So I was frying up a pan of bacon when some grease spilled and the stove-top caught fire. I doused it in a bucket of water and ran out the door because I was heading up to my friend's cabin for a couple days. I return last night and realize, much to my chagrin, that the whole kitchen is now alight. My bucket of water did little more than spread the fire.
Now for the interpretation: the grease is my post "Inspiring thoughts on biblical inspiration and skeptical arguments"; the fire is the comments that piled up in the wake of that post; the water is the subsequent post "The Tentative Apologist digs into his fan mail ... and comes up with Dostoyevsky"; and, well, you can guess the rest.
(Incidentally, as for the cabin thing, that's true. And the fire metaphor is on my mind at present because most of Alberta, including my humble abode in Edmonton, is shrouded in smoke from forest fires burning a thousand miles away in BC.)
But what does this have to do with the Bible, Metallica, and Susan Boyle? Read on dear Reader, read on.
Needless to say, the discussion of the nature of biblical inspiration is interesting in its own right. But given that my present project is a review of The Christian Delusion rather than the development of an apologetic for the neighborhood cadre of skeptics, it is something of a rabbit trail.
Here's the problem. The burden shouldered willingly by the authors of The Christian Delusion is to provide Christians a reason to think Christianity is, well, a "delusion". I continue to show how they have failed miserably in this regard. In the case of Tobin, he has provided no reason for a Christian to think the Bible is not inspired.
So what did he do? Well it seems he has provided reasons for atheists to think the Bible is not inspired (yes, he got people who already agreed with him to agree with him). BIG DEAL. Imagine if Metallica promised that their new album would win over Susan Boyle fans. And yet, when it came along it was simply "Death Magnetic part 2". The Metallica fans would think it great but the Susan Boyle fans, the very ones Metallica was trying to win over, would find nothing of interest.
That's the problem with The Christian Delusion. They've aimed to win over Susan Boyle fans but all they've given us is more crunchy guitars, driving drums, and growled vocals. So yes, I admit it, I'm disappointed. (I realize that I've unwittingly set myself up as a Susan Boyle fan here. I assure you I'm not really.)
So the atheists and other skeptics are simply asking for something which is just not relevant for my review of The Christian Delusion. As a result, I will have to set aside the demands of atheists that I provide them with some reasons to thing p is true, and get back to the task at hand of demonstrating how The Christian Delusion has failed to provide grounds for those who accept p to think not-p is true.
But before I get back to the task at hand, a quick engagement with the drift of the critical comments which is nicely summarized by Unconvinced:
"We're asking whether there is anything about it [the Bible] that distinguishes it from a [hypothetical, but identical] work that was not divinely inspired (in any sense at all). In other words, if there are no god(s), would it have been theoretically possible for the exact same book to have been written?"
dwilkinson provides a good response to Unconvinced et al. Let me add one thing. This is a question that is a token of a general type, namely: if x and y are indistinguishable states of affairs, how can I tell that x happened rather than y?
Philosophy is filled with such dilemmas which I have pointed out often. For instance, if idealism and realism are both consistent with all the data of experience, then how can I know that there is an external world of matter? Or, if solipsism and the existence of other minds are both consistent with all the data of experience, then how can I know that other minds exist?
I can spin out examples ad infinitum if you wish. But really it might be good for you in the peanut gallery to think through how you would address this type of problem generally, and then with that knowledge we could consider how to address it in the token example of the Bible.
As you ponder that, I have commitments, among them is to finish my review of The Christian Delusion and then get to Signature in the Cell and The Evolution of God.
It shall be an exciting September, I can just feel it!