I haven't found another blog like DC where intelligent Christians and atheists meet to debate the issues. I like it. Perhaps one of the reasons is because of comments like the one from a Keith R.:
Hi, John, I’m a long time reader and sometime commenter on DC. Of the many atheist and theist blogs that I follow I would have to say that you are the best at consistently coming up with interesting topics and arguments even though I disagree with almost everything you say.I've heard this from others several times before. There aren't too many people out there who understand the mind of the believer and who blog on a daily basis like the writers here at DC (including Hector Avalos, Harry McCall, Jonathan Pearce, Phil Torres, and the articulate articulett). Just the same, Keith R. disagreed with my recent post, Enough of This Utter Nonsense, On Knowing the Supernatural. He wants us to think of science as a metal detector, and as such, it cannot detect anything that isn't metal. Hence, there are things that science cannot detect, supernatural things. *POOF* Therefore a trinitarian incarnational atoning resurrecting ascending and soon to be returning God exists. Get this? Neither do I.
While I would not throw Keith R out of the church for taking his position, mine is a little different. I would not say that science is incapable of telling us anything about God I would say that science is incapable of giving us the kind of detection and evidence that Loftus thinks that he needs.
Keith (may I just use your first name?) argues that "science should be viewed as a metal detector. It does a great job of detecting metal objects just as, by analogy, science is great at studying the natural world." But it cannot detect anything else except metal, soooo, "science’s inability to detect the spiritual world because it is designed to study the physical world doesn’t mean that the spiritual world doesn’t exist or that science is to blame for not detecting it." Link.
According to the Bible, the natural world points to God. Studying it shows us that God does exist. It is true that that you can't get the Gospel out of it, God's triunity, or the purppose for creation. That is why we have history, archaeology, many other pieces of evidence, the Bible, and personal relationship.
I've heard a lot of analogies like these from believers. None of them show anything significant at all. What this particular analogy conjures up in our heads is the prior knowledge we have that most things in the universe are not made of metal. There is water, sand, dirt, all sorts of animals, plants, rocks, and gases. We know this. So the analogy plays with our heads precisely because we have prior knowledge that most objects in the universe are not metal. This is clearly stacking the mental deck in favor of that which Keith wants us to consider. His analogy would therefore more accurately be stated like this: If all we had was a metal detector then how can we know if non-metallic objects exist in a world where all we ever experienced are metal objects?
I'd argue that it is possible to know that the supernatural does indeed exist and those who don't experience cannot conclude that there is no God because they don't detect God.
So let's go back in time. The ancients agreed upon four elements in the cosmos: earth, water, air, and fire (some included Aether, the mysterious element). These elements referred to the phases of matter: earth is equivalent to solid, water is equivalent to liquid, air is equivalent to gas, and fire is equivalent to plasma. No metal is specified here. As science has progressed it has discovered 117 elements to date.
Um...excuse me. The Bronze Age is ancient times. Metal was known. And many such paradigms would consider metal to be one kind of "earth". Hasn't Loftus ever watched Avatar the Last Airbender which is based off such conceptions.
So if Keith wants a proper analogy to science it would be an Element Detector, not just a metal detector. And what detects the elements? Our five senses, along with the many instruments scientists have produced to enhance them, beginning with the telescope and the microscope. So to put this into perspective Keith is asking if there is an element that we cannot detect with our Element Detector. Think about this, please! The only way we have for detecting elements is with our present Element Detector. If there is any other reliable way I'd like to know what it is. Faith in a private subjective experience has a proven track record of repeated failures. All we have to do is look at the difference between our reliable Element Detector compared with faith as an "element" detector seen in these two world maps.
The "Element Detector" is not just our five senses and other technological instruments. It's our perceptions and reasoning powers - hardly reliable. The funny thing is I keep reading Loftus as saying that our minds and perceptions are flawed and easily biased yet he loves to pretend they are good enough to conclude that there is no God.
What more can I say at this point? If there is a supernatural "element" who wants to be detected by us there is no other way but to provide our senses with objective reliable data. We cannot detect that which is undetectable. It is impossible for us to do anything different if this supernatural "element" expects us to be reasonable people.
By what standard doe Loftus know that he is "reasonable"? The thing Christianity posits is that without God calling us Himself, we cannot know Him. We can only know of Him.
Private subjective experiences by contrast, do not count for anything at all. Even if someone had one, he or she should doubt it as an unreliable brain fart.
It's interesting how Loftus jumps to the conclusion that something is wrong with a person if he/she experiences God but does not consider the possibility that it his faculties that have failed.
Such experiences happen during a trance-like moment of mediation, or prayer, or singing songs of worship to any and all supernatural "elements" from the beginnings of human civilization.
That's not how the Bible describes a single encounter with God. It's doesn't describe any of my experiences or anyone I know. If this is what Loftus experienced, this might explain why he was never born again.
Just think of the trance-like state that believers would attain during the cadence-like rhythmic beating of the ancient Aztec drums as a high priest gutted a virgin on the altar, in sacrifice to Xipe Totec, so the sun would rise the next day, or the rain would come. They knew with certainty that their god existed and that he wanted them to sacrifice that virgin based on the same private subjective experiences Christians have today. Yep, the same exact ones. If this isn't what's going on in the heads of believers of all shapes and stripes, then what is?
Not the same at all. I don't have to go my own subjective experiece. God would not tell me something that would conflict with any of the messages He gave us through His Word. If my thoughts or conclusions conflict with the Bible (and that has happened), the red flag is waving. I know that I need to re-align myself with what the Word is. An Apostate is one who refuses to do that.
So it isn't the case, as Keith opines later, that his God doesn't want us to have absolute knowledge of his existence lest he force us into believing.
Many Christians take this viewpoint because they believe that God willed for humanity to choose God of our own free will without intrusive influence. While this position is not one that salvation hinges on, I don't agree. Without God we cannot choose Him. (John 6:44;Romans 8) .
The case is far far less than this. His God has not given us ANY evidence of his existence at all except for private subjective experiences and the 2nd- 3rd- 4th-handed written testimonies from ancient Christian believers who had private subjective experiences.
That is not true. We have creation. We have moral laws engraved in our minds. We have Jesus' Resurrection. We have the Bible which is extremely more reliable than Loftus likes to pretend.
Keith simply does not think of his God as a reasonable one, for a reasonable God who wants, no demands, reasonable belief should give reasonable people what reasonable people need to believe. I am not demanding anything of God. I am a reasonable person who needs what Keith's God is not providing. I am not alone. His God doesn't even abide by the parable of the Lost Sheep. He's losing many of his sheep every day and is doing nothing objectively to keep them in the fold.
Loftus is incorrect. No one is reasonable - at least on God's level. I want to know what makes Loftus think he is reasonable? And why does he think God owes him to provide the evidence he thinks he wants? I'd argue that if God did, it would not make a single difference in Loftus' decisions. God does abide by the Lost Sheep Parable. To argue that God doesn't care about a single one of his sheep is to assume that there are sheep going to hell. That's not possible. God's not loosing a single sheep. John Loftus and other unbelievers should consider the possibility that maybe because they don't hear his voice is because they are not His sheep. The failure is not in God but in us. Jesus said the following:
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” - John 10:14-18
And Jesus also Said.
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” - John 10:25-30
Debunking Christianity: Should Science Be Viewed As a Metal Detector?