CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

The Bible is a book that proponents claim is history but which many detractors claim is the creation of story-tellers. The New Testament, which is the 27 most recently written of the Bible's 66 books, has a well-attested historical backdrop in which its accounts take place. Certain historical findings -- such as the finding of the tomb of Caiphas and the Pool of Siloam -- have added credence to the Christian contention that the authors of the New Testament documents were accurate in their description of people and places. The 39 books of the Old Testament, however, stretch back into times that historians and archaeologists know little about and about which little archaeological evidence can be found or even expected to be found. Some skeptics suggested for a time that even King David didn't exist and that the majority of the Old Testament writings were written during the exile of the Jewish people around 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Obviously, the older one goes into the ancient books, the less evidence exists to support the Biblical accounts. Many archaeologists don't believe that the Exodus occurred or that the accounts in the book of Genesis that predate the Exodus, for example, the accounts of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), have any historical basis at all.

Over time, evidence has come to light that have given credibility to some of the Biblical accounts dating back to the time of Saul. But the period of the Patriarchs remains largely murky and not confirmed by archaeological excavation.

But that may change.

According to an account from the Middle East Media Research Institute, an investigation into some "charms" that had been stored in the vaults of the Egyptian Museum present some startling evidence for the existence of Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and later became a member of the ruling class of Egypt (all as detailed in the latter chapters of the book of Genesis). The article, entitled Leading Egyptian Daily 'Al-Ahram' Reports: Coins from Era of Biblical Joseph Found in Egypt, says that Egyptian archaeologists and researchers have determined that ancient coins that had been misidentified as charms were actually ancient coins from the time of the Pharoahs.

What is truly interesting about these coins is the fact that some allegedly have been imprinted with the name and depiction of Joseph. According to the story:

The researchers discovered the coins when they sifted through thousands of small archeological artifacts stored in [the vaults of] the Museum of Egypt. [Initially] they took them for charms, but a thorough examination revealed that the coins bore the year in which they were minted and their value, or effigies of the pharaohs [who ruled] at the time of their minting. Some of the coins are from the time when Joseph lived in Egypt, and bear his name and portrait.

***

The researcher identified coins from many different periods, including coins that bore special markings identifying them as being from the era of Joseph. Among these, there was one coin that had an inscription on it, and an image of a cow symbolizing Pharaoh's dream about the seven fat cows and seven lean cows, and the seven green stalks of grain and seven dry stalks of grain. It was found that the inscriptions of this early period were usually simple, since writing was still in its early stages, and consequently there was difficulty in deciphering the writing on these coins. But the research team [managed to] translate [the writing on the coin] by comparing it to the earliest known hieroglyphic texts…

Joseph's name appears twice on this coin, written in hieroglyphs: once the original name, Joseph, and once his Egyptian name, Saba Sabani, which was given to him by Pharaoh when he became treasurer. There is also an image of Joseph, who was part of the Egyptian administration at the time.

If this is true, it would certainly add credibility to the claims of Christians that the Old Testament is a document based on historical fact.

However, that is one big "if".

I am personally skeptical of the news coming out of MEMRI. Some have called MEMRI a propaganda machine. While I don't know if MEMRI is truthful or propagandistic, the accusations about its veracity make me cautious about endorsing this news account as true -- especially when no other news source has picked up the story other than to simply report that MEMRI reported the story.

I will see what I can do to track the story on an ongoing basis and keep readers of this weblog informed of anything that I find. The story, if true, will be extremely important -- but we'll wait and see.

HT: Thinking Christian

One of the more ridiculous assertions in objection to the Christian message is that the New Testament is anti-semitic. I am aware that some scholars have made this claim in the past, but simply because someone -- even someone with a Ph.D. -- makes an assertion is hardly reason to believe that it is necessarily reasonable. While an exhaustive analysis of this rather heady subject is beyond the scope of a simple weblog entry, I do want to briefly raise some reasons for rejecting this claim.

First, let me make a statement about context. I am a Bible-believing Christian and argue from that context. I believe that the books attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all written by those men or written down by people who were their disciples (and, in the case of Mark, a person who was himself a disciple of Peter), and that all three of the canonical Gospels were completed by 70 A.D. with John being largely written before that date and completed sometime shortly thereafter. I have my reasons for holding these opinions, and I am not going to try to defend those reasons in a short weblog entry. For purposes of this entry, the early authorship under apostolic authority of each of these four Gospels is a given.

Having said that, let's consider the Gospels themselves. They are all written by Jews about a man who was a Jew by birth, nationality and religion -- Jesus the Christ. The idea that these authors would write a book that is designed to incite hatred against their own people is a rather difficult argument to make. Certainly, even by the time that the Gospels were completed there were persecutions of the early Christians by some within the Jewish authority structure. Paul, after all, was originally the Christian persecutor, Saul, and he was engaged in such persecutions early in the life of the church (as he attests in the book of Galatians and as detailed in the Book of Acts of the Apostles). But even though there were persecutions by some of the Jews, there were also thousands of the Jews who were converting to the Gospel.

Why would the Gospel writers spread hatred against a people of whom they considered themselves to be part and who were serving as a great source of converts? Remember, being Jewish is not simply a religious belief -- it is a culture. And even the earliest members of the Christian communities considered themselves to be Jewish -- only that they now had the completion of the covenant that God promised repeatedly in the Old Testament. Thus, I think it is accurate to say that they held a belief similar to the present day Christians who refer to themselves as "completed Jews".

But even if the early Christians were trying to set themselves apart as a different people from the Jews and were seeking to categorize the Jews as a completely different people from the growing Christian community, does that mean that they would foster hatred towards their root community? In other words, did they turn the Jews into the enemy (as the result of the persecution) in order to vilify and cause others to hate them? This doesn't make sense because the early followers of Jesus -- especially his disciples -- were well aware of the call of Christ to love your enemies.

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloack, do not stop him from taking your tunic. ~ Luke 6:27-29a.

You have heard that it was said "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:43-45a

Seriously, how can I accept an argument that the men who wrote the New Testament -- the same men who heard the message of love and forgiveness preached by Jesus who went to the cross to die for all sinners -- intentionally wrote the books of the New Testament in such a way as to send a message to hate the very same people from whom the Christian movement sprang? How can I believe that they would abandon the very teachings of Jesus -- the teachings that they were trying to spread -- by inciting hatred against the Jewish people? With all due respect to those making the argument, I don't see how this is a plausible position.

Perhaps some may argue that the message was not intentionally anti-semitic. Perhaps the early Christians did not intend to have people hate the Jews, but that was the effect of their writings. Two things can be said in response: First, the argument is that the New Testament writings are intentionally directing hate to the Jews. This seems to be an untenable position with the givens that I have set.

Second, if we have to worry about the effect of telling the truth, then we may as well forget about telling the truth about anything that could cause someone to hate another person. The Gospel writers (as a given) wrote the Gospels in an effort to faithfully record the teachings of Jesus. The record of his words and actions are the truth of what happened that they witnessed from their particular points of view. It cannot be denied in their accounts that the Jewish leaders had a hand in crucifying Jesus -- that is a fact. It cannot be denied that some of the Jewish people called for Jesus' crucifixion -- that is fact faithfully recorded in all four Gospels.

Is the fact that the Jews (who were the inhabitants of the community where Jesus lived) had a hand in the death of Jesus mean that the Gospel accounts recording that involvement are anti-semitic? If that is the case, then American schools should stop teaching about slavery and the Jim Crow laws of the south because that promotes hatred by the African-American community against the white community. After all, using the same logic, text books that teach that white Americans enslaved then discriminated against the African-Americans incites hatred by African-Americans against white-Americans. Is that true or rather is it the case that historical facts are what they are? Quite simply, if people abuse those facts to press a hateful ideology that doesn't make the reporting of history hateful, does it? It certainly does not.

Let's examine a statement of the case of the alleged anti-semitism of the New Testament on Wikipedia to see how unconvincing the argument for anti-semitism truly appears. The Wikipedia article Antisemtism in the New Testament quotes Rabbi Michael J. Cook, Professor of Intertestamental and Early Christian Literatures at the Hebrew Union College, who notes "ten themes in the New Testament that are the greatest sources of anxiety for Jews concerning Christian anti-Semitism."

While I certainly understand Rabbi Cook's concerns, I don't believe that his arguments make a strong case for anti-semitism being found in the New Testament. I will give brief response to each of his arguments.

1. The Jews are culpable for crucifying Jesus - as such they are guilty of deicide.

Yes, the Jews had a hand in crucifying Jesus. But so did the Romans and we don't accuse the New Testament of being anti-Roman. But as anyone who has studies even a minimal amount of Christian theology already knows, the New Testament teaching is not that the Jews killed Jesus -- rather the New Testament teaches that Jesus died because of all of our sins. We all are guilty of deicide. By writing that the Jews had a hand in killing Jesus the New Testament authors were acknowledging, as Jews, that they were equally responsible for Jesus' death.

2. The tribulations of the Jewish people throughout history constitute God's punishment of them for killing Jesus.

With all due respect, that isn't an argument that is found in the New Testament because the tribulations couldn't start until after Jesus was crucified, and those tribulations necessarily happened after the events recorded in the New Testament. Now, perhaps some make that argument, but that isn't the argument of the New Testament itself.

3. Jesus originally came to preach only to the Jews, but when they rejected him, he abandoned them for Gentiles instead.

This isn't entirely accurate. Jesus wasn't referring to the Jewish people as a whole when he quoted the Old Testament saying, "The Stone the builders rejected has become the capstone...." (Matthew 21:42) When Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God being taken away "from you and given to a people who will produce fruit," the Bible clearly continues by noting that it was the chief priests and the Pharisees who knew he was talking about them. (Matthew 21:43) This is a reference to the Jewish leaders -- not the people who were Jews generally. But even if it did mean the Jews generally, so what? The remainder of the New Testament is about the fact that Jesus died for the sins of all and that there is no difference in God's eyes whether one is Greek or Jew, slave or free, etc. The Gospels are available to all. In fact, debate still rages within the church whether God has preserved a special place of privilege for the Jewish people in the coming Kingdom.

4. The Children of Israel were God's original chosen people by virtue of an ancient covenant, but by rejecting Jesus they forfeited their chosenness - and now, by virtue of a new covenant (or "testament"), Christians have replaced the Jews as God's chosen people, the Church having become the "People of God."

Same argument. Even if the Jewish people lost their "choseness", this is not saying that they are somehow outside the mercy of God as offered through the atoning death of Jesus Christ.

5. The Jewish Bible ("Old" Testament) repeatedly portrays the opaqueness and stubbornness of the jewish people and their disloyalty to God.

Well, that's the Old Testament. I find it difficult to understand how a Jewish rabbi can argue that the very scriptures that are the basis for the Jewish faith somehow argue that the Christian New Testaments are anti-semitic.

6. The Jewish Bible ("Old" Testament) contains many predictions of the coming of Jesus as the Messiah (or "Christ"), yet the Jews are blind to the meaning of their own Bible.

So what? Seriously. No one foresaw the coming of Jesus. This isn't a Jewish problem -- this is a "we mortals can't foresee the way God will move in the world" problem.

7. By the time of Jesus' ministry, Judaism had ceased to be a living faith.

I think this is a misrepresentation of the Gospels. The Gospels teach only that the Jewish leaders (the chief priests and Pharisees) had promoted form over substance and lost the truthfulness of the message God was portraying through the ancient scriptures. Certainly, there were Jewish people who are shown to grasp the truth and be seen as righteous in God's eyes, e.g., Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-6) and Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Luke 1:28). Thus, I reject this argument as not taking into account the entire Gospel message.

8. Judaism's essence is a restrictive and [burdensome] legalism.

Again, this is a misrepresentation of the Biblical message. The Gospels teach that before Jesus all people were under the law and were incapable of keeping the law. Paul taught the impossibility of men keeping the law and the need for God to fulfill the law on our behalf. The essence of Judaism wasn't legalism -- the essence of Judaism was the need to fulfill the law to be right with a holy and just God. Judaism was seeking a relationship with God -- a relationship which continually failed because of our humanity. (Refer to the rabbi's fifth concern which is actually a fairly good statement of the problem that the Jewish people faced throughout the Old Testament scriptures -- a problem that could only be cured by God intervening in our affairs on our behalf).

9. Christianity emphasizes love, [while] Judaism stands for justice and a God of wrath.

That is a hasty generalization that has more support from the atheists than from Christians who do not see two gods.

10. Judaism's oppressiveness reflects the disposition of Jesus' opponents called "Pharisees" (predecessors of the "rabbis"), who in their teachings and behavior were hypocrites.

This is the problem of the accounts of the Gospels: for those who don't believe, the Gospels were written to make the Pharisees and chief priests hypocrites and objects of hate. To those of us who believe that the Gospels are the efforts of the writers to accurate record what they witnessed, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the chief priests reflected in the accounts is largely the result of the fact that they were, in fact, hypocrites. That doesn't mean that all Jewish people are hypocrites, but the Jewish leaders of the time were hypocrites. This isn't anti-semitism -- simply fact as the Gospel authors saw and recorded it.

Obviously, if you believe that the Gospels were written hundreds of years after Jesus' life and that the accounts are made up to project hatred on the Jewish people, then noting I have said here will dissuade you. But I can assure you that for those of us who start with the given that I stated above, i.e., that the Gospels were written by the disciples or their followers within a relatively short time after the events, and from that follows that the Gospels constituted their best efforts to accurately record the facts as they saw them, the claims that the were anti-semitic are rubbish of the lowest order.

Addendum (9/30/09): In the event you read this earlier and now find it slightly different, it is. I made a couple minor adjustments this morning. I also want to clarify that I am responding to the arguments of Rabbi Cook based upon the description of them on Wikipedia. I have no confidence that the Wikipedia page accurately describes or restates the rabbi's arguments. Wikipedia is, after all, notoriously unreliable when it comes to religion. But since a lot of people use Wikipedia, and since it was a straightforward list of arguments, I used it. I expect Rabbi Cook's arguments to be a bit more in-depth then the Wikipedia article, but I have not read them personally.

The following is from a debate between atheist Dan 'former pastor' Barker and Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. The portion shown is one of the most amazing objections I have ever seen in a debate -- Dan Barker objects to his book being quoted because he might have changed his mind about what he wrote in the book -- not that he will say that he definitely has changed his mind, only that he might have done so. Bizarre.



I like Dr. White's offer to allow Mr. Barker to simply repudiate his own book if he doesn't want his book quoted. That's a priceless reply.

Based upon what I have read by Mr. Barker in the past, I can understand why he wouldn't want his book brought up in a debate. Still, I find it to be a most interesting debate tactic -- try to disarm your opponent's critique of your book by arguing that things you said elsewhere in a book that is available to be bought at the site of the debate that addresses the topic of the debate is irrelevant to the debate. Personally, I don't see it as a winning argument, but then I don't see atheism making a winning argument either.

It's probably just me.

HT: Atheism is Dead

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I have noted the Orwellian nature of atheist language. For atheists reading this, Orwell (George Orwell) was a great writer who specialized in political language. One of his greatest achievements was to write one of the best essays ever written on the use of language in political ideology: "Politics and the English Language," written in 146. In that great work he reminds us that:

Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.


Never was this so true than in dealing with atheists. In the way atheists are beginning to use speech we can see all the tricks Orwell talked about. Of course, most of these internet atheists have not read Animal Farm or 1984 so they have no idea. But in their use of certain words they disguise totalitarian leanings one would never suspect. The totalitarian regimes of the Soviet Union referred to their political dissidents as "mentally ill" and kept putting them in mental institutions because they felt rejecting the worker's paradise must surely be a form of mental illness.

I've already written about how the atheists use term "delusion." They actually don't use it to mean mental illness. They use the term to merely mean "a wrong idea." But in using a term that everyone knows means a false construct which results from mental illness, they are actually calling religious people mentally ill without having to admit that they are doing it. It's like if they said religious people are stupid. The religious person objects but they said "it's a special form of the word that doesn't mean really not bright," but then they keep saying it. We would get the idea. It's like insulting people with plausible deniability. Why use a special term such as this, just to mean "this is idea is wrong?" Obviously it's meant to carry a connotation. Now consider the dangers of labeling as mentally ill anyone who happens to disagree with your point of view. Atheism as a whole is becoming more totalitarian all the time and they can't see it because they are so addicted to the charge they get from feeling superior.

Here's the latest example of the Orwellian tendencies. The Dawkies use the term "cult" in relation to all religious belief and groups. Of course they have no knowledge of the true sociological meaning of the term. They think all cults are imposing their will upon brainwashed lackeys whose lives they take over and ruin. An example is the posting by a CARM Dawkie named "Toast"

The title of the thread is "a few questions about cults", but he's just equating religion with cults.

If no one ever told you about your god you would still believe?

If so, would your belief mirror the one you have been indoctrinated into?

If you still would believe even if no one told you these things to
believe would you not just be making things up?


He's trying to say that because you can't come to the same conclusions you do as a Christain on your own with no Bible and no church to guide you then it must be a cult because it's others imposing their will.


Another post by Toast:

sorry but everything...a religion is a cult


This is also the same tendency. Everything the other guys value we disvalue so every term they use we must re-think and impose our own terms. We can't allow them to name their own things, such as "church" we must name them and stick them with the connotations of our own interpretation. So thus Churches become cults. The irony meter is going to blare in a moment.


The really alarming tendency is the almost blatant admission that ideas which don't stack up to the atheist ideology are "dangerous" and must be controlled. This statement was made on CARM Sept 21, 2009, by "Mountaineer Elf.”

Because some ideas can be dangerous. Not all ideas deserve to be heard if they are dangerous.

Trying to usurp science and reality to stick in your deity is dangerous.



The context he's speaking of is an argument for the existence of God. The idea that a new concept or some concept that he doesn't agree with is "usurping science" is quite alarming. What's worse is he's not content for science to stay in its own domain, it must conquer all and control all reality. When is arguments for God usurping science? That can only be the case if he thinks that science’s proper domain is dictating to us that we can't believe in God. It's even worse than equating science with reality. His view is so totalizing that it must control all, there can be nothing in existence that is not controlled by his view point.

In defending this, other atheoids literally said "O he didn't mean it that way and you know it." How do we know it? How could he mean it in any other way? In what way could God arguments usurp science and reality without the idea that science is all reality?

Here's the Orwellian rub. In Animal Farm the pigs control the farm. There's been a revolution, the animals have overthrown the farmer and changed the name of the farm to "Animal Farm" and they are in charge. The pigs are the leaders, they keep putting up posters with slogans telling the other animals what it's all about. But they keep changing the messages until they come around to mean the exact opposite of what they did at first. This is the way totalitarians use language, according to Orwell.

(for a synopsis of the book go here)

Atheists used to call themselves "free thinkers." They wanted us to believe that they were just sticking for the rights of us all to think anything we think and believe anything we believe. Now they begin to define believing things that contradict their ideology as "delusion" and "usurping reality." When I pointed this out Mountaineer Elf redefined the nature of free thinking:

True free thinkers are those that can speak and think with accuracy and honesty. As a scientist, I pride myself on being able to read and understand the natural world and everything it has to offer. Not all of it is 100% right, but I consider the 95% to be good enough.


This is so Orwellian everyone need to see this. He's narrowed the definition of free thinking to the point where it includes his ideology and nothing more. So free thinkers are people who agree with me. Scientists. The true free thinkers agree with me and nothing more.


But wait he's not done. It gets worse. He goes one better:

The rest of your anti-free thought rant snipped - not worth responding to insults. If you want a discussion, I'm more than willing to discuss. If you want to hurl insults, I can just go back to the Evolution/ID forum and have Creationists assume that I'm stupid for not buying into talking snakes, magic trees, and global floods.


Now he defines opposing his form of totalitarianism as "anti-free thinking." This is just like the communists. If you are dissident you are mentally ill and sanity is defined as obeying the state. If you point out that he's against free thought then you are anti-free thought because free thought has now been reduced to nothing more than agreement with him. To disagree with him opposes free thought. So the person who thinks we should all have the right to think for ourselves is now anti-free thought and one who thinks we have to control everything that is not in agreement with the ideology is now the free thinker! Black just becomes white, as Orwell said. That is exactly what Orwell said political language does. Read it again:

"Political Language...is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind..."

Then his cohorts carry it a step further and if you dissent from this truth regime of the atheists then you are a danger to humanity:

May brick

So Metacrock would be happy for children to be taught that HIV is spread through vaccines and that condoms offer no protection?


You can't get more Orwellian than this. This is exactly right out of 1984 where the state has the right to impose that dissents must accept their view of reality even by forcing them to admit something such as 2 + 2 = 5. In forcing them to accept something categorically and fundamentally believed to be totally wrong they are eliminating their ability to ever think independently. That is exactly what's happened to many of these atheists and what they are trying to do to religious people.

In brow beating, intimidating, by mocking and ridiculing people they force them to de-convert and in so doing they force them to alter their most based and cherished beliefs and the fundamental understanding they have of who they are and what reality is. There is nothing more heinous one can do to another person. That is on a par with murder and if I thought like they do I should start calling them murderers.

I'm sure they will come back and say they can't force anyone to deconvert against their will, but that doesn't stop them from trying and it means they are shutting down reason and thought in discourse, they shut down reasoned discussion and reduce the whole situation to a political escapade. Perhaps this means they are not quite as bad as I think, but only because they aren't successful enough in what they are trying to do.

Professor Ben Witherington notes this Time magazine article on the James Ossuary trial. The thrust of the article is that the Prosecution's expert patina witnesses may be heading for trouble as they take the witness stand. The article also notes what we have reported in the past, the Prosecution's case is in big trouble and the Judge knows it.

Another interesting tidbit of which I was unaware is that the Judge in the case has a degree in archaeology. I have to believe that is more common in Israel than in the States.

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