The “Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit”

by Luke Muehlhauser on December 10, 2009 in William Lane Craig

holy spirit revelation

Christian philosopher William Lane Craig believes that the evidence for or against God doesn’t really matter, because the “inner witness of the Holy Spirit” trumps everything:

…the way we know Christianity to be true is by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit. Now what do I mean by that? I mean that the experience of the Holy Spirit is… unmistakable… for him who has it; …that arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit…1

…it is the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit that gives us the fundamental knowledge of Christianity’s truth. Therefore, the only role left for argument and evidence to play is a subsidiary role… The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel… and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel. In light of the Spirit’s witness, only the ministerial use of reason is legitimate. Philosophy is rightly the handmaid of theology. Reason is a tool to help us better understand and defend our faith…2

[The inner witness of the Spirit] trumps all other evidence.3

So yeah, nothing would change Craig’s mind. He is not the “champion” of arguments and evidence he presents himself as. He is immune to arguments and evidence.

I’m not exaggerating. Mark Smith posed the following scenario to Craig:

Dr. Craig, for the sake of argument let’s pretend that a time machine gets built. You and I hop in it, and travel back to the day before Easter, 33 AD. We park it outside the tomb of Jesus. We wait. Easter morning rolls around, and nothing happens. We continue to wait. After several weeks of waiting, still nothing happens. There is no resurrection – Jesus is quietly rotting away in the tomb.

Smith then asked Craig if he would then deny Christianity, having seen with his own eyes that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Smith writes:

He told me, face to face, that he would STILL believe in Jesus, he would STILL believe in the resurrection, and he would STILL remain a Christian.

In 2007, Zachary Moore decided to try again. Craig confirmed that that no evidence could overturn his “inner witness of the Holy Spirit.”4

So let me repeat: William Lane Craig is not a champion of logic and evidence. He admits he is immune to them.

Really, what can even be said of Craig’s claim? If the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is not evidence or the premise of an argument but is “self-authenticating” to such a degree that it “trumps all other evidence,” what can we even say about such a claim? Am I allowed to claim that the inner witness of my “sensus atheistus” – which tells me that there are no gods – is self-authenticating to such a degree that it trumps all other evidence? Nobody should accept such nonsense.

Basically, Craig defends his faith against the evidence the same way my mom does – “I know because I know that I know that I know.” And that’s it. “I know in my heart that Christianity is true, and I know my heart is right because my heart tells me it is right.”

That’s, like, the dumbest thing ever.

It’s intellectual suicide. It is extreme gullibility and credulity. It is also reveals profoundly arrogant double standard to assert that my heart provides irrefutable proof of metaphysical truths, while the hearts of everyone who disagrees with me deceives them.

I’ll conclude by quoting Craig’s remarkably honest account of his abandonment of reason:

Raised in a non-evangelical home, I became a Christian my third year of high school, not through any careful consideration of the evidence, but because those Christian students who shared the gospel with me seemed to be living on a different plane of reality than I was. Their faith in Christ imparted meaning to their lives along with a joyous peace, which I craved.

…As a young believer full of enthusiasm and faith, I went off in 1967 to study at Wheaton College. During the sixties Wheaton had become a seedbed of skepticism and cynicism, and I was dismayed to see students whose intellectual abilities I admired lose their faith and renounce Christianity in the name of reason… Among the students, doubt was touted as a virtue of the mature Christian life, and one was supposed to follow unflinchingly the demands of reason wherever it might lead. I will remember well one of my theology professors commenting that if he were persuaded that Christianity were unreasonable, then he would renounce Christianity.

Now that frightened and troubled me. For me, Christ was so real and had invested my life with such significance that I could not make the confession of my professor – if somehow through my studies my reason were to turn against my faith, then so much the worse for reason! Thus, I confided to one of my philosophy teachers, “I guess I’m not a true intellectual. If my reason turned against Christ, I’d still believe. My faith is too real.”5

As you say, Dr. Craig…

  1. Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition, page 43. []
  2. Ibid, pages 47-48. []
  3. As quoted in John Loftus, Why I Became an Atheist, page 214. []
  4. Ibid, page 214. []
  5. Five Views on Apologetics, pages 26-27. []

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{ 120 comments… read them below or add one }

ayer December 10, 2009 at 3:18 pm

I don’t think you are seriously dealing with the concept of an “intrinsic defeater-defeater,” a good example of which was mentioned earlier on another thread: the warranted knowledge held by the Jodie Foster character in the movie “Contact” even in the face of all the contrary evidence:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FbSPXC4btU&feature=related

On your view, Jodie should have collapsed before the investigating committee (and the snarling skeptic, the James Woods character) and exclaimed. “You’re right! how silly of me! My experience does not constitute knowledge!”

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majinrevan666 December 10, 2009 at 3:31 pm

“I know because I know that I know that I know.”

Don’t you have to use this rationality no matter what
your ultimate beliefs are?
I mean, there are several ways in which this reasoning
can be used, but I don’t think that your comparison is fair.
When Craig uses such reasoning he’s referring to the sense
in which you percieve things to be true. (E.G, I know I’m
typing this now or I know that the world wasn’t created
five minutes ago etc.)

Your mother, presumably, uses this reasoning to end a discussion in such a way as to make it clear that
she has conviction in her beliefs.

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drj December 10, 2009 at 3:42 pm

It’s intellectual suicide. It is extreme gullibility and credulity. It is also reveals profoundly arrogant double standard to assert that my heart provides irrefutable proof of metaphysical truths, while the hearts of everyone who disagrees with me deceives them.

Well said. Arrogance indeed. Not only is it a profound arrogance, but its really the ultimate, unrestrained, unapologetic, and unwarranted indulgence of one’s own personal bias. Its a declaration to the world of one’s own infallibility and an outright refusal to consider anything that says otherwise. Unfortunately, in the field of philosophy, if one suffers from such a defect of character, all one’s work will be tainted by it.

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cartesian December 10, 2009 at 3:44 pm

I’m inclined to agree with the first comment, and to disagree with Luke. Think also of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Suppose you’ve found yourself for your whole life in a cave, surrounded by people arguing about whether or not there is a sun, bandying philosophical arguments back and forth. None of them has actually been out of the cave.

One day, you’re dragged out of the cave and you actually *see* the sun. Then, you go back down into the cave. Now suppose one of the sun-skeptics in the cave presents an airtight argument for the conclusion that the sun doesn’t exist. You can’t see which premise is false, and you can clearly see that the argument is valid. Should you therefore give up your belief that there is a sun? I’d say definitely not. I think Craig believes he’s in roughly that situation.

Here’s a more realistic case. There are external world skeptics, and some of them have pretty darn good arguments. Suppose one of them gives you an airtight argument for the conclusion that there is no external world: really, you’re dreaming, and this is all a massive hallucination. Are you really going to cave in the face of such an argument? I’m not. And I think Craig believes he’s in a similar situation with respect to Christianity.

And IF the Christian God exists, is it really so crazy to suppose that he could make his presence known to people in such a way as to put them in that sort of situation? Doesn’t seem so crazy to me.

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drj December 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm

One day, you’re dragged out of the cave and you actually *see* the sun. Then, you go back down into the cave. Now suppose one of the sun-skeptics in the cave presents an airtight argument for the conclusion that the sun doesn’t exist. You can’t see which premise is false, and you can clearly see that the argument is valid. Should you therefore give up your belief that there is a sun? I’d say definitely not. I think Craig believes he’s in roughly that situation.

What if your friends in the cave had told you that you slipped, hit your head, and had lay unconscious on the floor of the cave during the entire period of time you believed you were gazing at the sun? Not only that, but they have the whole experience on video, and they play it back for you. Is it still reasonable to trust your own experience, in this case? Craig seems to think so but I would say you would be wilfully ignoring good reasons to mistrust your experience.

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Paul December 10, 2009 at 3:55 pm

ayer: a good example of which was mentioned earlier on another thread: the warranted knowledge held by the Jodie Foster character in the movie “Contact” even in the face of all the contrary evidence:

Why do you say her belief was warranted. If you witnessed events as depicted in the movie would you automatically assume her belief was warranted?

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Justfinethanks December 10, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I think that this “inner witness of the holy spirit” nonsense is also pretty stupid. I certainly would trust my findings done with a sincere, careful, and sober consideration of the evidence over some sort of temporary “experience” in a highly emotional state.

But at the same time, harping on this point is a bit of a red herring, I think. If I were to say that I believe that Paris is a city in France, and no amount of evidence would ever relieve me of that belief, that doesn’t mean that my assertion isn’t solidly evidence based. The fact that I have a non-evidential reason for believing in the geographic location of Paris might be silly, but my non-evidential epistomology is irrelavent if there is ALSO a highly evidential reason for believing in it.

Similarly, Craig might have stupid reasons for believing Christianity to be true (i.e. because he feels it to be so, essentially), but if there is a strong evidential case to be made for it (which I of course don’t think so, but Craig would argue otherwise), then it doesn’t matter why he holds to his beliefs at his core.

After all, Craig isn’t arguing that Christianity is wholly non-evidence based. He is arguing that it is evidence AND “inner witness” based.

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rushmore December 10, 2009 at 4:09 pm

“Well said. Arrogance indeed. Not only is it a profound arrogance, but its really the ultimate, unrestrained, unapologetic, and unwarranted indulgence of one’s own personal bias. Its a declaration to the world of one’s own infallibility and an outright refusal to consider anything that says otherwise. Unfortunately, in the field of philosophy, if one suffers from such a defect of character, all one’s work will be tainted by it.”

****

You could just as easily be talking about Dawkins or – for that matter I suspect – Luke. Heck, I’m convinced I’m right too.

This board and the theist/atheist debate does not lack for utterly self-assured zealots of either stripe. The only redeeming thing from my viewpoint is that at least Craig admits it.

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Paul December 10, 2009 at 4:10 pm

cartesian: I think Craig believes he’s in roughly that situation

hmm – not quite.


One day, you’re dragged out of the cave and you actually *see* the sun

Has Dr. Craig seen God?

What one currently has is the experience before he went outside the cave. Except that if one were to wonder outside the cave what they would find is that there is no sun outside.

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Jason Finney December 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm

It’s intellectual suicide. It is extreme gullibility and credulity. It is also reveals profoundly arrogant double standard to assert that my heart provides irrefutable proof of metaphysical truths, while the hearts of everyone who disagrees with me deceives them.

What kind of shrooms you been wolfing mate? Good Lord.

I’ll tell ya what. If you have a friend who’s indignant over his own mum’s happiness and beating his chest incessantly over her “gullibility” and “arrogance” for simply staying true to her heartfelt convictions, you can rest assured his next stop will be a secluded cabin deep in the heart of Montana. Come to think of it, his friends might not be far behind him:

“drj” said: “Well said. Arrogance indeed. Not only is it a profound arrogance, but its really the ultimate, unrestrained, unapologetic, and unwarranted indulgence of one’s own personal bias. Its a declaration to the world of one’s own infallibility and an outright refusal to consider anything that says otherwise. Unfortunately, in the field of philosophy, if one suffers from such a defect of character, all one’s work will be tainted by it.

What kind of bloke calls his own mate’s mum a bag of “ultimate, unrestrained, unapologetic, and unwarranted indulgence of personal bias”?

You call this intellectualism?

I’ll tell ya what, if this is intellectualism count me out. I’ll take good ol love over this self absorbed mental masturbation any day.

I’ll tell ya what. This aint healthy. Anytime you get so puffed up you start degrading your own mum you got some serious mental problems.

Now you see why **DR** Craig would never disbelieve. Because he knows *THIS* is the alternative.

Get some help Luke! Really worried about ya mate!

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tinyfrog December 10, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Yeah, I’ve seen that argument before. There’s a couple reasons I don’t like it.

First, it’s impossible for me (the atheist) to mount a counterargument against it. While Christians might like the fact that I can’t refute it, they also can’t refute the “self-authenticating witness of Allah” when Muslims use it. I can, however, suggest that Craig is mistaken about his feeling.

Second, there are Christians who have become atheists (I’m one of them). I don’t believe that there is anything self-authenticating about Christianity. Admittedly, he can always say that I wasn’t one of God’s chosen, and therefore, didn’t have that “self-authenticating” witness provided to me by God. But, there are other Christians who have apparently not felt that self-authenticating presence. A few years ago, when her writings were released, it was discovered that Mother Theresa complained about God’s absence. She referred to Jesus “the absent one”. (Go ahead and google “the absent one” and “mother theresa” if anyone wants to verify it.)

I short, I think Craig’s argument relies on a bit of self-delusion packaged into a subjective argument that no external observer can actually refute.

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drj December 10, 2009 at 4:41 pm

rushmore: This board and the theist/atheist debate does not lack for utterly self-assured zealots of either stripe. The only redeeming thing from my viewpoint is that at least Craig admits it.

Humans will be humans, and we often don’t admit it to ourselves when something threatens a belief that we’re confident in. But I believe Dawkins and Luke would generally feel that nothing should be off limits to doubt, even if they don’t always live up to the ideal. At least the potential is there to correct one’s errors, in a way that isnt, when it comes to Craig and his inner witness.

Imagine if either Luke or Dawkins brazenly announced to the world that even a face-to-face meeting with God Himself, would not stir a sliver doubt towards their atheism?

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Josh December 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Ayer and Cartesian,

The problem is that this kind of argument is a slipper slope of the worst kind. As has been pointed out, it raises the problem that you have just given up your right to say that anyone else’s inner sense is wrong.

But even worse, I think that the examples you gave of 1)Contact and 2)the cave are highly misleading. First of all, at least in the film, there is evidence that Jodie Foster’s character had something weird happen, but it’s being hidden (iirc, they mention that they have 18 hours of snow on tape). The cave is slightly more interesting, because it sort of, kind of mirrors our situation if god were to exist. However, this line:

“Now suppose one of the sun-skeptics in the cave presents an airtight argument for the conclusion that the sun doesn’t exist. You can’t see which premise is false, and you can clearly see that the argument is valid.”

Assuming that the sun exists and cannot rebuke the laws of logic, something in his argument MUST BE WRONG, because the sun clearly exists. So, contrasting this with what Craig said about even if he confirmed for himself that Jesus never resurrected he would still believe, there is a problem. Right?

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Haukur December 10, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Josh: So, contrasting this with what Craig said about even if he confirmed for himself that Jesus never resurrected he would still believe, there is a problem. Right?

Well, he doesn’t quite say that. He says that if his reason were to turn against Christ he feels that he would still be justified in believing (because there’s other stuff besides reason that would override reason here). This is originally a pagan argument, of course.

For an innate knowledge about the Gods is coexistent with our nature, and is superior to all judgement and choice, reasoning and proof.Iamblichus

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lukeprog December 10, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Haukur,

Are there any contemporary analytic philosophers who make a substantive defense of paganism?

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Jake de Backer December 10, 2009 at 5:24 pm

lukeprog: Haukur,Are there any contemporary analytic philosophers who make a substantive defense of paganism?  

Craig argues for the existence of three gods. Or one god who is three. 3 = 1. 1 = 3. The math get’s a little fuzzy but there are three distinguishable entities. Does that count?

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J Wahler December 10, 2009 at 5:39 pm

‘Self-Authenticating’…surely one of the cornerstones of many good fortresses of defensive epistemology. Rejecting a reasonable kind of fallibilism is to throw away the key to let yourself out of that bastion if indeed you never really need have built it at all.

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Walter December 10, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Sounds like Craig is a simple fideist. He just engages in apologetics to try to assuage the doubts in the choir.

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Haukur December 10, 2009 at 5:47 pm

lukeprog: Are there any contemporary analytic philosophers who make a substantive defense of paganism?

In the sense of publishing peer-reviewed articles in philosophy journals? Not to my knowledge. But then, I don’t know much about analytic philosophy and I don’t read any philosophy journals. You may be interested in reading some of Michael York‘s works but I don’t think that qualifies as analytic philosophy. And of course there are a number of works extant by ancient pagan philosophers and there are plenty of modern commentaries on those but that’s not what you mean either.

If there are any analytic philosophers defending Taoism, Shinto or pantheistic Hinduism that would probably be close enough. You know anything about that?

I think I can make a decent case for pantheism but not in a philosophically rigorous way (I’m an engineer and a linguist, I have no training in philosophy).

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lukeprog December 10, 2009 at 5:50 pm

You’ve summed up things nicely.

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lukeprog December 10, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Thanks, the Michael York link might help me track something down.

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ayer December 10, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Paul:
Why do you say her belief was warranted.Ifyou witnessed events as depicted in the movie would you automatically assume her belief was warranted?  

I think there is confusion as to the purpose of the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, or to such experiences that provide knowledge such as in the movie Contact. The point is not that this type of knowledge constitutes an argument with which to convert a skeptic; the point is that the person with such knowledge is violating no epistemic duties in saying “I know God exists”, etc. Another example is a person who knows he did not commit a crime, even though all the evidence is stacked against him (e.g., the Harrison Ford character in the movie “Presumed Innocent”). Such knowledge will probably persuade no one, but the individual violates no epistemic duties in saying “I know I did not commit that crime.”

Similarly, a Christian need not pursue a lifetime of examining cosmological evidence, etc., to justify his belief in God. If God exists, it is perfectly plausible that knowledge of his existence would not require such an investigation.

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ayer December 10, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Josh: First of all, at least in the film, there is evidence that Jodie Foster’s character had something weird happen, but it’s being hidden (iirc, they mention that they have 18 hours of snow on tape).

Yes, but that does not affect the fact that even without that tape, she would be violating no epistemic duties in asserting her knowledge. Absent a defeater, she is warranted in her belief. And as Craig and Plantinga point out, some forms of nonevidential knowledge may be so powerful as to themselves defeat any defeater presented against it (they are “intrinsic defeater-defeaters”).

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Haukur December 10, 2009 at 6:14 pm

I should also have mentioned that pagans are typically united more by practice than by theology – people participating in the same ritual may have very different interpretations of what it means. Pagans also have almost no evangelistic tradition so it’s hard to find material saying “here are the reasons why you should become a pagan today”.

Finally, I think some perceptive points on paganism vs. atheism are made in this post by a second-generation pagan girl.

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Thomas Reid December 10, 2009 at 7:13 pm

ayer:
The point is not that this type of knowledge constitutes an argument with which to convert a skeptic; the point is that the person with such knowledge is violating no epistemic duties in saying “I know God exists”, etc.

Very well said.

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Michael Thackray December 10, 2009 at 7:18 pm

original post is the very reason I can’t take anything Craig says beyond mere speculations and theorizing.
I think it’s bullcrap and has huge implications about the character of God, especially considering the most sincere, intelligent and smart christians and apostates I know don’t claim to of had or currently have any ‘inner-witness’ crap.
God must hate them for seeking him sincerely and intelligently

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lukeprog December 10, 2009 at 8:38 pm

ayer and cartesian raise some valid points that I don’t intend to ignore. I’ll address them in future posts.

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Silver Bullet December 10, 2009 at 9:17 pm

ayer:
I think there is confusion as to the purpose of the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, or to such experiences that provide knowledge such as in the movie Contact.The point is not that this type of knowledge constitutes an argument with which to convert a skeptic; the point is that the person with such knowledge is violating no epistemic duties in saying “I know God exists”, etc.

Just as Billy violates no epistemic duties in saying “I know you can’t hear the voice of the spirit of the original Shamu the killer whale, but she is communicating to me right now, and indicating how much she loved sex”? (Billy’s loved one’s always thought he was somewhat strange)

Just as Willy violated no epistemic duties in saying, “I know I was abducted by aliens who have implanted me with an undetectable biologic honing device”? (Willy suffered from narcolepsy and probably had sleep paralysis, but he died in 1972, before anybody even knew what sleep paralysis was)

I’ve had some self-authenticating inner experiences that have lead me to knowledge … knowledge of things like, ‘ooh, it’s time to defecate’, or ‘man that’s one spicy meatball’. What, given what we have learned from centuries of careful study of our universe and the human experience should lead anybody to think that the most important knowledge in the universe can be arrived at through an untestable, completely internal, and personal experience, including the person having the experience?

Let’s also not forget that when she is interrogated at the end of the movie, Ellie admits that her perception of events could be inaccurate. Given what we have learned about nature and the fallibility of our senses and perceptions, I think that there is an epistemic duty to admit that. Bill Craig certainly doesn’t live up to that epistemic duty.

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Lorkas December 10, 2009 at 10:18 pm

It seems to me that the fact that others report the same internal witness for other faiths should give anyone reason to doubt their own “internal witness”. Craig knows that Muslims, Hindi, pagans, and other religious people believe with the same faith that he does, which should make him realize 1) many people believe metaphysical statements that aren’t true on the basis of an “internal witness” and 2) this means that we have reason to doubt the “internal witness” when it comes to metaphysical statements.

I don’t believe that any god exists, but I would change my mind quite readily if sufficient evidence came along. A good example of that evidence would be if I got in a time machine and went back to see Jesus rise from the dead and he did so, performed several miracles afterward and then ascended into heaven. To deny Christianity at that point would be absurd (absent good reasons to doubt my experience, of course). What Craig is asserting is basically that he would stubbornly cling to his beliefs even if he saw them to be false with his own eyes.

Suppose Craig took a Jewish friend along on the time voyage to see Jesus die, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven. If his Jewish friend replied that he remained unconvinced because of his personal experience with God, which was an intrinsic defeater-defeater, I somehow doubt that Craig (or any of the Christian commenters here) would find that a good reason for his friend to remain a non-Christian.

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Paul December 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm

cartesian: And IF the Christian God exists, is it really so crazy to suppose that he could make his presence known to people in such a way as to put them in that sort of situation? Doesn’t seem so crazy to me

Yes it is crazy :-) It would be an extremely unreliable method. It would be extremely inefficient. And would not explain similar experiences by non-Christians.

ayer: The point is not that this type of knowledge constitutes an argument with which to convert a skeptic; the point is that the person with such knowledge is violating no epistemic duties in saying “I know God exists”, etc. Another example is a person who knows he did not commit a crime, even though all the evidence is stacked against him (e.g., the Harrison Ford character in the movie “Presumed Innocent”). Such knowledge will probably persuade no one, but the individual violates no epistemic duties in saying “I know I did not commit that crime.”

Point taken w/ regards to not being argument from which to convert a skeptic.

Dr. Craig’s knows he has an internal emotion that he believes is the holy spirit. He does not know that this feeling is in fact an experience from God. It could be a delusion. The self-authenticating stuff is nothing more than wishful thinking.

So while it may not violate any epistemic rules I don’t follow why it is legitimate/reasonable to claim that a purely internal and subjective emotional experience is sufficient reason to assert that something external exists.

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ayer December 10, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Silver Bullet: Just as Billy violates no epistemic duties in saying “I know you can’t hear the voice of the spirit of the original Shamu the killer whale, but she is communicating to me right now, and indicating how much she loved sex”? (Billy’s loved one’s always thought he was somewhat strange)

Just as Willy violated no epistemic duties in saying, “I know I was abducted by aliens who have implanted me with an undetectable biologic honing device”? (Willy suffered from narcolepsy and probably had sleep paralysis, but he died in 1972, before anybody even knew what sleep paralysis was)

In both of these examples, the individuals in question have defeaters for their “knowledge” (since if I am understanding your hypotheticals correctly, their cognitive faculties are dysfunctional). Now, if you believe Craig and Alvin Platinga (and all Christians who say they experience the inner witness of the Holy Spirit) are brain-damaged or mentally ill, you might have a good case. I see no reason to believe that is the case, however.

Silver Bullet: Given what we have learned about nature and the fallibility of our senses and perceptions, I think that there is an epistemic duty to admit that. Bill Craig certainly doesn’t live up to that epistemic duty.

Could you elaborate on the exact nature of this duty and how it is fulfilled? For example, I believe that 2 + 2 =4; am I obligated to append to that belief “but I could be wrong?” in order to fulfill my “duty”?

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Edson December 11, 2009 at 6:06 am

“Craig knows that Muslims, Hindi, pagans, and other religious people believe with the same faith that he does,”

With the above reaction, the writer of the above piece is still of the assumption that Craig is in the business of converting a skeptic with the inner-witness of the Holy Spirit. But what do you suggest Craig should do? The Holy Sprit is whispering in his heart that everything is under control despite the odds, do you suggest of him to rebel the Holy Spirit?

“which should make him realize 1) many people believe metaphysical statements that aren’t true on the basis of an “internal witness””

Of course this statement is true. But that does not negate the fact that the truth is real even if people get it wrong.

“and 2) this means that we have reason to doubt the “internal witness” when it comes to metaphysical statements.”

But with a benefit of doubt. May be Craig is wrong or he is right. A skeptic of the metaphysical reality is not in a good position anymore to dismiss entirely believer assertions. In fact, a skeptic is just that, a skeptic. But from Craig’s viewpoint, being a non-skeptic, he holds a Muslim to be wrong or a Hindu to be wrong and of course, an atheist to be wrong, because Craig believes he is right. In fact any believer who believes he is right in his position is in a good position to dismiss what others believes. Indeed if there is any skeptic here who is certain of his faith that God does not exist, he is perfectly justified to dismiss Christian beliefs or those of other faiths.

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Lorkas December 11, 2009 at 7:44 am

Edson: With the above reaction, the writer of the above piece is still of the assumption that Craig is in the business of converting a skeptic with the inner-witness of the Holy Spirit.

Not so. I was saying that Craig should recognize that others have an “internal witness” that leads them to wrong conclusions, and that that fact should give Craig reason to doubt his own “internal witness”. My point had nothing to do with Craig convincing others and everything to do with Craig being appropriately humble about the importance of his subjective experiences, which, after all, could be entirely mistaken (as could any of ours), no matter how strongly he holds the conviction that the feeling he refers to as the “Holy Spirit” really is good reason to make assumptions about the nature of the cosmos and beyond.

In other words, the unreliability of the “internal witness” is the intrinsic defeater defeater defeater (too much?).

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ayer December 11, 2009 at 8:07 am

Lorkas: My point had nothing to do with Craig convincing others and everything to do with Craig being appropriately humble about the importance of his subjective experiences, which, after all, could be entirely mistaken (as could any of ours)

Of course, humility and not arrogance is always good to have, but if Craig has examined possible defeaters, finds them unpersuasive, and finds that the internal witness of the spirit has given him knowledge of equivalent force to other means of attaining knowledge, then he has fulfilled his epistemic duties, and it is not arrogant of him to say “the witness constitutes knowledge.” Just as the Jodie Foster character in Contact, after being shown video and physical evidence that her experience “could not have happened”, is not being arrogant when she still asserts that her experience constitutes knowledge.

Now, the ability to demonstrate the truth of that belief to others is a different matter. This is where the presentation of evidence and argument comes in. But as Craig says, there is a difference between “knowing your faith is true” and “showing your faith is true.” Just as an innocent man accused of a crime may KNOW he is innocent even though the evidence is ambiguous, his attorney will still seek to use the evidence to show his innocence. But if he fails and the accused is convicted, the accused still violates no epistemic duties in asserting that he knows he is innocent. And he is not thus obligated to believe any other accused person who asserts innocence of another crime. He can only assert such “internal” knowledge about his own case; he is still within his rights to disbelieve the claims of other accused persons (just as Jodie Foster character would still be within her rights to disbelieve UFO claims, and Craig is within his rights to disbelieve the claims of adherents of other religions to their “internal witness”).

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Todd White December 11, 2009 at 8:08 am

This is a good piece, Luke. I’ll probably link to it on my site.

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Paul December 11, 2009 at 8:44 am

Lorkas: In other words, the unreliability of the “internal witness” is the intrinsic defeater defeater defeater (too much?).

I don’t know if it is too much but it did make me laugh.

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Spirit_Journey_Formation_Anniversary December 11, 2009 at 9:00 am

1st – Great blog, Luke (and podcast). Been a lurker for some time, now – but being a fan of WLC (in much the same way you happen to be), I thought that this particular post was worth commenting on.

In the many debates and arguments I’ve heard from WLC, he consistently uses objective absolutes (moral and logical) as the basis for many of his pro-God arguments. Is WLC stating that his own subjective, “self-authenticating” knowledge of God trumps his own objective arguments, as well as any to the contrary?

Perhaps I’m reading it wrong, but couldn’t WLC (or any believer, for that matter), simply posit the following argument for ANY debate on the existence of the Christian God?…

1. God has revealed himself to me via a personal and unmistakable experience with the Holy Spirit.

2. This personal experience has provided me with a fundamental knowledge of the truth of Christianity.

3. Since I believe the Christian God to be true, and my personal experience has confirmed this belief, it is therefore self-authenticating – meaning that no amount of argument and evidence to the contrary could trump its reality, validity or truth.

4. Therefore, the Christian God exists.

If this is WLC’s argument – couldn’t this premise of “self-authenticating” knowledge be used by believers of any faith to conclude the existence of their particular God / deity as well?

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Charles December 11, 2009 at 9:01 am

How can the schizophrenic ever know the voices aren’t real. Unless he can doubt his own mind, he can’t know the truth.

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Lee A. P. December 11, 2009 at 9:34 am

The problem here is that different people of different religions have “witnesses” that tell them different things.

To say ones own inner wtiness trumps those who feel differently IS ultimate credulity and arrogance. It is stupid.

The holy spirit no doubt has the ability to manifest evidences working through believers in the real world but he never does. He never provides anything other than an inner “feeling”. All people of almost all religions have similar inner feelings.

The Christian is practicing extreme spiritual arrogance when he claims that his witness is the only true witness or that other people of other religions are misinterpreting thier witness.

As an aside why don’t Christians of different denominations as well as Catholics get together, pray and have the holy spirit reveal true doctrine and solve the differences they have amongst them? Why is it that even in Chistendom apparently the same Holy Spirit tells Christians different things?

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Tony Hoffman December 11, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Ayer: But as Craig says, there is a difference between “knowing your faith is true” and “showing your faith is true.”

Okay. I would say that knowing your faith is true is about as valuable as “knowing” that pineapple tastes the same for others as it does for you. In other words, knowledge of the holy spirit appears to be as unprovable as qualia, and exactly as useful.

It’s the “showing your faith is true” part that is the crux, and so far it seems like Craig et al. are looking for an exemption from the normative constraints we place on what we usually call “delusions” because, well, Craig is just so darn sure of himself. That’s it, really. It’s like saying, “I know I don’t have the evidence to convince you, but I have convinced myself, and that’s all that matters!” Well, no, not when that belief comes with entailments that infringe on the beliefs of others it does not.

Ayer: Just as an innocent man accused of a crime may KNOW he is innocent even though the evidence is ambiguous, his attorney will still seek to use the evidence to show his innocence. But if he fails and the accused is convicted, the accused still violates no epistemic duties in asserting that he knows he is innocent.

This is a poor analogy because a crime would have an effect in external reality (we convict criminals for crimes that are experienced, not for crimes that are imagined), where Craig is claiming knowledge about reality that has no external effect. If it did Craig would not need to fall back on his untestable experience of the holy spirit, and could refer to some evidence instead.

But the real problem with the analogy is that the accused would know that he is innocent based not on his internal feelings, but on his experience with external reality. The accused can test this knowledge against reality. If the accused was watching TV at the time of the crime he would have recollections of the visual and audio signals that made up that broadcast, recollections whose accuracy would support his belief. If he dug a hole for a tree during the time of the crime, he could point to hole in the ground. In other words, the accused’s knowledge of his innocence is based in reality in ways that can be tested, whereas Craig’s knowledge is not. It sounds like Craig wants acquittal without having to mount an actual defense — which would make him a terrible public defender, and apparently a rather poor apologist.

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Silver Bullet December 11, 2009 at 3:11 pm

ayer:
In both of these examples, the individuals in question have defeaters for their “knowledge” (since if I am understanding your hypotheticals correctly, their cognitive faculties are dysfunctional).Now, if you believe Craig and Alvin Platinga (and all Christians who say they experience the inner witness of the Holy Spirit) are brain-damaged or mentally ill, you might have a good case.I see no reason to believe that is the case, however.
Could you elaborate on the exact nature of this duty and how it is fulfilled?For example, I believe that 2 + 2 =4; am I obligated to append to that belief “but I could be wrong?” in order to fulfill my “duty”?  

In the first example, I haven’t provided you with any information to indicate that Billy’s brain is malfunctioning have I? I just said that Billy was thought to be a bit “weird” by others. Well I think that WLC is weird… Do you consider the fact that Billy hears voices to indicate that his brain is malfunctioning? If so, why? And why then do you not consider it an indication that Platinga and Craig’s experience of the Holy Spirit may not be a sign of brain malfunction?

As Sam Harris has written, (I paraphrase) “it is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Holy Spirit can reveal itself to you in a singular and private experience while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window.”

In the second example, neither Willy nor anybody alive could have pointed to the relevance of sleep paralysis as a defeater since the diagnosis didn’t exist. Nevertheless, I still think that Willy had a duty to check himself first (remain highly skeptical, even of himself), given how outlandish his perception was. It will be interesting, as the science of the mind blossoms (as it is now doing with the advent of functional noninvasive brain imaging), to learn what defeaters which we are not presently aware of are at play in the minds of people like WLC.

Even if Billy was schizophrenic and Willy knew he had sleep paralysis, wouldn’t we, and they, be guilty of the genetic fallacy if we concluded that these conditions explained these experiences of theirs? Their neuropsychiatric conditions could just be co-incidences: nothing is proven. At what point does the insistence on the credibility of experiences like these traduce common sense, even for the one having the experience?

As for the epistemic duty that WLC fails to live up to, that duty is be honest about the limitations of experiential evidence, which Ellie certainly is in the movie. The reasons why we should consider there to be serious limitations to experiential evidence have been outlined in other posts here, but the main one as I see it is the understanding that experiential evidence has brought our “knowledge” about supernatural deities to a state of anarchy. Man has worshiped thousands of gods on the basis of experiential evidence, most of which are mutually exclusive, indicating that most if not all of these gods cannot exist, and indicating just how terrible a route to “knowledge” these sorts of experience are.

I don’t feel any force from your “2+2=4” analogy, since I don’t consider that statement to be similar to “the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit … gives us the fundamental knowledge of Christianity’s truth”. I can demonstrate to any number of people that 2+2=4. Craig cannot demonstrate the Holy Spirit to anybody.

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Haukur December 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Tony Hoffman: That’s it, really. It’s like saying, “I know I don’t have the evidence to convince you, but I have convinced myself, and that’s all that matters!”

That’s not really it. Craig believes he has rational arguments that ought to persuade a fair person of the truth of Christianity. It’s just that he also has this inner witness of the holy spirit going on.

Tony Hoffman: If the accused was watching TV at the time of the crime he would have recollections of the visual and audio signals that made up that broadcast, recollections whose accuracy would support his belief. If he dug a hole for a tree during the time of the crime, he could point to hole in the ground. In other words, the accused’s knowledge of his innocence is based in reality in ways that can be tested, whereas Craig’s knowledge is not.

It’s trivial and not strained to specify the case so that this doesn’t apply. Maybe the accused was spending a quiet evening at home reading a favorite book, one he had read many times before. He may very well have nothing to go on to prove his own innocence except his memories.

Silver Bullet: Man has worshiped thousands of gods on the basis of experiential evidence, most of which are mutually exclusive, indicating that most if not all of these gods cannot exist, and indicating just how terrible a route to “knowledge” these sorts of experience are.

Historically, pagans have almost always been willing to accept the gods of other peoples as valid interpretations of the divine. The Romans didn’t feel that worship of Woden was mutually exclusive with worship of the Graeco-Roman pantheon. They simply saw Woden as a form of Mercury.

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SteveK December 11, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Hey Luke,

If the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is not evidence or the premise of an argument but is “self-authenticating” to such a degree that it “trumps all other evidence,” what can we even say about such a claim? Am I allowed to claim that the inner witness of my “sensus atheistus” – which tells me that there are no gods – is self-authenticating to such a degree that it trumps all other evidence? Nobody should accept such nonsense.

Would you accept this kind of nonsense: a self=authenticating, inner witness that informs you that you have knowledge, that your thoughts are real and that they are not someone elses thoughts? Is there any evidence that would convince you otherwise?

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 7:18 pm

SteveK,

No, I would not argue that way, because I have integrity.

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Scott December 11, 2009 at 8:14 pm

“Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa.”
-William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 36.

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Lorkas December 11, 2009 at 8:57 pm

ayer: Of course, humility and not arrogance is always good to have, but if Craig has examined possible defeaters, finds them unpersuasive, and finds that the internal witness of the spirit has given him knowledge of equivalent force to other means of attaining knowledge, then he has fulfilled his epistemic duties, and it is not arrogant of him to say “the witness constitutes knowledge.”

You continue to miss my point, which is that Craig has good reason to doubt his internal witness (as we all do), and he should therefore examine it rigorously with external evidence rather than accepting wholesale what his internal witness tells him, evidence be damned. If someone took you back in time and showed you Jesus get killed and not rise from the dead (or that showed him not quite dying before being pulled down by his followers, or that showed him being removed from his tomb by his followers who went on to claim he came back from the dead), you should no longer believe that Jesus rose from the dead, no matter how strongly you “felt” it to be true before. A reasonable person would realize:

P1) Others feel strongly that their religion is true on an internal witness.
P2) Religions can’t all be true.
C1) Therefore, the internal witness leads people to believe false things.
P3) I have seen evidence that Jesus did not rise from the dead (in the time machine scenario).
C2) Therefore, it is likely that my internal witness has misled me into believing Christianity to be true.

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danielg December 12, 2009 at 12:09 am

I was gonna comment, but it got too long, so I posted on my blog. Please comment – I tried to defend Craig’s position, you might find it interesting ;)
Are you a Christian because of your experiences, or because of logic?

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Jeff H December 12, 2009 at 7:22 am

What I don’t get is why Craig spends so much time debating and coming up with “rational” arguments if he thinks that this inner witness trumps everything anyway. Shouldn’t he just be going out and preaching so that people have emotional experiences of God? Why this focus on reason if, in the end, it’s this self-authenticating witness that matters anyway (and is stronger than reason and logic)?

This is why I think Craig wants it both ways. If people say that his experience is no good, he points to his arguments and says, “There’s good reason to believe.” If people call his arguments weak, he says, “Well that doesn’t really matter anyway, because I know it’s true deep down inside.”

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Haukur December 12, 2009 at 8:12 am

Jeff H: This is why I think Craig wants it both ways. If people say that his experience is no good, he points to his arguments and says, “There’s good reason to believe.” If people call his arguments weak, he says, “Well that doesn’t really matter anyway, because I know it’s true deep down inside.”

I’m partly guessing here but I think the deal is this: Craig thinks he has compelling intellectual arguments in favor of Christianity. But he also realizes that most Christians do not know these arguments or, at least, do not know them in detail. Does that mean that most Christians are not justified in their faith? Not at all! Even the most simple-minded Christian is justified in his or her faith by the inner witness of the holy spirit.

So, the intellectual arguments prove that Christianity is true and this, in turn, proves that the inner witness of the holy spirit experienced by Christians is valid and justifies Christians in their belief. And it’s not a circular argument. If people of other faiths also have compelling mystical experiences then that doesn’t matter because Craig’s intellectual arguments prove that their belief systems are wrong. And Christian doctrine can easily accommodate mystical experiences by non-Christians (delusions, demonic influence etc.).

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Tony Hoffman December 12, 2009 at 8:20 am

Haukur: Craig believes he has rational arguments that ought to persuade a fair person of the truth of Christianity. It’s just that he also has this inner witness of the holy spirit going on.

Then how do you reconcile Craig’s position, as cited by Scott, that “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa.” What do you think he means by that? Do you think he means that the inner witness is its own argument, or that the inner witness is evidence for an argument?

It’s trivial and not strained to specify the case so that this doesn’t apply. Maybe the accused was spending a quiet evening at home reading a favorite book, one he had read many times before. He may very well have nothing to go on to prove his own innocence except his memories.

Of course. But don’t you see how specifying the case in this manner one must retreat to the position that 1) the only reality that can be known here is the accused’s inner world, or 2) explain how it is possible that the accused’s perceptions or memories could not be at fault? I believe Craig would need to demonstrate how the inner witness is impervious to what we know to be true, that our perceptions and cognitive abilities are all imprecise and prone to error. Isn’t the necessity of demonstrating that premise obvious (if one is to avoid embracing solipsism in 1)?

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Haukur December 12, 2009 at 8:47 am

Tony Hoffman: Then how do you reconcile Craig’s position, as cited by Scott, that “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa.” What do you think he means by that? Do you think he means that the inner witness is its own argument, or that the inner witness is evidence for an argument?

I think he means what he says – if a conflict arises between reason and the IWotHS then it’s the IWotHS that wins out. But I also think he means this as a hypothetical problem that doesn’t actually affect him. I also think he realizes that his inner witness is only something that can convince him – not something he can use to convince others.

Tony Hoffman: Of course. But don’t you see how specifying the case in this manner one must retreat to the position that 1) the only reality that can be known here is the accused’s inner world, or 2) explain how it is possible that the accused’s perceptions or memories could not be at fault?

Let’s say a person says this: “Look, I know what happened and I didn’t shoot the guy. I realize that I have no alibi and that the evidence points towards me doing the deed. But that’s either due to me being framed or due to some bizarre series of coincidences. I can’t prove a thing but I’m innocent!”

Our hypothetical person can say this and be justified in doing so because he knows that his memories are generally reliable and that he would definitely remember committing a murder. He can also realize that the police are justified in not taking his word for it. Sure, at some point he should admit the possibility that his memories are faulty but he would be justified in requiring an enormous emount of evidence (far more than an independent jury would need) to convince him of that.

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Tony Hoffman December 12, 2009 at 9:13 am

Haukur: Our hypothetical person can say this and be justified in doing so because he knows that his memories are generally reliable and that he would definitely remember committing a murder.

But how does Craig know that his perceptions of the holy spirit are as generally reliable as we know memories to be? Memories are tested against reality, and their reliablilty can be reasonably gauged. It appears that Craig has no way of affirming that his perception of the holy spirit is at all reliable.

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Haukur December 12, 2009 at 10:08 am

Tony Hoffman: But how does Craig know that his perceptions of the holy spirit are as generally reliable as we know memories to be? Memories are tested against reality, and their reliablilty can be reasonably gauged. It appears that Craig has no way of affirming that his perception of the holy spirit is at all reliable.

Yup, that’s where the analogy breaks down.

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ayer December 12, 2009 at 10:58 am

Tony Hoffman: Memories are tested against reality, and their reliablilty can be reasonably gauged.

But in this case the memory of the accused, when tested against “reality” (meaning the evidential reality available empirically), is without support (as was the Jodie Foster character’s experience in Contact) because all the empirical evidence points the other way. Craig would argue that the internal witness of the Holy Spirit is grounded in reality–i.e., the reality of God.

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ayer December 12, 2009 at 11:07 am

Lorkas: If someone took you back in time and showed you Jesus get killed and not rise from the dead

Actually, those who told Luke of their conversations with Craig may have misunderstood him, because he answered this same question somewhat differently in the press conference prior to his debate with Hitchens, which I just watched (it is on the Illustra Video DVD of the debate which just came out). Craig said if he went back in time and stood outside the tomb and nothing happened, that would not constitute a defeater, because the resurrection did not necessarily take the form of Jesus walking out of the tomb–he could have just vanished like on the road to Emmaeus. But he said that if he was shown that the corpse of Jesus was still in the tomb he would reject Christianity. So even with the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to have a defeater strong enough to overwhelm it (just as with the case of the innocent accused, a showing that his body was coursing with a drug designed to cause a hallucination of his innocence would constitute a defeater).

The point is, with the defeaters against Christianity that have been presented, Craig is perfectly within his epistemic rights to accept the internal witness as knowledge.

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ayer December 12, 2009 at 11:11 am

Silver Bullet: I don’t feel any force from your “2+2=4” analogy, since I don’t consider that statement to be similar to “the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit … gives us the fundamental knowledge of Christianity’s truth”. I can demonstrate to any number of people that 2+2=4. Craig cannot demonstrate the Holy Spirit to anybody.

The point is that even if you were the only person in the world who did not have a form of brain damage that caused them to believe 2 + 2 = 5 and made them incapable of believing otherwise (so that you could demonstrate 2 + 2 = 4 to nobody), you would still be justified in believing 2 + 2 = 4 to be as true, without violating any epistemic duties.

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Haukur December 12, 2009 at 12:13 pm

ayer: But in this case the memory of the accused, when tested against “reality” (meaning the evidential reality available empirically), is without support (as was the Jodie Foster character’s experience in Contact) because all the empirical evidence points the other way. Craig would argue that the internal witness of the Holy Spirit is grounded in reality–i.e., the reality of God.

I agree with that – but I think the point has to be conceded that memory and inner witness are two different things. Craig, if I’m getting this right, is not saying that he remembers a certain mystical experience where he received assurance of the truth of his faith – he’s saying that he can constantly draw upon this reassurance. Silver Bullet is saying that we know memory is basically reliable but we don’t know that about this sort of inner witness. I haven’t seen you directly address that point.

But I do think you and Cartesian win the thread. I think you have successfully demonstrated that Craig is not inconsistent or crazy in the way Luke’s original post suggests.

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Jeff H December 12, 2009 at 5:09 pm

ayer:
But in this case the memory of the accused, when tested against “reality” (meaning the evidential reality available empirically), is without support (as was the Jodie Foster character’s experience in Contact) because all the empirical evidence points the other way.Craig would argue that the internal witness of the Holy Spirit is grounded in reality–i.e., the reality of God.  

I think what they’re trying to say is that memories in general can be tested against reality. Usually they work as a pretty good measure of what happened (if you doubt your memories, you can ask someone else who was there and see if it matches up). So, in a singular case when memory and reality don’t match up, we can still tend to rely on them. However, the inner witness has no general or specific test of reality. It’s more like qualia, as others have pointed out.

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Haukur December 12, 2009 at 5:28 pm

Jeff H: So, in a singular case when memory and reality don’t match up, we can still tend to rely on them. However, the inner witness has no general or specific test of reality.

Thank you, you managed to put that much clearer than I did.

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Tony Hoffman December 12, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Ayer: The point is that even if you were the only person in the world who did not have a form of brain damage that caused them to believe 2 + 2 = 5 and made them incapable of believing otherwise (so that you could demonstrate 2 + 2 = 4 to nobody), you would still be justified in believing 2 + 2 = 4 to be as true, without violating any epistemic duties.

2 + 2 = 4 is demonstrably true. The inner witness of the holy spirit is not. We are justified in believing that 2 + 2 = 4 not because of personal belief, but because it can be demonstrated, and tested. The inner witness of the holy spirit offers no such epistemic opportunities, and thus the comparison does not seem apt.

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Tony Hoffman December 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm

I believe the analogy of the criminal who “knows” he is innocent is unpersuasive for reasons described above.

I think a better analogy is that of a person who thinks that Bigfoot exists. The Bigfoot Believer (BB) can point to photos, stories, footprints, etc., as evidence. But he can also claim that he regularly sees and speaks with Bigfoot, the catch being that he can only do this when he is sleeping. If fact, he does experience recurring vivid dreams in which he observes Bigfoot. He sincerely believes that his dreams are so vivid, and the external evidence so persuasive, that his belief in BB is fully justified from both.

Do those of you arguing for Craig’s position think that the BB is fully justified in believing in Bigfoot based solely on his vivid dreams of Bigfoot? If not, what is the difference between what Craig describes as justified belief through the inner witness and the BB’s experience of Bigfoot through lucid dreams?

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Tony Hoffman December 12, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Ayer: Craig would argue that the internal witness of the Holy Spirit is grounded in reality–i.e., the reality of God.

Can you summarize Craig’s (or your own) argument for the reality of God as witnessed through the Holy Spirit? To a non-believer like me, it sounds similar to declaring that I can fly because I regularly do so in my dreams.

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ayer December 12, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Tony Hoffman:
Can you summarize Craig’s (or your own) argument for the reality of God as witnessed through the Holy Spirit? To a non-believer like me, it sounds similar to declaring that I can fly because I regularly do so in my dreams.  

As I said earlier, the witness of the Holy Spirit is not an “argument” designed to convert a nonbeliever. It simply says that the person who believes because of the witness of the Holy Spirit violates no epistemic duties in doing so, because if God exists, it is likely that this means of knowledge would be available to human beings. As Plantinga says, there is no de jure objection to Christian belief, only de facto objections (which are fought out in the debate over evidence).

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Silver Bullet December 13, 2009 at 9:57 am

For me, it boils down to this:

There is no question that humans have “spiritual” (far lack of a much better term) experiences. What we must question however, is what conclusions we draw from these experiences. When we interpret them as being an experience of a particular deity, we almost universally interpret them as being an experience of the deity that our family, or our culture approves of and/or has taught us about. Accordingly, the conclusion is almost certainly based not on the experience itself, but on the religious mindset one has at the time of the experience. That is the defeater.

Neither the one having the experience, nor the rest of us who hear about it, should accept these conclusions the same way that we accept that 2+2=4, or that our car will probably start tomorrow, or that the sky is blue, etc. To suggest that we (including the one having the experience) should is, just as Luke has pointed out, absolutely ridiculous.

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Tony Hoffman December 13, 2009 at 10:08 am

Ayer: Craig would argue that the internal witness of the Holy Spirit is grounded in reality–i.e., the reality of God.

Ayer: As I said earlier, the witness of the Holy Spirit is not an “argument” designed to convert a nonbeliever.

I was under the impression that there was an argument to be made. So it’s just an unsupported assertion then?

Ayer: It simply says that the person who believes because of the witness of the Holy Spirit violates no epistemic duties in doing so, because if God exists, it is likely that this means of knowledge would be available to human beings. As Plantinga says, there is no de jure objection to Christian belief, only de facto objections (which are fought out in the debate over evidence).

This appears to be like having your cake and eating it too – isn’t claiming to have knowledge without epistemic duties irrational, not to mention untenable in that it must, to remain consistent, assign an external reality to every delusion?

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drj December 13, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Tony Hoffman: This appears to be like having your cake and eating it too – isn’t claiming to have knowledge without epistemic duties irrational, not to mention untenable in that it must, to remain consistent, assign an external reality to every delusion?  

I believe the upshot of the whole thing, is really to say “if the delusion is believable enough to you, then that belief is warranted.”

A remarkably persuasive and comforting line of reasoning, when presented to a audience who shares (and desires) your delusion. And yes, it can be consistently applied to any whimsical belief you care to use it with.

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ayer December 13, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Silver Bullet: Accordingly, the conclusion is almost certainly based not on the experience itself, but on the religious mindset one has at the time of the experience. That is the defeater.

That is not a defeater. Just as Ellie’s positive predisposition toward the possibility of alien intelligent life was not a defeater for her knowledge in Contact.

Tony Hoffman: This appears to be like having your cake and eating it too – isn’t claiming to have knowledge without epistemic duties irrational, not to mention untenable in that it must, to remain consistent, assign an external reality to every delusion?

It is not “without epistemic duties”; the belief is held “without violating any epistemic duty.” After the believer evaluates the defeater on offer, and finds them wanting, she is warranted in calling her belief “knowledge” (just as Ellie did in Contact after the viewing the videotape that showed her experience was “impossible.”)

drj: I believe the upshot of the whole thing, is really to say “if the delusion is believable enough to you, then that belief is warranted.”

No, if a defeater can be presented proving that a delusion is involved (such as a drug coursing through the believer’s veins designed to produce such a delusion) then it is not warranted. That is not the case with Craig or with Ellie in Contact.

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drj December 13, 2009 at 5:28 pm

ayer: No, if a defeater can be presented proving that a delusion is involved (such as a drug coursing through the believer’s veins designed to produce such a delusion) then it is not warranted. That is not the case with Craig or with Ellie in Contact.  

But if the delusion is convincing enough, it becomes an intrinsic defeater-defeater. Thats the whole point – these things aren’t subject to falsification, because anything that appears to falsify them, itself becomes falsified by the delusion.

Hence, if the delusion is convincing enough, it is warranted.

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Tony Hoffman December 13, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Silver Bullet: Accordingly, the conclusion is almost certainly based not on the experience itself, but on the religious mindset one has at the time of the experience. That is the defeater.

Ayer: … if a defeater can be presented proving that a delusion is involved (such as a drug coursing through the believer’s veins designed to produce such a delusion) then it is not warranted.

I believe that a defeater is commonly understood to be a belief that (formally?) contradicts another belief, so that both beliefs cannot be held at the same time. For instance, my belief that the sun is directly overhead would be a defeater for my belief that it is the middle of the night. That being said, I don’t believe that defeaters are common in arguments, and demanding them in order to cede belief in something highly improbable is, I think, unreasonable.

So, as with Ayer’s example, a drug designed to produce a delusion coursing through the veins of someone having a delusion would not actually be a defeater.

It is not “without epistemic duties”; the belief is held “without violating any epistemic duty.”

I don’t think I know what you mean by violations of epistemic duties. I think you mean “doesn’t have a defeater,” which, if I understand it as above, means that it is reasonable to believe in Big Foot, the tooth fairy, and sundry other things.

After the believer evaluates the defeater on offer, and finds them wanting, she is warranted in calling her belief “knowledge” (just as Ellie did in Contact after the viewing the videotape that showed her experience was “impossible.”)

Why is Contact constantly being brought up? I saw the move once when it first came out, and I don’t remember it being that good. It certainly didn’t make enough of an impression on me that its finer points are familiar enough to illuminate a point.

More to the question, isn’t the absence of a defeater a ridiculously low threshold to apply to “knowledge?” My belief in Bigfoot’s existence can easily be held without a defeater, for instance. In fact, there is no defeater for my belief in Bigfoot. If the absence of a defeater for its beliefs is the territory that Christianity wants to occupy, then there’s little point in discussing it.

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ayer December 13, 2009 at 7:14 pm

drj: But if the delusion is convincing enough, it becomes an intrinsic defeater-defeater. Thats the whole point – these things aren’t subject to falsification, because anything that appears to falsify them, itself becomes falsified by the delusion.

Hence, if the delusion is convincing enough, it is warranted.

I suppose that is true, since (to bring up another movie) if one were trapped in a Matrix indistinguishable from the real world (only in this example one impossible to escape from–the “brain in a vat” scenario), I can see no basis for saying that one would be violating one’s epistemic duties in accepting the Matrix as real.

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Briang December 13, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Also from Craig’s book:

“Now the truth that the Holy Spirit teaches us is not, I’m convinced, the subtleties of Christian doctrine. There are too many Spirit-filled Christians who differ doctrinally for that to be the case.” (Reasonable Faith p. 44)

This, to me, seems to imply, that this personal experience can be subject to confirmation or dis-confirmation by comparing one’s own experience to that of others. I don’t know if this is what Craig really thinks, because it’s not clear how this would be reconciled to his other statements on the matter.

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Briang December 13, 2009 at 11:57 pm

ayer:
I suppose that is true, since (to bring up another movie) if one were trapped in a Matrix indistinguishable from the real world (only in this example one impossible to escape from–the “brain in a vat” scenario), I can see no basis for saying that one would be violating one’s epistemic duties in accepting the Matrix as real.  

I think that Plantinga would say that the person in this case doesn’t have “warranted belief” because his cognitive abilities are not properly functioning.

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drj December 14, 2009 at 4:54 am

Briang:
I think that Plantinga would say that the person in this case doesn’t have “warranted belief” because his cognitive abilities are not properly functioning.  

How could he gauge whether a cognitive faculty is properly functioning? He certainly can come up with a list of criteria that suits himself, but it would really be little more than a list of genetic fallacies. To the mind in question it may be obvious to them that their mind is functioning perfectly, whether they are on a drug or having a psychotic episode, and could be warranted in rejecting any counter explanation.

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Tony Hoffman December 14, 2009 at 4:58 am

In the Matrix your cognitive abilities perform perfectly and are confirmed empirically — what you (seem to) see, you can (seem to) touch, etc. The brain is normal, it’s how it receives stimuli that is artificial. It’s classic brain-in-the-vat.

What Craig is claiming can’t be tested empirically. We normally call these beliefs delusions, and because Craig would not grant credibility to those who claim similar “knowledge” his appears to be just a case of special pleading.

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drj December 14, 2009 at 5:06 am

Tony Hoffman: More to the question, isn’t the absence of a defeater a ridiculously low threshold to apply to “knowledge?” My belief in Bigfoot’s existence can easily be held without a defeater, for instance. In fact, there is no defeater for my belief in Bigfoot. If the absence of a defeater for its beliefs is the territory that Christianity wants to occupy, then there’s little point in discussing it.  

I think thats kind of the crux of reformed epistemology, which I feel can be summarized as:

“If you can’t falsify it (and perhaps even if you can), my belief is reasonable and warranted. So there! Thhhhhptttt!!!”

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 5:13 am

Briang: I think that Plantinga would say that the person in this case doesn’t have “warranted belief” because his cognitive abilities are not properly functioning.

You’re right, I think he distinguishes between “justified” belief and “warranted” belief–”warrant” requires properly functioning faculties operating in an environment for which they were designed to function. That is why the internal witness of the Holy Spirit only truly has warrant if God exists. Thus the atheist must present a de facto defeater for the existence of God in order to show that the belief has no warrant; there is no de jure objection, because if God exists, a form of knowledge such as the internal witness would also exist.

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Tony Hoffman December 14, 2009 at 5:22 am

Similarly, that is why my internal communication with Bigfoot only truly has warrant if Bigfoot exists. Thus the aBigfootist must present a de facto defeater for the existence of Bigfoot in order to show that the belief has no warrant; there is no de jure objection, because if Bigfoot exists, a form of knowledge such as the internal communication with Bigfoot would also exist.

If that doesn’t seem ridiculous to someone then I wonder how they get through a day.

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Briang December 14, 2009 at 5:35 am

drj: How could he gauge whether a cognitive faculty is properly functioning? He certainly can come up with a list of criteria that suits himself, but it would really be little more than a list of genetic fallacies. To the mind in question it may be obvious to them that their mind is functioning perfectly, whether they are on a drug or having a psychotic episode, and could be warranted in rejecting any counter explanation.

Keep in mind that Plantinga’s discussion on warrant is in the context of answering the question: “what is knowledge?”
For something to be knowledge, it has to be true. A person can think he knows something, and then it turns out to be mistaken. In this case, he did not have knowledge.

The same is true with warrant. For a belief to be warranted, according to Plantinga, the truth mechanism must be properly functioning. It could turn out that this is in fact not the case. The person is mistaken.

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Tony Hoffman December 14, 2009 at 5:43 am

Briang: For a belief to be warranted, according to Plantinga, the truth mechanism must be properly functioning.

And we know that my inner witness of the holy spirit detector is not properly functioning (and the Christian’s is) how? (I’m going to thank you in advance for trying to avoid being circular here if you care to answer that question.)

Seriously, what’s the test for holy spirit? If we’re able to detect it, how do we know that it’s functioning, and properly?

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drj December 14, 2009 at 5:47 am

Briang: The same is true with warrant. For a belief to be warranted, according to Plantinga, the truth mechanism must be properly functioning. It could turn out that this is in fact not the case. The person is mistaken.  

I guess I feel its a moot point, since the only thing standing between a deluded person and their warrant is any kind of self-consistent, post-hoc explanation for why it is that their cognitive faculties are functioning properly, while others don’t seem to be.

In Plantinga’s case, its that “God would want me to be able to know of Him in this way”, and that sin causes damage to the truth detecting faculties.

The naturalist can say, “More accurate beliefs are likely to be more adaptive, but some false beliefs may often be more easily acquired, hence they stick around for a while”.

Or Hoffman can say “Bigfoot would want me to be able to know of him in this way”.

Or the crystal healer can say “I know their healing powers are real because I experience their energy, but negative emotions like disbelief can counter that energy”.

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Briang December 14, 2009 at 6:14 am

btw, I’d like to mention that I’m not at all certain that Craig and Plantinga are correct on this issue. I’m just trying to clarify and understand their positions.

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Tony Hoffman December 14, 2009 at 6:51 am

Briang: btw, I’d like to mention that I’m not at all certain that Craig and Plantinga are correct on this issue. I’m just trying to clarify and understand their positions.

And I appreciate your efforts. Do you agree that this appears to be a case of special pleading, or can you think of a way out?

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 7:01 am

Tony Hoffman: Similarly, that is why my internal communication with Bigfoot only truly has warrant if Bigfoot exists.Thus the aBigfootist must present a de facto defeater for the existence of Bigfoot in order to show that the belief has no warrant; there is no de jure objection, because if Bigfoot exists, a form of knowledge such as the internal communication with Bigfoot would also exist.If that doesn’t seem ridiculous to someone then I wonder how they get through a day.  

If you define “Bigfoot” as “the creator of humankind’s cognitive faculties who so designed them as to be able to attain knowledge through an internal witness of the Spirit”, then yes, your belief in “Bigfoot” would have warrant. Of course, in such a case “Bigfoot” would just be another way of saying “the monotheistic God”.

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 7:07 am

drj: I think thats kind of the crux of reformed epistemology, which I feel can be summarized as:

“If you can’t falsify it (and perhaps even if you can), my belief is reasonable and warranted. So there! Thhhhhptttt!!!”

Yes, not all beliefs are subject to scientific “falsification” (e.g., the belief that other people have minds, the belief that the past is real, etc.). Yet we are perfectly warranted in believing them. The end result with the internal witness is that atheism is not the “default” position; the atheist, if he seeks to convince the theist, bears the burden of proof (just as the theist assumes the burden if he seeks to convince the atheist).

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Tony Hoffman December 14, 2009 at 7:13 am

Ayer: If you define “Bigfoot” as “the creator of humankind’s cognitive faculties who so designed them as to be able to attain knowledge through an internal witness of the Spirit”, then yes, your belief in “Bigfoot” would have warrant. Of course, in such a case “Bigfoot” would just be another way of saying “the monotheistic God”.

I define Bigfoot as the creature who can communicate internally with me so as to be able to give me knowledge of his existence through the internal witness of Bigfoot.

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Briang December 14, 2009 at 8:06 am

My thoughts on the witness of the Holy Spirit. Please understand, that I’m not saying I “have the answer.” I’m still trying to sort this out myself and understand the proper relationship between faith and reason. Follow-up thoughts from Christians and atheists are welcome.

1)I have some of the same concerns as atheists regarding the religious experience of non-Christian religions.
2)I’m not particularly attracted to the idea that if I’m suffering a delusion, no evidence could enable me to step out of that delusion.
3)It doesn’t fit with my experience of the Holy Spirit.
4)If it works like Craig and Plantinga suggests, I wouldn’t have to learn about it in a book or read their arguments for it, I’d just know it was true.
5)I’m not certain that the Holy Spirit works apart from evidence. I’ve personally had this experience: I’ve come across what at the time seemed an unanswerable objection to Christianity. I’d prayed sincerely about the objection. Shortly after, I had discovered an answer to the “unanswerable objection” that came into my mind apart from any books I’ve read or answers from other Christians. When later reflecting on the answer, it seemed to me a sound answer to the objection and not the result of special pleading. For the atheist, I don’t expect them to base anything off of my own experience. However, as a Christian I think that this is the working of the Holy Spirit. But this makes me wonder if the Holy Spirit works as a one size fits all self-authenticating testimony, or rather that he leads people to true in different ways.

On the other hand
1)As a Christian, I believe in the Holy Spirit.
2)I think God could, in principle, give people an experience that is so powerful that it trumps all evidence.
3)Suppose that I was in the situation where all the evidence turned against me. I found that there was no good reason to think Christianity is true, and many good reasons to think that it is false. If God wanted me to continue believing in this situation, I think that God could make me believe anyway. However, in this case, I would not be choosing to believe that my personal feeling is coming from the Holy Spirit and is testifying to the truth of Christianity, over the evidence. I don’t see how I could consciously choose to ignore all the evidence in favor of my experience. It would not be a scale where the Holy Spirit is on one side and the evidence on the other. If this situation were to obtain, God would be giving me the ability to believe, even when I’m powerless to believe on my own.

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Tony Hoffman December 14, 2009 at 8:12 am

Yes, not all beliefs are subject to scientific “falsification” (e.g., the belief that other people have minds, the belief that the past is real, etc.). Yet we are perfectly warranted in believing them. The end result with the internal witness is that atheism is not the “default” position; the atheist, if he seeks to convince the theist, bears the burden of proof (just as the theist assumes the burden if he seeks to convince the atheist).

I belief this position is untenable.

It is not scientific, nor scientism, to favor parsimony and prediction in explanations. And atheism is indeed the default position when one adopts this wholly sensible epistemology and the fact that the claimant carries the burden of proof.

You would not (or should not) find my internal witness of Bigfoot to be the default position. I should have to prove to you that Bigfoot is real. This is so obvious it hardly deserves fancy explanation.

Regarding beliefs that we accept without falsification, yes, of course we do. Some beliefs (non contradiction, existence) are unprovable but axiomatic – we assume them because doing so is so productive in terms of explanation and prediction. Along that line, the belief that other people have minds makes the world simpler because it better explains and predicts the behavior of other people than any other belief. The belief that the past is real makes the world simpler because we need (for obvious reasons) to explain why everything does not happen all at once. These beliefs are axiomatic – by which I mean that by assuming them we are more productive in terms of explanation and prediction; we “know” more.

The internal witness of the Holy Spirit fails under all of these criteria.

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Tony Hoffman December 14, 2009 at 9:09 am

1)I have some of the same concerns as atheists regarding the religious experience of non-Christian religions.

Good. It appears that you’re being consistent and unbiased.

2)I’m not particularly attracted to the idea that if I’m suffering a delusion, no evidence could enable me to step out of that delusion.

It depends on the delusion. Some are testable (I can fly!), but others are built so that they cannot be tested. These are at best untestable assertions, and I favor treating them with great skepticism because those that are similar are also contradictory (My god is the one god! No, mine! What about mine? etc.)

3)It doesn’t fit with my experience of the Holy Spirit.

I’m not sure what you mean here.

4)If it works like Craig and Plantinga suggests, I wouldn’t have to learn about it in a book or read their arguments for it, I’d just know it was true.

How would you just know it was true? Doesn’t it seem that an untestable assertion can’t be qualified as knowledge? Don’t you think that beliefs that are designed so that they cannot be tested are to be considered highly suspect, especially those that entail control and manipulation by other persons, whom we know are prone to manipulate and control?

5)I’m not certain that the Holy Spirit works apart from evidence. I’ve personally had this experience: I’ve come across what at the time seemed an unanswerable objection to Christianity. I’d prayed sincerely about the objection. Shortly after, I had discovered an answer to the “unanswerable objection” that came into my mind apart from any books I’ve read or answers from other Christians. When later reflecting on the answer, it seemed to me a sound answer to the objection and not the result of special pleading. For the atheist, I don’t expect them to base anything off of my own experience. However, as a Christian I think that this is the working of the Holy Spirit. But this makes me wonder if the Holy Spirit works as a one size fits all self-authenticating testimony, or rather that he leads people to true in different ways.

I regularly “sleep on” problems I find intractable, and I regularly discover solutions afterward. I don’t credit the Holy Spirit, but the benefit of time to ponder things and approach problems fresh.

What makes you think that the Holy Spirit does your thinking for you, when you clearly can do some on your own?

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 9:09 am

Tony Hoffman:
I define Bigfoot as the creature who can communicate internally with me so as to be able to give me knowledge of his existence through the internal witness of Bigfoot.  

Then you have defined the monotheistic God and called him “Bigfoot.”

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Tony Hoffman December 14, 2009 at 9:14 am

Me: I define Bigfoot as the creature who can communicate internally with me so as to be able to give me knowledge of his existence through the internal witness of Bigfoot.
Then you have defined the monotheistic God and called him “Bigfoot.”
Ayer: Then you have defined the monotheistic God and called him “Bigfoot.”

What?

No, I have defined Bigfoot as having untestable powers, powers that I witness internally and know to be real. Who are you to determine that Bigfoot does not have the powers I describe? They are, after all, consistent with how I define Bigfoot.

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 9:15 am

Tony Hoffman: These beliefs are axiomatic – by which I mean that by assuming them we are more productive in terms of explanation and prediction

That is the essence of “scientism”–evaluating all beliefs by the criteria common to the scientific method (i.e., explanation and prediction). However, if that is the criteria you wish to use, then the theist can assert that belief in God is also “axiomatic” because it provides the best explanation for why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe began to exist, why the universe is fine-tuned for life, why we experience objective moral values, etc.

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drj December 14, 2009 at 9:37 am

ayer: That is the essence of “scientism”–evaluating all beliefs by the criteria common to the scientific method (i.e., explanation and prediction). However, if that is the criteria you wish to use, then the theist can assert that belief in God is also “axiomatic” because it provides the best explanation for why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe began to exist, why the universe is fine-tuned for life, why we experience objective moral values, etc.

But doesn’t the theist ultimately accept all the same axioms as the scientist? It seems to me, that the theist then typically brings in special case axioms, like the existence of God, in certain circumstances in order to preserve certain beliefs.

There’s an asymmetry here. The theists accepts the axioms of the scientist, but the scientist doesn’t necessarily accept all the axioms of the theist. So one set of foundational principles basically shares unanimous agreement, while the other is controversial.

I believe this gives us reason to treat such controversial axioms as suspect, and with heightened skepticism.

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Tony Hoffman December 14, 2009 at 9:46 am

Ayer: …then the theist can assert that belief in God is also “axiomatic” because it provides the best explanation for why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe began to exist, why the universe is fine-tuned for life, why we experience objective moral values, etc.

Of course the theist is free to make any argument she wishes. That does not mean the arguments will be valid, or even persuasive. That is why religion is on the wane in every educated society today – it is regularly losing all the “explanations” the theist offers.

I have no prejudice against Christian belief as axiomatic; that belief simply fails (spectacularly) in terms of explaining anything.

Why is there God instead of no God? (More difficult to explain than the universe, btw, because God is more complex than the universe, and according to Christian doctrine he needs a cause.)

The universe is a brute fact. Only someone who misunderstands how to use probability would consider a past event to be anything less probable than 1.

The universe began to exist because the observations of physicists indicates that Nothing is less stable than Something. It is beginning to look like Nothing might need to be explained.

Objective moral values do not exist, although it does appear that we are hard wired to favor reciprocity and other behaviors that are entailed by social behavior.

Etc.

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 10:31 am

Tony Hoffman: (More difficult to explain than the universe, btw, because God is more complex than the universe, and according to Christian doctrine he needs a cause.)

No, classic Christian doctrine is of “divine simplicity” (see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/divine-simplicity/) and that God is the uncaused cause (see http://www.catholic-forum.com/churches/luxver/God2.htm)

Tony Hoffman: Only someone who misunderstands how to use probability would consider a past event to be anything less probable than 1.

Probability is useless in attempting the establish the reality of the past; that is why it must be accepted as “properly basic” and not demonstrated.

Tony Hoffman: The universe began to exist because the observations of physicists indicates that Nothing is less stable than Something. It is beginning to look like Nothing might need to be explained.

It seems by “nothing” you are referring to the quantum vacuum from which particles arise. It is not “nothing” but a rich energy field. “Nothing” is not an energy field–it is “the absence of anything.”

Tony Hoffman: Objective moral values do not exist, although it does appear that we are hard wired to favor reciprocity and other behaviors that are entailed by social behavior.

That is the logical conclusion of atheism, but it almost impossible for humans to accept it because of their immediate apprehension of a realm of objective moral values; that is why the vast majority of the atheist philosophers Luke cited in the survey cling to moral realism (even though I agree with you that, on atheism, moral nihilism is the most logical conclusion).

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Tony Hoffman December 15, 2009 at 9:08 am

… classic Christian doctrine is of “divine simplicity” and that God is the uncaused cause.

Which I think makes no sense, because Christian doctrine asserts that while everything that begins to exist must have a cause, God (the thing we can’t apprehend) is a better explanation than the brute fact (the universe) that we can. I believe that this doctrine seems obviously hypocritical to anyone but the indoctrinated.

But I don’t mean to debate Christian doctrine. I am happy to point out that this, like the other “explanations” the Christian offers, is simply an argument from ignorance, not an explanation in the way I defined and you appeared to agree to.

Probability is useless in attempting the establish the reality of the past; that is why it must be accepted as “properly basic” and not demonstrated.

Then why would you bring up fine tuning?

It seems by “nothing” you are referring to the quantum vacuum from which particles arise. It is not “nothing” but a rich energy field. “Nothing” is not an energy field–it is “the absence of anything.”

Right. So the quantum vacuum nothing is what the universe came from, which you seem to agree is not nothing. So, why does the Christian still insist that the Big Bang is what it is not, the creation of something from nothing?

That [objective moral values do not exist] is the logical conclusion of atheism…

I don’t agree with this. I think the atheist could make an argument that Morality exists as part of reality, like Logic and Mathematics. I just haven’t seen a good argument for this.

But it appears that you are sidetracking the argument, which is the defense of the Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit in a way that is not circular or a case of special pleading.

So, how can you apply reformed epistemology consistently and deny the existence, in reality, of Bigfoot?

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ayer December 15, 2009 at 10:35 am

Tony Hoffman: God (the thing we can’t apprehend) is a better explanation than the brute fact (the universe) that we can

I’m afraid you are assuming your conclusion here. The point of the internal witness is that we can apprehend God.

Tony Hoffman: I am happy to point out that this, like the other “explanations” the Christian offers, is simply an argument from ignorance, not an explanation in the way I defined and you appeared to agree to.

No, it is an argument from facts that we do have to an explanation of those facts–”inference to the best explanation.”

Tony Hoffman: Then why would you bring up fine tuning?

I am referring to being able to justify belief in the past itself (as opposed to the belief that the universe came into existence 5 minutes ago with all the appearances of age). We assume the past to be real because there is no way to “prove” its reality against that alternative hypothesis–but we are perfectly warranted in believing it to be real without such proof.

Tony Hoffman: So the quantum vacuum nothing is what the universe came from, which you seem to agree is not nothing.

Yes, which means that if quantum vacuum “preceded” the Big Bang it required a creator.

Tony Hoffman: I think the atheist could make an argument that Morality exists as part of reality, like Logic and Mathematics. I just haven’t seen a good argument for this.

That’s because there isn’t a good argument for it. It was called Platonism, and failed miserably.

Tony Hoffman: So, how can you apply reformed epistemology consistently and deny the existence, in reality, of Bigfoot?

Because reformed epistemology only says that the Christian has warrant for his belief without evidence because of the internal witness of the Spirit that is integral to Christianity. The Christian evaluates other claims on an evidential, de facto basis (just as Ellie in Contact, although warranted because of her experience in her belief in intelligent alien life, is not obliged to accept every UFO claim that comes along–she will evaluate those claims on a de facto basis).

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Silver Bullet December 15, 2009 at 12:09 pm

ayer: Silver Bullet: Accordingly, the conclusion is almost certainly based not on the experience itself, but on the religious mindset one has at the time of the experience. That is the defeater.

That is not a defeater. Just as Ellie’s positive predisposition toward the possibility of alien intelligent life was not a defeater for her knowledge in Contact.

Then I am probably using the term defeater inappropriately. Perhaps you can define it for us?

Nevertheless, I think my point still stands: Its one thing to have an experience, and another to interpret it. An “internal witness” relies on some special sensory experience. What can we conclude from such an experience? Clearly, very little, when it appears that one’s mindset is the major determinant of what one concludes on the basis of such an experience, as is virtually always the case for religious experiences. This goes both for the person having the experience and for the rest of us, who hear about them.

Let’s consider Contact for a moment again: Ellie awakens with the memory of a vivid but clearly dreamlike experience where she walks on a familiar beach with her cherished and long missed father. This experience appears to have been significantly influenced by her mindset, and this should make her especially skeptical of her conclusion that she encountered an alien species harbouring secret knowledge about the universe. In fact, if the script had not included the secret information that her camera recorded 18 hrs of static (external evidence that she experienced something more than was observed by the camera that saw her fall through the machine in a split second), the audience would probably not side with her in the end of the movie. There is no reason for her, or for us, to believe her “internal witness” without that information, that external evidence.

Consider also that in the movie, Ellie’s experience occurs in the context of hard external evidence of the existence of intelligent alien life, which lends some credence to the possibility that her perception of her experience of an alien life form may have been accurate. There is no hard evidence of the existence of the Christian or any other god.

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ayer December 15, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Silver Bullet: There is no reason for her, or for us, to believe her “internal witness” without that information, that external evidence.

The internal witness is not meant to constitute an argument to convince the skeptic of the reality behind the experience. The point is to establish that the person with the internal witness (or the experience such as Ellie’s) is not irrational and is violating no epistemic duties in saying that their belief has warrant.

A defeater would be something that shows that Ellie’s or Craig’s cognitive faculties are dysfunctional is some way (brain damage, hallucinatory drug use, etc.). That is true in neither case.

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danielg December 15, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Since none of you commented on my reply post at Are you a Christian because of your experiences, or because of logic?, here’s a few snippets, which answers a lot of the ‘misunderstanding’ around Craig’s method of including his personal subjective experience as ‘evidence’:

To some extent, I think that practially and doctrinally speaking, coming to faith is by definition an experience of intuition and conscience first, and mind later.

While intellectual arguments may clear the way for faith, most people make a faith commitment NOT upon initial intellectual conviction, but upon a heart conviction (intuition, conscience) and an experience of the Divine upon the heart.

Intellectual development usually FOLLOWS Christian conversion, but what is foundational is not merely an intellectual decision, but an experience of a heart-conviction of truth and experienced relationship/peace that begins the journey.

Such emotional foundations and beginnings can certainly be misleading and gone back upon when reason comes to bear, and I understand why an atheist/unbeliever would be skeptical of this order of operations, so to speak.

But Christianity is first and primarily a faith of the heart, of personal conviction of guilt and truth, and of God’s love. As the scriptures say, it is ‘the goodness of God that leads you to repentance,’ (Romans 2:4) – that is, it is not first a head thing, but a heart thing. Atheists go mad at this order of operations
——————–
When Craig says that he is sure of his faith primarily due to his experience, he is unfortunately confusing empiricists because they don’t hear what I think he really means. They hear him basically retreating from their demands for logic and empirical evidence into the realm of the subjective – his own experience.

Not only is that beyond argument, they contend, how is that any different from the subjective experience of any other religion – be it the ‘warming of the heart’ of Mormons or the experience of nothingness of Buddhists? In the end, atheists argue, that is not a convincing argument – that is not argument at all! Faith makes people so stupid!

But I think what he is saying is very powerful, not just something obviously illogical or protected in the realm of the subjective.
————————–
When Craig claims that the root of his belief is in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, here’s what atheists might hear, but what he is NOT saying:

1. It is true because I had an experience
2. Logic has nothing to do with faith or belief – reason can’t touch real faith
————–
Faith is always a leap beyond reason. While intellectual arguments may keep you FROM faith, in the end, pro-faith logic can only take you to the DOOR of faith. It is still a leap of trust beyond the reach of pure reason.

Arguments are cold, relationship is warm (and fuzzy). Beyond the cold and impersonal arguments, there is a REAL, LOVING, PEACE-GIVING God whom Craig has experienced, and that is as powerful, if not moreso, than the debates of self-important fools (Craig included)

though his intellectual defense of Christianity and God are formidable, he is claiming that God is not just defendable and reasonable in the intellectual realm, but real. Real in a way that we can and should experience. Despite the limits of what our reason may or may not tell us about God, whether or not we can understand all we need or want to, WLC is claiming that God is real, and real to him.

That is a powerful assertion to make it, and he makes it unashamedly.

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Tony Hoffman December 15, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Tony Hoffman: God (the thing we can’t apprehend) is a better explanation than the brute fact (the universe) that we can
Ayer:I’m afraid you are assuming your conclusion here. The point of the internal witness is that we can apprehend God.

Are you saying that we can’t apprehend (as in, to become aware of through the senses) the universe, and all of its sights, sounds, smells, etc.? Or that we can apprehend the universe, but we can apprehend the Holy Spirit even more reliably?

If you care to make an argument that the Holy Spirit can be apprehended reliably, I have invited you repeatedly to do so. I have not seen anything more than assertions that seemed to be based on the mistaken premise that knowledge only be internal and consistent. This makes my belief in Bigfoot, and anyone with a delusion, on equal footing with those who claim to have knowledge of the Christian God through the internal witness of the Holy Spirit.

Ayer: [Referring to what I had termed an argument from ignorance]… is an argument from facts that we do have to an explanation of those facts–”inference to the best explanation.”

I see that you call the argument from ignorance an “inference to the best explanation.”

We assume the past to be real because there is no way to “prove” its reality against that alternative hypothesis–but we are perfectly warranted in believing it to be real without such proof.

I think a simpler idea would be that we believe that the past is real because of the law of non-contradiction; without the past, we could both exist and not-exist. This appears to be either axiomatic or a result of the law of non-contradiction, which is axiomatic. Knowing this, as you appear to, I don’t understand why you would then cite fine tuning as in need of an explanation.

Yes, which means that if quantum vacuum “preceded” the Big Bang it required a creator.

Yes, and when did the quantum vacuum begin? You see, we have no evidence of the quantum vacuum having a beginning. So, why should we insert God, when the quantum vacuum is a simpler explanation?

Tony Hoffman: I think the atheist could make an argument that Morality exists as part of reality, like Logic and Mathematics. I just haven’t seen a good argument for this.
Ayer: That’s because there isn’t a good argument for it. It was called Platonism, and failed miserably.

Okay, and I suppose that’s why I favor rejecting moral objectivism. I misunderstood you to mean that atheism and moral objectivism were contradictory.

…reformed epistemology only says that the Christian has warrant for his belief without evidence because of the internal witness of the Spirit that is integral to Christianity. The Christian evaluates other claims on an evidential, de facto basis (just as Ellie in Contact, although warranted because of her experience in her belief in intelligent alien life, is not obliged to accept every UFO claim that comes along–she will evaluate those claims on a de facto basis).

I don’t think that’s valid.

For instance, I only say that Belief in Bigfoot (BB) has warrant without evidence because of the internal communications with Bigfoot that is integral to Bigfootism. We Bigfoot believers evaluate other claims (Werewolfism, Draculism, Elvis is Alivism, etc.) on a de facto basis, but because we do not attribute our indescribable sense of Bigfoot to them we hold those claims to a higher evidential standard.

Lastly, you keep saying that the IWOTHS is not to be considered evidence that convinces the non-believer. So, then, why even bring it up? Shouldn’t evidence that can only convince those who experience it be kept to oneself? The answer, it seems obvious, is that the Christian would like special privileges on account of this unsupported claim, special privileges that should be denied to those of us who believe in Bigfoot.

Or do you really think that there is an external reason to believe in the IWOTHS?

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Silver Bullet December 15, 2009 at 8:40 pm

ayer:
The internal witness is not meant to constitute an argument to convince the skeptic of the reality behind the experience.The point is to establish that the person with the internal witness (or the experience such as Ellie’s) is not irrational and is violating no epistemic duties in saying that their belief has warrant.A defeater would be something that shows that Ellie’s or Craig’s cognitive faculties are dysfunctional is some way (brain damage, hallucinatory drug use, etc.).That is true in neither case.  

While Craig and Ellie may not be suffering from a primary or secondary psychosis, they are human, and we know that humans are susceptible to the power of suggestion. We also know how our own regular senses can fool us. Most importantly, and as I’ve said before, but which you have never addressed, we know that the conclusions that humans draw from religious experiences are very commonly based not on the experiences themselves, but on their religious mindset at the time of the experience.

It seems to me that once intelligent humans like Craig, and intelligent human characters like Ellie are aware of these issues, they should be extremely skeptical of the conclusions that they would like to draw from these types of experiences. I think that these issues essentially ARE defeaters because, just like psychosis, they make the conclusions that people draw on the basis of these experiences unreliable. (I think that if Ellie did not have the hard external evidence that was available to her, she probably would have concluded that she just had a dream.) Acknowledging these issues is an epistemic duty. Ellie at least admits that she could have dreamt the experience. Craig says his special experience is “self-authenticating”, which is, as Luke has pointed out, absolutely ridiculous.

I’m curious, what do you think that Craig, rational and epistemically justified in his belief in his “self-authenticating” inner witness, should do if the Holy Spirit were to order him – no questions asked – to kill someone – his first born for instance?

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ayer December 15, 2009 at 10:32 pm

Tony Hoffman: I see that you call the argument from ignorance an “inference to the best explanation.”

No, it is quite different; IBE is widely used in philosophy and science,as Luke explained in this post:
http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=3703#more-3703

Tony Hoffman: I think a simpler idea would be that we believe that the past is real because of the law of non-contradiction; without the past, we could both exist and not-exist.

Yes, some period of “past” must exist, but the past could be limited to 5 minutes if the universe was created 5 minutes ago with all the appearances of age. There is no evidential way to disprove that; but we violate no epistemic duties in rejecting it.

Tony Hoffman: Yes, and when did the quantum vacuum begin? You see, we have no evidence of the quantum vacuum having a beginning.

There is actually no evidence that there was a quantum vacuum prior to the singularity; but if there was, it would have a beginning, because the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem has established that the universe cannot be past eternal: http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0110012

Tony Hoffman: but because we do not attribute our indescribable sense of Bigfoot to them we hold those claims to a higher evidential standard.

You can only evaluate those claims evidentially, since you do not have the immediate, noninferential knowledge like that of Ellie in Contact. It’s not a “higher” standard; it’s an entire different way of acquiring knowledge.

Tony Hoffman: Lastly, you keep saying that the IWOTHS is not to be considered evidence that convinces the non-believer. So, then, why even bring it up? Shouldn’t evidence that can only convince those who experience it be kept to oneself? The answer, it seems obvious, is that the Christian would like special privileges on account of this unsupported claim, special privileges that should be denied to those of us who believe in Bigfoot.

No, there are no “special privileges;” Craig is simply making a statement that he and other Christians have the knowledge that God exists through this means, and they are going to evaluate the claim “God not exists” accordingly. Atheism will not be considered the default position. But they will not expect the atheist to accept theism as the default position, either. Each side must bear its burden of proof.

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ayer December 15, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Silver Bullet: Most importantly, and as I’ve said before, but which you have never addressed, we know that the conclusions that humans draw from religious experiences are very commonly based not on the experiences themselves, but on their religious mindset at the time of the experience.

That could be said of all experiences, not just religious experiences. Absent a showing of psychosis, etc., general skepticism just isn’t a defeater for the Ellie/Craig-type experience. My mindset may have a bias that I am not a criminal, but that doesn’t change the fact that if I know I did not commit a particular crime, I am warranted in that knowledge even if the physical evidence is stacked against me.

Silver Bullet: I’m curious, what do you think that Craig, rational and epistemically justified in his belief in his “self-authenticating” inner witness, should do if the Holy Spirit were to order him – no questions asked – to kill someone – his first born for instance?

The internal witness provides knowledge of what Plantinga calls “the great things of the Gospel”–e.g., God exists, I have sinned against God, Christ has redeemed me, etc. Specific revelations of the type you refer to are an entirely different thing, requiring what Christians call “discernment.”

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Tony Hoffman December 16, 2009 at 8:52 am

Ayer: [how we know God through the IWOTHS] is quite different [from an argument from ignorance] ; IBE is widely used in philosophy and science,as Luke explained in this post:

Nope. In the inference to the best explanation we are dealing with known facts in the premises (Mr. so and so is wearing a pin, and freemasons wear pins) and inferring a (tentative) conclusion (Mr. so and so is probably a freemason). You seem to have missed the part that “There is a theistic God, who is the Christian God, who wants so badly to communicate with us that he does so through a vague and undefinable sensation we call the IWOTHS” is not a known fact. This a glaring difference from what Luke explained in the post you linked to.

Ayer: Yes, some period of “past” must exist, but the past could be limited to 5 minutes if the universe was created 5 minutes ago with all the appearances of age. There is no evidential way to disprove that; but we violate no epistemic duties in rejecting it.

I agree with this. It doesn’t answer my direct question to you in the slightest, however; I asked you, Why did you cite fine tuning as in need of an explanation?

Ayer: There is actually no evidence that there was a quantum vacuum prior to the singularity; but if there was, it would have a beginning, because the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem has established that the universe cannot be past eternal:

Interesting. I didn’t know about this. I’ll read up on it. Thanks.

Ayer: You can only evaluate [my claims to having an inner knowledge of Bigfoot] evidentially, since you do not have the immediate, noninferential knowledge like that of Ellie in Contact. It’s not a “higher” standard; it’s an entire different way of acquiring knowledge.

You seem to be missing my claim that I do have immediate, noninferential knowledge of Bigfoot. He communicates to me internally. It’s hard to describe, but I know it’s him.

Ayer: Craig is simply making a statement that he and other Christians have the knowledge that God exists through this means, and they are going to evaluate the claim “God not exists” accordingly.

Right. I get that. And if you’d agree that my belief in Bigfoot is similarly warranted, you’d at least be consistent.

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Silver Bullet December 16, 2009 at 9:00 am

ayer: The internal witness provides knowledge of what Plantinga calls “the great things of the Gospel”–e.g., God exists, I have sinned against God, Christ has redeemed me, etc.Specific revelations of the type you refer to are an entirely different thing, requiring what Christians call “discernment.”  

So the epistemic duty varies depending on the type of experience witnessed internally?

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Tony Hoffman December 16, 2009 at 9:51 am

And it looks like you have overstated this:

Ayer: the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem has established that the universe cannot be past eternal

But it doesn’t appear that this has been “established” at all. There’s this in an article from Discover Magazine:

If inflation is eternal into the future, maybe you don’t need a Big Bang? In other words, maybe it’s eternal into the past, as well, and inflation has simply always been going on? Borde, Guth and Vilenkin proved a series of theorems purporting to argue against that possibility. More specifically, they show that a universe that has always been inflating (in the same direction) must have a singularity in the past.
But that’s okay. Most of us suffer under the vague impression — with our intuitions trained by classical general relativity and the innocent-sounding assumption that our local uniformity can be straightforwardly extrapolated across infinity — that the Big Bang singularity is a past boundary to the entire universe, one that must somehow be smoothed out to make sense of the pre-Bang universe. But the Bang isn’t all that different from future singularities, of the type we’re familiar with from black holes. We don’t really know what’s going on at black-hole singularities, either, but that doesn’t stop us from making sense of what happens from the outside. A black hole forms, settles down, Hawking-radiates, and eventually disappears entirely. Something quasi-singular goes on inside, but it’s just a passing phase, with the outside world going on its merry way.
The Big Bang could have very well been like that, but backwards in time. In other words, our observable patch of expanding universe could be some local region that has a singularity (or whatever quantum effects may resolve it) in the past, but is part of a larger space in which many past-going paths don’t hit that singularity.

There’s this from a commenter at Richard Carrier’s blog:

Borde-Guth-Vilenkin is a fair bit stronger than Hawking-Penrose, but as far as support for Kalam goes, it falls to precisely the same counter-arguments. 

Firstly, there exist past-eternal models to which it does not apply; e.g. Ellis’ Emergent Universe. Interestingly, there are also models to which it does apply, but which are still in a reasonable sense past-eternal.

Secondly, there exist models which are neither past-eternal nor singular. The Hawking-Hartle proposal, Vilenkin’s tunneling model, and self-creating models all fit this description.

Thirdly, to most physicists, the presence of a singularity indicates incompleteness not of the Universe itself, but rather of our descriptions. We already know that modern physics is incomplete; we lack a theory of quantum gravity. Therefore most physicists interpret singularities as points where current theory breaks down, and new physics is required. This is precisely the conclusion of Borde et. al. in the paper you cite – I believe Guth’s money is on something along the lines of the Hawking-Hartle proposal – and it’s worth noting that both their results and the Hawking-Penrose theorem are entirely classical.

Unfortunately, while physicists look at singularities and see an interesting question, Craig sees an answer – and that answer is “Here Be Dragons.”

And the physicist Anthony Aguirre had this to say about it in the comments page of Discover magazine.

A couple of brief comments, hopefully more later. First, Borde, Guth & Vilenkin did *not* prove that eternal inflation has singularities to the past. As you know, most singularity theorems prove geodesic incompleteness, and this is the case here. What all of their theorems do are (a) write out a set of conditions which they consider to correspond to eternal inflation, then (b) show that the region in which these conditions hold is geodesically incomplete. This would indeed be consistent with eternal inflation “emerging from a primordial singularity”, but it is also consistent with eternal inflation just being grafted onto some spacetime region that is not eternally inflating by their definition. This is exactly what Steven & I did in various ways in our paper; and in most cases we argued that the ‘extra’ region was indeed eternally inflating, just not in accord with their criteria for eternal inflation.

I appreciate the fact that you have, in the past, pointed to evidence and arguments that you see as supporting your claims. But citing Borde-Guth-Vilenkin as you did above appears to be either data mining or a misrepresentation of what has been concluded in the field of Physics. It also gives you the appearance of investigating these issues with a clear bias.

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ayer December 16, 2009 at 10:27 am

Tony Hoffman: I appreciate the fact that you have, in the past, pointed to evidence and arguments that you see as supporting your claims. But citing Borde-Guth-Vilenkin as you did above appears to be either data mining or a misrepresentation of what has been concluded in the field of Physics. It also gives you the appearance of investigating these issues with a clear bias.

That’s fine that there are dissenting blog comments out there; and perhaps I should have used the phrase “the overwhelming consensus is” for a past-incomplete universe instead of “established that.” There are a few cosmologists who also reject the Big Bang model entirely–so it is not a question of unanimity.

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Silver Bullet December 16, 2009 at 10:34 am

ayer: That could be said of all experiences, not just religious experiences.Absent a showing of psychosis, etc., general skepticism just isn’t a defeater for the Ellie/Craig-type experience.My mindset may have a bias that I am not a criminal, but that doesn’t change the fact that if I know I did not commit a particular crime, I am warranted in that knowledge even if the physical evidence is stacked against me.

I disagree: why should the ineluctable bias that we all have with respect to perceptions based on our regular senses be considered to be anything like the influence that religious bias has on the untestable conclusions drawn from experiences of an inner witness, especially when it seems that the bias, rather than the experience itself, very consistently determines the conclusions that humans draw from these experiences?

There are reasons to believe in the reliability of conclusions drawn from our regular sensory experiences, but no reasons to believe in the reliability of conclusions drawn from the “inner witness”. Our regular senses have a track record of testing against external evidence, while the internal witness has no such track record and can’t be tested. Furthermore, the claims made by experiences of such an “internal witness” are extraordinary claims about the deepest and most important truths about the universe, unlike claims such as “2+2=4″, or “the sky is blue”, or “I ate Cheerios for breakfast”, or even “I am innocent of this crime for which the evidence is stacked against me”. They must be held to a higher epistemic duty (I consider appropriately applied skepticism to be an epistemic duty I suppose). Finally, there can be no debate about the fact that these experiences frequently lead to contradictory conclusions. For all these reasons outlined here and in other posts, I think you have to stop trying to equate the conclusions that one ought to draw from an “inner witness” with the conclusions that one can draw from the other types of sensory experiences humans have. The more I think about this, the more it seems to me that there is just no reason for anybody to believe that the inner witness is a route to knowledge, neither for the person having the experience, nor for those of us who hear about them, even in the absence of psychosis as a “defeater”, just as there is no reason for anybody to claim a self-authenticating experience of an inner witness that reveals that the universe was created 5 minutes ago with the appearance of age, and just as there is no reason for anybody to claim a self authenticating experience of an inner witness revealing the existence of Bigfoot as described by Tony Hoffman. It seems to me that we have learned that there are just too many other defeaters inherent in human nature beyond psychosis to permit anyone to believe that these experiences are routes to knowledge, including the person having the experience.

As you have already alluded to in the last paragraph of your last post (to me), at least some Christians recognize these “defeaters” (as I would consider them) when the inner witness begins to provide specific rather than vague information, or information that instructs one to act upon the experience in ways where the consequences might directly affect others. Doesn’t that alone suggest that Craig is not epistemically justified in accepting his inner witness of the Holy Spirit as self-authenticating and worth building his world view upon even in the absence of reasoned argumentation and external evidence? I mean, are the conclusions drawn from these experiences of an inner witness only epistemically justified when they are vague and not epistemically justified when they are specific?

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ayer December 16, 2009 at 10:49 am

Tony Hoffman: Nope. In the inference to the best explanation we are dealing with known facts in the premises

I think you misunderstood. IBE is used in the evidential case for God, not to justify the internal witness. The evidential case can be reinforcing of the internal witness (just as if I am accused of a crime I know I did not commit, the evidence can support my case–but I am justified in my belief in my innocence even if the evidence is stacked against me).

Tony Hoffman: Why did you cite fine tuning as in need of an explanation?

The fact that fine-tuning is in need of an explanation is not controversial among cosmologists–that’s why the multiverse idea was arrived at.

Tony Hoffman: Right. I get that. And if you’d agree that my belief in Bigfoot is similarly warranted, you’d at least be consistent.

If you can provide a coherent account of warrant (as Christianity can with “the internal witness is a means of knowledge provided within our cognitive faculties by the creator of those faculties to fulfill his purpose in creating human beings to come to know him”). For example, Islam could provide a coherent warranted account. Similarly, if “Bigfoot” is posited as another name for the creator monotheistic God, I would agree that your belief has warrant.

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ayer December 16, 2009 at 10:52 am

Silver Bullet: So the epistemic duty varies depending on the type of experience witnessed internally?

Sure. The witness only purports to provide a certain type of knowledge. If Craig has hallucinations after taking LSD, then he has a duty to investigate taking LSD as a cause–and he would have a defeater for the “voices.”

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Silver Bullet December 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm

ayer:
Sure.The witness only purports to provide a certain type of knowledge.If Craig has hallucinations after taking LSD, then he has a duty to investigate taking LSD as a cause–and he would have a defeater for the “voices.”  

I think you know better than to go down the psychosis/defeater road again. You are not engaging my question in the context of your quote in my post, where you state that 2 different epistemic standards appear to be applied to experiences of an inner witness.

I’m happy to end our discourse here ayer, unless you’d like to specifically address my last post. I’m quite satisfied that the concept of “discernment” makes my point nicely.

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ayer December 16, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Silver Bullet: I’m happy to end our discourse here ayer, unless you’d like to specifically address my last post. I’m quite satisfied that the concept of “discernment” makes my point nicely.

I agree, this can’t go on forever, and only (very, very) rarely does one side convince the other. Suffice it to say that because one has the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, it does not obligate one to assign warrant to any voice that pops into one’s head (just as Ellie in Contact, just because she has warrant for her experience, is thereafter required to believe any UFO she sees in the sky is an alien ship).

But it seems we have fleshed out the issues well, which may help Luke in a future post on the subject.

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Tony Hoffman December 16, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Ayer: I think you misunderstood. IBE is used in the evidential case for God, not to justify the internal witness.

Okay. It doesn’t really matter. An inference to best explanation without a means of independent testing is just an argument from ignorance in my book, or a God of the Gaps argument, or a WAG.

Ayer: The fact that fine-tuning is in need of an explanation is not controversial among cosmologists–that’s why the multiverse idea was arrived at.

Not really. A multiverse is a natural explanation for those who think that fine tuning is improbable, and I though you agreed with me about this fallacy earlier. And do you have any numbers to back up your assertion that “fine tuning is in need of an explanation is not controversial among cosmologists?” Because this sounds like you might be overstating your case as you did with the theorem that proves that the universe had a beginning.

Ayer: If you can provide a coherent account of warrant (as Christianity can with “the internal witness is a means of knowledge provided within our cognitive faculties by the creator of those faculties to fulfill his purpose in creating human beings to come to know him”).

No problem. The internal witness of Bigfoot is a means of knowledge provided with our cognitive faculties, which can be transformed by Bigfoot in those he so chooses, so that those he chooses can recognize the existence of Bigfoot and that fulfills the need for Bigfoot to communicate with us.

I do thank you for helping me develop more coherence to my belief in Bigfoot. I admit it makes even more sense now. I imagine that with more of your questions I can make it even more coherent.

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ayer December 16, 2009 at 6:25 pm

TH,

Hmm, it seems this exchange, like the one with Silver Bullet, has reached the point of diminishing returns. But perhaps it too has served to flesh out the issues.

The bottom line for me of the internal witness concept is that in a debate situation, atheism (at least from the Christian’s standpoint) will never be considered the default position. Because the Christian’s belief is noninferential and based on a properly basic, immediate experience, he will insist that the atheist bear his burden of producing defeaters, just as the atheist appropriately insists that the Christian bear his share of the burden. And Craig does precisely this, very effectively, in his debates.

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Tony Hoffman December 16, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Ayer: Hmm, it seems this exchange, like the one with Silver Bullet, has reached the point of diminishing returns.

I agree. I was hoping for more of a positive case for reformed epistemology, as in what it can provide, but it’s sounding more and more like if offers only a rationale for the believer. Unfortunately, an epistemology that only works to enforce an ideology doesn’t have such a great rack record, and I think the theist would be irresponsible not to wonder if they’ve subscribed to one of many failed, coherent stories that offer a one way ticket to Hale-Bopp.

Ayer: Because the Christian’s belief is noninferential and based on a properly basic, immediate experience, he will insist that the atheist bear his burden of producing defeaters, just as the atheist appropriately insists that the Christian bear his share of the burden. And Craig does precisely this, very effectively, in his debates.

This is true only if my belief in Bigfoot, which is non-inferential and based on a properly basic, immediate experience, requires a defeater as well. Craig may persuade the crowd in debates on this point, but I have to say I’ve heard nothing here that doesn’t sound like either a request to roll back the Enlightenment or special pleading.

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ayer December 16, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Tony Hoffman: a request to roll back the Enlightenment

The “Enlightenment” (talk about a PR term!) is overrated; a little rolling back would be a good idea:

http://www.bethinking.org/resources/advice-to-christian-apologists.htm

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Rhys Wilkins February 6, 2010 at 5:09 pm

The bottom line for me of the internal witness concept is that in a debate situation, atheism (at least from the Christian’s standpoint) will never be considered the default position. Because the Christian’s belief is non-inferential and based on a properly basic, immediate experience, he will insist that the atheist bear his burden of producing defeaters, just as the atheist appropriately insists that the Christian bear his share of the burden. And Craig does precisely this, very effectively, in his debates.

No. There is only one epistemological theory that states belief in Yahweh does not need to be justified, and thanks to Plantinga’s assiduous efforts, people actually take it seriously(!). The Christian, Jew, Muslim, Scientologist, Mayan, Hindu, Aboriginal, Mahayana Buddhist, Greek mythologist, Zoroastrian, believer in ghosts, or Sikh must show that their experience is veridical, and this is where arguments and evidences come in. If my older brother had a properly basic belief that aliens made of string were transmitting meatloaf recipes into his brain from a gas-giant called Orthoes of the Andromeda Galaxy via a sophisticated undetectable quantum entanglement process, then the burden of proof is not on the skeptic to produce a defeater. I can just say, “Mate, you’re scaring me, please go to the nearest insane asylum and tell them to drag you kicking and screaming into the nearest 4×4 cell, muzzle you into a straitjacket and put you on a steady diet of Clozapine and repeated electric shocks to your cranium until the aliens decide they’ve had enough”. BUT if he provides good evidence that shows that his neurons are undergoing quantum entanglement at precisely the time he says they are transmitting the meatloaf recipes into his brain, then I might listen.

This is why philosophy pisses me off sometimes. It makes some of the most ridiculous shit actually sound half intelligible when you cloak it under technical terminologies like ‘intrinsic-defeater-defeater’, ‘properly basic’, ‘reformed epistemology’ and ‘foundationalism’.

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AgeOfReasonXXI August 27, 2010 at 10:12 am

Craig’s position seems nothing less than self-induced insanity, and since he’d surely dismiss such a position as crazy if it was proffessed by a Mormon or a Muslim, it also reveals Craig’s almost pathological hypocrisy!
no to mention that for a supposed philosopher and a scholar, a confession of this sort is indeed a most striking instance of intellectual suicide!
another good example of evangelicalism causing brain-death!

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J.A. Kraulis September 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm

cartesian,

Concerning your comment, Dec 10, 2010, I think your analogy works much better in reverse. Craig is the one left behind in the cave, still arguing that the shadows cast are from the light of the glory of God walking past the entrance. It is the other crowd that has left the cave and seen the sun.

You write: “And IF the Christian God exists, is it really so crazy to suppose that he could make his presence known to people in such a way as to put them in that sort of situation? Doesn’t seem so crazy to me.”

The automatic conclusion one has to draw from such an idea is that this Christian God is irrationally capricious and unspeakably cruel, having preselected people such as Craig to whom “he” reveals himself, while withholding such revelation from some of the best among us, whom he has provided with both enough intellect and apparently false evidence to cause them to have sufficient doubts and thereby condemn themselves to eternal hell. Dr. Craig is thereby surely destined for Heaven, and Hell awaits Hawking, Weinberg, Crick, Chomsky, wherein Russell, Feynman, Einstein, Camus, among many others, are already frying.

I trust you won’t challenge me with with saying that Craig would admit no such conclusion. It is the rationale for Christian belief and is clearly implied in his acceptance of this question and his answer to it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjU9CeRC85A

I was confirmed in church as a Christian in my youth (at the same age as Craig says he became convinced of his faith – god help him had he died before then). Today, I find few philosophies as ridiculous or more offensive than the religious ones.

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B. Lawson February 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Sir, it is incredibly DUMB to rely on subjective “feelings” alone – without evidence to accompany such a vital belief in the New Testament. William Craig Lane NEEDS to read Franklin Camp’s book: The Work of the Holy Spirit In Redemption. Those calling themselves “Christian” CANNOT support their claim without denying that such miraculous indwelling of the Holy Spirit STOPPED before or at the time of Jerusalem’s overthrow in 70 A.D.! See 1st Corinthians 13:10. Though I do not espouse nor endorse atheism, atheists are correct (as proven by your article above) in pointing out the greivous error of any Christian purporting to have the “indwelling” Holy Spirit today.

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