Paul Jenkins and Damage Control
Paul Jenkins mentions in a recent post that some of his “readers may have endured what has become known as The Fourth Debate, in which the three Pauls of the Skepticule Extra podcast were subjected to the presuppositional apologetic argument of Eric Hovind and Sye Ten Bruggencate.” Note that Paul’s rhetoric begins when his post does with the use of “endured” as though there was something particularly unbearable about Eric and Sye’s performance in their discussion with the three Pauls when in fact the only thing that might be considered unbearable in that discussion was the ignorance, inconsistency, and constant disagreement between the three Pauls concerning such fundamental issues as logic. For example, Paul Baird apparently believed that he really stumped Eric Hovind by merely citing dialetheism as though he were waving a magic wand to make all of his cares concerning logic go away. He admitted his own ignorance of dialetheism while accusing Sye of it. Not only was there ignorance, but there was also inconsistency, such as when Paul Baird then went on to mention that the answer to the question of whether or not logic can change is “yes,” only to later assert repeatedly that logic is a “constant,” meaning that it cannot change. But to make matters worse the Pauls do not even agree with one another, so that, for example, Paul Baird spoke of logic as a “properly basic attribute of the universe” (whatever that means), only to have Paul Jenkins state that logic is contingent upon humanity, though the latter Paul was likewise inconsistent in then affirming, contrary to his claim from only a moment before, that logic is indeed a “properly basic attribute of the universe.” Now the three Pauls are well outside of their comfort zone here, and they know it. As just mentioned, they even occasionally admit it, but for some reason this ignorance, inconsistency, and disagreement does not prevent them from continuing to express their hatred for God and mockery of professing Christians like Eric and Sye who are persistent in pointing out the foolishness of unbelief and redemption found only in Christ Jesus.
Note that Paul Jenkins continues his rhetoric in the post with the claim that the three Pauls were “subjected” to presuppositional argument. It is as though the three Pauls were victims or had no choice in the matter when in truth Paul Baird is the individual who initiated the discussion in question through inviting Eric into the conversation! Further, Eric and Sye were perfectly reasonable in asking the three Pauls questions like, “Well are you a materialist?” to which the frequent response was to either dodge the very straightforward question at hand or laugh as though they were somehow “above” the level of the questions (which they clearly are not).
Paul Jenkins goes on to write that, “PA has been shown, increasingly and repetitively, not to work.” Really? Where? You see, I have been spending a fair amount of time evaluating the podcast that according to Paul, “was the final word on Presuppositional Apologetics as far as they, personally, are concerned.” So far I have seen absolutely no demonstration that comes even close to accomplishing what Paul boasts has been done. What does Paul mean that PA does not “work”? Where has this “increase” in the demonstration of this claim taken place? Where has this been shown “repetitively”? It certainly was not done in the discussion which took place between Justin Scheiber and Sye TenBruggencate, and it most definitely was not done in the discussion in question in Paul’s post. You see, Paul Jenkins wants to make these claims that PA is utterly defeated, but then refuses, just like Paul Baird, to back up such claims. Meanwhile I am going through his podcast carefully and showing how badly the three Pauls actually performed when it came time for them to lend credibility to the rhetoric they are so fond of spilling all over their blogs.
Note that Paul gives us a hint concerning what he means by “work” in his next line, writing, “It doesn’t convince atheists, and it doesn’t convince those theists (the majority) who claim to have evidence for the existence of God.” Unfortunately for Paul this is only another example of his ignorance concerning the topics he wishes to comment upon, for one of the most basic features of presuppositional apologetics (though it is not exclusive to presuppositional apologetics) is drawing the distinction between proof and persuasion. Suppose, for example, that someone is not persuaded that 5+7=12. What does this lack of persuasion have to do with whether or not 5+7=12 is self-evident, true, or even proven? Nothing! Insert your favorite provable mathematical claim in the place of 5+7=12. It does not matter at all whether or not someone is persuaded by the proof offered in support of the mathematical proposition in question; it does not follow that the proof does not “work.” The proof indeed does work; the problem is with the person who fails to be persuaded by the proof. Paul Jenkins is confusing proof with persuasion. But how exactly does Paul know that atheists are not convinced by presuppositional apologetics anyway? Does Paul have knowledge of the response of every atheist to presuppositional apologetics? Somehow I doubt it! Additionally, I have known unbelievers who have been convinced by presuppositonal apologetics. I am one of them. Paul cannot actually back up any of his bold claims here. He is just stating them in order to make himself feel better about his own unbelief. Consider also his claim that presuppositional apologetics do not convince the alleged majority of theists “who claim to have evidence for the existence of God.” Note again the sheer ignorance on display in the distinction Paul is attempting to make here. Suddenly presuppositional apologists do not believe or claim that there is evidence for the existence of God? Has Paul even the slightest clue as to what he is talking about? Before you go and think I am being too harsh here, keep in mind that Paul Jenkins is claiming to have seen the end of presuppositional apologetics. He thinks it is over, dealt with, utterly refuted, and that he has access to the sorts of concerns that have rendered it thus. Yet Paul does not even know what the relationship between presuppositional apologetics and evidence is. Paul does not seem to realize that presuppositionalists do not deny that there is evidence for God, nor do they assert merely that there is some small measure of evidence for the existence of God, but rather affirm upon the basis of Scripture that there is abundant and plain evidence for the existence of God, and that the evidence is so abundant and plain that unbelievers like Paul must constantly struggle to hold the truth down so as to not have it interfere with their sinful lives. If Paul is such an expert on all things presuppositional, then why does he get such basic tenets of presuppositional apologetics, including the distinction between proof and persuasion, as well as the overwhelming evidence for the existence of God, wrong? The use of “ignorant” here is not and is not intended to be pejorative, it is simply the fact of the matter.
Paul continues, “It appears that PA is only considered valid by those who already hold to it.” Since I have little idea as to what Paul means by “valid” here, I am not sure that I can respond except to ask why Paul would think that someone who considers the method “valid” would then persist in unbelief? Wouldn’t the proper thing to do, once someone considers the arguments “valid,” be to move over to the position of belief? And wouldn’t that person then continue to hold that the arguments are valid? And wouldn’t we then expect to find exactly what Paul indicates (whether true or not) is the case here? Those who hold that presuppositional apologetics are “valid” also actually “hold to it”? I do not know, Paul is not very clear, and I suspect it is because he is confused again. He concludes, “As an apologetic method, therefore, it’s a dismal failure.” Well yes, it is quite easy to merely assert that an apologetic method is a “dismal failure,” but these sort of empty assertions are only convincing to those of the fundamentalist atheist camp. Where is the “walking” that goes with all of this “talking” that Mr. Jenkins is doing?
Paul goes on to complain that my podcasts which have covered the exchange in question is done in “obsessive and tedious detail.” Of course what Mr. Jenkins believes constitutes “obsessive” is a purely subjective matter, but he probably has not given much thought to this since he is only using the term as another one of his rhetorical swipes. How exactly reviewing a single podcast from the three Pauls is “obsessive” is beyond me. Certainly the three plus posts that Paul Jenkins has written on presuppositional apologetics on his blog are not obsessive, nor the series of podcasts he has done concerning atheism, nor Paul Baird’s entire series of debates with Sye, nor Paul Baird’s many posts about presuppositional apologetics and particular presuppositional apologists, nor Paul Baird’s actually having invited Eric Hovind onto the podcast in question because his feelings were hurt in the Oklahoma podcast. No, none of that is obsessive behavior, especially when the God and method in such exchanges are so far below the three Pauls’ level of sophistication. It’s not enough for Paul Jenkins to call my podcasts “obsessive” without any reason or rhyme for doing so though, he likewise calls them “tedious” with respect to detail, as though this were a bad thing! Well, to place myself in Paul Jenkins’ shoes, I would think of such tedious detail as a “bad” thing as well, because those details were constantly being forgotten by the three Pauls during the course of the exchange. As already mentioned, one moment logic is contingent upon humans, and the next moment (after Sye shows the absurdity of having to believe that contradictions would then obtain sans humans) logic is a “properly basic attribute of the universe,” whatever that means. Which is it Paul? Yes, I would want to call such “details” “obsessive and tedious” as well; anything to get my readers’ minds off of the actual content of the commentary and onto how silly that Chris Bolt guy must be for even questioning Pope Paul Jenkins.
Paul goes on to complain that my two-and-a-half hours of commentary on the first half-hour of the podcast is “a lot”. Again, this is a rather subjective matter, but more importantly, it takes a good amount of time to comment upon an exchange like the one in question, bring clarity to the confusion involved, and point out the errors in the three Pauls’ presentation. (Perhaps if they had not made so many errors, it would not be taking so long!) Paul then writes, “Apparently there’s more commentary to come, but based on what’s been released so far, I’ve no incentive to listen further.” Sure, I would not want to hear my worldview being exposed as the folly that it is either, especially when that view is the only source of comfort in resisting the God of the Bible. What is more telling here though is Paul’s dismissal of the forthcoming podcasts without any actual engagement with the content of the previous podcasts! Note that instead of telling his readers what exactly is wrong with my commentary on the exchange in question, Paul Jenkins makes autobiographical claims, complains about the length of my review, accuses me of being “obsessive,” and complains about the sound quality of my podcasts! Hilarious, were it not so pathetic. What I am drawing attention to here is a persistent problem with atheist material. Fundamentalist atheism is a wholly vacuous system based upon hatred and blind faith with no substance or argumentation to speak of. Rather than engage with believers who take exception to the claims of the fundamentalist atheists, the unbelievers spend their time thinking up rhetorical devices to escape having to actually define and defend their untenable view.
Go back and trace Paul Baird’s rhetoric-filled retreat from having to defend his position starting with his debate challenge, to his withdrawing said debate challenge, to leaving his blog altogether.
Listen carefully to my review of the exchange with the three Pauls in Praxis Presup episodes 12-16. Tell me where the three Pauls ever come close to backing up the rhetoric they hide behind. I do not think that they do, and I do not think that the reasonable reader/listener will think so either. That is why Paul Jenkins wants to make you think that none of it is worth your time to listen to. It is damage control.
Paul concludes, “All of which leaves me with a nagging question: for whom is Praxis Presup intended?” If Paul were more familiar with Choosing Hats, he would know that the primary audience is Christians, but others are certainly included in our audience from time to time. He claims, “Certainly not atheists, who — if they bother to listen — will only be confirmed in their conviction that PA is nonsense.” Again, I see the empty rhetoric, the bald assertion, but where is the argument? Where is the evidence? Where is the reason to think that anything that Paul Jenkins writes is anything worth considering more than his awkward and failed attempt to dismiss an apologetic that he is incapable of answering? How are atheists who “bother” to listen (again, “bother” as though it is not worth “bother”ing to listen to if you are an atheist; ‘let’s be dismissive of Chris Bolt’s review so that we don’t have to answer his review’) “confirmed in their conviction that PA is nonsense”? What claims or arguments do I make in the commentary that Paul Jenkins considers “nonsense”? He doesn’t tell us. He never does. Instead, he waves his hand with a bit of empty rhetoric, calls some attention to some irrelevant features of my podcast, and pretends that this makes all of his inconsistencies go away.
Paul writes, “Evidential theists won’t be convinced, as PA claims their approach is invalid.” Of course it does not follow from PA saying that evidentialism is invalid that evidentialists will therefore not be convinced, but Paul needs to think a bit more about such comments before posting them. I was an evidentialist before I was a presuppositional apologist. I was convinced. So what is Paul talking about? Where exactly does he think presuppositional apologists come from if no one other than presuppositional apologists are convinced by presuppositionalism? Yikes.
If I were an atheist I would be horribly, horribly confused and discouraged by the actions of men like Paul Baird and Paul Jenkins, for they are long on rhetoric and short on argument. While Paul Baird has gone into hiding, Paul Jenkins offers a post that has no substance to it but lots of claims about how much of a waste of time Chris Bolt’s review of “The Fourth Debate” is. He manages to take a few shots concerning the length and the poor sound quality of the podcast, but gives us no explanation as to why he thinks that presuppositional apologetics are “nonsense” or what exactly is wrong with any of the actual content of Chris Bolt’s review of “The Fourth Debate.” Is this what atheism has become? Is this the best it has to offer? So much the worse for atheism! I might add that as long as the response to Christian apologetics is “well, they’re below us, we won’t tell you why, just don’t bother listening to them, okay?” or “I’m so tired of this debate over the existence of God and apologetics are so over with that I am going to stop countering apologetics” and other such hand-waving and excuses the fundamentalists atheists will encourage doubt among their adherents. So by all means, please, continue running from debates and meaningful discussion. A multitude of difficulties emerge when fundamentalist atheists attempt damage control. It is clear which side is actually willing to back up its claims and which side is not. Running away does not make Christian apologists go away. By all means, continue to poison the well and hand wave. It does not help your case at all. It is very telling. Suppressing the truth is hard work after all.
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