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. http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/nazareth.html 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. http://www.tektonics.org/af/danieldefense.html and here http://www.tektonics.org/guest/danielblast.html 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.


  1. I said, "..not for what I am saying, but for who I am."

    To which you replied.

    *As far as 'who you are' goes, I believe you're a rational human person, made in the image of God..*

    This is hardly what I'm talking about.

  2. You say, "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."

    "The first four historical books of the New Testament are supplied with titles (Euaggelion kata Matthaion, Euaggelion kata Markon, etc.), which, however ancient, do not go back to the respective authors of those sacred writings."

    Doesn't seem like much of an 'assertion' since the Catholic Encyclopedia isn't about to say they were anonymous if they weren't, right?

    In fact it seems like it is YOU 'making a bold assertion' that I'm just 'asserting things'.

  3. TBH, I didn't really know what you were saying with the "for who I am" thing, so I decided to share why I think you have value. It seemed about as relevant as what you'd said.

    The Cath Encyc says "which, however ancient, do not go back to the respective authors.." - that doesn't compare exactly with what you wrote (i.e. what I was responding to) - you assert that the gospels were "untitled versions, given names well after they were written." I don't think that's a fact and I'm not sure how it could happen to be too useful a fact for you anyway. They don't as far as I know directly claim to be by eyewitnesses apart perhaps implicitly in the gospels of John and Matthew. I don't know how good the C.E. is as a source, but I would recomment the Bauckham book I mentioned earlier; there are a few other scholars I can point to, arguing similar things, if you'd like.

    I tried to find a reputable source on the possibility of the names being attached to the papyrus scroll, but I only found whacko conspiracy websites in my brief search, so I leave that to you for now.

  4. " I didn't really know what you were saying with the "for who I am" thing.."

    This is, what I call, 'glancing-off-the-point'.

    It's a bad start if you want to portray yourself as serious.

    I had a big 'fun' rant coming your way, but sadly it got lost in the intertubes.

  5. Seems to me Andre, that there is no good reason for me to believe what you do and that there is, equally, no good reason for you to believe what I do.

    I feel that I do have good reason to believe that you guys(in general) don't really believe what your books say. No one, for example, is about to sell all their possessions to 'follow Jesus'.

    You guys(in general) will continue preaching and listening to preachers warn that atheists are the root of all the problems in the world, "God-haters!", and such, and that we have 'no grounds for our morality', if you imagine that we even have any at all!

    I, quite simply, don't believe that there are such things as gods. I'm not trying to make myself out to be one, or committed to crime, evil, sex or making money.

  6. I said, "..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."

    What I mean is, if you write something, a blog post or a comment on a blog, a lot of the time any negative response is not taken as an opportunity to further explain at all, it's taken as a questioning of your faith.

    Honestly Andre, I don't feel that anything that I say could shake your faith, but I might be able to convince you that some of the things you take on faith are not so obviously true.

    BTW, guess you notice that I got my Google I.D. back! Here I thought that my little blog was of not much interest to anyone else barring the small group who follow it.

  7. Ian, you seem to think I take most aspects of my Christian beliefs "on faith". I don't think so however - I've spent a fair amount of time looking into the details and I think they fit together well; internally and with the rest of what I know or suspect to be true.

    It would not be difficult to throw a similar accusation at you. Perhaps you also take many things on faith; for instance, what sceptics of Christian claims say, or that naturalism makes sense of the world, that the things you take for granted in making your arguments are well explained on naturalism - and the like. I assume you are a naturalist, failing any objection. I think it's a more accurate term for most people in the sceptical-of-religion category than "atheist".

  8. Global corporations are the 'gods of this world' that you pretend to fight.

  9. Not sure what category of philosophy I'd 'fit into' Andre.

    I believe that all life that we know of is biological. I don't believe that we have truly free choices. I'm not impressed by philosophical arguments for God.

    I'm not sure how much we can know about the Universe by looking at ever tinier spots in the sky or how much we can know about matter/energy by smashing tiny particles together, although there might be many breakthroughs to come.

    I think that the belief in gods is a psychology/sociology problem since politics is how it seems to manifest itself on this ball of mud we live on.

    About your faith thing. I don't believe that you NEED to take that much on faith, just the idea that there is a spirit realm which is inaccessible to scientific investigation.

    I suppose that in the good old days electro-magnetism was considered to be a manifestation of such a realm, but once it came under scientific investigation, I'm sure that religionists were quick to point out that that was not the realm that THEY were talking about, don't you think?