Book Plunge Conclusion: Politely Rejecting The Bible

What are my concluding thoughts on Kapr’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So how do we end this? For starters, I will say this book is indeed true in the statement of politely rejecting in that the author is not nearly as antagonistic as most other authors who argue against Christianity are. I also appreciate that the accusations are not so simple as others. This is far better than say, David McAfee’s Disproving Christianity, which I have reviewed here, where the author simply throws out a bunch of contradictions with very little weight attached to them, thinks that he’s disproven Christianity, and then goes off triumphantly from there.

I am also pleased to see that Kapr has taken the time to at least interact with contrary thought. Too many skeptics tell me that there’s no evidence and then when I ask them what they’ve read on the other side, I get crickets. If you say there’s no evidence and yet you’re not looking, that’s hardly a surprise. One will not find what they are not looking for.

At the same time, it’s still lacking overall. Niceness does not equal an argument necessarily. Granted at times it can give a rhetorical push, it doesn’t work overall. I also would have liked to have seen more said about the resurrection of Jesus. There are still several Christians who do not hold to inerrancy but in many ways are conservative in their beliefs, say with regards to sexuality, and still hold to the resurrection of Jesus regardless.

Do I think Christians should interact with this and books like it? Yes. At the same time, I think this would be good for many skeptics to read to at least get somewhat of a higher class than the usual drivel that’s out there arguing against Christianity.

I also hope that this will get people interested in the second edition of Defining Inerrancy. Yes. It’s coming out soon. We have updated a few items adding information that wasn’t in the last one and I have included in it my tribute to Norman Geisler on his death.

We’ll see what next week brings!

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

Book Plunge Part 12: Politely Rejecting The Bible

Is God truthful? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In our household, April Fool’s Day is a big event and the major goal is to try to trick my mother. One of the best ones I ever pulled on her was to tell her I was going to be evicted when I lived in an apartment with a roommate. This year, we tricked her into thinking I had been accepted into a school in Romania and would have to move.

Every year she says she will not be tricked that day and lo and behold…

It reminds me of this:

It is also something that comes to mind when I read this objection from Kapr about God using lying spirits, most notably in 1 Kings 22. He does give a reference to Holding’s web site where this is said:

“The alleged problem: If God finds lying to be horrible, why does he put lying spirits into the mouths of prophets and delude people?

Where is the contradiction here? It appears that this objection is asserting that the fact that God does not like lying necessarily implies that He could not use this evil for His own ends as a judgment. This is hardly a valid syllogism. One’s feelings toward something don’t have any connection with whether it is possible to use that something towards one’s own ends.

The question is one for exegesis and theology, and it is a good question that is addressed in commentaries. But as we are dealing with allegations of contradiction here and not theology, this whole point is a non-issue from the standpoint of contradictions. As such, no further discussion is required on this point.”

Unfortunately, Kapr didn’t look too closely. This article was written by an Eric Vestrup. It was not by Holding.

However, for the most part, I agree with the assessment. God is going out of His way to tell Ahab, “Look! You’re being lied to!” If God had truly wanted to lie to Ahab, all of his prophets, including Micaiah, would have said the same thing. God gave Ahab a choice and even told what the outcomes would be depending on what Ahab chose.

The same is going on I think in 2 Thess. 2 with the people who are sent a strong delusion. What’s going on? Well, if you don’t believe the truth, what will you believe? By necessity, something else. If people reject the truth, then God just lets them go further their own way. They make the choice first.

Kapr also brings up Romans 3 and asks that we read the passage slow. No one seeks God? No one understands? I consider Romans 3 an extreme picture. It doesn’t mean that man is continuously evil and hopeless. Jews often spoke in hyperbolic terms. Let’s sum it up this way. Man is extremely wicked and fallen. Kapr sadly reads it in a very fundamentalist sense.

He also brings up 2 Kings 3 where Israel was told they would win a battle, but such great wrath comes against them that they are said to flee. In reality, the sacrifice of the child of the king of Moab indicated that a plague was coming on to his city. Israel would have seen this and known it was time to get out since the plague would end the battle. It is not that wrath came against Israel, but that there was indignation and strife among the camp upon hearing about this.

Next time we will conclude our look at the book as I give summarizing thoughts.

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

Book Plunge Part 11: Revenge on the Amalekites

What do I think of Kapr’s treatment of the Amalekites? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I can’t say I was surprised to find this one come up in Kapr’s book. This one I don’t think is really a contradiction so much as saying it sounds like a horrible thing for God to do. One part that is thought to be contradictory is that doesn’t Ezekiel 18 indicate that no one will die for the sins of their parents?

Indeed, it does, which is not necessarily good news. It means that if you face judgment, you have no one to blame but yourself. You can’t point to what Daddy did. You can’t say “I’m suffering because my Dad was a jerk.” Now this doesn’t mean that no child ever suffers from a parent’s sins. We all know about abusive and/or addicted parents and how the children suffer.

So what about the Amalekites. In 1 Samuel 15, Saul goes to war with them for how they treated the Israelites when they left Egypt. Isn’t this punishing children for what their ancestors did centuries ago? It’s understandable to think that way, provided, you know, you ignore the rest of Scripture.

Practically every time the Amalekites show up in Scripture, they’re attacking Israel. The grand example of this is in the book of Esther where Haman is a descendant of these people and decides to use royal authority granted by the king to kill all the Jews. Kapr lives in a modern society where the present time is the most important. In Eastern thinking, the past is still very much with us.

So what about 1 Samuel 15. Not mentioned is that these cities where the Amalekites were were most likely fortresses of sorts where the military bases would be. This also wasn’t necessarily a sneak attack. This means that any women and children would have plenty of time to flee. This isn’t as hard as you might think in the ancient world as war and famine could come at any time and you’d have to pick up and move out.

So what about the morality issue? I saw Kapr deal with many kinds of objections to this, but never to mine. My stance is that the category of morality does not apply to God. After all, morality is doing what you ought to do and there is no “ought” for God. God does not have any moral law above Him that He is obligated to follow.

However, I do contend that what God does is good. God does all that He does for His good and for the good of His creation. It’s a much longer post to talk about what is good, though I would recommend Edward Feser’s Aquinas to look at this question. There are plenty of good things you can do that you have no moral obligation to do.

I then ask people about this about who it is that God has an obligation to grant life to? Who can we look at and say “God has no right to take their life from them!” That includes me and the people that I especially love. It also includes the Amalekites and as we will see later in the Old Testament, the Israelites.

Arguments like Kapr’s can easily pull rhetorical and emotional heartstrings. Unfortunately, they are only persuasive in that regard. Move away from that and they lose a lot.

Once again then, I find nothing convincing here.

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

Book Plunge Part 9: Politely Rejecting The Bible

How did the Field of Blood get its name? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This objection is from the field of blood. How did it get its name? In the book of Matthew, we are told that the field was bought using money that was used to betray Jesus. In the book of Acts, we are told that it was called that because of how Judas died there when he fell on a field and his body burst open.

Seeing as he references an article by J.P. Holding on this, I figured it was fair to email JPH and let him say something about this.

First, he summarizes Kapr’s position:

Duh, but if this is right, “then we should be able to omit the clause about Judas’ bloody death without destroying the inner logic of the passage. But when we do this, the result is very odd: Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness. . . . This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood. Suddenly the mention of blood comes out of nowhere.”

Okay. So what does Holding say in response?

This is the objection of Dan Kapr, and it is just the sort of thing we’d expect from a fundamenatalist who is also a comedian. In case Kapr forgot, Matthew relates the origins of the “field of blood” name without any reference to Judas’ guts blowing out. Matthew gets the etymology from the payment to Judas being “blood money” — a payment for turning Jesus over. And Luke relates that episode in his own gospel. So no, the reference to blood doesn’t “come out of nowhere” at all; it alludes to the prior account Luke provided of Judas being paid for his treachery, Kapr’s inability to make sense of the writings of a culture removed from him by time and priority notwithstanding.

Kapr finds it “strange” that I wouldn’t connect Judas’ death in Luke with a lot of blood, but that is his problem, not mine. Luke himself didn’t mention blood gushing from Judas, and he didn’t say it became known as the “Field of Spilled Intestines.” In other words, it is clear enough that it wasn’t the blood that caught his attention. Kapr needs to break out of his fundamentalist notions that only what he thinks the text “clearly says” is what matters.

I can agree with this, but I would like to add something else. The name is the same. Could it not be for both reasons? I say this because the Jews happen to like puns a lot. (It’s worthwhile to note that people who have a great sense of humor really appreciate puns. Just saying.)

Could they not say, “Oh. Isn’t this ironic? This traitor who bought a field with blood money ended up spilling his own blood on that field?” This would be seen as a fitting judgment from God on someone like this. If anyone asked why the field had its name, the Jew could just tell them about the traitor who betrayed His own rabbi and then paid for it in his own blood.

These chapter reviews might seem short, but really Kapr spends a lot of time arguing one point and if you just address that one point, then not everything else matters. Again, it’s still often fundamentalist, but not as bad as many other authors thankfully.

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

Book Plunge Part 8: Politely Rejecting The Bible

What of Jude’s use of Enoch? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In the next few chapters, we will look at the biggest objections that Kapr has to the doctrine of inerrancy. This is in the book of Jude when the author, presumably Jude and we will assume him for the sake of this article, gives a prophecy that comes from Enoch. It’s not the prophecy that is being called into question but that Jude references Enoch as the source of this prophecy.

There are a few points to consider.

First, Kapr considers it difficult to think that an oral tradition would last this long and be referenced just around the time when 1 Enoch itself shows up and then starts being quoted, but is this really that unthinkable? Oral tradition lasts a long time in the ancient world and it could be that this was an oral tradition and it was written down around this time. I’m not saying it was and I don’t see how you could make a case, but it would be interesting to have done. Either way, just saying you don’t find it plausible does not mean it is implausible.

Second, we don’t really know what Jude believed about the book. We do know that he certainly found the prophecy useful. I don’t even think we could say he certainly agreed with the prophecy, but he found it worthwhile to quote. Now why would he do this?

It could be that the opponents he is dealing with in this book do think Enoch came from Enoch and do view it as authoritative and do use it. Thus, Jude could be saying “So you know, Enoch, the seventh from Adam Enoch, yeah. That one. The one that you read and cite regularly? He himself condemned what is going on and the people who are doing what is going on.”

If so, then this is kind of like Paul on Mars Hill quoting various poets and saying “See? Even your guys accept my viewpoint.” Enoch could have agreed with what Enoch said. He could have thought the author of Enoch was smoking mushrooms. Either way, he found the quote useful.

In reality, we don’t know enough about what Jude believed about Enoch. The same could be said about the Assumption of Moses? Did Jude believe the story? Maybe. Maybe not. He could again be using material his audience accepts to make the point. All we have is one quote of each of these and we don’t know enough based on that.

Some might think not enough has been said here to solidly answer the charge, but keep in mind as the one in the defensive position in this as Kapr is making the charges, I just have to show a possible solution to a problem. Again, the reality is we don’t know in this case and that’s okay to say. Maybe we will learn more in future research. Maybe we won’t. Either way, I do not see a hard defeater here.

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

Book Plunge Part 7: Politely Rejecting the Bible

What about canonicity and other such matters? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we get to this chapter, Kapr finally has some matters of substance as far as criticism. He talks some about canonicity. Fortunately, he says nothing about Constantine and the Council of Nicea forming the canon so I’m going to say hopefully, based on what I’ve read so far, he rejects that one.

While there are different canons, as a classical Protestant, I plan to stick to the traditional 66 books. I also know that the book is rejecting inerrancy and I am replying to that, but I do not hang my faith on inerrancy either. Kapr also spends much time throughout the book on inspiration. I sit back and wonder “And the point is?” After all, suppose a statement in the book is true. How does it aid us to say “It is true and inspired.”?

I also freely accept that there was some editing of books. Do I think Moses wrote the last chapter of Deuteronomy that described his death? No. I suspect that was added by an editor of his work after, such as Joshua, to give a fitting close to the book. There were other editing jobs done such as changing location names to names more familiar to the audience of the time, such as how the city of Dan shows up in early Genesis even though it didn’t come until centuries later.

Kapr does say that some of the books are anonymous and that the arguments for traditional authorship do not need to go unchallenged. I agree that we shouldn’t just blindly accept what the Fathers say about authorship, but I don’t think the reasons given for rejection are convincing enough. However, let’s say something briefly about a book being anonymous.

This is really more of a canard. We have a number of Pauline epistles that say they are by Paul and that isn’t enough for a number of skeptics, and some Christians as well. Are we to think the Gospels would be treated seriously if every text explicitly said, for example, “By Matthew”? If you think so, I have some oceanfront property in Montana to sell you.

One argument that is brought forward against traditional authorship is the case of the information from Papias and how he supposedly got wrong the death of Judas. This is just more of Kapr reading an account in a literal fashion instead of considering that Papias is instead trash talking Judas. Also, Papias is just one reason given for traditional authorship on some of the Gospels.

He also says it’s unusual that different quotes from different Gospels were blended together. It might sound unusual to a modern man. It doesn’t sound unusual to an ancient where blended quotations were not uncommon even in non-Christian literature. Thus, there is nothing strange about it whatsoever.

As for Mark, Kapr writes that Mark could be chosen since the tradition says Mark wrote what was said, but not in order, and thus the early church didn’t want to attribute that to an apostle. So it looks like you have a case where the church says we don’t want to embarrass a reputation of an apostle by this, but we do think it’s good enough to include in the canon?

He also assumes there’s a reason such a thing would be an embarrassment. Why? There is no interaction also with the idea that Mark is a very unlikely figure. Mark was a person not mentioned explicitly at least in the Gospels and in Acts, is seen as causing a split between the first two great missionaries of the church because he was a Mama’s Boy who wanted to run back home in the middle of a journey. Odd source to attribute an authoritative work to.

Kapr also says that a test was the books had to be line with orthodox teachings about Jesus and says this is comparing the Bible with the Bible, but this ignores that most of what was known about Jesus at first would be through oral tradition and the books at the time would need to align with the tradition at the time. It’s not as if after the Easter event, be it a resurrection or not, that Jesus would be untalked about at all until some epistles and Gospels were written.

Kapr also says some have argued that the books were accepted without much controversy. The Holy Spirit guided the people of the church so they accepted the books that they did. Kapr argues no evangelical apologist would accept the testimony of community in another religion for their seeing their Scriptures as authoritative.

Okay. I consider myself an evangelical and I freely accept Mormons and Muslims determining what is authoritative in their communities. Note I said authoritative, not true. I really don’t see that being disputed among evangelicals either. Who else should determine what is authoritative for any community except that community?

There is also talk about inspiration outside the canon. Again, I don’t care about inspiration but truth, but I do share Kapr’s concerns about people claiming God is speaking through them or through someone else. My own pastor did a sermon about this just last Sunday. I even get concerned when someone says “When I was reading the Bible today, God showed me that….” Automatically then, if God showed it to you, it had better be authoritatively true. You’re giving your idea the backing of God. Better hope you’re right.

Thus, Kapr can go on and on about inspiration and how you could know a book was inspired and I really don’t care. What I care about is truth. I also don’t hang my doctrine of inerrancy on inspiration. I hang it instead on studying the text for years and even then, it’s not a dealbreaker for me.

Still, while I don’t find the arguments here convincing, they are at least not on the same level as many other fundamentalist atheist arguments, though I do think there is a great deal of that still in Kapr. Next time, we will get to part 2 where we examine some specific claims.

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

Book Plunge Part 6: Can Inerrancy Be Falsified?

Can you show this doctrine is false? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.


Okay. That was fun. I look forward to writing Monday morning and….


You mean you wanted more?

You wanted to hear what Kapr had to say and what I think about it?

Okay. We’ll take a look.

Kapr does say that CSBI says that problems that have not yet been resolved do not undo the truth claims of inerrancy. Kapr thinks this means that the claim is not based on evidence as nothing can change the mind of the one giving it. For some, that could be true. However, for others, it does mean “Yes. There are still unanswered questions at times, but we have seen many supposed problems work out so we will give the benefit of the doubt to inerrancy.” This is not unreasonable. The remaking of a scientific paradigm starts with contrary data which at first is not accepted in the old paradigm, but no one wants to throw out a whole paradigm just because of few points. Wait it out and see what happens. The new paradigm becomes dominant when there is a strong excess of such points.

Please also don’t go to one of these web sites with 1,001 Bible contradictions. The overwhelming majority have been looked at already. I no longer waste time with those and have better usages of time.

Another point Kapr looks at as a reason evangelicals give often for believing in inerrancy is the witness of the Holy Spirit. I, also, am glad to see this position dealt with as I do not accept it either. I often wish Craig in his debates would change his last point because the subjective point is always the weakest one. Not everyone has the same emotional experiences either. I don’t deny many people do have strong experiences, but they don’t show the truth of Christianity any more than the burning in the bosom of Mormons, which I don’t deny happens, shows the truth of the Book of Mormon.

Kapr also does say that the method of determining who is following the Spirit and who isn’t when Christians disagree leads to a sort of blind faith. I would have phrased it somewhat differently, but I agree. Our Christianity has too much subjectivism in it and we’ve called it spirituality.

There are other arguments brought forward such as that we can’t trust the judgments of sinful men. The problem here is obvious. All of us are sinful men and women. No judgments could be trusted.

For me, inerrancy is not a presupposition, but a conclusion. I have studied the Bible for decades and have found that it holds up well. I think I am justified in giving it the benefit of the doubt. Is inerrancy a hill that I’m going to die on? Not a bit. My faith in Christianity is built on the death and resurrection of Jesus regardless of if the manuscripts that tell me about that are inerrant or not.

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

Book Plunge Part 5: Politely Rejecting the Bible

How do you find out what a text means? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we return to Kapr again, he is now asking about how you determine the meaning of a text. It’s important to note that while this focuses on the Bible, of course, this rule would apply to any text, which could in essence include unspoken texts. Think how many times women have complained that the men in their lives have missed “obvious cues” from them.

Again, there’s not really much in this chapter I object to if anything. He does talk at one point about his grandfather who is a KJV-onlyist so it’s not hard to see why he has a section on this in the book. He also does rightly point out that languages change over time so new translations are needed of any text over time.

If there’s a major point worth talking about, it’s at the end where he gives a case study and it is the story of the widow’s mite in Mark and Luke. In this story, a widow comes forward amidst all the people putting great amounts of money in the offering plate and puts in two small coins. Jesus says that the others gave out of abundance but she gave out of all she had to live on. Typically, we often see this as a story of sacrificial giving with Jesus praising the widow as an example of how we should live our lives.

Kapr contends that what is more likely is that these are people who are having to give to the temple in a sort of tax and says Jesus never praises the widow in the story. He simply points out what she did. If anything, Jesus is angry that this widow had to give everything she had while these rich people had plenty to spare.

I found this intriguing as a possibility, but I am not convinced. The text does speak of people coming and giving their gifts to the temple. Jesus might not outright praise the woman, but his drawing attention to her would not be to shame her I think, but to honor her as an example. Jesus elsewhere in the Gospels praises abundant giving, such as when he is anointed with perfume for his burial.

So again, thus far, things are rather bland. I can assure you all, that will not be the case for long.

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

Book Plunge Part 4: Politely Rejecting the Bible

How do inerrantists interpret the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

At the start of this chapter, Kapr talks about his fundamentalist days. I think there is still some fundamentalism in Kapr, but I appreciate that he has admitted his past. As a reader pointed out, KJV-onlyism seemed like an odd target to go after and indeed, later on we learn that some of his relatives are indeed KJV-onlyists so Kapr does have personal experience with them. There is no word if he was one of them himself for a time or not.

As Kapr goes through the chapter, I really don’t find much that I can comment on because being a contextualist, I don’t find much objection here. Now there is some helpful history on historical criticism. There’s also plenty of pointing out that the early church loved allegorical interpretation. For instance, they did not always accept accounts as literal because they didn’t find something fitting into the character of God, including the deaths of the infants in the Passover event in Exodus.

Again, there are plenty of arguments against traditionalists, but nothing much against contextualists like myself. If you ask how I interpret the Bible as an inerrantist, I would still say the same as any other document. What about conflicting accounts? You try to harmonize them, but this is what we do with most any other account. We try to find the explanation that explains the most data that we have.

Again, there is not much to say here. Hopefully as we go along, more will come up.

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

Book Plunge Part 3: Politely Rejecting the Bible

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

It’s not a shock that we got here so soon. Kapr is now talking about ICBI (International Council on Biblical Inerrancy) and the CSBI. (Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.) At the same time, it is apparent that Kapr knows what’s going on, but at the same time, quite pleasing to see the language he used is the language I used in an ebook I co-authored with J.P. Holding called Defining Inerrancy.

For all interested, by the way, we are coming out with the second edition of that book.

While only referring to our work one time explicitly in this chapter, Kapr does use the language of contextualizers and traditionalists. He does focus in on the debate concerning my former father-in-law, though still a father in many ways to me, Mike Licona, and the passage about the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27. For the traditionalists, it had to be literal no matter what or you were defining inerrancy. For the contextualists like myself, it didn’t matter what it was. All inerrancy said is that whatever it was, it was true. Holding, for instance, does not think Licona has the strongest case there, but he still thinks his view does not violate inerrancy.

So this chapter was mainly about how inerrancy is, well, defined, and the idea is that the doctrine can seem to die the death of a thousand qualifications as it can become hard to falsify. I get that position, but at the same time, contextualists like myself look to authorial intent. Now if the case can be made strongly that the author intended to teach X and the truth is non-X, then that would be a problem for inerrancy. Contextualization doesn’t mean you can change the text to mean anything and it will be true. You still have to study the text to see what it is saying.

Unfortunately, Kapr does show that the traditionalist mode of handling inerrancy is very easy to attack. Contextualization requires a lot more work and study of the text. This will be expounded on more in the next chapter, but traditionalism is often married closely to literalism. Contextualists don’t deny that some passages are literal, but we don’t jump to that as always being the best interpretation of the passage.

For instance, when read about Jesus going into Samaria and sitting down by the well there, we generally take it to mean that that is what Jesus did. However, when Jesus starts talking about living water, we don’t take it to mean He is talking about actual water that can be drawn from the well. We take Him to be making a statement about the true life that is found in God and comparing it to an ordinary substance like water.

I do appreciate that Kapr chose to interact with our book to some degree anyway. (It’s a bit amusing to be reading a book and then see your work cited.) I do hope that he does interact with us more in the book. (Sneak peek. There is at least some of that in chapter four.) We will see what else lies in wait for us but thus far, the adventure has been pretty tame.

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