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A brief comment on P.Z. Myers’ response to Alvin Plantinga’s argument that P(R/N&E) is low. March 26, 2010

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, God, Religion.
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I don’t have much time to get in to this but I thought I would post this for those of you who are familiar with Alvin Plantinga’s argument that the probability (P) that our cognitive faculties are reliable (R) given that naturalism (N) and evolution (E) are true is low. Given this first premise, he argues that if you believe this to be the case, then you can’t reliably believe… well… anything. If you haven’t read the argument before, this comment isn’t going to make sense.

You can find Myers’ response to Plantinga here.

I’m shocked at P.Z. Myers’ inability to understand the argument. He tries to say that our cognitive faculties aren’t reliable and that we refine them. That’s saying we’re getting closer to truth without any way of knowing which direction we’re heading… Oh, you can say it’s because it’s increased our ability to survive, sure. I hope that makes you feel better. Unfortunately, that misses the point entirely. It doesn’t follow that our beliefs become more true as our behavior becomes more conducive to our survival. He even admits that. He says, “To which I say…exactly! Brains are not reliable; they’ve been shaped by forces which, as has been clearly said, do not value Truth with a capital T.” Great. Plantinga wins. The naturalism Plantinga is arguing against has to do with naturalism as making a metaphysical claim about the universe; namely, there are no such “supernatural beings” as God or angels. P.Z. Myers even agrees with the further materialistic claim, making him even more susceptible to this argument. That’s truth with a capital T, P.Zeezy. You can’t make those claims on your view and your view makes those claims.

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How Old is the Old Testament? January 9, 2010

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible, Biblical Studies, Christianity, God, Islam, Religion.
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One of our members was surfing the world wide web and stumbled across an interesting read. Professor Gershon Galil, from the University of Haifa, dated and translated a piece of pottery that seems to contain an inscription from the Bible. This would push back the commonly held belief that the Bible was written in the 6th century B.C., to around the reign of King David in the 10th century B.C.. Hopefully they’ll continue to update the findings as the research progresses.

In Christ,

The Confessors

Read First Before Using Bart Ehrman January 2, 2010

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible, Christianity, God, Islam, Religion, Textual Criticism.
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We recommend reading this interview with Bart Ehrman from the Evangelical Textual Criticism blogspot. This will benefit all who are remotely interested in textual criticism; but it’ll especially benefit those who mostly use Bart Erhman’s works against the Bible. Although it doesn’t deal specifically with Bart Ehrman’s claims found in his book “Misquoting Jesus,” it does provide his take on how his book should be taken and used.

A Review of “Misquoting Jesus” December 27, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible, Christianity, Islam, Religion, Uncategorized.
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Introduction:

 Bart Ehrman’sMisquoting Jesus was promised (and lives up to that promise) to be the first in  textual criticism that any layperson could pick up and understand (pg.15). Ben Witherington also echoes similar words on his BlogSpot review of the book,” this is material I could happily assign to seminary students wanting to understand the basics of text criticism.” The material, for the most part, was a great read and easy to follow. Anyone who truly wants to understand the basics of textual criticism and New Testament manuscript history, without the intensity and length of scholarly textbooks, would do well to read the first four chapters of this book. After those initial four chapters, the book’s point becomes more apparent (not that it was completely hidden from the get go).

Who He Is:

Dr. Bart Ehrman is a scholar in the field of Biblical Studies, chairing the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina. He is also the author of numerous books on the subject of Biblical Studies. He studied at some of the nation’s best known Christian schools, Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, finishing up his studies under Bruce Metzger at Princeton Theological Seminary. As his introduction reveals, it was these studies that enlightened him to the errors that filled the manuscripts of the Bible, thus in his mind, rendering them uninspired by God. Later he rejected Christianity, becoming an agnostic, after wrestling with the problems of suffering.

The Commentary:

In the introduction of the book, one gets a detailed life story of Bart Ehrman. The reader also will find out the sort of angle he is approaching his studies from. The approach is the typical “guilty until proven innocent” slant. Dr. Erhman clearly reveals that because the manuscripts are error ridden, we should not accept the Bible as an inspired book. On the other hand, he seems to shoot himself in the foot, “Most of the differences [between the textual manuscripts] are completely immaterial and insignificant” (pg.10). He highlights some brief examples of the changes and tells the readers there are approximately 400,000 differences between the textual manuscripts and that some of these differences are intentional changes, although not necessarily for the bad. Seeming to forget what he wrote on page ten, he starts to paint a drab outlook for anyone who puts faith in the Bible.

According to Dr. Craig Blomberg the, “substantial majority of this book provides information already well-known and well-accessible in other sources.” So the issues are not some brand new discovery, nor have they been kept hidden. They are now just more accessible to the public in an easier to read format. Dr. Blomberg believes that Dr. Ehrman spins the data by focusing on the more drastic issues concerning the text. Thus, making it as if there are even greater or many more issues like the ones he points out in his book found throughout the various texts. Despite making it seem like this (which he indeed does), he concedes on page sixty-nine that the other textual differences are in no way the magnitude of the others in the book. Dr.Blomberg also takes issue with Ehrman’s hypothesis, that the scribes of the 2nd and 3rd century did not do as vigilant of a job that the “professional” scribes  did after Emperor Constantine. Submiting that not only is it unprovable that the scribes after Constantine were all professional, but also Erhman’s proposition that the scribes after Constantine where more careful in copying than those before hand, because we simply don’t have the amount of manuscripts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries that we have from the later centuries; stating, “Not only are both of these postulates unprovable (though certainly possible), the actual textual evidence of the second and third centuries, though notably sparser than for later centuries, does not demonstrate the sufficiently greater fluidity in the textual tradition that would be necessary to actually support the hypothesis that we cannot reconstruct the most likely originals with an exceedingly high probability of accuracy, even if that probability remains in the high 90s rather than at 100 %” (Dr.Blomberg).   Dr. Erhman also writes as if the Doctrine of the Trinity leans on the “Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7-8).” When in reality there are other verses located throughout the Bible that support the Trinity (note: we at The Confessors have never used 1 John 5:7-8 as a verse to support the Trinity, nor have we seen anyone else use it; most Bibles today do not contain the Johannine Comma).

Dr. Bart Ehrman also never gives any supporting arguments to back up his claim that these errors suggest that the Bible itself can’t possibly be inspired by God. The evidence seems to point the other way, “No central tenet of Christianity hangs on any textually uncertain passage” (Dr. Craig Blomberg). Dan Wallace in his review quotes what Bruce Metzger once taught him, “over 90% of the NT is rather well established in regard to its original text, and none of the remaining 10% provides us with data that could lead to any shocking revisions of the Christian credo or doctrine” (Dan Wallace). Norman Geisler and Willam Nix conclude in their book, “A General Introduction to the Bible”, as quoted by Bruce Metzger in “The Case for Christ”, that the text is “a form that is 99.5% pure.” If Dr. Bart Ehrman’s own mentor and “Doctor-Father,” Bruce Metzger, came to the conclusion that the text is 99.5% pure, we should take the conclusion in “Misquoting Jesus” with a grain of salt (Acknowledgments, Misquoting Jesus).

In Conclusion:

“Misquoting Jesus” is a good read and provides a basic understanding of the field of textual criticism in the first four chapters. The Introduction and chapters five through the conclusion reveal he has an ax to grind. Many of his claims are spun out of historical context and un-provable.

For the links to the reviews used above:

Dr.Craig Blomberg’s Review

Dr.Ben Witherington’s Review, with Dan Wallace

Evangelical Textual Criticism’s Review

We also recommend “Misquoting Truth” by Timothy Paul Jones

In Christ,

The Confessors

A Critique of Bryan Steeksma’s Ontological Argument Against the Existence of God December 15, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Religion.
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Bryan Steeksma, in his YouTube video, informs us that there is no conclusive argument for the non-existence of God. We completely agree. He then claims that the burden is on the theist to show that God exists. If there is no argument for the existence of God, then, we think he’s right. The problem is, there are several arguments for the existence of God. He just doesn’t think they work. He gives the common atheist analogy to unicorns: “We don’t walk around trying to disprove the existence of unicorns, we just accept that they don’t exist.” We don’t believe unicorns exist either. Why? Because we’ve heard no valid/sound arguments for the existence of unicorns. This is why Bryan thinks he has an analogous scenario. He thinks there are no valid/sound arguments for the existence of God. So, in this video, he tries to show us how the ontological argument (Alvin Plantinga’s in particular) is fallacious and then tries to use what he believes to be the “fallacious bit,” if allowed, to prove God doesn’t exist. On the other hand, we hope to show why Alvin Plantinga’s argument isn’t fallacious in the way Bryan argues it is and follow that up by examining Bryan’s argument on its own. We’ll show you how his argument actually is fallacious for other reasons.

Please take the time to watch Bryan’s video first:

First, let’s start with Alvin Plantinga’s argument. This is how it is presented in Bryan’s video and we have not verified it with outside sources. So, if this is an unfair representation, we apologize. We are just working with Bryan’s video.

  1. God exists in understanding but not reality.
  2. Existence in reality is greater than existence in understanding alone.
  3. A being having all the properties of God plus existence in reality can be conceived.
  4. A being having all of God’s properties plus existence in reality is greater than God.
  5. A being greater than God can be conceived.
  6. Hence, it is false that God exists in understanding but not reality.
  7. God exists in understanding, therefore, God exists also in reality.

Bryan informs us that he has Kantian influences and it is definitely palpable in his critique. He is essentially trying to argue that existence cannot be a property. That is, Plantinga’s “fallacious bit” (as I referred to it earlier) is where he’s trying to use existence as a property. Why is this fallacious? It has been argued that “existence” cannot be a property because it is itself a prerequisite for further properties; that is, in order for God to be all-powerful, He must first exist. So, existence cannot itself be a property.

But, we ask, why should something’s being a prerequisite for further properties be any reason to believe it cannot be a property? For example, consider the properties “taking up space” and “being red.” Certainly, we must agree that in order for something to be red it must take up space. So, if we allow Bryan’s interpretation, taking up space can no longer be a property ascribed to objects. For this reason, we completely disagree. We, on the other hand, would allow for any kind of property so long as no paradox follows.

Now that we know what the “fallacious bit” is suppose to be we’ll see that Bryan tries to use this in his own argument to show that God cannot exist. Since we have shown how this is not actually fallacious, we will ignore it in Bryan’s argument and show why his argument fails on completely different logical grounds. His argument is as follows:

  1. God is the greatest of all possible beings.
  2. The absolute greatest of all imaginable achievements are accrdited to the greatest imaginable being necessarily. (Because no one else could have done it.)
  3. The creation of everything is the greatest imaginable achievement. (Said achievement is qualified by a) its intrinsic quality and b) the ability of its achiever.)
  4. The greater the disability of the achiever, the greater the achievement.
  5. The greatest and most formidable disability for an achiever is non-existence.
  6. Therefore, if we posit that everything is a part of an existent being we can then conceive of a necessarily greater being (i.e. one that created everything while not existing).
  7. Therefore, God does not exist.

He defines “absolute greatest of all imaginable achievements” as “the creation of everything.” So, where we found the former, in premise (3), we replaced it with the latter. “God” is defined as “the greatest of all possible beings,” so, we replaced “the greatest imaginable being” with “God,” in premise (2). We also added, in parenthesis, what we take “everything” to mean, in terms of the context of the argument. We get the following:

2. The creation of everything (everything that exists) is accredited to God.
3. The creation of everything (everything that could exist) is the greatest imaginable achievement. (The creation of everything is qualified by a) it’s intrinsic quality and b) the ability of its achiever.)

As you can see, the argument falls victim to the fallacy of equivocation. If he means “everything” in (2) in the same way that he uses it in (3), to avoid the fallacy, we don’t think that anyone would agree that premise (2) is true. It would then look like this:

2. The creation of everything (everything that could exist) is accredited to God.

There is simply no reason to believe that God has created everything that could exist. If you use “everything” in (3), in the same way you use it in (2), then we don’t think anyone would agree that premise (3) is true. It would look like this:

3. The creation of everything (everything that exists) is the greatest imaginable achievement…

Surely, we can all imagine an achievement far greater than the creation of what already exists. So, it seems premise (3) would be false, on this account.

We forwarded these concerns to Bryan on YouTube and he sent us the following revised argument:

  1. God is the greatest of all possible beings.
  2. The absolute greatest of all imaginable achievements are accredited to the greatest imaginable being necessarily. (Because no one else could have done it.)
  3. The greater the disability of the achiever, the greater the achievement.
  4. The greatest and most formidable disability for an achiever is non-existence.
  5. Therefore, if we posit that everything is a part of an existent being we can then conceive of a necessarily greater being (i.e. one that created everything while not existing).
  6. Therefore, God does not exist.

We have issues with premise (2) and (4). First, regarding premise (2), why would we accredit an achievement to a being that has not yet achieved the achievement? For example, the absolute greatest of all imaginable achievements is, to our understanding, the creation of all things possible. To our knowledge, it is not believed that God has created everything possible. It’s possible that He could, but, given what we know, it’s not probable that He has. So, we couldn’t accept premise (2).

As for premise (4), we can’t conceive of a non-existent being achieving anything; that is, we can’t conceive of nothing achieving something. We accept that properties can be ascribed to things as long as they do not create paradoxes, as previously stated. But, if “nothing does something” is true, then it’s false because, in order for a being to do something, it must be something.