Liar, Lunatic or Lord

A long while ago I participated in a email debate with an extremely hostile atheist. In the course of our discussion he mentioned an argument for the divinity of Jesus that I was not defending. But since he brought it up I decided to make some comments on the arguments validity which he quickly dismissed. The following is a slightly amended version of that portion of the debate.
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The trilema you referred to goes like this;

1) Either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic or is Lord.
2) He was not a Liar
3) He was not a Lunatic
4) He is Lord
 
In defence of 1) I think it is intuitively obvious. These options seem to exhaust the possible alternatives as we have already discounted the possibility of Legend, though we can discuss that further if you wish.

In defence of 2) there are five points I’d like to make;
2i) Most recognise that Jesus taught the highest standards of morality ever taught, and great moral teachers would not teach lies such as he was God.
2ii) Jesus had a positive impact on mankind like no other man. A positive impact does not come from teachings based on lies.
2iii) Jesus’ love an compassion for his fellow man does not fit the profile of a selfish liar.
2iv) His resurrection was genuine.
2v) Deceitful men do not die for what they know to be false. He was arrested for his claims all he needed to do was to say he was not God. Instead he was silent before his accusers and surrendered himself to the most brutal form of torture devised – crucifixion.
 
In defence of 3) there are seven points I’d like to make;
3i) Jesus was the greatest teacher that ever lived and insane people make lousy teachers.
3ii) His miraculous life proves he was not a lunatic (even the Jewish Talmud refers to Jesus as a sorcerer so even between 70 and 200 AD the Jews still could not deny there was a supernatural element to his life.)
3iii) Lunatic’s disciples eventually come to their senses, and Jesus’ disciples were at least willing to go die for their beliefs.
3iv) A lunatics moral example does not endure many generations.
3v) Lunatic’s lives do not inspire movements that change the world.
3vi) Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
3vii) Christ’s life and work were prophesied centuries beforehand. Over 300 prophesies were fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus. For now I’ll just include three;
Dan 9:24-17 – That the Messiah would come before the destruction of the Temple – that happened in 70 AD.
Isa 53:3 – That the Messiah would be rejected by the Jews
Isa 65:1-2 – That the Messiah would be accepted by a wide gentile following 
 
So I think the argument is better than your short refutation has made it out to be. Premise 2 and 3 are implausible which makes the conclusion of 4 – that Jesus is divine – the only option available to someone who will honestly evaluate the evidence available.

62 replies
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  1. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Hi Ian.

    1. Supernatural claims are significant and extraordinary claims

    In what sense? I agree that supernatural claims are unusual claims, and that they point to and corroborate significant claims of another sort (namely the gospel etc). On the other hand, I don’t agree that supernatural claims are significant or extraordinary from a metaphysical point of view, since my metaphysic incorporates and expects supernatural events. You can’t claim that miracles are metaphysically significant or extraordinary without begging the question.

    2. To date no supernatural claim has been objectively verified beyond anecdote

    I don’t agree. I have not investigated this subject personally, but on the testimony of those who have, there appear to be a number of supernatural claims which have been investigated quite rigorously and remain inexplicable except on supernatural terms. I’m sure Google will turn up some good examples.

    3. Plenty of supernatural claims have been objectively “debunked”

    I’m not sure this is true, depending on what you mean by “plenty”. We need to be comparing apples with apples. Have “plenty” of supernatural claims of the kind in Scripture and with the level of corroboration described in Scripture been objectively debunked? This narrows the playing field significantly. But there is also a difficulty in evaluating this, since there are a lot of outspoken people dedicated to debunking these sorts of claims because they a priori believe them to be false. Therefore, it can be difficult to find instances where supernatural claims are given a fair hearing, or where apparent debunkings are perspicuously genuine. If you are simply being credulous about debunkings, while being incredulous about verifications, then you’re begging the question.

    4. People are easily deceived

    In a sense this is true, but the same point applies about comparing like with like. People are not typically given to being deceived into thinking that street magicians have healed the sick, cured the blind, or raised the dead. Additionally, we know that people living in first century Palestine were typically far more skeptical of supernatural claims, and more discerning with regard to apparent miracles, than people today are—largely because they lived in such a pluralistic and superstitious culture where half the people on the street claimed to have some kind of mystic abilities. So, while (4) is true, it’s irrelevantly true.

    5. There is no objective evidence for the supernatural claims in the bible

    Firstly, this is false, as Stuart is currently researching. Secondly, even if it were true, you are tacitly, but illicitly, treating the Bible as a single volume—when in fact it is a compendium of independent testimonies. Thus, the various witnesses within Scripture itself constitute objective evidence.

    6. There are plausible natural explanations for most if not all supernatural claims in the bible

    Patently absurd, unless by “natural explanations” you mean “lying” or “misreporting” or something of that nature. The whole point of many of the miracles witnessed in Scripture is that there is no plausible natural explanation. That’s why the miracles were performed—to act as proofs to the supernatural claims of a prophet.

    7. There is a long history of humans falsely using the supernatural to explain the inexplicable

    Even if true, this is irrelevant. If 50 people falsely claim to have a red car, that doesn’t mean that my claim to have a red car is false. Furthermore, there is a long history of humans ostensibly correctly using the supernatural to explain the inexplicable as well. I “use” the supernatural in the same way that the ancient Hebrews did, for instance, to “explain” morality; the same way the ancient Greeks did to explain consciousness; the same way Muslims did to explain the existence of the universe; and so on. Not precisely the same way, of course, but in principle the explanations are similar. And there are good reasons to think these explanations are true—anyone denying their plausibility is merely misinformed or a bigot. So these are not false explanations unless you’re presupposing your conclusion here, so your claim is even further undermined.

    8. There is motivation to make the claims of the bible sound miraculous

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. Motivation on the part of whom? The authors? What motivation did they have, and how do you know this? On the part of us? Why? Aren’t we merely bearing witness to the self-evidently miraculous claims of Scripture? It isn’t as if we’re trying to make them seem more miraculous than they are, or attest miraculous events where merely natural ones are described.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  2. Ian
    Ian says:

    I’ll reply using the numbering to avoid confusing quoting so refer to comments 50 and 51 for context:

    1. They are significant in the sense that objective verification of them is a big deal. They are extraordinary in the sense that showing Jesus walked on water is a bigger deal than proving he had lunch one day. This simply shows the issue is non-trivial.

    2. Inexplicable is quite different from objectively proven as supernatural. This shows there is some cause for doubt.

    3. This is merely a part of the picture. Peter Popoff leaps to mind as a nice relevant example but there are many others. This simply shows that false beliefs can be held sincerely and on mass.

    4. People are deceived about many things and often spread these misbeliefs. This is just another piece of the picture and offers a potential mechanism for misbelief.

    5. There may be anecdotal or circumstantial evidence for the supernatural claims in the bible but this is far from objective (and repeatable) evidence and to be honest we wouldn’t expect such evidence to exist. This simply shows there is some cause for doubt.

    6. You show me a claim that has “no plausible natural explanation” and I’ll show you a plausible natural explanation. I understand their purpose is to validate the divine source of the bible but (as we’ll see later) this is reason to doubt, not accept.

    7. If there is a trend of people falsely claiming to have red cars, I would be foolish to blindly accept the next claim I encountered. It may well be a true claim but it is sensible to approach the claim with caution. This demonstrates doubt.

    Also it seems we use supernatural is quite different ways. I “use” the supernatural to describe things that shouldn’t exist or be possible if material existence is all there is. It is more than just being immaterial in nature.

    8. I seriously doubt that the bible was written indifferently with no interest in convincing other people of it’s truth and it’s miraculous nature. Given that, there is sufficient reason to suspect (like all such documents) that some degree of emphasis or exaggeration was inevitable. The question is whether this was a distorting feature or not and therefore is a reason to doubt.

  3. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Ian,

    Just a few comments.

    2. [on miracles] . . . This shows there is some cause for doubt.

    What do you think of these rules for verification of supernatural activity Here? If a modern miracle passed all (or some of) these tests, do you feel you would be justified in believing it was a genuine miracle and a supernatural source?

    Re5: “objective” is an unrealistic standard to hold in verification of historical events -especially miracles, which are generally cause for great rejoicing. One wonders how anything of history is known, if this is the standard. Its unreasonable to place this standard on the biblical texts, when it is placed on no other text or event of history in order to verify its veracity. “Repeatable” is the same and requires the historical method to have the proficiency of the empirical-scientific method.

    Re6: I’ll be arguing later – when I get time – hopefully – that the resurrection of Christ has no better naturalistic hypothesis that fits the evidence (yet to established here also) in the rules for the best explanation. This miracle explicitly verifies the Lordship of Christ (as used in 2iv and 3vi) and by extension the whole of the New Testament.

    Re7 and 8: Demonstrating doubt is understandable, but not an honest procedure for the historian, the forensic investigator, the archaeologist, and more besides. What I think you lack is a proper method of evaluating historical claims and data. It seems all you have now is speculation tainted with anti-supernaturalism. I suggest to you take the inference to the best explanation method (explanatory power, explanatory scope, degree of ad hocness, etc.) and the tools and rules of historical research (criteria of dissimilarity, criteria of embarrassment, multiple attestation, etc.) as these are the standard methods for professional historical investigation.

  4. Ian
    Ian says:

    @Stuart

    2. I only briefly looked at your list (and will try and look deeper later on) but my initial impression was that you were focusing on ruling out skepticism. For me the focus would be better set on establishing the positive claim that it is a miracle rather than showing it isn’t not a miracle :).

    Off the top of my head I’d argue a key test of a miracle is that it should be apparently impossible. Anything less is probably not miraculous? I realise I didn’t quite answer your question so feel free to throw that one back at me.

    5. Objective might be a tough standard for historical accounts but that just reinforces the need for caution when dealing with history, not the need to loosen one’s rigor.

    6. I look forward to it.

    7&8. Historical analysis is necessarily less rigorous because the information available is less rigorous and historians have methods for trying to compensate for that. However I am skeptical of a present day claim for which historical evidence dominates the evidence for it. Therefore I’d argue my call for caution is still warranted.

    I agree that any of those issues in isolation are generally not enough to warrant rejecting the idea but in combination they make a much more powerful argument for caution and I think a reasonable basis to doubt the claims.

  5. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Ian,

    For me the focus would be better set on establishing the positive claim that it is a miracle rather than showing it isn’t not a miracle

    Its either m or not-m. “isn’t not a miracle” is not-not-m which is to say m. Unless there is some other category I’m missing?

    I think your definition of miracle needs tightening up. A miracle would be an event where the natural conditions for the causation of that event were not present. To be distinguished from an event where the natural conditions were present to cause the effect. In popular the latter could still be a miracle (as in an answer to prayer) but I think it helpful to say that was God’s providential working through secondary causes, and not the type of miracle we are talking about. The type of event like walking on water would be. Raining would not be, unless the natural conditions for rain, such as rain clouds, were not present.

    5. I don’t think lessening ones rigour in investigation is called for when miracles are on the table. And I can grant you all the caution you wish. But requiring objectivity of your primary and secondary sources as a standard is to rule out everything ever written on the subject before any investigation is begun – which is of course drawing conclusions in advance of honest research and arguing in a circle.

    Re6: Here are the miracles that you claim have plausible naturalistic explanations. Chose any; the Ascension, the transfiguration, the leper cleansed, blind Bartemaus receives his sight, the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, the feeding of the 5000, and 4000, Jesus walking of water, etc.

    Re7-8

    However I am skeptical of a present day claim for which historical evidence dominates the evidence for it.

    I don’t get what you’re saying in that sentence.

    I agree that any of those issues in isolation are generally not enough to warrant rejecting the idea but in combination they make a much more powerful argument for caution and I think a reasonable basis to doubt the claims.

    Put many leaky buckets together, and you still don’t get a container that holds water. You can have caution, but doubt is jumping the mark and presupposing a position before investigation has begun.

  6. Ian
    Ian says:

    Its either m or not-m. “isn’t not a miracle” is not-not-m which is to say m. Unless there is some other category I’m missing?

    My point was that you really need to make a distinction between the inexplicable and the miraculous. Let us say that we identify a person who apparently can walk on water (and do it at will) and who appears to not be cheating. We would probably have no explanation for such an observation. If we were to rule out all explanations we can think of then it would still be a non-sequitur to then say “ergo god exists” – all we can say is that we don’t know how it happened.

    I think your definition of miracle needs tightening up.

    I agree entirely and would argue that yours does too :)

    A miracle would be an event where the natural conditions for the causation of that event were not present.

    Except we can never show this to be true unless we fully understand the natural laws (which we probably never will and certainly don’t at the moment). The best we could say in such an instance is that we don’t know any natural cause. This is why I think ruling out natural explanations is a poor way to approach the issue.

    re 5. My point is that if all you have is historical claims then you will always struggle for certainty. Historians are well aware of this and seek the next best thing out of necessity, not because it is ideal.

    re 6. Some possibilities:

    the Ascension: Hallucination
    the transfiguration: Trick of the light
    the leper cleansed: Wasn’t a leper to start with
    Blind Bartemaus receives his sight: not completely blind and only claimed healing
    The lame man at the pool of Bethesda: wasn’t really lame
    The feeding of the 5000, and 4000: He gave them food?
    Jesus walking of water: Rocks under the water, shallow water, mud, stilts…

    All of the above could have been easily exaggerated into miraculous accounts…

    re 7-8. Loosely translated: Christianity makes a claim that god exists now and then uses events of 2000+ years ago as one of the major supporting arguments.

  7. Simon
    Simon says:

    So what you’re admitting is really that you have an a priori commitment to disbelieving miracle claims despite whatever historical evidence there is, and despite how objectively sound it appears.

    I find your statement a little hypocritical, though. It’s not as though you approach the topic of miracles (any topic) without a-priori commitments. These commitments have caused you to build up what you consider to be a very robust set of reasons that christianity must be true, which is why you – for instance – focus on what the ‘most sensible’ conclusion is given the gospels. My commitments lead me to focus on other sets of reasons; resons which I consider to be robust. I try to drag theses arguments towards my reasons, and you and Stuart try to drag/keep them in your territory.
    This a-priori stuff: I would consider it obvious that, once we have concluded something like the truth of christianity or the non-existence of miracles, we are at least partially at the mercy of the confirmation bias, which, of course, leads us to build an even stronger ‘logical’ case for what we have already concluded. Wouldn’t you agree?

    The thing that I find absurd is that there is almost no-one out there who would convert to christianity because of the logical arguments for it. – So much so that the likes of yourself would not consider it a real conversion without the ‘spiritual’ aspect. – And yet the claimed inevitability, and unavoidability of the historical evidence is pushed so forcefully in this forum that you and Stuart can’t even bring yourself to acknowledge that there is a case at all for an alternate explanation for the evidence. There is something amiss when people can’t do this.

    Again, allow me to draw attention to the fact that Simon’s modus operandi is not to present any arguments or any facts, but merely to repeat his prejudiced opinions, while demeaning those who disagree with them.

    The problem is that you have set up your worldview in order that you automaticlly consider certain arguments as ‘bad’. I have given plenty of reasons – reasons which would be agreed by many scholars – it’s just that you don’t think them good. And I, too, could throw sarcasm and mockery at you because I consider your arguments as prejudiced opinion; I consider many of your arguments as wrong. But I am sane enough to realise that my conclusions are biased by my worldview, and that there is a case for christianity. And again, you avoid the question (AND the question of whether evidence could change your position, Bnonn.), which is suspicious. Can you bear to consider the possibility that other people – including many scholars – consider different evidence important to what you do? And, as biased as you think their disregarding of what you judge as good evidence is, can you see that what you consider good evidence is biased also? Can you admit, as I can for your case, that there is a case for Jesus as legend?

  8. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Ian,

    I think if you see someone walking on water (and it checks out such that you don’t know what – if any – natural explanation can be given) you would be obtuse not to think it a miracle, according to my definition as well as anyone else’s. Agnosticism in the face of somethings so blatantly not apart of the natural scheme of things would reveal a sever hardening of the heart to really good evidence.

    The problem that you have now is the frequency of similar events that could not be given natural explanations.

    And its important to note that Jesus walking on the water is not some random event without a context. It comes instead as apart of life and ministry that was characterised by the miraculous a – a ministry and life that in a very short space of time after the crucifixion, people understood to be signifying that Jesus was divine.

    Except we can never show this to be true unless we fully understand the natural laws (which we probably never will and certainly don’t at the moment). The best we could say in such an instance is that we don’t know any natural cause. This is why I think ruling out natural explanations is a poor way to approach the issue.

    re 5. My point is that if all you have is historical claims then you will always struggle for certainty. Historians are well aware of this and seek the next best thing out of necessity, not because it is ideal.

    Re5: I’m o.k. with the best thing historians can think of. I agree that naturalistic explanations are to be preferred. But in the absence of naturalistic defeaters to the miraculous, there is no good reason to ignore the supernatural when it fully explains the data according to the rules of the inference to the best explanation.

    the Ascension: Hallucination
    the transfiguration: Trick of the light
    the leper cleansed: Wasn’t a leper to start with
    Blind Bartemaus receives his sight: not completely blind and only claimed healing
    The lame man at the pool of Bethesda: wasn’t really lame
    The feeding of the 5000, and 4000: He gave them food?
    Jesus walking of water: Rocks under the water, shallow water, mud, stilts…

    All of the above could have been easily exaggerated into miraculous accounts…

    What you mainly do is change the details of the story given by the gospels. In these case you must be using some criteria that clues you in as to where the author of the text is either lying or mistaken and where the information given is truthful and correct. But what is this criteria?

    As I pointed out before, if Jesus is not liar, lunatic or lord, the people presenting his biography are either liars, legends, or imbeciles themselves. Legends is ruled out by Paley’s excellent argument in the previous post. The liars option is ruled out by; the void of other accounts; that these accounts were written contemporaneously with the apostles and other living witnesses, who would have repudiated these stories given the culture; and that the witnesses of these events were willing to die for the beliefs that were the Gospels spell out for us. The imbeciles option is ruled out by the fact that Christianity grew and grew fast under their preaching; that Paul, who is unanimously agreed to be a bright spark, met and agreed with these witnesses; and that most of these are unmistakably miraculous to any moron.

    The only option left is that the Gospels were faithfully recording what happened.

    If your not changing the details of the stories your naturalistic explanations bomb. Take one example: the ascension. If this was an hallucination then you have a problem with the multiple witnesses present experiencing the same hallucination. Hallucinations aren’t shared with other people as they occur in the mind and are person relative. They shared both a visual hallucination, and an auditory hallucination. The disciples weren’t in the conditions that enable hallucinations. Then you have Jesus’ absence after the ascension that needs to be explained. With respect to the hallucination theory proposed by people trying to explain away the appearances of Jesus post his death on the cross; (1) you have the origin of the Christian faith itself; (2) The empty tomb that still needs to be explained; (3) The very un-Jewish belief that God raised Jesus from the dead, as any hallucination of Jesus would have been interpreted that Jesus was glorified and in heaven awaiting the general resurrection of the dead at the end of the age, etc.

    Re7: I still don’t understand the thrust of your point here. Could it be your saying the evidences efficacy has deteriorated with time?

    In response to that: evidence doesn’t become bad evidence because there is a long period of time between its reporting and now. What matters is the period of time that elapses from the occurrence of the event and when the account of it is written, and that time period doesn’t change.

  9. Ian
    Ian says:

    Rather than tackling that point by point (I am a bit short of time at the moment), here is a simple restatement of some key points (which address most of what you talk about):

    1. The inexplicable is not automatically miraculous (in the god-did-it sense)
    2. The supernatural isn’t really an explanation if it is just a synonym for inexplicable
    3. Legends can grow very quickly from very little.
    4. Paley’s arguments suggest genuine intent from the gospel authors, nothing more. Neither “lunatic” or “liar” is ruled out.
    5. Liar, lunatic or lord is, in my opinion, a loaded (and probably false) trichotomy

    If there are any specific points you really want me to follow up or feel has been left hanging please let me know and I’ll do my best.

  10. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    2. The supernatural isn’t really an explanation if it is just a synonym for inexplicable

    Couple the miraculous with the claims of being divine you have an uphill climb towards plausibility I think. Would you modify this claim if the same man claimed he was divine and then said “I’ll prove it my dying and being raised to life,” and then he is resurrected after his very public execution?

    3. Legends can grow very quickly from very little.

    This may be true. But you have to prove this is possible within a similar cultural backdrop. In other words you have to compare like with like. In order to find a like to compare with you must remember two things about first century Jews; (i) that the Jews held the truth in high regard while at the same time repudiated lies and alteration in the narrative genre; and (ii) that the culture valued oral tradition so highly exact memorisation was required of a rabbi’s disciples in order that the core of his teaching and events of his life were not distorted even 2-3 generations after events.

    4. Paley’s arguments suggest genuine intent from the gospel authors, nothing more. Neither “lunatic” or “liar” is ruled out.

    If the Jesus presented in the gospels is not the genuine Jesus of history, then your pushing the argument back a step and placing the three options on the authors (from which the liar, lunatic, lord argument does not fully rely, btw). Paley’s argument states these reports were not legend and the authors believed these reports to be true. Therefore, either the gospel writers were liars, lunatics, imbeciles, or faithfully recording what actually happened. Here are some reasons to discount those options.

    Liars they were not, for there is no other tradition or account of Jesus’ non-miraculous life, the disciples were willing to die for their beliefs which included Jesus was Lord (the one true God, fully divine). Lunatics they were not, for the generated a large following from their preaching, and intelligent people believed them and investigated the beliefs of the disciples. Imbeciles they were not, for their writing is of studied and refined quality.

    Which leaves the option that the Gospel writers faithfully reported what actually happened. Given this, Jesus did disclose his self-conception, that self-conception is accurately reported, and that makes Jesus either a liar, a lunatic or Lord. The points above in the article against the liar and lunatic options therefore stand.

    5. Liar, lunatic or lord is, in my opinion, a loaded (and probably false) trichotomy

    Apart from it leaves out “Legend” as an option, how is it a false trichotomy? And how is it loaded? It seems to me to cover all the options.

    Pursue anyone of these you wish :-)

  11. Ian
    Ian says:

    A couple of quick comments:

    Would you modify this claim if the same man claimed he was divine and then said “I’ll prove it my dying and being raised to life,” and then he is resurrected after his very public execution?

    Not really. A person saying something before that happened only shows they had foresight of an inexplicable event, something that would be in itself inexplicable. You are no closer to an explanation, there is just another level of complexity there.

    Apart from it leaves out “Legend” as an option, how is it a false trichotomy? And how is it loaded? It seems to me to cover all the options.

    It is false for a few reasons – firstly liar to lunatic is a continuum, not a discrete choice. Secondly by “Lord” I assume you mean that in the Christian sense such that if Jesus was actually a manifestation of the flying spaghetti monster he would not be lord. Thirdly, as you suggest in your post, it is not clear who the lying or the lunacy actually applies to. Finally Chinese whispers (and similar effects like selective memory) can mean that a false story can be faithfully passed on through relatively few tellings to become a false end result with no lying or lunacy.

  12. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    The reply buttom no longer works :(
    http://talk.thinkingmatters.org.nz/2008/the-inherent-value-of-human-life/

    “Now how is it you can hold moral values as objective if man is merely a machine with no free will. If we are programmed by nature (and nurture) how is it you can condemn someone’s actions as wrong (and conversely praise someones actions as good or right) when they had no choice in the matter?”

    You are confusing the meaning of the word choice. It was not my “choice” where I was born, who my parents are, what time I was born in, how I was raised, my DNA or any number of thing. However, all these make me who I am. While the individual choice you make is predetermined, it is predetermined because of who you are. It is no use saying “my history made me become a bad person” because it does not change the fact you are a bad person.

    It is notable that determinism has emperical support (like the fact that crime rates vary over time) while free will has none. Free will also suffers from being nonsensical and impossible as well- in order to have free will you are essentially saying that you can violate casulty.

    “You must give some sort of account about how foxes, humans, etc., acquired sapience, on your definition, if its not going to be a figment of your imagination. You can’t just assume it – its the ad hoc linchpin of your whole argument.”

    It is an emergent property of having enough brain tissue. Explaining it is like saying when water acquires the property of wetness. A single molecule isn’t wet, nor two, nor three, but a bucket full is.

    ” What does sapience rely on?”

    Some sort of physical information processing structure. It won’t come with all- hopefully we will make idiot savant style computers.

    “On the Christian view, sapience is a result of God giving human life inherent value, which also includes things like an actual free-will, the capacity for rationality, to have relationship with God, to be creative, and other things.”

    Giving inherent value. Would you like to use a phrase that isn’t inherently inconsistent?

    -free will is impossible as it violates casulty
    -rationality is seen in other living things that can problem solve
    -creativity is also seen in other animals- any that can problem solve, that makes displays that aren’t off a predetermined pattern, etc.

    “But if God has not given us those things, then the naturalistic account reduces moral values to mere subjective expressions determined by nature – so your system of ethics, Samuel, is thoroughly inconsistent.”

    How is it inconsistent? After all, that is exactly how ethics works. It is wrong to toss someone out of a plane if they don’t have a parachute, but if they do it is okay. The right action depended entirely on the nature of the situation.

    If you are talking about reality itself, than no. Ethics do not exist in the natural world.

    On topic
    The reason I dismiss miracles is simple- if God wanted to do something miraculous, it would be VERY obvious. Things like raising the dead, messing around with the Moon or something that obviously violated what we know about reality and can be checked by many people. I doubt the Gospels for the simple reason that if you had a man going around performing miracles, the word would get out and people would flock from all over the empire to ask for favors. After all, this is the classical period, where the life expectancy was in the 40s or 50s.

    “2i) Most recognise that Jesus taught the highest standards of morality ever taught, and great moral teachers would not teach lies such as he was God.
    2ii) Jesus had a positive impact on mankind like no other man. A positive impact does not come from teachings based on lies.
    2iii) Jesus’ love an compassion for his fellow man does not fit the profile of a selfish liar.”

    Uh, from what I remember, Jesus teaching are essentially egalitarianism. That isn’t really radical.

    “2iv) His resurrection was genuine.”

    He died surprisingly quickly, right? Isn’t it more likely he didn’t die, but interpreted coming of the cross and survivng as coming back from the dead?

    “2v) Deceitful men do not die for what they know to be false. He was arrested for his claims all he needed to do was to say he was not God. Instead he was silent before his accusers and surrendered himself to the most brutal form of torture devised – crucifixion.””

    Given that he was killed for essentially crimes against the state, I’m pretty sure saying that he wasn’t God would not spare him from execution. The Romans did not find forcing people to give apologies a good deterant.

    ‘3i) Jesus was the greatest teacher that ever lived and insane people make lousy teachers.”

    Prove it. That is an entriely subjective statement.

    ‘3ii) His miraculous life proves he was not a lunatic ”

    Do I need to bring up other individuals with miraculous lives? The fact they had a category to fit him in proves there were many others like him.

    “3iii) Lunatic’s disciples eventually come to their senses, and Jesus’ disciples were at least willing to go die for their beliefs.”

    You have never met a Marxist, have you?

    “3iv) A lunatics moral example does not endure many generations.
    3v) Lunatic’s lives do not inspire movements that change the world.”

    Ayn Rand, Marx and so many others show that just isn’t true.

    “Over 300 prophesies were fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus.”

    it is really easy to fullfill prophecies when you know what they are going to be. of course, the fact that the people who kept track of the prophocies didn’t believe him counts against him.

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