Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 7

Is there an afterlife? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I went to my copy of this on Kindle, which is how I read it, and I started looking through this chapter for what I highlighted. What is there? Turns out, there wasn’t anything.

There’s two reasons for this.

First off, I have not done a lot of looking into the question of the soul. Yes. I have read some matters, but if you ask me my opinion on these kinds of matters, I will refer you to other books. One cannot study everything.

Second was the biggest flaw I had with this chapter. There was nothing on near-death experiences. I consider near-death experiences (NDEs) to be some of the best evidence that can even be accepted by some secularists that on a general revelation principle can demonstrate that there is more to us than our bodies.

This data has been gathered for decades, and yet Bradley doesn’t interact with it at all. I have often said that this is one of my biggest problems with many atheistic writings. They do not interact with the best material on the other side.

Now I will briefly say what I can on the other points. For one thing, when we are told that if there is a soul, how do the body and the soul interact? This strikes me as a really poor argument because we all use things everyday that we don’t understand how they work.

I am a multi-tasker. As I sit here in my own room writing, I have a TV on, I have my Android phone here, and I’m on my laptop. There are two game consoles in here as well as an Alexa and an Echo. I can use all of them.

Please don’t ask me to explain how they work. I don’t have a clue.

Not only that, there’s something else in this room that I don’t have a clue how it works, but i use it every day. That’s my own body. If you remember the original Peter Pan movie, something that was hard to explain was how to fly. You just do it. For me, it’s like how I can try to explain to someone how to play a video game. I have to look at the controller when I do it, because for me, I touch the buttons so regularly that it’s second nature and I don’t always remember what button I am pushing when I have to explain it.

So picture this. How would you explain to someone how to walk? How am I willing myself to type at this computer? I am sure there are some people who have written on this, but I am speaking from my own experience and that’s that I have no clue. I can have an idea that I want to write something and yet do nothing, but then somehow I start typing and I cannot explain the difference.

So ultimately, someone who is interested in body-soul debates could say a lot more than I have here, but ultimately, while there are hard questions, the questions don’t pose to me much of a problem in light of the other evidence that is not touched by Bradley. Namely, this is the NDE aspect. I would have liked to have seen that, but I am not surprised that I didn’t.

Next time, we look at much more liberal ideas that he interacts with.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 4

What about arguments for God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We get to part 4 and really, I was hoping for something substantial, but no. It never came. The more I read Bradley, the more I just see a fundamentalist going on a rant clutching at anything that justifies his position. It honestly gets tiresome after some time.

At any rate, let’s get into the chapter.

This one is about arguments for God’s existence. He starts with a quote from Peter Van Inwagen who says that he doesn’t find the arguments really convincing and needs the help of the Holy Spirit to believe them. Bradley thinks this is telling. Yes. It’s telling that Bradley thinks one philosopher out there, assuming he is being quoted accurately, speaks for all of us.

The first argument Bradley looks at is the ontological argument. This is one I do not use and do not think works, but even still, Bradley gets it wrong. Bradley does say that the argument doesn’t get us to any of the revealed faiths. No one ever thought it did. Bradley faults these arguments for not doing what they were never meant to do.

We get to the Cosmological argument and Bradley says the simplest of all forms of the argument starts with “Everything that exists has a cause.”

I can mentally see many of my apologist friends out there groaning. No great defender of the argument has ever used something like this before. I know some ignorant people might use such a weak argument, but Bradley needs to deal with the professionals here and not the laymen. He remembers his mother using this and asking the obvious question back of “What caused God?” It’s a shame Bradley still seems stuck on that part.

One argument Bradley brings here is that if everything has a cause, then God is the cause of evil. However, this does not work as God is not the direct cause of evil. God is the cause of free will so God does create the potential for evil to happen, but not the actualization of it. We and fallen angels are the ones who do that. More will be said on this in a chapter on evil.

There is a lot of material on scientific arguments. This is Craig’s version of the argument and not mine. A classical Thomistic argument does not rely on science, but on metaphysics. You won’t find Bradley interacting with that. Bradley will ask about why the final cause has to be God? Why not just some really powerful superbeing in another universe? Why not any other number of beings? Aquinas’s argument answers this. If it has any capacity for motion, any potential whatsoever, then it is not the final cause. I really don’t think I can explain matters better than Feser, who can be read here. Anyone who wants to defend or critique the cosmological argument should read this anyway.

He then goes on to the design argument, which I do not use the modern form of that one. However, he does say evolution is anathema to this. I do not see why this would be the case. Could it not be that evolution could be the way God brings about His intelligent design of His creatures?

When talking about abiogenesis, he compares this to conception and talks about the large number of chemicals and such that must come together to form a life. Therefore, conception is all about chance. Right? Surely no creationist would accept this. To say all conception is purely chance is just as ridiculous then to say that abiogenesis is chance.

Yes. No creationist would accept this because it is highly inaccurate. There just happens to be a system built up that is meant to produce just this result. Not only that, Christians and Jews could easily say the Psalms say that we are formed in our mother’s womb. Having a method that is used to bring this about does not change that.

This gets me to another problem that many skeptics produce. They will often ask “How did God do XYZ?” Then when a scientific way is shown that XYZ could come about, it automatically becomes, “See? God didn’t do it!” Either God does it fiat, which would not likely leave evidence behind, or God just didn’t do it. If you are someone who doesn’t believe God can use instrumental causes, that’s your problem, but how you interpret Psalm 139 is up to you then.

To get back to the argument though, Bradley says abiogenesis is not by chance, but ultimately if there is no guiding hand, I don’t see how you can avoid this. Now a evolutionary creationist an,d every other creationist for that matter, would agree that chance alone cannot bring about life. For the atheist, it has to be the case.

He then goes on to the fine-tuning argument. Now again, I do not use this argument because I do not use scientific arguments. I am not a scientist. However, Bradley asks how it can be fine-tuning if God brings about numerous events in the origin of the universe and the planet to bring about life.

Well, it is called fine-tuning for a reason. I don’t see how this is a problem.

He also asks about the idea that if we have these ways this could come about, God is not needed. Unfortunately for him, as a Thomist, I say right at the start based on that system that if there is no God, there is no existing and really, I think you need something to exist in order for life to come about that way. That might be just me, but that’s my position.

Finally, I would also need to speak on who designed the designer? Again, I do not hold to ID arguments, but this is just a bad argument. It was bad when Dawkins used it and it’s still a bad one now. You can find my argument against it here.

So again, I find these arguments extremely lacking.

Next time, we’ll look at another chapter.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 2

Do gods have to compete? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re returning to God’s Gravediggers and looking at chapter 2 on the logical rivalry of the gods. Now Bradley’s main area is philosophy. You would hope that a professor of philosophy would give you something worthwhile. Sadly, that is not the case.

Naturally, you have the whole idea that how can people just believe the religion they were born in happens to be the right one? Well, if a religion is right, then some people will be born into it, and yes, they will be born into the right one. However, you don’t see any interaction with anything like Muslims that are regularly having dreams and visions of Jesus and becoming Christians despite growing up and living in Middle Eastern countries.

There’s also the talk about religion being the cause of war when usually more often, religion becomes an excuse for war. Of course, religion can’t be as peaceful as atheism which never leads to destruction, unless you count Stalin, Mao, and Pol-Pot. I do not count Hitler as an atheist, but I also don’t think World War II was a religious war as in followers of one religion against another.

There is the mention of Pascal’s Wager which is badly misunderstood. It’s a shame that the wager seems to be about the only thing anyone remembers of Pascal. Pascal is giving an argument along the lines of the person who is sitting on the fence between atheism and Christianity. He’s suggesting you try to live out Christianity and see how it works out for you. He’s not talking about someone who is unsure if any religion is true and wants to investigate several of them.

Now after all of this, he does give an interesting lesson on logic and validity and soundness and other such matters. There is little if anything here that is objectionable. If anything, a number of atheists could be helped by getting a crash course in logic.

Unfortunately, then we get back and we get Hume with his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. I will quote the section that Bradley quotes in its totality:

“I may add as a fourth reason, which diminishes the authority of prodigies, that there is no testimony for any, even those which have not been expressly detected, that is not opposed by an infinite number of witnesses; so that not only the miracle destroys the credit of testimony, but the testimony destroys itself. To make this the better understood, let us consider, that, in matters of religion, whatever is different is contrary; and that it is impossible the religions of ancient Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, and of China should, all of them, be established on any solid foundation. Every miracle, therefore, pretended to have been wrought in any of these religions (and all of them abound in miracles), as its direct scope is to establish the particular system to which it is attributed; so has it the same force, though more indirectly, to overthrow every other system. In destroying a rival system, it likewise destroys the credit of those miracles, on which that system was established; so that all the prodigies of different religions are to be regarded as contrary facts, and the evidences of these prodigies, whether weak or strong, as opposite to each other. According to this method of reasoning, when we believe any miracle of Mahomet or his successors, we have for our warrant the testimony of a few barbarous Arabians: And on the other hand, we are to regard the authority of Titus Livius, Plutarch, Tacitus, and, in short, of all the authors and witnesses, Grecian, Chinese, and Roman Catholic, who have related any miracle in their particular religion; I say, we are to regard their testimony in the same light as if they had mentioned that Mahometan miracle, and had in express terms contradicted it, with the same certainty as they have for the miracle they relate. This argument may appear over subtile and refined; but is not in reality different from the reasoning of a judge, who supposes, that the credit of two witnesses, maintaining a crime against any one, is destroyed by the testimony of two others, who affirm him to have been two hundred leagues distant, at the same instant when the crime is said to have been committed.”

The whole of this is that every religion seems to have miracles and these miracles contradict one another and thus rule them all out. However, this is simply false. What if I said, “In studying biological evolution on the origin of life, every scientist has a different theory and all these theories are used to argue against the other theories and so no theory is true.” You can be a Christian who fully disbelieves in evolution and still see that as highly invalid.

“Gentlemen of the jury. We have seen many theories put forward today to explain the crime. All of them contradict one another, so there is no reason to believe that my client committed the crime.”

Not only that, but let’s look closer and especially at the big three, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism would certainly want to deny some miracles of Jesus, like the resurrection, if not all miracles, and Islam does acknowledge the miracles of Jesus and many in Judaism, but not the resurrection and sees Muhammad as the final prophet, but Muhammad did no miracles. It is only in the hadiths years later that we have any miracles.

Meanwhile, Christians have no problems with the miracles in the Old Testament and since there are no miracles in Islam in the life of Muhammad, we really have no problem there. We just look at the evidence for Islam and problems in the Qur’an. We also still have the very positive case for the resurrection.

So thus far, color me unpersuaded by Hume’s observations.

Now it should be acknowledged that a general theism can be held by all the religions. In the Middle Ages, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim philosophers could all use arguments like Aristotelian ones to argue for the existence of a deity with such and such attributes. Knowing which deity it is would come down to personal revelation. Not a single one of the five ways of Aquinas establishes Christianity, but they do establish theism and thus refute atheism and they are consistent with Christianity, but also with Judaism and Islam. If one faults the argument for not proving Christianity, then one is faulting an argument for not proving what it was never meant to prove.

He then goes on to talk about the resurrection. Please do not be drinking anything as you read this:

“Did the Resurrection occur? Of course, the question itself rests on the presupposition that Jesus actually lived: he can’t have been resurrected unless he’d been alive beforehand. And some might question that. But suppose one grants this contentious presupposition. Then someone intent on exploring the credentials of this belief may be dismayed to find that the four Gospels provide different, and inconsistent, stories of the Resurrection; that those stories were unmentioned by, and apparently unknown to, early Church Fathers until well into the second century A.D.; that there are no independent and well-authenticated records of Jesus ever having lived, let alone having died and having risen from the grave; or, again, that many of the earliest Christians of whom we do have an authentic historical record, the so-called Docetists, whose views held sway from 70 C.E. to 170 C.E., regarded Jesus as having always been nothing but an apparition, a spirit without any physical body that could die or therefore be resurrected.”

Bradley, Raymond. God’s Gravediggers: Why no Deity Exists (pp. 69-70). Ockham Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Sorry, but only on the internet is there really any contention that Jesus lived. I am sure Bradley would be horrified if I said about a scientific argument, “This assumes that evolution is true, but suppose one grants this contentious presupposition.” Unfortunately for him, that is the exact way mythicism sounds. Not only this, but he pays no attention to Paul in 1 Corinthians, where most scholars go to today to argue the resurrection, does not look at any Gospel scholarship for those who want to go that route, and gives no indication from the Church Fathers on the beliefs of early Christians that he claims.

He later asks why a resurrection proves that one is divine. Didn’t Lazarus rise in the Gospels and many when Jesus died in Matthew 27? Even accepting both of those for the sake of argument, no one ever said because someone rises from the dead, they are divine. It is first the nature of the resurrection of Jesus, as He rose to never die again, but also that His resurrection was based on the claims that He was making about Himself and who He said He was. The resurrection was God’s vindication of Jesus’s claims about His own identity. It would behoove Bradley to read some N.T. Wright. At least he could be better informed in his disagreement.

Bradley also uses an analogy of a horse race. Suppose you have reason to believe the race has been rigged so that the horse you are betting on will win. Unfortunately, everyone else has that same position and the majority disagree with you, so you’re probably wrong.

If Bradley thinks this is an effective argument, why is he an atheist? After all, the majority of people alive and who have ever lived have not been atheists and so it would seem the preponderance of the evidence is that atheism is false. In reality, we could say easily that most any position on most subjects is wrong. In the ancient world, the majority of people thought there was no problem with slavery. If Bradley traveled back in time to that era, should he just accept he is wrong if he disagrees?

Bradley then asserts that a diligent inquiry into matters will show that the evidence for a religious belief is not valid, but this just reeks of the Mormonism claim to pray the prayer to see if Christianity is true. I have done a diligent search and concluded Christianity is true. Yet by Bradley’s definition, he would say I must not have done that because I did not arrive at the conclusion he did. Now if I did become an atheist, well then, I searched diligently. Anyone who disagrees does not.

Yet Bradley gets even worse in this very section:

“He might go so far as to question, with Albert Schweitzer and others, whether there is good historical evidence for the existence of a Christ Jesus, and end up embracing merely the so-called “ethics” associated with the Jesus myth. He might even come think that there’s good reason to subscribe to the so-called “Mythicist” tradition of those who confidently assert that belief in Jesus has no more warrant than does belief in Santa or Sherlock Holmes.”

There is wiggle room here, but it looks like he’s asserting that Schweitzer was a mythicist. Obviously, there has been a lack of a “diligent inquiry.” Schweitzer was definitely not a mythicist. Mythicism is highly regarded as a joke position today. Unfortunately, Bradley does not know this.

In talking about laws of nature, he says that they are descriptive and not prescriptive. So far, so good. Then he says “Who made them? Who enforces them? How frequently are they broken?” He tells us that these questions do not arise from laws of nature, therefore, there is no reason or experience for thinking someone like a god is behind them.

Sorry, but many people still think that the question of where these laws comes from is a good question and just asserting your position is not a good argument in reply. He also says there is no warrant in reason or experience for thinking they have ever been broken. This is true, granted that you completely ignore the reasons people give and the experiences they do for thinking just that. Nope. No need to give an argument. They’re just wrong. He also says that even if science hasn’t brought about the way for how a phenomenon came about, we can be confident that it will.

Because?

He could be right, but upon what grounds? Even if he is right, how does that rule out theism? It doesn’t.

He then tells us that all miracles done in the name of God or religion have a foundation in illusion or self-delusion.

Isn’t it great to be an atheist and get to make sweeping grand claims without any evidence that people should just take on faith? God forbid he read any of Keener’s books on miracles!

But wait, he does give one! They are impossible because they violate the laws of nature which cannot be broken. Let me spell out the logic for you here.

The laws of nature have never been broken.
Therefore, miracles are impossible.
Miracles would be a breaking of a law of nature.
But a law of nature has never been broken.
Therefore, miracles are impossible.

The argument is entirely circular. It is only if you know the laws of nature have never been broken can you assert that it is impossible to break them. However, even if we granted they have never been broken, that doesn’t mean they never will be. Hume himself said that if you drop a stone and it falls 1,000 times, that does not prove it will fall the next time you drop it. Why should past experience of consistent laws in a universe that is an accident lead me to think that the future will be the same?

Whew! That’s a lot, and keep in mind this is only covering the highlights of the chapter! Next time we look at this book, we will cover chapter 3.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

The Exchange Of Ideas

What happens when we try to limit voices? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday a friend gave me a Kindle gift of the book Irreversible Damage. I started it pretty much immediately. It’s about the transgender craze and how it is affecting girls. There was a time when Gender Dysphoria was hitting some of the population, though it was a small group and it was consistently boys. Now, all of a sudden girls are claiming that they are really boys and this is happening increasingly due to the influence of social media.

The author pointed out that many conditions such as anorexia and cutting and others tend to affect teenage girls the most. She talked about a school where one girl talked about a number of people who were claiming to be really boys there. When asked how many were lesbians, she paused and said “None.”

What I find fascinating at this point is the fact that the writer of the book said she was told to not speak out about the matters she was writing about. The ACLU is already wanting to ban the book. I thought that this is why many people I think can struggle with accepting a reigning scientific paradigm. If they have the impression that anyone who thinks differently on the matter is to be silenced, then it’s not going to persuade them to hear this is the reigning paradigm.

That doesn’t even mean the paradigm is false. It just means people won’t be as prone to listening. It could be evolution or climate change or COVID or vaccinations. If people think dissent is not allowed, they will get more suspicious.

We saw this also during the campaign in another way. Many of my fellow conservatives wanted to talk about the Hunter Biden laptop. At this point, what you think about it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the silence on the story was driving it all the more and when Facebook and Twitter would censor certain news stories, that only made them more popular. It’s known as the Streisand Effect.

This is also why many are going to other sites like Parler and MeWe in addition to Facebook and Twitter. They want the free exchange of ideas. They don’t like other social media sites punishing them for sharing a story. It’s not that they want a safe place or something like that. They just want to be able to join in the discussion. It’s one reason I’ve opposed Facebook and other sites independently fact-checking news stories.

Why not have more exchange of ideas? If you’re sure your position is correct, then allow the other to speak freely. When it comes to evolution in schools, regular readers of the blog know I don’t have a problem with evolution even though I haven’t signed on the line of being an evolutionary creationist yet.

Some will say “Well if we allow the creation story of the Bible into the classroom (Though I think what they mean by that is different from what the Bible actually teaches as I go with John Walton’s view), then won’t we allow any other creation account to be taught?” My idea is “Why not?”

If anything, this could make students more invested. Suppose someone is in the class who is a Hindu or a Muslim or a Native American or some other belief system. Why not have students make a presentation of their belief on how everything came to be and then present it to the class and be ready to defend it? If someone wants to teach something like young-earth creationism, let them, but they have to be ready to defend it to their peers.

We in the church need to make sure we’re not doing the same thing. There are some activities we don’t want our youth to engage in. Sex before marriage and pornography come to mind. We need more than “Because I said so.” What we need is a whole worldview that explains the way sexuality works and then show why these behaviors fall outside of that so that the young people will understand not just that they don’t do XYZ but why they don’t do XYZ.

As for reading, forbidding books will have the same effect really. State why. This is also so with skeptical books. I recently encountered a Christian on Facebook scared with some material from Bart Ehrman. It was about his latest book Heaven and Hell. I have the book and made him an offer which to this day he hasn’t accepted sadly. Go and get the book, I don’t care if it’s the library or not, and go through it and keep a notepad nearby, Write down any concerns you have chapter by chapter and we’ll go over and discuss each objection and examine it.

This would be a far better way I contend to deal with doubt than what we normally do. We should never shun anyone in the church for asking a question, no matter how odd it might seem to us. Those who ask questions are our great gift. They are the ones who could be taking Christianity the most seriously. When we shun them, we tell them it’s not worth taking seriously and that they shouldn’t ask questions and then they think Christianity is not defensible since it won’t allow for questions.

The church should definitely be a place where you are allowed to question. If we want to condemn the modern world for not allowing questions and dissenting opinions, we in the church should not be the same. A faith that does not have the capacity to stand up in the free marketplace of ideas is not really worth believing in the first place.

We can’t control what outsiders do, but we can what we do. Are we going to be complaining about Facebook and Twitter all the while doing the same thing? If you think you can’t handle questions, well that’s something to work on on your end, and if you’re a pastor not open to questions, then either change that position or give your position to someone who is.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: The God Virus Part 7

What else is happening in the God Virus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For now, we’re going to move a bit faster through the book. There really isn’t as much to say as most chapters seem to just be echoing later chapters. No. There are no real arguments in the book.

He starts off with talking about how many members of the National Academy of Sciences believe in God. However, Rob Bowman answered this years ago when Victor Stenger brought it up. As he said,

Assuming that’s true, how does one get into the NAS? Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences website says: “Because membership is achieved by election, there is no membership application process. Although many names are suggested informally, only Academy members may submit formal nominations.” In other words, it’s an exclusive club that decides who may even be considered for membership. According to a 2010 article in Scientific American, about 18,000 American citizens earn PhDs in the sciences or engineering every year. There are only about 2,200 members in the NAS, and no more than 84 new members are inducted each year. Even the geniuses in the NAS can figure out that its membership does not represent an adequately representative sampling of well-trained scientists.

Much more of what is said is about how Ray thinks the “virus” spreads. This is still more of the same about secret techniques used in evangelism and the like. I personally think atheist evangelists do the same kinds of things. He also has a section on living rationally in a non-rational world. After all, it should be obvious that anyone who is theistic in any sort of way must be irrational. Right?

There is a section on the new atheists where he says that people see Richard Dawkins and others and think they’re angry atheists. Ray says he doesn’t see that at all and thinks it’s just projection and proceeds to tell us that Christians saying that are angry Christians. Does he not even notice that he could be doing what he just said Christians are doing?

Now I personally think that sometimes Dawkins and Hitchens at least can come across as angry. Projection on my part? Doubtful. More of their accusations just usually make me laugh. Still, their emotion makes no difference. What matters is the data, and their data just isn’t there.

Much of what happens after this is simply also personal coping strategies with suffering and death and about how to talk to people who are “infected.” Naturally, there’s nothing in there about “What happens if you meet a theist who knows what they’re talking about?” It’s things like this that will do more damage to the atheistic movement. It’s easier to just psychologize your opponent instead of dealing with his arguments. I find it happens when opponents in a debate tell me I really know XYZ, when I really don’t.

We’ll continue next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: The God Virus Part 3

What about guilt? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ray several times talks about being raised with a fundamentalist background and it shows. Chapter 4 is all about guilt. Right off, Ray is not aware of the fact that Christianity rose in a context where guilt like this would not be understood. Shame was what was understood and not in the psychological sense either. It is doubtful that Ray has any understanding of an honor-shame paradigm.

However, Ray says something that I have warned of for some time. Do not use guilt as a means for evangelism. Consider the danger of telling a young Christian couple “If you have pre-marital sex, you will feel guilty.” Some will. Some won’t. For those that won’t, they could think, “What else is the church lying to me about?

For Ray, it was masturbation. Now let’s put aside the question of if masturbation is a sin or not. I think we should all agree that going to teenagers and telling them that masturbation will send them to hell is overkill. Ray writes of how he felt great guilt over this and especially doing it over the “sexy preacher’s daughter.”

Ray says he later read Master’s and Johnson’s Human Sexaul Response and Alex Comfort’s The Joy of Sex and found out that in his mind, he was wrong about masturbation. No. His religion was wrong. If it was wrong about that, what else could it be wrong about?

And this, friends, is the danger indeed. All that is needed is a tiny bit of distrust and everything can go out the window. If you think masturbation is a sin, instead of just saying it and leaving it there, find a way to talk to the young person about the issue and what they’re struggling with.

So let’s go through a list now of some of the messages he says young people are exposed to. These about God in Christianity (Not Allah or any other religion) are worth quoting in full.

“God loves you, but he will send you to hell if you don’t do exactly as he says.”

“God loves you and gave you an intelligent brain to see and understand his creation, but you will be condemned for asking prohibited questions.”

“God loves you and gave you incredibly pleasurable sex, but you dare not use it except within strict limitations.”

“God loves you and your children. If you do anything to lead them astray, he will punish you. (Mark 9:42)”

“God loves you and wants you to prosper. If you are poor or hungry, you must be doing something wrong in his eyes.”

“God loves you. He causes you pain, grief, disasters, floods, hurricanes, and much more so you will see his will, repent, and do as he commanded.”

“God loves you. He created Satan to tempt and test you.”

“God loves you. That is why he makes it so hard to resist temptation and stay on the straight and narrow.”

“God loves you. He loves all Christians. He hates Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and all those who deny him.”

“God loves you, so you should reject your parents, children, neighbors, relatives, or anyone who is a hopeless non-believer.” (Yes. He actually references Luke 14:26 and is still reading it in a super literalistic fundamentalist mindset)

“God loves you, but if you get divorced you are unclean. (Matt. 5:31-32)”

“God loves you. That is why he sent his son to die. Millions of other people have died in his name and you should be willing to as well.”

“God loves you, but you were born unclean and can never be clean without God.”

Some of these properly understood, most of us who are Christians have no problem with, such as sex being reserved for marriage. A lot of these will just make many of us cringe. It’s as if Ray never bothered to check to see if what he was being taught was what historic Christianity has said for centuries. It is not Christianity that is the problem so much as our rampant individualism where we cut ourselves off from the past.

Some of these are things we need to do better at. Divorce is a tragedy, but it is not the unpardonable sin. We are also way too quick to read God’s will into disasters whenever they take place. This is hardly an effective evangelism strategy.

Ray writes about how guilt is used to draw people to a minister or someone who will point to God to alleviate the guilt. This becomes a cycle. This is a problem I agree with an individualistic centered Christianity. Christianity is determined by your experiences. God’s character is determined by what you feel and what you experience. It is all about you.

Doubtless, some guilt we feel is valid. It should be taken care of. If you really do something wrong, you should feel guilty barring any other condition. Still, not everyone responds to guilt the same way or acts the same way.

And yes, I have a problem with using purely emotional appeals to make a case for Christianity. Doubtless, a good speaker will often speak with emotion, which goes all the way back to Aristotle. However, the case should be based on reason and evidence and not just trying to get people to feel something.

So in closing, let’s watch the messages we are giving, especially to young people. A lot of these are indeed messages about sex. That is the emphasis of Ray’s next chapter and we will discuss those then.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

How Bad Can Atheist Arguments Get?

What are we to make of the “Brights” today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There are some atheists that give Christianity a fair hearing and can give a take. Some of them can look and say “I can understand how from a rational perspective that you can see this as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus or the existence of God.” Some of them can admit arguments from the other side need to be wrestled with.

Unfortunately, from what I meet online, these are the exception.

I could sadly say the same for Christians reversed, but the problem is many atheists claim that by being atheists, they are champions of reason and evidence. For them, I often modify the saying of Jesus. These people honor reason with their lips, but their heads are far from it.

Saturday night I had posted in a debate group in a thread about someone saying something about how Jesus probably wasn’t white. I agree with this. Jesus looked like the average Jew of His day and was most likely more olive-skinned than anything else. Still, for humor, I always post this meme.

So an atheist messages me yesterday morning asking if I had abandoned my faith thinking I had because I had posted this. Like I said, these guys are not experts in reason and evidence. He invited me to check out his website. Now I’m not going to comment on posts about science as science because I know that is not my area. However, I did see a guest post worth mentioning. We’ll go through it piece by piece as a fine example of how NOT to do atheist apologetics. It’s by someone named Jim Dorans, although I wonder why anyone would want to put their name to this.

“Every single attempted logical argument for the existence of the Abrahamic God, without exception, fails on at least one count.”

Well this is first off a very bold claim. Every single one of them fails. Hopefully, we’ll see that evidence. Also, keep in mind arguments from philosophy are not for the Abrahamic God normally, but for a god who is consistent with the Abrahamic God. It could be that God exists and all the Abrahamic faiths are wrong.

“Saint Anselm of Canterbury made the logical error of assuming the need for a perfect being, and worked from that point on. By that reasoning, and working from an unproven assumption, it was very easy to “prove” the existence of God.”

What would be nice to see is some quote from Anselm showing this. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. Heck, this guy doesn’t even state what Anselm’s argument is or what it is even called. I do not accept the argument, known as the ontological argument, but this is in no way a refutation of Anselm.

“However, that very same reasoning could be applied by an opponent to prove the existence of Zeus, so that’s another reason why it’s a very weak argument.”

And here we are wrong again. Zeus is a being in a polytheistic system. He is never described as a perfect being. If anything, Zeus is a really big human figure with some special powers. You could compare him to Superman. Zeus is a part of a system that needs to be explained. He is not like the god of the Abrahamic faiths.

“Thomas Aquinas too, committed a similar error by assuming the need for a necessary being, and so, based on that unproven assumption, still managed to make a good argument for the existence of God.

It was very much begging the question, and from that fallacious standpoint, he was able to effectively define God into existence.”

As a Thomist, I just find this laughingly hysterical. Again, there is no quote of Aquinas. There is not even a listing of his arguments. There is nothing to show that the author has even read Aquinas. Aquinas’s arguments are also deductive arguments where if one accepts the premises and can show no fault in the form, the conclusion follows.

Normally, if you are responding to an argument, you lay out what the argument is and then show how the proponent thinks the conclusion follows. You try to be as charitable as possible with it. Then you show why you think the proponent of the argument is wrong.

“Again, using the same flawed reasoning, an opponent could just as easily define Zeus into existence.”

See above.

“The well-worn cosmological argument fails too, but for different reasons. Hugely complex, monstrous, recycled arguments tell us the 9,742 ways that a naturalistic explanation is logically impossible, but those 9,742 ways are then “falsified” by inserting God, because God is exempt from, and unbounded by, the laws of logic.Usually, the main claim revolves around the Bereanistic “it is impossible to cross an infinity”, which is just another way of saying that it is impossible to get to the start of an infinity in the past.”

It depends on what kind of infinity is being crossed. Some Aquinas was open to. He said, for example, in q. 46. article 2 of the Prima Pars of the Summa that you cannot demonstrate by reason alone that the universe had a beginning. It must be believed on the basis of Scripture. Today, scientists can debate that one back and forth, but Aquinas is not making an argument like that.

Aquinas says an infinity is impossible though if there is dependence on the ongoing activity of what comes prior. Picture my illustration of an eternal statue standing eternally in front of an eternal mirror. How long has the mirror been reflecting the statue? Eternally. Is the image in the mirror still dependent? Yes.

Aquinas uses the example of a stick pushing a rock and a hand moving the stick. Remove the hand or the stick and the rock doesn’t move. That is the kind of infinity Aquinas says is impossible to have. You cannot have a chain of secondary causes without one primary cause.

Note also that Dorans doesn’t say why or why not this is the case. Is it possible to transcend an infinite? Is it possible for the universe to be infinitely old? He doesn’t tell us.

“The claim then implodes on itself by stating that there must have been a First Cause (which therefore must have crossed that infinity in the past).”

Brace yourself for the demonstration.

“This First Cause is claimed to be God, which of course contradicts the principle of cause and effect, by stating that God does not require a cause, because he is er…God. So, we have now invoked the fallacy of special pleading.”

And everyone who has read anything on the cosmological argument howls with laughter at this point. I can do no better than Ed Feser does. Let’s look at what he says about it here.

1. The argument does NOT rest on the premise that “Everything has a cause.”
Lots of people – probably most people who have an opinion on the matter – think that the cosmological argument goes like this: Everything has a cause; so the universe has a cause; so God exists.  They then have no trouble at all poking holes in it.  If everything has a cause, then what caused God?  Why assume in the first place that everything has to have a cause?  Why assume the cause is God?  Etc.


Here’s the funny thing, though.  People who attack this argument never tell you where they got it from.  They never quote anyone defending it.  There’s a reason for that.  The reason is that none of the best-known proponents of the cosmological argument in the history of philosophy and theology ever gave this stupid argument.  Not Plato, not Aristotle, not al-Ghazali, not Maimonides, not Aquinas, not Duns Scotus, not Leibniz, not Samuel Clarke, not Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, not Mortimer Adler, not William Lane Craig, not Richard Swinburne.  And not anyone else either, as far as I know.  (Your Pastor Bob doesn’t count.  I mean no one among prominent philosophers.)  And yet it is constantly presented, not only by popular writers but even by some professional philosophers, as if it were “the” “basic” version of the cosmological argument, and as if every other version were essentially just a variation on it.


Don’t take my word for it.  The atheist Robin Le Poidevin, in his book Arguing for Atheism (which my critic Jason Rosenhouse thinks is pretty hot stuff) begins his critique of the cosmological argument by attacking a variation of the silly argument given above – though he admits that “no-one has defended a cosmological argument of precisely this form”!  So what’s the point of attacking it?  Why not start instead with what some prominent defender of the cosmological argument has actually said?”

Feser is stating what many of us already know. No one is using this argument that Dorans is dealing with. No one. Again, this is not saying anything about Pastor Bob using it. I am referring to anyone academically inclined. Feser goes on.

“And that, I submit, is the reason why the stupid “Everything has a cause” argument – a complete fabrication, an urban legend, something no philosopher has ever defended – perpetually haunts the debate over the cosmological argument.  It gives atheists an easy target, and a way rhetorically to make even their most sophisticated opponents seem silly and not worth bothering with.  It‘s a slimy debating trick, nothing more – a shameless exercise in what I have elsewhere called “meta-sophistry.”  (I make no judgment about whether Le Poidevin’s or Dennett’s sleaziness was deliberate.  But that they should know better is beyond question.)


What defenders of the cosmological argument do say is that what comes into existence has a cause, or that what is contingent has a cause.  These claims are as different from “Everything has a cause” as “Whatever has color is extended” is different from “Everything is extended.”  Defenders of the cosmological argument also provide arguments for these claims about causation.  You may disagree with the claims – though if you think they are falsified by modern physics, you are sorely mistaken – but you cannot justly accuse the defender of the cosmological argument either of saying something manifestly silly or of contradicting himself when he goes on to say that God is uncaused.


This gives us what I regard as “the basic” test for determining whether an atheist is informed and intellectually honest.  If he thinks that the cosmological argument rests on the claim that “everything has a cause,” then he is simply ignorant of the basic facts.  If he persists in asserting that it rests on this claim after being informed otherwise, then he is intellectually dishonest.  And if he is an academic philosopher like Le Poidevin or Dennett who is professionally obligated to know these things and to eschew cheap debating tricks, then… well, you do the math.”

And I fully agree with Feser again. Either Dorans is intellectually dishonest, which I do not want to say due to the principle of charity, or he is just ignorant of basic facts. Still not the height of charity, but ignorance is easier to take care of than outright dishonesty.

“What is even more amusing is that more special pleading is then used to justify the original special pleading, because God is, well, God …

But why God? Why not Zeus?”

And again, this is still not understood. God does not have a beginning and in Thomism at least, His very nature is to exist. He is what it means to be. You might as well ask “What caused existence to come into existence?” It is either something that already existed, which is a problem since its existence needs to be explained if existence had beginning, or it is something that didn’t exist, which means something can come from nothing, which is nonsense.

So here we have a claim that all the arguments fail and yet none of them are even spelled out at all, no writings are cited, and this is from only two philosophers. There are plenty of others. Some arguments I will think work. Some I will not, but the claim from Dorans is that they all fail and yet we haven’t seen them all put to use and what we have seen, it is the response that fails and fails miserably.

Again, if you want to be an atheist, be one. You can do that. However, please do not be one like Dorans and actually do your intellectual homework and read the other side and take them seriously. Christians need to do the same. Don’t present yourself as a champion of reason and evidence though when your very words will betray you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Rage Against The Light

What do I think of Peter Harris’s book published by Resource Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christopher Hitchens in his own way was probably the most eloquent of the new atheists. While he was certainly an anti-theist, he had no interest in eliminating religion from the world and seemed to enjoy the debate. While he was opposed to religion, he was also respectful to religions and would follow appropriate protocol if he found himself in a house of worship.

Yet he still needs to be answered.

Harris’s book is an attempt to answer the charges of Christopher Hitchens. It is not making a positive case for Christianity per se, though at times it wonders into that, but it seeks to refute a negative case against Christianity and that mainly being from Hitchens. The work enters areas of history and philosophy mainly.

With history, there is an emphasis on political history. Hitchens was a very strong proponent of democracy and an opponent of totalitarianism. I have a suspicion that he would really oppose ill treatment of Christians by political powers and seek to avoid that if he could. In some ways, we might consider him one of the more reasonable new atheists.

Harris’s book is an interesting look at the man as Harris engages with his writings and writings about him, including his own accounts about himself. He doesn’t go too much into his personal history, but perhaps Hitchens himself didn’t do that. He looks at the problem of evil and the historicity of the Bible.

Harris also gets pastoral at times pointing out the experiential difference that Christianity makes in life and the longing for justice and meaning we have. In these areas also, he sometimes engages with other atheists, normally ones that he knew that Hitchens was familiar with.

I do appreciate the look at political history, particularly at Trotsky who Hitchens seemed to have a great love for that Harris is frankly puzzled by. I would have liked to have seen even more here. Hitchens’s book God is Not Great is really looking at so much of history. Perhaps some writer has gone through point by point. If they have, good, and I would like to read it sometime.

I disagree with some areas of philosophy, such as the disparaging Harris has of classical theism. I do not see God as suffering alongside of us. Still, that is not a problem for me as I have my own answers to the problem of evil. I do appreciate how Harris keeps coming back to the resurrection and what a difference the resurrection of Jesus makes.

This book is highly respectful of Hitchens, but since it was written after Hitchens passed we can never know this side of eternity what he thought about it. We can hope for some deathbed conversion on the part of Hitchens, and I know some writers have pushed for that, but we cannot know for now. Still, even though we can’t reach Hitchens, we can reach thoe he has influenced and are capable of being influenced by him.

If you care about the writings of Hitchens, you owe it to yourself to get this one. It is quite thorough and very easy to interact with.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Worldviews and the Problem of Evil

What do I think of Ronnie Campbell’s book published by Lexham Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If there is any objection normally raised up against theism, it is the problem of evil. How can a good God allow so much evil in the world or any evil even? The argument from my perspective is not the most rational or logical, but it does have a strong emotional appeal. As I write this, our society is on lockdown from fear of a virus and even before this point, atheists were already making memes about God allowing or not doing anything concerning this virus.

In this book, Campbell looks at how different worldviews answer the problem of evil. He deals with naturalism, pantheism, panentheism, and theism itself. Each topic is dealt with the same way. In the end, there is more examination of theism since this is where Campbell lies and he spends more time on defenses of it. In each chapter, he also looks at the best defenders of each position.

Each worldview has to deal with the following questions: Life, human consciousness, the metaphysics of good and evil, and human responsibility. At this, I would have preferred the first two be left out. Let’s suppose we grant the positions of life and consciousness as questions to be set aside for the moment. If we look at just evil itself, how well does each worldview explain it?

Campbell does treat each view fairly and then looks at theism. Here, I would have also liked to have seen more distinction. He focuses naturally on Christian theism, but I was hoping in the book to see a comparison between Islam and Judaism and perhaps even deism as well. Campbell makes the Trinity a necessary part of his defense, so Islam would definitely have some problems, but couldn’t Judaism possibly work still since it would be open to incarnation, resurrection, and Trinity? After all, the first Christians were open to all of these and were Jews.

I was pleased to see the engagement with New Testament scholarship when talking about the Trinity. Campbell looked at some of the best research on this and if you’re not familiar with it, you will gain enough to be basically cognizant of the issues. This is explained in a way that is easy to understand as well.

Campbell also has some questions about classical theism. I really did not find them convincing as a classical theist myself. Still, it is not necessary to Campbell’s book that you embrace his view. I did appreciate his critique of open theism, however.

The final chapter also deals with the defeat of evil and looks at questions such as the nature of Heaven and Hell. While I am not a proponent of conditional immortality, I don’t think many of them would find his arguments in this case tenable. There was some said on Heaven, but I think more needed to be said.

If there was something else I would add, it would be a brief chapter on those who are dealing with suffering right now. What advice does Campbell have for us when we are in the midst of the pain? At that time, the intellectual arguments don’t really help out that much. I realize this book is not meant to be a pastoral book, but that would be something good still to have.

Overall still, this is a very thorough work on the problem of evil and atheists who want to use it as an argument need to deal with it. It’s also a rare book that deals with pantheism and panentheism on the problem of evil as well. Now maybe someone who studies this more will go forward and look at Judaism, deism, and Islam more on evil.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response To Twelve Painful Facts

Should Christians be in pain because of these “facts”? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So there has been a post I’ve seen recently about twelve painful facts for Christians. As near as I can tell, the author is an atheist named Michael Sherlock. He is apparently pursuing a Master’s in Arts at the University of England majoring in studies of religion. Let’s see how good his studies are doing. Fortunately, he does give sources for his claims.

Fact 1: The earliest official gospel (Mark) was written over a generation (40 years) after the alleged death of Jesus and subsequently, it fails the historical test of contemporaneity.

Source: Paul. J. Achtemeier. Harper-Collins Bible Dictionary Revised Edition. Harper Collins (1989), p. 653; John Barton and John Muddiman. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press (2001), p. 886.

Reply: I would actually place Mark earlier and interestingly, so would skeptics like James Crossley who even places it in the 40’s. I did a research project on Mark once and most scholars do date it to before 70 A.D. This is secondary stuff. There’s two things I want to say about this.

First, there is no alleged death of Jesus. Jesus died.

“The fact of the death of Jesus as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable, despite hypotheses of a pseudo-death or a deception which are sometimes put forward. It need not be discussed further here.” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” Page 17.)

Christians who wanted to proclaim Jesus as messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief “stumbling block” for Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Where did the tradition come from? It must have actually happened. (Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Third Edition. pages 221-222)

Jesus was executed by crucifixion, which was a common method of torture and execution used by the Romans. (Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature. Page 181)

That Jesus was executed because he or someone else was claiming that he was the king of the Jews seems to be historically accurate. (ibid. 186)

Jesus’ execution is as historically certain as any ancient event can ever be but what about all those very specific details that fill out the story? (John Dominic Crossan http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-d…_b_847504.html)

Second, there is no historical case I know of for contemporaneity in the sense that a document must be contemporary in order to be trustworthy. Most of what we have isn’t. This rule about being contemporary is a made-up rule by Jesus mythicists to argue their case. Also, if early dating of the New Testament is accurate, we do have contemporary witness. We definitely do in Paul.

Fact 2: 612 of the 662 verses in the Gospel of Mark can all be found in Matthew, and in largely the same order, thereby demonstrating that the anonymous author of “Matthew” copied heavily from the Gospel of Mark.

Source: Graham N. Stanton. The Gospels and Jesus. Oxford University Press (1989), pp. 63-64.

Reply: Let’s assume this is accurate.

So what? Why would Matthew need to reinvent the wheel if Mark had already spoken? Furthermore, if Mark is the testimony of Peter as an eyewitness, as a member of the three of Jesus’s inner circle, he saw things that Matthew would not have.

Let’s not forget the whole thing about the Gospels being anonymous.

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.

Fact 4: The gospels contain numerous forgeries, contradictions and errors.

Source: Re: Story of woman taken in adultery in “John’s” Gospel; Paul. J. Achtemeier. Harper-Collins Bible Dictionary Revised Edition. Harper Collins (1989), p. 535; Re: Final 12 verses of “Mark”; Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Stuttgart (1971), pp. 122-126. There are other examples.

Reply: I am not sure how these count in the category, but looking at this, this isn’t news. We’ve known about these verses not being original since the time of the early church. It’s because we have a strong textual tradition that we can recognize where the text has been altered. It’s amusing also that he claims numerous but only gives two.

Fact 5: The four gospels were not selected as orthodox Scripture until 180 CE

Bart D. Ehrman. Jesus Interrupted. Harper Collins Publishers (2005), p. 111.

Reply: I got this book at the library so I don’t have it now, but I wish he would have consulted a work like Who Chose The Gospels? by Charles Hill. There also weren’t really debates about canonicity. From the beginning, the four Gospels we have were recognized as Scripture by the church fathers. Irenaeus made the first formal statement about them, but that was nothing new.

Fact 6: There are no first century witnesses outside of the corrupt and biased gospels that attest to the earthly existence of Jesus Christ, but for a forged passage in the work of the Jewish Historian, Josephus (Testimonium Flavianum), and a second reference in that same compromised work, which is also suspect and in no way represents a specific reference to the Jesus of the gospels. (6)

Source: Re: No first century witnesses to earthly Jesus; Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus Interrupted. HarperCollins (2009), p. 158; Re: Josephus forgeries; John E. Remsburg. The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidences of His Existence. The Truth Seeker Company (1909), pp. 32-35.

Reply: Bart Ehrman would not agree with this entirely as he does not hold that the statements in Josephus are entire forgeries. Most everyone admits there is some editing, but the majority of scholars believe there is a historical core there to the historical Jesus. This best explains the second reference to James, the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ. Readers would remember Josephus’s early reference.

There is also no contemporary record of a number of other great figures in history like Hannibal, Queen Boudica, and the German general Arminius. I recommend Sherlock check History for Atheists for more.

Fact 7: Almost all of the myths and moral philosophies attributed to Jesus can be found in earlier mythologies and philosophies, held by people that were proximate to the lands in which the gospels first arose.

Source: Joseph McCabe. Sources of Morality in the Gospels. Watts & Co. (1914). McCabe compiled many of the primary source pre-Christian references to the sources of Jesus’ alleged revelations, so you can go to those works and read them for yourself.

Reply: I’m going to assume this is true for the sake of argument.

So what?

My belief in Jesus does not depend on Him giving some unique mind-blowing teaching. It depends on His resurrection from the dead.

Fact 8: Most of the earliest Christians believed that Jesus was either a phantom (non-human apparition), or a completely human Jewish rabbi.

Source: Bart Ehrman. Lost Christianities. Oxford University Press (2003); Earl Doherty. The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus. Age of Reason Publications (2005).

Reply: We have to laugh at Earl Doherty being a serious source here. There is no interaction with the Early High Christology Club such as Bauckham, Bird, Hurtado, Tilling, etc. We don’t have any of the church fathers espousing the position listed here. That would have to mean that the apostles died off and then immediately, everyone got everything wrong about Christianity right from the start. Color me skeptical.

Fact 9: Christianity only rose to power due to its blatant disregard for its own Scripture – meaning, it aligned itself with a psychotic “pagan” emperor, Constantine, who boiled his wife in a hot tub, murdered his own son and executed his co-emperor, and he merely used Christianity to solidify his political ambitions (sole emperorship), evidenced by the fact that he continued to practice his pagan faith and mint his coins with Mithras (pagan sun-god), long after his alleged conversion. 

Source: Helen Ellebre, The Dark Side of Christian History. Morningstar Books (1995); Phillip Schaff. History of the Christian Church, Volume 5: The Middle Ages. A.D. 1049-1294. Christian Classics Ethereal Library (1882), p. 322; J.N. Hillgarth, The Conversion of Western Europe. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall (1969), p. 46; Frank Viola & George Barna. Pagan Christianity. Tyndale House Publishers (2008).

Ellebre is not a scholar in the field and Viola and Barna are really not sources I take seriously on this. Having interviewed Peter Leithart on Constantine, I am skeptical of these claims. Something I still want to know though is how Christianity even got to Constantine. It went through numerous persecutions and should have died out in the first century and definitely the second. Never happened.

Fact 10: The sect of Christians that aligned themselves with Constantine became known as the Catholic (Universal) Church and their chief historian, Eusebius, re-wrote Christian history to present a false picture that favored his sect and made it look as if his group’s theology, found in the four official gospels, was always the dominant and original form, when such was not the case.

Source: Bart Ehrman. Lost Christianities. Oxford University Press (2003); Joseph Wheless. Forgery in Christianity. Psychiana (1930); Bart D. Ehrman. Jesus, Interrupted. New York: HarperCollins (2009), p. 214.

Reply: These people must believe Eusebius was a remarkable man. He had the power to traverse the whole Roman Empire and eliminate documents that disagreed with him and change histories everywhere. Simply incredible.

Since I am skeptical of fact 9, this one follows from that.

Fact 11: For the majority of its history (4th Century – 19th Century), Christianity has been a violent religion, which, like a deadly virus, has taken over its hosts and killed in order to spread.

Source: Helen Ellebre, The Dark Side of Christian History. Morningstar Books (1995); Rev. J.E. Riddle. The History of the Papacy, to the Reformation (Multiple volume series); Edward Gibbon. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (multiple volume series).

Reply: There is no in-depth analysis here. You will not find him interacting with a scholar like Thomas Madden on the Crusades or Henry Kamen on the Inquisition. Without specific claims, I really can’t say much here. Sherlock just seems to want to go for emotional points.

Fact 12: When Christianity had temporal authority, it was just as brutal as Islam.  The only reason we see more psychotic behavior from religious nuts in Islamic countries today, versus Western countries, is because the West has become increasingly secularized.

Source: Joseph McCabe. A History of the Popes. Watts and Co. (1939); Rev. Horace K. Mann. The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages. Vol. 4. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, & Co. Ltd. (1910); Rev. J.E. Riddle. The History of the Papacy, to the Reformation. Vol. 2. Richard Bentley (1854); Helen Ellebre, The Dark Side of Christian History. Morningstar Books (1995); John N.D. Kelly. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford University Press (2005); Archibald Bower. The History of the Popes. Griffith and Simon (1845); Johannes Janssen. The History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages. Vol. 10. Trans. A.M Christie; Kegan Paul. Trench. Trubner & Co. Ltd. (1906); Preserved Smith, PHD. History of Christian Theophagy. The Open Court Publishing Co. (1922); Jeremy Collier, M.A. An Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain. Vol. 6. William Straker (1811); Carl Theophilus Odhner. Michael Servetus: His Life and Teachings. J.B. Lippincott Company (1910); R. Willis, M.D. Servetus and Calvin: A Study of an Important Epoch in the History of the Reformation. Henry S. King and Co. (1877); Sam Harris. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason. W.W. Norton, New York (2005).

Reply: Again, no specific examples are given, but let’s look at the last part. It’s a shame we can’t be like more secular countries, like Russia and, oh….what’s that? Stalin murdered how many of his people? Oh. Or we could look at Mao….what? He did too? Or Pol-Pot….what? Again? Let’s not forget the Khmer Rouge or the church being persecuted in China today.

I challenge Sherlock to find one nation untouched by the Bible where he’d prefer to live instead.

So we supposedly have twelve painful facts, and yet I felt no pain whatsoever. If anything, I felt some laughter in it.

If this is what is counting for atheistic argumentation today, Christianity is in good hands.

I’d also like to note that there’s hardly any interaction with modern evangelical scholarship on the topic. I have no problem with citing skeptics as I do the same, but by all means study the other side seriously. Otherwise, you just stay in an echochamber.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

%d bloggers like this: