bookmark_borderOne Christian Worldview? Part 4: Evangelical Denominations

Catholics constituted 20.8% of the adult population in the USA (in 2014, see the Religious Landscape Study), and Christians who belong to Evangelical Protestant denominations constituted 25.4% of the adult population in the USA (in 2014).  So, if we combine Catholics and Evangelicals, they constituted 46.2% of the adult population in the USA (in 2014).  Since 70.6% of adults in the USA were Christians (in 2014), the combination of Catholics and Evangelicals constituted 65.4% of Christian adults in the USA (in 2014):  46.2/70.6 = .654.  In short, in 2014 about 2 out of 3 Christian adults in the USA were either Catholic or belonged to an Evangelical denomination.
So, if the Catholic Church accepts and teaches the Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity (as I showed in Part 3 of this series), and if Evangelical Protestant denominations also accept and teach the Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity (as I will show in this post), then in 2014 at least 2 out of 3 Christian adults in the USA belonged to a Church or denomination that accepts and teaches the Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity.
The Gospel or “The Good News” is the heart of the Christian religion; it is to Christianity what the Four Noble Truths are to Buddhism.  Thus, if the Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity represent the Christian worldview (see Part 2 of this series), then they should correspond closely with the content of the Gospel.  A group of Evangelical Christian scholars and leaders formulated a statement spelling out the Gospel which was published in the Evangelical magazine Christianity Today in 1999.  The statement was called “The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration“.   As we shall see, that statement clearly teaches and promotes the Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity.
Many major protestant denominations are considered to be Evangelical Christian denominations, and these Evangelical denominations occur within a variety of “families” of protestants (e.g. Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.).  This statement spelling out the Gospel from an Evangelical Christian point of view, was accepted by Evangelical Christian leaders and thinkers from a variety of Evangelical Christian denominations:
Appended to the Gospel statement are the names of some 115 evangelical leaders who have endorsed the document.  They include men and women; they include Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentacostals, Charismatics, and people who belong to other churches.  Among the endorsers are African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and Whites.  They minister as presidents of colleges and seminaries, denominational leaders, pastors, evangelists, professors, television and radio executives, publishers, and leaders in parachurch organizations. …
 Since its appearance in July 1999, another eighty-five evangelical leaders have endorsed the Gospel statement, among them Dr. Billy Graham. (This We Believe, p.18; Zondervan Publishing House, 2000)
So, we have good reason to believe that this Gospel statement represents an understanding of the Gospel and of the heart of the Christian faith that is widely shared by Evangelical Christian thinkers and leaders from a wide variety of Evangelical denominations.  If the content of this Gospel statement lines up well with the Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity, then we can reasonably conclude that Evangelical Christian churches and denominations accept and teach the Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity.
I have just been reading this Gospel statement, and it clearly and repeatedly references and teaches all four of the Four Basic Beliefs.  The first half of the statement consists of 26 paragraphs, which I have identified by the letters A through Z.  The second half of the statement consists of short sections of “Affirmations and Denials” that are numbered (in the document itself) as 1 through 18.
In the first half, there is a three-page section called “The Gospel” (This We Believe, p.241-243).  This short section could, all by itself, be used to show that Evangelical Christian denominations accept and teach the Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity.  Some of the paragraphs in that section touch on all four of the Four Basic Beliefs, in a single paragraph.  Here is a small sample from that section:
Through the Gospel we learn that we human beings, who were made for fellowship with God, are by nature–that is, “in Adam” (1 Cor. 15:22)–dead in sin, unresponsive to and separated from our Maker.  We are constantly twisting his truth, breaking his law, belittling his goals and standards, and offending his holiness by our unholiness, so that we truly are “without hope and without God in the world” (Rom. 1:18-32; 3:9-20; Eph. 2:1-3, 12).  Yet God in grace took the initiative to reconcile us to himself through the sinless life and vicarious death of his beloved Son (Eph. 2:4-10; Rom. 3:21-24).
The Father sent the Son to free us from the dominion of sin and Satan, and to make us God’s children and friends.  Jesus paid our penalty in our place on his cross, satisfying the retributive demands of divine justice by shedding his blood in sacrifice and so making possible justification for all who trust in him (Rom. 3:25-26).  The Bible describes this mighty substitutionary transaction as the achieving of ransom, reconciliation, redemption, propitiation, and conquest of evil powers (Matt. 20:28; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 3:23-25; John 12:31; Col. 2:15).  It secures for us a restored relationship with God that brings pardon and peace, acceptance and access, and adoption into God’s family (Col. 1:20; 2:13-14; Rom. 5:1-2; Gal. 4:4-7; 1 Pet. 3:18).  The faith in God and in Christ to which the Gospel calls us is a trustful outgoing of our hearts to lay hold of these promised and proffered benefits.  
(This We Believe, p.241-242)
This Gospel statement produced by a group of Evangelical Christian scholars and leaders repeatedly references and affirms each of the Four Basic Beliefs, as can be seen in the following table (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):
Evangelical Gospel Statement Chart
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Based on my review of “The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration” it is clear that this statement teaches and promotes the Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity, and thus it is reasonable to conclude that the various Evangelical Christian denominations in the USA accept and teach the Four Basic Beliefs.

bookmark_borderSins of Omission: What the Bible does not Say

The Bible was written in ancient times by many authors. Over a thousand years separated the earliest from the most recent writings. Naturally, the Bible reflects the cultural and intellectual milieus of the times and places of its composition. Unless one is theologically committed to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, it should not be embarrassing that biblical writings reflect a pre-modern cosmology or that the biblical scale of earth history is off by six orders of magnitude off (4.6 billion years vs. 6000 years). Nor again, unless one is committed to inerrancy, should it be troubling that the Bible contains elements of myth and legend, such as the tales of Noah and the flood, or works of outright fiction, such as the stories about Jonah and Ruth. The message of the Book of Job is just as powerful (God does indeed make the innocent suffer), and its poetry is just as splendid whether or not Job was a historical person.
More disturbing are the ethical lacunae of the Bible. Again, any ancient work has to be judged in the whole context of its time, including the moral context. The modern reader of Homer’s Odyssey is shocked by the massacre of the suitors, and even more so at the hanging of the maidservants, whose only crime was to have had sexual relations with the suitors. The Odyssey is a story from a savage time that imposed a harsh code, and Homer merely accepts this code as a fact. You can still admire Odysseus for the reasons that Tennyson did—the indomitable will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. Likewise, if we look at the Bible as we would a secular document from that time, its rough edges are not surprising. Remember that much of the OT was written when Assyrian kings were raising steles to boast of the cities they had sacked and the thousands of captives they had impaled, flayed, and beheaded.
Nevertheless, the Bible is supposed to be a special document. Believers, whether liberal or conservative, think of the Bible as more than a merely human product, namely, one composed under divine inspiration. Now, inspiration need not mean dictation. We do not have to see the biblical authors as amanuenses. Still, we would expect that scripture would have insights that would transcend the limitations of time and place, and endorse moral principles which, though seldom recognized at the time, are now established ideals. The Bible certainly contains some instances of such lofty principles. The teaching of Jesus is, among other reasons, remarkable for the value he places on “the least of these,” the humble, poor, marginalized, and degraded. These are presented as much closer to the Kingdom of Heaven than the smug and the ostentatiously pious.
Critics of the Bible often focus on particularly hair-raising passages, such as the genocide commanded in I Samuel 15, and the mauling of the children by the she-bears in II Kings 2. These are disturbing, and religious writers have exerted great efforts to explain away and extenuate such passages. To my mind, what the Bible does not say is even more problematic. That is, it is the Bible’s sins of omission rather than sins of commission that really create the greatest burden for its defenders. There are fundamental ethical principles, now recognized by all decent people, that are either not mentioned in the Bible, or given very short shrift. True, some of these principles were recognized by nobody before the Enlightenment, so if the Bible were a merely human document, ignorance of these would be excusable. Yet, the Bible is supposed to be inspired, however conceived, and so it is supposed to reflect divine insight that is not limited by temporal or cultural context. God should not have to wait for John Locke, Voltaire, or Tom Paine to announce basic moral truths. Here, then, is a list of some things that are not in the Bible, but should be, if it is divinely inspired.
1) A Clear condemnation of slavery. Slavery is wrong always and everywhere. No human being should be kept in a condition of chattel slavery by another. John Locke, in his Second Treatise of Government states that slavery is a state of warfare in which the master maintains a continual state of violence against the slave in order to prevent the slave from the exercise and enjoyment of his natural rights. The slave therefore has a right to free himself by any means necessary (It was Locke’s idea before it was Malcolm X’s.). Nowhere in the Bible do we find an outright, unambiguous condemnation of the institution of slavery. The defenders of American slavery before the Civil War gleefully seized upon this fact and threw it in the face of abolitionists, who condemned slavery as ungodly. The pro-slavery apologists had a point. If slavery is sinful, why does the Bible never come right out and say that it is? Why did the Bible not take an openly and unmistakable abolitionist stand?
Perhaps the reply would be that all ancient societies accepted slavery as a matter of course, indeed as an economic necessity. Slavery was seen as a personal misfortune, like sickness, not as an evil institution. The silver that built the Athenian triremes that defeated Xerxes at Salamis was dug by slaves who labored under atrocious conditions. Aristotle regarded some persons as natural slaves and demurred only at Hellenes being enslaved by barbarians. Perhaps in those days the advocacy of outright abolitionism would have seemed like a doctrine of such radical impracticality that it would have been dismissed as sentimental foolishness. Yet the Jews frequently insisted on things that were foolishness to the Greeks and Romans. Only one god? Please. Circumcision? Revolting mutilation. Jesus said many things that were outrageous and shocking. Why not add a condemnation of slavery?
 2) Tolerance for other religions. When the Bible mentions worship of other deities, it is almost always to condemn. Again and again, in the harshest possible terms, the prophets (who were fanatics rather than prognosticators) rail against “idolaters” and call for their extirpation. The Book of Ezekiel, which has no superior in the long history of vituperation, goes into pornographic detail depicting the “harlotry” of Israel and Judah’s apostasy (Ezekiel 23). Ezekiel gloats over the ravages of the Assyrians, whom he hails as the instruments of God’s just chastisement. Throughout the OT death is the fate richly deserved by idolaters and apostates. Elijah celebrates his triumph at Carmel over the priests of Baal (I Kings 18) by leading the assembled multitudes in a joyous massacre of the priests and their followers. Later, (II Kings 10) Baal worship was entirely eliminated by the murderous Jehu, who had been made king by the prophets of Yahweh. Jehu invited all worshippers of Baal to a great sacrifice at the temple of their god and had the entire multitude put to the sword, thus becoming a true hero of The Lord. Even when the Bible does not endorse murder, it sternly warns against any other belief. Yahweh declares himself a jealous god (exodus 20:5), and the first commandment of his Decalogue is that no other gods are to take precedence over him.
So, the Bible does not support religious tolerance. Once again, to be fair, hardly anybody did before the Enlightenment. Islamic societies permitted the “Peoples of the Book”—Jews and Christians—to live as second-class citizens as long as they paid a tax. Curiously, the pagan Mongols seemed to be the most genuinely open-minded, listening patiently to both Muslims and Christians—after efficiently annihilating their armies. Yet, the theory of religious tolerance is a distinctively modern idea, notably articulated by Roger Williams and John Milton before Locke’s classic statement. Once again, though, it is appropriate to hold the Bible to a higher standard. Perhaps the argument would be that the Jews were the Chosen People—the ones bound by covenant into a special relationship with God—and so their apostasy was just not permissible and had to be prevented by any means. Actually, this argument is a reductio ad absurdum of the whole “Chosen People” idea.  Being “Chosen” means no freedom of conscience and subjugation to a rigid theocracy.
3) A clear condemnation of torture. Four centuries ago every Christian society practiced torture. I once read of a defense of the Spanish Inquisition that argued—no kidding—that it was not so bad because it did not torture as savagely as the secular governments of the day. There was nothing exceptional about torture in those days. It was an everyday occurrence. Only royalty and nobility could expect the quick death of decapitation. Ordinary felons were generally broken on the wheel, that is, beaten to death with sledge hammers. The rack, the strappado, and the Spanish boot were routinely used to extract confessions. The standard punishment for relapsed heretics was burning at the stake, though sometimes the victims were given the mercy of being garroted before being burned.
Think how different history might have been if the Bible had included a clear and explicit condemnation of torture. No, torture would not have been entirely prevented, since nominally Christian governments did all sorts of things that are explicitly condemned. However, such a statement would have expressed a clear moral principle, one that would have motivated sincere Christians to oppose the practice of torture and, in general, would have created a more humane ethos. The failure of the NT authors to speak out against torture is especially puzzling since Jesus was horrifically tortured. The Roman scourge was designed to inflict maximum pain and tissue damage, and crucifixion was, of course, excruciating. Yet Paul never speaks against torture or crucifixion, so either he approved of it, or did not think it was important enough to mention. Perhaps the early Christians gloried in torture and torturous executions, because the more that they suffered, the more glorious was their martyrdom. Still, if these writings were inspired, we might hope that they would foresee a day when Christians would be in charge and would be instructed not to inflict on others the atrocious treatment they had suffered.
4) A clear statement of universal human rights. Recently here in Texas, the State Board of Ignorance, er, Education nearly included a requirement that history texts list Moses as one who inspired and prefigured the content of the U.S. Constitution. Activists of the religious right insist that there is a biblical basis for universal human rights. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Bible does not contain even the most rudimentary conception of human rights. The idea that human beings, simply because of their personhood, have inalienable rights such as life, liberty, property, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and conscience (see above), privacy, self-determination, etc., is a concept utterly alien to the Bible. The Bible does in places call for social justice, as, for instance in Hosea. However, the justification for such imperatives is the will of a just God, not the inherent rights of the oppressed.
A right, in the sense we are concerned with here is something—like life, liberty, or property—that we may legitimately claim and others have a duty to respect that claim. Nowhere in the Bible do we find such a conception of rights. Certainly not with respect to God. We have no rights with respect to God because he has no duties with respect to us. When he treats us kindly, it is due to his grace, not because he owes us anything. In one of my debates with William Lane Craig, he took this line to its logical conclusion and argued that there is no problem of evil since we are God’s and he can do with us as he wills. It follows that if God, for whatever reason, wants you to be raped, sodomized, and strangled, or to have inoperable brain cancer, or die in a house fire in infancy, then you would have no basis for complaint since God owes you nothing.
Oddly, some Christian intellectuals have appealed to the Bible as a foundation for the view that each human life has inherent dignity and worth—the infinite value of he individual soul. In doing so they oppose what they see as reductionist, straitened, distorted view of human nature promulgated in contemporary social science and economics. In the Bible, they say, we see humans as bearers of intrinsic, irreducible worth, as being, in Kantian terms, ends in themselves, and not means merely to be used. Where? Where is this concept found in the Bible? Please cite specific verses.
I imagine that many will say that I have here been guilty of what C.S. Lewis called “The parochialism of the present,” judging an ancient text by current vales. Fair enough, but this seems to be an admission that the values I have indicated are, indeed, not in the Bible. If they are not, then should we give up our modern belief in, say, human rights, and go with the Biblical view that there are no such things?
Finally, please note that my argument here is not a condemnation of the Bible. I am not saying that it is an evil book. I am saying that it is a human book, all too human. As we would expect with any such compilation of very diverse writings from numerous authors and reflecting many different historical contexts, there are good parts and bad parts. Many of the good parts are very good and constitute part of the enduring cultural legacy of the human race. Some of the bad parts are very bad. The way to read the Bible, then, is to read it as we would The Iliad or any other such ancient document, taking it as it is, and neither demonizing it nor attempting to elevate into something it is not.

bookmark_borderPodcast 4: Is There Just One Christian Worldview or Many?

I have also made a podcast on this subject:
Podcast 4: Is There Just One Christian Worldview or Many?
There is a PowerPoint (in a PDF) available with the content of the podcast:
PowerPoint for Podcast 4
My previous podcasts are available here:
Thinking Critically About: Is Christianity True?

bookmark_borderThe Homeopathic Christ Problem

(A mostly silly puzzle about Holy Communion)

 
The Christian sacrament of Communion can be viewed according to two main competing theoretical perspectives. The first can be called the “symbolic presence” account, according to which the bread and wine are nothing more than symbolic representations of the body and blood of Jesus. On this view, to participate in Communion is to participate in a purely symbolic ritual. Christ is not in any sense literally present in the bread and wine; his presence is merely symbolized by them.
Communion wine
The second account, of which there are multiple distinct variants, can be called the “metaphysical presence” account. On the metaphysical presence account, there is some sense in which Christ is somehow actually “in” the bread and wine (whether by transubstantiation or some other process). Taking communion does not merely symbolically relate one to Christ, but actually does so – whatever that means. I have tried in vain to comprehend the details of any metaphysical presence accounts that does not ultimately reduce to the bare assertion that “Christ, himself, is present in the Host.” Also, I have to say I just don’t understand the point of communion on any metaphysical presence view – what, exactly, does taking the presence of Christ into your body actually do, anyway? But let’s leave such nitpicky details aside for the present.

  1. Suppose we accept some metaphysical presence theory. For present purposes, let’s just focus on the wine.
  2. If two different people, A and B both consume the wine so that A drinks 1 ounce and B drinks 2 ounces, A and B still receive Christ in exactly the same amount. (What matters is only THAT one receives the wine, not how much).
  3. Therefore, for any quantity of sanctified wine, Christ is fully present in it.
  4. It follows from this that if one were to begin with only 1 ounce of communion wine, but needed to serve 20 people with it, one could dilute the 1 ounce with 19 ounces of water, and all 20 people would still receive the full presence of Christ (one would thereby perform one’s own private loaves-and-fishes miracle).
  5. Many denominations of Christianity also believe that once the wine has been sanctified, it remains sanctified, and therefore must not be disposed of haphazardly. To pour sanctified wine down the drain is to pour the presence of Christ down the drain, because Christ is present in it.
  6. But no matter how the wine is disposed of, it will always find its way into the water table.
  7. Moreover, when someone consumes communion wine, there will always be some (usually small) amount that remains in the glasses or chalice. This, too, will be mixed with water in the process of washing the containers and will end up in the water table.
  8. Since no amount of dilution can diminish the degree to which Christ is present in sanctified wine, and given the number of times the communion sacrament has been performed and the amount of time that has passed since the ceremony first came to be performed, Christ is already and always fully present in almost any amount of any liquid anywhere in the world.
  9. (I say “almost” here because it seems possible to resist the conclusion the Christ is present in excreted liquids on the grounds that once imbibed, the presence of Christ is fully absorbed by the person who takes it in. Eventually, however, the unsanctified excreted liquid will mix with environmentally-pervasive sanctified liquid and thereby again become fully sanctified.)
  10. It is therefore entirely unnecessary to perform the Communion sacrament ever again.

 
The theory presented here can be called the “Homeopathic Christ” theory, because of its resemblance to the manner in which homeopathic medicines are (allegedly) made.
I say that the puzzle raised here is “mostly silly” because I find it hard to take any metaphysical presence view seriously enough in the first place to spend too much mental effort on its implications. The puzzle itself only arose within the context of a light-hearted conversation with a friend. Also, the puzzle seems easy enough for Christians to resolve: Just give up all metaphysical presence theories in favor of a symbolic presence view.
A second option would be to reject claim #2. This would be a natural option for proponents of transubstantiation. The same reasons that count against homeopathy, in general, would apply against the homeopathic Christ theory. If the wine is actually blood, it could be diluted to the point where no blood is left. The problem here is that transubstantiationists seem (as far as I can understand it) to hold that the wine is the actual blood of Christ in respect of substance, where “substance” is a sheer metaphysical add-on: “yes, it looks, tastes, and has all the chemical properties of wine, but it is really blood in respect of substance” (to which I can only respond, “huh?”). [*I note that this isn’t the view that is presented when trying to defend some miracles where alleged chemical analysis is said to have tested positive for actual blood. See, for instance: http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/lanciano.html] This also seems to raise the question of why and how the non-physical substance of Christ would or even could be diluted if it isn’t made up of molecules. Here consubstantiationism seems preferable to transubstantiation (maybe), but only marginally so — there is still the question of how the substance of Christ can be matched up with quantities that reduce to molecules when such quantities seem to be completely irrelevant within the context of the ritual: It seems that Ferd has missed the point if he says, “I feel extra sinful this week: better give me two glasses of wine instead of one.”
Alternatively, it would be easy to avoid the homeopathic Christ theory by invoking a second miracle; if Christ can miraculously become present in the bread and wine at the beginning of the ceremony, he can surely leave when it is concluded. This would also eliminate the need to lose any sleep over disposing of extra wine, since upon concluding the ceremony it would miraculously revert to ordinary wine again. The same would hold of accidental spills of wine. Christ can intend to be present in the wine if and only if it is consumed by a person in the context of a Communion ceremony. So no one should worry about a spill. Christ ceases to be present in the wine as soon as it is spilled. In fact, given the simplicity of such a solution, it is rather amazing to me that it hasn’t become a standard aspect of the metaphysical presence view.
Denominations that wish to resist such concessions owe an account of where the homeopathic Christ theory goes wrong.

bookmark_borderOne Christian Worldview? Part 3: The Compendium

In Part 2 of this series I presented an argument for the conclusion that there is just ONE Christian worldview.  The most important and controversial premise in that argument is premise (3):
3. The Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity are accepted by the Catholic Church, by Eastern Orthodox Churches, and by many major Protestant denominations.
Because 21% or about 1 in 5 Christians identifies as a Catholic, I will start with support for the first part of this premise:

  • The Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity are accepted by the Catholic Church.

I have two main reasons to support this claim.  First, the Catholic Church accepts the Nicene Creed.  Second, the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches the Four Basic Beliefs:
The Nicene Creed Argument

NC1. If the Catholic Church accepts the Nicene Creed, then the Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity are accepted by the Catholic Church.

NC2. The Catholic Church accepts the Nicene Creed.

THEREFORE:

NC3. The Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity are accepted by the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Catechism Argument

CC1. If the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the Four Basic Beliefs, then the Four Basic Beliefs are accepted by the Catholic Church.

CC2. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the Four Basic Beliefs.

THEREFORE:

CC3. The Four Basic Beliefs are accepted by the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Catechism argument is the easiest to defend, so I will start there.  Premise (CC1) is obviously true, so I won’t provide reasons or evidence in support of (CC1).
Premise (CC2) is not obviously true, so I will provide evidence to support that premise.  I have read the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, focusing on the first two chapters, and it clearly and repeatedly teaches the Four Basic Beliefs.  
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is rather long (over 750 pages, divided into 2,865 sections or paragraphs), so to make learning the Catholic faith easier, the Catholic Church has recently provided a Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which summarizes the Catechism in 175 pages and 598 sections or paragraphs:
The Compendium, which I now present to the Universal Church, is a faithful and sure synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  It contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church’s faith…  
– POPE BENEDICT XVI on June 28, 2005 (see Compendium, p. xii)
The first two chapters of the Compendium consist of only 37 pages (page 5 to page 41) containing 135 sections/paragraphs.  Those two chapters provide ample proof that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the Four Basic Beliefs (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):
The Compendium and the Four Basic Beliefs
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
As you can see, each of the Four Basic Beliefs is touched on in several of the sections found in the first two chapters of the Compendium.  The Four Basic Beliefs are clearly an important theme in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

bookmark_borderOne Christian Worldview? Part 2: An Argument

Buddhism has the Four Noble Truths, and I think that those beliefs constitute a worldview, namely the Buddhist worldview.
I also believe that the logic of the Four Noble Truths can be applied to analyze other worldviews, including the worldview (or worldviews) of Christianity.
Here is my analysis of the ONE Christian worldview, based on the logical structure of the Four Noble Truths:
The Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity

  1. What are the most basic problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)

Alienation or separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, suffering, physical death, and in the next life: divine eternal punishment.

  1. What is the root cause of the most basic problems of human life? (Diagnosis of Disease)

Sin (wrongdoing and disobedience to God and the human propensity towards wrongdoing) causes separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, suffering, physical death, and ultimately results in eternal divine punishment.

  1. What is the solution to the most basic problems of human life? (Cure for the Disease)

Out of love and mercy for human beings, God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross and to rise from the dead in order provide salvation from sin, to atone for our sins, to reconcile us with God, and to provide eternal life to human beings.

  1. How should we implement the solution to the most basic problems of human life? (Prescribed Treatment for the Disease)

If one repents of one’s sins, and believes in Jesus as the divine savior of humankind who died for our sins and rose from the dead, then one’s sins will be forgiven by God, and the process of salvation from sin will begin, ultimately completing when Jesus raises the dead and gives eternal life in heaven to those who believed in him.
NOTE: This analysis of the Christian worldview is based largely on the use of the logical structure of the Four Noble Truths in conjunction with the brief summaries of Christianity presented by the comparative religions scholar Stephen Prothero in Religious Literacy (p.168) and in God Is Not One (p.71-72).
An Argument for there Being Just ONE Christian Worldview
Here is my argument for the view that there is just ONE Christian worldview:

1. The Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity constitute a Christian worldview.

THUS:

2. IF The Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity are accepted by the Catholic Church, by Eastern Orthodox Churches, and by many major Protestant denominations, THEN there is just ONE Christian worldview.

3. The Four Basic Beliefs of Christianity are accepted by the Catholic Church, by Eastern Orthodox Churches, and by many major Protestant denominations.

THEREFORE:

4.There is just ONE Christian worldview.

Some Points of Clarification

  • I have no interest in the beliefs or worldviews of ignorant Christians, such as the 2/3 of Catholics and the 1/2 of Protestants who don’t know that Easter is the most important Christian holy day and it is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.  Actual Christians sitting in the pews have all sorts of whacky and idiosyncratic theological and metaphysical beliefs.
  • What I care about most are the official beliefs of Churches and denominations–the creeds, the catechisms, statements of faith, and the official doctrines that are taught by Churches or denominations. (I realize that individual Christians often pick and choose which of the official doctrines of their church or denomination to believe and which doctrines to reject.)
  • Of course there are some Christian believers, and even some Christian churches and denominations who reject some or all of the above Four Basic Beliefs, but this is not sufficient reason to posit a second Christian worldview UNLESS a significant percent of Christians belong to churches or denominations that teach a specific alternative worldview, a specific alternative set of four beliefs.  I would not consider an alternative worldview to be a second Christian worldview unless ten to fifteen percent of Christians belong to churches or denominations that teach that specific alternative worldview.
  • If about 80% of Christian believers belong to churches or denominations that officially teach the Four Basic Beliefs, then that would be sufficient, in my view, to show that there is just ONE Christian worldview (unless most of the remaining 20% of Christians belong to churches or denominations that teach a specific second alternative worldview, which is highly unlikely).

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Die on the Cross? Part 2: Finishing Off Geisler’s Case

It is springtime! The sky is blue, and the sun is shining again here in the great and green Northwest.
Every year Easter brings life back into me.  I feel born again, inspired and energized to once again attack the beast (i.e. Christianity/religion/superstition).  I might be tilting at a windmill, but I’m delighted to be back in the saddle, fighting the good fight, crusading against Christianity.
(Although he probably despises me right now, I’m feeling a bit like the energetic and aggressive atheist, Mr. John Loftus.  Happy Easter John!)
The Christian claim I’m currently examining is this:
(JDC) Jesus died on the cross on the day he was crucified.
I have finished reviewing the rest of Geisler’s case for (JDC) in his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), and I’m going to (***SPOILER ALERT***) give you my conclusion right up front:
Geisler’s case for (JDC) is a complete failure.
Recently after working my way through most of Geisler’s case for the existence of God in the same book (WSA), I concluded that his case for God was a complete failure.  So, in WSA Geisler has presented us with at least two key cases in support of Christianity, both of which are of the same unbelievably poor intellectual quality.
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To Dr. Geisler:
If you are reading this post, why not try building a real case for (JDC)?
I’ve tried to get Dr. Craig to do this, but he refuses to budge.  Since Craig has no interest in building an intellectually serious case for the resurrection of Jesus, you have an opportunity to step up to the plate and do the job.
Please consider my challenge to you.  I’m sick of reading the sort of intellectually shoddy apologetic cases that you wrote in When Skeptics Ask (and that William Craig wrote in The Son Rises), and I would love to read an intellectually serious case for the resurrection, to sink my teeth into.   Just Do It!
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The section of WSA that I’m looking at starts on page 120, and has this title:
JESUS ACTUALLY DIED ON THE CROSS
Geisler makes eight points in this section:

  1. There is no evidence to suggest that Jesus was drugged.
  2. The heavy loss of blood makes Jesus’ death highly probable.
  3. When Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear, water and blood flowed out.
  4. The professional Roman executioners declared Jesus dead without breaking his legs.
  5. Jesus was embalmed in about 75-100 pounds of spices and bandages.
  6. Pilate asked for assurance that Jesus was really dead.
  7. Jesus’ appearance [on Sunday] would have been more like a resuscitated wretch than a resurrected Saviour.
  8. A JAMA article concludes that “interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with medical knowledge.”

Three of these points (1, 5, and 7) are objections to specific versions of the Apparent Death Theory (hereafter: ADT).  At best, those objections cast doubt on some specific versions of ADT, so they do NOT rule out ADT in general.  The only way to rule out ADT in general is to PROVE that (JDC) is true. (At least, that is the only way a Christian apologist can rule out ADT.  A skeptic could rule out ADT by proving that Jesus never existed, or by proving that Jesus was never crucified, or by proving that a Jesus look-alike was crucified and mistaken for Jesus.) We can thus set aside points 1, 5, and 7 as irrelevant to the task of proving (JDC) to be true.
Let’s also set aside point 8, because that is a dubious appeal to authority.  Geisler quoting from that JAMA article is very similar to Donald Trump quoting Fox News commentators to “prove” that Obama had ordered Trump Tower to be wire-tapped.  The “authorities” who wrote that JAMA article have about as much intellectual credibility as the Fox News commentators.  The authors of the JAMA article are clearly biased and are incompetent for the task of careful and objective analysis of historical evidence.  Anyway, a serious intellectual case for (JDC) should focus on ACTUAL HISTORICAL EVIDENCE and should not rest on dubious arguments from authority.
Now we are left with the real heart of Geisler’s case for (JDC): points 2, 3, 4, and 6.
In Part 1 of this series, I showed that point 2 was a complete failure, so we now only need to examine the three remaining points (3, 4, and 6).
3. When Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear, water and blood flowed out.
Here is a fuller quote from Geisler on this third point:
When His side was pierced with a spear, water and blood flowed out. The best evidence suggests that this was a thrust given by a Roman soldier to insure death.  The spear entered through the rib cage and pierced His right lung, the sack around his heart, and the heart itself, releasing both blood and pleural fluids.  Jesus was unquestionably dead before they removed him from the cross and probably before this wound was inflicted. …The final wound to His side would have been fatal in itself (v.34).  (WSA, p.121)
In that paragraph, Geisler makes ten relevant claims:
(3a) Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear (while he was hanging on the cross).
(3b) Water and blood flowed out of the wound in Jesus’ side (from the spear).
(3c) The thrust (of the spear into Jesus’ side) given by a Roman soldier (was intended) to insure death.
(3d) The spear entered through the rib cage and pierced Jesus’ right lung.
(3e) The spear pierced the sack around Jesus’ heart.
(3f) The spear pierced Jesus’ heart itself.
(3g) The spearing of Jesus’ side resulted in releasing both blood and pleural fluids.
(3h) Jesus was unquestionably dead before they removed him from the cross.
(3i)  Jesus was probably dead before the spear wound was inflicted.
(3j)  The spear wound to Jesus’ side would have been fatal in itself.
Each of these ten claims is an historical claim, so each of these claims needs to be established on the basis of historical evidence.  But Norman Geisler has no clue about how to make a case for an historical claim:

  • Dr.Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3c)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3d)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3e)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3f)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3g)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3h)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3i)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (3j)

Although Geisler comes close to providing ZERO historical evidence in relation to his third point, he narrowly avoids making this point completely free of any historical evidence by dropping a tiny little morsel at the end of the paragraph:
(v.34)
You would think that an Evangelical professor of theology would know how to give a proper reference to a passage in one of the Gospels, but Dr. Geisler cannot be bothered to strain himself to the extent of writing out the name of the Gospel, and the relevant chatper.  So, I will have to fill in the missing information for him:  John 19:34.  This is the entire extent of Dr. Geisler’s historical evidence in support of claims (3a) and (3b), the only claims out of his ten claims (in this third point) that he supports with historical evidence.
There are so many problems and weaknesses with this bit of historical evidence that it is hard to know where to begin.  Because Dr. Geisler makes absolutely no effort whatsoever to interpret, explain, or defend this small scrap historical evidence, I’m not going to put much effort in here to debunk this weak and questionable bit of evidence.
I will quickly point out some of the problems, and then move on to point 4.  If Dr. Geisler decides someday to make a serious attempt at proving (JDC), then I will respond in kind and make a more serious effort to refute or cast doubt on his historical claims.
Here are some of the many points that I would make (and support with arguments and evidence) if Dr. Geisler ever puts forward an intellectually serious case that makes use of claims (3a) or (3b):

  • The Fourth Gospel was NOT written by an eyewitness to the life or death of Jesus.
  • The Fourth Gospel is the least historically reliable of the four canonical gospels.
  • The Fourth Gospel is the ONLY gospel that mentions the spearing of Jesus in his side.
  • The Fourth Gospel is the ONLY gospel that mentions the blood and water coming from Jesus’ side.
  • The Fourth Gospel is the ONLY gospel that mentions the doubting Thomas story (where Thomas is invited to touch the wound in Jesus’ side, see John 20:24-29).
  • The flow of blood and water from Jesus’ side is very rich in terms of theological symbolism, suggesting that this detail was invented for theological reasons.
  • The author of the Fourth Gospel believed that there was an Old Testament prophecy that the messiah would be stabbed with a spear (John 19:37), so this detail may well have been based on the OT prophecy rather than on testimony about the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • There are several conflicts between the Synoptic gospels accounts of Jesus’ trial before Pilate and crucifixion and death and the accounts of those events found in Chapter 19 of the Fourth Gospel.
  • There are conflicts between the doubting Thomas story in the Fourth Gospel and events described in other gospels.
  • Most of the events and details found in Chapter 19 of the Fourth Gospel are historically dubious, and probably fictional.

I conclude that point 3 is as much a complete intellectual failure as was point 2.
Now we will move on to point 4 of Dr. Geisler’s case for (JDC):
4. The professional Roman executioners declared Jesus dead without breaking his legs.
Here is a fuller quote of the paragraph on this point:
The standard procedure for crucifixion was to break the victim’s legs so that he could not lift himself to exhale.  The victim would then be asphyxiated as his lungs filled with carbon dioxide.  Be clear on this: they broke everyone’s legs.  Yet the professional Roman executioners declared Christ dead without breaking his legs (v.33).  There was no doubt in their minds.  (WSA, p.122)
In that paragraph on point 4 Geisler makes nine historical claims:
(4a) It was standard procedure for crucifixion (by Romans in the first century) to break the victim’s legs (while the victims were hanging from the cross).
(4b) When the legs of a victim of crucifixion were broken (by Romans in the first century) the intention of this action was to prevent the victim from lifting himself to exhale.
(4c) When the legs of a victim of crucifixion were broken (by Romans in the first century) this IN FACT prevented the victim from lifting himself to exhale.
(4d) When the legs of a victim of crucifixion were broken (by Romans in the first century) the victim would then be asphyxiated as his lungs filled with carbon dioxide.
(4e) When Roman soldiers crucified people (in the first century), they broke the legs of every victim (while the victims hung on their crosses).
(4f) The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus were professional executioners.
(4g) The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus declared Jesus to be dead (before removing him from the cross).
(4h) The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus did NOT break Jesus’ legs (before removing him from the cross).
(4i) The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus had no doubt in their minds that Jesus was dead (before removing him from the cross).
Each of these nine claims is an historical claim, so each of these claims needs to be established on the basis of historical evidence.  But Norman Geisler is oblivious to this simple and basic intellectual requirement:

  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4a)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4b)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4c)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4d)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4e)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4f)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4g)
  • Dr. Geisler provides no historical evidence in support of claim (4i)

Once again, Geisler provides only one small scrap of evidence for only one of the nine historical claims in point 4:
(4h) The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus did NOT break Jesus’ legs (before removing him from the cross).
Once again, Geisler doesn’t even provide a proper biblical reference to the relevant gospel passage; instead what we get is this:
(v.33)
Once again, I will have to provide the missing information for Dr. Geisler:  John 19:33.
Some of the problems with John 19:34 that I mentioned above apply to John 19:33 as well:

  • The Fourth Gospel was NOT written by an eyewitness to the life or death of Jesus.
  • The Fourth Gospel is the least historically reliable of the four canonical gospels.
  • There are several conflicts between the Synoptic gospels accounts of Jesus’ trial before Pilate and crucifixion and death and the accounts of those events found in Chapter 19 of the Fourth Gospel.
  • Most of the events and details found in Chapter 19 of the Fourth Gospel are historically dubious, and probably fictional.

As with the spear wound to Jesus’ side, the Fourth Gospel is alone in mentioning the breaking of the legs of the crucifixion victims:

  • The Fourth Gospel is the ONLY gospel that mentions the breaking of the legs of the (other) victims of crucifixion.

One other specific reason to doubt the historicity of John 19:33 is that the alleged failure of the soldiers to break Jesus’ legs was believed by the author of the Fourth Gospel to be a fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy:
These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.”  (John 19:36)
The Old Testament reference is to Psalm 34:20.  Most NT scholars believe that many of the details in the Passion Narratives were derived from OT passages that the authors of the gospels believed to be prophecies about the promised messiah.
The ONE small scrap of evidence that Dr. Geisler provides in support of just ONE of his nine claims, is a very weak and dubious bit of evidence.
I conclude that point 4 is a complete intellectual failureand thus we have seen, so far, that at least three out of the four main points in Dr. Geisler’s case for (JDC) are complete intellectual failures.  That is sufficient to justify the conclusion that his case for (JDC) is a a complete intellectual failure.
Statistics:  
For points 2, 3, and 4, Geisler makes 28 historical claims:

  • For 0 of those historical claims (0%),  he provides strong historical evidence.
  • For 4 of those historical claims (14%), he provides only weak and dubious historical evidence.
  • For 24 of those historical claims (86%), he provides no historical evidence.

 
Point 6 of Geisler’s Case for (JDC)
Point 6, it should be no surprise, also turns out to be a complete intellectual failure:
6. Pilate asked for assurance that Jesus was really dead.
Here is the full quote from Geisler on this point:
Pilate asked for assurance that Jesus was really dead before releasing the body for burial. (WSA, p.122)
That is the sum total that Dr. Geisler wrote on this point.  Notice that he provides no historical evidence to support his claim.
If a professor of an undergraduate course in Christian apologetics asked his/her students to write a short essay defending (JDC), and if one of the students in that course turned in the assignment having written just one single sentence on a single piece of paper, namely the sentence above, then that student ought to receive an “F” for that assignment.
If the professor was feeling particulaly kind and generous, the wayward student might be given the opportunity to have the grade bumped up to a “D” by providing at least a reference to some Gospel passage that supports this claim.  But I’m not feeling particularly generous towards Dr. Geisler, because he already has three stikes, based on the fact that each of his previous three points was a complete intellectual failure (not to mention that he has a doctoral degree and is a professor of Christian apologetics and philosophy, so ought to be held to a much higher standard than undergraduate students).  So, Dr. Geisler gets and “F” for point 6.
But suppose that Geisler had provided some historical evidence to support this historical claim by citing an appropriate Gospel passage, such as Mark 15:42-45?   That would have at least shown a modicum of respect for the basic requirement to provide historical evidence in support of historical claims.
But there are many serious problems with the historicity of Chapter 15 of Mark, and there are specific reasons to doubt the historicity of the specific passage related to point 6, so this is, once again, weak and dubious historical evidence, in addition to the fact that Geisler did not bother to provide any reference to any Gospel passage.
I am tempted to walk through the dozen or more historical problems with Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Mark, but since Dr. Geisler has provided such a thoroughly lousy defense of (JDC), I don’t feel any obligation to provide a thorough refutation of point 6.
If you want more information about why we should be skeptical about Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Mark and about the specific passage that relates to point 6, then read the commentary on Chapter 15 of Mark in The Acts of Jesus (by Robert Funk and The Jesus Seminar), pages 149-161.
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P.S.
The idea that a solid case could be made for (JDC) in just two or three pages is ridiculous.
Yet William Craig, Norman Geisler, Gary Habermas, and Michael Licona have all embraced this absurd assumption, which is a large part of the reason why each of their cases for (JDC) are complete intellectual failures.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Die on the Cross? Part 1: Geisler’s Case

According to the Christian philosopher Dr. Norman Geisler:
Before we [i.e. Christian believers] can show that Jesus rose from the dead, we need to show that he really did die. (When Skeptics Ask, p.120)
William Lane Craig does not understand this basic principle concerning the alleged resurrection of Jesus, and as a result his case for the resurrection is a complete failure, because he makes no serious attempt to show that Jesus really did die on the cross.
However, there are Christian apologists who do understand this principle, and they, unlike Craig, do attempt to show that Jesus really did die on the cross.  Geisler himself, makes this attempt in his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA) on pages 120 to 123.  Gary Habermas and Michael Licona also understand this principle, and in their book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, they also make a brief attempt to show that Jesus really did die on the cross (see pages 99 to 102).
It is pathetic that Geisler’s case for this crucial claim is presented in less than two pages of text (the relevant content begins in the bottom 1/3 of page 120, a full page out of the four pages is taken up with illustrations, and three of the eight points on those pages are irrelevant to showing Jesus’ death on the cross).
It is pathetic that Habermas and Licona devote only about two pages of text to this crucial issue (the text starts at the bottom of page 99 so there is hardly any content on that page, and more than half of page 101 is taken up with a diagram, and the bottom 1/4 of page 102 moves on to a different issue).
If someone could prove that Elvis Presley was alive today, then I would immediately conclude that Elvis had NOT actually died back in 1977, as is commonly believed.  If someone then tried to persuade me that Elvis had risen from the dead, I would insist that they provide me with a rock-solid case showing that Elvis had actaully died on August 16th in 1977 AND that Elvis remained dead (no heartbeat and no breathing) for at least 24 hours (to rule out resuscitation by human or other natural means).
If the person who claimed that Elvis had risen from the dead then handed me two pages of typed text and claimed that those two pages contained a rock-solid case showing that Elvis had truly died on August 16th in 1977, I would laugh loudly, wad the peices of paper into a ball, and toss them in the nearest garbage can. I would tell this person to come back and see me when they had published a full-length book proving the death of Elvis.
I’m inclined to treat Geisler’s two-page case and the Habermas/Licona two-page case with the same contempt, but since they have at least shown some tiny crumb of respect for logic and for the principle stated by Geisler above, I’m going to pretend, at least temporarily, that they have made a serious attempt to show that Jesus actually died on the cross.
Let’s look at Geisler’s “case” first.
Geisler’s first point is an argument against a particular version of the Apparent Death Theory (hereafter: ADT), and his point does nothing to show that Jesus actually died on the cross.  So, the first point is irrelevant to this issue.
Geisler’s second point is clearly relevant:
The heavy loss of blood makes death highly probable.  (WSA, p.120)
The phrase “heavy loss of blood” is VAGUE.  How many cubic centimeters of blood did Jesus lose that day?  Geisler does not say.  Geisler does not provide an estimate of the number of CCs of blood lost by Jesus.  Geisler does not even provide an estimated range of the number of CCs of blood lost by Jesus.  Geisler does not even attempt to provide an estimated range of the number of CCs of blood lost by Jesus, because any such estimate would be pure speculation without any solid factaul basis.
Millions upon millions of people have experienced “heavy blood loss” without dying, so in order to make this point stick, Geisler needs to provide more precise information than this very vague claim.  Yes, IF Jesus experienced a “heavy loss of blood” on Good Friday, THEN that increases the likelihood that Jesus died on the cross.  But, we are not talking about a high probability here.
At the most, the VAGUE claim that Jesus experienced “heavy blood loss” only makes it more probable than not that Jesus died on the cross, and this probability applies ONLY without taking into consideration the assumption that Jesus was alive and walking around on Easter Sunday.  Once we take into consideration the assumption that Jesus was alive and walking around on Easter Sunday, this overwhelms the fact of “heavy blood loss” on Friday, and leaves it HIGHLY probable that Jesus did NOT die on the cross.
Suppose you read in the newspaper that a friend of yours was killed in a horrible car crash on Friday, and an eyewitness of the crash whom you trust as a very reliable person tells you that your friend experienced a “heavy loss of blood” from the accident.  Now suppose that on Sunday morning, your friend comes knocking at your door and you have a conversation with that friend, proving to you that your friend is indeed now alive.
Do you conclude that your friend has risen from the dead?  Not if you are a sane person.  What you would conclude is that the newspaper account was wrong, that your friend did not die in the crash, and that although your friend did experience a “heavy loss of blood” that did NOT prove to be fatal.  People frequently survive a “heavy loss of blood”.
Geisler also fails to show that Jesus IN FACT experienced a “heavy loss of blood” on the day Jesus was crucified.
Here are the claims Geisler makes in support of the conclusion that Jesus experienced a “heavy loss of blood” (WSA, p.120):
(2a) While praying in the Garden, Jesus’ extreme emotional state caused him to “sweat, as it were, great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44).
(2b) Jesus had been beaten repeatedly the night before his crucifixion.
(2c) Jesus had been whipped repeatedly the night before his crucifixion with a Roman scourge.
(2d) The Roman scourge used to whip Jesus was a three-lash whip with pieces of bone or metal on the ends.
(2e)  The whipping of Jesus tore the flesh of the skeletal muscles and set the stage for circulatory shock.
(2f) A crown of thorns had been pushed into Jesus’ skull.
(2g) Jesus was probably in serious to critical condition before they crucified him.
(2h) Jesus suffered five major wounds between nine in the morning and just before sunset.  
(2i) Four of the wounds that Jesus suffered from his crucifixion were caused by nails used to fix him to the cross.
Note that all of these claims are historical claims.  In order to PROVE an historical claim, one must provide historical evidence.  But Geisler is oblivious to this basic intellectual requirement:

  • Geisler provides no historical evidence for the historical claim (2b).
  • Geisler provides no historical evidence for the historical claim (2c).
  • Geisler provides no historical evidence for the historical claim (2d).
  • Geisler provides no historical evidence for the historical claim (2e).
  • Geisler provides no historical evidence for the historical claim (2f).
  • Geisler provides no historical evidence for the historical claim (2g).
  • Geisler provides no historical evidence for the historical claim (2h).
  • Geisler provides no historical evidence for the historical claim (2i).

NOTE: The Gospel passage referenced by Geisler concerning (2h) only supports the assumption that the crucifixion began about 9am and ended before sunset (Mark 15:25 & 33).
This is how an intellectually incompetent writer “proves” that Jesus died on the cross in just two pages.  You simply don’t bother with sophisticated intellectual stuff like: historical facts and evidence.
I am very familiar with these claims, and I am familiar with the relevant available historical data, and so I know, unlike the ignorant Christian sheep who read Geisler’s books, that the evidence for these claims is very weak and sketchy.  One reason why Geisler and other apologists often don’t bother to provide historical facts and evidence to back up their historical claims is that if they did, it would become painfully obvious that their case is weak and that these claims are all very shaky and speculuative in nature.
I’m not going to thoroughly debunk each of these points by Geisler, because he has not stepped up to the plate to take a swing yet.  In fact, Geisler hasn’t even driven to the baseball field yet.  He is still sitting at home watching the game on TV.
Geisler did provide a bit of historical evidence for (2a), so we can see at least one example of how such evidence and arguments fall apart upon closer inspection.  Although Geisler does not state this explicitly, it seems likely that he is implying that Jesus lost some blood “in the Garden” on the night prior to his crucifixion by sweating blood.  But this conclusion involves a questionable interpretation of Luke 22:44.
Geisler should have consulted his fellow Evangelical New Testament scholar Darrell Bock about this verse:
It is important to note that this is metaphorical, not a description that says Jesus sweat blood.  (Luke Vol.2, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p.1761)
Another problem is that there is good reason to believe that this particular verse was NOT in the original Gospel of Luke:
Verses 43-44 were evidently added by some scribe to a manuscript of Luke; they do not appear, however, in the best–the oldest and most reliable–ancient manuscripts.  (The Acts of Jesus, Robert Funk and The Jesus Seminar, p.351)
So, that is two major strikes against Geisler’s one-and-only piece of historical evidence for the historical claim (2a).
But, lets suppose that the oldest and most reliable manuscripts of Luke are defective and that this verse really was part of the original text of that Gospel.  Let’s also suppose that Bock and several other major NT scholars are wrong to read Luke 22:44 as metaphorical, and that the author intended to assert that Jesus literally sweated blood.
There are other reasons to doubt this historical claim:

  • First, this detail is only mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, so there is no corroboration of this detail in the other Gospels.
  • Second, Luke was not a disciple of Jesus, so this is NOT something that Luke himself observed.  This is NOT an eyewitness report.
  • Third, Luke does not indicate that this story about Jesus in the garden or that the specific detail of sweating blood came directly to him from an eyewitness.  So, we have no particular reason to believe that this account was based on the report of an eyewitness.
  • Fourth, there is good reason to believe that the whole story is fictional.

Luke is getting the information for the story about Jesus praying in a garden from the Gospel of Mark, and Mark’s story appears to be a fictional creation:
The scene on the Mount of Olives (Luke does not mention Gethsemane) was inspired originally by the story of David’s flight across the Kidron when his son Absalom revolted (2 Samuel 15-17).  Luke may not have been aware of this connection, however.  Nevertheless, the sequence of events depicted in Mark, Luke’s source, follows the sequence of that earlier story. …Since Luke’s source is a fiction, Luke’s version belongs to the same category. (The Acts of Jesus, Robert Funk and The Jesus Seminar,p.352-353)
NOTE: The details about the parallels between Mark’s story and the O.T. story of David’s flight are presented on pages 150 and 151 of The Acts of Jesus.
OK.  We are well past three strikes for Geisler’s historical evidence for (2a).
The moral of the story is this:
If you are an intellectually incompetent Christian writer, and if you are writing a book for ignorant Christian sheep, then you can make a “case” for the death of Jesus on the cross in just two pages of text by including only one tiny bit of historical evidence for your least significant historical claim, and that evidence can be as full of holes as a five-pound chunk of Swiss cheese, while you provide ZERO historical evidence in support of your other much more significant historical claims.
Unfortunately, there is more mindless fact-free writing for me to cover in Geisler’s case for the death of Jesus on the cross.
TO BE CONTINUED…

bookmark_borderAin’t No Flies on Elvis

Elvis Presley was born on January 8th in 1935.  If he was alive today, he would be 82 years old.  Elvis died on August 16th in 1977, but many have claimed to have seen Elvis alive since that time.  Such sightings are still being reported:

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/578658/elvis-presley-birthday-not-dead-died-alive
http://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/683314/ELVIS-NOT-DEAD-Graceland-groundsman-filmed-THIS-MONTH-is-King-aged-81
And there is even an Elvis Sighting Society, where people share and discuss such events:
http://elvissightingsociety.org/
But what if someone could actually PROVE that Elvis was alive today?  If this could be proven, would it be reasonable to conclude that Elvis had risen from the dead?
Before it would be reasonable to conclude that Elvis had risen from the dead, it would first need to be proven that Elvis really did die on August 16th in 1977.  The fact, if it were to become a fact, that Elvis is now alive, would be very powerful evidence that Elvis did NOT die back in 1977.  Perhaps his death was faked.  Perhaps the autopsy was faked.  Perhaps Elvis did experience clinical death for an hour or so, but was resuscitated by natural means or causes.  If Elvis was proven to be alive today, that would also be powerful evidence that rumors of his death in 1977 were greatly exaggerated.
The same logic applies to Jesus.  If someone someday somehow, per impossible, ever manages to prove that Jesus was alive and walking around on the first Easter Sunday, then this would also provide very powerful evidence against the claim that Jesus had died on the cross on Good Friday.  So, if someone someday somehow, per impossible, ever manages to prove that Jesus was alive and walking around on the first Easter Sunday, that person will have provided us skeptics with a very powerful argument AGAINST the resurrection of Jesus, because they will have provided us with very powerful evidence that Jesus did NOT die on the cross on Good Friday.
William Lane Craig fails to understand this simple bit of logic, and as a result he makes no serious effort to provide proof that Jesus did in fact die on the cross on Good Friday.  Thus, the case for the resurrection of Jesus made by Craig is a complete failure.  Craig (mistakenly) believes that he has proven that Jesus was alive and walking around on the first Easter Sunday, but he fails to realize that if his case really did prove this to be a FACT, that his case would also provide a very powerful reason to reject the claim that Jesus rose from the dead, because this fact would cast serious doubt on the claim that Jesus died on the cross.

bookmark_borderChristianity without Belief in the Resurrection?

BBC News has a story describing an interesting survey. Several particular results stand out: Half of the respondents reported that they do not believe that the Resurrection happened. But of these, many also identified as Christians. About one-fourth of respondents who identified as Christians reported that they do not believe that the Resurrection occurred. So much for 1 Corinthians 15:14.
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According to the BBC story, it is also true that 9% of people identifying as non-religious reported believing that the Resurrection did occur.
I have become increasingly interested in research from social psychology that challenges the traditional view that religious affiliation and identity is a simple function of what believe do or do not believe, and even more so what people claim they believe or do not believe (there are many conditions where people will profess strong belief and act accordingly because they want to fit in). The truth is more complicated and tangled than we might prefer. I think there are even compelling reasons to say that in many cases people don’t know what they believe; more accurately, what people in fact believe is not fixed, but varies (at least somewhat) according to psycho-social context, or is otherwise significantly affected by a wide range of situational factors.