Response to God_and_Science.com's Rebuttal to my Critique of The Case for Faith.
I am responding to Avue’s response to my critique of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith, from “God and Science” (god_and_science.com.) Note that there is one main page. And at the end of the page, he has a link to another page where he plans to give more detailed responses to some of my specific objections. That additional page has some links to other articles on the site, and much of it is just empty placeholders which he apparently intends to fill out over time. I might respond to some of his other articles in the future, but at the moment, I’m only responding to the primary page of his response.
I have not spent much time writing on the subject of religion in the past several years. So I may be a bit rusty. But I was pleasantly surprised to see a new interaction with my work. As I said in my critique, at the time I read the book, I still considered myself a Christian, albeit a weak one, never knowing how to feel certain that Christianity is true. And while I was an atheist by the time I wrote my critique, I was a “baby atheist” of sorts, not all that comfortable with my new perspective. At this time, I’m much more settled in my atheistic perspective.
Avue notes that he agrees that if Strobel’s book appears to give easy answers to difficult questions, it is incorrect to do so. He says, “the Bible nowhere gives easy answers”. But I don’t think I asked for easy answers, I asked for believable and coherent answers. I don’t believe Strobel’s book, or Christianity in general, does so.
In his conclusion, Avue notes that he has some agreement with me, but states, “note that none of [Jacobsen’s] objections above are strong enough to invalidate Christianity or to prove it wrong.” Given that the questions are philosophical in nature, I don’t think “proving Christianity wrong” would even be possible. I believe at least some literal interpretations of the Bible can be proven wrong, such as the fact that science disproves Noah’s Flood. But I don’t really see how more figurative interpretations of the Bible could be definitively proven wrong. But Avue seems to have not noticed that he never proved the Bible right either. Nor has anybody else. And to cut to the chase as it were, that’s the real issue. Avue shouldn’t be looking to me or anybody else to disprove Christianity, Avue and Christians in general are the ones that need to prove Christianity. In other words, Avue is playing the old “shifting the burden of proof” trick.
Now let us look to Avue’s responses to my objections. I won’t be looking for proofs in Avue’s responses, since again these are philosophical questions. What I am looking for is whether Avue’s responses are any more believable and coherent than Strobel’s. With that in mind, let me respond to Avue’s specific responses.
Avue is an OEC, Old-Earth Creationist. Which means that we would probably have less disagreement in regards to science that I would with a YEC. In my critique, I mentioned the issue of death before the Fall. The OEC perspective seems to allow for death to have existed before the Fall, which seems to be inconsistent with at least a literal interpretation of Genesis. Avue responds that a passage in Proverbs 7 possibly alludes to God “playing” with creation before man. As this seems to contradict Genesis, I must presume that Avue concludes at least portions of Genesis are figurative. Okay I suppose. But maybe Proverbs is figurative too. Maybe all of the rest of the Bible as well. YECs seem to interpret the Bible as mostly literal except obvious figures of speech. While OECs seem to interpret the Bible as “maybe it is literal unless I know it contradicts known facts then it is figurative”. My position that it is basically all figurative literature, which seems to be a much more parsimonious explanation in my eyes.
Avue’s idea of God “playing” with Creation seems to paint God as having some amount of human-like whimsy. And much of the Bible portrays God as having emotions similar to humans. Which lacks believability in a being that is omniscient and omnipotent. If I would know exactly what a T-Rex would do, right down to how many scales are on its back and every bite of food it would take before I ever created it, of what possible value would actually creating a T-Rex bring me? How could an omniscient, omnipotent being have any whimsy? And if it did had whimsy, what could possibly satisfy this whimsy?
Many times in the Bible, God seems to not know the future, or even the present. For instance, in the beginning of Job, God seems to not know where Satan has been. Some Christians indicate that is just God’s way of communicating, he really knew what Satan had been. But doesn’t that make the whole story farcical? If God really knew what Satan had been doing, wouldn’t Satan also know this and so what is the point of even having the conversation? Perhaps the whole conversation is just for human reader’s benefit, but that implies that humans don’t actually know what (if anything) actually happened if the words we are given don’t represent what actually happened.
What would be the point of Satan’s challenge regarding Job? God would know exactly what trials Job could withstand and what trials Job could not withstand. Further, Satan would know that God would know it. How does it make any sense to challenge someone that already knows the answers? That would be like betting against someone in poker who has already seen whether they would win or not.
Avue says that I don’t seem to actually understand Christianity. On the contrary, I think I understand it all too well – and likely better than Avue. In any case, here is what he says about some of my objections:
"Christianity is all about God’s relationship with man. God showed himself to a specific people and spent a good part of their history showing them that he was trustworthy by saving them from enemies. He showed them that he was in charge of history by providing pictures of what would happen. He spoke through prophets who were put to death if they spoke anything that did not come to pass, showing that God was in charge of history. He provided a message to people through his spokespeople and recorded it in the Bible."
Avue says the message is clear and understandable, though acknowledges that understanding the message doesn’t mean accepting it is true. And that is the crux, I see no reason to accept it is true. I can’t accept something as true that seems preposterous on its face, and furthermore lacks reasonable evidence. Moreover, there are false claims within his statement. Or at least false implications. Avue doesn’t specifically use the phrase “fulfilled prophesy” though saying God “spoke through prophets who were put to death if they spoke anything that did not come to pass” seems to imply that fulfilled prophesy is what he means. Here is reality. There are no convincing fulfilled prophesies in the Bible, plus there are failed prophesies in the Bible. The prophecies that seem to have come true are not convincing and generally fall into the following categories:
- Vague prophesies. These are ones that are easy to find a fulfillment if that is what you are wanting to do. “Wars and rumors of wars” is always easy to find fulfillment.
- Self-fulfilled prophesies. These are ones where people made them come true because they believed they were supposed to come true. For example, the reformation of Israel.
- Prophesies whose only confirmation they were fulfilled is the Bible. Given that people who wrote later books were aware of the earlier prophesies, it is hardly surprising that we find “fulfillment” of prophesies to be claimed. For example, Jesus being reportedly born of a virgin is likely only a “fulfilled prophesy” because the Gospel author thought this was prophesied and thus wrote the “fulfillment” into his story. (Even though it actually wasn’t even prophesied.)
- So-called prophesies that were actually written after they happened. It is generally accepted that the Book of Daniel was written later than it claims to have been written, so as to appear to have made prophesies that were merely history.
With regard to Avue’s claim that God showed himself to specific people and showed them he was trustworthy, funny how it is always some other people that get to see this great evidence. I thought God was supposed to love everybody equally. To borrow from George Orwell, it seems some humans are more equal than others. Not very believable for a God that supposedly wants everyone to know his message and his nature.
Avue says, “Man has rebelled against God, and therefore cannot have a relationship with him”. And whose rule is this? God’s right? Seems like a stupid rule to me. Parents have had rebellious children and still have a relationship with them. Avue says that the Bible teaches “our very nature is so anti-God that we cannot bring ourselves into fellowship with God.” Why not? Whose rule is this? God’s right? Avue says that God sent a savior to rectify the issue. What is the cause and effect here? How does this supposed sacrifice do anything about man’s supposed anti-God nature? Apparently it is just another one of God’s rules without any logical connection, it’s just his rules for “reasons.”
And speaking of sacrifice, what sacrifice? Hmmm? Mother Teresa herself said, “In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth, a life full of the most atrocious tortures on earth, will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.” So, from Mother Teresa herself, Jesus’ “sacrifice” amounted to one night in an inconvenient hotel. Color me unimpressed.
Furthermore, how does it make any sense that man’s nature is totally “anti-God”? Didn’t God create our nature? How is it possible that our nature is “anti-God”? And if our nature is “anti-God”, how is this not God’s fault? Is it because of one mistake that Eve supposedly made? But that doesn’t follow either. How did that one mistake make everybody thereafter “anti-God”? What is the cause and effect? It seems like the alleged Fall was all of God’s doing. God seems to have broken his own toys and acted like a 4-year old shouting, “You made me do it!”
As a side note, in the Genesis story, the serpent told the truth while God lied. God said they would die that day. The serpent said they would not die, they would become like gods knowing good from evil. They didn’t die that day. And they did learn good from evil. So God lied and the serpent told the truth. And at the end of the story God puts a guard by the Tree of Life preventing them from getting eternal life, disproving the claim that eating the forbidden fruit caused them to lose eternal life. According to the story they never had it. God lied. The serpent told the truth.
In regards to miracles, Avue says that if God exists, miracles are possible. And I believe I acknowledged this much. He goes on to say,
“If God exists and he interacts with man, miracles are possible. That does not mean that all laws of nature are suspended. For example, when God divided the waters through Moses, the Bible records that God used a strong east wind as a means to divide the waters. Gravity was not somehow suspended while the waters parted.”
Avue seems to not have understood one of my points. Assuming that God did part the seas, it is totally irrelevant if gravity was suspended or not. The point is, somewhere along the chain, some natural law was suspended or it wasn’t a miracle. Avue said that God used a strong wind. Well, then God did something to move the wind. If Avue says that the wind was caused by something else naturalistic, then that was interfered with by God. Or something else up the chain. So it is completely irrelevant if it was the gravity that was suspended or something else that was suspended. Somewhere in the chain some natural law was suspended or it wasn’t a miracle.
This illustrates a point. Christians often try to portray miracles in the Bible as being at least partially naturalistic. For example, when trying to explain the Flood, Christians will usually try to explain how the Arc could have been sea-worthy, how it could have held all the animals it needed to, how Noah could have fed the animals, how the animals could have survived after the flood, etc. Why not just say God magically made the Arc float, magically made it hold all the animals, magically fed all the animals, and magically returned the animals to their homes after the flood? Wouldn’t that be simpler than to come up with convoluted improbable contortions to try to make the silly Flood story work? Christians don’t generally do this because having God constantly use magic makes the story silly and makes God look like an idiot. I got news for you, the story still is silly and still makes God look like an idiot. But somehow, it seems to make the story more palatable if exactly where God does the monkeying with reality is left undefined. Once someone tries to tie down what exactly God did, it makes it unpalatable.
This is what Avue did with the parting the seas story. For some reason, simply having God suspend gravity seems unpalatable to Avue. He flatly denies that God suspended gravity. But moving where God monkeyed with reality to some place undefined like maybe God moved the wind is somehow more palatable to Avue. Sorry but no. It’s no different at all. Either God did a miracle which means God did suspend some natural law somewhere, or not. And if not it isn’t a miracle.
In regards to some of my issues with the doctrine of hell, Avue responds “because God suffered hell instead of man, that is exactly the reason he is worthy of worship”. Uh, well first, he only suffered hell for three days. Not eternity. Second, he knew he was getting out unlike humans who have nothing to look forward to but an eternity of punishment. Having a known endpoint to emotional trials make them easier to endure. Third, and most importantly, it was his rule to begin with. It’s not like somebody else made the rules and God stepped in and said, “Hey, I’ll take care of this for you”. If that was the case, it would be totally different. As it is, God made an arbitrary rule that not being perfect means you have to go to hell. Because reasons. Then made the arbitrary rule that someone else can stand in for it, (for only three days,) and that makes it all okeydokey. Because reasons. But it only makes it okeydokey if you believe it makes it okeydokey. Because reasons. And this is worthy of worship? Nonsense.
In response to my questions about level of doubt verses salvation, Avue says,
“The Bible teaches that we can either count on ourselves to be or become perfect or count on Christ to be perfect for us. If our attempts to try to be perfect is called ‘our righteousness’ and Christ’s already completed state of perfection is called ‘Christ’s righteousness’ we can either stand before God in our righteousness or Christ’s righteousness. Put in another way, if we put our faith in Christ, Christ’s righteousness is credited to us so we can stand before God with Christ’s righteousness.”
Avue completely sidesteps the question. Exactly how much faith do you have to put in Christ before you get credited with Christ’s righteousness? If you are having moments of doubt and die of a heart attack, do you get shipped to hell, tough luck for you? This was my question and Avue’s response is a 100% complete dodge!
As I said at the beginning, at the moment I only am responding to his main response, not his supplemental page. In short, I appreciate Avue’s being cordial, and at least giving an attempt to interact with my work. But the response amounts to the proverbial preaching to choir. Unconvincing to anyone that is not convinced already. To anybody else, Avue’s response is just one more example of a Christian failing to make a case for sensibility of the Christian belief system. And what is the reasonable response to nonsensical claims that lack sufficient evidence? Rejection. Of course.