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Showing posts from March, 2008

The Impact of Christianity

At the tail end of the book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success, by Rodney Stark, there is a very interesting quote that I wanted to share. Mr. Stark attributes the quote to a book by David Aikman entitled Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming the Global Balance of Power.

Introducing the quote, Mr. Stark reiterates the major thesis of his book, i.e., that a significant factor in the acknowledged pre-eminence of Western Civilization over any other civilization in history--a rise that found its foundation in the many advances in technology, science, culture, economics and government in the period of time incorrectly called the "Dark Ages"--is "inseparably linked" to Christianity. Mr. Stark then uses the quote from Mr. Aikman's book which initially comes from one of China's leading scholars, who says:

One of the things we wre asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-e…

Robert Price vs. David Marshall

Retopping this message after the live debate.

Popular author and Christian apologist David Marshall (whose interview with the Cadre on the topic of the New Atheism can be found here) discussed Jesus Myth theories with popular author and anti-Christian apologist Dr. Robert Price, on the Infidel Guy radio webcast, Thursday night, March 27, 2008. David's a pleasant and entertaining speaker, and Dr. Price is, well, colorful to say the least. {g} How substantial either side was in a limited radio discussion, eh, hard to say. But radio shows are more for entertaining snapshots of positions, as an introduction to authors' opinions on topics (typically meaning "go buy the book" {g}); and that was apparently accomplished with elan.

There doesn't seem to be a link up yet; but that might be a few days. When-if-ever the podcast is put up for free (Gold, i.e. paying, members have faster access to all archived shows), it'll most likely be found here.


JRP

Justice Delayed -- A James Ossuary Update

It is time for one of my periodic reports updating events regarding the trial of Oded Golan and whether the James Ossuary owned by him is a fraud. For previous updates, see here.

The Trial

The fullest account I have found of recent trial developments is a piece from Herschel Shanks of the Biblical Archeology Society. It must be remembered that his magazine has a lot of credibility tied up in the James Ossuary, but he and others have good access to the court proceedings in Israel. That being said, here is the news.

There were originally five defendants, including Oded Golan. Charges against two were dropped by the prosecution. One reached a plea deal to what has been characterized as a minor offense unrelated to forgery. Golan and a Raymond Deutsch, an antiquities dealer, are defendants in the ongoing trial.

The trial has been going on for three years and the prosecution, having called 70 witnesses so far, is apparently close to resting its case. As soon as the prosecution rests…

The Tomb is Still Empty

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
~Matthew 28:6
When the angel said these words to the women who came to see Jesus in the tomb, the angel was making the point that Jesus is not in the tomb. Rather, He has risen victorious over death, and through His death we are redeemed. The women could enter the tomb (as Peter and the other disciple did) and see that his burial cloths were still in the tomb, but Jesus was no longer lying there. This great event has been the center of the Christian faith ever since -- Jesus is not there and His tomb would never contain Him.

2,000 years later, a certain group of filmmakers led by Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron, tried to put Jesus back into the tomb by speculating that the bone box that they found in a tomb near Jerusalem (the Talipot tomb) was actually the tomb of the Jesus who Christians have faithfully proclaimed rose from the dead. Using evidence found in the tomb, they tried to make the case tha…

What Motivates the Skeptic’s “Study” of the Bible?

Many skeptical critics of Christianity fancy themselves as devotees of reason and dispassionate inquiry. From this perspective, it is those Christians and their apologists whose analysis should be distrusted because of their bias. The myth of the unbiased skeptic was challenged in an excellent book by Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism. His theory is that atheism as a philosophical movement was at least in part a reaction to perceived oppression. A state church linked to oppressive regimes was part of the problem and the denial of God’s existence struck at the heart of its authority. This would explain why atheism enjoyed more popularity in Europe, with its established churches, than in America, with its separation of church and state.

I had not thought about McGrath’s theory for a while. Then I started reading Jesus, In History and Myth, ed. by R. Joseph Hoffman and Gerald A. Larue. This book is published by Prometheus Books, the “go to” publisher for anti-Christian and a…

Not all worldviews are created equal

Skeptics sometimes assert that theists have no more reason to accept the supernaturalist worldview of Christianity than that of any other kooky belief system the world over. Why not accept the 330 million gods of Hinduism, for example, or Zoroastrianism? The implicit assumption is that, outside of scientific naturalism, all worldviews are pretty much created equal, and are all equally likely (or unlikely).

But that's just not so. There's a good reason why a skeptic like Paul Draper believes that the choice of compelling worldviews really comes down to Christian theism or scientific naturalism (see the introduction to Divine Hiddenness: New Essays, in Part 3). It is simply that not all worldviews have proven as accomodating to scientific advances as has Christianity. Science may underdetermine the possible metaphysical explanations of existence, but it does put severe constraints on them which to the best of my knowledge only some form of monotheism, out of the available superna…

Bogus atheist social sciences: Christian's 40 Times more likely to go to prision?

Image
I am starting a series on bogus atheist social science. I find a whole passel of atheists, some academics, some not, trying to do their own studies, all of which suck. Their aim is to show that religion is bad for society. This is a fools errand as a ton of good data shows otherwise. But here is one example. I think you really have almost no chance of doing good social science if you can't read a statistical table.

Boyd, not so swift


One attempt at this bogus atheist social sciences is a site by Boyd Swift. Swift, thought he would be a wrote the bureaus of prisons for stats, but unfortunately he doesn't know how to read a table.

His table demonstrates different percentages of religous faths among in mates. I will not reproduce the whole table, but Christians show up as:
Catholic............... 29267.......39.164%
Protestant.............26162.......35.008%

Atheist..................156...........0.209%

So based upon this statistic Boyd makes his conclusion. Now what is interesting is t…

Good Good Friday!

In honor of Good Friday, here is a link to Chris Price (Layman’s) excellent entry from 2006, redated last April to 2007, “Why is it called Good Friday?”

I haven’t finished the indexing of the “King of Stories” entries, or hyperlinking all the entries together in sequence, but here is a brief list of entries especially relevant to Good Friday and Easter weekend:

The End Begins (roughly midnight Friday)
Into the Trials (before sunrise Friday morning)
The King of Trials (very early after the first hint of sunrise on far-off Mount Hermon)
The Passing (Friday until sundown)
And On That Day He Rested (from Friday after sundown to Saturday evening)
Anastasis (early Sunday morning)
Returns (Sunday and afterward)


God’s grace to all our readers, across the world, this Easter weekend!

Jason Pratt

The King of Stories -- To the 'Puppies'!

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

Lots of plotnotes to this entry, for various reasons; starting with some observations helpful in understanding what happens up in Syro-Phoenicia.

Tyre and Sidon were two major port cities of the old Phoenician Empire, along the southern Syrian coast of the Mediterranean Sea, north of the Galilee region of Palestine. The cities were under Roman Empire rule at that time, of course, along with everything else around "the Sea Amid the Land". These cities still exist and are still major ports for the nation of Syria.

In deep antiquity, traders from Phoenicia established port cities further south along the Mediterranean Coast, forming the semi-independent territory of Canaan (Hebrew for 'trader'); often warring with the Hebrews, and eventually defeated and assimilated.

At the time of…

Just Heard: Dennis Prager Will Debate Bart Ehrman About the Problem of Evil

Was listening to Dennis Prager's radio program and just heard that he will be debating Bart Ehrman about whether the Bible explains the problem of evil on his program today. Tune in quick if interested, though a podcast may be available later.

We're All Atheists? -- Flight 236 From Xenia

A few days ago, I wrote a brief post about the use of the phrase "we're all atheists" by atheists who want to try to say that the belief in less than the full pantheon of gods that have ever been invented by the fertile minds of man is simply one step short of the belief in no gods or God. As I lay in bed last night, my own fevered imagination thought of the following analogy to further illustrate the problem with this mindset.

Imagine two air traffic controllers alone in a tower of a little used airfield late at night somewhere in the Rocky Mountain states. No flights are expected for the evening, and the two air traffic controllers are there mainly to communicate with flights heading towards busier destinations and to handle any potential emergency situations. Bored, the two like to pass the time by playing cards. This particular evening, something unusual happens: the radar picks up an object in range. Imagine the following conversation.

"Hmmm," the first ai…

The King of Stories -- Administrations

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)


The GosLuke incidents reported in this chapter had no specific time/place tags--Luke implies very generally, by putting them where he does, that they happen during Jesus' final tour of Galilee on the way back to Jerusalem to die. Which still fits the general timeframe I am assigning them here; but since Luke isn't more explicit about the linkages, I've ported them over to fill a chapter while Jesus and His disciples are on the way north into Syria from Jerusalem.

Plus, if crowds are following Jesus after the spats He recently had, with Pharisee disciples/supporters of His bowing out--and with His knowledge of where He's going, which soon becomes a key topic in preparing His disciples--then I can easily imagine Him nipping the crowd's enthusiasms by implicitly comparing them…

We're All Atheists?

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." ~ Stephen Roberts
For reasons that aren't quite clear to me, some people actually believe that this is some type of profound statement. Whenever I read or hear this statement, I wonder why someone would be foolish enough to think that believing less than all of a thing is somehow equivalent to believing none of the thing.

Oh, sure, I understand that it is simply a statement designed to show that if I can fail to believe in certain gods, than I should be able to understand why an atheist rejects all gods. I get that. But that isn't what the statement says -- it says we are both atheists.

Well, our friend William F. Vallicella, Ph.D., over at the Maverick Philosopher has taken on this issue in a post entitled Christopher Hitchens and the "We're All Atheists" Canard. Usi…

The King of Stories -- The Death of the Year

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)



The Death of the Year

(The Evangelist continues:) Now there came to be the winter Feast of Dedications in Jerusalem; and Jesus walked among the Temple columns in the portico of Solomon.

The Jews (meaning Jewish leaders, per the Evangelist's standard usage) therefore surrounded Him and said to Him: "If you are the Anointed King, then tell us plainly!"

Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you don't believe.

"The works which I am doing in My Father's name are testifying to Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep--just as I have told you.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them; and they are following Me. Now I am giving them God's own life, and they shall by no means be dying-into-the-eon.

"And no one shall be snatching them from My h…

Plutarch and Richard Carrier's "Kook and Quacks"

Richard Carrier has an article, Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire, which discounts the Gospel accounts about Jesus given the credulity of those in their cultural context. I have responded to the article in part, here. I will address one other example he raises in this post, and if time permits, deal with others in future posts.

The first example Carrier offers to show that “Miracles were also a dime a dozen in this era” is an account Plutarch gives of a speaking statue:

The biographer Plutarch, a contemporary of Josephus, engages in a lengthy digression to prove that a statue of Tyche did not really speak in the early Republic (Life of Coriolanus 37.3). He claims it must have been a hallucination inspired by the deep religious faith of the onlookers, since there were, he says, too many reliable witnesses to dismiss the story as an invention (38.1-3).
Those less schooled in the classics than Carrier will probably lack some important details about this comparison. Whereas the Gospe…

The King of Stories -- Of Light and Water... and Tenting Among Us

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

Another main dramatic climax in this chapter. Keep in mind that the Feast of Tabernacles is also known as the Feast of Light and Water.


Of Light and Water... and Tenting Among Us

After awhile, midway through the Feast (of Tabernacles, says the Evangelist), Jesus went up into the Temple and taught.

The Jews (i.e. leaders among the Jews) therefore were marveling, saying, "Where has this man learned his letters, not having been taught (i.e. formally by a rabbi)??"

So Jesus answered them and said, "My teaching isn't Mine, but His Who sends Me!

"If anyone ever wants to do His will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or (whether) I am speaking from Myself.

"He who speaks from himself, seeks his own glory; but He Who seeks the glory of the One Who sends Him, this On…