Don’t Waste Time on Apologetics

August 7, 2012 § 36 Comments

Below is an exchange with a self-described “centre-left atheist humanist” on her blog. This is a debate I would actually recommend avoiding—not because the Christian position is at a disadvantage, but because the athiest/humanist in this case is snide and evasive, hiding behind personal attacks and generalizations. I don’t take offense personally, but the discussion simply isn’t going to be productive. Proverbs 26:4 warns us “when arguing with fools, don’t answer their foolish arguments, or you will become as foolish as they are.” (NLT) When it becomes clear from their arguments that you are dealing with a fool, it’s time to respectfully move on. 

FoolsDayOut063

Mike

You seem to hold reason and logic in the highest regard, so let me ask: How do you account for your use of such on atheistic Naturalism? Would you offer a defense of reason by reason, or logic by logic? It seems like your worldview is short an adequate basis for any argument whatsoever. You’re not alone in your circular reasoning, Christians do it too. In fact any argument for ultimate commitment is ultimately circular. The difference is that Christianity can make sense of our use of reason and logic. You presuppose the same fundamental principals but have to borrow from Christianity to do it.

Atheist Humanist

LOL!

I love it when creationists start off down the road of arguing that there is no such thing as reality to try to justify their belief in a magic creator of it.

It reveals the profound difficulty with joined-up thinking which probably explains their superstition in the first place.

Mike

I don’t argue for non-reality, but a reality that only makes sense on Biblical Christianity. And I’m not aware of any “profound difficulty” in holding a belief in God. I was hoping you could shed some light on how atheism reconciles the use of logic and reason in a universe that is only matter in motion. I think that’s where the profound difficulty lies.

Atheist Humanist

>I don’t argue for non-reality, but a reality that only makes sense on Biblical Christianity.<

Imagining you can and do create your own reality is normally referred to as ‘psychosis’.

Science is under no obligation to explain to you how your fantasy world works or why the one you’ve carefully constructed in your imagination is illogical. It’s enough to dismiss your claimed ability to construct reality as arrogance and/or insanity and to point out that your fantasy world is merely an infantile parody of the real one and which you’ve probably created because you found the real one too hard to deal with.

Mike

Just so I’m clear: Given that the majority of the world holds to some kind of theistic belief, your best explanation of this phenomenon is some sort of global pshycosis? Merely calling Christians or other religious people crazy is not a reasonable argument nor is it any way to rescue your own worldview from self-defeat. I’ll ask again. How do you account for your use of reason on atheism WITHOUT borrowing from the Biblical principal that a God who uses and values reason created us in His image to use it?

Atheist Humanist

Nice try at misrepresenting what I said. I wonder how many readers can work out why you needed to try that ploy.

As I clearly said, ‘psychosis’ is imagining that you can create your own reality. The clue was in the words “Imagining you can and do create your own reality is normally referred to as ‘psychosis'”.

Apparently, the majority of the world once believe the world was flat. That didn’t make it flat. I hope that doesn’t shock you too much.

Mike

I haven’t created or imagined my own reality; that isn’t even relevant to my question. I asked how YOU account for YOUR ability to reason about YOUR OWN reality, the same world we both experience. Do you in fact know?

Atheist Humanist

Are you withdrawing your implicit claim that there is ‘a reality that only makes sense on Biblical Christianity’ or just hoping no one else has noticed you use it?

Mike

Nope. As I’ve made clear, the “reality that only makes sense on Biblical Christianity” is THIS reality—the same universe, the same assumed laws of logic and reason, the same moral considerations you and I and everyone else experience. The Bible provides a way to rationalize all of this. Your worldview does not, and so you live in self-contradiction, having no other recourse but reasoning as you have. Your evasiveness and self-deception affirms the truth of Romans 1:18-25, a description of those who have suppressed the knowledge of the God they once knew, trading the truth for a lie and worshiping the created thing instead of the Creator. My continuing in this discussion would be a fool’s errand. May you re-discover what you’ve apparently lost.

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§ 36 Responses to Don’t Waste Time on Apologetics

  • Oscar Rivera says:

    I’d like to discuss this matter with you, but I just want to make sure I understand your question before answering it. Would you be able to expound on it a bit more? I’m not sure why you think Naturalism cannot account for reason.

    • Oscar, absolutely, thanks for asking. Think in terms of ultimate commitments. The Naturalist blogger above continually writes about “Reason, logic and honesty” as what she considers to be her ultimate authority. On Naturalism, something like human reason usually serves as the Naturalist’s highest authority, what they live by, affecting how they look at the world. If you can think of something else, that’s fine, but reason seems to serve the purpose for the argument. At its base, however, reason can only be assumed, since there is really no scientific basis for our relying on reason to guide us. In a world where nature is all there is, what authority should reason have? Her appeal to ultimate moral standards of honesty also cannot have any real authority either. Everyone takes these things for granted.

      Some call these preconditions of intelligibility that the Bible explains and Naturalism does not. Using the reason that we all presuppose, we can look at Gen. 1 and read that man is made in God’s image or likeness. Assuming that truth, it makes sense that man has many of the qualities and attributes that God exhibits elsewhere in scripture.

      I have a debate on this topic here – https://godneighbor.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/from-circular-reasoning-to-the-gospel/ but here’s an outline:

      God values logic and reason and invites us to use it: “Let us reason” (Isaiah 1:18). The way He reasons throughout scripture how we understand reasoning to work, the conclusions following from the premises. God does not lie or contradict Himself (see Numbers 23:19), and this principal is consistent with what we see throughout the Bible.

      Science is based on the assumption that the future will be like the past, but there is really no scientific basis for that law. Genesis 8:22 provides a foundation for laws of uniformity: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Other passages describe God as not only creator but sustainer (Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:3)

      Objective, universal and absolute moral law is rooted in the nature of God, which is an observation we make of the moral dealings of the God described in the Bible. Our own moral sensibilities comport with this. We may say they are relative to the individual and subject to change, but no one I have every talked to can demonstrate this. Human morality is innate, not evolved, for 2 reasons. One is that we cannot imagine a way in which a thought or act became morally “good” without appealing to a pre-existing standard for “good.” Two is that we always apply it universally. If morality evolved within humans, we would not apply it to any other beings outside of contemporary humans, and we clearly do that when we morally assess the idea of God.

      I wrote a more detailed and evidentialist approach on morality here: https://godneighbor.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/proof-of-an-external-source-for-human-morality/

      Assuming the truth of Christianity to prove the truth of Christianity as our ultimate commitment is of course circular, just as assuming the truth of reason to prove reason as our ultimate commitment is. But Christianity provides a basis for reason and all that we are left to merely assume on Naturalism.

      • Oscar Rivera says:

        Ok, there’s a lot to unpack here. I think we’ll have our hands full merely discussing the nature of reasoning, so I won’t be addressing the issue or morality for the time being. If you like, we can come back to it.

        Anyway, you say:

        “At its base, however, reason can only be assumed, since there is really no scientific basis for our relying on reason to guide us. In a world where nature is all there is, what authority should reason have?”

        I don’t mere human reasoning is the ‘above-all’ as I readily admit that my own reasoning is often flawed. However, I don’t think reasoning is presupposed to be held in high esteem, but rather, we recognize that our reasoning, more often than not, aligns with what we observe. If, on the other hand, our reasoning did not comport with what we observe, I don’t think we would hold our reasoning in such high regard.

        The notion of what we observe to be what actually is, is something that we perhaps presuppose. But there is no readily apparent reason to suppose otherwise. Assuming in this case there is no God, I think this presupposition is a fairly tenable position.

        I read your “From Circular Reasoning to the Gospel” and I must applaud your concession that much, if not all, of presuppositionalism is circular in nature. I don’t agree with how the Skeptic in your post replies. I do not argue for reasoning, but use reasoning. Reasoning is merely a tool which I employ until the time it proves to be an ineffective tool.

        Again, I do presuppose the uniformity of nature, but only until that time it’s proven to be a false presupposition. There is no reason for this presupposition aside from the position that the uniformity of nature has thus far been observed, it’s what is.

        I must ask, why do you still hold to your position if you recognize that it is circular?

        Also, you say that Genesis provides a basis for the uniformity of nature, but the miracles of Jesus seem to controvert its uniformity.

        • Great thoughts! I hope to address all of your points.

          “… I don’t think reasoning is presupposed to be held in high esteem, but rather, we recognize that our reasoning, more often than not, aligns with what we observe. If, on the other hand, our reasoning did not comport with what we observe, I don’t think we would hold our reasoning in such high regard.”

          I think this point is difficult to make stick, because the tool (good way to describe it) you use to assess whether reason works or doesn’t work is reason itself. Ultimately it’s by faith that one reasons. I’m not a Naturalist of course, but I’m trying to see what would actually be a higher authority than human reason from a Naturalist perspective.

          “The notion of what we observe to be what actually is, is something that we perhaps presuppose.”

          And that is also considered by many to be a precondition of intelligibility. Ultimately we have to assume that our senses are generally reliable, and when they aren’t, we can usually identify something that prohibits clear perception, i.e. Blindness, deafness, mental illness, drug use, self-delusion. We can also affirm an experience if a large number of people have the same or very similar experience. But foundationally, we then have to simply trust that our experience of others experiencing the same thing is reliable.

          The God described in the Bible, while without physical eyes, ears, etc., sees (“God saw all that He had made…” Gen. 1:31) and hears (The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them… Ps. 34:17), with senses that parallel ours in function and purpose. It makes sense that we have senses because God, who made us in His image, has and values them.

          “But there is no readily apparent reason to suppose otherwise [the notion of what we observe to be what actually is]. Assuming in this case there is no God, I think this presupposition is a fairly tenable position.”

          But why is it reasonable to presuppose the general reliability of our senses? I think “readily apparent” is person-relative. It depends on how apparent it is to each individual. And what determines the course of our reasoning is what we presuppose. If, as you say, we presuppose there is no God, then it seems reasonable to just assume what we see corresponds with reality. But if we assume the truth of Christian theology, we also assume that what we see corresponds with reality, AND there is a rational basis for trusting our senses: They are given to us by an omnipotent Creator who desires that we discover the universe and ultimately discover a relationship with Him. The principal of sufficient reason justifies us all in asking why something is the case. Naturalism can offer no answer for why we assume what we see is true.

          “I do not argue for reasoning, but use reasoning. Reasoning is merely a tool which I employ until the time it proves to be an ineffective tool.”

          But if you were asked to justify its use, you would argue for it. In fact you do when you make its use conditional. If it ever proves to be ineffective, you wouldn’t use it. Then we have to ask what else we would use, and again realize we are still using reasoning to decide whether or not to use reason. 🙂

          That’s what leads me to conclude that circular reasoning is the case for ALL reasoning about ultimate ideas, whether theistic or atheistic, because the first and most foundational principal we adhere to always must be assumed. At the ultimate level, the circularity is inevitable, so in that regard all positions are equal. What makes Christianity the rational position is because it posits an ultimate origin for what we assume. It’s true that other religions propose ultimate origins, but none are both internally (within its doctrine) and externally (doctrine comports with our experience).

          “you say that Genesis provides a basis for the uniformity of nature, but the miracles of Jesus seem to controvert its uniformity”

          I think that is rule vs. exception. There are laws of nature but there are times when Jesus (as God) can subvert the rules He created, to intervene in nature in order to carry out His plan. God doesn’t contradict Himself with miracles. But the fact that there are natural laws to be intervened upon actually does not make sense on Naturalism (going back to the assumption of uniformity in nature).

  • pinkagendist says:

    That’s dumb arguing with dumber. The crux of the matter is the atheist accepts there are things he does not know. The religionist embraces myths and fantasy to explain what he doesn’t know.

    • Pinkagendaist, that’s a lot of mere opinion and certainly isn’t the “crux of the matter”. Christians also accept that there are things we don’t know, but what we can know is that Christianity is anything but myth.

      • pinkagendist says:

        You’ve touched the important point and in doing so you’ve exposed yourself. You absolutely do not accept there are things you don’t know. You pretend the answer to life and the world is contained in an archaic book of legends, written and compiled by people in a time where food poisoning caused death and humanity didn’t even know the value of penicillin.

        • I said that we can know that Christianity is not myth, because there are many things about it historically and evidentially that are knowable. Of all the information that exists, we can only know a tiny amount, but that isn’t to say we can’t know God or many things about Him, especially when He wants us to know Him.

          • pinkagendist says:

            Yes, but you’re mixing historical facts with paranormal mythology.
            In historical fiction authors commonly mix reality with fantasy.
            For example, it’s a fact that Jerusalem exists, it’s not a fact that anyone has ever come back from the dead there…

          • Again, I think “paranormal mythology” is unsubstantiated opinion. There are plenty of presentations of the strong case for a historical resurrection that you should consider. Here are a couple:

            http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/resurrection-evidence.htm
            http://www.alwaysbeready.com/index.php?id=124&option=com_content&task=view

          • pinkagendist says:

            Are you serious? I had a brief look at both of your sources and they’re absurd. Those arguments are as The Peter Kreeft analysis is particularly ridiculous. He pulls out conclusions from the air: “There could be no possible motive for such a lie”- LOL- that’s not just not an argument, it’s simply not true, there could be a large variety of motivations.

            And so you don’t waste your time with illogical responses, when you next try to answer me make a parallel with aliens- i.e. someone in Arizona has seen them, why would they lie, they’ve written about, many people have written about alien encounters etc…
            If the argument you present makes superficial sense when you substitute the word Christ for the word Alien, that means your argument is spurious.

          • “There could be no possible motive for such a lie”- LOL- that’s not just not an argument, it’s simply not true, there could be a large variety of motivations.

            And what would you offer as a sufficient motive then? If it’s “simply not true”, then offer a reason that you think it is not true. It’s obvious you haven’t considered the evidence. If the people that claimed to have an alien encounter were threatened with torture and execution and still held to their beliefs, then we’d be forced to reconsider their account. The same would be true if they exhibited no other signs of mental illness other than seeing aliens. If many of their friends were killed for their belief in aliens, the government legislated against the belief in aliens, and long after the aliens had left earth the belief in aliens spread to every part of the civilized world, you’d be a fool not to consider their story. For the first few centuries of Christianity, that’s exactly what happened to followers of a risen Christ, and we’re still talking about this worldwide “delusion” 2,000 years later.

          • pinkagendist says:

            Have you heard of mass hysteria? A good example is the Salem witch trials, although similar mass hysterical events have happened worldwide covering a number of different topics whether it be the Chupa-Cabra in Mexico or vampires and werewolves in Eastern Europe.
            The spreading of a myth is by no means proof of its reality. Religions spread, Islam spread, Hinduism spreads, that doesn’t mean any of them are true.
            You are not considering any of the points logically, you’re starting with a conclusion and then trying to fit evidence in to justify it. That’s the opposite of critical thinking.

          • I don’t think your theory of mass hysteria turned myth works to explain the presence of Christianity. Call it a fallacious comparison or weak analogy, certainly not a prime example of critical thinking. It seems as if you’re trying to force mass hysteria as evidence to justify the conclusion you’ve started with, but let’s see how it works.

            I’ve heard of the Salem witch trials, but that relatively recent event a few hundred years ago didn’t birth a worldwide movement as Christianity has seen 2 millennia after the death of Christ, despite being outlawed until its 4th century. People all over the world can find Jerusalem on a map; the same couldn’t be said for Salem… Massachusetts? Although I’ve heard of Chupa-Cabra, I had to look that one up. It’s a 15 year old craze that has left us with no worldwide following, no churches full of devotees singing praises and studying its teachings, no claims of life-changing conversions as a result, and in another 15 years will probably descend further into obscurity. As for werewolf and vampire myths, I’m sure you can find some Twilight fans that claim worship, but they will abandon the fancy with the next fad. You know plenty of Christians, like it or not, but would you even know where to start looking for a devoted follower of a myth spawned from mass hysteria? Apples and oranges.

          • pinkagendist says:

            No, you’re extrapolating. I offered mass hysteria as a plausible possibility as to how myths spread.
            You continue to present fallacy after fallacy as if they’re arguments. The age of a story does not make it any more or less true. Hinduism pre-dates Christianity and is still going today. If we apply your age fallacy we would have to say that Hinduism is true, even more “true” than Christianity because it’s older.
            Just out of curiosity, what’s your level of education?

          • “I offered mass hysteria as a plausible possibility as to how myths spread.”

            You also said, “The religionist embraces myths and fantasy” so you seem to be offering mass hysteria is a possible cause for the spread of Christianity, which you consider to be a myth. I agree that antiquity does not necessarily equal truth, but Christianity as a myth spread by hysteria doesn’t fit with other examples of myth spread by hysteria, which die out over time. Christianity’s lasting and universal influence has done the opposite.

            Truth is that which corresponds with reality. We can test the truth of the Bible against itself for internal consistency and the world we can observe and find it consistent and reliable. By contrast Hinduism, for example, has self-contradicting doctrines related to pantheism and polytheism, eternality of the universe, and teachings in the Hindu scriptures. Truth stands the test of scrutiny.

            “Just out of curiosity, what’s your level of education?”

            How is it relevant?

          • pinkagendist says:

            I asked about your education because you seem to be having a bit of difficulty with certain aspects of logical reasoning.
            Age, how quickly or widely an idea is spread etc. are in no way logically connected to the validity of an idea.
            For centuries people believed in a variety of things that were perpetuated by myth and tradition but that were not true.

          • “Age, how quickly or widely an idea is spread etc. are in no way logically connected to the validity of an idea.”

            You stated that religion is myth and then gave examples of myths which do not at all characterize Christianity. I don’t argue for Christianity because it’s old or popular, I defend it because it makes sense of reality, which should be clear from the post. How do you account for your use of logical reasoning on your worldview?

          • pinkagendist says:

            I don’t come to anything with a conclusion which I try to justify.
            I’m a historian so I start with a hypothesis and test its veracity and/or probability of its veracity. In history we begin that process with the theory of negative evidence.
            If you do it the other way around you’re left with a fruit salad of unreliable information.

          • Interesting. It would be naive to think as the positivist does, that anyone can present a value-free account of the past, because our present beliefs always show up in the method. There is no unbiased history because there are no unbiased historians, Christian or otherwise. You rebuild the past with knowledge and materials from the present, and that includes your present worldview. It’s unavoidable. Subjective views weigh in even when forming the hypothesis. That doesn’t mean we have to be existentialists and think we can never get at any objective truth about the past. Once we face the fact that everyone has fundamental faith-based beliefs that affect how we reason, we can test possible reasons for that too.

          • pinkagendist says:

            Of course bias can always be an issue, even source bias. But all sources are not equal and responsible historians can take bias into consideration to put events in perspective.
            That’s how we know not to take interested parties at their word and we can generally form a very good idea of accuracy by comparing sources and fact-checking. By those measures we know beyond any doubt that the Egyptian pharaohs existed, when they existed and much about how they ruled their people. We do not have serious sources supporting the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.

          • Why aren’t the 24,000+ available New Testament manuscript portions that are nearly 100% internally consistent considered to be “serious sources supporting the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth”? 5,600+ of them are the complete New Testament, at least a couple hundred of those dating within the first few centuries.

          • pinkagendist says:

            Because we call those “interested party” accounts. Just like publicity. If Coca-Cola prints pamphlets saying their drink is healthy, they’re an interested party. In the case of religion and myth, it’s exactly the same. They’re trying to sell a product, so they adapt their message to facilitate the sale.
            All religious texts, from every religion do that and many most (if not all) mix history with mythology to get the point they’re promoting across.

          • pinkagendist says:

            and btw, the different gospels are not consistent with each other. Each presents a different interpretation of a variety of events.

          • This goes right back to what I wrote about our bias and presuppositions. Everyone has them and historians aren’t excluded. I see what you say about historians questioning the bias of earlier historians, but do you see how your particular view of religion steers your extreme conclusion that religious writers can’t be truthful? Of course the writers of the gospels and the rest of the New Testament were “interested parties”—anyone who records history is. If there was no interest in preserving the history of Christianity, they wouldn’t have written it down. Other historians who were not sympathetic to Christianity wrote of Jesus as if He were a real man (Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, the Babylonian Talmud, etc.), but even without these, there’s no valid objective reason to dismiss New Testament scripture. Re: the illustration of Coke writing their own ads, Jesus Himself didn’t record His life and teaching in the gospels, but His contemporaries did—people that knew Him and knew of Him. In your view, would any testimony about Jesus or writings that corroborated the events in scripture be acceptable historical evidence, or would they be dismissed as “interested parties” because they testified about Jesus or corroborated the events in scripture? Aren’t you making a sweeping generalization about “all religious texts mix history with mythology” and wild assumptions about their motives simply because they are religious texts?

            The gospels are different in that they present unique perspectives on the life of Jesus, but in doctrine, principal and the general accuracy of the events that occurred, they are consistent. Any discrepancies in manuscripts, old or new testament, really amount to copyist errors like missing words or sections, misspellings, numerical errors—nothing that alters doctrinal meaning.

          • pinkagendist says:

            I don’t mean that religious writers can’t be truthful. I mean that in the case of the New Testament, behind genuine writers there was a big machine at work.
            The problem with the historicity of Jesus is that there are no first hand accounts. Everything is third, fourth or fifth party and there are no contemporary (during his lifetime) references. That’s highly unlikely for someone who’s supposed to have had a large following and who allegedly made waves against traditional religion (judaism) and the establishment (the Romans).

          • By first hand accounts I think you mean original manuscripts. Many New Testament authors wrote first hand accounts; what your questioning is presumably the authenticity of the original authors or whether the content was altered from the originals, which we don’t have, in subsequent copies. What seems extremely unlikely is that hundreds of copies gathered from various locations in various languages could be compared and found in near perfect agreement if they were altered by copyists. That would require collaboration and cooperation on the part of first century scribes that simply couldn’t be done. The likely answer without multiplying unnecessary assumptions is that the copies were very true to the originals.

            I’m not sure how you determine that losing track of originals is “highly unlikely”. The fact that the older the manuscripts are the fewer copies we have makes it likely that the very first generation will be missing. The originals would not have been safeguarded once faithful copies had been made and distributed to various churches, and that’s when Jesus’ large following really began to increase, along with the conflict with Rome, at least until Constantine. The more copies that were made, the more likely they would be discovered, which is why we have so many.

            Doesn’t that seem reasonable? If not, you have to disregard the writings of Plato, Herodotus, Caesar, Aristotle, Sophicles, Homer and a host of other widely-accepted authors because none of their originals have been found, and the copies we have are far fewer and penned a lot longer after the originals in contrast to New Testament manuscripts. The only way you can accept the writings of Plato (7 copies, earliest dating 1,200 years after the original) and reject the NT (5600 copies, earliest < 100 years after original) is a significant bias.

  • I did end up getting another response in this debate, so I added that as well as my final reply.

  • pinkagendist says:

    Here’s an interesting video that separates fact from fiction and analyzes the different historical possibilities:

    • Thanks, I took some time to review the video. Carrier is creative, although I’m not sure history is the best place for that. When he says that “Most scholars” believe Jesus was an “ordinary nobody” and the gospels were mostly fiction (1:00 and 23:00), I think he means “most liberal scholars”. (A liberal worldview yields liberal conclusions). I thought it was interesting that he cautioned his audience to be skeptical of mythicist theories other than his own (3:45).

      His proposition that Christianity is just another cult spawned by a melding of Judaism and Hellenistic beliefs shows that he hasn’t read his Bible very well. He is partly right that Christianity came from Judaism. Christianity is Old Testament Judaism plus Christ, who was supposed to come along and change things. But the “trends” he thinks were new ideas arising a couple centuries before Christ were actually from ideas that had been around for thousands of years.

      For example, the first blood sacrifice was for Adam after he had sinned (Gen. 3:21); God offering the sacrificial ram in place of Isaac when God tested Abraham (Gen. 21); the sacrificial system of the Jews foretold of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice (Ex. 12; Lev. 1-7, 14, 16; Num. 19); the bronze snake on a pole (Num. 21) was a picture of Christ and His salvation (Jn. 3:14). The coming Christ was prophesied centuries earlier in detail in the case of Isaiah (700 BC) in 7:14, 9:6-7, 11:1-5, 42:1-9, 52:13-15 and 53:1-12 and also Micah 5, Zech. 9, 11, 12 and Malachi 3 and others. These include details such as the virgin birth in Bethlehem, the Messiah as a man who was God, His entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, betrayal for 30 pieces of silver, His suffering, the “Lamb of God”, resurrection, etc.

      Carrier touches on this when he discusses “according to the scriptures” in 1 Cor. 15:4 (around 20:00), which usually refers to scriptures before Paul that prophesied of Christ——but his point there was the original language gives us “some leeway” to assume another meaning too. Given the wealth of Old Testament prophecy and pictures of Christ, why assume something that is technically permissible but isn’t warranted by the translation or context? Jesus Himself said of the OT prophesies, “These are the Scriptures that testify about Me.” (John 5:39)

      Carrier also makes the false claim that Paul never refers to Jesus as a real man on earth. Paul clearly refers to “the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5) in numerous passages: in Phil. 2:5, “Jesus…coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross…”, in Rom. 1:5 “…Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh” and in 1 Tim. 6:13, where Jesus “witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate”.

      There are other points to refute but that’s enough to see that Carrier’s argument is weak. Like anyone else, he makes certain assumptions right from the start. The title of his presentation: “So…If Jesus Didn’t Exist, Where Did He Come From Then?” He is presupposing his non-existence, leading to his conclusion of Jesus’ non-existence.

      Again, in summary, We all presuppose our ultimate commitments, but Christianity is the only presupposition that can make sense of the world. Why are you a Naturalist? If you can coherently answer that question without appealing to something OUTSIDE of Naturalism, it’s a logically held view. But there is no foundation for Naturalism that doesn’t reach outside its own box to the laws of reason or morality. Recognize this and you can graduate from Naturalism. 🙂

      • pinkagendist says:

        No, don’t take his language personally. He’s colourful and that may make him seem biased but actually most (scientific) historians do believe that someone called Jesus who had followers existed. In fact more than just Jesus. That was a time in the middle east when alternative religions (alt. to Judaism) were starting to flourish.

        He separates speculation from actual history very well. My reasoning for the mythicist theory is actually different from what Carrier proposes. I think negative evidence is the key. If the Jesus story as described by the bible were true, what sort of evidence should we expect to find to support it? That’s where I see an issue, because if someone was as “huge” as he’s described, there should be many more references, particularly during his lifetime rather than many decades after his death.

        • If the Jesus story as described by the bible were true, what sort of evidence should we expect to find to support it?

          I would expect to find tens of thousands of manuscripts containing the whole or parts of the story that tell about Jesus. They would have to pass rigorous textual criticism and be found in overwhelming agreement.

          At first I might be dismayed that these are early copies, not originals. But after imagining myself in that situation, if Jesus was indeed a “huge” deal, I’d expect the first scrolls to be taught from often and passed from one group of believers to another until they quickly wore out, making copies necessary. The more the Gospel spread, he greater the need for more copies would have been. Christians know that paper and ink are not sacred, but the words they sought to preach, so I wouldn’t expect 1st century Christians to preserve the original scrolls in a vault somewhere. (We don’t think much of dusty Bibles)

          I might also wonder why the disciples didn’t write the gospels sooner, until I thought more about the oral tradition of the middle east in that time period. The testimony of eyewitnesses of Jesus and His teaching, miracles, death and reappearance would have been sufficient and surely even more convincing, until such a time that they began to die off or were martyred. Another possibility is that Jesus’ followers expected an immediate return of the Lord, and when time passed they may have accepted a wider view of the 2nd coming and decided to write official accounts. Some postulate that the disciples may have initially taught from notes taken during Jesus’ ministry, or that they were too busy trying to survive to commit the details to parchment.

          If the Bible were true, I would read what it says about changed lives and expect to see that still happening today in global proportions in the form of devoted followers. This would set it apart from myth.

          Also, if the Bible were true, I would expect to see some of the opposition to the truth that Jesus and Paul and others warned about. The Gospel is still controversial because it calls everyone to realize the hopelessness of our sinful condition and God’s offer of salvation through faith in Christ instead of ourselves, or our reason, or whatever we hold as our ultimate commitment.

          In short, I don’t think we need more evidence to justify belief.

          • pinkagendist says:

            I don’t mean to be fastidious, you seem like a very nice guy :D, but I meant more in relation to contemporary cross-references.
            For example, I live in the province of Cadiz. It was founded by the Phoencians in 1104 BC. Then it became Greek territory, then it became part of Rome, then there was the Moorish invasion, then the Moors were expelled… but in each of these cultures there are significant records of prominent figures of their allies and enemies.
            All that being said, I don’t think an ideology is genuinely impacted whether it’s a myth or reality. You can believe in a message and believe that it’s a good one independent of how it came to be. That’s true for example of the Aesop fables and the stories of de la Fontaine (The Fox & the Grapes etc.)

          • “Ideology is genuinely impacted whether it’s a myth or reality” only if you’re looking for truth. Because it’s either true or it isn’t.

            Thanks for the discussion, you’ve helped make this post a lot more interesting than it was. 🙂

  • I liked your post, and I am afraid I have had similar results while talking to atheists, except for a few who were civil in discussion, most were just plain outrageously against religion, even the hint of it. ah well, Christians can be pretty bad too, hardcores on both sides, I guess but the truth is very few atheists understand the things which they are attacking. Most do not have a clue of what’s it about. Cherry picking at its best…

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