Desperate apologetics: revel in absurdity!

A new book called No Argument for God by John Wilkinson seems to be a good candidate for Poe’s Law.  Unlike most apologists, who seek good arguments to support their belief in God, Wilkinson proudly condemns logical argument and claims that belief in God is absurd. Well, yes, it is. But Wilkinson then goes on to perform some rather strange mental gymnastics in an attempt to convince us that this very absurdity is the reason we should believe in God.

Here is a snippet from Chapter Two of No Argument for God, which can be found on Wilkinson’s blog:

Recounting the absurdities of our faith forces us to realize that in its purest form Christianity does not conform to human logic. Over the centuries these absurd details could have been edited and cleaned up to fit within the bounds of reason, but they haven’t.

Wilkinson’s hypothesis only works if we regard the production of the Bible as a highly organized affair carried about by educated philosophers and logicians who would readily put aside their reverence for the texts and correct them as they saw fit. Hardly a likely scenario.

The Bible wasn’t written from start to finish as a single project with a single aim. It didn’t have editors guiding the writing process or delegating topics to individual writers. It had no fact checkers. And it was written over a period of many centuries.

It was also considered to be sacred, meaning that any logical inconsistencies, if they were noticed at all, would not simply have been corrected. Rather, the early church would have taken precisely the same approach modern literalists take: that Biblical inconsistencies do not really exist, they are just a product of our inferior ability to understand the complex message of God.

There is another, even larger problem, with Wilkinson’s idea. If it is true that absurdity reflects some sort of profound, meta-logical truth, then why isn’t he clamoring for us to believe other absurd religious beliefs? There are many that give Christianity a good run for its money. Shouldn’t Wilkinson be a Scientologist instead?

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3 Responses to Desperate apologetics: revel in absurdity!

  1. johnfish3710 says:

    Dear COA,

    Thanks for your responses to the blog/book. I would love to dialogue with you on this, because I agree with your basic interpretation of the chapter you quoted from – if nonsense is a validating factor of truth, then why don’t we go wilder than the Bible? How about something like Hesiod’s Theogony? It is a lot more ‘out there.’

    I don’t know if you can have it both ways, though. You frame the assembly of the scriptures as a sacred process that respects the idea of a moral ‘copyright’ – free of a central authority. If that really is the case, then the modern product of the Bible is a miracle. It seems like most atheists say it is the opposite because of this fact. Can you elaborate? Because at this point you are holding a higher view of canonicity than I think you want to hold.

    Also – the idea is that the absurdity of scripture is something that helps us come to terms with the fact that it was not the product of human reason. I think your estimation of ancient man underestimates the philosophical sophistication that they possessed. Yes, they were more interested in aetiological tales, but that was a very ornate form of epistemology that we relegate to science where they relegated to religion.

    If you are uncomfortable buying the book, please contact me and we can work something out to dialogue further. Thanks for your time.

    John

    • kpharri says:

      John: Thanks for your reply. I would also like to discuss this further with you, but allow me a few days while I wrap up a bit of a busy week. I’ll respond again soon.

  2. kpharri says:

    John:

    I’ll post a quick reply here, so that our conversation remains mostly in one place.

    I have two main responses.

    First, on the issue of sacred treatment of the texts, I am certainly not claiming that I hold any personal beliefs in their sacred nature. What I am suggesting, from the little I’ve read, is that the scribes responsible for copying the texts, and therefore passing them on to subsequent generations, likely regarded the scriptures as sacred. If a scribe in, say, the year 437 AD was making a copy of a New Testament book, and noticed a logical inconsistency or some other error, it’s likely that he wouldn’t dare to correct it – the idea of a humble scribe editing the Word of God would have been unspeakable. But given my patchy historical knowledge, I may well be wrong on this.

    My second point regards your hypothesis that absurdity reveals a non-human source. By saying this, you are essentially claiming that absurdity is not humanly possible. However, I think a glance at the great world outside (start with youtube!) will tell you that humans are capable of all manner of absurdities. There are no grounds, that I can see, for claiming that the particular absurdities in the Bible must be non-human, while any other absurdities, like the bizarre science-fiction beliefs of Scientologists, are not.

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