Jesus Is Too Good To Be False

Jesus Is Too Good To Be False

Groundbreaking “Lewis-esque” article now available again!

Five years ago I published an article at Touchstone magazine that I titled “Too Good to be False,” and which they titled, “The Gospel Truth of Jesus.” Leading New Testament documents scholar Daniel Wallace paid me the compliment of calling it “Lewis-esque.”

For quite a long time Touchstone displayed it for free on their website, but now it’s behind a subscriber paywall. The copyright is mine, so today I’m republishing it here.

Being five years old, obviously this argument has been discussed before.

A Story of Unmatched Ethical Perfection

This article runs long for a web page, so here’s a shorter form, reprinted from an earlier blog post:

It begins with Jesus’ ethical perfection in the Gospel accounts, unmatched in all of Western literature, and I believe also in all world literature besides. He is the one character portrayed as possessing perfect power while being perfectly other-oriented, without flaw or exception.

This combination is rare beyond rare. The degree to which he displays this dual perfection seriously stretches the meaning of “unique.” Lord Acton said it well: “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely;” but according to the accounts we have, Jesus had absolute power, yet he was absolutely uncorrupted. (To understand that rightly with respect to Jesus, you must take “absolute” in its most absolute possible sense.)

That means that if his story as portrayed in the Gospels really were invented, then those who thought him up concocted a character far greater than any other in all the history of human imagination. No one else has demonstrated the ability to compose a character anything like that. Maybe someone could have, but the fact is, no one has. That’s a hint—not proof, but a pretty good hint—that his greatness surpasses the reach of human imagination: that he is unimaginably great, in the most literal sense of the word.

Where Did Such a Character Come From?

Still we have his story. The skeptics suppose that it really was the product of human imagination. I can’t tell you that’s impossible, since we have only a strong hint that it might be; but I think I can safely say it’s exceedingly unlikely to have happened the way they say it did.

For what they tell us is that Jesus’ character was concocted through a disjointed, error-riddled process of corporate cognitive dissonance reduction. It originated in a culture where even a hint of human deification would get a person stoned to death. That’s where they think this character’s unmatched, divine ethical perfection came from.

And it happened not just once but four times. The number of Gospel accounts we have in the Bible is significant here, not because of how they might or might not confirm one another, but because the authors had four distinct opportunities to get it wrong—to introduce some flaw into Christ’s self-sacrificial, other-centered character—but none of them did. Therefore skeptics must suppose that this decidedly imperfect community not only introduced his ethical perfection but maintained it perfectly over multiple tellings of the story.

The Evidence is Against His Being Merely Imagined

I think what they’re imagining could best be described as a miracle of a different sort.

You can choose which explanation to believe. Take Jesus’ life as true, and you’ll find it fits into a long history, a back-story, as it were. More than that, it’s the central piece in a coherent world picture.

Meanwhile there’s no reason to think that the skeptics’ proposed “community of faith”—actually, non-community of cognitive dysfunction, as I explain in the article—could or would have concocted a character of Jesus’ overwhelming ethical magnificence.

The skeptical version has no coherent back-story. It fits nowhere in what we know of human nature, of literature, or the context of the times. That is, it fits nowhere except by power of shoehorn and sledge hammer (and never mind the bits and pieces flying everywhere!) wielded for the purpose of keeping God out of the story.

If the story of Jesus is unimaginably great, but the story exists anyway, then it’s unlikely it came about by means of the imagination. It’s far more likely that it’s true.

Image Credit(s): Myriams-Fotos/Pixabay.

42 thoughts on “Jesus Is Too Good To Be False

  1. let me make a second apology regarding the word ”peruse”.
    That was a dreadful word choice, and I confess, I don’t know what I was thinking. I certainly did not read 65 articles. I scanned the titles read a few lines from a couple and decided this was not evidence – based on many previous encounters with Christians.
    Sorry for any confusion. My fault entirely.

    So, to this article.

    Let’s start with this:

    It begins with Jesus’ ethical perfection,

    Are we talking about the claimed divine character ( as featured in the gospel story or the character referred to by someone such as Tacitus?)

    Best we clear this point up before anything else, I reckon, don’t you?
    While you are replying I shall re-read the article.
    Thanks.

  2. Re-read? No, actually, you might as well read the article at least once before you ask a question that’s so clearly answered within it. Even this post alone would have answered that for you, had you read the full context. Meanwhile I’ll edit the post to clarify at the precise point you have brought up.

  3. I scanned the titles read a few lines from a couple and decided this was not evidence – based on many previous encounters with Christians.

    That was your evidence that this wasn’t evidence??????

    Goodness, gracious, you have a low threshold for what counts as evidence. But an inconsistent one at best.

  4. I scanned the titles etc ….

    Yes, that is correct. I also asked that you direct me to any specific post you thought carried the post weight for your case.
    You didn’t deign to suggest any post.

    Has this latest comment any relevance to this post – the one you claimed had something I would not have heard before?

  5. Excellently done, Tom. I have never heard an argument like this one before, even after earning a Master’s degree in Apologetics. I love it! I shared it with my Twitter & Facebook followers. Well done!

  6. Okay I see where the confusion is. My bad . You referred me to THIS post.
    Right!
    Let me bang my head on the desk a couple of times.

    So, we have been through the mill re: evidence on the other post – and it is STILL going on.
    Phew!
    So now we are here.
    Do I take it you believe this is the post that demonstrates the veracity of your claims?
    If so, then my opening comment is even more pertinent.

    So, for argument’s sake, I will take it you think this post IS that evidence.
    If this is the case then I flat out disagree as we are talking about the miracle working character, Jesus of Nazareth for whom there is no evidence.
    All there is are biblical claims.
    If I am off the mark , and your intent with this post was otherwise, then I apologise.

  7. This post and the attached article are about the story of Jesus. There is evidence, isn’t there, that there exists a story of Jesus? Are we at least clear on that?

    This is also about two versions of the backstory behind the story of Jesus. There are two backstories, generally speaking, as I noted above. In this post and article I examine the plausibility of the typical skeptical backstory, and I find it severely lacking.

    So given the story, which everyone agrees exists, and the skeptical backstory, which I argue is implausible, we are left with three options:

    1. My argument against the skeptical backstory fails; it’s not implausible after all.
    2. My argument is credible, but the Christian backstory is too unbelievable to be true, so there must be some other explanatory backstory no one has come up with so far.
      Or.
    3. My argument is credible, the usual skeptical backstory fails, there is no other credible skeptical backstory on offer, so therefore the Christian alternative increases in likelihood.

    Now, which of those do you choose? Note that you cannot deflect as you’ve just tried to do, by saying it involves a character “for whom there is no evidence.” It’s about a story for which there is abundant evidence.

    And your “no evidence” claim just takes us back here, anyway. It’s your opinion that there is no evidence for Jesus. We know that it’s your opinion. We’ve even stipulated it. What next? Must we stipulate that we’ve stipulated it?

    Do you not realize that repeated bare assertions do not count as arguments? Why do you bother? Don’t you get bored repeating yourself? I get bored with you doing it. Would you kindly recognize that we’ve already noted that this is your opinion, and you don’t have to give it to us again?

  8. Thank you, Lisa. I’ve searched for other statements of an argument like this, and the most recent ones I’ve found were by Phillip Schaff and Horace Bushnell in the 19th century. Kind of astonishing, if you ask me. I’d love to be proven wrong on that, by the way.

  9. Yes, and story is the right word.

    Now, which of those do you choose? Note that you cannot deflect as you’ve just tried to do, by saying it involves a character “for whom there is no evidence.” It’s about a story for which there is abundant evidence.

    Nope, sorry, you don’t get to twist words to bolster your faith.
    There is a claim and there is an argument for that claim.
    However, there is no supporting evidence for the biblical character, the miracle working divinely attribute Jesus of Nazareth.
    None.
    You simply have to accept this fact and stop trying to fool yourself to believe otherwise.

  10. Enough. You are repeating yourself, repeatedly. You are either incapable of catching the point of what I write, or you are unwilling. You accuse me of twisting words, which I am not doing; and in fact that accusation comes without any supporting evidence of its own.

    This — especially your repetitiveness — is the very definition of an unproductive, time- and space-wasting non-conversation.

    The only thing you say here about the current blog post is that there’s no evidence for Jesus; but your opinion on that isn’t particularly relevant information, even though you love to repeat it (here and on another thread). Your one opinion of the argument I’ve made here turns out not to be about the argument I’ve made here.

    And then you have the gall to demand I accept your “fact” as if you’d provided reasons for it.

    See items 3, 4, and 8 here. I’m going to enforce that now on this thread, and delete any comment you post here that violates those standards as you have been doing. Be advised that I may do the same on the other active thread as well.

    I do not host this blog so that anyone — myself included — can just spout opinions without providing reasons to back them up. I do not host it for comments to get clogged with repeated, unsupported personal opinions. Your opportunity to do that is ending.

  11. Ha! Oh the sweet irony. I have just read Liza’s comment.

    Excellently done, Tom. I have never heard an argument like this one before,

    See? Argument.
    No mention of evidence.
    Argument.

    Well done Liza!
    At last! Point made.
    I think I shall rest my case now.

  12. Please do rest your case. Thank you!

    Those who know the meanings and the relations between argument and evidence will draw different conclusions than you’ve drawn. But let them. It’s over. You’ve tried your very best, and since it seems actually to be your very best, and we can’t expect any better, it would be best if you would quit trying.

  13. Tom, this “Arkenaten”, as she/he calls her/himself, is a rather uneducated, ignorant atheist blogger. Here is his site:-

    (https://attaleuntold.wordpress.com/author/ekhatoh/)

    I mean, I’ve seen some willfully ignorant skeptics in my time, but she/he is right down there with the worst!

    Like, how any reasonably literate, or perhaps it’s not even unfair to say fully sane, person could suggest that there’s no evidence for the historical Jesus when there’s no reputable historian who agrees with that view, is surely evidence enough that this person is not making use of sound reasoning.

  14. Do you suppose there’s a reason for the second t in “attaleuntold”?

    At any rate, what I see here is sad. I had to stop it because of how it was clogging the thread with nothing productive. I do not mean to say Arkenaten isn’t worth conversing with; she/he is a human being with all the worth any of us has. But the conversation was the only point of our connection, and the conversation wasn’t doing anything worthwhile.

  15. I wasn’t aware that the comments on that previous article had gone so crazy, as the comments on the Facebook page were taking all of my attention, & they were just as crazy & irrational. Seriously, I don’t know how you kept up with both of them!

  16. I have referred to your original article over the years to friends: that the person of Jesus was highly unlikely to be a legend made up over time due to the multi-great qualities he exhibited. I think it is a keen insight.

  17. <

    blockquote> But the conversation was the only point of our connection, and the conversation wasn’t doing anything worthwhile</, blockquote>
    I am glad you at least consider I am worth conversing with.
    It is unfortunate that your view of these matters is somewhat narrow and appears to be solely in line with an evangelical direction, rather than a strictly historical view.

    The reality is that, you apply terms and conditions to your belief in the veracity of the divine/ miraculous character in the bible, terms and conditions you would not (likely) grant to claims in any other religion’s Holy Text.

    Historians do not work this way, and it is no great secret that much leeway (from an evidential perspective) is granted by many of those who regard such texts with reverence.

    Apologist, Mike Licona recognised this and acknowledged it.
    This is why it is grossly misleading when an apologist such as Gary Habermas claims to be in possession of ‘facts’ regarding his empty tomb discourse.
    He isn’t in possession of any such thing.
    That is the fact of the matter.

    No one (that I am aware of) on this thread is denying there was likely a figure behind the biblical character, and this is the consensus of Historians.

    The extra ‘T’ was initially a typo which I have never bothered to correct.

    I am male.

    If you were to reconsider your banning and were prepared to engage without being so narrowly focused on this issue maybe further dialogue would be more productive?
    To this end I was advised to use the term Empirical Evidence. Would you be satisfied with this?

    Regards
    Ark.

  18. Arkenaten,

    Licona and Habermas are friends of mine. They would both object to the way you’ve characterized this discourse. You’ve distorted it without realizing it, unless in fact you do realize it; either way you’ve got a problem that’s proven itself resistant to reasoned explanation. I don’t mean you’re resistant to persuasion; that’s normal in these discussions, and I’m fine with disagreement. I mean you don’t even get it when we try to explain normal English vocabulary. That becomes a thread-clogging waste of time.

    So I don’t care if you add “empirical” to evidence. It still wouldn’t show any evidence that you understand the term “evidence;” which is the problem that stalled all our discourse up to the end. And why you think there’s any material difference between “evidence” and an evidence-based argument (as Lisa, not Liza, rightly recognized it to be) is beyond me. The whole thing has also been beyond all my attempts to repair.

    The ban resumes immediately. Don’t expect further exceptions. This is it.

  19. Are you saying that there can be no dispute regarding your assertions over the claims of veracity of the resurrection of the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth, o any other foundational tenets of the Christian faith?

  20. Heavens, no. This blog has produced hundreds of thousands of words of dispute in its comments, if not millions, with dozens of atheists and skeptics of all stripes. There can be no dispute with you, for reasons already stated: It’s just not productive. Goodbye.

  21. Has anyone ever missed the point as badly as Arkenaten has? I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising. Most atheists are on autopilot. Once they have dismissed Jesus’ miracles as crude fantasy, they think their job is done. They don’t stop to ask what kind of people the writers of crude fantasy are. Are such writers also capable of portraying humility and altruism at the most sublime level?

    It is surely significant that Arkenaten couldn’t even understand the question, much less attempt to answer it.

  22. Hi Tom, me again 🙂
    Just read the Too Good to be False article 😐

    Your whole argument hinges on the Jesus character being written too good to have been made up. Sorry Tom, that’s just daft.

    A story teller only has to imagine a character who is perfectly good; the story teller doesn’t have to be perfectly good themselves. They are compiling a story with a central character who is good. He can be contrasted in the story to other characters who are evil, nasty, hateful, average, kinda sorta good-ish, and close but no cigar. And such characters all appear in one or more of the stories about Jesus (we can probably all put names to most of them). But they’re all just characters in a story.

    You wonder why Shakespeare, Homer, or Dostoyevski never created such a perfect character, clearly trying to create the impression that would have found it impossibly hard. But there’s no reason to imagine they’d even thought about creating such a character. Of course, one reason they didn’t try it might be because he’d be awfully boring, with no inner struggle that real people could relate to. Not interesting to write about and not interesting for readers to read about, unless they were already convinced that he’s the son of God. So they worship the fictional character they’ve been told about.

    Pretty much everything else in the article is based on that first premise – that Jesus couldn’t have been made up. Seriously Tom, you must have read some boring books if you think Jesus couldn’t have been someone’s made up literary hero.

    Now I’m pretty sure you’ll reply that the consensus among scholars is that Jesus existed. But that’s probably 95 – 100% Christian scholars you’re talking about. Of course they’re of the opinion that he existed – their livelihoods or at least their credibility depend on people believing that.

    Even your comment about what C. S. Lewis wrote (… he was able to recognize the Gospels as true “reportage”rather than fable, and to conclude, “The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read.”) shows the reaction of someone who saw exactly what he wanted to see. After all, he hardly went into the exercise as a non-believer who was then convinced by the gospels that they reported the truth.

    You say Superman can fly through space; Jesus created space. Gandalf can command certain things with a word; Jesus created everything and upholds it by his word. Lincoln was instrumental in saving his country’s unity, Jesus died to save all mankind. but in the cases of Superman, Gandalf, and Jesus you should preface your wording with “the story says that“. For the Lincoln example, at least you have real historical documents to prove he was indeed instrumental as you say. By taking the Bible as true to start with, any thought of you proving its truth or validity is just begging the question. You assume it to prove it.

    You mention “By perfection, I mean that there is no flaw in the consistency of the story line, with respect to Jesus never using his power for his personal benefit.” and you’re right, there’s no flaw in the story line – but it’s still just a story. You seem surprised that a story teller can tell a story and consistently stick to the outline he’s decided to give to the character he’s writing about. But that’s what story tellers do. You must have read some pretty awful stories (ie, inconsistent and/or boring) if you think this amounts to any level of proof that the Jesus we read about in the Bible existed anywhere other than in the mind of the story teller.

    (more to come in my next comment)

  23. (continuing from my previous comment)

    You mention the four gospels as being accounts that show Jesus’ greatness, with no possibility of a mark on his perfect character. But what of the gospels that were not included in the Bible? Were they perhaps omitted because they showed a little too much of Jesus as a normal man with normal reactions? Anyone can show good, upstanding, even perfect morals when they’re the subject of a story – even several stories by different authors. And what of the years before he hit 30 – why are there virtually no accounts of his perfect life before then? Sounds like all too good of a story (but without the embarrassing teenage years 😉 )

    You several times call on the Bible to uphold the view you present in the article that Jesus had super-perfect morals but that’s just circular reasoning – using the Bible to “prove” things about someone written about in the Bible. Of course the Bible says he’s perfect – that’s what it’s for (and it’s the only source you have anyway).

    You may not be familiar with fan-fiction but the four gospels are prime examples of fan-fiction. Fan-fiction that’s written to bolster the good reputation of the central character.

    Fan-fiction is basically stories about known characters (for example in a TV series), but which are written by the fans of that series. It allows the fans to explore the characters and have them do things that the series writers don’t show, whether due to canon or whatever other reasons the writers don’t want to go in that direction. Sometimes it can be good, sometimes not so good.

    A single fan-fiction story is typically written by just one person, but different stories (about the same character or characters) can obviously be produced by different people. No problem here when all you have to concentrate on is the Jesus character being morally perfect. (And we all know what that means, otherwise you also wouldn’t know that the Jesus character was morally perfect.) And having multiple contributors allows the character to display a broad range of personality aspects. He can appeal to a wider range of readers, giving a wider audience for the religion, without any one single contributor having to be good enough to do that for the character development himself.

    And of course not all the fan-fiction stories made it into the Bible. Some of them may have been a little too human or not magic enough or perhaps a little too whacky even for the Bible (eg, the spaceship rescue in The Life of Brian).

    Did the fans write Jesus to be perfect? Yes. Does that mean a real Jesus existed exactly as depicted in the stories and that he did all the things attributed to him? No and no. It just means that he was a character who was written to be ultimately good (like Jessica Rabbit wasn’t really bad, she was just drawn that way). He might have been based on a real person but that’s also not proven.

    Your article talks about this not being possible because he would have to be created by a “community of faith” (or “Non-Communities of Cognitive Dysfunction”) but that’s not true. However it is a fairly good example of straw-manning (building an argument about how something “must have” happened, then knocking that straw-man down, ergo God).

    It doesn’t take the whole community to produce the story collaboratively (the Gospel according to the Committee). Several members could contribute small pieces – one or two ideas that the overall story teller then incorporates or agregates into a larger story (“…and I heard someone say they heard he was seen walking on water!” “Yes – and I heard he fed thousands of people just with one family’s lunch packet!”). It doesn’t take much for a half-way decent story teller to build a story about a character, with some personality, out of a few enthusiastic snippets. He could easily polish the bits that didn’t quite fit the expected morals (obviously someone must have misunderstood something they heard). It may not even have seemed like fiction to them – it could have been based on someone they respected and followed (eg, an itinerant preacher) plus what one or two of the faithful believed they’d heard someone say they’d seen or heard about him. So it’s  not even intentional misleading of the listener. They want to believe it so much that their own cognitive dissonance reduction (please see below) takes it from there.

    The stories were passed down orally (and probably tweaked in the telling just a little here and there over time), and eventually written down decades after the events they are purported to be reporting on as, well, the gospel truth. And when they were finally written down, there was likely no-one nearby who had experienced, and could remember the details of, the situation being recorded and who could have challenged what was written as being inaccurate. After all, they could hardly print the stories in a book that was available for everyone to read – if they could even read.

    And the stories could grow in the telling – especially with competing religions here and there: “So, your God can walk on water? Well mine can do that too – and, er, and also turn water into wine.” All fodder for half-way decent story teller.

    That stories grow in the telling can be seen today. Superman started out being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Later he was able to fly. And later stories of him as a youth (Superboy) also had him flying, so you can’t say he developed that ability as he grew – only as the story grew.

    What would have been great is some non-biblical information about Jesus. Someone contemporary to Jesus who says something other than the following (paraphrasing obviously): “Dear diary, I’ve heard people talk about a bunch of guys two towns over who call themselves Christians and say they follow someone they call the Christ.” Or even something like “Yesterday I saw dead men walking through the the streets, just after that chap Jesus died on the cross.” But I guess that last one was so commonplace that no-one except the gospel writer thought to mention it in their diaries 😉

    No, what would be great but is sadly missing is someone contemporary (not from the Bible) who had first hand experience of Jesus – especially if it also actually included a miracle. Someone who wrote “Dear diary, I met Jesus last night in the pub – he cured my blindness!!!” But alas.

    One thing that you wrote especially caught my eye:

    Cognitive dissonance reduction comes into play when persons have made a significant, active investment of identity and resources in a belief that turns out to be undeniably false. The demonstrated falsity of the belief comes into dissonance with their investment of their persons and their lives in the truth of that belief. If just one person is involved, typically that person will give up the false belief. When there is sufficient social support, however, it is not unusual for the group to “discover”—i.e., to invent—some way to believe they had been right all along. And so Mrs. Keach’s group  “learned” that they had done the right thing, and that their investment in their belief had been fully justified.

    That describes modern-day (and early day) Christians and their support groups (churches) to a T. And not just Christians, it fits any group of believers of any religious faith. Less so for atheists, largely because we hold no shared ideas sacred and we also don’t have regular meetings with our support groups. We generally don’t even have support groups – at least not to support our atheism. Maybe a sports club or social club but it’s not a group dedicated to supporting our atheism.

    By the way, whatever happened to the fig tree that Jesus cursed for not bearing fruit out of season? Wasn’t he a bit over the top with that? Almost human, you could say.

  24. Len, I had eyelid surgery yesterday do I can’t responf at length. I wouldn’t convince you of anything anyway.

    Should anyone else care to read and find out how I’d answer if I could, here’s my advice. Read the article Len says he read. Decide for yourself how well he read it.

    Maybe at some point, in a few days or whatever, if someone raises another question that displays a real reading of what I wrote, I’ll come back and answer at more length. For now, though, I’ll leave it at this: Len, I had my say in the article, you had your say just now. And I don’t think your response here reflects a clear or good-faith reading of what I wrote.

  25. As far as we can tell, the Gospel writers were ordinary people with no reputation for literary talent. So if the Gospels are mainly or completely fictional then we really should regard them as something like fan fiction. That puts the key question in focus. Is there anything special about the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospels? As far as Len is concerned, the answer is an emphatic No. If you think about it, you can see that Len’s answer is really the only answer he could give. He can’t say that the portrayal of Jesus is a unique example of fan fiction producing something truly sublime.

    That brings us to another question. Should we try to convince someone like Len that the Gospels are something more than insubstantial works of fan fiction? The answer is that it would be a futile enterprise.

  26. Hi Tom and Steve

    Tom, I hope your eyelid surgery went well and that you’re well on the way to recovery. Do what the doctor tells you to do! (He knows science 🙂 ). And take a break from blogging until your eyes and face feel better, the swelling goes down, and your strength is back (at least, if you look and feel anything like I did after my eyelid surgery).

    In your response, you try to raise some doubt or suspicion that I didn’t read or understand your article. That seems to be a typical first reaction to criticism in Christian blog posts – as if the validity of the arguments should be obvious and unchallengable. Well, yes I read the article (it was your suggestion that I read it, during our discussion on another thread). I read it several times in fact, to see whether I’d missed some subtle argument or believable assertion, but alas. And yes I understood what you wrote and what you meant. That should have been clear by my quoting and challenging several of your points. But no, I didn’t find your ideas compelling.

    I offered some mundane (real world) explanations for things you really want to attribute to miracles or being guided by God, to show that the supernatural is not the only explanation. The supernatural is certainly not a necessary explanation, it’s not the best one, and it’s not even a realistic one.

    It’s clear you’re not used to receiving any critique on your writing; your fans apparently lap it up. You should try to come out of the Christian bubble sometimes and see what life is like in the real world.

    Steve, you ask

    Should we try to convince someone like Len that the Gospels are something more than insubstantial works of fan fiction?

    You could try – and a first step could be to provide any real-world evidence that they’re true or that the Jesus they portray was really the Son of God (or even that he really existed as portrayed and did what the Bible says he did). But at least you accept that, if fictional, the gospels should be regarded as fan fiction. Now you just have to show that they’re true – and again, using the Bible as evidence is a no-no, as I’m sure you’d say if we were talking about any other religion and its holy book.

    Better to say I’m a hopeless case (or a futile exercise) than to actually address my points. Oh well.

  27. “a first step could be to provide any real-world evidence that [the Gospels] are true”

    Actually, Len, that would not be the first step. Instead, I would try to convince you that the Gospels are far beyond what you would normally expect from fan fiction. If I succeeded in that, you might say, “OK, but that doesn’t prove the Gospels are true. Maybe they are just exceptionally good fan fiction.”

    At least then we would have made some progress. The trouble is that we would never get that far. The futility of the exercise is demonstrated by your challenging me to produce “real-world evidence” that the Gospels are true. As far as you are concerned, this is the issue that we should be addressing because we need not be dwell on the question of what it would take to create the Gospels if Jesus was not the person that he is depicted as being. But unlike you, I am not inclined to pass over the question as if it were a trivial matter.

  28. Lem. I have received tons of critique over the past ten-plus years. You’ve drawn an evidence-free conclusion, and a ridiculously unfair one in view of my current visual impairment. I’m writing this through very blurry eyes. That’s one reason I didn’t answer further the first time, and your contrary conclusions are quite demonstrably wrong. And rude. Jerkish, actually. I can’t believe it.

    Stop It. Okay?

  29. Follow-up comment.

    Len, if it was your intention to provoke me with that last comment, you succeeded. If it wasn’t your intention, you accomplished it anyway.

    My comment #32 was very clearly a disengagement comment, with an explanation for why I couldn’t respond more fully. Yet you wrote, “It’s clear you’re not used to receiving any critique on your writing; your fans apparently lap it up;” and “Better to say I’m a hopeless case (or a futile exercise) than to actually address my points. Oh well.”

    You have absolutely no clue whereof you speak. You haven’t read the more than 60,500 comments that preceded your arrival here. You haven’t observed my interactions with dozens of atheists, including many Ph.D. physical scientists. You think I live in a bubble? You’re dreaming. And if you had any image of yourself as one who draws conclusions based on evidence, you’d better re-examine it.

    And you based that on this:

    And I don’t think your response here reflects a clear or good-faith reading of what I wrote.

    I don’t have time now — as I alternate between icing my eyes (i.e., being totally in the dark) 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, all day long, to explain my reasoning for that. I can say that in your previous comment you brought up several ideas that I had addressed in the article, and which you do not seem to have noticed that I addressed. That’s how I garnered that impression.

    I am not going to engage further on this, at least until I can see clearly again, which will be several days from now; and then I’ll have other catching up to do.

    In the meantime, I’m perfectly willing to let other readers draw their own conclusions from my article and from your responses.

    But I won’t let you go unchallenged for acting rudely as you have.

  30. Tom,
    I didn’t mean to appear rude but I certainly did mean that you should rest your eyes. We can maybe chat later when you feel better.

    By the way, the “hopeless case (futile enterprise)” comment was to Steve (it was under the part I wrote to him) – responding to his use of the term futile enterprise.

    Now STOP reading and take care of your eyes!

  31. Hi Steve,

    Just a quick thought. You say

    … because we need not be dwell on the question of what it would take to create the Gospels if Jesus was not the person that he is depicted as being.

    What would it take to create the gospels if Jesus were not who you think he is? Good fan fiction, developed by story tellers over several years of oral agregation and finally written down decades after it was all supposed to have happened. And that’s what we have in the Bible. Show me it’s anything more.

    And tell Tom to stop blogging, stop stressing, and to take care of his eyes.

    (Blimey, I sound like someone’s mother!)

  32. Thanks for the concern, but you most certainly did not mean, earlier on, that I should rest my eyes. Not with the great majority of what you wrote.

    If you didn’t mean to appear rude you accomplished it without even trying. Congratulations.

    I’ll be the judge of how much I read, thanks. Not much, but at least enough to write this answer.

  33. Hi Tom,

    When I wrote my first (long) comments I was unaware of your eyelid surgery, so it’s not really my fault if it was a bit of a longer read than was comfortable for you. When I replied to your response, it was because you specifically called into question whether I’d read your article (as I mentioned in that reply).

    But I really did mean for you to rest your eyes. You don’t have to reply to my comments immediately!

    Go ice!

    We can chat again in a week or two when you feel better. Take care.

  34. “If the story of Jesus is unimaginably great, but the story exists anyway, then it’s unlikely it came about by means of the imagination. It’s far more likely that it’s true.”

    Real life is a mess. If anything, a story being “unimaginably great” would be evidence against it being true. Anna Karenina isn’t true, but my wife really did have five miscarriages.

    In any case, the story of Jesus isn’t all unimaginably great – what about the bit where he curses a fig tree out of spite just because it hasn’t got any fruit?

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