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Showing posts from July, 2006

Carrier, Moreland and Morality, Part II

[This is the second part of a series on Richard Carrier's attempted rebuttal of J.P. Moreland's argument on Morality found in his book Scaling the Secular City. Carrier's original essay can be found here and the first part of this series can be found here.]

So, what is it that Carrier does that refutes Moreland's argument? To begin with, he doesn’t claim that there is a firm philosophical foundation for morals in the atheistic world view. Instead, he pulls a form of tu quoque, i.e., he argues that while atheism doesn’t have a foundational basis, neither does Christianity. He does this by attaching onto a statement by Moreland concerning the basis for Christian theism's alleged superior philosophical foundation for acting morally, and tries to show that it is no better than atheism's views.

Moreland’s Argument that Carrier Attacks

In attacking Moreland’s view, Carrier picks one line out of a paragraph that sets forth in a rather concise way the Christian viewpoint…

Did the Qumran Sect Believe in Resurrection?

For many years, scholars did not know whether the Qumran sect believed in resurrection or not. Although scholars rightly took Josephus' description of their afterlife beliefs with a grain of salt, they nevertheless found the lack of mention of the doctrine intriguing. But that changed with the release of manuscript 4Q521, now often referred to as the "Resurrection fragment." Here are the most cited passages:

The heavens and the earth will listen so His Messiah, and none therein will stray from the commandments of the holy ones.

Seekers of the Lord, strengthen yourselves in His service!
All you hopeful in your heart, will you not find the Lord in this?
For the Lord will consider the pious and call the righteous by name.
Over the poor His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with His power.
And He will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom.
He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the bent,

And forever I will cleave to t…

One Book Meme

There is a tag contest going around asking bloggers to answer various book-related questions. Though I do not believe in tagging, I thought the questions were interesting enough to answer.

1. One book that changed your life:

The Tempting of America, by Robert Bork

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:

The Acts of the Apostles, byLuke the Physician & Companion of Paul

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:

U.S. Air Force Survival Training: Search and Rescue

4. One book that made you laugh:

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

5. One book that made you cry:

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

6. One book that you wish had been written:

The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by James the Just

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

8. One book you’re currently reading:

Lo I Tell You a Mystery, by David A. Ackerman

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:

The Greek New Testament

10. One book you wish you had written:

The B…

Carrier, Moreland and Morality, Part I

Introduction

In doing a bit of research on an unrelated subject, I came across an essay by Richard Carrier entitled Does the Christian Theism Advocated by J.P. Moreland Provide a Better Reason to be Moral than Secular Humanism? In this essay, Carrier claims that he refutes J.P. Moreland's position that Christianity provides a strong moral foundation for being moral -- a foundation that Moreland asserts atheism lacks.

Now, I found this essay to be interesting because I think that the moral argument for the existence of God is a pretty strong argument. I think that the argument that atheism has no foundational basis for morality is also quite compelling.

Now, before I am accused of saying something I haven't said, let me clarify: I am not saying that atheists cannot act morally. In fact, I have met some very moral atheists in my life. But there is a difference between acting moral and having a firm foundational philosophical basis for doing so.

Critiquing the Atheist Viewpoint

Ath…

Discussing Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Stand to Reason has published a list of "talking points" that can be used as a quick reference sheet for answering questions about embryonic stem cell research and why people ought to oppose this procedure. The piece, entitled "Are you against stem cell research and cloning?" give good, concise answers to some of the questions that arise concerning why Christians would oppose this procedure when it supposedly holds such great promise.

For example, consider the following from the "talking points":

Where do we get human embryonic stem cells? We can only derive human embryonic stem cells by killing a human embryo. Removing its stem cells leaves it with no cells from which to build the organs of its body.

What is the embryo? An embryo is a living, whole, human organism (a human being) in the embryonic stage. All the embryo needs to live is a proper environment and adequate nutrition, the very same thing all infants, toddlers, adolescents, and adults need.
This i…

An Excellent Review of Doherty's Book

My friend Kevin Rosero has posted an excellent Amazon review of Earl Doherty's The Jesus Puzzle. He focuses on the argument from silence that is the pink elephant in the Jesus Myth room. No, not Paul's supposed failure to refer to things he may or may not have had reason to. Rather, Kevin points out the simple but devastating fact that Earl Doherty believes there were "Christians" in the first and second centuries proclaiming the fact that Jesus never existed on earth, but we have no record of any "orthodox Christians" mentioning this particular perspective.

It is not as if the "orthodox" were quiet about sects with whom they disagreed. Indeed, they wrote at length to combat heresy after heresy. The goal was to refute, not ignore, perceived heretics. The offended "orthodox" assailed "lesser" heresies that claimed that although Jesus existed on this earth, he was not really human. How much more response would claims that …

Revamping and New Articles at the CADRE Site

We have changed the Christian History page at the CADRE site from the old design to the new one. The focus of the revamped page has expanded, with many new articles:
This page provides links to websites and articles relating to Christian history, including theological development, notable figures, contributions of Christianity to society and culture, and the archaeological evidence for the facts of the Bible.We have also added four new articles by Darin Wood, PhD:John Chrysostum: His Life, Legacy, and Influence
Dr. Wood provides an informative sketch of Chrysostum's life, as well as an exploration into his writings and impact on church evangelism.The Righteousness of God in the Pauline Corpus
Dr. Wood examines the crucial role that righteousness plays in understanding Paul's perspectives on justification, propitiation, expiation, and covenant. The Structure of the Apocalypse
Dr. Wood provides an in-depth analysis of the structure (or structures) behind the Book of Revelation. C…

Riding the Gravy Train, Part II

From "Is this woman the living 'Code'?":

Meet Kathleen McGowan, novelist and self-proclaimed descendant of a union between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. McGowan, who says she is from the "sacred bloodline" Brown made famous in his mega-selling novel, says she's ready to cope with people who think she's crazy or a heretic.

* * *

Think of McGowan as an Americanized Sophie Neveu come to life. In Da Vinci Code, Sophie (played by Audrey Tautou in this summer's movie adaptation) is a French woman who discovers she is a descendant of Jesus and Mary — a concept many Christians reject.

The Expected One (Touchstone, $25.95) is being published at a time when religious thrillers are a hot commodity for publishers and fans of Brown, who hunger for suspenseful novels that mix religion, history and conspiracy.

McGowan says her book is not a Da Vinci Code knockoff.

"Everyone's going to think I'm on The Da Vinci Code bandwagon, but I'm not," says M…

So you want to buy a commentary?

But which one? The choices can be dizzying. Some focus on theology, others on the Greek, others on the cultural context. Some are for profesionals, some for bible students, some for laypersons. And with many commentaries running upwards of $40 or more, you have to be selective.

The best resource I have found for sorting through all the commentary clutter is D.A. Carson's New Testament Commentary Survey. Carson is the well-respected research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and co-author of probably the most popular introduction to the New Testament. In NTCS, he goes through every book in the New Testament and discusses all of the respective serious commentaries. He is candid about what he sees as the qualities and inadequacies of each. He describes their strengths in different areas, such as exegesis, theology, and cultural understanding. He evaluates their usefulness to different audiences, such as bible students, pastors, interested laypersons.

In …

Ockham's Razor And The Fine-Tuning Of The Universe

First, I apologize to everyone for my disappearing act. I am in the midst of a project at work that is taking all of my time. So, in place of my own work, I did want to point out the following resource for those interested in the cosmological argument for the existence of the universe.

In my research, I came across two interesting essays by Dr. Taeil Albert Bai. Dr. Bai is the president elect of the Association of Korean Physicists in America, and is a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Space Science and Astrophysics, Wilcox Solar Observatory, Stanford University.

The first essay is entitled "The Universe Fine-Tuned for Life". The second is entitled "Accident or Design". The first essay sets forth some of the evidence for the fine-tuning of the universe to support life, and the second looks at three common arguments used to explain the fine-tuning. According to the notes on the papers themselves, "[t]his article is adapted from a section of the book …

Some Thoughts on the Crusades

I have -- finally -- finished reading The Crusades, Islam and Christianity in the Struggle for World Supremacy. The book is informative, but not an easy read. It seems that the author includes too many unimportant details, including brief accounts of crusades and participants in efforts to defeat pagan tribes in Europe. He also opted at times a topical rather than chronological approach to his material. Putting aside those issues, the book did a good job of exploring the motives of the Crusades. After reading this book, I better appreciated the mindset of Christendom at the time and that many, probably most, of the Crusaders were moved profoundly to "take the Cross" for religious reasons.In any event, it is an unflinchingly candid account of the Crusades. The warts of Christians and Muslims are presented, though more time is spent on the Christian ones (probably due to the author's access to sources and his audience). The fairness of the treatment and (usually) nonjudgme…

What Are the Best Songs About the Resurrection?

What are your favorites from any tradition, including classical, country, praise & worship, contemporary Christian, Christian rock, gospel, and soul? Here are mine so far, with links to samples or lyrics:

The Champion, by Carman

Perhaps the most original yet orthodox interpretation of the resurrection into song. Typical of Carman, which means unusual for everyone else. Captures the spiritual conflict preceding the resurrection and Jesus’ ultimate victory. I loved it as a teenager and still enjoy it today.

Arise My Love, by NewSong

A soaring celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, with attention given to the love between God the Father and His Son, and towards us as adoptive sons and daughters. Ends with a rousing declaration of the meaning of the resurrection.

Rise Again, by Dallas Holm

One of the more somber songs about the resurrection on my list. The focus is on Jesus’ suffering as a reflection of His incredible love for us. The resurrection is the crowning evidence of that lo…

Foolishness from the "Rational Responders" in their Jesus Challenge

The Challenge

JP Holding’s anti-blog entry yesterday discussed a $100 prize being offered by an atheist group called – I am not kidding – the “Rational Responders”:

We are offering a $100 reward and an appearance on our radio show where we will admit we we're wrong to the person who can set a precedent that other important historical figures exist without contemporary evidence. Provide us with the names of five important historical figures that were not written about until at least 25 years after they died (like Jesus).
Were Any of Jesus' Teachings or Activities Recorded During His Time?

It is erroneous to simply assume that there was nothing written down about Jesus until 25 years after his death. Apparently, the atheists here simply assume that nothing was written about Jesus until the Gospel of Mark. This ignores the early letters of Paul, which clearly refer to Jesus and contain traditions about him and which were written beginning about 16-19 years after Jesus’ death. More to…

The Latest from the James Ossuary Trial

It is interesting how quickly a bombshell announcement about the James Ossuary has faded into obscurity after serious challenges to its authenticity arose. Perhaps most scholars and commentators have decided that it is simply best to wait and see how the criminal trial concerning the authenticity of the James Ossuary, among other artifacts, turns out. I reported on the basics of the trial here.

But despite the lack of coverage I suspect there is no lack of interest and believe how the trial unfolds is interesting not only for what it may tell us about the authenticity of the James Ossuary but also as an education on "biblical archeology." My last update discussed a report by renowned geologist Wolfgang E. Krumbein that defended the authenticity of the James Ossuary. His testimony would play an important part of the defense's effort to refute the Israel Antiquities Authority's determination that the Ossuary is a fraud.

A Prosecution Expert Supports Authenticity

S…

Daniel Wallace To Be Interviewed On Misquoting Jesus

Daniel Wallace, Th.M., Ph.D., Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, has recently written an analysis of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus entitled (appropriately enough) "Review of Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005)." I had earlier linked to this article here. A variation of this same article will be appearing in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Dr. Wallace is the co-author of the new book Reinventing Jesus, What The Da Vinci Code And Other Novel Speculations Don't Tell You, a new book for which my fellow-blogger Layman gave his most enthusiastic recommendation here. (I have also read the Reinventing Jesus book and give it my highest recommendation as well. It is an excellent read and a must-have for any apologetics library.)

According to a friend, Friday evening at 5 PM CST, Dr. Wallace will conduct a liv…

Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion in the News

In an oddly matched pair of state supreme court decisions, New York's highest court and Georgia's highest court upheld bans on same-sex marriage.

From NY:

The Court of Appeals in a 4-2 decision said New York's marriage law is constitutional and clearly limits marriage to between a man and a woman. Any change in the law should come from the state Legislature, Judge Robert Smith wrote.

"We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives," Smith wrote.
From Georgia:

The Georgia Supreme Court, reversing a lower court judge's ruling, decided unanimously that the ban did not violate the state's single- subject rule for ballot measures. Superior Court Judge Constance Russell of Fulton County had ruled that it did.
As background, in 2004 the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared unconstititutional that state's law defining marraige as betw…

Happy Fourth of July

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Audio from Layman's Latest Radio Appearance

I appeared again on the Lores Rizkalla show. This time the topic was the Supreme Court decision, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which struck down the military commissions the administration had established to try terrorists for war crimes. You can listen to the segment here.

How Do I Deal With My Doubt?

A couple of weeks ago, a reader wrote to ask if someone in the CADRE would make an effort to discuss doubt. I agreed to take up the task and have spent what time I could over the last two weeks reading about doubt and coming to some conclusions. At first, I intended to write a long, well-documented response to the question, but then I realized the magnitude of such a project and have decided instead to simply write down some of the thoughts I had while reading and give some direction based on my preliminary conclusions. I welcome any readers who have further thoughts on doubt, its causes and solutions, or who know of good resources to add them to the comments section because there is a dearth of good material on the Internet related to this issue.

What is Doubt?

Before knowing how to deal with doubt, we must first identify the nature of doubt. It seems to me that doubt is comprised of two components, one arises from the head and one arises from the heart.

The doubt that arises from the…

Evidence, Probability and Belief : Introducing Reverend Bayes And His Remarkable Idea

What does the internet's greatest search engine, email technology's hottest spam filters, the location of a missing nuclear submarine (the USS Scorpion), the location of a missing H bomb, and a Presbyterian minister who lived in London in the mid 18th century all have in common?

A little mathematical theorem that took the name of its discoverer : Reverend Thomas Bayes. The theorem, known as Bayes Theorem, is making inroads in science, technology, philosophy ... and yes, apologetics.

Bayes Theorem allows one to calculate something known as a posterior probability. A posterior probability is a revised probability conditional on evidence and the likelihood of that evidence being observed in two competing hypotheses. In other words, it allows us to revise our belief (expressed as a probability) in light of evidence. That is why it has such a wide application. Apologetics certainly deals with evidence, likelihoods and degrees of belief.

For starters, Dr. Alvin Plantinga uses a Bayesi…

A Methodical Review of the Non-Canonical Sources About Jesus

I am excited to announce an excellent new article, The Non-Canonical Gospels, that was just added to the CADRE site's Historical Jesus page.

My excitement is twofold. First, I believe it will be a valuable resource for those interested in learning about the the non-canonical sources about Jesus, such as the apocryphal gospels, the Nag Hammadi library, Roman sources, and Jewish sources. Second, it is the debut article by Dr. Darin M. Wood, who will be letting us publish more of his work in the future. Dr. Wood recently received his Ph.D from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is teaching philosophy at a local community college, and is the pastor of a Baptist Church. He is also a great guy and a valued personal friend.