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Monk debunked

09/09/07 | by [mail] | Categories: faith/skepticism

I know that Matt is a big fan of Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, so I decided to see what the monk has to say about why he believes in God in the first place. He has done a whole series of podcasts on the subject: Coffee Cup Apologetics. I decided to start with the first one. It's about half an hour long, but if you don't want to listen, just read on. I've pasted in Spencer's summary of his ten reasons for being a Christion:

1. It is reasonable that God might exist.
2. Further, it is reasonable (based on the evidence) that this God who might exist might be personal and therefore have communicated with human beings.
3. The world’s religions are a reasonable place to look for evidence of such communication.
4. Among those representing the world religions, Jesus of Nazareth seems to hold the consensus as the person most likely to provide convincing evidence of the God who might exist. (Since Jesus is- in some way- incorporated into all major world religions. If all the world’s religious leaders were locked in a basement until they could elect only one person to represent the best of their beliefs, I believe Jesus would be the person selected.)
5. The resurrection of Jesus is a reasonable explanation for the existence of Christianity as a distinct belief system from Judaism.
6. An examination of the various alternatives and existing evidence convinces me that the Resurrection is, in fact, true.
7. If the Resurrection is true, then Jesus’ statements about himself, God, Truth, Sin, etc. (The Christian worldview) are true by deduction.
8. Based on this conclusion, I relate to the God who I now believe exists through Jesus.
9. My experience matches what Jesus describes, providing personal verification of the truth of Christianity.
10. Based on Pascal’s wager, I await eventual verification of this conclusion after death, but haven’t lost anything if I am wrong.

1. I'm not sure why this would be the case. Spencer doesn't do much to convince us of this point. He touches on the Cosmological Argument, but in a fair way. He says that something has always been here. Either it's the universe (in one form or another) or it's God. This approach at least admits that God is subject to the same questions about origins that the Cosmological Argument puts to the universe. He goes on to say that it's reasonable to believe that God does not exist and reasonable to believe that God does exist. So far, not terribly convincing.

2. The "evidence" for God being personal is that people are personal. There's obviously a connection here, but which way does it really run? Are we personal because we're made in the image of God, or is God personal because he's made in the image of humans? I find the latter explanation to be simpler and more believable. And if we're assuming that human attributes mirror God's attributes, why stop there? Is God a mammal? Does God die? Is he angry, jealous, petty, vengeful? Do his fingernails grow at a rate of 3.5 cm per year?

3. I don't see a big problem with this one. If there was a God, he would probably have some kind of interaction with people. I would expect there to be a bit more consistency between the world's religions, though. If I were God I would make sure that there wasn't a lot of confusion. But then, I would probably create a world that didn't have every appearance of arising by totally natural causes, too.

4. This may be the weakest point Spencer puts forward. It's a quick shortcut for him to glaze over all of the religions of the world and arrive at -- surprise! -- his own religion as the one most likely to be true. I don't know if Spencer considers Judaism to be a major world religion, but I'm pretty sure that Jesus is not incorporated into it.

5, 6 and 7. All three of these depend on the belief that the Bible is telling the truth about the life and words of Jesus. It's not a belief that I share with Spencer. He says that the miracle of the resurrection is the best explanation for the arrival of the Christian movement. Are the miracles of Muhammad the best explanation for the rise of Islam? Most religions and other myths make claims about miracles. There's no more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than that Muhammad split the moon.

8 and 9. These two points are really the same thing. It's fine for people to have personal feelings about Jesus, but that does next to nothing to convince me that there is reality behind the feelings.

10. I always hated Pascal's Wager, even when I thought God was real. I liked to cite Corinthians 15:17-19, which says that if the central tenet of Christian faith (the resurrection) is not true, then Christianity is futile and pitiful. And if God is real, I doubt that he would be very impressed with someone who decided to believe in him "just in case".

I'd like to take a closer look at why I don't trust the Bible in a future post.



I don’t think Spencer is attempting to lay out an iron clad scientific argument to prove his religious beliefs. Those are out there, I’m sure. But what Spencer is doing is giving his reasons for believing. I don’t think you can debunk something like that. You can disagree, but what’s to debunk? When a kid tells me all the reasons he likes fishing, it doesn’t make any sense for me to run down the list showing why he’s wrong and that fishing isn’t a good way to spend time. The kid’s just sharing what he believes.

Matt [Visitor]  09/11/07 @ 10:43
[Member]  http://www.brendoman.com/09/11/07 @ 11:01

You’re all about the marketing, baby!

Matt [Visitor]  09/11/07 @ 12:53

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