Apologetics Fail #33
Apologetics and Theodicy

It has been quite a while since I wrote one of these (something something I was in Yukon and I did not have electricity in my home for a month after I returned) so I’ll tackle another. There are numerous subjects I want to deal with in this series, so I will start with the most basic one.

Apologetics (from Greek ?p?????a, "speaking in defense") as defined by Wikipedia is the religious discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse. Today it is applied to argumentation to defend any religion, but in the past only applied to Christianity. Further in the article, they note the term is used in the Koine Greek of the New Testament by Paul in Acts 26:2-3, “I speak my defence.” So I will go with the two most common versions of the Bible in the USA, the New American Bible (used by the Roman Catholic Church) and the King James Version (used by many Protestant churches).

2 "I count myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am to defend myself before you today against all the charges made against me by the Jews,
3 especially since you are an expert in all the Jewish customs and controversies. And therefore I beg you to listen patiently.

New American Bible On-Line at the Vatican City)

Most Bible scholars today note the King James Version contains many mistranslations, due to poor understanding of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek at the time in England. Moreover, words such as verily and thee/thou were already archaic (rendering the book difficult to understand even when it was released and more so today); those verses are rendered as such:

2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:
3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.

Goes to Bible Gateway, a site with several Protestant translations of the Bible

Note “defend” (the Greek “apologia”) does not appear in the KJV.

With that out of the way. . . .

The fail of apologetics to defend any religious faith comes right out of the gate for the apologist. Apologetics makes the case for (any) god through argumentation and discourse, rather than evidence. Because apologetics is not based on evidence (contrast apologetics with science), when a hole is found in the argument, more argumentation and discourse must be offered. This is why the Problem of Evil, along with the contradictions which arise in positing an omnipotent and omniscient god, must be covered with theodicy.

The Problem of Evil explained

Theodicy attempts to explain away the Problem of Evil and contradictions with more argumentation.

A common argument heard today by apologists against the Problem of Evil is that God would not do anything which is against his nature. For example, in a case where a person is raped, arguments are offered that God didn’t permit the rape; the rapist exercised his free will. (They don’t talk about the victim’s free will not to be raped.) The apologist debunks his or her own claims that God is merciful or loving (merciful and loving people would try to stop a rape if they could).

That is also un-Biblical, as the Bible itself says God creates evil:
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.Isaiah 45:7, KJV.

Similarly, when an apologist attempts to answer a question such as “Can God create a rock so heavy he can’t lift it” (a simple thought experiment to debunk the idea of omnipotence), apologists lately have redefined the term “omnipotence” as understood throughout most of religious history. Instead of “all-powerful,” apologists will frequently describe God today as “maximally powerful.” (What does “maximally powerful” even mean?) That then fails because it puts limits on God (he can’t exceed whatever maximum power is).

Similarly, the idea of omniscience is debunked by the Bible itself, along with consistency. In the Book of Judges (one of the most brutal and bloody works of literature ever written), in 4:13-19 Israel defeats an army of nine hundred chariots (and slaughters every single person), yet in 1:19, they cannot defeat an army because it has chariots of iron.

Modern Christians in the USA also debunk the idea of omnipresence in their arguments about “God being banished from public schools.” If God is everywhere, then he is in public schools, regardless of how the courts have ruled on government-written and -led prayers.

Apologists have attempted to address these contradictions by more rationalisations. One can be found here:
http://contradictingbiblecontradictions.com/?p=2229 (where the writer tries to counter the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible KJV by claiming it is a “liberal” translation of the KJV and handwaving at weather conditions).

Omniscience has also been redefined from its original meaning in the last few years: It used to mean “all-knowing.” Apologists today try to claim God can’t know or do anything which is “logically inconsistent” with his nature.

Similar theodicy arguments are used to wave away what we know to be immoral but is promoted by the Bible, such as slavery and genocide. (On the latter, God orders genocide in many passages, and commits it himself in Noah’s flood.) Slaughter and slavery are God’s nature, so you’ll hear arguments such as “well, God had to train people up slowly to understand slavery is wrong.”

He’s God, and that argument goes against his supposed omnipotence and omniscience. If God has the ability to part the Red Sea (Exodus) or tell you which foods are unclean to eat (Leviticus), surely he can say “Owning people as property is immoral.” That apparently is either beyond his ability (his maximum power) or is part of his nature (he’s fine with slaves since he gives whole passages on who you can own, for how long, how severe a beating you can give them, &c).

The New Testament is no better, since Jesus nor his apostles don’t say that owning people as property is immoral either, and tells slaves to obey their masters in four different books. Apologists will try to paper that over with redefinitions of the word “slave” (bondsman, servant, &c), or “slavery wasn’t as bad in the ancient world as it was in XIX Dixie” (hint, yes it was), ignore that every state of the Confederacy cited the Bible for justification to maintain chattel slavery in their secession documents, or one hundred years of Jim Crow segregation laws after the Civil War. It’s almost as if interpretations of the moral certitude of the Bible change with the morals of the people reading it, or when it’s convenient—when it’s not convenient, “well what the Bible really means here is. . . .”

None of this provides any evidence of a god, much less his nature. Theodicy attempts to plug holes in both apologetics and the Bible when they become inconvenient. What would actually plug the holes would be evidence for any of their claims.

While I tackle Christianity here, the same applies to any other religion (Islam, Hinduism, Shinto, &c). All of them offer up argumentation and discourse for their claims; none of them offer up the only thing that counts in showing something is true: Evidence.

Today’s atheist inspirational quote:

“When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.”—Emo Philips


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