Cold Case Christianity For Kids, mother and daughter team review – Chapter Four, part 1

My ten-year-old daughter and I, both atheists, are teaming up to review J. Warner Wallace’s children’s apologetics book ‘Cold Case Christianity For Kids’. Links to all posts in the series are collected at the end of this introductory post.

Chapter 4: Test Your Witnesses: Don’t Get Fooled by Your Witnesses!

Chapter Four! Six months after I started this, we are actually onto Chapter Four! Storming along here! It felt pretty exciting to slide that Kindle page across, I can tell you. And, hey! We may have solved the skateboard mystery! I know you must be all on the edges of your seats.

Daniel has a sister called Lacey who is ten years older than him, which immediately makes me wonder what the backstory to that one was. Large family? Fertility difficulties? Accidental late pregnancy? Whatever the reason, it means that Lacey might have been at their school at the right time to have known the skateboard owner. Daniel realises this and asks her, and she was! And she thinks she can remember him! That’s impressive – I sure as hell wouldn’t remember seeing a particular skateboard with a particular person, ten years later. Or ten minutes later, for that matter, so probably it’s just that I’m not very observant about skateboards, but… seriously, would someone remember this? Oh, well, maybe Lacey loves skateboards and so it stuck with her.

Anyway, Lacey tells Daniel that she thinks the owner was a boy called Lincoln Singleton, who was three years older than her, moved away about five years ago, and always wore what I initially read as ‘blackboard shorts’ but was actually ‘black board shorts’. Which was not much less confusing to me as I’d never heard of board shorts, but my daughter figured out they must be something you wear to go skateboarding, which sounds logical. Daniel and Insert Character go back to the skateboard shop (‘back’ because they went there in the last chapter; it was so boring I don’t think I bothered writing about it) and the owner thinks he remembers seeing a boy who fits Lacey’s description.

But! We have a discrepancy! Lacey remembers this boy as being very tall, but the shop owner doesn’t! Fear not, readers; when they report back to Jeffries, he assures them that eyewitnesses never agree entirely. He also points out a logical answer for the discrepancy here; a boy who looks very tall to a short child three years younger than him is not necessarily going to look tall to an adult. More generally, of course, the point is that we don’t expect eyewitnesses to agree on every point.

You know where this is leading, don’t you? If your answer was “To an assurance that it’s quite all right that the gospel writers disagree with one another” then well done; you are quite correct. We get another of those grey insert boxes, reiterating the point about witnesses disagreeing and then giving us this gem:

So, when you see that two gospels describe something in a slightly different way, don’t panic.

Because, of course, panicking is exactly what a child is going to do when seeing a contradiction in the gospels. Thank goodness we have Wallace to reassure us, is all I can say.

Meanwhile, before we get to discussing the gospels, Jeffries lists four questions we need to ask to find out whether a witness can be trusted.

“The first question,” Katie declared, “is if they are evil. Because if they are evil, I don’t think they can be trusted!” Not a bad question, actually, but the actual four questions were:

  1. Were they actually there?
  2. Can we verify what they say in some way?
  3. Have they changed their story over time?
  4. Do they have some reason to lie?

I’m looking forward to seeing what Jeffries has to say about the gospels as far as those last two items are concerned. I’m also curious as to whether this is based on any sort of official list of police or legal guidelines, or whether Wallace made it up. It does seem to be missing a couple of important points; how accurate were the witness’s observations in the first place (i.e., was this event something they spotted in passing and had a vague impression of, or did they check lots of details, or what) and how well does the witness remember them (including the question of how long a time period elapsed between the event and the witness’s report)?

There is a brief discussion of the two witnesses of the elusive Lincoln Singleton, in which Jeffries and the cadets agree that it is fair to conclude that these reports of memories of something unimportant to the witnesses that they saw approximately ten years ago can indeed be counted as trustworthy. It’s at times like this that I feel really reassured as to the quality of the investigative efforts going on in the US police forces.

Back to ‘the case for Jesus’; Jeffries apparently asked Jason to do some research last week, and Jason read the gospels. (All of them? That’s pretty impressive, especially for a child to manage in one week’s worth of spare time.)

“I read the four Gospels and I see there are places where the stories don’t seem to be entirely the same. But now that I understand what eyewitnesses are like, I guess that’s not all that surprising.”

I wonder what he thought about the places where they’re entirely different? Or the places where one of them mentions something so amazing (a man being raised from the dead after four days, a nationwide darkness with the dead rising out of their graves and walking) that you’d expect all four gospels to put that one in, and yet none of the rest do?

Jeffries, of course, agrees with Jason, and then says:

“Now let’s ask our four questions to see if the witnesses mentioned in the Gospels pass the test.[…]”

…except that we have absolutely no direct reports from any of the ‘witnesses mentioned in the Gospels’. (In fact, when it comes to the resurrection accounts the Gospels can’t even agree on who exactly the witnesses were.)

So this situation is simply not equivalent to assessing the validity of a witness statement. All we know here is that four (unknown) people have reported that various people witnessed Jesus do various things, including getting killed and turning up again a day and a half later, and that one of them (Luke) assured his readers that he has ‘carefully investigated everything from the beginning‘ (Luke 1:3) but without giving us any further details of what reports he received from whom, what measures he took to check their accuracy, and what ‘carefully investigated’ actually means to him here in terms of how much care, and more importantly how much impartiality and analytical thought, he brought to the investigation. With this sort of knowledge base, asking these kinds of questions about the witnesses’ trustworthiness is meaningless.

This seems like a good place to split this chapter. Back soon with more!

 

Cold Case Christianity For Kids, mother and daughter team review – Chapter Three, part 3

My daughter and I, both atheists, are teaming up to review J. Warner Wallace’s children’s apologetics book ‘Cold Case Christianity For Kids’. All posts in the series are collected at the end of this post.

Quick recap: This is the chapter in which Wallace presents his evidence for the existence of his God. In the first part of my review of this chapter, I discussed at some length the problems with the lack of direct evidence for God and how this lack is actually strong evidence against the Biblical god. In the second part, I wrote some not-very-consequential stuff about Jeffries’ drawings, and Katie invented potato-worship. In this part, I hope to actually answer the points put forward. We can dream…

The rest of the chapter consists of Jeffries going over the evidence for God’s existence, which he divides into four categories:

  1. The need for a First Cause
  2. Fine-tuning
  3. DNA
  4. The moral argument.

Here are my thoughts on each of those (I don’t have much from Katie; she was still focused on potatoes).

 

1. First Cause argument

“First, we’re in a universe that began to exist, just like we talked about before. What made it begin? Whatever it is, it would have to be something outside of space, time, and matter. We know that God fits that description.”

This… is about as logical as saying “We need an explanation for crop circles. Whatever created them would have to be something with great technological abilities. We know that aliens fit that description, so this counts as evidence for the existence of aliens.”

You can’t demonstrate the existence of a hypothetical being by simply declaring that it could have been responsible for such-and-such. If you want to go down that road, you have to demonstrate that this being was either the only thing that could have caused such-and-such, or, at the very least, that it was significantly more probable than any other possible options. I’m going to add here that Wallace is a police officer; I assume he knows full well that you can’t prove someone committed a crime purely by saying that they could have done it, and still less can you solve an unsolved case simply by hypothesising the existence of someone who could potentially have done it.

Wallace may of course have meant to argue that there are no other possible causes for the universe. If that’s what he was getting at, however, it’s on him to show that this is the case.

 

2. Fine-tuning

“Next, scientists tell us that the universe is incredibly fine-tuned for the existence of life.[…]”

Whoa there, cowboy. For years I was reading apologetic books assuring me that one reason I should believe in God was the utter unlikelihood of life having developed on this planet without someone to create it, and now suddenly an apologist is trying to tell me that the universe is incredibly fine-tuned for life? Get your stories straight here, guys.

The fine-tuning argument, for anyone who hasn’t previously run across it, is based on the finding that various physical constants of the universe (gravitational force, electromagnetic force, strong atomic force, weak atomic force) all need to fall within a very narrow range in order for a) the universe to continue to exist at all, and b) stars and the different kinds of atoms to come into being. All these constants do in fact fall within the necessary ranges (as you can probably deduce from the fact of our existence), and apologists will often use the odds against this to argue that it’s incredibly unlikely that our universe could have come into being without being deliberately designed and created.

Various problems with this argument have been raised. The main one, from what I’ve read, is that a couple of other well-established theories in physics seem to point to the likelihood that our universe is actually part of a multiverse containing unlimited numbers of ‘pocket universes’ with infinitely varied physical laws. However big the odds against any one universe having a workable combination of physical constants, in a multiverse with infinite pockets there are going to be universes that hit the sweet spot.

(Some versions of the fine-tuning argument also include claims about the incredible improbability of finding the correct planetary conditions to support life. The flaw in this one is hopefully even more obvious; this universe contains colossally vast numbers of stars and planets, so it really isn’t that unlikely that at least one of that mind-boggling number of planets happens to have a combination of qualities suitable to allow the development of life.)

Scientists have no idea why this is the case,

That, as per the links I included above, is just flat-out false. Scientists do indeed have ideas as to why this is the case. They have an entire detailed theory – the multiverse, as briefly described above and described in more detail in the above link – as to why this is the case. You may of course disagree with the ideas/theories they have and want to argue against them in some way, but denying that those ideas and theories even exist is not accurate.

unless of course, the universe was designed for a purpose: to be the home for human beings like you and me.

The second part of that quote does not follow logically from the first half.

Let’s, for a moment, suppose that the fine-tuning argument was absolutely correct. Let’s suppose that the reason why our universe has physical constants that fall so precisely within the ranges they do was because it was deliberately designed this way by a god who wanted a universe that would last for billions of years and contain multiple different forms of atoms which would be able, eventually, to develop into solar systems. It… would also still be a universe in which it took hundreds of millennia to form the first atoms, nine billion years to form our planet, and over four billion years more to get to the point where humans developed.

A god who would deliberately design a universe in such a way is not a god who appears to be showing any particular interest in humans whatsoever. While it’s very natural that we want to think of ourselves as being the primary focus and concern of a divine being – his reason for having created the entire universe, no less! – this belief is not something that can be backed up by what we observe in the universe around us. Even if the fine-tuning argument is correct and this universe was designed for a purpose, it does not look as though this purpose has anything whatsoever to do with ‘human beings like you and me’.

 

3. DNA

Scientists also see signs of design in biology.

Er, no. Scientists see signs of evolution in biology. A small minority of scientists – usually those with pre-existing religious ideas regarding the existence of design – do believe there are signs of design there, but it’s very misleading to talk as though scientists as an overall group were looking at what they could see in biology and saying “Wow; signs of design there”.

Your body is incredibly designed

A flaw in one of the genes that code for Vitamin C, putting us at risk of scurvy when we don’t get enough Vitamin C in our diet and hence causing the suffering of countless people who could have easily synthesised the vitamin they needed if only that gene was working correctly.

A blind spot in our vision due to retinas that face the other way from what even basic common sense would suggest.

Incompatibilities in head and pelvis shapes that not only make childbirth horrendously painful for women, but have led to millions of babies and mothers over the centuries dying in childbirth or suffering severe lifelong injury.

The human body is indeed incredible. I’m a doctor; I’ve learned a great deal about just how incredible it is. But it also has important flaws that provide very good evidence that we were not designed by a loving God aiming to get everything just right for us.

and you even have information in your body called ‘DNA.’

THAT FULL STOP SHOULD BE OUTSIDE THOSE QUOTES. Ahem. Just saying. Anyway, Jeffries goes on to explain to them that DNA is ‘an instruction manual for your body’, and tells us:

It contains more information than all the books in your school library, and information is a sure sign of intelligence.

No, it isn’t. To take an example that Wallace will be familiar with from his own working life; sometimes police officers will get called out to a death that turns out, on inspection, to have been due to natural causes. In those situations, the police officers will collect information from things like what position the body is in when it’s found and whether there are any signs of injuries. The information they get from these signs wasn’t put there by an intelligent being; if it’s a death from natural causes, then things like the position of the body also happen due to natural causes. It’s still information.

(To pre-empt a possible objection; Yes, in this example it takes intelligence to decipher the information. There are other situations where that isn’t true; for example, one-celled creatures can respond to different food sources in their environment, so they’re clearly detecting some type of information from the food sources and processing it in some kind of automatic chemical reaction that can take place without intelligence being required. More importantly, however, this wasn’t Wallace’s analogy here. He isn’t trying to argue that your cells are intelligent because they can read and act on the information in your DNA; he’s trying to argue that only an intelligent source can put any information there in the first place.)

We get another of Wallace’s grey insert boxes, this one giving us an unusually narrow definition of the term ‘information’: ‘A series of symbols, objects, or letters that describe a specific idea or request’. None of the dictionary definitions I looked up included a requirement for information to be expressed as ‘a series of symbols, objects, or letters’ in order to meet the definition, so Wallace seems to have manufactured a definition that fits with the belief he wants to get across.

Back to the skateboard, this time so that Jeffries can show the cadets the words ‘Made in USA’ printed on the base of the board as an example of information that couldn’t have got there by chance. Of course that information couldn’t; it’s expressed in a specific human language using a code (the written word) worked out by humans. Wallace seems to think that the coded groups of nucleotides in DNA that specify particular amino acids in proteins are analogous to this, as though the cellular machinery that manufactures proteins had to learn and check code books in order to do so.

Needless to say, that’s not actually how it happens; in fact, transcription of the DNA code is mediated by complex molecules of what’s known as ‘transfer RNA’, each of which links to a specific group of three nucleotides at one end and a specific amino acid at the other, meaning that, as the tRNA molecules link on to the chain of nucleotides, the amino acids carried by each of them will line up in a specific order. (It’s more complicated than that, involving messenger RNA and ribosomes just for starters, but that’ll do for purposes of this post.)

Of course, apologists will often then argue that this system is so complicated it can’t possibly have come about just by evolution, even given millions of years to develop (alternatively, a subset of apologists known as young-earth creationists will try to argue that our planet has only been here for a few thousand years and thus this system can’t have had millions of years to develop, despite truly colossal amounts of evidence to the contrary). However, this argument runs into the usual two problems:

  1. If you want to use this as an argument for the existence of a divine creator, you first have to prove that there is simply no way at all that this could have happened through natural causes. In other words, not just handwaving and talking about how it’s all just too complicated, but coming up with every possible pathway that could have led to the development of this system through natural causes, demonstrating why every single one of them couldn’t work, and demonstrating that there is no possibility that there might be another pathway that we just haven’t thought of yet. So, good luck with that one, guys.
  2. Even if you were to manage to do that, coming up with proofs so watertight they could survive being poked and prodded by the minds of the collective world of biology and biochemistry, you would still run up against the problem I mentioned above; that all you would have done would be to prove the existence of some type of divine creator, not the particular type of divine creator with a deep interest in and love for humans.

 

4. The moral argument

At this point, it’s mentioned that ‘some [of the cadets] look like they are ready to head out for the day’. Yes, I’ll bet they are by now. Jeffries gestures to them to keep paying attention and brings up the example of stealing being wrong:

“[…]Where does that kind of moral truth come from? Is it just a matter of opinion? Does it come from the state where we live?”

He gets them to conclude that stealing wouldn’t be OK even if there weren’t a law against it, and then gives them what is known in the logic trade as a false dichotomy:

“All right then,” continues Jeffries, “the truth about stealing seems to come from something other than my personal opinion or the state where I work. It’s bigger than all of us. God is also bigger than all of us, so God is the better explanation for the source of truth about stealing.”

…and, if you take the trouble to think about it instead of opting straight for ‘God did it’, our ability to empathise with others is a still better explanation, which Jeffries is completely ignoring.

Katie had wound down somewhat by now on the subject of potatoes, so I asked her what she thought about this argument. She was exceedingly unimpressed with it.

“Well, it’s kind of obvious,” she told me. “What if you’d just bought something for £50? If someone else steals it, that’s like £50 that’s been given to someone without their permission.”

I asked her why she thought this would be a problem. “Because it’s just like you’ve worked hard for that and they’ve done nothing to get it. It’s not nice at all.” I pushed her a little further, curious as to whether she’d be able to put any form of the ‘we wouldn’t like it if someone did it to us’ argument into words. “Basically I’m not happy about it because that makes no sense. It’s not my personal opinion that it’s wrong to steal. You literally just agreed with it! Either I’m missing something or these people are idiots!”

Jeffries, meanwhile, has finished his argument and his diagram and sums up, assuring the cadets that as long as you put only the most minimal effort possible into searching for other options clearly ‘God is the best explanation for all this evidence’.

“And science is the best explanation for all this other evidence,” Katie told me. “And the best explanation for all this evidence which makes sense for it is THE POTATO. BOW DOWN BEFORE THE POTATO! HE IS THE LORD AND SAVIOUR OF THIS WOOOORRRRRLLLLLLD!”

The chapter ends, we’re told, with the cadets looking around at one another and considering what Jeffries has just said. (“Did they think it was silly?” Katie asked me. I like to think that they were wondering when the hell they’d get to the bit of the course where they got to learn about fingerprinting.)

And that, dear readers, is not only the end of this chapter and of this probably excessively long blog post, but also of the bit Katie and I read together last October when we started this! Whoopee! We have finally caught up! It is no doubt a sad comment on my life to admit that I’m excited about moving on to the next chapter after all this time. I’ve been a lot more in my stride with blogging these past few months, so I’m hoping that getting through subsequent chapters won’t take nearly as long (for what that’s worth). We’ve already read the first part of the next chapter last night and I’ll start writing it up as soon as I can.

Cold Case Christianity For Kids, mother and daughter team review – Chapter Three, part 1

My daughter and I, both atheists, are teaming up to review children’s apologetics book Cold Case Christianity For Kids, by J. Warner Wallace. The introduction to the series is here; posts in the series are being linked up there as I go along.

 

We’re on to Chapter 3! The full title of this one is ‘Think Circumstantially: Examine an Important Kind of Evidence!’ (exclamation mark Wallace’s). It begins with the reader’s insert-character clearly influenced by the classes;

During the week, you find yourself thinking “big” thoughts – thoughts about God and whether He is real.

Though not ‘about Gods and whether They are real’, I notice. Logically, the possibility that multiple divine beings exist should be one we consider just as seriously as the possibility that one specific divine being exists (however seriously that is). But apologetics books will frame these questions as being solely about whether their God exists; other possibilities are left unexamined. (For simplicity’s sake, I’ll continue to use the term ‘God’ throughout the rest of this post.)

You wonder if Jeffries might be able to help answer your questions,

Now, wherever did you get that idea?

but when you meet the following Tuesday, he’s more interested in the skateboard.

You’re missing your chance, Jeffries!

Anyway, the bit about the skateboard doesn’t actually move the skateboard investigation any further forward. (Of course it doesn’t; we’re only on Chapter 3 of an eight-chapter book and this skateboard investigation is obviously going to have to last us the full book. I’m guessing we’ll have a Big Reveal in the final chapter?) This particular skateboard investigation section is used to illustrate the difference between witness evidence, which is known as ‘direct evidence’, and indirect or circumstantial evidence (such as the evidence the cadets used last week to figure out the skateboard was old). Jeffries gives the example of a colleague who came in with drops of water on her hair and clothes, thus providing him with indirect evidence that it’s raining. (“She’s just had a shower. It’s sunny outside,” Katie quipped.) All this is, as usual, setting things up for the religious topic of discussion this week, which is – as you may have gathered from the chapter beginning – the does-God-exist question.

You speak up: “Can we talk a little more about the Jesus case? I was thinking about God and miracles this week. […]”

It’s a little ironic that Wallace starts this character’s query off with a request to talk about ‘the Jesus case’, because, in fact, this chapter isn’t going to mention Jesus at all; it’s going to be a general chapter about whether to believe in ‘God’. The particular God under discussion is of course the one broadly described in Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheism rather than any other possible concepts of deities, but there’s no specific mention of Jesus, as as such. I don’t think Wallace could see past his own religion here to notice that theism and Christianity aren’t actually synonymous.

Jeffries is, of course, delighted to be asked this, and assures them:

“This is a perfect example for this week’s lesson. Indirect evidence can be powerful, and we do have indirect evidence for God. A lot of it, actually.”

I didn’t notice this on my read-through with Katie, but this raises a very interesting point. Is there a reason that Wallace/Jeffries feels he can’t offer direct evidence for God?

What would such evidence look like? We’ve just been told that direct evidence is the testimony of a witness, so, in this context, direct evidence would be the testimony of someone who has actually witnessed God in some way. There are, of course, plenty of people who believe that God has spoken to them, so it’s interesting that Wallace/Jeffries doesn’t offer this here as an example of direct evidence. I don’t know, of course, why Wallace made this choice; but I wonder if possibly he recognises that these claims are actually very poor quality evidence when properly examined. These supposed communications from God

  • typically feel very similar to our own internal experiences and thoughts (compare this to our experience of seeing, hearing, or otherwise sensing things around us; we experience those sensations as coming to us from external sources)
  • are often flat-out contradictory in terms of what different people interpret as being God’s message to them.

The claims of communications received from God actually look like what we’d expect if people were very good at imagining that a divine being was communicating with them. And that’s fairly poor evidence.

There’s a point here so obvious it frequently tends to get overlooked; namely, that it is of course perfectly possible to communicate with human beings in such a way that we can clearly sense these communications as coming from external to ourselves. This describes all the communications that we, as humans, have with one another. When someone speaks to you, or you read a note that they’ve left you, or a book that they’ve written, or a comment they left on the Internet… then you’re not normally in any doubt about the fact that you’re receiving a communication from someone who actually exists. Most of the people reading this have never met me, but I’m guessing you’re not in any doubt that the words you’re reading were written by a real person.

So… suppose that a divine being actually did communicate with us in such a way that we experienced the communications as clearly coming from some external source. (This could be the traditional Voice booming out or letters of fire in the sky, but it could just as plausibly be via an extra sense other than the five we know about. All I’m hypothesising here is that we would clearly experience this communication as coming from a source external to our own minds, just as we do when someone speaks to us or we read something they’ve written.) If that were so… well, Wallace wouldn’t have needed to write this chapter in the first place, because everybody would believe in this god already.

While believers sometimes complain that atheists would just refuse to believe no matter what evidence was offered, in actual fact people generally do believe the evidence of their own senses. It’s also worth noting that there are many people who desperately wish they could get this sort of communication from God – they feel abandoned by God, or alone, or on the brink of losing their belief, or don’t believe and would very much like to – who would find it wonderfully comforting and satisfying to have such definite communications. Which means the next question needs to be why, given the benefits of communicating universally with humans in such a clear-cut way, a god would choose not to do so?

Well, there are a couple of fairly obvious possible reasons:

  • A god might have some kind of limitation in ability rendering him/her unable to communicate with us that clearly.
  • A god might have no interest in communicating with us. It’s a big old universe, and quite possibly even a multiverse; while we quite naturally tend to think of ourselves as the most important beings in it, it’s not hard to hypothesise that a divine being might have no interest in us whatsoever and have created the universe for completely different reasons.

So our lack of direct and clearcut communication from a god certainly doesn’t automatically equate to the non-existence of any god.

However, the problem here is that Wallace isn’t trying to argue for the existence of any god. He’s trying to argue for the existence of his God; the particular divine being described in the Bible. This God’s salient features, as described, most certainly do include a) vast abilities that do indeed include the ability to communicate with any willing individual (and arguably with unwilling ones, but I’ll keep it as willing individuals for simplicity) and b) a strong desire for every single person on earth to get to know Him.

It therefore makes no sense whatsoever that, if the God described in the Bible really exists, he would not communicate with humans in such a clearcut way. He has the ability; he has the motive. He has devoted followers who are, in at least some cases, begging him to do so; some of those followers will lose a previously strongly-held faith when they get no answer. The fact that we don’t get any such clearcut communications is, therefore, compelling evidence that the specific God described in the Bible does not exist.

Jeffries believes he has indirect evidence for the existence of (a) God. It will hopefully not be too much of a spoiler at this point if I tell you that I was not very impressed by the evidence, but that’s a subject for another post. The thing is… even if Jeffries had compelling indirect evidence for the existence of a divine being, the very fact that he can’t offer direct evidence is actually strong evidence against the existence of the particular god he wants to demonstrate.

Laying down the homeschooling burden

Today is the second anniversary of my move to FTB. Being offered a blog on here would have been great news under any circumstances, but, as it happened, was a particular light in the darkness at the time, because life right then was very, very stressful. My son was in his final year of what had been an extremely turbulent time at primary school, and, although he was finally settling down at the excellent school we’d managed to get him into that year, his history meant that no local mainstream school felt able to take him. The local available options for autism specialist education were not particularly good, and, in particular, not good options for Jamie. This meant that my husband and I were in the midst of a lengthy struggle with the local council as to the best course of action for his secondary education.

To cut a very long story short (which is something I wish I could have done with the reality) we eventually reached an uneasy compromise whereby I would homeschool Jamie for the next year with the help of a budget from the council which we could use to hire tutors. This had its advantages, but it was also a massive and stressful job. With an interested and involved child, homeschooling can work very well. With my son, it was a constant uphill struggle that absorbed endless hours of my time and energy in trying to come up with lessons he would do. This school year, we’ve been trying to arrange his return to mainstream education, and it has not been easy.

Finally, the struggle is over. On my second blogging anniversary, it gives me enormous pleasure to announce that we have a confirmed and funded place for my son at a specialist school for autism about a forty-minute drive away with an excellent reputation, and he will be starting at the beginning of next term. While our lives aren’t going to be plain sailing from now on by any means, one huge source of worry has just been lifted.

Having fulfilled what seems to be an unintentional yearly tradition to type up my anniversary posts in a mad rush while about to be late for dinner, I’d better go. Happy blogging anniversary to all those bloggers who started at the same time as me, and I hope all of you are having similarly good things in your lives to celebrate.

Cold Case Christianity For Kids, mother and daughter team review – Chapter Two, Part Four

My nine-year-old daughter* and I, both atheists, are teaming up to review children’s apologetics book Cold Case Christianity For Kids, by J. Warner Wallace. The introduction to the series is here; posts in the series are being linked up there as I go along.

 

*She is in fact now 10. She was 9 when we sat down to review this chapter. One of these days I’ll catch up with myself, although I hope I manage it before she turns 11.

 

(This is a longer post; we were getting close to the end of the chapter and finishing it all in one lot seemed simpler at this point than breaking the narrative yet again.)

At somewhere around this point in the narrative, according to my notes, Katie and I seem to have diverged into a brief aside about what Jesus’s death is meant to be about in Christian narrative; the belief that we’re all sinners who can’t get into Heaven and thus Jesus had to die in payment for our sins. I can’t remember how we got onto this, but remember being interested to see what she’d make of it, as it’s a theology I’ve always found quite horrifying. Katie, as it happened, focused on another detail entirely; she didn’t see why death was necessary according to this theory.

“But wouldn’t it be really, really painful?” she asked me, referring to Jesus’s death. “And wouldn’t the pain be the payment? I mean, supposing you got shot in the face for everyone’s sins – even if you survived it, wouldn’t it be really painful being shot in the face? Wouldn’t that be the payment?”

Good point. I can’t remember how I answered it. Anyway, we got back to the story.

To recap, Jeffries had been steering the cadets through the line of apologetic argument that consists of listing possible explanations for why the disciples went round preaching the resurrection to everyone, finding objections to every explanation other than ‘Jesus really did rise from the dead’, and then declaring that, since that’s the only explanation that we haven’t refuted, it must be the correct one. Katie had neatly spotted the key flaw in this; that miraculous resurrection is unlikely enough that, even if reasons make all the other explanations highly unlikely, we are still not going to be left with a situation where miraculous resurrection becomes the most likely. The cadets/Jeffries had the following list:

  1. Jesus didn’t really die – He fainted, woke up, and walked away.
  2. The disciples were so upset about Jesus dying that they imagined they saw Him alive.
  3. The disciples stole the body of Jesus and lied about the resurrection.
  4. The story of the resurrection was added on many years later as the story of Jesus became a legendary fairy tale.
  5. Jesus rose from the dead.

…and had got as far as refuting point 1, though not to Katie’s satisfaction. On with the story; since only three cadets ever seem to get to say anything in this class, it’s Hannah’s turn to refuting the next point.

Hannah wants to mark off one more: “I don’t think they imagined it either. We read that five hundred people all saw Jesus at the same time and in the same way. They could not all imagine the exact same thing.”

So, hang on; did she and Daniel also read 1 Corinthians? That’s an odd thing for children tasked with researching the resurrection to decide to read; the gospels, yes, but there would be no reason for them to realise that this particular letter had any information in it. Of course, what’s more plausible here is that she and Daniel just read an apologist’s work on the subject. If so, that would also explain both why Daniel’s knowledge of the resurrection evidence seemed to be helpfully structured in the form of a minimal facts list rather than referring to specific gospel references, and also why Hannah erroneously thinks that the report of the appearance to the five hundred has them all seeing Jesus ‘at the same time and in the same way’, which in fact isn’t stated in the appearance report at all.

Jeffries, having apparently not heard of the Fátima miracle, agrees that there is “no such thing as a ‘group dream’ or ‘group hallucination'”. No, but there’s such a thing as religious fervour stirring large groups up into a state of mass hysteria.

Jason speaks up now: “But couldn’t the disciples have lied about it? Or maybe somebody else lied about it years later and added the story of the resurrection to the legend of Jesus?”

“Aha!” declares Jeffries. “That’s where the fourth piece of evidence comes in. The disciples were willing to die for what they claimed about the resurrection. Awfully hard to understand unless they were telling the truth. Who would die for something they know is a lie?”

I initially thought Jason’s question was a response to Hannah’s point about the report of five hundred people seeing Jesus; that he was trying to point out that we don’t know whether five hundred people actually did see Jesus, or whether rumour and exaggeration added this particular claim on to an already-existing resurrection belief some years later. As such, it’s a perfectly valid point, and one that someone should have made, but on rereading it I realised this bit was actually meant to refer to points 3 and 4 on the original list; it seems no-one is going to take any issue with taking the one-off report of five hundred people seeing the risen Jesus at face value. Jeffries also tells us that points 3 and 4 have other problems which they’ll have to talk about later as they’re almost out of time, so I guess we’ll hear more about them in subsequent chapters.

Katie, meanwhile, was busy thinking of other possible explanations the cadets might have missed; Theft And Fraud By Persons Unknown was apparently next on her list, closely followed by Alternative Supernatural. “What if the guy who stole him decided to pretend to be him? To put his clothes on and make wounds in his hands to look like him? For the praise? Because he saw all the praise Jesus was getting and wanted some? Let’s say your best friend dies and you see someone who looks like him. You see some slight differences, but do you think you care? You’d be like ‘You’re alive, you’re alive, you’re alive!’ And if this reincarnation stuff is true, how do you know ghosts aren’t? He floats up to heaven, he gets absorbed into God – he’s a ghost! Oh, my god, I’m coming up with twenty different explanations!”

I asked her if she wanted to hear my thoughts on what they were saying, and she agreed she did. I explained about the Bible not, in fact, saying that all the five hundred people who were supposed to have seen Jesus saw him ‘in the same way’ – we don’t have any details at all on what they thought they saw. I also explained that I’d read one historian saying that grave robberies were common in those days.

“Well, that makes sense,” Katie said. This is, I pointed out to her, a disturbing thing to hear from your child in response to information about people stealing bodies from graves; to my relief, it turned out that this was because she’d learned about grave robbing when studying Ancient Egypt last year. She agreed that this could account for a missing body. (It wouldn’t on its own account for the claims of resurrection appearances – I still think the most likely explanation is that these started as grief hallucinations and went on to some kind of religious fervour-induced mass hysteria experience – but that’s a bit complicated for a child and, as it was late and Katie wasn’t seeming desperately interested in getting more details, I don’t think I went into that at that point.)

Back to the book; Jason admits that the empty tomb is harder to explain away than he thought, but when Jeffries asks him “Explanation #5, that Jesus rose from the dead, seems to be the simplest explanation, doesn’t it?” Jason replies “Maybe, but I’m still not sure.” Good answer, Jason; this side of the story sounds convincing when it’s all you’ve heard, but it’s a great idea to find out more about the other side of a story before you make your mind up. (Yes, I know my headcanon is that Jason is secretly an evangelical Christian plant placed in the group to steer the conversation to religious issues. If he is a skeptic, though, good on him for not falling for the first superficially convincing argument he hears.) Chapter ends.

Katie, two chapters in, declared herself unimpressed with the arguments so far. “I’ve been able to disarm every single thing they throw at me,” she said, “so, unless they’re stepping up their game… I’m thinking that they’re probably not going to be able to convince me.”

Cold Case Christianity For Kids, mother and daughter team review – Chapter Two, Part Three

My nine-year-old daughter* and I, both atheists, are teaming up to review children’s apologetics book Cold Case Christianity For Kids, by J. Warner Wallace. The introduction to the series is here; posts in the series are being linked up there as I go along.

 

*She is in fact now 10. She was 9 when we sat down to review this chapter. One of these days I’ll catch up with myself, although I hope I manage it before she turns 11.

 

When we left our intrepid cadets, they had just been writing a list of possible explanations for the resurrection story. For those who don’t recognise it, Wallace is here using a line of argument used fairly commonly among apologists, which goes like this:

  1. Make out a list of several purported explanations for the resurrection story, including the possibility, merely mentioned as one theory among several at this stage, that the whole thing is true and Jesus really rose from the dead.
  2. Go through each point on the list apart from the ‘Jesus actually rose from the dead’ suggestions and point out all the reasons not to believe it happened.
  3. Conclude that since the only remaining not-disproved explanation is that Jesus did really rise from the dead, this must be the reason, and therefore the resurrection has been proved. QED.

By the way, for anyone interested in an discussion and takedown of the points normally covered in this line of argument I would recommend Richard Carrier’s extremely detailed and comprehensive essay Why I Don’t Buy The Resurrection Story, which goes through the arguments in vastly more detail than I’m going to be able to manage here. Anyway, my last post covered the part that dealt with stage 1 – writing the list of explanations – and the chapter was now moving on to stage 2 of the argument.

I asked Katie what she thought. (As I said before, I wish I’d done that before reading her the list of suggested explanations the book gives; it would have been interesting to hear what a child of this age who wasn’t a fictional mouthpiece for Christian apologetics might come up with of her own accord. As it was, I asked what she thought of the list.)

“I think the possibilities are,” Katie told me, “1. that they imagined him alive – but, since he apparently touched them, that doesn’t make sense unless they were all crazy people on drugs or something. So, I think the most likely thing is that he just fainted. I mean, why do you die on the cross anyway? Do you just die from having nails through your hands?”

I briefly explained the causes. “So… blood loss and lack of oxygen. Wouldn’t that cause someone to faint?” Katie mused. “And when you faint, you look a bit dead and a bit asleep.”

Which, I suppose, does at least answer my longstanding inner question of ‘Swoon Theory? Who the hell believes in Swoon Theory anyway these days?’, which is what I always think when I read these arguments. My nine-year-old daughter under the influence of a Christian apologetics book that was meant to have the reverse effect on her, that’s who. (Seriously, though… could I just point out that every time I remember ever reading this argument, the List Of Possible Explanations has included, and nearly always started with, Swoon Theory – and yet, in years and years of checking every counter-apologetics work I could find in any of the major or minor libraries I frequented during this time, which included a lot of libraries, I can’t remember ever seeing a single counter-apologist actually put this forward as an explanation. So, strawman much?)

Anyway, back to the story, which is now in the second stage of the argument; offering refutations for all the non-‘rose-from-dead’ explanations. Daniel votes against Swoon Theory. For purposes of narrative convenience, he apparently knows the facts that Wallace needs someone to put forward in order to refute this one; he tells the others that crucifixion was a ‘long, terrible way to die’ and that Roman soldiers were experts in checking that their victims were really dead, so he sees no chance that Jesus could have survived this process and done so undetected. (The narrative does not go into how a nineish-year-old happened to know so much about crucifixion).

Katie was unswayed by this argument. “Uh-uh,” she told me firmly. “You know about this stuff. Do you think there’s any chance he could live?”

Despite not actually being a proponent of Swoon Theory myself (personally, I go for Hallucination with a heavy coating of Legend, but that’s a post for another day), I had to answer ‘Yes’ to this one. Fluke survivals of significant trauma happen (especially when you consider that Jesus’s crucifixion seems to have been considerably shorter than the usual). And, while I’ve no doubt the Roman soldiers were good by the standards of their time at checking for signs of life, that’s still relative; ‘the standards of their time’ would have been less rigorous than the standards now. Undetected survival of a crucifixion would have been massively rare, but… any chance? I had to say yes.

“So there you go,” Katie agreed. “There’s a chance he could live. A doctor says that, and you’re very wise.” (Can I just add: Hooray! After all these years, finally one of my children thinks I’m actually wise!)

“And besides,” Katie mused, her thoughts off and running, “these people think he’s magical, so couldn’t we stretch the truth a tiny bit? And the Roman soldiers – maybe there are a group of them who feel bad for this guy, and they’re the ones who check whether he’s really dead. And they say “OK, let’s set him free” because they don’t want him to die. And maybe they’re the ones who open up his tomb.”

I was proud of her for thinking of possible explanations, but an apologist could probably pick half-a-dozen holes in that one, and I didn’t want to leave her with conclusions formed on shaky arguments. “Hang on. That explanation sounds like it’s getting complicated…”

“Still,” Katie declared, homing in on the main weakness of this particular line of apologetic argument more accurately at nine than I’d previously managed at twice that age, “we’re not looking for the simplest explanation. We’re looking for the most likely to be correct. So that one,” she waved vaguely at my computer to indicate the ‘Jesus rose from the dead’ explanation, “is the most simple… do you think it’s the most likely? Have you ever seen someone die and then been like oh, hey, how’re you doing?” She spread her hands in invitation of a non-existent refutation. “I don’t think so. And since you’re a doctor and you know about this stuff, then… cross that one off the list, ‘cos it’s impossible!”

And that, of course, is the biggest flaw of this particular line of apologetic argument. No matter how much apologists might argue that miracles/the supernatural are theoretically possible, the fact remains that, in practice, they have a probability effectively indistinguishable from zero. Over and over and over again, claims of miracles have been investigated and found not to stand up to investigation, Even where problems with the other explanations that we can think of make them unlikely, that isn’t going to make ‘It was a miracle’ the likeliest option.

In the previous chapter, Wallace/Jeffries tried to pre-emptively circumvent this problem by arguing that a God who could create the universe could also do miracles, and therefore we shouldn’t rule that possibility out. The problem with that, though, is that there is a vast chasm between “It is theoretically not impossible that this could have been done by a divine being” and “The likelihood of this having being done by a divine being is high enough that we should consider that as the default explanation if others are ruled out”. We can’t theoretically rule out miracles, in the same way as we can’t theoretically rule out alien visitations or fairy magic; but, in practice, they don’t stand up as a default explanation for the unexplained. If that wasn’t the case, after all, Wallace’s own job as a cold-case detective wouldn’t exist; in any case where other obvious explanations for a murder were ruled out, this same logic would lead us to the conclusion that the victim had actually been miraculously smote dead by God.

As one of my commenters aptly put it a few posts back: ‘Kaas’ Law: “When you have eliminated the impossible, what remains may be more improbable than that you made an error in one of your impossibility proofs.”’

Cold Case Christianity For Kids, mother and daughter team review – Chapter Two, Part Two

My nine-year-old daughter* and I, both atheists, are teaming up to review children’s apologetics book Cold Case Christianity For Kids, by J. Warner Wallace. The introduction to the series is here; posts in the series are being linked up there as I go along.

 

*She is in fact now 10. She was 9 when we sat down to review this chapter. One of these days I’ll catch up with myself, although I hope I manage it before she turns 11.

 

 

 

Chapter Two: Learn How to Infer: Learn How Detectives Find the Truth

Aaaaaaaand time for Bible class again, cadets and readers!

Jeffries asks who investigated Jesus ‘and the claim that He died and then returned to life’ (so at least now he’s referring to it as a claim, which is an improvement – at the end of the last chapter, he was referring to the resurrection without any acknowledgement of the possibility that it might not have actually happened). Hannah and Daniel say that they did. Hannah says that they ‘read that part in our Bibles’ and found out that there are four books in the Bible called Gospels that describe what Jesus did.

Jeffries replies that the Gospels were written by ‘men who knew Jesus, or were friends of those who did’ and thus contain eyewitness testimony, which is a very important form of evidence. Jason promptly asks how we know that these are ‘real eyewitness testimonies instead of legends or myths or something?’ Yay, Jason! Exactly the question to be asking here! To which Jeffries’ answer is:

“Great question as usual. We’ll take a whole session to talk about that – but not today. We’re going to start with the evidence we have and see if it holds up on its own. If it does, then we will check and see if we can trust the testimonies.”

So, hang on… what? Surely the evidence they’re looking at is the testimonies. How the hell can they see if those hold up as evidence before knowing whether they can be trusted in the first place? Surely that’s backwards?

(I do note that Jeffries now doesn’t even seem to be pretending that this supposed police cadet class has been organised as anything other than an evangelical Bible class. ‘We’ll take a whole session to talk about that’, but no sign of him having planned any actual police-related activities for the sessions?)

So, Daniel is asked to make out the list of evidence he found out about the resurrection of Jesus. To which the normal response, I’d have thought – bearing in mind this is a child who’s supposedly read the resurrection accounts for the first time – would at best be a slightly confused list of semi-remembered appearance reports (“Well, Matthew said this, and then Mark said this… wait, was it the other way round?”) Since Wallace’s main aim is apologetics rather than realism, we instead get what seems to be a simplified version of Habermas’ minimal facts approach:

  1. Jesus died on a cross and was buried.
  2. Jesus’s tomb was found empty. His body could not be found.
  3. Jesus’s disciples said they saw Jesus – alive (resurrected).

Anyway, Jeffries adds one item:

4. Jesus’s disciples were so committed to their testimony that they were willing to die for it. They never changed their story.

No queries this time from Jason as to how we know this; maybe he’s got the message that questions like that are just going to be brushed aside with a ‘great question, but we’ll put it on a ‘Deal With At Unspecified Later Time’ mental list and just proceed as though we can assume this point is true’.

But… that said, I am actually going to give Jeffries at least the first part of this point. While the actual martyrdom stories of the disciples are based on pretty shaky evidence, the fact does remain that, in Rome at that time, being a Messianic claimant or a follower of a Messianic claimant could be seen as insurrection against Rome. After all, the Messiah was meant to be a Jewish king who would rule over an emancipated Jewish people whose enemies had been roundly defeated and kicked out – fighting talk, as far as the Romans were concerned. Going round publicly preaching that you followed a Messianic claimant who had already been tried and executed for sedition against the Romans? In that time and place, that was a pretty good way to get yourself into nasty trouble with the law and, yes, potentially executed. The fact that the disciples were willing to do this meant that, whether or not they actually did end up dying for their testimony, they were clearly willing to – either that, or they had so much faith in the rightness of their cause that they believed God would protect them. Either way, one point I do agree with was that the disciples themselves weren’t lying; whatever had convinced them, they genuinely believed that Jesus either had risen or would rise.

Back to the list. Time for the cadets to make a list of possible explanations for the evidence, which is written by Jason in consultation with the others. I missed an opportunity at this point, and regret it; I wish I’d asked Katie for her thoughts on possible explanations before giving her the ones the cadets came up with, as it would have been interesting to see what, if anything, she thought of. Anyway, the cadets came up with – surprise, surprise – pretty much the list that Christian apologists usually come up with at this point so that they can debunk it, although it’s been appropriately simplified for the target age group:

  1. Jesus didn’t really die – He fainted, woke up, and walked away.
  2. The disciples were so upset about Jesus dying that they imagined they saw Him alive.
  3. The disciples stole the body of Jesus and lied about the resurrection.
  4. The story of the resurrection was added on many years later as the story of Jesus became a legendary fairy tale.

“With a capital H for some not-good reason,” Katie commented, indicating the ‘He’ and ‘Him’.

Good catch, daughter mine. Why would a skeptic non-Christian character be capitalising Jesus’s pronouns?

Well, yes, obviously the answer is that Wallace forgot this list was being written by a skeptic non-Christian character and wrote the pronouns the way he himself normally would. But I amused myself by coming up with an in-story reason; namely, that Jason is a plant. He’s secretly an evangelical Christian from Jeffries’ church and Jeffries has asked him to attend the course and pretend to be a skeptic so that he can steer the whole course into becoming an evangelising group. Think about it; although this supposed police academy course has in actual fact effectively been an evangelising Christian course from the minute Jeffries had an opening to steer it onto that track, it was Jason (by bringing up the subject of his churchgoing neighbours) who gave him that opening in the first place. If Jason hadn’t happened to ask that question, what on earth would Jeffries have actually taught them for the course, since he seems to have no actual police-related experiences prepared for them at all? If Jason’s a plant, then that wouldn’t be a concern; Jeffries would have been able to plan all this. I’m onto you, Jeffries and Jason.

Anyway, that’s the list Jason comes up with. Whereupon Jeffries adds ‘5. Jesus rose from the dead.’ because they ‘need to be fair and include every possible explanation’. Hoooooold on a second. Just a few pages back, Jeffries was telling us:

“…We’re trying to separate what’s most reasonable from all the stuff that’s just possible….Remember, many explanations may be possible, but not every explanation is reasonable. For example, it’s possible that little ‘tool-shed gremlins’ crafted the board to make it look old, but that’s not reasonable.”

So what happened to all that “it’s possible but it’s not reasonable” stuff, Jeffries? His/Wallace’s Christian faith happened, is what happened. Sorry, Jeffries/Wallace, but if you get to be skeptical about theoretical tool-shed gremlins, why don’t non-believers get to be skeptical about people rising from the dead?

(To be fair, I suppose one could reasonably argue that nobody is seriously putting forward the existence of skateboard-aging toolshed gremlins as a claim or as an explanation for anything, whereas there were at least many of Jesus’s followers who genuinely believed him to have risen from the dead. Trouble is, that isn’t actually much of a criterion for moving something from the ‘not reasonable’ to the ‘reasonable’ category of explanation. Many people genuinely believe in ghosts and other paranormal phenomena; do we have to include those as possible explanations for unexplained occurrences in order to be fair?)

This seems to be plenty for one post, and it’s about time I posted this instalment anyway. Discussion of the cadets’, Katie’s, and my reaction to the list will therefore be left to a subsequent post. <chirpy Stampycat tone> Byeeeee!

Nephew

Sorry – I meant to post the obvious needed follow-up to my last post on the same day, but held off to check I had the middle name spelling correct and then completely forgot to hit ‘Post’.

My sister gave birth to my third nephew, Abraham Wolf Levine, on the 17th of December. Mother, child, father, and both older brothers doing well. Hello and welcome, Abe! My sister and her family were thrilled to have one more for the Christmas celebrations this year.

Nephew incoming

Just had a call. My third nephew is shortly to arrive slightly sooner than anticipated (36 weeks 4 days). My sister lives in the USA so I can’t be there, but so excited and just waiting to hear more. Ruth, we’re thinking of you and glued to the phones.

Cold Case Christianity For Kids, mother and daughter team review – Chapter Two, Part One

My nine-year-old daughter and I, both atheists, are teaming up to review children’s apologetics book Cold Case Christianity For Kids, by J. Warner Wallace. The introduction to the series is here; posts in the series are being linked up there as I go along.

I originally planned to review one chapter per post, but that’s leading to impossibly long and unwieldy posts that are taking forever to write and that are probably a lot longer than anyone wants to read, so it makes more sense to split them into parts. This post will cover the first part of Chapter Two, in which we learn more about the skateboard.

 

Chapter Two: Learn How to Infer: Learn How Detectives Find the Truth

At the beginning of Chapter Two, the children examine the skateboard to see what they can learn from it. Jeffries shows them how detectives wear gloves to examine things in detail without contaminating them, and how to make lists of ‘evidence’ and ‘explanations’, which is all pretty cool – at least they’re learning something about police procedure. From the evidence gleaned, it looks as though the skateboard has been in there for at least nine years (dated from a sticker on it that has the old name of their school). They conclude that it’s an old skateboard, and Jeffries makes this statement of note:

“Remember, many explanations may be possible, but not every explanation is reasonable. For example, it’s possible that little ‘toolshed gremlins’ crafted the board to make it look old, but that’s not reasonable.”

Well said, Jeffries/Wallace! I hope Wallace makes this point forcibly to Young-Earth Creationists whenever he gets the opportunity. (Um… nope. Looks like he’s all conciliatory and ‘well, there’s probably some truth to every viewpoint’ about it.)

Two side points that struck me regarding the skateboard description:

  1. We learn that Daniel found this skateboard ‘hidden in a dark corner of the shed’. This, remember, is the shed at school, which seems to be where the custodian keeps stuff; it was described in the previous chapter as having rusty tools in it. Why on earth was a child allowed to go poking about in dark corners of this shed? That doesn’t sound safe to me at all. That custodian should be on the carpet for irresponsible behaviour. (Wait – maybe that’s why Daniel was allowed to take the skateboard! Maybe the custodian left the shed unlocked when it was supposed to be locked, and let Daniel take the skateboard in return for staying quiet about it!)
  2. The skateboard has a sticker on with the school name, but (I think this is one place where it’s reasonable to assume from silence) no sticker with the owner’s name. As a parent, I can tell you that this sounds odd; you are not going to go to the trouble of labelling your child’s stuff just to narrow it down to the school rather than the child, and you are not going to buy stickers that have your child’s school on them but not the name. I’d immediately take this as evidence that the skateboard was some sort of school equipment and that they should be talking to the school office to see whether there’s a record of such a thing. Maybe that’s going to get covered later.

Anyway, in the midst of all this we also have another of those CSI Assignment insert boxes, this one telling us to look up 1 Corinthians 2:14 – 16 and asking us what we think Paul is talking about when he describes the ‘natural man’. Since the first few translations I checked didn’t even use the term ‘natural man’ and Katie was getting pretty bored with me going through checking translations, this one was a total non-starter.

(I have finally sorted out which translation Wallace was using; I took the fill-in-the-blank quote he gave us in Chapter 1, stuck the bit we had into Google, and got it from BibleHub. He’s using the NIV. Hooray! But what on earth was the deal with not telling us this? Have I missed something obvious in the book where it tells us which translation it is? I simply cannot see it. )

Somewhere in all this, according to my notes, Katie and I got into a discussion about miracles. Can’t for the life of me work out how this fitted into the text of this chapter; we’d probably started talking about the last chapter. In any case, here it is:

(Me): How do you know miracles can’t happen?

(Katie): I’ve never seen one.

(Me): Well, there are lots of things you’ve never seen, like Australia, that are still real.

(Katie): No. But… have you ever seen one? Has Granny Constance ever seen one? Has anyone you know ever seen one? So, most people probably haven’t seen one, and some people definitely haven’t… if it’s that rare, it doesn’t seem like it could ever happen. Unless that lamp starts flying around, I think it’s pretty unlikely.

 

This seems like a good place to break, as it finishes the section about the skateboard. In the next part, we’ll be back to Jeffries evangelising. Although, fortunately, the smirking seems to have stopped.