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February 21, 2012

Comments

"Don't be diverted. Make the primary issues primary, and leave the secondary ones for later."

Agreed.

There is very reasonable evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.

NO. Craig has already been dealt with here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhT4IENSwac

Great post and great point.
This is not only a point to offer unbelievers, it is a good one for us to keep in mind in our own walk.
Always go back to the basics, to God's Creation, to Jesus' Resurrection, etc., and build back up from their.

It is so telling when you talk with people about Christianity and they dash off to issues like the Flood, the plight of Canaanite babies, a Levitical command regarding the lex talionis, or the theological implications of penal substitution theory (yes, present company included).
The real issue is not with these "big beefs" with Christianity, it is with God's sovereignty.

Dealing with the Resurrection. Jewish historian deals witht he same case Craig does:
http://www.lightofmessiah.org/resources/articles/jewish_perspective_on_resurrection.php

Thanks for linking to the Craig/Ehrman debate, Josh. I would completely agree, this is how Craig is best "dealt" with.
The best Ehrman can do is push the question outside of the realm of questions that historians can answer as historians. He has nothing to say about the assertibility or rationality of belief. If arm-waving and yelling is dealing with Craig, then Ehrman's turned the trick.

Shalom!

Somewhat a non-believer here (actually think I'm precariously poised twixt being a heretic and an apostate). This may not be the proper venue for this question, but I just happened upon your site, and am impressed by the thoughtfulness of comments herein . . .

Anyway, the question is this, what are your thoughts on the "Mythicist" challenge; namely that Jesus began as a mythological figure who was eventually "enfleshed" via the Gospels? [If there's a better place to pose this question, or if this is out of bounds for this forum, please feel free to tell me; won't be offended in the least.] As laid out in movies like, "The God Who Wasn't There," or texts like Earl Doherty's, "Jesus: Neither God Nor Man," the argument, in short, goes something like this: taking a chronological look at the New Testament, starting with Paul and the other Epistle writers and then moving to the Gospels, one can posit that there's a progression of Jesus from mythological figure in the Epistles (where there seems to be an profound absence of details vis-a-vis Jesus' life and ministry), to the living/dying/rising/ascending figure we find in the Gospels.

And though the argument is founded on more than that "profound absence" of details to be found in Paul & Co., it is that aspect I think I find most troubling. That Paul and the other Epistle writers seem to know nothing of, for example, Jesus' virgin birth, baptism, miracles, major sermons, etc., makes the "party line" that Jesus lived here on earth, and then Paul & Co. wrote about that (earthly) life, a bit hard to swallow.

I've only fairly recently become aware of this challenge to the "party line," and am by no stretch of the imagination an adequate apologist for the Mythicist position. But I have been wondering, since becoming aware of this challenge, how apologists for the "party line" handle it.

"Peace 2 U!"

Art

Art, the letters of Paul are a different genre than the gospels, so there's no reason to expect Paul's letters to contain as much detail about Jesus as the gospels have. That was just not their intention.

But Paul's letters do not make Jesus out to be a mythical figure. Paul mentions in Galatians being personally acquainted with Jesus' brother, James. That places Jesus in pretty recent history for Paul.

Only the rarest of historians would deny Jesus' life, death, and burial. Most affirm his empty tomb and the Disciples' belief that they saw Him alive.
There is nothing to the myth hypothesis.

Paul, in possibly his earliest letter, passes on what he received - that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

Early opponents of Christianity [namely, Pliny the Younger] report that the Christians were singing and praying to Jesus as though to a God. They started doing this immediately. Within 30 years of His death they were so convinced and so devoted, and so widespread, that Nero was burning them alive for their beliefs as far away as Rome.

And the Jewish Talmud confirms that Jesus had a healing ministry, did miracles, was sentenced to death by their officials, and that His circumstances of birth were unusual. They charged, in the Bible and in the Talmud, that He was conceived out-of-wedlock. This does not confirm the Virgin Birth, of course, but it argues against a late date. Regardless of who was right, the two arguments, Virgin Birth vs. illegitimate conception, would be competing claims arising at the same time, ie, early.


Another thought. As far as I can recall, Paul never mentions John the Baptist but that doesn't mean he was a legend. Josephus clearly names and describes him.

Paul never mentions Caiaphas, yet we have found his ossuary.

Paul never mentions Pilate, but the Pilate Stone attests to his existence.

Pointing to Paul's writings as evidence of absence is clearly a mistaken strategy.

Here's another line of thinking that always strikes me. When Paul went week after week to the synagogues he argued with the Jews and proved to them from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
Notice that he never argued to show them that Jesus actually lived, nor did he have to prove that Jesus was Crucified. These facts are known already by his interlocutors and all they have to do is search the Scripture to see if what Paul is saying about the Messiah comports to what they already must accept about Jesus' life and death. He was showing them the prophecies and they were searching the Scripture. What they weren't doing was disputing the facts of Jesus' life.

I also note that the Greek gnostics took Jesus on as their own and denied not that He was God, or was raised from the dead, but that He was actually human. Their early adoption of Jesus shows to me that it was always accepted that Jesus had been more than a man and their belief system now had to adjust to accommodate this.

The thinking above reflects my own, unresearched, impressions, and may not impress scholars. There might even be good rebuttals, but these are thoughts that have occurred to me over the years.

And finally, even skeptic/agnostic/athesis/what have you, Bart Ehrman, accepts the life, death, burial, appearances, of Jesus as historical.

But check out how logic fails him when he tries to explain what he believes explains Christianity.
He repeatedly claims that the accounts of Jesus' ministry are unreliable and of poor historical quality, such that he denies the historicity of Jesus' miracles.
But when he goes to explain the Disciples' later belief in the Resurrection He says they came up with it because they believed that Jesus was the Messiah.
Now why would they think that?

He tells us himself that Jews knew nothing of a dying Messiah. They had no such expectation and dying Messiahs were failed Messiahs. Indeed, they were not Messiahs at all.
But, he admits, Jesus did die. So the Disciples had to search the Scriptures to find a reason to explain why their Messiah had died and how they could still follow Him.

Why?

Why would someone believe a dead man was Messiah and why would they want to follow Him? Other dead Messiahs were buried and forgotten. Why the elaborate effort here? Why create a whole new theology out of the Hebrew Scriptures about the Messiah if He had clearly failed to meet Messianic expectations?

The conventional, and logical reason, is that the Tomb was empty and they sincerely thought that Jesus was raised, and they actually thought they had real experiences with Him. Again, this is actually a fact accepted by many historians (the belief, not the substance, necessarily). This would give them reason to rethink what one could expect of a Messiah since, according to Ehrman, Jews would not have expected these circumstances. This would give them reason to search the Scripture for rationale.
More likely, as the Bible tells us, they did not search the Scripture, but had it opened to them by Jesus Himself, who showed them how it was about Him.

Ehrman doesn't think so. So why were they so convinced he was Messiah on Ehrman's view? It can't be what He said, because His claims to being Messiah in the Bible are pretty obscure. And this, our only historical source, is not even a reliable one, as far as Ehrman is concerned. So we have little to no historical data there. Besides, people can say they are Messiah all day long and that doesn't prove anything.

Then He must have lived a life that convinced them so utterly that they would completely change their conceptions of a Messiah and then die announcing that Jesus was the Christ. But what would be involved in living such a convincing life? This would seem to presuppose the very miracles attested to in the Bible , which, again, Ehrman would not accept.

I've heard it said that the hardest verse in the Bible to believe is "in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Most other questions are dealt with, or at least put into perspective, once God is creator and sovereign. If you can see God as creator of heaven and earth (or creator of a new heaven and a new earth, of which Christ's resurrection was the first fruit), these other questions do fade into relative unimportance. They can then be debated about at your leisure, as theologians and Biblical scholars have been doing for centuries.

It certainly all falls into place from there, doesn't it, Thomas?

>> "the hardest verse in the Bible to believe is "in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.""

hmm

if "god" = the creator of the cosmos

and "heavens and the earth" = the cosmos

then the sentence is just:

"in the beginning, the creator of the cosmos created the cosmos"

which really is the same as saying:

"a sentient creator of the cosmos exists"

ok... it just doesn't add much to the debate nor get you much closer to Christianity.

i guess it would get you about as far as antony flew got -- e.g. to a belief in the "god of Einstein"

anyway, that verse aint so hard to believe.

in my experience even people who call themselves "atheists" actually believe that sentence is true or might be true.

A much more fantastic statement than that is:

"Jesus of Nazareth is the creator of the cosmos"

I don't know WHAT it would take for me to believe such a thing. He would have to show me A LOT of magic tricks first -- in a laboratory environment. And even then, i probably still wouldnt buy it.

Thanks, ToNy, for the scientism take. I wonder, did you mistake STR for a laboratory?

Antony Flew just might have come up short, but not so short as you would make it seem.
The God he realized has to exist is not merely "sentient" but is the personal, "omnipresent and omniscient Spirit". He not only brought the universe into being but, as the "infinitely intelligent Mind", is the "only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such 'end-directed, self-replicating' life as we see on earth ..."

On Lewis and apologetics, Flew admitted that "the case for the Christian revelation is a very strong one, if you believe in any revelation at all."
Flew remained open to such a revelation, but as of his writings, it seemed he never received it.

Looking back at the fifteen year old boy who made this life decision, Flew realized he "had reached the conclusion about the nonexistence of God much too early, much too easily, and for what later seemed to [him] the wrong reasons."
"As I have mentioned, the grounds on which I embraced atheism at the age of fifteen were clearly inadequate. They were built on what I later described as two 'juvenile insistencies."

Totally,

It was the same for me with Christianity.

I embraced it when I was 5. And a person is simply not equipped to make such life decisions at that age.

Moreover, the typical "my conversion to Christianity" story usually starts with this sentence:

"There I was -- an alcoholic with no friends, no job, no money, my wife just left me, I had cancer, and my dog hated me. Then I found the truth and I was saved..."

A person in that sort of psychological state is in NO position to conduct an adequate examination of complicated evidence and claims pertaining to the most important question ever posed.

>> "I wonder, did you mistake STR for a laboratory?"

no i would like to test jesus's miracles in a laboratory environment because, as a vetting strategy, I would like to try to ascertain if there were any detectable physical anomalies the preceded his miracles.

For example, the Jesus of the old testament displayed a skillset that was a little less impressive than one that could be summoned up by Jean-Luc Picard. Born July 13, 2305.

So i would like to try to prove his skills were far beyond a mere mastery of physics -- and were actually supernatural in origin.

For example, Jesus's first miracle was to make alcohol at a party.

I would like to see him do this miracle again, and I would like to test for any detectable disturbance -- for example a burst of electromagnetic radiation following nuclear transmutation.

90% of his other miracles were all medical in nature. And i'd of course like to run a full battery of tests on all the patients before and after.

To believe the most fantastic claim ever uttered (e.g. "Hello, I am God.") it would be wise for us to be very very sure that this individual is telling the truth.

Hi ToNy,

A person in that sort of psychological state is in NO position to conduct an adequate examination of complicated evidence and claims pertaining to the most important question ever posed.
And, of course, this is rarely how one comes to be a Christian. Flew, who you introduce as evidence, demonstrates this. By examining the evidence he became aware that God exists, that He is Creator of the cosmos, Designer of life, omnipotent, omniscient, personal, etc.
But he did not come to faith.
Faith can be supported by all of this complex evidence, and stumbling blocks to faith removed, but it is not normative that such arguments lead to faith.

For example, the Jesus of the old testament displayed a skillset that was a little less impressive than one that could be summoned up by Jean-Luc Picard. Born July 13, 2305.Ahh, the argument from the talking pictures. And just when I thought things might get serious. I'm kidding, of course, I know you are incapable of being serious on this issue.

90% of his other miracles were all medical in nature. And i'd of course like to run a full battery of tests on all the patients before and after.
90%? I'll take your word for it as I haven't done a statistical analysis. He also calmed the seas, walked on water, multiplied loaves and fish, oh, yes, and rose from the dead. But, as He said in parable, even if One returns from the dead they will not believe. Even though they have no excuse, and know that God exists, they refuse to honour Him and to have gratitude. That's just how it is.
To believe the most fantastic claim ever uttered (e.g. "Hello, I am God.") it would be wise for us to be very very sure that this individual is telling the truth.
Liar, lunatic or Lord. We know you think Jesus is pretty groovy and a neat guy, so your options are pretty limited.

>> "And, of course, this is rarely how one comes to be a Christian"

rarely? its the most cliche testimony ever given.

Aside from the majority, which just believe because their parents do.

Also a horrible reason.

>> "And just when I thought things might get serious."

i am dead serious

It would be quite difficult to distinguish the true creator, from someone who merely had access to advanced technology (mostly medical).

But i am open to other vetting strategies

Suppose an individual was standing in front of Daron right now.

And he said, "Hello, I created the cosmos. Kneel before me Daron and worship me."

Devise a strategy by which Daron would convince himself of this statement's validity.

ToNy,

If he really was Jesus of Nazareth (leaving aside whether said person was actually God incarnate), he'd probably say something sympathetic to your situation, and go about his business. The Jesus of the synoptic gospels consistently displays something between indifference and outright contempt for people who demand that he "prove himself." If you asked him to perform parlor tricks in a lab, while you stood by ready to disbelieve him anyway, why should he bother? He came to save souls, not to do tricks like a trained mongrel on an unbeliever's leash.

>> "The Jesus of the synoptic gospels consistently displays something between indifference and outright contempt for people who demand that he "prove himself."

So does a conman.

ToNy,

Well, there you have it. The most influential moral teacher in the history of mankind was just playing a long con game to get himself crucified. Brilliant.

Wait, no... not brilliant. Irrelevant.

You're awfully fixated on making Jesus prove he has powers. He's not the Green Lantern.

And incidentally, con men and other charlatans do *not* generally exhibit that trait. They are very much invested in making people believe them. Hence "con" as in "confidence."

God's power is not something he needs to prove. Furthermore, you've established an absurdly obstinate standard for what it would take to believe. Why would he even try? Would it make you a better person? Would you change your life? Would you come to trust him and do his will and love him?

Obviously not.

For that matter, I've got twenty-some years of martial arts training and exceptional physical conditioning. I don't just bar fight anyone who asks. I don't turn backflips because my friends asked me to. I wouldn't show them how to rupture a man's kidney. I'm fully capable, but doing neat tricks to prove I have a skill simply doesn't interest me. If they doubt me, that's fine and dandy. The point of gaining such a skillset was not to dazzle my friends. It's just kinda who I am.

If someone asks to train with me, and I'm persuaded they have good character and intentions, then I'll show them something--for the purpose of enriching them, not to aggrandize my own ego.

If God went around doing magic tricks for atheists to impress them, he'd be exactly the sort of egomaniacal dictator that those with moral objections state. If he refuses, then those with physicalist objections will howl. And so rather than sit on the horns of the dilemma, he would appear to have decided that neither one really merits any more exceptional attention than those who don't need to be beaten over the head to get a simple point.

>> "Would you change your life?"

if the individual in question proved that he was the creator of the cosmos, would i change my life to manifest his will?

sure!

>> "I don't turn backflips because my friends asked me to."

so your friend is heading for a cliff and is going to drive his car right off of it. Moreover, at the bottom of this cliff is a sea of fire in which he will suffer endless pain and burn forever. Your friend tells you that if he really believed that you took martial arts lessons in the local strip mall, then he won't drive his car off said cliff. However, even in light of this, you do not feel obliged to engage in this display. And, though you love your friend, you won't offer any evidence of your skillset.

Bennett = bad friend

ToNy,

Come now, that isn't at all the situation you just lined up. You said you wanted Jesus of Nazareth hooked up to monitors, and you'd probably scorn his claims anyway.

In this situation, it's more like my friend is saying that he wants me to kill twenty or thirty people under lab conditions, and at the end he's most likely just going to say it was a series of lucky shots anyway.

What I said was what I meant. I wouldn't turn a backflip just because someone asked, so as to prove that I could. Constructing a ludicrous and contrived hypothetical around that statement is purely disingeuous.

Now, if my friend were about to be killed, would I intervene? Sure, if I could. The only difference between me and Jesus is that if an enemy of mine were about to die, I probably *wouldn't* raise a finger. Whereas he did, and died for his troubles. I can't say honestly that I'd be that big a man.

So perhaps Bennett=Bad Christian, at the least.

Okay, actually there's a *LOT* of other differences between me and Jesus, as I meant to highlight. But, yeah. There y'go.

rarely? its the most cliche testimony ever given.
Is it? I'll defer to your expert fact-gathering. But that is not the testimony I always hear. In fact, I've read something along those lines several times on the internet, but not nearly so often as I have read that Jesus made Himself known to someone, changed their hearts, turned them around, etc. In real life, I've heard only the latter and not once the former.
Devise a strategy by which Daron would convince himself of this statement's validity.
Why? I already know the Creator.

"In this situation, it's more like my friend is saying that he wants me to kill twenty or thirty people under lab conditions, and at the end he's most likely just going to say it was a series of lucky shots anyway."

huh...

this is a dire situation

if your friend answers wrong, he burns in hell for all eternity

thats a long time

conducting a martial arts display for him will keep him out of hell

ToNy,

You're just being silly now. Let's either talk turkey, or just let this one drop.

"Your friend tells you that if he really believed that you took martial arts lessons in the local strip mall, then he won't drive his car off said cliff."

Two possibilities:

1. Bennett's friend does not believe Bennett when he tells him about the lake of fire at the base of the cliff. If so, there's already a severe trust issue between Bennett and his friend.

2. Bennett's friend does believe Bennett when he tells him about the lake of fire. If so, Bennett's friend is suicidal.

In neither case is it obvious that the right thing to do is acquiesce to the friend's demand for Kung Fu tricks. What seems more obvious is that Bennett needs to engage in some sort of intervention with his friend, quite against that friend's will.

This, not surprisingly, is what God actually does when He saves people.


Well the scenario in question is:

"When would one feel obliged to display a skillset to a love done?"

Truly, if you are merely engaged in bar room banter to impress girls about martial arts, it doesn't seem very important.

However, if engaging in this display was somehow hooked to a pivotal event (say, your friend falling off a cliff), then I'd feel obliged to evidence my marital arts claim.

And how much great is Jesus's love-than mine for my friend.

And how much dire the consequences of not believing his claims.

Truly, a display is warranted.

WL,

>> "Bennett's friend does not believe Bennett when he tells him about the lake of fire"

the claim was not about the consequences.

it was:

"does Bennet posses martial arts ability or not"

Daron,

>> ""Devise a strategy by which Daron would convince himself of this statement's validity. Why? I already know the Creator."

oh

can you advise one for me then?

I know last month your recommendation was that I "meditate over bible verses"

which.... i dunno about that one...

oh

can you advise one for me then?


Ooh, clever. How about I advise you of the only One? Yep, that's do.

I know last month your recommendation was that I "meditate over bible verses"

Yeah? I think I said a bit more than that.

http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2011/12/christopher-hitchens-has-died.html?cid=6a00d83451d2ba69e20162fdeb9f3f970d#comment-6a00d83451d2ba69e20162fdeb9f3f970d

And then
http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2011/12/christopher-hitchens-has-died.html?cid=6a00d83451d2ba69e20162fdefdc68970d#comment-6a00d83451d2ba69e20162fdefdc68970d

WL,

A better clarification than I'd have come up with, thanks. I think the key here is that my willingness to perform stupid tricks for my friend's satisfaction shouldn't be necessary, if he's not a complete bonehead. The situation where I have to prove myself to keep him from committing suicide is so contrived and silly that it just emphasizes what a loon my friend is.

Heck, I had a bipolar girlfriend once who'd threaten suicide every once in a while, unless I "proved my love." Apparently it never quite took, so eventually I called her bluff and broke up. Turns out it was just emotional blackmail. Who'da thunk, with that kinda claim, that it was just an absurd way of exerting leverage without being bothered to utilize any thought, consideration, love, or reason?

b,

"The situation where I have to prove myself to keep him from committing suicide is so contrived and silly "

no its not

this is indeed what is going on

jesus needs a vehicle to evidence his claims to prevent people from burning in hell.

Jesus needs a vehicle to evidence his claims to prevent people from burning in hell.
Why?

daron,

those posts seem to describe why you believe the historical jesus was the creator of the cosmos.

but assuming an individual was standing before daron right this second and said:

"hi i created the cosmos - kneel before me daron."

What would it take to get you to kneel?

I think those posts contain my recommendations for you, which you characterized as "meditate on Bible verses."

Why would assume that there would be an individual standing before me saying "kneel"? If I am graced to remain at the time will see Him coming, as will everyone else.

ya you'll see him

suppose he's right in front of you

how will you know its him?

ToNy,

You seem to be confusing Jesus of Nazareth with General Zod of Krypton.

nope

If I first see a dude strolling up to me, or I hear he's in the desert, or anywhere else, it's not Him.

ok

so one way to eliminate candidates for the creator of the cosmos is to cross out each individual that

a: strolls
b: or visits "the desert or anywhere else"

i mean, that would eliminate the historical jesus so...

i dont think you really believe that strategy

I believe it completely.

Jesus already told us how it would be.

well he visited the Judean desert so... your vetting strategy rules our your primary candidate.

Daron,

He's trolling you. I encourage you to let it go.

ToNy,

You're dressing up silliness and obstinacy in the clothing of argumentation. It's not worth your time, or anyone else's. Give it a break. We know you don't believe. You know we believe. Nothing of substance is being added by these little chases 'round the mulberry bush.

nope

the thing is - Christians haven't thought it threw

they don't have a vetting strategy

think about it

you believe the creator of the cosmos visited earth 2000 years ago and performed supernatural wonders and told you how to live forever.

Its the most fantastic claim ever uttered.

Hence, i think:

"gee it'd be really important to be sure of this guys claims. Suppose we run some tests?"

and all i get is:

"TESTS! How dare you! Troooollll"

its ok

i'm used to it.

but i think its an EXTREMELY rational response to the most fantastic claim ever uttered.

And at age 35 i'm still amazed that no one seems to care.

Thanks, Bennett.
I agree, obviously.
But it's always nice to get ToNy's behaviour in writing for the sake of posterity. One time he invented a fistful of sock-puppets to congratulate him on his skills.
This time it's nice to see him demonstrate his lack of knowledge when he has claimed to seek God more than most Christians do.

Cross-post. Perfect companions, though.

We are sure of His claims, ToNy. So were many of the Jews that Paul convinced from Scripture.
But He isn't going to come performing tricks for you; He already said so.

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