Scriptural fulfillments (cont.)

Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday. One of the chief consequences of the Myth Hypothesis is the prediction that, having no divine quality control, any Scriptures men write will be subject to human weaknesses and fallibilities. We have a good example of that in Ezekiel 26.

In the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me… “I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you… 4 They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock. 5 Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD…

7 “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: From the north I am going to bring against Tyre Nebuchadnezzar [a] king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, with horsemen and a great army… 9 He will direct the blows of his battering rams against your walls and demolish your towers with his weapons… 12 They will plunder your wealth and loot your merchandise; they will break down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your stones, timber and rubble into the sea. 13 I will put an end to your noisy songs, and the music of your harps will be heard no more. 14 I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets. You will never be rebuilt, for I the LORD have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD.

Amazingly, Tyre was attacked and destroyed, and siege engines were indeed brought up against her previously impregnable island fortress just off the mainland coast. Unfortunately, the prophet got two things wrong: Tyre was rebuilt after Nebuchadnezzar’s attack, and the brilliant general who used rubble from the mainland to build a causeway to the island fortress was Alexander the Great—not Nebuchadnezzar.

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Scriptural fulfillments

We’re ready to look at how the actual characteristics of the Bible do, or do not, coincide with the consequences that would result from either the Myth Hypothesis or the Gospel Hypothesis. First, though, a couple quick clarifications.

Some of the commenters seem to have slightly misunderstood the Gospel Hypothesis. I am not claiming that the Gospel Hypothesis is Christianity (we’ll get to the relationship between Christianity and the Gospel Hypothesis later on). The point of the Gospel Hypothesis is to take the basic premise of an omni-X deity Who loves us enough to become human and die for us so that He and we can enjoy an eternal personal relationship together. It’s a premise that implies some substantial and specific consequences, so it’s a good alternative candidate for comparison to the Myth Hypothesis.

Also, there’s one more consequence of the Myth Hypothesis that I did not bring out before because I was having trouble boiling it down into a concise statement. Jayman’s reference to Galatians, however, has helped crystalize my thinking a bit (thanks Jayman!).

I mentioned that, if the Myth Hypothesis were true, we would expect that Scriptures would inevitably have to make some kind of accommodation to God’s absence. This does not mean, however, that the Scriptures must necessarily admit that God is really absent, and in fact one of the chief ways Scripture can compensate for God’s absence is by filling in the gap with stories that purport to show God’s presence. Such stories would appeal to various human frailties like gullibility and relationship-based assessment (i.e. believing things because of who says them rather than what is said), and because of God’s absence they would necessarily have distinctive limitations: vagueness, lack of verifiability, a requirement for significant subjectivity in one’s interpretation of the passages, etc.

Now, on to the fulfillments.

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Praying for the deaths of innocent children

Pardon the brief hiatus from our usual discussion, but this just has to be seen, or heard rather, to be believed:

“Let us pray. Almighty God, today we pray imprecatory prayers from Psalm 109 against the enemies of religious liberty, including Barry Lynn and Mikey Weinstein, who recently issued a press release attacking me personally. God, do not remain silent, for wicked men surround me and tell lies about me. We bless them, but they curse us. Therefore find them guilty, not me. Let their days be few, and replace them with Godly people. Plunder their fields, and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants, and remember their sins, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

That’s ex-chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, solemnly and piously asking God to please kill Mikey Weinstein and Barry Lynn and their children (if any), and send them all to hell, unforgiven, for the offense of having published a press release critical of Klingenschmitt.

Yes, that’s right. Daring to criticize Klingenschmitt, and voicing opinions he does not agree with, makes them ENEMIES OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY!!!1!one!

My first thought was that this was an Onion-esque spoof of a self-righteous blowhard, but no, it’s hosted on Klingenschmitt’s own sanctuary of spiritual narcissism, prayinjesusname.org.

Hat tip to Dispatches from the Culture Wars—be sure and scroll down to read the comment from Klingenschmitt’s former supervisor about what it was like working with this guy.

 
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Scriptural Predictions

Ok, back to the topic we started last week. To recap, we’re comparing two different hypotheses or premises about God by examining what real-world consequences would have to follow if the premise were true. The Myth Hypothesis says that the Christian God does not exist in real life, and thus the Christian faith originated and is maintained via a variety of complex and resilient psychosocial mechanisms we might broadly categorize as “myth.” The Gospel Hypothesis, by contrast, proposes that the Christian Creator God does exist, and further, that the Christian faith originated as a result of God loving mankind enough to become human Himself, and to die for us as a cleansing sacrifice so that He could enjoy fellowship with us (and vice versa) for all eternity, as is His (alleged) desire.

We started by looking at the primary source of information available to us concerning God. As the Myth Hypothesis would lead us to expect, our primary information source about God is not God Himself, even though you’d think a God Who wanted a eternal personal relationship with us could spare some time here and now. So that leaves us with human sources for information about God, of which there are two main categories: Scriptures, and personal testimonies (which we’ll discuss later). So what do each of our two hypotheses have to say about any Scriptures that might arise?

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Do you want to talk about it?

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m in a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, I’m all for free and open discussion. On the other hand, I’m not sure that blog comments are the best venue for extended dialog. What’s a blogger to do?

Well, for this blogger, the answer is the new Evangelical Realism Discussion Forum. It’s a standard web-based board, so if you’ve got something on your chest and you want to get it off, have at it. There is currently one (1) forum available at the moment, but I’m willing to open up more if there’s a demand for it.

I’m a bad comments moderator and I’ll likely be a bad board moderator as well, so everything is likely to be pretty wide open at first. I’ll leave it up to you folks whether we want moderators or not (and if so, who). But the main idea here is to provide an alternative to comments as the primary venue for extended discussions. In fact, if I think a discussion would be better suited to the boards, I may politely request the participants to take it to the forum (and if that doesn’t work, I may move the discussion there myself).

The general rule of thumb is that if you have a comment about a blog post, leave it in the comments. If you have a comment about someone else’s comment, then it could go either in the comments or on the boards. If you’re commenting about a comment on a comment, then it definitely belongs in the boards. Post to the boards and then leave a link.

Cheers, and enjoy the boards.

 
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XFiles Friday: What did Isaiah know and when did he know it?

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 13.)

Twelve chapters down, and only three more to go. After all the repetition of the last few chapters, ending with the feeble protest that extraordinary evidence shouldn’t be necessary for Christians’ extraordinary claims, Geisler and Turek are ready to assume that they’ve proven their case so far, and to settle comfortably into more routine and familiar evangelical apologetics.

Chapter 13 sets out to prove that Messianic prophecies prove that Jesus is the Christ, so after a brief introduction, they take us to UCLA in the 1960′s.

Wait, what?

Of course, no Messianic prophecy was ever issued or fulfilled on the 60′s-era campus of UCLA. But Geisler and Turek want to draw us in with a human interest story about a Jewish sports hero who converted to Christianity. As we’ve been discussing this week, people are Christian’s primary source of information about God, so it makes sense strategically for Geisler and Turek to present their case in terms of a celebrity endorsement. In seven and a half pages, they get as far as making 15 claims about Isaiah 53. They don’t really defend any of those claims, they just present them, and then go on at some length about how convincing they must be, and how convinced their Jewish celebrity was by them.

Let’s go ahead and do the work that Geisler and Turek left undone, shall we?

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Thursday Theology: How does that other God do?

One of the problems a lot of unapologists have in talking with Christians is that pretty much all of their material consists of tearing down Christianity without having anything of equal usefulness to offer in its place. Sure, there’s the scientific/analytical approach to understanding the world around us, but a lot of people didn’t get straight A’s in science and math, and find that option about as appealing as having to fill out tax audits every day. (No offense to scientists and accountants…)

With that in mind, I’d like to balance my presentation on the evidence against Christianity with a discussion of how a real God (i.e. Alethea) would fare in such a comparison. Alethea, as described in the “Patron Goddess” link at the top of the page, is the God I worship, and coming from a devout and enthusiastic religious background, I have to say that Alethea has proven to be every inch the God that Jesus was ever claimed to be, and then some. She answers my prayers as well or better than Jesus, and She has the additional and irrefutable advantage of being undeniably real, to the point that everyone who isn’t barking mad has to admit that She does indeed exist. They may question Her deity, but they cannot deny Her reality.

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Evidence against Christianity: Sources

I want to take it a little slow while we wait for more comments and criticisms about the basic premises. But there’s no reason we can’t go ahead and start, so let’s begin by looking at the distinctive differences between the implicit consequences of the Myth Hypothesis and the Gospel Hypothesis, as they relate to what sources we have available to work with to even approach this issue.

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The Evidence Against Christianity: Introduction

Ask a typical atheist why they do not believe in God, and you’ll usually hear that it’s because there is no evidence that God exists. While that’s true as far as it goes, I believe that there is much more that can be said. There exists much positive, verifiable evidence that the Christian God, unlike unicorns, fairies, or the dragon in your garage, is a Being Who manifestly does not exist. And we can know it. The evidence is so prevalent and consistent that we cannot deny it and still maintain our intellectual honesty.

There are those who deny that I can make such a claim, who point out that I couldn’t possibly have personally examined each and every individual case that someone claims as evidence for the existence of God. As I’ve pointed out before, however, I do not draw my conclusions based on such a naïve, brute-force approach. Rather, I employ the more subtle and powerful principle that real-world truth is consistent with itself. On the basis of this principle, we can know that, when men tell us stories about an alleged Being Whose nature, motives and behavior are in continual conflict with themselves and with real-world facts, they are speaking about a God who does not exist.

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Foundations of rationalization vs. rational thinking

I’d like to take some time over the next few days to look at the evidence against God’s existence—not just the negative evidence (i.e. the lack of supporting evidence), but actual, positive evidence against the existence of the Trinitarian, loving, almighty deity that Christians (and most other Westerners) mean when they say “God.” But before we get to that, I’d like to look at some of the foundations of rationalization vs. rational thinking, the thought patterns that produce and promote false conclusions with regards to God.

There are many ways to go astray, of course, so this will fall well short of being an exhaustive survey. Still, it’s useful as a preliminary to the main discussion to follow.

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