cause of bio-diversity on the planet, rejected by a similarly tiny proportion of creationist scientists.

            And I’m not saying that no Jesus existed at all, I’m saying it’s very hard to verify any facts about his life, such that you can’t say that the only two options are 1) He was resurrected or 2) His bones might conceivably be discoverable and identifiable somewhere.

            I’m not saying the latter is impossible, but I really see it as an extremely slim possibility, and one that, as I said, could only happen if much of the Gospels turned out to be true anyway.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “Frankly, we don’t have any way to test this claim. No, we don’t have interviews. We don’t have many names. What we must decide is whether or not Paul, in this case, is a trustworthy source. That is a debatable topic.”

            Surely someone must be an EXTRAORDINARILY trustworthy source for you to believe such an extraordinary claims – that a large group of people witnessed a man risen from the dead.

            Frankly, even if my own wife made such a claim I’d want a second source to confirm it. There are so many other explanations that are much more likely, given how unique the claim is. And this isn’t even a claim made by someone I know, it’s a claim made by someone who I can’t cross examine, who no-one else can question, for whom we only have his own account (i.e. not an account produced by someone else questioning him). We can only guess at his motives or his state of mind.

            Frankly, we have nothing that justifies confidence in such extraordinary claims.

          • Kevin Haug says:

            “Compare what we have for Caesar.”

            A better comparison would be Alexander the Great.

            “The claim being made is that someone rose from the dead. That’s a big claim. Whether or not we’d expect to have much information on someone who wasn’t that famous in his lifetime 2,000 years ago, the fact is we don’t have much information.”

            Yes, but we do have some information–some of it accepted by nearly all historical scholars. The question is what scenario best fits the given facts. This is what juries decide in a courtroom. Given the forensic and eyewitness evidence, which “story” better fits: the plaintiff’s or the defendant’s.

            “Even saying that his bones could be discovered and identified ASSUMES that many of the NT stories are true.”

            It all hinges on the resurrection–not the stories of the NT. In both of my examples whether or not Jesus walked on water, preached the sermon on the mount, healed anyone, or was betrayed by one of his closest followers is irrelevant. Both of my scenarios had to deal with the resurrection and whether it was made up, so there is only ONE story of the NT to test: the resurrection. Falsify that, and you falsify Christianity.

            “Isn’t this a bit of a circular argument? Obviously Christian historians will believe that it’s a reliable source. I’m not saying they believe because they’re Christian, I’m saying that at the least they’ll be Christian because they believe.”

            This argument would carry weight IF, all scholars who studied this were Christian. There are notable agnostics and atheists who are in this category.

            “What’s more, I could similarly say that the vast majority of biologists accept evolution as the primary cause of bio-diversity on the planet, rejected by a similarly tiny proportion of creationist scientists.”

            You could and should because the evidence leads to that conclusion. Likewise in what I am presenting.

            “Surely someone must be an EXTRAORDINARILY trustworthy source for you to believe such an extraordinary claims – that a large group of people witnessed a man risen from the dead. Frankly, even if my own wife made such a claim I’d want a second source to confirm it.”

            You and I trust our wives very differently. 🙂

            “There are so many other explanations that are much more likely, given how unique the claim is. And this isn’t even a claim made by someone I know, it’s a claim made by someone who I can’t cross examine, who no-one else can question, for whom we only have his own account (i.e. not an account produced by someone else questioning him). We can only guess at his motives or his state of mind. Frankly, we have nothing that justifies confidence in such extraordinary claims.”

            We do know that he was once an enemy of the church and persecuted it. We also know that something changed him mightily. What causes someone to go from violently persecuting a particular belief to accepting it, promoting it, and then dying for it?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “You and I trust our wives very differently”

            I trust my wife more than I trust anyone else on earth. But if she told me 500 people had witnessed someone raised from the dead, there are more plausible explanations to explain her claim than 500 people genuinely witnessing someone raised from the dead.

            In fact, regardless of how bizarre and convoluted an alternative explanation someone offered for why my wife would make such a claim, it would still almost by definition be more likely or plausible than that she was telling the truth, given how unlikely the claim is. It could turn out that she has had some bizarre agenda since the day I met her 13 years ago, and that everything she has done since then has just been a ploy to gain my trust and so that I’d believe her claim. Is that likely? No, it’s enormously unlikely. It’s laughable. And yet it’s still more likely that someone being raised from the dead.

            To think that this is the most LIKELY explanation, given that we’ve no other examples of people coming back from the dead after three days, is pure credulousness.

            • Have people been known to lie before?
            • Have people convinced themselves of something being true when deep down they know it isn’t?
            • Have people developed false memories of events?
            • Have people trusted someone completely and then found out they misjudged them?
            • Have people been very sure they’ve seen something bizarre and then found out they were mistaken?
            • Have people hallucinated?
            • Have people misinterpreted other people’s claims?
            • Have people been coerced into saying something they know isn’t true?
            • Have people made claims that were then corrupted or embellished by others?

            Yes to all these questions. These aren’t even that unusual.

            “What causes someone to go from violently persecuting a particular belief to accepting it, promoting it, and then dying for it?”

            • Mental illness?
            • Poorly judging the evidence available to him?
            • Self-aggrandisement?
            • Epilepsy causing his supposed ‘vision’
            • Or simply that the information we have to work on about Paul is missing key details, got embellished or is flat out wrong.

            Again, regardless of how unlikely you think any of these explanations are, they’re all more likely than someone rising from the dead.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “You and I trust our wives very differently”

            So if your wife told you that Allah had appeared to her and told her to convert to Islam, would you immediately convert to Islam yourself?

          • Kevin Haug says:

            “Yes to all these questions. These aren’t even that unusual.”

            And people have known this about other people for a long, long, long time. Predating the events that surrounded Jesus. You are raising no objections that were not already raised at the time of the birth of Christianity. All these things may explain an individual’s experience or even a small group experience; however they fail to encompass the movement that is Christianity–especially given that EVERY SINGLE JEWISH MESSIANIC MOVEMENT FAILED after the Messiah figure was killed or arrested. Only one managed to grow after the Messiah figure was deposed of. This is simply a historical fact.

            “So if your wife told you that Allah had appeared to her and told her to convert to Islam, would you immediately convert to Islam yourself?”

            No. I am too entrenched in my own position within the church. I am sure she and I would have many conversations regarding her experience and her vision. I would indeed trust that she had experienced something, but I would question whether or not it was indeed Allah she had experienced.

          • TGM says:

            I had never understood why followers of Jesus would accept hearsay as the basis for acceptance of a belief until I realized I had it backwards. It’s a preexisting belief and hearsay is all they’ve got.

            I’d say it usually goes like this… parent teaches young, impressionable child that Jesus is lord, and this is reinforced by the larger community. Child becomes convinced, then later learns several stories that support what they’ve already been convinced of. I cannot think of a single other subject for which this would be considered a reliable and acceptable method of ascertaining knowledge.

            The irony here is that you would believe witness testimony (the least reliable form of evidence, by the way) from all these people, whom, by your own doctrine, must be depraved and thus entirely untrustworthy.

            So, if humanity is not depraved, it needs no savior and your story is worthless. But, if humanity is depraved, I can’t trust any witness claims about Jesus and thus your story is worthless.

            Have your beliefs if you want. But why should I believe this?

          • Kevin Haug says:

            Hey TGM,

            You’ve asked one hell of a question in regards to depravity!! And it would be true were it not for the tweaking of Christian theology that needs to be done. Because Christian theology says that a relationship with Christ brings transformation–we are no longer totally depraved.

            I am also intrigued by your comment that no other subject obtains knowledge in this fashion. Just curious: have you ever read Kurt Goedel?

          • TGM says:

            On the ‘tweaking of Christian theology’… (a great book title if ever I heard one)

            Why is tweaking necessary? And for that matter, who is doing the tweaking and why do they have that privilege?

            Anyway, how does changing the rules get you anywhere? It looks like you’ve simply created an additional level of uncertainty where you must demonstrate that the storytellers qualify under the new relationship, are therefore only partially depraved, and are thus trustworthy enough to believe. And how do we know all this? Because it was written by these very same people – trust me because I said you can trust me? C’mon.

            As for Godel, I would say I’m just familiar enough with his work to get myself into trouble. So I have an inkling of where you might be going, but since I’ve been surprised before I’d rather let you make your point first. And I’m immensely curious how Godel relates to post hoc rationalizations of childhood stories?

            Thanks Kevin!

          • Kevin Haug says:

            I was not clear about my tweaking comment, was I? Better than twerking, I guess. 🙂

            The tweaking I spoke of was in regards to your own comments toward theology and the lack of transformation that seemed to be missing from your post. Yes, indeed we are all semi-transformed and still caught in depravity. I like to call it sin, personally. However, the change that is wrought comes deep within as a person no longer lives for self and self-interest but seeks to live for–in this case Jesus. Face it, living for Jesus is no walk in the park. It flies against the very default setting of nature. Given that the Bible’s witness of the disciples is accurate (that is an assumption of course), then radical transformation occurred in their lives. It was not a temporary change, but a lasting one. Such change is still evident in many Christian’s lives–though not all by a long shot. So, why trust such witness? There is evidence provided by people who were not the disciples that the disciples radically were changed by an encounter with Jesus after his death.

            As to Goedel, let me illustrate by asking a simple question. Is 1+1 always 2?

          • toby says:

            Is 1+1 always 2?

            It is as long as our definitions of 1 and 2 remain the same. This doesn’t alter reality where physical objects exist though. So long as there are multiple objects or particles or anything there is quantity and the potential to build a language to define it’s quantity.

          • Kevin Haug says:

            Nice response, but the answer is actually no.

            1+1 can equal 10. In binary.

            The underlying assumptions change, and the answer changes drastically. The answer is unequivocally true in either case, but the answer is quite different–because of the assumptions governing the logic.

            This is one of Goedel’s proofs, the other being that true statements will emerge in any system of thought that cannot be proven by the system itself.

            Ergo, the thing that you accuse people of faith of doing–beginning with a particular preexisting belief and then building everything from there–is exactly what EVERYONE does.

          • TGM says:

            Oh. Rereading it now I see that you meant I was the one tweaking theology. I’ll have to withdraw the relevant portions of my comments. Sorry about that. So what do you think it would it look like to twerk theology?

            Never mind.

            Now you said…
            ‘true statements will emerge in any system of thought that cannot be proven by the system itself’

            Godel is often abused to support both theistic and non-theistic arguments. I take no position on them here. It’s not even clear if his proofs apply outside of arithmetic systems right? Is the universe arithmetic? Are all systems of thought arithmetic? Well I lack the requisite knowledge to go any farther. But your comment claims universal truth. I wonder how an all knowing god would get around that problem. Can God create a system of thought that is consistent and complete? That seems rather important.

            And I don’t get your 1+1 example. I’d say it’s ‘2’ by definition, not by computation. As for whether it also equals 10, that strikes me as symbolic gimmickry rather than any sort of great truth.

          • Kevin Haug says:

            Goedel wrote his paper in such a fashion that it not only applies mathematically, but it also applies philosophically, scientifically, et.al. It’s a very difficult read. The first time I read it, I probably understood 40%. The second time 60%. The third time is still pending. Fortunately, I know someone who is very high in the heat exchange engineering business who dabbles quite a lot in philosophy, and he has helped me understand a great deal.

            And you are right about the abuse of Goedel by theists and atheists alike. What Goedel does is level the playing field in my estimation. He makes us go back to our foundational assumptions and deal with those rather then the logical application of those assumptions. This is where true dialogue need occur, and where too much dialogue does not travel. Goedel himself tried to use his proof to prove the existence of God. He failed.

            Yes. I claim Universal Truth because, well it exists. Logically it is quite easy to prove. For if Universal truth doesn’t exist, then the statement “Universal Truth doesn’t exist” must be universally true. How can that be? 🙂 Now, whether or not we can know that Universal Truth objectively is a matter of debate. I lean very strongly to answer in the negative.

            “Can God create a system of thought that is consistent and complete? That seems rather important.”

            The truthful answer: I hope so, but I don’t know 100%. I know human capacity to do such a thing is impossible.

            As to the 1+1 illustration: you must look at what I said. 1+1=2 in base 10. 1+1=10 in base 2 or binary. If you assume that we are working in base 10, then 1+1 will always equal 2. But if you change the operating assumptions and move to base 2, then the answer is different: 1+1=10. (Google convert to binary, find a converter and type in 2.) Changing the assumptions changes the logical outcome. Dig down to the assumptions, and you can understand the logic. If everyone operates with basic assumptions (Goedel) then we waste our time arguing about the implications of our assumptions. We need to be arguing about whether our basic assumptions offer a better read of reality.

            For instance, two basic assumptions about the universe: this universe is all that exists or there is something beyond this universe. Both of these assertions are assumptions. Neither can be proven or disproven by science. Science, by definition only deals with observation of this universe; therefore any commentary about what lies beyond or doesn’t lie beyond this universe is speculation. We can certainly ask: is there evidence in this universe for something beyond it? Is there evidence in this universe that there is nothing beyond it? Your governing assumption will inform the evidence you gather (Heizenberg). As a theist, I am biased to see evidence for the existence of something beyond this universe, and I minimize the evidence for nothing beyond this universe. I’ll readily admit that. Not all theists will.

  2. Brandon Miller says:

    Did you mean:
    it builds a bridge of understanding
    instead of:
    it builds a bride of understanding
    ?
    Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  3. Luke says:

    Kevin said:
    “Nice response, but the answer is actually no. 1+1 can equal 10. In binary.”

    Except that 10 in binary is 2, so yes, 1+1 is two.

    It’s like you just held up a picture of a dog and asked “is this a dog?”

    When your friend responded yes, you jumped up and down yelling: “You’re wrong! you’re wrong! It’s ‘chien’ in French. You’re wrong! You’re wrong!”

    Of course, your friend was right…

    Just because ‘2’ can be represented in other ways, does not mean it’s not ‘2’ anymore!

    Luke

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      And Toby even pre-empted Kevin’s response by saying: “It is as long as our definitions of 1 and 2 remain the same”. It’s almost as if Kevin didn’t really bother reading it.

      Reply
    • Kevin Haug says:

      No 10 in binary isn’t 2. 10 in binary is 10. Only when you change your assumptions and work in base 10 does it become 2. If I assume that binary is the only way to look at something, then I think someone working in base 10 is crazy for saying 2. Assumptions govern the way we see things.

      Reply
      • Kevin Haug says:

        Let me put it this way: if as a mathematics teacher I ask you to solve 1+1 in binary, and you answered 2, you would be wrong.

        If I asked you to solve 1+1 one in base 10 and you answered 2, you would be correct.

        Therefore, 1+1 does not always equal 2. The answer to my original question was unequivocally no.

        Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        “I would allow her the opportunity to convince me on her own merit. Seeking corroborating evidence would not be my MO. Hence, you and I trust our wives differently.”

        Sounds like you trust your wife LESS than me. If she failed to convince you – and you’ve already pretty much said you’d be VERY sceptical because you’re already “too entrenched in my own position within the church” – you’d leave it at that and not even attempt to check up another source that might back up her story.

        At any rate, you seem to be trying to turn this into a competition about who trusts their wives more. The point was that it seems you’re more credulous to the claims of Paul than your own wife.

        To back up why you think we should trust Paul you make a lot of assumptions. You seem to rule out as unlikely plenty of alternative explanations in favour of an incredibly unlikely explanation.

        As others have said, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Sometimes people witness a crime, finger someone for the deed and it is later proved that that person couldn’t have done it and the actual culprit turns out to bear little resemblance to the person originally charged. If someone in court said that they were sure a certain guy did the deed, and it was someone who had died a year earlier, would you consider that person rising from the dead as a possibility, or would you just figure that the witness was mistaken?

        Ever been to a magic show? Sometimes people will talk about what they saw at the show and in misremembering details they’ll describe something genuinely impossible. They’ll miss out the parts that (unbeknownst to them) covered up the trick, and they may introduce extra elements that the illusionist never actually did. Thus to a listener the attendee at the show appears to have seen genuine magic.

        I’m not saying Jesus appeared through illusions, I’m just saying eye-witness testimony isn’t reliable. Two thousand years ago something weird might have happened that we can’t explain. Or person nothing particularly out of the ordinary happened at all, and we just have some bad accounts of it that missed out important details, or got embellished or whatever.

        You say ‘People at the time could have checked’ but this assumes everything in the account is as it appears. Perhaps people DID check at the time, figured it was nonsense, but no-one listened to them. You know, even today Donald Trump can say something untrue, and fact-checkers will instantly point out it’s nonsense and yet a few weeks later Trump’s supporters will still believe it is true.

        Just ask a selection of people now whether a connection was made between Sadam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Ask if weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. You’ll get plenty of yeses and nos to both questions. And that is TODAY, when it’s really easy to check these things and spread information.

        You can’t base your belief on the basis that 2000 years ago information to the contrary would have been a) easy to check and b) easy to spread such that no-one would continue believing if it wasn’t true.

        Reply
        • toby says:

          You say ‘People at the time could have checked’ but this assumes everything in the account is as it appears. Perhaps people DID check at the time, figured it was nonsense, but no-one listened to them.

          You’ve hit on something that I’ve been considering for a few years now. It may not be that these people weren’t listened to, but that they were illiterate. How many people could write back then or read it? I tend to think that early christians were fast to adopt the technology of as a means to spread their beliefs. New types of parchments and papers and what not combined with easier to write languages like Greek. They tout having so many fragments of the new testament. Perhaps they were just mass producing them to spread the word. The Da Vinci Code of their day.

          Reply
          • Kevin Haug says:

            From what archaeology has unearthed, plenty of people were literate. There are scores of letters, contracts, and other everyday items we have uncovered.

        • Kevin Haug says:

          And I countered your claims about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony with:

          1. It is crucial in reconstructing events because forensics cannot give us the full story.
          2. Multiple attestation is highly valued of which the NT has more multiple attestation than the vast majority of ancient histories.

          “‘People at the time could have checked’ but this assumes everything in the account is as it appears. Perhaps people DID check at the time, figured it was nonsense, but no-one listened to them.”

          It does not assume that everything in the account is listed as it appears. People checking into the claims happened and we have extra-biblical accounts to show for that. And some indeed thought it was nonsense. Do you think that you and others today are the only ones? There were some who listened, and others who did not. The Christian claim carried the day despite SEVERE opposition on the theological, philosophical, and political levels. For 2000 years, it has managed to do very well despite even more opposition. If evolution truly governed your thinking, then you would have to acknowledge that Christianity has done quite well.

          Reply
  4. Andy Ryan says:

    Kevin: “I would indeed trust that she had experienced something, but I would question whether or not it was indeed Allah she had experienced.”

    That’s what I expected, Kevin. I think you should take back your (I’m sure humorous) jibe saying: “You and I trust our wives very differently”. Your reply above pretty much backs up my original point.

    Reply
    • Kevin Haug says:

      Ah, but you see, I wouldn’t go looking around for someone else to back up her claim. She and I would talk long and deep about her experience. I would allow her the opportunity to convince me on her own merit. Seeking corroborating evidence would not be my MO. Hence, you and I trust our wives differently.

      Reply
  5. Andy Ryan says:

    I’d like to just recap on Kevin’s argument.

    First, regarding the Bible’s claim of 500 witnesses of the resurrected Jesus, Kevin admitted:
    “Frankly, we don’t have any way to test this claim. No, we don’t have interviews. We don’t have many names. What we must decide is whether or not Paul, in this case, is a trustworthy source. That is a debatable topic.”

    Then I said that even though I trust my wife a lot, I wouldn’t take her word for it if she made such a claim.

    Kevin replied:

    “You and I trust our wives very differently”

    So I asked him: “If your wife told you that Allah had appeared to her and told her to convert to Islam, would you immediately convert to Islam yourself?”

    Kevin replied: “No. I am too entrenched in my own position within the church”, adding ” “I would indeed trust that she had experienced something, but I would question whether or not it was indeed Allah she had experienced.”

    So in other words, he wouldn’t trust his own wife on this issue – who he implied he trusts a LOT – but thinks other people should take the word of Paul from almost 2,000 years ago, a man about whom we know very little.

    And pretty much the whole of Christianity hangs on this man’s word!

    If Kevin wouldn’t trust his own wife’s word on a similar claim, why trust the word of a man we know so little about, for whom further interrogation and questioning is impossible?

    Reply
    • toby says:

      In part I’d say that it’s because when people read the bible they think of it (either consciously or unconsciously) as being written by god himself and to question that would be blasphemy. And that makes them squirm.

      Reply
    • Kevin Haug says:

      One final note:

      A bit of early church history is in order here. For even though we do not know the names, titles, and addresses of those 500 Paul speaks about, the folks in the early Church knew them. Paul is throwing down the gauntlet in this letter saying, “If you don’t believe me, ask them.” Paul’s challenge is for people to disprove what he is saying. Folks back then weren’t stupid. People didn’t rise from the dead. There were people who claimed that resurrections had occurred (we have documentation of that), but no lasting religious movements sprung up around them. Their claims were falsified. Paul dares folks to challenge not only him but to seek out others to whom Jesus appeared.

      But why didn’t Paul include their names? Christianity was not on the list of accepted religions in the Roman empire, and exposing names in letters could be a quick ticket to persecution and execution–depending upon what part of the empire you lived in. This is why Paul didn’t even name all the apostles in his letter. Only the two, most well known names were written. Others’ names would have been and were verbally transmitted through the church as missionaries visited the various churches.

      Reply
  6. Luke says:

    Kevin said:: “People didn’t rise from the dead.”

    The Bible disagrees Kevin. By the time Paul wrote his letters, many saints were raised.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply

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