Gary: You have embraced the Lies of Satan. You are on the road to Hell.

Gary,

I am so very disappointed in you. You have absolutely went the direction I said you would go when a few years back you were hammering away at the inerrancy of the Scriptures. The moment you started defending Dagood and his friends I knew you had given up your faith and embraced the lies of Satan. I was again looking over your blog and find that you have become one of the most hateful sort of atheists, and I should know, since I was one of them at one time, too!
Gary, it looks like I am blocked from commenting on your blog (and I don’t understand why) but let me tell you what is going to happen to you. Should you not die in your current condition and wind up in hell, you will become one of the most vehement and outspoken disciples of evangelical atheism around, even to the discontent of other atheists who will think you a bit too harsh. This will occur because the natural knowledge of God you have continues to warn you that you are a sinner in trouble with God. You will keep wrestling against this innate knowledge God has given you and this is what drives you and all other atheists to argue; you must exorcise any and all knowledge of God you have so that you can come to “peace” on your own terms, and not God’s.
After your extreme hatred for this being you claim is non-existent subsides (interesting how something that doesn’t exist gets your attention!) you will once again start questioning why you have this nagging in your heart that you are in trouble with God. Indeed, at this point you will turn to many things to try to numb your conscience. You will even start talking of yourself as a “spiritual atheist” like so many in your camp finally do. None of it will work, though.
If you are still living at this next stage and haven’t died in your pitiful lack of faith, sending yourself straight to hell, then the weight of your sins will finally have had their toll on you. You will drop to your knees in repentance and beg Jesus for forgiveness. You will finally understand what a pitiful sinner you are and know what the Gospel really is. The peace of mind and heart you thought you would gain from rationalism, empiricism, or whatever else sends a zing up your leg at the moment will have utterly failed you. You will KNOW that Jesus is real and that you have His forgiveness. Until the day you repent, I will be praying for you!
Jim
Dear Jim,
Thank you for your concern.  I sincerely mean that.  The fact that you cannot post comments on my blog is not something against you.  I am not allowing any comments on my blog at this time for this reason:  too much arguing over ME and not enough debate on the issues.  And, my wife and children appreciate that I am not on the computer all day arguing with people.
So, is there a little voice inside my head that whispers: “You’re wrong, Gary.  You’ve made a big mistake.  You are going to wake up in hell and realize just what a fool you have been for rejecting your faith.”  Yep.  It’s there…and I doubt it will ever go away.

Could that voice be “God”.  Yes, sure.  Anything is possible.  I have never ruled out the possibility that a Creator exists or that the supernatural exists.  I believe that it is impossible to prove that a Creator God or the supernatural do not exist.  So should I play it safe and just accept Pascal’s Wager and believe, submit, and place my faith once again in “God” to avoid eternal damnation and suffering?  I think that anyone with a functioning brain would say “yes”…IF…the Christian God were the only choice.

But the Christian god is not the only choice.  The Muslim god says that I will go to the Muslim hell if I do not believe, obey, and place my faith in him.  The Mormon god says that he has revealed his final truth to me in the Book of Mormon, a book just as inerrant as the Bible.  So should I hedge my bet and become a Christian, a Muslim, a Mormon, and a member of every other exclusivist religion on the planet??  But that would be self-defeating, wouldn’t it?  In order to be a good Muslim, I must forsake all other faiths and gods.  In order to be a good Christian, I must forsake all other faiths and gods.  So Pascal’s wager has a major flaw:  the Christian god is not the only exclusivist god.

So how do I figure out which religion is the one, true faith; worshipping the one, true God?  Would you recommend that I read the entire Koran, the entire Book of Mormon, the entire Hindu Scriptures, and the entire Christian Bible and make a decision based on which holy book “speaks” to my heart telling me that it holds the real truth?  Some people have done just that and have become Muslim, or Hindu, or Mormon, so that doesn’t seem like a good way to determine the one, true Faith.

Should I simply get on my knees and pray to the “Creator” and ask him/her/it to reveal himself/herself/itself to me?  Many people have done that and become Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Hare Krishna, etc. etc..

So that doesn’t seem like a good way to determine the one true faith either.

So how about asking each of these exclusivist religions to provide evidence for their supernatural claims?  Islam seems pretty shaky to me.  I admit I haven’t studied this Faith in detail but it seems to me that in order to become a Muslim I must accept the word of one man—Mohammad.  I must accept by faith that an angel named Gabriel came down from heaven, appeared to the Prophet, gave him a message from God, and then gave Mohammad a ride on a winged horse through the air to Jerusalem.  Muslims would ask me to believe this by faith.  They would say, “How could over a billion Muslims be wrong?  How could Islam have endured for over one thousand years if it were simply a wild tale?  How could Islam have spread so rapidly if it were not from God?  How could a wild tale start with one man and grow into a world wide faith of over a billion people?”

My response:  People believe tall tales all the time.  A guy in Milwaukee sees the image of the Virgin Mary in his burnt toast and suddenly thousands of people are standing outside his house praying the Rosary.

What about the Mormons?  Did you know that the Mormons have twelve or thirteen signed affidavits of men living less than 200 years ago who swore under oath that they saw the Golden Tablets of the angel Moroni?  And three of these witnesses swore under oath that they even saw the angel Moroni with Joseph Smith!  If these men were put on a witness stand and all thirteen of them swore that they saw the miraculous apparition of an angel with Golden Tablets would you believe it? 

I doubt it.  But why not?

You don’t believe this Mormon story, or the Muslim story, or the Hindu story because they defy the laws of physics and are therefore simply supernatural tall tales.  Yet, you readily believe that a first century man living in Palestine, two thousand years ago, was publically executed and then three days later, his dead body was reanimated into a superman type body, a body in which he walked out of his grave, ate a broiled fish lunch with his friends, walked around the capital city and country side of a very small country for forty days, and then levitated into space never to be seen again.  But yet we have ZERO verifiable evidence of any of this…except…in four anonymous works of literature; ancient works of literature that, to most neutral observers, are much more probable to be historical fictions than eyewitness accounts of the sayings and deeds of the Creator God come to earth in human form. 

Here is the “evidence” that Christians cling to so desperately:

1.  The central event of the Christian Faith, the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, is only recorded in what we today call the Gospels:  four anonymous pieces of first and maybe even early second century literature.  The idea that fisherman and tax collectors wrote these incredible pieces of literature is almost as far-fetched as Mohammad riding a winged horse.

2.  The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are blatant plagiarisms of Mark.  70% of Mark is copied almost word for word in Matthew, and slightly less of Mark is copied almost word for word in Luke.  Why would an all-knowing God, proclaiming his inerrant Word to all mankind, need to plagiarize?

3.  The Gospel of John seems to use the bare structure of the Synoptics but then goes off on wild tangents with Jesus preaching long sermons in which he over and over again tells everyone he meets that he is the Son of God…something he never says in the Synoptics.  In the Syoptics, Jesus is almost always speaking in parables; even his disciples cannot understand them.  But in John, detailed sermons have replaced the parables.

4.  If one looks at the Resurrection Story in chronological order of when the Gospels were written, anyone but the most ardent inerrantist can see blatant embellishment of the story with each new Gospel.  In the original version of Mark, one young man tells them that Jesus has risen and the women tell no one.  By the time we get to John, two angels in brilliant white garments are heralding the Resurrection, there are earthquakes (plural), dead people are walking out of their graves and walking the streets of Jerusalem.  Funny though, there is no mention of any earthquake or of dead people walking the streets of Jerusalem anywhere but in these anonymous works of literature!

5.  The discrepancies in the Resurrection stories cannot be reconciled except by the most clever of “harmonizatons”.  Who bought the Potter’s field?  It was either the Pharisees or Judas, can’t be both.  How did Judas die?  He either hung himself, or he fell headlong into the field and his abdomen exploded.  Yes, I know that Christians can come up with creative harmonizations for these discrepancies but if this story were in the Koran or in the Book of Mormon you wouldn’t buy these harmonizations for a second.  You would laugh at the silliness of these pathetic rationalizations.  Yet, since we are talking about YOUR holy book, it must be true, and you buy it hook, line, and sinker.

And the list of problems with the Bible goes on and on:

6.  We have no evidence that any of the Twelve Disciples died refusing to recant their eyewitness testimony of the Resurrection.  None.  James, Jesus’ brother was executed, but many thousands of people have been executed for being a member of a minority religious sect.  That doesn’t prove the beliefs of that sect true.

7.  Then there is Paul/Saul of Tarsus.  Was Paul a liar?  Did he make up everything he wrote to fool the world?  No.  I don’t think so.  I think Paul believed everything he taught.  But does sincerity validate one’s beliefs?  So did Paul see the resurrected body of Jesus who spoke to him?  Nope, not according to Paul.  According to Paul, in Acts chapter 26, all Paul saw was a bright light and heard a voice.  And Paul says that this occurred in a “heavenly vision”.  Paul had a vision!  It wasn’t a real experience, it was a vision!  Paul says so himself.  Visions are not real life experiences.  Paul heard a voice and saw a bright light in a vision, just as his intergalactic trip to the “third heaven” was a vision.

Paul was very sincere, but he seems to know little to nothing about the historical Jesus.  Paul never mentions the name of Jesus’ mother; where Jesus was from; never refers to any of his miracles; never refers to any of Jesus sermon’s or parables.  Never.  Not once.  The only thing that Paul seems to know about Jesus is from an early Christian creed about the Lord’s Supper, a creed that lists the witnesses to the Resurrection.  Problem is,  the list of witnesses is incorrect and out of order.  No resurrection account in the Gospels or Acts says that Cephas was the first to see Jesus, even if we ignore the absence of women in the list of witnesses.  So Paul is simply reciting a creed in I Corinthians 15?  If so,  when Paul says that there are 500 witnesses, how do we know that this is not just another incorrect statement in an inaccurate creed?  A creed which Paul says very clearly, he received from others.

So, we have no verifiable eyewitness testimony to the most spectacular supernatural claim ever made:  the Creator of the Universe came down to earth, not to Rome or Alexandria, but to the backwaters of the Middle East, to sacrifice himself on a tree, for the sin of Adam’s forbidden-fruit-eating, then resurrects himself, walking out of his tomb in a superman body that can walk through locked doors and levitate into space, to eat broiled fish with his fishing buddies. 

Then, four books show up decades after the alleged event, written anonymously, by people who were not eyewitnesses by any stretch of the imagination.  We have Paul, a man prone to hearing voices and visions who writes most of the New Testament, laying out the majority of the doctrines of the Christian Faith, who seems to know little to nothing about Jesus of Nazareth, but appears to worship a “Christ” of his own invention, a Christ completely different from the Jesus of the Gospels.

And there are more problems:

1.  Writing analysis demonstrates that Moses could not have written the Penteteuch.  Jesus said he did.  Jesus was therefore wrong.

2.  There is zero archaeological evidence for the Hebrew slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, forty years in Sinai, the Conquest of Canaan, and the mighty empires of David and Solomon.  Christians can grasp for straws like the Tel Dan Stellae, but events of this magnitude should have some archaeological evidence.  They do not.  The top archaeologists in Israel were forced to admit that the stories in the Penteteuch are simply fanciful inventions.  The Israeli scientists have every motivation to NOT hold this position.  But they do.  They do because the evidence is overwhelming.  The reason conservative Christians won’t accept the evidence is because the evidence contradicts their preconceived prejudice that their holy book cannot be wrong.  That is not the way to look at scientific evidence.  Then conservative Christians will claim that scientists are part of a liberal conspiracy to destroy the Bible.  This is ignorant nonsense.

3.  The author of the Book of Daniel seems to have a very poor recollection for the Babylonian, Median, and Persian empires, the time period in which he allegedly was a ruling prince in those empires, but he has amazing accuracy for the Greek empire.  Scholars believe that the author of Daniel was really writing hundreds of years after the fall of the Persian empire, during the Greek occupation of Palestine.  The Book of Daniel is a fraud.  Yet Jesus quoted from this fraudulent book.

4.  The translators of the Septuagint blatantly altered the original Hebrew which had no concept of an afterlife to suddenly infer an afterlife, a central tenet of Hellenistic religious teaching.  Jesus taught from a poor, corrupted Greek translation instead of from the original Hebrew Bible.  He should have known better if he were an all-knowing God.

5.  Paul says in one of his last epistles that “all the churches of Asia have rejected him”.  Yet the author of the book of Revelation says that Jesus commends the churches of Asia for rejecting “false apostles”.  Is that why no other author of a New Testament book (other than Acts, written my Paul’s traveling buddy, and the forgery of II Peter) mentions anything about Paul?

I loved my orthodox, Lutheran Christian faith.  I left Christianity not because I wanted to live a life of sin but because the evidence is clear:  the Christian story is just as much a tall tale as that of the Muslims, Mormons, and Hindus.  It is just as much a tall tale as the story of Santa Claus.  I was broken hearted as a child to learn that Santa doesn’t exist, but now that I know he doesn’t exist, I can never again believe he does.

I have asked for evidence for the claims of Christianity, but instead of giving me evidence, every Christian pastor and layperson points me to someone’s book.  I have read the books.  I have read all 800 plus pages of NT Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God. He is not convincing.  His argument is loaded with assumption after assumption, topped off with second century hearsay.  That isn’t evidence.

Why can’t seminary trained pastors give me evidence themselves?  But none of them seem to be able to do that.  “Go read this book.  Go read that book,” they always say.

So if you have evidence to present, Jim.  I’m all ears.  Send it to me in an email and I will publish it unaltered on my blog.  Give me good evidence for the Resurrection, and I will believe, but without evidence, the Christian faith is foolishness, just as Paul himself said. 

If your only purpose was to warn me of Hell, you have done your job.   But if you want to change my mind, give me evidence, don’t ask me to believe by faith, because faith without evidence is nothing other than superstition, and the world is full of thousands, if not millions of superstitions.  I can’t believe them all, even by faith.

Dear Gary,
Thank you for your response and my concern for you is genuine. I wish I could make you understand what I know, but I can’t. Indeed, I could answer you point by point (Perhaps when I have more time I will, but I am in seminary and very busy writing papers already. I may send you a copy of a paper I am writing for dogmatics, if I think it helpful.), but I have enough experience with where you are at to know that it would be for naught.  However, what I will say at the moment is that the arguments you are making, I have made in the past. I ultimately found those arguments useless, even as an atheist, since the presuppositions supporting them ultimately fail. For example, you rehearse Bertrand Russell’s argument that the competing choices in religions cancel each other out. What Russell failed to understand is that his logic works fine with mathematical entities, but doesn’t work with non-mathematical entities. How does a religion “cancel” out another? We aren’t talking about common factors on both sides of an equation. Russell never explains himself, he just assumes the algebraic operation works in the case of philosophical argument as it does in math. It very well could be that all religions are false. Surely that is possible. It can’t be the case they are all right. Furthermore, even if every one of them are wrong, that still doesn’t tell us anything about whether or not God exists. The possibility is we are all wrong and God exists! Russell’s argument is simply wrong. 
So, then we might be a bit puzzled as to why we have all these religions talking about the divine is some shape or form. Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens wants us to believe that the majority of the population has deluded themselves into belief that something divine exists. It’s mind numbing to think that a hand full of people get it right on this. That is where your argument regarding the scandal of exclusivity comes to play. However, you don’t see why that argument fails, because you haven’t applied it to yourself yet! Why are you correct? Why did evolutionary processes “favor” the agnostics and atheists, a minority in the world by far, with special knowledge that there is (are) no God(s), or that we can’t know him/she/it/them? Well, once we look at it that way we see that you have to explain why Dawkins and company are in the special position they are in, but once you do that, then you are giving up arguments that also can be used to support the exclusivity claims of Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
Another point to consider. You claim that people believe tall tales all the time. Your assertion is self-defeating, since the question being begged is why you are so special as to not be one of those people? Whose to say Gary isn’t right now believing one of the oldest and tallest tales of them all? Are you sure you want to argue you get certainty from some form of logical positivism? Are you sure you want to claim you have certainty concerning the “God question” from empiricism, or rationalism, or a cousin of the two? Indeed, can we even know truth? Is there such a thing at all? Are you infallible? Oh, but if you claim you are not, then you are just hedging your bets! You and Pascal now have something in common! That is to say you entered his wager after all, and you (with crossed fingers) hope you will win. BTW, I am not a fan of Pascal’s wager. I don’t think we need to play a “God lottery.”
I have more to write, but I am out of time. I will be praying for you, Gary.

Dear Jim,

I appreciate your response.  I know that you are busy so respond only when you have the time.

If I understand you correctly, you seem to be assuming that I have ruled out the existence of God.  I have not.  There is plenty of evidence that points to the possibility of a Creator God.  What I have decided is not that a Creator God does not exist, but that it is highly unlikely that the God of the Old and New Testaments exists and is this Creator God.  The God of the Bible claims to be perfect and all-knowing but he doesn’t seem to have the knowledge to pass a sixth grade science quiz and his “inerrant” Word is full of contradictions and errors.

So the question is not:  “Is there a God?”  I am willing to accept that there very well may be a God and I am willing to worship and obey him/her/or it.  The question is, “If there is a Creator God, who is he/she/or it?”  This is the answer I seek.  I must have evidence to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is this Creator God.  I am not willing to shut off my brain and believe he is by blind faith alone simply because Christianity is the dominant worldview in my culture.  If I were living in Iraq someone would be telling me to believe in Allah by faith.   And if I lived in India, someone would be telling me to believe in the Hindu gods by faith.

Sorry,  Can’t do it.

Give me good evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, Jim, and I will believe again. But don’t give me assumptions.  Don’t give me hearsay.  Don’t give me complicated theories.  Give me evidence.

That is all I ask.

Gary

Jim:

You write, “Give me good evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, Jim, and I will believe again. “
It was atheist, turned theist, Antony Flew who said something to the effect that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is of much better quality and quantity than any other miracle claims of any other religion. The question is, what did Flew consider to be “good evidence”? Well, at least he could recognize good evidence when he saw it, and he didn’t turn to Christianity when he left his atheism behind, as far as I know.
 
That question is also for you to consider, Gary. What sort of evidence is “good evidence?” You seem to think that one comes to believe that Jesus is their Lord and Savior based on evidence that demands a verdict. I don’t know, perhaps some claim they have! You should know, Gary, that the evidence I have is the faith given to me as a gift from our Lord Jesus Christ. That is “good evidence,” as far as I am concerned. Besides, I can be certain that the level of evidence you will argue is good enough is of such a high bar as to be impossible to reach, even for personages of history who didn’t rise from the dead. Been there and done that myself, Gary. Remember, I have the skeptic’s t-shirt, too.
Nice chatting with you, Gary.

Gary:

I demand the same evidence to believe in the Christian supernatural claim that you would demand of the Muslim supernatural claim:  that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mohammad; gave him the Holy Words of the Creator God; and then gave him a winged horse upon which to ride to Jerusalem.
Why is it unreasonable for me to demand this level of evidence of Christianity, when you and every other Christian demand it of Islam?  You believe in your faith…by faith.  As does the Muslim, Mormon, and Hindu.  Believing in faith by faith alone is simply superstition.

Jim:

All right Gary, you hooked me in and I will see if I can give you a brief answer.
I still don’t know what sort of evidence you are looking for. We accept all sorts of varying claims as true all the day long, without asking for physical evidence (if that is what you are looking for), certified court documents, or a note signed with the verifiable DNA imprint of the person giving us information we accept is true. The most obvious example is when your mother and father tells you they love you. We don’t ask for proof of such love. But, if we did what would be sufficient evidence? Mom’s report of “I love you?” What if she is lying to you, as the joke goes? In other words, what can you list out that is irrefutable evidence demonstrating for me, a skeptic, that your mother really loves you? Is it unreasonable for me to make such a demand? I am interested in your response here, but let me continue.
You write, “Why is it unreasonable for me to demand this level of evidence of Christianity, when you and every other Christian demand it of Islam?  You believe in your faith…by faith.  As does the Muslim, Mormon, and Hindu.  Believing in faith by faith alone is simply superstition.”
Again, it is not clear to me what sort of evidence would be convincing to you. I think the exercise of providing irrefutable proof of your mother’s love to me will help clarify what you are looking for.
As far as Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and the local Hare Krishna goes, ensuring that their religions are wrong doesn’t make my faith true. Did you catch that? I have the message of Jesus Christ which is He is the way, the truth, and the life. Nobody comes to God the Father except through Him. I think I have sufficient warrant for believing the truth of His claim, not because I can show that all of the other world religions are false, but because a one time hateful atheist came to repentance and received His forgiveness of my sins.
Let me make this point to you in more technical terms. There is a difference between what theologians call “general revelation” and “special revelation.” “General revelation” is God revealing Himself through nature. We look around us and see that God exists, this is something like a cosmological argument.  As typical humans who are fallible and broken due to sin in the world, we botch the general revelation of God and make to ourselves false Gods and even scoff and say there is no God. “Special revelation” is God revealing Himself to us through hearing His Word preached in the Gospel. There we come to receive His Word as truth through the faith He gives to us.
As a Christian, I can say that the Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and the local Hare Krishna hit upon a corrupted version of the one true religion for the reasons stated above.  Yes, I recognize that the skeptic is given something to grind their teeth into with my claim to exclusive, revelatory, truth. I don’t think there is a plausible way to meet the demands of the skeptic. I think they have raised the bar of evidence so high that they couldn’t possible meet their own demands in defense of their own presuppositions.

Gary:

Finally, someone is actually discussing the issues with me and not referring me to someone else’s book.  I’m very happy to see it.

Regarding revelation, I can certainly understand how believers can look at the world around them and believe that the Creator has left evidence of his existence.  But the issue again is not IF there is a Creator, but who that Creator is.  Unless you have tangible evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus, your intense feelings of revelation and faith are no different than the intense feelings and intuition of revelation and faith of the Muslim, Mormon, and Hindu.  Talk to these people.  They feel and perceive their faith, and the revelation of their faith just as intensely and as sincerely as you do.  So how do you know that your “revelation” is from the Creator and that their’s is not?  Without tangible evidence, you are basing your faith on feelings and intuition.

How do I know that my mother loved me (she’s dead).  I know that my mother loved me by over forty years of accumulated, eyewitness evidence.  Could she have been faking it?  Sure.  But the odds of that are so small that I consider them to be extremely unlikely. 

That is life.  We deal in probabilities every day.  Is it safe for me to cross the bridge coming up on the interstate?  Consciously or unconsciously I make a decision to cross the bridge based on the calculations in my head of the likelihood that a bridge on an American highway is unsafe.  Can I be 100% certain I will make it to the other side of the bridge safely?  No.  But I can be almost sure.

So what do I need to believe that a first century Jew rose from the dead?  Well, a lot more evidence than I would demand for crossing that American bridge.  Why?  Because dead men walking out of their graves is a highly improbable event in my experience and in the experience of most people who have written history books and other sources of fact.  Like it or not, extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary evidence, at least for most educated people in western civilization.

If I told you that I saw another car on the highway today, I doubt you would ask me to prove it.  If I told you there was a massive herd of cattle on the highway, you would probably check the evening news to verify my story before believing me.  But if I told you that one hundred one-eyed aliens stopped me on the highway, took me aboard their space ship, flew me to the planet Rincon and back in a period of two hours, I would bet that the only evidence you would accept would be:  audio and video.

I’m not asking for audio and video of the Resurrection.  I would settle for just this: 

1.  Two verifiable, independent, corroborating, eyewitness testimonies by just two of Jesus disciples, describing what Jesus looked like after his resurrection, what he did, who he appeared to and in what order, where he first appeared to the disciples, exactly how many days he stayed on earth, and from what location he ascended into heaven.

2.  A description of the Jesus encountered by Paul on the Damascus Road which matches the physical description of the Jesus that the above two disciples saw.

I don’t think that that is too much to ask for the extra-ordinary claim that a dead man in Palestine came back to life 2,000 years ago; walked out of his grave with a superhuman body that could walk through walls; could appear and disappear; could levitate into the clouds; and could then teleport to the farthest edges of the universe to sit on a throne.

If the Mormons, Hindus, or Muslims told this same story I will bet that you would never accept their intuition and feelings of “revelation” as adequate evidence of the truth of their supernatural tale.

Jim:

Gary,
Thank you for your well thought out response.
You admit your mother could have been “faking it.” However, you lay out some sound reasons as to why you are justified in your belief that she loved you. The skeptic will latch onto the possibility she was faking and then proceed to argue the evidence you offer doesn’t overcome that possibility. Why? For one, we are incapable of peering into the heart. It is impossible for us to know the truth in the matter. All you really have are her reports given directly to you. Eyewitness testimony would be considered hearsay by the skeptic. Indeed, you could have incorrectly remembered what she said to you, or you could be under a delusion brought on my some sort of PTSD. The skeptic would say that when we raise all the reasons why you could be wrong, they out weigh the reasons why you are right. In short, you haven’t given evidence that rises to the level of the proof needed to demonstrate for someone else that your mother really did in fact love you.
You write, “1.  Two verifiable, independent, corroborating, eyewitness testimonies by just two of Jesus disciples, describing what Jesus looked like after his resurrection, what he did, who he appeared to and in what order, where he first appeared to the disciples, exactly how many days he stayed on earth, and from what location he ascended into heaven.

2.  A description of the Jesus encountered by Paul on the Damascus Road which matches the physical description of the Jesus that the above two disciples saw.”

You have that very evidence in the synoptic and Johannine gospels. However, and if I remember correctly, you set up Bart Ehrman as your “pope” and from there you took his word and dismissed these texts as fairy tales. I am sure by now you have found more theological liberals and skeptics to support your view, but that is really besides the point which is we do have that evidence in the four gospels.
 
 
Gary:
 
The issue of whether or not skeptics would believe the evidence that my mother loved me is irrelevant…to me.  I believe she loved me and that is all that matters…to me.  And the same is true with the evidence for the Resurrection.  I am not asking you to give me enough evidence to convince Bart Ehrman, DagoodS, Bruce Gerencser, or anyone else.  I am asking you for enough evidence to convince ME.
 
The evidence that I need to believe is stated above.
 
So, Jim.  Can you give me evidence that the four Gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the Resurrected, walking/talking body of Jesus of Nazareth?  Can you give me evidence that even one of them was written by an eyewitness?

Jim:
 

Jim:

I have a short break so and will offer more of a response to some of your earlier comments. You have asked for “verifiable” evidence twice now, that I recall, but I am not sure what you mean by “verifiable.” Perhaps you could explain what you do mean? However, if you have in mind a verification principle where what will give meaning to a proposition as being either true or false must be a demonstrable experience, then there are a number of problems you might consider and in particular the coherence of such a view (since the principle itself isn’t demonstrably true).
Earlier you wrote, “The idea that fisherman and tax collectors wrote these incredible pieces of literature is almost as far-fetched as Mohammad riding a winged horse.”
Why is it so far fetched? I think it more plausible that a fisherman in ancient Palestine could have learned to write, or employ someone to take dictation for him, than that Mohammed found himself a flying horse to ride. Can you explain your assertion?
You write, “The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are blatant plagiarisms of Mark.” Do you know that these are “plagiarisms”? Simply because Matthew and Luke don’t give Mark an attribution doesn’t mean that these writers were doing something underhanded. Could it be that both writers had read Mark’s gospel and were then inspired to write their own? Btw, if you know how to read New Testament Greek, you soon discover that the writing styles are different in each of these cases and so it is very unlikely that Matthew, for example, is merely doing the equivalent to a modern “cut and paste job” in composing his gospel. These brings me to another point. That the gospel writers might have been familiar with each other’s gospel (and used them as sources for their own) doesn’t rise to the level of collusion. Skeptics have to show that the writers maliciously intended to deceive others with their words before the charge of collusion may ring true.
You write, “The Gospel of John seems to use the bare structure of the Synoptics but then goes off on wild tangents with Jesus preaching long sermons in which he over and over again tells everyone he meets that he is the Son of God…something he never says in the Synoptics.  In the Syoptics, Jesus is almost always speaking in parables; even his disciples cannot understand them.  But in John, detailed sermons have replaced the parables.”
And so what? John’s audience may primarily be Gentiles who need to be taught that Jesus is the Son of God. Besides you are simply mistaken that he never claims to be the Son of God in the synoptics. Matthew records Peter telling Jesus that He is ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, the Son of God. What is Jesus’ response? “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven” (see Matthew 16). So, what do you need? Jesus to come right out and say it himself? But, again, what is your point?
You write, “If one looks at the Resurrection Story in chronological order of when the Gospels were written, anyone but the most ardent inerrantist can see blatant embellishment of the story with each new Gospel.”
Again you are providing a motive for the writers of which I am hard pressed to see how you are in a position to know their intentions. How do you know they have embellished their stories rather than simply reported what they thought important, and/or have provided a report that differs in memory content concerning certain details? In fact, had the reports been identical you would find them implausible on that basis. There is no way for the gospels to win against the skeptic here, because the bar has been raised so high so as to not allow for such reporting to begin with! Imagine what would happen to crooks if the courts implemented the sort of reasoning you employed. You could have 50 eyewitnesses to a murder, but none of them can agree on certain specifics. They all identify the murderer correctly enough, and that there was a murder! But they differ on descriptions of the location of the murder scene. Was there a black van parked on the street corner or a blue van? Was the murder weapon a .45 caliber or a 9mm? Was the gun a blued Smith and Wesson, or a black composite Glock? Yeah, all sorts of problems can be raised with eyewitness testimonies and this is where defense lawyers can raise the most doubt. So, again, so what? The eyewitnesses all agree that there was a tomb, angel(s), and a resurrected Jesus. Because one witness saw one more angel than another witness isn’t sufficient evidence to say that the resurrection did not happen.
You write, “The discrepancies in the Resurrection stories cannot be reconciled except by the most clever of “harmonizations”.”
Here you trot out the story of Judas and the Potters field as an example. You assume that these differences in the stories are “discrepancies.” O.k., let’s say they are actual discrepancies and not intentional differences raised by the gospel writers themselves in order to make certain points. Why even bother to reconcile the differences? Again, I only need to point out the similarities in each story. A field was purchased, Judas’ silver was used for the purchase, and Judas killed himself. Again, so what? Perhaps one narrative was written to show a level of detail concerning the Priests not wanting to put blood money back into the temple coffers? Perhaps the writer of the other narrative didn’t find that point necessary and left it out, condensing the story? These sort of differences do not make the story itself fiction.
You write, “We have no evidence that any of the Twelve Disciples died refusing to recant their eyewitness testimony of the Resurrection.”
Is that supposed to prove something? You raise a straw man argument. The point raised by apologists is that there is nothing recorded by the enemies of Christianity that shows the Twelve recanted their claims that Jesus rose from the dead. Of course, that doesn’t prove the resurrection occurred, but it does strengthen the case that the Gospels do give us a truthful report of the resurrection.
You write, “According to Paul, in Acts chapter 26, all Paul saw was a bright light and heard a voice.  And Paul says that this occurred in a “heavenly vision”.”
Read 1 Corinthians 15 were Paul includes himself in a list of all those who encountered the risen Christ. Paul doesn’t differentiate between how Jesus appeared to the Twelve, 500, or to himself. The point is that the resurrected Jesus appears to him just as he appeared to the Twelve. Luke’s account of Paul’s conversion story doesn’t discount a bodily appearance of Christ to Paul. Luke is more concerned with telling the reader that this chief persecutor of the Church was blinded by the light of the Truth who showed Himself to Saul of Tarsus. Indeed, that seems to be the thrust of Paul’s testimony before Agrippa. Paul tells us in his epistle that he saw the resurrected Jesus. As for the contention over Paul seeing this in a “vision,,” that is not a sustainable position. Paul describes for us what the nature of a resurrected body in 1 Corinthians 15:
“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-49 ESV)
What Paul had seen was not a “vision” but a glorified, spiritual BODY.
That is all I have time for. I’ll see if in a few days I can give more of a response.

Gary:

“What Paul had seen was not a “vision” but a glorified, spiritual BODY.”

Nowhere in Paul’s epistles or in the Book of Acts does Paul say that he saw the body of Jesus.  In his epistle Paul says “Have I not seen the Christ?”.  In Acts 26 the author of Acts records that Paul says that he saw a bright light IN A HEAVENLY VISION.

Paul had a vision, in which he saw a bright light which spoke to him, telling him that it (the bright light) was Jesus.  Talking bright light = Jesus.  Period.  That is all that can be conclusively derived from the writings of Paul and the Book of Acts.  To say that Paul saw a body is to make a HUGE assumption.

All your statements about the Gospels are correct.  Maybe the four accounts are by four eyewitnesses who saw the scene from a different angle and only recorded what was important to them.  So is it possible to harmonize all the apparent discrepancies?  Yes.  Possible, yes.  Probable? No.  I would bet that most neutral parties would say, “Very improbable”.

However, I am willing to overlook the discrepancies in the Gospels if:

1.  You can give me good evidence that at least two of the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses to seeing a resurrected, walking/talking body.

2.  You can convince me that these eyewitnesses to a walking/talking, resurrected body were willing to die before recanting their testimony.

Do you  have any evidence of the circumstances of the martyrdom of the Eleven Apostles?  (When, where, how, and why they were killed, specifically:  Is there any evidence that one of the Eleven was offered his life/freedom in exchange for recanting his eyewitness testimony of seeing a resurrected body, but refused to do so and was executed?)

Jim:

The point I made is that you are being a skeptic when it suits your needs. You assert you need evidence for the resurrection. This is why I asked you, as a skeptic, to prove your mother’s love. The question could have been much more philosophical, can you prove that you’re independently existing thing, otherwise known as a substance? What demonstrable evidence can you provide that you’re just not a mental figment of mine, or someone else’s imagination? Or a similar question, how do you know that you’re just not a brain in a vat? What steps must I take to verify that you’re not? I think your initial reaction to my question over a mother’s love was going the right direction. Your response was something similar to something I would read from a common sense realist. Another way to make your point, perhaps, is that you are justified in your belief that your mother loved you. Likewise, I am justified in my belief that Jesus rose from the dead, that He is the Son of God, and that He is my Lord and Savior. If you applied your skepticism to your own experiences you would ultimately give up the skepticism and need to find a better method of ascertaining truth.
 
Now to the Gospels. It doesn’t matter whether or not we have correctly identified the writers of the Gospels; although, I am quite comfortable attributing Matthew to the Apostle Matthew, Mark to John Mark who accompanied Peter on several missionary journeys, Luke to the physician who accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys, and John to the Apostle John. I am not a source critic, but have read men well versed in this area, such as Michael Licona, and they have concluded that the historical evidence from the scriptures shows us that these men are probably the gospel writers. Where does that leave us? Matthew and John are actual disciples of Jesus writing about their own experiences. Mark and Luke could possibly have known Jesus, but they did know the Apostles of Christ as Luke writes about in the book of Acts. We get this evidence from an internal examination of the texts themselves, which we certainly may treat as documents containing history and themselves contained in a period of history. Now you have accepted Bart Ehrman as some sort of “pope” and have concluded his research is right. So you fled from the inerrancy of the Scriptures as fast as you could. I told you at that time the direction you were going. You told us that we shouldn’t worry because you hadn’t lost your faith! I knew that you had the moment you started defending atheism/agnosticism as you did. And here you are today showing that you have completely lost faith in the Son of God, Christ Jesus!
Now you are demanding evidence. What for? Prove that your mother loves you! Your response, I don’t need to. You’re right! You don’t need to. Just like I don’t need to empirically verify Christ has risen from the dead. What am I supposed to do? Travel to Israel, find a tomb with a stone rolled away, perhaps some angel footprints around it, document it all, and then see if that will meet your approval? Yeah, that sounds as nutty as demanding you prove your mother loves you, but that is what your asking for when you seek verification.
I don’t have faith because someone gave me evidence that convinced me Christianity is the truth. I have faith, Gary, because the Truth, the Way, and the Life spoke to me through His Word and granted it to me. My faith doesn’t rest upon the whims of textual/historical critics, or upon what somebody digs up in the sands of Egypt or in Israel. In fact, after I am dead and if it turned out I was wrong, I don’t think I am going to care all that much.
So you are demanding evidence. What for? Why do you need “proof,” Gary? Perhaps you always believed you could come to know God by your own strength and reason? That would explain allot.
You write, “Nowhere in Paul’s epistles or in the Book of Acts does Paul say that he saw the body of Jesus. “
Of course we find the bodily resurrection in Paul’s epistles. The entire 15th chapter deals with the bodily resurrection of Christians. Paul specifically writes in verse five “ καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα” (“and that He appeared to Cephas then to the twelve”). The verb here for “to appear” has as its root the verb ὁράω “to see.” Jesus was seen by Peter and the Twelve according to the Gospels in bodily form. In the Corinthians text Paul even asks a rhetorical question, “But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35 ESV) That Paul is talking about seeing Jesus in bodily form is supported by these texts themselves. But that isn’t good enough evidence, is it Gary?

Gary:

Your discussion regarding how one determines “truth” is puzzling to me.  In my conversations with conservative Christians this same argument comes up frequently:  “How do you know that YOU exist?”

I don’t understand the need to get into a deep philosophical discussion of reality when discussing evidence for the Resurrection.  Christians allege that the Resurrection was a historical event.  I therefore, at a minimum, expect the same level of evidence for the resurrection of a first century dead man as I would for any other historical event.  Did Caesar cross the Rubicon?  Did Alexander the Great invade Persia and India?  If there is no evidence for these “stories” then I will chalk them up to myth.  If there is evidence, let me evaluate it.

Examining the validity of the Bible is not a black and white issue.  I nor most skeptics believe that the Bible is 100% fiction.  There is a great deal of accurate history in the Bible.  But I believe that there is likely to be some historical fiction and some outright fabrication.  The job of a good historian is to examine the evidence and sort out truth from fiction.  That is what I am doing with the story of the Resurrection.  Was it an historical event, was it a legend, or is it historical fiction?

It has been a long time since I read Homer’s Iliad but if I remember correctly, it includes historical details about the Greek war with Troy, but also includes some fantasy, myth, and magic.  So because Homer’s book includes obvious fantasy and magic do we discount the historical assertions?  No.  But neither do we accept the fantasy and magic as historical fact just because other aspects of the book are known historical truths.

I believe that the Bible should be held to no higher but no lower standard of scrutiny.

If you believe that faith only comes to someone by divine revelation, then continued discussion is pointless, as I have no counter argument to this assertion.  But neither do I have a counter argument for the Muslim cleric who uses the same argument for the validity of his belief system.  Imagine that I have a conversation with a Muslim imam that goes like this:

Imam, I have never seen a winged horse, let alone seen one fly.  So the assertion in the Koran that the Prophet flew on a winged horse to Jerusalem is hard for me to believe.  Could you give me some evidence for this supernatural claim to help me believe?

The imam responds:

Gary.  You will never find the Truth of the Koran through evidence.  You must accept the truths and claims of the Koran by faith alone.  Read the Koran and Allah will speak to you and open your heart to the truth…if you do not resist Him.

But someone is wrong.  Both conservative Christianity and conservative Islam cannot both be true, so someone’s intuition or feelings of “revelation” are false.  Either Jim is wrong or the Muslim imam is wrong.  Of course, both of you could be wrong.  So how do I decide?

If you, Jim,  are content with believing in the Bible and the supernatural act of the Resurrection…by faith alone…that is your choice.  No one can argue with you on that.  But if Christians want to assert that the Resurrection was an historical event, then their claim is open to the same level of scrutiny and same requirements for proof as that of any other historical claim.  Telling me and most other non-believers that YOU are right; that we are wrong…AND…that we are going to Hell to suffer eternal torment for being wrong, simply based on your intuition and feelings of “revelation”, is not going to convince any but the most naïve and emotionally insecure.

Without evidence, your belief in the Resurrection is no more valid than a child’s belief in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus.

Jim:

Dear Gary,
I caught your latest response to me on your blog. I really can’t but help feel that you aren’t genuinely interested in evidence. Take a look at the byline of your blog:
 “In February, 2014, I was a devout orthodox (fundamentalist) Christian. By June, 2014, I was no longer Christian. I came to realize that all fundamentalist religions are based on ignorant superstitions; superstitions that cause sane, decent people to hate and commit violence all in the name of their “inerrant” holy books. I now follow Reason and Science. I want to share these truths and ask you to join me in the fight against Religious Fundamentalism and it’s agenda of Hate.”
You’ve become an evangelical missionary against Christianity in the name of “Reason and Science” which you now “follow.” You have merely exchanged one form of fundamentalism for another. If the resurrection of Jesus is a myth, then why bother? Can’t you let it go and coexist with your past fundy brothers and sisters? Why have you appointed yourself a follower of “Reason and Science” with capital letters to boot?!
No Gary, I don’t have any reason to believe you want evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus. I think you are feverishly working to quiet that small voice deep inside telling you that you’re wrong and you are in trouble with God. It’s just not going to happen. That “voice” is the law of God written on your heart and it is there to accuse you and show you that you need a savior in Jesus.
I pray that your journey away from our Lord is short lived Gary. Btw, what do your wife and children think about all this? Have you led them away from God, too?
 
 
Gary:
 
We were having such a good discussion.  Let’s please finish it before we start making judgments about each other.
 
Jim:  do you have evidence that supports the authorship of the Gospels?  Simply saying that “Mike Licona” has good stuff is no different from referring me to someone’s book.  Christians should be able to give a very clear, concise defense of the historicity of the Resurrection.  Why is it that no one, including yourself, can do that?

Jim:


Dear Gary,

You have the texts. Examine them for yourself.

Please hang onto my email address. I hope to hear from you once you have repented.
Gary:
And this is where the conversation always ends:  I ask for evidence of the authorship of the Gospels and the Christian tells me “it exists” but can’t give it to me.
There is no evidence for the authorship of the Gospels.  The assignment of authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is simply one of many traditions of the Church.  Why is there no specific mention of the authors of these four books until the end of the second century?  Why did some early Fathers consider books such as the Shepherd of Hermes to be canonical but later “Fathers” decided it was not canonical?    The formation of the New Testament was completely arbitrary.  There is no list of canonical Scriptures written down by Jesus, the Eleven, or by Paul.  The New Testament is a collection of letters which support the doctrinal position of the winners of the early Christian “Civil War”.  The catholic Church created the New Testament.  Not God.  Not Jesus.  Not the Eleven.  Not Paul.  It is a manmade literary collection.
Without evidence for the authorship of the Gospels the Christian story rests entirely on the testimony of Paul/Saul of Tarsus and whether or not he truly saw a resurrected Jesus of Nazareth.  Paul himself says that all he saw was a bright light that spoke to him…in a vision.  That’s it.  He never says he saw a resurrected body.
And Paul’s belief in a physical resurrection was not something he suddenly came to believe on the Damascus Road.  A physical resurrection was a central teaching of the Pharisees.  Paul was a Pharisee.  So…Paul, who already believed in a future physical resurrection of the righteous, had a vision in which he saw a bright light which talked to him, convincing him that Jesus had already been resurrected.
And that is what the entire Christian religion is built upon:  a vision. 
Muslims have their vision.  Mormons have their vision.  And Christians have their vision.  Three world religions based on one man having a vision and hearing voices. Not very good evidence for any educated, twenty-first century human being to base his or her entire life upon.

Jim:

Dear Gary,

 
Let me restate the last two sentences of my latest email. I want you to email me if and when you repent, since I want to rejoice with you at that time! I also understand your feeling judgment from the previous email. However, I was not judging you any more than you may be judging me and other Christians. Although, I think you are in a position where you will more readily read judgment into my statements,  than I will into yours. Remember, I have been in your position, too. I was Baptist fundamentalist, then became agnostic after a short stint as a theological liberal. 
 
Once I was a liberal it made zero sense to me to continue my charade as a Christian. I had more in common with atheists and agnostics at that time. I then fully embraced atheism for eighteen years! I still remember the day I repented nine years ago! I had no desire for God, but it was like a light bulb going on. In an instant I understood I was a sinner whose sins were forgiven in Christ and not due to anything I could have done! I then started looking for a church that taught such grace and mercy. Months later I was learning about Lutheran theology, which I hadn’t known. I knew then that I had never heard the Gospel of Jesus before that day I repented. That isn’t to say it had never been told to me. I just couldn’t hear because I was spiritually dead in sins. I hadn’t had faith before; I had an intellectual grasp of God, a historical faith that was easy to replace with another intellectual “faith.”
 
I just want to let you know that I do understand something of where you are at in your journey. Please feel free to contact me in the future. I really do hope to hear from you again and especially under different circumstances!

Gary:

Thank you for your concern, Jim.  I really do appreciate it.

I did not know you are a former fundamentalist Baptist.  So am I!  In fact, my father was a fundamentalist Baptist preacher.  I grew up indoctrinated in this belief system until I was 18.  We then moved to another state and became evangelicals (fundamentalist Baptists with the same doctrines, but with a positive emphasis).

As a fundamentalist Baptist, I grew up believing in a very literal, very fiery, very terrifying Hell.  I was more afraid of Hell than I was of the Boogeyman underneath the bed or in the closet.  Threaten any young child, over and over again, with horrific torture, and you can be assured that child will NEVER get that fear out of his head.  The fear may diminish as he gets older and as he educates himself, but chances are that “little voice” will always be in his head.  If this “little voice” was only present in ex-Christians I might believe your assertion that this little voice is God.  But, ex-Muslims, ex-Mormons, ex-physically abused, and ex-psychologically abused children all experience this life-long nagging little voice.

It’s called child abuse, Jim.  It isn’t God.  It’s psychological child abuse.  Fundamentalism is a cult and all ex-cult members struggle with the fear that they were wrong to leave the cult…and the fear they are going to be severely punished by “God” for leaving the cult.  And all cults use this fear to beat ex-members and “back-slidden” members over the head to get them back “in the fold”.

There is no Hell, Jim.  Hell is an invention of the ancient Egyptians, adopted by the Greeks, whose Hellenistic belief system in an afterlife was adopted by the Jews in their Greek translation of the New Testament, the (corrupted) Bible that Jesus and his disciples used to teach the concept of Hell.  There is no concept of an afterlife in the first 2/3 of the Old Testament.  Hell is an invention by clever priests and clergymen to control the ignorant, superstitious, fearful masses.

Growing up fundamentalist, I was taught “Decision Theology”:  the sinner hears the Gospel and makes a decision to believe or not to believe, all based on free will.  The problem with this belief system is that it puts a lot of responsibility upon a nine year old boy to make a true “decision for Christ”.  So I had at least three born again experiences…just to make sure I did it right.

But the emotional highs of each conversion only lasted a short time, then I would be back to wondering if I had really “done it right” to be saved.  Everyone around me heard Jesus speak to them, move them, lead them in their heart.  I didn’t.  What was wrong with me?

I became so discouraged with not “feeling or hearing” Jesus that I left the Church and simply became a non-practicing generic Christian.  In my late twenties I started attending liberal churches and eventually settled on liberal Lutheranism.  When my children were born my old fears of Hell re-surfaced:  I didn’t want my children to go to Hell.  So I was drawn back to fundamentalism, but I couldn’t go back to Baptist fundamentalism and its dependence on “feelings”.  In my search I found confessional/orthodox Lutheranism.

I loved it!

Here was a Church that taught the literal, inerrant teachings of the Bible, not the wishy-washy smorgasbord (pick out what you like, leave what you don’t) theology of liberal Christianity which always made me uneasy.  Here was beautiful high church liturgy (I had always been deeply moved by the catholic mass).  And…best of all…my salvation was not based on what I felt or decided, it was based on one objective fact:  my baptism!  No more worrying if I had properly performed the “salvation act”.

I was very happy as an orthodox Lutheran.  I had found the true version of Christianity!  I wanted to share it with everyone, especially other Baptists and evangelicals.  So I started a blog to share my new Faith.  It was great!

But there is a problem.  The Lutheran belief that God saves in Baptism is dependent on one historical assertion:  the Resurrection of Jesus.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead, if his remains are still lying somewhere in the sands of Palestine, then he was not God, and if Jesus was not God, then my Baptism was nothing more than a religious ritual, no different from the rituals of the Hindus and Muslims.

So that is my problem, Jim.  I can’t find evidence for the one historical assertion upon which the validity of my baptism rests.  Can you help me find that evidence?  Can you help me find evidence that proves that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the greatest supernatural event ever to occur in the history of mankind?  If you can’t; if Christians as a whole can’t; then my baptism has no more value than my last shower.

If the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses, Jesus is dead.  And a dead Jesus cannot be the Creator.

Jim:

Gary,
 
I am not sure you understand. I pointed out to you that I am confident and comfortable with the traditional view of the authorship of the Gospels. In fact, I study this very thing in seminary. So it’s not that I don’t know, I just don’t want to get embroiled in a useless debate with you, since I understand that issue isn’t the crux of the problem. In other words, my winning a debate, or if it were possible, my convincing you still wouldn’t convert you to Christ. Hence, you should digg into a thorough study on your own. You should grapple with the texts.
Please don’t take my unwillingness to argue as a sign of defeat. I am all too familiar with that rhetoric and I think you know better than that.
 
Keep wrestling with God. Keep investigating. You know how to get a hold of me.
 
 
Gary:
 
What you are really saying is this, Jim:  there is no evidence for eyewitness authorship of the Gospels other than Papias in 130 AD and Irenaeus in 180 AD, both men living at a time when the Eleven and any other eyewitness to the alleged Resurrection would be dead.
 
If the Gospels were written after 70 AD, which many scholars believe, then the overwhelming majority of “witnesses” are dead (the Roman destruction of Jerusalem).  And even if not dead, the Gospels were written in foreign lands, in a foreign language, for literary purposes unknown.  When was the “Gospel of Mark” first circulated?  Where was it circulated?  Do we have record that ANY Christian church had a copy of this gospel in the first century?  Do we have anyone in the first century commenting on the authorship of these four books?  If not, why not?  Why is there no specific mention of the authorship of these “eyewitness sources” until 150 years after the alleged event?
 
Admit it, Jim.  You would never buy this story if it were written in the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or the Hindu Sacred Scriptures.  You believe it only because you want to!  You want to believe.  Your feelings and intuition tell you that you are right to believe it, therefore you choose to do so.  You choose by faith to believe in the Christian story, just as a devout Muslim believes by faith the Muslim story, and the Hindu by faith the Hindu story.
 
There is no good evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  This belief is built entirely upon assumptions, second century hearsay, and a bipolar Jewish rabbi who sees flashing lights and hears voices; voices which tell him that he will be the “greatest of all the apostles” (delusion of grandiosity) and gives him special revelations that none of the original apostles have ever heard of.  Sorry, but this story is no more believable than Mohammad and his flying winged horse!
 
That voice, that feeling, that intuition, that leads you to believe that you have received a special revelation from God, gifting you faith and belief, is none other than…YOU, Jim.  You want to believe, therefore you do.
 
I’m sorry to have to tell you that, but that is what the evidence strongly indicates.

Jim:

And, this is nice read…. The blogger who posted up the entire article wrote, “This is the best article (so far) that I have found that gives excellent evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth; stronger evidence, in fact, than the evidence that exists to support even some of the most famous events recorded in our history books regarding Antiquity, which we accept without question as fact.”

(A) Proof that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses:

(1) Internal evidence, from the Gospels themselves:

(a) The style of writing in the Gospels is simple and alive, what we would expect from their traditionally accepted authors. 
(b) Moreover, since Luke was written before Acts, and since Acts was written prior to the death of Paul, Luke must have an early date, which speaks for its authenticity. 
(c) The Gospels also show an intimate knowledge of Jerusalem prior to its destruction in A.D. 70. The Gospels are full of proper names, dates, cultural details, historical events, and customs and opinions of that time. 
(d) Jesus’ prophecies of that event (the destruction of Jerusalem) must have been written prior to Jerusalem’s fall, for otherwise the church would have separated out the apocalyptic element in the prophecies, which makes them appear to concern the end of the world. Since the end of the world did not come about when Jerusalem was destroyed, the so-called prophecies of its destruction that were really written after the city was destroyed would not have made that event appear so closely connected with the end of the world. Hence, the Gospels must have been written prior to A.D. 70. 
(e) The stories of Jesus’ human weaknesses and of the disciples’ faults also bespeak the Gospels’ accuracy. 
(f) Furthermore, it would have been impossible for forgers to put together so consistent a narrative as that which we find in the Gospels. The Gospels do not try to suppress apparent discrepancies, which indicates their originality (written by eyewitnesses). There is no attempt at harmonization between the Gospels, such as we might expect from forgers. 
(g) The Gospels do not contain anachronisms; the authors appear to have been first-century Jews who were witnesses of the events. 
We may conclude that there is no more reason to doubt that the Gospels come from the traditional authors than there is to doubt that the works of Philo or Josephus are authentic, except that the Gospels contain supernatural events.

(2) External evidence:

(a) The disciples must have left some writings, engaged as they were in giving lessons to and counseling believers who were geographically distant; and what could these writings be if not the Gospels and epistles themselves? Eventually the apostles would have needed to publish accurate narratives of Jesus’ history, so that any spurious attempts would be discredited and the genuine Gospels preserved. 
(b) There were many eyewitnesses who were still alive when the books were written who could testify whether they came from their purported authors or not. 
(c) The extra-biblical testimony unanimously attributes the Gospels to their traditional authors: the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Clement, the Shepherd of Hermes, Theophilus, Hippolytus, Origen, Puadratus, Irenaeus, Melito, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Dionysius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Tatian, Caius, Athanasius, Cyril, up to Eusebius in A.D. 315, even Christianity’s opponents conceded this: Celsus, Porphyry, Emperor Julian. 
(d) With a single exception, no apocryphal gospel is ever quoted by any known author during the first three hundred years after Christ. In fact there is no evidence that any inauthentic gospel whatever existed in the first century, in which all four Gospels and Acts were written.

 

(B) Proof that the Gospels we have today are the same Gospels originally written:

(1) Because of the need for instruction and personal devotion, these writings must have been copied many times, which increases the chances of preserving the original text. 
(2) In fact, no other ancient work is available in so many copies and languages, and yet all these various versions agree in content. 
(3) The text has also remained unmarred by heretical additions. The abundance of manuscripts over a wide geographical distribution demonstrates that the text has been transmitted with only trifling discrepancies. The differences that do exist are quite minor and are the result of unintentional mistakes. 
(4) The quotations of the New Testament books in the early Church Fathers all coincide. 
(5) The Gospels could not have been corrupted without a great outcry on the part of all orthodox Christians. 
(6) No one could have corrupted all the manuscripts. 
(7) There is no precise time when the falsification could have occurred, since, as we have seen, the New Testament books are cited by the Church Fathers in regular and close succession. The text could not have been falsified before all external testimony, since then the apostles were still alive and could repudiate such tampering. 
(8) The text of the New Testament is every bit as good as the text of the classical works of antiquity. To repudiate the textual parity of the Gospels would be to reverse all the rules of criticism and to reject all the works of antiquity, since the text of those works is less certain than that of the Gospels.

Richard Purtill summarizes the textual case:

“Many events which are regarded as firmly established historically have (1) far less documentary evidence than many biblical events; (2) and the documents on which historians rely for much secular history are written much longer after the event than many records of biblical events; (3) furthermore, we have many more copies of biblical narratives than of secular histories; and (4) the surviving copies are much earlier than those on which our evidence for secular history is based. If the biblical narratives did not contain accounts of miraculous events, biblical history would probably be regarded as much more firmly established than most of the history of, say, classical Greece and Rome.” (Thinking About Religion, p. 84-85)”

http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2014/02/excellent-evidence-for-literal.html

Jim:

Since I mentioned Licona, here is an article that sums up some of what he has written in his book on the resurrection. Chat with you another day!
 
 
Gary
 
I am reviewing the older post on the Evidence for the Resurrection, written in February, 2014, mentioned by Jim in his next to the last comment, here:

http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2015/01/examining-evidence-for-resurrection-of.html

After I finish reviewing that article, I will review Licona’s article that Jim mentions in a new post.  I very much appreciate Jim taking the time to provide this information.

 

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