Tuesday, January 22, 2013

FacePlant of the Day - John Loftus Mischaracterize Dr. David Heddle's Response

faceplant leaving man stuck It's not often that John Lofus uses his blog at Debunking Christianity to respond to those who disagree with him directly. I just saw a blog post in which he responds to Dr David Heddle. I've been reading Heddle's blog for a while now and have thoroughly enjoyed some of the videos of presentations he has done on Physics and Theology. Some really cool stuff. I wanted to  point out Loftus' comments because he accuses Heddle of making a  strawman argument and that's not true.

Dr. David Heddle, an associate professor of physics and the Chair of the Mathematics Department at Christopher Newport University, has recently been dogging my steps. He's a Christian. As far as I know he has not read any of my books. He seems to like me better than some other critics, saying, "John Loftus is a much easier to take (I mean that as a genuine compliment) critic of Christianity (and, by leaps and bounds, a far better writer) than the detestable Richard Carrier." That's nice, I guess, even though for every person who might say this, another would say it's the exact reverse. Oh well, you can't piss off everyone after all, even though I try at times. Let's see what he thinks of me when I'm done here. I just cannot let Richard have all the glory. ;-)

From what I've seen of Heddle, I'm sure he'll continue to pray for Loftus and keep trying to point out the errors of Loftus for the benefit of Loftus and those who are deceived.  Here is a hint to Joh n Loftus: David Heddle is trying to help you. You should let him.

What brings Heddle to say "shit happens" has to do with my comment regarding last month's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where I wrote:

In a godless universe shit happens without rhyme nor reason. Life is predatory from the ground up. Creatures eat one another by trapping unsuspecting victims in unusual ways, launching surprise attacks out of the blue, and hunting in packs by overpowering prey with brute force and numbers. Sometimes a creature just goes wacko for no reason at all. Humans are not exempt. Sometimes the wiring in our brains goes haywire and we snap. We too are violent and we inherited this trait from our animal predecessors. We also show care and concern to our kith and kin but we can lash out in horrific ways at what we consider an uncaring world.
Heddle actually agrees, saying I am

...operating under the misguided assumption that Christianity is a religion that teaches shit never happens.

The Bible teaches us to enjoy life, God’s bounty, and temporal happiness. It also promises, like a prescription medication: side effects may include pain, despair, suffering, lapses into grievous sin, weakness, apparent senselessness, persecution, misery, and physical death. Why atheists think that fallen man in a fallen world behaving exactly as the bible tells us is somehow a problem for Christianity is unfathomable. Shit happens. Loftus is correct that a godless world predicts as much. He is incorrect that a world with the god of the bible does not. Both hypotheses fit the data. Link.
There are lots of things I could say in response. He's probably talking about gratuitous evil, that is, evil that serves no purpose at all in God's scheme of things.

Notice that Loftus does not really seem to understand Heddle's response.  Heddle is reformed. And I have not met a reformed person who thinks that there is any such thing as evil that serves no purpose in God's machinations.  

Theologians just haven't figured out whether it exists or not given their conception of God as an omnipotent and omnibenelovent being.

I totally disagree with that. The problem is not that the Bible is clear. The problem is that people do not believe what it says.  

It takes a person who has serious mental issues and a whole lot of theological gerrymandering to reconcile them. Nonetheless, the problem isn't that shit happens but so much of it happens. A whole lot of it can hit the fan and be strewn about for a few years, even killing upwards to half the world's population like the Black Death Plague. But then on Heddle's view this too fits the data.

I think the problem is that Loftus and others who raise this objection think they know how much suffering and evil should be allowed to take place. They also seem to think that all the possible evil that can happen does happen and that God does nothing to lessen suffering and restrain evil. The Bible clearly says that he does. None of Loftus' arguments address this point.  I would agree with Heddle and would extend his point and point out that sin explains the preponderance of evil and suffering of every living thing.

I'm writing a series of posts on what it takes to be a Christian apologist and Heddle committed the very first blunder, which is to "miscaricaturize your opponent's arguments to the point of failing to even try to understand them, or feigning ignorance as to what they are, and/or being willingly ignorant of them."

Loftus commits the blunder of miscaricaturizing his  "opponent's arguments to the point of failing to even try to understand them, or feigning ignorance as to what they are, and/or being willingly ignorant of them"not Heddle.

You see, it's not just that nature is red in tooth and claw, although that is a big factor. It's that an omnibenelovent God doesn't stop the most heinous of sufferings from occurring even though he could do so. [Please, if anyone comments or tries to rebut what I'm saying re-read that last sentence over and over again to get it]. Heddle is commenting on the wrong sort of problem and acting as if he answered the problem I pointed out. That's called strawmanning an argument. This is so obvious a child could see it.

Heddle did answer the point. He talked about all suffering - whether or not you think that it's gratuitous or not. No one, not even Loftus, can tell you that God never stops the worst sufferings from occurring because we would not always know.  "Omnibenevolence" does not mean that God does not allow suffering of any kind. And given our limited knowledge we are unable to really know what is best for us or anyone else. The whole point of being a Christian is recognizing and accepting that God does know. If you reject that God has the right to decide what is allowed and what is not then of course you are not only making the wrong argument, you cannot even ask the right question.

Heddle totally ignores that I had said:
In a universe where there is an all powerful, perfectly good, all knowing God this tragedy is not what we would expect to happen. There were innocent children who were brutally massacred. We would not expect that after praying the Lord's prayer to a loving heavenly father that such a deity would allow this to happen, just as we would not expect a father in that school to sit by and do nothing while the gunman killed his children.

What could a loving heavenly father have done? There are tons of things. Just have the gunman's brakes fail on the way so he would crash his car into a telephone pole and die. If God knew the man would one day kill these people then he could have killed him in a thousand unsuspecting ways like this. He had twenty years to do it. God could have snapped his omnipotent fingers causing the man to have massive amnesia such that he wouldn't know who he is, or what he was going to do with his guns that morning. God could have caused his guns to misfire if nothing else. God did nothing that a loving father would have done.

When comparing these two hypotheses the God hypothesis fails and the godless hypothesis prevails, hands down, no question, no ifs ands or buts about it.
So it's obvious Heddle is strawmanning my argument.

As human beings we have no idea what to expect. We do not know what all the parameters are or what are all the design goals in God's plan. I'm not proposing just throwing up your hands and crying "mystery". We can't even ask the right questions. I am claiming that we should agree with God. God has told us what we need to know in the Bible. God is sovereign control. And the sufferings we see now are finite and not worthy of comparison (read Romans 8 again).

From this I've devised a first of it's kind test for a delusional person:

When an intelligent person who should know better so badly strawman's an argument, it's a clear and distinct indicator that the person is delusional. In other words, the more intelligent a person is and the more easily the strawman argument can be spotted, then the more it is that what we're dealing with is a delusional person. A delusional person cannot even see what the problem is enough to answer it.

How do ya like me now Heddle? ;-)

Now, far be it from me to offer any Biblical guidance to Dr. Heddle, but his problem is not only an omnibenevolent God's inactivity at the precise moment when he should have acted, but it's also his lies.

I won't presume to speak for Heddle, but I will say that it's Loftus who is delusional. His strawman is that God does not act the way he thinks God should should have. None of us know what God's plan is or the details as what it will take to carry it out. Loftus pretends to know something he can't know and then rejects God based on that ignorance. Delusion illustrated.

For don't we read in the Holy Book of God's assurance he'll protect the innocent, the saved, and the faithful? Or, in the face of other contrary passages, is Heddle going to do a whole lot of theological gerrymandering to reconcile them?

Wow.  Most times an atheist attempts to conduct exegesis on the Bible, a faceplant is the result. Loftus attempts to list a whole bunch of scriptures that talk about how God assures his people of God's protection but he does recognize that there are scriptures that tells us that good people do suffer. So do we have a bunch of contradictions? Nope. For once, Loftus pastes relevant Bible passages but makes me wonder about his comprehension abilities. He thinks that they teach that God promises prosperity and safety at all times. 

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The Psalm does not tell us that there is no trouble or suffering. The promise is that God will be there for his people in the midst of all the trouble and suffering. To what purpose: God's exaltation. Notice that it's not that there will be no war or natural disasters.  The promise is deliverance not avoiding suffering.


Psalm 91
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling - even the LORD, who is my refuge - then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."

This Psalm does not describe life for all believers for all times. I mean to interpret scripture that way means that he assumes a high degree of gullibility. If this is the way he thought when he was a "Christian" no wonder he thinks that Christians are gullible. Does this mean that God does not protect those who  put their trust in God? Oh no. But it doesn't mean what Loftus says is correct about God not intervening in the lives of people today.  It doesa not mean that God is obligated to keep me from suffering. I trust God that no matter what happen God does what is best for me.

Deuteronomy 33 v 29:
Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places.

I see no problem here. It's a boast in who God is and what God has promised Israel. I think this passage is horrible for showing Loftus' point. Unless you are Jewish, you can't stand on this promise.  and God's promises of safety and victory for Israel as a people are conditioned on their obedience.  Seriously bad hermeneutic, Mr Loftus. Context would help.

Psalm 27 v 1 & 5:
The LORD is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid? For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.

Again, this passage is not promising no suffering or trouble! It tells us what God is going to do when those things come and why we don't have to be afraid. 

Psalm 31v 20:
In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues.

Loftus seems to to think that the Bible is promising that the believer would not suffer people lying on them and making false accusations. Where does it say that? It does not! Those who trust God will be vindicated.

Psalm 32 v 7:
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

 If there is no trouble or problems, why would we need a hiding place? Sorry this scripture also goes against Loftus' delusions.

Psalm 34 v 7-8:
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Again the passage is not saying that you won't need deliverance but that God gives us deliverance when we need it because we will need it. 

Psalm 37 v 39-40:
The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Again we can count on the Lord saving us just as much as we can that we will need saving from trouble.

Psalm 57 v 1:
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

Again not that disaster does not come but when in God we can survive it.

Psalm 62 v 5-8:
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

Amen. We are completely depended on God. Yes, Mr Loftus, with each scripture you dig yourself a whole further and further down.

Psalm 119 v 114:
You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

You don't need a shield or a refuge if nothing bad is happening. No promise of no problems here either.

Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you- the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm-he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Yup, still doesn't tell us what Loftus thinks Christians have to believe. Keeping me from harm does not mean that I never have problems.

Psalm 125 v 1-2:
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.

 Still more truth.

Psalm 145 v 18:
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Which is why God is the best refuge and shield. 

2 Samuel 22 v 31-37:
"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.

Notice how the passage does not say we don't have to fight. God equips us and give us what we need so we can fight and fight the way God tells us to do.

Isaiah 12 v 2:
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

Yup. Still doesn't conflict with reality but does conflict with Loftus.

Isaiah 25 v 9:
In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."

This how you praise God after you have been delivered. Good reminder.

Isaiah 43 v 1-5:
But now, this is what the LORD says - he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.

Interesting Loftus would choose this passage given that it was fulfilled. Anyone else remember the 1948 creation of the modern state of Israel or that airlifting and repatriation  of  Jews from all over the world? No?  You're welcome.

Matthew 10 v 28-31:
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

These are Jesus' words. Notice that by telling us not to be afraid of those who can kill us because this is so that we can recognize that we may be killed.

1 Peter 3 v 12-13:
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?

I think the best way to understand just how bad Loftus flubs up here is to point out the context of the passage.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,
“Whoever would love life
    and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
    and their lips from deceitful speech.
11 They must turn from evil and do good;
    they must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”[a]
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. - 1 Peter 3:8-18

Let's help Loftus out. He's confused. He completely missed Peter's point. It's not that you will not suffer for doing good but how you should act if you do. And we should not do things to bring suffering and punishment on ourselves for doing evil.

Hebrews 13 v 5-6:
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

 I really like this last passage and it fits well with the way I wanna conclude this. The Bible does not say that we  do not have problems and suffering. We are stupid to think that we can tell God what is and isn't too much suffering. I'm amazed that Loftus doesn't really deal with the scriptures that tell us how to deal with suffering. The Bible is full of such passages but I will point to only two now.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. - Romans 8:18-21

So is there a contradiction? The best way to understand this is us the life of Job. Here was a man who was righteous and blameless and God allowed Satan to kill his family, take all he had, and to take his health. The way to deal with suffering is the way Job dealt with his suffering. He turned to God and did not loose his trust.  Here is how Job looked at it.

14 Why do I put myself in jeopardy
    and take my life in my hands?
15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
    I will surely[a] defend my ways to his face.
16 Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance,
    for no godless person would dare come before him! - Job 13:14-16


23 “Oh, that my words were recorded,
    that they were written on a scroll,
24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on[b] lead,
    or engraved in rock forever!
25 I know that my redeemer[c] lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[d]
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet[e] in[f] my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me! - Job 19:23-27

Debunking Christianity: Dr. David Heddle, "Shit Happens"

No comments:

Post a Comment