The apologist’s dilemma

Thanks to some articulate and well-informed comments on yesterday’s post, I now understand that there’s a lot more to it than just needing to verify your conclusions before you accept them as true. Verificationism (or at least, the strict forms of verificationism that William Lane Craig was referring to) can go so far as to say that unverifiable statements can’t even have meaning. In other words, if I can’t verify whether or not it was raining on June 12, 4BC, the proposition “It was raining on June 12, 4BC” doesn’t even mean anything. I can’t even ask whether it is true or false because there’s no way to know what those words even mean.

Ok, strict verificationism overstates its case. So far so good. The question then becomes, “So what, then?” Even granting that verificationism, or at least certain forms of strict verificationism, might have gone too far, what does that have to do with Christianity? Craig’s opening argument was that the alleged collapse of verificationism led directly to a resurgence of Christian philosophy. But why would that be the case? What is it about Christianity that benefits from such a change, and what does this mean for apologetics and natural theology?

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Perverted Science

Writing for the Finance section of (wait, the Finance section?), Mark Baisley has great hopes for the future of science.

Galileo was a true scientist.

I like Wikipedia’s description, “He displayed a peculiar ability to ignore established authorities, most notably Aristotelianism. In broader terms, his work marked another step towards the eventual separation of science from both philosophy and religion; a major development in human thought. He was often willing to change his views in accordance with observation.”

Based on recent trends in education and politics, I predict that human thought in the 21st Century will progress even further with a new separation of science, this time from politics. Three recent, unrelated publications; a video study, a book, and a movie; give me encouragement that the contemporary version of geocentricism is about to get its comeuppance.

He bases this hope on three things: a video from Focus on the Family, a book by William Dembski, and the move Expelled.

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Gay Marriage in the 10th century Church?

I have to confess, I’m a bit skeptical of this story about St. Serge and St. Bacchus. But it is interesting.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that “we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life.” More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St. Serge is openly described as the “sweet companion and lover” of St. Bacchus.

In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies, that they were a homosexual couple who enjoyed a celebrated gay marriage. Their orientation and relationship was openly accepted by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image that to some modern Christian eyes might border on blasphemy, the icon has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing their gay marriage.

I have no doubt that gay relationships go back to long before there was a Judeo-Christian faith, but I have a hard time believing that the medieval Christian Church openly accepted and celebrated such relationships, let alone elevating the couple to sainthood with Jesus as their best man. I’d expect any gay love between them to be strictly in the closet.

Mesopotamian Park

This is just idle speculation, mind you, but I was wondering the other day about time and tradition. There’s two kinds of tradition, or at least two ends of the spectrum. At the one end you have what you might call the reasonable ideas, the principles and conclusions you arrive at by looking at how things are and thinking about them and then, above all, trying them out to see how well they really work, and adjusting them as necessary to make them work better. These ideas get their strength from their adaptability and increasing accuracy over time.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the principles and conclusions that arise, not out of a search for real-world answers and understanding, just Because I Said So—ideas that get passed from one generation to the next not because they describe how the world really is, but because I’m The Father, That’s Why. These ideas get their strength from authority and constancy.

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A top ten list

Happy Easter everybody—I hope you all have prepared your colored eggs for Astarte, the pagan fertility goddess, and have filled your house with other fertility symbols like rabbits and such. Remember, Astarte is the reason for the season (and even gave it her name, slightly misspelled).

Oh yeah, and some guy died too. I suppose we ought to remember him. So here, by way of holiday celebration, I present the Top Ten Ways the Bible Tells Us Jesus Did Not Literally Rise From The Dead.

If Jesus had been literally and physically raised from the dead, the tomb would not be empty—there would have been a living Jesus in it.
If Mary had seen an angel fly down from heaven, roll away the stone, and tell her that Jesus had been raised from the dead (Matt 28:1-5), she would not have run to the disciples weeping over the missing corpse (John 20:1-2).
If Jesus had been physically raised in a physical body, he would not spontaneously appear and disappear and change his shape to fool the disciples (Luke 24:28-36) and would not have needed to “prove” that he was not a spirit (Luke 24:36-43) by showing him his hands and feet and by eating their food—which angels and the pre-incarnate Jehovah can also do, even though they are supposedly spirits (Gen. 18:1-11).
If Jesus had been physically raised from the dead, still bearing the wounds from his beatings, his crown of thorns, his crucifixion, and the spear thrust in his side, people would have noticed him walking to the room where his disciples were hiding, and he would not have been able to enter the room while the door was shut and/or locked (John 20:19, 26).
The Sanhedrin would not have put a guard on the tomb because they had no reason to expect Jesus to rise from the dead (Matt. 27:62-65, cf John 2:19-21 and John 20:9—even the disciples were surprised!).
If the priests found out Jesus had risen from the dead, they would have worried about Jesus, not about the empty tomb (Matt. 28:11-15).
If Jesus had risen from the dead, the priests would have plotted to kill him again (John 12:9-11) instead of plotting to tell lies about the tomb.
If the priests were going to bribe the guards to tell a lie, they would not have picked an obvious falsehood like “The disciples stole the body while we slept.” (Matt. 28:11-15.) If they were asleep, how would they know? Duh!
If Jesus had literally and physically been raised from the dead, Paul would not have insisted that the body that was raised was a spiritual body rather than the body that was buried, and would not have expanded on this claim by insisting that the “last Adam” (i.e. Jesus) “became a life-giving Spirit” (I Cor. 15: 42-48).

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God’s definition of marriage

God’s definition of marriage, according to a lot of people today, is given in Genesis 2:24: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” But there are a few problems with that. For one thing, the word “wife” does not appear in the original text. The word used there is “ishshah,” or woman–the same word Adam uses in the previous verse when he says, “She shall be called woman (ishshah), for she was taken out of man (ish).” There was no license, no priest or rabbi, no vows, or in short, no wedding. Eve was a woman, and Adam just took her and started sleeping with her, without marriage. If you want to find the earliest Biblical reference to actual marriage, you have to go to Sodom.

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The “independent sources” of the New Testament

[Here’s an excerpt from this week’s Evangelical Realism post on Chapter 9 of William Lane Craig’s book, On Guard.]

Ted and Shelly are driving down the road one day when they see an minor accident up ahead, with a policeman and a wrecker already on the scene. Being bloggers, they stop and ask the policeman what happened.

“Oh,” says the policeman, “some bimbo piled into the back end of the car in front of her. She says he passed her, cut her off, and slammed on his brakes, but she had her cell phone out and was probably just texting to her friends and not paying attention to the road. She’s just using road rage as an excuse.”

That afternoon, they both go home and each reports the story on his/her blog. Ted reports that a woman was texting while driving, and caused an accident, and goes off on a rant about texting. Shelly reports that a man deliberately caused a woman to have an accident and that there was little hope of the woman receiving justice due to the sexism of the reporting officer.

Do Ted and Shelly’s blogs constitute independent accounts? Yes and no. They are independent accounts of how the accident was being reported, but they are not independent accounts of the accident itself, because neither Ted nor Shelly saw it happen. The common elements in Ted’s and Shelly’s accounts are due to the fact that they’re sharing a common source for the story, not due to the fact that they’re independently verifying the original incident.

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Bible quote “racist,” say Christians

A controversial billboard has disappeared 24 hours after being posted.

The Pennsylvania sign, which was first vandalized and then taken down, bore a verse from Colossians 3:22: “Slaves, obey your masters.”

While intended as a message against Keystone State legislators who designated 2012 as the “Year of the Bible,” many felt the sign — which also featured a shackled black man — were racist.

via NY Daily News.

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Follow-up on Lazarus

This is way overdue, but I hate to leave a loose end dangling. I wanted to go back and spend a little more time with Jayman’s comment on the Gospel Disproof about Jesus and Lazarus. There were a couple of points where I think he misunderstood me, plus a few difficulties he doesn’t really resolve, so if you’ll forgive me for digging this up again (groan), I’ll go into detail below the fold.

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The historicity of the stolen body

I’m catching up on some issues that ended up on the back burner while I was under the weather, and one of them is this comment by Kevin Harris over at Evangelical Realism, on the topic of whether the “Resurrection theory” is a more historical explanation than the non-supernatural alternatives proposed by critics. Kevin claims that the critical theories are disqualified by application of Craig’s six criteria for historical credibility: historical fit, early independent sources, embarrassment, dissimilarity, semitisms and coherence. Just for fun, I’d like to take one of the alternatives and run it past Craig’s six criteria.

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