Do You Want to Be a Christian Apologist? Part 10

Matthew Flannagan
I'm doing a series of posts dealing with the way recognized Christian apologists defend their faith. I'll number them and tag them all with the phrase "Christian Apologetics" so you can have a link to them in reverse chronological order. So, let's say you want to be a Christian apologist, someone who defends the Christian faith. Then what must you do? The tenth thing you must do is to be intellectually dishonest with skeptical arguments to the contrary. Just when I thought I had exhausted my advice, evangelical philosopher Matthew Flannagan forces me to conclude this. It's the common theme in my whole series, and yes, I'm serious. Do these apologists know they are being intellectually dishonest? No, probably not. Do they know that faith makes them intellectually dishonest? Again, no, probably not. But it's so blatantly obvious to us that I understand why many atheists conclude apologists know they're being dishonest.

Before getting to Flannagan, let me offer three examples to prime the pump. 1) Since there are so many Christians who have become atheists, several Christians are counter-claiming they were atheists before they were converted to Christianity, most notably Lee Strobel. No they were not. They were not intellectual or educated atheists who embraced evolution and/or who rejected the tales in the Bible and the theology based on them. They were practical atheists. They lived their lives as if God doesn't exist, but then they still do, so what's the difference? 2) Since atheists deny faith and religion in favor of reason and science, Christians are counter-claiming that everyone has faith and that atheists worship something too, science. Randal Rauser argues for this in chapters 5 and 13 of our co-written book, God or Godless?3) Since atheists require sufficient evidence to believe and rightly place the burden of proof on believers, Christians are counter-claiming that atheists are making claims about the non-existence of God, and as such, we have the burden of proof. [For other myths about atheism become informed by reading Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk's new book, 50 Great Myths About Atheism.]

Back to Flannagan.

I just want to comment on his preamble:
Some atheists offer moral critiques of theism; their claim is not just that belief in God is false or unjustified, it is that such irrational beliefs are intricately linked with immoral and oppressive practices. Moral outrage often motivates the critiques offered – one only needs to read the condemnation of religious wars, religiously motivated terrorism, inquisitions, witch hunts, the suppression of science, sexism, homophobia, and so on, which is so prevalent in many free thought writings. Similarly, one needs only to read the accusations, regularly repeated in popular atheist literature, that the Bible condones slavery, or genocide, or stoning cheeky children, or rape, to observe this.

Note that behind this critique is the presupposition that there are moral duties. People have a duty to not engage in wars or acts of terrorism, religious people who promote sexist or homophobic practices are wrong for doing so. I think this is nonsense as it assumes there is such a thing as a moral duty, it assumes things religious people do can be wrong. This is false and here is why:
Note the diversion here? Instead of providing answers to skeptical arguments he's asking how anyone can have a moral critique of the Bible who doesn't believe it's the inspired word of God. He's special pleading. No one else, given the rules of his game, can offer a moral critique of the Bible. Not a Hindu, nor a Muslim, nor a Buddhist, nor even liberals like the late John Hick or Thom Stark, or process theologians. That is, unless Flannagan is prepared to say other believers in other world religions have a basis for morality too. Do they? Do pantheists have a moral basis for critiquing the Bible? Flannagan would also have to reject the Natural Law Ethics (NLE) of the Catholic church, for if Natural Law Ethics obtains then even atheists have a basis for their moral critiques of the Bible.

Moreover, I see no reason to think atheists cannot spot irrational moral beliefs that cause harm to others. We have a computer. It's called our brain. Evolution explains how we got it. All it needs to do is compute the steps.

Furthermore, our critiques of the Bible can best be seen as reductio ad absurdum type of arguments. By taking the evolved morality that all civilized Christians now accept, we are simply forcing them to explain the barbarisms found in the Bible based on their own moral perspective, not ours. The main reason our critiques have force is because of the evolved morality modern Christians have accepted. If Christians stepped back in time they would find our critiques wouldn't have any force at all to them. They wouldn't even be considered as critiques, just explanations of what believers in a prior era accepted as moral truth. Like this:
"Slaves? I own several of them. What's the big deal?"
"Women? My wife is my property, yes. I can sell my daughters as sex slaves if I want. So?"
"War? We slaughtered everyone, even the children. Is there a problem?"
"Child sacrifice? Sure I did it. Yahweh commanded it."
"Witches and heretics? Yes, we must kill them as God commanded. Thanks for noticing."
Throughout Matt's post he's attempting to point out the hypocrisy of atheists with regard to moral duties, but in reality he's being intellectually dishonest. At the minimum he's willfully ignorant. How can he possibly even be a Christian apologist when he does not even try to understand our arguments? He must first try to understand them before he can do so. Only if he understands them can he begin to respond. It's pretty creative though, I'll give him that. But then to be a Christian apologist requires a great deal of creativity. ;-)

You can read his post for yourselves: There Probably are no Duties. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life!.

Since he offers a satirical response to my Outsider Test for Faith then let's see him respond to this.


Edit: Over three years ago I asked Flannagan to respond to five questions about the OTF. here is another chance for him to do so. Is he an honest apologist? Then he should have no trouble answering them.