Strobel’s A Case For Christ – religious propaganda

July 6, 2008 at 3:44 pm 54 comments

(from comment #96 on A Curious Christian with a Few Questions for de-converts)

It is my firm belief that any book which asks the reader in its preface to put away all subjectivity and view both sides of a debate topic equally will immediately plunge headlong into logical fallacies and spin-doctoring. Such is the case with Strobel’s ‘The Case for Christ’. Not that I mind Strobel presenting only one side of an argument – he is after all making a ‘case’. However, to pretend this has any objectivity at all makes Strobel’s intentions suspect from page 1.

Strobel, acting as a journalist, interviews a dozen or so leading Evangelical scholars for their evidences for their belief in Jesus Christ. The questions he asks are fine, but in general he never asks the follow-up questions that are just screaming to be asked. One assertion after another is left unchallenged. Bruce Metzger claims there are over 5000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, so the reader is left with the impression that each manuscript is evidence of the reliability of Scripture. But Strobel fails to asks how many of those 5000 are actually useful for determining the actual text. Strobel fails to ask how many centuries have passed between the time of Jesus and the time the vast majority of those manuscripts were written.

Donald Carson claims that Jesus fit the profile of God revealed in the Old Testament. Strobel should have asked Carson about Marcion, the early church heretic who found no similarity between YHVH and Jesus, and in fact claimed they were two entirely different deities.

Craig Blomberg claims that the the disciples of Jesus all died martyrs deaths (John excepted), thus giving their witness to the Resurrection of Jesus added weight. This assertion by Blomberg was left unchallenged by Strobel. Why didn’t Strobel ask how we know how any of the disciples died and evidences that we have for their deaths? The reason is that the accounts of their deaths are from legendary sources, some written centuries after the fact.

Strobel fails to counter any Evangelical claim. I am not asking for counter-arguments by skeptics. Again, I understand that Strobel is making a ‘case’ and I am fine with only one side presented. I am interested in his opinions. But if Christ has a case to be made, that case should stand up against the strongest argument Strobel can build. Yet Strobel is content with the weakest of arguments, leaving any obvious follow-up challenge unasked. And like any good objective book, the fact that it includes instructions on how to ‘receive Jesus into your heart’, as sort of an alter-call appendix, leaves Strobel hawking Christianity like a bad Amway product. He is desperate to have me buy his wares for any reason, no matter how flimsy.

I gave Rob VandeWeghe’s dreadful apologetic book ‘Prepared to Answer’ zero stars, but I am giving Strobel one star because the book was well written and extremely easy to read. Then again, that could also be its curse. This is dumbed down religious propaganda – the only question I now have is who the intended audience for such books is? Does Strobel really think he can win the unbeliever over with this spin like some Evangelical used car salesman? Or is he aiming this toward the Christian who took the religion on faith and wishes for some excuse, any excuse to ‘objectively’ believe? That is one question I wish I had the answer to.

Originally published on HeIsSailing’s Shelfari Page

Entry filed under: HeIsSailing. Tags: , , , , .

Are de-converts open to re-converting? To die is gain? – On religious martyrdom and forgiveness

54 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Black Sheep  |  July 6, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    “This is dumbed down religious propaganda – the only question I now have is who the intended audience for such books is? Does Strobel really think he can win the unbeliever over with this spin like some Evangelical used car salesman? Or is he aiming this toward the Christian who took the religion on faith and wishes for some excuse, any excuse to ‘objectively’ believe? That is one question I wish I had the answer to.”

    Yes!!! Great questions. You hit the nail on the head. My guess is that his main readers are Christians looking for a fast easy defense of their faith. The reading is easy and the thought requirement is extremely minimal. I cringe inside when I hear Christians mention these books. A year or so ago I read ” A Case for Faith.” It was disgustingly, embarrassingly disappointing. Especially the chapter on Hell. LAME. These books simply support the non-negotiable presuppostional beliefs.

  • 2. thefaithfulmind  |  July 6, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    I’ll give you that, it doesn’t give the other side of the argument and it leaves some points uncontested. Even as a Christian reader, I noticed it disappointing that Strobel didn’t ask some of these extra questions. However, in my mind, there are certain questions about Evolution and other popularly-accepted alternatives that do not even try to answer some of the counter-arguments that Christians pose to them, writing them off as unimportant…but, in my mind, every question is important and worthy of answering.

    Ultimately, though I do find it a good read, The Case for Christ isn’t perfect in its craftsmanship if it was built to be a “Read this and You’ll Convert” book. Honestly, though, I think it does the far greater service of forcing the reader to think for himself. If you read it and find some questions unanswered, then that is for you and your free will to decide. I went through a period of intense personal doubt in God at one time and it was an ongoing struggle for several months. However, I eventually realized that to meet someone and to answer questions about that person are two different things…and I found that I had met the person of God.

    I don’t have the answers to all of your questions about God…but I’d bet that you don’t have answers to all of my questions about Evolution, either. I saw an atheist in an interview once be posed the question, “If you die and you encounter God there, what will you do?” The man answered, “I will ask Him, ‘Why did you take such efforts to hide yourself from us?’ ” I believe I understand the answer to this: because, if God does exist and He is as I have learned that He is, then He created us will the ability to choose or reject Him. If we reject Him, though, He will not force Himself upon a Creation that has rejected Him. Therefore, those who seek Him (Christians) see from a certain perspective and are able to talk about Him while people who have rejected Him see from an entirely different perspective and are unable to get past the acknowledgment of Him.

    Finally, I hope that you do not believe that all Christians are the hypocritical, two-faced types of people that you have probably encountered and heard about.

    Thank you for your time, and good day!

  • 3. thefaithfulmind  |  July 6, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Oh, and I also wanted to state that Strobel’s lack of counter-argument in some (or even many) places doesn’t discount the incontrovertible evidence that he provides. Thank you again!

  • 4. Dan (Fitness)  |  July 6, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    I remember reading this book. Some friends in “Navigators” and “Campus Crusade” lent it to me, convinced it would make persuasive arguments. Instead it was just propaganda by a journalist who left his professional skills at the door along with any concept of a logical argument.

    A very nice send up. But a point for quality writing is an important point :)

    thefaithfulmind,
    incontrovertible evidence? Hardly.

  • 5. Obi  |  July 6, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    thefaithfulmind —

    (1) What are some of your objections to the theory of evolution? It’s quite a heavily supported and widely accepted theory amongst the scientific community. 9 out of 10 times people don’t accept the theory of evolution because they don’t know much about it, not to be insulting.

    (2) I’m also quite curious as to what exactly this “incontrovertible evidence” you speak of is. What is it?

  • 6. The Apostate  |  July 7, 2008 at 3:43 am

    thefaithfulmind,

    However, in my mind, there are certain questions about Evolution and other popularly-accepted alternatives that do not even try to answer some of the counter-arguments that Christians pose to them, writing them off as unimportant…

    Like?

    I believe I understand the answer to this: because, if God does exist and He is as I have learned that He is, then He created us will the ability to choose or reject Him. If we reject Him, though, He will not force Himself upon a Creation that has rejected Him.

    That is a well packaged answer I have often heard (and at one time dished out myself). I know you honestly believe this, but you must attempt to view what you just said from another’s perspective. What you just delivered was not an answer. You say you “chose” to believe, basically as much as the Muslim “choses” to believe and the Jew “choses” to believe (as well as the Wiccan, Pagan, Transcendental Meditator, etc.). How am I suppose to judge which God is true, should there be a god at all (or if there was once gods, but they are now resting in their graves on Mt. Olympus)?

    I would deeply respect and worship a God that reveals himself equally to his creation without forcing us to cower. The problem is, however, as the atheist you mentioned pointed out, is that God doesn’t show up knocking – what we see instead are ways that “God knocks” but we must interpret it in vague and extremely subjective ways. Moreover, God only seems to care about certain people and civilizations and disregard the rest and cannon fodder for the faithful (see Amalekites, Canaanites, Philistines, Palestines, Hittites, Egyptians, etc. and later and ironically, Jews, Pagans, Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, Anabaptists, and nice old women accused of flying into the night and eating babies).

    If you feel like giving only a quick response, I would urge you only to answer my most important question stated above: How am I suppose to judge which God is true, should there be a god at all? Why do you “chose” to believe in your version of God?

  • 7. Lincoln  |  July 7, 2008 at 7:19 am

    As a Christian (might as well get it out of the way) I agree that this book doesn’t go far enough. It’s not unlike Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”. It touches on a lot of issues but doesn’t go into much depth. Obviously it is a populist book.

    You seem to be conversant with some of the arguments so why not look at more serious material. Either you’re only going to benefit from tackling more challenging material. Why not go straight to Habermas, Lennox, Schaeffer and Lane-Craig?

  • 8. John  |  July 7, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Hello,

    I am new to this site. I am a born again believer who has been having doubts lately. However, I don’t have a rationalization for the prophecies in the Book of Daniel and such prophecies as Psalm 22 and those referring to a regathering of Israel which has taken place. I have studied these thoroughly and these texts do date prior to the things they predict. How do you explain this? I am really searching for the truth. I want my faith to be challenged, but I also want to be fair in my evaluation of the Bible. Some of it does appear to be supernatural.

  • 9. thefaithfulmind  |  July 7, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Dan and Obi –

    The Incontrovertible evidence of which I speak is the scriptures of the Old Testament, some of which are the prophecies that John is asking about. Jesus, in his lifetime, fulfilled over 100 prophecies, some vague and some being overpoweringly specific: having his hands and feet pierced and others casting lots for his cloths (Psalm 22), the visions of many different OT prophets that indicate a coming Savior that Jesus conveniently fulfills, and many of which he had no power of, i.e. where he was born, how much Judas was paid to betray him, how he would be executed. There are also other things, such as how you explain how the disciples were suddenly transformed from timid defeatists into bold believers in a gospel. I mean, I have looked up some ideas on the internet, one of which is that they had some groupthink going on…but, in my mind, that is difficult to believe. Even if they did, something had to happen to cause it…and if I was following a dead religious leader, I think I would just go home and try to forget that I had ever been a part of a failed cult.

    You also asked what some of my objections were to evolution. Well, for starters:

    1) How would it be possible for a man and a woman to evolve separately? After all, we are, in many ways, fundamentally different yet dependent on each other, yet the odds of both evolving the same way in the same time period and encountering each other is something like 1 over 1×10 to the 40,000th power.
    2) Why do we still have short-period comets? Popular astronomy asserts that short-period comets last only 10,000 years, but if the universe is some 15,000,000,000-odd years old, short period comets shouldn’t even be something we encounter….
    3) Where did the cell come from?
    4) How could life have come from Earth? Specifically, the moon is slowly moving away form earth (I think about 1/4 ft. a year). Now, if the Earth is millions of years old, then about the time life as we know it started forming on Earth, the moon was so close that it was causing the equivalent of tidal waves across all of Earth’s surface every day. How could life come about in that environment?

    The Apostate –

    You are right in that I choose to believe something. It isn’t like there are some good questions for what I believe, some of which I’m still thinking about. However, after studying both Christianity and other world religions as well as looking into the alternative theories of existence that Science and Philosophy propose, Christianity is overwhelming more likely. For example, without God, morality shouldn’t exist; it goes completely against Darwinian theory that we should care for the infirm or elderly.

    You mentioned that God seems to have his favorite when it comes to people and peoples, while the rest seem to fall under his wrath. In the case of the Canaanites, Hittites, Philistines, Palestinians, Egyptians, and the other cultures that God judges, they are facing His judgment. We know from archaeological discoveries that the Canaanites were a very evil people; we have found the skeletons of sacrificed babies where they dedicated new buildings in their cities, as well as other evils. God used the Israelites to bring judgment, after giving the Canaanites many opportunities to repent of their sin. The Philistines worshiped their own gods and sought to defeat and enslave the Israelites; God was judging them, and on and on, and if God is the Supreme Ruler of the universe and He made us and everything else, then He has certain rights to do whatever He wants. That would almost be a scary thought except that God, throughout the Bible demonstrates Himself to be a Loving (though also Just) God, doing what He does for a greater good that we cannot always see.

    Whew. Thanks again for listening!

    Oh, and good point on “The God Delusion,” Lincoln. Unfortunately, Strobel and Dawkins both miss some of the deeper discussion. John, keep reading and keep thinking. I will pray for you if you want me to, but only if you want me to.

  • 10. Lincoln  |  July 7, 2008 at 11:05 am

    The important point about evolution or intelligent design is that it comes down to first cause. I would be very wary of anyone debating these issues who isn’t an expert. The metaphysical questions are ones we can all participate in but when it comes to fine points I’d leave it to the experts.

    Just a warning as these comments develop:
    Make sure you define terms. Evolution, Evidence, Naturalism, Atheism, Faith, Religion, God, Science all have different meanings to different people and it is very rare for people to use them accurately with tight definitions.

    Having said all that check out this article from Plantinga (the current foremost Christian philosopher):

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2007/002/1.21.html

    It’s a lot more nuanced than (populist) Strobel.

  • 11. thefaithfulmind  |  July 7, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Oh, and The Apostate, I didn’t fully answer your question, and I apologize.

    I suppose that I am really wondering, how personal do you want me to get in my answer? What guidelines would you like me to stick to in my response?

  • 12. thefaithfulmind  |  July 7, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Good point, Lincoln.

  • 13. John  |  July 7, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Just because there are suppossedly many gods to choose from doesn’t mean that there is not a true God. The oppossite seems to be true. Only something that exists can be imitated. That is why the argument that other religions have some of the same teachings as Christianity doesn’t have much of an impact on me either. If the Bible is true then we all started with a knowledge of the true God and from there religion became perverted, yet ultimately based off of an original truth, so naturally it would contain some truth based on the foundational truth. This is done all the time with history. There are true events that over time develop different story lines, yet it does not mean that the original event did not happen. Was Paul Revere a hero or a traitor? Why was Kennedy assasinated? and so on and on.

  • 14. TheNerd  |  July 7, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    “A Case for Christ” is what I call FCBC – For Christians, By Christians. This is clearly not intended to be used as a recruiting method for Christianity. It is simply another way for Christians to pat themselves on the back for choosing the right path.

  • 15. Ubi Dubium  |  July 7, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Thefaithfulmind

    2) Why do we still have short-period comets? Popular astronomy asserts that short-period comets last only 10,000 years, but if the universe is some 15,000,000,000-odd years old, short period comets shouldn’t even be something we encounter….

    OK – I’ll tackle this one for you.

    First, our solar system is not as old as the universe. It formed about 4-1/2 billion years ago out of clouds of gases and rubble let over from the explosive deaths of older stars. Our galaxy is full of clouds of this stuff. Astronomers have wonderful photos of these kinds of clouds (nebulas) with stars actively forming in them.

    Next, as the solar system formed, most of this gas and rubble clumped up into small chunks (planetesimals). Then, most of the planetesimals coalesced into larger bodies, and finally into planets. But not all of them did, there were a LOT left over. We can see some of them in our asteroid belt, and there are many many more beyond the orbit of Neptune – in the Kuiper Belt (including objects like Pluto, Charon and Eris), and beyond it, in the Oort cloud.

    There are always gravitational forces acting on all this rubble out there. Our large planets, especially Jupiter, give a gravitational nudge to these objects each time they pass. The relative motions of the stars can also nudge them. This is happening all the time. Once in awhile, those forces happen to line up to change the orbit of one of those chunks of ice and rock in just the right way to send it into the inner solar system, and then we have a new comet. Whether it becomes a short or long period comet will depend on where it started, just how it happened to be nudged, and its future gravitational interactions with the inner planets.

    There is also stuff like this outside our solar system, which may be pulled in by our star’s gravity as it moves within the galaxy. So it’s unlikely that we could ever exhaust our supply of this stuff.

    So – if the universe was a static place where the stars formed right at the beginning of time, never moving around, their planets following neat stable orbits, and nothing ever changed, we would have expected to run out of comets long ago. But the universe is a dynamic place! Things explode, coalesce, move around and gravitationally affect each other. For every comet that burns off its ice, or breaks up, or is captured as a moon (like Triton), or hits a planet(like Shoemaker-Levy), there are trillions more in the outer solar system and still more being formed out there in the galaxy.

    This is a really simplified answer. For more detail – go read this article on the Kuiper Belt.

  • 16. Ubi Dubium  |  July 7, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    John:

    Just because there are suppossedly many gods to choose from doesn’t mean that there is not a true God. The oppossite seems to be true. Only something that exists can be imitated.

    I don’t agree at all. What is being imitated is “religion”, which is a thing that exists and was invented by people. I find nothing in your argument that would persuade me that god is not fictional

    If the Bible is true then…

    And if it is just another ancient book?

  • 17. Obi  |  July 7, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    thefaithfulmind —
    3) Where did the cell come from?

    As a clarification for a belief I think you may hold, cells didn’t pop up out of nowhere, and no biologist today thinks they did. However what biolgists today do theorize (the theory of abiogenesis) is that much simpler protobionts spontaneously formed under early Earth conditions. This can happen simply due to chemical laws, because they are merely small vesicles with a membrane consisting of lipids. There are also molecules called ribozymes that are RNA-enzymes, meaning that they can carry genetic information while also being able to catalyze its replication.

    http://biocab.org/Protobiont.html

    http://currents.ucsc.edu/06-07/07-31/ribozyme.asp

    As for the moon’s tidal effects on th Earth, I can’t find anything regarding what you’re saying online. If you could give a link to your source saying that that tidal effects of the moon on the early Earth made life impossible, I’d appreciate it.

  • 18. Craig Blomberg  |  July 7, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Being interviewed by Lee Strobel, and watching what happened afterwards, has been a remarkable series of experiences. The entire interview, 12 years ago, was taped on a microcassette. Lee then sent interviewees his first drafts of chapters for our perusal. My immediate reaction to that first draft was that so much had been paraphrased so simplistically that if this was printed I would lose all respect among my scholarly peers! To his credit, Lee was very open to my sending him a whole raft of nuances, most of which he utilized in his final draft. But the target audience was certainly not intellectuals but a very broad cross-section of the reading public. To this extent, he succeeded astonishingly. His books are in every major retail book store; mine are very rarely so. Twelve years later, I have now written or co-authored seventeen books and Strobel has sold far more copies of Case for Christ than all of mine put together! And when I speak–whether in Christian churches or at state universities, more people comment that they recognize my name from this one book than from everything I’ve written put together. Can one reach so broad an audience without “dumbing down”? As a lifelong educator, who grew up in a family of public school teachers, I’d sure like to think/hope so. But I honestly don’t know.

    A couple of other quick comments. I no longer use the argument from the martyrdoms of the disciples because I agree the sources are too dubious for us to put too much confidence in them. Hopefully, even scholars are willing to repudiate earlier views when they learn new information!

    Second, there have been a whole host of people I have met and even more that I have heard of, including some pretty bright folks, who have credited Case for Christ as a key reason why they became Christians–just one more reminder that more is going on by those who remain hostile or antagonistic to Christian faith than just discontent with argumentation. In my experience, it’s usually because folks have had bad experiences with one of “us”–which grieves me, since that was not my experience of coming to faith as a teenager and I know so many wonderful folks who don’t reflect the negative picture of evangelicalism that a few outspoken and influential people in our midst have created. So, if any readers have had that experience, for whatever it’s worth, I apologize on behalf of those who mistreated you–whether intellectually or in any other way!

  • 19. thefaithfulmind  |  July 7, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Ubi –

    I recognize that the universe is a dynamic place. My question is, why is there so much motion if this sort of stuff has been happening for the last 15 billion years, or even the the last 4 1/2 billion years? This is a crude example, but it works: when you spin a top, it steadily loses momentum until it stops. Similarly, after even 1 billion years of spinning around and around, I would think that most of the rocks that could be affected in such a way would have been long ago. On the other hand, if the universe is only 6,000 years old this isn’t a problem…not that I’m really asserting that at this point; I’m far from making such an argument.

    Also, you mentioned the Oort Cloud…I have heard what its shape is and how it launches comets out from itself…but I’ve never seen a picture of it, because it has never been seen. How can I accept the possibility of an Oort cloud from science if it has never been observed?

    Also, this is side-tracking that train of thought slightly, but it fits in with the discussion of the universe: I have been told that there are billions of stars in the galaxy, and they are all millions of years old and, eventually, go supernova and die. My query is, we only see a supernova every 70 to 100 years or so…but if there are billions and billions of stars out there, shouldn’t we be seeing about a supernova a day?

    Obi –

    Yes, I know that modern biology rejects the theory that the cell just formed from nowhere…but I have had some High School Science classes and there are a lot of different components to a cell: a nucleus, a membrane, a golgi apparatus, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, etc. etc., not to mention the DNA; we can’t have a cell without DNA, can we? Now, what are the precise odds that all of these parts of a cell would form from floating, lifeless molecules in the same place, at the same time, at the right temperature, and come together just right that a cell is created? Oh yeah, and if there’s no food, the cell dies. Opps! Back to square one.

    http://www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/kids_space/moon_orbit.html

    Here’s that link to the moon’s increasing distance from the Earth, and it brings forth another point: The Earth’s spin on its axis is slowing down. That means that it used to be faster….and if the Earth is billions of years old, that means it was much, much faster. Wouldn’t that also affect Earth’s environment, disrupting any natural evolutionary processes?

    Craig Bloomberg –

    Hi! I fall into that category of people that probably wouldn’t know about you had Strobel not written The Case For Christ.

  • 20. The Apostate  |  July 7, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Lincoln

    Why not go straight to Habermas, Lennox, Schaeffer and Lane-Craig?

    We do, all the time. The problem is that most Christians have no clue who we are talking about.
    I am not as familiar with the first two, but Schaeffer has been repeatedly and thoroughly discredited as a philosopher and relegated as a propagandist theologian for right wing politics (which his son as later renounced). Schaeffer, although smart as a tack, had chosen not to follow the rules of academic integrity and published without peer reviewing nor appropriately citing his claims and references. He wrote an entire work criticizing Kierkegaard, for example, without citing Kierkegaard once nor actually understanding what he was critisizing. No scholar can respect such a publication.
    Craig, on the other hand, refuses to debate prominent philosophers in his field on a regular basis (for whatever reason), instead choosing to focus his attention on scientists and historians. This would be great if he would debate biology with biologists and history with historians, but he doesn’t. He debates philosophy against people who are untrained in philosophy. As someone trained in philosophy, I believe this lacks integrity. However, he does bring up great points, but his claim to fame is more or less plagiarized (Kalam ontological argument) and is easily dismantled by those with philosophical training.

    thefaithfulmind
    Thank you for your response.

    For example, without God, morality shouldn’t exist; it goes completely against Darwinian theory that we should care for the infirm or elderly.

    Can I ask why you believe this to be the case? Similar morality is found in higher primates and other animals – why could morality not be another development, along with speech and other animal traits, of evolutionary development? Why would natural selection force us to drop off our dear old parents the minute that they can no longer fend for themselves (which many humans actually do)?

    As for the Canaanites and the many other ancients cultures, I could find equal amounts of “accepted” corrupt and morally ambiguous behaviour in the Hebrew scriptures (including the unnecessary genocide of every Egyptian firstborn executed directly by God’s Spirit due to the totalitarian arrogance of their Pharaoh).

    The Philistines worshiped their own gods and sought to defeat and enslave the Israelites;

    Let’s re-work this sentence. The Israelites worshiped their own god and sought to defeat and enslave the Philistines as commanded, neatly enough, but their god through a divine mandate passed down from their patriarchal leaders.
    Futhermore, you know only of the Philistines through your reading of the Jewish scriptures. A little biased, don’t you think? Sort of like relying on the authoritarian early church’s take on the rebellious gnostic Christians – partaking in orgies, eating babies and all. I suppose you would also take Paul’s word for everything despite not have the words of the Jerusalem Christian leaders.

    God was judging them, and on and on, and if God is the Supreme Ruler of the universe and He made us and everything else, then He has certain rights to do whatever He wants.

    So really, should Satan have usurped God in an ancient cosmic battle, he would probably have called himself “God” and really, he would be considered Holy and Perfectly Good by all Christians. He could do whatever he wants, as supreme ruler, and continue to be called good, even if he was, at one time, considered the most evil of all of the previous god’s fallen angels. And being much more powerful and a great deceiver, how would you actually know who you are worshiping?
    I suppose you could try to judge it by the way in which this god acts throughout history. I suppose we would expect a more benevolent and merciful god rather than a jealous, wrathful, and petty deity (whoops, did you just put your hand on my golden ark – I guess you have to die?). So tell me, why do you believe you are serving a benevolent god rather than deceiving malevolent one?

    Oh, and The Apostate, I didn’t fully answer your question, and I apologize.
    I suppose that I am really wondering, how personal do you want me to get in my answer? What guidelines would you like me to stick to in my response?

    Well if it is personal, than I doubt it will hold much weight. Christian evidence, in my experience, is anecdotal and extremely subjective and does not hold up to even a hint of honest skepticism. My area of academic study is the sociological and psychological study of Pentecostalism. I hear many stories on a daily and weekly basis, I am sure you can only imagine. Personal experience does not differ between religions, so if you have something remotely convincing that I cannot attribute just as easily to the Mahayana or Tantric Buddhist or the Hoodoo practitioner or the Latter Day Saint, or the North American aboriginal religionist, please, go ahead – I am always listening.

  • 21. Obi  |  July 7, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    thefaithfulmind said, “Yes, I know that modern biology rejects the theory that the cell just formed from nowhere…but I have had some High School Science classes and there are a lot of different components to a cell: a nucleus, a membrane, a golgi apparatus, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, etc. etc., not to mention the DNA; we can’t have a cell without DNA, can we? Now, what are the precise odds that all of these parts of a cell would form from floating, lifeless molecules in the same place, at the same time, at the right temperature, and come together just right that a cell is created? Oh yeah, and if there’s no food, the cell dies. Opps! Back to square one.

    As I stated previously, the cell has evolved quite a bit over the years. Just to clarify, It wasn’t like that millions of years ago. That’s the entire point of evolution, mate. You stated that you’ve had high school science classes, and perhaps that’s where the problem is. High school classes don’t really delve into the biology and chemistry — biochemistry — behind these things. I don’t mean to insult, but throwing around statistics pertianing to the what the probability is that the parts of a modern cell would come together spontenously is meaningless, because no one states they did.

    For example, let’s consider the origins of the mitochondria in animal/plant cells and the chloroplasts in plant cells. After studying these two organelles, biologists have found that they contain their own genetic code, and after analysis of this genetic code, they’ve found that it bears striking similarities to prokaryotic genomes. Not only this, but these two organelles contain their own ribosomes, the protein manufacturing organelels of the cell. Thus, biologists have theorized that microchondria/chloroplasts were originally small prokaryotes that were engulfed by larger ones, proceeding to form an endosymbiotic relationship.

    An example of the evolutionary origin of an organelle. That’s simply my favorite one, but if you take the time to research, you’ll see that scientists have come a long way in understanding the beginnings and evolution of life.

    As for the Earth’s rotation speed, the moon, the tides, et cetera, none of those things disrupted evolutionary processes, as we can see by noticing that life still existed back then. Life can adapt to differing situations, and so geological or meteorological anomalies would just become “facts of life”, so to speak. Natural occurances can’t disrupt natural evolutionary process because they’re all part of nature.

  • 22. Lorena  |  July 7, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    John,

    A while ago, I wrote a blog entry about Biblical Prophesies. Here is the link, in case you are interested.

    Biblical Prophecy

  • 23. karen  |  July 7, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Craig:

    that more is going on by those who remain hostile or antagonistic to Christian faith than just discontent with argumentation. In my experience, it’s usually because folks have had bad experiences with one of “us”

    Sorry, that’s wrong. You’re stated a very common, but spurious, theory that many Christians seem to hold. The problem is that they come up with reasons for deconversion without asking any actual deconverts why they have changed their beliefs. Big mistake.

    We’ve done a post debunking the common motivations that are ascribed to deconverts by those still “in the fold.” I believe you hit no. 9.

    I suggest you read it and perhaps pass it on. I think you’ll find it informative.

  • 24. ubi dubium  |  July 7, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    thefaithfulmind:

    This is a crude example, but it works: when you spin a top, it steadily loses momentum until it stops. Similarly, after even 1 billion years of spinning around and around, I would think that most of the rocks that could be affected in such a way would have been long ago.

    Basic physics – the top only loses momentum because of friction with the air and ground. If there were no friction, it would go on spinning forever. Star systems have a heckuva lot of angular momentum, and only negligible friction.

    I have been told that there are billions of stars in the galaxy, and they are all millions of years old and, eventually, go supernova and die. My query is, we only see a supernova every 70 to 100 years or so…but if there are billions and billions of stars out there, shouldn’t we be seeing about a supernova a day?

    Well – most stars are billions of years old, not millions. Only the largest of them actually become supernovas. (Stars like our own sun do not have such a dramatic explosion when they die.) I read that we see a supernova in our own galaxy about once every 50 years or so. (And there is a lot of dust obscuring our view of our own galaxy.) We also see supernovas in other galaxies quite frequently, but you need a really good telescope to see them.

    How can I accept the possibility of an Oort cloud from science if it has never been observed?

    Yay – skepticism! That’s a great approach. We don’t yet have direct photos of the Oort cloud, because it is too darn far out there. It’s the best working hypothesis we have, based on what we observe from looking at comets. (On Wikipedia, you can read about two objects that might be part of it, Sedna and 2000 CR105.)

    The reasons we think the Oort cloud is there are similar to the reasons we had for hypothesizing the Kuiper Belt. And we now have direct evidence for the Kuiper Belt – it’s really there. It was originally, for many years, a working hypothesis, but we have now found over 1000 objects there so far, and that’s just since 1992. That’s also just the big ones – and projecting from what we have found so far, it’s estimated that there might be 70,000 largish bodies out there, plus innumerable little ones. And we now also have evidence that other stars have similar discs of stuff surrounding them.

    Keep with that skepticism – it’s good for you. Use it on everything.

  • 25. John  |  July 7, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Lorena,

    Thanks for you link. I read it but it still does not explain Psalm 22 which was completely fulfilled by Christ. We have copies of Psalm 22 dated long before Christ was on earth. This is not disbuted by any scholar. How can this be explained? We also have the rebirth of Israel spoken of in Ezekial. This just occurred in 1948. How can this prophecy be explained?

  • 26. Obi  |  July 7, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    John —

    A prophecy is really only good if it can be used to predict a future event beyond a shadow of a doubt, and specific circumstances surrounding such an event, such as countries, names of people, dates, years, et cetera. A vague prophecy such as Israel will come together again doesn’t say much, mate. Otherwise, Nostradamus might be an omniscient god, and I’m sure no one wants that.

    Regardless, Jesus himself made prophecies that never came to pass regarding his second coming. Since we’re all obviously still here, we can be fairly certain that his prophecy failed. So no, not all Biblical prophecies are real.

  • 27. John  |  July 7, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Obi,

    Thanks for your response.
    Please read Psalm 22 and tell me if that is specific or general. It is very specific in all regards of Christ’s crucifixtion.

  • 28. OneSmallStep  |  July 7, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    John,

    We have copies of Psalm 22 dated long before Christ was on earth. This is not disbuted by any scholar. How can this be explained?

    I think why many don’t find things such as Psalms 22 convincing is that it’s incredibly vague, like Obi said. If we didn’t have the New Testament, and only had Psalms 22 to go on, what makes it a prophecy? What in it speaks of a crucified God-man?

    All I see is the Psalmist speaking of someone piercing/hacking off his hands/feet, shaking out garmets, and casting lots for a cloak. AGain, that’s vague. IT doesn’t even speak of a crucifixion, or even a Messiah figure. And what makes that count as opposed to the bulls gathering around, or the dogs compassing the person? Or even the strong bulls of Bashan, which is apparently a region east of Jordan.

  • 29. John  |  July 7, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Craig,

    are you struggling with your faith? Why or why not?

  • 30. ubi dubium  |  July 7, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    John:

    I read it but it still does not explain Psalm 22 which was completely fulfilled by Christ. We have copies of Psalm 22 dated long before Christ was on earth. This is not disbuted by any scholar. How can this be explained?

    Well, John, the gospels were written down long after the life of Jesus, by men who were quite familiar with Psalm 22, and who were writing for an audience that also knew that text. You might want to consider the possibility that they added details to their writings to make it seem that Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy. Perhaps nothing of the sort actually happened. I have the feeling that a lot of that kind of stuff is much like the “George Washington chopping down the cherry tree” story: fabrications by later writers for the purpose of making their own point.

    We don’t know what Jesus actually did, or everything that actually happened at the time. We only know what church leaders of a century or two later said happened, and these writers were men with their own agendas.

    I am really searching for the truth. I want my faith to be challenged, but I also want to be fair in my evaluation of the Bible.

    Great! Glad you are here. As you evaluate it, please don’t forget that god didn’t write it. It’s a book, written a long time ago by imperfect humans, copied and recopied by imperfect humans, translated by imperfect humans, and now read and interpreted by imperfect humans. There are many christians who have realized that the bible does not have to be infallible to be inspirational.

  • 31. Craig Blomberg  |  July 7, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Karen:

    I’m not saying every “deconverted” person fall into the category I’ve described. Just a surprisingly large number of people, in my experience. And I’m speaking only of those I HAVE talked to first hand, a large percentage of whom are in the academy. If that shoe doesn’t fit you, then by all means don’t wear it! But as a broad generalization for my experiences, what I wrote remains accurate, at least assuming the people I talked to were being honest with me.

    Ken:

    No, I’m not struggling my faith. I was privileged not to grow up in anything remotely resembling fundamentalist Christianity. I went to public schools and to a very liberal, academically strong private college. i was repeatedly challenged by friends and professors that it was impossible to hold historic Christian faith and retain my intellectual integrity. I found all kinds of books that convinced me otherwise. i would take them and show them to my profs and they would blow them off because they weren’t written by people from their guild but they never debunked any of their arguments. So even though I later studied at an evangelical seminary (but then went on to a state university for doctoral studies), I came to realize the full breadth of historic Christian options on the perenially hard questions of life. And while answers others gave me varied in their persuasiveness, I always found at least one or more answer, from my studies, that proved more than adequate. And my, admittedly more subjective, experiences with Jesus himself, and with some of the best of his people, have clinched the deal.

    Thanks for both of your comments/questions–very helpful :)

  • 32. Mike  |  July 7, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Craig,

    I was one of those people who came to faith as a result of the Case for Christ (among several other things). So I just wanna say “thank you” for the time and effort you and others put into it. I am now currently in seminary, and if you are interested, I have a blog also with several of my friends who go to Covenant. I think my name will link to it, but if not, it is here:

    http://www.seminarianblog.com

  • 33. The Apostate  |  July 7, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    ubi dubium nailed the whole Psalm 22 issue in comment 30. End of story. The New Testament writers were Jewish religionists who wrote in a midrashic style, purposely relating back to the scriptures they knew in order to carry the Jewish tradition into a new Christian movement.

    I strongly urge those Christians that find any prophetic fulfillment in the Old Testament to try reading some contemporary Jewish works before perverting the ancient text for their own gain.

  • 34. karen  |  July 7, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    But as a broad generalization for my experiences, what I wrote remains accurate, at least assuming the people I talked to were being honest with me.

    Craig, I don’t doubt you. But I’d say your experiences are not typical at all of the long, convoluted and emotionally difficult journey that most deconverts take.

    “I was hurt by a pastor/teacher/fellow believer” is a shallow and silly reason to leave religion behind. After nearly 7 years of interacting with hundreds (probably thousands) of deconverts online, not one of them has offered that explanation to me.

    If you’re truly interested, check out some of the more sophisticated deconversion stories here or at one of the many websites that aggregates such experiences. Or start with Dan Barker’s “Losing Faith in Faith” or the upcoming “Why I Became an Atheist” by John Loftus of the Debunking Christianity blog. I think those are far more representative than what you’ve heard from your contacts.

  • 35. thefaithfulmind  |  July 8, 2008 at 12:13 am

    The Apostate –

    Why do I believe that I worship a loving God and not a malevolent one, or that Satan overthrew God and is now the commanding force in the world? Actually, from a person’s perspective, you could say that Satan overthrew God and now controls the world…but it would be because we allowed. Sorry, just a random thought.

    Anyway, if I were God over the world and I were evil, I can think just off the top of my head of quite a few things that I could do to torture people. Besides, I thought to whole concept of evil was that, in order for evil to be present, a certain measure of good must also be present in order for evil to pervert the good.

    You also mention the disciple’s references to Old Testament scripture. You speak as though these were cleaver masterminds in some grand plot to fool the world. They were fishers and tax collectors, the lowest of the low in that society. Why would they do this whole thing if they didn’t believe it? Moreover, why would they believe it unless something happened that made them believe after Jesus’ death on the cross?

    Also, someone said that we don’t have any historical evidence about Jesus (other than Biblical canon) until a couple of centuries after he died. Well…

    “Consequently, to get rid of the report (of fire in Rome), Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”

    Ah, wikipedia is a wonderful thing :D .

    I find it odd that, according to Tacitus, the Christians were convicted of “crimes against humanity” and were thus put to inhumane tortures…and yet the Church at the time grew through all of this.

  • 36. Obi  |  July 8, 2008 at 12:30 am

    thefaithfulmind —

    One need only to look at the history of religion — the first ones dating tens of thousands of years before Christianity and Judaism — to see that humans can persuade themselves to believe anything, even in the face of persecution. However, it is their faith in their personal unseen deity or entity that drives them on to do what they do. Such is the strange power of religious belief.

    Oh, and I don’t see why anyone would say we don’t have any historical evidence pertaining to the life of Jesus, because we have some, such as the Tacitus source you mentioned. We simply don’t have extra-biblical evidence of his divinity and miracles. The gospels are essentially only two sources, because from the research I’ve done, Mark is the basis for the other two synoptic gospels — Matthew and Luke — and John is a source unto itself. They were all written decades after Jesus’ death, with the earliest datings being about 60 CE for Mark. They were also written anonymously, meaning that historians aren’t even certain whether or not they were written by the disciples whom they are titled after.

    The commonly cited Testimonium Flavianum by Josephus is seen by a majority of historians as having been in part or in whole a forgery by later Christians to promote their belief system and agenda. This combined with knowledge regarding the possible sources of many of the characteristics attributed to Jesus, such as the virgin birth, resurrection, being a god-man, coming to Earth for the atonement of sin, et cetera being shared by contemporary and previous mythological and legendary deities and figures such as Osiris, Krishna, Dionysus, and others suggest something…but what that something is, I’ll leave to your imagination.

  • 37. thefaithfulmind  |  July 8, 2008 at 12:46 am

    On my post about biological evolution, I recognize that there are certain parts of a cell that make the cell reducibly complex. However, even the most basic cell needs a great many certain things in order to form and survive. Like I said, where would the cell find food? How would it know what food is, since it’s the first one? How would it reproduce? Remember, this is the first cell: if it doesn’t get it right the first time, it dies.
    But let’s say the cell did survive and grow and mutate, since that’s how evolution happens. Many mutations that we observe today cause problems, not advance the species. Autism is a common mutation and biologically, these people are superior, but the additional genetic material instead hinders them. There are some other mutations that don’t harm the organism, but most of these mutations are neutral in that they neither hinder or help the organism.

    Finally, The Apostate, you asked why I choose to believe in the God that I have learned to believe in, and honestly, I ask myself that sometimes, too. Let me tell you another story I heard that Lenin’s daughter told about his death. She was asked if he had one of those death-bed conversions and she said that actually, after he had officially died, she watched him sit bolt upright in his bed and do that hand motion he was famous for the the ceiling, perhaps as a final “Screw you” to God…but he was an atheist. He wasn’t supposed to believe in that sort of thing, yet his own daughter watched him do this, specifically after he had officially died

    This sort of represents my case for God: there’s far, far too many things that I see that can’t be explained by random chance (answered prayer, biological evolution, etc.) and can’t just be called human projection or wishful thinking and, when I look at them, I see that meaning that Lewis spoke of. In my research, I can only come to the conclusion that, whether I choose to believe it or not, something is there, and based on what I have learned, I believe that “something” to be a God who created this universe with the intent of giving us reason to accept him and also room to reject him. And I hear a lot of people (Christian and atheists) ask why evil exists in a world ruled by a Loving, Just God. Well, it’s because we are here and we have that ability to choose…and our choices affect everyone else.

  • 38. Lorena  |  July 8, 2008 at 12:56 am

    “Thanks for you link. I read it but it still does not explain Psalm 22 which was completely fulfilled by Christ. We have copies of Psalm 22 dated long before Christ was on earth.”

    John, the New Testament was written AFTER the old. It was easy for the writers to tailor the gospels according to the Old Testament.

    It’s still hindsight…

  • 39. thefaithfulmind  |  July 8, 2008 at 1:00 am

    Obi –

    You bring forth a good point in that religion stirs people to giving their lives for something unseen. The difference is that these disciples were there, having witnessed Jesus entire life and ministry, watching him die and, even after abandoning him, they still believed and spread the world of their experiences with Jesus to others. They also opened themselves up to possibly being refuted by referencing 600 people who witnessed Jesus’ resurrected self. In my mind, I can see them telling someone, “That’s my story. Go talk with Bob over there if you doubt me.”

    With the Gospels, there is the possibility of another writing (isn’t it called the “Q” Gospel or something like that) that has not been recovered? Anyway, they were written relatively soon after Jesus’ death (less than a generation), which is far less than for any other mythical figure we have from history (the Iliad, the Odyssey, etc.).

    The answer as to why we would see mythical elements in Christ is simple: if God created us with knowledge of Jesus’ characteristics and Earthly ministry in mind, wouldn’t it only be natural for Him to plant within human nature an attraction to these mythical qualities and a recognition of them as being important?

  • 40. thefaithfulmind  |  July 8, 2008 at 1:04 am

    Lorena –

    The Gospels were written within a generation of Jesus’ life and death; if any of it were falsified, the Pharisees and the many other enemies of the early church (then a cult, of course) would have been quick to follow up on these things and say, “Ha ha! You said in Matthew etc:etc that Jesus talked to a man named Nicodemus. Well, we have found that Nicodemus never existed!” On the other hand, if it did happen as the Gospels narrated, then there would be no question raised against it.

  • 41. Obi  |  July 8, 2008 at 1:32 am

    thefaithfulmind said, You bring forth a good point in that religion stirs people to giving their lives for something unseen. The difference is that these disciples were there, having witnessed Jesus entire life and ministry, watching him die and, even after abandoning him, they still believed and spread the world of their experiences with Jesus to others. They also opened themselves up to possibly being refuted by referencing 600 people who witnessed Jesus’ resurrected self. In my mind, I can see them telling someone, “That’s my story. Go talk with Bob over there if you doubt me.

    Again, this isn’t unprecedented, and it’s actually the norm throughout history. People have been and had been giving up their lives for their beliefs, religious and otherwise, for years before and after Jesus’ life. It’s nothing new, and it tells nothing of the truth of their beliefs. Regardless, the stories of the disciples martyrdom are regarded as mostly legend by modern historians, and they aren’t mentioned in the Bible, as far as I can remember.

    thefaithfulmind said, “The answer as to why we would see mythical elements in Christ is simple: if God created us with knowledge of Jesus’ characteristics and Earthly ministry in mind, wouldn’t it only be natural for Him to plant within human nature an attraction to these mythical qualities and a recognition of them as being important?

    You’re really reaching here. Really, really reaching. First, you have no evidence supporting your assumption — not in the Bible nor anywhere else. Second, the flipside of your statement could also be true; perhaps the real god — not the Christian god — planted stories such as those of Jesus to help you recognize another god. Regardless, your assumption is baseless. I don’t mean to sound cruel, but that’s simply the truth of the matter.

    Regarding when the gospels were written…

    Wikipedia says, “These books are the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, written between 65 and 100 AD.

    That’s the usual estimate for when the gospels were written, and since a human generation is about 30 years, they were most definitely written quite a bit after Jesus’ death.

  • 42. John  |  July 8, 2008 at 7:45 am

    Everyone on the atheist side please bare with me a little longer. You have very covincing agruments, but I am not convinced quite yet. You seem to have an answer for Psalm 22, but what about the current world situation? How could the writers of both the Old and New Testament know that the Middle East would still be the center of world attention thousands of years ago? How could they know that Israel would be a “cup of trembling”, even in ur generation? How could they accurrately predict that muslim nations would be aligned against israel? How can you account for the Bible predicting that there would always be enmity between the Jews and the arab world? How could the Bible also predict that final world war would occur in the Middle East, which doesn’t seem to far fetched?

  • 43. The Apostate  |  July 8, 2008 at 11:00 am

    John,

    How could the writers of both the Old and New Testament know that the Middle East would still be the center of world attention thousands of years ago?

    Most of the writers of the New Testament believed that the world was going to end within their lifetime – not in a thousand years. This is transparent in both the teachings of Jesus as well as Paul. Both the Old and New Testament were written by people living in the Middle East – most people do not predict that their civilization will come to end. The conflict in the Middle East is a self-fulfilling prophecy – take out the superstitions of religions and the conflict no longer exists. It is a religious war, everyone knows it, yet the media ignores it.

    How could they accurrately predict that muslim nations would be aligned against israel?

    Islam did not exist nor was it mentioned in the Old or New Testaments. An Israelite, however, predicting that the source of their troubles is from surrounding nations is sort of like contemporary economists prophesying that China is the economic powerhouse that will usurp the United States.

    How can you account for the Bible predicting that there would always be enmity between the Jews and the arab world?

    It doesn’t. That, like most of what you are asking, is read into the Bible. What you are reading is the ongoing conflict between people who, because of their religious beliefs and long history, stake claim on the same land (this happens all over the world).

    How could the Bible also predict that final world war would occur in the Middle East, which doesn’t seem to far fetched?

    This is simply a culmination of everything above. Enclosed conflict. Self-fulfilling prophecies. Selfish religious persuasions (note how the Bible and Koran predict similar conclusions to the world’s beginning and end, yet do so in favour of those who wrote it – funny how God shows favouritism no matter where he is).

  • 44. ubi dubium  |  July 8, 2008 at 11:20 am

    John:

    How could the writers of both the Old and New Testament know that the Middle East would still be the center of world attention thousands of years ago? How could they know that Israel would be a “cup of trembling”, even in ur generation? How could they accurrately predict that muslim nations would be aligned against israel? How can you account for the Bible predicting that there would always be enmity between the Jews and the arab world?

    Because it’s what’s called a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. That’s also a theme running through the last two books of another fairly famous recent series of books:

    “But Harry, never forget that what the prophecy says is only significant because Voldemort made it so.” – Albus Dumbledore

    The prophecies in the bible didn’t predict the problems in the mideast between the Jews and Arabs – they caused them. Without prophecies that they would take back their holy land, the Jews would have not felt obliged to take back Israel or to displace and mistreat the people they found there. The violence between Arab and Jew in the mideast is a direct result of the Jews determination to see their prophecies fulfilled.

    How could the Bible also predict that final world war would occur in the Middle East, which doesn’t seem to far fetched?

    But it hasn’t happened yet, so you can’t tell. And how would you gauge a “final world war”? World War I was characterized as “The War to End All Wars”, except that it didn’t. Every major war leaves us shaking our heads and saying “never again”. Then a new generation refuses to learn the lessons of their fathers, and makes some of the same mistakes, and drags us back into war again. As long as people are competing for scarce resources, we will be fighting one another.

  • 45. The Apostate  |  July 8, 2008 at 11:25 am

    thefaithfulmind,

    you could say that Satan overthrew God and now controls the world…but it would be because we allowed.

    We couldn’t have allowed it – this could have happened before we were even created. For all we know, Satan created us and has been toying with us ever since.

    Anyway, if I were God over the world and I were evil, I can think just off the top of my head of quite a few things that I could do to torture people.

    Hmmm…. like create a lake of sulphur, a place of eternal torment for those who do not worship you?

    Besides, I thought to whole concept of evil was that, in order for evil to be present, a certain measure of good must also be present in order for evil to pervert the good.

    Or vice versa?

    You also mention the disciple’s references to Old Testament scripture. You speak as though these were cleaver masterminds in some grand plot to fool the world.

    Woah, where did you get that story from? I never mentioned any great plot to fool the world. The writers of the New Testament wrote in the midrashic style – a very common Jewish way of writing which other Jews could relate to. Their style was not concerned with minute historical facts and details, historical accuracy was not a priority – it was the underlying message underneath it that counted (as well as the ability to read it through the liturgical calendar alongside their readings of the Torah).

    They were fishers and tax collectors, the lowest of the low in that society. Why would they do this whole thing if they didn’t believe it?

    The writers of the New Testament were not disciples. Even most Christian scholars agree with me on that one. I heartedly recommend some critical Biblical scholarship. The earliest gospel, Mark (not a disciple and only connected to Peter through a tradition of necessity) was, at the earliest, written twenty-five years after the life of Jesus (and up to forty years after).

    Moreover, why would they believe it unless something happened that made them believe after Jesus’ death on the cross?

    Did you see Jesus after the cross? No, but you still believe, simply because you want the hope-filled message it delivers.
    I could ask you the same question about thousands of other such religious claims throughout various civilizations – you would have to not only dismiss the current major religions of the Buddha, Mohammad, and the Jews, but of every obscure religion around the world who make similar fantastical claims.

    Also, someone said that we don’t have any historical evidence about Jesus (other than Biblical canon) until a couple of centuries after he died. Well…

    I can’t speak for that someone. Their is much written text that could be considered evidence. However, all you have supplied with the passage from wikipedia is that their were Christians during that time, which we already knew because Paul’s earliest work that we have today (1 Thessalonians) is dated to around 50-55 CE. I don’t doubt the existence of Christians nor even the historical figure of Jesus. What i doubt is that the major claims to a resurrected Jesus come from a person that never met Jesus (Paul) and for some reason made huge ontological claims concerning this state of resurrection that Jesus, during his life, never did (according to even later written gospels).

    I find it odd that, according to Tacitus, the Christians were convicted of “crimes against humanity” and were thus put to inhumane tortures…and yet the Church at the time grew through all of this.

    Why is this odd?
    As well, who says your church is the true church or even the same church as their church? Your church’s theology, I can guarantee, does not resemble the earliest Christianity in any way shape or form. The church continues to evolve and compromise in every generation (starting with Paul, who weaved in and out of Roman and Jewish authorities with ad hoc theology which to this day cannot be reconciled by itself without ignoring parts of it).

    Let me tell you another story I heard that Lenin’s daughter told about his death…

    The Christian subculture is full of casual myths – I know, I was part of it. This story, like Darwin renouncing evolution on his deathbed, is simple another creation of the Christian imagination. It didn’t happen, but it is nice and comforting to think it did.

    This sort of represents my case for God: there’s far, far too many things that I see that can’t be explained by random chance (answered prayer, biological evolution, etc.)

    Biological evolution didn’t happen by random chance – please pick up a science book before criticizing something you obviously deny based on your presuppositions – at least I have had the courtesy to study your beliefs. As for answered prayer – you know this is flimsy. You celebrate the answered ones but dismiss the unanswered ones for various reasons (forgetting about them, God saying no, God knowing what is best, etc.).

    Regards.

  • 46. The Apostate  |  July 8, 2008 at 11:31 am

    The Gospels were written within a generation of Jesus’ life and death

    Gospel of Mark: 65-80 CE
    Gospel of Matthew: 80-100 CE
    Gospel of Luke: 80-130 CE
    Gospel of John: 90-120 CE

    (Early dates by conservative Christian scholars, later dates by most liberal scholars – best arguments are usually somewhere in between). None of these books make the same claims as Paul’s letters. There is no form of “Grace through Faith” of any sort in these narratives. Jesus did not abolish the law in these narratives, he re-interpreted it (sometimes making it harsher). At times, these narratives conflict with each other because they represent different communities of the Jesus movement.

  • 47. Obi  |  July 8, 2008 at 11:54 am

    The Apostate —

    I just wanted to add as well that the person who is believed to have written Mark (even though all of the gospels are anonymous) wasn’t a disciple of Jesus — he was a disciple of Peter who later wrote about Jesus. Mark forms the foundation from which the other synoptic gospels, Matthew and Luke (who also wasn’t a disciple of Jesus) draw much of their information from. Not only this, but the accounts of the martyrdom of Mark, Matthew and Luke (John lived to old age) are regarded as quite dubious at best by modern historians, and were perhaps pious myth generated by the early church to lend credence to certain claims.

  • 48. Lorena  |  July 8, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    “The Gospels were written within a generation of Jesus’ life and death; if any of it were falsified, the Pharisees and the many other enemies of the early church (then a cult, of course) would have been quick to follow up on these things and say,”

    First, even if the gospels had been written when you believe they were, there were no printing presses back then, so the assumption that everyone would have known of the writings is preposterous. (The population’s illiteracy is another factor that pops to mind).

    Second, I won’t get into this, because admittedly, I am not a theologian. But most non-fundamentalist scholars put the writings of the gospels from 40-to-100 years after the Crucifixion. That’s a long time.

    You can argue with me all you want. I, frankly, don’t like to argue. But there is no way you are going to convince me of the authenticity of the gospels.

    To me, they’re DOCTORED documents. You feel free to believe as you wish. It is your right.

    But keep in mind that I didn’t reach that conclusion by sitting on my living room watching TV. I have read much on the issue, including the infamous Case for Christ

  • 49. Zoe  |  July 8, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Craig wrote: “A couple of other quick comments. I no longer use the argument from the martyrdoms of the disciples because I agree the sources are too dubious for us to put too much confidence in them. Hopefully, even scholars are willing to repudiate earlier views when they learn new information!”

    Zoe: I wonder just how many of those people who have read your original arguments in The Case For Christ, realize that you no longer use those arguments regarding the martyrdom of the disciples?

  • 50. Hui Dai  |  July 14, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I will keep my comment short. I have read your blog and ALL of the attached comments. I too was a skeptic, I relied on sight and what I learned about metaphysics in my home land of China, on a fairly recent trip to Israel, I was confronted or introduced to bible prophecy….I will end by saying after much study I can say nothing against the claims of Jesus of Nazerath and His fortold coming to earth.

  • 51. BigHouse  |  July 14, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Hui , welcome!

    What is the nature of your change of heart/mind? Could you elaborate?

  • 52. Ken Nielsen  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Christ changes lives. From unforgiven, to forgiven, from captive to set free, from lost to justified before God.

    Only Jesus can do this work in a man, and all we need to do is believe on Him whom God sent.

  • 53. Brandon  |  August 13, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I am slightly disappointed that Bloomberg did not stick around to address these points. It certainly appears he abandoned his fellow Christians when they could have used his assistance.

    Correct me if I am wrong on this, because my bible history is fuzzy

    Oral transmission was prevalent in th Jewish tradition, early Christians were Jewish, it is quite possible that Jesus’s life was preserved orally and then written down.

    Jesus discipled Peter, Peter discipled the gospel writer of Mark, so it can appear that th Gospel of Mark is historically linked to Jesus via Peter.

    Peter also has interacted with Paul, they had their disagreements

    Paul had a “vision”, Luke was discipled by Paul, Luke used Mark as a source and probably Paul’s interpretation, however the core accuracy of what Paul taught was not questioned by Peter, only the aspects of Jewish Tradition of rituals/covenants in comparison to application to Gentiles. Gospel of Luke establishes some credibility, we know Paul exists, we assume the gospel writer of Luke exists, and historically we presume Peter exists.

    No comments on Matthew

    Gospel of John is questionable, but it appears Polycarp was discipled by John, perhaps not John the gospel writer, but John the apostle/evangelist. John the apostle is linked to Jesus, Polycarp is linked to John, Ireanus is linked to polycarp, and so forth.

    This is off the top of my head, but what is the argument against this?

  • 54. Alban  |  April 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    #2. thefaithfulmind: Very interesting and thought provoking question: “Why did you (God) take such efforts to hide yourself from us?”

    Your hypothesis that he gave us the ability to choose or reject him assumes a separation that our conceptual understanding makes into LITERALLY separate. Your resulting theory on it’s face seems reasonable and yet is representative of our acquired, conditioned inability to discern.

    Yes the ability IS there, BUT without the genuine desire, we settle for explanations. ‘That’ separation creates 2 separate-ed entities. Us and God. And makes the pursuit of literal, tangible discovery VERY complicated…practically insurmountable, if not impossible in theory.

    What I have discovered is to encourage simplicity in people for this quest. Just let them know there IS a literal tangible ability and there is living, BREATHING help. It is an entirely different subject than what religion provides. Mutually exclusive to the point that religion attempts to explain and sell without LIVING evidence vs explanation/testimony of the I chose Him part. Circumstance and outlook are relative!

    Personal direct observance within inside is accurate evidence and even then, analysis in thoughts and words is subjective. So explaining isn’t good marketing, so to speak. Lead the horse to water without selling. If thirsty, the horse drinks to it’s contentment.

    Intellectual or belief oriented explanation makes the choice Him or nothing. When “He” is invisible, existing separately we are unable to choose in this unique quest. We’d like to think so and for many the belief is good enough. Choice placated, but not answered.

    Our innate clear simple perception however, knows its essence. There is a unique familiar attraction. The identifiers are not the words. The essence in the words is the feeling!

    At that point actual choice exists…to be with, to connect to what is sustaining life, specifically your own. And no longer invisible if so inclined to choose, to see.

    So just maybe the answer you would get would be more lament: “It is not me that hides. It is you who has forgotten how to recognize me”

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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