Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Faith Plus: Christian discoveries for John Loftus.

John Loftus, in his on-line persona at least, seems determined to explore every nook and cranny of fuzzy thinking about Christianity.  Take his post this morning contrasting the top-ten discoveries of science for 2012, with the allegedly shoddy record of religion in making new discoveries during the same year:

Let's do a comparison between science and religion by looking at their top ten discoveries in 2012, okay? First consider the top tech and science breakthroughs of 2012 according to ExtremeTech. Click through all ten of them. Pretty impressive, right? Now let's consider the top ten religious discoveries in 2012:

Pretty unimpressive, eh?

Science continues to advance while religion continues to retreat. Every year science makes new discoveries while religion has stalled and stopped scientific progress so many times it would make our heads hurt to recount them all. And it's a lie to claim Christianity produced science, a reoccurring theme among deluded believers. A lie. (See this tagged below). Just read Richard Carrier's excellent chapter on this in
The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails.

Faith doesn't discover anything. It has no method. Religion is based on superstition, ANCIENT superstition. So what reason do people of faith have for denying the results of science like they do, especially when they accept it's results in a vast number of areas except those rare ones that conflict with their faith? I see no reason to place faith above science like this at all. And yet all believers do this, at least in some areas.
Now this is dumb by any measure. 
(A) First of all, science is an epistemology, a way of finding things out.  "Religion" is among other things a set of beliefs about the nature of things.  It is not a way of finding stuff out.  So why chastize it for not accomplishing goals it does not set?  This is like complaining that a golden drinking goblet doesn't make a very good push broom. 
What if we were to ask, "What are the top ten discoveries of Secular Humanism in 2012?" 
I just googled "Secular Humanism top 10 discoveries 2012."  The Google fairy smirked at me like I was trying to whistle with a stalk of celery covered in peanut butter, and coughed up the following:
"List of humanists, Wikipedia."
"Is Atheism + just Secular Humanism? -- Greta Christina's blog."
"Top Ten New Species -- 2012."
And so forth.  Clearly, Google didn't even know what to make of such a silly inquiry. 
From which we are to conclude that Secular Humanism is useless?  All right, if that's how John wants to argue.   
(B) Richard Carrier showed no such thing as Loftus reports.  He argued, in fact, that something that ought to be called genuine science arose in the ancient world.  He argued that it was in part inspired by ancient Greek theism! 
"Most intellectual polytheists believed in a Creator who had intelligently ordered the cosmos, that this order could be discovered by the human mind, and that such discovery honored God. Scientists like Galen and Ptolemy were thus motivated to pursue scientific inquiry by their religious piety . . . " (407)
Carrier didn't really even try to show that modern science was not inspired by Christianity, though the title of his chapter ("Christianity was not responsible for modern science") inplied that that was the case.  If anything, his argument makes the relationship between Christianity and the rebirth of modern science more, not less, credible.

Maybe John Loftus should start reading those books he cobbles together.  

Meanwhile, here's a new book from Dr. Allan Chapman, historian of science at Oxford University, that shows just how friendly the relationship between Christianity and science has been.  Chapman is a respected authority on the subject, several notches above Dr. Carrier in the pecking order of academia.  John might find this book a revelation. 
(C) I think John is one of those people who could rightly brag, "I've forgotten more about theology than you'll ever know."  Certainly he has forgotten what "faith" means, however many times I try to remind him. 

Genuine faith in the Christian sense is that act of mind and will by which we discover all that we ever can come to know.  Faith means trusting, and holding firmly to, what we have good reason to believe is true, in the face of trial.  In that sense, no science, no history, not even the most platitudinous reasoning, would be possible without faith. 
That doesn't mean faith is a methodology, and that is how science differs from religion.  Science might be described as "Faith +."  It is faith in the mind, the senses, and one's colleagues, PLUS a particular methodology for sorting certain kinds of claims and determining if they are true. Of course it is not the only such methodology, and of course religious believers use many valid methodologies to sort rival claims to truth, as much as secular humanists do. 
Faith by itself should probably not be described as an epistemology.  But all valid epistemologies involve both faith and reason, working together.
(D) What about John's claim that religion has led to no great discoveries in 2012? 
Christianity is not an epistemology, though it includes statements about the nature of the cosmos.  But people thinking from Christian assumptions have made a huge portion of the greatest discoveries about the world, including both ancient Greek and Medieval European scientists. 
The pace of discovery did not, as far as I could tell, flag in recent years, at least those that have come to my attention over the past year:
(1) My own doctoral thesis, offering a new, bold, and I think nuanced model of how ultimate beliefs relate to one another, was completed last fall.  The thesis also sets the intellectual history of China in a novel light.  I have hope that this work may come to be seen as a major new understanding of a vast field  of human thought and understanding. 
(2) Robert Woodberry continues to show, in his new works, that Protestant missions was largely responsible for the spread of democracy around the world.  Who knew that? 
(3) Ross Douthat's new Bad Religion is a brilliant description of American society, and what makes it run most effectively.  (Orthodox Christianity is his answer.)
(4) Melanie Kirkpatrick's Escape From North Korea seeks an answer to the question, "What should the world do about its most diabolical regime?"  One of the answers she finds is, the Gospel is already beginning to take some of the most effective measures to give hope to North Koreans, and perhaps even transform that pathetic nation from the inside. 
(5) Alvin Plantinga reaches exciting intellectual insights about science and Christianity in Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism.  Loftus ought to read that book: he needs to think more clearly about science and religion, and that might help.   
(6) Richard Bauckham shows, in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, that the Gospels almost certainly derive from eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life.  This is a very exciting journey of intellectual discovery into the life of the most important person who has ever lived. 
(7) Ivan Satyavrata's Christian interpretation of Indian tradition was published in an accessible form in our Faith Seeking Understanding
(8) And, of course, Christians who happen to be scientists, philosophers, historians, or other intellectual explorers of various kinds, continued to contribute their bits to the general fund of knowledge over the course of the year.  The whole scientific enterprise, again, was started largely on theistic premises, and to a large extent (Oxford historian Allan Chapman has a book coming out this month at least tangentially on the subject, I think) under Christian motives. 
These are just a few of the discoveries made by Christian thinkers that have specifically come to my eye over the past year or so, and come to mind in a few minutes of thinking after reading John's blog. 
Really, John Loftus ought to broaden his intellectual horizons if he is going to continue writing about Christianity. 


John W. Loftus said...

David, have you read my new book yet?

Name me one thing that the Bible's God or Christian theology predicted in advance of our discovery.

"Watch out for lead-poisoning, or poisonous water" would be a good start. Or, tell us how to discover vaccines, penicillin and anesthesia long before so many people suffered and died before science arrived on the scene.

Good luck with this.

David B Marshall said...

John: Have you read any of my books, yet?

Amazon says your OTF book is on the way. I'm hoping to get it by Thursday, so I can read it on my trip this weekend to the East Coast.

Carrier tried that line, too.

What did the Bible predict in advance our our discovery?

John Loftus.

I can think of some other examples, but they would ruin the joke. :- )

Crude said...

Excellent work as always, David.

Really, the argument you're answering is hilarious. I have an idea for another great atheist argument he can deploy: Loftus can ask how many calories religion provides to people, then how many calories potatoes provide. Then he can cite the contrast as proof that religion and theism starves people to death in and of itself. Religion has no calories! That's horrible!

David B Marshall said...

Heh. Don't give John any ideas. I think he's running kind of low.

Anonymous said...

Nothing but a variation of the old "God should have done x instead of y, because that's what I'd do." Now it seems the issue is not "what discoveries?", but "discoveries I think are important."

Lawrence Krauss said something like this in an audio piece in preparation for the release of his last book. He said he asked all the faculty he met at all the universities he visited "what has your field discovered this year?" He then said something along the lines of everyone, "even the philosophers and historians (as he thinks little of either)," could give him an answer, save the theologians. William Craig responded, rightly, that he is either lying or been in the company of poor theologians. He goes on to note that Krauss would reject any suggestions given to him by any theologian he met, but that that is Krauss's problem, not ours or anyone else's.

David B Marshall said...

Quite so. Arguably, theology is the most exciting field of all, intellectually. We had wonderfully diverse lectures and seminars at Oxford Centre for Missions Studies.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry, but this reply to John Loftus is fundamentally dishonest. He may have overstated the case a bit, but he's basically right. I'll grant you that "faith" is not a methodology for discovering truth, that it's goals and those of science are different and it is like comparing apples and oranges ... except for one small problem. The Christian "faith," i.e., the body of doctrine, claims to lay out the critical truths necessary for "life and godliness," "salvation," etc, IOW the stuff that really matters. In that regard, science and faith are potential competitors. All it takes is for a scientific discovery or theory to contradict any central truth claim of the Bible. Hm, how many of those have come along in the last few centuries? This is so obvious it shouldn't need explanation.

Since all the important doctrines have already been laid out in Scriptures,
traditional Christian theology has basic, built-in biases against any new ideas. Granted, science has fences that new ideas have to get over before winning general acceptance as well. The difference is that in the case of traditional Christianity, the BIG fence is the current understanding of the teachings of the Bible. You will point out, correctly, that there have been developments in Christian doctrine over the centuries, and you agree with a few of them I'm sure. But, of course, all of them conform to the original teachings of the Bible, which means that they are not really discoveries, they are rediscoveries of things that the church had missed in the teaching of the apostles and prophets. Tell me of one, just one recently-discovered central Biblical doctrine that has completely revolutionized the lives of Christians that is NOT, by its proponents, traced to the teachings of the Bible and said to be known to at least one Biblical author.

David B Marshall said...

Jim: When you say it's "dishonest," you claim to know what you do not know -- that I don't really believe what I'm saying, that I'm deceiving either myself or you in some way. You'd do better to stick with the facts.

The question, "What great new ideas has Christian theology thought up last year?" is not one that requires abstract theorizing, it is an EMPIRICAL question. And the EMPIRICAL answer to that question, is not an empty black box, but "a whole lot, if you bother to read it."

Your phrasing of your challenge is tendentious* on almost too many levels to count. Stick with Loftus' original argument, don't transform it into something utterly different full of silly bells and whistles designed to make it unanswerable. Let me rephrase it and throw it back at you:

"Name just one recently-discovered central Secular Humanist doctrine that has completely revolutionized the lives of Secular Humanists and is NOT, by its proponents, related in any way to what is taught in the Humanist Manifestos I, II, or III?"

Why don't you ask Loftus that question?

(* "Tendentious" is a gentler way to say "dishonest.")

Unknown said...

David, have you ever seen the book "Why the Bible is Number 1?" It shows how the biblical laws, such as for sanitation, were much advanced over other ancient cultures. One quote that the book gives is that the Book of Leviticus "accomplished the first great feat ... in methodical eradication of disease." p. 50. If they had been followed, they would have prevented a lot of misery

David B Marshall said...

Stephen: Looks interesting. A little expensive, though.

Unknown said...


You can get used copy from Amazon for $19.57. In my opinion, it is one of the more interesting books on apologetics around, and gives an answer to some of what Loftus said at the beginning of this thread.

Also, since I know you are a fan of Rodney Stark, have you seen his new book, "America's Blessings?"

Unknown said...


You are right about me calling your reply dishonest. That was wrong of me and I ask your forgiveness.

I don't think that the comparison between Secular Humanism and Christianity as "belief systems" does what you want. Let me elaborate as simply and briefly as I can.

The distinction you make between science as an "epistemology" and "religion" as a set of beliefs is only half the story. In fact, in common usage both "science" and "religion" can refer to a set of methods to discover truth and sets of truths discovered.

John's post works if you understand science and religion as references to both investigative procedures and the conclusions reached as a result. If you ask a secular humanist what procedures he uses to establish his "beliefs," he'll usually point you to science. Ask a Christian, and he'll usually point you to his Bible. After the necessary qualifications I think this distinction holds.

OK, so we can compare the results of science to the results of Christian faith. You may disagree here, but IMHO where the two cover the same ground scientific investigation has been eating traditional Christian orthodoxy's lunch for the last 500 years.

Christianity is not a way of finding stuff out? The only way that can be true is if you mean by it, "it is not a way of finding stuff out on your own; God has to give you revelation if you want learn something new." Isn't this the way Christians become wise, by listening to the voice of God in Scripture, believing what he says, investigating it carefully to be sure it is understood correctly, and then putting it into practice? It seems to me that in principle it is just as possible to discover something new in the Bible as it is to discover something new in the physical universe. Sure, the field for discovery in the Bible could be smaller, but that depends on your hermeneutic. Consider the cabbalists or allegory. Talk about discovery! So, what's your hermeneutic? Most likely it introduces some kind of controls to this dicovery process, just as science does with its methods. And most likely, your set of controls is going to limit the discoveries to things that conform with the basics of Christian orthodoxy. Which means that there isn't anything very significant left to discover. After all, if there were then God had chosen to hide it from previous generations of his people? I thought that was ruled out by the appearance of Jesus and the dawning of the last ages. If I'm right, and I think I have the weight of the evidence on my side, then it's by design that Christian orthodoxy doesn't discover much of anything new. So you are right to complain that John is comparing apples and oranges, since science makes no claim that we already know everything important to know, whereas Christianity does. Each body of knowledge's progress conforms to its own set of initial conditions.

In the case of Christian orthodoxy, though, the initial conditions include a set of claims about the physical universe and past history that can be and in some cases already have been falsified, leaving guys like you to either abandon the scheme or invent ever more convoluted CYA moves.

One final point. John was not saying that Christians can't make new discoveries. Of course they can, using the same methods in the same fields of study as anyone else. In principle, any sociologist could have written Bad Religion, any Bible scholar could have written Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (although most wouldn't because Bauckham's central thesis is flawed, and it's odd you included that book in the list of 2012 discoveries because the book has been out for a number of years). John was ambiguous, but he meant discoveries in theology proper. I'd love to see your list of discoveries in that field!

Cornell Anthony said...

@ John Loftus

Science is underpinned by philosophical presuppositions and heavy use of principles of logic such as the Law of excluded middle and the law of non-contradiction. Now let's dissect what you said and I will show you how your statement = religious in itself.

The Statement "look at all these great discoveries in science for 2012 and nothing from religion" entails that there is an OBJECTIVE goal towards humanity that states humans 'ought to' progress in scientific discovery.

Right now this statement from Loftus in itself is a religious mindset that states humanity has a purpose it 'ought to' acheive in progressing science, but you haven't given any reasons on why this is the case.

Is the unconscious universe going to happy with humanity?

John W. Loftus said...

Cornell, I'll answer you quickly but once. The "ought" is pragmatic and conditional. If we want to make life easier and better for ourselves then we ought to pursue scientific discoveries. If we don't, then we don't. And science does just that. It works. It has brought us computer chips, rocket ships and cruise ships. Even if you knew you were going to cease existing in a year you would still want your life made easier and better now.

David B Marshall said...

Jim: Sorry for the slow response -- I've been pretty busy, lately.

Thanks for your gracious apology, and interesting argument.

"If you ask a secular humanist what procedures he uses to establish his "beliefs," he'll usually point you to science."

That's because most secular humanists have not been taught to think philosophically, or in some cases, just to think well. The truth is, most scientific thinking relies on prior sources of knowledge and trust -- in the mind, the senses, the honesty of other researchers -- which are not themselves scientific. So science is, in some ways, a superstructure on those prior ways of knowing, and is much narrower than them.

Faith in God is what I call the "fourth step of faith," beyond mind, senses, and people. It offers the chance to get to know things the prior steps of faith cannot. In the same way, trust in people is a broader epistemological method than is trust in one's own mind and senses, and therefore allows broader knowledge.

In this sense, "By faith, I know that the world was formed from things that are not visible," as Hebrews 11 puts it. True, science also tells us that now. But we Christians first learned it from the Bible.

"Ask a Christian, and he'll usually point you to his Bible."

But Christians also learn from science, history, philosophy, etc. In fact, Christians helped invent and develop many subdisciplines in science. So this is a false dichotomy. Secular humanists in no sense "own" science.

"You may disagree here, but IMHO where the two cover the same ground scientific investigation has been eating traditional Christian orthodoxy's lunch for the last 500 years."

I do disagree. Often, science (and other rational studies) have confirmed and deepened Christian faith.

"Science makes no claim that we already know everything important to know, whereas Christianity does."

Does it really, now? As in the verse, "It is the glory of God to hide mysteries, and the glory of the king to seek them out?" Francis Bacon quoted this verse twice to justify his role in the scientific revolution.

"In principle, any sociologist could have written Bad Religion . . . "

Unlikely. But one can again throw this argument back as Secular Humanists. What great discovery by a secular humanist could not also have been made by a Christian?

"Any Bible scholar could have written Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (although most wouldn't because Bauckham's central thesis is flawed, and it's odd you included that book in the list of 2012 discoveries because the book has been out for a number of years)."

I discovered it last year. What's the best criticism you know of the book?

"John was ambiguous, but he meant discoveries in theology proper. I'd love to see your list of discoveries in that field!"

Some of the books above were in that field. My interests are pretty catholic, though, as are those of theology in general.

Cornell Anthony said...


Easier to all humanity, especially people who love hitting others with identity theft? Is this 'easier' a subjective term?

Why is it that there are still so many problems in the US even given the fact that we have better access to science? Ask the 99%

Why is it that the U.S is even 16 trillion dollars in debt? Can't science somehow come to the rescue and clean up this act in one swoop?

You also say 'ought' is pragmatic and conditional, well that makes absolutely no sense. Pragmatic either sounds more like "a "theory of what works best for me personally" not what works better for everyone, so this ends up being subjective, OR it sounds like something trying to derive and 'ought' from an 'is'. What you saying here is DESCRIPTIVE and not PRESCRIPTIVE, I'm interested in how something 'ought' to be like, instead of what 'is'. What you say also begs the question on why humans should live as if they need to make their lives better. If this is the case then which type of humans are we talking about? Are we talking about Identity hackers who get off on making people miserable? Because yes I can see how an Identity theives can use science to their advantage. In fact this is actually a big problem going on right now in the world.

As far as what 'works' well we don't know all of the long-term actual and potential effects of a new discovery in science. Take the Credit card for example and how much of a disaster that has been.

"Americans today depend far more on credit than they do on their savings, and credit cards are one of the most common form of borrowing in the US...

Credit card debt in the USA currently amounts to a total debt of about 962 billion dollars. The average credit card debt per credit card owning household is 14,750 dollars. This is the total credit card debt divided by the number of households with credit cards. Credit card penalty fees in the US add up to about 20.5 billion dollars a year."

Even though Americans are making progress in debt regarding some areas, the overall picture looks terrible:

"Americans have increasingly been paying down their mortgage and credit card balances. But even as total consumer debt has diminished by approximately $100 billion (down to a mere $11.4 trillion), more than $1 trillion of our current debt load is delinquent, and nearly $800 billion of that is overdue by more than 90 days. And while owing less is a good thing, the study shows that we're burning through our savings to pay our debts down. The overall net worth of the average American is down nearly 40% from 2007 to 2010."

The problem is we don't have a crystal ball telling us how everything is going to turn out, so this pragmatic conditional becomes more of a guessing game. What works, doesn't really always work and in fact just makes things worse. It's more like 'hmmm let's just wing it".

So now you have more questions to answers, why is it that we have all this sciece, but still so many problems in this country? You are aware of the problems yes?

It just seems that you ignore the negative effects of the double edged sword and haven't really given us an idea of why humanity 'ought' to have this goal to search for scientific discoveries. I see 'easier' for some people, and 'tougher' for people who have been hit with identity fraud, which is a lot according to that article I posted from ABC

I hope we don't have to come to the conclusion of you promoting identity theft?

Cornell Anthony said...

And really all these new medical discoveries are great John, but it would be nicer if the average american could actually afford them without having to either go into bankruptcy or into other uncomfortable finanical situations.

But I guess this somehow makes life easier, yes? And this system of new healings has been working just fine. Yes, we can get healed, but then your most likely to live a life of recovery to your finances.

"The study data, published online Thursday in The American Journal of Medicine, likely understate the full scope of the problem because the data were collected before the current economic crisis. In 2007, medical problems contributed to 62.1 percent of all bankruptcies. Between 2001 and 2007, the proportion of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by about 50 percent."

"Among families who were bankrupted by illness, those with private insurance reported average medical bills of $17,749 compared to those who were uninsured, who faced an average of $26,971 in medical costs. Those who had health insurance but lost it in the course of their illness reported average medical bills of $22,568.

"Hospital costs accounted for about half the expenses (48 percent), followed by prescription drugs (18.6 percent), doctor’s bills (15.1 percent) and insurance premiums (4.1 percent). Medical equipment and nursing home care rounded out the list."

This is definitely working fine and dandy.

Paul Rinzler said...

Jim and David, allow me to summarize and clarify one of Jim's points.

Christianity, in principle, cannot ever conclude that the following is not true:

1. The god of the Bible created the universe.
2. Humans have a sinful nature.
3. Jesus died for our sins and our salvation in the afterlife.

If you want to quibble about the details of #1-3 above, I will accept whatever edits you choose to make, but the point will still hold that (your version of) Christianity cannot ever conclude that (your edited version of) my #1-3 above is not true.

Science, by contrast, holds not a single conclusion away from some potential rejection, given good enough evidence.

Unknown said...

Comparing Christianity to science is an apples and oranges comparison. What is apples to apples is comparing Christianity to philosophical naturalism or secular humanism.

Cornell Anthony said...

Stephen Parrish is correct to a degree in which Christianity and science doesn't NECESSARILY come into conflict.

As shown in works such as:

'Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues' by Ian Barbour

'The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion' edited by Peter Harrison

This Video actually makes a lot of good points as well, and I believe many will find it to be of interest to them. The Christianity vs. Science supposed conflict is more of 'myth' than fact.

Keep in mind though, my discussion with John (who appears will not be joining us here any longer on this thread) is a bit different than what others are discussing here on this thread.

Unknown said...

It is at least epistemically possible for science and Christianity to come into conflict. It is also at least epistemically possible for philosophical naturalism and secular humanism to come into conflict with science. My point is that Christianity and naturalism/humanism are world views, and are thus on a different level than science. Science is a method, or methods, of finding out facts about the universe, which can operate within the contexts of different world views.

Cornell Anthony said...

I totally agree with that point Stephen, as you pointed out the 'epistemic' possibility of conflict can occur regarding how X views their worlview.

Though you did state'science is a method or methods, of finding out facts about the universe' I'm just curious on what your views are pertaining to scientific realism and anti-realism?

Unknown said...

To put things simply, I am a realist, though it finding the truth about the nature of the universe is easier in some areas than others.

David B Marshall said...

Paul: Again, we can just throw that challenge back at Secular Humanists. SH cannot, in principle, ever conclude that the following is not true:

1. There is no God.
2. We die and that's it.
3. We should care about ourselves.
4. We should care about other humans.

That doesn't make either Christianity or Secular Humanism unscientific, or indeed comparable to science at all. Science is one, fairly narrow, way of finding things out, useful in some situations. I doubt one could prove or disprove God scientifically: even were ID or miracles true (I do think the latter occur, at least, but that's more an historical than scientific claim), that alone would not prove God. Even if they don't, that alone would not disprove God.

Paul Rinzler said...

Yes, David, I get your point, but my point was a larger one, not the narrower one you took it as.

So here's another way to make the larger point: science is explicitly dedicated to following the evidence *wherever* it may lead. Can you say the same thing about Christianity (or your version of it)? I don't mean that rhetorically or as a challenge, I mean it plainly and simply. Or are there some things that you or Christianity has concluded that has been concluded on some basis other than where the evidence has led? If you answered that question with, "no," then our differences will be merely in how we interpret and evaluate the evidence.

Let's start there and see where it does.

David B Marshall said...

Paul: Commitments are often package deals. If you get married, you commit yourself to your wife "in richer and in poorer." Faith is a set of beliefs about reality, but first of all a commitment. Have you read C. S. Lewis' essay on persistence in belief? I've been traveling for 24 hours, may not give a very good answer -- so let me recommend that essay, with which I agree pretty much, and may answer your question. Maybe my brain will start working againt tomorrow.

Paul Rinzler said...

I'll see if I can find the CS Lewis essay and get back to you.

Crude said...

So here's another way to make the larger point: science is explicitly dedicated to following the evidence *wherever* it may lead.

No, it's not. Science is a tool or a method, and an extension of philosophy. It's not "explicitly dedicated" to any such thing, just as rulers are not explicitly dedicated to letting us accurately measure window panes. They can certainly be used for that role - or others.

Now, maybe you can argue there's a particular mindset or attitude or claim about 'following the evidence wherever it leads'. But it's just not going to be science. Maybe science grafted to a particular supposed philosophy - but even the philosophies are going to start with some exemptions and axioms.

Science is great, but one reason it's great is because it's limited. It's a tool, not a way of life.

David B Marshall said...

Yes. It's also a "Myth," as Jacques Ellul puts it, one of those myths to which propagandists must always appeal, if they want to be heard.

Unknown said...


Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. On the road and caught in work-related mini-disasters. Anyway, you can find a a good review of Bauckham's book in Theodore J. Weeden, " Polemics as a Case for Dissent: A Response to Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses," Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, Vol 6(2), 2008, pp. 211-224, especially the section on the Gospel of Mark as a Petrine remembrance. You can find Bauckham's response, "In Response to My Respondents: Jesus and the Eyewitnesses in Review" in the same volume, pp. 225-253. Not being a Biblical scholar and having no convenient access to an academic library, I found a reading of Weeden's criticisms in one of Robert Price's Bible Geek podcasts.

Many of your responses are based on a misunderstanding of my point, but that's my fault. I should have made it very clear that the only field in which Christians cannot and do not learn much of anything new is theology proper, When it comes to questions such as "what is God like, what kind of relationships with him can and do we have, and how do we move between them" even Roman Catholicism and Pentecostalism, which have the most generous views of continuing revelation, don't budge much on their traditional fundamentals, unless, of course, they take the "liberal" route of people like me.

Apart from theology proper, your quote from Proverbs is apropos. I will repeat my earlier criticism of your list of "discoveries." Most of the works containing discoveries cover fields in which standard scientific and historical methods are used to determine what is the case. The other works may be filled with new ideas, but John was not contrasting the number of new ideas generated by Christianity vs. science, only discoveries, i.e., knowledge.

Also, let's be clear on the difference between what is "new to me" vs. "what nobody else has known before." According to Christian orthodoxy, Christians can learn tons of new things about theology proper -- things new to them. Learning things nobody else knew before is another matter altogether. Isn't that limited to periods of major upheaval like the 1st and 2nd comings of Christ?

So, in theology proper, what are your criteria for truth? Based on those criteria, what new knowledge has been discovered in 2012?

Unknown said...

Jim: Thanks for explaining your point of view more. I don't listen to podcasts, also don't have access to journals, so I'll have to take a pass on Weeden for now.

It appears that the term "theology" is a sticking point. "Theology proper," for you, seems to include not just the study of God, as the term implies, but also of human relations with God, which actually seems to be an expanded meaning. My meaning is expanded further. If your point is that Christians hold to certain dogmas, why yes, we do. So do Secular Humanists, Marxists, Theraveda Buddhists, etc.

We use history and science to make new discoveries. Yes, also geography, our own senses, and reports from people we meet. Some of those discoveries inspire new thinking in "theology," broadly defined -- not just the basic nature of God, but how He interacts with this world of His. Yes. That's what the term usually covers, academically, and maybe in popular thinking. Christian theologians don't usually change their idea of God from three-in-one to many on Olympus: if they do, they exit Christian theology. Same with Secular Humanists: if they change their definition of "human" from "homo sapiens" to "anything with fur," then they too exit Secular Humanism.

My work, completed last year, is a fundamental work of intellectual discovery, that explains how world religions relate to one another better than has been done before, IMHO. John Hick compared such theories to a scheme of the planets, and that's an appropriate analogy, to a limited degree. I think that's very close to the heart of theology in your "narrow" but not too narrow sense. But of course, I wasn't assuming that sense: I was assuming the more conventional, expanded sense.

Anonymous said...

You really need to ignore John Loftus. He's nothing but a pseudo intellectual crackpot borderline narcissist.

David B Marshall said...

We're all borderline narcissists, Sam. If I ignore the narcissists, I'll have to go join the nihilists, if they'll have me.

I think John raises interesting questions. I think those questions, properly understood, can help point people to the truth. I don't rebut Loftus because his arguments are terrifying, and rebut him because they are promising. See my review of this book on Amazon.

Unknown said...

Actually there are accounts of anciet egyptians performing brain surgery... science.still cannot prove how life started.and that big bang crap is nothing but a small pop hypothesis. Plus through personal experiences and seeing with othersits impossible to deny someone like God created this world its too complex and put together for the planet to jus appear and a cell to evolve...what! This isn't pokemon