Nov 24, 2011

New Testament reliability

The number of manuscripts is not the whole story of course, but it's still interesting.

Nov 21, 2011


This is my 300th post. That probably doesn't include the one or two that I've deleted, realising that they were a bit too offensive in hindsight. I think there's some interesting stuff here anyway, along with much that is inane, bizarre or irrelevant. I'm considering starting a new blog which would include the most coherent thoughts from this one, while being more carefully edited and perhaps including some photos of nature rather than wikipedia images, but we'll see...

I quite like Plato, from what little I have read that is attributed to him. I also like Nietzsche in how straight-up he is. This quote relates and contrasts the two, along with the incarnation, in a way that I find quite brilliant.

"Nietzsche loves the real world of ever-changing dynamism over Plato's realm of unchanging forms, but God loves this world more. In fact, in joy he created its diverse forms of life and his providence keeps history's ever-moving, ever-changing dynamism in play. It was not by the self's escape from this world and embodiment to achieve union with the upper world, but by God's becoming flesh that salvation has been brought to the earth.
That which actually happens in this world, not what philosophers argue must be the case should always take precedence. For that very reason, the gospel's claims must be allowed to disorient and reorient our presuppositions about God and the world."

Nov 9, 2011

speeding out of the rat race

talking about time, here's a clip about what happens when you give rats drugs - specifically marijuana and cocaine (not at once though - intriguing possibility however).

I'm currently learning (studying/cramming I guess) about rats and cocaine with relation to neurotransmitter transport. Fun stuff.

Nov 6, 2011

on time (and out of time)

The nature of our nation
abundantly displays
yes, portrays
the beauty of creation

the tui in the tree
flitted and swooped
then settled
- and sang, next to me

mid-gray clouds match the sea
both brooding;
sad, maybe?
- a mood of ambiguity

many gifts, bestowed;
presents presented,
- their giver unknown

mechanical, purported-accidental
watchers watching
the turning
ceaseless timepiece universal

”collocation, self-organisation!”
or quiet indication,
a .. purposed manifestation?

softly conscience whispers
questions, perceives these qualities;
a final
cause? (for thought) - one wonders

Nov 5, 2011

healthy dose of humour

a special humorous cartoon for anyone who reads this blog - it's high quality, I guarantee it

it should say 'gentlemen' though. :(

Oct 26, 2011

thought for the day

If moral improvement has actually occurred over the centuries (if norms of the past were less advanced or ethical than our own), there is a moral standard by which cultures may be judged - there is a standard towards which improvement has occurred.

moral facts exist.

Likewise, if you believe moral improvement has actually occurred over the centuries,

you believe that moral facts exist.

As with anything, you may be mistaken in your beliefs, but nevertheless you believe them. Much as you believe that the sun is a source of heat for the earth. etc.

From whence these moral facts?

Oct 24, 2011

after all, a Christian can't be a real philosopher, right?

the debate over the debate over whether R. Dawkins should debate W.L. Craig has het up.

This is a fair response to it I think.

I am a little tired of the cheerleaders on both sides. Craig is not perfect, but he seems to me a nice enough guy who presents classical Christian apologetical arguments in a rigorous-yet-accessible way to audiences of university students, academics and other interested people. He is a gifted communicator and probably rightly widely regarded as the foremost defender of Christian theism today. His well-publicised debates are backed up with scholarly and popular books and articles, particularly concerning the metaphysical implication of the origin of the universe and the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Dawkins has done some well respected work in evolutionary biology, but his main area of influence has been through his popular science books and of course his more recent railing against religion. He is an effective communicator and like Craig is charismatic with a wide following. However, I cannot take him seriously as an academic outside his field of expertise in biology or as a public intellectual rather than a polemicist, given his reluctance to actually interact with the arguments he claims do not exist or to have refuted . One notable exception was in his debates with John Lennox; yet in these he is widely regarded as having come across as the least persuasive of the two. Supporters of his who have imbibed the 'new atheist' hatred of religion and religious people need to calm down and learn to have a reasonable academic discussion - even with those who pointedly disagree - or they will face accusations of insularism, anti-intellectualism and cowardice.

Religion is here to stay and the New Atheism probably is too in some form; ridicule and invective from either side (as guilty of it as I may be) strikes me as a fairly unproductive route and a highly frustrating one when the actual issues are covered up by personal attacks and ignorant bluster. If anything is to sort out the fundamental misunderstandings contributing so greatly to this cultural divide, perhaps it is numerous instances of friendly chats over coffee, combined with a little prayer and a challenge to actually explore the claims being made by each 'side' for oneself. I for one am happy to engage in this project!

Oct 22, 2011

accidental coincidences

Are the gospels reliable as historical accounts? One line of evidencing bolstering their claims are coincidences between them which were not designed, for instance where one gospel incidentally fills in gaps in what another has reported.

Prof Tim McGrew is an authority on 'evidence', being known as an academic in the field of the philosophy of science. He is also one of the world's foremost experts on historical Christian apologetics (i.e. past apologists) and particularly, apologetics which makes use of historical argument to show the plausibility and truth of the gospel and related claims about Jesus.

This 10 min youtube clip is worth watching, at least taking a peek at to get the gist.

Or for a paragraph summary of the idea, see here:

More on this after exams perhaps.

Oct 20, 2011

truly revealing

Hey procrastinators, check this out - I think you'll enjoy it!

so ..., we throw our pain at this canvas
of life

again and again we throw our pain
at it

and it all seems so random, pointless

and it sloshes and reverberates

but we have fun; break the dreariness
of life!

told it’s all absurd we learn to laugh
at it

but this too is fleeting, shallow,

‘til ... the great Painter flips our canvas

revealing Jesus, the true meaning
of life.

Oct 18, 2011

Experts, experts - get your experts!

I'm intrigued by the fact that everyone else is an expert on the economy (& the effectiveness of the free market and such), but as an economics student I have no idea. Sure, I have various prejudices and suspicions, but in actually arguing something, I'd hardly know where to start. What caused the financial crisis - lack of govt regulation or over-regulation?? Many people making bold claims about this don't seem to even be aware that the alternate possibility is being seriously suggested.

I'm the last person to help out here. And I will very soon have a degree in this stuff, more or less.

God help us all.

Oct 13, 2011

decentralised power structure

In case anyone likes history or, perhaps, navel-gazing. This is from Sydney and I find it interesting how useful history is and how it can repeat itself in some ways. Convergence perhaps (reading Simon Conway Morris' "Life's Solution" has got me thinking along these lines.)

"The idea of a faculty system for the SUEU was broached for the first time in 1945; teams of students to minister in schools and on missions were established in 1946; as well as a more elaborate sub-committee structure for administration. Of course, the danger which these moves were seeking to prevent was that of nominalism ..."

Oct 11, 2011


"You will not be able to extemporize good thinking unless you have been in the habit of thinking and feeding your mind with abundant and nourishing food. ... Take it as a rule without exception, that to be able to overflow spontaneously you must be full."
Charles Spurgeon

Oct 3, 2011

why an atheist I am not

(image thanks to Wikipedia. Only the vaguest idea what it means.) I don't like how this blog is formatting itself now, but there are more important things in life. Like death, life after death, life before death, etc.

This is the draft form of a talk that was spoken today.

I take it that to accept atheism is to believe the claim that God does not exist and neither do gods, goddesses or, presumably other supernatural beings.

I am not an atheist as I have found - and continue to find - Christian faith to be, (rather than ugly or irrational) – in fact, both attractive and coherent. I have been privileged to have been raised in a Christian home, attending Church since the age of 4. I came to know I am not a good person. I have found a need in my own life for what God offers in Jesus Christ; and this really has been life-changing, in changing and continuing to change my actions, thoughts, priorities, hopes and even my interests. I was pleased to be baptised at the start of 2009. So I am a Christian.

Atheism is a hopeless philosophy. It offers little; in the realms of ultimate explanation, – in science! - and in aid of human flourishing. Three fields of interest to me, I think seek a grounding:

Firstly, “reason” and rationality

*The importance of seeking truth; makes sense on theism, less so given naturalism. In seeking truth over self-interest, as we do, we borrow from a non-naturalistic worldview, in line with the Christ-focussed mottos of some of the world’s top universities. As a summary, God grounds rationality - it is far from clear that materialistic processes adequately account even for rational belief formation, let alone the question I raise of the legitimacy of a search for truth, prioritising it over falsehood.

*Also, atheism is not the obvious default metaphysic. A question for you all - is the universe an array of brute facts – a collection of matter/energy and its regularities, (and perhaps too mathematical facts and/or moral facts) – or does it all have a transcendent (and even personal?) source? Which is the correct explanation? To simply begin and end with naturalism is to take too much for granted – (indeed, the whole universe.)

Secondly, science

*Science is popular here. The fact that we can do science ought raise questions. The world is ordered in a particular way, the human mind is ordered in a particular way – so as to comprehend a fundamental, mathematically structured reality. These orderings coincide and we can do science. Brute fact, or God-given?

*Also the evidence for Fine-tuning of the physical constants (leading to the development of rational moral agents) is evidence for theism, in that it is more probable given God than in God’s absence.

Third category, “society” (and human flourishing.)

*The existence of human rights and dignity and a desire for justice do not find their natural home within atheism.

*The phenomena of evil - and death point away from atheism. Often when horrors perversely done in the name of God are rightly condemned, a notion of evil is assumed. Yet naturalistic atheism has no answer to evil and indeed no room for it; it denies its existence. Atheism too, has no answer to death; indeed, all, it seems to me, on atheism, is finally meaningless – we are simply star dust perhaps with some pathetic illusion of personality or importance - and while that might seem pretty in a fleeting way, rocks and rubbish dumps are equally star dust with us - and with the same fate – some collections of atoms get ‘lucky’ briefly, but it all comes to an end.

So, I’ve surveyed Reason, Science and Society and touched on the intellectual cost of atheism; however my personal focus and the motivating factor for not merely holding an abstract belief, but living in a particular way, is Jesus. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are somewhat of an enigma for a naturalistic account of the universe. It might seem to be convenient for some if he had never existed, but this simply will not do, on the evidence. Of course, if Jesus was not raised, this faith is utterly futile, but if he might’ve been, then this conversation is very worthwhile.

Sep 17, 2011

translation project

I have come to the conclusion that if you cannot translate your own thoughts into uneducated language, then your thoughts are confused. Power to translate is the test of having really understood your own meaning. - CS Lewis

Sep 14, 2011

what is the gospel?

“This is the gospel. The just and loving Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent his Son, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show his power over sin in the resurrection so that all who trust in him will be reconciled to God forever.”

- David Platt (excerpt from “Radical”)

thanks to the website of "Ascend the Hill", a band whose music I am enjoying. For free!

Aug 31, 2011

Christian thinkers in science

these people are fascinating ...

I'll add/write more on this eventually. I hadn't heard of the dinosaur guy before.

Aug 26, 2011

molecular evolution

some interesting stuff on molecular evolution, which I hope to come back to

starting with a post by Mike Behe, on a proposed mechanism for the evolution of complex cellular systems like the spliceosome:

"Overwhelmingly, progress in biology has consisted of finding new and ever-more-sophisticated properties of systems that had been thought simple. If apparently simple systems are much more complex than they initially seemed, I would bet heavily against the hypothesis that apparently complex systems are much simpler than they appear."

also, I will read this eventually: directed evolution and enzyme alterations:

Aug 22, 2011

discordant beauty

You never know what temporal days may bring

laugh, love, live free and sing.

When life is in dis/cord

Praise ye the Lord


the html on this site has gone weird and formatting is a hassle, so I don't bother when I'm meant to be studying

Aug 20, 2011

naturalism as explanation

I'm currently reading a paper by Peter van Inwagen on whether God is an unnecessary hypothesis and am absolutely drinking it up.

Thought I'd share (the insight below is not particularly controversial, but I find it is helping to clarify some things; you've gotta love analytical philosophy. I don't think I've ever seen this stated so clearly and it leads on to a bunch of things that I'm excited about.), partly as a reminder to me in future to read it again when I have time to scribble some thoughts on related things:

Consider the proposition that there exist natural things. This is a fact, and one easily verified by observation. Has it a purely natural explanation? That seems unlikely. How could facts about the properties of natural things and how they are related to one another (which are the only facts a purely natural explanation may appeal to) explain the existence of natural things? The difficulty of seeing how there could be an answer to this question suggests a general principle: To explain the existence of things of a certain type, we must somehow appeal to things that are not of that type.


Reflection on the fact that there are natural things suggests that the best course for the proponents of the superfluity argument to take might be to say that they hadn’t got their premise quite right, and to qualify it as follows: insofar as an observed fact has an explanation, this explanation is a purely natural one. That is, perhaps they should concede that some observed facts have no explanation at all, and go on to say that those observed facts that do have an explanation have a purely natural one. They could say that the proposition that there are natural things was a necessary truth, and thus had no explanation – at any rate, no causal explanation. But it doesn’t seem very plausible to suppose that the proposition that there are natural things is a necessary truth. The friends of the superfluity argument would, I think, do better to maintain that the fact that there are natural things is a brute, contingent fact – a fact because there are natural things, contingent because there might have been no natural things, brute because there is no explanation whatever of there being natural things.

How plausible is the thesis that every fact has either a purely natural explanation or else no explanation at all? Theists will certainly not find this thesis
plausible. Theists think that at least one observed fact, the fact that there are natural things, has an explanation and has no natural explanation – its explanation being, of course, that there are natural things because God created them. Doesn’t the thesis that everything we observe either has no explanation whatever or else has a purely natural explanation simply assume the falsity of theism?

Aug 16, 2011


Question for the day:

Is zeal without knowledge dangerous or just disturbing/embarrassing in our apathetic world?

Aug 12, 2011

meaningful exchanges

The gospel: it’s truly relevant

Intrinsically; part of it.

Selfishness’s final solution

Good news: life which goes on and on

But how can someone communicate

This - 'true but inconvenient'?

Our faux-righteousness is no payment

Grace, free; generously given

Little surprise, faces resistance

All men want to be sovereign

Yet God exchanged divinity’s throne

With servant’s form; that’s upside down!

Crucified so that peace may be known

Take up your cross, the slave is now crowned

What of ourselves, now Death's overturned?

May our lives help make this Truth heard?

Aug 9, 2011

ambiguous violence

Man, the London riots.

What's up with that?!

Maybe I'll write more on this sometime.

If you don't believe that people are sinful, check out what's going down over there.

On a lighter note, I found this comment from the Metropolitan Police's spokesman a tad ambiguous:
"Those involved in criminality should be under no illusion that we will pursue you."

Aug 6, 2011

standing in my defense

One of my favourite song verses/sections:

Your blood: speaks a better word
Than all the empty claims I've heard upon this earth
Speaks righteousness for me
And stands in my defense

Jesus it's Your blood.

Some day I intend to write more about this; about how and why and that the blood of Jesus the Messiah was shed to rectify my stubborn opposition to the God who created me and is sovereign over the universe.

Your comments, of whatever stripe, are welcome. This is not merely some article of lofty faith for me, but really important to how I live my life and why I do what I do - if I'm wrong about this, I want to know and if you are, I think you should want to as well.

Jul 31, 2011

Religion - evil?

Thinking about the tragedy in Norway, I find this of interest and on the mark:

"The crimes of which Anders Breivik stands accused don’t show how religion can inspire evil. Quite the contrary: They are proof positive that a Christ-less Christianity is a cultural construct that can’t bring the depth of relationship required to prevent the horrors that evil inspires. ..."

Jul 23, 2011

The gospel of Mark

I keep returning to the gospel of Mark - particularly since hearing it described as "the gospel for a sceptic in a hurry", I've been intrigued by it. Particularly its christology, or view of Christ. I'd love to talk with you about this, whoever you are, though admittedly I've only dabbled briefly in the topic. This gospel also contains one of my favourite passages, (as I may well have said here before.) That passage reminds me (and vice versa) of this skillet song. In related news, a NZ scholar of Mark I happen to know, Derek Tovey, will be speaking on the book's view of Jesus on Tues 2nd August at 1pm at Auckland Uni as part of Jesus Week.

Anyway, I think the gospel of Mark is also worth listening to. That's right, listening to!

Living in the 21st C, we're fortunate to have access to mp3s, including of the bible - that book that continues to influence so much and so many.

One of my favourite bible translations is the 'NET' bible (New English Translation), partly as it doesn't have the copyright issues of some other translations. It is also fairly literal and comes with some very useful notes.

As a service to someone out there, I've compiled the links to the chapters of the gospel of Mark, the NET version, read by some American guy whose voice isn't too disagreeable (lack of Queen's English or upper-class American accent notwithstanding) here - at an approximate calculation, you could listen to the whole thing in around an hour and a half or so. How about that?! Give it a shot.

Courtesy of

(chapters) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

kiwi music

Hey, here's a site worth checking out if you want some easy-listening kiwi (Christian) music to download for free - I hope you'll like it:

I envisage setting up a gig for him sometime, somehow.

Jul 1, 2011

How did Muhammed die?

It's an intriguing question for me and maybe for you - how did Muhammed, the prophet of Islam, die?

Another intriguing question for me is why the html on this site has been such a hassle recently - hence the large gaps and occasional lack of gaps in some of these posts.

Anyway, was it by poison? While it seems an ignoble death, particularly given Islamic conceptions of prophethood, the hadith seem clear on the topic (google it if you like.)

This Islamic response fascinates me - not least because it quotes, unblushingly, sections from the New Testament which show that prophets before Jesus died - fair enough - but also, explicitly state that Jesus was likewise killed. Believing that Jesus was killed is very unorthodox for a Muslim and I don't think the author believes this at all - but what basis could there be for using these accounts about Jesus only where they line up with what you already believe? What extra weight does such use of quotations give an argument?

The author also accepts the parable of the tenants, in Mark 12: 1-12 as authentic from the mouth of Jesus and points out that "the son" is clearly talking about Jesus. This is hardly controversial for most readers of the New Testament, but coming from the mouth of a Muslim apologist, it is unexpected. Perhaps I am missing something.

Jun 24, 2011


Trent Dougherty says a lot of things (or a few things anyway) that I feel I would say if I was better educated in philosophy.

Enjoy (his insights on why some people need to get real when it comes to evaluating certain philosophical claims (particularly theism-friendly ones)):

Jun 21, 2011

In the name of Science

A personal note:

For those who’ve followed my scientific career, this may be hard to believe - but I am now something of an expert in chicks, as in baby chickens. You could even say, with fairly minimal exaggeration, that they “flock” to me. I could give you the details, but I won't, as it might put you off your dinner to be honest.
So, for all your limb-bud grafting needs, text me anytime - or leave a message at this blog.

Here's a random superchic(k) song, enjoy:

Jun 19, 2011

You know what?

You know what? I think we should change the world. You, me, that guy/girl we’re ‘friends’ with on Facebook. And their mates. Yeah, why not?! We should, we even could: feed people, clothe people, tell them about Jesus (order negotiable); fight for democracy, or socialism or compassionate communitarian conservatism or something, anything, other than the icky status quo. Common wisdom is overrated, I .. believe .. we need a change.
(Pronounced with due dramatic flourish.)

Me for President. Or maybe you!

Who’s with me (us)?!!

Oh, wait – it’s exam time. :(

Sorry folks.

And then there’s that little issue of the middle-class dream. We wouldn’t really want to give that up, would we?

And the student loan to pay off.

You’ve got to be secure, you know! Emotionally, financially, socially, the rest. Got to. It’s common wisdom.

So, yeah.

*Shuffles feet*

*Clicks pen & glances at notes*

Maybe I’ll be back later…

(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia - percentages of populations undernourished)

Jun 17, 2011


This, below, is a link worth reading, about Facebook.

Incidentally, I'm quite proud of the title of this post, (invented in a flash of brilliance while pondering the mouse linked below) I may even have to use it elsewhere.

I almost posted the link, below, on Facebook, but then I was briefly caught in a loop of self-assessment/analysis and couldn't work out what my motives for that might be, so stuck it here instead, as far fewer people will read this. And if you're reading this, you're probably either past judging me (having been desensitized) or you're a random whose opinion isn't going to affect me much, if at all. And let's be honest, if your opinion doesn't impact on me, I'm not going to be too concerned about it.

Occasionally I'll promote something at this blog that I've put effort into - I'll probably post a talk I gave on Jesus in the Bible (as compared, implicitly, to the Qur'an), after exams and once I've written a sermon which I'll be preaching at the end of August, I'll put that up and might link on Facebook if I decide someone there may be interested; but most of the rest will just be writing practice for me and something I can look back on and cringe at in future minutes/days/months/decades.

I love the picture:

A thought:
If you're reading this and I know you, the chances are I don't affirm you nearly enough, being caught, as perhaps with near-everyone else, in my own web of self-concern. The chances are also, that if you're human and not scarily self-sufficient, you're also actually looking to be affirmed occasionally by those around you. So, sorry about that; I'll try & work on it.

May 30, 2011

An ode to literature

Oh, … literature!
Are you dead?
I’d like to know.

I’m talking about good literature
That’s actu’lly read
And enjoyed (and discussed)

I’m wondering if you’re deceased
To be honest
Perhaps it’s only as I am

Most sincerely,
A science student.

May 28, 2011

"Against hope, he believed in hope ..."

I had written some thoughts, very briefly, but they got deleted when I tried to copy the post in order to prevent it accidentally being deleted. Some might call that irony.

Anyway, here are the two passages I had posted, minus my little commentary and highlighting, as I need to study protein structure and function. If you read this and want to pray for me, that'd be lovely; it's been a stressful couple of weeks for me, as for many others no doubt.

Romans: 4:13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 4:14 For if they become heirs by the law, faith is empty and the promise is nullified. 4:15 For the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression either. 4:16 For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants – not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 4:17 (as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”). He is our father in the presence of God whom he believed – the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do. 4:18 Against hope Abraham believed in hope with the result that he became the father of many nations according to the pronouncement, “so will your descendants be.” 4:19 Without being weak in faith, he considered his own body as dead (because he was about one hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 4:20 He did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. 4:21 He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do. 4:22 So indeed it was credited to Abraham as righteousness.
4:23 But the statement it was credited to him was not written only for Abraham’s sake, 4:24 but also for our sake, to whom it will be credited, those who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 4:25 He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification. 5:1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 5:2 through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. 5:3 Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 5:4 and endurance, character, and character, hope. 5:5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Hebrews: 4:13 And no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. 4:14 Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 4:15 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. 4:16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.

May 6, 2011

Burn out

Maybe I know what it is, maybe.

Apr 30, 2011

Hell - not just a pizza shop?

I had written some bullet points for this post, but publishing it didn't work and they got lost in limbo. I'll come back to it some time.

Apr 27, 2011

so anxious

"As I read and re-read all the non-Christian or anti-Christian accounts of the faith, from Huxley to Bradlaugh, a slow and awful impression grew gradually but graphically upon my mind—the impression that Christianity must be a most extraordinary thing. . . . It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons. . . . What again could this astonishing thing be like which people were so anxious to contradict, that in doing so they did not mind contradicting themselves?"
-Gk Chesterton

Apr 19, 2011

Jesus died. Case closed?

“Can you imagine a movement today claiming that a soldier in World War Two rose physically from the dead, but when you asked for proof all they offered you were a mere handful of anonymous religious tracts written in the 1980's? Would it be even remotely reasonable to believe such a thing on so feeble a proof? Well—no.” - Richard Carrier, 2006

(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

Thanks RC, you make a good point, in that if your analogy is a good one, Christianity is in evidential trouble. Let’s examine it, making some quick comparisons to the claimed resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

As a test for myself and to save time and effort, I’ll do this response from the top of my head, or mostly anyway, so it may be a little fast and loose; but anyone who reads it will get the general idea. I’ll also add a little to this if I find time I’ll also link in some of my favourite sources, some of which are easy to access on the web.

Carrier is here implicitly talking about the gospels. What are these things and is he being fair in his characterisation? To start with, in one sense, yes. RC gets his maths right, insofar as modern scholarship generally dates the gospels to around 40-50 years - and the final one, John, a little later - after the key events in question, i.e. those surrounding the death of Jesus.

Yet if we grant that, the analogy fails in at least these four ways (assuming we can substitute ‘evidence’ for ‘proof’, given that the subject of discussion is not pure mathematics):

1) The gospels are not the only literary evidence we have for the resurrection
2) The gospels do not contain merely religious content as implied by the comparison to ‘tracts’
3) The gospels are tied back to eyewitness testimony and not entirely ‘anonymous’
4) The resurrection was not an isolated or free-floating event or claim; it occured in a unique historical matrix and had real consequences.

Also, incidentally the synoptic gospels (i.e the first three) can be quite reasonably dated, within the bounds of mainstream scholarship, to within (i.e. prior to) 40 years after the death of Jesus, particularly Mark's gospel. Further, the gospels compare extremely favourably, in documentary evidence and proximity to the source, to other ancient records and writings – if we judge these ancient historical accounts by criteria reasonable for their context, they stand out.

1) The resurrection was a central belief of the early church, found in various of the letters written in the first century, including those of Paul (and slightly later writings such as 1 Clement), with most of his letters accepted across the board as being written before the standard dates for the gospels. Notably, we find this belief and the importance of eyewitness testimony to be the centre of an early creed, found in 1 Cor 15:3-7 and dated to within a decade, or considerably less (the letter itself, which repeats an earlier formula, was written prior to 60AD), of the death of Christ. Paul adds to the early creed (by my reading) his own experience of the risen Jesus, albeit one of a different kind to the others. This resurrection appearance resulted in his conversion from persecutor to missionary. As the next numbered point indicates, other aspects of the gospel accounts receive 'outside' corroboration. To expect hostile witness to the resurrection itself however strikes me as at best slightly absurd. Anyone who believed in the resurrection would, I'd expect, be a Christian; so that the only sources advocating that event are Christian is only to be expected. But that belief in the resurrection was early is a matter of historical fact - a fact which stands in contrast to the general vague modern-day application of the term 'myth' to Christian belief. What you do with it is up to you.

2) The gospels fit broadly into a genre of Greek biography (
comments on related things here), with Luke being reasonably classed as historiography. The term ‘tracts’ is one designed to elicit derision from Carrier’s readers; perhaps the actual arguments aren’t strong enough to do all the work required for such inflammatory claims to fully pass. The gospels talk about real places and real people, as corroborated by contemporary sources including historical accounts and archaeological evidence. This differs from some other religious accounts, which are far more clearly mythological in character. We don’t have access to all of the contemporary historical accounts that might help give context, but, for instance the early secular historians Tacitus and Josephus both refer to the existence and death of Jesus. I've looked quite closely into the controversies over Josephus and the case for an historical core of the most controversial passage seems to be the mainstream position.

3) I leave arguing this to Richard Bauckham, in “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” – it’s about what the title suggests it’s about. Available in university libraries. More info on the general reliability of the NT here,
here and elsewhere.

4) The resurrection was not an isolated miracle. Jesus was known as a miracle worker – it is a consistent theme of the gospels and is attested in the Talmud (see 2nd 'Evidence' video.)
Jesus’ resurrection started the church – a community originally focussed around Jerusalem, convinced that Jesus was raised from the dead – and quite willing to suffer for this claim. Later tradition indicates many of the eyewitnesses were persecuted and killed in the name of Jesus, but even disregarding this it is clear that they changed their lives and patterns of worship and culture significantly. What caused this abrupt change? Finally, the early Christian community was itself no stranger to miracles, as the book of Acts attests. Something happened at Easter and it didn’t all stop there.

† If you want a proper treatment of the issue, try something like NT Wright’s ‘the Resurrection of the Son of God’. I only got 30-40% of the way through it on my last attempt over the span of a few weeks, but hey, it’s worth a try.

(As a side point, some of Carrier's other contentions are discussed on this website - I've only skimmed thru' these responses.)

Apr 18, 2011


I really like proteins. They're pretty awesome. I may even write a poem about them if other things begin to seem less important. If you also want to fold proteins, check this out; download this little programme and get to it! There's even music as you go. It seems you can be part of The Cause of Science in this way, as well, contributing to actual research. (I get to do the tutorial problems for a lab, but don't let that stop you participating for entertainment.)

On Fairy Stories

(For some reason I can't insert spaces in between lines. Perhaps I shall have to learn html to fix this.) Anyway, this is courtesy of JRR Tolkien, fairly well regarded in the genre of fantasy literature: (I've only skimmed parts of this long essay; one day I shall get around to reading it, along with various other files and books lying around, in full) "... it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairystory, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, selfcontained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath. ... But in God's kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.” The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know."

Apr 7, 2011

not skilled to understand

This is one of my favourite songs. Maybe I'll blog a bit more in the next couple of weeks. I'm thinking, or hoping to think, a little about 'the origin of universe and of life', 'the place of religion in the public sphere', 'contingency and macroevolution', 'the rationality of naturalism', 'what human nature is' and such trifles; as well as natural law theories and the molecular basis of cancer, protein structure and medicinal chemistry for uni. Also, the dynamics of small groups and how one might reach tertiary institutions with the truth about Christ will also occupy some of my thought-time, all going well. I'm looking forward to actually doing some reading. If you're reading any interesting books, in any field (preferably non-fiction, though I can stretch to that for some people), let me know; I'd be interested in hearing what you think.

Mar 23, 2011

"The University is the most influential institution in any nation."

Seems a fairly plausible statement. Let's hope and pray our universities are sources of light and life.

Mar 11, 2011

John Morton dies

Sad to note the passing of NZ biologist and Christian intellectual, John Morton.
Glad to remember the resurrection of the dead.

"In 1960 he became the first person to be appointed to the chair of zoology at Auckland University, where his teaching style and influence have been well-documented in The History of Biology at Auckland University 1883-1983. He helped to found the marine laboratory at Leigh and went on to lead the marine party of the Royal Society's expedition to the Pacific. In 1969, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand."

see here for an article from a while back:

Feb 22, 2011

so, I guess this 'gospel' thing is pretty urgent then..

I've tried to write this twice before and keep on losing it, by pressing some weird combination of keys. Third time we may be successful.

Death comes seldom to NZ. Particularly seldom in large doses.

How do we respond?

How ought we?

Ought we: "Remember the value of family"? "Reassess our priorities"? "Live life to the full"? "Try to draw meaning out of chaos"? "Ignore it all"? "Make the best out of a bad situation"? "

You tell me, if you'd like.

Personally, I remember the gospel is important, it is a matter of life and death and it is not something to save for a rainy day as once it has started to rain, it is too late for some. There is a real answer to death; not one created by humanity, but one, the only one, given by God. It is the cross, it is Jesus Christ - it is the gospel.

It's worth thinking about; for without it, well, perhaps you begin to realise what a world without genuine Good News looks like.

Feb 10, 2011

Introvert at the Top?

Introverts can lead.

I think.

Preferable to have someone in charge who's thought about stuff and perhaps who doesn't say everything at once, or exhaust the depths of their intellect in casual conversation.

Go here for some further comments, found thanks to an article on
It concerns leadership in churches; but perhaps the thoughts have wider application.

Feb 7, 2011

something worth saying

One day soon I hope to spend some time reading classic sermons. There is wisdom there.

Here is one example - the entire excerpt, from Robert Hawker, is quite short and worth reading, here. I found it when quickly searching a point of doctrine I'd taken for granted in my own talk/sermon yesterday.

Precious, precious Redeemer! was it thus thou didst offer thy soul an offering for sin? Was there no method, in all the stores of Omnipotency, for satisfying divine justice, but by thy holy, harmless, undefiled body dying the violent, cursed, painful death of the cross? Oh by the crimson fountain of thy blood, which issued from thy pierced side, enable me to sit down, day by day, until I find my whole nature crucified with thee in all its affections and lusts. Let there be somewhat, dearest Lord, of an holy conformity between my Lord and me; and if Jesus died for sin; may my soul die to sin; that by mortifying the deeds of the body I may live; and by carrying about with me always the dying of the Lord Jesus, the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in my mortal body.


Feb 6, 2011

Let our powers combine - ..., he's our hero ...

I've been trying to research conservatism - and I found this fair point and challenge:

when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle - Edmund Burke, classic conservative thinker

from (according to Wikipedia) Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents

Jan 28, 2011

Cell death

Somehow, I haven't blogged recently; drowning in assignments and trying to read up on other things were significant contributing factors

Anyway, I found this, on the (main?) discoverer of apoptosis. Read it, if you want:

Jan 18, 2011

Fighting to Think

I came across a unique sport today, I think for the first time.

I used to play chess, probably being well-described as your bog-standard nerdy kid.

But I was never particularly good and I got self-conscious in realising how uncool it was, or something, so not much came of it.

Whatever my backstory, I would have had - and still would have - no hope at "Chess Boxing"

Jan 15, 2011


My assignment has gone so well in the past hour or three that I’ve been inspired to blog on the human condition; on evil, goodness and you. Yes, you. I’ll take the liberty of using a collective “we” to begin the post.

This is a picture of a Kafka book with the title "metamorphosis". It seemed suitably pretentious. Apparently, in it, a man gets turned in to an insect.

We tend to think of people as fundamentally good – a leftover verse from a hymn of the Enlightenment, perhaps it was, that created this common consensus. We snuck a look at it, lying on the trashpile and we framed it, ignoring any irony or conflict. This may be an apposite and quotable quote I have invented: “a consensus without strong fences is a fragile one”. In any case, of course, in holding such a belief in the goodness of those around us, we are faced by many glaring contradictions; occasionally we must at least glimpse the face of evil. But these tend to be distanced from us in actuality – experienced through television, WOW3 and other media, perhaps we do not consider them real or let them impact us substantially. Our family and classmates and workmates and flatmates and the mates that are too good to get a prefix are good, really. Like, they’re not bad, you know?!

This easy-going optimism – maybe it’s partly a kiwi thing – may be contrasted, at least implicitly, with a ‘religious’ view. On such a view, humankind is damned, is evil and the world sucks. Let it burn; somehow or other, a handful of moralists are righteous and the rest are goneburger. Such an ugly view; perhaps we suspect it to be disturbingly close to the truth (who after all wouldn’t want to be more moral, if it came easily?) but sure as hell, we’d rather not believe it.

A naturalist believing in no moral order (a consistent naturalist, I’d suggest), believes, or says he does, that human beings are fundamentally neither good nor evil. For, the terms are meaningless and what is required is a neutral view (it may be a moot point whether “required” could be an appropriate term.) I’ll let you assess whether this position is plausible; for now, I move on to what I consider a more promising alternative to each proposal outlined above.

The Christian view is, I would suggest, both similar and different to each of these. Firstly, the Christian view asserts that evil is real and present and ugly and real and yes I can say that twice and it’s inside every single one of us and it is something we need to face up to. But there is a but; in fact, there are two. God made mankind in his image; we are made to represent him in his creation and he intended us for good – indeed, he intended us for “very good”. The image has been trodden upon; in a bizarre self-referential loop, in trashing others and their cities, we’ve trashed ourselves and we’re stuck. Yet finally, the Christian view is hopeful. We can expect something better; we are justified in believing that justification before God is on offer to humanity, by his grace. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead; he has been vindicated and we can trust him and his atoning sacrifice, such that in doing so, we now have access to the full life that God intended for us. This is a story worth making your own.

The world is not neutral - it is subtly but crucially (yes, that ugly wooden 'cross' seems to pop up in our language even here, thanks to the derivation of our words; our so-carelessly used words!) different to that - it is two-faced, but one face is more significant than the other. It is a cliche, but it's a damn good one - the better face is the "face of love" and his name is Jesus. So many words have been written on Him and on the human condition in light of Him - and there are many more to come.

How do I come up with this.. awesomeness, you may wonder? Inspiration was drawn from working on an analysis, of this article for an English course (I may submit that here after handing it in), along with reading this blog-post: I’d also credit the Bible, particularly the early chapters of Romans, though any errors are my own rather than God’s. Recent discussions about salvation, creation and sin have also fed the conversation, so perhaps I can blame any falsehoods on my friends, the books I have read or my cultural conditioning.

Jan 13, 2011

Dilbert takes down science

couldn't get this to embed properly, but they don't seem to mind people sharing it:

Jan 12, 2011

A reply to a blog convo elsewhere

Hey Pbf,

The tone of any reply seems to me to be that my commentary is 'wrong', not for what I am saying, but for who I am.

*As far as 'who you are' goes, I believe you're a rational human person, made in the image of God, but fallen and marred through sin. Furthermore, the intended image is able to be restored as God has laid open the path to Himself, through the cross.

Then there are the general put-downs, calling any dissenters 'Fleas' and such. I guess if I came here to find out what Christians are like, if they're all not just exactly like the trolls that come on other blogs I follow, now I know.

*Sorry if you've been offended; not sure where some of that stuff has come from, but I haven't been following all of your conversations on the blog. I'd hope Christians could be civil, but I guess some aren't.

As for your historical evidence, well, they are just stories after all, aren't they?Washington had wooden teeth? The pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock? Columbus had eight bodies, each buried in a different city!?There's a few 'historical facts' right off the top of my head.

How about some Scriptural facts? The four Gospels were four untitled versions, given names well after they were written. The 'trusted historian' and apparently physician, Luke, seems to disagree with modern scholars about when Herod died and when any kind of a census was done and copied most of his story from Mark. Luke also gives us Jeus' ancestry, which is different from the one written by the author they named Matthew, both being different from the ancestral line-so-far in Chronicles.

*No reason why Luke shouldn’t use the earlier Mark as a source, particularly if it was influenced by Peter, as held in Church history and argued by e.g. Richard Bauckham “Jesus According to the Eyewitnesses” (a worthwhile read). How the gospels got their names and when/if names were attached to the early papyrus versions are subjects of debate - your assertion may sound impressive, but is hardly a fact. I have no idea about the death of Herod, it'd take too long to look it up now. The census is an interesting question, there are various options around who Quirinius was and what governor/administrator actually meant. The census would also take a while to be rolled out around the Empire, leaving more flexibility in the dates than may at first be assumed. The genealogies are both stylised and selective, intended to make their own points. If you want a harmony, differences between L&M might be explained by complex relations of marriage and adoption in a couple of places.

There is no archeological evidence for a city of Nazareth, a town of Nasareth or even a village of Nazareth at the time in question and no hill with a cliff in the area to match a story involving Jesus.

*Not really true. No reason to doubt it was a small town and wouldn’t be referred to in many places. It is known to have existed in ~132 AD as we have an inscription about priests settling in this town. There are archaeological remains from before that (particularly near-by tombs), but I’m no expert on what can be trusted and what can’t. Some sceptical sources on the topic need to be taken with a large grain of salt. E.g. is not even internally consistent. It implies that Nazareth only existed after the move of priestly families in ~132AD (mentioned in an inscription from ~300AD found in 1962 in Caesarea Maritima) and that the author of the gospel heard of this shift by poor priests and chose the town as Jesus’ location. This is ridiculous as the gospel of Matthew was written before 132AD. Nazareth mentioned is in the other two synoptics, as the site goes on to note; but both of these were also written well before 132 AD – evidence for this includes them being referred to in writings known to be before this date.
There seem to be plenty of hills around. Maybe what counts as a “cliff” is moot.

A lot of the prophecies in the Bible are obviously anachronistic accounts where the author knows more detail about the supposed future than he does about his 'present'.

*This stuff is often the subject of vigorous debate. E.g. the time in which the book of Daniel was written. and here As liberal scholar J.A.T. Robinson apparently said, "prophecy ex eventu has to be demonstrated, and demonstrated by minute and strict criteria, rather than [being] simply assumed."

Others are just lines copied from the Old Testament and reprinted with, "He said, as was foretold he would say by Isaiah(for example)", and drivel like this.

*You don’t convince me you know what you’re talking about. That phrase or something of identical meaning is exceedingly rare or non-existent in the gospels. Jesus doesn’t go around saying stuff he was ‘meant’ to say – he does things he was meant to do. Some of these could be manipulated, some less so. You’re welcome to look up the details. E.g. comparing his death to Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

Christianity is such a 'huge tent' religion that it is amazing to me how you guys can still call it the same religion. (that there's a HUGE elephant in the room), and the whole anti-science stance that millions upon millions of people of 'roughly your version' who nevertheless feel that they are privy to guidance/'knowing' from the Spirit of the creator OF the universe ITSELF is nothing short of astonishing.

*Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Now philosophy is touted to be something it is not, some saying that it is meant to clarify, but in reality, philosophers turn out to be the trickiest word-magicians of all, perhaps outdoing politicians.

*You’re suspicious of philosophy and history when they don’t support your beliefs. That’s interesting.

We're never sure if a philosopher is imagining that he has the upper hand from before engaging in a discussion simply because of the wordplay that, "Since God is defined AS existing, the sentence, 'God does not exist.', is ludicrous nonsense!", and such.

*I’ve never said that.

How do you know that God exists then Andre? Could it be something about time not going back for infinity? Could it be that there 'must be' a necessary first cause?

But that's not it really, is it? No. You think God exists and HE is the Christian God because you grew up in a Christian society, THAT's why.

*Back at you. Why are you a secularist (of whatever form) – could it POSSIBLY be related to having grown up in a secular society? I’ve analysed the evidence available to me and come to an adult decision. I acknowledge that Jesus Christ has changed my life, for the better. I have friends who’ve gone other ways; from various backgrounds. Some have become Christians, others have given it up. The same choice is available to you.

Madeleine is dead wrong that you guys want students to question their faith, because when questioned, you guys automaically think that the questioner is questioning YOUR faith. Isn't THAT right?

*I don’t get what you’re saying. If someone questions Christianity, yes they’re questioning my beliefs, as I am a Christian. This doesn’t mean I need to take it as a personal insult – perhaps it depends on how it’s done. I don’t go around calling atheists stupid and the mantras of naturalism and its devotees “drivel”, though a number patently are.

And, as I noted above, judging from the tone of the responses I get, you guys just can't handle it.

*Thanks for trying. I'm glad you see that truth matters - it does. And ultimately, it's personal, insofar as it's found in the person of Jesus.

Not feeling my happy self today, Andre, I'll look in and see if you can manage a civil response.

Best wishes for your future blog trawling and life more generally.