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29 Responses to “ Quick Question For Skeptics Who Think Faith is Rationalization ”

  1. Fleegman says:

    Tom,

    The more discussions I read here at Thinking Christian, the more I’m convinced of the existence of a cognitive potential barrier separating believers and non-believers (The numerous readers with scientistic backgrounds will instantly know what I mean by that phrase). The reason there’s so much butting of heads is because in order to make sense of things from the believer’s side of the wall, you have to be on that side.

    This is illustrated in much of what Victoria writes so eloquently on the Bible. Something caught my eye in another thread that Victoria wrote on how Christians go about truly understanding the Bible. Among other things, she said something like (forgive me, Victoria, I’m paraphrasing here since I had a look for it but couldn’t find your original comment – let me know if I got it wrong!): “…a commitment to the belief that it’s true.” This stuck out so clearly in comparison to non-Biblical study, it was almost like an edition of “One of these things is not like the others.”

    So it would seem that belief is a pre-requisite to making sense of the Bible.

    Victoria explains it in the last thread when she said (emphasis mine):

    One thing that we should take note of is that the discrepancies that skeptics point to are, for the most part, on the surface, whereas the harmonies are deep-rooted. It takes diligent work and study to see how it all fits together. I can’t help but think that this is intentional on God the Holy Spirit’s part, to draw people who really want to know God… Christians, on the other hand, know that there is more to the Bible than what is on the surface, and that the real answers are to be found only by digging deeper.

    Despite the assertions of skeptical scholars to the contrary, Christians are justified in accepting the Bible as a source of reliable history – from that history we infer that Jesus’ supernatural resurrection is the best explanation (even if it means having to accept the supernatural), and we therefore trust the NT authors when they tell us what it all means. This is faith as the Bible intends faith to be. Once you can trust that, then everything else starts to fall into place.

    Given that this is how one interprets the Bible as a Christian, is it any wonder that Christians are accused of rationalising?

    Once you believe something is true, you can make anything fit that narrative. Christians do it with the Bible, and other religions do the same with their holy books.

    And this is why the potential barrier to understanding each other is so large. Atheists don’t believe in the very thing that’s central to making sense of what you believe.

    To finally answer your question, I think the only people who think others are rationalising are those on opposite sides of the wall. So from your perspective, I’m sure that would appear to be the case.

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    That’s not so far from the truth, Fleegman, except for this: what’s false is false from either side of the fence, and what’s true is true from either side.

    As much as I’ve disagreed with the way in which he presents it, I know Holopupenko is right when he says the same thing you just said. Of course he adds this: that from the unbelievers’ side of the barrier, there is an intrinsic inability to recognize and appreciate the truth. Again, I think he’s right.

    Spiritual truth is spiritually appraised, it says in the latter portions of 1 Corinthians 2. It can be rationally presented and defended, but it requires the drawing effect of the Father and the Spirit to bring the person to full assent. That’s why we pray for you as well as make our rational cases.

    None of that, though, denies the fact that what’s true is true and what’s false is false. Philosophical naturalism is incoherent, propped up by unbelievers’ need for it to be true. I don’t often state it that bluntly: usually I stop at simply saying it’s incoherent, and let you decide what to make of that. But as physicist Bernard Carter put it so beautifully with respect to the fine-tuning argument, “If you don’t want God, there had better be a multiverse.”

    I don’t deny there are other motivations behind multiverse theory; for indeed, I would be tickled to find out there was something to it. Think of it! What a superb achievement it would be to discover it, and how cool would it be to know that the SF parallel universe idea had something to it?

    The problem with it in contemporary science is that although current physical theories allow for the possibility of a multiverse, there is only one reason to conclude the existence of the multiverse, and that is that you have to conclude it in order to avoid God (not that it actually works for that, because even the multiverse seems to demand tuning, but that’s another story).

    Likewise with Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne’s denial of free will, the Churchlands’ denial of consciousness, and so on. They’re all driven by a need for scientistic naturalism to be true.

    And as long as they (and others such as commenters here) remain committed to the rejection of God, they’ll never be able to admit that a choice is a choice, consciousness is consciousness, and the multiverse is a cool theory but it has no empirical support.

    So you’re right: there is a potential barrier there. And we do pray for you as we carry on these discussions.

  3. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    First, I should point out that for many of us, we did not start out believing that the Bible was ‘true’. I certainly did not think so before I became a Christian, yet when I read it for myself with an attitude of humility and being ready to listen to what it had to say, God did speak to me through it – I listened, and obeyed. Full belief was not a prerequisite, only a willingness to learn. Once a person makes that whole-hearted genuine commitment of faith and repentance to the LORD Jesus Christ, then and only then does the Holy Spirit actually come into one’s life to establish this bi-directional relationship between a human being and the infinite-Personal Triune God. That changes everything in ways that you will not understand unless it happens to you. Comparing notes with other Christians confirms this – we share a common set of experiences of the Spirit of God.

    Second, it is not rationalizing to want to dig deeper when faced with puzzles and discrepancies in the Bible. You seem to be content and happy that you have found things in the Bible that you think portray it in a negative light, thereby justifying your unbelief. Those of us who have studied it and lived our adult lives with it know that there is more to it than that. We try to explain it to you, but you simply can’t or won’t listen.

    If you read the other thread where I posted what you excerpted, you might have followed the link to Tim’s presentation about Gospel difficulties and Bart Erhman’s claims. If you didn’t, I strongly recommend that you do.

    What is the difference between Tim and Bart? Both of them see the same issues and discrepancies, yet address them in completely different ways. Tim shows how Bart’s criticisms are not nearly as damning as he (Bart) wants us to believe – in fact they carry no substantial weight at all. Why does Bart not dig deeper to see if a problem has a reasonable solution? That’s just as significant a question as to ask why Tim is motivated to do the hard work of digging to find reasonable answers.

    It’s not just Tim McGrew either. Daniel Wallace has similar issues with Bart Erhman. See here.

    Yes, there is a difference between believers and skeptics – we see what you can’t or won’t

  4. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    Since you have been blunt, I hope you will forgive me my bluntness, but just how many times Fleegman has come with this type of argument? Probably since his first comment here. There are two things that strike me in this type of argument.

    1. The profound self-*un*awareness. The form of the argument is roughly a (not necessarily fallacious) ad hominem: Christians *must* do such and such to preserve their worldview; they *must* read the Bible this and that way; they *must* fudge and fit the interpretation willy-nilly, etc., etc. But of course, we can easily turn the ad hominem around and charge dear Fleegman the he *must* dismiss all explanations so as not to acknowledge the truth, he *must* read the Bible in the worst possible light, he *must* fudge and fit the interpretation to fit *his* preconceived ideas, etc., etc.

    2. The second thing that strikes me is that this type of argument is the epitome of intellectual lazyness. It never tackles the hard interpretative issues or the scholarly work, or the philosophy or really anything at all. It never engages *seriously* with the opponents. If you *already* know that Christians are rationalizing, that they are making anything and everything fit the way they want, all you need is to fish for the clues that will back up your chosen narrative. No need to waste your time actually *understanding* what Christians are saying, because after all, it is all just so much rationalization.

    I think 2. is called rationalizing. More seriously, to me anyway, is that this is a clear sign that Fleegman, and all those of his ilk that peddle these “arguments”, do not view Christians as serious interlocutors. There is indeed a barrier. Jesus called it a beam. And we all know whose eye it blocks.

  5. Victoria says:

    Once you believe something is true, you can make anything fit that narrative. Christians do it with the Bible, and other religions do the same with their holy books.

    I can’t speak for other religions, but this is a caricature of what Christians do.

    First, this type of analysis is what secular historians do all the time, when faced with incomplete accounts of the past, when trying to piece together a picture from multiple accounts.

    Second, Christians are just as capable of sound scholarship and methodology here. It is false to say that we will make anything fit. A proposed solution, if it is to be a reasonable one, must take into account all relevant cultural and historical data as much as possible.

    For example, skeptics claim that the gospels disagree on the day Jesus died, claiming that the Synoptics say on the day of Passover, whereas John says the day before Passover.
    Actually, this claim is misleading – the four gospels are in complete agreement that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried before the start of the Sabbath – so by our reckoning, on Friday. Anyone who takes the time to compare the accounts, working back from Sunday morning to Thursday evening, will see that this is the case. The discrepancy is about the issue of when the Passover meal was being celebrated. The answer, if there is one, is going to come from an understanding of how Passover is celebrated (see Exodus) and how Passover was observed in the 1st century.

    Tim uses the historical and cultural information at our disposal (and I might add, accessible to the skeptics like Bart as well) to suggest an answer that fits in with John’s narrative, namely both an evening meal and a noon meal. It was the noon meal that the Jewish authorities were concerned with, not the seder meal, which they could have observed on Thursday evening (If they had become defiled by entering Pilate’s court, then all they would have had to do was wait until evening and take a bath before the meal. This is all spelled out in the Law of Moses).
    I’m sure that Tim can supply the relevant source of information, if you ask him nicely.

    Not all issues can be resolved so elegantly, of course, since we don’t have all of the relevant details. It is not rationalizing nor is it unreasonable to think that there are solutions to problems that we have not yet solved, given this sort of positive analysis.

    But what do the skeptics do? When we show them that a particular issue is not what they have made it out to be, they immediately jump to another one ( the ‘but what about this issue over here? syndrome’) without even acknowledging that they were mistaken about the first issue, or that the most literate, educated Christians in the family of God might just know more about the Bible than they do.
    And as Tim pointed out in the other thread, the same issues that were answered today will be trotted out again and again as though they are still unsolvable problems that are damning to the Christian’s case.

  6. Fleegman says:

    Sorry for the silence, and thanks for your responses. I started my new role as a team lead yesterday – what were they thinking, amiright? -and it’s been just crazy!

    Before I continue, I’m concerned the my comments are being read with a head voice that’s snide and condescending, given the tone of responses to some of the things I say on this site. My reaction is one of disappointment because I don’t mean it in that way. Please read my words with more of a Morgan Freeman head voice and I think you’ll get a more accurate representation of how I’m actually talking in my head when I write these comments. I actually sound nothing like Morgan Freeman, but I can dream can’t I? ;)

    Tom,

    what’s false is false from either side of the fence, and what’s true is true from either side.

    I certainly agree with you, there. Did my comment give you the impression that I don’t? If I implied that somehow, it certainly wasn’t my intention.

    Of course [Holopupenko] adds this: that from the unbelievers’ side of the barrier, there is an intrinsic inability to recognize and appreciate the truth that which Christians believe to be the truth. Again, I think he’s right.

    Just massaged that a little bit. This is exactly my point, and that’s to be expected, isn’t it? You claim to know the truth, but you don’t know it’s the Truth truth, right? You could be mistaken, after all, as could I.

    But as physicist Bernard Carter put it so beautifully with respect to the fine-tuning argument, “If you don’t want God, there had better be a multiverse.”

    All the arguments I’ve heard for the existence of God have been rebutted to at least my satisfaction – and I actually consider the fine tuning argument to be one of the weaker ones – but please don’t mistake that for a need for them to be false, or I will simply claim that you need them to be sound, and we get nowhere. I’m extremely dubious as to whether it even could be possible to argue God into existence, but that’s another story.

    And I think you have to admit, as conversional ammunition, arguments for God are extremely low caliber. Take the KCAG, for example. I think this falls apart at the very first premise, but even if I didn’t, would that be something you think should result in me converting to some kind of theism? Because of an argument for the existence of God? No. These arguments are made by theists as a way of supporting their already held beliefs. Something they can point to and say “see?” But when asked “is that what convinced you?” the answer is always* “no.”

    Considering how weak most atheists consider these arguments, especially in the face of strong arguments against the existence of God – at least, strong sounding to the majority of atheists – I think this is a bit of a non starter.

    It can be rationally presented and defended, but it requires the drawing effect of the Father and the Spirit to bring the person to full assent.

    I’m not denying that you can’t present a rational case, and that you can’t defend that position. These defences, however, are only convincing to those who already believe, or at least want to believe, but that was the crux of my first comment, really.

    Victoria,

    Comparing notes with other Christians confirms this – we share a common set of experiences of the Spirit of God.

    Does that strike you as unlikely, though? You and your fellow Christians surely share certain expectations for experiencing God, and you’ve also heard other people speaking about their experiences. Is it surprising that there are similarities in your personal experiences?

    Supposed alien abductees claim many shared experiences, and I think we would both agree on the veracity of those claims.

    What about the experiences that don’t fall into the shared set? Are these considered as evidence that you’re not sharing the same experiences?

    Not all issues can be resolved so elegantly, of course, since we don’t have all of the relevant details

    Note the implicit assumption you make, here? The assumption that they can be resolved.

    But what do the skeptics do? When we show them that a particular issue is not what they have made it out to be, they immediately jump to another one ( the ‘but what about this issue over here? syndrome’) without even acknowledging that they were mistaken about the first issue

    I can’t speak for all atheists, of course, but I would guess that they wouldn’t agree that they were mistaken about the first issue, in most cases. Perhaps they find the explanation unconvincing but realise they are not making any ground since it’s a convincing explanation to you.

    A nice example of this is the resolution to the apparent contradiction in how Judas died. Was he hanged, or did his guts burst out? The idea that it’s both, and that the accounts compliment each other is unconvincing to say the least. Yet many believers are satisfied by this, and in fact use it to bolster their faith in the Bible.

    To pick one more example, regarding the supplementation theory to unite the Gospel accounts. It might sound convincing to the believer, but in my view it’s seriously flawed: Say you were recounting a night out at the cinema, and you said “I went to the movies last night with Bob.” While you were out, someone else happened to see you and the next day recounted the story and said “Oh, I saw Victoria going to the cinema with Suzy last night to see Les Mis. They both looked very excited.”

    If you actually went with Suzy and Bob, would it make sense for either of you to describe events that way? The implication is that Bob or Suzy was the only person you were out with. Yes, strictly speaking, the accounts can be said to not contradict each other, but the normal reading of the two accounts would lead one to conclude that one or both of them were mistaken about who you went with.

    I don’t personally thing the Gospel contradictions and inconsistencies – that you, of course, don’t agree exist – actually hold much weight in this whole debate, so I’d rather not go down that route if it’s ok with you. I think a far more important issue is whether or not they were truly independent reports.

    * I’m using “always” in a rhetorical sense. I don’t mean I know for certain that no one converted this way, or even anyone reading this post.

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    Hi, Fleegman,

    I’ll try not to take your comments in any tone other than what you’ve indicated here. Thanks.

    I will continue to express my commitment to the idea that Christianity is the truth. You can continue to disagree, although I’m sad for you if that’s the case. Yes, I could be mistaken, but I’m convinced enough to speak of what I understand to be the truth as if it is indeed the truth, with no apologies.

    As conversional ammunition, the arguments for God are inadequate. That’s not because their calibre is weak, but because conversion is not just a rational decision but also a matter of being granted new life in God through Christ. Conversion is not just a change of mind, although that’s a major piece of it. It’s also regeneration, to use the theological word: being born anew, alive in Christ instead of dead without him.

    The arguments against the existence of God may seem strong to atheists, but they have all been rebutted. Every one of them. You can’t claim strength of argument when the argument’s legs have been cut out from underneath.

    The similarities in Christians’ personal experiences should not be regarded as a matter of common expectation. When I came into a relationship with Christ, I had a range of unexpected experiences. One of those was that the Bible practically turned into fire before me: it was burning with significance and meaning that it had not had just days before. I have asked and found that many Christians had that experience.

    Another experience was a deep sense of freedom: freedom from the weight of my sin, freedom to be who I was, freedom to enjoy life as never before. That wasn’t part of my pre-conversion training; and even if it had been, mere expectations could never have delivered that experience. It was deeper and more all-encompassing than a mere psychologically induced experience could have been. It has lasted for decades, by the way. The sharp, strong experience I had at first with the Bible returns regularly, by the way, though I won’t claim it’s there every time I open it up.

    Another experience I had as a new believer was that there were certain habits I’d had, which I knew weren’t good for me, that I hadn’t been able to break. After conversion I didn’t break them: I just didn’t need them. I didn’t care about them. I just stopped. The freedom (I’ll use the same word since it fits) I had from those habits was (a) not predicted or taught to me as something to expect in advance, and (b) too complete and too real to be merely psychological.

    When I became a Christian I discovered a new care for other persons. I have a strong introvert side to me. Spending hours in the practice room (I was a music major) worked really well for me, since I was alone there. But when I met Christ I also discovered for the first time what it meant to care for others unlike myself.

    Taking those last two paragraphs together, I can imagine what kind of rotten and self-oriented person I could have become, had Christ not intervened. I shudder to think of the trajectory I was on.

    Then there was the completely new awareness I had that when I prayed, God was there listening, and he was real. That could arguably be a psychological effect. I won’t stake a strong apologetic claim on that one. But I thought I should mention it for the sake of thoroughness.

    These things are common among Christians. They constitute a large part of the experience Victoria spoke of.

    You say,

    I can’t speak for all atheists, of course, but I would guess that they wouldn’t agree that they were mistaken about the first issue, in most cases.

    Sure–but they do a lousy job of disagreeing, too. As she said, they jump to another subject instead. It doesn’t happen every time, especially on this blog, but it happens commonly enough, and we’ve identified it happening often enough even here.

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    As for alien abductees:

    Their shared experiences count as evidence in favor of their claims. Really.

    The reason we discount their claims is because there is strong independent reason to do so. There are significant reasons to doubt that aliens could be visiting the earth–that it’s even possible, much less evidenced.

    Likewise the shared experiences of, say, Woodstock attendees, is evidence that Woodstock happened in a certain way. We don’t doubt that, either: but think of what it would have meant if some of the media had reported Woodstock, but other journalists searched diligently without being able to find anyone who had experienced it?

    My point is just that shared experiences are in fact helpful in building a cumulative case for the truth of certain facts, including the reality of God in Christ.

  9. SteveK says:

    The arguments against the existence of God may seem strong to atheists, but they have all been rebutted.

    Again and again they have been rebutted. It’s like we’re in the movie Groundhog Day, and the atheists are Ned “the head”. To them the arguments are new. They aren’t. Perhaps one day the atheist community will finally listen and understand why they aren’t new and why they don’t do the work they think they do.

    But that takes a willingness to listen and to understand. Few seem to have that human characteristic.

  10. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    Hey you :)
    Regarding your example of me going to the movies. That is kind of contrived as to what might have been said, and you are making assumptions about who saw what.

    What if -
    I did go to see Les Mis with Suzy and Bob last night?
    1. Recounting it the next day, I more than likely would have said exactly that.
    2. In comes the other person, and mentions that she saw me and Suzy going to the movie in question. What if Bob was going to meet us there, and Suzy and I arrived together at the moment that Jane saw us. Bob had either not yet arrived, or perhaps had arrived before we did and was already inside before Jane saw him.

    We could go on forever with contrived hypothetical situations.

    Here is another one.
    A traffic accident occurs on a busy street. Several people witnessed the event and tell their stories to the police.
    Witness #1: Well I was driving on Main street behind an Accord that ran into a dark car…
    Witness #2: I was walking north on Pacific Avenue when this blue Chevy went by me and was hit by by a silver car at the light…

    Did the accident occur on Main Street or Pacific Avenue? Is the story full of contradictions?
    No, for the police charge the driver of the Accord for driving through the intersection of Main Street and Pacific Avenue against the red light on Main Street….

    I acknowledge that the discrepancies are there (I’m not an ignorant fool). I also happen to think that they have reasonable explanations if we but knew all of the relevant details. As we have shown in the case of the day of Jesus’ death and burial, the various statements can be reconciled with known facts. Did you not pay attention to Tim’s presentation and our analysis? If not, then do so and tell us why our analysis is flawed? You just assert that it is and pull a contrived example out of thin air, rather than dealing with that real case.

    And then you do exactly what I said you skeptics do – sidestep and bring up yet another issue:

    But what do the skeptics do? When we show them that a particular issue is not what they have made it out to be, they immediately jump to another one ( the ‘but what about this issue over here? syndrome’) without even acknowledging that they were mistaken about the first issue

    I can’t speak for all atheists, of course, but I would guess that they wouldn’t agree that they were mistaken about the first issue, in most cases. Perhaps they find the explanation unconvincing but realise they are not making any ground since it’s a convincing explanation to you.

    A nice example of this is the resolution to the apparent contradiction in how Judas died. Was he hanged, or did his guts burst out? The idea that it’s both, and that the accounts compliment each other is unconvincing to say the least. Yet many believers are satisfied by this, and in fact use it to bolster their faith in the Bible.

    Come on, really!
    Have you read Cold Case Christianity (it’s on Amazon)? If not, then go away and read it. Don’t come back here until you have, and then can talk about that.

    The explanations are not convincing to you because you have a priori decided to remain a skeptic no matter what.

  11. BillT says:

    Fleegman, if I may.

    You said: “So it would seem that belief is a pre-requisite to making sense of the Bible.”

    You couldn’t be more right. However, it’s not just true of Christianity. It’s really true of any subject. The only ones who really get “it” are those that believe in “it”. Whether it’s evolution or the big bang or quantum mechanics. Now those are scientific subjects with scientific evidence and it’s true for them. In non-scientific subjects the effect is probably more pronounced. Freudian or Jungian psychology maybe. Different theories of teaching or learning. Different philosophical orientations. Different political leanings. You have to believe it to get it.

  12. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    The problem with your contrived example, and mine for that matter, is that no additional details are (apparently) available elsewhere/i> to shed light on the apparent discrepancies.
    In my accident example,
    the police would know that the two streets intersected; even though I didn’t mention this, no jury would consider that to be an unreasonable assumption.

    In the case of the alleged contradictions in the Bible, in most cases there are additional details provided, if one pursues the investigation, which is the one thing that you atheists do not do. As I said before, you are only interested in portraying the Bible in a negative light, not in learning from it.

    I have to run off to an early appointment, so I will finish this post when I get back

  13. Victoria says:

    In the case of Judas’ death and the alleged contradictions in Matthew’s account and Peter’s statements in Acts (as documented by Luke):

    Matthew 27:1-10 sets the context, and
    Matthew 27:5 “And he(Judas) threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed, and he went away and hanged himself”. Matthew records that it was the Jewish authorities who actually purchased the field with Judas’ money.

    Acts 1:12-20 sets the context (just after the apostles returned from Mt Olivet and Jesus’s ascension – they had to choose a replacement for Judas)
    Acts 1:18-19 “Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out” And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.”

    Atheists and skeptics like to point out such discrepancies and immediately cry contradiction, therefore an untrustworthy Bible. And that is where they stop, and they will rarely, if ever, acknowledge the diligent efforts of Biblical scholars and historians who have done the hard work of actually looking at the details and fitting them into the larger mosaic picture. They won’t tell you that historians do this all the time when trying to reconstruct the past.

    The Christian community as a whole, and especially the scholarly subset, have known about these issues for ages.

    In 1874, John W. Haley wrote an excellent book “Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible” to present these issues and answers for the non-scholars of his day, using the best historical information then known.
    In the case of the accounts of Judas’ death, he writes

    Neither of these statements [the manner of Judas' death] the other. Matthew does not deny that Judas, after hanging himself, fell down and burst asunder. Peter does not assert that Judas did not hang himself previousto his fall.
    Probably the circumstances were much as follows: Judas suspended himself from a tree on the brink of the precipice overhanging the valley of Hinnom, and the limb or the rope giving way, he fell, and was mangled as described in Acts.

    Haley then goes on to quote another scholar (Hackett – Illustrations of Scripture, pp 275-6) who had actually visited that valley, and given the topology of the area, viewing the rocky terraces and the trees growing along the edges, finds this explanation as ‘entirely natural’.

    Haley’s point is that the two accounts are not mutually exclusive – both can be true, so the skeptics’ charge of contradiction is not nearly as damning as they would like us to believe.

    We also know from NT scholarship, studying Matthew in comparison to Mark and Luke, that Matthew tends to elide out details not relevant to his purpose. So Matthew simply tells us that Judas, after betraying Jesus, upon hearing that Jesus was condemned, was filled with remorse and was so upset that he committed suicide.

    How do we handle the purchase of the field? Matthew says the priests purchased it with Judas’ money. Peter, in Acts, says that Judas acquired the field with the price of his wickedness, and that the field came to be known as the Field of Blood. Note that both accounts agree on that name.
    To suggest a possible solution, we have to dig deeper, and in this case, we can go to the Greek text.
    Matthew uses the Greek word egorasan (verb, aorist active indicative third person plural), which means ‘to acquire possessions or services in exchange for money; to purchase, to buy’

    In Acts, Luke uses the word ektesato (verb, aorist middle indicative third person singular), which means ‘to acquire possession, to get, to gain, to obtain’.

    There is a subtle difference here. If Luke wanted to tell us that Judas actually bought that field with the money, he could have used the same word as Matthew did, but he didn’t. If I wanted to paraphrase Peter here, I’d say something like “Judas earned it – he got what he deserved”.

    A suggested resolution: the priests purchased the field in Judas’ name and made sure that this was made known. They certainly would not want to be associated with it (Matthew 27:7-8).

    Without additional details (such as the deed or the land transaction records, or perhaps the testimony of the person who handled the transaction, for instance) we won’t know with certainty one way or the other. Can the skeptics make the charge of contradiction stick? I don’t think so, and I have set forth a case for that. My readers, be the jury, and decide for yourself. Don’t take the skeptics’ assertions at face value, don’t even take my word for it – do the research for yourself, with an open mind and heart.

  14. Victoria says:

    My readers, Fleegman said

    The more discussions I read here at Thinking Christian, the more I’m convinced of the existence of a cognitive potential barrier separating believers and non-believers (The numerous readers with scientistic backgrounds will instantly know what I mean by that phrase). The reason there’s so much butting of heads is because in order to make sense of things from the believer’s side of the wall, you have to be on that side.

    Yes, there is that potential barrier between believers and unbelievers, between faith and skepticism (in the Biblical sense). What is the source of this barrier? In a word: sin. You can see this in Romans 1:18-3:1 for starters.
    Well, as a Christian and a physicist, I can tell you that the Holy Spirit can tunnel through that barrier from unbelief to belief, from skepticism to faith, from death to life :)

  15. Victoria says:

    In my #13, please expand the reference to Matthew 27:7-8 to Matthew 27:6-8. Verse 6 is the one I was going for :)

  16. Victoria says:

    Just another quick note on the Greek grammar lesson
    As I said, Matthew uses egorasan, which is derived from agorazo. The astute reader will see the Greek agora, the marketplace, in that verb. So, it literally means to go to the marketplace to do business, to buy with money. Matthew makes this doubly clear when he says ex auton egorasan ‘with the money they bought’…
    Luke, in Acts, uses ektesato, a form of the verb ktaomai, which has the less specific meaning of ‘obtain, procure, acquire, get’.
    Luke does not even use the Greek word for money in Acts:
    Houtos ektesato chorion ek misthou tes adikias: ‘this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness’. The word misthos from which genitive misthou comes means ‘wages, reward, recompense’, which is why I paraphrased Peter as I did. Judas earned that Field of Blood by his wickedness and deservedly died there.

  17. Victoria says:

    Ack..in #16, I mistakenly said “Matthew makes this doubly clear…”, when I should have said, “The translators make this doubly clear..” when they translated ex auton egorasan as “with his money they bought”. The verb itself means ‘with money they bought’, the pronoun ‘auton’ is ‘his’, referring to Judas. Sometimes I can type faster than I can think :)

  18. Victoria says:

    One of these days I will actually master the nuances of Greek pronouns :)
    The auton in Matthew is plural, not singular, so the ex auton is literally ‘from them’, referring back to Judas’ money (the pieces of silver), which he threw back into the temple sanctuary and the chief priests took back, calling it the ‘price (compensation) of blood’ (time’ haimatos). Oh, that’s even better for the point I am trying to make.

    I just can’t let mistakes, even small ones, slide, especially when I make them :)

  19. Back to the OP, is there a place for skeptics who do not think faith is rationalization?

    And Tom you say:

    Philosophical naturalism is incoherent, propped up by unbelievers’ need for it to be true. I don’t often state it that bluntly: usually I stop at simply saying it’s incoherent, and let you decide what to make of that.

    I’d be interested to hear some more of this line of argument. For example do you claim naturalism is logically inconsistent?

  20. Fleegman says:

    Tom,

    Thanks for fleshing your personal experiences out a bit. When you’re taking about experiences as profound as what you’re describing it certainly illustrates why “but there is a contradiction as to how many people went to the tomb!” falls so far short of anything you would consider a convincing argument against the existence of God or Christianity.

    When your conviction is based on personal experience like this, you don’t need explanations for potential inconsistencies in the first place because they’re irrelevant to your relationship with God.

    Victoria,

    Did you not pay attention to Tim’s presentation and our analysis? If not, then do so and tell us why our analysis is flawed? You just assert that it is and pull a contrived example out of thin air, rather than dealing with that real case.

    I think it you’re being fair, you’ll agree I didn’t say anything at all about Tim’s presentation or his analysis (including asserting that the analysis is flawed). I purposefully didn’t because I haven’t watched it yet, so I can’t offer my opinion on it. I also have no doubt that he can make a good case.

    That a case can be made to solve all the apparent contradictions is sort of what I’m saying. Any stories that appear to conflict can be made to fit if you want them to fit hard enough. And it works with any book, not just the Bible.

    The explanations are not convincing to you because you have a priori decided to remain a skeptic no matter what.

    I disagree with your assertion here. I just think they’re unconvincing.

    As illustrated by Tom’s personal experience, I don’t necessarily think contradictions in the Bible are something that bothers the average
    Christian because they can all be “explained.” After approaching 2000 years, it’s not surprising that there’s an “answer” to them all. Yes, I do call it rationalising, but I do realise that it only looks like that to a non believer.

    Speaking of the contrived cinema visit, if you had seen it with both of them (regardless of who you went with and when they turned up) and the next day someone asked you who you went with, I assert that you would say “Bob and Suzy.” If you said “Bob,” the asker would rightly assume you went with Bob and only Bob. Do you disagree with this?

    I’ve just noticed you’ve written another few comments since last time I looked. I’ll try to absorb all you’ve written and get back to you.

    BillT,

    You are absolutely right. You have to at least believe that what the author is telling you is true, or at least that they’re not lying to you, be it quantum mechanics, or anything else you’re reading about. I think there is a difference, however.

    If I’m reading a book about quantum mechanics, my personal identity isn’t at stake if there are contradictions. I simply think the author has made a mistake. Or if another book says something different, I assume one or both of them is incorrect. I don’t have to try and make them both right in some way.

    SteveK,

    Again and again they have been rebutted.

    Well yes, but to whose satisfaction? Yours? No doubt. Mine? Not so much.

  21. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    How is the new position going? I hope it works well for you and that you find it satisfying :)

    1. You simply claim that you find our reconstructions unconvincing, yet you don’t say why. Why are they unconvincing to you? I can understand that you might find a particular scenario to be flawed for a more objective reason, say an incorrect matter of historical fact, or a logical error, etc. Unless you can demonstrate something like that, you are just blowing smoke yourself.

    2. Back to the movie example:
    How about this actual scenario: Bob and I indeed have a date to go to the movie. We leave together, from the office say, and a couple of our coworkers see us leaving together. We get to the movie theatre, and it just so happens that we run into Suzy there. Bob goes off to buy the tickets, while Suzy and I engage in girl talk (‘so, you and Bob, eh?’) and we get all girly and excited over my new relationship, and then start talking about our mutual anticipation of the movie (Les Mis). At that moment, we run into another mutual friend, who joins in on that part of the conversation, but leaves before Bob comes back and we never get a chance to mention Bob.

    Next Day: those coworkers who saw Bob and me leave together ask: ‘So you and Bob, eh? What did the two of you do last night..nudge, nudge, wink wink?’ Knowing their prurient interests in office romances and gossip, I simply reply that we went to the movies, and not wanting to prolong that conversation with them, leave it at that and step out.
    Then that other woman who ran into Suzy and me at the theatre, but who doesn’t know about Bob, comes in and happens to say that she saw Suzy and Victoria at the theatre, etc.

    All very plausible and reasonable, yes?
    I’m sure a trained investigator could ferret out those details that reconstruct the sequence of the actual story as I have described it.

    This is the same thing that police investigators do, and when something goes to trial, what prosecuting and defense attorneys try to present to a jury – plausible reconstructions of events based on direct and indirect evidence (both physical and eyewitness accounts). It is what secular historians do all the time. As I have repeatedly tried to tell you, we just don’t pull possibilities out of thin air – they have to be rooted in something substantial, so it is not possible to make just anything fit.

    If we come up with a reconstruction based upon other known information, then it is up to you to demonstrate that the reconstruction is flawed because of substantial reasons. Saying you are unconvinced does nothing except reveal your state of mind – it tells everyone more about you than it does about the plausibility of the reconstruction.

    You have to stop thinking like a physicist, and more like a historian or a police investigator (which is why I suggested you read Cold Case Christianity).

  22. Victoria says:

    The point of all this is that the additional details that make sense of the events in the Gospels, for instance, are there to be found by a diligent investigator. One has to be motivated to find them, and one has to know where to look, and leave no stone unturned.

    Fleegman, you are like a prosecuting attornery who charges the Bible with being guilty of contradictions, errors, etc, based only on the evidence that you present. You are not motivated to challenge that evidence yourself, since it appears to support your charges.
    Christians are like defense attorneys. Our client is paying us, so to speak, to disprove the charges against him, so we look at your evidence and dig deeper for additional information and evidence to show that your charges are unfounded; that you have NOT proven beyond a reasonable doubt your charges against our client.

  23. BillT says:

    Fleegman,

    That may be true about quantum mechanics. What about philosophical theories or political leanings. Not so much different there, I think. The extent poeple will go to defend their political leanings, for instance, would make any defender of the Bible blush.

  24. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman,

    This just isn’t true:

    That a case can be made to solve all the apparent contradictions is sort of what I’m saying. Any stories that appear to conflict can be made to fit if you want them to fit hard enough. And it works with any book, not just the Bible.

    It’s particularly not true of books that are compilations of books by multiple authors in multiple centuries.

    And note this as well: you speak of contradictions that can be resolved in the minds of people who really want them resolved, as if psychology determined the rules of logic. No. If a contradiction is resolvable then it is resolvable, and if it is not it is not.

    Psychology enters into whether one regards a particular resolution as satisfactory, yes. But it doesn’t determine whether it succeeds logically or not.

    And as I started to say and interrupted myself, not all book’s contradictions can be logically resolved. Do I need to show examples? It hadn’t ought to be necessary. Your defense (yes, you do that too, you know) is built on a manifest falsehood.

  25. Fleegman says:

    Victoria,

    I’ve started watching some of the Tim McGrew (although I absolutely love Tim McGraw and got distracted quite a bit), and I have to say I think he’s excellent. His arguments are very difficult to dispute (I’m just on the historical inconsistencies at the moment) and I honestly wouldn’t want to. I’d certainly like to hear rebuttals to his arguments, but I don’t know if they’re out there at the moment. His arguments are so convincing, however, I’m not sure they even could be refuted.

    Cards on the table: I hadn’t even heard of the arguments he’s rebutting concerning the geographical inaccuracies in The Gospels, but I’m enjoying his refutations. He’s a gifted speaker, no doubt about that. I especially liked the “there’s a big mountain in the way,” explanation :-)

    I must say that even though I, naturally, take the line that these are rationalisations, I’m certainly having a hard time discerning where the rationalising is occurring. They just seem like good arguments to me.

    I really like his attitude towards the atheistic position, too. He’s not condescending, he’s just making his case. And it’s a really good case, too. I’m looking forward to the other parts in the series! (Obviously, they’re quite long, so it’s taking me a while to get through them)

    All the best,

    Fleegman

  26. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    Well, enjoy it, and think seriously about the implications :)

    Nothing would please me more than to welcome you as a brother into God’s eternal kingdom :)

  27. Daron says:

    I’m late to the party but curious.
    Victoria, you said:
    “If you read the other thread where I posted what you excerpted, you might have followed the link to Tim’s presentation about Gospel difficulties and Bart Erhman’s claims. If you didn’t, I strongly recommend that you do.”

    Could you supply that link here?
    Thanks.

  28. Victoria says:

    @Daron
    Here is the whole thread..
    http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2013/01/rationalizing-christian/

    There are more, if you read the entire thread :)
    Best Regards and enjoy
    Victoria

  29. Victoria says:

    @Daron
    Here is the youtube presentation link
    to Tim’s presentation.

    It also has these
    In this lecture, entitled Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels, Dr. Timothy McGrew critiques the strongest objections to the historical reliability of the Gospels of Luke & John. This is about 55 minutes of content followed by thirty minutes of Q&A. If you want the powerpoint, go to http://www.Apologetics315.com

    Visit the Library of Historical Apologetics at http://historicalapologetics.org
    For more apologetics resources like this one, visit http://www.Apologetics315.com

    This is PART 4a of a series of lectures:
    01: Who Wrote the Gospels?
    02: External Evidence for the Truth of the Gospels and Acts
    03: Internal Evidence for the Truth of the Gospels
    04a: Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels – Matthew & Mark
    04b: Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels – Luke & John
    05: Alleged Contradictions in the Gospels
    06: The Resurrection of Jesus

    They are here
    http://www.apologetics315.com/search/label/Tim%20McGrew

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