Friday, July 30, 2010

why doesn't God heal stupidity?


About three years ago I wrote a post, so long ago I was in my old family home. The post was about he website "why does God hate amputees" and I called it "why does God hate stupidity?" I staled it that not because I think having doubt is stupid, not because I think the problem of pain is not a very serious and very important question that should make us all think but becasue I find this guys approach insulting and obnoxious. Every so often some of his fans still respond to that post and say things about how brilliant he is and how stupid and evil I am for not seeing that is so great. This morning I got a comment form someone who I thin is sincere so I decided to answer it here in the major section.

This post came under the heading of "Anonymous" but it's not by the regular nemesis who posts by that name. Even though I have a rule against publishing comments by anyone using that name, I will make an exception because the poster probably did not know. but I ask him, I would like to hear from him, but please use another name. Even a number will do, but "Anonymous 1" is taken.

It is probably pointless for me to post this, but stupidity calls. I haven't read the site myself, so let me just say that first. But I get the gist of it as it was pointed out to me by a friend. I admit the reasoning is flawed, and it's a classic case of good observation leading to a bad conclusion.

Well no, not really. It's really a matter of the guy is totally insulting, filled with ridicule and refuses to think deeply about any of it because he assume Christians are stupid as shit and he doesn't have to think deeply, all he has to do is make fun.

But in that site, I don't see stupidity, I see pain.

You said you had not looked at the sight. So do you know? I have pain. I have loads of pain. I have so much pain in my life my favorite song is called "Pack your Sorrows" by Richard Farina (Author of the novel Been Down so Long it looks like Up To Me, think about it). The song says:

If somehow could pack up your sorrows
and give them all to me,
you would lose them,
I know how to use them,
give them all to me.

In other words, I know what it is suffer. But, that does not mean that mocking and ridiculing the attempt to have faith in the face of adversity is in anyway intelligent. It is not intelligent, is nothing more than cruel and selfish. If suffering people need God to get them through, who are you take that away from them and crush their hope with cruel mocking?

One of that guy's major attempts at dismissing faith is this, he say "close you eyes real tight and wish real hard for a candy bar or a Milk shake, did you get it? No, why, because there is no God there to give you a milk shake." No that's my paraphrase but he does say exactly that. Now do you really think that is a fair way to look at the problem of pain? God wont give you a candy bar on demand, so there is no God. Now is that really your idea of fair? Do you really think that's an intelligent way to think about the issues? If i said "Ok let's get a magnifying glass now look at your class of water, do you see any bugs? no? that's because science is crap, there are no germs." Would that really be a fair way to think about science?

I am a Jesus person facing the same exact questions as this guy (from what I understand from a cursory knowledge of the site) and if I am to find any silver lining in my trials, is it that I know exactly what it feels like to be an unbeliever.

So do I. I was an atheist, the kind of atheist who loved to argue with Christians and thought they were real stupid and loved to make them feel stupid. But I was never the kind who childishly mocked anything he could at any price.

Before you point the finger at "stupidity," do you consider that someone does not create a site like that without tremendous pain and legitimate disappointment with God.

We still have a responsibility to deal with our pain in ways that does not hurt others. To mock and ridicule religious people becasue they turn to God for support in times of pain is sick and stupid. He's trying to crush the hope of suffering people to make himself feel superior.

How do you then, as a believer, respond to someone who has been hurt in that way by calling them stupid?

Because his words are stupid. he has put no thought of any kind into his mocking and ridicule. The whole site from start to Finnish is simple minded, narrow, hateful, he has nothing of any kind of value to say.

Even if you were right, what does that do for the Kingdom? I hope you don't pass through these trials yourself, so you'll never know this firsthand

too late!

but the truth is, there's a lot of bad teaching in churches that is well meant, but it's based on our American ideas, and not on what God really taught us in the Bible. That kind of bad teaching has caused Christians to make a lot of excuses for God that He doesn't need, and that leaves others rightly skeptical. And it's left a lot of people disillusioned and wounded. So before diagnosing this guys stupidity, consider the possible source. And consider what will expand the Kingdom.

that is a very good statement. I agree with you completely. Good point, bravo. Unfortunately that amputee site does absolutely nothing to foster any kind of serious about the issues. The function of it in atheist circles is to give them an  excuse to disregard any kind of answer or argument that Christians give. I went on that guy's board. I posted tons of material and got no serious thought out of them. The only thing they ever said was "show me an expmle of God healing an amputee. just one come on where is it? you don't have one so God is a lie. nothing you can say you matters becasue God is just a big alie in the sky because you can't show me a heald amputee." Even I laed evidence on them of healed amputees they still continued to harp that "that's a lie, that didnt' happen, you can't prove that."

I had good science to prove the miracles of Lourdes. they just continued to squawk, no healing is a miracle until you have an amputee. even a guy growing a new pair of lungs did not impress them because it's not an amputee. So that sight is not furthering the conversion its' closing down the conversation and all it does is give them a chance to squawk and feel superior. They want to boil all of philosophy and all of religion down this one question, no amputee = no God that's it no thought necessary!

That's why it's stupid. Becasue it's simplistic and shallow and it's only advanced as an excuse to ignore all of Christian thoguht.

Up until The Dawkamentalists came on with their hate group act, a lot of Christian apologists kicked ass all over the net. But since atheists learned that it was much more effective to drop the pretense of real thought just vent their hatred there has been an ever shrinking discourse. I now think there are no messages boards anywhere on the net that are worth looking at. none of them at all reflect any sort of intellectual discussion about religious ideas. It is sights like this that are to blame for this state of affairs.

There are a couple of good sites you should look at. One is God is not imaginary, Marshal Brian is Ignorant These guys have done the body of Christ the service of spending their time answering everything thing the guy says, wow! I can't imagine wasting my line on that polavor, but I thank them for doing it.

The other is my own very serious attempt to answer the theodicty question: I advance my own version of the free will defense, which I think has a unqiue angel if I may so, called Soteriological Drama

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Answering Miller's "Right post" on Modal Argument


Before I get started on this I need to make a caveat. Tillich was against the OA because he felt it contradicted the concept of the God as being itself, and instead sought to prove the existence of a greatest being which is contrary to the concept of God as being itself. He also imposed or at least said things taken by some to be imply a version of the OA that could be re-formulated. I have not had a chance to talk about this on my blog yet. I don't think I have time to present the ins and outs of it here. But it is important to understand that in some sense I agree with Miller and with opponents of the modal argument but in other ways I disagree with them.
This is the post Miller linked to that said his more sophisticated understanding of and refutation of the Modal argument.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Modal ontological argument, revisited
Let's revisit the modal ontological arguments for God. Though I have covered these arguments and variations at length, and have not changed my opinion about them, I didn't necessarily cover them in the clearest manner possible. It's a tough balance, because for most people, symbolic logic is like math. Math = scary! Other readers understand the symbolic logic, but clearly have difficulties translating between the symbols and their underlying meaning. My goal is to explain it so both groups understand what I'm saying.

I do understand modal logic, in a way, but I don't claim to be an expert. I don't like using the symbols, not because I think they are wrong for I have several problems with it, both intellectual  and personal. The intellectual: I am a phenomenoloist so I don't like that sort hard cast logic, even though I do believe that it's right in matters that can be deduced. I don't like the perspective of trying to make that the major or only form of learning. Personal: I  have dyslexia so the shift about of many symbols is hard for me becuase it tends to wind up in my little fevered brain switching the symbols on me. The same is true of letters in reading of course, but reading English is raiser and I'm more use to it.

Modal ontological argument, reviewed

Definition: If God exists, then God necessarily exists.
Premise: It is possible that God exists.
[Insert mess of logical reasoning here]
Conclusion: God exists.
Meta:I think the premise is what you call "definition" and the second line is either a minor premise or corollary.No matter.


I omitted the mess of logical reasoning because I don't want to scare away my readers. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to convey the amount of respect the logical arguments deserve. Richard Dawkins and other atheists often seem to think it's all a bunch of high-sounding gibberish. And perhaps it is. But that particular gibberish is absolutely solid, as solid as 2+2=4.
Meta: I appreciate that.

There are basically two reasonable objections to the argument. Either we must object to the premise, or object to the definition.

Objection to the premise

To explain the problem with the premise, I must distinguish between two kinds of possibility.

Epistemological possibility: For all we know, God exists.
Modal possibility: Among the set of "possible worlds", there exists a world in which God exists.

Meta:Problem: Plantinga's possible worlds argument (for God) asserts that God must exist in all worlds or none. You seem to imply here that the epistemological possibility is "God may exist in some world." While that is an epistemological possibility that possibility is demonstrated false by the argument Plantinga makes. Meanwhile the modal possibility is just as impossible. There cannot be a state of affairs such that God exists in one world only and not in all possible worlds. If it is possible that God exists in one possible world then God must exist in all possible worlds. That is a certainty if we define God as being itself.

The conclusion of the proof follows only from modal possibility, not from epistemological possibility. However, the epistemological statement is the one that is intuitively true, while the modal statement could be true or false. Modal possibility is intended to be a translation from epistemological possibility to logic, but the translation is not perfect.

Meta:I think the assumption here is false for reasons stated above.

In particular, the translation fails when we talk about the set of possible worlds itself.

Epistemological statement: For all we know, the universe is deterministic (ie there is only one possible world).
Modal translation: Among the set of "possible worlds", there exists a world in which it is true that there is only one possible world.
The epistemological statement is sensible, but if we naively copy it as a modal statement, it's a mess. The first statement only says that the universe may be deterministic, while the second statement can be used to prove that the universe must be deterministic. Clearly, we need to be careful with our translations when discussing determinism.

Meta:If I'm right about what you are trying to do then you are totally wrong. If I understand you correctly, that you are trying to supposes that the argument for God is based upon moving the possibility of God from epistemology to modality, that then you argue the impossibility of the move and that creates the impossible the "no such thing as God merely possible" clause can't be transformed from one to the other. If that's what you are doing you making several mistakes.

(1) Just because "for all we know God might exist" is an epistemolgoical statment that does not mean that the existence of God is only a epistemolgical possibility that is excluded in some way form the modal realm.

(2) the possibility of determinism is not a negation of God; God can create deterministic universes and thus God can exist in deterministic universes.

(3) There is also the possibility that determinism is impossible.

Similar to determinism, the existence of God also says something about the set of possible worlds. If God exists, then s/he exists in all possible worlds. If an object does not exist in all possible worlds, then we cannot call it God. So we need to be careful with our translations when discussing God too.
Meta:That would seem to contradict my previous assumption, that I'm wrong about what you are trying to say. But I'm leaving it in anyway just in case.


Here is a much better translation to logic:

Epistemological statement: For all I know, God exists
Logical translation: God exists, or God does not exist.

The conclusion of the ontological argument does not follow from this proper translation.
Meta: you lost me on this. You seem to be creating a useless distinction between epistemology and logic where one need not be made. All logical truths are also epistemological problems, everything that exists epistemically also exists logcially.


Even proponents of the modal ontological argument must accept that there are problems with translation. If we take the statement, "For all I know, God doesn't exist" and naively translate it to modal logic, then we would conclude that God doesn't exist.
Meta: I think the translation bit is a useless gimmick. Belief in God is not confined to one type of thought and has to be "translated" into another. This is super metaphysics, I don't see any reason to make this sort of metaphysical assumption. Its' not as though some questions are intrinsically given to epistemology and barred from logic and vice verse. Its' totally a matter of the way you structure your sentences. Belief in God is as much at home in modal logic as anything. The statement "If God exists then God must exist necessarily" is a statement of modal logic. By calling it "definition" you have screened it off form the actual logic of the argument but it's as much a modal statement as anything.

In Baird's presentation of Hartshorne's argument he did not call it the definition.

Alternate premise: Logical consistency

Some ontological arguments have a cleverer premise to replace the old one.

Old Premise: It is possible that God exists.
New Premise: There is no contradiction in the existence of God. In other words, God is "consistent."

The old premise logically follows from the new one. If you're familiar with symbolic logic, I hope you already knew this. If not, here is a simple proof.

Suppose that the old premise is false; it is not possible that God exists. The statement "If P, then Q" is always true if P is false. Likewise, the statement "If God exists, then Q" is always true, because God doesn't exist. It's true even if Q is a contradictory statement (ie "God is blue and not blue"). Therefore, the new premise is false; the existence of God implies a contradiction.
Meta: Truth by stipulation. you can't stipulate the non existence of God.

The statement "If P, then Q" is always true if P is false.
this I do not understand. If P is false (and the premise is "if P then Q") then the false nature of P means Q is also false because Q depends upon P. This is true in modus ponens.

If the old premise is false, then the new premise is false. Equivalently, if the new premise is true, then the old premise is true.

not what what said. you said if P is false than if P :. Q would mean Q is true.

But now we will run into another problem of translation. I will distinguish between two kinds of consistency.

Self-consistency: The object has no contradicting properties in its definition.
Logical consistency: The object implies no contradictions.

Proponents of the ontological argument often expect me to disprove the self-consistency of God. Perhaps they expect me to argue that God's omnipotence contradicts its omniscience, or something like that. But they fail to realize that I don't have to. The proof requires logical consistency, not self-consistency.

Self-consistency is not sufficient to establish logical consistency. For an object to be logically consistent, not only must its definition be properly formed, but the world must cooperate. (More precisely, the set of "possible worlds" must cooperate.) Suppose that the world does not cooperate, and the object does not exist. If the object does not exist, then the existence of the object implies a contradiction. Namely, it implies that the object both exists and does not exist. I didn't even have to look at the definition of the object.

Meta: There's a huge amount with this.

(1) you  make an arbitrary distinction between "self constancy and logical consistency." that would assume there some disemboweled concept "logic" floating around out there that has nothing to do with objects per se. You are really assuming that things in the world have to fit with the rules of femoral logic and those rules are arbitrary. The only real contradiction that would matter is self consistency. I don't necessarily play that out in terms of omniscience vs omnipotence, it could be any number of ways.

(2) The world "cooperating" is begging the question. you can't argue the world is not reflecting the truth of God because three dozen God arguments show that it does. You can't start by asserting there is no God any more than I can start by asserting that there is.

(3) The OA in and of itself argues that the greatest thought is about the greatest truth. The argument is supposed to reflect the truth of God and is itself a matter of the reality cooperating to show the truth of God.

Of course, I don't know whether the world cooperates with the ontological proof or not. The proponents have no idea either, but think they do.

Meta we have a good hint in what I just said, the greatest idea is about the greatest truth.

Philosophers ought to teach themselves some mathematics. In geometry, there is a famous axiom called the Parallel postulate. It is famous because many mathematicians thought they could prove it. Modern mathematicians know that it is impossible to prove, because there is no contradiction in assuming it false. Likewise, it is impossible to disprove. The Parallel postulate is self-consistent. The negation of the Parallel postulate is also self-consistent. But in any given geometrical system, only one can be true. Thus, only one can be logically consistent.

Meta: But that's argument from analogy. That proves nothing about the modal argument.

Objection to the Definition of God

Definition: If God exists, then God necessarily exists.

If we define a fork to be an object with a handle and prongs, then we can give the following statement: "If a fork exists, then it has prongs". If a fork does not exist, we can't even talk about "it", much less ascribe it properties. If an object does not have prongs, then it is not a fork. That is the rationale behind the definition.

Meta: I think I already dealt with this stuff before. First of all you are making a mistake by calling it a defintion.The statement is conditional, definitions are not conditional statements so it can't really be one. It's more like a first premise. But it's based upon the definition of God as necessary and not contingent. That definition is not open to debate. It is not defining God into existence and the assertion that it is is merely clutching at straws. It's a failure to understand this is a given, it's what we believe. It can no more be disputed or disproved  as a valid premise than the statement that I love my mother or that my name is Joe.It's a basic given, the fundamental of a belief system and the assumed construct of the God concept that we talk about. you have to deal with it what we believe on it's own terms of not seek to discuss it. You can't dictate or alter our belief system just becuase you don't like it's fundamental premise.

Now proving that God can't exist necessity would come under the heading of showing a contradiction in the concept of God. That would be valid if you could do it, so good luck with that. You can't just make the premise go away just because you don't like.


How can you disagree with a definition? Can't we define any object we like? If the definition makes no sense, can't we just say that the object doesn't exist?
Meta: no because your objective is not founded upon it not making sense or you  would be able to prove a contrdication in God. You passed on that before, you can't show me one. This concept makes sense. Its not a contradition and it's not something something makes no sense I understand it perfectly, it makes sense to me, it makes sense to the believer.

Ah but here's a major major MAJOR sign post: big read sign here saying "THIS IS IMPORTANT>"

Atheist and theist live in two different worlds. The world I live in is totally different from the world tha Miller lives in. It doesn't make sense to him because his ideology has led him to embrace only constructs that eject this notion from reality. But because I have come to see the universe in terms of this construct, and I find it true becuase works and my understanding of the world works perfectly with it, the two fit hand in glove, but they do so only because I can see it. The ground shifted for me and it has not so shifted for Mr. Miller. That is no poor reflection on him, it's just the way it is..

What this means is the way he looks at the world the world doesn't cooperate with the argument and the concept of necessary God does not make sense. I suspect this is in large part because he thinks of God as a big man in the sky and when I say "eternal necessary being" he thinks "a being" rather than being itself. Of course that's problematic because he's not going to see it unless he wants to. IF I try to explain it he will probably say (he has already no doubt) "what the hell is being itself?" We will be back at square one because he doesn't see the world that way either.

So that's what's really stand between us, this view of things that will not allow one to understand the concept and will not allow the other to let go of it.


I don't know about philosophy, but in mathematics, you can't just define any object you like. Consider the set of all sets that do not include themselves (like the male barber who shaves all men who do not shave themselves). Call this Russell's Set. In "naive" set theory, you are allowed to define any set you like, including Russell's set. But Russell's set leads to a paradox. Therefore, "naive" set theory is inconsistent.
Meta: Part of the problem here is you are thinking of it as an object. That what I mean when I say atheist are "thing bound." You are wrapped up in the surface level of things and it's a matter of empirical objects vs objects of thought in your head and that's just putting everything on the level of thing hood. Along comes God who is not a "who" and not  "he" and not an "it" but something beyond understanding and you go "wait, If I can't understanding I can't control it, so I can't accept somethign I can't control."

That's really what it's all about. belief vs skepticism is about being willing to let go of control and be controlled by the ultimate, vs trying to control the ultimate and reduce the unconditioned to an "it." This is what I'm talking about above where I sate the caveat.

Naturally, mathematicians want a set theory that doesn't have paradoxes. So they formulated Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory, which has specific rules dictating what sets you are allowed to define. These rules do not allow us to define Russell's Set, and thus avoid its paradoxes.

Meta: So much the worse for mathematicians. Jesus said "unless you become as an undergraduate, you can't enter the graduate school of heaven."

Is modal logic more like "naive" set theory, or like Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory? Can you define anything you like, or do you have to follow specific rules? I suspect it depends on your choice of axioms. It's a difficult question that I don't feel qualified to answer, which is why I prefer objections to the premise.
Meta: Remember I said the problem goes back to thinking of it as an object (God). If you think of God as an object that can be proved, (then of course that also means it can be controlled) you are reducing God from the ground of being to an object in being. Then you are trying to ask if we can define objects anyway but you already doing that. You are doing exactly what you castigate the MA for doing, reducing reality to an object that you can control and then trying to define it yourself.

Of course that's the necessary first step in the battle for control of the object.  If you are doing to seek to ban God from his own reality then you have to first take control of the concept of of God as an object, control is what all reductionists seek. Reduction = control.

At this rate the  MA might be wrong-headed so the argument has been beaten by its own need to be proven. Not beaten by being false but beaten by being something that requires proof, the mere fact that it can be proved makes it worse. That's such an absurdity.

It's far more logical to think about it in its proper terms, not as an object but as a belief, as a apprehension, something religious belief lights upon and grasps as a perception. It's not a definition at all. It shares with definitions that both are merely illumination, not controls. We have to understand God as the unconditioned then we know we  can't jack around definitions at all.

The argument is saved and put back together by the realization that it's proving a ratinoal warrant not a proof that can't be disputed. It 'not proving an object but a concept. What's proved about the concept is the prima facie nature of it as a reason for belief. That's the very aspect that definition argument was designed by atheists to mask.

For what it's worth, Immanuel Kant's original objection to the ontological argument might fit in this category. Kant argued that existence is not a property that you can include in the definition of an object.

Meta: that argument is by the modal nature of the nature of the argument. The difference in modality and propositional understanding per se is the addition of the type of being that is discussed (weather contingent or necessary). That status (modal) adds new information and that means in that case existence is a property because the type of existence discussed changes the situation. If necessary I can find a half dozen experts who say this. I don't have the quotes anymore but I have documented this with a huge number of logicians in the past. If you want to take my word for it save us both a lot of time.

Alternate definition: The greatest being

Many proponents of ontological arguments like to have it both ways. On the one hand, we are allowed to define God. On the other hand, we are not allowed to define "the unicorn which necessarily exists."
Meta: The greatest begin is not an option. I mean by that not according to a huge portion of Christian thought. Sure the unaware, the uneducated, those not in the know, those who don't read theology, those "not with it" (aka people who disagree with me--I speak tongue in cheek) will say that God is the greatest being; but the Tillichian background from which I am working argues that God is not "a being" at all. God is the ground of being, being itself, not a being. God is the basis upon which all things cohere, not another thing in creation alongside "things." The idea of a supreme being is what I mean when I say atheist are bound up in "thing hood."


But to be fair, they're not exactly parallel. In most ontological arguments, God is not defined as "the deity which necessarily exists". Rather, God has a much more specific definition.

Definition: If God exists, then s/he is the greatest being conceivable.
Additional premise: We can conceive of a being as greater by conceiving it as necessarily existing.

Meta: Anselm said "God is that which noting greater than can be conceived." He did not say "the greatest being," although he may have said it somewhere but the famous formation doesn't refer to a being. Tillich's criticism of the OA is that it is aimed at production of proof of "a supreme being." The problem with that is God cannot be "a being" since God is the basis of all being, the ground, being itself. Of course atheists harp upon the "greatest" idea, but that's becuase they don't understand the being itself thing becasue they are too bound up in thing hood to understand the concept. I am not saying atheists are not smart enough to get it or that no atheists do understand it, but by and large they tend not to because it's alien to the way they think.

I think that this new definition hurts the ontological argument. 

Meta: So did Paul Tillich, and of course what Tillich thinks I think. ;-)

For one thing, we have a whole new premise. I don't have any particular problem with the premise, but it just seems so extraneous and unnecessary. I refuse to argue with the additional premise, because it seems like a tactic to draw attention away from the real flaws of the ontological argument. In my naive optimism, I expected this tactic from conspiracy theorists, not philosophers.
Meta: If I was of a mind to defend the premise of greatest conceivable being you could not get away with just saying that. But since its' antithetical to my theological outlook I am actually in agreement with you to some extent. This this is a good time to point out the importance of reading theology. The Dawkins "theology is stupid I don't have to know about it" is so self defeating. If you know theology you could beat anyone trying to argue this version of the OA but just showing that it's contradicted by some of the major theologians throughout history; in that those who agree that God is being itself disagree that God is "a being" so God can't be "the supreme being" because the "supreme being" is still "a being."

And the new definition does not help in the slightest.

Let's say that Russell is the name of "the male barber who shaves all men who do not shave themselves. As I said before, in Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory, there are rules against defining Russell. If we are not allowed to define Russell, then obviously, we are also not allowed to define Russell's wife! Russell's wife may not have any self-referential paradoxes, but she requires the existence of Russell, who does have self-referential paradoxes.

Let's say we have a rule against defining necessarily existing beings. Obviously, we are also not allowed to define the wives of any of those beings. We are not allowed to make any definition which implies necessary existence. If we accept the additional premise, then the definition of God implies necessary existence. Therefore we are not allowed to construct the definition of God.

Meta: by the same token not arguing the supreme being thing means this argument doesn't apply to my view.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hector Avelos Takes on Helmutt Koester

Hector Avalos

Anti-Bible scholar Hector Avalos defends himself against one of the greatest Bible scholars of the era, on theDebuncking Christianity blog (9/07/2008) Avalos is author of the book The End of Biblical Studies. It's been a couple of years since he wrote the book calling for the dissolution of Biblical scholarship, and Avalos is still taking university money to teach Biblical criticism, even though according to him his field worthless and useless. The great scholar Koester takes issue with being told that his life work is crap and thus critiques Avalos. But Hector strikes back. I not that Hector has not yet quite his job. When will be be to his word and get into a field he thinks has some use to it?

Prof. Helmut Koester of Harvard Divinity School attacks The End of Biblical Studies by clinging to religionist arguments for biblical studies.

In the September/October 2008 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (aka, BAR, pages 11-12), Prof. Helmut Koester, a retired and eminent member of Harvard Divinity School, launched an attack on my recent book, The End of Biblical Studies.

Unfortunately, Prof. Koester’s critique (which is not currently accessible on-line) is short on facts and long on routine religionist apologetics for biblical studies. He begins his critique as follows:

He begins by trying to re-describe the categories of thought in which a Bible scholar would logically work. This trick of re-description is a postmodern ploy. It is not an argument it's a tactic. This is a cheap postmodern tactic, to re-describe things in terms that leave out the assumptions of the advocate and paint the whole enterprise of defense of belief as propaganda. That way one need never bother with valid arguments, all one is continually re-describe the arguments one cannot answer. Now the DC guys will come back and say I'm being so hateful and rude. No, I have said nothing about the guy as a person. But I'm going to critique his strategy becasue that is all it is. It is not a set of arguments, it's not scholarship, it's a rhetorical ploy.

Avalos cuts lose on Koester, and one might well these remarks as rude:

"Perhaps I should not be surprised that a scholar who
has advocated a Biblical nihilism and has recommended
that Biblical Studies should be ‘tasked with eliminating
completely the influence of the Bible in the modern world’
would launch an attack on the discipline of Biblical archaeology
and on a magazine that is Biblical archaeology’s
most important outlet...What would be required for such
an endeavor, however, is knowledge of the realities of
American religious life and Biblical scholarship in general,
as well as the details of the controversial issues in present
debates. Unfortunately Professor Avalos reveals a deep
ignorance in both respects."

Koester never said he watns to eliminate study of the bible. He wants to eliminate an un-scholarly approach that would guard inerranacy without doing the proper spade work to understand the context of the early community.

He concludes, by saying:

"The relationship of American religious life,
Bible and scholarship is a vital and undeniable
factor in our society—especially in the United
States—however, controversial."

To which Avalos remarks:

At once, we are introduced to one of the most common defenses of biblical studies today. That defense rests on the illusion that “the Bible” is uniquely vital and essential for Christianity and the American religious life.

Pointing out that this is a common defense is something supposes to prove that it's wrong. I haven't figured that one out yet, but that's the name of the game, describe their strategy then re-describe it leaving out their basic reasons and assumptions, that creates the illusion of critique and gives the impression that the critic is up on the psychological motivations of the one critiqued. But it's merely his opinon that he Bible is not vital and he only believes this because he disregards what beilevers see in the Bible and chooses instead to privilage his own position.

Curiously, Dr. Koester seems to privilege a more traditional view of the biblical canon in his attack on my book. But his own past work shows that he did not always think that the Bible, as we currently know it, was uniquely essential or vital for Christians in all periods.

For example, in his own Introduction to the New Testament: History, Culture, and Religion of the Hellenistic Age (2 vols.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982), he tells us the following about other early Christian writings (Volume 1, p. xx1):

"These non-canonical works are witnesses to early Christian
history no less valuable than the New Testament."

This is a rich one. What Koester essentially says is that the Bible is vital but the non canonical sources are also very helpful because theta are artifacts that help us to understand the period and the people. But Avalos treats the statement as though its some sort of contradiction. This is because he is trading upon a tendency among Dawkamentalists to see all Christians as fundamentalists. He's trading upon the ignorance of the Dawkies to think that anyone who would find any value in the Bible must be a fundie.He knows quite well that Koester is not a fundie, and he must know that one can value both the canonical and non canonical sources, either for different reasons or for the same reasons. Surely he must know that one can see the Bible as vital for many reasons and ones reasons do not have to the same as the fundamentalists reasons. But he chooses to ignore all that and pretend that Koester has somehow made some great contradiction. this is a tendency I've noticed in Avalos before; the tendency to treat ideas as posturing, and to prefer postures over substance.

So, why is Dr. Koester not incensed that these non-biblical witnesses are not deemed as essential and as vital for modern Christians?

Well perhaps for one thing it might be because they are. But I think what Hector wants here is for the atheists to think "O yea why not regard GTom and GPete as equal sources of revelation along with the Bible. Why doesn't that make him angry?" But in reality that's not what Koester means when the says the Bible is vital. He is not thinking of the Bible as source of revelation. I doubt that Koester even regards the bible as any kind revelation. If he does I doubt that he thinks of the non canonical books as any sort of back up revelation. He regards all of these texts as artifacts.He wants to study them as an archaeologist, for what they tell us about what people thought. He thinks it's vital to understand the sources of our culture, I think that is correct. But Avalos chooses to regard this as though he Koester is Jerry Falwell. I think Koester has his own kind of faith, but it would not surprise me to learn that he did not. I find this ploy extremely disingenuous. There is no contradiction here. Koester regards both sets of texts as valuable for many reasons. The problem is Hector wants to eliminate the study of all Christian texts and texts related to Christianity. According to his book he wants to study Babylonian religion and Baal worship and so forth with the same methods that Koester studies the Bible. I'm sure Koester would tell him "more power to you." I also say "go for it dude, what is holding you back?" Why hasn't Hector tried to start his own Baal studies department? instead he chooses to spend his time inside the camp that he's wishes to close down, working overtime to kill it off.

Hector goes on:

In his article, “The Text of the Synoptic Gospels in the Second Century,” (in W. L. Petersen, ed., Gospel Traditions in the Second Century [Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 1989] p. 19) he says:

"In the late period, the Gospels were considered holy
scripture; no such respect was accorded to them
in the earliest period."

Indeed, the majority of Christians in the first two centuries did not really have what we call “The New Testament.” We know that some early Christian communities got along well with just one or a few Gospels. Jews get along just fine without the New Testament (note that, for Koester, a Christian, “Bible” includes the New Testament).

Of course we probalby should stop and take note at this point that Jews are not trying to be Christians are they? So it wouldn't matter to them if they don't have Gospels. Of course they would get along fine without Gospels because they don't need any. but they are trying to be Christians. They certainly aren't trying to follow Jesus. We Christians have this odd little habit of wanting to follow the guy who started our tradition. To do that we have to cling to the historical accounts of the faith. It really baffles me why Hector thinks that is such a terrible thing. But he does, or so it seems.

So what about the role of the Bible in modern American religious life? Here, Prof. Koester, who is an eminent biblical scholar, shows himself to be an astonishingly poor student of the modern American religious life. He offers no facts, no statistics, and no sociological studies to support his claim about American religion.

You know it's a darn funny thing about that. Neither does Hector. In fact Hector is rather down right ignorant of the story of the Christian left. I published a
critique of his book on the CADRE blog ("Relevance is Where you Fidn it") which included direct factual challenge of all of his bluster about American Christianity and traced out the Christian left from the early centuries. Not a word from Hector. He didn't bother to even try to refute it, juts as he runs in horror at the suggest that he debate me. So I trounced his arguments with facts, which he cannot refute, yet he goes on pretending as though they don't exist. Avalos' arguments are strangely fallacious:

The reality is that few Americans actually read or know much about the Bible. In The End of Biblical Studies, I cited, as one example, the survey published in 2006 by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion. It showed that 21.9% of Mainline Protestants and 33.1% of Catholics “never” read Scripture. So how “vital” is the Bible if a sizable group of Christians can get by without ever reading it?

Yes, one could argue that the Baylor survey means that the majority of Christians are reading scripture, but that also would be an illusion. Other studies show that even those who read scripture more than “never,” don’t read or apply much of it.

The study that he evokes can actually be turned around on him so evokes another study to prove the original assertion that is disproved by his own study. The original logic is rather cock eyed anyway: Americans are suffering from ignorance of the Bible, but the solution is not to teach more bible but to do away with the bible. What I suspect is that he's trying to make an appeal to popularity but knows he can't do it head on. I fail to see the relevance in siting this point at all otherwise. Who cares if people don't know about the bible? That doesn't determine the worth of the bible and it just means people are not paying attention. We should build more bible schools not close down the one's we have.

Prof. Michael Coogan (“The Great Gulf Between Scholars and the Pew,” in Biblical Studies Alternatively: An Introductory Reader, ed. Susanne Scholz [Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall 2003] p. 7), a former colleague of Dr. Koester, tells us: "Although the Bible is acknowledged in theory as an authority, much of it has simply been ignored."

In fact, most Christians probably use a miniscule amount of the Bible in their lives because they do not find most of it relevant. This is not just my judgment, but that of many conservative evangelical scholars and sociologists. Dr. Koester should read, for example, Josh McDowell’s The Last Christian Generation (2006) or Robert Wuthnow’s After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty-Somethings are Shaping the Future of American Religion (2007).

I answered Avalos assertions on this piont in this essy here.

Dr. Koester, who has spent almost his entire academic career in a private divinity school, also is oblivious to the realities of the job market out in the real world, where most colleges are public or are afflicted with constant budget cuts. I hate to break the news to Dr. Koester, but Harvard Divinity School, my alma mater, is not a microcosm of American academia.

Here he returns to the postmodern politically correct card. Koester is bad because an elitist. He's from a private school and he's elitist and he's bad. But at the same time Hector wants the cache that goes with dropping the name Harvard. So he reminds us "I went to Harvard too." But of course he's the politically correct guy who is crusading against the elites even though he's one of them, and even though he has no knowledge of the American left.

So, allow me to inform Prof. Koester of a few realities. The March 2008 edition of Religious Studies News, published by the American Academy of Religion, counted 152 registered positions in religious studies in 2007. In biblical studies, there were 9 primary employers and 81 candidates for positions in Hebrew Bible. There were 16 primary employers and 83 candidates for New Testament jobs.

That means a total of 139 candidates in Hebrew Bible and New Testament will not get one of those jobs even if all 25 jobs are filled. As I point out in The End of Biblical Studies, when we study closely the quality of jobs in biblical studies available, the picture goes from bad to apocalyptic.

His argument for destroying Biblical studies is that you can't get a job in it. Well we might as well close down every department in the university except Business, science and golf. This just gets back to the sort of anti-intellectual game playing that is the hallmark of Hector's disingenuous nature.He's a postmodern, and like the postmodernist en mass he wants to denude academic life while reaping the advantages of belonging to it. No one is asking the average to be a Biblical studies perosn or a theological student. No one is trying to trick unsuspecting graduates into enrolling in graduate school in theology. For years philosophy departments have sent letter to all student enrolled in philosophy classes telling them they cannot get jobs. Yet for some reason they continue to crowd the roles. Why? Because people want to learn it. It is extremely unfair, dishonest and fascist to try to that away from them. I know this probably never dawned upon Hector but some of us are willing to do our academic thing even when don't make money from it. I ran an academic journal didn't make a dime from it. I'm about to start again and I don't plane to make any money from it again. I'm not even teaching. I don't have Ph.D and I will never in a university but I'm stilling doing papers and will present my papers at professional conventions becasue believe in doing the work and give a rat's hind quarters about being paid for it. This kind of argument, which really is typical of Hector's way of arguing, is so unfair because it's meaningless. What difference could it possibly make that there aren't enough jobs in theology? That says absolutely nothing about the truth content.

Bigger shock for the Hec man. Universities want a professor glut. They do. There were studies in the early 90s promising that there would be a professor shortage in the late 90s when the baby boomer began to retire. They would have had that but what did they do? The dismissed all the TA's, cut programs and went to the one year contract. Why? Because they want a glut. They want too many professors for the number of jobs. Having too many means they don't have to pay them much, and they can keep the young once bouncing around for years on one one year contract after another. Whatever justification for his view Hector thinks he sees in the professor glut the fact of iti s it is artificial and it's not there becasue people don't like the bible; it's in all departments across the board and it's there becasue the people who run the schools want it that way. It's a big mistake to think about academic departments and jbos in terms of the labor theory of value. There is a good article by Gary North, "academics without Academia" everyone considering graduate work should read it.

The real scandal, and one about which Dr. Koester and Harvard Divinity School remain silent, is why even excellent job candidates with recent doctorates in biblical studies from Harvard may end up working in grocery stores or in fields outside of their doctorates. Others leave the field quietly or never finish their graduate work.

The North article answers that. A better question is why in the hell does Hector think this is some special problem of theology? Why do I not have a Ph.D.? Because I took ten years to Finnish. I had to take of my parents because they were both dying. I cared for them round the clock just as though I were a nurse, for three years, then they died. In those three years my graduate work suffered. Well you try chainging your mother's diapers, massaging your father's behind, shaving him, helping him walk, making all the meals and dispensing all the pills, and have to stay in the house 24/7 becasue your mother will wonder off an get killed, and then get through doctoral language work at the same time. So it went for three years. But then the dean said "you have been here too long. you didn't get out soon enough." So they kicked me out. That was not a private theology school, that was a secular liberal arts program;that was not at Perkins. I remember Perkins would hall people in when turned 32 and give them a little lecture on how hopeless it was to get a job teaching theology and urge them to quite. There was no deception there to keep students. In fact they get more money for not keeping them.That is way they kicked me out of the secular program. After a certain period they can't justify it anymore in terms of the tax breaks they get for having a certain number of students. not profitable to keep them after a certain time, that is to eliminate professional students. This society really hates anyone who peruses a life time of learning. Apparently so does Hector.

He knows these things. He is overlooking the fact that these problems are in all departments because wouldn't help his cause any. This way it looks like theology school are mean and no good and take advantage of people. The very same things are going on in atheist ran science departments. My graduate committee chairman was an atheist. The Dean who stole my degree was an atheist. I could begin to think they did to shut down my internet presence except they didn't have any idea about message boards. I know that would be a fantasy becasue they had not one whit of respect for Doherty or any other atheist on the net, or any Christian either. They saw being on the net as a sign of not being very good academically. But that dean did have motive to keep the profitability up for the department. Again. Secular Arts and Humanities and history of ideas program.

In the real world, professors of biblical studies have to explain to a dean why their positions should be retained, when a university could use another expert in biofuels or in food economics. Few colleges have the luxuries of a Harvard Divinity School, and even it finds itself struggling at times to attract students. This evident from the HDS recruiters who have visited me in the past at Iowa State University.

Here he's actually that Biblical studies should be shut down because its' a drag on resources. but Harvard is a private school that was started for religious purposes. It was a Calvinist school. No one is asking tax payers to pay for it. It is paid for by rich guys who want their kids to have the cutlu8ral capital of having gone to Harvard. Same with Perkins.So that is not a drag on the state. No state universities pay for theological school. Those are all private. The public state universities that study religion have religious studies departments and those tend to be very anti-religious. But we could use the same logic and shut down any study of literature, poetry, art, music, any kind of liberal arts. Who is going to study Hector's beloved Baal texts when all the liberal arts are shut down?

I am not actually certain that Dr. Koester has read my book, and he often seems to be working with extracts. That would, of course, violate a basic principle of fairness and diligent scholarship. But, if he did read it, then Dr.

I read it. he still debate me even though he seemed to imply that would if it read it. I would tell Koester stick to the extracts. Another thing, Hector would not send me a review copy and most of the DC crowd is oddly in the dark about review copies. But I did not pay for the copy I read.

Koester misses the larger argument in my book, which shows that:

1) The Bible has already lost much of its influence in American religion;

2) Any influence still left is partly the result of an ecclesial-academic complex, of which Dr. Koester is himself a part, which keeps promoting the illusion that the Bible is important. Without the constant effluence of “new translations,” among other marketing devices, the Bible would probably die.

again, appeal to popularity. This has nothing to do with truth content. IT's not true anyway. Atheism only makes up 3% of world population and about 1.5% of American population(I'll give them 3 just to make a liberal estimate).That the margin of error. Christianity has about 85% of U.S. Pop and even though people answer polls about the Bible indicate about half take the Bible seriously, almost 90% want their children to have some religious influence because of the moral value.

Even if one does not believe the Bible is any sort of inspired word of God it still plays a vital role this is undeniable. It's shocking that anyone with a Ph.D. does not know or understand this. Of course hector has also stated that Shakespeare isn't worth reading.

Shakespeare's works, for example, have no intrinsic value, but they function as cultural capital insofar as "knowing Shakespeare" helps provide entry into elite educated society. The academic study of literature, in general, functions to maintain class distinctions rather than to help humanity in any practical manner

Its not wonder he can't see the value in knowing the Bible. He doesn't see the intrinsic value of Shakespeare one wonders what he does see.

Bible Literacy Project

What would you say is the single most important book an educated person needs to know? When the heads of college English departments were asked what book “at a minimum, every incoming freshman should have read” their number one answer was: The Bible.[1]

Yes, the Bible.

Yet today relatively few students receive high-quality, academic instruction about the Hebrew Scriptures and/or the New Testament. For example: While 81 percent of English teachers in one local survey said that teaching about the Bible was important in literature classes, just 10 percent said they actually do so.[2] Scholarly reviews of textbooks in public schools confirm that virtually all religious references, including the Bible’s role in our history, art, and literature, have been excised from the curriculum.[3] One survey of high school textbooks showed that just one quarter of one percent of literature readings was from the Bible.[4]

The state of Bible literacy is atrocious, that is not reason to give up on it. BTW how many people understand the importance of poetry? while it would not surprise me to see Hectie baby wanting to burn Keats or Wallace Stevens, how many readers out there really ant to get rid of poetry because it's not as popular as American Idol?

Dr. Koester may not like the fact that academic biblical studies is dying, but it won’t make the reality go away. Biblical scholars must to do more than become defensive and assert that the Bible is “vital” if they are to survive in modern academia at all.

Postscript: Dr. Koester’s critique in BAR also includes specific misreadings of my comments about Biblical Archaeology Review. Those misreadings may the subject of a future post.

It's the trendy postmdoern thing to say, destroy Shakespeare he's a dead white guy, destroy the bible, destroy the copy write office, kill the father, hate God destroy turth there's no truth there's no learning, using your mind is elitist. Be a robot let the trendy one's guide your thinking. The attempt to make it appear that Biblical studies is dying out, when in reality all liberal arts appear to be dying out, all the time! this is extremely dishonest.

Notice the one thing missing from Avalos counter attack on Koester. he does not deal with any actual arguments of Biblical criticism.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Answering Ojbections to Model Argument.

I'm not going to spend the rest of my life answering these arguments. But Hermit (regular poster and extreme critic of this blog--well, he's Canadian--) produced a link that is a skeptic attacking modal arguments. I am going to make some comments on one of his attacks. From Skeptic's Play, "a modal ontological argument."  

scroll down to second article on the page.

This guy writes in symbolic logic which would lead one to believe that he knows modal logic. Yet I think many of his uses are misleading and he doesn't really unpack everything that's in the argument.  If he understands it he's being a bit shady in his dealings with it.

To briefly review the simpler ontological argument: The argument says that we can define God as a necessarily existing being. Therefore, by definition, God exists. However, this takes the power of definition too far. The most we can say is that if there exists an object which we can properly call God, then that object, by definition, exists. If God exists, then God exists.
Right away he begin with a dishonesty (let's skip over the bad understanding of the Supra essential Godhead in the use of "a necessarily existing being" since most of the users of model arguments don't read Tillich, and Tillich criticizes them for that very thing) but this is a false version of the argument up front. Why do these guys have such an conversation to quoting actual theistic arguments up front? Is it becuase they know if they do that they can't beat them? None of the major users of modal ontological argument say "we can define God as X therefore God must exist." The conclusion  of God's existence is not predicated upon the definition but upon the consequences of demonstrating that the definition by corroborate to something real. Atheists believe that this is what theists are doing so their criticism always follows that line even though it's made plain that it's not the case!

The first line of the argument I use says:

(1) If God exists, he must exist necessarily, if God does not exist his existence is impossible.
See the difference? I don't' say "Since if define God as existing then he must exist." It begins conditionally, "If God exists."
 His confused ramblings about the nature of definition are designed to destroy the belief system so that one is no longer defending one's belief but the straw man the atheist wishes him to defend:

The most we can say is that if there exists an object which we can properly call God, then that object, by definition, exists. If God exists, then God exists.
This is by No means "the most" we can say. Since Christians believe that God is the basis of all reality, being itself, the ground of all being, then we have to define God in that way, period. We choice but to do so because anything less would not be that in which we believe. In fact Anselm does this when he says "the greatest thought should be about the greatest reality." That's basically what Anslem's original ontological argument was saying. This is not defining into existence because it takes up form a bleieve system that is already in place and merely asserts the ontologically necessary nature of that thing. Of course the atheist can't understand this because bound up in thing hood. He can't reason from from the basis of realization of God's reality due to the depth of being so he has to reason backwards from things and because that's all he can do he imagines the believer must be doing so as well. This is why atheist wind up making the mistake of thinking that "the reason" to believe is because we need to explain how things came to be. Actually this is really far removed from the core reasons for belief.

The problem with the argument is that it's rather useless to define God as a being which exists. But hold on! I never defined God as a being which exists. I defined God as a being which necessarily exists. This definition is not quite as useless. We can say that if there exists an object which we can properly call God, then that object, by definition, necessarily exists. If God exists, then God necessarily exists.
By definition of God: g g

Now here he is right in that the model aspect, which is taking account of the particular kind of existence under discussion add something to the nature of the case and is more than just saying "I define God as existing." It's a conditional statement however, as my statement above "If god exists he must exist necessarily" and this guy is not reflecting this fact. He acknowledges the model aspect he's not recognizing the conditional nature of it.

The letter "g" represents the specific statement "God exists". Note, however, we did not completely define God. In fact, we could replace God with all kinds of absurd objects, and the proof would still hold. This is actually quite a problem for the ontological argument (as well as many other proofs of God). The proof is valid for any statement p as long as pp is necessarily true. For instance, we could replace the object God with "the invisible pink unicorn which necessarily exists" or "a left shoe which necessarily exists".
 What's he's saying here is total bull shit. It's quite strange that this guy knows symbols for modal logic (which I don't) but he still doesn't know the argument now does he know the literature. He could really do with reading John Hick's book The Many faced Argument. This approach (that we could define God in any number of ways) is nothing more than one of the oldest arguments again Anselm, and one of the most fallacious, the Perfect Island argument by Gaunilo (1033-1109) (see On Behalf of the Fool). It just says we should say God is a prefect island and by the same logic the argument would prove that a perfect island exists, therefore, something must be wrong with this logic since it would prove such a ridiculous thing. But the answer is that it would not be possible to assert God is a perfect island (perfect tomato, purple, cow, pink unicorn, swizzle stick,  or what have you) unless that thing was eternal, necessary, and the ground of being. Why assert that the necessary ground of being is some contingent thing like an island or a tomato? At that point, since it has to have the attributes of God it is God then there's no point in linking it with things that are clearly not God, that contingent, temporal, man made and so on. What it really boils down to is that we cannot define God in any old way we wish. There is a very strict definition of God, that dis guided by the basic belief systems that embrace the notion of God. In all major world religions these same basic attributes are always there for the major God, the father God, those are: the creator God: eternal, necessary, ground of all being. It matters how one defines it and you can't do so in just any old way.

Nonetheless, let's continue onward. I'm going to go through the proof, step by step.
  • Theorem 1: ¬g ¬g (The contrapositive of the definition of g)
  • Theorem 2: ¬g ¬g (Using the definition of to substitute into Theorem 1)
  • Theorem 3: (¬g ¬g) (Application of Axiom N to Theorem 2)
  • Theorem 4: ¬g ¬g (Application of Axiom K to Theorem 3)
  • Theorem 5: ¬g¬g (Axiom 5 applied to ¬g)
  • Theorem 6: ¬g ¬g (Combining Theorems 4 and 5)
  • Theorem 7: ¬¬g ¬¬g (The contrapositive of theorem 6)
  • Theorem 8: gg (Using the definition of to substitute into Theorem 7 twice)
  • Theorem 9: g g (Combining Theorem 8 with Axiom T)
You may have noticed that I did not prove what I set out to prove. I only proved g g, which says that if g is possible, then it is true. That's not quite the same as saying that g is true, but it's still something. Now, all we have to do is prove that g is at least possibly true.

And here is where the problems begin. All the previous work was purely logical manipulation, and is necessarily true if you accept the axioms of modal logic. I thought the axioms were pretty reasonable, and rejecting them would be too high a price to pay. However, it seems we need another premise, g. To support this premise, lots of arguments have been offered by various people, but I don't think they're nearly as fun or rigorous as the modal logic section.

That's all basically true. But of course the argument does turn on not the idea that g is possible the idea that g is not merely possible. If g is not impossible then since g can't be merely possible (might or not might not be) then g must exist. In other words, g must be impossible or else g must be. Thus since g is not impossible  g must be. He's wrong here again where I put it in red, he changes the meaning of the argument. This is why I don't like this guy because he tries get away with subtle changes that have profound implications and yet he carefully avoids the real answers that theists have given. The subtle difference is that g can be merely possible so it's not a matter of if g is possible then g must be true but rather that g is not impossible.

One common argument for g is that g is self-consistent. I can conceive of a God without having any contradictions. Based on my current knowledge, it is entirely possible that God exists. It's possible that God exists, therefore God exists.
Again he does not present this properly.He should really be saying that the basis for asserting that God is not impossible is that there are contradictions to belief in God. The atheist has the burden to assert what criteria would prove the impossibility of God. Its' not fair to expect the theist to mount an endless litany covering every possibility when the argument is rightfully the atheists burden to prove. That is if the theist has done his job properly and not argued 'this proves the existence of God' but set it up the right way and argued rational warrant.

The problem is that this same argument seems to apply to the statement ¬g. ¬g is a self-consistent statement. I can conceive of a world in which God does not exist without having any contradictions. Indeed, I can conceive of a world where nothing at all exists, where there could not possibly be any contradictions since there is nothing around to contradict. Based on my current knowledge, it is entirely possible that God does not exist. Therefore we can take the premise ¬g. By Theorem 2, we conclude ¬g: God does not exist.

Obviously, the premises g and ¬g cannot both be true. Either God exists in all possible worlds, or God exists in none of them. Since we used the same argument for both both g and ¬g, that argument must be fallacious. But where exactly did it go wrong?

The error, I think, is in the concept of . g does not quite mean "g is possibly true." In fact, it means "Among all possible worlds, there exists at least one in which g is true." The concept of "All possible worlds" was never exactly defined. In fact, the definition is arbitrary. I could have declared "all possible worlds" to be our world and our world alone, and you never would have been able to prove me wrong from the axioms.
Possible words don't change the argument. It's just a  means of introducing modes of being, possible worlds are contingencies, every contingent thing represents a possibility of its own negation. It' garbage to thin that "possible world" is not defined. That's a major main stay of reformed apologetic everyone from Plantinga to Hartshorne has defined it well.  that is not problem anyway because all it means is in the likelihood of each contingency negated. what he says declaring all possible worlds to be our world is dead wrong. He doesn't set it up right, but the modal argument be made without the possible word's even being mentioned. That's another argument, it's a good argument and he's treating it wrongly, but that's not germane to this one.

I also could have declared "all possible worlds" to be the set of worlds which are metaphysically possible (a rather complex philosophical concept). Under this definition, we would not be able to prove g or ¬g.
He's made a red herring. He can't answer the actual argument that he started with so he's shifted to something that's not even part of Hartshorne's modal argument so the can harp on it. The reader is diverted from the fact that he never answered the argument to begin with.

However, if I had declared "all possible worlds" to mean the set of all worlds which are self-consistent, then we would run into problems. Because under this definition, both g and ¬g appear to be true (unless the concept of God is inconsistent). And they contradict each other.

But no one did. another red herring.

Similarly, if I had declared "all possible worlds" to mean the set of all worlds which are epistemologically possible (meaning, it may be true, for all we know), then we would have the same contradiction.

And what happens if we construct a pathological definition of "all possible worlds" such that g is true and ¬g is not true? Then I might question Axiom T, since it is no longer obvious that our world is included among this so-called set of "all possible worlds."
The possible world's thing is easily defended. But I am not going to do so here because it's not part of the argument I made. take that out because its not part of my argument and look at my argument and that he did not answer it. Hermit thrust this link because he doesn't understand what it says. He thinks any sort of criticism of any ontological argument beats all of hem and such is not the case.

And it goes on and on. Well, wasn't it clever, at least at first? I think so. It seemed for a moment that we arrived at a paradox, a sort of 1=2 moment. Ontological arguments tend to be that way. Most people immediately recognize that it is a little too clever, that it proves a statement which is a little too strong to be true. Similarly, most philosophers think that ontological arguments fail, though they may disagree on exactly why they fail.

Now he's trying to beat the argument by quilting it for being beyond his understanding. It's too clever for him, he seems to think that's a liability if it was an argument for atheism is we would be bragging about how clever it is and how stupid stupid theists don't get it. But the "too-clever" bit is not even part of the original argument which he has still not answered. None of his mocks against possible words beat the argument that says "If God is not impossible then he must be necessary." To that one he tells us nothing about it's apparent fallacious nature.

In my opinion, ontological arguments are merely interesting philosophical curiosities. It's rather silly when an apologist actually tries to use one as a serious argument.

Yes that 's what Gaunilo said, on behalf of the fool.