Showing posts from July, 2008

Atheists: the featherweight theological division

One thing I like about apologetics (both for theism and atheism), despite its bad reputation for cherry-picking facts, indulging in ad hominems and breeding false confidence, is that it focuses entirely on what is to me the most interesting question in the academic study of religion: the cognitive status of religious truth-claims. There's certainly a place for more phenomenological, descriptive studies of particular religious experiences, religious history and so on, but generally scholars in religious studies refrain from advancing arguments for the truth of any particular belief or belief system. Denys Turner wants that to change: "[this is] how I envision Theology being done within the university-as argument between traditions of truth-claim in contestation over the truths they make claim to." William J. Abraham has issued a similar challenge to religious scholars: "We need more than armchair possibilities and thought experiments; we need actual claims advanced in

Is Richard Carrier Wrong about Romans 8:11 and Bodily Resurrection?

Romans 8:11 and Bodily Resurrection For previous installments in the “Is Richard Carrier Wrong About ....” series, check the post and links, here . In this installment, we turn to Carrier's exegesis of a specific Pauline passage. According to Richard Carrier, one of the most problematic Pauline passages for his two-body resurrection theory is Romans 8:11: However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11. The reference to the Spirit giving life to the Christian's mortal body seems a clear statement that the existing, mortal body will be tra

Why did Jesus have to Die? An analysis of Atonement

On the comment section Mike asks this question: "Why did Jesus have to die?" He sites his own blog "Journey of an Ex Christian:" Monday, December 31, 2007 Why did Jesus have to die? The Bible and traditional Christian theology tell us that Jesus had to die because humanity was lost in original sin. Jesus' death and resurrection paid the price that we would have had to pay for our sins, and all we have to do is truly accept his gift. First let us set up some definitions. God: Omniscient, Omnipotent, Non-Temporally bound being who created all things. Jesus: Emanuel (God with us), Son of God and also God himself. See the Gospel of John chapter 1. Humanity: Creations of God, originally good, but defiled by our original sin through Adam and Eve. I recently re-read the story of the drawbridge operator who sacrificed his son to save the lives of those on the train. The Drawbridge Keeper I'm sure it's not a true story, but it can be moving nonetheless. It's

Desperate, But Not That Desperate

Here is a joke that is in a recent edition of the Humanist Network News under the title of Desperate, but not that desperate : A man stumbles into a deep well and plummets a hundred feet before grasping a spindly root, stopping his fall. His grip grows weaker and weaker, and in his desperation he cries out, "Is there anybody up there?" He looks up, and all he can see is a circle of sky. Suddenly, the clouds part and a beam of bright light shines down on him. A deep voice thunders, "I, the Lord, am here. Let go of the root, and I will save you." The man thinks for a moment and then yells, "Is there anybody else up there?" I found it odd that this was in the HNN. What's odd is that I cannot figure out exactly why a humanist, aka skeptic, would find this funny. From my Christian point of view, that is exactly what skeptics do -- they turn away from the clear evidence presented that God exists and prefer to hope for something else that leaves them despera

The World's Missionaries to Part of the Church

In his book What's So Great About Christianity? , Dinesh D'Souza discusses the explosive growth of what he calls "Traditional Christianity" (which he acknowledges is the same concept as C.S. Lewis called "mere Christianity" in his book by the same name) in much of the world. He compares it to the withdrawal that he sees in the mainstream churches in America which are rapidly shrinking. In the course of this discussion, he sets forth a quote that I found both interesting and accurate which I would like to share. Here in the West, there are lots of liberal Christians. Some of them have assumed a kind of reverse mission: instead of being the church's missionaries to the world, they have become the world's missionaries to the church. They devote their moral energies to trying to make the church more democratic, to assure equal rights for women, to legitimize homosexual marriage, and so on. A small but influential segment of liberal Christianity rejects a

Adam's Rib -- Or Not?

Warning: This particular post discusses a part of the male anatomy and may make some readers uncomfortable. A new book has apparently been released by biblical scholars John Kaltner and Stephen L. McKenzie of Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, named The Uncensored Bible: The Bawdy and Naughty Bits of the Good Book , co-written with Christian satirist Joel Kilpatrick. The book's synopsis begins with a eye-opening question: exactly which of Adam's bones was Eve made from? We all know the story of how Eve was created from Adam's rib. But what if, perhaps, "rib" was a mistranslation and the body part she was really created from was Adam's penis bone? This would explain why human males don't have such a bone, unlike other male mammals. That's only one of many surprising and fun biblical twists readers will encounter in The Uncensored Bible. According to an brief announcement about the book in the Salt Lake City Tribune, the authors answer that it is possible th

Typical Misconceptions about Religous Experince

This was a post on my blog this July 14 (08) and involves the comments made in the comment section by a poster named "Andy Wright." Andy Wright makes comments in response to "More on Extraordinary claims," I will answer his comments here because they are typical of certain atheist misconceptions that I have been trying to correct since I started on internet apologetics boards. The average atheist on the net seems to believe that religion is for feeble minded dullards who can't think, that's its effects are clearly proven to be very bad for both the individual and society, and that belief is receding into he mists of history. Not only are these ideas totally wrong, but they are the exact opposite of truth. Not only so, but that these things are totally false is clearly demonstrably provable with the best scientific evidence. Religion is actually very good for you, religious people are much better adjusted, by and large, than most atheists. Religious people ar

Today in History: The Great Fire of Rome Leads to Christian Persecution

On this day, 1,944 years ago, the Great Fire of Rome began. The fire was devastating. It burned for six days and seven nights, utterly destroying four of fourteen districts in Rome and severely damaging most of the rest. The palace of Emperor Nero and some prominent pagan temples were destroyed in the blaze. Some accounts claim Nero "fiddled while Rome burned," but it is more likely that he was not in the city at the time. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, however, in response to rumors that Nero himself started the fire, Nero blamed the Christians in Rome. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, agai

Evolution: Following the Facts . . . Unless they Lead to God

Dinesh D'Souza, author of What's So Great About Christianity , a book I've been meaning to read, has written a blog entry on Newsbloggers entitled The Dogma of Materialism . In the blog, he discusses his upcoming debate on July 21, 2008, with Richard Dawkins, one of today's biggest popularizers of Darwinian evolution and the view the religion is bad for the world, and elaborates upon one of the issues he intends to raise in that debate: the non-theists' blind commitment to naturalism. (Should Dawkin's book have been entitled "The Blind Naturalist"?) In the course of the blog, he points to several quotes from the bombastic Dawkins about the obvious failures of evidence to support this widely accepted theory, and then concludes with a quote that I had read previously by Richard Lewontin, Ph.D. , a proponent of evolution (while criticizing some approaches to the issue), which is worth repeating (with emphasis added). Consider [Richard] Dawkins himself,

ReligionLink: Resources for Religion Writers

I recently came across a website called ReligionLink : a resource website for religion writers. The page features a large number of links to articles, resources and information related to topics that may be of interest to religion writers. Concurrently, it provides articles, resources and information related to topics that may be of interest to apologists. For example, while there is no link to a page entitled "apologetics", there are links to topics that can be used for apologetics. Thus, there is a page on the Apostle Paul entitled The Apostle Paul: Saint of the public square . The ReligionLink page discusses the "New Perspective on Paul." According to the page: Given his prominence in the early Christian movement, Paul, like Jesus himself, has been the focus of renewed scholarly exploration in the past century that has sought to reread his role in light of historical criticism and new discoveries about the Holy Land of the first century. But the so-called New Per

Dutch Radical Criticism Part II: The Verdict of Schweitzer

In the first post of this series I sketched the main contours of the school of Dutch Radical Criticism, which challenges the authenticity of all the Pauline epistles as witnesses to the earliest form of Christianity. Dutch radical scholars usually argue that the epistles were written sometime in the 2nd Century in the context of ongoing disputes between anti-nomian and more legalistic branches of the Christ cult (this does not of course exhaust the options by any means; there are just about as many solutions offered to the Pauline problem as there are Dutch Radicals; in addition some scholars take a middle ground, where the Pauline epistles may contain an authentic core of Pauline writing but they have been overlaid and interpolated many times so that redactional layers should be discernible, just like with the Synoptic gospels). Mainstream scholars by and large are unaware of this school these days, which has only a handful of supporters. The most articulate and erudite is undoubtedl

The Extraordinary Claims Maxim: Toward Rational Understanding of Evidence

I have a page dealing with this concept on Doxa, but it's not very good. This is a better version. I will combine the two eventually. Carl Sagan made this statement popular in its current form, it was originally used by Hume, Laplace and other early theorists, but atheists have sense taken it as a major slogan for their decision-making paradigm. Marcelo Truzzi tells us: In his famous 1748 essay Of Miracles, the great skeptic David Hume asserted that "A wise man...proportions his belief to the evidence,"and he said of testimony for extraordinary claims that "the evidence, resulting from the testimony, admits of a diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more unusual." A similar statement was made by Laplace, and many other later writers. I turned it into the now popular phrase "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" (which Carl Sagan popularized into what is almost the war cry of some scoffers). This slogan allows atheists t