« Cruise-Holmes Baby: It's a Pickpocket! | Main | Four really bad ideas in the Windsor Report - Mark Harris »

April 20, 2006

Comments

Al Kimel

D.C., when I read through the comments, I do not see vitriol. I do see vigorous argument. I do see offence that you insist on identifying yourself as Christian, whilst publicly and persistently attacking fundamental Christian convictions. I do see exasperation with your unwillingness to come to grips with the substantive arguments and criticisms advanced. I do see an unwillingness to suffer fools gladly. But I do not see vitriol.

D. C.

Al, I tried posting this on your blog, but you had (wisely) closed the comments.

In view of your comment, I presume you would not have taken offense at the following remarks, among others, posted by three different commenters on your blog, if the remarks had been directed at you:

"Now that we are at this point DC needs to pick up his copy of David Hume’s works so he can join us in the 21st century. (Begin reading now.)"

• "DC’s “favorite theological question” is on the level of freshmen in a philosophy course thinking that they are asking me really hard questions. This kind of “gotcha!” attitude is found among village atheists and not epistemologists."

• "If agnosticism is the only intellectually honest position, then DC needs to stop talking about God or start writing Hallmark cards. And I have a hard time believing that DC’s judgment as to what is “intellectually honest” in philosophy should be taken seriously."

• "Why doesn’t DC’s God come down and explain why there is evil? Is he running short of stone tablets? DC’s God needs to shit or get off the pot because diarrhetically strained gods are waiting in line."

• "If you are going to go around the block with the big dogs, don’t piss like a puppy."

• "Dude, please read some Hume and at least join the 18th century."

• "D.C., face it - you may be rich and powerful, smart and wise, but you’re out of your depth, and you got pwn3d, as the kids say."

• "You do what you gotta do, but don’t expect the rest of us to treat you like one of us, to worship with you, or to provide the least bit of encouragement toward your venture."

• "Knowing Jonathan somewhat personally, I’d think that Jonathan would rather kiss a horses ass than commune with you. Your sentimentalism regarding the eucharist simply degredes it and makes a mockery of those Christians that would have rather died, and some did, than commune with heretics."

• "Communion is like going to bed with someone. Once you make it something anyone can do, it becomes ugly and worthless. Your invitation is like asking Jonathan to go to bed with a chancred whore."

• "[S]preading the spiritual poison that you are is far worse than anything I have said."

• "[F]or D.C. to commune in the Catholic Church would be an insult to our belief and an offense to the Sacrament."

• "I don’t doubt that you found some brilliant crank [the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, FRS, KBE, a particle physicist of some note, turned Anglican priest, author of numerous books on science and religion, and recipient of the Templeton Prize] who was driven to speculate wildly in order to reconcile two opposing strains in his thought."

And let's not leave out your own little gem:

"I do see an unwillingness to suffer fools gladly. But I do not see vitriol."

As a goodwill gesture, I edited the main post to soften the term "vitriol." I see no justification for modifying the language any further.

Incidentally, I have zero interest in "attacking fundamental Christian convictions." I try to drill down into those convictions to understand them and to see if and how they can be reconciled with other things we know about the universe. I'm sorry that bothers some of your colleagues, and apparently you too.

Michael Sullivan

D.C.

I'm a regular reader and contributor over at Pontifications. I've followed this thread without getting involved. Now I agree with you that the tone of some of these comments towards you became obnoxious and excessively sarcastic. It can be a temptation to see oneself as a big guy and the opponent as a little guy who needs to be shown his place, and this is not too helpful. This temptation becomes strong when one is a professional or semiprofessional expert with graduate training in philosophy or theology or both and the opponent is someone without these qualifications. Nevertheless, there's a line between rhetorical force and vulgar browbeating that should be respected. I know how irritating it is to be in a debate with someone who sees himself as the cat and you as the mouse, with you all the while thinking that if he would only stick to the arguments and avoid the yelling it couldn't possibly look like that.

Nevertheless you don't seem to realize how your own comments sound to me and people like me. Your comment to Jonathan Prejean, "obviously we have a very different conception of the eucharistic sacrament," or words to that effect, are telling.

OF COURSE we have a very different conception. We have faith in a physically resurrected Christ who becomes present to us at the liturgy and communes with us. You don't have this faith and yet expect to be welcomed at our holiest moments. That you don't see why this is insulting shows how little you understand our religion. Would you be insulted as a gentile with bacon on your breath if the Israelites wanted you keep you out of their holy of holies or the Muslims out of Mecca? The difference between your religion and mine is clearly as great and as important as that. That's why we're jealous of the name Christian.

I hope you don't see this as insulting or vitriolic. I certainly don't mean to be.

D. C.

Michael, I appreciate your comments and don't see them as insulting or vitriolic.

Michael writes:

We have faith in a physically resurrected Christ who becomes present to us at the liturgy and communes with us.

I know that faith well; I was raised Catholic and am a product of Catholic schools. I don't share that faith and don't think I ever did.

I wasn't asking to be welcomed at your communion rail, but was saying only that I would welcome Jonathan at my side at "the" communion rail. I suppose in hindsight I could have specified that I meant my church's rail to make it clear I wasn't trying to invade y'all's sacred space (I mean that literally, not sarcastically). But I shouldn't have had to do so; there was no warrant for Jonathan's immediate leap to take offense.

I do think the RCs would do well to remember Jesus's example and allow hospitality to trump theological differences. But that's a discussion for another day.

Michael writes:

The difference between your religion and mine is clearly as great and as important as that. That's why we're jealous of the name Christian.

You realize, of course, that many Baptists, Pentecostals, etc., say much the same about the RCs?

For better or worse, no one group has a monopoly on the title of Christian. You can claim the right to be jealous of the title, but no one else recognizes that claim.

Michael writes:

Now I agree with you that the tone of some of these comments towards you became obnoxious and excessively sarcastic. ... Nevertheless you don't seem to realize how your own comments sound to me and people like me.

Michael, you left out an important fact. My role in that thread was not that of a virulently-atheist troll, brashly barging in uninvited on Al's Catholic blog. No — I was expressly invited, by the host; I thought I was being invited as a fellow God-seeker, for coffee and conversation, so to speak. I'm sure Al didn't intend to lure me into serving as a verbal punching bag for the amusement of his new Catholic colleagues.

Where I come from, guests at someone's house don't talk to other guests the way Perry, Jonathan, etc., did. I don't remember the Catholic Church being that way when I was growing up. Maybe things are different now.

My mother still wonders why none of her children or grandchildren is still Catholic (all but one of us are Episcopalians, the other is unchurched). If that thread on Al's blog is illustrative of the modern Catholic Church, I think I know what one part of the answer is.

Thanks for stopping by, Michael; it was good of you to make the gesture.

Jonathan Prejean

"Where I come from, guests at someone's house don't talk to other guests the way Perry, Jonathan, etc., did."

What did I ever say to justify your entirely unwarranted analogy to the Muslims in Denmark? Did I ever maintain that violence was a justified Christian response to insult to the Sacrament?

You simply didn't bother to parse what I said reasonably. I said that it would be an insult to our belief and an offense to the Sacrament, because I think that the Sacrament is actually the Body and Blood of an Incarnate God who actually can get insulted. It may be an *unintended* insult, but it is certainly far short of the respect due to God. Unlike Muslims, I am no occasionalist who believes that people are due punishment regardless of fault simply because whatever happens to people is God's will. Accordingly, I think ignorance and right intentions are excuses, and I have no reason to think that you are deliberately disrespecting God. How God takes your (objective) disrespect is between you and Him; it is not my place to judge your motives.

For the record, if it were the subject under discussion and if I were discussing it personally even with people with whom I had just become acquainted, I would likely say the same things. I am a political conservative with many liberal friends who have their own liberal friends, and I can and do engage in civil discussion with them that does not stop short of calling other people's ideas clearly erroneous and even dangerous. Presumably, politeness does not entail dishonesty. I happen to think you are incredibly wrong and in denial of reality, much as I think that Democratic social policy is incredibly wrong and in denial of economic reality. But it has also been my experience that most people are far better than their creed (a point on which Perry and I differ, I think); most misery inflicted by bad thinking is unintended (and indeed, is contrary to the person's good intentions), which is precisely why it continues. I would say that I consider the most apt description of the human condition to be: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

Also, I didn't ask Perry to say what he did; he has his own style, and I have mine. I tend to view most moderns as far less culpable for violation of Christian anathemas than those of the past, and even of those in the past, I think that the vast mass of people lacked the theological expertise to do much but trust their bishops, although many of them were faithful. That is a difference between us; I tend to excuse even those beliefs I consider erroneous, although I have no qualms about describing them as such. But even so, he (perhaps rightly) views these discussions as being more like open war against views, in which there may be certain standards of conduct, but they certainly don't amount to politeness. In his view, he's not in a house, but on a battleground, so one ought expect the honor of warriors on the field of combat rather than someone's parlor. He will still behead you if he gets a chance.

Fuinseoig

D.C., I'm sorry you feel we treated you badly. I know it must have seemed like you were a subject for vivisection, but it was a unique opportunity for us to interact with someone who (a) did not accept the divinity of Christ and (b) was at the same time a believer in God and (c) was not coming from outside the Christian tradition.

So this gave us (me included!) a great chance to poke and prod at you in the effort to tease out what you were and were not saying, without the usual trying to talk past the aggressively atheist "You're all buffoons!" or the passively agnostic "Well, how can we be sure of anything that might or might not be there?" and without the offense that might be caused to a non-Christian in rejection or denial of their faith tradition.

It seems, unfortunately, that we still managed to cause offense. Thank you for coming over and speaking with us; it's been very interesting. Though I have to say, I'm still fascinated to know why you can be a Christian without believing in Christ as anything more than a prophet. I've often said that if I wasn't a Catholic, I wouldn't be anything; well, maybe Buddhist (but Tibetan Buddhist; I'm not smart enough for Zen). My point being that I wouldn't be able to stay in the Christian religion if I ceased to be a Catholic; it has nothing to do with 'Well, I might as well stick around in the denomination I was raised in' for me. So that reason, of those you mention, I cannot understand.

But it would be uncivil of me to come on your blog and start a row, which was not my intention in the first place anyway, so thanks once again for all the responses you made and for setting out your position.

Shulamite

I completely agree that there was too much anger. It's very hard for me to focus on the argument when there is so much anger. Modern people never seem to get anywhere in arguments because they can never keep something brief, syllogistic, and undistorted by passion. Immoderate anger tends to make everyone fight like an unskilled boxer- a few good whollops followed by confusion, boredom, and "what now? What's going on?"

D. C.

Jonathan, welcome.

Jonathan writes:

What did I ever say to justify your entirely unwarranted analogy to the Muslims in Denmark? Did I ever maintain that violence was a justified Christian response to insult to the Sacrament?

You might want to re-read what I actually said, which was quite different:

In any case, you need to take care that you don’t go down the path of those Muslims who were so “insulted” by the Danish cartoons that they felt empowered to riot, burn, and kill. [Emphasis added.]

Concerning Perry Robinson, Jonathan writes:

In his view, he's not in a house, but on a battleground, so one ought expect the honor of warriors on the field of combat rather than someone's parlor. He will still behead you if he gets a chance.

Sorry, Jonathan, that might be a reason, but I don't buy it as an excuse. If you want an example of confrontational arguments, look no further than a courtroom trial, which is about as combative a verbal environment as you're ever going to find. In most courts, if a lawyer were to say the sorts of things Perry was saying, the judge would quickly cut his head off (metaphorically speaking).

If that's not sufficient, let's shift the focus to persuasion. I'll assume for the sake of argument that Perry is interested mainly in persuading others, and that he's not trying to prove to himself that he can be an alpha male like one of those bellowing muscle-men on the cable-TV "wrestling" shows. It would be instructive for Perry to sit through a few courtroom trials, and to interview a few judges and jurors, to see how unpersuasive lawyers are when they try to use a style like his. Firmness, yes; discourtesy, never, because it just doesn't work.

Thanks for stopping by.

D. C.

Fuinseoig, it's nice to see you over here. Until things went downhill on that thread (and to a certain extent even as they were doing so), I was greatly enjoying the conversation. I find it extraordinarily helpful when other God-seekers pose challenging questions, because they help me identify and think through issues that I might otherwise have never seen. I can't help but think that give-and-take of that kind is one of the Holy Spirit's engines of progress.

What bothers me the most about the invective is that it's a struggle for me to resist the temptation to reply in kind, in spades. When provoked, I can turn into a real [expletive], and I hate it when that happens.

I appreciate your having taken the time to comment.

Perry Robinson

DC

This is what you can't seem to understand. I treat unbelievers or various stripes with respect. People on the other hand who are within the church, taking advantage of the church's laxity while subverting its teachings are another matter entirely. It doesn't matter if you're subverting that body's teachings with a smile and politely. It would be just as dishonest, rude and cruel for me to become a member of some other body without professing what they profess and pretend that I am a legitimate member while in the act of violating the criteria of membership. It doesn't matter to me how nice a wolf dressed up as a sheep is. It doesn't matter if you are sincere or not.

cantemir

D.C.,

I know who Polkinghorne is. I've also read Gandhi's correspondence with Einstein. The idea that theology and particle physics are not incompatible is hardly novel to me, considering my line of work.

Contrary to your characterization of the thread, I think it was you who were abusive at Pontifications. You constantly substituted rhetoric for argument and almost every post contained a tu quoque. You showed time and again that you could not address Perry's points as posed; you turned them into things that they were not in order to argue more easily against them. That's not good manners. Maybe he has rougher edges, but in the end he treated your argument more respectfully than you treated his (or mine, for that matter, but that's not what's at issue.)

Michael Sullivan

D.C., you said:

"You realize, of course, that many Baptists, Pentecostals, etc., say much the same about the RCs?

For better or worse, no one group has a monopoly on the title of Christian. You can claim the right to be jealous of the title, but no one else recognizes that claim."

It's true that these days "Christian" cannot be taken to imply membership in any one institution. But that doesn't mean the word has no reference. Some Baptists and Pentecostals would question whether Catholics are Christians. But ALL of them would agree with me that you are not one, just as Catholics and Protestants who know what's what all agree that Mormons aren't Christians, despite Mormon protests to the contrary. This is because Christianity has always meant as a BARE MINIMUM belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation, as spelled out in the Creeds.

Christians are people who believe in the Trinity and the Incarnation.

You don't believe in the Trinity and the Incarnation.

Therefore, you are not a Christian.

If you take issue with the major premise, all you're really trying to do is change the meaning of the word, not broaden any extra-linguistic horizons (just as the gay marriage crowd is trying to do in another forum). Why not leave the word alone and use a different and more accurrate word to describe yourself, one which exists to describe your beliefs and not those of Christians? Such as, for instance, Unitarian? Or Agnostic?

cantemir

Sorry, posted too soon.

I forgot to mention that you completely missed the point of the joke version of Zeno's paradox. Using such a totally specious slur to show that philosophy is pointless just proves that, as the man said, any stigma will do to beat a dogma.

Jonathan Prejean

Turning now to the substantive point, you said:
"Thanks to our gifts of memory, reason, and skill (to quote the so-called 'Star Wars' Eucharistic Prayer C in the 1979 BCP, so much scorned by some traditionalists), we’re able to remember the past, to make predictions about the future, to decide what we like and don’t like about it, and to do something about it. Those whom you would seemingly dismiss as 'drones,' aren’t: People (and some animals) do not just passively accept exploitation by others; they remember, and punish, 'bad' behavior. Several studies have noted that in both human and animal groups, the members are willing to spend resources to punish unfair behavior, even when in the near term they come out slightly worse off. (I saw another story to that effect just in the past few days; if I can find some links, I’ll see if I can post them.)"

Of course; the problem is that you can relatively easily choose what you like and someone else doesn't. The entire point of effective manipulation is not to trigger their sense of being exploited or their sense that you are somehow "bad." If they could identify your behavior as "bad," then it would defeat the purpose. Obviously, people aren't THAT stupid (e.g., willingness to incur short-term expense to punish destructive behavior), or they wouldn't have made it this long. But there are loopholes all over the place, plenty of selfish things you can do that aren't going to be perceived as "bad." The free-rider problem doesn't go away. The point of the argument is that if you can identify any of these opportunities, you SHOULD take them, because otherwise, you are serving some interest other than your own. You should be about the business of imposing as much social cost on others as humanly possible. And you certainly shouldn't waste even a second on religion, unless it's going to help you network. The entire goal of life should be to achieve as much amorality as possible: to literally do anything to benefit yourself if you can reasonably get away with it.

And as to the argument that charity is somehow fulfilling, that's for suckers. If progress is the aim in the *individual* sense, then the goal is to maximize your standard of living to the greatest extent possible: big house, big cars, gadgets, computers, open marriage (assuming you bother to get married), whatever you can consume. Otherwise, you're just squandering the opportunity of having been born into a society that gives you all these opportunities to enjoy. No reason to get stupid about it, of course; there are diminishing returns (which is why you and I are in cush corporate jobs rather than firms; shouldn't let work interfere with maximizing your happiness). But the point is that you perfectly well can exploit people who aren't going to go through the effort of thinking about what their self-interest is. If you can exploit some sentimentality like patriotism, loyalty, good will, or whatnot, you've got 'em good. The point isn't to be as bad as possible, but simply to be absolutely amoral in deciding your own strategies: don't let what is "good" or "right" even be a factor in your decision-making except insofar as that affects your position with respect to others. Machiavelli didn't say not to be good, just not to be good without reason.

The point is that it makes good a matter of taste or style. It's impossible to speak of goodness as being real, because it's nothing other than a perspective that you can take or leave. There is no real goodness in things; there are only optimists and pessimists. That's why Perry's argument more or less devastates your position: someone with a negative view of creation, which is a perfectly legitimate aesthetic assessment, should be evil.

D. C.

Cantemir writes:

... You constantly substituted rhetoric for argument and almost every post contained a tu quoque. You showed time and again that you could not address Perry's points as posed; you turned them into things that they were not in order to argue more easily against them. That's not good manners. Maybe he has rougher edges, but in the end he treated your argument more respectfully than you treated his (or mine, for that matter, but that's not what's at issue.)

There's something important that none of you guys seems to grasp. You're very proud of your arguments, and are annoyed at me for not dealing with them as you think I should. The problem is, I can never get that far, because you haven't persuaded me — nor have you persuaded the millions of the unchurched who worship each Sunday at the Little Church of St. Starbucks (or St. Mattress), with the Sunday paper as their missal — that your underlying premises are supportable.

It's as though you want me to admire this wonderful house you've built, whereas I'm concerned about something very different: As far as I can tell, the house is sitting on a beach with a hurricane headed straight for it a steep, muddy California hillside, with mudslides all around, and all you want to talk about is the architecture, the landscaping, and all this other pretty stuff. Forgive me for not sharing your enthusiasm, but it seems to me that we need to change our priorities concerning what to focus on.

Jonathan Prejean

I posted the last before seeing your earlier response; I no longer see any purpose in wasting my time discussing the matter with you, particularly since you have now been apprised of your misrepresentation and persist in it.

You said:
"You might want to re-read what I actually said, which was quite different."

I have not misrepresented what you said. To imply that there is a risk that I would go down this path implies that there is a reason for thinking that the risk exists, something that I gave you absolutely no reason to suspect (and I even gave you a metaphysical basis for distinguishing the cases). It's simply a rhetorical tactic to convey your meaning without actually having to go through the unpleasantness of saying it, which might actually require you to defend it. Great tactic for leading a jury to an inference without actually having to show it, which goes right along with your idea that we're in "court" all the time. But I don't see it that way, and while it's amusing to play rhetorical games to establish the relative persuasiveness of positions, I don't need the practice in sophistry. My goal is to state my position as clearly and openly as possible so that they can make a decision on it, not to make it persuasive to them. I'm happy if they accept it, because I think their souls are better for it, but it's not my job to convert people. My job is to share the truth that I know and to prevent it from being misrepresented (as you did with your implication that there is some risk in my philosophy of devolving to violence, with no reason for thinking so). I see no good that can come of further discussion.

Thank you for at least allowing the discussion to be had, but I am not pleased with the treatment I have received at your hand, and I will not be returning.

D. C.

Jonathan Prejean writes, I hope rhetorically and not as a statement of what he believes:

... The free-rider problem doesn't go away. The point of the argument is that if you can identify any of these opportunities, you SHOULD take them, because otherwise, you are serving some interest other than your own. You should be about the business of imposing as much social cost on others as humanly possible. And you certainly shouldn't waste even a second on religion, unless it's going to help you network. The entire goal of life should be to achieve as much amorality as possible: to literally do anything to benefit yourself if you can reasonably get away with it. ***

The point is that it makes good a matter of taste or style. It's impossible to speak of goodness as being real, because it's nothing other than a perspective that you can take or leave. There is no real goodness in things; there are only optimists and pessimists.

Jonathan, again I don't buy your premise. There's plenty of empirical evidence that, over time, individuals and groups who "play nice" — but who don't let themselves be played for suckers — have a Darwinian survival-and-reproduction advantage over those who look out only for their own interests. A good example is playing out right here in Houston: Last fall we took in something like 150,000 Hurrican Katrina evacuees because it was the right thing to do. Now we're finding our crime rate has spiked dramatically. Well, we're not just taking it lying down. See this article in today's NY Times for more details.

(On this general subject, journalist Robert Wright has written several good popularizations of some of the relevant research; two of my favorites are The Moral Animal and Non-Zero.)

It was years before I started to appreciate the importance of what I said earlier: life isn't a snapshot, it's a movie. That makes all the difference in the world. Something that might seem pointless and out of place in a snapshot, can make perfect sense as part of a movie.

Perry Robinson

If we are proud of our arguments, it is irrelevant to the value of the arguments. I am annoyed with you for not even dealing with the arguments at all. More than half the time you could not even engage the point in question. The fact that we haven’t been able to persuade others doesn’t imply that the arguments are not good. Persuasion and cogency are not the same thing. There are perfectly good logical inferences that the majority of the population gets constantly wrong.

To some degree we don’t need to persuade them. Life will do that for us. They can ignore paper, ink and now electronic text, but death is something neither they nor you can ignore.

D. C.

Jonathan Prejean writes:

To imply that there is a risk that I would go down this path [of violence over "insults" to the Sacrament] implies that there is a reason for thinking that the risk exists, something that I gave you absolutely no reason to suspect (and I even gave you a metaphysical basis for distinguishing the cases).

Jonathan, I'm sorry you're so offended, but I think you're out of line. History abounds with evidence that, any time a group of people proclaims that it or something it holds dear has been "insulted," there's a decidedly non-trivial risk of violence. For me to remind you of the slippery slope you're on is not being offensive, it's doing you a favor.

Jonathan writes:

...My goal is to state my position as clearly and openly as possible so that they can make a decision on it, not to make it persuasive to them. I'm happy if they accept it, because I think their souls are better for it, but it's not my job to convert people. ...

You and I have very different views on that point. While the Matthean version of the Great Commission is not without its problems, it appears Jesus was looking for results, not just for effort: "make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28.19). And even if he was just looking for effort, presumably we want to be effective and not just wheel-spinners. To be effective, we can't just proclaim what we personally believe and then be indifferent to whether or not people actually buy it. Any good salesman or -woman will tell you that it just doesn't work that way.

Jonathan writes:

Thank you for at least allowing the discussion to be had, but I am not pleased with the treatment I have received at your hand, and I will not be returning.

Sorry to hear that; thanks anyway for visiting.

D. C.

Cantemir writes:

I forgot to mention that you completely missed the point of the joke version of Zeno's paradox. Using such a totally specious slur to show that philosophy is pointless just proves that, as the man said, any stigma will do to beat a dogma.

What??? The point is obvious: People who deal in abstract theories for a living can sometimes get all tangled up in them. In contrast, people who are accustomed to having to actually make things happen typically don't fret when they can't dot all i's and cross all the t's of the abstract theories. As long as they can come up with a close-enough provisional answer that seems to work, they'll go with that, and turn their attention to the next job, until the evidence suggests they need to do something different.

Thus too, I say, with theology. Let's s not get all balled up with abstract theories of epistemology. Let's find close-enough provisional answers that seem to work, then move on to the next job, while staying alert for new evidence that might cause us to rethink our original provisional answers.

If you see a point in the joke other than that, then you're right, I completely missed it. Maybe you could share it with us.

And, a "totally specious slur"? As Ricky Ricardo would say: 'Splain, pliz.

D. C.

Perry Robinson writes (and I'm responding, given the change in tone of his posts):

The fact that we haven’t been able to persuade others doesn’t imply that the arguments are not good. Persuasion and cogency are not the same thing. There are perfectly good logical inferences that the majority of the population gets constantly wrong.

Perry, please don't take this the wrong way, but that sounds for all the world like the defensive excuses that companies make when they miss their sales targets for the third or fourth fiscal quarter in a row. If they want to stay in business, they're going to have to figure out what the problem is, why they're not persuading their targeted prospects to buy what they're selling.

(My dad used to analogize to the rain dancer who kept coming up with explanations why it wasn't raining — he was certain he had executed the dance steps perfectly, so he was sure it must have been some other problem.)

P. Robinson

DC,

Let me try this again. Its not an excuse. The fact that you think it sounds like one I think indicates that you have not grasped the concept.

Take modus ponens. If P, then Q. P, therefore Q. Now, this is a valid form of reasoning. It is truth preserving. Now, most people don't recognize it as such. They can't draw the proper conclusion from P. Hence they aren't persuaded by a perfectly good piece of reasoning. Arguments can be good and persuade no one.

Your problem is that you seemingly collapse persuasion and the legitimacy of an argument. The legitimacy of an argument doesn't depend on how many people are persuaded by it. This is known as the consensus genitum fallacy. Agreement doesn't imply truth. Consequently, the analogy with business sales doesn't hold. The two are not analogous.

Your rhetorical appeal to every day experience may persuade people but it is not reasonable. If you complain that I am being too logical or some other such thing, I would simply ask that you construct your arguments without employing logic. Good luck.

D. C.

Perry writes:

Your problem is that you seemingly collapse persuasion and the legitimacy of an argument. The legitimacy of an argument doesn't depend on how many people are persuaded by it. This is known as the consensus genitum fallacy. Agreement doesn't imply truth.

1. How do we measure an argument's legitimacy? Not being educated in philosophy, I have to imagine the possibilities on the fly, which seem to be:

(a) consensus that the argument is correct;

(b) the argument passes some test that is either (i) generally agreed upon — there's consensus again or (ii) is essentially dispositive because there's no room for reasonable dispute, e.g., if your wife argues that it's raining outside the restaurant where you're having dinner together, you can just go look outside; or

(c) the argument is accepted by some authoritive decisionmaker — but authority is only as good as its popular acceptance, and there's consensus yet again.

2. I'm not sure we have internalized the same end-goals for our "ministries," if I can use that term. As I see it, the end-goal is to bring people to God, which state I define only somewhat arbitrarily as (i) being willing to "make their bet" that a loving Creator exists, (ii) desiring the best for others as they do for themselves, and (iii) "trusting" — which I choose to define, again only somewhat arbitratily, as feeling and acting — as though things are going to turn out unimaginably well in the very long run.

I can present arguments, including scriptural ones, in support of this particular goal. But I acknowledge that, to a certain extent, I treat it as axiomatic. Others can agree, or not, but the brute fact is that, until I'm persuaded otherwise, I choose to conduct my "ministry" as though this goal is a valid one.

I suggest that you might want to be more explicit about your own end-goal, to others and possibly even to yourself. My sense is that deep down — and I say this with trepidation — it may be somewhat more important to you to be "right," even about points that others might regard as immaterial, than to actually succeed in bringing people to God.

Let's look at a hypothetical situation. Suppose that I'm completely wrong about the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement, all of which are unpersuasive to me. Suppose further that when I die, I encounter God, who informs me that you were right on all three points. But now suppose, purely hypothetically, that during my life I managed to bring X number of doubters to God as I defined that term above, whereas you did so for only 0.1X doubters. (ADDED LATER: Or suppose we each brought in X doubters apiece, but mine were ones you were never able to reach because they just didn't buy your sales pitch.) Other things being equal, was one of us more successful in life than the other?

Perry writes:

Your rhetorical appeal to every day experience may persuade people but it is not reasonable. If you complain that I am being too logical or some other such thing, I would simply ask that you construct your arguments without employing logic.

When I was about 12 years old, growing up in a Catholic family and going to a Catholic school, I was a huge fan of Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek series. I was a science geek, and I adored the idea of logic, the notion that the universe was orderly and predictable and could be dealt with in a rational, unemotional way. (In hindsight, I suspect that this was a very Catholic attitude.)

At the time, I didn't understand Dr. McCoy's rants against Spock and his logic. I figured they were in the script strictly for comic relief. Years later, after I'd been practicing law for a while — and, not coincidentally, had separately learned a very little bit about quantum physics — I finally started to 'grok' Justice Holmes's dictum that the life of the law is not logic, it's experience.

The same is true, it seems to me, in virtually every other area of life. Logic, in the end, is a conception of the human mind. When it works, it's extremely useful in explaining, predicting, and dealing with the external reality of God's creation. Logic is a fantastic tool to have in the toolbag. But a tool is all it is. It's God and his creation, and by implication our collective experience with them, that have (or should have) primary importance, not our human conceptions of how things allegedly must be. Logic doesn't or at least shouldn't rule our lives, and it's definitely not an idol to be worshipped.

Thanks for the comments; now that we've managed to cool down the rhetoric, I'm enjoying the give-and-take.

D. C.

Perry, a follow-up on my hypothetical — change the facts so that we each bring X people to God (as I defined that term), but my X people were brought in by my approach, because they weren't reached by yours. Again, was either of us more successful?

cantemir

What??? The point is obvious: People who deal in abstract theories for a living can sometimes get all tangled up in them.

My fault, then. I thought you were actually arguing about the beliefs held by Zeno, the creator of this paradox.

You're very proud of your arguments, and are annoyed at me for not dealing with them as you think I should. The problem is, I can never get that far, because you haven't persuaded me...

With all due respect, Mr. D. C., I can't imagine your law school professors would have let you get far with this kind of stuff. The NRA isn't persuaded that its reading of the Second Amendment is wrong - well, all the worse for the NRA.

Your thesis that we're always in court has some unpleasant implications. Among other problems, it doesn't allow for things to be true but unmarketable. I'm not sure that I could convince a jury of scientifically ignorant skeptics - frankly, of typical Americans - of the validity of Raoult's Law or walk them through the construction of the Riemann integral; I can already hear it: "the sum converges over an infinite number of terms." "how can you possibly claim to know what happens at term #4,502,987, cantemir?" "by induction." "how do you know that induction is valid?" "because of Peano's construction of the natural numbers." "but how do you know Peano is right?" "because each step in his proof follows clearly from the previous one, forming a valid chain of reasoning." "but how do you know he didn't make a mistake or leave something out? scientists are learning more stuff all the time!"

This doesn't mean that such technical concepts are somehow useless or wrong. They're technical, that's all. And since you came to Pontifications to ask technical questions, you shouldn't be upset that you got technical answers.

It doesn't seem that we can win with you. If you went to chick.com you'd complain, no doubt, that it was anti-intellectual and contradicted basic observations and research. You come to pontifications and you complain that we're overly intellectual and abstract. Since you mention bring the matter up, Jack T. Chick has amazing marketing skills; pity about the young-earth creationism, but you can't have everything.

I'm not the first or only person to complain that you seem to dismiss arguments without reading them fairly. That doesn't mean that we're wimps and you beat us. It means that your answers betray ignorance or trivial misunderstandings and you, as a serious responsible person, have a responsibility to do better.

— nor have you persuaded the millions of the unchurched who worship each Sunday at the Little Church of St. Starbucks (or St. Mattress), with the Sunday paper as their missal — that your underlying premises are supportable.

Whatever, dude, my church is growing and yours is collapsing. If that's all we have to go by, the Pentacostals win hands down. When I go to Wednesday akathist, the church is packed. When I go to Pascha vigil in a couple days, they'll have to mount speakers on the roof in order for the crowd overflowing outside to be able to hear the liturgy.

anna

just got a chance to check back on the original thread and just had to leave one last mini comment in reply to your reply...

If Jesus thought he was imminently going to return from heaven and usher in God’s reign, he was wrong, but that doesn’t mean we have to consign everything else he ever said and did to the dustbin of history.

or he was God and as such for him 1,000 years are as a day, having a sense of imminent as unlike ours as his thoughts are unlike our thoughts : )

D. C.

Cantemir writes:

I'm not sure that I could convince a jury of scientifically ignorant skeptics - frankly, of typical Americans - of the validity of Raoult's Law or walk them through the construction of the Riemann integral ....

Apples and oranges. When you're trying to do as you describe, you're not asking people to make the most fundamental possible change at the core of their beings. Big difference.

Cantemir writes:

It doesn't seem that we can win with you. * * * I'm not the first or only person to complain that you seem to dismiss arguments without reading them fairly. That doesn't mean that we're wimps and you beat us. It means that your answers betray ignorance or trivial misunderstandings and you, as a serious responsible person, have a responsibility to do better.

Look at it from my perspective. It's like you've laid out a beautiful chain of learned logic to convince me that a hereditary monarch rules the Siamese cats of the Alpha Centauri star system. When I say, hold on a second, let's examine the underlying premises first, you respond by berating me for not having invested the time to understand and appreciate your beautiful logic. (Or it's like the old economist joke whose punch line is, "no problem, we'll just assume we have a can opener.") You complain that you can't win with me, but is that really such a big surprise?

Cantemir writes:

This doesn't mean that such technical concepts are somehow useless or wrong. They're technical, that's all. And since you came to Pontifications to ask technical questions, you shouldn't be upset that you got technical answers.

Please re-read the start of the thread. I came to Pontifications at Al's invitation (by a trackback ping he sent to my blog) to answer the question that he put to me in his original essay.

Since you and I seem to keep talking past each other, I won't take up more of your time.

cantemir

When you're trying to do as you describe, you're not asking people to make the most fundamental possible change at the core of their beings.

If I understand you, your point is that the orthodox position is so convoluted and bizarre that reasonable people are disinclined to follow its torturous logic. Is that a fair statement? It seems congruent with your alien space bat analogy.

you're berating me for not taking the time to understand and respond to your arguments

D.C., it's not 'my' arguments, it's that you didn't seem willing to learn the necessary language; in a word, you didn't seem serious. Look, if I come into your office with a legal question, I can't start arguing with you about rules of evidence or contract terminology if I don't know how legal reasoning and language work (which I'm sorry to say I don't.)

Perry kept calling you a 'freshman' for a reason: you were making schoolboy philosophical errors. I'm not trying to be a jerk here (although I may be succeeding.) If I were to meet you face to face, I'd never try to convince you with logic, because I believe that Christ is found in repentance, not in brilliant ideas. But on the internet, no one knows I'm a dog, and we were engaging in conversation, oh Socrates, in order to learn what is true and what is not.

Perry Robinson

I can’t believe that you are actually defending the fallacy of consensus gentium. I suggest you take a logic course. I teach them if you are interested. In any case, whatever credibility you had, you just lost it.

We measure an argument’s legitimacy by truth preservation from the premises to the conclusion. Arguments that do so in deductive logic are valid, those that strongly do so in inductive reasoning are strong. Consequently every single one of the candidates that you give are false. If I were wrong about this, then every expert in practically every field is wrong in every discovery ever made. Every field depends on truth preserving inferences.

With fallacious reasoning such as above its no wonder you have problems evaluating the truth claims of Christianity. As for end goals, the ends do not justify the means. And God can use people to bring people to himself in faith in spite of themselves. That hardly implies that God approves of the means. God uses Balaam’s ass, that doesn’t mean we should make him a pastor. You may have adored the idea of logic but you seem not to have any real competence using it. The mistakes you are making are pretty basic. How you passed the LSAT is beyond me.

Paraphrasing Kant, experience without reason is blind. If logic were something we made up, then every fallacy could be made into a legitimate argument by fiat. Logic isn’t conventional. Logic is the mind of God. En arche ho logos.

Here is the problem. You seem to think of yourself as a lot more competent to judge sophisticated matters beyond your field of training. Any first year philosophy major could pick apart your reasoning. I am not even trying and I am not that far up the academic food chain. To be quite frank you are setting yourself up to be another village atheist. You seem enamored with expert witnesses. Well, I am an expert witness and your reasoning is fallacious. You can check with any other logic instructor of any metaphysical disposition you like and they will tell you the same. Check any logic text you like. You’re flat out wrong and you simply don’t have the first clue about what you are talking about.

D. C.

Cantemir writes:

If I understand you, your point is that the orthodox position is so convoluted and bizarre that reasonable people are disinclined to follow its torturous logic. Is that a fair statement? It seems congruent with your alien space bat analogy.

I think we understand each other.

Cantemir writes:

D.C., it's not 'my' arguments, it's that you didn't seem willing to learn the necessary language; in a word, you didn't seem serious.

If I were still a single, childless undergraduate with vast quantities of free time, I might be interested in learning your "language" as an academic entertainment even without being shown that it's not like the Siamese cats of Alpha Centauri. Unfortunately, my single, childless, undergraduate days are in the past.

D. C.

Perry, my man, it's obvious we're never going to get anywhere. Your comments always seem to work their way around to denouncing my perfidy and pronouncing my stupidity. Perhaps it's just confirmation of my stupidity that I get neither benefit nor pleasure from your missives, but there you go.

(In Googling you, I was relieved to learn you had switched from the Episcopal Church to Orthodoxy, not to Roman Catholicism. I had dreaded the thought that the church of my youth, and of my parents still, was being represented by such a potent combination of naivete, fanaticism, and egotism.)

I feel like the reluctant host of an agonizingly-tedious party that is finally winding down. I'm sure you don't want any parting words of advice from me, but think about them anyway: Stop worshipping your imagined brilliance. Climb down from your ivory tower. Get some experience in the real world: Find a non-academic job, one where you're accountable for making things happen and not just for learning and facilely navigating an artificial system of thought; one where you have to deal with the inherent messiness of life. And while you're at it, pray for some humility.

You and your friends are welcome to stick around as long as you want, but I'm going to bed.

The Anglican Scotist

Perry,
What on earth are you talking about? In what logic textbooks is the concept of legitimacy developed? You are talking about validity; but why oh why? Any argument--even a fallacy, even any fallacy--can be made valid simply by adding an inconsistent premise, e.g. of form "P&~P"--that is to say, any objection to an argument on grounds of validity alone is trivially remedied. Not exactly fiat, but darn close. What is your point?

Perhaps you mean to talk about the truth of DC's premises instead, but then why the fallacy fetish?

Alluding to Kant to discuss logic's nonconventional objectivity is, to say the least, ironic--what, pray tell, do you mean by convention? Are you also excluding the Kantian transcendental? Do you mean to take issue with Quine? Or--LORD help us--Carnap? Are you familiar with Carnap's comments on teh status of formal logic?

You are, moreover, confusing logic with formal logic--what you have to say ignores the discipline of informal logic. Which is to say one should not breathlessly presume formal logic is suitable for regimenting the language in which arguments are made, rather than some sterilized or contrived language--surely you are aware of what Frege would say here. In basing your objections on "logic" when you really mean formal logic, you are--dare I say it--arguing fallaciously, begging the question.

The Anglican Scotist

For civilians:
Frege founded the contemporary discipline of formal logic; he did so intending that formal logic be used as an instrument for special languages other than the morass of ordinary language.

Controversy followed: some, e.g. logical positivists, took formal logic as contributing to a standard for meaning: what could not be formally regimented was meaningless. Others, e.g. the ordinary language philosophers and esp. Wittgenstein in his late work, saw such a standard, drawn from formal logic, as one among others. At the very least, Perry--having assumed the tone of a scold--should show some awareness of the tendentiousness of appealing to formal standards.

Carnap is of special interest here as a paradigmatic logical positivist--willing to extol the normative role of formal logic--who nevertheless admitted openly that the formal logic's normative role followed on a choice made on extra-logical, pragmatic grounds, e.g. what will best serve our interests. I.e. he recognized the danger of begging the question in employing formal logic as a normative standard. At least he faced it squarely.

Quine was a master formal logician; his textbooks on formal logic served to introduce decades of philosophy students to the discipline. Although he gives formal logic special status--it is very nearly at the center of our web of beliefs--for him even basic logical laws admit of revision. Their necessity--oddly echoing Carnap--is a matter of our holding them extra firmly. One rightly suspects the special status Perry accords to formal logic's principles should not be taken for granted--his acerbic, strident tone sounds sophmoric.

The discipline of informal logic is still relatively young, but it aims to bring some order and light to how argument is carried on in the real world in language not necessarily regimented according to formal standards. Formal logic's strictures and logical fallacies are both treated as tropes, rhetorical strategies aiming at persuasion of some sort. I.e. argument is broader than what formal logic can capture, even taking account of the varied nature of contemporary formal logic (we have modal, epistemic, relevance, dynamic, paraconsistent, and fuzzy logics, among others--how do we choose between them? Which are basic? Do we establish answers to such questions using--you guessed it, some kind of formal logic?).

cantemir

D.C.,

If I were still a single, childless undergraduate with vast quantities of free time, I might be interested in learning your "language" as an academic entertainment...

It's not 'my language,' it's the language that rigorous argument demands. But let's get back to a concrete example here: the problem of knowledge. Now, an Orthodox Christian such as myself would say that we know about Christ and about what His disciples thought about Him because of the witness of the Church, ie, the New Testament, the various patristic writings from the first two centuries A.D., and the liturgical tradition. Your response to this, on pontifications, with the following:

The basic reason, in a nutshell, is fifteen-plus years of experience as a field-level historian, a.k.a. a technology litigator, dealing every day with the vissicitudes of human storytelling. Any psychologist, and for that matter any experienced jury lawyer or police detective, can confirm our common human failings in that area.

But this is an argument that by proving everything proves nothing. (Philosophers are particularly allergic to arguments along these lines because they are about the perception of the case by observers rather than about the merits of the case objectively considered and, as you note, any particular observer can be assumed to be easily manipulable.)

Has your experience as a very senior and successful lawyer made you so skeptical of testimony in general as to doubt it all on principle? If so, the New Testament is the least of your worries; all history is bunk. But if it has not, there's a hidden premise to the argument, and that is that the New Testament is particularly untrustworthy. Am I out to lunch here, or do you see it as untypically problematic among ancient documents?

As for your comment that Christ could have been a great prophet but nonetheless made erroneous predictions, I think that that equivocates on meaning of 'prophet' in this context. Christ claimed to teach with authority directly from God, not from mere opinion, and if there is black-and-white thinking here, it is His, not ours.

I know more than a few people, notably young people, who kinda sorta wish they had a religious faith. They tend to have the same sort of intellectual problems with Christian doctrine that I did.

I think that it is this bit that makes you a hero instead of a villain in my book, even if this exchange has been damnably irritating. You are right, countless factors disrupt even the first premises of faith in contemporary life, especially for brighter people. As a convert from atheism to Orthodoxy, this is particularly germane for me.

The thing that shocked me as I began to study Christianity was that all of the stumbling blocks to faith proved so impotent. No doctrine was hard to learn or accept once I had decided to study seriously. On the other hand, the caricatures of faith and doctrine that I had thought were their realities kept me from learning anything substantive about any religion for a long time. Hence the antagonism to Christianity that so pervades educated society, that it is against art, that it forces you to be intellectually dishonest, that it's just fairy tales for people terrified of death, and so on.

D.C., thanks for everything, and if you're through with me, good luck.

Perry Robinson

DC,

We are never going to get anywhere by your obviously fallacious reasoning and ignoring relevant criticisms. If I were a fanatic, you’d be dead and your house would be burning. As for naivete, I was out of the house living on the street or my car at 16. I put myself through school working rotating day and night shifts. I know the “real world” probably far better than a lawyer. As for egotism, if I am an egoist for thinking that agreement doesn’t imply truth, then every logician on the planet is too. As for the Episcopal Church, I left it for the simple reason that it was ceasing to be Christian in any meaningful sense.
You seem to have no idea how academics make their living. They have to provide results-publish or perish, good reviews or bad reviews, etc.

Enjoy your life in the village.

D. C.

Cantemir, thanks for extending an olive branch, which is of course immediately accepted.

1. Cantemir writes:

Has your experience as a very senior and successful lawyer made you so skeptical of testimony in general as to doubt it all on principle?

Unfortunately there's not a simple yes-or-no answer to that question. In the context of your question, the word "testimony" is way, way over-inclusive and doesn't take into account the snapshot-versus-movie issue. I've done several long posts about the serious evidentiary problems that exist with respect to many of the claims of Scripture; see, for example, this post; this post; and this post.

In a nutshell, my view of testimony is basically that of my profession, viz., Anglo-American jurisprudence. I'm initially skeptical of all testimony, and do indeed initially doubt it on principle, until I'm shown sufficient other evidence to persuade me that, for the matter in question, it's reasonably safe to take a chance on relying on it in my decisionmaking. Circumstances alter the case; for a decision with comparatively little downside, it would take less to persuade me of the testimony's reliability than for a decision of greater consequence.

At a minimum, I won't credit someone's testimony — and even that's not the same as giving it conclusive weight, that is, letting the testimony make up my mind for me about what to do — unless at least the following conditions are met:

(a) Foundation: I need to be presented with sufficient evidence to persuade me that the witness has reason to know what s/he's talking about. This is called "laying a foundation"; a common event in trial work is "objection, your honor, lack of foundation."

We impose the foundation requirement because we want to know how the witness came to know what s/he claims to know. From millennia of experience, we know that people can readily say things that they think they "know," whereas on closer scrutiny it turns out that they really didn't know it at all, but were imagining things, or repeating what they'd heard from someone else, or were misremembering.

Here's a canonical (simple) example: If the witness wants to testify that the light was green, the other lawyer will object, and the judge won't allow the jury to hear the testimony, unless it's first established — e.g., by the witness's own sworn testimony — that the witness was in fact in a position to see the light at the time in question. If the witness is wearing glasses while testifying, we're going to ask whether he was wearing glasses at the time in question. And so on.

Now, in everyday non-courtroom life, we routinely apply a looser variation of the foundation requirement, as long as the evidence otherwise seems sufficiently trustworthy for its intended purpose. If my wife says "take your umbrella, it's going to rain," normally I'm not going to cross-examine her about how she came to that conclusion. I'm going to assume that she looked at the paper, or heard the weather report on the radio, or looked outside and saw threatening clouds.

In that case, I'm willing to get by with less foundational evidence because the downside of an error is essentially zero. (If my wife is on an out-of-town business trip when she says it's going to rain, I'm going to be at least mildly curious how she knows what she's talking about.)

In contrast, if my doctor tells me I've got cancer of the testicles and need to have them cut off (to re-use my example at the Pontifications blog), you can bet the ranch that I'm going to explore the foundation for his assertion very carefully before letting myself go under the knife.

The Prologue of the Gospel of John is a classic example of lack of foundation: The author asserts that certain things happened at the beginning of time. But we have no evidence, direct or indirect, to suggest that "John" knew what he was talking about. Traditionalist Christians want us to rely on that passage (and many, many other foundationless passages in the Bible), in making perhaps the biggest decision of our lives. IMHO, that decision is too important to base on foundationless assertions like that.

The factual testimony of the New Testament documents is replete with similar examples of lack of foundation. Some of the testimony I'm willing to accept, despite its lack of foundation, for reasons I'd have to look at on a case-by-case basis. As to other foundationless testimony, I'm not willing to accept it.

(b) Unlikelihood of Unacceptable Distortion: The surrounding evidence has to make me comfortable that the testimony is likely to be "sufficiently" free from distortion to be trustworthy for its intended purpose. Again from long experience, we know that testimony can be distorted, among other ways —

(i) as it is passed along from person to person, such as in the "telephone game" — that's why we have a hearsay rule; or

(ii) by the witness having an apparent bias, or an agenda, or an axe to grind, or any of a number of possible memory problems — that's why we have a requirement for cross-examination, so that we can explore these possibilities to get the complete picture. Cf. the rule in Numbers and Deut. prohibiting putting anyone to death except on the testimony of at least two witnesses, as well as the Commandment against bearing false witness against thy neighbor.

(In the posts I linked to above, I've written about indications of possible distortion in the various New Testament documents, including for example indications of possible bias in the Gospel of John and in Paul's letters.)

Again, circumstances alter the case. For a highly consequential decision, I'm going to want to be very confident that the testimony hasn't been distorted. (Cf. again the OT rule about not putting someone to death except on the testimony of at least two witnesses.) For a less-consequential decision, I won't be quite so concerned.

(c) Other Alternatives Given Sufficient Weight: When a doctor diagnoses an illness and prescribes treatment, and her training and experience tell her that a mistaken diagnosis could be problematic, she normally tries to rule out the problematic possibilities. When a patient comes in and "testifies" that his throat is sore, it could be just a symptom of a common cold that can be treated by gargling with salt water. But it could also be strep throat, so the doctor will often order a strep culture, and sometimes will preemptively put the patient on an antibiotic just in case.

Similarly, when a New Testament witness offers the conclusionary testimony that (for example) Jesus was raised from the dead, we need to identify exactly what the witness perceived and to explore possible alterntatives before we make major, life-changing decisions on that basis. The links above will take you to my prior essays positing alternative explanations for the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances of Jesus, and the witness of the church's martyrs; see also the additional links here.

2. Cantemir writes:

[D]o you see it [the New Testament] as untypically problematic among ancient documents?

I think we have no reason to believe the various NT documents are any more — or any less — untrustworthy than other documents of their respective genres.

3. Cantemir writes:

Christ claimed to teach with authority directly from God, not from mere opinion, and if there is black-and-white thinking here, it is His, not ours.

We have a difference of opinion there. In my view, (i) we don't have enough evidence to be confident that Jesus claimed to teach with authority directly from God — although that's what every prophet in the OT claimed, it seems to me; I just finished reading the OT from cover to cover; and (ii) even if Jesus made such a claim, we have not only the right but the duty to put that claim to the test — cf. Deut. 18.21-22 and 1 Thess. 5.16-21, which citations I have committed to memory, I use them so often.

* * *

I'm glad you came back, Cantemir; I enjoy few things as much as a challenging, cordial back-and-forth discussion like this.

elfgirl

D.C., thanks for your note of appreciation. Just came across this piece when checking recent trackbacks to T19.

--one of the Titusonenine elves

David Huff

Great Googly Moogly! I went and read as much of the orig comment thread as I could stand until I realized that Fr. Kimel's site is basically just a RC version of the odious "Virtue" Online.

D.C., you have a thicker skin than I :) Esp. if you consider the environment over at T1:9 any more reasonable or civil than these others. As far as I'm concerned, they all contribute to the coarsening of the level of religious dialog in the church. People like Harmon and Kimel should be ashamed of their contribution to this (I didn't mention the ironically-named David "Virtue" as he apparently has no shame).

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Your email address:


Powered by FeedBlitz

Favorite Posts

Adv.

Episcopal Church

  • Come and Grow