Christian Apologists Using Philosophy as a Respectable Veneer for their Superstitions

Quotes about Philosophy of religion (115 quotes)

In my six years of online discussions with conservative Christian apologists since my deconversion, I frequently see them use philosophy as their first line of defense for their supernatural beliefs. They seem to believe that speaking in philosophical terms gives these beliefs greater respectability. But the fact is that without good objective evidence for their supernatural claims (which they do not have), their beliefs are nothing more than superstitions, no more rational than stories of flying witches and leprechauns. I believe that the only way to break through the conservative Christian apologist’s “philosophical defense” is to not play his game. I say, ignore his sophisticated-sounding philosophical diatribes in defense of a generic creator and the necessity of a generic God for the existence of morality, and go for the jugular of his belief system: the ancient tales of the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Point out to your Christian interlocutor that human virgins are never impregnated by (holy) ghosts and brain-dead corpses never come back to life. Just because a small group of superstitious, illiterate, first century peasants from the boonies of the ancient Middle East sincerely believed that these events had occurred, is not sufficient evidence for rational, modern, educated people to believe them today. A PhD in philosophy from a prestigious university is not going to change that fact.

Gary: Dr. Randal Rauser, what percentage of your belief in the veracity of Christianity is based on your perception of answered prayer and miracles?

Randal Rauser, PhD, evangelical apologist: It’s a bit off the wall to suggest that one can apportion percentages to the innumerable data points that support one’s fundamental doxastic convictions. You ask, “Is it wise for intelligent, educated, modern people to evaluate universal truth claims based on subjective personal perceptions?”

Define “subjective personal perception”. Because at first blush, the only sensible answer to your question is ‘Yes, of course.’ But perhaps you have your own definition of the term and I don’t want to presume. So go ahead, define it.

—(Gary: Rauser knows full well what I am asking, but he doesn’t want to talk about his subjective personal relationship with a first century peasant, so he pretends not to understand my question.)—

Gary: Is your belief in the historicity of the core claim of Christianity, the bodily resurrection of Jesus in circa 33 CE, primarily based on historical evidence or primarily based upon your personal perceptions that Jesus answers your prayers; intervenes in the natural course of human events to perform miracles for you; and that he “has never left you or forsaken you” (otherwise known as the testimony of the Holy Spirit)? Or would you say that both are equal? Below is the definition of “perception” that I am using. And to be complete, I am using “subjective” in the sense that it is a personal opinion, not a universally agreed upon fact. “Personal” obviously refers to the individual in question.

Perception: Perception refers to the way sensory information is organized, interpreted, and consciously experienced. Perception involves both bottom-up and top-down processing. Bottom-up processing refers to the fact that perceptions are built from sensory input. On the other hand, how we interpret those sensations is influenced by our available knowledge, our experiences, and our thoughts. This is called top-down processing.

Randall Rauser: Still waiting for your definition of “subjective personal perception”.

Gary: Subjective personal perception: If I claim that Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream is the best ice cream in the world, that is a subjective personal perception not an objective fact. It is a claim, a belief, based on one person’s personal experiences and personal preferences, not on statistical research or objective evidence. It is subjective evidence for “the best ice cream in the world”, not objective evidence. You cannot prove that Jesus has answered your prayers or performed miracles for you any more than I can prove that Vanilla Swiss Almond is the best ice cream. These are subjective perceptions/preferences/experiences. That doesn’t mean that they are false, just that they are subjective.

You know what I mean, Randal. Everyone reading this blog knows what this term means. If the topic of your personal perceptions regarding the resurrected Jesus is too sensitive a subject for you to discuss, please just say so.

Randal Rauser: On your first attempt, you defined “subjective personal perception” as a relative fact, i.e. one in which the truthmaker is constituted by the attitude of a cognitive agent. But then you added that it is a claim which is “based on one’s person’s personal experiences and personal preferences”. The latter is consistent with a relative fact, but the former is true of any belief acquired a posteriori.

Then you added that it is not based on “statistical research or objective evidence.” But my beliefs that there is a world external to the mind, that rape is wrong, and that nothing can be red and blue all over are not based on “statistical research”. Neither are they based on “objective evidence”. Rather, each of these doxastic claims is properly basic. (By the way, statistical research is a form of objective evidence.) So when you say “You know what I mean, Randal,” I have to say, no, I don’t. I think you’re confused and that you have a lot of inconsistent ideas jumbled together and you should invest the time to sort them out so that you are clearer on what you are actually claiming.

(Gary: Rauser does not want to answer my very simple question! He is not going to admit in front of skeptics that he believes that he has a personal relationship with a man who lived and died two thousand years ago.)

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23 thoughts on “Christian Apologists Using Philosophy as a Respectable Veneer for their Superstitions

  1. Suggestion: Just ask Rauser “why do you believe Jesus was resurrected?”, and take it from there? (BTW – That’s what a “simple question” looks like.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Because he would then only talk about alleged historical evidence. I would end up having to ask him the same question, which he would again avoid.

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  2. As far as the resurrection is concerned, or any of these powers that Jesus allegedly had, unless someone can demonstrate this then it’s just words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve seen this kind of scenario with various topics play out many, many times over the roughly 8 years I have been reading Randal’s blog. One time it devolved to pointing out typos as a response.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. I have decided that the best response to this obnoxious, pretentious, behavior is to respond:

      “However ignorant, silly, and irrational you may believe my question to be, Dr. Rauser, it is much more coherent, intelligent, and rational than your belief that you are “best buds” with the creator of the universe…a resurrected first century peasant.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I understand your feelings, but if it is an answer you are looking for, you won’t get it by phrasing the question in that aggressive manner. Despite the bible telling us spirit filled Christians are going to be ever patient, kind, etc, the reality is most of them are no better than their basic genetic disposition. So as I said in my previous comment, honey rather than vinegar. Otherwise it just looks like you are looking for a fight, even if the Christians are obnoxious.

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    1. The beginnings of my journey away from Christianity started with losing confidence in the doctrine of inerrancy, and then to a position of not trusting the Bible to tell me anything due to the many inconsistencies and contradictions which we are all aware of. However, over the years when I have stated this on Randal’s blog various Christian commenters have basically accused me of not being able to understand those “simplistic binary oppositions.” The implication is that I’m a rube who just thinks in black and white. Maybe so, but as I’ve endlessly observed over the years, that same simplicity kicks in when Christians look at other religions – a quick dismissal of the faith because of problems with consistency or empirical facts in the opposing religions book.

      Basically, Christians use a flat, non nuanced reading when looking at other books, but demand a subtle, nuanced reading of their own.

      I have been on occasion able to get some answers on touchy subjects over the years when I make an attempt, as I tend to be fairly diplomatic and conciliatory when commenting – being aggressive tends to get people’s guard up.

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      1. being aggressive tends to get people’s guard up.

        You got that right!!! What’s interesting, however, is that many times it’s the Christian that gets aggressive and upset. Generally because the “opponent” (non-believer) questions their beliefs. (Oh the horror of it!)

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      2. Basically, Christians use a flat, non nuanced reading when looking at other books, but demand a subtle, nuanced reading of their own.

        Well said.

        I have tried to temper my tone and rephrased my question to:

        Do you believe that you have a personal relationship with Jesus, and if so, why?

        He has given me “one last chance” to properly engage him. We will see if he finds something wrong with this question too. I predict he continues to prevaricate.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I will venture a guess at his answer … because he feeeels it in his heart. And of course, answered prayer, healings, special communication, etc., etc.

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            1. He does hold to the philosophy of people like Nicholas Wolterstorff and Alvin Plantinga and I think that underlies much of how and why he believes experiences like answered prayer, special communication etc are valid, or at least gives credible. I might have it wrong, but I think that could be one reason why he won’t answer you about having a personal relationship with Jesus – He thinks you are trying to trap him into saying he bases his world view on a Jesus in my heart feeling, when instead he feels there is so much of Plantinga/Wolterstorff underpinning the foundations of his belief that to “reduce” it down to that simple formula is too, well, simplistic.
              Interesting to note though, at least from anything I’ve read, is that not many people who are not Christian, or religious, hold to Plantinga/Wolterstorff philosophy. So Is the tale wagging the dog? Does getting Jesus in your heart make one buy the P/W philosophy which then provides a justification for having a relationship with Jesus?

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Rauser is one slippery snake. I am amazed that his Christian readers do not call him out on his obfuscation. He either believes he has a personal relationship with Jesus or he doesn’t it. What is he ashamed of?

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        2. I think by this stage and being asked so many times he probably is not going to answer just on principle but hopefully I’m wrong.
          I don’t think there is much doubt that he believes he does have a PRWJ, so I think you are probably really asking if a person believing they have PRWJ can be objective about really searching for truth/reality/truth of a religion, etc. I guess this is kind of the opposite of the Christian view that without a regenerated heart from the Holy Spirit an non Christian’s mind is clouded and heart is hard and cannot see the truth of Christianity.

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          1. Exactly. That is my entire point: How can someone objectively evaluate the very extra-ordinary claim of the resurrection of a brain-dead first century peasant if he believes that the man in question “lives in his heart” and is his “best friend”??

            It is not possible!

            That is why Dr. Randall Rauser is NEVER going to answer this question.

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  4. I’m quite sure he could give an answer that would involve many elements and philosophies and nuances if he felt so inclined, but he dislikes those “black and white” questions so gets his dander up and refuses to answer them, even though he has quickly dismissed other religions in fairly black and white terms.

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