Friday, September 28, 2018

Roadkill Resurrection

Yes, I put the informal title first. Here's the real one: What to say to People who Demand more Evidence for God.
 
Why is there something rather than nothing?
Glacier National Park. © 2018.
The question is, how much evidence do you require? Would Jesus have to come back and slap you in the face with evidence that He is God? It seems to me that there is a line we must draw. We do this in all other areas of our lives, so why would we treat theism any different? When a court convicts, they do so “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I would like to take a few moments to explore this a bit.
But before we get to that, I want to pose a question, which is… why are you the standard? What makes you think He has to prove His existence to everyone individually? He already created the universe from nothing. In the beginning, there was a big bang. Seriously… do you believe your mom when she tells you a story about her day? Did you believe the reports of 9/11 when they were happening? Do you accept the testimony of anything you hear on social media, but not in things that have been attested thoroughly?
Jesus’ disciples, who were thoroughly Jewish, completely abandoned their faith and converted to Christianity... because of the evidence. They saw Him walk on water, turn water into wine, raise people from the dead, saw Him dead and raised to life again. If anyone of us saw these things, it would change our lives forever, just as it did with these men.
They were not anyone special. The Bible paints them in a light of almost being bumbling knuckleheads. They frequently asked Jesus strange questions; they didn’t understand a lot of Jesus’ teaching on the spot, signifying that they may have had poor comprehension; they denied Him; they abandoned Him when things got hot. They were all thoroughly human, as we can clearly see. So what makes their testimony about Jesus so powerful?
Imagine you saw in your neighborhood road kill on the side of the road, flattened like a wet sweater, and you kept on seeing it disintegrate and degrade, day after day. You knew whose cat it was and you felt bad for the little girl who is going to have to come to grips with losing it. You watch the mom and dad of the little girl scrape up the cat off the road in front of their little girl with a snow shovel, and they dug a hole for it and had a funeral for the sake of the little girl. You saw the mound every morning when you were drinking your coffee.
One day you look outside and see the mound dug up. You first think it was the dog of the neighbor on the other side of the road, and you grumble under your breath that you hate dogs. “They are so stupid.” You say. Then later that day you see this same cat alive, and in the arms of the little girl. Her parents are standing there beside her, bewildered. You asked her about it and she said that this was the same cat. You could still see the tire treads across his back. You knew this was the same animal, because it had the same markings in his fur and such, but also because you knew the quirky personality of the cat.
This experience, if it were true, would change your life forever, even after being in the Psych Ward 12 years. You would still talk about it. You would not be able to keep silent, even after being highly medicated. It would impact your life so immensely, the only way you would stop talking about it is if you were dead.
The Disciples of Christ took what they saw to the grave. They died for simply what they believed. At the threat of death, don't you think they would have recanted if it were all false or some kind of joke? We have evidence because of their testimony, but not only because of their testimony. The evidence for Christianity is a cumulative case. Do the research for yourself. Don't just look at things against it, but also for it. Discover the truth.

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

34 comments:

  1. "why are you the standard? What makes you think He has to prove His existence to everyone individually?"

    Because he claims he wants a relationship with me, and will punish me if I don't have one. That puts the onus on him to demonstrate - at a minimum - existence.

    "do you believe your mom when she tells you a story about her day?"

    usually - because the prior probability of the events in her day are high.

    "Did you believe the reports of 9/11 when they were happening?"

    Some of them, yes - like the ones that were on video. It became clear quickly that many rumors were flying around, so I waited for confirmation on nearly every claim after that.

    "Do you accept the testimony of anything you hear on social media, but not in things that have been attested thoroughly?" not usually, unless the claims are mundane.

    "Imagine you saw in your neighborhood road kill [...] later that day you see this same cat alive"

    I love this analogy, because in it you have confirming evidence - the tire tracks, the personal quirks of the cat, the confirmation of the girl, the mound of dirt disturbed, etc... Even there, I would probably still be skeptical, but your point is made that it would seriously cause me to wonder. However, the real point is that *this never happens*. You can't point to a single example like this, which also has all of the confirming evidence you put forward in your story. Not a single example - which is telling. The reason I am confident that the resurrection didn't happen is that the best Christians seem to give are these analogies which are either mundane (e.g. claims about my mom's day) or things that there is not even a single instance of (e.g. the cat coming back).

    I would wager that you yourself would not take a resurrection claim seriously if it happened today, even if you found the grave empty and you found several people insisting it happened. You yourself would want to see evidence like your cat - produce the body, produce the medical evidence that the person was dead, etc...

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    1. "Because he claims he wants a relationship with me, and will punish me if I don't have one. That puts the onus on him to demonstrate - at a minimum - existence."
      He has demonstrated His existence. He created the universe. 1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause for its existence. 2. The universe began to exist 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence (Kalam, WLC).

      "do you believe your mom when she tells you a story about her day?"
      usually - because the prior probability of the events in her day are high.

      The probability of the events of the resurrection are just as high. Just because it happened long go does not mean that the events are less probable. Time does not change probability.

      "Did you believe the reports of 9/11 when they were happening?"
      Some of them, yes - like the ones that were on video. It became clear quickly that many rumors were flying around, so I waited for confirmation on nearly every claim after that.
      The point is, that you believed a testimony far from you, whether that distance was to Pennsylvania or California.

      "Do you accept the testimony of anything you hear on social media, but not in things that have been attested thoroughly?" not usually, unless the claims are mundane.

      So then are you skeptical about being skeptical? If miracles happened all the time, they would not be miracles.

      "Imagine you saw in your neighborhood road kill [...] later that day you see this same cat alive"
      I love this analogy, because in it you have confirming evidence - the tire tracks, the personal quirks of the cat, the confirmation of the girl, the mound of dirt disturbed, etc... Even there, I would probably still be skeptical, but your point is made that it would seriously cause me to wonder. However, the real point is that *this never happens*. You can't point to a single example like this, which also has all of the confirming evidence you put forward in your story. Not a single example - which is telling. The reason I am confident that the resurrection didn't happen is that the best Christians seem to give are these analogies which are either mundane (e.g. claims about my mom's day) or things that there is not even a single instance of (e.g. the cat coming back).

      I can point to a single example to this, actually. That is what this entire article is all about. Like I said above, a characteristic of a miracle is that it is rare. The question is, do rare occurrences unexplained by the physical world exist? Is there more to life than the physical? Do all of the people who have died in all of history who believed in God have it all wrong?

      I would wager that you yourself would not take a resurrection claim seriously if it happened today, even if you found the grave empty and you found several people insisting it happened. You yourself would want to see evidence like your cat - produce the body, produce the medical evidence that the person was dead, etc...

      The thing is, we do not treat anything as guilty before proven innocent. otherwise, we would all be in jail. The police would put us in jail before we committed crime. But that is senseless. We treat things as innocent until proven guilty (see link below). If I had evidence to believe the testimony, and the evidence kept stacking up, then shouldn't anyone become convinced? The disciples of Christ died because of what they saw! If I had heard that they took their testimony to a painful death, that would certainly change things. Please research these things out and examine the evidence for the resurrection. It is what Christianity hangs on. The Bible even says that our faith would be futile if there were no resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). In any event, thank you for your serious, professional, and respectable comment. I deeply appreciate it!


      https://theologicalcommentary.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-new-testament-innocent-until-proven.html

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    2. To bblais - If you don't believe God exists, then you must believe that life formed from non-life, even though we never, never, never, never see this happen today. Why aren't you skeptical of that? The question isn't whether you will believe in a miracle. The question is, which miracle will you believe in? If you want more evidence against a naturalistic origin of life, see the public area of my Facebook page - Richard M. Evans

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    3. > To bblais - If you don't believe God exists, then you must believe that life formed from non-life

      yes, I do.

      > , even though we never, never, never, never see this happen today.

      correct. but, there are many things that fall into that category. I've never seen the Big Bang, or even the formation of a galaxy, yet I believe these happened. I have never seen the collision of a moon with a planet, yet we never see this happen today. We can infer some events from the past without ever seeing them in the present.

      > Why aren't you skeptical of that?

      Sure, but what is the alternative? Some agent doing it? The pattern I see is the following. There have been many things in human experience that have been attributed to agency - the wind, the weather, earthquakes, seizures, the arrangements of planets, the formation of the eye, the origin of life, the origin of the universe, etc... Some are still unknown - our understanding of the process is limited. Of the ones where we finally figured out what was doing it, not a single one was found to be caused by an agent. This tells me that when the questions get tough, people often take the easy-way out and attribute agency. Thus, I am reticent to attributing agency to something just because I don't understand it.

      Further, it seems plausible to me that all you need is a replicator and perhaps an enzyme to get evolution going. Since RNA is both, it seems reasonable that the origin of life would involve a molecule similar to RNA. It is also reasonable that it is a really hard problem, and that we don't understand it at all. Best answer then is, I don't know.

      Does that help clarify my position?

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  2. "He has demonstrated His existence. He created the universe. 1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause for its existence. 2. The universe began to exist 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence (Kalam, WLC). "

    Kalam has a lot of issues, more than can be gone into here. There are acausal things in physics, we don't know that the universe had a beginning - only that the expansion had a beginning, and even if the conclusion is correct there is very little we can say about the "cause" to bring it close to the traditional conception of "God".

    "The probability of the events of the resurrection are just as high. Just because it happened long go does not mean that the events are less probable. Time does not change probability."

    Actually, time does change probability. Probability is the measure of our state of knowledge of a claim. If the evidence is poor, the probability is low. I haven't seen anything in the arguments for the resurrection which, if translated to modern day, would be compelling. I find it odd that making the data *less* accessible and *less* complete than we'd demand now would somehow make the claim *more* probable?

    "The point is, that you believed a testimony far from you, whether that distance was to Pennsylvania or California."

    Sure - but I have confirming evidence on the mechanisms for that information to get to me. I know how video cameras work, I know how satellites transmit information. I also know that the ancient world didn't have these things, and that methods of communication were much less reliable as a result. Again, I fail to see the comparison.

    "So then are you skeptical about being skeptical?"

    There are certain axioms that I am comfortable having without explanation. Mathematics, for example, I don't have an issue with and I don't lose sleep over the question of whether the transitive property is determined by something else. :-) Skepticism follows naturally from probability theory, so it isn't anything one needs to be "skeptical" of. However, I would be (and am) skeptical of any conclusions I make - I can make mistake and not apply probability properly. Thus, I leave myself open to having my mind changed. Is that what you mean about being skeptical of being skeptical?

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    1. You say that Kalam has a lot of issues, but you only mention the possibility of one. But that you know what the Kalam is, is actually impressive. Tell me though, do you believe that in your research that the best explanation of the expansion of the universe does not have a cause? Even if the universe was there forever (which can be philosophically proved that there are no actual infinites), doesn't something have to cause the expansion?

      Time does not change actual historical events, however. Like the resurrection. Just because it happened a long time ago does not mean it is invalid or untrue.

      "The mechanisms for information to get to you are, in their most basic form, all the same. They are all facets of communication. The comparison is that distance does not matter, and neither does time. If it is true, it is simply that. Sure, our interpretation might change slightly, but that does not men that the event does. The resurrection has kept its integrity intact for a considerably long time, being under the harshest of scrutiny. That alone should seem cause for investigation.

      I was simply asking if you are skeptical about being skeptical because it seems that you might not have reason to be skeptical. Shouldn't our first response to a claim be to question for further information? To be skeptical for the purpose of being skeptical just seems illogical and close-minded, since we do not really live this way in reality.

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    2. > You say that Kalam has a lot of issues, but you only mention the possibility of one. But that you know what the Kalam is, is actually impressive.

      I guess I wasn't impressive enough. :) I put in a small response to each of the parts of Kalam in one sentence. Acausal events in physics refers to premise 1, we don't know that the universe had a beginning refers to premise 2, and the cause not being God refers to the conclusion (obviously compressed). I could go into more detail, but I thought these were pretty standard responses.

      > Tell me though, do you believe that in your research that the best explanation of the expansion of the universe does not have a cause?
      I don't know - there could have been a cause, it could have had an acausal beginning, it could be infinite. I don't think we know enough to distinguish between these experimentally at this point. But to say that we *know* it had a beginning and thus a cause is unwarranted. Check out Sean Carroll's response to WLC on this issue for someone who knows more about cosmology than I or WLC.

      > Even if the universe was there forever (which can be philosophically proved that there are no actual infinites), doesn't something have to cause the expansion?

      Something could cause the expansion, sure, but it could be an oscillating universe - this expansion phase is caused by the previous one. It could be the result of another universe spawning universes. It could be acausal as well. We just don't know.


      > Time does not change actual historical events, however. Like the resurrection. Just because it happened a long time ago does not mean it is invalid or untrue.

      > "The mechanisms for information to get to you are, in their most basic form, all the same. They are all facets of communication. The comparison is that distance does not matter, and neither does time. If it is true, it is simply that. Sure, our interpretation might change slightly, but that does not mean that the event does.

      Access to information does change with time, which affects our confidence in certain events. Sometimes it isn't just time, but the process that occurs in time. What I mean is this, if we take the events of 9/11, the process for the information of the events to get to my brain is pretty direct - a camera can send a near-perfect representation of the images to a satellite and to my TV at nearly the speed of light. The same events from 2000 years ago would have to be told via an oral tradition for years, written down by hand, copied multiple times for centuries until the printing press, etc... So many things could happen in that process which makes any claims which have been through that process less reliable than the camera. Some events turn out to be more reliable than others, but miracle claims are not in that category.

      > The resurrection has kept its integrity intact for a considerably long time, being under the harshest of scrutiny. That alone should seem cause for investigation.

      I actually have to laugh a bit at that claim. Christianity hasn't had the "harshest scrutiny" until, perhaps, the last 100 years - and even there I would say it has the benefit of being the majority opinion in many circles, insulating it from true scrutiny.

      > I was simply asking if you are skeptical about being skeptical because it seems that you might not have reason to be skeptical. Shouldn't our first response to a claim be to question for further information? To be skeptical for the purpose of being skeptical just seems illogical and close-minded, since we do not really live this way in reality.

      One's belief in a claim should simply scale with the evidence, following the laws of probability. It should depend on how well that claim explains the data, and how a-priori probable that claim is. The Resurrection clearly fails the latter, but I think in many ways it fails the former (despite what apologists often say). More on that later...

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  3. "If miracles happened all the time, they would not be miracles."

    Sure. But take another rare event - the production of the Higgs boson. It was predicted 50 years ago as a consequence of other observations, but it took 1/2 century and the efforts of thousands of people to be able to get good evidence of its existence. It is not out of the question to demand strong evidence for rare events. The same attitude toward UFOs, the accelerating universe, origin of life, etc... Given the stories in the Bible, and the claims of many modern day Christians, miracles are more common than, say, getting struck by lightning twice. However we have confirmed cases of the latter but no confirmed miracles. In fact, as our ability to detect such things has increased their claimed prevalence has decreased. It's the same for UFO sightings - as we get more video cameras in pockets, the number of UFO sightings goes down. This is the mark of something that isn't there not something that is.

    "The question is, do rare occurrences unexplained by the physical world exist? Is there more to life than the physical? Do all of the people who have died in all of history who believed in God have it all wrong?"

    In order of the questions, I'd say "yes", "no" (or depends), and "yes". Is that so hard to believe? People have had long-standing beliefs that turn out to be false. I don't see that as surprising. Do you? As for more than physical, I say depends because by "physical" you may mean something a bit more narrow than I'm comfortable with. Information, for example, is physical and real but it isn't made of matter or energy, really. Supernatural, as is commonly defined, is as far as I can tell ill-defined.

    "we do not treat anything as guilty before proven innocent."

    Here, I don't know what you mean by this. If someone makes a positive claim (e.g. God exists, UFOs are alien spacecraft, the universe is expanding) then the so-called "burden of proof" is on them to support their claim. This is a direct consequence of probability theory and not controversial. The positive claim is also, in the case of courts, the accusation of guilt - thus the burden of proof on the one making the claim. If there is a claim in a book, we need not take it on face value - we don't assume it is true until otherwise - or we would believe too many false things. It's complicated, of course, and we need to look at each case but if a book makes outlandish claims (e.g. miracles, talking animals) then we have good reason to not take it seriously in most matters. It may have some sprinkling of true things - good life lessons, or correct historical references - but we need not take all of its claims seriously. Even Harry Potter refers to real places and people from time to time.

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    1. That miracles are rare is not their only characteristic. Miracles are a manipulation of the natural world by the supernatural. It is an intervention by the One who can reach into the universe and manipulate the contents. I agree with you that there are many things that are mislabeled as miracles. As amazing as human birth is, it is definitely not a miracle. And we should have strong evidence for a miraculous event, which, I would think that we would if it were really miraculous. This is why I think the testimony of the disciples about Christ is still around. they witnessed His miracles, and were totally blown away with what they saw. They told people about it. They wrote about it, they gave evidence for it to people who were still around (In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is telling people to go and talk to one of the witnesses who were still living at the time). They did all these things, and on top of them, they died for it. They were fishermen and boring, normal dudes, who witnessed these crazy things and their lives were changed forever, just like ours would be. they were no one special. They were thoroughly Jewish and changed their religion because of the truth.

      Just because your answers are simple to my three questions does not mean they are the right answers. Do you know that there is nothing beyond the natural? Supernatural means beyond nature. Do you believe anything exists beyond nature? I'm not talking about abstract objects, information in that sense would be abstract, not concrete. like the number 7, for instance. But I am talking about a spiritual world. like, what is it that causes this bag of hormones and chemicals that I call a body to have life in it, capable of thinking and sensing? Why is it that someone is alive one moment and dead the next moment? Mechanically speaking, if the broken parts are fixed, then the machine should come back to life. Why is it that I possess my body? I call it my body, but what is saying, "my?" Is there a spirit within me? Is there something more to this mechanical/bag of chemicals that has life and is capable of thoughts and memories and even love and hate (let alone following the directions on a piece of IKEA furniture)?

      I agree with you about the burden of proof. the question is, how much evidence is required? "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the gong rate. Who says the claims are outlandish? What is it that makes them outlandish? It is not like Jesus turned Himself into a spaceship or the apostles became swamp things at nighttime. In any event, Harry Potter does not claim to be a book of truth, let alone a historical account.

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    2. > That miracles are rare is not their only characteristic. Miracles are a manipulation of the natural world by the supernatural. It is an intervention by the One who can reach into the universe and manipulate the contents.

      How do you demonstrate that? Is it just something you don't understand and you attribute "supernatural" causation? I just have never seen any actual demonstration of the supernatural. Have you?
      > I agree with you that there are many things that are mislabeled as miracles. As amazing as human birth is, it is definitely not a miracle.

      sure - and I think people use words in different ways. Even the Stanford Encyclopedia article on Miracles has multiple definitions.
      > And we should have strong evidence for a miraculous event, which, I would think that we would if it were really miraculous.

      Good, we're in agreement there. I also don't think you necessarily need to demonstrate supernatural causation to talk about miracles. For example, the event of someone being raised from the dead should be able to be demonstrated regardless of ones interpretation of how it was done. I haven't seen anything at all convincing for any miracle claim I've looked into.

      > This is why I think the testimony of the disciples about Christ is still around. they witnessed His miracles, and were totally blown away with what they saw. They told people about it. They wrote about it, they gave evidence for it to people who were still around (In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is telling people to go and talk to one of the witnesses who were still living at the time). They did all these things, and on top of them, they died for it. They were fishermen and boring, normal dudes, who witnessed these crazy things and their lives were changed forever, just like ours would be. they were no one special. They were thoroughly Jewish and changed their religion because of the truth.

      Ok, that's what you believe, but that's perhaps just a story. How do we demonstrate it's correct? The stories of the disciple's deaths are largely mythical - even by modern Christian standards. But you bring up 1 Corith 15, so let's address that. Paul, who never saw the living Jesus only a vision, lumps himself in with Peter and James in that passage - which is entirely consistent with the idea that Peter and James simply had a vision, or related a story as such. If 500 "witnesses" were cited, and we are encouraged to find them, why no names? Why write this to an obscure Church in Corinth - where the people would have no way to actually corroborate this claim? Why were the 500 never mentioned in any of the Gospels? Why aren't the women or the emtpy tomb mentioned by Paul? When you start to really look at the stories in detail, you find that it becomes a challenge to corroborate any of it and there are puzzling gaps.


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    3. > Just because your answers are simple to my three questions does not mean they are the right answers.

      yes, that's correct. but they are quick to write. If we keep this up for a week, we'll have a book the size of War and Peace. :)

      > Do you know that there is nothing beyond the natural? Supernatural means beyond nature. Do you believe anything exists beyond nature? I'm not talking about abstract objects, information in that sense would be abstract, not concrete. like the number 7, for instance. But I am talking about a spiritual world.

      I'm not sure what that would mean, and I definitely haven't seen anything that has convinced me there is. Until such a time, Occam's razor suggests that we assume there isn't until demonstrated.

      > like, what is it that causes this bag of hormones and chemicals that I call a body to have life in it

      The laws of physics and chemistry. We actually have a pretty good understanding of how life is different from non-life, and the explanation makes no use of outside agency or life force (élan vital).

      > , capable of thinking and sensing?

      Here we have the field of neuroscience, again without the use of outside agency in any of its descriptions.

      > Why is it that someone is alive one moment and dead the next moment?

      The chemistry stops.

      > Mechanically speaking, if the broken parts are fixed, then the machine should come back to life.

      Correct, but the "fix" is way way outside of our technical ability right now. It's not enough to just put the parts back in their place - you have to get all the chemistry working again.

      > Why is it that I possess my body? I call it my body, but what is saying, "my?"

      Your brain is saying it - it is your internal model of what is attached to your body.

      > Is there a spirit within me?

      There is no evidence of such a thing. How would you demonstrate it? Even in theory?

      > Is there something more to this mechanical/bag of chemicals that has life and is capable of thoughts and memories and even love and hate (let alone following the directions on a piece of IKEA furniture)?

      Well, now that we're talking IKEA, the rules all change! :-)


      > I agree with you about the burden of proof. the question is, how much evidence is required?

      That depends on the claim and the consequences. When someone comes up to me and says they got a new dog, I'll believe them because it's a pretty mundane claim. If they said that got a new giraffe, I'd want to have someting a bit more than their say-so.

      > "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the going rate. Who says the claims are outlandish? What is it that makes them outlandish?

      Not only have we never seen anyone come back from the dead, but further, we understand what physical process would be needed at a minimum to achieve that (whether the instigator of the process is supernatural or not), and we have many similar claims where we can demonstrate their unreliability. Ditto for walking on water and healings. That's what makes it outlandish - the prior probability is low.


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    4. Acausal events in physics do not have observable evidence. One very unknown and slightly researched field in comparison to what is observable, will not convince anyone in their right mind. Do you have another example of things that are (what it esoterically means), uncaused? We only observe events that are caused. In any event, we could also go on about the impossibility of infinite regress, but I digress.



      I believe the best explanation of the expansion of the universe does not have a cause. If there is a cause for that cause, then that which caused that cause is uncaused. This is what God is. He is the uncaused cause. He is the greatest conceivable being. Even if there was an event or quantum physical object with an acausal beginning, I would naturally have to question what caused it to move in and out of existence? Did itself? If I didn't question why something happens, what kind of a researcher would I be? If this violates the law of causality, then why don't many other things also violate it? Why is the violation of the law of causality so extremely limited? I have to ask, how far will you go to convince yourself that there is no God? The Bible says, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." I think some of the so called discoveries in science are impatient conclusions... hasty generalizations.



      Interesting. I didn't think anyone maintained the Oscillating Model any longer. For one thing, "There are no known physics which would cause a collapsing universe to bounce back to a new expansion..." (WLC). I could go on about the Hawking-Penrose Singularity Theorems as well, but, from conversing with you thus far, I am sure you are well aware. In any event, you are right. "We just don't know." Why is there any reason to believe anything other than the Standard Model? We have the most evidence for this model. On top of that, how would we explain the problem of infinite regress?



      We have 99.8% accuracy of the original manuscripts. Not a single doctrine has been changed, and the reason we know this is because we have over 6000 manuscripts of the New Testament now. Often they are archived away in museums and colleges for hundreds of years only to be rediscovered. Think about it, we do not have the original biblical texts, and the reason for this is because they have simply been passed around so many times from being copied. think how many hands they have passed through in order for us to have over 6000 ancient manuscripts today! In order for this message to be changed, the original manuscripts would have to be collected, even though they were spread like wild fire through the entire civilized world, all burned and rewritten in order to start over. and then changed. The changes that you speak of are absolutely non-existent. Some translators translate the Bible today from the "Majority text" which is the collection of all the texts and analyzing their variables. This is actually what gives us 99.8% accuracy of the New Testament. It is because we have so many fragments and manuscripts to compare. I would say that the witness of the Bible easily reaches across the last two millennia to today. In fact, it seems almost a better witness than a camera, since a film can be manipulated and biblical text cannot be.



      I'm glad you found humor in this, but truthfully, Christianity has had scrutiny since its birth. For one, the disciples were all martyred, secondly, the Jews in Jesus day lied about the events that took place, and what about Muslim and occult persecution throughout history? Have you ever researched why the crusades were even started? Have you ever read the Qur'an? Hardly has Christianity been insulated.



      Simply look at the testimony. Why treat it as guilty right off the bat? Like I said, the first thing to do is to question, not assume guilty.

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    5. < How do you demonstrate that? Is it just something you don't understand and you attribute "supernatural" causation? I just have never seen any actual demonstration of the supernatural. Have you?

      I know that the events in my life cannot have been without meaning. Not that I am trying to make sense of life, etc., but I look back at my life and see the path that I walked through. I cannot be convinced that many of these spectacular events could be unguided or simply by chance. It is demonstrated in personal experience.

      < Good, we're in agreement there. I also don't think you necessarily need to demonstrate supernatural causation to talk about miracles. For example, the event of someone being raised from the dead should be able to be demonstrated regardless of ones interpretation of how it was done. I haven't seen anything at all convincing for any miracle claim I've looked into.

      We do have strong evidence for the resurrection. Why should the resurrection be able to be demonstrated? If you won the mega millions lottery, or whatever, would you be able to demonstrate again that you were the winner by playing again?

      < Ok, that's what you believe, but that's perhaps just a story. How do we demonstrate it's correct? The stories of the disciple's deaths are largely mythical - even by modern Christian standards. But you bring up 1 Corith 15, so let's address that. Paul, who never saw the living Jesus only a vision, lumps himself in with Peter and James in that passage - which is entirely consistent with the idea that Peter and James simply had a vision, or related a story as such. If 500 "witnesses" were cited, and we are encouraged to find them, why no names? Why write this to an obscure Church in Corinth - where the people would have no way to actually corroborate this claim? Why were the 500 never mentioned in any of the Gospels? Why aren't the women or the emtpy tomb mentioned by Paul? When you start to really look at the stories in detail, you find that it becomes a challenge to corroborate any of it and there are puzzling gaps.

      I believe it because of the evidence! We demonstrate that it’s correct by examining the evidence of what was said. I’ll say more on this concerning the book of Acts—a historical document of the highest order—below. Peter and James were able to be asked if Paul said who he said he was. If Paul came to Peter and James with a different testimony and knew who Paul was before he became the man he now is (in the time of 1 Corinthians), earlier being a persecutor of Christians, don’t you think that would help them (Peter and James) have evidence that Paul is who he now says he is? The 500 witnesses were a lot of names. Why not just ask one of the twelve who these witnesses were? Paul was inviting his readers to come and ask him who they were! Paul lived in Corinth for at least a year and a half. Don’t you think there would be a way for the Corinthians to corroborate Paul’s invitation? If he got there, why could they not go there? Did the 500 need to be mentioned in the gospels? They are mentioned elsewhere. Plus, the people would have known about them anyway. “It’s not like this was all done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). As far as the empty tomb is concerned, I don’t know what you are talking about. Paul mentions the empty tomb in this very passage. Verse 4 says that he was buried. In what a trunk of a car? When you start to look at the stories in detail, you will find that what is told is true.

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    6. < yes, that's correct. but they are quick to write. If we keep this up for a week, we'll have a book the size of War and Peace. :)

      We should write a book!

      > Do you know that there is nothing beyond the natural? Supernatural means beyond nature. Do you believe anything exists beyond nature? I'm not talking about abstract objects, information in that sense would be abstract, not concrete. like the number 7, for instance. But I am talking about a spiritual world.

      < I'm not sure what that would mean, and I definitely haven't seen anything that has convinced me there is. Until such a time, Occam's razor suggests that we assume there isn't until demonstrated.
      I’m sure there are a lot of things you haven’t seen that you believe. Maybe it’s time to initiate different presuppositions of epistemology. ;)

      < The laws of physics and chemistry. We actually have a pretty good understanding of how life is different from non-life, and the explanation makes no use of outside agency or life force (élan vital).

      < Here we have the field of neuroscience, again without the use of outside agency in any of its descriptions.

      < The chemistry stops.

      < Correct, but the "fix" is way way outside of our technical ability right now. It's not enough to just put the parts back in their place - you have to get all the chemistry working again.

      < Your brain is saying it - it is your internal model of what is attached to your body.

      < There is no evidence of such a thing. How would you demonstrate it? Even in theory?

      < Well, now that we're talking IKEA, the rules all change! :-)

      If all of this is only chemical and mechanical, then I guess love is as well? So when a man cheats on their wife, should she just accept it as him “dancing to his DNA?”

      < That depends on the claim and the consequences. When someone comes up to me and says they got a new dog, I'll believe them because it's a pretty mundane claim. If they said that got a new giraffe, I'd want to have something a bit more than their say-so.

      Who is it that draws the line to know what is true and what is not? How can we know truth?

      < Not only have we never seen anyone come back from the dead, but further, we understand what physical process would be needed at a minimum to achieve that (whether the instigator of the process is supernatural or not), and we have many similar claims where we can demonstrate their unreliability. Ditto for walking on water and healings. That's what makes it outlandish - the prior probability is low.

      WE might not have seen anyone come back from the dead, but that doesn’t mean that no one has, ever. Technically, there are many things that walk on water now. Many species of spiders do, water striders do, some lizards do… even snowmobiles and dirt bikes have! It is not outlandish, but is established. But seriously, if the one who created the universe from nothing came to earth, would he have any physical limitations?

      Now it is getting ridiculous if it wasn't before! How many words are we up to?

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  4. "If I had evidence to believe the testimony, and the evidence kept stacking up, then shouldn't anyone become convinced?"

    Yes, one should be able to convince anyone if the evidence is really there.

    "The disciples of Christ died because of what they saw!"

    Actually, we don't know even that. Even in the stories about them, it is unclear if it would have made much difference if they had recanted.

    "Please research these things out and examine the evidence for the resurrection."

    I have and am unconvinced. We have stories, yes, but we have many stories from many sources that we don't actually believe. As a method of examining the claims,I refer back to the idea of mapping the same evidence to modern times - the same evidence (e.g. empty tomb, testimony by upwards 500 people, etc...) wouldn't convince us now. Having those claims in unreliable books written decades after the events 2000 years ago should make the situation worse not better.

    (sorry for the multiple posts, but it put a limit of ~4000 chars per comment).

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    1. The evidence keeps stacking up, my friend... Archaeologically, logically, philosophically, historically... It is waiting to be examined. Why would the book of Acts, for instance, a historical document of the highest order, mention all these things that are observable even today, and lie about all of the miracles it mentions as historical?

      We know without any doubt that from extra-biblical sources, even, that the disciples died for what they saw.

      Do you think that people have reason to believe an event like 9/11 didn't happen because it was decades ago? I think the fact that it WAS only decades ago and people wrote about it and spoke about it attests to the fact that it did happen. these testimonies concerning this impact event will be heard for the next two millennia will still be heard because 9/11 simply was an impact event. This is why we still hear of the resurrection today. This is why there are a billion Christians on the earth right now. It is also why the Bible is the number one best seller. Because the Bible is, in fact, reliable. Research these things from guys who know what they are talking about. Actual scholars on the resurrection, like Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig and Norm Geisler, etc. The list is a big one. The more they research and study the evidence, the more their evidence-based faith is strengthened. You cannot deny that these are brilliant men, yet they believe in the resurrection... Because of the evidence.

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    2. > The evidence keeps stacking up, my friend... Archaeologically, logically, philosophically, historically... It is waiting to be examined. Why would the book of Acts, for instance, a historical document of the highest order, mention all these things that are observable even today, and lie about all of the miracles it mentions as historical?

      I am not sure we can call Acts a "historical document of the highest order", and I am not sure which things you're talking about in terms of being observable today. If it is buildings or cities, is it really all that hard to imagine that you would have mundane truthful things mixed with mythology in a book with a clear theological purpose?


      > We know without any doubt that from extra-biblical sources, even, that the disciples died for what they saw.

      I'd need definite citations for this claim. A nice summary can be found here: https://celsus.blog/2012/12/18/48/ Not convincing.

      > Do you think that people have reason to believe an event like 9/11 didn't happen because it was decades ago? I think the fact that it WAS only decades ago and people wrote about it and spoke about it attests to the fact that it did happen.

      And it was recorded *immediately* and there are living eye-witnesses now and we can go see that the buildings themselves are gone...

      We don't we have anything of that magnitude for the Resurrection.

      > these testimonies concerning this impact event will be heard for the next two millennia will still be heard because 9/11 simply was an impact event. This is why we still hear of the resurrection today. This is why there are a billion Christians on the earth right now. It is also why the Bible is the number one best seller.

      An argument from popularity doesn't get very far with me. There are many reasons, including some complex history of the Roman empire, why Christianity has spread. Although you may claim the Bible is the number one best seller, other books in that category are the Q'uran and the Little Red Book (the printing estimates are uncertain) - I doubt that, if you found out that one of those was actually the best seller, would switch to arguing for them on this basis.

      > Because the Bible is, in fact, reliable. Research these things from guys who know what they are talking about. Actual scholars on the resurrection, like Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig and Norm Geisler, etc. The list is a big one.

      I've read each of these as well, in addition to Mike Licona, Richard Swinburne, and Richard Bauckham. I've also read Sam Harris, Robert Price, Sean Carroll, and Matt Ferguson. There are some clear patterns - with the theology not on the winning side.

      > You cannot deny that these are brilliant men, yet they believe in the resurrection... Because of the evidence.

      Actually, that's not how WLC comes to believe. In his own words,

      > The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel like a magistrate and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel.... Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter.

      He states it multiple times in other ways, but it is absolutely the case that WLC is not a believer due to evidence but by his own personal revelation. Thus, I am not impressed with WLC or his arguments - they are offered cynically - whatever will fit, regardless of their truth value.

      This is a bit longer than planned but there was a lot here to respond to.


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    3. < I am not sure we can call Acts a "historical document of the highest order", and I am not sure which things you're talking about in terms of being observable today. If it is buildings or cities, is it really all that hard to imagine that you would have mundane truthful things mixed with mythology in a book with a clear theological purpose?

      Finally, Acts is a historical document of the highest order because “Luke reports a total of 35 miracles in the same book which he records all 84 of these historically confirmed details” (Geisler, Turek). But not only that, Luke mentions wind direction, water depths, and strange town names and people. Why would he not be accurate about the other events? Archaeologically speaking, we can still go and look at these things and see them described the same way they were in the Bible. In fact, archaeologists use the Bible to find artifacts and places of antiquity.

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    4. < I'd need definite citations for this claim. A nice summary can be found here: https://celsus.blog/2012/12/18/48/ Not convincing.

      Josephus: https://www.bartleby.com/library/prose/2920.html; Martyrdom of Bartholomew; Eusebius; Tacitus… These are all extra-biblical sources. Not all of them died a martyr’s death, but many of them did. So we do know that without a doubt, even from extra-biblical sources that some disciples died for what they believed. And on top of that, there are a lot of martyrs who died under Nero because they were Christians… Because of what they believed and perhaps even witnessed.

      < And it was recorded *immediately* and there are living eye-witnesses now and we can go see that the buildings themselves are gone...
      We don't we have anything of that magnitude for the Resurrection.

      This was what they had. If they had video cameras, they would have used them. When the event happened, there were eye witnesses. We can still go see the foundations of the buildings mentioned in the Bible that surround the narrative.

      < An argument from popularity doesn't get very far with me. There are many reasons, including some complex history of the Roman empire, why Christianity has spread. Although you may claim the Bible is the number one best seller, other books in that category are the Q'uran and the Little Red Book (the printing estimates are uncertain) - I doubt that, if you found out that one of those was actually the best seller, would switch to arguing for them on this basis.

      I get it, but at the same time, this collection of books we call the Bible really gives people hope. That is why I believe it is the #1 best seller. In other words, there is a reason it out sells every other book on the planet. Like what hope do people have in being an atheist, for instance? “…When you die, then you are simply out of existence. That is just the way it is… Suck it up, buttercup.” Seriously though, who wants to live like this? How can one be truly happy with this impending doom in their near future? Also, what would be the purpose of life? If you just end up as worm dirt, what purpose did your life serve? What meaning did your life ultimately have? Whether you lived like Mother Teresa or Adolph Hitler, why would it matter? The Bible tells us about God, who gives our lives ultimate significance.

      I've read each of these as well, in addition to Mike Licona, Richard Swinburne, and Richard Bauckham. I've also read Sam Harris, Robert Price, Sean Carroll, and Matt Ferguson. There are some clear patterns - with the theology not on the winning side.

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    5. I’m just glad you didn’t mention Lawrence Krauss. :)

      > You cannot deny that these are brilliant men, yet they believe in the resurrection... Because of the evidence.

      Actually, that's not how WLC comes to believe. In his own words,

      > The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel like a magistrate and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel.... Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter.
      He states it multiple times in other ways, but it is absolutely the case that WLC is not a believer due to evidence but by his own personal revelation. Thus, I am not impressed with WLC or his arguments - they are offered cynically - whatever will fit, regardless of their truth value.
      This is a bit longer than planned but there was a lot here to respond to.

      But seriously, what about Francis Crick? Antony Flew? C. S. Lewis? Lee Strobel? There are many examples of brilliant men if you do not like those ones. Regarding WLC, you cannot deny that he is a brilliant man, even if you are not impressed with his arguments. Anyone who earns two doctorates in different fields must know an extraordinary amount of information. Cynical arguments of WLC, now that’s funny. I always thought they were concise, and eloquent. I do not find him to be extremely polemical, after all, he is an apologist. In any event, you’re in my prayers, man. Thank you for all of the dialogue and keeping it professional. I didn't even see one ad hominem! ;) Thanks again!

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    6. > There are many examples of brilliant men if you do not like those ones.

      Oh, I can list many other smart ones that are atheists. If you look at the ranks of the national academy of science, it's something like 97% atheist, so I don't think you want to go there. Truth isn't determined by a nose count, anyway. I try to look at the arguments. I agree that WLC is smart, but on the other hand it is easy to see some of his limitations. His use of the BGV theorem for example is problematic, as interpreted by some of the authors of the theorem - who clearly know better than he does. He has been told this, and yet continues with that argument.

      > I didn't even see one ad hominem

      that's because I've forgotten all the latin I learned in high school. :)

      take care, and glad to discuss these things.

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    7. > This was what they had. If they had video cameras, they would have used them. When the event happened, there were eye witnesses.

      We really don't know that. We have stories, without author designations, written years (likely many decade) after the event and copied many many times through Christian hands. We don't have the originals, or even copies within 100 years of the events. The authors do not state they are eyewitnesses - excepting one small passage in John, which has every sign of being added later to the text. I've read the entire Bauckham tome on eyewitnesses, and the logic in that text (despite its length) is seriously problematic, and the textual support is questionable. Nearly every way of concluding that, say, Matthew and Mark actually wrote those texts comes from some dubious texts in Papias. The others are even thinner. We have nothing at all like video camera documentation. We don't even have texts written by known eyewitnesses. To compare the documentation for 9/11 to the Gospel record is stretching it quite a bit.

      > We can still go see the foundations of the buildings mentioned in the Bible that surround the narrative.

      Sure, but we'd expect that even in a fiction? We'd expect that even from authors that were sincerely writing down stories 100 years afterward, right? Just because there are some places and things mentioned doesn't mean the rest is true. In fact, if you were trying to historicize a mythical character (as was done with Hercules and others) this is exactly what you'd expect - place the mythical character in a real setting. I'm not necessarily advocating this as what actually happened with Jesus (although it's possible). My point is that the mention of real things in an otherwise fantastical story doesn't lend credence to the the fantastical parts.

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    8. > I get it, but at the same time, this collection of books we call the Bible really gives people hope. That is why I believe it is the #1 best seller. In other words, there is a reason it out sells every other book on the planet. Like what hope do people have in being an atheist, for instance? “…When you die, then you are simply out of existence. That is just the way it is… Suck it up, buttercup.” Seriously though, who wants to live like this?

      Now, this is a totally different argument. One could make the argument that the net benefit of religion is psychologically positive for people. I'm not completely convinced by that, but let's say it is true. That doesn't mean that the actual statements in the Bible are true - just that they are useful. Personally, I prefer truth over mere usefulness so this form of argument doesn't move me but I can see why it might move others. However, let's imagine that God doesn't exist - would you prefer to know an uncomfortable truth or live in the delusion? I can see people feeling both sides of that one.

      > How can one be truly happy with this impending doom in their near future? Also, what would be the purpose of life? If you just end up as worm dirt, what purpose did your life serve? What meaning did your life ultimately have? Whether you lived like Mother Teresa or Adolph Hitler, why would it matter?

      Does meaning only matter if the events are infinite in time? Even for a Christian, this finite life would clearly have meaning even though finite. Meaning, I think, we have to create for ourselves. We arrived on this planet through no choice and we get meaning from all of the things around us - our relationships, our successes, even our failures. The fact that it will end makes this life even more valuable.

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    9. < We really don't know that. We have nothing at all like video camera documentation. We don't even have texts written by known eyewitnesses. To compare the documentation for 9/11 to the Gospel record is stretching it quite a bit.

      The reason we don’t have the copies of the originals is because they were handled so frequently that they likely disintegrated. They were handled so frequently because they were copied. The texts spread like wildfire, not for no good reason. The Biblical text is more supported than any other ancient document in history. The amount of texts that mention Alexander the Great, for instance, do not even compare. In any event, you say that “We don’t even have texts written by known eyewitnesses” but, you’re forgetting the books of Matthew and John. I have also heard argumentation that Luke was an eyewitness as well, but that’s beside the point. They were both eye witnesses. It is not like they were Christians before Jesus came, they were thoroughly Jewish, their parents and family were thoroughly Jewish, and that is all they knew. Yet they abandoned their faith and became followers of this man Jesus, who impacted their lives so deeply, that they could not get away from this impact, much like 9/11. If they had video cameras, they definitely would have used them. They used the best stuff that they had available to them in order to record the events, as well as proclaim the events.

      < Sure, but we'd expect that even in a fiction? Just because there are some places and things mentioned doesn't mean the rest is true. I'm not necessarily advocating this as what actually happened with Jesus (although it's possible). My point is that the mention of real things in an otherwise fantastical story doesn't lend credence to the fantastical parts.

      The Bible was not written as a fiction. The gospels, for instance, are historical narratives. They were written as history books, in other words. No credible scholar believes that Jesus never existed. Not even Bart Ehrman. The mention of the details surrounding the events show that the author was writing a historical account. Why would the author be so specific about the mundane details in the world around him, and lie about the extraordinary events? On top of this, we even have some embarrassing testimonies about Jesus. If the authors were trying to embellish, why would they write, “And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:17-18). Certainly no one would put that in the book they were trying to sway followers.

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    10. < Now, this is a totally different argument. One could make the argument that the net benefit of religion is psychologically positive for people. I'm not completely convinced by that, but let's say it is true. That doesn't mean that the actual statements in the Bible are true - just that they are useful. Personally, I prefer truth over mere usefulness so this form of argument doesn't move me but I can see why it might move others. However, let's imagine that God doesn't exist - would you prefer to know an uncomfortable truth or live in the delusion? I can see people feeling both sides of that one.

      It doesn’t mean that the actual events are true, but it is further cumulative evidence, no matter how small one may believe it is. I personally want to know the truth. If God did not exist, I would want to know that. Why would anyone want to live a lie? But, the evidence is toppling over, and I continue to search.

      < Does meaning only matter if the events are infinite in time? Even for a Christian, this finite life would clearly have meaning even though finite. Meaning, I think, we have to create for ourselves. We arrived on this planet through no choice and we get meaning from all of the things around us - our relationships, our successes, even our failures. The fact that it will end makes this life even more valuable.

      Meaning only matters if the life is infinite. If you create meaning yourself, what real meaning is that? Because you say it is meaningful? If that is the case, then Hitler could have had a meaningful life as well. If life ends with no justification or reward afterwards, that would make life meaningLESS. Our lives are significant, but only because of what happens after we die. We cannot have a significant life, no matter what relationship we are in, or what our successes or failures are. If we end up as worm dirt, if the ultimate state of the universe results in heat death, why would it have any significance at all? If no one or nothing is around to learn, discuss, reminisce or build, then there was never meaning to life. Our successes (degrees, written books), our failures (divorces, or lost opportunities), or even relationships (happily married, loving and good kids), would have no ultimate significance, no matter how much meaning we unrealistically assigned to it while we were living. It would be as if we never existed in the first place.

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  6. > It doesn’t mean that the actual events are true, but it is further cumulative evidence, no matter how small one may believe it is.

    Actually, no it isn't. Arguing for whether something feels good or gives you hope has no connection to whether it is true. You can gave things that make you feel bad that are true and things that make you feel good that are false. Truth is arrived at through other arguments than this.


    > I personally want to know the truth. If God did not exist, I would want to know that.

    good! we are in agreement!

    > Meaning only matters if the life is infinite. If you create meaning yourself, what real meaning is that? Because you say it is meaningful? If that is the case, then Hitler could have had a meaningful life as well. [...] if the ultimate state of the universe results in heat death, why would it have any significance at all?

    I think there can be meaning on different scales. From the scale of the universe, we probably don't have meaning. On the small scale, with our friends and family, we do. I don't see a problem here - but we may be talking past each other on this one.

    On the flip side, you speak of reward and punishment afterward and the concept of justice after you die. I look at the Christian doctrine of repentance to be the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card. (I've been told that if you bring up Hitler in an argument that you're conceding the argument - but since you did it first, I can at least respond) If Hitler did all those things we know he did, but had a death-bed conversion he's going to heaven. Gandhi, on the other hand, despite any good he's done across his life time if he's not a believer he's doomed to eternal torment. Hard to wrap my brain around the justice/logic of that. Did Gandhi's life not have meaning then, in the Christian view?

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  7. > The reason we don’t have the copies of the originals is because they were handled so frequently that they likely disintegrated.

    ...or they were made out of papyrus which degrades all by itself. ...or it was handled a lot because paper was expensive, so anything written would be deemed important.

    > The texts spread like wildfire, not for no good reason.

    The estimates I have seen of the actual Christian numbers places the growth of Christianity in the first and second century not any different than other religions that experienced growth - Mormonism, Scientology, Islam, etc...

    > The Biblical text is more supported than any other ancient document in history. The amount of texts that mention Alexander the Great, for instance, do not even compare.

    We are in agreement. However, if consider who was writing things down during the 100's of years from 100AD to 500AD you'd notice that most of them were Christian. So, not too surprising.

    > In any event, you say that “We don’t even have texts written by known eyewitnesses” but, you’re forgetting the books of Matthew and John. [...] No credible scholar believes that Jesus never existed. Not even Bart Ehrman.

    I've noticed an interesting pattern here, and wonder what you think about it. You're quick to point out historical consensus - even bringing up Bart Ehrman a couple of times. So let's see where that goes. Is it historical consensus that the authors of the gospels are actually Matthew Mark Luke and John, the characters mentioned in the stories? Is it historical consensus that the miracle stories in the Bible - including the resurrection - are true? I don't think so. So, I don't think you can stand on historical consensus on some issues and not on others - without good reason. I'm ok with the historical consensus that Jesus existed - I just think the argument is weaker than is generally communicated, and might for me be about 60-40. You also seem to have a habit of quoting the story as if it were fact: "they were thoroughly Jewish, their parents and family were thoroughly Jewish, and that is all they knew", "They used the best stuff that they had available to them in order to record the events", etc... The point is beyond their say-so, how do we know these things? We really don't.

    > The Bible was not written as a fiction. The gospels, for instance, are historical narratives.

    really? Seems pretty allegorical to me with some sprinkling of history here and there. The only thing that comes close to admitting the form is the preface to Luke, but that could easily have been used to give the text a sense of authority that it didn't merit. Hard to tell. Seems like the study of these things gets pretty murky, which is fine - I'd expect that. It's just when people make strong pronouncements that this stuff is certain where I have an issue.

    Going back to our evidence discussion, I'd still like an example of this:

    > > Could you give me a non-theological example where evidence is considered credible even if not empirically true or scientifically tested? Or are all such examples "supernatural"? Can you give an example of a non-material explanation that you are convinced of (from the evidence) and tell me by what process you used to determine whether that explanation was correct?

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    1. > It doesn’t mean that the actual events are true, but it is further cumulative evidence, no matter how small one may believe it is.

      Actually, no it isn't. Arguing for whether something feels good or gives you hope has no connection to whether it is true. You can have things that make you feel bad that are true and things that make you feel good that are false. Truth is arrived at through other arguments than this.

      If something is true, then it is more evidence. More evidence = stronger argument for the actual event.

      > I personally want to know the truth. If God did not exist, I would want to know that.

      good! we are in agreement!

      > Meaning only matters if the life is infinite. If you create meaning yourself, what real meaning is that? Because you say it is meaningful? If that is the case, then Hitler could have had a meaningful life as well. [...] if the ultimate state of the universe results in heat death, why would it have any significance at all?

      I think there can be meaning on different scales. From the scale of the universe, we probably don't have meaning. On the small scale, with our friends and family, we do. I don't see a problem here - but we may be talking past each other on this one.
      On the flip side, you speak of reward and punishment afterward and the concept of justice after you die. I look at the Christian doctrine of repentance to be the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card. (I've been told that if you bring up Hitler in an argument that you're conceding the argument - but since you did it first, I can at least respond) If Hitler did all those things we know he did, but had a death-bed conversion he's going to heaven. Gandhi, on the other hand, despite any good he's done across his life time if he's not a believer he's doomed to eternal torment. Hard to wrap my brain around the justice/logic of that. Did Gandhi's life not have meaning then, in the Christian view?
      On the small scale or the large scale, if there is no God, then there is no ultimate significant meaning. If we cease to exist, then it will be like we never existed.
      The Bible says that you can tell a tree by the fruit it produces. In other words, what kind of fruit did Hitler produce? Do you think that he was a follower of Christ by the way he acted? I get the deathbed argument, but it is completely unrealistic. In any case, if he repented, and confessed Christ and trusted in Him alone, yes, he would go to heaven.

      Gandhi would not be going to hell for the good things he has done. He would go to hell for the evil that he has done. This is the same for anyone. The evil that everyone, me, you, Gandhi, etc., has done, this is what sends us to hell. “For all have sinned (committed moral failures against God) and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). Did Gandhi, you or me ever look at a woman with lust? Did we ever steal anything at all? Even when we were children? Did we ever tell a lie? Of course we did. We are human. The moral failures are what send us to hell. We come up short of God’s standard, of His perfection. God didn’t have to do anything, but He did. He sent Jesus to talk our place on the cross. “For the wages of sin (moral failures) is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Who is God in the flesh)” (Romans 6:23).
      Because God exists, Gandhi’s life has intrinsic value. “God desires that none should perish.” He loves everyone, but he won’t force someone to love Him. Would it be real, genuine love if a husband forced his wife to love him? Definitely not. “Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Everything hangs on the resurrection! “For God so loved the world that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

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    2. < ...or they were made out of papyrus which degrades all by itself. ...or it was handled a lot because paper was expensive, so anything written would be deemed important.

      Haha… sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have the originals and can see why they were so important.

      < The estimates I have seen of the actual Christian numbers places the growth of Christianity in the first and second century not any different than other religions that experienced growth - Mormonism, Scientology, Islam, etc...

      For one thing, the amount of people were smaller in number. Secondly, research the beginning of Islam. No one liked it, so they resorted to the sword. The promises of Islam and Mormonism are very similar. They are both mad made religions. They both basically promise endless sex when one dies. Do these sound like man made religions? I know that if I made a religion, this is what it would sound like. Basically that man can become gods, which is literal in Mormon theology (for more on this, check out my other posts on Mormonism). L. Ron Hubbard once said that he has written so many words in fiction, but the real money would come from a religion. Guess what he did? He made a religion. Look at all of the self-serving agendas that these three religions have. This is nothing like Christianity, which is why there is such a difference in growth. 2.2 billion Christians on the earth in 2010. Nothing really comes close. Islam was 1.6 billion, which in billions, that might seem close, but it is literally over half a billion difference in number. That is pretty significant. In any event, none of those numbers represent people who were Christians or Muslims and are dead. How many much higher would those number be! But I know you are not into the popular…

      < We are in agreement. However, if consider who was writing things down during the 100's of years from 100AD to 500AD you'd notice that most of them were Christian. So, not too surprising.

      But all of them became Christian. The fact that they were Jewish and converted says a lot.

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    3. < Is it historical consensus that the authors of the gospels are actually Matthew Mark Luke and John, the characters mentioned in the stories? Is it historical consensus that the miracle stories in the Bible - including the resurrection - are true? [...] The point is beyond their say-so, how do we know these things? We really don't.

      Would it really matter much who wrote them? We know by their writings if they were Jewish or not, so if it was Frank, Bob, Billy and Joe, we would still have the same thing. They didn’t want to mention who they were, probably because they didn’t want to take glory from Christ (if that could even be possible).
      In any event, like you have said in the past, that you are not convinced by popular vote, so if the majority is unconvinced that the miracles in history are actual, then shouldn’t you actually believe in miracles? ;)

      < Really? Seems pretty allegorical to me with some sprinkling of history here and there. [...] It's just when people make strong pronouncements that this stuff is certain where I have an issue.

      I’m not sure in the gospels where you see allegory? They are definitely written as historical, eye-witness accounts. In any case, I think it is good to be skeptical generally, but not so much that it blinds someone from the truth. I know what you are saying, though. That is why it is good to continue studying and discover on one’s own.


      > > Could you give me a non-theological example where evidence is considered credible even if not empirically true or scientifically tested? Or are all such examples "supernatural"? Can you give an example of a non-material explanation that you are convinced of (from the evidence) and tell me by what process you used to determine whether that explanation was correct?


      Physical eyes cannot see the spiritual. Like gravity, we cannot see it, but we can see the effects of it. I can see that gravity pulls things toward the center of the earth, just like I can see that God works in my life. I can “see” that He answers prayer. Hindsight is a process of determination. But the thing here is, you are looking for proof. If there were proof, what kind of person would you have to be in order to believe? I have wrestled with this myself, actually. Why does God require faith, of all things? I think that God wants us to believe in the testimony of others, because this intimately deals with integrity. We live in a world with cameras and where every idea has to be cited because people do not believe each other at face value. Nor do I! I think that if our integrity were perfect, however, we would believe everything we heard, because it would all be the truth. Jesus talks about Satan saying that “when he speaks, he speaks his own native language because he is a liar and the father of lies…” (John 8:42 my translation). It is kind of interesting that Jesus would describe Satan as one who is basically the inventor and/or promoter of lacking integrity. This causes me to think that knowing that God could prove His existence to everyone all over the world and that He doesn’t is because 1. He is God, after all. 2. Because He gave us enough cumulative evidence to believe that He exists and works in our lives. He never asks us to believe in Him blindly. That is not what faith is. Faith is evidence-based.

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  8. > > Actually, no it isn't. Arguing for whether something feels good or gives you hope has no connection to whether it is true. You can have things that make you feel bad that are true and things that make you feel good that are false. Truth is arrived at through other arguments than this.

    > If something is true, then it is more evidence. More evidence = stronger argument for the actual event.

    Actually, you might need to learn a bit about how evidence works. Having something feel good is not any evidence that it is true - not even a little. You could argue the opposite direction as well - if it makes you feel good, then even a false belief may be more easily spread.

    > I personally want to know the truth. If God did not exist, I would want to know that.

    > > good! we are in agreement!

    > The Bible says that you can tell a tree by the fruit it produces. In other words, what kind of fruit did Hitler produce? Do you think that he was a follower of Christ by the way he acted? I get the deathbed argument, but it is completely unrealistic. In any case, if he repented, and confessed Christ and trusted in Him alone, yes, he would go to heaven.

    > Gandhi would not be going to hell for the good things he has done. He would go to hell for the evil that he has done. This is the same for anyone. The evil that everyone, me, you, Gandhi, etc., has done, this is what sends us to hell.

    I have real issues with this sort of "morality".

    1) Infinite punishments for finite "crimes".
    2) "crimes" that are not at all the fault of the person
    3) rewards and punishments uncorrelated with actions or intentions

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  9. > > < Is it historical consensus that the authors of the gospels are actually Matthew Mark Luke and John

    > Would it really matter much who wrote them?

    Really? If they aren't the eyewitnesses, or have some connection to them, then the idea of nearly entire fabrication becomes a real possibility. Does this not matter to you?

    > so if the majority is unconvinced that the miracles in history are actual, then shouldn’t you actually believe in miracles? ;)

    well played. :-)

    > I’m not sure in the gospels where you see allegory? They are definitely written as historical, eye-witness accounts.

    No, they weren't. Two of them never even hint that they are eye-witnesses. One of them (Luke) actively denies that he's an eye-witness. And one of them (John) has one obtuse phrase about testimony (John 21:24) which has every indication of being tacked onto the text later. Other than that, we have no indication that these are eye-witness accounts. They don't read like them, for sure.


    > > Could you give me a non-theological example where evidence is considered credible even if not empirically true or scientifically tested?

    > Physical eyes cannot see the spiritual. Like gravity, we cannot see it, but we can see the effects of it. I can see that gravity pulls things toward the center of the earth, just like I can see that God works in my life. I can “see” that He answers prayer.

    This doesn't actually answer the question. I didn't ask for examples of invisible non-theological things - there are many of them. I asked for a non-theological example where evidence is considered credible even if not empirically true. In the case of gravity, even though we can't see it, we can empirically explore it - how fast do things fall, does it change with distance, is the same thing that makes things fall near the Earth keep the moon in orbit, etc... We can make quantitative _predictions_ about gravity, like allowing us to estimate masses of distant objects we can't even travel to.

    We should be able to do the same with answered prayer, right? Predict under what circumstances prayer will more likely be answered? Does it depend on who does it, or what they are praying for? We know people are bad at observing in individual cases - mistaking correlation for causation, or seeing patterns in random events - so the best way we've found is to be empirical about it.

    > Hindsight is a process of determination.

    Hindsight might be a start, but it is definitely not a process of determination. _Prediction_ is. You can suggest a pattern in hindsight - hmmm, seems like the pattern of planets follows a pattern (i.e. Bode's Law) like a=4+x with x = 0,3, 6, 12, 24, 48, etc... Then you go back and say, we should expect a planet around 2.8 AU, let's look for that...oh my we found it! (Ceres). Let's try again further out...oh no...there are some missing, and we found Neptune which isn't in the pattern. Oh well, guess Bode's law is just a coincidence. It's through _prediction_ that we can remove the possibility of self-delusion, of 20x20 hindsight.

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  10. > But the thing here is, you are looking for proof.

    I am not looking for proof, but rather sufficient evidence, and the assurance that I am not fooling myself into wishful thinking, or some other logical fallacy.

    > If there were proof, what kind of person would you have to be in order to believe?

    This isn't an argument, and as far as I can tell isn't even hinted in the Bible that you should be willing to believe something on bad evidence to be a good person. In fact, God didn't seem to have a problem showing himself _directly_ to people in the past, why is it such a hard thing now? Even evidence of _existence_ (which is a pretty low bar) should be separate from any idea of following or worshiping him. Even Lucifer had good evidence of God's existence.

    > I have wrestled with this myself, actually. Why does God require faith, of all things? I think that God wants us to believe in the testimony of others, because this intimately deals with integrity. I think that if our integrity were perfect, however, we would believe everything we heard, because it would all be the truth.

    God of all people should know that testimony is unreliable - even in cases of people of high integrity. This is basic biology, so why would he choose to rely on such an unreliable method? This kind of reasoning strikes me as coming from someone who is observant enough to recognize that something doesn't quite seem right in the level of God's absence, but is insisting there must be _some_ reason for it. It's not mentioned in the Bible, seems inconsistent with the way God worked in the past, and has logical problems but at least gives a stab at the incongruity of the situation.

    > He never asks us to believe in Him blindly. That is not what faith is. Faith is evidence-based.

    You can say that, but it doesn't make it true. When the evidence you've presented is shown to be weak you seem to fall back onto non-arguments (e.g. it gives you hope, what kind of person requires evidence, you need to trust testimony, etc...). I had the same problem when I converted away - I kept finding that when push came to shove, there were just too many issues and that the arguments I kept falling back on weren't real arguments. You can allow yourself to see that maybe that warm feeling you get in Church is from inside you and your interactions with people and possibly not some external agent, and that the prayers that worked for you were possibly a combination of coincidence, moving the goal post, and in some cases the result genuine human compassion. Once you allow yourself to look at things that way then the numbers of unanswered prayers becomes a lot more understandable and the reason that God "requires" faith becomes pretty obvious.

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