A good example of a bad argument (the Judge and the Resurrection)

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I saw this on social media today.  This is good example of misleading argument:

My favorite part of the Kavanaugh controversy is how people who are absolutely convinced they know exactly what happened in Judea 2,000 years ago have gaslit many Americans into believing it is literally impossible to know what happened at an event in 1983.

Here, our correspondent has misstated both the Christian position on the resurrection and the argument respecting an alleged event involving Judge Kavanaugh.

Strawmen.

It is inaccurate to say that anyone is certain of everything which happened in Judea during the life of Jesus. No one claims to have comprehensive knowledge of the time and place. In terms of total facts, far more is unknown than known. The Christian position is that the facts which are known are sufficient to draw certain factual conclusions (such as the Resurrection).

The circumstance involving Judge Kavanaugh differs on the facts available at this time. If the only two facts are one person asserting X and another asserting not-X and there are no other facts, then drawing a conclusion is impossible on that basis alone. The difficulty with Kavanaugh’s case is a lack of a sufficiently detailed allegation (the X, and not-X are not even sufficiently defined) and a lack of evidence beyond the ultimate conclusion.

There are a number of facts which could easily lead to a definite conclusion. For instance, there were a definite statement of date, time and place, one could conclude that the event was more or less probable.

Thus, if the alleged event (again, I have no idea as to the truth, because I do not have a sufficient number of facts from which to draw a conclusion. Anyone who has had access to the publicly available statements “knows” anything is simply wrong.) took place on Date 1 and Kavanaugh was in another Michigan on that date, it is not likely that he took a jet home for this bad act and then returned without notice.

We can look to other corroborating facts: It is reported (goodness knows what has actually been said, this whole story is awash in false statements and nonsense). Are there witnesses? What do they say? Have the witnesses or alleged actors given consistent or inconsistent statements? Etc.

The Resurrection is quite different: it is a conclusion based upon a very definite statement and supported by substantial supporting evidence.

Indeed, the fundamental reason to question the Resurrection is not the evidence but the strangeness of the event. If the Resurrection were a normal historical event, it would be unquestioned.

But what about the passage of years?

As we move further from an event, the number of facts recoverable will lessen. If there are witnesses, the memory of witnesses will fade [I will make a note on eyewitness testimony below.] Witnesses will also become unavailable over the course of time (either through death or becoming lost to interview by moving or whatnot).

Physical facts will also diminish over time (duration will depend upon the nature of the artifact).

How does this not adversely affect the Christian claim?

Christians are not trying to recover facts from 2,000 years. The facts were established and recorded at that time. We are not trying to establish that information today for the first time. The 2,000 years misstates the salient fact of time.

Let’s consider an example: Imagine we have access to a trial transcript from 1940. The events underlying the trial took place one year earlier. If we were to speak of what happened in 1939, the time period between fact and conclusion is 1 year – not 78 years.

In Kavanaugh’s case we are trying to recover facts for the first time 35 years after the event (the 2012 notes are problematic at best. Even the accuser says the notes are wrong).

What about eyewitness testimony? Isn’t it unreliable?

Yes, and no. Eyewitness testimony about stressful events which took place at one time and over a short period of time are very often wrong – often wildly wrong. Crime victims routinely give flawed testimony about the criminal event: they are stressed, confused; their attention is misdirected; they try to reconstruct the event and make numerous errors in the recreation.

The Kavanaugh event concerns eyewitness testimony about an extremely stressful event. An important fact, which may weigh in favor of the accuser is whether she knew Kavanaugh prior to the event. If this was their first (alleged) interaction, she would more easily misidentify him. If they had been friends for years, she does not need to describe his appearance for the first time.

Compare that to testimony about normal events. You know would likely give excellent testimony about the color of your car, the number windows in your bedroom, the number of drawers in your dresser, how often you get paid for work, et cetera. Routine, repeated, normal events are fundamentally different than trying to remember what it was like to be robbed.

On this point, we should note that information obtained in therapy of a long unexpressed painful event which (supposedly) is causing significant bad effects in the present has a reputation for uncovering things which never occurred. Moreover, patients routinely lie to therapists and clients lie to lawyers (I’m not saying always; but it happens enough that it is not a strange thing).

Christianity is based upon claims from multiple witnesses about an event with corroborating physical evidence. For instance, if anyone had been able to produce Jesus’ body in Jerusalem, it would have stopped Christianity at its birth (Crossan’s claim that it was eaten by dogs is silly. Someone could have just said, we say dogs eat it. No one made that claim until Crossan – which a claim which suffers from the 2,000 year distance).

What about prejudice?

The Kavanaugh accusation is a great example of the policy behind Evidence Code section 352. The code essentially forbids the introduction of evidence which would prejudice a juror more than it would inform a juror. For example, let us say the defendant is a gang member charged with a particular crime. In most instances, the jury would never hear about the gang membership. If they heard he was a gang member, they would be more likely to find him guilty because he was in a gang than because he engaged in this particular bad act.

The people who speak confidently about what happened in the Kavanaugh case typically betray a personal prejudice (I was assaulted, therefore, she was telling the truth; I was falsely accused, therefore, she is lying; I hate/adhere to Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy, therefore, ….).

Most of the people providing their opinion of the event have voiced personal prejudice: their opinion is worthless as to the truth of the accusation.

Well, weren’t the Apostles prejudiced in favor of Jesus? That misstates the issue. They were seriously prejudiced against the possibility of Jesus being resurrected from the dead in the manner in which he did (N.T. Wright’s Resurrection covers the evidence here exhaustively). Their prejudice makes it unlikely they would mistakenly believe Jesus had been resurrected.

What about reputation and motivation?

This does have some bearing. One who has a history of lying, might lie more easily than others. But no amount of lying before proves one is lying as to the instant assertion. No amount of prior conduct proves anything about conduct on one particular instance.

With Kavanaugh, the parties both have strong reasons to tell the truth; and they both have significant motive to lie. In fact, the pressure of examination is likely to cause each party to dig in their heels to insist upon their position (recanting has become more costly than the alternative – especially since the possibility of suffering penalty is minimal in this event). (There are event plausible scenarios under both believe that they are each telling the truth.)

This is a point which weighs very heavily in favor of the apostolic witness. They all suffered greatly (most often to death) for their testimony.

But don’t people die for false believes all the time?Yes, but that isn’t the case here.

Consider three scenarios:

1) Alleged Historical Event Z – never happened.

2) P1 who relates Z to P2.

3) P1 has lied to P2.

4) P2 believes P1

5) P2 dies based upon the false belief related by P1.

 

1) Historical Event Z.

2) Witnessed by P1.

3) P1 knows, based upon personal experience that Z took place.

4) P1 dies for Z.

 

1) Alleged Historical Event Z.

2) P1 knows it never happened.

3) P1 claims that Z happened.

4) P1 is challenged with death over Z.

5) P1 personally knows that Z is false.

6) P1 recants to stay alive.

People will recant things they believe to be true to save their life. It would be a remarkable day indeed for someone to go to death for a fact which they personally knew was false.

Conclusion

In conclusion, an analogy between Judge Kavanaugh’s circumstance and the Resurrection is poorly drawn.

As for the Judge and his accuser. I honestly have no definite idea what happened. I am not even certain what facts and accusation have been established. I have read any number of assertions made confidentially by people who are in no position to know any more than I do. I have seen a great deal of gossip, slander and vicious stupidity. (Apparently, there have been significant death threats made against almost everyone involved.)

I have seen that bias and prejudice have more importance than any consideration of evidence (not to say burden of proof — which is critical in this instance).

This political tempest is very sad; it has often been wicked; and I fear no matter how it ends, the result will be a further deterioration of our social fabric.

How to Create a Memory

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Many researchers have created false memories in normal individuals; what is more, many of these subjects are certain that the memories are real. In one well-known study, Loftus and her colleague Jacqueline Pickrell gave subjects written accounts of four events, three of which they had actually experienced. The fourth story was fiction; it centered on the subject being lost in a mall or another public place when he or she was between four and six years old. A relative provided realistic details for the false story, such as a description of the mall at which the subject’s parents shopped. After reading each story, subjects were asked to write down what else they remembered about the incident or to indicate that they did not remember it at all. Remarkably about one third of the subjects reported partially or fully remembering the false event. In two follow-up interviews, 25 percent still claimed that they remembered the untrue story, a figure consistent with the findings of similar studies.

Read the rest

The trouble with eye witness testimony

What then can help guarantee a good memory? Notice that events which are traumatic are questionable. Notice that distant, vague events are questionable. Compare that to events which take place over a period of time, events which are witnessed by multiple persons, events subject to objective independent corroboration. And with the case of the Scripture, Jesus speaks of receiving supernatural assistance of the Spirit. John 14:26

Context Matters

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The meaning of an event depends upon the context. The facts before and after an event can greatly affect the meaning.  A string of events relate to one-another to form a story: the meaning of the event comes from the story. Where you begin and end a story matter. What facts you admit and what you reject matter.

A section of Proverbs 18 speaks to this issue:

Proverbs 18:13–17(ESV)

13  If one gives an answer before he hears,

it is his folly and shame.

14  A man’s spirit will endure sickness,

but a crushed spirit who can bear?

15  An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,

and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

16  A man’s gift makes room for him

and brings him before the great.

17  The one who states his case first seems right,

until the other comes and examines him.

We often do not know all the facts, and so we judge falsely.  And often such false judge can be wicked a cruel. A recent example form social media demonstrates such cruelty. A man was videotaped shaving on a New Jersey. The effect of the video was to mock the man. However, once we understand the context, the cruelty of the mocking becomes apparent:

The truth, Torres said, is that the video captured him at a vulnerable moment. He had been homeless and staying in a shelter in New York City. He’d reached out to his family for help. A brother gave him money for a train ticket, which he was using to get to another brother in southern New Jersey.

Torres grabbed the Northeast Corridor train from Manhattan’s Pennsylvania Station around 7 p.m. Thursday, headed toward Trenton, New Jersey.

He said he left the shelter before having a chance to shower and clean up and wanted to look “presentable.”

“I don’t want to say that I’m homeless, let everybody know,” he said. “That’s why I was shaving.” There are many such things which are presented to us on the Internet.

We see or read or hear something and assume we understand. We judge cruelly and falsely. We use gossip and slander and accusation as weapons to prove our point. Most often we cannot and do not know the entire context. We tell ourselves and others false story.

As an attorney, I have repeatedly seen instances of one more fact changing the meaning of an accusation, a defense, a claim. On one occasion, my friend was in court prosecuting a seemingly valid and substantial claim. All was going well until the opposing party provided a document which proved that the client had already settled this seemingly valid claim.

We repeat claims, make accusations, and act as if we know and can judge, we being fools; often cruel wicked fools:

 ‘You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:16 (NASB95). Think about that slander, gossip is an equivalent of murder. To spread a tale is to act against another’s life.

The Only Way to Mortify Sin

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Thomas Brooks, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

Proposition

the exercise and, improvement of grace in your souls, will be more and more the death and ruin of sin in your souls.

Argument 1

Take it from experience; there is not a choicer way than this for a man to bring under the power of his sin, than to keep up the exercise of his grace.

Two illustrations

Sin and grace are like two buckets at a well, when one is up the other is down; they are like the two laurels at Rome, when one flourishes the other withers.

Restated proposition

Certainly, the readiest and the surest way to bring under the power of sin, is to be much in the exercise of grace:

Argument 2

Rom. 8:10, ‘And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin: but the spirit is life because of righteousness.’ The life and activity of Christ and grace in the soul, is the death and destruction of sin in the soul.

Restated proposition

The more grace acts in the soul, the more sin withers and dies in the soul.

Illustration

The stronger the house of David grew, 2 Sam. 3, the weaker the house of Saul grew. As the house of David grew every day stronger and stronger, so the house of Saul every day grew weaker and weaker.

Restated proposition

So the activity of the new man is the death of the old man.

Illustration and application

When Christ began to bestir himself in the temple, the money-changers quickly fled out, Mat. 21:12–14. So when grace is active and stirring in the soul, corruption quickly flies.

Restated proposition

A man may find out many ways to hide his sin, but he will never find out any way to subdue his sin, but by the exercise of grace.

Argument from experience

Of all Christians, none so mortified as those in whom grace is most exercised.

Concluding illustration and application

Sin is a viper that must be killed, or it will kill you for ever; and there is no way to kill it but by the exercise of grace.

The Joint Statement of Christian Leaders in China

A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith (3rd edition, 198 pastors)

Christian churches in China are eager and determined to walk the path of the cross of Christ and are more than willing to imitate the older generation of saints who suffered and were martyred for their faith. We are willing and obligated under any circumstance to face all government persecution, misunderstanding, and violence with peace, patience, and compassion. For when churches refuse to obey evil laws, it does not stem from any political agenda; it does not stem from resentment or hostility; it stems only from the demands of the gospel and from a love for Chinese society.

“ON AUGUST 30, 2018, A GROUP OF CHINESE CHRISTIAN PASTORS AND LEADERS ISSUED A JOINT STATEMENT, A DECLARATION FOR THE SAKE OF CHRISTIAN FAITH. THIS STATEMENT COMES AT A TIME OF INCREASING TENSION BETWEEN THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT AND CHINA’S CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY. AND MANY BELIEVE THIS MARKS A SIGNIFICANT MOMENT IN THE COUNTRY’S CHURCH AND STATE RELATIONS.”

The background: China is raiding and shuttering churches, assaulting worshipers, destroying crosses and burning Bibles in escalating persecution of Christians under a Communist constitution that claims to grant religious freedom.

50 Alleged Bible Contradictions Refuted

It’s good to have the answers all in one place

The Domain for Truth

As of last week we have refuted fifty alleged Bible contradictions.  Lord willing I would be writing more of these kinds of posts.  Eventually when I have more written I’m going to have to get them organized under a Scriptural Index to make them more accessible.  Below are simply the listings of what I have done thus far:

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He will not throw them away for that hypocrisy that is in them

The Lord will not cast away weak saints, by reason of the weaknesses that cleaves to their persons or services.

In 2 Chron. 30:18–20, there came a multitude of people to eat the passover, but they were not prepared according to the preparation of the sanctuary; therefore Hezekiah puts up a prayer for them, and the text saith, that the ‘Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.’ The Lord looked upon their uprightness, and so passed over all their other weaknesses. He will not throw them away for that hypocrisy that is in them, because of that little sincerity that is in them. He will not cast away weak saints for that pride that is in them, because of those rays of humility that shine in them. He will not despise his people for their passions, because of those grains of meekness that are in them. We will not throw away a little gold because of a great deal of dross that cleaves to it, nor a little wheat because mixed with much chaff, and will God? will God?”

“He that drew Alexander, whilst he had a scar upon his face, drew him with his finger upon the scar. So when the Lord comes to look upon a poor soul, he lays his finger upon the scar, upon the infirmity, that he may see nothing but grace, which is the beauty and the glory of the soul. Ah! but weak Christians are more apt to look upon their infirmities than on their graces, and because their little gold is mixed with a great deal of dross, they are ready to throw away all as dross. Well, remember this, the Lord Jesus hath as great and as large an interest in the weakest saints, as he hath in the strongest. He hath the interest of a friend, and the interest of a father, and the interest of a head, and the interest of a husband; and, therefore, though saints be weak, yea, though they be very weak, yet having as great and as large an interest in them as in the strongest saints, he cannot but overlook their weakness, and keep a fixed eye upon their graces.”

Thomas Brooks

The Unsearchable Riches of Christ