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Is an Anti-Supernatural Worldview Racist?

If we must “feel” God's presen... - Craig S. Keener - Quotes.Pub

My ongoing review of “Lord or Legend“ by evangelical apologists Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy, part 13. I will intersperse my comments with theirs in this post:

Body and Eddy: Dogmatic naturalism is nothing more than an ethnocentric metaphysical assumption that has to be accepted on faith. There are no compelling philosophical, logical, or historical arguments that require us to assume (or even justify) this stance. Moreover, this assumption has not been shared by most people throughout history, and it remains unshared by most people today—including the vast majority of people in contemporary Western culture. It is an assumption held by a relatively small group of Western academics who insist that their own culturally conditioned way of looking at the world is the only true way, all the evidence to the contrary withstanding.

Gary: No, the Scientific Method (the antithesis of supernaturalism) is the foundation of every advanced, industrialized nation on the planet.

Body and Eddy: Though these scholars often hold that their naturalistic assumption is the cornerstone for all truly critical historiography, we submit that, as a matter of fact, it is not nearly critical enough. Rather, a truly critical approach would begin by being critical of the culturally conditioned nature of its own presuppositions—including the academic, Western presupposition that truly supernatural events cannot occur.

Gary: Starting out with a non-supernaturalist worldview using the Scientific Method is not racist or ethnocentric. It is the most intelligent, rational action to take. To use the most reliable method of truth discovery available is not racist.

Boyd and Eddy: If one can genuinely remain open to the possibility that such naturalistic presuppositions are incorrect, we submit that there is widespread evidence throughout the world, and compelling evidence within the Gospels themselves, that these presuppositions are, in fact, incorrect. And once the naturalistic presupposition has been suspended, one finds there is nothing in the Gospels inherently implausible—at least not to the point that would justify calling the general reliability of these works into question.

Gary: Widespread evidence? You mean the millions of claims of supernatural events? At one time, millions of people, in all cultures, claimed that their illnesses were caused by evil spirits. People in the educated, industrialized West (at least most of them) no longer make these claims. Is that because evil spirits have suspended their illness-causing activities or because the Scientific Method disproved this superstition? Claims of the supernatural are not evidence of the supernatural.

Christians stomp up and down demanding that the academic world give their supernatural tall tales the same level of respect as the Scientific Method. Yet, when Muslims, Hindus, and Mormons stomp up and down demanding the same level of respect for their supernatural tales, Christians dismiss them with a chuckle and a wave of the hand. Imagine a world in which scientists, historians, law enforcement, and physicians were required to give supernatural causes equal respect and attention as non-supernatural causes. What chaos! How could technologically advanced societies continue to function? They wouldn’t. They couldn’t. We would regress to the Dark Ages.

We should give no more respect and attention to the supernatural tales and superstitions of Boyd and Eddy than we give to those of the witch doctor in the remotest jungle. Let’s discriminate against both worldviews equally! And let’s continue to work to extinguish all supernatural worldviews, regardless of race, religion, or color.

–p. 120

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One Young Man, One Angel, Two Angels. Who Cares?

Angel sitting on rolled away stone. Easter! | Tumba de jesús, Imagenes de  jesucristo, Arte de jesús

My ongoing review of “Lord or Legend“ by evangelical apologists Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy, part 12:

It is no accident that the Gospels each exhibit this interesting balance between essential fixity and creative flexibility. As tradents [oral storytellers] operating within the communicative content of an oral register, the Gospels authors freely rearrange events and sayings. They sometimes seem to collate or divide up events (as we previously noted Matthew doing with Mark’s version of the cursing of the fig tree). At times they seem to intentionally do this for topical reasons. But, for all we know, at other times they may do so simply because this is how the material presented itself to them as they were composing their works. In any event, by the standards of orally dominant cultures, the fact that the way events and sayings are ordered is markedly different in each Gospel does not constitute a contradiction and does not in the least compromise the genuineness of the historical interest or capabilities of the Gospel authors. To think otherwise, as many legendary-Jesus theorists do, is to think anachronistically.

–p. 118

Gary: Look. It doesn’t bother me that one Gospel says there was one young man in white clothing at Jesus’ tomb (Mark), another Gospel says there was one angel (Matthew), and another Gospel says there were two angels (Luke). Who cares. But what does bother me is when one Gospel says that the women fled the tomb and told no one, yet another Gospel says that the resurrected Jesus appeared to the women in the garden, causing them to immediately run to the disciples to report the resurrection! I’m sorry. That is a contradiction.

And when one Gospel says that Jesus first appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem, on the same day, Sunday (Luke), while another Gospel claims that Jesus only appeared to women in Jerusalem on Sunday, and told the women to tell the male disciples he would meet them in Galilee, where he then allegedly appeared to the male disciples on a mountain (Matthew), that is a contradiction.

And when one Gospel says that the male disciples were instructed to go to Galilee to receive an appearance of Jesus (Matthew) while in another Gospel the male disciples are specifically instructed, by Jesus, not to leave Jerusalem (not to go to Galilee) (Luke), that is a contradiction.

When two Gospels say that an angel/two angels told the women, including Mary Magdalene, that Jesus was risen (Matthew and Luke), yet another Gospel has Mary Magdalene not knowing that Jesus was risen until Jesus appears and tells her himself, that is a contradiction.

Conclusion: These reports are not reliable! Yes, they all report that Jesus’ tomb was found empty by women and that Jesus appeared or would appear (the original Mark) to his disciples. But other than that, there is very little they agree on! And if these authors can’t figure out whether Jesus was appearing in Jerusalem or in Galilee, how do we know that these appearance stories are not just legends? Maybe the empty tomb sparked the imagination (and gullibility) of many of Jesus’ followers, some in Jerusalem, some in Galilee. Pretty soon, “Jesus sightings” were occurring all over Palestine! And the best versions or amalgamations of these many appearance stories won out and ended up in four books, written decades later, in lands far away, by authors whom the majority of scholars do not believe were eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses!

These ancient texts are NOT historically reliable, my Christian friends. I’m sorry to break the news to you. No one should base their entire worldview and life on these four old books!

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Atheists Have No Moral Basis for Condemning the Behavior of the Christian God

The foundational principle of morality and you

Any time an atheist debates a Christian on the claims of Christianity, she will usual be informed that she has no right to judge the behavior of “God” because atheists do not believe in objective morality. “Your morality is subjective. Therefore, your subjective values are only valid for you, not for anyone else, including God”.

What BS!

Who is more moral: the average secular humanist (most atheists identify with this system of morality) or the average Christian who identifies with the morality of the Bible? Let’s see:

The overwhelming majority of secular humanists would never, ever, under any circumstances, condone ANY person/being standing by, doing nothing, while a child is brutally raped and murdered. Millions of Christians, on the other hand, give a pass to their god for doing exactly that, multiple times a day, day after day, year after year, century after century, millennia after millennia!

By the standards of morality of every civilized culture on the planet, whose system of morality (rules of behavior) is more moral??? Your consciences are “seared”, my Christian friends. Wake up to your delusion. Your god is either a monster, an invalid, or non-existent.

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The Accuracy of the Oral Traditions of Early Christianity Were Meticulously Maintained…Except When They Weren’t

The Four Gospels and the Caesar Gospels

My ongoing review of “Lord or Legend“ by evangelical apologists Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy, part 11:

No informed person denies that there are apparent contradictions within and between the four Gospels. …The question is, do these conflicts constitute contradictions that should undermine our assessment of the historical veracity of these works, or can most of these apparent contradictions be harmonized?

…To treat these works [the Gospels] responsibly we have to try to imagine the broader tradition the audience and author shared and within which the individual, fragmentary, elliptical accounts were originally understood. And this means we have to try to imagine a broader oral context within which the apparent conflicts between accounts can be harmonized. In this light we must conclude that the refusal of skeptical scholars to acknowledge the legitimacy of attempting to harmonize the Gospel accounts is not only prejudicial, it is fundamentally opposed to the very nature of the Gospel texts themselves.

These observations, of course, do not imply that we can simply assume that if we had access to the broader oral tradition of the early Christians all apparent conflicts would be instantly resolved. From a strictly historiographical perspective, we have to concede that it’s possible that various traditions modified their contents in the course of transmission in ways that simply contradict other traditions, even by ancient oral standards.

–pp. 111-116

Gary: Wait a minute! You guys have been arguing in the preceding chapters of your book that early Jewish Christians meticulously maintained the accuracy of their oral traditions, but now in your attempt to rationalize (explain away) the presence of apparent contradictions in these four ancient texts, you admit that it is possible that in the “course of transmission”, the contents (details) of these stories were modified in ways that resulted in contradictory traditions??

You have just shot yourselves in the proverbial foot, my evangelical Christian friends! If two traditions are contradictory, that means that one of them is wrong. That means that one of them is untrue. It never happened. It is therefore a fictional story. It is fictional, regardless of whether the “tradent” (storyteller) purposefully invented a new twist in the Jesus Story or because he made a mistake. So my question for you is: If by your own admission, the Gospels may contain fictional material, how the hell can we ever figure out which ones are fictional and which ones are true???

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Why Do Evangelical Apologists Fail to Mention That Top Evangelical Scholars Believe the Gospels Contain Fictional Material?

Sections of the library

My ongoing review of “Lord or Legend“ by evangelical apologists Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy, part 10:

All other things being equal, the inclusion of non-ideologically motivated incidental [details] or casual information in a document tends to bolster an historian’s confidence in its general historical reliability.

…One particularly significant class of detail we find in the Gospels is the inclusion of personal names. …[Evangelical NT scholar] Richard Bauckham has provided a detailed assessment of this phenomenon and has made a rather compelling case that the presence of these names lends strong support to the historical veracity of these reports. …If Bauckham is on the right track, not only are we afforded a new appreciation of the way in which concrete details in the synoptic tradition constitute evidence of historical remembrance, but the details themselves may well identify eyewitness tradents [oral storytellers] who were known to testify to the circulating accounts attached to their names.

[More evidence of the historical reliability of the Gospels can be seen with the presence of] self-damaging details [which] suggest that the author was willing to damage his own cause for the sake of remaining faithful to history. …The fact that the Gospel traditions retain embarrassing material while failing to insert helpful material testifies to their significant historical and thus their general reliability.

—excerpts from chapter 8, pp. 101-110

Gary: Conjecture, conjecture, conjecture. If an author includes a lot of incidental details in a story, that proves the story is historically accurate? If the author uses a lot of personal names in the story, that proves the story is historically accurate? If the author includes embarrassing details about his principal character, that proves that all the other claims about the principal character are true?? These assertions are nothing more than conjecture based on generalizations.

How does Richard Bauckham know that the mention of personal names in the Gospels signals the identity of a tradent—the person responsible for maintaining the accuracy of that story until they were finally written down by the Evangelists? I’ve read his book (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses). He provides ZERO evidence for this claim. It is pure conjecture. But of course, every evangelical apologist on the planet has jumped on his baseless conjecture and promoted it as the Gospel truth.

But here is what evangelical apologists don’t discuss in their books: the fact that the two most beloved New Testament scholars in Evangelical Christianity, Richard Bauckham and Michael Licona, both believe that the Gospels include non-historical details. In other words: FICTION!

Bauckham, in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, gives compelling evidence for why he believes that the authors (yes, authors with an “s”. He does not believe that the Apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel According to Matthew) invented the story of the calling of Matthew. One of the most respected evangelical NT scholars on the planet believes that the story of the calling of Matthew is an invented, fictional tale!

And as we all know, evangelical darling Michael Licona lost his job for daring to express his opinion that “Matthew’s” tale of dead saints being shaken alive out of their tombs was most likely a theological allegory, not a real historical event. Let me translate: FICTION!

If these two stories are fiction, even in the eyes of evangelical Christianity’s top two New Testament scholars, then why should anyone have confidence that the other stories in the Gospels are historical? How do we know, for instance, that the Virgin Birth story is not a work of fiction? And much more consequential: how do we know that the detailed Appearance Stories of a resurrected corpse are not fictional?? If two of the stories in the Gospels are fictional even in the eyes of evangelical Bible scholars, then why couldn’t many more be fictional?

The Christian belief system is built upon massive quantities of assumptions and conjecture, with very little evidence.

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Would Jesus Wear a Mask?

Paul Van Noy, senior pastor at Candlelight Church in Idaho, contracted Covid-19 less than two months after he called himself a "no-masker."
Paul Van Noy, senior pastor at Candlelight Church in Idaho, contracted Covid-19 less than two months after he called himself a “no-masker” (He is now in the ICU).

Full story: CNN

Would Jesus the Christ comply with a government mandate to wear a mask for the purpose of preventing others from becoming seriously ill or dying, or would Jesus assert his first amendment rights and refuse to wear one?

Come on, Christ-ians! Stop being self-centered pricks!

Face Mask – Making Your Own | North Carolina Cooperative Extension

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If the Evidence For the Resurrection is So Strong, Why Do the World’s Jews Reject It?

Rabbinic Judaism

What is the best argument against the Christian claim that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is “strong”? Answer: the overwhelming majority of Jesus’ own people, the Jews, reject the evidence as insufficient.

Some scholars have estimated that less than 1,000 Jews converted to Christianity in the first few centuries of the Common Era. If true, that is stunning. And think about this: If Jesus fulfilled ALL the OT messianic prophecies as Christians claim, how is it possible that so few Jews saw in Jesus the fulfillment of God’s promises to them? Are the world’s Jews that dense? Are the world’s Jews so “hard-hearted” (an unprovable, bigoted, conspiracy theory) that they are unwilling to recognize the “strong” evidence staring them in the face??

And how is it possible that with only one or two exceptions, every Jewish Bible scholar who has ever lived has rejected the evidence presented to them by Christians that Jesus was the Jewish messiah or that God raised him from the dead?

Either the world’s Jews are stubborn fools or Christians have overestimated the strength of their evidence.

Talmud - Wikipedia

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Is It Ethical For Evangelical Apologists to Present Minority Scholarly Positions as Facts in their Books?

I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here's why I left | Megan  Phelps-Roper - YouTube

My ongoing review of “Lord or Legend“ by evangelical apologists Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy, part 9:

The first reference we have to the author of the Gospel of Mark comes from Papias, an early second century Christian and acquaintance of the apostle John, who says that John passed on to him the following tradition…

Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.

This passage is taken from Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 3:39

–p. 94

Gary: Papias was “an acquaintance” of the apostle John??? Says who? Not the majority of NT scholars!

This is the kind of dishonest nonsense, practiced by many evangelical and conservative Protestant apologists, that really irritates the hell out of me. Be honest! Tell your Christian readers the truth. Tell them first what the majority of scholars believe on a position, then present the position of the minority (or fringe) of scholars, and then, why you believe the minority is correct. That is the honest way to do apologetics.

Why do so many conservative Christian apologists engage in this type of deceptive apologetics? My guess: They know the historical evidence for their case is weak so they play fast and loose with the truth to make their case appear stronger. And how do they justify this behavior: their overwhelming subjective perception of the presence of Jesus “in their heart” which gives them permission to justify the (dishonest) means with the end (eternal salvation).

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Was the Gospel of Mark Written for a Jewish or Gentile Audience?

The Gospel of Mark: Scripture & Theology | SchoolWorkHelper

My ongoing review of “Lord or Legend“ by Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy, part 8:

Obviously, if a document wasn’t written for the purpose of reporting history, we’d be misguided in expecting it to do so. Did the authors of the Gospels intend their works to be read as, among other things, reliable accounts of the life of Jesus? …Some of those who argue that the Jesus of the Gospels is substantially legendary believe that the authors of the Gospel intentionally fabricated much (if not all) of their historical narrative about Jesus.

One version of the Gospel-as-fiction thesis…comes from Jesus Seminar member Dennis McDonald. McDonald argues that the Gospel of Mark, upon which he believes Matthew and Luke are based, was intended to be an inspiring myth intentionally modeled after Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The main reason McDonald comes to this conclusion is that he claims to find significant parallels between Mark and Homer.

…How could “Mark” have imagined that his largely Jewish Christian audience would have found anything attractive, let alone compelling, with a Jesus modeled after a pagan character, let alone one as flawed as Odysseus? If this work was meant to be an inspiring myth, one can imagine much more inspiring characters Mark could have latched onto—for example, characters found in the Jewish Scriptures that both Mark and his audience were steeped in.

–pp. 83-85

Gary: But what if “Mark” was not writing for a Jewish audience, but for a Gentile audience? And what if “Mark’s” purpose in writing his gospel was not as a history text or as a complete myth, but as a work of evangelization?

So if “Mark’s” goal was some version of “so that you might believe”, why couldn’t he add some fictional material in his book? And if he was writing for a Gentile audience, why couldn’t he make some of those fictional details parallel the deeds of characters with whom these Gentiles were familiar?

Which is it? Are these conservative evangelical/Protestant authors correct that the author of Mark was writing to Jewish Christians, or was “Mark” writing to a Gentile audience? Let’s see what Roman Catholics (not known for a liberal, anti-supernaturalist agenda) have to say.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Traditionally, the gospel is said to have been written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome, at a time of impending persecution and when destruction loomed over Jerusalem. Its audience seems to have been Gentile, unfamiliar with Jewish customs (hence Mk 7:3411). The book aimed to equip such Christians to stand faithful in the face of persecution (Mk 13:913), while going on with the proclamation of the gospel begun in Galilee (Mk 13:1014:9).

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Science vs. Trump

Scientific American Endorses Joe Biden

That’s your choice in November, my fellow Americans: A nation guided by science and reason or a nation guided by conspiracy theorists, religious fanatics, climate change deniers, and other skeptics of science.

Scientific American has come out against Trump:

Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly.

The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future.