How to Salvage Claims of God’s Capabilities? Change the Definitions! (2 of 2)

Words sometimes have more than one definition. For example, “organic” can mean “having to do with life” or “food grown without non-natural chemicals,” or it can simply mean “contains carbon.” But when justifying the unjustifiable, Christian apologists often need to invent new definitions that aren’t supported by the dictionary.

In part 1, we saw an apologist trying to deal with the reality that if God answers every prayer, his “answers” are indistinguishable from no answers at all. That he’s not even embarrassed by his predicament makes his handwaving no more convincing.

What is a miracle?

Let’s move on to another pious redefinition, this time for the word “miracle.” Our apologist this time is Jim Wallace, who recently analyzed the story of a claimed miracle. A couple in Tennessee had parked at their apartment and gotten out of their car. Only then did they notice three bullet holes in the side of the car and two more in the trunk. The wife soon found something else. One bullet had come through and lodged in her purse. Without the purse, that bullet might have hit one of them. Her interpretation of the purse stopping that bullet: “Just by the grace of God. It’s a miracle to keep me or him from getting hit.”

Wallace said, “When I was an atheist, I would roll my eyes at statements like this.”

I hear you. Why didn’t God stop the shooter in the first place? Or why didn’t he redirect the shooter’s life years ago so that he wouldn’t turn to violence?

Alternatively, if you imagine God saving this couple, what explains him not saving the other 10,000 people that die from gun violence in the U.S. each year? Your happy miracle story morphs into the problem of justifying God’s capriciousness. “God works in mysterious ways” won’t do—if you say that God performed a miracle in this case and had good reasons to let the bullets kill someone in another case, you must support that incredible claim with evidence.

Alternatively, why not just call this a coincidence, where a situation was bad but not so bad that anyone got injured? The naturalistic explanation (lots of gunshots are fired in public, and this just happened to be one of those situations where no one was hurt) explains all the facts. God performing a miracle is an unnecessary complication to the story.

But no, none of these interpretations are where Wallace wants to go. Now that he’s a Christian, he says that he’s reconsidered his position on miracles. He wants to label as “a miracle” events like this injury-free shooting.

You say that you don’t accept miracles? Wallace argues that all naturalists accept miracles. Here’s his argument.

1. The Big Bang is the standard explanation for the origin of the universe.

2. The Big Bang tells us that the universe—that is, space, time, and matter—had a beginning.

3. “Everything came into existence from nothing.

4. What caused the Big Bang? It couldn’t have been anything to do with space, time, or matter, since they hadn’t been created yet.

5. “See the dilemma? My naturalistic belief in ‘Big Bang Cosmology’ required an extra-natural ‘Big Banger.’ ”

6. The dictionary defines “miracle” as having a supernatural cause, and “supernatural” as “above or beyond what is natural,” so the Big Bang drags the naturalist into accepting at least one miracle, that of the origin of the universe.

7. The Bible agrees. It says that the origin of the universe was created by God (and therefore a miracle), and if that’s the case, God could surely pull off something as trivial as a resurrection. Or stopping a bullet with a purse.

Correcting that poorly defined argument

Let’s highlight a few problems.

2. There are plausible models of the universe that have no beginning.

3. No, the Big Bang doesn’t say that everything came from nothing. That’s one possibility, but that’s not the consensus view.

4. Does it make sense to ask for a cause before there was time? And if the Big Bang were a quantum event, it might’ve had no cause (not all quantum events have causes).

5. “Big Banger” deliberately suggests an intelligence, but if the Big Bang were just a quantum event, that would be a natural cause with no mind required. Maybe our universe is just one of many universes that started with this natural cause.

At best, this argument points out that cosmologists have unanswered questions about the Big Bang. That’s true, but that’s no excuse to inject a supernatural explanation involving your favorite god. If science doesn’t have the evidence to justify an answer, don’t pretend that your religion does. If making everything from nothing is a problem, then how did God do it? We need evidence, not dogma. And if “God did it” explains the origin of the universe, what explains the origin of God?

What happened to the good, old-fashioned miracle?

You want a miracle? During the famous Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War, English and Welsh archers delivered a stunning victory over French cavalry. Almost exactly 500 years later during the Battle of Mons during World War I, in the same part of Europe as Agincourt, ghosts of those archers materialized to save the British from a vastly superior German force.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t match the history. That’s always the problem, isn’t it? The good stories don’t withstand scrutiny, and the true ones are just luck, like the woman whose purse stopped a bullet.

So if bullet-stopping purses are what pass for miracles in society today and you can’t raise the quality of miracles, then just pull down the definition so that there’s a match. That was the goal of the “you naturalists believe in miracles, too!” argument. Like the redefinition of “answered prayer” in the previous post, just redefine “miracle.”

Christians, this may be what you need to help you sleep at night, but this is not an honest way of looking at the evidence. By changing definitions, your argument has lost any power. You’ve salvaged your words—“answered prayer” and “miracle”—but at what cost? Convince yourself that you’ve won the battle if you must, but with these dishonest games you lose the war.

The Bible will give you answers
like your horoscope in the newspaper will give you answers.
It’ll be so vague as to apply to anyone in any situation.
— commenter watcher_b

.

Image via Stuart McAlpine, CC license

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  • Bob Jase

    Say god, you know what you could do for a miracle that would be impressive? Let’s have one full 24 hour day without anyone anywhere getting shot. That shouldn’t be asking too much.

    • Kevin K

      A while back, there was a fairly interesting discussion about what atheists would accept as modern-day evidence of supernatural claims. Most people couldn’t figure out how to distinguish between an actual god-thing and an all-powerful alien. Which I think is fair, for the most part.

      My particular attempt at a “miracle bar” would be a demonstration of the powers of omniscience, omnibenevolence, and omnipotence in one fell swoop. And that would be that from now on, no weapon would work in its designed manner if the future outcome (intended or otherwise) would cause harm to a human. No bullets would fire, no knives would cut, no fists would harm. But they would otherwise work perfectly. TNT could knock down buildings … but not if someone were inside. That sort of thing.

      • carbonUnit

        God as an Organian???

      • Kit Hadley-Day

        if there really was an all knowing god, they would know what evidence would be adequate to prove their existence, i intend to let them worry about and come back to me when they have the answer

        • Kevin K

          Yeah, it was a thought experiment kind of a discussion. What kind of evidence today would convince you a god was real?

          I think most of us eventually came down on the side of “nothing”, because if a god were real and wanted to be discovered, it would have demonstrated its existence a long, long time ago (and not merely in myths told by desert semi-nomads who didn’t know where the sun went at night).

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          I understand the point of the thought experiment, but like you said the honest answer is there will always be a more rational answer for any happening than ‘god did it’

        • Kevin K

          There did appear to be little to distinguish a god-action from an alien-action. My point there was that if an alien was powerful enough to act like a god (miracles and such), and was benevolent, and wished to be called a god … I’d probably go along with it. Cuz it could impose its wishes on a technologically backwards human population anyway.

          If it were malevolent, work to steal its technology.

        • Greg G.

          Wait. It seems to me that every third episode or so of the original Star Trek series warned about those kinds of situations. Who should I believe, you or Gene Roddenberry?

        • Kevin K

          I wouldn’t mind it if the Organians asked to be recognized as gods.

        • ildi

          The whole worshiping thing would still stick in my craw

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          Not sure i agree, the point is to define what a god is and then if we ever come across an entity that fulfills those criteria then we call it a god. Any creature, with sufficient power could demand they be called a god, plenty of ancient rulers liked to do that. Being called a god and being a god are not the same thing. On a practical level if a powerful enough entity wanted to be called a god and was threatening to kill me if i didn’t then i would call it god and kiss it’s toes, words are just words, my life is a single event and i don’t want it to end over a name. Then i agree, nick their tech and give them a swift kick to wherever their happy sacks are.

      • Giauz Ragnarock

        I would settle for a non-human that calls itself a God setting up a universal forum where it and everyone can communicate intelligibly in person all at once, and this “God” never conveniently disappears like a storybook God. I’d ask it if it agreed with anything in any religious text.

      • Susan

        a demonstration of the powers of omniscience, omnibenevolence, and omnipotence

        I agree. But a demonstration of the veracity of that claim has problems.

        We would have to be omniscient to know that the demonstration was legit.

        Instead, we have mundane supernatural claims that overextend themselves with “omni” properties in order to defend the original mundane supernatural claim.

        I don’t see a way out for the theist.

        Of course, they accuse me of having unreasonably high standards when I explain that.

        The problem of course, is not with my standards, but with their claim.

  • Greg G.

    Of all the bullets ever fired by anyone in my lifetime, none have ever hit me. What are the chances of that happening?
    >Knocks wood<

    Well I have been shot by BB guns by my brother and my cousin but they were pretty good shots.

    • Doubting Thomas

      I was shot by a game warden while dove hunting. Nothing serious at all, he just shot at a low bird and I was in the same direction. The game warden was taken off of field work and moved to a nice cushy office job. The joke among game wardens then became that they all need to shoot me to get a promotion.

      • Greg G.

        At least Dick Cheney didn’t get a promotion for that.

        • Herald Newman

          If he had been hunting with Dubya on that day he might have.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          He did get an apology, though. Did Thomas apologize to the warden that shot him?

  • John MacDonald

    If a miracle is defined as “the most improbable thing that could happen,” a ridiculous amount of evidence would be required to make the historical claim that a particular miracle “probably happened.” Extraordinary claims (like the idea that Jesus rose from the grave) require extraordinary evidence (which we don’t have). This is made even more problematic because history was often superstitious and littered with superstitious claims, so it is merely “special pleading” to say one’s pet miraculous system (such as Christianity) is exempt from the critical eye, while others that we look at as silly (Greek mythology, Norse mythology, etc.) are not.

    • The Christian will happily accept that for the other guy’s religion. Not so much for his own.

    • Kevin K

      That’s actually not a great definition of a miracle. Because improbable things happen all the time … from a statistician’s point-of-view, if improbable things didn’t happen, the data would be highly suspect.

      My personal definition of a miracle is an event that breaks known laws of physics, chemistry, or biology. Turning water into wine without a fuck-ton of heat (you’d need a nuclear fusion reactor to fuse hydrogen into carbon, for starters) would count. Walking on water defies the laws of gravity (unless it’s a David Copperfield magic trick). And on and on. I’d be happy to acknowledge those as being miracles and the events in question as evidence of a non-natural power — if (and that’s a big IF) evidence could be provided to allow us to verify them.

      That’s the biggest problem — all of the so-called miracles from the age of miracles are unverifiable. Color me skeptical.

      • John MacDonald

        Kevin says “That’s actually not a great definition of a miracle. Because improbable things happen all the time … from a statistician’s point-of-view, if improbable things didn’t happen, the data would be highly suspect.”
        – I didn’t say miracles were “improbable,” but that they were “the most improbable.”

        • Kevin K

          That still doesn’t help. For two reasons:

          1. Because “most improbable” can still be consistent with the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. In the past 13.7 billion years, the most-improbable thing that we can prove actually happened was the Big Bang … which is totally consistent with the laws of physics as we understand them.

          2. Beyond that, a “most improbable” thing is, by definition, impossible. Because you can always append something even more improbable on top of it. Walking on water while changing that water into wine and transporting it to the moon of Saturn at superluminal speed while not getting wet … and on and on.

          This is like Anselm’s Cosmological Argument for the existence of god. Which is (roughly) “God is the most-perfect thing one can conceive of, and since it is more-perfect for a thing to exist than not, therefore, god exists”. Problem with that is … it’s impossible to have a “most-perfect” thing. What’s more perfect than god? God with a pizza. What’s more perfect than god with a pizza? God with a pizza and a six-pack. And on and on.

        • John MacDonald

          3 thoughts: (1.) I don’t think a resurrection is less improbable than a Big Bang. The resurrection is clearly more improbable than the Big Bang, which fits my definition. The supernatural is required for a resurrection as the NT describes it, not so with the Big Bang. (2.) You said “This is like Anselm’s Cosmological Argument.” I think you mean the ontological argument. (3) Can you define what you mean by “perfect?” “Perfectio” in the Latin means “complete.” How are you using the word “perfect.” I’m not sure what it means to say God with a pizza is more perfect than one without? God with a pizza is “quantitatively more stuff” than one without, but I’m not sure what that has to do with the argument.

        • Kevin K

          1. “The” resurrection? Which one? There were several instances of people being brought back to life in the bible, of which the event involving the “Jesus” character is only one. In Acts, bringing people back to life was something of a hobby for the apostles. Every Sunday when I was a kid, I recited words that indicated that every person in the world who ever lived would one day be resurrected. Hardly a uniquely “most improbable” occurrence, then, is it?

          In addition, if you’re going to make the claim that Jesus’ resurrection was unique in some way, you then have to argue against the claims of all other dying and rising gods, eg, Osiris, Krishna, Mithra, et al. Resurrections are a dime-a-dozen thing among the gods. Hardly on the same level as the one-and-only inception of the universe.

          In addition, I said “things that have been proven to have happened” when I mentioned the Big Bang. Fictional events don’t count. Until you can provide verifiable evidence of people being risen from the dead, you got nothing. And by evidence, I do not mean mytholegendary accounts in books bound in leather. I mean empirically verifiable by a disinterested or hostile third party. In this case, the evidence I would accept is the appearance of the risen Jesus. Show me the body, alive and well, if a bit holey. Have him do some magic tricks. Then we can talk. Until then … Hercules did it better.

          2. I prefer the English definition. Perfect: having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be. If god isn’t at my front door with a pizza and a six-pack, it is not as good as it is possible to be. Nor is it as good as it possibly can be if it is hidden from our sight, if it allows evil to exist in this world, and if it can’t get the entire world to agree on the theological status of the bacon cheeseburger (among many other things).

          3. Sorry, my bad. Yes, I meant the ontological argument. Which is a weird name for a creature that has no ontology.

        • John MacDonald

          Kevin said:
          – “Hardly a uniquely ‘most improbable’ occurrence, then, is it?” Unique is not the same as improbable. There are lots of reports of Alien abductions, but it is highly unlikely that any of these have occurred.
          – ” If god isn’t at my front door with a pizza and a six-pack, it is not as good as it is possible to be. ” I don’t think that’s the point. The argument is that a fully complete being, with no relative dependencies like finite beings, would not be fully complete unless it existed. This has nothing to do with that being’s relation to you. Anyway, as I said when we were discussing this on this blog the other day, I don’y buy the ontological argument because, as Kant said, existence isn’t a real predicate (does not pertain to the ‘res’). It’s being mindful of the question of Being, and the classic distinction between the essential and the existential.

        • Kevin K

          And that zooming sound was the actual point going over your head, because I gave you the real examples right after.

        • John MacDonald

          Sorry. I’ll try again. The cosmological and ontological arguments basically go together:

          1. Entities have their Being in other entities or other states of Being (e.g., you have your Being in your parents, igneous rock has its Being in molten magma, etc.)
          2. If we trace the origins of entities back to their ultimate origins, this procedure can’t go on indefinitely.
          3. There must be some manner of entity that is the terminal point
          4. When cosmologists trace the origins of the universe back to The Big Bang, the question then becomes how did the materials that made up The Big Bang get there in the first place? There is various conjecture in response to this, but no consensus. Similarly, evolutionary biologists trace the origins of life back to single-cell organisms, but the question then become how did the first spark of life originate?
          5. This “ἀρχή” must be absolute or fully complete by definition, and so if it lacked existence it would be incomplete and thus unable to serve it’s function as terminating the infinite regress.

        • Kevin K

          1. No “materials” are needed to create the Big Bang. It was an all-energy event. (Simplistically) E=mc^2 and all that. There were no rocks in the BB. And since the net energy of the universe has been shown to be zero, there’s no room in the equations for a non-universe “shover of things into existence”, because that would be an extra energy source that would need to be accounted for. Whatever it was that “happened” (I’m told that’s a sloppy word choice, but I don’t have a better one) at the boundary between not-our-space-time and our-space-time, the least likely solution is a massive energy input in the form of an external “shover”.

          In addition, if there were room in the equations for a “shove” that doesn’t mean it was a “shover” in the sense of a god-thing. All-natural, non-conscious, non-intentional forces do well on their own without extra help, thank you very much.

          In addition to that, if there were room in the equations for a “shove”, that doesn’t mean that the “shover” didn’t also require its own “shove”. You don’t solve the problem of infinite regress merely by declaring victory. You have zero evidence this is the case with regard to the inception of the universe. There could be an infinite number of shovers shoving an infinite number of universes into existence an infinite number of times … no terminator.

          2. The chemicals from which the LUCA was derived are common. Abundant throughout the universe, and … quite obviously … also massively abundant here on Earth. Just because we don’t have the exact recipe (yet, I expect a reasonable solution in the next few years) doesn’t mean it required an external quintessence to get things moving. Chemicals abundantly present (you know them today as “living things” and things that used to be living, like coal), and an energy source (eg, the sun, geothermal, tidal). That’s it. No “infinite regress” stopper is needed here either. You’re offering nothing more than a god of the gaps argument from ignorance.

          3. The concept of a “first element” (seriously, don’t be such a douche; nobody is impressed with you trotting out Greek words that have commonly understood English translations) is only true if quantum effects are not real. Quantum effects are real. Causality in the common way that Anaximander understood it is not consistent with the modern understanding of physics, and in fact was overturned by Galileo. Hitching your wagon to physics that should have been abandoned more than 500 years ago … isn’t impressive … no matter if you use the Greek for for it.

        • Bald Humanist

          depends on who made the pizza.

        • ThaneOfDrones

          the most-improbable thing that we can prove actually happened was the Big Bang

          Ahem. What was the probability of the Big Bang? Wouldn’t you need to know the pre-Big Bang conditions in order to calculate that?

        • Kevin K

          Well, we can say for certain that of all the things that are known to have provably happened in this space-time, the BB is the only thing that has happened just once. Otherwise, we’d be seeing other universes calve off this one. Everything else is far-more probable than that one-in-a-universe’s lifetime occurrence.

        • ThaneOfDrones

          Otherwise, we’d be seeing other universes calve off this one.

          Careful. ‘Whether this would be happening‘ and ‘whether we would be seeing it‘ are different questions. If separate universes are popping up, they would presumably be occupying different space-times or some such; because if they impacted this universe in an observable way, it challenges the definition of a universe.

        • Kevin K

          One of Terry Prachett’s last works was about this concept. The ability to move between parallel universes was discovered. There were …. unintended consequences.

        • Greg G.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Universe_from_Nothing
          In A Universe from Nothing, Lawrence Krauss points out that not only are the superclusters of galaxies moving away from one another, they are accelerating away from one another, or rather, the space they are in is accelerating away from one another. Nothing can travel faster than light through space but there is no limit to the speed of space. So eventually they will be moving away from one another so fast that light between them will be red-shifted to black. That would be the standard state of universes.

          Any intelligent life originating would only see their own supercluster of galaxies, which is what astronomers thought they were seeing a hundred years ago before they could map the galaxies. We are living in an unusual time to be able to witness the whole universe.

          Or do we? A question I came up with was what would happen if a universe popped up in between the superclusters of a universe that had gone superluminal? Then I saw an article in a science magazine that mentioned bubble universes which were just what I was thinking of.

          What if the universe calved another universe ten billion light years from us about five billion years ago? Our planet wouldn’t know about it for another five billion years plus how far the planet traveled in ten billion years or so.

        • Kevin K

          Yeah, the speed limit is the speed of light within the universe…not the expansion of the universe itself. Which continues to accelerate.

          If the Vulcans are going to make first contact, they better hurry up.

        • Off topic: I was arguing with a Christian yesterday about the “the universe came from nothing” claim. He says that it’s the consensus view among cosmologist, but I’ve never heard this. As far as I know, the jury’s out. Does anyone know what the consensus view is? Or is there none?

        • Greg G.

          Alan Guth’s theory has been around for nearly forty decades and hasn’t knocked down but it doesn’t have a lot of evidence just because it is hard to test.

          I’m not sure there would be a strong consensus without evidentiary support so that only goes back to the Big Bang to some small fraction of a second.

          I think a consensus opinion of experts based on evidence is more significant than a consensus opinion of experts based on conjecture.

        • That was my thought as well–that the Big Bang takes us back very far, but not to the instant of the singularity and not to its cause.

        • Susan

          I was arguing with a Christian yesterday about the “the universe came from nothing” claim. He says that it’s the consensus view among cosmologist,

          They will say this in one breath when it’s convenient for their argumentl, and in the next breath argue that the cosmologist’s “nothing” is not the philosopher’s “nothing”.

          As always, they avoid defining their terms so they can equivocate whenever they’d like to.

        • And indeed, that is just how the conversation turned. (I always like to get the philosophers’ take on matters at the edge of physics.)

          We at least got agreement that Lawrence Krauss was not one of the cosmologists who argue that the universe came from nothing.

        • Susan

          We at least got agreement that Lawrence Krauss was not one of the cosmologists who argue that the universe came from nothing.

          Has he given you an example of one that has?

          Let alone a consensus?

          Has he defined “nothing”?

        • No, it’s just talking points so far. I’ve left it with the ball in his court: show me that the scientific consensus among cosmologists is that the Big Bang came from nothing. I’ve heard the claim often from evangelicals; the evidence, however, I’ve not seen.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          from our current position the possibility of the big bang occurring is 1 in 1, it did happen, probabilities collapse after the event has occurred / not occurred

        • Tommy

          The probability of the Big Bang is 1/1. It already occurred.

      • ThaneOfDrones

        Because improbable things happen all the time …

        “When you say someone is one in a million, you are saying: there are 1300 people just like you in China.”

        • Kevin K

          Exactly. Even one-in-a-trillion-trillion gets you something on the order of a million Earthlike planets in the universe.

      • RichardSRussell

        The biggest problem with Jesus’s miracles is that they were all witnessed by fishermen.

        • Kevin K

          Ha! Good point.

        • Bald Humanist

          They just believed for the halibut.

      • Giauz Ragnarock

        How would we separate those phenomena from natural properties of the universe, though? We only came up with the laws of physics from observation. No responsible scientist upon observing the phenomena and checking for trickery would just keep our models of the universe the same. The “supernatural” is just an arbitrary stopping point for observing the universe.

    • Doubting Thomas

      I don’t think we can say that miracles are improbable because we don’t even know if they’re possible.

      • John MacDonald

        What could be more improbable than something that isn’t possible? lol

    • Kit Hadley-Day

      a miracle is surely a happening that is caused by a supernatural force, that defies the currently understood laws of nature, so for there even to be the possibility of a miracle first you have to prove the existence of the supernatural.

      • Tommy

        To which no one has ever coherently defined the supernatural.

        • Bald Humanist

          That is indeed an issue. To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke – what may look like supernatural magic to one culture – is just mundane technology to a more advanced one.

          I would contend that it COULD BE that the paranormal is real…and by that i only mean that which does not conform to what we consider normal phenomena. However, if confirmed, they would simply be classified as normal. If somehow we could finally prove psychic ability ..that would simply mean it had been a previously undiscovered natural ability worthy of research. Nothing more or less.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          that’s the thing with stuff that there is no evidence for, every definition uses some term that requires another definition which has to be defined, it’s turtles all the way down

  • carbonUnit

    The miracles that always get me are the tornado survivors thanking Gawd for saving them, despite a trashed town (including their house and/or business), many injuries and often deaths. No, you were lucky and/or smart enough to seek the strongest point in the building, etc. after hearing the warnings.
    (edited)

    • RandomFan

      As Betty Bowers says, ( more or less) “Thanking god for saving yourself from a natural disaster is like thanking a serial killer for killing the neighbours”.

    • Castilliano

      The Miracle of Incomplete Destruction!

    • John MacDonald

      It’s analogous to an athlete thanking God for her victory – apparently God caused all the others to lose.

      • carbonUnit

        OR, why can’t God make everyone a winner!

      • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

        We had the game in the bag right up until the 4th quarter when God made me fumble the ball.

  • Robert Conner

    Stories about miracles are stories and stories are drawn from cultural elements that can frequently be identified, as in this case:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/95dd8d1127e8311d24e461da02b941d75e3d08c195d39d680678fc8016a546ad.jpg

    • John MacDonald

      Hey Robert,

      In terms of our earliest information about the Christ resurrection claims, we are told by Paul that some of the original Christians before Paul must have seen/hallucinated what they thought was Jesus in his new resurrection body (1 Cor 15:44, 50) for them to be claiming the resurrected Christ was the first fruits (1 Corinthians 15:23) of the general harvest of resurrected souls at the end of the age (which had now begun). It wasn’t simply the report of a ghost sighting, but was a specifically apocalyptic flavored sighting of the risen Jesus in his new resurrection body. The eschaton was underway. Whether the sightings (ophthe in Greek) were hallucinations, or the apostles were lying about them, is unclear. I talk about the “lie hypothesis” here: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.com/2018/03/examining-easter-peering-behind-veil-of.html . Anyway, Paul quotes the creed/poetry in the first Corinthian epistle as

      That Christ died for our sins
      in accordance with the scriptures.
      and that he was buried;

      That he was raised on the third day
      in accordance with the scriptures,
      and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

      This is the earliest testimony we have about what faith in the resurrected Jesus looked like. The resurrected Jesus was the first chosen of the mass resurrection of souls (recall Matthew’s Night of the Living Dead pericope) at the end of the Age – or at least this was the claim being thrown out there. We could equally imagine the message of the eschaton was being thrown out there to scare people into a more pious life: The end is near so you better get right with God and start loving one another.

      • Michael Neville

        The end is near so you better get right with God and start loving one another.

        People have been claiming that the end is near for the past two thousand years.

      • Robert Conner

        Some within Paul’s house churches claimed there was no “resurrection” from the dead (1 Cor. 15:13) and by the end of the 1st century some claimed the resurrection had already happened (2 Tim. 2:18). We don’t know who these “deniers” were or what kind of “resurrection” they were denying or why, nor do we know if their theologies were being accurately represented. And we’ll never know, but we can at least surmise that there were different resurrection beliefs in early Christianity. Paul talks about a “spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44), but John (20:7) has Jesus’ grave clothes left in the tomb (as tokens?), suggesting that the body buried was the body raised from the dead, like Lazarus whose resurrection proves Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” Phlegon’s ghost story of Philinnion, an unmarried girl who returns nightly from the grave to have sex with her parents’ house guest, also has tokens discovered in the tomb after her identity is revealed and the grave opened.

        The gospels are unclear about what day Jesus was crucified–Preparation or Passover?–and there appears to have been confusion over what was resurrected as well as how it was seen. You’ll recall that several of the gospel stories of post mortem appearances begin as mistaken identity stories which is pretty weird if the appearances were meant to prove Jesus’ resurrection really happened. In the longest resurrection story, the Road to Emmaus account, Jesus is unrecognized until he “breaks the bread”–a reference to the Eucharist that “proclaims the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26), i.e., the Eucharist becomes a place holder, a proxy, for the missing Parousia.

        As the book points out, no one in the canonical gospels sees Jesus leave the tomb. In short, the Resurrection, supposedly the greatest miracle since Creation, is unwitnessed! And the gospels of Luke and John, written toward the end of the 1st century or beginning of the 2nd in the case of John, appear to have incorporated elements of ghost lore into their resurrection stories, e.g., walking through doors, sudden appearance and disappearance, eating as “proof of life,” etc. In short, the Passion/Resurrection stories are inconsistent and full of problems all around.

        • John MacDonald

          As I said, the earliest interpretation of the death/resurrection that we have is the Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed. Dr. Ehrman comments that:

          “In 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 Paul is reminding his Corinthian converts the very heart and core of his Gospel message that he preached to them when he first was among them. They, at the time, were pagans, and he preached to them about Christ’s death and resurrection – because that was the message of salvation that he himself had received from others. Here I should say, though, that scholars have long recognized that Paul is not merely summarizing his preaching: he is actually quoting a piece of poetry, or possibly a creed, that had been in circulation among the Christians. You will notice that vv. 3-5 are very lapidary and direct and that you can divide the lines into two major parts, each of the parts having three statements, and that the statements of part 2 correspond to the statements of part 1. If you laid it out graphically, it would look like this:

          That Christ died for our sins
          in accordance with the scriptures.
          and that he was buried;

          That he was raised on the third day
          in accordance with the scriptures,
          and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

          See how that works? The first line of each part states the important salvific fact: Christ died, Christ was raised. The second line of each indicates that he did so in fulfillment of the (Jewish) Scriptures. And the third line of each provides the tangible proof of the statement (his death is proven by his burial; his resurrection is proven by his appearances). This is a very carefully and intentionally crafted statement. It is widely thought that it may have been some kind of creed that was recited in the Christian churches, or possibly a statement of faith that was to be recited by recent converts at their baptism, a creed that is being quoted by Paul here (not composed by him when writing the letter). It is often thought to have been crafted by someone other than Paul. It was a tradition floating around in the church that encapsulated the Christian faith, putting it all in a nutshell. Paul inherited this creed, just as he inherited the theology it embodies. He didn’t invent the idea that Jesus’ death and resurrection brought salvation. That was the view of Christians before him.”

          That some in Paul’s early church strayed from this vision or that it is at odds with some of the later, legendary gospel accounts is neither interesting nor relevant.

        • Robert Conner

          “That some in Paul’s early church strayed from this vision or that it is at odds with some of the later, legendary gospel accounts is neither interesting nor relevant.”

          Of course you don’t really know any of that, do you? You’re assuming it. You weren’t there and you have no records of what others believed “resurrection” to consist of because the early Christians didn’t preserve other “interesting” beliefs. Something like a century or more transpires between the guesstimated time of composition and the first continuous text manuscripts of 1 Corinthians so we have no proof that the text we have today is the text Paul actually wrote. As many as seven interpolations have been proposed for 1 Corinthians, including the text that so excites you. The consensus of New Testament scholarship seems to be that verses 3-6 aren’t Paul speaking, but they could easily be a later scribe’s contribution to Paul’s work. See how that works?

        • Ficino

          @ Robert Conner: “The consensus of New Testament scholarship seems to be that verses 3-6 aren’t Paul speaking, but they could easily be a later scribe’s contribution to Paul’s work.”

          As a non-NT scholar, I’d like to know more about the above. Who are some representative NT scholars who have argued convincingly that I Cor 15:3-6 are not by Paul? If they’re not, is there any bead on how much later they might be? Can the apologist argue cogently that those verses transmit true info even if not by Paul?

        • Robert Conner

          The literature on 1 Corinthians 15 is vast and the question of historicity has been debated back and forth along predictable lines. A good intro to the difficulties generally is still Bornkamm’s Paul (1971, Harper & Row). The consensus was perhaps best expressed by Conzelmann: “It is clear that the language is not Paul’s.” (Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 20 (1966) 18.) As for 1 Cor. 15 generally, Wedderburn in Novum Testament 23 (1981) 230 ff., for interpolations, Walker in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 50 (1988) 622, ff, or Catholic Biblical Quarterly 69 (2007) 84-103, for example. But wait, it gets worse! Recent scholarship questions whether all early Christians even believed in a “resurrection” as opposed to an “ascension” or “translation.” Smith’s article in Novum Testamentum 45 (2003) 123, ff is a good enough place to start.

          Needless to say, Christian apologists seem convinced that 1 Cor. 15:3-6 will somehow firehose skeptics into submission for some reason and an internet search will instantly dredge up scores of sites that make that claim.

        • Ficino

          Many thanks for the citations. I will examine them soon.

          I have seen people say that I Cor 15:3-6 was an early part of a creed taken into the text. If taken into the text by the author of the text, it then becomes part of that author’s discourse. If interpolated by someone else later, then either we can ignore it or, if we think whatever is in the canonical received text is inspired, then it’s truth no matter who wrote it. This last position doesn’t carry serious credibility but perhaps can’t be proved false.

        • Robert Conner

          There are very few issues in Jesus Studies that are subject either to proof or absolute disconfirmation. To start with, no one knows who wrote the gospels, or when, or where, or to whom, or under what circumstances. It is pretty widely conceded in mainstream NT studies that the anonymous authors were not eyewitnesses and that the accounts likely contain no eyewitness testimony despite the protestations of apologists that it’s “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” An extremely violent war, the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 CE), intervened between the career of Jesus and the writing of the first gospel, Mark. The war killed or displaced the populations of Galilee and Judea and resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem. That Matthew and Luke not only appropriate most of Mark as well as follow its timeline suggests the authors were not eyewitnesses themselves and no longer had access to firsthand accounts. If he knew of Mark, the writer of John doesn’t utilize it, suggesting that he was interested in theology more than “history.” Paul, the first ever chronologically to mention Jesus, never refers to his miracles, or directly cites his parables, or mentions the virgin birth, or the precocious wisdom of Jesus’ childhood, or his family’s escape to Egypt, or walking on water, or the raising of Lazarus, or the empty tomb, or the women witnesses, or the calling of the apostles, or the multiple exorcisms, and according to his own letter, Galatians, states he only met Peter and Jesus’ brother James after a period of several years. Paul is specific that he received his gospel by “revelation,” not from men (Gal. 1:11-12) and shows no interest whatever in the “historical” Jesus (whatever that means). To the contrary, Paul says we no longer know Jesus “according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16) and Paul never evinces any curiosity about the Jesus who was once “flesh.”

          Only seven letters attributed to Paul are widely considered genuine, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philemon, and Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians. The rest are likely, or certainly, forgeries in Paul’s name with about the same claim to historicity as The Hitler Diaries. Specialists (if that’s the word) in Jesus Studies can’t even come to a consensus about what Jesus supposedly “taught,” a well-known scandal in the field. In fact, the differences of opinion about Jesus’ mission are so far removed and the evidence so slim in some cases as to be literally laughable. Worse yet, there are scores of partisans on all sides of the issues who appear absolutely convinced they have figured it all out despite the thin evidence. We know of at least two gospels, the Gospel of Thomas now mostly preserved in Coptic but originally composed in Greek, and Q, the “sayings source” of the canonicals, that never mention Jesus’ biography, including his death and resurrection. Were the authors even interested? No one knows. Whenever someone starts blustering about what they “know” happened 2000 years ago, that’s usually a sign to back away and give them some space–they may be just ignorant, or hearing voices, or both. If “inspiration” involves consistency with facts or internal coherence, then I think we can assert with a high level of confidence that the New Testament is anything but “inspired” unless we mean “inspired by belief” in which case anything is “possible” including Big Foot, Martians landing in New Jersey, etc.

          True-No-Matter-What is basically presuppositionalism which isn’t knowledge or rationality or much of anything except a terminal case of begging questions or unmedicated schizophrenia masquerading as religion.

          Happy hunting.

        • Ficino

          Many thanks. Sorry for these questions … I notice that the first epistle of Clement of Rome contains quotations of sayings of “the Lord” vel sim. that dovetail with gospel passages. But it does not contain quotations of an apostolic memoir or the like in which actions of Jesus are narrated, and it does not name any of the original apostles as having written anything – though it does refer to a letter of Paul.

          I don’t know your view on I Clement. But do you think that it can reasonably be taken as evidence that a sayings gospel was in circulation at the time that I Clem was written, AND that we are not authorized to take the further step of concluding that I Clem provides evidence that any canonical gospel – or any gospel that narrated Jesus’ life and deeds – was known to the writer?

        • Robert Conner

          No real opinion on 1 Clem. My understanding is that about 20 gospels were thought to have circulated within the first century or so, most lost entirely or preserved in occasional quotations in the church fathers. I wrote a book a while back on the “Secret” gospel of Mark, a proposed but controversial “edition” of Mark that’s preserved in a probable quote from a letter of Clement of Alexandria. The amount of BS that accumulated around this discovery (?) made rational analysis nearly impossible.

          https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Gospel-Mark-Robert-Conner/dp/1906958688

        • Ficino

          Hi, thanks. By I Clement I meant the letter attributed to Clement of Rome, not a writing of Clement of Alexandria.

          I took some courses with Morton Smith many years ago. A rapier-sharp intellect.

        • Robert Conner

          Yes, I’m aware there were two Clements. I had no particular interest in Clement of Alexandria either, but over time became interested first in Smith’s discovery and later in the shabby treatment of Smith by his detractors which eventually led to writing a book about the controversy.

        • John MacDonald

          I see that you are marshalling up hypotheticals (“The text might have originally meant something different;” “There could have been interpolations,” etc) to counter the plain reading of the text that Jesus was viewed as buried, exchanged that body for a new resurrection body, and was sighted in visions/hallucinations, prompting his followers to think the resurrected Jesus in his new resurrection body was the first fruits of the general resurrection harvest of souls at the end of days. I am explaining the evidence, while you are explaining away/denying the evidence.

        • Robert Conner

          Mr. MacDonald, you have no “evidence.” You’re “explaining” your belief for which you have as support a few verses in the Bible, verses that are a bone of scholarly contention, contention that you would be aware of assuming you’d actually read the scholarly literature on the subject.

          Bored now. Signing off.

        • Ficino

          Historians recognize that one of their first tasks is to assess the reliability of sources. You are not doing that. It doesn’t matter what a text’s plain reading is, if that text is not a reliable source.

          You have not demonstrated that the gospels are to be considered as reliable as works written by first and second century historians. You are merely asserting that the gospels constitute “the evidence.”

        • John MacDonald

          Along with Paul’s arguments for leaving the old body behind for the new resurrection body, Dr. Carrier offers the following argument for the empty tomb tradition being a LATER addition to the Christian understanding of the resurrection:

          Paul mentions no empty tomb. Not in 20,000 words. And he’s writing in the same generation as any witnesses there would have been (a generation after the fact—his letters dating to the 50s A.D., roughly twenty years later—but he attests to witnesses still living). In fact, Paul conspicuously lists no witnesses even to the burial, much less to a body missing (his only cited source for there even being a burial is scripture); and the first witnesses to anything he seems to know about, are the recipients of momentary visions of a risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). The Gospels name no sources, and never even claim to be written by witnesses of any kind. They all copy Mark. And embellish. And construct their stories from scripture and fiction. No other source for the claim exists. That’s adequately suspicious.

          Similarly, Dr. Tabor says:

          Paul reports Jesus was transformed into a “life-giving spirit,” and the subsequent “sightings” of Jesus, by him and the earlier apostles, were seeing Jesus in his heavenly glory (1 Corinthians 15:42-50, compared with vv. 3-7). To be “lifted up” in this way is to leave the physical body behind, like old clothing, and thus to be “absent from the body,” but present with God (2 Corinthians 5:1-10). This was the earliest Christian resurrection faith.

          So, as I said, the idea of the body leaving the grave has nothing to do with the earliest understanding of Jesus’ resurrection, which was Jesus leaving behind his old body for a new resurrection body as the first fruits of the general resurrection harvest of souls at the end of days.

      • Laurence Charles Ringo

        Since YOU weren’t there, MacDonald, YOUR assertive claim that the individuals in question were lying or hallucinating is simply standard atheistic bias…So, your point is what, exactly?

        • Michael Neville

          So, silly little boy, you got any evidence that your Jesus resurrected? Remember that the Bible isn’t evidence. Without such evidence, people lying or hallucinating is much more reasonable than someone magically returned from death.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Since it’s obvious that you’re going to hold on to this particular stick for dear life, Neville, tell me: What would constitute evidence to you from 2, 000+ years ago? What could the Christian World show you from that time period that would make you exclaim, “Oh, wow! Jesus the Christ WAS resurrected! Whoa! “Frankly, I suspect that in the face of your ingrained, inherent bias against God to begin with, NOTHING would
          satisfy your criteria of what would constitute said evidence .So…what exactly do you want?(.I myself would count it a miracle if you ceased your incessant whining about my emojis. I’M NOT GOING TO STOP, AND YOUR INSULTS JUST MAKE ME DIG IN DEEPER AND KEEP THEM COMING.)You don’t know a lot about human nature, do you? Are you a Trump voterl?–‘-

        • Michael Neville

          I don’t know what evidence for your imaginary god’s existence would be. I can tell you what it isn’t. It isn’t emotional appeals, threats, wishful thinking, arguments based on obvious lies (that eliminates the Bible and every other “holy” book), or anything involving logical fallacies. So far every, and I mean EVERY, bit of so-called evidence for the existence of any god (remember there’s more than your favorite deity) falls under one or more of of those categories.

          So, you got any evidence or are you going to whine that you don’t have any, you know you don’t have any, and somehow it’s my fault that you don’t have any? You’re the one saying that something called Jesus exists. So the onus is on you as to why you believe in obvious nonsense (this is called “burden of proof”). I don’t have to justify my disbelief in any gods by saying anything more than there’s no evidence to support any of them as being other than imaginary.

          I’m not whining about your emojis. I’m saying that only a stupid, immature ignoranus (that’s not a misspelling) would use them. Clearly you want me to think you’re a stupid, immature ignoranus or else you’d stop using them. Even a stupid, immature ignoranus could figure that out, given enough clues.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          You didn’t go to school, did you, Neville? Only the most obtuse individual could read the history of Western Civilization and actually imagine that it could progress as it did WITHOUT the central figure of said Civilisation, Jesus the Christ, beginning with the Roman Empire( Maybe you think Rome was some kind of fantasy world, too? ). I noticed that you ignored my question about the Christian Church’s origins (The red herrings about other “religions”was a silly distraction; I’m a Christian theist of almost 42 years standing,and I have little interest in
          religions;I study comparative religions, but that’s primarily to contend with and refute them). So, there’s that.Tell me Neville: Are you always such an insulting person? Have you considered perhaps seeking professional help? I mean, it’s as though your default position against those who don’t kowtow to your mindset is contempt, mockery,and scorn; frankly, even if I wasn’t a Christian being subject to your calumny, you srike me as a small-souled, vicious, HATE-FILLED person who be unpleasant to encounter or be around. I actually feel sorry for you, even while i find your hatred amusing. Sad. So again, if you can’t account for the origin of the Christian Faith/Church in any meaningful sense, we’re left to wonder what alternative theory you can present for this origin that can leave Jesus the Christ out.Again, I await your reply, and try to stay on topic, O.K.?

        • Michael Neville

          So Christianity was an important part of Western culture. So fucking what? That says nothing about whether or not it’s true. Only a stupid, immature ignoranus would try to make that kind of fallacious argument.

          I don’t hate you. You’re a mild irritation, a pimple on the ass of humanity. You’re not annoying enough for me to hate you. Stop giving yourself airs, you’re just a shit stain on the panties of life.

          Christianity took several hundred years to become an important part of Western civilization. During the lifetime of Mohammed Islam roared out of the Arabian peninsula and became a major factor in the Middle East. Do you think Islam is true because of that?

        • RichardSRussell

          … if you can’t account for the origin of the Christian Faith/Church in any meaningful sense, we’re left to wonder what alternative theory you can present for this origin that can leave Jesus the Christ out.

          Human gullibility explains it really, really well. And we know for a fact that human gullibility is real. Look at you, for example.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Seriously? That’s the best you could come up with, Russell?? 2,000+ years of supposed “gullibility?” And I’M called the dumb one on this site? WOW, JUST WOW. I’ll ask you the same question I asked another poster: Did you go to school?? That you, or anyone else would claim that gullibility would account for the power and influence the Christian Faith has had, and is having on Western Civilization at large, and the world on the whole, speaks of a sort of intellectual paucity that’s difficult to fathom. WOW!

        • RichardSRussell

          And I’M called the dumb one on this site?

          Not by me, you weren’t. My term was “gullible”. Even very bright people can fall for con games. In fact, as one famous magician (I’ve forgotten exactly who) pointed out: “It’s easiest to fool intelligent, experienced people. If you point at something, adults will look at it. Small children will look at the hand that’s doing the pointing. Dogs will walk up to the hand holding the bird and sniff it.”

          That [anyone] would claim that gullibility would account for the power and influence the Christian Faith has had, and is having on Western Civilization, speaks of a sort of intellectual paucity that’s difficult to fathom.

          I’m not surprised that you find that and similar explanations “difficult to fathom”, since you’re so obviously pleased with yourself at having ridden your pet hobby horse so far and so long that you can’t see the perfectly natural explanation that’s staring you right in the face. But consider: How long did the supposition last that the Earth was flat and the Sun went around it? Or that diseases were caused by “imbalances of vital humors”? Or that all the really smart, well connected people were immensely prescient to trust Bernie Madoff with their life’s savings? Gullibility has been around since wonder stories began, back in pre-literate pre-history.

          And why are you only concerned with historical influence on “Western Civilization”? Buddha got started earlier than Jesus and has had comparable influence on Eastern Civilization. Kong Fuzi was no slouch, either. Does that make them divine?

          Probably the most successful revolution of all time, the metric system, swept over 95% of the world in under 2 centuries. Bloodlessly, to boot. Did God have a hand in that? According to you, nothing else could possibly explain it.

        • Greg G.

          Can’t we say that a gullible person who doesn’t know the difference between gullible and dumb is both?

        • RichardSRussell

          Well, we could, but calling someone “gullible” is kind of sympathizing with them as a victim, whereas called them “dumb” is almost always viewed as simply insulting.

        • MadScientist1023

          “What would constitute evidence to you from 2, 000+ years ago?”

          A written account from the year it allegedly happened would be a good start. Even better if it came from someone who wasn’t a follower, like a Roman. Roman records of Jesus’s trial or execution would also be helpful, even if they didn’t prove resurrection. It would help to see some record, be it a letter, news, birth record, etc showing there ever was a Jesus. Barring that, an account written by a follower within a decade of the event. Even an account written by someone within a believable lifespan of an eyewitness, written with historical details accurate to the time would be something. None of that exists.

          Your argument that the existence of a religion should be taken as evidence for supernatural claims of the followers is deeply flawed. It’s like saying I should take the existence of Hindus as evidence Vishnu exists. People make stories and believe them. There’s nothing supernatural about human believing stories. It’s what we have done for all of history.

        • Bald Humanist

          Let’s make this simple.

          We have a very old book that claims a Jewish man was both god and that he rose from the dead.

          What evidence suggests the claims of this book are true?

          How can we ascertain if the evidence is reliable or weak? What specific data would we examine? Thank you.

      • Questioning54

        That third day thing is a problem. I know it is explained away by saying the Jews counted part of a day as a day. But that doesn’t work when you read Matthew 12:40 where Jesus himself predicts three days and three nights. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” NIV
        You can’t get three days and three nights from Friday (correct because of references to the Passover) to Sunday morning (the first day of the week). You can get three parts of days if you like but not three nights or even parts of nights.

        • Greg G.

          But… but… but… in Genesis 1, God created Day and Night on the first day and he created the sun on the fourth day. If God can create three days and nights without a sun, then he can have three days and nights in a tomb. </snark>

          Challenge them to show you where three days and three nights is used to mean a little before sunset, a night, a day, another night, and sun up.

          “Three days and three nights” is used three times in the Bible. There are the two referring to Jonah: Jonah 1:17 and Matthew 12:40. The third is 1 Samuel 30:11-13 and that means literally three days and three nights. If they counted parts of days, that passage would have said four days and three nights.

          1 Samuel 30:11-13 (NRSV)11 In the open country they found an Egyptian, and brought him to David. They gave him bread and he ate; they gave him water to drink; 12 they also gave him a piece of fig cake and two clusters of raisins. When he had eaten, his spirit revived; for he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights. 13 Then David said to him, “To whom do you belong? Where are you from?” He said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite. My master left me behind because I fell sick three days ago.

          He didn’t say “yesterday” or “one day ago”. He didn’t say “the day before yesterday” or “two days ago”. He said “three days ago”. If Jesus was buried on Friday and gone on Sunday, it would have been the day before yesterday or two days ago.

        • Questioning54

          Actually the comparison of Jesus to Jonah falls down because Jonah is supposed to have survived inside the fish but Jesus is supposed to have been dead.

  • skl

    It seems to me that Christianity is based entirely on miracles. Obviously, Christians are OK with that.

    • Doubting Thomas

      Of course Christians are OK with that. The problem is that miracles don’t happen and they’re still OK with Christianity. Some people are unpersuaded by reality.

      • Laurence Charles Ringo

        Miracles don’t happen according to whom, Doubting Thomas? YOU? You’re just one finite, minute individual, a blip on the hind-end of time.Can you PROVE miracles don’t happen, beyond YOUR opinion they don’t? I await your reply….

        • Otto

          >>>”a blip on the hind-end of time.”

          You got some reliable information on this? Along with taking the position that ‘miracles do happen’, the ball is in your court.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Oh no, Otto; you won’t get away with that, my friend…when YOU take the position that miracles aren’t possible. the ball is just as much in YOUR court to prove that as it is in mine to prove that they are! Try again!

        • Otto

          I will change my mind once some evidence is provided to show otherwise.

          What will change your mind?

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Since I have personally experienced a number of miracles, NOTHING will change my mind about their reality, Otto, so….I will relay one to you if you like, one that is fairly commonplace in the Christian World .Let me know if you’re interested !!

        • Otto

          Your personal experience isn’t worth much. I can line up people who who will claim they were healed by crystals. The woman across the hall from my office sells Raike ‘messages’, and her customers are absolutely sure they do something. People that divine water and oil offer their services all the time, and they ‘work’ too, at least they say so until they are tested. Then they claim the test throws them off. People like you have been making these types of claims for literally thousands of years and yet can never show their work. You ever wonder why that is Ringo?

          But since you have commonplace Christian miracles they can be proven through double blind studies right? I mean they are ‘common’ so that should be easy enough.

          Bullshit is cheap and plentiful. You would make a good Amway salesman.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Oh,well, Otto…since your obvious intent here was to shoot me down right off the bat, in what sense can you and I engage in any type of meaningful dialogue? I wasn’t aware that to experience something was a bad thing; what about YOUR personal experiences? Should they be discounted and summarily dismissed? You throw out various red herrings–crystals, Raike messages (What is that?), water and oil,etc,etc.; so…I’m left to wonder: Why do you bother? Atheists are obviously so entrenched in their rejection of experiences beyond their understanding, so determined to disbelieve anything not naturally empirical, why do you bother to enquire about the beliefs of particularly Christian believers if your default position is to automatically discount what you’re hearing because YOU haven’t experienced it? You claim that people have relayed their experiences of miraculous events for thousands of years, but according to YOU, no one has shown that any of their experiences were real. That suggests to me that because YOU, personally, have no knowledge of miraculous events well, there you go!! Obviously they’re not real and have never happened!! Frankly, that’s simply naive and like most atheists, posits you as some kind of presumed know-it-all.Well, so be it. You have no interest in what I’ve experienced in my encounters with Jesus the Christ, stop asking us Christians for what YOU think would be convincing evidence, because your deluding yourselves; NOTHING will convince you, because you’re already determined you WON’T BELIEVE.I’m done with this issue, so believe or not believe whatever you want. God bless.

        • Otto

          That’s a lot of words to say you have nothing.

          I did believe Ringo, I believed in miracles, devils, demons, all sorts of supernatural stuff…but then over time I found out people like you just talk. You know who convinced me that people like you are not to be believed? People like you that can only talk about such stuff and have nothing to back up what they say. Be sure to let us know when you have something more to offer.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Sigh…Maybe you should close your computer and hie yourself down to your local library and do some real research….it’s all there.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          why go to the library, their is nothing sacred about the information in books. Not even your favorite one.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Hmm…I wasn’t aware that there is anything particularly “sacred” about a standard history book, Kit; my intent was to steer you away from the entrenched echo chamber of unbelief; the history of the Christian Faith is well attested to, but if your’re determined to cling to the mythicists’tropes, so be it; we’ll put an end to this.I have been a Christian for almost 42 years now, and I have considered EVERY argument that atheists have put forth,so trust me: You have no arguments that would EVER pry me away from my Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.So, I’m done with this issue; believe what you will, as will I. PEACE IN CHRIST TO YOU!!! ☺☺☺

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          I agree the history of the christian faith is well documented, there is a real version, the one I sketched out, and the internal one which is so full of self serving bollocks that i am honestly surprised that anyone with two brain cells to rub together can take it seriously. Why don’t you step out of the centuries old echo chamber in which you dwell to critically examine some of the claims you are making.

          being a christian for a long time makes you no more right than the nonsense books that your faith is based on.

          At least you have proved you can write a response that does no end in multiple emojis.

        • Otto

          At least you used fewer words that time to say you have nothing.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          Laurence, do you believe in dragons?

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Only those bad boys on “Game of Thrones” !! They’re AWESOME!!!

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          watch as the point of the question sails clean over your head, its accompanied by the wooshing noise.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Yeah…I know EXACTLY the point of the question, and I answered you EXACTLY as I intended, so don’t try it, Kit.I might have been born at nigjt but it wasn’t last night.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          nice to see that off the bat you are honest in your utter lack of interest in actually engaging in a conversation. All the clap trap you spouted about why you believe in god would equally support a belief in dragons and leprechauns, both of which have better ‘historical’ and ‘physical’ evidence than you sky daddy, if you want people to take you seriously put on your big boy trousers and stop using unneeded emojis. reviewing the thread so far, you may not have been born yesterday but there is some evidence you where dropped on your head.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Your juvenile insults are par for course among the atheists on this thread, so it’s cool; fire away.Your” do I believe in dragons” question got the response it deserved; there is no way it could have been intended to elicit serious conversation. Frankly, it was as ridiculous as your just-posted claim about leprechauns.As for my or any other Christian theists’ believe in Jesus the Christ, I think that question has been asked and answered more than adequately.But since you brought it up,I’ll give you the opportunity to answer the question no one else has been able to, at least to anyone’s satisfaction : Using any secular/natural means you think will suffice, explain the origin of the Christian Faith/Church WITHOUT the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. GO! (By the way, I ‘ll tell you the same thing I told another poster on this site: I like employing emojis, and have NO INTENTION of stopping using, so…DEAL WITH IT!

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          My question was an opening to conversation, and it was delivered in exactly the same tone that you seem to think is acceptable for responding to people, if you don’t like snark don’t employ it.

          Do you really need someone to explain to you that religious origin stories, particularly when you are only basing them on the highly biased books of that religion are just that stories. Do you think Mohammed ascended to heaven on a flying horse? millions of Muslims would use the exact argument that you use to say he did, and that proves that their version of the magic sky wizard is true.

          Christianity(the organisation) rose due to its adoption as the official cult of the emperor, it is that simple, that gave them the political clout required to enforce people to join and hence expand it’s numbers. It was adopted by kings and rulers as a way to manage the poor, you like game of thrones, surely you can see the parallels with the sparrows. it survived by being protected until it grew big enough that the people who thought they could control it found that they had lost that control (again sparrows), in essence it was in the right place at the right time and led by political savvy individuals that used it as a club to get more power and wealth.

          Christianity(the faith) was always just a tool of Christianity(the organisation), used to ensure that the flock stayed nice and sheep like and would keep providing resources and wealth to the priests.

          There are no reliable accounts of the resurrection, even the bloody gospels can’t agree with each other on pretty important details, you believe a myth, that’s you choice but please don’t pretend that you have anything approaching evidence to support any of your claims.

          Your use of emojis makes you appear juvenile, it is barely better than all caps or multiple exclamation points, that is not an insult it is a fact, if you want to be taken seriously then act in a way that makes people want to do that. if you turn up in a clown suit be prepared to be laughed at.

        • MadScientist1023

          No one has shown evidence of a real miracle. That’s not a claim, that’s a statement of fact. People have told underwhelming anecdotes, described natural phenomena with poetic license, highlighted statistically improbable events devoid of a true consideration of the sample size and called them miracles, or told extremely old stories with no archaeological backing, but no one has actually demonstrated evidence of one. I challenge you to give a single example that doesn’t fall into one of those categories.

        • Bald Humanist

          If your experiences are compelling..please feel free to share the data involved.

          What method did you use to exhaust other more mundane explanations for the miracle claim?

        • Michael Neville

          First we have to define miracle. Let’s use the dictionary definition that Bob gives in the OP: “having a supernatural cause”. Now we need to ask if ANYTHING supernatural exists. Got any (here’s the word you Christians hate and detest more than any other) evidence that anything supernatural exist? Remember the collection of myths, fables and lies called the Bible isn’t evidence.

          Of course you don’t have any evidence. If you did, you’d be throwing in our faces instead of showing your immaturity by posting multiple emojis.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Not according to me, but according to the fact that there has never ever ever been one confirmed miracle despite the millions of claimed miracles. You can go face west every morning and hope to see the sun rise, but some of us are smart enough to figure out the pattern.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Wow,Doubting Thomas! I never,ever,EVER thought that I would run across someone who knows everything about EVERYTHING that has happened, has NEVER happened, and will never happen!!! WOW! Are YOU God?? I’m gobsmacked!!

        • Doubting Thomas

          I have a horse to sell you. His track record isn’t too good (zero wins in millions of races), but you don’t know everything about EVERYTHING so, have a little faith. He’ll win one some day.

          *picture of horse below
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c20a4ac43aa638b15326dfdb3967abe2624565dbb4dfc60963355016d8a8c00f.png

        • Kevin K

          Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Theists are the ones who make the claims that miracles happen(ed). We merely provide skepticism of those claims. Trying to shift the burden of proof is prima facie evidence that you have no way to verify your claims. And so you engage in sophistry.

          Just when did you stop beating your wife?

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Skepticism about a claim means nothing, Kevin K; many people are skeptical about the claims of evolutionists because everything that supposedly occurred throughout evolutionary history are one-off events that cannot be repeated, ergo they can’t be observed to be true; its incumbent upon us who are non-scientists to believe their claims. So…Those who have compiled the writings that underlie Christian History, unless one can discern some valid reason as to why they would falsify what they’ve discovered, and the purpose for doing so, the ball in the skeptics’ court to provide evidence that the claims are false.So…GO!!..

        • Damien Priestly

          Nice try! So, those who wrote about werewolves, dragons, Bigfoot and fairies…the ball is certainly not in the skeptics court to show those claims are false. Same for Christianity,

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Really, Mr.Priestly? You actually expect any thinking person not to understand that the Biblical narrative, especially the New Testament, is qualitatively and fundamentally different from the tales you listed? I don’t mean to be insulting, but did you go to school? Did you study history? Don’t insult my intelligence, sir; it’s your perogative to be an unbeliever,but don’t presume some supposed intellectual superiority over theistic Christians, because your not that smart.sir. Peace.

        • Kevin K

          The fallacy you’re engaging in is called “False Equivalence”.

          Skepticism is a transitional state. With respect to “evolutionists” (a term which marks you as a frank moron, FWIW), there is no “skepticism” to be had. The data are in. There are no competing data. The modern evolutionary synthesis is real. The process is ongoing today; there is no mystery and no “one-off” process. You’re evolutionarily different from your parents, and can proven to be so.

          It’s quite a stretch to compare the well-understood process of evolution with unverified and unverifiable “miracle” claims which violate the laws of physics. In this case, one must remain skeptical of those claims precisely because they 1) have no grounding in physics, chemistry, or biology. By what process can we judge them? 2) left no trace behind to verify they even occurred.

          We have fossils from the very inception of life on Earth. We have no such evidence for “miracle” claims. All of them are “The Dog Ate My Homework” claims.

          * Where’s the burning bush? No longer burning.
          * Where’s the parted Red Sea? Not parted anymore.
          * Where are the corpses of the Egyptian army drowned? Missing.
          * Where is the wine? Drunken.
          * Where is the loaves and fishes? Eaten.
          * Where are the healed sick? Dead.
          * Where is the risen Lazarus? Dead again.
          * Where is the risen Jesus? Invisible in heaven.

          The evidence for which one can overcome one’s skepticism is missing. Completely and utterly absent. Therefore, until such evidence is provided, the default position of the skeptic is the null hypothesis. In this instance, the null hypothesis is the miracles declared in the bible did not happen.

          Want to change my mind. Prove it.

          It is most certainly not incumbent on me to provide evidence of miracle claims. No more than it would be incumbent on you to provide evidence that when the man-god Lord Krishna was 7 years old, he lifted a mountain (26 miles in perimeter) and held it up on his pinky finger for consecutive 7 days. Witnessed by tens of thousands of people who were standing underneath the mountain. If you reject that miracle claim, you know why I reject your miracle claims. I expect you to now engage in the “Special Pleading” logical fallacy.

        • Max Doubt

          “With respect to “evolutionists” (a term which marks you as a frank moron, FWIW),…”

          Damned right. When someone uses the term “evolutionist” or Darwinist” they have immediately outed themselves as willfully ignorant, woefully stupid, and/or dishonest.

        • Kevin K

          Yes. The use of the term is willful ignorance at best. Dishonest denialism at worst. The difference between those two states is a relatively thin line.

        • Where are the 2 million Israelite dead buried during the Exodus®? Jews don’t cremate, so they should all be there in the nice and dry Sinai.

        • Kevin K

          And on and on.

          But I think that’s actually a different level of evidence. If those bodies could be found, it would be evidence of a large-scale migration. It would not be evidence that magic took place in advance of it (or during it – feeding on manna from heaven).

          What I’m looking for in this instance is actual verifiable evidence of the miracle itself, not the secular aftermath. And, gods being gods, they’re perfectly capable of providing this verifiable evidence. We could have unending supplies of the best wine — for believers — while non-believers get water. We could have miracle healings — for believers — while non-believers have to deal with the human-built medical system.

          And on and on. All perfectly within the powers of even a minor god; or a mildly technologically advanced alien race, for that matter. For an all-powerful god? Child’s play.

        • Bald Humanist

          according to objective reality or at the very least a cumulative lack of strong evidence.

    • Otto

      Kinda like your comments are based on steaming piles…

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    What about unlikely events where someone dies? Do those count as miracles, too?

    • Kevin K

      No, those are contestants for the Darwin Awards.

    • Otto

      2 questions:

      Did you give seed money prior to the death?
      Did the person who died leave you money?

  • The standard of miracles is very low here. Bonus points for citing his old “former atheism”, as if that matters. I guess his conversion caused a loss of discernment. This is backed up by the dumb arguments he makes in favor of the Bible as legal evidence. Make it in a real court and he would be laughed out.

    • Bald Humanist

      I find that many people consider themselves former atheists even if they were theists ..just not Christian.

      • They have odd definitions indeed.

  • carbonUnit

    It does seem like miracles are suffering in a way similar to God of the Gaps. As knowledge increases, the gaps get smaller and so does God. Miracles seems to be following the same track. Increasing knowledge and evidence leaves less and less space for miracles. No more grand scale events like plagues and parting of the Red Sea, etc. Now it’s down to piddly stuff like saving a random person from something.

  • RichardSRussell

    And Harry Potter’s brilliant use of expelliarmus at a critical juncture is what saved us all from being under the cruel thumb of Lord Voldermort to this very day. We know this, because we have it in writing.

  • Otto

    Last fall there was a guy trolling around Cross Examined who was saying the world would end around Oct. 23rd or so, he said it would happen no later than some date around then. I told him I predicted the world would not end and he would not come back and admit he was wrong, he assured me he would come back. Guess who is 1 for 1 in the prediction dept.?