Saturday, November 24, 2012

FacePlant of the Day - Debunking Christianity: The Evolution of Apologetics and Concepts of God

John Loftus has posted a video making a provocative comparison between Elijah's Apologetic methodology recounted in 1 Kings 17 and 18 with the Apologetic argument used often by William Lane Craig. The video misrepresents what the Bible says happened on Mt Carmel in some fundamental ways. The video also is also unfair to the arguments that Dr William Lane Craig uses. I think it is amazing how successful Dr Craig's arguments are in debates despite their flaws. I'm not going to spend much time on Dr Craig's approach but I think a good apologetic approach shares the characteristics that Elijah's approach had. I'd describe it as presuppositional and evidential. Here is the video and I think a discussion afterward of what Elijah's approach is in order.  The video's producer obviously missed understanding Elijah and missing William Lane Craig. 

From the videos description
Published on Jun 29, 2012 by DarkMatter2525

How the mighty have fallen. Perhaps it has something to do with no longer being allowed to kill the opposition. The story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel is such obvious bunk, probably ancient propaganda, and clearly opposed to Moses' and Jesus' sentiments of not testing God. I thought it would be funny to juxtapose it with a William Lane Craig-style debate. I guess somehow it wouldn't be as convincing for God to show up during one of Billy Craig's debates, with cameras rolling and a few billion potential viewers. Nope. A few hundred ancient desert people atop a drought-stricken Mt. Carmel are obviously much more important than the rest of the world. In fact, they're literally called God's "chosen people". Imagine if someone like the president had a "chosen" race of people he went out of his way to support above and against all other races. I'd dare say people would call him a racist. God is a racist according to the bible.
Obviously DarkMatter2525 has several presuppositions that  have many problems. Here is a start, I'm going to focus on these

1. Nothing happened on top of Mt Carmel.
2. The Bible tells us that we should not test God but that Elijah tested God.
3. Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12 are in conflict with the story
4. That if God moved in a similar powerful way today (recorded with modern technology) it would carry more weight and more people will believe.
5. God choosing Israel as his chosen people means that God does not care about non Jews.

There is more that can be said but we'll stick to these five for now. The attempt here is to try to make an argument against the Bible and Christianity by using the Bible.  In this case, the attack falls apart if the Bible does not say what it is being accused of advocating. 

1. The argument concedes that we should look at what the Bible says happened. We should also consider that Israel just wasn't in a random  three year drought. It was in response to the sin and wickedness of King Ahab and Israel. 

 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him. - 1 Kings 16:33

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe[a] in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” - 1 Kings 17:1

Elijah was on the run all that time - the whole three years. We must also keep in mind that Elijah did not confront Ahab or issue this challenge on his own. God sent him. Just like God told Elijah about the drought, God told Elijah when he was going to send rain.
After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.
Now the famine was severe in Samaria, - 1 Kings 18:1

Elijah challenged the people's presuppositions. He challenged them to make a choice.

20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” - 1 Kings 18:20-21

Then he challenged his opponents with evidence. 

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” - 1 Kings 18:22-24

Elijah gave them his opponents first choice on their bull and he poured water on his sacrifice to make it clear that it was not luck or a trick when his sacrifice was burned. This could not have been just ordinary lightning. Not only was the bull consumed, but the altar and the water was too. 

Points 2 and 3 really suck. Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12 do not conflict with Elijah. 

16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah - Deuteronomy 6:16

So what happened at Massah? Anything similar to what Elijah did on Mt Carmel. 

And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” - Exodus 17:7

At Massah and Meribah, the Israelites tested God in the way of  an attitude of  thumbing their noses at God from an unbelieving  mindset. Their attitude was one of rebellion. They tried to call God down to the carpet. This was not Elijah's attitude at all. So did Elijah sin like his ancestors at Massah? "Massah" means "testing" and "Meribah" means "quarreling". They testing God in the was a petulant two year-old defies his parents.  No parallel there with Elijah, but a good one with John Loftus and DarkMatter2525.

When  Satan tried to trip up Jesus, Jesus quotes part of Deuteronomy 6:16. 

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[a]
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[b] - Matthew 4:5-7

We know that Jesus was not just quoting the words but referring to the same context. Again Elijah was not in that context but Satan tried to get Jesus to fall into the same attitude as the people at Massah.

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[a]
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[b]” - Luke 4:9-12

As anyone can plainly see that Matt 4:7, Luke 4:12, and Deuteronomy 6:16 are all referring to the same thing and it's not against what Elijah did at Mt Carmel!

Fourth point. I'm not convinced at all that something like what Elijah experienced on Mt Carmel would make a difference on a lot of people. I have witnessed God acting on a person's behalf and they recognized that it was not them but they still refused to turn to God. God knows what it takes and has put each of us in the exact place and with with the best circumstances, on an individual basis, to best find Him. 

26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. - Acts 17:26-27

Point 5. There is no reason at all to think that God does not care about Gentiles. What did God choose the Jewish people for? It was not to be his special project and hate everyone else. It is through the Jewish people that God has blessed the entire Human race.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.[a]
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”[b] - Genesis 12:1-3

There is no way God could be accused of being racist - that is if you are looking at the Bible. I don't think there is a problem for opponents of Christianity to try to use the Bible for their arguments. God welcomes it because it more than stands up to scrutiny. Just if you are going to engage is such folly bring your "A" game. Because if this was the best shot, we really have nothing to be worried about. Also if you are going to reject the Bible at least get what it says correct! One more suggestion: Don't forget that William Lane Craig is not the "end all" and "be all" of Christian Apologetics,  Jesus is.

Debunking Christianity: The Evolution of Apologetics and Concepts of God

No comments:

Post a Comment