David Marshall Interview, Oct. 2007 (Part 1 of 2, "The Lost Gospels")

The Christian Cadre is pleased to present, in two parts, an interview with Christian apologist David Marshall, who has released two books this year (through Harvest Home publishers); one on the topic of the promotion of alternate Gospel texts, and one on the topic of the New Atheism.

David was a missionary, a teacher, and a student of comparative religion in East Asia for 13 years, during which time he also did what he could to help prostitutes sold into slavery in Taiwan. After teaching at Siebold University in Japan, he moved to the United States to start Kuai Mu Institute.

He now lives in Seattle with his wife and children; but travels around the United States, the Pacific Rim and (during this October) the United Kingdom on research trips and speaking engagements.

His first three books were:

True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture (1996, revised 2002)

Jesus and the Religions of Man (2000)


Why the Jesus Seminar Can’t Find Jesus, and Grandma Marshall Could: A Populist Defense of the Gospels (2005)

An excellent introductory interview can be found here at Harvest House Publishers. We recommend readers begin with this.

JP: Readers who check the HH interview will see that you met your wife overseas. Would it be all right to ask a little more about the story of this?

DM: I actually met my wife at Odegaard Library at the University of Washington here in Seattle.

JP: Were you studying something there? Teaching? How about her?

DM: I was doing research for Jesus and the Religions of Man. She was taking a summer English course, and leafing through a tour guide to Europe. That was my excuse to start talking; I'd just been on the European solo youth hostel tour a few years before myself, and offered some advice, "out of the kindness of my heart." I think I mentioned the beautiful hostel in Interlaken, and probably Mittenwald, Bavaria. We ended up outside, in "The Quad," a grassy area surrounded by neo-Gothic buildings, and covered with (of course) Japanese cherry trees, talking about who knows what. I didn't get her phone number, but ran into her again "by accident" on a return trip.

The first of David's two books published this year was The Truth About Jesus and the “Lost Gospels”.

JP: Not all the alternative-Gospels which we know about are Gnostic, though many of them are. But your work in this book seems to focus on the Gnostic Gospels. Is that because the people you're responding to tend to focus on the Gnostic Gospels? If so, is there some indication, from what they themselves talk about, as to why they focus there and not with other alt-Gospels?

DM: As I argue, the Gnostics are used to undermine Christianity in two ways. First, some people actually take them seriously for what they say about Jesus -- people like Dan Brown, or at least a few of his fans, or people who have been watching The Matrix too long. The ultimate act of rebellion may be to buy into the basic Gnostic myth -- God as an evil creator, the material world as essentially deceptive and second-rate, Jesus as an enlightened spirit-being who didn't die on the cross. It's a kind of neo-Promethianism for a post-Marxist general culture.

But more common is the Elaine Pagels / Bart Ehrman / Jesus Seminar school of deconstructionism. These folks don't think the Gnostics are telling the truth about history, but use them as an ally to undermine Christianity. They say, "orthodox" early Christians, or "proto-orthodox" Christians, were just one school out of many, and no more legitimate than all the rest. This feeds into the modern democratic feeling, the idea of relativism and equality and the post-modern love of "plural narratives." Hard-nosed Christians were to blame for trying to force one version of Christianity down everyone's throat.

I call this story line "neo-Gnosticism," and it's a primary goal of my book to describe and disprove it.

Other, non-Gnostic "alternative Gospels" may be less useful for this form of attack. Too innocuous, I guess, or too orthodox.

JP: Of the known non-canonical works connected to Christianity (both orthodox and otherwise), only a minority (though a sizeable minority) are called Gospels at all. Do the scholars you're responding to, even when they focus on Gnostic work, try to make use of any alternative not-Gospels? (Alternative Acts, Epistles, Apocalypses, etc.)

DM: The term "Gospel" here is problematic. I argue that no real Gospels, in any real sense of the term, aside from the four that begin the New Testament, have ever been found. [JPNote: David spends much of Why the Jesus Seminar Can't Find Jesus... analyzing the four canonical texts and a wide selection of other ancient texts, using an innovative genre classification method.] Thomas is not a "Gospel." It is a collection of 114 metaphysical sayings, less than half of which were borrowed loosely from the New Testament.

Most of the Nag Hammadi library consists of Gnostic works that aren't even called Gospels. So in that sense, the answer would be "yes." But Pagels and her fellows also try to read Gnostic views into the other parts of the New Testament. I've seen it attempted with Paul. And of course lots of people see shadows or echoes of the Gnostics in John, and he wrote more than a Gospel. There's lots about "light" and "darkness" in his letters and in The Revelation, which also resonates in these circles.

JP: Readers of press-releases, articles and books from these alternate-Gospel proponents, frequently receive the impression that by appealing to these texts we're more likely to find a human Jesus whom we can better relate to, instead of the highly mythologized divine-man of the canonical four. (Not even counting things like the canonical RevJohn!) How much substance is there to this appeal?

DM: There is such a thing as a negative infinite, isn't there? Sorry if that sounds like childish hyperbole, but this popular caricature is the exact opposite of the truth. What's grossly obvious about the Gnostic texts -- and I assume that's what you're referring to -- is that they not only didn't care about the "historical Jesus," the humanity of Jesus, but that they despised the whole concept of flesh and blood -- even for us humans, let alone for anyone divine. This is why, in the "Gospel" of Judas, Jesus laughs at the "stunt double" who dies on the cross in his place. Mortal existence is "dead creation," the "bond of flesh," the "lowest region of all matter."

By sharp contrast (and contrasts don't get much sharper), the Jesus of the real Gospels -- and that's the only word for them -- is indeed "flesh and blood." The divine puts on humanity in a way that makes it only that much more human. Jesus is frustrated, tired, angry, delighted, amazed, sad. He hurts when you kick him. He bleeds when you cut him. He eats fish, even after he's risen from the dead. Jesus is infinitely more human than the phony action figures, pompous windbags, and vague legends that scholars sometimes compare to Jesus, in a desperate attempt to plug gaps in the universe.

Jesus is presented as divine in the Gospels, for sure. But his divinity shines through his humanity, somehow. Reading skeptics' attempts to find parallels, only makes me feel the extraordinary uniqueness of this accomplishment more intensely. There is no one like Jesus in world literature.

JP: So, the Jesus of the Gnostic Gospels actually tends to be more 'divine' than 'human'.

DM: Yes, absolutely.

JP: 'Divine' in what way?

DM: Certainly not in the sense of "sweet" (as with "divinity," the candy). I point out that the Jesus of the Gnostics seemed to have a positive aversion to niceness, like a muddy boy to hot showers. So there is nothing in this "Jesus" that reminds one of the character of God -- nothing "divine" in that sense.

Spooky, ephemeral, ghostly -- those might be better adjectives.

JP: So, if the Jesus of these Gnostic Gospels is actually more 'divine' than 'human' in some way, is there any indication among the proponents of those texts for why they'd even want to be focusing on them?! One might have supposed that such radical sceptics would be staying even further clear of such texts than of the canonical texts!

DM: I think part of the answer is that the texts are considered less positively useful in themselves, than useful in trying to undermine 'orthodox' Christian faith! Of course, I'm not saying there are no admirable or praise-worthy qualities in the Gnostic Jesus. He gets in some good lines. There are a few Zen-like aphorisms that titillate certain Starbucks-related regions of the brain... The best for that might be Gospel of Thomas, Thunder, Perfect Mind and (off the top of my head) Mary.

JP: Now that I think of it, would you consider giving a comparison of the Gnostic Gospels to RevJohn? The style of the two sets is often much closer to one another than the style of the Gnostic documents to any of the canonical Gospels. If we decide to compare Jesus-es even then, though, what similarities/differences will we find?

DM: That's more of a project than I should take on right now -- but an interesting question. Pagels wrote a book comparing the Gospel of John to Thomas, and while her idea that Thomas came first is absurd, there are some stylistic or rhetorical similarities. And the Gnostics were fond of apocalypse and psychedelic imagery.

Were the Gnostics inspired by John? Was John inspired by some neo-Gnostic writer that he got hold of? Did the editor who put John together -- his disciple, apparently -- want to send a message to an unorthodox alternative school? The Gnostics did seem to like John a lot -- I don't know if that's a fault on his part or not. He's quoted and parodied extensively, and not just by the Gnostics, of course.

But there is no trace of the Jesus we find in the narrative parts of the Gospel of John in any of the Nag Hammadi literature. Here is a Savior of flesh and blood: he shows emotion, eats, sweats, bleeds. In some ways, the Jesus of John is even further removed from Gnostic thinking than the Jesus of the other Gospels. And Revelations seems to me a continuation of that. Very earthy, within his mysticism. That's the remarkable combination.

JP: When these scholars are trying to make a case for these alternate Gospels (and similar texts) being appealed to instead of the canon, do they proceed by arguing about how much more reliable these other texts are than the canon?

DM: No, never. Almost always when the subject is forced on them, they admit that the Gnostic texts are NOT reliable. I give several examples. The trick -- and it is a trick, a shell game -- is to make their readers transfer this skepticism to the real Gospels. So in a book of 200 pages, someone like Karen King will admit once, in one phrase, that the Gospel of Mary is not historical. But you'll find dark insinuations about the real Gospels all over the place.

The worst in this regard may be Marvin Meyer, whose books on the Gnostics fill secular book stores. He will be quite naïve and welcoming to the ridiculous idea that the Islamic "Jesus sayings" contain useful new historical material from Jesus himself -- these are texts most of a millennia after the time of Christ -- then turn around and try to undermine the historicity of the Gospels themselves.

Real scholars, apart from a few very nutty ones -- and I think even Meyer may be faking it -- all know the Gnostics have little or probably nothing to tell us about the historical Jesus. The game is to trick our eyes off that question. Prod one text up, push the other one down, throw up a bunch of rhetoric about "narratives" and "oppressive authority structures" out into the gabosphere, and hope people will forget about such silly little questions as historical truth and moral value. That's how I see it when I'm feeling cynical, anyway.

JP: Thanks David! Part 2 of 2 coming up next...


John W. Loftus said…
David Marshall recently made the following comment below this post at DC: "...good to come across a site for better-informed atheists. I guess that means the next generation of anti-God books will be more of a challenge than those produced by Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and Hitchens?"

Yes that's correct. We are coming.

My guess is that unless Christians understand what Marshall does they could be lulled into thinking Christianity has withstood our biggest attacks. When this next generation of atheist books hits the national bookstores you will have your work cut out for you like never before.

Now that the "New Atheists" have opened the doors for the rest of us, we will be walking through doors in bigger numbers. And with a specific shelf in Borders Bookstores for "Atheism," more of our books will be on that shelf.

Nice interview.
Layman said…
The humility of the "New Atheists" on display.

Admittedly, it can be a challenge to respond to those who have no moral inhibitions against lying to promote their agenda, but the Church has endured worse than the likes of the debunkingchristian bloggers.
Anonymous said…
That was an unnecessary ad hominem, Layman. That incident was not very recent and Loftus has apologized for it. The books listed at that post mostly aren't by DC bloggers anyway.

That's not to say I think some things Loftus has done (like the Holding blog incident) aren't immoral or that Loftus's love for self-promotion (especially after his book came out) isn't aggravating, though.
Layman said…
My My, Anon. I was referring to the Bibby study showing that atheists place less value on honesty than theists. At least in Canada.

To what are you referring?

Frankly, from what I can tell, Loftus only came clean for part of the intentional misrepresentation, and only for the part that his co-bloggers started to pressure him regarding.

Besides, he's a blow hard.
John W. Loftus said…
Layman, I can do exegesis quite well, and the context for the second sentence in your first comment here is about my so-called humility. Later you deny you were talking about me in the second sentence of your first comment even though the context is the same and you refer to "the likes of debunkingchristian bloggers." Very interesting. I think you're lying. But all is fair in love and war, right? And since this is your blog you can merely delete this comment of mine.

Let's see, every time I come here I get some ad hominems thrown at me, unlike when you visit my website, unless you go there to throw more of them at me. I've provided a place for you to do so if you want, here, since I get personally attacked almost every day. At least you're not in political power to burn me at the stake, and for that I'm thankful.

Do you really think this is a cordial way to discuss/debate these issues? Doing so doesn't answer me, you know that, and it'll do nothing for your readers who might also be reading my arguments. Do you want to discuss them with me or not? I'm game. I even link to your site and other Christian sites along with some Christian books because I think I can do this and still defeat your arguments. Why don't you do likewise and link to the best skeptical sites?

And as to self-promotion goes, I'm guilty as charged because I believe in my work. ;-)
John W. Loftus said…
Now if I may, and without harping on the fact that I think Layman just lied, and without demanding an apology or in bringing this up every single time he writes something, let me comment about Marshall's work.

I want to take notice of the slender reed he hangs his faith on, history. My argument is that historical studies are a very weak thread to hang one's faith upon. I argue that if God exists and if he revealed himself in history, especially ancient history, rather than in the present, he chose a poor medium and a poor era to do so.

There are so many things Marshall must be right about, any one of which if he's wrong about, will destroy the foundation of his faith. There are too many of them to list, but just take for instance the five stages of Gospel production. There is the oral stage, the pre-Gospel writings, the Gospels themselves (including those of Peter and Judas), the transmission of these texts, along with the canonization of the New Testament itself. You must believe God guided this whole process perfectly, which included uninspired free willed people, even though God does not guide the free willed actions of people intent on doing evil in today's world. Why would he do the one and not the other?

Then we have the problem of confirming that the canonical gospels and the rest of the New Testament are true. Even if we grant that we have the proper texts we can still ask whether or not we should believe what they said. Just because they might claim to be inspired doesn't mean they are. And in them we see a magical healing fountain like the Pool of Siloam, people who believe a handkerchief can heal them, and others who believes Paul and Barnabas were "gods come down to men." According to the way we now think, Christians included, we would reject such things, along with the way the New Testament writers employed the texts of the OT to support their views.

It's a such a slender reed that William Lane Craig takes an existential leap. Just see this for yourselves here, when I asked him about this. See also my follow up question which he has not yet addressed.

What a slender reed your faith hangs on. Why are you so sure it's true?
Layman said…

There is a difference between irony and lying. As the rest of the post you complain of makes clear, I was referring to your extended justification for intentionally deceiving your blog readers. See how I ask "to what are you referring" and then answer the question myself?

I also had in mind your denial about reviewing your own book.

If you come to this site and leave taunting comments instead of substantive responses, you will be labeled a blowhard.

And how can you complain about ad hominems in one breath and then imply I'd burn you at the stake if I had the chance in the other? Should I be grateful you don't have the power to send me to the gulag or to some reeducation camp? Atheist atroticities are a much more recent fact of history, Mr. Loftus.
Jason Pratt said…
Annnnnnnd so much for any discussion of the actual topic at hand. Thanks guys... {sigh} Sorry, David--it's hard for me to resist tagging John when he's boasting, too. {wry g}

Frankly, John, unless atheists start putting up actually new arguments that are actually better than the previous ones, then (in whatever way one decides to consider it) we have 'withstood your biggest attacks'. I'll worry about new arguments when they actually arrive and when they turn out to be actually threatening. Until then, increasing numbers of atheists attempting the same arguments that have already been proffered over the last 250 years, may keep our hands full and be a bother in that sense, but it isn't something for us to get panicky about. As far as I can tell, you have exactly the same attitude toward us in reverse, so you ought to be able to understand and appreciate our lack of concern.

I could anticipate David's answer for him, to your actual comment about 'his work'. (Which still isn't about the actual topic at hand.) But that's for him to do, not me.

As for my own answer about why I'm so sure my faith is true, it's because I think it deductively follows from holding to the presumption that even sceptics can be not only responsible thinkers but also correct on particular points. The more respect and regard I have for a non-believer, the more sure I am that my faith is true.

But we've been over this before. Or not, rather.

Layman said…
Sorry, JRP. Your find interview does deserve better.
John W. Loftus said…
Layman, I am not one of the New Atheists. You and some others here have treated me that way from the first time I stepped on your turf. Because of this treatment I have tried to distinguish myself from them. That's why I sound like a such a blowhard to you. And as far as the "worse than a lie" goes (exaggerating for an effect, eh?) Even a cuddly dog can be provoked to take a bite out of you. I am a very respectful atheist. I like to learn from others. I enjoy the discussion. This is proved beyond a doubt every single day on my Blog (with very rare exceptions, again when provoked). If you stick to the arguments we can learn from one another, argue our cases, and keep blog posts from getting sidetracked. That's all I have ever wanted. You?

I can only hope that someday you will engage my arguments, Layman, for that's all that matters. Yes, Jason, I do think my book offers up a unique and powerful new set of cumulative arguments, especially the PB edition. It has already almost single-handedly convinced several well-read people to reject Christianity, even though the others have failed.

Please, no more ad hominems. Even if I have the moral character of a Hitler it still has nothing to do with the case I present.

John W. Loftus said…
One last thing. I recently wrote the following few paragraphs to one of your other team members here, and I feel it's worthy of repeating because after some discussion we have made amends. I'll personalize it just for you.

"Fault away"...Layman..."Throw the first stone. Look at the splinter in other people's eye all you want to. Make mountains out of molehills, and continue repeating them all you want to. It's that kind of behavior that makes me glad I left the Christian faith in the dust. Thanks for yet another reminder."

"I remember a Barthian Scholar talking about Origen who castrated himself for religious purity who said, 'it's not what I do that bothers me so much. It's what I think about. My mind is a cesspool of filth.' Apparently you are different, purer, holier than others. Congratulations!"

Layman..."why do you really care whether I misled my readers one time? You think I mislead my readers every single time I argue against Christianity anyway."

"And even though I did, big deal. Deal with your own (hidden) sins. Or, you can reveal them and confess like I did on my Blog. That's the difference between you and I. I can admit my faults" [and when caught in a lie yourself, you try to gerrymander around it]. "They are expressed on several pages in my book. Inside the Christian community there is this huge pressure not to admit faults, and you know it. Plus, many Christians never let others forget they did wrong."

"BTW, if what you point out is my biggest fault, then I am truly thankful. I have so many faults and problems that you have no idea. I am a flawed human being, okay? How about you? As a former counselor in the churches I served I know the hidden faults of many Christians, and I suspect you are no different than them."

Can we move on now? Please.
Layman said…

Odd how you accuse me of not engaging your arguments when you have came here and huffed and puffed about all that atheists like yourself are going to accomplish at some point in the future and pretty much ignored the substance of these posts.

Speaking of which, why don't you engage my arguments? I've been active on the net for longer than you it seems and have plenty of material out there.

The fact is that we all have our reasons for tackling the topics that we choose to. Mine include a rough mixture of what interests me and what I consider a threat and what I think I have something to say about. Not much of what you write interests me. That is not a knock, just a matter of preference. You think history is a weak basis for basing belief on, whereas I think philosophical conjecture (like wondering why God did not give humans wings or gills) can be an even shakier basis. Also, I do not consider you much of a threat. I also recognize that others who do take your arguments more seriously are responding to you. As a result, I don't pursue many of your arguments. I drop by debunking christianity from time to time to see if there is something there I'd like to write about. Usually there is not. Sometimes it has interested me just enough to respond in your comments.

In short, barking at those on the other side for not responding to x, y, or z when they tend to write about a, b, and c is pretty useless. Which is why I don't taunt you for steering clear of historical discussions about the New Testament or the Resurrection. Not your area.

I called you a blowhard because you came to this blog huffing and puffing about all the damage you and your buddies are going to heap on us poor apologists. Now you are huffing and puffing about why I don't tackle your arguments when you have mostly ignored my own.

You have an ego problem Loftus. When not everyone takes you as seriously as you take yourself, live and let live.
Layman said…
Layman..."why do you really care whether I misled my readers one time? You think I mislead my readers every single time I argue against Christianity anyway."

Loftus, you are not being honest if you consider what I said in this thread a lie when I clearly indicated what I was talking about. It is a cheap tactic and you'd have more credibility if you didn't try and manufacture some quid-pro-quo that doesn't exist.

What concerned me about what you did was that you justified it for so long, only backing off when your co-bloggers relented and put pressure on you. They saw, as I did, that you were on the edge of dragging down the entire debunkingchristianity enterprise. You claimed you were entitled to intentionally misrepresent and mislead your readers so long as it served your ideological agenda. You insisted on that entitlement over an extended period of time and in the face of many requests that you abandon that position. You only relented after your fellow bloggers chastised you in public (and said who knows what in private). Then, you deleted all discussion of that topic from your blog so that no one could see some of the worst you had to offer.

On top of all of that, you still seem to be misrepresenting the truth intentionally as to whether you reviewed your own book. Perhaps you also admitted that mistake and fessed up, if so, then I would appreciate that clarity.
Layman said…
In a perhaps vain effort to get this thread back on track, Loftus if you have any further comments please post them in my thread on the New Atheists:


Anyone looking for a continuation of this particular discussion can look there. People who are interested in this interview, please keep your attention here.

Any further off topic posts will be removed.
John W. Loftus said…
Layman here's the link, for quick access.
Steven Carr said…
With the vast amount of oral tradition circulating about Jesus, such that the author of John had to make a selection, it is surprising that not one Christian ever wrote a single true story about the life of Jesus which is not already in the 4 Gospels.
Jason Pratt said…
Incidentally, David did try to leave a comment in reply to John back before lunch (my time), but had trouble getting through the Google/Blogger system. I gave him some tips, and he says he’ll try again later.

If worse comes to the worst, I’ll post up any comments of his using my own account. Neither one of us likes that idea a whole lot, but it’s better than not commenting at all or doing so by non-link anonymous post. (I mean for purposes of validating a legitimate comment from David and not from some imposter.)

Jason Pratt said…
Normally I'd reply to Steven's observation, but considering the interview is about David I figure he should be the one to do so. It's an observation worth replying to.

JD Walters said…
While waiting for David's reply, I would point out that no one has ever claimed that only the canonical Gospels COULD have told true stories about Jesus. There's a fair chance that Luke's predecessors, for example, had written accounts of Jesus' life that preserved accurate information. The only claim is that the Gnostic sources are too remote chronologically and theologically to constitute good sources for reconstructing the historical Jesus. In other words, it JUST SO HAPPENS that from the period of the early Church closest to the historical Jesus, only the canonical Gospels have survived. Martin Hengel estimates that about 95% of Christian literature from the first two centuries has been lost to us. It would be hasty to claim to know for sure that only the canonical Gospels EVER preserved accurate information about Jesus, and hence to suspect that this casts down on the canonical Gospels themselves (as Steven seems to be arguing).
J.L. Hinman said…
hn W. Loftus said...

David Marshall recently made the following comment below this post at DC: "...good to come across a site for better-informed atheists. I guess that means the next generation of anti-God books will be more of a challenge than those produced by Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and Hitchens?"

Yes that's correct. We are coming.

My guess is that unless Christians understand what Marshall does they could be lulled into thinking Christianity has withstood our biggest attacks. When this next generation of atheist books hits the national bookstores you will have your work cut out for you like never before.

Now that the "New Atheists" have opened the doors for the rest of us, we will be walking through doors in bigger numbers. And with a specific shelf in Borders Bookstores for "Atheism," more of our books will be on that shelf.

O big woopie do do. I'll take on any comer. give me Dawkins! come on man bring him on.
John W. Loftus said…
Hinman, Methinks you're too flippant.
Steven Carr said…
'This is why, in the "Gospel" of Judas, Jesus laughs at the "stunt double" who dies on the cross in his place.'

Not having read the G. of Judas, where is that?
Jason Pratt said…

I don't have David's TLG book handy here at the office (loaned it out to someone else); but David does quote the source chapter and verse, so to speak. I'll see if I can get the actual quote later. David is referring, somewhat colorfully, to a docetic belief that someone other than the 'real' or 'important' or (in some sense) 'divine' Jesus died on the cross, which notion is exemplified in the GosJudas text.

David appears to be in transit right now--I haven't heard from him for a little more than a day--but I do have the comment he wrote in reply to John and he gave me permission to post it up if it came to that.

My plan, provisionally, is to put it up tonight when I get back from Kentucky, if I haven't heard otherwise from David between now and then. (Not that it's some epic reply or anything. {g} I'm not trying to hype it, just apologizing for the communication problems.)

Jason Pratt said…
Well, I'm back from Kentucky and it's nighttime here, and I haven't heard back from David yet; and if he's tried again to get past the "Booger" goblin {g} then there's no evidence he's succeeded yet. Most likely he's in transit somewhere between Oxford and Seattle, or recovering thence.

So, I'll post up his reply to John myself between the seven-period sets below. Hopefully he'll be able to participate more directly later.


Thanks for the promise of job-security, John. Christians have been answering criticism for two millennia, but it's always nice to know there's a future in your chosen field.

I think you're being a tad presumptuous in your otherwise interesting comments, though. First of all, in the broad sense we're all basing our beliefs on history, that is the systematic interpretation of the past based on intimate reliance on human testimony. (Origin of Species is a fine mesh of testimonials.) But if you're assuming a narrower sense of "history," how do you know (already) that my arguments for the Christian faith are based solely and exclusively on "history?" Even if you happen to be one of the four or five people on earth yet who has actually read them all, and even if you have (somehow) found nothing but historical argument in them, what would lead you to conclude I'd given all my reasons for faith yet?

I'm impressed by your faith, but a bit mystified by your epistemology.

Best wishes

J.L. Hinman said…
ohn W. Loftus said...

Hinman, Methinks you're too flippant.

sorry ;-)
J.L. Hinman said…
say Loftus I don't really know why you linked the term 'flippant' to that discussion when I was not in on it? Do you think I was the person you were talking to?

So want to stop posturing and debate? I think I could straighten you out in a couple of sessions. 1x1 want to?
John W. Loftus said…
hinman, maybe, depending on the topic and my time. My time is limited. I've got a lot on my plate.

In person or not?

Your place, mine, or a neutral place?

What'cha got in mind?

Will there be any ad hominems thrown at me by the peanut gallery if it's here? ;-) They seem to be thrown whenever I come here as if such things answer my arguments.
John W. Loftus said…
hinman, would you like to defend the existence of the social Trinitarian God of the Bible who never began to exist (versus anti-social theories), will never cease to exist, never learned any new truths, commanded genocide, allows intense suffering in this world (who does not follow the same moral code he commands believers to follow), revealed himself through a poor medium (history) in a poor era (ancient times), sent the 2nd person of the trinity to be punished for our sins (even though there is no correlation between punishment and forgiveness) who then subsequently bodily arose from the dead (even thought the believer in miracles has an almost impossible double-burden of proof) and now lives embodied forever in a human body (of some “spiritual” sort), to return in the future (even though the NT is clear the end of all kingdoms was to be in their generation), who sent the 3rd person of the trinity to lead his followers into "all truth" (yet fails in every generation to do this), who will also judge us based upon what conclusions we arrive at about the existence of this God and what he has done (paralleling the ancient thought police), and who will reward believers by taking away their freedom to do evil and punish the dammed by letting them retain their freedom?

Interesting hypothesis, if so. Such a large claim. The larger the claim is, the harder it is to defend it.
John W. Loftus said…
...and who condemns all humanity for the sins of the first human pair?
John W. Loftus said…
...and who does not think (for thinking demands weighing temporal alternatives), and who is not free with respect to deciding his own nature.

Are you sure you want to defend this?
Layman said…
Loftus and Meta,

Please take this to email or somewhere else.
mattghg said…
Jesus is presented as divine in the Gospels, for sure. But his divinity shines through his humanity, somehow. Reading skeptics' attempts to find parallels, only makes me feel the extraordinary uniqueness of this accomplishment more intensely. There is no one like Jesus in world literature.

Reminds me of Kierkegaard talking about people trying to find comparisons to Abraham: "Their wisdom amounts to the splendid principle that basically everything is the same." (Fear and Trembling)
Jason Pratt said…
I think David would agree with that, Matt. {s!}


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