Is it intolerant to think that one religion is true?
Is it more important to be loving and accepting of people regardless of worldview?
How should Christians approach the question of religious pluralism?
How does a person choose a religion anyway?
Who is Wonmug, and would you like to be like Wonmug?
Is it enough that a belief “works for you”, or do you want to believe the truth?
Can all the religions in the world be true?
Is it wise to pick and choose what you like from all the different religions?
Is it possible to investigate which religion is true? How?
Which religions are testable for being true or false?
How you can test Christianity historically (very brief)
I’m posting this, because I’ve noticed that there’s an awful lot of cultural Christianity in red states. Basically, if you ask someone if they are a Christian, and they say yes, they don’t usually mean that they think it’s true and that they’ve investigated whether it’s true. They usually just mean that they like it, or it makes them feel good, or that’s how they were raised, etc. My worry about this is that if Christianity isn’t adopted because it’s true, then no one is going to do any work or self-sacrifice for it.
People are willing to invest in projects self-sacrificially if they think that they are involved in something true. So, you might enroll in a chemistry program in college because you expect to come out with true beliefs about chemistry. You’ll do the work and solve the problems because you think that chemistry is real. But if you think that chemistry is just made up nonsense with no use at all, you’re probably not going to work at it and sacrifice for it. You’ll probably just find something else to do with your life that’s easier and more fun. That’s why the truth question is really important.
James Crossley is my favorite atheist ancient historian, such a straight shooter. He’s on the skeptical left, but he has a no-baloney way of talking that I really like. I was so excited to summarize this, and there’s not a speck of snark in this summary. Crossley dates the gospel of Mark 37-43 A.D., far earlier than most scholars. Justin Brierley does a great job as moderator. Gary Habermas is OK, but he is not familiar with any useful arguments for God’s existence, (kalam, fine-tuning, origin of life, Cambrian explosion, etc.), and that is a problem in this debate.
Christian philosopher and historian Gary Habermas has been at the forefront of the ‘minimal facts’ approach as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
He debates the commonly agreed facts with agnostic New Testament scholar James Crossley and they discuss whether the miracle of the resurrection can be a historically valid explanation of the evidence.
Note: this is the first of two shows they are doing together.
Habermas: the minimal facts are the facts that even the majority of skeptical scholars will accept
Habermas list of minimal facts: (near universal acceptance)
Jesus died by Roman crucifixion
After his death, his disciples had experiences that they believed were appearances of the risen Jesus
The disciples were transformed by their experiences and proclaimed his resurrection and were willing to die for their belief in the resurrection
The proclamation of his resurrection was early
James was converted by a post-mortem experience
Paul was converted by a post-mortem experience
Habermas list of widely-accepted facts:
Burial for Jesus in a private tomb
The private tomb found empty
The disciples despaired after Jesus was crucified
The proclamation of the resurrection started in Jerusalem
Changing the worship day from Saturday to Sunday
Crossley’s views on the minimal and widely-accepted facts:
Crossley: I am in broad agreement with what Gary said
Crossley: “the resurrection appearances are some of the hardest, best evidence we have” because it’s in early 1 Cor 15:3-8 creed
Crossley: people were convinced that they had seen the risen Christ
The burial in a private tomb:
Crossley: I have my doubts about the private tomb burial and the empty tomb
Crossley: Mark’s gospel has the burial in a private tomb by Joseph of Arimethea, and Mark is the earliest gospel
Crossley: I don’t have a doubt, it’s just that there are other possible alternatives, and then the tradition was invented later – but that’s just a possibility
Crossley: there is not enough evidence to make a decision either way on the burial
The empty tomb:
Habermas: there are multiple lines of evidence for the empty tomb
Habermas: the reason it’s not one of my minimal facts is because a quarter to a third of skeptical scholars reject it
The transformation of the followers of Jesus:
Crossley: “yes, clearly, I don’t think you can argue with that, it’s fairly obvious”
The conversions of James and Paul:
Crossley: “yes, because it’s based on 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, that report, that was handed on to him”
Where Habermas and Crossley agree:
Habermas: you agree with the 6 facts in the minimal facts list, and you have problems with 2 of 5 facts from the widely accepted list
The empty tomb:
Crossley: Two problems: first, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 doesn’t mention it, but it “probably assumes the idea that Jesus left behind an empty tomb when resurrected, I am convinced by some of the conservative arguments on that one, but it’s not hard evidence for there actually being an empty tomb”
Crossley: Second, “the other early source we have ends with no resurrection appearances”, it makes him a bit skeptical of the empty tomb
Habermas: the empty tomb is not a minimal fact, I want 90% agreement by skeptical scholars for it to be a minimal fact
Habermas: I have never included the empty tomb in my list of minimal facts
Brierley: William Lane Craig puts it in his list of minimal facts
Habermas: It is very well attested, so if that’s what you mean, then it’s a minimal fact, but it doesn’t have the 90% agreement like the other minimal facts
Habermas: I have 21 arguments for the empty tomb, and none of them require early dating of sources or traditional authorship of the gospels, e.g. – the women discovered the empty tomb, the pre-Markan source, the implications of 1 Cor 15 has some force, the sermons summary in Acts 13 which Bart Ehrman dates to 31 or 32 A.D. has putting a body down and a body coming up without being corrupted
Why is 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 more respected as a source than the gospels?
Habermas: There is a unanimous New Testament conclusion, across the board, from conservative to liberal, that in 1 Cor 15:3-8 Paul is presenting creedal data, Richard Bauckham says that this goes back to the early 30s A.D., Paul got this from the eyewitnesses he mentions in Galatians 1 and 2
Crossley: [reads 1 Corinthians:3-8 out loud], now that’s a tradition that’s handed on, this is Paul, we know this is Paul, writing mid-50s, this is kind of gold, this is the evidence I wish we had across the board
Why doesn’t James accept the resurrection:
Crossley: Historians should not conclude that the supernatural is real, concluding the supernatural is outside of history
Crossley: I am more interested in what people believed at that time
Brierley: as a historian, are you required to give an explanation of the commonly-accepted facts
Crossley: yes, historians must give their explanation for the facts
Crossley: we know people have visions, and how the cultural context determines the content of visions, e.g. – the background of martyrdom
Brierley: so you would go for the hallucination hypothesis?
Crossley: yes, but I prefer not to use that word
Should historians rule out the supernatural?
Habermas: let’s not ask what caused the event, let’s just see if the disciples thought they saw him before he died, that he died on the cross, and then believed they saw him after he died, like you might see someone in the supermarket
Habermas: I’m not asking whether a miracle occurred, I just want to know whether Jesus was seen after he died on the cross
Crossley: that sounds like the angle I’m coming at this from
Crossley: the problem is that there is a supernatural element to some of the appearances, so it’s not a supermarket appearances
Brierley: it’s not angels and hallelujah in the sky
Habermas: nothing like that, no light in the early accounts, fairly mundane
Does James agree that people believed they saw Jesus after his death?
Crossley: yes, I think that’s fairly clear that we do
Crossley: but historians cannot prove claims that what happened to Jesus was supernatural
Brierley: your view is so far from what I see on Internet atheists sites, where they say it’s all legendary accumulation, fairy tales
Crossley: I’m perfect comfortable with the idea – and I think it happened – that people created stories, invented stories
Crossley: there are too many cases where people are sincerely professing that they thought they saw Jesus after his death
Would you expect the disciples to have visions of a resurrected Jesus if nothing happened to him?
Habermas: the dividing line is: did something happen to Jesus, or did something happen to his disciples?
Habermas: the view that people were seeing a kind of ghostly Jesus (non-bodily) – a Jedi Jesus – after his death is a resurrection view, but I hold to a bodily resurrection view
Brierley: N.T. Wright says a resurrected Jesus was contrary to expectations – should we expect the disciples to have a vision of Jesus as resurrected?
Crossley: Wright generalizes too much thinking that there was a single view of the resurrection (the general resurrection at the end of the age), there are a variety of views, some are contradictory
Crossley: Herod Antipas thought that Jesus might be John the Baptist returned from the dead, and he knew Jesus was flesh and blood, there is the story of the dead rising in the earthquake in Matthew, there are stories of the resurrection in Maccabees, and this would influence what people expected
Habermas: the earliest Christian view was *bodily* resurrection
Crossley: yes, I think that’s right
Crossley: In Mark 6, they thought Jesus was a ghost, so there is room for disagreement
Why should a historian not rule out a supernatural explanation?
Habermas: to get to supernatural, you have to go to philosophy – it’s a worldview problem
Habermas: he predicted his own death and resurrection
Habermas: one factor is the uniqueness of Jesus
Habermas: the early church had belief in the bodily resurrection, and a high Christology out of the gate
Habermas: you might look at evidence for corroborated near-death experiences that raise the possibility of an afterlife
Crossley: I’m content to leave it at the level of what people believe and not draw any larger conclusions
Crossley: regarding the predicting his own death, the gospels are written after, so it’s not clear that these predictions predate Jesus’ death
Crossley: it’s not surprising that Jesus would have predicted his own death, and that he might have foreseen God vindicating him
If you admit to the possibility of miracles, is the data sufficient to conclude that the best explanation of the facts is resurrection?
Crossley: If we assume that God exists, and that God intervenes in history, and that this was obvious to everyone, then “of course”
Brierley: Are you committed to a naturalistic view of history?
Crossley: Not quite, broadly, yes, I am saying this all I can do
Brierley: should James be open to a supernatural explanation?
Habermas: if you adopt methodological naturalism,it colors how look at the data is seen, just like supernaturalism does
Michael Behe and Keith Fox debate evolution and intelligent design. (See below for link to video)
Michael Behe is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania and the founder of the modern Intelligent Design movement. His book “Darwin’s Black Box” ignited the controversy 14 years ago when it claimed that certain molecular machines and biological processes are “irreducibly complex” and cannot be explained by Darwinian evolution.
Keith Fox is Professor of biochemistry at the University of Southampton and chairman of Christians in Science. As a theistic evolutionist he believes that Evolution is the best explanation going for the complexity we see and that ID is a blind scientific alley and theologically unappealing to boot.
They debate whether micromachines in the cell such as the “bacterial flagellum” could have evolved by a Darwinian process of evolution. When inference to design is and isn’t acceptable in science. Whether random mutation can mathematically stack up to complex life, and whether God is reduced to a divine “tinkerer” by ID.
Here’s the debate:
Note: the following debate summary is rated “S” for Snarky. Reader discretion is advised.
ID is not Biblical creationism
ID is not religion
ID is a scientific research program
People refuse to discuss ID because of personal philosophical assumptions
ID is like the Big Bang – it is based on evidence, but it has broad religious implications
ID is not Biblical creationism, but it isn’t science
ID is compatible with common descent
ID is only opposed to unplanned, unguided evolution (Darwinism)
ID is not necessarily opposed to long periods of time
Behe’s first book – the bacterial flagellum
Here are a couple of papers that show how parts of the flagellum evolved
They are possible pathways
No, those are studies that show that there are similarities between bacterial flagella in multiple organisms
Similarities of proteins between different organisms do not necessarily imply a developmental pathway
The problem of having the instructions to BUILD the flagellum still remains
Maybe parts of the flagellum had other functions before they were used in the flagellum
Maybe you can use the parts of the flagellum for other purposes
Maybe, one can imagine, it’s possible that!
No, parts have to be modified and re-purposed in order to be used for other functions
But maybe the proteins can be used in other systems for other things
I re-purpose parts from of designed things to other purposes in my house when I do maintenance
Uh, yeah – but aren’t you an intelligent designer? What does your home maintenance have to do with Darwinian evolution?
Is ID another God-of-the-gaps argument?
Well consider the Big Bang… there was a build-up of scientific evidence for that theory
Just because a theory has religious implications, doesn’t mean that it isn’t true
You really have to look at the specific evidence for a theory, and not decide in advance
Keith Fox: (I’m paraphrasing/inventing/mocking from now on)
But the Big Bang is based on discoveries, and intelligent design is based on gaps in our scientific knowledge
What if I did have evidence of a step by step pathway (which I don’t right now)? Then I would win the argument – what would you do then?
Well, if tomorrow you do manage to find expiremental evidence of a pathway, which you don’t have today, then I would be wrong
ID is falsifiable by experimental evidence
But what about your your view? Is that falsifiable by experimental evidence?
Lenski has presided over 50,000 generations, (millions of years of evolution)
The bacterium did evolve and they did get better but not by evolving features, but by disabling features
But those are just LAB EXPERIMENTS! What do lab experiments prove?
What if? What if? What if? You don’t know, it happened so long ago, and you weren’t there! You weren’t there!
(clutches Flying Spaghetti Monster idol tighter and sobs pitifully)
See, the thing is that I have actual experiements, and here’s some more evidence that just got published last week
So I’ve got evidence and then some more evidence and them some other evidence – experimental evidence
And all the evidence shows that adaptation is done losing traits not by gaining traits
And the published observations are what we see in nature as well
But doesn’t Darwinism explain some things that we observe?
Well, I am not saying that micro-evolution doesn’t explain some things – it explains bacterial resistance, and other micro-evolution
it just doesn’t explain macro-evolution, and that’s what the experiments show
But ID is a science stopper! It stops science! You can’t produce experimental evidence to falsify Darwinism – that would stop science!
Well, you have to understand that the Big Bang postulated a non-material cause to the entire physical universe and yet the experimental evidence was allowed to stand because it was testable and verifiable evidence, even if the theory does have religious implications
All explanations in science are design to settle a question and it stops rival explanations that are not as good at explaining the observations
Finding the best explanation stops further study because it is better than rival explanations
Well you have to come up with a materialist explanation because that’s the only kind that a functional atheist like me will allow
Well, what if the best explanation for an observed effect in nature is non-material, as with the Big Bang?
But I have to have a material explanation because I am a functional atheist! (i.e. – a theistic evolutionist = functional atheist)
Well what about the cosmic fine-tuning argument? Do you accept that?
That’s an inference to design based on the latest scientific discoveries
Well I do accept that argument, but I don’t accept design in biology
When you apply it to biology, somehow it’s bad and you can’t do that or you losing research money and get fired
Anyway, your argument is based on a gap in our current knowledge
No, back in Darwin’s time we had a gap in our knowledge – we didn’t know what the cell was – we thought it was jello
Now, we know what the cell is really like, it’s irreducibly complex, and you can’t build up those molecular machines in a step-wise manner
The inference to design is based on the progress of science revealing the increasing levels of complexity
In experiments, Darwinian mechanisms cannot build anything useful, instead genes are disabled or dropped
You guys don’t have the evidence to prove your view that naturalistic mechanisms can do the creating
You keep issuing promissory notes
Well, you’re just seeing design subjectively, because you are a non-scientist
I’m being objective when I tell you that we will discover a materialist explanation later on – really really soon now, maybe even tomorrow, yeah
You won’t accept my speculations and you insist on these published experiments
You’re subjective and I’m objective
Just give me more research money so I can hide the decline better
Uh, you’re the one who is subjective – I cited evidence, and you are the one who is speculating
You have arguments from credulity, and I’ve got the lab experiments
You refuse to be skeptical, I am the one who is being skeptical
Maybe, maybe, maybe! Maybe tomorrow! Maybe in a parallel universe! Maybe aliens from Planet 9 from Outer Space!
Who knows! I certainly don’t know! And that somehow means you don’t know either! See?
Well, to prove me wrong, go into the lab, and run experiments and evolve some new genes (using Darwinian mechanisms) that have new useful functionality
Are there limits to what evolution can do?
You need multiple changes in the genome to get a new helpful feature (let’s say two specific mutations)
One specific change is possible
the odds are against getting multiple beneficial changes are really really small – you need two SPECIFIC changes to occur in order
Well, lots of things are really unlikely – any permutation of dice rolls is as unlikely as any other
Well, we are talking about TWO SPECIFIC mutations that are needed to get a beneficial function – lots of other mutations are possible, but we are looking for a specific outcome that requires two SPECIFIC mutations out of the whole genome
You aren’t going to get useful outcomes unless you direct the mutations
This is one of the top 4 best debates that William Lane Craig has done in my opinion. (The other three are Craig-Millican debate and the first and second Craig-Dacey debates).
Sinnott-Armstrong is very courteous, respectful and intelligent scholar and he is very good at defending his side. This is a very cordial and engaging debate, and because it was held in front of a church audience, it was targeted to laymen and not academics. So if you are looking for a good first debate to watch, this is it!
There is also a book based on this debate, published by Oxford University Press. I was actually able to find a PDF of it online. I should also remind people that you can get the wonderful Craig-Hitchens debate DVD from Amazon.com if you are looking for a debate to watch, or show in your church, this is the one to start with.
Evil is incompatible with the concept of God (three features all-powerful, all-god, all-knowing)
God’s additional attributes: eternal, effective and personal (a person)
He will be debating against the Christian God in this debate, specifically
Contention: no being has all of the three features of the concept of God
His argument: is not a deductive argument, but an inductive/probabilistic argument
Examples of pointless, unjustified suffering: a sick child who dies, earthquakes, famines
The inductive argument from evil:
If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for some adequately compensating good.
There is evil in the world.
Some of that evil is not logically necessary for some adequately compensating good.
Therefore, there can’t be a God who is all-powerful and all-good.
Evil: anything that all rational people avoid for themselves, unless they have some adequate reason to want that evil for themselves (e.g. – pain, disability, death)
Adequate reason: some evils do have an adequate reason, like going to the dentist – you avoid a worse evil by having a filling
God could prevent tooth decay with no pain
God can even change the laws of physics in order to make people not suffer
Responses by Christians:
Evil as a punishment for sin: but evil is not distributed in accordance with sin, like babies
Children who suffer will go straight to Heaven: but it would be better to go to Heaven and not suffer
Free will: this response doesn’t account for natural evil, like disease, earthquakes, lightning
Character formation theodicy: there are other ways for God to form character, by showing movies
Character formation theodicy: it’s not fair to let X suffer so that Y will know God
God allows evil to turn people towards him: God would be an egomaniac to do that
We are not in a position to know that any particular evil is pointless: if we don’t see a reason then there is no reason
Inductive evil is minor compared to the evidences for God: arguments for a Creator do not prove that God is good
WLC opening speech:
Summarizing Walter’s argument
If God exists, gratuitous evil does not exist.
Gratuitous evil exists.
Therefore, God does not exist.
Gratuitous evil means evil that God has no morally sufficient reason to permit. WSA doesn’t think that all evil is incompatible with God’s existence, just gratuitous evil.
Everyone admits that there are instances of evil and suffering such that we cannot see the morally sufficient reason why God would allow it to occur.
The claim of the atheist is that if they cannot see that there is a moral justification for allowing some instance evil, then there is no moral justification for that instance of evil.
Here are three reasons why we should not expect to know the morally sufficient reasons why God permits apparently pointless evil.
the ripple effect: the morally sufficient reason for allowing some instance of evil may only be seen in another place or another time
Three Christian doctrines undermine the claim that specific evils really are gratuitous
Walter’s own premise 1 allows us to argue for God’s existence, which means that evil is not gratuitous
Christian doctrines from 2.:
The purpose of life is not happiness, and it is not God’s job to make us happy – we are here to know God. Many evils are gratuitous if we are concerned about being happy, but they are not gratuitous for producing the knowledge of God. What WSA has to show is that God could reduce the amount of suffering in the world while still retaining the same amount of knowledge of God’s existence and character.
Man is in rebellion, and many of the evils we see are caused by humans misusing their free will to harm others and cause suffering
For those who accept Christ, suffering is redeemed by eternal life with God, which is a benefit that far outweighs any sufferings and evils we experience in our earthly lives
Arguing for God in 3.
If God exists, gratuitous evil does not exist.
Therefore, gratuitous evil does not exist.
Four reasons to think that God exists (premise 2 from above):