CPBD 058: Jaco Gericke – Fundamentalism on Stilts

by Luke Muehlhauser on August 1, 2010 in Alvin Plantinga,Bible,Podcast

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

Today I interview Bible scholar Jaco Gericke, continuing the conversation we began in episode 41. Among other things, we discuss:

  • Passages of the Bible that presuppose moral realism rather than divine command theory
  • Why Biblical scholarship is a problem for philosophical theology
  • Why Reformed Epistemology is “fundamentalism on stilts”
  • Atheist fundamentalism
  • Atheist spirituality

Download CPBD episode 058 with Jaco Gericke. Total time is 45:23.

Jaco Gericke links:

Links for things we discussed:

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

G'DIsraeli August 1, 2010 at 7:01 am

Last podcast with this guy was mind blowing. hope this will be as good.

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ShaneSteinhauser August 1, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I can’t seem to understand what the guest is saying. Is there a written transcript of this podcast anywhere?

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Shane August 1, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Looking forward to this one; Jaco was brilliant last time. Luke, you do get to interview some great folks. I’m not that interested about the moral philosophy stuff (hey, you can’t please all the people all the time, and I appreciate I may be an outlier ;-) but I eagerly await each new episode. Keep up the excellent work!

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Baal August 1, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I’ve been eager for this follow-up. Good stuff.

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Baal August 1, 2010 at 8:24 pm

After listening to the podcast I’d have to agree with ShaneSteinhauser about the difficulty following everything.
While the quality of the audio was better than before, with Jako’s accent it was difficult to pick out certain parts.
What I could understand of it was great though.
A transcript would be welcome if possible.

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Silver Bullet August 2, 2010 at 9:10 am

Fascinating faith story, and an independent source of support for Loftus’ Outsider Test.

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ShaneMcKee August 3, 2010 at 11:05 am

Enjoyed this one; I disagree that the “new atheists” are fundamentalist, but many Christians do have a problem with doubt, and easing the path to atheism seems a worthy aim. I’ve been trying one approach to this at http://churchofjesuschristatheist.blogspot.com – I’d be interested in any helpful ideas :-)

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ShaneMcKee August 3, 2010 at 1:02 pm

PS, get a haircut, Jaco!! :-)

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kilopapa August 7, 2010 at 1:02 am

Sounds like an interesting guy,from the parts that I could hear clearly. Definitely need a transcript.

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G'DIsraeli August 8, 2010 at 12:45 am

Luckily, he has an South African accent, which I understand rather well.

He has a sharp tongue when it comes to the critique, I love this kind of critique since it’s in principle opposition to the religious mindset and philosophy.
You shut when he mentions Heidegger.
On the last podcast his implicitly spoke of his continental philosophy orientation. I remember something similar with Wes Morrison, when your saying ~”oh, no, It’s not what we want”.
Why not post & speak of post-modernism? Isn’t it as important as philosophy of religion for rationalist or naturalists?

The psychology of belief is also of huge interest to me.
“The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs” by Solomon Schimmel, I checked out but it really was not that impressive.
Any sources books on the issue someone could recommend me?

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lukeprog August 8, 2010 at 9:26 am

G’Disreaeli,

Re: postmodernism and continental philosophy, I have an upcoming interview John D. Caputo.

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G'DIsraeli August 9, 2010 at 3:48 am

Great, I find much interest in the subject and I think it’s very important.
I just got “Why Truth Matters?” By Ophelia Benson in the mail, but I doubt it contains a deep critique of postmodern thought. Since similar to religion other people also engage thought only to refute and defend there entrenched position.

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G'DIsraeli August 9, 2010 at 3:52 am

You know, you get negative atheism which is important, but no less important is ‘positive atheism’, which I barely find at all and those I find ignores much of European thought and pragmatism. Next month I hope I will find time to read Richard Carrier which seems the best promise in this category.
Thx again for your wonderful work, G’DIsraeli

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danielg August 9, 2010 at 3:28 pm

FUNDAMENTALISM ON STILTS

Jaco sounds like a smart guy, and I agree with him on some things, while on others, not so much ;)

1. Christian apologists missing

I don’t think that most Christians, or evangelicals in particular, are Divine Command morality. I think most of us agree with Bill Craigs perspective on the Erythropo argument. God declares what is good because he is good.

However, this does not eliminate the use of reason to decide what is just or good. It’s just that such things are secondary method of confirmation – put plainly, I think that Christians

2. Abraham debating with God

This ‘changing of God’s mind’ may be, as Jaco affirms, that man can judge God against independent morality, but I think that he may be missing the point of the passage – not that God is somehow limited and tempted to do evil, but rather, to illustrate God’s mercy, his ability to condescend and converse with man, giving him influenece in divine things. Even though Abraham was asking God to be ‘just,’ it is entirely possible that either decision that God was ‘considering’ was just.

I understand Jaco’s contention that God in the OT was not the perfect being of Christian theology, and he does a good job of defending that point, but I think you can easily make an argument that the Hebrew scriptures also support a ‘perfect being’ theology.

3. Historical criticism

I agree w/ Jaco that Christians have demonized HC as undermining faith and the scriptures, since it examines the bible, not as an infallible text, but as just another piece of literature.

I also think that the Fundamentalist movement of the early 1900′s reacted to HC, in part because it was closely associated with liberal theology and skepticism. In a kneejerk reaction, they rejected HC, as well as intellectualism in general.

In the 1930′s, Evangelicals broke away from Fundamentalism for that reason – because they felt that intellectual examination of the scriptures does not, per se, undermine them, but can clarify them.

4. Plantinga and Reformed Epistemology

I think that most evangelicals, those who know about Plantinga and RE, do not like (or understand ;) his rejection of Natural Theology. Bill Craig is much more popular (and visible) as a champion of Natural Theology. I don’t know much about Barth, so it was interesting to hear that he too rejected natural theology.

5. Rejection of Greek Thought

I think that the west uncritically lauds Greek Thought, forgetting it’s religious assumptions, its ethics regarding slavery, and the emphasis of true democracy, which fails in comparison to a Constitutional Republic – the assumption of human perfectability in the purely democratic view is not only untrue and disastrous in practice, it ignores the existence of objective truths and principles that ought to be enshrined in law – rule of law instead of majority seems self-evidently superior.

It is, however, too bad that those who

6. Pure philosophy vs. Christian philosophy of religion

I agree with Jaco that Christian POR is mostly used as an apologetic tool, and assumes the infallibility of scripture (which Jaco calls outdated and wrong), which sort of defeats the purpose of having no a priori presuppositions of this sort.

However, I do think that Christian philosophy is very valuable. Not just as an apologetics tool, but its post-hoc explanatory methods can suggest new philosophic startting points (deductively, I guess) just like you would when you suggest models based on your own intuition.

Again, I agree with Jaco that christian theology sort of violates the ‘philosophic spirit,’ I think his dismissal of Bill Craig’s philosophy is really a genetic fallacy.

7. Bill Craig and Jesus not being raised from the dead

I don’t think that I’ve heard him make such a bold statement, and surely any person interestd in truth would have to reject faith if they found out for themselves as a witness that Jesus never rose from the dead.

However, atheists often miss the entire point that Bill is making when he mentions the importance of personal experience in epistemology. It is merely that

a. beyond intellectual arguments, we must also employ our intuition, conscience, and experience as part of our epistemolic method. Atheists reject this, but he says that such a narrow approach to life denies the full orb of human faculties.

b. the start of Christian faith happens with a born-again *experience*, where the faculties of the spirit (if you will) are engaged (intuition, conscience, communion) – that is, where one intuitively senses the truth of the gospel, feels remorse/guilt over sin, and experiences a communion with God. While some superficial intellectual understanding may have been involved, most intellectual understanding takes place later. This is the common way people gain faith.

As Anselm would say, we are engaged in ‘faith seeking understanding,’ or as I would say “Before faith comes, reason is king. After faith comes, reason follows behind as servant.”

7. Radical doubt as a sin?

I’m not sure where Jaco gets this from. I preach radical doubt, and ask people to make their faith their own, rather than rely on appeals to authority. I think Jaco is off here.

8. Confronted with truth and taking off the blinders

That harsher terminology

9. Life without God as meaningless

Jaco makes the second greatest classic bluder here – the greatest of which is, never enter into a land war in Asia. The second is that the contention that life without God is meaningless means that atheists can’t find meaning in life.

But this is the same misunderstanding the Bill Craig now clear up when presenting the moral argument – when he says that without God, there are no moral absolutes, he is NOT saying that an atheist can’t *recognize* moral absolutes (which we all do in our intuition ;), since they exist, but that there is now way you can reason from atheism that such truths exist.

That is, atheists must live in contradiction to what atheism implies.

The same goes with meaning. It is not that atheists can’t find meaning or assign it, but rather, that all such assignments of meaning are temporal at best, since no eternal state exists, and since there is no God to right the scales of justice, and because the universe will one day disappear anyway.

10. Born again Christian syndrome

As someone who was in a Christian cult, left it, and then returned to Christianity later, I understand what he is saying – people can’t reject an idea that undermines their salvation, their investments of time, etc.

In fact, I argue this same way with regard to evolution, and why people can not have radical doubt with regard to it because it is an essential part of their world view in Mass Delusion – 10 Reasons Why the Majority of Scientists Believe in Evolution.

11. Dogmatic atheist fundamentalism v. atheist spirituality?

Good point. If you doubt evolution, can you still be an atheist? What if you are a supernaturalist atheist, believing in spirit and mind but not God? What if you believe in ‘enchanted naturalism,’ is that required or does that exclude you?

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danielg August 9, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Damn, sorry for the typos in point 1. That should say ‘christians missing the Hebrew view of God’ and the “euthyphro” – in my mind, that word always gets conflated with ‘erythromycin’, which I took during a bout with pneumonia as a kid. Age is catching up with me!

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danielg August 9, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Oh, and #8 was unfinshed too – it should say “that harsher terminology can be used in the same manner with regard to faith, not just unbelief – why don’t [Christians, atheists, evolutionists, believers of every sort] just submit when confronted with ‘the truth’?”

The problem with this pejorative approach is that, while some beliefs may be founded illogically or on clear misunderstandings or falsehoods, and people may hold on to them to preserve their mental sanity because they are afraid of what the alternatives are, the fact that we are talking about metaphysical claims also means that ‘truths’ are hard to prove, so not all holding to a position may be grounded in an unwillingness to be radically doubting.

In fact, I think that MOST of us are unable to engage in that type of activity, and DON’T without sufficient evidence and affirmation that we will be OK if we do.

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lukeprog August 9, 2010 at 3:45 pm

If you doubt evolution, can you still be an atheist?

Ummm… yes. Atheism says nothing about evolution.

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G'DIsraeli August 10, 2010 at 1:16 am

@danielg
I think your the one that is missing…while Jaco is speaking of mainstream religious movements. Which fits perfectly with my experience as a religious dude.
I never in my life read such pseudo-criticism of the theory of evolution. Let’s agree for sake of argument. Even if the theory is false…so what? Does it make your god any more real?

“God declares what is good because he is good.”
How does this solve anything?
You have no definition of good, it’s still a tautology and god is subjected to moral objective standards.

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danielg August 10, 2010 at 9:56 am

I’m not just talking about academically, but practically. To see the ridicule and scorn that atheists heap on evolutionary doubters, I find it hard to believe that they would hold that back just because the doubter was an atheist.

In practical terms, “it is impossible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” without evolution. It’s part of the larger world view that most atheists vehemently affirm.

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danielg August 10, 2010 at 11:00 am

>> I never in my life read such pseudo-criticism of the theory of evolution.

Read more ;)

>> Let’s agree for sake of argument. Even if the theory is false…so what? Does it make your god any more real?

Not at all. I added that analogy because, just like many religious people are unable, for self-preservation reasons, to exercise radical doubt with regard to their faith, many, perhaps most evolutionists suffer the same problem, because they don’t have sufficient reasons to believe, but rather, they have a world-view investment, a trust in appeals to authority, and a fear of what the consequences of doubt might mean that prevent them from true skepticism.

>> “God declares what is good because he is good.”
How does this solve anything? You have no definition of good, it’s still a tautology and god is subjected to moral objective standards.

I suggest you read William Lane Craig’s take on the dilemma, which you can find at his site reasonablefaith.org. He essentially argues that this is a false dilemma, and solves it with a third perspective – that good is good not because it is so apart from God, or because God declares it, but because God’s nature IS the good. It’s a ‘good’ solution ;), and to me, renders the Euthyphro objection to God unimportant, if not solved.

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danielg August 10, 2010 at 2:52 pm

>> G’DIsraeli: I think your the one that is missing…while Jaco is speaking of mainstream religious movements. Which fits perfectly with my experience as a religious dude.

I think perhaps he is more referring to Catholocism or rank fundamentalism. Evangelicalism, which has a large amount of adherents, and which IMO is much healthier than either of the aforementioned, does not suffer from many of the ills that Jaco mentions – at least, not to the pathological levels he seems to be talking about.

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DaVead September 13, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Lukeprog,

The way you recount Mark Smith’s time machine story here and in your post “William Lane Craig on Faith and Reason” is a little misleading. According to Smith, Craig did not say he would continue to believe contrary to conclusive evidence, but rather “due to the witness of the ‘holy spirit’ within him, he would assume a trick of some sort had been played on him while watching Jesus’ tomb”. I think what Craig meant was that he would first doubt the reality of him having actually time travelled before doubting the resurrection, perhaps since time travel is so vastly improbable anyways.

To Craig’s credit, watch his interview with Lee Strobel and Richard Carrier on the resurrection, specifically 4:07-4:24: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMxTghJQxEc

Strobel: What if we got this newsflash from Jerusalem that it had been conclusively proven that the bones of Jesus had been discovered, how would that affect your belief in Christianity and the resurrection?

Craig: It would falsify Christianity.

Strobel: So it would destroy it? that’s it? game over?

Craig: Yes.

… and then Carrier’s response is awesome. :)

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lukeprog September 13, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Thank, DaVead.

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