Monthly Archives: January 2008

Show #1: Tom Cruise Video

I worked so hard to get the final podcast product set to go that I neglected to find a way to distribute it.  The final size is to big for Yahoo-GeoCities and WordPress won’t allow MP3 uploads without a paid upgrade.

So, for right now, if anyone would like to listen to the first podcast, please drop me an e-mail and I will send it to you.  The final size is 19 Mb, so you’ll need to make sure that your mail reader will support something that large.

Thank you for your patience.  I will find a distribution method for the podcast very soon!

A late update: I did get this thing distributed, finally. Download the show here.

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The Portable Atheist: How A.C. Grayling Poisons the Well

I was at the library today, and as I so often do when I’m there, I checked out a book: The Portable Atheist, which is an anthology of “essential” atheistic writings collected and edited by the inimitable Christopher Hitchens.

I’m not going to read it in order, and I’m not going to read the entire thing, but I am going to read an essay or two each day and post some thoughts.

The first essay I read was “Can an Atheist be a Fundametalist” by A.C. Grayling. Grayling has a notable hatred of religion in this piece, which failed to argue its premise. Rather than actually argue if the term “fundamentalist” is appropriate to call an atheist, the piece instead focused upon the “evils of religion,”and all of the usual canards that go with it. It closed by saying that “naturalist” is a better term than “atheist.”

Well, so far, I’m not impressed. I do, however, see why this book is aimed at the unbeliever. This essay was preaching to the choir, not trying to reason with someone who might be curious about entering the fold of atheism. We shall see if any of the other pieces in the book are actual arguments or if it is just a collection of hit-pieces against religion.

Tom Cruise Video Preempts Women in the Bible Discussion

My critics may look at this as symbolic, but I need to strike this story while the iron is hot.  I am preempting my very first podcast, which was supposed to be on the Bible and women, in favor of a Christian response to the Tom Cruise video that has been sweeping the Internet like a great storm.  The Bible on women episode will air February 15.

The current episode is on schedule to air February 1.  If anyone would like to make a listener contribution on either the Tom Cruise video or on the Bible on women, please e-mail an mp3 file to tucholskic@gmail.com.  Listener contributions are always welcome!

EXPOSED: Bryan Adams is a Cannibal!

**WARNING: Irony ahead!**

Using the same standards that skeptics apply to the Bible, I have concluded that Canadian singer Bryan Adams is a cannibal. There is no other plausible answer to the dilemma skeptics’ standards.

This shocking truth dawned on me today when I was at work, and I heard the song “Have You Ever Loved a Woman.” Here is a snippet from the foul, disgusting lyrics:

To really love a woman,
Let her hold you,
Till you know how she needs to be touched.
You’ve got to breathe her, really taste her,
Till you can feel her in your blood
.
And when you see your unborn children in her eyes …
You know you really love a woman.

Notice the boldfaced portions–ignore the rest of the context. The only way to truly understand something is to isolate it from its context and read it hyper-literally with no regard to accepted literary devices. Doing that, there is only one way to understand “tast[ing] her” and “feeling her in blood”–Mr. Adams must be referring to eating her.

Since this line appears in a romantic love song, one can only conclude that Mr. Adams finds this practice loving and romantic. Therefore, the only way that a man can show love to a woman–in Mr. Adams’s sick and twisted world–is to eat her.

Some people will argue that Mr. Adams is speaking metaphorically.  But I see no reason to conclude that.  And even if he is, he is still hinting at cannibalism, which is disgusting any way you slice it.

Some may further object that I’ve used circular reasoning.  First, I ignore context, then I place the snippet into its broad context.  But that doesn’t matter much, either.  This is the same way that skeptics read the Bible, so it must be correct.  Just look at the disgusting John 6–this verse also talks about the same wretched practice of cannibalism.

It is only fair.  If you apply one standard to the Bible, you should be able to apply it to everything.  So the conclusion is absolutely inescapable: Bryan Adams is a cannibal.  We must organize a boycott of his music immediately until he renounces this horrid practice.

VJack Strikes Again

VJack, the writer of Atheist Revolution, has struck again with another anti-religion post. Most notable is this paragraph:

Belief in a god (or gods) is similar in the lack of evidence, but different in that it is far more likely to have negative consequences. Maybe you have heard your religious relatives condemn others for not adhering to the same religious beliefs. Maybe you have seen them behave in a manner inconsistent with the religious values they profess. Or maybe you’ve just grown tired of the endless religious violence, the pedophile priests, the holier-than-thou routine, or the utter hypocrisy of it all. In other words, religion is unlike Santa because it divides people and contributes to great suffering.

How many atheist missionaries are there active the world today? How many atheists band together, raise all of the funds necessary for self-sufficiency, and then strike out into a hostile foreign country to help suffering people? Before you think that religion contributes to suffering, ask yourself how many religious people dedicate their lives to helping others.

But he is right in one respect–there are religious people who behave inconsistently with the values that they profess and who condemn others solely on the basis of the faith that they hold. There is religious violence, pedophile priests, and many religious people profess a holier-than-thou routine.

But, at the risk of adopting a holier-than-thou routine, I’m going to ask my central question one last time: How many atheist missionaries are active in the world today? And the follow-up: What are atheists doing to alleviate some of the suffering in this world, aside from trying to blame religion for all of it?

Tom Cruise’s Scientology Speech

If it wasn’t for the fact that Scientology flies directly in the face of everything I believe as a Christian, I might endorse Tom’s overall message.  He’s touching on a lot of the issues that I’ve been covering–atheist misconceptions about how Christians think that the world works.  Look at Ephesians 2:8-10:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (emphasis added)

We are saved, and truly in Christ, only by God’s grace.  That grace is a free gift, and not based on works.  If it were based on works, then grace is no longer free.  Instead, we are saved by His grace through our faith in Christ (see Rom 10:9) plus nothing.

What about the works that I’ve highlighted?  Simple: look at 1 John 5:1-3:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

We obey out of love, not out of necessity.  Obeying out of necessity is a curse to us–“Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them” (Deut 27:26).  Studying all 613 (or so) laws of the Old Testament, I think that we can agree that it is impossible to do all of them.  We’re going to mess up somewhere.  And guess what happens if you mess up only once:

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. (Jms 2:10-11)

But the point is we need to obey God.  The idea is to do this out of love, not out of some perceived need to become saved.  The Bible is quite clear that it is impossible to follow all of these 613 laws and live (see Jn 6 with the idea that bread = law).

Cruise has done a great job underscoring the necessity to help our fellow man for his Scientologist followers.  Perhaps Christians should heed his words also: let’s do more to help our fellow man.  Let’s do that, however, out of love and not out of the insane notion that it will get us in God’s good graces.  We who are Christians are already in His good graces by His gift to us; our works cannot add anything to that salvation.  But they can make the world a better place and that is the real point of doing them.  We’re going to be here for a long time, and our children are going to live here after us.  Let’s turn a better world over to them than what we started with.

Refuting Jake, part 3

This is the final installment (for now) of my examination of the comments of an atheist named Jake on my other site:

Also, the Talmudic references to Christ are dated possibly to between 70 and 200 A.D., but more than likely from between 200-500 A.D. These are hardly contemporary. Moreover, there are several possible references to Christ, not “one” as you claim. In addition, the facts stated in the Talmud dispute the Biblical account. Christ being hanged and not crucified is one example.

That’s easy to refute. First, writing was tedious and not undertaken lightly back in the first century. Therefore, committing something to paper usually took years. Normally, oral tradition was done first. This explains the disparity in the dates. For the time, this was contemporary.

Second, the “facts” in the Talmud would dispute the Biblical account; that was the point to writing them. We would expect nothing less. Your example is flawed, however, since “crucifixion” and “hanging” were the exact same thing in Roman Empire terms. Look at Galatians 3:12-14–Paul uses that same terminology to describe Christ’s death.

Finally, just for the record: I hate to say it, but Lee Strobel’s books are regarded as a joke as far as apologetics go. He does nothing to examine legitimate evidence for any of his books’ subjects. Far better apologetics can be found elsewhere.

I’ll grant you that. Strobel attempts to make the heady subject of apologetics accessible to a general audience, and he waters it down quite a bit. However, the folks that he interviews are experts in their respective fields and have done much to further the study of apologetics. Strobel presents a good primer to the study of apologetics and by reading the books of his interview subjects and the recommended reading at the end of each of his chapters, one can get a much better understanding of the issues he raises.

That was the end of Jake’s first comment. He left two more.

Jake continues:

I realized that I misspoke: which books comprise the Apocrypha is not universal across Christianity, and therefore. it was incorrect of me to imply that the Apocrypha were rejected by all of Christianity. The Catholic church (as well as a number of other groups, most typically the Orthodox sects) still includes several gospels in their New Testament that are not found in the Protestant Bible (the same goes for some OT books). I meant to say that these are rejected by Protestants, which greatly diminishes their reliability as sources. At the very least, it seems inappropriate for a Protestant author to cite them as evidence for martyrdom of the apostles when the remainder of the information in these gospels is rejected.

First of all, the apocrypha that the Catholics accept and Protestants reject is seven books of the Old Testament.  The four-fold gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are universal across Christianity.  Only the Jesus Seminar treated the Gospel of Thomas as canonical.  Rejecting something as apocryphal only reduces its value for determining Christian doctrine.  It still deserves consideration as a historical document, provided it is near enough to the time to produce useful eyewitness information.

Further, the twenty-seven traditional New Testament books are also universal across Christianity.  There are no books of the first century or second century that receive consideration from any denomination for inclusion in the canon.

Finally, I was citing church tradition, not specific documents, for the martyrdom of the apostles.  I referred to this article for further information on the deaths of the apostles.

Jake’s final comment:

The books commonly referred to as the apocrypha are Old Testament books rejected by Protestantism but accepted by Catholics and various Orthodox groups. Various other sources, like the Gnostic gospels or the Acts of Phillip, are generally universally rejected and remain apocryphal to all faiths. Nevertheless, some traditions about the deaths of the apostles come from such rejected works.

Consequently (and what I really meant to say), I think it inappropriate for a Protestant author to cite works that are rejected by some or all Christian faiths, as the veracity of such works is questionable at best.

Again, I cite church tradition, not specific sources.  There are plenty of orthodox works from the same time period where this information may have come from, works that are not considered apocryphal by any means.  Letters from early church fathers, historians, or apologists would not be considered apocryphal and therefore would be useful for my purpose.

Refuting Jake, part 2

Yesterday, I examined some of an atheist named Jake’s comments on my other site. Today, I will continue examining and refuting his claims:

In addition, the statement that the apostles went to their “own horrific deaths proclaiming that Jesus rose again” is an outright deception of the historical record. There are only three references to deaths of the apostles in the Bible. One refers to Judas, who killed himself, and the other to James, who was killed by Herod (it doesn’t say anything about why James was killed, or what he exclaimed at his death). Although Christ implies the death of Simon Peter in the book of John, this event is not recorded. Any other martyrdom story about other apostles is derived from either Gnostic or Apocryphal gospels, which are rejected by Christianity, or from communal traditions typically not accepted as fact.

My statement is not deception.  It comes from church traditions, not from gnostic sources.  Church traditions are not derived from gnostic sources.  Jake is assuming that all second-century material is gnostic in its nature, and that just isn’t true.  But I’m glad that he isn’t arguing with me that the apostles died martyr’s deaths–it allows me to echo this statement:

It is not so important how the apostles died. What is important is the fact that they were all willing to die for their faith. If Jesus had not been resurrected, the disciples would have known. No one will die for something he knows is a lie. The fact that all of the apostles were willing to die horrible deaths, refusing to renounce their faith in Christ – is tremendous evidence that they had truly witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (source)

Jake then continues:

Regarding evidence for Christ: again, you’re being deceptive. We have absolutely zero contemporary secular sources for the existence of Christ himself, let alone for any of the apostles or miracles. In addition, when you state “from around the same time”, what you really mean is only as early as about 60 years after the death of Christ. These hardly count as contemporary. Josephus, for example, is writing around the year 93. Tacitus’ references to Christ are from the second century and are possibly based in part on Josephus (both of them, for example, make the exact same mistake on Pilate’s government title).

Zero secular references?  Josephus mentions Jesus twice, Tacitus mentions Jesus, and all of the following writers mention Jesus at some point: Lucian of Samosata, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Thallus, Phelgon, Mara Bar-Serapion, Trajan, Macrobius, Hadrian, Antonius Pius, Marcus Arelius, Juvenal, Seneca, and Hierocles (McDowell, Evidence for Christianity, 171-174, 189-90).  The ancient world relied on oral tradition before a written document was created, and 60 years is a really short span of time for this material to appear in “print” compared with most people of this time period.  So these references are contemporary in that context.

Speaking of Josephus, he only mentions Christ twice. The most famous reference, the so-called “Testimonium Flavianum”, is regarded as a probable forgery. See, for example, Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus”. . . . Even if the Testimonium Flavianum is not a forgery, it is not a first-hand account of Christ and makes no claim to be one. His knowledge of Christ would just be second-hand information, as he himself could not attest to it, nor does he claim to know anyone with first-hand knowledge of Christ or any of the apostles.

I’m not arguing with the forgery.  However, a careful reading of the Testimonium reveals that it has elements consistent with Josephus’ other writings.  Here’s the “TF.”  The parts in blue are most probably the original reading, and the parts in red are the probable additions by Christian copyists:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.  (source)

The blue parts make sense without the red, and form a paragraph consistent with Josephus’ writing style.  However, even if one concludes that this passage is a complete fabrication, one still has to deal with the shorter passage that mentions Jesus; a passage that a majority of historians conclude is authentic.  From the folks at Early Christian Writings:

But assuming that at least the shorter reference is authentic, what can we conclude from this? It shows that Josephus accepted the historicity of Jesus. Simply by the standard practice of conducting history, a comment from Josephus about a fact of the first century constitutes prima facie evidence for that fact. It ought to be accepted as history unless there is good reason for disputing the fact. Moreover, it is reasonable to think that Josephus heard about the deposition of Ananus as soon as it happened. Ed Tyler points out in correspondence, “The passage is not really about James, but about Ananus. It’s the tale of how Ananus lost his job as High Priest. So why would Christians in Rome be the source for the tale of how a High Priest lost his job? Josephus was close at hand when it happened, and was a man of some standing in the Jewish community. I can’t imagine that he missed it when it was news, and didn’t find out about it until he talked to some Christians about 30 years later.” Thus, Josephus’ information about the identity of James brings us back to the period prior to the First Jewish Revolt. If Josephus referred to James as the brother of Jesus in the Antiquities, in all likelihood the historical James identified himself as the brother of Jesus, and this identification would secure the place of Jesus as a figure in history.  (source)

Tomorrow, I’ll wrap up my discussion of Jake’s comments.

Refuting Jake, part 1

An atheist posting under the name “Jake” has challenged my articles from God is NOT Imaginary. I’ve decided to take him on in a series of posts on this blog instead of in super-loooooooooong comments on the other site. His three comments appear in response to this article.

Your refutation to premise 1 is problematic. For example, you indicate that the absence of hostile sources is proof positive that Christ performed miracles. An equally valid, though alternative explanation is that Christ didn’t perform miracles. Or, that Christ didn’t exist. If either of these were the case, we could expect no contemporary hostile sources to exist. Because you obviously know that these alternative explanations are legitimately valid, your argument falls under the logical fallacy of “argument from silence”.

This isn’t true. First, I can’t prove that anything 2000 years ago happened. But I can go with the weight of the evidence, and the weight of the evidence is on the side of the gospels as historically accurate. Given the existence of these sources and given the deposed nature of Christianity, it seems to me that if Jesus didn’t perform miracles, secular sources would exist that refuted the gospels’ contention that He did perform them.

It is problematic for you that the epistles of Peter and John appeal to eyewitnesses (cf. 1 Pet 5:1; 1 Jn 1:1-3). This means that the apostles were writing to people who had actually seen the miracles performed–people who would know whether or not what the apostles said was true.

I don’t believe that any of those alternative explanations are possible, therefore I am not arguing from silence.

Furthermore, you know as well as I do that the authenticity of the gospel authors is highly disputed, even amongst Christian scholars. The fact that four gospels attest to miracles in the first person certainly is a type of evidence for the miracles, but if those four gospels are based off only one source (whether it be “Q” or Mark), or off oral traditions, it is incorrect to treat each as credible testimony.

To my knowledge, Christian scholars have always maintained the traditional authorship of the gospels. The second century Church Fathers are absolutely unanimous in attributing the authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Absent any earlier or more reliable testimony to the contrary, it is therefore easy to conclude that the authors of tradition are the authors of the gospels. There is no evidence that the gospels are based off of some anonymous source “Q.” It is more likely that Mark was first, and Matthew and Luke wrote next, one working from the other and both from Mark. Luke is most probably the copycat, since his intention was to create an orderly history (cf. Luke 1:1-4) and he probably would have used available source documents in order to create the most accurate history possible. For a more in-depth treatment, see here.

Your reply to number 2. You’re following circular logic: “I know that the resurrection is true because the Bible says that it is true. We know the Bible is true because Christ was resurrected”. Besides the gospels, there are no independent attestations to the resurrection, to an empty tomb, or to any of Christ’s miracles.

I’m not following circular logic. I believe in the Resurrection because nothing else explains the facts–not because the Bible tells me so. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God because of the Resurrection. J.P. Holding has an excellent essay on the low probability Christianity would exist today if not for positive proof of the Resurrection. William Lane Craig has an excellent article on the historicity of the empty tomb.

Tomorrow, I will continue examining Jake’s comments.  He raises many good issues, and this is much better thought-out than the comments that I usually get.  I’m enjoying sparring with him and I hope that my refutation illuminates the hearts of people like Jake, and of Jake himself.  I pray that God uses this for His glory!

God is Real, and He has Blessed Us!

Praise God for blessing my new blog, God is NOT Imaginary with success! In less than a month, we are coming on 1000 page views already, with a record day yesterday that tops anything this blog has ever seen!

Keep praying out there! I can see the results!