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Good Friday: Why Celebrate Easter?

April 10th, 2009 by Matt

Good FridayLast Sunday Christian, my eldest son, asked me “what is the point in baptism?” In the ensuing conversation it became clear that his real struggle was with the idea of ‘ritual ceremony’ and the symbolism involved.

Christian has Aspergers Syndrome and is quite literal (which is is a typical Aspie trait). Ceremonies  are often metaphorical; symbols are repeated each time the ritual is enacted. Symbols have meaning only because they point to something literally correct that they symbolise. If this is the case, Christian would ask, why not just grasp the literal reality? Why go through all the bother of a symbol and a ritual? In the case of baptism, why not just live a life of repentance, faith and piety? Why do you need to have an elaborate ceremony symbolising cleansing, death Resurrection and new life? Can’t I just be a Christian?

“For a brief moment it was like I could directly experience or perceive something of the glory of God and the deep cosmic significance of Christ’s death.”

Christian’s observations came back to me strongly yesterday. For the last four weeks I have been teaching Ethics and Introduction to Philosophy for the religious studies faculty at St Peters College. This is part of my teaching diploma. I have to work in unpaid for a period of time so I can ‘learn the ropes.’ During the free periods I have tried to focus on research and publishing in various areas of the relationship between religion and morality (something readers of this blog will know is a keen interest of mine). My day, then, has been focused on teaching philosophy and ethics to college aged students (US readers note that ‘college’ in this New Zealand context means high school) and researching and writing for my field. At the days end I have been coming home and blogging, often on the same topics.

Yesterday the head of faculty at St Peters invited me to go to the annual St Peters Easter liturgy. As a Protestant working at a Catholic College it is not compulsory for me to attend. However, he thought I might like to see how the college celebrates Easter. I stopped my writing for an hour and went down to the assembly hall to watch the liturgy. Much of it was traditional Catholic veneration of the cross, I should note that Anglicans do this as well, thrown in with some time of meditation and reflection on the passion of Christ. Now as a Protestant I have qualms around veneration of objects and symbols such as the cross; however, in the middle of the meditation I was struck again, as I am almost every Easter, with the reality of the events these rituals reflect on. For a brief moment it was like I could directly experience or perceive something of the glory of God and the deep cosmic significance of Christ’s death.

This was not just the abstract grasping of true propositions about God and Christ, though this is certainly a valid part of it. It was deeper; one becomes consciously aware of the reality in a manner in which one can almost literally feel it. Rudolph Otto described such experiences as the sense of the numinous. There is a sense of awe, mystery, majesty, involved one becomes entirely quiet and almost sad yet the experience is one that is deeply attractive and compelling, one that you would not mind continuing for a significant length of time.

Easter SundayFrom my late teens through to now I have had moments like this when the reality of God has become apparent and sometimes I have had literally hours where I have simply been struck with the awesome, majestic awareness of a sacred presence brooding all around me, one calling me towards a goal which I cannot see and yet am aware is there and also one that speaks to me out of the historical events of the death and Resurrection of Christ. It struck me at the time that this is why ritual is important. As an excessively cerebral person (or at least this is how one of my thesis supervisors once described me) Christianity can become simply an intellectual project, a research program where I simply expound and defend a philosophy. Rituals force me to focus and refocus over and over again on the realities behind what I do. Rituals force one to quiet one’s soul and really reflect at a level beyond the mere intellectual. It strikes me, also, that rituals like baptism are powerful because they engage the full senses. One sees, hears, there are dramatic symbols that one can use as opposed to mere abstract concepts.

There is also an important time factor. One can draw a line in the sand and say here and now at this point in time I have committed to this. This is evident perhaps clearest in marriage. One could simply make an implicit commitment to be in an exclusive monogamous relationship with a member of the opposite sex and I think in principle this could constitute a valid marriage. However, the symbolism where you decide that today, at this time, you will make the commitment publicly before witnesses who will hold you accountable to that decision – accompanied by the symbolism of rings, an aisle, veils, etc – all these things, especially when the symbolism is interpreted correctly by those engaging in it, make the commitment that much more more powerful.

A whole host of factors, visual, intellectual, social, are brought in and focused in one time and place enabling the event to be invested with a solemnity that is appropriate for its nature. My experience yesterday at St Peters reminded me vividly of the importance of rituals at a time like Easter.

God created us as intellectual beings and one of my biggest criticisms of New Zealand evangelicism is the intellectual and cultural mediocrity which it often triumphantly celebrates in the name of “being a heart Christian” or in the name of a superficial emotional and devotional piety. But God also created us holistic persons with a mind, emotions and a will. We need time regularly to refocus ourselves and orientate our entire person on the realities on which our faith is founded. Some people with autism or Aspergers Syndrome may perhaps have a special gift whereby their whole person can be focused with just their intellectual awareness but most people are not like this.

For myself, a philosopher/theologian whose faith is undeniably at times quite intellectual, this is the real value of Easter. Once a year there is a time when everything stops and there is time to focus, meditate and reflect with the whole person on what is central. While, I do not accept some aspects of the Catholic rituals I saw on Thursday the realisation of this need, the importance of ritual and repetition that engages the whole person, is the real strength of Catholic spirituality – one that Protestants can and should learn from and often neglect to their detriment.

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85 responses so far ↓

  • A nice mix of faith and reason all bundled into a single post. Your intellectual impartiality (honesty) in appraising a Catholic Mass and finding noting some intrinsic value in the ritual, in spite of an initial contrary opinion is refreshing.

    Have you read Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn?

    Recent blog post: Crucifixion

  • Thanks for stopping by Steve and for your generous comments. I am glad you enjoyed the post and I too think Matt should share more of his experience of God as it really brings the intellectual exercises we engage in alive.

    You are aware that “I think, therefore I am,” which is widely attributed to Descartes, actually comes from Augustine? Who also, incidentally was a dualist.

    I agree that the statement “I think therefore I am” was a disastrous epistemological move though I am not sure that I would agree with the reasons by which you arrive at this conclusion. Likewise I suspect we would not agree with what has damned so much of the western intellectual tradition, post-modernity was far more damning than Descartes.

  • this is a refreshing post. so appreciate your honesty.

    ritual has the potential to integrate head and heart, body and mind, emotion and aesthetics, individual and communal and thus overtip the dualisms of modernity: I think therefore I am, that have damned so much of the Western intellectual tradition,

    do keep ritualising matt

    steve

    Recent blog post: Good Friday prayer for Beckenham and Opawa Baptists

  • Matt is always careful to honestly assess and appraise the things he is confronted with; I think it is part and parcel with his analytical skills. His precision often enables me to see value in things I otherwise might have written off (another reason to value logic).

    So often, and I think we are all capable of it, we through the baby out with the bathwater because there is something floating in it that could have simply been discarded and the bath saved.

    Catholics and Protestants agree on far more things than we disagree, we share history and common goals and we worship the same God. The points of difference are undeniably big points of difference, however, both ‘sides’ need to be careful to only ring-fence what is relevant and not write each other off completely.

    Through spending time with my Catholic friends, attending their weddings, etc I have come to a much greater understanding of Catholicism than I had previously gained by simply reading about it. While, if anything, this experience has driven me further from ever contemplating embracing it (despite their best efforts and the example of one of my heroes Frank Beckwith), it has also enabled me to appreciate it better (if that can make sense in light of my first claim).

    We have not read Scott Hahn’s book but we consider Frank Beckwith to be something of a friend.

    Recent blog post: JP Moreland on Faith and Reason

  • Why do you believe in the Easter myth when you would, or should, be aware that the story of Jesus is taken directly from the story of Horus, the Egytian God of 3000 BC? If the Romans prefred method of execution was hanging, would you follow the rope, as you do the cross?

  • Excellent Post Matt.

    I have had a whole year of being a Protestant within a Catholic environment. I therefore appreciate your honest views.
    At times my faith has been challenged and enhanced, by Catholic Christians, and at others time I have been frustrated and annoyed at what I see (I get the same reaction from my own church as well).

    One of the things I like about symbolism and ritual is that I find them similar to parables. For me parables ask me to wrestle with my own personal questions and ideas on a related passage. What I gain from the Parable of the Talents might be different to what you learn. For someone new to Christianity the meaning might be one aspect. For a long time Christian the story can have just as much significance, this is because we are often asked to look internally for where God is challenging us.
    Rituals are similar for me as I feel they meet the person where they are at. They can provide a framework and challenge me at a level I am personally comfortable with.

    As a side I also think symbols and rituals provide structure for people. This can make the church a little less threatening and scary. This can be especially important to visitors or people returning to church.

    Recent blog post: Servant Leadership

  • Marc, you forgot the part about the Knights Templar running a 2000 year old scam which originated from a bet that started in an ancient game of poker.

    Unfortunately, the cannon of scripture was set about 300 AD, and the actual books written some time before that. So it’s already at the printers – sorry too late for any changes at this point. Next time, try to get in a few thousand years earlier.

    Recent blog post: There They Crucified Him

  • We are protestants we do not follow the cross, we follow God. If Christ had been hung as opposed to crucified then yes I doubt the cross would be a christian symbol, perhaps some noose type symbol would be in its place.. what was your point?

    As for the Horus thing, you are aware The Da Vinci code was a novel?

    Recent blog post: How to become a Famous Blogger

  • Marc – Horus? Surely you mean Osiris. And my goodness, are you a Zeitgeist fan or something? To put it mildly, that old chestnut has been roasted to death.

    What next, are you going to drag the Old Mithras nonsense out as well?

  • Madeleine,
    My point was, why wear a symbol of execution? What if he’d been stoned? Perhaps you could wear a rock or simliar?
    Just so you know, I don’t watch or read Dan Brown non-sense. For a start it features Jesus, whom I don’t believe even existed.

    Recent blog post: Angels, Ressurrection and Virgin Birth

  • Hi Marc
    You state that the story of Jesus is taken directly from the story of Horus the Eygptian God of 3000 BC. You also speak as if this is an uncontroversial that fact I should be aware of.

    The problem is that this claim as far as I can tell is false. At very best the it is highly controversial.

    For starters we do not have any Egyptian documents from 3000 BC that about the Horus story. Second as Ben Witherington notes “There was no such thing as the concept of bodily resurrection in Egyptian religion, and certainly not of a mythological deity, Horus, was not believed to have a human body. Sometimes commentators will use the term resurrection to speak loosely about an afterlife in another world, not a bodily return to this world.” Thirdly, there various different versions of the story of Horus, and none of the alleged parallels frequently cited in popular media are in fact in them.

    In the story as I understand it Seth murders Horus’s father Osiris and hides his body in a coffin. Isis, Horus’s mother and Osiris sister, finds the coffin but Seth cuts the body up. Isis then searches the world puts the parts together, but cannot find his penis, she makes a wooden one, has sex with it and gives birth to Horus who becomes a military leader and king. Horus fights Seth, they rape each other, blind each other, ejaculate on one anothers food etc and the gods eventually settle it. Horus ends up reigning in the underworld. I fail to see terribly many parallels here. Certainly the claim that the Gospels are taken *directly* from this story are rather absurd. I fail to see the detailed parallels you refer to.

    For those reading this I recommend Ben Witherington’s critique of this view at: http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2007/12/zeitgeist-of-zeitgeist-movie.htm

    Recent blog post: Good Friday: Why Celebrate Easter?

  • Hello, my first post here. Happy Easter! Anyway, I am curious as to how you would counter the following argument against the resurrection? It is not my argument, I have seen it elsewhere. At any rate here it is:

    So here is the argument:

    Here is the basic outline for Jesus resurrection:
    ===========================================================================
    1. Miracles (i.e. events directly involving supernatural agents) are possible because God exists.
    2. Jesus claimed to be God.
    3. Jesus performed acts that could have been miracles.
    4. Many people witnessed Jesus performing those acts.
    5. NT is reliable.
    6. Many people came to believe Jesus was God and were willing to die for their belief.
    ==============================================================================

    Here below is the argument against the claim, that Jesus resurrected in a NEW GLORIFIED BODY:

    1. Jesus was, at the very least, a supernormal being.
    2. If current medical science does not say that supernormal beings can’t naturally resuscitate, then we can’t conclude that supernormal beings can’t naturally resuscitate.
    3. Current medical science does not say that supernormal beings can’t naturally resuscitate.
    4. Therefore, we can’t conclude that supernormal beings can’t naturally resuscitate. (from 3, 2).
    5. Therefore, we can’t conclude that Jesus did not naturally resuscitate. (from 4, 1)

    Then a further explanation of:

    Even if Jesus rising from the dead best explains the historical facts, it doesn’t follow that Jesus resurrecting from the dead is established at all. The resurrection entails more than the mere restoration of Jesus’ life–it includes the additional claim he Jesus transformed into a supernatural body. Where is the evidence for this claim?

    If I demonstrate an ability to shoot laser beams out of my eyes, can you then reasonably infer that I can withstand a nuke blast? The inference is a clear non-sequitur. Similarly, the claim that Jesus’ body post-resurrection is “supernatural” – i.e. possessing the attributes I mentioned – is not supported in anyway by him rising from the dead.

    A). Jesus was probably a supernormal (yet natural) being, and probably not a supernormal (yet supernatural) being.
    B). Jesus was probably a supernormal (yet supernatural) being, and probably not a supernormal (yet natural) being.
    C). I don’t know whether (1) or (2) is true: that is, I don’t know whether Jesus probably a supernormal (yet natural) being, and probably not a supernormal (yet supernatural) being, or probably a supernormal (yet supernatural) being, and probably not a supernormal (yet natural) being.

    My claim is simple: those 6 lines of evidence – either collectively or individually – do not provide good reason for believing in (B). The fact that miracles are possible, that Jesus claimed to be God, that Jesus performed acts that could have been miracles, that many people came to believe those acts were in fact miracles, offers no reason to suppose those acts were probably miracles. To argue that those acts were probably miracles, you need evidence that that those acts were probably not natural acts. But evidence for this claim cannot come from current empirical science (CEE), and thus you must rely solely on testimony: i.e. Jesus’ word.

    So here’s the question: why should we believe Jesus’ word that he performed miracles? What evidence is there that his claims were correct? Again, that evidence – whatever it is – cannot come from current empirical science (CEE). Hence we’re left with Jesus’ word. But I see no compelling reason to believe his word (which is not to say I think we should disbelieve him).

    Perhaps you might appeal to (6) and say: the best explanation for why people came to believe Jesus’ claims is that Jesus’ claims were true. But this line of argument assumes those people were capable of distinguishing supernormal (yet natural) acts from supernormal (yet supernatural) acts. IF those people were capable of making this distinction, then they would be in a suitable position to know. But there is no evidence (thus far listed) that suggests that they were capable of making this distinction. Hence, there is no good reason to think Jesus was supernormal (yet supernatural) entity as opposed to a supernormal (yet natural) entity (remember: I’m not arguing that Jesus was probably the latter).

    Thank you for your time.

  • The rituals and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church are two of its strengths and a reason for its enduring popularity.

    Now can the Churches get the days correct? It is not possible to squeeze three days and nights between Friday sunset and Sunday mnorning. If Jesus did not spend three days and three nights in the tomb he is not the son of God.

  • That is quite a compliment coming from you. The historicity of the resurrection is definitely more your area of expertise than ours especially given your publications in this area.

    I would be interested to hear your views in response to Marc who advocates a parallel between Christ and Krishna (though yesterday it was Horus).

    Recent blog post: The Foundations of the Alexandrian Argument against Feticide Part I

  • Tim that is quite a compliment coming from you. The historicity of the resurrection is definitely more your area of expertise than ours especially given your publications in this area.

    I would be interested to hear your views in response to Marc who advocates a parallel between Christ and Krishna (though yesterday it was Horus).

  • Matt, I will have to find more refences for you. But take a look at the life of Krishna http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jckr1.htm. Another good read is http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa.htm.

    Recent blog post: Angels, Ressurrection and Virgin Birth

  • Wayne,

    M & M are more than capable of taking care of themselves, but — shooting from the hip here — I'd say that the author of this criticism has simply misconstrued the argument for the resurrection.

    We have no evidence whatsoever that there are supernormal-but-natural beings who can effect their own resurrection. And this is a problem, because if they are natural beings (as the argument presupposes), we have every right to ask why we have no evidence for their existence in the natural order. There is a disanalogy here with a supernatural being; the free decisions of God do not have to be repeated every time there are similar circumstances, but (at least on a large-scale) natural, physical phenomena are essentially guaranteed to be repeated under appropriately similar physical conditions. So if these natural supermen exist, where are they and how do you account for their integration into a scientific view of the natural world?

    It might be worth remembering that the Christian view, amply attested in the gospels, is that Jesus was born of a woman: his body was subject to fatigue, pain, and death itself. There is no sign of his being physically resistant to the ills that flesh is heir to — until the resurrection.

  • Tim, a quick question: Where does the physical body of Jesus reside?

    Recent blog post: Angels, Ressurrection and Virgin Birth

  • Marc,

    If I say, “At the right hand of God the father,” you will doubtless accuse me of pushing the question one step further away: where is heaven? The short answer that I find most reasonable is that it is apparently not within our space-time continuum. This is also the answer favored by Bill Craig.

  • I agree with Tim’s comments here, you’re correct that you cannot fit three days and nights into the time between Friday evening and Sunday morning if you understand the phrase “three days and nights” to have the precise sense it does in contemporary western culture.

    When interpreting a phrase in an ancient text we need to ask what the writers meant when they used the term “three days and nights” in their context, not in ours, and there is plenty of evidence, some of which Tim puts forward, but also from other Semitic writings that shows that the term “three days and three nights” has the same meaning as “the third day.”

    Recent blog post: The Foundations of the Alexandrian Argument against Feticide Part I

  • Mark,

    This question has been answered many times over in the past few centuries. The Jews reckoned any part of a day as equivalent to the whole of that day. Compare, for example, Genesis 7:12 (“… forty days and forty nights …”) with 7:17 (“… forty days …”)

    As the Jews reckoned time, from one Sabbath to another was a span of eight days, though the computation began at the close of the former and ended at the beginning of the latter — a span of six solar days and seven solar nights.

    For the Pharisee’s use of the language, and in the very context of the crucifixion, see Matthew 27:63 (“Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days [μετα τρεις ημερας] I am to rise again.’ …”) and compare it to their language in the very next verse (“… Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day [εως της τριτης ημερας] …,”)

    For Jesus’ own use of the expression “… the third day …,” see Luke 13:32.

  • Hi Mark, The christians have come up with all sorts of explanations for your question. You will find reasonable sounding answers to this all over the Internet. I agree with you. The whole Easter myth is full of inconsistancies amongst the gospel writers themselves, but Christians have spent centuries apologizing for them. What were his last words? Who was first at the tomb? What did he do after rising from the dead? etc….

    Recent blog post: Angels, Ressurrection and Virgin Birth

  • Madeleine,

    My blushes.

    As to your question, all of the supposed parallels between Jesus and various pagan deities and mythic figures — Zalmoxis, Inanna-Ishtar, Horus, Osiris, Krishna — dissolve on even moderately close reading of the primary texts. I find it curious, and somewhat depressing, that this meme refuses to die out. Oh well!

    As for the supposed parallels in the Krishna case, the most striking ones simply don’t pan out: they appear to have been invented by Louis Jacolliot and Kersey Graves. According to the legends, Krishna had older siblings, so the idea that his mother Devaki was a virgin (something never claimed, as far as I know, in the actual Hindu literature) is a non-starter.

    Graves’s claim that Krishna’s father was a carpenter (listed on one of Marc’s websites) looks like another fabrication. Some legends say that his human father was Vasuveda, but they nowhere say or suggest that Vasuveda was a carpenter. Others say that his father was King Kansa — also not a carpenter.

    Krishna was not, so far as I have been able to discover, supposed to have been visited by shepherds after his birth; I have seen a reference to cow herds, but there the connection is that his adoptive father’s family was in the dairy business.

    Visited by wise men, guided by a star — looks like another fabrication.

    I could go on and on like this, but you get the picture. You should distrust any alleged parallels absent references to primary sources.

    Parallelomania, anyone?

  • Thanks for the link, it looks very interesting. I love the comment on Higgins and I will tuck it away for future reference; it reminds me of Plantinga’s comment in one of the Warrant books, something to the effect ‘the imminent death of Christianity has been predicted about as many times as the second coming.’

    Recent blog post: The Foundations of the Alexandrian Argument against Feticide Part III

  • Marc,

    By this standard you will agree, I’m sure, that the death of Julius Caesar is a myth. We wouldn’t want to use a double standard, making allowances for the writers of secular history to include some details that others leave out, to paraphrase, to give an abbreviated account of a transaction related at more length by someone else, etc. but refusing to extend the same courtesy to the gospel writers.

    Would we?

  • Madeleine,

    In addition to various contemporary debunkings of the Christ-myth position that you can easily locate online, you might find this older work on Kersey Graves interesting: John T. Perry, Sixteen Saviours or One? The Gospels Not Brahmanic (Cincinnati: Peter G. Thomson, 1879).

    The description on p. 24 of Godfrey Higgins, from whom Graves appropriates most of his references, is particularly apt:

    Mr. Higgins, though learned, was incapable of weighing authorities. . . . He was childishly credulous, “believing everything but the Bible.”

  • Tim, we could probably chat for years about the fallability of the Bible, but I don’t believe any arguments would shake your faith. I guess you believe in a talking snake, virgin birth, resurrection, Noahs Ark, etc.
    Fortunately the Christian Church is on the wane with little influence any more – praise the Lord! So it isn’t the big problem that it was in the past, it will die a natural death as most religions do. Keep on fighting the good fight, but just watch out for those Muslims, they are on the up, and they are entitled to the same rights as you!

    Recent blog post: Angels, Ressurrection and Virgin Birth

  • Marc,

    Thanks for sharing your faith. Speaking for myself, I’m more interested in public evidence.

    If you’re every interested in exposing your disbelief in the existence of Jesus to the actual historical data, grab a copy of Boyd and Eddy’s excellent book The Jesus Legend.

  • You stated that the gospels were taken directly from the Horus myth. I pointed out that if you actually study the Horus myth this is false.

    Your response was not to provide me with primary sources verfying this but to rather claim it was taken from Krishna. Tim then pointed out that the primary sources don’t back this up either.

    Again you failed to provide primary sources to show this. Instead, you made a different claim then said that Christ did not exist and the gospels are inconsistent. Tim then showed you that this argument would invalidate plenty of accepted history.

    You again failed to respond to this and instead began ridiculing Tim claiming “arguments” make no difference, suggesting he is incredulous and dogmatic.

    With respect its clear that the incredulous dogmatic person here is you. You have repeated claims from websites like “religious tolerance” which have no scholarly standing and that are not backed up by primary sources; that’s incredulous in the face of your own accusations. When your claims have been shown to be false you have not offered counter evidence; you have just thrown up another claim which is then shown to be false and this pattern has continued. When this is pointed out, you have not retracted the claims, instead your response is to essentially assume it must be true, a website after all said so. You then cast aspersions on other’s intellectual integrity and dismissed their pointing to the facts as “a rationalisation.”

    Recent blog post: JP Moreland on Faith and Reason

  • Tim

    Yeah perhaps.

    I suppose if you state he really is and put it on a blog we can get a whole lot of people to claim it’s true and if anyone asks for primary source documents we’ll dismiss them as rationalising and dogmatic.

    Recent blog post: The Foundations of the Alexandrian Argument against Feticide Part III

  • Marc, I note that yesterday you had a post up saying that an Egyptian myth from 3000 years ago had Horus rising from the dead after 3 days. I posted a comment asking you to provide me with a primary source (i.e. an Egyptian myth or a Greek or roman retelling of it) to back this up in the comments section. When I look back this morning I see the post has been taken down and replaced with one about Krishna but my comment is still their (which of course now appears irrelevant as it addresses Horus not Krishna)

  • Tim

    I noticed it when I was an undergrad and made a holiday project of reading The City of God from cover to cover over the summer.

    Then some years ago (in a book store in LA I think) I remember reading a preface to another of Augustine’s works, I think it was Against the Academics , where the translator was saying that Augustine’s key argument against the sceptics of his day was to point out that if you doubt you have to exist to doubt. I did not get the book at the time but it fascinated me.

    This, and other incidents, have lead me to wonder if there exists a neglect of medieval philosophers and a tendency to claim that certain ideas originated in the enlightenment which in fact had been known and discussed much earlier by Christian writers.

  • Matt,

    Maybe he just is Godfrey Higgins … !? 😉

  • Madeleine,

    It was Si fallor, sum, I believe — City of God 11.16 — but the concept is close, and Descartes discusses the parallel in his correspondence with Colvius, 14 November, 1640.

    I’m probably fonder of Descartes than you are. But we agree completely on the disaster that postmodernism has been and continues to be.

  • Matt,

    That made me chuckle. I suppose there is some value, if only of an eleemosynary sort, in helping the Christ-mythers to stick to one mistake at a time.

  • Tim

    Then why did Justyn Martyr go to lengths to explain that the devil had made these previous myths to confuse us when the true saviour comes?

    Justin Martyr (Christian apologist; 100 to 165), Tertullian (Christian theologian; circa 160 to 220 +) concluded that the Pagan/Christian similarities were a Satanic attempt at “diabolical mimicry.” Satan was said to have use “plagiarism by anticipation.” That is, the Devil made a pre-emptive strike against the gospel stories centuries before Jesus was born. The reason was to confuse the public into thinking that Jesus was merely a copy of previous god-men. The goal was to demolish the credibility of Christianity in the people’s eyes. (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa1.htm)

    By the way, you talk of primary sources. Surely you don’t think the Bible is a primary source. Maybe of fiction, nothing else.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr – On Diabolical Mimicry

  • Where is any evidence of another space-time continuum?

    Is this where God hangs out?

    I guess if you can believe in that then the Bible makes sense, what with it’s talking snakes, virgin birth, pillar of salt, resurrection, feeding the thousands with a loaf of bread. My standard of proof is a little greater than the ramblings of humans over 2000 years ago.

    If the Horus myth is not a predecessor of the Jesus myth then I shall refrain from using it until I get more evidence, there are plenty more.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr – On Diabolical Mimicry

  • Madeleine, My sister also has a son named Christian, he has slight cerebral palsey. It always wonder why God would inflict such a handicap on a innocent child. What has he done to deserve it? Don’t you also ask that question. Why can’t God make us all healthy and wealthy. I like Epicurus’s quote:
    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr – On Diabolical Mimicry

  • If anyone is interested the account of Jesus crucifiction and death makes it clear he died on wednesday and put in the tomb wednesday sunset. Wednesday night and thursday were the first night and day. Thursday night and friday the second night and day friday night and saturday were the third night and day. Each day begins on the previous days sunset. Jesus was in the tomb three days and nights just as he said he would be. What confuses many people is that there were two sabbaths in the week Jesus was crucified. Where good friday and easter sunday come from I have no idea, their origins are probably pagan.

  • Marc,

    If you’ll go to the trouble actually to look up the passage in Justin Martyr, I’ll explain to you why it doesn’t matter. Good luck — your website doesn’t even give a reference. I’ll give you a hint: it’s in the Dialogue with Trypho. Happy reading.

    Seriously, you cannot exercise by watching other people do pushups. If you’re too lazy to look up the texts for yourself, you deserve to be deceived by the sort of websites you are citing as authorities.

    As for whether the gospels are primary sources, snarky comments are not a substitute for argument.

  • I am sorry to hear about your nephew’s disability. Your sister has my sympathies.

    Cerebral Palsy is quite a different disability to Aspergers Syndrome. Aspies, like my son, have genius IQ’s and are brilliant at spatial and temporal reasoning see Christians artistic work here. Their so-called “disability” can largely be reduced to the fact they are far more logical and rational than we are; hence, they fail to grasp (or rather they see through) the irrationality of many of our social practices.

    Some would say that it is not them with the disability. I see my son as having a gift that managed well will see him go far in life so far from questioning God I thank him for it. I wish I could see things as Christian does; social interaction can be learned, innate talent cannot be.

    However, suppose I grant your point that I am unhappy about my son’s condition. My answer is no; I do not wonder why God would inflict a handicap on a child, I don’t think that I will find an answer if I did wonder. I also do not wonder what Christian has done to deserve it; If a child was born with a condition then that condition was apparent in his or her genetic code from conception as such I would dispute that he or she could possibly have “done” anything to deserve it as to do something he or she would have to be capable of doing.

    As for your quotation of Epicurus, this expounds the logical problem of evil which is widely regarded by both theist and atheist philosophers as unsound as the second premise is false. It does not follow that if a person is able to prevent evil and does not do so that they are malevolent. A non-malevolent person can fail to prevent evil that that person is able to prevent provided that person has a good reason that justifies the omission.

    Hence, Epicurus’ argument needs to be supplemented with a premise that God has no good reason for allowing evil. I am yet to see any argument or evidence that this further premise is true. Would you care to advance any?

    Recent blog post: Maverick Philosopher on the Historical Atrocities Argument

  • Marc,

    You’re the one who wanted an answer.

    If you wanted evidence you could have it for free; it isn’t as though the matter hasn’t been discussed. You might read some of the items linked here, for example.

    Regarding the “predecessors,” I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you have been deceived. There are no parallels worth getting excited about that can be found in the literature prior to the first century A.D., and those that appear after that time (e.g. Philostratus’s Life of Apollonius of Tyana) are, for obvious reasons, no use to someone attempting to explain the gospels.

  • Marc

    I have looked at the references to Justin you refer to on your blog:

    Two things.

    First, I think you misunderstand Justin Martyr somewhat. Justin believed that the revelation in the old and new testaments had already been revealed to the Greeks through mythology and philosophy. His theological method then was to try and find parallels, frequently spurious ones, between the bible and Greek tradition to argue from. One famous example is his fairly speculative claim that Plato had studied Moses and got his ideas from the Torah. Hardly anyone one today takes this seriously and for good reason, Justin’s parallel’s are extremely stretched. In fact if you read the first Apology ( that you cite on your blog) in context, you will see earlier Justin tried to argue for Christianity by appealing to anything in Greek culture that remotely resembled biblical teaching including Greek myths.

    Second, I think its clear that the parallels Justin refers to are clearly stretched. The parallels Justin refers to in section LIX of his first Apology ( which you cite on your blog) are as follows.

    1 Bacchus: Bacchus( roman god of wine) discovers how to make wine = the old testament foretells that a king and law giver will arise and describes him with the metaphor “His foal [roped] to the vine, washing His robe in the blood of the grape.”

    That’s it the sole parallel. Both the story of Bacchus and the Old Testament mention grapes. Do you really take this seriously? I occasionally drink wine, does it follow that I am copying Bacchus?

    2 Osiris: Osiris was murdered by Seth and his body cut into pieces, his sister and wife, Isis puts his body back together, but cannot find his penis so creates a wooden one has sex with him conceives Horus and Osiris goes to the underworld. = Jesus ascends to heaven.

    Again, a fairly flimsy parallel there is nothing else in this story even remotely like the gospels. The only similarity is the existence in both stories of a supernatural realm of some sort where the hero goes. Do you really want to say that if two pieces of literature mention such a realm they are copies? Perhaps the movie Ghost is a copy of the Osiris myth.

    3.Perseus is conceived when Zeus capitvated by the beauty of a mortal women sneaks into a tower and impregnates her =Jesus is conceived of a virgin.

    This is again a very flimsy parallel for starters, as J. Gresham Machen noted nothing in the greek mythology states that Perseus was born of a virginal conception in fact Zeus appears to have been motivated by lust. Moreover nothing else in the story remotely resembles the Gospels. I have read the story of Perseus. It continues with Perseus setting out on a quest to kill the Gorgon: a women called Medusa with snake hair who turns people into stone if they look at her directly. Perseus looks at the Gorgon’s reflection in his shield to avoid being turned into stone and cuts off her head. He then uses the head to turn his enemies into stone. The only parallel is that in both stories a person is conceived and a deity is involved.

    4.Bellerophon, rides (flies would be a better word) on the winged horse pegasus=Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

    This parallel is laughable.According to Arian and Plutarch Alexander the Great rode on a horse would anyone seriously suggest that this shows that Alexander’s biographers were copying Greek myths?

    Recent blog post: Maverick Philosopher on the Historical Atrocities Argument

  • Matt,

    I didn’t realize Marc had given references on his own blog. I concur, however, with everything you’ve said here.

  • Mark,

    I’m familiar with this argument, which normally comes from Seventh Day Adventists. However, I find the standard argument for the dating of the crucifixion to Friday, 15 Nisan, A.D. 30 to be persuasive.

  • M & M,

    Have you read any of the work of E. M. Blaiklock? He was a fellow Kiwi, a professor of Classics at Auckland, so (if you don’t own them already) odds are good that you can lay your hands on copies of Jesus Christ: Man or Myth?, Why I am Still a Christian, The Archaeology of the New Testament, and his commentary on Acts, among many others.

    I recommend his works very highly.

  • What possible reason would a supreme being have for not removing the concept of evil?

    It’s like the death of Jesus (not that he actually died, since he still part of the trinity – not much of death, more of a rebirth), why did he die for our sins when it was his dad (well actually him in another form) that placed those sins upon us in the first place. I take for it for granted that you do not believe that God judged all of mankind because Eve ate the apple.

    So what is the purpose of sin or evil? Why can’t we all be happy pixies instead of angry, jealous, obsessed, cruel humans. Surely he could have made us that way – but choose not to?

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr – On Diabolical Mimicry

  • Are you suggesting that unless I can provide a reason as to why God would allow evil, some sort of detailed account as to his motives, then there in fact are no good reasons or are you trying to establish that the existence of evil somehow disproves the existence of God or entails the rejection of the belief?

    I don’t know God’s reasons. Do I need to? Why?

    Recent blog post: How to become a Famous Blogger

  • Tim, Matt, Madeleine

    You guys sure do know a lot about theology and apologetics. I am impressed that you, unlike the majority of Christians, have taken the time to try to find answers to the problems. If you want to believe ancient texts written by unknown writers in a superstitious era when science had no answers to provide, then there is nothing I can say to convince you otherwise. Maybe you have spoken with God, I cannot say that you haven’t.

    My only hope is that you keep your beliefs to yourself. If you tell me that God thinks homosexuality is an abomination, that abortion is wrong, that he made us from Adam and Eve, then you are interfering in the lives of others. This is where I have a problem with ALL religions (OK maybe not Buddhism). You all think you are right, you have all the answers, everyone else is wrong.

    Thank goodness religion is fading away, otherwise your crowd and the Muslims would have me roasting over a slow fire.

    Look forward to seeing you at the rapture. I am surely heading towards Hell. Thank you God for your kind, fair, and just assessment of my life. For 80 years of non belief I get eternity in Hell. Hardly seems fair but then God was never really known for compassion, unless you dismiss the entire contents of the Old Testament, which you cannot do since the Bible states that it is the Word of God.

    One day the word atheist will be redundant, as the concept of an omnipotent diety will be as far removed from our minds as the concept of a flat earth.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr – On Diabolical Mimicry

  • Perhaps you could ask God during your conversations with Him, why did he bother creating evil in the first place. Same goes for sin, why bother making it? If I build a highway I don’t plant obstacles in the road, I would create it perfectly.

    Seems that your God enjoys playing games with humans, constantly watching and judging us. I’ll give them sex, but if they dare to enjoy it they will be punished (unless they use it for breeding purposes only, to provide me with more sicophantic worshippers)

    PS: Do you actually believe the Adam and Eve story? Do you Tim? Matt?

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr – On Diabolical Mimicry

  • Matt,

    I know the work you’re talking about, a translation of Contra Academicos by Sister Mary Patricia Garvey. I actually quoted a line from that in my 1995 book.

    By and large the medievals are unjustly neglected. That is not to say that they had everything right, though my friend Ed Feser, author of The Last Superstition, thinks that the best of them got an awful lot right when it comes to metaphysics and the grand arguments for the existence of God. But even philosophers uninterested in Christianity — like Charles Sanders Peirce — have found a great deal of value in the writings of the high medieval period.

  • Your solution, while advocated by many, has it’s own problems. One must resolve all the passages. I think a Friday crucifixion does the most justice to all of Scripture. See more detailed thoughts here

    Recent blog post: Best Friday

  • Tim McGrew, as in Dr Tim McGrew, of Western Michigan University’s Philosophy Department? Husband of Dr Lydia McGrew. As the McGrews whom one Martin compared MandM to recently in a comment somewhere on this site? Owner of this curriculum vitae?

    Wow. I am fan. I’d ask for your autograph if this were not the web. Sorry to gush, but welcome indeed, well met and all that sort of thing.

    I see you have been having fun shooting the fish in MandM’s barrel 😉

    Matt and Madeleine your comment pages are becoming a veritable who’s who of the Christian Philosopher’s renaissance. Still I never doubted that Matt didn’t deserve his place amongst the giants. If only NZ Christian “academia” would wake up or else we will lose you overseas and then who will defend New Zealand Christianity’s place in the public square.

    Recent blog post: G20 Cheese

  • Matt

    You are right, I jumped in too fast. I am taking others at their word. I will have to resaerch the area myself.

    However there do seem to be a lot of prior Gods that have remarkable similarities, which you would expect when people share stories.

    I doubt that any evidence would convince you that the Jesus’s myth is just a remake of earlier myths. I am supposing that you doubt that the Epic of Gilgamesh is not the forerunner of Noahs Ark.

    Cheers,

    distant cousin Marc
    (you and I being descended from Noahs inbred family)

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr – On Diabolical Mimicry

  • Yes that is probably the book.

    I have been following Ed Feser’s blog and work somewhat. When I was doing my PhD a good friend of mine Glenn Peoples from Beretta blog had Ed as one of his PhD examiners.

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  • I haven’t read that particular book but I do have one of his other works on my shelf, his response to the New Zealand liberal theologian Lloyd Gerring who was very prominent in New Zealand some years back.

    I am always on the lookout for good books so I will see I can put my hands on those titles, thanks for the tip.

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  • Marc

    It seems like every time I address one issue you raise another.

    1.For the record, I do not believe scripture teaches that its wrong to enjoy sex or that the sole purpose of sex is procreation. Some medieval theologians taught this but it was due largely to the influence of Stoic and Platonic philosophy.

    An honest reading of Proverbs 5 or Song of Songs suggests that the Stoics were mistaken about this.

    2.As to whether I “believe the Adam and Eve story?” that seems to me an ambiguous question. You could be asking me whether I consider the genre of this passage to be literal history in the sense modern historians use the word. To that the answer is no. I think there clearly are symbolic elements to the story such as trees, talking snakes, God walking in the garden in the evening, and Adam and eve hiding from God etc.

    On the other hand if you are asking me if I believe the teachings that symbolism in the story conveys then the answer is yes. I think the message of this story is true and profoundly highlights the human situation with pin point accuracy.

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  • Hi Marc

    No I don’t think that the gospels are remakes of earlier myths. I am relatively familiar with Greek mythology and don’t find parallels convincing for the reasons already elaborated. Moreover, my understanding is that the Genre of the gospels is clearly biography not myth. This is established by comparing the Genre of the Gospels with other biographies of the same period. Myth was written very differently to biography.

    As to Gen 1-11, and Gilgamesh Epic here I am not sure some evangelical scholars argue that the Gen 1-11 are re-writings of Assyrian and Babylonian stories but with a radically different theological and moral message hence they were not intended to be taken in a historical sense the way one would take a modern history. Others demur. I have not researched this very thoroughly so have no firm opinion. However if it is true, then it does not call into the question the authority of the old testament. All it does is give us information about how to interpret it correctly.

    I also am quite happy to conclude that in various places the bible draws upon previous sources or uses genres styles, imagery and even stories from the surrounding culture to make a point. In fact it’s clear to me that Jesus in many of his parables draws on such stories such as the story of the vineyard which is clearly a reworking of a parable in the book of Isaiah. Similarly the book of revelation also draws on imagery and stories from the surrounding culture to express vividly the point the author is intending to make. As far as I can tell however none of this calls into question the truth of the points the author is making. Holding that a text is authoritative does not mean that one holds it did not draw on other sources to put his message together, nor does it necessarily preclude accepting that it contains metaphorical language in places.

    The difference with the gospels is this: if they are not biography but myth then one can’t say that Jesus actually lived, was crucified, died and was resurrected and that would undermine the Christian message.

    Debate about how exactly to interpret the story of Noah’s ark does not to me seem to really challenge anything central.

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  • Scalia,

    Thanks — you are much too kind. Yes, I confess to being the obscure academic of that name, living in the online shadow of my wife's blogging presence. We had Frank Beckwith over for dinner last month, but he's sworn off blogging for Lent. You can bet that he'll be back at it with vigor now that his season of penitance is over!

    NZ once had its own formidable and eloquent apologist, the Classics scholar E. M. Blaiklock. I think it would be wonderful if his work were rediscovered and vigorously discussed. M & M look like just the people to do it!

  • Oops! Sorry for the anonymous post — I had logged on through my wife’s computer, not realizing that identification doesn’t simply track IP.

  • Matt, Tim and your fellow Christians

    I guess it comes down to this.

    – Do you believe Mary, or any woman, can become pregnant without receiving a physical sperm to fertilise her egg?

    – Do you really believe anyone can die and then come back to life?

    – It is the Bible really the best work God can offer as a written guide to our lives?

    If you do believe the above then you and I are living in two totally different realities. Yours is the world where anything can happen, no need for logic and reason, no need for science, coincidences are seen as miracles, prayers met are God’s will – don’t mention those that weren’t, Tsunami’s are not Gods work but rainbows and rain are, when it suits.

    With the demise of the Western thinking Christianity, you guys got far to liberal, we are now entering the period where the African and Asian influence will dominate around the world. The natives that you converted are coming here to inflict thier Biblical interpretation upon us, and they don’t sell out.

    I watched Milk last night, another reason to justify my distain for Christianity. Homosexuals fought Christians to get equal rights but I fear that those rights may be stripped from them when fundamental Christians and Muslims get a toe hold in this great country of ours.

    Not that it would bother you, I am guessing, or are you going to interpret God’s abomination accusation with a long winded philosophical explanation of the passage that no Christian will ever understand, or want to understand.

    As Pat Condell says, “Peace”. Especially to those Christians who would have me roasted over a slow fire like the good ol’ days.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr – On Diabolical Mimicry

  • Marc,

    On the first two points, sure. “Can” is modally weak — logical possibility is cheap. You believe that these things can take place yourself. I daresay you could tell the difference between a man alive and a man dead. It requires no special mental effort to place yourself in the position of the disciples according to the gospels. You can easily conceive of seeing Jesus killed by professional soldiers, of huddling in fear of your life for several days, and of suddenly seeing him in the room with you, speaking with you, audibly, in a voice that your fellow disciples can hear, watching him eat, touching his hands and his side.

    You can visualize all of this without any difficulty. You think it’s logically possible. You simply don’t think that it’s the sort of thing that actually happens.

    And I don’t think so either … in the ordinary course of nature. The Christians insist as vigorously as the atheists that virgins do not spontaneoiusly conceive, and dead bodies do not come back to life … in the ordinary course of nature. If they did, such events would be useless as a sign from God; they would not fall outside the natural order; they could be explained away as natural events.

    So the whole issue, considered as a matter for empirical investigation, may be reduced to two questions:

    (1) Is there, in fact, public evidence (whether strong or weak) that the disciples, the women at the tomb, etc. did experience approximately the things described in the gospels and the first chapter of Acts? And if so,

    (2) Is it the best explanation of that evidence, all things considered, that God exists and Jesus did indeed rise from the dead?

    You seem quite confident — if you’ll forgive me for saying so, overconfident — that the answer to question (1) is negative. I believe that as you move beyond snarky quotations as your mode of argument and amateur freethinker websites full of factual errors as your sources, you will be forced, in honesty, to abandon this position. It will not hold up in the face of the historical evidence.

    Eventually, if you are serious about getting it right, question (2) will loom larger in your mind. What you do at that point will be of more than passing interest to us all.

    You write:

    Yours is the world where anything can happen, no need for logic and reason, no need for science, coincidences are seen as miracles, prayers met are God’s will – don’t mention those that weren’t, Tsunami’s are not Gods work but rainbows and rain are, when it suits.

    Your argument appears to work like something like this:

    1. T, M, & M believe that a virgin birth and a resurrection are logically possible.

    2. Anyone who thinks that a virgin birth and a resurrection are logically possible has no need for logic and reason, no need for science, and sees coincidences, rainbows, and rain as miracles.

    Therefore,

    3. T, M, & M have no need for logic and reason, no need for science, and sees coincidences, rainbows, and rain as miracles.

    The argument is valid, but it is unsound, since premise 2 is absurd. You should know better than to make sweeping declarations like that. Until you learn to refrain from it, you will continue to have your head handed to you by Christians who have actually studied the Bible well enough to refute bush-league criticisms, who know enough about pagan mythology to realize that the Christ-myth position is historically untenable, and who know the difference between logical possibility and logical impossibility.

    As far as whether the Bible is "the best work God can offer as a written guide to our lives," I think you just misunderstand what intelligent Christians believe about the nature of the Bible. It is not the Big Book on Everything, nor is it Life's Little Instruction Manual.

    With the demise of the Western thinking Christianity …

    Dream on, Marc. Dream on.

  • Marc as a person who has been watching this dialogue please get your facts checked out it has been sort of sad seeing you get “crushed”

  • Tim

    Yes or no would have surficed.

    My eyes glazed over when you used “modally”.

    And yes, I do dream of a time when the world is free of it’s superstitious past.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr – On Diabolical Mimicry

  • Down but never out my friend.

    I didn’t realise that I had walked into theology central with Doctors of Philosophy. I am used to dealing with your average run of the mill Christians that don’t know the first thing about the bible. These guys know way to much.

    Crushed – never. I’m sure a philosopher could present a good case for the existance of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny if they wanted to.

    The facts that I read disagree with theirs but it doesn’t mean theirs are correct. They are full time apologists, I haven’t got the time or energy to waste learning how to counter these arguments. Then I would have to counter arguments from Islam, Buddhism, Hindu, Scientology, Mormonism, etc Life is to short.

    Hell, I haven’t even been able to change the mind of one simple, ignorant, Christian so I won’t be having an influence in here. Faith is stronger than logic and reason.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr – On Diabolical Mimicry

  • Do you believe Mary, or any woman, can become pregnant without receiving a physical sperm to fertilise her egg?

    Two things, first nowhere does the scripture state Mary did not “receive a physical sperm” in her uterus. I don’t see any reason why God could not have created a sperm ex-nihlo insider her uterus.

    Second, as Tim points out you conflate the word “can” here. It could mean logically possible in which case the answer is yes it is logically possible for a women to conceive in this way. To show something is not logically possible you need to show that it entails a contradiction and this claim certainly does not.

    However I assume you mean physically possible that is; does it violate the physical laws that normally hold in a closed system. Here the answer is yes, I think in a closed system it does violate the laws of nature that normally hold. As does any Christian, as did Joseph (hence his initial reaction to Mary) what Christians believe is that God influences events in an unusual way and so the world in this context was not operating as a closed system.

    – Do you really believe anyone can die and then come back to life?

    Same answer as above. In the normal course of nature absent some influence from outside so to speak no. However, if a omnipotent being acts in an unusual manner and brings it about then yes

    – It is the Bible really the best work God can offer as a written guide to our lives?

    See Tim’s response

    If you do believe the above then you and I are living in two totally different realities. Yours is the world where anything can happen, no need for logic and reason, no need for science, coincidences are seen as miracles, prayers met are God’s will – don’t mention those that weren’t, Tsunami’s are not Gods work but rainbows and rain are, when it suits.

    This does not follow, the claim that an omnipotent God at one at time created sperm (or a zygote) ex nihlio does not entail that logic and reason break down. To show this you would need to argue that some logical contradiction follows from the claim “Christ was concieved in while Mary was a virgin” you have not showed this.

    Nor does it follow from this that science is not needed, as I stated in the normal course of nature in a closed system these laws operate and that’s all science needs to operate. This is why many early scientists were Christians.

    I watched Milk last night, another reason to justify my distain for Christianity. Homosexuals fought Christians to get equal rights but I fear that those rights may be stripped from them when fundamental Christians and Muslims get a toe hold in this great country of ours.

    Ok so you watched a TV program and based your assessment on this. I find this a little ironic, all that sceptical free thinking but when the media says something against religion absolute faith.

    I have seen this phenomena quite often. It really puzzles me.

    Btw I the word fundamentalist actually has quite a different meanings when it is applied to Muslims than it does when it’s applied to Christians. When applied to Muslims it usually means terrorist.

    In Christianity it actually refers to a movement that shuns culture and holds to a dispensational reading of scripture nothing in dispensational theology commits one to terrorism, in fact it can and often does motivate withdrawal from the political realm. The media like to conflate the two terms so that Dispensationalists are defined as terrorists but that is simply a poor understanding of the term and it’s also slanderous.

    As Pat Condell says, “Peace”. Especially to those Christians who would have me roasted over a slow fire like the good ol’ days.

    I suggest Pat Condell get a bit more informed about Church history and not appeal to stero-types like this, especially if he wants to complain about bigotry.

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  • This exchange, I think really epitomizes the way in which the nonsense about myth borrowing plays out on the internet.

    A few skeptics read a few books (especially one or two influential ones from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century) and stitch together a theory about Christianity borrowing from older myths. Those theories are read by a few more skeptics with an internet connection, and a culture is formed, regarding Christians as merely ignorant of the facts that scholars (the skeptics who penned the theory) no all about. They assume that Christians will, naturally, be unprepared and uninformed.

    This group then subdivides into two. One half of the group will notice that some Christians with advanced degrees and/or experience in the relevant field have responded to these theories and argued that they are false (I’d like to think that Ive made my own meager contributions for example here and here). The first group of skeptics, instead of returning to the evidence and checking for themselves in light of the responses, instead castigates and ridicules the Christians involved, asserting that they are reactive on the basis of faith and not reason (in spite of the evidence based rebuttals provided by those Christians).

    The other half will give the appearance of a retreat, saying something like “gosh, well I guess you few are different and know what you’re talking about, but other Christians do not.” They then go back to their own blogs and other forums and continue to repeat exactly the same falsified theories that they have just seen rebutted.

    And the cycle repeats. But let’s not forget: It’s the Christians who are appealing to faith and not reason, but the skeptics who have faith on their side.

    Recent blog post: Episode 26 is en route!

  • Oops, I meant “the skeptics have logic and reason on their side.”

    Recent blog post: Episode 26 is en route!

  • Marc, while I have every faith in the “arguing abilities” of the people who have spoken with you here, their ability to rebut your claims about myths was simply based on the available facts. It wasn’t rhetorical trickery.

    You should only concede to the defense offered by, say, a Buddhist or an atheist if they can show that their argument aligns with the facts. You’ve attempted to make it sound like people here just appeared to be right because they are good with words. Not so. They are right because in fact your claims were mistaken.

    Here’s what I’d like to know, Marc: Are you going to repeat the myth claims that you’ve offered here? Will you repeat them again on your blog, or on other people’s blogs, or on web forums? What concerns me with skeptics who offer these claims online is that if rebutted, they simply repeat them elsewhere hoping that they won’t get rebutted again. It would be nice to think that, since the rebuttals you’ve seen are fact based and not mere rhetoric, you’ll actually change your arguments in future, and it would be even nicer to think that the next time you see a skeptic using these myth arguments, you’ll take them aside, ask for evidence, and check their evidence.

    Will you?

    Recent blog post: Episode 26 is en route!

  • Glenn

    Although I give these guys credit for their knowledge and arguing abilities it doesn’t convince me. I would no doubt find atheist philosophers, or Islamic, or Buddhist, with equally convincing arguments, as I have done.

    Everyone’s God is the only true God. The rest are false.

    I’ll leave theology well alone in the hope that one day the word “theism” is no longer a word in our dictionaries.

    Yes Glenn, I will go back to sniping at the stupid things that religion makes people do. It isn’t hard to find examples, just read the paper everyday. Today a pedo priest, tomorrow an honour killing, next day a papal decree against saving the life of a young brazilian girl, then …….. The material is endless.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr – On Diabolical Mimicry

  • Most of the myths preceding the Jesus myth I will re-use based on the writings of others more informed than I.

    I may pop back another time to further discuss these myths if I have time or inclination.

  • Bad news, Galileo: he won’t look through your telescope.

  • Well that’s interesting Marc. When you encounter people more informed than you here who have researched the issued and informed you that the alleged connections between the Gospel and mythology are simply not there, you admit that they are more well informed than you and simply back away. However, you now tell us that you’re going to repeat those allegations, based on the claims of those who are more well informed than you.

    Who are those people? Do tell. if the information you have comes from them, and the people here are able to answer them, perhaps they aren’t as well informed as you thought? In any case, let’s see your sources and discuss them.

    Recent blog post: Episode 26 is en route!

  • Well that’s interesting Marc. When you encounter people more informed than you here who have researched the issue and informed you that the alleged connections between the Gospel and mythology are simply not there, you admit that they are more well informed than you and simply back away. However, you now tell us that you’re going to repeat those allegations, based on the claims of those who are more well informed than you.

    Who are those people? Do tell. if the information you have comes from them, and the people here are able to answer them, perhaps they aren’t as well informed as you thought? In any case, let’s see your sources and discuss them.

    Recent blog post: Episode 26 is en route!

  • Yes, God left that bit out of the Bible. Is that so incredible? He also forgot to include the special theory of relativity. What a silly God!

  • Not the same Galileo that the Church denounced, according to a formal statement, “for holding as true the false doctrine . . . that the sun is the center of the world, and immovable, and that the earth moves!”?

    Maybe God forgot to tell the Church elders, or maybe He left that bit out of the Bible, not that the Bible has either any scientific or historical use.

    PS: I get the point! Though I haven’t heard it before.

  • God isn’t perfect all the time. Or is he?

    Serious question if you care to answer it. How do you view the OT? Does it have anything to offer a Christian other than predicting the arrival of Jesus?

    It appears to be a “loose” history of the Jewish people with Gods laws that were to apply to them specifically. I am guessing that the Adam and Eve, Noahs Arc, Jonah stories are not taken literally at theology classes.
    Could you dispense with the OT totally and just argue with the NT? I am seriously interested to know, but maybe in sound bites, nothing too long, my brain can only consume so much at a time.

    Kia Ora

  • Serious question if you care to answer it, since I have access to a bunch of theologians.

    How do you view the OT? Does it have anything to offer a Christian other than predicting the arrival of Jesus?

    It appears to be a “loose” history of the Jewish people with Gods laws that were to apply to them specifically. I am guessing that the Adam and Eve, Noahs Arc, Jonah stories are not taken literally at theology classes.
    Could you dispense with the OT totally and just argue with the NT? I am seriously interested to know, but maybe in sound bites, nothing too long, my brain can only consume so much at a time.

    Kia Ora

  • Like Glenn, I find this simply astonishing. You actually admit that you are going to re-use arguments you know cannot stand up to scrutiny because you think that, in other forums, people will be insufficiently educated to be able to refute them. Your excuse is that people who are “better informed” than you are continue to use them, even though it has been sufficiently established here that these “better informed” people are making up their facts.

    I can understand a man who is uninformed and sincerely wants to become better informed so as to conform his beliefs to the truth. But not to care enough about truth to follow the evidence one has about a topic of ultimate importance — to admit cheerfully that you will continue to use false factual claims in order to score cheap rhetorical victories against hapless readers — is (and I do not say this lightly) deeply dishonest.

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  • I am saddened to hear of your nephew’s disabilities, your sister has my deepest sympathy.

    I truly enjoyed reading through the back and forth arguments in the comments here though, many good points are made by both sides!

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