@Bill Sorensen: The bible presents its own evidence. It is …

Comment on Last Thursdayism by Sean Pitman.

@Bill Sorensen:

The bible presents its own evidence. It is self affirming. So the bible appeals to history and science and human experience and then claims its own authority in all these matters.

Self-affirmation is meaningless. Lots of claimed sources of authority are “self-affirming”. However, if something or someone only has its own testimony, that testimony is not valid (John 5:31 NIV).

If you want to convince someone else who has not grown up understanding the Bible authoritative, like a Muslim or a Hindu for example, you can’t simply assert that the Bible is authoritative because it is “self-affirming”. That’s just not going to fly in a discussion with a candid mind that is approaching the Bible for the first time.

What will fly are arguments for the Bible’s credibility that are generally appealing to candid minds – such as evidences that the Bible is accurate and credible in those things that it says about the nature of the world in which we live – about history, about nature, about prophecy, etc. These evidences appeal to a form of scientific reasoning and understanding for the intelligent candid mind.

The Bible must therefore be tested in order for it’s claimed credibility to be convincing as a basis of an intelligent faith. In this sense, the Bible must be subjected to our God-given reasoning abilities. God does not expect us to believe without reasonable evidence. It is this evidence that trumps blind faith – even blind faith in the Bible as the ultimate authority.

After all, the very same arguments for blind faith (i.e., faith that is not dependent upon empirical evidence at all) is forwarded many of my LDS friends who argue that the Book of Mormon is the ultimate authority based on their faith – despite all empirical evidence to the contrary.

At this point there is simply no more basis for discussion since it is impossible to bring anything to the table that will convince a person of error who is appealing to blind self-affirming faith in their chosen source of ultimate authority.

How then is our SDA faith any different from the LDS faith regarding our claimed superiority of the Bible vs. the Book of Mormon? Is it not based on a rational appeal to a match between the Bible and the weight of empirical evidence? – a match between what the Bible says and the real condition of the world that it describes?

If and when these affirming evidences seem contrary to the bible, then we have necessarily misunderstood the evidences and placed a wrong conclusion and interpretation on their meaning.

This is like a child who believes in Santa Claus as the ultimate authority claiming that all evidence that is against the existence of Santa Claus must have been misunderstood somehow. The very same argument is used by many of my LDS friends. They argue that apparently contradictory evidence against the claims of the Book of Mormon regarding history and nature must necessarily be misunderstood and a wrong conclusion and/or interpretation placed on their meaning.

Such arguments simply aren’t helpful since such arguments can be used to support any belief however irrational. It ends up making us look no different than the Flat Earth Society.

It is much better to take a risk and admit that our religion is at least open to testing and the real potential of falsification – as any valid scientific argument is. In this way, our religion, while having the potential of failure, also has the potential of gaining real predictive power and credibility with each test that is successfully past.

But many see the evidences as affirming scripture and for this reason trust the bible that claims and validates its own authority. If you deny the bible is the final authority on its on self affirmations, then you are simply not a bible Christian.

But I do deny that the Bible is the final authority. I don’t think that it is the final authority. Yet, I am a Bible-believing Christian. How can that be? It just so happens that I believe that the weight of evidence strongly supports the authority of the Bible and the Word of God. Just because I base my faith on the weight of evidence doesn’t make me a non-believer… does it?

“God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His Word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth, will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith.”

– Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 527. and Steps to Christ, p. 105.

Notice that Mrs. White points out that even the “truthfulness of His Word” is based on evidence and reason – a form of science. As with all scientific conclusions, there is always the possibility of error since we must believe based on the weight of evidence, not demonstration. We are subjective creatures and our reasoning abilities are likewise subjective. The potential for error is always there.

Yet, God wishes to appeal to our human reasoning abilities which He Himself gave to us. Therefore, He does not judge us for honest errors of belief, but for deliberate rebellion against what we honestly belief is in fact true.

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Last Thursdayism
@Victor Marshall:

“The deepest students of science are constrained to recognize in nature the working of infinite power. But to man’s unaided reason, nature’s teaching cannot but be contradictory and disappointing. Only in the light of revelation can it be read aright, ‘Through faith we understand.’Heb.11:3″ – Ed.134

It is because of scientific investigation that we can come to the conclusion that revelation is valid and credible – that it has useful predictive power beyond just-so stories and moral fables.

You reference Mrs. White who in turn references Hebrews 11:3. Yet you fail to even comment on the many statements of Mrs. White where she very clearly explains that faith must rest upon the weight of evidence, not demonstration; where she claims that God always gives plenty of evidence upon which to base our faith:

God does not propose to remove all occasion for unbelief. He gives evidence, which must be carefully investigated with a humble mind and a teachable spirit, and all should decide from the weight of evidence” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 255).

“God gives sufficient evidence for the candid mind to believe; but he who turns from the weight of evidence because there are a few things which he cannot make plain to his finite understanding will be left in the cold, chilling atmosphere of unbelief and questioning doubts, and will make shipwreck of faith” (ibid., vol. 4, pp. 232, 233).

“God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His Word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth, will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith.” – The Great Controversy, p. 527. and Steps to Christ, p. 105.

There is no appeal to blind faith here. Faith, according to Mrs. White, is ultimately supported by the weight of evidence together with a form of scientific reasoning. She specifically notes that, “God never asks us to believe without first supplying sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith.” Why don’t you address such statements? – even once?

The very same thing is true of the biblical appeal to faith. Biblical faith is clearly supported by the weight of empirical evidence as well. It is not blind to the weight of empirical evidence and rational reasoning abilities common to human beings. (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20 NIV, John 14:11 and 2 Peter 1:16)

How do you not yet understand this concept? How do you not see that it is through a form of scientific reasoning that one is able to come to a reasonable conclusion that the Bible is superior to any other source of information about God, His Creative Power, and His care and plan for the universe and for us as individuals?

Blind faith is worthless my friend. Even you appeal to empirical evidences for your faith when it comes right down to it…

Sean Pitman

Last Thursdayism
@Ron Stone M.D.:

Sean, You must have a different definition of “empirical” than others. Empirical means by direct experience or observation alone, without regard to a system or theory.

Empiricism refers to a theory of knowledge in philosophy which adheres to the principle that knowledge arises from experience and evidence gathered specifically using the senses.

If empirical data reach significance under the appropriate statistical formula, the research hypothesis is supported. If not, the null hypothesis is supported (or, more correctly, not rejected), meaning no effect of the independent variable(s) was observed on the dependent variable(s).

It is important to understand that the outcome of empirical research using statistical hypothesis testing is never proof. It can only support a hypothesis, reject it, or do neither. These methods yield only probabilities.


In this sense, empirical data are used in various forms of scientific reasoning. The same can be, and I think should be, true of useful religion.

You cannot list off any example in the Bible where God asked anyone to believe anything without first supplying adequate empirical evidence; evidence that appeals directly to the senses and the rational mind. Nowhere does God ask for or expect completely blind faith in His Word.

If someone asked you to prove, using empirical evidence, that God created the earth, would you say the “empirical evidence” is Genesis?

As noted above, one cannot absolutely “prove” anything. One can only produce a useful level of predictive value by appealing to empirical evidence and the past success of the hypothesis/theory in question that is never absolute.

Genesis, by itself, is not empirical evidence of anything. Someone approaching it for the first time has a host of possible explanations for its existence. Perhaps it is a moral fable? or a poetic allegory? Perhaps it is an effort to describe remote history from a limited perspective where much of the information is simply mistaken or not very accurate? Perhaps it is accurate?

How does one decide among these various potential hypothetical options as to which option is most likely true? The argument that one must simply assume, a priori, without any appeal to any kind of comparison with the real world that is experienced by the senses, is simply not convincing to the candid individual who hasn’t already made up his/her mind.

What reasons are you going to give to a Muslim or Hindu or Latter-day Saint for why your Bible should be considered of supreme authority? – your blind faith? The same as the LDS often use? – to the point of withstanding all available empirical evidence? How is that supposed to fly?

Rather, if you know you have an honest and sincere seeker for truth in front of you, why not appeal to what God appeals to as a support for His claims? – the actual universally available empirical evidence?

Sean Pitman

Last Thursdayism

So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?” – Mark 8:13-21

This is one of my favorite exchanges of Jesus with His disciples. Thank you for quoting it. Don’t think that Jesus was without a sense of humor. This passage is hilarious 😉

Sean Pitman

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