CPBD 027: Ken Pulliam – Encouragement to Doubting Christians

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 14, 2010 in Podcast

cpbd027

(Listen to other episodes of Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot here.)

Today I interview Dr. Ken Pulliam. Among other things, we discuss:

  • Ken’s theological reasons for leaving Christianity
  • Ken’s advice to doubting Christians

Download CPBD episode 027 with Ken Pulliam. Total time is 32:50.

pulliamKen Pulliam links:

Links for things we discussed:

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

johemeth March 14, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Luke,

It’s always interesting to hear the differing perspectives of “de-converts” like myself. I wish this one could have gone on longer. Nice job!

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Rob March 14, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Yeah, I wanted this to be longer too. I wonder if as an apologist Pullium ever used or offered to his students to use arguments that he new were feeble or fallacious. It seems to me that at its heart apologetics is an art of deception, and on some level the practitioners know that. Not that they don’t think Christianity is true, but rather they know the arguments trotted out are bad ones.

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lukeprog March 14, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Yes, isn’t Ken a pleasant to listen to? :)

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justfinethanks March 14, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Rob: It seems to me that at its heart apologetics is an art of deception, and on some level the practitioners know that.

I’ve always thought of Christian apologetics as an ugly union between philosophy and salesmanship. In that the apologists are less interested in presenting a logically coherent case than simply SELLING their worldview as cogent.

It’s the reason arguments like the “trilemma” and the “minimal facts argument” even exist. They are both obviously fallacious, being a false dilemma and an argument from authority respectively, but they both persist because they are a neat, simple, and concise way to sell the supernatural resurrection of Jesus. If an apologist has an opportunity to abandon philosophical rigor in exchange for more selling or persuasive power in an argument, they will take that deal every time.

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Ken Pulliam March 15, 2010 at 4:10 am

Thanks for the kind words. I was not really an apologist, at least not in the sense of a Bill Craig or Dinesh D’Souza or Mike Licona. I was of the “presuppositional” school which was more consistent with my Calvinistic theology. I taught one class in Apologetics and here is how I defined it.

Apologetics is for “pre-evangelism.” In other words, you will never convince a lost, unregenerate man, of the truth of Christianity. It is “foolishness” to him (1 Cor. 1:18-29). The mentor for my doctoral disseration told me once, Ken it doesn’t matter how many degrees you get after your name, if you believe the Bible is true, the world will always consider you an ignoramus.

So, the purpose of apologetics is to tear down objections that people might have to the gospel but in the final analysis, unless the Holy Spirit “enlightens” their mind, they will never believe (2 Cor. 4:4).

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lukeprog March 15, 2010 at 6:08 am

Thanks for clarifying, Ken. Presuppositional apologetics is still apologetics to me. :)

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Brian G March 15, 2010 at 8:10 am

The theological objections were the substitution theory of atonement, and the doctrine of the Trinity. It’s clear that Ken had of very protestant understanding of the atonement. The theory is that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, as if we were in a court room and someone had to paid a fine and it didn’t matter who. Ken, have you ever considered a more Catholic understanding of atonement?

Ken didn’t really say what bothered him about the doctrine of the Trinity. He described the doctrine and then just asserted that it went against reason. I think that a lot of people struggle with the trinity, because they think that it is a mathematical problem. Then they’re told it’s a mystery, so they’re afraid to ask questions about it. There are three persons sharing one divine nature. The problem is that people don’t know the difference between a “person” and a “nature”. So they hear the words, but all they hear is 1=3. Of course 1 is not 3.
There’s a great scene from the movie “Devil’s Advocate” that clarifies this. It when Keanu Reeves confronts Al Pacino and asks him “who are you?” he then realizes that is the wrong question and asks “what are you?” The “who” is a question about person, the “what” is a question about the nature.
So God is three persons (three whos) that share a single nature (the what).
God is a family. This makes a lot of sense to me, because it answerers a difficulty. If God is all loving, who does he love apart from creation?

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Lee A.P. March 15, 2010 at 9:35 am

Excuse my liberal use of the English language, but I think the trinity is often just skimmed and dismissed because it is fucking retarded beyond comprehension. It is just so post hoc. They needed Christianity to remain monotheistic. That was important. But what to do with this Jesus cat? Um, trinity? The trinity! Thats the ticket!

In the gospels you have Jesus, when keeping in mind the trinity, praying to himself and asking himself why he has forsaken himself.

I have been looking forward to Luke doing a post on the trinity but I think I understand why he hasn’t. It just is not worth tackling in any detail because it is a joke. That is why it is a “mystery” or we get the “out feeble human minds cannot possibly comprehend it” excuse. Christianity is not monotheistic.

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lukeprog March 15, 2010 at 9:53 am

Yeah, it will be a long time before I bother addressing the Trinity.

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Ken Pulliam March 15, 2010 at 11:27 am

Brian,

Yes I have considered other theories of the atonement but the PST is a fundamental doctrine in evangelical Christianity. I think thats because it is exegetically based, i.e., the NT teaches it. Regardless, I don’t find any of the theories sensible. Ransom Theory (a ransom had to be paid to either the Devil or to God to free mankind), Satisfaction Theory (Anselm’s view that God’s honor was at stake), Moral Exemplar Theory (Abelard said that Jesus showed us what real love is), and more modern theories such as Richard Swinburne’s all have the same problem as far as I am concerned–why must someone die before God can forgive?

As it relates to the Trinity, I do plan on doing some posts on it eventually. I don’t think your explanation really holds up because it winds up leaning towards tri-theism. Your analogy would be virtually the same as saying that humanity right now is 6 billion yet one. There are six billion people who share the same nature human nature. To say there are three persons who share the one nature of God is not the orthodox doctrine. Its more complicated than that because for example, there is only one divine will, not three wills.

If you want a headache just start reading all of the theological defenses of the Trinity throughout history.

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Rob March 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm

justfinethanks:
They are both obviously fallacious, being a false dilemma and an argument from authority respectively.  

This is what I was getting at. So many of the arguments are just so obviously bad. I sometimes think that theism must be false because the arguments used by theists are just so pathetic. But that’s a non sequitur of course, and no argument for atheism. However, it does provide some insight into the psychology of apologetics. Something very strange is going on in these peoples’s heads for them to perform these mental contortions.

I don’t know if there are any gods. But all the arguments for any gods existing that I’ve encountered are idiotic. But the people making the arguments are not idiots. That’s what I wish to understand.

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Jake de Backer March 15, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Rob:
This is what I was getting at.So many of the arguments are just so obviously bad.I sometimes think that theism must be false because the arguments used by theists are just so pathetic.But that’s a non sequitur of course, and no argument for atheism.However, it does provide some insight into the psychology of apologetics.Something very strange is going on in these peoples’s heads for them to perform these mental contortions.I don’t know if there are any gods.But all the arguments for any gods existing that I’ve encountered are idiotic.But the people making the arguments are not idiots.That’s what I wish to understand.  

That last paragraph is well stated. If I might rephrase it a bit: Apologetics is simply the process whereby intelligent people exercise the boundaries of stupid thinking so as to justify their pre-existing theological commitments. It’s disappointing to have such a colossal waste of intellect being dispensed with on such a useless feat, and even more disturbing when you consider what good it would provide the world if they endeavored to put that mammoth intellect to some more practical uses, i.e. curing diseases, technological advances, etc.

With nearly 2 billion Christians in the world, I’m sure you’d come up with nearly 2 billion Christianities. Each person making their sincerest attempts to contort and mend each difficult-to-swallow scriptural verse into a more lucid, however fictitious and shamelessly invented, easily digested version of itself. As if scripture was just one large lump of malleable clay, able to be intellectually arranged in one’s head so as to create the least amount of disturbance. This leans toward one of my arguments from a previous thread; Why is the being who authored the cosmos, ostensibly, such a lousy author of books? Why should it be the case that each new generation of his followers have to plot along a new series’ of mental labyrinth’s to comport with modern philosophical, moral and scientific discoveries and improvements? If I may answer my own question so as to obviate any need from an apologist’s effort: Because the sheep-herding, illiterate, impoverished, uneducated, peasant, fisherman who took account of these chimerical fantasies were pushing the limits of what constitutes an undiscerning bunch of naive, credulous, uncritical, morons.

J.

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Briang March 15, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Ken Pulliam: uld be virtually the same as saying that humanity right now is 6 billion yet one. There are six billion people who share the same nature human nature. To say there are three persons who share the one nature of God is not the orthodox doctrine. Its more complicated than that because for example, there is only one divine will, not three wills.

If you want a headache just start reading all of the theological defenses of the Trinity throughout history.

My explanation may not have been clear. While “nature” can be understood as a “what” I don’t mean to say that there are three persons who share the same type of nature, which happens to be divine. There’s only one being with a divine nature, which is shared by three persons.

I think it’s also important to be clear about what your objection is. Atheists are very good about calling out Christians for making a god-of-the-gaps type argument. (Just because we don’t understand something about science doesn’t mean God did it.) One must be careful not to make the mistake in reverse. Atheism-of-the-gaps doesn’t work either. Just because we don’t understand the trinity completely, doesn’t mean that the doctrine is false. What you need is a argument that the doctrine is problematic which goes beyond our mere lack of understanding.

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Briang March 15, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Rob:
This is what I was getting at.So many of the arguments are just so obviously bad.I sometimes think that theism must be false because the arguments used by theists are just so pathetic.But that’s a non sequitur of course, and no argument for atheism.However, it does provide some insight into the psychology of apologetics.Something very strange is going on in these peoples’s heads for them to perform these mental contortions.I don’t know if there are any gods.But all the arguments for any gods existing that I’ve encountered are idiotic.But the people making the arguments are not idiots.That’s what I wish to understand.  

Rob,

I feel much the same way about atheism. I’ve seen many of the same bad arguments touted about over and over again. I think the problem is that for every person who’s honestly and sincerely thought about a hard issue, there are many hundreds more who haven’t, but have very strong opinions on the matter. Those hundreds with the strong opinions tend to drown-out the more intelligent ones.

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Rob March 15, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Briang:
There’s only one being with a divine nature, which is shared by three persons.

What if I told you I had one father, a human being, who was three persons? I hope you would realize I spoke non-sense.

You can play all the word games you want, mental contortions trying to distinguish a “being” from a “person”, but one being cannot be three beings.

But this is not an argument for atheism. I’m just pointing out that your conception of God is logically impossible and therefore cannot exist. But some other god might. Like Zeus.

Brian, with all due respect, on some level you must realize this doctrine is hopeless. Either bite the bullet and admit you are a polytheist, or give up the trinity.

I suggest polytheism. It is more parsimonious than monotheism anyway. There is no reason to tack on a gratuitous uniqueness constraint to Yahweh, who is just one alleged instance of a general type.

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Rob March 15, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Briang:
I think the problem is that for every person who’s honestly and sincerely thought about a hard issue, there are many hundreds more who haven’t, but have very strong opinions on the matter.

I’m not talking about wing-nut YEC’ers. I’m referring to the supposedly best thinkers. CS Lewis, Pascal, Plantinga, Aquinas, Craig, Moreland. All these guys are smart. But their arguments are a joke. Natural theology is a failed research program. Plantinga knows this. But he has done something much much worse.

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oliver March 15, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Jake de Backer: Apologetics is simply the process whereby intelligent people exercise the boundaries of stupid thinking so as to justify their pre-existing theological commitments. It’s disappointing to have such a colossal waste of intellect being dispensed with on such a useless feat, and even more disturbing when you consider what good it would provide the world if they endeavored to put that mammoth intellect to some more practical uses, i.e. curing diseases, technological advances, etc.
With nearly 2 billion Christians in the world, I’m sure you’d come up with nearly 2 billion Christianities. Each person making their sincerest attempts to contort and mend each difficult-to-swallow scriptural verse into a more lucid, however fictitious and shamelessly invented, easily digested version of itself. As if scripture was just one large lump of malleable clay, able to be intellectually arranged in one’s head so as to create the least amount of disturbance. This leans toward one of my arguments from a previous thread; Why is the being who authored the cosmos, ostensibly, such a lousy author of books? Why should it be the case that each new generation of his followers have to plot along a new series’ of mental labyrinth’s to comport with modern philosophical, moral and scientific discoveries and improvements? If I may answer my own question so as to obviate any need from an apologist’s effort: Because the sheep-herding, illiterate, impoverished, uneducated, peasant, fisherman who took account of these chimerical fantasies were pushing the limits of what constitutes an undiscerning bunch of naive, credulous, uncritical, morons.

Brilliantly put. Well said, Jake!

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TaiChi March 15, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Briang: There’s only one being with a divine nature, which is shared by three persons.

Obviously, the solution is that God, Jesus, or the Holy Ghost (whichever one you take to be primary) has multiple personality disorder. What’s so hard to understand about that? :)

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Jake de Backer March 15, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Briang:
My explanation may not have been clear.While “nature” can be understood as a “what” I don’t mean to say that there are three persons who share the same type of nature, which happens to be divine.There’s only one being with a divine nature, which is shared by three persons.I think it’s also important to be clear about what your objection is.Atheists are very good about calling out Christians for making a god-of-the-gaps type argument.(Just because we don’t understand something about science doesn’t mean God did it.) One must be careful not to make the mistake in reverse.Atheism-of-the-gaps doesn’t work either.Just because we don’t understand the trinity completely, doesn’t mean that the doctrine is false.What you need is a argument that the doctrine is problematic which goes beyond our mere lack of understanding.  

The difference is we’re not compelled to make sense out of the senseless. Tantamount to this would be contemporary scientist’s trying to fit in the theory of ether or something for some personal pre-existing reason and no other.

Imagine, in a dream, I’m consulted by an angel who tells me that demonic possession is the root cause of aids (Those African women know better than to allow a man into her with a condom, I mean.. they do have some standard of evil which must be upheld, come what may, right, Pope?.) and upon waking, I attempt to create a scenario wherein the demonic possession theory of disease coheres with some borderline irrelevant fact about aids. In addition, these demon’s are undetectable to our senses and equipment. After watching me force and mangle some sense out of this information, my colleagues would justifiably reply, “This doesn’t make any sense as a theory and we have no reason to suspect it’s veracity.” For my reply, I need only quote from the apologist on Common Sense Atheism, Briang:

Perhaps it doesn’t make sense to you, but “what you need is an argument that [my theory] is problematic which goes beyond our mere lack of understanding.”

The term “atheism-of-the-gaps” is being used euphemistically as a dismissal of a supernatural theory or explanation. The reason why is simple and obvious. Like the demon possession theory of disease, we have no reason to suspect it’s veracity. The profound difference is evidence. Apologist’s like to plug in their God when they have no good reason –apart from giving God some necessary role in our universe’s maintaining or sustaining so as to make Him appear relevant– to do so. Atheism-of-the-gaps which, more sensibly, we’ll call naturalism is a justified assumption given our experience in the universe. We’re justified in believing that when we hear hoof-beats in America, we think horses, not zebras. Experience justifies the assumption. Similarly, when we happen upon some currently unexplained phenomena in the universe, we think undiscovered natural law is shaping or influencing this phenomena, as has happened a million times, not some three-headed, multi-natured, omni-beast imposing his will on it, which we have, as of yet, no reason to think has happened… ever. What is increasingly difficult for a contemporary apologist such as yourself, Braing, is the growing inequality of the level of confirmed scores for each side. Our theories have a strict unilateral direction whereby a set of data or observed phenomena for the past several centuries has been organized into a theory and subsequently confirmed by multiple independent test’s as being naught more than nature acting on itself, by itself.

I admire your mental endurance Briang. To juggle all those conflicting doctrine’s in that head of yours all at once and employing such skillful intellectual acrobatics to articulate them requires stamina I haven’t had in years. When you’re done with that, just change jersey’s, walk over to our side and have a seat on the bench for some much needed rest. You wouldn’t believe how much easier it is to explain reality using reality and not a 2,000 year old book from some remote, barbaric region of bronze age Palestine. You just wouldn’t believe it.

J.

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Haecceitas March 16, 2010 at 1:02 am

Ken Pulliam wrote:
“why must someone die before God can forgive”

A little past 14 minutes to the interview, you seemed to provide an answer to this yourself when you stated that “When an individual commits a crime (…) justice demands that that individual pays the price for it.” So here you seem to have no problem with the idea that a payment for the crime is needed. It’s just that you can’t make sense of the substitutionary aspect of the atonement.

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Ken Pulliam March 16, 2010 at 4:16 am

Haecceitas: Ken Pulliam wrote:
“why must someone die before God can forgive”A little past 14 minutes to the interview, you seemed to provide an answer to this yourself when you stated that “When an individual commits a crime (…) justice demands that that individual pays the price for it.” So here you seem to have no problem with the idea that a payment for the crime is needed. It’s just that you can’t make sense of the substitutionary aspect of the atonement.  

You are misreading what I said. Note that I said: When an individual commits a crime … justice demands that that individual pays the price for it.

What I was saying was that justice demands that the guilty pay the price for his or her crime. An innocent cannot pay the price.

I was not saying, however, that forgiveness demands that one pay a price. For example, if someone rapes my wife, I might decide to forgive that individual (I doubt it but its possible I guess). I could do so and many people would think that it would be an example of a higher form of morality to do so. I could forgive this person without demanding any punishment of him. So, my question is, why does God demand that someone die (be punished) before he can forgive?

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Ken Pulliam March 16, 2010 at 4:22 am

Briang:
My explanation may not have been clear.While “nature” can be understood as a “what” I don’t mean to say that there are three persons who share the same type of nature, which happens to be divine.There’s only one being with a divine nature, which is shared by three persons.

Listen to what you just said: one being with a divine nature shared by three persons

I maintain that is non-sensical. One being in three persons? What is that a three-headed monster? It makes no sense.

I think it’s also important to be clear about what your objection is.Atheists are very good about calling out Christians for making a god-of-the-gaps type argument.(Just because we don’t understand something about science doesn’t mean God did it.) One must be careful not to make the mistake in reverse.Atheism-of-the-gaps doesn’t work either.Just because we don’t understand the trinity completely, doesn’t mean that the doctrine is false.What you need is a argument that the doctrine is problematic which goes beyond our mere lack of understanding.  

The difference is that science is dealing with observed, known phenomena. The Trinity is an invention of someone’s imagination.

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lukeprog March 16, 2010 at 4:43 am

That Christians can’t see the invented artificiality of the concept of the Trinity just astounds me.

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Ken Pulliam March 16, 2010 at 6:52 am

I wanted to say something relative to the Bob Jones inter-racial dating ban. The link that Luke gave is correct in saying that Bob Jones III lied on Larry King. There is no doubt that he, his father, and his grandfather all held that inter-racial marriage was sinful and forbidden by “biblical principles.” I am sure Bob III would try to skate around what he said on Larry King by making a distinction between what the Bible says explicitly and what it says implicitly or by way of principle. That is a very fine distinction and he was definitely being disingenuous in what he said on Larry King.

In fairness, I would say that all the graduate faculty of religion disagreed with the ban but they were too afraid to say so. The school operates according to an authoritarian model where the President basically rules like the Pope does over the RCC.

The real reason for the ban was the prejudice and bias that ruled the culture of the South for generations. As is often the case, Christians will try to defend their cultural biases by saying they are biblical.

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Brian G March 16, 2010 at 8:06 am

Jake de Backer,

By atheism-of-the-gaps I mean an argument that since Christians don’t completely understand the trinity, it is therefore false. This is not a reasonable objection. What could be reasonable objections? I’d suggest there are at least two:

1) There’s not enough evidence or good reasons to believe in the trinity.

2) The trinity is incoherent or inconsistent and therefore false.

I understood Ken to be arguing for 2, whereas Jake seems to be defending 1. To defend 2, one would need an argument, not just an assertion that the trinity is hard to understand.

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lukeprog March 16, 2010 at 8:42 am

Briang,

Yes, I generally defend (1). There may be arguments for (2), but it would depend on which Christian definition of the Trinity one is discussing. There are many. And it’s not something I’ve studied.

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exrelayman March 16, 2010 at 10:17 am

Mostly I just lurk. Thought I might inject a thought about the trinity concept, since the topic has surfaced here. As with almost all Christian doctrine, the concept is not a new one. The Hindus had Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. The Greeks had the 3 fates Atropos, Clotho, and Lachesis who had power even over Zeus. The Egyptians had Osiris, Horus, and Isis. A very coherent critic of Christianity and the trinity by an Islamic writer worthy of attention occurs here:

http://www.usislam.org/revise/toc.htm

The atheist doesn’t need to create new arguments. The theists arguing with each other suffice.

It is a never ending source of wonder to me how the human mind can become so entangled and enmeshed with the unperceived and untestable supernatural.

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lukeprog March 16, 2010 at 10:38 am

Yeah, that’s a great link, exrelayman.

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Briang March 16, 2010 at 10:32 pm

lukeprog: Briang,Yes, I generally defend (1). There may be arguments for (2), but it would depend on which Christian definition of the Trinity one is discussing. There are many. And it’s not something I’ve studied.  

But (1) isn’t that interesting if your main reason is that you don’t think there’s good reasons or evidence for believing Christianity. If that’s the case then it’d be more relevant to discuss the reasons for Christianity.

On the other hand a good argument for (2) would count against Christianity, (the degree of which would depend on how much one thought Christianity requires the trinity.)
But I don’t see any way of getting from an argument for 1 to 2. I also don’t see any way to defend 2 because a Christian can’t answer a question about the trinity. (This is what I meant by atheism of the gaps).

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Rob March 17, 2010 at 1:30 am

Briang:

(This is what I meant by atheism of the gaps).  

I tried to explain this above. Pointing out the incoherence of the trinity is not an argument for atheism. It is simply an argument against a particular concept of God. It is not an argument against all gods.

Quoting myself:

“But this is not an argument for atheism. I’m just pointing out that your conception of God is logically impossible and therefore cannot exist. But some other god might. Like Zeus.”

Your Christian bias that your conception of a god is the only one on offer is something you really need to work on overcoming.

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lukeprog March 17, 2010 at 7:48 am

Briang,

On (1), the problem with the Trinity is that it’s just ad-hoc; a very bad quality for an explanatory theory. Imagine if somebody came along with a theory very much like General Relativity but added on some extra bit about an invisible flying spaghetti monster that he said was essential to his theory. Sure, I can’t prove that this invisible flying spaghetti monster doesn’t exist, but the fact that (1) we have no reason to believe it exists, and (2) it is essential to his theory means that we have little reason to take his theory seriously.

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Jake de Backer March 17, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Briang,

What I want to know is if you could elucidate for a moment on the specific evidence we have of the alleged existence of this trinity.

People use the First Cause as an argument for a creator. I’m not persuaded by it, but at least they off something in the way of an argument for that being’s existence. Might there be anything of that sort you could furnish us with here? Anything to assuage the impression we all have that you and your theistic comrades haven’t crudely invented the trinity* as an ad-hoc explication so as to harmonize some essential aspects of your catholic dogma?

*The word, trinity, isn’t found in the bible. In fact, if I may quote Dan Barker:

“The next time believers tell you that “separation of church and state” does not appear in our founding document, tell them to stop using the word “trinity.” The word “trinity” appears nowhere in the bible. Neither does Rapture, or Second Coming, or Original Sin. If they are still unfazed (or unphrased) by this, then add Omniscience, Omnipresence, Supernatural, Transcendence, Afterlife, Deity, Divinity, Theology, Monotheism, Missionary, Immaculate Conception, Christmas, Christianity, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Methodist, Catholic, Pope, Cardinal, Catechism, Purgatory, Penance, Transubstantiation, Excommunication, Dogma, Chastity, Unpardonable Sin, Infallibility, Inerrancy, Incarnation, Epiphany, Sermon, Eucharist, the Lord’s Prayer, Good Friday, Doubting Thomas, Advent, Sunday School, Dead Sea, Golden Rule, Moral, Morality, Ethics, Patriotism, Education, Atheism, Apostasy, Conservative (Liberal is in), Capital Punishment, Monogamy, Abortion, Pornography, Homosexual, Lesbian, Fairness, Logic, Republic, Democracy, Capitalism, Funeral, Decalogue, or Bible.”

J.

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Ken Pulliam March 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Jake,

Good point. I love that quote from Dan Barker. The only philosophical argument for a Trinity that I have read was from R. J. Rushdoony (the founder of the Theonomist movement). In his book The One and The Many, he argues that only the Trinity can explain the particulars vs. universal problem in philosophy. I think Francis Schaeffer may have made the same type of argument in a more popular writing.

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Jake de Backer March 17, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Ken

I was replying to Briang’s mostly accurate characterization of the distinction between what my contention with the trinity is versus Ken’s. In his words:

1) There’s not enough evidence or good reasons to believe in the trinity.

2) The trinity is incoherent or inconsistent and therefore false.

He correctly accused me of positioning myself behind claim (1). While I think the logical problems with the trinity are austere and insurmountable despite Briang’s casuistry about “natures” and “what’s” and “being’s sharing three divine natures”, I think we need to analyze our perspective of the matter and perhaps change the way we’re addressing this whole thing about the trinity. If there isn’t evidence to suggest that this three-headed cult of the single father figure, his illiterate carpenter son as well as the illegitimate step-child a.k.a. the holy ghost, then why spend another the time it takes to punch another key on figuring out whether or not it’s a “logically coherent” proposition?

If I may paraphrase a sort of riddle to make my point:

Someone tells you 1) Your paint is peeling, 2) Your drapes are gone, 3) Your smoke detectors are going off, & 4) You’ve got water boiling over and then asks, which problem are you going to handle first? The answer is you shouldn’t handle any of then because the building’s on fire.

This is what I mean about the proper perspective. What’s the point of quarreling over whether or not it’s logical when, as of right now, we have no reason to suspect the fucker is even there? Let’s have the evidence of it’s being, something other than a 2,000 year old book which doesn’t even mention it by name, and then we can start to discuss it’s logicality.

J.

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Briang March 17, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Jake de Backer,

I think that whether one focuses on the position of 1 or 2 would be depend on the goal of the argument. I think quite plausibly that a discussion of 2 would be more fruitful. If your goal is to convince me that Christianity is false, then arguing for 2 would seem to be more fruitful. The following argument is valid:

a) If Christianity is true, then the doctrine of the trinity is true.
b) the doctrine of the trinity is false
c)Therefore Christianity is false

If you can prove 2 is true, you also prove b. a seems likely given what is generally considered orthodox Christianity.

Now if you are to defend the position 1 (There’s no good reason or evidence to believe in the trinity) this could be done in two ways. First, you could argue that there’s no good reason to believe in the trinity apart from Christianity, and then argue that there’s no good reason to believe in Christianity. But if your going to convince me that Christianity is mistaken, this seems to be a pretty indirect route. You could also argue that even if Christianity is true, that there’s no good reason to believe in the Trinity. But if you do that all you’d accomplish is convincing me to be a non-trinitarian Christian. You also would be disproving b, which would mess-up the defenders’ of 2 chance to disprove Christianity via the doctrine of the trinity.

Turn it around and ask what I might hope to convince you of in the discussion. I think that plausibly, a person might have to be convince of other truths of Christianity before being convinced of the doctrine of the trinity. So unless I intend on writing a book in the comment section of this blog, I think that the best I could hope for is to show that the trinity isn’t self-contradictory (ie 2 is false).

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