Did You Choose The Right Messiah?

Of all the claimants, are you sure you have the right one? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

During the night, someone sent me a message about a graphic they saw. I looked at it and realized very quickly that this is someone who really is uninformed about history and how research is done and sharing another thing that tells me they’re hoping that their audience is the same way. When my wife asked me about this, who is not an apologist, she came in and looked and saw the gaping error in it immediately. (By the way, that part is not an insult to my wife and is said with her permission.)

So what is it this time?

For the sake of argument, let’s grant that each of these figures really claimed either to be the Messiah or was thought to be the Messiah. That could be a huge concession, but I’m willing to grant it. How could you possibly tell that you have the right one?

I don’t know. Maybe we could just look at the evidence for each?

I realize that’s a stretch. I mean, when it comes to history, internet atheists aren’t really keen on evidence. The criteria is normally that if it makes Christianity look bad, it’s true. If it makes Christianity look good or neutral, we should all be skeptics. I often say that internet¬†atheists honor reason with their lips, but their hearts are far from it.

Now I’m not going to go into a whole argument for the resurrection of Jesus. Many of you know that I have done that already. I just plan to go into historical methodology. How is it that we would examine the claims?

First, we’d want to look at historical documents. We could actually start with the Old Testament. Since the idea of a Messiah is one rooted in the Old Testament, we would look to see what the Old Testament says about the Messiah. Then once we have that information in, we know what we’re looking for. Who fits the profile?

Then we would examine the evidence for each of these people using the best sources that are deemed the most accurate and the closest to the time. We would ask for questions about which of them fulfilled the prophecies in the Old Testament. We would also look and see if any of them did anything remarkable that could be considered a fulfillment, such as a resurrection from the dead. (Incidentally, on just being the Messiah, I also highly recommend the books of Michael Brown.)

When I look at a graphic like this, I actually picture a town with a few thousand citizens and a murder takes place. Eventually, the police arrest someone and in court, the defense says “There are a few thousand people in this town. How do the police know they chose the right one?” They would do just what I’ve done. They would look at the evidence.

I’m quite thankful to see internet atheists using arguments like this today. If this is what is seen as an intellectually devastating argument, then Christianity is in good hands. It also makes me wonder how low their standards are if they will fall for weak arguments like this one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Atheistic presuppositionalism

Does internet atheism assume too much? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Do enough internet debates and you will soon come across what I call atheistic presuppositionalism. Now I am very much not a presuppositionalist, but if you disagree with my stance, I ask that you still consider the view I am making. In a presuppositionalist position, it is a starting grounds that without Christianity, the world comes to irrationality. Christianity becomes the starting point. I am contending here that with what I am writing about, it is assumed right at the start that atheism is the default and in fact the rational worldview.

Let’s consider a question like miracles for instance. The atheist presuppositionalist will say things like “We know today that resurrections don’t happen and virgins don’t give birth.” Never mind that it was known back then, but this constant we is trotted out. Even for claims other than these like “We know miracles don’t occur.” Who is this we? It certainly isn’t the majority of the population of Earth. It’s the atheist community and people that think like them. It’s just saying “People that think like us agree with us.” This should be no more convincing than saying “People who hold to Christianity with me agree that Jesus rose from the dead.”

Of course, it could be that miracles have never happened, but if someone is going to say that miracles have never happened, they need to make an argument for it. Even if they want to trot out Hume’s failed argument, they should at least make an argument. Instead, it too often happens that the person claims miracles have never happened and then leave it on you to disprove their claim and if you cannot, then their claim stands. Well, let’s suppose I am an agnostic on this question and I hear it. I respond “That’s interesting. Can you back that claim?” “Try and find one miracle that is true.” My inability to do so in that case would not mean that the claim is right. It just means I don’t know of such a case.

This is also the case when we are told that atheism is the rational position. Well not necessarily. It could be a rational position, though some Christian apologists I know could argue otherwise, but it does not follow that because you are an atheist, you are a rational thinker. I know many atheists who are highly irrational. Consider for instance the Jesus mythicists. These are people who take a position that is not held by any Ph.D. or classical scholar in the field teaching at an accredited university and then say that this position is the obvious right one. If you are going to get after young-earth creationists for disagreeing with every biologist on evolution, you have no grounds for holding to Jesus mythicism. Yet so many atheists think they are among the intellectual elite for seeing the truth about the person of Jesus. Jesus mythicism is ultimately a conspiracy theory for atheists.

Many who hold to this position and often a position of scientism often think that they are rational in whatever they say simply because they are an atheist. I am an advocate of the position that if you do not study something seriously, you should not speak on it. Should a Christian make an argument against evolution? Only if they seriously study evolution from a scientific approach and are reading both sides. In that case, by all means critique, but if all you are doing is just quoting the Bible and not paying attention to what the experts in the field are saying, then you are wasting your breath and frankly, embarrassing us as much as Jesus mythicists should be seen as an embarrassment to atheism. To get to what was just said though, because you study science and/or are a scientist, this does not mean you are an expert on philosophy, history, theology, biblical interpretation, etc. Believe it or not, you might just have to study those fields.

Unfortunately, the presuppositional atheist won’t do this. Why? Because “we” know that those fields are nonsense and why should I study them? That would be like studying fairy tales or Greek mythology. (Which are in fact valid areas of study) Again, ironically, these same atheists will complain when Christians show up and start talking about scientific theories without studying them.

Ultimately, I find that you cannot really reason with presuppositional atheists. (I like to say they honor reason with their lips, but their heads are far from it.) If a man is convinced that he cannot be wrong in what he thinks, then nothing you say could ever convince him. The most I try to do is just refute what they say in public and often try to apply a bit of shaming as well because even if they don’t see how inconsistent they’re being, I want everyone else to see it.

One place this also shows up at is memes. Several times I see a meme show up that is absolutely ridiculous and a total caricature of what Christians believe. When you see these, do not take them seriously. I instead put up my own meme in reply that is meant to show how ridiculous this meme is. Consider the following:

Aslan Facepalm
stupidesthingI'llreadtoday
Stupidmultiverse

Now I’m not at all saying that you shouldn’t be able to answer these claims and if you want to treat the other side like they have no clue, you had better be able to show that, but if a retort is not a serious critique, do not treat it seriously. Not every meme deserves to be answered. In fact, biblically speaking, silence is a great shamer. Many times when Jesus stood silent before opposition, it was not fear. It was just saying “You’re not worth answering.” (Consider what that means when He’s silent before Pilate.)

Try to save your dialogue for atheists who will actually take your ideas seriously. The internet atheists are the ones that follow the sort of Boghossian strategies using all the code words like deepity and such. To follow another Boghossian line then, let them eat at the kids’ table. The adults will discuss the evidence. There are better usages of time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Resurrections on the Internet

What happens to bad ideas when the internet comes around? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christian Vision For Men (CVM) has a video up today on the idea that Jesus is copied from dying and rising gods of the time. The concept isn’t taken seriously by scholars, but you go on the internet and you will find this touted around like it’s an obvious fact. I just did a quick search in fact and didn’t take long to find an example of an image that goes around with this.

Copycat Jesus

This is just one of many.

Will you find scholarly support for this idea? Nope. Well not unless you redefine scholar to mean something like anyone who can write a blog and put forward an argument. If you’re talking about people in the field with actual Ph.D.’s, good luck. I’ve in fact done a show on this topic interviewing Joe Mulvihill. Of course, right along with this goes the idea that Jesus never existed. Frankly, if any atheist wants to say young-earth creationism should be rejected because it goes so against the grain of the scientific community (And I am not a YEC), then they have no grounds for using the Christ Myth theory because it goes even more against the grain of scholarship in the field.

All this goes to demonstrate is that resurrection is certainly a reality on the internet, because ideas that have no basis in reality come up time and time again and they are believed and embraced because, hey, they argue against Christianity.

It’s really hard to take internet atheism seriously when I see the same canards thrown out time and time again.

“The church was anti-science in the Dark Ages!”

“Christians used to believe the Earth was flat!”

“There are X number of denominations out there!” (X has to be used because the number changes in range from 22,000 to 42,000)

“Look at all these writers of the time who never mentioned Jesus!”

“The New Testament was formed at the Council of Nicea!”

These are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure many more could be added. Even sadder is the idea that every time statements like this are made up, it’s as if no Christian has ever thought about them before and we’ve never heard of them. At this rate, we could easily make an internet atheist drinking game.

Now let’s be fair also. Christians can be just as gullible sadly. I’ve written on this before with internet quotes and such. I hate to do that because most of my Facebook friends are Christians and sadly, they’re the ones that I usually see spreading misinformation. My own wife could tell you that if she reads something on the internet that I haven’t heard, the first reply I always give is “Source?” Most of us don’t bother to check because the claim goes with what we already believe so surely it must be true.

Debates will be going on and on until the return of Christ I am sure, but we can all seek to do what we can to improve the quality of the debates. One such way is by checking the claims that we come across. If we are not sure of a claim, we dare not share it as fact. This is especially so for Christians who are called to be people of the truth. After all, if people cannot trust us with the mundane things they can easily check, why should they believe us on grander claims, like the resurrection?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Trouble With Internet Debates

What’s so problematic about having debates on the internet? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I love debate. Okay. I can’t deny that. A good argument can get me really excited. I love the back and forth exchange of ideas. (Well supposedly the back and forth exchange.) Yet there’s something also irksome about it. In some ways, it can be like receiving a new gift at Christmas. It’s fun and exciting for a few days, but after awhile, the excitement just wears off.

What’s the problem with internet debates? Well very rarely do people talk about ideas that they really study. Instead, they talk about ideas that they have opinions on. Now opinions are fine and we all have them, but some opinions are to be more authoritative than others. I can have an opinion on evolution and cosmology. Don’t take it seriously. Why? Because I have not done the necessary reading on the topic. I am not an authority.

A word of warning at this point to my apologist friends out there and to other Christians. Reading the apologists on a topic does not make you an authority. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to read the scholars on the topic. You want to know what your opponents are arguing even better than they know it.

Now before atheists start thinking they’re not guilty of the same thing, they are. If you want to make an argument against the existence of God, don’t read someone like Richard Dawkins. Dawkins is just fine when talking about evolution, but he is not trained in the arguments for God’s existence.

Don’t go thinking that people like Jerry Coyne (Who Peter Boghossian refers to profusely) are authorities on Christianity. They’re not. When I go to his blog and see people arguing that Jesus never even existed, I know this is not something to take seriously. (And yes, no one who says Jesus never existed should be considered authoritative in the field. There are more PH.D.s in science who hold to YEC, a view I do not hold to at all, than there are PH.D.s in ancient history who say Jesus never existed.)

The new atheist movement has done this to atheism today. If you want to be a well-informed atheist, do not read the new atheists. Believe it or not, just because you are an atheist, it does not mean that you’re automatically a clear thinker. Christian and atheists both have fools and geniuses on their side.

Another problem both sides have is incredulity has become an argument. For an atheist, yeah. I get it. It seems incredible to you that a miracle occurred. Frankly, I don’t have any problem with you thinking it is incredible. It really is. I understand the skepticism. The problem is skepticism is not an argument. It is a position that one holds. Today, you will need to do more than quote David Hume. Have you read the critiques of Hume? Have you considered a work such as Miracles by Craig Keener?

It also won’t work to say “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.” Why should your position be the one that determines what claim is and isn’t extraordinary? The term is just way too subjective. How do you even recognize extraordinary evidence? Does it have some property like glowing in the dark?

extraordinaryevidence

And once again, to turn to the Christians, your incredulity does not count as an argument. Okay. Many of you are skeptical of evolution. I get that. Yeah. Now I have no firm opinion on the matter, but your incredulity does not count as an argument. It also will not work to say “The Bible says X.” Yeah. You accept the Bible as an authority, but your opponent doesn’t. Why should he care?

Now if you want to argue against evolution by all means be my guest. Just make sure you make the case scientific. If evolution is to fall, it will fall because it happens to be bad science. If it is bad science, then it can be refuted scientifically. Being incredulous will not count as an argument.

The problem with both of these positions is both sides can remain incredibly fundamentalist in nature. Many Christians will say automatically that they must be right because they agree with the Bible and the Word of God cannot be wrong. Now it could be true the Bible is the Word of God and cannot be wrong. (And I do hold to Inerrancy in fact) That is not to be assumed. If you’re debating a Christian who holds to that position, then fine. Use the Bible all you want to as an authority. It won’t work outside of that. It has no more effect on an opponent than my hearing what the Koran says from a Muslim has on me despite him insisting he’s telling me the words of the creator.

For the atheist, too often there is an engagement in what I call “atheistic presuppositionalism.” This is where you start off with the assumption of atheism, but you also start with the idea that because you are an atheist, you are reasonable and anyone who does not accept atheism is just irrational.

Now of course, if atheism is true, it is irrational to not accept it, but none of us are purely rational in all our thinking. We all make mistakes. You can be rational in many areas and irrational in others for any number of reasons. There could be a lack of study, reading the wrong resources, pride, or emotional or volitional barriers. Atheists often warn us about bias. They’re right. We should all be seeking to have our biases checked, but that includes atheists as well. The best way is to go out and read people who disagree with you and really interact with them.

But for too many atheists, the position is that they are rational and therefore any comment that they make is rational. Want to say Jesus never existed? That’s rational because you’re an atheist! Have an opinion on any topic you’ve never studied? It’s rational because you’re an atheist!

This also leads to too often a lack of serious engagement with religious ideas for atheists. For most, it is just a Google search and Google while a valuable tool for those who use it well, is an aid also to the laziness of our day and age. Why go out and read a scholar of a position? Just go find something in a Google search.

Want to claim Jesus is a copycat Messiah and there were several dying and rising deities? No problem! Just do a Google search! Sure! The source might not quote any scholars whatsoever and would not be taken seriously in the scholarly world, which it isn’t, but hey! It’s found on Google!

Now of course, a Christian should want to have an answer to that objection, but the question needs to be asked why it should be taken seriously as an objection in the first place? Is finding it on a Google search a good enough reason? I can find evidence on Google right now that the moon landing never took place! I can find evidence that the holocaust never happened! Now it’s faulty evidence to be sure (You can have evidence for false opinions), but it is evidence! Who would like to see something put up saying the moon landing never happened and expect to have to give an answer for that?

In fact, the reality is that 99.9% of us would say that it happened I predict. I have no doubt it happened. The reality is that most of us at the same time could not give an argument for it. Most of us do not know the physics and such of the matter to give an answer. That does not mean we’re irrational for holding it. We hold it on other grounds. Most of us could not give an argument for heliocentrism. Does that mean if someone put forward a web page claiming geocentrism that you would want me to take it seriously?

On the internet, anyone can put forward an opinion and it doesn’t have to be examined by critical minds. If you wanted to, you could start a blog right now for free and put out your opinion on whatever you want. That does not mean you’re an authority. It means you have an opinion.

Some of you might be thinking “What about your blog?” What about it? If you want to be skeptical, go ahead. I do not claim to be a scholar yet, but I do claim to rely on the works of leading scholars. If you think my opinion carries merit, feel free to share it. If not, then ignore it and just go and read the people who have actually reached the level of scholar.

Google is a tool for too many people who want instant information but are not wanting to do a real study. So many people don’t want today to do the real research required in learning a topic. Instead, they just want you to lay everything out front instead of doing the basic groundwork for what you wish to say. That’s another problem with internet discussions. If you’ve read the scholars, it’s very irritating to talk to people who haven’t and have them think they’re an authority.

And this gets us into another area as well. When people are contested, they can turn nasty. Now I am not one who says all satire and sarcasm is wrong. In fact, I think in many cases it’s necessary. Sometimes you need to call a spade a spade. Some arguers on the internet are just bullies who have not studied and want to present themselves as authority. They do not respond to sound argumentation.

Yet if all you have is just sarcasm and satire and you cannot back it with arguments, then you do not have an argument. Mocking Christians for being Christians is not an argument. Mocking atheists for being atheists is not an argument. If you’re one who does not have a problem with mockery, and to be fair, the Bible has no problem with it in many cases, then be sure that you also have the arguments to back it. Mockery, sarcasm, and satire are not to be your arguments. They are meant to be used, if you use them, as tools of argumentation but not the data itself.

Hopefully on both sides we can learn better argumentation. I have this strange dream that someday we’ll have debates where we only talk about topics that we’ve really seriously studied in debate. Unfortunately, as long as we think we are authorities because we have opinions, this will not happen. Yet I expect this most from the Christian community. I expect that we most of all will be fulfilling the life of the mind and engaging in areas where we have done our homework. It is no honor to our Lord to come to the debate not having done at least basic research. God is not obligated to give us knowledge because we have not done our part. That would in fact be encouraging laziness.

I also expect that too many people on both sides will hear this kind of advice on internet debates and ignore it entirely. This again is part of our modern problem as we consider ourselves exceptions to every rule out there.

If you want to honor Christ, be a student. Be a disciple. Be learning. Be reading both sides of the positions that you hold and love God with your mind. Sloppy thinking is no honor for the Christian to have.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Ignore Most Internet Atheists

Why is it sometimes best to just not bother? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Before leaping into the meat of this post, let’s make a few clarifications.

No. Not every atheist is an internet atheist. I refer to a general type of person by this. If you are on the internet and an atheist and are highly informed and can show it and have done your homework on what you and I both believe, then I do not consider you an internet atheist.

Yes. I realize too many Christians are just as ignorant. If you think I’ve been silent on this matter, then you haven’t been reading my blog at all. I have often castigated the church for not doing the proper job of educating the laity on what they believe and why.

Having said that, let’s go into what it is I’m writing about.

I thought about this yesterday after listening to J. Warner Wallace do a podcast on Christ mythers. These are the atheists that go around saying Jesus never even existed and that he’s a copycat of Mithras, Horus, Osiris, Dionysus, etc.

The sad part is that they think they know what they’re talking about. They don’t. They have not read any scholarship on the issue. Instead, they’re getting their information from internet sites or perhaps even worse, a site like Wikipedia. (Never ever in a debate do I look at a Wikipedia link. If you think the information there is true, you can find it elsewhere.)

Modern NT scholarship does not even consider this possibility. This includes liberal and conservative, Christian and atheist. A way to get a great laugh is to go to a group like the Society of Biblical Literature and announce that you are a Christ-myther. Yet despite this, the virus of the Christ-myth still spreads.

As an example, around Easter, I commented on an article Gary Habermas had in a national newspaper on the resurrection. Internet atheists came out in droves. One of them posted this little gem:

“It’s obviously nonsense. It’s not even a given that Jesus existed. There are books which say he didn’t exist. Albert Schweitzer wrote a book called “The Quest For The Historical Jesus” and said; ‘There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the life of Jesus.The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and died to give his work its final consecration, never existed.”
Albert Schweitzer from “The Quest For The Historical Jesus’ ”

I can assure you something about this internet atheist beyond the fact he’s uneducated on this. He has never once read Schweitzer. Schweitzer held that the historical Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. Strange that he would hold such a position about someone who never even existed.

So what is the quote saying? It’s saying that the Jesus that has been traditionally believed in by orthodox Christianity never existed. Our view of Jesus was entirely wrong. It is not at all saying that there never was a historical Jesus.

To be sure, I think Schweitzer’s position is wrong, but it’s not as wrong as the other. As Stuart on the Big Bang Theory said “It’s a little wrong to say a tomato is a vegetable. It’s very wrong to say it’s a suspension bridge.” It’s a little wrong to say Jesus never did miracles, preached and founded the Kingdom on Earth, etc. It’s very wrong to say he never existed.

These same types keep repeating this mantra that they get from the new atheists about “No evidence! No evidence!” (Most anyone who treats the new atheists as making serious arguments is an internet atheist) Now you could say that there is insufficient evidence. You could say I believe based on wrong evidence or a wrong interpretation of the evidence. Yet why insist that if I believe something it is because there is no evidence? (Unfortunately, the main reason I can think of is that too many Christians do just that.)

It also includes a definition of faith that means belief without evidence. I would just once like to see the new atheists present evidence for this belief. Is this what the Bible means by faith? Can they produce a Greek or NT Lexicon that has that definition for pistis, the Greek word for faith?

Those who take this position are invincible in their ignorance unfortunately. It is as if they have this allergy that if there is some shred of evidence for anything Christian, then there is a huge crisis. I, as a Christian, would have no problem accepting the existence of Muhammad or Buddha. I just think the belief systems they espouse are wrong.

So after awhile, I have come to the conclusion that such opponents are not worth dialoguing with. There are plenty of people online who have the time to deal with such. I no longer do. When it comes down to the choice of reading that book more to understand the scholarship behind an issue or responding to someone who shows no sign of listening to reason and will take a good portion of my time, which do I choose? I have my own family to spend with and study to do and responding to internet atheists is not a wise investment of my time.

If you are an atheist reading this, then I suggest you avoid being one of these people. Take the time to read someone who disagrees. Many atheists look at the YEC community and say “Look! They don’t pay attention to the majority of scientists and astronomers on the age of the Earth and have bad science and think that only their position is correct despite the rest of the world speaking with one voice on this.”

Okay. Let’s suppose that’s true. That’s the exact same thing internet atheists do when they embrace the Christ myth. They don’t pay attention to the overwhelming majority of scholars on the issue and have bad scholarship and think their position is the only correct one despite the rest of the world speaking with one voice on this.

If you are someone who comes up seriously arguing for ideas I know are blatantly false and yet refuse to listen to reason or evidence on the position because you’ve already convinced yourself there can be none, why should I waste my time? I would rather dialogue with someone who I think will listen and not only that, will give me a challenging dialogue.

In conclusion, what’s needed on both sides is people becoming more familiar with what they believe and what their opponents believe. My time is limited. I have no desire to waste it on fruitless endeavors when others can argue there instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters