When Christian Arguments Backfire

When Christian Arguments Backfire November 10, 2014

Bad Christian apologeticsChristians need to more carefully check the arguments they use. Sometimes these arguments blow up in their faces.

One example is William Lane Craig’s use of A.N. Sherwin-White’s rule of thumb about the growth of legend (discussed in detail here). Craig ineptly proclaims that legendary growth is slow when he wants to argue that the gospels are reliable history. But he’s happy to point to legendary growth when he wants to reject the dozens of noncanonical gospels!

Gospel contradictions and airplane crashes

Apologists walk a similar knife edge with the problem of contradictions between the gospels.

The skeptic will demand, How many women went to the tomb? Was the tomb already opened when they got there? How many angels were there? What was the women’s emotional reaction at the tomb? Did the women tell the disciples? (I document  a long list of contradictions here.)

That the most important part of the entire Bible is full of contradictions raises questions about reliability of the story.

Neil Mammen responds to this challenge with “Gospel contradictions? Why they don’t exist. A Little Experiment to Teach Skeptics about NT Accuracy.” He uses a 2005 incident at Chicago’s Midway airport in which an airplane skidded off the runway in heavy snow to highlight the fallibility of journalists’ reporting.

He finds contradictions between five media sources written within days of the event. Each is a one- to three-sentence summary. Here are the inconsistencies he found across the sources.

#1. According to the first source, the plane went through a “boundary fence,” hit two cars, and killed a child in one of the cars.

#2. Now only one car is mentioned, there’s no fence, and it’s a “6-year old boy.”

#3. The two cars and one death are mentioned, but the fence has become a “security wall.”

#4. Now it’s a “safety barrier,” and the car(s) and death are not mentioned.

#5. No cars, no fence, and no deaths.

He wonders what to make of this, since the accounts vary so widely.

So which is it? A total fabrication? One car or two? A dead boy or a dead child or none? Some truths some lies some errors? Or all lies? Or all errors? What is it? A myth? Legend?

He parallels this with complaints about Bible contradictions. You have multiple sources in the airplane story, which is a good thing, because each source can bring new insights. The same is true for the gospel accounts.

The airplane story and the resurrection story each have inconsistencies surrounding their own common core. In Chicago, did the plane hit one car or two? In the Bible, did one, two, three, or more women come to the tomb? And so on. Let’s be consistent—if you want to reject the resurrection story for inconsistent accounts, do the same for this airplane story.

He also emphasizes that this doesn’t point to the gospel story being “a fabrication.”

Just a few quibbles

  • The first thing to notice is the brevity of the accounts. They’re just photo captions! They work as an abstract of the story, but no one would argue that they’re complete or that they attempt to be. Read the accompanying stories and then let’s talk about important inconsistencies.
  • Caption 4 is just one sentence long. It doesn’t mention the car, thought the accompanying photo might have told that part of the story. For example, here is one such photo. Also, the title that I found accompanying this summary is, “Plane slides off Chicago runway, boy killed.” Taking these into account, the inconsistencies go away.
  • Caption 5 (here) has been truncated. Add the next sentence, and the boundary fence, car, and death are back in.
  • The only arguments I ever hear about the gospel story being fabricated (that is, deliberately invented, like a hoax) come from the Christian apologists. It’s a fun straw man to knock over, I suppose, but it’s a waste of time since that’s not the argument.

And now, let me agree

Using photo captions makes this experiment useless as a comparison, but the larger point is correct. Yes, journalists can be wrong, and articles can be incomplete. Let’s start with this point of agreement to see where that takes us in an analysis of the gospel stories.

Modern journalists are trained to focus on the facts. For some media, fact checkers double check to verify that the story is correct. Journalists can get big penalties for errors in their stories. Now imagine followers of a religious leader in pre-scientific Palestine. Their Truth may not have been bound to mere journalistic accuracy.

Now add 40+ years of oral history before the gospels are written.

Now make that 40 years happen in a foreign culture, a Greek culture comfortable with miracles such as turning water into wine, virgin births, and dying-and-rising gods.

Now separate us from the gospel originals by at least decades and more often centuries. That’s a long time for rival traditions to fight it out and for copyists to add or delete as their own beliefs demanded. (I’ve discussed this long journey here, here, here, and here.)

Now how much confidence can we have in the account?

The Christian may respond that the Holy Spirit didn’t much care about preserving accuracy. It pleased him to trust fallible human processes to document the Greatest Story Ever Told. He was content to let the gospels look no different from other supernatural musings that we justifiably dismiss to the bins of Mythology or Legend.

Neil Mammen will argue that we look to the intersection of the gospel stories to find the true story. With this approach, we’ve lost Jesus’s last words, the location where the disciples were to meet the risen Jesus, Paul’s 500 eyewitnesses, and even the explanation for how the story spread (in Mark, the women keep silent), but no matter.

Does this approach work elsewhere? When there are competing stories, the overlapping part must be true? We usually don’t do this for UFO abduction stories. Or the stories from people who saw the 1917 Miracle of the Sun in Fatima, Portugal, an accepted Catholic miracle. Or claims from alchemy. Or the accounts by the twelve Mormons who claimed to have seen the golden plates. Competing tales that are supernatural or at least extraordinary can and usually are all wrong.

This article argues that professional reporters can’t be trusted to get the details right on a story that happened the previous day. But then it expects us to believe the gospel accounts (already suspect because they are full of the supernatural) that were written down 40 or more years later?

Christians, consider your arguments before you make them.

’Tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard
(that is, blown up with his own bomb).
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 3, scene 4

Photo credit: Pat Galnes


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  • Dys

    The Christians who insist that the bible contains no contradictions are abusing semantics. What they actually mean is that they have potential solutions to the obvious contradictions. But that does not absolve them of being contradictions. Essentially, they have to make things up.

    For instance, there is not a single gospel that has Jesus carrying his cross, then setting it down for Simon of Cyrene to help, then taking it back the rest of the way. Three of the gospels have Simon taking it the entire way to Calgary, while John has Jesus taking it the entire way. The tradeoff story is an invention to harmonize the contradictory accounts. Because Christian apologists and theologians can’t have one account be wrong. They do the same thing with Judas and the Field of Blood. The stories they create are not scriptural, completely unverifiable, and don’t exist in any one account. They are created myths.

    WLC’s insistence on the length of time it takes for legends to grow is clearly absurd, as anyone can witness the spreading of gossip and rumours that can quickly grow into local legends and tall tales.

    • My favorite are the details about the family of Jesus. We see that they thought he was crazy here, and we see James as the head of the church there. Never a unified story.

      • Christopher Allen-Poole

        In Mark, it seems that Jesus’s family was told by the religious leaders in the area that Jesus was crazy/possessed by a demon. Without any other available information they approached him and demonstrated concern, as a family should.

        Doubtless you’ll also try to claim that Christ referring to Mary as “Woman” was disrespectful.

        • How does this respond to my point?

        • Christopher Allen-Poole

          The disunity you suggest is not an accurate portrayal of the family dynamic.

          I would be inclined to believe that if the police were to come to my house and told me that my sister had a mental breakdown that I would at least provide due consideration to what they had said.I do not think that she could really hold it against me if I did. Similarly, the authorities *did* go to Jesus’s family and told them that he was possessed by a demon. It isn’t a mark of disunity that they thought Jesus was crazy, it was a mark that they allowed themselves to be mislead by people who were supposed to be competent authorities.

        • Pofarmer

          Have you got a passage cite for this?

        • Christopher Allen-Poole

          All of these would be sufficient for being “out of his mind”:
          Mark 2:7 Jesus accused of blaspheme
          Mark 2:16 Jesus accused of being a drunkard
          Mark 2:24 Jesus accused of violating sabbath
          Mark 3:22 Jesus accused of being possessed

          Also telling, the wording the the RSV, “people were saying”:
          Mark 3:21 RSV “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, __for people were saying__, “He is beside himself.””

          But even without the RSV, we have reason to pause. “When his family heard ‘it’ they went out”. What was it that they had heard? That Jesus called out followers (the immediately preceding verse)? Doubtful. More likely that it was a culmination of the items enumerated above which, without context, would have seemed very troubling indeed.

        • Christopher Allen-Poole

          Also an interesting note, while we see that the pharisees are presented as arriving after Christ’s family, Christ addresses the comments of the pharisees *first*. This may suggest that Mark has altered the chronological order to better illustrate a particular theme (something the Gospels have done several times).

        • Pofarmer

          Soooooo, how do you determine what’s fabricated and what’s not?

        • Christopher Allen-Poole

          Define “fabricated”. In the ancient world had a difference understanding of “truth” as contrasted with “false”. Something might be “true” but at the same time it might never have happened. The Bible is completely *true*, but it is not always *literal* and it is often *ahistorical*.

          If the question is, “how do you tell what really happened” I’d say that through cross-comparisons you can clarify a number of these points.

        • Pofarmer

          Mathew Ferguson has actually written quite a bit about this at https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com Yes, the ancients used mythology and story telling to get across something that might have been historical or might have had a kernel of truth. I don’t see how this particularly helps you.

        • Christopher Allen-Poole

          ???
          Your question is “how do you determine what is fabricated?” My answer, “That question is really a non-sequitur. The standard of the Bible is truth not chronology.”

          It helps in that the question “what is fabricated” does not need to be addressed as it is a poorly formed question.

        • Pofarmer

          Ah, so even things which never happened can be true. Got it.

        • adam

          “The standard of the Bible is truth not chronology.””

          BULLSHIT

          The standard of the bible is PROPAGANDA.

        • The standard of the Bible is truth not chronology

          You might think so. The Bible might even say that. But that doesn’t make it so anymore than some other holy book saying it makes it a true book.

        • MNb

          It’s certainly not a poorly formed question for those people who value history – like historians of Antiquity, quite a few of which are christians themselves. You may object to “fabricated” for being a loaded term, which scientists rather should avoid, and propagate the more neutral terms “fictional” and “factional” instead. However we here are no scientists.

          “The standard of the Bible is truth not chronology.”
          The word truth the way you use it is a meaningless one, unless you use it to describe the perception of the authors. They certainly thought they wrote down the truth. In that case the standard of the Bible is totally irrelevant for us in the 21st Century. Their truth is not ours exactly because we are obsessed by separating fact from fiction and with, in our eyes, good reason.
          Concrete: why should I care about the ancient truth reflected in the story of Jonah?

        • Greg G.

          No, it doesn’t. The scribes who came from Jerusalem were already there. Then his family came and he addressed the scribes. Are you looking at Mark 3:19b to the end of the chapter?

        • Read the gospel of Mark. It’s quite clear that Jesus’s family thought he was crazy. End of story.

          Other books tell very different stories–brother James as the head of the Jerusalem church, for example.

          You want to harmonize them, but why? Maybe the best interpretation is simply that different books had different (and incompatible) stories to tell.

        • Christopher Allen-Poole

          My point is that while Jesus’s family was concerned about his well being, they were well justified in this and that their holding such a belief is not contradictory: in the chapter before his family visits, they were very clearly told that he was not well, and they took that at face value.

          This isn’t an attempt to harmonize, it is a statement that concluding disharmony is not a fully justified forgone conclusion.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus was in Capernaum. The family was in Nazareth. They showed up right away. How did the news reach them? How did they get there so quickly? Thirty miles is a hard day’s walk.

        • Christopher Allen-Poole

          Where does it say “right away?” Yes, they immediately follow in the text, but that does not imply proximity in time (and even that assumes that verse order implies chronology… which is a bad assumption).

        • Greg G.

          Are you trying to imply it was a three day event?

        • Christopher Allen-Poole

          There is a minimum of two days depicted in the passage in question, likely a week or more. Possibly more than six months.

        • Greg G.

          I have selected the change of scenes in the early part of Mark plus the passage in question. Mark indicates a change of scene and time. There is no such indication in the passage from when he went home in Mark 3:19b until his family came. Mark is a fast moving story. If there was a 6 month delay, Mark would mention it. You are reading what you want to believe and not what it says.

          Mark 1:13 He was in the wilderness forty days

          Mark 1:28 At once his fame began to spread

          Mark 1:29 As soon as they left the synagogue

          Mark 1:32 That evening, at sunset

          Mark 1:35 In the morning, while it was still very dark

          Mark 2:1 When he returned to Capernaum after some days,

          Mark 2:23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields

          Mark 3:1 Again he entered the synagogue

          Mark 3:7 Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea

          Mark 3:13 He went up the mountain

          Mark 3:19b-33 Then he went home; 20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

          28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

          31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

          Mark 4:1 Again he began to teach beside the sea.

          Mark 4:35 On that day, when evening had come,

        • My point is that some Christians’ attempt to harmonize away every single contradiction come from a preconception that the Bible can’t have any actual contradictions, just apparent ones.

          My read is that you have different traditions telling different stories–one that says that his family thought he was nuts (perhaps by a faction who wanted to avoid a familial succession, as happened after the death of Mohammed) and another tradition that thought that James succeeded his brother. This seems to be the most natural interpretation. But you’re right that they could both be correct.

        • Christopher Allen-Poole

          I’ve heard it far better argued that this example is not characteristic of Christ’s family life but rather indicates a misunderstanding on the part of Christ’s family. I would expect that there would be more active antagonism if animosity were normative.

          You have a number of places where you can discuss possible contradictions (such as the day Christ was crucified), but this is far from the strongest.

        • I agree–this isn’t where I’d go if I were trying to argue that the Bible is full of contradictions. The point I’m making here is that harmonizing them away (in the case of the family of Jesus saying he’s crazy vs. his brother James being part of the church) may not be as honest as letting them stand as evidence of different, incompatible traditions merged into a single religion.

        • Christopher Allen-Poole

          And my counterpoint is that the interpretation of that passage which takes into account immediate context is that this is not something which needs harmonization. There is no evidence in that text that James did, in fact, believe that Christ was crazy for a prolonged period of time. If James had thought Christ insane, then there should be more references to that point. Instead we have one reference by itself.

  • King Dave

    The only part of the Jesus story I can easily believe is that a person was publicly executed for the slightest religious infraction. Sadly, this still goes on every day in staggering numbers in the Islamic world, just without the fanfare
    Besides a total fabrication that even Christopher Hitchens did not believe, the above could be why there is no corroborating evidence for the existence of Jesus, nothing new, and the vast amount of execution stories to piece together a tale

    • JohnH2

      If one looks at the Gospels and the background even within the Gospels this is clearly the most likely situation; there are in the Gospels multiple other people claiming to be Messiahs, and other people getting executed or imprisioned to be executed. Jesus was unique from the Jewish point of view of claiming to be God besides just the Messiah; and the Romans thought he was okay because A) claiming to be a god for the Romans wasn’t bad, lots of people did that and B) Jesus wasn’t suggesting violence but they were willing to kill another claimed Messiah, especially to keep the Jews and their leaders happy. The Romans that do mention the Christians to me appear to very much be mentioning Christ with that understanding; there is no reason to dispute or take much note of Christ as having been executed because that was a common occurrence.

  • Jim Jones

    Well, it’s not like this could happen in our time, with all of our media and recording equipment.

    Oh, wait. Cassie Bernall.

  • JohnH2

    So only the three witnesses and Mrs. Whitmer have an explicit supernatural element; and there are multiple other accounts regarding Joseph Smith and the plates, so he had something at one point in time. Of course, he also had papyrus at one point in time too and the common understanding of the papyrus shouldn’t inspire confidence, unless one happens to read a lot more esoteric texts and such things then there is some reason to think that the common understanding may be wrong.

    The sayings of Jesus found in the gospels are more likely to be accurate based on current understandings, likely coming from earlier tracts. John could actually be from John, who was an eyewitness, but was also writing long after the events and apparently not attempting to give a fully accurate accounting; more focused on trying to have a particular version of events and meanings win out.

    Also, I don’t know why the focus is on Greek myths in particular; Egypt’s religious traditions are the more obvious place from my understanding of the subject of viewing Christianity as being a mixing of Egyptian thought with Jewish thought. Especially given the importance of Alexandria and its thought on early Christianity otherwise.

    • Didn’t the 3 + Mrs. W see the plates? That alone isn’t supernatural, but the angel element makes the overall story so. And conventional Christians aren’t inclined to give the Mormon this anyway.

      Greek because the NT came from within Greek culture.

      • JohnH2

        The 3+ Mrs. W. both say the plates and some supernatural element as well.

        Alexandria was Greek writing, and included Greek philosophy, but was heavily influenced by Egyptian religious ideas.

        • I see your point about the Egyptian influences. I was trying to keep it simple, but you’re right that it was more than just Greek influences.

          But doesn’t this undercut the Christian argument?

        • JohnH2

          Independent of anything else in the gospels the main point and question is if Jesus died and rose again; I don’t see how any amount of argument can establish that as being factually true, even if there were twelve first hand accounts of the occurrence written immediately afterwards. If that is true then attributing and incorporating ideas and actions from other religions and myths regarding saviors into the oral story of Jesus is not surprising; and if it is false than the similarities are even more expected.

          As with the Book of Mormon, the only real reason to believe in Christ and His gospel is because one has had experience with the divine; which is something that Paul, Peter, and Christ all say in various ways.

        • Agreed: even accounts written down immediately afterwards would be suspect.

          What I hear you saying is that ordinary people writing down a cosmic truth are going to get it wrong. But why didn’t the Holy Spirit ensure that it was preserved? And if we know that insignificant details are wrong, what confidence do we have in the big points?

          You point to personal experience to shore up a weak holy book, but you can’t be saying that those are reliable. We delude ourselves all the time.

        • JohnH2

          The words of Jesus in the gospels are probably the oldest written part; If the teaching and how to live is the important part why should the Holy Spirit be expected to do more in terms of preservation?

          According to my scriptures God speaks to ever nation and inspires men everywhere; clearly though not everyone believes the same thing, even when how to live and act often agree to a large extent.

          If you can’t trust your own experiences at all then why are you responding to my comments? Clearly some degree of trust must be had in your experiences, and it is by other experiences that experiences are judged. If you have what you believe to be an experience with the divine and act upon it the question becomes what are the results of that? If the effects support the experience then there is no more reason to doubt experience with the divine than you do experience that fire is hot.

        • Pofarmer

          The fallacious line of reason of arguing from results has been pointed out to you many times, and yet you persist in it.

        • JohnH2

          Because it isn’t fallacious, it is all anyone has to go on for anything in life. What do you even think Empiricism is?

        • Pofarmer

          Empiricism is about inductive and deductive reasoning, looking at the evidence and seeing where it leads. You are presuppositions your answers before the question is asked.

        • JohnH2

          I am not arguing for presuppositions, just that one accept their experiences as is the very basis of empiricism and see where that leads. If you think I have been saying something else then you have misunderstood me.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, but we’re notoriously unreliable at interpreting our own experiences. that’s the whole reason the scientific method was developed Fer Petes sake.

        • JohnH2

          The scientific method demands that we place some degree of trust in our experiences, otherwise it doesn’t even exist. It is never about rejecting the experience itself but about making hypothesis based on the experiences that one already has and then testing them.

        • Pofarmer

          The scientific method tells us implicitly NOT to trust our experiences, and to go with what the data tells us.

        • Kodie

          I think JohnH2 is saying something different. You can’t make a hypothesis out of thin air, without an experience or observation to give you some hunch to study. Then when the data comes in, you have to obey the data, of course. But you cannot, apparently, begin the scientific method without some gut reason to suspect this causes that, etc. How can you design an experiment if you don’t know what you are looking for and how you are going to measure it? I think that is what he is saying, and you are not wrong, either, but I think you are talking about two different things.

        • Pofarmer

          John seems to be saying to take your gut experience of the “divine” and just go with it. I don’t think he’s interested in any experiments, and he doesn’t seem to be interested in natural observed answers to his supernatural claims.

        • JohnH2

          I am interested in experiments of experience; what happens when you the individual act upon what you experience as the divine. Again with the unempirical claims about what does or does not exist; as far as I am concerned everything is natural.

        • Pofarmer

          John , you’re a smart guy, you should u understand why this isn’t a valid way to learn amything.

        • JohnH2

          No, it is the only possible valid way to gain any knowledge about the world whatsoever, and the very basis upon which empiricism and the scientific method are built.

        • Pofarmer

          How about an example.

        • JohnH2

          You respond to me because you have a model of the world based on experience; you act on that model and observe the result of me responding back; suggesting that your model of the world in this regards is correct.

        • Pofarmer

          I think you know what I mean.

        • JohnH2

          I don’t actually know what you are asking or why you think my example given isn’t accurate.

        • Pofarmer

          This whole conversation has been about experiencing the divine, and testing that.

        • JohnH2

          Right, it is exactly the same situation as I described; one experiences something, acts on it, and observes the results. If there are none or they are bad then one was wrong, if they are good then one is closer to being right.

        • Pofarmer

          So, example.

        • JohnH2

          As in a personal experience or something else?

        • Pofarmer

          Something divine that is tested by personal experience.

        • JohnH2

          The Book of Mormon is claimed to be divine. Following what it says about knowing if it is divine involves reading and praying about it. Following getting confirmation of that should cause one to change ones life to be in accordance to the teachings contained within the Book of Mormon, which changes can be observed and measured as one does them.

        • Pofarmer

          Less vague.

        • JohnH2

          My father is very much focused on money; he treats those who have it better than those that don’t and treats spending money as sin; when he would go on business trips we would very excitedly get domino’s pizza via take out, if we had coupons. We would drive literally up to a hundred miles to grand openings of grocery stores with multiple changes of clothing so as to get the super discounted items, and only them, repeatedly. He literally schedules business trips around when the JC Penny christmas cash would get mailed out and then stop at every post office alone the way to dive for them as most people just toss them, I am fairly certain that is illegal. When I was in college I read Mosiah 4 and it changed completely my view of money and those who had or did not have it; so that I from that time always gave to anyone that I saw in need. This being well before any other experiences with poverty, my dad, that general subject which has greatly reinforced that message.

          By following something that I believed to be divine, I became a better person and changed my life for the better. It isn’t just feelings that the Book of Mormon is divine but that and many more personal experiences of me learning and changing based on what I have read in the Book of Mormon.

        • Kodie

          But your father got confirmation from his experiences, and got better and better results from his subjective view. From yours, you could see that he was extreme and possibly had been damaged by a past experience. You got confirmation from your experience and get better and better results, but from where the rest of us see it, you are crazy as your old dad.

          Why do you think you are tapped into anything more divine than he is? How do you judge how he felt about his experiences that differs in any substantial way from your own? Oh, because yours is associated with god? You have absolutely given no way for any of us to judge you any differently than you judge or describe your father. Since god is imaginary, your fixation on anything associated with it, by calling it divine is also fictional. It doesn’t matter if it works for you – that doesn’t prove that it is divine any more than you can prove your dad got nowhere with his system. He preferred it and it worked for him.

        • JohnH2

          Please don’t assume your own conclusion, it makes having reasonable discussions difficult.

          The point isn’t proving based on the experience that it is divine, but that the experience is evidence that a prior experience is correct.

        • Kodie

          STILL NOT the scientific method; and why would your father act in such a way if a prior experience had not proven itself correct to him? If you’re going to accept that “correct” is subjective, then (a) you’re not doing anything related to science, and (b) then I can disagree because I do not get the same results, therefore your way is wrong.

        • JohnH2

          I am not accepting that correct is subjective; the experience is prior to the action, if you haven’t had the experience then you aren’t testing based on that, perhaps based on something else sure, but not on an experience that you have had with the divine. Hypothesis testing is the basis of the method.

          My dad could have any number of prior experiences demonstrating that money is a desirable thing and optimize based on that. However he would likely say it is not the most desirable thing, as would anyone.

        • Kodie

          I already stuck up for you once here. You’re talking about two different things. If you believe you have experience with something called “divine”, your experience following through on that is in no way scientific proof. In fact, I have had the opposite experience, and you in no way acknowledge or attempt to attribute it to anything other than I didn’t try the right way. That adds up to “subjective”. Two, if you want to perform a scientific experiment, I agree that you have to have some experience or observation to draw a hypothesis. Your method of testing your hypothesis does not reach a scientific conclusion, only a subjective conclusion. But I already agreed with you that you would normally start with some kind of experience or observation to seed your experiment and see if it goes anywhere productive or predictable.

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474301/

          This one’s way shorter: http://quizlet.com/3011541/the-scientific-method-and-parts-of-an-experiment-flash-cards/

          If you are talking about your experience and altering your expectations or behavior based on your experience in no way constitutes a scientific method, so please stop pretending that your experience with your father proves him wrong and your way “divine” until you show all the work.

        • Pofarmer

          So, must every worthwhile message be divine?

        • JohnH2

          Indirectly sure, but that isn’t the point; the point is not the message but the process. I had prior to that the experience of getting an answer regarding the Book of Mormon. Acting on that and observing the result, just as in my prior example, is what produces confidence in it being divine.

        • Pofarmer

          So, what about the parts advocating racism or polygamt?

        • JohnH2

          In the Book of Mormon it doesn’t advocate polygamy, it actually disallows it pretty strongly. It also doesn’t advocate racism, though the Nephites were racists.

        • Pofarmer

          So, the Doctrines and Covenants contradicts the Book of Mormon.

        • JohnH2

          Jacob 2:30 makes them not precisely contradict.

        • Pofarmer

          Ah.

        • Kodie

          Have the results been published so they can be repeated by anyone, or do you have to read Moroni 5 or whatever with a subdued intellect to get the same results?

        • JohnH2

          it is 10:3-5 and “subdued” never enters the picture.

        • Kodie

          Well I looked at it once because you said to and I felt nothing. Add that to your pile of data. Furthermore, I’m recalling a conversation not very many months ago where we talked about what’s the difference between your interpretations and a crazy person’s and that there was no way to know the difference. So if a crazy person gets better and better results through experimenting, then he’s correct, that’s what you just said.

          That’s not the scientific method, by the way.

        • JohnH2

          Aristarchus of Samos was not actually crazy, and by experimenting he got better and better results; and after thousands of years turned out to be correct.

        • Kodie

          We are not now and were not then talking about that dude. I have no idea who he is nor any interest in that right now. We were talking about the ordinary person hearing voices in their heads having no distinguishable differences from you.

        • JohnH2

          Right and if acting on them leads to better and better results then what argument do you have that they aren’t correct?

        • Kodie

          Because of the subjective term “better”. Most people act on past experience and that does lead to bad results for other people. Past experience with dark people leads to better results of enslaving them for a couple centuries, right?

        • JohnH2

          I like that you have now decided that there is such a thing as objective morality such that we can judge others as having been more wrong than us in their assessment of better. If that was just appealing to our mutual objection to slavery with out an admission that the objection is more real than a dislike of spinach then obviously just as some people do like spinach there is no basis to say that they were wrong.

          Of course, in the case of religion what is important is peace of conscious and being a better person rather than having better stuff. Being a better person may seem hard to judge, but surprisingly (or not) there is much agreement on that subject among religions and philosophies; people both collectively and individually appear to “see” it the same way, as though it were describing something real.

        • Kodie

          I think we can measure slavery’s wrongness outside of either of our opinions, just like we can measure cheetos’ badness outside of whether you find it terrible and I like it once in a while. Maybe you hate everything about cheetos except the taste, and the poor nutrition measures it for you outside of something you will ever eat, while I will have no choice but to agree with you about the nutritional value of cheetos and decide to eat them anyway.

          But we were talking about voices in your head. Something outside the realm of the scientific method, you are trying to sneak in personal growth through personal experience. This is how superstitions and other neuroses are born. If I wear this shirt, I will do better on the test so much that I scream in panic if I cannot find that shirt on the morning of the test. That’s how your religion works too, and that’s how people who are crazy adapt to voices they hear in their heads.

        • JohnH2

          Except it isn’t about wearing shirts or socks but about teachings about how to view and treat others and about God. We can look at statistics on the subject as well, because it is about what those that follow or claim to follow the teachings actually do and that can, and has been, be measured by anyone.

        • Kodie

          Anyone can make or follow rules. Some rules when followed even have benefits that can be measured. This does not lead to any conclusion that the rules are divine. You have given no way to test this experience to reach that conclusion.

        • MNb

          This doesn’t contradict Kodie: “if a crazy person gets better and better results through experimenting, then he’s correct, that’s what you said.”
          This quote by definition is not about AoS.

        • lapona

          You cannot have experience without experiments. Experimenting with divine gives you only an experience with mental sickness.

          Take Paul, for example, he started Christianity experiencing epileptic seizures, making a spiritual Jesus out of Joshua, “fulfilling” the prophecies of the Jewish bible. Paul was an educated man, unfortunately mentally deranged, the “holy disease”, that made him “see” and “hear” a Jesus.

          Paul came up a spiritual “resurrection”, but later on Christians wanted to fabricate a physical one, just for the “reality” of it.

        • JohnH2

          1 Corinthians disagrees with you.

        • lapona

          Better yet, I disagree with 1 Corinthians.

        • JohnH2

          You can’t very well make a theory on Paul, who he was, and what he taught, and ignore what Paul himself actually said to the best of our knowledge.

        • Greg G.

          We shouldn’t equate what Acts says Paul saw with what Paul says he saw. Paul consistently says that Jesus was revealed to him through scripture. This can be confirmed by noting that everything Paul says about Jesus can be found in the Old Testament. Acts gives three contradictory accounts, the last of which is supposed to be Jesus speaking Aramaic but he uses a Greek idiom (“kick against the goads”) that goes back to Euripides’ The Bacchae where the Greek god Dionysus said it.

          In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul uses “optanomai” for all the “appeared to” in 1 Corinthians 15 including his own. This indicates that he didn’t think their “appeared to” was any different than his own. (Galatians 1:11-12; Romans 16:25-27; 1 Corinthians 2:7) Neither does Paul think his knowledge is any worse that the other apostles. (2 Corinthians 11:4-6; 2 Corinthians 12:11)

          If he was giving eye-witness testimony of a resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, he would not have needed to argue for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:12-34. His argument seems to be “if the resurrection never happened, then their efforts are in vain. But their efforts are not in vain, therefore the resurrection happened.” He should have just re-iterated that Jesus was seen in physical form after the Crucifixion, but he never says anything like that unless you are reading the Gospels back into the Epistles which don’t even support the itinerant teacher from Galilee picture.

          The best thing about that argument is the argument against Pascal’s Wager:

          1 Corinthians 15:19 (NRSV)
          19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

        • MNb

          We shouldn’t even equate what Paulus says he saws with what Paulus actually saw.

        • Greg G.

          That’s true. Paul’s description of the “third heaven” sounds like some of the dreams I’ve had after a wine and cheese binge.

        • MNb

          The simple theory is that Paulus was convinced that Jesus was resurrected, not that Jesus actually was. If we’re going to accept everything authors from Antiquity wrote on face value I recommend you to read some Greek historians.

        • Pofarmer

          Where.

        • JohnH2

          15

        • lapona

          You’re confused. The guy was using “gospel” as some kind of “hey guys, there are good news and bad news”.
          We were talking about gospels as something put on paper.

        • JohnH2

          In the response that I was responding to there isn’t much mention of gospel, just that Paul made up Jesus and the resurrection, and thought it wasn’t physical.

        • lapona

          You’re confused again. Paul “resurrection” is different from the gospels “resurrection”.
          You have to go and read scholarly studies done on that matter.

          Paul was an educated man, he knew some philosophies of his times and about the Jew bible. All that combined with his mental sickness and religious fanaticism (he was psychopathic not stupid), he came up with a “resurrection” of the spirit from “scriptures”. He found the Jewish Joshua as a “Jesus Christ” who’ll fulfill “prophecies”.

          1 Corinthians 15 is simply saying that if there is no spiritual “resurrection” from the teaching of his fabricated Jesus, then Christianity is false. Christianity is a false teaching anyway. It is a religion, it is a dogma, it is bullshit.

          After Paul idea, that put the bases of the primitive Christianity, written gospels were necessary for the church to make a “Jesus” resurrected physically, like a “Lord” and “God”, and that pleased the Roman Emperors who put Christians in charge of installing their totalitarian religion.

          The rest is Cristian history: religious wars, Inquisition, murders in the name of God, and a never ending Christian quarreling about the “true” Christianity.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, not so much. That whole passage never actually mentions an earthly Jesus.

        • MNb

          No, empiricism is only about inductive reasoning. You’re on the right track, but what you need is the Problem of Induction by simple Enumeration.

        • I’ve seen no evidence for the words of Jesus being the oldest part. Paul’s writings are the oldest, and he has almost nothing of the biography of Jesus. If you’re saying that Mark might’ve been preceded by a sayings gospel like Thomas, that’s possible, though that’s speculation.

          If the teaching and how to live is the important part why should the Holy Spirit be expected to do more in terms of preservation?

          Because it looks for all the world like the HS didn’t do anything in terms of preservation. Y’know, like he’s not there at all.

          If you can’t trust your own experiences at all then why are you responding to my comments? Clearly some degree of trust must be had in your experiences

          Yes, that’s it: some degree of trust. Obviously, mental processes are flawed. You could list a dozen ways we fool ourselves. You’re going to look at this very imperfect brain and believe it when it says, “Hey—I think that was the HS!”?

          If the effects support the experience then there is no more reason to doubt experience with the divine than you do experience that fire is hot.

          Try that again. I’m sure an experience of the divine could be very convincing. How do we get to evidence-trumping certainty that that’s what actually happened?

        • JohnH2

          evidence-trumping certainty that that’s what actually happened?

          Evidence can’t trump other evidence; it can only cause us to reevaluate the model that we have based on that evidence.

          You’re going to look at this very imperfect brain and believe it when it says, “Hey—I think that was the HS!”?

          When the brain says that then the correct thing to do would be to test that: What does following the “HS” produce?

        • lapona

          “The words of Jesus in the gospels are probably the oldest written part”
          ===
          By that reasoning, the words of God in the bible are probably the oldest written part. But the oldest original of the bible is from about 200 BCE, so the Universe and everything was created about 2,200 hundreds years ago.

          Whatever a Jesus said, it was after an epileptic, schizophrenic, religious fanatic and educated Paul came up about a spiritual Jesus. Paul writings are the oldest and he didn’t know anything about a history of a physical Jesus. THEN the gospelers took the idea and fabricated a physical Jesus and his words, and tried to make him piggybacking on Roman history. The church chose four gospels out of hundreds, the most ridiculous ones from the average ridiculous ones.

        • JohnH2

          By that reasoning, the words of God in the bible are probably the oldest written part. But the oldest original of the bible is from about 200 BCE, so the Universe and everything was created about 2,200 hundreds years ago.

          I am completely not following your reasoning here; I was talking about saying gospels upon which the gospels that we have are built.

          Also, Paul by his own admissions was not the first person to talk about Jesus and was one of the more junior persons doing so at his time.

        • lapona

          What “gospels upon which the gospels we have are built”?
          Do you think there’s a gospel written word-by-word with what went out of the horse’s mouth… I mean Jesus mouth?

        • JohnH2
        • lapona

          The Q source is a hypothetical written collection of sayings of Jesus
          ===

          hy·po·thet·i·cal adjective ˌhī-pə-ˈthe-ti-kəl

          : involving or based on a suggested idea or theory : involving or based on a hypothesis

          : not real : imagined as an example

        • JohnH2

          Pretty much everything regarding the subject is hypothetical with no proof; so by your basis I would be better off taking the new testament as inerrant truth as everything else involves hypotheticals.

        • lapona

          Unless you are not caught in the lies of the bible, you’re already better off.

        • JohnH2

          Unless you are not caught in the hypothetical lies of the bible -FTFY

        • lapona

          Well, when you’re hypothesizing about the bible, it’s a scientific way of saying that you make a really good educated guess that the biblical claims are lies.

        • JohnH2

          Well you apparently don’t have trouble understanding in that context, why then the problem with the Q source?

        • lapona

          So, your last card you put on the credibility of the bible is how one interprets what the Q source could be?

          The problem with the Q source is that it was gossip or a rag on which someone wrote “word-by-word” what a Jesus said. I don’t know which those hypotheses can be more dumbing down.

        • Greg G.

          I have abandoned the Q Hypothesis in favor of the Farrar-Goulder Hypothesis, currently espoused by Mark Goodacre. The minor agreements between Matthew and Luke are not easily explained away as coincidence or scribal amendments. Matthew’s sources can be identified as Old Testament Apocrypha. If there was a Q, it didn’t appear out of nowhere, someone would have made it up, just as Matthew could have.

          My objections to the F-G Hypothesis was why Luke would have changed the genealogy and the nativity stories. I think Luke may have rejected Matthew’s genealogy because he made a big deal out of the number of generations in Matthew 1:17, but they were wrong, according to the Old Testament. Matthew omitted four generations from the David to the Babylonian exile to get to fourteen and he listed only thirteen from the exile to Jesus, unless he counts the exile as a generation. Another reason could be that Jeremiah says King Jehoiakim burned a scroll. That
          led to a curse that none of his offspring would prosper. Matthew had Jesus as
          one of King Jehoiakim’s offspring.

          I think Luke may have objected to Matthew’s killing of the innocents episode of the nativity story. His God would not allow so many dead babies while saving only Jesus. So Luke opened to the first event in Book 18 of Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus and created his own story from that.

          Luke seems to have borrowed from Josephus a lot. That is why Luke seems to be a great historian when his writings confirm what we know about that area at that time… which we know from Josephus. It’s not only just the encyclopedic information that agrees with Josephus, but some of the stories. Luke says Jesus taught at the temple at age 12. Josephus recalled discussing the law with the elders at age 14. Acts provides even more evidence of Luke using Josephus as a muse, The shipwreck in Acts is like the shipwreck Josephus survived in many details, such as unjustly accused religious leaders being sent to Rome by Felix and the location of the wreck. The Egyptian described in Acts 21:38 mixes details from three nearby paragraphs in Book 20 of Antiquities of the Jews.

          So, I accept that Matthew had his sources and Luke had his sources, with some overlap including Matthew itself, and both were capable of writing stories.

        • MNb

          “If you can’t trust your own experiences at all then why are you responding to my comments?”
          Very simple. If I experience your comments wrongly I have confidence that you will correct me. You are the one who gives me the trust I need when I have a discussion with you.
          Now this is a non-problem.
          But who’s going to correct me if I have “divine” or “spiritual” experiences? I hear voices now and then (less than once a year). When there is somebody around I can get corrected indeed. But what if there is nobody around?
          Now this is a huge problem.
          I understood this at a very young age and decided to distrust those “hearing” experiences. It has served me very well. The same should apply to “divine” and “spiritual” experiences.

        • TheNuszAbides

          this is why even corrupt leadership has to at least pay lip-service to the “each of you has their own personal relationship with _____”

          unless of course they are superbly charismatic and/or confidence-enslaving…

        • Pofarmer

          Unfortunately “experience of the divine” isn’t just a Mormon experience, or Christian experiance. It’s common, even among people who aren’t religious, which might lead someone to conclude it isn’t divine at all.

        • JohnH2

          I agree that God speaks to all people, and don’t see that as being a problem.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s not what I’m saying at all, but you know that. Evolutionally speaking, we are all related, so there is probably a common mechanism explaining these experiences. MMethodological naturalism would look for natural reasons before jumping to the supernatural.

        • JohnH2

          Not very empirical to predetermine what can and can not exist rather than to trust ones experiences and reason based off of them.

        • Pofarmer

          Where did I make the assumption that something could not exist.

        • lapona

          Boy, oh boy! That’s the BIG problem.

          Everybody who hears God, kills others who hears God and the bible is full with this kind of “hearing” God. Then when God says to Israelite to kill everything, some others who hear God say: “Oh no! God didn’t say that.”
          What God is saying to you about the above?

        • MNb

          “I don’t see how any amount of argument can establish that as being factually true.”
          History is a branch of science. Science has to be consistent. Resurrections are not possible according to the natural sciences. So the believer has to chose here – reject belief or reject science.
          That’s what RSR meant above with faith vs. confidence.

        • JohnH2

          If resurrection were an observable common occurrence than natural sciences would accept it; until then there is no reason to include it into any theory as it hasn’t been observed reliably.

        • MNb

          That does nothing to contradict “resurrections are not possible according to the natural sciences.” So accepting the resurrection means rejecting science. You have an accommodation (of science and faith) problem. I don’t; I just argue that the resurrection story is fiction. There is no inconsistency for me – historical research shows that such fiction was very common in that particular place and time.

        • Greg G.

          The Pharisees believed that resurrection was possible before the first century. The Christian belief in resurrection stems from the writings of someone who was a Pharisee. What a coincidence!

        • Pofarmer

          People see supernatural influences in all sorts of places they aren’t.

    • RichardSRussell

      As a science-fiction fan, I have to say that Mormonism is my favorite religious fantasy, because it reads like a cross between Roger Zelazny and Philip K. Dick, with all the elegant literary style of Hugo Gernsbach. What continues to amaze me is that anybody at all gives credence to this obvious steaming pile of flim-flammery, as if it can be taken seriously, let alone deserving to be.

      • TheNuszAbides

        I wish I could have picked Dick’s brain for his opinion (if any) of L. Ron Hubbard.

  • KarlUdy

    Bob,
    It seems you have completely misread Neil Mammen. You seem to be reading him as trying to make a point that modern journalists can be wrong, when in actual fact his point was that accounts that on the surface appear to differ in the details may not be contradictory at all.

    • His point was very clearly that modern journalists can be wrong. His larger point was that the truth of the story can be salvaged nevertheless, both in the Chicago story and in the resurrection story.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        Right. In the resurrection story, we can go to the police station and look up the arrest records, then jog on over to the FAA and read their in-depth report.

        Right?

      • lapona

        The gospels “journalists” wrote that Jesus was *alone* in the Gethsemane garden, still the “journalists” wrote what Jesus said and prayed when he was *alone*.

        I guess that getting out of the Gethsemane garden Jesus was surrounded by “journalists” and of course paparazzi (how do you explain the Jesus as portrayed?), and asked “Please Sir, can you give us a quote about what you talked with God… uhuh, uhuh… thank you Sir. Your story will appear in the first edition of the “New Testament”, and we’ll even print a book and give us some autographs. What? You have to play dead for three days then go up to the “Father”, so you can’t wait to see the first volume of your bestseller? Sorry to hear that, but we need you to sign at least one book to have a proof that you resurrected. What? We need to have faith? Are you kidding, Sir?”

      • KarlUdy

        You are wrong. Go and re-read the article and in the last part he makes it clear, including the following:

        Actually in my example there were NO inconsistencies. If you re-read it you’ll see all the stories were correct. Only some emphasized certain parts.

        His point is not that the journalists are wrong but the truth can be salvaged, but that the accusation of inconsistency or contradiction in both the Chicago story and the resurrection are only apparent and not really inconsistent.

        • What’s to be salvaged? You made clear that the articles weren’t wrong.

          I’m missing your overall point. With the last paragraph, it sounds like we agree.

        • Fred

          So if you agree with Neil then your only quibble is that if you read the reports there is more info. But Neil said that regardless of which reports you read even in entirety they never had ALL the same info. Each report focused on parts of the story that the reporter thought was pertinent. Do you agree with that?

          If you do then your only other quibble would be that this doesn’t prove the accounts are true. But that was not his point: From his email to me. “All I am saying Fredrick is that just because each report does not cover each of the details, that does not automatically make the reports false. Which was my point and a point that the atheist (Charles) in the story was making( if the blogger cared to read it fully). It’s a strawman to try to make my article prove something it never intended to.”

          And in case you ask: no he didn’t seem interested in coming on your blog. But he’s always up for a private conversation in my experience. Why don’t you email him directly. He’s an engineer just like you (just a startup guy though not a big company guy). You may find you have a lot in common.

        • if you read the reports there is more info.

          The photo captions are a brief and incomplete summary of the whole story, yes.

          regardless of which reports you read even in entirety they never had ALL the same info.

          Yes, and I thought I made it clear in my post that I agreed with that.

          your only other quibble would be that this doesn’t prove the accounts are true. But that was not his point

          No, it doesn’t prove the accounts are true, and I never argued that it did.

          just because each report does not cover each of the details, that does not automatically make the reports false.

          Again: agreed. I agreed in the article, and I agreed even before reading Neil’s piece.

          The anger and condescension in your article were off-putting (and, IMO, off base), but I have made one change to the post that makes the issue clearer and I think is more accurate to where Neil was going: I changed “Yes, journalists can be wrong” to “Yes, journalists can be wrong, and articles can be incomplete.” So that was a good thing that came from our discussion; thanks for that.

          And in case you ask: no he didn’t seem interested in coming on your blog.

          I’m always interested in thoughtful Christians reading my blog or contributing with comments, but if that’s not his cup of tea, that’s fine. Does he blog?

          Why don’t you email him directly.

          Thanks for the suggestion, but I think we’ve reached closure on this issue.

        • Fred

          So let me get this straight. You agree that the accounts were not false, just not complete. You agree that incompleteness in reporting does not invalidate the event. You agree that he never intended to use this to prove that the gospel accounts are true just that you can’t prove them false this way (as his atheist friend was trying to do).

          So what then is the purpose of this blog? I’m missing the point. It seems you’ve created a strawman and all your fan boys are throwing stones and wrestling with it.

          If you want to critique something that actually tries to prove the Gospels are true then you should read something that sets out to do just that, i.e. the volumes put out by Metzger and Blomberg e.g. http://www.amazon.com/Historical-Reliability-Gospels-Craig-Blomberg/dp/0830828079.

          Now I’d be interested in seeing your refutation of that. If you have already done so please do provide the link.

        • So what then is the purpose of this blog? I’m missing the point.

          Seems like it. And here we thought that it was just me who couldn’t read …

          It seems you’ve created a strawman and all your fan boys are throwing stones and wrestling with it.

          Strawman? If that’s what you want to call accepting Neil’s larger point, OK.

          Journalists can be wrong, and news articles can be wrong, even when written less than 24 hours after an event. Yeah, I get it. And from this common agreement that summaries of an event can be wrong, you want to argue that the gospel story is correct?

          That’s why the title was “When Christian Arguments Backfire.” The argument proves too much. Yes, I agree that accounts can be flawed. Now go from 24 hours to 40 years and translate it through a foreign culture (Jewish/Aramaic culture interpreted from within Greek culture) with oral history. To quote from the post, “Now how much confidence can we have in the account?”

          No, I haven’t read Blomberg’s book—that’s for lack of time, not lack of interest. I’ve written a fair amount on that general subject, however.

        • Fred

          You said: “Journalists can be wrong, and news articles can be wrong, even when written less than 24 hours after an event. Yeah, I get it. And from this common agreement that summaries of an event can be wrong, you want to argue that the gospel story is correct?”

          But none of those were ever Neil’s point. You’ve created a strawman, actually a number of them. He never argued that they were correct, he just argued that you can’t falsify them based on the reports being incomplete.

          His entire point seems to be, his atheist friend said that since one account says there were 2 angels, the other says there was 1 angel, that shows the gospels are false. He said not that does not mean that the they are false or that the facts are wrong.

          That was the full purpose of the article. I got it. Most of the atheists who tried to argue with him got that. But you quote his article and then try to blame him for not proving the gospels were true, which he never tried to do. That’s a clear strawman.

        • I don’t know where to go with this. You’re determined to see an important gulf between what we’re saying.

          OK, you’re right. There’s an important gulf.

          Thanks for your input.

        • Fred

          It seems to me that since you’ve not refuted what he is saying, nor do you show that his argument has backfired, and in fact you agree with most of what he’s saying and your only point is that it does not prove the Gospels are true, which he actually notes that he’s not trying to prove. So what the evidence shows is that your blog is not about
          When Christian Arguments Backfire
          but rather
          When Atheist Rebuttals Backfire
          Think you not this?

        • It seems to me that since you’ve not refuted what he is saying

          There is a section titled, “And now, let me agree.” Yes, I’m agreeing with his larger point.

          nor do you show that his argument has backfired

          He argues that written summaries can be incomplete or contradictory after a single day. Imagine what they’d be like after 40 years of oral history.

          But then I already said that. If it was wrong, you didn’t make that clear.

        • Fred

          See there you go again. There were no contradictions. Sheesh…

        • Brian

          Bob, it’s like you’re trying to take what someone said and use it to show an inconsistency in some other views they have, and that a bunch of people assume that you can’t extend a point in any way to make a larger point.

          It’s like if I say I’m a vegetarian and you post a picture of me eating a hamburger, my response of “but I said I’m a vegetarian!” would prove YOU wrong, or something.

        • Are you responding to me or to Fred?

        • Brian

          I was responding to you. 🙂

          Your post seemed to me to be you saying “look at the unintended consequences of this argument” as a way to point out that the argument for the lack of contradictions in (and for the trusworthiness of) the gospel is actually a good argument against the trustworthiness of the gospel accounts.

          The response in this thread is “but that’s not what the author meant!,” which is completely irrelevant, since you’re saying that the argument is backfiring. The point is that it could be used to show something opposite of what the author intended, so you obviously had to start from a position of agreeing with what the author meant.

          It’s a baffling response to your critiques, is all.

        • Thanks for the longer response–I didn’t quite follow the previous one for some reason.

          Yes, good point. Thanks for that.

        • Brian

          Happy to clarify. Apparently my brief witticism wasn’t as clear as I’d intended it to be. 🙂

        • Fred

          Whoops, I need to reread my edits. I meant to say:
          “He said ‘that does not mean that the gospels are false or that the facts are wrong.’

      • Fred

        False. Karl is correct. I just emailed Neil and he says that it was clearly NOT his point that journalists were or are wrong. He says it seems blogger is unable to understand the clearly intended purpose of the blog or is purposely taking him out of context to fool the blogger’s blind faith followers. Neil says his own point has always been that the reports were 100% correct, just not the complete picture. The reporters pointed out what information they knew at the time. But none of the reports were wrong.

        Let me quote Neil’s email to me “The blogger is disingenuous or unable to read, I clearly stated this in the article:

        ‘So we agree the event really happened. No one was lying and in fact no one was mistaken (i.e. sadly a boy actually died -Thanks John). The facts were all correct. In an event like this it’s natural for differing witnesses to focus on different facts. Had API been the only news service there, ALL the news we read would have been almost identical. The fact that we had multiple sources of the info all slightly different from each other but none contradicting each other both verified that the event really happened and that no collusion was taking place (that’s collusion not collision).’

        Did he miss that completely? Do I need to repeat myself a few times so atheists can figure it out? Well I DID repeat myself because at the end I say AGAIN ( tell him to go read it himself for crying out loud):

        ‘Actually in my example there were NO inconsistencies. If you re-read it you’ll see all the stories were correct. Only some emphasized certain parts. For instance some accounts mentioned 2 cars, others only mentioned the car with the 6 year old that died. They said “about 8 years old” which was correct. Some mentioned his brother who was OK, yet others did not mention him. Yet all the accounts were correct. They were not inconsistent since no account says there were no OTHER cars or no brother etc or that he was exactly 8 years old. This is similar in the account of the Gospel. Nobody said there was ONLY 1 angel etc. The overriding facts in the news story were the plane and the child dying. All other events were subsequent to this and thus each witness could choose to mention it or not without any inconsistency. Similarly in the Gospel events on the resurrection for example, the overriding facts are that he died and that he rose. All other events are noted or not, similar to the newspaper accounts when noted they are correct but not necessarily the complete picture. There is no inconsistency nor are there any contradictions – only apparent ones that can be as easily resolved as the SWA flight. Sounds like he can’t read or he did that on purpose. It’s kind of incompetent for the blogger to glean that one would try to use some incorrect reports to try and prove gospel accounts are correct? ‘

        Come now, I expect better from you guys. At least be intellectually honest. What are you scared of?”

        This shows that if you don’t want something to be true you can always create strawmen about other arguments to justify your stance and the blind faith masses who agree with you will blindly parrot what you say rather than going and doing their own research. Frankly I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. No pun intended!

        • purposely taking him out of context to fool the blogger’s blind faith followers.

          Yup, got me. Giving an honest account is never my goal. I’m an atheist, after all.

          Neil says his own point has always been that the reports were 100% correct, just not the complete picture.

          What I meant to say (my error) was that the articles were wrong. Is this still at odds with what Neil says? Sounds like it is.

          The reporters pointed out what information they knew at the time.

          The use of photo captions was deceptive. But I suppose we all showboat a little, and I agree with the overall point—assuming I understand the overall point.

          “The blogger is disingenuous or unable to read,

          Those are the only two options that come to mind for me as well. I’m going with “liar.”

          ‘So we agree the event really happened.

          Yes, and that the correct core of the airplane story can be pulled out. Did I get that wrong as well?

          Do I need to repeat myself a few times so atheists can figure it out?

          No point. They’ll just twist what you say no matter how clear you are.

          ‘Actually in my example there were NO inconsistencies.

          I guess I’m still confused. I must be stupid. I thought he made a big deal about fence vs. wall vs. barrier. These aren’t inconsistencies?

          This is similar in the account of the Gospel. Nobody said there was ONLY 1 angel etc.

          Yes, I understood from the beginning that this was the parallel he was drawing.

          Is there an important point in your disagreement, or is it just a quibble?

          Sounds like he can’t read or he did that on purpose.

          I’m lovin’ this! It’s like I’m at McDonald’s.

          Tell it to me again!!

          It’s kind of incompetent for the blogger to glean that one would try to use some incorrect reports to try and prove gospel accounts are correct? ‘

          And I’m still confused over the big deal vs. quibble thing. I’m betting quibble.

          At least be intellectually honest. What are you scared of?”

          The Christian juggernaut, of course.

          Frankly I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.

          You’ll have to tell us more. Why should I accept the Christian message?

        • fred

          Should also include this he also said “Contrary to what the blogger wrote and he can feel free to read the entire news stories and he’ll find that none of them mention ALL the details. That was my point – true stories may not contain all the details. This does not prove they are true but it certainly does not prove they are false. Moreover The blogger is creating a strawman in expecting me to try and prove something I never set out to prove – he’s trying a bit too hard methinks.”

        • MNb

          Do you understand the difference between “are wrong” and “can be wrong”?

          Anyhow this is not very relevant. Psychological research since long has addressed the problem with eyewitnesses. It became a problem in trials of war criminals. If you deny that you have an accommodation (of science and faith) problem.

  • RichardSRussell

    Now how much faith can we have in the account?

    On the basis of abundant evidence, all the faith in the world. How much confidence we can have — now that’s a different matter entirely.

  • Royce_Benjamin

    This was a pretty inept attempt by an apologist to salvage Biblical inerrancy. The “contradictions” in the plane crash story are not like the contradictions in the resurrections account. Going from “boundary fence” to “security wall” to “safety barrier” is not a contradiction. It’s just different words for the same thing. Likewise with “child” and “6-year-old boy.” These are not the type of contradictions we are talking about with the resurrections. I don’t even consider the differing number of women mentioned in each gospel to be a contradiction, so the comparison of that with “one car or two” is meaningless.
    For the plane story to be analogous to the resurrection we would need competing accounts such as:
    The plane hit a car and killed a child inside vs. the plane hit a car containing a child that was already dead.
    The plane went through a fence next to the runway vs. the plane went through a fence next to the United Center.
    The plane was a Boeing 747 vs. the plane was actually an Apache helicopter.
    A man appeared and said the dead child is fine and waiting for his parents in Birmingham vs. the dead child appeared and told his parents not to leave Chicago until the Cubs win the World Series.
    All the witnesses to the plane crash told everyone they knew about it vs. all the witnesses were too traumatized to ever speak about it, but I know what happened because magic.

  • Greg G.

    I believe it was the second Star Trek movie that had Ricardo Montalban reprising his role from the first season of the original series. His character met Chekov and he said that he recognized him. How would that be possible? Chekov never appeared until the second season. Does that mean Star Trek is false?

    When can reconcile this by noting that many crew members appeared only once and were never seen again. That means there were probably many more who were never seen. Chekov may have been aboard but with no bridge duties. Montalban’s character may have passed him in the hall at some point.

    Given enough leeway, we can reconcile any discrepancies and contradictions. That’s how we know Star Trek is true.

    • And Kirk is the only true captain of the Enterprise! Anyone disagreeing with me is an apostate.

      • Greg G.

        Of course! There is only one true Enterprise.

  • Blizzard

    Maybe Jesus fell into a wormhole with many alternate histories.

    • lapona

      Of course:
      When Jesus said “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” , actually he said: “Beam me up, Scotty!”

      • Blizzard

        Checkmate atheists!

  • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

    Asshats such as Craig should know their own arguments as well as anybody would, and know just how weak they are. This will change nothing for as long as they don’t care about convincing a few skeptical thinkers – that never was the group which lined their pockets anyway. He writes his BS for those who are already committed lunatics for Jesus, who buy his books for 1. affirmation of what they have decided they are going to believe anyway, and 2. an ammo dump of arguments which won’t make them look any smarter when they proselytize, will make them many times more annoying, and we have heard them all a thousand times before, but they don’t know that.

    • Pofarmer

      “and we have heard them all a thousand times before, but they don’t know that.”

      Which is why every believer shows up with the same trope.

    • MNb

      Are you sure you don’t mean Ken Ham or the IDiots from Seattle?
      Oh wait – I fail to see any relevant difference as well.

      • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

        Ken Ham is an ass-clown for creation science, and it’s mostly those who have no education outside of their religious bubble who take him seriously.

        WLC is an apologist for biblical “truth”, who has focused on attempting to prove that the New Testament stories have any historical value, but he’s really only good at launching straw-man and ad-hominem attacks against atheists. He does seem to take himself fairly seriously (guess he’s never seen a mirror before), and others take him seriously enough that they look to him as a resource for “reasons” to keep up their faith when they are “fighting the demon of doubt”, but are determined to keep on believing. They probably don’t all believe in creation science, they just want to believe that Jesus isn’t a myth.

  • Daniel Wainfleet

    Wikkiam L. Craig thinks he has refuted Special Relativity by philosophical means. He also began a speech with “Mathematicians have long recognized that the use of infinity leads to paradoxes.” , which is like saying that engineers have recognized that flying machines are impossible,

    • Pofarmer

      Yeah, he acts like he doesn’t know that we learned how to solve infinite sets long ago.

      • MNb

        Well, you can’t expect from an excuse seeker to read the Wikipedia page on Cardinal Numbers.

  • Daniel Wainfleet

    During a hockey game, USSR vs NHL, a tv commenter said “Its as if they broke his (goalie Tretiak’s) knees and re-set them …..” referring to his great leg skills. Years later, a friend of mine said to me ” You know what I heard they did with Tretiak’s knees?…….” In addition to improvization, oral history includes outright fiction based on rumors based on fragments.

  • Fred

    I’ll repeat this from a reply earlier.

    False. Karl is correct. I just emailed Neil and he says that it was clearly NOT his point that journalists were or are wrong. He says it seems blogger is unable to understand the clearly intended purpose of the blog or is purposely taking him out of context to fool the blogger’s blind faith followers. Neil says his own point has always been that the reports were 100% correct, just not the complete picture. The reporters pointed out what information they knew at the time. But none of the reports were wrong.

    Let me quote Neil’s email to me “The blogger is disingenuous or unable to read, I clearly stated in the article:

    ‘So we agree the event really happened. No one was lying and in fact no one was mistaken (i.e. sadly a boy actually died -Thanks John). The facts were all correct. In an event like this it’s natural for differing witnesses to focus on different facts. Had API been the only news service there, ALL the news we read would have been almost identical. The fact that we had multiple sources of the info all slightly different from each other but none contradicting each other both verified that the event really happened and that no collusion was taking place (that’s collusion not collision).’

    Did he miss that completely? Do I need to repeat myself a few times so atheists can figure it out? Well I DID repeat myself because at the end I say AGAIN ( tell him to go read it himself for crying out loud):

    ‘Actually in my example there were NO inconsistencies. If you re-read it you’ll see all the stories were correct. Only some emphasized certain parts. For instance some accounts mentioned 2 cars, others only mentioned the car with the 6 year old that died. They said “about 8 years old” which was correct. Some mentioned his brother who was OK, yet others did not mention him. Yet all the accounts were correct. They were not inconsistent since no account says there were no OTHER cars or no brother etc or that he was exactly 8 years old. This is similar in the account of the Gospel. Nobody said there was ONLY 1 angel etc. The overriding facts in the news story were the plane and the child dying. All other events were subsequent to this and thus each witness could choose to mention it or not without any inconsistency. Similarly in the Gospel events on the resurrection for example, the overriding facts are that he died and that he rose. All other events are noted or not, similar to the newspaper accounts when noted they are correct but not necessarily the complete picture. There is no inconsistency nor are there any contradictions – only apparent ones that can be as easily resolved as the SWA flight. Sounds like he can’t read or he did that on purpose. It’s kind of incompetent for the blogger to glean that one would try to use some incorrect reports to try and prove gospel accounts are correct? ‘

    Come now, I expect better from you guys. At least be intellectually honest. What are you scared of?”

    BTW he also mentioned that the title clearly indicates that this was never meant to prove the Gospels were True, just that the contradictions don’t exist. He never addressed if they were true. That’s a different blog.

    This shows that if you don’t want something to be true you can always create strawmen about other arguments to justify your stance and the blind faith masses who agree with you will blindly parrot what you say rather than going and doing their own research. Frankly I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. No pun intended!

    • Fred

      He also added “Contrary to what the blogger wrote and he can feel free to read the entire news stories and he’ll find that none of them mention ALL the details. That was my point – true stories may not contain all the details. This does not prove they are true but it certainly does not prove they are false. Moreover The blogger is creating a strawman in expecting me to try and prove something I never set out to prove – he’s trying a bit too hard methinks.”

  • Daniel Wainfleet

    “Now,at a time when Augustus ruled, and Cyraneus was governor of Roman Syria…” begins one gospel. Christopher Hitchens noted there was no such time. When Kennedy was president and Putin ruled in Russia…?