November 29, 2009
jim at RvA has responded to Reason, Intellect, Religion, & Belief. Per the usual format, my response follows, but we should address some tangential things which don’t relate to jim’s actual criticism of my post, first. I suspect that jim composed his response either drunk, or buzzed, because of the way it “went off.” I emailed jim and asked him to distill his criticisms into concise, clearly-stated objections. He refused, and hit me with the surprise of posting that email, instead. Well! It’s like that, eh?
In jim’s Rules of Engagement for these debates — which he himself drafted and I agreed to in full — we find the stipulation that my word would be the last word in these discussions:
Whenever cl posts an article at his blog that I’m interested in speaking to, I’ create a new post over here, provide the link to his post, then post my own commentary… cl will have a standing invitation to email any rebuttal or remarks he cares to offer to me, which I will post as an addendum to my piece, complete and unabridged. And that, dear readers, is where the conversation will end. No other codicils or alterations will be allowed, except for perhaps embarrassing spelling errors, poor word choice or other insubstantial brain farts, which we all make from time to time…and that will be it! Since I’ll be the one making the challenge, I thought it only fair that cl be offered the last word, with absolutely no rebuttals from me whatsoever.
–jim, bold mine
Apparently his own word doesn’t mean much even to himself, because jim threw all that talk to the wind and took the (rather vicious) last words in his response, of course, exactly like he said he wouldn’t. Further, jim did this in response to an email comment I sent him, which he posted as my response, but was not intended as my response. Since jim tends to delete that which is disagreeable to his position, I’ve included a screenshot of the broken promise, here, where it cannot be deleted or changed. I suggest reading it, too. My favorite part was,
..all you’ve really got is a knack for flame wars. I figured this format would bug you in the end, because it takes you out of your comfort zone, where you can mitigate, seek allies, and rile everybody up to your heart’s content. On the other hand, I had hopes that you might find value in rising above all that. But you can’t do it, can you? This is what you like, arguing towards no purpose… You’re nothing but a big baby, cl. Put up or shut up, ya wuss… Suck THAT ass, you internet miscreant. Grow some… Dry your eyes, cl, put your pacifier back in,
The reason that was my favorite part is because directly after all that, jim closed with,
..you are free to respond with grown up words and sentences.
Uhh… okay, I guess! But, if your own language is being offered as examples of “grown up words and sentences,” I think I’d rather stay juvenile!
Whereas the first two dialogs with jim seemed productive, I didn’t enjoy this one as much. As you can see, he ended up getting all pissy, and resorting to name-calling. Separating his emotion from his logic was very difficult this time. It tied my head in knots just trying, but if I don’t try, he wins by default — at least in his own mind.
As far as “relevant objections” are concerned, it didn’t take long to have to slam on the brakes:
..at this point we’ve left the world of ideas and have entered the field of so-called ‘experiential truths’, realities poorly represented by things such as logical concepts,
His language is imprecise, as it is unclear exactly what “at this point” refers to, but the implication I got was that “experiential truths are poorly represented by logical concepts.” If that’s all jim means to say, I don’t see why he wasted the time. The main thrust of my post was what it takes to enable belief. Though his format doesn’t allow him to respond at his blog (except when he wants to insult me, as we just saw), I’d ask jim for an example of something I believe that is “poorly represented by logical concepts,” and how any of that relates to what it takes to enable belief.
Moving along, jim says,
This, I think, is the spirit of cl’s latest essay, that there are relational issues between God and mankind which can’t even be addressed through standard reasoning processes, much less resolved.
Well, “yes” and “no” to that one:
1) “Yes” in the simple fact that if the Bible is true, then the authority and power are God’s, not ours. Speaking of “logical concepts,” here’s one to illustrate that we abide by similar intuitive knowledge here on Earth.
Let’s say Bill is over 18, but having trouble standing on his own two feet in the world, and just got kicked out of yet another apartment. His parents are gracious enough to let him return home rent-free for as long as he needs to get back on his feet. Because they seek the ultimate best for Bill, they are within reason to establish rules, especially given their knowledge of Bill as parents. Since Bill will be enjoying their privileges, Bill is within reason to follow his parents’ rules. It’s very simple: if Bill wants to return home, Bill is at the whim of his parents’ authority, and needs to obey their rules. Further, the parents are justified in making adherence to the rules a contingent part of Bill’s privilege to return to their house.
Would Bill be within reason to demand that his parents allow him to return home on whatever terms he wishes? Of course not.
The logical concept to support this experiential truth is — just as Bill’s living crisis could only be resolved by acquiescence to an authority — his parents — there are relational issues between God and mankind that can only be resolved by acquiescence to an Authority — God. In ALL situations where privileges are granted by an authority, the absolute necessity of acquiescence to authority becomes a brute fact.
2) “No” in the sense that brute facts are not off limits to reason or rationality.
Continuing, in his second paragraph, jim says,
First of all, I think cl is to be commended for clarifying his stance..
I submit that this is disingenuous. The “clarification” my detractors have portrayed as “lacking” has been extant for some time now; 6, 7 months maybe? I can’t recall exactly. Thing is, my detractors tend not to look around before they make their assumptions, as jim’s response clearly confirms.
Next on jim’s list of objections,
While the addendum ‘and known’ is a bit obscure to interpret with much certitude, the rest of the sentence makes it very clear that we’re no longer talking about the acceptance as fact that the biblical God exists.
Now, for someone whose chief complaint was often “semantics,” I find this ironic. We are still “talking about the acceptance as fact that the biblical God exists.” When I say belief, I refer to “acceptance as fact that the biblical God exists.” When I say believer or saint, I refer to someone with belief who’s acted proactively by “accepting the Gospel” (for lack of a better phrase). Lastly, the biblical definition of belief *is* a regenerated soul. No point in the three-tier definition mutually excludes, so why does jim devote such lengthy paragraphs to magnifying complementary variation? I don’t see the point when even jim admits,
..these definitions aren’t necessarily exclusive.
He’s right; they’re not. So then, besides complaining about semantics, what’s the point? Ah, it’s coming…
All jim’s complaining about definitions comes down to,
[a regenerated spirit] really isn’t belief at all… Now, one might insist at this point that I’m missing the obvious, that the natural progression is B1 through B2 culminating in B3 i.e. a person comes to believe that God is a fact, acquiesces to the will of God, and is subsequently ‘regenerated’. This is the way I think most Christians see things, and is indeed the basis of the sinners prayer. “Dear Lord, I accept that You are who You say You are in the bible, I renounce my sinful ways and vow to follow You, and ask you into my life.” However, cl seems to disagree with this salvation formula when he says… (jim)
We might be tempted to say, “That’s not so, after all, I came to believe because of such-and-such evidence or so-and-so’s argument.” If that’s the case, our spirits may not have ever been regenerated at all. (cl)
Here’s another example of why I didn’t like this exchange with jim very much (besides all the unnecessary emotion, verbosity, name-calling, and willful breaking of his own rules). Notice how the discussion shifts focus away from my beliefs as I believe them, towards jim making comparisons to the religious dogma believed by others? What does jim expect to gain by comparing what he thinks I believe, to things I don’t necessarily believe? For example,
This is the doctrine of total depravity, which basically states that there’s nothing left good in us which would even begin to budge us in God’s direction. Hence, God is forced to do all the work.
[FACEPALM] This is exactly what I sought to avoid, and exactly why I often don’t describe myself as anything beyond a non-atheist. Emboldened by my connection of “belief” to “Christ,” jim nows feels confident enough to blather on about anything from Arminianism to Calvinism to the doctrine of total depravity, and this is exactly all the crap that I don’t want to discuss when it comes to (a)theism: religion. This is exactly why I don’t like to run around in a Christian clown suit: you get every smart Joe off the block telling you how what they think you believe doesn’t make sense.
Here, without even asking me if the association is in fact valid, jim just associates my position with the “doctrine of total depravity.” Instead of, say, asking my opinion of the doctrine of total depravity, or asking me to explain how my view differs, jim just grabs the biggest brush he can find, and starts painting. I guess that’s the way to do it if all you’re concerned about is painting a picture! Next thing I know he’ll be on another site jabbing me for being a Calvinist.
In fact, the whole rest of his post is basically verbose jesting, lacking any substance or concise objection whatsoever:
Sort of like how He seems to have gone out of His way to make the universe appear billions of years old, when it’s actually only a few thousand years old. Man, that Jehovah really likes fucking with the minds of the peasantry, huh?
Bah. jim even conceded that the second half of his reply was, “just for fun.” Well, I’m not in this for fun, jim. It’s not “fun” to have to spend an hour (or more) cleaning up unnecessary messes.
Let’s look at one more transaction:
This is why Jesus often rebuked those who demanded miraculous signs: they’re a cheap form of flattery easily employable by any supernatural agent who’s gained a foothold. (cl)
And yet Jesus turned water into wine at a party. Who was up next? Kreskin? (jim)
Ha-ha jim, you’re so funny! Earlier, you asked “how can we be humble?” Well, a great place to start would be to not take lessons from PhillyChief, and to actually read instead of mock. If you would have tried that, you might have noticed that the water-to-wine incident was not a response to the demands of doubters. Context is everything; unless of course the truth is irrelevant.
In every case I’m aware of, the people Jesus rebuked for demanding a sign were the religious brickheads of His time. Jesus did “turn water into wine at a party,” but not in response to doubters. You took the verse and put it in your own context to make a false point and get a laugh at my expense.
That, my friend, is amateur scholarship.
My offer stands: if you can drop the vitriol and distill your complaints down to simple, concise objections like I asked you to, I’ll gladly address them. Other than that, I’ve got no time to parse the ramblings of a man who disrespects both his interlocutor and his own rules.