17 March 2010

I doubt it

by Frank Turk



Phil's post this week has apparently hit a nerve with a couple of atheist internet apologists, and I wanted to pull one of the branches of the thread on God's justice up front here for the sake of filling my quota at TeamPyro this week.

Dr. Ken Pulliam has made an appearance in the comments to give us his "agnostic" view of the problem that God can order things which, if a man ordered them, he might rightly be called a genocidal maniac. However, someone called Dr. Pulliam an "atheist" in the thread, and he wanted to make sure we all knew he was actually an "agnostic".

His last comment to me in that thread was this:
I don't claim to be agnostic about every proposition only those that involve ultimate realities. I mentioned the three ways of verifying the truth of various propositions.

For example, if my wife says: "It is raining outside." How do I verify it? I step outside and see. If what I see and feel corresponds (the correspondence theory) to the accepted definitions of what constitutes rain, then I accept her proposition as true. If she says: "The lawnmower needs to be brought inside or it will rust in the rain." How do I know if her proposition is true? I know from past knowledge that if metal gets wet it will rust. Her statement coheres (the coherence theory) with other accepted and verified beliefs. If she says: "If you put a tarp over the lawnmower, it won't get wet." How do I know if that is a true proposition? I put a tarp over the lawnmower and wait till it stops raining and then see if the lawnmower is wet. If putting the tarp over the mower works (the pragmatic theory), then I know that her proposition was true.

However, if she says: "God is sending the rain." How can I verify it? I can't. Thus, I am agnostic about that proposition.

Now, do I need to believe in a deity in order to verify any of the four propositions above? Yes, the 4th one but not the first three.

Let me put it to you (Dr. Pulliam in particular, but "you-all" readers of this here bit of bloggin') this way: "agnosticism" in any form is a statement about the epistemic value of truth claims. As late as Hume the agnostic claim really placed all statements which are definitive -- statements which make a pan-physical judgments about reality; statements which are correlative of common value or nature -- in a category which requires us to have some doubt about their validity. The basis for Hume saying this was the limits of human perception and reason.

Which, let me say, is a fine bit of humility on the part of Hume, given his disdain for the idea of divine revelation. But Hume's agnosticism was an honest one which didn't limit itself to just religious claims.

This appeal to some kind of "honest" epistemological stoicism in Dr. Pulliam's examples of whether (or how) he believes his wife or not is interesting -- but really, is that how he lives? He tests the quality of the gas at the pump before he puts it in his car to make sure it is of the proper octane and isn't full of water or grit? He validates the Health Department certification of every restaurant before sitting down? You personally audit your bank to make sure they aren't doing stupid things with your money? You stop even at Green Lights because you never know who’s coming the other way?

I think he can define agnosticism, and he can parrot the theories for agnostic epistemology, but he has never spent a day in his life living that way.

When an atheist finds a Christian who lives his life like this, the word "hypocrite" comes out as if it solves the problem or wins the argument. (in fact, Dr. Pulliam has said as much in another comment in that thread -- Christians don't live the way they say they ought) I think it only identifies the problem – which is either one of dishonesty or one of immaturity. In the former case, the hypocrisy is there because it benefits the hypocrite – somehow, he is gaining something he can’t get by honest means; in the latter case, it’s a matter of discipleship – the hypocrite doesn’t mean to live against his beliefs, but he’s not really trained up rightly so he doesn’t really understand the implications of his catechism.

It’s unkind to assume the former – because I suspect that you have never made a penny from your “agnosticism”. But to assume the latter means that someday you will, in fact, act as if you really are “agnostic about every proposition that involves ultimate realities” (like whether it’s raining outside or not, or whether the lawnmower can be protected from the rain by a tarp, [as in your examples] or for that matter whether you have actually put the right octane gas in your car [which is my example using the same definition of “ultimate”]). But he will never live that way – it’s grossly impractical at best.

But here’s what gets me: it seems to me that these “ultimate” realities (things which he says he knows via correspondence or practical/utilitarian means, but for which he doesn't actually do the due diligence) are far more critical to making sure his life is impacted for his personal benefit than this debate about whether or not Jesus Christ was promised to Israel, born to a virgin, and died and resurrected to prove He was who he said he was.

So what gives? Why duck behind the "agnostic" label for "ultimate reality" when really, one is just doubtful about the claims of people with religious beliefs only?

This should be interesting ...






80 comments:

D.J. Williams said...

Good thoughts. Inconsistency in application is one of the biggest red flags of a wrong belief.

allen said...

Agnostic does sound more noble than God-hater. "I do not know" sounds better than "I will not bow"; Agnosticism is a rebel's blush.

Isaac said...

Or of the fallen nature of man.

DJP said...

Ooh.

Allen shoots, he scores.

SandMan said...

Thank you for doing this, Frank, Dan, and Phil. I appreciated the Top 10 list, but I would rather see how the three of you interact with actual unbelief coming from actual people.
I know it may be wearying, but many of us lurkers want to learn how to answer the objections.
Thanks for taking the time.

DJP said...

Find us some actual doubters who are more interested in truth than in the sound of their own voices.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Frank,

As I said in a previous comment (and also on my blogger profile), I am an agnostic atheist . That means that I don't believe in any gods (atheist) but I don't know for certain there are no gods (agnostic). With regard to the comment that you quote in this post, you misread what I was saying. I said: I don't claim to be agnostic about every proposition only those that involve ultimate realities.

Note I clearly said that I am not agnostic about every proposition but just about propositions that involve ultimate realities. I guess I should have defined ultimate realities for you. What I mean by ultimate reality is similar to the common notion associated with the word metaphysics, i.e., those things that go beyond the physical. This would include whether spiritual beings exist (such as gods, angels, demons, ghosts, etc.) and whether there is life after death, and other similar matters. As I attempted to show through my illustration with my wife's questions, I can test the truth claims of non-metaphysical propositions (the first three) but I can't test the one dealing with a god (the fourth).

Now if you wish to define the term "agnostic" to mean that a person is uncertain of any truth claim, then be my guest, but that is not how I was applying the term to myself. So, your claim that I am being a hypocrite by not doubting the octane level of the gasoline I purchase, and so on, is not valid. What you are asking for is a complete skepticism about every truth claim. Of course, no one could live that way and as I said above, I am not skeptical of every truth claim just those that are outside the realm of human verification.

In addition, I was not saying that I disbelieve the Christian claims because some Christian's don't live up to what they profess to believe. What I was saying is that, if Christianity were true, it would seem that those who are regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit would be demonstrably different than those who are not. Jesus is reported to have said as much himself in John 13:35.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Frank,

By the way, you said that you agree with the three tests of truth claims that I mentioned (correspondence, coherence and pragmatic), I am curious then how you would verify the 4th proposition in my illustration: God sent the rain .

Isaac said...

Frank: "Why duck behind the 'agnostic' label for 'ultimate reality' when really, one is just doubtful about the claims of people with religious beliefs only?"

Ken: I guess I should have defined ultimate realities for you. What I mean by ultimate reality is similar to the common notion associated with the word metaphysics, i.e., those things that go beyond the physical. This would include whether spiritual beings exist (such as gods, angels, demons, ghosts, etc.) and whether there is life after death, and other similar matters. As I attempted to show through my illustration with my wife's questions, I can test the truth claims of non-metaphysical propositions (the first three) but I can't test the one dealing with a god (the fourth).

So then you concede that Frank's point is essentially true, only you don't want to say so very clearly.

I am sure that you'll nuance it to include metaphysical truth claims made by non-religious people too, but I strongly suspect that you aren't on those blogs dodging questions.

I guess Sam Skinner will be happy here, since I apparently only have to point out your inconsistencies either in or way of living to debunk your entire worldview.

Ken: "In addition, I was not saying that I disbelieve the Christian claims because some Christian's don't live up to what they profess to believe... if Christianity were true... those who are regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit would be demonstrably different than those who are not. Jesus is reported to have said as much himself in John 13:35."

That looks like classic double speak to me... But I'm not saying it is. ;)

olan strickland said...

God has provided enough empirical evidence that He exists that all men are without excuse. What is amusing is that both atheists and agnostics suppress the truth in unrighteousness by charging God with injustice.

Who would lay the charge of injustice to the State for capital punishment against those who have actually committed capital crimes?

As long as the State renders punishment that is actually due (that is to say equal to) the crime then it is just. Giving more punishment than the crime or less punishment than the crime are both forms of injustice - justice has not been served!

We do not accuse the State of murder when it justly does what it has the authority to do. God can take the life of every human at any moment in any way and still be just because of original sin and actual sin.

It is when the State gives more punishment or less punishment than the crime requires that we justly charge it with injustice.

That brings us to a huge dilemma with God: how can He pardon sinners and remain just?

Gregg said...

Pyromanicas has been awarded the "Sweet Friends" award by the Gospel Driven Disciples. You can stopp by GDD tomorrow and pick up your award and read your nomination write up.

Thank you for all you do as you bless the Gospel Driven Disciples.

Phil said...

Ken's epistemological dishonesty is ludicrous.
First he assumes that his senses are trustworthy, then he "proves" his assumption by declaring the senses are valid. A laughably un-scientific method of inquiry.

"How do you know anything for sure atheist?" "Oh I uh, watch things happen." "How is it you have come to trust your senses as the foundation of truth? By definition they are building on a foundation already laid, not providing one." "I trust them okay I just do. I can't see God, therefore He is fake. God is fake!!!!"
Repent Ken, repent and be saved before it's too late.

Lisa said...

DJP: Find us some actual doubters who are more interested in truth than in the sound of their own voices.

Oooo... that is the crux of it all right there.

Lisa said...

Very thought-provoking post Turk

David Rudd said...

D.J.W., if your generalization is true,

"Inconsistency in application is one of the biggest red flags of a wrong belief."

then the church is in deep trouble.

------------

Ken,
would you be agreeable to someone who suggested that when it comes to "ultimate realities", they would begin a discussion by talking about what is "reasonable" rather than what is "verifiable"?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Olan,

You say: God has provided enough empirical evidence that He exists that all men are without excuse.

What is your basis for that assertion?

You also say: Who would lay the charge of injustice to the State for capital punishment against those who have actually committed capital crimes?

I don't know; I wouldn't. But what if the state executed an innocent person, would that be justice? Even if the innocent person was willing to be executed in the place of the guilty person?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Phil,

You say: Ken's epistemological dishonesty is ludicrous. First he assumes that his senses are trustworthy, then he "proves" his assumption by declaring the senses are valid. A laughably un-scientific method of inquiry.

How else would you propose that a person proceed? It seems to me that we have to assume our senses are trustworthy. They aren't always but we have to begin with that assumption.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

David,

You ask: would you be agreeable to someone who suggested that when it comes to "ultimate realities", they would begin a discussion by talking about what is "reasonable" rather than what is "verifiable"?

Yes, but of course what is reasonable to one person is not necessarily reasonable to someone else.

David Rudd said...

Ken,

Agreed.

I ask because (obviously) there are different presuppositions from which people approach this issue. I've found I can better understand the presuppositions of others if I understand what they think of as "reasonable".

So...

What do you consider reasonable belief regarding the existence of God?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

David,

I am not sure I understand your question. Obviously I do not think it reasonable to believe in a deity or else I would.

Isaac said...

Ken: "... what if the state executed an innocent person, would that be justice? Even if the innocent person was willing to be executed in the place of the guilty person?"

You are now leaving the bounds of the analogy and I think you know that.

The case for the need of the justification of individuals has been made clearly and both the Biblical text, this blog and many other places.

Having fallen back upon your own professed expertise in these matters several times already is very strong evidence that 1) you already know this or 2) are much more ignorant than you think you are. Either one is a bad place to be in, IMO.

You really need to be more careful in your mode of argumentation when you are doing it in print. The things that you say and the way you say them are retained for all to see, so you can't very well appeal to the idiosyncratics of a verbal exchange.

You should be happy that, so far, no one has pointed out in a systematic way that you have tacitly abandoned one of the claims you made repeatedly in the other thread: "I don't hold myself in authority" and "I have no ultimate authority".

The basis for all your claims or non-claims up to this point hinge on your own experience, perception, and judgement which I am sure you could try to massage away from the concept of "self" if you wanted to.

You are, in fact, playing the part of God in our little play.

David Rudd said...

Ken,

Would you, therefore, assert that those who believe in a deity hold an unreasonable belief?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Isaac,

I don't see that you answered the question. Do you think it would be just to execute an innocent person? Yes, no, or maybe?

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam --

The empty tomb of Jesus Christ is evidence for something. Maybe not the rain, but for something. I suggest it's the kind of evidence that is a game-changer -- like finding out that light is not like dust but rather like waves, or finding out that conservation of energy is sometimes not so conservative.

I agree with the three epistemological methods you have provided, but I would suggest that they are not the only methods of "finding out". For example, reading a book is not an invalid way to test truth claims. The testimony of witnesses is not invalid for testing truth claims -- in fact, science itself is impossible without this method.

You have somehow decided that there are only three valid ways to test truth claims -- and I would add, "only for the sake of winning an argument" -- but as I said in this post: you don't live that way.

FWIW, you also did not claim to be an "agnostic atheist" in the last thread: you corrected another poster to say you were and "agnostic", not an "atheist", and I mined your profile to find the claim that you are an "agnostic atheist".

But in that, here's something lese you just said:

[QUOTE]
Now if you wish to define the term "agnostic" to mean that a person is uncertain of any truth claim, then be my guest, but that is not how I was applying the term to myself. So, your claim that I am being a hypocrite by not doubting the octane level of the gasoline I purchase, and so on, is not valid. What you are asking for is a complete skepticism about every truth claim. Of course, no one could live that way and as I said above, I am not skeptical of every truth claim just those that are outside the realm of human verification.
[/QUOTE]


What I am actually asking you, Dr. Pulliam, is to be consistent when you say you can't know the truth value of "X". For example, you say you can't really know the truth value of the claim, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." Fair enough: the eschaton hasn't happened yet, and the time since Christ's resurrection seems like He might be a bit tardy so far, so maybe you "can't know" about something that hasn't happened yet.

But how is this claim so much more far-fetched than the claim, for example, that any local restaurant is still clean since the last time it was inspected by the Health Department? According to an Orange County Grand Jury report, it is actually pretty far-fetched to believe that the restaurant is abiding by the right level of sanitation, yet there is no significant skepticism in the general public -- and so far, none voiced by you personally -- for that immedaite and dangerous claim. But for the claim that God is real, Christ is a Savior, and men can be saved from their own worst enemy (themselves) -- which is a hopeful and life-changing claim -- "agnosticism" seems reasonable.

What I am saying is that the basis for you to claim that your agnosticism toward God is reasonable is significantly questionable -- becuase you don't apply your skepticism/agnosticism to truth claims more important to your immediate situation which ought to inspire more caution on your part because of the daily risk.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

David,

I would say that it must seem reasonable to them, as it did to me when I formerly believed. However, as I look back at it now, I don't think my belief was reasonable.

David Rudd said...

you just couldn't wait could you, Frank ;)

well, i'll leave it to you know as i am off to celebrate St. Paddy's day with my wife... a much more reasonable use of my time!

Frank Turk said...

BTW, I'm not sure there's a lot of value to making Dr. Pulliam a victim of the apologetic lions in this thread -- one guy trying to answer 3,000 daily teamPyro readers.

Keep in mind that he's one guy, and that if we pile on him, he's likely to just walk away as he won't be able to address all the bandwidth pointed at him.

Mark B. Hanson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
olan strickland said...

Dr. Ken, the basis for my assertion is the creation. There is no explanation for the creation other than there has to be a Creator.

You said, But what if the state executed an innocent person, would that be justice? Even if the innocent person was willing to be executed in the place of the guilty person?

Actually if the State were going to free a guilty man on the basis of penalty-substitution then it would be necessary that there be an agreement between the State and an innocent man that would allow the innocent man to pay the penalty of the guilty man. Then and only then would the State be just in pardoning the guilty man.

It would be unjust for the State to force into service an innocent man on the behalf of a guilty man but that would not be so with a mutual agreement between the State and the innocent man.

This is precisely what God has done through His Son to remedy the dilemma of how a just God can pardon sinners and remain just in the process. But God also has the power to raise men from the dead and He would have been unjust to allow His Son to remain dead.

How would a pardoned convict respond toward the State and the innocent man whom the State raised from the dead after paying the convict's crimes?

Mark B. Hanson said...

Ken, it would seem to me that among the "ultimate realities" that you must doubt are, for example, that your wife loves you (rather than is just being nice to use you for some nefarious purpose), or that any particular historical event (e.g. the assassination of Abraham Lincoln) actually occurred.

Now I agree that many things we might not actually observe are "verifiable in principle" (e.g. whether the attendant really changed the oil in my car), but short of a time machine, we cannot verify historical events that we did not ourselves observe. And short of some way to examine mental states, love remains equally unprovable.

So how would you get by agnosticism about such things? What are your verifiability criteria?

DJP said...

Frank - he's likely to just walk away

ZERO chance of that, as long as he thinks people are giving him an opportunity to talk more.

Rob Bailey said...

@frank- you are a sinner, God is holy. Therefore you must repent of your sins, and believe in Jesus Christ to be saved.

John said...

But if the agnostic consistantly applies and lives by what he thinks, he is living by faith anyway. At the very least in the faith of his own cognitive ability. A self-referential religion, now that is appealing.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Frank,

You can call me Ken. You said: The empty tomb of Jesus Christ is evidence for something.

Okay, but your belief in the empty tomb is based on your presupposition that the biblical record is true.

In addition, even if (and that is a big IF) the empty tomb of Jesus was a fact, there is no assurance that the interpretation that the women (wait a minute, they didn't tell anyone--Mark 16:8) or the disciples gave to that fact was the correct understanding for why the tomb was empty. There are many other possibilities.

You said: I agree with the three epistemological methods you have provided, but I would suggest that they are not the only methods of "finding out". For example, reading a book is not an invalid way to test truth claims. The testimony of witnesses is not invalid for testing truth claims -- in fact, science itself is impossible without this method.

Those are the only three philosophical theories of inductively verifying truth claims as far as I aware. I could be wrong as I am not a professional philosopher.

I am not sure science is based on the testimony of witnesses; but yes, we do sometimes have to take a witness' word for something. But we shouldn't take the word of a witness uncritically.

You said: What I am actually asking you, Dr. Pulliam, is to be consistent when you say you can't know the truth value of "X". It depends on the value you are giving "X." As I thought I made clear in my comment on the other post, I do believe you can know the truth value of certain propositions but not every proposition. Remember, I said that 3 out of the 4 propositions from my wife, I could accept.

You say: What I am saying is that the basis for you to claim that your agnosticism toward God is reasonable is significantly questionable -- becuase you don't apply your skepticism/agnosticism to truth claims more important to your immediate situation which ought to inspire more caution on your part because of the daily risk.

You are comparing apples and oranges. When I go into a restaurant if it looks really dirty, then I walk out. How do I know that someone has not spit in my soup or worse? I don't but I have to weigh the odds of that happening with the desire to eat there. Unless I have been especially rude to the waiter, its very unlikely that my soup will be tainted. Perhaps, I should worry about getting food poisoning? That is a real possibility and in fact has happened to me before. The particular restaurant in question, I no longer frequent. Now I could probably go back there and not get sick but I am not going to take a chance. How do I know when I get in my car that I am not going to be killed in an accident? I don't; but, I have to weigh the odds of getting killed with my need to get somewhere in a hurry.

All of these things though are much different though than whether I believe in the God of the Bible. The claims that men have spoken for God are common in history. You don't accept all the claims. Why do you reject some but not all? The only difference between you and me, I suspect, is that I reject one more god than you do.

Isaac said...

Ken: I don't see that you answered the question. Do you think it would be just to execute an innocent person? Yes, no, or maybe?

I'll see your "failed to answer my question" and raise you an "obviously".

You are correct, I did not answer the question because you are (in my opinion) deliberately trying to nudge people beyond the limits of the analogy presented. Since I think what you are doing is out-of-bounds, I don't in any way feel obliged to answer your query as if it were in-bounds. Your deliberate step out of the analogy's bounds is just a tactic that helps to shift the weight your opponent's argument so you can lever in another assertion without having to deal directly with the meat of what your opponent said.

You, again, step around the real problems with your own argument and try to foist the burden of the conversation upon me (or others). I don't see why anyone should answer your endless questions when you are, even at the direct prodding of others, unwilling to actually address the assessments your own arguments as already presented here and in the other thread.

Christians have here and elsewhere presented very clear statements of their basis for authority as well as their theories of penal substitutionary atonement. These arguments are impossible not to stumble over even during a cursory investigation of Christian theology. Since you claim to be an expert in these matters, why are you here requiring people to answer questions that you must, in your expertise, already know the answers to?

I am sure that you'll accuse of me punting the ball and I suppose I am, but only because you claim to already be an expert. I am punting because I am more interested in why an expert seems to deliberately be doing a two-step.

I think you are being intellectually dishonest. This is a trait that you have in common all other self-proclaimed atheists I have personally encountered either on the internet or IRL. The real question is: are you being intellectually dishonest because you aren't the expert you claim to be or because you enjoy being disingenuous because it keeps us all hopping from one foot to the next?

Ken: It seems to me that we have to assume our senses are trustworthy. They aren't always but we have to begin with that assumption.

Why do we have to begin with that assumption? Because without it we can't proceed forward?

That's a wonderfully simple pragmatic argument but then what stops a Christian from equally stating that without an objective authority, morals and ethics are relative? I mean, we have to assume an objective authority if we are going to move forward in any discussion/investigation of what morals and ethics may be outside of our own heads, right?

It cuts both ways.

Rick Frueh said...

How do you describe the color red to a man born blind?

Answer: You cannot unless he gains sight. And he cannot gain sight on his own, and he is free to reject a coreal transplant.

BTW - I am postive I am an agnostic.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Mr. Ken,

Are you interested in finding the truth?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Olan,

You say: the basis for my assertion is the creation. There is no explanation for the creation other than there has to be a Creator. You are begging the questionby using the word "creation." I would prefer to call it "nature."

You say: Actually if the State were going to free a guilty man on the basis of penalty-substitution then it would be necessary that there be an agreement between the State and an innocent man that would allow the innocent man to pay the penalty of the guilty man. Then and only then would the State be just in pardoning the guilty man.

Do you really believe what you just said? Have you ever heard of such an arrangement? Would such an arrangement be considered "justice?" I don't think so. It is innately understood that it is unjust to punish an innocent person. As a matter of fact, I don't think its logically possible to punish an innocent person. You can inflict harm on them but its not correct to call it punishment.

Joab said...

Dr. Pulliam said: "It seems to me that we have to assume our senses are trustworthy. They aren't always but we have to begin with that assumption."

I find it ironic that the senses, which would determine an ultimate reality, must first be deemed trustworthy through assumption and supposition. Isn't that itself a leap of faith that is little different than the leap of faith we take in Jesus Christ?

Mesa Mike said...

I wonder if Dr. Pulliam's wife told him that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States, would he be agnostic about that? Or does he have in mind some way of testing the claim (if he desired to do so)using correspondence, coherence, or pragmatic tests?

stratagem said...

To all Christians onboard here:

It sounds like Ken is (as any of us) starting with a set of assumptions. Among them, that his senses are trustworthy, and that the only thing he will believe in is that which can be sensed.

I don't think it is unreasonable for him to do that, so my appeal would be that we all remember that battles for people like Ken are not waged in debates, but in prayer. We do not war against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces.

The only way Ken will believe in Christ is if He reveals himself to Ken, just as we all would not believe if it hadn't been supernatually revealed to us by God. It will not be via arguments.

I know that all Christians here want Ken to believe as we do, out of love for him. So, please, let's stop saying that he's being dishonest about his intentions, and so on. We can't know that. Let's show some understanding while acknowledging our differences, acknowledging that we at one time may have held similar beliefs, and pray for him. To do otherwise is futility.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Mark,

Those are actually excellent questions. How does one know that someone else loves them? Well, we make a judgment based on the evidence. If they act in such a way that makes it appear they love us, then they may in fact love us. There is always the possibility that they are acting in the way they are for some ulterior motive, so we have to consider that in our evaluation.

As for historical claims, that is also problematic for a number of reasons. What we are left with here is varying degrees of probability. For example, the belief in the assassination of Lincoln in 1865 CE is much more likely to be correct than the belief in the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. Why? Because there is more evidence and more reliable evidence that Lincoln was assassinated. I obviously can't go into all of the detail here but suffice it to say that we have much more evidence regarding Lincoln than we do Caesar. Does that mean that I shouldn't believe that Caesar was assassinated? No, it just means that on the level of probabilities, the assassination of Lincoln is farther up the scale.

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam said:

[QUOTE]
Okay, but your belief in the empty tomb is based on your presupposition that the biblical record is true.
[/QUOTE]


This might be true if I was not an atheist until I was 27.

I would rather present to you that I base my belief on the reliability of the Biblical record on the fact that Jesus' tomb is empty.

Which is a great way to lead into this:

[QUOTE]
In addition, even if (and that is a big IF) the empty tomb of Jesus was a fact, there is no assurance that the interpretation that the women (wait a minute, they didn't tell anyone--Mark 16:8) or the disciples gave to that fact was the correct understanding for why the tomb was empty. There are many other possibilities.
[/QUOTE]


Yeah: hang on a minute. Before we discuss all the other possibilities that describe the cause of the empty tomb, I want to notice a couple of things:

1. It's great how quickly that this can be the focus of the discussion -- and not the completely-inconsistent view of "agnosticism" you hold. That is: I realize that it is easier to talk about things that might be true about Jesus and my faith than it is to talk about things which are inescapably true about the way you say you view the world. I accept that. But that doesn't resolve the problem that your "agnosticism" is, at best, special pleading against all the things it is being weilded against.

2. It is imppossible to deny that the tomb was empty. There is ZERO testimony to any other fact regarding the life and death of Jesus. Even Muslims believe the tomb was empty; even the Jews believe the tombs was empty. Whether their explanations of why this happened are more of less plausible than the one the Bible provides, the tomb was empty. This fact has to come back to the question of how honest your "agnosticism" really is.

3. Speaking of which, for an "agnostic", it seems to me that you find arguments from silence more compelling than the actual testimony of historical and archeological sources. Does it both you at all that a plain fact -- that is, the empty tomb (not the cause of rit being empty, but that it existed and was empty) -- requires you and your sources to simply disregard historical and archeological testimony which is far more compelling than for almost any other event in the ancient world?

So if you want to reproach what the Bible says about the cause of the empty tomb, I say go for it -- but at some point you have to use the tools you say you believe in to know something is "true" or "correct" to get the basic facts in-line.

The empty tomb speaks to the cornerstone of the faith of all people who call themselves Christian -- and it is a fact that you cannot disprove using the epistemological methods you have lined out. The cause of the empty tomb might be something to dispute, but I'm not sure I want to have that discussion with you until I am sure you are going to use your own rules consistently to examine truth claims.

Frank Turk said...

Just for the readers:

Notice that Dr. Pulliam is certainly willing to toss all of ancient history out in order to cast doubt on the accounts of the NT.

That speaks directly to what he is seeking to do in his "agnosticism".

misty said...

Ken,

I apologize for the insulting tone in my previous e-mail. Forgive me. I think it's the lack of sleep due to the time change and from following a thread for 5 days :)

Regarding penal substitution: If Christ is a part of the GodHead and God the Father in the GodHead is exacting punishment, is it so unthinkably horrible that God would take on the punishment given by God? Jesus wasn't just some innocent man forced into it. The Trinity decided this was going to be the plan before the foundation of the world.

olan strickland said...

Dr. Ken, LOL! You can call it nature if you wish but it doesn't change anything. This thing you call nature is very complex and precisely tuned. All that said then for their to be a nature there must be a Naturator. There are only two possibilities for defining nature - a Creator or evolution. With nature's complex ecosystem evolution is illogical for it would have consumed itself. Also for one species to evolve into another there would have to be in-between species that not only should have shown up in fossil records but surely should even continue today. Missing bones are a real problem for atheists and agnostics.

You said, Do you really believe what you just said? Have you ever heard of such an arrangement? Would such an arrangement be considered "justice?"

Actually I have heard of such an arrangement - the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason you haven't heard of such an arrangement in the court systems of this world is because this is an out of this world type of love.

So yes, I really believe what I just said. On what basis and on what authority would you declare such an arrangement unjust? Do you have the authority to declare to an innocent man that he cannot pay the penalty for a guilty man if he so desires? Do you have the authority to declare to the State that it cannot honor such an arrangement if the State wishes to pardon and yet uphold the law?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Gregg: "Pyromanicas has been awarded the "Sweet Friends" award by the Gospel Driven Disciples. You can stopp by GDD tomorrow and pick up your award and read your nomination write up.

Thank you for all you do as you bless the Gospel Driven Disciples."


They won it again?

How many years in a row have they won it? They should let some other Christian blogsite win it once in a while.

Abschaum said...

Dr. Pulliam:

Not to distract from the main discussion, but the term "nature" is not a neutral term.

"Nature" comes from the latin "natus," (from whence we get nativity and prenatal and other words which relate to babies). It denotes "what is born" which again raises questions about who the Father is.

The phrase "physical realm" might serve you better as a term without theistic overtones (see the Greek "physis").

However, if you purposefully choose an atheistic term for Creation, aren't you also guilty of "begging the question?"

Mesa Mike said...

> the belief in the assassination of
> Lincoln in 1865 CE is much more
> likely to be correct than the
> belief in the assassination of
> Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. Why?
> Because there is more evidence and
> more reliable evidence that
> Lincoln was assassinated.

What evidence? I mean, that we can use correspondence, coherence or pragmatic tests on.

Terry Rayburn said...

strategem wrote:

"The only way Ken will believe in Christ is if He reveals himself to Ken, just as we all would not believe if it hadn't been supernatually revealed to us by God. It will not be via arguments."

Agreed.

strategem also wrote:

"...let's stop saying that he's being dishonest about his intentions, and so on. We can't know that."

Strongly disagree. We can know he is not being honest by Romans 1:18-20:

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been CLEARLY seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."


Never, ever, ever, ever accept an agnotic's or atheist's assertion that he is being honest or desires the truth.

Let God be true, and every [agnostic atheist] be a liar.

Terry Rayburn said...

By the way, since atheists are already "suppressing the truth in unrighteousness" they likely are also suppressing the truth that they are suppressing the truth. So...

...they often get touchy or outright angry when you point that out.

That's part of the reason we speak the truth in love, since a soft answer can divert or dissipate the wrath.

CR said...

A friend of mine gave a great example of the application of Romans 1:32. Think of a child in a swimming pool that has one of those balls and he's sitting and pushing down that ball under him and he says, what ball? What ball? I don't have the ball.

This is what the agnostic or the atheist does who knows God's decrees.

The apostate whether he or she is an agnostic or atheist or agnostic atheist is a special example. The book of Hebrews (chapter 6) is very clear on how we are treat them.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, to restore them to repentance. When we argue with them and try to go back to the elementary things then what we do is force them to crucify God to their own harm and force them to hold the gospel and Christ in more contempt.

Now that doesn't mean an apostate can't be restored, but what it means is we can't do it by going back to the basics with them because they'll hate God even more. What we can do is pray for them since salvation is 100% of God.

I think we should be cognizant of that.

Sir Brass said...

"Find us some actual doubters who are more interested in truth than in the sound of their own voices."

Problem there, Dan, is that if they are truly interested in the truth, it's usually b/c God working on their hearts, and we all know what happens when God sets to regenerate a man..... he doesn't remain a doubter ;).

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Dr. Ken Pulliam,

Please read this post about a college student who loses his faith and chooses to major in philosophy. It's called "Count Your Blessings.

CR said...

I meant to say that the apostate is a special case, not special example.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Dr. Ken,

I'm not a heavy-hitter intellectually, so I apologize if my comments are too simple for the deep thinker that you are. But here's what I have to say:
If an intelligent person such as yourself were to take a walk alone in the woods, and came across a bunch of sticks arranged in such a way to spell the letters KEN, you would, being an intelligent person, realize that another human had been there. Perhaps your wife was hiding out and wanted to play a trick on you by freaking you out a little. But in a split second, your mind (and I daresay your conscience) informed you that it was done purposefully by another person. You didn't have to read a book or check for fingerprints; you didn't think it was formed by the wind and the rain or a cosmic collision. You just knew and there was no denying its reality. We naturally do this when we see a spider's web or bird's nest, or a sky scraper. But when it comes to accepting the reality that all creation was made by a Creator, it poses a lot more questions that are difficult for even the most intelligent people to come to terms with. IF it is true, then what are the implications on me personally?

One of the problems with the rain/mower/tarp analogy is that it is very self-centered. Your wife says it's raining. You look outside and everything's wet and precipitation is falling. But that's only true in your neck of the woods. It's not raining, say, in my neck of the woods. It's only relative to you. Certainly rain falls on the just and the unjust, and lawnmowers do rust if left out in the rain. And your wife's solution to the problem (putting a tarp over the mower) will only work if you know for a fact that your tarp doesn't have any holes in it. You can throw a tarp over your mower with full faith that your mower is safe, and in the end still have a rust problem. And you can believe what you want to believe (or deny what you want to deny), but will still have a sin problem to deal with when your reality comes face to face with eternal reality. God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. And if I could quote all 14 verses of Psalm 19 here for you, I would, but I will pray that you would read them for yourself and be humbled.

I will leave the rest of the thread up to the heavy-hitters, as I have a lot of housework I should be doing. But I will encourage them with James 5:19-20 "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."

DJP said...

No problem at all, Sir Brass. God works through means.

CR said...

I think Merilee's excellent point is the most intelligent I've read so far.

CR said...

"Merrilee", sorry.

allen said...

Merrilee,
I think a certain one might say:
Since I didn't actually see,hear, or observe someone doing this, it probably means no one did. Besides if someone had, they would have written my full name or at least told me about antibiotics as well. Besides, its not just or fair to write my name and not write everyone else's too. Or maybe he would just throw a tarp over the sticks and suppress their existence and what they infer away from his sight.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Frank,

You said: I would rather present to you that I base my belief on the reliability of the Biblical record on the fact that Jesus' tomb is empty.
That's very interesting. How would you know it was empty apart from the biblical record? If that is not circular reasoning, then I don't know what is.

You said: It's great how quickly that this can be the focus of the discussion -- and not the completely-inconsistent view of "agnosticism" you hold. I answered your objections concerning my agnosticism. The problem is that you insist that I be agnostic about everything in life and I made it crystal clear that I am agnostic about metaphysical matters.

You said: It is imppossible to deny that the tomb was empty. There is ZERO testimony to any other fact regarding the life and death of Jesus. Even Muslims believe the tomb was empty; even the Jews believe the tombs was empty. Whether their explanations of why this happened are more of less plausible than the one the Bible provides, the tomb was empty. This fact has to come back to the question of how honest your "agnosticism" really is. If you mean there is zero evidence that someone found the body of Jesus in a tomb somewhere, you are correct, but if you mean that everyone agrees that Jesus body was placed in a tomb and then later that same tomb was discovered as being empty, you are incorrect.

You said: Speaking of which, for an "agnostic", it seems to me that you find arguments from silence more compelling than the actual testimony of historical and archeological sources. Does it both you at all that a plain fact -- that is, the empty tomb (not the cause of rit being empty, but that it existed and was empty) -- requires you and your sources to simply disregard historical and archeological testimony which is far more compelling than for almost any other event in the ancient world? Please provide or point me to the archeological evidence for the tomb of Jesus being empty. While you are at it, point me to the evidence, apart from your holy book, that the tomb was empty.

You said: Dr. Pulliam is certainly willing to toss all of ancient history out in order to cast doubt on the accounts of the NT. Where did I say that I am willing to toss out all of ancient history? What I said was that there degrees of probability as it relates to historical events. How can you possibly deny that, unless you just uncritically accept anything that any historian ever wrote?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Mesa Mike,

Actually the coherence theory can be used on historical matters. Why do I believe that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the US instead of say the 20th president? Because the 16th coheres with other accepted notions from history. The fact that there is no controversy about it among historians is also a good sign. Some things in history are more certain than other things. For example, there is little doubt that JFK was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. I don't know of anyone who disputes it. However, whether there was one shooter or more is disputed even to this day.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

For those of you say that I am not honest and I am just suppressing the truth, etc. How would you respond if I said you all know that Allah is real and that the Koran is the Word of God but because of your hard heart you are just suppressing that truth. By the way, the argument from cause (cosmological) or the argument from design (teleological) could be used just as well to argue for Allah as they could for Jesus.

Phil said...

Strategem,
It is more than unreasonable to assume a Christian foundation for knowledge, then fight against it. Joab understands the problem Ken is facing, see the post above yours.

Ken,
I would suggest that rather than pretend your dilemma doesn't exist and show yourself a hypocrite that you admit that either an absolute God lives and has revealed His knowledge to us or do nothing.
Meaningless! says the teacher, take it to heart and turn to Christ.

olan strickland said...

Ken: By the way, the argument from cause (cosmological) or the argument from design (teleological) could be used just as well to argue for Allah as they could for Jesus.

Those arguments only prove that there is a God and that evolution is bogus. Why aren't you at least theistic or polytheistic?

CR said...

Ken: How would you respond if I said you all know that Allah is real and that the Koran is the Word of God but because of your hard heart you are just suppressing that truth.

I, nor should any of us, deal with hypotheticals. You do not believe or know that the Koran is the word of God.

This is like you asking, "what if I say to you that I believe green men are on Mars."

You are not profusely arguing for green men on Mars nor are you profusely arguing against the Koran. You are profusely arguing against the Christian God, the only God.

Atheism or agnosticism is the ultimate pride. Prideful and arrogant people often have to put down others because it makes themselves feel worthy. But the ultimate pride is atheism and agnosticism. This person cannot stand the fact that God is involved in every aspect of person's life. He cannot submit to God, therefore he must say, God does (doesn't know) not exist.

DJP said...

So, with that (and a number of truly, profoundly silly things Ken has said), I have two serious questions. One is specific, one is general.

1. When will the consensus agree that Ken is not and never has been a serious participant in this conversation?

2. Is there any verity that is so obvious and so inescapable that nobody who wishes to deny it, will deny it?

misty said...

Right, CR!

Plus, the apostle Paul wasn’t just some guy at the Dairy Queen telling everyone the Bible is the Word of God and if they didn’t believe it they were suppressing the truth in righteousness. Paul backed up his testimony with signs, wonders, and miracles (and I know, Ken, you don’t believe in that stuff, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen). That’s why Paul’s books are part of the canon.

When someone on the Allah side can back up their testimony with bona fide miracles, then we’ll talk.

olan strickland said...

DJP:
1. When will the consensus agree that Ken is not and never has been a serious participant in this conversation?

2. Is there any verity that is so obvious and so inescapable that nobody who wishes to deny it, will deny it?


1. I agree

2. That won't stop until "every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

DJP said...

It's a question I'd like to (and will) ask one of these, "Oh, yes, well, we can be sure about this, this, this and this -- but know nothing whatever about that, that and that" people.

When it comes to Christ's Lordship, I think you're absolutely bottom-line right. I also think that's why God's Godhood so infuriates that crowd. They know one day, party-time will be over, and think they beat their chests and hold their breath and can pout it off.

Mr Fabulous said...

Dr. Pulliam, I enjoyed reading your comments. You are very well spoken and considerate of differing opinions - unlike most of the comments I've seen thus far. How ironic it is to know that Pyromaniacs is the recipient of the "Sweet Friends" award when I read the comments posted and the monikers like "God-hater," & "ludicrous" are hurled at you. Even though you are a non- believer, you are behaving more "christ-like" than the "christians" posting on this blog. Thank you for your testimony and your willingness to stand up to the crowd.

DJP said...

lol

It's like a script.

misty said...

Oh, Mr. Fabulous, I’m sorry. Can’t let you get away with that.

How is it Christ-like to deny the Savior and our God?

Also, Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites”, John the Baptist called them “a brood of vipers”, and Paul said the Galatians should emasculate themselves.

Were they Christ-like?

Just askin’.

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam asked:

[QUOTE]
How would you know it was empty apart from the biblical record? If that is not circular reasoning, then I don't know what is.
[/QUOTE]


Well, when you draw it as a circle, of course it seems like circular reasoning.

Here are three ways we know apart from the Biblical record:

1. There are no early accounts from non-Christians of Christian core belief which excludes the empty tomb.

2. There are not early accounts from Christians about Christian beliefs which are not Scripture which omit the early tomb from Christian core belief.

3. The chief problem if Gnosticism, which is the earliest cultic/heretic belief contra Christian faith, is the denial that Christ had a body at all -- so that of course, his tomb was empty (they argued), but he never had a body anyway.

These are all positive evidence, Dr. Pulliam -- places where what is stated is actually stated and "not not stated".

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam also said:

[QUOTE]
I answered your objections concerning my agnosticism. The problem is that you insist that I be agnostic about everything in life and I made it crystal clear that I am agnostic about metaphysical matters.
[/QUOTE]


I insists that, as you ahve insisted about Christians, that if you are "agnostic", you be credibly agnostic -- not merely a one-up agnostic about one question making a special plea against something you don't want to believe, but then ignoring the core issues of your skepticism in things which, frankly, would make your life inconvenient drudgery.

It's an extremely dubious claim to think that restaurant food is safe -- since it is documented nationwide as being unsafe at an unusually-high rate. Yet you have no skepticism toward this claim.

I think that speaks to your claim to have skepticism toward God -- that is, why you have skepticism toward God.

witness said...

Mr. Fabulous I am going out on a limb here and suggest you know absolutely nothing about what it means to be Christ-like. Note this from his blog...

"this is my rough draft for my new series of children's books that I intend to publish and get filthy rich by taking all the money from the parents of every dirty, nasty, little cretin who inhabits this planet."

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam said:

[QUOTE]
If you mean there is zero evidence that someone found the body of Jesus in a tomb somewhere, you are correct, but if you mean that everyone agrees that Jesus body was placed in a tomb and then later that same tomb was discovered as being empty, you are incorrect.
[/QUOTE]


Even the gnostics believed Jesus' tomb was empty, Ken. The only people who doubt Jesus' tomb was empty are late-comers to the game like Earl Doherty who doesn't even think there was a tomb at all.

olan strickland said...

Frank, too much coherence in the evidence :)

Hayden said...

Frank,

There is a semi-popular fiction book out there written by an unbeliever with the title "The Life of Pi". In it the main character says in effect 'agnostics are not more noble minded than atheists, just less decisive' :--) He goes on to call them 'fence sitters' and calls them out as being 'wishy washy'.

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam finally said:

[QUOTE]
Where did I say that I am willing to toss out all of ancient history? What I said was that there degrees of probability as it relates to historical events. How can you possibly deny that, unless you just uncritically accept anything that any historian ever wrote?
[/QUOTE]


The only reason to appeal to "probability" when thinking about historical events, Dr. Pulliam, is to start talking about how unlikely a right understanding of events in the past really is. You know this. It is your purpose in bringing the issue up.

The problem is that the documents of the NT are probably the best-attested to document in the ancient world -- the ones most likely to be complete, and to speak to the events they describe with reliability. In your view, that's not enough -- which, again, speaks to the degree to which you're willing to seek out a skeptical opinion in this matter (where there is ample evidence in favor) but ignore a skeptical outlook in situations far more likely to be damgerous or harmful.

I have to finish up here at work today, so I'm not coming back until late rin the week. Thanks for stopping by, and may God richly bless you.