Dec. 25: A rare clay seal is displayed during a news conference at the archaeological site known as the City of David in east Jerusalem.
JERUSALEM – A rare clay seal found under Jerusalem’s Old City appears to be linked to religious rituals practiced at the Jewish Temple 2,000 years ago, Israeli archaeologists said Sunday.
The coin-sized seal found near the Jewish holy site at the Western Wall bears two Aramaic words meaning “pure for God.”
Archaeologist Ronny Reich of Haifa University said it dates from between the 1st century B.C. to 70 A.D. — the year Roman forces put down a Jewish revolt and destroyed the second of the two biblical temples in Jerusalem.
The find marks the first discovery of a written seal from that period of Jerusalem’s history, and appeared to be a unique physical artifact from ritual practice in the Temple, said Reich, co-director of the excavation.
Very few artifacts linked to the Temples have been discovered so far. The site of the Temple itself — the enclosure known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary — remains off-limits to archaeologists because of its religious and political sensitivity.
Archaeologists say the seal was likely used by Temple officials approving an object for ritual use — oil, perhaps, or an animal intended for sacrifice. Materials used by Temple priests had to meet stringent purity guidelines stipulated in detail in the Jewish legal text known as the Mishna, which also mention the use of seals as tokens by pilgrims.
The find, Reich said, is “the first time an indication was brought by archaeology about activities in the Temple Mount — the religious activities of buying and offering and giving to the Temple itself.”
The site where the seal was found is on the route of a main street that ran through ancient Jerusalem just outside the Temple compound.
Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, a biblical archaeologist not connected to the dig, said the seal was special because it “was found right next to the Temple and is similar to what we see described in the Mishna.”
“It’s nice when we can connect an activity recorded in ancient sources with archaeological finds,” he said.
The seal was found in an excavation run by archaeologists from the government’sIsrael Antiquities Authority. The dig is under the auspices of a broader dig nearby known as the City of David, where archaeologists are investigating the oldest part of Jerusalem.
The City of David dig, located inside the nearby Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and funded by a Jewish group affiliated with the settlement movement, is the Holy Land’s highest-profile and most politically controversial excavation.
Peter Millican MC’s. First the talk, then interaction with Oxford academics Daniel Came, Stephen Preist and John Parrington, followed by taking some audience questions. Hat tip to www.apologetics315.com:
Theistic philosopher of religion William Lane Craig recently debated Atheistic Philosopher Peter Millican on the topic “Does God exist?” I daresay this was one of the most interesting debates I’ve heard. Millican came in with a clear strategy, and the debate covered an extreme range of topics. The friendly nature of the debate was also quite rewarding to hear. Clearly, we can have such discussions without attacking each other. Anyway, to the outline and analysis.
Craig began by outlining the topic: Does God exist? The topic can be answered as yes or no. Craig argued for the former, and left the latter to Millican.
First, he argued philosophically against an infinite past. This argument would become quite important throughout the debate so I’ll outline it briefly. If we had an infinite number of coins, each with a number upon them, and took away ten, the number of coins would still be infinite. If we took away all the even coins, we’d have subtracted an infinite number of coins, and still, there would be an infinite number of coins. If, however, we subtracted all the coins above 3, we’d have subtracted infinite from infinite, and be left with 3 coins, not infinite coins. Craig argued that this is obviously a contradiction because despite subtracting the same amount (or different amounts) we can come up with two different answers (or the same answer). Therefore the past cannot be infinite.
Craig also argued scientifically that the universe began by bringing up the Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin theory which shows that irregardless of theories about the multiverse, bubble universes, and the like, the universe had a beginning.
He then presented the Kalam cosmological argument, though with a slight twist. He instead presented it as “The universe began to exist; if the universe began to exist, then it has a transcendent cause; therefore, the universe has a transcendent cause.”
He then argued the fine-tuning argument. There are a number of conditions of the universe which have been fine-tuned within a narrow range for the existence of life. Because of this, argued Craig, we can conclude the universe was designed.
Objective morality also necessitates the existence of God, argued Craig. The argument was based upon two major conditions: that objective morals exist, and that they cannot if there is no God. He quoted atheist philosopher Michael Ruse who said (in part): “morality is just an aid to survival” on naturalism.
Yet our moral experience leads us to believe that morality is indeed objective, and we know that, on naturalism, there is no ontological basis for morals. Thus, God exists.
Three facts must be explained by those who argue Jesus did not rise from the dead, and any theory must answer all of them: 1) the empty tomb; 2) on different occasions and settings to different people, Jesus appeared alive; 3) disciples showed a sudden belief that Jesus had risen, despite every predisposition to the contrary.
Craig noted that these three facts are agreed upon by New Testament scholars–both theists and non.
Finally, Craig argued for the experiential awareness of God.
Christianity, he stated, is a hypothesis about reality. It makes a claim about what reality is. Therefore, the burden of proof lands squarely upon the theist.
He argued that people are primed for belief in gods. They have a “permiscuous teleology” which seeks for design. Furthermore, the dominant determinant of religious orientation is place of birth.
Before one could accuse Millican of the genetic fallacy (I actually wrote this on the side of my notes), he stated that he was not arguing these disprove God. Rather, he argued that if a method leads to variant beliefs, then it should discredit the method.
He then turned to rebutting Craig’s arguments. He said that quantum mechanics has shown that particles can come into existence out of nothing (note that he did indeed use the word “nothing” here). He furthermore argued that in our experience, we only see physical things being rearranged, not coming into existence ex nihilo. He argued that our experience must establish these truths.
He also cited Vilenkin, in a letter, stating that his theorem did not show the universe had a beginning.
Regarding the moral argument, he asked “what is objective?” He said that based upon how one defines this, one could have different answers about objective morality.
Craig First Rebuttal
Craig noted that Millican’s attempt to put all burden of proof on the theist didn’t work, because they also make a claim about reality: “There is no God.” This claim needs support as well, and Millican did not support it.
Regarding Millican’s claim about method, Craig responded that his method is logic, evidence, and personal experience–the same things which the scientific method relies upon. Thus, if the method yields God’s existence, it is not to be distrusted but embraced by those who value the latter method.
Not only that, but Millican’s argument seemed to suggest that religions all used the same methodology in reaching their truth claims, which is highly contentious and definitely untrue. Religions use a broad array of methods in how they discover truth.
Craig argued that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Only if we should expect more proof than there is should we be in doubt of the existence of something due to absence of evidence. Furthermore, argued Craig, he presented a great wealth of evidence already.
Craig then quoted Vilenkin’s letter in context. Vilenkin wrote that the beginning could be avoided only if one allowed for a contracting universe, but that this was highly unlikely and would have prevented the expansion of the universe. Thus, Vilenkin said, if he were to give a short answer to the question “Does your theory imply the beginning of the universe?” the answer would be yes. I should note that Millican dropped Vilenkin faster than Dawkins runs from Craig after this quote was read.
Craig then argued that the unembodied mind is hinted at our own experience. Furthermore, epiphenominalism simply cannot ground reality as we experience it.
Finally, regarding the moral argument, Craig asked why we should value humans and not chimps.
Millican First Rebuttal
Millican responded to the fine-tuning argument by saying that perhaps we may explain these evidences later. Further, we can’t base it all upon current physics, which may change. He also argued that there is difficulty with using the probability argument because our only sample is our current universe. God, argued Millican, would have been greatly inefficient if he made the universe as he did.
He briefly touched on the evil god thesis (as seen in the Law debate) and argued that the evidences could work for an evil deity.
Millican also suggested we should expect more evidence–why can’t there be more evidence for the existence of God?
Regarding the philosophical argument about the beginning of the universe, Millican noted that transfinite math does not allow for subtraction or addition because it yields diverse answers. Thus, he stated, Craig’s argument is confused.
He also conceded that the quantum vaccuum is not nothing, which was interesting considering he had literally used that word for it in his opening statement. He pressed his point, however, by stating that it is the closest we can come to nothing in our experience.
Unfortunately, Millican ran short on time and couldn’t respond to all Craig’s points.
Craig Second Rebuttal
Craig argued there are still no good reasons to support the contention “there is no God.” Furthermore, Millican’s response to the “absence of evidence” argument was just a personal opinion: ‘I think there should be more.’
God’s ‘inefficiency’ presupposes a God-as-engineer, argued Craig. One would have to be limited on time or resources in order to be compelled towards efficiency–limits God obviously does not have. God might be better compared to an artist or chef–enjoying the creation and beauty as he designed the universe.
The philosophical argument about infinites is problematic for Millican, argued Craig. The reason is because while we can slap the hand of a mathematician who tries to do so with abstract math, we can’t do the same thing in real life. If we literally had infinite coins, we couldn’t prevent someone from taking one away, and leading to the absurdities. In fact, Millican essentially demonstrated the point: such things are excluded in transfinite math because they are absurd, and so can’t happen in the real world.
Millican’s argument that the fine-tuning argument depends only on current physics illustrates Craig’s point exactly, countered Craig. Namely, that current physics supports the existence of God.
Millican Second Rebuttal
Millican argued that it doesn’t follow that if epiphenominalism is false, dualism is true. I think it’s really unfortunate the debate was so short–it would be interesting to see their views on this matter face off. He argued statistically that there are many moral realists who are not theists.
Why shouldn’t an atheist believe in objective moral values? asked Millican. There’s no good reason they can’t detect them and experience them. Further, we can value humans because they’re rational, and the same species.
Finally, he argued that scholars like Bart Ehrman had undermined the evidence for the resurrection by showing that the Gospels weren’t independent and unreliable.
Craig noted there still was no good argument for atheism and that he’d presented good arguments for theism.
Bart Ehrman and the others Millican cited actually agree with the three facts Craig used to support the resurrection, so there was still no counter to that argument.
Craig noted that rationality doesn’t serve as an objective cut off point for morals. Sam Harris argued that sentience is. On atheism, argued Craig, there is no non-arbitrary line at which to base morality. Why should we value rationality? Why value humans more than chimps? Again, the line is arbitrary. The fact that many atheistic philosophers believe in realism of morality doesn’t show that it has grounds ontologically in atheism.
Millican said there are many theories of how objective reality can be established on atheism.
He argued that physics may change and so we can’t base the existence of God upon current physics.
Finally, regarding evil, Millican said that our empirical evidence should lead us to doubt whether God exists. What should we see if there is a God? Certainly not this much suffering.
[Millican also argued throughout that there is no experiential evidence for things coming into being out of nothing, so that the causal premise of the Kalam is undermined. I forgot to write down where he started this argument, but wanted to make note of it here.]
The debate was great. There were so many topics covered, it was a whirlwind.
Millican’s refutations of the Kalam were dramatically undercut by Craig. His citation of Vilenkin was just utterly demolished when Craig read the rest of the passage. His arguments about how we can’t add or subtract from infinity merely demonstrated Craig’s point: that it is absurd to suppose actual infinites exist. Regarding the causal premise, Craig argued in the debate that Millican would have to hold there was no essential or material cause for the universe, an argument to which Millican never had a response. To be fair, this may have been due to time.
I thought Millican’s response the fine-tuning argument was quite strange. Certainly, physics may change, but that doesn’t mean we can’t trust what we know now. As Craig argued, physicists today are quite convinced of the trustworthiness of physics. Further, Craig responded to the probabilistic argument by showing that we do indeed know the probability–despite the sample size. There is simply a life-permitting range for the values cited, so we can be justified in holding the fine-tuning argument to be true.
The moral argument was another point of contention. I don’t think Millican really undermined it. He merely referenced that atheists think they can have objective moral values, and questioned the meaning of the word “objective.” Interestingly, in the Q&A, Craig responded to Millican’s confusion: “That’s why I defined it.”
The resurrection definitely didn’t get defeated. Millican’s deferment to Ehrman and the like actually justified Craig’s 3 facts approach, because the scholars he cited affirmed the three facts.
Overall, I think Millican did much better than Law and definitely better than Harris or Krauss in those debates which I reviewed. That said, Craig still established the existence of God–at least as best can be done in under an hour to speak. Millican’s objections were interesting, but ultimately defeated by Craig. I think it’s fair to say that this debate showed, once more, that in the forum of rational inquiry, theism has an upper hand.
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At the mostly atheist Cambridge Union Society, Williams and Craig still prevail:
Richard Dawkins, the highest ranking clergyman in the hierarchy of New Age Atheism, recently informed us of the “real” reason why he refuses to accept the invitation from Oxford University to debate the renowned Christian theologian, Dr. William Lane Craig. Dawkins self-righteously declared that since Craig is an “apologist for genocide,” he is “proud to leave that chair in Oxford empty.” The “genocide” in question is the war of the Israelites against the morally debauched Canaanites that took place some thirty-three centuries in the past. (For those who find the math difficult, that is 3,300 years ago.) Whether or not one is prepared to agree with Dr. Craig’s analysis of the biblical passages in question is really beside the point. Not even a hater of religion like Christopher Hitchens (who did debate Craig) would ever dream of accusing Craig of advocating gratuitous violence against non-believers and certainly not genocide.
What makes this entire melodramatic episode even more curious are the rather questionable moral stances of Richard Dawkins himself. Consider the following: In an article in Scientific American (November, 1995) Dawkins informed us in blunt, raw language his existential view of reality, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” This of course is an honest and candid expression of the atheistic worldview. In a purely materialistic universe there is no room for metaphysical realities like good and evil. As atheistic philosopher Joel Marks has pointed out, “The religious fundamentalists are correct; without God there is no morality…atheism implies amorality, and since I am an atheist, I must therefore embrace amorality.” This echoes the disturbing observation of another famous atheist, Sigmund Freud: “The moment a man questions the meaning and value of life, he is sick; since objectively neither has any existence.”
In an article written for Edge in 2006, Dawkins explained that in a materialistic, deterministic universe, “blame and responsibility”[emphasis mine], “indeed evil and good” are nothing more than mental constructs and “useful fictions,” that are “built into our brains by…Darwinian Evolution.” Atheistic philosopher Michael Ruse heartily agrees: “Morality is an illusion put in place by your genes to make you a social cooperator.” If there is no metaphysically existent good and evil, if atheism implies amorality, if morality is a useful fiction and an illusion, if in objective reality life has no meaning and no value; why exactly is Dawkins so morally indignant about a war that took place 3,300 years ago and a modern Christian theologian’s rather dispassionate and thoughtful attempt to understand the meaning of that war? Dawkins also conveniently ignores that the greatest mass murderers in the history of mankind have all been atheists; Josef Stalin: 20-30,000,000 Mao Tse Tung: 50-70,000,000 Pol Pot: around 2,000,000. It’s worth noting that these men committed their atrocities, not 3,300 years ago, but in middle of the 20th century! I am not even remotely suggesting that Dawkins is capable of mass murder, but one would think that this simple historical fact might temper his righteous indignation just a bit.
All of this leads us to the conclusion that the accusation which Dawkins has hurled at Craig is not thereason for his refusal to engage in the debate, it is the excuse. The real reason why Dawkins will not debate Craig is the same reason why he refuses to debate Dr. Stephen Meyer, of the Discovery Institute, about the Origin of Life. He is afraid. He is afraid of debating opponents of the caliber of William Lane Craig and Stephen Meyer. Atheist author Sam Harris has observed that Craig is “the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into my fellow atheists.” Even a non-believing blogger for The Guardian, Daniel Came (“As a skeptic, I tend to agree…regarding the falsehood of theism.”), writes that, “Hence, it is quite obvious that Dawkins is opportunistically using these remarks as a smokescreen to hide the real reasons for his refusal to debate with Craig.” C’mon Professor Dawkins, you’re not fooling anybody; it’s time to come out of the hen-house and fight like a man.
Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on Amazon.com and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website.
(Photo: considerhumanism.org via The Christian Post)
In a speech at the Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University on Tuesday, Craig responded to Dawkins’ allegations during the question and answer session.
“There was no racial war here, no command to kill them all,” he said, alluding to extermination of the Canaanites in the Old Testament, “the command was to drive them out.”
He then said: “I would say that God has the right to give and take life as He sees fit. Children die all the time! If you believe in the salvation, as I do, of children, who die, what that meant is that the death of these children meant their salvation. People look at this [genocide] and think life ends at the grave but in fact this was the salvation of these children, who were far better dead … than being raised in this Canaanite culture.”
Organizers of the event left an empty chair on stage for Dawkins who has continuously refused to debate Craig, saying Craig does not have the worthy credentials.
“I always said when invited to do debates that I would be happy to debate a bishop, a cardinal, a pope, an archbishop, indeed I have done those, but I don’t take on creationists and I don’t take on people whose only claim to fame is that they are professional debaters; they’ve got to have something more than that. I’m busy,” said Dawkins.
Dawkins was replaced by a panel of three Oxford Academics. Among them were Dr. Daniel Came and Philosophy Senior Research Fellow Stephen Priest.
Oxford Inter-collegiate Christian Union President Robbie Strachan praised Craig’s speech, saying it contained convincing philosophical arguments.
“The next step after establishing that the existence of God is a possibility is obviously to find out what that God might be like. Christians believe in a good and loving God, which is why the ‘problem of evil’ question came up last night,” he said.
About face | Kelsey Deans
A University of Georgia professor searching for meaning finds Christ
Psychology professor Rich Suplita used to sit in the University of Georgia’s Tate Plaza holding a handmade sign that read “Ask an atheist” any time a preacher came to campus to share the gospel. As the faculty sponsor of the school’s atheist club, he was adept at explaining how to tackle the issues of life without God.
“Essentially what I was trying to do was offer an atheistic apologetic of how you can explain whatever happens to be true through the lens of atheism, and I think I was pretty good at that,” Suplita said during a recent interview.
He was so good, he almost convinced himself. But after six years denying God’s existence, Suplita had a dramatic change of heart. When he visits Tate Plaza now, he’s the one sharing the gospel.
Suplita grew up in a legalistic Christian denomination, which he declined to name, that equated salvation with good works. As he got older, Suplita could not reconcile what he saw as a contradiction in his church’s teaching that a person is freely granted salvation through the grace of God but then has to work to maintain that salvation. He said he could not believe in a God who would give salvation freely at first but make the assurance of that salvation contingent on a person’s ability to stop sinning.
Unable to believe in God, Suplita embraced the ideas of atheistic humanism. He went to graduate school at the University of Georgia and earned his doctorate in psychology in 2005. By the fall of 2010 he was teaching everything from introduction to psychology to pharmacology and neuroscience and had become the school’s best-known atheist. His ability to present atheistic apologetics made him popular with the 50-member UGAtheist club, which he sponsored.
Suplita said he believed the God of the Bible was unjust in many of the judgments that he carried out, and that a good God who allows evil to happen in the world could not exist. He often quoted 1 Samuel 15:3, in which God commands the Israelites to go to war with the Amalekites and to destroy them.
“It actually lists to put to death the men, women, children, infants, cattle and sheep, basically, to wipe them out entirely,” he said. “And that whole idea of God commanding His army to kill babies, if you just extract that from everything else there is about God, then it seems so atrocious that the conclusion is, ‘Well, a monster like that must not exist.’ That was my point at the time.”
If someone had asked him last fall if he believed in God, he would have said definitely not. But now, Suplita says he is unsure whether he ever really believed that in his heart. He could give a whole list of reasons why he thought it was ridiculous to believe in God, but he now wonders whether he really believed what he was saying.
“It was more like I was trying to convince myself,” he said.
Suplita always struggled with the atheist worldview’s existential crisis – the idea that if atheism is true, life is ultimately meaningless and not worth living. Suplita realized that the existential crisis extended far beyond the parameters of his own life. If it were true, it would mean the same thing for the lives of his daughters, aged 10, 7 and 4.
Suplita said that while he could spend his time on campus telling his students that there was no God, he could not bring himself to tell that to his own children. He could not justify teaching them that their lives were meaningless and that there was no God to glorify.
Last spring, near Easter, Suplita went to an event at Tate Plaza that was sponsored by Watkinsville First Baptist Church. He listened to the preacher and talked with some of the church’s members. They encouraged him to re-read the gospel of John and to reconsider the truth of biblical Christianity. A few weeks later, Suplita prayed to receive Christ as his savior.
He still believes the existential crisis is real, but he now understands its purpose is to point people to God.
“Only when you postulate an eternal God that you can actually have some sort of meaningful relationship with can you get around that existential crisis,” he said.
Belief in the existence of God, the invitation to have a personal relationship with Him and the opportunity to live to bring Him glory were the answers to the meaning of life that he was looking for, Suplita said. Only when he saw that there was life after death and a purpose for life here today did he have hope, security and a reason for getting up in the morning, he said.
Suplita’s decision to embrace Christianity got him kicked out of the atheist’s club, even though he offered to stay on as its sponsor. But the reactions of his former friends, who decided he must have gone “off the deep end,” hasn’t deterred him from his new faith.
“It’s helped give me peace in that sense, in that my life’s about something and the lives of my daughters are about something that is lasting and enduring and can never fade away,” he said. “And there is intrinsic hope in that.”
CERN claims to have observed neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light. Dr. Craig this week discusses some of the profound implications that has for our understanding of time if confirmed. Namely, is a Lorentzian interpretation now more plausible than the Einsteinian view?
There’s some physicists in Europe who think they have measured some neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. According to this article:
…Einstein thought that if it were possible for something to travel faster than light, then backward time travel would be possible. But it seems to me that backward time travel is only possible if the B theory of time is correct because otherwise there’s no past to travel back to. But you have always advocated the A theory of time. So here’s my question: Is the A theory of time necessary for the kalam cosmological argument to be sound? Could the kalam cosmological argument be sound if the B theory of time were true? If so, and if neutrinos really can travel faster than light, would that invalidate the kalam cosmological argument?
I’m not sure if you’ve gotten this question a lot, but I can’t find answers to it anywhere:
Recently, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was challenged by the team of scientists in Europe, claiming that the subatomic particles “neutrinos” travelled 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. On one news article (I don’t remember which), if the results were verified and corroborated by additional experiments, not only would time travel make sense, but everything we think we know about cause and effect would be false. The article asserted that if something can really go faster than light, A could create B, and B could also create B. Thus my question: If these results turn out to be true, does that mean that theists have lost grounds for both the cosmological argument and the argument from contingency? If two things could really create each other without being necessary, doesn’t that eliminate the need for a God? Will this discovery undermine Big Bang cosmology and everything we think we know about cause and effect? Or does this discovery in some way help the theist in a way I don’t see?
Dr. Craig responds:
I hadn’t planned on doing back to back questions on time, but so many people asked about this potentially important development that it is irresistible. I actually did an audio-blog on this exciting news, but our sound equipment failed and so, for better or worse, I’ll address it here.
This is a very welcome development, confirmatory of the position I defended concerning the proper physical interpretation of the Special Theory of Relativity (STR) in my books Time and the Metaphysics of Special Relativity (Kluwer, 2001) and Einstein, Relativity, and Absolute Simultaneity (co-edited with Quentin Smith) (Routledge, 2007). It is a dramatic empirical confirmation of the physical interpretation of the mathematical equations of STR by the great Dutch physicist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz.
You see, a physical theory comprises a mathematical core and a physical interpretation of those core equations. The mathematical core of STR is the Lorentz transformation equations, which tell you how to calculate the spatio-temporal co-ordinates of an object relative to different frames of reference. But there are at least three different physical interpretations of those equations:
1. The original Einsteinian interpretation, which denied the existence of absolute space and time and envisioned physical deformations of 3-dimensional, physical objects enduring through time.
2. The Minkowskian interpretation, which denied the existence of 3-dimensional, physical objects enduring through time in favor of 4-dimensional objects existing tenselessly in spacetime. Once Minkowski proposed his spacetime interpretation in 1908, Einstein immediately abandoned his original interpretation for Minkowski’s, which has since become the standard textbook version of STR.
3. The Lorentzian interpretation, which like the original Einsteinian interpretation, affirmed the existence of 3-dimensional objects enduring through time but which, unlike the Einsteinian view, affirmed the existence of absolute space and absolute simultaneity, even if we cannot detect them empirically. Clocks and measuring rods in motion relative to the absolute reference frame (the “aether”) run slowly and shrink up as Einstein suggested.
These three interpretations have been until recently empirically equivalent, so that it has been impossible scientifically to choose between them. During the heyday of positivism, theories which were empirically equivalent tended to be regarded as just the same theory, despite the vastly different views of space and time they might involve, because there was no way to verify the differing interpretations. With the collapse of verificationism, philosophers of science are once more appreciative of the vast differences ontologically between the interpretations of Einstein, Minkowski, and Lorentz, differences that cannot be glossed over.
In recent years experimental results concerning the predictions of a quantum mechanical theorem called Bell’s Theorem have made the Lorentzian interpretation, so long ignored by the positivists, once more a serious option. John Bell himself, who formulated the theorem, advocated going back to Lorentz’s view, since the experimental results seemed to indicate the objective reality of relations of absolute simultaneity in the universe.
These most recent results at CERN continue this pattern. Let me explain.
STR does not really prohibit the existence of particles traveling at superluminal velocities. What it prohibits is the acceleration of a particle from subluminal velocity to superluminal velocity. But it doesn’t rule out particles which always travel at superluminal speeds. Indeed, there has been much discussion of such theoretical particles, which are called “tachyons” (from the Greek word for swift), even though none has yet been found. If these new results hold up, then these neutrinos are, in fact, tachyons, and somebody is probably in line for a Nobel Prize!
Now if tachyons are compatible with STR, then, you may ask, what’s the fuss all about? Just this: in the vocabulary of the Einsteinian interpretation of STR, simultaneity of distant events is relative to reference frames, which are the inertial frames of observers in relative motion. To determine the simultaneity of two spatially separated events, you send a light signal to a distant observer, who reflects it back to you. Assuming light’s velocity is the same both going and returning, you figure that the event simultaneous with the distant reflection event is the event at your location which is halfway between the time you sent the signal and the time you got it back. So you can draw a line of simultaneity, as it were, between those two events, and use that as the basis for figuring which other events in the two locations are simultaneous. This sounds fine; but it has the consequence that simultaneity becomes relative. For which event is halfway between the time you sent the signal and the time you received it back depends on the relative motion of the two observers. Observers at those same locations who have different reference frames will determine different events to be simultaneous. There is no absolute (i.e., frame independent) simultaneity.
But if tachyons exist, then you can send signals between the two observers faster than the speed of light. But then here’s the rub: that implies that relative to some reference frames, the tachyons will be going backward in time! For if there is no absolute simultaneity, some observers will draw the line of simultaneity between the two distant events in such a way that the tachyon is reflected back before it is even sent! Such behavior is pathological. This is what is in mind when it is said that faster than light particles would violate causality: an effect could occur (like the reception of a signal) before it is caused (the signal is sent).
The easiest and most natural way to avoid such pathological behavior is to say that the line of simultaneity drawn by the relatively moving observers is just wrong. The use of light signals to calculate simultaneity works only in the fundamental reference frame but not between relatively moving frames. In other words, Lorentz was right all along! If there do exist relations of absolute simultaneity, then there’s just no problem with faster than light signals. Indeed, if we had infinite velocity tachyons, we could use them to measure absolute simultaneity. The reason for the panic you sense in the press releases on the CERN results is that the scientists interviewed implicitly assume either an Einsteinian or Minkowskian interpretation of STR. But Lorentz would be rejoicing.
In fact, Lorentz himself predicted that something like this might happen. In 1913 he wrote,
According to Einstein it has no meaning to speak of motion relative to the aether. He likewise denies the existence of absolute simultaneity.
It is certainly remarkable that these relativity concepts, also those concerning time, have found such a rapid acceptance.
The acceptance of these concepts belongs mainly to epistemology . . . It is certain, however, that it depends to a large extent on the way one is accustomed to think whether one is attracted to one or another interpretation. As far as this lecturer is concerned, he finds a certain satisfaction in the older interpretations, according to which the aether possesses at least some substantiality, space and time can be sharply separated, and simultaneity without further specification can be spoken of. In regard to this last point, one may perhaps appeal to our ability of imagining arbitrarily large velocities. In that way, one comes very close to the concept of absolute simultaneity.
Finally, it should be noted that the daring assertion that one can never observe velocities larger than the velocity of light contains a hypothetical restriction of what is accessible to us, [a restriction] which cannot be accepted without some reservation.1
Here Lorentz clearly discerns the crucial role played by Einstein’s verificationist theory of meaning and rejects it. In defense of absolute simultaneity, he appeals to the use of arbitrarily fast signals, even though they were not presently observable. He quite rightly expresses caution about our never being able to detect empirically such superluminal velocities.
Lorentz’s interpretation, like the original Einsteinian interpretation, presupposes an A-Theory of time. But it enjoys the advantage over Einstein’s interpretation in making the physical deformations suffered by objects in motion relative to the fundamental frame intelligible.
I hope you’ll forgive the triumphalism of my title for this Question of the Week. Lorentz is one of my scientific heroes. The results obtained at CERN may not hold up. But I sure hope that they do.
1 H. A. Lorentz, A. Einstein, H. Minkowski Das Relativitätsprinzip, Fortschritte der mathematischen Wissenschaften 2, mit Anmerkungen von A. Sommerfeld und Vorwort von O. Blumenthal (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1920), p. 23 (Pais translation).
Four Myths about the Crusades Paul F. Crawford (from IR 46:1) – 04/21/11
This article appears in the Spring 2011 edition of theIntercollegiate Review. See the issue’s Table of Contents here.
In 2001, former president Bill Clinton delivered a speech at Georgetown University in which he discussed the West’s response to the recent terrorist attacks of September 11. The speech contained a short but significant reference to the crusades. Mr. Clinton observed that “when the Christian soldiers took Jerusalem [in 1099], they . . . proceeded to kill every woman and child who was Muslim on the Temple Mount.” He cited the “contemporaneous descriptions of the event” as describing “soldiers walking on the Temple Mount . . . with blood running up to their knees.” This story, Mr. Clinton said emphatically, was “still being told today in the Middle East and we are still paying for it.”
This view of the crusades is not unusual. It pervades textbooks as well as popular literature. One otherwise generally reliable Western civilization textbook claims that “the Crusades fused three characteristic medieval impulses: piety, pugnacity, and greed. All three were essential.”1 The film Kingdom of Heaven (2005) depicts crusaders as boorish bigots, the best of whom were torn between remorse for their excesses and lust to continue them. Even the historical supplements for role-playing games—drawing on supposedly more reliable sources—contain statements such as “The soldiers of the First Crusade appeared basically without warning, storming into the Holy Land with the avowed—literally—task of slaughtering unbelievers”;2 “The Crusades were an early sort of imperialism”;3 and “Confrontation with Islam gave birth to a period of religious fanaticism that spawned the terrible Inquisition and the religious wars that ravaged Europe during the Elizabethan era.”4The most famous semipopular historian of the crusades, Sir Steven Runciman, ended his three volumes of magnificent prose with the judgment that the crusades were “nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is the sin against the Holy Ghost.”5
The verdict seems unanimous. From presidential speeches to role-playing games, the crusades are depicted as a deplorably violent episode in which thuggish Westerners trundled off, unprovoked, to murder and pillage peace-loving, sophisticated Muslims, laying down patterns of outrageous oppression that would be repeated throughout subsequent history. In many corners of the Western world today, this view is too commonplace and apparently obvious even to be challenged.
But unanimity is not a guarantee of accuracy. What everyone “knows” about the crusades may not, in fact, be true. From the many popular notions about the crusades, let us pick four and see if they bear close examination.
Myth #1: The crusades represented an unprovoked attack by Western Christians on the Muslim world.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and even a cursory chronological review makes that clear. In a.d. 632, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, North Africa, Spain, France, Italy, and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica were all Christian territories. Inside the boundaries of the Roman Empire, which was still fully functional in the eastern Mediterranean, orthodox Christianity was the official, and overwhelmingly majority, religion. Outside those boundaries were other large Christian communities—not necessarily orthodox and Catholic, but still Christian. Most of the Christian population of Persia, for example, was Nestorian. Certainly there were many Christian communities in Arabia.
By a.d. 732, a century later, Christians had lost Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa, Spain, most of Asia Minor, and southern France. Italy and her associated islands were under threat, and the islands would come under Muslim rule in the next century. The Christian communities of Arabia were entirely destroyed in or shortly after 633, when Jews and Christians alike were expelled from the peninsula.6 Those in Persia were under severe pressure. Two-thirds of the formerly Roman Christian world was now ruled by Muslims.
What had happened? Most people actually know the answer, if pressed—though for some reason they do not usually connect the answer with the crusades. The answer is the rise of Islam. Every one of the listed regions was taken, within the space of a hundred years, from Christian control by violence, in the course of military campaigns deliberately designed to expand Muslim territory at the expense of Islam’s neighbors. Nor did this conclude Islam’s program of conquest. The attacks continued, punctuated from time to time by Christian attempts to push back. Charlemagne blocked the Muslim advance in far western Europe in about a.d. 800, but Islamic forces simply shifted their focus and began to island-hop across from North Africa toward Italy and the French coast, attacking the Italian mainland by 837. A confused struggle for control of southern and central Italy continued for the rest of the ninth century and into the tenth. In the hundred years between 850 and 950, Benedictine monks were driven out of ancient monasteries, the Papal States were overrun, and Muslim pirate bases were established along the coast of northern Italy and southern France, from which attacks on the deep inland were launched. Desperate to protect victimized Christians, popes became involved in the tenth and early eleventh centuries in directing the defense of the territory around them.
The surviving central secular authority in the Christian world at this time was the East Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. Having lost so much territory in the seventh and eighth centuries to sudden amputation by the Muslims, the Byzantines took a long time to gain the strength to fight back. By the mid-ninth century, they mounted a counterattack on Egypt, the first time since 645 that they had dared to come so far south. Between the 940s and the 970s, the Byzantines made great progress in recovering lost territories. Emperor John Tzimiskes retook much of Syria and part of Palestine, getting as far as Nazareth, but his armies became overextended and he had to end his campaigns by 975 without managing to retake Jerusalem itself. Sharp Muslim counterattacks followed, and the Byzantines barely managed to retain Aleppo and Antioch.
The struggle continued unabated into the eleventh century. In 1009, a mentally deranged Muslim ruler destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and mounted major persecutions of Christians and Jews. He was soon deposed, and by 1038 the Byzantines had negotiated the right to try to rebuild the structure, but other events were also making life difficult for Christians in the area, especially the displacement of Arab Muslim rulers by Seljuk Turks, who from 1055 on began to take control in the Middle East. This destabilized the territory and introduced new rulers (the Turks) who were not familiar even with the patchwork modus vivendi that had existed between most Arab Muslim rulers and their Christian subjects. Pilgrimages became increasingly difficult and dangerous, and western pilgrims began banding together and carrying weapons to protect themselves as they tried to make their way to Christianity’s holiest sites in Palestine: notable armed pilgrimages occurred in 1064–65 and 1087–91.
In the western and central Mediterranean, the balance of power was tipping toward the Christians and away from the Muslims. In 1034, the Pisans sacked a Muslim base in North Africa, finally extending their counterattacks across the Mediterranean. They also mounted counterattacks against Sicily in 1062–63. In 1087, a large-scale allied Italian force sacked Mahdia, in present-day Tunisia, in a campaign jointly sponsored by Pope Victor III and the countess of Tuscany. Clearly the Italian Christians were gaining the upper hand.
But while Christian power in the western and central Mediterranean was growing, it was in trouble in the east. The rise of the Muslim Turks had shifted the weight of military power against the Byzantines, who lost considerable ground again in the 1060s. Attempting to head off further incursions in far-eastern Asia Minor in 1071, the Byzantines suffered a devastating defeat at Turkish hands in the battle of Manzikert. As a result of the battle, the Christians lost control of almost all of Asia Minor, with its agricultural resources and military recruiting grounds, and a Muslim sultan set up a capital in Nicaea, site of the creation of the Nicene Creed in a.d. 325 and a scant 125 miles from Constantinople.
Desperate, the Byzantines sent appeals for help westward, directing these appeals primarily at the person they saw as the chief western authority: the pope, who, as we have seen, had already been directing Christian resistance to Muslim attacks. In the early 1070s, the pope was Gregory VII, and he immediately began plans to lead an expedition to the Byzantines’ aid. He became enmeshed in conflict with the German emperors, however (what historians call “the Investiture Controversy”), and was ultimately unable to offer meaningful help. Still, the Byzantines persisted in their appeals, and finally, in 1095, Pope Urban II realized Gregory VII’s desire, in what turned into the First Crusade. Whether a crusade was what either Urban or the Byzantines had in mind is a matter of some controversy. But the seamless progression of events which lead to that crusade is not.
Far from being unprovoked, then, the crusades actually represent the first great western Christian counterattack against Muslim attacks which had taken place continually from the inception of Islam until the eleventh century, and which continued on thereafter, mostly unabated. Three of Christianity’s five primary episcopal sees (Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria) had been captured in the seventh century; both of the others (Rome and Constantinople) had been attacked in the centuries before the crusades. The latter would be captured in 1453, leaving only one of the five (Rome) in Christian hands by 1500. Rome was again threatened in the sixteenth century. This is not the absence of provocation; rather, it is a deadly and persistent threat, and one which had to be answered by forceful defense if Christendom were to survive. The crusades were simply one tool in the defensive options exercised by Christians.
To put the question in perspective, one need only consider how many times Christian forces have attacked either Mecca or Medina. The answer, of course, is never.7
Myth #2: Western Christians went on crusade because their greed led them to plunder Muslims in order to get rich.
Again, not true. One version of Pope Urban II’s speech at Clermont in 1095 urging French warriors to embark on what would become known as the First Crusade does note that they might “make spoil of [the enemy’s] treasures,”8 but this was no more than an observation on the usual way of financing war in ancient and medieval society. And Fulcher of Chartres did write in the early twelfth century that those who had been poor in the West had become rich in the East as a result of their efforts on the First Crusade, obviously suggesting that others might do likewise.9 But Fulcher’s statement has to be read in its context, which was a chronic and eventually fatal shortage of manpower for the defense of the crusader states. Fulcher was not being entirely deceitful when he pointed out that one might become rich as a result of crusading. But he was not being entirely straightforward either, because for most participants, crusading was ruinously expensive.
As Fred Cazel has noted, “Few crusaders had sufficient cash both to pay their obligations at home and to support themselves decently on a crusade.”10 From the very beginning, financial considerations played a major role in crusade planning. The early crusaders sold off so many of their possessions to finance their expeditions that they caused widespread inflation. Although later crusaders took this into account and began saving money long before they set out, the expense was still nearly prohibitive. Despite the fact that money did not yet play a major role in western European economies in the eleventh century, there was “a heavy and persistent flow of money” from west to east as a result of the crusades, and the financial demands of crusading caused “profound economic and monetary changes in both western Europe and the Levant.”11
One of the chief reasons for the foundering of the Fourth Crusade, and its diversion to Constantinople, was the fact that it ran out of money before it had gotten properly started, and was so indebted to the Venetians that it found itself unable to keep control of its own destiny. Louis IX’s Seventh Crusade in the mid-thirteenth century cost more than six times the annual revenue of the crown.
The popes resorted to ever more desperate ploys to raise money to finance crusades, from instituting the first income tax in the early thirteenth century to making a series of adjustments in the way that indulgences were handled that eventually led to the abuses condemned by Martin Luther. Even by the thirteenth century, most crusade planners assumed that it would be impossible to attract enough volunteers to make a crusade possible, and crusading became the province of kings and popes, losing its original popular character. When the Hospitaller Master Fulk of Villaret wrote a crusade memo to Pope Clement V in about 1305, he noted that “it would be a good idea if the lord pope took steps enabling him to assemble a great treasure, without which such a passage [crusade] would be impossible.”12 A few years later, Marino Sanudo estimated that it would cost five million florins over two years to effect the conquest of Egypt. Although he did not say so, and may not have realized it, the sums necessary simply made the goal impossible to achieve. By this time, most responsible officials in the West had come to the same conclusion, which explains why fewer and fewer crusades were launched from the fourteenth century on.
In short: very few people became rich by crusading, and their numbers were dwarfed by those who were bankrupted. Most medieval people were quite well aware of this, and did not consider crusading a way to improve their financial situations.13
Myth #3: Crusaders were a cynical lot who did not really believe their own religious propaganda; rather, they had ulterior, materialistic motives.
This has been a very popular argument, at least from Voltaire on. It seems credible and even compelling to modern people, steeped as they are in materialist worldviews. And certainly there were cynics and hypocrites in the Middle Ages—beneath the obvious differences of technology and material culture, medieval people were just as human as we are, and subject to the same failings.
However, like the first two myths, this statement is generally untrue, and demonstrably so. For one thing, the casualty rates on the crusades were usually very high, and many if not most crusaders left expecting not to return. At least one military historian has estimated the casualty rate for the First Crusade at an appalling 75 percent, for example.14 The statement of the thirteenth-century crusader Robert of Crésèques, that he had “come from across the sea in order to die for God in the Holy Land”15—which was quickly followed by his death in battle against overwhelming odds—may have been unusual in its force and swift fulfillment, but it was not an atypical attitude. It is hard to imagine a more conclusive way of proving one’s dedication to a cause than sacrificing one’s life for it, and very large numbers of crusaders did just that.
But this assertion is also revealed to be false when we consider the way in which the crusades were preached. Crusaders were not drafted. Participation was voluntary, and participants had to be persuaded to go. The primary means of persuasion was the crusade sermon, and one might expect to find these sermons representing crusading as profoundly appealing.
This is, generally speaking, not the case. In fact, the opposite is true: crusade sermons were replete with warnings that crusading brought deprivation, suffering, and often death. That this was the reality of crusading was well known anyway. As Jonathan Riley-Smith has noted, crusade preachers “had to persuade their listeners to commit themselves to enterprises that would disrupt their lives, possibly impoverish and even kill or maim them, and inconvenience their families, the support of which they would . . . need if they were to fulfill their promises.”16
So why did the preaching work? It worked because crusading was appealing preciselybecause it was a known and significant hardship, and because undertaking a crusade with the right motives was understood as an acceptable penance for sin. Far from being a materialistic enterprise, crusading was impractical in worldly terms, but valuable for one’s soul. There is no space here to explore the doctrine of penance as it developed in the late antique and medieval worlds, but suffice it to say that the willing acceptance of difficulty and suffering was viewed as a useful way to purify one’s soul (and still is, in Catholic doctrine today). Crusading was the near-supreme example of such difficult suffering, and so was an ideal and very thorough-going penance.
Related to the concept of penance is the concept of crusading as an act of selfless love, of “laying down one’s life for one’s friends.”17 From the very beginning, Christian charity was advanced as a reason for crusading, and this did not change throughout the period. Jonathan Riley-Smith discussed this aspect of crusading in a seminal article well-known to crusade historians but inadequately recognized in the wider scholarly world, let alone by the general public. “For Christians . . . sacred violence,” noted Riley-Smith,
cannot be proposed on any grounds save that of love, . . . [and] in an age dominated by the theology of merit this explains why participation in crusades was believed to be meritorious, why the expeditions were seen as penitential acts that could gain indulgences, and why death in battle was regarded as martyrdom. . . . As manifestations of Christian love, the crusades were as much the products of the renewed spirituality of the central Middle Ages, with its concern for living the vita apostolica and expressing Christian ideals in active works of charity, as were the new hospitals, the pastoral work of the Augustinians and Premonstratensians and the service of the friars. The charity of St. Francis may now appeal to us more than that of the crusaders, but both sprang from the same roots.18
As difficult as it may be for modern people to believe, the evidence strongly suggests that most crusaders were motivated by a desire to please God, expiate their sins, and put their lives at the service of their “neighbors,” understood in the Christian sense.
Myth #4: The crusades taught Muslims to hate and attack Christians.
Part of the answer to this myth may be found above, under Myth #1. Muslims had been attacking Christians for more than 450 years before Pope Urban declared the First Crusade. They needed no incentive to continue doing so. But there is a more complicated answer here, as well.
Up until quite recently, Muslims remembered the crusades as an instance in which they had beaten back a puny western Christian attack. An illuminating vignette is found in one of Lawrence of Arabia’s letters, describing a confrontation during post–World War I negotiations between the Frenchman Stéphen Pichon and Faisal al-Hashemi (later Faisal I of Iraq). Pichon presented a case for French interest in Syria going back to the crusades, which Faisal dismissed with a cutting remark: “But, pardon me, which of us won the crusades?”19
This was generally representative of the Muslim attitude toward the crusades before about World War I—that is, when Muslims bothered to remember them at all, which was not often. Most of the Arabic-language historical writing on the crusades before the mid-nineteenth century was produced by Arab Christians, not Muslims, and most of that was positive.20There was no Arabic word for “crusades” until that period, either, and even then the coiners of the term were, again, Arab Christians. It had not seemed important to Muslims to distinguish the crusades from other conflicts between Christianity and Islam.21
Nor had there been an immediate reaction to the crusades among Muslims. As Carole Hillenbrand has noted, “The Muslim response to the coming of the Crusades was initially one of apathy, compromise and preoccupation with internal problems.”22 By the 1130s, a Muslim counter-crusade did begin, under the leadership of the ferocious Zengi of Mosul. But it had taken some decades for the Muslim world to become concerned about Jerusalem, which is usually held in higher esteem by Muslims when it is not held by them than when it is. Action against the crusaders was often subsequently pursued as a means of uniting the Muslim world behind various aspiring conquerors, until 1291, when the Christians were expelled from the Syrian mainland. And—surprisingly to Westerners—it was not Saladin who was revered by Muslims as the great anti-Christian leader. That place of honor usually went to the more bloodthirsty, and more successful, Zengi and Baibars, or to the more public-spirited Nur al-Din.
The first Muslim crusade history did not appear until 1899. By that time, the Muslim world was rediscovering the crusades—but it was rediscovering them with a twist learned from Westerners. In the modern period, there were two main European schools of thought about the crusades. One school, epitomized by people like Voltaire, Gibbon, and Sir Walter Scott, and in the twentieth century Sir Steven Runciman, saw the crusaders as crude, greedy, aggressive barbarians who attacked civilized, peace-loving Muslims to improve their own lot. The other school, more romantic and epitomized by lesser-known figures such as the French writer Joseph-François Michaud, saw the crusades as a glorious episode in a long-standing struggle in which Christian chivalry had driven back Muslim hordes. In addition, Western imperialists began to view the crusaders as predecessors, adapting their activities in a secularized way that the original crusaders would not have recognized or found very congenial.
At the same time, nationalism began to take root in the Muslim world. Arab nationalists borrowed the idea of a long-standing European campaign against them from the former European school of thought—missing the fact that this was a serious mischaracterization of the crusades—and using this distorted understanding as a way to generate support for their own agendas. This remained the case until the mid-twentieth century, when, in Riley-Smith’s words, “a renewed and militant Pan-Islamism” applied the more narrow goals of the Arab nationalists to a worldwide revival of what was then called Islamic fundamentalism and is now sometimes referred to, a bit clumsily, as jihadism.23 This led rather seamlessly to the rise of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, offering a view of the crusades so bizarre as to allow bin Laden to consider all Jews to be crusaders and the crusades to be a permanent and continuous feature of the West’s response to Islam.
Bin Laden’s conception of history is a feverish fantasy. He is no more accurate in his view about the crusades than he is about the supposed perfect Islamic unity which he thinks Islam enjoyed before the baleful influence of Christianity intruded. But the irony is that he, and those millions of Muslims who accept his message, received that message originally from their perceived enemies: the West.
So it was not the crusades that taught Islam to attack and hate Christians. Far from it. Those activities had preceded the crusades by a very long time, and stretch back to the inception of Islam. Rather, it was the West which taught Islam to hate the crusades. The irony is rich.
Back to the Present
Let us return to President Clinton’s Georgetown speech. How much of his reference to the First Crusade was accurate?
It is true that many Muslims who had surrendered and taken refuge under the banners of several of the crusader lords—an act which should have granted them quarter—were massacred by out-of-control troops. This was apparently an act of indiscipline, and the crusader lords in question are generally reported as having been extremely angry about it, since they knew it reflected badly on them.24 To imply—or plainly state—that this was an act desired by the entire crusader force, or that it was integral to crusading, is misleading at best. In any case, John France has put it well: “This notorious event should not be exaggerated. . . . However horrible the massacre . . . it was not far beyond what common practice of the day meted out to any place which resisted.”25 And given space, one could append a long and bloody list, stretching back to the seventh century, of similar actions where Muslims were the aggressors and Christians the victims. Such a list would not, however, have served Mr. Clinton’s purposes.
Mr. Clinton was probably using Raymond of Aguilers when he referred to “blood running up to [the] knees” of crusaders.26 But the physics of such a claim are impossible, as should be apparent. Raymond was plainly both bragging and also invoking the imagery of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation.27 He was not offering a factual account, and probably did not intend the statement to be taken as such.
As for whether or not we are “still paying for it,” see Myth #4, above. This is the most serious misstatement of the whole passage. What we are paying for is not the First Crusade, but western distortions of the crusades in the nineteenth century which were taught to, and taken up by, an insufficiently critical Muslim world.
The problems with Mr. Clinton’s remarks indicate the pitfalls that await those who would attempt to explicate ancient or medieval texts without adequate historical awareness, and they illustrate very well what happens when one sets out to pick through the historical record for bits—distorted or merely selectively presented—which support one’s current political agenda. This sort of abuse of history has been distressingly familiar where the crusades are concerned.
But nothing is served by distorting the past for our own purposes. Or rather: a great many things may be served . . . but not the truth. Distortions and misrepresentations of the crusades will not help us understand the challenge posed to the West by a militant and resurgent Islam, and failure to understand that challenge could prove deadly. Indeed, it already has. It may take a very long time to set the record straight about the crusades. It is long past time to begin the task.
Warren Hollister, J. Sears McGee, and Gale Stokes, The West Transformed: A History of Western Civilization, vol. 1 (New York: Cengage/Wadsworth, 2000), 311.
R. Scott Peoples, Crusade of Kings (Rockville, MD: Wildside, 2009), 7.
The Crusades: Campaign Sourcebook, ed. Allen Varney (Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994), 2.
Sir Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades: Vol. III, The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1954), 480.
Francesco Gabrieli, The Arabs: A Compact History, trans. Salvator Attanasio (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1963), 47.
Reynald of Châtillon’s abortive expedition into the Red Sea, in 1182–83, cannot be counted, as it was plainly a geopolitical move designed to threaten Saladin’s claim to be the protector of all Islam, and just as plainly had no hope of reaching either city.
“The Version of Baldric of Dol,” in The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and other source materials, 2nd ed., ed. Edward Peters (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), 32.
Fred Cazel, “Financing the Crusades,” in A History of the Crusades, ed. Kenneth Setton, vol. 6 (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989), 117.
John Porteous, “Crusade Coinage with Greek or Latin Inscriptions,” in A History of the Crusades, 354.
“A memorandum by Fulk of Villaret, master of the Hospitallers, on the crusade to regain the Holy Land, c. 1305,” in Documents on the Later Crusades, 1274–1580, ed. and trans. Norman Housley (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), 42.
Norman Housley, “Costing the Crusade: Budgeting for Crusading Activity in the Fourteenth Century,” in The Experience of Crusading, ed. Marcus Bull and Norman Housley, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 59.
John France, Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 142. Not all historians agree; Jonathan Riley-Smith thinks it was probably lower, though he does not indicate just how much lower. See Riley-Smith, “Casualties and Knights on the First Crusade,” Crusades 1 (2002), 17–19, suggesting casualties of perhaps 34 percent, higher than those of the Wehrmacht in World War II, which were themselves very high at about 30 percent. By comparison, American losses in World War II in the three major service branches ranged between about 1.5 percent and 3.66 percent.
The ‘Templar of Tyre’: Part III of the ‘Deeds of the Cypriots,’ trans. Paul F. Crawford (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003), §351, 54.
Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 36.
Jonathan Riley-Smith, “Crusading as an Act of Love,” History 65 (1980), 191–92.
Letter from T. E. Lawrence to Robert Graves, 28 June 1927, in Robert Graves and B. H. Liddell-Hart, T. E. Lawrence to His Biographers (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1938), 52, note.
Riley-Smith, The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam, 71.
Jonathan Riley-Smith, “Islam and the Crusades in History,” Crusades 2 (2003), 161.
Carole Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives, (New York: Routledge, 2000), 20.
Riley-Smith, Crusading, Christianity, and Islam, 73.
There is some disagreement in the primary sources on the question of who was responsible for the deaths of these refugees; the crusaders knew that a large Egyptian army was on its way to attack them, and there does seem to have been a military decision a day or two later that they simply could not risk leaving potential enemies alive. On the question of the massacre, see Benjamin Kedar, “The Jerusalem Massacre of July 1099 in the Western Historiography of the Crusades,”Crusades 3 (2004), 15–75.
France, Victory in the East, 355–56.
Raymond of Aguilers, in August C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eye-witnesses and Participants (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1921), 262.
“We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy’s line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects–with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way round. Our Faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defence of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian.”
– C.S. Lewis
God in the Dock, p. 93. [HT:TM]
Hat tip to Apologetics315.com.
‘This is the 1st free-speech victory for the Intelligent Design movement’
Posted: August 30, 2011
9:06 pm Eastern
The state-run California Science Center has agreed to pay $110,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging it had censored a two-film debate from its IMAX theater after it learned one of the films would advocate Intelligent Design.
As WND reported, the American Freedom Alliance in October 2009 had rented the CSC’s theater to show two films, one supporting evolutionary theory and one supporting Intelligent Design theory.
But after the CSC canceled the event – allegedly because of pressure from within the academic community – the AFA filed a lawsuit asserting the CSC had not only breached its contract but also violated the AFA’s First Amendment, free speech rights.
See just how far academia will go to squash Intelligent Design in “Expelled,” the blazing hot documentary that got the country talking!
As part of the settlement, the CSC must now not only pay the AFA $110,000 but also publicly invite the group to return to show “Darwin’s Dilemma,” the film that first caused the controversy two years ago.
“This is the first free speech victory for the Intelligent Design movement,” commented William J. Becker Jr. of The Becker Law Firm, counsel for AFA. “It represents an acknowledgement that a state-owned science institution sought to censor an event solely because it related to the topic of Intelligent Design. Those who find Intelligent Design credible have the same the constitutionally protected free speech rights as anyone else.”
Intelligent Design challenges the fundamental foundation of evolutionary theory, arguing the complexities of life bear evidence of a designer.
The AFA had originally planned to spark debate on the topic by showing the pro-evolution film “We Are Born of Stars” as well as “Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record,” which argues against evolution by questioning the absence of any fossil record predating the Cambrian period.
The AFA’s lawsuit claimed the science center’s CEO “was pressured to cancel the event by colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Southern California, the Huntington Library and elsewhere.”
But as a state agency, the lawsuit said, the CSC is not allowed to “suppress legitimate discussion.”
“Certain museum officials and their cronies in academia and throughout the scientific community are part of a subtle but effective movement to marginalize a scientific theory that challenges their worldview,” said Becker at the time.
“The public should be allowed to make up its own mind whether Intelligent Design has any merit,” he said. “Any time public officials stand in the way of legitimate debate, they reveal their hostility toward intellectual freedom, which the Constitution is designed to safeguard.”
Read more: Science center settles lawsuit over ‘Darwin’s Dilemma’ http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=339237#ixzz1X2n4brsN
In a word, “no!”, but this falsehood has persisted due largely to statements they made at other times in their lives. And because the concept of “original intent [of the author(s) and at the time of writing]” is the only valid interpretive philosophy in determining the meaning of contracts, constitutions, charters, declarations, bylaws and other legal documents, this is the only point in time that matters to this question.
The fact that they were not Deists when they participated in and wrote these documents is easy to prove. Let’s start with the definition of Deism:
Entry from World dictionary
belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe.
Notice that this Deity, in contrast to the Christian God, does not intervene in the universe. A Deity who answers prayer, intervenes in creation, and creates abstract (invisible but discernible) rights that we can perceive and which are inalienable, cannot be the Deity of Deism.
Thomas Jefferson wrote our Declaration of Independence. He wrote four references to God into the document:
“..the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them…”. Here God is mentioned as the Maker of the laws of nature, and of mankind’s entitlements within those laws. This makes him a legislator and shows that Jefferson cannot be referring to the god of Deism. Within Deism, no one could ever know if one had such entitlements, nor would that Deity have any reason to create such entitlements in the first place.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Here God is mentioned as The Creator who endows us with certain rights; not the detached creator from Deism.
“…appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…” Here He’s mentioned as the Supreme Judge of the world, to Whom we can appeal. This cannot be the god of Deism who has not expressed laws to mankind, with whom we cannot communicate, and to whom we cannot appeal.
“…with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Here Jefferson mentioned a God who protects through divine providence (sustaining guidance and/or care)– which makes him an executive, and which cannot be the uninvolved god of Deism.
Other fun Jefferson quotes:
“To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is SINFUL [emphasis mine] and tyrannical.”
“The only foundation for useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion.”
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
“To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others…”
“I consider the doctrines of Jesus as delivered by himself to contain the outlines of the sublimest system of morality that has ever been taught but I hold in the most profound detestation and execration the corruptions of it which have been invented…”
As President, Thomas Jefferson not only signed bills which appropriated financial support for chaplains in Congress and in the armed services, but he also signed the Articles of War, April 10, 1806, in which he:
“Earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers, diligently to attend divine services.”
“A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian; that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”
“I have always said, I always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands.”
Jefferson declared that religion is: “Deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.”
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
Benjamin Franklin’s address to the constitutional convention and President Washington as they encountered challenges in crafting our Constitution in 1787:
“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth–that God Governs the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?
“We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
“I therefore beg leave to move–that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”
This address has several scriptural references, as well as presupposing that God “intervenes in the affairs of men. Obviously this is not the deity of Deism that Benjamin is referring to.
In 1748, as Pennsylvania’s Governor, Benjamin Franklin proposed Pennsylvania’s first Fast Day:
“It is the duty of mankind on all suitable occasions to acknowledge their dependence on the Divine Being… [that] Almighty God would mercifully interpose and still the rage of war among the nations…[and that] He would take this province under his protection, confound the designs and defeat the attempts of its enemies, and unite our hearts and strengthen our hands in every undertaking that may be for the public good, and for our defense and security in this time of danger.”
“I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that he made the world, and governed it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded either here or hereafter.
“Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.
“The pleasures of this world are rather from God’s goodness than our own merit.”
Benjamin Franklin, in July of 1776, was appointed part of a committee to draft a seal for the newly united states which would characterize the spirit of this new nation. He proposed:
“Moses lifting up his wand, and dividing the Red Sea, and Pharaoh in his chariot overwhelmed with the waters. This motto: ‘Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”
“A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district–all studied and appreciated as they merit–are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.”
Ben Franklin wrote a pamphlet called, “Information to Those who would Remove to America.” It was intended to be a guide for Europeans who were thinking of relocating in America. In it he said:
“Hence bad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be comfortable consideration to parents. To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practiced.
“Atheism is unknown there; Infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel.
“And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutual forbearance and kindness with which the different sects treat each other; by the remarkable prosperity with which he has been pleased to favor the whole country.”
“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That he ought to be worshipped.”
Benjamin Franklin wrote his own epitaph:
“THE BODY of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN Printer
Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents torn out,
And stripped of its lettering and gilding
Lies here, food for worms;
Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
For it will (as he believed) appear once more,
In a new,
And more beautiful edition,
Corrected and amended
By the AUTHOR”
Now just for fun, let’s look at some quotes by the primary author of our constitution, James Madison:
“Cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”
“Religion [is] the basis and Foundation of Government.”
“It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage….Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.”
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
And how about a few more from our first President, and President of the constitutional convention, George Washington:
“The thing that separates the American Christian from every other person on earth is the fact that he would rather die on his feet, than live on his knees!”
From Washington’s First Inaugural address (the audience included the constitution’s creators):
“I hope that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality. The preeminence of free government exemplifies by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world.”
“…it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes….”
“The General orders this day to be religiously observed by the forces under his Command, exactly in manner directed by the Continental Congress. It is therefore strictly enjoined on all officers and soldiers to attend Divine service, And it is expected that all those who go to worship do take their arms, ammunition and accoutrements, and are prepared for immediate action, if called upon.”
“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them.
“The fate of unborn millions will now depend. under God, on the courage of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore to resolve to conquer or die.”
“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to laud the more distinguished Character of Christian.”
“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States.”
October 3, 1789, National Day of Thanksgiving:
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor….
“Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these United States…
“that we then may all unite unto him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection ofthe people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war;
“for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed….
“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions…to promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion and virtue….
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd of October, A.D. 1789”
George Washington’s personal prayer book, consisting of 24 pages in his field notebook, written in his own handwriting, reveal the depth of his character:
“SUNDAY MORNING….Almighty God, and most merciful Father, who didst command the children of Israel to offer a daily sacrifice to Thee, that thereby they might glorify and praise Thee for Thy protection both night and day, receive O Lord, my morning sacrifice which I now offer up to thee;
“I yield Thee humble and hearty thanks, that Thou hast preserved me from the dangers of the night past and brought me to the Light of this day, and the comfort thereof, a day which is consecrated to Thine own service and for Thine own honour.
“Let my heart therefore gracious God be so affected with the glory and majesty of it, that I may not do mine own works but wait on Thee, and discharge those weighty duties Thou required of me: and since Thou art a God of pure eyes, and will be sanctified in all who draw nearer to Thee, who dost not regard the sacrifice of fools, nor hear sinners who tread in Thy courts, pardon I beseech Thee, my sins, remove them from Thy presence, as far as the east is from the west, and accept of me for the merits of Thy son Jesus Christ, that when I come into Thy temple and compass Thine altar, my prayer may come before Thee as incense, and as I desire Thou wouldst hear me calling upon Thee in my prayers, so give me peace to hear the calling on me in Thy word, that it may be wisdom, righteousness, reconciliation and peace to the saving of my soul in the day ofthe Lord Jesus.
“Grant that I may hear it with reverence, receive it with meekness, mingle it with faith, and that it may accomplish in me gracious God, the good work for which Thou hast sent it.
“Bless my family, kindred, friends and country, be our God and guide this day and forever for His sake, who lay down in the grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
“It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe, without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being.”
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens.”
(this could use another edit, but as it is, it’s fairly thought-provoking)
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30 NIV
The Supreme Example of Christ
The Use of Objective Evidence
If Jesus, God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, used objective evidence to validate His claims, a fortiori, how much more so for you and me!
John 10:30-31-32-33, 37-38
The Use of Reason (Argumentation)
Argument from analogy (vv. 25-26)
The law of logical or rational inference (v. 26)
Reductio ad absurdum (vv. 25-26)
Argument from analogy (v. 27)
The law of logical or rational inference (vv. 28, 29)
Argument from analogy (v. 29)
The law of contradiction (v. 30)
The law of excluded middle (v. 30)
The Use of Objective Evidence:
Peter: Acts 2:14-32-39; 3:6-16; 4:8-14-20
Paul: Acts 26:26; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
The Appeal to Objective Eyewitness Testimony:Luke 1:2-4; John 1:14; 19:35-36; 20:24, 30-31; Acts 1:1-3; 3:6-16; 4:8-14-20; 9:3-8, 17;
22:6-9; 14; 26:12-18-26; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1-3, and so forth
Dialegomai is the Greek word used in the above passages.
Dialegomai: to argue, dispute, or reason. BAG: “discuss, conduct a discussion…of lectures which were likely to end in disputations….” Vine’s: “`to think different things with oneself, to ponder’; then, with other persons, `to converse, argue, dispute’”… “`to dispute with others…’” (see Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8-9; Jude 9).
Like Considering or Weighing the Evidence of the Worth of One Truck against Another: Feature by Feature (4 vs 5 Speed, Horsepower, Seats, Stereo, Dollar Per Dollar)
The Value of the GOD Given Mind
Isaiah 1:18; Mark 12:29-31; Acts 26:25
We are created in the imago Dei–the image of God. This includes, among other attributes, the ability to reason.
Thus, this entails the value of evidence and reason. As Charles Hodge informs us:”If the contents of the Bible did not correspond with the truths which God has revealed in his external works and the constitution of our nature, it could not be received as coming from Him, for God cannot contradict himself. Nothing, therefore, can be more derogatory to the Bible than the assertion that its doctrines are contrary to reason. The assumption that reason and faith are incompatible; that we must become irrational in order to become believers is, however it may be intended, the language of infidelity; for faith in the irrational is of necessity itself irrational….We can believe only what we know, i.e., what we intelligently apprehend.”1
Uses of Logic/Reason
Ministerial Use of Reason. This is the use of logic/reason as a servant or “handmaid” to the Bible and theology. Logic/reason is not put on par with or above the Bible, but stands in a subordinate role to God’s revelation. This is the role of reason that I am advocating.
Magisterial Use of Reason. This is the placing of logic/reason on par with or actually above the Bible. Here logic/reason (that of the individual or a group) is allegedly the final judge, arbitrator, or authority of truth. This is not the role of reason that I am advocating. This is an incorrect use–abuse–of reason.
Anti-Intellectual. This is the position of depreciating or out-right denying the role of reason/logic in apologetics and other concerns of Christianity. Unfortunately, this is the view that many Christians, intentionally or not, advocate.
God gave us a mind and He expects us to use it (Mark 12:29-31)
It is not true that the mind is a terrible thing, “so waste it.”
The emotional nature of mankind is just as fallen as the intellect. Thus, we should not exalt it relating to conversion either.
If we are going to glorify God as Christians and in sharing the Gospel with others, we must not ignore or in an unscriptural manner down-play the importance of the mind in the preaching of the Gospel.
This is in actuality a form of false humility or false spirituality, and should be denounced for what it is–unscriptural and dishonoring to God!
Before we proceed any further, we should define the term logic.
“Logic is the study of the methods and principles used to distinguish good (correct) from bad (incorrect) reasoning.”2
It is the study of the laws or principles of thought or reason, that is not just mere thought or thinking per se, but of the type of thought or thinking we term reasoning. Irving Copi states that “The distinction between correct and incorrect reasoning is the central problem with which logic deals.”3
Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks tell us that “Logic is the study of right reason or valid inferences and the attending fallacies, formal and informal“4 (emphasis in original).
The Nature and Necessity of Logic. Logic is undeniable, unavoidable, self-evident, or self-explanatory. One cannot not use it. One has to use it to refute it. All such claims are self-contradictory defeating, refuting, or self-stultifying. The four laws or principles of logic/reason are invaluable! We need to know and correctly use logic. We must train ourselves, our children, and the church to properly use logic.
The Undeniableness of Logic. For all of people’s rhetoric against logic, one cannot not use logic. It is impossible to think or engage in any type of coherent dialogue and not use logic. The laws or principles of logic are what are termed first principles–first principles of epistemology. Logic is indispensable for at least five reasons.
The primary principles or laws of logic/reason are first principles of epistemology.
Peter Angeles states, among other things, that first principles are “Statements (laws, reasons, rules) that are self-evident and/or fundamental to the explanation of a system and upon which the system depends for consistency and coherence.”5
That is, there is no getting “behind” or “around them.”
They are axiomatic or self-evident.
That is, we cannot not use them (see points 2 and 3).
Second, the very distinction between true or false or applicable or not only exists or has meaning if logic is true or applicable. Without logic (e.g., the law of non-contradiction) there would be no such thing or concept of true or false. Thus, there could be no true or false statements in the first place, such as logic is not true or it is false that it is applicable to a given topic. This is because the law of (non-)contradiction “…itself draws the line between true and false. So we can’t call it false without assuming that it is true (Geisler and Brooks, 16)” The same holds true with the other laws of logic. As Geisler and Brooks tell us:Logic is built on four undeniable laws. There is no “getting behind” these laws to explain them. They are self-evident and self-explanatory. There is also no way around them. In order to reject any of these statements, one must assume the very principle he seeks to deny. But if you must assume that something is true to say that it is false, you haven’t got a very good case, have you?For example, the law of non-contradiction (A is not non-A) says that no two contradictory statements can both be true at the same time and in the same sense. Now, if someone tried to deny this and said, “The law of non-contradiction is false,” he would have a problem. Without the law of noncontradiction, there is no such thing as true or false, because this law itself draws the line between true and false. So we can’t call it false without assuming that it is true. The same thing happens when someone tries to deny the other laws: the law of identity (A is A), the law of excluded middle (either A or non-A), and the law of rational inference (emphasis in original).6
Third, furthermore, a statement’s meaningfulness (let alone significance or truthfulness) depends upon logic. If logic is not true, or applicable to the topic at hand then the statement is meaningless. A statements very meaning or meaningfulness exists only because logic is true or applicable. Otherwise the statement could or would be both true and not true or applicable and not applicable, since it would no longer be true that statements can not be both true and not true (false) in the same time and sense. Both are now true or applicable since a statement can be both true and not true (false) at the same time and in the same sense. Thus, one could just as well say that “logic is true or applicable to the topic at hand” in the same breath as the previous statement, or “I will see you Wednesday and I will not see you Wednesday,” etc. Thus, to deny logic or state that it is not true or applicable only has meaning if logic does apply to the original statement. But this refutes the original claim. Thus, any statement or claim only have meaning, a fortiori significance or truthfulness, if and only if logic does apply or is true. Thus, the claim that “logic is not true or applicable” is meaningless unless logic is true, but in that case the original claim is false, indeed, self-defeating.
Fourth, to deny or try to disprove the need for, necessity of, or truth of logic one must first utilize it, thus disproving their original assertion. One has to use logic to try to disprove, refute, or even deny it. If one must use logic in the effort to refute it, then the argument is self-evidently not true. One has only proven its truthfulness or applicability (ironically in the very attempt to refute it).
To deny logic or say that it is false or not true or applicable to a certain topic entails the use of logic in the very assertion itself (thus, it is true or applicable). This is like a person who says, “I can not utter a word in English.” But, they just did. They should either quit speaking English or retract the original statement. The original statement is false, indeed self-defeating.
Further examples of these types of claims:
“Logic is not applicable to this topic.”
“This topic, view, or realm is `beyond’ logic.” The idea is that logic’s reach simply does not extend to the topic.
“This is just a case of the Eastern versus Western or Aristotelian bias or perspective on logic.” The idea is that one is insisting on a Western worldview perspective, while ignoring or to the detriment of an Eastern or occultic view.
“This is the mundane versus `spiritual’ perspective.”
“This is merely the emotions versus the realm of rationality or logic.”
“This is the altered versus normal states of consciousness viewpoint.”
“This is a case of this plane versus other planes or levels of reality or existence.”
“This is only a case of this level versus other levels of meaning.”
“Logic is not true.”
This is a modern versus a postmodern perspective.
All these claims are based upon logic in the first place.
Logic is undeniable; one cannot not use it.
Thus, to deny logic or assert that logic is not true (i.e., false) or applicable is itself based upon logic. The statement or distinction itself is built or predicated upon logic. Logic had to be employed to formulate the assertion. The statement “logic does not apply” involves the distinction of “logic does not apply,” versus “logic does apply.” However, it is possible to make this distinction itself only because of the laws of logic. Therefore, logic is–must be–true or does apply. But, this is self-refuting or refutes the original claim.
Fifth, one cannot not use logic in the real world. Try driving to the grocery store while denying the validity of logic. (Indeed, what grocery store? The one that is and is not there?) One can not successfully cross the railroad tracks without it. Next time you’re at the railroad crossing with an apparent train speeding down the line imagine thinking that the train is there and it is not there. Would you? No! Try this in the “real” world. Logic is necessary or indispensable in or for life. One literally can not live (long) without it!
Example: Francis Schaeffer, the Hindu student, and the teapot….
Example: The Christian Scientist who tries to hand you a book that is not there….
Example: the Hindu or Christian Scientist who looks both ways before crossing the street….Why do they look both ways before crossing the street?
All attempts to deny or refute logic fail. They are false (indeed, are meaningless or nonsensical), self-contradictory, or self-stultifying assertions.
Terms for a statement or proposition that does not fulfill or satisfy itself–its own criteria or requirements (of acceptability)7 include: self-defeating, self-refuting, self-stultifying, self-referential absurdity or self-referentially absurd.
Examples of self-refuting claims include:
A person saying “I do and do not believe in logic” or “logic is and is not true” (at the same time and in the same sense).
A person “saying I am and am not an atheist.”
A person who claims that they “do and do not hold to postmodernism” or “do and do not believe that postmodernism is true.”
A person saying “I am and am not a New Ager” or “I am and am not a neopagan.
A person saying “I am and am not a Christian.”
A person saying “Jesus is and is not God” (the second person of the Trinity).
The previous absurd claims are logically and ontologically equivalent to the following ones:
A person who believes in “square circles.”
A person writing “I cannot write a word in English.”
A person saying “all the statements I make are false.”
A person claiming that “all sentences that contain over five words are false.”
A person stating that “I will only believe what can be proved by the scientific method!”
A person saying “my brother is an only child.”
Ronald Nash notes: “…a denial of logic has consequences not only for epistemology and metaphysics, but for ethics as well. If all predications are true, there is no difference between walking to a nearby city and walking over a cliff; there is no difference between drinking milk and imbibing arsenic. But obviously there is a difference.”8
Thus, if logic is not true or transculturally applicable then now A can be non-A at the same time and in the same sense and hence, for example, the postmodern’s position is now the same as the orthodox Christian’s. Or, the postmodernist does not hold to postmodernism. But, even the postmodernist does believe this. They, in this case rightly, would assert, that their view is not our view–that is why we would be having a discussion with them in the first place. Nor would they affirm that they do and do not hold to the premises of postmodernism. This is absurd, but this is what follows if one denies the universal applicability and truthfulness of logic. By God’s grace, we must try and help the postmodernist and others who deny the universal validity of logic see the implications of their views.
Logic is the straitjacket of life for those who argue insanely or, at least mentally, refuse to live in the real world!
One can not even cross the street, let alone the metaphysical highway without using logic.
Logic is indispensable–period. Moreover, it is an invaluable tool for dismantling non-Christian views. We must know logic and become competent in using it.
The Three Cs of Logic:We cannot comprehend, let alone confirm, let alone conform our thoughts and lives to God’s revelation without the use of Logic.
Comprehension (or to Apprehend)If a person can not apprehend the content of the Gospel, then certainly they can not
understand it, and a fortiori they can not believe in it!
Illogical or self-contradictory statements and beliefs are incomprehensible in the sense that they are nonsensical. Nonsensical assertion are not to be believed, whether religious or “secular.” They are to be seen and rejected for what they are–nonsense.
It follows therefore that reason and logic are necessary for intelligible and reasonable propositions, which are a necessary precondition for the communication of truth to individuals. Truth must be logical so as to presented to a person’s mind as intelligible thoughts, so that they might be embraced or rejected. As Charles Hodge so precisely stated it: In the first place, reason is necessarily presupposed in every revelation. Revelation is the communication of truth to the mind. But the communication of truth supposes the capacity to receive it. Revelation cannot be made to brutes or idiots. Truths, to be received as objects of faith, must be intellectually apprehended…The first and indispensable office of reason, therefore, in matters of faith, is the cognition, or
intelligent apprehension of the truths proposed for our reception.9
Since God does not contradict Himself, or ask us to believe contradictions or that which is inherently self-contradictory (see e.g., 1 Tim. 6:20), revelations from Him will not contradict previously given revelations, or the sound reasoning processes necessary to even comprehend these revelations. Hodge informs us: “If the contents of the Bible did not correspond with the truths which God has revealed in his external works and the constitution of our nature, it could not be received as coming from Him, for God cannot contradict himself. Nothing, therefore, can be more derogatory to the Bible than the assertion that its doctrines are contrary to reason. The assumption
that reason and faith are incompatible; that we must become irrational in order to become believers is, however it may be intended, the language of infidelity; for faith in the irrational is of necessity itself irrational….We can believe only what we know, i.e., what we intelligently apprehend.”10
Thus, in one sense, reason is accorded the purgative to judge the trustworthiness of an alleged revelation. That is, before an alleged revelation from God should be accepted, we need to first discern that it is in fact from Him. Again, Hodge has written definitively on the topic:It is impossible that He should require us to believe what contradicts any of the laws of belief which He has impressed upon our nature [i.e., the laws of thought or logic11]…Faith includes an affirmation of the mind that a thing is true. But it is a contradiction to say that the mind can affirm that to be true which it sees cannot possibility be true. This would be to affirm and deny, to believe and disbelieve, at the same time….The ultimate ground of faith and knowledge is confidence in God. We can neither believe or know anything unless we confide in those laws of belief which God implanted in our nature. If we can be required to believe what contradicts those laws, then the foundations are broken up. All distinction between right and wrong, would disappear…and we should become the victims of every adroit deceiver, or minister of Satan, who, by lying wonders, should call upon us to believe a lie.12
It should be evident that faith is inherently reasonable. Its very nature demands such.13Moreover, since faith in Christ is self-commitment to the truth, necessarily, its content or what is believed corresponds to reality, as well as is consistent or non-contradictory.
Thus, it fulfills the requirements of the two primary truth tests (the correspondence and coherence theories of truth). Remember, we are told that we are saved because we believe the truth (see e.g., John 18:37; 2 Th. 2:13), and that conversely those who will not believe the truth are lost (see e.g., 2 Th. 2:10-11).
Conform: We are to conform our thoughts and lives to God’s revelation. But we cannot do this without the use of logic. For example, we cannot say that “Christ is both God and not God” or that “we are and are not to sin.”
Christian Thinkers Addressing the Biblical Position Regarding Logic
A number of influential Christian thinkers have well summarized the biblical teaching regarding logic. I would like to quote some of them (in addition to the previous quotes from Charles Hodge) for further conformation.
For instance, Carl F.H. Henry remarks: “…Scripture affirms that God is the source and ground of reason and truth and that the imago Dei in which He created and preserves humanity includes rational and moral capacities.”14 Henry also insightfully writes: The laws of logic are not a speculative prejudice imposed at a given moment of history as a transient philosophical development. Neither do they involve a Western way of thinking, even if Aristotle may have stated them in an orderly way. The laws of valid inference are universal; they are elements of the imago Dei. In the Bible, reason has ontological significance. God is Himself truth and the source of truth. Biblical Christianity honors the Logos of God as the source of all meaning and considers the laws of thought an aspect of the imago….The pluralistic approach to world religions now often champions the need to recast the gospel in other than “Western thought forms” and in non-Western “logics,” as if logic were an Aristotelian invention. Such emphases often relativize Christian theology and replace it with non-Biblical philosophy under the guise of Christian mission.15
R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley likewise note: “Biblically the contradiction is the hallmark of the lie. Without this formal test of falsification, the Scriptures (and any other writings) would have no means to distinguish between truth and falsehood, righteousness and unrighteousness, obedience and disobedience, Christ and Antichrist.”16 Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley also rightly state (contra post-modernism): “The law of noncontradiction as a necessary presupposition or prerequisite for thought and life is neither arbitrary nor subjectivistic. It is universal and objective. What is subjective and arbitrary is the forced and temporary denial of it.”17
Arthur Holmes responds: “…the law of noncontradiction is a universal condition of intelligible thought. Aristotle’s famous `negative proof’ shows this by asking that one who denies the law practice his denial in speaking. Unintelligible utterances may be possible without it, like talk of a square circle, but unintelligible utterances hardly qualify as intelligible thought or speech. Where this law of logic is ignored, all logic and intelligibility are gone.”18 Holmes also remarks: “Thinking is subject to logical laws, for I cannot contradict myself and talk sense, yet alone construct a valid line of argument. Good logic is one of God’s good gifts, and it is essential to thinking in this and any world.”19
Lastly, we note the view of Augustine: “The true nature of logical conclusions has not been arranged by men; rather they studied and took notice of it so that they might be able to learn or to teach it. It is perpetual in the order of things and divinely ordained.”20
The Four Primary Laws of Logic. While many people talk about logic (and often as if they could do without), at least the five letter word in English, logic, however not very many really know or understand what logic is, or what are termed by some, the four primary principles or laws of logic. Thus, to help us comprehend and better understand the nature and necessity of logic I want to at least briefly examine the four primary principles or laws of logic.
The Law of (non-)Contradiction
The first of the primary principles of logic is the law of (non-)contradiction. It states that no statement (proposition, assertion, etc.) can be both true and not true–false–(e.g., A can not be non-A) at the same time and in the same sense.
For example, it cannot both be true and not true (in the same time and sense) that a person is and is not a Christian. All such statements are false.
Thus, any statement or proposition that asserts that it is (both) true and not true (false) at the same time and in the same sense is itself false. A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the exact same sense; or any statement that states A is not-A (or p &~p) at the same time and in the same sense is false.
It is a first (or self-evident) principle of thought or epistemology. One has to use it to refute it.
To deny it is like saying “I cannot utter a word in English.”
One cannot not use it (logically or ontologically).
The distinction between it applying to a statement, view, person, or group and not applying to them is itself based on this law.
All statements are meaningless unless the law is true.
The distinction between true and false is based on this principle.
Practically speaking, one cannot live in the real world without it. Try crossing the street while denying it (e.g., the Mack truck that is there and is not there!).
The Law of Excluded Middle
The second primary law of logic is the principle of excluded middle.
The law of (non-)contradiction simply states that A cannot equal non-A (or p & non-p) at the same time and in the same sense. But both could be, say, “quip,” that is, neither true or false–simply not both–but not necessarily true or false.
But, the law of excluded middle states “A or non-A,” that is, a proposition or statement is eithertrue or false–it must be one or the other (and not quip)!
Thus, a proposition or statement must be true or false.
Example: Matthew 12:30
The Law of Identity
The third primary law of logic is called the law of identity.
It states that A=A or that “if any statement is true, then it is true.”21
Example: Christ is Christ (and not non-Christ)
Importance: Sound Doctrine Versus the Cults/Occult: Christ is Christ (i.e., the Christ of the Bible: fully divine–God the Son, the second person of the Trinity–and fully human) and not non-Christ (e.g., the Christ of the Bible is not the “Christ[s]” of the cults and/or the occult).
Thus, we can see the importance of the law of identity.
While this law should seem very obvious, and not even have to be mentioned because it is so obvious, nonetheless, this basic law of logic is often violated (e.g., by people committing what is called the four-term fallacy or by other equivocation fallacies).
The Law of Logical or Rational Inference
The fourth primary law of logic is the law of logical or rational inference.
An example of it or one way it is expressed is: “if A=B, and B=C, then A=C.”
Importance: All Discursive or non-Axiomatic Knowledge
Key Example: The Trinity
While the word Trinity (from Latin) is not found in the Bible, the concept clearly is!
See, for example, Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 1:3; John 1:1; 20:28; Acts 5:3-4; and Mark 12:29-30.
Also see John 2:19-21; Romans 8:11; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; and Acts 2:24, 32; 4:10 and 17:30-31.
These four primary laws of logic are the essence of logic and are vital to all coherent or intelligible discussions or arguments. Try as one may one cannot–in any intelligent sense–not use them (e.g., even when trying to argue against the laws of logic).
Examples of the Importance of Logic (and Not Being Illogical)
The Reductio ad Absurdum Technique
Equivocation Fallacies: This is the use of a word (term) or phrase with two or more different meanings.
Example: Read Jesus Daily:
Example: Jesus is Triune:
Example: The Skeptical Skeptics:
Examples of Self-Refuting Claims
Charles Kraft: Culturally Conditioned Conclusions
Charles Kraft comments: …there is always a difference between reality and human culturally conditioned understandings (models) of that reality. We assume that there is a reality “out there” but it is the mental constructs (models) of that
reality inside our head that are the most real to us. God, the author of reality, exists outside any culture. Human beings, on the other hand, are always bound by cultural, subcultural (including disciplinary), and psychological conditioning to perceive and interpret what they see of reality in ways appropriate to these conditionings. Neither the absolute God nor the reality [God] created is perceived absolutely by culture-bound human beings.22
If we take Kraft’s claims seriously, then they would also apply to his own understanding(s) of reality, which is culturally conditioned. Thus, why should we listen to him? His views here are self-refuting.
The Verification Principle
What is by now fairly well-known, but is nonetheless a classic example of a self-referentially refuting claim, is the so-called verification principle of the philosophical logical positivist movement which was held to by many leading intellectuals of this century. As Carl F.H. Henry succinctly states it: “Logical positivists postulate that only premises verifiable by sense data can be meaningful or true. But in that case this very premise–itself empirically unverifiable–cannot be considered meaningful or true.”23 Thus came about the eventual discarding of the verification principle.
W.V.O. Quine: “[N]o statement is immune to revision.”
The famous philosopher of science, W.V.O. Quine, with his theory of “pragmatic holism” claimed that “no statement is immune to revision.” However, if this statement is true then it too is not immune to or from revision. One revision of it is that “some statements are immune to revision.” But, this contradicts the original claim of Quine. Quine’s claim is self-refuting.
Larry Laudan’s Nonself-correcting Views
Larry Laudan, author of among other works, Progress and Its Problems and Science and Valuesespouses a number of self-refuting ideas. For instance, Laudan claims that Charles Sanders Peirce’s view that science is self-correcting is “simply incorrect” and uses examples from the history of science in an attempt to prove that Peirce is wrong.24 However, Laudan has stated that: “Determinations of truth and falsity are irrelevant to the acceptability or the pursuitability of [scientific] theories and research traditions.”24 But, based on his own theory, Laudan blatantly contradicts himself. That is, if the issue of truth or falseness is irrelevant to scientific theories, then according to Laudan’s own theory, Peirce cannot be “simply incorrect,” nor can any of the other individuals or theories that Laudan corrects be incorrect.26 In fact, much of Laudan’s writings are “correcting” what he sees as incorrect or (dare I say it?) false
scientific theories. Thus, some of Laudan’s key views are self-refuting.
William Lane Craig shares an insightful instance of self-refuting claims:Or consider the claim that “God cannot be described by propositions governed by the Law of Contradiction.” If this proposition is true, then, since it describes God, it is not itself governed by the Law of Contradiction. Therefore, it is equally true that “God can be described by propositions governed by the Law of Contradiction.” But then which propositions are these? There must be some, for the Eastern mystic is committed
to the truth of this claim. But if he produces any, then they immediately refute his original claim that there are no such propositions. His claim thus commits him to the existence of counterexamples which serve to refute that very claim….27
Some of the views of B.F. Skinner, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Feuerbach, and many other well-known thinkers are self-refuting.
Other Fun Fallacies
Aidan Kelly: “all truths are merely metaphors.”
The previous statement is a believed truth (or Kelly would not have stated it). Is it only or merely a metaphor? That is, it is not to be understood literally. Therefore, it is not literally true that “all truths are merely metaphors”? But, this
contracts the original assertion.
Is Kelly’s claim to be understood metaphorically, non-metaphorically, or both, or neither?
If it is only metaphorically true, then it is not literally true that “all truths are merely metaphors.” Therefore the statement is false. Worse yet it is self-defeating, indeed, nonsensical.
If it is non-metaphorically (literally) true, then the statement itself is merely a metaphor. Therefore, it is not literally true that “all truths are merely metaphors.” Thus, again, the statement is false.
To say it was both metaphorically and non-metaphorically true (I present this option not because it is really possible, but some Neo-pagans think so), it would still be false, in fact, self-refuting.
Just for the sake of argument, if the statement was intended neither metaphorically or non-metaphorically true then why would anyone state it?
These types of claims are at best false, at worse nonsense because they are self-defeating. Aidan Kelly’s comments regarding reality result in absurdity.
“All truth is relative” or “there are no absolute truths.” “There are absolutely no absolutes!”
Joseph Campbell, Postmodernism, and Many Others
“There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative” (Alan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, 25).
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” Isaiah 5:20-21
Edgar Sheffield Brightman (a past professor of philosophy at Boston University) said “In a universe where Christianity and Christian Science are both true, we do not have a universe, but a cosmic nut-house!”
Joseph Campbell:Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth states, “…The person who thinks he has found the ultimate truth is wrong” (55). Yet he repeatedly propounds what he believes to be ultimate truth, such as his belief in an impersonal and amoral divinity. This is kind of like “He who thinks they know doesn’t.” Hum?
“There is no one or ultimate truth.”Then is this statement true? How could it be? It would contradict itself. Besides if all
truths are relative then this statement too would be relative. Thus, it would also mean that “There is one or an ultimate truth,” (at least sometimes). Ooops!
Not Either OrFirst, for instance, some neo-pagans oppose either/or statements (e.g., A or not-A), preferring both/and propositions (e.g., A and not-A). An example is either Sue believes in witchcraft or she does not.
However, the distinction or preference between either/or as opposed to both/and propositions is itself an either/or proposition. It is an either/or proposition which in effect says do not use either/or propositions, but do use both/and ones. Thus, people who promulgate this idea are using the very distinction they allegedly oppose.
Second, if we tried to consistently apply this advice then we should and should not use either/or statements since all propositions, including “do not use either/or statements,” must be turned into both/and propositions. Therefore, we should and should not use either/or statements. Ooops!
Second, two more examples come from William Dyrness in his Learning about Theology from the Third World28. Dyrness remarks that: “In general, Indian thinkers point out, Western thought patterns are fundamentally dualistic [i.e., based on the law of (non-) contradiction], therefore analysis is the primary mode of critical thought. Eastern patterns favor nondualistic modes, therefore thinking tends to be synthetic.”29 Dyrness proceeds to mention S.J. Samartha and his book, The Hindu Response to the Unbound Christ as an example of this. Dyrness also writes:There are those who argue that these Eastern patterns of thought are inviolable and Christianity must adapt to them completely. Jung Young Lee has argued that in Asia we must get out of the habit of thinking in terms of either/or; we must be able to think of both/and. Change, he believes, may be the key to the universe, and ambiguity and differences merely the reflection of aspects of reality. In traditional Chinese thought, yin and yang are believed to be complementary modes of being….[H]e seeks to apply this to his view of God….30
“All truths are half-truths.”Another example of a supposed revelatory truth which is self-defeating is quoted by Laurie Cabot: “…all truths are half-truths; everything contains its opposite; extremes meet; and every pair of opposites can be reconciled. Knowing this is the key to making the universe work for you….”
If all truths are half-truths, this would include the previous statement which is an alleged truth. It too would be a half-truth. Thus, is it only half-true? Or, is it both true and false? Which half of the proposition is true?
Or, is it false half of the time, but true the other half? Thus, fifty percent of the time the proposition is not true. This would entail that about fifty percent of the time all truths are not half-truths. But, this contradicts the original statement that “all truths are half-truths.”
Furthermore, if “everything contains its opposite” as well as “extremes meet,” this would include the above statement. Therefore, truly, “all truths are half-truths” and “all truths are not half-truths.” Ooops!
These assertions are self-contradictory, self-defeating, or self-refuting. They are nonsensical!
The Challenge for You and Me
1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)”So whether you eat or drink [or think] or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)”For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to
2 Irving M. Copi, Introduction to Logic, 7th ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1986), 3.
3 Ibid., 5.
4 Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M Brooks, Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), 12.
5 Peter A. Angeles, Dictionary of Philosophy (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1981), s.v. “first principles.”
6 Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990), 16.
7 J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 90-91.
8 Ronald Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1982), 105. Also see 105-07. Gordon Clark is in complete agreement with Nash.
9 Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1:49.
10 Ibid., 3:83-84.
11 For an excellent discussion of the relationship of biblical truths and revelation to the laws of thought or logic, consult Norman Geisler’s tape “The Relation of Logic and Christian Theology,” (Dallas: Quest Tapes, n/d). Also consult R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 72-82.
12 Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1:51-53.
13 For a treatment of beliefs that are transrational or translogical, but not irrational or illogical, see 3:75-84 of Hodge’s Systematic Theology.
14 Carl F.H. Henry, Towards a Recovery of Christian Belief (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 107.
15 Ibid., 110. Also see 80.
16 Sproul, R.C., John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley. Classical Apologetics, 82.
17 Ibid., 80. Also see 72-82.
18 Arthur F. Holmes, Contours of a World View (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 48. Also see 51, 52, 131.
19 Holmes, 131.
20 Augustine, as quoted in Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man, 103.
21 Copi, Introduction to Logic, 306.
22 Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1979), 300, as quoted in Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1992), 2.
23 Henry, 52. Also see James F. Harris, Against Relativism: A Philosophical Defense of Method (Chicago: Open Court, 1992), 6, 114, 195 (note 12); and Nash, Worldviews in Conflict, 84-85.
24 Harris, 169.
25 Larry Laudan, as quoted in Harris, 168. 26 Ibid., 168-69, 174.
27 William Lane Craig, “Politically Incorrect Salvation,” in Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World, ed. by Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 80. While I greatly appreciate Craig’s Chapter and some other aspects of the book, nonetheless, I do not recommend it.
28 William A. Dyrness, Learning about Theology from the Third World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990).
For the third time recently, I heard a variation of the following from a Christian: “Romans 13 says we shouldn’t criticize politicians, and should just obey them”. I find this viewpoint to be lacking in clarity, and I think I ought to review a few of the subtleties it misses. Let’s examine the situation in Romans and see how it matches with the USA in 2011 (even if you’re not from the USA, this may interest you in terms of clarity).
Rome’s ruler: EMPEROR; USA’s ruler: THE PEOPLE. You’ve probably heard the phrase before, “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” — that’s us! NOT THE PRESIDENT, NOT CONGRESS, NOT THE COURT! Moreover, our will has been encoded in The Constitution and the Bill of Rights as our primary (bedrock) law. These are the closest things we have to an emperor — not politicians. No law that is unconstitutional is valid (see Marbury vs. Madison), and no politician or judge is allowed to violate them. If they do, according to our founding fathers, we have a DUTY (not just a right) to remove them. IF WE DO NOT, we are enabling lawlessness, endangering our children, ourselves, and the future of this republic. Both the structure and the leadership of fiirst century Rome was vastly different. Yet even in that context we see Biblical examples of saints insisting on their rights and criticizing those in power when that power was being misused (most notably the author of Romans 13 himself, the apostle Paul).
Politicians in the USA serve the people, and do so at the pleasure of the people! If they don’t like The Constitution, they can try to change it via the amendment process, but they can’t sit up there and pretend it doesn’t mean what it says. Our Founding Fathers were well aware of Romans 13, and also of the apostle Paul’s insisting on his rights as a Roman citizen when those rights were being threatened. We have the right and duty to criticize leaders and insist that the laws be followed, as well as to remove those who refuse to follow them.
The main content of the DVD is a 64-minute-long documentary charting the truly remarkable life cycle of butterflies — and in particular, the process of metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. Under the eye of the electron microscope, the viewer is treated to a look at the architecture of the egg. Amazing videography reveals the molting process close-up, by which the caterpillar grows into a larger and larger eating machine. Computer imagery illustrates the inner workings of the chrysalis as the earthbound arthropod transforms in a nectar-eating flying canvas. Even more microscopic visuals magnify compound eyes and intricate wings. If you had low expectations for a “butterfly DVD,” you may just be fascinated, because this description does no justice to the actual visuals of the truly amazing process.
The documentary follows a linear progression in the life cycle, which culminates in an exploration of the migration of Monarch butterflies from North American to Mexico. Guided by internal navigation which is sensitive to magnetic fields, some 300 million butterflies make their journey of up to 2,500 miles to key locations in a Mexican mountain range. This migration is peculiar, as the normal butterfly life span is somewhere between two and four weeks. However, when it is time for migration, the current generation lives up to 9 months in order to make this journey south for semi-hibernation, then return in the spring to lay eggs.
Along the way through the first 45 minutes of the documentary, the viewer learns a lot of amazing things about butterflies. For instance, the wings are used like solar panels to heat the flight muscles. The compound eyes, which can see over 180 degrees, also see colors from ultraviolet to infrared. The butterfly emerges from its chrysalis and then assembles its proboscis (it’s drinking straw for nectar) out of two retractable halves. The list goes on. But the point has yet to be made.
The final 15 minutes of the DVD simply asks the question: how did this come about? In case the viewer was unaware, the entire documentary has been presenting one complex and crucial step after another in the butterfly life cycle. Each of these steps must be successful or the butterfly — or, earlier yet — the caterpillar dies. If there is no reproduction, there can be no natural selection. When it comes to metamorphosis, the concept is an all-or-nothing proposition. Instead, what is seen in the life cycle and metamorphosis of the butterfly is planning, foresight, artistry, and engineering. The documentary argues that these are the sort of positive indicators for intelligent design.
Metamorphosis can be recommended as a fascinating documentary for audiences young and old, and a great next addition to a quality collection from Illustra Media. A trailer for Metamorphosis can be found at this website.
In May 2011, Foxnews.com’s SciTech section featured the Hasselblad H4D-200MS, a 200-megapixel camera designed for use in high-end commercial photography studios “‘where there is no room for compromise in image quality.’” The price tag?—$45,000.
Most of us are satisfied with the camera selection at our local Best Buy, but consider this: your own eyes out performs even the high-priced H4D-200MS. With optics, sensors, controls, movements, and image processing, your eyes provide your brain with not only a total 200-megapixel high-resolution imaging power—they do it in 3D!
The human eye is far more complex than even most scientists can imagine. Whole books have been written about it. It is an elegant masterpiece of optical engineering. This is especially true of the eye lens, which provides much of the focus correction that allows us to see high-resolution images, and the curved retina, which senses those images. The complexity of retina sensors increases when their interaction with the human brain is considered. Even the means of data transmission is an engineering marvel.
Overview of the human eye
The optical design of the human eye is similar to a small digital camera that takes two-dimensional images. With two eyes, we get three-dimensional images. Our camera-like eye optics and sensors use multiple materials, index gradients, and complex surfaces to achieve the optical correction necessary for wide-angle, high-resolution viewing.
A controlled amount of light enters the human eye through the transparent cornea which acts as an initial powerful convex lens. The amount of light is further controlled as it goes through the pupil (the aperture in the iris diaphragm). The very complex crystalline lens then focuses the light on the retina. This causes the retina’s millions of sensors to detect light. Then the retina starts to process dynamic image information into neural signals that go to the brain via the optic nerve. Signals are then further processed in the brain to enable us to see images made up of millions of pixels of information.
Many evolutionists criticized the retina design as being less than optimum.1 Yet the retina has proven to be elegantly designed in its packaging, powering, scanning, image processing, and abilities to collect many levels of image data.2
The structure of the retina allows our eyes and brain to process large amounts of information rapidly. Preprocessing occurs in the retinas’ multiple layers. Each layer of sensor cells contains millions of pathways that allow information to be partially processed on the way to the brain. After this information goes into the brain, the final images are composed for viewing and then samplings of scenes may go into memory.
Each retina contains approximately 100 megapixels enabling us to see very fine detail. Taking both eyes into account, we have a sensor system with 200 megapixels, plus 3D vision (the ability to sense depth). Each sensor element is extremely complex, using many cells per pixel, each having thousands ofnanoconnections.
New very high resolution microscopy is now enabling us to start exploring the interconnection circuits with the brain.3 This and related developments will probably require rewriting future textbooks mentioning eye design. The probability of any evolutionary development would be very close to zero. There is too much that looks like design of an extremely complex parallel processing computer system with complex software—intelligence is required.
The sensors in the retina are arranged to give our center of vision much more resolution than the edge. So we could say that the retina is optimized for our purposes. Humans’ methodology of scanning visual queues and images contributes to our survival and to activities such as playing sports, reading, absorbing information, etc. Advertisers study eye movements to create more effective ads, while scientists evaluate eye movements using MRI in order to study brain reactions. Richard Robinson, a freelance science writer from Massachusetts, comments on new findings from UC Berkeley:
…the retina might be better likened to a computer running Photoshop, given the extent of image processing that it performs before passing visual information along to the brain. A central aspect of that processing is called center-surround inhibition, in which illumination stimulates the firing of a small number of retinal cells, accompanied by inhibition of surrounding cells. This phenomenon increases spatial contrast and sharpens perception of edges.4 (Emphasis added)
The research from Berkeley shows that positive and negative feedback systems improve imaging.5 This is something that researchers had missed initially with respect to the eye, yet was known to be true of film.
The optics of the eye, sensors of the retina, and the complex interface with the brain allows us to sense high resolution images very rapidly and then use them in real time. Our amazing vision system exceeds the performance of even the best manmade robotic vision and control systems.
I will continue to write, on occasion, about the intricacies of the human eye and how its remarkable design points toward our loving Creator.
In the centuries following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE), the Jewish people began writing two versions of Jewish thought, religious history and commentary. One was written in Palestine and became known as the Jerusalem Talmud. [see special endnote at the end of this article concerning the Talmud] The other was written in Babylon and was known as the Babylonian Talmud.
We read in the Jerusalem Talmud:
“Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open” (Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157). [the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE]
A similar passage in the Babylonian Talmud states:
“Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves” (Soncino version, Yoma 39b).
What are these passages talking about? Since both Talmuds recount the same information, this indicates the knowledge of these events was accepted by the widespread Jewish community.
1) The Miracle of the ”Lot”
The first of these miracles concerns a random choosing of the ”lot” which was cast on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The lot chosen determined which of two goats would be “for the Lord” and which goat would be the ”Azazel” or ”scapegoat.” During the two hundred years before 30 CE, when the High Priest picked one of two stones, again this selection was governed by chance, and each year the priest would select a black stone as often as a white stone. But for forty years in a row, beginning in 30 CE, the High Priest always picked the black stone! The odds against this happening are astronomical (2 to the 40th power). In other words, the chances of this occurring are 1 in approximately 5,479,548,800 — or about 5.5 billion to one! By comparison, your chances of winning your local state or municipal-run cash Lottery would be much more favorable!
The lot for Azazel, the black stone, contrary to all the laws of chance, came up 40 times in a row from 30 to 70 AD! This was considered a dire event and signified something had fundamentally changed in this Yom Kippur ritual. This casting of lots is also accompanied by yet another miracle which is described next.
[We have been reminded several times by readers that our calculation of the odds as given above falls short of the ture figure. We’ll admit to being caught off guard by this and without changing the original text we will provide one of the explanations given to us by e-mail:
“To my estimation, the chance that the High Priest took the black stone is not approximately 5,479,548,800, but since [1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 ***1/2** ***1/2*****1/2*****1/2*****1/2*****1/2*****1/2*** ….= 1/1024) the chance is ***1/1024*** 1/1024** ***1/1024** * **1/1024 **= 1/ 1,099,511,627,776 Yours sincerely, C. J. S.” Any way you look at it, the odds of this happening are far removed from chance.]
2) The Miracle of the Red Strip
The second miracle concerns the crimson strip or cloth tied to the Azazel goat. A portion of this red cloth was also removed from the goat and tied to the Temple door. Each year the red cloth on the Temple door turned white as if to signify the atonement of another Yom Kippur was acceptable to the Lord. This annual event happened until 30 CE when the cloth then remained crimson each year to the time of the Temple’s destruction. This undoubtedly caused much stir and consternation among the Jews. This traditional practice is linked to Israel confessing its sins and ceremonially placing this nation’s sin upon the Azazel goat. The sin was then removed by this goat’s death. Sin was represented by the red color of the cloth (the color of blood). But the cloth remained crimson — that is, Israel’s sins were not being pardoned and ”made white.”
As God told Israel through Isaiah the prophet:
”Come, let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet [crimson], they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as [white] wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
The clear indication is that the whole community had lost the Lord’s attention in relation to something that occurred in 30 CE The yearly atonement achieved through the typical Yom Kippur observance was not being realized as expected. Atonement apparently was to be gained in some other way. Who or what would provide the atonement for another year?
Concerning the crimson strip—though not mentioned in the Scriptures and long before 30 C.E.—during the 40 years Simon the Righteous was High Priest, a crimson thread which was associated with his person always turned white when he entered the Temple’s innermost Holy of Holies. The people noticed this. Also, they noted that ”the lot of the LORD” (the white lot) came up for 40 straight years during Simon’s priesthood. They noticed that the ”lot” picked by the priests after Simon would sometimes be black, and sometimes white, and that the crimson thread would sometimes turn white, and sometimes not. The Jews came to believe that if the crimson thread turned white, that God approved of the Day of Atonement rituals and that Israel could be assured that God forgave their sins. But after 30 CE, the crimson thread never turned white again for 40 years, till the destruction of the Temple and the cessation of all Temple rituals!
What did the Jewish nation do in 30 CE to merit such a change at Yom Kippur? By some accounts, on April 5, 30 CE (i.e., on the 14th of Nisan, the day of the Passover sacrifice) the Messiah, Yeshua, was cut off from Israel, himself put to death as a sacrifice for sin. To this event there is a transference of the atonement now no longer achieved through the two goats as offered at Yom Kippur. Like an innocent Passover lamb, the Messiah was put to death though no fault was found in Him! But unlike Temple sacrifices or the Yom Kippur events (as detailed above) where sin is only covered over for a time, the Messianic sacrifice comes with the promise of forgiveness of sins through grace given by God to those who accept a personal relationship with Messiah. This is essentially a one time event for each person’s lifetime and not a continual series of annual observances and animal sacrifices. The mechanism providing forgiveness of sin changed in 30 CE
3) The Miracle of the Temple Doors
The next miracle, which the Jewish authorities acknowledged, was that the Temple doors swung open every night of their own accord. This too occurred for forty years, beginning in 30 CE The leading Jewish authority of that time, Yohanan ben Zakkai, declared that this was a sign of impending doom, that the Temple itself would be destroyed.
The Jerusalem Talmud states:
”Said Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkai to the Temple, ‘O Temple, why do you frighten us? We know that you will end up destroyed. For it has been said, ‘Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars’ ” (Zechariah 11:1)’ (Sota 6:3).
Yohanan Ben Zakkai was the leader of the Jewish community during the time following the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, when the Jewish government was transferred to Jamnia, some thirty miles west of Jerusalem.
Might the doors have opened to also signify that all may now enter the Temple, even to its innermost holy sections. The evidence supported by the miracles described above suggests the Lord’s presence had departed from the Temple. This was no longer just a place for High Priests alone, but the doors swung open for all to enter the Lord’s house of worship.
4) The Miracle of the Temple Menorah
The fourth miracle was that the most important lamp of the seven candle-stick Menorah in the Temple went out, and would not shine. Every night for 40 years (over 12,500 nights in a row) the main lamp of the Temple lampstand (menorah) went out of its own accord — no matter what attempts and precautions the priests took to safeguard against this event!
Earnest Martin states:
”In fact, we are told in the Talmud that at dusk the lamps that were unlit in the daytime (the middle four lamps remained unlit, while the two eastern lamps normally stayed lit during the day) were to be re-lit from the flames of the western lamp (which was a lamp that was supposed to stay lit all the time — it was like the ‘eternal’ flame that we see today in some national monuments) . . .
”This ‘western lamp’ was to be kept lit at all times. For that reason, the priests kept extra reservoirs of olive oil and other implements in ready supply to make sure that the ‘western lamp’ (under all circumstances) would stay lit. But what happened in the forty years from the very year Messiah said the physical Temple would be destroyed? Every night for forty years the western lamp went out, and this in spite of the priests each evening preparing in a special way the western lamp so that it would remain constantly burning all night!” (The Significance of the Year CE 30, Ernest Martin, Research Update, April 1994, p.4).
Again, the odds against the lamp continually going out are astronomical. Something out of the ordinary was going on. The ”light” of the Menorah—representing contact with God, His Spirit, and His Presence—was now removed. This special demonstration occurred starting with the crucifixion of the Messiah!
It should be clear to any reasonable mind that there is no natural way to explain all these four signs connected with the year 30 CE The only possible explanation has to be supernatural.
After 30 CE, and the death of the Messiah, great trouble and awesome trials began to come upon the Jewish nation. Yeshua Himself foretold it. As He was led away to be crucified, Yeshua warned the women of Jerusalem:
But Jesus, turning to them, said, ”Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin `to say to the mountains, ”Fall on us!” and to the hills, ”Cover us!” ‘ ”For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:28-31).
When we take an objective look at the events of 30 CE, who can doubt that it was indeed the true year of the crucifixion and resurrection of the true Messiah God sent to Israel? Who can deny that He is the one and only true Messiah? Who else has fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament — including the amazing prophecy of Daniel 9 and the ”70 weeks,” coming at the very year predicted for the Messiah to appear?
[Editor’s note: A detailed study of Daniel, including the prophecy of 70 weeks appears in Chapter 15 of the Creator’s Window. This chapter is available as a PDF file to read online or to download for reading offline. The riddle of the 70 weeks is essentially a time line that leads one to the same conclusion drawn above.]
For additional evidence of the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a., the Tanach or the Old Covenant) we suggest a reading of Dr. Arnold Fructenbaum’s book ‘Messianic Christology,’ see our book list for reference. This publication is a wonderful study of the numerous Messianic prophecies that were all fulfilled by Yeshua.
A thoughtful defense of the Resurrection as a historical truth claim.
Michael Horton undermines the irrational presuppositions and
non-sequitur conclusions of the secular worldview. He also examines
the claim in light of the historical record. by Michael S. Horton
If Jesus was not raised, how are we to understand this man? If in
his own self-understanding his Resurrection was central to his whole
identity as Messiah, is there any possibility of reconstructing a
Jesus worth worshipping in the absence of such a miracle?
“On the third day he rose from the dead.”
Etched in my memory from childhood are those lines from a familiar
Easter hymn in evangelical circles, “He Lives”: “You ask me how I know
he lives? He lives within my heart.” In spite of the warmth that such
sentiment offers, it hardly fits the bill sketched out by the Apostle
Peter: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you
to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15). Many
ideas can be, and often are, embraced by the heart that are simply
wrong. Santa Claus and the tooth fairy may be harmless childhood
myths, but when we are making claims about eternal matters,
emotionally useful fantasies will not suffice. Eventually, we grow up,
and if our understanding of the Christian truth-claims does not mature
as well, we are likely to be blown about by the trendy gusts of whim.
In an informal survey of evangelical Christians recently, nearly
everyone agreed with the statement, “It is more important for me to
give my personal testimony than to explain the doctrines and claims of
Christianity.” This is remarkable, especially since not even the New
Testament eye witnesses of Christ’s saving acts wrote much about their
own experiences and feelings. “What Jesus Means To Me” or “How Jesus
Changed My Life” are simply not the most notable headlines of these
biblical accounts. “That which was from the beginning,” says John,
“which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have
looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of
life”-this is the Christian’s confidence. “That life was manifested,
and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal
life which was with the Father and was manifested to us-that which we
have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have
fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and
with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3).
It is much easier to adopt the Enlightenment view championed by
Immanuel Kant in which the phenomenal (earthly and observable) and
noumenal (heavenly and unknowable) realms are utterly separated.
Questions of reason and science are based on facts, while religious
claims are a matter of “faith.” And yet, faith is defined in Scripture
as requiring confidence in the events to which eye witness testimony
is given. Faith is not a synonym for nonsense, nor does it belong to a
non-rational, non-historical, non-intellectual realm of blind leaps
and sheer acts of will. Because God became flesh, the noumenal became
phenomenal! Far from separating faith from the rigorous questions that
belong to reason and history, Christianity makes public claims that
must stand the test of any other. In fact, the burden of proof rests
on the Christian to make the case for the biblical faith, with the
Resurrection as its cornerstone. That is not to say that our faith is
founded on reason, for only when reason receives the light of
revelation is it capable of guiding us into such marvelous truth. It
is one thing to say that the Resurrection can stand up to the
questions, but what about the doubts? We will now address this matter,
for everything else in the Christian faith depends on this historical
The Resurrection Event as a Claim to Public Truth
To tackle the question of the Resurrection as a legitimate
truth-claim, we must first determine the motive in asking the
question. It is not difficult these days to find a theologian who will
deny the Resurrection, stating that it is simply irreconcilable with
the enlightened modern mind. You can even read books from major modern
theologians who make such assertions without the slightest attempt at
defending the position with arguments. It is enough to say that the
supernatural worldview is untenable, case closed.
Existential theologian Rudolf Bultmann appropriated the German
distinction between Historie and Geschichte, the former referring to
actual historical events while the latter concerns the “salvation
history.” This, of course, makes sense if one buys Kant’s division
between the phenomenal (observable) and noumenal (spiritual) realms.
Implicit in this distinction, of course, is the notion that there can
be a form of history that is not historical! What does it mean to say
that certain things that happened in the past never really happened?
Either they did or they didn’t. But Bultmann and others forged a
powerful school of modern theologians who wanted to “get behind” the
historical claims of the Scriptures to discover the real idea. In
other words, regardless of whether it happened in real history, what
did the claim, “Jesus rose from the dead,” actually create in the
early Christian’s experience? While the Resurrection is not a
historical event like the Battle of the Bulge, Bultmann would say, the
idea or experience behind that claim is what is important: Has Jesus
risen in my heart? Have I experienced the “Christ-event,” the
encounter with the Spirit of Christ here and now? It’s the present
moment, the crisis event in which Christ meets me now in my
experience, that counts, not whether the apostles were reporting
factual history. This sentiment is common not only among liberal
theologians, but also in evangelical circles when individual
experience is made central: “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives
within my heart.”
But before we deal with the question of whether it is possible for
biblical claims such as the Resurrection to have any meaning unless
they happened as reported, it is important to ask why such “creative”
readings of fairly plain reports attract so many. Of course, there is
the practical consideration: One need not risk the harsh criticism
often directed at such bold declarations of miraculous activity, and
yet can enjoy a spiritually edifying experience that is somehow
triggered by these claims. In other words, one can be an intelligent,
late twentieth-century man or woman and yet give attention to the
“things of the heart.” A well-balanced modern, dogmatically secular
and yet romantic and sentimental, wants to experience “the magic of
believing” while not really believing in particulars, at least in
things that “simply do not happen.” And at last we come to the real
hurdle for the modern mind: such things as a resurrection simply do
not happen. They can be written off entirely because we have already
judged that they are impossible.
Of course, there is no rationale for this position. A rationalist or
empiricist, for instance, would (according to his or her own
principles) have to be able to test the premise, “Resurrections do not
happen,” in order to conclude that the Resurrection of Christ is a
farce. And in the whole history of rationalism, no philosopher has
been able to offer a compelling argument for such a premise. Surely
the empiricists would be able to contribute some aid at this point.
After all, they are the folks who deal with laboratory experiments and
test theories. And yet, David Hume, the empiricist who dealt most with
this subject, simply concluded (assumed) that miracles do not happen.
This is quite an astonishing conclusion for a man whose life was
devoted to ridding philosophy of a priori (before evaluating the
evidence) judgments of a case. Resting on “the universal experience of
humanity,” empiricists like Hume simply concluded that resurrections
were out of keeping with the normal experience of ordinary men and
women. Of course, that presupposes flawed premises. First, it assumes
that David Hume is omniscient, knowing every experience or combination
of experiences to have surfaced in the history of the human species.
It is similar to dogmatically asserting, “There is no intelligent life
except on our planet,” in spite of the fact that we do not have
exhaustive knowledge of the universe. Of course, there was a time when
the common man believed that the world was flat. Only a fool would
have questioned such an obvious deliverance of sense experience. But
other observations overthrew this assumption and now we can hardly
imagine what it would be like to experience the world as flat. What
accounts for this in our case? We’ve seen too many photographs of our
planet from space. Universal human experience is, therefore, dependent
on the conditions of one’s own time and place. What if the revelation
of God in Christ, particularly the Resurrection, is, like those
photographs, the new information that overthrows our previous
assumptions, making it impossible for us not to believe in the
phenomenon of a bodily resurrection? How can Hume say that these
miracles simply do not happen unless he has access to the experience
of every creature in all times and places? After all, there are plenty
of people who would pit their experience against Hume’s, siding
confidently with a belief in the miraculous. Some, to be sure, will be
superstitious and credulous, but if “universal experience” is the test
of truth, Hume has tremendous problems rendering as universal his own
experience as a secular philosopher. His experience indeed was
representative of only a handful of his like-minded colleagues.
To the second assumption, that the miraculous contradicts people’s
ordinary experience, what could be more obvious? If a miracle were an
ordinary phenomenon, why would one even distinguish it as a miracle at
all? It is true that miracles do not ordinarily happen. However, it is
one thing to say that they do not happen in normal circumstances and
quite another thing to say that they cannot happen. Empirical
observation is sufficient to conclude the former, but not the latter.
What experiment has yet been conducted that has proved such a sweeping
claim? These are not arguments, of course, but the unsupported
assertions of the modern mind.
Bultmann expresses this dogmatism against worldviews which incorporate
the miraculous. He suggests that it is impossible for people who use
electric appliances and listen to the radio to believe in events
described in Scripture. One need not offer devastating criticisms of
Christianity and its historical claims, therefore, since everyone has
concluded that the existence of radios and microwave ovens somehow
relates to the impossibility of believing in a resurrection from the
dead. In logic, it is called a non sequitur-that is, a conclusion that
does not follow from its premises.
Today, Bishop John Spong targets the Resurrection and related beliefs
with similarly bizarre assertions about space travel:
We would never in our day of space travel and knowledge of the
vastness of the universe try to assert that the God experienced in
Jesus has been reunited with the God who was presumed to dwell just
beyond the sky by telling the story of the cosmic ascension….We
today do not think in natural/supernatural categories. God is not for
us a human parent figure. We do not see human life as created good and
then as fallen into sin. Human life is evolving, not always in a
straight line, but evolving nonetheless into higher and higher levels
of consciousness. We do not need the divine rescuer who battles the
demonic forces of a fallen world in the name of the creator God ….
That worldview has passed away…. (1)
So what is the essence of the gospel according to Spong? “In the words
of the popular commercial, it is a call to be all that one can be.”
(2) Following David Hume in his blind dogmatism against the
miraculous, modern thinkers seem to think that such assertions are
self-evident: “Miracles do not happen, because this is not the sort of
universe where those things happen.” Rarely is such circular reasoning
stated so explicitly, but this is often where even the best minds end
up. Yet they cite the same flaw in their opponents as an example of
unthinking fundamentalism. With Bultmann the Resurrection is reduced
to pious myth, not because someone found the bones of a first-century
Palestinian rabbi buried in the tomb many regard as having belonged to
Jesus. Rather, the reigning view of knowledge has been that it is a
straight line of progress from ignorance to enlightenment. Ages of
faith are really ages of superstition, we are told, and we have long
since learned that things once attributed to supernatural forces
actually have perfectly natural explanations. Of course, much of that
thinking is true. Magic and superstition have, in many important
cases, given way to better explanations through advances in medicine,
physics, and other disciplines. We owe a debt of gratitude to
those-many of them Christians-who preferred a vaccine to attributing
everything to evil spirits. We often forget that many Christian
scientists pioneered modern medicine, and that their aversion to
idolatry and superstition has led precisely to those advances for
which secular ideology seeks to take credit. But to say, therefore,
that there can be no miraculous events at all is to say that one has
knowledge of every event in world history.
Though not himself an evangelical, Boston University sociologist Peter
Berger has exposed the fallacious logic of these positions. First, he
says, there is a hidden double standard: The past can be relativized
simply by explaining the misconceptions of the ancient worldview. “The
present, however, remains strangely immune from relativization,”
Berger writes. “In other words, the New Testament writers are seen as
afflicted with a false consciousness rooted in their time, but the
contemporary analyst takes the consciousness of his time as an unmixed
intellectual blessing. The electricity-and-radio-users are placed
intellectually above the Apostle Paul.” (3)
As Berger points out, this reasoning is useful descriptively, but is
hardly an argument against the miraculous. It is helpful to know why
modern people find it difficult to believe in the supernatural, but
once we have a better grasp of those sociological factors, we still do
not have a compelling reason not to believe in the supernatural! (It
might help my doctor to learn that I have an irrational fear of
needles, but that does not make such fear less irrational.) “We may
agree, say, that contemporary consciousness is incapable of conceiving
of either angels or demons,” says Berger. “We are still left with the
question of whether, possibly, both angels and demons go on existing
despite this incapacity of our contemporaries to conceive of them.”
(4) Thus, Berger suggests that we begin to “relativize” our own
context. In other words, perhaps the biblical worldview-violently
opposed to superstition but frankly supernatural-is the sane outlook
after all and we moderns are the ones who have the irrational
worldview. Given the fact that centuries of rationalist and empiricist
skepticism have not been able to offer a single compelling argument
against miracles in general, or the Resurrection of Christ in
particular, why should we continue to give our blind allegiance to
insupportable modern dogmas?
In questioning the modern worldview we will find that we are not
alone. Happily, this modern dogmatism that simply asserts naturalism
is itself passing into history. Even the events about which we do have
some knowledge-even great knowledge-often hold unanswered questions.
Thomas Kuhn, in his ground-breaking study of scientific revolutions,
argued that the modern notion of science as a progressive advance of
knowledge is outdated. (5) Instead, he says, each major scientific
theory goes through various phases. As a theory is advanced that makes
sense of the observations of a wide range of scientists, old paradigms
are either adjusted or discarded and the new major theory creates a
new paradigm. In other words, the history of science is not a gradual
amassing of factual data, but a constant and somewhat chaotic series
of paradigm revolutions.
While Kuhn’s interpretation is not universally accepted, it is
difficult to find philosophers of science (or other philosophers)
these days who embrace the outlook exhibited by Bultmann, Spong, and a
great many theologians who still operate with these modern notions of
knowledge based on modern science. Postmodern philosophers of science
are therefore much more open to regarding science itself as a
tradition, a community of discourse, in which members of various
disciplines work on their specific projects and occasionally
articulate an “explanation” that seems to make the most sense of data
across these sub-disciplines. With this approach, there is no such
thing as an uninterpreted “fact” or an unbiased observation.
By even suggesting, as Spong does (parroting Bultmann), that the
“modern consciousness” somehow prohibits a particular religious claim,
the advocate of modernity betrays that his presuppositions are not
only guiding, but determining, his investigation. In fact, it is not
an investigation at all, but an appeal to power: the force of the
“modern consciousness” itself becomes a dogma that commands
unquestioning allegiance. It is not an argument, but a presupposition.
So much for the triumph over blind authoritarianism and dogmatism! One
does not have to be convinced by it, since it is expected that every
rational person would accept it on authority. We simply assume, often
without knowing that we are assuming, that science has a right to
dictate as a supreme authority. Awed by the practical achievements of
science (technology, medicine, natural sciences), we do not even
realize that we are treating all statements that claim scientific
authority as worthy to be believed even if there is no evidence!
Modern dogmatists have shown that it is as possible to have blind
faith in science’s authority as it is to have blind faith in the
But in the postmodern scientific approach, the knower and the world
are engaged in a conversation, not a monologue. It is not that the
knower is necessarily imposing his or her presuppositions on the world
that is observed (the fanciful notion of rationalists, idealists, and
postmodern relativists), nor that the world is simply being described
objectively (the view of modern science, at least of the positivists).
But if science is not simply a description of reality in terms of
“brute facts,” shorn of any interpretive framework and uprooted from
any prior assumptions, what keeps this kind of thinking from
degenerating into relativism? Among other things, it is the point made
by Kuhn and others that one piece of data can overthrow a paradigm. To
be sure, the scientist comes to the lab each day with pet hypotheses
that are themselves somehow shaped by a constellation of other
beliefs, many of them unquestioned. Nevertheless, one day somebody
notices some anomaly, something that does not fit the picture. In
spite of presup-positional biases, he or she is forced to acknowledge
this new datum as a contradiction of previous research, even if that
research is his or her own. A new theory is often required to make
sense of this major interruption, a theory that may have been rejected
long ago as entirely implausible.
Often, scientists have stumbled onto a major discovery while they were
actually looking for something else. Like Columbus, who dis-covered
the Americas accidentally while he was trying for a route to India,
many advances are serendipitous. Nevertheless, that new discovery or
observation-though never divorced from the beliefs and assumptions of
the discoverer-has the power to overturn the scientist’s most
What does all of this mean? First, it means that science in particular
and knowledge in general are no longer viewed as a straight line of
progress from ignorance to enlightenment. Although we have amassed a
lot more data and have at our disposal sophisticated instruments of
observation that previous generations lacked, it is still possible for
a theory advanced by an obscure Greek philosopher or Arab mystic to
account for the data better than more recent explanations. Second, it
means that the scientist or philosopher no longer has a “bird’s eye
view” from which to look down objectively on all this data. Everyone,
including the most careful physicist, pursues his or her work with
presuppositions and expectations of what he or she will find. These
presuppositions may blind them to important data that contradict their
hypotheses, but every so often a piece of data comes along that brings
down the house of cards: not only cherished hypotheses, but reigning
theories. The result is a paradigm shift, a revolution in the way we
In religion, paradigm shifts occur also. The Reformation is often
referred to by historians as a “Copernican Revolution,” because the
recovery of an accurate working text of the New Testament by
Renaissance philologists led to a massive re-evaluation of the meaning
of salvation. That revolution in the Church led to sweeping changes in
every discipline and con-tributed significantly to the rise of modern
science itself. But the religious event I want to relate to these
arguments from postmodern philosophers of science has to do with a
more fundamental revolution: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the nineteenth century, a legal scholar by the name of Simon
Greenleaf (1783-1853), a founder of the Harvard Law School, set out to
disprove the Resurrection claim. A denizen of the “modern
consciousness,” Greenleaf was certain that simple, sustained attention
to the claims of the New Testament, with regard to both the internal
witness of the Gospels and the external testimony of secular
historians would finally put to rest the lingering Christian beliefs.
He came to his task to refute the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As a lawyer, he was impressed with the idea of pursuing his project
along the lines of legal inquiry. After all, the Bible makes public
claims and the best test of such claims is to try them in court. He
would show the obvious examples of collusion of the writers that
typically mark attempts at creating a powerful lie, and he would
demonstrate the implausibility of the reports and their inherent
As Greenleaf went deeper into his investigation, he grew increasingly
uneasy. Thinking that further investigation would yield more evidence
against the Resurrection, he only found it working in the opposite
direction. Finally, the distinguished legal professor concluded the
very antithesis of his intention: Jesus Christ did, in fact, rise from
the dead. It was not the most satisfactory conclusion in view of his
“modern consciousness,” but as a lawyer, he could not see how any
alternative, either suggested throughout history or contemplated by
himself, yielded an explanation of the evidence that came anywhere
near that of the New Testament claim.
Here is an actual case of Kuhn’s paradigm shift taking place. (6) It
is perhaps the case that Greenleaf would have claimed “neutrality” and
“unbiased, unpre-judiced investi-gation” for himself if, in fact, the
case had yielded dif-ferent results. (That, after all, is what modern
men and women have been conditioned to believe about their knowledge.)
And yet, by his own admission, Greenleaf went into this investigation
with the intention of discrediting the very hypothesis that he ended
up concluding was true “beyond any reasonable doubt.”
Therefore, we should have no difficulty admitting that we all have
presuppositions and that no one simply “observes,” “investigates,” or
“knows.” We are always looking for something and it is often the case
that we will “find” just about anything we want-but not always. And
this is one of those “not always” cases. The Resurrection is among
those rare stories that can overthrow our most cherished opinions.
Unlike any other historical occurrence, this event is the most
significant revolution or “paradigm shift” imaginable. First, it
verifies the reliability of the entire canon of Scripture. Second, it
establishes Jesus Christ as the Lord of history, who has won the right
to interpret its past, present, and future. Third, it establishes the
certainty of salvation for believers and of judgment for unbelievers.
Fourth, it establishes the supernatural character of the Church and
its witness to God’s saving events as public truth. Let us look at
some of the evidence for the Resurrection, both internal (i.e.,
biblical) and external (i.e., secular sources).
Internal Evidence for the Resurrection
As Yale theologian Hans Frei insisted, the Resurrection is such a
central part of the Bible’s narrative plot that the whole story rises
or falls with it. He is thus led to conclude, “To consign the
resurrection to the category of myth is a typical species of modern
laziness …”. (7) As with the Incarnation, so too with the
Resurrection: it is impossible to take anything in the Bible seriously
if its central plot is dismantled. For the eye witnesses do not make
claims about their own experience or ideas illustrated by these
claims, but insist upon the Resur-rection the way a witness gives
tes-timony in a court of law. According to the story itself, the
Resurrection happened and if it did not happen, there is nothing
bigger or better behind it! Of course, the Apostle Paul made the same
point far more succinctly in 1 Corinthians 15:
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is
your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses
about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from
the dead …. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile;
you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in
Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are
to be pitied more than all men (1 Cor. 15:14-19).
Notice how much Paul hangs on this claim to a historical, bodily
resurrection of Jesus Christ. If it proves false, Christian preaching
and faith are useless, its apostolic eye-witnesses have intentionally
misled countless people on this momentous subject, and-most
important-we are still in the mess in which we found ourselves before
this happy delusion, still in our sins. Whether one believes its
claims or not, this is Christianity and apart from the Resurrection it
is something else altogether. If Christianity is embraced merely for
what it provides in this life, it is not the case, says Paul, that we
should shrug our shoulders and say, “I’m glad it helps people.” That’s
because the apostles never made its validity consist in its
therapeutic value. If it fails to make good on its claims, it fails to
make good on everything. There is no consolation prize, says the
apostle, for those who embrace “Christianity” without a Resurrection.
The notion of resurrection in general and the Messiah’s in particular
is not a New Testament invention. Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant,” after
his atoning death, “will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted”
(Is. 52:13). Throughout his earthly ministry our Lord pointed to his
death, burial, and resurrection. After the Transfiguration, Jesus told
his disciples, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands
of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to
life” (Matt. 17:22-23). When the Jews demanded a miraculous sign,
Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in
three days.” As John observes, “But the temple he had spoken of was
his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled
what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that
Jesus had spoken” (John 2:19-22). In another report in which the
Pharisees demand a miraculous sign, Jesus offers only “the sign of the
prophet Jonah.” He said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights
in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and
three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40-41).
Clearly, either Jesus was remarkably self-deluded or he really
believed that he was going to die and rise again. There is no via
media on this point. As C. S. Lewis argued, Jesus either is or is not
who he said he is and what he claims to be. And if he is not, then he
is not to be regarded as possessing any authority whatsoever,
especially when it comes to questions of ultimate truth, meaning,
morality, and the like! If Jesus did not fulfill the mission that he
clearly understood to define his whole purpose, he is not a good moral
example we should wish our children to emulate. If he was not raised,
we can conclude only that he did not come to demonstrate God’s
universal love, or to exhibit moral virtue and inspire us to lead
lives of self-sacrifice, but to make absurd claims for himself.
According to the Scriptures, Jesus did demonstrate God’s love and he
did model self-sacrifice for us, but far more is claimed and therefore
far more is at stake.
Jesus did not view his mission as that of bringing universal peace and
understanding (Matt. 10:34), nor did he come to reassure everybody
that they were acceptable to God even if they come to that God through
different paths (John 8:24, 44). In fact, he said, “When you have
lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim
to be…” (v. 28). Audaciously, he said that anyone who believed in
him would live forever (v. 51). If Jesus was not raised, how are we to
understand this man? If in his own self-understanding his Resurrection
was central to his whole identity as Messiah, is there any possibility
of reconstructing a Jesus worth worshipping in the absence of such a
Therefore, our Lord’s own self-consciousness is the first plank in a
defense of the internal witness to the Resurrection. No modern
theologian could know the inner life of Jesus other than Jesus
himself, so if he or she trusts the biblical record enough to accept
the “enlightened moral principles” of the Sermon on the Mount or the
commandment to love one’s neighbor, he or she must also accept the
self-descriptions Jesus offers in the same texts.
But that begs the question, “Can we trust the Gospel accounts?”
Perhaps Jesus got it right, but how do we know that the authors of the
New Testament did the same? Can we be sure that the ascriptions of
Deity, miracles, an atoning death and Resurrection are not later
editorial additions that exaggerated the claims of Jesus himself? To
do this, first of all, not only the New Testament writers would be
called into question, but the Old Testament writers as well. As we
have seen, the Bible is a single story and as early as Genesis 3 it
anticipates a Messiah who will defeat the curse of sin, death,
tyranny, and hell. The Psalmist’s Messiah is the Son who must be
embraced in order to avoid judgment (Ps. 2). Isaiah’s Servant is
Yahweh himself and “though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the
LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he
will see the light of life and be satisfied” (Is. 53:10-11). Ezekiel’s
Shepherd-to-Come is no less than the Creator and Redeemer-God. It is
not only the claims of New Testament disciples, but the expectations
of Old Testament prophets that must be rejected if the Resurrection is
Second, the Gospel accounts are not late editions, as recent
scholarship is beginning to concede. While the theory of the Gospels
as second-generation exaggerations may have propelled the liberal
movements of yesteryear (and the “Jesus Seminar” of contemporary
infamy), the consensus among New Testament scholars is that the
Gospels of Matthew and Luke originate no later than A.D. 85 and
possibly as early as 50. Even the arguments for the later date (A.D.
85) rest entirely on the assumption that Jesus could not have
predicted the fall of Jerusalem (i.e., an anti-supernaturalist
presupposition), which occurred in the year 70. Matthew criticizes the
powerful party of the Sadducees (they denied the resurrection of the
dead), but this sect was barely known by A.D. 70 and soon passed out
of existence altogether. Many scholars now believe that Matthew’s
Gospel is based on Mark’s, and that would obviously date Mark’s Gospel
well within the range of thirty years after the Resurrection itself.
A popular theory among liberals, advanced also by Bultmann, is that
the Apostle Paul is the culprit for the exaggerations. It was his many
attributions of Deity to the risen Christ that created what amounted
to a Jesus-cult that was far from the original vision of even Christ
himself. And yet, recent scholarship has concluded that Paul’s letters
are the earliest New Testament writings! Since Paul was martyred under
Nero and the Roman emperor died in A.D. 68, the dating of these
letters cannot reflect a second-generation exaggeration of the actual
events. Furthermore, Paul invites skeptics to interview some of those
five hundred who saw the risen Jesus, “of whom the greater part remain
to the present, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:6).
So we are left with the early dating of the New Testament doc-uments.
There simply wasn’t time to invent the sort of sophisticated
Christology that we find in the New Testament, and Paul can hardly be
viewed as the one who turned the “simple teacher” into a God-Man if
(a) the Old Testament anticipates a God-Man, and (b) Paul’s letters
are actually the earliest New Testament documents. But there remains
another internal obstacle: the consistency of the reporting in the
Gospels. John Spong spells out and defends the conventional account of
Who went to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week? Paul said
nothing about anyone going. Mark said that Mary Magdalene, Mary the
mother of Jesus, and Salome went (Chap. 16). Luke said that Mary
Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and some other women went
(24:10). Matthew said Mary Magdalene and the other Mary only went
(1:28). John said that Mary Magdalene alone went (20:11) …. (8)
It is remarkable to see how quickly one who embraces liberal
assumptions employs the very methods he attributes scathingly to
“fundamentalists.” Ignoring the character of event-reporting, Spong
expects a rigid correspondence between the accounts. First, “Paul said
nothing about anyone going [to the tomb],” Spong states. But who would
expect Paul to do anything of the kind, since he himself clearly tells
us that he was not an eye-witness of the earthly ministry of Christ,
but that the risen Lord appeared to him on the Damascus Road? Paul
could only report as an eye witness the things he himself saw. We
would actually view Paul with greater suspicion if he did attempt to
give reports of events as if he were an eye witness when we know he
was not present.
But doesn’t there seem to be a problem when each Gospel lists
different people at the tomb? Mark has Mary Magdalene, Mary (mother of
Jesus), and Salome; Luke has Mary Magdalene, Mary (mother of James),
Joanna, and other women; Matthew has Mary Magdalene and the other
Mary, while John has Mary Magdalene. To be sure, there are differences
among these accounts, but differences are not necessarily
con-tradictions. So let’s take a closer look.
If this were a report concerning any other public event, we would
probably conclude that every name mentioned in all the accounts
together must have been present at the tomb. An incomplete report does
not a false or contradictory report make. More than that, it is quite
possible that there were many others besides who are not named. What
we do not find here is a contradiction. In other words, Matthew does
not say, as Spong unscrupulously slips into the account, that no one
other than Mary was at the tomb. In fact, she runs to tell the
disciples that she had seen the Lord, and it is quite plausible to
imagine John reporting this incredible discovery at an earlier point,
before the whole company had arrived on the scene. Spong himself
refers to Mary Magdalene’s second visit to the tomb. In reporting on a
public event, especially one of such significance, it is essential to
take into account the dynamic flow of activity. One would hardly
expect such an event to be neat and tidy. In fact, our suspicions
would be raised if the reports were neat and tidy. There is nothing
that Spong has here described that would be taken as contradictory by
a journalist in a similar situation.
But there is more, says Spong:
What did the women find at the tomb? [Mark] said that the women found
a young man dressed in white garments who gave the resurrection
message. Luke said it was two men clothed in dazzling apparel. Matthew
said it was nothing less than an “angel of the Lord” who descended in
an earthquake, put the armed guard to sleep, rolled back the stone,
and gave the resurrection message. John began with no messenger at
all, but on Mary Magdalene’s second visit she confronted two angels,
although they were speechless. Finally she confronted Jesus himself,
whom she mistook for the gardener. From Jesus she received the
resurrection message. Did the women see the risen Lord in the garden
at dawn on the first day of the week? Mark and Luke said no. Matthew
said yes. John said yes also, but he insisted that it was a little bit
later. Where did the risen Christ appear to the disciples? (9)
Let us first reduce the discrepancies by beginning with the least
difficult. As with the explanation for the different list of names of
people at the tomb, one might easily suggest that “a man dressed in
white garments” (Mark), “two men clothed in dazzling apparel” (Luke),
“an angel of the Lord” (Matthew), and “two angels” (John), have a
common explanation. If one eye witness sees one person and another eye
witness sees two, what is our usual explanation? That someone is
lying? Perhaps, but that is not usually our immediate conclusion. If,
for instance, an eye witness spots a gunman aiming for a human target,
does that render the testimony of another eye witness invalid if he
sees two gunmen? If anything, such discrepancies only serve to
strengthen the event-character of such testimony. In other words,
discrepancies militate against collusion. If the disciples were to
have gathered together in an effort to circulate a resurrection-story
that never really happened, we would expect them to give painstaking
attention to the elimination of every possible difference in their
reports. One would have the impression from such a project that
everyone saw the same thing from precisely the same spot, but that
impression is precisely what is missing from these accounts. They have
the ring of typical eye witness reports of actual events.
Thus, the testimony concerning the herald of Christ’s Resurrection at
the tomb is not at all contradictory. Luke and John report two men,
while Mark and Matthew refer to one. If there were two, that would
obviously not rule out the one to whom Mark and Matthew referred.
Furthermore, if these men were angelic beings (Matthew and John), we
would hardly be surprised to find them described as wearing “white
garments” (Mark) or “dazzling apparel” (Luke). There are differences,
but not a single example of what Spong judges a “sea of
We find a host of other internal evidences, only a few of which we can
mention here. First, we notice throughout the Gospels that the writers
hardly paint themselves and each other with effusive majesty. Not only
do they confess their sinfulness, but report it as well. By their own
admission filled with grief, ignorant of what lay ahead in spite of
the Lord’s many references to these events, the disciples could not
even stay awake with Jesus in prayer. When he was arrested, they fled.
Peter’s pathetic denial of Christ is described in heart-breaking
detail and the small band of disciples still following Jesus by the
time he returns to Jerusalem for his crucifixion becomes weak,
faithless, and utterly impotent in the face of it all.
The question therefore follows: How can such a rag-tag band that has
been so cowardly in the face of danger suddenly transform itself into
a committee for the propaganda concerning false claims for which they
will be martyred? They were already despairing and in the process of
grieving for their Lord, so what made them change their tune so
radically? Emory University’s Luke Timothy Johnson put it this way: “A
resuscitation is excellent news for the patient and family. But it is
not ‘good news’ that affects everyone else. It does not begin a
religion. It does not transform the lives of others across the ages.
It is not what is being claimed by the first Christians.” (11) That
which Johnson says concerning resuscitation theories is equally valid
for all other alternative explanations for the Resurrection. Whatever
happened, it had to account for the fact that cowards became martyrs,
Peter even insisting on being crucified upside-down because he was not
worthy to die as Jesus had. Although he denied the Resurrection,
liberal theologian Adolf von Harnack wrote,
The firm confidence of the disciples in Jesus was rooted in the belief
that He did not abide in death, but was raised by God. That Christ was
risen was, in virtue of what they had experienced in Him, certain only
after they had seen Him, just as sure as the fact of His death, and
became the main article of their preaching about Him. (12)
Could the disciples have been deluded? Perhaps their grief had led to
a mass hysteria and the “Resurrection” was the only way out of it all.
But is it really plausible to believe that literally hundreds of eye
witnesses were suffering from the same condition? And did masses of
converts multiply because they experienced the same mass neurosis?
Furthermore, the question is still left unanswered: Where was the
body? Mass hysteria cannot move corpses from one place to another, and
the body was guarded by Jewish and Roman soldiers.
External Evidence for the Resurrection
We will conclude with extrabiblical support for the Resurrection. The
late first-century Jewish historian Josephus recorded the following
words that continue to haunt modern readers:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to
call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of
such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him many
Jews, and also many of the Greeks. This man was the Christ. And when
Pilate had condemned him to the cross, upon his impeachment by the
principal man among us, those who had loved from the first did not
forsake him, for he appeared to them alive on the third day, the
divine prophets having spoken these and thousands of other wonderful
things about him. And even now, the race of Christians, so named from
him, has not died out. (13)
Although many have sought to refute the claim that Josephus is this
passage’s author, it is included in the standard Loeb edition of his
works. Hardly interested in impressing the Christians, the audience
for Josephus’ Antiquities was the Roman court, and Josephus is hardly
sympathetic to the Christians themselves in this work.
Much more could be said about the Jewish and Roman soldiers who had
fled their post. Whatever it was that scattered them that first Easter
morning, it was a greater source of fear than the certain execution
appointed for Roman soldiers who deserted their posts. We could
describe in great detail, from Roman military histories, the
discipline of first-century Roman soldiers and the stone and the way
in which it was sealed to further guard its contents. Are we really to
believe that this same band of cowardly men and several women
terrified the soldiers, broke the seal, removed the immense stone, and
carried the region’s most carefully watched body to a remote location?
And what did they gain from this? How did they benefit from such an
incredible theft? They were sent to their deaths-not for stealing a
body, for no one even charged them with this, but for raising a
seditious conspiracy against imperial power. Surely they could have
come up with a better charge and all they would have had to have
produced was the body of Jesus. Instead, these early martyrs are
charged with causing civil unrest. Just this sort of claim is made by
the Roman historian and government official Tacitus in the year 64.
Nero, he says, justly punished the Christians for the fire of Rome,
although it was in fact Nero’s own doing:
The one from whom this name originated, Christ, had been executed
during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of the procurator, Pontius
Pilate. For a time this pernicious superstition was suppressed, but it
broke out again, not only in Judea where this evil thing began, but
even in the city itself where everything atrocious and shameful from
all quarters flows together and finds adherents [Rome]. To begin with,
those who openly confessed were arrested, and then a vast multitude
was convicted on the basis of their disclosures, not so much on the
charge of arson as for their hatred of the human race. Their execution
was made into a game: they were covered with the skins of wild animals
and torn to pieces by dogs. They were hung on crosses. They were
burned, wrapped in flammable material and set on fire as darkness
fell, to illuminate the night. (14)
Gaius Pliny, Governor in Asia Minor, composed the following report to
They [the Christians] … sing a hymn to Christ as to a god…. The
matter seems to me worthy of consultation, especially because of the
large number of those imperiled. For many of all ages, of every rank,
and of both sexes are already in danger, and many more will come into
danger. The contagion of this superstition has spread not only in the
cities, but even to the villages and to the country districts. Yet I
still feel it is possible to check it and set it right. (15)
Quite apart from the biblical witnesses, therefore, hostile witnesses
(Jews and Romans) who had everything to gain by fashioning credible
alternatives to the Resurrection claim were at a complete loss. They
refer to the historical reality of Christ’s death and burial and even
when they, for obvious reasons, refuse to accept the Resurrection,
they fail to offer either Christ’s body or alternative explanations
for the empty tomb or for the sudden tumult created by the
Resurrection claim throughout the empire.
On the temple steps during the Feast of Pentecost, following Christ’s
Ascension, Peter boldly proclaimed the Resurrection and among the
international community of Jews and Jewish converts gathered for the
Feast the new Israel’s identity was shaped. As news spread, men and
women from well-educated classes as well as slaves-Jews and
Gentiles-embraced a hope that they knew could seal their death,
assured that by holding it to the end that very death would itself be
1 [ Back ] Bishop John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from
Fundamentalism (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991), 236.
2 [ Back ] Ibid., 242.
3 [ Back ] Peter Berger, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the
Rediscovery of the Supernatural (New York: Doubleday, 1990), 46.
4 [ Back ] Ibid., 47.
5 [ Back ] Thomas Kuhn, The Structures of Scientific Revolutions,
second ed. (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1970).
6 [ Back ] With specific reference to the application of Kuhn’s view
of science to religion, see Michael C. Banner, The Justification of
Science and the Rationality of Religious Belief (Oxford: Oxford Univ.
7 [ Back ] Hans Frei, Types of Christian Theology (New Haven: Yale
Univ. Press, 1992), 91.
8 [ Back ] Spong, op. cit., 217-18.
9 [ Back ] Ibid., 218-19.
10 [ Back ] Ibid., 222, 217-18.
11 [ Back ] Quoted in Newsweek, April 8, 1996, 68.
12 [ Back ] Adolf Harnack, What Is Christianity?, trans. by Thomas B.
Saunders (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), chapter 2.
13 [ Back ] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (London: Elwyn &
Sons, 1936), 18.3.3.
14 [ Back ] Tacitus, Annals, XV.44.
15 [ Back ] Eberhard Arnold, The Early Christians after the Death of
the Apostles (Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, 1970), 64-5.
Rate This Article
Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and
systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido,
California), host of the White Horse Inn, national radio broadcast,
and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is author of
many books, including The Gospel-Driven Life, Christless Christianity,
People and Place, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, God of Promise:
Introducing Covenant Theology, and Too Good to be True: Finding Hope
in a World of Hype.
Victor Wooten of the Flecktones turning “Amazing Grace” inside out:
My May 28th article, “Five Simple Truths about the Mideast Conflict,” elicited some passionate responses from those on both sides of the debate, with the first point in particular proving to be the most controversial: “There is no such thing as a historic ‘Palestinian people” living in the Middle East.’”
Let’s unpack two of the most common responses to that assertion, separating myth from fact. Of course, we know that there are several million people living in the West Bank and Gaza who identify as Palestinians today, and regardless of their historic pedigree, they are human beings with real needs. But when a misleading “history” is presented so as to delegitimize Jewish claims to the Land, the falsehoods must be exposed.
Myth #1. The modern Palestinians can trace their lineage back to the ancient Philistines, who were living in the land of Canaan (= Palestine) long before the Israelites had arrived on the scene.
This is completely false as to any lineal or ethnic connection between modern Palestinians and ancient Philistines.
First, the Philistines were Aegean (or Cypriot) sea peoples who migrated to the southern coast of Israel/Canaan in the 12th century BC. It is unclear what relationship they bear with the Philistines who are mentioned in Genesis, hundreds of years earlier. In short, they were not a Semitic people, as the Israelites and Arabs were. Second, from the 8th-5th centuries BC, they were crushed or ruled by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians, ultimately being absorbed by these populations and entirely disappearing from history. In other words, there was a distinct, end of the line for the Philistines roughly 2,500 years ago.
Third, six hundred years after the extinction of the Philistines, and after putting down a Jewish revolt, the Romans changed the name of Judea to Palaestina (in Latin) in order to discourage Jewish patriotism. So, there is absolutely no lineal or ethnic connection between the (earlier) Philistine people and the (later) land called Palestine. In fact, the Philistines had previously lived in the western part of the country, on the Mediterranean coast, whereas Palestine originally referred to the eastern part of the country, on the West Bank of the Jordan river.
Fourth, some Muslim leaders have claimed that there was a continuous Arab presence in Palestine dating back to Muslim conquests in the 7th century AD. But this dubious claim, even if true , would still mean that the continuous Jewish presence in the land predated the first major Arab presence by at least 2,000 years, and it would also underscore the fact that there is no connection between the later Arabs and the earlier (extinct) Philistines.
Myth # 2. The whole argument about there being no historic, “Palestinian people” is meaningless, since there’s is no such thing as a historic Iraqi people either. Borders were artificially created after World War I.”
This is false, as to the overall argument and only partially true about the artificial borders.
Anyone who knows the history of the modern Middle East will recognize the names of nation-states that did not exist as such before (such as United Arab Emirates). But not all national identities in the Middle East are of recent origin.
There has certainly been an ancient, historic Egyptian people in the region, to the south of Israel, and an ancient, historic Syrian-Lebanese people, to the north of Israel, while the Iraqi people often traced their heritage back to the ancient kings of Babylon as well as to the golden age of Islam that flourished in their region 700 years ago. In contrast, the Arabs living in Palestine had no such national identity because they had no such ancient, historic roots, not to mention the fact that there were dozens of other (non-Arab) peoples living in Palestine, some of whom had ruled the region for centuries.
In the oft-quoted words of the celebrated Arab-American historian and Princeton University professor, Philip Hitti, testifying before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, “There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not.” And so, if there was no “Palestine” in the pre-1948 Arab consciousness, there was no Palestinian people. The only people living in Palestine who traced their pedigree back to ancient, biblical times and who awaited the restoration of their ancient homeland were the Jewish people.
But why bother with facts? The old myths and lies are so much more effective.
Let’s take a survey: Are Americans (a) really bad at estimating, (b) really gullible, (c) both really gullible and really bad at estimating? After seeing the results of this Gallup survey, I think the answer is obvious:
U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25% of Americans are gay or lesbian. More specifically, over half of Americans (52%) estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35% who estimate that more than one in four are. Thirty percent put the figure at less than 15%.
As the Gallup articles points out, demographer Gary Gates recently released a review of population-based surveys on the topic which found 1.7% of Americans identify as lesbian or gay and another 1.8% (mostly women) identify as bisexual. Yet, as economist Karl Smith notes, “most Americans believe that there are significantly more gays and lesbians than blacks (12.6%) or Hispanics (16.3%) and 35% of Americans believe there are as many or more gays than Catholics (~25%).”
Why do Americans think there are so many gays in the U.S.? Maybe they are basing their estimations on what they see on television.
At the launch of the 2010-2011 television season, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) examined the five broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, and NBC) and found that 41 characters on 84 programs were homosexual. An additional 53 homosexual characters appeared on 30 scripted cable programs. That’s a total of 94 characters on the 114 shows that were counted.
GLAAD’s numbers don’t even include other types of programming on which openly homosexual characters appear, such as daytime dramas (As the World Turns, One Life to Live, The Young and the Restless, All My Children), daytime talk shows (Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, The Talk), or reality programming (Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Next Top Model, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Flipping Out, Work of Art, The Rachel Zoe Project, Thintervention with Jackie Warner, Million Dollar Listing, Top Chef, The Real L Word, Project Runway, The Real World, Circus, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, TRANSform Me ).
Of these 138 shows, 86% include at least one gay character. How many do you think include evangelicals or Catholics? Even though 76% of Americans identify as Christians I doubt you could find 90 openly Christian characters on all of television, much less on these 138 shows.
What do you think? Should we give the Hollywood propaganda machine credit for effectiveness or can we pin the blame for this one on America’s math teachers?
My daughter came home from school the other week and while talking with my wife about her day she mentioned that one of the boys in her class told them that God doesn’t exist.
As much as I wanted to lay out for her the intricacies of the cosmological argument, the moral argument, the teleological argument, the historical argument, and a whole range of other evidence that points to the existence of God, I knew that my 5 year old, brilliant as she is, would not be able to comprehend them.
So what should I do to 1. combat this challenge she has received to her fledgling faith and 2. strengthen her faith?
The first thing I did was to address the absurdity of the claim that God doesn’t exist. The exchange went as follows:
Daughter: My friend told me that God doesn’t exist. Me: That’s silly, that’s like me saying that since I didn’t catch God in a glass jar he must not exist.
The purpose of this exchange was to, quite simply, make the assertion that “God doesn’t exist” appear as absurd as it actually is. Universal negatives require omniscience and I have yet to meet an atheist who meets that criteria so it is safe to dismiss that notion outright.
This also helps to teach my daughter that all propositional truth claims require evidence and sound reason in order to be properly substantiated.
Me: Why does your friend think that God doesn’t exist? Daughter: I dunno. Me: Probably because his father told him.
I want my daughter to learn how to follow ideas back to their source. In this case its a pretty safe bet that the source of her friend’s belief is his parents. Just like the source of my daughter’s beliefs are her parents. I won’t/can’t provide the reason her friend’s parents’ disbelieve in the existence of God, but I want to whet my daughter’s appetite and let her know that her trust in us is not without warrant.
So I finished our short conversation with.
Me: How do you know that God exists? Daughter: I dunno, how? Me: You know God exists because you trust your mommy and daddy. And how do you suppose we know that God exists? Daughter: How? Me: We’ve examined the evidence and arguments from both sides and have found the evidence for God’s existence to be overwhelming.
Like I mentioned above, I’d really like to go into the specifics on the plethora of evidence and reason we have to believe that God exists and, more specifically, that Jesus is the promised messiah. Instead I planted a seed. I intend to water it as she grows, but for now I only want to accomplish two things:
Introduce her to apologetics, the need to defend her faith
Provide her with a basic answer/reason/foundation for her fledgling faith
—- From: www.reasontostand.org
Evolution News & Views June 1, 2011 11:55 AM | Permalink
[This article is authored by Biologic research scientist Ann Gauger, whose work uses molecular genetics and genomic engineering to study the origin, organization and operation of metabolic pathways. She received a BS in biology from MIT, and a PhD in developmental biology from the University of Washington, where she studied cell adhesion molecules involved in Drosophila embryogenesis. As a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard she cloned and characterized the Drosophilakinesin light chain. Her research has been published in Nature, Development, and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Dr. Gauger also appears in the upcoming film Metamorphosis.]
Over the last decade I’ve become convinced that in spite of our overflowing databases we don’t understand much about biology. We’re like students who have learned the Bohr model of the atom, and think we have grasped atomic structure. As a beginning, it’s a decent approximation. But atomic structure goes way beyond this simple model.
In the same way, we’re accustomed to talking and thinking about the cell as made up of machines (hardware), with DNA as the software program that somehow determines the hardware. This is an advance over imagining the cell as a few simple chemical reactions. But it’s still radically inadequate, if not obsolete, when trying to capture the reality of what we’re discovering in the biological world. We’re in search of more adequate conceptual categories. And the outcome will make our current descriptions look utterly inadequate. What we want to do is to catch up to the evidence, and get beyond our own, quite limited ways of speaking of these realities.
In a recent essay Steve Talbott highlights the inadequacies of our current way of thinking and speaking about biology. He points out that organisms are more than the sum of their mechanisms. In fact, he rejects the machine metaphor as completely inadequate to describe living things. Living beings are adaptable and responsive to their environments, changing their behavior based on external cues and their own requirements. They are transformative, existing as entities that are much more than the molecules that compose them. They are not what they eat — they make what they eat into themselves. Living beings are integrated wholes that come from other living things. And they are more than their DNA. DNA requires a functional cellular environment to be properly read and interpreted, just as a cell requires DNA to be able to sustain itself. In order to understand the whole picture you have to look at the cell from many points of view, not just a gene-centric one.
Everything in organisms is interconnected causally. Everywhere in biological systems, chicken and egg problems abound. For example, amino acid biosynthesis pathways are composed of enzymes that require the amino acids they make, ATP biosynthesis pathways must have ATP to make ATP, DNA is needed to make proteins, but proteins are needed to make DNA, and the list goes on. Indeed, the scope of the problem is difficult even to grasp.
Ultimately, cellular systems can be made only by — wait for it — cells. We can isolate ribosomes or nuclei or mitochondria or Golgi, and study their parts, but we can’t build them, even though we know what they are made of. It takes a whole cell to make them. For example, ribosomes and spliceosomes, the large ribonucleoprotein particles that are essential for the processing and translation of messenger RNAs into protein, must be synthesized, modified, and partially assembled in particular regions of the nucleus, and then be exported to the cytoplasm for further modification and assembly. Literally hundreds of other proteins and RNAs are involved in these dynamic processes, enabling the many RNA-RNA, RNA-protein, and protein-protein interactions and rearrangements that are required, all the while proof-reading and removing stalled assemblages that may occur along the way.1
What kind of processes can produce such interconnected, self-reproducing systems? Can a bottom-up process like neo-Darwinism boot-strap its way to such causally circular beings?
Many biologists would answer yes, because after all, what else is there besides neo-Darwinism? Their prior commitment to mechanistic, reductionist thinking and materialist presuppositions prevents them from seeing the problem. In fact, this insistence on purely materialistic, bottom-up explanations goes back a long way.
I have a book of lectures given at MIT by the famous developmental biologist and geneticist, Edmund Wilson, in 1923. The book is called The Physical Basis of Life. Wilson acknowledged that we knew nothing about the origin or functioning of cells or the development of body plans, but insisted as an article of faith that there would be a purely physical explanation, based in chemistry.
Up until now, the materialist, reductionist method has been very successful, because cells can be ground up, probed, measured and tested in a way that life forces or agency can’t be. But now molecular, cellular, and developmental biologists are drowning in a flood of data that we don’t know how to interpret. We do not know, for example, how to read a genome from an unknown new species to say what kind of organism it will produce. We can only determine what other genomes it most closely resembles. In order to predict the nature and appearance of the organism with that genome, we would need to know — just for starters — the maternal and paternal contributions to the egg and sperm, the whole of the developmental path from egg to adult, plus the particular effects of any mutations within that genome on its phenotype, not to mention its environmental history.
When we rely only on a reductionist approach, we cannot see the organism as a whole. An extremely simple analogy, drawn from a human artifact, might help to see why. Imagine an elaborately knit sweater, maybe an Irish fisherman’s. Someone who wants to understand the sweater finds a loose end and starts to pull. He keeps pulling and pulling, expecting to arrive at some causal knot, until the whole thing comes apart and is unraveled on the floor. The sweater as a functional whole depends on the way the wool twines together. To understand the sweater you have to look at the patterns in the whole, not just what it was made of. Pulling it apart destroys its essential nature. Now this is a very poor analogy, but scientists are often like that poor fellow tugging on the string.
I like to show a video to illustrate the why we need to look top down as well as bottom up. It’s a real-time visualization of a living cell, with various structures (organelles) highlighted one by one. Go hereto see it.
These cellular components, and many others, function in a very crowded cellular milieu, somehow recognizing the molecules and structures with which they are supposed to interact. They send and receive signals, correct errors, and adjust their activity in a dynamic way according to the needs of the whole organism.
Notice the language of intentionality in the last paragraph: ‘function’, ‘recognize’, interact’, ‘signal’, ‘correct’, ‘adjust’. Such language is common in biological writing. Talbott points this out also, and explains why (emphasis added):
[Because] there is no possible way to make global sense of genes and their myriad companion molecules by remaining at their level, researchers have “simply bestowed upon the gene the faculty of spontaneity, the power of ‘dictating,’ ‘informing,’ ‘regulating,’ ‘controlling,’ etc.” And today, one could add, there is at least an equal emphasis on how other molecules “regulate” and “control” the genes! Clearly something isn’t working in this picture of mechanistic control. And the proof lies in the covert, inconsistent, and perhaps unconscious invocation of higher coordinating powers through the use of these loaded words — words that owe their meaning ultimately to the mind, with its power to understand information, to contextualize it, to regulate on the basis of it, and to act in service of an overall goal.
Recognizing the implied intentionality in such language, several authors have called for biologists to abolish these words from their writing. According to them, anything that implies either teleology (being directed toward a goal or purpose) or agency (intelligence acting to produce an effect) is to be eschewed. After all, both teleology and agency have been discarded by modern biologists, along with vitalism. Yet teleological language persists. Maybe the reason such language is so common in biology research is because living things are directed toward a purpose. Maybe biological systems do reflect intelligent agency, because intelligent agents are the only known source capable of designing, assembling, and then coordinating so many interrelated sub-systems into a functional whole. And maybe, by acknowledging this, we can come to understand biology better.Notes 1Staley JP, Woolford JL (2009) “Assembly of ribosomes and spliceosomes: complex ribonucleoprotein machines.” Curr Opin Cell Biol. 21: 109-118. doi:10.1016/j.ceb.2009.01.003.
Is there any subject more controversial than the question of the legitimacy of the modern State of Israel? Is it the eternal home of the Jewish people, promised to them by God Himself? Or is it the illegitimate home of violent Jewish occupiers, an apartheid state guilty of ethnic cleansing? Or is it something in between? In the midst of the often emotional arguments on both sides, it is helpful to review five simple truths about the Mideast conflict.1. There is no such thing as a historic “Palestinian people” living in the Middle East. To be sure, there have been Arabs living in the land of Palestine for centuries. (The land of Israel was derisively renamed “Palestine” by the Romans in the second century A.D.). And it is true that some of these families have lived in Palestine without interruption for many generations. But at no time before 1967 did these Arabs identify themselves as “Palestinians,” nor did they seek to achieve any kind of statehood there. As expressed by former terrorist Walid Shoebat, “Why is it that on June 4th 1967 I was a Jordanian and overnight I became a Palestinian?”
Before 1967, there was no such thing as Arab, Palestinian nationalism and no attempt to develop the territory as a homeland for the Arabs who lived there, and in 1936, when the Palestine Orchestra was formed, it was a Jewish orchestra. In fact, the original name of the Jerusalem Post, the flagship Jewish newspaper, was the Palestine Post.
There is no question that there are several million people who identify themselves as Palestinians today, and many of these people have suffered great hardship in recent years. Nonetheless, the concept of a Palestinian people is a modern invention, and it is part of the anti-Israel propaganda machine without any basis in fact. The recent comments of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, claiming a 9,000 year Palestinian pedigree, are purely fictional: “Oh, Netanyahu, you are incidental in history; we are the people of history. We are the owners of history.”
2. There were anti-Jewish intifadas in Palestine two decades before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. We are often told that Jews and Arabs coexisted peacefully in Palestine prior to the formation of the Jewish state in 1948, or at least, prior to the rise of strong Jewish nationalism. In reality, as Jews began to return to their one and only ancestral homeland in the late 19th century, hostilities began to rise among their Arab neighbors, despite the fact that there was more than enough room for both.
By the 1920’s, radical Muslim leaders like Haj Amin Al-Husseini, later a confidant of Adolph Hitler, were organizing intifadas against the Jewish population, with many Jewish lives lost. And what helped fuel Al-Husseini’s Jew-hatred was the anti-Jewish sentiment found in the Koran and early Muslim traditions. Post-1948 Jew-hatred simply built on centuries of Islamic anti-Semitism.
3. Jewish refugees fleeing from Muslim and Arab countries were absorbed by Israel after 1948; Arab refugees fleeing from Israel after 1948 were not absorbed by Muslim and Arab countries.Despite the fact that the Muslim nations surrounding Israel are 650 times the size of this tiny state, they made no effort to absorb the approximately 600,000 Arab refugees who fled Israel in 1948 when war was declared on Israel by five neighboring Arab nations.
To this day, these refugees are not welcomed by other Arab states. As expressed more than 20 years ago by Ralph Galloway, former head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, “The Arab States do want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel.” Yet Israel absorbed roughly 800,000 Jewish refugees that had to flee from Muslim nations after 1948.
4. Only one side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is truly committed to peaceful co-existence. It is often stated that if the Palestinians put down their weapons, there would be no more war but if the Israelis put down their weapons, there would be no more Israel. This is not to say that all Palestinians are warmongers and all Israelis are doves. But the vast majority of Israelis are not driven by a radical ideology that calls for the extermination of their Arab neighbors, nor are they teaching their children songs about the virtues of religious martyrdom.
Israel does not relish spending a major portion of its budget on defense, nor does it relish sending its sons and daughters into military service. It simply will not surrender Jerusalem, its historic and religious capital, and it will not commit regional suicide by retreating to indefensible borders. In return it simply asks the Palestinians to say, “We embrace your right to exist.”
5. The current uprisings throughout the Muslim and Arab world today remind us that Israel cannot fairly be blamed for all the tension and conflicts in the region. The nation of Israel is obviously not faultless in the current conflict, but it is ludicrous to think that without the presence of this supposed evil nation in the Middle East, all would be well. There have been constant disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and in 1980, Abd Alhalim Khaddam, then Syria’s Foreign Minister, admitted, “If we look at a map of the Arab Homeland, we can hardly find two countries without conflict. . . . We can hardly find two countries which are not either in a state of war or on the road to war.”
Certainly, there are many obstacles that stand in the way of a true peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and the road ahead is fraught with uncertainty, but it would be a good starting point if we replaced myths and emotional arguments with facts.
This week I will look at the fallacy of denying the antecedent. Before I can elaborate exactly what is involved in this fallacy, it is important to introduce and analyse some valid arguments that are superficially similar.
One of the very first valid inferences one learns in logic is modus ponens. To use the well worn example that was repeated ad nauseam when I was learning logic (and one I probably bored my students with too) a paradigmatic example of modus ponens is,
1. If it is raining then the grass will be wet.
2. It is raining;
3. The grass will be wet.
Put more abstractly, a modus ponens has the form:
1’ If P then Q.
Modus ponens proceeds with the first premise contending that a conditional statement is true. A conditional statement is a statement about a hypothetical situation; in this case the claim is “if it is raining then the grass will be wet”. Notice that for this conditional to be true, it does not have to actually be raining. On a sunny day it is still true that if it starts raining the grass will be wet. A conditional statement tells us what will be the case if some other thing or event is the case – not what actually is the case.
Conditional statements of the form “if P then Q” have what logicians call an “antecedent” and a “consequent”. P is the antecedent; in the above example the antecedent is the claim, “it is raining”. In a conditional statement one talks about what occurs if the antecedent is true. Q is the consequent; in the example above the consequent is the proposition “the grass will be wet”. The consequent is what is said to be true if the antecedent is correct.
Modus ponens proceeds by first affirming that a conditional statement is true and then affirming the antecedent is true. If both a conditional statement is true and its antecedent is true then it is impossible for the consequent to not also be true. This is obvious upon immediate reflection. If the conditional ‘if P then Q’ is true, and P is true, then Q must also be true. Note, that in a validmodus ponens inference, one affirms the antecedent.
Modus Tollens A second and related valid inference is modus tollens. Like modus ponens amodus tollens begins by affirming a conditional statement; however, it proceeds by denying the consequent. To use the example above:
1. If it is raining then the grass will be wet.
2’’ The grass is not wet;
3’’ It is not raining.
This has the form:
1’ If P then Q.
2’’ Not Q;
3’’ Not P.
Modus tollens proceeds by noting a conditional statement is true and then denying the consequent of this condition. It follows from this that the antecedent is false. Again this is a valid argument form. If its true that given a certain antecedent obtains that a consequent will follow, and the consequent has not followed, then the antecedent will not obtain.
Both modus ponens and modus tollens formalise valid inferences involving conditional statements. If one has a conditional statement of the form, if P then Q, one can deny the consequent and argue that P is false or one can affirm the antecedent and argue that that Q is true.
Denying the Antecedent With this background in place we can turn to the fallacy of denying the antecedent. This fallacy occurs when a person denies the antecedent. To return to our example:
1. If it is raining then the grass will be wet.
2’’’ It is not raining;
3’’’ The grass will not be wet.
This argument is invalid because it is possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false. Imagine it is a hot summer day in Auckland, there is not a cloud in the sky and the sun is beating down; to cool themselves off my children set up a sprinkler on the grass outside and run through it. In this situation the condition ‘if its raining then the grass will be wet’ is true. It is also true that it is not raining yet the grass is wet; it has been drenched by the sprinkler.
This highlights something about conditionals. When one makes a conditional statement, one claims that if the antecedent is true then the consequent is true. One does not, however, necessarily claim that if the consequent is true then antecedent is true. The example above shows this. It is true that rain causes grass to be wet but this does not mean that rain is the only thing that causes wet grass. So one cannot validly claim that a consequent of a conditional is false by arguing that the antecedent is.
Example This may all sound a bit abstract and the examples of rain and wet grass somewhat trivial. However, it is necessary to use obvious examples to illustrate the logical point. Let us now turn to an example that has been discussed on this blog lately which has generated a reasonable amount of online commentary.
1. If God exists then we have a plausible account of (a) the nature of moral goodness and (b) the nature of moral obligation.
As I noted in my review of the debate, one response Harris offered to 1 (b) was to argue that the existence of evil in the world suggests that God does not exist.I also noted that this objection is unsound. Craig’s contention in 1 (b) was a conditional statement that: IfGod exists then we have a plausible account of the nature of moral obligation. Arguing that God does not exist does not refute this conditional statement since the conditional does not claim that God exists. Just as one can, on a sunny day, make true statements about what would be the case if it were raining, the claim that ‘ifGod exists then we have a plausible account of moral obligation’ can be true even if God does not exist.
Since the debate, some of Harris’s supporters have suggested Harris’s argument here did provide a compelling reason for rejecting Craig’s claim that there exists a plausible divine command theory account of moral obligation. Craig’s conditional for this was that if God exists then a divine command theory is defensible. However, they contend that God does not exist and so, therefore, a divine command theory is not plausible.
This does not follow and is pretty clearly a case of the fallacy of affirming the antecedent. As both Plantinga and Mark Murphy have noted separately, a divine command theory is, in fact, compatible with atheism. Plantinga notes,
“one might reject theism but accept a divine command ethics, and as a consequence … reject moral realism.”
Similarly, Mark Murphy contends:
“A metaethical theological voluntarist might claim that no normative state of affairs could be made to obtain without certain acts of divine will, but because there is no God, or because there is a God that has not performed the requisite acts of will, no normative states of affairs obtain.”
The point is that one could accept that the most plausible account of moral obligation is that obligations are identical with God’s commands and still deny God exists; and conclude, therefore, that moral obligations do not really exist. This is no more incoherent than accepting that the best account of the nature of unicorns is that they are magical horses with one horn in the centre of their forehead and then conclude that because no such horses exist that unicorns do not exist.
It should not need belabouring but calling into question the antecedent of Craig’s conditional does not entail a refutation of the consequent. The fact that so many followers of Sam Harris are defending as valid the fallacy of denying the antecedent is mildly amusing but it is not much else.
To summarise, conditional statements are if-then statements; they claim that a consequent is true, if an antecedent is true. One cannot show the consequent is false by denying the antecedent. One can affirm that the antecedent is true and infer, therefore, that the consequent is too, and one can deny the consequent is true and therefore deny the antecedent but denying the antecedent has little effect at all.
A recent NOVA special entitled Dogs Decoded (available on Netflix) provides remarkable evidence of dogs’ incredible intelligence and demonstrates how they bond with humans in ways their ancestors, wolves, cannot. It also provides yet another reason to believe in the work of a divine Creator.
Highlights from the special
Dogs and humans bond with each other in several ways. For example, research indicates that man’s best friend possesses the ability to read human expressions uniquely from other animals. For instance, dogs can readily follow human signals, such as hand or eye movements, that chimpanzees cannot. Yet dogs do not respond to similar signals from other dogs or animals, only from humans. Increasing evidence also indicates that dogs may even be able to read human emotions. Research shows that bonding moments occur when dogs and humans both experience a release of the hormone oxytocin during a petting session. (This is the same hormone released by a human mother while breastfeeding.)
Based on DNA comparisons, dogs are genetically indistinguishable from gray wolves. However, in the process of domestication, breeds have become as diverse as the Pekingese and the Great Dane. The documentary points out that, in addition to providing companionship, domesticated dogs have helped humans hunt and herd for thousands of years, helping advance civilization greatly.
Since dogs and wolves are genetically identical, researchers in Hungary raised litters of wolf cubs and dog puppies side by side to see if the grown wolves would act like dogs. At eight weeks of age, the wolves began to show aggressive tendencies. Whereas the puppies would engage with people, the wolf cubs began to act as they would in the wild. After four months, the wolves became too vicious and had to be released.
Meanwhile, an experiment, begun in the Soviet Union near Novosibirsk in 1959 and still ongoing, has resulted in the successful domestication of silver foxes. The researchers noted that most first generation foxes showed aggression or fear. Only about one percent showed neither. This one percent became the founding generation for a new breed. The selection process was repeated and in just three generations aggressive behavior began to disappear. By the eighth generation, foxes began to seek contact with and show affection to humans. After fifty years, the foxes are tamer than ever. Aggressiveness appears to be a genetic trait, with tamer foxes producing less adrenaline than their aggressive counterparts. The research revealed another startling development: as foxes become tame, coat pattern and color begins to change and some animals develop curly tails and floppy ears. In other words, they begin to look more like dogs than foxes.
What conclusions can we draw from these observations?
First, the NOVA special suggests a scenario for how dogs might have been domesticated originally. Perhaps a human hunter in some prehistoric era discovered a litter of young orphaned wolf cubs and attempted to raise them. Initially, such a project would likely have been unsuccessful because of the cubs’ ferocity, but some people would have persisted. Eventually one non-aggressive, non-fearful cub would have survived to adulthood. After many similar projects, a pair of full-grown, non-aggressive, non-fearful wolves would have mated, and within several generations their tame offspring would have become the first domesticated dogs. In fact, recent research suggests that the domestication of wolves may have occurred at least 50 times within the past 16,300 years in China.1
Second, since wolves and foxes are natural carnivores and hunters, aggressiveness and fear should be genetic traits favored by natural selection. In fact, it seems that lacking these traits would become a disadvantage and most likely be eliminated by natural processes. Thus, it is not surprising that 99 percent of wild foxes in the beginning of the Russian experiment showed aggression and fear toward their human handlers. But wolves and foxes sometimes perform a secondary role as scavengers. The existence of a small number displaying neither aggressiveness nor fear may at least be partially consistent with this role and may help explain why these characteristics did not disappear long before dogs were domesticated.
Finally, can natural selection explain the traits allowing foxes (and presumably wolves) to become domesticated and bonded with humans? As the special indicates, some 40 generations of wild foxes were selectively bred to interact with humans in ways similar to dogs and their puppies.2 These interactions appear inconsistent with the concept of natural selection and the animals’ expected roles as carnivores, hunters, or scavengers. Indeed, such traits do not seem consistent with any reasonable role for an animal attempting to survive in the wild. I would argue that these traits in the fox (and most likely the wolf) genome can be readily explained if they were placed there by a Designer who desired to create an animal that would not only help humans survive, but also provide cherished companionship.
Seventeen-year-old Scotty McCreery may have won “American Idol” singing wholesome country ditties, but playing in the background was a blues song older than the fresh-faced singer.
On lead vocals of this heart-wrenching ballad was Aerosmith frontman and Idol judge Steven Tyler. In his new autobiography, Tyler recalls an abortion he made his 16-year-old girlfriend have. He recalls: “It was a big crisis. It’s a major thing when you’re growing something with a woman, but they convinced us that it would never work out and would ruin our lives … You go to the doctor and they put the needle in her belly and they squeeze the stuff in and you watch. And it comes out dead. I was pretty devastated. In my mind, I’m going, Jesus, what have I done?”
This story became a duet when the girl in question, Julia Holcomb, now the mother of six children and a practicing Catholic, told her side of the story, which differs from Tyler’s. She writes: “He has talked of me as a sex object without any human dignity. I have made a point over these long years never to speak of him, yet he has repeatedly humiliated me in print with distortions of our time together. I do not understand why he has done this. It has been very painful.”
The details of their testimonies do not match. She says the pregnancy wasn’t entirely unplanned, that Tyler had thrown her birth-control pills away. She says that he pushed her to have the abortion.
Kevin Burke, who wrote a piece for National Review Online highlighting Tyler’s abortion comments, wonders if the soft-porn treatment of his relationship with Holcomb is his “way to avoid the pain and reality of his role in the abortion.”
This much we know: There was an abortion, and there are pain and regrets.
Reflecting on her troubled youth, Holcomb writes: “Our nation’s young girls, especially those like me, who have experienced trauma and abuse, and are vulnerable to exploitation should not be used as sexual playthings, scarred by abortions to free their male partners from financial responsibility, and then like their unborn children, tossed aside as an unwanted object.”
Our nation’s boys, too, should know that abortion doesn’t quite work like a delete button. Sex involves consequences, even when you’re a rock star on the rise.
“It took great courage for Julia Holcomb to share her abortion experience and road to recovery from post-abortion stress,” says Jenny Mohler, a social worker and board member and former director of the Northwest Crisis Pregnancy Center (which includes a maternity home) in Washington, D.C. “Working at the pregnancy center, we see many women, men and families who suffer in silence expressing many similar symptoms of post-abortion trauma. Countless times I have heard women state through their own words and unique experiences, as Julia reports: ‘Everyone around me seemed to be moving on with life, but I was carrying a wound that would not go away.'”
For Theresa Bonopartis, director of Lumina/Hope and Healing After Abortion, who, like Holcomb, had a coerced saline abortion when she was a teenager, the story hit close to home. When she read, “Jesus, what have I done,” she “totally related. No one can ever imagine the horror. It is so hard to even believe what you have just experienced is legal,” she tells me.
“I don’t think people comprehend the hidden trauma of abortion — even those who are suffering from it,” Theresa Burke, who with her husband, Kevin, co-founded Rachel’s Vineyard, an organization that provides outreach and counseling to families that have undergone the trauma of abortion, says. “Furthermore, if they need help, they are scared to death to look at any feelings of remorse. They project their guilt and shame onto everyone who might prick the human blood of conscience.”
Mrs. Burke’s comments gel with many online comments to the Tyler-Holcomb story. And like Holcomb, frequently “men and women who have been touched by abortion long to find a safe place to privately share their story with a sympathetic family member or friend, but they often fear their experience will be diminished or exaggerated, that their confidence will be violated, or that they will be judged, keeping them from reaching out for the support they desire and deserve,” Michaelene Fredenburg, author of the upcoming “Grief and Abortion: Creating A Safe Place to Heal,” observes.
People will argue that there is no such thing as post-abortion stress syndrome, as many have in the wake of Kevin Burke’s piece. But it’s hard to honestly deny there is a lot of hurt out there — both physical and mental. Increasingly, there are resources online that can help facilitate a more anonymous, safe way to cope with this reality — websites like Fredenburg’s abortionchangesyou.com and www.afterabortion.com. But even talking even under the protection of confidentiality is painfully difficult.
After 38 years of legal abortion, the next person you run into may very well have been affected by an abortion. She may have wished she had that child she aborted 20 years ago. He may, too.
It’s something to bear in mind when we discuss the topic.
The Burkes, Bonopartis, the Northwest Center, and Fredenberg each represent alternatives to abortion, and help with healing for those who have experienced or participated in or been otherwise effected by it. And they’re not alone.
“I think the experience of Julia and Tyler reflects on a more spectacular and dramatic stage what has happened in the lives of so many who grew up in the time of drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll and (who) may not understand how (the) sexual activity and abortions impacted their lives,” Kevin Burke observes. “A story like this hopefully brings attention to the losses that need repentance, reconciliation and healing, and provides hope that this is possible.”
Published May 30, 2011
A visitor walks through the Western Wall tunnel in Jerusalem’s Old City. Underneath the stone buildings and crowded alleys of old Jerusalem, hundreds of people are moving at any given moment through tunnels, vaulted medieval chambers and Roman sewers in a rapidly expanding subterranean city invisible from the streets above.
JERUSALEM – Underneath the crowded alleys and holy sites of old Jerusalem, hundreds of people are snaking at any given moment through tunnels, vaulted medieval chambers and Roman sewers in a rapidly expanding subterranean city invisible from the streets above.
At street level, the walled Old City is an energetic and fractious enclave with a physical landscape that is predominantly Islamic and a population that is mainly Arab.
Underground Jerusalem is different: Here the noise recedes, the fierce Middle Eastern sun disappears, and light comes from fluorescent bulbs. There is a smell of earth and mildew, and the geography recalls a Jewish city that existed 2,000 years ago.
Archaeological digs under the disputed Old City are a matter of immense sensitivity. For Israel, the tunnels are proof of the depth of Jewish roots here, and this has made the tunnels one of Jerusalem’s main tourist draws: The number of visitors, mostly Jews and Christians, has risen dramatically in recent years to more than a million visitors in 2010.
But many Palestinians, who reject Israel’s sovereignty in the city, see them as a threat to their own claims to Jerusalem. And some critics say they put an exaggerated focus on Jewish history.
A new underground link is opening within two months, and when it does, there will be more than a mile of pathways beneath the city. Officials say at least one other major project is in the works. Soon, anyone so inclined will be able to spend much of their time in Jerusalem without seeing the sky.
On a recent morning, a man carrying surveying equipment walked across a two-millennia-old stone road, paused at the edge of a hole and disappeared underground.
In a multilevel maze of rooms and corridors beneath the Muslim Quarter, workers cleared rubble and installed steel safety braces to shore up crumbling 700-year-old Mamluk-era arches.
Above ground, a group of French tourists emerged from a dark passage they had entered an hour earlier in the Jewish Quarter and found themselves among Arab shops on the Via Dolorosa, the traditional route Jesus took to his crucifixion.
South of the Old City, visitors to Jerusalem can enter a tunnel chipped from the bedrock by a Judean king 2,500 years ago and walk through knee-deep water under the Arab neighborhood of Silwan. Beginning this summer, a new passage will be open nearby: a sewer Jewish rebels are thought to have used to flee the Roman legions who destroyed the Jerusalem temple in 70 A.D.
The sewer leads uphill, passing beneath the Old City walls before expelling visitors into sunlight next to the rectangular enclosure where the temple once stood, now home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the gold-capped Dome of the Rock.
From there, it’s a short walk to a third passage, the Western Wall tunnel, which continues north from the Jewish holy site past stones cut by masons working for King Herod and an ancient water system. Visitors emerge near the entrance to an ancient quarry called Zedekiah’s Cave that descends under the Muslim Quarter.
The next major project, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, will follow the course of one of the city’s main Roman-era streets underneath the prayer plaza at the Western Wall. This route, scheduled for completion in three years, will link up with the Western Wall tunnel.
The excavations and flood of visitors exist against a backdrop of acute distrust between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims, who are suspicious of any government moves in the Old City and particularly around the Al-Aqsa compound, Islam’s third-holiest shrine. Jews know the compound as the Temple Mount, site of two destroyed temples and the center of the Jewish faith for three millennia.
Muslim fears have led to violence in the past: The 1996 opening of a new exit to the Western Wall tunnel sparked rumors among Palestinians that Israel meant to damage the mosques, and dozens were killed in the ensuing riots. In recent years, however, work has gone ahead without incident.
Mindful that the compound has the potential to trigger devastating conflict, Israel’s policy is to allow no excavations there. Digging under Temple Mount, the Israeli historian Gershom Gorenberg has written, “would be like trying to figure out how a hand grenade works by pulling the pin and peering inside.”
Despite the Israeli assurances, however, rumors persist that the excavations are undermining the physical stability of the Islamic holy sites.
“I believe the Israelis are tunneling under the mosques,” said Najeh Bkerat, an official of the Waqf, the Muslim religious body that runs the compound under Israel’s overall security control.
Samir Abu Leil, another Waqf official, said he had heard hammering that very morning underneath the Waqf’s offices, in a Mamluk-era building that sits just outside the holy compound and directly over the route of the Western Wall tunnel, and had filed a complaint with police.
The closest thing to an excavation on the mount, Israeli archaeologists point out, was done by the Waqf itself: In the 1990s, the Waqf opened a new entrance to a subterranean prayer space and dumped truckloads of rubble outside the Old City, drawing outrage from scholars who said priceless artifacts were being destroyed.
This month, an Israeli government watchdog released a report saying Waqf construction work in the compound in recent years had been done without supervision and had damaged antiquities. The issue is deemed so sensitive that the details of the report were kept classified.
Some Israeli critics of the tunnels point to what they call an exaggerated emphasis on a Jewish narrative.
“The tunnels all say: We were here 2,000 years ago, and now we’re back, and here’s proof,” said Yonathan Mizrachi, an Israeli archaeologist. “Living here means recognizing that other stories exist alongside ours.”
Yuval Baruch, the Antiquities Authority archaeologist in charge of Jerusalem, said his diggers are careful to preserve worthy finds from all of the city’s historical periods. “This city is of interest to at least half the people on Earth, and we will continue uncovering the past in the most professional way we can,” he said.
In this talk provided by Lanier Theological Library, Dr. Peter J. Williams presents New Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts. As well as answering some common objections (by the likes of Bart Ehrman), Williams points out a number of lines of evidence that build a case for eyewitness accounts. (Includes some undesigned coincidences.) Check out the video (with powerpoint slides) onvimeo here. Or listen to the audio below. Featured at the excellent BeThinking website.
With all of the recent news about the middle east, I thought I’d post a recap of some of Israel’s history. Understanding how the modern state of Israel came to be is especially important (this is from www.discoverthenetworks.org).
The State of Israel was created in a peaceful and legal process by the United Nations. It was not created out of Palestinian lands, but rather out of the Ottoman Empire, which had been ruled for 400 years by the Turks who lost it when they, fighting alongside Germany, were defeated in World War I. There were no “Palestinian” lands at the time because there were no people claiming to be Palestinians, but rather simply Arabs who lived in the region of Palestine.
It was only after World War I that the present states of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq were also created – also out of the Turkish Empire by the British and French victors. Jordan was created on about 80 percent of the Palestine Mandate, which was originally designated by the League of Nations as part of the Jewish homeland. Since then, Jews have been prohibited from owning property there.
In 1947, a UN partition plan mandated the creation of two states on the remaining 20 percent of the Palestine Mandate: the State of Israel for the Jews, and another state for the stateless Arabs. But the rulers of eight Arab states did not want a non-Arab state anywhere in the Middle East. Thus they rejected the UN arrangement and simultaneously launched a three-front war of annihilation against the newly created state of Israel — on the very day of its creation in 1948. Israel begged for peace and offered friendship and cooperation to its neighbors. The Arab dictators rejected this offer and answered it with a war, which they ultimately lost.
A state of war in the Middle East has continued uninterruptedly ever since, because most of the Arab states have refused to sign a peace treaty with Israel, and have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state. To this day, the Arab states and the Palestinians refer to the failure of their effort to destroy Israel as Al-Nakba — The Catastrophe. What for one people was a joyous founding, was seen by the other as a disaster.
Had there been no invasion of Israel by Arab armies whose intent was overtly genocidal, there would have been a state of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza since 1948.
From 1949 to 1956, Egypt waged war against Israel, launching more than 9,000 attacks from terrorist cells set up in the refugee camps of the Gaza Strip. The 1956 “Sinai campaign” ended Egypt’s terror war, even though U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower forced Israeli Prime Minister Ben Gurion to return the Sinai to Egypt without a peace treaty.
But the Arab war continued on other fronts. In 1964, Yasser Arafat began a campaign of terror whose avowed goal was the destruction of Israel and the genocide of its Jews. Sponsored first by Kuwait, and later by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran, Arafat declared unending war against Israel until all of “Palestine” would be liberated, redeemed in “fire and blood.”
In 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan attacked Israel for a second time and were again defeated. It was in repelling these aggressors that Israel came to control the West Bank and the Gaza strip, as well as the oil-rich Sinai desert. Israel elected not to annex these territories it had captured from the aggressors, but neither did it withdraw its armies or relinquish its control over the region because the Arabs once again refused to make peace.
In 1973 the Arab armies again attacked Israel. This invasion was led by Syria and Egypt, abetted by Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and five other countries that gave military support to the aggressors. Israel again defeated the Arab forces. Afterwards, Egypt — and Egypt alone — agreed to make a formal peace.
In 1987 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) initiated a violent, six-year Intifada(uprising) directed against Israeli soldiers and civilians alike, after false rumors of Israeli atrocities had circulated through Palestinian territories. During the first four years of the uprising, Palestinians carried out more than 3,600 Molotov cocktail attacks, 100 hand grenade attacks, and 600 assaults with guns or explosives. These actions resulted in the deaths of 16 Israeli civilians and 11 Israeli soldiers, in addition to the wounding of more than 1,400 Israeli civilians and 1,700 Israeli soldiers.
In 1993 the Oslo peace process was initiated, based on the pledge that both parties would renounce violence as a means of settling their disputes. But the Palestinians never followed through on this pledge. During the so-called “peace process” — between 1993 and 1999 — they perpetrated more than 4,000 terrorist attacks that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 Israelis. During this same period, Israel gave the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza a self-governing authority, a 40,000-man armed “police force,” and 95 percent of the territory their negotiators demanded. But Israel’s efforts to achieve peace were in vain. In 2000, the Palestinians officially launched a new, second Intifada against Israel, effectively terminating the peace process.
Does a “tenseless” theory of time violate the Principle of Identity?
Hi Dr. Craig, I’m from Brazil. I watched your interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn (host of PBS’ “Closer to Truth”), in which you distinguished two philosophical views of time. The first one is the tensed view of time.
But I have wondered deeply about the tenseless one. In this view, the past, the present and the future are equally real and the observed “tenseness” of time is just an illusion of our minds.
Here is the problem: if the positions (a) and (b) of an observed electron (x) are simultaneously real, then the statement “electron (x) is electron (x)” would be false, which means that the principle of identity would be false too. Is that right?
The tenseless model has some other absurd implications:
– If all the states of my mind are simultaneously real, why in the world do I have this dynamic illusion?
– Am I already dead but not aware of it?
Moreover, I think that it entails that the nature of our minds isn’t material.
If this model of time is in deed so absurd, why do Stephen Hawking embraces it despite all the odds? Is modern science that much incompatible with our awareness of the world? Or is Hawking doing just the same mistake as Einstein did regarding the expansion of space just to avoid the beginning of the Cosmos?
I’m not an english native writer, but I did my best.
God bless you Dr Craig Brazil
Dr. Craig responds:
I’m so encouraged by the number of astute Christians in Brazil whom we are encountering through Reasonable Faith. As Brazil emerges to superpower status during this century and as the Christian church there continues to burgeon, it gives grounds for great optimism about the future.
Your perceptive question, Daniel, is one which I’ve addressed in my essay “McTaggart’s Paradox and the Problem of Temporary Intrinsics,” Analysis 58 (1998): 122-127. For those who are unfamiliar with the background of Daniel’s question, let me explain that, broadly speaking, there are two competing views of the nature of time: the tensed view, which holds that temporal becoming is a real, objective feature of the world, and the tenseless view, which holds that all moments of time, whether past, present, or future, are equally real and existent, so that temporal becoming is an illusion of human consciousness. Philosophers are deeply divided as to which view is correct.
Now what Daniel has noticed is that the tenseless view has a very strange implication. Consider some entity x that exists at two different moments of time. Rather than an electron, let x be you yourself, to sharpen the paradox. It follows from the Principle of the Indiscernibility of Identicals that you are not the same person who existed just one minute ago! For on the tenseless theory of time, these are two distinct objects occupying different locations in spacetime. Moreover, they have different properties: the later person may have a slightly different shape or a few less molecules. So they cannot be identical, since they have discernible properties.
What this implies is not that the tenseless time theorist must abandon the principle of identity, since that is a necessary truth of logic, but rather that the tenseless time theorist must hold that intrinsic change is impossible and that nothing actually endures through time! These consequences are generally acknowledged by tenseless time theorists. They hold that what we call persons are just three-dimensional slices of four-dimensional spacetime “worms”. The various slices are different objects, just as the different slices of a loaf of bread are. One slice does not turn into another, nor does any undergo intrinsic change. The appearance of change arises because the various temporal slices have different intrinsic properties. There is no more intrinsic change in objects over time than in a loaf of bread which tapers from large slices at one end to small slices at the other.
I agree with you, Daniel, that this seems really crazy. I have every reason to believe that there is at least one thing which endures through intrinsic change, namely, I myself. I existed a second ago, and despite the changes which have taken place in me, I still exist now. No sane person really believes that he is not the same person who existed a minute ago. Moreover, the tenseless view is incompatible with moral responsibility, praise, and blame. The non-conscious, four-dimensional object of which I am a part cannot be regarded as a moral agent and is therefore not morally responsible for anything. One might say that the spatio-temporal slices or parts of such objects are moral agents. But then it becomes impossible to hold one slice responsible for what another slice has done. How can one person be blamed and punished for what an entirely distinct, different person did? Why should I be punished for his crimes? By the same token, how can moral praise be given to a person for what some other, no longer existent person did? Why should I, who have done nothing, get the credit for the heroism of some other person?
This argument has serious theological ramifications, for Christian theism affirms not only that people are responsible moral agents but also that God is just in holding them responsible for their deeds.
Your second objection about the explanation of the illusion of temporal becoming is also a pressing problem. On the tenseless view mental events themselves are strung out in a tenseless series just as physical events are and are all equally real. My now-awareness of tomorrow is just as real as my now-awareness of today. The experience of the successive becoming of experiences is illusory. Experiences do not really come to be and pass away. But that flies in the face of the phenomenology of time consciousness. It denies that we experience the becoming of our experiences. For if we do have such an experience, then we must ask all over again whether that experience is mind-dependent or not, and so on. To halt a vicious infinite regress, the tenseless time theorist must deny that we do experience the becoming of experiences. But such a phenomenology is obviously inaccurate.
I’m not sure why you say that the tenseless view implies materialism with respect to human beings; but tenseless time theorists are for the most part wedded to naturalistic epistemology and so would in any case be ill-disposed to any mind-body dualism.
So why does someone like Stephen Hawking espouse a tenseless view of time? I think that the main reason is that physics finds it useful to treat time and space as a four-dimensional entity called spacetime in which temporal becoming plays no part. Relativity Theory in particular becomes perspicuous in such a context. Unfortunately, far too many physicists, having never studied philosophy, naively take this geometrical representation as a piece of metaphysics rather than as a merely heuristic device. One therefore has to be very cautious about the statements of physicists when it comes to the nature of time.
Posted: 21 May 2011 11:30 PM PDT
“Those who assume that miracles cannot happen are merely wasting their time by looking into the texts: we know in advance what results they will find for they have begun by begging the question.”
A reflection on what has happened to science in recent decades (props to Brad Monton whose thoughts I have recycled and reworded here):
“If science really is permanently committed to methodological materialism – the philosophical constraint that restricts all explanations in science to materialistic explanations – it follows then that the goal of science is not in generating true theories. Instead, the goal of science is something akin to producing the best theories that can be formulated subject to the constraint that the theories be materialistic. More and more evidence could come in suggesting that a supernatural being exists, but scientific theories wouldn’t be allowed to acknowledge that possibility.
Given that scenario, science would be forever doomed to continually winch an infinitely elastic theory into ever more implausible shapes, like Sisyphus of ancient Greek mythology: doomed to an eternity of rolling a boulder up a hill only to have it roll right back down again. And again, and again, and again, ad infinitum. This description, I believe, is an accurate account of what has happened to several branches of science in the last 80 + years in their committment to what can rightly be described as having evolved into a fundamentalist dogma: Darwinism.”
Richard Dawkins has made his name as the scourge of organised religion who branded the Roman Catholic Church “evil” and once called the Pope “a leering old villain in a frock”.
But he now stands accused of “cowardice” after refusing four invitations to debate the existence of God with a renowned Christian philosopher.
A war of words has broken out between the best selling author of The God Delusion, and his critics, who see his refusal to take on the American academic, William Lane Craig, as a “glaring” failure and a sign that he may be losing his nerve.
Prof Dawkins maintains that Prof Craig is not a figure worthy of his attention and has reportedly said that such a contest would “look good” on his opponent’s CV but not on his own.
An emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, Prof Dawkins last year supported a plan to charge Pope Benedict XVI with crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in the cover-up of sex abuse by Catholic priests.
Prof Craig is a research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, in California, and the author of 30 books and hundreds of scholarly articles on Christianity.
He has debated with leading thinkers including Daniel Dennett, A.C.Grayling, Christopher Hitchens, Lewis Wolpert and Sam Harris.
Prof Craig is due to visit Britain in October this year. Four invitations to take part in public debates were sent to Prof Dawkins from The British Humanist Association, The Cambridge Debating Union, the Oxford Christian Union and Premier Radio.
Prof Dawkins declined them all. He told The Daily Telegraph that he had recently debated Prof Craig, in a boxing ring, in Mexico, and claimed he was not impressed by his opponent. His critics say this event was a six-person discussion, not a rigorous debate, but Prof Dawkins disagrees.
“I have no intention of assisting Craig in his relentless drive for self-promotion,” he said.
Some of Prof Dawkins’s contemporaries are not impressed. Dr Daniel Came, a philosophy lecturer and fellow atheist, from Worcester College, Oxford, wrote to him urging him to reconsider his refusal to debate the existence of God with Prof Craig.
In a letter to Prof Dawkins, Dr Came said: “The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part.
“I notice that, by contrast, you are happy to discuss theological matters with television and radio presenters and other intellectual heavyweights like Pastor Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals and Pastor Keenan Roberts of the Colorado Hell House.”
Prof Craig, however, remains willing to debate with Prof Dawkins. “I am keeping the opportunity open for him to change his mind and debate with me in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford” in October, he said.
Prof Craig will be using his UK tour to analyse The God Delusion and to present his own “strong rational grounds” for belief in God.
His tour will include a London conference on the defence of Christianity and a debate in Manchester with the atheist, Peter Atkins, Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University, on the existence of God.
Prof Dawkins made his name as an evolutionary biologist with his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene.
He has gained world-wide attention for his outspoken criticism of organised religion, and argued that the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States showed that a harder line must be taken with believers.
“Plenty of great teachers, mystics, martyrs and saints have made their appearance at different times in the world, and lived lives and spoken words full of grace and truth, for which we have every reason to be grateful. Of none of them, however, has the claim been made, and accepted, that they were Incarnate God. In the case of Jesus alone the belief has persisted that when he came into the world God deigned to take on the likeness of a man in order that thenceforth men might be encouraged to aspire after the likeness of God; reaching out from their mortality to His immortality, from their imperfection to His perfection.”
Steelers RB Rashad Mendenhall didn’t like the celebrations of Bin Laden’s execution & tweeted “only God has the right to judge”. This is a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words in Mt. 7. If you read the entire passage, it’s obvious that “judge not” was directed at hypocrites. Once we’ve removed the speck from our eye, we’re commanded to make a righteous judgement. The raid in Abbotabad was a military victory, just like V-day.
Nobody in their right mind likes war, but in a fallen world war is sometimes necessary. Norman Geisler assessed the Biblical data on it compellingly in this article:
Does the Bible Support a Just War?
by Norman L. Geisler
While the Bible doesn’t approve of war for every cause, and while it encourages peace with all persons (Rm 12:18), it nonetheless indicates that peace and justice sometimes require war (Mt 24:6). This is made clear from many considerations. First, the Bible does not prohibit all taking of life. For instance, killing in self-defense is justified (Ex 22:2), as is killing in capital punishment (Gn 9:6). Government is divinely authorized to use “the sword” (Rm 13:4), as Jesus Himself recognized (Jn 19:11). Second, under the law, God spelled out the rules of warfare for Israel (Dt 20). Third, while Jesus forbade His disciples from using a sword for spiritual purposes (Mt 26:52), He urged His disciples to buy a sword if necessary for protection (Lk 22:36-38). Fourth, John the Baptist did not say that armies should be abolished and did not call for repentance from serving in the office of soldier (Lk 3:14).
The Bible commands Christians to obey their government (Rm 13:1-7; Ti 3:1; 1 Pt 2:13-14). However, there are limitations to such obedience. When the government commands worship of idols or a king (Dn 3:6), forbids preaching the gospel (Ac 4-5), or orders the killing of children (Ex 1), then it is a believers duty to disobey. Likewise, if government engages in unjust warfare, believers may dissent. However, like Daniel (Dn 6), the three Hebrew young men (Dn 3), and Peter (Ac 4-5), those who disobey government must accept the consequences meted out by the state.
Several condition for just war are given in the Bible. First, it must be declared by one’s government (Rm 13:4). Second, it must be in defense of the innocent and/or against an evil aggressor (e.g., Gn. 14). Third, it must be fought by just means (Dt 20:19).
In addition to the above reasons for a just war policy, biblical arguments for total pacifism are flawed. For example,. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek (Mt 5:39) refers to a personal insult (like a slap in the face), not to bodily harm. Indeed, even Jesus refused to turn His cheek when smitten unjustly (Jn 18:22-23). The exhortation to love our enemies does not preclude the use of force to restrain them from killing us (cp. Paul’s instigation of government intervention for his protection in Ac 23)
I stumbled onto this quote earlier today, and I think it’s pretty good:
“They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. Winston Churchill said that “the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits — not animals.” And he said, “There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty'” — Ronald Reagan
Title: Dr. Craig Debates Dr. Lawrence Krauss Location: NCSU (but will be webcast) Link out: Click here Description: I don’t think there is any charge for this one! Date: 2011-3-30
Should we fear the rise of ‘intelligent’ computers?
In case you haven’t heard, the newest champion of “Jeopardy!,” thepopular TV game show, is a computer. Watson, an enormous computer developed by researchers at IBM, was pitted against thetwo previous human champions, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. Atthe end of the first round, aired on Valentine’s Day, Jennings and Watson were tied for first place. But Watson trounced both humans inthe next round, despite making some odd mistakes. And he won thesecond game, aired on February 16, suggesting the first victory was more than just beginner’s luck.
When the IBM computer Deep Blue beat chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, it was not doing anything qualitatively different from an ordinary calculator. It was just calculating really quickly—running through all the possible chess moves in response to theprevious move by Kasparov and picking the one most likely to succeed. That’s just the sort of problem that a fast-enough computer running the right algorithm was bound to solve.
In the years since then, computers have gotten much better at accomplishing well-defined tasks. We experience it every time we use Google. Something happens—“weak” artificial intelligence—that mimics the action of an intelligent agent. But the Holy Grail of artificial intelligence (AI) has always been human language. Because contexts and reference frames change constantly in ordinary life, speaking human language, like playing “Jeopardy!,” is not easily reducible to an algorithm.
Kurzweil discovered that this trend of accelerating returns had held for a hundred years across entirely different computer technologies.
In “Jeopardy!,” a “question”∗ may be historical, scientific, literary, or artistic. It may employ a pun, or require a contestant to think of a word that rhymes with another word that is not mentioned in the question. To succeed, you need something like mastery of language. Even the best computers haven’t come close to mastering the linguistic flexibility of human beings in ordinary life—until now. Although Watson is still quite limited by human standards—it makes weird mistakes, can’t make you a latte, or carry on an engaging conversation—it seems far more intelligent than anything we’ve yet encountered from the world of computers.
In a test round of “Jeopardy!,” for instance, the host gave this answer: “Barack’s Andean pack animals.” Watson came up withthe right question almost instantly: “What is Obama’s llamas?” We’re getting a glimmer of the day when a computer could pass the “Turing Test,” that is, when an interrogating judge won’t be able to distinguish between a computer and a human being hidden behind a curtain.
Artificial intelligence gives lots of people the creeps. When I tell friends and family about Watson, most of them think ofTerminator or The Matrix. They see Watson’s victory as a portent of some future cataclysm, when machines will take over theworld and reduce human beings to slavery. Maybe everyone I interact with has become a Luddite, but that seems unlikely. I live in Seattle, after all.
2045 is the year ‘man becomes immortal.’
As it happens, this fear of technology by the tech-savvy is quite common. In 1998, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil described the coming age of “spiritual machines” at a Telecosm Conference sponsored by George Gilder and Forbes Magazine. Kurzweil’s vision of man-machine hybrids, conscious computers, and human beings casting off our fleshy hardware for something more permanent elicited a variety of responses, including one by Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems. Joy penned a famous piece for Wired magazine in which he called for government to limit research on the so-called “GNR” technologies (genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics). These were the most ethically troubling technologies because, in Joy’s opinion, they were most likely to open Pandora’s box. Joy, who had enjoyed decades of unfettered research and entrepreneurial creativity, had now fingered the true enemy of humanity: the free market.
Talk about an overreaction. Still, part of the blame must rest with AI enthusiasts, who aren’t always careful to keep separate issues, well, separate. Too often, they indulge in utopian dreams, make unjustifiable logical leaps, and smuggle in questionable philosophical assumptions. As a result, they not only invite dystopian reactions, they prevent ordinary people from welcoming rather than fearing our technological future.
That’s unfortunate, because at the core of AI technology is a fascinating phenomenon. The always-interesting Kurzweil has alerted us to the fact that computer technology does not just improve linearly over time, but exponentially. His observation extended the famed “Moore’s Law.” Named for Intel’s Gordon Moore, it describes (more or less) the fact that computer speed doubles every 18 to 24 months. In particular, Moore had noticed the increasing number of transistors that could be placed on an integrated circuit over the previous few decades. The skeptic might think that Moore was simply describing some physical property of transistors and integrated circuits, and not a more general trend. But Kurzweil discovered that this trend of accelerating returns had held for a hundred years across entirely different computer technologies. To him and many others, this suggested something about the nature of technological innovation itself.
Popular discussions of AI often suggest that if you get enough computation, you’ll eventually get consciousness.
On the assumption that the trend will continue indefinitely, Kurzweil has predicted a “singularity,” a future moment when technological change is “so rapid and so profound that it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.” That sounds like science fiction, but lots of otherwise serious people take it seriously. In a largely sympathetic story on Kurzweil and the singularity in Time magazine, Lev Grossman tells us that the singularity is near. In fact, 2045 is the year “man becomes immortal.” This is within the lifetime of many people reading this piece, and easily within the lifetime of most of our children.
Kurzweil recently co-founded Singularity University, where academics, technology experts, scientists, CEOs, and others gather to discuss the implications of AI. As the discussion goes mainstream, we can expect more widespread worry that Prometheus is about to start a wildfire. But rather than be pulled to and fro by utopian and dystopian visions of our future, we would all do well to keep a few things in mind.
Weak AI Is Not Strong AI
Popular discussions of AI often suggest that if you keep increasing weak AI, at some point, you’ll get strong AI. That is, if you get enough computation, you’ll eventually get consciousness.
Artificial intelligence gives lots of people the creeps.
The reasoning goes something like this: There will be a moment at which a computer will be indistinguishable from a human intelligent agent in a blind test. At that point, we will have intelligent, conscious machines.
This does not follow. A computer may pass the Turing test, but that doesn’t mean that it will actually be a self-conscious, free agent.
The point seems obvious, but we can easily be beguiled by the way we speak of computers: We talk about computers learning, making mistakes, becoming more intelligent, and so forth. We need to remember that we are speaking metaphorically.
We can also be led astray by unexamined metaphysical assumptions. If we’re just computers made of meat, and we happened to become conscious at some point, what’s to stop computers from doing the same? That makes sense if you accept the premise—as many AI researchers do. If you don’t accept the premise, though, you don’t have to accept theconclusion.
We’re getting close to when an interrogating judge won’t be able to distinguish between a computer and a human being hidden behind a curtain.
In fact, there’s no good reason to assume that consciousness and agency emerge by accident at some threshold of speed and computational power in computers. We know by introspection that we are conscious, free beings—though we really don’t know how this works. So we naturally attribute consciousness to other humans. We also know generally what’s going on inside a computer, since we build them, and it has nothing to do with consciousness. It’s quite likely that consciousness is qualitatively different from the type of computation that we have developed in computers (as the “Chinese Room” argument, by philosopher John Searle, seems to show). Remember that, and you’ll suffer less anxiety as computers become more powerful.
Even if computer technology provides accelerating returns for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t follow that we’ll be replacing ourselves anytime soon. AI enthusiasts often make highly simplistic assumptions about human nature and biology. Rather than marveling at the ways in which computation illuminates our understanding of the microscopic biological world, many treat biological systems as nothing but clunky, soon-to-be-obsolete conglomerations of hardware and software. Fanciful speculations about uploading ourselves onto the Internet and transcending our biology rest on these simplistic assumptions. This is a common philosophical blind spot in the AI community, but it’s not a danger of AI research itself, which primarily involves programming and computers.
Pat of the blame must rest with AI enthusiasts; they indulge in utopian dreams, make unjustifiable logical leaps, and smuggle in questionable philosophical assumptions.
AI researchers often mix topics from different disciplines—biology, physics, computer science, robotics—and this causes critics to do the same. For instance, many critics worry that AI research leads inevitably to tampering with human nature. But different types of research raise different concerns.There are serious ethical questions when we’re dealing with human cloning and research that destroys human embryos. But AI research in itself does not raise these concerns. It normally involves computers, machines, and programming. While all technology raises ethical issues, we should be less worried about AI research—which has many benign applications—than research that treats human life as a means rather than an end.
While all technology raises ethical issues, we should be less worried about AI research than research that treats human life as a means rather than an end.
Champions and critics of AI often assume that the advent of increasingly “intelligent” machines challenges our dignity. But why is that? Did theinvention of the wheel, the tallow candle, the abacus, the car, the plane, orthe calculator weaken our status in the grand scheme of things? Hardly. Each of these technologies is an example of human ingenuity and creativity. Was the inventor of the wheelbarrow made weaker because he created something that could carry more than he could carry by himself? Of course not. He used his God-given ingenuity to enhance his own productivity and the productivity of everyone else who used a wheelbarrow.
We should respond the same way to AI technology. Instead of being concerned that a computer can beat champions at “Jeopardy!,” we should admire the achievements of David Ferrucci (principal researcher for Watson at IBM) and the other human engineers who spent years designing Watson. Surely theirs is a greater, and ultimately more beneficial, achievement than answering a bunch of questions on a game show.
We have no guarantees, but let’s hope we continue to enjoy accelerating returns in computer technology. We should think seriously about what this would mean for the future. But we should not get distracted by the fanciful, and distinct, ideas that have come to be associated with artificial intelligence.
Jay W. Richards, PhD, is a senior fellow and director of research at Discovery Institute, a contributing editor to THEAMERICAN, and author of Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem.
“If we don’t know that there is such a person as God, we don’t know the first thing (the most important thing) about ourselves, each other and our world. This is because… the most important truths about us and them, is that we have been created by the Lord, and utterly depend upon him for our continued existence.”