Deeper Waters Podcast 7/29/2017: Tony Costa

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

The resurrection is the central claim of Christianity. All the theistic arguments in the world can work, but if Jesus did not rise, then all is for naught. Christianity is bogus at that point. This is what everything hangs on. It’s important then that Christians understand and have a good defense of this doctrine.

Can a modern man really believe that a man came back from the dead? How can we trust accounts that are 2,000 years old when it comes to these monumental claims? Don’t extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence? Weren’t the people who believed this living in a pre-scientific culture and today we all know better?

We have had shows on this before, but to discuss it this time, I decided to bring on someone I haven’t brought on before. This person got in touch with me originally after seeing the replies that I had made to a certain John Tors. I had heard this person on Unbelievable before and knew that I wanted them on so I decided to take advantage of the email and they agreed to come on. That person is Tony Costa. So who is he?

So who is he?

Tony Costa has earned a B.A. and an M.A. in the study of religion, biblical studies, and philosophy from the University of Toronto. Tony received his Ph.D. in the area of theology and New Testament studies from Radboud University in the Netherlands. His area of expertise is biblical and systematic theology, cults, the New Age Movement, and comparative world religions with a specialization in Islam. Tony is also an ordained minister of the Gospel. As a Christian apologist Dr. Costa gives reasons for the valid belief in Christianity and also advocates the unique claims of Jesus Christ. He also lectures and debates at various universities and colleges on the existence of God, Muslim-Christian relations, as well as the credibility of the Christian faith. Tony is a professor of apologetics with the Toronto Baptist Seminary. He also teaches as an Instructor with the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto in the area of New Testament studies and Second Temple Judaism. He serves as an adjunct professor with Heritage College and Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario and Providence Theological Seminary in Franklin, Tennessee. Tony is also a member of the Network of Christian Scholars in Canada. He has lectured throughout Canada, the United States, and overseas. He is the author of Worship and the Risen Jesus in the Pauline Letters (New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 2013), as well as a contributor of scholarly essays in Christian Origins and Greco-Roman Culture, and Christian Origins and Hellenistic Judaism and various journals. Tony is happily married to a wonderful wife, has 3 children, and a grandson, and resides in Toronto, Canada.

This is the central doctrine. We’ve had Gary Habermas and Mike Licona both come on to talk about it. This time, Tony Costa will be in the hot seat and I plan to ask him the most difficult questions I can and see if the resurrection can stand up. I hope you’ll be looking forward to this one and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast on ITunes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Science and Religion

What do I think of Joshua Moritz’s book published by Anselm Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A reader of Deeper Waters recommended that I look into the work of Joshua Moritz and see if I’d like to interview him on my show. The book recommended was Science and Religion. I got in touch with Moritz who got in touch with his publishers and a copy was sent my way.

I read the book and I was in many ways, surprised. The book was extremely thorough. At times, you wouldn’t even know a Christian was behind it because very little place would be given to religion. It would be just looking at the science itself.

Moritz starts with the obvious place in a book like this, namely Galileo. The information in here is quite good as he brings out pieces of the account that I had not read elsewhere. He does rightly show that this was never science vs. religion. Everyone in the debate held the same view of religion and would believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. Everyone also believed that science told us truth about the world and that science and Scripture would not contradict.

Indeed, the big problem was that Galileo was speaking on areas where he was not authorized to speak and where he had even agreed to not speak. I ultimately view it as an ego conflict. It also didn’t help that he had a dialogue written depicting the pope as a simpleton. Not only that, Galileo’s case was ultimately right, but he did not at the time have the evidence for it and the church was ready to change its interpretation of Scripture if it had to, but it needed really good grounds to do that. Galileo did not have that yet.

From there, we move on to evolution and especially a case like the Scopes trial. Again, the narrative is hardly the same as the real story. Bryan who was arguing against evolution supposedly was hardly a fundamentalist and Darrow was hardly the brilliant attorney on the other side. He had his own skeletons in his closet. As for evolution itself, a number of devout Christians at the start had no problem with it. Even Warfield, known as Mr. Inerrancy, did not have a problem with it.

From there, we get a look at the history of the topic and look at questions like the Big Bang Theory and other such subjects. Sometimes the work can get a bit technical, but for the most part it’s easy to go through. We also look at some questions like the age of the Earth.

There is also talk about the limits of science. Are there some things that science cannot do? Is it possible to have science without faith? Is it possible to have faith without science? Could it actually be that both need each other?

He also goes to places many don’t go to. Miracles are somewhat understandable, but there is a different take given on them, though I do not wish to spoil for the reader. He also looks at the problem of evil, including animal suffering, and seeing if this is compatible with religion, and finally ends with a chapter more on eschatology and if there is any redemption for our world for if we all we have is science, the story does not end well.

Moritz’s book is a good and fascinating read and worthwhile for anyone interested in this subject. I highly recommend it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Skepticism Is Not An Argument

Do you need a reason for your doubt? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times I get caught up in debates on miracles and that leads to an automatic skepticism by many people. After all, we live in an age of science and in this age of science, we know things the ancients didn’t know. Therefore, we know that miracles don’t happen.

I like to point out to these people that they even knew back then that dead people stay dead, people don’t walk on water, food doesn’t instantly multiply to feed 5,000+ people, it’s not expected for blind people to see and paralyzed people to walk, and of course, virgins don’t give birth. (Although I do affirm the virgin birth.) If people insist at this point, I ask when it was that science made these great discoveries that they didn’t know about. It’s also helpful to ask which branch of science has disproven miracles.

The problem that often comes up is that someone will just say I’m a skeptic but without giving any basis for their own position. If we as Christians are often obligated to give a reason for the hope that lies within us, why should our intellectual opponents not give a reason for the doubt that lies within them. Please note that I am not saying all doubt is wrong. I am suggesting instead that we talk about a reasonable doubt.

For instance, let’s suppose you say that you will not believe in miracles because you have never experienced one. Of course, if you did experience one and you knew it, you would likely believe in miracles, but if you haven’t, do you really want to say the only way you will believe in a miracle is if you yourself witness one? If that’s the case, then no amount of arguing and persuasion is going to work with you. You’ve already decided at the outset a miracle can’t happen because you’ve never experienced it. (It’s also interesting that other people’s experience in the case of miracles is invalid, but your experience of not having one is completely allowable!)

It also won’t help then if it’s automatically decided that any story that you hear is just someone being gullible or mistaken or lying. No doubt, people are often mistaken about miracles, but the argument against miracles depends on every single case being an error in some way. Chesterton told us years ago that the theist believes in the miracle, rightly or wrongly, because of the evidence. The skeptic disbelieves, rightly or wrongly, because he has a dogma against them.

So let’s take a work like Craig Keener’s massive two volumes on miracles documenting miracles done all over the world. For the skeptic, every single miracle in there has to be false. For myself, all of them could be false and I could still have a case for miracles because I have arguments for theism and I have arguments for the resurrection.

So when pressed, what needs to be asked is why is someone being skeptical? What is behind the skepticism? Note also this can go both ways. Christians can be unreasonable in their skepticism of positions that disagree with them. I do not encourage Christians to say you will only disbelieve in the resurrection if you see the bones of Jesus. If Jesus did not rise, his bones are likely long gone and even if they aren’t, you really don’t have much way of identifying them. Set the bar reasonable. I just ask for a better explanation for the rise of the early church than the one the church itself gave that better explains the data.

Skepticism can be good. We should not be gullible and credulous, but at the same time, we need to be reasonable even in skepticism. If we demand our own personal experience, we’re not really entering into the discussion fairly and saying that intellectual arguments won’t convince us. That’s hardly being reasonable.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/13/2017: Craig Blomberg

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

The New Testament is a good-sized work and there are many questions about it. For skeptics, the main ones are why should this group of books be given any trust whatsoever? To take on all of it would be a daunting task indeed, but perhaps that has been done.

Indeed, it has been done. It has been done by my next guest on the Deeper Waters Podcast. He is a very well-known New Testament scholar and one who is certainly qualified to talk about this material. He’s been on the show twice before and was nice enough to write the foreword to Defining Inerrancy. He is none other than Dr. Craig Blomberg. The book we’ll be talking about is The Historical Reliability of the New Testament.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Dr. Craig Blomberg is Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado.  He holds the B.A. from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, the M.A. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and the Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

 

            Craig is the author of fifteen books and has co-authored or co-edited ten more, along with more than 150 journal articles and chapters in multi-author works.  His books include four on the historical reliability and interpretation of parts or all of the Bible (esp. the Gospels), two on interpreting and preaching the parables, three commentaries (on Matthew, 1 Corinthians and James), a textbook on Jesus and the Gospels and another on Acts through Revelation, a handbook on exegetical method, and three books on material possessions in the Bible.  He is a member of the Committee on Bible Translation for the New International Version and of the committee tasked with producing the 35th anniversary edition of the NIV Study Bible, to be released in 2020.

 

On Sunday mornings Craig occasionally preaches or teaches in various churches. On Sunday evenings, he attends Scum of the Earth Church in urban Denver, an outreach ministry to “the right-brained and left out” young adults of the metro area.

 

Craig’s wife, Fran, is a retired pastor. She has her Ph.D in Missiology from the International Baptist Seminary in Amsterdam.  Craig and Fran have two daughters: Elizabeth (Little), who has an M.A. in Christian Studies from Denver Seminary, is married and works as a circuit preacher for the British Methodists in West Sussex, England, where she lives with her British husband, Jonathan, and their son, Joshua; and Rachel, who is studying for her Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

 

The Blombergs love to travel, often combining vacation and ministry opportunities at other colleges and seminaries.  Craig has enjoyed three Broncos’ Super Bowl victories in his thirty-plus years in Denver, but as a native of northern Illinois his lifelong sports dream came true in 2016 when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

This book is a big one, but one you’ll want to go through to have a thorough understanding of how to defend the New Testament. I hope you’ll be looking forward to this new episode coming out soon. Please also go on ITunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Historical Reliability of The New Testament

What do I think of Craig Blomberg’s book published by B&H Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Craig Blomberg has recently written a rather large tome on the reliability of the New Testament and it is one that is definitely in-depth. There is hardly a major issue of New Testament studies that you won’t find here. Blomberg has extensive footnotes as he wrestles with most issues that are alive today in discussion.

Want to know about the Gospels and who wrote them? It’s there. When were they written? It’s there. What about the epistles? There. What about forgery in the epistles? Blomberg has you covered. There’s even a section on Revelation. Why? Because much of Revelation does fit into a historical setting. (This could also be an area I disagree with Blomberg some on as he prefers what he calls a Preterist-Futurist approach. I prefer just an Orthodox Preterist approach. I’m pleased to see he rightly condemns neohymenaeanism.

Blomberg also writes on issues related to textual criticism and the canon. How do we know that the New Testament has been handed down accurately? Even if it has been, there were a lot of other books that could have gone into the canon. Right? Wasn’t this just a decision made at Nicea? (I would also go against Blomberg here saying that this largely comes from Dan Brown. Brown popularized it, but this claim was going on long before Dan Brown.)

If you want to know about those other accounts, there’s a section on them too. Like I said, Blomberg is thorough. It’s hard to think of a way that he could be more meticulous than this.

The final section is on miracles and the resurrection. Again, this is one area where I would disagree on the use of the term supernatural. I have a hard time with this because it is never clearly defined and I think it in fact gives the atheist a free pass with thinking that the natural doesn’t really need an explanation. While it’s not in his area, Blomberg starts off by pointing to others who have written on the existence of God (And I do wish he’d mentioned the Thomistic arguments, in my opinion, the best.) and then goes on to make the case for miracles largely using the work of Craig Keener.

The positives of this volume are that despite it being large, it is also easy to understand. A layman will get a lot out of this volume. If the reader only wants to know about one area, say the synoptic Gospels, for instance, no problem. Just go there. If you want to know about the formation of the canon, no problem. Just go there.

A work like this is also a good response to people who immediately decide there is no evidence for anything in the New Testament. Sadly, few of them will ever bother to pick up a work like this and will instead run to internet sites that already agree with them. Those who do manage to work their way through Blomberg’s book will be blessed for it.

If you want a go-to book on the reliability of the New Testament as a whole, this is the one to go to. In New Testament courses on apologetics even at a Seminary’s level, Blomberg’s book should be a staple for a long time to come. He has also said he will be having a theology book coming out next. We eagerly look forward to it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

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.

What?

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.

Really?

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.”

No.

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