Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dialogue With an Atheist About Miracles and the Influence of First Premises on One's Methodology and Openness to Evidences and Proofs (vs. "DagoodS")

DagoodS is a former Christian with whom I have dialogued several times. Recently I met him. He did a presentation on evidences (or lack thereof, from his standpoint) for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I wrote an account of my opinion of the meeting: 16 Atheists / Agnostics & Me: Sounds Like a Good Ratio! Further Adventures at an Atheist "Bible Study" Group With Former Christians Jon and "DagoodS".

Since that time he has made some replies in the combox for the aforementioned post and in another (not always directed towards myself) for a related post from Protestant apologist Cory Tucholski ("Dave Armstrong vs. the Atheists"). I have collected comments of his that have relevance to the subject matter of my title (and of course I reply). Further installments will be added as they occur (the dialogue on this may still be ongoing). His words will be in blue.

The background of much of the discussion was this statement in my "16 Atheists . . ." paper:

DagoodS was saying that it is more difficult to believe an extraordinary miracle or event than to believe in one that is more commonplace. True enough as far as it goes. But I said (paraphrasing), "you don't believe that any miracles are possible, not even this book raising itself an inch off the table, so it is pointless for you to say that it is hard to believe in a great miracle, when in fact you don't believe in any miracles whatsoever." No response. I always try to get at the person's presuppositions. That is my socratic method.

This being the case, for an atheist (ostensibly with an "open mind") to examine evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, is almost a farcical enterprise from the start (at least from a Christian perspective) because they commence the analysis with the extremely hostile presuppositions of:

1) No miracles can occur in the nature of things.

2) #1 logically follows because, of course, under fundamental atheist presuppositions, there is no God to perform any miracle.

3) The New Testament documents are fundamentally untrustworthy and historically suspect, having been written by gullible, partisan Christians; particularly because, for most facts presented therein, there is not (leaving aside archaeological evidences) written secular corroborating evidence.

* * * * *

Hi DagoodS,

Thanks for droppin' by!

It was nice to finally meet you, Dave Armstrong. A few points…in my defense. I don’t try to “poke holes in the Bible.” I attempt to poke holes in certain claims about particular Bibles. For example, you touched on contradictions. As you and I agree there are contradictions in the Bible,

I think there are very few, and what few there are are due to manuscript discrepancies, and what minor ones can be found (about numbers or whatever) do not affect any Christian doctrine.

this wouldn’t pertain to you, but to others who claim inerrancy, I do question the viability regarding the claim. The same way you would.

No one denies that it takes faith to believe that the Bible is inspired.

What I have shown in past dialogues with you, I think, is that many of your alleged contradictions simply aren't that in the first place, by the rules of logic that atheist and theist agree upon. In other words, it is a logical discussion, not a theological one, when the claim is that contradiction is present.

As to naturalistic presupposition…I agree that is a difficulty for the apologist in discussing the Resurrection. Alas, it is part of human make-up. We all have biases. As a naturalist, I am going to look for a natural explanation. As a theist, I could understand a theist looking for a supernatural explanation in certain events.

No quibble with that statement!

If the apologist agrees the evidence for the Resurrection is not persuasive enough to convince a naturalist a miracle occurred, I am perfectly fine with that.

It is scarcely possible, like I said in the post, to convince an atheist / agnostic of the Resurrection, since all miracles are denied from the outset. So the discussion has to first be, whether miracles are possible and whether they have in fact, occurred.

But then that discussion itself necessarily goes back to theistic arguments about God, since God is necessary to perform the miracle in the first place; otherwise, the laws of science and nature determine what happens.

Therefore one has to engage in two huge discussions before we even get to a sensible, constructive discussion about Jesus' Resurrection.

But many apologists—especially those using the Habermas method—appear to claim the evidence is sufficient to even convince a naturalist.

I am sort of in the middle. I think the evidence is sufficient, but the hostile premises of the atheist / agnostic are so contrary to it that he or she cannot be convinced, on that basis. It also takes faith to believe, and that faith is given only by God's grace (I'm sure you're familiar with that aspect of Christian theology). If that grace is rejected, then the person won't believe in a thing like the resurrection because the faith required is not there. It does take faith. If Habermas is discounting that, then I have a problem with his analysis. But I don't think he would deny what I am saying here.

In those situations I try to explain why the evidence is not enough. Why we have legitimate (often un-addressed) concerns regarding the evidence claimed.

Yeah, that's fine. I just think that the premises involved are crucial, and the role they play are profound and compelling according to your own worldview. And they need to be discussed as well. I always go to the premises because I am a socratic in methodology and that's what socratics do.

*shrug* If you are saying it is useless to even discuss the assertions surrounding the Resurrection unless the person is first a theist—

I would never say that. That is more the position of presuppositionalist apologetics, which is mostly the reformed / Calvinists and some Baptists. That has never been my point of view at any time.

I would think this provides support to the reasoning that the evidence is insufficient to prove a miracle happened.

I assert both: the evidence is sufficient, but people's opinions are formed from their presuppositions and natural biases, based on what they read and who they hang around with.

I think almost exactly the same about God. I believe that knowledge of Him is innate in human beings and evident from observing nature (Romans 1). But for many reasons, this can be unlearned (again, due to influences that a person chooses, and environments), and so there is such a thing as an atheist or an agnostic.

* * *
I do not say, did not say and have never said the New Testament documents are worthless as history. Again… this is coming from one perspective. I DO say we must treat the documents for what they are. They are not history as a 20th century historian would record them, the gospels (for example) are bios as a 1st Century Mediterranean author would present them.
I confess slight pique at being compared to a “butcher approaching a hog” when referring to my treatment of the Bible. I have studied it at some length; I know some things; I clearly do not know everything. If one disagrees with my argument, or my consideration of what is being presented…so be it. Present your own, and let the better argument win. If I am missing something, or am being biased–please, please, please feel free to point it out.
But Dave Armstrong has said all this about me before. I’ve learned (mostly) to shrug off the invectives and let the arguments speak for themselves. If one is left with the impression I am a “butcher approaching a hog” I evidently need to better my presentation to correct that misrepresentation on my part. All I ask is this: Please don’t take the word of one (1) person without hearing other’s impressions, or my own perception.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
* * *
I think John 20:24-29 [the Doubting Thomas account] is a non-historical pericope incorporated to address certain concerns in the Johannine community. However, lest I be accused of treating the story like a “butcher approaching a hog,” (*wink*) let us assume arguendo the story is historical.
Remember, it is claimed the primary reason we are unconvinced Jesus’ resurrection did not occur is that we “…don’t believe that any miracles are possible, not even this book raising itself an inch off the table, so it is pointless for [a non-believer] to say that it is hard to believe in a great miracle, when in fact [the non-believer doesn’t] believe in any miracles whatsoever.” . . .
We skeptics . . . aren’t dismissing apologetic claims off-handedly or disdainfully. Certainly I have considered my own naturalistic bias, and whether it presents a hinderance to believing the resurrection stories. (Although in my case, being a deconvert, I was actually biased the other way—FOR the story.)
I just don’t see many apologists addressing the story of Doubting Thomas as to why, if he wasn’t convinced by MORE evidence than I have, that I should be persuaded by LESS evidence. I don’t see many grappling with the fact a miracle-believing theist was not compelled to believe when he had so much more access to the evidence than I ever could.
* * *
. . . these claims of “We can’t convince you because you don’t believe in miracles” are unfounded. . . . You [another Catholic correspondent] did the correct thing—gave evidence you felt could be convincing upon investigation. You didn’t whine. You didn’t complain, “Oh, DagoodS…I’ll list some information but you will never believe it because you don’t believe in miracles.” . . .

What I tire of is the presentation of evidence and when I remain unpersuaded, my lack of belief is dismissed as “that’s because you don’t believe in miracles.” Thomas believed in miracles; he wasn’t convinced. Protestants believe in miracles; they are not convinced. It isn’t the belief/non-belief in miracles—the evidence presented is not compelling to that person.

The insinuation is that this is my position, but of course I have never said this. It is projected onto me as a straw man. I don’t think that this is the key or only factor, only that it is one of many relevant factors for why someone disbelieves in miracles.
I’m all for evidence. That’s what apologetics is about. There are plenty of books documenting hundreds of miracles, often with medical documentation: both by Protestants and Catholics. I have them in my library. Let DagoodS go read several and then come back and tell us if he thinks the evidence is compelling for any one of them.
If he says “no” to all, then excuse me if I suspect (not positively assert) that his original presuppositions have something (not everything) to do with it.
All I’m saying (as a socratic who examines root assumptions) is that the hostile presupposition is indeed a relevant factor. If there is no God, there can be no miracles, period; therefore, there can be no particular miracles. The entire edifice stands together, in unity. It simply can’t possibly be denied that this is a relevant consideration.
I think it is mostly a case of DagoodS not liking when anyone points this out because atheists such as himself pride themselves on their intellectual openness and willingness to go wherever “evidence” leads, yet in fact they are quite closed-minded, and they hate when a Christian has the audacity to point this out. That’s why they detest critiques of their deconversion stories. They don’t want to deal with someone who may know more about some of the particulars of certain beliefs that they rejected, than they do.
It is relevant to suspect that no evidence is sufficient to convince an atheist of a miracle if said atheist actually examines hundreds or thousands of documented cases and never met a miracle that he liked (i.e., believed). Sorry; presuppositions are always A factor in things, whether the person who holds them thinks so or not.
If DagoodS wants to deny that (and it is what I am saying), then he merely shows himself to be quite philosophically and epistemologically naive. I was trying to get at some of this during his presentation but was never really allowed to.
* * *

. . . as to miracles, I will be happy to ponder them. And the facts. I quite agree there are people diagnosed with diseases who are subsequently determined to be disease-free. Happens all the time. Sometimes because of mis-diagnosis, sometimes because the body cures itself.
And certainly some of these people attribute the condition of being disease free as a “miracle.” Some do not. . . .
1) The sources are not the best evidence. What I have typically seen is, “_____ [insert name] was diagnosed with incurable cancer, but later was determined to be disease-free. The doctors cannot explain how it happened.” But I don’t have the actual medical reports, the actual doctors statements, the doctor’s names, (just “doctors”). These are hearsay statements…not the best evidence to convince something outside our normal experience.
Further, I have seen Christians make claims (like “willing to die for a lie”) and upon reviewing the actual sources, find the source doesn’t say what was originally claimed.
2) The methodology is troublesome. How do we determine between:
a) A natural cure we do not know yet;
b) A natural cure we will never know; or
c) A supernatural cure?
* * *
. . . in reviewing your blog entry on the topic (as referred to here), you didn’t raise MORE evidence I missed. You didn’t indicate I presented the evidence incorrectly. You didn’t deal with the evidence regarding the resurrection at all. The only thing you complained about was the predisposition of non-believers.
Why do you have this notion that I have to discuss all that? It is your perspective on what I may want to write about, that has nothing to do with what I either write about in fact or should write about. I was simply giving a narrative account, not even doing apologetics per se. You in effect demand that I gotta write about what you want me to write about. In other words, it is not to your particular taste. But then you are making the same minor complaint that I did when I said a lecture was not to my taste. So why does my slight criticism bother you, since you make one of the very same nature back to me?
Just like you have the right to not like my format or presentation, I reserve the privilege to respond to what you say and see it as complaining.
And to complain about it! LOL
As a poor argument. I argue, for the reasons discussed at the meeting when you first presented it, for the same reasons I listed above, that the argument fails.
So you say. First you need to accurately understand your opponents’ argument. You have been caricaturing my opinion on this and making a straw man up till now. Perhaps you finally get it, now that I have clarified.
Sure I am biased. Always admitted it. So is every human…
Absolutely. That is what I have always believed, too.
yet to claim we must first change our presuppositions, and THEN be convinced by evidence appears to me to be backwards. We change our presuppositions BY evidence—it is what causes us to change!
It is both. I don’t think we can choose. It’s a variation of the old universals vs. particulars debate in philosophy. It simply can’t be denied that a starting point of “no God; therefore no miracles; therefore no particular miracles” is neither open-minded nor conducive to a conclusion that a miracle has occurred in Instance X. That is not rocket science. If a thing is deemed impossible from the outset, then it is not likely to be arrived at, no matter what evidence is presented. This is what you don’t see.
One has to allow the possibility. In this sense, the only people who were open-minded to all possibilities in that room were myself and your friend Jon, who runs the group. He doesn’t rule out the possibility of a miracle. Everyone else did (unless there was one other; I’m not sure).
Take examples from science. Say that a person fifty years ago denied the very possibility of continental drift or warm-blooded dinosaurs (I believe that neither idea was accepted then). A second person hears about those theoretical concepts and accepts the possibility that they may yet be proven to have occurred. According to you, it makes little difference what presuppositions are involved, as long as the evidence is compelling. But it clearly does make a difference. The person who is open to a possibility is more likely to accept a demonstration of the possibility as a fact than the one who has ruled out the possibility from the outset.
I don’t see that it is even arguable. Yet you seem to be (incredibly) asserting that it makes no difference.
You didn’t change from a Protestant to a Catholic because you changed your presuppositions from pro-Protestant to pro-Catholic. You changed because you reviewed evidence that caused the change. The evidence comes first; not the presuppositions.
Generally this is true, but it is still both factors. Accumulations of details and facts and evidences can cause one to change their basic premises (God exists or He doesn’t, morals are absolute or relative, the universe is materialistic or dualistic, etc.) and then many other things change along with them.
You don’t want to believe in a miracle (have a vested interest not to) because to do so also requires you to believe in God. You are predisposed not to believe in God because then you would be accountable to Him and would be bound by certain rules that may not be to your liking. It’s always more than merely abstract reasoning. The will and grace are also involved. This is Christian belief.
Not to mention we have the additional problem that the evidence—in fact BETTER evidence—was not convincing to those already pre-disposed to believing it, i.e. Doubting Thomas.
He simply needed more evidence. He is like your typical atheist. But Jesus made it clear that his case was not normative, but rather, excessive, by saying, “have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29 (RSV).
Again, presuppositions come into play. You pass off the whole thing as a later interpolation anyway, so why even bring it up? If you want to argue from historical example, you can’t use one that you yourself don’t regard as historical fact.
Could it be “A” factor? Sure. So could being raised in a Christian home, being left-handed or having a tragedy in one’s life. Rather than deal with the peripherals, I prefer to deal with the hard stuff first. I prefer to deal with the evidence.
It’s not peripheral at all. It is smack dab in the center of the issue: how one arrives at fundamental premises and how these go on to influence all their reasoning that is a result of the prior premises and presuppositions. You want to do Aristotle only (particulars and sensory evidence). I want to do both him and Plato and Socrates (universals and premises and ideas prior to experience). My epistemology is far broader than yours. What you see as a trifle and peripheral issue and complaint is to me central and crucial to the whole discussion.
If, as you say, the the evidence is sufficient then I say, leave it at that.
It is sufficient. That’s why I don’t feel compelled to go out and argue about it (you’re the one who is hung up about that), because it is quite sufficient for any fair-minded inquirer open to it.
Like I said above, if you’re so enthralled about evidences for miracles, go out and read a hundred books giving documented accounts of miracles and come back and tell us how many convinced you (or why they didn’t; why no evidence was ever sufficient for you to accept a belief [factuality of miracles] that would require you to again believe in God [Who performs them] ).
Good evidence overcomes even the most hostile opponent, regardless their presupposition. It does every day.
Absolutely not. If a man doesn’t want to believe something, he will not, no matter how compelling the evidence is. Like the saying goes, “a man convinced against his will, retains his original belief still.” Very true. I see it all the time in my apologetics rounds.
Rather than deal with the peripherals, I prefer to deal with the hard stuff first. I prefer to deal with the evidence.
[second reply of mine to the above statement]:
What you overlook is that you already have to have an interpretive grid or framework in place in order to interpret the evidence in the first place. There is no such thing as a clean slate. If you deny that prior interpretation is required in order to weigh the evidence and have some method of determining what is compelling evidence, then you are epistemologically naive.
I would recommend that you read a critic of positivism such as Michael Polanyi or even Cardinal Newman’s Essay of the Grammar of Assent.
This is true of miracles and it is true of theistic arguments and interpretation of the Bible. Thus, my notorious statement that you and other atheists who are obsessed with finding alleged Bible contradictions, approach the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog. You have no intention of giving the documents even minimal respect. It’s pure skepticism. You disrespect it as your presupposition and therefore you keep “finding” out information that causes you to hate it all the more.
Don’t give me this line of hooey that you are approaching it with total objectivity and fairness, that just so happens in each and every case to cause you to then conclude that (surprise!) it is untrustworthy and contradictory. You find what you want to find because your mind is already made up before you begin any particular “study.”
If I’m wrong, it is easy for you to prove it (at least in a single example). Show me a time when you set out to show that the Bible was contradictory, but then you discovered that [in a particular case] it wasn’t, and that the Christian argument was more plausible. If you can show me one instance of that on your blog, great! But just one would not prove you were fair-minded about it, either. That’s only one instance. Several such instances would show me that you were truly open-minded and didn’t have an “anti-Bible” agenda.
But if you never conclude other than what we expect from you (biblical contradiction) then don’t expect us to stop questioning your hostile premises and a hostile overall agenda. It’s perfectly reasonable and plausible for us to conclude what we do, from the “evidence” of your relentlessly skeptical conclusions.
You are biased against it and the Christian is biased for it. But in terms merely of literary study or research, clearly the person who loves and respects a document (whether it is a religious document or not) is in a much better place to accurately interpret and understand it (despite quite possible mistakes arising from too much favorable bias) than the one who hates the same document for some reason: thinks that it fosters immorality, is a bunch of fairy tales, is the result of cynical after-the-fact tampering, contains moral and logical and theological ludicrosities, presents a false metaphysic, etc.
Once again, I don’t see how that is even arguable. But you have to fight against it in order to maintain this farcical facade of supposed neutrality, extraordinary open-mindedness and superior intelligence and logical acumen, that most agnostics and atheists seem to assume is true of themselves as a matter of course, over against us (as the caricature would have it) evidence- and reason-fearing, gullible Christians.
It’s part of the atheist persona and self-perception: “we are the open-minded, smart ones. We go where evidence leads; those Christians don’t do that; they are dogmatic, anti-science, anti-reason, and prone to belief in fairy tales and myths.”
For this reason I wrote an entire book recently, showing the overwhelming historical influence of Christianity and a larger theism on the history of science. I’ll send an MS Word version to any atheist who requests it, for free.
* * *
At this point Dave Armstrong indicated it doesn’t really matter, because non-theists wouldn’t believe it regardless of the amount of evidence, because we are predisposed against theism.
This is again somewhat of a caricature of what actually happened, and my own position. One tires of this. DagoodS can — like anyone else — read my report of my own remark at the meeting. Here it is again (it was in my original paper that this post referred to):

“DagoodS was saying that it is more difficult to believe an extraordinary miracle or event than to believe in one that is more commonplace. True enough as far as it goes. But I said (paraphrasing), ‘you don’t believe that any miracles are possible, not even this book raising itself an inch off the table, so it is pointless for you to say that it is hard to believe in a great miracle, when in fact you don’t believe in any miracles whatsoever.’”

Note the limited point that I was making. I wasn’t denying the validity of evidence at all; not in the slightest. As I have already reiterated: I love evidence. I think it is wonderful. As an apologist I deal with evidences all the time. In fact, I think the evidence for the Resurrection is not only relevant but more than sufficient for a fair-minded inquirer. I didn’t make some idiotic observation that evidence “doesn’t really matter” (even for an atheist or otherwise skeptical person). I was specifically commenting on his particular point about it being “more difficult to believe an extraordinary miracle or event than to believe in one that is more commonplace.”
DagoodS said it was hard to believe the more uncommon thing; I merely replied in effect that of course it would be, if the thing being discussed is part of a larger category that a person has already rejected before he even starts the inquiry. In other words, if one can’t even be convinced of the most minor miracle, then why would anyone think he could be convinced of a truly extraordinary miracle?
Therefore (I reasoned) it is (from DagoodS’ own perspective) a non sequitur to make a relative analysis of small and great miracles or extraordinary non-miraculous events, since both things are in a category already ruled out at the presuppositional level.
That requires a discussion of whether any miracles can occur that is logically prior to a discussion of whether one particular one did. And that discussion in turn requires a discussion of God’s existence.
Doubting Thomas is a counter-factual that undermines your claim it is predispositions that determine belief…not facts.
Sheer nonsense. His case is at least as much evidence of what I am saying as it is of your position. You want to say that the facts are all that matter and not predispositions and larger theories and presuppositional frameworks and (in some instances) excessive, irrational skepticism. I say that both things matter, not just one of them, as you are saying.
The Bible presents Thomas as a skeptical, hard-nosed type. It’s not enough for him to even see the risen Jesus. He has to put his hand in His wounded side. The saying, “seeing is believing” doesn’t apply to him. This is no proof that he alone is the rational, evidence-respecting one and all the 500 who witnessed the risen Jesus a bunch of gullible fools. We can just as easily say that he is so skeptical that he needs more than is required for most men to believe in the extraordinary event. How can you, prima facie, prove one scenario any more than the other?
The Bible’s own account of the incident (that you conveniently discard as myth and after-the-fact rationalization, from the outset) would suggest my position, because Thomas is rebuked by Jesus for being “faithless” (Jn 20:27) and for only believing because he has “seen” Jesus (20:29) — and touched Him. The clear implication is that this is a demonstration that is not required for a person of faith to believe in the Resurrection (the very opposite of your claim). There is more in play here than mere eyewitness observation and a sort of empirical criterion for belief in anything. There is (as I’ve already stressed) both faith and grace involved, and necessarily so.
Lack of belief, from a Christian perspective, is inevitably tied in to a lack of faith and grace, and those are gifts of God. As an atheist, you deny those categories, too, and as a former Christian you have personally rejected them as factors in your own life and outlook, and try to reduce everything to reason only — and that in a mostly empirical sense only, which is by no means the only way of knowing, as many secular philosophers (not just Christians) will argue.
Yes, you are now retreating back to it being “A” factor,
No, you are finally beginning to grasp what my position was all along. I have made no "retreat"; you have made discoveries about my true position, as opposed to the caricature you have been bandying about.
but Doubting Thomas still demonstrates the problem with your claim.
Not at all. It is an insubstantial, circular argument.
Claiming he is “not normative” doesn’t resolve the problem—it is still a counter-factual. You only need one to undermine a logical argument.
Eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection and various facts related to it (such as the empty tomb) are not “logical arguments” but claimed factual occurrences that lead one to the conclusion that this amazing event did indeed occur. It may have some force against a position that any person must indubitably believe in the Resurrection from the facts of the matter alone, true, but that is already an epistemologically naive and simplistic point of view insofar as it neglects the elements of faith, grace, and hostile presuppositions in various sorts of people.
[And I am not sure “normative” is the applicable word. Christianity did not become the majority religion in Judea following its proclamation. In fact, it fairly quickly turned to gentile emphasis. Therefore, it would seem “normative” would be that making the claim, “Jesus rose from the dead” was NOT convincing to those most accessible to determine the validity; the majority—the “norm”—did not.]
I meant “normative” within the context of the primitive Christian community: an internal criterion. The Christians sees one example of excessive skepticism (and even he does eventually believe; he just needed more proof) over against 500+ who already believed. So we say he is not the norm. But you want to place one person against the 500+ and say that he is the norm and they are all abnormally gullible and prone to mass hallucinations (or whatever the alternate theory of the events on the first Easter is that you adopt: and they are all silly and implausible, in my opinion).
Your example of continental drift is exactly what I am talking about. Thank you. You are correct–it WAS initially rejected because people were predisposed to believe something else. How did it eventually rise to the predominate theory?
Evidence, evidence, evidence! The more that was presented, the more Continental Drift Theory was demonstrated as the better answer for the evidence presented.
But that wasn’t my point (you again missed it, and it is remarkable how often that happens). I wasn’t arguing that evidence isn’t necessary for belief, but rather, that the person who says beforehand that something isn’t possible is far less likely to believe it even when it is scientifically demonstrated, than the one who accepts the possibility beforehand. If you doubt that this is a factor even within a purely scientific paradigm, read Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It confirms the presence of profound hostile biases that work against new and newly established scientific theories, with historical fact upon fact. I say those biases are a general fact of life that apply to anything, including religious claims.
The scientists and geologists didn’t whine and complain, “Aww…we can’t convince you because you believe differently.” Nope—they rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They presented for more evidence. They searched for evidence that would confirm their theory.
They used Evidence.
Is there a common theme starting to appear?
Yes; that you and I are perfectly agreed that evidence is a good thing. Since I never denied this, it is a total non sequitur insofar as I am concerned. If there is a fideist or presuppositional apologist reading, your issue would be with them, not me. I am presently defending my assertion that premises and presuppositions are also in play in adoption or rejection of anything. For some reason you deny this, even though it is philosophically virtually self-evident. And in Christian matters, faith and grace are also relevant factors.
Another thing that is silly in your discussion is that you have this notion that I or any other Christian apologist could theoretically present some additional fact that would convince you. You urge us on, challenging us to offer facts that can change your mind. Anything is possible. But from a purely time-management standpoint, why would I think it is worth my time doing any of that, knowing that you have already read most or all of the leading Christian defenses of the Resurrection already? What would make me think that I would come up with some startling discovery that would make the light bulb go off in your head, when all these experts in the field of Resurrection apologetics (who know far more than I do about it) have failed?
I don’t bother, because I believe it is exceedingly impossible to convince you from the outset, for reasons I am explaining. If you are to believe, and the reason will be “evidence,” then you would have already done so after reading the folks you have read. But you haven’t, and gee, I wonder why that is? Could it possibly have a wee bit to do with what I am saying?
Yes, I do tend to focus on discussions surrounding the evidence.
Really??!! Man, I wouldn’t have noticed that! :-)
No, you are not required to do so. I think (and this is my opinion, obviously) discussions are better when we focus on the actual arguments and evidence. The discussions can degrade when we start to talk about the other person’s motivations, or claim they only want to believe this way because they have some vested interest, or want to become a drug-using pimp.
I have only touched very tangentially on motivations, if at all. I prefer to stick to hostile presuppositions (thinking, ideas, not moral issues) as counter to sufficient evidence. The will is definitely a factor, but it is difficult to speculate on that without hard facts from a person’s life. For example, if there are several things that Christians regard as sins, that you now freely indulge in (having no particular constraint, with no God to watch over you or judge you anymore) then one could construct an argument that freedom to commit those sins would be one motivator for continued atheism. Aldous Huxley was actually honest enough to admit this once: that he took the beliefs he did in order to have sexual freedom. A refreshing candor indeed, and I respect that.
Finally, I love this bit about my showing a blog entry on a contradiction where a Christian argument was “more plausible.” You know I cannot present such a blog entry, because no inerrantist ever, EVER uses the “more plausible” standard of proof. I’ve only encountered one such person who did—you.
Well, that shows the narrowness of your experience with Christians, doesn’t it? What kind of Christian did you used to be, by the way? But I take this as a concession that you can produce no such example in your work. You always arrive at the skeptical, anti-biblical, anti-Christian, anti-inspired, anti-infallible, “Bible contradiction” conclusion, 100% of the time. Thank you for this wonderful confirmation of my suspicion of your profound biases. I couldn’t have asked for more!
You do a great slippery fish routine, but not so well at actual back-and-forth dialogue, because you have been mostly caricaturing or ignoring my arguments: making editorial comments about them (or caricatures of them) rather than doing the work of a solid point-by-point refutation. That’s why anyone can see me (as I so often do) replying to you line-by-line, while you do little of that back.
Although it appears to me you tend to vacillate between “more plausible” and “any logical possibility” and I am never quite sure (from your writing) where you land at any particular moment.
More proof that you only dimly comprehend what my positions are in the first place (especially epistemological ones).
For the lurkers, let me explain. (Dave Armstrong and I discussed this at some length here )
The problem in the inerrancy debate is NOT whether there is a resolution to the contradictions—the problem is that the inerrantist uses a lesser standard of proof than the non-inerrantist. The inerrantist uses “any logical possibility”—where it is claimed as long as any logical possibility is presented, there is no contradiction. Therefore we come up with such claims as Peter denying Jesus 50 times, but each gospel only decided to record three different instances. (I am being a bit hyperbolic here. A bit.) Or that there is “Galilean time” measured sun-up to sun-up. (Now I’m not being hyperbolic.) Or that Judas hanged himself, and the rope broke and he fell on some rocks. (I should note for the lurkers, Dave Armstrong does consider this a contradiction. Or did at one point.)
I don’t recall that past discussion of ours. I would have to look at it and see what occurred. But I would caution readers to not place much trust in any of your reports about my positions.
We come up these crazy solutions…yet they all are “logically possible.” I agree under the “any logically possible” standard of proof, the Bible is inerrant. So is every Yellow pages, grocery list—and billions and billions of other documents. Including the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, Hallmark Cards, Instruction manuals. Even things we know have errors end up being non-contradictory under this standard.
And I ask again: have you ever concluded that any of these “logically possible” scenarios offered by Christians for your alleged contradictions were the superior and more plausible arguments: even once? If so, please show me the post. If not, you again confirm my opinion about your profoundly hostile presuppositions, making you impervious to evidence and reason alike (from a Christian perspective).
I prefer the standard we use on every other claim—if it is more plausible there is a contradiction–there is a contradiction. If it is more plausible there is a resolution, then there is a resolution.
Contradictions are what they are, and they are obvious. What I think I have shown in cases of your alleged contradictions (when we have debated this in the past), is that the category is wrong in the first place: the supposed contradictions simply are not that, by the rules of classical logic (or due to some linguistic or literary consideration that you neglected in your analysis).
If you review the link above, Dave Armstrong agrees with this, although that gets a bit gray toward the end of the comments.
I’d have to look at it again.
So here is why this “blog request” is so humorous to me.
That’s a very clever evasion of the challenge. The humor is in the evasion and unwillingness to directly reply to my questions. But it is very illuminating, and I thank you for the strong confirmation of what I am saying.
If I think the Christian position of a resolution is “more plausible”–then I don’t list it as a contradiction! Therefore I am never going to list such a contradiction. If I DO list a contradiction and some inerrantist debates me on it, they aren’t using the “more plausible” standard they are using the “any logical possibility” standard.
I was asking specifically whether you ever set out on a study of some particular perceived biblical “problem” and wound up concluding that the Christian opposing views were the superior reasoning and conclusions. If there is a paper, please direct myself and all here to it. Thanks.
It’s real simple. Just say “no, there is no such event or paper chronicling it,” or say yes and give us the URL. Do one of those rather than the dancing around the issue.
Again, I agree under “any logical possibility” there are no contradictions. (Not very credible, and not very special, but no contradictions.)
So I will never have a blog entry where a Christian position is “more plausible,” because they aren’t using this standard, and I am!
See my above comments.
For an analogy, its like my stating Dave Armstrong is not objective when it comes to Scientology’s claims regarding volcanoes, and if he DOES think he is so objective, show us a blog entry where he set out to show Scientology’s claim regarding volcanoes is not true, but he became convinced it was.
Dave Armstrong could rightly claim (I think, unless you did??) “I’ve never HAD a blog entry addressing Scientology’s claim on volcanoes, so I can’t produce what doesn’t exist!”
In the same way, I have never had a blog entry where the Christian inerrantist approached it with the “more plausible” standard of proof, so I cannot produce a blog entry where they convinced me of something they weren’t trying to convince me of!
Now…if you are saying I became convinced other Christian claims were more plausible…I have a plethora of such items.
Great, then give me the URLs. I was asking specifically about issues of purported contradiction in the texts.
I learn (so I guess it is “more plausible”) to the gospels being apocryphal. It is Christian scholars who claim that. I agree with Christian Richard Bauckham that Matthew did not write the Gospel of Matthew, and John the son of Zebedee did not write the Gospel of John. Although at one time, I thought that to be true.
Not relevant to my question.
I agree with Christian Bruce Malina that this was a honor/shame society, and many of these events arose out of “altered states of conscience.” I agree with Christian Dan Wallace that Matthew and Luke utilized Mark in writing their gospels.
Again, off-topic (in terms of what I asked).
I could go on for hours.
I guess I will have to do the same if you keep evading direct questions and misunderstanding my positions and arguments. But it is fun overall and I am quite pleased with what has been made fairly apparent in the dialogue.
Let me make sure I understand your position. Is the historical evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection sufficient to convince a non-theist that Jesus came back to life after being dead for more than one day?
And let me restate my position that I have stated several times now:
The historical evidence is sufficient in and of itself to convince a fair-minded inquirer. But it will usually not convince the non-theist because:
1) he doesn’t believe in God;
2) God is required for miracles to occur;
3) most atheists and agnostics deny the possibility of any miracles (because of #1 and #2), therefore are predisposed against the resurrection;
4) he may not desire it to be true, for several reasons (hostile will);
5) he lacks faith, given by God;
6 he lacks the grace to believe, given by God.
This is the usual case; but there can always be exceptions. Every former atheist who later becomes a Christian overcomes all these odds.
I must define “sufficient” differently than you. To explain the confusion, I define “sufficient” as “enough,” “as much as needed,” or “equal to what is specified or required.” It is a base; a minimum. It is the least one needs to satisfy the condition.
The concept “This is sufficient, BUT one also needs _____” is as anomalous to me as “very unique.” “Unique” means singular—it is a word without a qualifier. In the same way, adding necessary conditions to something “sufficient” in order to satisfy the condition means it wasn’t “sufficient” in the first place!
Fair enough, and a good point. I should qualify my statement, then (or more accurately, better explain what I already meant), by saying I think the evidence for the Resurrection is sufficient in terms of a theoretical plane of reason alone being the consideration and the criteria. In a larger sense, I asserted, however, that reason is not all that is in play. There is also the will, faith, and grace. One can have a will against something, that works against even sufficient reasons for said thing. And they may lack faith and grace if they have spurned it from the hand of God.
It seems to me (and with our current track record, I am sure you will disagree *grin*),
Probably will! I hope we can at least do so cordially and lightheartedly.
I am saying, “In order to convince a non-theist that Jesus came back to life after being dead for more than one day, it is sufficient…
DagoodS: “The historical evidence of the Resurrection.”
Whereas, by adding these factors which prevent convincing, you seem to be finishing that sentence:
Dave Armstrong: “Historical evidence + Grace from God + Faith from God + Desire for it to be true + a predisposition for the Resurrection (obtained through a belief in a God and a belief in a God that performs miraculous Resurrection).”
If all those things are required, then historical evidence is not sufficient (in my definition). If they are not required, then I don’t know why we are adding them to make the historical evidence sufficient.
I hope that explains the quandary.
You articulated that well. I hope my additional clarification has made my view more clear. Did you actually think that from a Christian perspective, faith and grace had no relevance at all: as if they had no part of the belief-structure and worldview at all? They may be meaningless categories for you but they certainly are not for us or for a biblical worldview.
I wasn’t really looking for a method from you…but thanks for responding.
Anytime. Many aspects of my critique remain unresponded to. Your choice. I have replied to everything of yours to the best of my ability.
Weird that when I want to talk about the Resurrection; you prefer to focus on my predisposition.
I never claimed to be having a huge discussion about the Resurrection evidences. You simply wanted to make a huge ruckus and protest about my socratic perspective and my talking about premises, because you don’t like that. So we have been talking about it ever since. I haven’t forsaken talk about the evidences because I never began it. You can go read books about that. You don’t have to get it from me.
If you want to think the socratic method is weird, feel free. This is what socratics do: they concentrate on first premises.
Now that I am asking how to determine why my predisposition changed…you want to talk particulars. I can’t keep up. *grin*
I’ve answered everything meticulously. You keep ignoring most of what I bring up. You can play the game of sophistry if you like, but it doesn’t impress anyone who knows what sophistry and constant tactics of evasion are.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sam Cooke: The Ultimate Two-CD Chronological Discography of His Best 55 Songs
(Wally Seawell/Abkco Music and Records)

[ source ]

Arguably the founder of soul music, and, for my money, possessed of the most incredible male voice (and style and technique) in all of popular music, Sam Cooke (1931-1964) was also a fabulous songwriter. I saw the house where he grew up, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in my "musical pilgrimage" to the Mississippi Delta in the spring of 2009.

My goal was to put together the very best collection of his songs (29 of them) on one CD (he wrote all but one), and the best songs of the rest of his amazing catalogue on a second CD (he wrote 42 out of the 55 total songs). The dates are from the time of recording and the Billboard pop chart highest position is listed for Top 40 singles. See also my related post, Sam Cooke: The Greatest Singer of All Time: Chronological Discography.
[ source ]

Very Best of Sam Cooke

1. Touch the Hem of His Garment + [mono] 2-2-56
2. I'll Come Running Back to You + [mono] 8-21-56, #18, x
3. That's All I Need to Know ^[mono] 12-12-56
4. You Send Me + [mono] 6-1-57, #1
5. Only Sixteen + 1-4-59, #28
6. (What a) Wonderful World + [mono] 3-2-59, #12
7. Just For You + [mono] 7-24-59
8. Chain Gang + 1-25-60, #2
9. Sad Mood + 10-1-60, #29
10. Tenderness * 10-1-60
11. Cupid + 4-14-61, #17
12. It's All Right * 8-9-61
13. Twistin' the Night Away + 12-18-61, #9
14. Somebody Have Mercy * 2-15-62
15. Soothe Me * 2-19-62
16. Bring It On Home to Me + [mono] 4-26-62, #13
17. Having a Party + 4-26-62, #17
18. Nothing Can Change This Love + 8-23-62, #12
19. Laughin' and Clownin' * 2-22-63
20. Mean Old World * 2-23-63
21. Another Saturday Night + 2-28-63, #10
22. Love Will Find a Way * 2-28-63
23. That's Where It's At + 8-20-63
24. A Change is Gonna Come + 12-21-63, #31
25. Meet Me At Mary's Place + 1-28-64
26. Rome Wasn't Built in a Day > 1-28-64
27. Good Times + 2-2-64, #11
28. (Somebody) Ease My Troublin' Mind > 4-9-64
29. Shake + 11-16-64, #7

Total Time: 78:32

Album Sources

+ = Portrait of a Legend (1951-1964) [2003, 320 kbps]
* = The Man Who Invented Soul [Box Set, 2000, 320 kbps]
> = Keep Movin' On [2001, 224 kbps (I, #26, II, #26), 192 kbps (I, #28, II, #8, #9, #25)
^ = Sam Cooke With the Soul Stirrers: The Complete Specialty Records Recordings [Box Set, 2002, 192 kbps]

x = not written by Sam Cooke
[ source ]

Best of Sam Cooke, Vol. 2

1. Lovable + [mono] 12-12-56
2. That's Heaven to Me ^ [mono] 4-19-57
3. Win Your Love For Me + [mono] 6-6-57, #33
4. For Sentimental Reasons + [mono] 8-23-57, x
5. Lets Go Steady Again * 12-58, x
6. With You * [mono] 1958
7. Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha + 1-7-59, #31
8. Try a Little Love > 2-59
9. When a Boy Falls in Love > 2-59
10. Teenage Sonata * 1-28-60, x
11. Baby Won't You Please Come Home * 5-19-61, x
12. Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out * 5-19-61, x
13. Trouble in Mind * 5-19-61, x
14. Out in the Cold Again * 5-20-61, x
15. You're Always on My Mind * 5-19-61
16. Frankie and Johnny * 8-9-61, #14, x
17. One More Time * 12-19-61
18. I'm Gonna Forget About You * 8-23-62
19. Cry Me a River * 12-16-62, x
20. These Foolish Things * 12-16-62, x
21. (Don't Fight It) Feel It [Live] * 1-12-63
22. Nothing Can Change This Love [Live] * 1-12-63
23. Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen * 2-23-63, x
24. Ain't That Good News + 12-20-63, #11
25. Keep Movin' On > 12-21-63
26. Falling in Love > 1-30-64, x

Total Time: 74:03
[ source ]
[ source ]

Showing Graphic Abortion Photos: Why I Think It Is Justified and Why I Did It

This is a long-running and ongoing tactical debate in the pro-life community. I just posted a discussion with an agnostic on abortion in the Bible, where I included two very graphic abortion photographs. I usually don't do that, but I think it is perfectly justifiable to do now and then. "Catholic Mom" (Sharon) in part of a post on her blog, was kind enough to commend my dialogue, while expressing mixed feelings about the photos:

I'm not one to post graphic pictures of aborted babies, mostly because I wouldn't want a youngster to inadvertently run across one. I have some young Facebook friends--mostly sons and daughters of adult friends--who I don't want to traumatize by exposing them to such graphic images. . . .

Which brings to mind a question: Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life often says "America won't reject abortion until America sees abortion." He reminds us that people didn't get outraged over slavery and the Holocaust until they saw graphic pictures of emaciated people, slaves with scars covering their backs, and truck beds and mass graves full of bodies. Do you agree? Personally I have mixed feelings about using images of aborted children to spread the pro-life message . . .

A commenter expressed a negative opinion as well:

As for the graphic images, call me softie, but I am NOT in favor of them. Why? Because I think it is not effective, and I have two young children, both who were adopted.

Sharon agreed:

I think you're right about the graphic images, and they have a tendency to make people mad. And I can see where you're coming from, too, having adopted two children.

I then felt compelled to voice my opinion on the matter:

Sorry about the abortion photos. We pro-lifers don't need to see them. I understand the debate on that, but in the end I have to come down on the side of showing the photos (occasionally, anyway), because this is the reality of it, and it has been hidden all too long.

If we don't like seeing them (and I hate it as much as anyone, believe me; I get almost sick), then I think we need to pause and stop to think that some people out there on the fence may actually have their minds changed in an instant. And that could possibly save lives in the future. That is well worth our discomfort at seeing this brutality and what it does.

We have to show people what abortion is for them to grasp the full horror of it. I've done the arguments for almost thirty years. They rarely work by themselves. It takes a punch to the gut and a reality check sometimes to get through.

So that's why I did that, in a debate with an agnostic. I wanted people to see exactly what he and many like him (including many many professed Christians) erroneously think the Bible condones or is silent about. I am sorry if they offended any pro-lifer who saw them.

[Sharon] And if you're still pro-choice after seeing it, you must have a serious problem. I just can't see how any rational person could possibly argue for abortion "rights" after seeing that.

Here you're making my point for me. Some folks will see these horrible pictures and change their mind. Is there any imaginable reason that could be a better justification than that? Yet we pro-lifers debate about showing the pictures that might cause decent, fair-minded (ignorant) people to become pro-lifers themselves?

[Sharon] . . . on the one hand, they [graphic abortion photos] do expose the truth about what abortion really is, but sometimes I wonder if it only serves to enrage pro-choicers and make them more determined to dig in their heels.

Yes, of course it will enrage the hard-line pro-aborts, but this is the nature of things. A thing like this will always infuriate those people whose sin and false views it exposes. The Nazis at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials didn't enjoy seeing pictures of their crimes, either.

It was the same with the gospel. If we used the same reasoning in the early Church, we would say, "hey, we shouldn't go around preaching this gospel because it makes some people very angry and they even go out and kill Christians as a result. So we shouldn't preach it. We should use honey rather than vinegar."

The truth (including visual depictions) has to be promulgated. It is impossible not to offend some people. But they aren't the ones who will be reached, anyway. It is the people on the fence, who haven't decided, and who are ignorant of the frightful reality of abortion.

Another analogy is politics. There are the hardcore conservatives and liberals, and never the twain shall meet. Their messages infuriate the ones in the opposite camp. But elections are about influencing the ones in the middle; the undecideds.

Apologetics also works that way. When I post a dialogue, I have little or no expectation of persuading my dialogical opponent (such as this person I just debated). But I have high expectations of influencing and persuading or moving along a bit any number of people who are still working through the issue and haven't yet made up their minds. They can choose by reading each side presented by its proponent (rather than by caricatures or distorted views of opposing positions, given by those who disagree).

So the pro-aborts are offended by the pictures. Of course. They don't want to be seen as defenders of such an outrage. A good proportion of pro-lifers also are (but I think the reasons ultimately fail and miss the mark).

Ones in the middle will either be influenced in the right, constructive way (and start opposing abortion) or will get angry. It took just a few pictures of this sort and basic information to convince me back in 1982 when I was on the fence (but fully willing to go where I thought the truth and the good were). Truth is truth, and injustice, injustice. If I can convince just a few people out there that abortion is wrong, by these photos, then it is worth 10,000 Christians who feel squeamish about showing the ghastly reality of abortion.

The same applies to Operation Rescue. I was part of that movement from 1988 to 1990. I was in about 23 rescues, was arrested five times, and did jail time (nothing serious). Christians wanted to argue about tactics and condemn civil disobedience. We wanted to save lives. There are young men and women alive today, walking around, because of these rescues (they would be 20 or 21 years old now). If we hadn't done the rescues, most or all of them wouldn't be here. It could have grown as a movement and changed our society. The opportunity was ours to seize. But soon the pro-aborts got very tough (legally) and crushed it.

I was a Protestant then and at one rally I sat next to Bishop Austin Vaughan of New York. It is a key reason for making me decide to become a Catholic, because the Church had the wisdom to recognize that there are times when man's law must give way to God's Divine Law.

Now, for anyone reading this who wants to see what the brutal savagery and butchery and wholesale slaughter of abortion looks like (and it is legal for the entire nine months of pregnancy in the US and Canada), take a look at my paper:

Hang Your Head in Shame and Weep: Photographs of Fetal Development & the Butchery of Abortion

It also includes a description of so-called "partial-birth abortion" (which is actually infanticide). I thought I had seen everything, as a pro-life activist for almost 30 years, but when I saw these photographs I was shocked and wept for some time. Be forewarned.

Sharon has clarified her position in the combox, and we are really not that far apart. Her main hesitation is her personal discomfort and the issue of children seeing such pictures, but she doesn't oppose in principle the use of such photographs.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Is the Bible Silent or Lax on Abortion? Hardly. But Agnostic Ed Babinski Gives it His Best Shot in Arguing Just That

Edward Babinski has made a number of comments (one / two / three / four / five / six / seven / eight / nine) in the combox for a related post: Dialogue With an Atheist About How Much He Actually Knew About Biblical Exegesis as a Christian (Especially, Abortion in the Bible) (vs. "DagoodS"). Some veer off into the usual garden variety polemical agnostic / atheist topics. I won't be enticed off of the topic (one of the oldest tricks in the book). Ed's words will be in blue.

* * * * *

In the earlier paper I made note of my post and portion of a book of mine (about 100 passages):

The Bible’s Teaching on Abortion

[ME, in the last dialogue] Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

[What was conceived was David ("me"). As soon as he began to exist, he had iniquity (original sin)]

The "I" and "me" of a blastula that is capable of splitting into twins or reabsorbed back into a remaining twin, is not the "I" and "me" of the adult that comes much later.

What, did you study how to parse words under Bill Clinton? Depends what "I" and "me" is?

The zygote, blastula, etc., knows nothing. Do you remember "yourself" before you were even conceived? Do you have memories of being a zygote, then a blastula? Neither did the ancient Hebrews know anything of that sort of thing.

Neither were they interested in when brain activity began or when such activity became organized in various stages. But we know more about such matters today, and debate the abortion question.

That is all perfectly, utterly irrelevant. The question is identity and essential nature and non-arbitrary starting-points of what develops into you and I, not personal consciousness. I was challenged to show where the Bible teaches human life or personhood beginning at conception and I did so, with that passage and these others:

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

[What was "formed" was indeed Jeremiah. That takes it right back to the very beginning. The Jews may not have known their biology, but God knew about it. But the Jews could say, "God formed me" without knowing all the details. Now, if God knew Jeremiah even before he was conceived, he could hardly have not been Jeremiah when he was conceived, as if he existed more so before he was conceived than after. Therefore, he was a person from the instant of his conception]

Numbers 5:28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.

Isaiah 49:5 And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, . . .

Luke 1:36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.

Neither do we impute "sin" to every human starting at conception. Nor do we impute that some "fall" in the past has something to do with pain and death to all animals.

Yeah, atheists and agnostics don't, but so what? They don't determine Christian theology. They usually don't even understand it in the first place. Babinski is certainly no exception to that rule.

Second, the Psalmist is abasing himself by claiming he was a sinner starting as early as conception [NIV trans] "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."

Self abasement is something you did before approaching a king back then, you even used hyperbole as to how bad or wrong you were, and how right the king was, to further contrast whatever action it is that you are seeking forgiveness for, so that the king sees you're repentant and grants you your wish. The more abasement the better.

The psalmist seeks mercy/forgiveness for things done in THIS life, but casts his sins back in time hyperbolically, thus lowering himself even further before asking for mercy, by declaring his "sinfulness" even while in the womb, NIV:

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Nice theory, but Scripture has to be interpreted in its overall context and theological background. The fall goes back to Genesis, of course. It was well known to David. It is explained in more detail in the New Testament (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; cf. Gen 3:15; Jn 12:31; 14:30; 2 Cor 4:4; Heb 2:14; 2 Pet 2:19).

The concept of the fall of man or original sin was a part of historic Judaism as well as Christianity (see, Jewish Encyclopedia, "Sin"; section: "Original Sin"). The universality of sinfulness, hinting at original sin and profound fallenness, was present early on in the biblical literature and the Jewish mind. For example:

Genesis 6:5 (RSV) The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 8:21 . . . the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth . . .

1 Kings 8:46 . . . there is no man who does not sin . . .

Psalm 14:1-3 [another of David's own psalms] The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none that does good.
[2] The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
to see if there are any that act wisely,
that seek after God.
[3] They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt;
there is none that does good,
no, not one.

Ecclesiastes 9:3 . . . the hearts of men are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live . . .

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?

Nice try, then, but no cigar. It's simply more agnostic / atheist atrocious eisegesis of Scripture.

Dave, Other scriptures that you cite show only that they believed in God's foreknowledge of specific prophets He was sending. That's what they believed.

Sheer nonsense. Is this the best you can do? God said to Jeremiah: "I formed you in the womb" (Jer 1:5). That is part of creation, not merely abstract foreknowledge. To miss the import of that is to look all around the sky at high noon on a sunny day and miss the sun. But you guys are capable of and willing to do it.

They also believed that God could send lightning bolts, his voice was thunder, he moved clouds, sent famines, plagues, armies, and that if a nation did not worship Him properly -- by not setting up temples, sacrificing animals, etc., that led to bad things happening, which is exactly what the nations around Israel also believed concerning their own gods, and the necessity of temples and sacrifices.

That's neither here nor there. Whether you believe their doctrines or not, the fact remains that the Bible presents preborn children as human beings; persons, and says that God formed them from the beginning of their existence. You may disbelieve any number of things that the Bible teaches, but to deny that the ancient Jews and the Bible believed and taught this is at best a head-in-the-sand moment; at worst deliberate denial of what is plain as day. Thus we see a passage like:

Isaiah 44:2, 24 Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb . . . Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb . . .

Whenever God kills masses of people by directing famines, diseases, floods, hail, earthquakes, invading armies, whatever, some of those He is directing his wrath at are pregnant women. Of course that's mass murder, not "abortion" we're talking about. But there is no concern shown for adults OR fetuses in such cases, no exceptions. God is an equal opportunity slaughterer and shows no "favor to the unborn."

Now we're back to the "wicked God" routine. This is garden-variety stuff that neglects to see that God as Creator has a prerogative over the life and death of His creatures, and also the prerogative to judge corrupt cultures. Man is not God. We don't have that right, but God does. See:
"How Can God [in the OT] Order the Killing and Massacre of Innocents?" [Amalekites, etc.]

The Destruction of the Amalekites (

"Shouldn't the butchering of the Amalekite children be considered war crimes?", Glenn Miller

"Why couldn't Israel take in the Amalekites like they did foreign survivors in Deut 20?", Glenn Miller

Genocide in the Old Testament (

God's moral authority (

Does God Punish Children for Their Parents' Sins? (

Does God Show favoritism to the descendants of good people? (

"God is Wrathful, Vengeful, Jealous, and Angry every day--and you want me to have a relationship with Him?!", Glenn Miller

"How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the Canaanites?", Glenn Miller

"What about God’s cruelty against the Midianites?", Glenn Miller

"Was God being evil when He killed all the firstborn in Egypt?", Glenn Miller

The Judgment of Nations: Biblical Passages and Commentary, Dave Armstrong

Can God be Blamed for the Nazi Holocaust? Reflections on the "Problem of Evil" and Human Free Will, Dave Armstrong

Supposed Contradiction Between 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 (God or Satan as Cause?), Dave Armstrong

On the Alleged Contradictions of 2 Samuel 24, and 1 Chronicles 21 and 27 (Dave Armstrong vs. the atheist "DagoodS")

Reply to a Calvinist Critique Concerning the "Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart" (Dave Armstrong vs. Colin Smith)
Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart? (Does God Positively Ordain Evil?) (vs. atheist "DagoodS")

Exodus 20:5: God's "Punishing" or "Visiting" Descendants "to the Third and Fourth Generation": Proof of an "Unjust" God or Biblical "Contradiction"?

Same with other laws in the OT regarding sexual activities of women that might very well have involved her conceiving a child. The child's life is never of any concern, the women are executed without waiting to see if they had been carrying a child or not.

It's of more concern to execute adult women in such cases than show concern for the unborn.

Since they didn't have the technology to keep premature children alive, nothing could be done about that. If there was execution of a pregnant woman under Mosaic Law the child was a victim of judgment in the way that there are always innocent victims in judgment (in some sense of the word, or relatively so). This doesn't overcome the fact that the preborn child was considered a human being. It also doesn't condemn such a child to hell. If there is an afterlife, the perspective on everything changes.

This is why an atheist condoning abortion is a particularly heinous, wicked thing, because the atheist believes that this life is all there is, and yet he or she is still willing to deprive the smallest and most defenseless among us of the only life he or she would ever have. The solace of the Christian is that man can only destroy a body but not an eternal soul.

Babinski then continues on with his hard cases (the special purview and polemical specialty of the pervasive anti-biblical, anti-God sophistry of atheists and agnostics, and also Tactic #1 for the pro-abortion crowd in arguing for legal abortion, pre-1973, complete with several now-documented lies). But questioning hard cases does not resolve the fundamental question: whether the thing itself (abortion) is right or wrong. Whenever there is any moral absolute whatever, there will always be hard cases that can brought up. But it is a dodge of the basic question:

1) Does the Bible teach that the preborn are human and persons? (yes).

2) Does the Bible teach that murder of persons is evil and impermissible? (yes).

[ergo, abortion is forbidden in the Bible]

That was the original discussion, and nothing Babinski or DagoodS have brought up overcomes these facts in the slightest degree.

We ought to return to my first post, the discussion of "abasement hyperbole" in Psalm 51.

That Psalm only mentions that the psalmist himself was a sinner in the womb, not that everyone is.

In fact other places in the Bible it speaks only about SOME but not all people being born wicked. I guess such statements were made before the Christian doctrine of "original sin" declared that everyone is "wicked" from the womb:

The New Testament does make this more clear, as it does many doctrines, but there were many indications in the Old Testament that came very close to doing so. We wouldn't expect the full development of the doctrine the further back we go.

Speaking a third time about "abasement hyperbole in Ps. 51," there are also reverse hyperbolic statements found in the Bible, not about "sinning in the womb," but about how it's "better never to have been born at all, or have been miscarried." Even the book of Jeremiah employs such hyperbole. There are verses you're not likely to ever see quoted on signs as a pro-life rally:

Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?
- Jeremiah 20:14-18

[This is the only Biblical passage that directly and indisputably mentions a practice that we would today think of as “abortion,” but notice, Jeremiah is cursing a man for NOT aborting the fetal Jeremiah.]

This is typically Jewish wailing in the midst of great suffering (compare Job). This proves nothing with regard to abortion. To the contrary, there are at least passages that directly refer to the murder of a child in the womb:

2 Kings 8:12 And Haz'ael said, “Why does my lord weep?” He answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel; you will set on fire their fortresses, and you will slay their young men with the sword, and dash in pieces their little ones, and rip up their women with child.”

2 Kings 15:16 At that time Men'ahem sacked Tappuah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on; because they did not open it to him, therefore he sacked it, and he ripped up all the women in it who were with child.

Amos 1:13 Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of the Ammonites, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have ripped up women with child in Gilead, that they might enlarge their border.

Abortion as such is not discussed in the Bible, so any explanation of why it is not legislated or commented on is speculative.

Nuclear war and any murder by gunfire or by gas in a Nazi concentration camp are not discussed, either, so let's also go commit those acts wantonly and without ethical justification and call it a "choice" and carp on about how the Bible is supposedly silent about it.

There is no biblical proof-text against abortion.

It's simple deduction: Person (small, preborn one) + forbidden murder = forbidden abortion, which is murder.

Psalm 139:13-18 is less relevant to the issue than most people think; a careful reading of that psalm reveals that the “mother” in whose “womb” the psalmist was known by God is Mother Earth (notice the parallelism between “my mother’s womb” and “the depths of the earth” in the inclusio of vv. 13-15).

This was answered already in a combox comment.

(And as for praying in public outside abortion clinics, I don't suppose Jesus would have been into that much either, based on his statement that it was better to pray inside one's closet.)

Sheer nonsense. As usual, Ed Babinski exhibits his atrocious exegetical skills. Here is the relevant passage:

Matthew 6:1-6 "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. [2] "Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [3] But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, [4] so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. [5] "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [6] But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

This is not an absolute prohibition of public prayer, but a typically Jewish hyperbolic condemnation (with strong contrast to make the point) of prideful prayer for thew purpose of drawing attention to oneself. All Jews prayed publicly in synagogues and (at that time) at the temple.

Jesus Himself prayed in public when He was baptized:

Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,

Anna the prophetess was commended because she "did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day" (Lk 2:37). Peter and John went to the public time of prayer in the temple (Acts 3:1). Paul prayed in the temple (Acts 22:17). Jesus illustrated his principle again with a parable: this time involving two men who were both praying in public, but who had greatly contrasting interior dispositions:

Luke 18:9-14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: [10] "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. [11] The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. [12] I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' [13] But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!' [14] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Again, it isn't public prayer, but arrogant, prideful, selfish prayer that is condemned. How much profound ignorance can be bound up in one foolish atheist / agnostic statement! It takes time and work to do it but the rewards are immediate, and the lie is exposed as the colossal whopper that it is so often revealed to be.

At any rate "abortion" is never as high a priority as the issue of salvation and right doctrine. The same goes for the O.T. which features commands like, "He who does not obey the priest shall die [be put to death],"

Now, of course, secular society is very advanced and enlightened. Now we murder the preborn child up to nine months for any reason whatever. No one can even question. The child can be the "wrong" sex, have some birth defect that renders him or her unworthy to be born, might be unfortunate enough to be conceived by a woman too young and not ready to have a child, or to a poor person or to someone who wants a career instead, or to a woman as a result of an immoral sexual liaison that she wants to conceal by means of murder. How far we have come from those primitive Christian tribes and from that pagan Greek moral simpleton Hippocrates, who forbade doctors participating in abortions!

For further related reading, see:

The Bible's Teaching Against Abortion, Fr. Frank A. Pavone

Scripture References On Abortion, Fr. Frank A. Pavone

Answering the Theological Case for Abortion Rights: The Bible, by Gregg Cunningham and Scott Klusendorf

Abortion and the Bible, J. P. Holding