John Loftus’s Bad Reasons for Not Going To Church, and a Few Good Ones For Going

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John Loftus, the affable hat-wearing atheist who loves to poke quasi-informed fun at Christians, posted this on Facebook yesterday:

Except for extremely rare circumstance I don’t go to church. For one thing, I don’t need to be reminded to be good. For another, I find a deity who commands people to worship him egocentric, regardless of whether he deserves it or not. For yet another reason, I can get more things done by actually doing something rather than by praying. Then too, I can do better with my money than by giving it to the church. Furthermore, I can forgive others without any help from a deity who refuses to forgive until he first punishes someone and who demands we beg forgiveness from him. I can forgive people who never asked for forgiveness.

What about you? Why don’t you go to church? If you do go to church, why?

Why go to church?

I go to church to learn about God, to worship him, to help others learn about and worship him, to enjoy friendship, to find opportunities to give and to serve, and to be encouraged in doing the sometimes-challenging work of becoming a better person. There’s also Heb. 10:24-25.

In short, I go to church so I can enjoy life more and live it better in relationship with God and with others.

Why not go to church?

What about John? I say he’s “quasi-informed” because he has read enough to know better.

  1. The love of God is such a high and noble standard, and human moral entropy is so powerful, we all need to be reminded to stay in its pursuit. We needed to be “reminded to do good.”
  2. But church attendance is more than a reminder for doing good, it provides significant social support in doing good. Arthur C. Brooks shows in a detailed sociological study, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism — America’s Charity Divide–Who Gives, Who Do, that religious people do more good than non-religious people.
  3. John has no idea what “egocentric” means in the case of a deity. Sure, egocentrism is unseemly and wrong in humans because. That’s because of who we are as humans. By what principle does he extend that to God? Should the one Creator of the universe, the one eternal being, the one who alone is the founding truth of all reality treat his own self-image with the same “Really, we’re all equal around here anyway” humility that humans should treat theirs? His complaint here rests on a silly and irrational equivalence between God and God’s creation.
  4. If God is truly God and worthy of our worship, then not to worship him is to fail to recognize deep, good, and important truths about eternal reality. It’s not egocentrism for God to want us to know what is true. (More on that here.)
  5. John is judging God in these things as if he had the right to do so. That’s only true if there is no God. He’s assuming there is no God, which in this context at least is miserably irrational question-begging.
  6. Likewise, John can get more done without taking time to pray, only if there is no God who answers prayer. I’ve found I get more done when I pray as well as act. I also enjoy life more through taking part in living fellowship with the God who loves me.
  7.  John thinks he can do better with his money than by giving it to the church. Apparently (see Brooks) he doesn’t realize he could do more good in his community with his money by giving it through the church than he could through almost any other vehicle.
  8. John can forgive people without going to church. Sure. I don’t go to church to forgive people.
  9. God doesn’t demand we beg forgiveness, but that we ask. It’s only natural even in human relationships to ask forgiveness when we’ve wronged others. It shows a recognition of reality: that what we’ve done is wrong and hurtful. Why is it wrong for God to ask us to acknowledge reality?
  10. God is quick to forgive when we do that. Again, there’s no begging required.
  11. The punishment to which John refers is God’s deep answer to the question, “How is it possible to forgive and let people off the hook without violating perfect justice?” The full answer in the Bible (the book or Romans) occupies several pages of very tight reasoning. John knows about that answer. He thinks it’s silly. I can’t stop him from thinking so, but I can sure point out that his version of it here is distorted and tendentious. I can ask him, too, to treat it with the respect of not distorting it in front of others who might be fooled into thinking he’s presenting it accurately.
  12. John can forgive people who have never asked for forgiveness, but which people, committing what kind of wrongs against him, and with what perfection of pure justice? God forgave his enemies (Romans 5:1-8), and he did it without violating justice. It’s hardly too much for him to expect people to request forgiveness, as their end of that transaction! It’s almost as if he thinks God is a lesser being for asking that of us. How strange!

Conclusion

What we have here, then, as usual from Loftus, is a sadly distorted screed. I still pray for him. He will say that is “getting nothing done.” But I’ve seen more than one atheist converted, quite amazingly in some cases. And John is heading toward terrible danger if he insists on judging God as he does here.

So I will pray.

 

Image Credit(s): Public Domain.

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111 Responses to “ John Loftus’s Bad Reasons for Not Going To Church, and a Few Good Ones For Going ”

  1. Quick comment:

    1. The link in your second point is broken, fyi.

    2. Regarding point 7: yes, this is sometimes true. In fact it may surprise you to learn that some of my own charitable giving is done through a church! I can’t completely agree with you though. Depending on the issue in question and even one’s location, church-based giving isn’t always the best approach. For example, one large charity (if run ethically) can reduce overhead when sending food overseas by mailing in bulk, while several smaller churches might have to spend more in total. And if it’s possible to donate *directly* to people in need, that’s almost always the better option.

    3. People still pay attention to John Loftus? Lol.

  2. Tom, two things. First, the issue for me is whether Christianity is true. Second, please, please, don’t patronize me by saying I know better. I don’t. What I write is from my present perspective even though I understand your perspective.

    Thanks for the exchange nonetheless. I hope you get and read a copy of my new book “Unapologetic” and deal with the much more substantive arguments in it.

  3. Thank you, Tom, for the helpful analysis.

    This is what I posted on his thread:

    Success in long-term relationships requires some effort and communication. I like it when my wife tells me several times a day that she loves me. She likes to hear it as well. And we put those words into action every day, doing things for each other, not out of a sense of obligation, or to earn favors. It is just love in action.

    That is in some ways a mirror of our relationship with God. We enjoy expressing our love for each other, and then putting that love into action. The only reward we need is to know that we have pleased Him.

  4. John, if that was patronizing it was unintentionally so.

    What I mean is, I know you’ve read a lot. I know that you’ve read so much, you ought to know that what I wrote here is standard Christian teaching and practice. You should also know that if they are true, then they rebut your reasons for not attending church. Yet you ignored them.

    If your issue is the truth of Christianity, then your reasons for not attending church could have been much simpler: “It’s all based in a fraud.”

    For my part, if I thought Christianity wasn’t true, I wouldn’t go to church either. I couldn’t imagine pretending to worship a God I disbelieved in. I couldn’t imagine doing all the other pretending that would be required.

    I’m pretty sure that’s your real reason for not attending church. Instead of saying that, you named several church-related practices and told us how you were good enough that you don’t need them. You’re better than us. That’s the real message of this Facebook post.

  5. If Loftus’ list of reasons reflected anything remotely Christian one could engage content. But his reasoning doesn’t seem to be *about* anything within the Christian metanarrative. A simple example was his thought about something about being told to be good. “Huh?” is all such a thought merits. Of course, if it’s precision and informed analysis vs. sales and attention, well then the later wins and he’ll probably show up here, make a few hollow comments which don’t interface with the actual content, defend his claim about how good he is, and casually mention… advertise ….the title of one of his books.

  6. “Need Christianity” ??

    Christians don’t think anyone needs Christianity. Hence the proverbial “Huh?” yet again. Now, do we have needs? Well, *unlike Loftus it seems, the answer is (irreducibly, *non-illusory) yes. We all flourish with love and we all wither without love. We’re relational beings for a (non-illusory, irreducible) reason.

  7. If Yahweh is the all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, Creator God that Christianity says he is, then we all, including John Loftus and myself, should obey him and worship him as he demands. But that is the issue for many former Christians, turned atheist/non-theist: We don’t believe that Yahweh exists. I for one am willing to admit that there is good evidence for the existence of a Creator (or Creators), but evidence for a generic Creator(s) does not automatically translate into evidence for Yahweh. This is one of the biggest assumptions that Christians make.

    What is the evidence for Yahweh’s existence? Fulfilled Old Testament prophecies?

    I don’t think so. Although 100% of (conservative) Christian theologians may believe OT prophets correctly predicted future events, what percentage of the world’s non-theologian historians state in their history books that they agree with this claim? Not many, I suspect. Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, etc., all claim that their prophets have correctly prophesied future events…yet how many conservative Christian theologians believe these claims from other religions? Any?

    Most educated people accept the consensus opinion of experts in fields in which they themselves are not experts. The consensus of the experts in the field of history do not seem impressed with the reliability and accuracy of Judeo-Christian fortune telling (prophecy).

    The alleged Resurrection of Jesus? It used to be that Christians could claim that most NT scholars believed that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or the close associates of eyewitnesses. This is no longer true. The current consensus of NT scholars is that the Gospels were most likely not written by eyewitnesses. New Testament scholar and Conservative Christian icon, NT Wright, recently summed up the current scholarly consensus position on the Gospels by saying this: “I don’t know who the Gospel writers were, and, nor does anyone else.” Without eyewitness testimony, the claims of seeing a resurrected Jesus must be marked off as a tall tale.

  8. [1] “….evidence for a generic Creator(s) does not automatically translate into evidence for Yahweh. This is one of the biggest assumptions that Christians make.”

    False.

    [2] Bob wrote X vis-à-vis the eyewitness content of Fred, therefore the content is void of eyewitness content.

    False.

    [3] Claim: Most historians are not impressed with several hundred fulfilled prophesies.

    Please give sources which say the equivalent of, “500 to 600 X’s were fulfilled, but that still does not mean that 500 to 600 X’s were fulfilled.” Or, perhaps, “Zero are fulfilled….” Etc. As for the non sequitur of “other religions”, well, if one is satisfied with such dis-logic, they’re welcome to it.

    A few random items:

    [A] “Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times” by John F. Walvoord has a few interesting sections.

    [B] Also, the “KETEF HINNOM SILVER AMULET SCROLL” discovery is looked at in “Top Ten Biblical Discoveries in Archaeology” (Kimberley, Timothy) and comments, “….many scholars have surmised the Old Testament to be a late creation. It speaks of things happening a long time ago but was written post-exilic (after the exile of 580BC) in order to create a nationalistic history for those returning from Babylon. The amulet scroll powerfully shows the Old Testament being used before, not after, the exile. The amulet scroll disproves decades of liberal biblical studies in one small discovery….”

    [C] From a Non-Theist: “I will indeed happily concede the point about the prophecy of Ezekiel 29,30. [It was shown] that land of Egypt was actually laid waste by the historical Nebuchadnezzar (either I or II I guess), and all its people killed and rivers dried up, and remained uninhabited for forty years.”

    The comment from Walvoord’s book above, “…….Nebuchadnezzar conquered Egypt (cf. Jer. 43:8–13; 46:1–25; Ezek. 29:17–21), and it would have been natural for him to take Egyptian captives. When the Persians defeated Babylon, however, Egyptian captives were allowed to return to their land just as Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Forty-three years elapsed between Nebuchadnezzar’s conquering of Egypt and Babylon’s fall to the Persians; thus, the period could easily be referred to as approximately forty years. In this passage there is no need to expect a future fulfillment.”

    And also, such is in reference to Ezekiel 29:15, “It shall be the lowliest of the kingdoms, neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations; I will diminish [the Egyptians] so they shall never again rule over the nations.” The footnote comments on the obvious: “29:15 For a little while Egypt struggled against its oppressors, but its power was already broken. From the time of its conquest by Cambyses, it has never been for any length of time independent. There are few stronger contrasts in any inhabited country than between the ancient glory, dignity, power, and wealth of Egypt and its later [lack of] significance (Charles J. Ellicott, A Bible Commentary).”

    A few more obvious references:

    [D] Deuteronomy 33:18-24 just for fun: 33:18 And of Zebulun he said: Rejoice, Zebulun, in your interests abroad, and you, Issachar, in your tents [at home]. 19 They shall call the people unto Mount [Carmel]; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness, for they shall suck the abundance of the seas and the treasures hid in the sand…… 23 Of Naphtali he said: O Naphtali, satisfied with favor and full of the blessing of the Lord, possess the Sea [of Galilee] and [its warm, sunny climate like] the south. 24 Of Asher he said: Blessed above sons is Asher; let him be acceptable to his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil.

    Footnotes on [D] from the (amplified) bible:

    33:18 Not until 1934 was this prophecy notably in process of fulfillment, when Haifa’s bay became one of the great harbors of the Mediterranean Sea, with commerce affecting the whole world.

    33:19 The great oil pipeline path across Palestine was first opened in 1935. Until then this prophecy fell far short of fulfillment. But 3,400 years before, Moses sent out the inspired headlines, “Zebulun…Issachar…shall suck the abundance of the seas, and the treasures hid in the sand.” Our omnipotent God was “declaring the end and the result from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand” (Isa. 46:10).

    33:23 For many centuries much of the territory of upper Naphtali was little more than a miasmic swamp, unfit for man or beast. But when the Jews returned to Palestine, they drained and redeemed the area, and by 1940 it was dotted over with thriving colonies, as Moses had foretold, “satisfied with favor and full of the blessing of the Lord.”

    33:24 The maps of the territory of Asher sometimes suggest the shape of the sole of a foot, sometimes that of a leg and foot; but in either case the Great International Iraq-Petroleum Enterprise, opened in 1935, crossed the area just at the toe of Asher’s “foot.” Oil brought nearly 1,000 miles across the sands from Mesopotamia began pouring through pipes into the Haifa harbor, a million gallons of oil a day. Jacob had prophesied about Asher, “…his bread shall be fat” (Gen. 49:20 KJV), and here Moses says of Asher, “Let him dip his foot in oil”.

    As for the other 500 or 600 prophecies, well, it’s all there for casual reading but such is not really the topic at hand wrt “going to church”. We are inherently relational beings and such begins to emerge and, per the Christian metanarrative and no other, such is built atop the irreducible, the non-illusory, of love’s timeless reciprocity vis-à-vis Trinitarian processions constituting the Absolute.

  9. And oh, Gary, there are so many more reasons to believe, and even many reasons to believe the specifics you think you have rebutted here.

    We do not expect consensus on all things related to Christianity and history, for no historian works devoid of presuppositions and prior expectations. We have our own as well, and so do you.

    For me, though, the weight of evidence from the documents, from the accounts of Jesus’ life, the history of Christianity in context of global history, the manifest goodness of Christians following Christ (which does not comprise all who claim to be Christians), the explanatory power of Christianity with respect to the human condition, and indeed even the scholarly consensus concerning certain key facts in the resurrection narrative, along with my own experience of true life in Christ — all that taken together is very convincing.

  10. Clarification:

    The fallacy in the first item was the nuance of, “…this is one of the biggest assumptions Christians make…” (auto-default “from” creator “to” the Christian God etc…)

  11. And I could have added so much more: Chritianity’s explanation for moral truths, for human rationality, for consciousness, for beauty, for love, for human purpose and meaning, for the distinctiveness of humans among all the animals, for the universe’s fine-tuning for life, and other featuees of reality I’m sure I’ve forgotten, is far superior to any other I’ve encountered. This all speaks to its truth as a comprehensive explanation for all reality.

  12. Yes, I realize that CHRISTIAN theologians are near unanimous that OT prophets correctly predicted future events. Just as Muslim and Mormon theologians claim 100% accuracy for their prophets’ ability to predict the future. And many of these Muslim and Mormon prophecies directly oppose the prophecies of orthodox Christianity.

    So who is right?

    I say, instead of taking the word of biased theologians, ask non-theologian historians. And if you do, you will find that the consensus position of non-theologian historians is that fortune telling, even with the alleged assistance of an invisible deity, is not a reliable method of predicting future events.

  13. Christians may believe that I am just being stubborn for not accepting the overwhelming consensus of CHRISTIAN theologians that OT prophets correctly predicted the future. However, I must then turn the tables and ask Christians why they do not accept the overwhelming consensus opinion of Muslim scholars regarding the accuracy of Muslim prophecies. And the same for Mormon prophecies. See my point? We must go to a source of expertise that does not have a built-in bias, and this source of expertise is non-theologian historians. Can you find any reputable, public university history textbook that states that Judeo-Christian prophecies have a much higher rate of accuracy than Muslim or Hindu prophecies? I don’t think so. If Judeo-Christian prophets were as accurate as conservative Christians say they were, historians should notice this fact.

    They do not.

    Most of us do not have the time to become experts in every field of human endeavor. So for those fields in which we personally are not experts, most educated people accept the consensus position of experts in that field. And in the field of history, the expert consensus opinion is that fortune telling/prophecy is not a reliable method of predicting future events.

  14. Who’s right? The ones whose prophecies line up with history.

    Non-theologian historians studying this issue do not exist, by definition. That is, every historian looking at this issue does so from his or her own theological perspective. An anti-supernaturalist bias is a bias.

    That doesn’t prove our side is right. It does remind you (I hope) not to be so triumphalist in your put-downs.

  15. And please think through this more completely:

    There are believers and non-believers studying this question. If you survey all the non-believing scholars, you’re likely to find that none of them believe. If you look at all the ones who believe, you’ll find they all believe.

    I don’t think that proves as much as you think it does.

  16. You are suggesting a conspiracy among historians against Christianity or all religions or supernaturalism, Tom. This is a common conservative Christian defense against the widely held practice among educated people of accepting expert opinion.

    We all accept the expert consensus regarding all other areas of our life, why doubt it when it comes to the accuracy of fortune telling? If the accuracy of OT prophecies were as accurate as Christians would have us believe this fact would be in every public university history text book. But it is not.

    There is no conspiracy, Tom. You are simply concocting baseless excuses to prop up your belief system rather than accepting the fact that expert opinion does not support your views.

  17. Tom said, “And I could have added so much more: Chritianity’s explanation for moral truths, for human rationality, for consciousness, for beauty, for love, for human purpose and meaning…”

    None of this proves the existence of Yahweh. It only proves that Jesus of Nazareth taught some wonderful concepts.

    I fully agree that if all humans would fall the humanistic and pacifist teachings of Jesus, the world would be a much better place. But we could say the same for the teachings of the Buddha, who lived prior to Jesus.

    Tom continues, “for the distinctiveness of humans among all the animals, for the universe’s fine-tuning for life, and other features of reality I’m sure I’ve forgotten, is far superior to any other I’ve encountered. This all speaks to its truth as a comprehensive explanation for all reality.”

    Again, none of this requires the existence of Yahweh to be true. A generic Creator could be responsible for all these features. Unless Christians can prove the existence of Yahweh, their entire belief system falls apart.

  18. Wait a sec, so predictions lining up with history are *not* evidence?

    I asked for sources.

    Instead we get none and then a non sequitur chasing “other religions”.

    And a repeat about the fallacy of Christians auto-defaulting “from” creator “to” the Christian God.

    Typical.

  19. SC: The onus is on you to provide a consensus statement of non-theological historians which states that Judeo-Christian prophecies have a high degree of accuracy in comparison to the prophecies of the world’s other religions. And remember, for Christianity to be true, ALL OT prophecies must be accurate. If even ONE OT prophecy can be shown to be incorrect, (conservative) Christianity collapses.

    The fact that you will not find ANY public university history textbooks which state that Judeo-Christian prophecies have a 100% accuracy rate, or even, that Judeo-Christian prophecies have a higher rate of accuracy as compared to the prophecies of other religions is SOLID PROOF that Judeo-Christian prophecies are not as accurate as Christian theologians and Christian apologists would like us to believe.

    The overwhelming majority of educated people in the western world accept the expert consensus in all areas of knowledge in which they themselves are not experts EXCEPT when it comes to THEIR religion’s supernatural claims. Anyone see a problem with that inconsistency???

    There is NO consensus expert opinion that Judeo-Christian prophecies have a high accuracy rate. Therefore, the evidence for the existence of the ancient Hebrew god, Yahweh, remains poor to non-existent, and without proving the existence of this ancient deity, Jesus was a good person, but a very mistaken first century preacher, not a god.

  20. There are 600 fulfilled and about 400 to go. By your definition Christianity collapses. It’s apparent you’ve no idea what definitions are in play. The non sequitur of Wickens and so on is just that — a non sequitur.

  21. This “generic creator” would necessarily have characteristics an awful lot like YHWH’s. But still you’re right to this extent: without Christ there is no Christianity. I did not leave him out of this list.

  22. You are suggesting a conspiracy among historians against Christianity or all religions or supernaturalism, Tom.

    No, I’m recognizing a natural self-selecting process. And I do have lots of empirical research showing that the academy is overwhelmingly secular and non-believing. It’s hard to link to he on my iPhone, but search for George Yancey writing on academic bias.

  23. The fact that you will not find ANY public university history textbooks which state that Judeo-Christian prophecies have a 100% accuracy rate, or even, that Judeo-Christian prophecies have a higher rate of accuracy as compared to the prophecies of other religions is SOLID PROOF that Judeo-Christian prophecies are not as accurate as Christian theologians and Christian apologists would like us to believe.

    It’s solid period only if no other possible explanation exists. I won’t talk with you about those potential alternate explanations. I will only point out that an educated person like yourself should know that much. And I expect you do when your biases aren’t so involved.

    Its

  24. Gary,

    Your seemingly singular focus on the predictive power of OT prophesies as a central reason to believe in the Judaeo-Christian God is, I think, more of a straw man than a legitimate argument. I’ve been on this site for many years and don’t think I’ve ever heard any believer use it as a central argument for the existence of God. Yes, there are many prophesies that have come true but that’s hardly a starting point or central to the evidence for God’s existence.

    Also, as Tom pointed out, your references to a “generic” god are a crutch that lets you accept that our existence isn’t really rational without a god but lets you off the hook for believing in the actual God. You “generic” god has no better evidence for it than the evidences for the Judaeo-Christian God. You’re begging the question and hiding behind your generic creation.

    What points to the the Judaeo-Christian God first and foremost is Christ. Your believe that we don’t know or cannot trust the NT narrative is simply false. The NT is the single most reliable ancient text in existence. We know when it was written, we know who wrote it, we know our current texts are 99+% accurate as originally written, we know they accurately record events, places and beliefs that date to within a couple of years of Christ’s life and that they were written by eyewitnesses.

    You’ve thrown around a lot of “facts” that simply aren’t true and are hedging your bet on the existence the Judaeo-Christian God with a generic god that has less evidence for it than the the Judaeo-Christian God or Christ.

  25. ” The NT is the single most reliable ancient text in existence. We know when it was written, we know who wrote it, we know our current texts are 99+% accurate as originally written, we know they accurately record events, places and beliefs that date to within a couple of years of Christ’s life and that they were written by eyewitnesses”

    This is fundamentalist nonsense.

    The majority opinion of today’s NT scholars is that it is highly unlikely that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels and the Book of Acts. NT Wright says, “I do not know who the writers were, and, nor does anyone else. We also cannot say for sure when these texts were written.”

    You are appealing to out of date scholarship. For all we know, the Empty Tomb of Arimathea and the post-death appearance stories which appear in the Gospels were invented by the non-eyewitness authors of the Gospels themselves or were the latest versions of the Jesus legend circulating in their cities.

    Without eyewitness testimony, the post death appearance stories of Jesus are no more credible than any other ghost story. And that is why conservative Christians cling to out dated scholarship in a desperate attempt to maintain the credibility of these ancient ghost stories.

  26. In the link below I have listed the multiple sources that state that the current consensus position of NT scholars is that the Gospels and the Book of Acts were not written by eyewitnesses. In this link, I have also included a video of NT Wright, in which he emphatically states that “no one” knows who wrote these ancient texts nor when they were written.

    https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/majority-of-scholars-agree-the-gospels-were-not-written-by-eyewitnesses/

  27. Gary,

    You can call my position all the names that you want but if it’s such “fundamentalist nonsense” then name the ancient text that is considered more reliable. Every detail of the description I posted is true, N.T. Wright notwithstanding. Wright may be a well know theologian but he isn’t an expert in the field of historical analysis . Richard Bauckham’s work trumps his in that regard and ten years after it’s publication his “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” is still the definitive work on the subject.

    Your vague and unprovable (despite your link) “majority opinion of today’s NT scholars” is just so empty words considering the vested interest that so many secular NT scholars have in maintaining that position. And your link from some obscure website who’s author credits Bart Ehrman’s work as being persuasive for him is laughable. Bart Ehrman! Really? The guy is the most discredited NT theologian in the country. And again, if it’s such “nonsense” that “the NT is the single most reliable ancient text in existence” name the one that is.

  28. Gary,

    [1] Bob wrote X vis-à-vis the eyewitness content of Fred….

    [2] therefore….

    [3] the content of X is void of eyewitness content.

    If you don’t know why your logic there is silly then I can’t help you.

    Tom asked for content on NTW. Got some?

  29. Bob is involved in an automobile accident.
    Bob tells Fred, just before he dies, all he remembers about the automobile accident.
    Fred tells the police what Bob said.
    The police believe Fred’s testimony as containing eyewitness testimony because they know Fred and know that he is a reliable, intelligent, honest person.

    That is reasonably reliable second hand testimony containing alleged first hand testimony.

    The majority of NT scholars today do not believe that the authors of the Gospels and Acts were eyewitnesses. Therefore:

    Unknown authors M, MK, and J write books circa 40-60 years after the alleged event, never stating that they are providing eyewitness testimony. Unknown author L states that he received “eyewitness testimony”…but never says from whom!

    Those are not reliable sources, my friends, upon which to build your entire belief system and worldview!

  30. Gary, I’m on an airplane at the gate so I don’t know if I’ll be able to find the relevant links in time, but what you’re telling us here is really quite underinformed.

    The central fact of the New Testament was the resurrection. The earliest testimony we have for it was recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6. Scholars of all stripes generally agree it trades back to the mid- to late-4th decade, within a few years of the events.

    Scholars agree that Jesus lived and taught, that his contemporaries saw him as a miracle worker, that he was crucified under Pilate, that his empty tomb was witnessed to by a few of his some followers, and that his disciples believed they saw him alive after his death. This is the consensus of all scholars, to at least a 95% level of agreement.

    Let’s work with that and see where it leads us.

    Were you aware of that?

  31. Gary,

    Who said the Christian’s worldview is based on prophecy (to Bill’s point) or on the Bible?

    You really need to get your facts together, because you’re talking about things which don’t exist as if they exist.

    Do you make it a habit to build your understanding of the world atop such evidence-free beliefs?

    And you’ve been asked twice now for context with respect to your use of NTW. Quote mining is fine in and of itself but if you use someone’s name and/or fail to provide context when pressed, it begins to morph into something more shady……

  32. Gary,

    You’re now stating the every and all accounts (Bob, Fred) are false. Once again, if you cannot see how silly that is as a premise, I can’t help you. You need to deal with the evidence and with standard-fare historicity. I don’t see you dealing with the evidence. Evidence-free yet again.

    To Tom’s point:

    Which manuscripts are you referring to which you say are legends? Please point them out for us. …..no historian denies the fact of Jesus’ death by Roman crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, principally for two reasons: (1) Jesus’ crucifixion is abundantly attested in multiple, early, independent sources; and (2) had…... [from http://www.reasonablefaith.org/excavating-the-tomb-of-jesus ]

    However, you seem certain, so:

    [1] What is the earliest manuscript(s) you are referring to and what evidence do you have that it (they?) is a legend?

    [2] What evidence do you have that Pilate did not sentence Jesus to death.

    [3] How is the evidence in [2] different than the evidence you have that Pilate did not exist?

    [4] Or did Pilate exist but not Jesus?

    [5] If Jesus did exist, then loop back to [2] What evidence do you have that Pilate did not sentence Jesus to death.

    [6] Is there more evidence for Pilate than for Jesus or less?

    Lastly,

    “…..This doesn’t mean that there aren’t sources outside the Bible which refer to Jesus. There are. He’s referred to in pagan, Jewish, and Christian writings outside the New Testament. The Jewish historian Josephus is especially interesting. In the pages of his works you can read about New Testament people like the high priests Annas and Caiaphas, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, King Herod, John the Baptist, even Jesus himself and his brother James. There have also been interesting archaeological discoveries as well bearing on the gospels. For example, in 1961 the first archaeological evidence concerning Pilate was unearthed in the town of Caesarea; it was an inscription of a dedication bearing Pilate’s name and title. Even more recently, in 1990 the actual tomb of Caiaphas, the high priest who presided over Jesus’s trial, was discovered south of Jerusalem. Indeed, the tomb beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is in all probability the tomb in which Jesus himself was laid by Joseph of Arimathea following the crucifixion. According to Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar at Emory University,

    “Even the most critical historian can confidently assert that a Jew named Jesus worked as a teacher and wonder-worker in Palestine during the reign of Tiberius, was executed by crucifixion under the prefect Pontius Pilate and continued to have followers after his death.”” [from http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-evidence-for-jesus#text1 ]

    But you clearly disagree, therefore, see [1] through [6] above.

  33. Tom,

    Whoa!

    I never said that I am a mythicist. I believe that there is sufficient evidence to believe that Jesus of Nazareth lived. That he was an apocalyptic preacher. That he taught an impending Kingdom of God. That he had a reputation as a miracle worker and a healer. That he got on the wrong side of the Jewish authorities. That he was crucified by the Romans. And that very soon after this death, some of his followers came to believe that he had been bodily raised from the dead and that he had appeared to some of them.

    Based on Gary Habermas’ literature search, I will even include an empty tomb in the list of things I accept as historical facts about Jesus. But even if I include the Empty Tomb story, there are still many, many non-supernatural, much more probable explanations for the early Christian Resurrection belief.

    In order to state that a literal, bodily resurrection is the most probable explanation for this belief, one must prove the existence of the ancient Hebrew deity, Yahweh, and as I have demonstrated, there is no good evidence to convince me and most other skeptics of his existence. His alleged “fulfilled prophecies” have a no better accuracy rate than the alleged fulfilled prophecies of Lord Brahma, Krishna, and Allah. I know you vigorously disagree, but since no public university history textbook states that the Judeo-Christian prophecies have a very high accuracy rate, I and other skeptics are not going to believe your claim, the Hindu claim, or the Muslim claim, that the accuracy of YOUR deity’s fortune telling capabilities is 100%.

  34. Gary,

    “In order to state that a literal, bodily resurrection is the most probable explanation for this belief, one must prove the existence of the ancient Hebrew deity, Yahweh.”

    False.

    How is that even defensible? Atheists assure us, repeatedly, that aliens could have done “it”. It’s the “it” that is under review. Standard fare historicity.

    And 600 fulfilled prophecies out of about 1000 isn’t a high rate. It is what it is. About 600 or so 3500 year old X’s on the map. Not more. And it’s far more than any other religious body of work, including the Wiccans.

    BTW: Look up the term non sequitur.

  35. You sure do have a fixation on prophecies! Didn’t you read what BillT said about that? And why does proof of God have to precede belief in the resurrection? Seems to me it could work the other way around.

  36. Gary,

    Here it is:

    Any argument that takes the following form is a non sequitur

    If A is true, then B is true.

    B is true.

    Therefore, A is true.

    And:

    Another common non sequitur is this:

    If A is true, then B is true.

    A is false.

    Therefore, B is false.

    BTW: To Tom’s point, many come to Christ through reason and logic and with very little awareness of the OT. The road from (out of) atheism happens the other way around quite often. For example: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/07/road-from-atheism.html

  37. BillT said:
    Bart Ehrman! Really? The guy is the most discredited NT theologian in the country.

    Ehrman certainly has his critics, and I’d even agree that some of his critics raise valid concerns. But to call him “the most discredited NT theologian in the country” is the longest of long shots. One look at his extensive CV will confirm that; and if that’s not enough, I cite Richard Carrier and Acharya S as examples of people who are universally considered even more discredited than Ehrman.

    Also, one could say that despite technically being a theologian (he has an M.Div), his body of work makes him a historian or textual critic much moreso than a theologian, making your criticism a category error.

  38. Dear Christians,

    Here is a link to a long list of Biblical prophecies and why skeptics believe these are failed prophecies. I know that you have counter evidence for your position that these prophecies are not failed claims, but can we agree that these claims are not blatantly, obviously true. They are contested. Many of these prophecies are vague. For instance, no OT prophet predicted that a nation called Israel would declare it’s independence from Great Britain in the year 1948.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Biblical_prophecies

  39. Skep,

    Bart Ehrman is in the minority and, on its own, that fact is not enough. But it does say something in that it makes one ask about a reason so many highly educated university-types disagree with his misguided form of inerrancy.

    Two examples:

    First is in an arena such as the following three comprise: [1] http://www.increasinglearning.com/blog/bible-contradiction-when-was-jesus-crucified and [2] http://www.evidenceunseen.com/bible-difficulties-2/nt-difficulties/john-acts/jn-1914-was-jesus-crucified-on-the-third-hour-or-the-sixth-hour/ and a little better at [3] https://bible.org/article/time-jesus-death-and-inerrancy-harmonization-plausible

    A brief excerpt from [3] points to one of the reasons so many highly educated folks are disagreeing with Ehrman:

    “While a harmonization of these two accounts defies a definitive solution at least a few solutions are feasible such that the time of Jesus’ crucifixion is not a decisive proof text against inerrancy. While one cannot prove what an actual harmonized solution might be, neither can one prove an actual nonharmonistic view either. Indeed what Ehrman calls “impossible” is in fact possible within any standard evangelical definition of inerrancy including the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.3 And more than possible, this paper suggests that plausible harmonizations can be made consistent with about any inerrancy definition.”

    The second example for a reason so many educated folks disagree with Ehrman’s definition:

    The oldest fragment we have is the Papyrus P52 which dates to about 125 AD. What is the evidence for claims about what the author not only *did* but also what the author *knew* and that we know it all much better than said author(s)?

    Quote:

    It suggests a 1st century date of the original writing of John’s gospel ~ not in the 2nd to 4th century, as some conspiracy theorists say. This papyrus was found in Egypt, having been copied in a particular Alexandrian script. Since it is dated 117-138 based on the particular script (a type of date-stamp), it means that the book of John (thought to be written in Ephesus) had to travel to Egypt and then be copied before early 2nd century. The P52 papyrus is so fragile that scholars do not want to run other types of tests, and so the dating, though considered very reliable by many, is not iron-clad. Some scholars even date P52 as early as 90 AD.

    It shows the accuracy of the preservation of this passage in John by its incredible agreement with later manuscripts. P52 has no significant variance with P66, a 2nd-3rd century papyrus fragment which includes much more of the gospel of John. P52 has no significant variance with our earliest gospels that are in codex (book) form, including 4th century Codex Sinaiticus, 4th century Codex Vaticanus, and 5th century Codex Alexandrinus. Variations that exist include word order and pronunciation (itacism) differences .

    The early dating and high level of accuracy of P52 indicate that the gospel of John was written in the 1st century and preserved in a way that gives us confidence in the reliability of the gospel of John that we have in our Bibles.

    How is this relevant?

    Here are some of the claims that New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman made in a debate with another New Testament scholar, Craig Evans, from a review of the debate found here.

    Bart Ehrman’s claims:

    · we only have copies of copies… of copies… of copies… of copies

    · and the copiers all made mistakes

    · the first manuscripts are decades later

    · and the manuscripts we have are different from one another

    · the earliest copies have the most mistakes

    · even if we have many copies, they are late, so we don’t know what the original said

    · we don’t have early manuscripts

    We actually have early copies within decades of the originals. This far surpasses the proximity of other ancient documents, as Lee Strobel says:

    “Next to the New Testament, the greatest manuscript evidence for any other ancient work is for Homer’s Illiad of which there are fewer than 650 manuscripts that come a full thousand years after the original writing.”

    According to Sir Frederick Kenyon, former director of the British Museum:

    “In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament. The last foundation for any doubt that the scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.”

    P52 is an early document that attests to the preservation and reliability of this passage in John 18. Only an unreasonable, brittle form of inerrancy leads Bart Ehrman to distrust the manuscripts of the New Testament.

    ………[a]ctually I was saying that P52 (front and back) matches up with later manuscripts, therefore verifying the reliability. I am not claiming that we have the originals. That is not unique to the New Testament. According to Biblical scholar Douglas Jacoby:

    “The…. p52 is by no means the only ancient manuscript of the New Testament which has survived. There are literally thousands of Greek manuscripts, as well as tens of thousands of manuscripts in other languages, like Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, Georgian, Armenian, Arabic, and many others. This compares unbelievable favorably with the preservation of ancient writings in general. Take the Plato, for example. No more than 15 copies of any single work of Plato have survived, not to mention the fact that the gap between the time he wrote (c. 360 BC) and those surviving copies is well over 1000 years! The most copied ancient work is Homer’s Iliad, which bears some 600 copies. Yet, once again, the gap between the time the copies were made and the date of Homer is enormous. In the case of the Bible, the gap is not many centuries, rather just a few short generations! and the number of manuscripts is gigantic…”

    End quote. (by Betsy McPeak)

    Meanwhile:

    “…..Let’s say you found a puzzle piece that had a date stamp of 1929 on the back. Let’s say the partial picture on the puzzle piece that has not faded matches a puzzle piece from a complete 1982 puzzle that you own. Let’s say the shape of the puzzle piece fits perfectly into your 1982 puzzle. You would be fairly sure that your 1982 puzzle was originally made in 1929 or before….” (D. Wallace)

  40. Gary,

    Your linked page on prophecy is academically uninformed. And even a bit comedic. It reminds me of another example of folks who are uninformed with respect to history. See if you can follow said theme as it relates to understanding and unpacking ancient history:

    Quote:

    “[The Critic must not misread the genre.] God gave the directives, to be sure (the Jews hadn’t thought this up on their own), but one must accurately understand God’s intention before he can accurately assess God’s commands. First, the wording should be understood in the context of ancient Near Eastern military narrative, the argument goes. Ancient writings commonly traded in hyperbole — exaggeration for the sake of emphasis — especially when it came to military conquest. The practice is evident throughout battle reports of the time. “Joshua’s conventional warfare rhetoric,” Copan writes, “was common in many other ancient Near Eastern military accounts in the second and first millennia B.C.” Therefore, phrases like “utterly destroy” (haram), or “put to death men and women, children, and infants”—as well as other “obliteration language” — were stock “stereotypical” idioms used even when women or children were not present. It decreed total victory (much like your favorite sports team “wiping out” the opposition), not complete annihilation. Second, Copan argues, women and children probably weren’t targets since the attacks were directed at smaller military outposts characteristically holding soldiers, not noncombatants (who generally lived in outlying rural areas). “All the archaeological evidence indicates that no civilian populations existed at Jericho, Ai, and other cities mentioned in Joshua.” Third, on Copan’s view the main purpose of the conquest was not annihilation, but expulsion — driving the inhabitants out—and cleansing the land of idolatry by destroying every vestige of the evil Canaanite religion (e.g., “You shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.” Deut. 7:1-5 ). Further, this process would be gradual, taking place over time: “The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the wild beasts would grow too numerous for you” (Deut. 7:22 ). Finally, the record shows that Joshua fully obeyed the Lord’s command: “Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded…. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses”. (Josh. 10:40 , 11:15 ) Still, at the end of Joshua’s life it was clear that many Canaanites continued to live in the land, left to be driven out gradually by the next generation (Josh. 23:12-13 , Judges 1:21 , 27-28 ). According to Copan, if Joshua did all that was expected of him, yet multitudes of Canaanites remained alive, then clearly the command to destroy all who breathed was not to be taken literally, but hyperbolically [as other texts from non-scriptural backgrounds affirm of that day’s obvious genre – historicity to the rescue of truth once again]. If these arguments go through—if God did not command the utter and indiscriminate destruction of men, women, and children by Joshua’s armies, but simply authorized an appropriate cleansing military action to drive out Israel’s (and God’s) enemies— then the critic’s challenge is largely resolved…..”

    End quote.

    Joshua did all that was expected of him, yet multitudes of Canaanites remained alive, then clearly the command to destroy all who breathed was not to be taken literally, but hyperbolically [as other texts from non-scriptural backgrounds affirm of that day’s obvious genre – historicity to the rescue of truth once again].

    Here’s a hint:

    Inform yourself with the following long enough until you get to the place where you understand how “Joshua” and the “science of historicity” work: [1] genre, and [2] linguistics, and [3] historicity, and [4] specifics peculiar to ancient biography, and [5] typology, and [6] metonymy — to name a few.

    If you don’t allow history, linguistics, anthropology, and Scripture (and so on) to inform you even as you are comparing writings from Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, and the Hittites with those other tools then you’re not allowing reason to guide you.

    All of this is sound evidence and easily available with respect to historicity.

    One more time: do you make it a habit to base your worldview on such evidence-free beliefs?

    Now, for those who are informed enough to know how Joshua and the science of historicity “work”, a replay:

    From a Non-Theist: “I will indeed happily concede the point about the prophecy of Ezekiel 29,30. [It was shown] that land of Egypt was actually laid waste by the historical Nebuchadnezzar (either I or II I guess), and all its people killed and rivers dried up, and remained uninhabited for forty years.”

    The comment from Walvoord’s book above, “…….Nebuchadnezzar conquered Egypt (cf. Jer. 43:8–13; 46:1–25; Ezek. 29:17–21), and it would have been natural for him to take Egyptian captives. When the Persians defeated Babylon, however, Egyptian captives were allowed to return to their land just as Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Forty-three years elapsed between Nebuchadnezzar’s conquering of Egypt and Babylon’s fall to the Persians; thus, the period could easily be referred to as approximately forty years. In this passage there is no need to expect a future fulfillment.”

    And also, such is in reference to Ezekiel 29:15, “It shall be the lowliest of the kingdoms, neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations; I will diminish [the Egyptians] so they shall never again rule over the nations.” The footnote comments on the obvious: “29:15 For a little while Egypt struggled against its oppressors, but its power was already broken. From the time of its conquest by Cambyses, it has never been for any length of time independent. There are few stronger contrasts in any inhabited country than between the ancient glory, dignity, power, and wealth of Egypt and its later [lack of] significance (Charles J. Ellicott, A Bible Commentary).”

  41. The above quote on Joshua and the linguistics of the ancient near east was from Greg Koukl’s essay “The Canaanites: Genocide or Judgment?” [http://www.str.org/Media/Default/Publications/DigitalSG_0113_New-1.pdf]

    The facts here merge seamlessly with scripture, observational reality, the science of history, and the Christian metanarrative.

  42. Gary,

    Why do Joshua and Scripture declare the “total” and then go on to affirm all sorts of folks remaining alive and well?

    Is there some sort of science which you can find which perhaps interfaces with other Non-Biblical writings that might help you?

    Maybe there’s all sorts of writing and genre and…. and… like that besides “just” Scripture.

    Maybe a… a… uni……. maybe in a university…… ?

    Should we apply the lens of Winnie The Pooh when reading, oh, say, “Architectural Theory: Volume I – An Anthology from Vitruvius to 1870“?

  43. Gary,

    In case you missed it, your linked page complained that Egypt had human beings left alive in it during that 40 year period, and they complained that according to the prophecy Egypt would be desolate with no person left to roam it. Hence Joshua and Canaan: the same affirmation of the “total destruction” which (according the uninformed skeptic) killed every man, woman, and child comes about and yet we find in Scripture all kinds of folks and cities alive and well after said “total”. Now, that “total” and that “left alive” all easily fit within the conceptual world of the ancient near eastern Hebrew, and for good reason, as discussed earlier.

    That’s actually not very hard and that your linked page gets it all so wrong so fast is telling with respect to your rather poor methodology when it comes to managing your own doxastic experience. It’s better to believe what we *ought* to believe via evidence and information and not what we *want* to believe, especially when the latter is so utterly liberated from the former.

  44. Ok. Well, we are going off into a lot of different directions, but that is ok.

    SC, let me address your point about the reliability of the COPIES of the Gospels. Notice I emphasize the word “copies”. Not even the most fundamentalist of Christian scholars states that anyone possesses even ONE of the original Gospel documents written by the original author. All we have are copies. Very good copies, I might add, but still, copies.

    So, if the majority of NT scholars are correct, that eyewitnesses most likely did not write the Gospels (and therefore the Book of Acts), even if we found a copy of the Gospel of John from the first century, this in NO WAY proves that the stories within that copy are true. And get this: Even if we could find the original Gospel, written by the original author—IF the majority of NT scholars are correct that none of the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses—how could we be certain that a NON-EYEWITNESS wrote down actual, historical events in accurate detail in his gospel, and not simply that he wrote down stories that he BELIEVED to be true, based on the stories about Jesus circulating in his city at the time???

    None of this proves that the stories in the Gospels are lies, fabrications, or legends. It is certainly possible that EVERY detail in the Gospels is an historical fact. However, since it is more likely than not that the author was NOT an eyewitness, according to expert opinion, then what does that do to the probability that a small group of grieving, emotionally devastated, uneducated, very superstitious, first century peasants really did see a walking, talking, into-space-levitating, dead body?

    For most educated, non-Christians the answer is: not probable at all!

  45. Gary,

    You were asked three times now to give context on N.T. W’s discussion of second generation writing.

    As I said, quote mining is fine, but floating context-free quotes out there in mid air, especially when the majority of folks who are experts in the field disagree with you, fails. And, to use N.T. W’s name without context and put words in his mouth is telling. I’m not interested in going there with you.

    If you’re going to assert legend, then you need evidence. A good place to start, though, is to stop putting lies in N.T. W’s mouth. “Lie” being a context free quote-mining affair.

  46. Ok, now on the subject of prophecy. Remember, Christians, you have to prove all Judeo-Christian prophecies correct, I only have to prove ONE of them wrong, to completely invalidate the reliability of the Bible and the omniscience of Yahweh. And if I prove that Yahweh is not omniscient (that he made a false prophecy) then Yahweh is not the perfect being the Bible says he is and I assert that is evidence that Yahweh is a HUMAN invention, not a real being.

    Check out Ezekiel’s prophecy that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the city of Tyre (copied from the website I linked above):

    Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Tyre

    “”For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people. He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field: and he shall make a fort against thee, and cast a mount against thee, and lift up the buckler against thee. And he shall set engines of war against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers. By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee: thy walls shall shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wheels, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into thy gates, as men enter into a city wherein is made a breach. With the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets: he shall slay thy people by the sword, and thy strong garrisons shall go down to the ground. And they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water. And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard. And I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more: for I the LORD have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.

    —Ezekiel 26:7-14

    Here God explicitly states that Nebuchadnezzar would completely sack and destroy the city of Tyre and that Tyre’s land would never be built upon again. However, this never occurred. After a 13-year siege, Tyre compromised with Nebuchadnezzar[wp] and accepted his authority without being destroyed. Despite being conquered and razed by Alexander the Great 240 years later,[2] Tyre still exists.[3]

  47. I think that when the average layperson sees Christian apologists saying that “utterly destroy” doesn’t really mean “utterly destroy” in some contexts, they think of Bill Clinton and his assertion that “is” does not always mean “is”.

    Words have meaning, folks. If “utterly destroy” doesn’t mean “utterly destroy” then maybe “all have sinned” doesn’t really mean that ALL have sinned. And maybe “resurrected” doesn’t mean a bodily resurrection but a spiritual/psychological resurrection. This is typical moderate Christian behavior: attempting to force ancient superstitious claims to harmonize with modern science and reason. It looks so ridiculous to educated non-Christians.

    If you are forced to start changing the meaning of simple words to defend your position, your position is in big trouble.

  48. Gary,

    Also, you still haven’t interfaced with Bauckham. You seem to just switch modes. You clam evenhanded historicity all the way up to hundreds of folks claiming a resurrection and, then, you flip a switch and try to invent something about the inability of information to move through a few decades in oral formats when the Jew (and humanity) for centuries demonstrated otherwise throughout the OT as oral traditions and written traditions did just that.

    You’ve not given us evidence that such is unreasonable. In fact history proves otherwise. Just because you don’t *like* the information does make the transfer of oral and written content falsified. Why? Because, again, history proves otherwise.

    All you’ve given us is your dislike and conspiracy stuff which you are asking us to weigh against centuries of demonstrable facts.

    Can you see how silly that looks?

  49. Gary,

    The apologist does not say what utterly destroy means. Scripture itself states it plainly. And other ancient Non-Jewish cultures also use the same modes. In other words, the apologist is affirming history while you are hiding from history.

    Case in point 1 of 2:

    “Remember, Christians, you have to prove all Judeo-Christian prophecies correct, I only have to prove ONE of them wrong…”

    600 are fulfilled, and 400 remain to be so, hence, by your definition, Christianity collapses.

    We’ve been over your silliness already.

    Case in point 2 of 2:

    The example you gave is evidence that you didn’t do your homework with respect to Joshua — given your read of your example.

    Which means an understanding of the history and words you are quoting isn’t present.

    Which is why I mentioned universities to you.

    To help you.

  50. My goodness, just how much context do you need to understand this very simple statement????: “I don’t know who the Gospel writers were, and, nor does anyone else.”

    Here is the clip:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FszDfiERnhk

    Decide for yourselves, folks. Is there enough “context” here to understand NT Wright’s position on the authorship of the Gospels? I think there is.

  51. Gary,

    Why do Joshua and Scripture declare the “total” and then go on to affirm all sorts of folks remaining alive and well?

    Is there some sort of science which you can find which perhaps interfaces with other Non-Biblical writings that might help you?

  52. Gary,

    “If you are forced to start changing the meaning of simple words to defend your position, your position is in big trouble.”

    Affirming history is not “changing” definitions, it is affirming history. Whereas, given that you want to revise history from what we know to be the case, in many cultures across centuries, is evidence that you seek to change facts in order to suit your own beliefs. The langue of Joshua and of prophecy isn’t unique to the Hebrew.

    Do some research.

    Universities are good for that.

  53. Gary,

    Your post #49 and the analysis you laid out there and elsewhere is nonsense. It’s so far from a valid understanding of how the text and historicity of the NT is evaluated and established that it’s really not worth pursuing this with you. Just for starters, you continue to use your erroneous conclusion that the NT wasn’t written by eyewitnesses as proof that it wasn’t! Circular much? And just look at the description of the disciples. Gee, no built in prejudice there! I’m sure you can find many more obscure websites to validate your preconceptions. And then there is always Bart Erhman to fall back on.

  54. Skep,

    Ok, maybe I should have said Erhman is the most discredited theologian anyone has ever head of. You know the story of “Misquoting Jesus”, correct? It was originally published as an academic paper. It was so thoroughly criticized, debunked and dismissed that he was literally drummed out of the academy for it. He then peddled it as legitimate scolarship to the generally uninformed Gnu crowd who, of course, could stop praising him for his “groundbreaking” work. Erhman sold a lot of books to a lot of people that didn’t know anything about the subject or scholarship they were reading about. Money was made, everyone was happy.

  55. A city named Tyre still exists, but not in the same place. The original was destroyed and not rebuilt. That’s if I remember correctly; I don’t have the source with me.

    And Gary, you’re practicing a crudely anachronistic approach to the prophecies, supposing that they were written to be fulfilled with wooden literal precision. Sure, Jonah prophesied Ninevah would be destroyed in 40 days. But they repented, and God relented. By your standard that would be a failed prophecy; by God’s standard it was successful preaching.

    You say that if one prophecy is proved not to have happened then the Bible is proved to be utterly wrong. This is nonsense. The reality is that if one sufficiently unlikely prophecy is proved to have come true, then the reality of a supernatural God is strongly supported. Combine enough of those and you have virtual proof.

    As for failed prophecies, I’m pretty sure you’re wrong about Tyre, and I’m also pretty sure you’ll have a hard time with other prophecies. You have to identify in the text and in history:
    1. Was this intended as a prediction?
    2. Do we understand its intent correctly, in the culture and language of the time? For one example among many, have we accounted fairly for the different uses of hyperbole between then and now?
    3. Was it fulfilled? If we think it wasn’t, is it possible we lack all the records? Or could its fulfillment still be yet to come?

    This isn’t waffling. This is applying common-sense fair treatment to the sources.

    Hundreds of prophecies have been fulfilled, attesting to the reality of God. The track record really is better than it is for Islam or any other religion. Miles and miles better. Your defeater, failed prophecies, is much harder to establish than you think it is. Your triumphalism is not well founded.

    Now I have a prediction I really hope you’ll prove wrong. I predict you’ll either ignore the three criteria I explained here, or you’ll treat them with contempt. Don’t do that. Your intellectual integrity demands that you adjust to this new information and view your triumphalism from a new perspective.

  56. BillT said:
    You know the story of “Misquoting Jesus”, correct? It was originally published as an academic paper. It was so thoroughly criticized, debunked and dismissed that he was literally drummed out of the academy for it.

    I’ve not heard about this. Which “academy” was he “drummed out of”? It can’t be the Society of Biblical Literature, because he went on to give several presentations at their annual meetings after Misquoting Jesus was published. The same goes for the Biblical Archaeology Society. It can’t be UNC Chapel Hill, because he’s still James A Gray Distinguished Professor in their department of religious studies.

    Erhman sold a lot of books to a lot of people that didn’t know anything about the subject or scholarship they were reading about.

    Yes, that’s true. But so did Stephen Hawking. The fact that uninformed people like his work doesn’t mean that his work itself is uninformed. Especially since distinguished universities routinely let him teach graduate courses and award him research grants and fellowships.

  57. Gary,

    you wrote: Based on Gary Habermas’ literature search, I will even include an empty tomb in the list of things I accept as historical facts about Jesus.

    I don’t think you need to include the empty tomb in the historical facts. I don’t. Indeed, even Gary Habermas himself didn’t include it in the minimal facts when he appeared on the Unbelievable podcast last year.

  58. A lot to respond to…

    First, I never said that NT Wright believes that since we have no idea who wrote the Gospels they are therefore unreliable sources of information, as I was accused above. All I said is that NT Wright is on the record saying that no one knows who wrote the Gospels and I also gave several sources which state that the majority of NT scholars do not believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses.

    Again, all I am claiming is that the majority of NT scholars do not believe that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels. Please provide current sources that say otherwise.

    Next, “Also, you still haven’t interfaced with Bauckham”. Give me a quote by Bauckham and I will respond to it.

    Lastly, the prophecy about the city of Tyre. You are all missing the point! The prophecy specifically states that NEBUCHADNEZZAR will utterly lay waste to the city of Tyre….not Alexander the Great over 200 years later!!! Just because Tyre was eventually destroyed by someone else does NOT fulfill the prophecy. For the prophecy to be fulfilled Nebuchadnezzar had to be the “destroyer”. The historical fact is that he did NOT destroy the city. He worked out a deal with the people of Tyre and the city was spared.

    I have given you a failed prophecy. As I said before, just one failed prophecy and the Bible and Yahweh (and the Christian religion) are proven false. Yahweh claims to be perfect. Perfect beings do not make incorrect predictions. Yahweh is either a liar or does not exist. I believe it is the later.

    Just because Christians believe that hundreds of other prophecies have been fulfilled, does not help your case. One failed prophecy is enough to doom your belief system.

  59. And Gary,

    Just so you don’t think I’m dismissing you out of hand this is what you’re missing and why your position on NT accuracy and historicity is uninformed. The standard test used by all historians to evaluate ancient texts for their accuracy and historicity is two pronged.

    The first prong is the number of years between the original text and the first manuscript copies available. For the NT this gap is 50 years at most. There isn’t another ancient text in existence where this gap isn’t an order of magnitude greater. The second prong is the number of manuscript copies available. The NT has 10,000 manuscript copies in the original Greek alone. Nearly 25,000 manuscript copies in all languages. This is also at least an order of magnitude greater than any other ancient text. And on top of this the entire NT could be reconstructed using passages from correspondences from the same era. This is simply an embarrassment of riches for which any historian of any ancient era would give, for even a fraction of this, his eye teeth.

    Because of this we know that the texts are 99+% accurate as they were originally written. Thus, the story of Christ was written and disseminated during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses to the events they describe. This story could not have been written in the first place without the verification and approval of the story by those eyewitnesses. Neither could the story have spread, along with the faith, without verification of those facts by early believers with those eyewitnesses. And those eyewitnesses, both believers and non-believers, were available for that process to take place.

    If you are going to attack the validity of the NT than it’s these facts and these criteria with which you need to deal.

  60. And get this: Here is more proof that Yahweh is very fallible…or non-existent. The overwhelming consensus of archeologists is that the Exodus never happened. It is folklore. It is a myth.

    Jesus believed that the Exodus was a real historical event.
    Jesus was wrong.
    Jesus was not perfect.
    Jesus was not a god.

    Now, I know some conservative Christian is going to say, “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Yea. Right. That is what the Mormons say about the lack of evidence that sea-faring Hebrews crossed the ocean blue to settle in North America. Nonsense.

    Listen, folks. You don’t need a PhD in theology and New Testament studies to recognize that supernatural claims (superstitions) are highly, highly, highly improbable. All you need is a college education and a functioning brain to realize that Yahweh is most likely the invention of ancient, ignorant, Bronze Age peoples. He isn’t real. Jesus believed he was. Jesus was mistaken. Jesus was a good man, but he was not a god.

    Devils, gods, fairies and goblins do not exist.

  61. Hi Bill,

    I agree with you that there are many copies of the Gospels, the earliest being in the early second century. I also believe that the copies are very good copies. I do not doubt that the copies are very similar to the originals.

    But that is not the issue.

    The issue is whether the ORIGINALS were correct. Even if they were written by eyewitnesses, we know from years of judicial proceedings that eyewitnesses can be wrong. However, in the case of the Gospels, the majority of experts do not believe that they were written by eyewitnesses! (I know that conservative Christians don’t believe that, but I have given numerous credible, scholarly sources who confirm my statement, including NT Wright, and no one has given me any sources to the contrary.) Now, if the testimony of eyewitnesses is often faulty, what about the testimony of someone who is testifying about events that he himself did not see or experience???

    So if the author of Mark wrote down stories that he BELIEVED to be true, but some of which were not—some of the stories and or details were simply rumors (legends), exaggerations, or theological embellishments—then even if we have a ZILLION copies of that text, the number of copies and the quality of those copies has ZERO bearing on the accuracy of the stories told in those copies.

    Having a lot of very good copies of an incorrect story does not change the fact that the original story was false.

    And you have repeated another BIG Christian assumption: Eyewitnesses to the alleged post-death appearances were still alive when the Gospels were written and distributed. Remember, most scholars believe that the Gospels were not written in Palestine. If the first gospel, Mark, was written in Rome, as some scholars believe, in circa 70 AD, how long did it take for a copy to arrive in Palestine?

    Please name one eyewitness to the alleged post-death appearances of Jesus who was alive in 70 AD.

  62. Quite a set of assumptions and unsupported allegations there Gary and a pretty good job avoiding the main issues all the while continuing to use your conclusion as your argument.

  63. Jesus believed that the Exodus was a real historical event.
    Jesus was wrong.
    Jesus was not perfect.
    Jesus was not a god.

    Gary,

    As far out in left field as you obviously are, even you could not think that the above is a valid piece of rational argumentation. Could you really have posted this with so little self awareness as to think you’re actually making a valid point? Yet, here we have it in black and white.

  64. Jesus of Nazareth: “Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven”
    — (Jn 6:49—51).

    If this quote is accurate, Jesus of Nazareth believed in the biblical Exodus story. Are you saying that he did not?

  65. “There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

    Jesus believed that Moses was real and that Moses had written books (the Pentateuch). If the entire Exodus story is a myth, as most archeologists believe, Moses was a mythical figure. He did not exist. In addition, most scholars do not believe that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, even if he existed.

    Jesus was wrong.
    Jesus was not a god.

  66. I’ve been uninvolved in today’s discussions here, and I don’t think I’ll be about to catch up on what I’ve fallen behind on, because it’s a very full day of meetings for me. But I want to say this with respect to the most recent comments.

    Gary, what you’re offering here is an argument from silence, mostly: the lack of clear archaeological evidence for the Exodus. Arguments from silence are extremely vulnerable to two things: confirmation bias now, and potential new discoveries yet to come. Only rarely do they rise to the level of proud you triumphantly purpose here. There is very definitely a strong degree of bias present in the conclusions you draw here, and you don’t even see it. There’s a high degree of bias operating in the secular academy, too, which you seem to discount I’m spite of solid empirical evidence confirming it. I mentioned that previously.

    That connects with the other thing that’s going on here: your argument from authority. You blithely assume that if most scholars agree on a thing, then anyone who disagrees has been proved wrong. I’m sure I don’t need to list all the examples that disprove that theory.

    This is a field that’s rife with bias and ruffled with incomplete information. You would be wise to recognize that reality. Arguments from silence on hotly contested matters that involve huge degrees of bias and controversial presuppositions don’t rise to the level of proof.

  67. You want sources to the contrary? Try N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God. (It’s hilarious the way you think you can yank his material out of context to support your position.) Or Michael Licona (whom I just had dessert with) and his native new historiographical approach to the resurrection. Or Richard Bauckham, already mentioned here, on Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Or Boyd and Eddy on the legend of Jesus. Or my article at http://bit.ly/NoLegend. Or the chapter by Randy Hardman in my book True Reason. Or any of Timothy McGrew’s YouTube talks on New Testament historicity.

    Let us know when you’ve started work on those sources. I’m reading John Loftua now myself, a time allows.

  68. Where in NT Wright’s book, “The Resurrection of the Son of God” does he say that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses? Chapter and page, please. I have read the entire book and don’t remember ever seeing such a statement.

    I am fully aware that many (mostly evangelical) conservative NT scholars believe that the Gospels are eyewitness testimony. But I never said that ALL NT scholars doubt the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses, I simply said the “majority” don’t believe it. Please give me a quote from any of the NT scholars you mention which state that the majority of NT scholars TODAY believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses.

  69. It is very true that absence of evidence is not absolute proof of evidence of absence. However, we use the absence or presence of evidence for most other truth claims in life, why should we make an exception for the Exodus story?

    If a couple of million (or even a couple of hundred thousand) of Hebrews left in mass from ancient Egypt, wandered in the Sinai for 40 years, and then conquered Canaan, we should find good evidence for this event, according to experts. Problem is, according to the consensus of modern archeologists and Near East experts, no such good evidence exists. That is why the modern expert consensus is that this event is an ancient myth.

    Could it have happened without leaving any evidence? Sure! Anything is possible. But the real question is, “Is it probable”. And the answer to that question is a resounding, “NO!”

    That is not just my opinion. That is the consensus opinion of experts.

    Your appeal to conspiracy theories is shameful. Do you doubt the expert consensus opinion regarding heliocentricity? Do you believe that the scientific consensus that the earth revolves around the sun is an anti-Christian, atheist, Satanic plot? Do you oppose the current scientific consensus that the earth is a sphere and not flat as ancient Hebrews once believed?

    No? Then why do you doubt the current expert consensus opinion that the Exodus story is most probably a myth and that the Old Testament is not a reliable source for archeology.

    There is no anti-Christian conspiracy among experts in the academic fields of history and archeology, folks! This is ignorant nonsense. Such nonsense should not be entertained or peddled by anyone with a college education.

    The overwhelming majority of college educated people do not believe in conspiracy theories. A college education has taught us to trust the experts in fields of study in which we ourselves are not experts. (Most) educated people do not peddle in conspiracy theories. Trust in expert consensus opinion is one of the fundamental bedrocks of any advanced, industrialized society. The mistrust of the educated class is the hallmark of a backwards, primitive, superstitious society. Please seriously reconsider your participation in the reinforcement of conspiracy theories.

  70. Gary,

    It’s a bit hard to know what to say to you. You continue to use as the basis for your arguments things you believe to be “consensus opinions” or things like your belief that the Exodus didn’t happen. If that satisfies you then it does. I happy for you that you’ve convinced yourself of the validity of your own beliefs. However, it’s not going to be convincing to really anyone else. Even non-believers will see the inherent weakness of positions based on opinions people with vested interests or “facts” you found on some obscure website or arguments from silence. This just doesn’t rise to the level of a serious discussion. It boils down to “Hey, I believe these things are true therefore any arguments I base on these things must be true. “I seriously doubt that you’d be convinced if someone tried to construct arguments with this kind of faulty reasoning.

  71. I am not appealing to conspiracy theories, as I told you earlier, and it’s shameful for you to ignore an empirically demonstrable reality.

    Is your mind so inflexible it cannot conceive of any category besides conspiracy into which to file this information?

  72. Are you SERIOUS, Bill??

    I haven’t just spouted off my personal opinion. I have given you multiple sources that give the current expert opinion. Why do you accept the expert opinion on most issues in life, but when it comes to your religion’s supernatural claims, you claim that the experts are biased?

    Historians, archeologists, and scientists have no opinion on the existence of supernatural beings. That is not their expertise. It is only when believers in the supernatural claim that their supernatural beings have intervened in the laws of nature at a certain time and location, that these experts can say, “Yes, there is evidence for this interaction with the material world” or, “no, there is no evidence to confirm this claim.”

    Your conspiracy theories make you sound poorly educated and paranoid, Bill.

    There is no conspiracy against Christianity among professional historians and archeologists! If there were, they would deny the existence of Jesus and deny ALL historical statements in the Old Testament. But they don’t. Archeologists readily admit that there is good evidence for the existence of many of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, including Ahab and Omri.

    You simply don’t like the evidence (or the lack thereof). That is the real issue, here, Bill.

    Secular scientists and archeologists start with evidence and make theories. Conservative Christians start with inerrant dogmas and fit any evidence encountered into that dogma.

    That is not how the modern, educated world works.

  73. Tom,

    Please provide the evidence that the majority of historians and archeologists are biased against the Christian religion.

  74. Gary,

    Your belief that this is current”expert opinion” and should be relied upon is an enormous overreach. Like I said, I’m glad you believe it and it verifies your beliefs for you. But arguments from silence and links to obscure websites isn’t what most of the world believes to be reliable. Give it a rest Gary. No one is buying what you’re selling. No One. And you should look at what you wrote. You accuse us of believing in conspiracies when no one here said anything about there being conspiracies except you. That’s your personal fiction. Arguments from silence are simply fallacious. You’ve offered nothing that any rational person would accept as convincing evidence. And you little Exodus argument would be laughed out of the average fifth grade class.

  75. My argument from silence???

    Good grief. Do I have to copy and paste every source I listed on my site? Here is Biblical historian, Gary Greenberg:

    “Quote: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not write the Gospels says biblical historian Gary Greenberg in his latest book, Who Wrote the Gospels? Why New Testament Scholars Challenge Church Traditions. At least, not the Matthew, Mark, Luke or John of Church tradition, he adds. Controversial as this view is, he notes that it is widely accepted among New Testament scholars. Yet few members of the lay public know about this modern scholarly consensus, let alone why scholars hold these views.”

    Source: http://ggreenberg.tripod.com/bookpages/gospelspage.html

    The truth is that you only accept the opinions of NT scholars who agree with your conservative Christian doctrinal view of the Bible. Everyone else is part of a grand conspiracy.

    Nonsense.

  76. And here is another scholarly source that says the same thing. I am NOT arguing from silence.

    The Oxford Annotated Bible (a compilation of multiple scholars summarizing dominant scholarly trends for the last 150 years) states (pg. 1744):

    Neither the evangelists nor their first readers engaged in historical analysis. Their aim was to confirm Christian faith (Lk. 1.4; Jn. 20.31). Scholars generally agree that the Gospels were written forty to sixty years after the death of Jesus. They thus do not present eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings.

    Gary: Bill, you and other conservative Christians may not like this source, but it is a respected, mainstream scholarly source whether you like it or not. Now, please provide a current reputable scholarly source which states that the majority of ALL NT scholars still believe that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels.

  77. Wow, Tom. So you teach your children the following:

    “Trust the expert consensus opinion on all matters of daily life (the safety of bridges, the safety of your drinking water, etc.)…except…when they disagree with our Christian teachings. If the expert consensus opinion disagrees with our Christian teachings in any area, it is because the majority of experts are biased against Christianity.”

    There is a term for this type of belief system, Tom: Fundamentalism.

    It is the mindset of the cults. It is the perfect defense against any criticism of the cult’s beliefs. No one can prove to the cult member that the cult is wrong until this LIE is dispelled.

    Sad.

    Dear fundamentalist Christians: There is no conspiracy against you. We rationalists offer the truth based on reason and science, not based on ancient superstitions and inerrant dogma. You are being brainwashed. It is as simple as that.

    Whoever the Creator is, he/she/they/it gave you a brain. Use it! There is no conspiracy!

  78. Gary,

    Centuries of oral traditions are so commonly affirmed eons later that your premise is simply falsified. Eyewitness content isn’t ipso facto expunged by a mere 40 or 50 years, and that’s just observational reality and history talking, not any particular agenda.

    The fact that you fail to refute Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony” in the arena of eyewitness content even as you continue to base your entire argument on a demonstrably falsified premise – while quite satisfying for Christians – really ought to lead you into some introspection as to why you are repeatedly basing your worldview on such evidence-free premises.

    [1] Why do Joshua and Scripture declare the “total destruction” and then go on to affirm all sorts of folks remaining alive and well? Why did other (non-Jewish) ancient cultures do the same? How does that impact how prophecy is handled in your (silly) link in comment #43?

    [2] Is there some sort of science which you can find which perhaps interfaces with other Non-Biblical writings that might help you?

    [3] Given that you want to revise history from what we know to be the case in many cultures across centuries, it’s apparent that you seek to change facts in order to suit your own beliefs. The langue of Joshua and of prophecy isn’t unique to the Hebrew. Do some research. Universities are good for that.

    [4] “…..NEBUCHADNEZZAR will utterly lay waste to the city of Tyre…..”. That is false. Many nations would. You mix up God’s “I” in various “I will” statements with Nebuchadnezzar’s “he” in various “he will” statements, even as you leave out a prophecy which claims a plurality of nations coming into the picture. But, of course, if many nations are to be involved (which the prophecy states and which history affirms) then of course the various “he will” (Nebuchadnezzar) statements will not account for the whole show. There’s “he” and there’s God’s “I” and there’s a “they” of many other nations.

    It’s odd that you missed something so obvious. Or did you ignore it because it threatens your beliefs on this subject? And, then, of course, there’s your inability to deal with facts as per the linguistic content of [1] and [2] and [3] as already discussed earlier (comments #45, 46, 47, 48) in this thread and which you’ve not responded to. As for the Tyre which was sacked back-when: its underwater. It’s unfortunate that you missed that. But, given the uninformed content of your (silly) link in comment #43, it’s not surprising. Just unfortunate. (see http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1790 and see http://evidenceforchristianity.org/how-do-you-see-the-fulfillment-of-the-prophecies-of-nebuchadnezzar-conquering-egypt-and-the-nile-drying-up-if-the-bibles-prophecies-are-not-reliable-then-is-that-not-like-the-koran-or-rhe-book-of/ )

    [5] Tom’s observation just for fun: “Sure, Jonah prophesied Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days. But they repented, and God relented. By your standard that would be a failed prophecy; by God’s standard it was successful preaching.” Why for fun? Because it’s just one more in a long list of ways in which the narrative in play is lost on you, with the quote dealing specifically with the fact that it is a living narrative, not a calculator crunching its way to the Power Ball Billion Dollar Pay Day.

  79. From the previous comment:

    [1] “Tyre in Prophecy”at http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1790

    [2] “How do you see the fulfillment of the prophecies of Nebuchadnezzar conquering Egypt and the Nile drying up? If the Bible’s prophecies are not reliable, then is that not like the Koran or rhe Book of Mormon?” at http://evidenceforchristianity.org/how-do-you-see-the-fulfillment-of-the-prophecies-of-nebuchadnezzar-conquering-egypt-and-the-nile-drying-up-if-the-bibles-prophecies-are-not-reliable-then-is-that-not-like-the-koran-or-rhe-book-of/

    And a few more:

    [3] “How do you explain the fact that the prophecy in Ezekiel 29:17-20 about Nebuchadnezzar and Egypt was not fulfilled?” at http://evidenceforchristianity.org/how-do-you-explain-the-fact-that-the-prophecy-in-ezekiel-2917-20-about-nebuchadnezzar-and-egypt-was-not-fulfilled/

    [4] “Jeremiah 43 prophecies that Egypt would be conquered by Babylon. Secular historians said that Egypt was conquered by the Persians. Can you explain this discrepancy?” at http://evidenceforchristianity.org/jeremiah-43-prophecies-that-egypt-would-be-conquered-by-babylon-secular-historians-said-that-egypt-was-conquered-by-the-persians-can-you-explain-this-discrepancyr/

  80. Gary @86,

    You can choose either to seek the interpretation that’s most demeaning to us here, or the one that best explains the data we’re presenting to you. You cannot choose both at the same time.

    Examine yourself and see if you can discern which path you’ve been choosing, and whether you like the choice you’ve been making.

  81. From the False Biblical Prophecies link I gave above:

    Ezekiel 29:8-15 states:

    Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee. And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; and they shall know that I am the LORD: because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it. Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia. No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years. And I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be desolate forty years: and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries. Yet thus saith the Lord GOD; At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered: And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their habitation; and they shall be there a base kingdom. It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations.

    God sets out a checklist:

    1.Egypt and everything from the tower of Syene to Ethiopia will be desolate and waste
    2.God will own the Nile
    3.No humans will walk through Egypt
    4.No animals will walk through Egypt
    5.Nobody will live in Egypt for 40 years
    6.Egyptians will leave Egypt and be scattered among other nations
    7.After 40 years of scattering, Egypt will be repopulated by the scattered Egyptians
    8.Egypt will be a weak kingdom, and will never control “the nations”

    This passage is one of the most erroneous in the Bible. Since Ezekiel was penned, Egypt has never been a desolate waste, there has never been a time when people have not walked through it, there has never been a period of forty years when Egypt was uninhabited after the civilization started there, and it has never been surrounded by other desolate countries.[4]

  82. Tom,

    I am very happy with my choice to seek truth through reason and science not through faith, which is just another name for “superstition”. I am very happy that a vindictive, self-absorbed, ancient middle-eastern deity named Yahweh does not exist; I no longer worry about a capricious god causing me to suffer just to “glorify” himself or because he wants to settle a bet with a devil, as he allegedly did when he killed all of Job’s children.

    It is an ancient tall tale, Tom. It is not real. I am SO happy to finally see this. I hope that one day you will allow the overwhelming evidence against the reality of this ancient tale to convince you too. The evidence is there, Tom, you just have to stop telling yourself that the evidence has been rigged by biased experts.

    I have a post-graduate degree. I have worked with scientists. I can promise you that the overwhelming majority of scientists have no bias against Christianity or any other religion.

  83. Gary,

    “Nobody will live in Egypt for 40 years…”

    And Joshua killed every living thing in Canaan, correct?

    How does Scripture interpret Scripture? Is it the same as history *or* is it the same as you and your silly link?

    Scripture and history interpret reality the same. Meanwhile you and your link disagree with both Scripture and history — thereby misrepresenting reality.

    Take a look at comments #45, 46, 47, 48.

  84. Gary:

    So what is Tom’s point?

    Be careful with what is and isn’t being said there wrt Tom’s statements, Gary, or else you’ll end up doing what you’ve done (misrepresent).

    As I have a strong aversion to *all* things political when it comes to Thy-Kingdom-Come, perhaps it’s easier for me to see Tom’s point, and, so, let’s break it down:

    First, background information, which isn’t Tom’s driving point (we’ll get to that further downstream).

    Begin background information:

    You stated, “Dear fundamentalist Christians: There is no conspiracy against you.”

    Tom: “I am not appealing to conspiracy theories, as I told you earlier, and it’s shameful for you to ignore an empirically demonstrable reality. Is your mind so inflexible it cannot conceive of any category besides conspiracy into which to file this information?”

    Bill.T. “You accuse us of believing in conspiracies when no one here said anything about there being conspiracies except you.”

    Data and files:

    While the problem of some white folks calling black folks “niger” stems from a body of attitudes within “Sample X” within society, that data is neutral. It’s just numbers and percentages. Data points of that sort are looked at in pretty much any imaginable “topic” and gathering/reporting such number-crunching is, again, neutral.

    Where to file this sort of information? You seem to assert that there is a conspiracy among blacks such that the “white-niger-problem” (as it were) is being foisted by blacks pushing their conspiracy theories.

    Why put that kind of information into that kind of file?

    The percentages of various Faith-X’s in academia (proper) isn’t new information and it’s odd that you are so resistant to such easily available number-crunching. It’s akin to your preference for something other than actual history and actual scripture with respect to ancient near eastern linguistics – also easily available.

    Sociological studies unpack this (http://www.georgeyancey.com/) and Yancey houses the trio of being black, of faith, and an academic. Similarly, Nicholas Kristof, who often focuses on “human rights, women’s rights, health, global affairs” and is an obvious liberal (see his news items etc.) writes of this in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/opinion/sunday/a-confession-of-liberal-intolerance.html?_r=0 ), in which he references http://yoelinbar.net/papers/political_diversity.pdf and also references https://pcl.stanford.edu/research/2015/iyengar-ajps-group-polarization.pdf — all affirming the generic stats in question.

    But these are just numbers. Numbers are neutral. Hence: why do you even bother to deny the numbers?

    Is it for the same reason that you prefer your silly link’s interpretation of reality over and above the interpretation of reality presented by both Scripture and history (as per comment #92)?

    End background information.

    So what is Tom’s point?

    Be careful with what is and isn’t being said there wrt Tom’s statements, Gary. Tom isn’t arguing for conspiracy, rather, he was careful to point out the duo of incomplete information (discoveries) and presuppositions being brought to the table.

    Example: We see the same with respect to the existence of Pilate. Despite the fact that the N.T. has more empirical data behind its accuracy than any other ancient manuscript, for a long time even the existence of Pilate was hotly contested. But now that “Non-Biblical” sources affirm Pilate’s existence, it’s no longer an issue. But the reasoning behind the hotly contested X never was justifiable to begin with. Why? Because there are about 15 to 20 thousand ancient fragments all of which seamlessly come together and affirm his existence. It’s all just generic, standard-fare historicity. Or least it should be. It’s akin to your preference for something other than actual history and actual scripture with respect to ancient near eastern linguistics – all easily available – and yet you (obviously) ignore such a large body of facts and prefer your silly link’s interpretation of reality over and above the interpretation of reality presented by both Scripture and history (as per comment #92).

  85. Gary,

    If you could step back for a second and look at what you wrote I think you’d see that it is you that is acting questionably. Two examples. First, your continued insistence that we believe in conspiracies or think that scintists are biased against Christianity. No one here ever said that. Let’s me repeat that. No one here ever said that. Why do you accuse us of something we didn’t say. You are so eager to find fault in us you are inventing things to accuse us of. What does that tell you about the attitude you brought here and your attitude toward the truth and in regards to the topic we are discussing. If you have to lie to make your point then how good can your arguments be.

    Seond, the “Exodus” argument that you made is an argument from absence. Arguments from absence are highly questionable at best and fallacious at worst. Yet, you not only claimed it to be a valid argument but declared outright victory in the discussion by its use. How weak must you argumentation be, how questionable your reasoning to ignore the fact that it’s based on an argument that at its best is highly questionable. As I said, this is the kind of argument that wouldn’t pass muster at the elementary school level.

    You’ve come here convinced that you bring the final and definitive answer to the qustion of the existence of God. This is a question that has filled libraries and occupied the thoughts of some of the greatest thinkers on human history. But you believe you can solve it in a combox. And you think you can do that using questionable argumentation and lying about what we have said. A little introspection about your attitude and methodology might be in order.

  86. “You’ve come here convinced that you bring the final and definitive answer to the qustion of the existence of God.”

    Absolutely not. I have even stated that I believe that there is very good evidence for a Creator God. My issue is not with the existence of a Creator, but with the existence of Yahweh. The evidence for Yahweh is poor. The evidence against Yahweh is bountiful: Failed prophecies. Scientific ignorance.

    The evidence is in: Yahweh is a myth.

  87. Are scientists biased against the supernatural? No. They are not biased. It is simply that the supernatural is not within their sphere of expertise. Scientists use the scientific method to investigate all truth claims regarding the MATERIAL world. The scientific method cannot be used to determine the existence of Yahweh, Allah, or Lord Brahma.

    It is not a bias. It is a matter of sticking to your field of expertise. The existence or non-existence of supernatural beings is the field of theologians, not scientists.

  88. Gary,

    Which failed prophecies?

    You’ve not dealt with any prophecies so far in a manner which is inclusive of the facts at hand. You’ve only listed examples which [A] are based on silence or else [B] ignore the entire anthology of ancient near eastern linguistics (etc.).

    Can we expect something more?

    Or are you done?

    Also:

    What evidence do you have that drives your reasoning in affirming a creator?

    Is it rational?

  89. Gary, do you see your own bias?

    I hate to have to do this. I don’t like pointing fingers. You’ve done it over and over again with me, but I don’t like it so much myself.

    There comes a time, though, when it’s worthwhile holding up a mirror to a person so maybe he can see himself better. I think you would benefit from having your own biases reflected to you.

    You might disagree with the value of this exercise. I hope you won’t, though. It’s always good to take a look within oneself.

    You claim to believe in science, which I think you do when it accords with your prior opinions. You insist that I’m living according to a conspiracy theory. I respond with hard scientific information and you do not retract. You aren’t even interested in what the science says on the topic. That’s a sure sign of bias.

    You put these words in quotes and say I had taught them to my children:

    “Trust the expert consensus opinion on all matters of daily life (the safety of bridges, the safety of your drinking water, etc.)…except…when they disagree with our Christian teachings. If the expert consensus opinion disagrees with our Christian teachings in any area, it is because the majority of experts are biased against Christianity.”

    But you have no evidence that I have ever said that to my children. I haven’t actually. I encourage my kids to explore and understand what experts have to say, and to draw their own conclusions.

    You have put those words in my mouth for some reason. You probably think you have enough evidence to draw the conclusion you’ve drawn, but you haven’t left room for alternate possible conclusions that are consistent with the same evidence. Jumping to conclusions that way is evidence of bias.

    You call me a fundamentalist based on your own definition of fundamentalism, which seems to include some level of unwillingness to think. Here’s the strange thing with that, though. You assail my conclusions, but you have brought nothing by way of actual argument against the steps of reasoning by which I have reached those conclusions.

    As I wrote in True Reason, the sign of good thinking is not whether someone reaches the approved conclusion. If it was, then good thinking could include, “Hey, I think the earth is round because I like basketball and basketballs are round.” No, good thinking is marked by using rational processes to reach a sound conclusion starting from all the relevant available evidence.

    So you think I’ve reached an unapproved conclusion. You think that counts against my mental ability. Have you taken all the available relevant evidence into account? Can I write? Can I string together a sequence of rationally connected thoughts? The answer to that is yes. (I am quite secure in that skill, actually, and it’s no particular hubris to recognize that God has been gracious to lend it to me.) In fact you have ample evidence to show you that I’m using my brain. Yet you conclude I am not. That, too, is a clear sign of bias.

    You say, “Whoever the Creator is, he/she/they/it gave you a brain. Use it! There is no conspiracy!” Well, Gary, actually I know there’s no conspiracy. Why do you keep trying to convince me of something I agree with you on? What there is instead — and empirical data demonstrate is — is a strong sociological self-selection effect that tends to make supernaturalistic belief unwelcome in the academy.

    I should add, based on Yancey’s and others’ hard sociological data, that this has become self-reinforcing to the extent that professors in many fields responding to surveys make it very clear they would be less willing to admit grad students or hire faculty with conservative political and/or religious beliefs. This is well established in the scientific literature. It is not a conspiracy. There is no organized effort going on. It is rather a well-recognized and often-published-upon effect of in-group dominant culture blindness and a kind of academic attitude of xenophobia.

    I know enough to be able to distinguish those well-established facts and conclusions from a conspiracy theory. Do you?

    I also know there is both a technical and practical distinction to be made between faith and superstition. One mark of using one’s brain is the ability to see such distinctions.

    I too have a post-graduate degree. I too have worked with scientists. I am very well aware that scientists often disagree with supernaturalism; I am also perhaps better aware than you are of the sociological factors contributing to that being the case.

    If the scientists you’ve worked with have no such bias, then you are working in one of the hard scientific disciplines of chemistry, physics, engineering, or possibly direct-application fields including agriculture, medicine, or technology. You are not working in biology or the social sciences, unless it’s possibly in the field of marketing. Or if you are speaking of the social sciences, your data set is too small to draw general conclusions. In fact, your general conclusion, “the overwhelming majority of scientists have no bias against Christianity or any other religion,” is demonstrably false based on responsibly scientific data collection methods. Only bias or statistical/research ignorance (which I doubt is the case for you) could cause you to draw false conclusions from an insufficient sample.

    (History and the humanities are also highly biased against supernaturalism in virtually all fields except philosophy.)

    You write,

    It is not a bias. It is a matter of sticking to your field of expertise. The existence or non-existence of supernatural beings is the field of theologians, not scientists.

    This is factually in error. Some scientists routinely draw conclusions about the supernatural — even though (as you correctly say) it’s not in their field. I could list dozens of prominent names.

    You continue to ignore all that we tell you about anachronistic readings of the OT text, especially with respect to its use of hyperbole. You assume that you understand the literature of the day better than those of us who have studied some of it. This is not good thinking on your part. Since you do not know the literature, the intellectually respectable thing to do would be to listen and to learn. (Would you like some scholarly sources on that?) But your prior conclusions — i.e., your bias — seems to be preventing you from taking advantage of that opportunity.

  90. By the way, you write,

    The existence or non-existence of supernatural beings is the field of theologians, not scientists.

    This is probably just a moment of careless oversight on your part. You’ve been denigrating theologians’ opinions up until now; but now you say they’re the only ones who know what they’re talking about. Which do you actually believe?

  91. Yes, belief in the supernatural beings, Yahweh, Allah, and Lord Krishna, is the field of theologians. I have investigated theology and have found it lacking in credibility. I therefore choose not to believe in the alleged existence of these three beings until someone shows me decent evidence of their existence. I recognize that evidence exists which could well be explained by the existence of an intelligent Creator, but I accept the majority expert opinion that an intelligent Creator is not necessary to explain the origin of the universe. I believe, therefore, that it is possible that the universe was created by an intelligent Creator and I believe it is possible that it was not.

    I believe that I am being quite open-minded. I am not a hard atheist who denies the existence of ANY god, I just don’t believe in the existence of YOUR god.

  92. Gary,

    Is your understanding of cosmology and physics as they relate to ontology the same sort of understanding as you have of scripture, ancient near eastern linguistics, and history as they relate to reality?

    If so, then your doxastic experience is clearly interfacing with reality without all the facts.

  93. Why do moderate Christians always resort to sesquipedalianistic philosophical psychobabble to prop up their ancient superstitions??? If a Muslim used the same type of philosophical argument to support his belief that an alleged seventh century prophet rode on a winged horse into the heavens…you would snicker under your breath, and say, “There is no need for such philosophical silliness. Horses don’t have wings. Horse don’t fly. Period.

    And the same can be said about Christian tales of ghost impregnated virgins, water-walking, and the reanimation of first century dead bodies by an ancient middle-eastern deity. Are reanimated dead bodies and flying, winged horses possible? Sure! Everything is possible. But are they probable? Answer: Hell no!

    Extraordinary claims require extra-ordinary evidence. Christians don’t have such evidence. The majority of experts now say they don’t even have confirmed eyewitness testimony!

  94. Then your opinion has been heard and duly noted. Thanks for sharing it.

    You accept an argument from authority, and that’s pretty much all you have to offer here. We’ve responded to that argument multiple times in multiple ways. There comes a point where “But all those other experts think you’re wrong!” makes for less than fruitful discussion.

    So if you have something else to offer please feel free to do so; otherwise you may consider yourself to have successfully communicated your point. I disagree with your opinion, but at least I have no lack of clarity regarding what it is.

  95. Gary,

    I suggest you try to avoid being frightened by new data as it emerges in various fields. Non-Jewish ancient near eastern linguistics isn’t exactly new data, but still you’d do well to allow yourself to be informed by all available information there. I say this because it’s clear that as of now such is not the case with respect to your analysis of scripture.

    Regarding ontology and physics, you seem to think cosmology has some sort of self-explanatory end-point, and when challenged on such you refer to said challenge as babble. So, once again we have evidence that you’re not allowing a wide canopy of information to shape your worldview. The ultimate self-explanatory principle vis-à-vis metaphysical necessity might seem like babble to you, but it’s actually somewhat standard-fare within discussions on this or that particular “T.O.E.”

    Describing is not explaining, as I’m sure you know, only, the problem for the naturalist here (while it includes that “law of nature” fallacy) goes much further.

    Therefore, a good exercise to improve precision would be for you to explain to us how it is that cosmology and/or physics can function as ontology.

  96. SC,

    I am not a scientist. I am not a cosmologist. I am not a geologist. Therefore, I do not pretend that I am an expert in these fields. Since I am not an expert in these fields, I defer to the consensus opinion of the experts in these fields on the issues we have been discussing. That is what the majority of educated people in the world do. We do not try to become experts ourselves in every field of human study.

    I am not going to try to compete with you on these subjects. I don’t need to. I don’t need to because I can appeal to the expert consensus opinion on these issues.

    Conservative Christians such as yourself believe that the experts are biased against your supernatural religious belief system, and therefore you reject expert consensus opinion and attempt to convince other non-experts to believe your NON-EXPERT opinions instead of believing the experts. That is not how most educated people believe things should work. We believe that such a distrust of expert consensus opinion leads to a society suspicious of education and prone to superstition and ignorance.

    I am not afraid of new information, whatsoever. If the experts evaluate new information and conclude that there is good evidence to believe that there was once a world wide Flood that covered even Mt. Everest with 22 cubits of water, I would accept that view.

    You on the other hand reject out of hand any evidence which contradicts your supernatural belief system. I consider that ignorant. You may be very intelligent and even very educated, but if you distrust expert consensus opinion and prefer to believe ancient superstitions, I consider that very ignorant.

  97. Gary,

    “Conservative Christians such as yourself believe that the experts are biased against your supernatural religious belief system..”

    False. Show me where I’ve claimed that.

    I actually enjoy learning about pretty much anything and as there’s no conflict between the physical sciences and the metaphysical landscape of Christianity you’re simply misinformed.

    That is why I told you to be careful about what is and is not being claimed.

    “…there was once a world wide Flood that covered even Mt. Everest with 22 cubits of water…”

    Huh? So when Scripture said (there) that the earth was destroyed you read it as the earth was destroyed and so God made a new planet? Correct? You mean like Joshua killing every living thing or like Egypt being void of all life? Correct?

    If you embraced facts…. such as ancient near eastern linguistics, covenant theology, and scripture’s interpretation of itself you’d avoid such misguided beliefs.

    Do you always base your worldview on factually void premises?

    “You on the other hand reject out of hand any evidence which contradicts your supernatural belief system.”

    Show me where I’ve done that. The mere fact that you want there to be a conflict between [A] the physical sciences and/or this or that ontological history of becoming and/or etc. and [B] the metaphysical landscape of Christianity is not evidence that said conflict exists.

    Also, new discoveries in cosmology or physics are not the solution to their respective inabilities to serve as ontology. However, you’ve claimed that the experts pretty much all agree that those two items DO SUCCESSFULLY SERVE as ontology. Therefore, we’d like to see that claim (which you did make) justified with references.

  98. SC: For thousands of years, the followers of Yahweh believed that when the Book of Genesis talks about a flood that covered the entire earth…it really covered the entire earth. Only later did Christians start to reinterpret the text.

    This is the same Higher Critical nonsense that my former pastor used to look down his nose at his “ignorant” parishioners who had the audacity to believe that God really meant what he literally said.

    Stop twisting yourself into a pretzel to maintain the chirade that the Bible should in any way be viewed as “divine”. Just accept the obvious: the Bible is a collection of ancient folklore. Fascinating. Very interesting to read, but it should not be viewed as a history book, science book, or the “words of a god”.

  99. Gary,

    Scripture interprets scripture.

    That’s where you’re falling down.

    Scripture (and historical fact) tell us that Joshua did as God commanded and destroyed all life in Canaan and then interprets that as cities upon cities of Canaan remaining and in the NT we find, still, Canaanites.

    Etc.

    It plays out all over again in multiple fulfilled prophecies regarding Egypt and…. and…

    If one follows Scripture and history one interprets far more precisely than if one follows your methodology of rejecting historical evidence and Scripture’s own definitions.

    That’s why evidence and history are irrelevant here — because you can’t break out of your pattern of self-reinforcement and rejection of inconvenient facts.

    It’s demonstrable.

    It’s like you’re afraid of new information, or afraid that you didn’t have it all correct.

    Or something.

  100. I go to church because we’re not in this alone. I go to church because I know that I can do nothing alone.

    The next time you’re out barbecuing (with charcoal, not with a gas grill) and the coals are red hot, reach in with the tongs and grab the brightest one. Set it aside from the others and watch how quickly it dims. Before long, it’s cool enough to pick up with your bare fingers. Meanwhile, the others are still glowing merrily away, feeding off each other’s heat.

    I go to church to share what flame I have with others, and to be refueled by theirs.

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