Why I Rejected Christianity Review: Christ’s Birth

We continue our look today with the look at the birth narratives of Christ which have earlier been claimed to be contradictory, although no contradictions were given. Let’s take a look and see and keep in mind that it speaks much of how Christ was viewed that a birth narrative even exists. In the huge majority of ancient biographies, you will find nothing about the birth and/or childhood of a person.

The first aspect to deal with is the star. What was it? The consensus is not in on this one yet. I lean towards an alignment of the planets in this case. I’m open to change though. Why didn’t everyone else see it? Well who says that they didn’t? They might have seen it and thought nothing of it. It could have been something only the astrologers would notice. (And astrology was not esteemed too much in Israel.)

Was he born in Bethlehem? We have no reason to think he wasn’t even in Luke. We are told that if we take Luke literally, we can’t say that. Now I am frankly puzzled by that since the Luke account does say that Jesus was born in Bethlehem? I leave it then to give the author the benefit of the doubt and as we’ve studied more, it seems Luke got more and more right we’re finding each time. He would have been familiar with the procedures of the time and why they were done.

Again, Loftus makes a reference to contradictions in the text citing another author. (Robin Lane Fox in the Unauthorized Version.) It should be noted though that something that is not understood is not a contradiction. It will have to be demonstrated what the error is and that will be done by showing what really happened. One looks at the assertions about Matthew being wrong, but one doesn’t find any supporting evidence for it. It is merely an assertion.

As for the hometown of Mary and Joseph, what exactly is the problem? The text simply says that after the family returned from Egypt, they lived in Nazareth. Could it be they simply stayed where Jesus was born for a time and then fled to Egypt and when they came back, they went to their hometown?

Much is made about Mary asking the angel how she can conceive since she knows not a man. The author, Ranke-Heinemann says this has to be made up since she said “man” instead of “husband.” Simple reason. Mary wasn’t married then. She was legally engaged so she didn’t know a man yet. (And Joseph would qualify as one.)

And of course, there’s the silence on the virgin birth in the Pauline epistles, the gospel of John, and the gospel of Mark. (For the record, none of these mention the Sermon on the Mount either.) Why did people in the adult community not know about the virgin birth? Simple guess? You think they would have believed it? They weren’t gullible after all….

As for the translation of Almah and Isaiah 7:14, that is best left to the experts in Greek and Hebrew grammar. I don’t claim to be one. An excellent look at it though can be found in Robert Reymond’s work “Jesus: Divine Messiah.” (An excellent book to read anyway.) I will say the mode of interpretation is pesher.  (I urge the reader to look that up himself or herself to learn about it.)

Finally, it ends with science. How can Jesus be a human being? Since we know it takes a male sperm and a female egg now, how could Jesus be human if he didn’t have a human sperm?

Yes everyone. Keep in mind that if you believe that God created the universe, he’s really going to have to work extra hard to make one sperm cell to fertilize an egg. Modern genetics doesn’t do any damage whatsoever to the idea of the virgin birth. We call it a miracle for a reason.

Tomorrow, we start looking at the deity of Christ.

Why I Rejected Christianity Review: The Internal Witness of the Holy Spirit

If anyone has ever heard William Lane Craig debate, you know what argument #5 is for the truth of Christianity and that is the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. I’ve heard several audio debates of Craig. (Unfortunately, I have yet to meet him. He’s one of few I haven’t met yet and I look forward to the day.) I cannot imagine anyone as an atheist wanting to go against Craig with his sharp mind and encyclopedic knowledge.

Yet on this point, I disagree.

Loftus doesn’t think much of this argument and frankly, neither do I. Readers of my blog are probably not surprised to hear that seeing as I have written much on the idea of hearing the voice of God and feeling led by the Spirit. I am greatly concerned with what I call Pop Christianity that promises things as normative that were never meant to be as normative which leads many to apostasy.

By the way, I also consider that happened to Loftus as he wonders why it is in a church that the Holy Spirit is not giving the proper interpretation of the text of Scripture to each person. This is not the role of the Holy Spirit in biblical interpretation. The Spirit convicts you on the text, but does not tell you what it means. Loftus counts this as something that led to his doubt.

Of course, I think of being in meetings where the church is trying to decide and the vote is to be to how the Spirit leads each person. Unfortunately, it seems the Holy Spirit cannot make up his mind as the vote is far from unanimous. It seems that if people really think they’re hearing from God, why can’t one person say when the vote comes “This is the one God wants.” This is an awfully dangerous idea.

Hence, I don’t really like to base religious decision on feelings. Religion can produce feelings, but it is not about feelings. I think the same thing applies to marriage. Being in love produces feelings, but in our society, I fear we have reached the point where if the feeling is not there, then it is not love.

Now do I have any suggestions for another fifth argument?

My first choice would really be the argument from beauty. I find aesthetic experiences to be something universal and we all seem to know some things that we consider beautiful and anyone who would deny that that is beautiful, well they just don’t know what they’re talking about.

However, we could speak about the testimony of the changed lives of people. We could give examples of prayers that have been answered. We could talk about how society has changed for the better due to the coming of Christianity. The fifth argument as it stands now is just something I cannot support.

Now do I support Dr. Craig? Of course I do! He’s a marvel I’d still love to meet. However, I just can’t say I agree with the fifth argument. I’d prefer something that I think the non-Christian can see in some way. When the Christian is in doubt about Christianity, they don’t need to look for a feeling. They need to look at the rational ideas that they know. (I find when I am in doubt, it is emotion taking over and the rational is downplayed.) If feelings come, fine. If not, that’s fine also. Christ is still Lord.

Why I Rejected Christianity Review: Miracles Part 2

We continue this with Mackie’s argument against miracles. Mackie says that a theist “must concede to Hume that the antecedent improbability of this event is as high as it could be, hence that, apart from the testimony, we have the strongest possible grounds for believing that the alleged event did not occur.” (p. 169)

This gets to my response now to the Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence argument.

“You got it.”

If someone needs extraordinary evidence, then Christianity has it. If one looks at just miracles in isolation, then there could conceivably be a difficulty in showing if one occurred. However, if one considers arguments for the existence of God and the reliability of Scripture, then we can be assured that they did occur.

The hard thing is it involves us taking away our presuppositions that the natural world is all there is.

Mackie contends that when someone theistic debates someone who is not, their point of view will be that the event is either not miraculous, did not occur, or we have faulty testimony. This though is indeed the problem. It is not proper to approach the question of miracles and assume right off that miracles cannot occur. If one reads the Bible with that assumption, it’s no surprise if they think it’s nonsense.

The best approach would simply be agnosticism at first. Now I argue from the theistic perspective simply because I find the evidence convincing. You might ask me why someone couldn’t then argue from the atheistic perspective. I’d simply point to what Hume said. Because we drop a stone 1,000 times and it falls, it doesn’t mean it will fall the 1,001st time.

Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that a miracle has never occurred. (Alright. We’d have a hard time explaining the existence of the universe, but let’s assume some bizarre theory has explained it.) Is this proof that there is no God and that a miracle hasn’t occurred? We’ll even add in that all theistic arguments have been debunked.

The answer is no. Now Christianity is definitely false if no miracles have occurred, but theism isn’t. It would just mean that we had really bad reasons for believing in the existence of God. It could be there is a god hidden out there who might just want to make himself known one grand time in one grand miracle.

Loftus also has this quote. “Science has progressed on the assumption that miracles don’t occur in the laboratory.” (P. 170) I assume he means that when we reach the lab and do our work, we assume that miracles have never happened and then we do our work from there.

That would be a shock to all the theistic scientists for years who started so many branches of science and made great contributions to learn that they were doing all their work assuming all the while that the universe they lived in was one where miracles did not occur.

This, I believe, is the real assumption of true science. It states that there is a rational order to the universe and it does follow rational laws and that our minds can correspond to this universe as well as our rules of arithmetic and that the universe has a certain beauty to it in its laws. (All of which must be assumed by science. It cannot prove any of them.)

The scientist then works assuming that these laws are the way that the matter in the universe normally acts. He does not assume God cannot act any more than he assumes that one of his co-workers can knock over a vial in the lab. To do so would not violate the laws of nature any more than God acting violates the laws of nature.

In fact, the theist believing in a rational mind behind the universe has a basis for that belief. The atheistic scientist must ask with the assumption that it is true but with no reason behind it. He must act on a leap of faith that his senses are giving him accurate information about the real world.

The question now moves to how can God act in a material world? How can the immaterial act on the material?

So the hidden asssumption is “If you don’t know a way, there isn’t one.”

Why should I believe that though? I believe I have an immaterial soul and that immaterial soul is acting on my material body right now. Do I understand how? Not at all. It doesn’t stop me from typing right now though. I don’t understand how the material acts on the material. I have no idea how the internet works, but that is not stopping me from typing this blog, posting it for everyone, and believing that it can be seen by everyone.

Finally, there’s the idea of “What if some miracles are explained?”

Okay. Loftus starts with the Hebrew boys thrown in the fiery furnace and how they landed on cool spots. So they came out and they were not burned at all because they happened to get to these cool spots.

I don’t know which is more miraculous. That the Hebrew boys survived or that someone finds that explanation credible.

Let’s suppose that the biggest one was explained. Let’s suppose we found a natural explanation for the resurrection. This would also have to be explained:

How it was known it would happen with the coming of Christ in advance through prophecy.

How Christ knew it would happen.

How Christ predicted it.

How Christ found this out long before anyone in modern science ever did.

How it just happened to be the one perfect sinless individual.

How his other miracles still took place.

I don’t expect these answers to come any time soon.

Tomorrow, we shall look at the chapter on William Lane Craig’s inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Those of you who know my past writings might know what I think of this argument.

Why I Rejected Christianity Review: Miracles

We now move on to the chapter on miracles, which we have discussed here often.

The idea of comsology has already been discussed. I urge the reader to look at in-depth reports at the Christian-thinktank.com. Since these are in the Old Testament also, it would be wise to get a copy of Walter Kaiser’s work, “The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?”

The second and third category is more interesting.

These are things like an axehead floating, walking on water, and diseases being healed on the spot and of course, the virgin birth. I find it amusing to see the dead being raised in the category. (When did we discover that the dead coming back to life was a problem for the biological sciences exactly?)

Friends. We’ve answered this enough times. Those kinds of things are miracles because there is such a thing as the natural law and while the ancients did not know the theory of relativity, they did know basic information about the world. (Especially in a Hellenistic culture. What do you think started philosophy?)

The fourth class are things that seem just strange to moderns today. (Because we all know floating axeheads and virgin births aren’t strange at all. I saw one just the other day….) In this we have events like Daniel in the lion’s den and Balaam’s donkey as well as the speaking of foreign languages at Pentecost.

Friends. It’s just amazing what people will go to to try to explain them away instead of just being willing to accept that a miracle happened. “But we don’t see them today!” Maybe you don’t. I don’t. So what? That doesn’t mean a thing. I’m not going to say it never happened just because I’ve never seen it happen. (These are the same ones that expect us to believe life naturally came from non-life. Go figure.)

The Humean objection is given as well. If my readers do not know it, I urge them to simply do a Google search and look for Hume’s argument against miracles.  C.S. Lewis and others have pointed out the circularity of the argument. One must assume the uniformity of experience, but that has yet to be demonstrated.

Loftus also brings forward the argument of Ron Nash that the strongest objection to miracles is that there are miracle claims in other religions.

Well, let’s look at that. The main one given is Islam.

In the Qu’ran, Muhammad makes it plain that he is just a warner.  He never claims to do miracles, although the Qu’ran does state that Jesus did miracles. (For any Muslim readers, I have read the Qu’ran. Have you read the gospels?) So when do these miracle stories of Muhammad show up?

They show up about 150 years after Muhammad and most likely because Christian apologists back then were arguing with Muslims and using the miracles of Jesus and so some miracles had to be added to Muhammad’s career. Probably the most famous is the splitting of the moon in two.

So what’s the difference? No eyewitnesses around. The Qu’ran argues against it. There’s no archaeological evidence of the reliability of the Qu’ran. Compare that to the Scripture where we have reason to trust it, where it was written from eyewitness accounts, and where it fits in perfectly with the worldview.

Interesting note also: There is hardly anyone who denies that Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. What does he say in 12:12? He says the signs of an apostle were done among the Corinthians by him and that includes signs, wonders, and mighty deeds. (We today call those miracles.) You aren’t going to write to someone where the issue is at stake your credibility and say you did miracles if you did no such thing.

Something else to note later on. Loftus says that Lewis and Craig would not believe in miracles that attest to major truth claims of other religions. I can’t speak for them, but I wouldn’t have a problem with them. If someone presents a miracle in another religion, I would look at it just as much as I would in my own religion. (And I assure you, when a Christian comes to me with a miracle claim, I’m also one to not believe it immediately, aside from exceptions such as a really close friend or family member.)

I have no problem with other supernatural powers at work doing something or even God granting a miracle in another religion that could be used to give someone light. I treat them all equally. It’s foolish to deny miracles can occur outright. It’s just as foolish to believe all claims outright.

I wish there was more here, but there just isn’t. There’s some bizarre idea that the more we know the natural world, the more we realize miracles can’t occur. It simply assumes that all strange events really are works of natural law and that the ancients didn’t know better.

Excuse me, but I’m still skeptical, and to play the skeptic card they love to use, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and frankly, they don’t have it.

Why I Rejected Christianity Review: History Part 2

Before starting this one, I’d like us to consider something. One argument against miracles is that we don’t experience them in the present (supposedly), so why should we believe that they happened in the past. Ironically, I believe that this argument can turn on the tails of the atheist.

We do not see a case today of life coming from non-life, yet we are to believe that this happened by naturalistic means. (I’m not arguing with theistic evolutionists here.) In fact, we have intelligent men and women working to try to get this to happen and it hasn’t yet. Well based on that, then I think we can conclude it unlikely that it happened in the past.

On the other hand, we can show reports of people having experiences of the divine be they miracles or visions (Which there are several reports of Muslims converting after appearances of Christ to them) and unless all of these are completely false, then it’s quite possible to believe there is a God who can act and if he can, then we’d best be open to miracles.

That said, let’s move on.

Loftus wishes us to review I. Howard Marshall’s reasons for why it can be difficult to know about the past. The first is that the majority of our info comes from Christians.

Note though that there is much from non-Christians. Experts like Edwin Yamauchi have built a powerful case on what we can know about Jesus based on non-Christian sources alone. Nevertheless, we will see briefly why we can trust the writers of the New Testament.

Did they have bias? Of course. Every historian does. A historian only writes what he cares about. The question is though, does this bias influence negatively or positively? Let’s suppose they wanted to really present Jesus as the divine Son of God who has come to bring salvation and who died and rose again.

It would seem then they would want to be faithful to their long-awaited Messiah who is actually their God. It would seem they would realize that their readers would be skeptical. If that was the case, their bias could then work for them in that they’d be as accurate as possible.

This is especially the case with Luke who is said to be one who dots every i and crosses every t. Why do we trust the Bible? I recall the words of a former mentor of mine who was an atheist until Christ came and changed his life. He’s now with his Lord. What did he say? “I can trust the Bible in the things I can test. I’ll trust it in the things that I can’t.”

The second is that it can be pointed out that many similar stories of the miraculous were told by all kinds of respected people in ancient times.

Now there were some cases of healing reported, but it was hardly as common as is made out to be. Again, Glenn Miller at the Christian-thinktank has argued that it is in fact just the opposite, taking on the very work of Richard Carrier that Loftus cites favorably in his book.


Third is that the modern historian lives in a modern world where these don’t take place.

I don’t think I need to repeat my skepticism at this point….

One thing to mention is that Loftus says that they lived in the ancient world in a world where nothing was known about nature’s fixed laws,  but just a God who expresses his will in all events.

If nothing was known about them though, then there could be no such thing as a miracle. To understand a miracle is to know that there is a natural order and that something has happened to that natural order in some way. St. Peter did not know that water is two parts hydrogen and one oxygen, but he did know that if he stood on water, he would not be standing long.

We’ll conclude with a look at is this system fair. Why base it on history?

Apparently, a world of constant miracles and interventions is the way to go.

However, having it in history means that it can be accessed by all people in all times in all places. Is there a lot of study to be done? Yes. There is. If it’s for the truth, it’s worth it though. Contrary to Loftus though, I think a lot of people don’t come to Christ because of lifestyle change and there is a part of each of us that still resists the Holy Spirit in this.

Christ calls you to die to yourself. No other religious leader has a message like Christ’s. You have to confess that he is God and you are not. Now is the case 100% certain? No. It isn’t. It’s far more likely though based on the combined total of historical, philsophical, and scientific arguments that God did raise Jesus from the dead.

Loftus tells us that if the miraculous is involved, there can never be a sufficient reason for accepting it.

That’s odd. There’s been sufficient reason for several people for 2,000 years nearly. I find sufficient reason. Loftus might think God judging us is unfair. This though raises another question. Where did this idea of fairness come from? Whatever excuse Loftus has, on the last day, it will not be good enough.

The first objection Loftus raises to his view is that the history of the church is evidence.

Indeed, it is, and for reasons Loftus doesn’t seem to understand. Why would a bunch of people suddenly begin following a crucified criminal and risk all believing that he rose from the dead. This is one of the main reasons in the thinking of J.P. Holding. (I have plans soon to order his book “The Impossible Faith.”

The second is that Jesus said some wouldn’t believe even if God raised a man from the dead.

For starters, that’s not really what the parable in Luke says. It says if they will not believe Moses and the prophets, they won’t even believe a resurrection. Loftus suggest a glowing cross appearing in the sky.

Exactly what would that show?

First off, the people of the world would have to have an understanding of what it meant.

Second, they’d have to still put their trust even if they did understand it.

Third, what will be the content of such a belief?

The reason I don’t think God does these is that while God wants people to be saved, the people need to want it to. They need to be in search of truth. God’s not interested in people knowing he is there just to know he is there. He’s not interested in people knowing Christ is Lord just to know he’s Lord. It is more than the intellect he is interested in. It is the will as well.

The third is that people don’t come because of sin.

I think this is the most likely reason of course.

Well what about the those Tibetan Monks?

First off, have they heard? If not, then we need to wait and see. If they have though, then we have a case of idolatry. I’ve written on this before, but people can often make morality an idol. Morality is a pointer to God. A finger is good at pointing to the moon, but woe to him who mistakes the finger for the moon.

What about the Muslim? They have even more to lose! Doesn’t Loftus know the price in Muslim nations of forsaking Islam and coming to Christ?

Loftus also says repentance is easy. I doubt this is the case though. Changing one’s lifestyle is not easy. Especially when we have to admit we were wrong about some things. We are often quite resistant to the surgeon’s knife.

Tomorrow, we shall move to the next chapter and look more at miracles.

Why I Rejected Christianity Review: History Part 1

We move on now to history and the Christian faith. The start is with Lessing asking if we can believe in miracles since we don’t see them happening today. Is there any reason why people should? Can we look at the historical claims of Christ which involve miracles and get to the point where we can make the leap of trust?

First off, how do we know some miracles aren’t happening today? There are claims from all over the world today. Have we proved them all false?

Second, I would not say that I have ever seen a miracle. However, that does not mean that I do not believe in miracles. I treat the evidence for them like I would any other claim. Are we to automatically assume that if God exists, he must be doing miracles at the same rate throughout all history?

Keep in mind some things as we examine this section:

First off, we’ve been told that we should not believe in the Exodus because of the lack of evidence.

Second, we’ve been told we should believe macroevolutionary theory happened in history.

Third, in the comments, we’ve been told we should believe that there were 100,000 witches slain in Europe witch hunts.

Finally, we’ve been told there isn’t evidence of the history Mormonism claims. (And I agree with that.)

Keep those in mind….

Naturally, the first major objection raised is that of biblical miracles. After all, if we can doubt events that don’t have a supernatural nature, then how much more so should we doubt supernatural events?

Um. Why?

The only reason for extra doubt is if you automatically doubt the claims of the supernatural. Why should I do that though? Loftus has not given us any reason to doubt the existence of God. I haven’t seen anything in his book (And I’ve read the whole thing) that gives me pause. Even supposed we didn’t have an argument for God’s existence, it would not mean he doesn’t exist. It just means we haven’t thought of good reasons for believing that he does.

Now he brings up how Craig says the scientist and historian have the same goal so Loftus decides to look at how modern science got where it is.

Of course, we’ve covered this in the superstitions thread.

First, the idea that epilepsy was from demon possession or sicknesses were sent to punish people.

However, because some cases of epilepsy could have involved a demon, it does not follow that all do. Also, it could be demon possession had symptoms like epilepsy without being epilepsy. Furthermore, not all sicknesses were punishments. There were numerous healings in Scripture that did not make any mention of punishment.

Second, the belief that God alone opens the womb of the woman.

It’d be interesting to see where this is found. Because God sometimes did close wombs, then that means the ancients saw no natural causes at work at all? This is common with just taking some incidents and saying that’s the totality of the worldview.

Third, the idea that God sent the rain. Never mind that Jesus spoke in Matthew of how the Pharisees knew how to read the signs of weather but not the signs of the times.

Fourth, we know how babies are created.

It’s hard to believe that someone with degrees in philosophy would not know that the ancients knew about this. When Sarai gave Hagar to Abram, she told him to sleep with her? Why? To continue the bloodline and give an heir. Why? Because Sarai and Abram both knew what it took to make a baby.

This is also why Joseph sought to divorce Mary in secret. He knew what it took to make a baby and that he hadn’t done that.

If there is an objection that just irks me, it’s this type of objection.

Also, note that the ancients did not seek to control nature. Nature was not an enemy but a partner. They sought to conform themselves to nature. We seek to control nature.

Also, Loftus points out that science works on methodological naturalism which assumes that for all we experience, there is a natural cause. (P. 155)

Cute isn’t it? Makes you wonder if we’d be accused of begging the question if we said we were going to work under the assumption of methodological theism.

The problem with the term is that it equates the worldview with science. Why not instead say you’re just going to study the subject? When a scientist studies a cell, it doesn’t matter if it was designed or apparently designed. He wants to find out how it works the same way.

Do we assume there is a natural explanation for all that happens? Why should we? There are other beings who can act and here’s something to consider. Could our actions be considered “natural causes?” Is all we do the result of the movement of molecules? Could it be there is far little natural in the universe than we think?

Tomorrow, we shall continue looking at the skepticism of miracles in history.

Why I Rejected Christianity Review: The Exodus

This will be a short one as this is a short section basically calling into question the historicity of the Exodus. I recall Walter Kaiser saying that with archaeology, the best thing to do is wait. Many findings have been made to the point where things once thought non-existent are seen as basic knowledge today. Kaiser would tell you even problems that are still waiting for solutions, but simply wait. Don’t buy an argument from silence.

Let’s look at some statements. First off, it’s highly unlikely the Pharaohs would record their own defeats, especially an embarrassing one like this. What Pharaoh would say that he chased the runaway slaves into the sea only to have the waters come crashing down around them and bury them?

Secondly, what archaeological evidence is to be found? I doubt that some of the material would hold well under the water for so many centuries. Chances are, we are more likely to find something in a tablet making a reference to an unusual event. (Glenn Miller to be cited later does have such an instance.)

As to the difficulties of the crossing, Glenn Miller gives a better picture of the territory that would need to be crossed. His excellent article is here:


I definitely recommend it.

Other than that, there really isn’t much to say tonight. We simply have arguments from silence. I’m still of the same opinion. Wait. The Bible has shown itself to be reliable in other areas. I will trust it in this one also.

Why I Rejected Christianity Review: Pseudonymity

We now move on to another chapter and this time we’re discussing Pseudonymity. Were the books of the Bible really written by the men who were claimed to have written them? Loftus claims that it’s already been shown that Genesis 1-2 are two different creation accounts in a JEPD style. (I wasn’t impressed.) It’s also been shown that Genesis 6-9 drew through several folk sources. (Again, no memo received.)

Now let’s move to the rest of the Pentateuch and the reasons for doubting Mosaic authorship.

#1-The death of Moses in Deuteronomy.

As Loftus says, even conservatives say Moses didn’t write this. I agree. How this goes against general authorship though is something I’m missing.

#2-Dan in Genesis 14 when the city wasn’t established until Judges 18:27

A person may think the Jews were wrong on many things, but let us not think they were stupid and/or ignorant of their own history. They all knew their tribes. They would all ready Genesis 14 and know when the tribes of Israel came about. What’s going on here?

Probably, the scribes did change the name of the city in the text. Why? For the readers of the time. Josephus spoke of this passage and how the five kings laid waste to all Syria. Syria didn’t exist then, but Josephus is using terminology his readers would know about. This does not go against the doctrine of inerrancy in anyway or change that it was originally written by Moses.

#3)Genesis 36:31 speaks of a king ruling over Israel long before Saul.

This is the same type of thing. The text was handed down for years and it’s no fault to have some statements made to clarify things as if it was a gloss for the readers. This would be done rarely though as the Jews did treat these texts as sacred.

#4)Exodus 16:35. They ate manna until they reached the border though Moses was dead then.

Same deal.

#5) Og’s bed is much too late.

You know the drill by now.

As for the claim that the Pentateuch was written at the time of Josiah, this is based on an outdated JEPD theory. I urge the reader to go and read some more on modern ideas that counter the JEPD theory.

We also have the controversy over Isaiah. (Note though that there has always been just the one scroll of Isaiah as a unity.) Claims against it are based on the idea that prophecy of Babylon would not occur alongside that of Nineveh. However, counter-claims are quite strong as one does find language similarity throughout the book. (Even if dated later, Isaiah 53 is still a remarkably accurate prophecy.)

Does this still hold relevant to people who are not in exile? Why not? He is simply speaking of things that are to come and for one of the greatest prophets in Hebrew history, why should this be seen as a surprise?

We move on to Daniel and at root is the problem of predictive prophecy again. However, there is also the problem of Aramaic. More recent findings though do show that this kind of Aramaic was around at the time of Daniel and would have been used by those in royal office.

Now Loftus goes on to list several works written under pseudonyms. I think it’s be outlandish to deny that this happened. Many books in the DSS are like that and several gnostic gospels are as well. The question is in relation to the biblical texts as we’ll see as we move on to the NT. Let’s move on to there.

We start with the usual passages of Mark 16:9-20, John 7:53-John 8:11, 1 John 5:7-8, Acts 8:37, and John 5:3-4.

It makes me feel like I’m reading a book by someone endorsing King James Onlyism.

These are the kinds of things that give students who are unfamiliar with the history of the text nightmares. For the rest of us, we know there were glosses and such added on. It doesn’t concern us as we have a huge multiplicity of documents that can help tell us what was in the original. (The early church fathers knew about these also! This is nothing new! Note: 1 John 5:7-8 would be the exception as I think that comes more from the medieval period.)

What about Jude quoting 1 Enoch? Geez. Could it be that Jude was using a source that made a strong point that he agreed with just as Paul agreed with Menander and others? Do we have reason really to believe that Jude thought that Enoch wrote that book?

And what about Paul finding sin and death being the problem in Romans 5 and basing that on Genesis 2-3?

Well, yeah.

Somehow, this is supposed to be a problem?

Somehow, a NT writer with greater understanding based on the teachings of Christ can see the point now of an OT passage and that’s a problem?

As for Jannes and Jambres in 2 Tim. 3:8-9, Paul was using a well-known tradition of the time that said these were the magicians who opposed Moses.

We have a quote also that all scholars admit that Matthew is not the work of an eyewitness.

Apparently, Richard Bauckham didn’t get that memo.

Let’s see. Let’s suppose Matthew used Mark and the so-called Q. Any reason why an apostle would use another source?

Let’s see. Mark was the account of Peter and Peter was of the inner circle…

So that means Peter saw things that Matthew didn’t…

And why would he copy word for word his own calling from Mark?

Could it maybe be that’s what Jesus said to Matthew and Matthew and Mark both record it accurately?

As for 1 Cor. 15:3-11, Robert Price is quoted and said the burden of proof is on those who deny that it’s genuine as Price disagrees and sees it as not originally Pauline.

Nope. The burden of proof is on the one who is going against the general scholarship. There’s a reason this has been accepted by even non-Christian scholars.

And at last 2 Peter. We are told it is post-Pauline (First off, in what way? How early can it be and be considered post-Pauline?). Also, the writing is different. (Of course, it could just be one is written by an amanuensis and the other by another or any other combination of such.) It could also be that Peter dictated in Aramaic and it was translated into Greek.

Also, there is the issue of the Parousia being seen as being delayed. Not sure how this is a problem as it seems some were asking where it was in 1 Thess. which could be the earliest Pauline Epistle.

Finally, we have the difficulty of it getting into the canon. It’s worthy to note that this was seen as canonical early on and other works that are not genuine were not anywhere close such as the Gospel of Peter.

Friends. There really are a lot of references here, but the reasons given for doubt are often quite vague. I recommend getting a good commentary on a book and reading the author’s take and coming to your own conclusions as well. I will choose to trust that of the early church.

Why I Rejected Christianity Review: Superstitions Part 5

Our final day spent on this will be dealing with objections Loftus raises to his view and since there are four only on only three pages, this should be short.

#1-Loftus says someone might claim modern people are just as superstitious. Many believe in horoscopes, rabbit’s feet, etc.

Loftus says that we can imagine the ancients having 10,000 things to be superstitious about but the educated believed only 9,000 of them. Let’s suppose today there were 100 and the more educated among us only believed 5-10 of them. He sees this as describing God of the Gaps. (Which I earlier said was condemned by the minister Charles Coulson.”

Loftus claims that the knowledge in the Bible was based on superstitions. I think the opposite has been shown. The Bible repeatedly condemns superstitious behavior and when we get to the end, I plan to expound on this more. If people are superstitious, it is not because they are religious but because they are people.

We had a case where I work yesterday of someone called a “religious fanatic” who was performing a laying on of hands on people in the parking lot. I had to ask what it meant to be a religious fanatic. My claim is that a person will be a fanatic about anything. If they are fanatical about religion, it is because they are fanatical about everything else. If they are emotional about religion, it is because they are emotional in other areas. If they are intellectual about it, it is because they are so in other areas. When an emotional Christian apostasizes, you get an emotional atheist.

Why are people superstitious? Because of their nature that they then apply to religion. A person will form odd beliefs about religion not because of the religion but simply because they are the type of person to form odd beliefs. It’s a lot easier to just blame the religion though.

Objection #2:This is that modern people have their own myths. Rationality comes from irrationality, order from chaos, morality from amorality, life from non-life, complexity from simplicity.

Loftus’s answer is to speak of all the good that science has brought us and how we can see how it has impacted us in a number of areas. Let’s see how well this holds as I play devil’s advocate.

Why yes, religion is full of myths! Look at all the good it’s brought us! Look at how it was instrumental in starting the rise of science! Look at how it ended slavery in America! Look at how it gives us our morality and ethics today and provides order to society! Look at how missionaries are spreading literacy and at all the charities that have come about as a result of religious beliefs!

I would hope you’d say “That’s all well and good, but if your foundation was mythical, so what?” Exactly. Personally, I have a harder time with the myths of moderns than of our so-called myths. Because science has done so much good for the world, I’m to believe that rationality came from irrationality?

What’s ironic is I called into a radio talk show in my old town once with a professor on a program who hosted an event called “Darwin Day” at the university and asked him the following question. I don’t remember my exact words so I am paraphrasing.

“Sir. When I look at the universe. I see atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons, molecules, etc. and when I look at these things, they’re not rational. By that, I mean they don’t think. But when I look at the world and see dogs, cats, horses, and people, we all possess rationality, we can all think. Now if water can’t rise higher than its source and an effect can’t be greater than its cause, how do you get rationality from irrationality?”

I respect the guy’s first answer to this question. “We don’t know.” However, then he said “We know God didn’t do it because then we’d have to ask who created God.” That’s high school apologetics and a gigantic category fallacy.

Friends. I just choose to believe something sensible. Something doesn’t come from nothing and effects aren’t greater than their causes. Modern man has yet to explain how such a thing can happen. The modern theist though has no problem as he still holds to the idea of God. It’s stood the test of time and he has no reason to reject it.

Objection #3:This one consists of the idea that the educated really weren’t superstitious but simply used religion as a political motivator of sorts to bring about loyalty to the Roman state.

Now Loftus claims that if this is the case, so what? Christianity converted mainly the lower class and they were very superstitious. (Hmmm. How did the higher-class dodge that bullet. What education did they have in natural law?) Now were many from the lower-class converted. Yeah. Could it simply be though because there were more lower-class people just like there are today more middle-class people than higher-class people?

And furthermore, there were intellectuals that were converted to the faith. Paul was very astute in his credentials and converted. Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman army and could hardly be considered lower class. Go through the epistles and see some of the recipients of the letter. Paul refers to some in Caesar’s household even who believe.

Objection #4: Some people might view Loftus as intolerant.

Well, it all depends on what you mean by intolerance. True Christian tolerance is in saying that you acknowledge the person who has the right to hold the view while not accepting their view. I can see someone in favor of abortion as a person while being 100% against abortion.

When it comes to true tolerance like that, I have nothing but tolerance for it. It should be practiced. When it comes to the pseudo-tolerance today, I have no tolerance for it. In fact, I bluntly think that such tolerance can go to Hell. For those who think that is tough, worry not. It should have no problem finding its way home.

Loftus brings up the witch trials to counter this though which he is against. Here’s the truth on the witch trials. As far as I know, we had eighteen people that were killed in them. I agree, that is eighteen too many, but it is hardly the event that writers like Sagan and others make it out to be. What ended it? Why it was Christians of course who were condemning superstitious thinking.

Now I have my own objection to raise.

If all of the ancients were as superstitious as is said and would believe anything, then why was Christianity so persecuted? If they believed anything, why did they not accept immediately that a man had been raised by God from the dead? Why did they have a hard time with the concept “The Word Became Flesh?”

Something was happening. Other religions allowed you to go and sleep with the prostitutes to connect with God. Christianity said you sleep only with your spouse or you don’t have intercourse at all. Why would someone trade the former belief for the latter belief?

Christianity calls one to many things. It is the religion that promises suffering for its followers. It was the one that if you joined, you were likely to be persecuted, ostracized by family and friends, and cut off from the community. If you were a Jew who accepted it, you would be putting your whole eternity on the line.

Christianity calls you to die to yourself. It tells you that you are not the God of this universe. It tells you to submit your will to one beyond you. It teaches a high level of morality that was not seen in the world at the time. It tells you to believe that God became a man, that he was crucified, and that he rose again, and that that man alone is your only hope for eternal life.

This was a religion not well-accepted early on. The Jews would have you cast out of the synagogue if you were a Jew who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Nero would take you and he would set you one fire to light his evening parties. In persecutions, you could be captured and thrown to lions. The government was actively fighting against your sect.

I can only think of one reason why people became Christians and why Christianity survived to the point that as it has been said, we name our boys Peter and Paul and our dogs Nero and Caesar.

That reason?

It’s true.

Christianity stood up and overcame the paganism of the time. G.K. Chesterton said paganism was the biggest thing the world had seen before Christianity and after that, everything else has been pretty small.  It was Christian thinking that put an end to superstitious beliefs by believing in a rational world created by a rational God.

I will gladly contend this. The more rational a man becomes in his thinking, the closer he will move to how God has revealed himself in Christ. The more irrational he becomes, the farther he will move from that revelation. Sound thinking is more than just intellectual exercise. It’s holy. To think logically is to think godly.

And with that, we conclude the section on superstitions. Tomorrow is yet another section.

Why I Rejected Christianity Review: Superstitions Part 4

Hello bloggers. If you’re wondering why the blog is up early, well it’s the day before Easter and my workplace has me working until midnight and personally, when I get home, I’d like to sleep. I would prefer to be awake on the day that we celebrate our Lord waking from the sleep from death. Hopefully, I will be.

Today, we look at the NT and superstition and I am amused at the start with how Jesus used magic in John 9:6-7 by having the blind man go to the pool of Siloam. I am just dumbfounded here wondering how this equates to magic. Did something supernatural go on at this pool? Apparently. There were people there wanting to be healed. How is this magic? Beats me. Of course, this is made to sound mythical to us today. “Where is a pool like that today?” Loftus asks. How obvious! If we can’t find one, then there never was one. (Actually, this pool was found in archaeological circles and it has five porticoes as John described.)

Next we move on to demon possession. Somehow, Loftus knows that these weren’t demon possessions that were happening in the Bible. (Even though not every healing was a demon possession.) The ancients knew this as well. They had medical treatments and is there any source that says that if they did not know what it was, it was automatically a demon?

Next come visions and they are described as an “educated way to learn things.”

Apparently, Loftus hopes the story isn’t known. Let’s see what it really says as it is the account of Cornelius’s visit by Peter.

First, Cornelius is a gentile who has a vision of an angel to tell him to send for Peter. Peter is at a tanner’s house and has a vision of a sheet from Heaven with all manner of beasts in it and being told to rise, kill, and eat. Peter won’t because the food is unclean and gets told “Do not call unclean what God has called clean.” This happens BEFORE he is contacted by Cornelius.

And what does he see when he comes? He sees they all start speaking in tongues as he is preaching which was indicative to him that the Holy Spirit had come. (How that relates to the modern-day issue is another topic.) So what did he base his belief on God giving the Spirit to the Gentiles on? Evidence he saw with his own eyes.

Visions are only a problem if you assume a priori that God can’t use visions.

We move on to the healing at Lystra in Acts 14. Loftus does say these people were uneducated. I think that’s important as it’s more than likely that Luke was himself laughing at the gullibility of the people. They hideously misinterpreted the evidence that they had received.

Also, when they said the gods had come down in human form, this was based on an ancient mythological tale where the gods supposedly came to a town and only one elderly couple let them in as they had described themselves. Everyone else shunned them. The gods destroyed the town aside from the couple and blessed them abundantly.

Now is the problem that they believed gods came down in human form? No. The problem is they believed a story that had no basis and that is what Luke finds incredible. He’s the one who’s written about the account of Christ basing it on the evidence he has and here these people are ready to believe anything else. Their ability to change their mind so quickly shows their gullibility in fact.

Luke would also be seeing the claims of Christ quite different as he himself wrote a gospel.  The problem is not with what they saw again. It is with how they interpreted it. Ironically, this would work against the idea of Loftus. In writing the account, Luke too is condemning the gullibility of the people who change their mind with every blow of the wind.

I find it amazing in the account of the visit of Paul to Athens that Loftus makes a deal of how it says that the Athenians spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the great ideas.

You know, there’s such a thing as exaggeration to make a point….

Of course, the people of Athens are said to be superstitious and need no evidence for their beliefs. If that’s the case entirely though, one wonders why so many of them scoffed when Paul spoke about a resurrection and there wasn’t a great following. Why didn’t the whole Areopagus convert upon hearing Paul’s sermon?

Ooooh. Let me guess. Because they didn’t believe dead people came back to life?

Yeah. That could be it.

We move on to Acts 19 and the riot at Ephesus. The temple of Artemis was one of the wonders of the ancient world that housed a meteorite.  Craftsmen of the time were making small replicas of the temple to sell. Paul’s preaching would have been a damage to their business. (Of course, they couched it in religious devotion.) They were able to get the crowds worked up in a fervor until a clerk showed up.

Now the clerk spoke of these facts as undeniable. There were some that were though. It was undeniable that something had fallen from the heavens and it was undeniable that it was kept in the temple. Chances are, the clerk was defusing the religious tension. Then, he dealt with the economic side by pointing to the courts as the place to settle the matters.

(I’ll also add in that the account used to be considered to have an error due to the mention of Asiarchs but now we’ve made archaeological findings that refer to them.)

Any superstition there was not supported by the Bible. In fact, this seems to be a theme in Luke. He’s willing to show the pagan beliefs of the opponents of Christianity in contrast to the hard case he’s made for Christianity.  Why did the Christian church win out? Simple. There was more reason to believe it. (Had to be for people to suddenly abandon long-held traditions with a temple and considering the rites of the temple, they would probably be deemed a lot more enjoyable than many Christian ideas in their eyes.)

We move on to Acts 28. Here a snake bites Paul and he’s assumed to be a murderer. After he survives, he’s assumed to be a god. Again, Luke finds this humorous as well. Paul treats it as a matter-of-fact event. He trusts God and just trusts that since God let him survive the shipwreck and said he’d speak before Caesar that God would protect him.

How did these people know what kind of snake it was? Oh. Let me guess. It was an island and they lived on it and they could identify snakes? That could be it. I find it amusing to hear Loftus say “bad things happen because of the gods. That’s just stupid.”

Now I’ll grant that not every “bad thing” that happens is because of God, but one would be hard-pressed to be able to prove that no bad thing happens because God brings it about. Can God strike some people with various punishments? I would think he could. I’d be extremely hesitant to say what was and wasn’t a punishment for God for a good reason. I’m not him and I do not have a special revelation from him in that area.

Again, the gullibility is laughed at by Luke as he sets the contrast every time. If anything, Christianity helped to end “superstition” in the ancient world.

Now we move on 2 Peter and Jude where we are told that people made up stories and the apostles denied this. Loftus has three questions.

“Since we already know that prophets received their prophecies by means of dreams and visions how did any of them know for sure their prophecies were truly from God?”

First off, these people heard the voice of God as well and I believe this was in the case of the prophets an audible voice. When Jeremiah gets his vision, he hears the voice of God. The prophets had dialogues with God. They didn’t just see something and then were left to their own devices.

Secondly, it did come true and one wonders if the dreams and visions were abundant as Loftus indicates. Some “evidence” would be nice.

Question two:

“Why are there so many warnings about false teachings in the N.T. if these people had solid evidence to base their faith upon, and they were not like their contemporaries who would believe most any good story?”

Oh. Let’s see. Because evidence doesn’t automatically equal knowledge? Also, there were false teachings that would agree with much of the evidence. Was the circumcision crowd denying the resurrection? I don’t see that. They were false teachers though and they needed to be exposed.

One wonders how Loftus, if he believes strongly in evolution, would respond to the teaching of ID in schools in contrast if the evidence for evolution is so strong.

Question 3:

How did the authors of the Bible know they themselves were teaching divine truths?

Anybody remember what Peter said in 2 Peter? “We were eyewitnesses.” You didn’t have eyewitnesses of Zeus walking around in those days. You had eyewitnesses of Christ though. How did they know? It’s simple. They had evidence. The disciples weren’t “gullible.”

Tomorrow, we shall look at objections to the view Loftus has presented that he brings forward.