Why Do Christian Apologists Appeal to So Many Assumptions?

The Brain Rewards Assumptions - HR Daily Advisor

Conservative Christian apologist:

Let’s think through what a generic creator god must have in order to be worthy of worship. In order to a god to be worthy of worship, it must be maximally great. If it’s maximally great then it can’t be dependent on anything else. If it’s maximally great, then everything else must depend on the maximally great being for it’s existence (which explains why it’s a creator god). If it’s maximally great then it must be perfectly loving. If it’s perfectly loving then it’s perfectly just. If it’s perfectly just, then it must dish out righteous punishment in the form that I describe in these blogs:

https://www.nechristianapologetics.com/post/is-death-an-appropriate-punishment-for-sin https://www.nechristianapologetics.com/post/why-god-punishes-us-when-we-refuse-to-forgive

But if it is perfectly loving, then it wants to be reconciled to the creatures who have separated themselves from it. And that’s where Jesus comes in. Because in order for a god like that to forgive, someone has to die for the reasons I explain in this blog:

https://www.nechristianapologetics.com/post/forgiving-sins-requires-someone-to-die

(What I’m saying will not make much sense unless you actually read the links I’ve provided) Please remember that we are talking about your eternal salvation here. So, this is kinda important. As in, it’s the single most important thing in your life. Since I believe Christianity is true, it would be extremely wrong and evil for me not to tell you these things. Especially seeing as you reached out to me. Which I take to be a sign from God to me and you that this is important. And that, I think, would be especially true if you were a child, by the way… If you want scholarly consensus then you need to come up with a way to explain the following things that have the consensus of New Testament scholars concerning Jesus of Nazareth:

1) Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea,

2) the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb by some of his female followers,

3) the post-mortem appearances of Jesus to various individuals and groups,

and 4) the original disciples’ coming sincerely to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead despite their strong predisposition to the contrary

Your hallucination/delusion/vivid dream hypothesis explains (3) and, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, can only very weakly explain (4). The resurrection hypothesis powerfully explains (2), (3) and (4). Therefore, your hypothesis is weaker than the resurrection hypothesis in the following ways: Explanatory Scope, Explanatory Power, and even Plausibility (since you believe it’s “very possible” that there is some kind of creator god, it wouldn’t have any trouble doing a resurrection) (1) obviously being explained by Jesus’ existence. Which has scholarly consensus so I suspect that you have no problem with that.

If the best explanation of those other three facts that have scholarly consensus is the resurrection, then how do we explain the fact that the resurrection hypothesis doesn’t have scholarly consensus (even though the resurrection hypothesis does have a strong minority position)? It’s best explained by scholars having an irrational predisposition against the supernatural. They come at it from the position that it’s actually NOT “very possible that the universe was created by an intelligent being”. This “intelligent being”, in this case, is some kind of “generic creator god”. That scholarly opinion is, globally speaking, a stark minority.

Gary:

 “It’s best explained by scholars having an irrational predisposition against the supernatural.”


That might be true if only atheist scholars held that view.  But why do most Roman Catholic scholars doubt the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels?  Why does NT Wright say that he has no idea who wrote the gospels nor when they were written?  That’s a big problem for your supposition that the scholarly consensus is based on a bias against the supernatural. 

Conservative Christian Apologist:

It’s true that I believe the gospels were written by the people they’re traditionally attributed to (even though I don’t think it makes a difference if they weren’t). It doesn’t make a difference if the gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. It makes no difference. I believe that they were but it doesn’t matter. People don’t have to believe that the people who are traditionally thought to have written the books of the Bible actually wrote them in order to be a Christian. People don’t have to believe that Matthew was written by anyone named Matthew to be a Christian or to believe that what he/she wrote is reliable.

Gary:

I was only refuting your claim that the scholarly consensus regarding the non-eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is based on a bias against the supernatural.  The fact that Roman Catholic scholars, who very much believe in the supernatural, and the fact that Protestant scholar NT Wright says that no one knows who wrote the Gospels nor when they were written, completely demolishes your unsupported claim that the scholarly consensus on the non-eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is based on a bias against the supernatural.  Can you be honest and admit that?


At the beginning of this I wrote, “it’s true that I believe the gospels were written by the people they’re traditionally attributed to (even though I don’t think it makes a difference if they weren’t).” It doesn’t make a difference if the gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. It makes no difference. I believe that they were but it doesn’t matter.”


It makes a HUGE difference if the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses or the close associates of eyewitnesses—as the scholarly consensus believes!  If the Gospels were written by non-eyewitnesses, one or more generations removed from the events they describe, we cannot be certain of their historical accuracy.  I know that conservative Christians have all sorts of assumptions about first century Jews and their strict policies of maintaining the accuracy of oral traditions, but this is nothing more than an assumption based on the habits of the Temple scribes.  The majority of the early Christians were not Temple scribes but “unlearned” country bumpkins (peasants).  The entire Christian belief system is based on assumption after assumption.  Bottom line:  Christians cannot point to the Gospels as undisputed eyewitness accounts.  They may contain some eyewitness information, but since we do not know the authors, NO ONE can be sure what parts are historical and what parts are non-historical.  You and other conservative Christians can continue to believe that these four books are historically reliable, but the undisputed fact is that the historical reliability of the Gospels is DISPUTED!  Disputed eyewitness testimony is not strong evidence for any claim, but it is TERRIBLE evidence for extra-ordinary claims like virgin births, water-walking, and corpse reanimations.


“Let’s think through what a generic creator god must have in order to be worthy of worship. In order to a god to be worthy of worship, it must be maximally great. If it’s maximally great then it can’t be dependent on anything else. If it’s maximally great, then everything else must depend on the maximally great being for it’s existence (which explains why it’s a creator god). If it’s maximally great then it must be perfectly loving. If it’s perfectly loving then it’s perfectly just. If it’s perfectly just, then it must dish out righteous punishment in the form that I describe in these blogs:”


Wow.  This statement is full of assumptions.  First, how do you know that the Creator God wants to be worshipped?  Due to the massive human and animal suffering on the earth, it is entirely possible that the Creator God doesn’t give a rat’s behind what we think of him or if we worship him (or her, or they, or it).  This is again the BIG problem with Christian apologetics:  so many assumptions!  Why does the Creator have to be maximally great?  It is entirely possible that the Creator god is simply a lesser god who had the power to create, but not the power to control his creation.  Since when are maximally great rulers maximally loving??  That is non-sensical.  Was Alexander the Great maximally loving?  No, but he conquered every nation in his path.  It is entirely possible that the Creator God is maximally powerful and not loving; maximally loving but has limited power; has limited power and is not loving; or he is dead.  You cannot prove which of these is correct.  You are making assumption, after assumption, all in a disparate effort to shoehorn your first century peasant god into the evidence for the Creator God.


“Please remember that we are talking about your eternal salvation here. So, this is kinda important. As in, it’s the single most important thing in your life. Since I believe Christianity is true, it would be extremely wrong and evil for me not to tell you these things. Especially seeing as you reached out to me. Which I take to be a sign from God to me and you that this is important. And that, I think, would be especially true if you were a child, by the way…”


That is exactly what a Muslim apologist would say to you.  Why don’t you worry about the Muslim hell, you “infidel”??  You don’t worry about the Muslim hell for the same reason that I do not worry about the Christian hell (or the Muslim hell):  lack of good evidence for the belief system which teaches the existence of this place of punishment; in fact, it is very bad evidence.  It is entirely possible, my friend, that it is blind chance that has brought me to you to open your eyes to your superstitious delusions.


“If you want scholarly consensus then you need to come up with a way to explain the following things that have the consensus of New Testament scholars concerning Jesus of Nazareth:  1) Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea, 2) the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb by some of his female followers, 3) the post-mortem appearances of Jesus to various individuals and groups, and 4) the original disciples’ coming sincerely to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead despite their strong predisposition to the contrary”


Wrong.  I have studied the evidence for the Resurrection claim extensively and no scholar that I know of (not even conservative evangelical scholars) claim that the scholarly consensus believes that Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus.  A majority of scholars believe that Jesus was buried in a rock tomb, but whose tomb it was is not a consensus position.  There is no consensus of scholars that Jesus’ empty tomb was found by women, only that an empty tomb was found.  The majority of scholars believe that some of Jesus’ followers BELIEVED that Jesus had appeared to them, in some fashion, but there is DEFINITELY no scholarly consensus which states that it is an historical fact that the resurrected Jesus appeared bodily to his followers after his execution.  That is a gross misstatement of scholarship, my friend.


“the original disciples’ coming sincerely to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead despite their strong predisposition to the contrary”


Conservative Christians often make this claim.  However, just because someone dramatically and abruptly changes their entire worldview is NOT proof that the new belief is true.  If that were correct, then we should all become Hare Krishnas!  And the fact that thousands of Christians have been willing to be tortured and die for their beliefs is not sufficient reason to believe that a first century corpse really did come back from the dead.  Human beings are capable of believing all kinds of crazy things and being willing to die for those crazy beliefs.  For evidence, just look at all the fundamentalist Muslim suicide bombers.  


And, no, I do not believe that the disciples were lying.  I believe that the original resurrection sighting claims were genuine and honest.  However, honest, rational people can be misled by illusions, mistaken identity sightings, vivid dreams, delusions, and hallucinations.  You may believe that a supernatural resurrection is more probable than an illusion, but most non-Christians, including most Muslims, Jews, and people of other religions, suspect that the original sightings were cases of illusions, mistaken identity, etc..  So you can’t blame disbelief of the disciples’ resurrection claims on lack of belief in the supernatural.  Plenty of theists doubt the resurrection claims.  They doubt the resurrection claims because they know that even genuine eyewitnesses can get carried away in their religious fervor and see and hear things that are not there.  Intense human emotions often distort reality.

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End of post.

5 thoughts on “Why Do Christian Apologists Appeal to So Many Assumptions?

  1. Muslim and conservative Jewish scholars don’t have an anti supernatural bias. Apologists like this guy usually ignore that, and assume it’s only atheists who dispute resurrection stories, as if to say a god existing entails Christianity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘People don’t have to believe that Matthew was written by anyone named Matthew to be a Christian or to believe that what he/she wrote is reliable.’
    Really? Even when he (almost certainly not a she) contradicts the other gospels? Especially John, who creates an entirely different Jesus from the other gospels. Who is ‘reliable’ then?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Gary! I know we haven’t talked in a while (actually it’s been over a year now! I’m involved with a nonprofit on top of teaching) but I just read this post and I wanted to say that even though I still disagree with you on the question of whether Jesus is Lord, I wanted to say again how much I appreciate your measured and thoughtful responses. 🙂 keep it up, my friend!

    Like

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