Shells and switches

(Text: “Debating an Atheist — Round Four“, Soli Deo Gloria, August 3, 2012)

One of the most important reasons why creationism does not belong in the classroom is because creationism promotes superstitious thinking, which is the antithesis of scientific thinking. Trying to think superstitiously about science really screws things up, and in today’s excerpt from Pastor Stephen Feinstein’s reply to Russell Glasser, we find an almost prototypical example.

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Polytheistic Trinitarianism

(Text: “Debating an Atheist — Round Three“, Soli Deo Gloria, July 8, 2012)

My first order of business today has to be a correction. At the end of last week’s post, I said “…Pastor Feinstein is going to declare to us how this “necessary Person” also has to be a Trinity. Not a Quadrinity or a Quintinity, a Trinity.” I misspoke. Pastor Feinstein’s argument does not establish that his superstitiously-defined Necessary Being is necessarily a three-person deity. In fact, the terms of his argument lead much more directly to the conclusion that the Necessary Being is a race of deities composed of any number of divine persons, or in short, polytheism. Maybe that’s why Genesis 1:1, literally translated, says, “In the beginning, gods created the heavens and the earth.”

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“I have written a book”

(Text: “Debating an Atheist — Round Three“, Soli Deo Gloria, July 8, 2012)

In his debate with Russell Glasser, Pastor Stephen Feinstein has so many answers, he could write a book. No wait, he already has! It’s a book that explains everything that’s wrong with atheism, and a whole lot more. It might even explain too much, because it also explains everything that’s wrong with the Bible.

Oops.

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Enter the zingers

(Text: “Debating an Atheist — Round Three“, Soli Deo Gloria, July 8, 2012)

By his third post, Pastor Stephen Feinstein has grown tired of waiting for Russell Glasser to say the lines he’s supposed to say, according to the mental script Paster Feinstein wants the discussion to follow, and has begun introducing the atheist’s scripted arguments himself. How else can he deliver his zingers and make it look like Christianity is more rational than atheism? His first zinger is “Yes, I’m using circular reasoning, but so are you, and my circular reasoning is more valid than yours.”

I find it entirely ironic that you accuse me of circular reasoning, when you reason as follows: 1) The world is real. How do I know? Well, I assume it is real. 2) We learn through sense experience. How do I know? Well, through sense experience of course! 3) Logic is valid. How do I know? Well, through logic of course…

You are tacitly injecting the notion that a random-chance universe can account for intelligibility. Rather than acknowledging this, you are putting up smoke and mirrors claiming that you have no burden of proof, but instead you get to happily assume your assumptions with narrow circularity, and if I am going to debate you, I then have to play by your rules and assume that these agreed assumptions exist without any preconditions. I am sorry, but that is poor logic and it creates a dishonest debate.

Yes, after rewriting Russell’s side of the conversation to follow a canned script instead of the things Russell was actually saying, and after injecting his own assumption that an atheistic universe would be “random chance,” he actually accuses Russell of creating a dishonest debate.

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Preconditions of intelligibility

(Text: “Debating an Atheist — Round Two“, Soli Deo Gloria, July 8, 2012)

According to Pastor Stephen Feinstein, his debate with Russell Glasser was really a debate about assumptions and epistemology.

The assumptions that you accept will cause you to interpret evidence in a particular way…

We both are claiming that certain things happened, and we both need to be able to justify what we claim. Yet, if our presuppositions are epistemologically weak, or even worse they are impossible, then we cannot justify what we claim. So it is not useless to talk about these assumptions, for it is here that I am going to effectively refute your positions.

This, then, is the goal that Pastor Feinstein sets for himself, or at least one of the goals he claims to be able to accomplish. Let’s see how he goes about trying to achieve that.

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Pagan roots

(Book: First Apology, by Justin Martyr, courtesy of The Christian Classics Ethereal Library.)

One of the more interesting aspects of Justin Martyr’s writings is the way he promiscuously borrows from whatever sources he feels will bolster his case, be they Christian sources, Jewish sources, or pagan sources. If you’re a thinking person, you might read Justin’s frequent parallels between Christian dogma and pagan myths, and might wonder just how much of new Christian revelation is really just old pagan superstition, re-packaged and re-branded.

That notion apparently bothered Justin too, and today he’s going to take a few moments to try and poison the well so that we don’t pursue that thought too far. The parallels, he says, don’t mean that Christianity imitated paganism. Oh no.

But those who hand down the myths which the poets have made, adduce no proof to the youths who learn them; and we proceed to demonstrate that they have been uttered by the influence of the wicked demons, to deceive and lead astray the human race.

Notice how Justin chastizes the pagans for failing to provide proofs for what they claim. If you were a cynic, you might hazard a guess that Justin would immediately follow that accusation with an argument for which he himself “adduces no proof.” And you’d be exactly right.

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Justin’s proof

(Book: First Apology, by Justin Martyr, courtesy of The Christian Classics Ethereal Library.)

As I mentioned last week, Justin Martyr apparently never got the memo about how the story of Jesus was supposed to be unique and unlike any of the pagan myths that preceded it. In fact, he’s been using parallels between pagan myths and the Gospel as an argument in favor of the historical authenticity of the latter (!). He continues in the same vein in this week’s installment, and proceeds from there to make a threefold argument for why, despite his own reasoning, Caesar ought to conclude that only the Gospel is true, and that all of the pagan stories it so closely resembles are false.

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Proof of life after death

(Book: First Apology, by Justin Martyr, courtesy of The Christian Classics Ethereal Library.)

At the end of Chapter 17, Justin warned Caesar that someday he was going to be judged by a Christian God and possibly punished for his conduct as Caesar. Having made that thinly veiled threat, he begins Chapter 18 by inviting Caesar to consider those kings who have already died.

For reflect upon the end of each of the preceding kings, how they died the death common to all, which, if it issued in insensibility, would be a godsend to all the wicked.

Justin’s first proof of life after death is an appeal to the fallacy of the consequences. We don’t want the wicked to escape unpunished, therefore they must continue to live on after they die so that God will be able to punish them, Q. E. D. Believe it or not, his argument actually gets worse from there.

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Idle worship

(Book: First Apology, by Justin Martyr, courtesy of The Christian Classics Ethereal Library.)

According to Justin Martyr, Christians are atheists, at least as far as other people’s gods are concerned. Sadly, Justin’s reason for not believing in the Greco-Roman gods is not that such beliefs are irrational and superstitious, but merely because his God allegedly revealed to the apostles that Jupiter and friends were demons pretending to be gods. He continues in the same vein in Chapter 9, concerning the worship of idols.

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Justin’s Jesus, justice, and judgment

(Book: First Apology, by Justin Martyr, courtesy of The Christian Classics Ethereal Library.)

We’re up to Chapter 6 already, and this one’s pretty intriguing. Justin is writing in the second century, well before the official formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity that took place in Nicaea in the fourth century. At a casual reading, it seems like Justin follows more or less the modern Trinitarian view of God—with one sharply discordant note. Referring to the fact that Christians were called “atheists” for refusing to worship the Greco-Roman gods (which he declared to be demons), he writes:

Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him, and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught.

Whoa, since when do Christians worship and adore “the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like Him”? Something has clearly changed in Christianity since the second century, and it’s not just the worship of angels.

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