Book Plunge: Transcending Proof

What do I think of Don McIntosh’s book published by Christian Cadre publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Don for sending me this book to see what I thought. As I read through, there were some parts I really did like, and some that I wasn’t so sure about it. I definitely did like seeing a foreword by Stephen Bedard, someone I have a great respect for. Since I said it was a mixed bag, I’ll go with what I did like and then mention ways I think a future edition could be better.

McIntosh makes an interesting beginning by starting with the problem of evil. One would think this is not where you would begin your case for theism, but it is for him. McIntosh I think spends the most time on this part of the book. He looks at evil and all the explanations for it. At times, I found myself thinking an objection from the other side could be easily answered, but then he answered it later on.

I also like that McIntosh is willing to take on popular internet atheists such as Richard Carrier. Again, this part is a case for theism and relies highly on the usages of the problem of evil. McIntosh makes a fine dissection of Carrier’s argument, though it’s quite likely you won’t follow along as well if you don’t know the argument of Carrier.

The same applies to Dan Barker. Of course, Dan Barker is about as fundamentalist as you could get and is a poster child for fundamentalist atheism. McIntosh replies to an argument he has against theism based on God having omniscience and free-will both and how Barker thinks that is contradictory. Again, it’s good to see popular atheists that aren’t as well known being taken on because you do find them often mentioned on the internet and many popular apologists don’t deal with them.

It was also good to see a section on the reliability of Scripture, which is quite important for Christian theism, and a section on Gnosticism. I see Gnosticism often coming back in the church. This includes ideas like the body being secondary and a sort of add-on. (Think about sexual ethics. People who think sex is dirty and a sort of necessary evil and people who think “It’s just sex and no big deal what you do with it” are both making the same mistake.)  I also see Gnosticism with the emphasis on signs and the idea of God speaking to us constantly and personal revelation being individualized.

That having been said, there are some areas that I do think could be improved. One of the biggest ones is it looked like I was jumping all over the place when I went through. It was as if one chapter didn’t seem to have any connection to the next one. I would have liked to have seen a specific plan followed through. If there was one, I could not tell it.

I am also iffy on critiques I often see of evolution. I am not a specialist in the area to be sure, but yet I wonder how well these would do against an actual scientist and I still think this is the wrong battle to fight. I also found it troublesome that the God of the living could not be the same as the one described as the abstract deity that was Aristotle’s prime mover of the universe. I do not see why not. I think Aristotle’s prime mover is truly found in the God of Scripture and that God is more living and active than any other being that is. I am not troubled by God using an evolutionary process to create life than I am by God using a natural process to form my own life in the womb and yet I can still be fearfully and wonderfully made.

I also would have liked to have seen a chapter focusing solely on the resurrection and giving the best arguments for and against it. I think it’s incomplete to have a look at Christian theism without giving the very basis for specific Christian theism. It’s good to have the reliability of Scripture, but there needs to be something specific on the resurrection.

Still, I think McIntosh has given us a good start and there is plenty that could be talked about. I do look forward to a future writing to see what it will lead to. We need more people who are not known willing to step forward and write on apologetics and especially those willing to engage with the other side.

In Christ,
Nick Peters



Book Plunge: Why There Is No God. Part 1

What do I think of Armin Navabi’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Someone in an apologetics group I belong to asked if anyone had read this book. Myself, being the type who wants to be there to help my fellow apologists out, decided to get it at the library. Who knows? Maybe I have some masochist streak in me. The book goes through twenty arguments for God’s existence from an atheist who used to be a Muslim.

It describes itself as a thorough examination, yet the book is just about 125 pages long and looks at, as I said, twenty arguments. I have no idea how you can give a thorough treatment with that. In fact, it’s so short that you could easily read it in a day’s time.

Of course, don’t be expecting to find anything of real substance in here. Much of it is the modern fundamentalism relying on today’s atheist heroes who are just as much fundamentalist. If you’re also expecting to have him interact with the best arguments, like those of Aquinas, well you know without my saying it the answer to that.

I have decided to investigate five arguments a day. Keep in mind a lot of these arguments are arguments that I would not use. Still, even when critiquing a bad argument, we can learn much about Navabi’s approach. Let’s go ahead and dive in.

Argument #1: Science can’t explain the complexity and order of life; God must have designed it this way.

Many of you know I’m not one up for Intelligent Design arguments. If I go with design, it’s the teleological design in the fifth way of Aquinas. (btw, Navabi shows his ignorance here by saying Paley introduced the design argument in 1802 when really, arguments of design go all the way back to even the time of Christ.) Navabi starts with a claim that it used to be that many natural forces were attributed to deities. While this is so, I think many atheists make a false assumption here. Since these were explained by deities, the deities were invented to explain these. That doesn’t follow. Why not that the deities were already thought to be there and that they were assigned these by their worshipers in order to explain how they take place?

Many of you also know that as a Christian apologist, I have no problem with evolution. If you just say evolution explains it, I’m not going to bat an eye. That’s because a question is being answered that I think doesn’t answer the main question for Christianity in any way. Before we go to the next question, we have to address the main argument that Navabi puts forward that we were all expecting.

“If complexity requires a creator, who created God?”

This is Richard Dawkins’s main argument and so many atheists bounce around this Sunday School question as if no one in Christian history ever thought about it. When we talk about something needing a cause, what we really mean is potential being made actual.


Okay. As I write this now, I am sitting at my computer. Suppose my wife calls me and wants something from me. If I agree, I will stand up and go to her. I can do that because while sitting, I have the potential to stand. Once I stand, I have the potential to sit, or lie down, or jump, or do any number of things. Actuality is what is. Potentiality can be seen as a capacity for change.

When any change takes place in anything, that means a potentiality has been turned into an actuality. As I write this, my wife is in the living room watching Stranger Things for the third time. The change is happening on the screen because of signals that are being received from somewhere else through Netflix. (Don’t ask me to explain how it works.)

Now many of us could see this cause and effect going on and say it makes sense. (In fact, it’s essential for science.) Still, we might ask about our own actions. Aren’t we the cause? Do we need anything beyond us? A Thomistic response is to say yes. What we do we do because of something external to us driving us towards it and that is the good. We either want the good and pursue it or refuse it and rebel against it.

What does this have to do with God? For us to say God has a cause, we would have to show that there was some change that took place in the nature of God. If there wasn’t, then there is nothing in Him needing a cause. The universe we know undergoes change so something has to be the cause of the change in the universe.

But isn’t God complex? Actually, no. Note that I am talking about complexity in His being. I am not talking about God being simple to understand. In Thomistic thought, God is the only being whose very essence is to be. There is no distinction between being and essence. You and I are all human. There is a human nature that is given existence and then that for us is combined with matter that separates us from one another. Angels, meanwhile, are each all their own nature and that nature is granted existence. There is no matter that separates them so they differ by their nature. God alone is no combination. Because of this, He doesn’t need a cause.

That’s pretty complex. If you want to read more about this, I really recommend the writings of Edward Feser. He’s quite good at explaining Thomistic concepts for the layman, and I’d say much better than I am at it.

Argument #2: God’s existence is proven by Scripture.

Navabi gives many of the same fundamentalist arguments here that we’ve come to expect. Naturally, it begins with talking about inconsistencies in Scripture. After all, many times the way that a Christian approaches inerrancy can be the same way that a fundamentalist atheist does.

A favorite one to start with is creation. After all, no one ever noticed that the sun comes after plants in the creation account. You don’t really need to ask if Navabi will interact with any arguments. Young-Earthers and Old-Earthers both have said something, but for people like Navabi, just raise the objection. That’s enough. For what it’s worth, I prefer John Walton’s stance.

Let’s also look at some supposed controversies on the resurrection accounts. Here is the first one.

Matthew 27:57-60.

57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:

58 He went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.

59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed.

Acts 13:27-29.

27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a sepulcher.

Did you see the contradiction?

Navabi wants us to say that in one account, Joseph buries Jesus. In another, the people do. It’s amazing that this one is put forward as anything serious. Joseph was among the people who did crucify Jesus, though he was a secret sympathizer. His action of burying Jesus would be seen as the Sanhedrin providing for his burial. How is this a contradiction?

There’s also how many figures were seen at the tomb and how many women there were. The basic replies work well enough here that some writers chose to focus on one man or angel instead of pointing out two. I think the women mentioned were the ones alive at the time who could be eyewitnesses.

To be fair, the dating of the crucifixion between John and the Synoptics is a live one. I have no firm conclusion on this, but also it doesn’t affect me either way. The basic facts about the historical Jesus do not hang on this. Scholars do not doubt that Jesus was crucified at the time of Passover.

I will have no comment on what Navabi says on the Quran. I will leave that to the experts in Islam.

When we go back to the Bible, Navabi throws out that the writings were based on oral tradition and written decades or centuries later. Well with the New Testament, I don’t know any scholar who says centuries later. Navabi also doesn’t bother to investigate oral tradition and how well it works or how much later other ancient works were then the events they describe. Neither will many of his atheist readers, you know, the people who talk about loving evidence so much. (Except for claims that agree with them of course.)

And then there’s the claim that the books are anonymous and we don’t know who wrote them. His source for this is Ehrman’s Jesus Interrupted. I have written a reply to that here. It would be good for Navabi to explain how he knows how other anonymous works in the ancient world were written by the people they’re ascribed to and to actually investigate the arguments for traditional authorship, but don’t be expecting that.

Argument #3. Some unexplained events are miraculous, and these miracles prove the existence of God.

This chapter is quite poor, which is saying a lot for a work like this. A miracle is described as an improbable event. You won’t find any interaction with Craig Keener’s Miracles even though this came out after that did. We’re told that a problem with miracles is that they’re unfalsifiable, which is quite odd since so many skeptics make it a habit of disproving miracle claims.

Suppose someone walks into your church service who has been blind all their life. A member of your church comes forward and says to them “God told me to come and pray for you” and ends a prayer saying “In the name of Jesus, open your eyes” and the person has their eyes open. Are you justified in believing a miracle has taken place? I think you definitely are.

These are the events that we want to be explained. If Navabi wants to say miracles cannot happen, then he needs to make a real argument for that. If he wants to say they have never happened, then he needs to be able to show his exhaustive knowledge of all history. Can he do that? After all, his claim is quite grand and could be hard to “falsify” since we don’t have access to all knowledge of all history.

Argument #4. Morality stems from God, and without God, we could not be good people.

While the moral argument is a valid one, never underestimate the ability of atheistic writers to fail to understand an argument. Navabi’s first point is that morals change. However, if morals change, can we really speak of objective truths? Those are unchanging things. If morality just becomes doing whatever people of the time say is good, then congratulations. We do what we think is good and congratulate ourselves on doing what we already agree with.

As expected, Navabi trots out Euthyphro. This is the question of if something is good because God wills it, or does God will it because it’s good. Again, atheists bring up this argument found in Plato completely ignoring that it was answered by Aristotle, his student, in defining what the good itself is. When atheists bring this forward, I never see them define what goodness itself is. We could just as well ask “Is something good because we think it is, or do we think it is because it is good?” Everyone has to answer Euthyphro unless they define goodness separately.

This is followed by the problem of evil. There are more than enough good resources out there for someone wanting more. I am including some interviews I have hosted on my show about the topic that can be found here, here, and here.

Navabi concludes with a natural explanation of morality to the tune that it evolved. Unfortunately, this doesn’t explain things because there has to be a standard of good we have in mind by which we recognize a good action. Goodness is not a material property that comes about through evolution. It is something we discover much like laws of nature or logic.

Argument #5 Belief in God would not be so widespread if God didn’t exist.

This is not an argument I would make, but there are some examples of bad thinking here. Navabi says that if God was revealing the world religions, wouldn’t we expect them to have more in common? Unfortunately, why should I think God is revealing all of them. Could man not believe and make up his own easily enough?

Navabi also says that if these religions are describing the physical world, they can’t all be right, but they could all be wrong. Of course, this isn’t really an argument. One needs to show that all of them are wrong.

Finally, while I don’t use the argument, it does have to be acknowledged that theism is widespread. Given this is the case, why is it that the theistic claims are treated by the atheists as extraordinary claims? Wouldn’t it be the opinion outside of the ordinary, namely that God does not exist, that should be considered as extraordinary?

We’ll go through the next five next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Atheism and the Case Against Christ: Chapter 9

Would God do miracles? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Keep in mind when we come to something like this and we’re asking if God would do miracles, we’re dealing with a question of theology. If this is theology however, where does McCormick get his information from? He rejects natural revelation as giving us knowledge of the existence of God so how could it tell us the attributes of God? What does he know about God that the rest of us do not?

Also, the question could have an odd answer. It could be that God can do miracles but has never done one. I don’t hold to this, but it’s possible. Whether God can do miracles is theology and metaphysics. If he has is a question of history.

Perhaps I’m nitpicking, but at one point as I go through this chapter, I notice McCormick talking about Job. Job supposedly lose his wife and his children to death. This makes me wonder if McCormick really has studied the Bible at all. I am to trust him on the extra scholarship when he can’t check to see that Job’s wife never died in the text?

McCormick more has a problem with what kinds of miracles take place. Christine Overall he says wants to know why Jesus was hanging out at a party turning water into wine when He could have been healing lepers. Of course, leave out that Jesus did do plenty of healings, though we can be sure these won’t be accepted anyway. Jesus had not yet really started a ministry and was at a party I think just to be a good guest and not shame the person who invited him and his disciples. Why would he turn water into wine? To keep a party going. More than that. This was a big event in the life of the family and the couple. Running out of wine would bring great shame to them that would last. Jesus ensured their honor.

McCormick tells us that many Christians familiar with the problem of evil point out that there could be some absolving reasons why God doesn’t do a certain miracle. McCormick says this is correct, but there may not be. Unfortunately, as long as there could be, then the problem of evil is not a necessary defeater for theism or Christianity. If all we had was the data on the problem of evil, it would be difficult to say, but fortunately the informed Christian has many more positive arguments for God, like the Thomistic ones I prefer.

McCormick also talks about evils of the kind that William Rowe refers to as intense instances of suffering that someone like God could prevent without losing some greater good or permitting something equally evil. Okay. Rowe wants to say there are instances like this. I have two questions. #1. What are they? #2. Can he demonstrate that he knows this?

This would be a difficult question. How could you demonstrate that if one evil did not occur, no greater good would be lost or some other kind of evil would not occur? Some may think I’m switching the burden of proof. I’m not. I’m just asking if Rowe could back his claim. If he can’t, then it’s a statement of faith and it could be true, but we can’t know it.

McCormick also says it’s a problem for omniscience if God does a miracle because He’s changing something. Of course, it could be God in His omniscience knew all along that He would do a miracle and God in His omniscience knew all along who would be praying about an event and took that into consideration. I’m not about to fully enter into such a discussion, but again, the positive arguments for theism and the resurrection still stand strong. McCormick hasn’t touched those and possible ignorance on one area does not overpower that.

Also of course, McCormick nowhere interacts with Craig Keener. If one miracle has happened in the past, then this chapter is defeated. It’s not a shock McCormick says nothing about that.

There really isn’t much to talk on in this chapter. McCormick does have an argument about God would not do something that would be able to be done by a magician, but we’ve seen how flimsy his resurrection argument is and he has no real counter-explanation of the data accepted by critical scholars. In fact, he has no knowledge that can be seen of that data. Until then, that is the only miracle to explain and if he wants to, he can try to show me a dead man who came back to life by his own power.

There’s also the question of could it have been another power that did a miracle. God doesn’t have to be omnipotent, omniscient, etc. Sure, but this is why I use the Thomistic arguments. They do end in a being that must be omni in everything. Of course, I have no problem with some miracles being by dark powers, but I think giving life to the dead is only in the realm of God. Only He could be behind the resurrection.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

McCormick’s Gaffe

Atheism and the Case Against Christ: Chapter 8.

What do I think of chapter 8? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.


One would hope that as we moved past history into philosophy, which would be more of McCormick’s forte, the arguments would get better. I honestly came here expecting to see some good arguments for atheism, arguments against classical theistic arguments, and material that I would have to really wrestle with. I know. I know. It’s so foolish to expect this after atheist books fail so often to get things right. McCormick unfortunately doesn’t exert any more skill here in his main area than he does in an area he’s not skilled in.

This chapter is about asking why all the gods are hiding. Of course, this presumes that they are hiding. It’s all about really how the evidence is interpreted. I contend that one problem with many atheists is that reality is taken as a given, as if it could just exist and continue to exist on its own. Once we have it here, there’s no need to explain how it stays here. Both need to be explained.

Something McCormick wants is better miracles than what we have. For him, many miracles just seem like magic tricks. (Okay. Well, let’s have him go out to a field with no supplies whatsoever and feed 5,000 men not counting women and children with a few loaves of bread and some fish) For most magicians, to get to do a lot of their tricks requires a lot of equipment. Jesus didn’t have that, but let’s go on anyway.

A requirement McCormick thinks we should have for this is objective and impartial observers. Of course, how we will know this is something I wonder about, especially since we’ve already had talk about people with low IQs and people without knowledge of science. Does he mean atheists like himself? (Which obviously are totally impartial and objective.) Who does he have in mind?

Interestingly, when I read this I thought of a quote from Chesterton about the jury system and ordinary men.

Our civilisation has decided, and very justly decided, that determining the guilt or innocence of men is a thing too important to be trusted to trained men. It wishes for light upon that awful matter, it asks men who know no more law than I know, but who can feel the things that I felt in the jury box. When it wants a library catalogued, or the solar system discovered, or any trifle of that kind it uses up its specialists. But when it wishes anything done which is really serious, it collects twelve of the ordinary men standing round. The same thing was done, if I remember right, by the Founder of Christianity.

He also suggests that miracles should be bigger and grander. After all, if the goal was bringing Jesus back from death to demonstrate His deity to all humanity, why show Him to just His devoted followers for a few moments?

There’s that darn word if again. If. If. If. But what if it isn’t? McCormick approaches the text as if the question of a modern atheist is what is being addressed. Last I checked, the Jews and most others at the time weren’t questioning that God existed. In fact, it wasn’t entirely over the deity of Christ. This was about the Kingdom of God and that would be for the Jews.

Besides, what does McCormick want? For the once and for all sacrifice to happen multiple times in history to multiple people in every generation because that would be more convincing? Does he really think this would help anyway? If he thinks we have differences now, imagine all the differences we’d have with each culture having their own tradition of Jesus coming and dying and then debating over those traditions where they differ any.

What McCormick wants is a God who is continually working to show Himself, but apparently, nothing about making real disciples who will really do the work because, hey, God is already doing all of that. Why bother with evangelism? It’s all on God’s head.

Finally, Jesus didn’t just appear to His followers. James and Paul were both skeptics. Of course, this is evidence that McCormick never really interacts with. As we saw, McCormick’s evaluation of the resurrection leaves out key pieces of data and there is of course even more that he never touched.

He also says make it something an Almighty being would do. At this point, it’s important to note that McCormick is doing theology so I have to ask one question. How does he know? How does he know what an Almighty being would do? What is his source on this material? Does he have experience in dealing with Almighty beings and knowing how they would and would not act?

He also thinks you should pick a better audience because for these people, their lives were filled with spirits, scary events, supernatural action, etc. None of the facts about nature we take for granted were part of their knowledge base. These are all fascinating claims to make. Unfortunately, there is no demonstration of them. It’s as if McCormick has bought into the whole “Ancient People Are Stupid” line entirely.

He seems unaware that the miracles they saw they knew to be miracles because this doesn’t happen naturally. Even today if most of us saw someone touch a leper and saw them instantly have their skin healed, we would be justified in thinking a miracle took place. Ancient people also built boats, because they knew people didn’t walk on water, and they worked to grow food and catch fish, because they knew these did not just multiply instantly on their own.

He continues this by asking what if you were God and were trying to convince an audience of your existence and communicating your desires. Who says that’s the goal? McCormick keeps playing this card over and over and doesn’t demonstrate it. Atheism wasn’t the question and the Jews already knew the desires of YHWH in their Scriptures.

In looking at all of these reasons and others, McCormick concludes by saying that the problem is that not a single miracle in all of history passes this criteria.


Not a single on.

It’s worth noting that when this book came out, Craig Keener’s Miracles was already out, but of course, you won’t see McCormick interacting with that. Apparently, he can easily say every miracle included in that book is false. It’s amazing how atheists seem to have this absolute knowledge of all history and all miracle claims all over the world.

McCormick says that the problem is divine hiddenness. I contend that the whole term isn’t a misnomer. I think the problem is on our end of not knowing how to evaluate evidence. (And McCormick has shown he’s not good at it with history so why trust him now?) A lot of people have given reasons why God doesn’t just appear suddenly to everyone or something of that sort. These include free-will and creating disciples and things of that sort. McCormick says these are fascinating but they fail for a number of reasons.

Inquiring minds want to know what those reasons are.

Inquiring minds will be disappointed.

He goes on to say that if you want to argue for the resurrection, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t have it that God is the reasonable outcome of the resurrection and endorse arguments for divine hiddenness. This is quite the claim.

What is missing is any reason to believe it. Why not? McCormick doesn’t tell me.

He also says that the fact that the arguments for God and the resurrection are weak even to other believers and unconvincing makes the problem more difficult. Well again, this is a statement I have to take on faith. McCormick gives no evidence. Nowhere in here does he interact with the classical arguments for theism. I don’t care frankly if the lay person finds them unconvincing. What I care about is if they’re true or not.

Of course, McCormick seems to be an authority on unconvincing.

McCormick then says God could have given us much more if He wanted us to believe. Again, who says that’s the goal? Just believe? I can get several people to get married easily. Getting them to have a marriage is different.

McCormick goes on to say that you can’t hold that the best explanation of the historical evidence is the resurrection and that there is room for us to believe or not believe. Again. Why not? Why can’t you? What argument has been given? None whatsoever. It’s amazing to me how many times atheists are people of faith. They think they can make an assertion and well, that settles it.

McCormick does point to some people who did have some direct interaction. Abraham still chose to sacrifice Isaac. (Didn’t say anything about him stopping it) The problem is what is the situation with Abraham? Abraham still had a great deal of free will as if you just read his story in Genesis, he still did some stupid things. He lied about his relationship with his wife and he got his concubine pregnant to help God with the promise. Abraham’s event with Isaac happened after a lifetime of foolish choices.

We could say this for most anyone else. It’s most ironic since he mentions the devil and the devil no doubt made the most foolish choice of all. Of course, this assumes God owes everyone a personal appearance and even still in what context? Jesus’s event isn’t just a random event in history but based on a long history of promises to Israel.

McCormick also says that if Allah is real, it would be “perverse, capricious, and unjust for Allah to then judge you and condemn you for failing to believe.” (Loc. 2624) Sorry, but I have to disagree with this. If Islam is true, I deserve all the judgment I get because I have been teaching just the opposite about God Himself. I have no problem saying that because I am convinced Islam is not true, but God doesn’t owe me anything. If I am wrong, I deserve the judgment.

This all gets amusing when McCormick sets up a fake dialogue where a critic asks why the resurrection evidence isn’t better only to be told God wants X. McCormick then has the critic ask “How do we know that God wants X?” (Loc. 2639) Keep in mind, this is the same person who throughout this chapter has been saying “If God wants X.” McCormick is making the claim. Not I. Yet apparently, if a Christian did do that, that would be foul.

Next time we look at miracles and no, it doesn’t get any better.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

McCormick’s Gaffe

Atheism: The Case Against Christ. Chapter 4

What do I think of McCormick’s continuing argument? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

McCormick early on has a list of people he thinks were in the chain that gave us the New Testament. These are first off, the witnesses who claimed to see the events. Next come the repeaters who repeated the story until it was written decades later. Third are the authors who wrote the books. Fourth are the copyists who copied the works. Finally are the canonizers who put them in the canon.

Now of course, there’s no real work done on identifying the authors. McCormick looks at writers like Ehrman for the most part and just assumes the writers aren’t the ones on the book. Don’t expect to see interaction with contrary scholarship in that regard. It won’t happen.

For instance, let’s suppose that Mark is the testimony of Peter. Have we not skipped a piece of the chain? Is it not the case that there are no repeaters but Mark is just recording what the witness said? What about Matthew? If Matthew is the author of his Gospel, have we skipped others altogether?

Never mind the questions of how sources were used. Matthew could be a witness and still use Mark. Why?  Because if Mark is the testimony of Peter, then Peter saw activities that Matthew didn’t. What in fact of the fact that some writers would even use a scribe still? Does that mean that they are not the author? What if the author refers not to a direct writer but the main source for the material? These are all good questions to ask. McCormick doesn’t.

Now to be fair, McCormick is right when generally, if a manuscript is from the 4th century and one is from the 8th, we should take the 4th century one more seriously. Of course, if we saw the 4th century one had been highly mutilated, say by a sect opposed to orthodoxy that heavily tampered with it, that might change things, but all things being equal, earlier is better.

There is much here about how reliable eyewitnesses are. (By the way, it’s worth pointing out this book came out after Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Don’t expect to see McCormick interacting with that.) McCormick says we would need to have the success/failure rate of the eyewitnesses. This would be nice for the Bible, but the problem is we don’t really have that for ancient history. We can’t go and cross-examine. Now if McCormick wants to rule out the New Testament on these grounds, I wonder if he’s willing to treat other ancient works the same way.

McCormick starts with an example such as a man making predictions about sporting events and who will win. Then he takes us over to Lourdes and points out that a number of people claim a miracle and so many of those are false so we should probably think that the others that are not shown to be false are likely false. Unfortunately, we have switched standards here. We went from one man by himself to rather a more general claim and said “If a lot of people are wrong with one claim, then others making a similar claim must be wrong.” These are not identical.

If we want to go with general, then we could say perhaps if atheism is true, then we should say that the reasoning capacity of people is terrible since so many are theists. Since people are terrible reasoners, we ought not trust the reasoning of atheists. After all, they are people. No. With Lourdes, we treat each claim on its own. Note that also not all the claims are said to be false claims. They’re just not verified claims. Those are two different things.

McCormick also wants us to know if the Biblical writers would be more or less reliable on what they saw? His answer is less because of who they were and when they lived. This is indeed a textbook example of chronological snobbery. Lewis would be amazed at how far McCormick takes it.

McCormick talks about a supernatural belief threshold (SBT). Of course, never mind that some of us question the usage of the term supernatural, but McCormick likes to use words like magic and such regularly. It’s kind of like he thinks those words are magic and as soon as you say them, you show how ridiculous an argument is.

At loc. 1163 he says that if you went to someone with a low SBT threshold, they would be more prone to accept more false beliefs. McCormick unfortunately only applies this to “supernatural” claims. One wonders if he doesn’t see himself as having a low threshold for claims sympathetic to his worldview. For instance, he seems open to Jesus mythicism. Does this not show a low threshold on his part? We’ll in fact see many other claims he believes without citing scholarship in this book. What about the fact that on the internet so many atheists share memes that are just blatantly false?

Perhaps McCormick should encourage cleaning out the house of atheism first.

McCormick also says that if he was a Protestant speaking against Catholicism or a Christian against Islam, the claims would likely be well received. Well no. I would want to evaluate the claims first. Even if a claim argues against something I am opposed to, I want to see if it’s true or false. Just because McCormick easily believes claims that agree with him doesn’t mean the rest of us do.

McCormick also says people living in an agrarian and Iron Age society with low scientific knowledge, education, and literacy would not be very skeptical. Well isn’t this amusing?

For one thing, McCormick is wrong about the Iron Age.

The accepted date for the end of the Iron Age is 587/586 BCE, with the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army, the destruction of the Temple and the end of the Davidic Dynasty. A glance at the historic – archaeological reality shows that this date is of no significance in most areas in the Land of Israel because throughout Samaria, the Galilee, Negev, Philistia and Transjordan no ruins from this period were found and no crisis occurred amongst the material culture. The events of 587/586 BCE only affected Jerusalem and part of the area of the Kingdom of Judah, whereas areas to the south of it were previously captured by the Edomites. It must be that the trauma of the loss of national independence, the destruction of the Temple, and their impact on previous generations of scholars of the Land of Israel, is what established this date as the end of the Iron Age. The date, therefore, is more historical-theological than it is archaeological. It turns out that the material culture of the country – that is, the types of ceramic, types of buildings, burial practices and even the language and writing – continued after the beginning of the sixth century BCE. Fundamental changes in the settlement models and the material culture began only later, at the end of the same century, around the year 520 BCE. Then the rule of the Persian Achaemenid empire was established, the import of the Greek Attic pottery increased, commerce increased and the settlements began to abandon their places on the traditional tells. At the same time the Aramaic writing and language are also replacing Hebrew writing and the Hebrew language and a new ‘ethnic map’ is created in the country with the penetration of the Edomite, Arabic, Phoenician, Greek and other populations.

Please note that this is something that I found just by doing a brief Google search. It’s a shame McCormick couldn’t do likewise. He must have a low Skepticism Belief Threshold (SKBT) where he will believe any claim that argues against Christianity. If McCormick isn’t willing to verify a simple claim like this, why should I trust him on all these other claims?

As for low scientific knowledge, not really. The Greeks for instance in that culture were making incredible advancements. People were interested in science. Either way, to say there was low knowledge does not mean there was no knowledge.

McCormick might be surprised to learn that in Israel, the dead were buried. Why? Because if a resurrection took place, it wasn’t until the end. Resurrections didn’t just happen. It was also known that people don’t walk on water so fishermen built these things called boats. They also had laws against adultery and laws on inheritance because they knew what it took to make a baby. These were not new discoveries.

And finally, illiterate does not equal stupid. Most people were so busy working that reading was not something they had the time or money for. That does not mean they did not possess knowledge. Did they lack formal education often? Yes. Again though, that does not equal stupid, unless McCormick wants to say something about anyone without a college degree being stupid today.

McCormick also says when people are more educated, they are less likely to believe. Well that would depend on what they’re educated in. If students are taught bogus lies like “Science and Christianity are in conflict” then of course an education will make them think Christianity is false. Do they have any arguments for it? Well my interactions show that for the most part, they don’t.

Furthermore, while we might have more knowledge today, overall, I would think most people in ancient and medieval history were getting better educations. They were thoroughly learning how to think when they were educated and tried to study and learn as much as they could. We have more access to knowledge today, but we also have more people relying on Google for everything instead of reading books.

McCormick says the people of the past would not know that the Earth moves or what the sun is or what electricity or hydrogen was. To which I say, so what? How does that mean that they were ignorant in what else they believed? Is it the mark of an intelligent man that he knows the Earth moves around the sun, which is a large star, and what hydrogen and electricity are? There are plenty of people today who are very foolish who can answer those questions.

We could just as well say what would people say 2,000 years from now? We should not believe what those people believed because they did not know about XYZ? If that is the case, should we believe anything today? I suspect McCormick would rightly say we should go by the evidence we have. Indeed. That’s just what the ancients did. The evidence at the time indicated that the sun moved and not the Earth.

McCormick also says they did not know what caused disease or pregnancy or death. Again, we have the same problem, but the second one is just ludicrous. The ancients did not know that sex caused pregnancy? If they didn’t know this, then please tell me when this was discovered. Now if McCormick wants to say “They knew that it was sex, but they didn’t know all about it like we do” then I say “So what?” That means they’re automatically wrong?

As for death, they might not have known exactly like we do, but they knew about death. Dare I say it but these people saw death a lot more than McCormick did in a culture where it’s pretty much isolated from us and we only see the dead person usually made up well in a funeral home somewhere. Not so for them. Death was an everyday reality.

And of course we have the gem at 1202 about Jesus that says in parentheses “If he was real at all.” This is how we know we have someone who just really isn’t interacting with scholarship. McCormick has a low SKBT.

McCormick then says at 1230 that if modern people accept magical claims about people they admire, how much more people 2,000 years ago? The problem is Jesus wasn’t admired. Now of course, you could say His own followers admired Him, but not outside of that. He was a crucified criminal. That is indeed something abhorrent to the people of the time.

““How grievous a thing it is to be disgraced by a public court; how grievous to suffer a fine, how grievous to suffer banishment; and yet in the midst of any such disaster some trace of our liberty is left to us. Even if we are threatened with death, we may die free men. But the executioner, the veiling of the head, and the very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes and his ears. For it is not only the actual occurrence of these things or the endurance of them, but liability to them, the expectation, nay the mere mention of them, that is unworthy of a Roman citizen and a free man.” (Cicero, Rab. Perd. 16, trans. Hodge 1927)”

Saying a crucified criminal was the Messiah would be like going around today saying that a convicted pedophile should be the next president of America. In fact, Christianity should have died out quite early just like other beliefs have that have a disaster happen to the leader. Instead, the reverse happened. It would be good for McCormick to ask why, but he can’t get to this question because he already is beginning with a false presupposition.

At 1238, McCormick asks “What would a an ordinary person in the first century be led to think if he had a hallucination, heard something strange, had a remarkable dream, or had some other notable experience?” These are indeed good questions. Each one is worthy of research. Unfortunately, they are not researched and one thing I can assure McCormick of. They would not think “resurrection.”

Of course, at 1246 he says “It may have even been reasonable for them to think Jesus was resurrected, given that they just wouldn’t have known any better.” Maybe it would have been. It would be a great question to explore. Unfortunately, it is not. McCormick is not a researcher in this area. He can ask the questions, but he never follows up in getting the answers.

For one thing, just seeing wouldn’t be enough. There would have to be an empty tomb. McCormick never touches the burial of Jesus. He never also explains the group appearances which cannot be hallucinations. He says at 810 for instance about the witch trials that it strains incredulity to think there was a conspiracy or a mass hallucination. Okay. Then let’s assume McCormick rules those out to explain Jesus. What will he give?

At 1269, he says that it would be far more unlikely and surprising for Jesus’s followers to not have reported seeing Jesus return from the dead and for none of them to hallucinate Jesus. Unfortunately, this still assumes that if they thought they had seen Jesus, then this would mean they would jump to resurrection. No. More likely they would think that Jesus was in Abraham’s bosom. They could have a view of divine exaltation where Jesus had been honored by God in the Heavens, but going the route of resurrection would be the most extreme and the most dangerous route to take.

He also says that “the information we have are hearsay reports from the authors of the Gospels, which were created decades after it is alleged that Jesus appeared to the disciples.” Of course, we are not surprised that he does not interact at all with 1 Cor. 15 which is not decades later but rather has material that is just years later if even that long. He can talk all he wants about the ending of Mark, but meanwhile the real opponents of his position are pointing to a totally different area. That McCormick doesn’t interact with this shows that he is not aware of the material he is arguing against.

Even if we granted this, decades later is not a problem. Most ancient history is decades later. Heck. A great deal of it is centuries later. This is not seen as a problem. Decades later is something that is often tossed out to make the accounts seem problematic. For those who know about ancient history, it’s par for the course. Most historians would love to have four biographies of a Caesar written within a century of his life.

McCormick also says that this central source of information, the ending of Mark, which he has wrong, did not surface until one to two hundred years after the events.  I don’t know any scholar of the resurrection who makes a case based on the long ending of Mark. McCormick has just built up a straw man. McCormick thinks he has a good point. Unfortunately, he just has a low SKBT.

McCormick also says that resurrection reports are not uncommon. Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson report them. Yes. In a society where resurrection is seen to be a good thing and built on a Christian worldview where resurrection is now seen as a good thing, some people report resurrections. Today, it’s not so much of a stir. We can be skeptical, but we don’t balk at it. In the ancient world, that would be different. This is just McCormick imposing his culture on another.

Ironically, at 1372 McCormick says that for many tasks, the worse we are, the more confidence we express. This is the Dunning-Kruger effect. If anyone wants to see it at work, read McCormick’s book. McCormick is thoroughly incompetent with resurrection studies, but writes a book with confidence thinking he has proven his case. Of course, this is because he has a low SKBT.

McCormick also points to a study by Solomon Asch that shows that people seek to conform to the group even if patently false. McCormick thinks this is an argument to show the disciples would believe the resurrection. It’s just the opposite. The social stigma of believing in Jesus would be so great the disciples would be pressured the other way.  For more on that, listen to my interview with Larry Hurtado on Destroyer of the Gods here.

It gets even worse. McCormick claims that IQ scores have gone up on a regular basis so obviously, they would be even worse in the past. McCormick should realize that psycho-history was abandoned years ago. This kind of argument is just the worst kind of snobbery.

When we get to 1545, he says that the possibility of someone returning from the dead would seem like common sense to the ancients given the right background information and expectations. Why? Who knows? Resurrection was only thought to happen at the end of time. The reason the resurrection was talked about as such an unusual event was just that. It was unusual.

At 1568, he tells us that the Christians were deeply religious converts who were actively discouraged from being skeptical or critical about extraordinary claims. Well yeah, unless you consider active shaming or persecution to be discouragement. Their entire social lives would discourage them from this.

He then says “Unless you are a historically minded Muslim or a Mormon who takes the stories about Joseph Smith’s encounters with the angel Moroni to have actually happened, you would probably take a parallel argument to the one I have made against Christianity in this chapter against Roman superstitions, Islam, or Mormonism to be completely plausible.”


I do not think these kinds of arguments are plausible at all. I would prefer arguments that actually study the culture at the time and not only ask questions but research them. Of course, this is because I have a high SKBT, unlike McCormick.

Even more amazing, he admits at 1582 that even if the story of the resurrection was true, because of all that he mentioned, we should not believe the story. At this, we have to wonder what would convince McCormick. He never says.

We could say more, but that’s enough for chapter 4. Next time we’ll cover the fifth chapter.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 5 can be found here.

Part 6 can be found here.

Part 7 can be found here.

Part 8 can be found here.

Part 9 can be found here.

Part 10 can be found here.

Part 11 can be found here.

Part 12 can be found here.

Part 13 can be found here.

McCormick’s Gaffe

Atheism: The Case Against Christ. Chapter 3.

Do the Salem Witch Trials disprove Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ll be quite blunt at the start and say the Salem Witch Trials is not anything I’ve really looked into specifically. Of course, that means that when I approach them, I’m going to be agnostic. I do not claim to know what exactly happened there and I would really have to study the historical data. If any readers have any comments and some good sources to recommend, I welcome them.

McCormick begins with what is often said about the NT by Christians. We do have eyewitness accounts. We have the early church was persecuted. We have archaeology verifying many of the claims of the NT of a historical nature. This is all good, but now McCormick switches to the Salem Witch Trials. What happened?

He points out that there you have people claiming to see witchcraft going on. They all came from diverse backgrounds and social strata. They were all passionately convinced. People had a great deal to lose if they were wrong, such as friends and family. McCormick says it seems very unlikely that there would be an ulterior motive for being able to risk putting friends and family on trial.

McCormick says the accounts were investigated and we have hundreds of documents from the time. He claims we have enough documents to fill a truck. What was going on?

McCormick says he is of course not making a case for real witchcraft. It is a hypothesis, but one he doesn’t consider likely. He says it is not the best or most probable one. The point he wants to establish is that the accused were not witches and you and I probably do not believe that.

Now to be fair, I’m skeptical, but I would like to see what was going on then and what the better explanations were. What explanation would best explain the data that we have? Therefore, as I come at this as someone who has not studied the events, I look and see what can explain it. I wonder if McCormick can do that for me or not.

Now of course, McCormick has statements about the Gospel stories being hearsay and anecdotal and such. We will look at that more in later chapters, but naturally, he doesn’t at all bother to interact with 1 Cor. 15. We’ll also find he doesn’t really back his claims about the Gospels and the historical information we have, but I want readers to know that this is going to be discussed in a later chapter.

McCormick thinks with his comparison, there are three things a believer can do. The first is bite the bullet. He might lower his threshold of evidence to accept both claims. Now to clarify, this isn’t my claim yet. My claim is simply that I don’t know and I prefer to not speak on a subject I don’t know about. Of course, I’m skeptical, but I’m not going to approach the data and say “I want to know what happened. Witchcraft is ruled out.” McCormick says we shouldn’t accept real witchcraft though because the best explanation doesn’t involve that.

In this also, McCormick says lots of religions claim exclusivity and they do so on the basis of their historical miracles.


Like what?

McCormick gives no examples. For Islam for instance, the only miracle I understand to be certain is the Koran. Buddhism is atheistic classically and miracles would prove nothing. Hinduism meanwhile is pantheistic. Miracles don’t fit. Mormonism could be close, but even this one is supposed to be built on a prior Christian worldview. Even still if I grant just Mormonism, then that’s just one. I can’t help but think of the words of Sheldon Cooper.

McCormick also asks “How does the evangelical Christian, who explicitly denies the doctrines of other Christian denominations, explain the widespread occurrence of miracles in those churches that seem to legitimate their actions?” (Loc. 895)

Like what?

I mean, I know many Pentecostals claim miracles, but I don’t know any who would say “Therefore Pentecostalism is the one true faith and all other denominations are hellbound.” I also don’t think many would say that therefore everything they believe about God is absolutely right. McCormick acts as if a miracle can only happen because God wants to give a big affirmation to a movement. That could be, but it doesn’t necessitate it.

I have no problem accepting miracles in other religions for instance. Perhaps God is giving some common grace to someone. Perhaps there is demonic activity going on with false wonders. I do not know. I’m also fine with that. The main point is I have no problem explaining it.

Now let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s go to McCormick and say that how does he explain it if there is one bona fide miracle and there is no natural cause whatsoever? McCormick’s worldview is in a bind then. Mine isn’t. Chesterton said years ago that the theist believes in a miracle, rightly or wrongly, because of the evidence. The atheist disbelieves, rightly or wrongly, because he has a dogma against them.

McCormick also says that if some other entity is acting, then one of the central pillars of the natural sciences has been undermined. (loc. 910) He asks if my evidence for the resurrection is better than thinking the entire scientific enterprise’s naturalistic worldview is correct.

First off, there are plenty of scientists who do not share a naturalistic worldview. Consider Francis Collins or John Polkinghorne. What McCormick means is “Is my evidence for the resurrection better than the evidence for naturalism held by atheistic scientists.”

The answer is yes. I do not find the naturalistic worldview at all convincing. McCormick has given me no reason to think that it is and seems to have this strange idea that miracles undermine science. Why? We are not told. Science only tells you what happens if there is no outside interference. The fact that an outside agent could interfere does not mean there are no processes that would happen on their own regardless.

In fact, miracles rely on a natural order being a given. After all, if there is no natural order, then how could you recognize a miracle? If there is no natural order, you drop a rock and it falls. The next time it floats through the sky. The next time it shoots like a rocket through your neighbor’s window. (Interestingly, the rock dropping idea comes from Hume who did decide to argue against miracles. Wonder why he wanted it both ways.) It is only if rocks consistently fall can you recognize a miracle if one does not. It is only if dead people stay dead and virgins don’t give birth that you can recognize a miracle if a dead person returns to life and if a virgin gives birth. (And of course, I do affirm the virgin birth.)

This is simple thinking. It’s a wonder McCormick doesn’t see this, but in these statements he has just revealed his hand and said he would not believe in miracles because his own worldview will not allow it. Well it’s nice to know who’s coming to the evidence with their presuppositions ready.

The second response McCormick says can be taken is to deny the analogy. He says this is doomed to fail because it will end in ad hoc rationalization and special pleading. (Loc. 918) Well it’s good to know that the conclusion has already been reached even before hearing the case.

I think some differences are the NT world was an honor-shame context instead of a guilt-innocence context. It was agonistic instead of individualistic. It was a movement that lasted hundreds of years under persecution instead of one that died out in about a year (According to the time given by McCormick.) It went against prior accepted beliefs whereas the Witch Trials I gather were built on a prior worldview.

But for McCormick, these are just ad hoc and special pleading instead of, you know, real historical facts.

He also says there are many other claims that are false like the Hindu milk drinking miracle, but you can do this with a tablespoon in your own house. Some surfaces just naturally take in the milk. As for Lourdes, I would refer him to Keener’s work. I’m not about to say that all such claims are false.

Still, the real howler comes when he says “The original accounts of Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism, and Hinduism are filled with supernatural claims, and the circumstances surrounding their advents resemble Christianity in too many relevant respects.” (Loc. 934)


Okay. What are the supernatural claims that are in the original accounts of Islam? Muhammad is said to have done no miracles save providing the Koran. The miracles come in the biographies that come 100+ years later. These are not the original sources.

Buddhism and Hinduism? We have original sources for these? I would love to get to see the original account of Buddhism and Hinduism. Does McCormick have them? Does he have some evidence that their origins were comparable to Christianity’s or does he just want me to take it on faith?

The closest you might have is Mormonism, but even then that is shrouded in mystery. We do have evidence of Smith being a con man. We have multiple accounts of the beginning and no clear details on what happened. The original Book of Mormon that you can find has a number of grammatical and such errors that are changed in later manuscripts deliberately.

I take it McCormick really hasn’t looked at the evidence of these religions too much. He’s just accepted claims on faith. A shame. A good researcher would do otherwise.

He also says that Salem shows we don’t need to have a fully articulated naturalistic explanation to believe there is one. (Loc. 956) Good to know. We have a position of faith. McCormick doesn’t have an explanation for why all these people would see XYZ and be willing to put their loved ones on trial but, well, we know there HAS to be one! There has to be and we know this because naturalism is true. We know naturalism is true because these events don’t happen. They don’t happen because naturalism is true. Again, we are ultimately arguing in a circle.

Now a good researcher would want to know what that explanation is. Is there one? I don’t know without studying it myself, but when it comes to Jesus, I invite McCormick to give his better explanation. Until he can give one, I am justified in my conviction that Jesus rose from the dead.

A third way McCormick says we can respond is to say evidence doesn’t matter. Now this way apparently works fine for him, but it doesn’t work for me. I say the evidence does matter and it does need to be explained. Unfortunately, McCormick has left out the fourth way to respond.

That way is to look at all the data and ask questions a researcher would ask and then seek to provide an explanation. As I’ve said, I haven’t looked so I don’t have one. Unfortunately, McCormick doesn’t give me one either. All he ends up saying is “There has to be a natural explanation and likewise, there has to be one with Jesus.” That’s just question-begging. It would have been good for McCormick to do the hard research and read all scholarship he could find on this. Unfortunately, no such exercise took place.

Let’s hope he doesn’t make the same mistake with the resurrection.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Part One can be found here.

Part Two can be found here.

Part four can be found here.

Part five can be found here.

Part six can be found here.

Part seven can be found here.

Part eight can be found here.

Part nine can be found here.

Part ten can be found here.

Part eleven can be found here.

Part twelve can be found here.

Part thirteen can be found here.

McCormick’s Gaffe

A Review of Atheism: The Case Against Christianity

What do I think of Matthew McCormick’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was asked by someone to read this book and see what I thought about it. I was expecting to see a really strong case. McCormick is a Ph.D. in philosophy. While it’s not history, philosophers usually tend to be really good thinkers and I was really thinking I’d see more of the same.

In fact, the book started out with a lot of promise on why we should believe something and that the benefits we get from believing something don’t entail the truth of that something. All of this had a lot of promise to it. Unfortunately, that promise died quickly. It died so quickly that I soon realized that to review this book, I would need to do a lot more than just one blog post. McCormick’s book is full of errors and bad analogies and show really the same typical approaches from atheistic writers.

It’s also worth noting that I don’t get much hope still when I see the acknowledgments include thanks to John Loftus and Richard Carrier. I saw both names and thought “Well maybe he’ll make a better case anyway.” I was disappointed.

At the start, McCormick is partially right when he says at location 71 that “A God who performs miracles to accomplish his ends, prove his divinity, and foster belief is the foundation of the Christian religion—as well as many other religions.” I would not say the resurrection is there to prove that YHWH is divine for instance. It would not even be to prove that Jesus was divine per se. Many of us have this idea that the Gospels were written to show Jesus is fully God and fully man. While they do that, that is not their purpose.

I also think McCormick is wrong about miracles. For instance, classical Islam only claims one miracle, the Koran itself. Buddhism would not have miracles and they do not fit well in Hinduism either. You could look at a more modern religion like Mormonism, but as we’ll see later on, that builds on a Christian foundation already.

Still, McCormick is right that a God who performs miracles is essential for the Christian religion. You can take the miracles out of Christianity and you might have a nice ethical system, but you do not have a religion. Jesus is just another great teacher and frankly, we’ve had a hard time listening to great teachers already anyway.

I also wonder what McCormick means when he says “We must reject attempts to redefine God in some nonliteral fashion.” (Loc. 94) Why must we do this? Should I believe God literally in His nature has a body and that passages speaking about the hand of the Lord are literal? Would it surprise McCormick to know that a lot of passages that we might think are “literal” today were not seen that way by the early church because that would not be seen as fitting for the glory of God?

Now to say something I definitely agree with, I agree at loc. 102 when McCormick says “If the typical claims about Jesus are true—he is the son of God, he died for our sins, his forgiveness promises eternal salvation, he was resurrected from the dead, and so on—then he is the most important person in human history.” One would think with such a recognition that McCormick would take the case more seriously. As we will see, he does not.

McCormick also at 149 has the usual atheistic view of faith. “Faith is how we describe believing when the evidence by itself, as we see it, does not provide adequate justification, but we are motivated to believe anyway by hope.” Of course, I have my own view on faith. While McCormick’s view might be what Joe Christian means today, it is not what the Biblical writers meant and if we are approaching the Biblical text to see what it says, we need to see what the authors meant.

I do agree also at Loc. 173 that if the historical facts do not matter, then all religions are on the same footing, insofar as they claim to be true. Christianity is a historical religion. That needs to be acknowledged. This isn’t about events that happened long long ago in a galaxy far far away. These are events that happened at a real place and a real time.

Around 211, McCormick points out that Carrier says Herodotus mentions several bizarre events that took place at a battle. Many of these are fascinating, but unfortunately, McCormick is not a researcher. In fact, there isn’t even a primary source cited but rather just a reference to Carrier himself. A researcher when seeing these claims would want to know “Where does Herodotus say them and what is the explanation?” “What is the distance between the events and the time of writing?” “What do leading historical scholars, especially those specializing in Herodotus, say about these events?” Unfortunately, these are not asked. As we will see later, the evidence for Jesus is far better.

There’s also of course something on science and Christianity. After making a case for evolution, McCormick says at 266 that “These discoveries are at odds with Christian views of sin, vice, weakness of will, or the magical transmission of moral guilt across centuries from Adam and Eve on to their remote descendants.” One wonders what would happen if McCormick came across Christians that have no problem with the idea of evolution. Perhaps it is not Christians that have the problem with literalism but rather atheists?

I also agree at loc. 334 that a miracle is not just a fortuitous event, though I think describing it as a violation of the laws of nature is problematic, and I will have more on that when we discuss miracles later on. I do think sometimes it can be a fortuitous event. Let’s suppose the Red Sea parting happened and it was due to a wind and that this does happen from time to time as is claimed. The miracle then is not that it happened, but that it happened when it happened.

Of course, McCormick is right throughout that we must take the evidence seriously and that we shouldn’t believe just because we like the outcomes of Christian belief or it makes us good people. The question will be, does McCormick have a case? As we will see, he does not.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 4 can be found here.

Part 5 can be found here.

Part 6 can be found here.

Part 7 can be found here.

Part 8 can be found here.

Part 9 can be found here.

Part 10 can be found here.

Part 11 can be found here.

Part 12 can be found here.

Part 13 can be found here.

McCormick’s Gaffe

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/7/2016: Justin Peters

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in a world full of hucksters. There are always people trying to trick someone and sadly, faith is one of the ways they do it. We also live in a world of experiences where if someone has an experience, they can use that to lord over others or get their fifteen minutes of fame. The stores are constantly full of stories about people who have had trips to Heaven. While I do not deny the validity of NDEs, I do get suspicious of the guided tours of the after-death. Others have got so suspicious that it has led to this hilarious Babylon Bee satire article and we all know about what children report seeing when they come back.


Not only that, we have people who teach the Word of Faith doctrine and speak about miracles on demand. Again, I do not doubt that miracles are happening and miracles have happened, but there are sadly a lot of phonies out there. There are too many people that think it’s a virtue to believe something without evidence. There are elderly people sending in their social security checks to frauds expecting to receive a blessing back. Fortunately, there are some people who are giving a call to discernment. There are some who are warning about ideas like fake stories of people dying and going to Heaven. One of the more prominent ones is Justin Peters. (No relation yet as far as we know)

Who is he?


Justin received a Master of Divinity with Biblical languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2000. He also received a Master of Theology with minor in New Testament from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2002.
Not only this, Justin has a specific interest in the Word of Faith movement due to his life with disability, something I can resonate with. I happen to be one who has a steel rod on my spine due to scoliosis surgery. I also have Aspergers as does my wife Allie. Disability awareness is something important to me and I do get angry about people who are known frauds trying to trick those who are disabled.
Of course, Justin and I both believe that miracles are happening today, but how can we develop discernment? Are we not calling into question God when we don’t “have faith” that he can heal? If we see a claim, are there any signs we can look for that could differentiate a true miracle from someone who is a fake? What can we do to help our brothers and sisters who are falling for the tricks of those in the Word of Faith movement?
I’m looking forward to this talk with someone else who shares not just my last name, but also my care for those who are disabled and a passion for truth. As a former worker at CRI, I have seen the damage of the Word of Faith community. I hope you will be listening in to this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Reply To Metro on Jesus Mythicism

Do some arguments need to stay dead? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ah yes. Easter. That time of year when we Christians come together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and the time of year when the media loves to resurrect arguments that died years ago and ask “Can these bones walk again?” Now it’s wanting to bring Jesus mythicism mainstream.

In some ways, it’s odd writing a reply to this because of my stance on the rise of mythicism. I am convinced that those supporting mythicism are doing a great deal of harm to the secular movement in the U.S. and wherever else they go by making internet atheists who are even more ignorant and invincible in their ignorance and that this will allow Christians to win the day years later when we’ve been the ones, you know, actually studying real scholarship instead of just going by what we see in Google. Still, some Christians will see this and be troubled and some will want something to shame the atheists who post mythicist nonsense.

Today’s drivel can be found here. I’d like to start with a rant about the title. The writer wants to speak about things that are not true, but that does not equal a lie. If a student answers a question wrong on a math test, he is not lying. He honestly thinks that’s what the answer is. He is just mistaken. For it to be a lie, the writer would need to demonstrate that the authors of the Gospels knew they were communicating an untruth and chose to communicate it as a truth anyway. Good luck with that one.

So let’s see how this starts.

If you saw somebody flying up into heaven in a cloud of magic sparkles, you’d probably at least Instagram it, right?

So how come 2,000 years ago, no historian seemed to notice when Jesus did the same – despite ‘dozens of eye-witnesses’ seeing him do it?

Not sure where the cloud of magic sparkles came from. We’re not told anything about that. Still, you have dozens of eyewitnesses and naturally, no one could instagram back then, but I think the parallel they get is “Why didn’t anyone write this down?”

Saying something like that assumes a post-Gutenberg version of society. You see, even up until the Industrial Revolution, most people couldn’t read. You want to spread a story? You use word of mouth. Here are the benefits. Word of mouth is free, it’s seen as more reliable, and it can reach everyone who can speak the language. (Yes. I know about Ehrman’s criticisms and have responded.)

Some people get surprised when I tell them writing was expensive. That seems like a cop-out. Not at all, and keep in mind that this is just for writing the original. The copies would have cost a good deal also if only just for equipment since most copies of the NT were made by amateurs.

The cost of writing and rewriting was not free. A secretary charged by the line. Like anyone whose living depended on billing customers, the secretary kept up with how many lines he wrote each time. Although we do not know the exact charges for making drafts and producing a letter, we can make some educated guesses. A rough, and very conservative, estimate of what it would cost in today’s dollars to prepare a letter like 1 Corinthians would be $2100, $700 for Galatians, and $500 for 1 Thessalonians.” Richards, Capes, and Reeves, Rediscovering Paul p. 78

Now suppose you had someone to read the manuscript? Well this would be one person listening to someone else read a manuscript. That sounds a lot like oral tradition and how would these other people tell others? It would still be word of mouth. Of course, those wanting to better understand oral tradition are invited to check a book like The Lost World of Scripture.

Now why would no historian mention this? Well most historians were outside of Judea at the time. Now suppose you’re in a city like Rome and you hear about this rabbi in Judea, which is seen as a more backwaters area, and he is supposedly doing miracles. Chances are, you won’t take this seriously as most of the elite would be skeptical of miracles. Then you hear he was crucified. Okay. Definitely not taking him seriously. No one worthy of a good reputation would be crucified. People didn’t take the claims seriously today for the same reason most people don’t take claims of Benny Hinn seriously. When the Christian movement started, most would not want to dignify it with a response hoping it would just go away. Celsus is one of our first critics and by the time we get to Porphyry, it’s pretty clear Christianity is here to stay, but it’s still combated.

In fact, we know a lot about Messianic claimants who had to have the Roman army called out because these claimants had supporters in the thousand and battles with Rome would take place. These were people worth mentioning. Who all mentions them at the time?

One guy. Just one. Josephus. If we did not have Josephus, we would not have a clue about these people. In fact, let’s look at some other people.

How about Hannibal? He nearly conquered the Roman Empire. He was the great Carthaginian general in the Punic Wars. He slaughtered army after army that came to him and was defeated just before he conquered Rome. This was a great man worth writing about!

Our first mention of him comes about 40-60 years later in Polybius.

How about Arminius who defeated about a tenth of the Roman army in a battle. This great Germanic general would have been a massive hero in his time. This is a man worth writing about!

Wait about a century later and you’ll see mention of him.

What about Queen Boudica? This was another great woman who stood up against the Roman Army. Now surely some would want to write about a woman who was this successful!

Again. No. Wait about the same length.

How about Caius Apuleius Diocles? This guy was the great charioteer of his day and the crowds loved chariots. Sports fanaticism is just as much a thing of the past as it is today. Over a quarter of a million people would watch this guy!

We have one contemporary inscription. That’s it.

But this Jew in Palestine who was crucified. Everyone should have written about him.

I know the objections some of you are raising. We’ll get to them. Let’s get back to the article.

A San Francisco-based atheist writer has argued in a series of controversial essays and books that there’s something distinctly fishy about the whole Jesus story.

Fitzgerald, an atheist activist, says, ‘There is a paradox that Jesus did all these amazing things and taught all these amazing things yet no one heard of him outside his immediate cult for nearly 100 years.

‘Or it means he didn’t do all these things at all…’

Ah yes. David Fitzgerald. Well what a shock because this is what the atheist movement is producing, following the lead of polyamorous prominent internet blogger Richard Carrier. Of course, all Fitzgerald has is an argument from silence and one that completely discounts that we have four Greco-Roman biographies written about this guy within a century’s time, in fact I’d say even by liberal standards 70 years time, and historical references in the Pauline epistles.

Did Jesus do all these amazing things? Well he was said to do them and most people who were outside of the area would not bother to send someone to check them out. You had more important things going on to them all over the world. You see, you can believe Jesus historically existed and did not do miracles. Many atheists do this and go on to lead happy and meaningful lives.

Not people like Fitzgerald. It’s all-or-nothing.

San Francisco-based David Fitzgerald claims that there are no mentions of Jesus – at all – in 125 different accounts of the period.

He says it makes no sense, as Jesus is supposed to have been a famous figure who wrought incredible miracles – but no contemporary writers had heard of him.

So the number is at 125 now? Good to know. We’ve moved a lot past Remsberg’s list. Unfortunately, he doesn’t tell us who these historians are. Well if he’s using the list from Michael Paulkovich, which has 126 figures in it, then there are some problems. Even an atheist writer who is unsure if Jesus existed or not can see the problems with it. (I also recommend you read the interaction at the bottom with atheist Tim O’Neill and the others on the blog post.)

What about the resurrection of Jesus and His ascension?

Fitzgerald writes, ‘Of course, the final icing on the Jesus cake is his resurrection and ascension into Heaven in front of many witnesses. It’s strange enough to realize that such a world-altering supernatural event, if true arguably one of the most significant and influential moments in history, seen by scores of eyewitnesses, would not have been an immediate bombshell on the consciousness of the first-century world. But it comes without a trace in the historical record for nearly a century…’

We also don’t have historical accounts of the eruption of Vesuvius that killed 250,000 people at least that are current with the times except for one off-the-cuff remark in an exchange between Pliny the Younger and Tacitus. In fact, it’s not even until we get to Cassius Dio over a century later that we learn that a second city was destroyed in the volcano. Yet somehow, an event that would only be seen by those on a mountaintop who would be said to be of a dubious nature anyway should have been noticed by everyone? (The resurrection was not noticed and again, most who could write would shrug it off. Ancients were especially skeptical of resurrections.)

What about the census?

Fitzgerald writes, ‘Luke (2:1-4) claims Jesus was born in the year of a universal tax census under Augustus Caesar, while Cyrenius (a.k.a. Quirinius) was governor of Syria, But Roman records show the first such universal census didn’t occur until decades after this, during the reign of the emperor Vespasian in 74 CE.’

Unfortunately, this is not a cut and dry case. There are indeed records of other censuses, but it can also depend on how one translates the language in Luke 2. Ben Witherington joined me for the second hour of my program here. He makes the case that the language could indicate that this was a registration that took place before the great census.

At any rate, let’s suppose Luke got a fact wrong. I’m not saying he did, but for the sake of argument, let’s suppose he did. Does this show Jesus didn’t exist? No. At worst, it just shows Inerrancy is false. That’s not enough to show all of the Gospels are false.

What about the slaughter of the infants?

Fitzgerald says, ‘There is absolutely no way anyone would have missed an outrage as big as the massacre of every infant boy in the area around a town just 6 miles from Jerusalem – and yet there is absolutely no corroboration for it in any account – Jewish, Greek or Roman. It’s not even found in any of the other Gospels – only Matthew’s.

There’s also no way anyone would have missed an explosion that killed a quarter of a million people. Oh wait. They didn’t mention it except for an off-the-cuff remark from the time. There’s also this strange game being played that if something is in the Bible, it must be mentioned elsewhere to be corroborated. Do we do this with any other ancient source? I mean, of course it’s nice to have multiple sources, but sometimes we just don’t. That doesn’t mean we throw it out as unhistorical.

But yes, there is a way this would be missed. Bethlehem was a small little hamlet of a town then. The number of boys killed would likely be about a dozen. For a king like Herod, this is par for the course. Of the many wicked things he did, this would not be as intriguing as the more political events he did. Especially since most people outside Christianity would say “Well that Messiah he was fearful of never came so no need to bother with that.”

Fitzgerald says, ‘Most Christians also accept that Jesus’ birth and death were also accompanied by still more phenomenally news-worthy events; like a 3-hour supernatural darkness over “all the land,”. But like the miraculous Star of Bethlehem, no one recorded any such thing at this time. Astronomical marvels like these could never have been ignored by works like Pliny’s Natural History, Seneca’s Natural Questions, Ptolemy’s Almagest, the works of Tacitus or Suetonius.’

And they could never have been ignored because?

Most would look and say “Well that was interesting” but note that nothing happened if they saw it at all. Second, there’s even great debate as to whether it even was a star. Even we Christians debate amongst ourselves what this body was. Some people think it was the aligning of Jupiter and Saturn. Some think it was a comet. Some think it was an angel. Some think a combination of these are something else entirely.

It’s not like we necessarily have exhaustive lists anyway. Fitzgerald would have to show that this was a star and that no one noticed it. None of this has been demonstrated. It’s only been asserted.

As for the darkness, even some evangelicals interpret that as apocalyptic but all the land does not necessitate the entire Roman Empire but could refer to Judea. Even if it meant the Roman Empire, we again do not have an exhaustive list of eclipses and such from the time. Again, the most that is lost is possibly Inerrancy, but if apocalyptic not even that.

In the end, we can simply thank sources like Metro for publishing this. They’re not doing atheism any favors and instead giving a conspiracy theory for atheists. Remember how recently I wrote about how the internet spreads misinformation as much as truth?

Treat Metro’s article as Exhibit A.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


Deeper Waters Podcast 12/5/2015: Craig Keener

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Acts. It forms a connection between the Gospels and the Pauline epistles. It is in this book that we are introduced to the man who is the apostle to the Gentiles and we get to see how the early church spread. It’s a wealth of historical information and it has also been of great apologetic significance. We can track down many of the dates in the book of Acts and many of the places and there are claims that Luke is certainly an excellent historian. So how accurate are these claims? To discuss that, I figured I’d have someone on the show who has recently written a little bit on the book of Acts.

That is, if you consider a little bit to be a 4,000+ page commentary that is so large it fits on four volumes and the bibliography is on CD.

And the author is of course, Craig Keener. (Might I add that I was surprised to get a brief bio.)


According to his bio:

Craig S. Keener (PhD, Duke University) is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is author of seventeen books, four of which have won major awards, more than seventy academic articles, several booklets, and more than one hundred fifty popular-level articles. One of his books, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, now in a second edition, has sold more than half a million copies. His books include commentaries on Matthew, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Revelation, a two-volume commentary on John and a four-volume commentary on Acts, plus a two-volume work on miracles, works about the Spirit, ethnic reconciliation, women in ministry, divorce and various other topics. (These include works published by Baker Academic, Cambridge, Eerdmans, InterVarsity and Zondervan.) Craig is also the New Testament editor for the forthcoming NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Craig is editor of the Bulletin for Biblical Research and the former program chair for the Institute for Biblical Research; he is coeditor with Michael Bird of the New Covenant Commentary series, and coeditor with Daniel Carroll R. of Global Voices, which includes interpretive contributions from readers from various cultures. Craig is married to Dr. Médine Moussounga Keener, who was a refugee in her home country of Congo for eighteen months. His blog site is

Let me also say that normally, I have read the books that are talked about on the show (Yes. I read a lot), but in this case, I just could not pull myself to read through 4,000 pages, especially with my own schoolwork going on.

We’ll be talking then about the book of Acts and the information Keener learned while doing this research. (I also am wondering if Craig Keener is secretly the Flash that Allie and I watch on Tuesday nights because I can think of no other explanation for how he produces so much material.) We’ll be discussing its relevance for apologetic discussion and quite likely discussing some of the classical situations, such as what really happened in the Damascus Road case of Paul since we have three accounts that all seem to differ and what is the relationship to the book of Acts and Paul’s letters.

I hope you’ll be listening!