Friday, March 25, 2011

Being An Atheist

Being An Atheist

Being An Atheist

Thursday, March 10, 2011

MWEB Forums: The Search for the Original Programmer.

Check out this website I found at

Finally, a pope tells the world that Jewry has nothing to do with Yeshua's death!
The jerk could have escaped to some safer place!

MWEB Forums: The Search for the Original Programmer.

Check out this website I found at

Natural causes and necessity as Leucippus argues " programs.' Gee, God is retired!

Ingersoll Bradlaugh

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And viewers, shine here and @ that other blog with your posts!

Rejection of Pascal's Wager: Plantinga and the Rationality of Theism

Plantinga and the Rationality of Theism

The theistic philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, had recently forwarded an argument arguing that theism is a rational belief. [a] Plantinga argument arose as a defence from critics who claim that theism is not rational. They claim that theism is irrational because none of the so-called classical arguments for God's existence is successful. And since these numerous tries (as we have seen) all failed, a rational person should withhold any belief in God. We will look at his argument and why it is seriously flawed.

Plantinga's Argument

According to Plantinga, critics use foundationalism (whether explicitly or implicitly) when they criticise theists for not being rational. What is foundationalism? foundationalism is a philosophical principal that in many ways is past its heydey. In any case, the Foundationalist Principle (FP) is that all our non-basic beliefs can eventually be traced down to properly basic belief. Thus 234 X 567 = 132,678 may not be basic to all of us, but 1 + 1 = 2, once its terms are defined is basic to most people. To assure us that the former equation is correct, we could break it down into its basic constituents.

What constitutes a basic belief? "Classical" foundationalism defines three circumstances where a belief is properly basic if and only if [b]:

  • It is self evident
    This means anything that is seen to be true as soon as it is understood, such as 1 + 1 = 2.
  • It is evident to the sense
    Thus "There is a tree outside the window" is an example of something evident to the sense, if the phrase is used by someone to describe what he actually sees.
  • It is incorrigible
    Incorrigible propositions are something that one cannot be wrong about. Thus a proposition "It seems to me there is a tree outside the window." cannot be wrong, even if there is no tree there. For the proposition describes what seems to the subject to be the case.

Plantinga argues that classical foundationalism have not been able to show that their statement about the conditions of properly basic statement is either itself a basic statement or could be derived from a basic statement. Thus, Plantinga says, classical foundationalism is bankrupt.[1]

Of course Plantinga does not abandon foundationalism but suggests an amendment to it. In particular the constituents of properly basic beliefs. Plantinga says that an empirical method could be used to find out what constitutes these. Thus rather than defining what a basic belief is, we take two sets of beliefs, one we know to be properly basic and one we know to be not properly basic. We then try to extract general characteristics of properly basic statements and use these to evaluate those in the "grey" areas. Sound interesting and reasonable right?


You see the main problem is that Plantinga wants to include within the initial set of examples of properly basic beliefs-that of the belief in the existence of God! Why is this properly basic. According to Plantinga one experiences God in many ways some which include: "beholding the starry heavens or the splendid majesty of the mountains" [c], reading the Bible or the feeling when one has done something wrong. [2]

Thus with belief in God defined as a properly basic belief in Plantinga's system, theism become rational by definition!

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Evaluation of Plantinga's Argument

Even a glance at Plantinga's argument will give one the feeling that he is trying to pull a theological rabbit out of his philosophical hat. Indeed there are many serious flaws in Plantinga's argument. We will look at two of these here.

Plantinga's Critique of Foundationalism is Flawed

Plantinga failed to consider a few important issues in his supposed "demolition" of classical Foundationalism.

Firstly, if he can simply choose theism as a properly basic belief in his empirical method, why can't a classical Foundationalist do the same with the FP above? The classical foundationalist can simply assert, like Plantinga does, that these principles are properly basic to him. And that is similar to what Plantinga claim about experiencing God when one reads the Bible or see the starry heavens, the truth of the FP would be clear to those sufficiently attentive to its "witness." Thus Plantinga's has not shown why the FP could not the self-evident to its adherents. [3]

Secondly, and more importantly,classical foundationalism is not the only formulation of the FP. Modern foundationalist philosophers have made modifications to the classical theory and it is not clear that Plantinga's critique could work here. One such modification is by the ohilosopher, Anthony Kenny. He recommends that a belief can be properly basic if and only if:

  • it is self evident or fundamental
  • it is evident to the sense or memory
  • it is defensible by argument, inquiry or performance.

    Obviously the major change is in the third criterion. Kenny gives as an example his belief that the continent of Australia exists. To him this is a properly basic belief. However if someone were to ask him to prove this he could do this by showing them a map or travel guides or perhaps even have the person make a trip there! Thus it is defensible by argument.

    Note that under these principles, theism is back to square one. The only possible slot for it to be accepted as basic would be the third criterion. In other words, theist philosophers have to find arguments to prove God's existence! This they have tried, as we have seen, and have failed. Thus by this criterion , theism is not a properly basic belief! [4]

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    The Absurd Consequences of Plantinga's Position

    Another problem in Plantinga's argument is that since he had simply defined theism as a basic belief. Doesn't this leave the door open for, say, flat earthers, to slip in that the earth is flat as a properly basic belief? If Plantinga tries to argue that flat earth can be shown to be false based on other premises, then so can his position be shown to be false. Since reading the Bible does not invoke the same response in all people. Some may be nauseated by the presence of vulgarity and the clear misogynistic passages and some may turn skeptical at the presence of contradictions in it etc.

    Thus Paltinga's position leads to epistemological relativism. The atheist can claim atheism is a properly basic belief, believers in the tooth fairy can make claims for the existence of these dental saviours and believers in the Great Pumpkin will say that his return at Halloween is also properly basic. [5] What does Plantinga say about this? His position is revealing:

    the Christian will of course suppose that belief in God is entirely properly basic and rational; if he does not accept this belief on the basis of other propositions, he will conclude that it is basic for him and quite properly so. Followers of Russel and Madelyn Murray O'Hare [sic] may disagree; but how is that relevant? Must my criteria or those of the Christian community conform to their examples? Surely not. The Christian community is responsible for its set of examples, not to theirs. [6]

    Keith Parson in his book God and the Burden of Proof answers this passage succintly:

    There is something very odd about a defense of theism that would make it only one of the indefinitely many rational belief systems. Historically theism has sought to challenge opposing beliefs rather than accomodate them. Theists have traditionally asserted that belief in God is rationally superior to such alternatives as dualism, deism, polytheism, pantheism, atheism and agnosticism.
    However [given Plantinga's position] appears that theists can no longer claim such superiority. If atheism, for instance, is not inconsistent, incoherent or self refuting-atheists can confidently defy anyone to show that it is any of these things-then it seems that Plantinga must accept it as an equally rational alternative to theism. [7]

    Thus Plantinga's assertion that theism is rational is one that allows almost any belief to be considered rational.

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  • With PZ Meyers and others, I find that Plantinga's mind is irratonal as faith doth that to people! He flaunts his irrationality with farragoes of errant nonsense. I delight in ever refuting his stupidity!
    This enclosed article recounts some of this stupidity. Yes, stupidity! Theologians just cannot discern their nonsense because of faith. Faith involves their whole being such that their minds must perforce err! That leap of faith to ensure their certainty in their nonsense after they supposedly have found evidence for it.[This is a dig at two definiitions of faith].

    That certainty of their belief doth injustice to their minds.

    Viewers, however, what do you opine on this and should you know other of his errors, please elucidate them here!

    Paul K. Moser - The Evidence For God: Religious Knowledge Reexamined - Reviewed by Thomas D. Senor, The University of Arkansas - Philosophical Reviews - University of Notre Dame


    Paul K. Moser

    The Evidence For God: Religious Knowledge Reexamined

    Paul K. Moser, The Evidence For God: Religious Knowledge Reexamined, Cambridge University Press, 2010, 280pp., $25.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780521736282.

    Reviewed by Thomas D. Senor, The University of Arkansas

    Taking up where 2008's The Elusive God left off, The Evidence for God is Paul Moser's second book in his attempt to reorient religious epistemology. As with the earlier volume, The Evidence for God is daring and provocative. Among the important topics it deals with are naturalism, fideism, natural theology, and the role that volition plays in our ascertaining evidence of God's existence.

    The book begins with a parable around which the entire monograph revolves. Imagine that you are hiking in a vast and remote wilderness area that is accessible only to hikers. To your great dismay, you discover that you are hopelessly lost: you have no method of determining either your exact location or a promising route back to civilization. The woods are filled with dangers (e.g., poisonous snakes, hungry carnivores, and potentially freezing temperatures) and you have no means of communication with the outside world. Worse still, you have only a meager supply of food and water. You've had one bit of good fortune: you've come across an old, dilapidated shack that contains a barely functional ham radio. The battery in the radio still has a bit of juice, although you doubt it will last long once the radio is turned on. In short, your situation is dire but not hopeless. What is your best bet for survival?

    According to Moser, what is needed is a trustworthy guide. Merely finding maps won't get you out of your predicament since you don't know how to place yourself on them -- you don't know where you are. To increase the chances of success, the guide should be capable of interacting with you as you are making your way out of the wilderness since you will likely make a wrong turn somewhere and you'll need to be put straight.

    Given your predicament, Moser claims, you've got four primary options.

    Option 1: Despairing

    Seeing the hard road in front of you with at best a chance of rescue, you might just decide to give up. To do this is to be a practical atheist regarding a rescuer.

    Option 2: Passively Waiting

    Another option is not to give up hope but to stay put and simply wait for rescue. You could just bide your time and hope to be discovered. Being reasonable, you don't believe you'll be saved but you don't disbelieve either. As such, you become a practical agnostic about a rescuer.

    Option 3: Leaping

    The leaping option involves picking a path or direction, following it, and hoping for the best. One might focus on the goods involved in following a trail that other hikers have trod rather than on the result of rescue. In any event, the key here is action without evidence that the action will lead to the ultimate, desired end. Moser calls one who leaps a "practical fideist."

    Option 4: Discerning Evidence

    As opposed to the first three options, the fourth involves rationing the available food supply and taking a hard, rational look at your situation. Within the "discerning evidence" camp, two rather different approaches may be detected:

    1. Purpose-neutral discerning of evidence: look for evidence of how to best find rescue that doesn't involve or presuppose the purposes of any potential rescuer.

    2. Telic discerning of evidence: look for evidence that seems purposive. For example, whereas purpose-neutral evidence might be the shapes, lines, and textures of a map of the region, telic evidence would be markings on the map by an agent with an intention to guide the lost to safety.

    Moser's idea is this: humanity is lost in a figurative wilderness: here's how Moser puts it:

    we all face the prospect of ultimate physical death and social breakdown. From the perspective of our species overall, our food and water supplies are threateningly low, with little hope of being adequately replenished. On many fronts, our relationships with one another are unraveling, and have resulted in selfish factions and fights. The factions and fights often involve race, religion, nationality, or economic class but they sometimes cut across familiar lines. Selfishness transcends common categories, always, of course, for the sake of selfishness. We have become willing even to sacrifice the minimal well-being of others for our own selfish ends. As a result, economic injustices abound among us, wherever a sizeable group resides. Accordingly, genuine community has broken down on various fronts, and, in the absence of a rescuer, we shall all soon perish, whether rich or poor. (12-13)

    The possibility of a rescuer for humanity depends on the possibility of a being both capable and willing to save us. The primary matter of the book is to "use the wilderness parable to examine, without needless abstraction, the main approaches to knowledge of God's existence" (15).

    The approaches that Moser discusses are four: nontheistic naturalism, fideism, natural theology, and his preferred "personifying evidence of God" model. Having argued against the primary claims of the former perspectives and delineating his own position, Moser concludes the book with a chapter on potential defeaters, and in particular examines the epistemic impact of religious pluralism. In what follows, I'll sketch his discussion of each of these chapters and take issue with a couple points along the way.

    Chapter 1 undertakes to examine whether appeals to the findings and nature of science undermine the rationality of belief in God. If naturalism is true, and if what it is for an object to be natural is for it to be (in principle) understandable via empirical science, then there is clearly no God, traditionally conceived. But why should we think that metaphysical naturalism is true? Whether or not there are good arguments for naturalism, empirical science itself would not seem to provide them.

    Furthermore, Moser argues that a thorough-going naturalism would demand that purposive explanation (i.e., explanation that appeals to the intentions or purposes of agents) be eliminated, reduced, or somehow shown to be accounted for by non-intentional, non-purposive explanations. Yet the prima facie plausibility (indeed, ubiquity) of intentional explanation makes it very hard to see how to do without it; and no good reductions are yet on the table.

    Moser concludes Chapter 1 with a dilemma for what he calls "Core Scientism," which is roughly the dual claim that every real entity knowable via (a completed) science, and every epistemically acceptable way of forming and revising beliefs, is grounded in the objects acknowledged by and the methods of (a completed) science. Either Core Scientism is itself not included in the sciences or its justification depends on a proper understanding of the nature of "empirical science." If the former, then the thesis is self-defeating for it asserts that only that which is knowable or justified via science is epistemically acceptable and yet it fails to meet this condition. If the latter, then it is being laid down simply as a desideratum of the proper understanding of "empirical science," in which case it is simply stipulative and innocuous.

    Moser concludes that the empirical sciences and the epistemology they employ are barriers neither to the existence of non-natural entities (e.g., God) nor to the possibility of reasonable belief about them.

    In Chapter 2, Moser turns his attention in a radically different direction. If the first chapter represents the pessimism of the lost hiker who thinks there is no hope of rescue and resigns himself to his fate, the second chapter focuses on the one whose hope manifests itself in blind action. The fideist is the believer who eschews evidence and who emphasizes the importance of faith as opposed to knowledge or even justified belief. Søren Kierkegaard is the primary example that Moser offers but he also includes Rudolf Bultmann and Karl Barth in the fideistic camp. The fideist believes not just that it is in some important sense permissible for the believer to lack supporting evidence for the existence of God but that true faith requires an existential leap from a springboard other than a solid evidential base. The subjectivity of religious devotion requires a lack of objectivity; arguments and reason are the source of the objectivity that is rejected by faith.

    Why is there conflict between faith and reason? Moser proposes that, at least for Kierkegaard, it is the content of faith that produces the tension. Faith, or at least Christian faith, is incompatible with well-grounded belief because what is believed is "inherently paradoxical, contradictory, or absurd." (101) Moser takes Kierkegaard at his word when he uses this kind of language and thinks that Kierkegaard takes the faith that he holds to be necessarily false. So the picture Moser paints of fideism is not simply the claim that religious belief without evidence is morally or epistemically or religiously appropriate, but rather the much stronger claim that reason can't have anything to do with Christian faith since the latter is contradictory (because the doctrine of the Incarnation is contradictory) and hence necessarily false.

    Moser contrasts the fideistic view of faith with what he labels "Christian faith." In the second half of this chapter, and in much of the last two-thirds of the book, the discussion leans heavily in the direction of biblical exegesis rather than analytic philosophy. This is never more true than with respect to Moser's presentation of his preferred view of faith. According to Moser, the Christian view of faith is, essentially, "a willing, obedient entrustment to God that involves one's motivational heart and that therefore is inherently action oriented" (105). In calling people to faith, God seeks not only to move us cognitively and emotionally, but volitionally as well. When the believer entrusts herself to God, God works cooperatively with her to transform her from the default position of selfishness to being an expression of God's perfect love. Thus, while there is a doxastic component to faith, there is also a crucial volitional component.

    The fideism chapter includes a discussion of Alvin Plantinga's Reformed epistemology, which Moser includes under the more general category of "argument-indifferent theism." Moser finds a number of things not to like in Plantinga's epistemology of religious belief. He objects that on Plantinga's view, belief in the specific claims of Christianity is "caused" by the Holy Spirit and that this is inconsistent with the New Testament perspective that faith is a gift freely offered to all who have the ability to freely accept or reject it. However, the main difficulty that Moser has with Plantinga's view is simply that it is an instance of argument-indifferent theism, and thus it does not require that the believer possess "a trustworthy truth indicator for a belief" (140).

    In the end, Moser rejects fideism because he understands it to recommend an arbitrary and, in the case of the Kierkegaardian view, contradictory faith. In keeping with the guiding metaphor of the book, the best chance of getting out of the woods is not by blindly choosing a path (particularly if you can tell immediately that the path goes nowhere!) but instead by finding trustworthy evidence that the selected route will lead to safety.

    Chapter 3 takes on the epistemic significance of natural theology. Moser begins the chapter with a discussion leading to the claim that God's goal is to call people into a non-coercive relationship with God that will lead to the moral development and transformation of those who heed the call. The primary problems that Moser has with natural theology are two. First, the arguments fall short of arguing for a perfectly loving God. Cosmological arguments might lead to a first cause or ultimate explanation and teleological arguments might secure intelligence, but neither of these forms of reasoning can support the claim that the intelligent cause of the universe is a perfectly loving God. Moser thinks the ontological argument fails for reasons we don't have the space to discuss. But even if it didn't have the flaw that Moser cites, he still thinks it wouldn't be adequate since the concept involved

    is static in a way that the personally interactive occurrent evidence of the presence and the reality of the Jewish and Christian God is not. In particular, the evidence consisting of the content of a concept of God is not personally variable relative to the wills of humans toward God and God's will. As a result, the evidence offered in ontological arguments fails to fit with the personally interactive divine self-revelation that involves God's intermittent hiding and seeking relative to humans. (157-158)

    The trouble with the arguments, then, is that they provide the wrong kind of evidence. A God who wants to enter into dynamic, personal relationships with creatures will reveal himself in a way that invites creatures to enter more deeply into the relationship. A one-size-fits-all, impersonal model of evidence is not what we should expect given what we have reason to believe are God's purposes.

    In Chapter 4 we get an argument for the existence of God that doesn't pretend to be natural theology traditionally construed. After claiming that the personifying evidence would require God's altering our volitional structure (with our permission) so that we would not remain in the condition of sin that makes our default will one of selfishness and hence unreceptive to moving in the direction of "unselfish love and forgiveness toward all persons" (204), Moser offers the following argument which he claims is for him -- and presumably others who have heeded the call -- a good argument since he has reasons for thinking that the premises are true.

    1. Necessarily, if a human person is offered and receives the transformative gift, then this is the result of the authoritative power of a divine X of thoroughgoing forgiveness, fellowship in perfect love, worthiness of worship, and triumphant hope (namely, God).

    2. I have been offered, and have willingly received, the transformative gift.

    3. Therefore God exists.

    What is the "transformative gift"? Although the definition is rather robust, understanding the argument requires understanding it so it's worth the space we devote to it:

    The transformative gift =df one's being authoritatively convicted in conscience and forgiven by X of sin and thereby being authoritatively called into volitional fellowship with X in perfect love and into rightful worship toward X as worthy of worship and, on that basis, transformed by X from default tendencies to selfishness and despair to a new volitional center with a default position of unselfish love, including forgiveness, toward all people and of hope in the triumph of good over evil by X. (200)

    Given this understanding of the transformative gift, premise one of the argument is presumably secure: for one is not in a position to offer the gift unless one is capable of forgiving sin and is worship-worthy. But given just how propositionally rich the definition of the transformative gift is, the second premise will require significant justification (to say the least). For I'm justified in believing that premise only if I'm justified in believing the following conjunctive proposition: I have been authoritatively convicted in conscience & forgiven of sin & called into a volitional fellowship in perfect love & due to the previous conjuncts, transformed from selfishness and despair to a new volitional center of unselfish love and forgiveness, and hope in the triumph of good over evil & the one who has offered this to me is capable of forgiving sin and worthy of worship.

    The argument is clearly valid; in fact, the conclusion follows from the second premise alone. The question then is how, on Moser's view, is premise two justified? Given what Moser said in response to Plantinga (and in keeping with his general epistemological predilections), he'll have to hold that there are internally accessible signs of trustworthiness in order for the belief to be justified. The belief's being reliably grounded, say, will be insufficient. So what kinds of grounds does he have for holding that premise two is true?

    Moser writes:

    I could plausibly argue for the cognitive well-groundedness, or trustworthiness, of premise 2 on the basis of its central role in an undefeated best-available explanation of the whole range of my experience and my other evidence. This role includes this premise's figuring in a best-available answer to the following explanation-seeking question: why is my experience regarding the supposed provisions of the transformative gift (including my evident change from default selfishness to a new volitional center with a default position of unselfish love toward all people) as it actually is now, rather than the opposite or at very least different? On the basis of my experiential evidence, the central role of premise 2 in answering such an explanation-seeking question can figure in its being well-grounded for me and for anyone else who has similar evidence. (205-6)

    So premise two is to be justified by an inference to the best explanation of "the whole range" of the believer's experience and other evidence. But what precisely is the nature of the experience that is the ground of so significant an abductive inference? We get hints here and there but if we are looking for a robust, phenomenological characterization and philosophical exploration of the mode of evidence we receive and how it is that we are able to receive it, we'll be disappointed.

    According to Moser, we can have "direct, firsthand knowledge of God's reality and character" by "being acquainted with (at least) God's personal and perfectly loving will" (201). But what is it to be acquainted with perfect, unselfish love? Although Moser has a fair bit to say about the point of contact and the effects of such acquaintance (e.g., the conscience is a focal point for receiving a direct divine volitional challenge, that being acquainted with such love is to be acquainted with "God's inherent personal character and thus with the reality of God" (201), that such acquaintance can noncoercively lead to one's will being changed from selfishness to unselfish love of others, etc.), we never get anything that looks like a philosophical account of the nature of this kind of evidence. To be clear, I'm not implying that we should be given enlightening necessary and sufficient conditions for when human acquaintance with the divine takes place. Nor am I suggesting that we should be provided with epistemically useful rules for determining when such acquaintance is achieved. But if we are to think that this experience is evidence for the existence of God, we need to know better how to conceptualize its evidential role.

    A natural thought is that such acquaintance involves perceptual or at least quasi-perceptual experience. Yet except for his frequent use of "acquaintance," Moser gives no reason to think this -- there is no discussion of perception or even of mystical religious experience which might be at least quasi-perceptual. How we can have knowledge by acquaintance (as opposed to description) without having perceptual contact with that which is known is not addressed and is, to my mind, problematic.

    Here is another interpretation of the experiential evidence that figures prominently in Moser's religious epistemology: the experience is the recognition of the change in one's volitional center. One sees that one is now inclined toward love for others rather than selfishness. One's will has been altered for the better in ways that seem to be unnatural -- at least in the sense that my natural default position has been moved away from selfishness and toward perfect love. This volitional change is in need of explanation and the best explanation is that it is the result of my having received the transformational gift.

    Although there is no doubt that this recognition has a role to play in Moser's defense of premise two of his argument, it can't be all the experiential ("personifying") evidence that the believer has. For if it were, there would be no inclination to call a mere recognition of a volitional shift an "acquaintance" with God. This surely implies, as Moser says elsewhere, "direct, firsthand" experience of God. And if it were the only role that experiential evidence plays, then premise two will not be justified. For it surely can't be reasonably argued that my noticing a surprising change for the better in my will by itself justifies the belief that I have been offered and received the transformational gift (recall that it entails the sizable and robust conjunction described above).

    Despite a long and interesting discussion of the theological and biblical account of the nature of, and challenges to, volitional change, we never do get an epistemologically illuminating discussion of acquaintance and of the personifying, experiential evidence that one gets as one positively responds to the divine offer.

    The Evidence for God's concluding chapter tackles the primary potential defeaters for the justification of premise two: the problems of evil and of religious diversity. Although there is no room here to discuss the details of this chapter, I will say that Moser's discussion of diversity (which takes up most of the chapter) is bold, innovative, and nuanced. While defending a version of exclusivism, Moser argues that a God of perfect love could not make belief a requirement of salvation, and that one might yield to God's transforming call de re and fail to form any beliefs about having yielded to God or even about the existence of God.

    Moser's book is an interesting read that furthers his agenda in the epistemology of religious belief. If Moser has in mind making this work a trilogy, I would suggest that he use William Alston's book Perceiving God as a model: that is, I'd like to see him lay out more explicitly the epistemology of personifying evidence and tie it in with modes of evidential justification with which we are all familiar.

    Viewers, please opine!

    Baron D'Holbach - Good Sense (1-50)

    Check out this website I found at

    Meslier shows up advanced theologians as the word games players that they indeed are1 He seems to be an ignostic.

    Jesus’ miracles, religious myth and biblical contradictions | Digital Bits Skeptic

    Digital Bits Skeptic

    Jesus’ miracles, religious myth and biblical contradictions

    2010 February 7
    more by

    [Due to this article's length, there is no podcast - do you really want to hear my voice for thirty minutes straight? Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go read my daughter a bedtime story. ...That poor kid.  -Andy]

    By R.C. Symes
    Article ID: 145

    Jesus conducted about eight nature miracles, seventeen individual healing miracles, seven exorcisms and three resuscitations from the dead, according to the Christian New Testament. What was the purpose of Jesus’ miracles? Were they historical facts or religious myths?

    A biblical miracle is usually defined as a supernatural intervention by God, either directly by Him or through His agent, in the course of nature or the affairs of people. A miracle is an extraordinary occurrence, beyond what is experienced in the normal course of events, and signifies a divine sign or mission. In the New Testament, miracles are referred to as signs, wonders and mighty works (but never called miracles). Space prevents examining all of Jesus’ so-called miracles in this essay, therefore I will only examine a selection. My articles about the miracles of Jesus’ birth and resurrection are here:

    Myths surrounding Jesus’ birth

    The resurrection myths about Jesus

    The many miracle-workers – putting miracles in context

    History is replete with reported miracles, more frequent and more stupendous in ancient times than today. The validity of miracles depends upon the reliability of evidence and witnesses. The Old (i.e., Hebrew) Testament relates about 76 miracles over a span of several thousand years, from a talking snake in the Garden of Eden, to Jonah living in the belly of a great fish for three days and nights and then being coughed up unharmed. There were reports of miracles in ancient Greece such as the healer Asclepius (ca. 300 BCE) raising men from the dead. In the first century BCE in Palestine, a Jewish scholar named Honi the Circle Drawer was famous for successfully praying for rain during times of drought. In the first century of the Common Era, Hanina ben Dosa, a contemporary of Jesus, was a Jewish wonder-worker who healed the sick and could control rain. The Bible records that there were miracles performed by exorcists (Mark 9:38-41) and sorcerers (Acts 8:9-11). Apollonius of Tyana was an itinerant Greek philosopher and contemporary of Jesus who reportedly cast out demons and raised people from the dead. Luke says the apostle Paul healed a man crippled from birth and he was consequently hailed as a god (Acts14:8-18). There were reports that the Roman emperor Vespasian (d. 79 CE) healed a blind man with spittle. It is claimed that Islam’s Prophet Mohammed (d. 632) once split the moon in two, and there are claims that Christian saints performed many miracles over the centuries. Reports of religious miracles have continued into modern times. For example, healing miracles have been claimed in the name of saints of the Roman Catholic Church and American Protestant evangelists. The modern Hindu milk miracle shows Hindu statues drinking milk from spoons:

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    Miracles over the centuries have been claimed as marks of power, holiness or divinity. Skeptics will claim that there is no reliable evidence to verify that miracles happened and that they are a result of superstition, pious tales or outright frauds. For example, they will argue that walking on water violates the natural order and therefore it could not happen at a particular place without happening everywhere else at the same time. Likewise, skeptics will claim that healing miracles are exaggerated or psychosomatic. They ask if such miracles can happen, then why won’t a loving God regenerate the limbs of amputees? Believers will claim that God can change natural laws when He wants, create new substances and heal disease by divine intervention, all beyond our comprehension. All these wonders are the prerogative and power of an omniscient and omnipotent God. Most religions, often using the same line of reasoning, will claim that only the miracles of their god or holy ones are valid, and that those of other faiths are fakes. Wherein lies the truth?

    The miracles associated with Jesus need to be placed in context, namely, the cultural history and societal norms of first century Palestine. Over ninety percent of the people around Jesus’ time were illiterate, but steeped in Jewish history as related in the Old Testament. They were also exposed to Greek and Roman religious myths as a result of past conquests. The masses were superstitious and believed in magic (Acts 19:19; 13:6-12), witchcraft (Galatians 5:19-20) and supernatural intervention (Mark 16:17-18). They had no understanding of modern astronomy – sacred texts told them that the earth was flat (Zechariah 9:10; Psalm 19:4; Matthew 4:8), and that it did not rotate but was fixed in place on pillars (1 Samuel 2:8; Psalm 93:1). Jews believed that above the firmament (dome of the sky) there were seven layers of heaven (once Paul was taken up to the third heaven as described in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). God or demons caused earthquakes, floods, droughts, sea storms, solar eclipses and other natural phenomena. Nor did the people understand modern medicine – for them, disease was usually a result of sin, evil spirits or direct punishment by God (e.g. John 5:13-15; Luke 13:11; Deuteronomy 28:27-29). Mental illness was believed to be a result of a person possessing demons (Matthew 9:32-34), or was a punishment from God (1 Samuel 16:14-16). Rarely could potions and talismans cure the more serious diseases such as chronic illnesses and demon possession – only miracles and exorcisms by holy men or God were successful (e.g. Acts 5:15-16; 19:11-12). Bacteria, viruses and psychoses, the real causes of illnesses, were unknown, as were the causes of natural phenomena such as the movement of tectonic plates (earthquakes), high and low pressure areas (weather conditions), and planetary movements (solar and lunar eclipses). The ordinary people of Jesus’ day were ignorant, superstitious and gullible when it came to understanding nature and disease. The gospels relate that the man named Jesus had the same understanding of nature and disease as the people of his day.

    The Gospels and Book of Acts that describe the miracles of Jesus and his apostles were written in Greek many decades after the death of Jesus, which was around 30 CE. The earliest extant Christian accounts of Jesus the Christ (i.e., the Messiah) were penned by Paul, and the seven authentic epistles ascribed to him are dated around 50-60 CE. Unlike the gospels that came later, Paul’s epistles have few if any details of Jesus’ life and teachings, despite the fact that many witnesses would likely still have been alive during Paul’s lifetime. The absence of details of the historical Jesus in Paul’s writings is remarkable because there were occasions when he could have used such information. For example, Paul laments that “we do not even know how we ought to pray” (Romans 8:26), yet he fails to cite the Lord’s Prayer as a model here or elsewhere in his writings, which would lead us to conclude that he had never heard of it! Apparently Paul and other epistle writers were not aware of any oral traditions about Jesus’ miracles either. If there were none based on eyewitnesses’ testimony, where did the miracle stories come from? The stories of miracles first appear in Mark, the earliest gospel, written about the year 70. Mark’s community was unsatisfied with the vagueness of the life of Paul’s Christ, so the author of Mark searched Hebrew Scriptures, especially the Prophets and the Psalms, for inspiration to create details for an historical Jesus, the prophesied Messiah.

    Before discussing the sources of Mark’s miracle material, it is important to remember that much of what he wrote was copied, sometimes word for word and other times modified, by the gospel authors of Matthew (ca. 85) and Luke (ca. 95). Of the 35-odd healing and nature miracles in the synoptic gospels (i.e., Mark, Matthew and Luke), only three are unique to Matthew, and seven to Luke. John’s gospel (ca.100) has only seven miracles of which just two (Jesus feeding the 5,000 and walking on water) are common with the synoptic gospels. Recent biblical scholarship has shown that all these authors wrote their accounts decades after Jesus’ death, were themselves not eyewitnesses to his life, lived in different countries than Jesus did, and spoke a different language than he.

    Mark’s premise is that Jesus is the true Messiah (God’s anointed one), and always has Jesus refer to himself as “the Son of Man” (meaning God’s agent of power and authority). This also was a Messianic title (see Daniel 7:13-14). However, Mark understood that most Jews in his day thought that Jesus was a failed Messiah because he was crucified. According to Mark, Jesus is not the traditional warrior king promised in Psalm 2:1-9, but is even greater. He is God’s anointed one who will bring His kingdom to earth in apocalyptic fashion (Mark 13:24-27). Mark believed that Holy Scripture foretold that the Messiah had to suffer and die (see Isaiah 53:1-6; Psalm 22:1-21; and Mark 8:31). For Mark, proof that Jesus is the Messiah is confirmed by the Easter story.

    Why did Mark compose a narrative about miracles? Miracles alone were not marks of the Messiah according to first century Jewish belief, since other wonderworkers were found in the past and in contemporary times. But miracles could also be signs of God’s chosen prophets and a means to gain a following. Mark also uses miracles as signs of the nearness of the coming to earth of the new Kingdom of God for which Jesus, as the Messiah, was the precursor (“Thy Kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven”). In this new world the wicked would be judged, the forces of evil overthrown, and disease, pain, suffering, want and death would be banished. Mark begins to establish this belief in his gospel after he relates that Jesus performed numerous miracles:

    “Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do men say I am?’ They answered, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others one of the prophets.’ ‘And you,’ he asked, ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter replied: ‘You are the Messiah.’” (Mark 8:27-29).

    The first written reports of Jesus’ miracles are found in Mark, but Mark was faced with a challenge – he was not an eyewitness to these events and there were no examples of miracles in the earlier epistles of Paul and others, and few, if any, oral traditions about miracles. Since Jesus was the Messiah, certain characteristics would be expected of him, and a reinterpretation of Old Testament prophecies would serve Mark well. He used the book of Isaiah for his inspiration for the type of messianic miracles of Jesus:

    “See, your God comes with vengeance, with dread retribution he comes to save you. Then shall blind men’s eyes be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shout aloud…” (Isaiah 35:4-6).

    Also from Isaiah:

    “But your dead live, their bodies will rise again….” (26:19); and “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted….” (Isaiah 61:1).

    This same theme is reiterated in Matthew’s gospel, when in reply to the query of John the Baptist’s disciples whether Jesus was the one who is to come, Jesus says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind recover their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the poor are hearing the good news” (Matthew 11:4-5). Jesus reached out to the marginalized and outcasts of Jewish society to bring them into his movement for the new Israel. For some believers, these wonders by Jesus serve to fulfill prophecy and legitimize Jesus as the Holy One of God.

    Where did Mark find details for specific miracles? Mark knew that holy men of the Old Testament performed miracles. For Mark, the great leader and miracle-worker Moses, who established the first Covenant between God and the Israelites and led them out of slavery, is to be superseded by a new and greater Moses named Jesus. He will establish a new and superior Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34), conduct greater miracles and lead the people to a new promised land, an eternal kingdom of God. Elijah the prophet (9th century BCE) who rose to heaven in a fiery chariot was expected to return to earth and precede the coming of the Messiah. He, along with his disciple and successor Elisha had performed miracles such as multiplying food and raising people from the dead. Mark draws on these Old Testament stories to model events in Jesus’ career. However, since Jesus the Messiah is greater than the prophets and holy men of the past, his miracles have to be greater, and more numerous. Elisha doubled the number of miracles Elijah did, and Mark has Jesus double Elisha’s.

    Gospel stories about Jesus’ miracles are a midrash – contemporizing and reinterpreting – of Old Testament events in order to illustrate theological themes. Among the many miracles in Mark’s original narrative, there are two sets of five miracles each. Each set begins with a sea-crossing miracle and ends with a miraculous feeding. He uses this literary construct so his readers will recall the role of Moses leading his people through water towards the promised land, and feeding them with manna from heaven. Jesus does something similar. And with each water and feeding miracle, there is one exorcism and two healing miracles that are to remind readers of the works of the prophets Elijah and Elisha and how Jesus surpasses them. The parallels between events in Jesus’ life to those in the lives of Moses, Elijah and Elisha and others are too close for a coincidence. This points more to constructing religious myths in the gospel for theological reasons, than to reporting historical facts.

    Weather control

    A midrash nature miracle is found in Mark’s gospel when Jesus stills a storm that nearly swamps a small boat that carries him and his disciples. They marvel that “even the wind and the sea obey him” (Mark 4:36-41) which is copied by Matthew 8:23-27). Particular details of the storm at sea were obviously copied by these gospel authors from the book of Jonah whose author had used Psalm 107:23-30 as his model. For example, before the storm Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish” (Jonah 1:5-6). Mark, paralleling Jonah’s story, has Jesus in an open boat with waves breaking over it. He writes, “Jesus himself was in the stern, asleep [!] on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:38). Matthew, in his gospel, drops the rather rude “do you not care” and substitutes “Lord, save us; we perish” (Matthew 8:25). The scene stealing and word plagiarisms are obvious, especially when comparing the Greek version of the Old and New Testaments.

    Walking on water is another example of Jesus’ power over the sea. For the faithful, this is a reminder of how Moses parted the marshy Sea of Reeds (likely at low tide with a favorable wind) to allow the fleeing Israelites to walk across the seabed (Exodus 14). Jesus is the new and greater Moses because not only can he still a storm, but also he has no need to part the sea, for he can walk on water! (See Mark 6:47-53, Matthew 14:24-34 and John 6:16-21 that draw on Psalm 107:28-30, and Job 9:8 where Jesus is like the One who “walks on the waves of the sea”.) Despite the gospel authors using numerous Old Testament stories as a basis for Jesus’ miracles, it is incredible that biblical literalists still claim that these miracles are eyewitness accounts of his life.

    Disease as sin

    Mark’s miracles were not only signs of Jesus’ power or compassion, but also a means for him to instruct first century Christians about his understanding of Jesus. Healing miracles, for example, could be subversive to the established order. If disease were a result of sin, then consequently when Jesus cured people their sins were forgiven. This was a challenge to the Temple priests who held the monopoly over the rites of forgiveness. This challenge is set out in Jesus’ healing of a paralyzed man at Capernaum, where he says, “Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Stand up, take your bed and walk?’ But to convince you that the Son of Man has the right on earth to forgive sins’ – he turned to the paralyzed man – ‘I say to you, stand up, take your bed, and go home’”(Mark 2:5-12). When Jesus healed people’s illnesses, he was at the same time forgiving sins – both were signs of divine power in Mark’s view.

    Jesus accepted that demons caused illness and the need for exorcisms was normal. The Bible describes how he talks to unclean spirits who are tormenting a man called Legion who was in the country of the Gerasenes. He was unclean (for he lived among the tombs of the dead), chained (cf. Psalm 107:10), mentally out of control, crying aloud (cf. Psalm 107:6) and cutting himself with stones. Jesus completes his exorcism by allowing the legion of unclean spirits to enter into a herd of 2,000 pigs (unclean animals for Jews) that then rushed over a cliff and were drowned in the sea (Mark 5:1-13). However, Matthew reports that there are two madmen, not one, and that they are located elsewhere, in the area of the Gardarenes (Matthew 8:28).

    There is some dispute as to how this event could have happened historically since neither Gerasa nor Gardara have cliffs adjacent to a body of water. Nevertheless, these gospel scenes recall how God worked through his prophet Moses to drown the legion of unclean Egyptians in the sea, just as Jesus does with the legion of unclean spirits. A secret political allusion in this story may be to driving the Roman legions out of Palestine with the coming of the Kingdom of God. Was it just a coincidence that a boar (pig) was the emblem of the 10th Roman Legion that was occupying Jerusalem in Mark’s time?

    To fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy, Mark has Jesus heal a blind beggar near Jericho (Mark10:46-52) which Luke repeats almost word for word (Luke 18:35-43). However, Matthew changes the same tale to two blind men whom Jesus heals by touching their eyes (Matthew 20:29-34). On another occasion Mark claims Jesus heals many at Capernaum (1:32-34), but for Matthew this is not good enough – it has to be all who were healed (8:16-17). As well, Mark has Jesus cure a blind man at Bethsaida by spitting in his eyes and laying his hands on him, but he has to repeat the cure because it was not entirely effective the first time (Mark 8:22-25). He also heals a deaf man with a speech impediment by putting his fingers in his ears, spitting, touching his tongue and groaning (Mark 7:32-35).

    Both Matthew and Luke omitted these stories because they were embarrassed at how Jesus’ healing methods too closely resembled those of the magicians of the time, and how the miracle for the blind man needed a second attempt.

    It is interesting that healings change according to the bias of the gospel authors.

    Despite omitting some of Mark’s miracles, Matthew and Luke need to fulfill Isaiah 35:5, so Matthew creates a miracle where Jesus, by means of exorcism rather than spittle, heals a man who is both blind and mute (Matt. 12:22-24). Luke follows suit, but his subject is only mute (Luke 11:14-15). These examples illustrate that the life of Jesus was a creative rather than a factual biography. John has only one miracle of healing a blind man, but his story is greater because this man was blind from birth. He is cured when Jesus anoints his eyes with a paste made from Jesus’ spittle and the blind man washes it off in the pool of Siloam (which means ‘sent’). John uses the miracle as a lead-in to a chapter of theological discussion demonstrating that Jesus was sent by God to do His work and to give light to a blind world (John 9). On another occasion, the miraculous feeding of 5,000 people serves to reveal that Jesus is the bread of life (John 6).

    Given the motives and consequential variations in healing miracles by the four gospel writers, it becomes clear that the miracles are more mythical than they are historical.

    Intentional limits to miracles

    There are many other examples in the gospels of Jesus as the healer of the sick and disabled. But there are hard questions for those who believe that these miracles were real events and expressions of his compassion for the ill. They are these: why did Jesus, whom Christians today recognize as the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, and who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, do so few individual healings during his career? And why, for example, did the compassionate, omniscient Jesus also not save thousands from illness and death in his day and millions in the ages to come, by providing knowledge about cures for diseases – from penicillin to the simple task of boiling polluted drinking water to kill bacteria? And what was Jesus doing during the 27 years prior to his public ministry? There is not a word in the canonical gospels about any teachings or miracles by Jesus prior to his adult baptism. This despite Matthew and Luke claiming a divine birth for Jesus, and John stating that he was God from all eternity.

    Further examples of the fictitious nature of the gospel miracles can be seen by their dependence on replicating miracles found in the Old Testament, particularly by Elisha. Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5,000 (found in Mark 6:30-44 and the other three gospels) has its origins in the story of Elisha feeding 100 men with only twenty barley loaves and having some left over (2 Kings 4:42-44). However, Jesus’ does a greater miracle by having his disciples feed fifty times that number with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Why five loaves and not another number? For Mark, the loaves are symbolic of the five books of Moses, and the twelve baskets of scraps left over are symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel. John in his gospel assiduously copies the details in 2 Kings by stating that the loaves Jesus multiplied were barley loaves, and they belonged not to the disciples, but to a servant boy, as was the case with Elisha (cf. John 6:9).

    In order to end with a feeding miracle in the second set of his literary construct, Mark  repeats the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (this time for 4,000 people with seven loaves and a few fish). Luke and John have no record of this second miraculous feeding. In the second feeding Mark has the disciples wonder again how all these people will be fed, even though Jesus has previously fed the five thousand! Does this sound credible?

    This miracle story is really a literary device Mark uses to provide Jesus with an opportunity to admonish his disciples for not understanding the significance of these feedings of both Jew and Gentile (Mark 8:14-21). Jesus sounds like Moses in his exasperation with his people for their unbelief (Deuteronomy 29:2-4). Mark is obsessed with secret meanings throughout his gospel and the disciples’ failure to understand Jesus and his mission, as do the people of Mark’s day.

    Resurrection miracles

    The awakening of Jairus’ dead daughter by Jesus (Mark 5:21-4, 35-42) has its origins in the story of Elisha doing the same thing to the dead son of the Shunnamite woman (2 Kings 4:18-37). The meaning of “Jairus”, by the way, is “he will awaken”. Is this name historical or just a nice literary touch? Just as the Shunnamite woman falls at the feet of Elisha and pleads for him to save her child, so too does Jairus with Jesus. Respectively, both Elisha and Jesus on their way to the children hear that they are dead, ask for privacy to conduct the miracle, touch the children, who then awake and get up, and the parents are overwhelmed. In another example unique to Luke, there is the miracle of raising the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-16) that is based on Elijah raising the widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:17-24). Again, the parallels and the wording are just too close for these gospel versions not to have been copied from the Old Testament.

    The gospel of John does not have the aforementioned resurrection miracles, but has an even more dramatic one (John 11:1-53).

    Jesus raises Lazarus from a tomb four days after he was dead (Jewish belief was that death was certain after four days as by then the dead one’s spirit left the body, never to return). Why do none of the other gospels mention such a stupendous event? Why is Luke silent about Lazarus’ resurrection, especially since he claims to have examined traditions handed down by eyewitnesses and others, and has “gone over the whole course of these events in detail…so as to give you authentic knowledge….”(Luke 1:1-4)?

    It seems there was no oral or written traditions about this miracle available to the other gospel writers. It is in reality, an invention of the author of John who uses Lazarus’ resurrection as an incident to manifest Jesus’ divine power. In John’s gospel, miracles cause faith in Jesus as a divine being, whereas in the synoptic gospels faith is necessary for the success of miracles. According to John, the raising of Lazarus is the reason the authorities begin plotting the death of Jesus. In addition, Lazarus’ resurrection was a literary device to prefigure what would happen to Jesus on a greater scale. Lazarus is nowhere to be found in John’s gospel after his resurrection and supper with Jesus and the disciples at Bethany. He is never mentioned again in the New Testament, either as a follower of Jesus or as an active figure in the history of the early church.

    This story has all the markings of a religious myth, not historical fact.

    The miracle of changing water into wine

    Lastly we come to what is claimed by the author of John to be the first of Jesus’ signs (miracles), namely, the changing of water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). As Moses “worked the miracles for the people and everyone believed” (Exodus 4:30-31), so too would John’s Jesus. Just as Moses transformed water into blood (Exodus 4:8-9), Jesus turns water into “wine from the blood of the grape” (Deuteronomy 32:14). After the wine has run out during the partying, Jesus orders that the six large jars used to store water for Jewish purification rites be filled with water that he then changes into wine (about 180 gallons worth!). This wine is acclaimed as the best wine saved for the last, an allusion to the Messianic wedding feast where Jesus comes as the bridegroom to save Israel (Isaiah 62:5; 25:6-9). The fact that purification jars are used also alludes to Jesus as the wine/blood of the new covenant that surpasses the old covenant with its purification rites using water. To carry the wine allegory even further, John later has Jesus say, “I am the vine, and you the branches. He who dwells in me, as I dwell in him, bears much fruit…” (John 15:5), and “… my blood is real drink.” (John 6:55)

    The idea for the miracle at Cana may also have been influenced by the myth associated with the dying and resurrected Greek god Dionysus. He was the god of wine and revelation. On the evening of Dionysus’ festival day, three empty pitchers were left locked in his temple and miraculously were full of wine the next day. John also draws on details for the Cana miracle from the story of Elijah where he miraculously makes flour and oil appear in the empty jars for the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings17:8-24). John even transposes the widow’s words to Elijah into Jesus’ words to his mother – “What have I to do with you?”

    Why is this great feat of changing one substance into another – a feat that John claims revealed Jesus’ glory and led the disciples to believe in him – never mentioned in the other gospels or epistles? This omission must mean that there were no oral or written accounts of this event in the 70 years prior to the writing of John’s gospel, and therefore, that it was entirely John’s invention.


    This brief survey of the miracles of Jesus shows that their origin, nature, and theological underpinnings have more to do with religious myth than true history. Albert Schweitzer in his groundbreaking treatise, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, writes that the essential character of religious myth is “nothing less than the clothing in historic form of religious ideas, shaped by the unconsciously inventive power of legend, and embodied in a historic personality. Even on a priori grounds we are almost compelled to assume that the historic Jesus will meet us in the garb of old Testament Messianic ideas and primitive Christian expectations” (3rd edition, p.79). Surely, the miracles of Jesus fit this mold.

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    from → Religion

    2010 February 7

    Interesting article, although I believe that you could have (and should have) done more to cite sources.

    2010 February 7
    nbjayme permalink

    This is lengthy article, but length does not judge it is done by the motive of scholarly citations.  First off, the article made rants against Biblical passages without minding context.  Are we to find proof of the Miracle Jesus?  What we have are accounts from the Gospel.  The witnesses are long dead and gone.  What we can deduce are the Miracles that have been approved by the Catholic Church as a sign of God’s supernatural act.

    Let me demonstrate that the article’s Biblical rants are unfounded and clearly brought about by mis-contextual treatment.

    Zecharia 9:10 And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.

    Does this mean the earth is flat?  Well from the point of view of the whiner, it is.  But “end of the earth” can be interpreted in different ways.  It can be relative to where you are standing and the other side of the globe.  It can further be an allegory that no part of the earth will escape knowledge of God’s peace.  A verse in fact does not stand alone and we have to consult other passages to get the right context:

    Isaiah 40:22
    It is he that sitteth upon the globe of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as locusts: he that stretcheth out the heavens as nothing, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.  (Douay – Rheims)

    There you go.  The Earth is not flat indeed.

    Also, the article points that Jesus may not exists because Paul knew not how to pray.  This is another wrong interpretation of the text.

    Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings.

    St. Paul here was not negating the Lord’s Prayer.  St. Paul was inferring that the Holy Spirit will assist us in expressing what we want to communicate to God.  Sometimes we want to praise God and we have no words to describe our praise … it is then the Holy Spirit that shall know thy heart and mind and present to God.

    Have the article studied the other miracles claimed by other religions?  How were those studied scientifically?  What were the background of the events and the people involved?  They use those miracles to prove their diety or allah.  But the essence of the article is that, since the miracle for allah is not true therefore Jesus miracles are false.  Truly a big hole in the logic.  It’s like saying; because my neighbor andy does not know how to read, therefore all his friends don’t know how to read.
    The article is lengthy because it lacked focus.  It wants to search for Jesus but dump other miracle claims that has no connection with Jesus.

    2010 February 7
    Bob Allen permalink

    At base – ALL so-called miracles are just that – so-called !  I understand that EVERY Saint, within the Roman Catholic tradition – MUST have performed a VERIFIED miracles.  That’s litterally TENS of THOUSANDS !!!

    At base – ALL so-called miracles are poppy-cock – and that phrasing it politely !

    Bob Allen

    2010 February 12
    R. C. Symes permalink

    It is interesting that “nbjayme” does not produce arguments against the main thesis of my article that Jesus’ miracles are not true historic events, but rather religious myths copied mostly from previous Old Testament stories. The Bible itself is proof of this, hence my citations are biblical rather than from other authors.
    Instead of addressing my thesis, “nbjayme”focuses on disputing evidence that the authors of the Bible believed the earth was flat. He cites one translation of Isaiah 40:22 from the Douay Rheims version that references the “globe” of the earth, namely, “It is he that sitteth on the globe of the earth….” That must be quite a sight! God sitting on the earth – exactly where is this on the planet?
    The majority of translations of this verse refer to the “circle” of the earth (note: a circle is not a sphere or globe). Circle is one of the translations of the Hebrew word “chug”, meaning “vault, horizon”, or “to draw around, to circle”. Ancient Hebrews thought the earth was flat, immovable, and covered by a concave solid vault (like the dome of a modern stadium) in which were fixed the stars, and windows to let down rain. Above the vault was a multi-layered heaven. The New English Bible is truer to the Hebrew meaning by translating the verse as “God sits on the vaulted roof of the earth….” According to other biblical citations in my article, the earth was still believed to be flat, even if it was covered by a vault (dome).
    As for Paul’s writings, their lack of detail about the earthly life of Jesus is telling. These omissions do not make sense if there were oral or written traditions about Jesus’ miracles circulating among the first believers. Throughout the ages, Jesus’ miracles have been one of the first things Christian missionaries cited to win converts. However, Christianity’s greatest missionary (Paul) never used Jesus’ miracles as examples to bolster his arguments, even though he knew the importance of miracles, for as he said, they were the signs of true apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12). Consider how much Paul’s missionary preaching would have been strengthened if only he had known about Jesus’ miracles. But how could he? They were only invented some forty years later in the mind of Mark.

    2010 March 4
    rc_moore permalink

    I am always intrigued by the fact that the oldest known copy we possess of Mark cuts off before the really big miracle — the resurrection .  It just ends with the body of Jesus gone missing, which is less than miraculous.

    Later copies add a rather kludgey resurrection story that is not (IMHO) in the same voice as most of Mark.  I have a feeling that there was quite a bit of “punching up” of the Gospels to increase their marketability as a replacement religion in the area around Asia Minor.
    It is also interesting that the people closest to the Jesus miracles — the Jews in and around Jerusalem,  were not impressed enough by them to actually become Christians in any great number.  It seems the farther away the story was told, the more impact it had.

    2010 April 6
    kelly permalink

    It is a historical fact that men wrote the books that eventually came to be compiled in the bible. Men also decided that certain books did not fit their ideology and would not be included. Again it was men who decided that the words they chose to be compiled were the words of god…it was also men who punished everyone who would not allow themselves to be converted to man’s religion.

    2010 April 29

    I bet everyone of you who wrote a comment have never and probably will never experience a miracle or the true knowledge of Jesus Christ and God. How sad that must be for all of you. Just because you have not experienced something or the majority have not seen or no tangible proof of something doesn’t mean that is is not probable or plausible. It simply means that most people have limited thinking and are very ignorant to the truth. Miracles are not myths and are happening everyday and everywhere you just have to open your eyes, mind and heart to them.

    2010 April 29
    Bob Allen permalink

    Obviously, Mr/Ms t – your Theism is getting in the way of seeing Reality.  And that’s too bad – because Reality is SO Beautiful – when it’s not all mucked up with peddlers of Theism

    2010 April 29

    Hi ‘t’,

    Can you give examples of what you’d consider a miracle?

    If you came here to just drop an opinion without backing it up, that’s fine, but I can’t really respond to you in a meaningful way. So, in kind, I’ll just leave an unsubstantiated opinion of my own:

    Miracles are misinterpretations or coincidences or an acceptance that something outside of our knowledge must be something supernatural.


    2010 July 2
    Terry permalink

    But of course Jesus life and miracles would mirror the old testament. This was to add weight and spirit to the meaning of what he was doing. Just because Jesus life patterned the old testement does not reek of plagerism and does not prove anything against the scriptures. It gives power and poetry to his life.
    The four gospels were written according to the holy spirit. The men remembered accurately based on what the holy spirit awoke within them. The fact that there are differences show that they are four independent writings from a common source. If they were just going to copy each others works word for word this i am sure the skeptics would seize upon as proof that it is mere copying.  No matter what would have been written and no matter how skeptics would argue against it- that is the very  nature of a skeptic. Not to seek truth but to disagree and to doubt. There is as much evidence of jesus as being a factual person as there are for many historical people who are accepted as real by archeology. There are many examples if you care to search of biblical records of historical facts eventually being proven to be right through archeology.
    ONe thing that will alwasy escape skeptical mind is that it is not meant to be able to be proved. We are spiriutal creatures and it is the activation of our faith and spirit that is the important function of the scriptures. If it all could be scientifically validated and prooved and reproduced then there would be no miracle and no faith. A mirace as you mentioned is somethign that is by divine power. Not by natural order. So to say that because somethign is against natrual order proves that these miracles cannot occur is not following a logical flow of an argument and so is irrational.
    Bascially if you look at the definition of science it is the study of natural phenomena- hence supernature is beyond the definition of science. So it is like asking a preschool PHD lecturer about quantum mechanics. They dont know because it is not their area of expertise. Science precludes its ability to comment on supernature by definition of science as natural phenomena that are repeatable and reproducable.  So they have defined themselves out of being a possible expert on the field of supernature or study of God- theology. So to utilise scientific protocol as the ONLY method to examine data especially ones that cannot be validated sceintifially then it does not prove that it didnt occure any more than it proves that it did occur. So we end up wiht an opinion based on a whole lot of reasoning that is flawed and trying to draw conclusion scientificially that just cannot be deduced.
    Theology does have a logical flow to its ideas but to actually try to put it to a scientific test is against building up the spirit and faith of a person so is pointless. Interestingly it is also against scripture where Jesus said you shall not put God to the test”. it is agains scriptural principles to test God in any way including scientifically. So to use science to test God and prove against Him is against scripture.
    Finally Jesus did not come to invent penicillin or to debate against public opinion as to the flatness of the earth or it beeing really a globe. That was not HIS purpose. They would not have listened to him anyway. He made points the way people could relate to in those days and also in the coming days. He also did not come to save people from sickness. He used his healings to show power and to build faith in a powerful father and an everlasting life through him. To ask why did hee not just eliminate all sickness from them on shows you dont grasp the point of why he came. For our spiritual health. For our spiriutal development.
    Lets face it- one miracle you have not considered is the number of people in the whole world who will gladly give their lives for Jesus because of their love of Him. For someone who never wrote a word about himself that is simply amazing. A person who never forced any one to do anything but led by example and by love.
    I do think science is wonderful but it is out of its league in trying to disprove Jesus miracles or his life or his being. He will not be discounted because he is too important. Why dont you just try to open your heart – imagine it opening to Him and his love and invite the spirit of his love and trust into you. Do this a few times earnestly and see what changes start to happen in your life. it is a spectacular life you have and to think that these things give to you enormously if you just reach out towards them. But they cannot be proved by your methods when you are coming from a state of disbeleif. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You can have what is promised to be an eternity of meaning and life. Why not take that chance. Even the sperm from your father did not have a scientific basis for how to get to the egg. But it pushed towards something it had never seen nor could prove existed. But it moved towards what was important. So you have done it before- just try it again- reach out for the life that will start a transformation in you that will take you to the next level. Your only other option is to remain a sperm that doenst beleive and will just die without fertilising. its time to shift to the next level. You need to be fertilised by the holy spirit. So give it a few calls and see what will happen. You might just make it. I know you can. God also has trust in and confidence in you- otherwise he would force you rather than patiently wait for you to wake up and try life.

    2010 July 2
    Terry permalink

    Just one more things I neglected to write but intended to.
    When you quoted Pauls saying we do not know how to pray. Then using that as evidence that he did not even know the Lords prayer.
    The thing is that the scriptures are full of telling us what we need to do- but does not give a lot of detail on HOW to do it. Including the Lords prayer- the Lords prayer does not tell us HOW to pray but what to pray.
    Another one is where we are taught to love your neighbour as yourself- how the heck are we to do that? Or where it says to LOVE your enemies- it does not tell us how to get the the mental emotonial space whereby we can genuinely love our enemies- we can pretend but it is not talking about pretence it is talking about genuine love and affection for our enemies. How do we get to that place it does not say it only tells us what the aim or ideal is. This does not mean that the scriptures are incorrect or that the Paul did not know the Lords prayer and also the other scriptures- it could just means he is stating an obvious question – how exactly do we do this? It is not that easy to genuinely love someone who would like to take your head off and annihilate your children and family.
    So the whole point is that when we are open to the holy spirit gradually and gently it leads us and teaches us from within us. It is a personal relationship whereby we are led by intuition- that is tuition- teaching that is within- In… tuition. When we grasp what jesus said and that the kingdom of God is within us we realise that we are not to actually be taught by an external teacher but only by the one and only teacher within that is christ. Jesus even said this when he said let no man be called teacher because there is but one teacher. So yes the scriptures do tell us what do to – but it is up to the internal teacher the christ to teach you how to get to  the space where you can genuinely do it. It becomes a journey that is not a matter of just applying laws and principles- it is a journey where you are aware of the basic aims and you are undertaking them and then you are led along the way patiently by spirit.
    I would also like to say that on the whole I liked your article that you wrote- it was very interesting and i was relieved that after reading it that it added to my appreciation of the scriptures. The poetry of the sciptures and how Jesus life and miracles actually reflected important past events from the hebrew scriptures is quite brilliant and well written. I took delight in reading that- although i dont agree with the conclusions that it is evidence of it all being a myth. I hope and pray that you will soon see that life is much more than science. Spiritual life does have logic but is much more than a two by two table. I can see that you appreciate the true incredible beauty of nature- but if you also connect to the spirit behind all life you will see a majesty and magnificence that nature only partially reflects.

    2010 July 5
    anti_supernaturalist permalink

    You can no more have a relationship with Jesus/Christ than you can with Sherlock Holmes and for exactly the same reason.
    Praise Trimalchio and all the whores of Rome!

    The morally unclean texts of the big-3 monster theisms. We don’t need more blather about 1-god, stupid scripticism (bible-based BS), or authoritarian god proxies nibbling at the edges of sedition.

    No sadistic nihilist tarted up as a love-god:
    God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are…1Cor1:27-28 NIV.

    We don’t need more moralists; we need more immoralists. We don’t need more preachies, we need more Nietzsches.

    We’ll continually make Saul of Tarsus the butt of jokes in the agora: we Stoics and Epicureans, Cynics and Cyreniacs, Sceptics, atomists and hedonists.

    We proclaim the exuberant, skeptical words of Of Xenophanes, Lucretius, Lucian of Samosatos, Petronius, Apuleius.  Bring on the Satyrica! The Golden Ass!

    “For who are we to believe a rabble of mistaken [xian] prophets, or the philosophers?”
    — Celsus* (ca 175 CE)

    the anti_supernaturalist

    *On the true doctrine — against the christians. (ca 175 CE) trans/intro RJ Hoffmann. Oxford. 1987. p. 108.

    2010 August 4

    I have read this article & I have read the comments that have been posted..and I would like to post my thoughts as well…..  It is unfortunate that so many of you are skeptic, but I think its because you have not seen or felt God in your life and therefore resist anything that cannot be explained by science.  You cannot read the bible in only a literal sense nor can you gain its interpretation and its purpose if you are already bias and have decided that its fiction. 
    I am not going to rebut the thoughts that this author has as it would be pointless as he has already exalted his opinions as fact….
    While some of you try to examine the history of humanity during that time period and some state that people then were ignorant; is extremely unfair and simply your opinion.  No matter what the era is, you will always have people who ‘hate’…. they hate change, they hate difference they hate anything that cannot be rationalized or explained by science; and they hate Christ and therefore they will never be enlightened and never be satisfied in life or truly happy….. they will always be looking for bigger and better…  Yes, it is true that the bible came to its fruition years after Christ’s death, however many forget that traditional practices were in place before the literal documentation occured…..  So if all of the bible’s miracles are fiction, and its author and publisher is only man and man’s ideologies, then how is it that the apostles and many other’s in history gave up everything in their lives and subjected themselves to death?  Ask yourselves, how many of you would DIE for what you believe?  Some things are not meant to be understood in its entirety that’s why they call it ‘faith’!    Everything that happens, happens exactly when its supposed to happen & how its supposed to happen as everything has its purpose including life, death, unfortunate events etc….   It is a ripple effect …. if the world were perfect than nothing would be sacred not even having full use of our limbs, or sight; which most of us take for granted on a daily basis.   When there is pain & suffering, we must take a proactive approach and perservere…Christ gives us hope through his teachings and his purpose and his death….. One is not less of a human being because they are blind or hearing impaired or missing limbs…. instead look at how people who live life this way have become successful and live normal lives… they are not less of a human being, and it is ignorant to ask why God doesn’t just make their limbs grow back….  these are people to look up to because they have succeeded in life and appreciate what they have.  
    I think that it is always good to ask questions and search for truth which is what this author seems to be exploring. However, I guess its always easier to say something didn’t happen and be in denial than to challenge yourself & prove that it did happen; and realize the good that stemmed from it.  I pray that God forgives you and opens your heart to his voice and teachings; because he loves all of you even those that are against him. 

    2010 August 4

    One last comment…..just food for thought…. what if hypothetically you are wrong and the bible’s account of miracles is the exact truth? Think about what happen’s when you die… is that it?  Or will you meet your maker?  If the existence of God is true then we will all meet him someday. 
    If you do not believe now and follow in what he teaches;  it will be too late to recant when we die. 
    Everyone has their own perspective which is probably formed from their life experiences….
    Look, I’m not trying to convert anyone or start any arguments, all I am saying is to just look at the possibility and have the hope for something better.  If you take a close look at all the negativity in the world, you can simply deduce that humanity has drawn away from the commandments and brought disaster upon itself…. One example is years of pollution has caused Global warming, which in turn reflects other natural disasters….. or the use of biological warfare….  All I’m saying is ” do you really want to take the chance of being wrong?”  I’m not asking for this to be a challenge for someone to try and ‘one up me’ or be a battle of witts, I am just a simple human being with a perspective of hope…. I wish I could be more eloquent with words….  I just want others to break away from the ‘norm’ and give it a chance…..  I guarantee you will not regret it!  May God bless all of you.

    2010 August 5
    Bob Allen permalink

    In answer to the postings of so-called Truth -

    What IF you and ALL others – are wasting your time and energy believing in a so-called Jesus and all of the bunk that goes with that belief-set.

    What IF – the Jesus junk is just that – JUNK.

    To bad that you folk have failed to FULLY live life.  Too bad.  So Sad.  BUT – you ONLY have your selves to blame.

    Comments are closed for this entry.

    People love fantasy! They love woo. Faith doth that to people!
    The Catholic Church commits fraud with its sanction of miracles!
    Study Robert J. Foegelin's " A Defense of Hume on Miracles!
    Baruch Spinoza also faults reasons for miracles, and Thomas Paine lacerates Christinsanity for its miracles
    amaichael Martin's " Atheism: a Philoophical Justification" has a excellent chapter on miracles and see the end notes.

    Could one yet find them credible?!