This time, Paul tried to take me to task for my quotation of Matthew 19:26, which includes the affirmation that "all things are possible." I pointed to this verse to remind Christian believers (so forgetful they often are) of their own 'worldview presuppositions' which commit them, like it or not, to a chaotic and unpredictable reality (or surreality) in which "all things are possible," since an omnipotent spirit is personally directing its every whip and wiggle. I have pointed out before that presuppositionalism's own hallmark slogan to the effect that Christianity is true "because of the impossibility of the contrary" is incongruous with the worldview such contrivances are intended to defend; for, in a worldview which affirms that "all things are possible," it makes no sense to turn right around and start enumerating things that are impossible. Similar tension arises when one wants to affirm, on the one hand that the nature of the universe is such that "all things are possible," while insisting on the other that things can only be a certain way, which just so happens to be in agreement with other affirmations dear to the confession. From here the dilemmas only succeed in multiplying themselves.
This has apparently gotten on Paul Manata's nerves, for he has sought to undermine my understanding of this clause by suggesting that I have stretched it beyond its intended context. For instance, he tells us that the claim that "all things can happen" applies in a very narrow scope:
1) Dawson's verse he uses to show that "anything can happen, willy-nilly" in a Christian theistic universe, is specifically talking about salvation.
Because of its intolerance to alternatives in regard to salvation, the claim that "all things are possible" in this regard is highly misleading. For instance, Christians are not supposed to entertain the possibility that the god they worship is anything other than the god of the New Testament. Thus on their teaching it is not possible that the god with whom "all things are possible" is a god that also says "there are many paths to the top of the summit" with regard to salvation. Would Christians say that one can be saved by praying to a non-Christian god? No, it's not likely that Christians would admit this. And yet here is a possibility proposed in relation to salvation, and already the statement "all things are possible" patently does not apply. Would Christians say that it is possible for a sinner to be saved without repentance? No, I doubt many Christians would admit this. Would Christians say that it is possible for a sinner to be saved without faith? No, I doubt they would admit to this, either. Would Christians say that it is possible for a sinner to be saved on his own volitional instigation? Calvinists likely would not admit to this. Would Christians say that it is possible for a sinner to be saved without the intervention of the Holy Spirit? Many Christians would likely dismiss this as well. Perhaps the applicability of the claim that "all things are possible" is more specific to who can be saved, owing to the question this is supposed to answer. But even here we find another dry well. For what Christian would say that a sinner who refuses to repent can be saved? What Christian would say that a sinner who refuses to confess Jesus as his Lord and Savior can be saved? What Christian would say that a sinner who refuses to believe there's a god can be saved? It is highly unlikely that any doctrine-driven Christian would admit to such proposals, instead dismissing them as impossible. So, contrary to what Paul intimates, it seems that the statement "all things are possible" in fact does not apply to the issue of salvation at all. Rather, it seems that Paul is simply offering another dodge which misses Christianity's own teaching!
Since it is clear now that the statement "all things are possible" could not apply to salvation, for this statement still to be true, it must apply in some broader context, one that is not made clear in the Matthean passage in which we find it. The context in which I cited Matt. 19:26 concerned the suggestion, made by Jason Engwer, to the effect that a mass hallucination being responsible for the alleged appearances of the post-resurrection Jesus was "highly unlikely." For I had written:
While we are told that coincidental mass hallucination "seems unlikely," this is stated in the context of a defense of a belief system which tells us that "all things are possible" (Mt. 19:26), that the universe was created by an act of consciousness, that dead people rose from their graves (cf. Mt. 27:52-53), that serpents and donkeys and burning bushes speak in human languages, that water was turned into wine by a wish, etc.
2) Does that verse really mean that anything can happen, that anything is possible?
Now Paul asks if the verse in question can "really mean that anything can happen, that anything is possible." Christianity answers this question in its characteristic yes-and-no fashion, offering no stable guide to discerning when a guarantee on either yes or no can be had. The Christian wants things both ways: he wants to say, on the one hand, that his god is all-powerful, possessing unlimited sovereignty, completely and unexceptionally in control of its creations; and yet, on the other hand, he wants to say that there are constraints in place which cannot be altered, constraints which even his god must observe (even though those constraints owe their very existence to this god). It should be no wonder at this point why Paul has fallen overboard. Yet he continues:
a) If so, Dawson's should provide an argument for it. He needs to because his case rests on this.
I need to provide an argument to the effect that the words "all things are possible" mean "all things are possible"? If we do not allow the words to speak for themselves, what good will it do for me to present an argument, which itself consists of words? We saw above that his initial point completely misfires, and even then he does not shed any light on exactly how Mt. 19:26 should be understood. In spite of these shortcomings, he complains that the onus is on me.
Then Paul sought outside help:
b) Just because it uses a word that is universal, does not mean that is how it is being used in this passage. There is such a thing, which philosophers of language recognize, as restricted quantification. Philosopher of language William Lycan, speaking on restricted quantification, writes that, "What logicians call the domains over which quantifiers range need not be universal, but are often particular cases roughly presupposed in context" (Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction, p.24).
Jason should throw Paul a safety line. Instead, we'll likely see the apologists striking out against their critics. For instance, Christians may counter saying, "But this is the Christian God! It wouldn't make sense for Him to misrepresent Himself by causing mass hallucinations to those whom He has chosen to document and deliver His message of salvation!" This kind of retort of course overlooks the fact that these are the believer's assumptions, not mine. And they rest on very shaky ground indeed. Adult thinkers typically admit that human beings are not infallible. Also, human beings are always the source of supernatural claims (claims to mystical revelation notwithstanding). In his letter to the Roman church, the apostle Paul seems quite happy in calling "every man a liar" (3:4). (Perhaps he meant everyone but himself.) If one grants validity to the notion that there is a supernatural consciousness which can coordinate human history according to its will or "plan," whose power is invincible and whose efficacy in causing desired outcomes cannot be impeded by any extraneous factor, then one erases any rational distinction between the arbitrary and the objective, the absurd and the reasonable. In effect, one admits the all-encompassing element of complete randomness (for there is nothing more difficult to judge than another mind), having no idea of what to expect to be the case from moment to moment, unless of course, at the height of his pretense, the believer in such things carelessly blurs the distinction between his mind and the mind he imaginatively attributes to the supernatural fantasy he enshrines. (And if he does this, we'll have some simple tests for him to take.) In such a way, the theist is simply being consistent with the foundations of his worldview by confessing "all things are possible," without any hint of limitation of impediment.
Christians don't argue that hallucinations would be supernaturally impossible. What Christian ever denied that God could produce mass hallucinations?
The myriad dilemmas to which this tangled mess leads are in fact logically prior to tales of a resurrected god-man who was born of a virgin, worked miracles and preached a folk morality whose maxims are well suited to adorning billboards and placemats, for the premise that such a supernatural consciousness is real is logically prior to the accounts we find in the gospel narratives. (In fact, it is often on the basis "if God exists" that the mere possibility that these narratives have any truth to them is accepted and defended.) Thus we continue to see how the Christian worldview works against itself: in the words of Steve Hays himself, the apologist "can only make his claim by burning his drawing card." In this case, the drawing card is essentially the premise that "not all things are possible," which is sensible on certain non-Christian grounds, only to surrender that card in exchange for a new card which says "all things are possible." The way out of this conundrum is to dilute the card that replaced the original in order to soften its claim. But at this point it's too late. Does the apologist ever make his position clear? No, he doesn’t. He’s in complete defense mode, and that’s it. His only hope at this point is to rummage for some trivial tu quoque that he can slap on the non-believer.
What should not be overlooked is the fact that Paul's concern to tone down the scope of Mt. 19:26 by suggesting that its use of the modifier 'all' is unnecessary, can easily be taken as criticism of the bible's own wording. For here he's saying that there is a better way for the bible to have stated its message (it just happens that this better way matches Paul's apologetic interpretation). Mt. 19:26 says "all things are possible," and yet here Paul is telling us that not "all things are possible." Contending against the bible itself, he quotes one line from a college intro text on the philosophy of language to suggest that the "all" in "all things are possible" might not really mean "all" after all, but may instead refer to "particular cases roughly presupposed in context." This is exegesis by retreat to the approximate. But as we saw above, if the particular case in this context is the issue of salvation, then exactly what is Matt. 19:26 saying? Taking the New Testament teachings on salvation as this broader context (which is what Paul tells us it must be), we already observed significant inflexibility on this matter. So without further elaboration from Paul, this point is unhelpful to his case. He could sure use a paddle at this point. But he only succeeds in making matters worse for himself. Observe:
c) Is there more to the story? That is, should we assume that this is not to be taken universally because of other basic presuppositions? Well, the Bible tells us that, indeed, not everything is possible. For example, God cannot lie or deny Himself (Titus 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:13). Also, it was "impossible" that death should hold Jesus (Acts 2:24).
In his haste to claim a petty victory, Paul draws a non sequitur:
d) Therefore, Dawson's foundational premise has been refuted.
It does not follow from the absurd claim that I need to provide an argument to the effect that the words "all things are possible" mean "all things are possible," that my "foundational premise has been refuted."
It does not follow from the fact that there are verses within the New Testament which conflict with Matthew 19:26, that my "foundational premise has been refuted."
Paul’s dinghy is not only hopelessly adrift, it's also starting to list, so he's going to have to do better than this. While he’s at it on another try, he might stop to take a broader look at my point. But I doubt he will. Also, he can tell us precisely what he thinks the best way to understand Mt. 19:26, and explain what value it has. Paul will likely want to say that Mt. 19:26 says something less than what it plainly reads.
3) Since that premise has been cut off at the knees, Dawson's other points are nothing but hasty generalizations. God creating the world, talking animals and the like, does not imply that we should suspend belief on, say, the resurrection because since those things happened, maybe hallucinations happened. Maybe they did, but you're not going to get there from where Dawson starts.
In 520 A.D. an anonymous monk recorded the life of Saint Genevieve, who had died only ten years before that. In his account of her life, he describes how, when she ordered a cursed tree cut down, monsters sprang from it and breathed a fatal stench on many men for two hours; while she was sailing, eleven ships capsized, but at her prayers they were righted again spontaneously; she cast out demons, calmed storms, miraculously created water and oil from nothing before astonished crowds, healed the blind and lame, and several people who stole things from her actually went blind instead. No one wrote anything to contradict or challenge these claims, and they were written very near the time the events supposedly happened--by a religious man whom we suppose regarded lying to be a sin. Yet do we believe any of it? Not really. And we shouldn't.
4) Dawson mentions that the things we believe show our fundamental beliefs about the world as a whole. I agree with him on this. The problem, though, is that Dawson only gives half the Christian story. God is the determiner of what is possible and impossible. On the basis of God's revelation, I believe it was "impossible" that death should hold Jesus. Furthermore, the Bible reports these things as true. It reports the sightings as true sightings of the risen Jesus, not hallucinations. So, taking in to account the rest of the story, I have every right to believe that these things happened, and that they were not hallucinations. The Bible proclaims that these people witnessed the resurrected Lord, it proclaims this as fact. So, holding to my fundamental presuppositions, I do rule out the hallucination story (this is not to go against what Engwer has argued, but is a presuppositional approach to the matter). Thus, Dawson asks the believer to take only part of his story, while neglecting other crucial aspects. Christianity comes as a unit.
Paul asserts that "God is the determiner of what is possible and impossible." I recall imagining things like this as well when I was a Christian. But on Christianity’s own premises, the claim in Mt. 19:26 that "all things are possible" is a divinely revealed truth which settles the question here quite explicitly. Unless Christians suppose that their god goes back on its word, then it seems that anyone confessing himself to be a Christian should accept Mt. 19:26 as a solemn and unalterable truth, and consequently have the courage to follow it to its logical conclusion, regardless of the undesirable implications it may have for other teachings (such as those biblical teachings which are in direct conflict with it). But an even larger point which Christians are likely to blank out on, is the fact that along with belief in the supernatural comes any arbitrary belief one wants to throw in with it, since the very notion of supernaturalism is in itself arbitrary. And Christianity is a prime example of this. Claims that the bible provide the guide on which beliefs should tag along with the underlying supernaturalism of Christianity, far from disconfirming this, actually substantiate it in large measure. For pointing to the bible's content in this manner only shows that, whatever happens to fill its pages is good enough to be believed on its say so.
Fighting against the undertow as the tide begins to fall, Paul tries to leverage himself in the sandy liquefaction swaddling his ankles:
5) The mere fact that God could have deceived people, does not imply that He did. This is a modal fallacy.
While it may be Paul's outward ambition to discredit my position (which is a sure failure, for I assert no gods), his deeper concern is to settle in his mind the assumption that his god has not deceived him. But how could he know this, if in fact he accepts that it is possible that his god could deceive him? If he has been deceived, his claims not to have been deceived would be worthless. If he has been deceived, he could have been deceived to think he was right when in fact he was not. Paul is in peril of being caught up by a waterspout 'bout now. But he goes on:
6) Dawson makes reference to what the believer is "torn" over. As I illustrated above, the believer is only "torn" if he leaves out other parts of his worldview. Thus Dawson's critique looks like thus: RESTATED: "If the Christian only believes some parts of the Christian worldview, then he'll have problems believing other parts." Sorry, but this is not intellectually convincing, in the least. Thus Dawson's attempts at an internal critique is a completely abortive one.
As the storm current carries him dangerously close to a jagged reef, Paul really begins to feel the absence of his paddle:
7) Dawson makes mention of a cartoon universe. Well, if ours is a cartoon universe, his is a fairy-tale one: "Once upon a time (read: "billions and billions of years ago"), a frog turned in to a prince (read: "one species turned in to another species"). It's also an alchemists worldview. The alchemists tried to get qualities to turn in to their opposites, such as making gold from led. [sic] Well, in Dawson's fairy-tale universe we have: scales turning in to feathers, the non-flying acquiring flight, the non-moral becoming moral, the non-rational becoming rational, etc.
At any rate, the cartoon universe analogy clearly does not apply to the theory of evolution, for the theory of evolution does not posit a consciousness which plans and executes the course that evolution takes. In fact, as a scientific theory, it is perfectly compatible with the primacy of existence principle. The proposal that reptilian features probably evolved into avian features has support in both the genetic and fossil records, and thus is not without evidential basis. This gradual transformation over time is not at all analogous to a man waving a wand and reciting an incantation to part the waters of an inland sea, cursing a tree and making it wither and die, walking on unfrozen water, or turning water into wine just by wishing it. In these examples, the causality is the wishing of a consciousness which holds metaphysical primacy over the objects involved. On the contrary, the incremental changes motivating the evolution of the species happen over great expanses of time gradually as the result of biological causality (not by some cosmic spirit's wishing), and is thus more analogous to an infant growing into an adult, or a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, both of which are examples of biological causality which we do observe within the relatively shorter periods of our delicate human lifespan.
8) Dawson says we're inconsistent because we have fantasy intertwined with reality. Well, if all you need to do to win is label someone's view false, then Dawson has a problem, "one that usually runs along undetected by the believer as he insists on [fairy-tales and alchemy] while illicitly borrowing from a reality-based worldview."
Finally, Paul realizes that he's adrift and without a paddle:
9) An, last but not least, we find ourselves up Dawson's creek without a paddle. Dawson writes,
On the basis of my worldview's fundamentals, I can consistently suppose that it is "highly unlikely" that a group of individuals will have the same hallucination, complete with shared uniform details, and for reasons not unlike those which Jason himself has mentioned. For instance, an hallucination is not only an individual and private experience, its distortion of what one perceives is most likely to be influenced by such an enormous number of imperceptible factors that it would be essentially unrepeatable.
Therefore we see that if Dawson is to be consistent with his "worldview's fundamentals" then he should believe in the resurrection and deny that it was hallucination (note that the hallucination approach does not have more explanatory scope in that it fails to address the empty tomb)!
Dawson's "worldview fundamentals" lead him to affirm fundamentals of a "cartoon universe!" At the end of the day, though, no argument of this sort is going to convince a man who loves his sin. We are told that even in the presence of the resurrected Lord, "some doubted" (Matt. 28:17).
I know of no good reasons to limit the debate to only these alternatives, I am not writing to defend the view per se that the individuals which the New Testament claims to have witnessed Jesus after his alleged resurrection were in fact hallucinating; indeed, I have no confessional investment to protect on this issue and thus am not committed to such predetermined outcomes.
If the accounts of Jesus’ life in the end boil down to legends, then there is no need to grant the documentary evidence the level of credibility that the hallucination theory assumes. After all, documentary evidence is not proof, and imaginative embellishment such as we find in fiction as well as non-fiction, was just as available to writers in the first century as it is today. True, I cannot prove that hallucination did not play a role in at least the development of some portion of the overall legend, but neither have the Triaboogers or other apologists. What’s more is that their protestations against the hallucination theory clearly take for granted key assumptions which are disputed in the critical literature, and thus they beg the question to begin with. Not only do they assume that the New Testament documents outline uniform accounts and teachings, they also assume that the accounts are historically reliable. But if, for instance, the stories of Paul’s conversion in Acts are not historically reliable, then there’s no need to suppose that Paul was hallucinating. Time and again, such basic points seem to have escaped the wit and wisdom of Triablogue’s apologetic superstars, who are apparently so eager to rush into battle against their threatening nemeses that they don’t realize they’ve fallen over a cliff.
As for the claim that there was an empty tomb, what proof does anyone really have that there was an empty tomb to begin with? Even the apostle Paul, the earliest Christian writer, made no mention of an "empty tomb." Nor do the other NT epistles. The element of the empty tomb may very well be a later concoction, incorporated into the Jesus story specifically to ward off the charges of hallucination, subjective visions and the such, just as Matthew's narrative incorporates the element of Jesus' tomb being guaraded in order to ward off the charge that Jesus' disciples stole his dead body (cf. Mt. 27:62-66). Because these precautionary devices are effectively used by believers in barricading themselves in the belief program of the New Testament, apologists often characterize alternative explanations, namely those which do not appeal to Christianity's invisible magic beings, as if they were themselves fantastical. I'm reminded of Carrier's comments in response to Bill Craig regarding alternative explanations on the topic of the alleged empty tomb:
Craig thinks "that most alternative explanations for the empty tomb are simply incredible" (259) but I wonder how he figures that. They may be unusual, but they are certainly not beyond belief--a great many unusual things have actually happened in history. (Carrier is quoting from Craig's Reasonable Faith.)
As for the story element that "some doubted" Jesus' resurrection, a good story-writer could have easily worked this into his version of the story to give his imaginary scenes additional didactic relevance with respect to the theology he wanted his story to illustrate. Given the nature of the gospels as a medium showcasing a community's particular theology, we would expect nuances like this. While they may serve in making the overall account more palpable, they do not make the obviously fantastical portions of the story believable.
Paul says that "no argument of this sort is going to convince a man who loves his sin." This kind of statement reads more like the author's own self-projection than anything approaching a well considered indictment. But since it is directed at me, I can only ask what exactly is it that I love which Paul is calling "sin"? What I love is my life as an end in itself, and this is what Christianity resents. Steve Hays made this clear when he wrote: "we need to serve God. We are creatures. We are not our own end. We find our fulfillment in serving one greater than ourselves." The view expressed here conceives of the individual as the means to someone else's ends. In this Christianity exposes its political affinity with the communism of the Soviets, which reduces men to chattle in selfless service to the State. (Here we can agree with the presuppositionalists that the communist unbelievers have 'borrowed' their morality from the Christian worldview.)
Paul quotes Jason Engwer’s response to my blog:
Here we see another example of how Dawson Bethrick doesn't understand the issues he's discussing. Christians don't argue that hallucinations would be supernaturally impossible. What Christian ever denied that God could produce mass hallucinations? That's not the issue. Rather, the issue is the unlikelihood of these hallucinations occurring naturalistically. If Bethrick wants to argue that God made these people hallucinate, then we can interact with that argument. Until then, our focus will be on naturalistic theories, since Bethrick and other critics aren't arguing for supernatural theories.
Still drifting about without a paddle, Paul found himself tossed in a torrent of his own misconceptions:
But Dawson's got bigger problems than showing how the resurrection could happen naturally. Dawson needs to show now [sic] naturalism can do anything. Taking naturalistic presuppositions, why trust our reasoning (cf. Reppert's "C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea;" Plantinga's "Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism," etc). Why trust our senses? Dawson will tell us that those things are axiomatic, but he must admit that the senses do, sometimes, deceive us. How does he tell when they do and when they don't? Why trust the chemical reactions in your grey matter? Why assume a real order to the universe? You see, at the end of the day, on Dawson's "reality based worldview" everything is a miracle.
Paul then goes on to list other problems that he thinks I have. For instance, he states that "Dawson needs to show now [sic] naturalism can do anything." But to whom am I supposed to show this? And why do I "need" to show this? At any rate, the most concise answer to this that comes to mind is Francis Bacon's famous dictum: "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." That is, naturalism allows man to accomplish his goals by teaching him how to work with nature on its own terms and according to its own constraints. (Contrast this with 'supernaturalism', which relies instead on prayers to invisible magic beings instead of action taken on the basis of sensory input - for the senses might deceive us!) As evidence of the success of naturalism so conceived, I point to everything from Paul’s breakfast cereal, to the bowl that he eats it from, to the glass that he uses to drink his orange juice, to the detergent he uses to clean it, to the sink with running tap water where he cleans it (assuming he does), to the refrigerator where he stores his orange juice, to the toothbrush he should probably use more frequently, to the toothpaste in his medicine cabinet that he should use more liberally, to the razor he uses to trim his whiskers, to the motor car that gets him to church and back, to the building materials and knowledge that were incorporated in building the church in which he worships an invisible magic being, etc. All these wares that Paul uses on a daily basis are ultimately a product of "naturalism," if by "naturalism" we mean that basic orientation of mind to the world which takes nature as its own authority on itself, as opposed to an orientation which takes seriously the imagination of a supernatural consciousness which is accessible by means of prayer, which controls nature at will and accomplishes its tasks by wishing. The achievements that are made not only possible but very real by naturalism, are unmatched by anything the religious mindset has ever produced. Not even Gutenberg’s printing press was brought into existence by praying to the supernatural or reciting incantations in the name of invisible magic beings, and yet one of the first documents to pass under its new invention of adjustable type was a set of texts which enshrines the very nonsense which can only stifle such achievements when taken seriously. My supposition is that, any time Paul wants to achieve a goal, instead of fasting and praying and making his wishes known to the ruling consciousness, he instead chooses to govern his actions according to the reality he perceives with his senses, indeed walking by sight even while pretending by faith.
Although I have thrown life-preservers to Paul on these and similar matters numerous times before, he will not accept them from me. But it is interesting how theistic apologetics has no choice when the going gets rough but to resort to ultra-skepticism, which is another bait-and-switch tactic inspired by the deep confusion that Christianity introduces into one's epistemology. Questions such as "why trust our senses?" can be dismissed as invalid on the basis of the fact that they commit the fallacy of the stolen concept. For how does one get to higher abstractions such as ‘trust’ if his senses did not already give him awareness of any objects in the first place? For Paul's question to be intelligible, the concepts he employs in forming that question would have to have objective content (otherwise he’s engaging in a purely subjective dialogue whose only point of reference is the shifting chaos of a mind that has no access to an objective reality). Thus if we doubt or dispute the validity of our senses, this can throw the question Paul asks into dire jeopardy long before we even get to it. Moreover, for me to acquire awareness of Paul’s question, I need to use my senses. To ask "why trust your senses?" is essentially no different from asking "why think you are conscious?" Such a question ignores the fact that thinking is an activity of consciousness. One would need to be conscious in order to consider the question in the first place. To ask "why trust your senses" and similarly fallacious questions, suggests that the one asking it believes that consciousness needs to be validated somehow. But this would pose an insuperable problem for Paul, for he cannot validate his consciousness without assuming what he needs to validate it, thus the validity of Paul's consciousness, on his own assumptions, stands on circular argument whose premises ultimately rest in subjective paradoxes. Such is the outcome when taking stolen concepts to their conclusion.
But consider: If your arm were severed, would you "distrust" your experience of pain? Would you have to prove that your experience of pain is real to those who believe in invisible magic beings in order for that experience to be real? Would you suppose it is legitimate to ask whether or not you're actually experiencing pleasure instead of pain as a result of the wound? Perhaps the Triabooger would say at this point that my use of the term 'wound' is "prejudicial and tendentious," since it suggests bodily damage and therefore pain rather than pleasure.
Yes, the validity of the senses is axiomatic in that the senses do not produce contradictions, are not conceptually reducible, are not established by means of proof, are not inferred from prior truths, are implicit throughout all perception and therefore in any knowledge statement (since knowledge is knowledge of reality, and this can be acquired only by specific means). Moreover, the validity of the senses must be assumed, even if only implicitly, in the very act of denying them. Remember that consciousness is an axiom. Since man’s initial means of awareness is perceptual in nature (where perception is the automatic integration of sensory material), the validity of the senses is indeed axiomatic.
Paul did ask "why trust our reasoning?" and although I thought this point was already clear to him, I find that this too needs to be spelled out to him explicitly: I do NOT trust Paul’s reasoning. There have been far too many instances of fallacy and dishonesty in Paul’s attempts to derive conclusions, so much so that what he purports to conclude is usually suspect. The statements of Paul's that I interact with above are a case in point.
Paul says that I "must admit that the senses do, sometimes, deceive us." But I do not accept this for the same reason that I do not accept the question "why trust our senses?" And that reason is quite simply that such a position commits the fallacy of the stolen concept. Paul has conflated sense perception and conceptual identification. There is no such thing as a "deceptive sensation." The tricky part to some things we perceive comes when we intend to identify what we have perceived, and this is a conceptual matter.
Paul’s apologetic is as cheap as it comes. It basically consists of asking a bunch of questions to which we’re all supposed to throw up our hands and say "Duh, I donno! Must be god did it!"