Spoilers and the weakness of the Almighty

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 10: “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?”)

Normally I hate it when people give away the plot, but today I’m going to make an exception. I’m going to give away the plot behind the “Christian exclusivism” argument that William Lane Craig is making. When Craig says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, he’s not being as humble and pious as he’d like everyone (including himself) to think. He’s not exalting God and abasing man. The whole point of Christian exclusivism (or “particularism,” as he calls it) is to put Christians in the position of having a unique monopoly on what people are supposed to believe and how they must behave. Religious pluralism is anathema to him precisely because it allows people to believe and obey things Christians haven’t approved.

The problem with Christian exclusivism is that, from God’s perspective, there’s no reason for it. If, as the Gospel claims, God were a loving heavenly Father Who earnestly wanted all of His children to be saved, the last thing He would want to do is to tack on some arbitrary and often impossible requirements that severely limit the number of salvations. Craig expends a fair amount of effort trying to defend his exclusivist position against the obvious charge of injustice, but he can’t really explain why God ought to limit salvations in the first place. Shh, don’t tell anyone: the real reason is first and foremost to establish the dominion of Christians like himself.

Craig begins by asking whether it would be unfair of God to send people to hell when they’ve never heard the gospel, or when they’ve been misinformed about it. After all, it would hardly be fair to accuse them of rejecting God’s salvation when they’ve never had a chance to respond to an accurate version of it.

But again, this doesn’t seem to me to be the heart of the problem. For according to the Bible, God doesn’t judge people who have never heard of Christ on the basis of whether they’ve placed their faith in Christ. Rather God judges them on the basis of the light of God’s general revelation in nature and conscience that they do have… Someone who senses his need of forgiveness through his guilty conscience and flings himself upon the mercy of the God revealed in nature may find salvation.

Craig rushes past this point, but this is really a huge theological problem. In trying to defend Christian exclusivism, he’s admitting that there is, in fact, another way for people to get into heaven apart from believing in Jesus. That’s huge. He’s admitting that Christian exclusivism isn’t really true! But he’s kind of stuck in this corner, because there are too many people—including all the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs—who have died without ever having heard of Jesus. To say salvation requires accepting Jesus in this life, you have to say that God is going to send all those people to hell because they never accepted Jesus. Not even Craig can swallow that one, so he has to admit that Christian exclusivism isn’t really true.

There’s an even bigger consequence to this concession though: if it’s easier to get into heaven when you’ve never heard the Gospel, why preach the Gospel? If preaching Jesus means exposing people to a danger they would not otherwise have faced, then it is criminally negligent to preach the Gospel! But if you don’t preach the Gospel, how can people find out that they need YOU to tell them what to believe and how to behave? Sure, it would be to God’s advantage to let more people be saved through general revelation, but how would that establish the dominion of Christians over everyone else?

Craig has to make it sound like it’s really a bad thing for God to open up additional opportunities for salvation. Notice he says that one who throws himself on the mercy of God MAY find salvation—not will find it, but just may find it. There’s just enough of a possibility there so that God can be rescued from the charge of unfairness, but, ho ho, not nearly enough that we could reasonably expect the lower standards to produce more salvations. Silly us.

Unfortunately, the testimony of the New Testament, as we’ve seen, is that people don’t generally measure up even to these much lower standards of general revelation. So there are little grounds for optimism about there being many people, if any at all, who will actually be saved through their response to general revelation alone.

So the men who wrote the New Testament also used the same self-serving argument. And thus the supremacy of Christians is once again assured. Craig admits that it’s possible for God to legitimately save people by applying “much lower standards,” and it would definitely be to everyone’s benefit if He did, but somehow, inexplicably, this doesn’t seem to work. Gosh, what a shame, I guess we’ll all have to turn to William Lane Craig, and believe and obey whatever he tells us, if we want to be saved. It’s a humbling responsibility, but I’m sure he’ll heed God’s call and bear his burden without complaining. Poor man.

Oy. Let’s move on. He said he doesn’t think this is really the heart of the problem, so what is?

[It] seems to me that the real problem is this: If God is all-knowing, then He knew who would freely receive the gospel and who would not. But then certain very difficult questions arise:

(1) Why didn’t God bring the gospel to people who He knew would accept it if they heard it, even though they reject the light of general revelation that they do have? …

(2) More fundamentally, why did God even create the world, when He knew that so many people would not believe the gospel and be lost? Since creation is a free act of God, why not simply refrain from creating any free creatures at all? …

(3) Even more radically, why didn’t God create a world in which everyone freely believes the gospel and is saved? Such a world must be logically possible, since people are free to believe or not to believe. So why didn’t God create a world in which every person freely chooses to place his faith in Christ and be saved?

I think he’s leaving out a few of the very difficult questions. For example, why do we have unbelief and pagan beliefs in the first place? That’s not such a hard question: these things are the result of God failing to show up in real life. As a loving Father Who earnestly desires the salvation of His beloved children, He knows that His children need what all children need: consistent, personal, 2-way interactions with their Parent. To so neglect Your children that they don’t even know You exist—it’s just unthinkable. Very few dads are such deadbeats that their own kids don’t know they have a dad. So the difficult question is, why is God’s name on this very short list of extremely deadbeat dads?

Another difficult question is why God allows the unsaved to exist in the first place. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you…” Normal sperm count is in the tens of millions of sperm per milliliter, and God knows some of them would result in the birth of a saved person and some would result in the birth of an unsaved person. Even if only one sperm out of all those tens of millions of sperm would result in a savable person being born, just arrange things so that that one sperm is the one that successfully fertilizes the egg.

Or don’t allow the woman to get pregnant. You don’t have to have a baby every time you go bump (Rick Santorum notwithstanding). Nor does this need to put undue constraints on the perpetuation of the human species. If a woman has sex, say, 100 times over the course of her entire life, and there’s tens of millions of sperm each time, that’s billions of opportunities per woman for God to find those few, select people who are destined to be saved. That’s bound to be a fair number. (Otherwise, if the rate of salvation is less than one out of multiplied billions, there’s probably not more than a few dozen saved people total. Count up the number of famous and/or biblical saints, and there’s not much chance of any of the rest of us being saved.)

It’s clearly in everyone’s best interests for God to arrange it so that only the elect are ever conceived, since this saves every soul without impacting anyone’s free will. Plus a life doomed to eternal torment in hell is literally a wasted life, not to mention unconscionably cruel on God’s part. If you see someone about to walk in front of a speeding bus because they’re texting and not paying attention, and they’re within an arm’s reach, and you simply choose not to grab them and pull them out of harm’s way, you’re guilty. How much more is God, Who allegedly sees every evil thing that is ever going to happen, and has the power to prevent each and every one of them, and wilfully chooses not to?

There is no way to reconcile the idea of an all-loving, all-wise, and all-powerful God  with the idea that anybody, even one person, ever needs to go to hell. When God is all-powerful, all sin is preventable. But Craig’s going to try and bamboozle us anyway, and he’s going to use the tactic of assuming he’s right, and putting the burden of proof on his opponents. This allows him to hide behind the excuse of human fallibility and ignorance.

[The] pluralist claims that the following statements are logically inconsistent:

1. God is all-powerful and all-loving.
2. Some people never hear the gospel and are lost.

Notice how Craig oversimplifies the problem by leaving out his assumption that God is the sole self-existent Being, that God is just, and that where God is not just, He is merciful (to the point that all salvation is the product of God’s mercy). If God is the sole self-existent being, then there is no pre-existing constraint, contrary to His will and His nature, that could force Him to deny His children salvation. If He is all-loving and merciful, there is no constraint in His will that would force Him to deny them salvation. And if He is both all-powerful and just, there is no constraint in His nature that would deprive Him of the opportunity to find some way to save them given the extenuating circumstances.

But now we need to ask, why think that 1 and 2 are logically inconsistent? After all, there’s no explicit contradiction between them.

Here Craig’s choice of terms drives his argument. The reason the explicit contradiction is absent from his terms is because he deliberately omitted mentioning the fact that God is supposedly willing to save His beloved children (implicit in the term “all-loving”) and able to save them (implicit in the term “all-powerful”). By incorporating these crucial terms implicitly rather than explicitly, he creates a pretext in which he can make the artificial claim that there is no “explicit” inconsistency. Literally true, given his contrived presentation, but blatantly deceptive. He then turns around and claims that the pluralist is guilty of making hidden assumptions.

I must say that I’ve never seen any attempt on the part of religious pluralists to identify those hidden assumptions. But let’s try to help the pluralist out a bit. It seems to me that he must be assuming something like the following:

3. If God is all-powerful, He can create a world in which everybody hears the gospel and is freely saved.

4. If God is all loving, He prefers a world in which everybody hears the gospel and is freely saved.

Obviously, these additional assumptions are straw men, constructed to help Craig, not to help the pluralist. If we accept premise 1, then there is no limit on the number of ways God could arrange things to achieve His stated goal of saving everyone. Being loving, He would necessarily prefer one of those alternatives over any alternative that put a greater number of His beloved children in Hell. Thus premise 2 is inconsistent with premise 1. Craig tries to dodge this issue by imagining a couple scenarios under which he can make it sound like God has either no choice (i.e. He’s not really all-powerful) or else no desire (i.e. He’s not really all-loving), but that doesn’t really help. Finding some contrived scenario that won’t work doesn’t mean there’s no alternative that will. The other alternatives are the problem, and that is why Craig is dodging them and putting up straw men instead.

I hate to break stride in mid stream here, but at this point Craig really goes off the rails while trying to explain how an ostensibly all-powerful God has no power to save most of His own children, and why an all-loving God wouldn’t want to. It’s a whole post’s worth of garble in just a few paragraphs, so I’m going to reluctantly save it for next week. Stay tuned.

60 Responses to “Spoilers and the weakness of the Almighty”

  1. J. Ash Bowie Says:

    Your conception argument is the best rebuttal to the Christian free will gambit I’ve come across. Brilliant.

  2. Wanderin' Weeta Says:

    Has Craig never looked out of his window? He says, ” For according to the Bible, God doesn’t judge people who have never heard of Christ on the basis of whether they’ve placed their faith in Christ. Rather God judges them on the basis of the light of God’s general revelation in nature and conscience that they do have… Someone who senses his need of forgiveness through his guilty conscience and flings himself upon the mercy of the God revealed in nature may find salvation.”

    How is this to work? I am looking out my window at my beautiful garden, where the bees buzz around nodding flowers and sparrows probe for weed seeds in the grass, And where ladybugs wander, eating aphids and the young of their own brothers and sisters. Where a finch has declared herself owner of the bird bath and allows no sparrow to come near. Where pretty wasps lay their eggs in the bodies of chubby live caterpillars.

    How’s a body to get from that to, “God, who made all this, is so good, so loving, and so just, that He must be very unhappy with me because I took an few eggs from under my neighbour’s hens. I need to beg His forgiveness!”?

  3. David Roemer Says:

    There are three theories about our purpose in life: 1) To serve God in this world in order to be with Him in the next. 2) Life has no meaning. Man is a “useless passion” is the way Jean Paul Sartre put it. 3) To achieve self-realization and serve our fellow man.

    There is a considerable amount of evidence for #1, some for #2, but none at all for #3. # 3 is irrational because we can achieve self-realization in different ways. The problem of life is deciding how to achieve self-realization. Concerning # 1, we are not guaranteed salvation. It is something to hope for with “fear and trembling

    • trog69 Says:

      Good evening, Mr. Roemer. Please, by all means, demonstrate some of the “considerable amount of evidence for:

      1) To serve God in this world in order to be with Him in the next.

      #3) might be “irrational”, but it’s sure no worse than #1) for a “purpose in life”.

      • David Roemer Says:

        There are two sets of reasons for believing our purpose in life is to get to Heaven: 1) The large number of people who believe this (Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists) and 2) the historical Jesus.

        Concerning #1, there is a small number of people who think it is irrational to believe in Heaven and Hell. However, these people tend to be unintelligent about the mind-body problem (man is an embodied spirit), ignorant of the proof of God’s existence ( a finite being needs a cause), and irrational about the meaning of life (self-realization is nonsense).

        Concerning #2, the historical Jesus was a Jewish prophet who preached the coming of the Kingdom of God. He was an exorcist and healer, and his followers swore up and down that he appeared to them after he died. Jesus founded the Catholic Church, which gave us Western Civilization. Jesus also saved mankind for meaning.

      • a different phil Says:

        “1) The large number of people who believe this (Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists) ”

        This is also known as the “A Billion Flies Can’t Be Wrong” argument.

    • Gypsum Fantastik Says:

      Only those three, eh?

      I strongly suspect that you are full of shit.

    • KG Says:

      Mr. Roemer,
      First, what does your piece of blithering nonsense have to do with the post?

      There is of course no evidence whatever for #1, and the formulation of #2 is simply dishonest: with no externally imposed purpose to our lives, we are free to choose our own purposes – which can include those of #3. Of course, even if we had been created for some purpose, this would not oblige us, either logically or morally, to adopt that purpose as our own. According to Christian doctrine, God knows in advance which of us will go to Hell: so for those individuals, one must conclude that he created these people for the purpose of torturing them forever.

      • David Roemer Says:

        This is the quote from Sartre:

        “Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion.” (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)

        Are you saying Sartre is being dishonest? I gave the reasons above for believing that our purpose in life is to get to Heaven. We are not guaranteed salvation, it is something to hope for with “fear and trembling.” You must not have read my two reasons: the historical Jesus and the irrationality of atheists. In any case these are the two rational answers to the question: What is our purpose in life?

        Your answer seems to be that we should decide for ourselves what our purpose in life is. This makes no sense to me. I consider it unintelligible. Suppose all I want is to be happy. There are many ways to be happy. Because we have free will, we have to decide what will make us happy.

    • mikespeir Says:

      Oh, I get it now. Lots of people believe in Jesus. Fewer people don’t, so it must all be true. I’ve been so blind!

      • David Roemer Says:

        That is a pretty good short summary of the historical Jesus. As I said, which you did not notice, people who don’t believe don’t discuss religion intelligently (mind-body problem), knowledgeably (proof of God’s existence), and rationally ( our purpose in life is to get to heaven).

      • mikespeir Says:

        Ah, you say we don’t discuss it intelligently, so we must not. You know, David, I’ve some considerable portion of this morning discussing all this intelligently with a believer on another site. But I don’t see anything you’ve written here as even needing rebuttal. You can’t be serious.

      • M Evans Says:

        What I never understand is what is going to be your purpose in heaven? If you are there for eternity, how does that even have a meaning?

  4. Tony Hoffman Says:

    “He’s admitting that Christian exclusivism isn’t really true! But he’s kind of stuck in this corner, because there are too many people—including all the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs—who have died without ever having heard of Jesus.”

    I laughed out loud when I read this. I remember asking this question in my early Sunday school days (Lutheran), and not being at all satisfied with the answer (I was told that all these great men we were reading about in the OT in Sunday School class were actually not going to be saved. Wha????). And when I (much later) asked about what was Heaven going to be like, exactly, in my confirmation schooling and found out that there was no answer to that either, I remember thinking the jig was up.

  5. David Roemer Says:

    One of the blind spots nonbelievers have is understanding the mind-body problem and the cause of the Big Bang. I’m intelligent enough to grasps and formulate 4 solutions to the mind-body problem and 4 answers to the question what caused the Big Bang. I give myself and I.Q. of 80. Atheists usually just grasp two answers, giving them an IQ of 20.

    • Janney Says:

      What is the mind-body problem?

      • David Roemer Says:

        The mind-body problem arises from the observation that we can move our hands around anyway we want, but if we lose our hands in an accident we still continue to exist. Humans ask: What is the relationship between myself and my body? The following quote is from a major biology text book in the U.S. The author of this quote does not understand the mind-body problem because he only understands two solution: materialism (the mind is an illusion) and dualism (there exists spiritual substances). There is a third solution called idealism (the brain is an illusion). The solution judged to be true by rational people because it is supported by the evidence is that there is no solution. It is a mystery. This is the quote:

        “And certain properties of the human brain distinguish our species from all other animals. The human brain is, after all, the only known collection of matter that tries to understand itself. To most biologists, the brain and the mind are one and the same; understand how the brain is organized and how it works, and we’ll understand such mindful functions as abstract thought and feelings. Some philosophers are less comfortable with this mechanistic view of mind, finding Descartes’ concept of a mind-body duality more attractive.” (Neil Campbell, Biology, 4th edition, p. 776 )

      • Gypsum Fantastik Says:

        Google that citation of his, and you’ll find that he’s copy/pasted it all over the place. His argument hasn’t been convincing anywhere else, either.

        “The mind-body problem arises from the observation that we can move our hands around anyway we want, but if we lose our hands in an accident we still continue to exist.”

        Because a mind totally exists in the hands. It sounds like your argument is broken from the beginning.

    • chaos_engineer Says:

      You can only come up with 4 different answers to the mind-body problem? You need to start studying comparative religion! Ancient Egyptian theology is a good place to start; they identified five different types of soul and one type of body. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_concept_of_the_soul). You can accept or deny each of those six things, which gives you 64 possible answers already.

      (Like all sensible people, I think that the body exists, that the Sheut and the Ren have actual non-material existence; that the Ib, the Ba, and the Ka are best seen as metaphors for physical processes that don’t survive the death of the body; and that the Akh is pure fantasy. But sensible people are certainly intelligent enough to consider the other possible solutions and laugh at them.)

      • David Roemer Says:

        Niel Campbell (see above quote) and most atheists only understand two solutions: materialism and dualism. They can’t even grasp the insight that the mind-body problem is a mystery. Followers of Eastern religions of course can and do grasp this.

    • M Evans Says:

      You do realize an I.Q. of 80 makes you somewhat shy of Mensa material, right?. Probably not.

    • rustywheeler Says:

      “I give myself and I.Q. of 80. Atheists usually just grasp two answers, giving them an IQ of 20.”

      For starters, you don’t give yourself an I.Q. You test it against an objective standard. I—an atheist, FWIW—just tested mine. There were no questions about mind-body problems and I scored 138.

      This guy makes me sad. No; seriously.

  6. Janney Says:

    Mr. Roemer,

    I’m with mikespeir. You can’t be serious.

    • mikespeir Says:

      Using some supposed mind-body duality as evidence of the supernatural is nothing but a thinly farded argument from ignorance. It tells us nothing informative; provides us no answers. It merely multiplies the entities in need of explanation. I mean, if you have to appeal to a soul to account for consciousness and free will, then how does the soul come by those qualities? Is there some little homunculus inside it that makes it all happen? Okay, then how does the homunculus do it? Is there another, smaller homunculus inside of that one? We’ll need a super-dupernatural and then a super-duper-dupernatural. And on and on and on. So to avoid the absurdity believers arbitrarily build a fence at the edge of what’s provable and insist the grass is greener on the other side.

      “No, no. Just take my word for it.”
      “But I want to see for myself!”
      “Oh, well, here’s a handy-dandy View-Mast–, uh, pair of binoculars. Have a look!”
      “Since when do binoculars need little round slide reels?”
      “It’s a new technology. You wouldn’t understand.”
      “But why can’t I just go–”
      “No!”

      Now, I’m not sure how to account for consciousness, either. It’s a field of study that’s just now getting seriously underway. Come back in 50 years. If we don’t know it all by then, we’ll certainly know more. But there’s one thing I
      know now: appealing to ignorance isn’t an argument. And to say that because we don’t know means there must be a supernatural realm complete with gods and demons and angels and seraphim and cherubim and dying-and-resurrecting saviors is just silly.

      • David Roemer Says:

        You say, “I’m not sure how to account for consciousness, either.” I know how to account for consciousness. You consider all of the theories, marshal the evidence for each theory, and decide which theory is true. There is no evidence for dualism. There is more for materialism because atoms and molecules exist. There is even more evidence for idealism. But the theory judged to be true by Catholic philosophers, the one backed by the evidence, is that it is a mystery. Just because a human asks a question, doesn’t mean there has to be an answer.

      • mikespeir Says:

        Well, gee, David. You know how to account for consciousness and it’s a mystery? That’s not much of an accounting! But you’re certainly right in that last line. We don’t have all the answers. I don’t expect to. Why not just leave it there until more bona fide, real-world research is done? But you can’t do that, can you? No, the Christian religion is built upon the twin piers of certainty and insistence. Without certainty you can’t insist; and if you can’t insist, you don’t have much of a religion left.

      • rustywheeler Says:

        “But the theory judged to be true by Catholic philosophers, the one backed by the evidence, is that it is a mystery.”

        WOW. Just…wow. I’m new to this guy, and I must confess: I’m hooked.

        David Roemer, you DO know that “It is a mystery” is not a theory, right? It’s an observation, or an opinion, and a rather poetic one at that. It has no relation to the word “theory” as it is leveraged in empiricism.

  7. Billb Says:

    Many of WLC’s debates are on this theme. His argument, as you discuss above, goes like this:

    1) [The] pluralist claims that statements (A — God is all-loving/all-powerful) and (B — people go to hell) are logically inconsistent.

    2) I can think of at least one grand, contrived explanation for how both (A) and (B) can coexist along with human free will. My explanation may be 100% speculative and not based on either Biblical or natural evidence. But that’s okay, as long as I can defend it as *logically* sound. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molinism.)

    3) Therefore (1) isn’t necessarily contradictory and I’m off the hook.

    His opponents often make the mistake of allowing the terms of the debate to be set this way. Of course, even if I grant his argument, it’s a loooong way from “not explicitly contradictory” to “probably true”, and he doesn’t even try to bridge the distance. But believers don’t care about this, they just want to see him win debates.

  8. David Roemer Says:

    @mikespeir
    It is a difficult concept to grasp. It is paradoxical. This is why atheists don’t even mention it. All they mention is dualism and materialism. They don’t realize that with scientific questions we can always hope that the scientific method will give us an answer because it always has. But with questions about the human mind there is no track record of success. Another way of expressing this mystery is to say that humans are indefinabilites that become conscious of their own existence. In other words, humans are embodied spirits.

    • mikespeir Says:

      So, what’s compelling about all this? What’s compulsory? Show me a single word you’ve written here that I should find convincing. Throwing the word “paradox” out won’t do. It’s often used by believers when they ought to be saying “contradiction.” In any case, if you want to convince someone, you’re going to have to do better than make bald assertions and then, when your target demurs, accuse him of not getting it. That’s yet a new version of the argument from ignorance (with a little tu quoque thrown in): “I’m ignorant, but so are you, so you have a duty to believe me.” I don’t believe humans are “indefinabilites .” Where’s the substance to your argument? I haven’t seen any yet.

      • Gypsum Fantastik Says:

        There isn’t any substance. Roemer seems to be taking the “quantity has a quality all its own” approach.

        I liked the part where he repeatedly asserts that atheists ‘just don’t get it’ when they find his arguments unconvincing. Remember….if we can’t explain it yet, therefore God!

  9. David Roemer Says:

    The evidence that humans are embodied spirits or indefinabilities that become conscious of their own existence is that there is no evidence at all for dualism. There is a little more evidence for materialism because atoms and molecules exist, but ghosts do not. There is even more evidence for idealism because we can imagine that our bodies are illusions, but we can’t imaging that we don’t exist. The theory that has the most evidence is that it is a mystery, which is equivalent to saying humans are embodied spirits.

    There is one more bit of evidence. Materialists and atheists are not even aware of this theory. They don’t understand the difference between the statement “humans have souls” and the statement “humans are embodied spirits.”

    This leads to the existence of an infinite being because we know other humans exist. You exist and I exist, but I am not you and you are not me. Humans are finite beings. But finite beings need a cause, so an infinite being must exist. In the west, we call the infinite being God.

  10. fatalotti Says:

    I usually try not to be condescending to the religious. I try to listen to their arguments and respond in a humble fashion, to facilitate a good lively discussion.

    But reading this David Roemer fella reminds me of everything I hate about what religion does to the mind. This chap has offered zero coherent lines of argument, zero pieces of empirical data, zero lines of evidence, and just blathering on and on without actually saying anything.

    This last paragraph is my favorite:

    “The evidence that humans are embodied spirits or indefinabilities that become conscious of their own existence is that there is no evidence at all for dualism. There is a little more evidence for materialism because atoms and molecules exist, but ghosts do not. There is even more evidence for idealism because we can imagine that our bodies are illusions, but we can’t imaging that we don’t exist. The theory that has the most evidence is that it is a mystery, which is equivalent to saying humans are embodied spirits.”

    I know not where to start, but to just laugh. I mean, this literally made me laugh out loud. His first line of evidence that humans are “embodied spirits” is that there is no evidence for another theory. Where have I heard that one before? Creationists that spend all their time trying to tear down evolution without offering up anything to buttress creationism…rings to mind right now. Terrible argument.

    Then he points to ghosts not existing as his evidence for materialism being…I don’t know…he doesn’t really define his terms AT ALL. What a joke so far. Let’s keep going…

    Then, his evidence for idealism is that we can…wait for it…we can imagine that our bodies are illusions, but we can’t imagine we don’t exist. This is his argument. That we can imagine one thing, but not another. I can imagine Superman flying around the Earth so fast that he can turn back time. So friggin what? That says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the real world. Oh boy…

    And this last sentence: “The theory that has the most evidence is that it is a mystery, which is equivalent to saying humans are embodied spirits.” Good grief.

    First, to say there is evidence that something is a mystery is akin to saying “We don’t know, so we don’t know”. Then, he claims that this is equivalent, as in the SAME THING AS us being embodied spirits. First of all, Mr. Roemer, please define what a spirit is, but please tell me what it is, and DON’T tell me what it isn’t. Your last sentence here is saying nothing more than we don’t know what the explanation of consciousness is, and that’s equivalent to people being something is undefinable, unclassifiable, unfalsifiable, and, for lack of a better word, complete bullshit.

    You might as well say nothing at all. In fact, in a sense, you really haven’t said much at all yet.

    • mikespeir Says:

      I really don’t like that I’ve felt I’ve had to be so sarcastic with him. But it’s hard not to ridicule what you find ridiculous, especially when his approach is so insulting. He comes in here, perches himself up atop the mountain, and expects us to draw near on hands and knees, humble supplicants, to hear him spout this drivel. Who knows? Maybe he has better arguments than this contradiction-as-paradox-which-you-should-take-as-an-obvious-indication-of-profound-wisdom-since-it’s-all-so-impenetrable crap. But if so he’s holding out on us.

  11. David Roemer Says:

    The human mind is structured like the scientific method. At the lowest level is observations which requires paying attention. At the level of inquiry humans ask questions which requires being intelligent. Extremely intelligent people invent possible answers or hypotheses. At the level of reflective judgment humans marshal the evidence and decide whether or not an answer is true.

    A question humans ask is what is the relationship between myself and my body. I can grasp and formulate for possible answers: 1) The mind is an illusion (materialism). 2) The brain is an illusion (idealism). 3) There exists spiritual substances (dualism). 4) There is no answer.

    What part of this don’t you understand? If you understand this, then we can go on to evaluating the evidence for all four answers. My analysis is this: # 3 has the least amount of evidence, then #1, then # 2. # 4 has the most amount of evidence. This is the solution judged to be true by rational people.

    • Gypsum Fantastik Says:

      Please define precisely what a “spiritual substance” is.

      • David Roemer Says:

        A spiritual substance is an absurd concept. The only substances that exist are material substances. A ghost is a spiritual being. It is just an idea. Ghosts don’t exist, but if they did exist, I suppose, they would be made of “spiritual substances.”

      • Gypsum Fantastik Says:

        Please clarify your position: you claim ghosts don’t exist, but souls do, and they go somewhere after the body dies?

        How does that work?

  12. fatalotti Says:

    David Roemer, does your assault on rationality and my sanity know no bounds?

    Stop talking out of both sides of your mouth, actually offer up a coherent argument and some actual evidence and stop positing your opinions as facts.

    And that you think #4 is the only answer left after the first 3 you proffer is the most ridiculous thing of it all.

  13. David Roemer Says:

    Do you understand the question: What is the relationship between myself and my body? I didn’t say # 4 is the only answer. I said it was the anwer with the most evidence supporting it. What evidence supports dualism? The only evidence supporting materialism is the existence of atoms and the non-existence of ghosts. Do you understand the theory of idealism?

    The evidence supporting # 4 is this: 1) Just because a human asks a question doesn’t mean there will be an answer. 2) There is no track record of success when humans ask questions about the human mind. 3) Materialist don’t even grasp the possiblity of the mind-body problem being a mystery. They only understand materialism and dualism.

  14. Gypsum Fantastik Says:

    “Just because a human asks a question doesn’t mean there will be an answer.”

    So what?

    • David Roemer Says:

      It means that the answer may be that there is no answer. When we ask questions about science, we are asking questions about things we see and hear. We can expect to get an answer at some point in the future. Rational people judge that there is no answer to the question: What is the relationship between myself and my body.

      • Gypsum Fantastik Says:

        But then you straight longjump into “woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel”. The thing does not follow.

  15. CJ Kofoed Says:

    To posit the brain/mind as being separate from or detached from the body is absurd. Is it possible that consciousness exists outside of and independent of the brain, that it endures after death or on another plane? Sure, no evidence exists there, but sure- it is possible. But when we start dealing not in pseudo-philosophy and woo speak that would make Deepak Chopra blush and instead look at evidence in the real world, we get a much clearer picture. The mind, our consciousness, our perceptions can be profoundly altered by physical processes- drugs, magnetic fields, electrical shocks, trauma. All these things can change everything about a person, from how they speak to what they perceive is real. To know what we know about the brain and how changing neurotransmitters or its anatomy can alter consciousness while putting forward an argument that the mind exists outside of, rather than as a function of, the brain is ridiculous. To not know about modern psychology and neuroscience and posit nonsense about “the mind-body problem” as David does is inexcusable.

    • David Roemer Says:

      @CJ Kofoed
      You don’t grasp the difference between “brain/mind as being separate from or detatched from the body” and the judgment of Catholic philosophers and theologians that humans are embodied spirits. Usually intelligence is a measure of how fast or how slow it takes someone to understand a theory. But in the case of religion, there is so much anxiety and inhibition that people can’t think intelligently.

      • CJ Kofoed Says:

        Actually I was addressing your earlier posts in which you asked, “what is the relationship between myself and my body?”. You keep failing to grasp the fact that the judgment of catholic theologians and philosophers may have been compelling decades or centuries ago, but it fails to answer real questions or serve as a methodology from which we can understand the world better now. To use your framing: are you not intelligent enough to understand why a philosophical argument about how the brain and body are connected might not be as compelling as the body of empirical data from contemporary neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry etc? As for religion preventing people from thinking intelligently- you are living proof.

  16. David Roemer Says:

    @CJ Kofoed
    I’m intelligent enough to grasp and formulate four answers to the question: What is the relationship between myself and my body? The possible answers are: 1) dualism, 2) materialism, 3) idealism, and 4) metaphysics. The metaphysical answer is that it is a mystery. I never met an atheist who understood # 4.

    You seem to be saying is that you don’t like the question at all. The way atheists usually handle free will is to say that it is an illusion and to serve up materialism as proof of this.

    • chaos_engineer Says:

      I think the problem is that you’re not explaining yourself very well. When you say that the answer is that it’s a “mystery”, do you mean that it’s unknowable rather than simply unknown? (If it’s just unknown, then that’s not really an answer – it’s an excuse for not having the answer yet.)

      Anyway, saying that things are “unknowable” was fine in the Dark Ages, but it really doesn’t have a place in today’s fast-paced global economy. While you sit around and say that questions can’t be answered, your competitors are going to be finding answers and monetizing them. There’s a whole psychopharmacology industry that’s based off the best current understanding of the solution to the mind-body problem.

      • David Roemer Says:

        @chaos_engineer
        The mind-body problem is a mystery because it is unknowable. All the other answers (materialism, idealism, dualism) have hardly any evidence supporting them. This mystery means humans are finite beings and an infinite being exists. While you are trying to figure out a better solution to the mind-body problem, you may die and wind up howling.

  17. CJ Kofoed Says:

    You grasp these answers before you formulate them? Impressive.

    • David Roemer Says:

      Part of understanding (grasping) the theory that the mind-body is a mystery is understanding that there are no mysteries in science. The scientific method always works and we can expect it to work on all scientific questions. Many atheists will admit the human mind is a mystery, but they think science will solve the mystery at some point in the future. Questions like What is free will? What is truth? What are images and concepts? What is consciousness? have no track record of success.

      • CJ Kofoed Says:

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      • mikespeir Says:

        I’m with you, CJ. Now he’s challenging us to find a better solution to the mind-body problem than his “mystery.” A mystery isn’t an answer, it’s a question.

  18. CJ Kofoed Says:

    His logic is hilarious.

    The scientific method always works with scientific questions.
    The mind is not fully understood yet.

    Therefore the mind is a mystery beyond the reach of scientific inquiry (and I can speculate however I want to)

    Infinite being inside occupied spiritual modalities represented by embodied spirits. INFINITELY.

  19. David Roemer Says:

    @CJ Koefoed
    A minor correction: The mind is a mystery beyond any inquiry, metaphysical or scientific.
    Humans are finite beings because other humans exists. A finite being is a composition of essence and existence. The essence of a finite being limits its existence. An infinite being is a pure act of existence with any limiting essence.

    • CJ Kofoed Says:

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  20. fatalotti Says:

    David Roemer, please don’t have children. And if you do, please don’t talk to them.

    Thanks.

  21. Pacal Says:

    Craig’s “solution” to the problem of what happens to thee people who don’t hear the Gospel is simply silly and he doesn’t really explain it at all it seems. However it is interesting that he thinks that those people who never heard the Gospel will likely stilll be damned.

    I’m still waiting for him to explain what happens to children, the insane and mentally challenged. Oh and I am also still waiting to hear how non-belief in the right sort of God is a greater crime than Genocide.

  22. Mike Gantt Says:

    Craig is right that there is no salvation from death apart from Jesus Christ, but he is wrong is saying that only Christians benefit from it. The Bible teaches that everyone is going to heaven. It also teaches that what’s important in life is following Christ. This very different from what most people think of as becoming a Christian. God does not care about your social identity. That is, He does not care whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, or an atheist. All people are the same to Him. He loves us all and wants us all to live righteously.

    You have rightly found a flaw in Craig’s thinking. He is unwittingly diminishing the work of Christ by limiting its redemptive scope. But at least Craig honors the work of Christ, which is closer to the truth than your position.


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