The verse in question:
Psa 139:4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
Some Brief Thoughts
Yesterday’s article was a little tongue-in-cheek. William Birch, instead of answering my points in a rational manner, engaged in a long diatribe. I noticed pretty quickly that all his arguments could equally be made by a fanatic attempting to defend an image of God with wings based on shoddy prooftexts, hinging on little concern for basic principles of reading comprehension, and reinforced with arrogance and self-righteousness.
Literally, Birch scattered his article with claims that his reading was the “prima facie” reading. And here I thought reading comprehension was the tool which instructs people of the “prima facie” reading of a text. Certainly, when I quote an Open Theist using the exact same words as God in Psalms 139, this is not a “prima facie” claim to some sort of omniscience. Birch does not seem to understand this, and instead lashes out that a little girl is not omniscient. That is the point, Mr Birch. Someone with good reading comprehension skills might pick that up. If non-omniscient beings can say a phrase AND it is not a claim for omniscience, then God saying the same phrase COULD also not be a claim for omniscience. The “prima facie” reading just cannot be assumed to be one of omniscience.
I am fairly sure William Birch does not understand what “prima facie” means. It means “on face value”. What is the most natural meaning of the text? One cannot just assume their own reading is the “prima facie” reading of the text. That is what the entire discussion is about. Birch engages in the begging the question fallacy (added to his moralistic fallacy, dignum deo fallacy, hasty generalization fallacy, and equivocation fallacy).
The text in question uses first person pronouns, and Birch actually believes (he really believes this) the “prima facie” reading is that the text should be generalized. What leads you, Mr Birch, to thinking that a Psalm filled with personal pronouns is just directly applicable to everyone? What in the text leads you to believe that was the author’s point? In my blog and podcast on Psalms 139, I detail reasons to believe that this Psalm is just not generally applicable (first person pronouns should be our first giveaway).
Imagine if we came across the following sentence: “I will bring my kids rollerskating tomorrow.” The “prima facie” reading is not one of generalization; only someone with serious reading comprehension problems would claim that “all people everywhere are bringing their children skating tomorrow”. But Birch commits this error, and arrogantly, when he approaches his prooftext. He cares little to hear any other reading, no matter how probable, and no matter how rational.
When I point out the litany of logical fallacies that Birch commits in regards to Psalms 139, this tells us something meaningful about the text. Logical fallacies help us understand what the author most likely meant by informing us on possible and probable meanings. This is all basic reading comprehension, and is not controversial.
Birch claims the following:
When Chris appears in the comments section of any post that is challenging Open Theism, on the Society of Evangelical Arminians Facebook outreach page, one can be certain that, by tone and by polemics, the conversation will devolve into linguistic carnality.
This is an interesting claim because I am a new member of this particular Facebook group. Before my first article about Birch’s dishonesty I was surprised to find that the only thread in which I ever participated was deleted by William Birch. I have since only engaged in one other thread in which Birch falsely accuses me of lying when I say that Birch deleted our prior conversation. So, a reader can gauge Birch’s claims that “any post” in which I engage I devolve the conversation. If defending oneself from Birch’s lies is “linguistic carnality”, I am fine with that. He might be referencing my actions from other groups (which may be more accurate), but one would be hard pressed to find me treating Birch unjustly, as I had always assumed that he was a rational man.
On William Birch’s Malicious Character
In my latest Facebook thread with William Birch (prior to his latest article), he explodes at me for suggesting he deletes threads. In fact, he did delete threads and now admits it with pride! Birch faired very poorly on that online discussion when I tried to ask him very basic reading comprehension questions about Psalms 139. He became angry, and instead of discontinuing his discussion like a well-adjusted adult, deleted and entire thread of hard crafted comments. This took me off-guard because I did not expect such blatantly dishonest and petty behavior. I keep threads by Calvinists screenshoted because this dishonest practice is common among them. It is common on Facebook groups to outlaw this practice as it is rude and disingenuous. I did not expect this serious character deficiency from Birch.
Mr Birch then accused me of lying. He claimed he never deleted any threads (I admitted I did not have the evidence because he deleted it!) and only after I explained the situation did Birch admit to deleting threads. I screenshotted his admission because I was not to be fooled by Birch again. As soon as I mentioned I screenshotted his admission of guilt, he blocked me (displaying more intellectual dishonesty). He never offered any apology for his accusations that I would fabricate such an event.
Intellectual integrity is championed above all else on my blogs, and I take any assault on my intellectual integrity as a serious offense. When reading Birch, he likes to posit all sorts of wild claims without a shred of evidence (note the comment about my activity on a Facebook group in which I have no activity). Birch does not fail to misrepresent and outright lie. The reader should take pause and evaluate who has the cleaner record of intellectual integrity.
Birch claims my demeanor is the reason he deleted the thread, as if that is a valid reason to remove comments or as if tone is not widely misread on online discussions. More accurately, Birch was ignoring specific and direct questions about the text in question. It became a biting embarrassment to him. Again, these were questions on basic reading comprehension.
When Birch accuses me of poor demeanor, the reader will just have to take Birch’s word for it (because he deleted all evidence of the thread!). But I am sure that someone willing to strike an entire conversation from the record is also honest enough to recount it accurately for his own readers (including accurately recounting my “tone”). If Birch has the Facebook notifications to re-create that thread, I will offer him money for them ($50.00) with his permission to publish in full. But I am sure that even if he had the thread, he would not want it published. Such is the life of one so willing to delete entire threads of comments (I wasn’t even the only one commenting on the thread!).
A Job Offer
Birch does his best to highlight any typos in my post. I suspect this is an attempt at an ad hominem fallacy (trying to discredit a person rather than their ideas). If Birch (or anyone else) wishes to accuse me of ad hominem in return, I would direct him to my podcast on logical argumentation. Calling out someone as dishonest is not an ad hominem. Birch’s dishonesty was the point of my first post, my evidence was his behavior along with his ignoring valid counterarguments (now I get to add his most recent post as collaborating evidence). The argument was not to ignore Birch’s arguments because he is dishonest, but the argument was that Birch ignores counterarguments (reflecting on this, maybe he just doesn’t understand them).
Regardless, Birch has done something useful by pointing out my typos. I would like to use this opportunity to extend William Birch a formal proofreading job. Regular readers will notice I have plenty of spelling errors, and the like. Sometimes, to my horror, I negate or fail to negate entire sentences. If Mr Birch were to proofread all my articles and even my book, I would gladly pay him $1.00 per spelling, grammar, or word choice error that he finds. This would have the happy consequence of Mr Birch becoming better exposed to rational argumentation. Everyone is a winner. Only some snark added: Mr Birch, send me your PayPal and I will send you $2.00 for your latest astute proofreading observations. Maybe Birch should have become a professional proofreader? He seems good at it.