Is It Fair to Expect Inerrancy from the Bible When We Don’t Expect It from Other Sources?

In the comment thread of my last post, some of us mentioned that it’s hard for us to understand the point of view of Christians who believe the Bible can be inspired by God, without holding to the doctrine of inerrancy. unkleE left the following comment:

How is it that in everything else in life – whether it be ethics, or politics, relationships, science, history, law, even disbelief – we are willing to make decisions based on non-inerrant evidence and reasoning, but when it is belief in God we require inerrant evidence? I reckon your first thought might be that the stakes are so much higher. But that logic applies to disbelief as well. If we applied that logic, no-one would be an atheist because they didn’t have inerrant knowledge for that conclusion. You would not have any belief either way until you gained inerrant knowledge.

He then suggested that I might want to do a post on this topic (you’re reading it!), but there were also a couple of other comments that I think are worth including here. nonsupernaturalist said this:

My answer would be that ethics, politics, relationships, science, history, and law do not involve supernatural claims. When someone makes a supernatural claim, the standard of evidence required by most educated people in the western world to believe that claim is much, much higher than a claim involving natural evidence.

Let’s look at “history”. If someone tells me that most historians believe that Caesar crossed the Rubicon or that Alexander the Great sacked the city of Tyre, I accept those claims without demanding a great deal of evidence. However, if someone claims that the Buddha caused a water buffalo to speak in a human language for over one half hour or that Mohammad rode on a winged horse to heaven, I am going to demand MASSIVE quantities of evidence to believe these claims.

I think that most Christians would agree with my thinking, here, until I make the same assertion regarding the bodily Resurrection of Jesus. Then Christians will shake their heads in disgust and accuse me of being biased and unreasonable.

No. I am not being biased and unreasonable. I am being consistent. It is the Christian who is being inconsistent: demanding more evidence to believe the supernatural claims of other religions than he or she demands of his own.

And it isn’t just supernatural claims. Most educated people in the western world would demand much more evidence for very rare natural claims than we would for non-rare natural claims.

Imagine if someone at work tells you that his sister just gave birth to twins. How much evidence would you demand to believe this claim? Probably not much. You would probably take the guy’s word for it. Now imagine if the same coworker tells you that, yesterday, in the local hospital, his sister gave birth to twelve babies! Would you take the guy’s word for it? I doubt it.

So it isn’t that we skeptics are biased against Christianity or even that we are biased against the supernatural. We are simply applying the same reason, logic, and skepticism to YOUR very extra-ordinary religious claim that we apply to ALL very rare, extra-ordinary claims, including very rare, extraordinary natural claims.

And Arkenaten said this:

I cannot fathom how you can disregard something like Noah’s Ark as nonsense and yet accept that a narrative construct called Jesus of Nazareth could come back from the dead.


Personally, I feel very much the same way that nonsupernaturalist does. The first part of unkleE’s question that I’d like to address is his statement about nonbelief:

If we applied that logic, no-one would be an atheist because they didn’t have inerrant knowledge for that conclusion.

I think this depends on what one means by “atheism.” I’m not really interested in trying to determine what the official definition of the term is; rather, I’d like to make sure we’re all talking about the same thing within the confines of this discussion. When I refer to myself as an atheist, I simply mean that I don’t believe any of the proposed god claims that I’ve encountered. I’m not necessarily saying that I think no gods exist, period. And if I were to say that, I’d give the caveat that I could easily be wrong about such a belief. This notion of atheism, the position that one hasn’t been convinced of any god claims, is often referred to as “weak atheism” or “soft atheism.” Personally, I think that should be everyone’s default position. No one should be a Muslim, a Hindu, or a Christian until he or she has been convinced that the god(s) of that particular religion exist(s). If we didn’t operate in this way, then we’d all immediately accept the proposition of every religion we encountered, until its claims could be disproven. This would make most of us Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, pagans, and atheists all at the same time. Obviously, that’s ridiculous. So on those grounds, I don’t agree with unkleE’s assertion that we would need inerrant information to not believe something.

Furthermore, when it comes to the claims of Christianity, I can accept or reject them completely independently of what I think about the existence of god(s). Many times, discussions about the evidence for and against Christianity slide into discussions about whether or not a god exists. People bring up the cosmological and teleological arguments. While those discussions can be important, I think they are really just distractions when we’re talking about a specific religion. I’m okay conceding that a god might exist, so I’d rather focus on the pros and cons of Christianity to see if it could possibly be true. After all, it could be the case that God is real, but Christianity is false.

unkleE’s comment started like this:

How is it that in everything else in life – whether it be ethics, or politics, relationships, science, history, law, even disbelief – we are willing to make decisions based on non-inerrant evidence and reasoning, but when it is belief in God we require inerrant evidence?

To piggy-back off the comments I just made, I don’t necessarily require inerrant evidence to believe in God. I think the necessity for inerrancy comes from the kind of god being argued for. The Abrahamic religions teach that there is one God who is supreme. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, completely just, etc. I know there are sometimes caveats placed on those labels. For instance, can God create a rock so large that he can’t lift it? Arguments like that illustrate that being all-powerful doesn’t mean he’s outside the laws of logic. And the same goes for all-knowing. It’s sometimes argued that he knows all that can be known… perhaps there are some things that can’t be known? The waters can get muddy pretty quickly, so I think it’s best to refer back to the religion’s source material (the Bible, in this case) to learn more about the characteristics of this god.

In the Bible, God seems to be big on proofs. When God wanted Noah to build an ark, he spoke to him directly. Noah didn’t have to decide between a handful of prophets each telling him different things — God made sure that Noah knew exactly what was required of him. The same was done for Abraham when God wanted him to move into the land of Canaan, and when God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac. When God called Moses to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, he also spoke directly to Moses. And on top of that, he even offered additional proofs by performing signs for Moses. And when Moses appeared before Pharaoh, God again used signs to show Pharaoh that Moses did indeed speak on God’s behalf. Miraculous signs were used throughout the period of time that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. And we can fast forward to the time of Gideon and see that God used signs as evidence then as well. Throughout the Old Testament, signs were given to people to show God’s involvement and desires. There are even examples where God punished those who listened to false prophets who hadn’t shown such signs, such as the man of God who listened to the instruction of an old prophet who was actually lying to him. God sent a lion to kill the man (I Kings 13:11-32).

The New Testament is no different. Jesus and his apostles perform all kinds of miracles as evidence of Jesus’s power. When the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan, he pointed out how nonsensical that would be, showing that such miracles were intended as a display of God’s approval (Matt 12:24-28). And the Gospel of John also argues that these miracles were intended as evidence:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
— John 20:30-31

Not only did Jesus and his disciples use miracles to make their case, they also appealed to Scripture. Throughout the New Testament, you find references to the Old: “as it is written,” “as spoken by the prophet,” etc. That in itself doesn’t necessarily make the case for inerrancy, but it at least shows that they expected the scriptures to be accurate.

If God cared so much during the time periods talked about in the Bible, why wouldn’t he care just as much today? How can Jesus say that “not one jot or tittle of the law will pass away” if God’s not really all that concerned about how accurate the “jots” and “tittles” are? And yes, like unkleE said in his comment, I do think the fact that the stakes are tremendously high on this question makes it that much more necessary to have good evidence. While the Bible gives us countless examples of those who received direct communication from God or one of his representatives, we find ourselves living in a time when we’re surrounded by competing claims about which god is true, and which doctrines are the right ones. I used to believe that the one tool we had to cut through all that noise was the Bible. It was the one source we could go to to find what God wanted from us. And we could trust that it was his word because of the amazing prophecy fulfillments that it contained and that despite its length and antiquity, it was completely without error. In other words, I thought it was a final miracle to last throughout the ages. And because of its existence and availability, we no longer needed individuals who went around performing miracles and spreading the gospel.

That’s how I saw the world. Of course, since then, I’ve discovered that the Bible doesn’t live up to that high standard. I have many other posts that deal with its various problems, so I won’t try to detail them now. But I simply don’t see how the God portrayed in the Bible, a god who is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, etc, would inspire individuals to write down his incredibly important message to all of mankind, yet not make sure they relay it completely accurately. It doesn’t always agree with itself, it contains historical and scientific mistakes, and sometimes it advocates things that are outright immoral. It’s understandable why a number of people would fail to be convinced by such a book; therefore, it would be impossible for an all-loving and completely just God to punish people when they’re merely trying to avoid the same fate as the man of God who trusted the old (false) prophet.

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327 thoughts on “Is It Fair to Expect Inerrancy from the Bible When We Don’t Expect It from Other Sources?

  1. No matter how thoroughly the case is laid out – and you do it better than most – the main protagonist of this post will, if he shows, likely ”beat you down”.

    Which is not the same as prove your case wrong. Quite the contrary, in fact

    I have never seen William Lane Craig win a debate and he hasn’t changed his methodology or delivery style since he began.

    Yet science and archaeology have moved on in leaps and bounds, trashing every one of the foundational tenets of Christianity. . And WLC is still in ”business”.
    And so is unkleE.

    All the same, if honesty prevails this post should be interesting.

    Like

  2. I find the mark to have been missed. The “inerrancy of the bible” is a relatively modern term. In the first 1500 years of Christianity, scripture was scripture and your opinion of it did not matter one bit. Not until the Protestant Rebellion did the idea of “I don’ need no stinking priest to tell me what the Bible says” come around. Of course, it took several centuries to make bibles available in languages people could read (they kept burning translators at the stake, you see). But then, when people had a bible they could read, then the discussions began. Not all of the Protestant sects, though, went the route of inerrant scripture.

    The problem of scripture didn’t exist until there was a population who could read and bibles made available in those languages. So, around 1850 or so was the first time such a claim could have been put forth (or needed to).

    Until the Enlightenment, nobody was willing to challenge the authority of the Church (the Church, not scripture because only a few knew it). There was no upside and you could end up rapidly dead condemned as a heretic.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. To me, the doctrine of inerrancy is clear evidence that American fundamentalist Christianity is a cult.

    We use “inspired” for other things than scripture. When we say that something or someone was inspired, we are usually talking about the main idea. We are not talking about the specific words, or even about the expanded details. We are only talking about the main idea. So is is quite possible to think of scripture as inspired, without expecting it to be inerrant.

    One of the core principles of evangelical Christianity is supposed to be “Sola Scriptura”. According to this principle, the scripture alone is your source and guide. If the Pope says something, then check it out. If your pastor says something, then check it out.

    Inerrancy does not come from scripture. That believing the leadership of your group has become a core component of fundamentalism, is what makes it look like a cult.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on A Tale Unfolds and commented:
    After comments on a previous post questioning the integrity of many christians about how they can disregard the supernatural claims of the Old Testament – Adam and Eve, Noah, Exodus etc, – yet accept without blinking the resurrection claims concerning the character, Jesus of Nazareth, Nate Owens has laid out another excellent post. Definitely worth a read if only to watch the inevitable fur fly!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the comment. I see the issue slightly differently.

    First, I of course agree with you that we use the term “inspiration” in the other ways that you mentioned, and in those cases we don’t expect anything like perfection or inerrancy. Now, I see scripture the same way. I think the writers were inspired by the idea of God, which says nothing about how accurate their ideas were. However, the Bible seems to indicate that these writers were inspired in a different way — as 2 Pet 1:21 says:

    For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

    This is speaking solely about prophecy and may not apply to the rest of the Bible. Even so, we know that the Bible isn’t always accurate when it comes to prophecy, so what are we to make of this? Perhaps the writer of 2 Peter is just off the mark, and other Christians of his time wouldn’t have agreed with his view of inspiration. But then why include 2 Peter in the canon? And what good are prophecies if divine knowledge isn’t somehow involved?

    And there’s the passage everyone always comes back to in discussions about inspiration:

    All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
    — 2 Tim 3:16-17

    What does this mean? I know there’s disagreement about what constitutes “scripture” in this passage, but what does it mean for the scriptures in question to be “breathed out by God”?

    If the writers of the Bible were only “inspired” in the normal sense, and we’re not to assume that this meant God was literally directing their thoughts, then what reason do we have for accepting any of the wild claims they make? I know you’re not arguing that Christianity is true, btw. But since the concept of inerrancy seems to be missing the mark in your view, can you explain why Christians find the Bible convincing when it talks about the miraculous, or anything of a spiritual nature that normal humans couldn’t know?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi, Nate. Thanks for replying.

    On prophecy: The bible also talks of false prophets. So perhaps we can take it as saying that prophecy is true except when it is false. And that doesn’t say anything at all.

    On the 2 Tim reference: It’s my impression that too much is read into that. I’m assuming (or guessing) that “breathed out by God” was just a commonplace saying at the time, but not intended to imply inerrancy.

    On miracles: I can’t really read people’s minds. As a child, I accepted my pastor’s word about those. But it was a tentative acceptance, and I retained doubt. As I grew older, my doubt increased. People have a way of saying that common place events are miracles, and of then exaggerating them. In the case of casting out demons, it looked like a description if schizophrenia, but it’s not surprising that people would think of that as demon possession. I do wonder about people who accept the miracles — do they really accept them, or are they just not admitting to having some doubt?

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  7. Perhaps one more comment.

    Growing up, I took it that if the Bible was to be a guide, then it could not be absurd. It had to be mostly consistent with experience. And I guess I used that as a guide to interpretation. For example, the Adam and Eve story was absurd, unless it was taken to be something like a fable. And similarly for the Noah’s ark story and the story of Jonah.

    Perhaps I was not supposed to take it that way. Yet, if Sola Scriptura was to be the principle, then I was entitled to come to my own conclusions about that.

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  8. nonsupernaturalist

    How many times have we skeptics heard conservative/moderate Christians complain that we skeptics are being unfair to the Bible; that the Bible should be evaluated/judged in the same manner as any other book from Antiquity; that that Bible should not be held to a higher standard.

    Ok. Let’s do that. Let’s stop demanding the Bible be perfect (inerrant). Let’s accept that many good books written by human beings down through the ages contain some errors. Let’s treat the Bible no differently than the works of Homer, for example.

    But if we are going to do that, Christians, to be consistent, should agree to the following: The supernatural claims of the Bible should be taken no more/no less seriously than the supernatural claims of Homer. And, Christians must commit that from now on, no one will be threatened with some form of eternal punishment for refusing to worship and obey the gods of Homer…or the god of the Christians.

    How many Christians will agree to this?

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the reply. I think that a lot of this must just come down to how each of us was raised. To me, the miraculous stories in the Bible (Adam and Eve, Noah, 6 day creation, talking donkey, etc) weren’t hard to believe, because God could do anything. I knew they were fantastical, but the fulfilled prophecies of the Bible (among other things) made me think we could trust it. Once the Bible didn’t pan out, I just didn’t have any other reason to believe. I had never really had any kind of personal experience, and I was already troubled by certain doctrines (Hell, genocide, etc). So that was it for me.

    I still feel like it makes sense to assume that a perfect God would want his message relayed perfectly… but I can see where some people wouldn’t leap to that conclusion if they don’t think inspiration involved anything supernatural.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. nonsupernaturalist

    Nate,

    I think you have pointed out a very important issue.

    I have noticed in my discussions with Christians on the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, that underneath their belief in the strength of the Resurrection evidence itself is another belief: the Resurrection is the most probable explanation for the early Christian Resurrection belief due to the “fact” that Jesus fulfilled so many prophecies.

    The writers of the Gospels, especially, “Matthew”, were extremely clever: “How can we get skeptical non-believers to buy the Resurrection story? We’ve got it! We can find (invent) prophecies in the OT that point to Jesus!”

    If Christians would study these prophecies, reading the works of Jewish scholars, they would see that these OT prophecies allegedly about Jesus are definitely NOT about Jesus.

    It is one big House of Cards.

    Pull out one card, and it all comes crashing down.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Hi Nate, thanks for having a go at this question. You won’t be shocked to hear that I don’t think you have answered it satisfactorily, so I won’t even apologise. 🙂 Here’s four reasons why I think this.

    1. Most of the examples you give, from OT and NT, don’t require inerrancy at all. You use words like “proofs”, “signs”, “display”, etc, which are all words about evidence, not inerrant evidence. And I agree with you that we need evidence to believe things!

    The only place I could see where anything you said required inerrant information was when you said: ”I used to believe that the one tool we had to cut through all that noise was the Bible.” You go onto describe how you used to believe it was without error, but I didn’t see anything there to justify WHY you felt you needed that, and ordinary levels of information would be insufficient – which is the point we are discussing.

    2. At the start you discuss disbelief and unbelief, and make the point that not believing in God is not the same as believing there is no God. You say you say ”I don’t believe any of the proposed god claims that I’ve encountered.” I agree with you that getting lost in definitions is pointless, but I think there is an easy way to resolve this.

    Consider two related propositions:

    P1: “God exists.” (Or if you like, consider “The christian God exists.”)
    P2: “No gods exist.” (Or “The christian God doesn’t exist.”)

    Now, would you assign approximately the same probabilities to each proposition? Or would you give a greater level of assent to P2 than P1?

    Unless you assign approximately 50% probability to each proposition, then you do indeed have a belief in the proposition you assign that larger probability to. I’d be interested in your answer here.

    3. You say: ”I do think the fact that the stakes are tremendously high on this question makes it that much more necessary to have good evidence.” I agree with you here. It’s risk assessment. If the risk is greater, then the need to ameliorate the risk is greater. My problem is (again) that “good evidence” does not = “inerrant evidence”.

    Your statement here is somewhat like the old adage: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” There are two problems with this. (i) How can we define extraordinary claims in a way that is fair and doesn’t pre-judge the question? (ii) What actually is extraordinary evidence? Consider a few examples.

    If I tell my wife I’ve just won a lottery in which a billion tickets have been sold, this was a 1 in a billion chance, quite extraordinary odds, but I don’t need extraordinary evidence to demonstrate – just a very ordinary ticket. So low probability events don’t necessarily require extraordinary evidence. (Of course I know someone must win, but the probability of it being me is very low.)

    If someone who is dying of cancer is prayed for and healed, we don’t need any more extraordinary evidence than simply seeing them alive and well.

    Sherlock Holmes once said: ””Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” The point is that when investigating something, we don’t need extraordinary evidence, only enough evidence to make one option more probable than any of the others.

    So I suggest that all we need for any of these claims is sufficient appropriate evidence.So again, I feel you have only shown why we need evidence, not why in the case of theism (or atheism) we need extraordinary, inerrant evidence.

    4. Finally, in a comment you ask: ”what does it mean for the scriptures in question to be “breathed out by God”?” As you would be aware, this is much argued over. The Greek word isn’t used elsewhere in the NT, but there are several places in the Bible when God is said to have “breathed” (e.g. Ezekiel 37:1-4, John 20:21-23), and in each case he breathed into something that already existed and gave it new life. On this interpretation, God enlivens the human writings and uses them to reveal truth, thus saying more about our reading than the original writing. This is probably not the dominant view in Christianity, but it is definitely more than a fringe view.

    So I don’t think you have justified at all your need for “inerrant” information about God, but not about anything else, even your disbelief. And on a practical level, it wouldn’t help anyway. None of us has inerrant hearing, recall, reasoning, etc, so even if we were given inerrant information our processing of it would be flawed. Add to that the problem that inerrantists generally don’t believe the transmission and translation is inerrant, and we are actually talking about something that is close to meaningless, I think.

    Sorry this has been so long, but I think the ideas are worth discussing. Thanks again.

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  12. As one can see, unkleE has offered a hand wave response that answers pretty much nothing.

    Nonsupernaturalist made an excellent point re: innerancy and the lack of integrity of Christians.
    As he refuses to reply to me I wonder if someone on this thread, Nate, Nonsupenarturalist would ask unkleE why he gladly accepts that Genesis is myth/fiction, yet considers the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth ( and one can presume Lazarus as well) to be the best explanation based on the ”evidence”.

    Thanks.

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  13. P1: “God exists.” (Or if you like, consider “The christian God exists.”)
    P2: “No gods exist.” (Or “The christian God doesn’t exist.”)

    unkleE, you left out Nate’s P3, “I don’t believe any of the proposed god claims that I’ve encountered. I’m not necessarily saying that I think no gods exist, period.”

    ” but I don’t need extraordinary evidence to demonstrate – just a very ordinary ticket. So low probability events don’t necessarily require extraordinary evidence.”

    No it is not just a very ordinary ticket. It is THE ONLY ticket which has the winning numbers out of 1 billion tickets sold.

    “If someone who is dying of cancer is prayed for and healed, we don’t need any more extraordinary evidence than simply seeing them alive and well.”

    Wrong again unkleE. We have NO evidence that Prayer had anything to do with recovering from cancer.

    It’s all about how one frames their arguments.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. nonsupernaturalist,

    Christians, to be consistent, should agree to the following: The supernatural claims of the Bible should be taken no more/no less seriously than the supernatural claims of Homer. And, Christians must commit that from now on, no one will be threatened with some form of eternal punishment for refusing to worship and obey the gods of Homer…or the god of the Christians.

    How many Christians will agree to this?

    If Christians lose their Christianity, how can they be made Christian again?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Inerrancy wouldn’t prove that a perfect god wrote it, but it would be more convincing than the suggestion that a book, littered with errors (imperfect), was authored by a perfect god.

    Comets, Typhoons, lighting and earthquakes were all, once upon a time, thought to be caused by the gods or by God, but have been shown to be very natural, as opposed to supernatural, phenomena.

    Also, we know that many so called miracle workers have been shown to be charlatans and frauds. We know that people have been tricked all though history into believing they saw or witnessed something that ended up being shown to be an illusion or a lie.

    We know all of that, and I cannot think of one instance where the opposite happened, where anything had been proven to actually be supernatural…

    So with the bible, it’s not just that it has errors, it’s that when many of the errors are with things that would have been easy fixes, things that we can easily check out today, when those things are shown to be wrong, how can we have much faith in the larger than life supernatural claims, when time and again supernatural claims have been shown to be mistakes or lies and shown to be either non-existent or misidentified natural occurrences?

    Like

  16. Hey unkleE,

    Thanks for the comment. And you’re right — no need to apologize at all! 😉 I’ve decided to respond to your points a little out of order:

    2) You said:

    P1: “God exists.” (Or if you like, consider “The christian God exists.”)
    P2: “No gods exist.” (Or “The christian God doesn’t exist.”)

    Now, would you assign approximately the same probabilities to each proposition? Or would you give a greater level of assent to P2 than P1?

    P2 makes two very different statements, in my opinion. “No gods exist” is something I’d be very agnostic about simply because there’s so much information we don’t have. But “the Christian God doesn’t exist” is a very different premise. There have been many specific claims made about this god, which makes me quite confident is agreeing with the premise and presumably makes you quite confident in denying it.

    But again, let me stress that I think the more important question is not whether a god exists, but whether Christianity is truly a divinely revealed religion.

    1) “which are all words about evidence, not inerrant evidence. “

    That’s a good point. However, all those signs worked, right? I can’t think of any examples where one of God’s messengers tried to perform a miracle that God wanted them to do, but it didn’t work. Even when Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it (and seemingly took on some of the credit for himself too), God still caused water to come out of it. If any of those signs hadn’t worked, isn’t it possible that it would have caused the people to doubt?

    In the same way, if the Bible is from God, and God is perfect, shouldn’t we expect his message to be perfect? If it’s not, doesn’t that make it easier to question?

    3) You said:

    Your statement here is somewhat like the old adage: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” There are two problems with this. (i) How can we define extraordinary claims in a way that is fair and doesn’t pre-judge the question? (ii) What actually is extraordinary evidence?

    Let’s talk about your lottery ticket example. Yes, the odds of winning are 1 in a billion, so it’s hard to believe that you won. However, someone is going to win, and that’s why showing the winning ticket is enough to prove your case.

    In the praying for a person dying of cancer example, kc is right — there’s likely not enough evidence to conclude that prayer is what saved the person. Why Won’t God Heal Amputees? illustrates how questionable a “prayer did it” conclusion would have to be.

    You mentioned the Sherlock Holmes quote, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” But the problem we run into is in determining what’s possible and what’s not. Isn’t it impossible for a person to be completely dead, but come back to life? Isn’t it impossible for a person to walk on liquid water? This is why if someone wants to posit that the impossible actually happened (a miracle, in other words), then yes, it would definitely take extraordinary evidence. I’m not completely sure what would constitute “extraordinary evidence,” but I guess God would know and could provide it.

    After your 4th point, you said:

    And on a practical level, [“inerrant” information] wouldn’t help anyway. None of us has inerrant hearing, recall, reasoning, etc, so even if we were given inerrant information our processing of it would be flawed. Add to that the problem that inerrantists generally don’t believe the transmission and translation is inerrant, and we are actually talking about something that is close to meaningless, I think.

    I actually agree with you here. This is another reason why I find Christianity unbelievable. To me, it makes no sense that a God with the Christian god’s power set, who really wants us to do some specific things, would decide to relay his wishes to us in such a poor fashion. Most people throughout human history have been illiterate. And most of those who could read couldn’t read Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Furthermore, most of them never had access to the books in the Bible, anyway. On top of that, as you said, we know there have been problems in the transmission and translation of the books. And people are notoriously bad about misunderstanding the things they read. It’s hard to think of a worse strategy for communicating, other than maybe smoke signals.

    Thanks again for weighing in. I hope this comment helps clarify my position a bit more…

    Liked by 4 people

  17. When I hear something, I’m not sure that I usually place it within a formula to see if I choose to believe it or not, rather I feel like I’m simply convinced or not convinced based on prior experiences, knowledge, event/claim and source. and those factors tend to change and evolve over time.

    Similar to the example of birthing twins or 12 babies by nonsupernaturalist earlier, I’ve said before that if a close and trusted friend told me that he saw a deer in the woods with 10 horns on one side of its antlers and only 6 on the other, I’d think that was interesting, but I’d probably believe him.

    I’d believe him because I know and trust him and because such a deer wouldn’t be supernatural even if it were out of the norm.

    If a person I knew, with a reputation for “big fish” stories, told the same thing, I most likely wouldn’t belief the claim from him, at least not at his word. I’d have to see some photos or the body, etc.

    If a stranger told the story, I’d likely be skeptical, although I may not dismiss it out right.

    But, if my close a trusted friend told me that he’d seen bigfoot in the woods, I wouldn’t believe him. I may not think he was lying. I’d probably think that he saw something, but that he just misidentified what he saw – an honest mistake, but still a mistake.

    If a stranger or a known liar told me that they saw bigfoot, I wouldn’t believe it. Photos, hair samples, foot molds, video – wouldn’t convince me. Those can and have been faked. It would take an actual body. It would take an actual first hand encounter to buy it – and a bigfoot wouldn’t even be supernatural.

    So the bible has known and obvious errors. Some claims, like dead people coming back to life and flying away, or a virgin woman having a son, are too grand, too supernatural, too superstitious to believe on the word of stranger; a stranger who’s written mistakes before; a stranger who’s making grandiose claims that are similar to those of many other, competing religions. And many times, these strangers are writing well after the alleged events took place.

    So the bible has errors, the bible is claimed to be from a perfect god, and it claims unbelievable events that even Christians wouldn’t believe from another religion. I’m no longer thinking, “why should I believe it,” but rather, “how can anyone believe it?”

    Liked by 1 person

  18. nonsupernaturalist

    UnkleE: Consider two related propositions:

    P1: “God exists.” (Or if you like, consider “The christian God exists.”)
    P2: “No gods exist.” (Or “The christian God doesn’t exist.”)

    Now, would you assign approximately the same probabilities to each proposition? Or would you give a greater level of assent to P2 than P1?

    Unless you assign approximately 50% probability to each proposition, then you do indeed have a belief in the proposition you assign that larger probability to. I’d be interested in your answer here.

    Gary (nonsupernaturalist): This statement presupposes that it is wrong for human beings to give a greater probability to two possible events; that doing so proves that one is biased. This is false.
    Personal experience and collective human experience has given each one of us an internal “probability guide”. For instance, how many of us (who live in the United States) stop before crossing every bridge in the United States, requesting to see the latest safety inspection report for each bridge?

    No one. Based on personal and collective experience, we trust that the bridges in the United States are safe.

    Now, transport us to a third world country; to the hinterland of that country, and set us in front of a rickety, old, wooden bridge that creaks, sways, and pieces of board give way and fall thousands of feet to the bottom of a deep ravine when the car ahead of you crosses it. So what’s the problem? It is a bridge. You have crossed thousands of bridges in your life and not one has collapsed, why worry about this one?

    The problem is that you have never experienced seeing a bride sway, creak, and lose pieces of wood prior to driving over it. This is an “extra-ordinary” bridge. You are justified in being wary of it. You are justified in demanding extraordinary evidence to believe that this bridge is safe for you to cross.

    And so with the claims of the Bible. You have never seen, nor has anyone you know ever seen, a three-day-dead body walk out of his grave. You are very justified in being very skeptical of this claim and demanding extra-ordinary evidence to believe it.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. nonsupernaturalist

    (continued)

    And the same logic can be applied to the question of the existence of the Christian god, Yahweh. Since neither you nor anyone you know has ever seen or heard Yahweh, you are justified to demand very extra-ordinary evidence to believe that Yahweh exists.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. nonsupernaturalist

    I believe that we skeptics have effectively demonstrated above that our skepticism regarding the extra-ordinary claims of the Bible are not based on a bias against Christianity but based on the same use of intuitive probability assessment that UnkleE and every other Christian uses in every other area of their lives…including crossing bridges. The ball is now in UnkleE’s court to demonstrate why we skeptics should “turn off” our intuitive probability “estimator” for one specific category of extra-ordinary claims: Christianity’s extra-ordinary claims.

    I am defining “extra-ordinary” as any event which most educated people would consider extremely rare in occurrence in the course of collective human history and everyday personal experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. @Nonsupernaturalist

    The ball is now in UnkleE’s court to demonstrate why we skeptics should “turn off” our intuitive probability “estimator” for one specific category of extra-ordinary claims: Christianity’s extra-ordinary claims.

    But UnkleE is a skeptic too, and does not credit (many of the miraculous events in the Pentateuch) as having any degree of veracity. Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark …

    He accepts the scientific findings and considers a Creationist perspective on these two events ( among others) to be myth and he is on record as stating they have no bearing on his faith in Jesus Christ!

    So you see, he has spent the better part of his Christian life feeling quite comfortable ( by the evidence of his own words) to cherry pick his faith until it ”fits”.

    What on earth make you believe he ( and any other indoctrinated believer) is going to:
    ” demonstrate why (we) skeptics should “turn off” our intuitive probability “estimator” for one specific category of extra-ordinary claims: Christianity’s extra-ordinary claims” and tell the truth when he has been basically conning (lying to) himself since the word go?

    Like

  22. I identify with Gary’s comment on the Iliad. There’s lots of supernatural, deity stuff in there, which no one believes, even if later evidence of Troy has been found or evidence of key characters becomes uncovered in the future.

    Evidence of correct places and people do not dictate that everything in a text is correct.

    We all agree with, even UnkleE, i’d think.

    What I have trouble gripping, is why the OT stuff is wrong, but the NT miracles related to Jesus, including resurrection, must be real because most scholars think the man Jesus was a real guy, and that some people way back then (a small minority of the population) believed Jesus was a healer.

    isnt it possible for Jesus to be a real guy, but also not really the son of virgin and not the literal son of god? Isnt it possible for Jesus to have been a real guy who inspired some people, people who later began to spread legendary tales about him?

    I don’t think Matthew was malicious. If it’s even the real Matthew, I bet he was confused, scared and mourning and turned to deep prayer and study of the scriptures he had. I think it’s easy to imagine how someone so devoted, who’s so confused and suffering from real grief, began seeing connections in the scriptures where none were really intended. And, as it turns out, this is quite plausible and is quite natural, requiring no supernatural events, no bigfoots, no alien space crafts, no Goddesses helping Achilles defeat to Hector, just a human, who’s misled by his heart, who made a series of mistakes despite the best of intentions.

    proof? No, it’s a theory. But mine is backed up by more observable evidence of human nature and experience, while the resurrection relies on supernatural events that were spread and written during a superstitious time.

    How does the presence of absurd supernatural claims and verifiable errors not make one question things like dead people coming back to life and flying off?

    How does one not question the author who claims about a personal knowledge of God’s will, after we’ve seen that author make several mistakes? Even if we were to all believe in the christian god, how could we trust what any of these guys have said about him? many of the things they claim about god are unverifiable, while many of things that are verifiable have been wrong

    “Oh, you wrong here, here and there, but now that you’re telling me how to go to gold road heaven, I feel like you’re absolutely correct in that area…”

    I’m having a difficult time.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. “How does the presence of absurd supernatural claims and verifiable errors not make one question things like dead people coming back to life and flying off?”

    It is possible for some Christians to have an “Ah Ha” moment. Others never will. I think this process will just have to happen through attrition .

    Like

  24. Hi Nate, before I respond to anything else you have said, I’d like to clarify your position on my two propositions P1 and P2 please.

    You prefer the version that addresses the christian God, so let’s go with that. And to clarify still further, let’s define “the christian God” as the God that we see in the teachings of Jesus recorded in the 4 gospels. (I’ve tried to choose words that don’t imply any belief in the veracity of the gospels, just using the words attributed to Jesus there to define God.) So my propositions are:

    P1: The God described in the teachings of Jesus exists.
    P2: The God described in the teachings of Jesus doesn’t exist.

    So my question is, what degree of assent do you give to each of these propositions? You could express that assent in numerical probability terms, but just as good would be to use the common scale of 1. Disagree strongly, 2. Disagree, 3. Neither agree nor disagree, 4. Agree, 5. Agree strongly.

    I think if you gave your assessments, that would help a lot. Thanks.

    Like

  25. Nate,
    I think the key is where you say that “I think the necessity for inerrancy comes from the kind of god being argued for”, which I take to mean that you reject the possibility that the Christian God can be legitimately decoupled from inerrancy. Consider this: one could start by seeing the Bible as something like a resource of ideas about God – a collection of poems, essays and stories from people who were documenting their experience of God in a way that resonates with your own thoughts and experiences. That resonance would lead you to accept many (but not all) of the biblical ideas. Further, if your conception of God also included the image of a father who wants his children to wrestle with the divine and figure things out for themselves, then the flaws and humanity of the Bible would align with that conception and override any notions of inerrancy and a God who wishes to deliver a perfectly informative revelation (and its likely that when you then ask yourself about God’s role in other religious revelations, you’ll also come to adopt a universalist soteriology).

    This is similar to where I found myself before my deconversion. I’m not sure how well it aligns with Eric’s perspective, but I don’t think it’s necessarily inconsistent even if it is uncommon or even heretical, depending on who you ask. That said, it obviously also isn’t a view that I was able to sustain. Upon realizing that I was reconstructing my own personal conception of God from the scraps of a dilapidated evangelical background, it occurred to me that maybe the raw materials were themselves unfounded constructions and that I didn’t really understand why the Judeo-Christian God (and the accompanying supernatural reality) was assumed in my worldview in the first place. The questioning of that underlying assumption hasn’t yet convinced me of its validity, but if I were to ever reach that point then I would almost certainly continue to reject inerrancy and I don’t think that would be a problem except in the eyes of fundamentalists.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. UnkleE:

    So my propositions are:

    P1: The God described in the teachings of Jesus exists.
    P2: The God described in the teachings of Jesus doesn’t exist.

    And then UnkleE ask to what extent we give our assent to these propositions.

    For me, I neither assent nor dissent. The teachings of Jesus provide a useful guide to how we should treat each other. We can follow that guide, whether or not Jesus or his God exist.

    Like

  27. If I’m not mistaken (and please let me know if I am), it seems your main point is that we should require evidence that an alleged Christian deity is consistent with its own teachings. Thus, I think you’re asking more for consistency within the Christian message than some sort of special evidence. The problem (and I think some responses have hinted at this) is tamping down what the original message is that we can compare. It’s hard to ask for a consistent message when there are many different perceptions of that message.

    Personally, this is why I don’t think it requires extraordinary or even special evidence to evaluate supernatural claims of any stripe – religious ones included. I’ll probably end up doing a post of my own, but the short reason is that even asking for consistency is giving the claim more deference than it would otherwise receive if all things were actually equal. A good example of this is how many arguments have you gotten into with Christians as to whether your disbelief in Poseidon is justified? If we were being completely fair, every faith would need just as much vehement defense regardless of whether one adheres to it or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Hi unkleE,

    P1: The God described in the teachings of Jesus exists.
    P2: The God described in the teachings of Jesus doesn’t exist.

    I agree fairly strongly with P2. I don’t know that I could give any kind of numerical value to them, but I’m reasonably confident that P2 is true.

    Like

  29. Travis,

    I found your comment extremely helpful. I think that’s probably the best explanation I’ve seen on how/why someone might find Christianity persuasive without needing anything like inerrancy. And for those who didn’t grow up with inerrancy, I realize how strange it probably seems that it’s such a big deal to other people.

    Where do you suppose people get these initial beliefs about God from? What are they comparing the claims of Christianity against that gives them the idea that it’s true? That’s what I don’t really understand. To me, the fact that people throughout time have felt very confident that completely different gods and religions were accurate shows just how unreliable our internal barometer of such things is.

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  30. “Where do you suppose people get these initial beliefs about God from?”

    Nate, I can’t say where people 2,000 years ago got their initial beliefs. Today , I believe it’s through indoctrination, from the Church, the Bible, parents, relatives and friends.As a non-believer, do you attend some public forum to constantly enforce your beliefs ? Do you need to continue to read a certain book ? Would you need parents, relatives or friends to reinforce what you believe? I think the answer would be “No”. But these are all the vehicles Christians or believers of other religions need to continue to reinforce their beliefs.

    Like

  31. Hey Sirius,

    Thanks for the comment! Yes, I think you’ve stated it fairly. Consistency is probably the root of what I’m driving at. I think inerrancy would be an outward manifestation of that consistency. I don’t know why a perfect God who wants us to do specific things would give us an imperfect message.

    Of course, maybe there’s no real consequence whether someone believes or not. The Bible tells us there is, but it could be wrong about that. Which also means that there’s no point in Christians trying to convert people.

    And maybe God doesn’t want people to do anything specific at all. Again, that’s just the Bible’s claim, and it could be wrong.

    At that point though, I don’t see what the point of any of it is. To me, that still makes atheism the most logical position. At least until God stops hiding.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I think you’re right, kc. But human history shows us that those reasons are pretty unreliable (which you know, of course). That’s why I think people would need some dependable source to tell them what God actually wants. It doesn’t have to be a book — lots of religions claim that God (or gods) interacted directly with people long ago, and that’s how they knew what was expected of them. But without something like that, people are just going to stick with the religion that appeals to them subjectively. I guess in some ways that’s fine… but it’s certainly not a good method to find truth.

    Like

  33. For me, the “liberal” Christianity that I ended up with prior to deconversion was mostly a consequence of trying to make sense of everything without abandoning my worldview entirely. That last step is big and scary and I can understand how people would prefer to never take it. Coming from the other side, I suspect that new converts may latch on to a non-fundamentalist Christianity because they’re drawn to the lifestyle rather than the theology. I still accompany my wife to church and the “seeker friendly” venues we hit are far more focused on how to live the good life than on any sort of Bible teaching, even though they claim the Bible as an authority. People want purpose, direction and hope and you don’t need inerrancy for that. The message rings true because it offers these things and we intuitively equate comfort with truth.

    Like

  34. Hi Neil (“I neither assent nor dissent. “) and Nate (“I agree fairly strongly with P2.”), thanks for your replies.

    P1 and P2 are of the form of A and ~A, so they are mutually exclusive (both can’t be true) and exhaustive (there are no other possibilities). So their two probabilities should logically add to 1.0 (if they don’t, then we haven’t been logical).

    So I presume, Neil, that you are assigning approximately equal probability to each proposition, i.e. you really have no opinion either way on whether the christian God exists. It is equally likely, in your mind, that he does and that he doesn’t. Is that right?

    It is good to understand your views but I have little more to say about them, except that I would expect to see your arguments on sites like this to reflect your ambivalence, and just as often argue for christianity as argue against christianity. Although we have “met” before, I don’t know you well enough to know if that is how your arguments are in fact, but that is what I would expect from that result.

    On the other hand, Nate, you have a strong belief that the christian God doesn’t exist, so you agree with P2 fairly strongly and you disagree with P1 fairly strongly. That’s what I would have expected your views to be. But this means you are making quite a definite proposition – you’re “reasonably confident” that the christian God doesn’t exist.

    Now it is a fairly well established principle of philosophy that any proposition should be supported by an argument or evidence. Antony Flew, the famous philosopher who argued for the presumption of atheism (by which he meant what we may define as the 50/50 position, similar to Neil’s view), said: “The onus of proof lies on the proposition, not on the opposition.” So just as I expect to give a reason for any proposition I put forward, so we can reasonably expect you to do the same for this proposition.

    So I come back to my original question. Why are most of your beliefs (e.g. about ethics, politics, etc) supported by errant evidence, but your disbelief in the christian God (P1) requires inerrant evidence, but your belief in the proposition that the christian God doesn’t exist (P2) doesn’t require inerrant evidence? Shouldn’t you, like Neil, withhold belief from both propositions until you have inerrant evidence?

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  35. Hi Travis, thanks for your comments. I think you are close to understanding my views. Just a few comments ….

    “one could start by seeing the Bible as something like a resource of ideas about God – a collection of poems, essays and stories from people who were documenting their experience of God in a way that resonates with your own thoughts and experiences.”

    Yes, that is true, one could start that way, but it isn’t where I start. I start with the historians who talk about historical evidence and historical “facts”. (I put facts in inverted commas because no history can be known without some uncertainties.) That view doesn’t require an inerrant Bible, just the New Testament as the consensus of historians assesses it.

    “if your conception of God also included the image of a father who wants his children to wrestle with the divine and figure things out for themselves”

    Again, I think you are at least half right. I think God wants us to “seek and find”, but I don’t think we have to figure it out unaided, but respond to whatever truth we know.

    “I still accompany my wife to church”

    My sincere compliments and respect. That mustn’t be easy – I find it hard enough to go to church and I believe in Jesus, just not in a lot of stuff churches do.

    Thanks.

    Like

  36. One thing that appears to have been overlooked here, is that there is no evidence whatsoever to assume the words attributed to the character, Jesus of Nazareth were not simply interpolated by the writer of the gospel in question.

    By allowing unkleE to steer the conversation towards a purely philosophical exercise the core issue of his ( and many christians) blatant hypocrisy pertaining to accepting the Pentateuch as myth yet believing and worse, proselytizing that the resurrection of the biblical characters Lazarus and Jesus of Nazareth are factual, historical events remains undressed.

    While such obfuscation on his part speaks volumes about the man’s lack of integrity to honestly address these very real concerns, allowing him to do so is likely to reduce the thread to another lengthy meander where her will, once again, bow out after manipulating the post once again.

    However, if he refuses to address this issue, as he seems to intent on doing, I would be fascinated to hear from one of the other former fundamentalists here how they were able to accept the mythological nature of the Old Testament and still gladly uphold the belief the resurrection accounts were historical fact.

    Ark

    Like

  37. Hi unkleE,

    Sure, I don’t mind having a burden of evidence for my position.

    So I come back to my original question. Why are most of your beliefs (e.g. about ethics, politics, etc) supported by errant evidence, but your disbelief in the christian God (P1) requires inerrant evidence, but your belief in the proposition that the christian God doesn’t exist (P2) doesn’t require inerrant evidence? Shouldn’t you, like Neil, withhold belief from both propositions until you have inerrant evidence?

    Not at all.

    Ethics and politics are things that we all interact with. I don’t think anyone would deny their existence as concepts. The Christian god is completely different. Its existence can’t be demonstrated, and Christians claim specific things about it that have never been demonstrated to be possible (perfection, all-knowing, all-powerful, etc).

    As I said earlier, I’m not sure that I would actually require any kind of inerrant evidence to make me believe such a god exists. However, if that god really is perfect and really does want to impart a message, then I would expect the message to be perfect. For instance, if someone told me that they had a message from Bernie Sanders, but the message contained all kinds of rhetoric about how low taxes for the wealthy and deregulation of financial institutions would lead to economic security, I’d highly doubt the message. It’s not that I doubt Bernie Sanders’s existence — it’s that the purported message from him looks like nothing he would say or write.

    Now it just so happens that I do doubt the existence of the Christian god. But that’s not really the issue I’m focused on right now. I’m talking about the Bible, specifically. It’s a collection of books that supposedly speak about the Christian god with authority. Many of the passages claim to be relaying a message from that god. But to me, the nature of the book is completely at odds with the characteristics of the god in question. My problems with it go beyond the question of inerrancy, but I do think inerrancy would probably be one of the Bible’s characteristics, if it really had been divinely inspired. And honestly, I think that’s what most Christians assumed throughout history, until we began discovering its flaws. That’s why most people believed in a literal 6 day creation, a literal global flood, an earth at the center of the universe, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. unkleE,

    I’m surprised that your faith starts with what the historians say about Jesus. Secular historians don’t think he came back from the dead, and religious ones do. Doesn’t this suggest that the historians are relying on something other than history to come to their various positions? And surely you were raised with some belief in God before you were able to study the historical Jesus? I understand that the historical arguments are what you point to for the evidence for your faith, but didn’t your faith actually come from something else first? Please correct me if my assumptions are wrong here.

    Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Responding to UnkleE:

    So I presume, Neil, that you are assigning approximately equal probability to each proposition, i.e. you really have no opinion either way on whether the christian God exists.

    No, I’m not assigning equal probability. I am not assigning any probability at all.

    You are right, that I have no opinion either way. And that’s because it doesn’t actually matter to me (either way). But it does not follow that I see either as equally likely. If anything, I see both as ill defined, as unclear.

    Like

  40. P1: Something you have never experienced, seen or heard from exists.
    P2: Something you have never experienced, seen or heard from does not exist.

    It doesn’t matter if we are talking about deities, aliens or leprechauns. Trying to suggest that P2 should be given equal standing with P1 is not logical. Common sense and the rules of logic and probability dictate that we should have a default position of 100% P2 is true. Imagine a standard deck of cards that you repeatedly draw a card from – what are the odds of drawing a “13” card or any card that you have never seen or experienced before? The same could be asked about three day old dead bodies coming back to life.

    Of course there could be plenty of things we have never experienced, seen or heard from that exist, but at what point should we begin assigning some probability to their existence? Not until reports of independent verification begin to arrive and only in small amounts due to the human factors of being mistaken, lying, hallucinating, poor memory, embellishments, etc.

    Let’s pick the proposition that Jesus came back from the dead.

    P1: A Jewish teacher named Jesus was dead for 3 nights or 2 nights (depending on who you ask) and was then reanimated back to life.

    Using our common knowledge that all of the billions of 48+ hour dead bodies throughout human history have remained dead we can accept that our starting position should be 100% P1 is false. We can then slowly add small amounts of probability based on independent verification: autopsy reports, biased witnesses, unbiased witnesses, scientific measurements, etc. Let me know if anyone makes it past 1% P1 is true.

    Liked by 3 people

  41. nonsupernaturalist

    I give a hearty “Amen” to Dave! Imagine someone using the same philosophical argument to argue for the existence of the Tooth Fairy. Everyone, including Christians, would laugh at his silliness. Yet with the straightest of faces, Christians roll out this same philosophical nonsense for THEIR supernatural claims.

    All you need to determine the probability of any supernatural claim is the following: common sense.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. @Nonsupernaturalist

    UnkleE is a past master at the philosophical two-step. He isn’t an apologist for Jesus of Nazareth for nothing y’know?
    And when he realises his arse is ”whooped” (as the Americans say) he will make some pithy retort and extricate himself to save further oeuf on the face..

    Mark my words!

    😉

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Jon

    The problem here is a false premise.

    How is it that in everything else in life – whether it be ethics, or politics, relationships, science, history, law, even disbelief – we are willing to make decisions based on non-inerrant evidence and reasoning, but when it is belief in God we require inerrant evidence?

    It is Christians themselves, and specifically the inerrantists, who claim that inerrancy is necessary. The Chicago Statement on Biblical inerrancy says, “The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded…” Fundamentalists like AIG say, “We cannot have a reliable Savior without a reliable Scripture.” The Catholic Church has said, “inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true.”

    Obviously, many Christians do not believe in inerrancy, so inerrancy is not a requirement for Christian belief. But the point the inerrantists raise — if the Bible is not reliable, why should we rely upon it? — is reasonably valid.

    Atheists do not require inerrant evidence. We argue against Biblical inerrancy because it is a specific claim Christians make that we believe is demonstrably false. But atheism (defined here as “lack of belief in a God”) does not rest upon Biblical error any more than lack of belief in Atlantis rests upon the fact that some historical documents contain errors. The existence of errors in the Bible are a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for atheism.

    Let me try to illustrate the problem with this premise.

    Christian 1: If the Bible is inerrant, then Christianity is necessarily true.

    Atheist: Yes, that is correct, but I don’t believe the Bible is inerrant.

    Christian 2: Why do you require inerrancy to believe that Christianity is true?

    Atheist: I don’t require inerrancy to believe that Christianity is true, but Christian 1 argued that Conclusion B follows from premise A, so it was relevant to point out that Premise A is false.

    Now, unklee, you might reasonably argue that you did not, personally, claim inerrancy as Premise A, but surely you can understand that others have, or that the reliability of the evidence is relevant to the conclusions one reaches.

    Or, if I might turn the question around on you…

    How is it that in everything else in life – whether it be ethics, or politics, relationships, science, history, law, even disbelief – you evaluate the reliability of the evidence, but when it is belief in God you criticize us for considering the reliability of the evidence?

    Liked by 2 people

  44. @Dave,
    While I agree with the general sentiment of your comment, I would caution against throwing out 100% probabilities without being clear that this is a proxy for 99.9999999% or whatever is appropriate. We don’t want to be immune to adjusting our credences based on any new evidence, which is what 0% and 100% does. Our epistemic position is such that we should always acknowledge that we have incomplete information.

    Like

  45. Hi Travis,
    I guess since we have to rely on our imperfect senses and our limited brains we could adjust our default probabilities by a small degree to account for these limitations or perhaps some other irregularity or quantum fluctuation.

    My kids will be happy to learn that we should apply a 0.00000000001% probability by default to anything that may exist whether it be fairies or flying reindeer 🙂 Maybe even a universe where school does not exist!

    Like

  46. nonsupernaturalist

    I have ordered popcorn and wait with bated breath for UnkleE’s next move: Will he proceed with more philosophical mind games or will he admit that he uses a very different standard of probability for his extra-ordinary claims than he himself uses for the extra-ordinary claims of other religions, palm readers, and disciples of the paranormal.

    Liked by 2 people

  47. nonsupernaturalist

    Does one need to consult a philosophical formula to evaluate the probability that the Buddha caused a water buffalo to speak in a human language for over thirty minutes?

    No. One only has to use common sense.

    Does one need to consult a philosophical formula to evaluate the probability that Mohammad flew on a winged horse to heaven?

    No. One only has to use common sense.

    Does one need to consult a philosophical formula to evaluate the probability that a first century, three-day-brain-dead preacher walked out of his sealed mausoleum and flew off into outer space?

    No.

    One only has to use…

    …good ol’ common sense!

    Liked by 2 people

  48. “I’m surprised that your faith starts with what the historians say about Jesus. ….. didn’t your faith actually come from something else first? Please correct me if my assumptions are wrong here.”

    Hi Nate, this seems to be a good place to start answering a slew of questions and comments.

    1. I was not brought up as a christian. God was virtually never mentioned in our home, though if you’d have asked them, I think my parents would have said they believed in God in some vague way. But I was sent to Sunday School as a child (this was in the late 1940s and early 1950s when that was sort of the normal and decent thing to do). My conscious belief began when I was 15, and my commitment to following Jesus when I was about 17.

    2. So it is true, historically, that I came to belief with different basic beliefs than I have today. But even then those beliefs never included inerrancy. The Reformed faith I was taught as a teen believed in “infallibility” (the Bible will reveal spiritual truth correctly) but not inerrancy. After 50+ years of reflection, I still hold a similar belief today, though much less mechanical.

    3. And yes, of course my beliefs are based on more than just the historical facts, same as everyone else. Using your example of the resurrection, there are certain historical facts which the majority of secular historians accept – Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, his tomb was later found empty and/or his disciples had visions of him alive afterwards, he was believed to have been resurrected from the very early days of the christian movement, and this belief was an important factor in the growth of christianity.

    Now what do we do with that information if we are willing to accept what the historians say? You do one thing with it (I guess you probably think the disciples saw visions because they were suffering serve cognitive dissonance, there was a mistake about the empty tomb, and the rest is history) whereas I believe the stories that they told because I think the external evidence points to there being a God, and Jesus was his representative on earth, so this wasn’t at all impossible. But the point is, both of us have a mixture of evidence and opinion in our final beliefs. But mine (and I presume yours) start with the evidence and build.

    4. While I think the historical process we each went though to get to our current beliefs is interesting, and tells us something about each other, I don’t think it bears on the rationale for belief. So when asked, I always give my current rationale.

    Hope that explains things. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  49. “No, I’m not assigning equal probability. I am not assigning any probability at all.

    You are right, that I have no opinion either way. And that’s because it doesn’t actually matter to me (either way). But it does not follow that I see either as equally likely. If anything, I see both as ill defined, as unclear.”

    Hi Neil, thanks for that clarification. My only question to you would be this. Do you think your comments online would show an equal number critiquing christian and anti-christian views? If not, what does that say about your beliefs? I don’t know, just interested in your perspective. Thanks.

    Like

  50. Hi Dave, there are several Daves around these sorts of discussions, so I don’t know which one you are or whether I have discussed with you before. But g’day!

    “Trying to suggest that P2 should be given equal standing with P1 is not logical.”

    I’m sorry, but you have misunderstood me here. I never ever suggested they should be given equal standing. All I did was ask the questions, to which I have received several answers, and observe that since they are of the form A and ~ A, the combined probabilities should add to 1. And because they are both propositions, it is reasonable to assess them by looking at evidence.

    “Let’s pick the proposition that Jesus came back from the dead. ….. Using our common knowledge that all of the billions of 48+ hour dead bodies throughout human history have remained dead we can accept that our starting position should be 100% P1 is false. “

    I think almost any philosopher would tell you there are a couple of fallacies here. Here’s a few thoughts:

    1. Your statement that all the billions of dead through history have remained dead is an assumption which you cannot prove. All you can say is that when we have tested scientifically, you aren’t aware of any that have come back to life. But there have been many claims of resurrections over the years, and some of them have good medical evidence, most don’t. If you believe in evidence, you’d have to check out all these cases before you can say what you said.

    2. Worse, your assumption is the very thing we are discussing. So you prove< Jesus couldn't have been resurrected by assuming non-one can be resurrected. That is another fallacy.

    3. Applying your assumptions about other people to Jesus is also a fallacy. Consider the statement hypothetically made in the year 2005; "There are hundreds of millions of people in the US, so odds of anyone becoming President of the US are very very small. And no black man has ever become President. Therefore it is almost impossible that Barack Obama will become President."

    The problem with that statement is that Obama belonged to a subgroup of people in the US who had a much greater chance of becoming President (he was a lawyer, a good speaker, he was political engaged, he was a candidate, etc). So the general odds don't apply to him.

    Same with jesus. By all measures he wasn't an ordinary Joe. Ordinary Joes don't start religions that grow to 2-3 bn followers, and become perhaps the most influential person in history. Ordinary Joes don't convince people they have powers of healing, that they are the Messiah, etc. Jesus belongs to a rare group of people that can plausibly be considered the son of God. (I know you don't believe that, but many do, then and now.)

    So the question isn't, for me, as you stated it. For me it is this. If the evidence of cosmology, the human brain and human experience points strongly to God existing, as I believe it does, and if Jesus was the son of God on earth, as I believe from his life that he was, how likely is it that God would raise him from the dead, and what is the evidence that he did?

    I think most historians would say that the barriers to belief in the resurrection are not historical (i.e. the evidence is good – if it was a non-supernatural event, there'd be no reason to question it), they are metaphysical. And I have no metaphysical barriers to belief, though presumably you do.

    So you see, it isn't as clear cut as you say, it depends a lot on the beliefs that we each bring to the question. I don't expect you to agree with me, but I'm hoping you'll see that if you want to frame a good argument against the resurrection, or against God belief, it would be good to avoid fallacies, assumptions and instead address the beliefs christians actually have. Thanks.

    Like

  51. “he was believed to have been resurrected from the very early days of the christian movement”

    What did the women do after they found the empty grave ?
    Luke 24:9-11 9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.

    What did Peter do ?
    Luke 24:12 ” Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”

    Let’s check John
    John 20:2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

    It doesn’t appear they knew anything about Jesus’ Resurrection , unkleE. How early do you want to go ? The resurrection appears to have been added later for Constantine’s Bible. Where am I going wrong ?

    Like

  52. Hi Jon, I don’t know if we have ever discussed before, so I want to clarify something to you before I respond. Nate and I are old (internet) friends. We disagree with each other and we discuss robustly but politely. I responding to your comment, I might appear critical of Nate, but you should know that I respect Nate greatly, I just think he is mistaken on some things.

    So Nate thinks that if God existed, he would provide much better evidence, and if the christian God existed, the Bible would be inerrant, or close to it. It is him who has raised the issue of inerrancy, not me. I simply say that belief in God should be decided on the weight of evidence, not on some assumption of how God “should” have acted. So I think Nate’s emphasis on inerrancy, which I believe comes from his time in a very fundamentalist church, is a mistake that cuts him off from opportunities to know what I believe is the truth. He, of course, disagrees.

    So as you rightly note, I don’t make any argument along the lines of the one you put forward. I recognise that other christians do, so if he was arguing against those christians, Nate would validly discuss inerrancy. But in his general beliefs, I belief his emphasis on inerrancy leads to him throw out the baby with the bathwater, to corn a phrase.

    “How is it that in everything else in life – whether it be ethics, or politics, relationships, science, history, law, even disbelief – you evaluate the reliability of the evidence, but when it is belief in God you criticize us for considering the reliability of the evidence?”

    I think this is a misunderstanding. I use evidence for all those things, as most people do. And I also do with belief. And I don’t criticise non-believers for considering the reliability of the evidence, in fact if I criticise them, it is for not adequately considering the evidence. In this case, I think a focus on inerrancy leads Nate to inadequately consider some of the evidence.

    Hopefully I’ve cleared that up. If I’ve misunderstood you, please clarify. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  53. nonsupernaturalist

    “But there have been many claims of resurrections over the years, and some of them have good medical evidence, most don’t.”

    False.

    There have been many claims of REANIMATIONS which may or may not have good medical evidence to support them, but there has been only ONE resurrection claim: Jesus of Nazareth.

    The Resurrection of Jesus claim is very different from the typical reanimation claim: “Mr. Jones had a massive heart attack and stopped breathing. The doctors pronounced him dead. His body was taken to the morgue. Hours later the employees of the morgue noticed that he was breathing! Jesus answered our prayers and brought Brother Jones back to life!”

    Nope.

    No such thing happened to Jesus, if we are to believe Christians and their holy book. Jesus didn’t just wake up; pick up with his usual life; live for a few more decades and then die again. Jesus allegedly walked out of his sealed tomb with a heavenly (supernatural), glowing, body which could teleport between cities and walk through locked doors! It was a body that did not need food or water…except when Jesus had an occasional craving for broiled fish, once in the Upper Room and once on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius…and…his body was a supernatural body that would never get sick and would never DIE!

    So, you see, UnkleE you cannot equate the thousands of “reanimation claims” with the resurrection claim. What Christians claim to have occurred on that first Easter morning had never happened in the past and has never happened since. It was a unique, ONE time event.

    So what is the probability of a very extra-ordinary event which even its proponents admit has never happened before or since? Answer: Very, very, very low.

    That is basic statistics.

    So how do you arrive at your much higher probability, Unkle E? I believe it is this: You conflate evidence for the existence of a Creator for evidence for the existence of Yahweh/Jesus the Christ. The problem is, however, that you need the Resurrection to prove the existence of Yahweh/Jesus the Christ. So you have created a circular argument, known as Begging the Question. Here it is:

    1. The very extra-ordinary (never having occurred before or since) Resurrection is a historical fact because Yahweh exists.
    2. Yahweh exists because there is evidence for a Creator and because the Resurrection is an historical fact.

    No can do, Unk.

    You need to accept and admit that the probability of a resurrection (not a reanimation) is incredibly low. Then you need to accept and admit that the evidence for the existence of a Creator can in no way be assumed to be evidence for Yahweh. We need specific evidence for the existence of a being named Yahweh. And finally, you CANNOT use the Resurrection as evidence for the existence of Yahweh. That is a circular argument. You need to prove the Resurrection based on its own evidence, which unfortunately for Christians, is based on four anonymous books written DECADES after the event, two of these books plagiarizing very large percentages of the content of the first, written in far away lands by non-eyewitnesses.

    Liked by 1 person

  54. Jon

    “I don’t know if we have ever discussed before…”

    Yes, I believe we met in this thread some time ago. I’ve read a lot of Nate’s archives (and many of the comments!), and I’ve enjoyed many of your discussions.

    https://findingtruth.info/2016/05/10/in-case-you-noticed-all-the-recent-comments/#comments

    So Nate thinks that if God existed, he would provide much better evidence, and if the christian God existed, the Bible would be inerrant, or close to it. It is him who has raised the issue of inerrancy, not me. I simply say that belief in God should be decided on the weight of evidence, not on some assumption of how God “should” have acted.

    Perhaps I have misread Nate, but my impression is that he would be open to finding the Christian God plausible if the weight of the evidence for the Christian God were sufficiently compelling. But the broad unreliability of the Bible counts as a significant piece of evidence against the Christian God. While I invite Nate to correct me if I am wrong, I doubt that Nate would find a single Biblical error, by itself, to be a dispositive refutation of the Christian God if there were significant other evidence in favor of the proposition.

    Hopefully I’ve cleared that up.

    I think we can agree that inerrancy is not necessary for some versions of the Christian God proposition to be true.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. Hi Jon, yes, we can agree on that!

    And I’m sure you are right that Nate is open to evidence and he finds what he sees as the unreliability of the Bible as evidence against the Biblical God.

    Just by way of explanation, the title of this post is “Is It Fair to Expect Inerrancy from the Bible When We Don’t Expect It from Other Sources?”, so that is why I am talking about inerrancy.

    Thanks.

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  56. HI Nate, we come back to our original comments. As usual, I having exchanged views, I don’t wish to drag this out, so I’ll try to work towards a conclusions.

    ” I don’t mind having a burden of evidence for my position.”

    No, I know that is true. My point was simply this.

    In our discussion on your previous post, which sparked this post, you said: “I don’t really understand why someone would still believe Jesus is divine and the god of the Bible is legit once they recognize that the Bible is not inerrant and likely has some uninspired material.” So you linked reasons to disbelieve with inerrancy. I suggested that your standards of evidence were inconsistent.

    Then in this post you say: “When I refer to myself as an atheist, I simply mean that I don’t believe any of the proposed god claims that I’ve encountered. I’m not necessarily saying that I think no gods exist, period.” In the context, it seemed to me that you were using this to justify an inconsistent standard of evidence.

    So I asked you the question about the two propositions, and you were quite clear that you supported P2 – that the christian God doesn’t exist. But this is a stronger statement than the one in this post. The first says no belief, the second says strong disbelief.

    That is really the point I wanted to make. It’s the difference between lack of belief (a neutral view) and disbelief (a strongly negative view). And it seems to me that many who make a claim to a neutral view, as you appeared to, actually have a strongly negative view, as it now appears that you do.

    Do you think I have summed that up fairly?

    “I’m not sure that I would actually require any kind of inerrant evidence to make me believe such a god exists. However, if that god really is perfect and really does want to impart a message, then I would expect the message to be perfect.”

    And here is the guts of our disagreement. Why would you expect that, granted that NOTHING in this world is perfect? And why do you keep treating the Bible as if it is a direct message from God? (I know that is what some christians claim, but it was mediated through human beings and that makes it at most indirectly from God, and more likely a human document with divine inspiration.) I feel you have made an assumption that is a straw man for me and most christians. You can reasonably use that assumption in discussion with inerrantists, but not as a general reason to disbelieve, surely?

    That would leave us with what has been the main substance of your comments here – that you don’t believe the Bible provides reliable enough evidence for you to believe in Jesus. I think that is a quite understandable and reasonable statement, even though I disagree with it. I just think all you need to mount that argument is the Bible as historians see it, and that is all I need to argue my case too. I think inerrancy is a red herring, and I kind of think this discussion has demonstrated that.

    “I do think inerrancy would probably be one of the Bible’s characteristics, if it really had been divinely inspired. And honestly, I think that’s what most Christians assumed throughout history”

    I don’t think this is so. For a start, there is much argument within christianity about the meaning of “inspiration”, and whether that is a good word to describe “God breathed”. People distinguish between verbal and non-verbal (ideas or message), as I’m sure you know. Inerrancy only possibly follows from full verbal inspiration, and my understanding is that it was only formally proposed by Protestants in the last 2 centuries and actually only formally adopted in the Chicago Statement of 1978. Catholics have had a longer view of it, but their view doesn’t seem to have been as strong as the Protestant version you would be familiar with. I think the truth is that for centuries christians trusted the Bible’s reliability without formulating a doctrine of inerrancy.

    I think that just about sees me out. Thanks again.

    Like

  57. To pick up Ark’s point:

    One can disbelieve parts of biblical texts by giving arbitrary priority to other passages in the same collection. How I used to do it was by comparing other verses to the general messages that were attributed directly to Jesus. So, if verses didn’t actually reinforce an idea that Jesus promoted, then I would have simply disregarded it or attributed it as part of the law that Jesus came to change.

    It all rests on an idea that Jesus’s message (whatever it was, and it is quite debatable) is of the utmost importance.

    Liked by 1 person

  58. Replying to UnkleE:

    My only question to you would be this. Do you think your comments online would show an equal number critiquing christian and anti-christian views?

    I don’t spend a lot of time criticizing religion. I do criticize YEC creationism and ID, but there are Christians on both sides of those issues. Most of what I discuss and criticize is of a secular nature (unrelated to religion).

    Like

  59. And yes, of course my beliefs are based on more than just the historical facts, same as everyone else. Using your example of the resurrection, there are certain historical facts which the majority of secular historians accept – Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, his tomb was later found empty and/or his disciples had visions of him alive afterwards, he was believed to have been resurrected from the very early days of the christian movement, and this belief was an important factor in the growth of christianity.

    This is where the Bullshit begins and why unkleE really, really, needs to be called out.
    Let’s look at his comment carefully so he doesn’t sucker us all in once more.

    there are certain historical facts which the majority of secular historians accept – Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem,

    Facts? There are no facts available concerning the character Jesus of Nazareth. Not a single one.
    So this is a flagrant lie right off the bat.

    And who are all these secular historians that agree on all these ‘’facts’’? And exactly what are all these non-facts based upon? I cannot credit a single secular historian who considers the bible historically accurate and certainly not where it pertains to anything concerning the character, Jesus of Nazareth.

    And which ‘’Jesus’’ was this? And which are the secular historians unkleE is referring to?

    I don’t recall him ever offering a single name of a genuine bona fide secular historian.

    his tomb was later found empty

    Was it really? And exactly where is this tomb? Which archaeologist/s has positively identified the tomb of the character, Jesus of Nazareth and is on record ( peer-reviewed) as stating so?
    I cannot think of a single one. Maybe unkleE knows of one? Perhaps he would like to volunteer a name?

    and/or his disciples had visions of him alive afterwards, he was believed to have been resurrected from the very early days of the Christian movement, and this belief was an important factor in the growth of Christianity.

    What disciples are these exactly? What verifiable non-biblical evidence is there for a single one of these so-called disciples? And who are all these secular historians that agree these disciple existed?

    Maybe unkleE needs to be asked politely to offer the names and links to all these secular historians that he so often relies upon to plead his evidence-based consensus (sic) case as I truly believe (and many others I’m sure) that he has been spreading his special brand of Rose Fertilizer for far too long and getting away with an enormous amount of nonsense as his argument has more holes than a Galilean Fisherman’s net.

    Liked by 3 people

  60. unkleE, “The problem with that statement is that Obama belonged to a subgroup of people in the US who had a much greater chance of becoming President (he was a lawyer, a good speaker, he was political engaged, he was a candidate, etc). So the general odds don’t apply to him.”

    “Same with jesus.”

    No it is NOT. There is no subgroup of people more prone to be the object of a supernatural event. What about Balaam’s donkey ? What subgroup was he in that made it more likely for him to speak ?

    Liked by 1 person

  61. Hi unkleE,

    And here is the guts of our disagreement. Why would you expect that, granted that NOTHING in this world is perfect? And why do you keep treating the Bible as if it is a direct message from God? (I know that is what some christians claim, but it was mediated through human beings and that makes it at most indirectly from God, and more likely a human document with divine inspiration.) I feel you have made an assumption that is a straw man for me and most christians. You can reasonably use that assumption in discussion with inerrantists, but not as a general reason to disbelieve, surely?

    Let’s come at this from the other direction: what’s the purpose of the Bible?

    That would leave us with what has been the main substance of your comments here – that you don’t believe the Bible provides reliable enough evidence for you to believe in Jesus. I think that is a quite understandable and reasonable statement, even though I disagree with it. I just think all you need to mount that argument is the Bible as historians see it, and that is all I need to argue my case too. I think inerrancy is a red herring, and I kind of think this discussion has demonstrated that.

    See, that’s interesting to me, because I tend to see this historical argument in the same way. Simply put, people don’t come back to life. There’s no reason for us to pretend otherwise — that’s why it would be a miracle if it really had happened. No reasonable person should jump on the conclusion that a miracle occurred unless there’s incredibly good evidence to support it. Christians simply don’t have that kind of evidence. The historical argument tries to mask the fact that the evidence isn’t strong enough, because these Christians believe for other reasons. Maybe they want to believe because they like the idea of going to Heaven, or maybe it’s just that they can’t imagine not believing. But there are all kinds of things that could have happened around Jesus’s death that might have sparked Christianity without needing an actual resurrection. So I find it difficult to believe that anyone truly believes in the resurrection just because of the historical “evidence.”

    Liked by 3 people

  62. I think the truth is that for centuries christians trusted the Bible’s reliability without formulating a doctrine of inerrancy.

    I think so too, but I think it’s only because they didn’t have to. As I said in my earlier comment, the only reason people believed in a young earth, a 6-day creation event, geo-centrism, etc is because science hadn’t yet shown how inaccurate all that was. If God can make a donkey talk, and if he can create light, then why couldn’t he have done all the other fantastical things that many Christians today view as legend or allegory? When people think the Bible speaks for God, they assume they can trust everything it says. And why not? That’s a reasonable position. I think what’s less reasonable is seeing how the Bible isn’t all that reliable, but still thinking it’s somehow an authority on God.

    Liked by 2 people

  63. So I think Nate’s emphasis on inerrancy, which I believe comes from his time in a very fundamentalist church, is a mistake that cuts him off from opportunities to know what I believe is the truth. He, of course, disagrees.

    I think what fundamentalists get right is that you need some kind of standard. It doesn’t have to be perfect inerrancy, but it should at least be something like “The entire bible is an intended revelation from God”. Without that standard you end up with a pick-your-flavor God and you can select which parts you want to believe in. If OT genocide makes you uneasy you can chalk that part up to human error or human fabrication. You can say that anything Paul wrote was from his own mind and anything Jesus is said to have said was from God. You can say that the book of Revelation is completely false and not at all inspired by God. I think that once this starts to happen it is a slippery slope to realizing that you’ve created your own imaginary friend that thinks a lot like you do.

    Liked by 3 people

  64. nonsupernaturalist

    Even if we skeptics would agree to Gary Habermas’ “Minimal Facts”, which includes an Empty Tomb, there are many, many, much more probable, natural explanations for all these “facts” before arriving at the probability of a supernatural resurrection.

    The truth is that the evidence for the Resurrection is very, very poor. When push comes to shove, in every debate I have had with Christians regarding the Resurrection, their view regarding the probability of the Resurrection is really not based on the evidence for the Resurrection, but on the evidence for the existence of Yahweh. Their belief in the existence of Yahweh makes it impossible for them to see the weakness of the actual evidence for a Resurrection. But when asked for the evidence for the existence of Yahweh, they appeal to the evidence for a generic Creator.

    This is the weak link in UnkleE’s worldview.

    Bottom line: UnkleE and his fellow Christians need to provide the evidence for the existence of Yahweh, not a generic Creator. Without doing so, most educated non-Christians are never going to accept their ancient supernatural tale as historical fact.

    Liked by 2 people

  65. Jon

    Even if we skeptics would agree to Gary Habermas’ “Minimal Facts”, which includes an Empty Tomb, there are many, many, much more probable, natural explanations for all these “facts” before arriving at the probability of a supernatural resurrection.

    Habermas does not include the empty tomb among his Minimal Facts. Quote: “I have never counted the empty tomb as a Minimal Fact; it is very obvious that it does not enjoy the near-unanimity of scholarship.”

    http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/southeastern_theological_review/minimal-facts-methodology_08-02-2012.htm

    To the extent that many scholars do accept an “empty tomb”, remember that it might only mean that the followers could not find the body, or that the body was moved, not that the tomb (or grave) where the body was buried was miraculously empty. Personally, I think the more likely explanation is much simpler. Jesus died and was thrown into a common grave. His apostles had already fled the scene. The women who remained reported they were unable to find the body. One of the apostles either believed he would return (as the Messiah), or had a dream in which he seemed to speak to Jesus. This made him special — a divine being had chosen him! — so other apostles began claiming similar experiences, and the movement was reinvigorated around this new belief.

    Liked by 2 people

  66. Thanks for the info on Habermas’s approach, Jon! I didn’t know that.

    Incidentally, I currently have a similar view about how the resurrection story got started.

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  67. Great post. I think you addressed his points quite well, especially when you factor in the whole direct communication from god (was supposedly done back then, but not now). It goes back to nonsupernaturalist’s comment: if you are going to make an extra-ordinary claim, then there’s got to be *some* proof. No one today would take the crazy-guy-on-the-street’s claim that god is talking to him – no one.

    Liked by 2 people

  68. I can in no way approach this topic in the “scholarly fashion” as some of the others. But as I was reading the various opinions, a thought occurred to me.

    Believers live and approach life based on biblical times, thus believing in all things supernatural. Non-believers see life from the perspective of the world we live in today, which tends to lack supernatural activities.

    IOW, the believer is thoroughly convinced in the reliability of events that happened thousands of years ago, whereas the non-believer examines these same events in the light of modern thinking and finds them lacking in credibility and substance.

    Of course, the ongoing “battle” is to convince the other person of the “error” in his/her thinking. 😉

    Liked by 4 people

  69. Eventually, when all said and done, one surely has to ask why and for what purpose a reasonable, well-balanced ,educated adult individual would accept that a man from 2000 years in the past rose from the dead after allowing himself to be brutally put to death( ( apparently quite willingly instead of merely dying of old age) for the sole intent of demonstrating he could come back to life and thus prove he was divine.

    This is the question that really needs to be answered. Everything else is just unimportant detail.

    Anyone want to ask unkleE to explain why he believes it and what purpose did it serve?

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  70. nonsupernaturalist

    Is anyone aware if UnkleE has written on the topic of “Evidence for the Existence of Yahweh” either here, on his blog, or elsewhere? If so, could you give me the link? I would like to read it. (Not a statement regarding evidence for a Creator God, but evidence specifically for the existence of the Hebrew/Canaanite god, Yahweh).

    Thanks.

    When I ask other Christians for the evidence for Yahweh, I am typically given a list of fulfilled prophecies in the OT. When I point out that skeptics can give very good evidence that NONE of the alleged prophecies in the OT are true prophecies or that they have been fulfilled, Christians usually then resort to their “ace in the hole” evidence, personal experience: subjective feelings of comfort, peace, and security, and, experiences of answered prayer.

    The problem is, Muslims, Hindus, and Hare Krishnas have warm fuzzy feelings about their religious beliefs and gods, so subjective feelings do not prove the reality of Yahweh. And what about answered prayer? Most Christians pray about EVERYTHING. So the fact that occasionally one of these prayer requests is “answered” should surprise no one.

    It’s called: a coincidence.

    Liked by 1 person

  71. You can check unkleE’s site. He has an “Is There a God?” series that talks about the reasons for and against the existence of God (and I definitely respect the fact that he acknowledges the problem of evil and suffering as evidence against God). As far as focusing in on Yahweh in particular, the closest segments would be part 1, where he discusses miracle claims, and part 4, where he talks about Jesus. I think those would primarily be his avenues into arguing for the existence of Yahweh specifically.

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  72. nonsupernaturalist

    Thanks for the link, Nate.

    I am reading through UnkleE’s article on evidence for the Christian God. Here is a quote: “People get sick or are victims of accidents that cause trauma and distress, and so they cry out to God for help. Often, nothing obvious seems to happen (though we can’t say for sure that God has done nothing, for he may well have assisted in a ‘natural recovery’). But sometimes God appears to respond with an unusual healing. I have searched for credible miracle claims, and found the following:”

    UnkleE goes on to give a list of remarkable, “unexplainable”, health recoveries with links. I personally have read the first volume of evangelical Christian scholar Craig Keener’s two volume work entitled “Miracles” and agree that there are many health recoveries that seem unexplainable. But just because we cannot explain a health recovery, does that mean that an invisible supernatural Being(s) is responsible for the recovery? Maybe there is a very natural cause for the recovery that humans have not yet discovered.

    And none of this proves that YAHWEH exists. If amazing, unexplainable health recoveries only happened after prayer to Yahweh/Jesus, then Christians would have a strong argument for Yahweh’s existence. But Muslims, Hindus, Hare Krishna’s, Mormons and others all point to amazing, unexplainable health recoveries after prayer to THEIR gods. So amazing, unexplainable health recoveries in no way prove the existence of Yahweh. They may be evidence for the existence of one or more supernatural beings circling the globe, sporadically performing miracle healings, but none of this points to Yahweh’s existence. And think about this: If these sporadic miracle healings occur due to one or more supernatural beings using their supernatural powers to perform miracles, why is it that these same supernatural beings allow thousands of little children, everyday, to die miserable deaths from starvation, lack of water, disease, abuse, and war? How immoral! Doesn’t this fact alone strongly indicate that these “miracles” are nothing more than random coincidences?

    Liked by 1 person

  73. “Anyone want to ask unkleE to explain why he believes it and what purpose did it serve?”

    I have asked unkleE several things on this post but have only heard crickets. I do see a similarity with unkleE and the Christian God. They choose who to answer and ignore. As the “Good Book” says Ark, our ways are not always his ways. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  74. If these sporadic miracle healings occur due to one or more supernatural beings using their supernatural powers to perform miracles, why is it that these same supernatural beings allow thousands of little children, everyday, to die miserable deaths from starvation, lack of water, disease, abuse, and war? How immoral! Doesn’t this fact alone strongly indicate that these “miracles” are nothing more than random coincidences?

    I think this is an extremely important point, Gary. In fact, I’d argue that if some god does perform miraculous healings, it makes the problem of evil/suffering that much worse!

    Liked by 2 people

  75. I can appreciate the similarity, kc.🙂 Though to be fair, it would be hard for him to respond to all these comments.

    Ever the gentleman! Love you man! Unklee will not respond to me in particular, largely I suspect, because I do not respect his experts and the oft under-hand way in which he presents his arguments.

    Furthermore, after being presented with/informed of evidence numerous times that demonstrates the Exodus etc is Historical Fiction he appears to refuse to draw the obvious conclusions regarding the character, Jesus of Nazareth, and claims the Old T. has little or no bearing on his belief in the character, Jesus Christ.

    It is the most obvious area of his belief that cannot withstand serious scrutiny simply because of the overwhelming evidence.
    And of course, if the Pentateuch is historical fiction why should any credence be given to the Gospels?

    I think it is time Emperor UnkleE recognised he is in his birthday suit and we can all see.

    Liked by 1 person

  76. nonsupernaturalist

    Let me expand on this point: If Christians always pray when someone is sick and/or dying, should we be surprised that some times these prayers are “answered”?

    Answer: No.

    Here’s why: Anyone like playing poker? I do, especially Texas Hold ‘Em. The best hand in Texas Hold “Em is being dealt two Ace cards, called “pocket aces”. The odds of being dealt pocket aces is about 1 in 220. It doesn’t happen very often.

    So what if I were a Christian and I prayed for pocket aces every time I am dealt a hand of poker. Would it be a miracle if I occasionally am dealt pocket aces? No. It is a rare, but possible outcome of being dealt two cards from a poker deck. Now, if I never prayed before being dealt a hand of poker, but one day decided to pray and hit pocket aces, then maybe it is possible that my pocket aces are due to the intervention of a supernatural being, but if I have been praying every time I am dealt poker cards for pocket aces and I hit pocket aces, that is NOT an answered prayer. That is an example of random chance.

    Now what about being dealt pocket aces in two consecutive hands dealt to you? The odds are I in 46,841. Well guess what! A couple of months ago I was dealt pocket aces two hands in a row!!!

    Was it a miracle performed by an invisible deity wishing to shower me with blessings for sitting around with a bunch of guys playing cards??? No! It was simply a very rare, amazing, random draw of the cards: a rare, random event.

    And I believe the same is true for Christian “miracle healings”. Since Christians ALWAYS pray for healing when someone is sick, the fact that once in a great while an amazing, rare, health recovery occurs after one of these many prayers is said is NOT proof of the existence of an invisible deity. It is only proof that random, rare events occur.

    That’s it!

    Liked by 3 people

  77. It’s sort of odd that we’re discussing whether or not the most important being ever is even real. Not whether we should follow him or obey him, not how do we follow or obey him, but, “is he real?”

    If we wanted to know if Ted was in our house, like, “hey Ted, are you there,” and Ted slaughtered some pigs and tossed their bodies into our view, or he banged on the walls, or caused earthquakes, we’d think Ted was stupid – like “why did you cause an earthquake, why didn’t you just let us know if you were here or not? A simple verbal response was all I needed.”

    But we don’t know if God’s real, and we’re supposed to believe that this all powerful being wont talk to us or let us know he’s real, he instead heals some people, while letting many others die or suffer, he sends earthquakes and lighting, but can’t or won’t say hello? Even if using random events, that happen naturally on their own, were to somehow convince us that he’s real, it’s the dumbest way possible to convey that message. Like an all knowing God didn’t exoect that a lot of people would just assume the tree missed falling on my house during that hurricane as a coincidence, or that the earthquake just happened to kill that bad guy since it also killed that good guy…

    And then the book, yeah, “these people aren’t sure I’m real, so I know, I’ll have these random guys write a book that has some very questionable things in it, that appears to contain many errors, but i’ll make sure that the authors let everyone know I’m telling only them to write these things down – that’ll convince them…”

    what?

    I mean, I feel like the problems go beyond that of evil, and are really pretty evident.

    Liked by 2 people

  78. Ever the gentleman! Love you man!

    Love you too! 😉

    I largely agree with you concerning unkleE. However, I’m convinced that he’s sincere. While he and I disagree about a number of things, there are still certain things about him that I really admire.

    1) He doesn’t automatically side with any and all Christians. On my last post, while unkleE made sure to point out that he does think the Bible is inspired, he largely condoned the way I presented things to that Christian friend of mine, because she approaches things from an inerrancy position. I know plenty of Christians who wouldn’t make that distinction, but would quickly side with Christians against atheists automatically. UnkleE isn’t that sort.

    2) He is not afraid to acknowledge when his position has a weakness, as evidenced by his consistent appraisal of the problem of evil.

    3) I don’t feel that he misconstrues the evidence about the Bible, Christianity, etc. He comes to different conclusions about what it means than I do, but we almost always agree on what the evidence actually is. Compared to the Christians who live around me, it’s a breath of fresh air! 🙂

    4) He stays pretty polite. I know that he can come off a little condescending at times. I think that’s usually accidental. And even when it’s not, I can overlook it. I mean, as much time as we all spend on here discussing religion (which you’re never supposed to discuss!), none of us is going to always remain composed. I have a reputation for being kind and considerate, but I’ve lost my temper in these comment threads before too.

    5) His point of view is part of what makes these discussions so interesting — at least to me and Gary (as evidenced by his popcorn comment!). I think if we didn’t have dissenting views, we’d run the risk of creating an echo chamber. Even worse, a boring echo chamber. So I really appreciate his perspective.

    I know that not everyone agrees with me on that assessment, and that’s cool — we all have our own opinions. But I like all of you guys, unkleE included. 🙂

    Sorry for the interlude!

    Liked by 2 people

  79. Nate, “I can appreciate the similarity, kc.🙂 Though to be fair, it would be hard for him to respond to all these comments.”

    unkleE doesn’t usually dismiss my comments. I have noticed a pattern over the years however that he will ignore a comment he may not wish to answer. 🙂

    Like

  80. … health recovery occurs after one of these many prayers is said is NOT proof of the existence of an invisible deity. It is only proof that random, rare events occur.

    NS, it’s also proof that medical doctors have used their knowledge and talents to bring about a cure. Even though believers desperately want to believe a supernatural entity has stepped in and performed a miracle, the odds are much more in favor of medical science.

    Liked by 2 people

  81. Touché, kc. You may have a point there. 🙂

    Gary, I love the poker analogy! And since your receiving 2 back-to-back hands with pocket aces is still within the realm of possibility, I’m willing to believe you with no extra evidence. 🙂

    William, I couldn’t agree more! Your examples were very vivid… I hope you don’t have personal experience with someone killing pigs and throwing their carcasses around your home…

    Like

  82. nate, I had better not share too much… BUT, I suppose, though not an exact similarity, I was thinking about Jesus casting a demon into a heard of pigs, and then all the other gruesome things God is the bible for one reason or another.

    It’s just overkill… often literally. Just, i don’t know, show up, say “here I am,” or something. That may be more convincing and certainly better received than giving someone’s kid cancer as a sign or a punishment, even if you prefer to work in mysterious ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  83. I do wonder what UnkleE thinks about God’s test for the prophets of Baal, where the prophets of baal built an alter and then Elijah built and alter and filled his with water, and whichever God sent fire to consume their own sacrifice won.

    1) Did that actually happen, or this also one of those events in the OT that happens to be bogus?

    2) would god pass his own test today?

    3) if god worked that way then but doesn’t now, then couldn’t Baal have not worked that way back then, unwilling to lower himself to such tests and baiting?

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  84. @William

    nate, I had better not share too much… BUT, I suppose, though not an exact similarity, I was thinking about Jesus casting a demon into a heard of pigs, and then all the other gruesome things God is the bible for one reason or another.

    That incident is obviously fiction and even Sanders is wont to be suspect about any of the details, not least that the nearest cliff is around 6 miles away so those were some damn fit pigs!
    The relevance is that UnkleE cites Sanders as one of his experts.
    One truly has to wonder just how many incidents one needs to show as patently absurd for someone like UnkleE to accept that the Resurrection too is absurd.

    Like

  85. Agreed. I believed fervently for a long time, and it still hits me how quickly it all went away after i allowed myself to take one step back and look at it all again. This castle made of sand fell into the sea quickly – jimi almost had it right.

    Liked by 1 person

  86. I strongly suspect that Unklee is in fact terrified of admitting he has staked his entire adult life on a lie.
    Seriously, as much as he irks the Hell out of me, I really can appreciate that to let go of what he has considered to be the major defining characteristic of his life must be scary as Gehenna.
    But as those who have deconverted will attest, as Poop-in-Your-Pants scared it might seem, once you have shrugged it off the relief ( based on testimonies) is the sweetest thing imaginable.
    Am I right?

    None of us are Spring Chickens and UnkleE is more an ”Old Cockeral’ than many of us, but you lot should tell him how much better it is on the Other Side of Delusion.

    The man has put up a damn good fight for Yahweh, but it’s time to throw in the towel.

    Liked by 1 person

  87. nonsupernaturalist

    Here is the next piece of evidence for (the Christian) god on UnkleE’s website:

    “When people say God has spoken to them, or they have had a vision of Jesus, we will reasonably want to question them. But there are cases where the person appears to be quite sensible, and tangible outcomes result.”

    Yes, along with thousands of other very sincere people, my uncle and my cousin both claim to have seen Jesus and heard him speak to them during a medical crisis. Problem is, Hindus and people of other religions “see” and “hear” their gods too. Again, claims of visions do not prove the existence of Yahweh, only that many people in many different religions have claimed to see god/gods, demons, ghosts, and…Elvis.

    Where is the proof for Yahweh?

    Liked by 1 person

  88. Yeah Ark, I think that might apply to a lot of people. I think it’s one of the primary things going on with my in-laws right now. We’ve been meeting once every week or two for the last couple of months, and that’s the impression I get from them. But you’re right — for me, things made so much more sense when I stopped trying to fit Christianity into the world I see around me.

    Liked by 1 person

  89. nonsupernaturalist

    The last piece of evidence in this particular post on UnkleE’s blog is: “Dramatic change in people’s lives.”

    Once again, Muslims and Mormons can provide long lists of converts to their religion who were former drug abusers, gang members, thieves, etc.. Now they are law-abiding, very “moral” members of “the true Faith”. So a change in behavior is NOT proof of the existence of Yahweh.

    Still waiting for evidence for Yahweh.

    Like

  90. nonsupernaturalist

    UnkleE’s series on the evidence for God has five parts. Here is UnkleE’s summary at the end of Part Five (I hope Nate doesn’t mind me copying and pasting so much material!) but I think it is important to know where UnkleE is coming from (and where he is so wrong):

    Putting it all together

    We have seen that there are a number of arguments which seem to point to God’s existence, and a number that seem to point the other way. And there are counter arguments, and replies to those counters, and so on.

    Here is a listing to remind you of the ones we have considered:

    Pointing to God;
    ◦How can we explain the millions of people who say they have experienced miraculous healing?
    ◦What caused the universe to appear?
    ◦Why is the universe “fine-tuned” for life?
    ◦How did conscious, rational human beings with free will and a sense of right and wrong evolve?
    ◦How do we explain the historical Jesus who acted as if he was God’s unique son?

    Suggesting there is no God:
    ◦How could a good God have created a world with so much suffering and evil?
    ◦If God is there, why does he keep himself so hidden?
    ◦Some attributes claimed for God seem incoherent.

    What can we learn?

    There are no easy answers.

    It is clear that there are good (and perhaps not so good) arguments either way. Good reasons to believe, good reasons to doubt. We cannot easily write off either view.

    Those who experience God cannot be easily dismissed.

    Millions of people believe they have experienced God in some way – via healing, or comfort during trouble, or a word of guidance, or a vision. Their experience is sufficiently supported by the objective arguments to make it difficult to say they are all mistaken.

    Gary: And there you have it! UnkleE’s Christian worldview is ultimately not based on evidence for Yahweh/the Christian Trinity, but based on evidence for a generic Creator, and, his subjective feelings and personal experiences involving his belief in the Christian god. So regardless of how good a job any skeptic does of demonstrating how very weak the evidence for the Resurrection (or any other supernatural claim in the Bible) really is, UnkleE will discount that evidence, because in his heart he KNOWS Yahweh/Lord Jesus are real because his feelings and his occasional answered prayers tell him so!

    I believe that this is where we skeptics should go every time we debate Christians on the validity of Christianity. Skip the evidence for the Resurrection. Skip the debate over evolution and the probability of Noah’s Flood. Ask Christians these three questions:

    1. Can you prove that Yahweh (not a generic Creator god) exists?
    2. Can you prove that your warm, fuzzy feelings about your god are proof that he exists?
    3. If you regularly and repeatedly pray to God for blessings and health healings, isn’t it very possible that the few times that your prayers are “answered” that these answered prayers and simply coincidences/random chance?

    Like

  91. If you believe in God(s), anything can be evidence of that.

    A tree falls next to your house – God(s) were looking out for us and saved our house

    A tree falls on your house, but misses all the people – God(s) were looking out for us and saved our lives

    A tree falls on your house and crushes a loved one – God(s) know best, or are testing us, or comfort us in our time of loss, or are punishing us/them for a sin.

    A tree doesn’t fall at all – praise god(s)

    Interestingly, all of those things can also be explained by, “shit happens.”

    Liked by 4 people

  92. Jon

    Sometimes we just need to accept that different people believe different things. We all once believed things that we now think are irrational. We all will probably realize later in life that some of the things we believe now are unjustified beliefs.

    Belief isn’t about knowledge or intelligence. Christians are just as intelligent and educated as non-Christians. People far smarter than any of us believe in Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and maybe even Scientology.

    People believe for a lot of reasons — upbringing, culture, emotion, reason, peer pressure, evidence, personal benefit, deception, fear, hope, and no doubt many more. Most people believe because their parents told them to believe and their community (social group, church) reinforced it. Whether it is Christianity, atheism, Islam or whatever, it’s not hard to understand why most people stick with the belief they were born into and spent decades reinforcing.

    All that to say, cut people some slack. It can be enjoyable and educational to debate, but we should all remember that we are all wrong about some stuff.

    Liked by 4 people

  93. Jon, that’s true.

    All of it.

    But, at some point, no matter the subject, once all the cards have been laid out in front of you, often there’s one clear solution.

    It’s like discussing how many jellybeans are in a jar – sure, that’s kind of a guess.

    But opening the jar, spreading the jelly beans out in rows and columns, it’s all of a sudden much less nebulous, right?

    Most of here were once Christians. Many of us here once believed and participated in our churches, so we know that having faith or being a christian doesn’t make one stupid, but after laying out the jellybeans and counting each one, it is sort of confusing why anyone would still argue over the solution – unless of course they still weren’t away the jar had been emptied and aligned?

    At some point, after the facts have been highlighted, it’s not really any more debatable than the color of the sky.

    Liked by 1 person

  94. “Most people believe because their parents told them to believe and their community (social group, church) reinforced it. Whether it is Christianity, atheism, Islam or whatever, it’s not hard to understand why most people stick with the belief they were born into and spent decades reinforcing. All that to say, cut people some slack.”

    We have already done this in the past. That’s why they are perfectly willing to strap on explosives , behead or drown people who do not believe the same way they do. Perhaps if we send them enough human sacrifices, they will leave the rest of us alone. Hmmmmm Any volunteers ?

    Liked by 1 person

  95. Well, unkleE is obviously not the suicide bomber type. And I also think that beliefs can be more difficult than just counting jellybeans. Not that I completely disagree with what you guys are saying, but I think I’m a little closer to Jon’s sentiment on this one.

    Like

  96. “Well, unkleE is obviously not the suicide bomber type.”

    I have to admit I agree, Nate. 🙂

    Jon’s statement, ” Most people believe because their parents told them to believe” caused me to think about what ARK has preached for years.

    Liked by 1 person

  97. nonsupernaturalist

    I in no way want to infer that UnkleE is any less intelligent than we skeptics. On the contrary, he is a very intelligent man. But I think that for our benefit and his, we need to recognize that his primary attachment to his supernatural worldview has nothing to do with objective evidence. So debating him on objective evidence for the Resurrection, for instance, is pointless. No matter how improbable his supernatural Christian beliefs may be in the real world, as long as he is sure that Yahweh/Lord Jesus exists, ANYTHING is possible, and therefore highly probable.

    His worldview is primarily based on subjective evidence: his feelings and his perception of events (perceiving rare coincidences as “answered prayers”). Until these foundational beliefs are brought into question, in his mind, no amount of evidence against the Resurrection or the inspiration of the Bible is going to convince him he is wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  98. “So I find it difficult to believe that anyone truly believes in the resurrection just because of the historical “evidence.””

    Hi Nate, just when it seemed we may be winding down, you bring this up! 🙂 I think it is worth outlining how I see this without trying to present all the arguments.

    1. Christians have won debates on the evidence for the resurrection. WLCraig uses it in many of his debates and he wins more than he loses, though I don’t know how much this plays a part in that. Gary Habermas famously won a debate (that seemed to be the consensus) with Antony Flew on this topic, and Flew later said that the resurrection was the best attested miracle claim in history. So there must be something in the claim worth looking at.

    2. I notice Jon mentioned Habermas and the empty tomb. It is worth noting that in his paper in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, he surveyed 1400 academic papers by “critical scholars”, and one finding was this:

    “A second research area concerns those scholars who address the subject of the empty tomb …. Of these scholars, approximately 75% favor one or more of these arguments for the empty tomb, while approximately 25% think that one or more arguments oppose it. Thus, while far from being unanimously held by critical scholars, it may surprise some that those who embrace the empty tomb as a historical fact still comprise a fairly strong majority.”

    3. Atheist and co-founder of the Secular Web, JJ Lowder did a study of the resurrection and concluded that both belief and disbelief were reasonable positions.

    4. If the resurrection was a non-supernatural event – say, the disciples all demonstrated outsides the Antonia Fortress with placards saying “Stop crucifixions!” – there would be very little doubt about it being accepted as historical – we have many independent accounts, people kept talking about it as a formative event for a long time afterwards and it can be seen as an important factor in subsequent history. It is not the historical evidence that is lacking, it is the metaphysics of it that bother people.

    5. Having said all that, I am more inclined to say I believe in the resurrection because I believe in Jesus, than to say I believe in Jesus because I believe in the resurrection. So I respect your view that it didn’t happen, it couldn’t happen, because there’s no way a dead man can come back to life except if God did it, and you don’t believe God exists. But once I believe, for all the reasons you know, that God exists and Jesus was/is his son, then the historical evidence becomes compelling.

    Now I don’t want to get into what I think would be a fruitless discussion of whether the resurrection happened, but I just wanted to make the point that christians aren’t cowering in a corner trying to avoid the hard light of evidence on this. We believe the evidence is very good for those who approach it with an open mind.

    Thanks.

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  99. “I think what’s less reasonable is seeing how the Bible isn’t all that reliable, but still thinking it’s somehow an authority on God.”

    This is really the nub of our disagreement, don’t you think? I think your view is still based on the fundamentalist view of the Bible you grew up with. We both reject that. But what I have long found difficult to understand is why, having rejected the fundamentalist approach, you and others don’t accept a scholarly approach. That doesn’t necessarily lead to christian belief, of course, but I think it leads to informed belief or disbelief.

    I take my views of the Bible primarily on reading it with an open mind, plus the views of scholars like CS Lewis, Peter Enns, and a host of NT specialists. That leads me to the view that the Bible started with legend or myth and gradually became more historical as it went on – the details on that don’t actually matter to me . By the time we get to the NT, we have good, though not inerrant, history plus interpretation. I think that is a pretty factual statement of the views of historians, and Bible specialists.

    So of course Genesis 1-11 isn’t “all that reliable” as history, because it is an aetiological myth, with maybe some history, but a quite different purpose. But by the NT, we have as good history as we get for that period and place.

    So my view is that, instead of saying (as you and others here do) that God should have done it differently, we should ask “Is there any reason God couldn’t have revealed truth this way?” And then “Is there any reason to believe that he did reveal truth this way?”

    I can’t see there is any in principle reason to say he couldn’t have, so the question is, did he? That is the question I think we should be discussing.

    In favour of this approach are many considerations:

    1. A gradual approach is similar in principle to evolution.
    2. Letting people learn for themselves is the best way to teach – as teachers and parents know.
    3. The world is a mixture of good and bad, so why expect a perfect books any more than a perfect world?
    4. “If you love someone set them free.” Most people accept that idea, so why not God?
    etc

    Now you always say something to the effect that the stakes are high, if heaven and hell depend on us believing, then God should give us more. But that statement too begins with a premise that I don’t accept, and I think also comes from fundamentalism. It too needs to be re-examined.

    So I think we may be beginning to repeat ourselves. But let me finish by saying like I did in my post on the resurrection – I’m not directly trying to convince you or expecting you to suddenly re-convert, I’m just hoping you’ll see that there are other ways of looking at the issue. Thanks for that opportunity.

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  100. “I think that once this starts to happen it is a slippery slope to realizing that you’ve created your own imaginary friend that thinks a lot like you do.”

    Except, Dave, if we base our facts on what the historians and experts tell us.

    Of course we can still create our own reality, but that can happen to a fundamentalist christian (how many of them agree?), or a more liberal christian, or an atheist. There’s no stopping people making things up to fit what they’d like to be true. So it’s not a reason to oppose any particular viewpoint, I think.

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  101. Hi William, wonder no more …. 🙂

    “I do wonder what UnkleE thinks about God’s test for the prophets of Baal, where the prophets of baal built an alter and then Elijah built and alter and filled his with water, and whichever God sent fire to consume their own sacrifice won.

    1) Did that actually happen, or this also one of those events in the OT that happens to be bogus?

    2) would god pass his own test today?

    3) if god worked that way then but doesn’t now, then couldn’t Baal have not worked that way back then, unwilling to lower himself to such tests and baiting?”

    1. “Bogus” is too crass and black and white a word. Many events are partly historical and partly legendary. As for this one, I don’t know, and I don’t actually care all that much.

    2. Sometimes, but mostly not. Check out the temptations of Jesus.

    3. Of course. Please feel free to follow Baal if you think there is evidence that way. I’ll stick with Jesus, for that’s where I think the best evidence points.

    What do you make of those answers?

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  102. 1. Christians have won debates on the evidence for the resurrection.

    What bloody evidence , UnkleE! There is No Damn Evidence, only the bible.
    You might as well say Harry Potterians have won debates on the evidence for Harry Potter.
    It is palpable bullshit.

    Now we begin to really see what Nonsupernaturalist was saying.
    This is not the argument presented by someone who is genuinely interested in establishing truth and fact.
    He is back to his conniving ways.

    And he has still not made a case for why he is able to dismiss the mythological Pentateuch and accept the nonsense of the Resurrection.
    He is a damn fraud! Little different than than wheedling bastard of old Eusebius.
    And you lot are buying into it…. and playing his game.

    Except, Dave, if we base our facts on what the historians and experts tell us.

    And here we go again ….
    What facts?
    and What historians ?

    For the love of the gods will SOMEONE on this thread have the gumption to demand that this man present a list of these historians and a list of these verifiable facts that he continues to waffle on and on about?

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  103. Every single Christian argument begins with a presuppositional statement namely:
    The biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth was a genuine historical character.
    Is there any non-biblical evidence to back this claim?
    Answer: No. None at all.

    So how can there be any discussion regarding a supernatural resurrection if we have not established the veracity of this character?

    It is dishonest for any Christian to approach this issue as a matter of historical fact without producing some sort of verifiable evidence.

    Winning endless debates means nothing other than one’s debating skills are better than the next person’s.
    It is for such a reason you will never see Craig, or McDowell or Licona debate Finkelstein or Dever on the historicity of Moses and the Exodus.

    Simply because there is evidence that flatly refutes any Christian claim of veracity for this biblical tale.
    Sound archaeological evidence.
    And it is for this reason that people like Woods and Kitchen are never entertained by any serious secular scholar on this matter and can only pander to the indoctrinated fear-based beliefs of Christians.

    UnkleE cites Habermas regarding his empty tomb survey.
    How many of these scholars are/were secular historians?
    Is there a list of these scholars?
    I have never seen a published list.
    Has UnkleE?
    Has anyone asked him to produce it?

    Do a quick Google search for ”Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus” and the only secular historian on the first page of entries I saw was Carrier; and a brief mention of Prof. Bob Price ( I simply did not bother after that) and we all know what UnkleE will say of Carrier, do we not? He dismisses him out of hand.

    Yet the arguments of McDowell and Craig are more reliable?
    NT Wright, Sanders, JP Meir etc must be given due reverence?

    If we are ever going to approach this subject with any genuine honesty, let’s first use terms that we all understand.
    And when we say verifiable evidence we mean verifiable.

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  104. unkleE, “I take my views of the Bible primarily on reading it with an open mind, plus the views of scholars like CS Lewis, Peter Enns, and a host of NT specialists.”

    Though Lewis was considered a Scholar in other fields, I find no where that CS Lewis was considered a “Bible Scholar”

    A reviewer of Enns’ book , “The Bible tells me so” has this to say, “As might be expected, however, Enns goes much further than just correcting modernistic expectations about history. He argues that many of the historical accounts are just “invented” (76), “contradict each other” (76), and engage in “creative writing” (80) and even “myth” (119). The Gospel stories conflict all over the place—from Christ’s birth to his resurrection.

    And yet the reviewer says this about Enns view of the Resurrection, ” Why is he now suddenly certain Jesus died on a Friday and rose on a Sunday? Why think Jesus rose at all? Perhaps the story has been modified to meet readers’ expectations. Maybe it’s been reshaped to address the needs of the audience. Maybe the resurrection is just a story that helps Christians remember that their god is “alive” and better than other gods. After all, we must remember what Enns told us earlier—that it is a “wrongheaded premise” to assume Scripture has to “get history ‘right’. Throughout chapter six he often refers to the actions and teachings of Jesus without any qualification about whether these things really happened or were said. Indeed, when it comes to the passages he uses to formulate his own interpretation of Jesus, he seems much less concerned to challenge their historicity.

    “and a host of NT specialists” And who is an NT Specialist ? I think Nate might fit that category . 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  105. Thanks for the reply, UnkleE.

    I think whether the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal is or not, doesn’t really matter, because it presents issues fro me either way.

    if it’s real, and the test proved Baal wasn’t a real god, or wasn’t a powerful god, then why wouldn’t the test indicate the same thing today? I don’t think anyone reading here thinks that Jehovah or Yahweh would pass that test today, so what would that mean? If the test were real, it would mean that Jehovah or Yahweh either isn’t real, or he’s not as powerful as he once was… or it could mean that he just doesn’t care and wont be tempted to perform a sign – but if that’s true, then Baal would get the same pass, and that would make the entire test moot to begin with.

    If it’s not real, then there’s just one more example of a miraculous claim being untrue or at least a metaphor or some other example or lesson – which could mean that the entire Resurrection and following siting are the same, instead of being literal, actual events.

    And if we’re going on history, isn’t it the case that many once believed supernatural events (some healings, some miracles, lighting, comets, typhoons, etc) have been shown to be the result of physical and natural phenomena, while there have been zero proven cases of actual supernatural events resulting from supernatural phenomena?

    And along with that, isn’t there ample historical evidence that people can sincerely believe falsehoods, that people can be mistaken?

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  106. I think the gospels and Jesus’ early disciples were built on something, so whatever that something was is sort of evidence for a man Jesus. But there being a guy named Jesus who had some followers is no more evidence for that Jesus being a deity as it would be for David Koresh or Jim Jones, or anyone else.

    One could argue those guys had a certain level of charisma, but again, that in no way serves as any indication of deity or possessing supernatural powers.

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  107. Hi unkleE,

    I mostly agree with your comment about the resurrection, and I also agree that this isn’t the thread to get into a long discussion about the evidence for/against the resurrection. In your point 5, you said this:

    Having said all that, I am more inclined to say I believe in the resurrection because I believe in Jesus, than to say I believe in Jesus because I believe in the resurrection

    I appreciate your saying that. I tend to think that most Christians must fit into this category. It’s true that an actual resurrection would explain the evidence we have from the gospels and the growth of Christianity, but it’s not the only thing that could explain it, and that’s why I think most people believe for different reasons.

    I think your view is still based on the fundamentalist view of the Bible you grew up with. We both reject that. But what I have long found difficult to understand is why, having rejected the fundamentalist approach, you and others don’t accept a scholarly approach. That doesn’t necessarily lead to christian belief, of course, but I think it leads to informed belief or disbelief.

    I think I have accepted a scholarly approach (not that I’d come anywhere close to qualifying as an NT scholar, though I do appreciate Ken’s compliment 🙂 ), but not all scholars are Christians. I very much feel that I fall into the “informed disbelief” camp.

    That leads me to the view that the Bible started with legend or myth and gradually became more historical as it went on – the details on that don’t actually matter to me . By the time we get to the NT, we have good, though not inerrant, history plus interpretation. I think that is a pretty factual statement of the views of historians, and Bible specialists.

    I think so too. But to me, this is exactly what we would expect to see if the Christian god weren’t real.

    So my view is that, instead of saying (as you and others here do) that God should have done it differently, we should ask “Is there any reason God couldn’t have revealed truth this way?” And then “Is there any reason to believe that he did reveal truth this way?”

    I can’t see there is any in principle reason to say he couldn’t have, so the question is, did he? That is the question I think we should be discussing.

    And this is where you and I part ways. First of all, I doubt that you ask this same question of the Koran or the Book of Mormon, so why focus on the Bible? Because I think those two books could easily pass this same test. Hell, the US tax code could probably pass this test. But more importantly, the only reason you’re able to think God might have used a book like this is because you’ve thrown out all the reasons not to! A 6 day creation? Obviously, that’s allegory. A global flood? Just a myth. Commands to keep slaves and commit genocide? Just a barbaric tribe inserting its own views. This is the very definition of confirmation bias! If you tracked stats for a baseball team in this way, every batter would bat 1000, since you’re ignoring all the misses.

    Liked by 2 people

  108. Ark, personally, I’m willing to accept that Jesus was real. I think the mythicist stuff is interesting, and I’m curious to see where that research leads. But I don’t know enough about it to argue for that position, and I’m not even convinced it’s the right one. I wasn’t really bothered by anything that unkleE laid out. Most importantly, he did concede that while he thinks the evidence for the resurrection is good, that’s not really what leads him to Christianity.

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  109. Jon

    William…

    at some point, no matter the subject, once all the cards have been laid out in front of you, often there’s one clear solution.

    Perhaps so, and yet — on the subject of religion — the majority of people on earth disagree with your solution (no matter what your solution is).

    …after laying out the jellybeans and counting each one, it is sort of confusing why anyone would still argue over the solution…

    I like this analogy. It is sometimes frustrating that Christians think atheists don’t understand Christians. It is more frustrating when Christians think they understand atheists, but only offer absurd strawman reasons for atheism (you wanted to sin, you are rebelling against God, etc). I try to remind Christians (to whom this applies) that I have been where you are. You have not been where I am. Only one of us has seen both sides of this, and it usually isn’t the Christian.

    Liked by 3 people

  110. Most Christians simply refuse to recognise the umbilical link between the Old and New Testament.
    In truth I cannot fathom how it is possible to divorce the two and still call oneself a Christian.
    Marcion recognised the problems this must have caused even back then and he wanted to do away with Yahweh completely. You know, this of course. Preaching t the choir! Sorry.
    Why the church opted to hang on to the Old Testament I do not know.
    I read somewhere ( I think) it had to do with Original Sin.
    Is this correct, Nate. Do you know?

    But the New Testament is also so fraught with problems; historical, geographical etc that to be able to single out the resurrection of Jesus ( and nobody ever mentions Lazarus do they?) and claim ”Historical Fact” when we have so many other Supernatural Garbage that is completely overlooked is, to my mind , the height of hypocrisy.

    Why are there no Campus Debates about whether Jesus of Nazareth walked on water?
    Where is Unklee’s scholarly consensus and Habermas’s hundreds and hundreds of scholars who state this was likely a true historical event?
    (And just for interest’s sake, no other document of the period mentions the Sea of Galilee)

    Liked by 1 person

  111. Jon

    unklee

    Christians have won debates on the evidence for the resurrection. WLCraig uses it in many of his debates and he wins more than he loses

    I agree that WLC wins most of his debates. The man is a master at the art and technique of debate. He really is very, very good. However, I would note that WLC tends to debate experts on topics outside of their own expertise. This gives him a tremendous advantage. But when WLC debates a subject matter expert on the topic of their expertise, things go far less well for him. For example, 1) his debate on morality with Shelly Kagan (the clearest debate loss I’ve seen for WLC), 2) his debate with Bart Ehrman on “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead”, and 3) his debate against Sean Carroll on God and Cosmology. I think those three were losses, because Craig was unable to take them outside of their comfort zones or make claims his opponents were unfamiliar with.

    Gary Habermas famously won a debate (that seemed to be the consensus) with Antony Flew on this topic, and Flew later said that the resurrection was the best attested miracle claim in history.

    Flew became a deist, not a Christian. He said the evidence for the resurrection was “better” than for mother miracles, but he did not accept it as true.

    It is worth noting that in his paper in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, he surveyed 1400 academic papers by “critical scholars”

    I am very, very familiar with Habermas’ work. I would note that he has never published the data he cites as the basis for this claim. Never. It exists in a word document on his computer and I don’t believe even his co-author, Mike Licona, has ever seen it. I am willing to accept that Habermas has accumulated these references, but we have no way of determining whether he is using valid methodology, who he counts (theologians? historians? seminarians?) or how he evaluates an author’s position.

    Then there is the fact that “scholars who write about an empty tomb” is bound to be heavily weighted towards scholars who are predisposed to believe in an empty tomb, in much the same way that “scholars who write about Joseph Smith” are more likely to be Mormons.

    Liked by 2 people

  112. You know, I don’t really know why the OT was hung onto. That’s an aspect of canonization that I haven’t researched. I may look into that…

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  113. nonsupernaturalist

    UnkleE: “Having said all that, I am more inclined to say I believe in the resurrection because I believe in Jesus, than to say I believe in Jesus because I believe in the resurrection.”

    Until UnkleE begins to question the existence of the Christian god, Yahweh/Lord Jesus, we will never convince him that his worldview is false based on objective evidence. His feelings and perceptions about the invisible being whom he believes resides inside his “soul” is too strong to even consider the possibility that his worldview is false.

    Liked by 1 person

  114. nonsupernaturalist

    … His feelings and perceptions about the invisible being whom he believes resides inside his “soul” ARE too strong to even consider the possibility that his worldview is false.

    Liked by 1 person

  115. nonsupernaturalist

    One of the main reasons I left evangelical Christianity and became a Lutheran was because I never “heard” Jesus speak to me “in my heart”. I got tired of hearing all the Christians around me talk about how Jesus was always “leading” them, “moving them”, and speaking to them in a still, small voice.

    So if you are a Christian who believes that a Being inside your body is keeping a running conversation with you all day long, every day of your life; a Being who is always there when you are down; always a source of comfort in your times of need, and then some skeptic comes along and tells you that that being/person doesn’t exist; that when he died 2,000 years ago, he stayed dead; that the voice you are hearing in your head is just your imagination, why would you ever believe them?

    That’s the problem.

    How do you convince someone that their invisible best friend does not exist?

    Liked by 2 people

  116. If I thought i saw bigfoot in the woods, I can imagine that it would be hard for someone who wasn’t there, to try and convince that I saw something else, even though if someone told me that they saw bigfoot in the woods, i’d think they had really seen something else.

    So I can also see how people who feel like they’ve witnessed a real miracle, or who feel like God is really with them somehow, would be difficult to sway.

    When I believed, I thought God was with me, but I never thought he spoke directly to me. I never claimed to hear his voice. Once many of the issues were spread plainly in front of me, the idea of consistency, fairness and reason compelled me to question my feelings of God’s “presence.”

    Is he anymore present than Anne Frank or George Washington? For me, the answer was “no.”

    And those times where i felt like prayers had been answered, i seldom shared them as evidences or proofs for God, because even then I realized that they could easily appear to be just coincidences, which is what I’d assume would be the case if someone from a religious background I disagreed with shared a similar story.

    Maybe I haven’t witnessed what UnkleE and others have, but I’d bet that we’ve all witnessed people who’ve been wrong and who’ve believed things that are false, and I’d bet that none of us has witnessed a 3 day dead body return to life and fly off… so, this is why i have a hard time understanding why it’s more reasonable to believe stories about a 3 day old dead body coming back to life and flying off.

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  117. “I think that once this starts to happen it is a slippery slope to realizing that you’ve created your own imaginary friend that thinks a lot like you do.”

    Except, Dave, if we base our facts on what the historians and experts tell us.

    Historians and experts can only tell us what they think might be historical within the pages of the Bible. They can’t tell us anything about a theoretical deity. So you would still have to take a step of “faith” and pick and choose your own theology and your own version of “God”.

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  118. nonsupernaturalist

    Spengler, Venkman and Stanz?

    “Venkman” sounded vaguely familiar but the other two did not. I thought maybe they were famous psychologists. Then I googled it.

    Very funny, Arkster!

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  119. Jon

    Nate…

    I don’t really know why the OT was hung onto.

    How could they not have hung onto it? I mean, the OT is the entire premise to the Christian story. Christianity does not make sense except in light of the OT origin story. Originally, Christianity was just a sect within Judaism. It only gradually grew apart from Judaism as they had more success with Gentiles than with Jews.

    The OT was “scripture” to Jesus, Paul and the apostles. They might have been able to leave behind some parts of what we now call the OT — they obviously did not incorporate books like Enoch, and some canons differ on some books — but the OT it not severable from Christianity.

    Liked by 1 person

  120. Thanks Jon, that works for me. I knew that Jesus’s earliest disciples and Paul would have viewed it that way. As far as the later bishops who weighed in on which books were legitimate, I wasn’t sure if they had different criteria. Your reasoning makes sense to me, though.

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  121. nonsupernaturalist

    Ok, so I’m going to try and answer my own question: “How do you convince someone that their invisible best friend does not exist?”

    1. Is it possible that the “still, small voice” you hear speaking to you or “leading” you is just YOU?

    Think about this: How many times have you been in a church or in a denomination in which two different leaders/factions in the church/denomination both claim that God has “led” them to two very different conclusions on an issue?

    I saw this a lot in evangelicalism. Isn’t that a strong indication that “God” has nothing to do with it. These “voices” were just people convincing themselves of their own desired plans of actions.

    2. Isn’t it possible that your experiences of remarkable answered prayers are nothing more than random chance? Is there any statistical evidence that Christians have higher health recovery rates, lower accident rates, lower death rates, etc., than other groups of people? I don’t think so.

    Liked by 3 people

  122. Jon

    Arkenaten

    So why do you think Marcion was able to get away with it ( for quite some time) and even produce his own gospel?

    I’m only speculating here, but I think it’s probably because Marcion’s views were so radically different. Marcion thought Jesus was an entirely different God, one who had defeated the OT God. His version of Christianity was explicitly discontinuous with the OT.

    Liked by 1 person

  123. @Jon.
    I know.
    But the point I was trying to make was how/why did the church allow it for so long? And also, that so many people followed him/his version which included churches and all the paraphernalia I believe?

    What was it that sparked a ”witch hunt” against him?

    Further, Marcion didn’t even believe Jesus was a Jewish Messiah.

    This seems to lend more credence that this character – JC – was simply mythological and not a real historical person at all for how could Marcion have been so mistaken/wrong about the character Jesus of Nazareth if the evidence was there for all to see?

    It makes no sense that he would change Jesus background etc so entirely as if he was real and there was evidence for this then he would look like a bloody fool trying to pass Jesus off as not a Jewish Messiah. And yet he was believed and had quite a large following by all reckoning

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  124. “I think whether the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal is or not, doesn’t really matter, because it presents issues fro me either way.
    if it’s real …..
    If it’s not real …..”

    I think you are still missing what I am saying. The evidence of archaeologists, historians, literary experts, anthropologists, etc, is that the OT starts with myth and ends in interpreted history. Myth doesn’t necessarily mean “not historical”, though it often probably is, but that isn’t what’s important. The important point is that it usually contains cultural truths that are foundational for the people. I have just written a post on this that my help you see where I am coming from – Myths, legends, history and truth.

    So the prophets of Baal story had a meaning and told truths that were important to the Jewish people. It likely had some historical basis, possibly very flimsy, possibly it actually happened, but we can never know and it isn’t really important. So instead of using the dichotomy of real/unreal, we need something more subtle to asses it.

    “And along with that, isn’t there ample historical evidence that people can sincerely believe falsehoods, that people can be mistaken?”

    Of course! I don’t think I have said anything that would lead you to think I wouldn’t agree with that? But it can be as true of sceptics as believers. The only way forward, I think, is to start with the consensus of historians and then build from there. That is what I try to do. That is how I respond to the resurrection, and the prophets of Baal, and to the history of Stonehenge.

    The difficulty on this blog comment section is that many sceptics want to start with a biased view of history by being very selective in their choice of experts. We ought to be able, as Nate and I generally can, to agree on the starting facts based on the consensus of experts, and discuss our conclusions from there. But it happens far too little.

    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss these things.

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  125. “The difficulty on this blog comment section is that many sceptics want to start with a biased view of history by being very selective in their choice of experts. ”

    unkleE, you live in a glass house too. Put the rock down. 🙂

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  126. Jon

    Arkenaten

    …the point I was trying to make was how/why did the church allow it for so long? And also, that so many people followed him/his version which included churches and all the paraphernalia I believe? What was it that sparked a ”witch hunt” against him?

    I don’t know. Was the Church in early-to-mid 2nd century in a position to disallow heresy? I’m not sure what they could have done beyond criticizing and excommunicating Marcion. Does that count as a witch hunt?

    As far as his followers, obviously he had some, but how many people were there and how large was it as a percentage of the overall number of Christians? I don’t know. I’m not sure we have great data on the number and composition of Christians at many points in the first few centuries.

    Further, Marcion didn’t even believe Jesus was a Jewish Messiah.

    Right, that is consistent with his belief that the Jewish scriptures were about an evil god and that his new “good” God had sent Jesus to save people from that evil God. He believed Jesus was a savior, just not the savior of the Jewish scriptures.

    This seems to lend more credence that this character – JC – was simply mythological and not a real historical person at all for how could Marcion have been so mistaken/wrong about the character Jesus of Nazareth if the evidence was there for all to see?

    I don’t think this follows at all. Marcion’s canon included (most of) Luke and only removed some of the more “Jewish” elements of the book. Marcion didn’t deny Jesus, he just had a more gnostic view of the purpose of Jesus. Tertullian wrote, “Marcion laid down the position that Christ, who in the days of Tiberius was, by a previously unknown god, revealed for the salvation of all nations…”

    It makes no sense that he would change Jesus background etc so entirely as if he was real and there was evidence for this then he would look like a bloody fool trying to pass Jesus off as not a Jewish Messiah.

    On the contrary, the idea that a crucified man could be the Jewish messiah was seen as a “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”, so reinterpreting him (to, remember, distant audiences) was not only plausible but pretty well in line with what Christians had been doing for the previous century.

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  127. Constantine’s Bible by David L Dungan is an excellent historical view of how the Bible was formed . It answers a lot of questions here including questions about Marcion. It’s only 159 pgs long with 50 pages of reference notes. I highly recommend it !

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  128. nonsupernaturalist

    UnkleE: “The difficulty on this blog comment section is that many sceptics want to start with a biased view of history by being very selective in their choice of experts. We ought to be able, as Nate and I generally can, to agree on the starting facts based on the consensus of experts, and discuss our conclusions from there. But it happens far too little.”

    I agree with UnkleE. We skeptics are biased…but everyone is biased to some degree…including Christians. I also agree with UnkleE that we should listen to consensus expert opinion. But what is a consensus? A simple majority? Is 50.5% a consensus opinion?

    I prefer to use this definition of “consensus”: the opinion of the vast majority of experts in a given field of expertise. What is “vast”? I would say, at least 90%, but some may disagree. Bottom line, if 50.5% of experts in a field take one side on a position and 49.5% of experts in the field hold a contrary view, I don’t think it is wrong to side with the minority. However, if only a fringe (5-10%) of experts hold a position, you probably should be an expert yourself to disagree with the overwhelming majority opinion.

    So when it comes to the Bible, using the definition of “consensus expert opinion” above, where do we skeptics and UnkleE disagree?

    1. Does the consensus of experts believe that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead?
    No.
    2. Does the consensus of experts believe that Jesus ascended/levitated into the clouds/outer space? No.
    3. Does the consensus of experts believe that Jesus was the product of the union of a god with a human virgin? No.
    4. Does the consensus of experts believe that the disciples of Jesus truly did see a resurrected dead body? No.

    So why does UnkleE accuse skeptics of rejecting the consensus opinion of experts? Is it because some of us reject the historicity of the Empty Tomb? Remember, Habermas’ data is based on a literature search beginning with articles published in 1975 (hardly current). And in this literature search, Habermas’ claims that 75% of scholars believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb. 75% constitutes a majority, but not a consensus. But let’s give this one to UnkleE and Christians. Let’s agree to accept the Empty Tomb as historical fact. Only a Christian would see an empty tomb as proof of a resurrection. There are many possible, much more probable explanations for an empty tomb than that a dead guy came back to life by the power of a ancient Canaanite deity.

    So what consensus expert opinion are we skeptics here on Nate’s blog rejecting??? I don’t see it.

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  129. I don’t think it takes a scholar to recognize there was an empty tomb according to the Gospels. But what were the people thinking when they discovered the empty tomb ???

    Let’s look at it again.

    What did the women do after they found the empty grave ?
    Luke 24:9-11 9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.

    What did Peter do ?
    Luke 24:12 ” Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”

    Let’s check John
    John 20:2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

    It doesn’t appear they knew anything about Jesus’ Resurrection

    And you ask why we are skeptical about a Resurrection ?

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  130. “I very much feel that I fall into the “informed disbelief” camp.”

    Hi Nate, yes, I think we understand each other here. We at least broadly accept what the historians say (when there is a consensus) and we disagree about how to interpret that. We could move on then to discuss our conclusions on that basis, but we both agree that we won’t do that now! 🙂

    “But to me, this is exactly what we would expect to see if the Christian god weren’t real.”

    Yes it may be, at least the first part (the OT). But (1) it equally fits with christian belief, so it is not a definitive criterion, and (2) the important bit is the NT, which I would argue is not at all what we’d expect if the christian God wasn’t real. But again, that’s for another day!

    “I doubt that you ask this same question of the Koran or the Book of Mormon, so why focus on the Bible?”

    Well it is obvious that I focus on the Bible in part because I grew up in that culture. But there are other reasons as well – christianity is the world’s largest religion, the christian God matches what the philosophical, scientific and personal evidence (expressed via the theistic arguments) points to about God, christianity makes much clearer and important historical claims, and the figure of Jesus is the only credible divine incarnation among them. Furthermore, I have read some of the Mormon, Islam and Baha’i scriptures and there are good reasons to rate them “lower” than the New Testament. So none of us can be totally even-handed, but I think christianity stands head and shoulders above any other religion on objective grounds. And accordingly, I don’t say they are all wrong and christianity is right, rather I say they are less right and christianity is more right.

    “more importantly, the only reason you’re able to think God might have used a book like this is because you’ve thrown out all the reasons not to! “

    Well I can understand how you might feel, but really, I haven’t done anything like that. I keep saying, I think all opinions should start from facts, and on contentious matters, there will be a range of views on the facts, so we need to find a balance between the different viewpoints. It is that consensus of historians that I base my views on, and that consensus tells us that Noah was probably a devastating local Sumerian flood gradually written up into an epic myth (first Gilgamesh/Utnapishtim, then Noah) almost a millennium later. That is the broad consensus of scholars about Genesis 1-11. I equally accept the broad consensus on the rest of the OT. But none of that is important for my faith.

    My faith in Jesus is based on the NT, and there I have “thrown out” very little. I accept that the birth stories are doubtful, I accept that there are discrepancies in accounts, but the basic picture of Jesus as a teacher, healer, exorcist, prophet, Messiah, and representative of God on earth, who was seen in vision after his death and quickly worshiped as divine, is well supported by scholars of all stripes. Non-believing scholars like Bart Ehrman (I have just finished reading his book on the subject) say he was an apocalyptic prophet who evoked a strong response. Believing scholars say he was that, but divine as well, and that the visions were real. I believe the latter is true. It is on the basis of believing in Jesus that I assess the OT and find it quite reasonable that it would be as the scholars say, with many doubts about the details. The OT is important for understanding Jesus, but (for me) not important for believing in him.

    So I can only repeat, we both accept the facts, more or less the same, we both conclude differently from them, and I respect your conclusion even while disagreeing with it. But I still think the matters that began this post are not relevant in that disagreement because they can fit both your and my beliefs.

    Sorry to go on a bit, but I’m hoping it is helpful in at least understanding where I’m at, even though you disagree. Thanks for you patience and tolerance! 🙂

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  131. “I agree that WLC wins most of his debates. ….. I think those three were losses, because Craig was unable to take them outside of their comfort zones or make claims his opponents were unfamiliar with.”

    Hi Jon, thanks for your thoughts. I’m not wanting to debate how good WLC is and I’m sure he doesn’t win everything, I was just pointing out that however much atheists disagree with belief in the resurrection, it has respectable support. Those who think a quick glib put-down is enough aren’t grappling with the evidence . (I’m not at all suggesting you did that.) For atheists, I think the starting point should be JJ Lowder’s paper.

    “Flew became a deist, not a Christian. He said the evidence for the resurrection was “better” than for mother miracles, but he did not accept it as true.”

    Yes, I know. But I was careful in my wording not to suggest he believed it, but simply that he thought it was well attested, even asking NT Wright to write a chapter on it in his “There is a God” book.

    “I am very, very familiar with Habermas’ work. I would note that he has never published the data he cites as the basis for this claim. Never. It exists in a word document on his computer and I don’t believe even his co-author, Mike Licona, has ever seen it.”

    I have heard this said many times, but what is your basis for it? I took the information from a paper that is freely available on the web. A slightly edited version of the same paper was then published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus in 2005. In it he answers some of your questions. Were you aware of this? If so, do you not trust peer-reviewed academic journals? I am at a loss to understand.

    “Then there is the fact that “scholars who write about an empty tomb” is bound to be heavily weighted towards scholars who are predisposed to believe in an empty tomb, in much the same way that “scholars who write about Joseph Smith” are more likely to be Mormons.”

    I am at a loss to understand this statement too. Is that a fact – one for which you have evidence? My own feeling is that it is quite wrong, but that is just an impression not a fact. My impression is that until the last decade, until NT Wright’s “The Resurrection of the Son of God” began to influence scholars, few “critical scholars” argued for the resurrection as a historical fact (it was argued as a faith conclusion), and most scholars said it was not a historical matter, while a few said it didn’t happen. So I don’t think you are right, but I could easily be corrected by factual information that contradicts my impressions.

    Among the non christian scholars I have read, from memory, many accept that the disciples saw visions (Casey, Ehrman, Jesus Seminar, Sanders) and some accept the empty tomb (Grant, Fox). Habermas references a few others. So I think his results are interesting. I wouldn’t put much store on the exact figure of 75%, but what I think we can say is that even many critical sceptical non-christian scholars accept either the empty tomb or the visions, or both.

    Thanks for the opportunity to explore these matters.

    Like

  132. “Historians and experts can only tell us what they think might be historical within the pages of the Bible. They can’t tell us anything about a theoretical deity. So you would still have to take a step of “faith” and pick and choose your own theology and your own version of “God”.”

    Sure. The historical evidence can only take us so far. Then we each have to decide what we think ourselves. But a response to not believe is just as much a “faith” response (i.e. going beyond the evidence) as a response to believe. Believers and sceptics alike can choose their own theology!

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  133. Sure. The historical evidence can only take us so far.

    Let’s start here shall we, UnkleE?
    Is there any verifiable historical evidence whatsoever for anything that is claimed to have occurred to the character, Jesus of Nazareth?
    Answer: No.
    Is there any historical evidence for the disciples?
    Answer: No.
    Is there any verifiable historical evidence for any of the the characters ever having interacted with Jesus of Nazareth or the disciples?
    Answer: No.
    Are there any Roman records for the character Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples?
    Answer: No

    Wiki.
    There is no physical or archaeological evidence for Jesus. All sources are documentary, mainly Christian writings, such as the gospels and the purported letters of the apostles. The authenticity and reliability of these sources has been questioned by many scholars, and few events mentioned in the gospels are universally accepted

    Therefore we cannot even establish from an historical perspective that the character, Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples were anything other than works of fiction, especially in light of the claims made about him/them.

    So please explain from what historical perspective are you </em basing the claims pertaining to what ''historians'' say. And could you please offer at least a short list of the historians you have ''on hand'' as it were that are on record stating that Jesus of Nazareth his immediate family, and his disciples were genuine historical characters.

    Thanks.

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  134. Pingback: Is It Fair to Expect Inerrant Evidence For Deities? | Amusing Nonsense

  135. I unkleE,

    I don’t have time right this second to respond to some of your other comments, but I wanted to quickly say something about your most recent one, even though I think it was addressed to Dave:

    Sure. The historical evidence can only take us so far. Then we each have to decide what we think ourselves. But a response to not believe is just as much a “faith” response (i.e. going beyond the evidence) as a response to believe. Believers and sceptics alike can choose their own theology!

    I added the underline, btw. I couldn’t disagree more. Now for those who insist that Jesus never existed and is just a mythological invention, you might have a point. But if you’re talking about the resurrection, the only people exercising faith in that scenario are those who think it actually happened. Why the difference? Because people don’t come back to life, unless the laws of nature are being suspended. That’s a really big deal. If it weren’t, we’d have to maintain that not believing in Santa Claus is also a faith response.

    Liked by 4 people

  136. Right, nate, it seems like it would being saying that if we saw a ball rolling down a hill to an un-obscured cliff edge, that there’d be equal grounds to suspect the ball will either fly upward or fall down the cliff.

    But we all know how gravity works. We all know how balls with a downward inertia act, so it’s stupid to predict the ball will fly away. Predicting the ball will fly away is in no way on equal footing as the prediction that the ball will fall down the cliff.

    Does it take faith to think the ball will fall? …well, if that’s faith, it’s certainly much more rooted in knowledge and reason than the other options. So call it faith if you like, but the faith that the ball will fly away is based on… hope, ignorance, drugs, whatever else,and depends much, much less on reason, experience and logic.

    right?

    Liked by 3 people

  137. Jon

    Unklee

    I was just pointing out that however much atheists disagree with belief in the resurrection, it has respectable support.

    I think you overstate the scholarly support it has. For starters, I think the Minimal Facts argument overstates some of the scholarly agreement. There is a substantive difference between A) apostles experiencing physical appearances, B) apostles experiencing “visions” (like Paul), and C) apostles claiming they had experienced appearances. The MF argument does not make a distinction. But beyond that, the MF argument is not based in scholarly support for the resurrection, but instead scholarly support for elements that proponents argue are best explained by a resurrection. This is not the same as saying scholars support the historicity of the resurrection.

    For atheists, I think the starting point should be JJ Lowder’s paper.

    I thoroughly enjoy Lowder’s work and I have a great deal of respect for the respectful way that he considers arguments and opponents. That said, I think he pretty persuasively dismantles the pro-resurrection arguments in that piece.

    he thought it was well attested, even asking NT Wright to write a chapter on it in his “There is a God” book.

    I am conflicted on this. I think it is ungracious to suggest that Flew’s views were due to age and an enfeebled mind, but I struggle to reconcile what he said with some other facts. He did not write the book. It was ghost-written for him. He clearly did not understand at least some of what was included. As the NYT’s Mark Oppenheimer wrote, “There were words in his book, like “abiogenesis,” that now he could not define.” Actually, just read Oppenheimer’s article for an explanation of my skepticism.

    I have heard this said many times, but what is your basis for it?

    My source is Habermas. I specifically asked him about this and he confirmed it. I understand you have no way to verify whether I’m telling the truth, of course — I could provide Nate with some indirect evidence privately — but you can verify this by trying to find the database or complete list published anywhere. You will not find it. I would add that his co-author, Mike Licona, also called it (circa 2010) an “unpublished bibliography” that was “in a roughly formatted Microsoft Word document more than six hundred pages in length…”

    I should note two things. First, I quite like Professor Habermas. He is a friendly, interesting fellow and I think he takes a far more responsible approach to the argument than many of the people who use his arguments. Second, I am not arguing that he does not have a list of 1400 sources (or “well over 2000 sources” or “in the neighborhood of 3,400 sources”, depending on the telling). I think it is very likely he has compiled this. However, without access to the data itself, we have no way of knowing what his methodology is, who counts as a relevant source on the topic (historians? theologians? textual critics? seminarians?), how clearly an opinion has to be asserted to count one way or another, or any number of other factors.

    A slightly edited version of the same paper was then published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus in 2005. In it he answers some of your questions. Were you aware of this? If so, do you not trust peer-reviewed academic journals? I am at a loss to understand.

    Yes, I read that piece — and almost everything else on his website! — a couple years ago. I’m not sure what a peer reviewed journal has to do with my arguments, though. The article was a literature review that primarily focused on perhaps a few dozen sources. Peer review doesn’t imply checking the vast database, which he only briefly mentioned. In fact, he covers the research trends through “a sample interpretation…from the works of two representative scholars…”

    I am at a loss to understand this statement too. Is that a fact – one for which you have evidence? My own feeling is that it is quite wrong, but that is just an impression not a fact. My impression is that until the last decade, until NT Wright’s “The Resurrection of the Son of God” began to influence scholars, few “critical scholars” argued for the resurrection as a historical fact (it was argued as a faith conclusion), and most scholars said it was not a historical matter, while a few said it didn’t happen.

    How many biblical scholars are non-Christians? I can think of a few, but very few. Dallas Theological Seminary, Liberty University, Baptist Theological Seminary, Biola and dozens/hundreds of other religious schools churn out graduates by the thousands. There are secular (neither for nor against) schools, but there are no schools that take a theological stance against the resurrection in the manner that Christian schools take a theological stance for the resurrection. Heck, some of these scholars (or “scholars”, in some cases) are contractually required to maintain a belief in a literal resurrection. Some scholars would lose their jobs if they suggested that the Bible contained so much as a single error. Some, like Mike Licona and Peter Enns, have lost their jobs over such differences!

    Beyond that, I don’t think it is methodologically possible to argue for the resurrection on an academic basis. I think you are taking the academic argument about component elements — the crucifixion, the tomb, the belief in appearances — to mean that scholars argue for the historicity of the resurrection itself. But the MF argument only says scholars argue for the individual elements, not that those scholars accept the resurrection conclusion as an academically established historical fact. Those are separate claims.

    I believe many/most scholars would argue that they believe in the resurrection without arguing that it can be established on a historical basis. Belief in the resurrection is a matter of theology and faith, not evidence.

    I think we can say is that even many critical sceptical non-christian scholars accept either the empty tomb or the visions, or both.

    I think that is reasonably likely. I think it is probably more likely that Jesus’ body was thrown in a mass grave and the tomb story was a later development, but I don’t think burial in a tomb is implausible. As far as visions, that covers a wide range of things, from dreams to hallucinations to physical appearances. I think it’s entirely plausible that most scholars believe at least one or two of his followers had some sort of dream or hallucination, but I think proponents of the MF argument try to extrapolate too much from that and leave people with the impression that scholars agree that all of Jesus apostles physically “saw” a resurrected Jesus.

    Liked by 2 people

  138. Ron

    Is it fair to expect inerrancy from the Bible?

    If the Bible claims that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”—then yes, it is fair to expect (and demand) that said God deliver its message with 100% accuracy.

    Liked by 1 person

  139. nonsupernaturalist

    The bodily resurrection of Jesus claim does not sound strange to persons who have grown up in Christian areas of the world like the US and Australia because it is part of our culture. But ask an educated person in Japan what they think of the claim that a dead man came back to life sporting a superhero-body that could teleport between cities and walk through locked doors and they will look at you like you are an absolute idiot.

    Dear Christian: Substitute any other spectacular supernatural claim for the bodily resurrection of Jesus in the Jesus story and you will see just how much a stretch of the imagination this claim really is. Regardless of what UnkleE and other Christians claim, it is NOT a reasonable conclusion to believe that this event happened!

    Let’s substitute the original Resurrection story with this claim: Four books written several decades after Jesus’ death all claim the following: the body of Jesus is placed in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. On Sunday morning, the women and all eleven of the disciples show up to the Tomb and find a group of little green Martians prying away the rock slab in front of the tomb, they enter the tomb, then a few minutes later, they walk out with the body of Jesus, and finally, they and the body slowly levitate up into the spaceship, to fly off at the speed of light.

    Another book written a few decades later claims that the space ship, with the little green Martians made a quick stop in a nearby city before flying off to Mars. As the door to the space ship opens, a supernatural Jesus walks out in a glowing white robe, gives the Great Commission to 500 people, and then the spaceship flies off never to be seen again. The book even lists the names of these 500 witnesses and their addresses!!! All other evidence presented for the Jesus Story is the same.

    Would you believe that this Martian body snatching happened?

    Of course not.

    So why do you believe a story that another type of non-earthly beings, called “angels”, took the body or at least were present when the body of Jesus supernaturally exited his sealed tomb????

    It is a tall tale.

    It is NOT reasonable to believe this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  140. Jon

    Arkenaten

    Is there any verifiable historical evidence whatsoever for anything that is claimed to have occurred to the character, Jesus of Nazareth?
    Answer: No.
    Is there any historical evidence for the disciples?
    Answer: No.
    Is there any verifiable historical evidence for any of the the characters ever having interacted with Jesus of Nazareth or the disciples?
    Answer: No.
    Are there any Roman records for the character Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples?
    Answer: No

    The textual record is evidence. It is not proof, but it is evidence.

    You don’t seem to understand how the field of history works, what kind of evidence we have for many historical figures or what kind of evidence we should expect to have.

    There are a ton of historical figures for which we don’t have contemporaneous historical writings or physical evidence. Major figures. People who were famous and likely to have been written about. There are a ton of historical figures we only know about because of records from many centuries later that reference something they supposedly wrote. Why would you expect more for a mere rural preacher who had a few followers and got killed?

    Why would you expect us to have Roman records of him? This, in particular, is ridiculous. How many Roman records do we have of people who lived in Judea in the first few decades of the 1st century? How many Roman records do we have of individuals who were executed in that region? Please, provide us with the extensive Roman records from which you think Jesus is missing.

    Or let’s try another example. Are you familiar with the three major Jewish festivals — Shavuot (aka: Pentecost or “festival of weeks”), Passover and Sukkot — for which Jews from all over traveled to Jerusalem? On those holidays, the population of Jerusalem grew massively, like a mid-size US city hosting the Super Bowl, except it lasted for up to a week. These festivals were the major events for Jerusalem and a central focus of Jewish life.

    Now, can you provide me with historical evidence for each of these events that matches the kind of evidence you want for the historicity of Jesus, who was just one of the tens or hundreds of thousands of people who traveled to Jerusalem? Can you provide me with details of the festivals in 15 CE? What about 32 CE? Surely, if you think there should be contemporaneous records of some minor Jewish preacher who was only active for 1-3 years, then you must believe there are contemporaneous records of the major events in the largest city in the region for each of those years, right?

    Of course, there are not. We have a very few mentions of the festivals, very few actual/reliable details and nothing about most of the specific events.

    That is how history works. We piece together what is most likely from a very limited historical record. The fact that we have numerous textual records of a 1st century Judean preacher named Jesus within 70 years of his death is pretty strong evidence for his historicity.

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  141. nonsupernaturalist

    Jon said, “…contemporaneous records of some minor Jewish preacher who was only active for 1-3 years.”

    The problem is that the Gospels do not claim that Jesus was a minor Jewish preacher. The Gospels claim that Jesus stood Galilee and Judea on their heads, brought the entire region to near revolt, was hailed as the Jewish king by throngs of thousands as he entered Jerusalem riding on a colt, and his trial caused the mighty Pilate to tremble in fear of the seething Jewish mobs at his door.

    Yet Philo nor any other contemporary said one word about ANY of this.

    I believe that Jesus existed, but not as the Gospels describe him. The Gospels are not reliable sources for more than the very bare essentials of Jesus. He lived, was an apocalyptic preacher, and was crucified by the Romans. That is about it.

    But that he rose from the dead and flew off into outer space???

    No way.

    Liked by 3 people

  142. NS, you write so much that I agree with! And this latest comment is no exception. I’ve felt for a long time that Yeshua actually existed and was as you described him. I think his followers were just so impressed with his message (plus the fact that during the times of the bible extraordinary claims were made about a lot of things), that they embellished and added to his activities in order to persuade their fellow countrypeople (;-)) he was truly “God-Sent.” Then Paul grabbed the ball and ran and Voila! We have Christianity (Pauline-style).

    Liked by 1 person

  143. I align with both Jon and Gary regarding the man Jesus. I think they’re hitting on two different sides of the same coin.

    I think there’s evidence that Jesus was a real guy, and the gospels and earlier believers serve as that evidence, but there being adequate evidence to think there was a man named Jesus, who was known by some a a healer or guru of some sort, is quite different than suggesting that evidence supports what some people actually believed about him, especially when some of those things defy known laws of physics and biology, as well as common sense – like a ball that’s rolling down a hill flies away instead of falling down the cliff at the end of the hill, no one would think that because it goes against everything we know and have witnessed.

    But to be fair to Ark, this evidence isn’t the same a proof, but then like Jon pointed out, expecting certain proof could be a bit unreasonable, depending on the circumstance. And I don’t think “Jesus the Son of God” was a real entity, I just think “the man Jesus” was a real guy who got turned into a legend.

    To believe the ball flew away like a UFO would take considerable evidence and proof. So maybe to believe that a guy came back to life and flew away should require something more than the old claims of a book which were written in superstitious times… because we also know that superstitious folks believe all sorts of weird stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  144. nonsupernaturalist

    Think about this folks: There is no evidence for the existence of Martians or angels other than the claims of a few wild-eyed fanatics.

    I suggest we not believe any stories that claim to involve either one of these extraterrestrials.

    Like

  145. Well that’s interesting, and I agree, but it makes me think about the possibility of extraterrestrial life… Isn’t it possible?

    Isn’t it possible that there could be life somewhere else in this vast universe with hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars…

    It starts to seem likely that there could be. But even with that likelihood, i’d still suspect that most of us, even if we all agreed it were not only possible, but likely that extraterrestrial life were real, we’d all also very likely not believe in an alien abduction story, and we all probably think UFO sightings are just misidentified human aircraft or swamp-gasses and venus.

    Maybe there’s a likelihood of angels, gods and demons, even though there’s no spiritual realm we can look at like we have for stars in space, but even if they were potentially likely, there’d still be a need for actual evidence and proof, just like we’d require for Aliens.

    I feel like this is pretty straight forward and easy to grasp. I think asking for better evidence, beyond the wild claims of unknown ancient people, is consistent with regular, every day skepticism of any bold claim.

    Liked by 1 person

  146. nonsupernaturalist

    Anything is possible, William. The real question is: Is it probable?

    Is it possible that unicorns, flying-spaghetti monsters, leprechauns, and little, green, antennae-toting Martians exist? Sure. Is it probable they exist? No.

    Ditto with angels and resurrected dead preachers.

    Liked by 1 person

  147. Jon

    Nonsupernaturalist

    The problem is that the Gospels do not claim that Jesus was a minor Jewish preacher. The Gospels claim that Jesus stood Galilee and Judea on their heads, brought the entire region to near revolt, was hailed as the Jewish king by throngs of thousands as he entered Jerusalem riding on a colt, and his trial caused the mighty Pilate to tremble in fear of the seething Jewish mobs at his door. Yet Philo nor any other contemporary said one word about ANY of this.

    First, did Philo write about minor preachers like Jesus? I’ve never heard a compelling argument for why we should expect Philo to have written about Jesus. By the time Philo died (around 45-50 CE), the early Christian movement was still pretty small. Paul had not even begun to write his letters. So far as I can tell, Philo’s work only gets brought up because people don’t realize we have almost no other textual records from that region and period. It would be like people in the year 4000 CE having a few hundred editions of the Cleveland Plains-Dealer newspaper and saying some preacher in Kansas City must not have existed because he didn’t show up in the extant texts of the Cleveland Plains-Dealer.

    Here is the important point: We’re talking about the historical Jesus, not the theological Jesus. Historical Jesus studies absolutely do not take the Gospels at face value, any more than historians take at face value the claims that Vespasian miraculously healed the blind or that Tiberius accurately prophesied the reign of Emperor Galba. There were multiple, independently attested claims by credible historians for each of those, but historians have no problem discarding things like that and gleaning what is likely to be accurate information from those records.

    The historical jesus of scholarship was exactly what you describe — a Jewish man who “lived, was an apocalyptic preacher, and was crucified by the Romans…” I would only really add that we can also say that the historical Jesus had followers who reinterpreted his life and his message after his death and gradually evolved from a sect of Judaism into a separate religious group called “Christians.” That’s the pretty minimal historical Jesus that scholars think we can be reasonably confident about. There are other things we can say are likely — he was probably from Galilee, he probably caused a disturbance in Jerusalem, his followers probably thought of him as the Messiah (which, remember, was a priestly or conquering King/General type of figure who would help the Jews overthrow their oppressors) prior to his death and his message probably resembled some of the things attributed to him. But the historical Jesus that scholars agree on is NOT the larger-than-life Jesus of the synoptic gospels and definitely not the divine figure of the Gospel of John.

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  148. That is how history works. We piece together what is most likely from a very limited historical record. The fact that we have numerous textual records of a 1st century Judean preacher named Jesus within 70 years of his death is pretty strong evidence for his historicity.

    Numerous? Such as ?
    Josephus? Until fairly recently his Testimonium was considered entirely fabricated and many still think so.
    Tacitus …. heresay and he is likely quoting tradition.

    What else? Er ….

    Oh, I know … The Gospels!

    You will have noted, I hope, I did not refer to some scruffy little sit of a Jewish eschatological preacher who may or may not have existed, and quite frankly ( ”my dear”) I could not give a damn, but the biblical character, the Lake Tiberius pedestrian, Jesus of Nazareth and his band of merry men and also his mum and dad and brothers and sisters.

    I wonder hoe much evidence there is for this half wit?
    I’ll take a guess and say about as much as there is for Moses.

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  149. nonsupernaturalist

    Jon,

    We are agreed. Philo most likely did not write about Jesus because Jesus was most likely an insignificant person during his life time. The very influential and well-known Jesus of the Gospels is most likely a legend.

    My point is that the fact that Philo says nothing about a very influential and well-known Jesus is yet another reason why we should not believe as historical fact any supernatural claims about this first century man. If the Gospel authors were willing to turn a nobody into a major somebody, why should we not suspect that they also threw in some supernatural tall tales to make him even MORE of a “somebody”?

    Tall tales beget even more tall tales.

    Liked by 1 person

  150. Jon

    Numerous? Such as ?

    Dude. We went over this just a few months ago. Paul, gMark, Q (or whatever the source material was for gMatthew and gLuke), Josephus, Clement and gJohn. All 1st century (although, gJohn is borderline).

    All of them mention Jesus. Before you object or move the goalposts again, please re-read that thread. I addressed your objections at some length there.

    You will have noted, I hope, I did not refer to some scruffy little sit of a Jewish eschatological preacher who may or may not have existed, and quite frankly ( ”my dear”) I could not give a damn, but the biblical character, the Lake Tiberius pedestrian, Jesus of Nazareth and his band of merry men and also his mum and dad and brothers and sisters.

    You obviously do give a damn about some minor Jewish eschatological preacher, because you keep arguing about him. Unfortunately, you criticize the scholarly view of Jesus without actually understanding who the historical Jesus is. If you want to argue with fundamentalists, then do that. But stop pretending that the historical Jesus must either be a myth or exactly the picture painted by the Gospels. That is as foolish from atheists as it is from Christians.

    Liked by 1 person

  151. Jon

    Philo most likely did not write about Jesus because Jesus was most likely an insignificant person during his life time. The very influential and well-known Jesus of the Gospels is most likely a legend.

    I agree, 100%. The historical Jesus was the basis for the Gospel Jesus — we can even seen that development in the gospels — but early Christians clearly, demonstrably created legendary stories about him. Some of it was just straight up lies, some of it was probably more gradual embellishment, and perhaps some of it was about telling stories to illustrate points (like the apocryphal George Washington Cherry Tree story). All of this is common and a large part of the job of historians is to figure out what is history and what is fable.

    Liked by 2 people

  152. You obviously do give a damn about some minor Jewish eschatological preacher, because you keep arguing about him. Unfortunately, you criticize the scholarly view of Jesus without actually understanding who the historical Jesus is.

    I understand perfectly, thanks , Jon.

    And perhaps you would like to offer a short list of historians who will back your claim there is verifiable evidence for the character, Jesus of Nazareth.

    Like

  153. ”I couldn’t disagree more. Now for those who insist that Jesus never existed and is just a mythological invention, you might have a point. But if you’re talking about the resurrection, the only people exercising faith in that scenario are those who think it actually happened.”

    Hi Nate, I think this is well worth discussing further. As before, I’m not intending to discuss the rights and wrongs of our disagreement about whether the resurrection actually happened, but just how you are framing the question, which I think is incorrect.

    We both agree that there are certain facts – that the New Testament records certain events, that historians have assessed those records and come to certain conclusions about them, and, yes, that dead men don’t normally come back to life.

    Now in moving from those facts to my belief that Jesus was resurrected, I consider a whole lot of other factors, e.g. that I think there is evidence that God exists, that I believe Jesus told the truth, that I think the evidence suggests that miracle healings still happen sometimes today, etc. But then I must still take a step beyond that information and decide that I believe the resurrection happened. We can call that step beyond the factual evidence “faith”, “belief”, “madness”, whatever, but we both recognise it is there.

    Now all I am saying is that you are doing the same thing. The facts are the same for you as for me, and they cannot of themselves prove what happened. (Facts, of course, can’t do anything, they just sit there!) But you have taken the step of concluding that Jesus didn’t rise, because (presumably) you believe the christian God doesn’t exist, you don’t trust that Jesus told the truth, you don’t believe miracle healings happen at all today, etc. So we can call that decision of yours “belief” or “common sense” or “blindness” or whatever, but in principle it is the same.

    We both hold a belief (in the philosophical sense) about the truth of certain propositions that cannot be proved from the evidence. If we didn’t have any belief about that proposition, we’d say “I don’t know”.

    Now you say “Because people don’t come back to life, unless the laws of nature are being suspended.” Leaving aside philosophical questions about whether the laws of nature are descriptive or prescriptive, that statement is not relevant, because (1) I am saying that God can easily do something contrary to what normally happens, and (2) we are not talking about a normal person but a person I believe was the son of God. Your view on the improbability of the event is coloured by your views (which cannot be established from facts alone) about many other things.

    So we come back to the same factors. We have different views on the resurrection in part because we have different views on whether God exists or not, whether Jesus was son of God or not, etc. We both draw a conclusion beyond what can be proved. You may think yours is the default position, but I say that is because you are an atheist – it isn’t the default position for a theist.

    I have taken up this matter because I think some atheists commit a logical fallacy in an attempt to win the argument by default. They try to build a case that their view is totally logical and factual, and the christian view is totally faith based and evidence-free. I am saying this is incorrect – both views are composed of belief and evidence.

    Now I’m not saying you think like other atheists, but I think the point is worth making. Just as you initially said you had no belief in a God, but it turned out you actually had quite a strong negative belief about God, so I think it is true here. We all have beliefs, more or less justified, and trying to say one “side” doesn’t is a misunderstanding. Thanks.

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  154. nonsupernaturalist

    Once again, UnkleE cannot fathom just how far fetched his belief system really is because UnkleE’s subjective, internal feelings and perceptions tell him that Yahweh/Lord Jesus is very much alive and well, living somewhere within his very body. Belief in the Resurrection is therefore a very reasonable, logical conclusion.

    However, UnkleE has yet to prove the existence of Yahweh. He can talk about “God” all he wants, but until he proves that Yahweh is God, is argument falls flat.

    Like

  155. Hi unkleE,

    Thanks for the reply. I think I see what you’re saying, but I still disagree.

    We both agree that God is hidden (if he exists). He can’t be demonstrated to exist. You believe that he occasionally intervenes in this world, but it’s not to the degree that it resolves questions about his existence. At least, I think this is how you view it — let me know if I’ve misunderstood.

    You believe that miracles sometimes happen. But these also can’t be demonstrated.

    On the other hand, we don’t have those same kinds of questions about natural phenomena. We know that things typically (or always?) operate via natural law (descriptive, as you said).

    To me, that means that natural explanations should always have precedence. That’s why we don’t believe that Vespasian performed miracles (as Jon mentioned) or that Merlyn performed magic. Maybe we’re wrong about those things, but it’s very unlikely. And the same is true for Jesus’s resurrection. Perhaps it really did happen — but it’s the most unlikely thing that could have happened.

    I don’t think our two positions on this can be equated. I agree with you that I’m drawing a conclusion about the event, just as you are. But I don’t agree that my conclusion requires faith, any more than it would require faith for me to think that the sun will “rise” in the morning. It’s just an acceptance of the natural order, which has been demonstrated to us over and over.

    This is probably an issue we won’t agree on, but I hope this at least helps explain why I differ from you on this one.

    Like

  156. Hi Jon, I am really appreciating the opportunity to discuss things with you. I hope I don’t overstay my welcome!

    ”I think you overstate the scholarly support it has. For starters, I think the Minimal Facts argument overstates some of the scholarly agreement. ….. the MF argument is not based in scholarly support for the resurrection, but instead scholarly support for elements that proponents argue are best explained by a resurrection. This is not the same as saying scholars support the historicity of the resurrection.”

    I think you have jumped to a conclusion I didn’t make here. I have never mentioned “minimal facts”, nor any joint work of Habermas and Licona (I wasn’t even aware there was one), just the paper by Habermas I referenced. And I hope I never said there was scholarly support for the historicity of the resurrection, for I certainly don’t think that. In fact, I did say ”My impression is that until the last decade …. few “critical scholars” argued for the resurrection as a historical fact”

    One of the things I have appreciated about your discussion here is your differentiation between historical evidence and personal belief, e.g. you may not believe in Jesus, or believe that he did miracles, but you recognise the historical evidence for his life and death. I make that clear distinction too. And in discussion here, I try to stick to establishing the historical evidence. I recognise that most people here are non-christians, so I generally only discuss my beliefs when asked questions.

    So it is with my statements on the resurrection. I have tried to steer clear of arguing why I think it is true, restricting myself, as much as possible, to evidence. And so I think it is right until shown otherwise that according to Habermas, and confirmed by my more limited reading, that the majority of scholars do indeed accept what you call the “minimal facts”.

    ”I think he pretty persuasively dismantles the pro-resurrection arguments in that piece.”

    I gained a different impression. That’s why he made the statement that either belief or disbelief could reasonably be held.

    ”I think it is ungracious to suggest that Flew’s views were due to age and an enfeebled mind, but I struggle to reconcile what he said with some other facts.”

    He said the book represented his thoughts. I have read many, many accounts and assessments, and I think it is only fair to allow him to self identify. But Flew’s state of mind is not important – I simply mentioned him to support my contention that dismissing the resurrection without having looked seriously at both sides is foolish. I don’t, and didn’t ever, suggest that you have personally been remiss in that way.

    ”I specifically asked him about this and he confirmed it. I understand you have no way to verify whether I’m telling the truth”

    I am perfectly happy to accept your word for it. In fact, I find it very interesting that you did this.

    ”we have no way of knowing what his methodology is, who counts as a relevant source on the topic “

    I think we need to be very careful what accusations we make here. If an astronomer makes thousands of observations of the moons of Jupiter and on that basis, presents the hypothesis that there is an as yet undiscovered moon that explains some perturbations in the paths of the visible moons, and then publishes a paper, we don’t expect him to include all the photographs in his paper – one is enough as an example, and the publisher would refuse too many – and we would be very careful of insinuating he was a fraud because of that. And if we asked for his (or her) data, it would be quite reasonable if they refused and said “collect your own data.”

    Now I know you haven’t accused Habermas of anything, but many people do. I think we have to say that a respected philosopher publishing in a respected academic journal did the work fairly, unless there is some significant evidence of malpractice. In any case, if anyone wanted to argue about some details of his choices, what difference would it make? Unless he has been totally dishonest, the figure might change to 70% or something, which changes nothing. If anyone things the “real” answer is very different (say 30%) then they could easily repeat his work.

    Finally, my own reading confirms something like his figures. Most christian scholars would presumably accept these facts. But so do most sceptical scholars I have read, as I have already noted.

    I think this whole matter is a bit of a criticism of sceptical commenters. For many, if they don’t like the conclusion, attack the messenger, e.g. Flew or Habermas. The correct way if someone disagrees with Habermas is to do the work to show him wrong! Why has no-one done that?

    ”How many biblical scholars are non-Christians?”

    And here, I’m sorry to say, is another example of poor methodology. What would anyone think if someone argued similarly about evolution vs creationism? All the universities appoint evolutionists, creationists don’t get a chance, and Michael Behe only held onto his job under some strict conditions. So we can legitimately doubt evolution because of that bias?? (Just so you know, I accept evolution. This is just a counter example.) No, the right way is to do the research if you want to show someone is wrong. And that is exactly what evolutionists say to IDers!

    So same here. Historical method should iron out most of the factual biases across the full set of scholars. And there are many sceptical scholars – Casey, Ehrman, Sanders and the Jesus Seminar (from memory) all accept there were visions, Fox, Grant believe the tomb was empty, and there are many others whose views I don’t know. Further, who are we calling “christian”? Crossan and Borg might call themselves christian, but most christians wouldn’t think so.

    Further, the examples you give of Enns and Licona (I didn’t know about the latter) being dismissed (and I could add Anthony Le Donne, Bruce Waltke, John Schneider, Michael Pahl, James McGahey and others) certainly show that some colleges force views on their staff, but it also shows that some, perhaps many scholars, refuse to be bound by this. Anyone who wants to make an accusation about all this needs to do some decent research!

    So I think it is a pointless game, trying to classify and dismiss scholars because of our assessment of their beliefs. And the best way around it is to do what I try to do. I don’t worry so much about what the total group of scholars thinks. Rather, I try to read reputable people on both sides of the question. So I read Casey, Ehrman (I recently read 4 of his books one after the other), Grant, Jesus Seminar, Fredriksen, Vermes, Sanders on the non-christian side, Wright, Bauckham, Evans, Keener, Dickson (‘cause he’s an Aussie), Hurtado, Charlesworth, Powell on the christian side, plus Crossan, Borg, Spong on whatever side you’d place them. I reckon I have a fair idea of the balance by reading that lot!

    ” I think proponents of the MF argument try to extrapolate too much from that and leave people with the impression that scholars agree that all of Jesus apostles physically “saw” a resurrected Jesus.”

    I don’t recall seeing anyone argue that. But I can say quite definitely I haven’t argued that. I try to be very careful in what I argue. In my experience, it is atheists who haven’t read much NT scholarship that misunderstand. Too often I make carefully worded summaries of the middle ground of scholarly opinion on the historical “facts”, with quotes, only to get mocked by sceptics. When I produce more evidence, they too often jump to saying something quite irrelevant like “But I bet they never believe in ghosts and zombies walking around and flying off to heaven!” which of course I wasn’t saying. The mockery becomes a way of avoiding the scholarly consensus.

    So I appreciate that you haven’t done that. But I hope I have argued a case for even you to take a more even-handed view of the evidence. Thanks a lot.

    Like

  157. Hi Ron, it depends on what you think “God-breathed” means. I wonder if you have assumed it means what the inerrantists think? But I think the evidence points to a different meaning.

    Like

  158. @ Unklee

    Defintion:

    Historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use primary sources and other evidence, including the evidence of archaeology, to research and then to write histories in the form of accounts of the past.

    Wiki.

    There is no physical or archaeological evidence for Jesus. All sources are documentary, mainly Christian writings, such as the gospels and the purported letters of the apostles. The authenticity and reliability of these sources has been questioned by many scholars, and few events mentioned in the gospels are universally accepted

    So, once more, who are these historians that claim the biblical, Jesus of Nazareth was a genuine historical character?

    Like

  159. Hi Nate, I think I will try to draw my contribution to a close, to avoid going on too long.

    ”You believe that he occasionally intervenes in this world, but it’s not to the degree that it resolves questions about his existence. At least, I think this is how you view it — let me know if I’ve misunderstood.”

    I think more than occasionally – Keener estimates from surveys that 300 million christians alive today claim to have experienced or observed a healing miracle. Most can’t be tested of course, but quite a few have been. So they may not resolves questions about God on their own, but they are strong evidence I believe.

    ”To me, that means that natural explanations should always have precedence.”

    If they are the best explanation. That is the question we are discussing, so I don’t think the answer should be assumed.

    ”I agree with you that I’m drawing a conclusion about the event, just as you are. But I don’t agree that my conclusion requires faith”

    Don’t get too stuck on the word “faith”, for I didn’t really know what word to use. But you’ll recall I put it in inverted commas, and gave a definition: ”going beyond the evidence”. All I’m saying is that unless something is absolutely proven, which virtually nothing is, then we all go beyond the evidence to draw a conclusion. The only way to avoid that is to not draw a conclusion and say “I don’t know either way.”

    ”It’s just an acceptance of the natural order, which has been demonstrated to us over and over.”

    Everything is either proven by evidence or goes beyond the evidence. The only question is which step beyond the evidence is the most probable. And that is what we are arguing about. In most cases, the natural explanation will be best, but in some cases, e.g. some modern day healings, and the resurrection, I think the non-natural explanation is better. But as I’ve said before, I have already come to the conclusion that God exists and Jesus is his ”son” and you haven’t. That makes all the difference.

    As an interesting thought experiment, I came up with these questions:

    1. What is the probability that a person would resurrect naturally?
    2. What is the probability, if the christian God exists, that he would resurrect a random person?
    3. If the christian God exists, what is the probability that he would resurrect a first century Jewish prophet?
    4. If the christian God exists, what is the probability that he would resurrect his incarnate “son”?

    Different people would think different ones of those questions was the relevant one. You would choose #1, a new ager might choose #2, a Jew might choose #3, but I think the correct question is #4. I suggest those questions help us all see that in many of these arguments, the two “sides” are fighting on different grounds.

    Thanks again.

    Like

  160. UnkleE

    The mockery becomes a way of avoiding the scholarly consensus.

    Such as the scholarly consensus surrounding Moses and the Exodus for example, a topic for which you refuse to engage at any meaningful level.

    Maybe people would extend more respect if you demonstrated a willingness to honestly engage this topic and its relevance and impact to your steadfast belief in the historical veracity of the New Testament character, Jesus of Nazareth?

    For someone who generally goes out of his way to point to scholarly consensus, who claims to make every effort to reduce the mount of personal bias you exhibit, has been at pains in the past to state you always try to view the middle ground and prefer not to align with extreme views on either end of the spectrum, can you at least explain your reason for considering the Moses/Exodus its lack of relevance to your faith especially as, by all accounts, the character Jesus of Nazareth believed here was historical veracity for Moses and the Exodus etc?

    If you would prefer not to engage me on this topic perhaps you would like to make a general reply to the others here so they can get an idea of how you harmonize the crucial OT events/characters with Jesus of Nazareth?

    Thanks.

    Like

  161. 1. What is the probability that a person would resurrect naturally?
    2. What is the probability, if the christian God exists, that he would resurrect a random person?
    3. If the christian God exists, what is the probability that he would resurrect a first century Jewish prophet?
    4. If the christian God exists, what is the probability that he would resurrect his incarnate “son”?

    I would like to add #5

    5. What are the chances the resurrection story was made up , like 99% of religious stories during that time ?

    Bingo

    Liked by 3 people

  162. Hey unkleE,

    Thanks for the reply. We still see the issue differently, but I think much of it has to do with the point you made about the different approaches people take to the question:

    I suggest those questions help us all see that in many of these arguments, the two “sides” are fighting on different grounds.

    We agree! 🙂

    Anyway, I don’t really have much else to add on that topic. I haven’t had a chance to revisit some of the comments you made earlier yesterday. I’ll try to go back through those this weekend, in case there was something I wanted to respond to. As always, thanks for taking the time to weigh in on all this stuff! That’s not a dismissal, btw — just wanted to make sure I got that in there while the thread’s still going on.

    Like

  163. Jon,

    Just wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading your comments these last few days. You’ve obviously put in a lot of research on these topics — do you have a blog, website, YouTube channel, etc? Just wanted to make sure I could follow along in case you regularly post somewhere.

    Like

  164. nonsupernaturalist

    Jesus believed that the Hebrew god Yahweh is the Creator God. If Yahweh does not exist, Jesus was wrong, proving that he (Jesus) was not a god. Until UnkleE proves that Yahweh exists and is the Creator God, his entire argument falls flat.

    The weak link in UnkleE’s argument is his assumption that evidence for a Creator is evidence for Yahweh.

    Liked by 2 people

  165. nonsupernaturalist

    So what evidence would Christians give for the existence of Yahweh?

    I would bet that the first evidence they would attempt to give would be alleged prophecies about Jesus in the OT. However, I would point out that Jewish scholars can give very strong rebuttals that these “prophecies” are merely Christian misinterpretations of the passages in question, and in some situations, blatant—sloppy or intentional—mistranslations of the original Hebrew.

    So where would they go next? Prophecies in the OT? Really? Please present one. The Book of Daniel? Fraud! That the city of Tyre would never be rebuilt? Fail!

    So what evidence is there for the existence of the ancient Hebrew god, Yahweh?? If Yahweh is no more real than Baal, Zeus, and Jupiter, the entire Christian belief system crumbles and falls to pieces.

    Liked by 2 people

  166. So what evidence is there for the existence of the ancient Hebrew god, Yahweh?

    This is where things get a bit tricky for Christians, as they must look to the Ugaritic texts. This is where you find the origins of the Israelite religion.

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  167. nonsupernaturalist

    Yes, Ark, the similarities between the Hebrew religion and the ancient Ugaritic religion of the Syrian coast (Canaanites) are fascinating. Here is an excerpt from an article on this subject:

    “One way to illuminate this relationship between Ugarit and Israel is to return to the principal Ugaritic deities and to examine their biblical analogues.23 The head of the Ugaritic pantheon, El, also appears in the Bible. His name (and its variant Elohim) is generally used as a term for God, but in a few passages it serves as a proper name. Thus, Psalm 82 begins: “God [Elohim] has taken his place in the Assembly of El, in the midst of the gods [elohim] he holds judgment.” Similarly, Isaiah 14:13 (although in a polemical context) speaks of the “stars of El,” and Deuteronomy 32:8 (following the reading of a Dead Sea scroll and the Greek text) of the “sons of El.” In Exodus 6:2–3 a distinction is made between earlier and later names of the god of Israel: “God [Elohim] spoke to Moses, and he said to him: ‘I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shadday, but by my name, Yahweh, I was not known to them.’” The title “El Shadday,” often mistranslated “God Almighty,” means “El of the Mountain,” or “El, the One of the Mountain.” In the Ugaritic texts El lived at the “cosmic mountain” that was the source of fresh water, and the biblical epithet reflects this mythology. Moreover, like El, the god of Israel presided over the assembly of the gods, as in 1 Kings 22:19 and Job 1–2.”

    There is currently no clear proof that the Hebrew religion grew out of the Ugaritic religion, but, it is quite possible that they share a common Levant history. What is, therefore, a very possible conclusion: The Hebrews were…CANAANITES.

    Liked by 1 person

  168. nonsupernaturalist

    Here is the source for the above excerpt:

    http://religion.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.001.0001/acrefore-9780199340378-e-90

    So, so, so many similarities between Yahweh/the Hebrew religion and the gods and religion of the Canaanites; a fact hidden from humanity for thousands of years until the Ugarite texts were uncovered last century in Syria.

    Wow.

    Yahweh: an ancient, mythical Canaanite deity who lived on a great mountain whom Jesus believed was, in some fashion, his “Father”.

    Oops.

    Jesus made a mistake.
    Jesus was not God.
    Jesus is still dead.

    There was no Resurrection.

    Liked by 2 people

  169. Yes, I read this a while back.

    Based on the dating of the Ugaritic Tablets it can be shown the Canaanite( Ugarit) and the Israelite religion overlapped at some point.
    That the Israelites were Canaanites is agreed and has shown to be so by the likes of Finkelstein and Dever.
    The archaeological evidence is fairly clear. There was no Moses no Egyptian captivity no Exodus.

    As the foundational tenets of Christianity can be found to have likely derived from Mithraism so too some of the basic elements of the early Israelite religion can be found to have derived from the Ugaritic religion.
    The ramifications of this for Christianity and Christians like Unklee are fairly obvious to anyone who has an ounce of integrity and is prepared to follow the evidence.

    Sadly , cherry picking for Christians in this regard has become somewhat of an art form.

    However, we do know which way it is going and eventually discussions such as this will be prefaced with : Remember when…?

    Liked by 1 person

  170. nonsupernaturalist

    Even if we accept UnklE’s claim that the evidence for the Resurrection is sufficient for any reasonable person to believe it or disbelieve it, the evidence AGAINST the existence of Yahweh tips the balance dramatically in favor of those who disbelieve this very extra-ordinary ancient claim.

    I suggest that Christians such as UnkleE not be allowed to continue asserting the baseless assumption that evidence for a Creator is evidence for the ancient Ugaritic/Hebrew god, Yahweh.

    The existence of Yahweh himself must be put forward.

    Like

  171. Hi Nate, thanks again for your friendly welcome and discussion. Obviously there is more we each could say, but it is always good to draw a line somewhere. I’m happy to close here, or to read anything more you wish to say. Have a good day/week/month until we meet on another blog post!

    Liked by 1 person

  172. What truly needs to made crystal clear – and for the likes of unklee to recognise – is the fact that, even if there really was a Yeshua Ben Joseph he is so far removed from the character we read of in the bible as to be a different individual all along.

    It is like writing a brief life story of Nate as we all know him ( based on his own writing) then unklee taking those writings and sticking Nate in a Cape, blue suit and red underpants and claiming he was really someone called Supernate! A man who got zapped by Gamma rays, run over by a bus and came back to life. Unfortunately there is not a single witness to any of these events.
    I am perfectly serious, this is how ridiculous Unkee’s argument really is and by putting it in these terms I hope everyone else here will see this too.

    The supposed agreed upon historical ”facts” pertaining to Jesus of Nazareth still include the Empty Tomb scenario, and unklee seems intent on dragging this so called historical ”fact” in the light at every opportunity.
    However, there is no archaeological evidence for such a tomb so what on earth is this fact based on? The gospel tale?
    Roman history is against the tomb straight away and there is evidence as to what happened to prisoners such as ‘Jesus’: a common grave if he was lucky.

    And even if we had a smelly itinerant Jewish rabbi running around Galilee for a couple of years so what?
    There were several. Josephus mentions a few.
    We have no idea who wrote the gospels and it is simply hand-waving to give the bible the benefit of the doubt regarding the ”names of these ”authors”.
    And what about all the other ”genuinely inspired by god” gospels that did not make the cut?
    So, in truth, all we have is an bare-bones story of some eschatological Rabbi with no contemporary evidence who may or may not have lived during the first three decades of the first century and was crucified by the Romans for sedition.
    And that’s it, as there are no records to clearly state how Christianity got off the ground, or where and when it started.
    If this was all cut and dried the likelihood is, Christianity would have proved its veracity and that of it’s supposed founder, the Lake Tiberius god man , Jesus Christ or died out relatively early on as did many of its contemporaries.
    Yet because of Rome’s intervention it succeeded where others failed.
    This does not in any way speak to its veracity only the political acumen of the Emperor and the Church.

    The onus, as always, is for the Christian to back his or her claim with evidence.
    If they cannot then all they have is faith and this can be dismissed with impunity.

    Liked by 1 person

  173. Jon

    And perhaps you would like to offer a short list of historians who will back your claim there is verifiable evidence for the character, Jesus of Nazareth.

    I don’t know what you mean by “verifiable.” Do we have verifiable evidence for the existence of Plato? Mohammed? Do we have verifiable evidence that Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him? Do we have verifiable evidence that Brutus killed Julius Caesar?

    If you really do care a great deal about the consensus of scholarship, as you suggest, then the overwhelming consensus on the historicity of Jesus should be a very significant fact. Can you find a list of 5 working scholars (in directly relevant fields, not “philosophy of religion”) who don’t accept the historicity of Jesus. Can you find 5 peer-reviewed papers from working scholars in relevant fields that endorse mythicism? You basically have Carrier (who has not managed to find academic employment, have his idea published in academic journals or persuade almost any scholars), Price (an enjoyable fellow who is also not employed in academia or publishing mythicism in academic journals) and Avalos (philosophy of religion), plus some non-academics. I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but the point is made.

    The simplest explanation for the textual evidence and the early Christian group is the existence of an apocalyptic Jewish preacher named Jesus. Until you come up with a more persuasive hypothesis, backed by the evidence, quibbling over whether it is “verifiable” is silly.

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  174. Jon

    Unklee

    I have never mentioned “minimal facts”, nor any joint work of Habermas and Licona (I wasn’t even aware there was one), just the paper by Habermas I referenced.

    You cited a Habermas paper that explicitly talked about the minimal facts argument and you cited the resurrection debates of WLC, who uses his own variation on the minimal facts argument for his position. You may not have used the words “minimal facts”, but it’s difficult to cite Habermas and Craig on this issue without referring to the minimal facts argument.

    I hope I never said there was scholarly support for the historicity of the resurrection, for I certainly don’t think that.

    Perhaps I am reading into what you wrote, but I was trying to respond to the arguments of the sources you cited. If you agree that academic acceptance of the crucifixion and claimed appearances don’t imply academic acceptance of a resurrection, then we’re fine and on the same (or a similar) page.

    I think it is only fair to allow [Flew] to self identify.

    I agree.

    I think we need to be very careful what accusations we make here.

    I agree with this, too, and I try to be very careful to say that I do think he has a large collection of papers that address this topic. My main question is about the methodology. I suspect that, if he released the data, it would show his results were less robust than he argues. There are many ways this could be the case — or not the case! — but no ways to check without the data.

    In any case, if anyone wanted to argue about some details of his choices, what difference would it make?

    Well, if 50% of his papers were from Liberty University and similar fundamentalist seminaries, how do you think that might affect the outcome? If he counted explicit claims of historicity, but discounted papers that implicitly (but not explicitly) discounted historicity, how would that affect the outcome? If he had 3,400 sources, but only 10 of them explicitly discussed the historicity of the empty tomb, how would that affect the claim? You get the idea.

    The issue of Christian vs non-Christian is not poor methodology. Many Christian universities explicitly require faith statements of their professors and students and those academics are not allowed to reach conclusions outside of their theological commitments. Again, if you did a survey of academic literature on some Mormon historical claim, I’d bet you would get a lot more papers from BYU than from elsewhere and papers from BYU would be a lot more sympathetic to a pro-historicity conclusion than non-Mormon academics. If a view of the Koran is widely accepted among Muslim scholars and not widely accepted outside of Muslim scholarship, then you have to consider the possibility that the theology is directing the scholarship rather than the scholarship directing the theology.

    These are massive potential sources of distortion. This doesn’t mean conclusions reached by Christian scholars are discredited at all — most of the best biblical research has been done by Christian scholars! — but the disproportionate contributions of theologically driven and restricted academia cannot be ignored.

    Again, I think the narrow list of minimal facts is probably widely accepted, but there is a pretty wide range of interpretation of what exactly things like “appearances” means, and (for example) Craig stretches the consensus interpretation to his own benefit.

    I reckon I have a fair idea of the balance by reading that lot!

    I agree!

    And likewise, I appreciate the thoughtful conversation.

    Liked by 2 people

  175. nonsupernaturalist

    When Bart Ehrman is asked about the claim that “the majority of NT scholars” believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb, his reply is:

    “That is probably true. But the majority of NT scholars are believing Christians, so such a claim is not very useful evidence.”

    Liked by 2 people

  176. Jon, thanks for your response. I think maybe we have probably reached a point where we may finish up, unless you have some more matters to raise?

    We have reached some sort of understanding and agreement on scholarship and the resurrection (i.e. that many scholars accept either the empty tomb or the visions, or both) but going from there to the resurrection itself is a matter of history for only some scholars and either a matter of disbelief/belief or agnosticism for many. Just a couple of brief points:

    1. Habemas’ paper doesn’t mention the word “minimal” and doesn’t make any argument – it just reports findings. I think people use the results of the paper to make the MF argument.

    2. Your hypothetical of 50% from Liberty wouldn’t constitute a questionable methodology, but a complete misrepresentation. If anyone thinks an established scholar is really a fraud, let them offer evidence, if not then it is best to accept the results of peer-reviewed academic papers. I don’t think you are accusing him of that, but if it is something more minor, then the results won’t change much, surely?

    3. I know that some universities require conformity to faith statements, but how many are like that, and how many enforce it? I don’t know. Do you know? (I would be interested to know.) But Habermas said it was “critical scholars” and I presume that wouldn’t include many in that situation. In any case, I have outlined how I balance my reading and citing, and I think it is fair to say that almost all I have read accept the visions, though maybe less accept the empty tomb. My point here hasn’t been to press anyone to believe in the resurrection, but (1) to clarify the historical evidence and (2) to argue that dismissal of that evidence is just as tendentious as using it to argue for the resurrection. That isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t a neutral objective thing either.

    Thanks again. I appreciate you have done a lot of reading on NT history and it is both pleasant and informative to see what you have to say. Thanks.

    Like

  177. Jon, just out of curiosity, who are your favourite sources for all this, who do you read? When you say some of the best scholars are christians, who did you have in mind?

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  178. nonsupernaturalist

    Confirmation bias: a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.

    Liked by 1 person

  179. The simplest explanation for the textual evidence and the early Christian group is the existence of an apocalyptic Jewish preacher named Jesus. Until you come up with a more persuasive hypothesis, backed by the evidence, quibbling over whether it is “verifiable” is silly.

    I think we may be getting closer to reaching agreement, or at least a better understanding.

    You will note that throughout this and most threads I use the term, Jesus of Nazareth?
    This character is a narrative construct for whom there is no supporting evidence whatsoever.
    And I include the total lack of archaeological evidence here also, as I stated above.

    That there may have been an itinerant first century eschatological Rabbi running around Palestine is eminently possible. Josephus mentions a few. That this character was crucified by the Romans for sedition is also eminently possible. That this figure is in some way responsible for the fictional character we read about in the bible is also a possibility and the spurious collection of sects this fictional character spawned is also quite likely.

    And although there is no contemporary evidence for him at all I am quite prepared to give the relevant scholars the benefit of the doubt.

    But to entertain UnkleE’s presentation including his archaeologically unsupported assertion of the ”Empty Tomb” is to pander to an almost disingenuous presentation of what historians will truly accept.
    Thus, one must be careful that he not be allowed to include any vague allusions in his defense and make no sweeping assumptions on what the so-called consensus of scholars decree.

    Hope I have cleared up any unintended misunderstanding, Jon?
    Cheers.

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  180. nonsupernaturalist

    -The overwhelming majority of NT scholars are Christian believers.
    -The majority of NT scholars believe in the Empty Tomb.
    -The majority of NT scholars writing on the historicity of the Empty Tomb are most likely Christian believers. (We cannot say for sure because Habermas did not list the names of the authors he found in his literature search.)

    Christian repeated appeals to Habermas’ literature search, which found that 75% of articles written by NT scholars over a 30 year period beginning in 1975 believed in the historicity of the Empty Tomb, is confirmation bias at best and blatant cherry picking at worst.

    A literature search of articles discussing the historicity of the Book of Mormon claim that ancient Hebrews settled in North America would very likely demonstrate a majority of Book of Mormon scholars on this subject favor the historicity of this Mormon claim. Should you therefore believe that ancient sea-faring Hebrews crossed the ocean blue to settle on the shores of North America?

    No.

    It is biased “evidence”.

    And the same is true for the Christian claim of the historicity of an empty grave in first century Palestine.

    Like

  181. Jon

    Unklee

    Jon, thanks for your response. I think maybe we have probably reached a point where we may finish up, unless you have some more matters to raise?

    I would be interested in your view on the creation story and the Exodus. I don’t wish to antagonize, but I am curious how different Christians reconcile those things in their own personal belief systems.

    We have reached some sort of understanding and agreement on scholarship and the resurrection (i.e. that many scholars accept either the empty tomb or the visions, or both) but going from there to the resurrection itself is a matter of history for only some scholars and either a matter of disbelief/belief or agnosticism for many.

    I think Ehrman expresses the point well when he says that miracles are outside the scope of historians. Historians can only determine what is most probable, and supernatural intervention is by definition never “probable.”

    Heck, I think William Lane Craig has made the point that, while a resurrection is impossible under natural circumstances, it is not impossible if God wants it to happen. That is a way of getting around the special pleading argument, because it introduces a unique mechanism for the resurrection. But God’s mind is entirely unavailable to field of history, and so historians cannot possibly incorporate that into history any more than physicists can call an anomaly (or weakly understood event) a miracle.

    Scholarship simply doesn’t have the tools to reach the conclusion of “miracle”, so people shouldn’t misuse it towards that end. If a person accepts the resurrection, they do so on a personal, theological and faith basis, not on an academic basis. And that’s fine!

    1. Habemas’ paper doesn’t mention the word “minimal” and doesn’t make any argument – it just reports findings. I think people use the results of the paper to make the MF argument.

    Habermas has been making the Minimal Facts argument in various forms since the 1970’s. His PhD thesis was a defense of the resurrection that incorporated many of the points he makes today, though of course he has extended them by now. In a 2012 paper, he said, “For more than 35 years, I have argued that, surrounding the end of Jesus’ life, there is a significant body of data that scholars of almost every religious and philosophical persuasion recognize as being historical. The historicity of each “fact” on the list is attested and supported by a variety of historical and other considerations. This motif began as the central tenet of my PhD dissertation.2 This theme has continued in virtually all of my other dozens of publications on this subject since that time.” He may not call it the Minimal Facts argument in each paper, but that is the name for the general form of the argument.

    2. Your hypothetical of 50% from Liberty wouldn’t constitute a questionable methodology, but a complete misrepresentation. If anyone thinks an established scholar is really a fraud, let them offer evidence, if not then it is best to accept the results of peer-reviewed academic papers. I don’t think you are accusing him of that, but if it is something more minor, then the results won’t change much, surely?

    I’m unsure what your argument is here. My point is that we have no idea what kind of sources Habermas considers. Do papers published in the Journal of Biblical Literature count equally to papers published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society? Does a paper by a Princeton/Oxford/Sheffield scholar count equally to a paper by a Pensacola Christian College grad?

    We could speculate all day. Unless the database is published, we really have no idea.

    I do agree that somebody (or a team) should do a literature review or a survey of scholars to find out what views are held by biblical scholars. However, even that is fraught with problems. Who do you include and exclude? How do you incorporate confidence levels or minor variations? It’s tough to do. That’s why I’m a little disappointed that Habermas has not made his own research public.

    I know that some universities require conformity to faith statements, but how many are like that, and how many enforce it? I don’t know. Do you know?

    It’s a great question. I don’t know the overall number, but I know it’s a real problem within many Christian seminaries. Google around and you’ll see a ton of them for many religious universities and discussion about their effects by some Biblical scholars.

    But Habermas said it was “critical scholars” and I presume that wouldn’t include many in that situation.

    At Liberty, where Habermas is employed, “All faculty members must agree with these doctrinal positions for employment.”

    I think there could be a good argument to exclude scholars who work at institutions who restrict their academic freedom on theological grounds, but….that would also exclude a lot of very good, very qualified scholars. I’m not sure there is a good solution.

    Jon, just out of curiosity, who are your favourite sources for all this, who do you read? When you say some of the best scholars are christians, who did you have in mind?

    Good question. I don’t know. I mean, I enjoy Ehrman for his writing style and his ability to synthesize so many different things effectively. I enjoy Daniel B. Wallace’s writing style, as well. He has some great overviews of issues, albeit from an extremely conservative standpoint. I tend to read online a great deal, so while I’ve been exposed to many of the big names, it’s not always/often in long form. I’ve enjoyed Larry Hurtado, Michael Bird, Matthew Ferguson, Dale B. Martin and Christine Hayes (who do Yale’s NT and OT classes, available online), William Lane Craig (more of a philosopher and apologist, but still interesting to read/listen to), Mark Goodacre, Richard Bauckham, James McGrath, Craig Evans, James Crossley, and too many more to list. This is a very evangelical-heavy list, because those are the ones that come to mind quickly and because I try to do a lot of reading to see what their answers are to the more secular/mainstream positions. I also find it helpful sometimes to read patristic sources directly (albeit in english, of course), instead of just reading what people said about them.

    Finally, I recommend this: https://www.reddit.com/r/academicbiblical

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  182. I know that some universities require conformity to faith statements, but how many are like that, and how many enforce it? I don’t know. Do you know? (I would be interested to know.

    https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2014/10/17/how-know-when-give-faculty-job-religious-college

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/01/14/can-statements-faith-be-compatible-academic-freedom

    In 1999, AAUP published a report on the limitations of its statement, saying that “an institution that commits itself to a predetermined truth , and that binds its faculty accordingly, is not subject to censure on that ground alone.” But the institution “must not represent itself, without qualification, as an institution freely engaged in higher education: the institution must in particular disclose its restrictions on academic freedom to prospective members of the faculty.”
    In short, institutions, including in their statements of faith, must be explicit about what limits there are on academic freedom to future employees.

    My highlight

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  183. and …..

    http://www.wheaton.edu/About-Wheaton/Statement-of-Faith-and-Educational-Purpose

    WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life; and we believe that God created the Heavens and the earth out of nothing by His spoken word, and for His own glory.

    WE BELIEVE that God has revealed Himself and His truth in the created order, in the Scriptures, and supremely in Jesus Christ; and that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing, so that they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say.

    etc ad nauseum.

    A simple Google search should be enough ..

    How is it possible for any scholar/professor to offer any genuine historical perspective that does not violate his employer’s Statement of Faith?

    Furthermore, how is it possible for any historian who has any religious leanings to arrive at an objective conclusion uninfluenced by some measure of supernatural presupposition without becoming a non-believer?

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  184. Jon

    Hope I have cleared up any unintended misunderstanding, Jon?

    Sure. It sounds like you grudgingly accept the scholarly consensus on the historicity and basic characteristics of the Historical Jesus (as opposed to the Jesus of the Gospels and church tradition). My main beefs here are that you A) create unreasonable evidential demands (“verifiable historical evidence”, “contemporaneous evidence”, “archaeological evidence”, “Roman records”) that are inconsistent with reasonable expectations or historical standards, and B) you unnecessarily dismiss the textual evidence because it has legendary elements.

    If you are arguing against a Christian, pointing out the unreliability of the Gospels is a valid point. But when it comes to the scholarship around the Historical Jesus, the unreliability of the Gospels is par for the course. Historians are not blessed with a whole lot of inerrant historical texts. The whole field of historical criticism (and source criticism) is about trying to glean the historical reality from texts of dubious reliability.

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  185. Not grudgingly, Jon. I just do not agree with UnkleE’s presentation of the ”consensus”.

    Asking for archaeological evidence for the burial tomb is not unreasonable.
    Asking for at least one piece of contemporary evidence ( which could be verified is not unreasonable).
    Asking for any non-biblical, non-christian evidence for the disciples and especially their claimed martyrdom is not unreasonable.

    The whole field of historical criticism (and source criticism) is about trying to glean the historical reality from texts of dubious reliability.

    I understand what specific criticisms are Jon, thanks.
    It is important that we do not allow the likes of unkleE and anyone with a vested interest to smudge the lines of these forms of criticism simply because we are dealing with a (Former) Sacred Cow.

    And it is worth mentioning once more that, as the Pentateuch is considered Historical Fiction and it is the accepted scholarly and archaeological consensus that Moses is also a work of fiction; a narrative construct, as is the Exodus and all other facets of this tale, the relevance to the untenable position for claiming any veracity for the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth and the ramifications for christianity, must be challenged.

    Liked by 1 person

  186. nonsupernaturalist

    If modern archeology, anthropology, and the analysis of writing experts strongly indicate that the Exodus, the Passover, Moses, and the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai were ancient folk tales—fiction, how do moderate Christians explain why Jesus, the alleged all-knowing Creator of the universe, believed these events to be real historical events?

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  187. Hi Jon,

    ”Scholarship simply doesn’t have the tools to reach the conclusion of “miracle”, so people shouldn’t misuse it towards that end.”

    I think this is the view of most scholars, regardless of whether they personally believe Jesus did miracles, or not. But I think maybe NT Wright argues for the resurrection on historical grounds in his book The Resurrection of the Son of God, but I haven’t read it.

    ”At Liberty, where Habermas is employed, “All faculty members must agree with these doctrinal positions for employment.””

    To me, the crucial question is: Which institutions practically enforce their statements, and which scholars are prevented from expressing their genuine views? I don’t know that.

    ”Finally, I recommend this: https://www.reddit.com/r/academicbiblical”

    Thanks for that link. Your list of authors is interesting, with a lot of commonality to mine, but a few differences. I too read quite a bit online. I even obtained two of Ehrman’s books online in PDF.

    ”I would be interested in your view on the creation story and the Exodus. I don’t wish to antagonize, but I am curious how different Christians reconcile those things in their own personal belief systems.”

    No need to apologise, I don’t see that question as at all antagonistic. It’s not a short answer! 😦

    I wasn’t brought up christian and God was hardly ever mentioned in our home. But I was sent to Sunday School because (I guess) it was the “right thing to do” back then (late 1940s, early 1950s), so I learnt all the stories, including Adam & Eve, Noah, Moses, etc. I came to a belief in Jesus in my mid to late teens when I was at university, and immediately started to read books on questioning and supporting my new faith. I was particularly influenced by CS Lewis. When I came across evolution, I thought it quite obviously silly and kept on believing Genesis, but I was seriously troubled by the killings later in the OT. But my understanding was evolving.

    First I re-evaluated evangelical teaching on Jesus, realised it wasn’t well based on the gospels, and began to read NT scholarship, which continues to be my main interest, and the clear basis for my ongoing faith. But when I was maybe 30, I read Genesis 1-3 as part of my regular (or not so regular!) Bible reading and it was suddenly clear to me that this was a folk tale. And I read in CS Lewis’ letters that he believed (as an expert on ancient myth and literature, though not a Bible expert) that the OT began in myth and ended in history, and I was fine with that.

    So for many years I accepted neither Genesis nor evolution as true, and didn’t think much more about it, because it wasn’t of any practical importance to me. And I could feel more OK about the killings because perhaps they were legendary too. It is only in the last decade that I have taken up the question a little more. I have read scholars like Peter Enns, Denis Lamoureux, Denis Alexander and several others, and they have helped my ideas to gel.

    Basically, I accept evolution, I think the DNA evidence in particular is very strong. I never had much time for the doctrine of original sin and I think there are interpretations of The Fall that fit evolution just fine. I think Noah is a legendary tale probably built on a real local flood. From then on we have a mix of history and legend in proportions that we can’t possibly know – even the scholars are divided on this between the minimalists and the maximalists, as this recent academic book shows: Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective.

    I accept that scholarship, and accept Peter Enns’ advice that the majority of scholars are somewhere between the minimalists and the maximalists, to varying degrees. So I think we cannot know much history about the Patriarchs because there is virtually no corroborating evidence apart from understanding the background culture. The Exodus is similarly pretty much impossible to say one way or another because of lack of evidence one way or the other. The most problematic part of the OT is the conquest of Canaan, where there seems to be some reasonable archaeological evidence to suggest the conquest wasn’t nearly as complete as the OT says – though to be fair, there is also evidence within the OT to indicate this.

    None of this bothers me very much, because Jesus makes perfect sense on either hypothesis, that the OT is literally true or it is total legend. Cultural myths and legends are formative and teach truths whether they are literally and historically true or not. I think that’s enough detail, but these two blog posts give more detail if you want it: CS Lewis on the Bible, history and myth and Myths, legends, history and truth.

    I’l just finish by saying I have been a christian now for something like 54 years, I started as a reformed evangelical, I am now something different, but my belief in Jesus hasn’t faded at all through researching all these matters. In fact, getting a more scholarly view of Jesus has really helped. Thanks for your questions. I’d be interested in how you see things if you want to share.

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  188. unkleE, as you know from past experience, we don’t always see eye-to-eye and our personalities tend to clash a bit.

    However, putting that aside for a moment, I’m curious about something. You have indicated you more or less discard the OT as myth, yet you have a firm belief in the person of Jesus. I find this a bit puzzling.

    Throughout the Hebrew bible, there was talk about the mashiach and the role he would play at some future date. Do you disregard all of this? Because if you do, then your belief in Jesus (at least to me) seems to be unwarranted. While it’s true that most of the Jewish people do not accept Jesus’ role as the mashiach, many did … including Paul, who, as you know, played a major role in establishing the beliefs of Christianity today.

    So I guess what I’m asking is … are you primarily discarding the major “events” of the OT (Exodus, flood, original sin, etc.) yet still giving credibility to the parts that Christianity claims are related to Jesus?

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  189. nonsupernaturalist

    “I think maybe NT Wright argues for the resurrection on historical grounds in his book The Resurrection of the Son of God, but I haven’t read it.”

    I read Wright’s book. It is over 800 pages long.

    Wright’s primary evidence for the believability of the Resurrection is this: No first century Jew (or pagan) would have ever invented the bodily resurrection of one individual. Such a concept was not within the realm of possibilities in that time and culture. Something dramatic (like seeing a walking/talking dead body) must have happened for anyone to have believed this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  190. “unkleE, as you know from past experience, we don’t always see eye-to-eye and our personalities tend to clash a bit.”

    Hi Nan, I have the same memories as you and I am sorry for any clashes. I am very happy to put all that aside if you are, and happy to answer your questions.

    “You have indicated you more or less discard the OT as myth”

    No, I’m sorry if I gave that impression. It is always hard on blog comments to balance brevity with accuracy. I think that Genesis 1-11 is myth. Technically myth doesn’t necessarily mean unhistorical, but I think there is very little history in 1-11, though as I said, scholars think there was really a devastating local flood that triggered the Gilgamesh/Noah stories.

    From then on I think it is a mixture of history and legend/myth in proportions that I don’t think we can always know. That’s why I said I’m with Peter Enns in between the minimalists and maximalists. But by the time we get to David, we have pretty much history, though obviously slanted in the lessons it draws. This is all the view of CS Lewis some 60 years ago, though I don’t know exactly where he stood on details.

    But Lewis made a key point, which you can see in both the blog references I gave, that God can reveal through myth (just like parable) and these are God-inspired myths. Pretty much all myths around the world tell what the culture thought were important truths, whether they thought the stories were literally historical or not, so all the more can we see the OT as teaching truths.

    But most of the important stuff about the Messiah comes after David when we are pretty much in the realm of history. There really was an Isaiah, and he really did write the messianic prophecies in chapters 7-11. And either he or someone else historical wrote the messianic prophecies in Isaiah 53 etc.

    So the whole OT is a revelation of God, just using different writing forms – myth, history, poetry, prophecy, etc. We can only understand Jesus in his context if we understand the OT. But that is true regardless of which bits we think as being history and which are not. Jesus was a man of his time, he didn’t profess to know everything, and he spoke in the language, religion and culture of his day. The fact that I believe he was God incarnate doesn’t change that – if he had known everything he would have needed a bigger brain than any human could have and he wouldn’t then have been incarnate = in a human body. As Philippians 2 says, he had to empty himself to become human.

    OT prophecy was not like we moderns may tend to think – detailed accurate predictions akin to the predictions of a scientific hypothesis. They were more cryptic, they could point to more than one event, they spoke in poetic language that sometimes used hyperbole for emphasis, etc. And the NT characters, including Jesus, didn’t interpret it like modern evangelicals do either, but were much more flexible and creative. (I can give you more details on all of this if you want.) The result is that some of the NT applications of OT passages are not in context. That is how 1st century Jews did things. But if we accept that flexibility, then I think there is no difficulty in accepting those prophecies.

    I believe Jesus brought the truth, and he brought it in the context of first century Judaism, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept the OT as entirely literal history. Rather, we need to understand it as Jesus understood it, and as the scholars understand it today, and combine those two understandings.

    Does that make sense? What do you think? Thanks.

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  191. Hi Nan, thanks for that. But of course I am not just looking for what works for me, but what is true, as much as I can know it. I have been following Jesus for about 54 years, and I think I am reasonably orthodox in my beliefs apart from the OT myth stuff, so I don’t think my view is “rather distorted”. I would be interested to know what and why you think that, if you feel like telling me, and I am happy to commit to not arguing back if you would prefer. Either way, thanks again.

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  192. The Exodus is similarly pretty much impossible to say one way or another because of lack of evidence one way or the other. The most problematic part of the OT is the conquest of Canaan, where there seems to be some reasonable archaeological evidence to suggest the conquest wasn’t nearly as complete as the OT says – though to be fair, there is also evidence within the OT to indicate this.

    I’m sorry, but this is simply utter garbage from top to bottom.
    How dare this man write this nonsensical diatribe and try to pass it off as some sort of scholarly influenced view?

    There most certainly is evidence and this evidence shows conclusively that there was no Exodus and no conquest of Canaan.

    This has been pointed out to unkleE on several occasions ( I am being generous as none of my comments are allowed on his blog anymore and he refuses to respond here or anywhere else).

    I am fairly sure John Zande has also informed unklee of the current archaeological position and he has conducted extensive research into this specific topic for the past two to three years, including ongoing correspondence with some of the top Israeli archaeologists at Tel Aviv university and other relevant institutes.

    Specifics:1.

    The entire region during the time of this supposed Exodus and conquest was under Egyptian rule.
    This is undisputed.
    There was no Egyptian Captivity as per the bible tale. This too is undisputed except for people like Kitchen and Wood who are evangelical fundamentalists and have no evidence to support their claims of biblical innerancy on this or any other regard.

    There was no Exodus (as described in the bible)
    And there was no conquest of Canaan.
    However, there is archaeological evidence that shows a completely different history for the Israelites and it was, by and large internal.

    Specifics 2.

    The Israelites were supposed to have spent 38 years at Kadesh Barnea.
    Read that again and allow it to sink in 38 years.

    There is not a scrap of evidence to indicate any form of long term settlement in this area.
    Even if we were to accept that the numbers were wrong try to imagine what this place would have had to be like supporting a population the size of a small; city?
    Even if they spent the entire 38 years in tents!
    Simply consider the impact.

    Unklee is trying his hand waving minimalist / maximalist nonsense once more.

    But at least with this particular comment his disingenuity is exposed.

    And excellent post explaining Kadesh Barnea.

    https://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2016/06/26/kadesh-barnea-gaza-the-exodus/

    I feel sure John Zande will want to explain further with comprehensive details from the best archaeologists in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  193. Here is the first paragraph from the above link on Kadesh Barnea.

    The Jewish origin tale recounted in the Pentateuch is a work of geopolitical fiction. This is the uncontested consensus of biblical archaeologists and bible scholars. It has been the consensus position amongst professionals for nearly three generations now, but as the Chief Archaeologist at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, Professor Magen Broshi, explained: “Archaeologists simply do not take the trouble of bringing their discoveries to public attention.” So solid is the consensus, and so definitive the evidence supporting it, that in 1998, the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), the primary American professional body for archaeologists working in the Middle East, changed the name of its professional publication from Biblical Archaeologist to Near Eastern Archaeology simply because the bible had been determined to be (beyond all doubt) an entirely unreliable historical source to direct research into the early Jews, pre-Babylonian captivity. Indeed, in that same year, even Christianity Today’s Kevin D. Miller conceded: “The fact is that not one shred of direct archaeological evidence has been found for Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob or the 400-plus years the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt. The same is true for their miraculous exodus from slavery.”

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  194. @ UnkleE

    Regarding the Exodus:

    We’ve been through all this before, I have detailed at length the myriad of evidence compiled in the last 100 years against the Exodus narrative, so rather than traversing known ground (ground you have, of course, willfully ignored so as to maintain your cartoon version of history) how about you present the supporting evidences (actual evidence, published and verified, not the unfounded opinions of evangelical Christians) you have for the Exodus.

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  195. nonsupernaturalist

    Although I respect and defend UnkleE’s right to believe as he chooses, his belief system is classic “moderate” Christianity. While fundamentalists defend all the supernatural claims of the Bible, and the most liberal of Christians deny them all except for the existence of a Creator, moderates pick and choose which supernatural claims to believe and which to not believe based on the most puzzling (to me) of logic.

    If God can raise a man from the dead, give him the ability to teleport between cities, walk through walls, and levitate into space, he surely can create a universe in six literal days just as Genesis 1 and 2 state, but make it look like he did it over billions of years. He surely can cause a world wide flood without leaving geological traces of it. He surely can cause several million ancient Hebrews to exodus Egypt and wander in the Sinai for forty years but not leave a single trace of their presence.

    So why latch onto to one supernatural claim (the Resurrection) as historical fact, but chalk most of the others up to “myth”?

    I believe it is for one reason: Without the Resurrection, there is no longer an explanation for that still small voice that you hear talking to you in your head all day long; there is no explanation for your feelings of security, peace, and comfort. There is no explanation for the “miracles” you experience other than random chance.

    You latch onto the Resurrection because without it your entire worldview collapses. You don’t need the Creation or World Wide Flood Story to be true to believe that Jesus is God, but you damn for sure need the Resurrection…and that is why moderate Christians so desperately cling to it based on the flimsiest of evidence.

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  196. @John

    I doubt Unklee has the integrity to respond honestly to your request, any more than he will address the archaeological evidence already produced.

    As nonsupernaturalist points out – The Resurrection or bust – thus, he can argue the toss on every other subject ’til the cows come home and when shown his comments are nothing but nonsense he will either offer some put-down style comment he is so well known for and then slink off after bemoaning that ”some” skeptics are like a metaphorical bunch of amateur backwoods hicks for not accepting the ”scholarly view” while completely failing to mention that as far as Exodus goes we do in fact accept the consensus scholarly view.

    I have a sneaking suspicion unklee actually enjoys all the attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  197. nonsupernaturalist

    An expanded version of the summary in my last statement:

    I believe that moderate Christians such as UnkleE latch onto the Resurrection claim while denying many other fantastical supernatural claims in the Bible for one reason:

    Without the Resurrection, there is no longer an explanation for that still small voice that you hear talking to you in your head all day long…other than that voice being YOU; there is no explanation for your feelings of security, peace, and comfort…other than your creation of an imaginary friend. There is no explanation for the “miracles” you experience…other than random chance.

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  198. Without the Resurrection, there is no longer an explanation for that still small voice that you hear talking to you in your head all day long…

    Once, for a few hours one morning, my granny thought god was talking in her ear and playing her favorite music.

    She was more than a little miffed when he stopped chatting, and more so when she discovered the small earpiece from an old miniature transistor radio she had put in her ear during breakfast.

    😉

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  199. unkleE, you wrote: I am reasonably orthodox in my beliefs apart from the OT myth stuff

    This is exactly why I said your view is somewhat distorted (perhaps a better word in “unconventional’). The “average” Christian pretty much accepts the entire OT, warts and all. They are convinced God did everything the bible says he did … including Genesis 1-11.

    Also, in my limited experience, I find few believers relying on what the “scholars” say. They tend to believe what comes from the pulpit and rarely do outside research. The fact that you do has apparently changed your views. Whether this is good or bad is not my place to say, although I do tend to agree with others that it may have colored your perspective in some rather non-conformist ways.

    But we are all different and we all come into this with different mindsets. Through personal study and research, I do tend to support the non-believer viewpoint and find little veracity in what the theistic community has to say.

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  200. nonsupernaturalist

    “I believe Jesus brought the truth, and he brought it in the context of first century Judaism, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept the OT as entirely literal history. Rather, we need to understand it as Jesus understood it, and as the scholars understand it today, and combine those two understandings.”

    So Jesus understood that much of the Old Testament was fiction; that Abraham, Isaac, and Moses did not exist; that there was no Passover; there was no Exodus…but Jesus pretended as if they did…to “fit in” with first century Judaism???

    The ultimate in Christian spin.

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  201. @Nonsupernaturalist.

    Reading unkleE’s comments is like listening to William Lane Craig try to justify Divine Command Theory.
    You reach a point where your brain is yelling ”WTF!” every few seconds or in the case of WLC you simply want to punch him in the face just so he will shut the hell up spewing such vacuous, revolting nonsense.

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  202. I think if we were talking about any other religion or story, UnkleE and other believers would have no issue at all seeing the problems.

    “First Century Muslims wouldn’t have believed he was a prophet, unless he was,” and “No one in the first century would have invented a story about Muhammad flying on a winged horse, so it must be true,” or “the fact that islam has lasted and grown, despite all the resistance against it, is proof of it’s divine origins…” won’t hold up. In fact, we don’t even feel the need to study Arabic or educate ourselves as to what the Islamic Scholars believe before we toss this stuff aside as rubbish.

    Gary’s already pointed out similar concepts in regard to mormonism early in this very thread. Mormonism, as I understand, has eight signed affidavits from people who claimed to have seen the golden plates or even the angel who delivered them. And right, if the book in dispute, the book of Mormon which makes many outrageous claims, counts as a historical source for its own validity, then a Mormon can always fallback on, “History supports Mormonism, and nothing discredits it…” But we have no issue seeing the problem there. It immediately seems absurd, and we don’t have to spend a lifetime researching Mormon scholars to see if we ought to believe any of it or not.

    Suddenly the arguments change when it comes to Christianity, the “religion I believe in.” Suddenly it’s a different set of standards, and to me, it at least appears inconsistent with how everything else is handles and viewed.

    To maintain a belief in the bible, among many other things, you must:

    1) think that a perfect and all powerful god delivered his message with errors in it, either by accident or by design.

    2) have faith in the human authors before you can have faith in the god they make claims about

    3) not let those errors bother you and then think that you must devote a lifetime to scholarly research in support of the bible, and make sense of its errors any way you can, and maybe even, “just have faith,” when it comes down to it.

    4) expect everyone of everyone other religion to notice the errors and problems within their religion, and to not spend any more time researching or studying the scholars in support of their religions, but to switch over to Christianity so that they can, among other things, comply with 1 – 3 above.

    I really think it’s a constancy problem.

    Liked by 2 people

  203. Jon

    Unklee

    None of this bothers me very much, because Jesus makes perfect sense on either hypothesis, that the OT is literally true or it is total legend. Cultural myths and legends are formative and teach truths whether they are literally and historically true or not.

    Fair enough. I think that the mythical nature of much of the OT presents some real practical and theological problems for Christianity, and I don’t find the reconciliations persuasive, but I appreciate that others do. I may enjoy debating the issues, but I recognize that we have to accept that different people reach different conclusions.

    I accept that scholarship, and accept Peter Enns’ advice that the majority of scholars are somewhere between the minimalists and the maximalists, to varying degrees.

    I think this is right, though I also think some Christians misunderstand what it means. Virtually no scholars accept the view that the Biblical stories of creation, Noah’s Flood or the Exodus are accurate. The “between” position accepts as fact that much of the story up until the exile is outright myth (much of it borrowed) rather than history, and that much of the story after the exile is a very tendentious version of history.

    I think your point that “the OT began in myth and ended in history” is pretty close to correct, with the caveat that even the more “real” history is often propaganda. Daniel is a good example of this. Many Christians believe it was real prophecy written in the 5th (or 6th, I forget which) century. In reality, we can tell much of it was written around 167-165 because it grows more accurate (or less inaccurate) as it gets closer to that time period and then is wildly inaccurate in predictions it makes for the period after about 165 BCE. Much of the OT was written to advance political, factional or theological agendas rather than to accurately describe history.

    The Exodus is similarly pretty much impossible to say one way or another because of lack of evidence one way or the other.

    I think this rather undersells the case. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” applies when we might not reasonably expect to have evidence, but the Biblical story describes an event for which there absolutely should be evidence. We’re talking 2+ million people suddenly leaving Egypt (a massive event for which there should be a lot of evidence), spending 40 years in one of the most desolate places on earth (physically and logistically impossible), and almost all of them ultimately dying there (for which there should be massive evidence). The absence of evidence is pretty conclusive here.

    It is possible that the Exodus story was a dramatically embellished version of the escape of a very small group of people who eventually settled in the Canaan region, but that is a radically different story and cannot be reconciled to the narrative presented in the Bible.

    I’d be interested in how you see things if you want to share.

    Man, that’s a big question. I don’t think there are enough hours in the day to answer it properly! The short version is that I was a Christian once. At some point, I recognized errors and falsehoods in what I had been taught and so I began reevaluating it from the ground up. While I tried to make it work for awhile, I eventually came to the conclusion that some of it was factually untrue (creation, fall, flood, exodus, etc), some of it was logically incoherent (properties of god, divine ideas of justice, damnation and salvation, the Trinity), the reconciliations were not persuasive, and Christianity was the result of a lot of syncretism. I also came to the conclusion that “God” is a poorly defined and probably unnecessary hypothesis that is the result of biological and social factors rather than of philosophical necessity or evidential implication.

    I remain open to persuasion on the subject, but it is difficult to imagine going back. The world makes much more sense from this perspective. The only really interesting question I think religious people ask is “Why is there something rather than nothing.” Naturalism doesn’t have a good answer for that. Unfortunately, religion does not, either. And I am comfortable with saying “I don’t know!” After all, every worldview requires there to be some brute facts that “just are” without recourse to a cause. Supernaturalism does not avoid that problem. It just inserts another step and declares it immune to the question.

    Anyway, that’s where I am.

    Liked by 3 people

  204. Jon

    Nan

    The “average” Christian pretty much accepts the entire OT, warts and all. They are convinced God did everything the bible says he did … including Genesis 1-11.

    I wonder if this is really the case, though. It certainly seems to be the case in the US, but is it accurate for Christians worldwide? The Catholic Church accepts evolution and the age of the universe/earth, and (apart from saying Adam and Eve were real people and the first “true” humans) they accept non-literal interpretations of much of the OT mythology.

    I doubt most Christians regard it as a core religious belief. I suspect many Christians just don’t think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  205. Hi Nan, thanks for answering my question. I’m sure you are right about most christians, even allowing for what Jon said. But views of the OT are a small part of christianity – if you checked up a book of basic christian doctrine, there probably wouldn’t be much there about the OT. And yes, probably few read “scholars” I suppose. Thanks, and best wishes.

    Like

  206. Hi Jon, thanks for your response. I just have a few clarifications.

    ”I think that the mythical nature of much of the OT presents some real practical and theological problems for Christianity, and I don’t find the reconciliations persuasive”

    I guess you mean things like Paul referencing Adam, etc? These weren’t a major issue for me because I had already come to an understanding of how Jews weren’t always literal when the referenced the OT.

    ”The “between” position accepts as fact that much of the story up until the exile is outright myth (much of it borrowed) rather than history, and that much of the story after the exile is a very tendentious version of history.”

    I don’t disagree all that much, though I’d say up until David, and I’d be less definite about it all.

    ”I think this rather undersells the case. “

    I think you have assumed a few things about me here. I never said I believed there were 2 million following Moses, simple maths can show it wasn’t the case. But if the numbers were way different (which I think even the most ardent maximalist accepts) then your “absence of evidence” argument is not important, and we are left with virtually no evidence beyond the text – which some think has value, most don’t.

    My limited reading tells me that while most scholars don’t accept the story as it is written, many accept that there may well have been a historical event behind the story. Wikipedia says: ”Presumably an original Exodus story lies hidden somewhere inside all the later revisions and alterations, but centuries of transmission have long obscured its presence, and its substance, accuracy and date are now difficult to determine.”

    If we want to assess the consensus of scholarship, we need to avoid taking the views of the main combatants on one side only. I would have thought the ASOR book, specifically on the Exodus, was as good a source as any for this. It is published by a well respected academic publisher, it reports on the most recent conference on the topic, and its papers include a wide range, as it says: ”Biblical minimalists, centrists, and maximalists”.

    I suggest that the very undogmatic answer I gave to you was well within the range of that conference, and I’d be interested in why you wouldn’t accept that. And your comment ”It is possible that the Exodus story was a dramatically embellished version of the escape of a very small group of people who eventually settled in the Canaan region” is in the same ballpark as what I said, although a little more definite that I would be.

    Finally, I am a little influenced by an observation by CS Lewis about NT scholarship at the height of the most liberal thinking on the topic. He said that secular scholarship on Homer and other texts used to be much more confidently sceptical, but now (which was about 1960) scholarship had become more humble about such claims, and he predicted the same about the NT. And he was right. The scepticism of Bultmann and the German critics has given way in the past half century to a less sceptical approach. So while I don’t have strong opinion about the early OT, and I am happy to sit somewhere in the middle, I think a lot of what we now “know” will change, though of course I don’t know in which direction it will change.

    ”Man, that’s a big question. I don’t think there are enough hours in the day to answer it properly! The short version is that I was a Christian once. ….”

    Thanks for that. I am always interested in people’s journeys. Obviously I disagree with some of what you said, but I’ll save that for another day. Thanks.

    Like

  207. @UnkleE

    Jon wrote: ”I think that the mythical nature of much of the OT presents some real practical and theological problems for Christianity, and I don’t find the reconciliations persuasive”

    I guess you mean things like Paul referencing Adam, etc? These weren’t a major issue for me because I had already come to an understanding of how Jews weren’t always literal when the referenced the OT.

    I think we can put this errant notion to bed….
    Let’s read what an expert has to say about Paul shall we?

    Pastor Tim Keller, a participant in a BioLogos workshop on evolution and Adam and Eve, said this:

    “[Paul] most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the biblical authority. . If Adam doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument—that both sin and grace work “covenantally’—falls apart. You can’t say that Paul was a ‘man of his time’ but we can accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don’t believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching.”

    Loved the Exodus explanation!

    Perhaps you would like to offer some insight as to just how many ”escapees” there were?

    How they avoided detection?

    And maybe elaborate just a little more on your current view of Exodus with regard your previous statement concerning the conquest of Canaan?

    The most problematic part of the OT is the conquest of Canaan, where there seems to be some reasonable archaeological evidence to suggest the conquest wasn’t nearly as complete as the OT says …

    Really? Could you provide a link or citation identifying exactly what archaeological evidence there is to suggest any (Israelite) conquest at all, and the peer reviewed evidence that the shows the scholarly consensus?

    Like

  208. Also …

    I am curious of your view with regard how these returnees hid out at Kadesh Barnea for nearly four decades managing to avoid all detection?

    It was obviously a small number as Pharaoh didn’t miss them, which suggests there wasn’t much of an issue when they left.

    So even if they did park off at Kadesh Barnea to replenish their numbers for forty years before invading Canaan would not a reasonable person let alone a professional archaeologist and historian expect some evidence of settlement during this period?

    Odd then that nothing has ever been found?

    If these returnees were raising an army to invade, would one not expect to find evidence of weapons manufacture?

    We also have the Armana letters.
    As the Egyptians controlled this area at the time would not a reasonable person expert that some sort of alarm would have been raised that there was a transient group of people living practically on Canaan’s doorstep who were busy raising an army intent on invasion?

    And how did these people eat?
    Did they trade or grow crops?
    From where did they obtain water?

    These are the very basic questions that the average (fundamentalist?) apologist like Unklee simply refuses to address, preferring to cherry-pick his way through a proverbial minefield of difficult if not impossible to reconcile questions,

    While the scientific and archaeological position changes on small details on a fairly regularly basis on these issues – which is as it should be – nothing of the overall picture in the past 100 years has suggested that the biblical tale is anything more than geopolitical myth.

    The almost pathetic attempts to harmonize scripture with scientific inquiry fails at every step.

    If someone like unklee is truly the honest individual he tries to convey then he should admit his beliefs are based on faith and faith alone.
    That, I believe, most of us would accept and respect as his right.

    But while he ( and every Christian) continually tries to inject some sort of scientific legitimacy into his supernatural based Christian worldview then he must be called out every time.

    Liked by 1 person

  209. When you read the words ”Groundbreaking” and ”Exodus” in the same sentence one automatically expects this to refer to evidence. Well… I do.
    However, this is not quite the case as it turns out.

    The conference was three years ago so it is not that recent.

    The link, UnkleE provided re: ASOR would not open for me.
    However, the link below is what he is referring to in his comment.

    He does not mention if he has read the book but his quotes are derived from this source.

    Read Levy’s article and judge for yourself if there is any serious allusion to a change in the scientific/archaeological consensus and whether or not it is truly ”groundbreaking”.
    ( other than cyber imaging)

    Maybe there was a tsunami that caused the Red?Reed Sea to open because fo a volcanic eruption?
    A cyber model of this scenario was designed, and presented apparently.

    (Naturally, several thousand escaping Israelites just happened to be standing on the bank of ther Red Sea while Moses scrat ched his arse wondering what to do next?
    ”Ooh look, a convenient tsunami. Isn’t Yahweh so cool?”
    You can see where that’s leading I suspect?

    There is no mention of Levy’s personal or religious beliefs but the tone of the article and its phraseology suggests ( at least to my mind) he considers there is some merit to the biblical tale.

    FWIW, the article mentions that James Hoffmeir and similar innerantists attended this seminar/gathering.
    Draw from that what conclusions you will…

    http://asorblog.org/2015/08/04/israels-exodus-from-egypt-featured-in-groundbreaking-new-book/

    Like

  210. nonsupernaturalist

    If Paul referred to Adam in a non-literal sense, and Jesus referred to Noah, Abraham, and Moses in a non-literal sense, why shouldn’t we assume that the four authors of the Gospels referred to a Resurrection in a non-literal sense?

    Liked by 1 person

  211. Ark, you wrote: ,,, he should admit his beliefs are based on faith and faith alone.

    I think the reason most believers who participate in theistic discussions refuse to admit the faith angle is because it devalues their arguments. They would much prefer to dig through the archives of supporting documents and try to convince the non-believer how “wrong” s/he is. Problem is, many non-believers — and most deconverts — have already been there, done that and found this same “evidence” sorely lacking.

    BTW, to Jon and unkleE — please note I did not say “most” Christians. I said the “average” Christian, which does not indicate any numerical value.

    Like

  212. nonsupernaturalist

    If we can’t trust what Jesus and Paul said to be literal, how can we trust what four anonymous guys said to be literal? This type of thinking completely destroys the credibility of the Bible. Christians might as well toss the Bible in the trash.

    Like

  213. @Nan

    BTW, to Jon and unkleE — please note I did not say “most” Christians. I said the “average” Christian, which does not indicate any numerical value.

    ‘S’okay, my mum’s an average Christian. and she mostly believes it all.

    😉

    Like

  214. nonsupernaturalist

    It is funny how over the course of history the Bible has been interpreted literally on many subjects until the scientific, archeological, anthropological, geological, etc., evidence becomes so overwhelming that Christians suddenly “discover” that God never meant THAT passage literally: the previous millennia of Christians who had interpreted it literally had simply been mistaken. God is never wrong, of course.

    -The earth was created in six, literal days—non-literal
    -There is a firmament above the earth holding up the stars—non-literal
    -The earth sits on four pillars—non-literal
    -A Flood that covers the tallest mountains on earth—non-literal
    -Two (sometimes) six of every species were saved from extinction by riding out the Flood in one big boat—non-literal.
    -The origin of the world’s many languages comes from an act of God at the Tower of Babel—non-literal
    -Many thousands if not millions of Hebrews fled Egypt in one great Exodus and crossed the dry bed of a parted sea—non-literal
    -Many thousands if not millions of Hebrews wandered in the Sinai for forty years and conquered Canaan—non-literal

    But…

    -a virgin is impregnated by an invisible ghost—literal
    -a god/man walks on water in first century Palestine—literal
    -a god/man, brain-dead for three days, walks out of his grave, chats up his former fishing buddies for forty days, and then flies off into outer space—literal

    Come on, moderate Christians! Use your brains! ALL these claims are non-literal! Stop the selective nonsense!

    Liked by 2 people

  215. Jon

    Unklee

    I guess you mean things like Paul referencing Adam, etc?

    I think the practical and theological problems are more about the absence of events that are central to Christianity. Without the fall, original sin is a myth. If a great deal of the OT is just myth, then Christianity begins to look like any other religion and God’s behavior begins to look like human stories invented to explain the world around them. The foundations of a lot of Christian theology crumbles.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think a reference to an OT story necessarily implies it is literal. If I said, “As Darth Vader said…”, that doesn’t mean I think Darth Vader was a literal, historical figure. I’m just referencing a quote by a known character. However, I think it’s likely the NT authors believed the OT stories were historical fact.

    many accept that there may well have been a historical event behind the story.

    Sure, that is entirely possible. Heck, I would say it’s pretty likely. But “a few people escaped, settled in Canaan where they merged with existing groups” is radically different than the origin story of Exodus.

    If we want to assess the consensus of scholarship, we need to avoid taking the views of the main combatants on one side only. I would have thought the ASOR book, specifically on the Exodus, was as good a source as any for this. It is published by a well respected academic publisher, it reports on the most recent conference on the topic, and its papers include a wide range, as it says: ”Biblical minimalists, centrists, and maximalists”.

    I read the link earlier, but I didn’t see anything substantive in it about the overall view of scholarship. It just said a lot of different people contributed different arguments and views to the conference and book.

    I suggest that the very undogmatic answer I gave to you was well within the range of that conference, and I’d be interested in why you wouldn’t accept that.

    Your answer was just that it is “impossible to say one way or another because of lack of evidence one way or the other.” My response was that we can definitely say that the Biblical story did not happen, but that it’s plausible that there is some historical basis for the story involving a much, much smaller group of people. However, the plausible historical “basis” events are not consistent with the Biblical narrative in important ways. They don’t offer the origin story, the conquest or the basis for the Jewish religion.

    The scepticism of Bultmann and the German critics has given way in the past half century to a less sceptical approach.

    I think this is an inaccurate interpretation of the development of scholarship. Scholarship has grown more skeptical of the historicity of many things that were widely accepted at one time. In the mid-20th century, William F. Albright was a leading archaeologist, devoted to “bible and spade” scholarship. Today, a lot of his work and that of his school of archaeology is discredited. The minimalist school arose well after CS Lewis and had a significant influence on scholarly views of the OT.

    I think a lot of what we now “know” will change, though of course I don’t know in which direction it will change.

    Yep. I agree with that. I would be glad to have more evidence, regardless of which way it points. It may be that David was a historical leader (very likely, given the stele with that name discovered some decades ago), though it’s unlikely he ruled over a unified kingdom of anything like the scope described in the Bible. But if we found more evidence showing that to be true, I would be glad to accept it. If we found evidence showing he was just a local tribal leader, I would be glad to accept that, too. I am indifferent to the direction of change. I just enjoy the discovery of more knowledge.

    Liked by 2 people

  216. I find it disappointing ( and a tad disingenuous) that christians present the Resurrection as the (seemingly) be all and end all of whether we (skeptics) should be persuaded to accept as the most likely scenario given the ”evidence”.
    Of course, there are numerous explanations that have been and continue to be offered as to how this character may have been resuscitated and how he effected his escape from the tomb in which he was so securely sealed against grave robbers, fan boys, plague infested rodents and double glazing salespeople.

    These perfectly reasonable alternatives have all been scoffed at by believers – naturally, otherwise what is the point of being a believer – and whole tomes (tombs?) of material have been constructed by believers to demonstrate just how unreasonable and thoroughly un-christian of us all for not accepting their position on the divine nature of one Jesus of Nazareth. (where?)

    However, if this is the only measure of divinity a christian such as, oh, I don’t know, let’s say, unkleE for argument’s sake – is prepared to offer for His Nibbs’ godness then it doesn’t really bode too well for the case. Especially when one considers what John ( or whoever he was) wrote about there being enough material to fill all the books in the world to demonstrate just how damn wonderful and miraculous Jesus of Nowhere really. And yet, all they want to do is convince us of how he came back from the dead.

    One truly has to wonder why?

    For a kick off, there are a couple of other notable resurrections in this wonderful tale in the NT, are there not? Not least Jesus’s pal, Lazarus.
    Odd that there is only a single account of this tale. Odder still that a total expert like Habermas does not have a 12 point, iron-clad case for Lazarus’s resurrection and unkleE has never rushed to Jeffery Jay Lowder and demanded he write a similar article whereby it would be perfectly reasonable to accept or reject Lazarus’s temporary Brush with Death.
    In fact one would expect there would have been radio carbon dating on Lazarus’s shroud by now, wouldn’t you?

    And his tomb must be more famous than Jesus’s, surely?

    Maybe it’s about time we turned our attention to Paul and wonder why he is utterly convinced that the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the only causes celebres
    worth mentioning from the entire litany of wondrous deeds our smelly little first century Rabbi performed for his adoring multitudes, not least the five thousand who fell at his feet begging for his recipe for fishcakes.

    In fact, in all truth I am sick to bloody death of the Resurrection story and I believe ( on this site at least ) that any visiting christian should be obliged to defend the veracity of Jesus walking on water, which seems a much tougher proposition to defend.

    In truth, aside from several well-placed, rather large boulders I cannot come up with a single plausible explanation how Jesus walked on water in the middle of a storm too. Personally, if this is true ( must be because it’s in the bible, right?) this is a shit-hot feat that would get my voter for divinity in a jiffy.

    So enough of the Resurrection and prattle about Habermas, Lowder, Craig et al. already.
    I truly believe Nate should write a Walking on Water post and politely ask UnkleE to offer a similar style defense as he so vehemently offers for the Resurrection.

    Maybe unkleE could convince me?

    Miracles happen, right?

    Like

  217. nonsupernaturalist

    Ark. You silly skeptic.

    The Walking on Water Story is not literal. It is metaphorical. It is amazing you can’t see that. It is non-literal, just as is the Creation Story, the Flood Story, and the Exodus Story. Only silly fundamentalists believe that God meant these stories literally.

    Only the Virgin Birth Story and the Resurrection Story are literal, factual, historical events.

    Jeez.

    Liked by 1 person

  218. Hi Jon, I still think there are a few misunderstandings, but discussion is a good way to resolve them, so let’s go ….

    ”Without the fall, original sin is a myth.”

    Yeah, I agree. But I haven’t believed in original sin as often defined (inheriting sin) for decades, because it’s based on a misunderstanding of Paul’s writings and clearly silly. But to believe that human nature has a strong selfish tendency doesn’t depend on a fall and fits fine with natural selection.

    ”If a great deal of the OT is just myth, then Christianity begins to look like any other religion”

    How do you see this? If Jesus was divine and he began the kingdom of God on earth, was resurrected, etc, as the NT says and as I believe, how does it matter whether the religion he was brought up in began with some myths? I can’t see how it makes any difference at all. The key evidence is Jesus, not Genesis. It’s sort of like saying Mohammed Ali couldn’t be the greatest because he lost at marbles as a kid! 🙂

    ”Sure, that is entirely possible. Heck, I would say it’s pretty likely. But “a few people escaped, settled in Canaan where they merged with existing groups” is radically different than the origin story of Exodus.”

    If that’s true, then you are in the same ballpark as me – a combination of history and legend. You are just saying the history was very much less than the text, and I am saying I don’t know how much less than the text it was. And it wouldn’t be much more to say that a charismatic leader took advantage of fortuitous circumstances to do it – that would be (I guess) a right of centre view.

    The real issue is all the miraculous stuff, isn’t it? And we have already agreed (re the resurrection) that even if miracles happened, history struggles to confirm it. You would rule it out, as would most historians, but for them it is methodological naturalism and doesn’t affect the truth of the matter, only what we can claim to be historically established. So I don’t rule out the miraculous, I just don’t know if anything like that really happened here or not. I haven’t read any maximalists to see what they say.

    But at core, you are not saying anything that much different to what I have said.

    ”I read the link earlier, but I didn’t see anything substantive in it about the overall view of scholarship. It just said a lot of different people contributed different arguments and views to the conference and book.”

    You asked me what I thought, I told you I was fairly agnostic about it all, not having read much on the topic and being aware there was very little evidence either way, that I accepted somewhere in the middle of all the scholarly views without being committed to a particular view. You said I was underselling the case, so I presented the book to show that there really are maximalists and centrists among the recognised scholars (so I wasn’t underselling at all). That was all I was showing. Do you not think the book shows what I said?

    ”However, the plausible historical “basis” events are not consistent with the Biblical narrative in important ways. They don’t offer the origin story, the conquest or the basis for the Jewish religion.”

    I think this is a very strange view, and I’d like to contest it regarding the origins of the Jewish religion.

    1. That’s only true if you take something on the minimalist side of centre. Since I am uncommitted to any view, I have no reason to accept that summary. I think it is safer to keep saying, the scholars don’t agree and I don’t know.

    2. Why does a religion have to be begin with history? Why can’t it begin with myth, and still be a true religion? If there’s a God, why can’t he reveal himself through myth, or history, or poetry, or …..? It could still be possible that God wanted the Jews to worship through sacrifices and to obey the 10 Commandments even if those commands were given via myth, don’t you think? I think it would be interesting to see an argument why origins have to be based in history.

    ”I think this is an inaccurate interpretation of the development of scholarship. Scholarship has grown more skeptical of the historicity of many things that were widely accepted at one time.”

    It may be inaccurate for the OT, but it is true of the NT, which is what Lewis was commenting on. I am just offering the view that the same may happen to OT scholarship in the future.

    ”It may be that David was a historical leader (very likely, given the stele with that name discovered some decades ago), though it’s unlikely he ruled over a unified kingdom of anything like the scope described in the Bible.”

    Yes I agree that Jerusalem, the temple, palace, population and kingdom were probably all smaller than we often imagine. I don’t actually see how that changes anything.

    Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  219. Jon said: ”However, the plausible historical “basis” events are not consistent with the Biblical narrative in important ways. They don’t offer the origin story, the conquest or the basis for the Jewish religion.”

    Unklee replied: ”I think this is a very strange view, and I’d like to contest it regarding the origins of the Jewish religion.

    also….

    1. That’s only true if you take something on the minimalist side of centre. Since I am uncommitted to any view, I have no reason to accept that summary. I think it is safer to keep saying, the scholars don’t agree and I don’t know.”

    The majority of the scholars, scientists and archaeologists do agree. There was no Egyptian Captivity, no Exodus, (Including the decades spent at Kadesh Barnea) and no conquest. This fact has been repeatedly pointed out to you
    The only scholars who steadfastly disagree with this view are those who adhere to an inerrant interpretation of the bible.

    also …

    … not having read much on the topic and being aware there was very little evidence either way, that I accepted somewhere in the middle of all the scholarly views without being committed to a particular view.

    Absolute rubbish.

    In fact you are now being blatantly disingenuous and based on the evidence for the internal settlement pattern, the complete lack of evidence of any form of captivity in Egypt, and the complete lack of evidence at Kadesh Barnea for the time period we are discussing and also Kenyon’s dating of Jericho and many other aspects that have been repeatedly pointed out to you, not least on the mega-comment post on this site from last year,which included a posting of a Finkelstein video explaining how the settlement is believed to have occurred.

    To claim ignorance after all this time and continue to assert: ”I think it is safer to keep saying, the scholars don’t agree” suggests you are struggling with some sort of mental problem or learning disability or, you are simply telling lies.

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  220. Miracles are interesting because in the context of an eternal, all powerful, all wise, and all knowing perfect God, they seem reasonable.

    For a being that has no boundaries, limitations or weaknesses, for whom nothing is impossible, anything becomes possible, even the absurd, even the things that defy natural laws – and indeed, such events would seem to indicate a validation of the claims that God is eternal, all powerful, all wise, all knowing and perfect.

    But without seeing God or a miracle, it all seems circular. A miracle proves that something is from God, and we can trust that miracles actually happen(ed) because nothing is impossible for God.

    I can see where one would struggle with these things and then default to “God” when they think:
    1) God or no God… eternal purpose or no eternal purpose… eternal reward or simply death, darkness and nothingness …
    2) If I question God, I may no longer be worthy of Him – if I question Atheism, then no consequence…
    3) Miracles are hard to believe, the bible is questionable in places, but God is a rewarder of the Faithful, and I must live by faith not only when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.

    But I think these thoughts stop short. I think they fail to dive under the surface and err by not completely considering the entire issue.
    1) It’s not, “God or no God,” it’s “God, gods, perfect and imperfect, eternal and temporal, good, bad and in between, and no god – plus all the possibilities that we haven’t even imagined yet. It’s not 50/50 toward the biblical god or atheism, but closer to one choice or position out of a million.
    2) Men wrote the bible and made claims about God, questioning those claims is not questioning God, but verifying whether the messenger really speaks for God as claimed. If “God” is the truth, then questions should bring you to Him and shouldn’t be discouraged.
    3) Miracles are hard to believe because they’re rare at best, non-existent at worst. We KNOW that some claimed miracles were hoaxes and fakes. We KNOW that devout religious people in the past have been crazy, misled or mistaken. We KNOW that things like lightning, typhoons, comets, earthquakes, which were once believed to be the instruments of God, are very natural and physical phenomena. So the supernatural has been shown to be natural; while, to my knowledge, nothing has ever been proven to actually be supernatural.
    4) We don’t accept a bigfoot story on foot molds, hair samples, photos or video, much less at someone’s word… and bigfoot isn’t even supernatural – It’s a myth that would be very natural, yet most of us a skeptical of its existence, requiring a LOT of evidence before we could find it believable…
    5) The most faithful and religious people reject the majority of the world’s religions without in-depth investigation into those religions, or what the scholars of those religions think… Is that consistent with how we handle the Bible?
    6) If a person routinely presents ideas and recounts events as fact, but is demonstrably incorrect in much of what they say, doesn’t it typically cause one to at least be skeptical, if not outright distrusting, of anything else they say? Do we hold the Bible to that same standard, or do we give it a pass more than we do anything else?

    In other words, I get why there are still so many religious people, but I do not understand how people can remain religious after seeing all the problems and hearing all the arguments. When you’re not aware that there’s a curtain to look behind, and when you have always been taught to accept that OZ is great and powerful, as well as terrible to the unbelieving and ungrateful, I can see why many still believe. But once you’ve seen the curtain, I wonder why you wouldn’t question. Once you’ve looked behind the curtain, I can’t imagine how you could keep believing.

    I do not dislike UnkleE and it’s actually quite the opposite, but his reasons for maintaining faith do not resonate with me at all, and although I try, I cannot seem to understand his point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

  221. I think we all agree that if someone lived by select principles found within the bible, then that person could indeed lead a very good and moral life.

    But like Gary and others have pointed out before, if we can excuse many of the stories in the bible as myth, even ones that seem to be presented as fact, then why couldn’t the Resurrection and ascension also be myth?

    If God could present the 10 commandments and the passover through myth and still expect the jews to observe them, then why couldn’t the same be true for the Resurrection and ascension? and again, that’s even IF these myths were actually from God in the first place, and IF the human authors of the Bible were completely accurate.

    And with that, before anyone says, “well, the scholars believe….”

    The scholars can only confirm so much and logical conclusions can only reach so far based off of what’s present. The Resurrection is not a proven fact. It may be a fact some people believed it happened, but it’s also a fact that many Icelanders still believe trolls and gnomes are real, and it’s also a fact people routinely believe things to be fact that actually aren’t fact.

    Liked by 2 people

  222. nonsupernaturalist

    UnkleE did not experience Noah’s Flood, therefore it could be a myth. UnkleE did not experience the Exodus, therefore it could be a myth. But UnkleE has experienced the resurrected Jesus every day, multiple times a day, for decades, therefore it is impossible…in UnkleE’s mind…that the Resurrection is a myth.

    Like

  223. @Nonsuperrnaturalist.

    Unklee’s apparent rationale smacks of so many things I couldn’t even begin to list them all.
    But disingenuous would be a good start.
    Hypocrite would also feature in the mix somewhere as well.
    And cognitive dissonance would be a dead cert.

    Like

  224. nonsupernaturalist

    As long as UnkleE (and other Christians) believe that an invisible friend with supernatural powers lives inside his body, no amount of natural evidence is going to convince him that his friend has been dead for two thousand years.

    The same is true for a child who has an imaginary friend.

    So how do we help UnkleE see that his invisible friend does not exist? Answer: The same way we prove to a child that HIS imaginary friend does not exist.

    If you ask a child to ask his (imaginary) friend “Tommy” to prove to YOU his existence, the child will probably tell you that “Tommy” won’t appear to you because you don’t believe in him or some other similar excuse. But ask the child to do this: Tell the child to ask “Tommy”, when he is alone, to prove to HIM that he (Tommy) exists. Ask “Tommy” to do something that is magical (supernatural). Ask “Tommy” to lift something off of the ground, keep it hanging in space for a minute, then slowly lower it back down to the floor. If “Tommy” does that, then he is real. If “Tommy” doesn’t do that, then “Tommy” is not real. He is just your imagination, and if he is just your imagination, you don’t need him.

    I challenge UnkleE and every Christian to do the same.

    You may believe that Jesus speaks to you, performs miracles for you, and that you can feel his presence within you, but I believe that your experiences with “Jesus” are no different than the above child’s experiences with “Tommy”. Ask “Jesus” to prove his existence. Ask Jesus to perform a true miracle (supernatural act) than cannot be a rare, natural, random event. Don’t ask “Jesus” to cure Aunt Bessie’s sinus infection. Ask “Jesus” to levitate a lamp. Just for thirty seconds.

    If “Jesus” refuses to levitate the lamp. He is not real. He is only your imagination. The voice you hear is YOU. The presence you feel is YOU. The “miracles” you have experienced are nothing other than rare but very natural, random events.

    Liked by 1 person

  225. unkleE wrote: If Jesus was divine and he began the kingdom of God on earth, was resurrected, etc, as the NT says and as I believe, how does it matter whether the religion he was brought up in began with some myths?

    The question that most of us continue to ponder is WHY, if you believe the OT contains myths, is the NT myth-free?

    Liked by 3 people

  226. I think UnkleE’s position is that myths are used as teaching tools in the bible, to help lead one to the truth, I guess like a parable.

    And I can kind of get that on the surface. It’s just all the other mounds of stuff I can’t get around.

    Like

  227. nonsupernaturalist

    Now, we all know that telling Christians to test the reality of Jesus’ presence “in their heart” by asking him to levitate a lamp is not going to convince most of them that Jesus is not real. How are they going to respond to their many excuses?

    “Jesus doesn’t like to be tested.”

    So how do we handle this excuse? I suggest that we handle it as we would handle a child and his imaginary friend who also does not like being tested.

    “Ok. But explain to “Tommy” how important it is to you to know for sure that he exists. Not being sure if he exists causes you a lot of anxiety and stress. If “Tommy” really cares about you he will prove he exists by doing a magical act just for you.”

    “But Tommy wants me to believe in him without magic tricks.”

    Well, without doing a magic trick, you will never be sure that “Tommy” is not just your own imagination; that you are simply talking to yourself. So again, if “Tommy” really cares about you, he will prove that he exists.

    “Tommy says not to listen to you; that if I stop believing in him and doing what he says, he will torture me in a dark pit!”

    “Tell “Tommy” that if he doesn’t raise/levitate the damn lamp, then he is not real, and if he is not real, he cannot hurt you.”

    Etc…

    🙂

    Like

  228. I don’t usually perform for people either, so I can see where the invisible Lord of Lords might not either. If he doesn’t perform an action at my request, that doesn’t prove he’s not real, just that he’s not very concerned in obeying me or performing for me.

    But I do agree that the invisible very much resembles the imaginary.

    I think people need to test and evaluate their own methodology, right? Like, if you feel like you have a personal relationship with Jesus, define what you mean by that – does he literally hangout with you, talk to you, hug you, or is it much more nebulous, much more like thoughts and… imaginations? Could you just as easily have a similar personal relationship with Anne Frank or Plato? Would Anne Frank or Plato respond to your prayers any less? these two at least wrote their own stuff.

    Do people who pray to Allah recover from sickness and injury just as rapidly as someone who prays to Jesus’ God, or from someone who doesn’t pray at all?

    Is the way we defend the Bible consistent with the way we reject the other religions or philosophies?

    People have to open their eyes, honestly review the facts, honestly assess themselves and then strive to be honest, consistent and fair.

    Could the defenses I use for Christianity just as easily be applied to and used for other religions?

    If we look at God and see a story like God killing David’s baby for a crime David committed, and defend that action, but then despise a drug lord on tv when he kills the child of someone who crossed him and then call him evil – maybe that’s an indication we’re extremely biased.

    If we look at the Israelite conquest of Canaan, and defend their actions because the Canaanites were “wicked,” but we condemn ISIS for the same actions, then maybe that shows an extreme bias.

    If we toss out all the bad parts of our religion and only highlight the good parts in order to maintain our faith, but then discard all other religions because of their bad parts, despite their good parts, then this also likely points toward an extreme bias.

    I think UnkleE and others like him will fall back on scholars. But what do the scholars actually agree on? As it turns out, nothing supernatural, and a very natural narrative can be easily constructed to coincide what the scholars agree on, regarding scholarly things.

    some might fall back on faith, but then we’re back to consistency, because if it boils down to faith and not reason, then any religion can do the same.

    Liked by 2 people

  229. nonsupernaturalist

    I understand that you do not like being questioned or tested, William, but if you are making extra-ordinary, supernatural, claims about yourself, we have the right to demand you prove that you actually have those powers, whether you like it or not.

    And the same for “Jesus”. The Creator, whoever he/she/they/or it is, gave us a brain. Let’s use it and demand that “Jesus” put up or shut up.

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  230. oh, well, yes, I agree.

    But when I was a believer, I wouldn’t have thought to run a test like this and would have dismissed it immediately if it had been suggested to me.

    the notions of logic, consistency and fairness, along with the problems in the bible (historical, logical, consistency, & scientific) are what woke me up.

    But yes, now I can see where a test like you suggest is very warranted.

    Like

  231. Once from the pulpit I heard a preacher say,

    “Jesus will never let you down. Now, your friends will, at some point, let you down. If you get a flat tire, JimBob might come to help you change it 9 out of 10 times, but at some point, Jim Bob will let you down.”

    I was sitting there thinking that if Jesus helped me change my tire once, I’d be impressed, and still probably a believer.

    But you can ask Jesus to help you change your tire a million times, and he wont wont show up once. Is it really fair to say that Jim Bob is the one who let you down in that illustration?

    You can ask Jesus to heal a dying child, and I don’t even mean through an instant miracle, but just through doctors and medicine, and even then, Jesus disappoints plenty.

    Liked by 4 people

  232. nonsupernaturalist

    You know I am being facetious, William, but my point is that we should respond to Christian excuses about their invisible friend’s alleged unwillingness to prove his existence with a magic trick as we would with a child and his invisible/imaginary friend.

    If Jesus was able to perform magic tricks for thousands of people during his lifetime for the purpose of proving his divinity, then if he is still alive and is God, he can levitate a lamp for you or me. The excuse that he doesn’t like being tested is nothing but spin.

    Put up or shut up, Invisible Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  233. “WHY, if you believe the OT contains myths, is the NT myth-free?”

    Hi Nan. They say self learning is the best form of learning, so let me ask you two questions please.

    Suppose you come to my house and you see three books on my coffee table – (1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling, (2) A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking and (3) Auto Repair for Dummies by Deanna Sclar.

    Q1. How would you determine which books were fiction and which were non-fiction?
    Q2. If you wanted to know how accurately each non-fiction book presented facts, how would you decide?

    Like

  234. nonsupernaturalist

    I’m not Nan, but I’ll take a stab at answering the questions:

    1. “How would you determine which books were fiction and which were non-fiction?”

    Answer: Any book that describes beings, powers, and events unknown in the natural world is almost certainly fiction. Only the presentation of very extra-ordinary evidence should induce us to consider the possibility of such very extra-ordinary claims.

    2. “If you wanted to know how accurately each non-fiction book presented facts, how would you decide?”

    Answer: Consult the experts in the field in question. If there is an overwhelming consensus expert opinion on the issue in question, accept it. If there is not a consensus expert opinion, you will need to research the subject and become an expert yourself.

    FYI: A New Testament scholar is an expert in early Christian writings and possibly an expert of the cultures in which early Christianity developed. New Testament scholars are NOT experts in the supernatural or of the reanimation of dead human tissue.

    Liked by 1 person

  235. Hi Nan. They say self learning is the best form of learning, so let me ask you two questions please.

    A classic hand wave reply from the king of disingenuiity.

    The god-inspired ”experts” (for any given value for god inspired) who originally compiled all the documents for the bible obviously intended that each book, letter, epistle, frontispiece etc bear relevance to each other.
    And also that they were compiled in the order we find today.
    Which is why, even though ”Paul” wrote after the gospel writers, to ensure a modicum of continuity, god inspired the compilers to place the four god-inspired gospels, before Acts and the Pauline epistles, including the god-inspired fraudulent pseudepigraphic ones.
    This took the god-inspired ”experts” a considerable length of time to achieve, which included a fair amount of ”How’s Your Father” , such as a few wars , the odd attempted liquidation, persecutions and numerous other spats along the way, all overseen by the Christian god, no doubt, who was inspiring each and every little Sunbeam for Jesus to Do The Right Thing.
    Isn’t Free Will wonderful?

    Such sterling work on behalf of the well-known philanthropist and suspected psychopath, your friend and mine, Emperor Constantine, ensured he was made a saint by the Church of the day – no doubt inspired by god to do so.

    This is how we have been able to put our trust in such wonderful stories as the Herodian genocide of babies and a star that led three supposed wise men to a scruffy cow shed in the middle of the night (although this doesn’t seem very wise to me).

    How we read such charming tales as meek and mild Jesus of Nazareth flinging a demon into a herd of pigs who rushed headlong over a cliff. Granted, the pigs had to run around six miles before they reached said cliff but they were no doubt very fit pigs in those days not having to worry about air pollution and global warming and stuff. And no doubt Meek and Mild Jesus slipped the pig farmer a few shekels after ruining his livelihood and promised to stand the first round when they met up in the afterlife.

    It is also because of god-inspired trustworthiness we can assure ourselves that although the disciples were asleep they were also telepathic while Jesus ( all on his ownself) prayed til his eyes bled and were able to understand Jesus’ exact words to his dad in heaven and thus able to render an exact transcript for the god-inspired bible.

    It is because of such god-inspired trustworthiness that when the likes of unkleE decided to have a family he forewent common sense and instinct and rather placed his trust in a few books written by experts who told him which bits went where and what happened if you did this or that.

    It is open to debate if such authors were also god-inspired but it would make sense in light of the above.

    So, this is why we know that the story of the god-inspired Resurrection is absolutely 100% trustworthy and the not quite sure if the tales of the talking snake, talking donkey or The Exodus are, in fact, god-inspired, but rather a load of camel Jak – not domesticated camels either – and those that claim otherwise are just damn liars.

    Selected extracts from the (god inspired) book:

    Build your own god in a weekend and you too can become an Indoctrinated Dipshit.

    (includes Free CD of the Monkees classic hit ”I’m a Believer.”
    Used by permission.

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  236. “unkleE, why don’t you answer my question first?”

    Hi Nan, as I said before, answering my questions, giving your own ideas, not someone else’s, will help you answer yours. If you want an answer, why not give it a go and see if it works? If you don’t really want an answer, let’s neither of us bother any more.

    Like

  237. unkleE, you are hedging. There is absolutely NO reason that I should have to answer your questions before you answer mine. As the kids would say … I asked first. If you continue to play this cat and mouse game, I will assume you are unable to give me a straight answer.

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  238. Hi Nan, there is absolutely no reason why you “SHOULD” answer my questions, just as there is absolutely no reason why I “SHOULD” answer your question. It is just a conversation.

    And there is absolutely no reason why you should assume I am unable to give you a “straight answer” just as there is absolutely no reason why I should assume that you are equally unable to give me a “straight answer”.

    But at the start of this discussion, I said I would be pleased to put aside any old “issues” and discuss in a friendly manner. I still think the same. As I said, I think it would help you understand my answer if you answered my questions first, so why not try it? What have you got to lose?

    But if you don’t want to, I’m OK with that too.

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  239. The perfect answer to suit any requirement can be derived for you , unkleE, by simply playing Apologetic Semantics.
    This little game involves either:

    a) accepting the player is subtly indoctrinated (that’s you)

    and/ or

    b) erroneously believing that you are being objective while at the same time having a presuppositional regard toward the religion of their choice. ie. Yahweh is real/Jesus is Yahweh.
    based on no factual evidence whatsoever

    This allows the player – that’s you, unkleE – to fool yourself that you are being intellectual, objective and honest.

    It looks quite clever and involves placing the larger onus on to so-called experts regarding the so-called facts – (eg Resurrection, Empty Tomb) while at the same time keeping your faith somewhat obscured from view. Although you do, on occasion bring it out, wave it around a bit then stick it behind your back once again, like someone in a grubby raincoat standing at a bus-stop trying to scare passers-by.

    By relying on this method of so-called objectivity you are tacitly, and sometimes almost overtly, telling every christian deconvert (on this site) that they are wrong and one way or another in one form of another are doomed to ”Gehenna”.

    You cannot believe otherwise, and yet, oddly enough, you undermine the value of your god as he has allowed his ”children” to turn their back on their belief after doing exactly as he commanded – ask bloody questions.
    You, on the other hand are not doing what he commanded – defending the faith with any degree of honesty.

    Your modus operandi is almost as bad at times as a YEC.

    Like

  240. unkleE, I will not be answering your questions as I have neither the time nor the desire to play cat and mouse games with you. I asked a straightforward question and you have declined to give me a straightforward response.

    You indicate my answers to your questions will help me understand your answer to mine. To me, that’s nonsense. You either have an answer or you don’t. Nothing I say or believe should influence that response.

    Anyway, I’m done. I refuse to add to Nate’s bandwidth with this nonsensical dialogue.

    Liked by 1 person

  241. Nate I speak about inerrancy in my “Do not be deceived” posts briefly. I would recommend that you visit godsaidmansaid.com and look through their posts concerning archaeology. Also follow for follow to stay up to date with my political and theological posts! Have a great day!

    Like

  242. Jon

    Unklee

    I haven’t believed in original sin as often defined (inheriting sin) for decades, because it’s based on a misunderstanding of Paul’s writings and clearly silly. But to believe that human nature has a strong selfish tendency doesn’t depend on a fall and fits fine with natural selection.

    Ok.

    How do you see this? If Jesus was divine and he began the kingdom of God on earth, was resurrected, etc, as the NT says and as I believe, how does it matter whether the religion he was brought up in began with some myths?

    Sure, and if Brigham Young was a prophet of God, then it doesn’t matter that Joseph Smith was a fraud.

    Regarding the Exodus, you say, “I am uncommitted to any view…” Fair enough. If you don’t have an opinion, there isn’t much to argue about. We can agree that, if there is any historical basis for the Exodus story, it would necessarily have very small and dissimilar to the biblical story. However, I don’t think “scholars disagree” does much more than muddy up the waters. Scholarly disagreement is only about whether there is some historical memory within the Exodus story, not whether the story is remotely accurate.

    It may be inaccurate for the OT, but it is true of the NT, which is what Lewis was commenting on.

    Can you demonstrate that? I mean, I know you can cite some scholars who were skeptical of things that some (or many) scholars now accept, but “Bultmann and the German critics” and their views don’t equal “biblical scholarship” for that period. Many things have been confirmed, revised or discarded by archaeology, textual criticism and other developments in the field. The Jesus and Acts Seminars were certainly more liberal than much of the field would have been earlier.

    Like

  243. @UnkleE

    If Jesus was divine and he began the kingdom of God on earth, was resurrected, etc, as the NT says and as I believe, how does it matter whether the religion he was brought up in began with some myths?

    Herein we see the root of the problem for the majority of skeptics here and elsewhere. and especially of trying to engage in any sort of meaningful dialogue where you insist you are largely following the lead of ”experts” and their evidence to bolster your faith.

    I feel reasonably confident in saying that, what most skeptics on this thread are trying to understand is what specific criteria you use to differentiate what is now almost universally regarded as Old Testament Myth and what you flatly dispute as New Testament Myth?

    And how do the Old Testament experts differ to the New Testament experts in their( and your) approach to what, on the face of it, seems to be a classic case of blatant evidentiary bias.

    As you will not likely respond directly to my request, perhaps you would like to write a post to Nate and other skeptics that specifically addresses this issue; without any form of ambiguity; but simply a straightforward honest response?

    I assure you, it would go a very long way in alleviating the frustration and hostility that have become somewhat Hallmarks of Engagement over the years.

    This is all skeptics (on this thread in particular) are asking.

    Best

    Ark

    Liked by 1 person

  244. Pingback: Weight up the historical evidence for Christianity. – A Tale Unfolds

  245. Ron

    Ah, yes. Makes sense.

    Jesus’ “To do” list:

    -proclaim I was sent by God…check
    – call scribes and Pharisees a brood of vipers…check
    – throw a temple tantrum…check
    – correct false myths about Jewish religion…meh, better not rock the boat. I might offend someone.

    Liked by 2 people

  246. one of the things that bothered me as I was losing my faith was the many issues that could have easily been avoided, but weren’t.

    Jesus’ genealogies, the historical issues, the scientific issues, Matthew’s issues, the gospels’ issues, and on and on… a perfect, all knowing God could have easily negated many of the issues we all discuss now, but didn’t. Had he done so, had he just been a little clearer, a little more accurate, there’d be far less we’d have to argue about.

    If he’s real, if he’s what the bible claims he is, why didn’t he?

    It makes much more sense to me that the apparent errors and contradictions in the bible appear that way, because they really are errors and contradictions. Those easily correctable items weren’t corrected, because a perfect and all knowing god had nothing to do with its composition.

    Liked by 2 people

  247. nonsupernaturalist

    If you start from the premise that the resurrected Lord Jesus MUST exist because I feel him in my heart and have experienced very rare, unexplainable miracles (which might also be rare, random, but natural coincidences), then any apparently contradictory statements in the Bible MUST have a resolution, no matter how silly these “harmonizations” may appear to non-believers.

    My feelings and experiences can’t be wrong.

    Ask Jesus to prove his existence by levitating a lamp or by reattaching the severed limb of an amputee—that’s not fair! Invisible Jesus doesn’t like to be tested!

    Liked by 2 people

  248. one of the things that bothered me as I was losing my faith was the many issues that could have easily been avoided, but weren’t.

    Jesus’ genealogies, the historical issues, the scientific issues, Matthew’s issues, the gospels’ issues, and on and on..

    To his credit, UnkleE has acknowledged some of these discrepancies. However, like so much of the Bible he does not see them having any major bearing on his faith/belief in Jesus and the Resurrection.
    Therefore, I believe it only fair/honest that he explain the criteria the experts use to differentiate between myth in the Old Testament and non Myth in the new?

    For example if a secular historian/biblical scholar found that the tales of Noah’s ark and Exodus to be myth then by using the same methodology would he not find the Resurrection stories (Lazarus, the girl and Jesus) also myth?
    And if not, why not?

    Liked by 1 person

  249. nonsupernaturalist

    I would bet that even if we found the bones of Jesus and could somehow verify with 99.999% accuracy that the bones in question were his by DNA testing, believers such as UnkleE would refuse to accept this evidence because the Voice that speaks to them in their head is stronger proof, to them, of the Resurrection than ANY other evidence.

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  250. nonsupernaturalist

    What evidence would he accept that would refute the existence of the supernatural? How can you refute something that is invisible, defies the laws of nature, and cannot be examined by standards means of scientific investigation?

    Liked by 1 person

  251. nonsupernaturalist

    Until we are able to help UnkleE see that the voice in his head is himself, and, that the few “miracles” he has experienced were merely rare, random, but very natural coincidences, I doubt that ANY evidence is going to change his mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  252. Clement of Rome is considered by many as the First Father of the “Church” after Peter that is, and is mentioned in the NT (Philippians 4:3). In approx 96 C.E. he wrote a letter to a church in Corinth, where he uses the mythical bird Phoenix to describe the death and resurrection of Jesus.

    Many think Clement believed the myth to be true. The Catholic Encyclopedia refers to this passage as “curious”. Of course back in the day, many popular myths were thought to be real.

    My point is, it appears that Clement put as much credence in the story of the Phoenix as he did the story of the resurrection of Jesus. So why wouldn’t unkleE use the Phoenix to prove the existence of the resurrection today ?

    (https://www.vision.org/visionmedia/legend-of-the-phoenix-new-testament-church/50364.aspx)

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  253. @KC

    Unklee’s personal experience – his ”tipping point” or whatever Christians call their turning to god – convinced him of the veracity of Jesus’.
    He then appears to have spent much of his life to date shoring up any doubt by studying the ”experts”’.

    Liked by 1 person

  254. What evidence would he accept that would refute the existence of the supernatural?

    Adequate evidence that refuted the Resurrection ( for any given value for adequate I suppose.)

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  255. nonsupernaturalist

    I am involved in a conversation with another Christian on my blog on this exact issue. Here is this Christian’s comment:

    “…if you know Jesus, you KNOW. There is no doubt. If I had not experienced God in this way I wouldn’t have believed it either. But I have and I KNOW. It is NOT emotion (I have told you this several times before but will repeat it as you seem to have a tough time grasping that fact) but it is a real thing.”

    I believe that if UnkeE would admit it, this is how he feels. His personal experiences are the real evidence for the resurrected Jesus. However, my question to Christians like UnkleE and the Christian on my blog is this: “Is it possible that the “miracles” which you believe you have experienced were just rare but natural coincidences? If not, why not? Please give us an example.”

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  256. I seem to recall he has gone to some length on his own blog to explain this.

    We know it is subjective but while he might acknowledge it is in part he brings up numbers in his defense.
    I have read that when it comes to the historical method religion gets somewhat of a free pass, or at least more leeway than other history (not sure how true this is), but if he is prepared to explain the difference ( if any ) in criteria then we would, once and for all, have a reasonable foundation
    to understand how he arrives at the conclusions he does.

    Liked by 1 person

  257. nonsupernaturalist

    But the only numbers he can bring up are for the Empty Tomb. There are no “numbers” for virgin births, water walking, resurrections, and non-mechanical ascensions/levitations into space.

    Liked by 1 person

  258. nonsupernaturalist

    Another Christian I know uses the following story as his proof of the existence of Lord Jesus, Creator of the universe:

    One day “God” led him to call a friend whom he had not spoken to for quite some time. When he called the friend, he told him that “God” had moved him to call him and to tell him that he (the friend) should go visit his father right away. The friend went that weekend to see his father whom he had not seen for quite some time. His father told him he had incurable cancer and died a few days later.

    -Could this “messaging” have been a miracle/act of God? Yes.
    -Could this have been a very rare, very odd, but very random coincidence? Yes.

    Why do “miracles” always involve events for which a natural explanation is possible, even if it is a very unlikely, rare, natural explanation? Why doesn’t Lord Jesus ever reattach the limbs (arms or legs) of amputees? Why doesn’t Lord Jesus ever raise decapitees (people who have been beheaded) from the dead? Why doesn’t Lord Jesus ever raise from the dead, people who have blown into a thousand tiny pieces by a bomb or airplane accident?

    What does Lord Jesus have against amputees, decapitees, bombing, and airplane crash victims? Why does he NEVER heal/resurrect these people?

    Liked by 1 person

  259. “Why do “miracles” always involve events for which a natural explanation is possible, even if it is a very unlikely, rare, natural explanation?”

    and even so, the rare natural explanation is still less rare, and more plausible, than the rare supernatural explanation.

    Liked by 1 person

  260. If someone told me that their dead grandfather was brought back to life, I wouldn’t believe them.

    If Someone brought my grandfather back to life, that would be convincing – unless he was something the like the evil, monster type of Resurrection…

    Like

  261. Jon

    Nonsupernaturalist

    I would bet that even if we found the bones of Jesus and could somehow verify with 99.999% accuracy that the bones in question were his by DNA testing, believers such as UnkleE would refuse to accept this evidence because the Voice that speaks to them in their head is stronger proof, to them, of the Resurrection than ANY other evidence.

    Actually, biblical scholar James Tabor believes the Talpiot tomb contains the ossuary and bones of Jesus and he says that does not undermine the Christian faith, either, because the resurrection does not have to be understood as a literal flesh-and-blood event. (He’s almost certainly wrong about the Talpiot tomb, but that’s another topic)

    Theology and apologetics are Calvinball. Anything can be reconciled with a sufficiently flexible hermeneutic.

    At some point, you just have to accept that people reach different conclusions. I agree with Unklee (and other Christians) on some issues and disagree on others. Some of our disagreements are open to reconciliation — for example, in the past, Unklee has had his mind changed about evolution (huzzah!) and I have had my mind changed about the historicity of David and about Josephus’ reference to James and Jesus — but some of our premises and conclusions simply are not reconcilable.

    It’s no use getting mad about it. People disagree about stuff. Most people in the world have strong beliefs that are utterly irreconcilable to those of most other people in the world. At some point, you just have to wish them the best and stop worrying about it. We’re all trying to do the best we can. Ultimately, while beliefs are important, they are not the most important thing. I’d rather spend time with a wonderful Christian than an atheist asshole. Having solid metaphysics does not, unfortunately, translate to being a decent person.

    As Carl Sagan wrote, sometimes “the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the [god] hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.”

    Liked by 3 people

  262. nonsupernaturalist

    Earlier this week I was discussing my current status as a “non-believer” with one of my Christian cousins. I pointed out to him some of the many errors in the Bible. He didn’t care.

    “Look, Gary. I know that Jesus is real because he healed me of my “bone on bone”, very painful arthritis in my knee. I could barely walk on it. I prayed to Jesus and he healed me. I no longer have pain.”

    I tried to suggest that his “cure” was a rare coincidence, but he would have none of it. In his mind, Jesus had healed him, so all the evidence against the Bible wouldn’t matter to him. Jesus had made himself personally real. That was all the evidence he needed.

    Here is what I should have said to my cousin:

    “Dear Cousin, on the day that Jesus allegedly healed your arthritic knee, 20,000 people died of cancer, 21,000 people died of starvation (most of them little children), and every two minutes on that day, a woman or child was raped. Jesus did nothing to prevent these horrific tragedies, but he found the time to cure your painful knee.

    Seriously??”

    Liked by 3 people

  263. that’s because the “effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much…,” so all those people died because they weren’t faithful praying people – in effect, it was their fault Jesus didn’t help them.

    Glad to hear about your cousin’s recovery.

    Like

  264. nonsupernaturalist

    I agree with you 100%, Jon. Most of my friends are Christians, although not particularly religious Christians (most are Roman Catholic). However, I do think it is important for skeptics such as Nate, I, and others to “preach” the REAL truth to theists: the supernatural is not something that should dominate our lives and politics in the way that it has since time immemoral, and, it should not be allowed to cause people to live in fear of eternal punishment for “thought crimes”. It is an evil belief system that should be confronted and debunked, in my humble opinion.

    Yes, sometimes I come across as an asshole. I try not to but I am very passionate in my “crusade” to debunk supernaturalism. I try to remind myself that where Christians like UnkleE are today, I once was myself, and I did NOT appreciate obnoxious, know-it-all atheists talking to me as if I was an idiot. So I get it.

    I believe we all should have some sympathy and compassion for not only UnkleE but for all theists whose lives revolve around their belief that invisible beings control their lives and destiny. It is sad. They are NOT stupid or ignorant. They are deceived, as we all once were.

    I will attempt to do better to give UnkleE some slack.

    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  265. I try to give unkleE some slack nsn but it is not always easy as he is sometimes guilty of being condescending to a non-believer . Even Nate has pointed this out. unkleE has always been a “numbers guy” too. If you have 50 scholars who side with your point, he will come up with 51. He has to win in his mind. If he feels like he might be losing or being ganged up on, then he plays the Martyr and bows out of the conversation. He is very predictable .

    I have noticed about unkleE from the 3 plus years I have sparred with him here is that he has never once told me as a de-convert, why I should give Jesus another try . For a guy who claims there is so much evidence for his Savior, you would think he would be trying to share all the reasons why he serves him and why others should serve him too.

    Liked by 2 people

  266. nonsupernaturalist

    Yes, I too have experienced UnkleE’s tactics. He reminds me of a chess player. Always carefully analyzing each “move” to eventually “checkmate” his opponent. It is not his habit to engage in a free flowing conversation. You always know that the “gotcha” moment is coming.

    But he is the one “under attack” on this website, so I can understand his defensiveness. However, I ask everyone to remember this: Every time UnkleE presents “evidence” for his supernatural belief system, his most important evidence, the evidence that you must expose as false to ever get through to him, is purely subjective: his belief that a voice inside his head is the voice of a reanimated apocalyptic Jewish preacher who died 2,000 years ago.

    Like

  267. Hi Jon, just a few loose ends to tidy up I think.

    ”Sure, and if Brigham Young was a prophet of God, then it doesn’t matter that Joseph Smith was a fraud.”

    I think this is hardly a sufficient argument, for several reasons.

    1. Your statement is probably correct. If Young was truly a prophet, then Smith’s dishonesty wouldn’t change that.

    2. We were not talking about fraud but myth. They are very different. Fraud is deception but myth tells truth, just via a generally non-historical narrative.

    3. There are many examples where things you might regard as superstitious or irrational appear in the same person as some great science. Isaac Newton was primarily an alchemist, but that doesn’t invalidate his mechanics, calculus or equations of gravity. Pythagoras had some strange religious views but the square on the hypotenuse still equals the sum of the squares on the other two sides. I could give many other examples. How much less should myth centuries, perhaps more than a millennium, before Jesus invalidate anything he said?

    ”However, I don’t think “scholars disagree” does much more than muddy up the waters. Scholarly disagreement is only about whether there is some historical memory within the Exodus story, not whether the story is remotely accurate.”

    That is still only true if you ignore the maximalists. Some scholars think the story is more than “remotely accurate” while still thinking it is part legendary, e.g. the numbers involved. I don’t hold to the maximalist view (as I said, I’m happy to sit in the middle or on the fence), but it is inaccurate to say there is only one view. Again, the ASOR book shows otherwise.

    ”Can you demonstrate that?”

    Yes, I think it is pretty clear.

    1. In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Maurice Casey gives a 60 page outline of historical Jesus studies over more than a century. Casey starts with Schweitzer, and his critique of 19th century liberal views of Jesus which showed that the scholars before him had little regard for history. But, Casey says, the German critics who followed did little better. He says one famous scholar “avoided the Jesus of history”. He strongly criticises the form criticism of Rudolph Bultmann, showing that it inaccurately cut up the gospels into forms, paid little regard to history, language and culture, and thus took Jesus totally out of his first century Jewish environment. Bultmann and others concluded that we could know little about the Jesus of history. More recent scholars such as Crossan and the Jesus Seminar do something similar, Casey says. He sees the beginning of a much better historical method in the 1980s with the work of Vermes, Sanders and Wright, which took Jesus’ Jewishness seriously. When you read the rest of the book, you see Casey using Jewish culture and Aramaic language as ways of testing and showing where genuine historical material can be seen in the gospels – and he concludes that much is historical. Casey’s book is well worth reading by anyone, I think, even though some of his views are very idiosyncratic and I don’t agree with it all (and many scholars disagree with parts too).

    2. I also have Craig Keener’s The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, and while he is a very different scholar from Casey, his summary of the “Historical Jesus Quest” is very similar to Casey’s.

    3. The latest trend is memory studies, by people like Le Donne, Keith and Rodriguez. They further criticise the negative conclusions of the form critics of the early to mid 20th century. They emphasise that what is remembered isn’t always what actually happened, but they say that is what we have in history, and within that limitation, they find much good historical material in the gospels.

    4. The “early high christology” movement is another example. It used to be said that the idea od jesus as more than a man is a later legend, but Larry Hurtado (How on Earth Did Jesus Become God) and others have shown fairly convincingly that Jesus was worshiped as risen Lord right from the very early days. When Bart Ehrman came to write his book on the subject (How Jesus Became God) he reported that he was forced by the evidence to change his previous view, and he now agrees with much of Hurtado’s conclusions, except he says that Jesus was worshiped initially as a sort of semi-divine man. This is all a major change in the past 2-3 decades.

    5. Finally there is the idea that Jesus was a legend somewhat like pagan dying and rising gods. This was a popular idea 150 years ago and is still promoted by non-qualified writers such as Freke and Gandy, Tom Harpur, etc. But all qualified scholars (with, I think, the exception of Robert Price) believe that the so-called evidence was invented or imagined by the 18th century writers, and in fact pagan legends had no entry points into first century Judaism, and the roots of the Jesus story (whether it is believed or disbelieved) lie in Judaism.

    So in all these ways, 100 years ago there was little scholarly belief that we could know much historical about Jesus, whereas today scholars are quite sure we can. Of course they still argue about details, but the core is pretty well accepted by almost all historians.

    So I believe that CS Lewis was broadly right in his critique of Bultmann back in the 1950s, and his prediction of change had broadly been fulfilled. If you haven’t read his paper, it is well worth reading and is available on the web.

    Like

  268. That is still only true if you ignore the maximalists.

    Of course one should ignore the maximalists! Who in their right mind would consider anything these half-wits espouse? And as you don’t then why the hell bring it up?

    Kitchen and his ilk?
    When it comes to the Exodus he is simply a willfully ignorant evangelist fundamentalist whose opinion only a severely indoctrinated individual would consider.
    This has been pointed out to you numerous times, and he has not published a single peer reviewed piece on the Exodus etc. not led a dig to find evidence for his biblically held views.
    And you are aware of this and have been for long enough that to continue to raise the maximalist position is dishonest.

    Thus, as you wrote ”I don’t hold to the maximalist view” what you are saying in actual fact, Unklee is that the view of genuine scholars is the correct one; namely, there is general agreement as to the historically fictitious nature of the Exodus tale.

    Some scholars think the story is more than “remotely accurate” while still thinking it is part legendary, e.g. the numbers involved …

    Ah, and here we are clutching a straws. While you are perfectly happy to throw out scholars by name when it suits you, here, as always, you are caught with your pants down.

    Time after time the world’s best archaeologists in this field have gone on record as stating that, there is no disagreement concerning the basically fictitious nature of the Exodus etc and time and time again your only rebuttal is some feeble un-cited hand-waving drivel.

    And if the essence of the tale is more than ”remotely accurate” and it is simply numbers that are the issue we are obviously NOT talking about any supernatural elements as no genuine scholar worth his salt would ever be so idiotic to suggest there was any god influenced elements to the tale and most certainly no historian.
    And yet, you fail to mention a single archaeologist or a citation.

    I am very happy that Nate posted this thread as this topic, above almost every other , demonstrates the almost disingenuous nature of your methodology.

    Unlike some of the others, I consider your approach to this crucial topic is basically dishonest and your views are not worthy of any slack whatsoever.

    Like

  269. With regard current Jesus studies.
    While scholars shift their opinions either for or against historicity the basic facts remain unchanged and have done since Constantine and the church set about formalizing doctrine.

    The is not a shred of contemporary evidence and all the showboating in the world will not change this.

    Of course they still argue about details, but the core is pretty well accepted by almost all historians.

    Another classic non- substantive line. Details are the flesh we hang on the bones, unklee.

    What exactly is the consensus view of historians?

    That there was someone called Yeshua Ben Joseph who was likely crucified by the Romans for sedition.
    There is no broad agreement on anything else.

    Like

  270. I don’t hold to the maximalist view (as I said, I’m happy to sit in the middle or on the fence),

    You hold a maximalist view as regards biblical resurrection, which is as extreme, if not more so, as any held by Judaism.

    Can you explain why this is, especially when there is no evidence whatsoever to support your maximalist viewpoint?

    Like

  271. “2. We were not talking about fraud but myth. They are very different. Fraud is deception but myth tells truth, just via a generally non-historical narrative.”

    Well that explains it ! So myth tells us the truth about the Phoenix ??? And this is why the earliest church father, Clement believed in the Phoenix as he did the resurrection of Jesus ?

    What you are saying unkleE is that people are quite capable of believing anything that suits them. This is nothing new. And this is why there are so many religions in the world. And yet, you feel yours is the correct one. Hmmm

    Liked by 3 people

  272. “So I believe that CS Lewis was broadly right in his critique of Bultmann back in the 1950s, and his prediction of change had broadly been fulfilled. ”

    So do you also believe CS Lewis when he called out Jesus in his error and ignorance ? In Lewis’ book , “The Worlds Last Night” he says, ““Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”
    “It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.”

    Liked by 2 people

  273. As a point of interest regarding biblical historians:

    The nature of impartiality/objectivity of biblical historians was raised by David Fitzgerald during the research for his book, Nailed.

    Whether you agree with Fitzgerald’s mythicist view or not does not detract from the fact his survey of universities in America that had a degree-granting theology department or Jesus studies program revealed that 70% of Biblical Historians are Christians and 40% of these are contractually required to toe the theological line.

    When one considers that apologist / biblical scholar Mike Licona lost his job for merely suggesting analogy in reference to the Raising of the dead saints at the crucifiction and based on the figures revealed by Fitzgerald’s survey, in all honesty, how much objectivity is even possible when it comes to establishing any sort of veracity for these issues?

    Makes you think, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

  274. nonsupernaturalist

    But KC, you just don’t understand, you silly skeptic. Since the Second Coming didn’t happen during the life time of the disciples, Jesus’ statement “this generation shall not pass till all these things be done” was never meant to be taken literally. This is clearly metaphorical language.

    Jesus can never be wrong. THAT is your problem.

    If you start with the premise that the Jesus who dwells in your heart, speaks to you daily, and performs amazing miracles for you and other believers is unquestionably real, then any “discrepancy” in the Bible must be interpreted as metaphorical, allegorical, etc..

    Liked by 2 people

  275. Jon

    Unklee

    That is still only true if you ignore the maximalists. Some scholars think the story is more than “remotely accurate” while still thinking it is part legendary, e.g. the numbers involved. I don’t hold to the maximalist view (as I said, I’m happy to sit in the middle or on the fence), but it is inaccurate to say there is only one view. Again, the ASOR book shows otherwise.

    If you wish to put forward any specific opinions you hold on the topic, I would be happy to consider them.

    So I believe that CS Lewis was broadly right in his critique of Bultmann back in the 1950s, and his prediction of change had broadly been fulfilled.

    While I appreciated and enjoyed your discussion of various views, I don’t think it really supports your argument. You have identified a few relatively small set of scholars at various points (from the mid 19th to mid 20th centuries) and extrapolated their views onto the entire field. Do you really think Bultmann’s views represented the majority of Biblical scholarship during his time? Do you really think the majority of biblical scholars believed that Jesus was just a mythical representation of the dying and rising god legend?

    The German scholars, Bultmann and a few others were notable because they challenged consensus views in new and interesting ways. That does not mean they were representative of the majority of scholars at their time. They are remembered well today precisely because they were a radical minority whose views had a profound impact on later scholarship. Their radical views were eventually digested and some elements were incorporated into mainstream scholarship.

    As a comparison, it’s like identifying the views of Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Chicago school economists, contrasting their views on monetary policy with the Neo-Keynesian monetary views of many scholars today and saying that the previous scholarly belief in free markets has given way to a rejection of free markets. It is a poor description of previous and current scholarship, it mis-identifies monetary policy as representative of the overall field of economics, and it is an inaccurate description of how and why scholarship has evolved to adopt and integrate different monetary and economic views.

    It seems to me that the primary development of the past century of so of biblical studies is not so much a reduction of skepticism as it is the growth of methodology. Ideas that could be simply asserted as arguments previously became more testable, and so scholarship could (to some extent) be settled on a more academic rather than theological basis.

    Liked by 1 person

  276. Hi Jon,

    “If you wish to put forward any specific opinions you hold on the topic, I would be happy to consider them.”

    No, I was just answering your original question. As I have said, I don’t have strong opinions on the OT.

    “You have identified a few relatively small set of scholars at various points (from the mid 19th to mid 20th centuries) and extrapolated their views onto the entire field.”

    I have given a representative sample of views, I could give a lot more along the same lines if I went back to many other books I have read. It is pretty firmly established that this field can be described by the first, a gap, the second and third quests, and that the third quest finds a lot more of historical value than after the first, when scholars virtually gave up on the Jesus of history. Check out Wikipedia and any scholarly summary and you’ll find variations, but a lot of commonality in their assessment.

    “It seems to me that the primary development of the past century of so of biblical studies ….. is the growth of methodology.”

    I agree with you here. But I think the two are related. That is the reason why historians have greater confidence in the historicity of the gospels than they used to – because methods have improved.

    Perhaps now is time to finish up, do you think? If so, thanks. I have enjoyed exploring these matters with you.

    Like

  277. nonsupernaturalist

    KC brought up a great point:

    If Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple, then he INACCURATELY predicted when it would happen!

    If the author of Matthew correctly records the statements of Jesus regarding the destruction of the Temple in Matthew chapter 24, then according to Jesus, prior to or simultaneous with the destruction of the Temple, he (Jesus) will come back riding the clouds, accompanied by angels blowing trumpets (the Second Coming). In addition, Jesus tells the disciples when these events will happen: they will occur during the life times of the generation of people living at the time that Jesus spoke these words.

    Christians may try to “spin” this story by saying that Jesus correctly predicted that the Temple would be destroyed in 70 AD but the rest of his prophecy in Matthew chapter 24 is about the end of the Age, which obviously has not yet happened…going on two thousand years! But there is a problem with this spin. Jesus’ long discussion in chapter 24 is preceded by the disciples asking when the Temple will be destroyed and when the Age will end. If we are to believe the Christian explanation, then Jesus never answered the disciples’ first question about the timing of the destruction of the Temple.

    I don’t believe it. If you read the entire chapter it is clear that the destruction of the Temple and the events of the Second Coming are all predicted to occur at the same time, prior to the passing away of “this” generation.

    Jesus didn’t come back during the generation of the disciples. Jesus’ prophesy was therefore inaccurate. Jesus made a mistake. JESUS WAS NOT GOD!

    Liked by 1 person

  278. “Jesus didn’t come back during the generation of the disciples. Jesus’ prophesy was therefore inaccurate. Jesus made a mistake. JESUS WAS NOT GOD!”

    And what did the Church do about this ??? If you will simply read , “Constantine’s Bible” by David L Dungan (unkleE will NEVER read this) he says, “Now that the Christian God in his providence had raised up a Christian Emperor to be his champion on earth , and now that the , “rod of God’s anger” was busily laying waste to the Church’s foes and simultaneously strengthening and enriching the Catholic church itself , it simply would not do to speak of Christ coming back to destroy the evil Roman empire along with all the other powers destined for wrath and setting up a physical Kingdom of God on earth which would necessarily supplant the newly triumphant Catholic Church !”

    Liked by 1 person

  279. “Perhaps now is time to finish up, do you think? If so, thanks. I have enjoyed exploring these matters with you.”

    Behold ! The very predictable unkleE. Rope-a-dope then the exit, “Stage Left” 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  280. As I mentioned further up the thread, Unklee has gone to great lengths on this post to demonstrate his own relative disinterest in the Old Testament and the impact it has on the New Testament, Jesus and his own faith.

    To the end he has hand-waved away the importance of the mythological nature of the biblical account of the Exodus maintaining there is a core to the story, once again offering oblique reference to the maximalist position even while dismissing it in the same paragraph.

    And while the consensus view of secular scholars,historians and archaeologist is that it is simply Historical Fiction as was the character , Moses, unklee refuse to acknowledge the dynamics of this in relation to the character, Jesus of Nazareth.

    All readers will be aware of the critical importance Moses is to the Jewish people and Judaism.
    The character, Jesus was a Jew and his mission was to fulfill Mosaic Law.

    The disingenuous nature of unklee’s approach to this issue is plain to see.

    For what it’s worth, I seem to recall that, one of the first times the idea was proposed that Moses was a wholly fictitious character ( not even a composite as suggested by people like Martin Noth) was sometime during the 1970’s. This was greeted with a considerable amount of scorn. as you can imagine.

    Now it is generally accepted.

    I wonder how long it will take before we see a similar picture emerge for Jesus?

    If unklee doesn’t need the Old Testament to believe in Jesus what will it take before he doesn’t need a flesh and blood historical Jesus?

    I wonder ….

    Liked by 1 person

  281. nonsupernaturalist

    Into my heart,
    into my heart,
    come into my heart Lord Je-sus.

    Come in today.
    Come in to stay.
    Come into my heart, Lord Je-sus.

    Like

  282. nonsupernaturalist

    If you grew up singing that song, you remember how comforting it was. You could “feel” Jesus comforting you as you sang it. (Note: it has the rhythm of a lullabye.) So if you can sing a song and feel Jesus’ presence within you and feel the peace and comfort that his presence gives you, why would you ever abandon all that just because a bunch of God-hating “experts” say that Moses was fictional?

    Liked by 2 people

  283. I did sing that song a lot as a kid in a Pentecostal Church. And I did feel like his presence was in me. Emotions can do all sorts of things. I feel an emotional attachment to my country every time I’m at a sporting event and sing the National Anthem. I tend to be an emotional person and that’s why I remained a Christian for 50 years . Then I started putting my emotions aside and began research and study. That’s when it all changed. I started thinking with my brain instead of my heart.

    Like

  284. nonsupernaturalist

    Exactly, KC.

    That is what I encourage UnkleE to do. Set aside the emotions and perceived personal experiences of Jesus and just look at the evidence for this ancient claim from the Bible (and any other literary sources). I would bet that if UnkleE would do that, he would have to admit that the actual evidence for the Resurrection is very weak.

    Even if we assume the empty tomb as historical, there are many, much more probable explanations for an empty tomb before arriving at the supernatural explanation that an ancient Hebrew god breathed life back into a three day brain-dead corpse which then somehow exited his sealed tomb.

    Without their subjective emotions about Jesus, without their subjective perceptions about answered prayers, and without their preconceived assumptions of Yahweh’s existence, Christians must admit that the evidence for Christianity’s central claim—the Resurrection of the dead Jesus—is very, very poor.

    Like

  285. nonsupernaturalist

    Evidence for the Resurrection:

    1. Subjective personal feelings of the presence of an invisible being in ones’ body who provides comfort and peace. (An adult imaginary friend)
    2. Perceived miracles in one’s life and in the lives of others which may well be rare, random coincidences. The burden of proof is on believers, not skeptics, to prove that these events are supernatural acts of an invisible being and not rare, random coincidences.
    3. The.assumption that evidence for a Creator is evidence for Yahweh.
    4. A literature search demonstrating that 75% of NT scholars believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb.

    Liked by 1 person

  286. Thanks, SC. I’ll try to check out some of your posts soon. I’m a bit skeptical though, as this is something I’ve been investigating pretty thoroughly for a number of years now. I’ve posted about these issues as well, and the links can be found on my home page, if anyone’s interested.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Like

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