The arrival of another Friday gives me the chance to give you, dear readers, another round of reading from across the web. I’ve been extremely busy this week and so it is a shorter RRP, but these are some goodies. Let me know what you think.
Tim McGrew’s Recommended Apologetics– Dr. Tim McGrew is a household name for those of us who are interested in historical apologetics. He founded The Library of Historical Apologetics and has dedicated much of his life to researching these topics. Here is a list of his recommended apologetics, which include many free resources from historical works.
What We Can Learn from Christianity Today’s Interview with Saeed Abedini– A specialist in domestic abuse analyzes Saeed Abedini’s interview with Christianity Today. I didn’t find this a comfortable read, but it has made me think quite a bit.
Cave Structures Made from Stalagmites Another Problem for Young Earth Creationism– A recent discovery in a cave of structures made from stalagmites presents a difficulty with YEC timelines for the existence of Neanderthals and spread of the same.
Check out these posts from all over the web, collected for your own viewing pleasure by yours truly. If you enjoyed the posts, drop them a comment! Let me know what you think here. Thanks for stopping by, now go read!
The Least Popular Book in the Bible– I found this to be one of the most fun posts I have read in a long time. I really encourage you to check it out. But Don’t Cheat! Leave a guess as to which Bible book is least popular before you head over and find out! The post also gives reasons to read the book, so you may get some good reading in.
Is the Bible’s Definition of Faith Opposed to Logic and Evidence?– In light of the recent debate between Boghossian and McGrew on “Is Faith a False Epistemology?” (see my summary and analysis here), I found this post extremely insightful. What does the Bible say about faith? What kind of definitions does it give? Check out this great post on these questions.
Aquinas’ First Way (image)– Be sure to zoom in on this one! It’s a pictorial way to look at the “First Way” of Aquinas to reason to the existence of God. I think there are a couple problems with the exposition, particularly in speaking of water as only potentially cooling, but it is a good, basic introduction. Check it out.
Did Jesus Ride Two Animals Into Jerusalem?– How might we reconcile apparent differences in reports over how Jesus rode into Jerusalem? Check out this post to read up on a few ways, alongside some analysis. It’s well worth the time spent!
Book Review: The New Perspective on Mary and Martha– Drawing from Luke 10:38-42, Mary and Martha are often seen as quintessential examples of how to focus on Christ. But what message do we often get about/from them? Is there a corrective for some of the wrong pictures we may have? This review gives some insight into these and other questions.
Peter Boghossian, whose recently wrote a book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, recently met with Tim McGrew in a debate on the Unbelievable? radio program. Here, we’ll take a look at the debate and what we might conclude from it. The Unbelievable? show is set up like a moderated dialogue, and Justin Brierly often asks thoughtful questions throughout the dialogue. Unless otherwise noted, anything in quotation marks are the exact words of the speakers.
McGrew notes that he went into epistemology and philosophy of science due to his interest in evidence for his faith. He shares his chagrin that there doesn’t seem to be any “trickle down” from academic arguments about the faith into internet debates–though he tongue-in-cheek noted that it is “surprising” that someone on the internet might be wrong. He notes that philosophy of religion has given many different reasons to think that faith is grounded in evidence and good reasons to think Christianity is true.
Boghossian notes his movement of “street epistemology” is not about evangelizing for atheism but rather a call to people to think more rationally. He says he wanted to write a book which was aimed at the kind of conversations people have on the street. Developed theology, he says, is “purposeful obfuscation” which has no respect for. Brierly asked Boghossian what, in his view, would believers reaction be when challenged on their thinking, to which Boghossian answered that people would be “disabused of… superstitions” and must be more careful with how they use the word “faith.” He sees people leaving their faith as a consequence of reasoning. His book, he says, is a way to equip people to dialogue about faith without being uncivil.
McGrew states that Boghossian is defining terms in “irregular ways,” particularly the definition of “faith.” He states that he knows of no one outside of Boghossian and those he has encouraged, who defines faith as “pretending to know things you don’t know” (this is the actual definition Boghossian provides for the word “faith”).
The primary definition of “faith” should instead be seen as “belief without evidence.” He says he’s focused on how people use the word faith as opposed to dealing with definitions. He states that this is how “literally billions” of people define faith (belief without evidence). “Pretending to know what you don’t know” is “a very valid” definition of faith, though “belief without evidence” is to be seen as the primary definition.
The vast majority of people do not use faith to mean belief without evidence. Even atheists like “The Good Atheist” are opposed to Boghossian’s definition of faith.
I’m concerned with how “people actually use terms.” When people use the term “faith” they mean there is confidence over and above the value of the evidence. Prominent Christians also use the word “faith” to mean belief without evidence.
Boghossian has already changed his definition of faith by now saying that “faith” means “belief with confidence above that which is allowed by the evidence” (paraphrase). These definitions are not the same as belief without evidence. Well below 1% use faith in that same fashion. There may be different conceptions of what counts as evidence, but this does not mean that people think they are believing without evidence.
Faith should be defined as “trusting, holding to, and acting on what one has good reason to believe is true in the face of difficulties.” McGrew uses an example of a parachute: one who is going skydiving may be apprehensive about jumping out of a plane despite knowing that the vast majority of people make the ground alive when they go skydiving. One can know all of this evidence, but can still say they have “faith” that their instructor packed the parachute correctly. There is a distinction between hope and faith.
People use faith and hope as synonyms, but they are not. But where “does evidence stop and faith take over?”
Putting it that way prejudices the outcome of the question, because it puts the question in such a way that faith has to “sometimes make up” evidence for action or belief. But when we act, we are not acting on percentages but rather we are acting or trusting in something on the basis of the evidence we have, despite not having complete certainty.
Justin Brierly eventually cut in and moved to refocus the conversation around Boghossian’s claims that faith should be seen as a mental illness, complete with entire institutions devoted to treating faith as a disease and working towards “interventions” to move people away from faith. Brierly was quoting from Boghossian’s book in this section, and he asked Boghossian to expand on this.
It is “very unfair” to say that I target the Christian faith. “I am deeply hostile to all faiths… My attempt isn’t to demean anybody.” Religions should be seen as possible mental illness, and to exclude faith from treatment as a mental illness is hampering science. Faith “hijacks the thinking process… We need to help people through these delusions they have.”
There still seems to be no point of agreement. To define faith in this manner is to “reduce disagreement to derision.” By defining faith as belief without evidence, Boghossian has derided people of faith. Essentially, the definition is propaganda: defining faith as inferior by default and so demeaning those people of faith.
When people have conversations with people of faith, they should not have a one-on-one conversation with name calling. The advocating of putting religion on the DSM (a manual for diagnosing various mental disorders) is not connected with everyday conversation and is so not insulting.
Boghossian’s overall body of work defines faith in a way which is demeaning: “pretending to know what you don’t know.” If this is the strategy, this is like “newspeak” in 1984 by George Orwell.
The difference is that in public lectures, one should not do this. Instead, we should have “interventions” with people. People who have faith are “not well.” Apologetics is confirmation bias and is damaging.
Boghossian seriously misunderstands the role of apologetics, which is the pursuit of whether a conviction holds up under scrutiny. It is no more necessary to make a detailed scholarly study of every faith before coming to a settled belief that only one is true than to have to read every biography of every person who was alive at the time Lincoln was shot to conclude that John Wilkes Booth shot him. To say otherwise is to “pretend” that one can’t have good evidence unless one concludes one doesn’t have good evidence for other things. We don’t have to rule out all alternatives to a theory, rather, one just has to have good evidence to hold that which they do.
It should be fairly clear that Boghossian’s attitude towards people of faith is not one that is friendly, as he apparently claims. When someone says that people of faith need to have “interventions” and be studied as mentally ill, that hardly is a way to respect them. Moreover, he then advocated a kind of split-personality: when someone is one-on-one, they should not bring up the notion that the person of faith is mentally ill because that would be insulting, but apparently it’s not insulting when someone writes a book saying that very thing.
Clearly the biggest issue in this debate was that of the definition of faith. Here it should be seen that once again, Boghossian’s view did not hold up. He ended up actually changing his definition in the course of the conversation, when pressed, to belief beyond the evidence. But he still claimed that “billions of people” use the term “faith” to mean “belief without evidence.” I would simply ask Boghossian: what is your evidence for that claim? Has he talked to billions of people to discover this? Where is his data to back up this claim? It seems to me that Boghossian’s definition of faith is based upon his “pretending to know something he doesn’t know”–namely, that this is how people of faith define faith.
Polemical use of the term aside, I strongly suspect that Boghossian truly does not have evidence for his use of that term faith as backed by “billions.” Moreover, I wonder whether Boghossian defines faith in that way simply because he rejects the evidence for, say, Christianity, and has gone from his own view that there is no evidence for Christianity to saying that Christians must be having faith as “belief without evidence.” But of course disagreeing with someone else’s assessment of the evidence does not entail that the religious “other” believes they are believing without evidence.
McGrew did a fantastic job of continually orienting the discussion around the topic at hand: epistemology. Boghossian’s continued appeal to certainty or the alleged need to explore every faith to know if one is true was thoroughly shredded. As McGrew pointed out, Boghossian could hardly hold a single belief if one truly had to reject every other possibility in order to hold to one as true. Boghossian’s epistemology, it seems, is the faulty one.
“Peter Boghossian, Atheist Tactician”- A brief look at the e-book by Tom Gilson– Tom Gilson has challenged Boghossian on a number of points, including his view of the meaning of “faith,” in his e-book “Peter Boghossian, Atheist Tactician.” It is well worth the read, and this review provides a summary of the major points.
Check out Tom Gilson’s live blog of the debate.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.
Another round of Really Recommended Posts here. Featured are undesigned coincidences, literary and culutral apologetics, egalitarianism/complementarianism, young earth creationism, and the “Gospel of Jesus’ wife.” I hope you’ll check them out and let me know what you thought!
Tim McGrew replies to Ed Babinski’s Critique of his Discussion of Undesigned Coincidences– I recently wrote on one of the [mostly] forgotten arguments for the truth of Christianity- Undesigned Coincidences. Tim McGrew is the best current proponent of this argument, and here he offers a response to some of the standard objections to the argument, along with a general criticism of trying to rebut the argument based on Markan priority. Check out my post, and check out this post to see the excellent defense of the argument.
“Full Dark, No Stars”: Stephen King’s Worlds of Night– An excellent blog that often looks into cultural apologetics, “Empires and Mangers,” Anthony Weber’s Blog takes a look at one of Stephen King’s work from a Christian perspective. It’s a very intriguing read. Anthony Weber is the author of “Learning to Jump Again,” which I reviewed.
It’s About the Bible, not Fake ideas of Progress– NT Wright is one of the most lucid Christian thinkers with whom I have ever interacted. Here, he takes a look at some strategies of those who are both for and against women in the ministry and evaluates the arguments. He offers a way forward in the discussion.
How prestigious evangelical scholars helped debunk the Jesus wife myth– Did Jesus have a wife? Some recent controversy occurred over the alleged finding of a fragment purporting to tell the truth on this exact detail. However, it has come to light that the fragment is almost certainly a fraud. Wintery Knight’s post looks at how evangelical scholars helped to expose this fraud. I have linked to a number of posts about this “Gospel” myself. For those wondering: even if it were not a fraud (which it is), it is a late fragment that doesn’t tell us much other than what some heretics believed at the time.
Nathaniel Jeanson of the Institute for Creation Research in Montana– I found this post extremely interesting. It is often alleged by young earth creationists that old earth proponents and “secularists” follow a strict uniformitarianism. Unfortunately, this definition of uniformitarianism is outdated by a couple hundred years.The GeoChristian offers a response to this YEC argument. Yes, this is part 3 of a 5 part series, no you don’t have to read them all to make sense of it. But do check out the whole series, because it is interesting!
Nonrandom Mutations Scramble the Case for Common Descent: Reasons to Believe, my favored resource for science-faith discussions, is chock-full of excellent articles like this one, which argues that mutations are not necessarily always random, but rather take place in such a way that reflects design.
There are many charges raised against the historicity of the birth narratives of Jesus Christ. These run the gamut from objections based upon alleged contradictions to inconsistencies in the genealogies to incredulity over the possibility of a virgin birth. Rather than make a case to rebut each of these objections in turn, here I will focus upon using undesigned coincidences to note how these birth narratives of Christ have the ring of truth. How exactly do undesigned coincidences work? Simply put, they are incidental details that confirm historical details of stories across reports. I have written more extensively on how these can be used as an argument for the historicity of the Gospels: Undesigned Coincidences- The Argument Stated. It should be noted that the birth narrative occurs only in Matthew and Luke. John begins with a direct link of Christ to God, while Mark characteristically skips ahead to the action. Thus, there are only a few places to compare these stories across different reports. However, both Mark and John have incidental details which hint at the birth account. These incidental details lend power to the notion that the birth narratives of Jesus are historical events.
First, there is one undesigned coincidence that is such a gaping hole and such a part of these narratives most people will probably miss it. Namely, what in the world was Joseph thinking in Luke!? Do not take my word for this–look up Luke chapters 1-2. Read them. See anything missing? That’s right! Joseph, who is pledged to a virgin named Mary (1:27) doesn’t say anything at all about the fact that his bride-to-be is suddenly pregnant. There is no mention of him worrying at all about it.
So far as we can tell from Luke, Joseph, who we only know as a descendant of David here, is going to be wed to a virgin and then finds out that she’s pregnant. He’s not the father? What’s his reaction? We don’t find out until Luke 2, where Joseph simply takes Mary with him to be counted in the census, dutifully takes Jesus to the Temple, and that’s about it. Isn’t he wondering anything about this child? It’s not his! What happened?
Only by turning to Matthew 1:18ff do we find out that Joseph did have his second thoughts, but that God sent an angel explaining that Mary had not been unfaithful, and that the baby was a gift of the Holy Spirit. So we have an explanation for why Joseph acted as he did in Luke. Now these are independent accounts, and it would be hard to say that Luke just decided to leave out the portion about Joseph just because he wanted to have Matthew explain his account.
The genealogies of Jesus that Matthew and Luke include are different, but they reflect the meta-narratives going on within each Gospel. Luke’s narrative generally points out the women throughout in a positive light, and it is often argued that his genealogy traces the line of Mary. Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, traces through Jesus’ legal father, Joseph. Now it could be argued that these are simply reflections of the authors’ imaginations within their fictional accounts, but surely including names with descendants tracing all the way back to Abraham and beyond is not a good way to construct a fictional account. No, Matthew and Luke include the genealogies because their accounts are grounded in history.
Interestingly, the birth narratives of Jesus also help explain the events reported in Mark and John, which do not report His birth. What of the apparent familiarity John had with Jesus in Mark 1:3ff and John 1:19ff? It seems a bit odd for John to go around talking about someone else “out there” who will be better in every way than he himself is without knowing who this other person is. Well, looking back at Matthew and Luke, we find that Mary and Elizabeth (John’s mother) knew each other and had visited each other during their pregnancy. It seems a foregone conclusion that they continued to interact with each other after the births of their sons, which would explain John’s apparent familiarity with Jesus in Mark and John.
Strangely, Mark never mentions Joseph as Jesus’ father. If all we had was Mark’s Gospel, we would be very confused about who Jesus’ father is. The oddness is compounded by the fact that Mary is mentioned a number of times. Well okay, that still seems pretty incidental. But what about the fact that Mark explicitly has a verse where he lists Mary as well as Jesus’ siblings?
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3, ESV)
This verse seems extremely weird. After all, Joseph was a carpenter (well, a more accurate translation is probably “craftsman”) and yet despite Mark explicitly using that word for Jesus, as well as listing Mary and Jesus’ siblings, we still see nothing but silence regarding Jesus’ father. Well, of course! After all, when we turn to the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, we find that Jesus was born of a virgin. Jesus had no human father. Thus, Mark, ever the concise master of words, simply omits Joseph from details about Jesus’ life. But to not mention Jesus’ father in a largely patriarchal society alongside his mother and siblings seems extremely strange. It is only explained by the fact of the virgin birth, with which Mark would have been familiar. However, Mark didn’t see the birth narrative as important in his “action Gospel.” Only by turning to Matthew and Luke do we find an explanation for the strange omission of Joseph from Mark’s Gospel.
I have listed just a few undesigned coincidences to be gleaned from the birth narratives of Jesus. The fact of the matter is that these can be multiplied almost indefinitely if one looks at the whole of the Gospels, and even moreso if one investigates the whole Bible. These incidental details fit together in such a way as to give the Gospels the ring of truth. The way that Matthew fills in details of Luke, Mark demonstrates his familiarity with the birth narratives, and the intimate connections of Jesus and John are all cross-confirmed is both incidental and amazing. The claim is not that based upon these incidences alone the Gospel accounts are true. No, the claim is that those who challenge the truth of these accounts must account for these incidences in a way that is more plausible than that they simply occur when people relate history. It seems that the only way to do that would be to resort to outlandish narratives that involve the four authors sitting together and discussing which portions of stories to leave out so the others can fill them in. No, instead it seems much more likely that these four authors were writing what they had witnessed–or received from eyewitness testimony, and just as we do when recounting events (think of 9/11, for example, and the different things people remember) they wrote specific details they felt were important or part of the narrative, while the others found other things more important or had other incidental knowledge related to the events they recorded.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.
Did Jesus even exist?– the title is pretty self-explanatory. Rather than focusing on varied historical accounts, though, this post surveys several non-believers quotes on the topic.
Undesigned Scriptural Coincidences: The Ring of Truth– One of the old, forgotten arguments of historical apologetics is experiencing a major revival thanks in large part to the contributions of philosopher Tim McGrew. Christian Apologetics UK has this simply phenomenal post on the topic. Basically, the argument shows that without intending to do so, writers in the Bible omit and fill in each others’ details that they wouldn’t have seen as all that important. In doing so, however, they demonstrate the truth of the Biblical account. Check out this post!
Does the Bible teach that faith is opposed to logic and evidence?– Check out this post on the Biblical view of faith.
What if God were really bad?– Glenn Peoples is one of my favorite philosophers. He’s insightful, witty, and just plain interesting. In his latest podcast, he confronts Stephen Law’s “Evil God challenge” head on. Check it out!
William Lane Craig rebuts the “Flying Spaghetti Monster”– Self-explanatory. Check out Craig’s answer to a question about the FSM.
Nicolas Steno: bishop and scientist– I love posts that are mini-biographies of Christians who also did science. Check this one out, I bet you didn’t know about this guy!
Stephen Hawking: God Could not Create the Universe Because There Was No Time for Him to Do So– Jason Dulle provides an analysis of Hawking’s argument against creation. This is an excellent post and I highly recommend it.
Modal Realism, the Multiverse, and the Problem of Evil– Considerations of the multiverse with the problem of evil. Succinct and interesting!