Transcript and Thoughts on My Debate with Justin Schieber

by Max Andrews

Over the last month or two I’ve been working on a written/audio debate with Justin Schieber of Reasonable Doubts. The topic of the debate was “Does the Christian God Exist?” I imagine the debate may have been released earlier had it not been for my delayed responses due to health issues and moving out of our house and preparing to embark on our move to Scotland. I have apologized to Mr. Schieber concerning this and I extend apologies to the readers and listeners.

I was actually expecting much stronger arguments from Mr. Schieber. Two arguments were off topic and the other one was a far metaphysical and modal stretch. You’ll be able to read his arguments in full but here are my thoughts :

  1. The problem of non-God objects: Schieber argues that if God existed he would not create anything and would’ve preferred the null-world, which he calls “God-world.” The null-world is the state of affairs in which only God exists. The problem with this is that it is metaphysically and modally absurd requiring a commitment to a metaphysically necessary universe. That’s one of the biggest bullets for anyone to bite! This smacks in the face of my contingency argument, for which I find much stronger philosophical and scientific evidence for. The argument against God stating that because something exists God cannot exist is just absurd.
  2. The problem of hell: Mr. Schieber argues that because “God sends people to hell” (I argue that people send themselves to hell–he overlooks a consistent infralapsarian soteriology) God cannot exist. This argument is off topic. He provides no exegetical arguments, which is fine for a brief introduction to the argument. I respond, in turn, with philosophical and theological arguments for the legitimacy of hell in light of divine love and justice (a topic that went untouched by him). This argument, at best, usurps philosophical presuppositions that would require a modification to an eschatological hermeneutic. The conclusion doesn’t even get close to the non-existence of God. This was simply off topic.
  3. I don’t even know what to call this third argument. In short, we cannot know whether or not God is lying to us in the Bible. I admit, I had many sighs when responding to this one. I argue that this is a horribly flawed religious epistemology. Even if we grant this ridiculous epistemology, sticking with Mr. Schieber’s attempts for a probability calculus, the background information of God being a maximally perfect being would always render a certainty of 1 that God is not lying or deceiving us. God isn’t a utilitarian… Again, even if this argument is correct it could possibly give warrant to doubting inerrancy. Again, with disappointment, this argument is off topic. (Mr. Schieber even notes that this argument cannot argue for the non-existence of God so I don’t know why it was even included in the debate.)

Below is the debate transcript.

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This debate was not a live debate, rather it was a series of audio exchanges that took place through the months of June and July of 2013.  The exchanges were according to agreed upon time limitations on each section. For each of their several sections, the debaters were given at least a week to analyze, script and record their entries before submitting it to their opponent.  Each submission, has been edited together in the agreed upon order for your listening interest.  As one speaker ends, the next will follow without interruption.

20 minutes were allowed to each debater for opening statements.
Followed by 20 minutes to each for first rebuttals.
Then 15 minutes to each for a second round of rebuttals.
Then 5 minutes to each for closing statements.

Arguing in the affirmative is Max Andrews. In the negative, Justin Schieber.

Max Andrews … has a BS in Religion specializing in Biblical Studies and an MA in Philosophical Studies from Liberty University. His primary research is on the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God as it relates to multiverse scenarios. Max has two papers in the Cornell University History and Philosophy of Physics pre-print archive on Albert Einstein and scientific theology as well as the relationship between scientific realism and epistemology. He has also written a review in the Midwestern Journal of Theology on Molinism, which concerns the relationship between divine omniscience, human freedom, and providence. Last November he coauthored a paper on God and the multiverse with David Beck, which was presented at the Evangelical Philosophical Society’s annual conference in Milwaukee. Additionally, in 2010 Max studied at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle, Washington. Max has been a member of Phi Sigma Tau, the National Honors Society for Philosophy, and was an officer for the Philosophy Club and Ratio Christi during his graduate studies. This summer Max and his wife, Leah, will be moving to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland to begin his PhD in Philosophy under Alasdair Richmond. His dissertation will be on the fine-tuning of nomic behavior in multiverse scenarios and the ontology of the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics.

Justin Schieber is Co-Host of Reasonable Doubts, the radio show and Podcast.

Reasonable Doubts wants to thank Max Andrews for his participation in this debate and wishes him well as he continues his education at the University of Edinburgh…

Opening Arguments – Max Andrews

I first want to thank Mr. Schieber and Reasonable Doubts for inviting me to participate in this debate.

I will be defending the proposition “the God of Christianity exists.”  To defend my case I will present two arguments from science and philosophy that God exists and a third argument identifying God as the God of Christianity. It will be a conjunction of these arguments that will construct a strong evidential and cumulative case for the existence of God.

The Thomistic Cosmological Argument[1]

  1. There are contingent constituents to the universe.
  2. Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe (U) is very, very unlikely under the hypothesis that these constituents are themselves uncaused or self-caused (~Cu): that is, P(U|~Cu & k) ≪ 1.
  3. Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe is not unlikely under the hypothesis of a first uncaused cause (Cu): that is, ~P(U|Cu & k) ≪ 1.
  4. Therefore, U strongly supports Cu over ~Cu.

The constituents of the universe include galaxies, planets, stars, cars, humans, leptons, bosons, and other particles. For the constituents of the universe to be uncaused that would mean it is metaphysically necessary. For something to be metaphysically necessary that means that it could not have failed to exist—it exists in every possible world.

For something to be self-caused it must be simultaneously antecedent to itself to produce itself as its own effect. But this contradictory. This would be akin to the ultimate bootstrapping trick.

Our last option is for the universe to be contingent. Something is contingent if and only if it is not necessarily false and not necessarily true. In other words, it might or might not have existed. We observe that some things in the universe are contingent—that is, it owes its existence to something else.

What we observe in the universe consists of a network of cause and effects. This network of causes must have an infinite regress of other contingent causes, be self-caused, or have a first non-contingent cause. However, a network of contingent causes cannot go on to infinity. In such a series, the intermediate causes have no power of their own but are mere effects of the preceding causes. For instance, think of a train. Boxcar A is pulled by B, but only because B is pulled by C. Even if the boxcars number to infinity the boxcars don’t move unless a locomotive causes them to move.

Also, consider David Hume’s objection stating that you can never get an infinite cause from a finite effect.  Hume argued that if you can explain the subsets [boxcars] then you can explain the whole [infinite] set.  Paul Edwards follows Hume along similar lines, Edwards argues that each one in the series fully explains the one that depends on it. Every member is genuinely the cause of the one that follows it.  However, in explaining the first member of a set one must go out of the set to explain it.  An infinite series never gets out of the set.  One must focus on a series in which a member’s existence is explained by the preceding cause.

Because the universe is a network of contingent causes (and therefore not uncaused or self-caused) there must be a first cause in the network of contingent causes. The reason that any contingent thing exists at all (and, in particular, the world which we are part) is that it is a contingent causal consequence of a metaphysically necessary non-contingent being, a being which itself could not have failed to exist.[2]

By implication: we remain with an uncaused cause, which must be spaceless, timeless, and transcendent. Thus, to ask the question, “What caused the first uncaused cause?” is non-sensical.

[1] Thomas, SCG, Ch. XIII.

[2] Timothy O’Connor, Theism and Ultimate Explanation (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2008), 65.

The Fine-Tuning Argument

The fine-tuning argument argues that when physics and the laws of nature are expressed mathematically their values are ever so balanced in a way that permits the existence of life. I’m merely arguing that the universe is finely tuned for the essential building blocks and environments that life requires.

  1. Given the fine-tuning evidence, a life permitting universe (LPU) is very, very unlikely under the non-existence of a fine-tuner (~FT): that is, P(LPU|~FT & k) ≪ 1.
  2. Given the fine-tuning evidence, LPU is not unlikely under FT (Fine-Tuner): that is, ~P(LPU|FT & k) ≪ 1.
  3. Therefore, LPU strongly supports FT over ~FT.

So what are some of the evidences for fine-tuning?

  1. Roger Penrose calculates that the odds of the special low entropy condition having come about by chance in the absence of any constraining principles is at least as small as about one in 1010^123.[1]
  2. Strong Nuclear Force (Strong nuclear force coupling constant, gs = 15)
    1. +, No hydrogen, an essential element of life
    2. -, Only hydrogen
    3. The mass of the proton: mp =1.67 x 10-27 kg. If this were any different then atomic nuclei could not form properly.
    4. Gravitational attraction constant, G = 6.67 x 10-11 Nm2/kg2. Changing this would result in the loss of star and planetary formation—necessary conditions for life.
    5. The list is quite extensive. The 20 fundamental constants alone require values that are ever so balanced on a razors edge. What’s more is that these fundamental constants stand independent of each other but function together to allow for an anthropically friendly universe.

Anthropic rationale is crucial. Traditionally there are two forms: the weak (WAP) and the strong (SAP).  The WAP is a reflective and happenstantial inquiry: The observed values of all physical and cosmological quantities are not equally probable but they take on values restricted by the requirement that there exist sites where carbon-based life can evolve and by the requirement that the universe be old enough for it to have already done so.[2]  The SAP is much more problematic: rather than considering just one universe we envisage an ensemble of possible universes—among which the fundamental constants of nature vary. Sentient beings must find themselves to be located in a universe where the constants of nature (in addition to the spatiotemporal location) are congenial

How about the objection of course-tuning or stupid fine-tuning? All the empty space in the universe, all the dead stars, all the non-life in the universe are necessary components of the fine-tuning of the universe.

The question is whether it is more reasonable to infer the existence of a fine-tuner to produce a product that exhibits fine-tuning or whether this happened by random chance or necessity. The random chance hypothesis is so unfathomably improbable it would be unreasonable to suggest that chance is the best explanation.

Or, some may argue that the laws and behavior of physics must behave this way because it’s metaphysically necessary that they do. But from a naturalistic or Platonic perspective there doesn’t seem to be any account for why this is metaphysically necessary since counterfactual depictions of these values are certainly feasible and coherent.

The conclusion follows logically from the premises.  This gets us to an extremely intelligent mind. The amount of information, the balance of this information content expressed in physics, and the mathematical language of physics require an explanation and the best explanation, based on our experience, is that a mind was causally antecedent to the information we observe. Thus, the evidence of the fine-tuning we observe, the values of constants and laws of nature, is much, much more likely under the hypothesis that there is a fine-tuner.

[1] Roger Penrose, The Empreror’s New Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 343.

[2] John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 16.

The Resurrection of Jesus

The conclusion that God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead is the best explanation to account for five historical facts: 1) Jesus died by crucifixion, 2) the apostles claimed to have seen resurrection appearances of Jesus, 3) the conversion of Paul, 4) the conversion of James, 5) and the empty tomb. These facts are supported by extrabiblical data and do not assume biblical inerrancy or inspiration. This argument merely uses the New Testament as any other texts of antiquity. Rejecting the Bible simply because it’s in the Bible falls into the historiographical forbidden category. These blanket statements won’t do. I’m merely treating the NT as an ancient volume of literature.

The fact that Jesus was executed by crucifixion is recorded in all four gospels as well as being recorded in a number of non-Christian sources.

Josephus writes, “When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the hieghest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified.”[1] Lucian of Samosata writes, “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.”[2] Mara Bar-Serapion, writing to his son from prison stated, “Or [what advantage came to] the Jews by the murder of their Wise King, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away from them.”[3] The Talmud reports that “on the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged.”[4] The death of Jesus is also attested by many other extra-biblical accounts such as Tacitus in Annals (15.44) and Julius Africanus’ Chronicle.

Research published in JAMA, a leading medical journal, demonstrated that death by crucifixion meant death by asphyxiation. The Roman soldiers, professional killers, ensured that Jesus was dead. When Jesus appeared to be dead a Roman solider pierced Jesus’ heart and water came out of the sac, which surrounds the heart indicating that Jesus was dead.

The fact that the apostles claimed and believed that Jesus died and rose again has much support. We have reason to believe that the apostles claimed it because that would be the best explanation for Paul’s experience and his account.  In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church (AD 55), he wrote, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what  I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” These creedal clauses can be found in Mark and in Acts describing its early development.[5] In Galatians 2, when Paul describes his visit back to Jerusalem and met with the apostles for the first time he said that they added nothing to his gospel. This traces Paul’s knowledge of the events to within five years of the resurrection.

Additionally, the oral transmission was very reliable. The written tradition was reliable as well and can be traced back to attestation and affirmation by Polycarp, a disciple of John.

The disciples were not expecting the Christ and Messiah to be a spiritual Messiah, rather, they expected the Messiah to be a political Messiah redeeming indentured Israel from Roman captivity and rule. According to church tradition, eleven of the twelve disciples (later apostles) died for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus. What can account for such belief and fortitude? It would be unlikely that the disciples contrived the resurrection as a means of social, spiritual, or a political influence. All eleven died independently from each other and never retracted their belief. There are martyrs today but there would be no reasonable explanation for why the disciples would die for something they knew to be false and never retracted it, independent of each other’s influence, before their deaths. Paul accounted for the disciples’ belief in the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15.9-11 and Galatians 2.1-10

If the apostles knew that what they were claiming was a lie then that radically decreases the prior probability that one would die for a belief that one knows to be false. The apostles were eyewitnesses and they would be the ones to know whether or not they fabricated their claims or if they’re actually true. No one dies for something they know to be a lie. Liars make poor martyrs.

Saul of Tarsus was a persecutor of the early Church so he would be an unlikely candidate to be the proponent that he was for the church if his conversion was not genuine. He had been on hearings and had been a factor in determining the death of Christians. He had a testimony to the Galatians as “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy,” verifying that others either knew or had heard of his pre-Christian actions against the church. Paul’s own testimony is given by Luke’s record in Acts, and a story that was circulating among Christians in Galatia (Gal. 1.22-23).[6]

Paul’s conversion was based on the resurrection appearance of Jesus. Likewise, Jesus’ brother James, was a skeptic of Jesus but was later martyred for his Christian beliefs (Antiquities 20 v.9).  The ancient creedal material in 1 Corinthians 15.3-7 lists an appearance of the risen Jesus to James: “then he appeared to James.” Subsequent to the alleged event of Jesus’ resurrection, James is identified as a leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15.12-21; Gal. 1.19). Finally, not only did James convert to Christianity, his beliefs in Jesus and his resurrection were so strong that he died as a martyr because of them. Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement of Alexandria attest James’ martyrdom. These Hegesippus and Clement of Alexandria testimonies are cited by Eusebius, since the works no longer exist, thus, there is both Christian and non- Christian attestation.[7]

Tertullian, an early Church Father who wrote just before AD 200 reports the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul.[8] Atheist NT scholar Gerd Lüdemann concludes, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”[9] The contemporary biblical critic and skeptic, Bart Ehrman concedes: “We can say with some confidence that some of his disciples claimed to have seen [postmortem] Jesus alive.”[10]

Not only are there Christian testimonies of the empty tomb, but enemy attestation as well. Jesus’ enemies admitted it as well. Rather than pointing to an unoccupied tomb, early critics accused Jesus’ disciples of stealing the body (Mt. 28.12-13; Justin Martyr, Trypho 108; Tertullian, De Spectaculis 30). There would have been no need for an attempt to account for a missing body, if the body had still been in the tomb.[11] William Wand, Oxford church historian, writes concerning the empty tomb: “All the strictly historical evidence we have is in favor [of the empty tomb], and those scholars who reject it ought to recognize that they do so on some other ground than that of scientific history.”[12]

The conjunction of these historically grounded facts serve as evidence that God raised Jesus from the dead and vindicated Jesus’ claims to be God and the Messiah. The reality of the resurrection serves as the crux for Christianity.

[1] Josephus, Antiquities 18.64.

[2] Lucian of Samosata, The Death of Perefrined, 11-13 (mid-second century).

[3] This document is currently at the British Museum, Syriac Manuscript, Additional 14,658 (late first-third century).

[4] Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a (probably late second century).  The Babylonian Talmud, I. Epstein, ed. and trans. (London: Soncino, 1935-1952).

[5] John Kloppenborg, “An Analysis of the Pre-Pauline Formula 1 Cor. 15:3-5b In Light of Some Recent Literature,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 40 (1978), 1-6.

[6] Gary Habermas and Michael Licona’s The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2004), 45.

[7] Ibid., 68.

[8] Tertullian, Scorpiace, 15, in Roberts, Donaldson, and Coxe, eds. and trans., The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to AD 325 (Oak Harbor, OR: Logos Research Systems, 1997).

[9] Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus? A Historical Approach to the Resurrection, John Bowden, trans. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995), 39, 42.

[10] Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 200.

[11] Habermas and Licona, 71.

[12] William Wand, Christianity: A Historical Religion? (Valley Forge, PA: Judson, 1972), 93-94.

Closing Statements for the Opening

In conclusion, based on the arguments I’ve presented, we are left with a spaceless, timeless, transcendent, immaterial, very intelligent, person that could not have failed to exist. In conjunction with the historical data of Jesus’s life, death, burial, and resurrection, we have sufficient evidence demonstrate that God is identified as the God of Christianity.

It’s of the utmost importance to make a distinction between affirming biblical inerrancy and inspiration and using the biblical literature as a compilation of documents of antiquity. The debate over biblical inerrancy is an intra-Christian debate. Any arguments against the existence of the God of Christianity from problematic biblical passages requires that inerrancy be a necessary condition for his existence, which is certainly false. The debate over inerrancy and any such problem passages requires further arguments from within the Christian dialogue and careful exegesis.

In light of the evidence, it is my intellectual and moral conviction that God is the best explanation of the data before us. Thus, because I am committed to following the evidence, I firmly believe that the God of Christianity exists.

Opening Arguments – Justin Schieber

Hello, my name is Justin Schieber. For a few weeks I have been very much looking forward to what promises to be a very substantive debate on the existence of the Christian God. I want to thank Max Andrews for graciously accepting my invitation to discuss this very important topic. I also want to thank anybody who takes the time to listen to the full debate. I have a sincere, yet perhaps lofty hope that in this exchange of ideas, both believers and non-believers will hear something that makes them think differently, at least in part, about these topics. I also hope that it might serve to bring down all too familiar stereotypes of the painfully unthinking Christian and the gratuisly insulting atheist.

Essentially my goal in this exchange is two-fold.

First, I want to bring to the debate three arguments that I think press strongly against justified belief in the existence of the Christian God in particular and, more broadly , justified belief in the truth-vaue of the essentials of the Christian story . It should, of course, go without saying that these three arguments are not exhaustive of the reasons I find Christianity to be false.

Secondly , I want to examine Mr. Andrew’s arguments for perhaps points of agreement and, almost certainly , points of contention.

It is widely believed by those who self-identify as one of the various forms of Christianity that there exists a God causally – but not necessairily temporally – prior to the existence of the Universe. It is the theologians and philsophers among them rather than the biblical texts themselves that have revealed to us that this God is to be properly understood as a maximally great being.

One rather trivial point that can stand as a commonality between Max and I is that we both believe the universe exists. The reality of the universe and the objects within it are just too obvious to deny . However, I want to argue that Max’s belief in the existence of the universe and his belief in God stand in an uncomfortable relationship with eachother – that there exists a tension between these two beliefs once the concept of a maximally great being is taken to, what I think, is its logical conclusion. Because God is to be understood as a maximally great being – he must be absolutely and essentially perfect both morally and ontologically .

What is meant by ontological perfection? There are things called ‘great-making properties’ – things like power, being loving, having knowledge etc. And God, if he exists, has these properties to their respective maximally compossible degrees. The words of Christian philosopher, J.P. Moreland can shed some light on this…

To say that God is perfect means that there is no possible world where he has his attributes to a greater degree… God is not the most loving being that happens to exist, he is the most loving being that could possibly exist so that God’s possessing the attribute of being loving is to a degree such that it is impossible for him to have it to a greater degree. [1]

So the question before us is, If the Christian God were to exist, could he have motivating reasons to intentionally create a universe? The theist has only one option here – he must answer ‘yes’ because, after-all, the theist accepts that the both God and a Universe exist.

However, I want to argue that Max should answer this question in the negative – that God, if he existed could not have motivating reasons to create anything – let alone an entire universe and

populate it in the ways Max believes he has. Now, if it can be shown that the Christian God can have no motivating reasons to intentionally create then the belief that both Max and I share about the Universe existing will, in turn, have something to say about the question of the existence of the Christian God.

The argument involves the term ‘Godworld’ – and no, this isn’t a theme park. For our purposes here, let ‘GodWorld’ refer to that possible world where God exists alone (AND nothing else exists) for eternity . Of course, to say that ‘GodWorld’ is a possible world is to say that, it is a way that reality COULD HAVE BEEN – This argument takes for granted that God’s wildly counter- intuitive act of ‘creating’ the world out of absolute nothingness without the use of any building materials was a free choice and not born out of necessity . Again, Godworld is just that possible world where nothing exists that ISN’T God.

P1: If the Christian God exists, then GodWorld is the unique BPW.
P2: If GodWorld is the unique BPW, then the Christian God would maintain GodWorld.
P3: GodWorld is false because the universe exists.
C: Therefore, The Christian God, as so defined, doesn’t exist.

Now, this argument sure seems valid, but is it sound? Are the premesis true?

P1: If the Christian God exists, then GodWorld is the unique Best Possible World.

Why think this premise should be true given the way that Max concieves of God? Well, if God exists, remember he is the best possible being – meaning he has those great-making properties to their maximal compossible degrees and no such properties to any lessor degree. Now, a WORLD composed entirely of the single best possible being existing alone for eternity would be a WORLD composed entirely of all those great-making properties to their maximal compossible degrees and no such properties to any lessor degree – Now, unless there is some source of unique Goodness – Goodness that exists outside of and fully independent of God then GodWorld must be the unique best possibe world. it is the richest and, quite literally , the godliest of all possible worlds and since no other world can compare, it is the unique best possible world .

P2: If GodWorld is the unique BPW, then the Christian God would maintain/preserve GodWorld.

If God exists, and if he is truly the maximal great being that the philosophical theologians hold him to be, then he would surely be aware of the fact that himself existing alone for eternity as ‘GodWorld’ is the best possible world that could ever exist, and because God is essentially morally perfect, he couldn’t have a motivating reason to intentionally alter the overall quality of that maximally great state of affairs – because any alteration in OVERALL quality by the introduction of a universe, would, by necessity , be a degradation of overall quality . A maximally great being such as God would sustain that beautiful, eternal tone of perfection. God wouldn’t introduce limited entities each with their own unimpressive set of degraded great-making properties like the creation myth of Genesis records. Ignorant, weak and morally gullible creatures like Adam and his after-thought helpmeat Eve sure have great-making properties but they have them to a an unimpressive degree. This can’t be seen as anything other than a degredation of what could have been. Any plausible conception of what it means to be a maximally great being has us thinking that God would maintain and preserve Godworld because to suggest God is in the degrading business is to suggest he is wasn’t maximally great in the first place.

P3: GodWorld is false because the universe exists.

Look around you. This isn’t Godworld – there are things that exist that are not identical to God. This premise is just obvious – unless you are Spinoza who, by the way, deserves proper credit for the earliest form of the argument – as far as I know.[2]

C: Therefore, The Christian God, as so defined, doesn’t exist.

I do want to anticipate one possible objection to this argument before moving on. Perhaps the theist responds by saying “My view of God has him caring more about actualizing the greatest number of great making properties in a world – even if such properties aren’t to their maximal compossible degrees – God isn’t as concerned about the purity or quality of the properties that already exist, he just wants to multiply them – quality be damned.”

This divine promiscuity strikes me as extraordinairly implausible. If this objector and others like him get to use their moral intuitions as guides to what kinds of properties count as ‘great-making’ then they can’t consistently shy away from the fact that to sacrifice quality on the alter of quantity is something EVERYBODY intuits as an imperfection. Theists and nontheists are on common ground in recognizing that It is far better to desire one extraordinairly high-quality relationship for the remainder of our lives than to have a maximal number of short flings of very poor quality . Manufacturing managers will tell you that there is little value in doubling production when you triple the nonconformities. Moreover, without independent justification for thinking that, if a maximally great being existed, he would desire quantity over quality, this response would be gratuitiously ad hoc in the most transparent way.

Now, lets suppose that my opponent has a way out of this argument. Let us suppose that we are given a reason to doubt my argument and to think that a maximally great being could have rational reasons to intentionally degrade the quality of the world by creating a universe.

If that is the case he must deal with my second argument – this one is not concerned with whether or not God would ever create. Rather this one is concerned with WHAT God would create if he indeed had reasons to create in the first place.

Christians believe that God is perfectly loving and good. However, a perfectly loving and moral being would not allow needless suffering. It is for that reason that we simply cannot square the existence of an all powerful, perfectly moral being with the existence of Hell.

P1. If God exists, he is essentially morally perfect, omnipotent, omniscient.

P2. If God exists, he chose to create Hell and send the vast majority of people to suffer eternally within it.

P3. There is no moral justification for sending anybody to suffer eternally in Hell

P4. A being who acts in a way that is morally unjustified cannot be essentially morally perfect.

God does not exist.

So, what is a thinking Christian to say about this seeming contradiction?

Judging from his blog, Mr. Andrews would hope to reject P3. Max writes,

For the Christian, hell is a good thing, hell is the means by which God renders justice to those who have not had their sins atoned for by Jesus Christ on the cross.

By reminding us that God is also essentially Just, Max aims to dissolve this seeming contradiction into a strong theology. But, for Max, his theology is a double-edged sword.

You see, Max believes in heaven – a place entirely populated by the divine and the saved for an infinite number offuture moments – and yet they are preserved from sin and, presumably, these good sheep aren’t robbed of their freewill upon gaining entry into heaven. So, if there is NO tension with having libertarian free will AND being free from sin, then why drag us through the suffering mud of our earthly existence while knowing that, if he does so, the vast majority of us will certainly not be saved – and, in turn, be tortured in hellfire for eternity? My point is, God had the very real option of choosing to create us ALL in heaven – freely and correctly choosing to enter into a relationship with our creator from the very start. The fact that he, instead, chose to create THIS world – a world where not some of us most of us will not be saved and end up in hell cannot be justified by an appeal to God’s unflinching justice – and so I do not think a rejection of P3 is available to Max. This is, of course, to say nothing of how just it is to deliver infinite punishments for finite crimes.

For my last argument, I must admit that I originally intended to present a Rowe-style probabilistic argument from suffering. But, in my preperations for this debate, I quickly learned that Max would reject the key inference in such arguments that Stephen Wykstra calls the ‘noseeum inference’ – that is the inference from ‘No goods we know of morally justify God’s allowing some instance of suffering’ to ‘It is therefore likely that no goods at all justify God’s allowing of that instance of suffering. In responce to this style of inference, Max writes,

There are no ways of knowing if God does not have a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil. We do not exist in a privileged spatiotemporal position to make the claim that he doesn’t. 

I actually want to agree with Max here. If God existed, he would be so far above us epistemically , that the mere fact that we cannot conceive of a way that God might be justified in allowing some instance of suffering to occur doesn’t give us ANY reason at all to infer that, probably there is no justifying good.

Moreover, if we take the bible seriously , as I think Max does, as a revealed source of divine assertions about all things including the nature of God – then it becomes immediatly clear that we simply should not expect to know God’s ways.

In the book of Job 11:7-9, we read

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the almighty? They are higher than the heavens – what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave – what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.”

Another example can be found in Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “ As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

However, Max’s views here don’t just line up well with revealed scripture, he is also in strong intellectual company. Regarding this epistemic chasm that Christians believe exists between them and their God and its relationship to issues like the problem of evil, Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga writes,

From the theistic perspective, there is little or no reason to think that God would have a reason for a particular evil state of affairs only if we had a pretty good idea of what that reason might be. On the theistic conception, our cognitive powers, as opposed to God’s are a bit slim for that. God might have reasons we cannot so much as understand.[3]

Similarly , Christian philosopher Stephen Wykstra writes,

If we think carefully about the sort of thing theism proposes for our belief, it is entirely expectable – given what we know of our cognitive limits – that the goods by virtue of which this being allows known suffering should very often be beyond our ken”….he goes on to say… “This is not an additional postulate; it was implicit in theism all along.”[4]

William Lane Craig steps in line as well when he writes,

We are not in a good position to assess the probability of whether God has morally sufficient reasons for the evils that occur. As finite persons, we are limited in time, space, intelligence, and insight. But the transcendent and sovereign God sees the end from the beginning and providentially orders history so that His purposes are ultimately achieved through human free decisions. In order to achieve His ends, God may have to put up with certain evils along the way. Evils which appear pointless to us within our limited framework may be seen to have been justly permitted within God’s wider framework.[5]

Now, it seems that Max, the Bible and prominant Christian philosophers are of one mind here. If a religion’s scriptural and intellectual traditions won’t allow the central inference in such argument like the evidential problem of evil, it wouldn’t make much sense to use it.

However, if this is the kind of epistemic humility one should expect given the existence of the Christian God, then a significant problem enters the picture. Speaking of the implications of this view, Erik Wielenberg writes, “We seem to be in the dark when it comes to determining the likelihood of the existence of some spectacularly grand good that is connected with divine lying in such a way as to justify it.” [6]

P1. If the Christian GOD exists, then he has exhaustive knowledge of all moral Goods, Evils – And the entialment relations between them.

P2. We limited humans have no good reasons for thinking that OUR knowledge of the Goods, Evils & the entailment relationships between them is even slightly representative of the Goods, Evils & the entailment relationships between them that actually exist.

P3. IF 1 & 2, THEN We are in no position to place probabilities on whether there is a beyond-our-understanding justification for GOD’s lying to us in asserting D. (D being some biblical assertion.)

C. IF we are in no position to place probabilities on whether there is a beyond-our- understanding justification for GOD’s lying to us in asserting D, THEN we do not ‘know’ any proposition that has biblical justification only.

This argument shows that while Christians can surely be invited to believe in the truth value of propositions that have biblical justification only, they cannot ‘know’ that these propositions are actually true.

Every biblical divine assertion concerning the necessary and sufficient conditions for one to be saved would be a prime example of an assertion that has biblical justification only. Everyverse regarding the nature of and relationship between Jesus and God also falls into this category .

If christians aren’t in a position to place probabilities on whether or not God has morally sufficient reasons beyond their understanding to lie to them, then Christians are in no position to place probabilities on the truth value of these biblical claims. If Christians aren’t in a position to place probabilities on the truth value of these biblical claims, then Christians can’t ‘know‘ that the essentails of Christianity are probably true or probably false. The actual truth of much what C.S. Lewis deemed ‘Mere Christianity‘ must be completely inscrutable to a Christian thinker. While not necessairily being a problem for justified belief in a god, it is certianly a problem for justified belief in the Christian view of God – which entails things like the salvific significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago.

Lets review my arguments – note first that this was not a cumulative case against the existence of God and secondly , these arguments are aimed at the conception of God I find most frequently among apologists and philosophical theologians – I don’t pretend that these are a problem for all possible conceptions of God. In my first argument, I argued that any maximally great being such as the Christian God could not have motivating reasons to intentionally create a universe. Second, I argued that a maximally loving being such as the Christian God would not send people to Hell.

And lastly, I argued that, given the epistemic chasm that Christain theists believe exists between them and their God, they must admit that they are in no position to place probabilities on the truth of any claim that has biblical justification only – this would, of course, includes claims essential to the Christian God.

[1] Moreland, J.P. “Is God Perfect?”

[2] B. Spinoza, The Ethics, in S. Shirley, trans. and S. Feldman, ed., The Ethics and Selected Letters (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1982 [1677]).

[3] Plantinga. “The Evidential Argument From Evil.” Epistemic Probability & Evil, Edited by Daniel Howard-Snyder, 73. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.

[4] Wykstra. ‘The Humean obstacle to evidential arguments from suffering: on avoiding the evils of ‘appearance”, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 16. Page 158 (1984)

[5] Problem of Evil, The. (accessed June 8, 2013)

[6] Wielenberg, Erik. “Sceptical Theism & Divine Lies.” Religious Studies 46 (2010): 517.

First Rebuttal – Max Andrews

For my first rebuttal I will argue Mr. Schieber has not demonstrated that the Christian God does not exist and that his arguments fall short of any sound persuasiveness.

I affirm that God is the greatest possible being, a maximally perfect being, but I need to present a nuance for perfect-being theology that’s absent from Mr. Schieber’s initial depiction. Perfect-being theology does not maintain the affirmation that God must have all great-making properties.

For instance, moral duties are a GMP but God doesn’t have moral duties.  He acts in accordance with duties but does not act out of duty.  It may be the case that God’s properties are perfectly modulated (or regulated).  Sometimes the best state is perfectly regulated.  For instance, the best Olympic runner’s heartbeat mustn’t be infinite but appropriately regulated. The properties must be maximally compossible and it may be the case that the maximal state is in the middle.

I believe God has libertarian free will God and is not determined by any one or anything else nor is he determined to act via himself. God had the freedom to not create anything at all. On the other side of the spectrum, I don’t think Occamism is true either. God can’t freely make a four-angled triangle. God cannot accomplish logically impossible tasks. Another way of putting this is that some possible worlds are not actualizable; for instance, some persons may freely choose to do something and God cannot freely make them do something, which would be a contradiction. God must therefore choose another possible/feasible world to create from.

Mr. Scheiber’s reference to GodWorld is often referred to as the null-world—a world in which only God exists. I have reason to reject the first two premises: P1 If the Christian God exists, then GodWorld is the unique best possible world. And, P2, If GodWorld is the unique best possible world, then the Christian God would maintain GodWorld. All I must do is demonstrate that that it’s possible for God to have a sufficient reason for a creative decree. Suppose it’s possible for God to create one particle and only one particle. Surely, this is possible since there’s no degradation since this world is entirely amoral. If it’s possible then the subjunctive counterfactual in P2 is rendered false.

What’s more than mere possibility rendering the first argument false is that Christian doctrine states that God created the world to share his love. The contrast between my contingency argument and the null-world, it seems more plausible to affirm that God desired to share the love experienced in the Trinity with created beings. There’s a harmonious consilience with an act of creation and a decree of salvation. It stands in complete opposition to the metaphysics presented in the contingency argument—Mr. Schieber, in lesser words, is saying that because there is something, there is no material and no efficient cause (God).

Concerning Mr. Schieber’s argument on the impossibility of God due to hell I contest the truth of P3—“There is no moral justification for sending anybody to suffer eternally in hell.” This premise is flawed on many levels. Again, for the argument to be unsound, and thus false, the premise must simply be demonstrated to be false in any capacity. My first objection is that God doesn’t send anyone to hell; rather, he permits them to go their own way. Secondly, God is morally justified in permitting the reprobate to be eternally separate from God. I don’t think the Bible is describing eschatological furniture when describing hell so all I’m willing to commit to is that it is an eternal separation from God—the worst state of an unglorified existence.

I hold to an infralapsarian view of salvation. Under this view, God elects all individuals who would freely cease to resist his saving grace.  God will so arrange the world, via strong and weak actualizations, to bring about a person’s experiences and circumstances in which they would freely refrain from rejecting God.  With this understanding of election, God is both sovereign in actualizing salvation and permissive in allowing the reprobates to go their own way.

God passively permits individuals to go to hell because that’s what the individual chooses. As a decision to reject the revelation brought before an individual they consequently choose a life of eternal separation from an eternal God. The choose hell because that’s what they want and in the end, God gives them what they want. Antecedently, God wills and desires the salvation of all. However, due to their rejection and lack of affirmative response to God he consequently wills that they spend an eternity in hell by soteriologically passing over them.

There is sufficient warrant to believe that some people who have not had their sins atoned for by Jesus Christ die without atoning for their sins in this lifetime.  Posthumously, this person must atone for his own wrongs in order for God to be perfectly just.  Each sin warrants a finite punishment; however, this person will not cease to sin in the after this life since he has not had his sins atoned for by Christ.  He will not be ushered into a state of beatitude (which can be warranted based on rewards and the concept of justice and the moral beatification of atonement).  Because this person continues to sin he will always incur consequent self-atonement for each sin and if there are a[n] [potential] infinite set of sins then the duration will last without end as well.  Self-atonement without beatification (because this person chose to atone for his own sin) will be eternal by the successive addition of sins.  Sins imply punishment, so an infinite duration of punishment is warranted as well.

Concerning Mr. Schieber’s third argument based on biblical revelation, I admit, it is one of the oddest arguments against God I’ve ever heard. He rightly understands that biblical inerrancy and revelation as necessary conditions for God’s existence is false and it requires that epistemology determines ontology. This assumes a very eschewed religious epistemology claiming that special revelation requires probability calculi.

I believe there are sufficient a priori reasons to reject P3. If divine propositions are in fact divine then it’s metaphysically impossible for God to lie or knowingly convey false information in a manner of deceit no matter what the consequent entailments would be since. Such entailments are counteressential. If the antecedent is necessarily false then the consequent is necessarily false and not merely expressed counterfactually but it’s a counteressential.

Even if we are forced to render such probability calculi then Mr. Schieber’s argument is still false since we could still render a probabilistic knowledge of divine propositions making P3 doubly objectionable. Any probability calculus requires the evidence, hypothesis, propositions, or explanation to be compared to some type of background information. In this case, the background information would consist of the knowledge that God is essentially morally perfect and a maximally perfect being. Thus, any epistemic probability on divine propositions renders a probability of a certainty of 1 that whatever the objective meaning of the proposition is then the proposition is not a lie.

In conclusion, Mr. Schieber’s first argument stands at metaphysical odds with cause and effect relationships (something, therefore nothing) and is modally backwards due to its implication of a radical denial of metaphysical contingency. The second argument concerning hell falls moot when placed within the Christian soteriological framework of the nature of sin, divine justice, and the desire of a reprobate to go his own way choosing to be separated from God. Finally, the last argument concerning the epistemic probability calculi of divine propositions is necessarily false due to God’s maximal perfection and the metaphysical impossibility of God lacking perfection.

It is my contention that Mr. Schieber has not demonstrated the non-existence of the Christian God and I do not believe that any of these arguments even cast serious doubt about the Christian God. In light of natural theology and revelation as well as the historicity of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth I believe it is the case that the Christian God exists.

First Rebuttal – Justin Schieber

I want to use my first few minutes to defend my arguments in reverse order of how I originally presented them. It should go without saying that even if my arguments are utter failures, that is a completely separate issue from whether or not Mr. Andrew’s arguments are actually successful in demonstrating that his god exists.

As to my argument against Christian knowledge, Mr. Andrews replies that he knows God is essentially truthful – that it is impossible for God to lie because it logically contradicts his moral perfection. The problem here is that nothing about moral perfection logically entails always telling the truth. While lying is usually seen as a moral deficiency, there are certainly obvious instances where lying is justified because it is necessary for some over-riding greater good or to avoid some greater evil. To claim that it is impossible for God to ever be morally justified in lying, Mr. Andrews would need to be morally omniscient – he would need to have exhaustive knowledge of all possible goods that God might act towards and evils that he might act to avoid then conclude that none of these reasons could, in any circumstance, justify a divine lie. Moreover, Mr. Andrew’s criticism of the noseeum inference in the Rowe-style evidential problem of evil wont allow such epistemological boldness. And so, the mere fact that Mr. Andrews can’t conceive of a possible justifying reason for God to lie to him gives him no reason whatsoever to think that no such reason could possibly exist. So this response wont do and so I will simply repeat the conclusion of my argument. Mr. Andrews simply isn’t in a position to know that any assertion with biblical justification only is actually true.

In response to my Hell argument, Mr. Andrews first takes issue with my use of the phrase, ‘God sends people to Hell’ but seeing as how God is the sovereign sustainer of the physical and spiritual life, it is he ultimately who makes it the case that, if I die not having a relationship with God, I will find myself in eternal punishment whether I want that eternal punishment or not. My use of the phrase ‘God sends people to Hell’ is entirely appropriate here.

Secondly, note that Mr. Andrews never addresses why it is that God didn’t avoid the entire earthly realm alltogether when the option was clearly logically available to him – a central defense of premise 3. God has the ability to actualize a world where the only persons that are created are those who, when in some particular set of circumstances, will freely choose to enter into a relationship with God and experience eternal bliss as a result. God instead apparently chose to actualize a world where the vast majority of people will be punished eternally in Hell when he had much better options – and this is the crucial point. If sending people to eternal punishment when he had other, clearly better options is compatible with moral perfection, might I suggest that to Mr. Andrews, ‘moral perfection’ is a completely vacuous phrase.

In response to my GodWorld argument, Mr. Andrews says that, because it is possible for God to create only a single amoral particle, and because such a thing would not be a degradation, that this shows P1 to be mistaken. This is simply false. The introduction of an amoral particle would still degrade the overal ontological quality of the world as there would now be a particle in the world that is something other than ontologically perfect.

Mr. Andrews also says that the Christian Doctrine that God created the world to share his love also does away with my argument. But, think about this. Mr. Andrews is saying that God creates the universe to share his love presumably for the benefit of beings – beings that don’t exist…. until God creates the universe so that he can share his love for their benefit. Nothing like inventing a need to fill it. This is certainly not the activity of a maximally great being.

Moreover, because Mr. Andrews is asserting that the reason for God’s creation act is because God desires to share his love, such an act is ultimately for God’s own benefit – in order that his gift- giving desire be fulfilled. But, being a trinity of three persons, God doesn’t need to create finite beings with limited great-making properties that degrade the overall quality in order to share love and to have relationships. So, according to Mr. Andrews, The reason God decided to place a black stain on the overall quality of what used to be a perfect world was to achieve something that could have easily been done – and done much better mind you – within the rich, relational bounds of the essentially perfect persons of the Holy Trinity – a method that would have preserved the overall quality rather than degraded it and wouldn’t frame God as preferring imperfect relationships to perfect ones. Everything about this response is a rejection of God’s initial maximal greatness.

First Rebuttal

And now for Mr. Andrews’ arguments. Mr. Andrews provided us with a cumulative case of three arguments that, when in conjunction, are supposed to provide a strong case for the existence of the Christian God. I do not think that his arguments were sound nor do I think that, even if his arguments were sound, that they point to the existence of the Christian God.

I want to address these arguments in the order they were presented – though, a few comments first. Regarding likelihood arguments, Elliot Sober, Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at University of Wisconsin writes,

[Likelihood arguments] don’t tell you which hypotheses to believe; in fact, they don’t even tell you which hypotheses are probably true. Rather, they evaluate how the observations at hand discriminate among the hypotheses under consideration.

Let’s say its four a.m. Christmas morning and I wake up to scuffling sounds in my chimney. The sounds I hear would be highly likely given the hypothesis that Santa Clause was trying to enter my home. That is to say, IF Santa was attempting to enter my home, I would EXPECT to hear these sounds. Sober makes this point with Gremlins in the attic. The point being that a hypotheses like the santa hypothesis can have a very high likelihood while, at the same time, being extremely improbableevenafterfactoringintheweightoftheevidenceofthescufflingsounds. Thisis because likelihood relations are not the only thing relevant when assigning posterior probabilities.

That aside, lets examine Max’s first argument – a likelihood version of a Thomastic-type cosmological argument that argued for the existence of an uncaused cause of the contingent constituents of the Universe. For the sake of argument, I am willing to go along with Max’s conclusion here – World-views that are atheistic have no problem adopting necessary beings.

Though, I see no reason for the use of the word ‘transcendent’ to describe such a cause. However, there is an important, illuminating distinction to be made – the uncaused cause of the contingent constituents of the Universe could either be a necessary non-temporal personal cause as Max would prefer, or a necessary non-temporal impersonal cause like that which an atheist would be agreeable to.

So, which is it?

In order to weigh these two options, I suggest that we think about what it actually means for persons to cause events intentionally in order to see if it is compatible with Max’s end-game which includes a timeless personal creator. If there is anything obvious about personal causes, it is that persons can cause events by two basic kinds of intentions;

a. Intentions to change the current state of affairs.

b. Intentions to maintain the current state of affairs.

Now, because we are talking about possible uncaused causes of the contingent constituents of the Universe, we clearly need to be thinking about the first kind of intention – an intention to change the state of affairs. This is because whatever that uncaused cause caused, it certainly was a change to the state of affairs and not simply a maintenance of it.

However, notice that an intentional act to change the state of affairs is only coherent if it takes place within a pre-existing context of time. Allow me to explain myself here.

Some agent (call him Craig) wants to make some change in his world – lets say he is currently not drinking water but he wants to.

To get to the point where Craig begins to act to bring about a state of affairs where he is drinking water, Craig would have first needed to realize that given the FACT of his current thirst and the VALUE of Craig’s preferring a state of nonthirst over thirst, he should be drinking water.

T1. A realization of a want/need/preference.

T2. A decision on the means you plan on employing to fulfill the need/preference

T3. Craig begins to act to bring about a state of affairs where he is drinking water.

T4. Craig is drinking water. His preference is fulfilled.

Notice how T1 – T4 must all be temporally distinct. This means that, prior to T4, there are 3 additional temporally distinct moments each requiring temporal passage – from this we can conclude that any Personal cause that intentionally changes states of affairs must take place within a pre-existing temporally rich context – the opposite of a timeless, personal God. And so, when these important distinctions about agent causation are added to Max’s argument in order to strengthen it, it becomes more of an argument for an impersonal necessary , timeless non-intentional being and undermines the first step in his cumulative case for the existence of the ChristianGod. Ofcourse, all of this assumes that it was a successful argument in the first place – remember, I only granted the conclusion for the sake of bringing these important points to light.

In Max’s second argument, he uses a likelihood version of the fine-tuning argument. Max argues that the likelihood of the evidence of the finely-tuned constants given our background knowledge and the existence of a fine-tuner is much higher than the likelihood of the evidence of the finely-tuned constants given the non-existence of a fine-tuner – presumably he means a uniform chance process here, where each outcome is equiprobable – obviously we aren’t in a good position to really know whether the constants actually did come about through a uniform chance process. However, I think there are at least three additional problems facing Max’s argument.

First, notice the very suspicious wording here; Max talks about the likelihood of the evidence of fine-tuning, given the existence of a fine-tuner. Well, okay , but what justification does Max have to front-load his hypothesis in this way? Even if we assume the first uncaused cause that Max argued for in his first of three cumulative case arguments, he still needs independent reasons for thinking that this uncaused cause has a particularly narrow interest in the tuning-based activities that lead to life.

This can’t be stressed enough: we cannot evaluate the probability of the evidence of the finely- tuned constants given our background knowledge and the existence of an uncaused cause unless we are in a position to know what the uncaused cause hypothesis would predict if true. So I hope this question can be addressed; what justifications does Max have for thinking that given the fine-tuning evidence, a LPU is not unlikely given the the existence of a uncaused cause?

Secondly, the argument tugs at the intuition that a Universe finely-tuned for life screams out for an explanation while a Universe finely tuned for, say, maximizing the very highest possible number of red rocks wouldn’t require an explanation eventhough they are both apparently equally improbable. For this reason, it seems that the fine-tuning argument requires a traditionally theistic view of life – one that sees the very existence of biological life as having objective significance in the universe, and so demanding an explanation. Of course, if the fine-tuning argument requires a traditionally theistic view of life in order for the Fine-tuning argument for God to go through, I do hope I can be forgiven for rejecting such circularity.

My final reason for rejecting the fine-tuning argument is that, because we don’t have any principled reasons to restrict the upper range of each of these constants, the space of possible universes explodes into infinity making it impossible to normalize – (or make add up to 1) a basic requirement for talking about the probability of a LPU given the assumption of a uniform chance process.

For Mr. Andrews’s third argument, he lays out five historical claims and then goes on to say that the best explanation of these claims is that God raised Jesus from the dead. But I must stress the same concern, because Max is presenting a cumulative case, even assuming the success of Max’s other arguments, Max’s hypothesis should should actually be, the best explanation of these 5 historical claims is that the uncaused cause who finely-tuned the constants also decided to raise Jesus from the dead.

Assuming the truth of the existence of a first-cause who created the Universe and finely tuned its constants, and absent any argument showing that there is a statistically significant correlation between an interest in tuning-based activities and the practice of necromancy among an acceptable sample size of deities, I see no reason whatever to expect that a deity fond of fine-tuning should also be fond of raising 1st century preachers from the dead. Again, I want to ask Max what justifications does he have for thinking that a particular member of a particular primate species raising from the dead isn’t unlikely given the existence of a Fine-tuner?

Lets look at the historical claims Max says are best explained by an uncaused fine-tuner who suddenly gains an appreciation for the dark arts,

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
  2. Apostles claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus.
  3. The conversion of Paul.
  4. The conversion of James.
  5. The empty tomb.

Lets take these in reverse order. The Empty Tomb. Max points to the Jewish polemic in Matthew 28:15 as evidence for the empty tomb – but because Max says he isn’t relying on innerancy, he abandons the right to assume the historicity of the polemic – it needs to be argued for. Clearly the author of Matthew has a motive like the answering of doubts. Also strange is Paul’s silence and the silence of the author of the Gospel of Mark as to the Polemic. Also, no contemporary jewish writings record their supposed response to the Christians. Absence of evidence is, at the very least, absence of evidence. The fact that the account records a private conversation between members of the chief priests should also be a historical red flag. Absent any other defense of the polemic, I see no reason that it should count as evidence for the empty tomb.

In his defenses of the genuine conversions of the Paul, James and other early followers, Mr. Andrews says,

All 11 disciples died independently from each other and never retracted their belief. There are martyrs today but there would be no reasonable explanation for why the disciples would die for something they knew to be false and never retracted it.

This, I think is one of the worst kinds of arguments because it argues from what isn’t supported to a conclusion that doesn’t even follow even if it was supported. To count as evidence for the resurrection, we would, at the very least, need to have decent evidence of disciples who were named and claimed to have seen the risen physical Jesus and were killed specifically for that belief and not for some other reasons. We would also need to know that they were given the opportunity to recant. These are necessary but not sufficient conditions for this argument to work. But this evidence doesn’t even reach this low bar.

Since Paul never claims to have encountered the physically risen Jesus, and instead had merely experienced Jesus in a vision, a martyrdom would only suggest his conversion was genuine. It lends no credence whatsoever to the historicity of the resurrection.

Speaking of James, the brother of Jesus, Max claims that Josephus, higgisippis and Clement of Alexandria all attest to his martyrdom.
Josephus writes in Antiquities of the Jews,

Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.

Clearly this account does not reach the necessary conditions for the argument to work. But Max also cites Higgisippus as attesting to the martyrdom of James but Max doesn’t tell us that these two accounts differ drastically. For various reasons, most scholars believe Josephus’ much earlier account of the events is more historically accurate. I could talk more about the different martyrdom claims of the various disciples but time is short – though, I assure the listeners, the evidence for these claims is severely unimpressive. And, like I said, these are necessary but not sufficient conditions for this to count as evidence for the resurrection. I generally agree with Max that Liars do indeed make poor martyrs but that is only if they think that living out the remainder of their life in the brutal ancient world with a reputation as a liar and con-man while simultaneously heaping shame upon his family and friends is a life whose remainder is worth living. Those concerns, when combined with the incredibly high respect given to the concept of a good death or ‘martyrdom’ in the ancient Greco-Roman world, it is not at all obvious why somebody who has been living a lie for several years should be expected to recant in the face of death.

This doesn’t mean that I think they were all liars and con-men. I think it’s almost expected that given the fact that their extreme disappointment took place in a hyper-religious context a leader might claim a vision of the crucified Jesus and others would be all too eager make similar claims and convince themselves that they really were grasping a some important truth. Harold Camping and his followers have taught us that disconfirmation doesn’t really count in religious contexts where alternative interpretations can work like a buffet line.

Second Rebuttal – Max Andrews

For my second rebuttal I will briefly respond to Mr. Schieber’s counterarguments against my critiques of his arguments. Then I will proceed to defend my three original arguments in support of Christian theism.

Concerning Mr. Schieber’s statement that atheists believe in necessary beings. Well, this either creates as an interesting situation or a rather awkward one for Mr. Schieber. The distinction he wishes to make is that whether this first uncaused cause is personal or impersonal. From the contingency argument alone I do find the implications of personhood, agency, transcendence, etc. to follow. However, if he wants to acknowledge that this first uncaused cause is impersonal then that’s the minimal criterion needed for an uncaused cause, which is just an uncaused cause. I don’t need to draw implications from the conclusion in order to keep the conclusion what it is—an uncaused cause.

Mr. Schieber continues in arguing the implications of the conclusion rather than the argument or conclusion itself. My argument cannot be rendered unsound if the argument itself has not been critiqued and dealt with. It is illicit to deny the whole argument due to later entailments. In private correspondence Mr. Schieber recognized this, so I will leave it up to him for his next rebuttal to interact with my argument and not just entailments.

Nonetheless, I find good reason to affirm the implications. If the first uncaused cause is not a cause from within the contingency system then it would have to be transcendent to the system, as a non-contingency, to produce the effect. Things are necessary, according as it is necessary for God to will them, since the necessity of the effect depends on the necessity of the cause.  It is not necessary that God should will anything except himself.  It is not therefore necessary for God to will that the world should always exist; but the world exists forasmuch as God wills it to exist, since the being of the world depends on the will of God, as its cause.[1]

Let’s reconsider this GodWorld scenario, which follows suit with my previous statements. I’m afraid the understanding that the creation of a single particle is ontologically detrimental is not as clear as Mr. Schieber thinks it is. Why is it the case that any existent outside of God is ontologically detrimental? Additionally, I gave reason for why God did create—as an act to share his love. Whether the beings that will partake of God’s love are created immediately or later since the moment of creation is completely irrelevant. The time at which humans come on the cosmic scene says absolutely nothing negative about the activity of a maximally great being. In fact, it makes perfect sense in light of the fine-tuning argument. This counterargument by Mr. Schieber is simply moot.

Concerning my fine-tuning argument, Mr. Schieber takes it to task on three different points.

First, he argues against my wording concerning the relationship of the evidence and the fine-tuner. This is simply a dislike for abductive arguments on his part. It is not the case that the premises strongly support the conclusion. It is the conclusion that supports the premises. An abductive argument for fine-tuning is very similar to induction. Rather than the premises adding to the probability of the conclusion the conclusion adds to the probability of the premises.  This is not to completely exclude the role of the premises adding to the probability of the conclusion but there is a greater emphasis of using the best explanation (the conclusion) to fit the data (the premises).  The belief in question is assessed as the consequent and then considering what may be the best explanation for that belief, antecedently.  This may seem fallacious but inference to the best explanation is a commonly accepted form of reasoning.  Additionally, this abductive process only comes into the process when assessing whether the evidence sufficiently corresponds to the belief since the belief typically arises by the antecedent evidence and then as the consequent, it is the assessment of the belief that requires working backwards.

W.P. Alston, W.B. Gallie, and Michael Scriven have observed, such arguments can be restated in a logically acceptable form if it can be shown that Y has only one cause (i.e. X) or that X is a necessary condition (or cause) of Y.  Thus, arguments of the form:

1)     X is antecedently necessary to Y,

2)     Y exists,

3)     Therefore, X existed.

are logically valid by philosophers and persuasive by historical and forensic scientists.[2]

Its application to this case is that a particular abductive hypothesis can be firmly established if it can be shown that it represents the best or only explanation of the “manifest effects” in question.[3]

Mr. Schieber’s second argument against fine-tuning suggests that it could be the case that the universe was fine-tuned for red rocks. This is just a misunderstanding of the argument. This type of pop-objection completely ignores the role of brand new specified and complex information and it’s necessary antecedent being a mind, which is non-controversial and empirically verified. (Such information would be the role of the values of physical constants being balanced to permit life. This could be a macro example. The information content in quantum physics, especially the many worlds interpretation, increases the information content exponentially.) By experience, it can be inferred that mind originates information that the other competing hypotheses do not have the explanatory scope and power as FT does.  It is by the means of abduction one can infer that FT is the best explanation for the data.  Chance and randomness cannot substantially account for the data.  The improbability alone is infinitesimally small.  The necessity explanation has no support due to the logical possibility of universes being different then what they actually are.

What is an adequate cause for the effect in question—the origin of cosmic information? Logically, one can infer the past existence of a cause from its effect, when the cause is known to be necessary to produce the effect in question. In the absences of any other known causes then the presence of the effects points unambiguously back to the uniquely adequate cause—a mind.[4] This issue will also address the range of possible values for constants. If physics can be expressed counterfactually then we can certainly derive a random sample by which to compare to some type of background information. The full range of values is not a necessary epistemic component. It’s my suspicion that the greater the range is it inversely increases the probability for the fine-tuning argument to be true.

The possible explanans are mind, phenomenal entities, or abstract entities. The options must meet the conditions of causal efficacy and specificity. The first condition states that origin of information must be causal. Information does not arbitrarily pop in and out of existence but requires a source.[5] The second condition states that the origin must sufficiently explain the specificity in information and must provide more than mere Shannon information.

Consider a computer as an example for information relay (a phenomenal entity). The computer is and can be used as a channel, it can be a receiver, and it can be a source of information. However, to say that the information in the computer no longer needs an explanation for its origin would suffer the problem of information displacement—it pushes the problem back a step in explanation. What begs the question is identifying the source of information in the computer. The answer would inevitably become a software engineer or a programmer. Undirected material processes have not demonstrated the capacity to generate significant amounts of specified information.[6] Information can be changed via materialistic means. The computer can change the initial coding from the programmer and introduce noise on the sending and receiving ends.

Physicists are more likely to affirm the existence of abstract objects because the language of physics serves for the communication of reports and predictions and hence cannot be taken as a mere calculus in some cases. Those physicists who are suspect of the abstract as semantics in reference to real numbers as space-time coordinates or as values, functions, limits, etc.[7] The question present concerning the existence of abstract entities is not whether or not they exist. That’s completely irrelevant to the argument and has a fair place at the table of possibilia. One must not rule out a possible explanation due to ontological insight eliminating options a priori.

The task in evaluating the plausibility of abstract entities as the best explanation for the origin of information is whether it meets the aforementioned conditions of causal efficacy and specificity. With regards to the causal efficacy of abstract entities, what experience could be used as a referent? Certainly, there is meaning behind the phrases, “There are seven cows in the field” or “The apple is red” since these merely commit to the existence of abstract universals. This answers the question of whether abstract objects can specify information. The ability to specify must meet the antecedent condition of causal capacity since the role of causation is analogous to the role of the channel. Information does not originate in the source and arrive at the receiver (physical reality) without a channel.  Thus, abstract objects are not sufficient explanations for the origin of information.

Of the possible explanans, mind, phenomenal entities, or abstract entities, the former is the best explanation. Neither phenomenal nor abstract entities are sufficient in accounting for the origin of brand new information. If one wants to appeal to phenomenal or abstract entities then it becomes an issue of information displacement.

Concerning the resurrection of Jesus, Mr. Schieber raises a number of objections.

Roughly 75% of scholars on the subject accept the empty tomb as a historical fact. Gary Habermas has counted a total of twenty-three arguments for an empty tomb posited by a number of critical scholars from 1975-2005. Not building inerrancy into one’s argument does not abandon historicity. This is absurd. Inerrancy is not a sufficient or necessary condition for any historical fact. This historiographical method proposed by Mr. Schieber is ludicrous. Appealing to lack of multiple accounts does not discredit a singular account (even if there is only one). I suppose that’s too much evidence then, huh? The problem with denying the empty tomb is that everyone could have gone to the correct tomb, which was publicly known and produce the body. Likewise, this doesn’t explain the conversion of Paul and James. Paul also acknowledges the empty tomb, contributing to his conversion, when he recounts the events to the Corinthians: “Christ died for our sins… and that he was raised on the third day… and that he appeared to Peter” (1 Cor. 15).

Concerning the apostolic martyrdom, I find this to be an incredible counterargument. Must we know that they were given the opportunity to recant in order for their martyrdom to have occurred? Obviously not. There is plenty of historical evidence for the martyrdoms of the apostles.[8] The disciples are said to have acted in a manner that they thought little of dying and that “beyond death they were found,” which may refer to their attitude toward death being proved or demonstrated by their own boldness when the moment of execution actually came. If anything, it means that the disciples were so strengthened by seeing the risen Jesus that they preached without a thought for their earthly fates because they believed immortality awaited them.[9] Likewise we find early evidence that early Christians willingly suffered and died for their beliefs.[10] The New Testament notes the martyrdoms of Stephen (Acts 7.59-60), James the brother of John (Acts 12.2) and Antipas (Rev. 2.13).

Again, in conclusion, I have found Mr. Schieber’s arguments to be found wanting in evidence, soundness, and plausibility. It’s my firm conviction that in this correspondence, Christian theism has been demonstrated to be true and that atheism is, indeed, false.

[1] Thomas, Summa Theologica, 1.46.1.

[2] Stephen C. Meyer, “A Scientific History—and Philosophical Defense—of the Theory of Intelligent Design.” W. P. Alston, “The Place of the Explanation of Particular Facts in Science,” Philosophy of Science 38 (1971):  13-34.  W. B. Gallie, “Explanations in History and the Genetic Sciences” in Theories of History:  Readings from Classical and Contemporary Sources (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1959), 386-402. Michael Scriven, “Explanation and Prediction in Evolutionary Theory,” Science 130 (1959):  477-482.

[3] Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 154.

[4] Ibid., 343.

[5] Martin Curd and J.A. Cover (New York: Norton, 1998), 13, 21.

[6] Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 340-41.

[7] See Rudolf Carnap, “Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology” in Philosophy of Mathematics. Eds. Paul Benacerraf and Hilary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964), 233-43.

[8] Fragments of Papias 6.1-2 (James). 1 Clement 5.2-7, 6 (Peter, Paul). Polycarp, To the Philippians 9.2 (Ignatius, Zosimus, Rufus, Paul, and others). Ignatius, To the Smyrnaeans, 3.2, 4 (Peter, Paul, other apostles.).

[9] Ignatius, To the Smyrnaeans, 3.2, 4. Mike Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010), 369.

[10] Shepherd of Hermas Similtude, 9.28; Shepherd of Hermas Vision 3.1.9-3.2.1; 3.5.2; Melito of Sardis (Cited by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.23.3; 2.23.18; 4.22.4); Eusebius, EH 2.25; 5.2.2-3; Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, in the letter to Victor of Rome; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20.200; and the correspondence of Pliny (10.96-97). Licona, 371.

Second Rebuttal – Justin Schieber

Recall that in my opening statement, I gave three arguments. First, I argued that the Christian God could not have motivating reasons to intentionally create a universe.

Second, I argued that the Christian God would not send people to Hell. And lastly, I argued that, given the epistemic chasm that Christian theists like Mr. Andrews believe exists between them and their God, they must admit that they are in no position to place probabilities on the truth of any claim that has biblical justification only because Christians are in no position to place probabilities on whether there exists some greater good that would justify God’s lying to them through the biblical text.

Given the importance of my third argument, I want to start there. Remember, in his first rebuttal, Mr. Andrews argued that the act of lying would logically contradict God’s morally perfect nature. But in response, I noted that this kind of claim could only be established by somebody who knew of all the goods and evils that exist and who also knew that none of them could ever justify a lie. I reminded Mr. Andrews that such a bold epistemic claim is simply not available to him because of his skeptical theist response to the Rowe-style evidential problem of evil. Given the central importance this argument has on the epistemic coherence of Mr. Andrew’s claims, It is of essential that listeners notice that my opponent was totally silent on this issue in his second rebuttal. As it stands, Mr. Andrews is in no position to place probabilities on the truth values of all those assertions with biblical justification only.

As with my responses to Mr. Andrew’s criticisms of my Hell argument, those too remain uncontested.

However, Mr. Andrews did have some additional comments as to my very first argument – my GodWorld argument. Recall that Andrews argued that, if God were to create a single morally neutral particle, that it would not degrade the ontological quality of the world – I argued that the introduction of an amoral particle would still degrade the overall ontological quality of the world as there would now be a particle in the world that is something other than ontologically perfect. If you have a glass full of pure water, the addition of one drop of any foreign substance would degrade the overall water-purity of the water. The point is that, if God is the standard of moral and ontological perfection, any creation act, if it is not to clone himself, will degrade that overall world-purity. The world isn’t pure Godliness anymore, a maximally great being wouldn’t allow such desecration. In his second rebuttal, Mr. Andrews reminds us that he did give a reason for God to create – mainly to share his love but, I will just remind Mr. Andrews that God is perfectly able to share love in and among the relational persons of the Trinity without desecrating the quality of the world – presumably Mr. Andrews thinks that it is the relational nature of the trinity that does the grounding work for the goodness of sharing in the first place.

Now, I want to turn to Mr. Andrews’ arguments.

A quick correction: In my first rebuttal I said that I do not find ANY of his arguments to be sound and I want to take that back because I don’t actually have much interest in addressing whether the first-cause argument is sound and here’s why: I find it much

more interesting to point out, as I did in my first rebuttal, that when the argument correctly takes on board what it actually means to act intentionally, it ironically becomes an argument against a personal, intentional, timeless creator of the contingent constituents of the Universe. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to take that away from Max.

Mr. Andrew’s second argument was a likelihood version of the Fine-tuning argument. As you may recall, the argument went as follows.

1. Given the fine-tuning evidence, a life permitting universe (LPU) is very, very unlikely under the non-existence of a fine-tuner

2. Given the fine-tuning evidence, LPU is not unlikely under the existence of a fine- tuner.

Therefore, LPU strongly supports FT over ~FT.

My first criticism was that Mr. Andrews gives no independent justification whatsoever for front-loading the hypothesis featured in this second premise. In his second rebuttal, Max complains that this criticism is “simply a dislike for abductive arguments”.

This, I think, grossly misunderstands my point which was that Mr. Andrews needs to limit this kind of argument to those hypotheses that enjoy independent motivations.

Nearly every one of Mr. Andrew’s blog posts related to Fine-tuning cites the work of prominent Christian philosopher Robin Collins – so, clearly, this is someone who Mr. Andrews holds in high esteem – and rightly so. However, In his excellent and very well-known article in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, Collins makes this very point much clearer than I.

Because of certain potential counterexamples, I shall use what I call the restricted version of the Likelihood Principle, although I shall often refer to it simply as the Likelihood Principle. The restricted version limits the applicability of the Likelihood Principle to cases in which the hypothesis being confirmed is non-ad hoc. A sufficient condition for a hypothesis being non-ad hoc (in the sense used here) is that there are independent motivations for believing the hypothesis apart from the confirming data e, or for the hypothesis to have been widely advocated prior to the confirming evidence.

Now, because Max’s fine-tuning argument clearly fails to restrict the likelihood principle to hypotheses that are Non ad-hoc, Robin Collins would almost certainly agree with my criticism. This is a significant technical problem for Mr. Andrews‘ particular formation of the argument as it is now susceptible to damaging counterexamples.

Recall that my second objection was that the argument plays on our intuitions that a Universe whose constants are within a narrow life-permitting range cries out for an explanation while a Universe whose constants are within a narrow range required for maximizing the number of red rocks wouldn’t cry out for an explanation. For this reason, it seems that the fine-tuning argument requires a traditionally theistic view of life – one that sees the very existence of biological life as having objective significance in the universe, and so demanding an explanation. This, I noted would be a clear circular argument.

How did Mr. Andrews respond?

He says that I was arguing that our universe could actually be fine-tuned for red rocks instead of life. I agree with Andrews in his criticism – that is indeed a terrible, pop- objection. But, of course, this isn’t at all the point I was making.

My final reason for rejecting the fine-tuning argument was that, because we don’t have any principled reasons to restrict the upper range of each of these constants, the space of possible universes explodes into infinity making it impossible to normalize – (or make add up to 1) a basic requirement for justifying Mr Andrews first premise. Mr. Andrews did not address this objection so it still stands.

And, as a reminder, likelihood arguments of this form are, in the words of Benjamin Jantzen, “Strictly comparative”. Jantzen goes on, “The principle does not say what you should believe or to what degree you should believe it.” For this reason, I would also take issue with the wording of Mr. Andrew’s conclusion – I think the phrase “Strongly supports” is much too suggestive. “Strongly favors” seems more fitting.

Lastly, we come to the resurrection argument. It’s worth repeating that, even if we were to grant the success of the fine-tuning argument, we would still be given no reason to think that a Deity interested in tuning-based activities is also likely to be interested in raising an individual of a particular primate species from the dead.

Additionally, we are given no moral insight as to the moral character of this being and so we cannot suppose that he would be interested in vindicating the moral message of an individual like Jesus let alone becoming incarnate to die for our the sins. Now, if we don’t have any independent reasons for thinking that a fine-tuner would also likely be a resurrecter, then the hypothesis of “The Fine-tuner raised Jesus from the dead” or as Max puts it “God raised Jesus from the dead” is ad hoc in the same sense as referred to earlier.

In his defense of the empty tomb, Mr. Andrews appealed to the Jewish polemic contained in the Gospel of Matthew. I responded by saying that, like Max, I am not a biblical innerrantist so, because of several concerns I have regarding this passage, I will actually need an argument for the Jewish Polemic before assuming its historicity and its ability to support the empty tomb.

In his second rebuttal Mr. Andrews replies to this.

Not building inerrancy into one’s argument does not abandon historicity. This is absurd. Inerrancy is not a sufficient or necessary condition for any historical fact. This historiographical method proposed by Mr. Schieber is ludicrous. Appealing to lack of multiple accounts does not discredit a singular account (even if there is only one).

This response is puzzling. Not once did I claim that abandoning inerrancy means one must abandon historicity. Not once did I claim that inerrancy was a sufficient or necessary condition for any historical fact. Not once did I appeal MERELY to the lack of multiple accounts to discredit a singular account – this is just a string of straw men.

Listeners will remember, I argued that, because Matthew has strong incentive to invent such a story, we should not take it at face-value – we can’t assume its historicity – we need arguments. The fact that Paul’s letters, Mark’s Gospel and contemporary jewish sources don’t mention the polemic when they should plausibly be expected to do so isn’t just an argument from silence and so isn’t insignificant. And again, the fact that the account records a private conversation between members of the chief priests should also be a historical red flag.

Moving on, Max says

Concerning the apostolic martyrdom, I find this to be an incredible counterargument. Must we know that they were given the opportunity to recant in order for their martyrdom to have occurred?

Of course not! I never said that. Here is what I DID say…

To count as evidence for the resurrection, we would, at the very least, need to have decent evidence of disciples who were named and claimed to have seen the risen physical Jesus and were killed specifically for that belief and not for some other reasons. We would also need to know that they were given the opportunity to recant.

I was explicit in that this was merely a list of necessary conditions to count as evidence for the resurrection, not simply as evidence for their martyrdom. It’s a subtle but important distinction.

Mr. Andrews repeats his claim that there is plenty of historical evidence for the martyrdoms of the apostles. He argues that the NT attests to the Martyrdom of Stephen and of James, the brother of John and Antipas. I agree that Stephen was a brave martyr but we have no evidence that his death had anything to do with his belief in the resurrection. Moreover neither Stephen or Antipas were ever named as witnesses to the resurrected Jesus so, like with Paul – who I already addressed, these people cannot be used as evidence for the resurrection – which was exactly what Mr. Andrews argument was supposed to be doing. Recall that, in his opening statement, Mr. Andrews acknowledged the important distinction between ‘dying for a belief’ and dying for something you would have been in a position to know the truth about – so it’s unfortunate to see him abandoning this distinction in order to broaden the pool of people whose deaths he can appeal to for his argument.

Of course, unless Mr. Andrews is willing to let the 911 hijacker’s martyrdom serve as evidence for the truth of Islam, he can’t consistently keep using the deaths of individuals who weren’t claimed eyewitnesses to the resurrection to serve as evidence for the truth of the resurrection.

As to Acts 12 – yes it does record the death of James, the brother of John. It claims that he was killed by Herod by the sword – no further details are given.

Moreover, because the conjunction of Max’s arguments for God are unsuccessful in demonstrating that God exists, we must attach a very, very low prior probability to the hypothesis “God Raised Jesus From the dead.” It isn’t at all obvious that the weight of the evidence given for the resurrection is able to make up for this significant probabilistic deficit.

It is for these reasons that I submit that Max has not demonstrated that the Christian God probably exists.

Closing Statements – Max Andrews

I have defended the proposition “the God of Christianity exists.”  I presented two arguments from science and philosophy that God exists and a third argument identifying God as the God of Christianity. It will be a conjunction of these arguments that will construct a strong evidential and cumulative case for the existence of God.

Unfortunately, Mr. Schieber’s arguments have lacked serious rigor in rebutting my own arguments and his positive arguments for atheism have been demonstrated to be lacking. His argument against God due to the existence non-God objects is metaphysically and modally absurd. I have presented metaphysically possible reasons for the existence of permitting contingent entities as well as good reasons in light of Christian doctrine in light of God’s love. The argument stands in stark contrast to the cosmological argument I presented. He must affirm that the universe is metaphysically necessary, which I have argued is clearly not the case. It’s quite evident that there are contingent elements to the universe.

Secondly, the argument against God due to hell is a demonstrable lack of understanding of divine love and justice. Likewise, this argument severely lacks a biblical and hermeneutical interaction of the biblical text and he completely side steps my philosophical arguments. This is an intra-Christian issue and should it be the case that the interpretation of an eternal hell not be true it does not negate the existence of God. This argument, at best, demonstrates a revision of hermeneutical approaches to the doctrine. This argument simply doesn’t belong in this debate and should be considered off topic.

Concerning, Mr. Schieber’s third argument, I don’t know what else I can supplement to demonstrate the irrelevance of the argument to the debate and how epistemically absurd this is. I’d simply refer back to my previous statements about this argument since it falls moot from the very beginning.

I have found Mr. Schieber’s criticisms of my three arguments to demonstrate a serious, desperate attempt to circumvent the real heart of the argument at every measure he finds. He’s already demonstrated his affirmation of a metaphysically necessary universe, which is modally and metaphysically outlandish. His fine-tuning critiques are, at best, a deliberate misrepresentation of the argument and fail to interact with the positive data for fine-tuning such as the role of information. Likewise, Mr. Schieber’s denial of the historicity of the death, burial, and resurrection, if held consistently, produces a completely untenable historiographical method. I find his objections to the resurrection lacking when it comes to interacting with the primary sources of the historical data and projects ad hoc criteria into the historiographical methodology that no serious historian would uphold (i.e. the need for recanting in order to vindicate martyrdom).

I appreciate Mr. Schieber’s participation in this debate and for his invitation. I have found this to be an opportunity to promote the rigorous and intellectually superior position of Christian theism over atheism while in turn leaving atheism to fall short of convincing arguments and evidence. It’s my moral and intellectual conviction, as a rationalist and evidentialist, that Christian theism is true.

Closing Statements – Justin Schieber

Contrary to what you just heard Mr. Andrews say, never once did I say the universe was metaphysically necessary –

I only reminded Max that non-personal necessary beings are consistent with an atheistic ontology.

Regarding my criticisms of his fine-tuning argument, he says that they are “At best, a deliberate misrepresentation of the argument.” This response on Mr. Andrew’s part reveals a surprising unfamiliarity with discussions of the limits of likelihood arguments, the need for independent justifications for auxiliary hypotheses and criticisms of fine-tuning arguments that have been offered in the literature. Remember, my first criticism was about his unwillingness to limit the applicability of the likelihood principle to hypotheses that are non-ad Hoc – this is a serious technical problem that Max has so far refused to recognize. This is not only bad philosophy – it is bad science – we need independent justification for our clearly auxiliary hypotheses. I also brought up normalizability problems as they relate to the upward limits of these cosmological constants – something that has been a topic of serious debate and I apparently had embarrassingly missed Andrews’ brief reply my first time through – Andrews says that the full range of possible values isn’t a necessary epistemic component and that it is his suspicion that the greater the range is, it inversely increases the probability for the fine-tuning argument to be true but that can only be if the sum of possible universes adds up to one which isn’t possible if the range is infinite.

Mr. Andrews’ employment of the ‘Would you die for a lie’ argument to support the resurrection of Jesus was an impressive but ultimately failed project. He’s failed to produce a single well-evidenced example of a disciple who was named and was claimed to have seen the risen physical Jesus and who refused an opportunity to recant while facing death specifically for his belief in the resurrection – all necessary conditions for this argument to be successful. Moreover, even if he made a compelling case for this, this argument still ignores Greco-Roman attitudes towards death/martyrdom, the importance of one’s reputation in the ancient world and is based in a naive view of human psychology – all of which render the argument invalid. In his second rebuttal, Mr. Andrews chose to attack straw men by attributing to me, among other things, a historeographical method that I never claimed to hold – he maintained this criticism into his closing statement even after being corrected.

Also, in his closing statement, Mr. Andrews decided to call my Hell argument ‘Off Topic’ because it is an intra- christian debate. I was under the impression that I was debating Mr. Andrews’ on his conception of Christiainity, which DOES include Hell and so is entirely on-topic. Mr. Andrews apparently thinks that I should limit my arguments to only those things that every single self-professed christian believes in – this is just unreasonable.

On my argument from divine lies, Mr. Andrews labels it as‘Epistemically Absurd‘ so I want to again address his objection.
First, recall that Max avoids the noseeum inference in the evidential problem of evil by saying that we are not in a privelidged spacio-temporal position and so we shouldn’t expect to have epistemic access to the kinds of justifications God has for allowing certain evils – like children starving to death – to occur. I applauded Mr. Andrews for a strong view that lines up well with revealed scripture and is in great intellectual company.

I then noted that this has unwanted consequences. To be consistent, Mr. Andrews must agree that he is ALSO not in a position to know whether God has morally sufficient reasons beyond his understanding to lie to us in revealed scripture. This would of course prevent Mr. Andrews from being in a position to know that any claim with biblical justification only is ACTUALLY true.

Max responded by saying that it would contradict God’s moral perfection to lie. But when did God grant Mr. Andrews this special knowledge about the logical entailments of God’s moral perfection? Given Andrews‘ skeptical theism, he is left with little more than his moral feelings that lying is always wrong. Yet, presumably Mr. Andrews has much more potent intuitions about whether it is always wrong to allow children to starve to death as his God regularly does. If Mr. Andrews wants to appeal to skeptical theism when faced with questions about God’s potential justification for doing nothing while children are starving to death, then, as a matter of proper consistency,

he must also be epistemically humble when faced with questions about whether or not there exists a greater good beyond his understanding that justifies his God in lying to him about the necessary and sufficient conditions to be saved. All those claims to which Max confidently subscribes to but which only have biblical justification are claims whose truth or falsity Max can have no knowledge of.

I want to thank Mr. Andrews for being willing to work on this extended debate project with me.

End of Debate

*Citations for quotes and references by Mr. Schieber will be added as they come in.


48 Responses to “Transcript and Thoughts on My Debate with Justin Schieber”

  1. Thanks for compiling all the text together in one place.

  2. If we grant that God has eternal knowledge (some sort of undifferentiated whole) of all possible worlds, then it seems that a withholding of creation is unloving. These potential creatures are eternally being denied the ability to know and attain the highest possible good in Godworld, which ultimately is fellowship with God for the rest of eternity. Thus it seems that GodWorld is a miserable failure in assuming that God’s great-making properties are only maximized in a world He doesn’t exist. Furthermore, isn’t mercy a great-making property? God doesn’t need to have mercy on Himself in a world where only He exists. That’s a terribly weak argument.

    • Eeek. That should read… “…in a world where only He exists.” – Feel free to edit that, Max. If you’re able!

    • >These potential creatures are eternally being denied the ability to know and attain the highest possible good in Godworld, which ultimately is fellowship with God for the rest of eternity.

      This makes no sense. A potential creature cannot be denied anything as it does not actually exist. This argument is equivalent to saying that if you don’t have kids, you’re being unloving to your children. Of course you’re not – the group “your children” is the empty set. There is nothing there to love, and nothing being deprived of love.

  3. At the very least I would say that mercy is a constituent of a greater great-making property: Love. 🙂 Just to clarify while I’m at it. Sorry, in a hurry. Off to church.

  4. Hey Max,

    I read into the second rebuttals and I think I will finish by listening to it and referencing anything needed. I have to say, this was lopsided. There seems to be a polish to your arguments which are lacking in your opponents. There also seems to be a fairly large gap in knowledge between the two of you. I commend Justin for presenting his own arguments, it`s not an easy thing to do successfully.

    I am familiar with both your philosophical/ scientific arguments you presented and know that these are your two strongest (although I am also a fan of your moral argument). I was also more then pleased that you presented Habermas` minimal facts argument and how much information you managed to get into such a brief introduction.

    I am a fan of modal ontological arguments and Great Being theology, having been introduced to them via the Messianic Drew, Alvin Plantinga and Robert Maydole. So in reading Justin`s argument and further rebuttal I felt completely underwhelmed by the argument and its defense. It would seem to me that it is greater to create then not to create, to instantiate an abstract into the concrete (which, in essence is what God did). Let`s just look at the world. Surely it was greater for Michelangelo to create the beauty of the Sistine Chapel then to keep that idea to himself, simply for the enjoyment of others. I think the same can be said for a MGB.

    His second argument is one I`ve heard uttered many times on various message boards, devoid of any premises or conclusions. I agree totally with your defense against it.

    The third argument, I was completely lost and would have preffered a Rowe kinda argument from suffering 🙂

    Great job Max, I will finish it when the audio is available. Those are just my thoughts for now (some of them). As always you have served your King well, and I am sure He is pleased with you dedication to the Kingdom and it`s defense. God bless you my brother.

  5. The glasses on the two of you… the glasses are just awesome. 😀

  6. Do you have an MP3 or video of the debate? I’d like to watch it.

  7. Does it not bother you that at the end of the day, the only “evidence” you have for your god is philosophical arguments and word games? Why doesn’t your god just show up and offer himself as proof as he supposedly did throughout the Bible? The fact that you have to come up with reasons your god doesn’t do that should say something to you.

    • What’s wrong with philosophical arguments? What are the word games? It seems your desperate for a response without actually proffering one.

    • Way to glide over important philosophical and theological considerations with the grace of a NHL goalie compared to an Olympic figure skater.

      And I doubt it bothers any thinking Christian. It’s perhaps better we have these arguments and other evidences without God somehow manifesting Himself perpetually as a cosmic bully, thereby in a large sense coercing us into following Him, as opposed to the exercising of our free will.

      • I’m sorry, I completely missed a reasonable response and any proffering of an argument. I’ll let this one pass. Please, try again.

        • Max,

          You do realize I was talking to Jim… don’t you?

          • Man, I hoped I was wrong! It didn’t come up as a reply to a response but as a reply to the post (in my dashboard). I was quite surprised. It seemed like you turned all of a sudden. Apologies.

    • He tried that once already and they crucified Him for it.

    • Shouldn’t we expect philosophical arguments for philosophical questions? The question of God’s existence is not a scientific question.

  8. Thanks for the transcript, Max.

  9. Max,

    Why do you think Justin’s third argument is off topic? The debate is whether the Christian God exists. If your conception of God relies on key biblical concepts to be presented truthfully while still professing an ignorance of God’s moral calculus, then an argument showing the contradiction is on topic.

    By assuming God is maximally morally perfect, Justin’s argument shows you can’t know God is maximally morally perfect. You have no further evidence to support God’s maximally perfect nature, and therefore He isn’t the “Christian God” as assumed by your arguments. Your “background information” is the assumption that makes the argument work!

    • I’m afraid you’ve got your conditions backwards and it should be very obvious. Tell me, is the Bible a necessary condition for God’s existence?

      • Max,

        Yes, the bible is necessary for the Christian God’s existence. His Word is part of him, and cannot be separated from Him. He is maximally perfect, if He didn’t send his Word to his creation, it would be less than perfect, as his creation would be unaware of his love.

        • I wish you could see me shaking my head in utter disappoint in your response. How subjective can you get? Let’s try this again and try to answer my first question (if the Bible is a NECESSARY CONDITION for the existence of God–you didn’t answer that). Okay, is it possible for God to exist and the Bible not exist? One step at a time…

          • Max,

            The Christian God cannot exist without the bible. There is no separation between the bible and God. Doesn’t Paul state that the scriptures are God-breathed?

            Are you saying that the Christian God would still exist as the Christian God if the bible didn’t exist?

          • Are you serious? Do you not understand how incredibly absurd that is? So, prior to the Bible, God didn’t exist? But, because the Bible exists, God can then exist? That’s exactly what you’re saying when you say the Bible is a necessary condition for God’s existence. Either you don’t understand the concept of God or you’re incredibly inept at logic. Of course God can exist without the Bible; don’t embarrass yourself with such silly arguments.

          • Max,

            The Christian God is a “transcendent, timeless, extremely powerful unembodied mind” (thanks Philosogetics). The bible is part of God, and therefore timeless and transcendent as well. How can God’s Word come after God, if He is timeless?

            Or are you saying that God’s Word is not part of God? Doesn’t that contradict Isaiah 40:8? Or are you saying God’s Word is not an attribute of God?

          • If by part of God you mean ontologically a part of then absolutely not. How are you meaning “part of God”?

          • “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

            Max, if the bible didn’t exist, then your fine tuner wouldn’t be the Christian God. You know, the God that sent His Son to perform miracles, fulfill Scripture and die on the cross. He would be a deist God, but that’s it. The bible is necessary for God to be the Christian God.

            What’s more, you claim that God is maximally perfect and timeless. How can an attribute of God (God’s Word) not contribute to that maximal perfection, but be “not necessary”?

            I don’t think you can deal with arguments against your faith; it’s pretty obvious you can’t change your mind, especially given how invested you are in your intellectual position.

          • I give up trying to reason with you. How many fallacies are you capable of? How many questions can you ignore? Thanks for showing how absurd this third argument actually is.

          • Max,

            I answered your questions, you just didn’t like the answers. My answers are just as logical as yours; from nonsense, all things follow.

          • No you didn’t lol. Tell me, how is the ontology of God contingent upon the Bible and did you actually use Is40.8 correctly? Did you exegete it? If so I’d like to see it. Demonstrate that you can actually handle hermeneutics and metaphysics. Please, continue embarrassing yourself.

          • God’s Word is a property of God’s mind. God’s mind is an essential part of God, for that is what he uses in the original creative act. The bible is God’s Word.

            1 Peter 1:23-25 (KJV) “by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” refers to Isaiah 40:8. The word of God is alive and abides forever. Not, “God’s word is around, and abides for a bit”. Alive, and forever.

            So, no, God cannot exist without the bible. There is no possible world where the Christian God exists and the bible doesn’t. Otherwise, God’s living and abiding word would not exist, God would not be complete, and God would not be maximally perfect.

            Wow, and you want to do this full-time? Do you have a day-job, or someone who gives you an allowance, or something like that?

          • The Bible is not a property of God. I’m sorry but this is metaphysically ignorant and absurd. You’re incapable of reasonable discussion about bibliology and metaphysics. Thanks for clearly demonstrating how stupid the argument really is. “No possible world in which the Bible doesn’t exist…” lol

          • Max,

            William Lane Craig’s response:

            “As a pure mind without a body, God is a remarkably simple entity.”

            ‘I want to say that we shouldn’t ever lapse into this kind of language of “the Bible’s becoming God’s Word for me,” or “When I read it, it becomes God’s Word for me because God speaks to me through it.” I think that’s quite incorrect. God could speak to you through the telephone book or through The Shack, but that wouldn’t make it God’s Word. The Bible is God’s Word. The whole idea is that the Bible is a propositional revelation. If it were lost, forgotten in some vault, and nobody ever read it, it would still be the God-breathed, propositional revelation of God. So let’s not lapse into this language of the Bible’s becoming God’s Word to me or anything of that sort. That is to diminish the degree to which this is a verbal, propositional revelation from God.’

            Walk me through it. With which premise do you disagree?

            The bible is God’s Word. (WLC agrees).
            God’s Word is an essential property of God’s mind. (God’s propositional revelation of his mind)
            God’s mind is an essential property of God. (WLC agrees).
            God’s word lives and abides forever. (Scripture).

            Are you implying the bible isn’t God’s Word? Or that God’s propositional revelation isn’t an essential part of his mind? Or that God’s mind isn’t an essential part of God? Or that Scripture is wrong?

          • The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

            That’s Is. 40.8. Please tell you referenced the wrong passage. This says nothing about the Word of God being a part of God. Where did you learn to exegete? (I’m granting you the courtesy that you exegeted and actually made an effort–I think I’m wrong though).

          • It seems to me that Sharkey doesn’t realize that “the Word” is Jesus, not the Bible.

        • How exactly is a transcendent, timeless, extremely powerful unembodied mind bound by the existence or non-existence of some ink on paper?? This seems like a clear case of a false dichotomy.

  10. Sharkey,

    Please stop making atheism look ridiculous with your ridiculous excuse for an argument.

    An Atheist.

  11. Max,

    Not at all, sir. You’re a brilliant man of God, and I’ve become a big fan of yours. I don’t know why it came up as a reply to you instead of him. It’s weird because it doesn’t even give me the option to reply to the last comment you’ve just made. It’s all good! And did you get my PM on Twitter?

  12. A response to the claim that my third argument, the Argument from Divine Lies, is irrelevant and out of place in a debate on the existence of the Christian God.

  13. Hi Max, Three points in response to yours at the start of the transcript;

    1) Wes Morriston, himself a Christian and philosopher of religion admits that the question of why an infinite and perfect Being would create anything at all remains a good one.

    2) You defend eternal punishment based on “a consistent infralapsarian soteriology?” Christians themselves do not agree that each other’s soteriologies are equally consistent. My view is that once a person boasts that they can defend eternal conscious punishment (whether physical or mental) then they can defend anything. It’s not a matter of debate at that point.

    And for your claims that eternal punishment is bolstered by logic, there are certainly logical arguments to the contrary as universalists note. Those arguments conclude that “choosing hell” is not a logical option in a world created directly and solely out of God’s infinitely good will, wisdom and power, and in which God remains everywhere and in all things. God is also infinite, while temptation and sin and evil cannot be if the only basis for existence is God and God is infinitely good and all things came directly and solely out of God in the beginning, and God remains in all things. And if God is the all-conditioner, then God would know what moves us each the most, and know it far more clearly than the devil or our own selves. Infinitely more clearly. So God and time must be the best teachers in the end.

    The alternative view is the one that C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton found intolerable (as I said, if a person can defend eternal conscious punishment then they can defend anything at all):

    C. S. Lewis To John Beversluis, July 3, 1963 (the year of C. S. Lewis’ death): “The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘so there’s no God after all,’ but, ‘So this is what God is really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'” Only four months before his death, Lewis wrote in a letter to an American philosopher that there were dangers in judging God by moral standards. However, he maintained that “believing in a God whom we cannot but regard as evil, and then, in mere terrified flattery calling Him ‘good’ and worshiping Him, is still greater danger.”

    Lewis was responding specifically to the question of Joshua’s slaughter of the Canaanites by divine decree and Peter’s striking Ananias and Sapphira dead.

    Knowing that the evangelical doctrine of the Bible’s infallibility required him to approve of “the atrocities (and treacheries) of Joshua,” Lewis made this surprising concession: “The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of Scriptures is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two indeed, only that doctrine renders this worship of Him obligatory or even permissible.”

    “To this some will reply ‘ah, but we are fallen and don’t recognize good when we see it.’ But God Himself does not say that we are as fallen at all that. He constantly, in Scripture, appeals to our conscience: ‘Why do ye not of yourselves judge what is right?’ — ‘What fault hath my people found in me?’ And so on. Socrates’ answer to Euthyphro is used in Christian form by Hooker. Things are not good because God commands them; God commands certain things because he sees them to be good. (In other words, the Divine Will is the obedient servant to the Divine Reason.) The opposite view (Ockham’s, Paley’s) leads to an absurdity. If ‘good’ means ‘what God wills’ then to say ‘God is good’ can mean only ‘God wills what he wills.’ Which is equally true of you or me or Judas or Satan.”

    C. S. Lewis To Dom Bede Griffiths, Dec. 20, 1961: “Even more disturbing as you say, is the ghastly record of Christian persecution. It had begun in Our Lord’s time – ‘Ye know not what spirit ye are of’ (John of all people!) I think we must fully face the fact that when Christianity does not make a man very much better, it makes him very much worse…Conversion may make of one who was, if no better, no worse than an animal, something like a devil.”

    On Biblical arguments for the existence of eternal punishment, one need only note that eternal rewards and punishments and a general resurrection from the dead seem to have been added to Israelite religious beliefs only after their contact with Persian civilization, after a Persian king sent the Israelites back to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, and after Isaiah named that Persian king an anointed one, a Messiah, the only non-Hebrew messiah in the Bible. Then the belief in an eternal reward and punishment appears in the late book of Daniel, an intertestamental work, and in other intertestamental works and in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and thence it entered into first century Judaism and Jesus. Even a Christian theologian has to wonder whether Jesus was preaching literal truth concerning eternal rewards and punishments and a general resurrection or employing ideas that had arisen and gained popularity during the inter-testamental period, so as to accommodate his speech and allusions and ideas to first century ears?

    One might say the same about the book of Revelation and its view of a new heaven and new earth where resurrected people will live after a big battle on earth, even though cosmology tells us that no matter what happens to the earth the rest of the cosmos has plenty of fuel for the stars to continue burning for billions of years, and produce new elements via fusion and new planets round those stars, for billions of years after earth is gone. In some places stellar nurseries are still giving birth to new stars, a miracle not recorded in the Bible, which only says God created the sun, moon and the stars also, on day four. But no, God is creating them still.

    More questions arise if you take the idea of people having physically resurrected bodies on a new earth literally, such as, if people have resurrected bodies can they sex? — with whom can they have sex; with all their previous wives on earth, or only their last wife, or with someone they choose to marry in the new creation? — or can they have sex with anyone? — will divorce or separations be allowed in the new creation? — can they have new creation babies,or will people be firing blanks for eternity? divinely mandated eternally safe birth control? — Or no sex at all, even though people have new bodies and can touch each other? How literally are we to take such ideas?

    Meanwhile Christian philosopher Peter van Inwagen is pretty concerned about the brain and nervous system dissolving into dust at death since then whatever is resurrected would just be a simulacra, not the original person.

    3) Whether God is “lying” grants the existence of God, however to put matters another way, the question of how one can tell whether any particular passage or writing is “inerrant” or “inspired” is a good one.

    If God must speak in the same voice and utilize the same ideas as humans of a particular time and place, as well as their conceptions of the cosmos, history, including the human propensity for telling stories, midrash, myths, etc., then the questions continue to grow.

    Such as, what piece of writing could one NOT claim was “inspired?” The Epic of Gilgamesh might be an inspired tale about brotherhood and man’s quest for immortality. Tales involving individual Greek or Hindu gods might be divinely inspired tales that aid us in understanding the many facets of the human psyche, and help integrate the experiences of each person’s life over time into a well-functioning whole. So God could have divinely inspired those stories as well.

    Which reminds me of C. S. Lewis’ letter to Chad Walsh, May 23, 1960, in which he shared an incident during his visit to Greece with his wife who was suffering from cancer: “I had some ado to prevent Joy (and myself) from relapsing into Paganism in Attica! At Daphni it was hard not to pray to Apollo the Healer. But somehow one didn’t feel it would have been very wrong — would have only been addressing Christ sub specie Apollinis.”

    C. S. Lewis viewed all truth as God’s truth, but in the end Lewis argued that there was only one true story, one myth become fact, and that was the story of Jesus–which unfortunately is not an actual argument on the part of Lewis but an added hypothesis.

    In the end, once you admit the necessity of “accommodation” in call claims that any particular writing is divinely inspired, then you have to sort out which ideas/passages/stories should be understood as purely metaphorical, prescientific, culturally-influenced, and which should be understood in a more literal fashion. But how do you know for sure? How do you know for instance that Jesus’ talk of “eternal punishment” must be understood literally? “Eternal punishment” was a culturally influenced concept that arose during the inter-testamental period. How do you know that the necessity of shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins is true or merely culturally conditioned? How do you know which ideas held by apocalyptic and “resurrection- minded” Second Temple Jews of that time and place were culturally conditioned and which were not?

    And when Christianity gets to the point of admitting that it consists of inspired myths in Genesis 1-11, as well as inspired midrashic tales told by NT writers, and ending in a sea of metaphors and revenge in Revelation, then the questions just keep coming.

    One might even ask what is the LEAST that could have happened to start the resurrection story / stories going. Or even, what is the least one can believe and still be a Christian? What if Peter had an appearance like Paul did of the risen Jesus? And what if the other apostles trusted Peter instead of having any appearance visions of their own, but it came to pass that they did not wish to deny their trust in Peter and so they too agreed when others asked if Jesus had appeared. and then people thought Jesus had appeared to them as well? What if the “over 500” is an overblown story about how some people up front saw someone whom they thought was Jesus, and the other people in the crowd went along with that? There’s cases like that even today. What if the empty tomb story is a typical translation tale, of bodies vanishing and people saying “they went up to heaven?” Translation stories were common at that time, including one about the founder of Rome, and the Emperor Augustus. If Jesus didn’t have his own translation tale, his story could not compete very well, this tale of a heavenly king.


    Just like the question of the essence of the pincushion hidden by innumerable pins. We are stuck with observing and feeling the mere heads of pins when it comes to knowing the essence of the pincushion hidden behind them all, fully knowing God, or reality, whatever it may be. Is it a strictly “biblical” reality? And which interpretation of the Bible? I don’t think we can tell. I suspect it’s a more inclusive reality and more puzzling.

  14. Hello Justin,

    I have recently come across your non-god objects argument and I was hoping you would be able to clarify some things for me.

    All quotations are from the transcript provided in this post.

    This is from your opening statement:

    “If God exists, and if he is truly the maximal great being that the philosophical theologians hold him to be, then he would surely be aware of the fact that himself existing alone for eternity as ‘GodWorld’ is the best possible world that could ever exist, and because God is essentially morally perfect, he couldn’t have a motivating reason to intentionally alter the overall quality of that maximally great state of affairs – because any alteration in OVERALL quality by the introduction of a universe, would, by necessity , be a degradation of overall quality. A maximally great being such as God would sustain that beautiful, eternal tone of perfection. God wouldn’t introduce limited entities each with their own unimpressive set of degraded great-making properties like the creation myth of Genesis records. Ignorant, weak and morally gullible creatures like Adam and his after-thought helpmeat Eve sure have great-making properties but they have them to a an unimpressive degree. This can’t be seen as anything other than a degredation of what could have been.”

    I understand from this that what “could have been” is God existing alone. It seems to me that you are arguing that God would be degraded by the addition of non-god objects. So, my question is: How can God, as defined in premise 1, be degraded?

    You go on to state the following which I think calls into question your understanding of God:

    “Any plausible conception of what it means to be a maximally great being has us thinking that God would maintain and preserve Godworld because to suggest God is in the degrading business is to suggest he is wasn’t maximally great in the first place.”

    I think this is equivalent to stating that God, a maximally great being, cannot create, because for God to do so would demonstrate He is not a maximally great being. Is the ability to create not a great making property? I think so. So, really I think you are stating that God, who is not a maximally great being (because He cannot create), existing alone is the best possible world. This makes no sense.

    You do state the following in your second rebuttal:

    “The point is that, if God is the standard of moral and ontological perfection, any creation act, if it is not to clone himself, will degrade that overall world-purity.”

    God cannot create a clone of himself. Not because of a lack of power, but because it is illogical. Anything God creates is not God because of the fact that is was created. Do you agree with this? If you do not, I question your understanding of God and non-god objects. If you do agree, then are you not describing in premise 1 a being that is not truly maximally great and thus not even arguing against the Christian God?

    I appreciate your clarification on these things so that I may better understand your argument.


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