We don’t use the full names of letter-writers unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures. We’ve got a preacher this time. He’s identified at the end of the letter as The Rev. Dr. Richard L. Shaw, and this is the website of his church: Calvary Chapel of Monmouth County. Excerpts from the rev’s letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!
The Oct. 19 article in the @issue section of the Press, “Separation of church and fate,” by the public relations director for American Atheists Inc. is a paradigm of special pleading. In flaunting the use of evidence versus Christianity, his examples ignore the heavy weight of empirical evidence for the existence of a supernatural architect called God.
We can’t locate the article the good rev is complaining about, but we’re familiar enough with what it probably says — that it’s difficult, indeed it’s impossible, to provide proof — or even evidence — for things which are said to be miraculous and supernatural. As for the rev’s accusation of “special pleading,” that’s usually said of various theological claims, such as the familiar one that the First Cause (usually Yahweh) is a unique exception to the rule that everything needs a cause. We’ve never seen a charge of special pleading hurled at the other side, so this should be an interesting letter. The rev says:
His quote from the acerbic writings of Sam Harris regarding the Christian who demands proof for a cheating wife but not for the Bible effectively turns the tables on the atheist claim. It is the atheist who is arbitrary and dismissive of the evidence.
Huh? Our usual experience is that it’s the creationist who who dismisses evidence. But the rev is claiming here that the atheist is dismissive of the evidence. Well then, we assume that the rev is going to give us some evidence, as the title of his letter promises. We very much want to see it, so let’s read on:
To use the evidence of one who believes without evidence is special pleading and does not address the substance of the Christian claims of evidence or the many millions of Christians who have come to believe after careful weighing of the evidence.
Okay. We’re eagerly waiting for the rev to tell us about the substance of the claims of all those millions who believe after carefully weighing the evidence. He continues:
Lee Strobel is a brilliant contemporary Christian who as a journalist and atheist interviewed many, Sam Harris among them, on both sides. After much careful consideration of all the evidence, Strobel became a Christian.
What? We’ve all seen Lee Strobel praised and cited at various creationist websites. Wikipedia says that his book, The Case for a Creator (Amazon listing), “consists of interviews with intelligent design advocates and Christian apologists who argue for the existence of a creator.” In your Curmudgeon’s humble opinion, interviews with contemporary believers (whether they believe in deities, UFO abductions and probes, or an afterlife) isn’t what we would consider evidence of anything — other than the existence of believers. Here’s more:
Frank Morison started writing a book in rebuttal of the resurrection of Christ. After examining the evidence, he became so convinced that Jesus indeed rose from the dead that he became a Christian and wrote, “Who moved the stone?”
Here’s the Amazon listing for that book: Who Moved the Stone? It’s about the Resurrection, and it has a forward by Lee Strobel. We haven’t read it, but we doubt that it presents verifiable evidence for the 2,000 year-old events it discusses.
And now we come to the end of the rev’s letter:
Science, reason and empirical evidence, so far from opposing Christianity, bear witness to their common Author.
Well! So let us review the rev’s evidence, which consists of several levels of data: (1) Strobel read the bible, talked to a bunch creationists — including Discoveroids — and became a believer. (2) Strobel then wrote a book about his beliefs. (3) Morison read the bible, thought about it, and became a believer. (4) Morison then wrote a book about his beliefs. (5) The rev read their books — or at least knows of their existence. (6) The rev considers those books to be evidence of the things their authors believe. (7) The rev wrote a letter claiming that the foregoing is evidence for the existence of God.
What do we conclude from this? Your Curmudgeon expresses no opinion about God’s existence, but he firmly believes that the rev doesn’t have a clue what the word “evidence” means.
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