Adam Francisco, author of “Making the Case for Christianity” responds to my Review

Gary,

I tried to post this on your blog, but apparently I need a password:

Gary, I received your email and your letter. I apologize for the late response. I’ve been out of the country.

Blogs are interesting things. Anyone can write them, and issues take on a life of their own there. So I don’t really engage (or even read) them. I’m making this one exception.

In your letter you told me to do a simple google search to verify your claim about NT scholars not believing the four (canonical) gospels were written by eyewitness or based on eyewitness testimony.

Really? I could do a simple google search and back up any claim. I’m pretty sure I could find a consensus of “scholars” supporting the proposition that Bigfoot exists (and maybe there are such creatures).

If you want a list of a few NT scholars who believe the gospels are at least based on eyewitness testimony, written by eyewitnesses, or written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (as those who lived in the late first and early second century believed as opposed to people living 2000 years later) here you go: Richard Bauckham, Martin Hengel, James Dunn, Samuel Byrskog, Craig Keener, Craig Blomberg, Michael Grant, Birger Gerhardsson, Craig Evans, Ben Witherington, Peter Williams, Vincent Taylor, DA Carson.

I’ll let you do the reading.

While you’re at it, you refer to me a seminary-trained theologian and (in your letter) a reverend. I’m neither; I’m a simple laymen. I do have an Oxford DPhil though. That does not mean my doctorate is in philosophy. True, it is a doctorate of philosophy, but that’s a different thing than a doctorate in philosophy. I don’t want to be nasty, but when you accuse me of being ignorant of the facts and then point me to google to clear up my ignorance it’s rather odd since you are ignorant of even more basic, easily investigable (using google) facts.

Btw, it looks like we live close to each other. I’m just across the north San Diego county line. Perhaps we could meet up for a beer.

This is for Abdul: please email me. I’d like to talk (if only by email). And thanks for defending me from the ad hominem attack of being similar to a fundamentalist. Gary: Your response to Abdul in a different post about the source material for Islam being better than it is for Christianity is absolutely hilarious. The earliest stuff we have for the life of Muhammad, for example, dates to 200 years after his death, and it is filled with miraculous accounts that happened beyond the view of any other humans (e.g. Muhammad split the moon in half, rode a pegasus from Mecca to Jerusalem, et cetera).

Cheers

Adam S. Francisco, DPhil

Professor of History

 

Gary’s Reply to Dr. Francisco:

Hi Dr. Francisco,

Thank you very much for contacting me.

First of all, I apologize for not properly identifying your degree.   I will correct this on my blog.

I do not doubt that there are many conservative NT scholars who believe that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels.  But that was not the claim made in your book.  The claim made in your book was that it is the consensus of NT scholarship that eyewitnesses wrote the four Gospels, and even more, that it is the consensus of NT scholarship that the traditional authors wrote the four Gospels.

That is the issue.  The only evidence given in the book for the current NT scholarly consensus on this issue was a quote from John Warwick Montgomery from 1964!  That is not current, Dr. Francisco.  Even if all conservative NT scholars still hold this position, does any current, respected conservative NT scholar claim that the consensus of ALL NT scholars (liberal, moderate, and conservative) is that the traditional authors wrote the Gospels or even that any eyewitness wrote the Gospels?  If so, could you give me a link to such a statement?  I would be shocked if you can.  I can provide several sources which state that this is NOT the current scholarly consensus, including a statement by NT Wright!

The reason I read your book is that my former pastor, John Bombaro, told me that the reason I deconverted from Christianity is because I hadn’t read enough NT scholarship.  He gave me a list of books to read.  Your book was the first on the list.  I was very surprised by the fact that the book assumes that Yahweh is the Creator of the universe without providing any supporting evidence.  To write a book entitled “Making the Case for Christianity” without providing evidence that Yahweh is the Creator, and not Allah, or some other deity, seems very odd to me.  Evidence for a generic Creator does not automatically translate to evidence for Yahweh.

The entire remainder of the book is based on the (unproven) assumption that Yahweh is the Creator, and, the very disputable claim that the overwhelming consensus of NT scholars is that Matthew, John Mark, Luke the physician, and John son of Zebedee wrote the four Gospels.  The LCMS attorney author in your book builds an entire legal case for the Resurrection based on the “evidence” that the consensus of scholars hold to the Gospels being written by eyewitnesses.  If I were the opposing attorney, I would call NT Wright to the stand and ask him to confirm his on record statement that, “I don’t know who the writers of the Gospels were, and, nor does anyone else.”This assumption regarding the scholarly consensus on this issue is at least contested, if not false.  Your authors did not say this.

If LCMS pastors and LCMS theologians are giving us laypersons outdated scholarship can’t you see why that might create distrust and doubt about the entire Christian Faith?

I would very much enjoy meeting with you to discuss these issues.  You are welcome to invite Dr. Bombaro to join us if he is interested.  I seek the truth, whatever it is, but right now the truth to me appears to be that Christianity is based on ancient superstitions, not historical facts.

Sincerely,

Gary Matson, Jr.

 

Update 11/25/2016:  Response from Dr. Adam Francisco:

Gary,

It doesn’t bother me how you refer to me. I only mentioned it to point out how easy it is to misrepresent something.
As far as NT scholarship is concerned, I would argue that the consensus of NT scholars who approach the NT inductively with as little philosophical bias  as is humanely possible (proper ‘scientific’ reseach) will come out on the side that the book takes. Sure, there are scholars who don’t. But they largely assume certain things must be true about the world (e.g. whether miracles take place) before their research. Yes, they are scholars in that they have academic credentials. But I don’t really count their research as scholarship. It’s more ideology masquerading as scholarship.
Adam
Gary’s Response, 11/25/2016:
Hi Adam,
So what you are saying is that when your book uses the term “New Testament scholars” you are using a limited definition of that term.  You are limiting that term to conservative New Testament scholars (nearly all of whom are evangelical Christians or conservative Lutherans)…so essentially only the scholars that agree with your position.
Don’t you think that your readers deserve to know that you are using a limited definition of the term “New Testament scholars”?   If you had said, “the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is the near unanimous position among conservative Christian New Testament scholars” I would have no issue.  But you didn’t do that.  You and your colleagues state in your book that it is the near unanimous position of NT scholarship, which implies that anyone who disagrees with you in not well informed on the subject.
This is wrong, Adam.  It is morally wrong.  It comes very close to being an outright lie.  Just because you don’t like the positions of moderate and liberal NT scholars doesn’t mean you can just exclude their views and form a consensus based solely on the position of those scholars who agree with your very conservative (some would say, “fundamentalist”) views.
Your readers deserve more transparency.
I hope you will start a (free) account with WordPress so that you can comment directly on my blog.  Many of my readers would like to speak to you.
Gary

 

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105 thoughts on “Adam Francisco, author of “Making the Case for Christianity” responds to my Review

  1. While I don’t know all the authors on Francisco’s list, I have read seven of them, and they are, to the man, Evangelical. Unfortunately, presuppositionalism is the norm in Evangelicalism. This is why no arguments are made for the existence of the Evangelical God. The same can be said for many of the claims about nature of the Biblical text. These beliefs are presupposed (assumed) without any attempts to prove their veracity.

    I have long argued that Evangelicalism in inherently Fundamentalist. While there is diversity within the Evangelical camp, theologically Evangelicals pretty much have the same beliefs. What confuses this issue is that there are progressive/liberal Christians who self-identify as Evangelicals. Their beliefs about the Biblical text are decidedly more in line with textual critics/historians such as Bart Ehrman than they are with the authors mentioned by Francisco.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gary,

      I’m not sure what you think you’ve gained with your opinion concerning scholarly consensus. I suspect any reasonable historian admits that bias is always at work in their research. Hence they seek to develop a uniform approach towards handling evidence. However, we should always keep in mind that not only does the historian have a bias, but so does the consumer of the historian’s work. My point is that you’ve won nothing by reminding Dr. Francisco of conservative bias, as if he wasn’t aware of it to begin with.

      The fact that all of us are working through a bias shouldn’t be discouraging. We can certainly have practical knowledge of our world and its history. We just have to keep working our methodologies of obtaining information. However, at the end of the day we must recognize that the resurrected Christ Jesus doesn’t come to you through digs in Jerusalem or by historical analysis of Jesus’ truth claims. You don’t come to Jesus by your own reason and strength. Rather, He gives you faith to believe in Him through hearing His word. I know, that’s a “bummer” for skeptics like you who would put their faith into “science” while ignoring that even with science is much presupposition to dogmatically adhere to. Don’t believe me? Just start talking up how evidence points to the universe as being designed by an intelligent creator and watch the eye rolls of those scientists who think the universe came into being by chance.

      Regarding the LCMS and what it teaches, my experience is that it is not giving “outdated” scholarship. In fact, there is a plethora of current scholarship coming from LCMS theologians. If you really want to “jump in,” consider contacting Dr. Gieschen and ask for a subscription to the Concordia Theological Quarterly. Since you know how to use Google, I will leave it to you to get his email address.

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      1. If Dr. Francisco and his colleagues had stated that it is “the consensus of conservative NT scholars” that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels, I would not have made a big issue out of this. I would have simply pointed out that the majority of the remainder of NT scholars (moderates and liberals) do NOT believe that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels.

        A consensus opinion/overwhelming majority opinion of ALL experts in a particular field carries considerable weight in our society.

        In his chapter in this book, the LCMS attorney used the claim that the consensus of experts is that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels as a FACT that could be presented to a court, proving that the Gospels are reliable primary source documents, in order to win a judgment in favor of the Resurrection. If he had to admit the truth, that this position is only held by a conservative minority of experts, I don’t think he would be so confident about his chances of winning the “case”.

        Does the majority of conservative NT scholars believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses? Probably, yes.

        Does the majority of ALL NT scholars believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses? No! And that is the issue.

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        1. Gary opines, “Does the majority of ALL NT scholars believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses? No! ”

          You know that how? I’ll tell you how you formed your opinion… you read a handful of scholars which you have an affinity for, scholars who have given you exactly what you want to prop up your own skepticism. You took Bart Ehrman as “gospel truth” and dumped your faith. Is that really a sound method of research? Read one persuasive author and hit the eject button? Really? You’ve dragged yourself and your family from faith in Christ Jesus all on the hope that Bart Ehrman is correct? Does that sound rational to you? Seriously… WOW! If that isn’t faith in a man, I don’t know what is.

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          1. Btw, for others reading. I watched Gary blow up his faith publicly. He ditched Jesus because of what he read from Ehrman. Gary was a Lutheran for maybe less than six months before he put faith in Ehrman’s research and jumped ship. Is that really sound scholarship? I think not.

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          2. Jim,

            Do you consider NT Wright to be a liberal scholar?

            Second, please provide a link to a statement by any of the conservative NT scholars which Dr. Francisco refers to above who states that “the consensus of current NT scholarship is that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels”.

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      2. “Don’t believe me? Just start talking up how evidence points to the universe as being designed by an intelligent creator and watch the eye rolls of those scientists who think the universe came into being by chance.”

        Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful we are in a habitable zone (for now), but, there are a few questions I have for the designer (remember, nothing can be created that didn’t have a designer):

        – Why is roughly 71% of the earth covered in water, in which we can’t inhabit and could kill us (and does)? The designed sea creatures that would eat us. The water to fill our designed lungs. The depths of which have too much pressure and not enough oxygen. I understand we need water to survive, but may be a little less of it?
        – Why are some areas designed as inhospitable to us? Too far to the poles and we would freeze to death. Too much time at the equator and we would be scorched to death.
        – Why do some areas have no sun for 7-10 weeks? That really messes with our ability to grow food.
        – Why do some areas get constant sunshine for periods up to 6 months? That really messes with our designed sleep cycle.
        – Why are some areas infested with diseases? Why did you design diseases in the first place? Why did you make two identical looking sets of berries, one that is toxic and could kill us, the other great tasting? Why did you leave it up to us to figure out the difference? Why did you make our bodies with receptors that make the berries “toxic” in the first place?
        – Why do we only live on a thin peel of our planet? To far into the molten core and we would be scorched to death (or, too close to the volcano when you cause it to burp at us).
        – Why are some animals designed with the ability and intent to kill us as humans?
        – That big ball of light in the sky, why did you design it to send harmful radiation that can (and does) give us cancer? Couldn’t we have been designed to withstand that? Why do you constantly hurl the solar flares at us (They are pretty at the poles, though)? Isn’t there a better way to give us light?
        – Why are you constantly throwing space debris at us? Why the craters? Why the meteorites? Why are you throwing rocks at us?! Don’t get me wrong, the Perseids are beautiful, but why do any of them have to make contact with earth?
        – Why did you design the weather like you did? Why do you keep sending disasters our way? Why hurricanes? Why flooding? Why earthquakes? Why volcanoes? Why lightning? These events have killed millions of your designed humans. Many of these humans constantly profess their love and obedience to you!
        – Do you have an affinity for beatles?
        – Why are some people born without sight? It’s been said that they “eye” is a perfect example of your intelligent design. Why did you not give them to everyone?
        – Why are some people born with specific color blindness? They don’t get to enjoy the rest of your design with the same experience.
        – Why are some people born with defects in one or both of their eyes? Thanks for designing glasses, but couldn’t you have given them to our ancestors sooner? Why did all of our ancestors before us have to wait until your divine plan created a human being who invented the optics and made it easier for later generations? Why does an intelligent design require glasses or surgeries?
        – Why does eyesight get worse with age? I would expect that from something silly like “evolution”, but not from an intelligent designer!
        – Why do some animals not need eyes and we do?
        – Why are we made up of the exact same stuff as everything else in our known universe? Couldn’t we have been made from special ingredients?
        – Why do other animals have better vision that we do?! Some of them can see perfectly in the night!
        – Why do other animals have better hearing than we do? Some can even navigate this way.
        – Why do other animals have a better sense of smell than we do? I am jealous of the dogs.
        – Why are other animals much more sensitive to touch and can detect movement from far away?
        – I know you say we are the pinnacle of your creation, made in your image, but why do the variety of animals seem to have all the cool stuff?
        – Why did you design all of the dangerous germs and microbes?
        – Why did you design all of the cancers and other physical ailments that fall on us humans?
        – Why are there malfunctions in the genes of certain humans but not others?
        – Why are some people born without their brains fully functioning?
        – Why are some people born with failing nervous systems?
        – Why do you abort so many babies from women who are more than happy to raise a child?
        – Why are some people born without the ability to hear?
        – Why are some people born without all of the limbs that we have become accustomed to? Why no legs? Why no arms?
        – Why did so many of our ancestors have to suffer and die because your divine plan didn’t have safety measures being built until later?

        These are just a small sampling of questions I keep. I have many more for the solar system and expanding out into the universe (seriously, our star is a wimp!)

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          1. Oh of course, and this is just a small sample of questions. Totally makes sense about sin. It gets even more fun when applied to the solar system, the universe, and….the bible. I love the responses I receive to these questions, so I am interested in collecting some more answers!

            Liked by 1 person

      3. It all comes down to circular reasoning then, Jim? –
        ‘I have faith that Jesus lives.’
        Where does that faith come from?
        ‘From Jesus.’
        How does that happen?
        ‘Because he lives.’

        You didn’t say this, you say? Sure you did:
        ‘You don’t come to Jesus by your own reason and strength. Rather, He gives you faith to believe in Him through hearing His word.’

        Me, I don’t have faith because dead guys don’t supply it. It’s wishful thinking, Jim, together with an unhealthy dose of social conditioning and a smattering of cognitive dissonance.

        Oh, and skeptics don’t ‘have faith’ in science; they evaluate its claims and analyse its evidence before accepting its conclusions (which can change as more evidence becomes available). This is its strength; science is rooted in what we can observe, test and calculate. Religious belief, fundamental or otherwise, is devoid of all of these things.

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  2. Jim, I have been a Lutheran since 1989. I started attending an LCMS church in 2012. (I am technically, still a member of the LCMS as I have not resigned my membership nor have I been kicked out.) If anyone wants to “watch” my deconversion, you can read my first blog post in which I interacted with Bruce Gerencser, an ex-pastor turned atheist, and began my four month journey to losing my faith.

    https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/fundamentalist-baptist-pastor-abandons-his-christian-faith/

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    1. Gary,

      I am pretty sure you claimed to be a baptist before you went to the LCMS in 2012. However, if I am wrong about that, and you were indeed attending a Lutheran congregation from 1989 forward, then please accept my apology.

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      1. Actually, Gary lost his faith for a variety of reasons. Your shrill attack says more about you than it does him.

        Let’s cut through the bullshit….what is it you think Gary should know that would ultimately change his mind about Christianity? Read another book? Evangelicals haven’t had an original thought in decades. Change the author and title, but the data remains the same. How could it be otherwise, right? The end of every argument/discussion/debate remains the same: the Christian God exists, the Bible is inspired by God, and regardless of evidence to the contrary, by faith I believe. And therein is the rub. Faith trumps everything. Such metaphysical claims cannot be intellectually or rationally sustained.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Bruce,

          Evangelical Christians haven’t had an original thought for a couple thousand years. That’s the point, which you must have missed when you rejected Jesus, tossed in the towel, and left your brothers and sisters in faith behind. Let’s not pretend here. Your interest in Gary’s “deconversion” is to alleviate your own anxiety that you made a wrong decision in walking away from Jesus. So, let’s “cut through the bullshit” and talk about why you walked out on Jesus and everyone you knew who were Christians. Why don’t you give an honest answer why you destroyed your faith and seek to destroy the faith of others. How about it?

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          1. Gee, Jim. I have a blog on which I talk about these things extensively. If you have bothered to read my writing you know all you need to know about my decinversion.

            I am just one man with a story to tell. Ask Gary if I tried to evangelize him. I have no desire to do so. I write, people read. In Gary’s case, he came to my site to evangelize. He didn’t count on me actually know a good bit about theology and the Bible. I didn’t beat him over the head. Instead, I enouraged him to read and study. His choices are the result Gary following the evidence wherever it leads.

            If you think I have hidden the true reasons I deconverted, please share what you think they are. I’m sure I have already answered them somewhere on my blog, but hey, maybe you have a new reason I’ve not considered. Fire away, Jim.

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          2. Right…. Bruce. Your just that lone voice of Socrates leading everyone to truth and you’ll drink the hemlock to prove it. Do you really think anyone believes your hilarious claims? Never mind, obviously Gary went and read your blog and found what he read so persuasive that he decided to reject his faith. Man… how does it feel to have such power over others through a blog? You must be so proud of yourself.

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          3. Jim … Gary and Bruce left the faith. What is that to you? Why do you feel the need to criticize and tear down either of them for their decision? Doesn’t come across as very “Christ-like” … you know, that Christian love that He asked his disciples to share?

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          4. Don’t be too hard on him, Nan. He worries I am going to suffer “unspeakable” torment, forever, in his god’s torture pit, Hell. So I understand why he is trying to “help” me. My fundamentalist Baptist father used to pound the pulpit and say, “Better to be Hell-scared, than Hell-scarred.”

            Jim believes this thinking.

            I feel sorry for him. He is a good guy but he has been brainwashed.

            By the way, Nan, your support in commenting here is invaluable to me. Sometimes I feel alone and a little lonely battling my former cult on this blog. I appreciate when people like you and Bruce “pop in” to give me support and encouragement.

            Liked by 2 people

          5. Open your eyes, Jim. It isn’t that Bruce possesses some magical power to change people’s mind. He saw the truth using reason, logic, and science and is sharing it with others. I see him as an interventionist: rescuing others from the mind-controlling superstitions of ancient cults.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I was raised fundamentalist Baptist (a preacher’s kid) until age 18. I then joined a non-denominational evangelical church (Baptist doctrine). I quit going to church in my mid twenties. I became a (ELCA) Lutheran in my late 20’s.

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  3. Gary opines: “Do you consider NT Wright to be a liberal scholar?

    Second, please provide a link to a statement by any of the conservative NT scholars which Dr. Francisco refers to above who states that “the consensus of current NT scholarship is that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels”.

    I consider Wright a neo-orthodox Christian. If you want a quote then you should read Michael Licona’s “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.” Pay close attention to the opening chapters of his book.

    What I’ve noticed from you Gary is that you apply your skepticism demanding others jump through your hoops, but you’re not willing to do the heavy lifting. Why don’t you read Licona, for instance, and write a detailed critique? Quite frankly, if you perform so lazily in your medical practice as you do in handing information concerning Jesus, then I wouldn’t want you as my doctor. If you’re going to blog concerning truth, then you owe your readers sound scholarship. You’ve yet to provide it.

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    1. Jim,

      I have read NT Wright’s 800 page volume, “The Resurrection of the Son of God”. I have read numerous online articles by Licona, Habermas, and other conservative Christian theologians. I have listened to three or four of William Lane Craig’s debates. And now I just read and reviewed “Making the Case for Christianity” by LCMS theologians. Just how many more books must I read to be “informed”???

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          1. No, not “exactly” Gary. You will never be convinced through your reason even if one come from the dead and talks to you.

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    2. “Sound scholarship” meaning authors who agree with you, yes? How many LCMS churches do you know of that have encouraged members to read any of Bart Ehrman;s books? Wouldn’t it be good for their faith to expose them to his books? Something tells me that the only LCMS members who have read Ehrman are those who did so without church/pastor approval.

      The LCMS sect is a Fundamentalist group. Watching how LCMS defenders have interacted with Gary has led me to conclude that the LCMS is just a different shade of the Baptist Fundamentalism of his youth. The presuppositions and methodologies are the same, regardless of the name over the door.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bruce,

        We both would be surprised by how many laymen in the LCMS read Erhman. BTW, the LCMS is not a “fundamentalist group.” I’m wondering what you even mean by “fundamentalist” because of your classification of the LCMS as fundamentalist. I’m also wondering if you even know what the hell your talking about. Seriously, are you the reason Gary chucked his faith away?

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        1. LCMS is theologically Fundamentalist. Stomping your feet and saying otherwise does not change the fact that the theological foundation of the LCMS sect is Fundamentalist. Further, some LCMS social positions reveal that it’s churches/pastors are also social Fundamentalists.

          I suspect you are using the word differently than I am. Ignore the ecclesiastical and sacramental differences, and what’s left are beliefs that are not that much different from non-LCMS Evangelical churches.

          I’ve written extensively on this issue too. Seek and ye shall find. When it comes to theological and social Fundamentalism, I know what I am talking about. You, of course, are free to believe what you will.

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          1. I’ve tried to tell LCMS hardliners that they are fundamentalists, but they refuse to accept it. To them, “fundamentalist” is a term for Baptists, not Lutherans. You and I know that there are several definitions for the term “fundamentalist”. You and I use this definition:

            “Any religious group who believes that they alone possess the truth; that all those who do not share their views are in some fashion “evil”; and that such evil persons will be divinely punished, in this life and the next, in some painful fashion.”

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          2. No, Bruce. The LCMS differs from our fundamentalist brothers and sisters in a couple notable ways. First, the LCMS doesn’t teach that we come to faith by making a decision for Jesus. Second, we teach original sin. Third, we teach that repentance is a gift that comes through hearing the word of God, it isn’t a matter of the person coming to age and understanding good from bad. Fourth, we baptize infants because we believe that at baptism they are given faith to believe in Christ… there are many areas where we are not considered “fundamentalist.” Maybe you’ve got a baptist-centric view of “fundamentalist” from which you judge?

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          1. Gary opines: “Bruce is not responsible for my deconversion. The TRUTH is responsible for my deconversion. Bruce simply helped me open my eyes.”

            No, Gary. Bruce will be held accountable for his work in your deconversion. Although, our Lord even forgives his sin as He has forgiven you.

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          2. You are brainwashed, Jim. I like you so don’t take that as an attack. I truly believe that you are brainwashed. Go onto the websites of ex-Muslims, ex-Mormons, and ex-ultra orthodox Jews. You will see the very same thing: Current members of these sects threatening the ex-member with horrific divine punishments for rejecting the “one, true faith and god”.

            They are all superstitions. They are all cults. They are all wrong.

            Embrace reason, logic, science, and secular humanism, Jim.

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          3. I have to get off the computer Jim, Bruce, and Nan, but I have very much appreciated our discussion. I hope that other theists will read this and seriously evaluate which side is speaking the truth.

            Liked by 1 person

    3. NT Wright says, and I quote: “I do not know who the Gospels writers were, and, nor does anyone else”.

      Jim: Please provide a quote by one of the above conservative NT scholars who states that it is the consensus position of modern NT scholarship (not just conservative/evangelical scholarship) that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses.

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      1. Gary writes, “Embrace reason, logic, science, and secular humanism, Jim.”

        I remember calling into a Christian talk radio show in 1987 and telling the show’s host that reason is the only thing that gives hope to the world.

        Gary, you’ve truly hardened your heart against God. You’ve explored many different ways to blaspheme our Lord.

        You have my email address.

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        1. For me to believe this, you first need to provide better evidence for the existence of your god, Yahweh. I believe that he is nothing more than the invention of ancient superstitious people. He does not exist.

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  4. Nan,

    I think you are right. Evangelicals are free to seek “truth” as long as they stay within the safe confines of the Evangelical box. In this world, seeking “truth” means reading the latest, greatest apologetical or theological book. Forays outside of the box are discouraged or condemned. Beware, pastors-turned-atheists, Bart Ehrman, and a host of liberal scholars lurk outside the box, ready to pounce on the poor, helpless Gary’s of the world. Stay in the box and all will be well.

    Gary’s problem is that he wandered outside of the box and found out the keepers of the box weren’t telling the truth. Not that these keepers are lying — some are — but their concern is maintaining the status quo.

    Bruce

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Here is a portion of the conclusion of the second chapter of “Making the Case for Christianity”, by Dr. Pierson:

    “Two Gospels, Matthew and John, came directly from disciples of Jesus. The other two were written by those who had contact with eyewitnesses: the Gospel of Mark contains the words of Peter; the Gospel of Luke is based on the testimony of early Christians who knew Jesus, likely including Jesus’ own relatives and certain apostles. This alone, regardless of the precise names of the authors, qualifies each Gospel as legitimate history, which would have been accepted as such by the historians of their day.

    Thanks to Papias, we can say with confidence that Matthew and Mark wrote the Gospels attributed to them. For Luke and John, we do not have evidence for their authorship dating back to the first century. It is not insignificant, however, that second-century Christians were unanimous as to who wrote the third Gospel—no one other than Luke was ever suggested. Nor should it be overlooked that the epistles of Paul (with whom Luke’s author traveled) refer to Luke as a “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14) and as the only one remaining with Paul as his death neared (2 Timothy 4:11). The identity of the beloved disciple has perplexed modern scholars, but the primitive church believed without difficulty that it was the apostle John.”

    Gary: Traditional authorship of the Gospels is a MINORITY position in NT scholarship. It may represent the MAJORITY position among evangelicals and the LCMS, but not NT scholarship as a whole. I challenge Jim or anyone else to provide a statement by any of the conservative NT scholars above who say otherwise.

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    1. So based on Dr. Pierson’s claim of the veracity of the traditional authorship of the Gospels, Mr. Parton, an LCMS attorney, presents his “legal case” for the Resurrection of Jesus in the following chapter. Here is an excerpt:

      “The assertion of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is, of course, presented in the New Testament materials.

      Elsewhere in this volume the case for the total reliability of those primary source documents has been made and so need not be repeated here.

      Trial lawyers also have made the case for the reliability of the canonical Gospels as primary source documents,26 and the solidity of those materials (i.e., what we have is what the writers wrote and that they had every means, motive, and opportunity to get the facts right) is simply beyond serious dispute. As Montgomery, himself a lawyer, notes: “To express skepticism concerning the resultant text of the New Testament books…is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as is the New Testament.”27″

      Gary: (emphasis above is mine) Mr. Parton tells his readers that the case for the total reliability of the Gospels is “beyond serious dispute” and has been previously presented and confirmed by Dr. Pierson in chapter two. He then uses a quote from LCMS theologian, John Warwick Montgomery, in which Montgomery essentially questions the intelligence of anyone who would question the reliability of the Gospels! Mr. Parton uses Montgomery’s view on the reliability of the Gospels as if Montgomery’s view is the view of modern NT scholarship. Problem is, Montgomery made this comment in 1964! Not exactly current, my friends.

      Why do the authors of this book never mention the fact that the majority or at least a strong minority of NT scholars do NOT believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitness, in particular, the traditional authors???

      It is either sloppy carelessness or intentional deceit.

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  6. Gary, I think it is relevant here for our discussion that I was an atheist for 18 years. I was a member of many atheistic and freethought associations including the Freedom From Religion Foundation where I have a couple articles published.

    I have the the “I’m and agnostic/atheist” t-shirt. I left fundamental pentecostalism to become an atheist. So, the point is that nothing being presented by you or your enablers are news to me.

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    1. But you have told me that you rejoined Christianity because of a sense of not having meaning to your life. I don’t feel that way. The only reason I would return to Christianity is if good evidence for its central claims is presented to me. So far, I have not seen such evidence.

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  7. Jim,

    I am aware of the differences between the various expressions of Evangelical faith. There are more similarities than there are differences. Your responses in this discussion only prove my point.

    Well, enough. I have other souls I must rob of eternal life. 🙂

    Gary, Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    Bruce

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    1. Bruce,

      I’ve looked at your blog and it isn’t impressive. I’m not sure why anyone would take you as an authority on whether or not God exists or why the Bible expresses truth. You are just a hack and nothing more. What you do is deplorable. I should know because I did it too. I’m just not pointing fingers where I don’t know what I’m talking about. I did the very same things you did and more. I was an evangelical atheist for years. Oh, you’re not? Then why do you have a blog? Yes you are.

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      1. Let me add your comment, Bruce, from your blog, ” Having spent fifty years in the Christian church, twenty-five years in the pastorate, and eight years studying why people are religious, I have come to several reasoned conclusions.” I submit that you have come to several biased conclusions all of which you grasp in hope you’re right. I’ve been in your position and know that you are grasping for straws. You are still searching. My prayer is that you will come back to Jesus.

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      2. Hi Jim,

        Calling Bruce a “hack and nothing more” shows considerable disrespect. I am apparently mistaken when I think that Jesus taught Christians to love their neighbour as themselves, and that this included anyone who is an considered an “enemy”.

        If Jesus did teach this, then would this not mean that Christians should show respect towards others, including those who are not Christians? When Christian conservatives express disrespect towards those with whom they disagree, it completely fails to show compassion, loving kindness and healing mercy. No wonder many people flee such conservatism.

        Shalom,

        John Arthur

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for the comment, John Arthur.

          In my three years in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS) I was very surprised by the behavior of their clergymen online. Even members of the leadership of the Church will engage in knock down drag out fights online on blogs with anyone and everyone who disagrees with them. It is a striking contrast to the behavior of many non-fundamentalist evangelical pastors who usually attempt to conduct themselves in “Christ-like” manner. Jim is a Lutheran vicar (a pastoral apprentice). His behavior fits right in with a large percentage of LCMS clergy.

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  8. Gary, may I ask you a question? I know it’s Thanksgiving for you so I don’t expect you to respond immediately.

    Above, Jim Pierce wrote this: “Quite frankly, if you perform so lazily in your medical practice as you do in handing information concerning Jesus, then I wouldn’t want you as my doctor.”

    Gary, how do comments like this effect you? I get the theological discourse, back and forth. When someone throws a comment like this into the mix though, I wonder, as it appears to be such an insult to bring one’s career into the mix. If you prefer not to get into that aspect of the dialogue I’ll understand. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Zoe,

      Jim Pierce shows disrespect for both Bruce and Gary. For Jim to throw in this comment into the discussion is like a boxer hitting below the belt. If he is a Christian, as he claims to be, he should apologize to both Gary and Bruce for those of his comments that are disrespectful. Surely, it is not too difficult for him to hold his views and disagree respectfully. Maybe, his words could be seasoned with flavour and uplift those in the dialogue.

      Shalom,
      John Arthur

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I can tell you how Jim and many other LCMS clergy would respond: “We have attempted to engage Gary from the aspect of Grace. He has rejected that approach. Now he will receive the full force of the Law: God’s judgment and condemnation for Gary’s rebellion against his Lord and Savior.

        Grace and Law is a big theme with conservative Lutherans. To me it’s just judgmental fundamentalism wrapped in a different package.

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    2. It was insulting, but I guess I’m getting used to it. Conservative Christians like Jim see my “evangelizing” for agnosticism/atheism as a personal attack on them. I see it as typical cult behavior: Destroy the character and reputation of the ex-member in an attempt to shut him up.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think that’s exactly what it is. Jim Pierce and others like him feel threatened. They really do believe in eternal damnation of souls to an invisible place of condemnation and torment that no one has ever seen. And they consider it to be part of their job as shepherds of the flock (and shepherd lay-assistants) to watch out for wolves and solidly rebuke them so other Christians are not led astray into sin and to keep those already in sin from being reinforced and comforted in it. I personally cannot ever imagine returning to Christianity, but even if I did, I would have to take a permanent leave of my rationality and ethics to rejoin any fundamentalist flavor such as that. Ironically enough, I saw the original post on Bruce’s blog and it reminded me of a Christian friend who strongly encouraged me to check my doubts and unbelief with material provided by various Lutheran website ministries. He meant well. But I can say quite honestly, I would do as Bruce said and prefer hell over the religion I have seen presented in this comment stream.

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        1. Thanks for the comment.

          It all fits in to classic cult behavior. Cults will bombard potential converts will love and friendship to convert them. It’s called “Love Bombing”. This is how conservative/orthodox Christianity wins converts. They preach the “Good News” of the loving Savior, Jesus. They tell you how much Jesus loves you. They tell you how much Jesus wants to give you a wonderful life and a mansion in outer space.

          But once you are in, they keep you in by scaring the holy hell out of you: Leave the Church (and Jesus) and your life will be destroyed (God may kill your children to bring you to repentance), and you are going to suffer eternal torture in Hell.

          Conservative Christianity is a cult. Jim is a leader in the cult. He is doing his best to scare the hell out of me to bring me back to the cult. If that fails, he will attempt to destroy my character so that other “doubters” will stop listening to me and will stay in the cult.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. How do you debate someone who believes that he has received special knowledge from an invisible, all-powerful, all-knowing being and tells you that you will never receive this special knowledge unless you first accept the existence of his invisible friend and submit completely to him???

            This belief system denigrates reason, science, and education and elevates superstition and intuition as the highest forms of knowledge.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. Byroniac,
          I agree they feel threatened, but I think a lot of that is because they secretly and/or subconsciously don’t believe in or are questioning their own faith. Someone who is comfortable in what they think and believe won’t get so defensive and abusive when others disagree or reject their faith.
          It is also a blow to their egos when they are unable to “enlighten” and save us “ebil affeists”. Which since they have been praying for us should work ( this also plants seeds of doubt because their imaginary sky daddy shoulda came into our black, cold hearts).

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, exactly what I was thinking. After all, it’s blasphemous to doubt the Holy Spook’s efficacy, isn’t it? I suppose I got magically zapped by the Holy Spook, but it didn’t take. The Christians I’ve talked to absolutely assured me I’ve never actually ever been magically zapped by the Holy Spook for real, or that I’m in rebellion and Sky Daddy will smite me back into the faith, at least not in that exact language, but that’s that they meant. 😉

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          2. Sam, I definitely agree with the first part of your response. However, I don’t feel that anyone’s ego should be at stake. No Christian can bring anyone to faith simply by their own intellectual reasoning and argumentation. It does also seem to me that we really can’t judge what God is doing or not doing in someone’ else’s life. If the atheists are pointing out real and legitimate abuses within the church, surely that is also a work of God. Who is to say in the end, who will be saved or lost. From my perspective, as a Christian believer, (not a fundamentalist) I think we can trust this to the mercy and love of God seen in Jesus Christ.

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          3. Hi Rebecca,

            You said, “No Christian can bring anyone to faith simply by their own intellectual reasoning and argumentation.”

            If your are correct, that an invisible supernatural being has set up the universe so that a human using his education and reason cannot find the real Truth; instead, humans can only encounter the real Truth if this invisible being capriciously choses to give it to him, then why in the hell do we have brains???

            I believe that the evidence is overwhelming that whoever gave us a brain meant for it to be used to make reasoned, educated decisions. Simply submitting to an ancient folktale without investigating the evidence for the validity of that folktale is NOT using your brain, in my opinion. I reject any belief system which tells me that I must believe its validity FIRST in order for the evidence for its validity to make sense to me.

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  9. Hi John,

    Yes. Knowing Bruce longer than Gary, I know how disrespect hits Bruce. So, I kept it to Gary since this is his blog. I was curious. I know how it hits me, especially during my early years of blogging. I wasn’t ignoring Bruce. 🙂

    Bruce just gets so much of it, it’s gotten to be normative for me to see it. 😦

    Looking here for example: Jim Pierce wrote: “Let’s not pretend here. Your interest in Gary’s “deconversion” is to alleviate your own anxiety that you made a wrong decision in walking away from Jesus. So, let’s “cut through the bullshit” and talk about why you walked out on Jesus and everyone you knew who were Christians. Why don’t you give an honest answer why you destroyed your faith and seek to destroy the faith of others. How about it?”

    If said to me, I’d think what Jim is doing is minimizing my journey. There is an air of superiority that comes through. As though Jim has placed himself in the Seat of Moses, qualified to speak with some sort of spiritual authority.

    I’d think that Jim was suggesting that I am lying. That he’s putting out there that he has some special knowledge about my change of mind regarding my former belief system that perhaps no one else knows about. Any lurker may wonder, ‘Good God what has Zoe done? It must be terrible. It must be immoral, unethical, totally sinful to the core.’ Just the thought of it makes my heart hurt.

    Jim himself has changed his own mind about his beliefs. He mentions above that he was an atheist for 18 years. I believe him and would never call his change of mind into question whatever his reasons. I take him at his word. I would never want to discredit someone’s journey in this life and to leave a suggestion in the air that I know something about Jim that discredits his change of mind and his story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Zoe,

      Great comment. Jim believes that his god, Yahweh, gives him and other true believers special insight that we non-believers do not have. Only if Yahweh chooses to give us the gift of faith (hidden knowledge) will we too see the truth that Jim sees. No amount of human reason and evidence will ever convince of us the truth. We will be “saved” only by the capricious whim of Yahweh. Since we have rejected the message of love (Grace) he is now using the Law against us: condemnation and judgment. He believes that he is doing us a favor by being so insulting. He believes that his rude behavior just may save us from the fires of Hell.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What a terrible religion (I belonged to a Baptist Calvinist form of it for many years, and I believed in Christianity for about 25 years). I am not a militant or evangelical atheist, but it would not bother me to see most forms of religion, especially the fundamentalist ones, die out in the future. But I have to ask, can Jim Pierce’s “god” not defend himself? Does “he” need Jim Pierce and others like him to do so? It should be obvious what I believe about that, but their own actions betray a lack of trust in their god to defend himself, and possibly a personal insecurity, it seems to me.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If God himself would appear to you, my friend, then faith would not be necessary. You see, God wants you to “seek” him to find him.

          God likes to play children’s games.

          God is willing to risk that you don’t find him…and that you will suffer eternal torment in Hell…than to be open and honest with you. God likes to have fun. Being open and honest is boring.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ain’t that the truth! I need to seek god, not vice-versa, according to Christian thinking. And if I fail to find “him”, then the problem lies with me. Obviously. It’s never with god that the problem lies, even though by their own admission (most of them) god is better at seeking than we are. Christians, it’s your god, and it’s his obligation with his supposedly superior powers to find me and win me over by proving himself to me. I have to assume at this point that “he” either can’t or won’t, LOL. This god knows where I live and more importantly what it would take to convince/persuade me, and still fails to deliver. Hmmmm….

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          2. Just to present an alternative. I mean is it so much that we are seeking God as it that He has already sought and held us?

            15 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

            3 So He told them this parable, saying, 4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the ]open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

            8 “Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

            Luke 15:11-32New American Standard Bible (NASB)

            The Prodigal Son
            11 And He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his [a]wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15 So he went and [b]hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the [c]pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he came to [d]his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and [e]in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to [f]his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and [g]embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

            25 “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. 29 But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your [i]wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you [j]have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.

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          3. Gary, I don’t mean to say that faith in God is just like a leap in the dark or that we should check our mind at the church door. I mean Jesus did say that we should love God with our whole mind … But, on the other hand, we can’t simply prove God in a test tube either using the scientific method. For me, the complexity of the creation, and the apparent fine tuning of the universe toward life is like a signpost that points toward a creator. Intuitively, I think that we’re not here as just part of a random process that happened by pure chance. I do think there are good alternatives that lie between Christian fundamentalism on the one hand, and atheism on the other. For instance, someone can certainly be a committed Christian believer without believing that Scripture is totally inerrant, and to be interpreted literally in every area.

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  10. Rebecca,

    How is it possible for you to claim that the Christian God is creator when there is no evidence to support that claim? One can look at the universe and conclude that some sort of higher power created everything — a deistic argument — but pray tell how do you get from there to that creator being the God of the Christian Bible? Why should anyone accept as fact that YOUR God is the creator and not any of their other deities humans have worshiped throughout our history? Eight years now, I’ve been waiting to hear an argument that is anything more than an appeal to faith and subjective experiences.

    People who live in Christian countries believe their God is the creator. Why is this? Is it any more than just geography (place of birth), tribe (family), and social, cultural conditioning that determine who people believe is the creator? Using John Loftus’ Outsider’s Test of Faith, if you had been born in a non-Christian country to non-Christian parents and lived in a non-Christian culture, do you really believe that you would look at universe and conclude, yes, the Christian God created everything?

    I am more than willing to engage you in a discussion about your claims. In fact, I will gladly give you the space on my blog to defend your claims.

    I would also love to know based on what hermeneutic do you determine what is and isn’t inerrant. If parts of the Bible are errant, why then should we believe that the Biblical claims made about Jesus are, in fact, inspired, inerrant, and infallible? If someone says Adam and Eve are not real people, for example, then doesn’t that totally destroy the Christian narrative concerning sin, atonement, and redemption? I’ve heard many Christians say that there is no need to accept everything in the Bible as fact/truth, yet I have yet to see any of them present a coherent methodology that is any different from Thomas Jefferson using his scissors to fashion a Bible that suited him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bruce, according to what I’ve read, Thomas Jefferson rejected the miracle stories and anything else supernatural (presumably including the Resurrection) and kept only the moral teachings and such. So if I’m not mistaken, he kept only the material about the life and teachings of Jesus for the most part. So, he was not doing “pick and choose” like so many Christians do, but basically rejected all the supernatural elements and kept only the rest, as I understand it. http://thejeffersonbible.com/

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      1. I understand his general methodology, but there remains a subjectivity when it comes to what stays and what goes. I have a facsimile copy of Jefferson’s Bible. I’ve not read it from cover to cover, but I plan, Zesus-willing, to do so.

        While I still find value is some of Jesus’ teachings (and how can we even know they are his?), I have a hard time understanding how you can Christianity in any meangful sense without accepting Jesus as is.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, I wholeheartedly agree. I’m trying to remember, but I think perhaps Thomas Jefferson was Deistic. Anyways, you’re right, what he kept and what he excluded very likely was mostly subjective. I might be out on a limb here, but I don’t think he was trying to create a “Christian” document as much as he was simply producing a distillation of what he found to be acceptable from the alleged founder of Christianity. I don’t think it means that he subscribed to Christianity in any meaningful sense, or that he intended his “Bible” to represent such a position, is all. Incidentally, I think that is what I have such a hard time understanding about Progressive Christianity: once you toss out inerrancy, “dilute” inspiration down to some indirect form of divine revelation, and consider the Bible teachings to be more symbolic than literal, then what is really left to call a meaningful Christianity? I’m thinking primarily of people like Marcus Borg, whose book, “Meeting Jesus Again For The First Time”, I read and enjoyed, but still left with many questions as to how Christianity is really meaningful to him (but I am mostly ignorant concerning Progressive Christianity, and I know he had several other books which go more in depth on his beliefs and their justification). I’m too fundamentalist in my mindset to really understand how Progressive Christianity is supposed to work, but based on my understanding, Thomas Jefferson would not have qualified as even a liberal Christian or wanted to be. I really enjoy your blog and this blog looks really good, too.

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          1. I can’t speak for all the progressive Christians, and I actually self identify as an orthodox, evangelical Christian believer. But, I suspect the reason that many Christians do not subscribe to the doctrine of inerrancy is because they understand that it does not reflect the historic witness of the church, and actually can lead to idolotry, and all other manner of mischief and heartbreak in the congregations..

            I personally was just in a long discussion today with a group of wonderful, sincere, and loving conservative Christian believers who have a difficult time with gay and lesbian inclusion in the church. They base their view in a few passages of Scripture which are not understood in their context or the culture of the time, rooted of course in the teaching of the inerrancy of the Scripture.

            No, we should not accept a totally subjective “cut and paste approach” to come up with a doctrine simply based in our own opinion and sensibility. The center and hermaneutic should be Jesus Christ. The incarnation is God’s last word to us.

            Hebrews 1:1-4New International Version (NIV)

            1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

            I feel so strongly that any interpretation/application of the Scripture that does not reflect the love and grace of God in Christ or tends to lead people into legalism and bondage misses the mark. Either our understanding of the meaning of the Scripture is faulty, or we are reading a portion of the Bible which is not reflecting God’s word, but is the voice of religion.

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      2. Byroniac,

        “Thomas Jefferson rejected the miracle stories and anything else supernatural (presumably including the Resurrection) and kept only the moral teachings and such.”

        Isn’t that exactly what he’s doing…picking and choosing (keeping the moral teachings and such, rejecting supernatural)? He just happened to draw the lines in a different place from the other Christians who also draw lines.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it’s me, Zoe. How are you? My views have also at least somewhat changed and evolved through the years as well, partly as a result of push back and discussion with Bruce, and others on the various blogs. I am working on a response here, but have been tied up with alot of family visiting, and tons of festivities.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Rebecca,

          Well enough to see you in your responses Rebecca. I recognized your voice in these comments as well as the hallmarks of your beliefs. Please, don’t think you need to respond to me here on Gary’s blog. I don’t expect a response. Just wondered if it was you.

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    2. I would agree in part with Mr. Loftus. Certainly, people are conditioned and impacted by culture. I don’t think that someone could come to Christian faith simply by the evidence of creation alone. But, they could come to a conviction that there is a creator, and that we are not here by chance.

      It does seem to me that if the apostolic witness of the empty tomb is a reality, this would go a long way toward validating the truth claims of the Christian faith. All contradictory religious claims cannot be equally true.

      On the other hand, I don’t feel as a Christian that I need to adopt an intentionally hostile and disrespectful stance toward the adherents of other faiths. There’s still a lot of common ground to be found particularly in the areas of morals and ethics. I’m personally not thinking that everyone apart from conscious faith in Christ is heading straight to Hell.

      However, Bruce, or anyone here, do you think there could be objective truth that transcends culture, regardless of our subjective human opinions and experience?

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    3. Bruce, I was also working on a response relating to the inerrancy of Scripture, and my hermeneutic. ( I do have some new thinking in the manner, if you are interested which I can share later.) I probably can’t talk for long. I have new employment with extremely long and demanding hours which is going to seriously limit my time.

      But, this inerrancy thing has always been a stumbling block in our discussions. I wish there was a way we could work this through together, and come out on the other side without just becoming offended, and ending the conversation. I think you’ve hit on part of our central problem in talking about culture, and how that impacts our thinking and bias. I’ve never really believed in the total inerrancy of the Scripture, and feel that the western church did not accept this firm conviction until around the time of the reformation. I think the authority for faith and practice lies as much in the corporate witness of the church. We have testimony coming down from the apostolic fathers relating to Jesus apart from Scripture. For me, the central question should be what caused the genesis of the early Christian movement in the face of much persecution, apart from the empty tomb. Do you see what I mean? People were following Jesus, and calling Him Lord long before a single book of the NT was ever penned.

      Hopin for the best here.

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      1. Rebecca,

        Since the majority consensus of NT scholars is that eyewitnesses did not write the Gospels; since there is no confirmed evidence that any eyewitness to the alleged Resurrection of Jesus reviewed/proof-read the Gospels; since Paul only claims to have seen a talking, bright light, there is no evidence for the central Christian claim of the resurrection of Jesus. The only method to believe this tale is “faith”.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Gary, I hear what you’re sharing, but I personally have studied various NT scholars through the years who do feel that the gospel accounts if not written by eyewitnesses, would have had access to oral tradition based on eyewitness testimony. I believe this Richard Bauckman has written a fairly recent book to this effect which I haven’t had time to read as of yet. I’m somewhat older, and it does seem to me that the “assured results of modern scholarship” can change through the years. There’s definitely some truth in that our own preconceived bias tends to impact who we study, and take seriously. .

          Probably won’t be able to post for awhile, but best wishes to you for your blog. Appreciate all of your sharing here, and how you’ve provided a forum for open and respectful discussion.

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      2. Becky,

        You hope in vain and I think you know why.

        You have yet — in seven years — to give me or anyone else a cogent, consistent hermeneutic for determining what is inerrant and what is not. Thus, you pick and choose what you want to believe is true/inerrant.

        What evidence do you have for your claim of people calling Jesus Lord and there being “much” persecution before the writing of the New Testament? I know of none.

        I encourage you to read The Myth of Persecution by Candida Moss.

        Since it is evident your views haven’t changed I hope you will understand why I cannot continue this discussion with you. Been there, done that.

        Bruce

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  11. New email from Adam Francisco (I included it in an update at the bottom of the post, but I am uncertain if those who have already read the post will catch the update at the bottom, so here it is in the comments):

    Gary,
    It doesn’t bother me how you refer to me. I only mentioned it to point out how easy it is to misrepresent something.

    As far as NT scholarship is concerned, I would argue that the consensus of NT scholars who approach the NT inductively with as little philosophical bias as is humanely possible (proper ‘scientific’ reseach) will come out on the side that the book takes. Sure, there are scholars who don’t. But they largely assume certain things must be true about the world (e.g. whether miracles take place) before their research. Yes, they are scholars in that they have academic credentials. But I don’t really count their research as scholarship. It’s more ideology masquerading as scholarship.

    Adam [Francisco]

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    1. Gary’s reply to Dr. Francisco’s email:

      Hi Adam,

      So what you are saying is that when your book uses the term “New Testament scholars” you are using a limited definition of that term. You are limiting that term to conservative New Testament scholars (nearly all of whom are evangelical Christians or conservative Lutherans)…so essentially only the scholars that agree with your position.

      Don’t you think that your readers deserve to know that you are using a limited definition of the term “New Testament scholars”? If you had said, “the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is the near unanimous position among conservative Christian New Testament scholars” I would have no issue. But you didn’t do that. You and your colleagues state in your book that it is the near unanimous position of NT scholarship, which implies that anyone who disagrees with you in not well informed on the subject.

      This is wrong, Adam. It is morally wrong. It comes very close to being an outright lie. Just because you don’t like the positions of moderate and liberal NT scholars doesn’t mean you can just exclude their views and form a consensus based solely on the position of those scholars who agree with your very conservative (some would say, “fundamentalist”) views.

      Your readers deserve more transparency.

      I hope you will start a (free) account with WordPress so that you can comment directly on my blog. Many of my readers would like to speak to you.

      Gary

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      1. Response from Dr. Francisco, 11/25/2016

        Gary,

        No. You are reading your ideology into what I said. I said that the authors (probably [you’d have to ask them]) assume scholarship that approaches the NT (or any sort of knowledge for that matter) “inductively” and “with as little philosophical bias” as is possible constitutes solid scholarship. Wouldn’t you agree that inductive, fact based inquiry trumps inquiry that starts with some sort of assumption and then uses facts to prop up that assumption? (To be sure, ideological Christianity as well as ideological agnosticism/atheism both are guilty of this.) I’m of the opinion that facts determine conclusions. (This is what I tried to show in my chapter addressing Louay Fatoohi. This is what each author tries to do.)

        I’m not sure what you mean by moderate and liberal NT scholarship. But I assume you mean higher critical and Jesus Seminar-type stuff. If that’s the case, the reason I (and I don’t know about the others) exclude their views (even though I still consider them) is not because their position is different from my own. Rather, it’s because I think their a priori, dogmatic assumptions largely predetermine their conclusions. As such, I find them just as dogmatic as fundamentalists. That’s all. Also, by labelling scholarship evangelical, moderate, and liberal you are abstracting from facts and methodology and forcing this into an ideological debate. I have no interest in the realm of abstraction and ideology.

        Thanks for informing me of how wrong, immoral, and conservative I am though. I’m sure you’ve done the requisite research that warrants such accusations.

        As far as NT Wright is considered, I think he’s a solid scholar. He approaches things inductively and doesn’t set his inquiry up by assuming content/fact/etc beforehand. I disagree with his view of the authorship of the NT. What’s interesting though is that despite this view he still gets to the facticity of the resurrection. What do you make of his argument for the resurrection by the way?

        I’m sorry but I don’t want to get involve in a blog where every Dick and Jane accuses each other of immorality, stupidity, etc. I’ve got other fish to fry.

        Adam

        One more thing Gary. I think you’ve read the book out of context. Each chapter is essentially a case study, dealing with a particular author. It is not meant to be exhaustive. Nor is it meant to address the particular concerns you may have, as legitimate as they may be. Have a great weekend.

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        1. Gary’s response, 11-25-2016

          What do I think of NT Wright’s position on the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

          I read his work, “The Resurrection of the Son of God”. His primary argument is that no first century Jew would have believed in the resurrection of just one person unless they had seen a resurrected body with his or her own two eyes. I see two problems with this argument:

          1. If we believe the Gospels, Jesus had been telling his disciples EXACTLY that— that he would rise from the dead (as one individual)—for at least THREE years.

          2. If we believe Paul, the Jews in Asia Minor didn’t need to see a resurrected body to believe. They believed because of Paul’s story of his “heavenly vision” and because they searched the Scriptures.

          So to claim that no first century Jew would have believed the Resurrection story without seeing a resurrected body with their own two eyes is proven false by the Bible itself.

          The overwhelming majority of first century Jews did NOT believe this story. Only a very small minority of mostly Galilean peasants believed this story, and, we have proof from the Bible itself that actually seeing a resurrected body was not necessary for at least a small group of first century Jews (in Palestine and elsewhere) to believe this story.

          I am disappointed, Adam, in your unwillingness to admit that you and your colleagues did not fully disclose your own biases in your book. You should have at least stated that in your opinion, the majority of “qualified” New Testament scholars agree that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses, and then clarified your definition of “qualified”. You left the impression with your lay readership (this book is not written for scholars but for the lay person) that it is a near unanimous consensus of (all) NT scholarship that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels.

          Imagine your reaction if a liberal scholar wrote the following in his book: “It is the near unanimous consensus of NT scholarship that the Empty Tomb is a myth.” This is a blatantly false statement. I would be just as critical of this liberal scholar. The only way a liberal scholar could make such a statement would be to dismiss as irrelevant the position of all conservative NT scholars and only consider the views of scholars who agree with him on this issue. It is a biased and deceptive statement.

          The laity and general public deserve clear, honest teaching from theologians and scholars. Publishing scholarship that is vague, or as some would say, deceptive, is only going to cause doubt in the teachings of Christianity and distrust of the clergy among the laity, and send a good number of us headed for the exists of the Church. One only has to look at the plunging membership and baptism statistics of almost every Christian denomination in the United States to see that this phenomenon is taking place as we speak.

          Best wishes,
          Gary

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Dr. Francisco, 11-26-2016

            “I am disappointed, Adam, in your unwillingness to admit that you and your colleagues did not fully disclose your own biases in your book. You should have at least stated that in your opinion, the majority of “qualified” New Testament scholars agree that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses, and then clarified your definition of “qualified”. You left the impression with your lay readership (this book is not written for scholars but for the lay person) that it is a near unanimous consensus of (all) NT scholarship that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels.”

            Again, I think you’re reading into the text. Also, I don’t have the book in front of me but I seem to recall that Pierson’s chapter is pretty clear that Ehrman’s higher criticism masquerading as text criticism has been quite influential and my chapter has a bit on the tremendous influence of higher criticism on studies of the historical Jesus. Isn’t that admitting there is scholarship which advocates very different views of the NT text and historical Jesus? Doesn’t the whole book advertise the fact that there are other views out there?

            “Imagine your reaction if a liberal scholar wrote the following in his book: “It is the near unanimous consensus of NT scholarship that the Empty Tomb is a myth.” This is a blatantly false statement. I would be just as critical of this liberal scholar. The only way a liberal scholar could make such a statement would be to dismiss as irrelevant the position of all conservative NT scholars and only consider the views of scholars who agree with him on this issue. It is a biased and deceptive statement.”

            Welcome to the world of scholarship Gary. Much of what I read on the resurrection assumes the empty tomb or bodily resurrection of Jesus is a myth. And much of it equally assumes that there is scholarly consensus on this issue.

            “The laity and general public deserve clear, honest teaching from theologians and scholars. Publishing scholarship that is vague, or as some would say, deceptive, is only going to cause doubt in the teachings of Christianity and distrust of the clergy among the laity, and send a good number of us headed for the exists of the Church. One only has to look at the plunging membership and baptism statistics of almost every Christian denomination in the United States to see that this phenomenon is taking place as we speak.”

            If it was somehow proven, factually, that Jesus didn’t rise from he dead I would be out the exit too. I happen to believe there is good factual evidence to believe he did rise. (That I trust he did this for me and you is an entirely

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        2. All of us have presuppositions. Unfortunately, Evangelicals tend to ignore theirs, thinking that they are so self evident that only fools reject them. Granted, atheist can do the same. All of us should at least be aware of our presuppositions, our biases. My experiences with Evangelicals suggest that many of them are clueless about even basic ideas such as how people come to identify with a certain religion. Ignorant of sociology and psychology, many Evangelicals think their subjective religious experiences are the primary reason they are Christian. Not geography, tribal influence, or societal/cultural influence, but a born-again experience, that’s why they are Christians. Or so they think.

          Not speaking for Bart Ehrman, but I think he would say generally that all scholars have access to the same data, and where they differ is in the interpretation of said data. Dr. Francisco thinks the data about the resurrection of Jesus is sufficient (compelling?), leading him to conclude that the orthodox Christian belief about Jesus is true. Others, myself included, have come to a different conclusion. That said, if the data is not compelling, wouldn’t the Christian still believe; that faith trumps data? And therein lies the difference. Dr. Francisco says the data is what matters, but I suspect that faith trumps any doubt. As an atheist and former Evangelical, I do not have the requisite faith necessary to believe (and yes, I know all the theological explanations that are given for “why” this is so).

          I will say one more thing to Dr. Francisco…the Jim Pierce’s of Christianity do not present a faith worth having. Their behavior slams the door to people who might be inclined to give Christianity a look. Of course, this means they weren’t one of the elect, right?

          Bruce Gerencser

          Liked by 2 people

        3. Hi Adam,

          You say that you approach the bible inductively, with as little bias as possible. This may or may not be true, but you obviously believe that that is what you are doing. However, can you tell me why most of those who use supposedly inductive methods belong to theological institutions that require their staff to adhere to the inerrancy of the bible in the (now missing) original MSS., or to the infallibility of the bible in matters of faith and conduct, or to the essential historical reliability of the NT as a witness to Jesus?

          Don’t faith statements that professors must sign often put pressure on academic staff to adhere to these statements and isn’t it true that some staff have been sacked for crossing the boundary lines? So doesn’t adherence to the faith requirements of a conservative theological institution influence conclusions in the direction of the said statement? How would threats of dismissal lead to having little bias as possible?

          Shalom,

          John Arthur

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  12. My, what an argument do we have here! I am certainly happy that the Department of Religion at Muhlenberg College (LCA when I was there from 1968-1972), certainly were far more educated than those at MS colleges. I have not been Christian since I was seven (7) years old, though I am a theist, poly. You had to experience it. We had people who did textual criticism — who knew all the languages of the ancient Middle East. Anyone who acts naively about a book which started a long editorship under Ezra in Babylon must have permanently installed pink lenses.

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  13. I like to read here now and then, because I like to see Gary’s new thoughts on the topics. He comes across with things like new research and updates on NT schoalrship, or else new thoughts and insights of his own.

    In case you don’t read something from me, don’t feel discouraged. I am still an occasional lurker, it just might not show up if I don’t comment.

    Peace.

    Like

  14. Hi Gary,

    Is Dr Fancisco going to reply to your comments? Is his failure to reply ( to your more recent comments) just because he is too busy or is it because he can’t really find convincing replies?

    Shalom,

    John Arthur

    Like

    1. Good question, John Arthur!

      Dr. Francisco is not returning my emails or responding to my letters by US mail. I’m not sure what is up. However, I do have some interesting news. My former LCMS pastor, John Bombaro, has written to me asking me to meet him to review Bauckham’s book chapter by chapter over a beer (the Lutheran way to discuss all things Christian!), starting this Friday. Maybe Dr. Francisco has been tipped off to this and has decided to quietly “bow out”.

      Frankly, I am baffled. Not responding for a few days or even a week is understandable due to his busy schedule as a professor but it’s been over a month! I’d REALLY like to know what happened with him. (I do know that the bishop for the Southern California district of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod…or someone even higher up the chain of ecclesiastical LCMS command…has told LCMS pastors in this district not to respond to any communication from me. So maybe he has been silenced???)

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