I made a post in the Bible Thumping Wingnut Group on Facebook. An atheist started attacking my book, Apologetics Made Simple, without reading it and challenged me to apply the principles I teach in my book to my conversation with him. I was happy to oblige. I also shared a picture of the cover:
Me: Hi everyone,
I recently published this book. It gives five tips for making it impossible for your apologetic to meaningfully encounter. IMe: am a Clarkian, but I wrote this book so that everyone can use these principles regardless of their methodology. Admittedly, some of the principles are very much Clarkian, but I do not think anyone who is reformed would disagree with any of the principles I share in this book. If you choose to read it, I hope you find it edifying.
Atheist: LOL – you forgot to add the pigeon that knocked the piece over and pooed on the board… but, I agree, taking that approach is unstoppable.
Me: I’ve heard that one before. I’m less impressed than last time.
Atheist: I am serious though. You’re playing by a set of rules that only works in very specific circumstances. Once you have those circumstances agreed to with your interlocutor, then of course its “unstoppable”
Me: What are these rules and what are these circumstances that you speak of?
Atheist: The problem is that clarkian axioms reduce the argument to a tautology; if you believe them, it’s “no duh.” If you reject them, you’ve got no hope of making your case.
Me: There is only one Clarkian axiom. Do you know what you are talking about? What “argument” is tautological? There is no argument that is specifically Clarkian. Again, do you know what you are talking about?
Atheist: Yes, forgive my clumsily brief response in a facebook textbox -“the” clarkian axiom (singular) is right.
Me: Rejoice, for you have been forgiven.
Atheist: In other words, you could title the book “preaching to the choir” with one page reading “word.” and you’d have accomplished the same thing.
Me: I should have came to you for writing advice. It would have saved me some time.
Since you know so much about my book, would you like to share what’s in it with everyone?
Atheist: And get hit with copyright infringement? No way.
Me: Since you basically said that my book teaches people how to poop all over a chess board (figuratively speaking), I thought that you had already read the book. After all, who would say such a thing about a book without reading it? I would only think that people who are not intellectually honest would do such a thing. Therefore, as a test, I was asking that you articulate the five keys that I share in my book. I figure that if you cannot do so, you haven’t read it. Have you read my book or are you just criticizing it without due diligence?
Atheist: “Are you not just repackaging the clarkian approach?”
Me: The Clarkian approach works just fine and doesn’t need ‘repackaging.’ And no, although my book does contain a few Clarkian ideas, my book is not about Clarkian apologetics. You haven’t read the book, have you?
Atheist: That’s all I’ve ever heard you do, so unless you’re suddenly an apologist for atheism or skepticism, then I’d be shocked to learn it was anything else.
Me: Then I guess you should be shocked by now, yes?
Atheist: Tell you what; use these unstoppable apologetics on me. If they’re unstoppable, i will convert. Ill be fair. Sincerely.
Me: How can I expect you to be fair when you criticized my book without reading it? That is not something that intellectually honest people do. This highlights what I highlight in the first chapter of my book: everyone is a dogmatist. Thank you for your cooperation.
I am going out with friends so I will return later. I am eager to hear your explanation for why you have chosen to criticize a book prior to reading it and why you think that it is intellectually honest to do so.
Atheist: Let me sum up my offer in another way. I dont believe there exists any unstoppable apologetic. You claim 5 keys to such a thing. Im offering to have you test them on me. I will be gracious and honest.
Me: Since I wrote the book you must use my definition of ‘unstoppable’ when addressing my book. When I say that an apologetic is ‘unstoppable’ it means that the apologetic cannot be countered in any meaningful way. This is applicable to chapter III of my book where I stress the importance of common definitions and the philosophy of language.
Atheist: You claim 5 keys to such a thing. Im offering to have you test them on me. I will be gracious and honest.
Me: You criticized my book without reading it and assumed what it is about. There is nothing “gracious” or “honest” about tAtheist: hat. As I explain in Chapter I, everyone is a dogmatist, and by jumping the gun and assuming what my book is about, you have made it quite clear that you are attempting (poorly I might add) to portray a sense of objectivity when you are clearly a dogmatist. You could not have made that anymore clear.
I do plan on using this conversation as an example to all about what my book teaches. In fact, a transcript of the conversation will be added to my blog so I can share it with others later. You are giving such a clear example of how what I teach in the book can be applied that I see this as a golden opportunity.
Now, I have asked you a lot of questions and responded to your critiques of my position. Are you going to address them or are you going to further demonstrate my point by offering no meaningful counter to what I have said?
Atheist: “everyone is a dogmatist”
then, apparently pejoratively,
“…you are clearly a dogmatist”
Doesn’t ‘everyone’ include you?
Me: If you had read my book (and my previous post that was directed at you), I clearly state that everyone is a dogmatist. The reason why I am pointing it out to you is because you are claiming to be able to approach our conversation objectively despite your dogmatism. The difference between you and I is that I accept my dogmatism whereas you try to convince others that you are capable of dialogue with them in an objective fashion.
Atheist: Besides, if what you say is absolutely true, then it’s moot. If not, then it’s a flawed premise: all of us have some degree of dogmatism – but it’s the degree that matters, not the presence or lack of it.
Me: There are no ‘degrees’ in dogmatism. A dogmatist approaches building their philosophy with an assumption. This assumption effects how they interact with other philosophies. What there are degrees of, however, is laziness. Lazy people criticize books without reading them instead of taking time to read them first. Sure, the way they are critiquing the book is dogmatic, but lying about being able to approach something you haven’t read objectively after criticizing it without reading is dishonest. This is why I have been pointing out that you are a dogmatist because you keep trying to deny it or at other times insinuate that you are less dogmatic than I am. Both assertions are false.
Atheist: You might want to hire an editor before you start pulling out your flaming sword of correctness in all things. This is a facebook thread, not a PhD dissertation. Yours, on the other hand, is a book. There are obvious grammatical errors in even the ‘peek inside’ bits…
Me: What happened was the book was originally published through create space. The formatting of the book looked good, but because the paperback was 4×6, a lot of hyphens were necessary because a word would be broken by the end of the page. Unfortunately, I foolishly assumed that the formatting would also be correct on the kindle book before publishing it (I was excited to publish my first book so I did not do my due diligence, I take full responsibility for it). Because the kindle book format is different, a lot of the words that were hyphenated due to page breaks were hyphenated unnecessarily in the kindle version. I know nothing about kindle formatting so I hired a virtual assistant to reformat the book so that there aren’t unnecessarily hyphenated words everywhere. I hope to have the correction made by mid next week.
Atheist: Sure, ok – as far as threats go, this isn’t very scary. Can you please link me to where it [the transcript of the discussion] ends up?
Me: That wasn’t a threat. I don’t see why you would perceive it as one unless you were aware that both you and I know that this dialogue isn’t going well for you. And yes, once the transcript is published, I can provide you with a link.
Atheist: “The only questions I haven’t answered are:
“What are these rules and what are these circumstances that you speak of? What “argument” is tautological?”
Me: There is another burning question: How can you expect me to believe you about being objective in our conversation when you criticized and insulted my book prior to reading it? If you were to publish a book, I at least have enough decency to withhold feedback until I’ve read it.
Atheist: To the first, we’ve been in dialog before, I’ve read other dialogs you’ve had, and I’ve heard you on the BTWN podcast. I know your general approach. To the second, I am speaking about the clarkian approach to philosophy – sorry if that wasn’t clear.
To the second, I am speaking about the clarkian approach to philosophy – sorry if that wasn’t clear.
Me: Hold on. I asked you what part about my “argument (whatever that may be)” is tautological. You have not told me which part is tautological. Whether or not you think you know my approach is irrelevant. The questions are, “Do you know my approach?” and “What part of my “argument” is tautological? Your “answer” is not an answer that is relevant to the questions I asked. Please give specific answers to each question. Explain my approach so that others can know that you understand it and then tell me what is ‘tautological’ about it. Holding you accountable for your representation of my position stems from a principle that I share in chapter IV of my book.
Atheist: The remaining questions seem to be rhetorical insults or allegations of me not buying/reading your book (which is mostly true – Ive read what amazon shows me).
Me: These questions such as, “How can you expect me to trust you to be objective after criticizing my book prior to reading it?” is a question that you need to answer. This is not the first time you have brushes aside this question, and I think the reason for your avoidance to this question is clear to any reasonable person that reads this conversation.
Atheist: “Does your cover and table of contents not reveal the framework of the book? *That* would be dishonest.
Me: I did not get to choose what Amazon previews. They choose that themselves. If you find it dishonest, your beef is with Amazon, not with me.
Atheist: But, in seriousness, I am not criticizing the parts of the book hidden by amazon – I haven’t read those so that would be impossible.
Me: You said that the book cover is missing a pigeon that craps on the chess board. That would certainly be a statement about the entire book.
Atheist: I am, however, asking you to take the concepts you lay out -whatever they are- and apply them to me.
Me: I already am. I have also pointed out the chapters of my book have been relevant to our conversation so far.
Atheist: You could use this as an opportunity to show their strength – and, since I haven’t studied the text, you’re in the best possible position against me. Are you not interested in that?
Me: I think the strength of three of the principles in my book have already been shown. The other principles are not directly relevant to this conversation (except a part of my chapter on faith, but that one has not been fleshed out enough for me to give specific mention yet).
Atheist: You’ve made positive claims about me; that you’re fully aware of both the strength and direction of my dogmatic convictions. These are vast leaps to a conclusion you cannot possibly know.
Me: I think that criticizing my book prior to reading it is a pretty good indication that you are not interested in being objective.
Atheist: You’ve also insulted me openly. I don’t think anyone reading this would come away finding you the more reasonable party. Even so – I am not interested in point scoring. I am seeking to understand your claims.
Me: I haven’t insulted you. I have rebuked you for your intellectual laziness and dishonesty. If you find that offensive, I can’t help you.
I’m inclined to disagree based on how this conversation has gone so far. How you can think that any reasonable person would think it is fine to criticize a book without reading it is beyond me.
Also, you still have failed to answer many of my questions. This only goes to show that you cannot give a meaningful counter of my apologetic methodology. Unfortunately, your the number of chances I was willing to give you to directly answer my questions has been depleted.
Atheist: No, I clarified that Clarkian philosophy is tautological.
Me: No. You stated that it is tautological, but you have not clarified anything because you have failed to explain why. Repeating your position is not the same as clarifying it.
Atheist: I made a guess that a man who runs a blog called “the rabid clarkian” and who has verbally espoused that point of view would align himself with this philosophical approach here too. If not, well, then I admit that bringing up Clark is a red herring – My money is still on it being a good guess.
Me: Your guess would be correct, but you have not demonstrated familiarity with my position nor my book (these are two separate things because the book is not a comprehensive writing concerning my philosophical system). As I have already explained to you, my book does have some Clarkian ideas in it, but the book is not about Clarkian apologetics. Had you read the book before sounding off, you would have known that.
Atheist: No, this is called a “joke” referring to the global critique that apologists like to play by their own arbitrary, dynamic rules.
Me: How would you know that the rules (which have yet to be specified by you) would be “arbitrary” and “dynamic” without reading the book first?
Atheist: You’re so interested in holding on to a claim I didn’t make that you’ve made quite a silly leap here.
Me: My cover makes a statement about the entire book (since I am the author, I would know). If you add a pigeon that is crapping on the chess board, it gives a negative impression of my entire book. If it weren’t for what you have said in this conversation so far, I would have trouble believing that I need to explain this to you.
Atheist: I’ve clarified this – I am not critiquing the content of a book that I haven’t read.
Your original post indicates otherwise.
Atheist: I said that would be impossible.
Me: Apparently not because you managed to do it. Do you have short-term memory or selective memory?
Atheist: I’ve been clear that I am doubting your ability to make an unstoppable apologetic.
Me: Why? You haven’t given a meaningful counter to my book so far nor have you given a meaningful counter to anything else I’ve said.
Atheist: If you want to keep arguing that I am criticizing something I can’t possibly know, well, you’re arguing a strawman.
Me: It can’t be a straw man if you’ve already done it.
Atheist: Go back and read what I wrote.
Me: Done. I don’t see any need to make any amendments to my response.
Atheist: If the words you chose for the cover and the table of contents are unrelated to the rest of the book – that would be dishonest.
Me: It [the book] is related to the table of contents and the cover, but you do not know what arguments I use to support my claims are because you haven’t read the book. If you think that looking at the cover and the table of contents is enough to be able to critique the book in a meaningful way, I suppose the mystery of how someone could be this incompetent in philosophical dialogue has been resolved.
Atheist: “I think these are the ones you’re talking about… yes?
1 – Dogmatism – We’re both dogmatic. I believe I am far less dogmatic than you. That makes me more capable of being objective.”
Me: I have already pointed out why there are not degrees of dogmatism. Unfortunately, you haven’t offered a response to what I said to the same claim that you have repeated here. If you are not going to engage what I say, you are wasting my time.
Atheist: “2 – Accuracy – ‘Holding you accountable for your representation of my position’ – This whole conversation is predicated on me learning your position. If you’re not espousing clarkian philosophy, then… ? Where have I made a bad representation?”
Me: You referred to some “Clarkian argument” when there is no Clarkian argument. When I’ve asked what this argument is, you did not answer.
There are other issues where I suspect you are misrepresented me have not been clarified yet, but you have been dodging my questions about clarifying (asking questions about what the other person is saying is something I suggest that Christians do in chapter IV of my book) your statements about my position.
Atheist: …whats the 3rd?
Me: Go back and read. I’ve already mentioned it twice including in the paragraph above.
Atheist: At any rate, if you want to define “unstoppable” as you have, then I agree that anyone can create a logical framework that is unassailable for any given position.”
Me: I don’t agree that any framework can be unassailable, but if you agree with my definition and concede that a Christian such as myself can create an ‘unstoppable’ apologetic, I do not see why you would doubt my ability to do so without, you know, reading my book first. That being said, the point I have pressed since the beginning of this dialogue has been made.
Atheist: What, in your estimation, is the purpose of apologetics?
Me: To fulfill our duty to defend the faith while sanctifying Christ as Lord.
Now, it’s been fun, and I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to show how all five of my chapters apply to our conversation, but after I have asked you to answer my questions multiple times, it is clear to me that you do not have anything meaningful to add to this discussion nor are you interested in a sincere dialogue. Now, I will do what I also cover in part of chapter V of my book, walk away from the fool.
Thanks for the free advertising.
At this point, I decided to block Glenn. I feel that I gave him ample opportunity to clarify his statements. As I explain in chapter V of my book, when someone is clearly not willing to listen, it is sometimes best to walk away.