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: Jesus Is No Myth

What do I think of David Marshall’s book published by Kuai Mu Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

If you’re on the internet and you’re completely unaware of scholarship, you might think mythicism is the next big phase of historical Jesus studies. You’d be completely wrong on that. Mythicism was, is, and will be a joke still. There are three figures that have stolen the spotlight recently and although only one is a mythicist (One is in fact strongly an anti-mythicist), all have had their impact.

Reza Aslan stirred some of the waters by publishing a book called Zealot. In this, he argued that Jesus belonged to the group at the time known as Zealots. Some of you might have even seen him on Fox News. Is Reza Aslan a scholar worth taking seriously?

If you’re a skeptic on the internet, usually you take Richard Carrier as the alpha and omega of Biblical scholarship. Why not? He’s a world-renowned philosopher and historian. I know this because hey, Richard Carrier said so. Is Carrier thus shaking the boat seriously and causing scholars to rethink their views on the historical Jesus?

Finally, many already use Bart Ehrman and have done so. Normally, if your skeptic isn’t pointing to Richard Carrier, they’re pointing to Bart Ehrman. He’s definitely not a mythicist, but he is definitely not an evangelical Christian either. He’s made some claims of Jesus being similar to other great figures. Is he right?

Marshall takes on all of these, the group that he calls ACE in this book. The book is a lively and engaging read. Marshall is an unusual mix. He is well-read in ancient literature and knows what was going on in the times of the Bible, but he’s also brought something else interesting, and that’s a knowledge of Chinese and other Far Eastern histories. After all, one can step outside of the world in the Bible to see what other cultures were like for comparison and how history was done in them.

Not only that, he also comes equipped with some great pop culture references. The closest that comes to his style of writing in scholarly works is actually Michael Bird. Marshall manages to make references in his book to Dr. House, epic rap battles, and Pokemon. A reference like this can bring an extra smile of delight and humor. Marshall is heavy on substance, but he brings light humor as well.

Still, let’s focus on the substance, and there’s plenty of it. Marshall takes on all three of these. Aslan is probably the simplest one seeing as he really isn’t a scholarly in the field and makes some simple mistakes that real scholars have corrected him on, but he does serve the purpose of showing us what not to do. Marshall shows how Aslan cherry picks the evidence so that Jesus comes out the way he wants him to.

Carrier is a different story. If you’re like many skeptics on the internet, you think Carrier is everything. Most in the scholarly world really have no idea who he is. That’s right. Not only is he not shaking the boat, he’s not really making any ripples in the water at all. Still, Marshall takes him on, particularly on the point of parallels to the Gospels in older literature. This also includes a great admirer of Carrier, Matthew Ferguson.

Marshall also takes on the mythicism of Carrier and others. For Carrier, there is a look at the whole Rank-Raglan idea and Marshall shows that it just doesn’t apply well. He also pays attention to the claims of the arguments of silence as well as shows that the methodology of Carrier in history would lead to disastrous results and no, ideas like the criterion of embarrassment have not been thrown out.

Dealing with Ehrman means dealing with a lot of parallels. One favorite one to use is Apollonius of Tyana. Marshall goes through this work showing that Apollonius is not a valid parallel to Jesus. This is material quite helpful for anyone encountering this kind of claim.

Another figure he deals with is the Baal Shem Tov. This was a historical Jewish figure that lived in Poland that Ehrman brought up in a debate with Tim McGrew. Unfortunately, Ehrman didn’t get out all the facts about the Baal Shem Tov and if listeners knew what Marshall shares in this book, they never would have taken Ehrman’s claim seriously.

I should also point out that Marshall writes not just with an intellectual blowtorch that burns through the rubbish in bad arguments, but he writes from the perspective of a devout Christian who sees Jesus as far greater than any other figure. That’s another benefit of this book. It allows you to see Jesus as different and how weak the attacks are against Him. If anything, they only make the Christian faith all the stronger.

This is a book I highly recommend you read. Marshall has given us a gift with this excellent work. You owe it to yourself to partake of it and if you are a fan of ACE, you need to consider the arguments in this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Big Think On The Historical Jesus

Are scholars coming to doubt Jesus existed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ah yes. We’ve been down this road before. Another website claiming that there’s an increasing number of “scholars” who doubt the existence of a historical Jesus. Of course, as we’ll see, when they use the word scholars, there’s really only one reply to that.

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This time the website is Big Think, which is apparently inappropriately named. The article can be found here. I went through it when someone pointed it out to me just groaning at the massive ignorance of the author named Philip Perry. So what are his major errors? (Other than writing the whole thing?)

To begin with, we have the whole idea that Christmas was copied from the pagans, which is something sadly that many Christians fall for. The author claims that the traditions we celebrate came from Norse mythology and from Saturnalia. His source? Just another website. Most of the material if not all is answerable in my ministry partner’s book, Christmas is Pagan And Other MythsI want to focus more on the main article.

When we start talking about Jesus, we then see what the writer means by scholars. As he says “Today more and more, historians and bloggers alike are questioning whether the actual man called Jesus existed.” Yes. There are bloggers questioning this. There are bloggers also saying 9-11 was an inside job and the moon landing was a hoax. We could say there is a growing number. Will the author start treating them seriously?

The writer of course tells us which sources we shouldn’t accept. We should not accept religious scholars or atheists with an axe to grind. Interestingly, the atheist he cites can be found here and lo and behold, his source is Richard Carrier! (That is, Richard Carrier who is teaching at the prestigious university of…..ummmm…..well….okay. He’s not teaching anywhere for a scholar who is supposed to be world-renowned in philosophy and history, but oh well.)  Of course, Carrier is someone many of us don’t take seriously at all and when I hear his name, I just think of his theme song going through my head.

Let’s look at the question about religious scholars. John Dickson addressed this point in the past when he responded to Raphael Lataster, someone I have responded to as well here and here. John Dickson said about Lataster’s idea that Christians shouldn’t get involved in the study of the historical Jesus said that

Secondly, no student – let alone an aspiring scholar – could get away with suggesting that Christians “ought not to get involved” in the study of the historical Jesus. This is intellectual bigotry and has no place in academia, or journalism. I would likewise fail any Christian student who suggested that atheists should not research Jesus because they have an agenda. Nobody in the vast field of historical Jesus scholarship operates with such an us-and-them mentality. This is why the methods of history are so important. They are how we assess each other’s work. We don’t fret about other scholars’ private beliefs and doubts. We judge their handling of the acknowledged evidence according to the rules of historical inquiry. Anything else would be zealotry.

When it comes to peer-review, no one gets a pass for being a Christian or an atheist. The methodology is the same. Can you show you handle the scholarship and handle it properly? Would Perry be fine with my saying that no Christian should listen to an atheist on evolutionary biology since they come with a bias?

Perry also finds it interesting that we have Jesus go straight from 12 to 30 with nothing about what happened in-between. This is pretty simple. I challenge Perry to go and read other Greco-Roman biographies of the time and see how much time they devoted to someone’s childhood. Jesus’s biographies are nothing unusual in this regard. They are par for the course.

Perry then goes on to say:

Historians have measures in terms of a burden of proof. If an author for instance is writing about a subject more than 100 years after it occurred, it isn’t considered valid. Another important metric is the validity of authorship. If the author cannot be clearly established, it makes the record far less reliable.

Really? This is a rule? I have never heard about this 100 year rule. This rule would rule out most of ancient history. The huge majority of the lives of Plutarch would be thrown out. Our biographies of Alexander the Great would be out the door. Today, no one could write a book about the Civil War. Only people who have no clue about how to do history would say nonsense like this.

As for the rule about an author being clearly established, it can be helpful to know who the author is, but many times, we don’t know. We hold to Plutarch authorship because his grandson said it later on. I find this whole thing a red herring anyway. Do we really think skeptics of Christianity would keel over and accept it if the opening line of Matthew’s Gospel said “The Gospel according to Matthew?” Not a bit. After all, we have letters claiming to be from Paul and that is not accepted as a good enough reason for granting six of them authorship by Paul to them. Of course, Perry could have looked at what E.P. Sanders said about this.

The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’  – The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders page 66.

Perry then tells us we have sources written several decades after the fact. First off, his source is Raphael Lataster for this information, which isn’t a big shock. Apparently, sound mythicist argumentation is just quoting other people who agree with your views. Second, again, could he show us some history that’s not like that in the ancient world? The overwhelming majority was written several decades after the fact.

Keep all this in mind about decades and the 100 year rule as it will hurt Perry in the end, but Perry says nothing about the Pauline creed in 1 Cor. 15. What do scholars say about it?

Michael Goulder (Atheist NT Prof. at Birmingham) “…it goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion.” [“The Baseless Fabric of a Vision,” in Gavin D’Costa, editor, Resurrection Reconsidered (Oxford, 1996), 48.]

Gerd Lüdemann (Atheist Prof of NT at Göttingen): “…the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus…not later than three years… the formation of the appearance traditions mentioned in I Cor.15.3-8 falls into the time between 30 and 33 CE.” [The Resurrection of Jesus, trans. by Bowden (Fortress, 1994), 171-72.]

Robert Funk (Non-Christian scholar, founder of the Jesus Seminar): “…The conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead had already taken root by the time Paul was converted about 33 C.E. On the assumption that Jesus died about 30 C.E., the time for development was thus two or three years at most.” [Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Acts of Jesus, 466.]

Perry also says they were written by people who wanted to promote the faith. Yes. Of course. And? This somehow shows they are unreliable? Should we say that Jewish holocaust museums should be viewed with suspicion? Do we not accept the account of a soldier who was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked because he could have a bias? In the ancient world, everyone had a bias, just like today. History was to be written with passion after all.

He also says the Gospels contradict on events like the Easter story. Of course, many of us have seen these lists of contradictions, but Perry never tells us what they are. Does he throw out the accounts of Polybius and Livy on Hannibal crossing the Alps because those hopelessly contradict? Perry has created a standard that if there is any disagreement, then we throw it out. Unfortunately for him, Mike Licona has recently shown that this kind of disagreement is common even in the writings of Plutarch. For the part about being anonymous, see E.P. Sanders’s quote above. He then tells us that there’s evidence that the Gospels were heavily edited over the years.

There’s also evidence that Philip Perry climbs on top of his car at night and howls at the moon.

Oh, wait? I need to provide actual evidence and not just make a claim? I just figured I would do exactly what Perry has done. Still, let’s look at the claim. What would someone like Bart Ehrman say about it?

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is. Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html

 

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

If Perry wants to back his claims that the Gospels are heavily edited, let him. By the way, pointing to Mark 16:9-20 and the pericope of the woman caught in adultery does not show heavily edited. We’ve known about these passages since the time of the early church. If anything, showing that these weren’t in the original manuscripts shows we have a good idea of what was in the original manuscripts.

Perry goes on to say that:

St. Paul is the only one to write about events chronologically. Even then, few facts about Jesus are divulged. Paul’s Epistles rest on the “Heavenly Jesus,” but never mention the living man. For such an important revolutionary and religious figure, there are surprisingly no eyewitness counts. And the writings we do have are biased. Roman historians Josephus and Tacitus do make a few, scant remarks about his life. But that was a century after Jesus’s time. So they may have garnered their information from early Christians. And those threadbare accounts are controversial too, since the manuscripts had been altered over time by Christian scribes whose job it was to preserve them.

As soon as you hear this talk about “Heavenly Jesus” you know where exactly this is coming from. There are a number of things we know about Jesus from Paul, such as His being crucified, having a Passover meal, being descended from David, dying on Passover, being seen after His resurrection, and being born of woman under the law in Galatians 4, which would definitely refer to an earthly existence. Scholars across the board have not taken the heavenly Jesus idea seriously. (By the way Perry, these are real scholars who actually have Ph.Ds and teach at accredited universities and not bloggers.)

Perry also finds it shocking that such an important religious figure wasn’t talked about. Unfortunately, what is really shocking is that Jesus was talked about. Perry is following an anachronism here. It is assuming that because Jesus is all the rage today and everyone talks about Him, that meant everyone was talking about Him in His time. Not at all. As I have in fact argued, in Jesus’s time, He wasn’t worth talking about. He discounts Josephus and Tacitus who wrote a century later. This isn’t accurate anyway. Jesus would have been crucified around 30 A.D. Josephus wrote before the end of the century and Tacitus wrote at the start of the second.

He also claims that their sources are Christian. Unfortunately, this is not demonstrated. Perry can talk all he wants about these accounts being controversial, but this is not according to the scholars of Josephus and Tacitus. The overwhelming majority have no problem with a witness to the historical Jesus being found here.

Next, Perry gives a list of authors who back his thesis supposedly. Let’s look at them.

Reza Aslan in Zealot? Nope. Aslan holds that there is a historical Jesus and that he was a zealot. His claim is wrong, of course, but he is not a mythicist.

Nailed by David Fitzgerald? Fitzgerald has no credentials in the scholarly community. One needs to look at atheist Tim O’Neill taking down Fitzgerald here.

Bart Ehrman with How Jesus Became God? Bart Ehrman has even written the book Did Jesus Exist? taking down the Jesus mythicist movement. He has no patience for these people. Finally of course, we have Richard Carrier with On The Historicity of Jesus. (Carrier to most of scholarship is just someone who happens to have a degree but to most skeptics on the internet, he’s the alpha and omega of scholarship.)

Perry has the quote from Bart Ehrman, but what of it? Ehrman himself doesn’t think that Jesus never existed and if Perry had done just a brief look on Amazon and found Ehrman’s book and read what it’s about, he would have known this. Unfortunately, Perry did not do any real research.

Perry also uses Carrier’s argument of the Rank-Raglan figure to show that Jesus is a mythical figure. Unfortunately, he doesn’t answer the questions like “Why does Carrier use Matthew instead of Mark when Mark is thought to be earlier?” He also doesn’t address the critiques of this position like here and here.

In the first article, I would like to highlight one quote of Ronnblom.

Unfortunately, Carrier subtly changes the criteria to better fit Jesus, and reorders them. Worse still, Carrier does not inform his readers that he has done this. This is amounts to academic dishonesty, since he is clearly misrepresenting his sources

And as McGrath says at the start of his article:

The scale was not designed to determine historicity. Its folklorist users show little or no interest in the attempt to do what historians do, namely peeling back layers of myth in search of underlying history, if there is any. The Rank-Raglan scale does not seem, contrary to Carrier’s claim, to consistently fit figures who were definitely not historical better than ones who certainly were. And so Carrier’s attempt to use the scale to slant his calculations of probability in the direction of the non-historicity of Jesus are at best unpersuasive, and at worst deliberately misleading.

Keep in mind, this is said to be the centerpiece of Carrier’s argument.

It’s also worth pointing out that Carrier has given a talk on the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar and says that all the great historians of the age mention it. Unfortunately, the great historians of the age wrote much later. What happened to that 100-year rule?

Finally, we conclude with Perry bringing up Joseph Atwill. Unfortunately, the media does us a disservice of calling most anyone a Biblical Scholar. This would be like me calling any blogger who critiques evolution a scientist. Atwill’s crazy theory is that the Romans invented the figure of Jesus to control the Jews. Larry Hurtado has taken his own shot at Atwill. Even Carrier said Atwill’s theory was nonsense, but hey, who cares? He made the claim.

We can hope that someday, BigThink will actually follow its own advice and think. Right now, this growing number so far consists of just a small handful of writers. Next story no doubt will be “A number of scientists are seriously questioning evolution”. I will be told that that is inaccurate I am sure, but when it comes to Jesus, you’re allowed to break the rules.

There’s a reason mythicism is rightly seen as nonsense.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Science Education in the Early Roman Empire

What do I think of Richard Carrier’s latest book published by Pitchstone Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I saw Carrier had a new book coming, I decided I had to order it immediately. Carrier is one of the biggest names in atheism today for some reason and I want to be on top of what is being said as a Christian, so I placed my request and waited. The book actually came before the release date, which was a surprise, but I’m not complaining.

To start, some people will be surprised that this book is short. Had it not been for the presidential debates and then getting ready to spend Anime Weekend Atlanta with my wife, I can conceive of someone going through this in a day. The content pages aren’t large in number, they have footnotes, and the font seems larger than normal. This isn’t a complaint by the way, but just a statement of fact.

Reading this also, one in many ways seems to encounter a Carrier that they haven’t seen before. I thought his book on the historicity of Jesus just went for stretch after stretch after stretch and his book on sense and goodness without God had no real referencing to speak of. The style in this is quite different and I would not have known it was a Carrier book unless I had read it on the front because that was so incredibly different, but I understand that this is based on his dissertation so that’s probably what explains it.

I actually think the book is quite informative as well. It’s important to note that science wasn’t taught as much not because it was looked down on per se, but because attitudes like virtue and rhetoric were seen as more important. This is understandable. As Lewis wrote that many people can put up one kind of moral behavior and posit that for morality and think they are more moral than people of the past because of where they excel, ignoring where they are weak, so can it be done with knowledge. For the ancients, it was rhetoric and persuasive ability that mattered. For the medievals, it was the knowledge of God that was on top. For moderns, it’s science. Of course, it’s my persuasion that we can learn from all three.

Carrier does want to compare the time to the Middle Ages, but here you see that he has not really looked at it as much. I look forward to seeing what Hannam and O’Neill will say in response. Let’s look at some such passages in Carrier to see what I mean.

“How many youths studied the enkykios (A basic curriculum consisting of scientific knowledge) and its basic science content in the Middle Ages?  I suspect it is not likely even to be comparable, much less greater. But I must leave that for others to determine.” (p. 85)

“But I suspect very much the same could be said for the Middle Ages.” (p. 89)

“It seems unlikely that these standards for the education of scientists and philosophers continued in the Middle Ages, which oversaw a broad decline of scientific knowledge, and the gradual elimination of even the idea of a philosophy school.” (p. 119)

“Medieval state and public support for education is not likely to compare as well, until the rise of the universities, yet even those were small and few in number for quite some time and thus, at least until the Renaissance, might not have surpassed what had already been available in the Roman Empire.” (p. 136)

Statements like this do show that we need to wait for that information to come out. As I said, I look forward to what Hannam and O’Neill have to say, particularly about Christianity not being responsible for the rise of science. Still, this book is actually an interesting and enjoyable read and I think contains information that is worth further study. We’ll have to see what others have to say about it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Unmasking the Jesus Myth

What do I think of Stephen Bedard’s book on Jesus mythicism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Stephen Bedard for sending me his latest book on this topic. Bedard is one Christian who still wants to give time to Jesus mythicism and addressing it. I do as well, but it is becoming less common mainly because when we meet anyone who is a mythicist, we tend to see them as beyond reasonable discussion. The rules of historiography are changed to allow for this.

Bedard has put together a small book that you could read in a couple of hours on the topic so you can be familiar with it. He has put some of the most important information in there such as stories of the pagan gods that Jesus is said to be a copy of. He also points out that this is not a scholarly debate at all. Instead, it is a debate that is largely taking place on the internet. If you meet someone who says academics in the field don’t even know if Jesus existed, you have met someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Of course, at this, someone is going to say “Richard Carrier!” Yes. Bedard talks about him as well and Robert Price as lone exceptions to the rule of scholars in the field. Note that these are exceptions. They also do not teach at accredited universities. There’s a reason for that. Mythicism is just not taken seriously.

Still, since Carrier is mentioned, I do wish Bedard had spent more time talking about Carrier’s hypothesis about Jesus being a cosmic being who was supposedly crucified in outer space and that the accounts eventually became historicized. The dying and rising gods idea is still out there and still needs to be addressed, but this is an approach that a lot of people are not familiar with and can lead to some people being caught off guard.

In fact, this is the real ultimate problem with mythicism. It is not that the arguments are so powerful. It’s that they’re so bizarre. Many would have a hard time answering them for the same reason they’d have a hard time answering objections to the idea that we really landed on the moon. Moon landing conspiracy theorists have outlandish claims that a man on the street will not be familiar with and even if you read scholarly literature you will not be familiar with. Mythicists tend to take this strange ideas and run with them thinking they’re gold. When you listen to a mythicist talk, you will often hear unaccepted claim after unaccepted claim in a sort of shotgun approach. (I was there when Craig Evans debated Richard Carrier. I saw Carrier doing just this.)

Still, Bedard’s book is a good summary of the situation. If you have read extensively on this topic, you won’t really find anything new here, but if you aren’t familiar with it, then Bedard’s book can be a really good place to begin. While it is short, it is indeed filled with important information to help you counter the claims of mythicists.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Once Again, Does Jerry Coyne Have A Clue?

Is mythicism at all viable? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Wednesday, I wrote some on Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist, which means he’s naturally capable of being an authority on the historical Jesus. Today, I’d like to look at more of his *cough* arguments *cough* for their not being a historical Jesus. Naturally, I expect to find the same kind of rank nonsense that I find any time I engage with mythicists. As I have said before, mythicism is a conspiracy theory for atheists.

I have to say that I’m coming down on the “mythicist” side, simply because I don’t see any convincing historical records for a Jesus person. Everything written about him was decades after his death, and, as far as I can see, there is no contemporaneous record of a Jesus-person’s existence (what “records” exist have been debunked as forgeries). Yet there should have been some evidence, especially if Jesus had done what the Bible said. But even if he was simply an apocalyptic preacher, as Ehrman insists, there should have been at least a few contemporaneous records. Based on their complete absence, I am for the time being simply a Jesus agnostic. But I don’t pretend to be a scholar in this area, or even to have read a lot of the relevant literature. I haven’t even read Richard Carrier’s new book promoting the mythicist interpretation, though I will.

So let’s see what we have here. We have a claim such as that contemporary records have been debunked as forgeries. This is quite problematic since first off, let’s suppose he’s talking about the Pauline epistles. Seven of those are accepted universally as Pauline. If he’s talking about the Gospels, then how can they be forgeries since the body of the work doesn’t say who wrote the work itself? If he means Tacitus and Josephus and others, this would be news to the scholarly community. So what is he talking about? We don’t know, but Coyne’s followers who are just as historically illiterate as he is will eat this up.

Coyne also says there should be some record. Well why? Jesus was a guy who would have been born in a low ranking town like Nazareth who never went to battle, never wrote a book, never ran for office, etc. and died by crucifixion, the most shameful way to die. As I have said earlier, by these standards, Jesus is not worth talking about. What amazes me is not how few people mentioned Jesus. What amazes me is that anyone at all did.

Normally, we compare like with like, but let’s compare Jesus with someone else. How about Hannibal? Here’s a guy who was the leader of the greatest enemy Rome had who nearly conquered the empire by trouncing over every argument sent his way. This is a man worth talking about! Everyone would have been talking about him. So what do we have with contemporary records?

Zip. Nadda. Not a thing. In fact, let’s take Coyne’s statement and turn it around.

Everything written about him was decades after his death, and, as far as I can see, there is no contemporaneous record of a Hannibal-person’s existence.

This is exactly the same and yet there is no great debate that Hannibal existed. We could say likewise of other figures like Queen Boudica and Arminius who both greatly resisted the Roman empire. These people weren’t mentioned by contemporaries and were written about decades later, but they were definitely real. Yet this little preacher who never traveled the Roman Empire and died by crucifixion? Everyone should have mentioned Him!

Coyne can talk about how he doesn’t pretend to be a scholar, but of course he is. He’s the one who has written a book about Faith vs. Fact. (Which is simply awful. That’s not just me saying that. Look at what Edward Feser had to say.) Coyne also says he hasn’t read Carrier’s book. Well I can assure him that I have, and I find it also just as lacking but hey, at least I do read the scholarship that disagrees with me.

Because of the paucity of evidence, we can expect this question to keep coming up. And so it’s surfaced once again, in a PuffHo piece by Nigel Barber.

We can see it coming up the same way we see debates on evolution taking place. At least there are more Ph.D.s in the field who question evolution than there are those in the field who question Jesus’s existence, yet Coyne would not for a moment think there is a serious debate as to if evolution is true or not. I’m also not saying evolution is true or not true. I really don’t care. I just know that Coyne is not talking about a debate that is taking place in the academy. It’s only taking place on the internet where sadly most anyone can show up and be taken seriously because they have an opinion.

Barber, who has a Ph.D. in biopsychology and a website at Psychology Today (“The Human Beast”), has also written six books.  And in the Sept. 25 edition (is that the right word?) of PuffHo, he takes up the question of the historicity of Jesus. His piece, “If Jesus never existed, religion may be fiction,” briefly lays out the mythicist case. Of course religion itself is nota fiction, but what Barber means is that Christianity’s empirical support, like that of Scientology or Mormonism, may well rest on a person or events that simply didn’t exist.

Ah yes. A Ph.D. in biopsychology and has written six books. Well that means he’s obviously qualified to write on the topic. I suppose then that Coyne would have no problem with N.T. Wright being seen as an authority on evolution. Again, don’t expect Coyne to go with the scholars here. There’s a good reason for that. He’s not really going to find them.

Of course, Barber has a “devastating” argument from Paulkovich. Actually, the argument is about as devastating as Ken Ham would be to Coyne, but oh well. He’s written an article so surely he’s an authority.

Various historical scholars attempted to authenticate Jesus in the historical record, particularly in the work of Jesus-era writers. Michael Paulkovich revived this project as summarized in the current issue of Free Inquiry.

Paulkovich found an astonishing absence of evidence for the existence of Jesus in history. “Historian Flavius Josephus published his Jewish Wars circa 95 CE. He had lived in Japhia, one mile from Nazareth – yet Josephus seems unaware of both Nazareth and Jesus.” He is at pains to discredit interpolations in this work that “made him appear to write of Jesus when he did not.” Most religious historians take a more nuanced view agreeing that Christian scholars added their own pieces much later but maintaining that the historical reference to Jesus was present in the original. Yet, a fudged text is not compelling evidence for anything.

Paulkovich consulted no fewer than 126 historians (including Josephus) who lived in the period and ought to have been aware of Jesus if he had existed and performed the miracles that supposedly drew a great deal of popular attention. Of the 126 writers who should have written about Jesus, not a single one did so (if one accepts Paulkovich’s view that the Jesus references in Josephus are interpolated).

Paulkovich concludes:

“When I consider those 126 writers, all of whom should have heard of Jesus but did not – and Paul and Marcion and Athenagoras and Matthew with a tetralogy of opposing Christs, the silence from Qumram and Nazareth and Bethlehem, conflicting Bible stories, and so many other mysteries and omissions – I must conclude that Christ is a mythical character.”

He also considers striking similarities of Jesus to other God-sons such as Mithra, Sandan, Attis, and Horus. Christianity has its own imitator. Mormonism was heavily influenced by the Bible from which founder Joseph Smith borrowed liberally.

On the surface, this looks convincing to a lot of people, but again, it ignores the relevant factors that this is common for people of the time and that Jesus was not worth talking about. But then, to do a Billy Mays impersonation, but wait, there’s more. Paulkovich has had his own number of critics out there.

Let’s start with a look by Candida Moss and Joel Baden who last I checked are not in the tank for evangelical Christianity. They point out numerous problems with the list. By the way Coyne, if you see this, you should know about this:

Let’s get one thing straight: There is nigh universal consensus among biblical scholars—the authentic ones, anyway—that Jesus was, in fact, a real guy. They argue over the details, of course, as scholars are wont to do, but they’re pretty much all on the same page that Jesus walked the earth (if not the Sea of Galilee) in the 1st century CE.

So as I said, the debate going on is not in the academy any more than young-earth creationism and geocentrism are seriously debated in the academy. Moss and Baden go through the list after saying this and note that some figures lived and wrote before Jesus was even born so big shock that they didn’t mention him. Some were philosophers and writers in other areas like Epictetus and Martial who didn’t write much about current events. Some were doctors who would not likely write about Jesus either.

In fact, some people in the list aren’t even writers, but Paulkovich includes them. When the writers are done showing the weaknesses of the list, they go a step further. They show that by his own argument, Paulkovich doesn’t exist since no historians of our age have ever mentioned him before in their writings. He also hasn’t written anything biographical about himself and apparently doesn’t even have a Twitter. (At least at the time of writing that piece) Maybe we should be skeptical that Paulkovich exists.

There are atheists who have critiqued this and even those sympathetic to mythicism. The linked to article here ends with

As an atheist, I long for a much better class of atheists, atheists writing about history who are not historically illiterate.

There is no doubt Jerry Coyne would be included in that. In fact, the above author wrote an open letter that looks at this even further. Jerry Coyne no doubt avoided any serious investigation and just saw that it argued against Christianity and, well, it must be true! It’s as if atheists on the internet have a flowchart they look at and when they see a claim they ask “Does it argue against Christianity?” If so, it is true. If not, it could be true or false, but if it makes Christianity look good, it’s obviously bogus.

Of course, we doubt that Coyne has done any real research beyond reading something on the internet, but hey, if he wants to lower the intellectual standards of his own followers, let him. If he wants people to accept evolution as true, he’s not doing any favors by accepting something that is seen as crank nonsense by scholars in the field. Those of us who read the scholarly literature can only look at Coyne and think he is someone who is entirely gullible with what he will believe. Of course, that doesn’t mean evolution is false, but it sure means we have to question Coyne’s ability to evaluate evidence.

Barber goes on to talk about how the origin of Mormonism was a sham promulgated by a con man (an interpretation I accept). Yet even in that case there’s better evidence than we have for Jesus, for the Book of Mormon opens with two statements from eleven witnesses—people who were contemporaries of Joseph Smith—who swore that they saw the golden plates that became the Book of Mormon. Those people are historical figures who can be tracked down, and so the evidence for the existence of the plates is stronger than for the existence of a historical Jesus.

Ah Jerry. You’re so funny. Like I said last time, all you needed to do was talk to some experts on Mormonism about this. I asked Rob Bowman about this on my own podcast. Coyne will not mention facts such as the supposed plates were kept under wraps at Smith’s own home and his own wife wasn’t allowed to look underneath the covers to see them or move them or that Smith would only show the plates to someone if they said they had the “eyes of faith” and even then it’s questionable if they physically saw them. But hey, details. Who needs them?

Barber finishes by describing how credulous people have started sects based on phony gurus and leaders, and, indeed, how an Indian film director decided to create his own religion by pretending he was a guru.  And of course we all know how L. Ron Hubbard started Scientology based on a bunch of science-fiction writings and a phony theology involving Xenu, volcanoes, and thetans. How people can buy that stuff—and there’s a lot of them—is beyond me. But of course you don’t get to learn the theology of Scientology until you’ve spent thousands of dollars, and so are inclined to accept it (bogus as it is) because of the “sunk-costs fallacy.”

The irony here is incredibly thick. Yes. Credulous people have bought into a lot of goofy ideas. They’ve also bought into the goofy idea that Jesus never even existed. Hint. If you’re going to talk about people being credulous for buying into stupid ideas, don’t be endorsing Jesus mythicism on your own blog while admitting you haven’t read the scholarly evidence. Coyne should have no basis now for going after young-earth creationists.

At any rate, if there is no contemporaneous record of Jesus, there should have been, how seriously should we take his historical existence? I am not inclined to accept the Bible as convincing evidence for a historical Jesus.

And if there is no contemporaneous record of Hannibal? Of Queen Boudica? Of Arminius? Be consistent. Many of the lives of Plutarch are considered reliable even centuries later. Richard Carrier mentioned earlier says all the historians of the time mention Caesar crossing the Rubicon, not stating that these historians of the time wrote at least a century later.

Is there anyone in history with so little contemporaneous attestation who is nevertheless seen by millions as having really existed? There is of course Socrates, but of course we have a historical figure, Plato, who attests to his existence. Yet even that is overlain with a patina of mythicism, and I don’t think most scholars would say that Socrates existed with the certainty that Christians (or even atheists like Bart Ehrman) would say that Jesus existed. And there’s no religion based on the historical existence of Socrates. As for Shakespeare, well, we have his signature and a fair amount of contemporaneous evidence that he really did exist; we just don’t know for sure that he wrote those plays (absence of evidence).

Yes. Boudica. Hannibal. Arminius. The list could go on. All Coyne needed to do was just send an email to a professor of ancient history. It would be nice if someone at the University of Chicago where Coyne teaches who teaches ancient history could go and set Coyne straight. He’s not doing any favors to your university right now.

At the end, I do not have any questions about Jesus’s existence. I stand in agreement with the scholars in the field today that he definitely walked. I have a lot of questions about the evidence that Jerry Coyne is a serious thinker in any sense of the word.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

It’s Time To Ponder Whether Jerry Coyne Knows What He’s Talking About

Can a biologist really give us the answers on questions of ancient history? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’ve had some fun on here before reviewing the “work” of Jerry Coyne and yet, he has provided even more fodder for us. In a recent writing, he has come down on the side of the idea that Jesus never even existed. Of course, if he holds to that, there’s no longer really any basis for his making fun of young-earth creationists (Of which I am not one) for holding a position that goes so much against the scientific consensus. Still, let’s look at what he says:

I’m also surprised at how certain many biblical scholars are that Jesus existed (Bart Ehrman, to give a prominent example).

Why be surprised? Historians who know how to do history look at the data and conclude that the best explanation for what we have is that a historical Jesus once walked this Earth. The debate is not over if He existed, but the debate is over what He did and said in His life. Of course, it’s not a shock to hear Bart Ehrman is the first mentioned. I find that if you ask most atheists, the only scholars they seem to know of in the area of Biblical studies are Bart Ehrman, Robert Price, and Richard Carrier. (The last one is the be all and end all in historical studies to most internet atheists. Carrier has spoken. The case is closed.)

Yet although I am the first to admit that I have no formal training in Jesusology, I think I’ve read enough to know that there is no credible extra-Biblical evidence for Jesus’s existence, and that arguments can be made that Jesus was a purely mythological figure, perhaps derived from earlier such figures, who gradually attained “facthood.” As a scientist, I’ll say that I don’t regard the evidence that Jesus was a real person as particularly strong—certainly not strong enough to draw nearly all biblical scholars to that view. It’s almost as if adopting mythicism brands you as an overly strident atheist, one lacking “respect” for religion. There’s an onus against mythicism that can’t be explained by the strength of evidence against that view.

Jesusology. That’s cute. We can suspect that when Coyne says he’s read enough that means “I read a book by Richard Carrier and his blog posts and that settled it for me.” We would very much like to see him try to make a historical argument some time and see if he can make one that can garner the attention of even liberal and atheistic New Testament scholars. His claim that there is no extra-biblical evidence is in fact, entirely bogus, but we will get to that more as we go through.

Towards the end, you could deal with this simply by replacing the word mythicism with young-earth creationism and religion with science. Coyne should see that his position is seen as ridiculous to scholars for a reason. It is ridiculous. It is a conspiracy theory for atheists.

Probably nobody reading this post thinks that Jesus was the miracle-working son of God, and that pretty much disposes of his importance for Christianity. In the end, I’m most surprised at how much rancor is involved in these arguments, especially by the pro-Jesus side, even when that side readily admits that Jesus was not the son of God. (I can understand, of course, why Christians want to argue that Jesus was a real person.)

Well no. Some people reading this post do hold that Jesus is that, but that’s because many of us regularly read what disagrees with us. Most of us who are making the arguments against mythicism have read many books by the mythicists themselves. Furthermore, to say that if Jesus is not the miracle working Son of God then His importance to Christianity is disposed is quite amusing. Christianity is here regardless and it was there regardless and we should seek to know what role Jesus played in it even if the Biblical one is not accurate.

At this Coyne recommends we read the following article. The writer, Brian Bethune, relies heavily on Bart Ehrman and his latest work on memory, which I have responded to already here. Unfortunately, I find Ehrman’s case incredibly lacking as have scholars in the field. Bethune also too quickly dispatches group memory not realizing how it works, especially when he keeps making analogies of a telephone type game.

The article goes on to say that:

Yet Pilate is in Mark as the agent of Jesus’s crucifixion, from which he spread to the other Gospels, and also in the annals of the Roman historian Tacitus and writings by his Jewish counterpart, Josephus. Those objective, non-Christian references make Pilate as sure a thing as ancient historical evidence has to offer, unless—as has been persuasively argued by numerous scholars, including historian Richard Carrier in his recent On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt—both brief passages are interpolations, later forgeries made by zealous Christians.

Yes. Numerous scholars have argued this. Numerous ones like….

Well, there’s Carrier…

And there’s….

Well we’d really like to know!

Now to be sure, most scholars do agree that there is SOME interpolation in Josephus by Christians, but they do not say that the whole is an interpolation. There is a historical core. The second passage mentioning Jesus is even more attested and is not what a Christian would interpolate. A Christian would not write “the so-called Christ.”

As for Tacitus, we’re on even firmer grounds. I do not know of any other scholar who says this is an interpolation. Also, this is not the kind of statement a Christian would interpolate. A Christian would have Jesus spoken of in far more glowing terms than this and would not risk it being considered a mischievous superstition.

But hey, Carrier has spoken. The case is closed.

Now we could talk about the apostle Paul in Bethune’s article. What does he say?

That the Gospels provide only debatable evidence for historians has long obscured the fact that the bulk of the New Testament, its epistles, provide none at all. The seven genuine letters of St. Paul, older than the oldest Gospel and written by the single most important missionary in Christian history, add up to about 20,000 words. The letters mention Jesus, by name or title, over 300 times, but none of them say anything about his life; nothing about his ministry, his trial, his miracles, his sufferings. Paul never uses an example from Jesus’s sayings or deeds to illustrate a point or add gravitas to his advice—and the epistles are all about how to establish, govern and adjudicate disputes within Christianity’s nascent churches. And, despite knowing the apostles Peter, James and John, he never settles a dispute by saying, “Peter, who was there at the time, told me Jesus said this . . . ” Nor, by the evidence of his correspondence, did any faraway Christian ever ask Paul about Jesus’s life. Everything the Apostle claims to know about Jesus comes from his reading of the hidden messages in Old Testament passages and by direct revelation, the latter being the very thing that proves its worth, as he told the Galatians.

Carrier’s book on the case for Christ as a mythical construct rather than an actual human being is something of a breakthrough on the mythicist front. He gives credit to earlier writers, especially Canadian Earl Doherty, but Carrier’s rigorously argued discussion—made all the more compelling for the way it bends over backwards to give the historicist case an even chance—is the first peer-reviewed historical work on mythicism. He’s relatively restrained in his summation of the absences in Paul’s letters. “That’s all simply bizarre. And bizarre means unexpected, which means infrequent, which means improbable.” Historicists have no real response to it. Ehrman simply says, “It’s hard to know what to make of Paul’s non-interest; perhaps he just doesn’t care about Jesus before his resurrection.” Other historians extend that lack-of-curiosity explanation to early Christians in general, which is not only contrary to the usual pattern of human nature, but seems to condemn the Gospels as fiction: if Christians couldn’t have cared less about the details of Jesus’s life and ministry, they wouldn’t have preserved them, and the evangelists would have been forced to make up everything.

No. Historicists do have a response to it. The response is there was no need to mention these events. What benefit would they do? If you’re writing about how to handle meat offered to idols, how does it help to know that Jesus worked miracles? In a high-context society, the background knowledge was assumed and communication was meant to fill in the details that weren’t known. In fact, myself and some of my friends have made a whole joke of this kind of claim with the idea that if Paul believed in the virgin birth, surely he would have mentioned it. Well no. I have only heard a few sermons that taught about the virgin birth and I am convinced the preachers I heard all believed in it. Their not mentioning it does no mean they don’t affirm it. To show the humor of this, we regularly interjected in random conversations (And still do) that we affirm the virgin birth. (Which by the way, I do affirm.)

In fact, one aspect that is amusing is this whole article is meant to show us that memory is not reliable and what is one point they have in there? They have Ehrman’s memory of what happened when he was in school talking to a professor. This is supposed to be accepted at face value even though by Ehrman’s criteria, it should be rife with suspicion. The author himself accepts it and then goes on to tell us that memory can’t be trusted.

Coyne goes on to say that

What that further means is that over the four or five decades spanning the reported date of Jesus’s death and the first written scriptural account of his deeds (the Gospel of Mark) the Story of Jesus could involve not just severe distortion, but even fabrication.

Certainly it could have, but that does not mean that it did. Both sides have a burden to prove, but let’s suppose it did. Are we to think that within the timeframe when there could be eyewitnesses and people who knew eyewitnesses that the entire story would be overturned immediately and people would suddenly hold to a historical Jesus even though there was no memory of him anywhere by anyone? This was all tied in to a particular place and time with particular people. It is one thing to say a legend rises up quickly. It is another to say the legend totally supplants the real historical truth that quickly.

Bethune then argues that the one “solid” fact buttressing Jesus’s existence—his execution under Pontius Pilate, a historical figure—is likely based on post-Biblical fabrication, since many early Christians didn’t accept Pilate as executioner or even that Jesus died around the time of his reign. As Bethune notes, “Snap that slender reed and the scaffolding that supports the Jesus of history—the man who preached the Sermon on the Mount and is an inspiration to millions who do not accept the divine Christ—is wobbling badly.”

Many early Christians? Who were these many early Christians? It would be nice if we knew that. Unfortunately, we don’t. If he wants to say Paul never explicitly mentions that, well why should he? Silence does not equal ignorance. If all we had was the writing of Tacitus on this, we would in fact have enough to believe a man named Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

Bethune draws heavily from the work of Richard Carrier, a prominent mythicist. I’ve read quite a bit of that and find it heavy weather, but in the end agree with Carrier that mythicism appears to be rejected by Biblical scholars for mere psychological reasons. Christianity is a bedrock of Western society, so even if we doubt the divinity of Jesus, can’t we just make everyone happy by agreeing that the New Testament is based on a real person? What do we have to lose?

Because when you don’t have an argument against your opponent, psychoanalysis works well. Scholars have pored over every word of the New Testament with great detail and yet we’re supposed to believe they just gave in on this one to Christians? Seriously? There’s a reason Carrier and other mythicists are not taken seriously in scholarship. It’s because their case is weak.

But I’m not willing to do that—not until there’s harder evidence. And I’m still puzzled why Bart Ehrman, who goes even farther in demolishing the mythology of Jesus in his new book, remains obdurate about the fact that such a man existed. Remember that eleven historical Americans signed statements at the beginning of the Book of Mormon testifying that they either saw the Angel Moroni point out the golden plates that became the Book, or saw the plates themselves. Yet nearly all of us reject that signed, dated, eyewitness testimony as total fabrication. Why are we so unwilling to take a similar stand about Jesus?

Oooh look. Mormonism! Okay. Once again Coyne, many of us know about this story. In fact, what I did was I talked with someone who seriously has investigated Mormonism on this question. Maybe you should have done the same. There’s more to good research than doing what you did, just citing Wikipedia. Last I saw, good scientists are supposed to ask questions.

In the end, I once again conclude that there’s a reason mythicism is laughed at. We can give thanks that people like Jerry Coyne are doing all they can to lower the intellectual standards of atheists everywhere.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Embarrassment of Mythicist Milwaukee

Exactly how embarrassing is Jesus Mythicism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday on Facebook my friend Tyler Vela tagged me in a thread that was started by the group Mythicist Milwaukee (MM). Now if you’re not familiar with the term mythicist, a mythicist refers to someone who says that Jesus never existed. They’re not saying there was a Jesus but He never claimed to be divine or that He never rose from the dead. No. They’re out there saying that there never was a historical Jesus. The whole idea is a myth. Now how many scholars in NT and classics teaching at an accredited university hold to this position? None. It’s a joke in academic circles. You might as well tell a geology convention that the Earth is flat, but alas. MM is in the position of having to defend a ludicrous position and sadly marrying it to atheism.

You see, a few days ago I made this meme along the lines of Be like Bill:

BelikeBillHistoricalJesus

Now I’m not saying be like Bill in his atheism of course, but be like Bill in that you can at least recognize the evidence points to a historical Jesus. As it would be, just a few days later came the incident with Tyler Vela and normally, I wouldn’t bother, but I decided to respond. What happened? I wrote out a short response but one with substance to make my case as did Albert Mcilhenny who I have interviewed before on this topic. So we both make our responses and what happens?

Deleted! MM just didn’t want to deal with us and so they blocked us from commenting. Now perhaps some of you are thinking I’m being paranoid and making it up. No. I am not. I am not because they themselves said that’s what they did.

MMSmotestrolls

Of course, this didn’t stop them from putting up a link to the debate I had with Ken Humphreys that’s on YouTube and saying how they loved the comments section on this (After they had banned us!) Yes. Of course. In other words, we went on YouTube and saw that there are a bunch of people that agree with us and they are typing what we think as well.

well-isnt-that-special-300x211

To make the movement even more ludicrous, they also have a link up to a birther challenge for Jesus. Now of course, we could all understand wanting evidence for the historical Jesus, of which there is plenty, but what is not understood is making the standards so unreasonable that no one from ancient history hardly would pass the cut. That is exactly what has been done. You can see that challenge here.

So what are the criteria of their challenge?

A.) A contemporary 1st century person who has been proven to be historical, that lived between the years of 6 B.C.E. – 36 C.E., who was a first-hand eye-witness, who actually saw, met, spoke to, and knew jesus personally.

B.) Provide this person’s original and authentic: secular, non-christian, non-religious, unbiased, non-bible, non-gospel, and non-scripture writing, that is directly about jesus, with references/citations to prove that this person actually wrote the work in question. The writing has to be independently and Scientifically radiocarbon dated between the years of 6 B.C.E. – 53 C.E. Additional religious or christian writings that can’t be used: papyri, uncials, minuscules, lectionaries, didache, apocrypha, gnostic, catechism, and pseudepigrapha.

It’s a wonder why no one has done this. Well no, it isn’t. It’s because this would eliminate the existence of 99.99999% of people who existed in the ancient world and whose existence we have zero doubts about, and yet this is considered some way to do history. If the Jesus Birther Movement is so convinced, let them instead of just punting to Richard Carrier, present this to historians in a peer-reviewed process to see how well it will work.

At this some of you might be wondering about my statement about marrying this to their atheism. Alas, I am not making it up. I do not think atheism is a true position, but there are great thinkers who do come to that conclusion and that is a position held by many in the academy. Such is not the same with mythicism. So how does MM marry mythicism to their atheism? Look at the meme they shared with the challenge.

Jesusbirtherchallenge

Note the “claimed” atheists with the implication that an atheist could not believe in a historical Jesus. Well they certainly could and not only that, they certainly should. Why? Because while the existence of Jesus has religious overtones, it is not at its heart a religious question. It is a historical question. What that means can be religious, but if you look at history, then the case is that Jesus existed. An atheist could use most of the arguments I use against Jesus mythicism. It’s just so sad that MM will call someone’s atheism into question for not supporting mythicism.

To all of this I say if you are an atheist, okay. I disagree with you, but please have some sense enough to not be a mythicist. If someone thinks young-earth creationism (And I am not a YEC) is a crazy position, there are more ph.d.’s in related fields that hold to YEC than there are to mythicism. The reason is that is just where the evidence leads. Atheists that are mythicists are just serving to dumb down atheistic thinking and weaken their stance.

Ironically then, I consider people like Richard Carrier and MM to be gifts to the church. We should thank God every day that these people are doing what they’re doing to atheism. It can easily be argued that mythicism is a conspiracy theory for atheists. I could not sum this up better than what Bart Ehrman himself said.

Be an atheist if you wish, but do not add being foolish to it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Faith vs Fact Part 4

How does Coyne handle it when faith strikes back? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today we’re going to cover chapter 4 where Faith Strikes Back as Coyne says. I was very pleased to see that he dealt with the Kalam Cosmological Argument of Bill Craig by…

Well, okay. He didn’t deal with that. But hey, you can’t expect him to deal with everything.

Instead, he chose to focus on the Thomistic arguments and he dealt there with…

Okay. So he didn’t deal with those.

About the only arguments you see are ID and the moral argument. Even then, the moral argument is definitely misunderstood. As I am not someone who considers myself a proponent of ID, I will leave that to those who are.

Naturally, we start with a god of the gaps argument, yet I wonder why this is always brought up. In the medieval period, people were looking for natural arguments for why things happened just as much as we were. Did they get them right all the time? No. Of course not. Just like we don’t. In fact, when they filled in a “gap” that led them to have more of awe. It was a mindset that would look and say “I never would have thought about doing it that way.” I suspect this is also one reason why that a requirement for a law I understand a scientist uses is that it is to be beautiful.

On page 153, Coyne tells us that natural theology represents the attempts to discern God’s ways, or find evidence for His existence, by observing nature alone. It does not rely on revelation or Scripture. I do not agree with Philipse who says it’s an attempt to argue for a specific religious view. Let’s consider the Thomistic arguments for instance, the main arguments I’d use in natural theology that all come from an Aristotelian worldview. Could Aquinas use those to argue for the Christian deity? Yes. Averroes and Avicenna could use them to argue for Allah. Moses Maimonides could have used them to argue for a Jewish concept. This is not a problem.

You see, you’re not going to sit down in an armchair and just ponder reality and stand up and conclude “Yes! I get it! God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ!” You won’t stand up and say “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet!” You won’t exuberantly shout “Moses is the greatest prophet of all.” All of these take not just philosophical understanding, but historical understanding as well. Just thinking by itself cannot get you to Christianity just like it could not get you to any scientific theory in itself. You won’t sit down and stand up elated to find out that we all evolved from a lower species. (You could come up and think that after pondering evidence you’d read recently, but without scientific evidence, you won’t reach a scientific conclusion.)

Natural theology was said to be extremely popular after science arose according to Coyne, which leaves me wondering what kind of reading he has really done. Aristotle and Aquinas are both in this tradition and their ways of thinking were extremely popular. Coyne considers the most famous argument to be the Watchmaker one of Paley. This is quite likely true to be the most famous one, but that does not mean that it was the best one. I personally think that after Descartes natural theology started going the wrong way by viewing the universe in a mechanistic sense. (It would help Coyne to read the rest of Paley beyond the Watchmaker argument. It’s a shame that Paley’s entirely brilliant legacy has been reduced to one argument.)

Coyne also tells us that Hume refuted the case for miracles and Kant the logical arguments for God. Unfortunately, examples are lacking here. How did Kant refute these arguments? Which arguments were refuted? We don’t know. I have already said with Hume that Coyne has not bothered to check a work like Earman’s Hume’s Abject Failure. In this one, the agnostic Earman says that if Hume’s argument was followed consistently, that it would lead to not just the negation of miracles, but the negation of marvels as well. In other words, modern science would be killed if followed consistently. Hume’s own argument was dealt with in his day also by the story of a tropical prince who lived in a world where the climate was always warm and being told to believe that there was such a thing as ice. Also, as said before, Coyne ignores the work of Keener. David Johnson of Cornell University Press says about Hume’s argument that:

“The view that there is in Hume’s essay, or in what can be reconstructed from it, any argument or reply or objection that is even superficially good, much less, powerful, or devastating, is simply a philosophical myth. The most willing hearers who have been swayed by Hume on this matter have been held captive by nothing other than Hume’s great eloquence.” (Page 169)

As I said further in my review of Keener, Hume had a problem with racism that affected his argument too.

On pages 223-4, we have a quote from Hume:

“I am apt to suspect the Negroes and in general all of the other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No indigenous manufacturers amongst them, no arts, no sciences.”

Some could answer “Okay. Hume was a racist. It doesn’t mean he’s wrong.” On its face, no. It doesn’t. There is something important here. Hume is automatically excluding the testimony of anyone that is not amongst his circle of people he considers educated. Who are the educated? Those are the ones who don’t believe in miracles. If anyone believes in them, surely he cannot be educated. He must be some backwater person. Therefore, all educated people don’t believe in miracles. It is a lovely piece of circular reasoning.

Hume goes on to say

“Not to mention our colonies, there are Negro slaves dispersed all over Europe, of which none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity, tho’ low people without education will start up amongst us [whites], and distinguish themselves in every profession. IN Jamaica indeed they talk of one Negro as a man of parts and learning, but ’tis likely he is admired for very slender accomplishments, like a parrot, who speaks a few words plainly.”

To say “‘Tis likely” indicates that Hume has heard a claim and has not bothered to really investigate it. He has just made an assumption based on his prior notion of the black race. Keener, however, does know who the Jamaican is and says “The Jamaican whom Hume compares with a parrot stimulating speech was Francis Williams, a Cambridge graduate whose poetry in Latin was well known.”

Sound like an uneducated parrot with slender accomplishments to anyone else? I didn’t think so.

With Kant, well without getting any specific arguments from Kant, it’s hard to respond. I guess Coyne just wants us to take Kant by faith. All the arguments have been refuted because Kant says so even though we’re not told where he says so or in what work.

To return to the God of the Gaps, Coyne ironically had started off this section with a quote by Ingersoll.

No one infers a god from the simple, from the known, from what is understood, but from the complex, from the unknown, and incomprehensible. Our ignorance is God; what we know is science.

And yet he quotes Bonhoeffer saying

How wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (And that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not what we don’t know.

Bonhoeffer was a theist and was pointing out the problem with the argument. Coyne is speaking about what laymen think and do, but he is not dealing with the real scholars in the field who are arguing otherwise.

On page 157 when he talks about natural theology, he says it is always used to give evidence for that person’s God. He applies this to morality asking how can we know who the origin of this morality is and that he has never seen advocates of natural theology answer this question.

I can only think he’s never asked someone who is a serious advocate of natural theology. I think Edward Feser would answer this question quite easily. I’ll go ahead. You don’t know. All you know is that it is consistent with what you believe. To find out which religion is true, you go to history. Feser himself does this in The Last Superstition. He makes a brief apologia for the resurrection of Jesus to establish Christianity while pointing to William Lane Craig as someone more authoritative.

On page 162, Coyne gives a criticism of fine-tuning when we argue that the universe is designed well for life as we know it here. He asks why life should be based on matter at all. Why not simply souls? The answer is that He in fact did that. He created countless angels, but if He wanted to create another kind of being, it needed to be something beyond being+spirit. That’s where matter comes in and material beings need a material place to live.

For the multiverse theory, I am open to the possibility of a multiverse, but I do not see how this is a defeater for theism. Theists have long been asking to have this one universe explained. How does it explain one to say that there are many? It would be like saying you had solved a case of one murder by saying “Oh. There are a hundred other murder victims over here as well. Case closed.” If there’s more than one universe or even a system producing universes, then I want to know what is responsible for that. How did that come about? That just pushes the problem back further.

Coyne also goes to Philipse again who tells us that if we can’t answer a question, that undermines all of natural theology, but why should this be? This would be like saying we can’t answer a scientific question undermines all of science. If you have ignorance in theology, that means your whole enterprise is doomed, but if you have ignorance in science, that’s okay and is in fact a virtue. Coyne is wanting to treat theology like natural science saying that it should have predictive power. Well why should that be the case? It’s not as if God is a material being that will respond to events in a mechanistic way.

Let’s say something along those lines about prayer experiments. They’re bogus. Even if they come out positive, you could never control all the variables. You can say one group of patients isn’t being prayed for by people, but how could you know that? In our day and age, most everyone in the hospital could have loved ones who will pray for them and then put up requests on the internet to have others be praying for them. We can’t know who all is praying and who is devout and sincere in their prayers and matters of that sort. I consider it a curiosity to discuss, but God is a free-will being and we don’t know all the variables nor could we possibly control for them.

I’d like to start looking at his arguments concerning morality on page 170. Before we read about Coyne on philosophy, let’s remember this quote of his:

Another problem is that scientists like me are intimidated by philosophical jargon, and hence didn’t interrupt the monologues to ask for clarification for fear of looking stupid. I therefore spent a fair amount of time Googling stuff like “epistemology” and “ontology” (I can never get those terms straight since I rarely use them).

https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/sean-carroll-assesses-the-stockbridge-workshop/

So remember, you’re getting your philosophy here from someone who is intimidated by philosophical jargon and doesn’t interrupt for fear of looking stupid and googles stuff like epistemology and ontology.

This is also the same guy who has spoken about religion stepping outside of its field….

When he talks about universal morality, Coyne tells us that there are some people who do lack empathy. (He has not made an argument yet saying that empathy is the basis for morality. You do not need empathy to have morality or to know morality.) He also argues that there are still many great evils that go on and that have gone on. That we have changed shows that universal morality does not come from God.

It’s kind of cute isn’t it?

No Coyne. The claim is not that moral customs are unalterable, but that there are moral truths that exist. (This is called ontology by the way, the study of being) We can be inaccurate in our knowledge of them and how we know them. (This study of knowledge is called epistemology.) In fact, this would be upheld Biblically as the greatest passage on this is found in Romans 2 and this just after Romans 1 telling how humans transgressed the moral law. The idea is there are some things you can’t not know. As soon as you come to know what a human being is and what the taking of an innocent life is, you know murder is wrong. This is not based on a feeling about murder but on the action of murder itself. The way around this is to redefine the terms.

Sure. I don’t kill innocent human beings, but those unborn in the womb aren’t human beings, so it’s okay to kill them. Sure. I don’t kill innocent human beings, but those Jews in the holocaust are not only not human, but they are not innocent because they are responsible for all the suffering in our society. In these ways, people can avoid saying that they are breaking a moral law that they find because their victims just don’t count. Let’s finish this portion on morality for now with one piece he has on page 177.

He says the God hypothesis doesn’t explain why slavery, disdain for women, and torture were considered proper but are now seen as immoral.

Perhaps he’s never heard of a doctrine called sin.

They were because as Romans tells us, man fell from what he knew he ought to do. Want to see why women are lifted up? Look at the book that says men and women both are in the image of God. Look at the group also that went against slavery in the Roman Empire. Christians would regularly buy slaves just for the purpose of setting them free. What united both of these? The idea that mankind is in the image of God. Can Coyne offer us anything on materialism that will be a basis for equality?

For now, let’s move on to the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. Keep in mind that Coyne has told us he has to google terms like epistemology and yet he wants to tackle an epistemological argument from Alvin Plantinga, and you can think he’s wrong in his argument, but he is no slouch in the field. For Coyne to enter into this is like saying because you’ve googled the rules of Chess, you’re ready to take on the grand master. Yet Coyne is convinced that Plantinga’s view is so clearly wrong it’s a wonder why it’s popular.

Coyne says we could never have true beliefs according to Plantinga’s argument without God’s interference. That’s not the argument. We could have true beliefs, but we would have no reason to think that they are true. Evolution programs me for survival and not necessarily true beliefs. If those beliefs help me with survival, then fine if they happen to be true, but the goal is still survival. If so, then I have a defeater for thinking that my beliefs are true, including the belief that I am a product of mindless evolution.

Coyne also thinks the most important truth we can be aware of in Plantinga’s argument is the existence of the Christian God and Jesus, yet I am skeptical of a claim that Plantinga would consider Jesus to be among our properly basic beliefs. I think Plantinga is making an argument for theism that is indeed consistent with his version of theism, but is not specifically meant for that version. Much of what we have is just mockery of it as if sin is a ludicrous concept to affect our view of God. Why should I not think this? If Scripture is true, there is a righteous judge that will judge us. Which of us would like to accept that?

There are many more who have looked at Plantinga’s argument and can say more about it. I have no reason to think Coyne has treated it well. At this, let’s return to morality and we’ll start that with a look at scientism. Let’s start with some definitions he gives on page 186.

Truth as conformity to fact.

Fact as something confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.

Knowledge is the public acceptance of facts.

So much wrong here, but the centerpiece is facts so let’s go there.

In the time of Galileo we could not say it was a fact that the Earth goes around the sun. (We couldn’t say we evolved is a fact either.)

If truth is conformity to fact, we could not say that it’s true that the Earth goes around the sun.

And since it was not a fact, then no one could have knowledge of that. Now in essence, the last part could be accurate, but Coyne overlooked the definition as justified true belief. Even if you include the Gettier problem, knowledge is at least that.

Also, Coyne says knowledge must be factual and publicly recognized so private revelation can’t count. This seems over the top. If I wake up before Allie and start reading the Bible, do I need public verification to say I have knowledge that I read Scripture this morning?

These are all questions I have concerning the claim.

It gets worse. On page 189 we are told there are no objective moral truths. Morality rests on preferences. (And in the same paragraph we have a condemnation of slavery in the Old Testament and the conquest of the Canaanites. Never underestimate the fundamentalist ability to contradict so quickly.)

But if truth is conformity to fact then to say there are no moral facts is to say there are no moral claims confirmed to such a degree it would be perverse to deny them.

So do we want to say that don’t murder innocent humans has not been established? It is wrong to rape has not been established? Coyne wants to say the Canaanite conquest is wrong, but He can’t. He can’t speak of moral progress or even an evolved morality. His basic argument would be God is wrong because He does stuff I don’t like, which could be just as valid as saying “Christianity is wrong because it teaches monogamy while I prefer polyamory.” (I am using that as a for instance and not at all saying he either condemns monogamy or favors polyamory.)

So we have epistemological and moral relativism both, and this in a book about faith vs fact.

Keeping this going on 190, he says he disagrees with Sam Harris and says “If there are no objective truths, then morality isn’t a way of knowing, but simply a guide to rational behavior.”

But how can it be a guide to rational behavior? Isn’t rational behavior that which is in accordance with reason? And if there are no moral truths to reason to, how can it be more rational to throw a life preserver to a drowning child than it is to throw a boulder at him? Rational entails there are behaviors that lead to acting in accordance to these truths, but Coyne has denied these truths. Huh?

Perhaps Coyne should have stuck with science….

Naturally, in all of this Coyne thinks Euthyphro is a great defeater showing that people derive morality not from God but from secular institutions.

This would have been interesting since Euthyphro was charging his father with impiety, a crime against the gods. Nice to know a secular institution was concerned about this. In the ancient world, this separation of church and state did not exist. Every action was religious and it affected the state. There were state gods to be worshiped, namely later on the Emperor himself. Euthyphro is not a question about how we come to moral knowledge, but rather what that moral knowledge itself is, and it is never denied that there is a holy. (And I would add it was answered by Aristotle who chose to define the good in the Nicomachean Ethics.)

It’s like Coyne just wants to toss out every pet objection without studying it.

Kind of like he wants to reply to objections he hasn’t studied either.

So what about claims that there are other ways of knowing like saying “My wife loves me” and that’s not based on science. Well Coyne wants to say it is. Why? It’s evidence-based. Unfortunately, the claim of love from my wife is more like the claim of love from God. Both are claims that we receive a claim and we judge it to be true based on the evidence that we see and we live accordingly. Coyne is still living in this world where he thinks that faith means belief without evidence so no wonder he gets everything else wrong.

On page 200 in defending scientism (Since every claim that is evidence-based is supposedly science) he says the claim only comes from the faithful that atheists practice scientism.

Massimo Pigliucci would be very surprised to learn he became one of the faithful.

On 209, Coyne quotes his friend Dan Barker (That explains a lot) in saying theology is a subject without an object.

But wait.

If that’s true, then critiques about how God should have made the universe or revealed Himself or the very problem of evil no longer work because this is all theology. It doesn’t mean God exists, but it means there must be some knowledge of what he’d be like if He did. I can have knowledge of what a unicorn would be like without believing they exist.
We all do theology. Some of us, like Coyne, just do it poorly.

He’s also wrong that it’s just theologians quoting other theologians. Metaphysics studies God for instance and all of Aquinas’s arguments are empirical.

There is an attempt to show Christianity is not responsible for the rise of science. Naturally, he refers to everyone’s favorite historian, Richard Carrier. Perhaps he should have mentioned how with Carrier, this science in ancient Greeks also rose as monotheism was becoming a more viable worldview. Science fits in just fine in a monotheistic context. It doesn’t do so well in a polytheistic context. The Christian church carried this on as soon as they were not being persecuted by the emperor. It’s just anathema to Coyne to think that Christianity could possibly be responsible for science.

Finally, to say the church impeded free inquiry, I would challenge Coyne with what one thinker on the topic says when he’s presented with this idea that the medieval church was anti-science.

I love to totally stump them by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one – scientist burned, persecuted or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists – like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa – and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents have usually run away to hide and scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.

So Coyne will say I’ve just found another Christian fundamentalist who agrees with me. Not quite. The quote is from Tim O’Neill and is found here. How does he describe himself?

Wry, dry, rather sarcastic, eccentric, occasionally arrogant Irish-Australian atheist bastard.

Yes. This is an atheist kicking this nonsense to the curb. Coyne can talk about the persecution of Galileo and Bruno, but there is more going on in both cases. Galileo was demanding that his ideas be accepted immediately and was a scientist speaking on theology. It also didn’t help that he wrote a dialogue where he pictured the Pope as a simpleton. Galileo lived in a house arrest for the rest of his life where he freely pursued his studies and had a pension paid for him. Bruno was a tragedy, but it was more for his crazy theology than for his crazy science. (Yes. He was right about the Earth going around the sun, but much more of his stuff was just bizarre.) Now should that have happened? No. But it was not because of doing science. Also, this is already out of the medieval period so it can’t be based on the Dark Ages.

It’s a shame Coyne never really took on any major arguments for faith of any kind. If you come here and you’re a new atheist, you’re left thinking a devastating blow has been given. If you come here and you’re a historical and philosophical reader, you leave scratching your head wondering how on Earth Coyne thinks this is a response.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Implosion of Richard Carrier

Has the breakdown come? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A little over a week ago, I wrote on Carrier’s decision to come out as polyamorous. You see, Richard Carrier, who is the go-to guy practically for atheists in their apologetic defense, has announced that he is divorcing his wife. Alone, this would be a tragedy and nothing that we should celebrate. Divorce is a sad breaking of a union that was meant to last until death do the lovers part. When it is even something that could be necessary, it is a tragedy that it has come to that point.

What made it worse was Carrier working to justify himself and say “I’m polyamorous.” He had been cheating on his wife and just decided that this had to be his orientation. He was a man who wanted to have sex with many other women, including ones he isn’t married to. With this, Carrier falls into the small category of every single married man on the planet. Most of us just learn to control our desires because we care more about loving our wives properly than we do about women fulfilling our own desires.

In my critique, I was told I should later write on what ethics of Carrier that Carrier was violating. As I was doing some checking for that both in his book and online, I found that some had already been doing that. What was most amusing is it looks like the atheist community has been doing the policing. Let me say first then that it’s wonderful to see the atheist community calling out their own, something we Christians need to do too when one of ours steps out of bounds with a major moral failing.

Now keep in mind that in these blogs we’re not dealing with Christians so the language will be that which we do not normally care for, but in these blog pieces, you can see Carrier being demolished. What makes it more amusing is that when Carrier shows up himself, he actually makes it worse. We could have it said “Better to have people think you’re a polyamorous narcissist than to use your keyboard and remove all doubt.”

Our first posting will come from The Yeti’s Roar. Here, the writer has compiled a number of statements of Carrier and even pointed out how some of them have been edited. It has also been pointed out that he has condemned Michael Shermer, but yet he falls at the same level as Shermer and does not seem to see it. His narcissism has also been pointed out and having him like one of his own comments on the blog page did not really help matters.

I invite the reader to simply read the posts and then read all the replies and yes, I’m in that mix as well if you see a familiar name. I happen to share the question of a recent comment on how Carrier will support himself now. After all, since he’s endorsed the Christ-myth idea, he has pretty much killed any chance of getting a job teaching at an accredited university. If he doesn’t wind up speaking constantly at atheist conferences, what then? Will other women be willing to offer the support when how he treats them, especially his own wife who I make it a point to pray for regularly and I hope you will too?

Another blogger who has been blogging about this is Shermertron over at Orwellian Garbage. He has several posts on the prominent internet blogger Dr. Richard Carrier Ph.D. The first one that I ever read was comic gold. What is fascinating about watching this whole affair is that it’s kind of like watching a disgraced televangelist. Carrier is trying to deflect the criticism that he’s receiving and yet, it’s not working. It also reminds me that indeed, marriage is something that is seen as sacred today. You just don’t cheat on your wife.

On that point also, I have made it even more of a vow to honor Mrs. Peters over here. You see, I have long told men in apologetics, and the same counterpart would apply to women in the field, that if you are able to debate every atheist and answer every question in the field, yet you end up not being a loving husband to your wife, then I count you as a failure in ministry. There are plenty of people in the field who can answer the questions that are out there. Of course, do your part, but you are not the only one. Yet when it comes to loving your wife as Christ loved the church, there is only one person who can do that. If you are an apologist who is married, you cannot be both a good apologist and a bad husband. (This is also why I set up a group on Facebook for Christian men who are married, engaged, dating, or hoping to date, so we could learn to love our wives better and encourage one another. My wife has the counterpart for women.)

To get back to this whole spectacle, it will be interesting to see what the future holds. We in the Christian community should celebrate atheists that are willing to call out their own and remember that we need to be doing the same thing. What will happen to all the atheists who put all their eggs in the Carrier basket meanwhile? Will this damage Carrier’s reputation? Will atheist fathers not want their atheist daughters at his talks? Will atheist husbands not want to go to them with their wives not wanting to get near the guy?

Has Carrier by his actions ended his fifteen minutes of fame? Only time will tell, but we can remember to pray in this situation and see what could happen with that. Who knows? Until then, we have a reminder that ultimately, no one is above criticism in this area and we all know that if you’re married, you are to honor your spouse and to say you’re polyamorous is a way of saying “You’re not enough for me.”

Along those lines, it’s worth pointing out who Carrier dedicated Sense and Goodness Without God to.

For Jen…

My buxom brunette
My wellspring of joy
My north star of sanity.

Sure seems real now. She is certainly getting an example of the sense and goodness without God. Apparently, it’s sensible to admit you’re polyamorous, which means living with the unique desire as a married man to have sex with other women, and it’s good to go out in that and try to live as an ethical human being the best you can, despite cheating on your wife.

Again, I do not know what the future holds here, but I am certainly watching. It will be interesting to see where Carrier is twenty years from now and see if it was worth it. I personally do not doubt that Jen will be much better off and will be much happier.

In Christ,
Nick Peters