Gary’s Summation of his Three Year Review of the Scholarship on the Resurrection of Jesus

Below is a list of books I have read on the truth claims of Christianity, in particular, the claim of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I believe this list represents a broad range of views from conservative, moderate, and liberal scholars. I have tried to be thorough and objective in my evaluation of the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. After spending three years reviewing the scholarship on this subject, I have reached the following conclusions:

I believe that the evidence is good that Jesus of Nazareth existed, that he was crucified, and that shortly after his death, his followers came to believe that he appeared to them in some fashion. I believe that the evidence is good that Paul of Tarsus existed and that he genuinely believed that he had received a visionary experience of the resurrected Jesus in or around the city of Damascus some three years after the death of Jesus.

From there, the evidence for the Christian claims becomes quite weak.  I believe that from this point on, we can no longer talk about historical facts, only probabilities and possibilities.

I believe that the evidence suggests that the Resurrection belief developed in Galilee, probably with an appearance experience to the apostle Simon Peter due to a combined grief/guilt hallucination. This hallucination was so real, that it dramatically changed Peter from a man in fear for his life to a man willing to risk his life for his new belief in the resurrected Jesus. Peter then convinced his fellow disciples that his hallucinatory experience was a real appearance. This created ecstasy bordering on hysteria in the small group of Jesus followers. Soon others were “seeing” Jesus, due to either vivid dreams, misperceptions of natural phenomena (illusions), or in their own hallucinations…and voila…the Resurrection belief was born.

I believe that the stories of group sightings mentioned in the Early Creed, recorded by Paul in First Corinthians 15, were most likely no different than reported group sightings today of a static image of the Virgin Mary or even of Jesus.  I believe that the detailed stories in the later Gospels of a risen Jesus who talked, walked, and ate food were literary inventions for apologetic purposes.

I do not believe that groups of believers experienced group hallucinations as this is medically impossible. No skeptic should propagate this misinformed assertion.  But groups of people can “see” an illusion, and I believe that this phenomenon probably explains the appearance to the Twelve. I believe that the reference to an appearance to “Five Hundred” is probably a reference to an experience of Jesus in some fashion of a large group of believers on Pentecost. For such a fantastical appearance to completely disappear from Christian writings after Paul would be very odd. I don’t think it did. I believe this appearance claim in the Early Creed refers to the appearance of “the spirit of Jesus” at Pentecost which is mentioned in the Book of Acts.  I believe that what was “seen” was most probably an illusion generated by intense emotional hysteria, as occurred with the tens of thousands of devout Christian pilgrims in Fatima in the early twentieth century.

Some Christians may not like my hallucination theory, but it is a medical fact that persons who experience hallucinations remember them as real experiences. And to suggest that first century Jews would not, is simply conservative Christian wishful thinking.

Some Christians may counter that the other disciples, as first century Jews living in a “tactile culture”, would not have believed Peter’s resurrection sighting claim without seeing and touching the resurrected dead body themselves, but this is refuted by Paul’s statement that first century Jews in Asia Minor believed his resurrection sighting claim simply based on his testimony.

Therefore, I believe that there is really nothing unusual about the rise of Christianity. A small group of hyper-religious, hyper-superstitious people who were expecting the end of the world had mystical experiences which caused them to create a new movement. This has happened many times in world history. I see no reason to believe it was anything “miraculous”.

Gary

Books I have read since my deconversion from Christianity in the spring of 2014:

  1. “The Resurrection of the Son of God” by NT Wright
  2. “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham
  3. “Making the Case for Christianity” by Maas, Francisco, et al.
  4. ” The Resurrection Fact” by Bombaro, Francisco, et al.
  5. “Miracles” , Volumes 1 and 2, by Craig Keener
  6. “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona
  7. “Why are There Differences in the Gospels” by Michael Licona
  8. “The Son Rises” by William Lane Craig
  9. “The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus” by Raymond Brown
  10. “The Resurrection of Jesus” by Gerd Luedemann
  11. “Resurrection Reconsidered” by Gregory Riley
  12. “John and Thomas—Gospels in Conflict?” by Christopher Skinner
  13. “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman
  14. “Jesus, Interrupted” by Bart Ehrman
  15. “How Jesus Became God” by Bart Ehrman
  16. “Jesus Before the Gospels” by Bart Ehrman
  17. “Did Jesus Exist?” by Bart Ehrman
  18. “The Argument for the Holy Sepulchre” (journal article) by scholar Jerome Murphy-O’Connor
  19. Israel in Egypt” by James Hoffmeier
  20. “The Bible Unearthed” by Finkelstein and Silberman
  21. The Resurrection of Jesus in the Light of Jewish Burial Practices” by Craig Evans, (newsletter article) The City, a publication of Houston Baptist University, May 4, 2016
  22. “Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered?” by Jodi Magness, SBL Forum
  23. “Genre, Sub-genre and Questions of Audience: A Proposed Typology for Greco-Roman biography” (article) by Justin M. Smith, St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews, Scotland
  24. “Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus” by Asher Norman (not a work of scholarship per se, but it is endorsed by Talmudic scholars for its accuracy in presenting a Jewish perspective of Jesus and the Christian New Testament)

Gary:  Not only have I read the above books, I have reviewed most of them, often chapter by chapter, here on this blog.  You can do a google search to find and read them if you wish.

 

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68 thoughts on “Gary’s Summation of his Three Year Review of the Scholarship on the Resurrection of Jesus

  1. I believe that the evidence is good that Paul of Tarsus existed and that he genuinely believed that he had received a visionary experience of the resurrected Jesus in or around the city of Damascus some three years after the death of Jesus.

    Considering the findings of the Acts Seminar, do you still believe there is any genuine historical veracity to the ”Road to Damascus” tale and Paul’s supposed later uttering in Acts on the subject of his conversion?

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    1. I don’t think we can trust the historical reliability of the Damascus Road Story written by the anonymous author of the Book of Acts. It might have some historical kernel of truth. It might be entirely fiction. However, Paul infers in his writings that his conversion occurred in or around Damascus. What that conversion experience entailed is anyone’s guess.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In my research, I noticed Paul actually said very little about his experience. Most of the “details” were found in the book of Acts and, IMO, were most likely either amplified (or even made up) by the writer.

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  2. 1. How about making two lists next to eachother: of the Christian books supporting the resurrection you’ve read and a second list with the skeptics’ or denialists’ books?

    2. Where are Ehrman’s books on your list? It seems to me you’ve likely read a comparable number of skeptics’ works?

    3. You write: “his followers came to believe that he appeared to them in some fashion”. Maybe some of them were knowingly making it up like Mohammed or Joseph Smith’s “witnesses” could have been about angels they claimed to have seen?

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    1. I will add Ehrman’s books to the list.

      I don’t think that the early Christians made up their stories. I believe they sincerely believed the appearances were real. However, I don’t believe that the detailed appearance stories in the Gospels are what any early Christian was claiming to have seen. I believe that the Early Creed gives a more accurate reflection of what was “seen” by the earliest Christians: no details…which probably indicates that they only saw illusions or bright lights which they believed to be manifestations of Jesus.

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      1. The empty tomb, the guards, the touching and dinner meals of the resurrected Jesus – these stories were in mainstream Christian circulation already when the apostles were still alive. John lived up to Trajan’s time into old age and I’m sure that he was not the only one of the “500” or the many other apostles like Aristobulus, Cleopas, etc.

        It seems more likely that we are talking about the kind of claims that Charismatic Protestants make about ongoing personal visits by Jesus and Catholics make of group sightings of Our Lady.

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        1. The other thing is that Paul doesn’t give any details because he didn’t know any. There had to have been details, because the Catechized and new converts at the least would personally ask James and Peter for the details in the appearances Paul mentioned.

          I think there is a different explanation. Why do you think that Paul hardly ever narrates Jesus’ life in his epistles, and in fact Peter and John and James don’t either. I don’t think it was an accident, nor do I think that it was because they didn’t know much. I think it was intentional that they were trying to restrict what they told people to the gospels. I think that already in the apostles’ time there was an intentional attempt to limit the “official version”.

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          1. “There had to have been details, because the Catechized and new converts at the least would personally ask James and Peter for the details in the appearances Paul mentioned.”

            Maybe the answer was: “We all saw a bright light and knew it was Jesus.”

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          2. but when paul is arguing with his opponents about what resurrection is, why does he not mention anything about jesus’ body eating fish and having wounds?
            paul had enough chances to mention something from john, but he prefers analogies which have nothing to do with jesus’ post resurrected flesh body mentioned in the gospels.

            “The empty tomb, the guards, the touching and dinner meals of the resurrected Jesus – these stories were in mainstream Christian circulation already when the apostles were still alive. ”

            do you believe that mary could have carried away the body by herself? why is she telling the gardener where he has placed the body? it seems like by the time john is written, people believed the body was EASILY accessible.
            johns account refutes matthews account .

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        2. “The empty tomb, the guards, the touching and dinner meals of the resurrected Jesus – these stories were in mainstream Christian circulation already when the apostles were still alive.”

          I do not believe that scholarship demonstrates this to be the case.

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    2. I believe that the only non-theist in the above list is Ehrman. Even Luedemann considers himself (at least when he wrote the book above) a Christian, although a very, very liberal Christian as he states that Jesus was simply a great man used by God for divine purposes. The Jewish authors in the list are, of course, also skeptics of Jesus’ divinity. Therefore, the above list represents primarily Christian scholarship, due to the fact that the scholarly study of Christianity, in particular, the New Testament, is a field predominated by Christians.

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  3. “I do not believe that scholarship demonstrates this to be the case. ”
    Like I said, the apostle John is considered to live to the time of Trajan, c. 98 AD, and he was just one of many apostles and followers of Jesus. A human even in ancient times could reasonably live 70 years, and a young person who knew Jesus in 33 AD is going to be 70 in about 90 AD.

    Here is dating for gospel narratives per the common scholarly views from a Skeptics’ website:
    30-60 Passion Narrative
    50-90 Signs Gospel
    65-80 Gospel of Mark
    70-160 Gospel of Peter
    80-100 Gospel of Matthew
    80-130 Gospel of Luke
    80-130 Acts of the Apostles
    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/index.html

    So we are looking at numerous accounts of these elements that I described like the empty tomb going back to the time when some or all of the apostles were still alive.

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    1. There are all kinds of reasonable objections that one can make, I just don’t think that the claim that the empty tomb, etc. postdated the natural lives of all the apostles is one of them.

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      1. If 70 apostles knew Jesus in 33 AD, and Jesus was 33 and his apostles were often 18-30, then some of them like maybe John who are 23 years old at that point are going to be born in c.10 AD. 70 years later is 80 AD.

        Someone who is 15 in 33 AD was born in 18 AD and 80 years old in 98 AD.

        The apostles’ generation lasted until about 100 AD, by when probably most of the books I listed above were written.

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        1. Although it is very likely that some persons who were alive in 33 CE were still alive in 70-90 CE, that in no way ensures that anyone who witnessed the alleged events immediately following Jesus’ death (appearances) was still alive in 70 CE or later. That is the issue. Christians ASSUME that witnesses were alive at the time of the writing of the Gospels, but there is no solid evidence that any were. If you read the scholarship, no one gives any solid evidence that John the son of Zebedee or any other “witness” was alive after 70 CE.

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      2. I never made that claim. Scholars do not know when the Empty Tomb of Arimathea story originated. It may be historical, but it may be a later invention. I personally believe that the author of Mark may have invented it. However, if Habermas is correct, the majority of NT scholars believe it is historical. (A respectable minority believe it is not historical. There is no consensus on this issue.)

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    2. “Like I said, the apostle John is considered to live to the time of Trajan, c. 98 AD”

      This may be your opinion, but I found no evidence during my reading that a scholarly consensus or even a majority of scholars holds this view.

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      1. It sounds strange to claim that the apostle john didn’t live past 60. The tradition says he lived to 98 ad. Wikipedia repeats that.

        The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John
        By Paul N. Anderson
        Seems to also see john as living a long time.

        I read maybe 20 to 30 extracanonical christian works from 30 to 150 ad from the list I sent you. These guys seem like the hardcore visionary Pentecostal type. 1 clement believes the Phoenix bird regularly visits egypt.

        Even in the gospels jesus had a vision of angels fallibg. Then there is the walking on water, the olivet discourse, the transfiguration where Moses showed up, the raising of lazarus. The charismatic miracle vision stuff is omnipresent and very thick.
        Modern skeptics edited out this stuff to reimagine that their own more naturalistic version was the original one. They miss big time.

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  4. An interesting comment on Nate’s “Finding Truth” blog regarding Habermas’ literature search on the Empty Tomb:

    “I met with Habermas and we discussed his work. For what it’s worth, Habermas only says he has “compiled 23 arguments for the empty tomb and 14 considerations against it” and that “approximately 75% favor one or more of these arguments for the empty tomb…” It is not clear to me that this means these scholars actually support the historicity of the empty tomb. Instead, he seems to be saying only that they favor one of the arguments that Habermas says supports the historicity of the empty tomb. Those are very different things. And the arguments for the tomb include things like “Jerusalem being the least-likely place for a resurrection proclamation” and “the early pre-Pauline creed…” So if a scholar agreed that the Corinthians 15 involved a pre-Pauline creed, or that Jerusalem was an unlikely place for a resurrection proclamation, that puts them into the “supports the historicity of the empty tomb” category? That seems like a dubious inference.”

    https://findingtruth.info/2017/05/10/how-do-you-navigate-christianity-without-a-compass/#comments

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  5. Many Christian readers will probably object to my hallucination theory above (a theory which is similar to the hallucination theories of other skeptics, including NT scholars Gerd Luedemann and Bart Ehrman) based on the following logic, presented to me numerous times by moderate Christian apologists:

    “If we accept the skeptic assertion that the disciples had hallucinations (or vivid dreams, visions, or simply illusions) of a bodily resurrected Jesus, where did they get this concept? Medical experts tell us that hallucinations contain content that already exists in the brain. For instance, a man living in fourteenth century England is not going to hallucinate driving a ’67 Buick. Such an hallucination would be impossible as the concept of automobiles would not have existed in the brain of a fourteenth century man.

    If scholars are correct that Jesus did NOT predict his death and resurrection to his disciples; that these statements in the Gospels were later interpolations; where did the disciples get the concept of one single person being bodily resurrected prior to the end of the Age (when all the righteous will be resurrected), as this concept did not exist in first century Judaism or paganism?”

    Here is Bart Ehrman’s response to this common Christian apologetic claim:

    “The followers of Jesus who came to believe he was raised from the dead did not think this was a resurrection in the middle of history. They thought that since the resurrection was to happen at the end of time, and since Jesus had been raised, his resurrection was the beginning of the general resurrection in which all people would be raised. They concluded they were indeed living at the end of time. That is why they thought the end was near. And Jesus’ death and resurrection had ushered it in.

    This is the reason Paul talks about Jesus as “the first fruits of the resurrection” in 1 Corinthians 15. This is an agricultural image. On the first day of the harvest the farmer gathers in the “first fruits.” And when does he go out to harvest the rest? Does he wait 20 years or 2000 years? No, he goes out the next day. Paul thought the resurrection of Jesus came at the end of the age and that everyone else was to be raised very soon. The end had come. And it had been inaugurated by Jesus.”

    Source: https://ehrmanblog.org/group-visions-and-agnostic-jesus-scholars-mailbag-march-12-2017/

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  6. Gary –

    It is indeed commendable to have accomplished the task you have over the last few years. Much reading and critiquing in all of that time. And yet, still you are left with the same basic dichotomy. Historical critical translation over against historical grammatical, the result being rather predictable – as I likewise posited several years ago.
    A lot of literary and philosophical objections to the Resurrection; counter-arguments and the like; much esteemed emissions from scholars, and a general consensus that ranges from “myth” to “maybe.” Has you disproved the Resurrection?

    Nah, not so much.

    Over against the one of the Premier Articles of the Faith – which is still there, as such.

    And your friend, Fundy, is still by your side. He’s stuck with you through thick and thin. I hope you accomplished whatever it was you set out to do, because other than rejecting Christ, I cannot see much else.

    In any case, always the best in XP –

    Pax – jb

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    1. Hi JB,

      I hope you are well.

      It was definitely worth it. When I left Christianity I was told by many conservative and moderate Christians that I hadn’t read enough scholarship to make an informed decision. I can now state that I have read a good deal of scholarship and feel that I am “informed”; I am not a scholar, but I am “informed” regarding the scholarly evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus.

      It is therefore my informed opinion that there is insufficient evidence to believe that a three day brain-dead corpse was reanimated and brought back to life by the ancient Hebrew deity, Yahweh, in circa 33 CE. One may choose to believe this claim by wishful thinking (faith), if one so chooses, but I do not so choose.

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      1. Dear Readers: Why have I described “faith” as “wishful thinking”? I did not do it simply to be rude to Rev. Baxter. It is for this reason:

        A Christian friend recently told me, “We all use faith everyday. If one flies on an airplane, one has faith that the plane will not crash.”

        I do NOT believe that Christians use the term “faith” in relationship to their religious beliefs in the same sense that they have faith that their airplane will not crash. People fly on airplanes because there is empirical, objective evidence that flying on (American, British, German) airplanes is safe. Although a passenger flying on one of these airplanes cannot be guaranteed that his plane will not crash, there is a very high probability that it will not, based on the evidence. That is decision making based on probability factors.

        Faith in the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus is NOT ultimately based on objective evidence, as both William Lane Craig and Pastor Baxter have stated. The reality of the Resurrection is based on subjective factors: your subjective feelings and intuition. William Lane Craig states in his book, “The Son Rises”, that even if there were ZERO objective evidence for the Resurrection, Christians can know that the Resurrection is an historical FACT based on their internal, subjective feelings of the presence of God within them. Interpreted that statement means: Christians can know that a first century corpse was reanimated by an ancient Hebrew deity based on the subjective feelings stirring inside them, allegedly created by an invisible ghost.

        Sorry, Christians, but your faith in the presence of an invisible ghost inside your body is NOT the same as my faith in the reliability of an American airplane! My “faith” is trust based on objective evidence, your “faith” is simply wishful, magical thinking.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Gary –

    Hi, Sports Fans –

    “The conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is a gift. As the great thinker J. G. Hamann said when his friend Immanuel Kant tried to argue him out of his conversion – you can’t argue me out of my faith because I was never argued into my faith.

    I take no offense at what Gary writes. He did breeze right by the rather critical distinction between “historical critical” translation and “historical grammatical” translation in his choice of authors, but Hey! – it’s his joint. I respect that. He knows I get a little touchy when he tries to re-define words for me – but otherwise – no biggee.

    He thinks what I believe is silly. I think what he believes is silly.

    It’s a level playing field. 😉 jb

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    1. I may believe that the Resurrection story is silly, but I do not believe that believing that there might be another dimension to reality is silly. The existence of the supernatural/another dimension is within the realm of possibilities and one would be foolish to simply close one’s mind to the possibility.

      What I object to is attempting to force one’s possible reality onto others using scare tactics or brute force:

      –“You MUST believe in my alternative reality or you will be eternally punished in the afterlife.”
      –“An invisible being in my alternative reality says that our culture must abide by such and such rules and since I and persons who believe like me are in the voting majority, we are going to force you to follow those rules.”

      In my view, that is the problem. If people want to believe in alternative realities, I have no problem with that, as long as those views are not forced on everyone else.

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    2. If anyone is interested in the topic of “historical critical” vs. “historical grammatical” interpretations/views of the Bible, here is one interesting take on this subject:

      Pre-Enlightenment: The questions of how one should interpret Scripture, and how focused the interpreter should be on the historical details of Scripture have been asked for thousands of years. None of these discussions are new to the modern era.

      Enter “Historical-Critical”: The Historical-Critical method was one of the results of the Enlightenment and its push toward carefully examining the evidence in order to determine truth — and against blindly accepting dogmatic claims. Essentially these scholars would want to encourage a careful examination of historical evidence.

      What “Historical-Critical” came to be associated with: The Historical-Critical method could be (and was) employed by both Christians and non-Christians. For many non-Christians, the result was often the discrediting of the accuracy of Scripture. For some Christians, the result was, at times, an overemphasis of historical details and an underemphasis on the message of Scripture. There do seem to have been some Christians who learned responsibly and found value in Historical Criticism, but in general, “Historical Criticism” came to be associated (especially amongst Christians) with a rejection of the authority of Scripture.

      Enter “Historical-Grammatical” The Historical-Grammatical method seems to have been a reaction to what “Historical Criticism” was becoming. (In other words, the “Historical-Critical” label seemed to have been hijacked by the skeptics, so conservative Christian interpreters needed a new label to call their own.) This method was originally an attempt to focus on the meaning of the text (hence, “grammatical”), with an acknowledgment of the historicity of the text (hence, “historical”).

      What “Historical-Grammatical” has become: Modern conservative Christian interpreters will almost always identify themselves as “Historical-Grammatical” interpreters — despite the wide variety of modern Christian views on hermeneutics. Many conservative Christian interpreters are now finding value in exploring the extra-Biblical history surrounding the events of Scripture. For example, this might help the interpreter understand the context of a story, or literary references, or genre, etc. In some cases conservative Christians are even reassessing their interpretations based on external evidence. As a result, the word is now used in a slightly different way than it was originally.

      The Answer

      There are Christians today who will encourage “Historical Criticism”, and there are “Historical-Grammatical” interpreters today who will question the reliability of Scripture. It just depends on who you are talking to and what they mean by their usage of the words. But, in general:

      Historical-Critical tends to be associated with a method which holds extra-Biblical methods in higher authority than Scripture, while

      Historical-Grammatical tends to be associated with a method which holds Scripture in the highest authority

      Source: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/422/what-is-the-difference-between-historical-grammatical-and-historical-criticism

      Gary: If one ASSUMES that the Bible is the word of the Creator, not based on objective evidence, but based on your subjective feelings and intuition (faith), then one’s view of what is true in the Bible is going to be very different from someone who evaluates truth claims in the Bible in the same manner as he or she evaluates truth claims in every other book (Higher Criticism). Therefore, for people from these two very different views of determining truth to have a meaningful discussion seems impossible.

      I do not see the wisdom in judging a book to contain magical wisdom and powers simply because your “gut” says so.

      I demand objective evidence. But that’s just me.

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  8. Gary –

    I don’t recall having forced you to do a thing! Do you? No!

    Now I have taken issue with your very narrow description of “fundamentalism” – with which you then painted everyone with a very broad brush. Just for the sake of the rhetorical in an argument/discussion, that’s way off the reservation. And since you want to prolong this, let me unequivocally state I never stated to you that I reject “objective evidence.” To say that, or put William Lane’s words in my mouth, is simply not true, and a misuse of rhetoric – as is with limiting the scholarship you read to only one of the two perspectives in the matter of translation. Both misidentifying or misusing what I have said, and your “pick and choose” approach to your reading make you guilty of your own charge of lacking objectivity.

    And shifting gears a bit as you did – this has been all about the “Resurrection.” The you shift ever so slightly, and you provide the “money quote” as you do so –

    I may believe that the Resurrection story is silly, but I do not believe that believing that there might be another dimension to reality is silly. The existence of the supernatural/another dimension is within the realm of possibilities and one would be foolish to simply close one’s mind to the possibility.

    I mean – just how the dickens are you going to find your “Holy Grail” of objectivity admitting or researching that??? That is completely illogical. You are just hedging your bets.

    Let’s keep it simple, and silly, ok?. That way you won’t wander too far off your own reservation!

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    1. JB,

      Do you believe that one should evaluate the truth claims of the Bible in the very same manner as one evaluates the truth claims of any other book?

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  9. No – I do not. Ever since we began conversing (virtually the same length as you “journey”), I have made that quite clear, and holding to the particular theology that I do in a full confessional manner, you knew you did not need to ask me that question.

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    1. So how do you know that the truth claims in the Bible are true, without verifying their truthfulness using the standard methods of verifying truth claims used for all other books?

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  10. Gary –

    To begin with, Scripture is by its stated nature revelational, and clearly indicates it is speaking of things divine – supernatural – which does create a bit of a dilemma for you, since you do deny the Scriptures, but do not claim to deny the supernatural. Scriptures does not mislead in doing so as it does, nor is it pretentious in doing so. It states itself so to be. Take it or leave it.

    Which leads me to a question I have of you. You wrote:

    “I may believe that the Resurrection story is silly, but I do not believe that believing that there might be another dimension to reality is silly. The existence of the supernatural/another dimension is within the realm of possibilities and one would be foolish to simply close one’s mind to the possibility.”

    Well, my friend – my obvious question is –

    “With your experiential and limited knowledge of “objectivity” per se, one often obscured further by your various conditions imposed upon it . . . Just how would you know if or when you bumped into it (the superatural/other dimension)?”

    Truth is – only with some sort of “revelational” insight given to you could you possible know if what you posit could be so! Otherwise, you would be oblivious, using the very methodology you have upon the BIble and demanded of me.

    So – quite without intending to be, you are caught in the same “proof vortex” of which you accuse me, or other Christians. You are effectively trying to make all the rules, you claim for yourself the ability to dismiss Scripture, and yet somehow, mysteriously be open to the supernatural possibilities anyway!?!

    Well – that is your dilemma, not mine. You can play with the definition of “faith” all you want – you know you are unable to dismiss it, and I can see how that is frustrating. We Christians must deal with paradoxes – we go into the Faith knowing that.

    You are stuck with a rank contradiction. Quite a different matter.

    Pax – jb

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    1. I don’t believe that most proponents of the scientific method, including myself, would say that the scientific method is the ONLY possible method of determining truth. Our position is that the scientific method is simply the most accurate method of discovering truth that humans have come upon to date.

      That is why I am open to other methods of determining/discovering truth, including using supernatural methods. However, to date, no other method presented to mankind has shown itself to be anywhere near as accurate as the scientific method. For instance, I believe that fortune telling has been very, very inaccurate, whether that fortune telling is performed by a “fortune teller” with a crystal ball or by a Hebrew “prophet”.

      Now, if you don’t mind, back to my original question for you: If one cannot analyze the truth claims in the Bible using the standard methods used to analyze truth claims for all other books, how do we know for sure that the Bible is revelational and not simply human invention? Isn’t stating it to be revelational without proving it to be revelational simply a matter of wishful thinking?

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  11. Gary –

    Sigh. I answered your question – Scriptural is revelational in and of itself. That, like the Resurrection, is an article of faith.

    I believe – I “have faith” (ref Heb. 11:1) I am quite sure of matters for my sake. It is you that is not secure in yours. Rant and rave all you wish – but it is you asking virtually all the questions, then laying claim to knowing all the answers as well. So be it. Again – you know the answers you have received from me, for you have read them many times in your 3-year “journey.” Accept them, or not. That’s your call. I really don’t care, Gary,

    Because you really don’t care.

    However, you have not proffered an answer to your dilemma – the contradiction that is what you in your own words say you believe. You brought it up! So when you sort that one out, let me know. You’ve got my e-mail.

    😉

    Pax – jb

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    1. “I believe – I “have faith” (ref Heb. 11:1) I am quite sure of matters for my sake. It is you that is not secure in yours. Rant and rave all you wish – but it is you asking virtually all the questions, then laying claim to knowing all the answers as well.”

      You are a churchman, JB. You are supposed to be one of those people with the answers. Yet all you can tell me is “have faith”. In other words, “The evidence doesn’t matter. Believe as we, the Church, tell you to believe.” Nice.

      First I was told, by many churchmen including my former LCMS pastor, that I didn’t know enough scholarship to make an informed decision. Now, after spending three years reading that very scholarship, I am told it is because I don’t have enough faith. You know what I think, JB? I think that you and your fellow churchmen are willing to say whatever is necessary to maintain your control and your façade of respectability.

      The truth of the matter is: The non-evidence based supernatural superstitions you are selling should be taken no more seriously than that of the local witch doctor or medicine man. “Revelation”? Baloney! It is wishful thinking. Period. You WANT your fairy tale to be true, and therefore you declare it to be so. The evidence, or lack thereof, be damned.

      Like

  12. There, there, now – feel better? You have never quite rid yourself of your fundamentalism, for all of your efforts.

    This is like old times, where you’d get all angry and start shooting your cannons in every direction. 🙂

    The question remains concerning the contradiction to which your statements led you, and about which you are going to some lengths to avoid answering. Meh. It’s how you operate.

    If, after you have settled down after your little rant there, and want to discuss the question at hand, and not throw at me the usual nonsense you throw at others less prepared for your tirades – again – you have my e-mail addy. 🙂

    Pax – jb

    Like

    1. What are you blabbering about, JB? I asked you a specific question, and as usual, you are being evasive. Here it is again: If one cannot analyze the truth claims in the Bible using the standard methods used to analyze truth claims for all other books, how do we know for sure that the Bible is revelational and not simply human invention? Isn’t stating it to be revelational without proving it to be revelational simply a matter of wishful thinking?

      Let’s see if you can actually answer a straight forward question with a straight forward answer.

      Like

  13. Good switcheroo yet again, Gary.

    You have not lost your touch. 😉

    I’ll check back in a couple of months, see if you have learned how to argue properly. For someone so outspoken in favor of the scientific method, logic seems to escape you.

    Like

    1. He doesn’t want to answer the question, does he, Readers?

      And here is why: If Rev. Baxter were a Roman Catholic, he could appeal to the magisterium of the Church as the final authority regarding truth/divine revelation. But he is not a Roman Catholic. He is a Lutheran, and for Lutherans, the final authority is the Word of God. Now, one has to be careful there. Lutherans make a big distinction between the “Word of God” and “the Bible”. Lutherans do NOT say that the BIBLE is the final authority regarding truth. They do that for CYA purposes. They know that not everything that is written within the two covers of our Bibles was inspired by God. They know that scribal additions and alterations exist in our Bibles which did not exist in the original manuscripts. So the question is: Who determines what is the Word of God and what is not??? Who settles conflicts between long established doctrines and new scientific discoveries?

      Lutherans cannot point to any Church authority as can the Roman Catholics to fulfill this role. And even the most conservative of Lutherans abhor the idea that they are “biblical literalists” like those ignorant Baptist fundies who hold that every “jot and tittle” in their Bibles is inspired. So where does that leave Lutherans? It leaves Lutherans in the same boat as…EVANGELICALS! The final authority of Lutherans and evangelicals is the still small voice “inside their hearts”: the internal dialogue inside their brains that these people believe consists of conversations between themselves and an invisible ghost.

      If Rev. Baxter is correct that the Christian religion is based on faith, not evidence, and that this faith is gifted to men through divine revelation, then Lutheran Christianity is no different from Evangelical Christianity. It is simply a belief system based on subjective emotions and wishful thinking.

      Like

      1. What is the difference between a clergyman and a snake oil salesman?

        None. Both will say whatever is necessary using complex, sophisticated-sounding arguments and appeals to make their “product” believable and sellable. Both are selling products which have no demonstrable benefits whatsoever other than a possible psychological placebo effect.

        Now, I will add a caveat: Most snake oil salesmen know they are conning people; they know their product is totally bogus. I believe that there are many clergymen who genuinely believe in the real benefits of their “product”, but my issue with them is, no matter how much evidence is presented to them that their product is bogus, they stone wall, insisting that their bogus product MUST be good and beneficial, simply because they want so desperately for it to be good and beneficial. Therefore, the end result is the same: People are conned into “buying” something they do not need.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. @ Jeff Baxter.

    If I may…

    Hypothetical Question:

    If you were a missionary, how would you vouchsafe the veracity of the divine revelation/inspiration of scripture to a non-christian; for example an Amazonian Indian – who you were engaging, (and let’s assume you were able to speak their language) with a view to convert?

    Like

    1. Ark –

      That would depend on a number of critical factors:

      1. Is said Indian of a tribe within the Amazon Forest itself, or one of the river dwelling tribes?

      2. Are his parent of the same tribe, or is he a victim of divided lineage – half-forest, half river-dweller?

      3. Is he missing his left teat, and have a deformed right testicle; the other way around; or no teats and no testicles; or normal but in a carefully constructed understanding of imposing modern terms (normalcy) upon primitives?

      Ark – in asking such a technical question, and hoping to meet your expectations of accuracy and historical relevance to the poor primitive creature now confronted with the modern, scientific world this has become, it is incumbent upon said missionary to be cognizant of all relevant cultural and geographical considerations (for instance, river dwelling tribes who live at the forks of tributarial rivers and streams have a markedly different metaphysical view than all the other Amazon tribes. so one cannot be too careful in approaching the issue of veracity in regards to the metaphysical/non-metaphysical phenomena we observe.

      As an aside, why don’t you ask you beloved cult leader why he has yet to answer the very question posed by his own words, as I noted in comment #31. He handily seems to have forgotten that in his many corrections of my outlook. Here’s a quote by which you can find that post – Gary’s quote and my question, which was way ahead of all his other obfuscations since.

      “‘I may believe that the Resurrection story is silly, but I do not believe that believing that there might be another dimension to reality is silly. The existence of the supernatural/another dimension is within the realm of possibilities and one would be foolish to simply close one’s mind to the possibility.’

      “I mean – just how the dickens are you going to find your “Holy Grail” of objectivity admitting or researching that??? That is completely illogical. You are just hedging your bets.”

      Pax – jb

      Like

      1. Hi, jb.
        Why the hostility?
        It seems a straightforward question.
        And one I am pretty sure many missionaries have been faced with.

        I would rather not get in the middle of the drawn out debate you are having with Gary, if it’s all the same with you?

        So without all the snark and sarcasm could you at least offer a straightforward answer?

        Like

          1. Well, so far Jeff Baxter hasn’t given me cause to be otherwise.
            Although his first reply was as asinine as they come, I am hoping as a man of god, he might temper his next response and show a bit more humility and not so much hubris.
            You know the bloke, is he likely to be straight with me?
            Besides he has a name I am familiar with – Jeff ”Skunk” Baxter being one of the original members of Steely Dan and also the Doobies and a well- respected guitarist.

            Like

      2. I am more than happy to answer your question, JB:

        How do I find a “Holy Grail” of objectivity if I am willing to allow for the possibility of other dimensions and other means of understanding mankind’s environment/world? Here is my answer: It is an arbitrary decision. An arbitrary decision based on my belief that the Scientific Method has proven to be the most accurate method of predicting and describing how the world around us operates. But just because I believe it to be the best method, doesn’t make it the ONLY method of determining truth and it definitely doesn’t make it the unquestioned “correct” method for determining truth. What is “correct” is subjective; arbitrary. I freely admit that my choice of world views is subjective and arbitrary. However, and very importantly, the methodology of my preferred method is objective.

        Now, will you admit that your choice of world views is subjective and arbitrary as well? And, will you also admit that your world view is not based on objective truth but upon subjective experience, something you call “revelation”? The methodology of your preferred method is subjective.

        Like

        1. Gary –

          Good try yet again at putting words in my mouth. You have allowed yourself an exception, based upon the fact that in other things you are an objective realist. Quite the explanation, I must add.

          Christians don’t lack objectivity when dealing with the material world – and the Christian scientists who have given us much stand in stark contrast to your assertion.

          And I have been quite frank, over the entire time we have written back and forth, regarding Articles of Faith. It is you, continually pushing for “proof” in order to satisfy your argumentation, that is not forthcoming. I am perfectly happy with that. It is you who is always making accusations and demanding what I have never said I could offer.

          Yet yourself would make the exception for yourself should YOU discover other explanations. Well, fine, I guess. I can likewise without being arbitrary about it. There are many paradoxes in this life, and very few with solutions.

          Pax, nonetheless . . .

          Like

  15. Ark –

    Mea culpa to you, my friend. Your question is, indeed, valid, and I erred in failing to address your words. For that, I ask you to forgive me. Getting a straight answer out of Gary is virtually impossible, and in over 3 years plus I still have not been able to overcome his fundamentalism. I try not to get frustrated, but . . .

    A straightforward answer to your question would require much explanation – it is not an easy question to answer in a paragraph or two. Nor is the atmosphere here conducive to attempting that. If you would truly like to pursue your question, my e-mail is koivwvia@gmail.com

    E-mail me with “Ark” in the subject box, and I would ask you give me your real name in your first sentence – “even terms and all.” 🙂 – and I will be happy to answer any and all questions you have.

    Peace in Christ,

    Pastor Jeff Baxter pb

    Like

    1. @Jeff Baxter

      I prefer not to get into the whole email thing if it’s all the same with you. Nothing personal I assure you, and I now turn down a email correspondence invites from believers – which I initially accepted – wanting to try to explain such things pertaining to faith related matters etc.
      I have enough work related correspondence I have to deal and in my experience such religious related correspondence tends to quickly veer off into polemic and doctrinal matters which I have no great love of.
      Also, as my questions touch on things that I’m sure a great many people would be interested in don’t you think it would be interesting if you were able to share your thoughts for the ”lurkers” as well? 🙂

      After all, as a Pastor you must address a great many people openly on a weekly basis I’m sure? How hard could it be?
      I’ll accept the abridged version if you feel seriously constrained?

      Also for what it’s worth, I am unaware of any history you and Gary may have other than what’s on his blog and in the time he and I have dialogued / crossed paths he has never struck me as anything other than a straight shooter, and a decent bloke.

      I have used ”Ark” for so long it seems, that it may end up on my funeral urn!
      But feel to call me Doug, if you prefer. My mother and father do.

      Ark

      Like

      1. Ark –

        If that is your preferred handle, so be it! That’s coolio! 😉

        I kinda hesitate to give you my site addy here, given the potential grief that could bring. But erring on the side of the Gospel – here it is – https://duncanoflorn.wordpress.com

        I will post something this evening in beginning an answer to your question(s). Comments are open as well.

        Pax – pb

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Excellent. I await your reply with great interest.

          And yes,although I do have a rep. for being abrasive on occasion, this is usually because of replies I so often get that are similar to your first response. I hope me ”biting my tongue” will prove to be worth it?

          I loathe religious polemic,and ”dancing” – what I like to call the Theological Two-Step, which really gets my back up. However, if a person is straightforward, open and honest then I will always try to respond likewise.

          Are you going to post here or on your blog?

          If you are worried about flaunting your blog address I can copy and paste it and I’m sure Gary can delete it if you are not happy having it out in the open?

          Like

          1. Ark –

            Sorry, I wasn’t clear.

            I posted my site address here. I am just beginning my answer at my site – I will post my answers there – and you can post any questions along the way in the comments. Look for something up at my site tonight – entitled “Ark.”

            Pax – pb

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I would encourage the readers of my blog to click on the link above and read Rev. Baxter’s response to Ark’s question. Here was Ark’s question for Rev. Baxter (a conservative/fundamentalist Lutheran minister): “How would you vouchsafe the veracity of the divine revelation/inspiration of scripture to a non-christian; for example an Amazonian Indian?”

            I read it and this is my condensed version of Rev. Baxter’s reply: “Ask to move in with them. Live like one of them. But all the time, be very public about your observance of your Christian faith and customs. Above all, be really, really, really nice! In addition, be really, really, really humble, especially in dealing with the tribal elder/chief. If you do these three things, in about one year, you have a good chance of winning over (converting) the village chief, and ultimately the whole tribe.

            Wow. But anyone who has followed this blog for the last few years knows that this is NOT how Rev. Baxter behaves when dealing with someone who has left the Christian faith. Not at all! In fact, it is just the opposite! Rev. Baxter is be downright MEAN AND NASTY!

            Why the difference in behavior, Rev. Baxter? Why soooo much patience and sappy kindness with the sinners in the Amazon but little if any patience with sinners who have rejected your belief system? I believe that the answer is: We are dealing with a cult and cult behavior. Rev. Baxter’s suggested behavior for the missionary in the Amazon is what is called “love bombing” by experts on cults. The cult member or members entice their potential converts into the cult with promises of a loving god and a loving group of fellow believers, but once in…don’t even THINK about leaving, dear “brother” or “sister”. If you do, all that sappy love suddenly disappears and out come the nasty threats of hell and shunning by your godly “brothers” and “sisters”.

            The ugly truth is…Rev. Baxter belongs to a cult. Plain and simple. In his ancient cult they “love bomb” you to get you in, but once in, they will attempt to absolutely destroy you through character assassination and personal attacks if you dare to leave.

            It is an ugly, ugly, ugly belief system. Someone needs to warn the Indians in the Amazon!

            Like

      2. Ark –

        I would be remiss if I didn’t add –

        Gary is a decent chap, all in all. Keep the both of us away from the subject all to often at hand, and we are quite civil with one another.

        But we do have our differences . . . 😉

        Pax – pb

        Liked by 1 person

  16. If you are following the conversation over on Rev. Baxter’s blog between Rev. Baxter (JB) and Art, JB has finally given a coherent answer to Ark’s question (and my question): How can anyone know that the Christian supernatural claims are true (the Virgin birth, the divinity of the man-god Jesus, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Eternal Life, etc.)?

    Rev. Baxter’s answer:

    “Okay, it seems you have meant “vouchsafe” as a substitute for “proof.” Fair enough.

    It would, in the end, come down to what I have always maintained with Gary, and which is an Article of Faith, unable to be proven or disproven – only believed or rejected: As the Word of God, Scripture is self-validating, and clearly states it is true. As it is Divine, resorting to earthly explanations or demands is beyond matters of faith. Explicable in “scientific terms?” No, it never meant to be. As God’s Word, Scripture makes itself quite clear. And unlike you or Gary, I accept the inerrancy of Scripture without question. I reject historical-critical scholarship, which elevates sinful man over and above Scripture as its judge. ”

    Gary: Boiling all that down: Scripture (the Bible) is true because Scripture (the Bible) says it is true. A circular argument.

    Bad logic. Very bad logic.

    The typical logic of a cult…and as fundamentalist as you can get!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rev. Baxter (JB):

      Bottom line: The missionary will tell the Indians stories about the powers of his invisible god. The Indians will tell the missionary stories about the powers of their sun, river, and snake gods. If the missionary can convince the Indians that his invisible god is more powerful than their gods, Christianity wins. If not, the missionary will “shake off the dust from his sandals”, move up river, and peddle his snake oil to another group of scientifically-ignorant people.

      Your belief system is based on nothing more than your subjective feelings, JB. You subjectively feel the “Scriptures” to be true, so you declare them to be so. You are just as superstitious as the Indians in the deepest jungle. But that is certainly your right. But stop coming over to my blog and labeling me a “fundamentalist” when it is YOU who is the poster child of fundamentalism.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Have you noticed that Jeff has taken down the post and also removed all comments including one from an other post I commented on referencing Francis Collins?
        And I am now moderated as well.
        Seems you were spot on about his character and integrity.
        The man is indeed a schlenter of the first order.

        Like

          1. He is a fundamentalist, behaving like a fundamentalist: Kind and friendly if he thinks there is a chance you will buy what he is selling. Furious and downright vicious once he sees his sales pitch has failed with you.

            Liked by 1 person

  17. A Christian on a Christian blog raised the following objection to my “hallucination hypothesis” mentioned in the above post:

    “Even if we limit ourselves to the minimal facts [regarding the death of Jesus] that most scholars agree on, the fundamental problem I have with your proposed ‘natural’ explanations of said facts is that you present zero evidence for them. Asserting that everyone who met Jesus after his alleged resurrection must have had some sort of hallucination is simply an assertion without evidence. It is based on your assumption that resurrections cannot happen. And I find it extremely unlikely that both the followers of Jesus and and a devout Jew on his way to persecute those followers would all have had similar hallucinations about Jesus. In Paul’s case, a number of years later. Do we have any evidence that the witnesses were prone to hallucinations, such that they were prepared to go to their deaths based solely on those hallucinations?”

    Like

    1. Question: If a detective is considering all the possible, plausible explanations for a recent crime which adequately incorporate all the evidence available to the detective, must he (or she) provide evidence for each and every step of the scenario to consider it plausible? Here is an example:

      Tomorrow morning you wake up and discover your keys are missing. You tear your house apart but are unable to find your keys. You remember last using your keys the night before to unlock the front door to your house and then leaving them on the dresser in your bedroom.

      Days go by and there is still no sign of your keys. You ask your neighbors if they have seen your keys. They all say no. However, one of your neighbors, a professional psychic, tells you she will look into her crystal ball and see if she can find out what happened to your keys. Two days later, in the local newspaper, in your neighbor’s “Psychic’s Corner” column, your missing key story is published: The crystal ball (allegedly) told your psychic neighbor that the night your keys went missing, a Martian spaceship hovered over your house for three hours. Two, green, three foot tall, antennae-toting Martians descended from the spacecraft onto your roof and were seen “passing through” your roof as if it were thin air. Ten minutes later, they re-emerged through your roof with your keys held high. Then they and your keys were “beamed” back up into the mothership. After the undersurface doors of the spaceship closed, the spacecraft gave off a brilliant light show, and seconds later, sped off into the night sky at the speed of light.

      Within hours of the publication and distribution of the newspaper, people from all over the city are calling the newspaper claiming to have seen the spectacular display of light, and some claim to have seen the spaceship. Several days later, after much commotion in the city, some of your neighbors now remember seeing a craft of some kind hovering over your house that night, and three elderly ladies are certain they saw space aliens walking on your roof with your keys in their hands!

      Here is my question for you: Would it be unreasonable for me to dismiss the “alien key abduction story” as too implausible and suggest that a much more plausible explanation would be that someone human moved your keys that night or that you misplaced them and just haven’t looked in the correct location…EVEN THOUGH…I have ZERO evidence for this hypothesis?

      Like

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