No One Falls for It
Do you remember when the judge ruled against you in our lawsuit? (All your friends and family were there.) He threw the book at you! Don’t worry, I have a copy of the legal proceedings and I’ll send you a PDF. The gist of it: you owe me $100,000 and you have to get a tattoo on your forehead saying ‘Balaam’s D is Funkee’ (so true). You have 40 days to comply.
The only way you and your family would accept this claim is if it actually happened. Note how this is intrinsically different than me convincing you that I had a revelation that gave me a PDF demanding your compliance (Islam), or me performing signs and wonders and telling you to accept the PDF on my authority (Christianity).
My chain letter contains a different genus of claim. I’m saying YOU were there. YOU and YOUR FAMILY heard the judge and agreed to his terms.
I’m trying to instill a false memory and starting out with a doozie. You’re not wondering if I’m right; you’re not even tempted. Remember the psychiatrist who spent his savings to rescue a Nigerian princess? That was funny. Admit it. But if it had been this chain letter you’d feel pity for a man so mentally-challenged and rage at anyone cynical enough to design a scam targeting him.
What if I say, “I don’t know if your folks ever discussed this with you, but they intended to make some changes in the will. You have a beautiful house. They wanted me to have it. I’ll send you a PDF of the details. Maybe you forgot? Your mom said you were fragile.” Again, it’s a non-starter. (Right? If not, please leave a comment.)
Does my latest attempt to get rich quick fail because I’m not thinking big enough, or because this scam ignores the foundations of what we know about being human. Man is brutally stupid at times, but the Kuzari Chain Letter is like something out of a Don Rickles routine:
“You’re Polish? You might believe this. Remember that time we were at a bonfire at the beach? You, me, Vincent Price, those surfers, and your lovely wife?” Facepalm. “And a voice from the sky told you to make me your POA? You don’t remember? That’s from all the Turpentine you people drink. Trust me.” (Balaam’s D is .5 Polish. SJWs read this.)
The Torah makes an exponentially more audacious claim and it’s the most successful Kuzari Chain Letter in history. 2,000,000+ people agreed to a legal contract with the non-contingent Source of Reality. There’s an unbroken chain of their descendants who have abided by the terms. Establishing self-authenticating authority, making it absolutely unique among documents claiming revelation status, the “PDF” contains this:
G-d spoke to YOU from the midst of the fire, YOU were hearing the sound of words, but YOU were not seeing a form, only a sound. He told YOU of His covenant, instructing YOU to keep the Ten Commandments, and He inscribed them on two stone tablets.’ (Deut. 4:9-13)
‘YOU have been shown in order to know that G-d, He is the Supreme Being. There is none besides Him. From heaven He let YOU hear His voice in order to teach YOU, and on earth He showed YOU His great fire, and YOU heard His words amid the fire.’ (Deut. 4:32-36)
Moses called ALL of Israel and said to them: ‘Hear, O Israel, the decrees and the ordinances that I speak in your ears today ― learn them, and be careful to perform them. The Lord your G-d sealed a covenant WITH US at Horev [Mount Sinai]. Not with our forefathers did G-d seal this covenant, BUT WITH US ― WE WHO ARE HERE, ALL OF US ALIVE TODAY. Face to face did G-d speak with YOU on the mountain from amid the fire.’ (Deut. 5:1-4)
The 613 clauses and threats for non-compliance are scarcely comparable to my modest attempt to defraud you. This either happened or … what? “Cuz the story evolved, like everything.” Okay, let’s entertain that paradigm, but we can’t just wave the magic amulet IT EVOLVED at all complex phenomena and consider it explained. The Kuzari sets serious hurdles, outlined here by Rabbi Lawrence Keleman. (See the flowchart.)
“At no point between the revelation at Sinai and now does it sound reasonable that someone would be able to pull off the lie, ‘the Torah was given to your direct ancestors, they have been meticulously preserving it for centuries, it is the basis of our existing legal system, G-d revealed himself to every man, woman, and child, and this is the first time you’re hearing about it.'” Best Arguments for Judaism
In Breaking the Spell, Dan Dennett calls for a science of religious memes. Here’s a testable hypothesis. According to evolutionary biologists, the eye evolved independently dozens of times. Successful designs tend to repeat. We should expect to see MANY religious memes clustered around the epistemic roots of a national revelation, especially given the fiercely tribal nature of religion. This is a design that worked.
We don’t. It’s like discovering that only lions developed claws. The evolution-did-it explanation, as applied to religious memes, makes a falsifiable prediction that happens to be false. If I’m misunderstanding Karl Popper, leave a comment.
ALL western religions presuppose the Kuzari. They just don’t like talking about it. Notice how William Craig goes from the Kalaam Cosmological straight to what 51% of atheist NT scholars say about an empty tomb. And not only Craig. How often do you hear advocates of other religions discuss the OOMPH of a national revelation? If you’ve never heard of the Kuzari argument before, ask yourself why. Maybe that’s due to what the Ultimate Revelation says about sequels.
Think of the Kuzari PDF as a LEGAL DOCUMENT. That’s what it claims to be.
There is a legal concept called a self authenticating document. This is a document in which the facts were not in dispute at the time of the drafting of the document, and not point in the chain of custody is there suspicion of alteration at any point in time since then. Legal documents and newspapers are prime examples of this, because they are authoritative at the time they are drafted, there are no objections at that time, and they can be verified to be free of corruption. (ShamanSTK has a SATORI-inducing sketch)
If the road you followed led you to this …
“According, then, as He has preordained some men from eternity, so that they are directed to their ultimate end, He is said to have predestined them. Hence, the Apostle says, in Ephesians (1:5): ‘Who predestinated us unto the adoption of children… according to the purpose of His will.’ On the other hand, those to whom He has decided from eternity not to give His grace He is said to have reprobated or to have hated, in accord with what we find in Malachi (1:2-3): ‘I have loved Jacob, but have hated Esau.’ By reason of this distinction, according to which He has reprobated some and predestined others, we take note of divine election, which is mentioned in Ephesians (1:4): ‘He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world.'” Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica and Contra Gentiles
“All things whatever arise from, and depend on, the divine appointment; whereby it was foreordained who should receive the word of life, and who should disbelieve it; who should be delivered from their sins, and who should be hardened in them; and who should be justified and who should be condemned.”
“You may be worried that it is hard to defend the mercy and equity of God in damning the undeserving, that is, ungodly persons, who, being born in ungodliness, can by no means avoid being ungodly, and staying so, and being damned, but are compelled by natural necessity to sin and perish; as Paul says: ‘We were all the children of wrath, even as others’ (Eph.2.3), created such by God Himself from a seed that had been corrupted by the sin of the one man, Adam. But here God must be reverenced and held in awe, as being most merciful to those whom He justifies and saves in their own utter unworthiness; and we must show some measure of deference to His Divine wisdom by believing Him just when to us He seems unjust. … This question touches on the secrets of His Majesty, where ‘His judgments are past finding out’ (cf. Rom.11.33). It is not for us to inquire into these mysteries, but to adore them.” Martin Luther
“The condemnation of the non-elect is designed primarily to furnish an eternal exhibition, before men and angels, of God’s hatred for sin, or, in other words, it is to be an eternal manifestation of the justice of God. … This decree of reprobation also serves subordinate purposes in regard to the elect; for, in beholding the rejection and final state of the wicked, (1) they learn what they too would have suffered had not grace stepped in to their relief, and they appreciate more deeply the riches of divine love which raised them from sin and brought them into eternal life while others no more guilty or unworthy than they were left to eternal destruction.” Lorraine Boettner
“Hell is a place whose inhabitants are sovereignly and unconditionally chosen and created by God for damnation … in which God actively causes endless, conscious, and extreme torment for its inhabitants … in which God displays his justice, righteousness, wrath, and power, and through which he glorifies himself.” Vincent Cheung
When they shall see the misery of the damned, it will give them a greater sense of the distinguishing grace and love of God to them, that God should from all eternity set his love on them, and make so great a difference between them and others who are of the same species with them, are no worse by nature than they, and have deserved no worse of God than they. When they shall look upon the misery of the damned, and consider how different their own state is from theirs, and that it is only free and sovereign grace that makes the difference, what a great sense will this give them of the wonderful grace of God to them! And how will it heighten their praises! With how much greater admiration and exultation of soul will they sing of the free and sovereign grace of God to them! Jonathan Edwards
“The vessels that were created to dishonor in Romans 9:21 are called “vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction” in verse 22. These are vessels that God, the Sovereign Potter, made to be objects of His everlasting wrath. They are objects of His wrath while they are living, and they are objects of His wrath when He punishes them eternally in hell. They have been the objects of His wrath from before the foundation of the world, when He unconditionally chose them to be reprobates. In time, He unconditionally hardens them, and then He damns them for their sin, all in His righteous, holy, and just plan.” Marc Carpenter
“Do you think that I like to see wicked people die?” says the Sovereign LORD. “Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.” (Ezekiel 18:23)
And God saw their deeds, that they had repented of their evil way, and the Lord relented concerning the evil that He had spoken to do to them, and He did not do it. (Jonah 3:10)