As I watched my cherished Christian faith slowly circle the drain in early 2014, my LCMS pastor, Dr. John Bombaro, recommended several books by Christian apologists for me to read in an effort to counter the “false” information I had learned from reading several books by ex-Christian-turned-agnostic, New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman. I did read one of Dr. Bombaro’s recommended books, The Resurrection of the Son of God, by NT Wright…all 817 pages. But it didn’t help. I didn’t find Wright’s argument convincing compared to what I had learned from Ehrman. By June, 2014, I no longer believed. My faith was gone. I was no longer a Christian.
A once devout, conservative Christian had become an agnostic after just four months of struggling over, and intensely studying, the veracity of the Christian truth claims.
Just four months? Was I too hasty in making my decision to deconvert? My pastor, Dr. Bombaro, certainly thinks so. He told me then and has told me since in email correspondence the following: My deconversion was due to my fundamentalist (Baptist) upbringing. If I had just read the scholarly Christian books he had recommended, I would have learned correct Christian teaching on the accuracy of the Bible and regarding Christian doctrine and would not be where I am today.
I think Dr. Bombaro is dead wrong. And I believe that I can prove it.
I intend to prove that Dr. Bombaro is wrong, by reviewing the books he recommended that I read, here on this blog, chapter by chapter. I believe that I will be able to effectively demonstrate that Dr. Bombaro’s belief in the truth claims of Christianity is based on little more than assumptions, hearsay, superstition, and hope (which he and other Christians refer to as “faith”) and not on good evidence. I intend to demonstrate that the “evidence” upon which Dr. Bombaro and other Christian theologians base their claim that the claims of Christianity are true does not meet the standard of evidence that the over-whelming majority of modern, educated, men and women demand for all other claims of truth. I intend to demonstrate that the evidence for the truth claims of Christianity are so poor that Christians must ultimately appeal to hope (faith) to argue for the believability of their very out-of-the-ordinary (supernatural) claims.
And how do most modern, educated people determine the veracity of truth claims? Do we thoroughly investigate and research every claim of truth that we encounter in our daily lives? No. We do not. We are busy people and do not have the time to do that. So what do we do? Answer: We trust the consensus opinion of “experts in the field”. We read their books or look up their position on the internet. We have learned by experience that the consensus opinion of experts in fields of knowledge in which we ourselves are not experts can be trusted. We can feel secure in making decisions based on the consensus opinion of experts regarding the many issues we deal with every day.
What else do we use to determine the validity of truth claims? Answer: In addition to the consensus opinion of experts we all use personal experience to make decisions on truth claims.
Example: We all drive over bridges each and every day. Do we get out and personally inspect each and every bridge before driving over them? Of course not. But why not? Answer: Because engineers (experts in the field) have assured us that the bridges built in our city/state/country are safe, and, our personal experience is such that no bridge has ever given out on us before, so the probability that this one bridge would give out is very low.
We therefore combine consensus expert opinion with personal experience to make an estimation of the probability of each and every truth claim we encounter in our lives.
So when Dr. Bombaro and his LCMS theologian colleagues talk about “evidence” and the believability of that evidence in the book we are about to review, I suggest we hold them to the same standard we hold every other truth claim in our world.
If someone asked you to believe in alien abductions, “by faith”, you would tell them they are nuts! You wouldn’t believe in alien abductions “by faith”. That is ridiculous! The overwhelming majority of modern, educated people are not going to believe in alien abductions entirely by faith or even partly by faith. Modern, educated people will demand hard evidence that extra-terrestrial beings from outer space are abducting humans into their space crafts. Hope/faith does not cut it for alien abductions and neither should it be sufficient for claims of ghost-impregnated virgins, men walking on water, or the reanimation/resurrection of dead bodies.
Let’s see some real evidence, folks!
So let’s begin our review of Making the Case for Christianity by reviewing the Foreword of the book. The Foreword is written by Dr. Gene Veith, a prominent LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) layman, the provost of a conservative Christian college, and the author of the conservative blog, Cranach, the Blog of Veith.
Veith opens his Foreword with this statement: Today Christianity is being attacked…The attacks need to be fended off, the charges answered, and the misconceptions cleared up so that Christianity can at least gain a hearing, which is all the Word of God needs to create faith (Romans 10:17).
I agree with Dr. Veith. Christianity is under attack from many quarters. However, Christianity has a new and very deadly enemy which, I believe, is the most dangerous adversary the Christian Church has ever faced: a multitude of tens of thousands of ex-Christians who have come to believe that traditional Christianity is nothing more than a superstition; a sham; and are speaking out against their former belief system. And why is this occurring now? I believe it is because of the Internet. Never before has so much information been available to every human being. Instead of accepting everything we are told from the pulpit as presumed fact simply because to find out otherwise would have entailed to much time and research, we now have the capability to check out both sides of every position with the click of a mouse while sipping a cup of coffee at the breakfast table.
Dr. Veith goes on to say that this book is a collection of essays which defends Christianity against the many charges against it, most of which (the charges) can be described as circular reasoning based on underlying assumptions. (Funny! This is exactly the charge which I and many other skeptics make against Christian apologists!) Veith continues that the primary assumption that skeptics make is that the material world is all there is; anything miraculous cannot be real.
Wrong. This is NOT the argument of most skeptics. Here is our position: Since no one can disprove the existence of invisible beings and their alleged supernatural acts (miracles), it is impossible for anyone to state that the supernatural/miracles do not exist. Most skeptics, including myself, accept the possibility of the miraculous, the supernatural. However, we skeptics believe that the probability of miraculous events and the probability of the existence of invisible supernatural beings is so very, very low for the very reason that the proponents of these beings and events have not provided sufficiently strong evidence to believe these claims are true! Dear Christians and other theists: Provide good evidence for these claims and we will believe. Until you do, yes, we accept the existence of gods, devils, angels, and demons as possible, but we believe that due to the lack of good evidence, their existence is very, very improbable.
And here is an amazing statement by Dr. Veith: “Other (skeptics) assert as facts statements that are just not true (Such as Christianity being responsible for war, slavery, and genocide).” Wow! I bet the millions of Jews and Muslims slaughtered in the Crusades, Inquistions, and Pogroms would disagree with that statement! I frequently hear evangelical Christians making this claim because they believe that the perpetrators of the above horrific atrocities were not true Christians. “Those people were Roman Catholics, Russian Orthodox, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians. True Christians (evangelicals) never committed these crimes!
But Veith is a Lutheran. He gets no such pass. Lutherans killed their fair share of Catholics, Baptists, and other Protestant “radicals” all in the name and with the alleged blessing of their (Protestant) Christian god. But then I’m sure that Veith will say that it wasn’t “Christianity” that led to these crimes against humanity; these were acts of sinners disobeying the Christian god.
Sorry. I think Christianity itself is directly responsible for a lot of history’s blood carnage. If you are taught that anyone who doesn’t hold to your exact flavor of Christianity is evil and deserving of eternal damnation, it is much easier to run a sword through his belly.
Dr. Veith: “It is absurd to deny that Christianity has been an influence for good.” Most skeptics would agree that Christianity has been good in some ways. For instance, the establishment of hospitals and orphanages by Christians are very admirable deeds. But I would say this to Dr. Veith: “It is absurd to deny that Christianity has also been an influence for some really bad things; discrimination; violent oppression; wars; and even mass murder.”
Veith points out that one of the greatest challenges to Christianity comes from Christian scholarship itself: from liberal Christian apologists! According to Veith, these liberal Christians have caused great harm to the Christian Church by using the “higher critical approach” to the Bible, thereby claiming that “the Bible is not historically accurate; that the supernatural events recorded in the Gospels are embellishments of an oral tradition… This book shows how the critical historical approach to the Bible as developed by liberal theologians is being used both by the “new atheists” and Muslims to attack the teachings of Christianity.”
Wow. Has Dr. Veith ever sat down and discussed Dr. Bombaro’s views on evolution and Biblical inerrancy…or as Bombaro calls it, “Biblicism”? I bet Veith would be surprised. Dr. Bombaro believes in Darwin’s theory of evolution; in the natural selection of species; that all living things have evolved from lower life forms. He doesn’t believe that Methuselah lived to be over nine hundred years old or that Jonah really lived in the belly of a fish. Dr. Bombaro believes that the Bible does contain errors. How do I know? Answer: Because Dr. Bombaro taught me and others these teachings in his church’s catechism classes.
Dr. Veith closes the Foreword with this statement: “Believers as well as non-believers can benefit from Christian apologetics, which builds the conviction that the teachings of the Christian faith—the triune God, the cross, salvation, everlasting life—are not just good ideas or comforting teachings; rather, they are objectively, actually true.”
Great! I am sooo relieved. No one in this book is going to ask me to believe in the three-persons-in-one Christian god by faith! No one in this book is going to ask me to believe that a man who died twenty centuries ago vicariously paid the legal penalty for my ancient-ancestor-forbidden-fruit-eating crime! And, no one in this book is going to ask me to believe that an invisible part of my body, called a “soul”, is going to exist for imperpituity!
Great! Let’s read the book! Let’s read Making the Case for Christianity! Let’s see this “objective” evidence!