Timothy Keller: Dishonest Reasons for God (Chapter 6)

I began my critique of Keller’s The Reason for God with an exposé of everything up through Chapter 1, then Chapter 2, and Chapters 3 through 5. Here I will cover Chapter 6 (and next 7). I’ll continue to other chapters in future installments. In these two chapters (6 and 7) Keller is forced to defend two propositions that are so impossible to defend, he really is just screwed: that science doesn’t refute his supernaturalist Christian worldview (Chapter 6); and that the Bible is literally true (Chapter 7). Even though those claims outright contradict each other. Let’s see how he tries to weasel out of this one. Oh, right. Of course. By lying. Shameless, repeated lying.

Let’s start with the first of those contradictory assertions: that Christianity is totally compatible with science.

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Lying by Omission

Keller needs science and Christianity to be compatible. Because he can’t deny that science, when its conclusions are well-established, is pretty much almost always right about stuff. It uses the best standards of evidence, and accumulates the most evidence. And the only way to overturn that, is with more and better science. Which doesn’t ever work out well for theologians. The craziest will bite that bullet and actually argue science is false. And that’s how you get all the loons and cranks of young-earth creationism and the like. Which simply condemns them to the bin of tinfoil hatters. Not exactly a successful strategy.

Instead, the Kellers of the world try to have it both ways. Science has to be true, and supernaturalist Christianity true. They think this makes their job easier. After all, they need only show that no well-established conclusion of the sciences contradicts any claim essential to the Christian worldview. Earth actually billions of years old? Well, okay, in Genesis the word “day” must have meant billions of years or something, and not actually a mere twenty four hours. And so on. The problem is that though this at least helps them look respectable (and not like total lunatics), it requires them to lie. A lot.

Christianity can only be “compatible” with science if it becomes Secular Humanism “plus” special reverence for a collection of ancient myths it doesn’t regard as fact, and reinterprets completely contrary to their original meaning and intent. Which would be abhorrent to Keller I’m sure. It would mean almost everything he believes is false. But alas, Dr. Keller. Almost everything you believe is false. (Assuming you really believe any of it. You lie so shamelessly and so often, who honestly can say?)

Keller’s usual tactic of lying by omission is heavily relied on here.

All scientific evidence contradicts the existence of an immortal soul. Keller doesn’t even mention this. All scientific evidence contradicts the existence of demons or miraculous or magical powers. Keller doesn’t even mention this. All scientific evidence confirms Christianity has no net effect on the goodness of the populations who embrace it. Keller conceded this in previous chapters. He avoids mentioning it now. And all scientific evidence contradicts the existence of “sin” as anything other than bad design—which is all on god, if he’s the engineer, and not on Adam & Eve, whom all scientific evidence confirms neither existed nor could have made any choices (if they did exist) that would affect modern human genetics or culture in any fashion worth blaming them for.

In fact, all scientific evidence contradicts any notion that humans were intelligently designed—at all, much less by a perfect, compassionate genius—or that by killing himself, an ancient Jew could cause future humans to be rebuilt after their death with perfect bodies and minds free of all design flaws. Frankly, the Heavens Gate cult had a far more scientifically plausible resurrection theology than Christianity does, which is about as plausible as magic crystals curing cancer.

The fact of the matter is, science has disconfirmed every fundamental Christian assumption about the world. Psychology has disconfirmed everything Christians thought and claimed about how human thought and emotion operates. Biology has disconfirmed everything Christians thought and claimed about what causes and cures disease. Sociology has disconfirmed everything Christians thought and claimed about why people turn to crime and what makes them stop. And on and on. For a whole list of ridiculous things Christianity requires you to believe that have all been scientifically refuted or failed to find any confirmation, see John Loftus’s chapter “Christianity Is Wildly Improbable” in The End of Christianity. Likewise Eller’s chapter there on the incompatibility of religion and science; and Stenger’s chapter on the incompatibility of science and Christianity in Christianity Is Not Great.

(Science also confirms the universe looks exactly like a universe not made by a God. Keller will try and dodge around that one in a later chapter, though, so I’ll put that on hold for now.)

So by omitting all that, Keller hopes you won’t notice. But Keller also tells straight up lies. And tries to distract you with irrelevant and illogical arguments thereby. For example…

Lying about Miracles

Keller pushes the false claim that science can’t confirm miracles, even in principle, and then uses that false premise to argue we can therefore believe in miracles because science’s failure to verify a single miracle ever in thousands of years of human history isn’t evidence against any of them (p. 87). That’s illogical, of course. No evidence for x is no evidence for x. It therefore does not become a reason to believe x. I already exposed the con Keller pulls with this dishonest line of reasoning in his first chapter. Having no evidence for a thing, means you have no valid reason to believe in that thing. Period.

But the premise is also false. Science absolutely can verify—and disconfirm—any miracle claim. Unless you prevent access to the evidence (like destroying it, or hiding it so far into an unverifiable past or locale that no one can find it anymore). That miracles only ever avoid being exposed as fake by avoiding being tested, is proof positive miracles are fake. If they were real, you wouldn’t have to hide them from a sound investigation. And when they get soundly investigated, they wouldn’t all turn out to be bogus. As has uniformly always been the case. If God existed, and allowed miracles, that would not be the case. So the argument from miracles is, actually, in fact, an argument against the existence of a god.

By not telling you any of that, Keller is lying to you. The fact that science has failed to verify a single miracle claim ever in thousands of years, that when it gets to check it always discovers they are frauds or fabrications or perfectly ordinary courses of events, is quite decisive evidence against any miracle claim being true. It is simply dishonest to claim otherwise. Because, dear Christian, you know you’d agree if we substituted anything else for the word “miracle” in those statements, like “gremlins,” “fairies,” “magic potions,” even miracles—that confirm non-Christian religions! So stop lying to yourself. You need to be honest. And that means, accepting the same standards for your own religion, that you insist other religions be held to. (More on that fact in John Loftus, The Outsider Test for Faith; and his follow-up chapter in The Christian Delusion.)

An honest man would tell you that every time any miracle claim has been able to be investigated scientifically, it was found to be fraudulent, fabricated, or just an ordinary event. That only miracles that avoid scientific investigation aren’t found out. And that this has been the case thousands and thousands of times over hundreds of years, without exception. And an honest man would tell you, that this means your faith in any miracles being true, is totally unfounded, and contrary to all current established science. I’m reminded to cite once again, the renowned poet Tim Minchin on the point.

Lying about Dawkins

I mentioned earlier in this series that Christians are very impressed by experts with big fancy college degrees, as long as they say what Christians want to hear. I’ve already shown there that Keller exploits this by lying about what non-Christian experts say. He does it again with Richard Dawkins in this chapter. Keller says “Dawkins argues that if you believe in evolution…you must also believe in philosophical naturalism,” and then presents the cooky geneticist Francis Collins as a counter-example disproving Dawkins’ claim (p. 88). The lie here? Dawkins has never argued this. He has never said “anyone” who believes in evolution will believe in naturalism. And notably, Keller doesn’t cite a single place where Dawkins ever said such a thing (not even in the only work by Dawkins that Keller mentions, The God Delusion, in which not even once does the word “naturalism” appear; he discusses what it means to be a philosophical naturalist on pp. 34-35, but says nothing about evolution entailing naturalism).

Do you know what Dawkins has argued? That it is not possible to believe in biological evolution and rationally maintain a belief in intelligent design. Indeed, in a conversation with Dawkins and Collins, Dawkins is quite clear on this point (and notably, again, Keller hides all this from his readers), when confronted with Collins’s attempt to reconcile evolution with intelligent design:

I think that’s a tremendous cop-out. If God wanted to create life and create humans, it would be slightly odd that he should choose the extraordinarily roundabout way of waiting for 10 billion years before life got started and then waiting for another 4 billion years until you got human beings capable of worshiping and sinning and all the other things religious people are interested in.

… I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine. What I can’t understand is why you invoke improbability and yet you will not admit that you’re shooting yourself in the foot by postulating something just as improbable, magicking into existence the word God.

Thus, what Dawkins has said, is that what Collins is doing is irrational. Keller can’t rebut that by simply pointing out that Collins is doing it. The mere fact he is doing it, says nothing whatever against the claim that what he is doing is irrational.

So do you catch the trick here? The con Keller is pulling on his readers? “Look, a scientist believes in Creationism” is being offered as evidence science is compatible with Christianity. But that isn’t evidence of compatibility. Because many people hold contradictory beliefs. So you cannot argue that those beliefs aren’t contradictory, by pointing to people holding those contradictory beliefs. That’s a circular argument. It gets you nowhere. The question that has to be answered is is what Collins believes rational. But Keller drops the point and never examines it further. Hoping no one notices. He never even addressed the argument Dawkins actually made.

Lying about Statistics

Next Keller lies about statistics. Keeping up the trend of impressing his audience by focusing on people with big fancy college degrees, Keller has to answer the problem that far fewer scientists believe in gods than nonscientists do. In fact, the more science someone knows, the less likely they are to believe in God. As Keller himself acknowledges, only 7% of members of the National Academy of Sciences believe in God (p. 90). Scientists in general, only a third do. Physicists, not even 30%. Completely the reverse of the rest of society. That makes the compatibility of science and religion highly unlikely. That so few can maintain the two beliefs together, entails they have to struggle mightily against evidence and reason to do so. If science and religion were compatible, indeed if as Keller insists the scientific evidence even points to god, more scientists should be religious than the rest of us. Alas, not so. The reverse is the case.

How does Keller escape? The tricks he pulls here are:

  • Keller says that in these polls “scientists are asked if they believe in a God who personally communicates with humanity” and yet it’s unfair assuming that “to hold that a transcendent God created the universe is not enough to be listed as a ‘believer’,” (p. 90) and therefore the data is misleading. Except, Christianity is the belief in a God who personally communicates with humanity. And Keller is supposed to be arguing Christianity and science are compatible. So…yeah. Not a relevant argument, Dr. Keller. The data just screw you here. Sorry.
  • Keller insists maybe there is some other reason that explains why this evidence goes against every expectation. That somehow, scientists as a whole class of people are more irrational and uninformed than the rest of us, and that’s causing them to disproportionately abandon beliefs in gods. Needless to say, he does not provide any evidence of that. He just cites the unscientific observations of a single biased theologian (Alister McGrath, who has no relevant credentials in sociology), who claims scientific methods and knowledge did not cause any scientist’s disbelief. No study showing that to be the case is forthcoming. Because Keller likes comforting unscientific opinions more than actual data.
  • Keller then dishonestly claims Stephen Jay Gould, an evolutionary scientist, believed religion and science were compatible. What Keller carefully doesn’t mention is that what Gould meant by religion was solely moral beliefs (“purposes, meanings, and values”), not factual beliefs about what exists or how people and the world work, which Gould insisted only science can reliably answer. In other words, Gould’s “non-overlapping magisteria” rules out Keller’s Christianity. Ooops. Keller might not want to call attention to people who actually make the case against him. Except, Keller knows most of his readers will never fact-check him. So they’ll never find out what Gould actually said.
  • Keller then cites the crank naturalist philosopher Thomas Nagel arguing religion and science are compatible—albeit again, only on matters of moral theory, not the facts of the world. Indeed, even Nagel absolutely would not agree Christianity was compatible with science, and Nagel is even a teleologist who believes in magical souls. But Nagel being an infamously irrational fluffhead, Keller might want to steer clear of hitching his wagon to that crazy train.

After all this, have we been presented with any relevant evidence that Christianity is compatible with the well-established findings of modern science? Nope. Never once does Keller even bring up evidence regarding that. He conflates any and all religion with Christianity, hoping no one notices the equivocation fallacy. And he does not mention any of the ways Christianity and science are claimed to contradict, and thus never presents any evidence that they don’t. For instance, he says evolution is said to contradict Christianity, but then never actually explains why evolution is said to contradict Christianity; consequently, he never has to answer any actual argument that it does. Instead all he does is cite biased, misquoted, unscientific opinions, not facts; opinions, which even as presented cannot make the case; and being misquoted, are also lies.

Welcome to Christian apologetics.

Lying about Christian Beliefs

The scientific facts of evolution alone refute Christianity in numerous ways. They refute the entire history and ontology of sin that the entire system of Christian blood magic is based on (no Adam and Eve = no original sin = no need for blood magic). They refute the entire claim that humans were intelligently engineered by a compassionate god (we clearly evolved from other animals in clunky piecemeal fashion over millions of years, the exact opposite of being built to function superbly right out of the divine factory, by a perfect, caring, all powerful sorcerer). But they also completely annihilate any chance for any caring god to exist: the Darwinian Problem of Evil is just the evolutionary side of the broader Argument from Evil I dealt with in Keller’s chapter 2. It’s an extremely damning argument, built on a vast quantity of undeniable evidence (the best and fullest articulation I know is by John Loftus in The Christian Delusion).

Keller avoids it. Like the plague.

Because it pretty much is the plague. To false worldviews like Keller’s Christianity.

Science destroys Christian belief in other ways besides. The vast evidence now of mind-brain physicalism, is so hard to reconcile with any traditional Christianity, that I suspect the Kellers of the world would declare heretics those few Christians who’ve bitten the bullet and attempted it. But though taking that tack, and admitting souls don’t exist, still leaves Christianity with the crank belief that a disembodied Superman will rebuild our physical bodies in a future, improved rebuild of the universe. For which there is no evidence whatever. Even crazier, in fact, than what the Heavens Gate cult were selling. Never mind that a real god, who knows full well the possibility and advantages of keeping the mind disembodied, would not make a world with brain-dependent minds. The evidence of science, is again evidence against Keller’s god. And that’s what it means to say science and Christianity aren’t compatible. You can’t rationally believe both.

Keller avoids that point, too.

In fact, Keller avoids bringing up any of the ways science renders Christian beliefs improbable. Because he doesn’t want his readers to know any of that. He doesn’t want to bring up how fragile cherished Christian beliefs are. Like that God declared the biosphere he made “good”…when in fact it has been a billions-years-long tornado of callous evil that only churns out a random froth of worthy outcomes alongside the horrors. Or that God answers prayers. Or that people have souls, and the disembodied dead are watching us from heaven even now. Or that magic sky spirits will soon melt the universe and rebuild our bodies after. Or that sin is actually a thing, and blood magic can actually fix it.

Christianity is an ancient, primitive worldview, based on the unscientific fantasies of deeply ignorant people. People who were geocentrists, flat earthers, and young earth creationists, who believed Adam and Eve and the Devil were real and walked the earth, who believed they were haunted by demons and talking to magical spirits. No, seriously. That’s who started Christianity, who invented the whole thing (see On the Historicity of Jesus, Chapters 4 and 5). Is it any surprise science has found out everything they thought was wrong?

Real Christian beliefs, do not stand up to scientific facts. The more you try to honestly make Christian beliefs compatible with science, the more you end up with just Naturalism on matters of fact, and Secular Humanism on matters of value. Christianity vanishes at that point. It has nothing left to offer.

Lying about the Bible

So, now Keller has hand-waved his way through the entire question of whether science is compatible with Christianity, carefully avoiding addressing any of the ways they are actually not, and making only dishonest and fancy-spun arguments from authority to hopefully distract you from noticing that. He then closes that chapter with a lie about his own myths.

Keller says that the Gospel of Matthew ends with the apostles meeting the resurrected Jesus on a mountain in Galilee, and astonishingly admits “some doubted” it was him (p. 95). Keller is amazed:

Here is the author of an early Christian document telling us that some of the founders of Christianity couldn’t believe the miracle of the resurrection, even when they were looking straight at him with their eyes and touching him with their hands. There is no other reason for this to be in the account unless it really happened.

Already Keller has spilled a whole soup of lies with this sentence.

In fact, this document was not early—it was written an entire human lifetime after the events it relates, by authors unknown, citing no sources. In fact, Matthew never mentions anyone touching Jesus. That exaggeration of the legend came in later iterations of the myth, decades later (first in Luke, then even more wildly embellished in John). In fact, the only eyewitness we have an account from (Paul), says Jesus was seen spiritually, by revelation, “inside” the witnesser; he never mentions anyone seeing Jesus in any other way (Galatians 1:11-16; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8; 2 Corinthians 12:1-9; Romans 16:25-26). In other words, the same way all gods were and still are seen, in all religions. Which means, not in any way actually real: Christian experiences of Jesus were no more actually real, than Rastafarian experiences of King Ras, or Muslim experiences of Gabriel, or Catholic experiences of the Virgin Mary, or Mormon experiences of the angel Moroni.

This, Keller conceals from his readers. He spins this falsehood instead about what Matthew said, which isn’t even what Matthew said, nor what the actual eyewitnesses said. And on top of all that, he throws a complete non sequitur at you, hoping to trick you into thinking he’s made a good argument: he claims there is no other reason for Matthew to have included what he did, other than that it was true. Hmmm. Really? Because what mythmakers always do, is make up stories to explain things they want or don’t like…like why so many of the original sect gave up belief in it and left.

In other words, far from “no” other reason, there is at least one obvious reason: Matthew was writing in an era when it was well known many people had left the faith, even those among the first to found it. He needs to weave a tale, to account for the unfaithful. And he draws from the parallel his entire Gospel creates between Jesus and Moses: having Jesus now appear “on a mountain” and deliver his final commandments, just like Moses; and just as many Jews apostatized against Moses despite all the evidence of his miracles, returning to idolatry (and who were then righteously struck down), so some of the followers of Jesus did (and, we are to conclude, God will see to them for their folly, too).

But we aren’t stuck with that. There are other possible reasons. All of them vastly more common—and thus vastly more likely—than the magical reanimation of corpses. Indeed, even if we suppose a story came down to Matthew, having distorted what witnesses originally said, about witnessing their god in inner visions, into meeting their god bodily on a mountain, so, too, what witnesses originally said about some of their number not receiving or not believing the visions they received, became distorted into the witnesses meeting Jesus on a mountain not believing it was him. That doesn’t even require supposing Matthew is contriving. He’s just recording a legend that became distorted in the retelling over the course of many decades.

So already Keller is bullshitting us. Lying about his Bible; concealing obvious alternative explanations that are scientifically far more likely. But what he wants to do with this lie, he gets to next: in the Gospels, Keller claims, “you never see [Jesus] say something like: ‘See that tree over there? Watch me make it burst into flames!’ Instead, he used miraculous power to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead” (p. 95). And therefore, “we modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order.” Huzzah. So stop asking for evidence of miracles you silly people!

But. Um. No. First, Jesus does wither a tree to display his power over the natural order; he does halt a storm and walk on water; he does command two thousand pigs to drown themselves; he does conjure food and wine from nearly nought; he does fly into outer space before witnesses. These are quite clearly violations of the natural order. So Keller is once again lying even about his own myths. Even his own examples contradict him—how is reversing death, restoring the natural order? There is nothing natural about the spectacular resurrection of the corpse of Lazarus. Or the blotting out of the sun for three hours, the rock-cracking earthquakes signaling the god’s death, the miraculous tearing in two of the eighty-foot-tall temple curtain, the spontaneous netting of supernatural quantities of fish. If this is starting to sound like quite a yarn, well, that’s because it is.

Keller wants the evidence of the resurrection, to count against the evidence of the sciences that these things don’t happen. But what the evidence of the sciences tells us is that they happen all the time—people often make up myths to explain uncomfortable facts (why many of the original sect stopped believing and abandoned it); people often in history convince themselves that a stranger is a deceased loved one (while others present, not so affected, disagree); in all cultures accepting of the claim, people often mistake dreams and hallucinations for authentic appearances of their gods; and their accounts of mere dreams and visions often get rapidly distorted into wild legends of meeting the gods in person; and so on. The story in Matthew was totally made up—between the time of eyewitnesses like Paul, and anonymous mythographers a lifetime later, what began as ordinary inner visions was altered into wild tales of bodily encounters on mountains; and the apostasy of early adopters, was altered into wild tales of spiritual blindness in the face of exaggerated proofs. Science explains all this perfectly. Christianity makes no sense of it at all.

Once again, the fact that we never get to see any of these things, is precisely how we know they are made up; and why we should not believe gods exist who do them. When I witness a man wither fig trees, walk on water, command the weather, transmute matter, cast demons into thousands of pigs, darken the sun, ignite earthquakes, summon hordes of fish, reanimate corpses, cure leprosy at a touch, restore severed ears, multiply a single picnic basket into a food supply for thousands, fly unaided into space, and telekinetically rip apart gigantic stage curtains, then maybe we can have a conversation about what all that then implies. But we aren’t even at that point. That shit never happens. Because it never does. And never did.

And that’s why science and Christianity are not rationally compatible. Even if you defy Keller and try to stay Christian and in line with science by admitting none of that ever happened, you will have no rational reason left to believe in Christianity. Because you feel Jesus in your heart? Science proves every religion causes people to feel different gods in their hearts, proving that’s fake. Worse, because no real Christian God would allow that to be the case, not only can we be sure those experiences are false, their being false (there being so many false experiences of so many false gods) assures us that Christianity itself is false. So what do you have left? That ancient myths said Jesus rose from the dead? Science proves every religion has myths that claim miracles proving their truth, proving that’s fake, too. And again, no real Christian God would allow that. So that it happens anyway, is scientific evidence against the very existence of the Christian God—just as it proves the falsity of every other.

And so on. The same thing happens, with every piece of evidence you try to conjure in defense of the Christian religion.

So enough already. At some point you have to call it for what it is.

Summary

Christianity as a worldview is aptly summed up by a now-popular proverb:

Christianity is the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

That’s actually correct. It’s also embarrassingly crazy. Which is why Christians keep trying to distance themselves from the actual belief-system they inherited, by trying to “reinvent” it so as to get rid of all the crazy shit science has since refuted. No rib woman. No talking snakes. No magical trees. No evil force in your soul. In fact, no soul. No telepathy. No magical immortality spells. No self-fathering sky spirits. In fact, no sky spirits. Certainly no reanimated corpses.

Elaborate hypotheses are invented to explain all those stories away and still try to get Christianity to make sense, when in fact it began as all that—a belief about demonic forces and blood magic. And those new elaborate hypotheses, are just made up, backed by no real evidence they’re true. Worse, unlike liberal Christians, die-hards like Keller still have to buy some of the crazy. It’s a yes to sky spirits, souls, evil forces, telepathy, blood magic, and reanimated corpses for him. But that just tanks any claim that Christianity is compatible with science.

In the end, the only Christianity that’s compatible with science, is a Christianity that abandons belief in the supernatural altogether—because no science supports any of it, yet should have proved a lot of it by now; but in fact, instead, science has outright disproved a lot of it. But then, of course, a Christianity without the supernatural, is really just Naturalist Secular Humanism…if it also abandons all its dogmas that have no basis in evidence. Which will include a lot of its moral dogmas, too. There is nothing left then to distinguish it as “Christianity.” Sifting away all the dust to hunt for the nuggets, all we discover, is that Christianity is the dust. The nuggets left behind by actual evidence, are no more the special province of Christian thought, than science itself is.

To try and trick his readers into not discovering this, Keller lies. He lies when he says the failure of science to prove a single miracle, means it’s rational to believe in miracles. He lies when he says evolution and Christianity are logically compatible—he even lies when he says the fact that some people mix the two, is evidence they are logically compatible; he lies about what Dawkins said about all this; he lies about what Gould and Nagel would say about it. Keller lies about what the polls and the data say, hoping to trick you into thinking that a belief in an impersonal God is compatible with Christianity, and that surely there are other reasons that more learning about the world leads to less belief in a god—besides the obvious—even though he can find no reliable scientific evidence to support that contention, just the biased whims of a theologian.

Keller hides from his readers all the real ways science contradicts Christianity (undermining belief in the soul; in original sin; in the afterlife; in miracles; in magic; in demons; in the efficacy of prayer; in the wise design of the animal kingdom, and people). And feeds them hand-waving and non sequiturs instead. He never tells his readers how the evidence of mind-brain physicalism, contradicts the very idea of the Christian god. As does the brutality and inefficiency and caprice of evolution. As does the curiously missing evidence for any miracles, spirits, or magic, outside anonymous ancient myths, and modern tall tales.

Keller lies about what his own New Testament says. And he lies about there being no good explanations for why it says what it actually does say (“besides it being miraculously true”). He lies by not telling his readers other religions have their own equal share of miracle tales, visions, and feelings of divine presences in the heart, which Christians must all believe false. And he lies by not telling his readers that all the evidence and arguments establishing their miracles and visions and feelings are false, also establishes all of Christianity’s miracles and visions and feelings are false.

In the end, Keller just hides all the evidence that Christianity is false. And just puts on a straight face, claiming there is no evidence it’s false. Hoping, dearly hoping…that no one checks.

 

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Next I’ll discuss Keller’s Chapter 7 (that link will go live later this month), in which he tries arguing the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, or science, and is still totes literally true.

6 comments

  1. Smitty Baccall June 13, 2017, 12:32 am

    In your live debates, how come you don’t hammer the fact that Jesus is from Septuagint version of Zechariah 3 and 6?

    Reply
    1. Because that’s far too complicated and esoteric even to establish the fact of it to the satisfaction of someone irrationally set against believing it; much less to explain the logical consequences of their relevance to people who don’t understand even basic logic, much less the complex probability reasoning this pertains to. Live debates can’t go into that kind of detail. They never can. There is not even remotely enough time. That’s why live debates are completely useless for deciding any question. People need to accept that fact. Live debates can only précis larger sets of arguments and evidence at a high level of abtraction and in broad scope. The truth requires following up on the details later. Which takes many, many hours of work, even when the research has all been done for you already and laid out in a convenient location. Hence, only books, not debates, have any realistic chance of deciding what’s true.

      Reply
      1. Smitty Baccall June 13, 2017, 1:53 pm

        It is way more complicated to debate the ‘historical details’ in the NT, than just simply pointing out that Jesus is from the Old Greek version of Zechariah 3 and 6.

        But do what you wish my friend.

        Reply
        1. That’s not the case, though. Jesus is not simply “from” the Septuagint. Philo’s archangel Jesus is not a crucified and risen demigod appearing in visions to a recent sect of anti-temple Jews. So that there was such an archangel before Christianity started, is not itself sufficient evidence the Jesus of the NT didn’t exist. For example, historicity already requires that his followers rapidly assumed he was that angel Jesus, descended among men to die (no other theory of the evidence can explain Paul’s describing his Jesus as that Jesus). Indeed, Jesus himself may have claimed that. So that being the case, does not argue against historicity. All it does is eliminate some arguments against mythicism; which is not the same thing as arguing for mythicism. The effect on the probability is a complicated matter of modulating the prior probability of mythicism against a certain set of claims that that prior should be lower. That’s too esoteric and complicated to explain in a debate. And wouldn’t be sufficient to win any debate.

  2. Thanks Richard, good demolition of Keller’s literal faith. But your implied conclusion that the existence of all these unscientific claims demolishes potential Christian coherence does not follow. All it shows is that the claim is untrue that original Christian texts describe literal facts. Christianity could be salvaged by recognition that originally allegorical ideas were corrupted into literal belief.

    I dispute your claim that “Christianity can only be “compatible” with science if it becomes Secular Humanism “plus” special reverence for a collection of ancient myths it doesn’t regard as fact, and reinterprets completely contrary to their original meaning and intent.”

    It is not clear that the original authors ever intended their myths to be accepted by scholars as literal, even though this literal acceptance looks likely for their intention regarding popular belief.

    You are assuming the original meaning was as literal fact. There is good evidence against that assumption. If instead, the original intent was symbolic allegory, then reconstructing this meaning can potentially salvage a coherent ontology within Christian theology.

    Augustine, for all his faults, gives good indication of this rejection of literal belief in favour of allegory. For example he says in his commentary on Genesis that anyone who believes in seven literal days of creation is an idiot, and proceeds in Of The Six Ages of the World to develop an allegorical interpretation, based on the idea in 2 Peter and Psalm 90 that a thousand years are as a day for God.

    This Christian mythology provides a structure of time and history that surprisingly has some coherence, not as young earth creationism, but rather as allegory for precession of the equinox, which does in fact cause a slow physical climate cycle around twenty thousand years long. Precession produces ‘seasons’ in which ‘fall’ matches to the period of Christian myth, readily provable by modern astronomy in the Milankovitch cycles of glaciation driven by precession.

    My point here is that rejection of literalism does not entail that Christian myth has no meaning or value, but leaves open the possibility that Christianity points to a deeper natural meaning and insight, and can reform to become compatible with scientific knowledge.

    If all Christian miracle claims were originally meant as parables, including the claimed existence of Jesus, but were later corrupted into literal belief, it remains possible to retain some value in these stories. Proving the error of literal belief does not address the possible parabolic meaning.

    For example the cross and resurrection myth has similar form as the daily and annual death and rebirth of the sun. The Christian passion story plausibly evolved as an anthropomorphisation of solar myth. If so, then a rejection of all meaning in the passion story implies a rejection of all meaning in solar myth, with all its evolutionary adaptivity and utility as a way of describing natural fertility cycles.

    On your point about the lack of moral benefit of Christianity, the fact that Christian societies and social classes are generally of above average wealth is an indication that something of value may exist within this belief framework, as a causal factor in the social and economic success of Christians. The sociologist Max Weber argued on those lines in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

    Such benefit can endure even after a society has secularised, with social values displaying an enduring legacy of Christian beliefs such as in human rights and love, which emerge logically from the core Christian idea that the last are first in the kingdom of God.

    Jettisoning the supernatural is essential for rational credibility, but abandoning dogma does not necessarily have to throw out the baby of allegorical meaning with the bathwater of supernatural belief.

    Reply
    1. Allegory is only honest, when it is admitted to be and treated as fiction.

      And allegorical claims, like all claims, can be false. They are therefore subject to test, require a burden of evidence, and can be struck down by critical thinking.

      We already have all that. It’s called movies, plays, television, and novels. We don’t need religion for any of it.

      As to your interpretations of Christian myths, that’s all bullshit you just made up. It’s not what the stories say or were ever intended to mean. And no such chronological matches exist. Thus, again, you are proving it can be made to mean anything whatever. And that which means anything, means nothing. But worse, the fact that you are willing to ignore actual scientific facts to fabricate the meaning you want, proves why religion is dangerous. We need to get rid of it. Just stick with the scientific facts. They are far more glorious by themselves, than a crap genocidal rape book.

      And as to the nonsense claim that Christianity had anything to do with the West’s dominance on the planet: that’s also bullshit. We figured out the steam engine first. Period. An accident of history. Nothing else made any relevant difference.

      Reply

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