Posted by: Hope | February 24, 2009

Difference between Christians and non-Christians

I posted this as a response to a post over at Got-Fruit. I felt led to post it on here as my thoughts seem so out there from what most Christians think. What are your thoughts? Is there a difference between Christians and non-christians?

I think you may have misinterpreted what they meant by Christians not being much different from non-Christians, if at all different.

The only difference I see? Christians actually see the things that they do as “bad” things, and non-Christians do not.

But ultimately? Yeah, they are basically the same. They both live sinful lives, and are definitely genuinely good people. But ultimately, that’s not good enough for god. God expects us to bow down to him and call him Lord. And if we do not? We’re screwed.

I stand quite close to the opinion that christians arent any different than non-Christians. We all hold very strong morals and hold to them quite closely. Humanist is the word that comes to mind. It’s a great belief, just lacks god in the equation. I dont see much of a problem with that.

I don’t know why I follow god. I dont know why I trust in him so much. And I sure as hell dont know why I came back to religion. Why should I need religion to be a better person? I dont. I know you’ll disagree with me…as you’re probably thinking along the lines of “but the holy spirit helps you change and be who you were meant to be. He shows you your wrongful ways”….

I dont, and cant buy that.

Morality exists in each and every one of us. There are crappy people out there. And sure, I’m bet a lot of them aren’t Christians. But there are some crappy “Christians” out there too.

I’m sorry, but my best friend is an atheist. He is a great person with many morals. I used to be an atheist and I know I’m a fantastic person and always have been. I dont know need to wear a cross to be a true moral person.

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  1. [...] Hope Lounge put an intriguing blog post on Difference between Christians and non-ChristiansHere’s a quick excerptI posted this as a response to a post over at Got-Fruit. I felt led to post it on here as my thoughts seem so out there from what most Christians think. What are your thoughts? Is there a difference between Christians and non-christians? I think you may have misinterpreted what they meant by Christians not being much different from non-Christians, if at all different.The only difference I see? Christians actually see the things that they do as “bad” things, and non-Christians do not.But ultimate [...]

  2. What if we through Predestination in the mix and see that God created Christians and Non-Christians and that we are all loved equally, no matter what we do…
    Lord, I need some coffee…….
    Peace,

  3. “The only difference I see? Christians actually see the things that they do as “bad” things, and non-Christians do not.”

    Incorrect.

    Christians and non-Christians merely disagree about whether several things are ‘bad’ or not.

    Murder, bad. Stealing, bad. Lying, can be bad or can be good. Abortion, not good but not horrible if done legally and early. Birth control and sex education, good. Homosexuality, nothing wrong with it.

  4. Believers and non believers are the same.

    We are all beggars.

    The only difference is that the believers know where the bread line is.

    God makes us believers. We can’t do it on our own. Through the hearing of his promise of forgiveness and His death on the cross for us…He grabs a hold of whom He will.

    Pray for your friend. Don’t beat him up with the Bible (I know you wouldn’t do that).

    And when the world is crushing him with the pain of life (you’ll know when it’s happening to him)…you may be able to slip a good word or two in for Jesus…the One who will one day make all things new. The One who has died for him (your friend)…the One that loves him.

    In these words or similar words..the Lord will do with your friend what he will do.

    It may not happen like you’d like, or it may be years down the road when He comes to faith…or he may never. But the Word will never return vois, it always accomplishes that for which It was intended.

  5. morse: But that’s the thing, not all Christians see those items as bad things. So I disagree with you. There are many liberal believers out there that would also think that what you say is true.

    Steve, I know what you’re saying. But he isn’t like that. He’s too smart, and too stubborn. The discussion of religion is merely a game to him. It’s nothing he will ever take seriously. There’s no sense in trying with him. But that really wasn’t the point I was getting across.

  6. “The discussion of religion is merely a game to him. It’s nothing he will ever take seriously. There’s no sense in trying with him.”

    The law (the world) hasn’t crushed him yet.

    But someday it will. That’s for sure.

    Then, it won’t be a game to him anymore.

  7. How would it crush him? What are you talking about?

  8. I’m talking about the deaths we all experience in life..the really painful instances that bring us to our knees…

    the death of a loved one…a divorce…a job loss…anything that crushes us.

    Sooner or later everyone will have the weight of the world upon their shoulders and that is the best time to comfort them and speak of the One who comforts you.

    And not worry about their reaction or response.

    God will use your poor, inadequate words, for His purposes.

  9. Steve, I’m not sure he will ever be like that. He’s practically 30 years old now. He’s lived a life to have experienced those ups and downs. His knowledge and arrogance will always keep him from even remotely desiring god. He doesn’t believe in him and he backs his beliefs up.

    You can’t change someone like that. You just can’t.

  10. “You can’t change someone like that. You just can’t.”

    Maybe not.

    But God can.

    Nothing is impossible for God. Nothing.

  11. Steve, to prove my point…allow me to go ahead and quote him really quick. I simply asked him if he would ever be a Christian, ever again.

    This is what he said:

    “No. Well, maybe if I suffered some significant brain damage.”

    He really will never change. God cant and wont change his mind.

  12. Hope,
    I can empathize with what you are saying about your friend. I have a friend who is very much like that. We are very close to the same age (mid 30s) and he has no interest in God except as a sort of abstract possibility. The things I see and understand about God based on my own research, searching and experience have no impact whatsoever on him and sometimes I get frustrated. I can’t pretend to understand why, but the Bible is pretty clear that some people just refuse to understand. Look at passages like 1 Cor. 2 for instance.
    What Steve said is quite right. God can change him and in fact is the only one who can. I know many examples of skeptics, atheists and doubters who have found faith in God. Look at the works of Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell and Gary Habermas as examples. I actually had a class taught by Gary Habermas and it was excellent. Your friend will never be convinced in a strictly academic sense, particularly as an atheist. The first step for anyone is the willingness to admit that God exists.

  13. But were those guys like the two friends we share as atheists? I doubt it. I’m sure they weren’t basing there thoughts off of knowledge and science and other random stuff. I’m sure they are like many other atheists (the ignorant ones, at that) who are merely atheists because they have no interest in religion..or because they feel god did something wrong to them. But I’ve never met someone that was a truly devout, convinced atheist that turned to god.

    I’m not saying it’s bad for them to be atheists either. Actually, I’m saying quite the opposite. I have a lot of respect for atheists. And I am saying that they aren’t much (if at all) any different from you or me.

  14. so if theres no difference why do we bother having faith?

  15. We are all born in active rebellion to God and we all live our lives as practical atheists.

    We do not want to trust and believe in God of our own volition.

    God has to grab a hold of us and make us believers and keep us in His faith.

    That may sound a little strange to some, but it is the gospel truth.

    When Jeofury says that you’re not going to be able to convince your friend by intellectual argument, he is spot on right.

    But the Lord can make the stones shout in obedience if He so desires.

    If the Lord one day desires that your friend believe…then he will believe.

    I pray that He will.

  16. Well, to answer your question in the case of Habermas anyway, I see from his bio that he did an extensive search of all religions. You can check it out at http://www.garyhabermas.com/vitainnuce.htm

    Josh McDowell is probably closer to what you are asking for. You can read his story at http://www.josh.org/site/c.ddKDIMNtEqG/b.4169767/k.F42D/Joshs_Bio.htm

    And I forgot about the story of Anthony Flew. He was an atheist who debated against Christians, but came to faith in God thanks to doubts and trouble with evolution. You can read about it at http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/flew.html

    Sorry to get link happy, but I figure it makes for a shorter comment and gives you the words of the people in their own words.
    As for respect for atheists, I actually have far more respect for agnostics who admit that there must be a God but they don’t or can’t know anything about him. Atheists who confidently declare that there is no God and cannot be a God are the most least intellectually curious people I have ever met. They have absolute faith in their own reason and intellect, and since I know they aren’t perfect and have been wrong at least once in their life, I am always shocked at such misplaced confidence.
    Your last statement is absolutely correct. The only real difference between an atheist and a Christian is in whom they have placed their faith. In that case, there is always hope, because faith in something shakeable can always be shaken.

  17. I believe in god because what do I have to lose for believing in god if he doesn’t exist? Absolutely nothing… But look at what you can lose if he is real?! Everything….. Also to point out, have you ever noticed that Christianity is the only religion where our God DIED for us? I think that is weird and it makes Christianity stick out a lot! He also fills that hole in my life where I never feel empty! And if you EVER say you know God then fall away from the faith….you never knew him to begin with!

    I’m only 15 and I love God with all my heart! Why is it so difficult for an adult to believe in god? Aren’t they suppose to be smarter?

    I mean Come On!

    LOL

  18. Hope,
    I made a comment in response a while back but it disappeared into the ether. If it is awaiting moderation I can’t see it for some reason. If it just poofed into thin air, I saved it as a draft, so I can repost it if needed.

  19. It was in my spam que thing. It should be here now.

    I’m sorry I haven’t had time to reply lately or even get on here much. I’ll try before I go to work tomorrow, I’ve been preparing for the concert I had tonight.

    Be patient, friends :)

  20. Wulfgar, I wrote a blog about that once. Let me find it and I’ll post it in this comment again. But you’re right. Predestination is a weird thing. It could make me feel strange on either end of the fence.

    If there is predestination and god made us who we are…and there is no hell and he really does love each and everyone of us for who we are. Then I can totally get along with him. But on the other hand…

    If there is predestination and god made us who we are…and there is a hell and he only loves the ones he chose to make believers? We might be swinging.

  21. Grace, that is precisely my thoughts. I dont know.

  22. Jeff, I’ve heard Anthony Flews story. And a couple others.

    Clearly, there are exceptions. That’s why they’re famous.

    I dont agree with you about atheists. At least not for the most part. Probably because most of the atheists I have met truly do care about truth, and studying. They know the bible better than almost every christian I have ever met. Not all of the atheists I know do, but the ones I am close to….they are quite intelligent about the bible. Though, sometimes they do tend to twists scriptures quite a bit. But thats besides the point. They really do desire truth.

    As for agnostics? They do not recognize that there has to be a god. An agnostic is merely someone who “doesn’t know” if there is a god or not. Yeah…that takes a lot of effort…

  23. Emily, the fact that they are smarter is precisely why they dont believe in god. They study things, and think things over a lot deeper than you probably do.

    I dont want to say anything against you as you’re so young and clearly innocent. But I would encourage you to think outside the box every now and then.

  24. Well, I thought I’d go ahead and jump in and say something. I’m Hope’s friend, by the way. I’ll just respond to a couple of points:

    First, jeofurry:

    As for respect for atheists, I actually have far more respect for agnostics who admit that there must be a God but they don’t or can’t know anything about him. Atheists who confidently declare that there is no God and cannot be a God are the most least intellectually curious people I have ever met. They have absolute faith in their own reason and intellect, and since I know they aren’t perfect and have been wrong at least once in their life, I am always shocked at such misplaced confidence.

    It seems to me that you’re not understanding the meaning of the words as atheists and agnostics use them. If you’re going to understand what a person says when they say, “I am an atheist,” or, “I am an agnostic,” then it would be useful to understand what they mean.

    Atheism, first of all, can be a variety of things. Wikipedia gives a good overview of the various varieties:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

    As for myself, well, that depends upon the god concept you’re talking about. I won’t go into a whole lot of specifics, but a pretty good one-sentence description would be, “Based upon the evidence available, I find it highly unlikely that anything like a god exists.”

    Secondly, agnostics, as a rule, do not “admit there must be a god.” Instead, self-identified agnostics tend to claim that god is unknowable in some fashion, which often means that they are merely stating that they don’t or can’t know whether or not such a thing exists. The position is strictly logically accurate, so I must accept it as valid. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t place a probability upon the existence of a god based upon the available evidence. I choose to call myself an atheist rather than an agnostic, even though strictly speaking I am both, because the probability I place on the existence of a deity is extraordinarily low.

    Finally, on the last part: that atheists have absolute faith in their reason and intellect.

    Well here’s the thing, jeofurry, no matter what decision I make, that decision is necessarily going to be based either on my reason/intellect, or upon my emotions. Now, I’m going to throw out emotions straight away as a valid way of determining whether or not something exists. So I have only my reason/intellect to rely upon. That is all.

    Many Christians, of course, seem to say, “Well, you could just trust God!” or something to that effect. I have many problems with this. First, which god do I trust? How do I know which one to trust? At some point, I have to make a decision: and that decision will be, you guessed it, based upon my reason/intellect (or emotions, but I don’t trust those to lead me to the truth, so again, that’s out). It is, therefore, completely impossible to get around trusting in my reason/intellect.

    So I will use them to the best of my ability to ferret out any mistakes in my thinking, and do my best to come to the most likely conclusion based upon the available evidence. I would consider it irresponsible of me to do anything less.

  25. I believe in god because what do I have to lose for believing in god if he doesn’t exist? Absolutely nothing… But look at what you can lose if he is real?! Everything….. Also to point out, have you ever noticed that Christianity is the only religion where our God DIED for us? I think that is weird and it makes Christianity stick out a lot! He also fills that hole in my life where I never feel empty! And if you EVER say you know God then fall away from the faith….you never knew him to begin with!

    This line of reasoning is very common, and is widely known as Pascal’s Wager. There are a couple of reasons why I can’t take this argument seriously. The first is purely logical: let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that some god exists. Let’s further assume that this deity will reward or punish us, in some fashion, for something we do, say, or think.

    Given these two facts, how should I decide how to behave? The problem is thus: what information do I have as to what sorts of things this hypothetical god wants? All the information that I have available about what any god wants is the word of humans. So which humans should I trust? Should I trust the Jews, the Muslims, the Christians, the Hindus, the Scientologists, the Shinto, or any of a variety of other religions? These do, after all, tend to disagree rather strongly on what I should do to appease their god.

    And then what if all of these people happen to be incorrect on what this deity wants?

    So the problem is that even if I were to buy that it was likely that a deity existed that cared what I did, without any sort of evidence to point at what it is that god wants, I would be left with no idea which way I should believe.

    The second problem that I alluded to is more emotional: why would I want to believe in a god just so that god wouldn’t send me to hell? The entire idea is absolutely abhorrent to me. I would consider any deity so vain that it must punish people who fail to accept that it exists to be a god worthy of being rebelled against, not worshiped. Bear in mind that I don’t actually have any ill will towards the Christian god in the same way that I have no ill will towards Darth Vader: I simply don’t think either is real.

  26. *sigh* I told you he wouldn’t change his mind, guys.

  27. Well, of course I would if there ever were verifiable evidence presented. I just don’t think that’s likely to ever occur. The main problem is that Christians don’t have anything to offer me because they, in my experience, don’t consider evidence to be a valid reason for belief. I don’t think there can be any other valid reason than that based upon evidence.

    Hope says: Like I said. You wont change. Cause that will never happen. No Christian can present you any evidence that’s strong enough to override your train of thought now. It will never happen.

  28. Jason,
    It’s good to hear from you. Let me first say, I stand by my definitions. Atheists are people who believe that there is no god. Even the first sentence of the Wikipedia definition says that, and I don’t place a lot of confidence in Wiki as a source of knowledge. Atheists who assert that there is no god are claiming they have absolute knowledge. It is unwavering faith in self.
    Agnostics are those who leave open the possibility that there may indeed be a god, in other words they believe that a god may exist and are not willing to categorically deny that based on the understanding of our inherently limited pool of knowledge.

    Your other question is the more interesting one:

    First, which god do I trust? How do I know which one to trust? At some point, I have to make a decision: and that decision will be, you guessed it, based upon my reason/intellect

    From what Hope says, you are the kind who likes to investigate and study. And from what you have said, I would say she is right. I asked the same questions when I was younger. I found good evidence to support the claim of one God above any other. That evidence comes through the story, testimony and person of Jesus Christ. The basis is very simple. Did Jesus really raise from the dead? If he did, it would certainly merit some attention. Is there any proof that he did? I don’t wish to try and regurgitate someone elses work, but if you are interested in at least giving the research a look, check out this page as a good starting point. http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/dialog_rexperience/dialog_rexperiences.htm
    Follow the evidence and see where it leads.

  29. Jason,
    My belief is based on evidence.

  30. Sorry, jeofurry, but evidence that is not verifiable is not evidence at all. There is no possible way to verify, for instance, that what the disciples believed or experienced was even accurately recorded in the Bible, let alone that they actually saw what they say they saw.

    Then there’s also the problem that all religions and other forms of superstition claim this exact same form of evidence: evidence from testimony. It cannot hold water because such evidence disagrees! There can only be one truth about the nature of reality after all, and so any valid standards of evidence must necessarily be able to come to agreement. But they can’t. There is no consistent methodology by which you can take the writings of the Bible seriously without also taking the holy books of every other religion on Earth seriously.

  31. Jason, but if we can give credit to the biography of Alexander the Great who’s earliest biography wasn’t written down until 323 BC…why then cant you give credit to the New Testament gospels?

    If I remember correctly, Mark was written in the 70s (70 AD), Matthew and Luke were in the 80s, and John in the 90s.

    That my friend, is much better timing than the mostly trusted biography of Alexander the Great.

  32. Jason,
    Sorry to assume that you were actually intellectually curious. This evidence is verifiable, if you wish to take the time to verify it and test it. You are biased against a testimonial evidence based on what? Do we convict people in a court based on testimonial evidence?
    If you investigate the evidence, you will discover that the New Testament is the best attested book in all of ancient literature, both in number of copies extant and in the closeness of dates of those copies to the originals.
    The first writers of the New Testament begged their listeners to examine the evidence. In fact, all of Christianity would have ground to a halt with one thing, the dead body of Jesus. No one brought it forth because they could not. The testimonial evidence is valid and acceptable. You accept testimonial evidence every day. What you are really saying is that you are prejudiced against this particular evidence and the rational reason you give is that you would have to treat all religious writings this way. Fair enough. Subject all religious writings to the same standard. The Bible still stacks up and doesn’t back down. People used to discount the Bible because it mentioned Pilate and there was no “evidence” that he ever existed outside of the Bible. Just last century, archaeologists found the evidence to show that he indeed did exist at the time and place the Bible portrayed him. If you want to discount valid evidence, but you can’t discount evidence out of hand by just saying it is testimonial.

  33. Jason,
    I will even give you a non-testimonial piece of evidence. Maybe you have heard it before.
    Karl Barth was once asked, why do you believe in God. He said, “Because of Jews.” They said, “What do you mean, because of Jews?” He said, “Well, find me a Hittite in New York City.” People have tried to wipe out the Hebrews for years and years, and they just can’t do it. How or why have this group of people that claim to be God’s chosen people survived against all odds? Can you point to another group with a similar experience or claim?

  34. “Jason, but if we can give credit to the biography of Alexander the Great who’s earliest biography wasn’t written down until 323 BC…why then cant you give credit to the New Testament gospels?”

    Because the biography of Alexander doesn’t claim that he’s god and has supernatural powers. Or, if it does (I haven’t read it), we don’t take those claims seriously. And we shouldn’t.

    I don’t know about Jason, but I’m fully capable of accepting the existence of an itinerant rabbi named Yeshua who preached some or all of the things in the New Testament and was eventually put to death. But the supernatural claims? Nope.

    Probably not even if the existing reports of such were first hand, which they aren’t.

  35. Morse: So the people that wrote in favor of his testimony, and a very timely manner at that…they were just crazy, lying, or what?

    It seems quite ignorant to pick and choose which parts you are willing to accept. If you give justice that he exists due to his disciples and the words they say, why not give justice to some of his claims as well?

  36. Actually, morsecode, the reports are first hand. The witnesses who testify claim to be firsthand witnesses, and it is precisely that reason that makes the testimony so compelling. Paul’s letters are all written before 65 AD, because he died in 64 or 65 AD. Furthermore, that indicates that Luke and Acts were written before that date, because Luke is chronicling Paul’s life and journey and never reports his death. This is simple common sense. These are men who claimed to KNOW that Jesus rose from the dead and in fact died for that very belief. Saying that they made it up doesn’t explain their transformation from sniveling cowards by their own admission to the steadfast and unmovable men they became after testifying that they witnessed a risen Jesus.
    The claims are fantastic to us, no less than the reality was to them. But for them it was certainly a reality and their testimony of that event is valid as evidence of their beliefs. The fact is that there was an empty tomb in Jerusalem where the body of Jesus had been laid. One group claimed He was alive and had risen. The other group simply needed to bring His body out and show that they were liars and charlatans. They couldn’t and didn’t.
    If someone would like to seriously suggest that the disciples stole his body and made it up, then there is no explanation for their courage in holding such a falsehood together unanimously in the face of penalty of persecution and death. Perhaps in that case we should worship them instead, because they are truly amazing specimens of what can be done on human power.

  37. “Morse: So the people that wrote in favor of his testimony, and a very timely manner at that…they were just crazy, lying, or what?”

    First of all, a decade is not a timely manner.

    Second of all, do you believe the people who say they see ghosts or claim that they’ve been abducted by aliens? Are they all lying or crazy? Or are some of them just mistaken?

    “It seems quite ignorant to pick and choose which parts you are willing to accept.”

    Why? Some parts match known reality. Other parts do not. Until I see evidence that reality resembles those un-accepted parts, I have no reason to believe them.

    “If you give justice that he exists due to his disciples and the words they say, why not give justice to some of his claims as well?”

    Because a person existing and talking about god and the afterlife and sin is not out of the realm of my experience. Just look at Fred Phelps and David Koresh as examples. There is no good evidence for supernatural things in the here and now…so why should I believe the claims that were made thousands of years ago?

    “Actually, morsecode, the reports are first hand.”

    Sorry, but merely the fact that they are written over a decade after the events were supposed to have taken place seems to suggest otherwise. But again, even if they were first hand, it wouldn’t particularly matter. I don’t believe first hand alien-abduction reports without further evidence either.

    “Paul’s letters”

    Paul specifically says that he never met Jesus in life, and demonstrates in his writings that he knows nothing about Jesus beyond the resurrection story.

    “These are men who claimed to KNOW that Jesus rose from the dead and in fact died for that very belief. ”

    And the people at Heaven’s Gate claimed to KNOW that a spacecraft behind a comet was coming for them, and in fact died for that very belief.

    So?

    “Saying that they made it up doesn’t explain their transformation from sniveling cowards by their own admission to the steadfast and unmovable men they became after testifying that they witnessed a risen Jesus.”

    The hijackers from 911 were snivelling cowardly men who were transformed by their own disgusting beliefs that their god wanted them to fly those planes into those buildings.

    Does that testify to the truth of that claim?

    Since when has someone dying for their belief ever been proof of that belief’s truth? I do not argue that they BELIEVED. I argue that they were WRONG.

    “But for them it was certainly a reality and their testimony of that event is valid as evidence of their beliefs.”

    I think I agree. For them, it was a reality, and for them it was valid evidence. But the abduction experience is equally reality and evidence to the person who experienced it. It cannot serve as evidence to anyone else, however.

    If I claim something happened to me and have no evidence to back it up, I cannot use that as evidence to give to you, no matter how much I may believe it to be the truth.

    “The fact is that there was an empty tomb in Jerusalem where the body of Jesus had been laid.”

    So?

    First of all, they wrote that there was an empty tomb. But even granting that there was one, I repeat: So? The BEST explanation you can come up with for an empty tomb is that the occupant of said tomb rose from the dead?

    Sorry, but don’t buy it.

    “then there is no explanation for their courage in holding such a falsehood together unanimously in the face of penalty of persecution and death.”

    Sure there are. Plenty of other explanations. None you want to hear, I’m sure.

    Here’s one, though, just in case. One disciple realizes that their rabbi is actually dead and will not return. Thinking that the rabbi’s message is a good one, and holding it together is worth even a deceit, steals and hides the body so that the others can believe and spread the good story.

    I’m not even convinced there was an empty tomb, but if there was my scenario explains it much better than yours does.

    “Perhaps in that case we should worship them instead, because they are truly amazing specimens of what can be done on human power.”

    How about we worship no one, and just give people whatever respect they may deserve for the things they actually do?

  38. Jason, but if we can give credit to the biography of Alexander the Great who’s earliest biography wasn’t written down until 323 BC…why then cant you give credit to the New Testament gospels?

    If I remember correctly, Mark was written in the 70s (70 AD), Matthew and Luke were in the 80s, and John in the 90s.

    That my friend, is much better timing than the mostly trusted biography of Alexander the Great.

    Looking at the Wikipedia article, it appears that there are five known contemporary historians who wrote about Alexander the Great. While their works do not themselves survive, they are quoted within later historical works. The surviving historical documents that we do have also seem to disagree about many aspects of Alexander’s life, indicating that the specifics are not at all clear.

    With Jesus, by contrast, we don’t have any contemporary accounts, even contemporary accounts quoted by others. The first Christian documents we have aren’t even gospels describing his life, but are Pauline epistles.

    And finally, I’ll have to agree with what morsec0de says, though I’ll also have to add that Alexander himself had a number of myths surrounding him. Some believed he was the son of Zeus, for instance. I don’t see any reason to believe those claims about Alexander either.

  39. You are biased against a testimonial evidence based on what?

    That would be based upon this:
    http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/Articles/sciam.htm

    Synopsis: memory is highly imperfect, and can even be wholly fabricated from thin air. So excuse me if I don’t believe fantastic claims for which the only evidence is testimony.

    And by the way, I find all of your other claims singularly unconvincing. The Jews’ survival means nothing more to me than they have a culture which cares more about their heritage than usual. I don’t see how you can claim that just because the author of Acts didn’t write about Paul’s death that it had to have been written earlier. Perhaps he simply didn’t mention it? Or perhaps the end of Acts was lost? There are, after all, a number of ancient texts of which we are aware that have been lost. As for the gospel writers being eyewitnesses, do you have any evidence whatsoever that this is the case?

    You also seem to think that merely having people believe that Jesus performed these miracles indicates that it actually happened. I’m sorry, but that’s argument from popularity, and invalid. Many times, people are wrong. As for the empty tomb, there is no evidence that there is any such tomb. So why should we think that a body was even stolen when the evidence that it exists at all is non-existent?

  40. I’m not even convinced there was an empty tomb, but if there was my scenario explains it much better than yours does.

    I hate to leave long comments, but this statement begs for a long response. Hope, I apologize if this is too long.

    Question: Christians say that if Jesus’ body wasn’t missing from the tomb, sources would have come forward and corrected false statements being spread by the apostles. How do we know that that didn’t happen and we just don’t have them available to us?

    Answer: You raise a good question about early sources questioning the empty tomb, but notice that it is an argument from silence. While we do have many sources that discuss Christianity and even some enemy attestation that admits the empty tomb, we don’t have any reports that deny the empty tomb. Here’s the key: we can only deal with what we have, and those sources do not dispute the empty tomb.

    Question: What evidence do we have that the tomb of Christ was secure from grave robbers? Some have stated that there was a Roman guard at the tomb. Is there evidence for this or was it in fact just a bunch of inept Jewish Temple guards? How do we know someone didn’t steal the body, not the disciples, but someone else?

    Answer: Robbing a tomb for valuables is one thing — taking the body with you is something else! Why take a male body with you when you are trying to escape? Those who accept the presence of the guards do discuss their identification. But don’t forget, while temple guards wouldn’t be as well-trained as Roman guards, they would have the added advantage of great religious zeal as well as having to answer to the Jewish leaders, who wanted to get Jesus out of the way.
    The empty tomb is very difficult to explain. That’s why it seems that about 70-75% of recent critical scholars accept it. That they do so tells us something very crucial about this fact — why would scholars who are looking at the New Testament simply as ancient literature recognize the empty tomb unless it was highly attested?
    Even so, the more difficult item to explain is Jesus’ appearances. Among all the problems with someone other than the disciples removing Jesus’ body, the main one would be how does this do anything to explain the appearances to the disciples? Really, the only major thing gained by such a move is to explain the issue of the body. As I said, the appearances are the real difficult puzzler on this thesis.

    Question: I was talking with a friend who believes that the disciples lied about the whole resurrection thing. I told him that no one would die for a lie knowing it was a lie. He responded that they were already so deep in spreading a lie that they could not stop. How would you respond to this—that they were already so deep into the fraud that they decided to play it out? He said that we have no evidence that disciples suffered for their faith, except from documents that were written centuries later. I know that isn’t true but I didn’t know what to tell him.

    Answer: Even if you were already deep in a similar lie, would you willingly give the rest of your life to promote what you know to be a meaningless lie, just to save face? Or would you simply admit you were wrong, or even take your family and leave town and start over somewhere else? Further, when your life was threatened, would you then stop and quit, or would you say, “I’ve gone this far promoting my life-long lie, so I may as well die for it!” Moreover, would all of the disciples respond this way in the face of their imminent deaths?
    Further, contrary to his assertions, we do have first century documents outside the New Testament that report that at least Peter, Paul, and James the brother of Jesus were martyred. (See next question below for details of these sources.) Plus, this objection says nothing about how and why Paul should come to faith. Lastly, why did James leave his skepticism when he wasn’t part of the lie? In short, it’s all highly problematic! This is why this particular hypothesis has been virtually ignored even by critical scholars for more than 200 years!

    Question: It is said that the disciples willingly died for their beliefs that Jesus Christ was alive. What is the historical evidence that they indeed did become martyrs? Who says they died for their faith?

    Answer: We don’t have early historical evidence for the deaths of several of the disciples. But four key apostles–Peter, Paul, James the brother of Jesus, and John–are most important in terms of their immense influence in the early church and their strong testimony for Jesus’ resurrection. We have very early, first century data for the deaths of the first three of these apostles. Clement of Rome (Corinthians 5) reports the deaths of Paul and Peter. Josephus, of course, is a non-Christian and reports James’ martyrdom (Antiquities 20:9:1). On this topic, then, Christianity is on very firm grounds. However, besides these early first century reports, I think all we need to argue is that Jesus’ disciples were willing to die for their faith, which virtually no one will dispute. This shows that they at least believed that their message was true.

    Let me point out a difference between the willingness to die of the disciples and the 9/11 hijackers that you cited. The disciples were threatened with death if they refused to deny what they believed and even under that threat they couldn’t and wouldn’t deny what they knew to be true and believed they had seen with their own eyes!
    The 9/11 hijackers chose to kill themselves because of what they had been told to be true. There is a huge difference between those two groups of people.

  41. Let me just say, that I am always fascinated by people who ask for evidence and then react like this when given evidence.
    Person 1: I want to see evidence.
    Person 2: Here is the evidence.
    Person 1: I don’t like that kind of evidence, I want something else.

    I think I agree. For them, it was a reality, and for them it was valid evidence. But the abduction experience is equally reality and evidence to the person who experienced it. It cannot serve as evidence to anyone else, however.

    If I claim something happened to me and have no evidence to back it up, I cannot use that as evidence to give to you, no matter how much I may believe it to be the truth.

    “The fact is that there was an empty tomb in Jerusalem where the body of Jesus had been laid.”

    So?

    First of all, they wrote that there was an empty tomb. But even granting that there was one, I repeat: So? The BEST explanation you can come up with for an empty tomb is that the occupant of said tomb rose from the dead?

    Sorry, but don’t buy it.

    “then there is no explanation for their courage in holding such a falsehood together unanimously in the face of penalty of persecution and death.”

    Sure there are. Plenty of other explanations. None you want to hear, I’m sure.

    The empty tomb is the evidence backing up their claim. I would love to hear your “reasonable” explanation of why the tomb was empty. Try me. See if you can come up with one that hasn’t been shot down a million times before. I gave a few examples in the previous comment.

  42. Jason, you are wrong about contemporary accounts. Peter was contemporary as was Mathew, and John was Jesus’s closest contemporary. Josephus was also considered contemporary. The word mean, “of the same time frame” not instant like CNN
    Your line of argument is relatively new, in a historical sense. Only in the last 100 years has this challenge to the historical Jesus arisen. Before then non-believers had the guts to challenge the message, not just say it didn’t happen.
    So what did happen? Something began to change the world. Something motivated thousands of people to change their life style, to die. And how do you explain the altering of society itself? Why is there a difference between western culture and the rest of the world? do you not see the difference? Before Christianity came to India, name the orfinage that existed. Name the hospital, what were the great technological advances that came from there, you can’t, the seasoning of Christ bringing compassion and the fruit of mercy is non existent.
    Name the orfinages, hospitals technologies of Africa, China, South America, Japan, that predate contact with Christian culture, NONEXISTANT . Our culture is far from sinnless, but what is the difference between Christian Western World and the rest? Christ! He brought compassion, freedom of thought , and the evidence you seek is right before you.

  43. There’s never too long of a response. Typically, the longer they are the more I learn. So write away guys! :)

  44. Let me just say, that I am always fascinated by people who ask for evidence and then react like this when given evidence.
    Person 1: I want to see evidence.
    Person 2: Here is the evidence.
    Person 1: I don’t like that kind of evidence, I want something else.

    I’m not asking for anything unreasonable. I’m only asking for you to demonstrate your claims. Which you have failed to do.

    Look, any kind of evidence that you present must be held up to a consistent criterion for evaluating evidence. This means that this criterion cannot judge evidence valid which leads to contradictory conclusions. You have failed to do so.

    And please, if you want to continue having a discussion at all, name one strong piece of evidence. Just one piece of evidence that can be independently verified, and that cannot easily be explained by a simple naturalistic explanation.

    The empty tomb is the evidence backing up their claim. I would love to hear your “reasonable” explanation of why the tomb was empty.

    Come up with evidence that there was an empty tomb in the first place. You will need:
    1. Independent (i.e. non-Christian) persons confirming its status as empty.
    2. Independent persons confirming that Jesus was indeed buried in this particular tomb, and not some other.

    As near as I can tell, you don’t have either.

  45. Jason, you are wrong about contemporary accounts. Peter was contemporary as was Mathew, and John was Jesus’s closest contemporary. Josephus was also considered contemporary.

    Josephus would have, at best, been a baby when Jesus died. That does not count as contemporary. He certainly wasn’t writing at the time Jesus was alive.

    As for Peter, Matthew, and John, you can’t verify this. If by Matthew, for instance, you mean the author of that book, well, it was largely copied from Mark and some other source, so there’s no way that author was an eyewitness.

    As for John, if you mean the author of the gospel John, that was written after all of the other gospels, perhaps as late as the early second century. The chance that that was written by a person that knew Jesus is essentially nil.

    And for Peter, if by that you mean the author of 1 Peter, well, the probability that he was actually the fisherman described in the gospels is essentially nil. There are many scholars who think it more likely that the account is pseudepigraphal, and may have been composed in the late first century to as late as the early second.

    But suffice it to say, none of these authors can be demonstrated to have been contemporary, and the only historian among them certainly wasn’t. No contemporary historian, in fact, of which there were a number writing in the area at the time, mentions Jesus at all.

    As for the progress in our culture, well, as near as I can tell Christians have both been on the side of progress and against it. But secular people have almost uniformly been in favor of what we now consider positive progress. As for these other nations you mention, they themselves were far from secular.

  46. Can-o-worms anyone? None for me thanks, I’m driving.

  47. Come up with evidence that there was an empty tomb in the first place. You will need:
    1. Independent (i.e. non-Christian) persons confirming its status as empty.
    2. Independent persons confirming that Jesus was indeed buried in this particular tomb, and not some other.

    I am going to be charitable and assume that you skimmed what I wrote, since I already posted it above:
    You raise a good question about early sources questioning the empty tomb, but notice that it is an argument from silence. While we do have many sources that discuss Christianity and even some enemy attestation that admits the empty tomb, we don’t have any reports that deny the empty tomb. Here’s the key: we can only deal with what we have, and those sources do not dispute the empty tomb.

    Do not miss the fact that first century people are not any different than us. They knew how to tell when a person was dead. They knew where they buried the body. They certainly would have known if the person that appeared to them looked like a man who had risen from the dead in power or just a guy who got buried to soon and wasn’t quite dead yet, but was getting better (dumb Monty Python reference).

    More about the empty tomb – sorry for the numbers in the text, they link to footnotes documenting the data and I didn’t want to mess with editing them out.

    A second research area concerns those scholars who address the subject of the empty tomb. It has been said that the majority of contemporary researchers accepts the historicity of this event.[39] But is there any way to be more specific? From the study mentioned above, I have compiled 23 arguments for the empty tomb and 14 considerations against it, as cited by recent critical scholars. Generally, the listings are what might be expected, dividing along theological “party lines.” To be sure, such a large number of arguments, both pro and con, includes very specific differentiation, including some overlap.

    Of these scholars, approximately 75% favor one or more of these arguments for the empty tomb, while approximately 25% think that one or more arguments oppose it. Thus, while far from being unanimously held by critical scholars, it may surprise some that those who embrace the empty tomb as a historical fact still comprise a fairly strong majority.

    By far the most popular argument favoring the Gospel testimony on this subject is that, in all four texts, women are listed as the initial witnesses. Contrary to often repeated statements,[40] First Century Jewish women were able to testify in some legal matters. But given the general reluctance in the Mediterranean world at that time to accept female testimony in crucial matters, most of those scholars who comment on the subject hold that the Gospels probably would not have dubbed them as the chief witnesses unless they actually did attest to this event.[41]

    Third, without question, the most critically-respected witness for Jesus’ resurrection is the apostle Paul. As Norman Perrin states, “Paul is the one witness we have whom we can interrogate.”[42] And 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 is taken to be the strongest evidence for the historicity of this event. Howard Clark Kee boldly asserts that Paul’s testimony here “can be critically examined . . . just as one would evaluate evidence in a modern court or academic setting.”[43] For several strong reasons,[44] most scholars who address the issue think that this testimony predates any New Testament book. Murphy-O’Connor reports that a literary analysis has produced “complete agreement” among critical scholars that “Paul introduces a quotation in v. 3b. . . .”[45]

    Paul probably received this report from Peter and James while visiting Jerusalem within a few years of his conversion.[46] The vast majority of critical scholars who answer the question place Paul’s reception of this material in the mid-30s A.D.[47] Even more skeptical scholars generally agree.[48] German theologian Walter Kasper even asserts that, “We have here therefore an ancient text, perhaps in use by the end of 30 AD . . . .” [49] Ulrich Wilckens declares that the material “indubitably goes back to the oldest phase of all in the history of primitive Christianity.”[50]

    Fourth, while this pre-Pauline creed provides crucial material, it is not the only instance. For example, many scholars think that the Book of Acts contains many early confessions, embedded in the sermons.[51] These creeds are indicated by brief, theologically unadorned wording that differs from the author’s normal language. Although this is more difficult to determine, it appears that most critical scholars think that at least some reflection of the earliest Christian preaching is encased in this material. This can be determined not only by the many authors who affirm it,[52] but also because it is difficult to find many who clearly reject any such early reports among the Acts sermons. The death and resurrection appearances of Jesus are always found at the center of these traditions. Gerald O’Collins holds that this sermon content “incorporates resurrection formulae which stem from the thirties.”[53] John Drane adds: “The earliest evidence we have for the resurrection almost certainly goes back to the time immediately after the resurrection event is alleged to have taken place. This is the evidence contained in the early sermons in the Acts of the Apostles.”[54]

    What I would dare to mention at this point is that Paul should be considered a “hostile witness” in the truest sense as he was actively involved in persecuting Christians before his personal encounter with Jesus. Additionally, James, the brother of Jesus, thought Jesus was mad as in looney before Jesus’ resurrection, but then is found in leadership of the church in Jerusalem.
    And again, even bigger to get around after the empty tomb is the reality that these people all claimed to see a risen Jesus. It isn’t dismissible as a hallucination or a dream:

    1. Both grief as well as other hallucinations fail to explain the empty tomb, for which there are many evidences. You have to suppose another natural hypothesis for the condition of the tomb.
    2. The conversion of James the brother of Jesus is a huge issue, since virtually all scholars think that the evidence indicates that he was previously a skeptic and wouldn’t have a reason to hallucinate. Someone can say the cause was guilt, but there is not a speck of evidence for such a response.
    3. In spite of the suggestion you mention, Paul is still another huge problem. There is no evidence of any previous guilt, but only his testimony that he was totally sold out to his previous Jewish faith. And he persecuted the church accordingly (especially Gal. 1:13-14; Phil. 3:4-6). Everything we know says exactly the opposite. Further, for both he and James, the fact that they never wavered in their commitment tends to argue against such a “convenient” conversion on their parts.
    4. The fact that Jesus was seen in groups, which is recognized by virtually all scholars (see 1 Cor 15:3-7) basically kills this hallucination thesis by itself.
    5. So does the different people involved, in terms of various personalities, times, places, etc., for it would be almost impossible to believe that all of them, independently, were in precisely the proper frame of mind in order to hallucinate.
    6. Rarely do hallucinations ever change lives, in part because there is good data that people are often talked out of hallucinations.

    Lastly, let me leave you with this.
    Try your skepticism over against the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and try to explain this event some other way. The guy I have been quoting most of this from, Gary Habermas, questioned it for 10 years and ended up doing his Ph.D. dissertation on it at a state university. He couldn’t just say that it was true because the Bible was inspired! But there is some real serious evidence for the resurrection. So again, let’s look at the evidence for the resurrection and see if you can explain it just as well in some other manner. Christianity rests on the truth of Jesus’ Deity, death, and resurrection. We can show that these beliefs are accompanied by incredible evidence and are the very best explanations for the data that we know. If this is so, what stands in the way of your believing it?
    (taken from http://www.garyhabermas.com/qa/qa_index.htm#nat)

  48. One more thing about evidence. It is out there if you want to examine it:

    The vast majority of scholars who address this issue think that although Josephus’ longer statement about Jesus in Antiquities 18:3 has been altered a bit, the bulk of it was written by Josephus. This view means that Josephus supplies some very important material about Jesus. An even larger percentage of scholars accepts Josephus’ second statement concerning Jesus being the brother of James (Antiquities 20:9). Further, we have to make sense of ancient non-Christian historians like Thallus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Lucian, who reported all sorts of facts about Jesus. In The Historical Jesus, pages 243-250, I provide a long list of well over 100 items that are reported about Jesus, many by non- Christians. So, to argue that Jesus never existed totally ignores a large body of historical data. That’s why, of over a thousands recent publications on the subject of the historical Jesus, I am aware of less than five who doubt or question his existence.

  49. Try your skepticism over against the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and try to explain this event some other way.

    Well that’s easy: whatever occurred wasn’t recorded accurately in these religious texts. This is the problem with an argument from scripture. Many of the religions have them, and they tend to disagree with one another, rather strongly. Obviously I can’t take them seriously.

    Now, can you present evidence that doesn’t already presuppose the accuracy of the Bible?

    The guy I have been quoting most of this from, Gary Habermas, questioned it for 10 years and ended up doing his Ph.D. dissertation on it at a state university.

    Yeah, it sounded a lot like him. This does seem to be something he thinks is a good argument.

    The vast majority of scholars who address this issue think that although Josephus’ longer statement about Jesus in Antiquities 18:3 has been altered a bit, the bulk of it was written by Josephus. This view means that Josephus supplies some very important material about Jesus.

    Well, no. The more likely original text here can easily be understood as talking about Christians and their beliefs, not specifically about the man Jesus. This is consistent with the fact that it’s not a contemporary account, and is also consistent with all other early historians who are so quoted.

    But regardless, even if you can show the historicity of Jesus, it is fundamentally impossible to show the validity of his miracles, simply because there was nobody at the time that was performing in-depth analyses of such things. Men who claim mystical powers and routinely “demonstrate” them to the world are a dime a dozen, even today. It’s just that today we have people that actually show them for the frauds they are.

  50. So, your confidence in dismissing the historical record is that those first century people were a bunch of unsophisticated rubes?

  51. Evidence for the historical reliability of the New Testament can get quite lengthy, but it boils down to this. If you are going to dismiss the New Testament books, you must be willing to throw away all other works of ancient literature on the same basis. There are currently 25,000+ manuscript portions or copies of the New Testament books. The next closest book in number of copies is the Illiad at 643. The closest gap between the writer and copies of most of the Greek classics we are required to read in school is approximately 1000 years, but I haven’t heard you question any of those yet (maybe you do, just to be consistent). In the case of the NT, we have fragments from within as few as 30-50 years and complete manuscripts within a couple of hundred years. The books of the New Testament are given to us with reasonable certainty of accurate transmission and meet scholarly definitions of historical reliability.
    Yet, your reason for discounting it is that they talk about miracles. That is not rational or reasonable. If a book with this attestation talks about miracles, it would make sense at the very least to examine it a little further before simply tossing it aside on that basis.

  52. Now for quotes from hostile sources about Jesus and His resurrection as you have requested.
    Cornelius Tacitus – Roman historian also called the “greatest historian of 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, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.

    Suetonius – another Roman historian:

    As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [another spelling of Christus], he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome

    This is an event that Luke actually chronicled in Acts 18:2, just to give you a little idea of the historical accuracy of the NT.
    Another Suetonius quote confirms Tacitus’ account about Nero and the “Christians, a class of men give to a new and mischievous superstition.”
    These guys are not just confirming that Christ was a historical person, but they are also confirming that His followers believed him to be supernatural; the Son of God raised from the dead maybe?

    Pliny the Younger – in a letter to Trajan mentioned that Christians sang a “hymn to Christ as to a god” among other things.

    There is also evidence of two writers (Thallus and Phlegon) who tried to explain the darkness at Jesus crucifixion away as a solar eclipse, which is absurd since a solar eclipse cannot occur during a full moon.

    The Babylonian Talmud contains references to Yeshu the Nazarene.

    We already talked about Josephus and you dismissed him because he is talking about Christians and not Christ. Where in the world do you think that Christians started from if not from a person they called Christ? And there is a later passage that no one claims is altered referring to “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James.”

  53. If you are going to dismiss the New Testament books, you must be willing to throw away all other works of ancient literature on the same basis. There are currently 25,000+ manuscript portions or copies of the New Testament books. The next closest book in number of copies is the Illiad at 643.

    Here’s the thing: it was standard in those days to infuse stories, even historical ones, with lots of myth and legend. Alexander the Great, for instance, was supposed to be the son of Zeus by some accounts. The Iliad is chock full of mythical stuff. I don’t buy that the Bible is accurate in its depiction of Jesus’ miracles any more than I buy that the Iliad is accurate in its depiction of Achilles as invincible everywhere but his heel.

    I don’t doubt for an instant that there is a grain of truth to be had in the Bible. I just don’t buy that the mythical parts are to be believed.

    As for your secular historians, none of them were contemporary, and they can be understood as describing Christian beliefs. I know that Christians existed around that time. We have quite enough evidence of the existence of Christians in the first century from the works of Paul. What we don’t have is any evidence the veracity of any of the mystical beliefs of these Christians. Even verifying that Jesus existed, for instance, does not verify that he rose from the dead (something which no secular historian records).

    Verifying a specific event in the Bible doesn’t actually verify all of the mystical stuff that was described in the New Testament, any more than verifying the sacking of Troy would verify Achilles’ invincibility.

  54. Oh, and one quick comment on the transmission of the New Testament: having a reasonably accurate transmission of the texts doesn’t actually verify their accuracy. It just verifies that the texts we have to day are reasonably true to how they were originally written. It does not actually verify that their contents are true.

  55. Oops, made a mistake in my previous post: the Iliad doesn’t actually mention Achilles’ famous invulnerability. That’s a later text. The Iliad, however, does have quite a lot of mythical content, and is generally not thought to be an actual historical tale, though perhaps may be historical fiction.

  56. As for your secular historians, none of them were contemporary, and they can be understood as describing Christian beliefs. I know that Christians existed around that time. We have quite enough evidence of the existence of Christians in the first century from the works of Paul. What we don’t have is any evidence the veracity of any of the mystical beliefs of these Christians. Even verifying that Jesus existed, for instance, does not verify that he rose from the dead (something which no secular historian records).

    I am glad we can find common ground and this is important. There is obvious evidence that something started this movement. The question then becomes what and why. The New Testament is an important piece in solving the puzzle. Since, you agree that the text of the NT as we have it today is reasonably close to what was originally written, it gives a base from which to work rationally.
    One of the most important of these witnesses in the NT is Paul. Paul is self-described as one who persecuted the church in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. Yet, he claimed that all of that zeal changed with a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. And Paul is also the one who consistently pleads with others to check out the facts (the evidence if you please). In 56 AD, Paul wrote that over 500 people has seen Christ alive after his resurrection and most of them were still alive if anyone wanted to go and ask them about it. (1 Cor. 15:6ff) Paul is the one who is recorded in Acts as telling Agrippa to go and check it out for himself as well.
    Since we know with reasonable certainty that the texts are accurate representations of Paul’s writings, why was he so confident that the facts would back up his claims? Why did the early church believe so steadfastly that Jesus was the Son of God who had died and rose again?
    We can both agree that they did believe these things. What I am asking for is a rational or reasonable argument that can explain it away if the resurrection isn’t true.
    The evidence is there that all of these people believed it to be true based on their own experiences or first hand testimony of those who did see Jesus risen from the dead.
    You are a smart guy, but you aren’t the first to try and explain it away.
    If you are absolutely predisposed to discarding even the possibility of anything supernatural, then no amount of evidence will ever suffice for you, but no natural explanation has ever been able to account for the evidence we have that no one disputes. Ultimately, it is your call.

  57. how will you ever know love?

  58. You dont need god to know love. Even Jason knows what love is.

  59. i havent said anything about needing god. im asking how jason knows love.

    “Now, I’m going to throw out emotions straight away as a valid way of determining whether or not something exists. So I have only my reason/intellect to rely upon. That is all.”

    neither reason nor intellect can account for love.

    “Synopsis: memory is highly imperfect, and can even be wholly fabricated from thin air. So excuse me if I don’t believe fantastic claims for which the only evidence is testimony.”

    if memory and testimony are discounted how can anyone know love?

  60. graceshaker,

    You may have been somewhat distracted by what I’ve been talking about here. In this thread, I have almost solely been talking about determining the truth about reality. When considering that, emotions do tend to just get in the way. Emotions, however, are often wonderful beautiful things that I would certainly not want to do away with entirely. But they have their time and place.

    They are wonderful, for example, when dealing with interactions among family, friends, and lovers. In fact, a life without emotions would be completely and utterly pointless. Desire in itself is an emotion, and without any desire we wouldn’t do anything at all.

    Rational thinking fits in here in that it helps to guide our desires. Rational thinking tells us which desires are helpful, and which are harmful. It helps to inform us as to how we can achieve our desires.

    So to live a full life as a human, we both need to think rationally and emotionally. But each has their place. Rational thinking helps guide us to an accurate description of reality. Emotional thinking informs us as to how we should respond to that reality.

    Finally, as for romantic love, this is one good reason why it helps to have good friends who will look out for you in case you happen to fall into a bad relationship. When we do fall in love, after all, rational thinking is almost entirely out the window. We’re basically wired to shut down our rational thought when it comes to romantic love, and so we have to depend upon others around us to keep a clear head and let us know when we’re being morons. The difficulty, of course, is actually trusting them when we’re in a state where we’re not thinking rationally…

  61. im confused jason. it seems you are saying that a personal relationship with god is a matter of reality or non-reality but a personal relationship with *amy* is somehow not a matter of reality or non-reality?

    my question stands – how can you ever know love? how can you know that the testimony of another person is true? how can you place any value in the concept of trusting your friends to balance your emotions?

    im not trying to be difficult but it just seems incongruent.

  62. Ya know Jason…I respect you a lot. But I do think you are wrong in this case. For once, I think you’re wrong. It’s sad to admit this as I’ve never really thought you were wrong about much.

    But this evidence, it just seems so obvious to me. The death and the resurrection, it just seems so cut and dry and obvious. You tell me that it might be good evidence for his existence…but what about his death? You say that he must have survived from his resurrection. I dont have an answer to that question, but what I do know is this.

    You’re avoiding the evidence. You’re reopening already closed arguments.

    I dont know much about this topic, you know that. Everyone should know that. But I am the type of person that ALWAYS observes both sides. Isn’t that how I was an atheist in the first place, Jason? You know how I am.

    This isn’t a science problem. You cant expect specific evidence for something that occurred over 2000 years ago.

    At some point you have to learn to trust and realize that if we have so much evidence supporting specific things, that it should just fall into play. At some point you have to quit coming up with excuses to deny what is so clear.

  63. This isn’t a science problem.

    It’s a question as to the nature of reality. So it is absolutely a science question.

    You cant expect specific evidence for something that occurred over 2000 years ago.

    You’re right, I can’t. So why should I trust any person who claims to know what they can’t possibly hope to know, not when the evidence, if it ever existed, has been lost in the mists of time?

  64. then we can never trust anything. but im guessing you watch the news…

  65. Just because some parts are lost over an elapse of time…I dont see why that is such a problem. Obviously the majority of documents will be missing after a period of time. But what we do have, that my friend is the only thing you should and can worry about. Dont get your panties up in bunch about what we “dont” have. If you would quit being so damn technical and open your eyes to what we do have..wow..you might actually get somewhere. But you wont…You refuse. It’s like you’re afraid to change your mind and it is the most frustrating thing for me. You are so intelligent, yet so damned stubborn.

  66. then we can never trust anything. but im guessing you watch the news…

    I tend to read. I find network TV to be vapid and banal. And it’s also worth mentioning that the news is very often wrong.

    But regardless of those niggling little details, the fact remains that if you rely upon argument and evidence instead of mere trust, you’re much less likely to be misled. This isn’t to say trust isn’t important: it’s an extremely important component of any meaningful interpersonal relationship. But it just gets in the way when we want to get at the truth of some situation or other.

    Just because some parts are lost over an elapse of time…I dont see why that is such a problem. Obviously the majority of documents will be missing after a period of time. But what we do have, that my friend is the only thing you should and can worry about. Dont get your panties up in bunch about what we “dont” have. If you would quit being so damn technical and open your eyes to what we do have..wow..you might actually get somewhere. But you wont…You refuse. It’s like you’re afraid to change your mind and it is the most frustrating thing for me. You are so intelligent, yet so damned stubborn.

    I’m sorry, Hope, but you’re rather off base here. I am completely unconvinced by what evidence Christians do have. As Carl Sagan was fond of saying, after all, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    I would think it rather foolish, for instance, to take a professed psychic at his word for his ability to bend spoons with his mind, even if he is able to show this particular feat to audiences of hundreds and in front of video cameras. The ability to cause metal to bend merely with one’s mind is an extraordinary claim, after all, and I would have to ensure that it wasn’t some sort of trick to take it seriously.

    Today, when I look at the Bible, aside from a number of other issues, I see a large variety of extraordinary claims. Just taking Jesus alone, for instance, there are a wide variety of miracles described, from walking on water to producing food out of thin air, to healing the sick and raising the dead. These sorts of things are quite extraordinary, and I would need to make sure that they aren’t some sort of trick.

    The problem is we can’t even verify that anybody even witnessed these events, let alone whether or not they were some kind of trick. The bar of evidence required to believe the Bible’s supernatural claims, then, is far, far below the bar of evidence required to believe modern mystics and psychics. Given that modern mystics and psychics have been shown to be false again and again and again, why on Earth should I set the bar of evidence below what would cause me to believe their claims when evaluating the Bible?

  67. Jason,
    I simply asked you if you can come up with a more plausible or reasonable solution to fit the evidence that we have. It is similar to Occam’s razor. The naturalistic theories that have been proposed to explain what we can all agree is true have never been plausible or believable. The only theory that fits reality is that Jesus Christ really did appear to His disciples after His death and say that he had conquered death. They believed Him so completely that nothing could shake them.
    We don’t have good “scientific proof” for evolution or the big bang, but plenty of people believe them as well. Darwin’s tree of life is in shambles, but people still cling to the theory. Physicists have “created” dark matter and dark energy to account for gaps in their knowledge. And yet you find the resurrection too absurd to believe?

  68. jason – would you please present me with the evidence that you have known love or that love is in any way a reality? as of now im unconvinced. the claim is too fantastic.

  69. Jeff, dont insult physicists to Jason!

  70. Hope,
    I wasn’t saying it as an insult to physicists, but it is rather convenient to “fill in” gaps in equations and knowledge with an unproven substance that must be there.
    http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/science/know_l1/dark_matter.html

    There is currently much ongoing research by scientists attempting to discover exactly what this dark matter is, how much there is, and what effect it may have on the future of the Universe as a whole.

    I am not the one that made this stuff up. Talk about having some faith in something.

  71. I simply asked you if you can come up with a more plausible or reasonable solution to fit the evidence that we have. It is similar to Occam’s razor.

    Which I did: the events were not recorded accurately. This is far, far simpler because it assumes absolutely nothing that we don’t already know about humans: that we make mistakes. All the time. And it requires no additional hypothetical entities.

    The onus is upon you, then, to provide evidence for how we can be sure that those events were accurate. The problem, as I described in my previous post to Hope, however, is that that evidence would have to be strong enough to debunk a modern psychic or mystic or other claim of a miracle. And the problem is that that sort of evidence is simply unavailable. So there is, in effect, no way to show that Jesus possessed supernatural powers. Unless he were to appear before us, of course. But that’s a different issue.

    We don’t have good “scientific proof” for evolution or the big bang,

    We most definitely do. I suggest you educate yourself. Here are two essays that I have found rather comprehensive for those written for the general public:
    29+ evidences for common descent
    Evidence for the Big Bang

    If you can get through the introduction to either essay, I will be impressed. If you can actually refute even one line of evidence presented in either essay, I will be absolutely flabbergasted.

    Now, while the evidence for the big bang theory is nowhere near as strong as the evidence for evolution, it is strong enough that it is quite inconceivable that it can be entirely incorrect. We know it’s not perfectly accurate, but we can be certain that it is correct in general. The evidence for evolution is much stronger, but the conclusion is much the same: we know it’s not perfectly accurate, but it is still quite accurate.

    jason – would you please present me with the evidence that you have known love or that love is in any way a reality? as of now im unconvinced. the claim is too fantastic.

    I see no reason to bother trying. If you desire to think of me as something other than human, or as a human with a severe mental deficit, then I suppose that is your prerogative.

  72. I didn’t read far enough back to see that you pulled out that tired old saying of Carl Sagan’s

    I am completely unconvinced by what evidence Christians do have. As Carl Sagan was fond of saying, after all, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    Contra the late Mr. Sagan, the evidence required to prove a claim is identical. Whether an individual claims to be able to dribble a basketball or levitate a basketball, he can’t prove it without demonstrating it to us, regardless of how reasonable we might feel his claim to be. The “extraordinary claims” argument is less an insistence on requiring extraordinary evidence to accept supernatural claims as it is for an argument for accepting certain natural claims without any evidence beyond the testimonial. The claim that “extraordinary evidence” is required is fundamentally illogical. Because that which is supernatural must interact with the natural in order to be perceived, most supernatural activity will leave natural footprints which are capable of being evaluated by fully natural means. “Extraordinary claims” require no extra proof of their soundness, the only difference between an “extraordinary claim” and an ordinary one is that there is usually less tangential knowledge surrounding what is described as an extraordinary one. But that tangential knowledge should not be confused with evidence in itself, especially when it does not even support the specific claim being made.

    From a logical perspective, Sagan did much better when he remarked that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    We have an interaction of the supernatural interacting with the natural and turning the Roman empire on its head in the Bible, which is confirmed by the course of human history as well. Do you have a better explanation for it that the one I have given? I would be willing to entertain ideas for plausibility.

  73. Jason,
    I have read quite a bit from the 29+ evidences site and I have found a few problems. Seems that science can’t stay current with itself and this site that hasn’t been updated in a couple of years is so old school now. They have this quote from Darwin at the beginning of the section, Part 1:
    The Unique Universal Phylogenetic Tree

    “As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever-branching and beautiful ramifications.”

    Charles Darwin
    The Origin of Species, p. 171

    I assume they are quoting it because they believe this is accurate. In fact, they go on to argue for it in the first paragraphs on that page:

    If every living species descended from an original species that had these four obligate functions, then all living species today should necessarily have these functions (a somewhat trivial conclusion). Most importantly, however, all modern species should have inherited the structures that perform these functions. Thus, a basic prediction of the genealogical relatedness of all life, combined with the constraint of gradualism, is that organisms should be very similar in the particular mechanisms and structures that execute these four basic life processes.
    Confirmation:
    The common polymers of life

    The structures that all known organisms use to perform these four basic processes are all quite similar, in spite of the odds. All known living things use polymers to perform these four basic functions. Organic chemists have synthesized hundreds of different polymers, yet the only ones used by life, irrespective of species, are polynucleotides, polypeptides, and polysaccharides. Regardless of the species, the DNA, RNA and proteins used in known living systems all have the same chirality, even though there are at least two chemically equivalent choices of chirality for each of these molecules. For example, RNA has four chiral centers in its ribose ring, which means that it has 16 possible stereoisomers—but only one of these stereoisomers is found in the RNA of known living organisms.

    But look at what was in New Scientist Magazine online in January:

    The problems began in the early 1990s when it became possible to sequence actual bacterial and archaeal genes rather than just RNA. Everybody expected these DNA sequences to confirm the RNA tree, and sometimes they did but, crucially, sometimes they did not. RNA, for example, might suggest that species A was more closely related to species B than species C, but a tree made from DNA would suggest the reverse.

    Which was correct? Paradoxically, both – but only if the main premise underpinning Darwin’s tree was incorrect. Darwin assumed that descent was exclusively “vertical”, with organisms passing traits down to their offspring. But what if species also routinely swapped genetic material with other species, or hybridised with them? Then that neat branching pattern would quickly degenerate into an impenetrable thicket of interrelatedness, with species being closely related in some respects but not others.

    Here is the article link if you want to read the whole thing. . Turns out that scientists don’t think Darwin’s tree is a valid explanation anymore.
    I am picturing you flabbergasted now, if only I knew what you looked like.
    Let me give you another angle for why life has common building blocks. It was all designed by the same guy.

  74. So there is, in effect, no way to show that Jesus possessed supernatural powers. Unless he were to appear before us, of course. But that’s a different issue.

    He did this, but you think that the people whose lives changed completely because of that event are all liars apparently. You are willing to concede that the New Testament as we have it today is reasonably accurate in the content of what those people wrote down. Those people wrote down what happened to them. Your excuse for not believing them is that “people make mistakes.” But are you really saying that over 500 people make the same mistake all at the same time? That stretches the bounds of human credibility. Paul wrote that 500 people were available for his readers to question about the veracity of his claim that Jesus rose from the dead. He challenged first century people to check the facts out for themselves to see if he was lying. Why would he do that?

  75. I see no reason to bother trying. If you desire to think of me as something other than human, or as a human with a severe mental deficit, then I suppose that is your prerogative.

    im not sure if you are implying that its human to love or that i have somehow insulted you by asking you to prove it.

  76. I apologize for the late response. I’m traveling for a collaboration meeting at the moment.

    Contra the late Mr. Sagan, the evidence required to prove a claim is identical.

    This is false on two accounts. First, nobody is looking for proof, because we’re talking about logical inference, not deduction. You can’t, in the strictest sense, prove anything from inference. The best you can do is show that it’s likely.

    Now, with that out of the way, the amount of evidence required to demonstrate that something is likely very much depends upon what that something is. The reason this is so is best seen through Bayesian Inference, which puts the logical practice of logical inference on mathematical footing.

    If E is our evidence, and H is our hypothesis, then the probability that the hypothesis is true given the evidence is:

    P(H|E) = P(E|H)P(H)/P(E)

    Here, P(E|H) is called the “conditional probability” or sometimes the likelihood. This is the probability that if the given hypothesis is true, the evidence will appear a certain way. The second probability on the right hand side, P(H) is our prior. This is the probability that we place upon the claim when there is no evidence at all (either for or against). The third probability, the probability of the evidence P(E), is a normalization factor which can usually be ignored.

    So, there are two parts that are of critical importance: the the conditional probability and the prior probability. The conditional probability is important for inference because it means that a hypothesis which could explain any sort of evidence at all gets an extremely low probability for explaining a given set of evidence. For example, let’s just take the color of a clear sky. If I propose an explanation which could, in principle, explain a sky that was any color at all, then that hypothesis isn’t going to gain any evidence when I notice that it happens to be blue (because P(E|H) = P(E), which means all I have is my prior probability). If, instead, I have a hypothesis which demands a blue sky, and doesn’t allow any other sort of color, then I gain quite a lot of evidence that said hypothesis is true when the sky is observed to be blue.

    The second piece is the prior probability. This probability that a given statement is true based upon no evidence whatsoever depends upon a lot of things. First, it is worth mentioning that it is fundamentally impossible to place an objective measure on the prior probability. This is very unfortunate. But it only makes sense that we should be careful to only make use of prior probabilities that allow for a reasonably wide range of possibilities. It would be rather dishonest to place a strong prior probability on things I already believe when evaluating new evidence, for example.

    What we would need to examine the prior probability rigorously, after all, is present the hypothesis in question alongside all possible alternative hypothesis, and count up the possibilities. The problem is that it is impossible to know all possible alternative hypotheses. However, we can at least take a stab at it. An example with a real physical problem might be, say, measuring the mass density of the universe. Because we don’t have any prior knowledge as to what the mass density of the universe should be, it only makes sense that we should allow it to take any value: we should take a flat prior on the density that allows it to be anything above zero. This sort of thing is standard practice in data analysis, and it means that if we don’t actually have evidence as to what the density is, then any number which we come up with is almost certainly wrong.

    Now, what would a flat prior look like for supernatural claims? The problem is that there are all sorts of possible hypotheses, and so we have the same issue as with the flat prior on the matter density: any particular claim, absent evidence that it is true, necessarily must be considered unlikely. When we allow only naturalistic possibilities in our prior, the situation isn’t nearly so bad, just because there aren’t as many possibilities. But when supernatural possibilities are allowed, the available potential hypotheses explodes to astronomical amounts, making any one particular hypothesis unlikely.

    If you take Jesus’ walking on water, for example, the naturalistic hypotheses are pretty simple:

    It’s not possible for a human to walk on water, so either it was a parlor trick, perhaps with some submerged platform, or it never happened at all, and the second- or third- or more-hand information we have was just mistaken.

    If, on the other hand, we allow supernatural possibilities, the number explodes:
    1. He actually was the son of Yahweh and had magical powers.
    2. He was the son of Zeus instead, and during his rebellious stage decided to push another god.
    3. He was the son of Vishnu instead.
    4. He had some prankster ghosts that followed him around and made it appear he was a miracle worker.
    5. Humans actually have undiscovered magical potential that Jesus was able to tap into.

    And I could go on and on and on. The number of possibilities are endless, such that unless we are going to place an unreasonable prior probability on any one, the probability that this was a particular supernatural occurrence without evidence is extremely low.

    Furthermore I’d point out that nobody has ever ever demonstrated any supernatural. So I would place a pretty strong prior on there being no such thing due to this complete lack of evidence.

    We have an interaction of the supernatural interacting with the natural and turning the Roman empire on its head in the Bible, which is confirmed by the course of human history as well. Do you have a better explanation for it that the one I have given? I would be willing to entertain ideas for plausibility.

    I don’t see anything here but post-attribution of the supernatural to a perfectly natural event. You’re going to at least have to show that there’s a high conditional probability for your supernatural hypothesis here: that is to say, you’re going to have to show that given your particular hypothetical supernatural entities, this specific outcome is likely.

  77. I assume they are quoting it because they believe this is accurate. In fact, they go on to argue for it in the first paragraphs on that page:

    Right. Because it’s a superb approximation for the behavior of life. Even Darwin knew about and mentioned hybridization within the Origin. This is nothing knew, it’s just a statement that we can’t take the tree of life to hold in every possible case.

    This doesn’t break the theory, because there is a strong prediction that very distantly-related organisms won’t be able to hybridize, and so once species separate far enough, there will be no issue with confusion of the phylogenetic tree. But for closely-related species, there are often ambiguities and uncertainties.

    So the tree is very much representative of evolution. It must merely be mentioned that things are a little bit more complex than that, and so we need to be careful.

    As for the New Scientist article, that just is a misrepresentation of Darwin’s ideas. Though he was not aware of microbial life and their rather strong propensity to engage in non-discriminant sex (which means they exchange genetic material with all sorts of different cells), he was very much aware of hybridization in, for example, plants. So this really isn’t anything knew. It’s just saying that a part of the theory which was known even by Darwin to be not entirely correct isn’t entirely correct.

    The tree of life is still an excellent tool for understanding the relationships between the vast majority of organisms, even though they’re sometimes a bit more complicated.

  78. im not sure if you are implying that its human to love or that i have somehow insulted you by asking you to prove it.

    I am saying that it is human to love. One would need to have severe, severe problems to never feel love, either environmental problems or mental problems.

  79. Jason,
    I want to take this to a real simple level for now. You mentioned a few days back that you agreed that the New Testament text that we have now is essentially identical to the text that was written. Which books would you agree are written by the author identified in the book or tradition and which are you unwilling to agree were written by the claimed author?
    For instance, would you be willing to agree that Paul wrote the letters that bear his name in the letter in the New Testament?
    What about Mark or Luke and Acts?
    I am not asking to affirm the veracity of the books contents in total, just the authors that you would agree are responsible.

  80. Sorry for not responding for a while. The internet connection at my hotel was horrible. But I’m back home now.

    I want to take this to a real simple level for now. You mentioned a few days back that you agreed that the New Testament text that we have now is essentially identical to the text that was written. Which books would you agree are written by the author identified in the book or tradition and which are you unwilling to agree were written by the claimed author?

    For most of the books in the New Testament, the author isn’t identified at all within the text. None of the gospel authors, for instance, is self-identified in the text.

    As for the authorship, if the authorship is disputed in scholarly circles, I will tend to take the position that the traditional author is probably not the correct one. Wikipedia talks about the authorship of all of these texts, so you can check for yourself.

    For instance, would you be willing to agree that Paul wrote the letters that bear his name in the letter in the New Testament?

    Most of them, yes. Others seem less certain. Some attributed to Paul were most likely not written by him (such as Hebrews and the pastoral epistles). Bear in mind that I take these positions not because of any claimed expertise in the subject, but because when I read up on their authorship, I find that scholars are either almost entirely for one side, or divided. I tend to bias against the traditional explanations somewhat because I have little respect for the ability of such scholars to remove personal biases. It also helps that most of the time the arguments of the prevailing scholarly opinion make sense to me, while the arguments favoring tradition tend to seem quite poor.

    What about Mark or Luke and Acts?

    The authors of these are not identified anywhere within the texts, though we can be relatively certain that whoever wrote Luke probably also wrote Acts. Whoever the author of Luke was, however, was certainly not an eye-witness to the events in the text, as he copies, often word-for-word, from Mark. The text of Luke also seems to speak against witnessing the accounts as he states that he is recording events that have been “passed down to us”, indicating that he is making use of other sources to compile the gospel, possibly both oral and written.

    As for the gospel of Mark, well, that is almost certainly the oldest of the gospels and thus the most likely to be a reasonably authentic depiction of Jesus’ life. Looking it up on Wikipedia, it’s looking like the second-century tradition is that this gospel was a recording of the oral history of the early church. From the Wikipedia article:

    For he had not heard the Lord or been one of his followers, but later, as I said, one of Peter’s. Peter used to adapt his teachings to the occasion, without making a systematic arrangement of the Lord’s sayings, so that Mark was quite justified in writing down some of the things as he remembered them.

    This was an early second-century text, and so may plausibly be considered accurate, at least in part. The gospel of Mark as a recording of oral history is supported by the fact that there seem to be a number of geographical and cultural errors concerning Galilee within the text. So even though it is the most likely among the gospels to be accurate, I don’t think that a written account of oral history with known factual errors is going to be all that accurate.

  81. I tend to bias against the traditional explanations somewhat because I have little respect for the ability of such scholars to remove personal biases. It also helps that most of the time the arguments of the prevailing scholarly opinion make sense to me, while the arguments favoring tradition tend to seem quite poor.

    I find this position to be an interesting contradiction. You indicate that you prefer the opinions of scholars who are removed from the possibility of knowledge by 1800 – 1900 years of time for the authorship of the New Testament books against the testimony of people who claimed to know the writers of those books personally in many cases. That doesn’t seem terribly logical and it is also prone to error. There were “really logical” arguments just a century or two ago that the gospel accounts of the crucifixion were obviously fabricated because there was no historical evidence for Pontius Pilate. That problem was cleared up in 1961 when an inscription was found bearing his name.
    I am also amazed at your continued use of Wikipedia. I hope that you verify information that you find there with at least one or two other sources. I can’t use Wiki as a source for any scholarly paper that I write as it is not considered a credible source by the academic community.

    The books of Luke and Acts should be a source you can appreciate. The writer took it upon himself to write an “ordered account” and did so for both the life of Jesus and the early history of the church. There is pretty credible evidence for Lukan authorship, primarily from the book of Acts and Paul’s letters. Regardless of author, the books are accounts that are drawn from source material, like Mark, and also eyewitness accounts by the author’s own admission.

    The most fascinating part of this is Paul’s work however. I found this information at http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_ntb3.htm
    This site is not biased toward Christianity by any means. They concede that even liberal scholars admit that Paul wrote Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Galatians, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians at a minimum.
    This comment is getting kind of long, so I will start a new one with the Pauline information.

  82. In Galatians 1:11-24, Paul explains his story:

    11I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
    13For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
    18Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. 19I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24And they praised God because of me.

    Paul makes it clear by his own admission that he was an enemy to the Christian church and persecuted them as a devout Pharisee. This testimony is confirmed by Acts independently of Paul as well. Paul states that he has first hand knowledge that Christ is risen from the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, also admittedly written by Paul, he explains what he received from Christ:

    1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
    3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

    Paul claims to have seen Jesus Christ himself, as one who opposed him no less and also claims that as many as 500 people at one time saw a risen Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. These are not the claims of a madman or a fabricated story for contrived benefit. Paul’s devotion to what he knew eventually cost him both his freedom and his life, but he never backed down.
    Paul gives a reasonable and rational defense for his change of heart and compels others to understand through reason and even investigation of the evidence available. The foundation of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Paul offers credible first-hand testimony to the truth of that claim.
    So, please understand that my trust in God is based on the fact that I have found him trustworthy.

  83. I am saying that it is human to love. One would need to have severe, severe problems to never feel love, either environmental problems or mental problems.

    this answer is neither reasoned nor scientific. it relies on the same type reasoning as a claim that it is human to have faith in a creator and one would need to have severe problems to never have faith.

    so again i ask if you would please present me with the evidence that you have known love or that love is in any way a reality. im still unconvinced. the claim is too fantastic.

  84. I find this position to be an interesting contradiction. You indicate that you prefer the opinions of scholars who are removed from the possibility of knowledge by 1800 – 1900 years of time for the authorship of the New Testament books against the testimony of people who claimed to know the writers of those books personally in many cases.

    What? Huh? In what situation do we have this kind of information?

    There were “really logical” arguments just a century or two ago that the gospel accounts of the crucifixion were obviously fabricated because there was no historical evidence for Pontius Pilate. That problem was cleared up in 1961 when an inscription was found bearing his name.

    I don’t really see how this would clear up the lack of evidence that we have. Of course, it’s entirely plausible that there was such an execution because such executions were, from what I’ve read, rarely recorded. But we still don’t have any secular sources confirming Jesus’ crucifixion. This isn’t evidence that it didn’t happen, mind you, just that I don’t see how this would clear up doubt that it didn’t happen in the first place.

    Regardless of author, the books are accounts that are drawn from source material, like Mark, and also eyewitness accounts by the author’s own admission.

    Well, sure, the author claims that he was making use of eyewitness accounts. This means that it is, at best, second-hand information, which tends to be highly unreliable.

    The most fascinating part of this is Paul’s work however. I found this information at http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_ntb3.htm
    This site is not biased toward Christianity by any means. They concede that even liberal scholars admit that Paul wrote Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Galatians, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians at a minimum.
    This comment is getting kind of long, so I will start a new one with the Pauline information.

    And I would tend to believe that Paul did indeed write those. This why I started off my reply to this part with, “Most of them, yes.”

  85. Paul claims to have seen Jesus Christ himself, as one who opposed him no less and also claims that as many as 500 people at one time saw a risen Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. These are not the claims of a madman or a fabricated story for contrived benefit. Paul’s devotion to what he knew eventually cost him both his freedom and his life, but he never backed down.

    He doesn’t claim to have seen a Jesus as a human. He claims to have seen a vision of Jesus, a vision which was specifically not corroborated by the others who were with him. In fact, his account sounds a heck of a lot like the a seizure, a state which is quite often accompanied by hallucinations.

    I suppose if you’re prone to magical thinking and don’t understand what seizures are and where they come from, it’s not much of a surprise to be fooled by such a thing. But you can’t expect me to take it seriously.

  86. this answer is neither reasoned nor scientific. it relies on the same type reasoning as a claim that it is human to have faith in a creator and one would need to have severe problems to never have faith.

    Sure, let’s take that as an example. Though I wouldn’t agree that it’s human to have faith in a creator, it is very human to attribute human qualities to non-human (and even inanimate) objects. I would claim that faith in a creator is just one manifestation of this tendency. But the human tendency to see human qualities in non-human objects does not mean that those qualities are actually there.

    And you’re right that I haven’t reasoned that it is human to love. I have simply claimed it. I haven’t gone further because I thought it patently absurd that you would think that it isn’t human to love. I won’t present a full argument here, but I will simply state that without love, we wouldn’t propagate the species. So love is necessary for our continued survival, which is why nearly all humans love.

    so again i ask if you would please present me with the evidence that you have known love or that love is in any way a reality. im still unconvinced. the claim is too fantastic.

    Well, I don’t see a reason to, because I think you’re just being an asshole.

  87. I find this position to be an interesting contradiction. You indicate that you prefer the opinions of scholars who are removed from the possibility of knowledge by 1800 – 1900 years of time for the authorship of the New Testament books against the testimony of people who claimed to know the writers of those books personally in many cases.

    What? Huh? In what situation do we have this kind of information?

    I overstated this one a bit, because I didn’t say it clearly. There were several early church people who recognized the books of the New Testament as authentic and important. This included belief that the authors of those books were apostles. You have already quoted Papias’ attribution of Mark.
    Papias is one example of someone who was in a position to know who the original authors were:

    Papias was bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, and a prolific writer. His writings survive today only in citations from other authors, such as Eusebius and Irenaeus. Irenaus tells us he was a companion of Polycarp and had also heard John personally. Eusebius cites one passage in which Papias describes how he would avidly question anyone he met who had first-hand knowledge of the Apostles and early church leaders.

    There is also Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John. He quoted from 18 different books of the New Testament and recognized them as “scripture” even at an early date. He obviously knew at least one apostle personally.

  88. I don’t really see how this would clear up the lack of evidence that we have. Of course, it’s entirely plausible that there was such an execution because such executions were, from what I’ve read, rarely recorded. But we still don’t have any secular sources confirming Jesus’ crucifixion. This isn’t evidence that it didn’t happen, mind you, just that I don’t see how this would clear up doubt that it didn’t happen in the first place.

    I cited the Pilate problem as an instance where modern scholars have pronounced themselves correct only to be proven wrong by the Bible’s account. There are many such instances, which you can investigate if you care to do so. It is evidence of a track record of reliability, which indicates that in the lack of evidence to the contrary, the Bible accounts have been shown trustworthy in the long run.

    Well, sure, the author claims that he was making use of eyewitness accounts. This means that it is, at best, second-hand information, which tends to be highly unreliable.

    I take it you aren’t a big fan of journalism or news or history. Almost all of those are based on “second-hand” information, yet we find them to be reliable enough.

  89. He doesn’t claim to have seen a Jesus as a human. He claims to have seen a vision of Jesus, a vision which was specifically not corroborated by the others who were with him.

    I am afraid that you don’t understand Hebrew thinking very well and are trying to present Paul as a Greek thinker. The Jewish people didn’t believe in a “non-human” resurrection. They believed that the body had to be raised with the spirit in some manner. Have you read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:12-18:

    12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

    If Paul claims that he saw Jesus, he is claiming that he saw a real person, not a vision. Besides, you may dismiss his sighting, but you haven’t bothered to deal with his testimony that 500 people saw Jesus at one time. There is no “group hallucination” that can explain this.

  90. without love, we wouldn’t propagate the species. So love is necessary for our continued survival, which is why nearly all humans love.

    nonsense. there are hordes of children born out of sexual relationships that have absolutely nothing at all to do with love.

    Well, I don’t see a reason to, because I think you’re just being an asshole.

    such an assumption doesnt excuse the lack of an answer.

    so for a third time i ask if you would please present me with the evidence that you have known love or that love is in any way a reality. im still completely unconvinced as the claim is too fantastic.

  91. I overstated this one a bit, because I didn’t say it clearly. There were several early church people who recognized the books of the New Testament as authentic and important. This included belief that the authors of those books were apostles. You have already quoted Papias’ attribution of Mark.

    But since Papias didn’t even think that the author of Mark was a genuine eyewitness of Jesus, but rather that it was (at least) second-hand information, his quoted texts support my point.

    Although I’d also state that the word of authority is completely useless unless we also have information about the way in which they came to that knowledge, information that indicates a healthy dose of skepticism combined with independent confirmation.

  92. I am afraid that you don’t understand Hebrew thinking very well and are trying to present Paul as a Greek thinker. The Jewish people didn’t believe in a “non-human” resurrection.

    Except that even in the account in the Bible, the other people present didn’t see anybody. Only Paul saw Jesus. That is an account of a vision, not a physical appearance.

  93. nonsense. there are hordes of children born out of sexual relationships that have absolutely nothing at all to do with love.

    Surely you don’t think all those kids could survive without nurturing, do you?

  94. Surely you don’t think all those kids could survive without nurturing, do you?

    surely you dont think nurturing is the same thing as love?

  95. Jason,
    Sorry to take so long to respond, it was a busy weekend.

    Except that even in the account in the Bible, the other people present didn’t see anybody. Only Paul saw Jesus. That is an account of a vision, not a physical appearance.

    There is a problem with your assertion that Paul’s experience is merely a “vision” based on the accounts from Paul and from Acts.

    3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

    5″Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

    “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6″Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

    7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. (Acts 8:3-9)

    Paul’s “vision” left him blind. And note that those with him heard something and saw a light, but didn’t understand what they saw or heard according to the English translation.

    6″About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
    8″ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
    ” ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
    10″‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.
    “‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me. (Acts 22:6-11)

    Again his companions observed a light and heard noise that they couldn’t comprehend. This is not a vision in Paul’s head. Something happened on that road and Paul’s personal testimony is that it was Jesus Christ.
    Additionally, you are avoiding the issue of the testimony of Paul that the other disciples as well as 500 other people had their own encounters with a risen Jesus Christ that are distinct from Paul’s experience.

  96. surely you dont think nurturing is the same thing as love?

    Love is the motivation for it.

    As far as Paul’s vision, it’s still reporting that it was something he and he alone saw. The others saw something else, according to that account, and I’m more inclined to doubt those reports as being accurate (because a single person can hallucinate easily).

    In other words, I’m saying that since Paul himself was very active in writing for the early church, it seems fairly likely to me that he actually had this vision, though it was clearly just an hallucination as far as I’m concerned. The reports of others near him seeing something, though, I’m more likely to think are made up to make the story seem more credible (not on purpose, mind you…these sorts of stories tend to grow out of nothing….and obviously the more credible version of the story is the one that is going to get passed on more often, regardless of how accurate it is).

  97. In other words, I’m saying that since Paul himself was very active in writing for the early church, it seems fairly likely to me that he actually had this vision, though it was clearly just an hallucination as far as I’m concerned.

    So, your position is that a man who was killing followers of Jesus Christ had a “hallucination” that told him he was completely wrong, was blinded by that “hallucination” and then did a complete 180 to identify with the very people he was intent on killing so he could be an object of persecution. How is that rational again? That doesn’t fit the criteria of any hallucination I have ever read about.
    I get the impression that you are missing, ignoring or misunderstanding his accounts regarding the others who saw Christ. He is witness for us that the disciples saw Jesus as a group (a group hallucination is not plausible) and a group of as many as 500 other people who were living as witnesses of the resurrection separate from himself or the disciples who could be consulted. This isn’t a man who hallucinated something. This is a man confident that the facts will back him up at the time that he wrote his letter.

  98. So, your position is that a man who was killing followers of Jesus Christ had a “hallucination” that told him he was completely wrong, was blinded by that “hallucination” and then did a complete 180 to identify with the very people he was intent on killing so he could be an object of persecution. How is that rational again? That doesn’t fit the criteria of any hallucination I have ever read about.

    Of course it’s not a rational response on Paul’s part. But it makes perfect sense for Paul to have been fooled if he had no understanding of seizures or hallucinations (which nobody at the time did), and especially if he had a pre-existing belief in the power of visions.

    Religious conversations are quite common, you know. They happen all the time for all sorts of different reasons. I see nothing about Paul’s conversion that is in any way spectacular.

    I get the impression that you are missing, ignoring or misunderstanding his accounts regarding the others who saw Christ. He is witness for us that the disciples saw Jesus as a group (a group hallucination is not plausible) and a group of as many as 500 other people who were living as witnesses of the resurrection separate from himself or the disciples who could be consulted. This isn’t a man who hallucinated something. This is a man confident that the facts will back him up at the time that he wrote his letter.

    This is no different from the support people state for other supernatural claims, however.

    And by the way, group hallucination doesn’t happen, but memories are not perfect. Memories are modified all the time, and merely talking about the same event together can cause people to fabricate things out of whole cloth. And since they’re talking about it together, well, obviously there’s going to be a significant amount of agreement.

  99. animals nurture. this is instinct not love.

  100. sorry. meant to block quote jason

    Love is the motivation for (nurturing).

    animals nurture. this is instinct not love.

  101. But it makes perfect sense for Paul to have been fooled if he had no understanding of seizures or hallucinations (which nobody at the time did), and especially if he had a pre-existing belief in the power of visions.

    A visual hallucination is a private event; it is by definition the perception of objects or patterns of light that are not objectively present. The people who were with Paul experienced something real. And C.S. Lewis had an interesting take on the hallucination explanations as well:

    And any theory of hallucination breaks down on the fact (and if it is invention it is the oddest invention that ever entered the mind of man ) that on three separate occasions this hallucination was not immediately recognized as Jesus

    It appears that you are basing your entire argument on the fact that you believe first century people to be morons and unsophisticated. That is a rather large and insulting assumption to make. Certainly, we have made much progress in learning that they didn’t know about, but they knew human nature. They knew how to tell when a body was dead and they knew how to tell the difference between a person who claimed to be raised from the dead and one who just got lucky and died again later.

    This is no different from the support people state for other supernatural claims, however.

    Give me one other resurrection claim with this amount of evidence at this level of credibility. I would love to see it.

    If you want to dismiss all the New Testament claims because you are smarter than they are and know more than they did, that is your choice and I certainly can’t persuade you otherwise. You are however dismissing a large group of people in several circumstances reporting contact with a person they at some cases didn’t recognize at first, with a flimsy dismissal of hallucination and/or group think. I will wait for the evidence of a similarly documented resurrection case.

  102. graceshaker,

    animals nurture. this is instinct not love.

    How do you know? Are you just assuming that because they aren’t human, they don’t feel emotions like love?

    joefurry,

    It appears that you are basing your entire argument on the fact that you believe first century people to be morons and unsophisticated.

    Ignorant would be a more apt term. But that’s not really what I’m basing my argument upon. Presenting a plausible alternative is not an argument. I was merely answering your question, “But what else could have happened?”

    My argument is that there is insufficient evidence. And for that all I need to is point out that they didn’t document their sources. Documenting their sources wouldn’t make the evidence sufficient, but it’d at least be a start. As it stands, the evidence of any of the supernatural events in the Bible actually having occurred is basically zero.

    Give me one other resurrection claim with this amount of evidence at this level of credibility. I would love to see it.

    Why not look up Daniel Ekechukwu? This is just one such claim I was able to come up with in short order:
    http://www.heavensfamily.org/ss/daniel_main

    The documentation is orders of magnitude better than that for Jesus’ resurrection.

  103. Why not look up Daniel Ekechukwu? This is just one such claim I was able to come up with in short order:
    http://www.heavensfamily.org/ss/daniel_main

    The documentation is orders of magnitude better than that for Jesus’ resurrection.

    Did you actually read this account? They are claiming that this man was raised by the power of Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t that just lend more credibility to the notion that Jesus Christ is the Son of God that He claimed to be?

  104. My argument is that there is insufficient evidence. And for that all I need to is point out that they didn’t document their sources.

    I just wanted to point out that this is your bias. They are claiming to be the sources, but you are not granting them that claim. Why would they “document” personal experiences when they recount them.

  105. Did you actually read this account? They are claiming that this man was raised by the power of Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t that just lend more credibility to the notion that Jesus Christ is the Son of God that He claimed to be?

    I am aware of the claim. I’m saying it’s bogus. He may claim to be raised by the power of Jesus all he likes. But it didn’t happen. He never died.

    I just wanted to point out that this is your bias. They are claiming to be the sources, but you are not granting them that claim. Why would they “document” personal experiences when they recount them.

    Because people “document” personal experiences all the time which turn out to be bogus in the end. This isn’t about bias. It’s about having an intellectually honest appraisal of the evidence required to accept a claim. If I were to accept the Biblical claims of Jesus’ miracles, after all, the only intellectually honest thing for me to do would be to accept the supernatural claims of every other holy book in existence. But that is fundamentally impossible because these books disagree.

  106. Are you just assuming that because they aren’t human, they don’t feel emotions like love?

    ……….

    I’m going to throw out emotions straight away as a valid way of determining whether or not something exists.

    so if i understand you correctly – love is an emotion and therefore not a valid way of determining reality but it is a valid way of determining that we should nurture our young for the survival of the species?

    fascinating.

  107. This isn’t about bias. It’s about having an intellectually honest appraisal of the evidence required to accept a claim. If I were to accept the Biblical claims of Jesus’ miracles, after all, the only intellectually honest thing for me to do would be to accept the supernatural claims of every other holy book in existence. But that is fundamentally impossible because these books disagree.

    This is precisely about bias. You refuse to allow even the possibility of anything supernatural and discount any evidence of supernatural events because supernatural things can’t happen, which is classic circular argument in action.
    Then you set up a false dichotomy. You say that if you accept one holy book you would have to accept them all, but you can’t because they don’t all agree. The fact that they don’t all agree gives you a means and channel to investigate which one might actually be correct. You already acknowledge that they can’t all be right at the same time. So why not try and figure out if one of them is right? That seems like a rational thing to me.

  108. This is precisely about bias. You refuse to allow even the possibility of anything supernatural

    Since when? Granted, there are some pretty good reasons to discount the very idea of supernatural, but I tend to think that there are some very reasonable ways in which, in principle, the supernatural could be detected. The problem is that no such evidence is available.

    Here’s a good example of a way to detect the supernatural, for instance, that roundly fails:
    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    It basically demonstrates that the very existence of completely and utterly incurable medical conditions disproves the possibility of a god that heals in answer to prayer (as the god of the Bible is claimed to do).

    Then you set up a false dichotomy. You say that if you accept one holy book you would have to accept them all

    It’s only a false dichotomy if you can honestly present evidence on why one specific holy book has more evidentiary support than the others.

    But given the internal inconsistencies in the Bible, it basically fails even before getting started. And even then, if you wanted to go further, it makes a great many directly testable supernatural claims (e.g. the power of prayer) that, when investigated, turn out to be false. Why should I take proven unreliable authors’ word for these things?

  109. I am guessing that you don’t understand what a false dichotomy is. The false dichotomy that you gave is that one has to accept all “holy books” if you accept one when you stated plainly that they don’t all agree. Logically, it would be possible to accept one and not others if they don’t agree regardless of their individual merits.

    It basically demonstrates that the very existence of completely and utterly incurable medical conditions disproves the possibility of a god that heals in answer to prayer (as the god of the Bible is claimed to do). . .
    But given the internal inconsistencies in the Bible, it basically fails even before getting started. And even then, if you wanted to go further, it makes a great many directly testable supernatural claims (e.g. the power of prayer) that, when investigated, turn out to be false. Why should I take proven unreliable authors’ word for these things?

    Ah, the old “problem of evil in the world argument.” Would you mind finding the place in the Bible that promises that every prayer will be answered the way I (or anyone else) want it to be answered? In fact, I seem to remember several passages that state that there will be trouble and evil in the world for quite some time. God is not a genie at a master’s beck and call. The fact that God doesn’t capitulate to the whims and wishes of people who openly mock Him doesn’t impress me as a proof of anything. The fact that God doesn’t give every person who does call on His name everything they want doesn’t do it for me either. As a parent, I don’t do everything my kids ask, even when it is in my power to do it. Does that mean that I don’t exist? Can you not see the folly of that line of thinking? Just because God can do something, doesn’t mean that He must do something.

    There is one absolute falsifier for the Christian religion. Prove that Jesus Christ did not raise from the dead. It should have been easy enough for the first century Roman government or Jewish Temple officials(they just needed to bring forth his body), but they couldn’t do it. Those who have tried to show it as a falsehood or lie of history since have failed as well.

    You want proof of miracles. Check out this story http://my.telegraph.co.uk/the_wise_one/blog/2007/08/15/one_for_the_atheists_heart_surgeon_brings_man_back_from_the_dead and call the doctor I suppose. This happened in West Palm Beach in the United States. There are stories from people all over the place who have personal, firsthand experience with events that can’t be explained with “natural” reasons.

  110. I am guessing that you don’t understand what a false dichotomy is. The false dichotomy that you gave is that one has to accept all “holy books” if you accept one when you stated plainly that they don’t all agree. Logically, it would be possible to accept one and not others if they don’t agree regardless of their individual merits.

    Not based upon any objective measure. That’s the point. If you want to know what is true instead of just believing for the sake of belief, then you have to come up with objective criteria to determine what is and is not true. Therefore, if I have a class of claims, for which the type of evidence in support of those claims is identical, then there are only two rational choices: accept all of them, or fail to accept any of them. And if the claims disagree with one another, then the only option left is to fail to accept any.

    You can, of course, arbitrarily pick one of the class of claims. But then you’re just guaranteeing that your beliefs are wrong.

    Ah, the old “problem of evil in the world argument.”

    This is actually a separate issue from the problem of evil. The problem of evil asks why there is nasty stuff around at all. I’m not talking about that. The “Why won’t God heal amputees” issue directly attacks a specific claim: that the Christian god heals in response to prayer. You can’t hand-wave this away by saying, “Well, you can’t expect God to heal every sick person,” because we’re not talking about why God would or would not heal this particular person.

    The question is, “Why doesn’t God ever heal anybody who has had a limb amputated?” Because among the huge numbers of people that have had their limbs amputated over the years, surely a great many of them have prayed to get their limbs back. Surely a great many of them were very fervent Christians, and very fervent in their prayers.

    Why would God answer none of their prayers? Why would God only “answer” prayers to heal people that could have healed without God’s help?

    You want proof of miracles. Check out this story http://my.telegraph.co.uk/the_wise_one/blog/2007/08/15/one_for_the_atheists_heart_surgeon_brings_man_back_from_the_dead and call the doctor I suppose.

    That’s not proof of miracles. That’s proof of just how good modern medicine is becoming. He’s lucky the guy didn’t die while he paused for prayer.

  111. Not based upon any objective measure. That’s the point. If you want to know what is true instead of just believing for the sake of belief, then you have to come up with objective criteria to determine what is and is not true. Therefore, if I have a class of claims, for which the type of evidence in support of those claims is identical, then there are only two rational choices: accept all of them, or fail to accept any of them. And if the claims disagree with one another, then the only option left is to fail to accept any.

    Jason,
    I have given you evidence to support the claim that Jesus Christ rose from the dead as a verifier of the claims of the Bible. I have asked you for another religious book that has this type of claim backed with similar level of proof. In response to that request, you gave me an account of an African man who claimed to be raised from the dead by the power of Jesus Christ. Do you have another religion with similar (or identical as you are stating) claims and evidence to Christianity or not? Lay it out there if you do.
    I want the verified textual evidence of the book and I would also like to see the evidence of people claiming that the person they follow is God in the flesh and this figure also rose from the dead. I would like accounts of at least a dozen people who were killed rather than recant their testimony to the fact of this event. You said there are equal claims with equal evidence, back it up.
    By the way, go ahead and cite Isis/Osiris or Mithras or others like them, as long as you can show me the church that still worships them today and the personal witnesses that are exactly like the biblical writers like Paul and the others. Remember, equal evidence is what is asked for since you claimed it existed.
    What made the followers of Christ so dogged in their insistence that they have been unable to be uprooted to this day that doesn’t exist in those other claims?
    By the way, you were very dismissive of the Jews as a sign that the God of the Bible might be the real deal. Have you got a good explanation for how that particular people have also persisted to this day despite the various people throughout history that have intentionally tried to wipe them out?

  112. I thought I would give you a hostile witness to supernatural proof while I was at it. Perhaps you know that the Bible teaches that Christ’s sacrifice made the sacrificial system of the Temple unnecessary. The Jewish texts confirm that something odd happened to their Temple system approximately 40 years before the Temple was destroyed.

    In the centuries following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE), the Jewish people began writing two versions of Jewish thought, religious history and commentary. One was written in Palestine and became known as the Jerusalem Talmud. The other was written in Babylon and was known as the Babylonian Talmud.We read in the Jerusalem Talmud:”Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open” (Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157). [the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE]A similar passage in the Babylonian Talmud states: “Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ['For the Lord'] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves” (Soncino version, Yoma 39b)

    This is a hostile witness that backs up a Christian claim, even though that is the last thing they would want even to this day.


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