Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why I wouldn't let William Lane Craig clean my basement


William Lane Craig (pictured above) is one of North America's best known Christian apologists and philosophers. Undeniably brilliant, he is a modern proponent of the Kalam cosmological argument: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalam_cosmological_argument. Craig is also a rhetorical magician and a favorite on the Christian speaking/debate circuit.

Craig is much lesser known for making the following admission: “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa”. [Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 36.] This is a staggering statement – a true show stopper. It is literally no different than me saying: “I know there are fairies in my garden and nothing you can say or show me will ever change my mind”. Craig's statement is intellectually vacuous and why I would not so much as let him clean my basement. That being said, the statement is consistent with Craig’s frequent assertion that he is a Christian first and philosopher second.

Craig's wilful blindness has been colourfully described by atheist blogger Mark Smith who had a chance to chat with Craig on August 28, 1998:

In my twenty minute discussion with Craig, in the process of getting his signature, I asked him about his views on evidence (which to me seem very close to self-induced insanity). In short, I set up the following scenario:

Dr. Craig, for the sake of argument let's pretend that a time machine gets built. You and I hop in it, and travel back to the day before Easter, 33 AD. We park it outside the tomb of Jesus. We wait. Easter morning rolls around, and nothing happens. We continue to wait. After several weeks of waiting, still nothing happens. There is no resurrection- Jesus is quietly rotting away in the tomb.

I asked him, given this scenario, would he then give up his Christianity? Having seen with his own eyes that there was no resurrection of Jesus, having been an eyewitness to the fact that Christianity has been based upon a fraud and a lie, would he NOW renounce Christianity? His answer was shocking, and quite unexpected.

He told me, face to face, that he would STILL believe in Jesus, he would STILL believe in the resurrection, and he would STILL remain a Christian. When asked, in light of his being a personal eyewitness to the fact that there WAS no resurrection, he replied that due to the witness of the "holy spirit" within him, he would assume a trick of some sort had been played on him while watching Jesus' tomb. This self-induced blindness astounded me.” [source: http://www.jcnot4me.com/]

None are so blind as those who refuse to see. Why anyone would bother to debate Craig is beyond me.

51 comments:

  1. It's amazing how religion can poison an otherwise intelligent mind.

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  2. Dr. Craig has always been an irritant to me. His apologetic stance has no more sense to it than asking the question "do you walk to school or carry your lunch?" He is full of missing middles, misnomers, hasty generalizations, and, from the example listed in your article, delusions.

    I absolutely loved how Hitchens, in his debate with Craig, completely demoralised Craig's confidence by asking simple questions that had Craig thinking through his definitions on 'atheism'. I laughed quite heartily at Craig's obvious bafflement.

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  3. were invoking time machine`s as a valid basis
    for arguements, try that the next time you come before a judge- but your honour if we had a time machine and went back in time and found the defendant was a child murderer what would you do, just see how far you get with that.
    time machine`s imaginary senario`s give me a break.

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  4. martin, the point being made here is simply that there is no point is engaging in a rational discussion with someone who states at the outset that nothing will dissuade them from their position. End of story.

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  5. I understand that but its a very weak method of arguement because if you take any opposing views each side can say to the other if i took you in a time machine and showed you such and such would you change your mind either side may say yes or no but the arguement has not moved on.Personally if you had a time machine and took me back and proved to me Jesus was not ressurected I would not have become a christian to begin with as without the ressurection Jesus is not God`s son , does not appear to the apostles inc Paul and christianity die`s when Jesus does, but as we know..

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  6. @Martin

    I don't mean to sound too confrontational here, but I think you missed the point of the 'time machine' example.

    The example of the time machine is simply an exercise in framing a historical unknown with a means of asking what information other possible scenarios might yield.

    It's something historians do innately, but often times using an analogy helps people to visualize the critical methods in deduction.

    So historically we have no reliable evidence about whether or not Christ resurrected from the dead. The only evidence we do have are the first through second century lit. of the Synoptic Gospels, written by pseudonymous authors too many years after the events to be viable--and writing in a language foreign to the people and places they are supposed to be reporting on. They contain conflicting accounts which make them spurious at best.

    The other part is that miracles, although are frequently believed to occur, have never been properly verified and proved using dependable methods. The historian cannot say whether one (or even a handful) of miracles occurred in the first century, because there is no evidence for them. Genuine supernatural miracles are absent from the course of historical events, therefore there is not reason for any historian to simply suppose they occurred.

    So what did happen? Honestly, NOBODY knows.

    Craig 'thinks' he knows... but that's because he has the Holy Spirit. So the voice in his head tells him things that scholarly historians aren't privy too. Lucky him.

    Therefore the time machine question is a way to force on objective view. Here is was used to do away with Craig's massive confirmation bias by framing a hypothetical scenario that reflects the only valid stance a historian can take... one of agnosticism.

    The analogy reveals that even is the scenario was a naturalistic one (something which is predicted by the steady coarse of natural history) that Craig's will to believe would, as he admits, trump the truth. And that is an intellectually dishonest enterprise and one which should make anyone hesitate before taking the man seriously.

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  7. @Martin

    One thing we shouldn't overlook is that if an objective historian who had access to a time machine went back and saw Jesus rise miraculously from the dead, they would probably be honest enough to admit what they saw, and re-correct their opinion with the updated knowledge.

    Craig on the other hand is saying he'd reject the truth by dismissing the factual knowledge simply because he wants to believe whatever it is he wishes, the truth be damned.

    That rules him out right there as a person we can trust... since such an admission is properly delusional.

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  8. A better way of tackling Mr Craig would be to confront him with what the bible actually teach`s this can also be used on most mainstream evangelical groups.
    Musical instruments in worship, miracles still happening today,any collecting of money on any day or way apart from the local congregation in sunday worship,any name luthren, baptist,methodist, any person calling themselves father, reverend etc,any support of the american milatary to go kill other people, and salvation by faith alone. The bible is against all these thing and most evangelical christians are for them so forget time machines just let the bible show these people just how wrong they are in their beliefs

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  9. To Tristan - you must have real trouble believing in Spartacus , Plato ,Aristotle, most of the Caesar`s Budda, Mohamed, or any historical figure. I can go into Chester Beatty
    library in Dublin and see sections of the gospel of John,parts of ephesians, corinthians
    and compare them to the bible we have now,for any or most historical books thats as good as it gets.I dont know W.L. Craig but if the holy spirit is speaking to him by any other method than just by reading the bible he needs help.
    Jude 3 faith was once for all delivered 2000 years ago it does not need to be revealed or delivered again now no matter how special Mr Craig thins he may be.

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  10. @ Tristan

    "Genuine supernatural miracles are absent from the course of historical events, therefore there is not reason for any historian to simply suppose they occurred. "

    For you to know that a genuine supernatural miracle is absent from something you must first know what a genuine supernatural miracle looks like. Please enlighten us.

    I do agree that Craig's statement is fideistic, however, no more fideistic than the materialist. At least he admits is fallacious fideism. I am still waiting for one good argument for God's non-existence.

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  11. Paul writes: I am still waiting for one good argument for God's non-existence.

    That comment is so lame. It is the argument from ignorance in a nutshell. The burden of proof lies on the person making the positive assertion.

    However, if you are looking for the best argument I have found to date, here it is: no demonstrable evidence. Do you have any besides the Bible and the Holy Spirit speaking to you? Just wondering.

    I also commend philosopher Matt McCormick's "Proving the Negative" blog to you which can be found at:http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/

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  12. That's great, if I was asking you to prove a negative. However, I asked you to prove a contradiction. Either God does exist, or He does not exist. Both conclusions cannot be right, and both cannot be wrong, it is one or the other. Both sides have to "prove" their conclusions to tip the scale one way or the other. The first cause argument, amongst others, has tremendous weight on the "God does exist" side. I am still waiting for a good argument on the "no-God" side, not merely the assertions you continue to throw out there.

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  13. TAM - you are far too kind to Craig. The statement you quoted is much worse than the analogy you provided. It is not the same as saying "there are fairies in my backyard and nothing you do or say will change my mind". Rather, it is the same as saying "there are fairies in my backyard and no evidentiary proof otherwise will change my mind". Now that IS staggering!

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  14. Paul, how do you get from the first cause argument to asserting the existence of the Judeo-Christian god?

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  15. Paul, how do you avoid requiring a first cause for your god without special pleading?

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  16. @Paul-

    "That's great, if I was asking you to prove a negative. However, I asked you to prove a contradiction. Either God does exist, or He does not exist. Both conclusions cannot be right, and both cannot be wrong, it is one or the other."

    Actually, both CAN be wrong, IF it is not God but a pantheon of [G]ods which exist. You can't prove to me that it's not... so... check mate.

    Also, it's not a contradiction for one person to believe there is no God and for another to believe there is. A contradiction would be fore the SAME individual to try and hold both claims simultaneously.

    Differing information merely represents the two hypothesis, one which favors God along with supernatural explanations and one which rejects that in favor of more naturalistic explanations.

    So if you have a hypothesis, such as the God-hypothesis, and want to begin turning it into a working theory--then yes, the burden is on you to provide and empirical basis for the belief in said deity.

    Just saying.

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  17. @John-

    You said: "...you must have real trouble believing in Spartacus , Plato ,Aristotle, most of the Caesars, Budda, Mohamed, or any historical figure."

    No, not really. Why do you suppose that?

    Having enough evidence to say someone existed is one thing, having enough to say what kind of person they were is another. We don't know if Plato got the nuances just right when he depicted Socrates, for example. We don't know what Aristotle was like, not really, especially since most of his works were lost to us. Although we do know that Alexander the Great was a pupil of his.We know queen Cleopatra committed suicide. But we don't know if Julius Caesar crossed the rubicon. He may have, then again, he mayn't have.


    Also you stated, "I can go into Chester Beatty
    library in Dublin and see sections of the gospel of John,parts of Ephesians, Corinthians
    and compare them to the bible we have now,for any or most historical books that's as good as it gets."

    First, scraps of manuscript preserved throughout antiquity do not necessarily prove people existed, or existed as they are depicted in those select manuscript(s).

    For example, Biblical historians have long known that King Herod the Great in the Gospel stories is a fictionalization of a historical person. But none of the things he says or does in the NT were ever that of history.He never met Jesus, there was no slaughter of the innocents, etc. etc. And that's just one example of many I could choose from.


    Second, as for the trust you are placing in the reliability of the NT documents themselves, I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news, but the Bible is not a trustworthy historical text. Mostly it consists of historical fiction.

    However, the Bible a great book if you want powerful narratives of mythic proportions, containing dubious talking snakes and internally combustible chatty shrubbery, but as a representation of actual history, at best it is an exercise in embellishment, at its worst it is a dismal failure.

    http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/2010/07/i-am-atheos-book-preview.html

    and

    http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/p/development-of-biblical-canon.html

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  18. The first cause argument prove a transcendent, eternal, uncaused, immortal, self-existing, independent being. Yes, this is a very thin slice of the Judeo-Christian God, however, it takes a huge slice out of Atheism.

    The universe is made of nothing but contingent beings, beings that are unable of causing themselves to exist. Therefore, because these contingent beings do exist, there must be a necessary being whose very essence is existence.

    What proof do you have for God not existing?

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  19. Paul, what do you rely on (besides Occam's razor) to presuppose a single god rathan than a pantheon of gods?

    Before I even bother to come up with proof for the non-existence of your deity, please give me a coherent explanation of what you mean by the term "god". Do you mean an all-loving, omniscient being who actively intervenes in the world? If so, I'll posit the problem of evil and sterility of intercessionary prayer as a couple of good pieces of evidence. However, if what you mean by god is some "it" which exists outside the realm of our time and space and which does not actively intervene in our world, I don't care whether it exists or not.

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  20. To Triatan you tell me how you personally know that the bible is historically inaccurate.

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  21. TAM@
    Good Comment
    Beelzebub could not have put it better !!

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  22. To Tristan you say how can i trust the few fragment of the new testament found in a library in Dublin, then you say historians have show these to be false , a question were do these historians get their information from?
    i can only assume none of them are old enough to have been eye witness to any of the events so please tell me where do they get their fact from , please dont tell me fragments of old books. hope you can see the contradiction.

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  23. Paul, you are missing a really simple point. You are shifting the burden of proof. It is NOT on the atheist to disprove the existence of any gods; it is up to those positing said existence to provide the evidence.

    You ARE asking them to prove a negative, the negative being nonexistence. To prove such a negative would be IMPOSSIBLE, rendering your query/challenge ineffectual.

    It is always the positive claim, in this case existence, which bears the burden. Denial of existence the axiomatically correct position in the event of unsatifactory evidence for the positive claim.

    "Therefore, because these contingent beings do exist, there must be a necessary being whose very essence is existence."

    Prove that the 'first cause' must be a sentient being. Let me tell you, by the way, that in science, things tend to simplify as you trace their origins/break them down. A single particle is a much more likely 'first cause' than a being which breaks its own rules (based on nothing other than a bald assertion which constitutes the worst and most famous case of special pleading in history) by existing sans cause.

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  24. @John

    John, I did... I did tell you how I know that eh Bible is historically inaccurate. The links provided are essays I compiled from my own research.

    Here they are again just in case you're serious about investigating that question to its conclusion.

    http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/2010/07/i-am-atheos-book-preview.html

    and

    http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/p/development-of-biblical-canon.html

    Cut and paste my friend! Leave thoughts and comments if you wish.

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  25. @Paul

    Actually, I don't think people discuss the personal/necessary being aspect of Craig's argument enough. Personally, I find that it is from premise two and four where the chinks in the armor are..

    The Kalam cosmological argument does not presuppose monotheism. In other words, there isn’t anything to suggest that it wasn’t a pantheon of minds/deities/gods which created the universe instead of just one. Why is this a problem? Consider the following logical argument:

    1. The inference that there was only one creating agent is true
    2. The inference that there was more than one creating agent is true
    3. Both can’t be simultaneously true
    4. Therefore, if 1 is true then 2 is false and if 2 is true then 1 is false
    5. Unable to defer to either 1 or 2 the possibility of neither/none


    Craig's response to this objection is utterly lame.

    According to Craig, "The kalam argument is clearly not consistent with there being a group of deities cavorting with one another prior to the world’s creation, since the argument takes us back to a changeless state which is, I think, timeless. To imagine a group of timeless, unembodied minds somehow acting wholly in concert to create the world brings one awfully close to the doctrine of the Trinity. A Trinitarian (or Unitarian) concept of God seems much more plausible than polytheism’s many gods all independently existing timelessly and acting in concert to create the universe."

    (From Reasonable Faith: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5805)

    He says a group of deities is inconsistent with the argument and then reneges the statement immediately to say a triune of deities is fine. What is a trinity if not a group of three? Craig contradicts himself.

    Also, why can't a pantheon also act as a hive mind? The Borg in Star Trek can do it. I think Craig reveals the limits of his own imagination when he fails to consider such an obvious analogy.

    Furthermore, what's to differentiate between one mind and many? Likewise what is to differentiate between a necessary deity, existing in a changeless state, and two or more causal agents doing the same? Time is only an added dimension, and is relative, so has nothing to do with how many causes (or causal agents) there can ultimately be.

    Craig simply dismisses the objection as if he's never really thought it through.

    Furthermore, one of the premises of the entire argument amounts to little more than speculation and special pleading--yes, I am referring to the Transcendental argument.

    Paul, you can't ask for evidence (or proof) of God's existence and then safely safeguard him from disconfirmation by making him transcendent, and by definition, outside of all reality so there could never be any authentic evidence to begin with.An unfalsifiable theory is a non-theory, sorry to say.

    It's a quaint parlor trick, but it doesn't work on those who know how the game is rigged, so you might want to dispense with the shell-game and rethink your stratagem.

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  26. no you told me what others know you did not tell me how you know, as you always say about the bible there are no living witnesses to the events so my question to you is how do you know the information you base your belief`s on are factual?

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  27. john, I am sure that Tristan can answer for himself. In the interim, I would ask you to please answer the question posed by philosopher Matt McCormick (from his excellent blog Atheism: Proving the Negative):

    "How many false, natural religions are there in the world? Even if he is a dedicated adherent to one he believes is of supernatural origin, a reasonable believer will have to acknowledge that there have been thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of them. For most believers in a particular religious tradition, the vast majority of other religious traditions have natural origins and are therefore false. Even if there is a God, it is obvious that human history spawns great numbers of false, natural religions. Countless religious ideas spring from human social and mental life, then some catch on and become the start of a whole religious movement. Thus far, even the deeply committed Christian should concur with all of my premises. But now I’d like to explain what I take to be a devastating problem for the Christian in reconciling the view that his or her personal religious views are authentic while so many others are false. The question that should be deeply troubling to the Christian from the inside is this: why would the one true God who sought to establish the only real religion bury, confound, obscure, or hide it in the midst of so many other false, natural religions?

    Here’s what I mean: Christianity has relatively inauspicious origins. What we have today is a very small number of copies of writings that were written decades and even centuries after Jesus is alleged to have preached, been executed, and the returned from the dead. Two hundred years or so after the alleged events, the modern Bible was sifted from thousands of early writings that gave very different accounts of Jesus and Christian principles. A very long and complicated process with unreliable nodes of transmission provides us with claims of highly dubious origins. Numerous doubts accumulate at the beginning with the alleged eye witnesses, then the stories are repeated an unknown number of times by an unknown number of people before they are written down by a small group of unknown authors. They these stories are copied and finally the Bible we know is culled from thousands of other written works. At each stage of transmission, we should have several worries about the fidelity of the process that accumulate and amplify by the time the Christian stories get to us. I’ve discussed these layers of doubts and their cumulative, amplifying effect in many early posts.

    The people engaged in the creation and transmission of these early ideas would have been subject to all of the same natural phenomena that affected the foundations of all of the false religions in the world: psychosis, bereavement hallucinations, the Asch effect, source amnesia, superstition, false supernaturalism, Iron Age ignorance, paranormalism, confirmation bias, fabrication, hedging, revised memories, poor eyewitness abilities, propaganda, spin, mythological influences, heightened paranormal expectations, suggestibility, the lack of the scientific method, gullibility, and so on. At the very least, the Christian must acknowledge that these phenomena are real, and that they very frequently are responsible for spawning other religious movements. Even if Christianity is truly of a supernatural origin, and none of these doubt amplifying factors affected its formation, they would have been close at hand, and their presence obscures and undermines our ready acceptance of it. We know that these phenomena affect people and that they spawn religious movements. And we have very little reliable information about the origins of Christianity that might convince us that they were not a factor.

    So the question for the Christian is, why did your God make your religion indistinguishable from all the natural religions in so many of these ways?
    "

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  28. I believe the bible and hence christianity is so different in so many ways from all other religions.
    1- Idols the bible speaks against worship or prayer offered to a stone , wooden or any inanimate object so any religion which involves itself in this practice is in error this accounts for 75% of world religions
    2 - repetitive prayer or chanting , as if God is is a mindless God who just want to hear us drone on and on =another large % of world religions.
    i will add more later just to show more differences between christianity and man made religions

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  29. To Tam -do you accept the bible was written over a 1600 year period ? if not could I present any evidence to make you believe this ?

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  30. john, different books of the Bible were written over a period of greater than 1600 years. What's your point? Quite frankly, the biggest problem for anyone who accepts the Bible as the "word of God" is the entirely arbitrary process that was used to determine which books ended up in the Bible. I encourage you to educate yourself on the chronology of compilation of the current day Bible. I also encourage you to read the gnostic gospels. Warning - it is very unlikely to strengthen your faith.

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  31. Matt McCormack brings up many salient points that I think most atheists have pondered.

    One imagines the Judeo-Christian god peering in from his realm into ours checking out our progress only to find that 99% of the religions in history are not worshiping him. Apollo? Thor? Confucious? Where did they get these guys he must wonder in bewilderment. How could this be? That's a staggering failure rate. It seems nearly all his creations lacked any sense of his presence dwelling in their soul. If you weren't Jewish or lived in the vicinity or were apart of the Roman Empire to catch wind of this there seems to be an absolute zero chance of becoming aware of this god. And yet he created each and every one of us. You would expect other cultures to have something specific to him. We see other ideas that are universal and appeared in cultures that had no contact with each other. Well because as with the growth of every religion it grows in an organic fashion, through word of mouth and as cultures absorb other cultures and so forth and changes along the way. Now this is a god of unlimited power and resources. But his religion follows that same organic path and bears the same hallmarks as all the other thousands of religions it just benefits from taking hold in the waning years of a dying empire.

    My question to Christian theists is why is your god, this all-powerful, all knowing god - THE CENTRAL FACT OF THE UNIVERSE - so obscured, only perceptible to a few select and related individuals and so unsuccessful at getting the fact of his existence known to all his creations in some timely fashion?

    You know what would impress me? If there was just one other culture where we would see unmistakable similarities between it's religion and Christianity but had no contact with each other.

    Seems to me he needs to fire his PR firm.

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  32. @John-

    Just out of curiosity, which version of the Bible do you read?

    As for how do I know that the Bible is not eye-witness testimony as today's Christians believe. Well, because I've read the Bible... and it gives itself away.

    It comes down to basic critical reading skills. Now these aren't skills everybody has. People who read often don't know how to strip the layers of the text away nor do they know the formal methodology of analytical techniques required to properly analyze a text.

    Most often readers will just give a superficial reading of a text, and believe what they have read.Most devotional readings of the Bible require very little thinking about the historical or social context of the scriptural passages. Sure, Christians take everything in the Bible to be a literal representation of past events, but modern history has revealed that it's not so simple. Read a book on religious history and you'll see what I mean.

    As you might have read from TAM's newest post, I am an English teacher, and one of my areas of study was in rhetoric and theory. That's just a fancy way to say I have formal training in analytical reading and analysis.So my reading of the Bible is going to be a little bit more involved than a regular person's. That hints at the reasons why I don't put any trust in the Bible as a historical work, but at the same time, find it a invaluable work of literature.

    So how do I personally come to the conclusion the Bible can't be a historically accurate document, let alone eye-witness report of first century events? Easy... read it and see for yourself!

    But if you need it to be pointed out to you... and you still haven't read my essays (which explain in detail why I think this) here's a quick summary.

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  33. 1) The only records of Jesus’ existence are contained in the Gospel narrative of the Christian Bible. No other records of his life or deeds exist. Even as many Christians state the Gospels are ‘eye-witness’ testimonies, there are several problems with this line of reasoning worth mentioning.

    a) First, even allowing the most liberal estimates, the gospels were all written decades after Jesus purportedly lived (the book of Mark being the earliest written c.60 C.E. By contrast the fourth Gospel, John’s Gospel, may have been written as late as 170 C.E.) therefore could not possibly have been eye-witness testimony.

    b) Likewise the mention of the 500 eye-witnesses who observed the resurrection seems to be a late piece of apocrypha. Historians such as Bultmann, E.L. Allen, and C.D. Dodd among many others, agree (for various textual reasons) that the mention of the 500 is, at best, pure speculation and is historically unsound. In the book The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, biblical scholar Robert M. Price does a superb job of critically examining just this issue in chapter four, titled, “Apocryphal Apparitions: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 As a Post-Pauline Interpolation.” It’s well worth checking out if you want to know both sides of the controversy regarding the dubious mention of the 500.

    c) Conspicuously, the Gospel commentaries are simply not written like eyewitness accounts. There are countless times when Jesus wanders off alone, such as in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, or to go fast on a hillside, and then we're told exactly what he and God (or Satan) said to each other. Such blatant fabrication could only be considered literary embellishment but not historical (let alone reliable) eye-witness testimony. It’s unusual that historical report would occur when there was no one there to have been witness to report it in the first place.

    Continued below..

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  34. d) Furthermore, the Gospels (and the whole of the NT books) were written in Greek, and not Aramaic. Why is it a substantial problem for Christians? Because the spoken and written language of Jesus and his people was Aramaic and Hebrew. But there is distinctly no Aramaic or Hebrew New Testament which has survived antiquity. The complete absence of even just one fragment of this book is evidence which suggests there is no such book, and ultimately destroys the ‘eye-witness’ testimony hypothesis once and for all. Furthermore, it casts doubt on the authorship of the Gospels themselves making it even more difficult to tie them into the fabric of history.

    e) Not to forget, we don’t know who the actual authors of the Gospels were. The names Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were taken from the narratives and assigned as the pseudonymous labels for authorship, yet the fact remains the Gospel authors who wrote in fluent Greek (not typically plausible for the type who affiliated with Jesus, most of whom were illiterate fishermen or barely literate Jewish tax collectors) are completely anonymous.

    f) Even if we were to give Christian apologists the benefit of the doubt, and allow them to posit the hypothesis that at least one of the Disciples may have been fluent in Greek with the capacity to write, other historical problems arise. Paper cost, let alone the cost of writing one book, in the first century would be the equivalent of buying a new car, such as an Audi or BMW, today. If a poor group of Apostles, who abide by the teachings of a man to give up all material wealth and follow him, could afford such—then where is the money coming from? Also, when did they find time to write? Also, why did they choose to write it in narrative form resembling fiction instead of as a personal journal or travel log which represents history? Also why wait thirty to forty years after the death of Jesus to write the first book? Logically speaking if an ‘eye-witness’ did write the first of the Gospels then they would be well into their 60’s—and life expectancy in the first century was far less than that. Were they perhaps studying Greek all these long years so they could compose the Gospels in Greek? This supposes the author was of moderate age at the time of the resurrection, but then they would have been a child then, and so their testimony could not be considered reliable for the same reason children are not dependable expert witnesses in modern court hearings—their minds are too prone to influence of suggestion. Moreover, how did they afford the language lessons, being Christian and all? Remember, they had no money! Simply put, too many discrepancies arise which seeks to disconfirm the hypothesis, making it abundantly clear that the Gospels are not eye-witness testimonies.

    2) There's a stunning lack of contemporaneous evidence that Jesus ever existed—in fact there is exactly zilch, zero, nada. There are no collaborating documents of Jesus' life anywhere. Note: citing Josephus does not count, since modern scholarship has proved beyond a reason of a doubt that the phrases within Josephus’ Antiquities is actually an anachronistic interpolation by later evangelical authors.

    And that's just for starters. It takes more analysis before you get into the real involved aspects of the text, but that's just a couple of points of why the Bible is neither historically reliable and why eye-witness accounts are not viable.

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  35. @John

    You asked me how do I know the history is true? Well, in history there are never any absolutes. It comes down to our best informed estimate and approximations given the data we have.

    As it is now, most believers do not believe because they have followed the evidence to its logical end, but rather, they believe because it’s accepted and even respected to believe first and ask questions later. I feel Dan Dennett got it right when he said that this could ever only be professing belief in belief. It’s not a proof for the validity of the belief itself. Therefore when Christians say they believe Jesus was both a real tangible historical person but also, simultaneously, the Son of God they are simply confirming what we already know—they believe Jesus was all of the above because they profess that belief in believing such is praiseworthy. To not believe, they might stipulate, is the real crime.

    Nonetheless, this practice of faith in which believers conflate the Christian narrative with genuine history thereby attempting to force it together into a hybrid of fact and fiction wherein fantasy and reality get confused (making it all equally true to them), without a doubt, is the worst method I can think of when it comes to identifying the truth of the matter. This is not how history is done. In history reasonable explanations do count, but authentication counts even more, because it is what separates a historical premise from a historical reality. And it doesn’t matter whether or not you find your faith valuable or worthwhile, I don’t even care if you think it is reasonable to believe, I’m asking you to consider whether or not your beliefs are true—are they founded on a historical premise or a historical fact? That’s a big challenge to anyone, but it’s a challenge which must be overcome if you want others to accept your version of history.

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  36. Tam my point is the bible is a book written over a 1600 year period by over 40 different
    writers from different backgrounds , many of them never knew each other, most were un educated, but we still have it intact today.
    so what you say men write lots of things which we have through the ages ,true, but the church and its teaching which comes from the new testament is unique, it is organisied with just small autonomous groups in different areas, no head office, no man or group of men over a collection of churches, no head office where your money is to be sent, no position of power or glory for any one man.So my question is who would write , support,keep intact, not change such a doctrine and why.
    And just one more point on how the bible differs from others religions in isaiah 44-16
    it explains how mad we are when is shows a man cutting up a tree and with some of the tree he cooks his food and with some of the tree he carves an idol to worship typical religious nut you may say, well in acts 17 paul had to explain to the supposed enlightened greeks in verse 29 that idols or gods made with hands are no gods at all.You now look at most if not all world religions idols, statues , icons play a big part , agiain you may say that just prove how irrational religious nuts are , well you are right we humans are irrational , and if God had not explained himself to us more of us would be worshiping trees, icons, statues , money , possessions, and ourselves.

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  37. To Grant -God disagrees with you read Romans 1-18-20 the fact that a God exists is self evident but if people want to believe universe`s make and organise themselves, life make`s and organise`s itself and so on and so forth all from nothing go ahead .

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  38. To Tristan -so if Bultmann, E.L. Allen, C.D Dodd, Robert M Price say so it must be so, once again were thy eye witness to the events or what old fragments are they working from.Answer me this please what is the dates on the manuscripts they work from , are the writers of these manuscripts eyewitness`s to these events ? if not why do you believe or trust them.I dont mean to be confrontational but it seem`s you believe the so called intelluctual`s of this world are just so much wiser than us regular joe`s and we should bow to their greater wisdom.I read the bible most days of the week and I think I understand it just find.Please tell why was the new testament written? seems you know so much about the bible, and bible verses to back up your belief`s would be required.

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  39. john, you now appear to be comparing the work of critical Bible scholars to the manuscripts they are critiquing. The comparison breaks down the minute you give it a little thought. The scholars are simply reviewing evidence (which is there for all to see) and providing their opinion. In that regard, the scholars are eyewitnesses. Your reliance on the Bible as somehow being inerrant ignores the fact that the authors were not eyewitnesses.

    Tristan also brings up a fact that I had never really given much thought to before now: Conspicuously, the Gospel commentaries are simply not written like eyewitness accounts. There are countless times when Jesus wanders off alone, such as in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, or to go fast on a hillside, and then we're told exactly what he and God (or Satan) said to each other. Such blatant fabrication could only be considered literary embellishment but not historical (let alone reliable) eye-witness testimony. It’s unusual that historical report would occur when there was no one there to have been witness to report it in the first place Your reply?

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  40. Tam - you don`t seem to know the difference between evidence and interpertation of evidence
    what i called into question was,first what manuscripts these so called experts worked from and how you judge the veracity of these manuscripts, and how they are any more trustworthy than the bible.Secondly these manuscripts biblical and otherwise are the actual evidence people then give their opinion educated or otherwise this is interperation of the evidence, so who` right .
    Now as regards Jesus being alone but the new testament recording what happened see John 16-13 the holy spirit was to guide them into all the truth , I believe God made the universe so guiding the writers on the new testament was no problem.A good quote I heard recently was that a certain bible verse was so easy to understand that it would take a group of theologians to mis-interpret it, i dare say you could say the same about bible scholars

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  41. john, when you refer to the Bible in order to defend the truth of the of the Bible, you are comitting the logical fallacy of begging the question. You are assuming the thing to be true that you are trying to prove.

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  42. John@ Am early version of this would be helpful:
    http://www.edge.org/documents/Edge-Serpentine-MapsGallery/large-14.html

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  43. @John

    Finally, if you're going to rely on the Holy Spirit as your "evidence" to prove the validity of your claim, I shall one up you and use the Unicornian Spirit of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, and negate your claim! So there!

    Now, I know what you're going to say. The Bible at least has "historical" documents to prove that Jesus was real. Therefore, if Jesus existed, the Holy Spirit must be real too!

    You forget though, even though Jesus is briefly described throughout the NT the Holy Spirit doesn't have anything written about it. All we know is that it comes and goes, and occasionally glows.

    That's what your hanging the validity of your claim on? Well, I was hoping you'd have something better than that.

    I mean, when I was a Christian I believed that God was real with all my heart, mind, and soul. And I KNEW that God had to be something more than just a vagary of perception.

    Now maybe you are content to trust in illusions of the scale which make you believe in the imaginary powers of the Holy Spirit... but such a concept is so ill-defined, so lacking in support, that to put your faith in the Holy Spirit is to admit intellectual defeat. It is to forfit the argument, the might of right (via faith) vs. having to prove your argument with real empyrical evidence and hard won facts.

    Even if the Holy Spirit does exist, in some capacity, you have not provided a single method of testing the reliability of what the Holy Spirit wills and how you determine by independent means whether or not what it wills is accurate with what we know about history.

    You've merely claimed that Bible is right, the Holy Spirit is real (as described in the Bible--the only source we know of its vague mention), and so this is how you know the Bible is right?

    I mean, really?

    It seems rather like circular reasoning to me. Might I suggest a different tactic. Look at the real history, read some of the biblical scholarship of the past three hundred years, after a year of reading up on the history of your faith try to compare and contrast what history says with what your convictions say.

    You keep asking me redundant questions, such as how do you know the history is accurate? Because I looked into it, read a whole lot of it, compared and contrasted the competing theories, and have a general idea of what the consensus view is.

    Now that's not to say it is 100% foolproof. One of the things we can't overlook is the fact that history creates models of what is likely to be the most accurate version of past event by collecting the data and making predictions based off of the collected evidence.

    Now you may think your faith is 100% infallible, but then you'd have no reason to be arguing with me, your evidence would be so superfluous you could squash my feeble attempt to question the validity of a verifiable fact.

    What I'm saying to you is, that when you actually attempt to gather the data, search for the evidence, to justify your claim to faith... it's not that simple.

    But I'm done going in circles.

    You can read the pertinent information I've collected, both as a Christian and now as a skeptic, on my Advocatus Atheist blog. But there's not enough room in a simple comments section to post all the relevant information you keep demanding of me. So feel free to drop by my blog anytime.

    If you have more specific questions I'd be more than happy to try to answer them (to the best of my ability).

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  44. It appears the second part didn't get posted.

    TAM, if this is a repeat post please feel free to delete it.


    Development of the New Testament Canon

    C.CE 51-125:
    Various Christian sects write a variety of works; among them the New Testament (abbreviation “NT”) books are written. The Gospels are written along with other early Christian writings, e.g. the Didache (c. 70), 1 Clement (c. 96), the Epistle of Barnabas (c. 100), the seven letters of Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110), etc.

    C.CE 140:
    Marcion espouses that there are two different Gods contained in scripture—Yahweh, the cruel God of the OT, and Abba, the kind fatherly deity of the NT. Marcion, being anti-Semitic, eliminates the OT as scriptures and maintains only the ten letters of Paul and two-thirds of Luke’s gospel (deleting all references to Jesus’ “Jewishness”) in the process. Marcion’s NT canon is the first to be compiled, but his arbitrary omissions force the mainstream Church to decide on a core canon. These will become the four Gospels and the letters of Paul of Tarsus.

    C.CE 200:
    At about this time in Rome, the periphery of the canon is determined. Of the peripheral materials included are the four Gospels, Acts, now 13 letters of Paul (Hebrews is not included); three of the seven general Epistles (1-2 John and Jude), and also the Apocalypse of Peter.

    C.E. 313:
    In 313 Emperor Constantine proclaims tolerance and recognition of Christianity in the “Edict” of Milan. The following year Constantine goes to war with Licinius who he defeats in 323, becoming sole emperor. Constantine founds a new second capital at Byzantium, which he named Constantinople (now modern day Istanbul). This allows a new dawn of freedom and tolerance for Christianity to flourish.

    C.E. 340:
    Eusebius devised a threefold classification; noting the accepted, disputed, and rejected books. Eusebius would reluctantly include John’s Revelation, but rejected the Didache, Acts of Paul, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the epistle of Barnabas, while the gospels of Peter, Thomas, and Matthias weren’t even considered for inclusion; mainly because they were incomplete. A full copy of the gospel of Thomas wouldn’t be unearthed until the find at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945 CE; over one thousand and six hundred years later!

    C.E. 367:
    The earliest extant list of books we see in the NT, as we presently have them, is written by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, as contained in his Easter letter of 367.

    C.E. 904:
    Prior to his papacy Pope Damasus II, in a letter to a French bishop, lists the NT books in their present number and order.

    C.E. 1442:
    At the Council of Florence, the entire Church agrees to recognize 27 books of the NT, though does not declare them unalterable.

    C.E.1523-26:
    William Tyndale begins work on his translation of the Bible into English, following Erasmus’ (1522) Greek edition as well as drawing on the Latin Vulgate and Luther’s 1521 September Testament. Tyndale finalizes his NT in 1526.

    C.E. 1536:
    In his translation of the Bible from Greek into German, Luther removes four NT books (Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation) from their original order and repositions them at the end, in an appendix, believing them to be less than canonical. A year earlier, Tyndale is martyred for the crime of having translated the Holy Bible into English.

    C.E. 1546:
    At the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church reaffirms the complete 27 books of the canon as traditionally accepted.

    C.E. 1611:
    The King James Version, or Authorized Version, of the Bible would rely directly on Tyndale’s translation. A complete analyze of the Authorized Version in 1998 showed that Tyndale’s words, although unrecognized as its official translator, account for 84% of the NT and 75.8 percent of the OT books which comprise the King James Version—the most influential version of the Bible ever devised.


    It all seems rather man-made if you ask me.

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  45. because it does not seem divinely to you , does not mean its not.A question to you though is what part of the new testament was written by men to somehow get some advantage or glory for themselves as men tend to do, or in you opinion why was it written.

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  46. john, I know you're fond of the NT. All questions relating to the historicity of Jesus aside, why is there is no independent historical record of the events described in Matthew 27:51-53 (i.e. zombies overtake Jerusalem)?

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  47. Tam you are right there in no historical evidence outside the bible for a lot of what the bible says so i believe in faith these events.Now a question for you Tam there is no historical independent record of the universe making itself from nothing, life making itself
    from nothing,new genetic material arising from mutation`s, and so on and so forth, so do you believe these by faith or for some other reason.

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  48. john, as far as the universe making itself from nothing, I rely on physicists who can work the chemistry back to a millisecond after the big bang. When they attempt to go back earlier than that, our current known laws of physics break down.

    As far as life making itself from nothing, I presume you mean life evolving from inanimate matter. That one is easy. Every molecule in your body is composed of inanimate matter. Some of the basic building blocks of life (amino acids) have already been created in laboratory settings which recreate the atmospheric conditions which would have prevailedon earth a billion+ years ago. It's only a matter of time before scientists crack this nut.

    I'm not sure what you mean by new genetic material arising from mutations. Perhaps you can elaborate.

    I prefer science's attempts to answering these questions. To the extent that these questions remain unanswered, all you are making is an argument from ignorance.

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  49. Tam - in pure scientific terms there are two options proof or faith now you seem to know that the big bang is fact , that life arose from non life is fact, that new genetic material is generated by mutation is fact.
    scientist`s dont know what actually cause`s earth` gravity, or how the sun actually works, but somehow can tell us what happened billions of years ago to create the universe , when all they have is mathematical theories, the big bang is a fairy story.Honestly Tam just type the words problems with the big bang into google and just look at honest scientific sites and see just how much fact is contained within.And as for life creating itself no one has ever seen it happen, no one has ever done it in a lab , no one knows how it happens so the have to theorise and believe it happened such and such a way and when you use the word believe you are into the realms of faith.So you and I believe certain things about life , creation, the universe,God, it just come down to who`s belief is most reasonable, and i guess we just disagree on that

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  50. Tristan, I'm not sure if you're still following this thread but I just discovered that several of your comments were sitting in blogger's spam filter. Sorry about that.

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  51. To Tristan - you said the holy spirit has not much said about him in the new testament well try, Matthew 1.18,1.20,3.11,12.32 acts 1.5, 1.2,1.16 these are just some of the 80 to 100
    verses which mention the holy spirit.
    I dont dont claim my faith to be foolproof if it was it would not be faith are you claiming everything you believe to be foolproof. I believe the bible is Gods word so the bible is foolproof but as for my faith thats a different story.
    You say I need to look at what bible scholars of the last three hundred years have to say about my faith, now these scholars tend to be
    educated in catholic, baptist, lutheran, calvinist, places of learning which show straight away they know nothing about the bible, as I have said before was Paul , or Peter a calvinist , or Lutheran, or catholic, no, if these scholars can not even get the name right what chance do they have of understanding anything about the bible.

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