As I write this, it is already 6pm in certain parts of the globe, and we have no reports yet of a rapture, earthquakes, or any other cataclysmic events. So now we know from experience what we already knew from scripture. No one knows the day or the hour of the Lord’s return, and teachers like Harold Camping who claim to possess such knowledge are false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:10; Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32).
Nevertheless, I have been struck by the attention that this particular false prophecy has gained in the popular culture. For instance, just yesterday morning the talking heads on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program took a moment to scoff at the infamous prediction, and everyone around the table had a good belly laugh.
Even though bible-believing Christians will likely agree with the “Morning Joe” crew that Harold Camping is a crackpot, I think we need to be careful about feelings of solidarity. What I heard in the laughter on “Morning Joe” was not the sober critique of the pious, but the sad ridicule of 2 Peter 3:3-4:
3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”
In other words, one of the hallmarks of the sinful human heart is the suppression of any notion of a coming judgment. Sinners employ all kinds of strategies to make-believe that the second coming of Christ is make-believe. Thus, the mockers of 2 Peter register the same objection that modernists offer:
“Where’s your Jesus? We have never seen Him or any evidence that there will be a cataclysmic reckoning at the end of the age. Your belief is as silly and irrelevant as it is unfounded. You believe in fairy tales.”
This is what I heard in the laughter on “Morning Joe.” And this is the real tragedy of a false teacher like Camping. He gives the scoffers a reason for feeling vindicated in their scoffing. He gives aid and comfort to the judgment-suppressing human heart and thereby consigns them to their own God-ignoring delusions. This is a tragedy of eternal proportions, and it is anything but funny.
If you count yourself among those who pray “Maranatha” in earnest, you will find very little to laugh about in Harold Camping’s false teachingâ€”and even less to laugh about in a scoffer’s scoffing. So let’s be sober. Let’s be ready for the Lord’s return. And let’s pray that the Lord would grant the mockers not a belly laugh, but repentance and faith in the Lord with whom they have to do (Hebrews 4:13).
What’s really hilarious is that Harold Camping can make this sort of prediction and get laughed out of town while Paul Ehrlich is viewed as a distinguished scholar!
Glad you posted this Denny, a checkup for my heart.
Amen brother… I wrote something very similar to this yesterday and went a little further in Peter. In light of the ever impending coming of Jesus, believers are supposed to keep doing, keep working, keep awake and vigilant. End times predictors make that job all the more difficult.
Good thoughts Denny. Thanks!
I think you shared the proper perspective very well.
I just read the book of Zephaniah, which describes the day of the Lord’s wrath. It is very sobering. That day will be a day of unspeakable horror, except for those who fear the Lord and approach Him with humility:
I have recently examined the subject of the end times fairly extensively and have drawn some sobering conclusions. You are very welcome to read my thoughts at http://www.bereansnotepad.com/2.html (scroll to the bottom of the page).
Denny is so right. This is not in the least a laughing matter.
“Sinners employ all kinds of strategies to make-believe that the second coming of Christ is make-believe.”
Yep, Good angle Denny. We had a kid approach us in our park bible study last night just to ask about the potential end. We told him the Bible did not indicate that it would be at the predicted time…could be earlier, could be at said time, could be 1,000 years later. But either way Christians are to live a life of anticipation and readiness for the next age.
Agree with Jeff above.
laughing at a false teacher is not that same at joining scoffers who mock any kind of end time… false equivocation… we see throughout the Bible falsehoods mocked and scoffed… that isn’t the same kind of scoffing Psalm 1 is talking about.
Denny was probably saying that we should just be careful not to slip from an appropriate kind of mocking to an inappropriate kind. He was also pointing out the sadness of it all (and it is sad).
My college roommate has been a follower of Camping’s for several years now. I have been torn with how to approach him about this, but as I read your words this morning it assured me that humility and love need to be foremost in my approach.
I join you in your prayers for the “Morning Joe” crowd, as well as for Camping himself and the many followers who no doubt feel utterly duped. What a critical moment it is in their lives right now as their faith has just been seriously up-heaved.
Grace & Peace
1 Kings 18:27
Good word. At times I did feel there was something not right about laughing about this, which I did.
Sorry, Jason D., but I have to disagree. I cannot see either Paul or Jesus ever cracking jokes about either false teachers or the return of Christ. I do understand the impulse to crack jokes about Camping, but the more thought I’ve given to this, the more inappropriate I’ve seen it is. When we do so, we leave the impression that the possibility of God’s wrath and eternal destruction are discarded ideas from a bygone age.
Camping denying an interview request after failed prophesy.
YES! Here’s this very article’s thesis put to a illustration:
Thanks, Denny! Always great thoughts on your site.
Forgive me for repeating myself, but I posted this a couple of days ago and sadly nobody responded. I’ve never heard of these ‘strategies’ and I’m really curious about what the author is talking about. He said:
â€œSinners employ all kinds of strategies to make-believe that the second coming of Christ is make-believe.â€
What strategies are you talking about?
The word “strategies” is probably being used to mean “excuses.” Non-believers can say, “Well I think the Bible is a bunch of myths anyway” or “Well if there is a good God he won’t judge me for being a good person,” and so on and so forth. My interpretation anyway.
I don’t understand though. In order to “make-believe” that something is “make-believe,” one would have to actually believe that it’s true.
Is the author suggesting that all non-believers are actually believers that are just pretending to be non-believers? And that these “excuses” you give are their “strategies” that they use to maintain their pretending?
Is it not possible that non-believers are actually legitimately unconvinced that the Bible is completely true? And, in that case, is it not possible that non-believers aren’t just playing make-believe when it comes to their concern for Jesus’s second coming?
Let me give an example.
“yankeegospelgirl employs all kinds of strategies to make-believe that the invisible troll under her bed is make-believe.”
Is that true? Are you playing make-believe? Or are you unconvinced that the invisible troll actually exists?
I think Denny’s intent was clear. Whether or not he used the clearest possible wording, he obviously intended to communicate that there are many people who have convinced themselves, perhaps with nagging doubt in the back of their minds and perhaps not, that Christ’s second coming is a myth.
The apostle Paul says that all people have a knowledge of their Creator and of their accountability to Him (Romans 1:21). Unfortunately, people suppress that knowledge because of sin (Romans 1:18-19).
When I used the word “strategies,” I was using the term to refer to the different rationales that people use(consciously or unconsciously) to suppress the truth about God and their accountability to Him.
Thanks Denny. To be honest I was halfway expecting yankeegospelgirl to reference Romans 1, as that is the only text I can recall off the top of my head that suggests such an idea.
If you don’t mind me asking, could you please explain what some of these “different rationales that people use” are?
Also, if you don’t mind me asking, do you realize how discouraging and belittling and insulting it is to non-believers who are legitimately seeking out what is true to suggest that they already know the truth but that they’re just suppressing it out of some rebellion and unrighteousness? Especially when you suggest it knowing absolutely nothing about that person?
Unless you are simply unaware of the scientific and historical evidence for Christianity, it is so crushingly positive that you would have to be suppressing SOMETHING to convince yourself that it wasn’t true.
But that’s just my answer. Denny’s may or may not be different if he takes the time to answer you at all.
There are countless ways that people suppress the truth that there is a God with whom they have to do. They tell themselves, for instance:
“I’m good enough to stand at the judgment.”
“There is no God.”
“God is not judgmental, only loving.”
“I’ll have time to think about judgment later.”
The point is that the Bible says people “suppress” the truth in unrighteousness.
Not everyone is alike, and I don’t pretend to understand the individual struggles of every single person. But I do believe that the Bible is an accurate witness to the human condition. Human beings are sinners. Apart from the grace of God, they do not see what they ought to see, hear what they ought to hear, or feel what they ought to feel. They are (as Ephesians 2:1 says it) dead in their trespasses and sins.
The human condition apart from grace is more dire than most people care to admit. The good news is that Jesus is a more powerful Savior than all of our cynicism and unbelief. He can break through to the most recalcitrant sinner. I am living proof of that.
Thanks for the interaction.
Denny, surely you realize there are more examples than just Paul and Jesus…
Mocking Camping is not leaving an impression that there is no wrath or judgement to come for the simple fact that Camping is a false teacher. How can you honestly equate that with mocking an end time?
Thanks for your replies Denny and yankeegospelgirl.
Considering what you have told me, I would like to ask if either of you can help me.
I am aware (or at least as aware as a non-bible scholar can be) of scientific and historical evidence that supports certain parts of the Bible. I am also aware of scientific and historical evidence that does not support certain parts of the Bible. And in my case, considering that evidence, I am not convinced that the Bible, in its entirety, is true. Therefore, I am not convinced that the God of that Bible actually exists.
Now, I’m hoping that at least one of you can tell me what strategy I am apparently using here because it seems I am unaware of it. And if what you’re saying about non-believers is true, then I must be unconsciously using SOME sort of strategy to suppress and deny what I supposedly know to be true (although I am unaware that I know it). And since truth is what I want to know and stand up for, and I surely have no desire to suppress it, I’m hoping you can help me understand how I am suppressing it, so that I can stop suppressing it!
Can either of you help me out here? It would seem you can since you somehow seem to know that I am “suppressing SOMETHING”, despite the fact that not even I am aware of it.
Without knowing you, we are hard pressed to know the specific ways that you might be suppressing the truth.
I would encourage you to ask God to help you understand the truth about Himself, the universe, your purpose, etc. Most Christians would be able to articulate for you some very specific objections they had, which prevented them from trusting Him and believing what the Bible says. Believe it or not, many of us challenged God to help us deal with those objections, doubts, etc. Some of us (Christians) used to be hardened atheists and agnostics. God is not afraid of your tough questions. There is no way to predict how he will answer you, but if you are willing to listen, I am confident that He will.
Give it a try.
I’d also ask you to try reading the Bible regularly for at least 30 days, starting with the Gospel of John. I believe if you read it with an open mind, you will agree that this is no ordinary book.
Kevin, I made sure to include the caveat “unless you are aware.” You clearly positive evidence, but, clearly, not all of it. Probably nobody’s ever laid out the case in a clear and convincing way for you.
There are resources that will answer many of your questions, be they scientific or historical. I can supply specific titles if you are interested. (Examples: For the scientific angle, Mike Behe’s _Darwin’s Black Box_ as well as Jonathan Wells’ _Icons of Evolution_ are definitely worth your time.)
However, I don’t know what other questions you may have, and it is possible that you would find some way not to be satisfied with even the most thorough answers. There are also some questions for which there is no clear answer, but this does not automatically mean that our faith comes tumbling down.
Let me tell you this: If you truly desire the truth, you will find it. The real test will come when you have gathered enough of the positive evidence to begin wondering if perhaps there really is a God. It’s then that your desire for truth will be put to the test. As Socrates once said, an honest man will follow the argument to the end, even if he does not like where it leads him.
Sorry, part of one of my sentences got cut out as I edited. I meant to say, “You are aware of the some of the positive evidence, but clearly not all of it.”
Thanks for your responses, I appreciate your attempts to help. However, I think you’re both underestimating my efforts to seek the truth out, and it’s showing in the suggestions you give. Let me see if I can help you understand where I’m at so that maybe you can help me with this supposed problem you claim that I have.
“I would encourage you to ask God to help you understand the truth about Himself, the universe, your purpose, etc.”
Thanks for the advice, although I have to say it has been fruitless. What you suggest here is something I have been doing for years, asking God I mean. If God had answered me, well, I wouldn’t be here asking you for help. Seriously though, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have been actively doing this for years and years, and it hasn’t really worked, not yet anyway.
“There is no way to predict how he will answer you, but if you are willing to listen, I am confident that He will.”
Then I guess the question would be, “when?” You’re confident He will answer me? How long do I have to ask before He answers me? How many more years do I put into it before deciding that it’s fruitless and try something else? Am I just not asking correctly or something?
“Give it a try.”
Derek, I appreciate the suggestion, but you seriously have no idea. It’s about like telling Anne Frank to give keeping a diary a try.
“Iâ€™d also ask you to try reading the Bible regularly for at least 30 days, starting with the Gospel of John. I believe if you read it with an open mind, you will agree that this is no ordinary book.”
Thanks for the suggestion, but I’ve already read the book of John. Actually, I’ve already read the entire Bible. It took me a while (much more than 30 days), but I did it. I would agree that it’s no ordinary book, but I think I mean that in a little bit different way than you do. But despite having read it, it hasn’t convinced me that it’s true. What does that mean? Do I need to read it again or something?
“Probably nobodyâ€™s ever laid out the case in a clear and convincing way for you.”
Probably. Had someone done that I would be clearly convinced! Although I wonder who could lay out the Bible’s case in a clear and convincing way if the Bible itself couldn’t even do it for me. Any suggestions?
“Mike Beheâ€™s _Darwinâ€™s Black Box_ as well as Jonathan Wellsâ€™ _Icons of Evolution”
Neither of these books explain or lay out a clear and convincing case for the Bible. What they do instead is highlight apparent flaws in evolutionary theory in order to make room for intelligent design or creationism. But we’re not talking about whether or not evolutionary theory is true, we’re talking about whether or not the Bible is true. I’m not sure why you chose these titles for me as they have very little to do with the Bible.
“Let me tell you this: If you truly desire the truth, you will find it.”
I really hope you’re right.
“The real test will come when you have gathered enough of the positive evidence to begin wondering if perhaps there really is a God.”
Oh I already wonder that. I don’t know why I’d be here typing this if I didn’t.
Thanks again for your suggestions, although to be honest I found them a bit underwhelming. Despite the fact that I have been accused of using some kind of strategy to suppress the truth (or more specifically to “make-believe that the second coming of Christ is make-believe”), you have yet to demonstrate what strategy that is. Actually, you haven’t even demonstrated that I AM suppressing anything. But you’ve made the claim, and I’d like to know if that claim holds weight. Because I certainly want to know the truth and I really don’t want to suppress it, that would be very dishonest of me.
So please, help me understand what I’m suppressing and how.
I named those titles as an example of just one facet of the evidence for the existence of God. The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and earth, therefore it would seem that if the theory of evolution is proven to be flawed and intelligent design strongly supported, we have made an enormous step forward in verifying the truth of the Bible’s single greatest miracle.
What are your questions, exactly? All you have said is that you keep trying and nothing is working and you feel like maybe it’s not worth it. Have you always been an atheist? Were you a Christian who lost your faith? What’s the sticking-point for you? What compelling evidence have you found that seems to speak against the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
What I’m trying to say is that it’s hard for us to help you when we know barely anything about your specific struggles. We want to, but we hardly know where to even begin.
Thanks for reading and replying yankeegospelgirl. I appreciate the time and effort you put in for my sake.
“The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and earth, therefore it would seem that if the theory of evolution is proven to be flawed and intelligent design strongly supported, we have made an enormous step forward in verifying the truth of the Bibleâ€™s single greatest miracle.”
I don’t mean for this to be insulting, but what you have just said is very much incorrect. Proving the theory of evolution to be flawed (which I would be extremely suprised if either of these books thoroughly does so) does not contribute anything to the credibility of the Bible. In the same way that proving that the moon is not made of cheese does not in any way give credibility to the idea that the moon is made of yogurt. Or in the same way that proving Hinduism to be incorrect does not in any way give credibility to the idea that Islam is correct. That is called a “false dichotomy” and it is a logical fallacy.
“What are your questions, exactly?”
How can you demonstrate that I am suppressing the truth, and what strategy am I using to suppress it? If you can’t demonstrate it, then how do you know I’m doing it? I’m pretty sure I’ve asked that already.
“Have you always been an atheist?”
“Were you a Christian who lost your faith?”
“What compelling evidence have you found that seems to speak against the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?”
“What Iâ€™m trying to say is that itâ€™s hard for us to help you when we know barely anything about your specific struggles.”
This is exactly why I find it very curious that you seem so sure that I know this supposed “truth” and that I know it is true and that I am suppressing it. If you barely know anything about me, how could you know this? This is the question that I’ve been trying to get answered for a while now.
A clear argument will not convince a hardened heart. The pharisees argued with Christ in person, saw his miracles with their own eyes, and heard the witness of the soldiers about the empty tomb, and if they had been so inspired, could have visited the tomb physically to verify the facts. Yet, despite all the evidence, the teaching of Scripture, and the events surrounding the death of Christ, still they persisted in unbelief. Ultimately men will believe that which we desire to believe, because our hearts are hard and, as Denny has already quoted, we are dead in our trespasses and sins. All the evidence in the world is useless to a dead man. Instead, we pray that the grace of God will raise the dead so that they might hear and know their savior. Seeds may be planted, but remember, it is God who makes them grow and blossom.
A brief note about what Socrates said: There are no honest men. The only one who ever lived was executed some 2000 years ago.
Kevin, you missed the part where I said, “and intelligent design to be strongly supported.” Besides which, if evolution won’t hold water (which Darwin himself predicted would happen unless the right kind of evidence showed up, which it hasn’t), then we return to the simple question, “How DID we get here anyway?” At that point, it is natural and sensible to turn towards the possibility that there was a designer. This shouldn’t be difficult to grasp.
I meant “questions” in the sense of questions that are hindering you from being able to accept the Bible and consider yourself an unabashed Christian. Forget about what we thought or implied you might be doing. We said nothing false. Denny made a general statement about what “people do,” and I said that unless you were aware of all the positive evidence, you were probably engaging in some self-deception. You insist you are not deceiving yourself or suppressing anything, therefore I conclude that you simply are not as well informed as you need to be.
Right now, the only thing that matters are the “questions” that are keeping you from God. The rest is a triviality. So tell me, if you have found no compelling evidence against the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, why do you not feel you can accept Christianity? You’re saying you aren’t convinced that the Bible is true. Would it make you feel better if I told you that the Book of Job is probably fictional, but it doesn’t matter anyway? I simply don’t know what you’re looking for.
Thanks for your replies.
“At that point, it is natural and sensible to turn towards the possibility that there was a designer. This shouldnâ€™t be difficult to grasp.”
I have not suggested that there is no possibility of a designer, nor have I turned away from that possibility. But again, we’re talking about the Bible, not ID or evolution or creationism. Demonstrating the theory of intelligent design to be true does not demonstrate that the Bible is true. If you could demonstrate that the theory of ID is correct, or even probable, would that then demonstrate that I am using some strategy to suppress some truth? Would that prove that Cain killed Abel? Would it prove that Jesus walked on water? Would it prove that the God of the Bible created the universe? No.
“Forget about what we thought or implied you might be doing. We said nothing false.”
You’re asking me to forget about the accusation you made about me? That’s the whole reason I’m here. You can’t just accuse me of something and then tell me to forget it and assert that you’re correct without demonstrating it. All I wanted to know is how you and Denny can know that I am suppressing (or make-believing) that the second coming of Christ is make-believe, and what strategy I am supposedly using to suppress it. You still haven’t answered this for me. I don’t understand why. You say you know I’m doing it, so tell me know you know.
“I said that unless you were aware of all the positive evidence, you were probably engaging in some self-deception.”
Probably? It’s just probably now? Before it seemed that it was a guarantee. Two days ago you said, “you would have to be suppressing SOMETHING.” You said “have to” but now you say “probably.” So you don’t know for sure that I’m suppressing something? Or did you just mis-type? I’m confused.
“You insist you are not deceiving yourself or suppressing anything, therefore I conclude that you simply are not as well informed as you need to be.”
Ok, what information am I lacking? I’ve read the Bible. Is God’s word not wholly contained in the Bible? Is there some other words that He spoke that are elsewhere? What did I miss? I am very eager to know the information that I am lacking.
“So tell me, if you have found no compelling evidence against the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, why do you not feel you can accept Christianity?”
Simple. Because I have found no compelling (I would call it convincing) evidence in favor of the divine guidance of the content of the Bible by the God described within its pages.
“Would it make you feel better if I told you that the Book of Job is probably fictional, but it doesnâ€™t matter anyway?”
Feel better? No. But this isn’t about my feelings, this is about what is true, whether that makes me feel better or worse. The truth doesn’t change based on how I feel about it.
“I simply donâ€™t know what youâ€™re looking for.”
I think I’ve said it almost every time I’ve replied to you, but I’ll say it again. Here is what I’m looking for:
Denny made the claim that I am make-believing that the second coming of Christ is make-believe. You have both claimed that I know the truth but am suppressing it. You have also claimed that I am “probably engaging in some self-deception.” What I am looking for is answers to the following questions:
1. How can you demonstrate that I am self-deceiving and/or make-believing and/or suppressing what I know to be true?
2. How can you demonstrate that I know that it is true?
3. If you cannot demonstrate those things, how do you know that I am doing it?
Sorry, I misspoke. I meant to say that unless you WEREN’T aware of all the positive evidence, you were suppressing something. Whether or not I threw the word “probably” in there at some point doesn’t matter. I’ll make it more definite if you like: Yes, you are at least refusing to accept the truth if you hold all the evidence you need within your hands and you still will not come to God.
You have read the Bible, but naturally if you don’t think the Bible is really the Word of God, you won’t believe it. I’m not saying that’s wrong. What I have been trying to tell you, over and over again, is that there is decisive, compelling evidence that the Bible really is the Word of God. If you are eager to find it, then do the research with an open mind, and make your decision.
At the moment, you have not made it clear what you believe and what you do not believe. Do you believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the man for us, was born of a virgin, walked on the earth, was crucified, dead, and buried, and rose from death to conquer death?
If you do not, you must have a reason for not doing so, and yet you said you had no evidence against it. You are not making sense.
Consider: Two men are testifying in a court of law. One man is known to be trustworthy, a man of high regard, honest in every way, accurate in what he says, and loving to all who speak to him. The other man is known to be a liar, a thief, a man of questionable character, at the best of times. When the two testimonies conflict, to whom should we give deference of judgment?
Kevin, your argument can be compared to this event. We Christians have good reason to believe that God’s Word is totally accurate and true in what it says. It’s testimony is as the first man, trustworthy in every regard. The testimony of Scripture, and our experience with humans, leads us to conclude that all men are sinners. We do not need to know all men to know this is true, because that witness whom we trust has testified to this effect. Therefore, when we hear a human say, “I am not engaging in self-deception, what Scripture says about me is wrong” we consider who the two witnesses are. The one has proven true and accurate time and again, the other is, at best, unknown, and at worst, known and verified to be a sinner. To whom should we defer in judgment?
You ask how we can prove you are engaging in self-deception, what proof we have to lay at your feet, and why we would accuse you without proof. To this I respond that we do not accuse you, Scripture accuses you, which you would know as you say you have read it. We simply accept that the accusation of Scripture is true. Therefore, our evidence is the testimony of the only one who would know your heart completely, God, who says that it is true. Whether you agree is irrelevant, the testimony is still true.
However, in this case we can also point to your own words. You say you have read the bible, therefore you have heard the testimony yourself. In such a case a man cannot claim that he is not self-deceiving because the Word has been heard and rejected. If you have rejected the Word you have done so for a reason, and that reason is that you do not believe it, and therefore, if you do not believe it, you have deceived yourself into saying it is false.
To say you have not deceived yourself is necessarily false, because when confronted with an historical claim only two options are given: 1) accept it as true, 2) reject it as false. You have, by your own admission, chosen option 2. If you reject Scripture, holding it to be false, then you have deceived yourself, because the deception does not come from Scripture or nature (since, according to what we who believe can testify to be true, nature itself testifies to the truth of Scripture).
It is the responsibility of the accuser to give evidence of the accusation. But, it is not our responsibility to give evidence of your self-deception, because we are not the accusers. Scripture is the accuser, and therefore the question is what evidence it presents. The evidence presented is the testimony of God, who inspired Scripture and speaks to the condition of the human heart. Your argument is thus not with us, but with God, unless you wish to hold that we hold that to be true which is in error. If that is the case then it falls upon you to demonstrate that your claims should be considered as having greater veracity than Scripture.
Thanks for the reply yankeegospelgirl.
“Yes, you are at least refusing to accept the truth if you hold all the evidence you need within your hands and you still will not come to God.”
Well I’m not sure if I “hold all the evidence” or not, but if the contents of the Bible is “all the evidence” then yes I do hold it. Â It seems you are inferring that the Bible in its entirety is the truth, which I kinda figured. Â But the problem is that I am not convinced of that. Â It’s not that I’m refusing to accept it simply because I don’t like it, it’s that it hasn’t convinced me that it’s true because it hasn’t demonstrated itself to be true. Â Perhaps if you could demonstrate to me that the Bible in it’s entirety is true I would be convinced. Â Simply saying that the Bible is true does not make it true. Â In the same way simply saying that I’m suppressing the truth (which is what Romans chapter 1 does) does not make it true. Â But if you can demonstrate it…
“You have read the Bible, but naturally if you don’t think the Bible is really the Word of God, you won’t believe it.”
Why would I think the Bible is the “word of God”?
“there is decisive, compelling evidence that the Bible really is the Word of God.”
Really? Â What is it?
“If you are eager to find it, then do the research with an open mind, and make your decision.”
What exactly is “the research”? Â I’ve done research and I’ve tried to have an open of a mind as I can, but perhaps I’ve been doing the wrong research? Â I dunno. Â What research would you suggest?
“At the moment, you have not made it clear what you believe and what you do not believe.”
I don’t see what relevance that has to the discussion.
“Do you believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the man for us, was born of a virgin, walked on the earth, was crucified, dead, and buried, and rose from death to conquer death?”
“If you do not, you must have a reason for not doing so, and yet you said you had no evidence against it. You are not making sense.”
The reason that I do not is because I haven’t been convinced that ‘Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the man for us, was born of a virgin, walked on the earth, was crucified, dead, and buried, and rose from death to conquer death.’ Â It’s not that I have evidence against it, I just don’t have convincing evidence in favor of it. Â In the same way I’m not convinced that invisible trolls live under my bed despite having no evidence against them.
Once again, can you demonstrate that I know that the second coming of Christ is going to happen and am suppressing this knowledge? Â And if not, how do you know I’m suppressing it?
Charlton Connett, thanks for your input.
It seems you’re saying that you find Paul’s testimony in Romans chapter 1 to be more trustworthy than my testimony, and that is why you side with the accusation that I am suppressing what I know to be true. Â You also seem to be suggesting that it is not you or Denny or yankeegospelgirl who is making the accusation, you’re just siding with it.
In that case I would like to ask:
Can you demonstrate that Paul’s testimony in Romans chapter 1 is more true than mine? Â If not, can you demonstrate that Paul’s testimony in Romans chapter 1 is more trustworthy than mine, enough to justify siding with the accusation made against me?
Thanks for your time.
Kevin, my reference to “all the evidence you need” wasn’t meant to refer to the Bible alone. I was taking your word for it that you had done a lot of research, and that’s what I meant.
There are so many resources that build a solid case for Christianity that it’s difficult to pick just a few. Believe it or not, there are quite a lot from the 19th and 18th centuries. But some good modern ones are _Who Moved the Stone?_ by Frank Morison, _Reasonable Faith_ by William Lane Craig_, and _In the Fullness of Time_ by Paul Maier, which puts Jesus’ story in historical context. From longer ago, William Paley’s _Evidences_ are very thought-provoking and thorough and can be found for free online.
Thanks for replying yankeegospelgirl.
Are all of these books considered God’s word? Or at least divinely inspired? Is there a specific part in one of them that is part of the word of God? Can you give me, say, the most compelling piece in these books that demonstrates that the Bible is true?
“Are all of these books considered Godâ€™s word? Or at least divinely inspired?”
I presume that you are being sarcastic. You asked where you should go or what you should do as far as research, and all of those books will give good food for thought as far as demonstrating the Bible’s credibility. You’d like to be able to view the Bible as history, not just a collection of pretty myths, yes? These titles should help you do just that.
Kitchen’s “On the Reliability of the OT” is very good showing many things are at least plausible as found in the OT and many are confirmed by other sources. He is an Egyptologist, so he knows his history.
Ultimately, accepting the Bible as the word of God is an act of faith, but it is not an irrational faith.
Thanks for replying.
“I presume that you are being sarcastic.”
In a way, yes. But at the same time I am trying to illustrate that it seems very uncharacteristic of the God of the Bible that his own word would fall short in demonstrating itself to be true that He would require 18th, 19th, and 20th century human beings to do it or Him. Perhaps if Craig’s writings are necessary to demonstrate the Bible as true they should also be considered part of the canon, yes?
So these books will demonstrate that the Bible is, in it’s entirety, true, correct?
In many ways, the Bible does actually demonstrate its own truth by bearing the marks of history. You just have to pay attention. For example, notice the many ways in which the four gospels interlock and complement each other. You can find countless undesigned coincidences. One gospel will tell a story while leaving some bit of information unexplained, but if you turn to another gospel, you find the missing puzzle piece. One or two or three of those could be shrugged off as coincidental, but they add up real fast until it becomes quite a stretch to try to claim that they were forgeries. Forgers don’t like to leave supposed loose ends.
The study of the Bible is a vast field. I don’t know whether all your questions about the minor Old Testament prophets would be answered if you read the books I’ve suggested, but what they do focus on, which is mainly the events of the four gospels and Acts, form the absolute center of Christianity and hence, in my opinion, are deserving of the most careful study.
Thanks for the reply yankeegospelgirl.
I agree that the Bible does contain a good amount of historical marks that gain credibility when they can be matched up with other, unrelated documents and other pieces of evidence from the same time period. They all kinda help eachother to solidify their historical credibility.
However, I think we can both agree that that in and of itself does not demonstrate the entire book’s contents to be true (ex. the Qur’an). And that is relevant because the passage in question has nothing to do with historical events. Just like placing the phrase “Muhammad was God’s prophet” in the middle of a history textbook does not in any way give credibility to that statement.
Neither does your suggestion that the “interlocking” of the gospels demonstrate the Bible’s reliability as wholly accurate, or even their own individual reliability as entirely true. I’m guessing you’re not unfamiliar with the idea that the writers of Matthew and Luke drew heavily from the book of Mark (I’m not saying I believe that).
Nevertheless, for this case it doesn’t really matter because we’re not talking about a passage from the gospels, we’re talking about a passage from the book of Romans. Even if you could demonstrate that the gospel accounts are true, it would not demonstrate Romans 1 to be true.
Do any of those books you suggested address Romans 1 specifically? Do any of them demonstrate this chapter to be true? If so I’d like to focus on that one.
My reason for believing what the Spirit says through Paul has already been laid out, I see no need to reiterate it. You seek to justify yourself, but in doing so you give evidence that convicts you. I laid this out in my previous post. I’m sufficiently convinced of the truth of Scripture. If you hold that it is in error, and that you are not self-deceiving, then why should it concern you if we are convinced to the contrary?
Yes, I am familiar with that idea. It’s been hammered out and taken apart many times. Not a compelling argument.
I didn’t bring up Romans 1, Charlton did. There’s really no question that Paul was a real person, and even non-Christian scholars agree that nearly all his letters are authentic. I don’t remember whether they’ve decided to accept Romans or not, but it’s certainly far from unreasonable to do so.
Once the gospels have been proven true in your mind, you would really have no excuse not to accept Paul’s letters, because at that point you would believe in the existence of Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying they can’t be defended historically, I’m just saying it would be pretty ridiculous for you to say, “I’ll take the gospels and leave Paul.” But to answer your question, I imagine the Pauline epistles are discussed quite a bit in the Craig book, and they also feature heavily in Paley.
“My reason for believing what the Spirit says through Paul has already been laid out, I see no need to reiterate it.”
What you said before was, “We Christians have good reason to believe that Godâ€™s Word is totally accurate and true in what it says. Itâ€™s testimony is as the first man, trustworthy in every regard.”
You said that you have good reason, but then simply asserted that “God’s Word is totally accurate and true.” I wouldn’t call that a reason, it’s an assertion. And it doesn’t demonstrate anything.
My question was not whether you believe scripture to be true, it was whether you can demonstrate that Paul’s testimony in Romans chapter 1 is more true than mine, and if not, at least that it is more trustworthy than mine. Can you please do that?
“If you hold that it is in error, and that you are not self-deceiving, then why should it concern you if we are convinced to the contrary?”
Because it was Denny, and then yankeegospelgirl and you, who were accusing me of something despite the fact that none of you know anything about me. It’s insulting to be blindly accused of such a dishonest act by people I don’t even know, and I simply want to know why you are being so disrespectful to me and whether or not you can actually demonstrate that this accusation is true. That’s why I’m posting here.
“I didnâ€™t bring up Romans 1, Charlton did.”
Romans 1 is where this entire accusation came from, that’s why I’m talking about it here with you. You support the accusation that I am suppressing the truth, and this is the chapter from which this accusation comes. That’s why I’m concerned with it.
“Thereâ€™s really no question that Paul was a real person, and even non-Christian scholars agree that nearly all his letters are authentic.”
I’m not questioning whether Paul was a real person or whether he wrote those letters. What I’m questioning is whether or not what was written in those letters is true. Whether or not the accusations it makes (in particular in Romans 1) are indeed correct.
“Once the gospels have been proven true in your mind, you would really have no excuse not to accept Paulâ€™s letters”
The gospels have not been proven true in my mind. I don’t think I ever said that.
You said, “Even if you could demonstrate that the gospel accounts are true, it would not demonstrate Romans 1 to be true.” That’s what I was referring to.
Gotcha. Although I would have to disagree. There are a significant amount of unique claims in the Pauline letters that are not made in the gospels. Accepting them does not demonstrate the letters to be true.
That wasn’t really my point. My point was that once you’ve accepted the fact that a guy like Luke, for example, is a historian documenting actual events, you are then faced with some pretty remarkable facts about this dude named Paul. At that point, it makes sense to pay attention to what he has to say and take him seriously.
yankeegospelgirl, I disagree. And if I can give you an example, let me try and use the wording you have just used.
“Once you’ve accepted the fact that a guy like Zayd ibn Thabit, for example, is a historian documenting actual events, you are then faced with some pretty remarkable facts about this dude named Muhammad. At that point, it makes sense to pay attnetion to what he has to say and take him seriously.”
I would guess that neither of us finds that to be a demonstration of the Qur’an’s authenticity.
Yes, with the small difference that Luke has serious cred with actual historians. 😉
Furthermore, you are putting Christianity and Islam on the same level when these are fundamentally different religions, and the characters who took part in them fundamentally different from each other in their motives and actions. Both religions flourished at the end of the sword. The difference lay in which direction the sword was pointing.
“Yes, with the small difference that Luke has serious cred with actual historians.”
There’s a loaded statement.
“Furthermore, you are putting Christianity and Islam on the same level when these are fundamentally different religions, and the characters who took part in them fundamentally different from each other in their motives and actions. Both religions flourished at the end of the sword. The difference lay in which direction the sword was pointing.”
I’m strictly talking about their texts and whether or not they can be demonstrated to be true. Â Before worrying about the differences between the motives and actions of the characters or how they spread, it should first be a priority to demonstrate whether the contents of the texts on which these religions are based are true. Â That is what I’ve been trying to get at here. Â The question isn’t how they are different or whether or not they were spread violently, the question is can they be demonstrated to be true. Â And when approaching that question one MUST put their texts on the same level when it comes to scrutiny and investigation of their veracity.
“Iâ€™m strictly talking about their texts and whether or not they can be demonstrated to be true”
Kevin, what is your criteria for demonstrating them to be true? Can we narrow down your issue to a specific objection you have with the Bible. Is it the resurrection? Is it miracles? Is it OT history?
What exactly do you mean by “true”? We already know that Mohammed was a real person who spread Islam violently. The Q’uran isn’t necessary to tell us that. I assume you mean the question of whether or not Allah is real and Mohammed was called by him.
It’s an interesting question exactly what did happen to Mohammed. I think it plausible that he really did have a vision of somebody with a message. Exactly who that somebody was is another question entirely.
Johnny, we’ve been working on that. Or, more accurately, trying to.
“What exactly do you mean by â€œtrueâ€?”
Exactly what the word means. Â Correct, accurate, not false. Â For example:
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Is that true? Â Do Christians speak only lies? Â Is that statement correct? Â Can anyone demonstrate that it is accurate?
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness”
Is that true? Â Do all ungodly men hold the truth in unrighteousness? Â Is that statement correct? Â Can anyone demonstrate that it is accurate?
I hope that illustrates what I mean, although I didn’t think it was unclear to begin with. Â Make sense?
Well, clearly the sort of truth in question here isn’t exactly on the order of “The sky is blue.” Obviously, anybody can utter statements that are true. The question is truth when it comes to God and His word.
One thing you can’t get away with is claiming that just because Islam and Christianity make opposite statements, this means that they “cancel each other out” somehow. That’s faulty reasoning.
Because the Bible is true (and as I’ve said before, there are many, many, many ways to go about demonstrating this), then no, it is not true that all Christians speak nothing but a lie regarding God. That may be what the Muslims believe and raise their children to believe, but it is not the truth.
You’re becoming a little wearying at this point, so I’m inclined to leave you to sink or swim. I’ve probably made more attempts than I should have to communicate with you. Take or leave what I said as you desire.
Is that true? Yes
Do all ungodly men hold the truth in unrighteousness? Yes
Can anyone demonstrate that it is accurate? From idolatry to sexual immorality, men constantly suppress the truth. Our culture today says sex outside of marriage is OK. Our culture today says we can earn rightouesness through good works. Our culture today says that God does not judge. Our culture today uplifts the immoral and ridicules the righteous.
Johnny take the wheel!
Sorry. Couldn’t resist. 😛
“One thing you canâ€™t get away with is claiming that just because Islam and Christianity make opposite statements, this means that they â€œcancel each other outâ€ somehow. Thatâ€™s faulty reasoning.”
That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m trying to say is that if you can’t demonstrate a claim to be true, then you can’t just assert that claim is true. Making a claim is not enough to make it true, and that’s what I’m trying to illustrate. Just because the Bible says that I’m suppressing what I know to be true doesn’t mean I am, in the same way that just because the Qur’an says that Christians only speak lies doesn’t mean they do. That is why I’m asking you to demonstrate it.
“Because the Bible is true (and as Iâ€™ve said before, there are many, many, many ways to go about demonstrating this)”
You have not demonstrated this yet. You have only asserted that it is true. How have you demonstrated that the Bible, in its entirety, is true (or at least Romans chapter 1)? That is the very thing I’ve been trying to get from this.
“From idolatry to sexual immorality, men constantly suppress the truth.”
What does that have to do with me? Are you now accusing me of idolatry and sexual immorality as well?
“Our culture today says sex outside of marriage is OK. Our culture today says we can earn rightouesness through good works. Our culture today says that God does not judge. Our culture today uplifts the immoral and ridicules the righteous.”
What does any of this have to do with the accusation against me? I don’t believe I have asked for an explaination of what you believe “our culture” is doing, I have asked for a demonstration of the veracity of the accusation that I am suppressing the truth.
yankeegospelgirl, I’m not trying to debunk the Bible here or anything, I’m not trying to defeat Christianity. I don’t know why this is so wearying for you. It’s actually very simple; I have been accused of dishonesty. Of knowing the truth, knowing that it is true, and suppressing it in unrighteousness. You, Denny, and Charlton Connett have supported this accusation against me. So all I want to know is why. None of you know anything about me, so how do you support such an accusation against me? How can you demonstrate that I am guilty of this accusation?
It is very disrespectful to call me dishonest without being able to point out my dishonsty. And that’s why I’m here trying to find out why you’re saying disrespectful things about me.
“What does any of this have to do with the accusation against me?”
I dont know, so I cant say how this passage speaks directly to you. You made a general statement, so I gave a general answer.
You said yourself that you do not believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is suppressing the truth.
Kevin, at the end of the day it is all about faith. Faith is the conviction of things not seen. We all believe the Bible to be true because we have faith that it is true. We all also see the truths of the Bible all around us. We read Romans 1 and, because we believe, it all makes sense and is self-evident. Creation itself testifies to Christ’s death and resurrection.
I didnt come to Christ because the Bible passed some sort of litmus test. I came to Christ, because the Spirit showed me that I was a sinner through and through and in need of a Savior; that by faith I believe Christ took my sin upon Himself and nailed it to the Cross and that he rose on the third day.
We can only do so much and I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to whatever it is your are stumbling over.
Accepting the Bible as the word of God is an act of faith.
Many things in it cannot be “proven” as if a math proof or a court of law but many things can be shown to be consistent with other sources.
Kevin, it takes a lot of research and good old-fashioned scholarly elbow grease to put together the vast case for the Bible’s credibility. You’re expecting me to give you all that in a blog comment? I listed some resources for you, what more do you want?
When Denny first wrote the post, he didn’t even know you existed. Pardon me, but it seems like you’re more concerned with satisfying your own ego than with actually learning something. You’re refusing to move on until you’ve forced some kind of admission from us. I sure hope you don’t take this approach to life in general. You’d never get anything done at this rate.
Johnny, I agree that in the end faith is required, but at the same time I would emphasize that there is nothing wrong with wanting proof. No, the Bible’s truth can’t be demonstrated mathematically, but neither can the truth of any other historical document. This is why sayings like “Searching for proof of God’s existence is like taking apart a piano to look for a song” make me tear my hair out. God WANTS us to test His word. He wants us to search these things out for ourselves. He did say, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe,” but he didn’t chew Thomas out for wanting to touch the nailprints. Some of us are content with not knowing the evidence, and some of us want more. We’re just made differently.
“You said yourself that you do not believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is suppressing the truth.”
That’s assuming Jesus died and was ressurrected. You’re asserting that it happened, not demonstrating it. And simply asserting that an event took place is not enough to convince me that it really happened. Saying “I don’t know” is not suppressing the truth if I don’t know that it’s true.
“Kevin, at the end of the day it is all about faith.”
“Accepting the Bible as the word of God is an act of faith.”
So, in your eyes, accusing the testimony of one man (me, a man you’ve never even met) to be a lie is justified simply by having faith in on the testimony of another man (Paul, a man you’ve never even met)? This whole time I’ve been wanting someone to demonstrate why Paul’s testimony is worth more than mine, and your answer is that you can’t demonstrate it, you just have faith? What’s wrong with you? I really hope none of you are on the jury if I ever get convicted of a crime.
Prosecutor: “Kevin, were you aware of what took place the night of the 15th?”
Prosecutor: “I can’t demonstrate that you’re lying, but I have faith that you are. Let the record show that Kevin is lying because I have faith that he is.”
“Pardon me, but it seems like youâ€™re more concerned with satisfying your own ego than with actually learning something.”
Pardon me, but it seems like you’re more concerned with making unfounded accusations against people you don’t even know than actually demonstrating those accusations to be correct.
“I listed some resources for you, what more do you want?”
I want you to show, or demonstrate, or prove that I actually know the second coming of Christ is real, but out of some unrighteousness I am suppressing this knowledge and pretending that it is make-believe. This was the accusation from the beginning and you have supported this accusation. And what I have been asking for this whole time is this: I want to know what I have said or what I have done to convince you that I am guilty of this accusation.
I never said necessarily that you did know the second coming was real. You haven’t convinced yourself that there’s enough evidence, so you’re not aware of its truth.
“I never said necessarily that you did know the second coming was real.”
That was the issue from the beginning, from the blog post itself. It says:
“Sinners employ all kinds of strategies to make-believe that the second coming of Christ is make-believe.”
For one to make-believe that something is make-believe, they have to know that it is NOT make-believe. Otherwise they’re not necessarily make-believing anything. And that is the accusation; that I KNOW the second coming of Christ is real, but that I’m make-believing that it’s not. In other words, suppressing what I know to be true. This is the accusation you have been supporting this whole time.
“You havenâ€™t convinced yourself that thereâ€™s enough evidence, so youâ€™re not aware of its truth.”
It’s not up to me to “convince myself” that something is true. That is dishonest. It’s up to the evidence to convince me. And that’s the problem, it hasn’t convinced me. It’s not a choice that I’ve made to not believe the Bible, in its entirety, to be true. If it were a choice, I certainly would have chosen belief. It’s up to the Bible to convince me that it, in its entirety, is true. And it has not done that.
So here I sit, accused of being convinced of the Bible’s truth but choosing to suppress that conviction and lie saying I’m not convinced. While all I’m doing by saying I’m not convinced is being as honest as I can be.
I don’t know why you insist on badgering me with a general statement initially made by Denny. Besides, neither he nor I ever said, “Kevin, I know for a fact that you actually do know the truth and are suppressing it.”
All right, if you don’t like “convinced yourself” then “been convinced by” will work fine too.
I’m not trying to badger you, I’m just trying to understand how you justify supporting such an accusation against me. And you do support it, at least you’ve said you do.
“you would have to be suppressing SOMETHING to convince yourself that it wasnâ€™t true”
“Forget about what we thought or implied you might be doing. We said nothing false.”
“Yes, you are at least refusing to accept the truth if you hold all the evidence you need within your hands and you still will not come to God.”
“Because the Bible is true…”
I think that’s all of them.
“Besides, neither he nor I ever said, â€œKevin, I know for a fact that you actually do know the truth and are suppressing it.â€”
I know you didn’t. But despite not knowing that as a fact, you support that very accusation against me anyway as shown by the quotes above. So the question now becomes:
If you don’t know for a fact that I actually know the truth and am suppressing it, why do you support the accusation that I am suppressing it?
I only supported the accusation that you are suppressing the truth on condition that you were well-informed enough to reasonably make the choice to accept it. There is no such thing as a reasonable, well-informed atheist. You can be any two of these things, but not all three.
“There is no such thing as a reasonable, well-informed atheist.”
Yet another assertion. I don’t suppose you’d be willing and/or able to demonstrate its veracity?
If you were any more impossible, you wouldn’t exist, you know that? 😉
Lol impossible? Forgive me. 🙂 You probably didn’t mean for that to be a compliment, but I’m trying to decide if I should take it as one. Perhaps some atheists would see such a statement as a medal.
I’m not sure. It’s the kind of thing I say to very small children when they’re being unreasonable, so no, that’s not how it was meant. Feel free to take it as you please though. 🙂
There is a kid’s game that some philosophers play. It is to always ask, “Why is that?” to any thing stated. At some point, people realize it is a game and stop playing.
Well, this definitely isn’t a game for me. I still feel disrespected, from one human being to another.
Maybe I am harder than most to convince. But when we live in a time where there are thousands of different belief systems and theories about the way things are, 10’s of thousands within Christianity alone, it doesn’t seem wise to be the least bit credulous. Nor does it seem wise to allow a thing like faith to fill the gap between possibility and assurance in one’s mind. The very same thing that allows Muslims to be assured that Christians are liars and Jews evil without the need to prove it. The same thing that allows Mormons to be assured that black people are of less value than white people without needing to show the validity of such a claim. The same thing that allows Christians to be assured that non-Christians are either suppressing what they know to be true or ill-informed without the need to demonstrate the veracity of the accusation.
And considering the amount of time and effort I have put in over the years, both as a Christian and as a non-Christian, to find what is true and simultaneously guard myself from being duped or deceived or proud or made the victim of gullibility or my own subjectivity, I gotta say it doesn’t feel encouraging to be called self-deceiving and/or ill-informed by people who know nothing about me or my history simply because a guy named Paul said so a while back and the people who put the Bible together just so happened to include his letter to the Romans into their collection on which they so bravely dared to place God’s stamp of approval and call it His inspired word to the masses that have passed it on from one generation to the next as truth.
I strive to be well-informed on both sides of the argument. When someone asks if the Bible is true, forgive me for saying, “I don’t know.” It’s the only honest answer I can give.
And I would appreciate it if you would refrain from supporting accusations against people you know nothing about based strictly on the testimony of someone else. Was it not a similar process that motivated the hanging of 19 people accused of witchcraft in Salem in 1692?
I’m not sure if you’re interested in continuing our dialogue, but if so, I thought I’d let you know that I purchased Dr. Craig’s book Reasonable Faith. I’ve been reading it in my spare time since it arrived on Tuesday and am through the first two chapters.
I’m writing what I call a “progressive review” as I go through it. Basically it’s like a book review, but it is written as I read through it. This is in an effort to preserve my impression of the book as much as possible and also to be thorough by providing lots of quotes and such. It helps to keep me from forgetting bits of what I’ve read. If you’re interested I can send it to you when I’m finished.
I’m not, particularly, but I don’t mind your sending me the review. I’d be interested to have a look at it, though I don’t promise to respond.
By the way, Dr. Craig has a website you my find interesting called reasonablefaith.org. One of its most engaging features is a Q & A, where he regularly answers questions sent in by readers. This is the latest, from someone who wanted Craig to respond to post-mortem comments from one of his debate opponents:
Thanks for replying yankeegospelgirl. I’ve been to that website before. I’ve even taken part in a few discussions on his open forum and have read through some of the Q&A.
I’m bummed you don’t want to continue though. I’m not sure why. I think when people have differences it’s best to discuss them openly and honestly. It seems to help curb hostility and build respect. I think it helps us both to learn.
We had gotten to a point where you recommended reading so that I could be (supposedly) better informed (which you claim is the root of the issue I have). And now that I’m actually carrying out this reading you say you aren’t particularly interested in continuing? Why not? Are you not confident this book will properly inform me? I don’t think that could be the case, because why else would you recommend that book to me?
I don’t understand.
I’m a latecomer to this thread. All I want to comment on is one claim you made. You wrote:
“Proving the theory of evolution to be flawed (which I would be extremely suprised if either of these books thoroughly does so) does not contribute anything to the credibility of the Bible. In the same way that proving that the moon is not made of cheese does not in any way give credibility to the idea that the moon is made of yogurt. Or in the same way that proving Hinduism to be incorrect does not in any way give credibility to the idea that Islam is correct. That is called a â€œfalse dichotomyâ€ and it is a logical fallacy.”
Taken as a general statement about reasoning, this claim is false. The form of reasoning in question, as you yourself describe it, is not a false dichotomy. It would be so if the reasoning were to run like this:
1. Hinduism is false.
2. Islam is true.
But by your own description it is, rather,
1. Hinduism is false.
This increases the probability that
2. Islam is true.
And there are cases where the sort of evidence that would show Hinduism to be false would increase the probability of several of the alternatives.
It is true that these alternatives might be logically incompatible with each other. Nevertheless, they can all rise in probability simultaneously.
Whether that is in fact happening in any given case depends on the specifics of the evidence in question.
One other comment: The third edition of Craig’s Reasonable Faith is a good book of its type, but it does not begin to go into the details of the historical evidence for Christianity.
I would be very interested to know, if you’re willing to share, what you have read so far on both sides of the argument over the historical truth of Christianity. It sounds like you’ve put some effort into this question. Would you be willing to tell us what you’ve read in the course of your study?
You’re absolutely right. The way I worded that is wrong. Given a set of possibilities, proving one to be incorrect does increase the probability of every other possibility. So when I said, “does not contribute anything” I was incorrect. One could argue how much or how little it contributes, but nevertheless it does contribute. Thanks for calling me out. 🙂
Concerning what I’ve read about the historicity of the Bible, let me see if I can recall as much as I can.
In favor of the Bible’s truth, first and foremost I’ve read the Bible. If you want to get specific, it was mostly the New King James version, but there was also some KJV, ESV, and NIV sprinkled in there too. I’ve read Hauer and Young’s “An Introduction to the Bible.” I was in “Introducing Apologetics” by James Taylor before yankeegospelgirl recommended “Reasonable Faith.” Pieces of Bill Moyers’s “Genesis: A Living Conversation,” Nahum Sarna’s “Understanding Genesis,” “Daniel: With an Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature” by John Collins, Daniel Berrigan’s “Daniel: Under the Seige of the Divine,” and Stephen Cook’s “The Apocalyptic Literature.” Those are the ones I can recall at this point that actually deal with historicity directly. There are also books I’ve read which deal with defending Christianity in ways other than historically; John MacArthur’s “The Truth War,” Greg Bahnsen’s “By This Standard,” J. Budziszewski’s “How to Stay Christian in College” (terrible book BTW), C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity.” Again, these are the ones I can recall at the moment, some of them were borrowed from the library so I can’t check my book pile for all of them.
The list of books which speak specifically from the other side of the argument includes Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus” (which I’m about 1/3 of the way through). Actually, that’s about it for books I’ve read that speak specifically to discredit the Bible. I have had Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” sitting here under my desk for a year and a half and have yet to crack it open.
Other related books that I’ve read that don’t really fall into either of these categories but still contribute to my overall view include the Qur’an, pieces of the Book of Mormon, Harold Camping’s “Time Has an End,” and small bits and pieces of other sources used for personal reference, essays, etc.
Forgive me if I have forgotten some, which I’m sure I have.
Wow, I just finished writing in my review concerning just the first two chapters, and it’s already six pages long! And I didn’t even cover everything I wanted to cover from chapter 1.
My head hurts. I don’t know if I can finish this review the way it’s going. And even if I do finish the review, for what will it be good for?
Thanks for that note. Sometimes I am driven nearly to despair by the lack of candor in combox communication. It’s nice to see someone cheerfully admit an error — that’s cool.
As I expected, you’ve read some things I haven’t. But there are also some works you don’t list that are directly pertinent to the central historical claims of Christianity. Would you be interested in links to some electronic copies of sources that discuss the historical reliability of the New Testament, and the Gospels in particular, in considerable detail? I can’t promise to convince you, but I can promise that I will send you only to serious scholarly work so that you aren’t wasting your time with popularizations.
And free is good …!
Writing the review will be good, because it’s always good to think out loud about this sort of thing and get your thoughts down on paper. And if you pass it around, it gives other people insight into your thought process.
Tim is right, _Reasonable Faith_ is not the very most detailed book you’ll find on the historical case. That’s why I also recommended Paley’s _Evidences_. It does have some valuable stuff though (and certainly beats the Strobel-type material).
Send away! You ever seen the movie Short Circuit?
I’ll take anything I can get. I just wish I didn’t read so slow, maybe then I could actually keep up with all the reading everyone recommends to me.
It might also be worth telling you as well, concerning the historicity of the New Testament specifically, that I have never really had a problem with the historical events described within it. Even the existence of Jesus is something I don’t really have trouble swallowing. Nor Paul’s travels and letter writing. It is the supernatural stuff that I get tripped up on. Did the resurrection actually happen? Was Jesus really God’s son? Was Mary really a virgin? Did he really walk on water? Did God really inspire Paul in his letters?
As Dr. Craig has repeatedly referenced through the first two chapters of Reasonable Faith, the things which most historical apologists base their faith on is first and foremost the internal witness of the Holy Spirit (in which, despite sincere efforts I have been unable to partake) and secondly, miracles and prophecy. Miracle stories are next to impossible to confirm, especially from that long ago. That is why you find books concerning Daniel and Revelation and other apocalyptic literature in that list I gave as they deal directly with the prophecy side.
So I guess, it might be worth keeping that in mind as you choose what material to recommend. The only bad part about online material is that I can’t mark it up with my highlighter and pencil! You should see some of these books I’ve got. I swear, sometimes I highlight more text than I leave white. And with all the pencil scratches in the margins it might drive someone else nuts if they borrowed it to read.
I suppose I could print them out…but that would require buying ink for my thirsty printer.
Also, yankeegospelgirl, I’ve already got Paley’s “Evidence of Christianity” as an eBook on my phone. Again though, I have yet to start it. :S
Thanks for that input. 😉
One of the things I want to avoid is loading you down with a lot of references that don’t directly address your questions. So I’d like to focus on this statement of yours:
Miracle stories are next to impossible to confirm, especially from that long ago.
Can you fill this out for me a bit? Most of what you’ve listed as stuff that you’ve read doesn’t directly address the question of how, if at all, one might verify a reported miracle. Bart Ehrman’s thoughts on the matter are rather crude and easily disposed of, but I don’t want to saddle you with his arguments — I’d rather engage with yours.
Well, the problem with miracle claims, especially from so long ago, is that the only thing suggesting such claims to be true is testimony. Now, if miracles like those described in the Bible were a common occurance today, it wouldn’t be so hard to swallow those testimonies. But I must say I have never seen a miracle. I’ve never seen a supernatural event. If I have, then I have not known it was supernatural. Nor have I seen convincing proof of a miracle. The Bible says that faith can move mountains, literally. But I have yet to see a mountain moved. Christians could make HUGE money in the construction business if they would start using their faith for earth moving. (that’s a joke BTW) No videos of resurrections, no pictures of walking on water (that weren’t photoshopped). Only testimony.
So why not believe the testimony of miracles in the Bible? Perhaps the same reason you don’t believe that Joseph Smith miraculously translated an unknown language from golden plates. Maybe the same reason you don’t believe in the legitimacy of the miracle faith healing of con artists like Marjoe and Peter Popoff. If I may borrow from Sam Harris, the devotees of the south Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba ascribe all the miracles of Jesus to him. He reads minds, he foretells the future, he heals, he raises the dead, he was born of a virgin… These are miracle claims that are attributed to him by thousands of LIVING eyewitnesses. Their testimony is what suggests that these claims are legitimate. Christians don’t believe them. But they believe similar testimonies of a handful of “supposed” eyewitnesses from 2000 years ago.
This is not why I don’t believe the testimonies in the Bible. This IS why I am skeptical of testimonies. The reason I don’t believe them is because these testimonies have so far failed to convince me to do so.
And to be honest, I don’t know how one can confirm such a testimony from so long ago. Perhaps the best one could do would be to confirm the plausibility of such miracle claims. But even that has yet to be done, or at least it has yet to fall on my eyes.
And I share a similar opinion of Bart Ehrman’s thoughts. He is very obviously biased against Christianity as I’ve seen in his book. But as with most writing of this nature, there is still some good information to be pulled from it and something to learn.
Does that makes sense though? Can you at least understand where I’m coming from? Credulity is something I have found to be very dangerous. And I honestly don’t find my skepticism to be excessive or unwarranted.
Would the people who claim to have witnessed the miracles of Sathya Sai Baba die for those claims?
It is one thing to die for what you believe. Muslims do that all the time. But claiming to have witnessed miraculous things with your own eyes and being willing to go to your death still claiming this is quite another thing.
Thanks for that detailed reply. It gives me a better understanding of your position and the reasoning that has led you to it.
Your first line of argument is that the absence of miracles today creates a problem for believing in miracles in bygone eras. I have to confess that I have never found this argument to be persuasive. Let me try to explain why.
If the Christian position were, unequivocally, that visible miracles have been occurring from the time of the founding of the church upward to the present day, then our failure to detect them would indeed be a piece of evidence, and conceivably a very serious piece of evidence, against the truth of Christianity. But in point of fact, such â€œcontinuationismâ€ is not clearly taught anywhere in Scripture (though one can try to press — I think overpress — a text here or there). Nor is the cessation of miracles after the founding of the church clearly taught. Scripture is just silent on this issue.
Given this fact, we cannot reasonably evaluate Christianity by supposing that continuationism is the default position. And according to cessationism, what you would expect see today, extended back for, say, 1900 years, is exactly what you have laid out as the premise of your argument. Your argument, then, carries some weight against continuationism (allowing, of course, that continuationists, chiefly Catholic and Pentecostal, would dispute your premise), but it has no force whatsoever against the cessationist view. The upshot, I think, is that both naturalistic (no-miracle) views and cessationist views gain probability at the expense of continuationist views.
Since I am and have always been a cessationist, this result does not bother me in the slightest. For a decent defense of cessationism, see B. B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles, a book that you can download here.
Your second line of argument raises the worry of parallels: Joseph Smith, Peter Popoff, etc. But here, the key question is whether the evidence for the miracle claims of these individuals is on a par with the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Having looked into a number of these parallels in some detail, I am prepared to defend the position that there is no contest: whether or not the resurrection actually took place (which at this stage in our conversation I am naturally not entitled to assume as a premise), the evidence in its favor is vastly stronger than that for any parallel I have ever examined. So although the claims are sometimes similar (and I donâ€™t think that is an accident), the evidence is not. And the evidence is what should be driving the epistemic bus here.
In connection with this issue, Yankeegospelgirl raises a good point. The willingness of those who professed to be original witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus to endure labors, sufferings, and dangers — even martyrdom — on account of the reports that they delivered cannot be dismissed as mere fanaticism. There are few things more common than fanatacism on behalf of an ideology in which one was raised. But the original apostles endured these things for the sake of an event to which they claimed to be witnesses. It will not do, then, to pair them with suicide bombers as though mere willingness to die made the two cases equivalent. Willingness to suffer and even die for oneâ€™s beliefs is superb evidence of oneâ€™s sincerity. But the explanatory resources for explaining a sincere belief in a public, physical event of the sort that the resurrection would have been, if it occurred, are much more limited than the resources for explaining a sincere belief in the superiority of oneâ€™s ideology. The nature of the former belief requires a sort of explanation that the nature of the latter does not.
I don’t think I’m arguing in favor of continuationism over cessationism and using that to discredit the claims of Christianity. I realize that my “argument” (I’m not sure I would call it an argument) about miracles does not really conflict with the cessationist viewpoint.
“Your first line of argument is that the absence of miracles today creates a problem for believing in miracles in bygone eras.”
I wouldn’t say it creates a problem. I would say that it doesn’t help the already existing problem. In my mind the “problem” of belief already exists, it’s not created out of this circumstance. And it exists for any type of claim, not just miracles. Kinda like when Lucy Pevensie tells her siblings about the wardrobe. If it weren’t a problem to believe her testimony alone, there wouldn’t be the desire to go examine the wardrobe for themselves (although there may still be the desire to visit Narnia). But her brothers and sister go with her to look at it for themselves because of this “problem” of belief. When they find the wardrobe to be just a wardrobe, this “problem” remains, whereas had they seen Narnia, the problem would no longer be.
Does that mean that Narnia wasn’t actually there? No. Does it mean that miracles didn’t actually happen? No. It’s about like claiming that the moon used to be made of cheese, but now it’s not. What good is such a claim by itself? If a random person came up to you and tried to sell you magic beans, would you buy them?
And concerning the second point, if a random person came up to you and tried to sell you magic beans, and then told you that his friends who found these beans all died trying to protect them from being stolen, would you buy them?
It has always been a weighty argument in my head how these people supposedly died for standing behind what they supposedly witnessed. Perhaps one of the most weighty. It definitely makes this whole situation difficult. There are arguments that can be made concerning the events that are written about against their veracity, some of them are legit, others are met by believers and skeptics alike with an, “are you serious?” type face.
One has to keep in mind that this is all, again, testimony. And even you have to admit that some of the testimony is suspicious. While some is not. I’m referring not only to the Bible, but to non-canonical writings as well.
How I envy Thomas. I too would take a martyr’s death if it meant the chance to feel the holes in His hands.
Okay, that helps. What youâ€™re saying is that your first consideration was just a negative one: if we had X, that would be very helpful, but we donâ€™t. I agree. So that kicks us back to other considerations.
You ask two rhetorical questions:
â€œIf a random person came up to you and tried to sell you magic beans, would you buy them?â€
â€œ[I]f a random person came up to you and tried to sell you magic beans, and then told you that his friends who found these beans all died trying to protect them from being stolen, would you buy them?â€
Obviously, if the information you are giving here were all we had, the answer would be â€œNo.â€ But just as obviously, at least as I see it, neither of these is anywhere close to being an analogue of the situation weâ€™re in with respect to the resurrection. Examples that have been deliberately stripped of all context and detail are a very bad way to think about the probabilities in a specific instance. As Arnauld noted in the Port Royal Logic almost 350 years ago,
People think it sufficient to reason from generalities which, far from being universally true, are often not even probable when considered in connection with the particular circumstances of the events under examination. We must consider the event in relation to its circumstances, not as separate from them.
If you will read the Preparatory Considerations in Paleyâ€™s Evidences, you will see that he makes just this point in the course of his response to Hume.
The fact that there are some late and fanciful documents attesting to miracles worked by Jesus is, as far as I am concerned, not pertinent. At a sufficient remove in time, and in particular after the generation that could have heard and remembered the testimonies of the last living witnesses has died, some measure of invention is almost inevitable. Whether that invention can succeed in displacing the central story as recorded in genuine works of eyewitnesses and their contemporaries, in a society where the greatest imaginable weight is placed on the life and doings of its founder, is another matter entirely. The forgeries and mutilations of the second century Christians and heretics never caught on in anything more than a local way, a fact that is, curiously enough, attested even by the enemies of Christianity. And in the first century, right up into the 90s, some of the original witnesses were still alive.
So what interests me is not the testimony that I would set aside as suspicious but rather the testimony that cannot, in my judgment, be so laid aside. And that leads us to four questions:
1. What testimony from the New Testament for the resurrection of Jesus can be reasonably laid aside as untrustworthy — if any?
2. Under what conditions is testimony a strong evidence of truth?
3. Do such conditions hold with respect to the New Testament evidence that cannot be laid aside?
4. Just how improbable is it that a miracle should occur?
Thatâ€™s probably more questions than it would be wise to tackle all at once. But Iâ€™d be happy to discuss any of them with you, in any order you like. Since you mentioned that you already have his Evidences, Iâ€™ll just note here that Paley gives a very interesting answer to 4, again in the Preparatory Considerations.
And by the way, Thomas is one of my favorite Gospel characters.
1. I don’t know.
2. I don’t know.
3. I don’t know.
4. I don’t know.
Those are the most honest answers I can give. Although I do have to admit, I’m not sure all of those questions can be answered so generally.
“as recorded in genuine works of eyewitnesses”
I have heard arguments both for and against that claim. Not being a scholar myself I don’t know who to side with.
I appreciate your honesty. My experience, for whatever it is worth here, has persuaded me that in this area, the disagreements of scholars are almost never due to specialized knowledge; rather, they arise from methodological differences. And although evaluating those competing methodologies can at times be difficult, it does not require you to have (say) a profound knowledge of original languages or an encyclopedic grasp of the manuscript evidence.
If you’re interested in pursuing the question, a good place to start would be with question 1. If we have works either by eyewitnesses (best) or by those who were contemporaries of eyewitnesses and knew and spoke with them (next best), that will give us at least a reason to take the testimony seriously.
So how do we determine the authorship of the Gospels? I submit that here, in order to guard against any double standards, we should use the same methods that we would use to determine the authorship of any other ancient work. For an overview of those methods, have a look at Samuel P. Tregelles’s wonderful little book, A Lecture on the Historic Evidence of the Authorship and Transmission of the Books of the New Testament (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1852), available fore free downloading here. Tregelles follows Augustine’s answer to Faustus the Manichean (see pp. 4-8). We can move forward from there.
Thanks. I’ll give it a look.
Wow, that was quite a little book. I must say that if I used the same description of Bart Ehrman’s bias against Christianity for Samuel Tregelles’s bias for Christianity, it would seem an understatement. He seems so….not angry but….. I’m not sure what adjective I’m looking for here. Zealous maybe?
But I suppose if he was really being hounded by the objections he described, I can understand him being a little…eager… to say what he said.
Good read. And not too difficult either, which suprised me. I highlighted some things in there and I’m going to go through them tomorrow and write back. Thanks for the recommendation!
Tregelles certainly is zealous. The methods of literary criticism were being seriously abused in the middle of the 19th century to attack the authorship of the books of the New Testament, so you’re exactly right that Tregelles was responding to his Sitz im Leben.
When you consider that Ehrman, in his book The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, does not so much as mention any of the external evidence for the authorship of the books of the New Testament, it’s worth while to have on hand a book that does just that.
And it is hard to deny that Augustine has a point against Faustus.
I learned quite a bit from this book, and I think I may go through it again a time or two to pick up the things I probably missed.
It lays down a pretty good case for the idea that the gospels (in one form or another, at least quite similar to the ones we have now) were distributed and read quite rapidly (And why not? This WAS their religion). It also suggests that because of this, it is unlikely that the gospels were forged or heavily altered. In my opinion, this suggestion holds weight, at least for the gospel of Mark.
The only real eyebrow I raised was on the second paragraph on page 43. I think Tregelles makes a bit of a stretch when referring to “all Christians everywhere…knew, as a fact, that these were their real authors?”. However, in light of the whole book, that’s not very significant.