The Cowboy Who Wasn't There: E-book Companion Site

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Validity of Personal Testimony

Occasionally John gets things right from time to time as does everyone else. The catch is that we are all probably subject to the same rules and standards of unawareness to the point where our own factual statements eventually catch up to us.

There's also another thing to keep in mind: How one applies these statements and whether or not they choose to make generalizations which make reflect badly on one's self. For instance:

When I went to Bible College I was not educated. I was indoctrinated. While other believers will protest that their Christian college was different, I wonder if that's true. In order to test this let me explain my experience, compare it with what a good education is, and see what you think. Okay? (emphasis added).

Hmm...John's point is a valid one, up onto the impression that John somehow broke free from this indoctrination. Well, the man has three masters degrees, so how did he obtain these if by earning his "bachelors" he was indoctrinated to begin with?

I sense a logical loophole here. John will push his fans and critics towards anything that gives him credibility, and while doing so, he is not hesitant to use his Bible College "education". Apparently John did not only obtain his bachelors through indoctrination, he also managed to pull off a masters in theology.

What does John mean by "Bible College" anyways? If a Bible-based education (which is far from an education in my personal opinion) is so bad, then why advertise a degree in theological study?

Many atheists across the board have argued that theology is essentially a form of baseless indoctrination. It cannot be substantiated like science, and for that matter is deificient in providing concrete answers for many of its core values and assumptions (and these vary depending on specific religions).

John's obsessive compulsiveness never ceases to fail expectations. Another tale of a close Christian friend props itself which is then soon followed by a *cough* self-recommendation (via Dan Lambert) of his book *yawn*.

Dan is forcing his students to think through my book. Some of them come from Bible thumping backgrounds and are a bit annoyed by it. At the end of his classes he schedules a conference call with me answering questions from his students. Many of them are a bit nervous about that part of the class because they picture themselves talking to Satan, or something like that. But afterward they realize I'm just a human being and even a bit funny. Most Christians stay inside the conclaves of church circles and never meet or talk with a known atheist. It's eye-opening to them. They can no longer demonize me.

Yes, it is no surprise to some that many Christians are extremely close-minded. Many of them do not willingly cross the boundaries of faith and venture into alternatives which might give them an advantage in how they deal with criticisms and or would mold their faith perceptions or...dencovert them to atheists.

Someone can prove me wrong if they dare, but I'd say I am fairly self-consistent on matters of ideologies. For me, it isn't about whether someone "converts" or "deconverts", but if they are in fact of a sound mind.

At Lincoln Christian Seminary it was different, of course, and I wrote about that experience in my book. But by that time with the indoctrination I received from Great Lakes Christian College I was aligned with my conservative denomination on most points of doctrine, and I was never asked to seriously question my faith.

And it still remains that the transition from indoctrination to education is a tough one to make out.

Let's make sense out of this: John argues against the gospel's validity concerning supernatural phenomena supposedly "witnessed" by Jesus' disciples. John's background is one he admits of indoctrination. Is John not committing some sort of pothole for himself when he uses these personal arguments to deconvert others?

What would be the point in writing such a book if not to deconvert? Or, how can John expect to educate others when he blindly appeals to his personal experiences, and dismisses the experiences of the disciples?

As I have said before, if a Christian reads through my book and his faith is strengthened then it did him no harm. In fact, it did him good. If however, reading through it destroys his faith, then that faith was not worth having in the first place.

So by his own admission, John's faith was not worth holding in the first place (after all, communal rejection is not good enough reason for rejecting a belief system; this is similar in nature to holding guns responsible for murders where firearms where employed). Which, by the reasoning of anti-religious atheists, should put John in a state of compromise about his intellectual depth. By his own admission, John confesses that his faith was emotionally based, not reasonably based. All the more to ponder why such an individual would be qualified to instruct on such issues to begin with.


  1. I don't know how John put it, but I'd say that my faith had a strong emotional hold on me and also a rational hold. I was a big fan of Christian apologists and their books that I picked up at the church where I was baptized as an adult, Jacksonville Chapel in Pequannock/Pompton Plains, N.J., and at the largest Evangelical Christian bookstores in the northern Jersey, middle Jersey and Philly area, which included a huge store in Ramsey, New Jersey, The Lamplighter Christian bookstore in Princeton, New Jersey, and even the Westminster Seminary bookstore. In those days there was no So I read Lewis, Williams, Schaeffer, Os Guinness, J.N.D. Anderson, Paul Little, John Stott, Josh McDowell, Van Til, Rushdoony, and many Intervarsity Press booklets, among other items, including a large number of creationist books, magazines and pamphlets from groups in both the U.S. and England, and I was also fond of first person testimony books by converts to Christianity, from "Death of a Guru," to "God's Smuggler," "The Story of Sadhu Sundar Singh" and others.

    However after all of that reading, and after exchanging hefty hand-written letters with three friends (attempting to get two of them to re-enter the conservative Christian fold after they had left it), I eventually broadened my reading and began noticing the validity of questions that formerly I would not have considered the least bit valid, and I wound up leaving the conservative Christian fold. But the leaving was part of a process, not an overnight event, and not even a decision. I simply got to the point where I found I could no longer say the creed with the same amount of conviction I formerly felt, and admitted it was most honest to admit I had more questions than answers.

    Perhaps that was also part of John Loftus' experience?

  2. There is NOTHING that I've ever read by Hume, Freud, Dawkins, Darwin, Ehrman or any of the new and or old atheists that has ever caused me to doubt the bible or my Christian faith.

    Ed, like many, claim that lack of exposure to worldly truths are "kryptonite" and death of Christianity. That may be true for individuals who are double minded and confused to begin with, but the theories and garbage contained within many of these anti-god and secular writings are in no way a threat to those seeking real, lasting and substantive truth.

    In addition, without even doing an in depth biblical study, it's easy to see a NT filled with information regarding all kinds of extra-biblical knowledge that that there is all kinds of doctrines, ideas and perversions of truth spelled out and pointed to within the teachings themselves.

    In fact Paul in Acts 17:27-28 uses Cleanthes and Aratus teachings to make a point about the ONE and everlasting God of which he preached.

    The point I'm making is that extra-biblical knowledge and thought systems have never been a threat to Christianity of true believers. Ed, this is why testimonies such as yours and John's are doubted, just like you doubt Christianity, Christians doubt YOU.

    Greater thinkers and writers than any of us have looked at and known all the secular dogmas that you hold dear and have learned to categorize it as what it is, no more and no less, and certainly NOT a threat to true belief.

    I REJECT the idea that Christianity must be sheltered by lack of information, that assertion itself is shrouded in total ignorance which is the greatest portrayal of lack of information ever hailed.

  3. Looks like your website is under attack from supernatural forces…,40909.0.html

    you really need to add comment moderation to your blasphemy…

  4. you really need to add comment moderation to your blasphemy…

    What on earth are you referring too, DM? Logically speaking blasphemy is a victimless crime whether or not God existed, so why should this even be an issue? And just where are you coming from anyway?

  5. "The point I'm making is that extra-biblical knowledge and thought systems have never been a threat to Christianity or true believers."

    Harvey, that's because you define a "true believer" as one who continues to believe, despite all evidence apparently contradicting the belief. When you define the terms like that, you can't lose. "Every person-who-will-always-believe-regardless will always believe, regardless; and if a person doesn't always believe, regardless, he's not a person-who-will-always-believe-regardless."

    So nothing on heaven and earth could possibly make you question a book that contains the following: a woman turning into a pillar of salt, a talking donkey, a talking snake, a prophet riding to heaven on a fiery chariot, a prophet lying on his side for a year eating food cooked over human excrement, God ordering a prophet to walk around naked, God letting Satan kill Job's children in order to win an argument, a man killing 1,000 enemies with the jawbone of an ass, God ordering that a woman be stone if she doesn't cry loudly during a rape, etc., etc., etc.

    The point is, if all those things seem perfectly plausible to you, I'm not surprised if even the most cogent reasoning on earth fails to make any inroads.

    What IS plausible, however, is Ed's testimony. But such testimonies are a clear and present danger to the evangelical point of view, so you simply dismiss them as false -- almost reflexively.

  6. By the way, such testimonies as Ed's (and mine) don't threaten non-evangelical Christians, who admit to biblical imperfection and recognize that people can really stop believing. They appear to be much more secure in their faith than some of you guys on the traditional, Bible-centered side.

  7. I can see the rhetorical display of elitist ethos in SteveJ comments, with a typical "ah, I am a champion at evidence, you see, unlike those evangelical Christians because I no longer believe in talking snakes, I am smart, yada yada"

    Well, that is your prerogative to promote yourself as such but to say that "non-evangelical Christians, who admit to biblical imperfection...appear to be much more secure in their faith than evangelical Christians...." was an egregious comment to make, indeed.

    How did you know that, Mr. Steve? And since when, as a human being, did you begin this business of assigning "faith security" levels to different Christian groups? (oh, non evangelicals appear more secure in their faith than evangelicals)

  8. Yes, I do believe there's something inherently unenlightened (dumb) about a belief in literal talking snakes, just as you would if such a tale appeared in someone else's religion.

    And no, I don't know for sure that liberal Christians are more secure in their faith than you. Granted, my evidence is anecdotal. But they don't pull this "you were never a real Christian" bilge. Nor do they (as Harvey does) reject the possibility that some people like Ed really study biblical faith with an open mind and find it philosophically untenable.

    You guys make those kinds of mind-reading judgments -- very unkind, derisive judgments, I might add -- all the time without proof. But when I chime in with an observation of my own, it's "an egregious comment to make, indeed." Well, boo hoo! I'll change my name to Egregious Philbin then.

  9. I have read Harvey post and I have not see anything in his post that is even remotely close to "you were never a real Christian" or derisive and unkind in whatever sense.

    To doubt or to distrust one's testimony about deconversional circumstances (and this is what Harvey exactly says in his post) is never equivalent to derisive.

    Why should I, or any other Christian, trust your ilk deconversional tales when we have a precedent of credible people who are more than knowledgeable in all matters biblical or theological, historical and contemporary than you, but remaining ardent Christians and Christian defenders up to their point of death? Whom should we trust: you or them?

    Even worse, our earnest trust to you is complicated by some of your ilk post- deconversion circumstances which are usually shrouded by all hallmarks of narcissism personality disordered syndromes. Takes for instance Loftus' bizzare fascination of himself, excessive self-promotion and rampant egoism present in his writings.

    Now Mr. Steve, I know you may be sincere in your deconversional tales. But please, never show any sign of infantile rumblings and puerile elitism that you show in your above comments, when a Christian shows mistrust to the likes of Loftus. Hope you get the point.

  10. Yeah, after re-reading them, I suppose they WERE over the top. I apologize.


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