The Source of the Conflict Between Science and Creationism: The Holy Book of Childhood Can Never Be Wrong

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There are still those who seek to deny the truth of evolution, and there are disturbing signs that their influence is even growing, at least in local areas of the United States.  Insofar as these backwoodsmen have arguments, they mostly centre around the notion of “design”—which also happens to be the principal theme of The Blind Watchmaker.  The book had finer ambitions than to serve as a reply to such arguments, but it is still true that anybody tempted  by the arguments of creationists will find definitive refutations of them—I think all of them—in here. 

Pretend as they will to scientific credentials, the anti-evolution propagandists are always religiously motivated, even if they try to buy credibility by concealing the fact.  In most cases, they know deep down what to believe because their parents recommended an ancient book that tells them what to believe.  If the scientific evidence learned in adulthood contradicts the book, there must be something wrong with the scientific evidence.  Since all radiometric dating methods agree that the earth is thousands of millions of years old, something obviously has to be wrong with all radiometric dating methods.  The holy book of childhood cannot be, must not be, wrong.

—biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins in the introduction to his 1996 edition of The Blind Watchmaker

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Evangelical Apologist Josh McDowell Admits that the Virgin Birth Prophecy was Not Originally about Jesus

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Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.  

–Isaiah 7:14

 

Josh McDowell:  The original context of this verse refers to the invasion of Judah by its northern neighbors.  …God informs King Ahaz that he will destroy [the enemies] of Judah.  …the Lord will give Ahaz a sign, and this sign will be the birth of a child who will be called Immanuel.  Isaiah adds that before the child has grown old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, [the enemies] will be destroyed.  It is clear, then, that the Imamanuel child was to be born within Ahaz’s own lifetime.  The prophecy is fulfilled in the very next chapter (Isaiah 8) , when Isaiah’s wife conceived a son, who was then identified as the fulfillment of the previous chapter’s prophecy.  …This is the original historical context.

Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 210

Gary:  Wow!  I am shocked.  This is the first time I have ever heard an evangelical apologist admit that the original context of this passage was not messianic; that this passage was not originally specifically a prophecy about Jesus’ birth many hundreds of years after King Ahaz.

Josh McDowell:  We will now consider how Matthew revealed [this passage’s] multilayered meaning.  …Why do the New Testament authors seem to quote certain Old Testament texts out of context in this manner?  –p. 211

Gary:  Wow!  An evangelical apologist admitting that the New Testament authors quoted Old Testament passages out of context!  Am I hallucinating???

Josh McDowell:  Let us remember two important things:  Jewish scholars understood and interpreted their sacred Scriptures as capable of multilevel meaning.  Indeed, the ancient rabbis who were writing the Midrash commentaries on Old Testament Scripture found all kinds of hidden insights in the biblical text.  Early Christian scholars such as Diodore of Tarsus were familiar with this practice but carefully sought to guard against overzealous and overreaching applications.  Although today we tend to interpret prophecy in terms of a single correspondence between prediction and fulfillment, interpreters in the historical tradition from the time of the church fathers believed that a prophecy could be fulfilled both initially in its original historical context and also hold a meaning that could become a type or pattern for later application; the prophets foresaw and foretold an event clearly, simultaneously foretelling a later, additional fulfillment.  The time between the two fulfillments was not clearly seen.  The apostle Paul writes about this prophetic anticipation when he discusses how the prophets sought to understand “what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating” (I Peter 1: 10-12).  –p. 211

[The prophecy in Isaiah 7:14] was interpreted by Matthew to have a dual application, one in the immediate historical context of the prophecy and an additional historical fulfillment in the person of Christ.

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Gary:  Wait a minute!  Isn’t that exactly what Muslims and Mormons have done?  Haven’t both of these “Abrahamic faiths” reinterpreted passages in the Christian New Testament, reading into them hidden prophecies about Mohammad and Joseph Smith?

Why are Muslims, for example, wrong in seeing midrashic references to Mohammad in the Christian holy book (which Christians have always believed to be solely about Jesus), if Christians are allowed to see a hidden prophecy in the Jewish holy book (specifically, Isaiah 7:14) which Jews believed for many centuries was solely about the wife and son of Isaiah?

Josh McDowell:  One may object that such typological (multiple) fulfillments offers little evidential value.  For, if texts such as Isaiah 7:13, 14 and Hosea 11:1 (among others) were never interpreted as Messianic until the writing of the New Testament, then is it circular to then appeal to them as evidence of Jesus Messianic credentials?  –p. 211-212

Gary:  Yes!  Why on earth wouldn’t it be?

Josh McDowell:  Yet it was the actual behavior, statements, and Person of Jesus that prompted the writers [of the Gospels] to recognize in him the resonance with familiar Old Testament Scriptures.  –p. 212

Gary:  Seriously, Josh?  So you are telling us that we can trust that the author of Matthew correctly perceived a hidden, second layer prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 7:14 based on the fact that the stories told about Jesus’ character and actions in the rest of his book (the Gospel of Matthew) are historically accurate, indicating that this author had an in-depth knowledge about Jesus???

Once again, a major Christian assumption:  The glue that holds together the entire Jesus is the Creator of the Universe Story.

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How many times must I say it:  The overwhelming majority of Bible scholars (practically all scholars other than fundamentalist Protestants and evangelicals) do NOT believe that the authors of the Gospels were eyewitnesses or even the associates of eyewitnesses to the life and death of Jesus.  We have no idea how much of the stories told by the anonymous author of Matthew (almost all of which he plagiarized from the anonymous author of the first gospel, Mark) is historical fact.  Therefore, we cannot assume that the author of Matthew correctly “read into” the Isaiah 14:7 prophecy based on his knowledge of the life and deeds of Jesus.  We cannot assume this because we cannot be certain which, if any, events in Jesus life were known to this author, and in particular, the claim that Jesus’ mother conceived a child while yet a virgin, having been impregnated (in some magical fashion) by an invisible (holy) ghost!  How did he know this “fact”?  Neither the Apostle Paul nor the authors of the Gospels of Mark and John say a single word about Jesus being the virgin-born Son of God!

And here is another BIG problem for Mr. McDowell:  If McDowell (along with most non-fundamentalist Protestant Bible scholars) is correct that the original prophecy in Isaiah was about a child born of Isaiah’s wife, how does he reconcile that with the author of Matthew’s claim that the prophecy foretold that a virgin would conceive?  Does McDowell believe that Isaiah’s wife was also a virgin when she conceived?  If so, that would make Isaiah’s child the first virgin-born child, not Jesus!  But if McDowell states that of course Isaiah’s wife was not a virgin when she conceived, then how does McDowell justify the author of Matthew’s distortion of the prophecy into a prophecy about a virgin birth?

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Either both women were virgins when they conceived, or both women were simply “young women” when they conceived.  If the latter is the case, there are no virgin birth prophecies in the Old Testament!  The author of Matthew invented this “prophecy” (and, maybe he, the anonymous author of Luke, or an anonymous source or general rumor used by both of these authors, invented the Virgin Birth of Jesus Story out of thin air)!

Dear Readers:  Isn’t it obvious?  The Virgin Birth Story is a tall tale!

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End of post.

Christian Apologists Often Abuse the “Argument from Silence Fallacy”

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“Although [John] Ruskin was, among other things, a social critic who wrote extensively about politics, his autobiography (Praeterita) fails to mention Queen Victoria, even though his life spanned her entire reign.”  –Liam, conservative Christian

 

What is Liam’s argument?  His argument is that just because English art critic John Ruskin never mentions Queen Victoria in his autobiography, that is not proof that Ruskin did not know of the existence of Queen Victoria.  And Liam is correct in this assertion.  In fact, probability tells us that an educated man living and working in England during the reign of Queen Victoria would most certainly have known of her existence.

But does this analogy apply to Philo of Alexandria, a first century Jewish philosopher and contemporary of Jesus, who never mentions Jesus in any of his writings?  Did Philo know about Jesus and simply chose not to write about him (for many possible reasons), or did Philo not write about Jesus because Philo had never heard of this man?

Although Liam is correct that the absence of any mention of Jesus the Great Miracle Worker and Raiser of the Dead in the works of Philo does not prove that Philo knew nothing of Jesus, I assert that there is a big difference between this situation and that of Ruskin and Queen Victoria.  We know that Queen Victoria was a major public figure in the British empire during Ruskin’s life.  We don’t know for certain that Jesus was a major public figure in the Roman Empire, or even in Palestine, during the life of Philo.  No one with even a high school education would claim that Queen Victoria might not have been a famous person in Ruskin’s time, and that this is a possible explanation for the omission of her name in Ruskin’s autobiography.  The same cannot be said about Jesus of Nazareth.  Although most historians believe that Jesus existed, his fame during his lifetime is a matter of debate.

The fact is, the default position for the omission of a person or event from any story is that the author did not know about the person or the event, it is not that he or she did know about the person or event but chose not to mention them.  We assume the author was unaware of the person or event until other evidence proves otherwise.  Therefore, the onus is on Liam, and his fellow Christian apologists, to prove that Philo’s silence (and that of Paul regarding the Jesus of the Gospels) was due to other reasons and not due to the fact that Philo had never heard of a Jesus of Nazareth.

 

 

The Best Evidence that the Jesus of the Gospels Did Not Exist

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The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter by Ilya Repin

I believe that it is likely that a man living in first century Palestine with the name of Jesus (a very common name) developed the reputation as a healer and (minor) miracle worker; preached an apocalyptic message; did or said something to antagonize the Jewish authorities; was executed by the Romans;  and soon after his death, some of his followers believed that he appeared to them.

But I do not believe that the Jesus described in the Gospels ever existed.

There are many reasons why the Jesus of the Gospels most probably never existed, but here is what I believe to be the strongest evidence against the historicity of this character:  Not one non-Christian contemporary of Jesus mentions a single word about him.

Jesus allegedly healed more people during his short ministry than all the Jewish prophets of the Old Testament combined.  Yet not one non-Christian contemporary of Jesus mentioned this fact.  But here is the kicker:  Only three people in all the Old Testament were allegedly raised from the dead.  Compare that to the number of people allegedly raised from the dead by Jesus, his apostles, and Paul.  If we include the “many” saints who were allegedly shaken out of their graves on the day of the Resurrection to walk the streets of Jerusalem, we are talking about dozens, maybe hundreds of people being raised from the dead!

But let’s exclude this group of people from our count as even some conservative Christians will agree that Matthew’s “Dead Saints Shaken Out of their Graves Story” is most likely theological hyperbole (fiction).  Let’s count all the other people (allegedly) raised from the dead in the New Testament:  Six, including Jesus.  Six!  Six people were allegedly brought back from the dead by Jesus and his followers…but not one non-Christian contemporary of Jesus bothered to mention this fact!

The Jewish philosopher Philo was a contemporary of Jesus living in Alexandria, Egypt.  Philo mentions Pilate quite a bit, but not one word about the man who raised just as many people from the dead as Elijah and Elisha combined!

Jesus and his followers allegedly performed more miracles and raised more people from the dead than all the prophets of Israel combined…but…neither Philo nor any other non-Christian contemporary of Jesus thought these facts were important enough to record them in their writings.

Give me a break.

The Jesus of the Gospels is fiction, folks!

 

Alleged Persons Raised from the Dead in the Old Testament:

1. Elijah raised the son of the Zarephath widow from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-22).

2. Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite woman from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35).

3. A man was raised from the dead when his body touched Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:20, 21).

 

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Elijah raises the widow’s son from the dead

 

Alleged Persons Raised from the Dead in the New Testament:

1. Many saints rose from the dead at the resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 27:50-53).

2. Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28:5-8Mark 16:6Luke 24:5, 6).

3. Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain from the dead (Luke 7:11-15).

4. Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Luke 8:41, 42, 49-55).

5. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44).

6. Peter raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-41).

7. Eutychus was raised from the dead by Paul (Acts 20:9, 10).

Source:  J. L. Meredith, Meredith’s Big Book of Bible Lists, (Inspirational Press, NY; 1980), p. 115

 

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Eutychus falls asleep sitting on an upper story window ledge falling to his death

 

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The Resurrection of Eutychus by Natale Carta

Is it Possible that the Jesus of the Gospels…Never Existed?

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I’ve always been skeptical of mythicists.  You know, those atheist extremists who don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth even existed.  What a bunch of loons, right?  How could it be possible that the most influential person in all of western civilization, and maybe even the entire planet, did not exist?

But I’ve started to wonder…

I mean, I still think that there was a Jesus.  I’m just not so sure that he was anything like the Jesus presented in the Gospels.  You know, the perfect Jesus who loves everyone, including his enemies.  The peasant carpenter whose sermons and parables rival the brilliance of the world’s greatest philosophers and poets.  Isn’t it really weird that a country boy would have such a brilliant command of language, oratory skills, in depth knowledge of religion, a skilled use of philosophy, and impeccable debate skills?

Is it possible that a clever book author made up all these stories?  Is the Jesus of the Gospels a fictional character?

Let’s take a look at the Jesus about whom Paul preached.  Let’s look at some of Jesus’ sermons, parables, and miracles recorded by the Apostle Paul, the author of the earliest books found in the canon of the Christian New Testament.  What do we find?  How many of Jesus’ sermons, parables, and miracles do we find?

Answer:  None.

What descriptions does Paul give us of the historical Jesus.  Well, let’s see.  Paul tells us that Jesus was born of a woman and was a descendant of King David.  He tells us the words that Jesus allegedly used at the Last Supper.  But…that’s about it.

But what about the Early Creed found in First Corinthians 15?  Many scholars date this creed to within three years of Jesus’ death.  Ok, well, what does this creed tell us about Jesus?  Answer:  He was crucified, he was buried, he rose on the third day, and he appeared to numerous people.  That’s it.

So it seems that prior to the writing of the first gospel in circa 70 CE, we have very, very little historical information about the Jesus whom Paul and his followers worshiped.

Is it possible that Paul’s Jesus and the Jesus of the Gospels are two very different men…or characters?  Is it possible that the rhetorically eloquent Jesus of the Gospels is a literary invention; an invention of the author of the Gospel of Mark; expanded upon by the authors of Matthew, Luke, and John???

I wonder…

 

 

 

 

End of post.

Another School Shooting. Enough is Enough, America!

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It’s becoming routine.  Almost every week it seems, some angry loner decides he wants to get even with the world by shooting up a school.  The result:  Dead and wounded children.

Enough is enough, America.  DO SOMETHING!

Let’s use some common sense and solve this problem:

-It’s time to seriously overhaul our gun laws.  No one needs a semi-automatic weapon to hunt.  The fact that someone “enjoys” his or her semi-automatic weapon for target practice is immaterial.  These weapons are dangerous.  Although the second amendment grants citizens the right to “bear arms” it does not define “arms”.  So just as we can ban a citizen from owning a nuclear weapon, we can ban him or her from owning a semi-automatic weapon.  Ban all sales of semi-automatic weapons and other weapons with large clips.  Outlaw the sale of munition for these weapons.

-Our schools, kindergarten on up, must be redesigned.  We must make them fortresses.  All entrances/exits must be guarded and secured.  No one gets in without passing through a metal detector and the scrutiny of armed guards.  It is going to cost a lot of money.  But our children are worth it.

Both measures must be enacted.  One without the other will not work.  Even if we ban all future sales of dangerous weapons, our country is already flooded with these weapons.  A ban on dangerous weapons alone will not work.  We need our schools to be fortresses to protect our children from nut jobs and their dangerous weapons already present in our communities.

If we do not take these measures, expect to continue seeing the photos of dead children on your television screen.

We are a rich nation.  We can do this.  We must make this issue a priority.

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