Here’s a history of the exchange with atheist Pat Mefford regarding, most notably, the Liar Paradox:
Valuable points were made in the comments by David Byron and B.C. Askins. I will limit my response to addressing Pat’s most recent post http://servileconformist.typepad.com/servile-conformist/2012/12/more-thoughts-on-chris-bolt.html.
My previous reply to Pat on Titus 1.12-13a was not merely “a brief comment” but a refutation of the point Pat has most recently attempted to proffer regarding our exchange. Pat reiterates his earlier claims in his most recent post. He notes, “All we have is the text.” Of course he’s wrong. In this instance we have at least two different people interpreting that text. Additionally, we have the presuppositions those people bring to the text, and so on and so forth.
Pat includes the Greek text in his post. Whether he is showing off or genuinely thinks it adds to the discussion I do not know. But the Greek does not add to the discussion. Pat writes, “The bolded word (ἀεὶ) doesn’t exactly have a large ranging semantic domain; it pretty much means always, perpetually, every single instance, and so on.” Perhaps Pat is confused. A word need not have “a large ranging semantic domain” in order to possess a semantic range. It is not “a large ranging semantic domain” that Pat is really rejecting, but any semantic range. Thus he mentions a Greek term, repeats what he believes it means and claims it is the, “only sense that the text and context allows.” A bold statement indeed, but not one he has supported. Moreover, Pat posts the Greek term as though it proves some point, but he is not actually working from the Greek. His case is based upon his subsequent provision of an English reading of the term in question. Pat is arguing from English, not Greek. That may be something to be thankful for, if he is precluding semantic range in the meanings of Greek terms.
Pat notes Paul’s quotation “is taken from Callimachus’ Hymn to Zeus.” He continues, “Incidently, [sic] Paul borrows from Epimendes again in the [sic] Acts 17:28, where Paul famously engages with pagan philosophers at the Areopagus.” Like the Greek, these observations do not add anything to the discussion. What Pat should do is forthrightly address the view that the Apostle Paul, following the poet he quotes, is using hyperbole to communicate the truth that Cretans are generally liars. There is nothing in Pat’s post that takes away from this traditional apologetic response to the charge of contradiction in Titus 1.12-13a.
My suggestion was that there is another common sense response to Pat’s concern with Titus 1.12-13a.
Note that the text does not claim that Cretans always lie. Rather, Cretans are always liars. A liar is a person who lies. Liars are often known for their propensity to lie. Some habitually lie. My mother would say they “lie like a dog.” But very rarely, if ever, does a person do nothing but lie.
Pat retorts that this “is a view not allowed by the text nor the context.” He explains, “Saying x is always y means that in every instance x can be y, it will be y.” Perhaps Pat is showing off in switching to x and y. He might think it brings clarity. Either way, Pat misses what I am after. Let’s fill in the variables. Pat writes, “Saying Cretan (x) is always liar (y) means that in every instance Cretan (x) can be liar (y), it will be liar (y).” Pat is merely reaffirming what was already addressed above with respect to the traditional apologetic surrounding Titus 1.12-13a. But let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that Pat is correct. In every instance that a Cretan can be a liar, he or she will be a liar. Does it follow that everything any Cretan ever says is a lie? Of course not! Liars do not always lie. That was my point. At least one thing a Cretan said was true.
Pat completes his post by taking, “some time to restate what my intent has been with our recent engagement.” He claims, “If an apologist is going to make use of the ‘Impossibility to the Contrary’ they [sic] are going to have to resolve paradoxes like the liar paradox.” This was addressed in my initial response. He continues, “Grounding all knowledge and truth in God’s nature while accommodating paradoxes is going to be no easy feat.” This is ipse dixit, but regardless, difficult (the opposite of “easy”) is hardly the same thing as impossible. Finally, “The weaker and weaker the TAG gets, the easier and easier it becomes to deflate” just seems a pointless statement. It is tautological at best. But it is not clear whether Pat is referring to TAG itself, or to the claims the TAG proponent wishes to substantiate. Stronger claims are typically thought of as more readily refuted than weaker claims.
Only time will tell if our atheist friend is stubborn enough to defend claims like “Liars always lie” or “Hyperbole does not exist” or “The Apostle Paul self-consciously affirmed non-classical logics.” Concession is the alternative. Pat needs to put down his shiny new logics and find a new line of argument.
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