I find that I am like everyone else

I find that I am like everyone else, getting older.  I have enjoyed my retirement and the opportunity it has provided me to engage in extensive and in depth study of subjects, I had been unable to during the hectic pace of my normal life.  One of the classes in both high school and university I enjoyed was debate.  This might account for why I enjoy posting on the Facebook pages of various Atheists.  The one major difference was in the classes, while taking differing sides; we still had the same goal- getting a better grade than my worthy opponent did.  In dealing with the Atheists they persist in petty pernicious persnickety platitudes that no amount of persistent and particular facts will change their prejudicial partiality that they are predisposed to.

I continually get such questions as follows:

There’s no proof that “jesus” even existed.

Politicians have always used religion to manipulate the masses,

why is YOUR god the one true god

Man created god, not the other way around.

Centuries of horrors perpetrated in the name of various ridiculous deities and still ongoing today.

technology has been set back a thousand years because of religion.

circular-bible

I constantly ask for specifics of their generalities such as : “Two statements with no factual information to back them up.  Prove to me Christianity is a primitive mythology and prove to me that it is spreading poison and destruction around the world.”

“A myth may be defined as ‘a pre-scientific and imaginative attempt to explain some phenomenon, real or supposed, which excites the curiosity of the mythmaker, or perhaps more accurately as an effort to reach a feeling of satisfaction in place of bewilderment concerning such phenomena. It often appeals to the emotions rather than the reason, and indeed, in its most typical forms, seems to date from an age when rational explanations were not called for[1].'”

And I get this response “technology has been set back a thousand years because of religion. Use your head.” And my answer “Prove it, get specific, what hasn’t been accomplished or set back due to religious intervention”  And they will respond with “Faith is a cheap and convenient excuse for lack of evidence.  You go right ahead and continue believing in your feckless, imaginary deity.”  The accuser seems to think that to become a Christian, one has to commit “intellectual suicide.”  My heart and head were created to work and believe together in harmony.  When Jesus Christ and the apostles called upon a person to exercise faith, it was not a “blind faith” but rather an “intelligent faith.”  The apostle Paul said, “I know whom I have believed” (II Timothy 1: 12).  Jesus said, “You shall know [not ignore] the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8: 32).  Faith is the assurance of the heart in the adequacy of the evidence.

The above questions and observations bothered me when I tried, as a non-Christian, to refute the Bible as God’s Word to man.  I had spent my life from the age of 15 to 45 as an Atheist.  I had even gone to a meeting at a “Jesus Freaks” (Campus Crusade for Christ) meeting at Arizona State University and dumped “acid” in their punch.  When I grew up, I had finally concluded that those statements were simply trite phrases from either biased, prejudiced or simply unknowledgeable, unread men or women.  Therefore, I find myself having to defend my belief against even more intense and backwards criticisms- has nobody learned anything during the ensuing years?

dawkins_large

Not knowing exactly when my ultimate demise might occur (and we know that somehow sometime, it will occur, and it is still unknown if it would be untimely), I have decided to no longer answer those questions when asked of me as a soi-disant reason for my rejoinder to the trite question.  The questions they continue to ask and ignore the factual answers for have been answered by many others with far more expertise than I have.  The Christian faith is faith in Christ.  Its value or worth is not in the one believing, but in the one believed — not in the one trusting, but in the one trusted.  I cannot snap my fingers and have Him perform a miracle to allow the denigrating individual become faithful.  They probably would not anyway.

Therefore, I decided to do the research that they never seem to do or are afraid to do as they might learn something that would bring into question some of their beliefs- or as they insist, their disbelief.  I will write several articles that will deal with the fundamentals of the Christian faith and it will be cross-referenced by some of the highest authorities in secular and theological studies of the history from 10 AD to 120 AD.  As will be found, I offer both consenting and dissenting opinions.  One must also realize that some of the older works by non-English writers have a tendency to be a laborious read it is for the more intellectual group and does not comprise of “See Spot.  See Spot run.”

meme_2

Dr. Avrum Stroll of the Philosophy Department University of British Columbia delivered a lecture titled, “Did Jesus Really Exist?” several years ago.  His position is summed up in the closing sentence of his address: “An accretion of legends grew up about this figure [Jesus], was incorporated into the Gospels by various devotees of the movement, was rapidly spread throughout the Mediterranean world by the ministry of St. Paul; and that because this is so, it is impossible to separate these legendary elements in the purported descriptions of Jesus from those which in fact were true of him.[2]  It is my opinion that, Professor Stroll arrives at his conclusion as a result of committing four serious historical-philosophical errors, which someone of his stature should not stumble on.

Granted the “fundamental importance” of the question Professor Stroll raises, how correct is he in arguing about Jesus that “the information we have about him is a composite of fact and legend which cannot reliably be untangled”?  Professor Stroll’s argument involves four major fallacies, and these vitiate his entire presentation.  Two of these fallacies are of an historical character, and two are of a philosophical-logical nature.  This makes it easier to work on denouncing his argument not only in historical and philosophical respects, but also in the theological sphere, since Christian theology cannot be divorced from logic and history.

Excuses can cover a multitude of reasons.  I greatly respect a man who has taken time to investigate the claims of Christ and concludes he just can’t believe. I have a rapport with a man who knows why he does not believe (factually and historically), for I know why I believe (factually and historically).  This gives us a common ground (though different conclusions).  I have found that most people reject Christ for one or more of the following reasons: ignorance, pride, or a moral problem and these individuals stymie my desire to learn more about a wide variety of subjects.

120-Beter-Tombs

What are Dr. Stroll’s four errors?  I will mention them briefly now and come back to discuss each extensively.

  • Modern Authorities
  • Primary documents.
  • Begging the question.
  • Essene Messiahs

Modern Authorities

Dr Stroll and most Atheists  rely almost exclusively upon the judgments of modern “authorities” in dealing with the question of the reliability of the New Testament documents. The proper scholarly procedure is to face the documentary problems directly, by way of the well-established and accepted canons[3] of the historical and literary method.  Professor Stroll himself points up this type of logical fallacy when he writes in his popular manual, Philosophy Made Simple[4]: “It is not the prestige of an authority which makes a statement true or false, but rather the citing of evidence either to confirm or [sic] disconfirm the statement.”  Moreover, the modern “authorities” cited by Professor Stroll are consistently of a particular kind.

They represent a radical tradition of New Testament criticism which reflects 19th century rationalistic presuppositions (e.g., Albert Schweitzer).  This is an approach regarded as misleading and outmoded by much of recent biblical scholarship.  I wish to stress at this point how could Professor Stroll’s apparent lack of awareness of such criticisms exist.

Primary documents

Dr. Stroll commits the unpardonable historical sin of neglecting primary documents.  The earliest records of Christianity we possess are not the Gospel accounts but the letters of Paul.  Dr. Stroll dispenses with these in one paragraph of nine lines in his twenty-page paper, on the remarkable grounds that “all of them have at one time or other been challenged as genuine” and that “Paul never met Jesus.”  In fact, except for the so-called Pastoral Epistles and Ephesians, it would be next to impossible to find any competent present-day scholarship that denies the Pauline authorship of the corpus of letters purporting to have been written by him.

“The Bible is not simply an anthology; there is a unity which binds the whole together. An anthology is compiled by an anthologist, but no anthologist compiled the Bible.[5]”  That Paul had not himself been one of Jesus’ original disciples is of minor significance when we remember that the author of one of the four Gospels (Luke) also wrote the Book of Acts.  In that he made every effort to show that Paul’s teachings about Jesus were accepted by the original apostles as fully consistent with their own remembrance of Jesus’ message.

Begging the Question

Professor Stroll again violates his own philosophical canons by committing the logical error of petitio principii: “begging the question.”  In Stroll’s Philosophy Made Simple, we read: “The Fallacy of Begging the Question  .  .  . occurs when either the same statement is used both as a premise and [sic] a conclusion in an argument, or when one of the premises could not be known to be true unless the conclusion were first assumed to be true.”  So how does the good Professor apply this circular reasoning in his own discussion of Jesus’ existence?  He writes: “Even if there were reason to believe some of the material [in the Gospels] to express eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life, the accretion of legend, the description of miracles performed by Jesus, which exist in these writings make it difficult, if not impossible, to extract from them any reliable historical testimony about the events described.”  Dr. Stroll says that regardless of the amount of eyewitness testimony, he rejects the authenticity of the Gospel accounts on the ground that they attribute miracles to Jesus.

Miracles, in the course of analyzing Hume’s classic argument against miracles: Now of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely “uniform experience” against miracles, if in other words they have never happened, why then they never have.  Unfortunately, we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false.  And we can know all the reports to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle. These presuppositions are not so much historical biases but, rather, philosophical prejudices.

No historian can legitimately rule out documentary evidence simply on the ground that it records remarkable events.  If the documents are sufficiently reliable, the remarkable events must be accepted even if they cannot be successfully explained by analogy with other events or by an a priori scheme of natural causation.  The historian Ethelbert Stauffer can give us some suggestions on how to approach history: “What do we [as historians] do when we experience surprises which run counter to all our expectations, perhaps all our convictions and even our period’s whole understanding of truth? We say as one great historian used to say in such instances: ‘It is surely possible.’ And why not? For the critical historian nothing is impossible[6].”

Essene Messiahs

Last, Professor Stroll erroneously explains the “unhistorical” picture of Jesus in the New Testament documents as the product of a “messianic fever” characteristic of the Palestinian Jews living under the yoke of Roman oppression in the first century of our era.  He parallels the Essene “messiahs” of the Dead Sea Scrolls with Jesus, and argues that the “psychological instability” of the time produced a divine Christ out of an eschatologically-oriented Nazarene teacher by the name of Jesus.  This argument demonstrates a woeful and inexcusable ignorance of the nature of Jewish messianic expectation at the time of Christ.  It is easily on every important point, Jesus’ conception of himself as Messiah differed radically from the conceptions held by all differing parties among the Jews.  In particular, it cannot be harmonized with the Essene “Teacher of Righteousness” described in the scrolls from the Dead Sea.  The transformation of a human Jesus to a divine Christ was a task of which neither the apostolic company nor Paul was psychologically or ethically capable of performing.  Even if Jesus had met their stereotyped messianic expectations, which he did not the differences were irreconcilable.

I’ll post the link to Historical Documents when it is ready 1/12/17  Done click on link.


[1] Blaiklock, E. M. Layman’s Answer: An Examination of the New Theology.p.47

[2] A complete text of that lecture is at (https://iamnotanatheist.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/appendix-a/ ‎ ).

[3] The term “literary canon” refers to a classification of literature. It is a term used widely to refer to a group of literary works that are considered the most important of a particular time period or place. For example, there can be a canon composed of works from a particular country, or works written within a specific set of years, or even a collection of works that were all written during a certain time period and within a certain region. In this way, a literary canon establishes a collection of similar or related literary works.

[4] Avrum Stroll and Richard Popkin, Philosophy Made Simple (Garden City: Doubleday, 1956), p. 165.

[5] Bruce, F. F. The Books and the Parchments. Rev. ed. Westwood: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1963.

[6] Montgomery, John Warwick, History and Christianity. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1972.

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