?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
An Atheist Reads Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Introduction 
Thursday, July 11th, 2013 | 08:13 am [evidence that demands a verdict, video, vlog]
Steve's New Userpic



An Atheist Reads Evidence That Demands a Verdict
Introduction


  • The book is Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell. The book was first published in 1972, but I will be critiquing this 1999 edition, titled The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, which includes both Volume I and Volume II of Evidence That Demands a Verdict, revised and updated, etc., etc.

  • Same deal as usual: I summarized the major points of the chapter, adding my own analysis and counterarguments as I go.

  • Because of how this book is structured, most of the videos in this series will be covering multiple chapters of the book. This series will have a total of 15 videos, beginning with this introduction and eventually covering all 40 chapters of the book, plus a brief concluding section in the back of the book that talks about the Four Spiritual Laws.

Foreword


  • I’ll mainly be covering the book’s introduction in this video, but there are a few items worth remarking on before we get there, because this is one of those books with a Foreword, a Preface, and an Introduction — the holy trinity of shit everybody skips, included here because, I can only assume, Josh McDowell hates trees. Well, I’m not gonna skip it!

  • Only most of it. I read the Foreword, written by the Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Bill Bright, who is a made man among evangelical preachers because he established a feeder system to keep their churches packed with fresh converts. Most of Bright’s foreword is as extraneous as you’d expect a foreword to be, but I did think this bit was worth sharing:

  • “One final word of caution and counsel, however: Do not assume that the average person has intellectual doubts about the deity of Jesus Christ. The majority of people in most cultures do not need to be convinced of His deity, nor of their need of Him as Savior. Rather, they need to be told how to receive Him as Savior and follow Him as Lord.” (William R. Bright, Foreword, THE NEW EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT, p. xii)

    • Spotting yourself quite a few points there, aren’t you, Bill? (Can I call you Bill?) You’re sending these fresh, young evangelists out into the world, instructing them to start with the assumption that the people they’re going to proselytize already pretty much agree with them. Don’t worry about giving them reasons to believe that God exists, that Jesus existed and was the Son of God, or that they’re dirty little sinners who need to ask Jesus for salvation. Not necessary, since most of them — Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, whatever — already know all that stuff! Just lead them in a prayer and brief them on the basics of what Lord Jesus expects from his peasants.

    • Not only is that an incredibly arrogant and condescending attitude to recommend to people who are about to go try to convince other people that their only hope of escaping eternal torment after they die is to believe in a god-man who was punished for their sins and rose from his tomb 2,000 years ago, it’s a pretty strange sentiment to include in a foreword to this book, which is 800 pages and weighs a fucking ton and is packed with information intended to answer the sort of intellectual doubts that, apparently, most people don’t have.



Preface


  • McDowell begins the preface by explaining why he wrote the book, because apparently he feels the need to justify it before I’ve even started to read it, which I always find to be an encouraging attitude on the part of an author.

  • “What? Another book? No, this is not a book. It is a compilation of notes prepared for my lecture series, ‘Christianity: Hoax or History?’ There has been a definite shortage of documentation of the historical evidences for the Christian faith.” (Josh McDowell, Preface, p. xiii)

    • Tell me about it. It’s the main reason I’m not a Christian.


  • McDowell spends the rest of the preface clarifying what the purpose of the book is and why he formatted it the way he did, because apparently he felt his readers would need that stuff explained.

  • His explanations do highlight what makes this book different from many other works of Christian apologetics. Unlike The Case for Christ, say, or I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, this book is pitched clearly and directly at Christians. If you’ve watched some of the previous series in this format, you might recall that one of the things that irritates me about much of Christian apologetics is that it pretends to address critics and skeptics and non-believers, but it actually is aimed squarely at the choir, and serves mostly to soothe and reassure those who already agree with its premises. That is also the primary function of this book, and at least McDowell is being honest about it up front, unlike many of his fellow apologists.


User’s Guide


  • We’re through the Foreword, and the Preface, but we have some more monkey ladder to hack through before we reach the Introduction. Next up: a User’s Guide to The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, written by the book’s revision project editor, Bill Wilson.

  • And boy, does it ever get off to a crackling start:

  • “Warning! This is a dangerous book. Digesting its contents may seriously alter your thinking. Caution! If you expect this book to be a tame, sit-down-by-the-fire-with-a-cup-of-hot-chocolate kind of book, you’d better reconsider.” (Bill Wilson, “User’s Guide,” p. xvii)

    • At least he’s not trying to big it up unduly.


  • The main reason I wanted to mention this section, along with the other extraneous preliminaries, is for this quote, from a paragraph of the User’s Guide that is titled “If You Are Not Yet a Believer”:

  • “The section, ‘He Changed My Life,’ before the Introduction, will be of great interest to you. Many people today are asking the question, ‘Can Jesus Christ make a difference in my life right now?’ In these opening pages, Josh shares the impact Christ has made on his own life.” (p. xviii)

    • Ah ha! So we unbelievers (or not-yet-believers, as Wilson has dubbed us) haven’t been forgotten afterall. So, lest we continue to brutalize the concept of “opening pages,” let me skip ahead, bypassing the Explanation of General Format, and the Acknowledgements, to that section, “He Changed My Life,” that will be of great interest to me and is also, I promise, the last section before we finally get to the Introduction.



He Changed My Life


  • McDowell begins by describing his life as a teenager. He writes that he wanted to answer three basic questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Searching for answers to these questions, he started attending church, but didn’t get much out of it. He describes how he would rob 75 cents out of the collection plate every week by putting in a quarter and taking out a dollar, so he could buy a milkshake.

    • Sounds like he used to be cool. I wonder what happened.


  • “Then I thought that education might have the answer to my quest for happiness and meaning. So I enrolled in the university. What a disappointment! . . . You can find a lot of things in the university, but enrolling there to find truth and meaning in life is virtually a lost cause.” (McDowell, p. xxiii)

    • So those of us who did derive some sense of truth and meaning from our university educations are just mistaken, I suppose.

    • Here, before we even reach the introduction of the book — and, in fairness, it has been a longer trip than we might have expected going in — we encounter one of the most common features of Christian apologetics: denigration of higher education. Like Lee Strobel, like Norman Geisler, like Frank Turek, Josh McDowell wants his readers to believe that colleges and universities — or the ones that aren’t explicitly evangelically Christian, at least — aren’t teaching students anything that’s really worth learning. In fact, they’re cranking out generation after generation of cynical, too-smart-for-their-own-good godless intellectuals.

    • Demonization of education has been a part of religion for thousands of years, so it’s never surprising to find it in a book like this. But in 2013 — or 1999, when this edition was published — it is a little disappointing. Remember, seekers of truth — there are certain things you shouldn’t want to learn.


  • There’s another common trait of apologetics that McDowell demonstrates in this section: the apologist’s grandiose portrayal of himself. While writing about his years in college, McDowell describes how he was unpopular with the faculty at his university, because he would corner professors and demand answers to his questions — answers they couldn’t provide. Eventually, McDowell realized that his teachers and fellow students had the same unanswered questions as him, and he concluded that education wasn’t the answer!

  • Still reaching for purpose, McDowell got elected to student offices, but soon tired of them and wound up just looking forward to partying on the weekends. But nothing he tried seemed to give him the answers and meaning he wanted.

  • Eventually, he met a group of Christians, one of whom started talking to him about Jesus. At first he was skeptical, telling the girl that he was sick of religion. Ah, the Christian girl told him, she wasn’t talking about religion. She was talking about Jesus Christ.

    • And because he was such a sharp cookie, so much smarter than all his professors, and above all an honest and courageous seeker of truth, young Josh McDowell took the distinction between Christianity and religion to be truly meaningful, and not the misleading semantics of a hucksterish evangelist.


  • Determined to prove that this Jesus Christ the Christians spoke of was not the Son of God, young Josh McDowell left the university and traveled the world doing research for a book he planned to write — a book that would prove finally that Christianity was a sham!

    • I’d say he’s just trying to make his pre-Christian self look like extra cocky to set up his reform after joining the Jesus club, but that doesn’t really go away. That grandiosity is another typical trait of apologists — we saw it in Lee Strobel and his similar vow to investigate Christianity and settle it once and for all, and we saw it in Norman Geisler, who claimed with absolute conviction to have personally refuted empiricism as a student in a college philosophy class. Is it having a childishly high opinion of yourself and your abilities that makes you an apologist? Or is it being an apologist that gives you such a childishly high opinion of yourself and your abilities? I wonder.


  • Anyway, you already know where this is leading. Young McDowell began his research determined to disprove Christianity, but wound up being convinced that it was all true and giving his life to Christ. And his devotion to Jesus was validated in the changes that he soon saw in himself:

  • “One of the biggest changes occurred in how I viewed people. While studying at the university, I had mapped out the next twenty-five years of my life. My ultimate goal had been to become governor of Michigan. I planned to accomplish my goal by using people in order to climb the ladder of political success — I figured people were meant to be used. But after I placed my trust in Christ, my thinking changed. Instead of using others to serve me, I wanted to be used to serve others. Becoming other-centered instead of self-centered was a dramatic change in my life.” (p. xxvi)

    • Well, I should say. It convinced him to give up the governorship!

    • If you didn’t see what I meant about the grandiose sense of self before, I think you might, now.


  • So anyway, McDowell’s life as a Christian is great, it makes him better and he makes other people better, too, including his abusive, alcoholic father, who follows his son’s example and converts to Christianity about a year before he dies, and manages to win a hundred people to Christ by his example before they plant his formerly drunk ass in the ground.

  • “You can laugh at Christianity. You can mock and ridicule it. But it works.” (p. xxvii)

    • It seems to for some people. There have certainly been people who converted to Christianity and went from being abusive, self-destructive, drunk, drug-addicted assholes headed for an early grave, to healthy, happy, calm, loving, productive people. I don’t deny that. But the same sort of transformations have occurred in people who found or renewed their faiths in Islam, and Judaism, and Buddhism, and Wicca, and Mormonism — and in people who didn’t turn to religion of any kind and just determined to get their shit together for themselves, with help from friends or family or medication or professional counselors. If the transforming effects of Christianity were unique to that faith, then McDowell might have something. But they aren’t. Nor are they reliable or consistent — plenty of people give their lives to Christ and find no relief from their problems whatsoever. Though I imagine McDowell would fault the people in those cases. That’s one of the lovely things about Christianity — if it works, Jesus gets all the credit; if it doesn’t, you get all the blame.

    • The question for atheists such as myself isn’t whether or not Christianity works — it’s, first and foremost, whether or not Christianity’s claims are true; and second, whether or not its teachings are moral. Hopefully, those two questions will be addressed at some point as we work our way through this doorstop.



Introduction


  • Now! Finally! The Introduction.

  • McDowell opens by explaining that a Christian apologist isn’t one who apologizes for his faith, but defends it. He reminds us that Christians are responsible for defending their faith if it is questioned, a responsibility made explicit in the New Testament, specifically in the book of I Peter.

  • What, then, is being defended? McDowell summarizes his basic apologetic thesis by quoting Bernard Ramm from his book Protestant Christian Evidences:

  • “There is an infinite, all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God who has revealed Himself by means natural and supernatural in creation, in the nature of man, in the history of Israel and the Church, in the pages of Holy Scripture, in the incarnation of God in Christ, and in the heart of the believer by the gospel.” (Bernard Ramm, PROTESTANT CHRISTIAN EVIDENCES, p. 33)

    • So that is the thesis that McDowell is setting out to demonstrate. It’s quite a tall order, but McDowell has three big factors in his favor: first, he’s not lacking confidence; second, he’s given himself plenty of room; and third, he’s trying to demonstrate this thesis to people who already accept it.


  • McDowell describes Christianity and a factual faith, and claims that it appeals to historical facts that everyone can recognize. For instance, the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were written as accurate, historical accounts, and include such historical events  the resurrection of Christ, which was validated to his followers by Christ himself.

    • That’s not me being sarcastic, by the way — McDowell himself describes the resurrection of Jesus as an “historical, knowable event,” and calls it an “indisputable fact”.

    • Looking at the table of contents, I notice that upcoming chapters will deal extensively with the authorship and reliability of the Bible. I wonder if McDowell will address the probability that Luke didn’t actually write the book named for him, or Acts, and that in fact none of these “indisputable facts” about Jesus are being reported to us by writers who had any way of verifying that they were true. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see!


Clearing the Fog


  • Moving ahead to a section of the Introduction titled “Clearing the Fog.” Here, McDowell addresses misconceptions he perceives many people have about Christianity.

  • The first misconception is that Christians have blind faith. Not so, says McDowell:

  • “For me, Christianity was not a ‘leap into the dark,’ but rather ‘a step into the light.’ I took the evidence that I could gather and placed it on the scales. The scales tipped in favor of Christ as the Son of God, resurrected from the dead.” (McDowell, p. xxxiii)

    • So, like Norm Geisler and Frank Turek, McDowell is asserting that Christianity is based on evidence. Or rather, he’s asserting that he’s asserting that — Norm Geisler and Frank Turek said the same thing, that evidence compelled their faith, but ultimately they admitted that, like William Lane Craig, they would reject evidence that refuted their Christian beliefs because the Holy Spirit had supernaturally assured them that they were right. We’ll see about McDowell, as far as that goes.


  • The second misconception is that faith is all that is necessary to being a Christian. Of paramount importance, McDowell stresses, is not what a believer believes, but that those beliefs are actually true.

    • I don’t think this is a very common misconception that people have about Christianity. I think McDowell only included it so he’d have an excuse to take a shot at philosophy, which he does by recalling a debate he once had with an unnamed philosophy professor from an unidentified midwestern university, where his opponent claimed that it was more important that McDowell believed in the resurrection, not that the resurrection actually took place. McDowell responded by asserting that his belief was secondary to the truth. His faith would not be justifiable, he told the philosophy professor, if it could be demonstrated that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.

    • Okay, then. That sounds reasonable. Now we’re getting somewhere. But are we starting with the presumption that Jesus did rise from the dead? Does that mean the burden of proof is on me to prove he didn’t? Should it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the presumption be that he didn’t, unless you can prove he did?


  • The third misconception is that the Bible is full of myths. Not true, says McDowell. He cites a conversation with another anonymous college professor, this time of world literature, who compared the Biblical stories of Jesus to Greek mythology. The difference, McDowell says he told the professor, is that the Greek myths were about fictional characters, while Jesus was an actual person. “You’re right. I never realized that before,” McDowell reports the professor saying.

    • Score another one for Josh McDowell! Eat that, college professors!

    • And you know he’s right, too, because myths are never attached to actual historical figures like Caesar, or Alexander the Great, or Muhammad, or Joseph Smith. Since they were historical figures, we can be assured that every single story told about them is 100% true, right?




  • McDowell makes the claim that the New Testament was written either by eyewitnesses or by people recording the testimony of eyewitnesses to the events described. He backs this up with a long list of Biblical quotations of the authors describing witnessing things personally, or the people they were writing about being witnesses.

    • I’ve gone into the claim that the New Testament is based on eyewitnesses testimony in more detail in previous series, but for now here’s the short version: No it isn’t. None of the gospels was written by its traditional author, Matthew and Luke use Mark as a source, and Paul, who probably did write at least half of the books traditionally attributed to him, was in no sense an eyewitness to the life of Jesus, since he didn’t even convert to Christianity until after the death of Jesus. I could go on, as I have before and I sense I will again, but not right now.


  • The Gospel writers also appeal to the knowledge of their contemporary readers, making reference to events they also knew about. This is significant, McDowell says, because if the gospel writers had been referring to events that didn’t actually happen, critics would have jumped all over them.

    • An old favorite, back for a visit — the strange claim that legend and fabrication couldn’t possibly be present in the gospels, because people who knew better would have corrected it. We know from our own contemporary history that this isn’t true, that fiction can be mingled with truth — either accidentally or intentionally — and be believed by many, many people, even if there are those around who know better and say so. See: conspiracy theories, alien abductions, Elvis sightings, hauntings, and oh, by the way, every religion Christians reject.


  • McDowell also cites J.B. Philips and C.S. Lewis, both of whom wrote that the gospels just don’t feel like myths. They’ve read a lot of myths, and the New Testament is just different.

    • Pardon me if I don’t find that at all persuasive. This argument boils down to someone saying “Look, trust me on this, I know myths and this ain’t no myth.” McDowell quotes Philips saying that most people who “know their Greek and Latin” would agree. So I guess education isn’t all bad, as long as your religious beliefs can survive it.

    • I don’t know — if I read a story that depicts a man working magic and miracles, raising people from the dead, consorting with angels and demons, and returning from his own death and rising into Heaven never to be seen again, I’m going to tend to doubt that that story is true unless you’ve got some extraordinary evidence to back it up. Whether or not it reads like a myth isn’t going to tip the scales in either direction. It’s the claim I want to consider, not the style in which the claim is presented.


  • The fourth misconception addressed by McDowell is that the historical Jesus is unknowable. McDowell claims that people seeking to know the historical Jesus rule out miracles and the resurrection before they even begin investigating.

  • “These presuppositions are not so much historical biases but, rather, philosophical prejudices. Their approach in history rests on the ‘rationalistic presupposition’ that Christ could not have been raised from the dead. Instead of beginning with the historical data, they preclude them by ‘metaphysical speculation.’” (p. xxxvii)

    • Here’s the thing: I do reject the claims that Jesus worked miracles and rose from the dead. But my rejection of those things isn’t based on an arbitrary anti-supernatural bias, or an a priori assumption that miracles don’t occur, or a philosophical prejudice. It’s an assumption I make based on my own experience and my understanding of how the world works. I don’t rule out miracles just for the hell of it — I rule out miracles because I’ve never seen a good reason to rule them in. If McDowell wants me to consider the possibility that Jesus could have actually worked miracles, fine — convince me that miracles occur. Convince me that a single miracle has ever taken place, at any point in history. Prove the concept, then we’ll talk about whether or not I’m being too skeptical about the historicity of Jesus’s miracles and resurrection.


  • The fifth misconception: that loving Christians should accept other religious views. McDowell explains that Christians aren’t intolerant; they just think their beliefs are true and contradictory beliefs are therefore false.

  • “It is the person who disbelieves in the face of strong evidence supporting Christianity who is really intolerant and close-minded.” (p. xl)

    • Or at least willfully ignorant. But I can’t say that there are any such people, since I’ve never seen any of this strong evidence supporting Christianity McDowell is talking about. Presumably, it’s somewhere in here.


  • The sixth misconception is that most people reject Christ for intellectual reasons. Not usually the case, says McDowell, who claims that people who claim to have intellectual problems with Christianity actually have intellectual excuses.

  • “I greatly respect one who has taken time to investigate the claims of Christ and concludes he just can’t believe. I have a rapport with a person who knows why he doesn’t believe (factually and historically), for I know why I believe (factually and historically). This gives us a common ground (though different conclusions).” (p. xl)

    • Did you hear that?! He greatly respects me! Even though he also thinks I’m intolerant and close-minded.


  • Despite professing respect for people with legitimate intellectual problems with Christianity, McDowell says most people who reject Christ do so for one or more of the following reasons: ignorance, pride, and moral issues.

    • All three are backed up by Biblical citations, which makes it seem more like McDowell is just following orders than discussing ideas he’s discovered and explored himself.


  • “If any person comes to the claims of Jesus Christ wanting to know if they are true, willing to follow His teachings if they are true, he or she will know. But one cannot come unwilling to accept, and expect to find out.” (p. xli)

    • What if I come to the claims of Jesus wanting to know if they’re true, but unwilling to follow his teachings because I find them morally abhorrent? Does that mean I won’t find out if they’re true or not, because Jesus is mad at me for not agreeing with his barbaric and megalomaniacal philosophy? Ah well.

    • I’d almost be willing to give McDowell the benefit of the doubt here when he says he respects people with honest, legitimate intellectual problems with Christianity. But if that’s true, why is he doing everything he can to convince his Christian readers that these people essentially don’t exist? Remember, he’s writing to Christians, trying to strengthen them in their faith and prepare them to defend and share their Christianity with others. And he’s essentially echoing what Bill Bright said back in the foreword: just assume that most people, regardless of what they say, already know deep down that you’re right and are just in denial.

    • My own experience has been exactly the opposite. I was at the Reason Rally, I heard the men and women who spoke on that stage, I met many of my fellow atheists in the crowd. I’ve interacted with countless more atheists online as a result of making videos like this. And overwhelmingly — in fact, almost entirely — they — we — are not ignorant of the facts surrounding Jesus and Christianity, or selfishly denying Christianity to continue our hedonistic lifestyles. We’re informed, we’ve thought about this stuff, we continue to think about this stuff, and we have good reasons, reason’s we’re capable of articulating — hell, reasons we’re happy to articulate — why we don’t believe. We’re not ignorant. We’re not proud. We’re not in denial.

    • If Josh McDowell really respects unbelievers as he says he does, if he really enjoys his rapport with them, why is he telling his Christian readers that most of them are rejecting Christ out of ignorance or fear or a selfish desire to continue their immoral lifestyle? That doesn’t sound like someone who understands and respects those who disagree with him to me. That sounds like a typical dishonest apologist. And that’s too bad.



Worlds In Collision


  • McDowell describes five different “worlds,” or more properly worldviews, in an attempt to deal with the excuses that people use for not accepting Christ.

  • First there is the Postmodern World. McDowell laments the relativistic view of truth held by postmodernists. He summarizes some postmodern ideas, like how our ability to perceive, understand, and describe reality is limited by our senses and our language, and how this affects our concept of truth and what it means to consider something to be true. McDowell quotes Stanley Grenz from his book, A Primer on Postmodernism:

  • “The postmodern worldview operates with a community-based understanding of truth. It affirms that whatever we accept as truth and even the way we envision truth are dependent on the community in which we participate. Further, and far more radically, the postmodern worldview affirms that this relativity extends beyond our perceptions of truth to its essence: there is no absolute truth; rather, truth is relative to the community in which we participate.” (Stanley J. Grenz, A PRIMER ON POSTMODERNISM, p. 8)

    • Stanley Grenz was an evangelical theologian, by the way, so naturally McDowell would quote him as an expert on postmodernism rather than an actual postmodernist.


  • How does McDowell address postmodernism and its implications to Christianity? Here’s what he says immediately following that Grenz quote:

  • “That is a scary point of view when you consider what the community of Nazi Germany defined to be true!” (McDowell, p. xliii)

    • Take that, postmodernists!

    • I’m not terribly impressed by McDowell so far. He cherrypicks biased Christian sources to describe what postmodernism is, and even then the best he can come up with to counter it is an appeal to Hitler.

    • But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. He’s not done yet.


  • Unlike postmodernism, Christianity makes absolute claims and offers a clear choice:

  • “When one evaluates the claims of Christianity a clear choice emerges. Jesus Christ is either the answer for all people, at all times, and in all places, or He is the answer for no one, at no time, and in no place.” (p. xliv)

    • Here’s the problem: by simply describing postmodernism, and then describing Christianity, McDowell is able to illustrate the key differences between them. And it’s obvious that he prefers the certainty and clarity (at least as he sees it) offered by Christianity. But he hasn’t demonstrated where postmodernists get it wrong. He asserts his own viewpoint as though it’s self-evidently correct, as though even the staunchest postmodernist, when confronted with a statement like “Jesus either was God or he wasn’t,” would be forced to concede.

    • Not every non-Christian is a postmodernist. Not every contemporary philosopher is a postmodernist. And neither am I — I’m not much of a philosopher, period, as the philosophy students who have watched my stuff can attest. But however you or I or Josh McDowell feel about postmodernism — whether we think it’s a valid and useful philosophy or we think it’s a bunch of vague, obscurantist nonsense — the facts that inspired it are difficult to argue with. We are limited by our senses and our language. There is a span between reality as we know it and reality as it actually is that we will never be able to cross. We don’t usually think about it, and most of us assume that separation is small enough that we can just ignore it in our everyday lives, going about our business and making decisions on the assumption that we are perceiving the world more or less as it is, because that works. But if we’re interested in the concept of truth, and how we can know something is true, and what it even means to call something true, I think that distinction between what we perceive and what is, is worth talking about. And whether you find it useful or not, postmodernism attempts to reckon with the implications of the perhaps uncomfortable fact that our perception and description and understanding of reality will never be 100% certain.


  • McDowell doesn’t seem interested in engaging with postmodernism nearly so seriously. Instead, he takes his understanding of the implications of postmodernism to absurd extremes, voicing some pretty strange objections, including:

  • “When there is no objective truth, then there is nothing that is wrong. What most people would consider abhorrent (for example, murder, stealing, and, in the past, lying) must now be accepted because it is acceptable to some people.” (p. xlvi)

    • I’m pretty sure most postmodernists don’t hold that we must accept behavior we find unacceptable just because someone else finds it acceptable. The lack of absolute objective standards means we have to come together and agree on standards ourselves, not that we have to automatically accept anything that anyone does.


  • And there’s this:

  • “Finally, if postmodernism is true, then marriage is impossible. It means a man doesn’t have to really listen and understand what his wife is saying. He can put his own meaning on it. And that, most men have found over the years, gets them into a heap of trouble.” (p. xlvi)

    • It’s a joke! Boy, us men sure have it rough, don’t we? Am I right? Where my married men at?


  • The next world to be considered is the Eastern Mystical World. McDowell specifically looks at Zen Buddhism, and how it believes knowledge can be gained from intuition or perceived through meditation, and that such knowledge can contradict reason.

    • I’ll give McDowell credit for quoting D. T. Suzuki, an actual Zen Buddhist, in this section.

    • And then I’ll revoke that credit, because be quotes William Lane Craig far more extensively. Because who’s a more reliable source for understanding Zen Buddhism than William Lane Craig?


  • McDowell offers this insight about how followers of Zen might respond to this book:

  • “If one has difficulty accepting the laws of logic, that individual will have problems with the evidence presented in this book.” (p. xlvii)

    • Ah, but therein lies the futility of this entire discussion. Because even if McDowell were able to convincingly discredit both postmodernism and Zen Buddhism, there are still plenty of reasons not to accept the claims of Christianity. In fact, off the top of my head, I’d say, let’s see, none of my reasons for rejecting Christianity, or being an atheist, depend on principles of postmodernism or Zen. It’s a little arrogant to suggest, however subtly, that people are forced to throw out the very concept of truth in order to avoid accepting Christianity.


  • By the way, to those of you who watched my previous series on I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist: do you remember when Norm Geisler and Frank Turek quoted Ravi Zacharias talking about how he used the roadrunner tactic on a professor (another dumbass college professor) who was talking about how in India they use both/and logic instead of either/or logic, and how Zacharias trapped him into admitting that ultimately, everyone must use either/or logic at some point? Remember that? Well, if you don’t, just read the bottom of page xlvii and the top of page xlviii, because McDowell quotes the exact same passage, verbatim.

  • Anyway, McDowell insists that there’s no practical value in denying logical dualism. The law of noncontradiction holds true in our experience, and that’s that. This does nothing to help the case for Christianity, but it seems to make McDowell happy.

  • The third world McDowell considers is the atheistic world.

  • And I’m sure that Josh McDowell, he who greatly respects those of us with thoughtful intellectual objections to Christianity, can be counted on to offer up a fair and accurate definition of atheism:

  • “An atheist, then, is one who claims there is no God, which is a most difficult proposition to defend. An atheist, to be consistently assured that his belief is accurate, must also claim to be omniscient, for there always exists the possibility of the existence of God outside his knowledge.” (p. xlix)

    • What? A misleading definition of atheism? From a Christian apologist? I don’t believe it.

    • A few minor quibbles with how McDowell describes atheism here. First, an atheist needn’t make the positive assertion that there is no God. An atheist is also someone who lacks a belief in God. It’s a subtle distinction, but one worth noting. And most atheists, whether they describe their atheism positively (I believe there isn’t a god) or negatively (I don’t believe there is a god), come to that conclusion due to the lack of evidence for any god’s existence.

    • Second, atheism is just that — a conclusion. And a provisional one, for most of us. We don’t claim absolute certainty, nor do we require it. Hence, we don’t claim to be omniscient. Most atheists acknowledge the possibility that a god does exist. We just consider that possibility to be so remote that we don’t give it serious consideration. We’re weighing the facts and making a judgment. No omniscience necessary.

    • While we’re on the subject, by McDowell’s logic, wouldn’t his faith in God require him to be omniscient, too, since no matter how certain he was, the possibility would always exist that he is mistaken about the existence of God? In fact, wouldn’t any belief held by anyone imply a claim of omniscience, since there always exists the possibility that the claim is false?

    • McDowell goes on to say that, since people only possess a tiny fraction of all the knowledge available to be known in the universe, the odds of God existing outside our knowledge must be extremely high. But that would only make sense if the existence of God were consistent with what we know about the universe. And it isn’t.


  • McDowell spends the rest of his time in the atheistic world describing how unbearable it would be if God didn’t exist. He quotes Norm Geisler claiming that atheists typically either live consistently without God and either kill themselves or go insane, or borrow from Christian ethics or aesthetics in order to give their lives some meaning.

    • Why do we have to borrow from Christian ethics and aesthetics? Is there something wrong with Muslim ethics and aesthetics? I mean, yeah, there is. But there are more concepts of God for we hopeless atheists to borrow comfort from than just the Christian one. That’s my point.


  • Next, the agnostic world. Since atheism is so difficult to defend, McDowell says, most irreligious people adopt an agnostic position, meaning they don’t assert there is no God, but rather they say they don’t know if there is a God or there isn’t.

    • No source for the claim that most irreligious people are agnostic, by the way.


  • McDowell treads water describing the difference between typical modern agnosticism, and the philosophical agnosticism of Immanuel Kant, who claimed that nothing could be known for certain.

  • Something McDowell doesn’t do is address the fact that atheism and agnosticism aren’t mutually exclusive, or that most people who identify as atheists, are also agnostics. I call myself an atheist because I’ve concluded that there isn’t a god, but I’m also an agnostic, because I’m not absolutely certain whether a god exists or not.

  • From here we move to the final world, the scientific world.

    • Or, as it’s also known, “the world.”


  • McDowell claims that science actually furnishes us with some of the strongest evidence for the existence of God. In support of this, he offers the Intelligent Design concepts of Michael Behe and William Dembski.

    • McDowell describes how Behe and Dembski have challenged the theory of evolution. What he fails to describe is how the scientific community does not take these challenges at all seriously, or how none but a tiny percentage of scientists consider creationism/intelligent design to be a viable concept, let alone a coherent, useful theory.


Conclusion


  • McDowell ends the introduction by quoting David Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, where Hume advises committing volumes of divinity and metaphysics to the flames, because without evidence and reasoning to verify their claims, they can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. McDowell responds:

  • “Is there any evidence of a compelling nature that can deliver an individual from the futility of skepticism, agnosticism, and atheism? From the contradictions of postmodernism? Or from the deceptive emotions of mysticism? I believe there certainly is! . . . The evidence has, in fact, emerged in so specific a way that it is clear God wants us to know more than that He simply exists. He wants us to know that we can know Him. Read on to discover EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT!” (p. liii)

    • And yes, it’s printed in the book exactly like that, with “EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT!” in all caps. What is with apologists wanting to be taken seriously, yet writing like they’ve never read a book before?

    • Anyway, read on we shall. But that is it for now. If you hate yourself and have rejected pleasure to embrace your suffering, I invite you to get your own copy of this book and follow along with me! Or you can just watch the videos and suffer vicariously through me. Which would be an appropriately Christian thing to do, I think.



Next: Begin Part One: The Case for the Bible
Chapter 1: The Uniqueness of the Bible
Chapter 2: How We Got the Bible
Comments 
Friday, July 12th, 2013 | 04:27 am (UTC) - an atheist reads evidence that demands a verdict introduction
Anonymous
there is nothing redeeming about christianity because it is insult to humanity and this josh mcdowall seems like a real arrogant prick.corey donaldson
This page was loaded Apr 19th 2018, 2:09 pm GMT.