As someone who has argued with Christian apologists on various platforms for over twenty years, little surprises me anymore. They’re mercifully predictable as they’re all operating from more or less the same playbook, regardless of their pedigree.
Like clockwork, when a Christian encounters arguments from a skeptic they cannot readily rationalize away, rather than re-evaluate their beliefs to account for the new data, they instead seek the counsel of a Christian Intellectual™.
A Christian Intellectual™ is typically an elderly caucasian man who has successfully jumped through the academic hoops necessary to add some letters after his name, remarkable only in that he did not reason himself out of his own beliefs in the process as his colleagues did.
To find a Christian Intellectual™, first choose the scientific discipline most relevant to the argument you were having. Then ignore the hundreds or thousands of more accomplished, more qualified experts in that field who aren’t Christians, because they won’t give you the precise brand of answers you’re looking for.
Whoever you’re left with is now the foremost thinker in his field so far as you’re concerned, because of the propagandistic utility that he represents. Not to worry, you only need to find one! His mere existence somehow cancels out his fantastically more numerous, more accomplished and better qualified colleagues.
A Christian Intellectual™ is someone picked out of the academic crowd primarily for their beliefs but who possesses all the necessary scientific bonafides to lend superficial weight to their religious opinions. Someone who hopefully can make the bad icky no-no feelings of doubt in your tum tum go away. An understandable reflex if you believe doubt will lead you to a conveniently unfalsifiable postmortem torture pit. Almost as if doubt suppression is exactly the effect that teaching is intended to have.
But as a consequence of the brain drain Christendom has suffered in slow motion since the renaissance (recent acceleration of this trend notwithstanding) the bar for what constitutes a Christian Intellectual™ is lower than it’s ever been. Hence, there is no Christian equivalent of Elon Musk they might point to. Nor Richard Branson, nor John Carmack. All of them irreligious, naturalist, private spaceflight CEOs.
When Christians present long lists of Christian Intellectuals™ from history, it mysteriously escapes their notice that nearly everybody on that list has been dead for one or more centuries. The vast majority died before On the Origin of Species was published, and so lived in a time when no plausible alternative to supernatural creation existed.
The few recent names are often mathematicians or physicists who were not, in point of fact, Christian but who said many quotable things which make them sound as if they were Christians when deliberately stripped of context (see: Roger Penrose, Albert Einstein).
It is a list lovingly, feverishly compiled out of desperation. Not so much to convince skeptics of anything, as it is meant to convince the fellow putting together the list that his beliefs are reasonable and possible for intelligent men to conclude to without setting out specifically to do so (as the apologist does).
Google “Christian Intellectuals”, and note the tone of desperation in the first page of results. “The Fifty Smartest People of Faith!”. “What Became of Christian Intellectuals?”. “The Christian Intellectual Tradition is Alive and Well!”. “Do We Really Need Influential Christian Intellectuals?”. If you care to dig you’ll find lists of the sort I’ve described, with a great many dubious inclusions from the same people that brought us Discovery Institute’s “List of 200 scientists who doubt Darwin” and the enduringly popular slander that Hitler was an atheist.
One of the half dozen or so names I frequently see on these lists of Christian Intellectuals™ which belongs to someone still living is William Lane Craig. WLC is to Christians what Richard Dawkins is to atheists: A scientifically accomplished authority they might appeal to. A source of quotes. An intellectual exoskeleton they can climb into when fighting the enemy tribe, assuming that man’s arguments and credentials as their own.
See also: C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Lee Strobel. I could write an entire article about how hilarious it is Christians hold up Lee Strobel in particular as some sort of intellectual powerhouse when his investigative methodology in The Case for Christ was to interview only fellow Christians, to say nothing of his many well documented deceits. Information surprising only to Christians, and persons as yet unfamiliar with the time honored Christian proclivity for faith promoting fraud.
In light of all this, imagine my surprise to discover that the official number one Christian Intellectual™, William Lane Craig, is aware of my writing! Specifically my What Does the Bible Say About the Shape of the Earth? series of articles. Surely now I’ll be set straight? Surely I’ll be treated to a line by line dissection of my article which acknowledges, fairly represents, then credibly rebuts every argument contained therein?
I mean it’s not like someone in that league would skim the first two or three paragraphs, proceed to discuss just that little bit, then act like the rest has also been addressed when it hasn’t? For reference, here are the points I raised in the original article:
1. Isaiah 40 describes a flat circle, not a sphere, as confirmed by Proverbs 8:27
2. The firmament is described as “strong”/”hard”, compared to a metal bowl in Job 37:18
3. The sphericity of Earth was not in fact known about at the time the OT was authored
4. William Tyndale had the means, motive and opportunity to make corrections, but didn’t
5. Historians by and large agree that ancient Hebrews, Egyptians and Babylonians had flat Earth cosmologies as features of their religious worldviews
Which of these will he address? Let’s find out, then assign a score at the end.
DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: “It’s very evident reading Alex’s blog that he resents not having been told about these matters in his Christian upbringing — in his church. He complains that Christians are not taught about these things. He says it was never taught from other Christians. He said, “Probably they were not, themselves, aware of those verses because nobody ever taught them about it either.” I think there’s a certain resentment that’s coming to the surface here that he feels somehow the wool has been pulled over his eyes and that now he’s seen for the first time this antiquated, allegedly Ancient Near Eastern view of the world that you have described.”
Scrutinizing my motivation, straight out of the gate. This is one I encountered frequently in Christian school. Ask a question they didn’t like? Their first response was to speculate, often harshly, about your reasons for asking. A rebellious spirit, latent homosexuality and/or the influence of Satan were the most common diagnoses. Couldn’t simply be that their beliefs were wrong. That was the only possible explanation not on the table.
The focal point should not be that I resent non-faith promoting information being omitted from our study of scripture. Rather, it should be on the question of why that information was omitted. As with Kevin’s recollection that he, too, was told the Bible means sphere where it says circle, being told faith promoting lies would seem to be a common experience for young Christians. You would do well to ask why that is, and just how deep the lies go.
”I think the good news for Alex is that what Christian Old Testament scholars have done a very good job of doing is showing that the Old Testament does not indeed teach a flat disc-shaped Earth covered by a solid dome known as the firmament”
Nonsense, that’s shown very plainly to be the intended meaning of the authors of Genesis in my article, supported by a number of arguments you not only don’t rebut here, but do not so much as acknowledge. The evidence for your view consists of the opinions of three authors with relevant credentials, while you ignore the existence of experts in the same fields which affirm my position.
”…and moreover that neither do the Ancient Near Eastern views of the world embody such a mythical conception. He’s simply incorrect in thinking that people are sweeping things under the rug rather than exploding a false view of the ancient world and of Genesis 1.”
Except that you yourself are one of the people who makes their living sweeping stuff like this under the rug, and it’s what you occupy yourself with in this very interview. Christian readers will not recognize that pattern in your responses, and all the better for you, as they’re the ones you rely on to buy your books, attend your talks and so on. So long as they remain fooled, the checks keep coming.
”KEVIN HARRIS: I was told this, too (I think I was in junior high) — how the Bible talks about the circle of the Earth, and that that could be interpreted “sphere” and that the Bible was ahead of its time on that. That’s not necessarily the case, as I understand either.”
”DR. CRAIG: Right. I’m not going to carry any brief for these sorts of attempted prooftexts in the Old Testament that try to import modern science into the text and show that, for example, the spherical shape of the Earth was anticipated by Old Testament authors. I have no interest in that whatsoever.”
No interest! Fancy that. Awfully convenient to simply be “disinterested” in exploring topics which embarrass Christian apologetics, isn’t it? If I said I “had no interest” in exploring issues you raised which reflected poorly on my position, wouldn’t you immediately recognize that as a strategically motivated decision?
Shouldn’t it raise a red flag in your mind, or Kevin’s, that he was provided with false but faith promoting faux-answers to begin with? What does that say about the intentions of the Christians propagating those “answers” (Craig included)? Very clearly there are some willing to say whatever they think will banish your doubts regardless of whether or not they even believe it themselves.
Perhaps they think they’re doing you a favor? After all if you die and are welcomed into Heaven because they tricked you into belief, would you really scold them for it? This reasoning forms the justification for a wide, colorful range of faith promoting lies I have documented here.
That article is a good primer on brazen Christian dishonesty but by no means a comprehensive list, as fresh lies issue forth from Christian mouths so unrelentingly that it would be the work of many lifetimes to document them all. No doubt another topic which Craig is strategically disinterested in.
”Rather, what I want to show is that neither the author of Genesis 1 nor ancient Babylonian thinkers can be proved to have believed that the world was a flat disc-shaped object surrounded by a circumferential ocean over which there was a solid dome resting upon the Earth at the horizon. I think that that view is not simply mistaken, it is demonstrably mistaken. They did not believe such a thing, and I think we can prove it.”
Your proof consists of books written by three (3) scholars who you mean for the reader to assume represent the consensus on this topic. Very likely the only scholars you could find who weren’t also Christian apologists. What of the scholars I cited? “Not interested”, I expect.
“DR. CRAIG: In these ancient Babylonian myths you have the description of stone heavens like layers above the Earth, and the stars are inscribed in the lowest of these heavens. But clearly these myths were not understood by the Babylonians literally because that would be in contradiction to the constant motion of the fixed stars as well as the sun and the moon across the sky.”
Are we meant to assume here that the ancient Mesopotamians were especially reasonable compared to modern humans? That, unlike modern humans, they reacted to discoveries which contradicted their religious beliefs by immediately compromising their beliefs in order to integrate the new information? Is that how we see religious people, by and large, behaving today?
”These ancient Mesopotamian astronomers were meticulous in their observation of the heavens and were able to compound star charts that would predict the return of the fixed stars to their exact locations year after year, and would chart the eclipses of the moon and of the sun and the motion of the planets with regard to these fixed stars. And that is incompatible with the modern assumption that the ancient Mesopotamians thought of the heavens as a dome-like structure with the stars embodied in the dome. Such a dome could not move if it were resting on the Earth, and yet they did observe the stars to move across the sky.”
The fossil record, geology, astronomy, taxonomy and genetics are replete with information that contradicts young Earth creationism. Should we conclude from this that nobody in the world is a sincere young Earth creationist? After all, how could they possibly hold such beliefs when you and I can readily identify contradictions which ought to prevent it, right? Have you ever met humans before?
”Moreover, in the ancient texts called the astrolabes (which are these ancient Babylonian astronomical texts), they described the motion of the planets which they called bibbu, or wild sheep, because of the way they would wander in contradiction to the fixed stars. They knew the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn from their observations, and they noticed that these stars moved with a kind of zig-zag motion across the heavens and across the paths of the fixed stars. So you couldn’t possibly have a dome — even a revolving dome — in which these things were moving across our visual horizon because it would be impossible for the planets to move back and forth across the paths of the fixed stars in that way. So these ancient Babylonian texts just explode the idea that these ancient thinkers believed that there was a solid dome over the Earth in which the stars were inscribed.”
Not at all. Rather, they furnish further proof that ancient humans were psychologically very similar to modern humans. When faced with observations of natural phenomena which did not align with their religious models of the world, they maintained belief in those models regardless, while continuing to make observations. Does that sound familiar to you?
”He’s wrong on both counts. It was ancient science that taught that the stars and the planets move and they did not believe in a kind of fixed dome resting on the horizon over the Earth.”
“Ancient science” is a contradiction in terms. Science is not simply “any attempt to figure things out”, it has a specific structure. It is a specific methodology with specific philosophical grounding. Science employs mathematics for example, but is not one in the same with it. Science employs logic but is not one in the same with it.
Individual elements of the scientific method were practiced in antiquity but again, the individual elements practiced separately are not science, and calling them “ancient science” is deceptive. Especially when wrongly accusing someone of ignorance for saying science did not exist at the time when, precisely defined, that’s a true statement.
This may have simply been a misunderstanding of one another’s definitions, but I rarely receive any quarter from apologists, so neither do I give any.
“ And science most certainly did exist. Ancient Babylonian mathematics and astronomy were the origins of science.”
To say they were the origins of science is not to say that science, as in the scientific method employed today, existed at the time. Science is descended from natural philosophy & natural history. It has a sort of evolutionary lineage of its own. You might say precursors to science existed at the time. You might say individual practices which were later combined and formalized into the scientific method existed at that time.
But it is not true to say that science existed in antiquity, as science is defined today. It would be many centuries before the first university graduate majoring in natural science, Jacopo Zabrella, would even be born.
It is a surreal experience to see someone regarded as a shining light of science by Christians betray such a deep ignorance of what science actually is, how it came to be and what preceded it. Haven’t you cited a historian of science? Couldn’t you have asked her?
On the one hand, Christians have famously low standards for anybody willing to carry their banner, so perhaps I’m the fool for expecting more. On the other hand it beggars belief that a scientist would not know about the history of science itself, especially given that he cites the writings of a historian of science in his reply.
It seems more likely that he’s counting on his audience not knowing. So long as they never see this rebuttal, they will go on thinking their white knight called out an ignorant skeptic. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, though. Maybe he just had a Biden moment? Best not to attribute to malice what is just as readily explained by incompetence. See: “cdesign proponentists”.
”Francesca Rochberg is a philosopher and historian of science at the University of California Irvine, and she points out in her book The Heavenly Writing that Babylonian astronomy did not rely upon or even make use of geometrical models for the motion of a celestial body around the Earth. I quote:
The lack of an explicit cosmological model within which Babylonian astronomical theory was to fit was of no consequence in view of the fact that the predictions did not derive from a geometrical conception that attempted to make causal sense of the phenomena, but rather depended on period relations [that is to say, the times during which the stars would return to their former positions] whose purpose was to enable the computation of phenomena [to predict celestial phenomena like eclipses] either forward or backward in time in an instrumental way.
In other words, ancient Babylonian astronomy was purely instrumentalist in its orientation. It only focused on making accurate predictions. It didn’t have a physical model of the cosmos or of the heavens.”
They absolutely did, you described the layered structure of it earlier. Here it is again:
So in fact, they did have a conception of the physical structure of the cosmos. I don’t know about you, but “stone heavens” sound highly physical to me, being that the material they’re made of is specified and they’re illustrated as hemispheres just like the Biblical firmament.
Yet you concluded they couldn’t possibly have believed it, because it contradicted their observations of the apparent motions of stars. This assumes, comically, that religious people never hold contradictory beliefs. Compartmentalization is not a recent invention.
”There was no part of it. In fact, Rochberg has expanded on this theme in her more recent book Before Nature in which she points out that the Babylonians used two very different systems of calculating the celestial motions both of which cannot be true. They are both effective in yielding correct predictions, but they are completely different systems so that they have no physical significance whatsoever. Babylonian astronomy wasn’t a physical interpretation of the way the world was.”
See above. Your argument is predicated on the belief that ancient humans were dramatically less stubborn than modern humans, more reasonable, and less prone to handling cognitive dissonance by compartmentalization.
Repeatedly you argue that they “couldn’t have believed” this or that, because they would’ve reasoned themselves out of such a belief by observations of the night sky, physical principles involving water or whatever else. But if that’s how the human mind worked, there would not be any flat earthers, creationists, anti-vaxxers, etc. etc. etc.
”Now, I could imagine someone responding to this by saying, Well, all right, so the ancient Babylonian astronomers and scientists didn’t believe in the fixed dome over the Earth, but maybe the mythological texts believed in such a thing. Maybe myth held to the sort of fixed dome. But that’s a naive bifurcation between myth and science in the ancient world. In ancient Babylon religion and science were not neatly bifurcated into two separate fields. Rather, they infused each other.”
Once again this assumes that Babylonian religion would’ve frictionlessly integrated any findings made available by Babylonian astronomers which, to me, is naive. It’s 2020 and there are still creationists, after all.
There is no reason to assume ancient humans were especially stupid, as per the arguments of Louis and Chesterton, but neither is there any reason to assume they were any less prone to compartmentalization as a means of relieving dissonance than modern humans are.
Thus their maintenance of contradictory models is entirely consistent with a worldview which does not separate religion from what you’ve referred to as “ancient science”.
“For example, in the famous Enuma Elish, one of the most famous mythological texts of ancient Babylon, Marduk (the chief god) organizes the stars, the planets, the constellations into the same patterns that are described in the astronomical astrolabes. So the ancient Mesopotamians were already in their myths employing scientific notions. Moreover, their scientific notions were motivated by religious desires. They were obsessed with divination. In the ancient world, divination was a lucrative and thriving industry, and the reading of the signs in the heavens and the constellations was enormously important. So the purpose of the so-called heavenly writing in the stars was to discern the will of the gods. So the interpenetration of science (or astronomy) and mythology in the ancient world prevents us from trying to draw a neat dichotomy between them. The fact is that they were the same sort of exploration. That’s just Mesopotamia. I could say exactly the same thing with regard to ancient Egyptian mythology, but I’ll just skip over that.”
You could, but that approach would still have the problem of assuming that the existence of dissonant models means they weren’t literally believed in, when humans at that time were no less prone to compartmentalization than they are today. The extent to which their explorations of the natural world were done through the lens of religious assumption is presented by you as though it contradicts my characterization of their beliefs, when it instead confirms it.
If you accept that their model of reality proceeded from religious assumptions, and those assumptions were wrong, why do you conclude that they must’ve not really believed in their model of the cosmos rather than concluding, more parsimoniously, that they were sincere but mistaken in their beliefs? Is it impossible for ancient man to be mistaken about anything? Have humans never been wrong? Is not religion an area of human experience wherein compartmentalization is commonplace? You yourself are an example of this.
”Let me quote from a pair of scholars with regard to the way in which the people in the ancient world understood the cosmos. This is from Othmar Keel and Silvia Schroer. They say,
People in the ancient Near East did not conceive of the earth as a disk floating on water with the firmament inverted over it like a bell jar, with the stars hanging from it. They knew from observation and experience with handicrafts that the lifting capacity of water is limited and the gigantic vaults generate gigantic problems in terms of their ability to carry dead weight.
Would they really have concluded from their own architectural experiments with domes that all powerful supernatural beings couldn’t build them at such a scale? Would they really have concluded from their observations of buoyancy that the gods themselves could not float a disc shaped Earth?
There are similarly severe, obvious problems with young earth creationism. Future apologists might take Craig’s approach, arguing they could not possibly have believed the Earth to be less than 10,000 years old, because of what was known in our time about geology. They would be wrong, for the same reason Craig is: Either a misunderstanding, or strategic misrepresentation of human psychology where religious belief is concerned.
The textbook images that keep being reprinted of “the ancient Near Eastern world picture” [such as Alex reprints in this very blog] are based on typical modern misunderstandings that fail to take into account the religious components of ancient Near Eastern conceptions and representations.
First of all, many of those illustrations come from the history departments of various universities. Are they all mistaken, but your three carefully chosen scholars aren’t? Secondly, we aren’t given any indication of whether the views of these scholars you’ve cherrypicked are representative. But the Christian reader, your bread and butter, will reliably make the assumptions you intend for them to make wherever you leave a gap for their imagination to fill.
Were I to ask you whether any scholars in these fields exist who disagree with Keel, Schroer or Rochberg, instead holding that these cultures in fact did believe in their apparent models of the cosmos in the literal sense, you would say of course there are scholars who hold that view (such as Robert J. Schadewald, who I cited in my article but mysteriously was not mentioned in your response). Now, which do you suppose is the majority view?
It is interesting to note here as well, the assumption that ancient people were faultlessly reasonable beings of pure logic, incapable of compartmentalization. Again, to say “They knew from observation and experience with handicrafts that the lifting capacity of water is limited and the gigantic vaults generate gigantic problems in terms of their ability to carry dead weight” assumes that, faced with these observations, they would amend their religious beliefs. If that’s how human psychology worked, there wouldn’t be flat earthers today, nor creationists, nor anti-vaxxers, and so on.
KEVIN HARRIS: So in conclusion today, when someone brings up some of the verses in the Old Testament that talk about the firmament, is our approach saying, Look, they didn’t even think that, and here’s why, and recount some of the evidence that you’ve just given? Or do you just say, Look, that was written in poetic form, and we’re talking about poetry here.
DR. CRAIG: I wouldn’t say poetry, but I get the drift of what you’re saying. I would say it’s written in figurative or metaphorical language. The word for firmament is raqia. I think that Ben Smith has probably given the best characterization of the denotation of raqia. He says that it refers to the whole sky — all that can be seen above the Earth from the surface. That is the raqia; it is the whole sky — all that can be seen above the Earth from the surface. John Walton has put it nicely by saying, Yes, there was a raqia, and it is blue. It’s just the sky. That’s all it is. It’s the sky.
In Job 37:18 it is written: “With Him, have you spread out the skies, Strong as a cast metal mirror?”. Depending upon translation, the material is said to be bronze, a mirror-like metal, or in some versions a hardened glass with a molten appearance.
This assumption would’ve naturally followed from the discovery of metallic meteorites and the glass which results in and around craters when they fall in deserts (as with the ‘black stone’ revered as a holy artifact by Muslims).
Beyond the evidence for my position furnished by the unambiguous wording of that verse, raquia itself is a Hebrew word describing the process whereby metal bowls were made by hammering them into shape (not, as your source has misinformed you, referring to the sky as modern humans understand it).
Is the sky “beaten out like a metal bowl”? Is not a metal bowl a solid object? If it was simply the sky, as you allege, why not use a word related to air? Why name it after the process whereby solid metal bowls are formed?
You might say it was only poetic except for the verse I’ve cited wherein the authors of the OT very explicitly specify that they believed the sky to be made from of a strong, solid material?
So anyway. Here we are at the end! How did he do?
I don’t consider #4 relevant as WLC doesn’t touch on it, nor does he make the common apologist’s ploy of passing off proof that Hebrew cosmology was not in fact widely believed in the middle ages as general proof that it was never believed by Christians at any point in history.
Let’s begin with #1, which WLC attempts no defense of whatsoever because of what it reveals about the willingness of Christian apologists to lie when they think it will reinforce faith and undermine doubt. He says he’s “uninterested” in exploring that topic. Imagine using that strategy in court!
Then we have #2 which he lies about, claiming that the firmament simply means the sky when it is explicitly likened to a metal bowl in Job 37:18 and further affirmed in many other verses wherein the firmament is said to rest upon supports, to have trap doors in it and other properties which make sense only if it is solid. On top of which the very word ancient Hebrews used for it is the same one used to describe the process of hammering metal bowls into shape!
Then we have #3 which WLC counters by alleging that not only did ancient Hebrews not believe in a flat Earth but neither did ancient Egyptians or Babylonians, perhaps the most audacious defense I have ever seen from an apologist faced with this problem.
Then we have #5. which WLC counters by presenting the opinions of three scholars whose views he intends for the reader to assume are representative of a consensus in their fields.
This is another of the fantastically defensible lies of omission commonly employed by apologists. It is defensible because WLC nowhere explicitly stated that Rochberg, Schoer or Keel’s views are representative. But they would have to be for it to make any sense as intellectually honest argumentation to bring up their writings. Otherwise it amounts to “here are three people from relevant fields I cherry picked because they agree with me, while ignoring the majority that don’t”.
How should we score his rebuttal? Was it comprehensive? Was it intellectually honest? He made no attempt to address #1. He demonstrably lied about #2. He cited a grand total of three scholars which agree with his response to #5, but did not acknowledge the existence of, include/examine the arguments of, nor bother to enumerate the scholars which disagree with his position on that topic so that we could find out what the actual consensus in the relevant fields is. An approach closely reminiscent of Lee Strobel selectively interviewing other apologists. Same playbook, regardless of pedigree. 1 out of 10 seems fair.
It’s a disappointment only if you’ve never argued with a Christian apologist before, not knowing in advance that you should expect this outcome. If you read the article being discussed here you might’ve seen the variety of equally predictable and disappointing Christian responses to it.
One claimed the Bible does not in fact describe a flat earth, a solid dome shaped firmament, etc. and instead says Earth is round (per Isaiah 40). One conceded it does indeed describe a flat earth cosmology, but that this is irrelevant because the Bible is “not a science textbook” (and therefore errors in a supposedly divinely revealed text do not count against its credibility somehow).
Another also allowed that the Bible describes a flat earth and solid firmament, but stipulated that it was a simplified model intended to be more easily understood, like tinker toy style models of molecules. Similar to the apologist’s argument that the Genesis creation story is a simplified but otherwise accurate account of the formation of Earth and appearance of life.
The problem being that those models at least accurately represent what they’re meant to: The constituent atoms in the molecule are in their correct positions. Literally no part of Biblical cosmology is accurate, and likewise the order of events in the creation story is wrong: Earth existing before the sun, the sun before all other stars, birds before land animals and so on.
Pardon the observation, but from where I’m sitting it sure looks like there’s no consensus among Christians which accounts satisfactorily for Biblical cosmology from a Watsonian perspective, and apologetic takes are scattered/discordant. They read as if apologists are frantically throwing everything they can come up with at the wall in the hopes that something will stick.
To be clear I don’t think speculation as to the motives of ancient humans is a slam dunk either way; Not my assertion that cognitive dissonance was a feature of religious psychology in the past as it is today, nor Craig’s assertion that they would’ve been too logical to maintain belief in plainly false features of their religion’s cosmological model.
What I do think is that Craig’s reasoning isn’t a compelling reason not to take them at their word when it comes to what they believed about cosmology. Did they somehow not have any opinions at all on that topic? Craig might shrug and say perhaps, but nobody knows what they really thought.
I don’t buy that, because they carved pretty explicit depictions of what they seemingly believed the structure of the Earth and heavens to be. That seems like the most sensible, obvious candidate if we’re searching for indications of what the cosmology of ancient Babylonians/Egyptians was.
There is no reason not to take them at their word in this matter, except that it undermines the Christian apologist’s position on flat earth cosmology in the Bible, and in the ancient near east. It is indeed a problem for Christian apologists, but I am not one of those, so it is not a problem for me.
Anyway on the off chance that this article gets the attention of WLC, and against all odds he actually reads the entire thing before passing judgement this time, I’ll include a question for him to contemplate:
Suppose for a minute that there’s a group of people traveling about your area, led by a charismatic speaker who claims that the world is ending soon. He promises he alone can save you, but only if you sell your belongings, devote the rest of your life to him, and cut off family members who try to stop you.
He also wants to change your name, advises you to leave your home/job if necessary to follow him, and says that if you don’t love him more than your own family, you’re not worthy of him. His followers have written a book about him in which he performs many miraculous feats, but no contemporaneous outside source corroborates their claims. What sort of group is that?