CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Today, I received a comment to the CADRE blog entry I wrote on the outlandish "Beyond Belief" conference that I thought was so misguided and so typical that I thought I would highlight it here. What the writer wrote is this:

It's very interesting that Christian must downplay science. They always have. They always will. Sad, really.

I don't know how to say this without insulting the writer (hence, my not using his name directly in this post), but that really is a foolish and ill-informed statement. The idea that somehow Christianity has been the roadblock to scientific endeavor is the biggest myth that has been handed down over the past 500 years. You see, it isn't just wrong, it's so completly out of sinc with the truth as to be Twilight Zone material. Here's the truth -- in all of the cultures in the world, science became a legitimate field of inquiry only in Western Europe because Western Europe was Christian.

Christianity isn't just in favor of science -- it was only in Christian society that science could advance beyond the speculations of the ancient Greeks.

Rodney Stark, Ph.D., is University Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. Among his Academic honors is a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for his book The Rise of Christianity. In 2003, while still Professor of Sociology and of Comparative Religion, University of Washington, Dr. Stark wrote an article for The American Enterprise entitled "False Conflict: Christianity Is Not Only Compatible with Science—It Created It," which has been published on the Internet in a truncated version as Catholicism and Science. Here's what Dr. Stark says:

Popular lore, movies, and children’s stories hold that in 1492 Christopher Columbus proved the world is round and in the process defeated years of dogged opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, which insisted that the earth is flat. These tales are rooted in books like A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, an influential reference by Andrew Dickson White, founder and first president of Cornell University. White claimed that even after Columbus’ return "the Church by its highest authority solemnly stumbled and persisted in going astray."

The trouble is, almost every word of White’s account of the Columbus story is a lie. All educated persons of Columbus’ day, very much including the Roman Catholic prelates, knew the earth was round. The Venerable Bede (c. 673-735) taught that the world was round, as did Bishop Virgilius of Salzburg (c. 720-784), Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), and Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224-74). All four ended up saints. Sphere was the title of the most popular medieval textbook on astronomy, written by the English scholastic John of Sacrobosco (c. 1200-1256). It informed that not only the earth but all heavenly bodies are spherical.

So, why does the fable of the Catholic Church’s ignorance and opposition to the truth persist? Because the claim of an inevitable and bitter warfare between religion and science has, for more than three centuries, been the primary polemical device used in the atheist attack on faith. The truth is, there is no inherent conflict between religion and science. Indeed, the fundamental reality is that Christian theology was essential for the rise of science—a fact little appreciated outside the ranks of academic specialists.

The article goes on to explain how it was only in Western Europe where Christianity was the dominant religion that alchemy became chemistry and astrology became astronomy. This wasn't mere coincidence. Rather, it was the result of the Christian mindset that the commentor (and the hatred-blind New Atheists) apparently don't recognize or don't understand.

. . . Christianity depicted God as a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being, and the universe as his personal creation. The natural world was thus understood to have a rational, lawful, stable structure, awaiting (indeed, inviting) human comprehension.

Christians developed science because they believed it could—and should—be done. Alfred North Whitehead, the great philosopher and mathematician, co-author with Bertrand Russell of the landmark Principia Mathematica, credited "medieval theology" for the rise of science. He pointed to the "insistence on the rationality of God," which produced the belief that "the search into nature could only result in the vindication of the faith."

Whitehead ended with the remark that the images of God found in other religions, especially in Asia, are too impersonal or too irrational to have sustained science. A God who is capricious or unknowable gives no incentive for humans to dig deeply into his essence. Moreover, most non-Christian religions don’t posit a creation. If the universe is without beginning or purpose, has no Creator, is an inconsistent, unpredictable, and arbitrary mystery, there is little reason to explore it. Under those religious premises, the path to wisdom is through meditation and mystical insights, and there is no occasion to celebrate reason.

Dr. Stark's view is not unique. Consider the following from a talk entitled "Science and Christianity" by Hieronymus on Bede's Library (Bede's Library often has trained and practicing historians author articles under psudonyms so as to protect them from the fear of repercussions in the heavily secular universities):

Christians believe in "God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth", whom, they assert, brought all things into being out of nothingness.

This means, then, that for Christians the universe is readable. It may be terrifyingly vast. It may be incredibly complex. It may even be subject to a large degree of chance and random circumstance. It will however, be intelligible, and rational minds, given enough time and information, will be able to discern its patterns. These patterns will not be figments of the perceiving minds. These are present in the universe itself, because it is the creation of a rational intelligence, and because it has existence independent of perceiving minds. (If a tree falls in the forest and there's no-one around, does it make a sound? Yes.) Further, God (Christians assert) is not the universe. The universe is not God. While God's sustaining power is necessary for its existence, it is distinct and separate from Him.

These beliefs constitute one of Christianity's great intellectual strengths - its cosmology and philosophy of nature. Modern science was born and raised primarily in Western Christendom precisely because of these ideas. Other cultures and systems of thought certainly contributed to the emergence of science, and had their own discoveries in mathematics or astronomy, but it was only in the intellectual matrix of Christianity that empirical and experimental science as we know it was established.

Despite the widespread belief (based on polemics of the "pro-scientism" crowd) that Christianity has stood in the way of scientific progress, it is just the opposite. Without Christianity, science would not have come into being -- or at least, we don't know for certain that it would have come into being. After all, while science admittedly was birthed in Classical Greek, there is some question as to what would have motivated the Greeks to continue to do science. Some have speculated that the Greeks, while great at philosophy, lacked the motivation and the worldview (see, some details in the ealier mentioned Hieronymus article) to engage in in-depth scientific research. If this is true, then it was only in the context of Christianity that science could advance as it did.

Am I saying that small minded people under the guise of Christianity have never stood in the way of scientific advancement? Of course I'm not saying anything like that. As Hiernymous points out: "sometimes Christians are massively, bone headedly, and dogmatically wrong in their claims to have absolute knowledge of the world." Certainly, some people find anything that opposes their overly-literalistic view of the Bible to be offensive. But we are looking to broader issues here. And the broader worldview of Christianity not only supports science, it openly invites scientific investigation. Christianity properly understood encourages people to enter the sciences and study God's creation. The results of such study, when not dragged down by the materialisitic presuppositions of those who believe not in science but scientism (such as the New Atheists and the participants in the Beyond Belief conference), gives insights into the Creator Himself.

That's not downplaying science. That's elevating science. It just doesn't buy into the stifled view of reality that scientism demands and which atheists see as the only way to properly do science. That's what's truly sad.


Your comments are right on BK. If only these people would go do some doctoral work in history of ideas. This was my field for ten years while I was in doctroal work, modern science and religious thought. It's not just the view of some crak pot here and there, it's the major view of the entire profession of history of sicence. I's the consnesus view. Not so much that Christianity created science, but that it has always thoughout the centuries fed science and partcipated in it and saved it kept it going and has never been any sort of threat to it.

All major figures in the field agree with this, such as Maraget Jacobs and Robert Westfall, and major figures of the past lead the way going back to world war II such as Herbert Butterfield and A. Burtt. This has become so common place it's not even worth publication.

What I thought was ridiculous was the claim that somehow science invalidates belief in miracles, God, ect. This is not only arrogance at its worse, but it shows a complete misunderstanding of what science is and its abilities and limitations.

I'm pursuing a career in the sciences, and we know science cannot establish truth, only support theories, and there is no such thing as the perfect experiment. There are so many truths that are not falsifiable (existence of historical figures, personal experiences, so forth) that limiting oneself merely to what science can tell us is like closing one's eyes when one does not like what one sees.

Disbelief in miracles and God is not entailed from modern science and science is not synonymous with atheism.

I have read the relevant literature. I have read nearly everything Jaki wrote, plus Torrence, Polanyi, Barbour, Moreland, Bube, Peacoke, and several others on the origin of science.

The claim is that Christianity provided the foundational assumptions that gave rise to a self-sustaining science. Richard Carrier helps to answer that question.

But I meant Christianity has hindered almost every scientific advancement we've ever had, which we can see right now in stem cell research. While you can tout Galileo's faith, what about those who condemned him? And what about Decartes who had written a book called "The World" but decided not to publish it after he heard of Galileo's fate? Instead Descartes wrote his "Meditations" with the express purpose of making it possible to discuss the questions of science apart from the same kind of Christian censorship. He argued that there were two worlds, the world of material objects subject to the laws of math, and the world of the spirit subject to the scrutiny of the church. And into this climate he later published his former book agreeing with Galileo.

Just prove your point here. How many original scientific advances can you name that haven't been opposed by the church? How many?

Furthermore, when I speak about science undercutting the believeability in miracles and prayer, Christians will usually claim that science isn't so great. It cannot understand everything. Why do they have to do this? It may not be able to explain everything, but it has explained so much that a 15 century church person would probably lose his faith by merely being brought into our era. So many of his beliefs would be overturned at once.

Science is invalidating miracles one by one. We no longer think demon possession accounts for epilepsy, nor do we believe nature is such that God sends hurricanes on people for their sins, nor do (educated people) go to faith healers instead of doctors for healing, no do people pray for the sun to stand still, or for people to be raised up from the dead. We know better. Science sets the limits for what Christians will pray for. This is no different than science setting the limits for where it's claimed aliens came from. That's right. As soon as science showed us that any present life was impossible on plant Mars, people stopped claiming that aliens came from there!

"How many original scientific advances can you name that haven't been opposed by the church? How many?"

You are kidding, right?

Can't get into it now because I'm late for joining my church in picketing the new scientific advances in computers, farming, electronics, hydrodynamics, and polymer chemistry.

Christianity's opposition to embryonic stem cell research has nothing to do with its view of science. It's a separate issue.

As to how many original scientific advances that weren't opposed by the church--you can't really be serious, now, can you? That would take pages and pages. Do you remember what Gregor Mendel's "day job" was? Do you know what Michael Faraday believed?

The main issue that had to be overcome for the scientific revolution to get started was not theology. It was an overly conservative, almost dogmatic commitment to Aristotelian non-empiricism.

"Does science invalidate religious faith"

No :). Only people speaking with a personal bias or outside of their field of expertise (cough, cough) would say such a thing. Science used to support any worldview is too subjective because it can be interpreted to support anyones side.

Using science to debunk the validity of numerous religious claims, miracles, ect. is very ignorant, because miracles and other claims are unfalsifiable in terms of empiricism. We can observe the observable but if dreams have at least once in history brought prophecy, then dreams really can show us prophecy and our observations of the human brain are not at all mutually exclusive with it. This is indeed outside the reach of science and your misuse of it is really quite dreadful.

I even know people personally who have claimed to have been healed by faith or faith healers, and these are modern educated people. People of faith become healed from ailments quite often without an scientific explanation, but of course you will say someday science will find out and so any possibility of a miracle is ruled out by your bias, not the science.

praying for the sun to stand still has been replaced by moderns in belief in aliens and UFO's. There are other examples, but belief in the "unbelievable" has not changed, only the expression of it amongst people over time has changed. You got stories like the jersey devil and the mothman and bigfoot replacing the praying for the sun to stand still, so what? just more unfalsifiable beliefs.

And the truth is demon possession could be true, but it is unfalsifiable so there is no way for science to completely invalidate it. If science cannot tell us if the spiritual exists, how can it tell us that there is no soul or there is no such thing as demon possession? It cant! There are plenty of religious people who believe that God wills many or all events of nature (try Calvinists) so this one is off the mark too.

And there are plenty of moderns who believe raising from the dead is possible because of Jesus - and the supporting evidence for it which is fun to watch skeptics like you desperately try to distort.

Im a regular at Carriers blog. You should definitely check out the comments section for problems with Carriers spin on all the facts. His bias distorts the issue and leads him to conclusions that are against the grain of the evidence. Historians with more credentials than he have come to the exact opposite conclusion. :)

And the truth is there are many Christians nowadays who accept evolutionary theory and are pursuing fields in the sciences. I myself am in biological psychology with an interest in neuroscience.

and by the way, most astronomers would tell you that there is a good chance of there being life on mars, because of the amount of water in ice at its poles and in liquid form underneath the surface. if you are speaking of technologically advanced aliens on mars, then obviously that is something that is more falsifiable because science can observe mars and see that there is no trace of technology or complex life. Not the same thing :).

"Christians will usually claim that science isn't so great."

No, we just dont use science to make unwarranted conclusions that are not entailed logically from the evidence.

I await your next angry rant :).

Angry rant? I'm sorry if I gave you that impression...really. I'm just making my case, as are you.

Science has indeed invalidated many religious beliefs in the sense that even modern Christians no longer hold to them, as I argued. The rise of science has also increased the standards for what we believe. They are more rigorous. The rise of science progressed based upon methodological naturalism whereby scientists assumed a natural cause for every event. You do that yourself. You first exhaust the natural explanations for some noise in your house before you'll conclude God visited you!

Science used to support any worldview is too subjective because it can be interpreted to support anyones side.

So what exactly do you believe about the age of the universe, and how have you as a Christian been forced to reinterpret the creation accounts to fit with what science teaches us? Christians have always been forced to reinterpret the Bible in light of science. Give me one case where it has been the reverse.

Using science to debunk the validity of numerous religious claims, miracles, ect. is very ignorant, because miracles and other claims are unfalsifiable in terms of empiricism.

Okay, then if miracles are unfalsifiable by the scientific method how would you suggest we test the claims of miracles? I'm really interested here. Please tell me. Are we to believe what anyone claims? If science cannot do this, then no discipline of learning can either. Tests have been done with prayer, and I once saw a TV documentary that tested the claims of those who were healed by Oral Roberts, and found them all wanting for lack of evidence.

...belief in the "unbelievable" has not changed, only the expression of it amongst people over time has changed.

This is ignorant, sorry. Are you saying that people are just as superstitious today as they were in the past before the rise of science? That's clearly a head in the sand way to see the differences that science has made. Any reading of the Bible with the casting of lots and dreams and divination, and magic and even prophecy itself will show otherwise.

And the truth is demon possession could be true, but it is unfalsifiable so there is no way for science to completely invalidate it.

Okay, fine, but if science cannot do this no other discipline of learning can. We can look at the results of modern medicine. They work. They treat epilepsy as a bodily problem, not a spiritual attack, and by doing so they help people. Modern medicine has does this so often that even Christian people stop seeing it as demon possession. Why? Not because it's been falsified. It's because modern medince works. Why not stay with what works? Eventually even believers will doubt demon possession, which is what most Christians believe today.

And there are plenty of moderns who believe raising from the dead is possible because of Jesus - and the supporting evidence for it which is fun to watch skeptics like you desperately try to distort.

Naw, I think the reverse is true. Nonetheless, what you believe about the resurrection is based upon history, and not the evidence of that miracle itself.

As to evolutionary science and Carrier, I'll leave that discussion to him.

...and by the way, most astronomers would tell you that there is a good chance of there being life on mars.

Yes I know about this. But I was commenting about present life on Mars and the fact that aliens who came from Mars stopped visiting in the 60's when it was discovered that the planet didn't have any life for various reasons. I suppose they will visit us again, eh? ;-)

I'be been sitting here reading the conversation, and I have to admit to being totally dumbfounded by John's statements. I have made the case, in my original post, that science came into existence in the nations that held Christianity as the primary religion and no where else. Loftus seems intent on taking potshots trying to make the case that because (as I admitted in my original post) there have been times where some wrongheaded thinking in the church has led to some opposition, that somehow discredits what I've said. That simply isn't the case. I have admitted the failings, and his efforts to show isolated cases doesn't contradict what I've said in the slightest.

If he is trying to make the case that Christians as a rule oppose science, I think Michael's comments put that silly idea to bed a long time ago.

The idea that our understanding of the Bible is altered when we learn more about the real world is not a condemnation of this view -- it's consistent with it. Christians have held forever to the two ideas of special and general revelation. Scientific knowledge can be learned more quickly than knowledge about God because the only way to change our views about God is through changes in our understanding from general revelation, changes as the result of new information as to what the documents meant in context of the times, new insight in the form of logical arguments that sway the majority of people reading the texts or further divine revelation. So, the fact that Christianity changes with further input from scientific study isn't somehow defeating Christianity, and the idea tha it has makes me wonder exactly how much Loftus understands basic Christian thought.

Oh, I don't think Carrier is an expert on these things, by the way.

The idea that only science can test miracles is simply silly. If a miracle occurs in the presence of someone holding scientific instruments who can record what occurred and analyze the data, science may be able to test the miracle. Other than that, it would be trying to develop a natural explanation for what may be beyond nature's ability to explain. The better way to explore miracles is to speak to the eyewitnesses about what they saw, determine if there is a known, natural phenomenon that could explain it, and if not, accept the idea that something beyond our knowledge may have happened. Why is that so hard?

Loftus' efforts are not convincing. That's obvious.

The better way to explore miracles is to speak to the eyewitnesses about what they saw, determine if there is a known, natural phenomenon that could explain it, and if not, accept the idea that something beyond our knowledge may have happened. Why is that so hard?

Were the miraclulous claims in the Bible ever investigated by Dan Rather of 60 minutes? That's what I'm talking about. Not even religious believers who attend faith healing services care about whether or not the miracles took place. So why should I believe Benny Hinn's followers anymore than I should believe Jesus' followers, even if it can be shown that early Christians did believe Jesus did miracles that proves nothing to me, because I live in a non-miraculous age (or resurrections and healing blind people), and I think the reason why is because it's harder to pull a fast one over us.

Did Dan Rather investigage the claims of the miracles in the Bible? My goodness, if he said they were real, there'd be the first solid evidence you would've presented that they were fabricated!

Actually, I think John's argument is quite rational and his questions, from the rational perspective at least, are good. I sometimes share them. I personally don't care whether Christianity was good or bad for the development of science. Science, and the same is true for religion, even my own, has allowed humans to do what we do: lots of good, lots of bad. Antibiotics are wonders and I am very grateful to science for them; I think we could do without the Tomahawk missile. Or at least use them as a radical self-preservative last resort. But my entire life would have been different without medical innnovation, and I know it.

It's unfortuate the Bible wasn't written by moderns as the science would certainly be better. But then how will our science sound 2000 or 3000 years from now? Surely the Genesis committee, if formed today, in an effort to show that a transcendent and non-material God created the world, would use the Big Bang, not appropriate a Babylonian myth narrative (even keeping the elohim). What if the Big Bang is disproved, or undestood very differently, centuries from now? Of course some very sincere Christians believe God wrote Genesis and it contains literal historic truth; I don't think that position can be sustained for many reasons.

John is also right that science has disproven many superstitions. Not all of those were religious of course, but this must be acknowledged.

All that said, I wish I had a better answer to your question below, John: why doesn't God allow a scientific test to prove the resurrection, or that Jesus was God's unique agent in history, or even that God exists? I don't know. In John's gospel, Thomas gets to stick his fingers in Jesus' side. Why can't I do that? (I do have the story, the gospels and the NT, which claims to be an attempt at genuine history). In the gospels Jesus sometimes gets angry at those who ask for a sign, or perhaps for a superfluous miracle, yet he responds with forgiveness and healing to all who come in faith. Why does he respect faith so openly in the gospels? Where do I, as a modern thinking person, get such faith? For me, it came from reading the gospels closely and allowing myself to consider they might be true in part. From trying to discover Jesus' character. Now I spend what time I can trying to educate myself about the NT from an academic perspective; in part, honestly, to test what I experienced.

It seems the only answer is that God demands more than a rational response. That spiritual truth cannot be empirically examined, or not often. And now this question has become too big for a comment, and I don't have time to explore it right now any place else. But I think your questions are the questions of many modern people and deserve some answer. I only wish I had a better one at this time.


"Furthermore, when I speak about science undercutting the believeability in miracles and prayer, Christians will usually claim that science isn't so great. It cannot understand everything. Why do they have to do this? It may not be able to explain everything, but it has explained so much that a 15 century church person would probably lose his faith by merely being brought into our era. So many of his beliefs would be overturned at once."

>>> Descartres was a christiain. He wrote the meditations because he wanted to support the Catholics agisnt the protesants not because he was afraid of christian censorship. This is the old story that history of science used to give when it was very baised and anti-religious. the New understanding is very different.

We no longer think demon possession accounts for epilepsy

You're dichotomizing it -- either all cases of epilepsy are due to demon possession or no cases are due to it. This ignores the possibility that some cases -- nearly all cases even -- are neurological in cause, while a small fraction are due to demon possession (or more accurately, demon possession mimicing epileptic symptoms). Even Jesus didn't claim that all illness is due to sin or demonic activity.

nor do we believe nature is such that God sends hurricanes on people for their sins

Well there's really no way of knowing whether a hurricane was God's judgment. I'm not about to argue that specific incidence was, but of course it's possible. Yeah, you can argue that no meteorological event is God's doing because we can trace it back to a naturalistic cause, but a God who has divine foreknowledge could easily set up a naturalistic condition 10, 100, 1000, 1,000,000, 14 billion (big bang), years in the past so that a hurricane happens at a particular time for a particular purpose.

It need not even be God who sets the initial conditions. Think chaos theory: an individual's (or individuals') sinful action begins a butterfly effect resulting in a hurricane years down the road, which essentially is a form of judgement/punishment.

nor do (educated people) go to faith healers instead of doctors for healing

Plenty of educated people pray for healing. My church has quite a few doctors, scientists, teachers, etc who pray for healing for others or themselves. And there are many accounts of people being healed through prayer. As far as praying for the sun to stand still or someone rising from the dead: even in the Bible these are extraordinarily rare happenings. And they are centered around major points of redemptive history; so why should we expect, much less demand, that they happen whenever we pray for them -- even at all?

Christians have always been forced to reinterpret the Bible in light of science. Give me one case where it has been the reverse.

I don't reinterpret Jesus' miracles or His resurrection in light of science. One case where the reverse has happened? This is a rigged question, because science deals with naturalistic causes and effects. The Bible, on the other hand, deals with the area of the supernatural; so of course science is not going to revise a position based on the supernatural, which falls outside of the realm of science. But to provide an example where science held a position contrary to the Bible, eventually to reverse its position not due to the Bible, but resulting in consistency with the Bible, would be the beginning of the universe (Gen 1:1). An example of a scientist reversing his position on a scientific theory in light of the Bible: Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project. Once an atheist, now a believing Christian.

Okay, then if miracles are unfalsifiable by the scientific method how would you suggest we test the claims of miracles?

We can't test actual miracles, we can only test miracle claims. We test these claims in the same way we test other claims of historical events: through historical research.

Tests have been done with prayer

You're treating prayer as if it's a naturalistic cause-effect event. It's not. There isn't a 1 to 1 correlation between prayer and answered prayer. So "testing prayer" is kind of a ridiculous notion. Interesting, though I admit.

and I once saw a TV documentary that tested the claims of those who were healed by Oral Roberts, and found them all wanting for lack of evidence.

It was on tv? Well, hey…Must be true, then! :D I guess skepticism only applies when it comes to a view you don't hold. But when it comes to a view you do hold, skepticism need not apply. Believe whoever’s on tv and agrees with you! I’m not defending Oral Roberts; simply saying that using a tv show that attacks a controversial person like Oral Roberts (wasn’t he the guy who said something like he had to raise eight million dollars or God would kill him?) isn’t exactly evaluating your sources critically.

For one thing, I thought it was clear I was speaking in reference to the miraculous, not whether certain parts of the bible were meant as allegorical or literal.

And you usually come off as angry or vehement in your posts, but I will retract the statement if you did not mean to convey either of these.

I think I might have been vague, but science cannot tell us if the resurrection can happen or if God exists or if miracles do happen, because as I said before, if there was any evidence for miracles (like many claims of people today, the Lourdes miracles, out of body experiences, hauntings, Schwartz’ afterlife experiments, ect.), the skeptic could always hide behind the faith position that hopefully one day strange experiences and evidence will be accounted for by science, while the believer would find support in their beliefs from the evidence.

That is what I meant by subjectivity. Science has not invalidated the resurrection, God, miracles, the afterlife, and the paranormal because in the end none of these can likely be quantified or replicated.

This does not mean these claims cannot be investigated and evidence provided to support certain claims. I find there is a heck of a lot of historical evidence that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again and appeared to numerous followers of his including his disciples and his brother. The earliest Christians, numerous eyewitnesses, claimed to see Jesus resurrected from the dead, and the case IMO is strong that Paul and the other early Christians believed in a physical resurrection. Chris Price’s article on it is good, along with WL Craig’s, and the numerous posts showing the flaws in Carriers case here on CADRE. Im also pushing my way through NT Wrights The resurrection of the Son of God right now, which I would recommend for either side of the issue.

Occam’s razor demands the simplest explanation for all the evidence at hand, and conspiracy theories that are usually proposed are counter to the evidence. From the evidence, Jesus rose from the dead, but peoples’ biases can get in the way of the evidence (*cough*).

For the claim that if miracles can’t be falsified then no area of inquiry can investigate them, this is just untrue. One can examine the claims with history and interview the eyewitnesses and learn their personal experiences, along with other pieces of evidence (lack of scientific explanation for happenings).

So I guess I was a little off, because with the Lourdes miracles, there is good scientific evidence for them, but the skeptic will always revert back to their faith position.

If people are shown to be reliable or trustworthy witnesses, or people from different walks of life that come to witness something and the accounts corroborate one another to a reasonable degree, then I think that is good evidence for any kind of event, miraculous or not.

For the claim that people aren’t superstitious today, I think you were adequately answered in a recent discussion you had in the comments section here:

I believe you left the discussion without answering the many examples given of modern superstition. So who is it that has their head in the sand? People still believe in dreams, prophecy, exorcism, and visions.

I never said we should think someone is demon-possessed if there is evidence of some other neurological disorder going on. But people still believe in exorcism today and exorcisms still happen. If there are claims of demon-possession and science cannot explain the events surrounding or behaviors of the possessed person, then I would think it should be considered as a possibility. Of course this is just a hypothetical.

The rise of science is a good thing, but just because science has shown to be reliable for the most part doesnt entail other lines of investigation being unreliable. Science has its limits and other forms of investigation through history and personal experience can tell us truths that science cannot.

If I traveled back in time and witnessed the lifestyle of early hominids, then my personal experience is evidence that science cannot give us just from examining fossils. If someone writes an account of certain events, this gives details and evidence that science alone would not be able to provide.

Members of my own church have recovered from cancer and AIDS without any explanation. I also knew people through a bible study years back that gave testimony to a girl who had been blind her whole life suddenly regain her sight, without any explanation from the doctors. I asked them what they thought caused it, and they of course thought it was a miracle, but I guess miracles really can have supported scientific evidence in that crazy things can happen without explanation. But then again, there the skeptic goes back to the faith position.

So yeah, I retract that science cannot support the paranormal and maintain the unexplained nature of certain events. It can, which in some ways can support the miraculous.

Sometimes Jesus is called demon possessed simply because he says things that seemed to his hearers just plain crazy: “’Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?’ ‘You are demon-possessed,’ the crowd answered. ‘Who is trying to kill you?’” (John 7:20). “At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” (John 10:19-20, also John 8:48-51). Even John the Baptist was thought to be demon possessed. (Matt. 11:18). It was easy to claim someone was possessed in those days. Whenever Jesus acted contrary to what was normally expected, or his teaching sounded strange or weird, they concluded he was a demon-possessed person, much like someone today might say, “you’re crazy.”

Look at the close connection between healing and exorcism: “The Twelve were with him (Jesus), and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out.” (Luke 8:1-2). “Jesus said, ‘Go tell that fox, “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.”’” (Luke 13:32) “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:5-8).

Today we just don’t think sick people are demon possessed. With the advent of modern medicine we treat the physical causes, and with psychology we treat the mental causes of illnesses the best that we can. And while it can be argued that Luke was a “physician” (Col. 4:14) and that he knew the difference, we simply have to consider how much of the science of medicine he knew in his day. As a child of his times it would seem reasonable to suppose that those illnesses he couldn’t cure with the medicine he had at his disposal would be thought of by him as demon possession too.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary: “As with other ancient cultures, there was in Israel no necessary conflict between belief in divine, demonic, and/or human causation of illness or between requests for divine assistance and the application of practical therapy.” [“Physicians”].

All I can say here is what a mixed up world it must have been to live in such a superstitious age as the first century! There is a whole lot less demon possession today simply because of modern science.

People in Biblical times defended God against the problem of evil by blaming themselves and their own sins for the natural disasters that God sent on them. They believed God controls all natural happenings (Ex. 12:23,29,30; 32:35; Num. 11:33; 16:46-50; 25:18; 2 Sam. 24:15-16). Why don’t very many Christians today use this same response to exonerate God from natural disasters? In ancient times, disasters were usually explained in only one way: God was upset with people because of their sins. And that’s the explanation we find most often in the Bible, although there are a few notable exceptions (Job; Luke 13; John 9). But even here we see a God who could do anything with the world of nature that he wanted to do without regard for the ordered world and laws of nature.

For the claim that people aren’t superstitious today, I think you were adequately answered in a recent discussion you had in the comments section here:

In case you are interested I have documented the superstitious nature of Biblical people in my book (40 pages). It's not just one thing here. Cumulatively speaking, it's everywhere, and you would be the first to laugh at how people thought and determined God's will if the same claims were made today.

Nebuchadnezzer believed that dreams came from the gods as divine communication. And he had magicians and sorcerers that he depended upon to advise him and help run his whole country (see Daniel 5:7). How would that go over today, if the President had such advisors? But it was acceptable to the ancient people whom Nebuchadnezzer ruled over. And to treat our President’s advisors as if they were the equivalent of magicians and sorcerers is historical nonsense. Modern Presidential advisors think through the problems and try as best as possible to come up with reasoned answers. But what if one advisor were to say, "I read my tea leaves today and they say we should attack Iraq"?

Since Daniel himself was appointed by king Nebuchadnezzer to be in charge of his “wise men” (Daniel 2:48), which included the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners (Daniel 5:11), let’s take a look at two of these practices, and ask ourselves how he could be in charge of them when they practiced the arts of magic and divination.

According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary, “Magic is the means by which humans attempt to secure for themselves some action or information from superhuman powers. Magic is an attempt by human beings to compel a divinity, by the use of physical means, to do what they wish that divinity to do.”

“A host of intermediary beings called demons exist between gods and humans. Depending on their proximity to the gods, demons possess divine power in diminishing measures. Those closest to the gods have bodies of air; those closest to humans, bodies of steam or water. Because of this descending order, the unity of the cosmos can be preserved. Otherwise, human and divine would be irreparably separated and no communication between the two would be possible. Everything is connected through the demons who mediate between the divine and the material. Magic rests upon the belief that by getting hold of demons in physical objects, the divinity can be influenced. The magician’s art is to find out which material (metal, herb, animal, etc.) contains which divinity and to what degree. Thus magic can achieve either blessing or curse. The magician knows the secret and knows how to use it in the correct way with the best results.”

Biblical people themselves practiced magic. Rachel used mandrake plants in order to bear a child (Genesis 30:14-24), and the text doesn’t say they didn’t help her to conceive. Jacob made his flock of speckled or spotted sheep to increase over Laban’s sheep by pealing branches from poplar and almond trees and placing them in the water troughs so that when the flocks mated in front of the branches they bore young that were speckled or spotted. (Genesis 30:25-43). What? How? Where is the science in that? Samuel’s pouring out water to induce a storm, 1 Sam. 7:6, is often thought to denote sympathetic magic. Samson’s long hair gave him strength. There are some stories from all parts of the world in which the soul or the strength of someone resided in his hair. Job asked that the day of his birth should be cursed by those who curse the day, who are ready to rouse up Leviathan, a mythical beast (Job. 3:8). Here might be a reference to magicians who were thought to rouse up a dragon to swallow the sun at an eclipse. Then there is the Magical power of blessings and curses. What if Bush called upon the priests of our land to curse the militant Muslms? What would you say? What would you think?

Harper's Bible Dictionary (“Magic and Divination”): “It was believed that great power rested in those holy men who were in close proximity to God. Physical contact with such a person would have beneficial consequences.” We see this with Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24); Elisha (2 Kings 4:31-37); and Jesus (Matt. 8:14-15; Matt. 9:29). “Anything in connection with such holy men absorbed and transmitted a portion of their power. Elijah’s mantle parted the waters of the Jordan, and when Elisha put it on, Elijah’s spirit rested on him (2 Kings 2:8-15). The garment of Jesus radiated and transmitted healing power (Mark 5:28-29), as did the handkerchiefs and aprons that people carried away from the body of Paul (Acts 19:11-12). Some believers even attributed beneficial properties to the shadow of Peter (Acts 5:15).”

In the NT, miracles themselves are sometimes seen as the result of magic. The pagan world certainly regarded many miracles as magic (Acts 8:9–11), and on at least one occasion Jesus used magic when he put mud in a man’s eyes to heal him of blindness. In John 9:6-7 we read: “Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”

For the magical properties of the “pool of Siloam” look at John 5:1-7: “Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” [NASB] The part in brackets was pseudonymously added by a later Christian to explain why these people were there (it seems they did this quite a bit.

It says, a “multitude” of them believed in the magical properties of this pool when it’s stirred. Where is a pool like that today? It sounds to us like the mythical “fountain of youth.”

These kind of people were abundant. The Bible says so! These people would not demand the same kind of evidence to believe a good story as you or I would today. And yet these are the same kind of people that believed the gospel.

Now tell me again why I should believe that a virgin had a baby, especially when there is no prophecy saying so (despite Isaiah 7:14, which does not refer to a virgin and does not refer to Jesus, just ask any Jewish commentator, or anyone who interprets the Bible the way you claim it should be interpreted according to the grammatical historical method which we’ve adopted today over Midrash and pesher of the early NT writers). Why? There was no investigative reporter like Dan Rather there.

Just watch the movie Troy, staring Brad Pitt, based upon Greek mythology and the Iliad. These ancient people spoke as confidently about Apollo, Poseidon and Zeus as Christians do today about Jesus.

What's the difference?

I wonder how many customers miss cleo had, or how many followers of john edwards there are nowadays. What about all the psychic believers from daytime television like montel or maury. Or all the continuous claims of hauntings and ghosts and seeing UFO's. I wonder how many ancients claimed to be abducted by aliens or see big foot or the jersey devil or the mothman. As anon said in the other post, Nixon and FDR had psychic advisors. Lincoln had dreams that he thought could tell the future. There are modern advocators for out of body experiences and reincarnation accounts. george hale thought he received ideas from elves. People went wacko with the war of the worlds. people see mary in a shrimp! All those crazy claimed miracle stories that are so prevalent throughout our culture just wont go away either.

Oh those crazy 19-20-21st century humans. What a crazy time to live in.

That there are still claimed demon-possessions makes me think of course they are possible and there are things modern science cannot explain, but I agree that Jesus most likely healed those with mental disabilities or the deaf and blind more often than those truly demon possessed. Zok's comments above are accurate to the false dichotomy you are setting up, however.

If you didn't read zok's post, he/she gave examples of modern educated people asking for divine assistance and healing. the fact that people still believe faith can heal and the unexplained happens buffers this. There is still no necessary conflict between divine assistance and practical therapy by educated people today. did you ever pray for healing for yourself or others while you were a Christian? Im sure you did.

All these references to the bible in your posts made me think, do you actually think the bible is relating these accounts accurately? If so, why dont you think Jesus really healed paralytics or the blind or the deaf? wouldnt that be consistent instead of taking one part of a story as credible because it supports some point youre making and discounting another because you dont want to be believe it?

And if you get down to the nitty gritty, Im sure any Christian today would tell you that even though we can observe natural causes and processes for events that God is the creator of those processes and that basically the basic framework of nature was set down by God.

and the "laws" of nature are based on limited human observation, specks on existence. to take a good quote from Mr. Hinmans blog above, "'laws of physics' are not real laws, they are only descriptions, aggregates of our observations."

In case you havent noticed, there are still psychics who claim to have prophetic dreams, along with lincoln and his wife and my Hindu friend's mother. how many people do you get saying the show medium "is based on a real woman"?

and plus i accept a 6th century bc date or at least earlier than 2nd century bc date for Daniel, so i believe in prophecy from historical evidence anyways.
and all go over the good evidence for an early dating of Daniel.

so i guess modern claimed psychic contact with the dead shows that "magic" is still believed in today, because it is the means by which humans attempt to secure for themselves some action or information from superhuman powers. ;)

and i wouldnt be suprised if bush did that :). I dont see how casting lots is much different than leaving things up to luck with flipping a coin or pulling names out of a hat.

you have left this very same message before, did you copy and paste?

and how many people believe in bad luck, or avoid walking under ladders or stepping on cracks or crossing the path of a black cat or have a lucky hat or jockstrap? it doesnt seem like a big deal nowadays but in 2000 years maybe we will seem like a bunch of ignorants. I dont believe ancient people were unreliable in their experiences, and in some ways their memory and way of passing down information orally was much more reliable than ours, but one cannot blame them for not having the ability to check out certain things, like what stars really were and so forth. Tacitus didnt know what stars truly are, but historians trust his judgement.

i dont think it would be accurate to lump miracles and magic together, and the pagans are usually shown less than favorably in the NT, which most likely explains the references to magic when of course the authors thought of Jesus more as a miracle worker. you have had the opportunity to check out glen millers article, but im skeptical that you have even read it thoroughly or at all. but do you believe Jesus caused that blind man to see? if not, then why trust the part of the account that you want to use either?

I think your appeal to such things was also answered well here:

which you left without answering the bulk of his case.

and its you who is inserting "magic" into the whole mix. the texts never say magic in reference to the pool. you are reading magic into what can be defined as the miraculous. magic has a more negative connotation today than the miraculous, so just letting you know it would not be accurate to claim all healings and miracles and so forth as "magic". I know you havent done this generally, just warning about inserting it where you see fit.

i wonder how many people today believe in the mozart effect...hmm... perhaps music from one single classical composer really does make people completely talented and awesome.

That the NT authors had to force-fit the prophecy of Jesus actually adds credence to the historicity of the virgin birth, because the author had to make the OT fit the tradition that was probably too strong to manipulate. this definitely gives credence to the account of the virgin birth not being a product of the author's imagination.

"These kind of people were abundant. The Bible says so! These people would not demand the same kind of evidence to believe a good story as you or I would today. And yet these are the same kind of people that believed the gospel."

the two triablogue posts and glen millers article deals with this innacurate generalization. you would have to answer them before making unfounded assertions like this :). and triablogue has answered a lot of this copied and pasted list of yours.

and there was a lot more pressure back then to maintain ones religious belief because jews lived in a theocracy (well, not exactly the romans, but the Jewish leadership), so there were a lot of pressures and threats to being Christian back then that adds credence to the weight of evidence there was for Jesus back then.

And eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection were numerous, and the more many people see something, the more likely it is to be true. 100 people witnessing something is more reliable than 1 person.

and triablogue has also answered in full posts if early Christians would be able to consult witnesses or witnesses to witnesses involving the virgin birth and the resurrection. i can find jp holdings debate on theologyweb on the topic too, if you wish. your assumption that there would be no inquiry from anyone is unsupported.

"Just watch the movie Troy, staring Brad Pitt, based upon Greek mythology and the Iliad. These ancient people spoke as confidently about Apollo, Poseidon and Zeus as Christians do today about Jesus."

im sorry, you came in here with the assumption that these religious claims are equally valid and you probably think most are equally valid, so the burden of proof is on you. why dont you make a very detailed comparison with references to authorities on the topic involving the claims, beliefs, and practices of each and tell us why you think these are equally valid. I can tell you why they arent: historical evidence, but you should go ahead and make that detailed comaparison.

I've got too many irons in the fire as it is. I've said what I wanted to say. It's really strange to me that on the one hand Christians play down science and play up superstitions in our world. That's ridiculous to me. As people become more informed about science they are less superstitious. The fact that there are still a great many superstitious people in our world merely means that people are uninformed about science. And I was speaking of superstitions, too, not specifically the supernatural.

To say as many Christians must say, that our present world of educated people in the West are just as superstitious as the ancients is simply ridiculous, even granting that there are psychics and tea leaf readers. But let's say you are right, then what? You have gullible people both then and now. The point is that YOU are not gullible in comparison with ancient people. Divination, listening to (as far as you would know) self-proclaimed prophets, consulting magicians, dreams, casting lots, blessings & curses, worshipping on mountain tops, sitting in front of the Pool of Siloam, or in accepting demon possession if your daughter was sick. And if YOU would not believe in the people who practice and believe these things TODAY, then you are one of the people I call modern and educated. The problem is that you just don't see the connection between the basis for ancient beliefs, which you would've rejected, and the fact that you believe the Bible, because the Bible was written in that very era.

Dots connect the.

Like I said, I have 40 pages of documented stuff in the Bible, assuming it was all factual, that shows just how superstitious Biblical people were BY YOUR OWN STANDARDS! but you don't need my book to see this. Just read the Bible and ask yourself how you would respond to the claims by your own contemporaries.

When Moses confronted the Egyptian Pharaoh of his day we read: “Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake.” (Exodus 7:10-12). Never mind for the moment that we’re told that Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs, because whether or not this happened is in question. We’re told that the Egyptian magicians were able to turn a staff into a snake, turn water into blood (Exodus 7:19-22), and duplicate the plague of frogs (Exodus 8:18), just as Moses did. And the Egyptian sorcerers weren’t surprised at doing so. They weren’t surprised at all? Not even Moses nor Aaron were surprised by this, nor was the writer of this account, nor the ancient people who believed such a story. That’s very strange to modern ears, that these sorcerers weren’t surprised at doing this. But we would be if we heard such a tale.

After just being rescued out of Egyptian slavery, we read, that the people “have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.” (Exodus 32:7-9).

This took place “on the third month after the Israelites left Egypt,” plus forty days and nights (Exodus 19:1; 24:18). So four months and ten days later these people (“all the people,” Exodus 32:3) wanted to worship a golden calf that Aaron said, “brought you out of Egypt.” How could they so quickly abandon the God of Moses? If the events all took place as described in Exodus, I doubt very much if anyone would dare take the risk to worship this calf against the God of Moses. If I was there I know I wouldn’t! This leads me to the conclusion that the reason they could so quickly abandon the Biblical God of Moses is that their history was itself built upon non-historical myths. But because they did, Moses had the Levites kill ”his brother and friend and neighbor,” 3000 of them (Ex. 32:27-29)! It looks like Moses just intimidated the people to believe against their wills. They knew who delivered them out of Egypt—it was the gods of Egypt who revolted against the Egyptians themselves, allowing the Israelites to escape.

It just seems more likely to me that the Pharaoh of Egypt was himself superstitious. And because there were some strange natural phenomena going on in the land at the time, which he would have viewed as omens, he would’ve sent these foreigners away, while Moses received the credit for it all. So when Moses didn’t come down from Mt. Sinai, the Israelite people simply gave credit to the true god that had given them their freedom, in their minds. “The calf was probably similar to representations of the Egyptian bull-god Apis.” [Ronald Youngblood & Gleason Archer, in the NIV Study Bible]. They knew who had released them from Egypt, but Moses threatened them with death if they disagreed.

Elijah on Mt .Carmel - I Kings 18:16-40:

18:16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him…summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

Jezebel was Ahab’s wife, who was the "daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians.” It was a political marriage done to stave off war and to save lives. Ahab “began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.” (1 Kings 16:30-33). Queen Jezebel practiced sorcery (2 Kings 9:22). She amassed herself with many prophets of Baal and Asherah. They had 850 prophets. Why so many? Where did they work and live? They practiced sorcery, magic, divination, and probably astrology. That’s a great number of prophets, and for each one of them there were many people went to them for guidance and knowledge. I’m sure these prophets would’ve warned the people not to be misled by the other prophets, so the people had a great deal of difficulty knowing whom to believe, didn’t they? Most Christians would say they wouldn’t have had a hard time with this at all; they would’ve just rejected Baal. But that’s claiming to be more intelligent than these ancient people were, and I never said they were stupid, just superstitious. It’s always easier to decide which prophet was the true prophet after the war is over, that is, if you consider success the key characteristic of which god was the true god like they did, and that’s probably all they had to go on.

Just think if our President did what Ahab did, and amassed for himself prophets who practiced sorcery in Christian America? Wouldn’t the Christian majority rise up against such a thing as one, both liberals and conservatives of every shape and size? That’s because Christians claim to have evidence for their beliefs—whether they do or not is the question here.

Who are these gods that Ahab accepted? Harper’s Bible Dictionary: “Baal is a weather god associated with thunderstorms. Baal was said to appoint the season of rains. Clouds were thought to be part of his entourage. Lightning was his weapon, and it may have been his invention. The windows of Baal’s palace were thought to correspond to openings in the clouds through which rain flowed. Rain was important to Canaanite agriculture, and Baal was consequently a god of fertility—a prodigious lover as well as the giver of abundance."

“The gods are regarded as the children of Asherah and El. Her relationship with Baal is perplexing. Baal’s assault on the offspring of Asherah is once narrated, yet Asherah advocates for Baal the role of king and judge among the gods.”
And here we have many people in Israel believing this? Was there any evidence for this? I cannot think of any since we know something about rain, and lightning and thunderstorms. So why did they believe this? If there was any solid evidence for the God of Moses and what he supposedly had done, then why would the Israelites so easily believe these other myths? Unless, of course, as is my contention, the stories told about the God of Moses were on an equal playing field—that there was no evidence for believing those stories either.

20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”
Now let’s think about some challenge like this occurring in the modern world. Would anyone even show up to see it? Would any Christian issue such a challenge? If challenged, would any Christian accept this challenge? Not at all. So I ask why?

Elijah said: “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left.” Boy that sure sounds like a minority of one here. So again, how is it possible that the people of Israel had so fully rejected the God of Moses to the point where there was only one faithful prophet of God in the northern kingdom of Israel? The answer is that they were a very superstitious people who were swayed very easily to believe stupendous mythical stories that lacked evidence. That is, there was no evidence either way, just religious experiences and stupendous stories. These stories competed for the hearts and minds of the people because there was no historical evidence either way between them.

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

Apparently these prophets thought they were up to the challenge, so they tried and they tried. That’s what it says. These prophets really believed they could do it, so they tried. Would you have tried? And even if it was for show, to save face, how long would you try? And look how they tried, by shouting and slashing themselves “as was their custom” and prophesying. There is every indication here that they thought they could do it. If I was back then and I was challenged by Elijah, I would simply say, “I don’t think it will work, so you go ahead and show me.” That’s because I am not superstitious by their standards. I live in the modern world of science where lightning is a meteorological event produced in a thunderstorm.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins…..Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!”
If this truly happened, then I would fall on my face and worship God as well. But I'm trying to establish that such an age as theirs was highly superstitious, and hence unreliable as a testimony to understand what actually happened. Just look at any introduction to I Kings and you’ll know that at best, this account was compiled no earlier than 180 years after it supposedly happened. Even in a modern society we have developed myths surrounding our heroes, like Paul Revere’s Ride, George Washington and the cherry tree, Abe Lincoln walking for a mile to return someone’s penny. And these myths are small ones among less superstitious people, but think about the myths that could be generated in 180 years surrounding the Mt. Carmel event by superstitious people. Probably the same kind of myths that surrounded Samson and his great strength. Remember here, we’re dealing with a superstitious people who may just believe any good story and embellish it as it goes, adding to it some very stupendous things.
David L. Edwards wrote that when it comes to Elijah and Elisha, “the story-telling has become fanciful...the stories are so colorful that we cannot tell exactly what took place in the time of Elijah and Elisha.” [(p. 179), in Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal--Evangelical Dialogue (Inter Varsity Press, 1988)].

40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

It’s no wonder that Jezebel waged war against the other prophets who claimed to speak for the God of Moses. She had a personal war with Israel’s prophets by attempting to kill them off (I Kings 18:4). A lot of killing was going on, depending on which religion you practiced. And it was indeed a war; the war of the prophets. And this story ends with 850 prophets dying at the hands of Elijah’s new converts.

Furthermore, since I Kings was compiled either at the time of Jerusalem’s demise or afterward, the people finally concluded that the prophets of Baal and Asherah were the false prophets, so their whole history was written and compiled from hindsight with this lesson in mind. Why did they conclude that those “false” prophets were wrong? Here’s why: since the worship of these other gods was blamed by the “true” prophets for why they were destroyed as a people and sent into captivity, then those gods were the false gods and those prophets were the false prophets. Nations believed in the gods that brought them victory, and rejected the gods that didn’t. History would have been written differently, from the perspective of the prophets of Baal and Asherah, had it turned out differently. [For more on this see Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, by Frank M. Cross (Harvard, 1997), Ancient Israel, by Hershel Shanks (Prentice Hall, 1999), and by G.E. Wright, The Challenge of Israel’s Faith (Chicago, 1956), and The Faith of Israel (Abindon Press, 1952).

I've given you several examples. All you need to do from this point on is to read the Bible. The Bible itself tells us that the people were superstitious.

And if there was hard evidence for the events in the Bible, like you claim, then you need to explain why the people wavered back and forth within years from Baal to God. You don't see Christians doing that today. Why? Because they claim to have evidence for their beliefs, that's why.

The problem is that they believe the Bible is evidence for their beliefs when they would've rejected most all of the ancient claims if they had lived in those days.

Just imagine yourself believeing someone who claims that a felloe named Achmed arose from the dead today? Won't believe it? Of course not. Now just put yourself back in time.....Now you get it.

Like I said, it's not just one case or two that you have to explain away. It's a cumulative one. They are everywhere in the Bible. So with that in mind I leave you one last example of the multitudes in the Bible itself:

Acts 14:8-20, Paul in Lystra of the Galatians.
8 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
I know that this is difficult to dispute, since the story is written by Luke, “the Physician.” What I do know is that such things are claimed by Benny Hinn’s followers all of the time, as well as Oral Roberts. I also know that Luke was a believer and he wanted to tell a story that would cause other people to believe. So I reflect back and remember how Christians would regularly inflate their claims of healing too, and wonder if this is what Luke did. But the bottom line is that I require more evidence to believe something like this than a mere report by someone in the past who lived and breathed among people who were wildly superstitious. Anyway, are there any other clues here?

11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

The crowd? Greek: οχλοι noun, masculine, plural, nominative, "a multitude, the common people." Not the educated classes, but we are hardly ever talking about the educated classes in the N.T. It's almost always, unless specified, the common average classes, or lower classes that Jesus and Paul reached. And so far, those classes of people seemed overwhelmingly superstitious. Moreover, there doesn't seem to be any case that can be made that they were motivated by money here, either.

Wait a minute? “The gods have come down to us in human form!” What? They believed it was possible for the gods to come down in the human forms of Paul and Barnabas? Isn’t that also what Paul and Barnabas believed about Jesus? Hmmm. And they wanted to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas? This is all so strange to us today.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

Paul did a great miracle and yet the people had a hard time believing what these two gods said? That too is very strange. If I thought someone was god, I’d listen to what he said. But they were in a frenzy.

19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

How would it be possible for the Jews to have “won the crowd over” after what Luke just told us that Paul had done? The usual response of rational people would be to reject what the Jews said, rather than what Paul said, since they already believed Paul was a god. And Jews? This polytheistic crowd listened to Jews? My how quickly they were swayed back and forth and back and forth, according to Luke’s own account. And Luke wants us to believe him? That’s very strange too.

They stoned Paul? The only reason they might have listened to what the Jews said is that they claimed Paul and Barnabas were demons or demon-possessed. But Paul and Barnabas would be right there denying it. So whom would you believe? Paul supposedly did a great miracle, and the next moment they stoned him. Maybe the miracle wasn’t so great after all? And it shows once again that the people Paul spread the gospel to were superstitious to the core. No evidence was needed. They just believed the person who had the best story. And they were ready to kill Paul too.

Why would they turn Paul over to the Jews to kill him, or attempt to kill him themselves? Again, it's because they were fearful that with these two demons in their midst, the gods would be displeased with them and not send rain, or not allow their women to bear children, or send fire from the sky instead. No wonder the message of Paul spread. It was quite literally the best story out there. Nothing could top it. But the evidence? Who needs that when you're dealing with superstitious people like this? All you had to be concerned about, was being stoned.

You know, youre repeating yourself frequently, and youve been answered on this matter:

and i was going on this whole discussion with your ideas of superstition in mind, so i shouldve put quotes around "superstition", and its truth that even the scientifically informed of today believe in God, miracles, the resurrection, and the paranormal. they also believe in prayer and healing and faith.

Belief in science and belief in the unexplained and supernatural are not mutually exclusive. I can believe in the "laws" of physics and evolution and neurology and still believe these things and have them be completely compatible

People still have many unfalsifiable beliefs, even educated people, today. Im glad it seems that you are admitting this point. I actually am open to some of the claims i listed, i was just using them as examples of what you think of as superstitious still being around today.

im not downplaying science or overstating superstition. i listed examples of what you consider supersititious that are still around today. I also kept you from going overboard that somehow science has invalidated miracle claims or the supernatural or even demon-possession (zoks comment). Im not big on demon-possession, but i admit it as a possibility.

and i dont think you are an authority on who is defined as modern and educated :). especially since most of your attitudes are dismissive intead of concrete.

and when you say superstitious, you immediately associate that with not being true, but this is again your bias, not something that has been falsified by science.

and even if it was admitted that ancients were superstitious (which modern people still are, and by your definition even "modern and educated" ones), many of the things the different accounts of Jesus speak of would still be interpreted as miracles today. if a man cant see and suddenly he can, we would think that was crazy. if someone is a noticeable leper, becoming cured of leprosy doesnt take a genius to notice. it doesnt take a genius, especially with people back then who had more experience with death than we do on a daily basis, to notice a man die on a cross and it being strange that hes popping up a few days later doing amazing things. again, most of what you are throwing around has been answered in the posts above.

you did not need to copy and paste whole parts of your link and put it here, by the way.

have a nice day.

John, you seem to have an awful lot of time to post continuously. I skimmed though your arguments, and it seems to me that there are two things of importance.

First, the point of the blog entry that I wrote has been lost. You are writing on and on about how superstitious the people were in NT/OT times. But as far as I'm concerned, even if I were to grant you point, it's irrelevant to the point of the original blog. You see, what you really have to deal with is the fact that there are Christians in the scientific world and Christians (like myself) who are all in favor of scientific research and inquiry. These people don't find there to be a conflict -- only atheists do. There are some problems reconciling some (very few) scientific theories with religious faith, but those don't reflect on the science itself (the data from the materials is accepted by the vast mainstream of Christianity).

Moreover, the fact is (as I pointed out in my original post) it was only in Western Europe where science took off. It wasn't because of the pagans in Western Europe, but because of the fact that Christians were had a philosophy that motivated them to research. You can point to separate incidents of Christians standing in the way of scientific progress based upon an unhealthy literalistic reading of the text, but those are isolated examples.

Finally, your claim that the ancients were superstitious brings from me the response of "so what?" Look, God is beyond nature. When he intervenes, it is going to be supernatural in nature. That's what happens. Could it be that the people in ancient times were misinterpreting what they were seeing as miraculous when it was the result of everyday occurences? Looking at the life of Jesus, I would say that they would have had to misinterpret a lot of events. Is it possible that the disciples made this stuff up? Of course its possible, but that means we have to attribute to them a desire to make things up -- yet there appears to be no motivation for them to have done so. So, even if they were superstitious, you have to look at the accounts given and accept the fact that they're legitimate unless there is some cause to think otherwise. So far, you've presented none.

Wow, lots of stuff. For those who prefer not to read John's posts, I'll summarize.

Argument 1:

John: The biblical miracles are false.

You: How do you know?

John: Because the testimony comes from superstitious people.

You: How do you know they were superstitious?

John: Because they believed in miracles.

You: How do you know miracles didn't occur?

John: Because our testimony comes from superstitious people.

You: How do you know they were superstitious?

John: Because they believed in miracles.

Round and round we go.

Argument 2:

John: We know today that diseases aren't caused by demons; therefore, all historical accounts of illnesses due to demon possession is just the result of uninformed, superstitious thinking. Today we know better, and no one claims that this stuff happens anymore.

You: But there are plenty of modern people who claim to have witnessed or experienced the supernatural.

John: They're just ignorant and/or superstitious. No educated person believes this.

You: What about physicians and scientists who believe they have witnessed or experienced the miraculous?

John: They're gullible too.

You: Why do you believe they're gullible?

John: Because they believe in the supernatural.

You: How do you know the supernatural doesn't exist?

John: Because our only evidence comes in the form of testimony from gulligle and superstitious people.

You: Why do you believe they're gullible and superstitious?

John: Because they believe in the supernatural.

Round and round we go.

Yep, round and round we go. Until next round, see ya.

Sorry BK, somehow the discussion led into it, or I did. Superstitious thinking is a favorite topic of mine, in light of science.

And Lurchlings, you are too willing to dismiss the evidence in the Bible itself and what that says about the basis for their beliefs. You assume that those who won the theological wars were somehow unaffect by their times, that we can trust that they alone wrote what actually happened.

We are all children of our times. Why should the Biblical authors be exempt from this? Why? Even if they were exempt from this, why should I believe what they wrote, since it sure seems to me that they were all too willing to believe in superstitions that we reject today.

If God did reveal himself in such a time period as this, then he chose a poor era to do so. He must want modern thinking educated to doubt. Now why is that? If he gave up his Son on the cross (the greater deed) then why wouldn't he have paid more attention to the kind of evidence modern thinking people need (the lessor deed). Apologists themselves would love to have the silver bullet type of argument and/or evidence. Why doesn't God care as much about this as you do? He purportedly gave up his didn't. He has more at stake in it than you do.

You might want to see this whole thought developed and defended here.

By the way, JP Holding showed up toward the end of this thread and I smashed him. Judge for yourselves.

"If God did reveal himself in such a time period as this, then he chose a poor era to do so."

Ah, the Jesus Christ Superstar question that Judas Iscariot asks:

"Now why'd you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?

"If you'd come today
You could have reached the whole nation
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication."

Yup, there's a puzzle for you. But this isn't an argument against God having done it at that time -- its an argument that says if you were God you'd have done it different. Well, if you join the Mormon church and they're right, you'll eventually reach diety-stage and be able to do it your way when you are the God of your own universe. But as it stands, arguments about why God should have done it different are not arguments that God didn't do it the way he did.

Also, I do think that's its a legitimate concern to raise if the disciples were too eager to believe in the supernatural. However, I don't get the impression that they were that eager to jump on the "Jesus is God" bandwagon for many reasons. You can see there confusion, their doubt, their not believing what they see all the time in the NT. The accounts that come down to us in the NT follow 10-30 years of time when the disciples had a few years to think about what they had seen and decide that it WAS true. They had seen what they thought they had seen.

Oh, and there are answers to the Jesus Christ Superstar question, but they take longer than a brief comment to a blog.


Oh, sorry, published that by accident {*blush*} But I was going to say that I don't think you smashed JP Holding, but you did raise some interesting questions. But raising questions is not the same as debunking the Bible. But that's another story . . . .

"If you'd come today
You could have reached the whole nation
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication."

Heh, if Jesus came in the 21st century, people 2,000 years from now would probably be asking why He didn't come in the 41st century, when they could investigate Him.

That line is kind of funny considering the original topic: Since Christianity is what gave rise to modern science, then if Jesus didn't come in the first century, Christianity wouldn't have existed to spur on science and we wouldn't be living in a scientific age of mass communication in the 21st century. It's interesting to think how radically different the world would be if Jesus didn't come in the first century -- in terms of scientific advancement (as this post points out), religious beliefs (over half of the world's population is either Christian or Muslim -- Christianity wouldn't have existed and Islam would likely be quite different, if it existed at all, had Christianity not existed), morality (without Christianity, paganism, which had a very different set of morals, would have continued to dominate the Roman Empire), even migration trends (remember, many came to America to practice religion without persecution), etc. The world would be completely different.

However, I don't get the impression that they were that eager to jump on the "Jesus is God" bandwagon for many reasons.

Well, Loftus brings up a good point: Acts 14:8-20 contains an account of pagans believing that Paul and Barnabas were gods come to earth as humans. This is the same thing the apostles said about Jesus, so we should be very suspicious of what they claimed. You’ll have to ignore the crucial difference between polytheistic pagans and monotheistic Jews, as well as the honor and shame context in which this took place (Jesus as God = bad = difficult to accept) in order for this argument to work; but that doesn’t seem to bother John. :p

But all kidding aside, I’ve learned one thing from this thread: watch Troy and the tv show debunking Oral Roberts before accepting Christianity! :D

"And Lurchlings, you are too willing to dismiss the evidence in the Bible itself and what that says about the basis for their beliefs. You assume that those who won the theological wars were somehow unaffect by their times, that we can trust that they alone wrote what actually happened."

I never dismissed anything of the sort. where did i say that the accounts you took from the bible werent true? What I find strange is that skeptics like you are willing to use parts of the bible for your own cases but dismiss the parts you dont want to believe or cant explain away.

I think historical inquiry has shown basic strong probabilities about the life of Jesus. Im not going to impose my own restrictions on existence or God and dismiss miracle claims from the get-go. That would be ignorant.

and science still has not proven what you seem to think it has. it has even supported some claims(lourdes, members of my church, the blind girl gaining back her sight)And the articles i posted are so very very right that ancients werent stupid and many were discerning, just like many people today believe in paranormal claims based on their own discernment.

Intelligent and critical people today believe in the paranormal and I dont see how there wouldnt be any exploration into the claims of the disciples. I mean, if a bunch of people see a guy raised from the dead, it doesnt matter what time you are in, its easy to notice and report. labeling those who found there to be reason to believe in miracles as foolish and "superstitious" is indeed runoff from your circular reasoning.

"since it sure seems to me that they were all too willing to believe in superstitions that we reject today."

and should later humans reject some piece of history you might eventually write because other people during our time period have believed in big foot, psychic ability, alien abduction, Jesus shrimp, and elves? Prophetic dreams, too? lets not forget the war of the worlds.

And many of the kinds of things you say "we" reject today are actually still widespread beliefs throughout our culture. healings and visions and prophecy and the existence of the spiritual are beliefs still widely held. people pull numbers out of a hat or flip a coin, which arent so different from casting lots. Exorcism is still believed in, or at least held as a possibility.

Im not saying I think any of these claims are true or false, I just think you would find it uncritical of future peoples to generalize and make judgements so quickly without looking at the merit of any claim.

And plus there is evidence that the disciples were intitially skeptical anyways, but came to believe because of their amazing experiences. and I think there is plenty of that "lesser deed". skeptics with resurrection as the last thing on their list of things to admit to will never be satisfied with the evidence. they will always raise the bar into impossibility.

Im a regular reader at theologyweb. I usually notice holding revealing your ignorance on many topics and you leaving not so happy and somewhat huffy. But thats just my take on it. obviously much different than your perceived "smash"ing of him.

but yeah, your arguments have still been adequately responded to in the links above.

People accuse me of leaving a discussion when I cannot answer something. The truth is my time is limited and I've already spent too much time here. I also know that discussions like this are never ending. I state how I see things. That's all I can do. For me it's all about seeing things differently. It's not about more and more knowledge. It's about viewing what we know in a different light. I've done that here. Thanks for letting me share how I see things.

I never accuse people of that because I do the same thing. Thank you for your participation, even though I don't think your position holds water, you are certainly welcome to hold it.

Well, since you told us, we know that you are leaving this conversation because you are too busy. yet... you have plenty of time to talk about slavery in the newer post...hmmmm...

but yeah, talking about these viewpoints is a good thing. im sure youve had this discussion before numerous times with Christians, it just seems like you were all too willing to bring it up again even though you "also know that discussions like this are never ending."

Yes, Lurchling, they are never ending. So?

"they are never ending."

just like your circular reasoning :).

Oh yeah, I forgot yet another earlier response to your claims here:

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