Sunday Toons: For old time’s sake

It’s been a while since we’ve had any real Sunday Toons, but since Mr. Holding has seen fit to award me the highest honor he has to bestow, it seems like a good time to stop in for another visit. Holding, for those of you who may not yet have had the pleasure, is a self-styled Christian apologist whose approach is perhaps best typified by this insightful analysis:

Having now read more than 50 books on the subject, I can say without qualification that you are stupid in this regard.

In fact, it’s amazing how many of his analyses end with “…and therefore you are stupid,” or variations thereof. It’s a defense mechanism of sorts, a tactic intended to discourage critics from hanging around long enough to pose a real problem, though from my perspective his best defense is the relentless mediocrity of his scholarship and apologetics. It doesn’t take long to exhaust his repertoire of social maneuvers and rhetorical ploys, and after that it gets fairly repetitive and uninteresting. He’s read a lot of books, and therefore you are wrong (though sadly he has trouble providing any specific articulation of what those books contain that actually proves you wrong). Ok, yeah, we get it, that’s your schtick and you’re schtickin’ to it. Ha ha.

Still, he does now and then come up with an actual argument for his beliefs, and some of them are actually interesting to consider. It’s not that they’re right, exactly, but they’re wrong in interesting ways. One of these arguments appears in his attempt to debunk what I said about I Cor. 15.

For example, he says that “the reason Paul wrote [1 Cor.] 15 isbecause, as verse 12 tells us, he was unhappy with the number of believers who did not buy this whole resurrection business.” Um, not quite, Dumplin’. Their issue was not with whether the resurrection of Jesus happened; their issue was with what was thought to be the impossibility of resurrection (point 3) according to pagan philosophical principles. There’s no room to say that doubted that Jesus was raised; but they did doubt that they could be. As I noted in replies to The Empty Tomb, this does mean they were holding inconsistent positions. Paul’s appeal to Jesus as a model is for the purpose of saying, to persons of a collectivist mindset, “If you deny that it can happen to you, then how do you explain that it happened to our ingroup leader?”

Ok, so they weren’t denying that it did happen, they were merely denying that it was even possible for it to happen. I can see this is going to be good already.

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Testing worldviews: the definition of the “naturalistic” world view

A Christian commenter who goes by the handle “schooloffish” has invited us to review a recent blog entry of his on the subject “DOES YOUR WORLD VIEW PASS THE TEST?.” He seems nice enough, so let’s drop by, shall we?

Everyone has a world view, which is best described as the way you see the world. There are as many world views as there are people, but in general, there are three specific world views that I will be analysing with this article. These three world view categories are religious, naturalistic, andrelativistic world views. Of course there are many subcategories within these three categories that we will cover as well.

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All things considered

The writer or writers at apologetics.org have noticed my commentary on their recent apologetics series, and though they carefully avoid linking to any of my posts, they do want try and address my points.

There is running commentary on another site by Deacon Duncan concerning this argument for the resurrection. Now what it is failing to do (among other things) in order to argue against these facts is not accounting for all of the virtually undisputed facts taken as a whole.

I can’t help thinking this is just a bit unfair, since they’ve only presented 3 facts so far (at least in the series I’m addressing), and I have accounted for them all, both individually and as a group. I do like the way they toss in the parenthetical “among other things,” as though they really have a lot more answers and just can’t be troubled to share them at the moment. But let’s go ahead and deal with this argument, and see exactly who is, and is not, addressing all the indisputable facts as a whole.

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The apologetics of Paul’s conversion

Apologetics.org is continuing its series on “evidences” for the resurrection, turning this time to the conversion of Saul, better known as the Apostle Paul.

The 3rd fact that virtually all NT scholars admit (e.g., liberal, Jesus Seminar, Moderate, Conservative) is that the church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed. Saul of Tarsus thought that he was doing God’s will by persecuting Christians. He held the coats of those who stoned the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:58). Then all of the sudden, Saul becomes Paul on the road to Damascus. Now Paul is the chief proclaimer and defender of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the early church! How did that happen? Paul claims throughout his letters and it is recorded by Luke in the book of Acts that the risen Jesus appeared to him. Nothing else makes good sense of this radical transformation. What best accounts for Paul’s transformation? He had every reason not to become a Christian!

Two things we need to remember: 1) conversions happen all the time, and 2) stories—especially testimonies—tend to improve with the retelling.

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Apologetics.org on “Historical Evidence for the Resurrection”

Over at apologetics.org, the self-identified blog of the “CS Lewis Society,” they seem to be running a series on Historical Evidence for the Resurrection. At least, they’ve got two posts on the topic, labeled “Fact #1 and Fact #2,” so I assume they intend to post more. Let’s have a look, shall we?

“Fact” #1 is that Jesus was crucified. I put “fact” in quotes because I’m not 100% convinced that this is necessarily so. It seems reasonably plausible, however, and is certainly consistent with the events that followed, so I’m willing to grant them that one. Let’s move on to the second fact.

Fact # 2 – Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them.

First, the disciples claimed to have seen the risen Jesus. In addition to their own testimony recorded in the Gospels, we also have the testimony of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:3-11), the oral tradition that would become the basis of the NT writings, and the written works of the early church. That they claimed to have seen the risen Jesus is without dispute.

This is true, as far as it goes. But context is crucial here. Before we can understand these statements, we need to remember that we’re dealing with Christians, and Christians also believe that God speaks to them and that Jesus comes into their hearts. Before we can draw reliable conclusions about what Christians regard as true, we need to ask “True in what sense?” And there’s more.

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Learn, fight hunger, kill time all at once at FreeRice.com – USATODAY.com

I’ll let this one speak for itself:

Feeling guilty about wasting time at work on computer solitaire? Join the growing guilt-free multitude at FreeRice.com, an online game with redeeming social value.

The game presents a word and four choices of definition. Pick right, and the cash equivalent of 20 grains of rice is donated by site advertisers to the U.N.’s World Food Program.

That’s worth a field trip to freerice.com–and don’t limit yourself to just one trip!

 
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Compromising God

While we’re at the Tektonics Apologetics Ministry, let’s continue looking at Holding’s remarks on the subject of atonement. One of the inherent inconsistencies in the Christian Gospel has to do with the problem of evil. Not just that evil exists at all (though that is a serious problem), but that we live in a world where a genuine, omnipotent, and benevolent deity could do a tremendous amount of good, and yet we do not see God doing any such things. Warning us of imminent disasters or crimes, for instance, or giving clear, unmistakable doctrinal instruction to thwart the rise of heresies and destructive cults. Things God could do (if the Gospel were true) and yet very plainly does not do.

There are only two ways to account for this, each of which compromises the Christian doctrine of God in some way. You can either deny that God wants to do good, or you can deny that God is able to do good. So either He’s not really loving enough to behave in a truly caring manner, or there are circumstances beyond God’s control which prevent God from behaving the way He’d like to (in other words, God is not truly omnipotent). This is an inherent and unavoidable contradiction within the Christian Gospel. No matter how much one wants to believe it, one must either contradict it at some point, or deny reality itself.

James Patrick Holding falls prey to this same dilemma when trying to address the issue of why God doesn’t simply forgive us our sins instead of sending His own children to eternal punishment and suffering. Try as he might to defend the Gospel, he cannot build a coherent answer to this problem without contradicting the very doctrines he is trying to uphold. (The “Nutshell” page is here, scroll down to the section on Atonement.) Let’s have a look. [UPDATE: it appears the argument below was not, in fact, written by Holding, but was summarized from a longer paper by someone else. See the link in the original article on the Nutshell page for details.]

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Tektonics Apologetic Ministries on “atonement”

One of the problems with the Christian Gospel is that it must somehow reconcile the idea of a loving heavenly Father with the idea that unbelievers go to hell, even though they’re supposedly God’s children and a truly loving father would not send his kids to eternal torment. Without a Hell to be saved from, however, we really don’t need a Savior, and thus the whole gospel story falls apart.

Writing for the “Answers in a Nutshell” section of the Tektonics Apogetics Ministries web site, James Patrick Holding tackles this issue in the “Nutshell” commentary on Atonement. It’s a good example of the kind of backwards thinking Christians use to try and rationalize away the inconsistencies in their story, so I thought I’d give it a quick look.

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The broad brush at CAM

We haven’t looked at the Christian Apologetics Ministries for a while, so let’s swing by and see what’s up. Scroll past the advertisements and marketing material, and sure enough, we find Mr. Horvath up to his old tricks again.

Over the last decade, I have noticed an increasing number of atheists arguing about the evils of religion and usually citing examples from Islam. Does that even begin to make sense? The whole notion of ‘religion’ is ridiculous on its face because of the many absurdities and abuses we find in Islam?

Now, by itself that’s not an unfair objection. Christianity deserves to be ridiculed because of the many absurdities and abuses we find in Christianity, and not just because of those found in Islam. Few things in life can match the delicious irony of a trinitarian calling someone else’s beliefs “absurd,” for instance. But notice: in accusing “atheists” of painting with too broad a brush, Mr. Horvath himself is guilty of painting atheists with his own broad brush–and it’s not a flattering color, either.

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Apologetics vs. Bible-based faith

I’ve been browsing through some of the articles at the Tekton Apologetics Ministry site, and found this article by James Patrick Holding on “Why Bible Critics Do Not Deserve the Benefit of the Doubt.” He begins by advocating that skeptics be treated with skepticism.

Whenever you run across any person who criticizes the Bible, claims findings of contradiction or error — they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. They have to earn it from you.

That’s actually some pretty good advice. Skepticism, after all, means having the mental self-discipline to insist on evidentiary support instead of just taking people’s word for things. What Holding is doing here is urging Christians to become skeptics themselves. That’s a good start. But you’ll never believe what justification he offers for why Christians should be skeptical of the skeptics.

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