XFiles: The Old One-TwoJanuary 3, 2010 — Deacon Duncan
(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 14.)
Today we look at a section entitled “Other Evidence Supporting the Old Testament.” I expect you won’t be too surprised to find out that it’s a very short section. In fact, you could sum up the whole thing by the last two sentences in the section:
Our friend Andy Stanley put it well: “My high school science teacher once told me that much of Genesis is false. But since my high school science teacher did not prove he was God by rising from the dead, I’m going to believe Jesus instead.” Wise move.
Just let me double check here… nope, didn’t pick up a different book by accident. This is the argument Geisler and Turek are making in the book they call I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST. Genesis can’t even pass a high school science test? No problem. Just ignore the scientific evidence and believe whatever Jesus told you was “truth.” Or at least, whatever people say that Jesus said. That’ll show those old atheists who the faith-based believers really are.
Geisler and Turek claim that, besides the testimony of Jesus, they have lots of other good reasons for believing that the Old Testament is literally true, even in the supernatural parts of Genesis. “For example,” they tell us, “the Old Testament has many of the same characteristics that make the New Testament believable: strong manuscript support, confirmation by archeology, and a storyline that its authors would not invent.”
They document this claim with a one-two punch.
Let’s consider that last point for just a minute. Who would invent the Old Testament storyline? A story invented by Hebrews probably would depict the Israelites as noble and upright people. But the Old Testament writers don’t say this. Instead they depict their own people as sinful and fickle slaves who, time after time, are miraculously rescued by God, but who abandon Him every chance they get.
That’s part one of the one-two punch. We know that every word of the Old Testament is true, because the Old Testament writers fail to make the Israelites look as good as they “probably” would have had the tale been a deliberate fantasy. Geisler and Turek flesh out this argument by citing examples of sins by Moses, Saul and David, and even go so far as to observe that one of the people mentioned in the OT was a prostitute! Horrors! “This is clearly not an invented storyline,” they assure us, secure in the knowledge that if a story is full of sex and violence, it can’t possibly be untrue.
Well, unless of course it was invented by priests. Priests, you see, aren’t supposed to flatter people with false assurances (or even true ones) about how good and noble and righteous they’ve always been. The righteous are rather an embarrassment to priests, since they don’t need to pay anybody to go ask God to forgive them. Guilty sinners are what priests have by way of job security. Telling people that they’re the descendants of sinners is the priestly equivalent of Verizon saying, “Can you hear me now?”
Making the sacred history of a nation into a history of sin and rebelliousness is exactly the sort of story priests would like to write, because it hammers home lesson after lesson about how wrong it is not to do what the priests tell you. If you see stories about how even the kings screwed up and caused major problems, that just goes to show that even kings ought to be listening to the priests and doing things the way the priests want them done.
Geisler and Turek’s argument, that a patriotic Jewish layman “probably” would have invented a story that made the Israelites look better, is a red herring. Even if it’s true that a layman might have written a more flattering “history,” the fact remains that the laymen didn’t write the Old Testament. Priests and prophets did. But if you think Punch One went sailing through empty air, wait till you see Punch Two:
While the Old Testament tells of one embarrassing gaffe after another, most other ancient historians avoid even mentioning unflattering historical events. For example, there’s been nothing found in the records of Egypt about the Exodus, leading some critics to suggest the event never occurred.
Gee, ya think?
In this short, page-and-a-half section, Geisler and Turek have calmly assured us that the Old Testament is supported by “strong manuscript support, confirmation by archeology, and a storyline that its authors would not invent.” Their one reference to actual archeological evidence, however, consists of pointing out the absence of verifiable evidence of the Exodus. And in their mind, this constitutes proof that the Exodus did happen, because it shows that ancient historians did not report “unflattering” circumstances.
Let me just check that book title again…yep, still the same book. Hmm.
For all their confident smugness, Geisler and Turek are offering us an argument that is as poorly thought-out as it is spurious. The question is not whether simple pride prevented the pharoahs from acknowledging that they’d been supernaturally defeated by the god(s) of their slaves, the question is how is it that none of these pharoahs even noticed that they and their entire chariot army had suddenly died, leaving the wealthiest and most fertile territory in the eastern Mediterranean leaderless and undefended? Why are we not reading the flattering boasts of any of Egypt’s militant and opportunistic neighbors, about how their gods had opened the door for them to expand their own empires at Egyptian expense?
And this brings us to the sentiment Geisler and Turek used as the capstone on this particular section. I did not rise from the dead, so they will simply ignore my questions, and believe Jesus.
[T]he strongest argument for the Old Testament comes from Jesus himself. As God, he holds the trump card. If the New Testament documents are reliable, then the Old Testament is without error because Jesus said it is.
You might have thought you had a hand full of aces, in the form of self-consistent and verifiable facts that don’t add up the way Geisler and Turek want them to. But they trumped your aces by the simple expedient of believing (against all evidence) that Jesus is God, and therefore the Old Testament is never wrong even when it contradicts reality. Gods can do that, you see. Or at least, people believe that they can. If they don’t have enough “faith” to be atheists.