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January 15, 2013

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Skeptics search for singular similarities to the Christ of the Bible and then assemble these similarities from a variety of gods spanning the centuries and originating in geographically diverse regions.

The word skeptic has long been used to refer to someone who doubts Christainity - especially if they challenge it.

OK. I'm a skeptic in that sense. And so is Peter Joseph, the maker of Zeitgeist.

But the word can also refer to someone who applies "reason and critical thinking to determine validity. [Skepticism is] the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion."

I'm a skeptic in that sense too. And Peter Joseph is not.

Why not?

The short answer is that Zeitgeist is unsourced to poorly sourced; its conclusions are unsupported.

Here is an an example of the skeptical (second meaning) take down of Zeitgeist. We skeptics (second meaning) have no use for Peter Joseph and vice versa. Try googling

peter joseph skepticism

Why would an apologist distinguish between these two kinds of skeptics?

RonH

Ron-

JWW used the term "sleptic" exactly once. And where he did so, it was clearly meant to refer to folks like the atheists that spoke to his group. So more like your first meaning.

I'm happy to see the distinction made, one can be skeptical about a lot of things (not just Christianity), and one can take skepticism as a methodological principle. I suppose that skepticism-as-method is more like your second sense (though I'm not quite sure what the second sentence in your second definition of "skeptic" means).

With that said, I am wondering about your comment. Was it your intention to object to JWW's remarks? Or were you simply trying to alert us to an important distinction regarding that word that he used once in his remarks?

Ach! "skeptic", not "sleptic"

To play devil's advocate from the perspective of the gospels as myth:

Wouldn't one expect the Jesus narratives to have some differences from the other mythological stories from similar places and times? What would the point be of simply regurgitating the same myth with a different protagonist?

The fact that each of these narratives differs from others can be used to argue both sides of the case. And from my perspective, neither one is more compelling than the other.

"The Gospel and the Greeks" by Ronald Nash is an excellent book on this topic. No serious scholar (liberal or conservative) believes that Christianity ripped off pagan myths.

Here's actually a great debunking of the movie Zeitgeist written by a skeptic, not a Christian apologist and it's extremely well done and very detailed:

Here

WL,

I don't know much about the relationship between Christianity and these various other myths.

So ya, I was 'just' pointing out the two meanings and that it's ...hmm... simplistic... to associate the word skeptic with conspiracy theorists even if doing so apologetic comfort value.

This isn't the first time I've thought of pointing this out.

Maybe you can appreciate the value: Would you not even twitch if I implied Mormons, JW's, or Christian Scientists were Christian?

Bonus points: How about the Vatican?

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Does the OP make a distinction made between the Berkeley people and Peter Joseph? I didn't see. They sound like Zeitgeist fans to me though it's hard to tell from the OP.

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Anyway, when the apologist has totally isolated Mithras from Jesus he will still have all his work ahead of him if his goal is to convince a skeptic (second meaning). The skeptic (2) puts Zeitgeist in the same category as "Lunatic, Liar, or Lord".

As for conspiracy theory fans: Hey good luck.

When the apologist debunks the Mithras=Jesus idea the audience is other other Christians and the apologist himself.

John M
That's great!

RonH

Ron-

Fair enough on the word "skeptic". For what it's worth, I don't think JWW was trying to engage in a deliberate guilt-by-association campaign against skepticism (understood in your second sense). I think he used the word "skepticism" in your first sense and did so without guile.

Note that I do a lot of twitching because the name "Christian" is applied to all sorts of things that it is not.

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I don't think the OP makes any distinction between Peter Joseph and the Berkeley atheists. But then, they are people who, like Peter Joseph, believe the whole Christianity-as-plagiarized-Mithraism charge. In other words, JWW is talking about them precisely on a point on which they are united, not distinguished.

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I guess there are two schools of thought on what the apologist should do.

One is that he should look for the 'silver bullet' that shows that Christianity is true no matter what pre-conceptions people have. That is not to say that they will expend no effort in answering individual charges. But they'll try to get away from that as quickly as possible and get back to their silver bullet.

Men like John Warwick Montgomery think that apologetics is more like that. I know that this is really only a caricature of his position, but, in relief, he thinks that if you prove that the resurrection took place, you've won the war.

You are right to point out that debunking the Mithra pre-conception, at least, isn't that silver bullet.

The second approach to apologetics treats it as a varied, detailed and painstaking task. You have to deal one-by-one with problems. I note that most categories of human endeavor are like this. They are piecemeal efforts that have, if you are lucky, a cumulative effect of pushing you past resistance to achieve a goal.

In the case of apologetics, the resistance to be overcome are the numerous and diverse barriers, ill-conceived by and large, that people erect between themselves and Christ. With some people, you may be trying to tear down these barriers, but with others you may also be trying to prevent their being set up in the first place.

I tend to think apologetics is like that. So you deal with charges and problems one-by-one. And you never work alone. One plows, another plants, another waters etc. each one according to his gifts. So you deal with the Mithra charge. And if you are successful, that's one less barrier. And that's all.

Now, of course, there are some bigger more generic problems than the Mithra charge. If you think that there's a Supreme Being loose in the universe, that tends to change the way you view things...Mithra charge included. But there are a lot of non-Christian theists, so you obviously still have a lot to prove even when you've convinced someone that God exists. God's existence is not the silver bullet argument.

In any case, I think that JWW and others are doing good and important work in tearing down, for the umpteenth time, the Mithra charge.

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