CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

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

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

Moreland’s Argument that Carrier Attacks

In attacking Moreland’s view, Carrier picks one line out of a paragraph that sets forth in a rather concise way the Christian viewpoint on the basis for morality. By pulling only one sentence out of the paragraph, Carrier removes the statement from its context making its claims less substantial than the view actually stated in Moreland’s book. In fairness to Carrier, I know as a writer that space-constraints and the desire to not make an essay overly lengthy sometimes forces limitations on quotes from an adversary. However, it seems rather inappropriate to pull the quote out of context and they try to make it sound as if the quote has no context in the original which is what Carrier appears to do.

Here is what Moreland says, with the key sentence latched onto by Carrier in bold:

According to Christian theism, the cosmos exists to glorify God and to promote the good of God's creatures, especially man. Human history has a purpose and can be seen as a struggle between good and evil, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness, which moves toward the vindication of God, justice, righteousness, and the reward of those who have trusted Christ and lived in accord with the dictates of morality (which come from God). Humans are creations of God, they have value in that they bear his image, they are objects of God's love and affection, and there is life after death. Values exist, they come from God, they can be known through intuition in the natural law and through inspection of Holy Scripture. My motive for being moral should be because I love God, I recognize him as my creator, I want to do what is right for its own sake, and I desire my own welfare in this life and the life to come. I am rationally justified in adopting the moral point of view because it is morally right to do so and because God guarantees that he will reward and honor me if I obey him."

Moreland, Ibid, p. 128.

Carrier decides to take on Moreland's argument by focusing on the highlighted portion tackling each of the four reason listed one at a time beginning with the idea that one reason to act morally is because I love God. In placing his reliance in the idea that the Christian position suffers the same epistemological defect as the atheist position, the burden lies on Carrier to show that the Christian position is groundless. Thus, if any of the four items listed in the sentence that Carrier attacks supports the idea that we ought to act morally towards our neighbors, his argument falls apart. Since his argument fails to effectively rebut the idea that Christians should act morally toward our neighbors because we should love God, it is my position that his argument fails on the very first point.

However, it seems to me to be important to clarify what Moreland said in more detail so that the failures of Carrier's argument can be more easily identified.

Moreland Doesn’t Say Why We Should First Love God
When Moreland says "My motive for being moral should be because I love God," he doesn’t state why we should love God. He simply sets forth the statement that Christians Love God as a basis for the Christian’s moral acts towards others. There are, in fact, several reasons in Christian theology for loving God, and Carrier recognizes two of them in his discussion: (1) because God first loved us, and (2) because God's character is such that we should love Him. Either one of these reasons is sufficient to support the idea that we should love God and therefore love our fellow-human beings.

The Biblical Mandate is to Love God First and Loving Our Neighbor Follows From That First Love
First, the idea that we are to love God and that such love leads us to love other people is decidedly Biblical. Consider Mark 12:28-31:

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?"

Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

The scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is one, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

Consider also John 21:15-17:

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, "Simon, {son} of John, do you love Me more than these?" He *said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He *said to him, "Tend My lambs."

He *said to him again a second time, "Simon, {son} of John, do you love Me?" He *said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He *said to him, "Shepherd My sheep."

He *said to him the third time, "Simon, {son} of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus *said to him, "Tend My sheep.”

Taken together with other verses found throughout scripture about love, we learn that a central message of Christianity is that we are to first love God, and loving God means following his commandments. One of those commandments is to love our neighbors as ourselves -- acting wholly selfless in our relationships with others.

Carrier’s Argument

I set forth the entire paragraph because I think that the sentence has to be understood in the context in which it is stated to gather the full extent of the argument that Moreland makes. Understanding that, here is Carrier's take on this first reason stated by Moreland (I have taken the liberty of numbering the paragraphs RC1 through RC4 for reference purposes):

RC1: First, he offers "because I love God" as the first reason Christians have to be moral. But this only begs the question, "Why love God?" Secular humanists suffer from the same objection, since it could easily be asked, "Why love humankind?" However, this only proves that the Christian and the secular humanist are on the same footing here. The Christian can offer no better reason to love God than the humanist can offer to love humankind. In both cases, it is ultimately a matter of a nonrational commitment to love.

RC2: On the one hand, it can be argued that we should love God because he loves us (while humankind doesn't). However, it does not necessarily follow that we should love those who love us, as in the case of the battered wife whose husband loves her but beats her to death anyway. And though one might say that true love is proven by acts of love, and that therefore a wife-beater does not really love his wife, this argument would also go to prove that god does not love us, since he also "beats us to death anyway," as the horrifying treatment that millions of people receive at the hands of Mother Nature adequately demonstrates.

RC3: On the other hand, it does not follow that we should not love someone simply because they do not love us. Love for us (or acts of love toward us) are not generally the conditions we set for loving someone. Rather, we often choose whom to love based on certain qualities they possess apart from how they feel or act toward us, and we certainly love many things that are not even people, such as our country or our profession. I love my wife because of who she is and what she is. I love America because of what it represents and what it has accomplished. My reasons for loving humanity are similar. Naturally, with regard to God, it cannot even be proven that God exists, much less what his qualities are. It is easy to describe a god worth loving, but it is something else to prove that such a thing actually exists, and an atheist generally feels there is adequate proof that a genuinely benevolent god does not exist. But proving this would be an irrelevant digression here. For even if a benevolent god did exist, we would love him not for what he does for us, but for his character and quality.

RC4: Ultimately, the fact remains that secular humanists, by the very definition of 'humanist', love humankind -- whatever their reasons -- and this therefore stands as a reason to be moral equally as strong as the Christian's "love for God." One may even say that the secular humanist is on stronger ground here: for the love of God can lead to acts of immorality toward mankind, as exemplified by Abraham's willingness to murder his own son because of his love for God, whereas love for mankind would only produce moral acts toward mankind -- whether God were good or evil, or real or not. This is one of the fundamental and irreconcilable differences between the values of Christian theism and secular humanism: as a secular humanist, I see Abraham's action as thoroughly immoral. A moral response in that situation would be to rebuke God, since the very act of asking Abraham to kill his son merely to prove his own faith would in itself prove that god was evil, a tyrant, and god's standing as the supreme creator would not change the fact that his character was reprehensible.

I think this attack fails to damage Moreland's point in any significant way when Moreland's view is taken in context for several reasons. I will analyze Carrier’s arguments in the next installment.

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

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

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

And forever I will cleave to the hopeful and in His mercy….
And the fruit will not be delayed for anyone
And the Lord will accomplish glorious things which have never been
As He….
For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor
…. He will lead the uprooted and knowledge….

The part about reviving the dead is found in line 12. Many Jewish and Christian scholars have concluded that this is definitive evidence that the Qumran community believed in the bodily resurrection of the dead. Geza Vermes writes that this fragment “describes God in the age of the Messiah as healing the wounded and reviving the dead. If this poem is an Essene composition and not a psalm dating to the late biblical period, it can be said that one out of many hundreds of Qumran manuscripts definitely testifies to the sect’s belief in bodily resurrection.” Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls, page 89. Another top scholar, James Charlesworth, agrees:

Thanks to the recent publication of fragments of scrolls available since the 1950s, it is now clear that a hope and belief in an afterlife and postmortem resurrection is explicit in some scrolls found in the Qumran caves. The claim that no passage in the Dead Sea Scrolls refers to the belief in a resurrection after death is now disproved by the publication of some fragments that clearly refer to this belief…. This is an obvious reference to the resurrection of the dead. What is clear in On Resurrection is the presences of a belief in the resurrection of the dead; what has been disputed is the means and actor. It seems clear, though, that God, either directly or through his Messiah, will raise up, ‘bring life,’ to those who are dead.

Resurrection: The Origin and Future of a Biblical Doctrine, page 15.

As is often the case in New Testament studies, there are dissenters. Joseph Fitzmyer, also a noted DSS scholar, believes it is “unfortunate” to refer to this passage as discussing “resurrection.” The word ‘resurrection’ evokes different images among readers, Jewish and Christian; so it is better avoided in the interpretation of the Jewish text. For ‘resuscitation,’ which is the proper understanding of line 12 of this text, is something different from ‘resurrection,’ whether that of Jesus Christ or of the general resurrection of the dead.” Joseph Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins, page 95. Fitzmyer’s point is that line 12 refers not to a general resurrection of Jews, but – apparently – to discrete miracles by the expected Messiah. N.T. Wright agrees, stating:

[T]his tantalizingly fragmentary text speaks of the work of the coming Messiah, and does so in language not dissimilar to Matthew 11.2-6/Luke 7.18-23, with obvious echoes of biblical prophecies. The prediction that the Messiah will make the dead live does not seem to be a prophecy of eventual resurrection in the sense intended by Daniel 12, but rather of the sort of actions performed by Elijah and Elisha – and, according to the gospels, by Jesus – in bringing back into present life some who had just died: a dramatic extension of ‘healing’, in fact.

Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, pages 186-87.

There point is that since the above passage refers to the Messiah raising the dead, it is not referring to the final resurrection but only to certain miracles performed by the Messiah. But though they disagree with the interpretation of line 12, they do think that elsewhere in manuscript 4Q521 there is evidence of belief in a general resurrection. The passage is from 4Q521, 2, 2:1-137 + 5 ii 6:

…see all the Lord has made: the earth and all that is in it, the seas and all they contain, and all the reservoirs of waters and torrents. . . . those who do what is good before the Lord . . . like these, the accursed. And they shall be for death . . . he who gives life to the dead of his people. We shall give thanks and announce to you .. of the Lord, who.

Because this passage unambiguously refers to resurrection being performed by God, it is evidence that the Qumran community -- at some point at least -- had members who affirmed the resurrection of the dead rather than the immorality of the soul.

But are Fitzmyer and Wright correct in dismissing the first passage about raising the dead? I think they are correct in noting the that line 12 refers to the activities of the coming messiah. And it is true that Matthew and Luke used a similar statement to refer to Jesus' miracle working rather than to the general resurrection of the dead. Must we, however, conclude that the Qumran community used the statement in the same way as the early Christians?

I think not.

Christianity departs from most Jewish thought in believing in a Messiah who comes before the full establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. To most Jews, however, the Messiah’s arrival ushers in that Kingdom. This more traditional perspective is well-represented in 4Q521, with its references to establishing the righteous on the throne of the "eternal Kingdom," liberating the captives, and doing glorious things that have never before been seen. Moreover, since the general resurrection occurs at that time, could this passage not be referring to the general resurrection mediated through the presence of the Messiah? I need to do some more work on the eschatological beliefs of the Essenes, but the possibility that line 12 refers to a resurrection of the dead by God through his Messiah seems worth exploring.

In any event, the answer to the titular question is, Yes. Whether we look only to the second passage accepted by even Fitzymer and Wright or to both passages, there is evidence of resurrection belief in the Qumran community.

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

1. One book that changed your life:

The Tempting of America, by Robert Bork

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

The Acts of the Apostles, by Luke the Physician & Companion of Paul

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

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

4. One book that made you laugh:

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

5. One book that made you cry:

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

6. One book that you wish had been written:

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

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

The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

8. One book you’re currently reading:

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

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

The Greek New Testament

10. One book you wish you had written:

The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, by Colin J. Hemer

Introduction

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

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

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

Critiquing the Atheist Viewpoint

Atheists, as near as I can tell, believe that it is very noble to treat people morally and with respect (unless they are Christians which, in the eyes of many atheists, seems to be grounds for being extremely ill-mannered). But the question that arises is, in light of the Darwinian or Neo-Darwinian viewpoints regarding humanity, why should a person act morally towards another? After all, if human beings are merely the result of a combination of time and chance, there is no inherent value in another human life. Human life is simply the result of the processes of nature, and there is no difference between a human being and a cockroach in the greater scheme of the universe. If I can stamp out an unwanted cockroach without moral implications, why can't I kill another human being without concern for the moral implications?

Obviously, atheists don't believe human life is worthless -- they place value on human life. But that's different from having a philosophical system which holds that human life is, in and of itself, valuable regardless of what value I, as the observer, place on it. In other words, while someone could choose to assign value to human life, in atheistic thought there appears to be nothing foundational in their worldview to suppose that such value exists independently of the assignment of value by the atheist. Further, if the universe is the result of time and chance and there is no meaning behind it all, there appears to be no foundational basis for supposing that it is morally necessary to assign value to other human beings. In other words, if a person should choose to not assign value to another human being's life, then that is they are not violating some deeper universal morality in declining to assign such value.

As Moreland points out in his book, when an atheist (or humanist, the term used by Moreland) claims that human life has value, that value is not objective, but subjective.

When optimistic humanists say that life has meaning they do not mean that objective values or an objective point to life exists. Rather, they mean that life can be subjectively satisfying if we create values and live life for them. Why should I be moral? Because it will give me personal satisfaction to be moral.

It is not clear what it means to "create" values. What metaethical theory is involved here? Perhaps the optimistic humanist means that we should act as if real irreducible values exist. But this would merely be to live one's life in a self-induced delusion on the humanist's own views, so if this is what he means, then satisfaction comes from living a lie. Life would be a placebo effect.

Moreland, J.P., Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity (Baker Books: 1987), p. 121.

I think this is well-reasoned. The idea that value exists because we place value on something is a different sort of animal than the Christian view that human beings have value because they have been endowed by their creator with value. If value exists only because humans place value on other humans, then there is no reason to say that those who don't place such value on humanity are acting wrongly in any significant way. It is merely that they have chosen not to place value on humanity and it seems that there is no reason to claim that that decision is somehow morally deficient. In other words, if human life has value only because it is our decision to place that value in human beings and there is no inherent value in humanity, then on what basis can we say that others who don't choose to place value in humanity are acting immorally? To require them to do so would certainly seem to be of the same genre as "legislating morality" which the secularist in our society seem to find so utterly offensive.

Let me repeat: Do atheists act morally? Of course most of them do! It may even be true that more atheists than Christians act morally, but I am not addressing that issue in this post. However, simply acting morally does not mean that they have any strong philosophical foundation for doing so. To insist that people act morally, in an atheistic worldview, seems to be unwarranted on the most basic philosophical level.

Next time, I will set out Carrier's objection to what Moreland says, but unlike Carrier, I will try to provide context for what Moreland says based on Moreland's own words.

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

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

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

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

This is a key concept in this debate -- the only way to get usable human embryonic stem cells is to kill the embryo. The embryo is simply a human being in an early stage of development. Thus, taking the embryo kills a human being. This is not particularly debateable.

If you are interested in this issue so involved in the culture of life, you should take a few moments to review this short (two-page) article. It is very helpful.

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

It is not as if the "orthodox" were quiet about sects with whom they disagreed. Indeed, they wrote at length to combat heresy after heresy. The goal was to refute, not ignore, perceived heretics. The offended "orthodox" assailed "lesser" heresies that claimed that although Jesus existed on this earth, he was not really human. How much more response would claims that Jesus never existed on earth in any form have garnered? As Kevin puts it:

It is hard to believe that Christian institutions and individual writers were silent about what would have been the most radical and provocative of all the heresies -- silent about an idea that, per Doherty's central thesis about how religions work, would have threatened the Church's power to a greater degree than any of the other heresies, some of which were already regarded by Church Fathers as mortally dangerous to the Church.
Read the whole thing and give him a helpful vote on the way out.

We have changed the Christian History page at the CADRE site from the old design to the new one. The focus of the revamped page has expanded, with many new articles:

This page provides links to websites and articles relating to Christian history, including theological development, notable figures, contributions of Christianity to society and culture, and the archaeological evidence for the facts of the Bible.
We have also added four new articles by Darin Wood, PhD:

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

"Everyone's going to think I'm on The Da Vinci Code bandwagon, but I'm not," says McGowan, who began working on her book in 1989. The Da Vinci Code was published in 2003.

* * *

So far, McGowan is offering only her word about her lineage and only hints at her proof. In addition to the visions, she says, she has discovered that her family is related to an ancient French lineage that traces its roots to Jesus and Mary Magdalene's descendants. Legend holds that Mary Magdalene settled in France after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. "That's all I'm prepared to say right now," McGowan says. Some members of her family, she explains, want her to respect their privacy and not discuss it.

Despite the lack of hard evidence, McGowan's supporters include her literary agent Larry Kirshbaum, who left his position as CEO of Time Warner Books in December to start his own literary agency. McGowan was one of his first clients and he helped her get a seven-figure, three-book deal with Simon & Schuster. (Her next two books pick up where The Expected One leaves off.)

I previously said that Dr. James Tabor was writing the Da Vinci Code bandwagon, and while I continue to think is book is a simply misguided, I backed off that statement. However, since The Da Vinci Code has been shown repeatedly to be a farce (and you can link to any number of websites that discuss the issue from the CADRE Da Vinci Code page), I will not hestitate to say that I do think she's riding the Da Vinci Code gravy train and merely trying to sell books.

Anyone believe her? I'd sure like to know why.

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

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

In addition to discussing the commentaries for each book of the New Testament, Carson discusses books that are not technically commentaries (in that they do not provide verse-by-verse discussion), but which focus on aspects of specific NT books. Carson also mentions the prices of each book discussed. Finally, there is a helpful "best buys" guide in the back that offers his admittedly subjective opinion on what the best values are for the "theological student" and "well-trained preacher."

Update: If you do not want to buy a book to learn which books to buy, check out Darrell Bock's blog, where he is giving his commentary recommendations, book-by-book. Bock is an excellent scholar from the evangelical perspective.

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

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

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

In the paper "Accident or Design", Dr. Bai discusses the multi-universe theory which seeks to explain the apparent fine-tuning by arguing that there may be many universes out there, and that this universe may be one of billions of universes that have been created. Dr. Bai notes that the many-universe theory has a major flaw: it violates Ockham's Razor.

I have previously discussed Ockham's Razor in a post I wrote concerning Rene Descartes famous "I think therefore I am" logic. In that post, I wrote:

Occam's Razor, sometimes called "Ockham's Razor" (by Sir William of Occam or Ockham, another Christian with a few interesting variations in this theology), says: "Don't multiply entities beyond necessity." Roughly translated, this means that we shouldn't posit the existence of causes if there is other simpler explanation for the matter being explained.

Does the multi-universe explanation for the existence of the fine-tuned universe violate Ockham's Razor? Oh, yes, most certainly. Dr. Bai, in his four page essay, first observes a problem that exists in the view that the multi-universe theory makes God weak or non-existent, but then points out how it almost certainly violates Ockham's Razor.

Some scientists are more willing to accept the existence of a large number of universes than the existence of God because they want to go as far as possible without invoking God. Can the many-universe interpretations be a firm basis for atheism? According to Ian Barbour,[6] the atheistic interpretation of the many-universe hypothesis relies on the interpretation of chance as antithetical to providence. However, according to Charles Hartshorne[7], chance is not antithetical to providence but is God’s way of fully exploring the potential of the universe (or universes). One may reason that the God who creates a very large number of universes in order to get a few habitable universes is not very powerful. But isn’t the ability to create a large number of universes as powerful as, if not more powerful than, the ability to create one and only habitable universe? One may regard creating a very large number of universes to get a few habitable universes as wasteful. However, is it not more wasteful, if God has abilities He does not use?

In selecting between God’s design and the many universes theory, one may use the criterion of Ockham’s razor. According to it, the simplest explanation that is compatible with the observed facts is the best one. Which is simpler: the existence of a large number of universes that can neither be detected nor proven or the existence of an omniscient God’s foresight and design in the creation of our universe? Many people, including me, think that God’s omniscience is a simpler explanation than the hypothesis of a large number of universes.[8,9]


Dr. Bai has been gracious to make three chapters from the upcoming book available through his home page. They are Chapter 1: Why Me?", "Chapter 2: Changing Images of God", and "Chapter 11: A New Perspective".

Given Dr. Bai's standing as a professor at Stanford and his apparent good standing in the scientific community, I find it interesting that I don't find the usual litany of evolution(ism) hate-literature directed at him such as is directed at William Dembski, Michael Behe, and other scientists who find evidence of divine intervention in the universe. After all, according to the apostles of evolution(ism), only us scientifically uneducated bumpkins could believe in God. Is it because his views about the fine-tuning of the universe are unknown or is there some other reason for the silence?

I have -- finally -- finished reading The Crusades, Islam and Christianity in the Struggle for World Supremacy. The book is informative, but not an easy read. It seems that the author includes too many unimportant details, including brief accounts of crusades and participants in efforts to defeat pagan tribes in Europe. He also opted at times a topical rather than chronological approach to his material. Putting aside those issues, the book did a good job of exploring the motives of the Crusades. After reading this book, I better appreciated the mindset of Christendom at the time and that many, probably most, of the Crusaders were moved profoundly to "take the Cross" for religious reasons.

In any event, it is an unflinchingly candid account of the Crusades. The warts of Christians and Muslims are presented, though more time is spent on the Christian ones (probably due to the author's access to sources and his audience). The fairness of the treatment and (usually) nonjudgmental discussion of the motivations and actions of the participants kept me reading despite my stylistic issues.

So I was surprised by a comment in the concluding chapter of the book about the Pope's having apologized for the Crusades:

Recently, the crusades have even been the subject of a formal apology by the Pope. Exactly why is not clear. As yet the world awaits an apology from the Arab world for the aggression of the jihad wars of the seventh and eighth centuries which conquered the Christian lands from Syria to Egypt, and the North African coast from the Christian Roman Empire and the Christian kingdoms of Spain; or from Istanbul for the aggressive conquest of the Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire. After all, the armies of the Prophet had no doubt that they were doing the will of Allah by winning these territories from their infidel rulers for the True Religion -- just as the Christian crusaders were to believe that they were fulfilling the will of their God. The crusades then, in Arab eyes ended in a second victory for Islam over Christendom.
Geoffrey Hindley, The Crusades, page 256.

The notion that the crusaders saw themselves as taking the offensive against the Muslim peoples is naive. While there should be no whitewash of the Crusades, the fact is that most of its participants saw it as a defensive effort against an advancing Islamic empire or, at the very least, an effort to regain what rightfully were Christian lands and holy sites.

Another interesting point that Hindley makes is the connection between the Crusades and the Reformation. In particular, it was the Crusades that really introduced the sale of indulgences as Catholic policy. As the need for money mounted, indulgences were expanded to include financiers of the Crusades.

But perhaps the crusades' deepest impact on Western Europe's Christian community was caused by the concept of the indulgence. Probably the most attractive inducement to participation was Pope Urban's Clermont promise that this would be a sufficient substitute for other acts of penance. To the ordinary Christian this meant that provided he went into battle in a state of repentance and had made confession, he could be assured of immediate entry into Paradise.... When Pope Innocent III extended the plenary indulgence for fighting crusaders to those who contributed money or advice to the crusade a dangerous new idea was introduced. Over the centuries, the idea that Christians could shorten the time of sufferings in Purgatory before entering Paradise by the purchase of an official papal indulgence became regularized into a commodity trade like any other. In fact, it became scandalous and attacks on abuse of the system by a cash-hungry Church proved a powerful ingredient in the ferment of criticism of the Roman Catholic Church which would produce the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century.
The Crusades, page 237-38.

Another lesson from Hindley's book is that the Crusades feature much more prominently in the modern Arab mind than in the Western mind. Many Arabs see their culture as victimized by the Crusades despite the fact that the Crusades had little impact on the larger Arab world. At the height of Crusader power, they were little more than Latin outposts in the Middle East. Jerusalem was held for less than a hundred years. All Crusader held cities -- which was mostly a small costal strip of land -- were lost within 200 years.

The Crusades probably would not have had any success had the Muslim peoples unified against them. As it was, many Muslim rulers found it useful to ally with the Crusader states against Muslims who they viewed as a bigger threat to their empires. Be that as it may, the fact is that we live in a world where Muslims still repeat stories about Crusader atrocities to their children. And one other affect of this still present perspective is that the Arab nations around Israel view it as a kind of Crusader outpost.

Today, the State of Israel occupies much the same territories as the twelfth-century Kingdom of Jerusalem, and is regarded by the Muslim world as much of a client state to the Western world as was its medieval forerunner to Western Christendom.... Against that enemy, any hostile action -- be it political, military or based on oil -- is considered no more than legitimate vengeance.
The Crusades, page 160.

Update: I just wrote a review for Amazon for this book, here.

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

The Champion, by Carman

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

Arise My Love, by NewSong

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

Rise Again, by Dallas Holm

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

He Lives, by Various

I love old hymns and this is one of my favorites. This one declares the lasting significance of Jesus’ resurrection in today’s world and in our personal circumstances.

Easter Song, by Keith Green

Another soaring song declaring Jesus’ resurrection. Less contemporary than Arise my Love but still one of my favorites.

Christ the Lord is Risen Today, by Scott W. Brown

I like this song by other artists, but love Brown’s version. Fast, exciting, and celebratory.

Celebrate Jesus, by Hosanna

A simple, joyous praise song of celebration. What Hosanna Music (now Integrity) is best at.

Love Crucified Arose
, by Michael Card

One of the longer songs of the list. More soft and paced than the others, but more reflective on the meaning of the resurrection to Jesus and to ourselves.

So that is my list. I tend to like the declaratory expressions of victory and celebration, though a few or the more somber songs have caught my ear.

Care to add to the list? What are your favorites?

The Challenge

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

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

Were Any of Jesus' Teachings or Activities Recorded During His Time?

It is erroneous to simply assume that there was nothing written down about Jesus until 25 years after his death. Apparently, the atheists here simply assume that nothing was written about Jesus until the Gospel of Mark. This ignores the early letters of Paul, which clearly refer to Jesus and contain traditions about him and which were written beginning about 16-19 years after Jesus’ death. More to the point, the group’s assumption is a na├»ve, and convenient given their bias, one that has little to commend it. It is likely, given Christian traditions preserved in Paul and the Gospels, and given the nature of Jewish society, that many of Jesus’ teachings and activities were written down while he was alive. (See my, “The Oral and Written Jesus Tradition Prior to the Gospel of Mark,” October 23, 2005). The prologue to the Gospel of Luke, which speaks of “many” preceding accounts of Jesus’ life, adds further weight to this conclusion. At the very least, the assumption that there were no sources about Jesus, such as Q, L, or M, that were incorporated into the canonical Gospels is untenable.

If accounts were written during Jesus' ministry, why do they not exist today? First, it is hardly surprising that they do not. Many ancient documents failed to survive to this day. In this case, there is even less reason to think they would have survived. Earlier accounts were likely supplanted by the more comprehensive Gospels that came later. However, the determinative factor was likely that any contemporary accounts of Jesus’ life would have been written in Aramaic, whereas Christianity prospered predominantly among Greek speaking peoples. Documents were passed on by being continually copied by dedicated scribes. They were preserved and copied because they were useful. Aramaic sources about Jesus would have had little utility and their preservation by repeated copying would have been close to a practical impossibility by Greek-speaking scribes. Consider that we know that the earliest Christians in the Jerusalem Church spoke Aramaic but no Aramaic Christian sources have survived to this day (whether affirming a historical Jesus or not). So, there likely were some writings about Jesus’ teachings and activities recorded during his life. At the very least, it is a likelihood that cannot be dismissed simply because such writings have not survived to the present day.

Is this Really What Historians Require?


No, it is not. The demand for a contemporary written account is not one required by professional historians. People serious about the study of history, rather than those eager to sacrifice such inquiry to promote their own ideological agenda, study the sources we have to see whether they contain authentic traditions traceable to the object of study. A source that has information dating back to the object of study is reliable to that extent whether it was written 5, 15, or 50 years after the object of study. Paul’s letters and the Gospels contain such reliable traditions. This is one reason that real historians have again and again rejected the Jesus Myth for decades now. Even the very liberal Jesus Seminar traces back a substantial number of sayings from the Gospels back to the historical Jesus.

A Plethora of Examples

Now for the heart of the "challenge." It is actually quite easy to list five “important historical figures” who existed but for whom there are no surviving contemporary references. JP Holding over at Tektonics.org lists these:

• Gamaliel -- especially if you date Acts late, as they would
• Honi the Circle-Drawer
• Hillel
• Shammai
• Hanina ben dosa

All fine choices, but I think we can add to the list.

We can start with John the Baptist. John the Baptist was an important religious figure contemporary to Jesus who operated in the same cultural and geographical environment. As such, his is a good example of whether we should insist that there be surviving "contemporary" writings about Jesus' life. And it is undisputed that there are no such writings about John the Baptist. The earliest references to John the Baptist are, in fact, the Gospels themselves. He ranks no mention in Paul’s letters or any Roman source of the period. Josephus also mentions John the Baptist, but six decades later. Nevertheless, his existence is not disputed by historians and is firmly established. So, here is an important historical figure contemporary to Jesus -- who shared Jesus' geographical and cultural environment as well as his profession -- but for whom there is even less and later evidence than for Jesus.

Next, we will take up four at once: Mattathias, Judas, Jonathan and Simon (aka, the Maccabees). Mattathias was a Priest and father to Judas, Jonathan and Simon. Matthathias sparked the Jewish revolt against the Seleucids and his sons carried it forward to success. They are the quintessential Jewish heroes and the dominant figures of their day.

Relevant for our purposes is that Mattathias died around 166 BC, Judah died in battle around 160 BC, Jonathan died around 143 BC, and Simon died around 135 BC.

The earliest references of which I am aware are First and Second Maccabees. (I admit that OT Apocrypha is not my specialty, so I welcome any correction and reference to earlier citations to the Maccabees). Both of those documents were written around 104 BC or later. Thus, they were written 60-30 years after the time of the Maccabees.

Another candidate is Apollonius of Tyana, who died near the end of the first century. The main source for his life – and his existence is not disputed – is Philostratus’ The Life of Apollonius of Tyana. Philostratus’ book, however, was written over a hundred years after his life. There are scattered references before The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, but none that I have found which are within 40 years of his death. As John P. Meier notes, “the problem of sources comes down to the fact that we have almost total silence about Apollonius (apart from a few scraps, such as a passing negative reference in the 2d-century satirist Lucian of Samosata) until we come to Philostratus’ work.” Meier, A Marginal Jew, Vol. II, page 577.

I also think Chrestus would qualify according to the “Rational Responders” criteria. The Roman writer Suetonius refers to rioting in Rome, instigated by “Chrestus,” which lead to the expulsion of the Jews from Rome. Many think that “Chrestus” is a reference to Jesus. Most skeptics and atheists reject this. If this was indeed another person, then he instigated riots in Rome around the middle of the first century. Suetonius did not write about him until around 115 AD.

Yet another candidate is Clement of Rome, who was a leader in the Roman church in the latter part of the first century. Although 1 Clement is attributed to him, the letter does not identify him as its author and appears to have been written on behalf of all the leaders in the Roman Church, rather than by any one person. The first reference to Clement of Rome that I have found is in the Shepard of Hermas, written around the middle of the second century; thus separating the reference from the man by about 40 years.

Other candidates I would suggest are Judas the Galilean, Rabbi Akiva, Theudas, several other Jewish rebels, the Egyptian, and Simon Magus. I have no doubt that there are many more (and more have already been suggested by others), but frankly the idea is so separated from reality that I feel little need to pursue it further. See, my emphasis is in New Testament history. That emphasis quickly made some examples clear to me. Other commentators who specialize in other time periods, other cultures, and other geographical locations will likely be able to easily offer a number of examples off the tops of their heads.

My Interaction with the "Rational Responders"

I actually posted some of these suggestions on the “Rational Responders” discussion board. I was promptly informed that “biblical figures” did not count because the Bible is not trustworthy. (Nevermind that this is the usual skeptic play of treating the Bible as one monolithic source when it is in fact a collection of often independent sources of different genres and time periods). When I pointed out that figures such as John the Baptist and Judas the Galilean were well established by non-biblical sources, I was told that it did not matter because they wanted to “whittle” the number of possibilities down. Biblical figures, even those whose existence is not disputed and is established by non-biblical sources, would not be considered for the contest. This made no sense.

But then the conversation got even stranger. The “Rational Responders” moderator admitted that they had already lost the contest because they had received more than five figures whose existence was accepted but for whom there was not what they call “contemporary evidence.” Even more submissions were coming in and it is apparent that they were operating out of gross ignorance of the realities of historical studies. The fact is that often our best sources of information about ancient figures and events are ones that were written down after the life of the person described or the events noted therein.

The moderator tried to defend the ignorance of the "Rational Responders" contest by saying they had argued on some discussion boards and no one ever gave them an example before. I think that admission is very revealing. Too many skeptics are so full of themselves or their skepticism that they think that if no one has brought it to their attention then it must not exist. As if the world owes them an obligation to spoon feed them every little factoid that stands in the way of their comfortable skepticism. But participation in select discussion boards is no substitute for actual research and historical knowledge. Anyone with the most basic of knowledge about historical Jesus studies, for example, knows that there are no “contemporary” writings about John the Baptist, but that his existence is undisputed among historians. Yet such examples never occurred to them.

To top it off, the “Rational Responders” apparently thought better of admitting that the entire premise of their challenge to the existence of Jesus had been proven erroneous within hours of announcing their contest. When I checked back later this evening they had deleted our entire discussion. Which, in my book, adds cowardice to ignorance in their vice column.

Update: It appears that the -- no kidding -- "Rational Responders" have simply dropped this part of their competition altogether. But even having done so, they apparently have not yet grasped how ridiculous a standard of proof it is to demand a "contemporary" writing about the historical person in question.

Update2: I have been told that the "Rational Responders" did not delete the entire discussion, but moved it to another thread. However, it does not appear that they left any notice that they were splitting the threads, thus leading to the confusion. All in all, this has to be among the worst internet "contests" ever conceived. But perhaps "conceived" is too generous a term for the effort they put into it.

In any event, once I was informed that the "Rational Responders" had split the thread w/o the normal announcement that follows such action, I invited them to update our readers of that by commenting on this thread. For some reason, they could not be bothered to do so.

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

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

A Prosecution Expert Supports Authenticity

Since my last post, I have learned that another expert, Israeli paleographer Ada Yardeni, testified that the Ossuary was authentic -- after being called by the prosecution:


Some people began to claim it was not real [authentic]...I did not see anything indicating it was not real [authentic]...After all the deliberations that were conducted regarding the matter, they did not convince me [that it was not authentic]. To this day, I think that it is authentic.

Yardeni went on to testify that she was so sure of its authenticity that she would leave the profession if the Ossuary turned out to be a fake.

A Picture of the Full Inscription Dating Back to the 1970s?

Perhaps the most notable development is the report that Oded Golan, the owner of the Ossuary accused of perpetuating the fraud by adding the reference to Jesus to an existing ossuary, has a picture of the James Ossuary from the 1970s. Though apparently overlooked by most, the claim that a picture of the Ossuary exists from the 1970s was made back in 2005. The picture supposedly has the "full inscription" in view.

If the picture is authentic (and its authenticity will no doubt be carefully evaluated at trial), then it would tend to support Mr. Golan's case. Mr. Golan claims he bought the ossuary as is back in the mid-1970s. Why would he wait 30 years to perpetuate a hoax like this? Such a picture would also, in my opinion, tend to support the authenticity of the full inscription. Why would someone go through the trouble of perpetuating such a fraud only to get $200 bucks for it (as the person who sold it to Mr. Golan is believed to have received)? All told, this raises questions about motive and opportunity to commit fraud. If the scientific evidence was undisputed, this kind of evidence would probably not mean much. But given that some leading experts with no apparent bias are still claiming the science supports the authenticity of the full inscription, this kind of evidence may have a role to play in the trial. So, it would be suggestive but not determinative in resolving the issue of authenticity.

But What is the Status of the Trial Itself?

There is a helpful article about the status of the trial in the Toronto Star. According to that report:

*The trial was delayed for a month but was scheduled to resume on July 4. The first witness will be the IAA's Avner Ayalon, who concluded that the part of the inscription on the Ossuary that refers to Jesus is a fraud.

*The prosecution has only called 1/4th of its 124 witnesses. The defense plans to call roughly the same number. The trial will take years.

Additionally, the Star article gives a good overview of the nature of the dispute and the arguments of scholars on both sides.

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

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

According to a friend, Friday evening at 5 PM CST, Dr. Wallace will conduct a live interview on Bart Ehrman and textual criticism of the New Testament. Though the program is local in Dallas, TX, anyone can listen live online and there's a toll-free number for those who want to call in with questions. There is a link provided here for listening to the interview.

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

From NY:

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

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

From Georgia:

The Georgia Supreme Court, reversing a lower court judge's ruling, decided unanimously that the ban did not violate the state's single- subject rule for ballot measures. Superior Court Judge Constance Russell of Fulton County had ruled that it did.

As background, in 2004 the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared unconstititutional that state's law defining marraige as between a man and woman. Frankly, I am surprised by the NY decision. And in fact it would have been a 4-3 decision, but one justice recused himself because his daughter wrote a brief on behalf of homosexual activists in another action. In perhaps the most unintentionally revealing statement in a while, the plaintiffs' attorney declared, "We will take this battle to the legislature."

In other news, abortion reached an all-time high in Great Britian.

*Total abortions rose by 700 to 186,416 in 2005.

*31% of women had one or more previous abortions.

*In 22 per cent of cases, the unborn child was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

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

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

What is Doubt?

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

The doubt that arises from the head is intellectual doubt. This is the type of doubt that informs your thinking process with questions like "Did Jesus really rise from the dead?" and "Does God really exist?" Doubts like these can be experienced by anyone at anytime and I doubt that any Christians are immune from such intellectual doubts occasionally arising.

The doubt that arises from the heart is, to put it bluntly, an act of rebellion. I am not suggesting that the person who has this doubt is consciously rebelling against God. In most cases the rebelling is occurring below the surface in a person who is otherwise outwardly devoted to God. Some think that this second type of rebellion is the only type of rebellion:. Consider the following from "Fideist Apologetics: Reasons of the Heart":

[T]he only real "apologetic" or defense of the Christian faith that a believer has to offer is his life. Consistent with this viewpoint, Kierkegaard argues that apologetics errs in treating the symptom of unbelief, intellectual doubt, while ignoring the real disease -- disobedience and rebellion against God. "It is claimed that arguments against Christianity arise out of doubt. This is a total misunderstanding. The arguments against Christianity arise out of insubordination, reluctance to obey, mutiny against all authority. Therefore, until now the battle against objections has been shadow-boxing, because it has been intellectual combat with doubt instead of being ethical combat against mutiny" (JP 778, 1:359).

"Faith's conflict with the world is not a battle of thought with doubt, thought with thought. . . . Faith, the man of faith's conflict with the world, is a battle of character" (JP 1129, 2:14; cf. 1154, 2:25). Kierkegaard quotes with approval Pascal's statement, "The reason it is so difficult to believe is that it is so difficult to obey" (JP 3103, 3:418). Bloesch agrees, stating that "the basic problem in evangelism is not just lack of knowledge of the gospel -- it is lack of the will to believe." Karl Barth also views faith as essentially a response of obedience to the truth. Faith is "knowledge of the truth solely in virtue of the fact that the truth is spoken to us to which we respond in pure obedience."

I disagree with this assessment but only to this extent: I don't think that all doubt is heart-related, but I do agree that the vast majority of doubt is not intellectual in nature -- it is heart-related. In most cases the intellect is used as a rationalization for the rebellion against God which hides the underlying cause of the rebellion.

Doubt can arise from a number of things. It can arise because sin -- our subconscious desire to engage in some type of activity that we know from the Bible is not within God's idea of what is good, right and holy. It can arise because we have expectations about God and what He will do that haven't been met. It can arise because we have asked for something in prayer and didn't receive the answer we wanted or don't think we received an answer at all. It can arise because we have elevated something up to being equated with the will of God which is only a man-made thing or viewpoint, and this man-made thing is disappointing us.

Now, I am not saying that there is not honest intellectual doubt. I do think that those type of doubts exist, but I would guesstimate that in 90% of the cases, the intellectual doubt is merely a rationalization for a deeper heart-problem. Thus, it seems to me that while a good apologetic is appropriate for responding to that intellectual challenge, the apologetic will not be effective in allaying the doubt which is, in most cases, not really intellectual in nature.

Dealing with Doubt

Assuming that I, and the writers quoted above, are on the right track, how does a person deal with this doubt? Well, five concrete steps come to mind that can be undertaken to tackle doubt.

A. Read apologetics materials by good Christian apologists. To the extent that the issue is an honest intellectual issue, the best thing to do is read some good Christian authors on apologetics who help answer the question and give strong arguments for accepting the Christian worldview. Books like Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Hard Questions, Real Answers by William Lane Craig, Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg, Reinventing Jesus by J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, Daniel B. Wallace , and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. There are probably 100 more title I could reference, and I wish I could reference them all. These books will all give excellent reasons, analysis and facts which support a belief in God and in Jesus as his only Son who came in history to die for the sins of all.

Keep in mind that Christianity makes a particular claim: Jesus rose from the dead and as a result we are saved from our sins. We need to recognize that there is only one reason to believe a particular faith is whether it is true. If the central claim of Christianity isn't true, there is no reason to believe Christianity. Paul agrees:

I Corinthians 15:12-19 -- Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found {to be} false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

This is important stuff. Paul places all of his hope and confidence in the fact that Jesus, who he saw, rose bodily from the dead. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, why be Christian? Jesus is just another dead man -- a good man, but one who can make no difference ultimately in your life. Go find out what is true. Reading books like the ones listed above help remind us of why it is not only reasonable but compelling to believe the basic facts of Christianity are true.

Note that I am not suggesting that when we are doubting that we go and compare what these Christian apologetics books say versus what the skeptics claim. I don't recommend that at all. My reasoning is very simple -- when you are at a low point in faith is not the time to go seeking what the skeptics are saying. In times of doubt, we Christians are like ex-smokers trying to not fall back into smoking. In such a case, it would be foolish to hang around a smoke-shop or around a bar where a number of people are smoking. The temptation to fall into the crowd becomes very great -- not because they convinced you that smoking is really good for you or because they convinced you smoking is okay. Rather, just being in the place where a bunch of people are smoking when you are feeling strongly tempted to smoke will make the likelihood of returning to smoking very great. Thus, I am not suggesting that the Christian position is weak -- it is (after years of study and arguments with skeptics) objectively more rational and viable than the skeptical position. But a person who is at a weak position in their faith is unwise to seek out the wolves.

So, I would encourage Christians, in times of doubt, to reacquaint themselves with some of the basics of the reasons for believing that Christianity is true by reading good Christian books making a strong case for the truthfulness of the Gospel.

B. Evaluate the true basis for your doubt. If I am correct (and I believe that I am), then once you have found the Christian answer to your "intellectual" question(s), you may be saying, "Well, I'm not convinced." At that point, it seems to me that once you start downgrading what are otherwise good answers with whether it is convincing to you, you are acknowledging that the real source of your doubt is not intellectual but heart-related. Thus, it seems appropriate at this point to try to discern what in your heart is leading to the doubt.

This isn't an easy thing to do, and I don't suggest you try it alone. Instead, you are better off discussing the matter with a Christian counselor in whom you can have confidence and open yourself up. Many pastors are trained counselors who can provide you with excellent guidance if you merely allow yourself to open up and be brutally honest about yourself with them. When speaking with the counselor, if you are finding yourself drawn into sexual desire, say so! If you are disappointed that God has not given you a spouse or that you are unhappy with the person that you thought God led you to when you got married, say so! Until you recognize the true basis for your doubts, you cannot deal with them.

C. Find a "Spirit-filled" person to help you. Look around your church and find someone who you see as filled with the Holy Spirit. These people are usually very easy to spot -- they are joyful, friendly and loving. They know their Bible. They often teach or engage hours on end in acts of the ministry such as caring for the needy or providing ministry for the sick and grieving. If your church doesn't have at least two or three of these people, change churches -- your church is not transforming lives.

Take the time to get to know these people. Find out how they deal with their doubt. What you will find is that they don't have as many periods of doubt as the average Christian because they are engaged in the work of God for the glory of God (the purpose of the work is crucial to living a Spirit-filled life). Did Mother Teresa have doubts? Probably, but not many. People who are working hard on God's behalf and do so for the glory of God are people who are confronted weekly can easily see the Spirit working in their lives and the lives of people around them.

These people can serve as mentors for you. Once you befriend them, they can be a tool and a resource for helping you understand better how to live your life for God in such a way that doubt becomes more and more rare.

Please note that I am not suggesting setting these people up as some sort of paragon of virtue. They are not. They make mistakes like the rest of us. They can be mean, petty and dishonest, just like the rest of us. But what you will find is that their periods of meanness, nastiness and dishonesty are fewer and farther between (sometimes appearing non-existent) because they are so immersed in the Spirit-filled life that these things seem to almost completely fade away.

D. Make sure that you aren't confusing Christianity with Christianity-plus. Some people are not Christians, they are Christians-plus. In other words, it isn't just the Gospel they believe, but the Gospel plus the Republican or Democratic party. The Gospel plus feminism. The Gospel plus the social justice movement. These other things are imperfect man-made institutions which are bound to fail or disappoint. If you are following the Christian Coalition and believe that is the same as Christianity, you are mistaken.

This Christianity-plus idea can also arise within a Christianity itself where an idea of teaching of Christianity is elevated to an essential. For example, I am an strong proponent of the idea of inerrancy. Yet, I don't believe inerrancy to be essential to the faith; instead, I believe inerrancy follows naturally from an understanding of the faith. However, I know many Christians whose hearts are clearly Christian who don't believe in inerrancy at all. Inerrancy is an in-house debate among Christians, but if a person believes that they have to believe in inerrancy before they can be a Christian that that is a form of Christianity-plus that ought to be rejected.

One place Christianity-plus shows up in Christian teaching is in things like the "prosperity Gospel" teaching. This teaching, in a nutshell, is that God is not a stingy God, but a God who is wanting to reward us with material wealth if we just follow him. Well, I've been following God for a long time now, and I am far from wealthy. God has provided for me and my family, but I don't think that the Bible teaches that God is wanting to reward us with tons of money for merely living the Christian life. The Bible seems to teach that Christians are to suffer and that our rewards will be in heaven. Thus, to the extent that a Christian believes in the prosperity Gospel, that is a form of Christianity-plus which should be rejected if it is leading to doubt (because no matter how hard you try, you just aren't getting rich).

E. Pray While I have listed this last, it is really the first. Praying is the most important thing a person can do. But when I read what ex-Christian skeptics say on their sites when they speak about how they used to pray and pray for faith, it struck me that they were not praying for the right thing. I think that when a person prays in doubt, they should pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal to them the reason for their doubt and to pray that the Holy Spirit help them work through the issue.

These are my thoughts and suggestions. As I said at the outset, I welcome and encourage other helpful suggestions or comments about doubt and how to deal with it.

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

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

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

For starters, Dr. Alvin Plantinga uses a Bayesian argument in his famous Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. Plantinga examines the probability of human cognitive faculties being reliable, given the theory that human cognitive faculties have been produced by evolution. I'll give you a hint: the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable if evolution is true ... is low.

Dr. JP Moreland uses Bayes Theorem in his argument for design offered in The Creation Hypothesis. Moreland uses Bayes to calculate a positive posterior probability that a theistic designer likely exists. This blogger does a nice write up on Moreland's use of Bayes.

Then we have Dr. Robin Collins in his fine essay, God, Design, and Fine-Tuning. He applies Bayesian thinking in comparing two competing hypotheses: the atheist single-universe hypothesis versus the theistic universe hypothesis. Collins says,

"The prime principle of confirmation is a general principle of reasoning which tells us when some observation counts as evidence in favor of one hypothesis over another. Simply put, the principle says that whenever we are considering two competing hypotheses, an observation counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis under which the observation has the highest probability (or is the least improbable). (Or, put slightly differently, the principle says that whenever we are considering two competing hypotheses, H1 and H2, an observation, O, counts as evidence in favor of H1 over H2 if O is more probable under H1 than it is under H2.) Moreover, the degree to which the evidence counts in favor of one hypothesis over another is proportional to the degree to which the observation is more probable under the one hypothesis than the other."
What Dr. Collins is talking about are conditional probabilities given evidence : once again, Bayes is used to show how evidence favors one hypothesis versus another, and to what degree it supports one hypothesis over another. Good stuff.

Finally, we have the famous "Bart's Blunder" comment in the Craig-Ehrman debate. Craig shows that Ehrman makes probabilistic claims based on conditional probabilities, but makes an egregious error by failing to use Bayes Thereom to do it. Ehrman walks into a buzz saw. Perhaps if he had seen this blog post he could have avoided an embarrassing moment in his recent debate.

Bayes Theorem has done more than make Google's founders billionaires. It offers a compelling tool to use in your next apologetic encounter.

I have done a series on Bayes Theorem if you wish to learn more.

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

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

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