Posts tagged ‘apologetics’
The test read positive. Ayesha’s face flushed; tears formed in her eyes. She was trapped. She would be killed. She was a stain on her family’s honor. Amir, her soon-to-be husband, would turn her in as soon as he found out. She knew she deserved death. The shame was unbearable.
That night she had a vision. The brightness blinded her at first, but gradually she saw an angelic face and it said, “Ayesha! You are favored indeed by Allah! For God himself is the Father of your child. Do not be afraid. He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High.”
The next day Ayesha told her fiancé that God had impregnated her, she was still a virgin, and an angel had told her this. Would you believe Ayesha?
An ancient book says a man 2,000 years ago was born of a virgin and was sired by God himself. I once believed this, because I believed the Bible — a book I thought God himself wrote.
I was wrong.
Here are five reasons why I no longer believe in the virgin birth…
My on-going experiment to ruthlessly engage with those who wish to effectively argue for Christianity has been underway for what seems like an eternity (no pun intended), but in many ways, I’m no closer to finding that killer argument (unsurprising really). Reflecting back on my days as a Christian, I wish I had come up against some of these arguments earlier so it would have resulted in a paradigm shift in my thinking – but I’m really not sure that there was ever an argument out there that could penetrate the barriers to change prior to when one is ready.
So, it seems that no argument I have submitted to a Christian has even caused them to flinch. It’s quite depressing to leave it at that, because I imagine if I carried out a similar onslaught with members of another religion, I would get the same result – and they can’t ALL be right. At least some (if not all) people of religious faith seem to be immune to reasoned argument. Maybe that’s quite obnoxious on my part.
So what have I learned? What are the arguments to which the response has been particularly weak and/or non-forthcoming but there are also lines of debate which yield absolutely no fruit?
First of all, it is completely futile trying to point out contradictions, inaccuracies and difficulties within the bible. The response is one of ‘yes, it’s difficult, we need to try hard to understand all this… our mind is small compared to god’s”…
I’ve heard Christians say that what one must do is look at the life of Jesus, and decide what you make of him. This is the basis of Alpha Courses and, in my experience, it’s the way many Christians approach Christian apologetics or evangelism. ‘What do you think Jesus meant when he said x?’ ‘What did it mean for the Jews when y happened?’ ‘Wasn’t the love shown by x to y a perfect sacrifice as prophesied in z?’ etc etc.
The belief is that the Bible, in this case, is reliable reportage – miraculously accurate and by its very nature irrefutable. Christians believe there is enough evidence to decide that water was turned to wine, dead men were raised and thousands of ready cooked fishes materialized from thin air. And furthermore, that there was no other important (perhaps more private) relevant statements made that were not reported in the book.
Surely the decision to believe this is at the very least a cognitive event. In the same way that I do not believe in ghosts (until convinced otherwise), I need to decide whether I accept the Bible / Koran (or 100s of other religious holy books) to be reliable…
As a Christian, I was indecisive as to the origins of our four Canonical gospels. Ideally, they were four independent accounts by eyewitnesses, or associates to eyewitnesses, each showing a unique perspective of the life of Jesus. In fact, my church pastors never strayed too far from this ideal course. However, reading the Gospels for myself led me to some troubling questions.
The Gospels contain sayings of Jesus, which in some cases are identical between gospels. For example the Parable of the Leaven found in Luke 13:20-21 and Matthew 13:33 – “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened”. In other cases, the sayings are placed in the same setting, but slightly different, as in the voice from heaven’s proclamation of Jesus after the baptism (Matt 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22). The voice speaks directly to Jesus in Mark and Luke (‘Thou art my beloved son’), but the voice speaks to the crowd in Matthew (‘This is my beloved son’). Why the differences in some cases but near verbatim in others? Was this design by divine purpose, copyist error, or dare I say, differing Gospel traditions? Of course, my church never dwelled into this territory of Biblical study, and I was left with my questions parked in my brain where they remained for years.
Burton Mack’s The Lost Gospel of Q deals directly with this question with a hypothesis that is wholly plausible…
The Case for Christianity is a series of transcribed radio talks given by C.S. Lewis during WWII, and edited together with additional notes into book form. It is one of three books that ultimately made up his famous apologetic work Mere Christianity.
Reading the book reminded me of some mathematics seminars I used to attend. The speaker would spend great effort in setting up the initial steps of some elaborate proof, only to spend the last 3 minutes of his talk rushing through the rest to get to his conclusion. It is the classic cartoon of a math professor writing “Poof, a miracle occurs here” in the middle of his equation list. Lewis attempts to build the case for Jesus Christ on first principles. The argumentation style is that of a long chain of assumptions and arguments, with one continuously built on the other. The problem with this type of argument is that when any argument or assumption in the chain is shown wrong, or even questioned or doubted, everything else that follows is discredited. If the foundational argument fails, the whole structure collapses and we might as well not read the rest of the book.
Lewis begins his arguments, indeed the first half of the book, with the argument of our moral conscience. He claims that since we have a moral baseline, which seems to be a standard across humanity, that it must have been implanted into us upon creation. Since our moral conscience cannot conceive of the abstract notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ unless they exist, they must then exist outside of our selves…
(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…
Frequently, when I bring up the fact that God never does any revelation, vision, miracle, visitation, etc, to make his existence obvious, I encounter an apologetic for the do-nothing god that goes something like this.
“God can’t reveal himself with total clarity because it would violate our free will. If He revealed himself with total clarity, we could not possibly choose anything else. And God must respect our free will.”
Well this is just a load of rubbish from every angle. Let’s look at some angles.
First off there’s the whole issue of free will. Do we really have free will? That’s debatable, both from the Bible and from secular philosophies. And if you introduce a deity with perfect foreknowledge, then free will is definitely gone. [But despite this, I’ve actually heard Calvinists use the above apologetic. Go figure.] I’m not going to settle the free will issue for anyone, but an apologetic based on such a highly debated issue is hardly a slam-dunk.
Next we have the problem of “God can’t “. That’s a biggie. The all-powerful God “can’t”???…