An Inconsistent “Truth”

Ben’s third argument is another familiar one, though it seems odd to see it presented as though it were a positive evidence in favor of the Christian gospel.

A third feature of the Gospels vouching for their authenticity as eyewitness testimony is the one we have already discussed: The superficial inconsistency of detail. I think this suffices to justify a dismissal of factual infallibility. To my way of thinking, testimonial cogency is superior to factual identicality insofar as the former compels belief and the latter invites us to suspect a conspiracy. I therefore see no reason why we should equate divine involvement with infallibility. And I certainly cannot see the logic in your objection that noting the discrepancies between the different narratives is tantamount to demonstrating their overall falsity. It only disproves the falsity of inerrancy. It doesn’t disprove the hypothesis that 2015 years ago an incandescently mysterious event occurred which has been filtered through to us in the form of a collection of scattershot Greek texts which, over, as a result of their transaction with the divine, may yet be regarded as Holy.

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The embarrassing gospel

One of the problems with writing a blog is that you have to keep coming up with something to write about. I think, though, that I’m going to have no shortage of material for the next few days, thanks to our new commenter, Ben, and his arguments from Christian apologetics. Continuing with his second comment, he presents us with the Christian version of the criterion of embarrassment.

The second self-authenticating feature is our justification in applying, to several key details in the Synoptic Gospels, the so-called criterion of embarrassment. This is a principle of historical analysis which states that any detail problematic to an ancient account can be presumed true on the logic that the author would not have invented a detail problematic to his account.

The criterion of embarrassment can indeed be used as a legitimate tool by historians. But, like any tool, it can also be misused, whether by incompetence or malice, much like the same chisel can be used both to carve the sculpture and to destroy it. We thus need to not only identify the use of the tool, but also verify whether it has been applied correctly.

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CS Lewis’ argument from literary style

Most believers who comment on my blog are kind of drive-by commenters: one post and then they’re gone. But there are exceptions, and not all of them are outright trolls. Sometimes, they even provoke some interesting discussions, and I think (I hope!) that we’ve got one now.

By way of background, this past Easter season brought a lot of attention to a post I made in February 2012 about Matthew’s story of the guards at the tomb. It has been getting consistent hits in my “Popular Pages” log, and has attracted a few comments, most of which are of the “post and run” variety. Two of them, however, are from a commenter named Ben, and these are the ones I’m referring to.

The second of these is quite long, but he brings up some interesting material, and I’d like to address some of it here, starting with his citation of CS Lewis’ argument from literary style. Ben writes:

Here you, the nonbeliever, loudly object that the Gospel forms the main part of the evidential basis for its own claim. And on the face of it this would appear to be a formidable objection…

[The] problem is one which Christian apologists are able to meet with surprising assurance and lucidity. And they do this by drawing our attention to the unique self-authenticating features of their source material.

I can definitely agree that their assurance is surprising, given the nature of their argument.

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A reminder to believers

Since the Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments regarding gay marriage, I thought it would be a good time to remind believers of a very important moral principle that’s relevant to this particular case. That principle is as follows:

You always have the option of not doing harm to those who have done no harm.

That’s it. That’s all that gay rights advocates are asking for. Just don’t do harm to gays and gay couples, who have done no harm to you or to anyone else. Don’t slander them or discriminate against them or attack them physically or interfere in their personal relationships or do anything to them that you would not want done to yourself. Every major religious or moral system in the world gives you that option. It is allowed, and morally acceptable, to refrain from doing harm to those who have done no harm.

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Pro-life = compensation?

One of the things that always strikes me about the pro-life movement is how incongruously materialistic it is. Here you have people who, for the most part, fervently believe that people have souls and/or spirits, made in the image of God, and that these souls/spirits are “the real us,” the part of us that lives forever and for which the fleshly body is merely a temporary abode (and not infrequently a snare and a source of soul-threatening temptations). In almost any other context, this supposed “immortal soul” would be what makes us people, individuals with value and worth and significance, at least in their eyes.

Let the subject of abortion come up, though, and suddenly these same people have the most materialistic and reductionistic definition of personhood you can imagine.

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NPR, science, and God. (And magic.)

In a commentary posted on the NPR web site, Nancy Ellen Abrams writes:

“God” is a word. If we define it, even subconsciously, as something that cannot exist in our universe, we banish the idea of God from our reality and throw away all possibility of incorporating a potent spiritual metaphor into a truly coherent big picture. But if we take seriously the reliable — and, thus, invaluable — scientific and historical knowledge we now possess, we can redefine God in a radically new and empowering way that expands our thinking and could help motivate and unite us in the dangerous era humanity is entering.

I actually have had similar thoughts myself, once upon a time, and can still feel a bit of sympathy for this point of view. I think, however, that any comment I could make on this article would be best made by restating her arguments with one slight substitution. Instead of taking this as an argument for a “scientifically real God,” what if we view it instead as an argument for magic?

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Belief versus knowledge

Here’s a quick illustration of the difference between knowledge and belief: Christians believe that Jesus loved them so much he was willing to lay aside his divinity, descend from heaven, and spend 33 years growing up in poverty and preaching the Gospel and ultimately dying a horrible, painful death for them. But they know that if they drop their pencil on the floor, Jesus will never pick it up and hand it to them.

A quick Bible study for Christians in Indiana

For all that the Bible tells us about God, there’s very little specific information about His personal life. We do have some hints, though, that may help us home in on God’s sexuality.

  • We know that God is not asexual genderless, because the Bible is quite clear that God is male.
  • We know that God cannot be heterosexual, because that requires two genders, and the Bible is very clear that there are no female Gods.

So, what is God’s sexuality?