Monday, July 27, 2015

Why is Jerry Coyne an Atheist?

In The Truth Behind the New Atheism, which one scholar describes as the first full-orbed response to the New Atheism, I dealt with the objection, "If Christianity is reasonable, why do most eminent scientists reject faith in God, not to mention the details of the creed?"  The title of the second chapter in that book was, "Are Scientists too 'Bright' to Believe in God?"  That chapter was written in response to Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, who casually assumed that in this case, "correlation means causation," that scientists deny "religion" because they're too intellectually advanced to fall for the silly set of errors bounded by the word "religion."

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Notes on the Ehrman-McGrew debate

Recently, Bart Ehrman and Tim McGrew debated over two hours on the Unbelievable Radio Program in London, moderated by Justin Brierley.  (I've been asked to appear there for a third time, next month, by the way.)  This is the second hour.  Here are some observations:

* As usual, Justin does a wonderful job of summarizing, keeping focus, and keeping the conversation moving along.

* I do think Tim won the debate.  

* Tim seems to be operating under the erroneous impression that Bart Erhman is referring to the canonical Acts of the Apostles when he says the early Christian message was not preached on street corners. Tim appears to have overlooked Thomas Jefferson's fine editing of Acts, which can fit conveniently behind one's ear, with room left over for a pencil and and big fat eraser.  (I hope you all caught the sarcasm there.) 

* I like the vaudeville-like progression in Bart's argumentation at times. "Who says biblical scholars have a screw loose?" "These classicists, here. Quote quote quote." "Oh, you can always find someone to say anything. Take mythicists, for example." "Uh . . . "

* Ehrman is appeals in this debate, and also in a recent blog post, to forms of the Outsider Test for Faith. I believe I destroyed the basis for such appeals, in my last book.  Sometimes scholarship just takes time to catch up. :- )

* In any case, what would be wrong with simply asking, "So if the evidence, on your account, is so good for the good Medieval rabbi whom you say is also recorded as doing many miracles, why don't you believe those accounts?" And take it from there. These claims about some other guy really have nothing at all to do with the gospels. Maybe they occurred, maybe they didn't: either way, they in no way affect our reasons for believing Jesus worked miracles. 

* Bart anachronistically brings in "gospels" of Peter and, as I recall, Philip.

* I think a transcript would show Bart's circumlocutions and red herrings more clearly, since his soft, reasonable voice seems to cover a multiple of intellectual sins. Also Tim's dialectical precision, which may be harder to follow orally than it would be on a screen.

* Bart appeals to Dickens as a partial parallel to the gospels. As a Dickens fan, I find that absurd.

* I'm getting a better feel for the undesigned coincidences argument, and think I will include some reference in my next book.  (Apparently Tim's wife Lydia is now writing a book on the subject, also.)  More detailed study of fictional parallels would be useful -- could such coincidences be found, if you looked for them in fiction? I suspect Tim is right that it would not be so easy, but I would also like to see the attempt made before dismissing it.

*In any case, it will, I think, nicely complement a fuller "fingerprints" argument for the gospels (under R & D), which I think demonstrates the folly of most the parallels Ehrman and others cite thoroughly. I think we've just touched the edge of the historical evidences for the gospels, so far. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How Matthew Ferguson Helps Prove the Gospels

I maintain that one of the best reasons to read radical skeptics like Richard Carrier, or even mainstream skeptics like Bart Ehrman, Elaine Pagels or the Jesus Seminar, is for the service they provide in trying, with increasing desperation, to locate some parallel, any parallel, to the life, teachings, and person of Jesus, as manifest in the gospels.  If Jesus were "just a normal Messiah," or pure fiction, as some maintain, finding real parallels ought to be a piece of cake.  So why do they wind up tossing out such ridiculous analogies as Apollonius of Tyana, Honi the Circle Drawer, the Iliad, or even Buddha?

Matthew  Ferguson
Matthew Ferguson
If even the best-educated and most relentless skeptics, scouring the ancient world for parallels to the gospels, can't find anything more like a genuine gospel than, say, the "Gospel of Thomas," the "Life of Hercules," "Golden Ass," "Life of Tobit," or Apollonius, that old standby, then skepticism is in deep trouble.  As Jesus put it, if you only have ten thousand troops, you should think long and hard about fighting an enemy who attacks with twice your number.  Given the actual character of the gospels and the remarkable Person they reveal, skeptics should think about making peace with God.

The unique character of the gospels is the theme of two of my books so far, a chapter in Faith Seeking Understanding, and many posts here. 

But the endless search for the grail continues.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Be with you shortly . . . First, these flowers from our Sponsor.

I flew into Seattle from Changsha, China three days ago.  Lots of things to say on my blog have occurred to me since I last posted here directly (rather than sending the article to James, and asking him to post).  So I'm hoping to post a bunch of stuff this summer -- there's so much to talk about. 

The first day after my return, therefore, I posted a long critique of an attack on the gospels by a young Classics scholar named Matthew Ferguson.  Quite a few people read the thing, though there were no comments yet. 

Looking it over this afternoon, I felt a twinge of embarrassment.  The post was too disorganized, too rambling, and lacked some crucial empirical evidence.  In some places my wording was a little too strident, as well.  So much for writing epics with jet lag. 

So I've moved that article temporarily back to "draft" mode.  I'll fix it up, offer a more thorough analysis of some of the works Ferguson cites, and hopefully post it again within a few days.  If my head weren't starting to swim a bit again, I might even promise later this evening.  But there's a good chance I'll be asleep by then. 

In the meanwhile, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  These might be worth more than that. Here are some photos I took in the past few days, in some cases hours before my flight on Friday morning.  The flowers grow in the lotus fields just over the little hill from our school. 

Thursday, May 07, 2015

How to Win Every Debate

Debating an atheist, a Muslim, a Mormon?  Here's my secret one-step method for winning every debate you engage in.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

How much of the Gospel can we know without the Bible?‏

How much of Christianity can we demonstrate to be true WITHOUT even opening the Bible? (And thus evading fruitless debates on inerrancy, foolish chatter about "blind faith," etc?) I would suggest at least the following 26 points:

(1) God

(2) Universal moral truths.

(3) General human depravity.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Another Wild, Unavailing Attack on my New Book

I am always amazed at the criticisms of my books that appear on-line.  So far, not a single review of any of them by atheists who were not professional academics, has shown any real understanding, or desire for understanding, of the book purportedly being reviewed.  (That includes four books so far.)  Three reviews have appeared by atheists who were academics, which came much closer to understanding (and were much more positive), but still fell somewhat short.  Probably the critical review that represented my views most accurately, was by a Youth Earth Creationist. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

My New Book: Classic or Crapola?‏

My new book, How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: the Inside Story,  is drawing starkly contrasting reviews on Amazon so far.  ALL reviews to date have given it either five stars (the top rating) or just one (the lowest rating).   Furthermore, people who like the book seem to absolutely love it, comparing it to masterpieces like Mere Christianity and Orthodoxy.  Those who hate it, seem to loath it (and /or its author) with a passion. 
You will be shocked to learn that I prefer the first group.
The best way to decide who is right, is to read the book for yourself.  If you decide the critics are on-the-money, warn your neighbors and their dog away from it.  But if you find that How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test is anywhere near as good as most reviews have said so far (and not just on Amazon), then please help me get the word out!  This is very much a grass-roots campaign.
In this first post, I'll give the five positive reviews on Amazon, in chronological order.   (Another good review  was posted by Ratio Christi Vice President Tom Gilson, on the Thinking Christian blog, along with scholarly reviews, all warmly enthusiastic so far.)  In the second, I'll respond to those who say they loath the book.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Why did God create the World?

I've had a good day today.  

I'm stuck in Hong Kong trying to renew my Chinese visa.  My first day was not so good.  My partner kindly bought me a first-class ticket to Shenzhen, the ultra-modern city across the border, a few days ago.  Unfortunately that seat was set against a support and couldn't retract, which meant, with my bad back, I had to stand most of the way down.  I stayed in a run-down hotel that night, crossed the border with some hassles, and then was berated by the woman at the visa office, after a long wait, for not providing all sorts of details that they never asked for before.  Even the librarian in Wan Chai was mean (or maybe I was tired).  Then as I got into the subway, the door closed first on my backpack, which I had been lugging around all day, then on my arm.  An Australian lent me a hand (his only one, as it happened.  What is the prior probability of that, Richard Carrier?)  I started laughing, finally, and told him, "This has been such a strange day, it's only fitting that the subway would attack me."  

Today was very different. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

What? RIchard Carrier calls me a liar? Well, I never!

I have, I think, written a review of RIchard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus that not only refutes that book, but turns the facts Carrier misfocuses on into premises towards a very different (and for Carrier distasteful) conflusion: that the gospels are actually pretty believable records.  I own scholarly credentials as relevant to the subject as Carrier's own.  I described ten concrete and major errors with his book, in concrete detail.  Most people who have read my review on Amazon have agreed it is helpful -- 89 of 144 votes, so far.  As a former debate partner, one would think Richard Carrier would want to answer my critique of his long-awaited epic argument. 

But no, apparently he's too busy with other things, such as critiquing an Amazon review by one Ramos, to be distracted. 

Friday, February 06, 2015

Loftus Attacks! Part Deux

In our last installment of The Loftus Chronicles, John was claiming that How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: the Inside Story could not have been written and should not have been endorsed by any real scholars.  I make too many “egregious errors,” for one thing.  So we gamely inquired what those errors were. 

John’s first critique (echoed from Arizona Atheist) was that I was contradicting myself by claiming that the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) was flawed, and then saying it had passed in the case of Christianity “billions of times.”  This, I noted, is a feeble objection indeed.  There is no contradiction, after all, between saying “These glasses are muddy,” and saying, “But I see clearly enough to know that it is snowing,” still less, “And after I wipe them off, I can hit a 90 mile an hour fast ball.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Loftus Attacks! Part Uno

I’m getting the feeling that maybe John Loftus feels he didn’t do too well in our debate on Unbelievable.  (The first part of which can be found here, the second part should be posted this coming Saturday.)  How else to explain his multiple posts since then, first complaining that he didn’t get enough time, then attacking Randal Rauser (of all people), and then a series of three posts critiquing my book?

Well, great, after all these years, and many posts on both sides, John finally gets around to actually trying to rebut some of my arguments -- sort of.