Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wallace's exercise in futility: An answer to J. Warner Wallace on resurrection contradictions

This is my reply to an article by J. Warner Wallace entitled

How Many Women Visited the Tomb? 
Many of my articles here at ColdCaseChristianity.com investigate issues and passages commonly offered as examples of “contradictions” between Gospel accounts. One such alleged contradiction seems to exist in the description of the women who discovered the empty tomb of Jesus. How many women visited the tomb? One? Two? Three? It seems to depend on which Gospel you read.
And if you do what a responsible historian would do, and read the gospels as isolated accounts as they were intended to be by their original authors, then a single account gives the impression that this really is how it really was, no exceptions.  John 20, in painting Mary and the other women coming from the tomb as ignorant of what happened to Jesus body, absolutely contradicts the other three gospels which make it clear that before the women left the tomb, they were supernaturally and fearfully educated on what happened to the body:
 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."
 8 And they remembered His words,
 9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. (Lk. 24:2-9 NAU)
 5 The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.
 6 "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.
 7 "Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you."
 8 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. (Matt. 28:5-8 NAU)
Therefore, when John paints Mary and the other women as talking as if they think the body was stolen and they don't know where the movers put the body:
1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.
 2 So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." (Jn. 20:1-2 NAU)
That accusation that John's Mary is contradicting the Synoptic-Mary is more plausible than any reconciliation scenario you can pretend.  Archer "explained" Mary's ignorance as her failing to have taken in the "full import" of what the angel told her (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 348-349), a solution not all apologists agree with, but regardless, if you read Matthew and no other gospel, the way Matthew's originally intended audience of Aramaic-speaking Jews would have, then Matthew's specifying Mary Magdalene was part of the group that received the angelic explanation AND quickly left in great joy to tell the disciples (Matthew 28:1, 5-8) does not permit the reader to infer that this specific Mary perhaps left the tomb before the angels appeared.  The only way that loophole is opened is by the mere fact that it is required to be opened by inerrantists who desire to combine Matthew's account with the other 3 gospels, as if the correctness of viewing all 4 together was in assured accord with the gospel author's intentions.
Are the Gospel authors confused about this issue or fabricating the story altogether?
They are fabricating altogether.
I don’t think so, but before we investigate the narratives, let’s review the description of the women in each account:
 Matthew 28:1-10
Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
 Mark 16:1-10
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping.
Sorry, Wallace, but you know perfectly well that the quotation you gave which I emphasized above, is not part of Mark's original.  Most Christian scholars say Mark intended to end the story at the place we now designated as "16:8".
 Luke 23:27
And following Him [on the way to the crucifixion] was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
 Luke 23:48-49
And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.
 Luke 23:55-56
Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes.
 Luke 24:1-10
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has [a]risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.
 John 20:1-3
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb.
 In a very brief reading of these passages, a contradiction seems to emerge. Matthew mentions two women by name.
And if you were limited to just Matthew's version as his originally intended audience likely was, you wouldn't leave the door open for other details from other accounts, you'd have drawn the conclusion that there were not any other women that went to the tomb, except those whom Matthew mentioned.  The idea that Matthew knew about more women going to the tomb than those he mentioned, but "chose to exclude" mention of the others anybody, is total bullshit.
Mark mentions three by name.
And if you were limited to just Mark's version as his originally intended audience likely was, you wouldn't leave the door open for other details from other accounts, you'd have drawn the conclusion that no less than three went to the tomb.
Luke mentions at least three by name but describes more. John only identifies Mary Magdalene. You can see why some skeptics point to these passages in an effort to discredit the narratives. How many women were actually involved at the tomb of Jesus, and why are there variations in these accounts? Before we examine the passages in a more detailed way, let me revisit some of the principles I use to evaluate reliable eyewitness testimony.
And let's remember that there is no indication that the alleged gospel authors accompanied the women to the tomb, so that the gospels do not constitute the ancient equivilent of  eyewitness affidavits, and it is more historically responsible to apply rules for evaluating hearsay first.

Or maybe it would be be more historically responsible to remind you that as you apply modern day American rules of judicial evidence, the fact that these accounts are hearsay means they get excluded and the burden of proof is on you to show that some exception applies.  Given that the gospels fail miserably the ancient documents rule, you are washed up.

Why don't you just consign yourself to a life of creating defamatory cartoons telling the world the intelligence level of the people that follow you, the way James Patrick Holding does?
As I described in prior posts (and in my first book, Cold-Case Christianity), even though I accept and affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, inerrancy is not required of reliable eyewitnesses.
That's right, but you don't get eyewitness testimony out of hearsay either, genius.
In fact, I’ve never had a completely inerrant eyewitness in all my years as a homicide detective. In addition, I’ve never had a case where two witnesses have ever agreed completely on the details of the crime. Eyewitness reliability isn’t dependent upon perfection, but is instead established on the basis of a four part template I’ve described repeatedly in my book and on my website. But beyond these generalities, much can be said specifically about the variations between descriptions of the women at Jesus’ tomb. Let me revisit some of the same principles we used to evaluate the varying accounts related to the sign over Jesus’ cross:
 Identify the Common Details
When interviewing multiple eyewitnesses,
You don't "interview" ancient documents, fool.
I listen carefully for common features in their testimony. In every witness observation, some details are more important than others; some aspects of the event stick out in the mind of the observers more than others. In this case, every author is clear about one thing: women (plural) were the first to find the empty tomb.
And the apologetic argument that says this is likely historically true because women weren't given a say in legal proceedings is total bullshit.  It was women who normally anointed and prepared the body for burial, so women would be the natural choice of a forger trying to conjure up a plausible story.
The women who attended to Jesus during his ministry loved Him enough to attend to his body after the crucifixion.
Despite the fact that if Jesus was indeed crucified as a revolutionary by Pilate doing a favor for Jews, Pilate likely wouldn't have given anybody permission to take the body off the cross for several days, and would have done as normal and required the body be left there as a deterrent, then the body thrown in a common pit to be devoured by wild animals.
According to Mark, they went to the tomb for a purpose: to anoint Jesus with spices. It’s not surprising the women disciples of Jesus would be thoughtful and caring enough to want to do this.
But it's never very consistent with the later gospel legends about guards being posted at the tomb to prevent anybody from handling the body.  And the idea that the women would set out to do this while believing the sealing rock hadn't been rolled away, is stupid.  It would be like a family member today going to place flowers in the coffin of a buried loved one, not knowing who many come along and dig up the buried coffin so they can open it.  Total bullshit.
Every gospel author agrees; the women came to the tomb and were the first to discover it empty. Many Christian Case Makers have noted the importance of this claim. After all, in a culture hesitant to accept the testimony of women in civil and criminal hearings, the authors of the Gospels offered women as the first witnesses of the empty tomb. If this is a late fictional account, one might wonder why the authors didn’t insert Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathia in this role. They would certainly have made the account more credible to the first hearers. Instead, the authors describe women as the first eyewitnesses. This agreement makes the account all the more credible. Women weren’t described here to make the narrative more convincing (they actually hurt the account), but were instead described because they happen to be the true first witnesses.
But women were the only gender that typically prepared bodies for burial like this, so again, a forger would find it quite reasonable to think having women discover the tomb first would sound most plausible.
Recognize the Perspective of Each Eyewitness
Every witness offers a view of the event from his or her unique perspective. I’m not just talking about geographic or locational perspectives here, but I am also talking about the personal worldview, history and experience every witness brings to the crime. All witness testimony is colored by the personal interests, biases, aspirations, concerns and idiosyncrasies of the eyewitnesses. In this particular case the most glaring exception in the description of the women is from John’s account. John mentions only Mary Magdalene by name. He does, however, tell us this Mary was not alone. When describing her visit to the tomb, Mary later tells Peter, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” So even John’s account acknowledges the presence of additional women. The issue here is not that each author describes a different number of women, but that each author chooses to identify different women by name.
But according to John, they have left the tomb and remain ignorant of what happened to the body, while in the other 3 gospels they leave the tomb having been told in supernatural and fear-inducing way what exactly happened to that body.  No attempt by an apologist to suggest several tomb visits or credulity of the women can overcome this glaring contradiction.
Why is this the case? Once again, it all comes down to the purpose and individuality of each reporter, and as investigators, we may never know precisely why variations of this nature occurred.
But it is highly unlikely that the authors would have "chosen to exclude" the events you think they did, had they believed all events reported in the canonical gospels to be true history.
But John’s Gospel does seem to give us a clue. John appears to be focused on the first male eyewitnesses of the empty tomb. Unlike other authors, John spends much more time and gives much more detail about how he and Peter discovered the empty tomb. As a result, the women are in a secondary role in John’s narrative. Mary Magdalene is mentioned by name simply because she happened to be the woman who first contacted Peter about the tomb. Even though John acknowledges there were other women involved (as seen in Mary’s use of the plural pronoun, “we”), he doesn’t take the time to describe them. John seems to place higher value in his own eyewitness status than in the eyewitness status of the women. He later reinforces his own pedigree by saying “This [John] is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24).
No, that was written by the "we", not John.  John does not testify for himself that he wrote those things, you only get that by hearsay, to say nothing of the agreement of most scholars that canonical John is a patchwork of different traditions anonymously authored.
Differentiate Between Complimentary and Conflicting Accounts
When comparing two eyewitness accounts, I am more concerned about unresolvable contradictions than complimentary details. In fact, I have come to expect some degree of resolvable variation in true, reliable eyewitness accounts. When examining the number of women present at the tomb of Jesus, the four accounts could all be seen as accurate representations of what really happened if the group of women included the following people: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the Mother of James (and Joseph), Salome, and Joanna. This group would account for the women mentioned by all four authors. All the authors speak of a group and some authors identify specific members of this group based on their personal perspective, purposes and audience.
But you still cannot show that your explanation for a Mary remaining ignorant  about what happened to Jesus body (John 20:1-3) despite having been earlier informed by angels on exactly what happened to that body (Mark 16:7-8) is more plausible than the theory that these accounts contradict each other. You are locked in a historical debate, you don't win or save face by merely carping that something is "possible", you need to show that your theory is more "probable" than the contradiction theory.
Assess the Opportunity for Collusion
Whenever I am called to a crime scene as a detective, the first request I make of the dispatcher is to separate the eyewitnesses before I get there.
Something you'll never do in the case of the 4 gospels, especially the Synoptic 3 which are in literary interdependence on each other to some degree.
I request this so the witnesses won’t have the opportunity to talk to one another about what they’ve seen. Witnesses will sometimes try to resolve any variations before I get there. I don’t want them to do this; that’s my job, not theirs.
That opportunity was lost to you 2000 years ago.
Instead, I want the messy, sometimes confusing, apparently contradictory accounts offered by every group of witnesses in such a situation. There have been times, however, when witnesses have the opportunity to consult with one another for several hours before I arrive on scene. When this is the case, and their individual accounts still vary from one another, I usually have even more confidence in the reliability of these accounts. When people have the opportunity to align their statements, yet still refuse to do so, I know I am getting the nuanced observations I need to properly investigate the case. The Gospel authors (and the early Church) certainly had the opportunity to change the descriptions of the women to make sure they matched, but they refused to do so. As a result, we can have even more confidence in the reliability of these accounts. They display the level of variation I would expect to see if they were true, reliable eyewitness descriptions.
There is at least a 30 year gap between the events in 33 a.d and the 63 a.d early date you give all the gospels.  Then there is more than 200 years between this alleged date of original composition and our earliest surviving copies.  Sorry, but I don't have as much faith in darkness as you do.  The textual problems with 4 different endings of Mark ought to have warned you that scribes had no scruples in fabricating history to fix problems.  And Matthew's and Luke's modifying Mark's wording ought to have told you that the gospel authors themselves were not above changing the witness of history to suit their theological agendas.
In my experience as a cold case detective, no two eyewitness accounts ever agree on every detail or every emphasis.This doesn’t shake me as an investigator and it’s never inhibited an investigation. It’s just the nature of eyewitness testimony. Related to the number and identity of the women at the tomb of Jesus, the four gospel accounts demonstrate the same variation I’ve seen in my professional work. How many women were at the tomb? Five, most likely. The Gospels are not contradictory in their description of these five women for the reasons I’ve cited. You can trust the reliability of the New Testament eyewitness Gospels.
You are a fucking fool to draw such a bold sweeping conclusion about the reliability of the NT eyewitness gospels, merely upon the supposition that you cannot detect any lies or contradictions respecting the number of women who went to the tomb.

No wonder you include so many bells and whistles with your dogshit arguments, you market your crap to idiots who are primed and ready to draw equally hasty generalizations.  Apparently the Holy Spirit needs your help, mere preaching the word wouldn't suffice.  One wonders how God got along before you were born.

Don't worry, I launch the same criticisms at Benny Hinn.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

My questions to Dr. Craig Keener concerning atheist investigations of miracles

Over at Keener's contact page at Asbury Theological Seminary, I sent him the following questions
-----------------
Dr.  Keener,

I'd like to get your comments on a couple of issues related to miracles:

1 - Which modern day miracle claim do you believe is most difficult to explain on naturalistic grounds?  Amateur Christian apologists who support you abound on the internet, yet I cannot find any who are willing to direct atheists to any specific modern-day miracle mentioned in your books.  They mostly choose to just sit on the sidelines and carp about the fallacies of of naturalism.

2 - What is your advice to atheists who say that the only reasonable miracle investigation is the one that takes apologist J. Warner Wallace's advice and guides the process by the rules of evidence used in American courts of law (i.e. documents must be authenticated by witnesses, hearsay excluded in most cases, eyewitnesses subjecting themselves to cross-examination,  etc, etc.)?

3 - At what point in the miracle investigation has the atheist done enough research to justify drawing ultimate conclusions about the event?  Does that point come after he has downloaded all supporting materials the miracle-claimant made available on the internet (if so, that's difficult to believe, you don't authenticate documents by simply downloading them from the internet)?  Does that point come sometime after a certain amount of exchange between investigator and miracle-claimant via email?   Does that point come only when he has personally interviewed the alleged eyewitnesses?

4 - Does the plethora of confirmed false miracle claims in the world and in history justify the atheist to insist on using only the highest standards of investigation when analyzing miracle claims (i.e., the standard of evidence used in American courts of law)?    Does the seriousness of the spiritual issues at stake allow any room to say that a less intensive investigation is acceptable?

5 - What is your opinion of the atheist who gets so worried about going to hell, that he divorces his wife, quits his job, never sees his wife or kids again, and does little more in life than sleep, eat at a bum shelter and spend all day at his local library using the internet and library services to examine and investigate Christian miracle claims?   Does the bible allow you to say that an atheist "should" decide where in the day to stop worrying about God and transfer his attentions to his family?  Isn't it true that spiritual concerns are infinitely more important than the concerns of this life?  Didn't Jesus encourage parents to give up houses and kids with a promise that such parents would receive salvation and more (Matthew 19:29)?

6 - Some atheists say refusal to investigate miracles is reasonable, because full comprehensive investigation of them requires a quantity of time, money and resources that the average atheist simply doesn't have.   What is your response to such excuse?   Is there anything irrational about the atheist's desire to investigate equally as thoroughly as a criminal investigator, so as to avoid the possibility of being deceived by fraud or mistake?  If you get rid of the cost-problem by suggesting a less stringent investigation, the possibility of successful deception increases.  If you agree the highest standards of investigation are reasonable, you agree that atheists have an excuse, since they simply don't have the time, money and resources to do such comprehensive inquiry.   I don't see any way to balance these concerns in a way that allows for objective investigation within the limits of the average family man's income.

7 - What is your advice to atheists who say that because even spiritually alive Christians cannot agree on the biblical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, nor on whether and to what extent miracles happen today (charismatics v.  cessationists), it is most certain that spiritually dead atheists are only going to fare worse should they join the fray?   If conservative NT scholars like James White, Norman Geisler and Mike Licona cannot agree on how best to argue the miracles of Jesus' resurrection and biblical inerrancy, doesn't it make sense to say that those with even less connection to God are only going to fumble the ball worse if they dare try to run with it?

Thank you,

Barry Jones
barryjoneswhat@gmail.com








Friday, December 8, 2017

Demolishing Triablogue: the stupdity of miracle investigation, a reply to Steve Hays

This is my reply to an article by Steve Hays entitled

To some degree, Keener's case-studies are game-changer.
Maybe that's why he has disabled comments for the YouTube videos wherein he discusses miracles and skepticism.
A traditional objection to miracles is that reported miracles come to us from the distant past, filtered through the accounts (allegedly) written by anonymous authors who may have no firsthand knowledge of the incident or witnesses. This also plays into the famous analogy argument, popularized by Troeltsch (although it has antecedents in other thinkers like Bradley), that miracles reported in the past lack credibility because there's no counterpart in the present. In a sense, Keener can grant that standard of comparison, but call the bluff by appealing to well-documented modern miracles. 
Pick the one modern-day miracle claim you think is best explained by God, and provide your reasons for all such.  I'll respond.  You can hardly complain that I'm willing to examine your best case.  Put up or shut up.
That requires unbelievers to adjust the traditional strategy, because it backfired.
Not at all, fool:  atheists have realized for more than 50 years that miracle reports are a dime-a-dozen throughout the world.
Now they find themselves confronted by an abundance of reported miracles from eyewitnesses. And this is an ongoing event, at present. Indeed, Keener himself is continually updating his file of case studies. And he's not alone. 
Maybe he should do something more godly, like pick the one reported miracle he thinks is best explained by "God" and provide his reasons for all such.  Anything less is nothing but the pure trifling sophistry you are already known to prioritize.  You know that when you stick with mere trifles of methodology, you can never get smacked down with hurricane force.   You also know that were you to pick a modern-day miracle claim you think is best explained by "God", you dramatically increase the odds that you'll get squashed flat.  Put up or shut up.
So let's run back through the retooled objections:
No matter how many independent attestations of feeding miracles there may be, the use of multiple attestation of sources only shows the popularity of miracle stories (including "nature" miracles) in certain contexts... 
That's all that multiple-attestation shows? Suppose there was a reported sighting of a rabbit at a local park. Then additional reports of rabbits at the park began to pour in. Would that only show the popularity of rabbit stories? Or would independent reports of rabbit-sightings indicate the presence of rabbits at the park? 
Suppose there was a reported sighting of Mary at a local park. Then additional reports of Mary at the park began to pour in. Would that only show the popularity of Mary stories? Or would independent reports of Mary-sightings indicate the presence of Mary at the park?
Or perhaps Keener's examples tell us more about social anthropology, social psychology, and the sociology of knowledge than about what can actually happen.
Would multiple examples of rabbit-sightings tell us more about social anthropology, social psychology, and the sociology of knowledge than about the actual existence of rabbits?
Would multiple examples of Mary-sightings tell us more about social anthropology, social psychology, and the sociology of knowledge than about the actual presence of Mary?
What is needed is not the piling up of further examples, but a closer analysis of a selection of the better-documented ones to see what they do in fact establish...
Which is PRECISELY what you never do.
i) Although there's a sense in which the quality of the reportage is more important than the quantity of the reportage, isn't there a tipping-point where the sheer volume of independent reports creates a strong presumption that the reported phenomenon is real?
Unless you require a larger number than 35,000 as the tipping point, your logic compels you to believe Mary really did appear or manifest her presence somehow at Fatima and Lourdes.
If we had lots of reports of rabbit-sightings at the park, we'd be justified in believing that rabbits frequent the park.
So under your logic, "If we had lots of reports of Mary-sightings at Fatima, we'd be justified in believing that Mary frequents the Fatima".
We wouldn't be duty-bound to interview witnesses, conduct background checks to establish their credibility. 
Then by the same logic, no Catholic is duty-bound to interview witnesses or conduct background checks to establish their credibility either.  But you are rather brick stupid here, since it is only by interviewing witnesses and conducting background checks that you can get closer to the actual truth of the sightings, than if you just stay on the sidelines counting sheer numbers.  If your logic were good and practical, courts of law should pronounce a criminal suspect guilty solely because there were multiple eyewitnesses to his alleged crime, no need for jury trial to decide whether the eyewitnesses are telling the truth.
Hiding behind the demand for intensified scrutiny is the prejudicial viewpoint that there's a strong standing presumption against miracles, which only rigorously vetted witnesses can overcome.
You must be seriously delusional to think that the person who demands intensified scrutiny of alleged miracle claims is trying to "hide".  It is precisely "intensified scrutiny" that gets a person closer to the actual truth, than the less comprehensive method you propose:  counting the number of witnesses.

Again, you are a clown because you apparently think trifling about this philosophical bullshit is more important than putting your money where your mouth is and telling us which miracle claim of the modern world you think is best explained by "god".
This assumes that we already know what kind of world we inhabit, a world in which miracles are highly implausible.
We also engage a presumption against miracles when we investigate crimes and suspects' alibis, automatically discounting any testimony to miracles.  Perhaps you'd be interested in changing the judicial system so that the jury would be required to seriously discuss any "devil made me do it" and other alibi stories where supernatural means were required for the excuses to work?  If a suspect said he was present at the scene, but an angel of the Lord committed the killings, well gee, maybe you'd require the jury to become experts on to what extent God does or doesn't continue his OT ways in the NT era, so they can decide whether there's even any plausibility to claiming that an angel of the Lord does today the same things he did in OT times?
Yet that benchmark is circular. Our belief about what the world is like is largely dependent on testimonial evidence.
It's also dependent on our own empirical experience of how the world works.  I wouldn't want you on a jury where the suspect was claiming some miracle as his alibi, you'd deadlock the damn thing because of how presumptuous and fallacious it is to deny miracles, and you'd have nothing more to say after that because you think attempting intensified scrutiny constitutes "hiding". Fuck you.
If miracles are widely reported, then that should figure in our background understanding of the kind of world we inhabit. 
If the falsity of miracles is also widely reported, then that should figure in our background understanding of the kind of world we inhabit too.  We live in a world drowning in miracle claims, and many of them are proven frauds.  Only stupid people like you insist that when facing such a world, "intensified scrutiny" of specific miracle claims constitutes "hiding".
ii) The skeptical bias involves the view that our world is regulated by natural laws, which miracles, if they ever occur, must "violate". But even if we accept a natural law framework, which is contentious in itself, it only means that a natural law can't be contravened by a natural event. It creates no presumption against, much less impossibility of, a supernatural event overriding a natural law. And whether there are such exceptions falls within the purview of human observation. 
So when the criminal suspect says the devil made him do the crime, the objective jury would have to seriously consider this instead of automatically rejecting it.  Fuck you.
iii) I'm also struck by the studied passivity of the critic. If he thinks what is needed is a closer analysis of the better-documented examples, why doesn't he take that upon himself?
Because he doesn't have the time, money or resources to investigate in such a properly thorough way, that fraud and mistake are guarded against as much as possible, genius.  In that case, it wouldn't matter if the miracles at issue were truly performed by the Christian god, you'd first have to say that the atheist was irrational to think his job, kids, spouse, mortgage and local family concerns where he lives, deserve his attention more than a miracle claim originating 500 miles away from where he lives.

 So, how fanatical are you, Steve?  Is the prima facie case for Christianity so real, and the angry god such a dangerous threat to atheists, that they are irrational to spend most of their time, money and resources on job, family, paying bills and ignoring miracle claims?

Really now, do you encourage atheists to make all the changes in their life necessary so that they can devote the vast majority of their time, money and resources investigating miracle claims?  What's more important, sex with the spouse, or investigating miracle claims?  Getting the kids ready for school, or investigating miracle claims?  Keeping a steady job, or investigating miracle claims?  Paying the bills so the family maintains food and shelter for themselves, or investigating miracle claims?

What would you think of the atheist who took your bullshit so seriously, he gave up custody of his kids, divorced his wife, quit his job and thereafter did nothing more than eat, sleep, and investigate modern-day miracle claims for as long as his life-savings held out?

What is more important, Steve?  That man paying money to his wife for child support?  Or that man purchasing materials to aid him in the study of modern-day miracle claims?

What is your advice to atheists who work at low paying jobs full time and personally think devoting time to the family after work is more important than investigating miracle claims?

Are you sufficiently liberal that you'll say it is reasonable for an atheist to devote a limited amount of time per week to study of miracle claims?  But Jesus is the creator of the universe, he's certainly worth more study time than that, isn't he?  So you don't have that option.

Or are you a stupid fanatic who promises prosperity to those who give up their kids so they can have more time to practice your religion (Matthew 19:29)?
Investigators like Keener have already done the preliminary spadework. Why does the critic act like it's someone else's job to follow up on those reports?
Few things could be more significant. If supernatural agents exist, is it not important that we nail that down?
Not under Deism.  if a god exists, the evil in the world more strongly suggests that god has turned away from the world.  And since Keener has already done the preliminary spadework, why are you finding it so difficult to pick the one case he reports, that you feel is best explained by "God did it", and challenging atheists with it?

Wouldn't that dramatically decrease the risk of atheists wasting time money and resources chasing down what turn out to be false miracle claims?
For their existence will impact our lives.
Not under Deism.  You started having a bad day when you discovered that natural theology, if it supports any god-belief at all, supports Deism, in which case you lose just as hard as the atheist.  That makes more overall sense of the evil in the world, than does "God's mysterious ways".

But you are a Calvinist, you believe God predestined every child rapist to do what they do, so that they couldn't have avoided doing it, making your contribution to the problem of evil rather short and useless.
Indeed, their existence may impact the afterlife–for better or worse.
So maybe atheists should devote their lives to studying everything that can be known about all religions.  And since it is possible God decided to take his true religion from the earth at some point in the past, atheists cannot limit themselves to just the top 20 religions in the world today, they must examine all available possibilities including comprehensive analysis of ancient documents testifying to religions that have since disappeared from earth.

So, no job, no kids, no spouse, no marriage, no house, no life, just sitting in a library 12 hours per day making sure that everybody's else's claims about God's fearful torments upon non-members are false.  Fuck you.  If you can justify avoiding comprehensive study of all religions on the grounds you've already found the actual truth, atheists can justify avoiding comprehensive study of Christianity on the grounds that they've already found the actual truth.
So why does he shrug his shoulders in the face of the prima facie evidence, as if settling that question has no relevance or urgency?
because a) he doesn't have the time, money or resources to do a seriously comprehensive job, and he judges no investigation is better than a half-assed investigation, and b) you don't have a prima facie case merely because you can find millions of people making miracle claims.   That's like saying there's a prima facie case for Hinduism because of how many millions claim it to be true.
if miracles are really so commonplace, perhaps they're not so miraculous after all.
The defining element of a miracle is not rarity but a supernatural source. An event that defies the ordinary course of nature, pointing to supernatural agency.
I'd never make such a stupid argument as that miracles aren't really miracles if they occur routinely.   If God exists, he could choose to do miracles routinely.  Miracles are defined as acts of God, not as uncommon events.
All Keener's work can ultimately do is to get us to the level of belief in miracles being present.
If we received numerous reports of rabbit-sightings in a park, would that only get us to the level of belief in rabbits being presence? Wouldn't that count as evidence for the presence of rabbits?
If we received numerous reports of Mary-sightings in a park, would that only get us to the level of belief in Mary's being present? Wouldn't that count as evidence for the presence of Mary?

Of course not.  You probably haven't felt compelled to go see the alleged miracles in Fatima and Lourdes yourself despite the prima facie case, so apparently, you believe it possible to justify denial of miracle claims without ever checking them out personally.  That's what I do with modern-day miracle claims.  Welcome to the club.
Yes, they believe what they saw, but the point is what forms the basis of their belief. It's not sheer belief, but belief grounded in observation. What underlies their belief in rabbits is the spectacle of rabbits in their field of vision.
What underlies their belief in Mary is the spectacle of Mary in their field of vision.
There are two elements to these reports: the reported experience and the reported interpretation. It's not, in the first instance, belief in a miracle, but the observation of an event. It's then a question of how to properly characterize the nature of the event.
A leap of faith is still required to confirm that there is a supernatural agent behind such purported miracles and this cannot be proven by a historian.
"It could have been something else" is just as valid or invalid, just as speculative, and has obvious limitations for the historian. The only firm evidence the historian has is that people claim miracles happen"
i) It's true that there's a distinction between the event and the construal. However, inferring a supernatural agent isn't a leap of faith. Rather, that involves an understanding with regard to the limitations of what a natural process can yield. And that's not a uniquely Christian understanding. Indeed, atheists discount reported miracles because they typically subscribe to physicalism and causal closure.
Yeah, that's also the exact same basis upon which you know, as a juror, that the criminal suspect's alibi "the devil must have fabricated my fingerprints at the scene" is false.  But under your present logic, we shouldn't be excluding the miraculous from the courtroom.  Unfortunately, if we allowed jurors to consider miracle-testimony, jury verdicts would be less objective than they already often are.  If a majority of jurors thought the miracle alibi excuse was true, the guilty suspect would go free, the number of criminals claiming some miracle alibi would grow impossibly large, and states would probable secede from the union because of how sharply America would be divided over this stupid bullshit.
Miracles imply a larger reality. If, therefore, a well-attested event is inconsistent with natural law (in that sense), then, in principle, an atheist must infer outside agency that transcends what is naturally possible.
Only where that agency is defined in coherent terms.  So this automatically excludes the Christian god, which means whatever god some miracle 'proves', the Christian loses just as hard as the atheist.
"It could have been something else" is not just as valid or invalid on secular grounds no less than Christian grounds. For an atheist, the only viable explanations consistent with naturalism are naturalistic explanations. If an event is naturally inexplicable, then the logic of naturalism requires a supernatural explanation.
Agreed.  When you come up with any miracle claims for which you think the God hypothesis is a better explanation than a naturalistic hypothesis, let me know.   Stupid people who enjoy trying to commit suicide would respond "Jesus' resurrection!".

Then again, you simply aren't interested in putting your money where your mouth is, are you Steve.  You cannot get your ass handed to you quite as fiercely in a debate about the evils of naturalistic methodology, as you could if you claimed some specific modern-day miracle claim was truly performed by the "god".  Hence you never put your money where your mouth is, you content yourself to dazzle your readers by pointing out how atheist belief is self-contradictory.  It's pretty clear who's doing the hiding, and it's not me.
ii) The critic tries to insulate his position by artificially compartmentalizing the task of the "historian". But reality isn't compartmentalized. Historians seek causes. Historians appeal to personal agency all the time. Historians draw inferences like everyone else.
And historians and everybody else are often justifiably suspicious of a person's claim even where that claim is later proven true.
If the ultimate explanation points to a source behind the empirical phenomenology of the event that can't be explained by physical causes alone, then an intellectually honest historian must follow the logical trail back to the point of origin. And he isn't switching explanatory principles. It still comes down to personal agency.  
It also comes down to "all incoherent concepts are excluded, the god of Christianity is an incoherent concept, hence, he is excluded from all miracle claims".

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Demolishing Triablogue: The Rin Tin Tin of theism

This is my reply to an article by Steve Hays entitled

Suppose we only had a few reported miracles. Wouldn't atheists exclaim that the paucity of independent corroboration is reason to discount the reports? It's easier to dismiss a few random cases as luck. Odds are, coincidental events are bound to happen. 
I would still ask about the merits of any miracle-claim you pick.
But now they turn around and say, in the face of a veritable avalanche of well-documented, contemporaneous reports, that the very abundance of the testimony is a problem. That just means miracle stories are popular. 
But I also agree to look into whatever specific miracle a Christian apologist thinks is the best documented.

I deny your contention that any miracle is "well-documented", unless you meant it in the useless sense of "a lot of people talked about it".

And "well-documented" doesn't count for shit anyway, unless you suddenly discovered Catholicism was true all because the appearances of Mary and other miracles at Fatima and Lourds are "well-documented".
From their viewpoint, there's either too little evidence or too much evidence.
For stupid atheists, yes.  For atheists like me, no, I still ask about and investigate the merits, I don't just make general comments about how there's too much or too little evidence.
There can never be just enough.
That's true because you apologists refuse to put your money where your mouth is and tell us which modern-day miracle you think is better explained by God than by some naturalistic hypothesis.  I'll start worrying about God and Christianity the day you get your fat ass off the sidelines, put your money where your mouth is, and reveal which alleged miracle claim originating between 1900 and today is best explained with "God did it".  
These are clearly people who don't want to believe in God, miracles, or Christianity.
Given what a confusing dogshit mess Christianity is in these days and always has been, it would be rational to reject these three things even if they were all true. Some people are so busy with spouse, kids and work that they cannot hope to investigate these things more than maybe a half hour per day, which is hardly sufficient in light of the fact that Christian scholars themselves disagree on what's what.  You only look like a deluded fanatic if you dare say the atheist has a moral or intellectual obligation to reduce the amount of time they spend on family and job matters just so they can research Christianity's ceaselessly trifling bullshit.
If you point to lots of evidence, they say that's too much. If you pointed to less, they'd say that's not enough. They've arranged things so that you can never strike the right balance. 
Fuck you, take the one modern-day miracle claim you think is best explained by God and provide your reasons for such.  Put up or shut up.  I'm ready to examine any miracle claim you put forth on the merits, so stop giving the fallacious representation that all atheists are equally quick to employ trifling excuses to get away from your nasty invisible Santa Claus.

Demolishing Triablogue: The virgin birth story is fiction whether it was a cover story or not

This is my reply to an article by Steve Hays entitled

Hostile readers assume the account of the virgin birth is a cover story for a prenuptial scandal.
Some of them think it is rank fiction not intended to be a cover story.
That makes sense if you reject miracles out of hand, as well as the larger context of Christ's extraordinary life and ministry.
However, even on naturalistic grounds, why would Mary or early Christian propagandists concoct a story like that?
Maybe because the Jesus whom they wished to worship, really was born in circumstances not becoming a holy "son of God"?
To begin with, no one except Christians is going to believe it. So it will fail to silence suspicion and allegation. The very audience that assumed the worst in the first place will hardly be persuaded by this explanation. 
But you don't know the originally intended audience of the gospel authors sufficiently to justify dogmatizing about whether Matthew and Luke expected their virgin birth narratives to be convincing to unbelievers.  The gospels appear more likely written for believers, and less likely intended to convince unbelievers.   And yet in light of John 20:31, it could be argued that the gospel authors really did, in gullible fashion, expect unbelievers to trust whatever they had to say about Jesus.  Not any more unlikely than the con artists at TBN who "expect" to wow unbelievers with their gossip about Jesus.  It's really stupid, but people sometimes really are THAT stupid.
In addition, it's not even the most plausible naturalistic explanation.
Correct, the silence of Mark and 24 other NT authors on the virgin birth makes it clear that the virgin birth story is more than likely fiction, even if there was no sexual scandal to cover up.
The Mosaic law has a loophole for rape victims. If a virgin says she was raped when she was out in the field, she can't be prosecuted since there were no witnesses to confirm whether it was consensual or not (Deut 22:25-27).
Despite the fact that had God wanted to, he could have given some miraculous sign to the judges so they could determine whether her version of the story was truthful or not, like he allegedly does in causing a dishonest woman's vagina to get gooey and disgusting in Numbers 5.  
But that would make it harder to enforce the law on adultery, since even if a betrothed virgin (or married woman) became pregnant through consensual sex, she would always claim rape. Say she wasn't within earshot of any witnesses at the time.
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Mary was pregnant because she had consensual premarital sex, why make up a story about angelic visitations and a miraculous conception when she could simply say she was a rape victim? 
Easy, she wasn't raped, she was a teen slut.  Problem solved.

Don't forget that the virgin birth story clealry does more than cover up some sex scandal, it also promotes Jesus as the divine son of God, so that could be the sole motive of the authors, a cover-up being utterly irrelevant to their motives.

Another answer is that perhaps there's no report of rape because the evidence of her consent was clear to those who investigated?  I.e., the story is covering up Mary's slutty history?
Rape was probably not uncommon back then. So unlike the virgin birth, there'd be no air of unreality to the claim. People who scoffed at the virgin birth wouldn't be in a position to scoff at that explanation.
Given how easy it would be to invoke this loophole, it stands to reason that some women who were guilty of consensual premarital or extramarital sex evaded the allegation by claiming to be rape victims. So long as they weren't caught in the act, there'd be no presumption that their claim was false. 
And since we cannot know to what degree others knew the truth about how Mary got pregnant, your questions do little more than beg for speculative answers.  I'd rather you answer the problem of Mark not mentioning a virgin birth.  I think this is where you suddenly discover that Markan priority is just a trick of the devil, and Mark was simply abbreviating Matthew and Luke.
Yet Mary doesn't say that.
You don't know what Mary herself had to say about this incident.  You have the disputed hearsay of gospel authors whose identity and exact relation to the eyewitnesses or to these events is nearly a complete unknown, yet you act like the reasons they wrote they way they did are perfectly clear.
Matthew and Luke don't represent Mary having said that. 
 And since first-century Christians never lied about anything, atheists have no other choice but to worship bible inerrancy.
If you're going to invent or circulate a cover story, that would be far more plausible to hostile readers than the virgin birth.
But we don't know that the gospel authors were intending to make a cover story, so all you are doing is refuting extreme skeptics who irrationally insist that Mary was raped or a slut.  Let me know when you have something to say threatening MY basis for virgin-birth skepticism.

And if you want Jesus to sound like pre-Christian god-men like Perseus, you invent a tale of virgin birth that puts words in the mouth of his mother, then you kick out of your church anybody and everybody who take issue with what God's annointed apostle Matthew said.
So why didn't Mary, Matthew, and Luke resort to that explanation rather than the virgin birth? For the obvious reason that the tradition of the virgin birth was the true explanation, even though it will invite derision in a way that feigning rape would not. 
Bullshit, the virgin birth story could be covering up Mary's consensual adultery, and THAT could just as easily explain why the rape-hypothesis doesn't make sense of the data.  Leaping from the falsity of the rape-hypothesis to the conclusion that the virgin birth is true, is hasty generalization and the fallacy of false dilemma.

The falsity of the virgin birth is as secure from the silence of Mark and 24 other NT authors as an historical hypothesis could possibly be.  Engwer's trifles about Mark 6:3 cannot explain how Mark could have "chosen to exclude" a story that would have supported his doctrinal beliefs the most, the virgin birth.  The truth is that Mark is silent about the virgin birth because either a) he doesn't know about it, implying Peter doesn't either, implying the story was false, or b) he knew the story but thought it false.

Now go commit a sin and blame it on God like a good Calvinist.

Changing one stupid philosophy for another, a reply to J. Budziszewski

Triablogue promotes "Escape from Nihilism", below is my reply
In 1997, a group of students at the university where I teach asked me to give a
short talk about how I had returned to my abandoned Christian faith. The
following version was included in The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the
Fall of Man (1999, rev. ed. 2010). For a longer and more analytical account of
my reversion, see at this website “Why I Am Not an Atheist.”
Sixteen years ago I stood in the Government Department of the University of Texas
to give a talk. I was fresh out of graduate school, and it was my here's-why-you-houldhire-
me lecture. I wanted to teach about ethics and politics, so as academic job seekers
do everywhere, I was showing the faculty my stuff. So what did I tell them? Two
things. The first was that we human beings just make up the difference between good
and evil; the second was that we aren't responsible for what we do anyway. And I laid
out a ten-year plan for rebuilding ethical and political theory on these two
propositions.
Does that seem to you a good plan for getting a job teaching the young? Or does it
seem a better plan for getting committed to the state mental hospital? Well, I wasn't
committed to the state mental hospital, but I did get a job teaching the young. I've
been asked to tell you how I became a nihilist, and I've been asked to tell you how I
escaped from nihilism. Perhaps I should first explain just what my argument for
nihilism was.
As I mentioned above, I made two claims: first that we make up the difference
between good and evil,
That is obviously true, since it is a category mistake to apply "objective" to "morality" no less than it is to apply "greasy" to "4".
second that we aren't responsible for what we do anyway.
If Calvinist Steve Hays of Triablogue got it right, then no, we are not responsible for what we do any more than a pot is responsible for the shape the potter formed it into.
My argument reversed this order, because first I denied free will.
We have no reason to think the human mind is free of the laws of cause and effect that we see affecting everything else.  There is a very good reason that mature civilized adults exhibit routinely repeated patterns in their choices, and no, it's not coincidence.
The reasoning was not
very original. Everything we do or think or feel, I thought, is just an effect of prior
causes. It doesn't matter that some of those prior causes are my previous deeds or
thoughts or feelings, because those would be effects of still earlier causes, and if we
traced the chain further and further back, sooner or later we would come to causes
that are outside of me completely, such as my heredity and environment.
So far, so good.
Second I concluded that if we don't have free will, then good and evil can't
make sense.
Then you were a rather stupid atheist, since there's nothing about good or evil that require their definitions to be restricted to absolute terms.   Good and evil make perfect sense even where the context is wholly subjective, such as whether it be good or evil to preserve the results of unconstitutional searches merely because the officers acted in good faith upon a warrant lacking in probable cause (i.e., good faith exception to the exclusionary rule).  Many lawyers say that exception is evil, and ALL evidence obtained from an unconstitutional search must be supressed, while our courts are required to agree with the US Supreme Court that as long as the officer's reliance on the warrant was reasonable, the fruits of the search can be saved and used against the accused in trial.
On the one hand I'm not responsible for my deeds, so I can't be praised
or blamed for good or evil; on the other hand I'm not responsible for my thoughts, so
I can't have any confidence that my reasoning will lead me to the truth about good
and evil.
That is true, but the reason most humans praise and condemn each other is precisely because of ignorance or denial that we too are just machines.  Since most people neither know nor care about the arguments against freewill, the world is not psychologically ready to depart from their older way of holding others responsible for their deeds.
Now so far it may seem that my argument was merely skeptical, not nihilist.
But I reasoned that if the good for man cannot be known to man, then it cannot be
offered to man as his good; for all practical purposes, there is no good.
then you were wrong, since identifying good and evil using the criteria of one's living environment, city, state, or nation, is sufficient to justify saying good exists "for all practical purposes".
This practical nihilism was linked with a practical atheism, for my arguments were
couched in such a way that I thought they applied to God too. He couldn't escape
causality either, I thought; therefore He couldn't possess confident knowledge of
good and evil any more than I could.
non-existent beings have great difficulty possessing knowledge.
And even if He could achieve such a
standard, it would make no sense for Him enforce it; trapped in causality like Him,
human beings have no ultimate control over their conduct.
Sure it could make sense; if God exists, he could just be an irrational asshole like so many past human dictators.  If an ant is not correct to asssume human beings are all good or all powerful merely because we achieve something the ant never could, then we too are irrational to conclude "god", if he exists, is all good or all powerful merely because he is capable of feats we cannot accomplish.
The upshot was that
although God might exist, He would be irrelevant. I couldn't quite rule out the
existence of God, but I thought I could rule out the existence of a God that
mattered.
You should have met me earlier.  I could have introduced you to the atheist argument from incoherent religious language, and you would have found out that God's non-existence is equally as assured as is the non-existence of any incoherent concept.
Holes Large and Numerous
The holes in the preceding arguments are so large that one can see light through
them. One hole is that in order to deny free will I assumed that I understood
causality.
No, in order to deny freewill, all you have to know is that the mind is nothing but the operation of the physical brain, and at that point, you have no basis to say it is capable of doing something for reasons independent of physical law, anymore than a tree branch is free to do something contrary to physical law as it breaks off and falls to the ground.  The fact that most agree "freewill" disappears more and more, the further down the food chain you go (from animal to reptile to insect) seems to suggest that freewill really is nothing but an illusion.
That is foolish because I didn't know what causality really is any more
than I understand what free will really is. They are equally wonderful and
mysterious, so I had no business pretending to understand one in order to attack the
other. Another problem is that my argument was self-referentially incoherent. If
my lack of free will made my reasoning unreliable so I couldn't find out which
ideas about good and evil are true, then by the same token I shouldn't have been
able to find out which ideas about free will are true either. But in that case I had no
business denying that I had free will in the first place.
You don't need freewill to figure out truth anymore than a video camera needs freewill to make an accurate recording of reality.
At this point two things must be clearly understood. The first: One might think that
my arguments for nihilism were what led me to become a nihilist, but that is not
true. I was committed to nihilism already, and cooked up the arguments only to
rationalize it. The second: One might think that my recognition of the holes in the
arguments were what enabled me to "escape" nihilism, but that is not true either. I
saw the holes in my arguments even at the time, and covered them over with
elaborate nonsense like the need to take an ironic view of reality. Good and evil
just had to be meaningless and personal responsibility just had to be nonexistent.
The arguments were secondary. I was determined.
Personal responsibility doesn't require freewill.  We desire an ordered society that punishes criminals whose mental abilities are within whatever criteria of soundness we determine.  Your personal responsibility (I think you meant culpability) draws solely from others who impose their will.  Most criminals are perfectly content with their lifestyle.  A sense of moral culpability must be determined from outside the individual person.  There's a reason you need to teach kids manners.  If they are left to raise themselves as feral children, they will have no sense of responsibility and will do anything to survive, including steal, deceive and kill.
A friend may he forgive me for quoting him thinks my dismissal of my previous
rationalizations as elaborate nonsense seems too pat. Is it really that simple? The
answer is that yes, it really is that simple. In my present opinion (though not my
opinion of sixteen years ago), modern ethics is going about matters backwards. It
assumes that the problem of human sin is mainly cognitive that it has to do with the
state of our knowledge. In other words, it holds that we really don't know what's
right and wrong and that we are trying to find out.
Once again, there is no objective basis to declare any human act moral or immoral.  We might think we are "trying to find out" what's right and wrong, but all we are doing is evolving and having arguments with others about the matter.  Christian philosophers have already tried and failed to show objective morality with their personally chosen best examples.
Actually the problem is
volitional it has to do with the state of our will. In other words, by and large we do
know the basics of right and wrong
Not when most of the world disgrees with the fundie fanatics who claim God used to think it was morally good to burn teen prostitutes to death: Leviticus 21:9.
but wish we didn't, and we are trying, for one
reason or another, to keep ourselves in ignorance. Is this an ad hominem
argument that because my motive was bad, my nihilism must have been false? No,
it is a diagnosis, with myself as case in point. My nihilism was "false" because it
was self-referentially incoherent. [There may exist nihilisms which are false for
reasons other than self-referentially incoherency, but I am speaking only of the
version I held myself.] The motive was "bad" because although I knew this to be
the case, rather than give up the nihilism I embraced the incoherency. What one
must do with such a fellow as I once was is not to tell him what he doesn't know
(because he really knows it), but to blow away the smokescreens by which he hides
from the knowledge he has already.
The Motives Behind Nihilism
Then how did I become a nihilist? Why was I so determined? What were my real
motives?
There were quite a few. One was that having been caught up in radical politics of
the late 'sixties and early 'seventies, I had my own ideas about redeeming the
world, ideas that were opposed to the Christian faith of my childhood. As I got
further and further from God, I also got further and further from common sense
about a lot of other things, including moral law and personal responsibility.
Well then maybe you can get closer to God by lobbying for America to legalize a moral God approves of: burning teen prostitutes to death.  Leviticus 21:9
That first reason for nihilism led to a second. By now I had committed certain sins
that I didn't want to repent. Because the presence of God made me more and more
uncomfortable,
Then you must have been taking some drugs back when you were an atheist, as there's more reason for "god" to make anybody unconfortable than there is for the Bermuda Triangle to make them uncomfortable, ignorance being the only exception.
I began looking for reasons to believe that He didn't exist.
Sort of like the vast majority of Christians who came to faith in an emotional moment in church, and their acceptance of theistic arguments and bible inerrancy is wholly derivative.
It's a
funny thing about us human beings: not many of us doubt God's existence and then
start sinning. Most of us sin and then start doubting His existence.
Speak for yourself, that wasn't true in my case.
A third reason for being a nihilist was simply that nihilism was taught to me. I may
have been raised by Christian parents, but I'd heard all through school that even the
most basic ideas about good and evil are different in every society. That's
empirically false as C.S. Lewis remarked, cultures may disagree about whether a
man may have one wife or four, but all of them know about marriage;  they may
disagree about which actions are most courageous, but none of them rank
cowardice as a virtue.
But human consensus doesn't make a moral objective.  There is human consensus that burning teenage prostitutes to death is always immoral, but because of Leviticus 21:9, Christians must concede that the consensus is wrong, and it's not allways immoral to burn such girls to death.  Hence, moral consensus cannot be a justification to call any particular action of man objectively good or bad.
But by the time I was taught the false anthropology of the
times, I wanted very much to believe it.
And of course that couldn't have been the case with the start and rise of Christianity.  No, it was only the undeniable miracles of Jesus and the apostles that forced unbelievers to come kicking and screaming over the line into the faith, no presumption or wish-fulfillment about it.
A fourth reason, related to the last, was the very way I was taught to use language.
My high school English teachers were determined to teach me the difference
between what they called facts and what they called opinions, and I noticed that
moral propositions were always included among the opinions. My college social
science teachers were equally determined to teach me the difference between what
they called facts and what they called "values," and to much the same effect: the
atomic weight of sodium was a fact, but the wrong of murder was not. I thought
that to speak in this fashion was to be logical. Of course it had nothing to do with
logic; it was merely nihilism itself, in disguise.
Not at all, associating "objective" with "morality" is a category mistake, read how God accepts moral correction from Moses in Exodus 32:9-14.  SInce you cannot refute the thesis on the merits in the context, pretend that the larger context of Exodus is "necessary" to a "proper understanding" of those verses.

Yeah, and I cannot understand Exodus 32:15 without consulting the "larger context".  Sorry Charlie.
A fifth reason for nihilism was that disbelieving in God was a good way to get
back at Him for the various things which predictably went wrong in my life after I
had lost hold of Him. Now of course if God didn't exist then I couldn't get back at
Him, so this may seem a strange sort of disbelief. But most disbelief is like that.
Not mine. When I say God is stupid and cruel, I'm only tryinig to talk to Christians at their level, not because I seriously believe it to be the case.  Just like we often say to a 3 year old "Santa wants you to be nice" around Christmas.  We are not committing to the premise that Santa is real.
A sixth reason for nihilism was that I had come to confuse science with a certain
world view, one which many science writers hold but that really has nothing to
with science. I mean the view that nothing is real but matter. If nothing is real but
matter, then there couldn't be such things as minds, moral law, or God, could
there?
No, since minds are nothing but brains in action, morals cannot be shown to exist apart from physical matter stuff like brains, and incoherent concepts like god only arise because of misinformed physical brains.
After all, none of those are matter. Of course not even the properties of
matter are matter, so after while it became hard to believe in matter itself.
Not true, quarks and leptons are no less physical than rocks.  You cannot get rid of their physicality by calling them "energy", because energy is not some ghostly esoteric something-or-other that is different than matter, energy is nothing more than matter in motion.  The heat that burns your hand when you place it in the middle of an oven is not less physical than the wires carrying the electrical current into the oven.

You can use your finger to press a key on a computer keyboard, yet when you do, there's nothing "non-matter" about it, the entire operation was 100% physical from beginning to end.
But by
that time I was so disordered that I couldn't tell how disordered I was.
Sorry to hear it. Lay off the drugs.
I recognized
that I had committed yet another incoherency, but I concluded that reality itself
was incoherent, and that I was pretty clever to have figured this out even more so,
because in an incoherent world, figuring didn't make sense either.
Yup, drugs.
A seventh and reinforcing reason for nihilism was that for all of the other reasons, I
had fallen under the spell of the nineteenth-century German writer Friedrich
Nietzsche. I was, if anything, more Nietzschean than he was. Whereas he thought
that given the meaninglessness of things, nothing was left but to laugh or be silent,
I recognized that not even laughter or silence were left. One had no reason to do or
not do anything at all.
That was illogical.  Unless you are some idiot fanatic who never takes a shit except when he thinks god will be most pleased, it is clear that God's absence doesn't negatively impact one's sense of purpose in life.  You don't purchase a candy bar for the glory of God.  You don't run the kids by McDonald's to avoid having to cook dinner, because you wish to lay up for yourself treasure in heaven.  The normal shit that makes up the average Christian's life does not change even when they decide that atheism is true...unless they are irrational. If you could find purpose in purchasing a candy bar as a Christian, seems obvious you can find purpose in doing the same after telling yourself atheism is true.
This is a terrible thing to believe, but like Nietzsche, I
imagined myself one of the few who could believe such things who could walk the
rocky heights where the air is thin and cold.
But the main reason I was a nihilist, the reason that tied all these other reasons
together, was sheer, mulish pride. I didn't want God to be God; I wanted J.
Budziszewski to be God. I see that now. But I didn't see that then.
Nothing wrong with being master of your own fate since nothing fails quite like theistic arguments.
The Stupidity of the Intelligent
I have already said that everything goes wrong without God. This is true even of
the good things He's given us, such as our minds.
Some Christians would argue that God's presence doesn't make life any more bearable when life has you down.
One of the good things I've been
given is a stronger than average mind.
I would beg to differ.  Your basis for atheism was a scary exercise is willful blindness.
I don't make the observation to boast;
human beings are given diverse gifts to serve Him in diverse ways. The problem is
that a strong mind that refuses the call to serve God has its own way of going
wrong.
Then do what Steve Hays, a Calvinist at Triablogue does, and blame it on god.
When some people flee from God they rob and kill.
When some people convert to Christ they bomb abortion clinics.
When others flee from
God they do a lot of drugs and have a lot of sex.
When others flee TO God, they have lots of pedophilia sex.  Numbers 31:18.
When I fled from God I didn't do
any of those things; my way of fleeing was to get stupid.
Sorry to hear it.  My way of fleeing from God was not too different from the way I fled from the concept that the Bermuda Triangle is a gateway to another dimension:  I simply rejected the concept and moved on with my life.
Though it always comes
as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that one must be
highly intelligent and educated to commit. God keeps them in his arsenal to pull
down mulish pride, and I discovered them all. That is how I ended up doing a
doctoral dissertation to prove that we make up the difference between good and
evil and that we aren't responsible for what we do. I remember now that I even
taught these things to students; now that's sin.
Not at all, you Christians cannot even show that torturing babies to death solely for entertainment, is "objectively" immoral.  That's pretty said given your presupposition that some human acts are objectively immoral.
It was also agony. You cannot imagine what a person has to do to himself well, if
you are like I was, maybe you can what a person has to do to himself to go on
believing such nonsense. St. Paul said that the knowledge of God's law is "written
on our hearts, our consciences also bearing witness." The way natural law thinkers
put this is to say that they constitute the deep structure of our minds. That means
that so long as we have minds, we can't not know them.
Nice to know you don't trifle about "work of the law" in Romans 2:15 as desperately as some apologists do.
Well, I was unusually
determined not to know them; therefore I had to destroy my mind. I resisted the
temptation to believe in good with as much energy as some saints resist the
temptation to neglect good. For instance, I loved my wife and children, but I was
determined to regard this love as merely a subjective preference with no real and
objective value. Think what this did to very capacity to love them. After all, love is
a commitment of the will to the true good of another person,
Which is precisely why it is ultimately subjective.
and how can one's
will be committed to the true good of another person if he denies the reality of
good, denies the reality of persons, and denies that his commitments are in his
control?
He can't.  But defining those matters as "subjective" doesn't equate to saying they don't exist.  The time I put my kids to bed on a school night is a decision within the category of "moral", despite the fact that it is wholly subjective with no possible way of nailing down which precise bedtime is the "objective" one.  So love can be "real" while also being subjective.
Visualize a man opening up the access panels of his mind and pulling out all the
components that have God's image stamped on them.
I thought I told you to lay off the drugs.
The problem is that they all
have God's image stamped on them, so the man can never stop. No matter how
much he pulls out, there's still more to pull. I was that man. Because I pulled out
more and more, there was less and less that I could think about. But because there
was less and less that I could think about, I thought I was becoming more and more
focussed. Because I believed things that filled me with dread, I thought I was
smarter and braver than the people who didn't believe them. I thought I saw an
emptiness at the heart of the universe that was hidden from their foolish eyes. Of
course I was the fool.
Escape Through Horror
How then did God bring me back? I came, over time, to feel a greater and greater
horror about myself. Not exactly a feeling of guilt, not exactly a feeling of shame,
just horror: an overpowering sense that my condition was terribly wrong. Finally it
occurred to me to wonder why, if there were no difference between the wonderful
and the horrible, I should feel horror.
Easy, you find one accords with your wishes, and the other opposes those wishes.  We all wish to live, that's why we are horrified to think of another person taking our lives.
In letting that thought through, my mental
censors blundered. You see, in order to take the sense of horror seriouslyand by
now I couldn't help doing soI had to admit that there was a difference between the
wonderful and the horrible after all. For once my philosophical training did me
some good, because I knew that if there existed a horrible, there had to exist a
wonderful of which the horrible was the absence. So my walls of self-deception
collapsed all at once.
At this point I became aware again of the Savior whom I had deserted in my
twenties. Astonishingly, though I had abandoned Him, he had never abandoned
me.
The bible is not consistent on whether and to what extent God abandons those who walk away from him.
I now believe He was just in time. There is a point of no return, and I was
almost there. I said I had been pulling out one component after another, and I had
nearly got to the motherboard.
The next few years after my conversion were like being in a dark attic where I had
been for a long time, but in which shutter after shutter was being thrown back so
that great shafts of light began to stream in and illuminate the dusty corners. I
recovered whole memories, whole feelings, whole ways of understanding that I
had blocked out.
Of course I had to repudiate my dissertation. At the time I thought my career was
over because I couldn't possible retool, rethink, and get anything written and
published before my tenure review came up, but by God's grace that turned out to
be untrue.
Defending What I Had Denied
As an ethical an political theorist, what I do now is poles apart from what I did
sixteen years ago. What I write about now is those very moral principles I used to
denythe ones we can't not know because they are imprinted on our minds,
inscribed upon our consciences, written on our hearts.
Romans 2:15 says it is the work of the Law that is written on our hearts, which under bible inerrancy must mean Leviticus 21:9 is written on our hearts.  Yet no Christian thinks it morally good to burn teenage prostitutes to death.  I'd say you've got problems.
Some call these principles the "natural law." Such as it is, my own contribution to
the theory of natural law is a little different than those of some other writers. One
might say that I specialize in understanding the ways that we pretend we don't
know what we really do the ways we suppress our knowledge, the ways we hold it
down, the ways we deceive ourselves and others. I do not try to "prove" the natural
law as though one could prove that by which all else is proven; I do try to show
that in order to get anywhere at all, the philosophies of denial must always at some
point assume the very first principles they deny.
Not at all.  You couldn't prove any act of a human to be objectively good or bad, to save your life.  All you can do is reel in horror at the atheist who doesn't agree with you that torturing babies for fun is objectively immoral, call him a dangerous sociopath, and complain that the only opponents who count are those who already agree with you.  That's a pretty sad case for objective morality, that you cannot prove it unless your opponent agrees with you on it.
It is a matter of awe to me that God has permitted me to make any contribution at
all. His promise is that if only the rebel turns to Jesus Christ in repentant faith,
giving up claims of self-ownership and allowing this Christ the run of the house,
He will redeem everything there is in it.
Some would argue you wouldn't bloom with so much god-pollen if terrorists kidnapped your daughter and sold her into sex slavery.  There are very good reasons why "His mysterious ways" is nothing but a dogshit excuse.
Just so, it was through my rescue from
self-deception that I learned about self-deception. He has redeemed even my
nihilist past and put it to use.
Many of my students tell me they struggle with the same dark influences that I
once did. I hope that by telling the story of my own escape I may encourage them
to seek the light.
Copyright © J. Budziszewski

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Apologists have failed to debunk the usefulness of ECREE

We skeptics agree with Carl Sagan that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (i.e., ECREE).

Christian apologists come along and insist this is fallacious since it's just demanding miraculous proof for the very miracle claims skeptics presuppose are false.

Wrong.

We merely mean that the more a claim departs from the investigator's beliefs about how the world works, the greater quantity and quality of evidence will be required before trust in the claim can be considered rational.

In short, claims of walking on water require a greater quality and quantity of eyewitnesses or videos, than is required for claims that somebody walked to the store.  Only stupid people would say singular self-serving testimony suffice in both cases.

Some apologists also misconstrue the "extraordinary evidence" in ECREE to mean evidence whose form is something more wonderful than the usual stuff like pictures, video, eyewitness testimony, court documents, etc.

That is not the case.  "Extraordinary evidence" only means normative types or forms of evidence, whose authenticity, quality and quantity are greater than what we usually accept as sufficient for routine claims.  If the evidence consists of eyewitnesses, they need to survive cross-examination more clearly than as we'd require for less extraordinary claims.  If the evidence consists of photos, they need to be authenticated more stringently than as we'd normally do.  So "extraordinary evidence" merely means normative types of evidence that are possessed of a greater quality and quantity, than we normally produce to prove more mundane things like our residence address, or what we bought at the grocery store last week.

HOW much more extraordinary must the evidence be?  Again, depends on to what degree the claim departs from normative everyday experience.  The evidence of quality and quantity sufficient to prove that you won a $5 Million Lottery, will likely not need to be nearly as strong as the evidence that you can levitate your body through mental concentration alone.

Again, when you produce a photo to prove you went fishing last year, most people wouldn't suspect you of lying unless other evidence indicated you were using the "gone fishing" story as an alibi to defeat a criminal prosecution...while a photo of you levitating while assuming the yoga position, will be justifiably viewed with extreme suspicion by all non-gullible people.  Doesn't matter if the photo is authentic and you really did levitate, the issue is not the truth, but whether you can demonstrate what happened to you, to some other person.  Sometimes the truth is so much stranger than fiction that you cannot blame people for being suspicious of your claims.

Maybe you DID win a secret billion-dollar lottery, the records of which have since disappeared, and its now in a bank account you aren't allowed to access for the next 10 years, in a name not associated with you...but can you blame the outsider who thinks your story is total bullshit?

What follows is my answer to Nick Peter's of Deeper Waters

------------------------
The claim revolves the use of ECREE, which is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. My problem with this is that the skeptical community has often used it as a conversation-stopper and that in many cases, what is considered as extraordinary is often unclear.
Ok, so I'll make it clear to you, that you might discover that when it isn't being abused, it remains a solid justification for disbelieving in miracle claims which fail the ECREE criteria.  See above.
For the second, I am in dialogue with one atheist now who I am trying to convince that nothing cannot cause something. For me, that is a highly highly highly extraordinary claim based on my beliefs regarding metaphysics.
I second that.  Nothing causing something is a logical impossibility, unfortunately, some dishonest atheists don't really mean "zero" in the sense of absolute nothingness when they say "nothing produced something".
Meanwhile, for him, the idea that God created the universe, is highly highly extraordinary, based on the holding of a naturalistic worldview.
It would also be extraordinary given that 'god' is an incoherent concept as it is used and believed in Christianity.
Question. Who needs to provide evidence for their view?
Answer:  anybody who makes a truth-claim, for "he who asserts, must prove" regardless of what position they take.
If you said “Both of you,” move to the head of the class.
 So at this point, I am not saying that I am opposed to evidence. My friend who wrote said that he is not convinced by people saying that they feel Jesus. Something similar can be found in many other religions. After all, Mormons feel the burning in the bosom and thus are convinced that the Book of Mormon is true, but those of us outside the Mormon church who have studied it and its beliefs, just don’t find that convincing.
 Of course, that doesn’t mean that subjective experiences play no part in determining what one believes, but they should not play the only part. Someone can speak about the evidences of God and of the resurrection and then also look at their changed life since becoming a Christian.
But since Christian "heretics" can also demonstrate their change in morality, theology and love after they converted to the "heresy", its probably better to leave subjective experience completely out of the debate. Subjective feelings and "changed life" constitute zero for purposes of demonstrating the truth of one's claim to another person.  If you aren't going to attach any significance to the burning in the heart of the Mormon and their changed life, I won't be attaching any significance to your personal feeling that you have the Holy Spirit and that you have a changed life.
That is entirely valid. (I would prefer them to start with the objective argument first however and have the effects from the subjective experience be a follow-up.)
My friend brings up the idea of someone claiming to have an interstellar spaceship and twenty people making a claim on a stack of Bibles that it is real. Now there are some questions I would have at this point. For instance, it would depend on who those twenty people are partially.
But generally, no, you wouldn't believe the claim of interstellar spacecraft if it was being made by the guy in the coffee-shop and the only evidence for it was his uncorroborated word.  The point is that despite your openness to miracles and things that conflict with our present view of reality, you STILL are initially skeptical of anything that conflicts with reality as it was established previously in your mind.  Skeptics of resurrection are doing nothing different.
If these are twenty people shown on a TV infomercial that I do not know, then I will not give it credibility.
So under your logic, when I see Christian testimony being given on Christian infomercials, I need not give it credibility.  Some would say your rationale here ends up justifying skeptics to deny that which the Holy Spirit really is impelling those Christians to say.

And under your logic, we can reject Keener's voluminous work on miracles too, since that's little different than an informercial, and as you say below, it is ok to reject testimony from those not part of your immediate social circle.  I don't know Keener from Adam (however, the failure of Christian apologists to seriously cite anything from his work as a miracle claim that passes standard tests of scrutiny, justifies my skepticism toward whatever miracle reports he provides).  Licona has mentioned Keener in the context of saying Licona doesn't necessarily deny that resurrections happen today, but seems obvious a guy like Licona would be strongly promoting any miracle claim of Keener, if Licona seriously believed it could pass standard tests of veracity.
If, however, these people are people like my wife, good friends, family, leaders of my church, I’ll start thinking “Maybe I should look into this.”
Ditto.  If one of my atheist friends say they saw some preacher in the Congo raise somebody from the dead, only THEN will I check it out.  The brightness of the coming of the Lord Jesus is truly frightful and blinding for a devil inspired deceiver like myself.
Now I could go and see this supposed ship someone has for sale then and I might think “I need to get my eyes examined. I go and get my eyes examined and I have a clean bill of health. I still see the spaceship. I think I must be hallucinating then, so I get a psychiatric evaluation and again, I’m given a clean bill of health. I still see the spaceship. I at that point have the salesman give me a ride and we travel throughout the solar system and come back. At this point, I must say that I am indeed a believer.
Understood.  So, under your logic, apparently, I can justifiable remain skeptical of miraculous and space-ship claims unless and until I personally experience them myself.  If it is rational to withhold belief until you take a ride in the UFO, it is equally ration to withhold belief until I personally witness a miracle and check for all possible evidence of fraud or mistake.   Can you  point to any miracle claims of Christians that survive YOUR proposed method of inspection?
I have no problem with this and based on the kind of claim that it is, that is the kind of evidence I seek. An important consideration to keep in mind is that we evaluate claims based on the kinds of claims that they are. Suppose you want to know if Jesus rose from the dead. The improper way to do that, as would be found at some skeptical web sites that want to say Jesus never even existed, would be to pray and ask Jesus to heal everyone in the world of every disease and if that doesn’t happen, well then history obviously must demonstrate that Jesus did not rise.
Agreed, this is not a responsible way to test the claim of Jesus being resurrected.
No. The way to evaluate the claim is to look at the historical evidence that we have. If you find it to be faulty, on what grounds?
Jesus lied about how soon he would effect his second-coming.

The most explicit accounts of Paul experiencing Jesus show he is not an eyewitness.

The identities of the gospel authors cannot be known with sufficient certainty to permit reasonable inquiry into their general credibility.

The gospel authors show willingness to modify history for the purpose of supporting theology.

The true form of Christianity disappeared from earth before the 5th century.

Generously granting apostolic authorship of the gospels (despite how easy it is to dispute this), there would be only 3 testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus which come down to us in first-hand form, the rest are second-hand, vision or worse.  Some would argue it is reasonable to require something more than 3 disputable eyewitnesses and their hearsay corroboration before one plunges into that hopeless bottomless chasm of trying to figure out which church is the right one.

It is more reasonable to explain Jesus' hiddenness from those he allegedly loves, as a case of his remaining dead, and less reasonable to suppose this hiddenness is because his ways are mysterious.

The Book of Acts contains strong indicators that the canonical gospels are lying about what Jesus really taught.

The virgin birth stories in Matthew and Luke make it nearly perfectly certain that gospel authors had no problems inventing fictions about Jesus to promote their religion.
Are they historical grounds or philosophical grounds or some other grounds?
Historical.  Philosophical grounds would be the argument to atheism from the incoherence of religious language.
Suppose you accept the bedrock of Habermas and Licona for instance and say “I agree that Jesus was crucified, that the tomb was empty, that the apostles had experiences that they claimed to be that of the risen Christ, and that James and Paul, two people hostile to the message prior, became strong Christians.” Well and good. You then reply “But I don’t believe the resurrection happened.”
 You are certainly entitled to that opinion, but I would then ask on what grounds do you dismiss it?
Jesus' own brothers did not believe his claims at least during the first year of his ministry, John 7:5.  It is more reasonable to explain this disbelief of those most intimately familar with Jesus, under the theory that Jesus' miracles were fake, than on a theory that their disbelief was grounded in something faulty like misunderstanding, obstinate refusal to see reality, or sibling rivalry.
For instance, Stephen Patterson in a debate with Mike Licona has said that the reason he rejects the resurrection is that he is a modern man. He believes that by resurrection it does not mean that God raised Jesus from the dead physically. Miracles just do not happen. He has to explain the data another way, and indeed he does attempt to do so. Whether someone finds his explanation to be sound or not is up to them. Does his explanation best account for the data?
 Note that Patterson’s problem is on philosophical grounds.
That's not a problem, otherwise, we could reject God because of the stupdity of Turek and other apologists who foolishly try to prove God from the argument for objective morality.  Their philosophical blunder doesn't mean their main points are false.
His belief is that miracles cannot be historically verified if they even happen at all.
he is exactly right and so was Hume. and what Hume said has proven true up to the present:  there is no miraculous event that is testified to by such a good quantity and quality of eyewitnesses, that their deceiving would be more unlikely than the miracle they speak about.  For all miracles I can locate, they depend on fuzzy photos, unverified healings, unverified medical conditions, doctors who are not available, or involve witnesses who didn't see what the others say, etc.  And it wouldn't matter if Jesus really did rise from the dead, since truth is not the issue, but whether what you claim can be "demonstrated" true to another person.  Sometimes things happen in your life that are true, but which leave behind so little evidence that there's not enough to convince others of such truth.  That's why Patterson and Ehrman are constantly telling you that historiography is often not adequate to justify concluding that a miracle happened.  Probably does not derive from the "truth", but rather from the evidence.
At that point, one can go to philosophy and demonstrate that miracles are at least possible.
Not really.  You'd have to define miracle in a non-question-begging way, and you cannot do that when dealing with skeptics who deny miracles.  But if you seriously believe that "act of God" is the proper definition of miracle, then honesty requires that you use that definition despite your knowledge that it will get you exactly nowhere fast when dealing with an atheist.
While demonstrating them as actual is best, we can at least get to possible.
 The problem with ECREE at this point is just simply saying that in the face of contrary evidence that it just isn’t extraordinary enough without really explaining what is there. Now I am not saying that someone has to immediately give in to a lot of evidence. By all means, go out and study the information that you’ve been given for yourself and see if it’s valid and see if there are any valid criticisms of it.
You are here helping atheists feel good about taking their time to investigate, when according to your religion, if they die in a car wreck on the way to the library to check out your Savior James Patrick Holding's books, they will go straight to hell, no second chances.

Methinks you need to modify your instructions to atheists so that the way you instruct them with regard to further research, aligns more perfectly with your belief that they are forever just a heartbeat from the gates of hell.  That might entail telling them to forego research and just hurry up and repent/believe, and that might be more consistent with the biblical message, but then you won't be taken seriously in this modern American culture where investigating things seems to be the god of the moment.
My friend also included in the message information on homeopathic medicine. I do not claim to be an authority on this so I will not act on one, but I do agree with him that if homeopathic medicine is valid, then we should certainly see some results in the laboratory, and I say the laboratory because this is in the area of science and therefore it is fitting to study it scientifically. (Since some atheists who seem to think that every truth claim can be tested by science) We can supposedly explain some recoveries by the placebo effect. Does that mean we close the door on research? I wouldn’t say that. However, there needs to be more than what can be explained by the placebo effect.
If you are a true Christian, you won't need anything more for healing sickness than what the bible gives, you, James 5:14.  If James's assurance that the prayer of faith "shall" save the sick shouldn't be taken in an absolute sense, you open Pandora's Box:  I wonder how many other absolute-sounding statements in the NT likewise shouldn't be taken in an absolute sense?
I also like at the end that my friend stated that extraordinary evidence is really simple evidence that is probable given the truth claim. That is much better since he has given criteria. The atheist who is expecting that to believe Jesus rose from the dead, he has to have Jesus appear to him manifestly I do not believe will be satisfied, especially since God gave him a brain to use to study claims for himself.
False, you think God gave the 12 apostles brains to study claims for themselves, yet you think Jesus appeared bodily to them alive after he died.  Your God has a serious problem:  he doesn't do his "best" to save us, while yet pretending to be warning us of an unspeakably horrific eternity of suffering he'd rather spare us from.  When a person refuses to do their "best" to save somebody else from serious danger or harm, you have discovered the alleged savior's limit of love toward the endangered person.

I'm sorry, Nick, but it really is that simple:  Your God does NOT do his "best", so he cannot possibly love children more than the parents who always do their "best" to save the child when she is in serious immediate horrific danger.  Nothing new here:  go read Deuteronomy 28:15-63, Isaiah 13 and Hosea 13, and discover for the first time in your life that if God DOES "love" humanity, that love is so utterly beyond anything remotely resembling human love, that you are a fool to try and "reason" about it with skeptics.

You can skip this whole problem by admittng that God's "love" for humanity is far more limited and stranger than as the vast majority of conservative evangelical scholars say.

Wallace's exercise in futility: An answer to J. Warner Wallace on resurrection contradictions

This is my reply to an article by J. Warner Wallace entitled How Many Women Visited the Tomb of Jesus? Posted: 11 Dec 2017 01:05 AM PST...