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#318 Are My Arguments Totally Nonsensical?

May 19, 2013
Q

Dear Dr. Craig,

My Name is Michael, and I campaign in the UK against the religious indoctrination of children.

I have viewed many of your debates with interest, and I have to say - without the intent of appearing insulting - that your content always brings to the fore, the concept of the emperor's new clothes.

It seems that your following can only be pretending to agree with - and accept - your arguments, because they feel that they are supposed to understand them in order to be considered Christians. But in actuality, your arguments require more credulity to accept, than the core concepts of Christianity itself. You seem to be of the view that: it is difficult to challenge your arguments. This is not because they are good sound arguments; it is because they are totally nonsensical.

I could give you an argument in your own style: We could if we wanted to, make water run uphill without the use of mechanical energy, and in doing so solve the planet's energy crisis in a heartbeat; if we would only be prepared to pray hard enough to make water run uphill. The reason water does not run uphill, is not because it is impossible to make water do so, it is simply because no one has yet prayed hard enough to initiate the process. When someone does finally pray hard enough, water will indeed start to run uphill.

Ok, this sounds utterly ridiculous as an argument; but it cannot be proven wrong, even although it clearly is. As such, it mirrors the constructs of your own arguments precisely.

To your own apologetic work I would say, you can along with other theologians state as many times as you like that there is written evidence for the historic existence of the Jesus character, but the hard fact is that this is a fallacious statement; no matter how many times it is claimed, or by how many people; it is simply a false statement.

So, to forward sensible arguments, I invite you to view a documentary titled 'Just Suppose' which proves by means of mutual exclusion that you are quite incorrect in your defence of a historical 1 to 30 CE Jesus character. The character is, without question, a mythical construct.

All best regards

Michael

United States

Dr. craig’s response


A

I’m glad that you found your way to www.Reasonablefaith.org, Michael, and I welcome your question about the apologetic arguments I’ve defended.

Unfortunately, you begin by insulting, not me, but thousands of others--many of whom have become Christians or have returned to Christian faith by being convinced by the arguments--, when you say that they “can only be pretending to agree with - and accept - your arguments, because they feel that they are supposed to understand them in order to be considered Christians.” This claim is on the face of it incredible. Are you so audacious as to think that all these people are prevaricators? Do you really think that these people don’t understand the arguments? To claim that they merely pretend to do so in order to be considered Christians is preposterous, Michael. I have never in my life met anyone who thinks that in order to be considered a Christian he has to understand these arguments.

So your claim is prima facie highly improbable and thus requires strong evidence if we are to accept it. So what evidence do you present in support of your bold assertion? Here it’s hard for me to discern any evidence you present to back up your claim. The best shot I can give is that you think that the arguments are totally nonsensical; therefore, those who claim to accept them do not really understand them but must be merely pretending to do so. But that is a bad argument, Michael. For even if the arguments are nonsensical, so long as those who accept them think that they make sense, they may sincerely accept them. Those of us who think the arguments make sense may be mistaken (and we welcome your refutations), but we are not merely pretending. If this seems unlikely to you, I invite you to consider your own case: you apparently accept this really bad argument, and yet I do not accuse you of merely pretending to do so.

You then go on to say that the reason the arguments are “difficult to challenge” is not because they are sound but because “they are totally nonsensical.” Now this is a very strange line of attack, Michael. I should have thought that if you could show that an argument is totally nonsensical, that would constitute a very serious challenge to that argument! Philosophers will often try to show that a position is logically incoherent or self-refuting or reduces to absurdity. Those are all powerful challenges to an argument. When you say that my arguments are difficult challenge because they are totally nonsensical, you thereby insult all the philosophers, like Graham Oppy or Quentin Smith or J. Howard Sobel, who have offered serious challenges to the premises of my arguments (not to mention all the peer-reviewed professional journals and academic presses who have published these arguments). Do you suppose that they are just pretending, too?

Again, we should require some strong evidence to think that all these philosophers are mistaken in thinking that these nonsensical arguments, whether sound or unsound, make sense. So what is your evidence? --a parody in the “style” of my arguments. But if you have any familiarity with my work, Michael, you can surely recognize that your parody does not resemble in any respect my arguments. My arguments are typically presented in simple deductive syllogisms, e.g.,

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore the universe has a cause.

and

4. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

5. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

6. Therefore, it is due to design.

Now none of the premises of these arguments is nonsensical, Michael. Philosophers and physicists write and talk about these statements all the time. So if you want to avoid the conclusions of these arguments, you must reject at least one of their premises as false. So I invite you to tell me: which premise do you reject and why? Don’t hide behind insults; engage the arguments.

With respect to your parody, I should say that the premise

1*. If someone prays hard enough, water will run uphill.

has no evidence in support of its truth; neither is it intuitively true. Even theists have no reason to think it true. By contrast, I present arguments and evidence in support of the premises of my arguments. Look, for example, at the four lines of defense I offer in behalf of the beginning of the universe or the evidence against chance as an explanation of fine-tuning. My arguments can definitely be “proven wrong,” as you put it. The premises can be either refuted or at least undercut.

Michael, it is not theologians who state that Jesus of Nazareth was a historical person, but professional historians. In denying this fact you are flirting with kookdom. On this score the Christian can rest comfortably within the historical mainstream and leave you on the outside with the cranks. Even you have to admit that, for better or worse, that is where things stand. I invite you to read Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist?, a book by a non-Christian New Testament scholar. He really takes your mythicists to task for their historical incompetence and tendentiousness. When you start aligning yourself with such people, then we see clearly just who it is that thinks the Emperor gorgeously arrayed.

- William Lane Craig