Showing posts from September, 2010

Not enough evidence?

When asked what he would say if upon death he found himself in the presence of God, Bertrand Russell famously replied that he would complain about the lack of evidence for His existence in this life. It is a common enough skeptical objection: if God really wanted people to come to a saving relationship with Him, why didn't He supply more obvious evidence of His reality?
It sounds plausible at first, but there are quite a few situations in which people have all the evidence they need to make an important decision, yet fail to act upon it.
Take smoking for example. The medical evidence is unanimous that smoking is a horrible habit and that it destroys your health, and often leads to deathly cancer. And this evidence is everywhere, printed on every single carton of cigarettes sold at legal outlets. The would-be smoker and the one who already smokes are both inundated with this evidence wherever they go. There are, to be sure, advertisements which make smoking out to be a 'sexy…

Why historical Jesus research is not a waste of time

Derek Flood, whose article on penal substitution in the early Church Fathers I recently summarized, just posted on why he thinks the historical study of Jesus is a waste of time. In this post I will argue, on the contrary, that Flood's criticisms are misplaced and that historical research is a valuable undertaking for the committed Christian.
Flood begins by affirming the value of researching the historical context of the New Testament (which might be summarized as 'background research'): "We want to understand the context of the writers of the NT so that we do not simply impose our doctrinal and cultural biases onto the text but actually hear what the NT authors are telling us." Presumably this includes the study of the original languages, ancient literary genres and techniques, Jewish and Greco-Roman culture, etc. Anything that goes into retrieving the original meaning of the NT texts.
But Flood has a problem with historical research which, "roo…

Does Neilgodfrey Understate Mythicist Reliance on Interpolations?

In August, neilgodfrey posted on a question: "Do mythicists read Paul's references to Jesus's humanity as interpolations or metaphors?" As for interpolations, which is the focus of this post, Neil helpfully answers "No." Indeed, Neil claims "This is another misinformed assertion advanced by some who appear never to have read mythicist publications. " He then notes one interpolation from Thessalonians for Dr. Price and does not mention Earl Doherty at all. He corrects himself in the comments, noting one interpolation entertained by Doherty. Ultimately, Neil claims, "The only interpolations singled out in Paul’s letters by anyone who advances a mythical Jesus (at least from my readings) are those that are strongly argued to be interpolations by scholars who have expressed no interest in mythicism, and who almost certainly would accept a “historical Jesus”."

Earl Doherty

Doherty himself seems sensitive on this point. In a response …

Genre of the Gospel of John: Chronology (Part 4)

This is the fourth installment of my series exploring the issue of the genre of the Gospel of John. My first post on John's genre explored the expressed authorial intent and audience reception. The intent to impart "truth" and eyewitness accounts pointed to the genre of ancient biography or historiography. The second post dealt with John's subject matter, which focused on the life and significance of Jesus, and concluded that this strongly pointed towards the genre of ancient biography. In the third post, I concluded that the prologue of the Gospel of John reinforces the analysis pointing towards the genre of ancient biography, both in its content and as a literary device.

This post will analyze the chronological framework and use of time in the Gospel of John as a genre indicator. On the face of it, the Gospel of John does not seem to differ all that much from the other Gospels in its chronological framework. They narrate the beginning of Jesus’ minist…

Mea Culpa

Over the past couple of months my primary output on CADRE has been concerning Christian doctrinal disputes, mostly about the atonement, but also a piece on the Genesis creation account and theistic evolution. This prompted a critical reaction by Steve Hays over at Triablogue, leading to a series of exchanges which grew increasingly acrimonious. The most recent exchange in particular ended on a very sour note.
I don't want this to continue. These exchanges have obscured the fact that for all the doctrinal differences among their members, Triablogue and CADRE are both committed to defending the truth of the Gospel. I have been greatly inspired and encouraged by the top quality apologetics produced by Steve Hays, Paul Manata and Jason Engwer in particular. I consider them brothers in the faith, but in my frustration and anger I have said things about and to Steve Hays, including in our very last exchange, which were not deserved and don't reflect my true attitude towards him.
I ha…

The sheep and the goats: why there are only two final eternal destinies in the Bible

The New Testament is unanimous in affirming that there are only two final destinies for all people: either the enjoyment of eternal life with God in a new heavens and a new earth, or the 'eternal destruction' of the lake of fire. For theological paradigms in which God's retributive justice is ultimate, this separation is entirely on the basis of one's works, in accordance with the principle of 'just deserts': everyone gets what's coming to them. Those who did well are granted eternal life, while those who did evil are sent into the lake of fire.
The immediate problem is that the notion of just deserts seems incompatible with there being just two ultimate destinies, because in this scenario the penalty for doing evil completely annuls any reward a person might receive for doing good. On some accounts, even the smallest sin, the most seemingly innocuous white lie is enough to condemn a person to eternity in hell, while nothing good that a person does can count…

The Religious A prori

I can't seem to get readers to keep coming back to my new site. the Religious A prori. I don't understand why they wont keep coming like the do with Doxa. it's a good sight, it has a lot of new material. It's not a replacement for Doxa it's just augmentation. I leans more heavily to arguments about the existence of God, but no 42 argument list.

In hopes of working up interest in the stie, here is the argument the site is named after:


(1) Scineitifc reductionism loses phenomena by re-defining the nature of sense data and quailia.

(2)There are other ways of Knowing than scinetific induction

(3) Religious truth is apprehended phenomenoloigcally, thus religion is not a scientific issue and cannot be subjected to a materialist critque

(4) Religion is not derived from other disciplines or endeavors but is a approch to understanding in its own right

Therefore, religious belief is justified on its own terms and not according to the dictates or other disciplin…

Did Luke Concoct Gamaliel's Speech?

Jason dealt with Richard Pervo’s argument that Acts’ reference to Theudas in Gamaliel’s speech is evidence of dependence on Josephus. Because I think Pervo has been refuted on that point, I wanted to address another, related comment that he makes expressing skepticism at the possibility that Luke could have known about Gamaliel’s speech even if it had been given. Pervo raises two challenges to the authenticity of Gamaliel’s address in Acts: that it is to short to be authentic and that there was no possible source for Luke to draw on.

Those who maintain that Luke here reproduces an actual speech have taken on a formidable challenge, not only because of its extreme brevity, but also because Acts represents the action as taking place behind close doors.
Pervo, Dating Acts, page 152. In a footnote, Pervo claim that conservative scholar Ben Witherington “concedes that Luke may have concocted the speech, but allows for the possibility that Paul is the source.” That is quite a claim and, a…

Because of the hardness of our hearts: some thoughts on retributive justice

All human beings, deep down, have a thirst for justice, and this manifests itself in a desire to see evildoers punished. We are properly outraged at heinous crimes like rape, murder and genocide and want to see the perpetrators pay. We enjoy movies in which the 'bad guys' get their comeuppance (I remember literally jumping out of my seat with clenched fist with a loud cry of 'Yes!' when Lancelot hacked Prince Malagant to death in First Knight, to name one of many examples). 'Eye for an eye' and 'tooth for a tooth' just seems right. The moral law must be upheld, and punishments meted out consistently and without exception. Anything less would seem to underestimate the gravity of wrongdoing and let people 'off the hook' who shouldn't be let off.
Retributive justice is very intuitively appealing. It just seems obvious that punishment must be meted out for wrongdoing. We see it as entirely just and proper for a murderer to be sentenced to life im…

Cracking the Jesus Myth Phony Scholarship Code

This was posted on Atheistwach in Feb 09.The website is substantially different now then it was at that time. Several of the sections I talk about below are not there now. I admit that it may jump the gun in certain ways. I think nevertheless I do have a point here about the deceptive nature of Jesus myth "scholarship." I'm not saying it's a "conspiracy" on the order of Thrush or the JFK assassination, but it does look like a put up job in certain ways.I think we are vastly underestimating the extent of organization and power grab tactics being used by an organized atheist movement.

Richard Carrier has a couple of articles on his blog about a big conference for the Jesus Project
held at Amherst last December. It sounds very scholarly. It presents the image of a group of major scholars meeting to mull over the latest scientific findings that prove Jesus never existed. This creates the idea that there is a climate of opinion in the academic world to expose the …