XFiles Friday: So who cares?

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

Back in Chapter 12, Geisler and Turek had this to say about the significance of prophecy, in the context of a hypothetical case of the trees in your back yard moving 5 feet overnight.

[L]et’s suppose that [the] tree moving event occurred in the following context: Two hundred years in advance, someone claiming to be a prophet of God writes down a prediction that all of the trees in one area of Jerusalem would indeed move five feet one night during a particular year. Two hundred years later, a man arrives to tell the townspeople that the tree moving miracle will occur shortly…

Then one morning numerous eyewitnesses claim that the trees…actually moved five feet during the night.

That would certainly be a remarkable prediction, because how could someone 200 years ago have such detailed and specific knowledge about a remarkable event that didn’t occur until a couple centuries after his lifetime, especially when the event in question is not predictable by any known principles of science? Such evidence would indeed be difficult to account for in naturalistic terms. But is that in fact what we are actually dealing with when we look at the “Messianic” prophecies that Christians claim Jesus fulfilled?

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XFiles Friday: Last and least

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

So far we’ve watched Geisler and Turek mining prophetic “fulfillments” with a traditional yet reckless abandon that would make a Mormon blush, but we’re not quite finished yet. For some reason, they feel the need to throw in a couple more prophecies, this time from Zechariah.

The prophetic case for Christ is strengthened even further when you realize that the Old Testament predicted that God himself would be pierced, as happened when Jesus was crucified. As recorded by the Old Testament prophet Zechariah (also written well before Christ), God says, “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (Zech. 12:10).

And of course, we all know how bitterly the Jews (“house of David”) and the inhabitants of Jerusalem have been mourning God since the crucifixion.

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XFiles Friday: Daniel in the Liar’s Den

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

We come now to Prophecy #8 in Geisler and Turek’s short list of “messianic” prophecies that are supposed to astonish us all with their amazing pinpoint accuracy. The prophecies so far have been amazing, all right, though perhaps not for the reasons Geisler and Turek intended. They (and we) however, have saved the best for last.

Let’s start with the passage, from Daniel 9.

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.

Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

And now, Geisler and Turek’s “messianic” interpretation:

He will die in AD 33: Messiah will die (be “cut off”) 483 years (69 * 7) after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (that works out to A. D. 33). The city and the temple will then be destroyed. (This occurred in 70.)

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XFiles Friday: Messianic Prophecies II

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

Drs. Geisler and Turek are giving us a quick tour of just the highlights of the so-called “messianic prophecies,” and in so doing are inadvertently giving us a good lesson in just how contrived these “fulfillments” really are. In contrast to the earlier section where they dragged out a handful of Biblical references to actual facts (like the fact that certain people and cities existed), in this chapter they seem almost rushed as they hurry through the Old Testament, skipping over such minor details as the literary and historical context of the verses they use as proof texts. But we’re in no such hurry, so we might linger just a bit longer on those pesky details.

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XFiles Friday: Bull’s eye, or bull’s something else?

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

The next section of Geisler and Turek’s book is entitled “Hitting the Bull’s-Eye,” but before we get into the text, let’s do a little exercise in prophetic interpretation. In each of the following examples, which two texts say essentially the same thing?

1 [Speaking to a snake] And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel. Women and children won’t like snakes, and will kill them, and snakes will bite people on the feet. Messiah will be born of a virgin, and will ultimately defeat Satan.
2 [Speaking to Abraham] I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you… To your offspring I will give this land. God is on Abraham’s side and will help his friends and oppose his enemies and bless everyone through him, and give “this land” (i.e. Palestine) to his descendants. The Messiah will be Abraham’s seed, and will ultimately bless all the peoples on the earth and rule over Palestine.
3 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the rulers staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. A member of the tribe of Judah will always be king until the kingship passes to the one who deserves it and who rules over the Gentiles as well. The Messiah will come from the tribe of Judah (one of Israel’s 12 tribes).

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XFiles Friday: Isaiah was wrong!

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

Last week we went off on a bit of a tangent as we looked at Isaiah chapters 40-66 in their literary and historical context so that we could see how clearly and explicitly Isaiah declared that his “Suffering Servant” was none other than Israel itself, which was “slain” by the Babylonians and “resurrected” by Cyrus, all so that God could change Jewish theology into a stricter, more Persian-style monotheism.

That understanding, however, is not at all consistent with Geisler and Turek’s apologetic agenda, so as we return to chapter 13, we find the two Bible scholars busily trying to prove that Isaiah was wrong about who he meant when he described the trials and tribulations of the “Servant.”

The first Jew to claim that the Suffering Servant was Israel rather than the Messiah was Shlomo Yitzchaki, better known as Rashi (c. 1040-1105). Today Rashi’s view dominates Jewish and rabbinical theology.

Yeah, go figure. According to Geisler and Turek, it took the Jews almost a millenium and a half to realize that Isaiah wrote down exactly who this servant was, in Isaiah 41. That makes the Jews look like pretty poor scholars until you realize that Geisler and Turek themselves still have not figured this out almost two and a half millenia later.

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XFiles Friday: Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?

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

Last week, Geisler and Turek started to tell us about the amazing messianic “prophecies” in the last several chapters of Isaiah, using Larry Helyer’s list of 14 detailed predictions plus an observation of their own. As we ran through the list of details, however, we noticed something odd: either the “predictions” were vague enough to apply to almost anyone, or else the messianic “fulfillment” consisted of believers simply attributing things to Jesus without there being any way for anyone to verify if they were really true.

Starting with item 12, though, things get a little more evangelical-sounding.

12. The Servant accepts vicarious and substitutionary suffering on behalf of his people (53:4-6, 12).

13. He is put to death after being condemned (53:7-9).

14. Incredibly, he comes back to life and is exalted above all rulers (53:10-12; 52:13-15).

In addition to Helyer’s observation, we note that the servant is also sinless (53:9).

A snippet here, a snippet there, and you can almost make the verses in Isaiah sound like a Gospel. But is that really what Isaiah intended? Who was Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” anyway?

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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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XFiles Friday: The Ultimate Superstition

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 12.)

We come at last to the end of chapter 12, Geisler and Turek’s attempt to argue that we know Jesus really rose from the dead because a handful of men wrote a handful of books claiming that a handful of people claim to have had some kind of experience which they claimed was an encounter with a Jesus who was risen in some sense. And even though these claims have a strongly ghost-story-ish flavor, and tend to contradict one another in significant ways, we ought to believe them anyway because the men who wrote the stories mentioned the names of people and places that actually exist, which means the men are unbiased and unimpeachable witnesses.

Um, yeah. Well, anyway, we’re coming to the end of all that. G&T close with a couple cursory attempts to make Christianity sound amazingly unique.

David Hume argued that miracles cannot affirm any one religion because miracles are based on poor testimony and all religions have them. In other words, miracle claims are self canceling. Unfortunately for Hume, his objection does not describe the actual state of affairs.

First, Hume makes a hasty generalization by saying that alleged miracles from all religions are alike. As we’ve seen since chapter 9, the miracles associated with Christianity are not based on poor testimony. They are based on early, eyewitness, multiple-source testimony that is unrivaled in any other world religion. That is, no other world religion has verified miracles like those in the New Testament.

Indeed, nor does Christianity. Sure, we have early written accounts of people claiming miracles, but that’s not the same has having verified that the alleged miracles actually occurred.

We have people today claiming miracles, and agreeing with one another that yes, a real miracle did happen. Yet these miracles are not actually verified; we just have multiple people making claims. Write down these claims, and in 2,000 years, the people who read those claims will be in exactly the same position as we are in deciding whether or not such claims are justified.

But since we’re not living 2,000 years from now, let’s not wait. Let’s look at the claims people are making today, and see if the mere act of claiming a miracle is sufficient to prove that the miracle actually occurred.

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XFiles Friday: No stinkin’ evidence.

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 12.)

Last week, Geisler and Turek began their defense against the principle that “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” They took a scattershot approach, first arguing that this was an unreasonable demand, then adopting a most peculiar definition of “extraordinary” in order to build a straw man they could easily cast down, then attempting to argue (unsuccessfully) that they did have extraordinary evidence after all.

This week, they try and turn the tables, arguing that skeptics themselves believe in extraordinary claims without having any extraordinary evidence.

We don’t need “extraordinary” evidence to believe something. Atheists affirm that from their own worldview. They believe in the Big Bang not because they have “extraordinary” evidence for it but because there is good evidence that the universe exploded into being out of nothing. Good evidence is all you need to believe something. However, atheists don’t have even good evidence for some of their own precious beliefs. For example, atheists believe in spontaneous generation and macroevolution on faith alone. We say faith alone because, as we saw in chapters 5 and 6, there’s not only little or no evidence for spontaneous generation and macroevolution, but there’s strong evidence against those possibilities.

Let’s count how many things Geisler and Turek manage to distort, misrepresent, or otherwise get wrong in these brief seven sentences.

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