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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 lean towards 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.
 
 
Brad Cooper: "Even if you don't expect to agree with Dr. Marshall, it's hard for me to imagine how you could read Marshall's newest book and not enjoy it.  Right from the first page of the Introduction (yes, the Introduction!), I found myself being carried along as if by an incoming hurricane, swept along by David's wit and mastery of metaphor.  But unlike a hurricane, David did not leave behind a barren wasteland in his wake. Instead, fresh insights from the history of religions sprung up page after page, and an original and cogent argument had grown tall and strong as a redwood when the winds finally died down . . .
"This is a rare book . . . It encompasses such diverse topics as philosophical arguments, Biblical prophecy, the ancient religions that are the backbone of the world's great civilizations, and the history of Christian missions from the time of the apostles to the present day--all told in a way that makes you feel like your reading a fast-paced novel from among Amazon's bestsellers.

"At one point, I was thinking to myself: "I can't remember the last time I enjoyed reading a book this much." (And I read a lot.) Then I remembered that it was when I read Chesterton's Orthodoxy. Quite honestly, I think this book even surpasses that for me. I very very rarely read a book more than once. I will be reading this one again soon . . . "

C. Osiecki:  "At times I thought he might be jockeying for a position to argue the case for universalism, but I believe that Marshall is giving us a much deeper picture, that Christ is the fulfillment of the ideal present in many of the world religions. The universality of the desires of man to be connected with their creator and to find meaning and purpose in life, morality, and a relationship with their fellow humans is a description of a universal need, and that need is met perfectly by Christ . . .

"You cannot walk away from this book without it penetrating and disturbing your previous conceptions about world religions. That alone is enough reason to read anything, that it challenge and change you. I finished this book a week ago and it has been on my mind every day since, and I am eager to read it again to fully appreciate the full spectrum of Marshall's case for the validity and pervasiveness of Christianity, the value of Christ in your life, no matter what your parents taught you."

JC Taiwan:  "Having just finished the book and reflected on its content, I can honestly say that David's approach to tackling John Loftus' book was invigorating from a cultural and historical standpoint, and more importantly sharp as a rapier in its use of wit.

"My favourite part of the book was part two, in which Marshall, in each chapter, culturally orientates the reader by means of a point of view introduction to a character from a particular culture he wishes to focus on in terms of how the character came to Christ. This perfectly puts you in the frame of mind of each individual so that their conversion to Christianity seems all the more real, especially given their hesitation."


Keith O'Conner: "Very well written book.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in getting into Christian apologetics."
Nick Peters: "As I was going through Marshall's book, I tried to think of a book that I could compare it to.  Here we have a work dealing with the negative arguments of the day with a good touch of humor and stories and in simple layman terms that expresses the joy of who Jesus is.  Mere Christianity as a comparison came to my mind a few times and I can't help but wonder if a work like this if properly appreciated by the public could be a work like that of our own time . . .

"In the book, Marshall is responding to John Loftus and his Outsider Test For Faith (OTF) as he calls it. Now Loftus has been criticized numerous times by even his fellow skeptics on this one, but still he trudges on with it. Marshall has taken a different approach and said "Let's not go against the argument. In fact, let's improve and refine it and see just how it is that Jesus stands in response to it . . . "

"You will come away from (this book) with a greater wonder of exactly who Jesus is . . .


"It is very difficult to put down . . . "
 
Here, again, is the place to buy How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story.    (Though if you want to get multiple copies, please contact me directly about discounts.) 

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.”

The rest of John’s complaints, to be concise, also failed.  Yes, whatever John thinks, I did write about testing Christianity from outsider perspectives six years before John invented the OTF, even if our tests were not identical.  Yes, Loftus does use the OTF as a weapon with which to attack Christianity, as I said, and indeed as he admitted himself, in black and white.  And no, I do not deny diversity among religions.  I claim, though, that Loftus denies similarities, which are also real, because those similarities show how Secular Humanism fails to pass the OTF.  Even in the act of responding to my arguments, John tries again to sweep those similarities under the carpet, as if he found them embarrassing -- and they may be, to his philosophy of life.   

In this post, I respond to John’s second set of complaints.  Again, let’s quote a few of John’s comments, and respond to them, before addressing his main arguments. 

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. 

So let’s take a look at his first post, and what he claims I get wrong. 

Predictable Preliminary Trash-Talking

I've decided to write more than just one post about Dr. David Marshall's “rebuttal” to my book The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF).

Call me David, please. 

But How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story is not a “rebuttal” to John Loftus.  With due respect to John’s considerable ego, it is about much bigger topics: the work of God in the world, the role of Jesus in uplifting humanity, the story of the human race from the Christian point of view, an answer to the question, “How do religions relate to one another?”

John is a convenient jumping-off point, not the destination. 

I will attempt to show why Marshall's book, How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story,is really bad. In fact, it's so bad I'm using the word "refutation" for what I'm about to do to it.  I hardly ever use that word because refutations are usually unachievable in these kinds of debates.  

Go for it! 

If I'm largely successful then it also says something about Dr. Randal Rauser, that he will say and endorse anything in order to defend his Christian faith.

I don’t believe that for a moment.  Actually, read his blog, and you find that Randal is pretty choosy about what Christian artifacts he will endorse.  It follows, then, that Loftus will probably NOT be successful, or he’s wrong about the logic. 

“No educated intellectual worthy the name would have written Marshall's book.  No educated intellectual should think it's worthy of any kind of a blurb either.”

This is disproved by the fact that I am an educated intellectual, and I did write the book.  And not just Randal Rauser, but Win Corduan (Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Taylor University), Miriam Adeney (an anthropologist who teaches at Seattle Pacific University), Ivan Satyavrata (an Indian theologian), Don Richardson, Nick Peters, and Brad Cooper, all of whom can only be described as “educated intellectuals,” in some cases much more so than John, have also thought the book worthy of a blurb -- indeed, in most cases of high praise indeed. 

But let’s skip the naval-gazing trash-talking of the wrong person, and get to the substance of John’s critique. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Matthew McCormick's Spectral Evidence IV‏

In our last installment, we saw that Matthew McCormick argues that the evidence for genuine witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts was much stronger than the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus.  Oddly, however, he is remarkably coy about citing that evidence in detail, though he offers nebulous claims for reems (thousands of books) of the stuff.  Indeed, like the "evidence" for witchcraft itself, the evidence for that evidence, in McCormick's own telling, appears to be of the kind best described as "spectral," a terms  our anonymous friends at Wiki explain:  

"Spectral evidence is a form of evidence based upon dreams and visions. It was admitted into court during the Salem witch trials by the appointed chief justice, William Stoughton. The booklet A Tryal of Witches taken from a contemporary report of the proceedings of the Bury St. Edmunds witch trial of 1662 became a model for and was referenced in the Trials when the magistrates were looking for proof that such evidence could be used in a court of law.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Matt McCormick, Part III: the Salem Witch Trials

The Gem in the Crown of McCormick's argument against Christianity is probably Chapter 3: "You Already Don't Believe in Jesus: The Salem Witch Trials."   At least that is what I have seen quoted most often, and largely what attracted me to this book.  McCormick also refers to this chapter and the one preceding it, which we have already analyzed later in the book, as if he had in these two chapters convincingly overthrown the Christian faith.
His argument is simple.  McCormick asserts that the evidence for the actual existence of witches in Salem, Massachusetts, between 1692 and 1693, is far stronger and more immediate, than the evidence for the Resurrection.  Since we reject the former, we should therefore also reject the latter. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2. "The History of the Jesus Story"


In the second chapter of his, Matthew McCormick summarizes New Testament scholarship in a particular fashion.  He is not pretending to have done any original research.  But he wants to make the Gospel account of the resurrection seem as incredible as possible, without the bother of looking too much stuff up himself, or refuting such formidable Christian scholars as Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, Larry Hurtado, N. T. Wright, or Ben Witherington

McCormick's goal in this second chapter is thus
to pretend to knowledge he does not possess, that is, the state of the Jesus question.  
He wants us to think that the evidence for the Christian account of Jesus life is late, 
scattered, insignificant, and tenuous, and that that is the consensus of Historical Jesus studies.  
But he doesnt know that, because he seems to have only read a few, and those who agree with him anyway.

McCormick clearly has not, for instance, read Richard BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses.  Who that has, would dare to assert this, without qualification or defense?

But the view now, on the basis of modern work in history and Bible scholarship, is that none of the 
Gospels was written by the apostle to whom it is attributed.  Their authors are unknown. (38)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Matt McCormick: Philosopher, Prosecutor, Card Shark, Tease? Part I

Matthew McCormick is an intelligent, fluid writer, and has taken the time to read a few important Christian thinkers (unlike, say, Peter Boghossian, AC Grayling, or John Paulos) before writing his ambitious refutation of Christianity.  He does not seem to suffer from the (inflated) self-image problems of Richard Carrier, or the intense, reality-warping spite of, say, Annie Gaylor.  This book is therefore readable, coherent, and sane.  McCorkick is, however, relentless in his assault on Christianity, and that assault fails in multiple, fated ways.  Despite negative virtues, McCormick lacks either the knowledge or the objectivity for a serious intellectual critique of Christianity.  As Jesus warned, he ought not to have ventured battle without first scouting the enemy's strength more thoroughly.  

Let's take it chapter by chapter, and allow the omens of forboding to unfold like flowers, each in its season.  

As it happens, I am also reading another book on the resurrection at the same time as this one, by Mike Licona.  That book is all that this one is not: self-critical, fair, judicious, careful, and convincing.  I may refer to that book by way of comparison from time to time.   

(1) "Speaking Ill of Jesus"

Friday, January 09, 2015

The first two non-scholar readers have just posted reviews of my new book, How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story, and they are great!  (Especially the one just posted on Amazon.) 

 The shorter and somewhat more restrained but still very positive review was posted on a closed site, so I'll keep the reader anonymous:
 
"David's writing is very engaging, creative, and full of historical insight into the universality of the Christian worldview.   I find myself equipped with a new approach to engaging both atheists and people of other religions.  Very nicely done."
 
Now here's the review by Brad Cooper, a former pastor whom I had the chance to meet in Indiana a year and a half ago at a Subway in southern Michigan:  
 
"Even if you don't expect to agree with Dr. Marshall, it's hard for me to imagine how you could read Marshall's newest book and not enjoy it. Right from the first page of the Introduction (yes, the Introduction!), I found myself being carried along as if by an incoming hurricane, swept along by David's wit and mastery of metaphor. But unlike a hurricane, David did not leave behind a barren wasteland in his wake.  Instead, fresh insights from the history of religions sprung up page after page, and an original and cogent argument had grown tall and strong as a redwood when the winds finally died down.

"This book begins by noting one of the current fads in skeptical arguments: the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF), which has probably been most clearly and most stubbornly pushed by John Loftus.  Marshall examines Loftus' argument, turns it right side up and proceeds to show what a powerful argument it is for the truth of Christianity.

"This is a rare book. Few people have the broad range of knowledge and understanding that this book's argument requires-even fewer the skill to communicate it in a way that is both clear and enjoyable.  It encompasses such diverse topics as philosophical arguments, Biblical prophecy, the ancient religions that are the backbone of the world's great civilizations, and the history of Christian missions from the time of the apostles to the present day--all told in a way that makes you feel like your reading a fast-paced novel from among Amazon's bestsellers.

"At one point, I was thinking to myself: "I can't remember the last time I enjoyed reading a book this much." (And I read a lot.) Then I remembered that it was when I read Chesterton's Orthodoxy.  Quite honestly, I think this book even surpasses that for me. I very very rarely read a book more than once. I will be reading this one again soon."
 
Thanks so much!  Any comparison to Chesterton is a great honor: his writing has been an inspiration to me for many years.  And Brad also show talent with metaphors himself in that first paragraph: my Chinese colleague, a former college lecturer, was impressed by the quality of his writing, when I showed her the review. 
 
Even if Brad is just half right, you should read this book!  I do believe you will almost universally enjoy and benefit from it.  While I most recommend the print version (freshly printed books, not napalm, being the scent I favor in the morning), feel free to compromise with the Spirit of the Age just this once, and get the Kindle version, if you prefer. : - )