There can be no evidence that Mormonism is false

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Re: There can be no evidence that Mormonism is false

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Dr Exiled
He says he doesn't know enough to comment. Look at Rivendale's comment above.

Of course he could look into it, perhaps a little bit, and then discuss it. However, this clearly is a place where huge mistakes are being made, where criticisms are justified, where doubt grows from looking at what cojcolds is doing or not doing. So, I don't see anything substantive coming from Dr. Peterson.
On this, one of the singular most IMPORTANT events going on within the church, he pulls the lazy learner syndrome?! There are links right here Daniel C. Peterson. Perhaps since it would pollute your Mormon holiness you could send you slime dog Lou Midgley over to use the link and actually learn something valuable for once instead of the phony canard evidence of Alma for the Book of Mormon. Why don't you finally do the RIGHT THING and LEARN and then show which spirit guides you, the Holy Ghost, or the Devil who says hide it all and protect the image, regardless of who gets harmed. Let the world entirely be sexually abused for all you care, protect the church! Protect the church! And on a very serious note. What would Jesus himself ACTUALLY do? NOT SAY, but DO? Did he go to the money changers at the temple and say "Oh you naughty men, please take this monetary filth away so my Father's spirit can inhabit this holy place," Or did HE DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE PROBLEM?
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Re: There can be no evidence that Mormonism is false

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huckelberry wrote:
Fri Aug 05, 2022 4:23 pm
I can see the conflict you are pointing out between the two statements. I suspect that Peterson is aware and is separating the two statements on a more fundamental level. I did not think he was trying to base his axiomatic the church is true upon the evidence compiled in the first statement. His belief that the church is true is prior to that. I think testimony is the LDS language for that. I am not saying that I am comfortable with that approach but I think Peterson is likely to be aware that logically the two statements are running on completely different tracks. One is evidence and reason the other is personal revelation establishing a truth prior to evidence we know about
I can see that as a possibility.
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Re: There can be no evidence that Mormonism is false

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dastardly stem wrote:
Fri Aug 05, 2022 1:57 pm
Ultimately, I don't know. He's not a yes/no answer type of person. Depending on his audience, he may say something like this...
Not bad.

The following comes from his 2008 edition of ‘Reasonable Faith’, but I want to remark briefly that this is a book aimed for a general audience and he has to summarize a lot of complex topics down into a quick analysis and then give you his take. It isn’t robust and comprehensive philosophical account, but a summation of what he believes:
W.L.C. wrote: But what about the second point: the role of argument and evidence in knowing Christianity to be true? I’ve already said that it is the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit that gives us the fundamental knowledge of Christianity’s truth. Therefore, the only role left for argument and evidence to play is a subsidiary role. I think Martin Luther correctly distinguished between what he called the magisterial and ministerial uses of reason. The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel like a magistrate and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel. In light of the Spirit’s witness, only the ministerial use of reason is legitimate. Philosophy is rightly the handmaid of theology. Reason is a tool to help us better understand and defend our faith; as Anselm put it, ours is a faith that seeks understanding. A person who knows that Christianity is true on the basis of the witness of the Spirit may also have a sound apologetic which reinforces or confirms for him the Spirit’s witness, but it does not serve as the basis of his belief. If the arguments of natural theology and Christian evidences are successful, then Christian belief is warranted by such arguments and evidences for the person who grasps them, even if that person would still be warranted in their absence. Such a person is doubly warranted in his Christian belief, in the sense that he enjoys two sources of warrant.

One can envision great benefits of having such a dual warrant of one’s Christian beliefs. Having sound arguments for the existence of a Creator and Designer of the universe or evidence for the historical credibility of the New Testament records of the life of Jesus in addition to the inner witness of the Spirit could increase one’s confidence in the veracity of Christian truth claims. On Plantinga’s epistemological model, at least, one would then have greater warrant for believing such claims. Greater warrant could in turn lead an unbeliever to come to faith more readily or inspire a believer to share his faith more boldly. Moreover, the availability of independent warrant for Christian truth claims apart from the Spirit’s witness could help predispose an unbeliever to respond to the drawing of the Holy Spirit when he hears the gospel and could provide the believer with support in times of spiritual dryness or doubt when the Spirit’s witness seems eclipsed. One could doubtless think of many other ways in which the possession of such dual warrant for Christian beliefs would be beneficial. Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa. (p.47-48)
Not to leave my guy Philo hangin’
Philo Sofee wrote:
Thu Jul 28, 2022 12:18 pm
How is Peterson's modus operandi any different from William Lane Craig's who also thinks the same thing of his version and brand of Christianity? And yet those two angles are indeed, quite separate, distinct, different, and end up at different goals entirely, and not to say blatantly contradictory conclusions! I would LOVE to see a Peterson/Craig debate on that thinking...genuinely.
To wit:
W.L.C. wrote: Some people disagree with what I’ve said about the role of argument and evidence. They would say that reason can be used in a magisterial role, at least by the unbeliever. They ask how else we could determine which is true, the Bible, the Qur’an, or the Book of Mormon, unless we use argument and evidence to judge them. The Muslim or the Mormon also claims to have a witness of God’s Spirit or a “burning in the bosom” which authenticates to him the truth of his scriptures. Christian claims to a subjective experience seem to be on a par with similar non-Christian claims.

But how is the fact that other persons claim to experience a self-authenticating witness of God’s Spirit relevant to my knowing the truth of Christianity via the Spirit’s witness? The existence of an authentic and unique witness of the Spirit does not exclude the existence of false claims to such a witness. How, then, does the existence of false claims of the Spirit’s witness to the truth of a non-Christian religion do anything logically to undermine the fact that the Christian believer does possess the genuine witness of the Spirit? Why should I be robbed of my joy and assurance of salvation simply because someone else falsely pretends, sincerely or insincerely, to the Spirit’s witness? If a Mormon or Muslim falsely claims to experience the witness of God’s Spirit in his heart, that does nothing to undermine the veridicality of my experience.

But someone may insist, “But how do you know that your experience isn’t also spurious?” That question has already been answered: the experience of the Spirit’s witness is self-authenticating for him who really has it. The Spirit-filled Christian can know immediately that his claim to the Spirit’s witness is true despite the false claims made by persons adhering to other religions.

Perhaps the most plausible spin to put on this objection is to say that false claims to a witness of the Holy Spirit ought to undermine my confidence in the reliability of the cognitive faculties which form religious beliefs, since those faculties apparently so often mislead people. The fact that so many people apparently sincerely, yet falsely, believe that God’s Spirit is testifying to them of the truth of their religious beliefs ought therefore to make us very leery concerning our own experience of God.

There are at least two things wrong with this construal of the objection. First, the Christian needn’t say that non-Christian religious experience is simply spurious. It may well be the case that adherents of other religions do enjoy a veridical experience of God as the Ground of Being on whom we creatures are dependent or as the Moral Absolute from whom values derive or even as the loving Father of mankind. So we’re not at all committed to claiming that the cognitive faculties responsible for people’s religious beliefs are fundamentally unreliable. Second, the objection unjustifiably assumes that the witness of the Holy Spirit is the product of human cognitive faculties or is indistinguishable from their outputs. In fact, non-Christian religious experience, such as Buddhist or Hindu religious experience, is typically very different from Christian experience. Why should I think that when a Mormon claims to experience a “burning in the bosom” he is having an experience qualitatively indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit that I enjoy? I see no reason to think that non-veridical religious experiences are indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit. One way to get some empirical evidence for this would be simply to ask ex-Mormons and Muslims who have become Christians if their experience of God in Christianity is identical to what they had before their conversion.

Someone might say, “But can’t neuroscientists artificially induce in the brain religious experiences which are non-veridical and yet seem to be like the witness of the Holy Spirit?” In fact, this is not true. The sort of religious experiences which have been artificially induced by brain stimulus have been more akin to pantheistic religious experiences, a sense of oneness with the All, rather than Christian experience of God’s personal presence and love. But more importantly, the fact that a non-veridical experience can be induced which is qualitatively identical to a veridical experience does absolutely nothing to undermine the fact that there are veridical experiences and that we are rational in taking our experiences to be veridical. Otherwise, one would have to say that because neuroscientists can artificially cause us to see and hear things that aren’t really there, our senses of sight and hearing are unreliable or untrustworthy! Just because a neurologist could stimulate my brain to make me think that I’m having an experience of God is no proof at all that on some occasion when he is not stimulating my brain that I do not have a genuine experience of God. So the objection to a self-authenticating witness of the Spirit on the basis of false claims to such an experience does not undermine my rationally trusting in the deliverances of the Holy Spirit’s witness.

Moreover, let me suggest two theological reasons why I think those Christians who support the magisterial role of reason are mistaken. First, such a role would consign most Christians to irrationality. The vast majority of the human race have neither the time, training, nor resources to develop a full-blown Christian apologetic as the basis of their faith. Even the proponents of the magisterial use of reason at one time in the course of their education presumably lacked such an apologetic. According to the magisterial role of reason, these persons should not have believed in Christ until they finished their apologetic. Otherwise, they would be believing for insufficient reasons. I once asked a fellow seminary student, “How do you know Christianity is true?” He replied, “I really don’t know.” Does that mean he should give up Christianity until he finds rational arguments to ground his faith? Of course not! He knew Christianity is true because he knew Jesus, regardless of rational arguments. The fact is that we can know the truth whether we have rational arguments or not.

Second, if the magisterial role of reason were legitimate, then a person who had been given poor arguments for Christianity would have a just excuse before God for not believing in him. Suppose someone had been told to believe in God on the basis of an invalid argument. Could he stand before God on the judgment day and say, “God, those Christians only gave me a lousy argument for believing in you. That’s why I didn’t believe”? Of course not! The Bible says all men are without excuse. Even those who are given no good reason to believe and many persuasive reasons to disbelieve have no excuse, because the ultimate reason they do not believe is that they have deliberately rejected God’s Holy Spirit.

Therefore, the role of rational argumentation in knowing Christianity to be true is the role of a servant. A person knows Christianity is true because the Holy Spirit tells him it is true, and while argument and evidence can be used to support this conclusion, they cannot legitimately overrule it. (p.48-50)
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Re: There can be no evidence that Mormonism is false

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Wow, what a load of horse puckey.
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Re: There can be no evidence that Mormonism is false

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Kishkumen wrote:
Sat Aug 06, 2022 12:53 pm
Wow, what a load of horse puckey.
:lol: Yes, this Mr. Stak selection of W.L.C. shows there is no difference than with Dan Peterson's approach... :D
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Re: There can be no evidence that Mormonism is false

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Philo Sofee wrote:
Sat Aug 06, 2022 1:25 pm
Kishkumen wrote:
Sat Aug 06, 2022 12:53 pm
Wow, what a load of horse puckey.
:lol: Yes, this Mr. Stak selection of W.L.C. shows there is no difference than with Dan Peterson's approach... :D
I found that pretty painful reading. I could find a couple of sentences I agree with in that selection above. I decided what I found most painful was the sense that his thinking completely presupposes Christianity and the Bible are Gods truth. I found his comments comparing his witness to other peoples thoughtless. I then realize he is not analyzing or trying to understand peoples spiritual experience. He is presuming his personal witness experience to be the true witness because it is witnessing to Christianity which he sees as the truth.

I have not looked deeply into presuppositional apologetics because it puts me off severely. I gather it is an approach which says you must start with the view that it is true( Christianity or in Petersons case LDS type Christianity) A bit of google research shows it uses such ideas as a person must believe god to have a reason to have reason , an ability to think, make moral decisions, know stuff. I view such claims as hot air.

They could also be corrosive to peoples abililty to reason, make moral decisions , and learn stuff. These require an uncertainty factor causing people to reach out and try to compare their ideas with experience.

I recently read a book by Frank Schaeffer "Crazy for God". It is personal review of the growth of what he came to view as bad fanaticism in his families Christian mission community, and in himself. His father published a series of books starting back in the 60s extolling taking Christian faith seriously. I read a few in the past. They contained a decent amount of concern for helping actual people. Over time Frank , the son, and his father became instrumental in making anti abortion a big cultural and thus political issue. Frank (a never Trumper) is not at all happy with how that developed.

I looked again at one of his fathers last books, "The Church at the end of the 20th Century" . The church under cultural seige and it must hold to its core like scriptural inerrancy. I am struck by noticing that this view of scripture invited no discussion, no defense, just pure assumption. Google listed Schaeffer as a person importantly influenced by presuppositional theory. I do not remember that being stated in his books but it fits

Disconnect the self critical and its uncertainty and people may drift towards fanaticism I fear.
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Re: There can be no evidence that Mormonism is false

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Schaffer is an interesting character. I have read a bit on his website and listened to a few of his interviews. Definitely gone over to the liberal side in politics, and I think he may have become Orthodox. Or he just really admires Orthodoxy.

It would be interesting to give that book a read.
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Re: There can be no evidence that Mormonism is false

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DrStakhanovite wrote:
Sat Aug 06, 2022 2:07 am
dastardly stem wrote:
Fri Aug 05, 2022 1:57 pm
Ultimately, I don't know. He's not a yes/no answer type of person. Depending on his audience, he may say something like this...
Not bad.

The following comes from his 2008 edition of ‘Reasonable Faith’, but I want to remark briefly that this is a book aimed for a general audience and he has to summarize a lot of complex topics down into a quick analysis and then give you his take. It isn’t robust and comprehensive philosophical account, but a summation of what he believes:
W.L.C. wrote: But what about the second point: the role of argument and evidence in knowing Christianity to be true? I’ve already said that it is the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit that gives us the fundamental knowledge of Christianity’s truth. Therefore, the only role left for argument and evidence to play is a subsidiary role. I think Martin Luther correctly distinguished between what he called the magisterial and ministerial uses of reason. The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel like a magistrate and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel. In light of the Spirit’s witness, only the ministerial use of reason is legitimate. Philosophy is rightly the handmaid of theology. Reason is a tool to help us better understand and defend our faith; as Anselm put it, ours is a faith that seeks understanding. A person who knows that Christianity is true on the basis of the witness of the Spirit may also have a sound apologetic which reinforces or confirms for him the Spirit’s witness, but it does not serve as the basis of his belief. If the arguments of natural theology and Christian evidences are successful, then Christian belief is warranted by such arguments and evidences for the person who grasps them, even if that person would still be warranted in their absence. Such a person is doubly warranted in his Christian belief, in the sense that he enjoys two sources of warrant.

One can envision great benefits of having such a dual warrant of one’s Christian beliefs. Having sound arguments for the existence of a Creator and Designer of the universe or evidence for the historical credibility of the New Testament records of the life of Jesus in addition to the inner witness of the Spirit could increase one’s confidence in the veracity of Christian truth claims. On Plantinga’s epistemological model, at least, one would then have greater warrant for believing such claims. Greater warrant could in turn lead an unbeliever to come to faith more readily or inspire a believer to share his faith more boldly. Moreover, the availability of independent warrant for Christian truth claims apart from the Spirit’s witness could help predispose an unbeliever to respond to the drawing of the Holy Spirit when he hears the gospel and could provide the believer with support in times of spiritual dryness or doubt when the Spirit’s witness seems eclipsed. One could doubtless think of many other ways in which the possession of such dual warrant for Christian beliefs would be beneficial. Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa. (p.47-48)
Not to leave my guy Philo hangin’
Philo Sofee wrote:
Thu Jul 28, 2022 12:18 pm
How is Peterson's modus operandi any different from William Lane Craig's who also thinks the same thing of his version and brand of Christianity? And yet those two angles are indeed, quite separate, distinct, different, and end up at different goals entirely, and not to say blatantly contradictory conclusions! I would LOVE to see a Peterson/Craig debate on that thinking...genuinely.
To wit:
W.L.C. wrote: Some people disagree with what I’ve said about the role of argument and evidence. They would say that reason can be used in a magisterial role, at least by the unbeliever. They ask how else we could determine which is true, the Bible, the Qur’an, or the Book of Mormon, unless we use argument and evidence to judge them. The Muslim or the Mormon also claims to have a witness of God’s Spirit or a “burning in the bosom” which authenticates to him the truth of his scriptures. Christian claims to a subjective experience seem to be on a par with similar non-Christian claims.

But how is the fact that other persons claim to experience a self-authenticating witness of God’s Spirit relevant to my knowing the truth of Christianity via the Spirit’s witness? The existence of an authentic and unique witness of the Spirit does not exclude the existence of false claims to such a witness. How, then, does the existence of false claims of the Spirit’s witness to the truth of a non-Christian religion do anything logically to undermine the fact that the Christian believer does possess the genuine witness of the Spirit? Why should I be robbed of my joy and assurance of salvation simply because someone else falsely pretends, sincerely or insincerely, to the Spirit’s witness? If a Mormon or Muslim falsely claims to experience the witness of God’s Spirit in his heart, that does nothing to undermine the veridicality of my experience.

But someone may insist, “But how do you know that your experience isn’t also spurious?” That question has already been answered: the experience of the Spirit’s witness is self-authenticating for him who really has it. The Spirit-filled Christian can know immediately that his claim to the Spirit’s witness is true despite the false claims made by persons adhering to other religions.

Perhaps the most plausible spin to put on this objection is to say that false claims to a witness of the Holy Spirit ought to undermine my confidence in the reliability of the cognitive faculties which form religious beliefs, since those faculties apparently so often mislead people. The fact that so many people apparently sincerely, yet falsely, believe that God’s Spirit is testifying to them of the truth of their religious beliefs ought therefore to make us very leery concerning our own experience of God.

There are at least two things wrong with this construal of the objection. First, the Christian needn’t say that non-Christian religious experience is simply spurious. It may well be the case that adherents of other religions do enjoy a veridical experience of God as the Ground of Being on whom we creatures are dependent or as the Moral Absolute from whom values derive or even as the loving Father of mankind. So we’re not at all committed to claiming that the cognitive faculties responsible for people’s religious beliefs are fundamentally unreliable. Second, the objection unjustifiably assumes that the witness of the Holy Spirit is the product of human cognitive faculties or is indistinguishable from their outputs. In fact, non-Christian religious experience, such as Buddhist or Hindu religious experience, is typically very different from Christian experience. Why should I think that when a Mormon claims to experience a “burning in the bosom” he is having an experience qualitatively indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit that I enjoy? I see no reason to think that non-veridical religious experiences are indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit. One way to get some empirical evidence for this would be simply to ask ex-Mormons and Muslims who have become Christians if their experience of God in Christianity is identical to what they had before their conversion.

Someone might say, “But can’t neuroscientists artificially induce in the brain religious experiences which are non-veridical and yet seem to be like the witness of the Holy Spirit?” In fact, this is not true. The sort of religious experiences which have been artificially induced by brain stimulus have been more akin to pantheistic religious experiences, a sense of oneness with the All, rather than Christian experience of God’s personal presence and love. But more importantly, the fact that a non-veridical experience can be induced which is qualitatively identical to a veridical experience does absolutely nothing to undermine the fact that there are veridical experiences and that we are rational in taking our experiences to be veridical. Otherwise, one would have to say that because neuroscientists can artificially cause us to see and hear things that aren’t really there, our senses of sight and hearing are unreliable or untrustworthy! Just because a neurologist could stimulate my brain to make me think that I’m having an experience of God is no proof at all that on some occasion when he is not stimulating my brain that I do not have a genuine experience of God. So the objection to a self-authenticating witness of the Spirit on the basis of false claims to such an experience does not undermine my rationally trusting in the deliverances of the Holy Spirit’s witness.

Moreover, let me suggest two theological reasons why I think those Christians who support the magisterial role of reason are mistaken. First, such a role would consign most Christians to irrationality. The vast majority of the human race have neither the time, training, nor resources to develop a full-blown Christian apologetic as the basis of their faith. Even the proponents of the magisterial use of reason at one time in the course of their education presumably lacked such an apologetic. According to the magisterial role of reason, these persons should not have believed in Christ until they finished their apologetic. Otherwise, they would be believing for insufficient reasons. I once asked a fellow seminary student, “How do you know Christianity is true?” He replied, “I really don’t know.” Does that mean he should give up Christianity until he finds rational arguments to ground his faith? Of course not! He knew Christianity is true because he knew Jesus, regardless of rational arguments. The fact is that we can know the truth whether we have rational arguments or not.

Second, if the magisterial role of reason were legitimate, then a person who had been given poor arguments for Christianity would have a just excuse before God for not believing in him. Suppose someone had been told to believe in God on the basis of an invalid argument. Could he stand before God on the judgment day and say, “God, those Christians only gave me a lousy argument for believing in you. That’s why I didn’t believe”? Of course not! The Bible says all men are without excuse. Even those who are given no good reason to believe and many persuasive reasons to disbelieve have no excuse, because the ultimate reason they do not believe is that they have deliberately rejected God’s Holy Spirit.

Therefore, the role of rational argumentation in knowing Christianity to be true is the role of a servant. A person knows Christianity is true because the Holy Spirit tells him it is true, and while argument and evidence can be used to support this conclusion, they cannot legitimately overrule it. (p.48-50)
DrStak, I'm trying to see it, but I don't see much in these quotations that takes Craig any distance from the views expressed by Dr Peterson. What am I missing?

Here's Craig's explanation we first wanted to break down (I thought):
When I first heard the message of the Gospel as a non-Christian high school student, that my sins could be forgiven by God, that God loved me, he loved Bill Craig, and that I could come to know him and experience eternal life with God, I thought to myself (and I'm not kidding) I thought if there is just one chance in a million that this is true it's worth believing. So my attitude toward this is just the opposite of Kyle's. Far from raising the bar or the epistemic standard that Christianity must meet to be believed, I lower it. I think that this is a message which is so wonderful, so fantastic, that if there's any evidence that it's true then it's worth believing in, especially when you compare it to the alternatives like naturalism or atheism or other forms of life. If Kyle really knows what it's like to experience the love of God and to have this hope in eternal life and forgiveness of sins then it seems to me that he will gravitate toward that alternative. It will be so attractive and that it would take really, really decisive disproofs to make him give up his Christian faith and abandon it. Now, when I talk about the witness of the Holy Spirit I don't mean God speaking to me directly in the way Kyle describes. God doesn't speak to me directly either in that sort of way as an inner voice. But I just mean a kind of fundamental assurance that one's faith is true. People often talk about this as the assurance of salvation, and I think that is the privilege of every born-again Christian. I hope that Kyle is more than just a nominal Christian, that he's really come to experience the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and that he's indwelt and filled with the Holy Spirit because I think then that removes the huge epistemic bar that he thinks you need to get over in order to become a Christian.
It certainly seems to fit well with expressions offered by Dr Peterson for his beliefs...and these explanations that are given by you, now, seem to fit as well. The last one was interesting in that he complained about his witness being compared to the 'non-veridical" (thrown in to differentiate from his?) Mormon witness. It appears he has nothing more than Mormons in that assumption and personal witness or internal preferences rule the day. And it appears evidence can't possibly really mean much, particularly if the data speaks against his religious preference. Correct?
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Re: There can be no evidence that Mormonism is false

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dastardly stem wrote:
Mon Aug 08, 2022 1:15 pm
DrStak, I'm trying to see it, but I don't see much in these quotations that takes Craig any distance from the views expressed by Dr Peterson. What am I missing?
You and I were not comparing DCP to WLC, we were comparing Paulogia’s comments about evidence to what WLC believes about the nature evidence.

Why did you shift the topic?
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Re: There can be no evidence that Mormonism is false

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Philo Sofee wrote:
Sat Aug 06, 2022 1:25 pm
Kishkumen wrote:
Sat Aug 06, 2022 12:53 pm
Wow, what a load of horse puckey.
:lol: Yes, this Mr. Stak selection of W.L.C. shows there is no difference than with Dan Peterson's approach... :D
I have to disagree, I think both approaches are as different as night and day.

PART 1

From my perspective, the field of Mormon Studies labors under the illusion that apologetics and scholarship function on the same level, but the stark reality is that both activities are guided by different principles and require different skill sets. Best case scenario, scholarship informs apologetics, but usually the inverse is practiced and apologetics informs scholarship and you get stuff like ‘The Interpreter’.

Good apologists soft-knuckle counter-apologists and bait them into taking dialectical ground that they are not ready to defend. What WLC is presenting in those quotations are conclusions from a laborious research program that he has been engaged in for over thirty years; they are simply and confidently stated because he wants to communicate that confidence to Christian readers (the primary audience) while simultaneously guiding counter-apologists (the secondary audience) into a false sense of confidence.

During interviews, WLC often remarks that his weakest arguments are his arguments for the existence of God. Why? I’m going to explain in detail, but first let me present a hastily drawn graphic that I can reference:

Image

When it comes to epistemology and the structure of knowledge, WLC is a moderate Foundationalist that believes there is a certain set of beliefs that people have that are “non-inferential” which is to say they are beliefs that are not inferred from other beliefs, such as a belief that you are currently experiencing pain. Many of these non-inferential beliefs are critical for any worldview to function and some of these non-inferential beliefs are also incredibly hard to justify in the face of skepticism (e.g. the belief that other people have minds like you do). While there are some attempted justifications for these beliefs, they cannot be demonstrated through the usual means of philosophical analysis and require creative measures that often cannot escape being personally unsatisfying. On my hastily drawn graphic, these kinds of beliefs are in blue and represent 1st Order analysis.

(You’ll notice that with the classic examples of “Other Minds” and “External Reality” you’ll see “God” included. This is important and we’ll return to discuss its inclusion in Part 2.)

In the green you’ll see the 2nd order of analysis, which covers a broad area of what philosophy is traditionally known for: What is the ultimate nature of reality? What does it mean to exist and what sorts of things exist?What are the features of the human condition? Can humans acquire knowledge? Do humans have free will? Etc, etc. The examples given in my hastily drawn graphic are examples of philosophical positions that propose an answer to such questions. Nominalism is a position that denies the existence of universals, mathematical objects, and other abstracta like Platonic Forms. Incompatibilism is the position that denies that the concepts of determinism and free will are compatible; that humans can possess and exercise some kind of free will despite living in a deterministic universe.

The brown writing is the 3rd order of analysis and includes philosophical analysis on topics that typically lie outside the domain of philosophy and in the domain of another discipline like the natural sciences, religion, or history. The examples I’ve chosen is the apologetic friendly moral argument for the existence of God and the counter-apologetic friendly argument known as the evidential problem of evil (see Tarik LaCour’s recent FAIR presentation).

The different orders of analysis follow a logical priority; 3rd order analysis always involves at least one assumption from 2nd order analysis and 2nd order analysis always involves at least one assumption from 1st order analysis. This hierarchy of dependency can be dialectically exploited by a clever apologist.

Let’s take the moral argument for the existence of God for example, here is how WLC presented the argument in his written debate with Walter Sinnot-Armstrong (p.19):
WLC wrote:1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
2. Objective moral values do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
The above syllogism is valid, the conclusion (3) is logically derived from the preceding assumptions (1 and 2) by means of denying the consequent. The argument lacks jargon and isn't complicated by a lengthy chain derivations. To many people, the argument strikes them as nearly being absurd in presentation, excessively ambitious, and obviously wrong. I can sympathize with that reaction, but to see what is really going on requires a change in perspective. One shouldn’t look at the moral argument for the existence of God as a static artifact that we just examine and then evaluate; rather one ought to see a shifting field of possibilities.

Presenting a valid argument is the easy part, defending that argument from challenges is where real ground is gained. Because WLC is the one presenting the argument, he gets a tactical advantage that he can exploit. Given how the above syllogism is arrayed, the two obvious avenues of attack are either to deny the truth of (1) or to deny the truth of (2). What that means is WLC can prepare for whatever path his opponent decides to take.

If I myself were to debate WLC on this argument, I would attack (1) vigorously, so let’s consider the comments WLC makes about the prospect of denying (1) in the same publication (p.19 italics in original):
WLC wrote:Atheistic moral realists affirm that moral values and duties exist in reality and are not dependent upon evolution or human opinion, but they insist that they are not grounded in God. Indeed, moral values have no further foundation. They just exist.

I must confess that this alternative strikes me as incomprehensible, an example of trying to have your cake and eat it, too. What does it mean to say, for example, that the moral value Justice simply exists? I don’t know what this means. I understand what it is for a person to be just; but I draw a complete blank when it is said that, in the absence of any people, Justice itself exists. Moral values seem to exist as properties of persons, not as abstractions—or at any rate, I don’t know what it is for a moral value to exist as an abstraction. Atheistic moral realists seem to lack any adequate foundation in reality for moral values, but just leave them floating in an unintelligible way.
WLC correctly identifies the real philosophical issue at stake in the denial (1) and makes his position clear: Nominalism. If you glance back hastily drawn graphic, you’ll see that Nominalism belongs to 2nd order analysis, which means that if you want to win the war going on in the 3rd order of analysis (vis-à-vis the moral argument for the existence of God) then you can’t lose the battle he is drawing you into at the 2nd order of analysis (vis-à-vis Nominalism).

To make it even more difficult for me, WLC takes the opportunity to characterize my position as “incomprehensible” to him and remarks that he doesn’t understand how an abstract moral value can exist. This saddles me with the further duty to try and offer up my own account that isn’t laced with jargon and obscure references in addition to being short and robust or risk the clarity of my position.

This isn’t even the worst of it, because WLC has published a 500+ page book on the very topic of Nominalism that directly relates to the moral argument for the existence of God. The man didn’t just copy and paste his “research notes” into some blogging software and post it, he got it published by a properly refereed academic press and the title was subsequently reviewed in well respected journals.

I’m not saying the aforementioned book is some kind of landmark piece of philosophical thought that revolutionizes the field, but it cleared enough bars to actually merit publication and communicates clearly that WLC has read everything I’ve bothered to read on the subject and has spent time thinking about it. He’s considered his position and knows how to defend it.

DCP doesn’t do .001 of the work WLC does. I understand that WLC comes off as glib, but when it comes to apologetics he is limited by the amount of time he has to communicate and the space given to do so. You have to make choices, you can’t go on 150 page digression into the ontology of abstract objects in a debate, so instead you craft a short paragraph where you articulate your objections as “This seems weird to me, I don’t understand what you mean when you say these abstract things exist. You don’t just get to claim they exist and not provide an account.”

WLC sees the bigger picture and he benefits from atheists not taking him seriously, it is why he absolutely destroyed Sam Harris in their debate at Notre Dame. Yet, if you watch the cross examination periods in WLC’s debate with Shelly Kagan on the moral argument for the existence of God, you can watch in real time as Shelly catches WLC making 2nd order assumptions and calling him out on it: [paraphrasing]“But wait a second Bill, that is assuming incompatibilism and I’m a compatibilist, so that isn’t going to fly”. Now Shelly can do that without exhaustively reading WLC because he already knows so much about metaphysics and moral philosophy that he can catch these things at first hearing. Counter-Apologists who don’t have such a background need to resort to actually reading Craig closely and outside the apologetic context.
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