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May 25, 2018

This is one of four critiques of the book, The God Delusion (New York / Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), by perhaps the world’s best-known (and most influential?) atheist, the biologist Richard Dawkins (born in 1941). His words will be in blue. Links to the four critiques follow:

Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion: General Critique

Richard Dawkins’ “Bible Whoppers” Are the “Delusion”

Richard Dawkins: D- Grade for Science & Christianity

Richard Dawkins’ Outrageous Hypocrisy on Abortion

***

[all Bible passages cited by myself are RSV]

Dawkins describes God in a way remarkably similar to how Democrats describe Republicans:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. (p. 31)

Other than those few trifles, Dawkins thinks He’s great! The theme of jealousy is one of Dawkins’ biggest beefs:

The tragi-farce of God’s maniacal jealousy against alternative gods recurs continually throughout the Old Testament. (p. 246)

And of course He completely misunderstands this because he doesn’t have a clue on how to interpret the Bible. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (“Jealousy”) explains it:

When jealousy is attributed to God, the word is used in a good sense. The language is, of course, anthropomorphic; and it is based upon the feeling in a husband of exclusive right in his wife. God is conceived as having wedded Israel to Himself, and as claiming, therefore, exclusive devotion. Disloyalty on the part of Israel is represented as adultery, and as provoking God to jealousy. See, e.g., Deuteronomy 32:16,211 Kings 14:22Psalms 78:58Ezekiel 8:316:38,4223:2536:538:19.

See also my article on anthropopathism and anthropomorphism. I wrote there:

God “condescends” to the limited understanding of human beings, by expressing many truths about himself analogically (as compared to human actions and emotions) so that we can understand Him at all. Otherwise, we would not be able to comprehend a Being so startlingly different and distinct from us and greater than we are.

The article, “Does God Change His Mind?” by Wayne Jackson elaborates further:

The Scriptures frequently employ figures of speech that seem to suggest that God alters his actions in response to man’s behavior. The passage in Exodus 32 is an excellent example of this sort of phraseology.

While Moses was upon the heights of Sinai, receiving the Ten Commandments, the children of Israel in the region below made an idol—a molten calf—and proclaimed it as their deliverer from Egypt.

The corrupt act was wholly antagonistic to the will of God, and the Lord proclaimed his intention to “consume” them. Moses, as a mediator, interceded and pled with Jehovah to not destroy them.

Accordingly, the biblical text represents God’s response in this fashion: “Jehovah repented of the evil [destruction] which he said he would do unto his people” (Ex. 32:14).

The term “repented” reflects a figure of speech, common to many languages, known as “anthropopathism” (literally, man feelings). This is an idiom by which divine activity is described symbolically in terms of human emotion. It is rather similar to the kindred figure, “anthropomorphism” (man form) by which God is described as having physical parts (e.g., eyes, hands, etc.) even though he is not a physical being (Jn. 4:24; Lk. 24:39).

Anthropopathism, therefore, is a figure of speech by which human feelings or emotions are ascribed to God, in order to accommodate man’s ignorance of the unfathomable intentions and operations of deity (cf. Rom. 11:33-36). . . .

It must be understood, therefore, that though certain biblical passages speak of the Lord being “changeless,” while others represent him as “changing” (in response to human conduct), that different senses are in view.

In light of this fact, the “discrepancy” problem dissolves. But when one does not understand some of the common figures of speech utilized by the Bible writers, under the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit, he most certainly will draw many faulty conclusions—sometimes very dangerous ones.

Human languages are punctuated with dramatic figures of speech. This phenomenon is no less true in the case of the Scriptures than it is with other literary productions. A failure to recognize this principle leads to numerous flawed ideas.

Dawkins shows his rank ignorance of Christian theology, too, in how he describes what he erroneously thinks is the Trinity:

Do we have one God in three parts, or three Gods in one? (p. 33)

In C. S. Lewis’s famous analogy of “flatland,” squares, and cubes in his Mere Christianity, he noted that the flatlanders couldn’t imagine a two dimension plane, and that those in that world without a third dimension could not imagine the third. Yet all three exist, and a cube has a “oneness” just as a plane and a line do. In our world, one being is one person. But why should we think our experience is the whole of reality? What is intrinsically impossible about a Being Who Subsists in Three Persons (Being and Person being two distinct categories, so that this is not an automatic contradiction)? The Holy Trinity is not at all impossible a priori (philosophically speaking, and in terms of simple logic).

For us, one Being is one person, but how can it be ruled out logically (or axiomatically) that Being and person may not always be in a one-to-one relationship? I think, then, that the flatland analogy is quite relevant, precisely because it hits upon this difference of perception and defined realities which is the prior axiomatic consideration before we even get to logic. The flatlander says that there are only two dimensions, so that talk of a third dimension is meaningless and incomprehensible to him. So Lewis was maintaining that this is how we are with regard to the Holy Trinity.

I don’t see how the Holy Trinity is a logical contradiction, once one grants the possibility of the trinitarian premise: God can subsist in three persons. It’s very odd and almost incomprehensible to us but not not contradictory, for God to contain three persons (analogous to my three relational attributes) and remain one God, and also for the three persons to be distinct in relation to each other, yet each being God.

Dawkins himself expresses, I think, a key notion in understanding why he goes awry in his biblical interpretation. He applies it to Christian apologists, but it applies at least as much to folks like him and other atheists and biblical skeptics:

We pick and choose which bits of scripture to believe, which bits to write off as symbols or allegories. (p. 238)

Apologists . . . employ that favourite trick of interpreting selected scriptures as ‘symbolic’ rather than literal. By what criterion do you decide which passages are symbolic, which literal? (p. 247)

I’m glad that he asked that last question. Well, we decide in the same way that we make such determinations for any other literature. That’s why it requires a lot of study of biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. The Bible contains many genres or types of literature, and many different cultural contexts. Then there are all the factors that go into the questions of language, and how words meant different things in different cultural contexts.

For atheists, it’s simple: they arbitrarily interpret according to their particular hostile agenda, regardless of whether their method is consistent or not. They approach the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog. The only consistent theme in their views is that the Bile is always wrong, and objectionable. Bottom line: biblical interpretation is not nearly as simple as atheists make out, and the Bible is infinitely more sophisticated and complex and nuanced than they customarily assume is the case. The decree on Scripture, Dei Verbum, from the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) makes a good summary of the task of proper hermeneutics:

To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to “literary forms”. For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture. (Saint Augustine) For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another. (III, l2)[T]he four canonical gospels . . . have the status of legends, as factually dubious as the stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. . . . Nobody knows who he four evangelists were, but they almost certainly never met Jesus personally.  (p. 96)

[R]eputable biblical scholars do not in general regard the New testament (and obviously not the Old Testament) as a reliable record of what actually happened in history . . . (p. 97)

[T]he gospels are ancient fiction . . . (p. 97)

. . . the cult of Jesus, the origins of which are not reliably attested, . . . (p. 202)

Statements like these are as outrageous as they are ridiculous, and couldn’t be more opposite to the truth of the matter than they are. They’re self-refuting, and I certainly will not spend any of my time or take the space in this already long paper to document the mountain of (secular / scholarly) archaeological and historical evidences in favor of biblical historical accuracy and reliability (especially of the New Testament). At least Dawkins has the wits to (halfheartedly) deny the intellectually suicidal “mythicist” position: “Jesus probably existed” (p. 97).

But all this shows very well where Dawkins is coming from, doesn’t it? He can’t even figure out that the Bible is historically trustworthy (remarkably so at that): even before we get to questions of whether the theology presented in it is true or not.

The historical evidence that Jesus claimed any sort of divine status is minimal . . . there is no good historical evidence that he ever thought he was divine. (p. 92)

This is hogwash. The New Testament is historically reliable, and it massively documents these claims, as I show in an exhaustive treatment of this topic. We also have the evidence of hostile witnesses in the Jewish Talmud, and some secular Roman attestation as well.

When the gospels were written, many years after Jesus’ death, nobody knew where he was born. (p. 93)

His mother certainly did. But I guess that possibility never occurred to Dawkins. He seems to think that 1) no Gospel writer could have possibly talked to her about that, and 2) Mary forgot where her own child was born. Such inanities are not rare in atheist polemics. I do appreciate their comedic value, in any event.

Speaking of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dawkins informs us that Christians believe she “never died but ‘ascended’ bodily into heaven” (p. 179). Of course, Protestants deny that she didn’t die and that she was assumed into heaven. The proper term for what Catholics and Orthodox believe is that Mary was “assumed” bodily into heaven. That’s different from “ascension” to heaven, which in Christian thought is applied solely to Jesus, and means that (unlike Mary) He did it by His own power. Almost all Catholics and all Orthodox hold that Mary died, though the contrary position is allowed in Catholicism.

The remainder of my reply will be devoted to chapter 7 (specifically, pages 237-257), in which Dawkins takes a sledgehammer to the Bible (mostly the Old Testament) and tries to demonstrate that no moral, sensible person could ever admire it or believe that it taught proper morality. He summarizes his contempt:

. . . a system of morals which any civilized person, whether religious or not, would find — I can put it no more gently — obnoxious. To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil, but just plain weird . . . (p. 237)

His view of the Noah story is illustrative:

God took a dim view of humans, so he (with the exception of one family) drowned the lot of them including children . . . (p. 238)

I have written many times about divine judgment. It makes perfect sense (granting the existence of a Creator-God). If you give life, then it seems reasonable that you can also take it away. I don’t accept the analogy I will now draw, myself, because human beings are not the ultimate creators and judges of other human beings, but the atheist pro-abortion mentality (i.e., those atheists who are pro-abortion; not all are) accepts something very like (in some specific respects) what Christians say about God as judge (taking away life, as He chooses).

The person who favors abortion thinks that the mother of a preborn child has total say over him or her, up to and including deciding to end his or her life. Why? Well, as they say, “the child is mine; part of my body; I brought it into existence, and I can do with it as I wish. It has no rights on its own apart from what I decide.” This is true to such an extent, that in the United States, the father of the child has absolutely no say in the matter.

Thus, a person with such views assumes that they completely own another human being (much as was thought in slavery). They brought the child into existence, and so (according to them, and the laws now in most western countries) they can also decide when to terminate his or her life.

Now, hold that thought and ponder the Creator of the universe, Who (Christians believe) grants us life and existence. He has communicated to us moral laws that we are supposed to live by. If we fail to keep those, He may judge us (indeed, at times, entire nations or the entire world). Unlike the aborting mother, He has the perfect prerogative to do so, as our Creator and Judge. And it’s perfectly moral and just for him to do so. If this is incomprehensible to an atheist mind, then I would suggest that they examine what they believe about the preborn children of mothers who want to abort.

If a mere human being has the right to decree the life or death of their own child, why would not God have the right (but in His case a justified one) over all of humanity? Thus, in their own views, they accept a scenario which has some similarities to God being Judge. The analogical similarity is that one being has the prerogative to decree the death of another being who originated from them. The dissimilarity is that abortion is an immoral murder, whereas God’s judgment is perfectly justified, because He applies judgment fairly, and He is the Creator and we are His creatures. I wrote in one of my papers on the topic:

Because God is Creator He also has the prerogative to judge. This is analogous to our experience. Society takes it upon itself to judge the criminal and punish him if he supersedes the “just” laws that govern the society, in order to prevent chaos and suffering. If that is true of human society (one man to another), it is all the more of God, because He is ontologically above us (Creator and created).

So it is perfectly sensible and moral to posit (apart from the data of revelation) a notion of God judging both individuals and nations. God’s omniscience is such that He can determine if an entire nation has gone bad (“beyond repair,” so to speak) and should be punished. And He did so. Now, even in a wicked nation there may be individuals who are exceptions to the rule. So some innocent people will be killed. But this is like our human experience as well. In wartime, we go to war against an entire nation. In so doing, even if it is unintentional, some innocent non-combatants will be killed.

But it’s also different in God’s case because He judged nations in part in order to prevent their idolatry and other sins to infiltrate Jewish (i.e., true) religion. He also judged Israel at various times (lest He be accused of being unfair). In any event, it is not true that nations or individuals were punished because of what their ancestors did. There is a sense of corporate punishment, just described, and it is also true that the entire human race is a fallen race. We all deserve punishment for that fact alone, and God would be perfectly just to wipe us all out the next second. No one could hold it against Him.

He decides to be merciful and grant us grace to do better, but He is under no obligation to do so, anymore than the governor is obliged to pardon convicted criminals. Again, the societal analogy is perfectly apt. If someone rebels at every turn against every societal norm and law and appropriate behavior and so forth, is society to be blamed? Say someone grows up thinking that serial rape is fine and dandy and shouldn’t be prevented at all. So he goes and does this. Eventually, the legal system catches up with him and he gets his punishment. He rebelled against what most people think is wrong, and more than deserved his punishment.

We don’t say that there should be no punishment. We don’t blame society for his suffering in prison. We don’t deny that society has a right to judge such persons. So if mere human beings can judge each other, why cannot God judge His creation, and (particularly) those of His creation that have rebelled against Him at every turn? What is so incomprehensible about that? One may not believe it, but there is no radical incoherence or inconsistency or monstrous injustice or immorality in this Christian (and Jewish) viewpoint (which is what is always claimed by the critics).

Dawkins brings up the story of Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family, who lived in Sodom. He says that God regarded Lot as “uniquely righteous” (p. 239) and so spared him and his family from the destruction of the city, by warning. Two angels visited Lot (whom he may have thought were mere men), and the crowd outside his door wanted to rape them. Lot then offered his daughters to them instead (Gen 19:1-9). This is, admittedly, a difficult passage for anyone to read and interpret. The Cambridge Bible comments:

Lot’s proposal, so atrocious in our ears, may have been deemed meritorious in an Eastern country, where no sacrifice was considered too great to maintain inviolate the safety of a stranger who had been received in hospitality. That Lot should have thought of imperilling the honour of his family, and not have rather hazarded his own life, is due not so much to the weakness of the man as to the terribly low estimate of womanhood which prevailed at that time.

The New Testament refers to Lot as “righteous” (2 Pet 2:7-9), but that could still easily refer to a relative righteousness (i.e., compared to others in Sodom) and not a perfect righteousness (by God’s standards). The fact remains that he is not directly referred to as such in the original passage (though it’s arguably implied in Abraham’s intercession in Genesis 18), which is in contrast to the similar scenario regarding Noah (Gen 6:9: “a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God”) or with, for example, the afflicted Job (Job 1:8: “there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil”).

This is not unusual in Scripture. Men can be referred to as “righteous” who are not at all sinless. Thus, Abraham was called “righteous” (Gen 15:6), yet he lied about his wife being his sister, as Dawkins alludes to on pages 241-242 (see Gen 12:11-13; 20:2). King David is called “righteous” (1 Kings 3:6), but of course, he had a man killed  so he could have his wife, with whom he was committing adultery. “Blameless” Noah, famously, got drunk (Gen 9:21). As soon as a man sins at all, he is less than perfectly righteous, so it is a relative term, for all (Catholics believe) except Jesus and sinless Mary.

In any event, the Genesis text in no way implies that God favored his behavior as regards his daughters. After all, the angels prevented the gang rape from happening  (Gen 19:10-11), and Dawkins notes this as well: “the angels succeeded in repelling the marauders” (p. 240)

The same “non-sanction” applies to the horrendous story (Dawkins brings it up on pp. 240-241) of the Levite offering his daughter and a concubine (who died as a result) for gang rape (Judges 19), Christian apologist Glenn Miller comments on it:

This is one of the most abnormal passages in scripture. It is so filled with aberrations of ethics and law, and is specifically INTENDED to show how EVIL Israel had become during the period of the Judges! But even in this weird story, one can still see glimmers of a ‘better’ ethic from the Law. . . .

Now, there are a few important points from this of relevance to my thesis here:

  1. The violation of the concubine was NOT approved by Israel, EVEN UNDER the assumption of the potential murder of the priest (20.4-11). Indeed, it was called ‘vileness’. [20:3: “wickedness”]
  2. The obvious linkage of this story to that of Sodom is to HIGHLIGHT the exceptional character of this incident–it is NOT NORMAL for Israel.
  3. This horrible event was remembered for centuries as being a “low water mark” for Israel. (cf. Hosea 9.9: They have sunk deep into corruption, as in the days of Gibeah.)
  4. The questionable ethical character of the Old Man, and of the Levite, certainly doesn’t suggest the thought that they are representative of all Israel in this matter.

I have to conclude that the outrage of Israel actually supports a ‘higher view’ of female value, than the ‘lower view’ seemingly exemplified by the Old Man.

Judges 19:30 states: “And all who saw it said, ‘Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.’ ”

A third similar incident with a daughter was the notorious passage of Jephthah, who sacrificed his daughter by burning (Judges 11). Dawkins snarls after recounting it: “God did not see fit to intervene on this occasion” (p. 243). I wrote about the incident at length, and showed that there was no way that God approved of it in any way, shape, matter, or form. So why bring it up in an anti-God, anti-Christian (and anti-Jewish) book? If God can’t be blamed for it, all it shows is that one man committed an abominable sin (which was clearly a sin under Mosaic Law). Like that should surprise anyone?

On page 245, Dawkins rails against the slaughter of the Midianites. It’s another instance of God’s judgment. I have written about that, too. For much more about them, see Glenn Miller’s extensive article. Dawkins implies sexual slavery, because the virgin women were spared. Don Camp, in another excellent, in-depth article on the Midianites, addressed this:

As for taking sexual slaves, a charge that is a favorite among skeptics, everything in the law forbade mistreating captives of war and especially the women. Any captive woman, boy, or girl, would become servant/slaves (the word can mean either or both). But they had the same protections as an indentured servant who was a Jew – with the one exception, they would not be released from slavery after seven years.

If the man of the house or his son married a slave girl, she had even greater protection under the law than a wife married from among his people. She could not be divorced or sold. If she was mistreated, the man was held in serious violation of the law. There was no condoning of sex slavery; slavery was a serious issue for the Jews. They had been slaves and had been mistreated in Egypt. The laws God gave them were designed to prevent them from treating anyone as they had been treated.

Dawkins waxes indignant at the conquest of Jericho:

[T]he Bible story of Joshua’s destruction of Jericho, and the invasion of the Promised land in general, is morally indistinguishable from Hitler’s invasion of Poland, . . . The Bible . . . is not the sort of book you should give your children to form their morals. (p. 247)

In fact, Jericho was not an “innocent” place and was ripe for divine judgment. There is reason to believe that ritual child sacrifice was practiced there (and in other places in ancient Canaan). See scholarly articles that deem it likely or at least one possible interpretation of the evidence of some of the children’s bones and nature of their burial. Dawkins shows a repeated concern for the well-being of children (save for those scheduled to be murdered by abortion). Perhaps he should consider that this abominable practice (that he abhors elsewhere in his book) was ended when cities that practiced it were destroyed. The Bible is clear that child sacrifice is forbidden. Jesus even compared its practice to hell itself.

Dawkins (p. 248) brings up the story in Numbers 15 of a man who was gathering sticks on the Sabbath, and was consequently stoned. At first glance, it sounds terrible, and terribly unjust and evil, doesn’t it? Well, it does if it is given the cursory treatment that Dawkins gives it (only for the purpose of mocking the Bible and Christianity; ending up calling God an “evil monster”). It makes much more sense if it is studied in the depth that it deserves, as apologist Glenn Miller did. But that takes too much time and effort, and Dawkins would be threatening to actually be fair for a change. Dawkins has no time for any of that.

Jesus limited his in-group of the saved strictly to Jews, in which respect he was following the Old Testament tradition, . . . ‘Thou shalt not kill’ . . . meant, very specifically, thou shalt not kill Jews. . . . ‘Neighbour’ means fellow Jew. (p. 254)

I feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony. Where to begin?! This is an absurd, asinine, ignorant, completely false claim. Let’s see, for starters:

Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you . . . (cf. Jn 17:18)

Matthew 8:5-13 As he entered Caper’na-um, a [pagan Roman] centurion came forward to him, beseeching him [6] and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” [7] And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” [8] But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. [9] For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, `Go,’ and he goes, and to another, `Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, `Do this,’ and he does it.” [10] When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. [11] I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, [12] while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” [13] And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.

John 3:17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (cf. 9:5; 12:46)

The Old Testament tradition was by no means Jewish-only, either:

Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant [the Messiah, or Jesus], whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Isaiah 49:6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (cf. 52:10)

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you [the prophet Jeremiah] in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (“Neighbor”) explains:

Christ gives a wider interpretation of the commandment in Leviticus 19:18, so as to include in it those outside the tie of nation or kindred. This is definitely done in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), where, in answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus shows that the relationship is a moral, not a physical one, based not on kinship but on the opportunity and capacity for mutual help.

This flatly contradicts Dawkins’ claim (sadly a not uncommon occurrence); so does the related concept of “stranger” or “sojourner” (non-Jews who resided among the Jews). The following article on that topic in the  International Standard Bible Encyclopedia shows how very wrongheaded and out to sea Dawkins’ ignorant charges are:

I. The Ger.

This word with its kindred verb is applied with slightly varying meanings to anyone who resides in a country or a town of which he is not a full native land-owning citizen; e.g., the word is used of the patriarchs in Palestine, the Israelites in Egypt, the Levites dwelling among the Israelites (Deuteronomy 18:6Judges 17:7, etc.), the Ephraimite in Gibeah (Judges 19:16). It is also particularly used of free aliens residing among the Israelites, and it is with the position of such that this article deals. This position is absolutely unparalleled in early legal systems (A. H. Post, Grundriss der ethnologischen Jurisprudenz, I, 448, note 3), which are usually far from favorable to strangers.

1. Legal Provisions:

(1) Principles.

The dominant principles of the legislation are most succinctly given in two passages:

He “loveth the ger in giving him food and raiment” (Deuteronomy 10:18); “And if a ger sojourn with thee (variant “you”) in your land, ye shall not do him wrong. The ger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were gerim in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33). This treatment of the stranger is based partly on historic recollection, partly on the duty of the Israelite to his God. Because the ger would be at a natural disadvantage through his alienage, he becomes one of the favorites of a legislation that gives special protection to the weak and helpless.

(2) Rules.

In nationality the freeman followed his father, so that the son of a ger and an Israelitess was himself a ger (Leviticus 24:10-22). Special care was to be taken to do him no judicial wrong (Deuteronomy 1:1627:19). In what may roughly be called criminal law it was enacted that the same rules should apply to gerim as to natives (Leviticus 18:26, which is due to the conception that certain abominations defile a land; Leviticus 20:2, where the motive is also religious; Leviticus 24:10-22; see SBL, 84; Numbers 35:15). A free Israelite who became his slave was subject to redemption by a relative at any time on payment of the fair price (Leviticus 25:47). This passage and Deuteronomy 28:43 contemplate the possibility of a stranger’s becoming wealthy, but by far the greater number of the legal provisions regard him as probably poor. Thus provision is made for him to participate in tithes (Deuteronomy 14:2926:12), gleanings of various sorts and forgotten sheaves (Leviticus 19:1023:22Deuteronomy 24:19,20,21), and poor hired servants were not to be oppressed (Deuteronomy 24:14).

2. Relation to Sacrifice and Ritual:

Nearly all the main holy days apply to the ger. He was to rest on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:1023:12, etc.), to rejoice on Weeks and Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16), to observe the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29), to have no leaven on the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:19). But he could not keep the Passover unless he underwent circumcision (Exodus 12:48). He could not eat blood at any rate during the wilderness period (Leviticus 17:10-12), and for that period, but not thereafter, he was probihited from eating that which died of itself (Leviticus 17:15Deuteronomy 14:21) under pain of being unclean until the even. He could offer sacrifices (Leviticus 17:822:18Numbers 15:14), and was subject to the same rules as a native for unwitting sins (Numbers 15:22-31), and for purification for uncleanness by reason of contact with a dead body (Numbers 19:10-13).

3. Historical Circumstances:

The historical circumstances were such as to render the position of the resident alien important from the first. A “mixed multitude” went up with the Israelites from Egypt, and after the conquest we find Israelites and the races of Palestine living side by side throughout the country. We repeatedly read of resident aliens in the historical books, e.g. Uriah the Hittite. According to 2 Chronicles 2:17 f (Hebrew 16 f) there was a very large number of such in the days of Solomon, but the figure may be excessive. These seem to have been the remnant of the conquered tribes (1 Kings 9:20). Ezekiel in his vision assigned to gerim landed inheritance among the Israelites (47:22 f). Hospitality to the ger was of course a religious duty and the host would go to any lengths to protect his guest (Genesis 19Judges 19:24).

The article on “Gentiles” in the same work further elaborates:

Under Old Testament regulations they were simply non-Israelites, not from the stock of Abraham, but they were not hated or despised for that reason, and were to be treated almost on a plane of equality, except certain tribes in Canaan with regard to whom there were special regulations of non-intercourse. The Gentile stranger enjoyed the hospitality of the Israelite who was commanded to love him (Deuteronomy 10:19), to sympathize with him, “For ye know the heart of the stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9 the King James Version). The Kenites were treated almost as brethren, especially the children of Rechab (Judges 1:165:24Jeremiah 35). Uriah the Hittite was a trusted warrior of David (2 Samuel 11); Ittai the Gittite was captain of David’s guard (2 Samuel 18:2); Araunah the Jebusite was a respected resident of Jerusalem. The Gentiles had the right of asylum in the cities of refuge, the same as the Israelites (Numbers 35:15). They might even possess Israelite slaves (Leviticus 25:47), and a Gentile servant must not be defrauded of his wage (Deuteronomy 24:15). They could inherit in Israel even as late as the exile (Ezekiel 47:22,23). They were allowed to offer sacrifices in the temple at Jerusalem, as is distinctly affirmed by Josephus (BJ, II, xvii, 2- 4; Ant, XI, viii, 5; XIII, viii, 2; XVI, ii, 1; XVIII, v, 3; CAp, II, 5), and it is implied in the Levitical law (Leviticus 22:25). Prayers and sacrifices were to be offered for Gentile rulers (Jeremiah 29:7; Baruch 1:10,11; Ezra 6:10; 1 Macc 7:33; Josephus, BJ, II, x, 4). Gifts might be received from them (2 Macc 5:16; Josephus, Ant, XIII, iii, 4; XVI, vi, 4; BJ, V, xiii, 6; CAp, II, 5).

But Dawkins (having not troubled himself to learn facts like the above), digs in all the more:

Jesus was a devotee of the same in-group morality — coupled with out-group hostility — that was taken for granted in the Old Testament. . . . It was Paul who invented the idea of taking the Jewish God to the Gentiles. Hartung puts it more bluntly than I dare: ‘Jesus would have turned over in his grave if he had known that Paul would be taking his plan to the pigs.’ (p. 257)

The above data along these lines puts the lie to this nonsense. Even in the immediate New Testament / new covenant / dawn of Christianity environment of starting to preach the gospel to all the nations outside Israel, it was St. Peter who first specialized in that, not St. Paul. This is shown in Acts 10 in the story of Cornelius the centurion who went to Peter. Peter is said to have had a vision about all foods being clean (the relaxing of the traditional Jewish kosher laws: see 10:9-16). St. Peter states that “God shows no partiality, [35] but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (10:34-35). He preached, and the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles (10:44-45), even before they were baptized (10:47-48).

St. Paul had just converted to Christ, as described in Acts 9. He didn’t go on missionary journeys till the period described in Acts 13, and specifically referred to evangelizing Gentiles in 13:46-48. But Peter had said all of this already, and so had Jesus, and so had many passages in the Old Testament. It was nothing new whatsoever; just a new emphasis or further development of what was already there (which is usually the case with the New Testament in relation to the Old).

Once again, Dawkins flails away at the straw men of his own making. He does that throughout his whole book, as I have repeatedly shown in these four critiques. In a word, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about (hardly even has a clue), and doesn’t know that he doesn’t know. It’s sad and beyond pathetic that such an educated man (a scientist) — indeed, the most renowned atheist in the world — could exhibit so much disinformation and lack of comprehension of that which he professes to be intelligently critiquing.

***

Photo credit: photograph by George Redgrave (9-30-14) [Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 license]

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May 25, 2018

This is one of four critiques of the book, The God Delusion (New York / Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), by perhaps the world’s best-known (and most influential?) atheist, the biologist Richard Dawkins (born in 1941). His words will be in blue. Links to the four critiques follow:

Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion: General Critique

Richard Dawkins’ “Bible Whoppers” Are the “Delusion” 

Richard Dawkins: D- Grade for Science & Christianity

Richard Dawkins’ Outrageous Hypocrisy on Abortion

***

First let me mention a few things that Dawkins seems utterly unaware of, in a book purporting to be a serious critique of Christianity. He never mentions Alvin Plantinga, almost universally regarded as the greatest living Christian philosopher, and ignores his famous argument regarding God as a “properly basic belief.” He never mentions William Lane Craig, quite arguably the most able philosophical defender of theism (though not an orthodox Christian). He is unaware of philosopher Michael Polanyi (1891-1976) and his notion of tacit knowledge, or Cardinal Newman‘s “illative sense” and profound philosophy of religion, set out in his masterful volume, Grammar of Assent. In other words, there are massive theistic arguments (in my own opinion, the best ones) that he shows not the slightest awareness of.

He gives St. Thomas Aquinas and the cosmological and teleological arguments just a few pages, complete with breezy, condescending dismissals of a few words (e.g., “The five ‘proofs’ . . . are easily . . . exposed as vacuous”: p. 77): as if this is sufficient to take out such longstanding theistic philosophical arguments, still taken quite seriously (agree or no) by many many philosophers. To me, this shows that Dawkins was not attempting a serious (scholarly) book. He was much more interested in mere “populist” propaganda and merely preaching to the atheist choir; revving up the troops for the cause.

The usual (almost obligatory) atheist sweeping, prejudicial insults of Christians and religion generally also indicate the intellectually non-serious and sub-par nature of the project:

I am inclined to follow Robert M. Pirsig . . . when he said,’When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.’ (p. 5)

Of course, dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument . . . (p. 5)

[T]heology . . — unlike science or most other branches of human scholarship —  has not moved on in eighteen centuries. . . . there is no evidence to support theological opinions . . . (p. 34)

It is in the nature of faith that one is capable, like Jung, of holding a belief without adequate reason to do so . . . Atheists do not have faith . . . (p. 51)

[P]eople of a theological bent are often chronically incapable of distinguishing what is true from what they’d like to be true. (p. 108)

The theologians of my Cambridge encounter were defining themselves into an epistemological Safe Zone where rational argument could not reach them because they had declared by fiat that it could not. Who was I to say that rational argument was the only admissible kind of argument? (p. 154)

[W]e should blame religion itself, not religious extremism — as though that were some kind of terrible perversion of real, decent religion. . . . I do everything in my power to warn people against faith itself, not just against so-called ‘extremist’ faith. The teachings of ‘moderate’ religion, though not extremist in themselves, are an open invitation to extremism. . . . religious faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation . . . Christianity, just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioned faith is a virtue. You don’t have to make a case for what you believe. . . . how can there be a perversion of faith, if faith, lacking objective justification, doesn’t have any demonstrable standard to pervert? (p. 306)

Faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument. (p. 308)

[C]rass insensitivity to normal human feelings . . . comes all too easily to a mind hijacked by religious faith. (p. 315)

Accordingly, believing all this bilge, Dawkins subscribes to his colleague Nicholas Humphrey’s recommendation that Christian parents should have no right to bring up their children as Christian (yes, you read that right):

Parents . . . have no God-given licence to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist that they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith. (p. 326)

Credit where is is due: he does manage to smuggle in a few truthful and fair-minded bits:

I accept that it may not be so easy in practice to distinguish one kind of universe [with God or without] from the other. (p. 61)

For all sorts of reasons I dislike the Roman Catholic Church. But I dislike unfairness even more, and I can’t help wondering whether this one institution has been unfairly demonized over the issue [of sexual abuse]. (p. 316)

But the bulk of the book is, sadly, filled with digs and falsehoods. I continue:

[O]nly about one in twelve break away for their parents’ religious beliefs. (p. 102)

This is a favorite atheist polemical chestnut: “Christians are raised with this nonsense, so of course they accept it, and this is the main or sole reason they are Christians, not because of any particular thoughtfulness, or reasons.” But of course, this sort of “environmental” approach works both ways (or is a “two-edged sword”). The many nations of the world that are secularizing (especially in Europe) will predictably have a greater and greater effect on the proportion of atheists in any given country.

It’s not some mass revival or pure reason, with folks in those places hitting the libraries with a a vengeance and reading only the very best, most reasonable atheist and anti-theist material and becoming true atheist believers. If someone is raised in an atheist home, they will tend to become an atheist, just as the converse is true in Christian homes. Atheists are subject to the same familial influences and lack of reason and impartial study, and biased formal education (one way or the other) as anyone else. And if we are gonna go down this road of social influences, I would also dare to note the profound effect of absent or lousy fathers, in the case of many famous atheists.

Just to mention my own case: it’s clear that I have “bucked the trend” all through my life and didn’t simply follow some blind, predetermined path. I wrote recently in one of my comboxes:

I can tell you how I have changed in many major ways through the years. Here’s just a short list:

1. Pagan / practical atheist to evangelical Christian (1977). . . .

5. Evangelical Christian to Catholic (1990).

I changed twice from the religious view I was raised in (nominal Methodism): to evangelicalism and then to Catholicism. So the “childhood” theory doesn’t work with me.

I spent my years from age ten to 22 not going to church at all on Sunday, so I was obviously bucking the trend of my surroundings. And I can assure you [I was talking to an atheist from Norway] that being a strongly committed [orthodox] Catholic is not exactly the mainstream position in the US, either (or even in the Catholic Church!). This has always been a Protestant country, and now it is what I would call a “secularist-dominated” culture. I’m not with that trend at all.

I guess I’m one of Dawkins’ “one in twelve” then. He and other atheists will have to deal with my rational arguments, rather than my childhood background. That takes a lot more work, doesn’t it?

Dawkins tackles the miracle of the sun at Fatima, Portugal in 1917:

It is not easy to explain how seventy thousand people could share the same hallucination. (p. 91)

[T]he earth was suddenly yanked sideways in its orbit, and the solar system destroyed, with nobody outside Fatima noticing. (p. 92)

But of course neither quick, breezy dismissal necessarily applies at all. Whether something is a mass hallucination has to be proven, not merely asserted, and even Dawkins concedes that a true mass hallucination is difficult to explain. Atheists have been applying this pseudo-analysis to Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances for years, with no success.

The second scenario is not at all the only possible one, either. The miracle could simply consist of God changing the perception of the people there (an LSD trip, for example, does the same thing purely naturally); not literally making the sun do weird “unscientific” things. The same possible scenario would also apply to the famous miracle of the Bible, where Joshua “made the sun stand still” (Josh 10:12-13). First of all, the  Bible uses pre-scientific phenomenological language. We actually still do the same today, when we say “the sun came up” or “the sun went down at 6:36.” That’s not literal language, because we know that it is the earth’s rotation that makes it appear that way.

Joshua’s miracle was indeed a miracle, but it could still have been of a psychological nature, as opposed to an astronomical one. Or it could be something like, as one Protestant commentary put it: ” the light of the sun and moon was supernaturally prolonged by the same laws of refraction and reflection that ordinarily cause the sun to appear above the horizon, when it is in reality below it.” Atheists seem to always want to interpret the Bible (and in this case, a Marian-related apparition) hyper-literally, but they are often wrong, because they assume primitive ignorance, when in fact, there is a high degree of sophistication that is beyond the atheist’s willingness (not intellectual capacity) to even attempt to understand.

Dawkins waxes “superior” about miracles in general:

The nineteenth century is the last time when it was possible for an educated person to admit to believing in miracles like the virgin birth without embarrassment. When pressed, many educated Christians today are too loyal to deny the virgin birth and the resurrection. But it embarrasses them because their rational minds know it is absurd, so they would much rather not be asked. (p. 157)

This is pure poppycock. Atheism has never definitively proved that miracles cannot possibly occur. The classic anti-miracles argument from philosopher David Hume is, upon close inspection, actually remarkably weak (almost circular reasoning). Yet atheists always assume it is unanswerable. Indeed, any universal negative of this sort is virtually impossible to achieve. I would recommend the classic on the topic, C. S. Lewis’ book, Miracles, for those of sufficiently open mind and lack of “embarrassment” to peruse. I think anyone who reads that will grasp that the discussion is not at all as simple and conclusive as Dawkins makes out.

But this is stock atheist methodology: merely assume that all intelligent people have ceased believing something or other in Christian theology, which isn’t even factually true, let alone not being an argument or even logical (it’s the ad populum fallacy, in fact). For anyone interested, I have tackled the questions of the validity of miracles, at least three times [one / two / three]

Speaking of David Hume, Dawkins indirectly appeals to his supposed knock-down of the traditional teleological (design) theistic argument for God’s existence:

Before Darwin, philosophers such as Hume understood that the improbability of life did not mean it had to be designed . . . (p. 114)

Hume in fact did not understand this at all. There are many misconceptions about David Hume, including that he was an atheist. He was not: as I have documented. He was some form of deist. He not only did not completely destroy all forms of the teleological argument (perhaps one form of it at best); he himself accepted the argument in some sense, as a proof or strong insinuation of God’s existence:

The order of the universe proves an omnipotent mind. (Treatise, 633n)

Wherever I see order, I infer from experience that there, there hath been Design and Contrivance . . . the same principle obliges me to infer an infinitely perfect Architect from the Infinite Art and Contrivance which is displayed in the whole fabric of the universe. (Letters, 25-26)

The whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent author; and no rational enquirer can, after serious reflection, suspend his belief a moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism and Religion . . .

Were men led into the apprehension of invisible, intelligent power by a contemplation of the works of nature, they could never possibly entertain any conception but of one single being, who bestowed existence and order on this vast machine, and adjusted all its parts, according to one regular plan or connected system . . .

All things of the universe are evidently of a piece. Every thing is adjusted to every thing. One design prevails throughout the whole. And this uniformity leads the mind to acknowledge one author. (Natural History of Religion, 1757, ed. H. E. Root, London: 1956, 21, 26)

See many more details in my linked paper about Hume above. I discovered this tidbit of information, which is scarcely known by atheists as a whole, more than thirty years ago now, and I cite reputable Hume scholars to back it up (not to mention Hume’s own clear words).

Not to nitpick, but Dawkins blows a cited historical fact, when he refers to Luther’s saying, “Here I stand, I can do no other” and says that it was said “as he nailed his theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg” (p. 286). Interestingly, the late atheist Christopher Hitchens makes the same exact mistake (God is Not Great, 2007, p. 180). The nailing of the 95 Theses took place on 31 October 1517. The “Here I stand” utterance is reputed to have occurred at the Diet of Worms (on 18 April 1521). This was a conference in which Luther was asked by the Catholic authorities to recant his heretical opinions. He refused, and that was why he said “here I stand” etc. But I say “reputed” because the same Wikipedia article states: “there is no indication in the transcripts of the Diet or in eyewitness accounts that he ever said this, and most scholars now doubt these words were spoken.”

Dawkins ventures into some (to the experienced apologist) humorous “playbook / talking points” arguments against God that don’t hold any water at all, and would be laughed out of any sophomore philosophy classes dealing with the same topics. For example, he tries to go after God’s omnipotence:

[H]e can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent. (p. 78)

Nice try, but no cigar. This is reminiscent of the old, “can God make a rock so big that He can’t lift it?” silliness. Omnipotence is “the power to do all that is logically possible to do.” No one need take my word alone for that. The secular Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy discusses logical impossibility (even for an omnipotent being) at length in its article on omnipotence.

Dawkins sort of makes fun of Eastern Orthodox philosopher Richard Swinburne in this respect, acting as if he makes some momentous concession, when in fact this is a very well-known theist reply to the proposed “problem”:

Swinburne generously concedes that God cannot accomplish feats that are logically impossible, and one feels grateful for this forbearance. (p. 149)

I would suggest that Dawkins refrain from entering into hundreds-of-years-old philosophical disputes and matters of philosophy of religion where he hardly has a clue. “Don’t do this at home” (and he wants to talk about us being “embarrassed by believing in Christ’s Resurrection?). Dawkins makes a similar elementary mistake about God answering prayer:

. . . mindreading millions of humans simultaneously . . . talking to a million people simultaneously . . . dreadful exhibition of self-indulgent, thought-denying skyhookery. (p. 155)

He is simultaneously able to hear the thoughts of everybody else in the world. (p. 178)

This exhibits a breathtaking ignorance of orthodox Christian theology proper (theology of God), which holds that God is outside of time (atemporal) and indeed the creator of time as well as matter. Thus, He is not subject to time as we are, and the above scenarios are meaningless. The only “meaning” they have from an informed Christian perspective is that of a joke: Dawkins being ignorant when he is poking fun at Christians for supposedly being so ignorant and stupid, to believe such silly things (that we in fact don’t believe at all). The joke and the last laugh are on him (thanks for the chuckles, Richard). The great apologist C. S. Lewis spoke about this in a BBC radio talk during World War II (listen to it), which later became part of his classic, Mere Christianity:

His life doesn’t consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at 10:30 tonight, He hasn’t got to listen to them all in that little snippet we call ’10:30.’ . . . 10:30 and every other moment from the beginning to the end of the world is always the present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has infinity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames. That’s difficult I know. . . .

The point I want to drive home is that God has infinite attention, infinite measure to spare for each one of us. He doesn’t have to take us in the line. You’re as much alone with Him as if you were the only thing He ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually, just as much as if you had been the only man in the world.

Lastly, I’ll conclude with another rather silly, foolish, and philosophically hyper-naive “argument” that Dawkins repeats over and over, as if doing so gives a weak argument more strength:

There is a much more powerful argument, . . . The whole argument turns on the familiar question ‘Who made God?’ . . . God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us to escape. (p. 109)

[T]he designer himself (/herself/itself) immediately raises the bigger problem of his own origin. (p. 120)

[W]ho designed the designer? (p. 121)

As ever, the theist’s answer is deeply unsatisfying, because it leaves the existence of God unexplained. (p. 143)

[I]t will most certainly not be a designer who just popped into existence, or who always existed. . . . the designer himself must be the end product of some kind of cumulative escalator or crane, perhaps a version of Darwinism in another universe. (p. 156)

Dawkins’ answer is tunnel vision and circular reasoning. As I discussed in my previous article about Dawkins, science, and Christianity, he disallows anything but matter in the universe (monism). But of course he can’t prove that that position is true. It’s not unassailable at all. No problem for Dawkins: he simply assumes it and asserts it, sans rational argumentation. If someone follows his “methodology” then of course, God as construed in classical theism and Christianity is made impossible by definition.

But such tactics are not all that indistinguishable from what Dawkins disdained with great relish in his vigorous critique of the classic theistic ontological argument (pp. 80-84) — one of atheists’ very favorite “whipping boys” –, concluding: “isn’t it too good to be true that a grand truth about the cosmos should follow from a mere word game?” (p. 81). Dawkins doesn’t strictly play a word game in “dissing” an eternal, uncreated God, but he plays a quite similar “category game” and simplistic sleight-of-hand in two different ways:

1) There is nothing other than matter in the universe.

2) Ergo, God, being a proposed spirit, cannot exist.

 

This is hogwash for several reasons and plainly circular reasoning. The conclusion (#2) is already present in the premise (#1) and adds nothing new. That’s not argumentation. It’s mere repeated (dubious) assertion, and need not divert us any longer from serious discussion. But with a straight face, Dawkins turns around and makes a second “argument” that contradicts his first one:

A) All matter evolves.

B) Ergo, even if God did hypothetically exist as a physical being, he would have to be the end product of a very long chain of evolutionary development.

First Dawkins thunders that spirit is impossible, and thinks he disproves God thusly. Then he posits that even if God were physical (as folks like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe), he would merely be the product of much evolution, and as such, no solution to the problem of ultimate origins, since we have to explain his origin.

Neither argument flies for even a second. Monism can’t be proven, and one need not even be a monist in order to be an atheist. For instance, the distinguished Australian philosopher David Chalmers is what he calls a “natural dualist.” He argues (sort of like the microbiologist Michael Behe, but with completely different methodology) that natural laws and physics cannot explain the evolution of consciousness. Dawkins assumes that gradualistic evolution can do so, but of course never explains how it does it. He and many others simply believe it in blind faith.

Now, which of those two positions is intellectually more respectable? I say it is that of Chalmers, because he admits that he can’t explain something; nor can science, presently understood (which may always change in the future). But Dawkins believes it because it “must” be so and can’t be otherwise. I’ll take Chalmers, thank you (given that choice), because I intensely dislike blind faith and admire intellectual humility and the recognition of the limits of our knowledge, and not falling into the epistemological error of scientism. And I dislike the observable fact that atheists like Dawkins, who constantly accuse Christians of “blind faith” and anti-evidence instincts, fall into exactly the same error and mindset when it comes to ultimate origins.

Needless to say, in classical theism, God is not a physical being. He’s a spirit, and an eternal uncreated one. Physicists and astronomers tell us that there is no matter today that is demonstrably eternal (because present science holds that the universe began with the Big Bang and will end in a “heat death”). The law of entropy (the Second Law of Thermodynamics) also dictates this.

If the Christian / theist claimed that God is physical, Dawkins would have a strong and valid argument. But that isn’t our claim. If in fact God is a non-material Spirit, then He is not subject to the laws of matter and science at all. Therefore, He could in fact be eternal. It’s not proven, but it’s a live philosophical possibility that can’t be absolutely ruled out.

Christians then say that this hypothesis explains the universe in a more satisfying way than Matter Only: which requires that matter, starting with a chaotic Big Bang, organizes itself (via its internal inherent capabilities) through millions and billions of years into DNA, life, consciousness, and eventually human beings. No one has a clue how the first three things happened or could happen, but most atheists of Dawkins’ stripe appear quite content to simply believe in blind faith that it happened, because the alternative possibility is disallowed from the outset, and because (as Dawkins stated in his book in his logically circular bliss), were here now.

That’s not an argument at all, let alone a scientific argument. I would say that it requires far more faith than Christian belief in a self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient Eternal Spirit Who created the universe, which has been argued for in at least a score of philosophical arguments through the centuries. It’s not true that Dawkins has no blind faith, or no faith at all, as he claims. He believes things that he can’t prove (i.e., starting axioms) and that are no more provable or plausible than Christian claims at best; just like every other thinker who has ever lived.

But if he wants to seriously interact with Christian claims and attempt to refute them, it would be an immense improvement for him to at least learn what it is that we believe, and thus, exactly what it is that he claims to refute. Sun Tzu (prob. 5th century BC) sagely wrote in The Art of War:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

The “infinite regress god” business is laughable and not a serious argument, and it doesn’t even argue against the God that theists believe in, in faith, and propose in far more sophisticated philosophical terms. I suggest (in all seriousness) that Dawkins brush up on his Christian theology, logic (even the greatest minds can falter in logic at times), and perhaps even old Sun Tzu.

***

Photo credit: Richard Dawkins at the 34th American Atheists Conference in Minneapolis. Photo by Mike Cornwell (3-21-08) [Wikimedia Commons /  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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May 23, 2018

This is one of four critiques of the book, The God Delusion (New York / Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), by perhaps the world’s best-known (and most influential?) atheist, the biologist Richard Dawkins (born in 1941). His words will be in blue. Links to the four critiques follow:

Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion: General Critique

Richard Dawkins’ “Bible Whoppers” Are the “Delusion” 

Richard Dawkins: D- Grade for Science & Christianity

Richard Dawkins’ Outrageous Hypocrisy on Abortion

***

Before starting in on my critiques of this book with regard to its claims on science and Christianity, I’d like to point out some areas of agreement:

Either he exists or he doesn’t. It is a scientific question . . . (p. 48)

[T]he existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other . . . God’s existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice. (p. 50)

The presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question . . . (pp. 58-59)

[T]he God question is not in principle and forever outside the remit of science. (p. 71)

I agree that if materialistic / atheist scientists have disdain for religion and God and Christians and forbid them to “do science” with their religious beliefs intact (as they very often in fact do), that they should also refrain from condemning religion and entering into our domain and “field” from their materialistic perspective. Goose and gander. If we can’t talk about their area, they ought not talk about ours, either. What’s fair is fair.

I also agree that science — by definition — is restricted to empirical observation and matter.

And I say that there are many ways to discover and verify God’s existence besides scientific (e.g., philosophical, experiential, miracles, revelation, faith).

But I am thankful that Dawkins doesn’t remove God altogether from any connection to science whatsoever, as so many scientists do. Although, the further his book is explored, we see that this doesn’t amount to much tolerance on his part, in practice, at least he agrees in principle that God is potentially discoverable (or made plausible or whatever) through science.

I believe that the traditional cosmological and teleological arguments indeed strongly suggest (though I don’t think they technically “prove”) His existence. The former is easily tied into  Big Bang cosmology and the latter to questions of possible irreducible complexity and astronomical odds against — or extreme implausibility of – particular organs or systems having evolved step-by-step purely and solely through the laws that govern matter.

Along these lines, I think he observes truthfully:

[W]e on the science side must not be too dogmatically confident. Maybe there is something out there in nature that really does preclude, by its genuinely irreducible complexity, the smooth gradient of Mount Improbable. The creationists are right that, if genuinely irreducible complexity could be properly demonstrated, it would wreck Darwin’s theory. (pp. 124-125

He also tends to disbelieve the ultra-absurd and absolutely unverifiable, “unscientific” (by our present known scientific laws) notion of the “serial multiverse”:

The standard model of our universe says that time itself began in the big bang, along with space, some 13 billion years ago. The serial big crunch model would amend that statement: our time and space did indeed begin in our big bang, but this was just the latest in a long series of big bangs, each one initiated by the big crunch that terminated the previous universe in the series. . . .  

As it turns out, this serial version of the multiverse must now be judged less likely than it once was. because recent evidence is starting to steer us away from the big crunch model. It now looks as though our own universe is destined to expand for ever. (pp. 145-146)

Shortly after, he tempers his skepticism a bit, but at least this is something on which we agree. That said, let me now proceed to pick apart several statements that I think are dubious (to put it mildly).

On p. 13 he calls Albert Einstein an “atheistic scientist” and blithely assumes that he wold be on his “side” in comments on pages 13-19, stating:

The one thing all his theistic critics got right was that Einstein was not one of them. He was repeatedly indignant at the suggestion that he was a theist. (p. 18)

This is quite right. Einstein was a pantheist (“god is all”) or perhaps a panentheist (“god is in all”). That much is clear and indisputable. The problem is that Einstein also disavowed any connection to atheism, as well as to theism. I outlined Einstein’s religious views in a paper of mine over 15 years ago (prior to Dawkins’ book). Einstein also wrote (see the sources in my linked paper):

Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious. (1927)
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My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we can comprehend about the knowable world. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God. (1927)
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I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. (1930)
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Speaking of the spirit that informs modern scientific investigations, I am of the opinion that all the finer speculations in the realm of science spring from a deep religious feeling, and that without such feeling they would not be fruitful. (1930)
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All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. . . . It is no mere chance that our older universities developed from clerical schools. (1937)
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In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views. (c. 1941)
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Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is the same as that of the religious fanatics, and it springs from the same source . . . They are creatures who can’t hear the music of the spheres. (7 August 1941)
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Does there truly exist an insuperable contradiction between religion and science? Can religion be superseded by science? The answers to these questions have, for centuries, given rise to considerable dispute and, indeed, bitter fighting. Yet, in my own mind there can be no doubt that in both cases a dispassionate consideration can only lead to a negative answer.
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While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to whom we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge. (1948)
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You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being. (28 September 1949)
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I have found no better expression than ‘religious’ for confidence in the rational nature of reality, insofar as it is accessible to human reason. Whenever this feeling is absent, science degenerates into uninspired empiricism. (1 January 1951)
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I am also not a “Freethinker” in the usual sense of the word because I find that this is in the main an attitude nourished exclusively by an opposition against naive superstition. My feeling is insofar religious as I am imbued with the consciousness of the insufficiency of the human mind to understand deeply the harmony of the Universe which we try to formulate as “laws of nature.” It is this consciousness and humility I miss in the Freethinker mentality. (23 February 1954)
In a word, like all great and wise (and humble) thinkers, Einstein fully understood that he could not explain everything, and retained his wonder as regards the marvels of the universe. This is very much in line with Christian thinking, and strictly contrary to doctrinaire / crusading atheism, as he himself repeatedly noted. Bottom line: though not a theist, it seems fairly apparent that Einstein was closer in spirit to us — in terms of the relationship of religion to science — than to atheism. Thus, it is erroneous for Dawkins to claim and assume otherwise. He could have found all these citations, just as I did, but he chose only to selectively cite those that fit into his own thesis.
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Since I have mentioned Einstein, I’ll mention another scientist that he brings up, getting important things wrong about him. He calls microbiologist Michael Behe (of “irreducible complexity” and Darwin’s Black Box fame) a “creationist” on page 129. He’s not, and this is easily able to be discovered (if not already known), by ten minutes maximum spent on Google or the Amazon pages of Behe’s books. In the aforementioned book (written in 1996), Dr. Behe writes:
Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism. . . . For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it. . . . I think that evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world. Although Darwin’s mechanism — natural selection working on variation — might explain many things, however, I do not believe it explains molecular life. (p. 5)
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This is not to say that random mutation is a myth, or that Darwinism fails to explain anything (it explains microevolution very nicely) . . . (p. 22)
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I believe the evidence strongly supports common descent. But the root question remains unanswered: What has caused complex systems to form? No one has ever explained in detailed, scientific fashion how mutation and natural selection could build the complex, intricate structures discussed in this book.
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In fact, none of the papers published in JME [Journal of Molecular Evolution] over the entire course of its life as a journal has ever proposed a detailed model by which a complex biochemical system might have been produced in a gradual, step-by-step Darwinian fashion. . . .
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The very fact that none of these problems is even addressed, let alone resolved, is a very strong indication that Darwinism is an inadequate framework for understanding the origin of complex biochemical systems.
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. . . the papers are missing. Nothing remotely like this has bee published. (p. 176)
That is simply not “creationism.” Common decent is antithetical to any form of creationism (whether young-earth or old-earth). Behe’s view is a form of theistic evolution. Therefore, it’s both dishonest and flat-out stupid for Dawkins to describe him in that way. It’s a combination of the unworthy “poisoning the well” and “straw man” fallacious tactics.
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But Dawkins, in his wise and gracious magnanimity, precludes any possibility of that category of thinker (even though Darwin himself didn’t do so). For him, it’s either materialistic / atheistic Darwinian evolution (and gradualist at that) or nothing. No one can honestly, intelligently be a theistic evolutionist. Hence, he writes:
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I am continually astonished by those theists who . . . seem to rejoice in natural selection as ‘God’s way of achieving his creation’. (p. 118)
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Why? How can that be ruled out? Well, in effect, it “is” simply by scientists like Dawkins saying so; not by rational argument. But simply asserting one’s own dogmas is neither science nor philosophy. Charles Darwin wrote on 7 May 1879, less than three years before he died:
It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.— You are right about Kingsley. Asa Gray, the eminent botanist, is another case in point— What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one except myself.— But as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. Moreover whether a man deserves to be called a theist depends on the definition of the term: which is much too large a subject for a note. In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind. (Letter to John Fordyce, [complete] )
Darwin’s best friend and advocate / “bulldog”: the agnostic Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895), certainly didn’t forbid either God or theistic evolutionists from science. He wrote in his article, “Science and Morals” in 1886:
The student of nature, who starts from the axiom of the universality of the law of causation, cannot refuse to admit an eternal existence; if he admits the conservation of energy, he cannot deny the possibility of an eternal energy; if he admits the existence of immaterial phenomena in the form of consciousness, he must admit the possibility, at any rate, of an eternal series of such phenomena; and, if his studies have not been barren of the best fruit of the investigation of nature, he will have enough sense to see that when Spinoza says, ‘Per Deum intelligo ens absolute infinitum, hoc est substantiam constantem infinitis attributis,’ the God so conceived is one that only a very great fool would deny, even in his heart. Physical science is as little Atheistic as it is Materialistic.
One could go on and on with this sort of thing (for much more, see my book, Science and Christianity). The point is that, if Dawkins wants to invoke Darwin in hushed and semi-hagiographical tones, and pretend that his outlook requires a strict materialism and/or atheism, then he also has to take into consideration Darwin’s own stated views, and that of his closest friends, like Huxley and Gray. We can’t superimpose present atheism back onto them. Darwin and Huxley were both agnostics, and Darwin makes it clear that his revolutionary views developed (in 1859) when he was still a professed theist.
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While Dawkins is “astonished” by theistic evolutionists, he is not above citing them at times to suit his own purposes. Thus he mentions Dr. Kenneth Miller as “the most persuasive nemesis of ‘intelligent design’, not least because he is a devout Christian” (p. 131). Yes he is! And that means he is a theistic evolutionist. On the same page he recommends Dr. Miller’s 1999 book, Finding Darwin’s God. I have it in my library, along with Dr. Behe’s two books. Miller opposes Behe’s take on intelligent design, but in no way does he preclude God from evolution:
By any reasonable analysis, evolution does nothing to distance or to weaken the power of God. . . . A God who presides over an evolutionary process is not an impotent, passive observer. Rather, he is one whose genius fashioned a fruitful world in which the process of continuing creation is woven into the fabric of matter itself. (p. 243)
I have no problem with that at all. However God exercised His power to create (Behe’s way or Miller’s way), He is still intimately involved in the process. And that view is far — poles apart — from Dawkins’ position, which holds that absolutely everything is ultimately or potentially explainable (since there is no God) by natural processes. Dawkins seems to think Miller is on his side. He’s far more on my side.
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Behe and Miller (both Catholics) agree that God is necessary in the evolutionary process, and that this process (nor the earlier creation of the universe) could not have occurred without His involvement in some sense or way (exactly my own view, that I defend as an apologist, especially against atheists). The only difference is over the degree and nature of this theistic (and not deistic) divine participation and guidance. Miller makes God a bit more remote from the workings of scientific laws and processes, whereas Behe brings Him a bit closer. Both views are Christian and quite permissible in that worldview, and for that matter, easily harmonized with the related pre-scientific statements of the Bible. Dawkins states:

The design approach postulates a God who wrought a deliberate miracle, struck the prebiotic soup with divine fire and launched DNA, or something equivalent, on its momentous career. (p. 137)

Yeah, possibly that occurred, and maybe Behe would agree. Miller wouldn’t, and would say that God designed all of those potentialities and actualities from the outset, and let them run their course. Theists can have those discussions. Dawkins can’t, because his prior atheistic dogma dictates that God is impossible (and absurd). Obviously, then, it’s difficult to discuss His relation to evolutionary processes if He ain’t there in the first place. I find this dogmatic closed-mindedness to be contrary to both the scientific and philosophical enterprises.
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Give me an agnostic, a la Darwin and Huxley and Einstein, any day. They retain an open mind and a humility and thoughtful seriousness that Dawkins seems to not even be capable of conceiving. Dawkins is naive and foolish enough to think (in a very un-Einsteinian way) that science can essentially explain everything:
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Historically, religion aspired to explain our own existence and the nature of the universe in which we find ourselves. In this role it is now completely superseded by science . . . (p. 347)
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Alright. Let’s see, then, how Dawkins attempts to explain the origin of the universe and of life. Here’s a few samples:
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[T]he spontaneous arising by chance of the first hereditary molecule strikes many as improbable. Maybe it is — very very improbable, . . .  (p. 137)
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[T]he origin of the eucaryotic cell . . . was an even more momentous, difficult and statistically improbable step than the origin of life. The origin of consciousness might be another major gap whose bridging was of the same order of improbability. (p. 140)
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Natural selection works because it is a cumulative one-way street to improvement. It needs some luck to get started, and the ‘billions of planets’ anthropic principle grants it that luck. Maybe a few later gaps in the evolutionary story also need major infusions of luck, with anthropic justification. (p. 141)
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It follows from the fact of our existence that the laws of physics must be friendly enough to allow life to arise. (p. 141)
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We see here that Dawkins (especially in the final sentence above) ventures into radically circular logical territory (meaning, he has already assumed what he is trying to prove and that his “conclusion” was already present in his premise):
1) Alas, life (including us) is here.
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2) Only physical laws can account for life (no God can possibly explain it, since there is no God).
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3) Therefore, the laws of physics must have done so.
This is hardly compelling: logically or any other way. Dawkins has asserted dogma. He needs to prove it, according to the usual scientific demonstration. This is materialistic [blind] faith and belief in unproven axioms, that I have endlessly critiqued and lampooned in my apologetics for over 35 years now. Dawkins had repeatedly decried “chance” in the book and denied that natural selection entailed it. Yet when he has nothing better to offer, he readily “worships” the god of “luck” in order to shore up his bankrupt worldview, as to how things ultimately got here. How is Dawkins’ “luck” any intellectually superior to Behe’s intelligent design and irreducible complexity? We’re not impressed.
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Referring to the origin of life on earth (“possibly only one planet in the entire universe”), he says that “We now understand essentially how the trick was done” (pp. 366-367). It’s all explained by natural selection, you see. We understand no such thing, which is presumably why Dawkins never blesses us with the scientific explanation. He merely asserts yet again (atheists have become very good at that: so often thinking they need not explain anything). He (with a straight face) proclaims the glories of his god Darwin, and Darwin’s prophet and bearer of good tidings, natural selection, and concludes on his last page (order inverted below):
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[W]e considered the improbability of the origin of life and how even a near-impossible chemical event must come to pass given enough planet years to play with . . . (p. 374)
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[I]n the vastness of astronomical space, or geological time, events that seem impossible . . . turn out to be inevitable. (p. 374)
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Really? This doesn’t follow at all, but has become atheist unquestioned Dogma. I mercilessly satirized the atheists’ religion of “atomism” years ago, in by far my most controversial paper in atheists’ eyes. It raised such a firestorm of protest that I had to write a follow-up explaining the satire: the nature of which  virtually no atheist could even comprehend, being very unfamiliar with being on the receiving end of sarcastic humor that they dish out to us all the time. Here is what Dawkins’ unbridled faith in matter truly amounts to, satirically (but accurately!) expressed:

Matter essentially “becomes god” in the atheist / materialist view; it has the inherent ability to do everything by itself: a power that Christians believe God caused, by putting these potentialities and actual characteristics into matter and natural laws, as their ultimate Creator and ongoing Preserver and Sustainer.

The atheist places extraordinary faith in matter – arguably far more faith than we place in God, because it is much more difficult to explain everything that god-matter does by science alone.

Indeed, this is a faith of the utmost non-rational, childlike kind. . . .

The polytheistic materialist . . . thinks that trillions of his atom-gods and their distant relatives, the cell-gods, can make absolutely everything in the universe occur, by their own power, possessed eternally either in full or (who knows how?) in inevitably unfolding potentiality.

One might call this (to coin a phrase) Atomism (“belief that the atom is God”). Trillions of omnipotent, omniscient atoms can do absolutely everything that the Christian God can do, and for little or no reason that anyone can understand (i.e., why and how the atom-god came to possess such powers in the first place). . . .

Oh, and we mustn’t forget the time-goddess. She is often invoked in worshipful, reverential, awe-inspiring terms as the be-all, end-all explanation for things inexplicable, as if by magic her very incantation rises to an explanatory level . . . The time-goddess is the highest in the ranks of the Atomist’s wonderfully varied hierarchy of gods (sort of the “Zeus” of Atomism). One might call this belief Temporalism.

Atomism is a strong, fortress-like faith. It is often said that it “must be” what it is. . . .
Some Atomist utterances even have the “ring” of Scriptures; for example, urgings of an appropriate humility regarding man’s opinion of his own importance, because the universe is so large, and we are so small, as if, somehow, largeness itself is some sort of inherently God-like quality. . . .

All of this desperate “pseudo-explanation” of the universe comes about because Dawkins disallows anything but matter to exist in the universe (the position of monism, as opposed to dualism). Listen to his viciously circular and hyper-silly utterances, made with a blind faith that is admirable at least in its “heroically” hopeless defiance of reason and reality alike:
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[T]here is nothing beyond the natural, physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence . . . no soul . . . If there is something that appears to lie beyond the natural world as it is now imperfectly understood, we hope to eventually understand it and embrace it within the natural. (p. 14)
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[A]ny creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution. Creative intelligences, being evolved, necessarily arrive late in the universe, and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it. God, in the sense defined, is a delusion . . . (p. 31; italics in original)
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[T]he Darwinian is challenged to explain the source of all the information in living matter . . . Darwinian natural selection is the only known solution to the otherwise unanswerable riddle of where the information comes from. (pp. 113-114)
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I confess that I am an utter loss to reply to such fathomless inanities as this, so I will again cite my “Atomism” paper and conclude:
The Atomist – ever-inventive and childlike – manages to believe any number of things, in faith, without the unnecessary addition of mere explanation.

“Why” questions in the context of Atomism are senseless, because they can’t overcome the Impenetrable Fortress of blind faith that the Atomist possesses. The question, “Why do the atom-gods and cell-gods and the time-goddess exist and possess the extraordinary powers that they do?” is meaningless and ought not be put forth. It’s bad form, and impolite. We know how sensitive overly religious folk are.

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Photo credit: American biologist and [Catholic] theistic evolutionist Kenneth R. Miller (b. 1948), photographed on 1-10-06 [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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May 21, 2018

This is one of four critiques of the book, The God Delusion (New York / Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), by perhaps the world’s best-known (and most influential?) atheist, the biologist Richard Dawkins (born in 1941). His words will be in blue. Links to the four critiques follow:

Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion: General Critique 

Richard Dawkins’ “Bible Whoppers” Are the “Delusion”

Richard Dawkins: D- Grade for Science & Christianity

Richard Dawkins’ Outrageous Hypocrisy on Abortion

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Richard Dawkins informs us how compassionate secular (including atheist) liberals are. They are “nice liberal people” who “cannot bear suffering and cruelty” (p. 328 in the hardcover edition, as throughout). Because of this compassion, Dawkins is “scandalized” by “victim[s]” of traditional “ritual sacrifice” of human beings (p. 327). He approvingly cites psychologist Nicholas Humphrey, decrying this type of “act of ritual murder: the murder of a dependent child by a group of stupid, puffed up, superstitious, ignorant old men” (Humphrey’s words: pp. 327-328). Dawkins waxes indignant over this outrage:

Again, the decent liberal reader may feel a twinge of unease. Immoral by our standards, certainly, and stupid, . . . 

The Inca priests cannot be blamed for their ignorance . . . But they can be blamed for foisting their own beliefs on a child . . . (p. 328)

Dawkins provides for us a mini atheist manifesto on the preciousness of life: “luck” being the atheist equivalent of “blessing” and/or perhaps also “grace”. It would be genuinely moving if we could only forget the multiple millions that he doesn’t include in it:

In Unweaving the Rainbow I tried to convey how lucky we are to be alive, given that the vast majority of people who could potentially be thrown up by the combinatorial lottery of DNA will in fact never be born. . . . 

We are staggeringly lucky to find ourselves in the spotlight. However brief our time in the sun, if we waste a second of it, or complain that it is dull or barren or (like a child) boring, couldn’t this be seen as a callous insult to those unborn trillions who will never even be offered life in the first place? . . . the knowledge that we have only one life should make it all the more precious. The atheist view is correspondingly life-affirming and life-enhancing . . . (p. 361)

Alas, Dawkins seems to be blissfully unaware of the fatal and, to my mind, hyper-cruel and evil diabolical logic inherently involved in such reasoning. The pro-abortion atheist is in favor of the deliberate, legally sanctioned depriving of this “precious” life of preborn children scheduled  to be aborted, despite the fact that it is the only life he or she will ever have. There is, of course, no afterlife in the atheist view, and no soul.

Thus, this pitiful creature attempting to emerge from the womb to see the light of day is prevented from the outset from possessing what Dawkins sincerely cherishes as “staggeringly lucky”; that is, this “only one life”: a “precious” life that we all are privileged to have. Is this not a chilling expression of the wickedness of the pro-abortion / anti-life mindset; the culture of death?

Dawkins, in his wisdom and charity, even freely concedes that “Human embryos are examples of human life. Therefore, by absolutist religious lights, abortion is simply wrong: full-fledged murder” (p. 291). Yes it is, but, try as I may, I fail to see why such a view should or would be confined merely to religious folks (by the “internal atheist” reasoning I provided in the preceding paragraph).

Did not Dawkins inform us in the excerpt above that life is so eminently “precious”? Here he includes preborn “human life” in the same category. Thus, logically, this class of “humans” are (or ought) to be included in the class of those in possession of this same human life; who are “staggeringly lucky” etc.

He trapped himself with his own words, by daring to call the preborn child “human.” This is similar to the cognitive dissonance and ludicrous Orwellian self-delusion of the pro-abortion expectant mother, who calls her preborn child (i.e., one she chooses to “want”) a (or “my”) “baby”. Then when she doesn’t want to carry a conceived child to term, she will refuse to call it a “baby.”

Dawkins also (rightly but hypocritically) waxes indignant — twenty pages earlier — over the demotion of various classes of people to sub-human status:

One reason black people and women and, in Nazi Germany, Jews and gypsies have been treated badly is that they were not perceived as fully human. (p. 271)

The “progressive” trend against this sort of outrage and in favor of “a common humanity” was, so Dawkins informs us, derived from “deeply unbiblical ideas that come from biological science, especially evolution” (p. 271). Okay. Materialistic evolution (which forbids God to play any role in it at all, according to Dawkins and atheists generally) fosters respect for life and commonness among all humankind. Wonderful! Ah, but wait! Dawkins utterly contradicts all of this touchy-feely, warm fuzzy Kumbaya love for one and all in the following proclamation:

The granting of uniquely special rights to cells of the species Homo sapiens is hard to reconcile with the fact of evolution. . . .

The evolutionary point is very simple. The humanness of an embryo’s cells cannot confer upon it any absolutely discontinuous moral status. . . . 

[E]volutionary continuity shows that there is no absolute distinction. Absolutist moral discrimination is devastatingly undermined by the fact of evolution. (pp. 300-301)

This grotesque” “scientism” mentality then leads to the evil justifying of abortion, and for that matter, to the ritual human sacrifice of born children by the Incas, Aztecs, and many other cultures (though Dawkins seems utterly unaware of that logical consequence of his stated position). Indeed, the Nazis thought it quite justified all that they did, too. They proclaimed themselves (accurately or not) to be social Darwinists all through the Holocaust.

Despite all of these massive self-contradictions and vicious logical circularities, Dawkins bravely weathers on. He protests:

What kind of ethical philosophy is it that condemns every child, even before it is born, to inherit the sin of a remote ancestor? (p. 251)

First of all, he ought to get it right, when venturing into Christian theology. Christians believe that the Fall of Man was a collective one: a rebellion from mankind as a whole; not merely Adam and Eve, whose rebellion is then “attributed” to innocents evermore. This notion is derived from passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:22: “. . . in Adam all die” (RSV). I wrote in my paper, Biblical Evidence for Original Sin:

In Adam,” not “because” of Adam’s original sin, which gave us a propensity, . . . The Fall is that of the entire human race; we are all in the same boat. 

Moreover, this supposed rank injustice and unfairness (that many atheists love to ignorantly carp on and on about) is utterly removed through baptism (via baptismal regeneration), according to Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and many major branches of Protestantism, such as Anglicanism, Methodism, and Lutheranism. My mentor, Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J., one of America’s leading catechists in the 20th century, describes the effects of “baptismal graces” in his Modern Catholic Dictionary:

The supernatural effects of the sacrament of baptism. They are: 1. removal of all guilt of sin, original and personal; 2. removal of all punishment due to sin, temporal and eternal; 3. infusion of sanctifying grace along with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit; 4. incorporation into Christ; and 5, entrance into the Mystical Body, which is the Catholic Church; 6. imprinting of the baptismal character, which enables a person to receive the other sacraments, to participate in the priesthood of Christ through the sacred liturgy, and to grow in the likeness of Christ through personal sanctification. Baptism does not remove two effects of original sin, namely concupiscence and bodily mortality. However, it does enable a Christian to be sanctified by his struggle with concupiscence and gives him the title to rising in a glorified body on the last day.

That’s a lot of things! But note especially #1 (bolded portion). Obviously, we understand that atheists don’t believe any of this. But that’s irrelevant if the topic is the alleged injustice of the Christian doctrine of original sin (which is what Dawkins was commenting upon above). Now they are in our realm, talking about our beliefs, not their own. And once they enter into that arena, they are responsible for not distorting beyond recognition what we teach. That’s unethical, and sloppy, crappy scholarship (in some cases, what can only be described as deliberately dishonest “research”). Dawkins simply appears — like multitudes of atheists when it comes to biblical theology — woefully ignorant and misinformed.

Dawkins thunders on the same page 251: “They and all their descendants were banished forever from the Garden of Eden, deprived of the gift of eternal life . . .” Of course this isn’t true. The baptism of infants drastically changes that, and then the way of salvation through the cross of Christ is open to any person who will accept this free grace of God, to heaven and eternal life. Just because atheists and others reject this free grace and the salvation and eternal life that comes through it, is no reason to blame Christianity and God, as if it’s all gloom and doom and hopeless misery, under the wascally wascal arbitrary “tyrant-god” that exists solely in the fanciful and endlessly inventive atheist imagination. 

Sorry for the slight digression, but I think we can see that this extreme aversion to original sin (on fallacious grounds) is all the more clueless and out to sea, once we realize what Dawkins believes about the heartless killing of innocent young children: by the hundreds of millions. I paraphrase his own words above, in order to highlight the hypocrisy:

What kind of ethical philosophy is it that condemns every innocent, helpless preborn child whose mother doesn’t want him or her, even before he or she is born, to be the victims of the sin of his or her parents and the abortionist who mercilessly tortures [in most cases, felt] and murders him or her (for profit), and deprives this poor child of the only life he or she will ever have (according to atheist worldview): no afterlife; no life on earth, period?

Which of these two scenarios is more ethical: original sin rightly understood, and the solution to it in Christian theology, or abortion as fully and logically thought through, according to atheist presuppositions about ethics and [nonexistence of] souls and heaven, and murder?

Dawkins goes back and forth throughout the book, seeming to be (at least fleetingly) against cruelty and murder of children here, and utterly indifferent to it there. When he is condemning the biblical and ancient Hebrew accounts from the Old Testament, of course he is all for children not being killed. Sometimes they lose their lives as members of cultures which are being judged by God (which is a long, complex discussion itself, but a perfectly valid one).

Be that as it may, Dawkins condemns these instances of divine wrath and judgment: incensed that Moses “gave orders that all the boy children should be killed” (p. 245) in the case of the Midianites, and commanded the Jews to “utterly destroy” various cultures inhabiting ancient Canaan (see p. 248). This is part of the standard, stock atheist repertoire of endlessly parroted objections to the Bible and to “God” (not the real one, but their gutted / invented version of Him).

It’s very curious and inexplicable, however, that in a volume often given over to documenting various “objectionable” stories from the Old Testament, Dawkins omits — for some reason known only to him — the many vociferous condemnations of child sacrifice in the Bible:

Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 20:2-3 Say to the people of Israel, Any man of the people of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, who gives any of his children to Molech shall be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. I myself will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, defiling my sanctuary and profaning my holy name.

Deuteronomy 12:31 . . . every abominable thing which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

2 Kings 16:2-3 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

2 Kings 17:17-18 And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings, and used divination and sorcery, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah only.

2 Kings 23:10 And he defiled To’pheth, which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech.

2 Chronicles 28:3 and he burned incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burned his sons as an offering, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

2 Chronicles 33:6 And he burned his sons as an offering in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and practiced soothsaying and augury and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.

Psalm 106:36-39 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the harlot in their doings.

Jeremiah 7:31-32 And they have built the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere.

Jeremiah 19:5 and have built the high places of Ba’al to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Ba’al, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind;

Jeremiah 32:35 They built the high places of Ba’al in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Ezekiel 16:20-21 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them?

Ezekiel 16:36 Thus says the Lord GOD, Because your shame was laid bare and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotries with your lovers, and because of all your idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them,

Ezekiel 20:21 When you offer your gifts and sacrifice your sons by fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. . . .

Ezekiel 20:31 When you offer your gifts and sacrifice your sons by fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, says the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.

Ezekiel 23:37-39 For they have committed adultery, and blood is upon their hands; with their idols they have committed adultery; and they have even offered up to them for food the sons whom they had borne to me. Moreover this they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary on the same day and profaned my sabbaths. For when they had slaughtered their children insacrifice to their idols, on the same day they came into my sanctuary to profane it. And lo, this is what they did in my house.

Wisdom 12:3-6 Those who dwelt of old in thy holy land thou didst hate for their detestable practices, their works of sorcery and unholy rites, their merciless slaughter of children, and their sacrificial feasting on human flesh and blood. These initiates from the midst of a heathen cult, these parents who murder helpless lives, thou didst will to destroy by the hands of our fathers,

See much more about the numerous biblical prohibitions of abortion.

That’s an awful lot of biblical data to be ignorant of, or to deliberately pass over, ain’t it? Moreover, Jesus even compared hell to the child sacrifices that occurred in the valley of Hinnom (aka Gehenna) in Jerusalem (I almost was able to walk through it when I visited in 2014). The New Testament word for eternal hell is Gehenna. Thus, we know that Jesus had in mind what took place in this valley, as a metaphor for hell. In other words, child sacrifice (morally equivalent to abortion) is, in the mind of Jesus, a good description of hell (as I have written about).

At length, we are blessed with Dawkins’ final judgment on this sordid matter of abortion, with its unsavory nature involving profound suffering, that even Dawkins (safely away from its oceans of blood and guts and severed or savagely burned or ripped-apart heads and limbs) is forced to confront and admit as a not-so-nice thing, after all. In his section, “Faith and the Sanctity of Human Life” he opines:

Does the embryo suffer? (Presumably not if it is aborted before it has a nervous system; and even if it is old enough to have a nervous system it surely suffers less than, say, an adult cow in a slaughterhouse.) (p. 293)

And if late-aborted embryos with nervous systems suffer — though all suffering is deplorable — it is not because they are human that they suffer. There is no general reason to suppose that human embryos at any age suffer more than cow or sheep embryos at the same developmental stage. And there  is every reason to suppose that all embryos, whether human or not, suffer far less than adult cows or sheep in a slaughterhouse, especially a ritual slaughterhouse where, for religious reasons, they must be fully conscious when their throats are ceremonially cut. (p. 297)

Well, that settles it and makes us all feel so much better! He would go on to inform his readers three pages later thatThe humanness of an embryo’s cells cannot confer upon it any absolutely discontinuous moral status.” Right. That comes through loud and clear in Dawkins’ ghastly, emotionally flat, compassion-challenged, and Nazi-like comparisons of the suffering of preborn children to that of cows and sheep in slaughterhouses and “cow or sheep embryos at the same developmental stage.” That makes it all so understandable and justified, doesn’t it? We feel warm all over to be informed of these things.

All of these pitiable creatures being led to slaughter are on the same moral plane, you see. Human babies thus have no moral status that is superior to that of any other creature: be it a sheep, cow, or for that matter, a snail darter or a worm or a tree, or the last mosquito that you swatted. We’re all one big happy family, in the [materialistic] evolutionary community [minus God, of course] of all living things.

So, no big deal. If these babies have to be tortured and murdered (usually due to others’ sin and irresponsibility), we can take solace in the fact that it is no worse than similar experiences of the baby’s cow or sheep brethren. Since we don’t (at least not yet!) talk of murdering sheep; likewise we cannot refer to the murdering of children, who have no inherent, unique value or preciousness among all other beasts (or else their destruction would be forbidden).

It’s all wrapped up in a pretty bow (either blue or pink). This is the wonderful caring world we now inhabit: the secular / atheist Utopia, where one and all are loved and cherished, except for the smallest, most innocent and helpless among us: children in their mothers’ wombs:  exponentially far and away the most dangerous place for any human being to ever be.

***

Photo credit: Richard Dawkins, photographed in March 2005 by Christopher G. Street [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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March 20, 2008

+ Galileo Redux
Dawkins2
British atheist biologist Richard Dawkins (b. 1941) at the 35th American Atheists Convention (4-10-09). Photo by Marty Stone [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license]

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(3-20-08)

***

A Catholic commented in a thread devoted to a post of mine regarding Galileo:

I think the Church would not get into these types of situations or be the cause for such questions if she would stick to religion and religious topics and leave science to scientists.

I replied:

But you neglect to see that Galileo was being overly dogmatic and intruding into the theological realm. This is not simply a matter of the “Church” making a dumb mistake and overstepping its bounds. The “Church” (i.e., the magisterium) never spoke on the matter one way or the other (see the lengthy quotation in my post referred to above, from The Catholic Encyclopedia). Certain members of the Church held erroneous cosmological views. But so did Galileo in some respects too. Big wow. Folks made errors. No big deal. As I wrote in my treatment of the Galileo issue, in my book, The One-Minute Apologist:

But the scientist (though basically correct) was overconfident and quite obstinate in proclaiming his scientific theory as absolute truth, and this was a major concern. Accordingly, St. Robert Bellarmine, who was directly involved in the controversy, made it clear that heliocentrism was not irreversibly condemned, and also that a not-yet proven theory was not an unassailable fact. Bellarmine actually had the superior understanding of the nature of a scientific hypothesis. Galileo was scientifically fallible, too. He held that the entire universe revolved around the sun in circular (not elliptical) orbits, and that tides were caused by the rotation of the earth. True heliocentrism wasn’t conclusively proven until some 200 years later.

As in all my apologetics, and especially when about these “notorious” instances of Catholic error, I want the “whole story” to be known and understood, not just one-sided propaganda that seeks to discredit the Church first and foremost and ignores all of the relevant information.

We get the added bonus that the whole, real truth is invariably far more interesting than the self-interested, self-promoting myths and legends that are too often bandied about by academics and so-called “intelligentsia” (in this case, in the name of “science”).

If anyone is overstepping the largely legitimate methodological boundaries of science and religion today, it is the subgroup of atheist, materialist scientists: folks like Richard Dawkins, who insist on stepping outside of their area of expertise and proclaiming dogmatically that there is no God. Dawkins as a scientist cannot say that, because science deals with matter (and God is Spirit, and the supernatural is outside the realm of science per se).

But he won’t shut up about it because it makes him feel important and smarter-than-thou and sells lots of books and makes lots of $$$$$. He won’t say (at least not very often, or loudly) that as a scientist he has no prerogative to speak about it, and that when he does so, he is doing it merely as a non-expert amateur philosopher: scarcely more qualified than you or I. That would be too honest and real and counter-productive.

So these guys transgress the boundaries all the time, and it’s fine, but let a Catholic scientist like Michael Behe dare to say only that not all things can be explained by conventional evolution, and the sky falls down. That is bringing religion into science, and flat earth creationism and “Bible science,” blah blah blah.

The double standard is wider than the Grand Canyon.

* * * * *

I refuse (as an apologist and enthusiastic student of the history of ideas) to let a complex issue like the Galileo affair be reduced to secular-inspired slogans. We owe much more than that to our Catholic forefathers who weren’t nearly as “dumb” as they are so often made out to be.

As I see it, I am simply collecting all the relevant facts and presenting them, so that readers can have a more accurate picture of what actually happened. Like most people, I was spoon-fed the secular line that made out that the Church was this troglodyte, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, know-nothing monster and Galileo and his cohorts were all open-minded, enlightened truth machines, persecuted as such by the reactionary Church.

The truth is far more complex than that, as I think I have shown in the few words that I devoted to the issue in my latest book, and in some longer papers. For one thing, Galileo remained an orthodox Catholic, and he was guilty of now-known scientific errors, too. St. Robert Bellarmine (no intellectual slouch) actually had a more accurate notion of scientific hypotheses and theories than Galileo did (by today’s definitions and criteria). And that ain’t just me saying that. As usual, I back myself up with the relevant sources (as much as possible, from non-Catholics). In this instance, it was well-known philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn:

Most of Galileo’s opponents behaved more rationally. Like Bellarmine, they agreed that the phenomena were in the sky but denied that they proved Galileo’s contentions. In this, of course, they were quite right. Though the telescope argued much, it proved nothing.
(The Copernican Revolution, New York: Random House / Vintage Books, 1957, p. 226)

Kuhn, in this same book, even defends, at length, the contributions and brilliance of the lifelong geocentrist Tycho Brahe (describing him as “the preeminent astronomical authority” of the second half of the 16th century, who had “immense prestige”), as I documented in a paper of mine.

Truth is stranger (and far more interesting) than fiction. It’s not the case that the Catholics were (to use the caricatures and stereotypes constantly utilized by materialist scientists and other like-minded secularist academics) the anti-science dummies who were all geocentrists, and refused to look through Galileo’s telescope, while the scientists were (to a person) the ultra-smart, forward-looking, inquisitive folks (gee, kinda like scientists today!), who were never geocentrists, and who would never, ever believe something as “unscientific” as astrology.

WRONG on all counts. One must look at individuals, and in the context of their time, and have some understanding of the intellectual milieu as well and a sense of the development of both science and theology over time. Kuhn understands this. The ones who truly study the matter on both “sides” with an open mind do, as a general rule.

What happened, happened. The Church is on record as having apologized for the errors that some high-ranking Catholics made, through Pope John Paul II and others. They had nothing whatever to do with infallibility. They were simple human errors, of a sort that many scientists and philosophers also made. I noted in my book chapter on Galileo that the Lutheran philosopher Leibniz: one of the most brilliant minds of all time, fought against Newton’s theory of gravitation.

No one is denying that such errors occurred (last of all, me). But the fuller picture should also be discussed because of how the incident is used and exploited by secularists and non-Catholic Christian opponents of the Catholic Church.

My methodology is always the same regarding all these “scandals” in Catholic history: whether it be the Inquisition or the Crusades or the current sexual scandal. I don’t deny the real wrongs and errors at all, but I put them in proper perspective and refuse to accept the nonsense that always makes the Catholic Church the Big Bad Boogeyman and ignores similar scandals in non-Catholic circles. I will not bow to intellectual double standards, ever.

Atheist scientists want to go back to the early 17th century and even then have to distort what happened and only present one side of it, when there are plenty of far more scandalous “skeletons” in their own closet (that we rarely hear about), and more recently, at that. We need only go back less than two hundred years to find stuff like phrenology, where the shape of a person’s skull was thought (by mainstream science) to have a direct relationship to their intelligence. The science of, say, 1900, was shot through with racism: hardly a proud chapter in scientific history.

But Christians of two, three generations earlier, like William Wilberforce and the abolitionists were far more “progressive” on the race issue. Christians (not “progressive” scientists) are always on the cutting edge of societal progress, whether we look at slavery, or civil rights, or the fall of Soviet Communism (Pope John Paul II and Christians in Eastern Europe, and another “dumb guy”: Ronald Reagan).

I have shown how Galileo himself and other scientists of his time like Kepler, were neck-deep in astrology.

Eugenics is another sad chapter in scientific history. We saw what the Nazis did with that. In America, we had sterilization of black men and suchlike. Remember, Germany was one of the most scientifically advanced societies then and now. But this was supposedly “good science”. Margaret Sanger picked it up and institutionalized her racism in her group, Planned Parenthood, and indeed, this played the key role in promulgation of the immorality of contraception and later, of abortion itself. That’s why the best Christian apologists of the period, like Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, wrote about these kinds of follies that were rampant within science. Lewis often satirized the tunnel vision materialist scientist of his time. Chesterton went after eugenics; both of them lambasted contraception, etc.

Many Protestant and Catholic Christians accept the typical secular line about Galileo. They may be persuaded by the secular intellectuals to think that the Catholics of former times were dumb, just as many academics think we’re dumb today, too, just as the more anti-Catholic Protestants also do. We all must be vigilant to avoid being taken in by secularism and its ways of thought. It’s a constant battle. But we have to be aware that we are doing it.

My perspective is that we should be critical of the information we get, and understand the presuppositions and biases of those who give it. Catholics have biases, too. Everyone does (as I’ve always stressed). That’s exactly why I have constantly advocated hearing “both sides” of any issue and getting all the facts, and never relying on one account only, and why I am a huge advocate of dialogue and debate, because it is, in my opinion, the very best way to learn and to use one’s mind to its potential.

My task as an apologist and amateur historian of ideas (that and development of doctrine are two of my very favorite areas of inquiry) has been to fight the stereotypes that are passed down by critics of Catholicism or of larger Christianity and to demonstrate on a popular level that there was much more complexity and nuance in play than is usually assumed because of uncritical acceptance of biased secular history.

I not only defend the Church’s position (truly defend it, with reason, not just parrot or regurgitate it), but I interact with severe critics of it, and make arguments not only for why our position prevails, but why theirs fails and falls short, as well. This is critical thought and having the courage of one’s convictions. In dialoguing, one is forced to look more closely at their own position, and I have posted some 400-450 dialogues and debates on my blog.

* * * * *
Further discussion, with questions from CHNI board members paraphrased and in blue:

Doesn’t the discussion of (and in) the Galileo affair depend in large part on whether to literally interpret biblical passages about the movement of the sun?

A lot of it had to do with that, yes.

Has the Church actually defined this matter?

The problem had to do with literalizing what was intended as phenomenological language, or over-literalizing in some places, and how science and the Bible can be interpreted in harmony; respecting both areas of knowledge. It can be done. In a pre-scientific understanding, the sun going up and down would imply that the earth is not moving and the sun is.

The Church hasn’t defined this (as far as I know) because it has nothing to do with faith and morals per se. The Church as a whole simply accepts heliocentrism based on scientific proofs of same. At the time of Galileo, there was quite respectable science (given the state of knowledge at that time) for geocentrism too (as I discussed, regarding Tycho Brahe, above), so believing such a thing was not as wacko and reactionary as is customarily made out today. The math involved in either system, as I understand it, was not even all that different. It’s easy with hindsight to condemn our ancestors as dumbos, and to stand on the shoulders of giants. We can call those in the past mental midgets, but it doesn’t follow. They made it possible for the knowledge we have today: scientific or otherwise.

A lot of the prevailing attitudes, I’m convinced, are based on a prior “chronological snobbery” (C.S. Lewis’s delightful term) or disdain for the “age of faith” or the Middle Ages. G.K. Chesterton wrote about this:

There is something odd in the fact that when we reproduce the Middle Ages it is always some such rough and half-grotesque part of them that we reproduce . . . Why is it that we mainly remember the Middle Ages by absurd things? . . . Few modern people know what a mass of illuminating philosophy, delicate metaphysics, clear and dignified social morality exists in the serious scholastic writers of mediaeval times. But we seem to have grasped somehow that the ruder and more clownish elements in the Middle Ages have a human and poetical interest. We are delighted to know about the ignorance of mediaevalism; we are contented to be ignorant about its knowledge. When we talk of something mediaeval, we mean something quaint. We remember that alchemy was mediaeval, or that heraldry was mediaeval. We forget that Parliaments are mediaeval, that all our Universities are mediaeval, that city corporations are mediaeval, that gunpowder and printing are mediaeval, that half the things by which we now live, and to which we look for progress, are mediaeval.

(“The True Middle Ages,” The Illustrated London News, 14 July 1906)

Scientifically speaking, we can’t say the earth is the center of anything, since it is just one planet in one solar system in one galaxy. I think we should say it is the spiritual center of the universe, as far as we know. And we can say that the universe is “theocentric.”

If science disagrees with the Church, it is in error.

The Church, by and large, doesn’t try to proclaim on scientific matters. It’s more concerned with ethical situations that scientific advance has made matters of discussion, such as cloning or artificial insemination or birth control, or assisted suicide. There is no glaring conflict with science at present. The Church hasn’t ruled out the possibility of evolution. It only says that there was a primal human pair, and that each soul is a special creation by God, and holds, of course, that God created the entire universe and all matter in it and that He continues to uphold it by His word of power, using the scientific laws of nature that He created to do so, mostly in a natural manner.

As it stands, Big Bang cosmology is quite consistent with the biblical account of creation. Current speculation of a cyclical or oscillating universe is sheer speculation. There is no proof of that whatsoever.

The Church only speaks authoritatively about matters of faith, and so we have to interpret the Galileo incident in that light, right?

Both sides (i.e., the parties) were at fault. Some in the Church were making false notions of biblical interpretation dogmas and “scientific,” while Galileo was being unscientifically dogmatic in proclaiming as “proven” and “fact” his new theories, that were not yet proved by the criteria of science itself.

I believe firmly that revelation and science (and the logic, mathematics, and philosophy that lie behind science) are two harmonious forms of knowledge that do not conflict and that all truth is God’s truth. I’ve seen nothing that causes an irreconcilable contradiction. Evolution doesn’t do that. Relativity doesn’t. Biochemistry, as far as I am concerned, leads to a quite appropriate conclusion of intelligent design, and ties into the traditional teleological (design) argument for God. I also agree with Galileo’s statement that “the Church teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

If science conflicts with the Catholic faith, it is false, no?

Yes, but in practice sometimes it takes years for the scientific community to catch up with the knowledge of the Church. We’ve been saying the universe began in an instant from the beginning. Science figured this out and made it “orthodoxy” only in the last forty or so years (as the agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow has noted). We’ve said all people were equal, while science was toying with phrenology and eugenics. Eventually they got it and got up to speed. The Catholic Copernicus advanced heliocentrism, with the blessing of the pope. Etc., etc.

For some folks to make out that the Church was somehow “anti-science” is an exercise in showing their own profound ignorance about the history of science and the relationship of Catholicism and Protestantism to it. Some Catholic individuals were on the wrong side of some particular scientific question, but that is true of scientists as well, so big wow. It’s all part of the overall advancement of knowledge and science. Some folks are gonna be wrong.

My big beef is that every (non-dogmatic) Catholic mistake in history is trumpeted from the housetops and made far more than it was in historical context, while similar whoppers and embarrassing skeletons in the closet of science itself are rarely if ever heard about. And so, e.g., in secular treatments about Galileo, one rarely reads about how deeply he was into astrology. That doesn’t fit the mold and the plan and the usual spin, so it is left out. The goal is to make Christians and the Church look like idiots, not to present what actually happened, and to explain all the relevant considerations. The goal in most secular presentation and public education (consciously or not) is propaganda, not true education, where a thing is analyzed properly and fairly.

I include all these relevant factors in my treatments of the subject, so people can have a well-rounded treatment that respects all sides, rather than trying to make one out as idiots and the other as selfless truth machines, along with anachronistic projection of current scientific approaches back to a time 500 years ago that was very different from today.

Galileo was right about the science (i.e., heliocentrism), but for (partially) the wrong reasons. The folks in the Church who condemned his theories were wrong, but for (partially) the right reasons.

The Church as the Church is not an organ of scientific inquiry. Even when dogmas proclaim something like creation, they don’t explain the “how” but only state the bald fact that God created.

The Catholic theologians who claimed that Galileo didn’t see what he saw in his telescope were out of bounds.

And these were the minority, which is itself caricatured, as I noted above, with a quote from Thomas Kuhn.

Scientists shouldn’t get all angry about a caricature of actual Catholic teaching and action.

There are all kinds of distortions about the history of this affair. The Catholic Encyclopedia makes it clear that no dogmatic proclamations were involved:

As to the decree of 1616, we have seen that it was issued by the Congregation of the Index, which can raise no difficulty in regard of infallibility, this tribunal being absolutely incompetent to make a dogmatic decree. Nor is the case altered by the fact that the pope approved the Congregation’s decision in forma communi, that is to say, to the extent needful for the purpose intended, namely to prohibit the circulation of writings which were judged harmful. . . . As to the second trial in 1633, this was concerned not so much with the doctrine as with the person of Galileo, and his manifest breach of contract in not abstaining from the active propaganda of Copernican doctrines. The sentence, passed upon him in consequence, clearly implied a condemnation of Copernicanism, but it made no formal decree on the subject, and did not receive the pope’s signature.

When the Church defined that a soul is created at conception, was it trying to scientifically explain conception?

No. It’s not trying to explain it, because that is a physical, scientific matter. As to the soul, that is non-material, and so science cannot speak authoritatively about it. Likewise, science can’t say anything about the soul. The minute a scientist does so, he is acting as a theologian or philosopher or both, not as a scientist.

The Church in Galileo’s time was concerned with the teaching that Man is the center of the universe, right?

Yes; but that in turn does not require geocentrism. I don’t see how it makes any difference, but that was the notion that had been passed down, and was from Aristotelianism.

Does the universe somehow illustrate that man is at the center?

The Anthropic Principle might be said to be one argument in that regard, used today. Most scientists today don’t want to do such a thing, and would relegate it to philosophy. I think, myself, that there is a borderline area between science, philosophy , and religion, where they all intersect, since science is itself derived from philosophy (empiricism) and presupposes metaphysical categories and existence and the trustworthiness of our senses for observation before it can get off the ground at all. Religion has many philosophical elements. Some philosophies are quasi-religious in either character or at least how they function in a person’s life.

But there is very little intelligent discussion about these “border areas” today. Only a few who understand the different areas to a decent degree even try to do so. It’s one of my big goals in my “general apologetics”: to bridge the gaps of these areas which are seen to almost be mutually exclusive. They are, in a sense, methodologically, but not altogether, when closely scrutinized.

June 30, 2021

ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE BIBLE / BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY  

Abraham

Abraham, Moses, Camels, & Archaeological Evidence [5-22-21]

Abraham & Beersheba, the Bible, & Archaeology [6-9-21]

Was Abraham from This City Ur That One? [7-20-21]

Abraham Lived in Haran, Which Did Exist at the Time! [7-22-21]

Abraham’s Shechem Lines Up With Archaeology [7-23-21]

Abraham, Salem, Mt. Moriah, Jerusalem, & Archaeology [7-24-21]

Abraham & Hebron: Archaeology Backs Up the Bible [7-24-21]

Was Sodom Destroyed by a Meteor in Abraham’s Time? [7-27-21]

Abraham, Warring Kings of Genesis 14, & History [7-31-21]

Amorites

Arameans, Amorites, and Archaeological Accuracy [6-8-21]

Camels, Domestication of

Abraham, Moses, Camels, & Archaeological Evidence [5-22-21]

OT Camels & Biblically Illiterate Archaeologists [5-24-21]

When Were Camels Domesticated in Egypt & Israel? [5-25-21]

Camels Help Bible Readers Get Over the Hump of Bible Skepticism [National Catholic Register, 7-21-21]

Chariots, Iron (Judges and Joshua)

Pearce’s Potshots #41: 13th c. BC Canaanite Iron Chariots [7-16-21]

David, King

Rarity of Non-Biblical Mentions of King David Explained [9-16-21]

Edomites

Edomites: Archaeology Confirms the Bible (As Always) [6-10-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #42: 12th c. BC Moabite & Ammonite Kings (The Broad Definition of “King” in the Ancient Near East, + Biblical Use of  “Chiefs of Edom”) [7-19-21]

Exodus

Seidensticker Folly #5: Has Archaeology Disproven the Exodus? [8-15-18]

Pearce’s Potshots #31: How Many Israelites in the Exodus? [5-27-21]

City of the Exodus (Pi-Ramesses), Bible, & Archaeology [6-28-21]

Moses’ “Store-City” Pithom & Archaeology [6-29-21]

Egyptian Mud Bricks and Straw: Bible = Archaeology [6-29-21]

Archaeology: How Many Hebrew Slaves in Pi-Ramesses? (And Could 20,000 Nomadic Hebrews Survive in the Sinai Desert for Forty Years?) [7-1-21]

General

God: Historical Arguments (Copious Resources) [11-9-15]

Archaeology: Biblical Maximalism vs. Minimalism (+ Dates of the Patriarchs and Other Major Events and People in the Old Testament) [9-9-21]

Genesis: Table of Nations

Genesis 10 “Table of Nations”: Authentic History [8-25-21]

Gerasenes / Gadarenes

Gadarenes, Gerasenes, Swine, & Atheist Skeptics  [7-25-17]

Gerasenes, Gadarenes, Pigs and “Contradictions” [National Catholic Register, 1-29-21]

Goliath

Goliath’s Height: Six Feet 9 Inches, 7 Feet 8, or 9 Feet 9? [7-4-21]

Hebrew Language

Archaeology, Ancient Hebrew, & a Written Pentateuch (+ a Plausible Scenario for Moses Gaining Knowledge of Hittite Legal Treaties in His Egyptian Official Duties) [7-31-21]

Hittites

The Hittites: Atheist “DagoodS” Lies About Christian Apologists Supposedly Lying About How Biblical Critics Once Doubted Their Historical Existence [1-10-11, at Internet Archive]

Habitually “Lying” Christian Apologists?: 19th Century “Hittites Didn’t Exist” Radical Skepticism and Examination of Atheist DagoodS’ Replies and Charges [1-15-11, at Internet Archive]

Hittite Skeptics Chronicles, Part III: Specific Citations of Denial (Budge, Sumner, & Conder) and Biblical Historical Accuracy (in the Time of Elisha) [1-19-11, at Internet Archive]

Great Hittite Wars, Part IV: Lying Christian Egyptologist M. G. Kyle?: Atheist DagoodS Disputes Sir A. E. Wallis Budge’s Reported Hittite Skepticism  [1-21-11, at Internet Archive]

“Higher” Hapless Haranguing of Hypothetical Hittites (19th C.) [10-21-11; abridged 7-7-20]

“Israelites” as a Title

Pearce’s Potshots #27: Anachronistic “Israelites”? [5-25-21]

Jesus

The Census, Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem, & History [2-3-11]

“’Bethany Beyond the Jordan’: History, Archaeology and the Location of Jesus’ Baptism on the East Side of the Jordan” [8-11-14]

Archaeology: Jesus’ Crucifixion, Tomb, & the Via Dolorosa [9-18-14]

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: Herod’s Death & Alleged “Contradictions” (with Jimmy Akin) [7-25-17]

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: “Contradictory” Genealogies of Christ? [7-27-17]

December 25th Birth of Jesus?: Interesting Considerations [12-11-17]

Seidensticker Folly #4: Jesus Never Existed, Huh? [8-14-18]

Was Christ Actually Born Dec. 25? [National Catholic Register, 12-18-18]

The Bethlehem Nativity, Babe Ruth, and History [National Catholic Register, 1-1-19]

Are the Two Genealogies of Christ Contradictory? [National Catholic Register, 1-5-19]

Jesus’ Resurrection: Scholarly Defenses of its Historicity [4-12-20]

Jesus’ December Birth & Grazing Sheep in Bethlehem (Is a December 25th Birthdate of Jesus Impossible or Unlikely Because Sheep Can’t Take the Cold?) [12-26-20]

Pearce’s Potshots #11: 28 Defenses of Jesus’ Nativity (Featuring Confirmatory Historical Tidbits About the Magi and Herod the Great) [1-9-21]

Joseph (Patriarch)

Genesis, Joseph, Archaeology, & Biblical Accuracy (A Brief Survey of Evidence for “The King’s Highway” in Jordan in the Bronze Age: Prior to 1000 BC) [6-8-21]

Joseph in Egypt, Archaeology, & Historiography [8-7-21]

Joshua’s Conquest of Canaan

Archaeology & Joshua’s Altar on Mt. Ebal [7-22-14]

Pearce’s Potshots #32: No Evidence for Joshua’s Conquest? [5-28-21]

What Archaeology Tells Us About Joshua’s Conquest [National Catholic Register, 7-8-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #43: Joshua’s Conquest & Archaeology (Including a Plausible Theory as to Why Late Bronze Age Jericho (after 1550 BC) has Virtually Completely Eroded) [8-3-21]

Archaeology Verifies 13th c. BC Cities Listed in Joshua [8-5-21]

Moabites & Ammonites

Pearce’s Potshots #42: 12th c. BC Moabite & Ammonite Kings (The Broad Definition of “King” in the Ancient Near East, + Biblical Use of  “Chiefs of Edom”) [7-19-21]

Moses

Abraham, Moses, Camels, & Archaeological Evidence [5-22-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #29: No Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt? [5-26-21]

Moses, Kadesh, Negev, Bronze Age, & Archaeology [6-10-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #34: Atheist Throws a Screwball Pitch (Part II of “Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt”) [6-12-21]

Did Moses Exist? No Absolute Proof, But Strong Evidence (Pearce’s Potshots #35, in Which Our Brave Hero Classifies Moses as “a Mythological Figure” and I Reply!) [6-14-21]

City of the Exodus (Pi-Ramesses), Bible, & Archaeology [6-28-21]

Moses’ “Store-City” Pithom & Archaeology [6-29-21]

Egyptian Mud Bricks and Straw: Bible = Archaeology [6-29-21]

Using the Bible to Debunk the Bible Debunkers (Is the Mention of ‘Pitch’ in Exodus an Anachronism?) [National Catholic Register, 6-30-21]

Archaeology: How Many Hebrew Slaves in Pi-Ramesses? (And Could 20,000 Nomadic Hebrews Survive in the Sinai Desert for Forty Years?) [7-1-21]

Archaeology, Ancient Hebrew, & a Written Pentateuch (+ a Plausible Scenario for Moses Gaining Knowledge of Hittite Legal Treaties in His Egyptian Official Duties) [7-31-21]

In Search of the Real Mt. Sinai (Fascinating Topographical and Biblical Factors Closely Examined) [8-16-21]

The Tabernacle: Egyptian & Near Eastern Precursors (Archaeology Entirely Backs Up the Extraordinary Accuracy of Holy Scripture Yet Again) [9-8-21]

Noah’s Flood

Tower of Babel, Baked Bricks, Bitumen, & Archaeology (Also, Archaeological Verification of Sufficiently Available Bitumen and Wood for the Building of Noah’s Ark) [8-26-21]

Summary of Archaeological & Scientific Evidences Concerning Noah’s [Local] Flood [Facebook, 9-9-21]

Peter

Archaeology & St. Peter’s House in Capernaum [9-23-14]

Philistines

Pearce’s Potshots #33: No Philistines in Moses’ Time? [6-3-21]

Sodom and Gomorrah

Sodom & Gomorrah & Archaeology: North of the Dead Sea? [10-9-14]

Was Sodom Destroyed by a Meteor in Abraham’s Time? [7-27-21]

Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel, Baked Bricks, Bitumen, & Archaeology (Also, Archaeological Verification of Sufficiently Available Bitumen and Wood for the Building of Noah’s Ark) [8-26-21]

* * *

Helpful General Articles from Others

53 People in the Bible Confirmed Archaeologically (Bible History Daily / Biblical Archeology Society, 10-13-20)

 

SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY AND THE BIBLE / SCIENTIFIC HARMONY WITH THE BIBLE

Adam and Eve (and Genetics)

Bishop Robert Barron: Adam Wasn’t a “Literal Figure” [9-23-11]

Defending the Literal, Historical Adam of the Genesis Account (vs. Catholic Eric S. Giunta) [9-25-11]

Adam & Eve of Genesis: Historical & the Primal Human Pair? (vs. Bishop Robert Barron) [11-28-13]

Adam & Eve & Original Sin: Disproven by Science? [9-7-15]

Dialogue with Philosopher Dr. Lydia McGrew on Adam and Eve and the Polygenism vs. Monogenism Genetics Issue [Facebook, 5-11-17]

Only Ignoramuses Believe in Adam & Eve? [9-9-15]

Animals: Mythical

Loftus Atheist Error #9: Bible Espouses Mythical Animals? [9-10-19]

The Bible and Mythical Animals [National Catholic Register, 10-9-19]

Demonic Possession

Demonic Possession or Epilepsy? (Bible & Science) [2015]

Disease / Germ Theory

Vs. Atheist David Madison #37: Bible, Science, & Germs [12-10-19]

Seidensticker Folly #36: Disease, Jesus, Paul, Miracles, & Demons [1-13-20]

The Bible on Germs, Sanitation, & Infectious Diseases [3-16-20]

Bible on Germ Theory: An Atheist Hems & Haws (. . . while I offer a serious answer to his caricature regarding the Bible and genetics) [8-31-21]

Earth: Creation of

Cosmological Argument for God (Resources) [10-23-15]

Genesis Contradictory (?) Creation Accounts & Hebrew Time: Refutation of a Clueless Atheist “Biblical Contradiction” [5-11-17]

The Genesis Creation Accounts and Hebrew Time [National Catholic Register, 7-2-17]

Earth: Sphere

Biblical Flat Earth (?) Cosmology: Dialogue w Atheist (vs. Matthew Green) [9-11-06]

Flat Earth: Biblical Teaching? (vs. Ed Babinski) [9-17-06]

Evolution, Theory of

Catholicism and Evolution / Charles Darwin’s Religious Beliefs [8-19-09]

Dialogue with an Atheist on Evolution [9-17-15]

My Claims Regarding Piltdown Man & the Scopes Trial Twisted [10-10-15]

Scripture, Science, Genesis, & Evolutionary Theory: Mini-Dialogue with an Atheist [8-14-18; rev. 2-18-19]

Catholics & Origins: Irreducible Complexity or Theistic Evolution? [6-17-19]

Why I Believe in “Non-Miraculous” Intelligent Design [6-20-19]

Debate: Can Intelligent Design Be “Non-Interventionist”? (vs. Dr. Lydia McGrew) [6-21-19]

Exodus and Moses

Plagues of Egypt: Possible Natural Explanations [8-11-21]

Parting of the Red Sea: Feasible Scientific Explanation? [8-11-21]

Quails, Wandering Hebrews, & Biblical Accuracy [8-17-21]

Acacia, Ark of the Covenant, & Biblical Accuracy [8-24-21]

Moses & Earth Swallowing Sinners: a Miracle? [9-13-21]

Moses and (Natural?) Water from a Rock [9-14-21]

Flood & Noah 

Old Earth, Flood Geology, Local Flood, & Uniformitarianism (vs. Kevin Rice) [5-25-04; rev. 5-10-17]

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures [2-20-08]

Noah’s Flood & Catholicism: Basic Facts [8-18-15]

Do Carnivores on the Ark Disprove Christianity? [9-10-15]

New Testament Evidence for Noah’s Existence [National Catholic Register, 3-11-18]

Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought [7-2-21]

Local Mesopotamian Flood: An Apologia [7-9-21]

General

Dialogue w Atheist on Christianity & the Scientific Method [7-19-01]

God and “Natural Evil”: A Thought Experiment [2002]

Atheist Myths: “Christianity vs. Science & Reason” (vs. “drunkentune”) [1-3-07]

Richard Dawkins & “Religion vs. Science” Mentality (+ Galileo Redux) [3-20-08]

Reply to Atheist Scientist Jerry Coyne: Are Science and Religion Utterly Incompatible? [7-13-10]

Christianity: Crucial to the Origin of Science [8-1-10]

Books by Dave Armstrong: Science and Christianity: Close Partners or Mortal Enemies? [10-20-10]

Typical “Science vs. Catholicism” Criticisms (and Myths) from an Agnostic Scientist Refuted [7-29-11]

Science and Christianity (Copious Resources) [11-3-15]

Dialogue with an Agnostic on Catholicism and Science [9-12-16]

Richard Dawkins: D- Grade for Science & Christianity [5-23-18]

Seidensticker Folly #21: Atheist “Bible Science” Absurdities [9-25-18]

Seidensticker Folly #23: Atheist “Bible Science” Inanities, Pt. 2 [10-2-18]

Loftus Atheist Error #7: Christian Influence on Science [9-9-19]

The Bible is Not “Anti-Scientific,” as Skeptics Claim [National Catholic Register, 10-23-19]

Modern Science is Built on a Christian Foundation [National Catholic Register, 5-6-20]

Seidensticker Folly #44: Historic Christianity & Science [8-29-20]

Goliath

Goliath’s Height: Six Feet 9 Inches, 7 Feet 8, or 9 Feet 9? [7-4-21]

Jesus

Resurrection Debate #4: No “Leafy Branches” on Palm Sunday? [4-19-21]

Resurrection (?) #10: “Blood & Water” & Medical Science [4-25-21]

Jordan River Crossing

Joshua & the Parting of the Jordan: A Natural Event? [9-13-21]

Miracles and Science

The Resurrection: Hoax or History? [cartoon tract; art by Dan Grajek, 1985]

Silly Atheist Arguments vs. the Resurrection & Miracles [2002]

Biblical and Historical Evidences for Raising the Dead [9-24-07; revised for National Catholic Register, 2-8-19]

Dialogue with an Atheist on Miracles & First Premises [12-18-10]

Exchange on Miracles & Hyper-Rationalism [12-7-15]

Dialogues with Atheists on Miracles [6-8-16]

Does God Still Perform Miracles? (Some Evidence) [5-26-18]

Miracle of the Sun at Fatima: Brief Exchange [7-3-18]

Dialogue w Agnostic on Proof for Miracles (Lourdes) [9-9-18]

Miracles & Scientific Method: Dialogue with Atheist [2-22-19]

Atheist Desire for Amazing Divine Miracles / Incorruptibles [2-23-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #6: Chapters 5-6 (Supernatural & Miracles / Biblical Literary Genres & Figures / Perpetual Virginity / Healing & Belief / Persecution of Jesus in Nazareth) [8-18-19]

Seidensticker Folly #39: “The Sun Stood Still” (Joshua) [4-16-20]

Reflections on Joshua and “the Sun Stood Still” [National Catholic Register, 10-22-20]

Patriarchs: Old Ages of

969-Year-Old Methuselah (?) & Genesis Numbers [7-12-21]

Souls and Spirits

Seidensticker Folly #8: Physics Has Disproven Souls? [8-16-18]

Seidensticker Folly #71: Spirit-God “Magic”; 68% Dark Energy Isn’t? [2-2-21]

Dark Energy, Dark Matter and the Light of the World [National Catholic Register, 2-17-21]

Star of Bethlehem

Star of Bethlehem, Astronomy, Wise Men, & Josephus (Amazing Astronomically Verified Data in Relation to the Journey of the Wise Men  & Jesus’ Birth & Infancy) [12-14-20]

Timeline: Star of Bethlehem, Herod’s Death, & Jesus’ Birth (Chronology of Harmonious Data from History, Archaeology, the Bible, and Astronomy) [12-15-20]

Who Were the “Wise Men,” or Magi? [National Catholic Register, 12-16-20]

Conjunctions, the Star of Bethlehem and Astronomy [National Catholic Register, 12-21-20]

Star of Bethlehem: Refuting Silly Atheist Objections [12-26-20]

Route Taken by the Magi: Educated Guess [12-28-20]

Star of Bethlehem: More Silly Atheist “Objections” [12-29-20]

Astronomy, Exegesis and the Star of Bethlehem [National Catholic Register, 12-31-20]

Pearce’s Potshots #12: Supernatural Star of Bethlehem? (Biblical View of Astronomy, Laws of Nature, and the Natural World) [1-11-21]

Star of Bethlehem: Natural or Supernatural? [1-13-21]

Bible Commentaries & Matthew 2:9 (Star of Bethlehem) [1-13-21]

Star of Bethlehem: Reply to Obnoxious Atheist Aaron Adair (Plus Further Related Exchanges with Aaron and a Few Others in an Atheist Combox) [1-14-21]

Star of Bethlehem: 2nd Reply to Arrogant Aaron Adair [1-18-21]

Star Researcher Aaron Adair: “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!” [1-19-21]

Star of Bethlehem & Magi: 20 Fascinating Aspects [1-22-21]

Universe, Origin of: Cosmological Argument / Big Bang

Cosmological Argument for God (Resources) [10-23-15]

Cause of the Big Bang: Atheist Geologist Challenged [4-21-17]

Seidensticker Folly #14: Something Rather Than Nothing [9-3-18]

Seidensticker Folly #38: Eternal Universe vs. an Eternal God [4-16-20]

Seidensticker Folly #42: Creation “Ex Nihilo” [8-28-20]

Creation Ex Nihilo is in the Bible [National Catholic Register, 10-1-20]

Universe, Origin of: General

Atheism: the Faith of “Atomism” [8-19-15]

Clarifications Regarding My Controversial Atheist “Reductio” Paper [8-20-15]

Exchanges with Atheists on Ultimate Origins [11-19-15]

Atheists Seem to Have Almost a Childlike Faith in the Omnipotence of Atoms [National Catholic Register, 10-16-16]

Atheists & Inherent “Omnipotent” Creative Qualities of Godless Matter [7-26-17]

Dialogue w Atheist on the Origin of the Universe [6-23-18]

Dialogue with an Atheist on “God of the Gaps” [6-24-18]

Vs. Atheist David Madison #38: Who is Insulting Intelligence? (. . . with emphasis on the vexing and complex question of the ultimate origins of matter and life) [12-11-19]

Universe, Origin of: Teleological Argument / Intelligent Design

Albert Einstein’s “Cosmic Religion”: In His Own Words [originally 2-17-03; expanded greatly on 8-26-10]

Theistic Argument from Longing or Beauty, & Einstein [3-27-08; rev. 3-14-19]

Teleological (Design) Argument for God (Resources) [10-27-15]

Dogmatic Materialist Scientists vs. Intelligent Design [10-29-15]

Seidensticker Folly #41: Argument from Design [8-25-20]

God the Designer?: Dialogue with an Atheist [8-27-20]

Universe: Sustained by God

“Quantum Entanglement” & the “Upholding” Power of God [10-20-20]

Quantum Mechanics and the “Upholding” Power of God [National Catholic Register, 11-24-20]

***

Photo credit: Kenneth A. Kitchen is the dean of biblical archaeologists in our time. His book, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, was published in 2006. [from the Amazon book page]

***

Summary: I collect hundreds of my blog posts having to do with the Bible & archaeology (scientific evidence that supports its accuracy) & also the relationship between the Bible & science, generally.

Updated on 16 September 2021

March 7, 2021

I’ve done quite a few of these. I thought it would be good, then (for reference purposes) to collect them together all in one place: alphabetically categorized by topic. If people would buy self-published books of Catholic and general Christian apologetics, I’d collect them in a book, but since they don’t (unless the book is massively advertised, which I can’t afford), I won’t.

In any event, you have my rebuttals here for your use, for free. Please prayerfully consider financially supporting my apostolate, if you have been aided by it, or want to support apologetics and evangelism, generally speaking. The laborer is worthy of his hire. I’m not getting rich over here: just working my tail off in defending the Bible, Christianity, traditional morality, and specifically, Catholicism. I’ve written 3,217 articles (and counting) and fifty books, as well as lots of published articles (242 at National Catholic Register, etc.). 2021 is my 40-year anniversary of writing Christian apologetics (the last 30 as a Catholic).

*****

“Contradictions” (Supposed): Examined More Closely

Reply to Atheists: Defining a [Biblical] “Contradiction” [1-7-11]

Debates with Atheist “DagoodS” (“Bible Difficulties”) [2006-2007, 2010-2011]

Review of The Book of Non-Contradiction (Phillip Campbell) [5-9-17]

Critique of Theologically Liberal Bible-Basher [6-6-17]

Alleged “Bible Contradictions”: Most Are Actually Not So [2002 and 6-7-17]

Atheist Inventions of Many Bogus “Bible Contradictions” [National Catholic Register, 9-4-18]

Seidensticker Folly #28: Lies About Bible “Contradictions” (1. Christians don’t sin? 2. Universalism? 3. “Tomb evangelism”. 4. Can human beings see God or not?) [10-23-18]

Bible “Contradictions” & Plausibility (Dialogue w Atheist) [12-17-18]

Seidensticker Folly #32: Sophistically Redefining “Contradiction” [4-20-19]

Seidensticker Folly #37: “What is a Contradiction?” 0101 [4-15-20]

Reply to Atheist Ward Ricker Re “Biblical Contradictions” [5-15-20]

Dialogues on “Contradictions” w Bible-Bashing Atheists [5-16-20]

Alleged Bible “Contradictions” & “Difficulties”: Master List of Christian Internet Resources for Apologists (Links) [7-19-10; links updated on 9-6-20]

Seidensticker Folly #69: “Difficulties” Aren’t Contradictions [1-4-21]

Atheists, Biblical “Contradictions” & the Plausibility Issue [2-4-21]

Refutation of Atheist Paul Carlson’s 51 Bible “Contradictions” [4-6-21]

General Principles / Preliminaries / Premises

An Introduction to Bible Interpretation [1987]

Atheist Bible “Scholarship” & “Exegesis” [3-18-03]

Are All Bible Books Self-Evidently Inspired? [6-19-06]

Are All the Biblical Books Self-Evidently Canonical? [6-22-06]

Were Apostles Always Aware of Writing Scripture? (6-29-06; abridged on 9-25-16)

Is the Bible in Fact Clear, or “Perspicuous” to Every Individual? [2007]

How Do Catholics Approach & Interpret Holy Scripture? [6-17-09]

Catholic Interpretation of Scripture (Hermeneutics / Exegesis): Resource List (Links) [6-28-09]

The Bible & Skepticism: Irrational Double Standards & Bias [8-6-09]

Bible: Completely Self-Authenticating, So that Anyone Could Come up with the Complete Canon without Formal Church Proclamations? (vs. Wm. Whitaker) [July 2012]

The Bible: “Clear” & “Self-Interpreting”? [February 2014]

“Butcher & Hog”: On Relentless Biblical Skepticism [9-21-15]

Dialogue with an Atheist on Bible Difficulties, Plausibility Structures, & Deconversion [6-10-17]

Why We Should Fully Expect Many “Bible Difficulties” [7-17-17]

Richard Dawkins’ “Bible Whoppers” Are the “Delusion” [5-25-18]

Biblical Interpretation & Clarity: Dialogue w an Atheist [5-26-18]

Is Inspiration Immediately Evident in Every Biblical Book? [National Catholic Register, 7-28-18]

Catholic Biblical Interpretation: Myths and Truths [National Catholic Register, 12-3-18]

Bible “Difficulties” Are No Disproof of Biblical Inspiration [National Catholic Register, 6-29-19]

Seidensticker Folly #33: Clueless Re Biblical Anthropopathism [7-24-19]

“Difficulty” in Understanding the Bible: Hebrew Cultural Factors [2-5-21]

An Omniscient God and a “Clear” Bible [National Catholic Register, 2-28-21]

Abortion

Seidensticker Folly #62: Bible & Personhood of Fetuses [11-10-20]

Abraham

Abraham & Beersheba, the Bible, & Archaeology [6-9-21]

Absolution

Resurrection #28: Remission of Sins “Contradictions”? [5-5-21]

Animal Rights

Dialogue w Atheist on Jesus, Demons, Pigs, & Animal Rights [7-5-18]

Arameans and Amorites

Arameans, Amorites, and Archaeological Accuracy [6-8-21]

Bible: Cosmology of

Biblical Flat Earth (?) Cosmology: Dialogue w Atheist (vs. Matthew Green) [9-11-06]

Flat Earth: Biblical Teaching? (vs. Ed Babinski) [9-17-06]

Bodies, Spiritual

Seidensticker Folly #26: Spiritual Bodies R Still Bodies! [10-9-18]

Seidensticker Folly #52: Spiritual Bodies R Physical [9-10-20]

Camels and the Patriarchs / Archaeology

Abraham, Moses, Camels, & Archaeological Evidence [5-22-21]

OT Camels & Biblically Illiterate Archaeologists [5-24-21]

When Were Camels Domesticated in Egypt & Israel? [5-25-21]

David, King

Ward’s Whoppers #13: How Did David Kill Goliath? [5-19-20]

Disciples, Twelve

12 Disciples of Jesus: Alleged Contradictions Debunked [12-9-06]

Resurrection #26: “Twelve” or Eleven Disciples? [5-4-21]

Documentary Theory

Documentary Theory of Biblical Authorship (JEPD): Dialogue [2-12-04]

Documentary Theory (Pentateuch): Critical Articles [6-21-10]

C. S. Lewis Roundly Mocked the Documentary Hypothesis [10-6-19]

Edomites

Edomites: Archaeology Confirms the Bible (As Always) [6-10-21]

Eucharist, Holy

Madison vs. Jesus #8: Holy Eucharist as “Grotesque Magic”? [8-7-19]

Exodus

Seidensticker Folly #5: Has Archaeology Disproven the Exodus? [8-15-18]

Faith & Reason

Seidensticker Folly #66: Biblical “Evidence-Less Faith”? [12-9-20]

Faith & Works

Final Judgment & Works (Not Faith): 50 Passages [2-10-08]

Seidensticker Folly #22: Contradiction? Saved by Faith or Works? [10-1-18]

“Fools” (Calling People That)

The Biblical “Fool” & Proverbial Literary Genre: Did Paul and Peter Disobey Jesus and Risk Hellfire (Calling Folks “Fools”)? Did Jesus Contradict Himself? Or Do Proverbs and Hyperbolic Utterances Allow Exceptions? [2-5-14]

“Foreigners” / “Neighbors”

Ward’s Whoppers #9-10: Parting the Red Sea / “Foreigners” [5-18-20]

Seidensticker Folly #54: “Neighbor” in OT = Jews Only? [9-12-20]

Gadarenes / Gerasenes

Gadarenes, Gerasenes, Swine, & Atheist Skeptics (vs. Jonathan MS Pearce) [7-25-17]

Demons, Gadara, & Biblical Numbers (vs. JMS Pearce) [12-18-20]

Gerasenes, Gadarenes, Pigs and “Contradictions” [National Catholic Register, 1-29-21]

Genesis: Abraham

Isaac and Abraham’s Agony: Dialogue with Agnostic (vs. Dr. Jan Schreurs) [June 1999]

Ward’s Whoppers #5: Isaac: Abraham’s “Only” Son? [5-18-20]

Ward’s Whoppers #7-8: “God of Abraham…” / Passover [5-18-20]

Genesis: Adam & Eve

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures [2-20-08]

Bishop Robert Barron: Adam Wasn’t a “Literal Figure” [9-23-11]

Defending the Historical Adam of Genesis (vs. Eric S. Giunta) [9-25-11]

Adam & Eve of Genesis: Historical & the Primal Human Pair? (vs. Bishop Robert Barron) [11-28-13]

Adam & Eve & Original Sin: Disproven by Science? [9-7-15]

Only Ignoramuses Believe in Adam & Eve? [9-9-15]

Ward’s Whoppers #4: Which Tree Fruit In Eden to Eat?  [5-17-20]

Genesis: Cain & Abel

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures [2-20-08]

“Where Did Cain Get His Wife?” [3-7-13]

Dialogue on How Cain Found a Wife [6-22-18]

Genesis: Documentary Hypothesis and Chiasmus

Pearce’s Potshots #38: Chiasmus & “Redundancy” in Flood Stories (Also, a Summary Statement on Catholics and the Documentary Hypothesis) [7-4-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #39: Ignoring Chiastic Literary Genre in Genesis [7-5-21]

Genesis & Evolution

Scripture, Science, Genesis, & Evolutionary Theory: Mini-Dialogue with an Atheist [8-14-18; rev. 2-18-19]

Genesis & History

Modernism vs. History in Genesis & Biblical Inspiration [7-23-18]

Genesis: Noah & the Flood

Old Earth, Flood Geology, Local Flood, & Uniformitarianism (vs. Kevin Rice) [5-25-04; many defunct links removed and new ones added: 5-10-17]

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures [2-20-08]

Noah’s Flood & Catholicism: Basic Facts [8-18-15]

Do Carnivores on the Ark Disprove Christianity? [9-10-15]

New Testament Evidence for Noah’s Existence [National Catholic Register, 3-11-18]

Seidensticker Folly #49: Noah & 2 or 7 Pairs of Animals [9-7-20]

Pearce’s Potshots #36: Noah’s Flood: 40 or 150 Days or Neither? [7-1-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #37: Length of Noah’s Flood Redux [7-2-21]

Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought [7-2-21]

Local Mesopotamian Flood: An Apologia [7-9-21]

Genesis: Serpent

Exchange w Biblical Skeptic on the Genesis Serpent [6-1-17]

Orthodox Interpretation of Genesis and the Serpent [National Catholic Register, 11-19-18]

Genesis & Time

Genesis Contradictory (?) Creation Accounts & Hebrew Time: Refutation of a Clueless Atheist “Biblical Contradiction” [5-11-17]

The Genesis Creation Accounts and Hebrew Time [National Catholic Register, 7-2-17]

God: Anthropopathism

Anthropopathism and Anthropomorphism: Biblical Data (God Condescending to Human Limitations of Understanding) [1-20-09]

Seidensticker Folly #33: Clueless Re Biblical Anthropopathism [7-24-19]

God: Bloodthirsty?

Jesus’ Death: Proof of a “Bloodthirsty” God, or Loving Sacrifice? (primarily written to and for atheists) [7-21-10]

God: Creator

Seidensticker Folly #14: Something Rather Than Nothing [9-3-18]

Ward’s Whoppers #1-3: Genesis 1 vs. 2 (Creation) [5-17-20]

Seidensticker Folly #41: Argument from Design [8-25-20]

Seidensticker Folly #42: Creation “Ex Nihilo” [8-28-20]

“Quantum Entanglement” & the “Upholding” Power of God [10-20-20]

Quantum Mechanics and the “Upholding” Power of God [National Catholic Register, 11-24-20]

God: Eternal & Uncreated

Seidensticker Folly #38: Eternal Universe vs. an Eternal God [4-16-20]

God & Evil

Problem of Evil: Treatise on the Most Serious Objection (Is God Malevolent, Weak, or Non-Existent Because of the Existence of Evil and Suffering?) [2002]

God and “Natural Evil”: A Thought Experiment [2002]

Replies to the Problem of Evil as Set Forth by Atheists [10-10-06]

“Logical” Problem of Evil: Alvin Plantinga’s Decisive Refutation [10-12-06]

“Strong” Logical Argument from Evil Against God: RIP? [11-26-06]

Is God the Author of Evil? (vs. John Calvin) [Oct. 2012]

Why Did a Perfect God Create an Imperfect World? [8-18-15]

Atheists, Miracles, & the Problem of Evil: Contradictions [8-15-18]

Alvin Plantinga: Reply to the Evidential Problem of Evil [9-13-19]

God: “Evolves” in the OT?

Seidensticker Folly #20: An Evolving God in the OT? [9-18-18]

God: Existence of

Seidensticker Folly #13: God Hasta Prove He Exists! [8-29-18]

God & Free Will

Seidensticker Folly #3: Falsehoods About God & Free Will [8-14-18]

God & “Hard Hearts”

Reply to a Calvinist: Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart (vs. Colin Smith) [10-14-06]

God “Hardening Hearts”: How Do We Interpret That? [12-18-08]

God: Immutability

Is God in Time? [11-30-06]

Critique of Atheist John Loftus Regarding a Timeless God . . . And of Course, “Jittery John” Again Explodes [11-30-06]

Seidensticker Folly #34: Does God “Regret” or “Repent”? [7-25-19]

God: Judgment

Judgment of Nations: Biblical Commentary and Reflections [9-21-01]

God’s Judgment of Humans (Sometimes, Entire Nations) [2-16-07]

“How Can God Order the Massacre of Innocents?” (Amalekites, etc.) [11-10-07]

God’s “Punishing” of Descendants: Unjust? [7-8-10]

Final Judgment is Not a Matter of “Faith Alone” At All [National Catholic Register, 10-7-16]

Does God Ever Judge People by Sending Disease? [10-30-17]

Is God an Unjust Judge? Dialogue with an Atheist [10-30-17]

God’s Judgment of Sin: Analogies for an Atheist Inquirer [9-6-18]

Seidensticker Folly #17: “to the third and fourth generations”? [9-11-18]

Does God Punish to the Fourth Generation? [National Catholic Register, 10-1-18]

Madison vs. Jesus #9: Clueless Re Rebellion & Judgment [8-7-19]

“Why Did God Kill 70,000 Israelites for David’s Sin?” [4-13-20]

God & Lying

Seidensticker Folly #35: Is God an Inveterate Liar? [7-25-19]

God & Murder

Did God Command Jephthah to Burn His Daughter? [6-8-09]

Seidensticker Folly #12: God Likes Child Sacrifice? Huh?! [8-21-18]

Did God Immorally “Murder” King David’s Innocent Child? (God’s Providence and Permissive Will, and Hebrew Non-Literal Anthropomorphism) [5-6-19]

Loftus Atheist Error #6: Is God “Love” or a “Moral Monster”? [9-9-19]

Does God Cause Miscarriages?: A Farcical Exchange [8-23-20]

God: Name of

Ward’s Whoppers #6: Meaning of “Knowing” God’s Name [5-18-20]

God: Narcissist?

Madison vs. Jesus #6: Narcissistic, Love-Starved God? [8-6-19]

If God Needs Nothing, Why Does He Ask For So Much? (Is God “Narcissistic” or “Love-Starved?) [National Catholic Register, 8-22-19]

God: Omnipresence

God in Heaven & in His Temple: Contradiction? (vs. Dr. Steven DiMattei) [11-23-20]

God in Heaven and in His Temple: Biblical Difficulty? [National Catholic Register, 12-10-20]

God: Omniscience

Ward’s Whoppers #15-16: God & Omniscience / Worship [5-20-20]

God & Rape

Seidensticker Folly #6: God Has “No Problem with Rape”? [8-15-18]

God & Repentance

Madison vs. Jesus #7: God Prohibits Some Folks’ Repentance? [8-6-19]

Does God Ever Actively Prevent Repentance? [National Catholic Register, 9-1-19]

God & Sin

Does God “Want” Men to Sin? Does He “Ordain” Sin? [2-17-10 and 3-16-17]

God: a Spirit

Loftus Atheist Error #8: Ancient Jews, “Body” of God, & Polytheism [9-10-19]

Seidensticker Folly #71: Spirit-God “Magic”; 68% Dark Energy Isn’t? [2-2-21]

Dark Energy, Dark Matter and the Light of the World [National Catholic Register, 2-17-21]

God: Trinity

50 Biblical Evidences for the Holy Trinity [National Catholic Register, 11-14-16]

Seidensticker Folly #9: Trinity Unclear in the Bible? [8-17-18]

Seidensticker Folly #40: Craig, Trinity Definition, & Analogies [4-17-20]

God, Worship, & Praise

Why Do We Worship God? Dialogue with an Atheist [5-11-18]

Ward’s Whoppers #15-16: God & Omniscience / Worship [5-20-20]

Seidensticker Folly #47: Does God Need Praise? [8-31-20]

Seidensticker Folly #51: God and Praise, Part II [9-8-20]

Does God Have Any Need of Praise? [National Catholic Register, 9-24-20]

Golden Calf

Golden Calf & Cherubim: Biblical Contradiction? (vs. Dr. Steven DiMattei) [11-23-20]

Goliath

Goliath’s Height: Six Feet 9 Inches, 7 Feet 8, or 9 Feet 9? [7-4-21]

Hell

Dialogue w Atheists on Hell & Whether God is Just [12-5-06]

Herod the Great

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: Herod’s Death & Alleged “Contradictions” (with Jimmy Akin) [7-25-17]

Hittites

“Higher” Hapless Haranguing of Hypothetical Hittites (19th C.) [10-21-11; abridged 7-7-20]

Immigration Issues

Immigration & the Bible (w John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe) (see also the longer Facebook version) [9-18-17]

Do Jesus and the Bible Advocate Open Borders? [9-18-17; expanded on 6-21-18]

Borders and the Bible [National Catholic Register, 1-14-19]

“Israelites”

Pearce’s Potshots #27: Anachronistic “Israelites”? [5-25-21]

Jairus’ Daughter

Pearce’s Potshots #44: Jairus’ Daughter “Contradiction”? [8-17-21]

Jeremiah

Loftus Atheist Error #10: Prophet Jeremiah vs. Mosaic Law? [9-11-19]

Jesus & “Anxiety”

Jesus’ Agony in Gethsemane: Was it “Anxiety”? [National Catholic Register, 10-29-19]

Jesus: Ascension

Seidensticker Folly #15: Jesus’ Ascension: One or 40 Days? [9-10-18]

Jesus: Bethlehem (and Nazareth)

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: Bethlehem & Nazareth “Contradictions” (Including Extensive Exegetical Analysis of Micah 5:2) [7-28-17]

Jesus: Burial of

Resurrection #12: Who Buried Jesus? [4-26-21]

Jesus: Census

The Census, Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem, & History [2-3-11]

Jesus: Children of?

Did Jesus Have Children? (“Offspring”: Isaiah 53:10) [5-30-06]

Jesus: Christmas

Vs. Atheist David Madison #36: Matthew & Christmas [12-10-19]

Jesus: Disciples’ Forsaking of

Resurrection (?) #8: Disciples Forsaking Jesus [4-23-21]

Jesus: Divinity of

Was Jesus Confused About His Mission? [9-8-15]

Jesus Had to Learn That He Was God? [12-15-15]

50 Biblical Proofs That Jesus is God [National Catholic Register, 2-12-17]

Seidensticker Folly #55: Godhood of Jesus in the Synoptics [9-12-20]

Jesus: Existence of

Seidensticker Folly #4: Jesus Never Existed, Huh? [8-14-18]

Jesus & Families: Leaving of

Dr. David Madison vs. Jesus #1: Hating One’s Family? [8-1-19]

Madison vs. Jesus #4: Jesus Causes a Bad Marriage? [8-5-19]

Madison vs. Jesus #5: Cultlike Forsaking of Family? [8-5-19]

Did Jesus Teach His Disciples to Hate Their Families? [National Catholic Register, 8-17-19]

Seidensticker Folly #50: Mary Thought Jesus Was Crazy? (And Does the Gospel of Mark Radically Differ from the Other Gospels in the “Family vs. Following Jesus” Aspect?) [9-8-20]

Jesus: Genealogies

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: “Contradictory” Genealogies of Christ? [7-27-17]

Are the Two Genealogies of Christ Contradictory? [National Catholic Register, 1-5-19]

Jesus: Great Commission

Seidensticker Folly #30: Small vs. Great Commission? [10-26-18]

Jesus & Jewish Burial Customs

Seidensticker Folly #31: Jesus’ Burial Spices Contradiction? [4-20-19]

Madison vs. Jesus #12: Discipleship & Jewish Burial Customs [8-8-19]

Jesus & Jews & Gentiles

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #7: Ch. 7 (Gentiles) [8-19-19]

Vs. Atheist David Madison #39: Jesus the Xenophobic Bigot? (And did Jesus minister exclusively to Jews and not Gentiles at all: an alleged Gospel inconsistency)? [12-12-19]

Did Jesus Minister Exclusively to Jews and not Gentiles? [7-2-20]

Did Jesus Heal and Preach to Only Jews? No! [National Catholic Register, 7-19-20]

Jesus: Last Words on the Cross

Jesus’ Last Words: Biblical “Contradictions”? [4-8-21]

Jesus: “Many NT Jesuses”?

Seidensticker Folly #56: Many Jesuses in the New Testament? [9-13-20]

Jesus: “Mean”?

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #8: Ch. 9 (“Mean” Jesus) [8-19-19]

Jesus: Messianic Prophecies of the OT

Isaiah 53: Ancient & Medieval Jewish Messianic Interpretation [1982; revised 9-14-01]

Psalm 110: Examples of Jewish Commentators Who Regard it as Messianic / Reply to Rabbi Tovia Singer’s Charges of Christian “Tampering” with the Text [9-14-01]

Isaiah 53: Jewish-Christian Dialogue: Is the “Servant” the Messiah (Jesus) or Collective Israel? (vs. Ari G. [Orthodox] ) [9-14-01, with incorporation of much research from 1982]

Reply to Atheist on “Fabricated” OT Messianic Prophecies (ProfMTH”‘s Video Jesus Was Not the Messiah – Pt. I) [7-1-10]

Reply to Atheist on Isaiah 53 & “Dishonest” Christians [7-2-10]

Reply to Atheist on Messianic Prophecies (Zech 13:6, Ps 22) [7-3-10]

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: “Mistranslation” of “Virgin”? (Isaiah 7:14) (with Glenn Miller) [7-26-17]

Dual Fulfillment of Prophecy & the Virgin Birth (vs. JMS Pearce) [12-18-20]

Jesus & Money

Vs. Atheist David Madison #42: Jesus vs. Financial Responsibility? [12-19-19]

Jesus: Mustard Seed

Seidensticker Folly #25: Jesus’ Alleged Mustard Seed Error [10-8-18]

Jesus: Nativity

Pearce’s Potshots #11: 28 Defenses of Jesus’ Nativity (Featuring Confirmatory Historical Tidbits About the Magi and Herod the Great) [1-9-21]

Jesus the “Nazarene”

Jesus the “Nazarene”: Did Matthew Make Up a “Prophecy”? (Reply to Jonathan M. S. Pearce from the Blog, A Tippling Philosopher / Oral Traditions and Possible Lost Old Testament Books Referred to in the Bible) [12-17-20]

Jesus the “Nazarene” Redux (vs. Jonathan M. S. Pearce) [12-19-20]

Jesus: Palm Sunday: Olive and Palm Branches

Resurrection Debate #4: No “Leafy Branches” on Palm Sunday? [4-19-21]

Jesus: Parables

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #5: Chapter 4 (Parables) [8-16-19]

Jesus: Passion of

David Madison: Synoptics vs. John Re Jesus’ Will & Passion? [8-22-19]

Jesus: “Prince of Peace”

Madison vs. Jesus #11: He’s Not the Prince of Peace? [8-8-19]

Jesus: Resurrection

The Resurrection: Hoax or History? [cartoon tract with art by Dan Grajek: 1985]

“Three Days and Nights” in the Tomb: Contradiction? [10-31-06]

Dialogue w Atheist on Post-Resurrection “Contradictions” [1-26-11]

Seidensticker Folly #18: Resurrection “Contradictions”? [9-17-18]

Seidensticker Folly #57: Male Witnesses of the Dead Jesus [9-14-20]

Pearce’s Potshots #13: Resurrection “Contradictions” (?) [2-2-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #14: Resurrection “Contradictions” #2 [2-4-21]

Refuting 59 of Michael Alter’s Resurrection “Contradictions” [3-12-21]

12 Alleged Resurrection “Contradictions” That Aren’t Really Contradictions [National Catholic Register, 4-7-21]

Resurrection (?) #6: “Three Days and Three Nights” [4-21-21]

Resurrection #15: Luke & Jesus’ Galilee Appearances [4-28-21]

Resurrection #17: Women Who Saw the Risen Jesus [4-29-21]

Resurrection #18: “Touch Me Not” & Mary Magdalene [4-29-21]

11 More Resurrection “Contradictions” That Aren’t Really Contradictions [National Catholic Register, 5-8-21]

Jesus: Second Coming

Dr. David Madison vs. Jesus #3: Nature & Time of 2nd Coming [8-3-19]

Seidensticker Folly #58: Jesus Erred on Time of 2nd Coming? (with David Palm) [10-7-20]

Jesus: Sermon on the Mount

Atheist “Refutes” Sermon on the Mount (Or Does He?) [National Catholic Register, 7-23-17]

Jesus: Thieves Crucified With Him

Resurrection (?) #7: Crucified Thieves Taunting Jesus [4-21-21]

Jesus: “Turning the Other Cheek”

Jesus Didn’t Always Turn the Other Cheek (Proverbs) [7-6-19]

What Does “Turn the Other Cheek” Mean? [National Catholic Register, 7-20-19]

Jesus and Unbelief

Resurrection #27: Jesus’ View of Unbelief & Evidence [5-5-21]

Jesus and the Women at the Crucifixion

Resurrection (?) #9: The Women at the Crucifixion [4-23-21]

Job

Ward’s Whoppers #14: Who Caused Job’s Suffering? [5-20-20]

Who Caused Job to Suffer — God or Satan? [National Catholic Register, 6-28-20]

John, Gospel of (Author)

Pearce’s Potshots #46: Who Wrote the Gospel of John? [9-2-21]

John the Baptist

Dialogue w Agnostic on Elijah and John the Baptist [9-24-06]

Seidensticker Folly #27: Confusion Re John the Baptist [10-9-18]

Jonah

Catholics and the Historicity of Jonah the Prophet [6-27-08]

Joseph (Patriarch)

Pearce’s Potshots #28: Pharaoh Didn’t Know Joseph?! [5-26-21]

Genesis, Joseph, Archaeology, & Biblical Accuracy (+ A Brief Survey of Evidence for “The King’s Highway” in Jordan in the Bronze Age: Prior to 1000 BC) [6-8-21]

Joseph of Arimathea

Dialogue w Atheist: Joseph of Arimathea “Contradictions” (??) (Lousy Atheist Exegesis Example #5672) [1-7-11]

Resurrection #11: “All the Council” / Joseph of Arimathea? [4-25-21]

Joshua & the Sun

Seidensticker Folly #39: “The Sun Stood Still” (Joshua) [4-16-20]

Judas

Death of Judas: Alleged Bible Contradictions Debunked (vs. Dave Van Allen and Dr. Jim Arvo) [9-27-07]

Resurrection #19: When Was Judas Paid? [4-30-21]

Resurrection #20: Motivation of Judas’ Betrayal [4-30-21]

Resurrection #21: Chronology of Judas’ Evil Plans [5-1-21]

Resurrection #22: Did Judas Repent Or Not? [5-2-21]

Resurrection #23: How Did Judas Die? [5-3-21]

Resurrection #24: Judas & the Potter’s Field [5-3-21]

Last Things (Eschatology)

Debate with an Agnostic on the Meaning of “Last Days” and Whether the Author of Hebrews Was a False Prophet [9-13-06]

Biblical Annihilationism or Universalism? (w Atheist Ted Drange) [9-30-06]

“The Last Days”: Meaning in Hebrew, Biblical Thought [12-5-08]

Love of Enemies

“Love Your Enemies”: Old Testament Teaching Too? [9-7-20]

Luke: Gospel of

Gospel of Luke Bashing Examined & Found Wanting (vs. Vexen Crabtree) [2-12-21]

Lust

Vs. Atheist David Madison #40: Jesus: All Sexual Desire is Lust? (Replies to some of the most clueless atheist “arguments” to ever enter the mind of a sentient human being . . .) [12-18-19]

Mark: Gospel of

Dr. David Madison vs. Jesus #2: Weird & Fictional Mark 16? [8-3-19]

Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #1: Intro. & Overview (Gospels as “Con Job”? / Parables & Repentance / Old Testament Sacrifices & Jesus / “Weird” Mark 16 / Why Jesus Was Killed) [8-13-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #2: Chapter 1 (Why Did Mark Omit Jesus’ Baptism? / Why Was Jesus Baptized? / “Suffering Servant” & Messiah in Isaiah / Spiritual “Kingdom of God” / Archaeological Support) [8-14-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #3: Chapter 2 (Archaeological Support / Sin, Illness, Healing, & Faith / “Word” & “Gospel”) [8-15-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #4: Chapter 3 (Unforgivable Sin [Blaspheming the Holy Spirit] / Plots to Kill Jesus / Rude Jesus? [“Who is My Mother?”]) [8-16-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #6: Chapters 5-6 (Supernatural & Miracles / Biblical Literary Genres & Figures / Perpetual Virginity / Healing & Belief / Persecution of Jesus in Nazareth) [8-18-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #9: Chapter 10 (Christian Biblical Ignorance / Jesus vs. Marriage & Family? / Divinity of Jesus) [8-20-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #10: Chapter 11 (Two Donkeys? / Fig Tree / Moneychangers) [8-20-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #11: Chapter 12 (Jesus Predicts His Passion & Death / Judgment Day / God’s Mercy / God as Cosmic Narcissist?) [8-21-19]

Pearce’s Potshots #15: Gospel of Matthew vs. Gospel of Mark? [2-7-21]

Groundless Gospel of Mark Bashing Systematically Refuted (vs. Vexen Crabtree) [2-9-21]

Mary & Jesus

“Who is My Mother?”: Beginning of “Familial Church” [8-26-19]

Did Jesus Deny That Mary Was “Blessed” (Lk 11:27-28)? [11-19-19]

Did Jesus Denigrate Calling Mary “Blessed?” [National Catholic Register, 12-24-19]

“Who is My Mother?” — Jesus and the “Familial Church” [National Catholic Register, 1-21-20]

Seidensticker Folly #50: Mary Thought Jesus Was Crazy? (And Does the Gospel of Mark Radically Differ from the Other Gospels in the “Family vs. Following Jesus” Aspect?) [9-8-20]

Mary: Sinless

“All Have Sinned” vs. a Sinless, Immaculate Mary? [1996; revised and posted at National Catholic Register on 12-11-17]

Jason Engwer and a Supposedly Sinful Mary (Doubting Jesus’ Sanity? / Inconsiderate (?) Young Jesus in the Temple / “Woman” and the Wedding at Cana) [11-16-20]

Matthew: Gospel of

Seidensticker Folly #53: Matthew Cited the Wrong Prophet? [9-11-20]

Pearce’s Potshots #15: Gospel of Matthew vs. Gospel of Mark? [2-7-21]

Gospel of Matthew Bashing Refuted Point-by-Point (vs. Vexen Crabtree) [2-10-21]

Moses

Did Moses (and God) Sin In Judging the Midianites (Numbers 31)? [5-21-08]

Righteous and Sinful Anger in Moses: Smashing the Tablets and the Rock at Meribah [5-22-08]

Ward’s Whoppers #9-10: Parting the Red Sea / “Foreigners” [5-18-20]

Moses & Aaron & Their Staff(s): Biblical Contradictions? (vs. Dr. Steven DiMattei) [11-21-20]

A Bible Puzzle About the Staff of Moses and Aaron [National Catholic Register, 1-14-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #29: No Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt? [5-26-21]

Moses, Kadesh, Negev, Bronze Age, & Archaeology [6-10-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #34: Atheist Throws a Screwball Pitch (Part II of “Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt”) [6-12-21]

Did Moses Exist? No Absolute Proof, But Strong Evidence (Pearce’s Potshots #35, in Which Our Brave Hero Classifies Moses as “a Mythological Figure” and I Reply!) [6-14-21]

New Testament: Citation of the Old Testament

Old Testament Citations in the NT Defended (Jn 7:38) [7-4-10]

Pacifism

Pacifism vs. “Just War”: Biblical and Social Factors [April 1987]

Passover

Ward’s Whoppers #7-8: “God of Abraham…” / Passover [5-18-20]

Paul & Atheism

St. Paul: Two-Faced Re Unbelief? (Romans 1 “vs.” Epistles) [7-5-10]

Paul: Knowledge of Jesus

Seidensticker Folly #24: Paul’s Massive Ignorance of Jesus (?) [10-5-18]

Paul & Lying

Pearce’s Potshots #16: Does St. Paul Justify Lying? [2-12-21]

Paul: “Pluralist”?

St. Paul: Orthodox Catholic or Theological Pluralist? [12-28-18]

Paul & Romans

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #1: Chapter 1 (Virgin Birth / God in Creation / Human Rebelliousness / Paul’s Loving Tolerance / God’s Forgiveness / Paul on Sex & Marriage / God’s Just Judgment) [8-22-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #2: Chapter 2 (God’s Fair Judgment / Soteriology / God Knowing Our Thoughts / Chosen People) [8-26-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #3: Chapter 3 (Pauline / Biblical Soteriology: Faith and Works, Grace and Merit / Hyperbole [“No one is good”]) [8-27-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #4: Chapter 4 (Development: Law & Grace & Faith / Circumcision & Abortion / Eternal Salvation & Damnation in the Old Testament) [8-27-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #5: Chapter 5 (Conversion & Apostolic Credentials / Pre-Pauline Evangelism / “Rogue Apostle”? / Falsely Alleged Fears / Universal Atonement / Foolishness of the Cross / Unspiritual Persons) [8-28-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #6: Chapter 6 (Baptismal Regeneration / Is Paul a Killjoy? / Paul & the Last Days) [8-28-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #7: Chapter 7 (Stock Atheist Insults / Flesh vs. Spirit / Did Paul Wallow in “Personal Torment”?) [8-29-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #8: Chapter 8 (Meaning of “Flesh” / Original Sin & Man’s Rebellion / Paul’s Triumphant Solution / Paul & Greek Culture) [8-29-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #9: Chapter 9 (“Hardening Hearts” and Hebrew “Block Logic”) [8-30-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #10: Chapter 10 (“Circumcision of the Heart” & the Law / “Being Saved” in Ancient Jewish Scripture) [8-30-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #11: Chapter 11 (“Scary” & “Vindictive” Yahweh? / Endless Stupefied Insults of God / Judgment Explained Yet Again) [8-30-19]

Peter: Denials of

Seidensticker Folly #48: Peter’s Denials & Accusers [8-31-20]

Philistines

Pearce’s Potshots #33: No Philistines in Moses’ Time? [6-3-21]

Polytheism & the Bible

Seidensticker Folly #19: Torah & OT Teach Polytheism? [9-18-18]

Loftus Atheist Error #8: Ancient Jews, “Body” of God, & Polytheism [9-10-19]

Do the OT & NT Teach Polytheism or Henotheism? [7-1-20]

The Bible Teaches That Other “Gods” are Imaginary [National Catholic Register, 7-10-20]

Seidensticker Folly #70: Biblical “Henotheism” [?] Redux [1-31-21]

Prayer

Seidensticker Folly #7: No Conditional Prayer in Scripture? [8-16-18]

Should We Pray for All People or Not (1 John 5:16)? [9-5-18]

Biblical Prayer is Conditional, Not Solely Based on Faith [National Catholic Register, 10-9-18]

We Can’t Demand That God Directly Communicate to Us or Answer Prayer Exactly as We Want Him to (and God’s non-answer is no reason to leave the faith) [blog combox, 2-23-19]

Madison vs. Jesus #10: Universal Answered Prayer & Healing? [8-7-19]

Proverbs

Ward’s Whoppers #17-21: Proverbs Allow of Exceptions [5-21-20]

Salvation

Seidensticker Folly #29: Repentance: Part of Salvation [10-26-18]

Seidensticker Folly #64: A Saved Dahmer & Damned Anne Frank? [11-24-20]

Science & the Bible / The Universe

Seidensticker Folly #21: Atheist “Bible Science” Absurdities [9-25-18]

Seidensticker Folly #23: Atheist “Bible Science” Inanities, Pt. 2 [10-2-18]

Loftus Atheist Error #9: Bible Espouses Mythical Animals? [9-10-19]

The Bible and Mythical Animals [National Catholic Register, 10-9-19]

The Bible is Not “Anti-Scientific,” as Skeptics Claim [National Catholic Register, 10-23-19]

Vs. Atheist David Madison #37: Bible, Science, & Germs [12-10-19]

Vs. Atheist David Madison #38: Who is Insulting Intelligence? (. . . with emphasis on the vexing and complex question of the ultimate origins of matter and life) [12-11-19]

Seidensticker Folly #36: Disease, Jesus, Paul, Miracles, & Demons [1-13-20]

Slavery & the Bible

Biblical Inspiration & Cultural Influences: Contradictory? (emphasis on slavery) [8-10-18]

Seidensticker Folly #10: Slavery in the Old Testament [8-20-18]

Seidensticker Folly #11: Slavery & the New Testament [8-20-18]

Souls

Seidensticker Folly #8: Physics Has Disproven Souls? [8-16-18]

Ten Commandments

Seidensticker Folly #16: Two Sets of Ten Commandments? [9-10-18]

Ward’s Whoppers #11-12: Ten Commandments Issues [5-19-20]

Tomb of Jesus

Resurrection #14: When Was the Stone Rolled Away? [4-27-21]

Resurrection #16: Peter & John at the Empty Tomb [4-28-21]

Women

Dialogue: Sexist, Misogynist Bible and Christianity? (Debate with Five Atheists. Are Christian Women Abused as “Sheep”?) [9-20-10; abridged a bit on 2-12-20]

“Zombies” (Matthew 27:51-53)

Seidensticker Folly #45: “Zombies” & Clueless Atheists (Atheist Neil Carter Joins in on the Silliness and Tomfoolery as Well) [8-29-20]

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Photo credit: geralt (8-18-16) [PixabayPixabay License]

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Summary: I’ve done quite a few rebuttals of falsely alleged biblical “contradictions”, so I thought it would be good (for reference purposes) to collect them all together in one place, categorized by topic.

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Last updated on 2 September 2021

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February 15, 2021

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I want you and your adherents to know that I am not . . . so faint-hearted as to be disturbed by your insults. But the fact that you are so disparaging, derogatory, and utterly contemptuous towards my Discussion argues that it is not as contemptible as you make out. If it did not bear down on you, your pen would not have produced such outrageous insults to its author.

[Y]ou are so impudent in your insults . . . so unrestrained in your abuse when you are hemmed in by arguments, that no one, even if he bent over backwards to be fair to you, could find any excuses for your spirit. (Erasmus responding to Martin Luther, Hyperaspistes [1526], pp. 103, 140 in Vol. 76 in Collected Works [1999] )

Matthew 5:11-12 (RSV) Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 10:22, 25 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. . . . [25] . . . If they have called the master of the house Be-el’zebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

Man, this was tough to narrow down to a mere ten, but I thought I’d have some fun with it. At bottom, however, it is very serious, since it is sin (see my final remarks).

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10. I’d characterize you as an arrogant bloviator with a penchant for TL;DR diatribes . . . I do believe, though, that you’ve helped people over the years. I have friends who benefited from you during their conversions before they realized what a self-parody you have become. They find it sad that you’re so far from who they thought you were. . . . at the present moment, you’re doing more harm than good with your name-calling and your absurd denials of the truth in front of your face, and that’s why you’re just not taken seriously by many people now. Trying to debate with you about anything is an exercise in futility – not because of your skill as a rhetorician, but because you simply are unable to conceive of any scenario where you aren’t the triumphalistic victor. . . . We’re trying to do work here that matters, and we don’t have time for playground fights.
[5-26-16]

Personally, I’ve found you ridiculous from the moment I first ran into you. You’re a modern day, post-conciliar Don Quixote, all bravado and sword swinging, invariably picking the wrong targets. . . . here you are, sword as dull as ever, energy for a thousand battles, none of them worthwhile. . . . you’ve been wrong as long as I’ve ever come across anything you’ve written about anything that matters, and history will judge you to have been on the wrong side of the schism that is even now coming to a head. It’s a thing, I think, with Protestant converts. They don’t have sola scriptura anymore, so they resort to papal positivism as their one and only guide. Is the current pope saying something that’s an almost complete contradiction of one of his predecessors? No problem! Like Muslims have the theological principle of abrogation, we have Super-Ultramontanism! . . . we have a bad pope (and a run of Modernist-influenced ones before him) and are still reeling from a bad council and a bad Mass means having to deal with an uncomfortable level of cognitive dissonance. . . . You could be a part of the solution if you want, but only if you stop making it about you and start making it about the truth. . . . I feel bad for you, I really do. Someone was calling you the Napoleon Dynamite of Catholic Apologetics, but really, you’re the Uncle Rico. You just keep fantasizing, 20 years on, about what would have happened if coach had just put you in fourth quarter. You keep telling people that you can throw a football over the mountains from your front porch. But coach didn’t put you in, and you can’t throw that far, and the only thing that matters right now is if you fight the evil that is, at this very moment, threatening to strangle the faith of millions of Catholics because it is being perpetrated from the very top. [5-28-16]

It’s all about you. All hubris, all the time. . . . of course, you pulled your trademark move of twisting whatever the other person says to fit your narrative. You’re not just predictable, you’re on rails. Get over yourself, Dave. You’re not even a little deal. And you are doing more harm than good. [5-28-16]

Steve Skojec [radical Catholic reactionary and webmaster of One Vader Five]

I like the folksy style and Steve’s way with words, and wanted to preserve it. No one I’ve seen in the present era can insult with the sheer derision and contempt in the way that Steve does. But I pity him and think I understand. He barely has any [Catholic] faith anymore, absolutely hates Vatican II, and has virtually asserted that the Church and Pope Francis have entered into heresy, which is contrary to the Catholic dogma of the indefectibility of the Church and of the pope. Pray for the man. He is in very deep spiritual trouble and could very well end up an atheist if he doesn’t change his dangerous trajectory soon.

9. You’re a joke. I’m surprised you have an audience. You’re also a psychologist, eh? Wow! . . . Again, you’re a joke. To think you could pompously proclaim you are better than me is beyond me when you don’t know me. It’s a defensive mechanism you have with people like me. It’s called respecting people as people, and Dave’s Christianity does not do that with people who don’t agree with him. I’m just tired of pompous asses on the internet who go around claiming they are superior to me in terms of intelligence and faith. Such arrogance makes me vomit. . . . self-assured arrogant idiots out there, like Dave, who prefer to proclaim off of my personal experience that they are better than I. (10-16-06)

You are an idiot! You never critiqued my whole deconversion story. Deconversion stories are piecemeal. They cannot give a full explanation for why someone left the faith. They only give hints at why they left the faith. It requires writing a whole book about why someone left the faith to understand why they did, and few people do that. I did. If you truly want to critique my deconversion story then critique my book. Other than that, you can critique a few brief paragraphs or a brief testimony, if you want to, but that says very little about why someone left the faith. You walk away thinking you have completely analysed someone’s story. But from where I sit, that’s just stupid. That’s S-T-U-P-I-D! If you truly want to critique a deconversion story, then critique mine in my book. I wrote a complete story there. . . . Dave, I can only tolerate stupidity so long. I challenge you to really critique the one deconversion story that has been published in a book. It’s a complete story. A whole story. It’s mine. . . . Do you accept my challenge? (10-16-06)

— John Loftus [prominent online atheist author and webmaster]

John was rather displeased because I critiqued his “deconversion” story and showed, I think, that his reasons for rejecting Christianity were woefully inadequate and at places downright silly or ignorant. At first, I refused to take up his challenge, because I wanted him to d=send me a PDF copy of his book (traded for several of mine), and he refused. But in September 2019 I bought a paper copy of his book and took up the challenge, writing ten in-depth critiques of it. And guess what? Surprise! He has utterly ignored all ten.

8.  This man is on drugs. Either that, or he’s possessed. It’s unbelievable that there are “Catholics” defending apostasy and scandal. Does he have any articles defending the child molesting homosexual priests as well?

— “Traditio” [radical Catholic reactionary] (7-17-08)

I’m honored to bear this insult, since Jesus was accused of being demon-possessed, too. Part of following Jesus is taking up His cross, which includes the insults He received as well.

7. [T]here are not that many of us who take Armstrong’s writings seriously . . . his writings are little more than a bunch of words that have been loosely strung together). (1-3-05)

. . . strategy of deceit that he [yours truly] uses all the time . . . (1-11-05)
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[T]he “nature” of his apology was insincerity . . . That’s the “strategy of deceit” that Paul refers to in Ephesians 4. (1-13-05)
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He has no problem with lying, so long as he thinks he can pin that same charge on someone else; that way he doesn’t “appear” to be lying. What a sad spectacle. (1-14-05)

*

What’s my “lack of charity” got to do with DA’s lack of honesty? Nothing. . . . that’s just what DA does best–he deceives, and he usually accomplishes that by focusing on half-truths (that’s the “strategy of deceit” that marks the heretic). (1-15-05)

— Dr. Eric Svendsen [anti-Catholic Protestant author and former webmaster]

Eric has been known on several occasions to declare that some unfortunate is definitely damned to the fires of hell. But I suppose that if he thinks I am a heretic, I am already consigned to the reprobate in his fertile discerning mind. He was one of the more colorful and active anti-Catholic polemicists online, in the early 2000s. Then he decided to leave the Internet in April 2010 (I did a fond remembrance post) and has never been heard of since (to my knowledge). I’d like to think that he came to his senses (at least to some extent).

6. [Y]ou are a chronic liar . . . shoddy, incompetent,and anachronistic exegetical work. . . . Titus 3 says to reject the factious man. You are the epitome of that man. . . . Further, this isn’t about the truth for you Dave, however defined, it’s about stroking your own overbloated ego. . . . a person of such obviously low character . . .

— Gene M. Bridges [anti-Catholic Protestant] (10-25-07)

I’m surprised (and a bit disappointed) that Gene didn’t consign me to hell, or at least to the insane asylum . . . this could have been so much better! But to be fair, in the same post, he consistently compared me to the Korean dictator (i.e., the father of the present one), complete with pictures. That’s pretty good, too!

5. Dave . . . is a self-appointed e-poligist [sic] and largely self-published author. [I have had eleven books “officially” published, by six major publishers: four of them bestsellers, and ten additional ones by FaithLife / Logos: the largest Christian electronic publisher; I also have several Imprimaturs] . . . not all of his doctrines are Catholic . . . Dave has apparently never defined Christianity. . . . Maybe Dave will actually stand behind the dogmatic declarations of the church for which he is allegedly an apologist. (10-29-07)

[Y]ou’re not really in line with orthodox Roman Catholic teaching, Dave. (7-6-09)
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You are as kind as you are wise or honest. (8-21-09)
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I’ve recently commented on your lack of integrity. It seems this is going to be an ongoing trend for you. (8-21-09)
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[Y]our agenda is more important to you than the truth. (8-21-09)
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“Turretinfan” [anti-Catholic Protestant Calvinist and blogmaster]
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This particularly obnoxious fool is so obsessed with his anonymity that he actually has appeared in live debates with Catholics with a bag over his head (looking like either a Klansman or a kid at Halloween with a lousy costume). I’ve noted and/or refuted several of his ridiculous opinions, such as that God wanting men to sin, and statues of Jesus Christ being idols.
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4. I’m not the one publishing books and attempting to define my very being as an “apologist.” If these men wish to be taken seriously, I suggest they do serious work. . . . [He] craves attention. (12-22-07)
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This is a big difference between DA and I. I’ve never been bored. I actually have a job, . . . On the other hand, I think DA considers sitting up in his attic tapping away on a computer all day an actual job. Oh that’s right, he’s a professional Catholic apologist. (7-17-09)
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I think it’s quite possible you have serious psychological issues. . . . your cyber-behavior strikes me (and probably others) as very bizarre. If you get yourself checked out, and my suspicions prove accurate, and you get the help you need, be it medication or therapy, and we see a change in your cyber behavior, . . . I don’t want to be known as a guy who picked on a person struggling with deep psychological issues. . . . (8-24-09)
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[P]erhaps it is time we back of from Dave Armstrong a bit. I know you probably think I’m being sarcastic, but actually, I’m not. . . . There’s just something not right with Mr. Armstrong. I think he needs some help. (8-26-09)
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Yes indeed, I do find your shenanigans quite odd behavior. . . . I think you’re wacky, . . . your eratic [sic] behavior, particularly on my blog, lead[sic]  me to question whether or not you needed help. (2-27-10)
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Part of looking over your “work” and commenting on it is nothing else than showing why you shouldn’t be taken seriously. (4-18-10)
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James Swan [anti-Catholic Protestant polemicist and webmaster]
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This guy’s a real piece of work. I don’t say that he’s nuts, as he says about me, but I do say (from long sad experience over 18 years) that he is a first-class fool and inveterate liar: at least when it comes to anything to do with me. He was at least somewhat cordial in the beginning of our interactions (as much as an anti-Catholic bigot can be with a Catholic), but what put him over the edge was foolish pride: after (in June 2003) I roundly refuted his second hit-piece about my Luther research that he had worked so hard on (with 201 footnotes, no less!). It probably took him several weeks to write; took me just a few hours to refute. That blow to his ego was just too much to take, and so he has “replied” ever since with the asinine juvenile insults we see above. Bitterness and jealousy drive many many people to serious sin.
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3. I put forth to you right now that Dave Armstrong, without regard to who trained the ass, educated the ass, is a reflection of exactly what’s wrong with the Catholic Church in America today. If you want to know why it’s split and disfunctional [sic] as a unifying force? Look at Dave. He is the spitting image. . . . Dave Armstrong- you as a heart- aren’t worth the Tomahawk payload to blow you to hell. . . . And if I was your wife I’d divorce you. For being a prissy phony.
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[Mary reminds me of a funny saying from Winston Churchill. Some woman who didn’t like him much said, “Sir, if I were your wife, I’d put poison in your tea.” The great man replied, “Madame, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”]
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. . . You are in this for the money. Not me. Peace out. You are off the rails and too egotistical to know who your friends are. . . . My daughter married such a nightmare. . . . I think if I were you I’d spend sometime wondering who the hell I was before God. Trembling before him certainly is not in your line. . . . what he sorely lacks for as an apologist is love- either for people or the Church. Can’t quite leave his Protestantism behind. . . . A sad sad case Dave is. No love. . . . There is no love, no peace, no charity on your page or in you. You abuse anyone who disagrees with you. And apparently your no does not mean no and your yes does not mean yes. . . . Still waiting for some Catholic apologetics. . . . I also venture to say that one of the more truly toxic forms of Catholicism are with those who convert yet never truly leave their Protestant home. They are neither one or t’other. . . . Not only are you an idiot, but unethical, a bulky and a liar. . . . You are just amazingly STUPID. It boggles the mind anyone reads you at all. . . . It’s time you got a real job man. . . . I have no intention of reading apologetics from a guy who acts premenopausal.. . . This is all you’ve got. Gossip, . . ., slander, calumny, insults and screenshots. Stop blaming the Church by calling this pig tripe of yours “apologetics”. . . . Armstrong just has no credibility left. . . . An apologist? The man is a joke.  . . . complete dishonesty . . . Very dishonest and completely unaware of his own prejudices. . . . It’s hard to decide what is worse. Dave Armstrong or his supporters. (April 2017 on my own Facebook page]
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Mary Hammond [liberal Catholic]
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Mary would derive huge benefit from a reading of Proverbs. But of course she wouldn’t apply the “fool” verses to herself:

Proverbs 18:2 (RSV) A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to himself.

Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

2. [G]uys like Dave Armstrong . . . present an artificially Evangelicalized version of Roman Catholicism . . . sterile hybrid theology that isn’t consistently Catholic or Protestant. (9-14-06)

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I used to think that Dave Armstrong was just a jerk. Not deeply evil. Just a jerk. . . . He isn’t just a narcissistic little jerk. He’s actually evil. It’s not something we can spoof or satirize anymore. He’s crossed a line of no return. (4-13-09)
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[H]ypersensitive, paranoid, an ego-maniac, narcissistic, with a martyr and persecution complex, . . . a self-obsessive individual . . . Not only is Dave an idolater, but a self-idolater. He has sculpted an idol in his own, precious image. A singular, autobiographical personality cult. (7-16-09)
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You have to wonder what Armstrong would do with himself in heaven. I don’t think heaven is big enough for God Almighty and David Armstrong. If Armstrong ever gets to heaven, he’ll have to evict the Lord to make room for himself. Dave is his very own religion. Both subject and object. He carries around a mental icon of his adorable self-image. Lights imaginary candles to his self-image. Burns imaginary incense to his self-image.
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This overweening self-importance isn’t limited to Armstrong. In my observation, it’s fairly characteristic of Catholic converts who become pop apologists. . . . What is it about Catholic converts like Armstrong which selects for this particular mindset? (“The Cult of St. Dave”, 7-16-09)
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[Y]ou play the innocent victim when someone exposes your chicanery. . . . you’re a hack who pretends to be a professional apologist . . . you don’t do any real research. . . . Dave is a stalwart enemy of the faith. He’s no better than Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. Just like the militant atheist, his MO is to destroy faith in God’s word to make room for his alternative. (1-28-10)
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[Y]our persecution complex (btw, you need to have your psychiatrist up the dosage) . . . I didn’t say you were evil in this one instance. You have an evil character. . . . There’s always a clientele for P. T. Barnums like you. . . . I’m supposed to be taken in by your bipolar tactics? (1-29-10)
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. . . a schizophrenic guy like Armstrong . . . One of Dave’s problems is his lifelong love affair with himself. He reacts to any imagined slight the way a normal man reacts if someone slights his wife or mother or girlfriend. . . . Dave is self-important. . . . If would help Armstrong if, in refuting the allegation that he’s emotionally unhinged, if he didn’t become emotionally unhinged whenever he hears the allegation. . . . because he doesn’t trust in the merit of Christ alone for salvation, Dave has an insatiable need for self-justification. He, like other Catholics, has no peace of mind. . . . Yes, Dave, that’s evil. Pure evil. . . . Of course, that’s symptomatic of Armstrong’s instability. (4-18-10)
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It’s bad enough to be a narcissist, but when you’re at war with your mirror-image, who’s left to turn to? It’s hard to be Dave Armstrong. Hard to be a bipolar solipsist. (“Split-personality narcissist”, 8-3-11)
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Both Paul Hoffer and Dave Armstrong are bad men who imagine they are good men. That’s not unusual. Bad men often have a high opinion of their own motives. And Catholicism reinforces that self-deception. (12-7-11)
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— the late Steve Hays [anti-Catholic Protestant webmaster and polemicist]

*

This is seething literal hatred and contempt, in a way that only an anti-Catholic Calvinist applying his own false doctrine of total depravity can express. The problem with supposedly “determining” who is of the elect or not (which means also who is going to hell) is that the Bible never sanctions doing any such thing (and even John Calvin agreed). But once a person goes down that road and doesn’t like someone else or his or her ideas, the danger is that they will decide that they are scumbags, judged by God and on the way to hell. This in turn justifies any outrages and slanders heaped upon the object of derision. It’s as far away from the love of Jesus and the fruit of the Holy Spirit as can be imagined. I don’t thereby conclude that the one committing such sins is not a Christian. But I do know for sure that such inveterate lying puts them in serious spiritual danger. I sincerely pray that Steve was saved when he passed in the last year. I know that God does everything in His mercy to save as many as possible, given human free will and sin.
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1. DA lacks the ability to engage the text of the Scriptures in a meaningful fashion, and 2) DA will use anything to attack the truth. . . . As to the first, I simply direct anyone to the “exegesis” presented in A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, his 2001 publication. The book is a monument to how to ignore context, avoid grammar, shred syntax, and insert the traditions of Rome willy-nilly into any passage you cite. . . . DA thinks himself a modern Socrates, yet, his writing takes wild leaps from topic to topic, inserts endless (and often gratuitous) irrelevant material that serves only to cover the shallow nature of what is being said, and in the end requires one to possess the skill of nailing jello to a wall to be able to respond to it for its utter lack of substance.  (3-28-04)
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[I]f you read his materials, he’s very very high on himself and, uh, makes sure that you know how many books he’s written. Of course, they’re vanity published,

[at this point in time — April 2004 — I had two books published, by two different Catholic publishers: one the largest one: OSV; both bestsellers]

but how many books he’s written, and uh, you read the top of his page, and it’s [mocking tone] exegesis and history and apologetics and philosophy and all this stuff, and you know, in your heart of hearts, that this fella, uh, bless his soul, has no idea what he’s talking about. He’s read some books, but the important foundational stuff that allows you to actually make sense out of all that stuff, he’s clueless; he has no idea what he is talking about, but he writes constantly!

. . . Cuz, it’s sorta, sort of; it’s really disturbing to me, uh, that I hear from people, and they go, “well, well, whaddya think about what he said about this?” And I sorta, I sorta; I, it’s really hard for me to go, “well, have you really thought about, you know, the foundation of this argument, and the background of this argument?” People need to learn how to examine argumentation! And see through fluff! Uh, see through stuff that shouldn’t even be called an argument; it’s complimenting it way too much to call it an argument! And [sigh] it’s just, how do you deal with folks like that? . . .

When you respond to him, and I don’t know if anyone followed it, if they went to his blog — we provided some of the links and stuff — but, I went through, I provided, I quoted from his book, and then I quoted from the article I had written. And the whole point was to illustrate the difference in exegetical methodology. I have one. He doesn’t. And he doesn’t because he doesn’t know the field. He’s just; he doesn’t know what he’s doing! I mean, that would be like my trying to, to, write to a CPA and criticize uh, an audit that he’s done on a major corporation. I’m not trained in that. I don’t know the terminology. I don’t know the basics, the foundational rules that you’re supposed to do and why you put this in this ledger and why you put that — I don’t know that stuff. It’s not my area, I; you can go to school and learn those things. Uh, but he hasn’t done so.

And so, I just provided as an example. Well, he writes this response which has nothing to do with the text; it has nothing to do with exegesis; it just simply proves my point, but that’s one of the things [mocking me] “see, he just ignores this.” Well, okay, yeah, I did, because it wasn’t worth responding to! I mean, it’s just that bad! So, I did respond to it, after he said I wouldn’t, and so I responded to it, demonstrated that it had no connection with reality whatsoever, it was really really bad, and his response to that was basically to accuse me of attacking him, and all the rest of this stuff, which for him means, I pointed out that he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

When do, where do you draw the line? I mean, it would be so much easier to just ignore all these people, but the problem is, we’re one of those few folks that actually gets out there and we get our hands dirty. We actually take on these, these individuals, and show where the argumentation’s bad, and you’re gonna end up with dirt on your hands, and on your face, when you wallow with some of these folks, and we try to figure out where the line is. This guy [sigh], sadly, there are people who write recommendations of his stuff! I mean, you got Scott Hahn, all these folks, which amazes me. Uh, because you [laughter] look at some of his books, and it’s just like “wow! there’s just no substance here.” It’s just rattle rattle rattle rattle, and quote John Henry Cardinal Newman and that’s the end of the subject. And there’s no meaningful argumentation going on at all.

Where do you draw the line, because eventually, I have to trust that the people who are reading these things, and are concerned about these things can eventually go, “hey, wait a minute, that wasn’t even a response; that’s not even a meaningful argument,” without my having to hold their hand and show that to them. But, sadly, in a postmodern world, where, for a lot of folks, if you can produce a response, and spell it right, that somehow means something. The view of logic, rationality, the ability to examine argumentation; let’s face it, folks, listen to the political dialogue in our nation! There’s not a whole lot of meaningful discussion going on there! And yet you get people all excited; you know, I could play my Howard Dean .wav here, you know. [laughter] It’s just like, “whoah!” People, people look at this kind of stuff and as long as your mouth is moving, somehow you’re making a point! Instead of going, “you know what? That person didn’t answer that question, either!, that person didn’t answer that question, either,” wow! you know, all the rest of that kind of stuff . . . it is, it is, it’s a daily battle as to how to decide what you respond to and what you don’t.

Well, on a much higher level; on a much much much higher level; uh, on a, on an extremely much higherly [sic] level [derisive laughter], . . . (webcast of 4-20-04)

Mr. Armstrong has provided a reading list on his blog. In essence, this means that instead of blaming ignorance for his very shallow misrepresentations of non-Catholic theology and exegesis, we must now assert knowing deception. (12-31-04)

Quite honestly, I just don’t see that he follows an argument really well. . . . A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. This is a self-published book, alright? [At first it was, but it was published by Sophia Institute Press in June 2003: a year and seven months before this screed by Bishop White] There’s no editor in the sense of a Bethany House or something involved with this particular book [really? That would be big news to Todd Aglialoro: currently editor for Catholic Answers] . . . . The man does not know how to do exegesis. It’s a fact. I went through it and demonstrated that. But that book really didn’t have a lot of distribution. [That would be news to Sophia, and is a curious comment, since the book was a bestseller in its field] Well now he’s put one out with Sophia Institute Press. [Yeah, my second one!] Now that’s an actual publisher. And so that means it’s gonna get actual distribution [my 2nd of three bestsellers for them!] . . . so it would be useful to a wider audience to go ahead and respond to some of the arguments that are presented in the book, The Catholic Verses, . . . there is a consistent pattern of eisegetical misunderstanding, and an inability to deal with the text . . . basically, Mr. Armstrong melted down . . . it does not seem that anyone knows what ad hominem argumentation is . . . the reason that Dave Armstrong is doing this is pretty much the same reason that Dave Hunt won’t debate me. He can’t. He can’t . . . the facts are not on Dave Armstrong’s side. He can’t respond! . . . Dave Armstrong has gone into hiding . . . because he can’t respond anymore . . . . . . If you don’t read what the other side is saying, you can’t call yourself an apologist, can you? . . . if it’s right there, and you are writing on the subject of sola Scriptura or against sola Scriptura, and two pages prior to something you do cite, a hole is blown right through your argument, facts are presented that are completely contrary to your own position, and you hide that; you say nothing about it, that’s not honest! That’s not apologetics! I don’t have any respect for that, and I’m gonna point it out! You’re misusing your audience when you do that. Aren’t you? . . . I would rather have had 20 verses that confound Protestants, and had serious arguments presented, than 95 fluffy pieces; 95 fluffy passages. Most of the time, these passages are cited, and there’s no exegesis offered. It’s just, “well here’s what the text says, and my Catholic tradition says this, and therefore we move on from there.” That’s not meaningful argumentation . . . if you’ve been in a serious, Bible-oriented, Bible-preaching church for the past ten years, you should be able to refute clearly and exegetically, at least 90 of these 95 . . . the argumentation is so basic and so clearly fallacious . . . clear, obvious, logical errors . . . Armstrong could throw his hands up in the air and say, “look, I’m not a scholar; I have no scholarly training. [I guess that is why I wrote in the Intro. of this very book (p. xiii): “This is not a scholarly work, as I am no scholar in the first place . . .”] . . . . . . your refutation is actually based upon your own ignorance; you didn’t understand what they were saying . . . . . . If Mr. Armstrong can’t defend his material, then so much the worse for Mr. Armstrong. Maybe he will move on to doing something else. Maybe he’ll recognize this isn’t something he should be doing. Maybe he’ll think twice before putting himself in that situation again. . . . No one has even tried to document that I have misrepresented Dave Armstrong. They can’t. (webcast of 1-4-05)

[I]t truly amazes me that someone who utterly lacks the tools to do the work he claims to do with such expertise continues to be dragged along by the rest of his compatriots. Just another example of “as long as it is in the service of Mother Church, it is all good.” (4-5-05)

Now, moonbat is an interesting phrase. It is generally used to describe the wacko left, but it strikes me as being particularly descriptive of wackos in general, unhinged folks who have no self-control and are utterly controlled by their angry emotions. Most religions have their moonbats. Rome surely does. Off the top of my head, we can list . . . Dave “the Stalker” Armstrong . . . (5-4-07)

Steve Ray and Dave Armstrong, . . . those Roman Catholic apologists who really are not serious about truth but do what they do for less-than-noble reasons, . . . (7-31-08)

The little yip yip yip yip yip dog? That’s Dave Armstrong, because he never does anything original on his own. He always borrows from somebody else. . . . . . . try doing it truthfully. Try presenting both sides; maybe try listening to both sides sometime. You’re not gonna get that kind of example following Dave Armstrong and Jerusalem Jones [Steve Ray], but I call you to a higher standard. (webcast, 7-31-08)

Serious readers in the field realize that while Dave may stumble over a thoughtful argument once in a while, it is always to be found somewhere else. He simply does not produce original argumentation of any kind, and clearly does not understand the responses that have been offered to him over and over again. (1-6-10)

Dave Armstrong is not a Roman Catholic scholar. He trolls the Internet and cobbles stuff together. Worst of the worst. (Twitter, 5-17-12)

Dave Armstrong is not a serious or thoughtful or reflective or studied Roman apologist or writer. Period. (Twitter, 5-17-12)

Dave Armstrong has never had a fresh insight on a theological and doctrinal topic. Period. (Twitter, 5-18-12)

[the hilarious thing about that is that he was replying to Dan Pritchett, who is is Executive Vice President at FaithLife / Logos Bible Software, which publishes eleven of my books!]

— The Right Reverend Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White [anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist Apologist, Elder, Author, famous debater, with a supposed PhD, etc., etc.]

Ah, what can one say about the inimitable Bishop White? He has wasted more ink in lying about me since our first postal debate in 1995 (where he was so defeated that he split before the end and has never attempted a serious debate with me since), than any man alive. None of it has had the slightest effect, anymore than it had the slightest truth contained in it (not that this would ever stop him from doing it). He brags endlessly about his skill in oral debates and how every Catholic on the face of the earth is supposedly scared to death of him. Well, I don’t do oral debates, but I did one spontaneous “live chat” with him in his chat room, with no notes (making patristic references off the top of my head), and I thought I did fine (you be the judge).  I have compiled a book of my written “debates with” (er, more like my refutations of) him and have a lengthy web page devoted to His Eminence as well.

Thanks for the memories and laughs, James!
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Please pray for all these poor souls, as I do (and am commanded to do in Scripture). I can only pity persons who have to lie like this about a brother in Christ: even a fellow Catholic, in several cases. I had fun with this (as Erasmus did with Luther’s endless insults; what else can one do with this sort of rotgut?), but at bottom it is a wicked thing and a very serious spiritual problem: to bear false witness against a fellow Christian (or, fellow human being, in the case of atheists and agnostics).
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May we all be prevented by the Holy Spirit from ever entering this despicable territory. Thus I end what was originally a humorous post — poking fun at the stupidity and sheer ludicrosity of such insults — on a very serious note indeed. Sins may be funny and laughable in their folly and silliness, but they are not in the least bit funny in their effects on the soul of the person who is committing them and failing to repent.
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Photo credit: James White: posted on 14 May 2020 on Twitter [source]

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December 19, 2020

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce’s “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

Jonathan wrote the article, “Jesus the ‘Nazarene’ – What Is the Prophecy?” [12-5-20]. Then I replied with Jesus the “Nazarene”: Did Matthew Make Up a “Prophecy”? (Oral Traditions and Possible Lost Old Testament Books Referred to in the Bible) [12-17-20]. Jonathan (the fastest atheist debater in the west) responded to that with Jesus the “Nazarene”: More Prophecy Debate [12-18-20]. This is my counter-reply in turn.

*****

I showed in my piece that (an analysis of the language and the OT prophecy) that:

[1.] Nazarene does not mean someone from Nazareth – there is confusion over whether it means someone from Nazareth, someone of the Nazirite religious sect, or from the Hebrew word meaning branch; the latter seems the most probable.

And I think that I showed in mine that there is no such confusion.

[2.] This prophecy is absent from the OT unless it does, indeed, refer to the branch meaning.

This I agree to, so it is not a point of debate. It doesn’t have to be, in the case that I laid out. I’m not confined to that. Rightly understood, even the Protestant worldview is not required to find this in the Old Testament, since they acknowledge that the New Testament does cite extrabiblical sources.

This, then, looks like Matthew is somewhat wrong.

Really? We shall see! Me thinks Jonathan is “somewhat wrong.”

He provides no balance to this in the context of the analysis I provided other than to invoke JP Holding (I will refrain from giving my true opinion of invoking Holding here) and not dealing with the original extract, . . . 

I cited JP Holding (whom atheists despise because he’s a Christian apologist: I know the feeling well!) simply because his name came up in a search when I was trying to find something — anything — about this guy Hayyim ben Yehoshua, about whom we seem to be able to find out nothing at all (as Holding noted, which is why I cited him). Here’s the Google search: see it for yourself. Hayyim is the source of the “analysis” that Jonathan “provided”: the citation that he produces again (completely missing my point about credentials, it seems).

It’s a case of “dualing linguistic authorities.”  I don’t know Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek (let alone biblical Koine Greek), and I suspect that Jonathan doesn’t, either. So if and when we get into disputes about the meaning of biblical texts involving the meanings of words, we must necessarily rely on folks who do know those languages (and hopefully, linguistic scholars: not just someone pulled out of a hat, with no discernible credentials). Jonathan’s methodology was the latter. He cited Hayyim ben Yehoshua (a polemicist, as we know from the work this is drawn from: Refuting Missionaries), Wikipedia (very handy and helpful — I use it all the time — , but certainly not the height of scholarship), and another article from the polemicist organization, Jews for Judaism (which likes to oppose itself to Jews for Jesus: i.e., Jews who became Christians).

He merely, using Holding, asserts that he doesn’t know the author of this,

Yeah, in other words, Jonathan “merely” cites some guy he found on the Internet, with no known scholarly credentials. That’s supposed to be impressive? I challenged him to present us anything about his credentials. I guess Jonathan couldn’t find anything (which is a bit embarrassing).

and that Gerhard Kittle,

It’s Kittel. And he was the editor of the ten-volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, which is a standard linguistic source. I have the one-volume edition. Agree with its conclusions or no, it is a scholarly source on the Greek of the New Testament. Unknown, mysterious Internet polemicist Hayyim ben Yehoshua is not. Sorry . . . 

the author of his theological definition (of course, without biases of his own) is a much better authority.

Yes, of course he has biases, like everyone does. It doesn’t follow that he and the other editors / translators were not scholars, or that they couldn’t accurately and authoritatively comment on the present question. For many atheists, many Christian scholars appear to be immediately suspect simply because they are Christian, just as Bertrand Russell, infamously and ridiculously (in his History of Philosophy) “argued” that St. Thomas Aquinas couldn’t possibly be a philosopher because he was a Catholic. That’s like saying that Einstein couldn’t possibly have been a trustworthy advocate of the theory of relativity because, after all, he heartily believed in it!

Kittel certainly is a much better authority on this question than Hayyim ben Yehoshua: a guy who thinks “There was absolutely no historical evidence that Jesus, Joseph or Mary ever existed”. He is supposedly a less biased source regarding biblical terms than Gerhard Kittel? He has no bias that would severely affect his opinions?

A sort of argument from authority rather than dealing with the actual content.

Again, “authority” (i.e., scholars trained in language and — hopefully — in biblical exegesis to some extent, too) is all we both can appeal to in this instance. It’s not the fallacious “appeal to authority” when one simply goes to an expert in the field to get their opinion about a controversial topic. 

I went to Raymond Brown, the famous Catholic exegete whom I highly rate (all quotes from The Birth of the Messiah, 1977, London: Geoffrey Chapman). 

Now isn’t this interesting! When Jonathan likes a Catholic or otherwise Christian scholar (and no doubt he does because in many areas Fr. Brown was a heterodox dissident, by Catholic criteria), then it’s a whole different story. Now there are no profound biases in play, you see. Fr. Raymond Brown is gospel truth, while Gerhard Kittel is dismissed for having “biases.”

However, in this instance, I find Brown’s exegesis somewhat interesting… Brown actually advocates that all the meanings are possibly true. Matthew meant them all – religious sect member, branch, and person from Nazareth! See Brown p. 208-213.

Well, that’s his opinion. If I dared produce any scholar who argued in such a way, Jonathan would roundly mock my argument, as proof that my sources were special pleading and rationalizing, by throwing every mere possibility up against the wall and hoping that some of it would stick. But when one of his favorites does it, it’s just “somewhat interesting.”

Fr. Brown also wrote in the same book:

Such highly competent Semitists and exegetes as Albright, Moore, and Schaeder, . . . argue on purely philological grounds that the form Nazōraios is quite defensible as a derivation from Nazareth, if one takes into account dialectical phonology in Galilean Aramaic.  . . .

Matthew may have delighted in the irony that the title that Jesus received from his unlikely home town gave him a similarity to heroes like Samson and Samuel. (pp. 210-211)

Yeah, I have no problem with a double application of prophecies. In fact, I just strenuously argued that very point in a paper I put up yesterday, in response to Jonathan, who expressly denied that there was such a thing. No Christian who knows his or her Bible has any problem with it whatsoever. It’s a common scriptural motif. The biblical writers and ancient near-eastern Mesopotamian / Hebrew culture thought in terms of “both/and”; not “either/or”: which was more of a Greek thing.

He also accepts that no mention of Nazareth exists in pre-Christian writings (p. 207) and so it would be odd for a place that seems not to have existed yet to fits coherently into an OT prophecy. 

Well, this is the thing: prophets know a lot of stuff that other people don’t know. So it’s not difficult at all (for anyone who believes that biblical prophets and prophecy existed, and that the prophecies were accurate and predictive; and it’s our views that atheist anti-theists attack and critique) to believe that a prophet could mention a very obscure town. It was pretty tiny still in Jesus’ time, too. Our very informative Palestinian guide in Israel in 2014 told us that the town in His time was about as big as the parking lot around the Church of the Annunciation: hardly as large as a football field.

Again, it doesn’t have to be an “OT prophecy.”

This also coheres with Rene Salm’s thesis in The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus that Nazareth did not exist at the time of Jesus, according to archaeological analysis, and not until at least 70 CE.

Really, that would come as big news to the folks described in this article: “New archaeological evidence from Nazareth reveals religious and political environment in era of Jesus” (David Keys, Independent, 4-17-20). They actually do science, rather than sit in armchairs and make historically and archaeologically clueless remarks about towns and people like Jesus not existing or never existing:

[T]he archaeological investigation revealed that in Nazareth itself, in the middle of the first century AD, anti-Roman rebels created a sizeable network of underground hiding places and tunnels underneath the town – big enough to shelter at least 100 people. . . . 

The new archaeological investigation – the largest ever carried out into Roman period Nazareth – has revealed that Jesus’s hometown is likely to have been considerably bigger than previously thought. It probably had a population of up to 1,000 (rather than just being a small-to-medium sized village of 100-500, as previously thought). 

“Our new investigation has transformed archaeological knowledge of Roman Nazareth,” said Dr Dark, who has just published the results of his research in a new book Roman-Period and Byzantine Nazareth and its Hinterland. . . . 

The newly emerging picture of Roman-period Nazareth as a place of substantial religiosity does, however, resonate not only with the emergence of its most famous son, Jesus, but also with the fact that, in the mid-first or second century, it was chosen as the official residence of one of the high priests of the by-then-destroyed Temple in Jerusalem, when all 24 of those Jewish religious leaders were driven into exile in Galilee.

See also: “Did First-Century Nazareth Exist?” (Bryan Windle, Bible Archaeology Report, 8-9-18; cf. several related articles from a Google search). Did it exist before Jesus’ time? It looks like it did:

The Franciscan priest Bellarmino Bagatti, “Director of Christian Archaeology”, carried out extensive excavation of this “Venerated Area” from 1955 to 1965. Fr. Bagatti uncovered pottery dating from the Middle Bronze Age (2200 to 1500 BC) and ceramics, silos and grinding mills from the Iron Age (1500 to 586 BC) which indicated substantial settlement in the Nazareth basin at that time. (Wikipedia, “Nazareth”)

That’s science. Sorry to disappoint! Jonathan then goes on to describe several more of the numerous possibly hypotheses of Fr. Raymond Brown. He has many theories; so do many others. Jonathan opines:

[H]e goes onto say that this doesn’t matter because some influential conservative Christian scholars such as Albright think it derives from Nazareth (p. 209-10).

Brown is usually very good but here he is weak, in my opinion, deferring to conservative authority and then saying it doesn’t really matter anyway because Matthew meant all three.

See how when a “conservative” scholar like Albright comes up, he is immediately described in terms — not of his scholarship — but as conservative authority.” It just gets childish: this sort of polemical silliness. I can recognize that Fr. Brown has many good things to add to scholarly discussion (he clearly does in this discussion), even though he holds to several heterodox opinions, according to his own Catholic Church. Truth is truth wherever it is found. Jonathan ought to simply accept the dreaded “conservative” scholarship on its merits, too; judge its veracity or lack thereof in individual instances. Fr. Brown himself doesn’t have to run down Albright. He calls him a “highly competent” Semitist and exegete.

Fr. Brown appears to reference Carey A. Moore. Here are his credentials:

emeritus professor of religion at Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA, received his Ph.D. in semitics from The Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of four volumes in the Doubleday Anchor Bible series, as well as of over fifty articles in the areas of the Hebrew Bible and the Apocrypha.

I have no idea whether he is “conservative” or not. But he sure is a highly qualified scholar: of the sort that could figure out the mystery of “He shall be called a Nazarene”, isn’t he? Why can’t Jonathan respect his scholarly achievements without putting him into the “conservative” box and dismissing him? That is the genetic fallacy: if we want to talk about fallacies being committed. 

Fr. Brown also referred to H. Schaeder, who wrote the piece, “Nazarenos, Nazoraios”, in [whaddya know?!] Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, IV:874 f. I found this information in Wikipedia, “Nazareth”.  The guys involved with those volumes were not theological conservatives; they are a bunch of German Lutheran liberals, for the most part. Germany has been a hotbed of theological liberalism in both Lutheran and Catholic circles for 200 years. But I think all can usually agree on linguistic matters, where philology and etymology rule more than theology.

I am arguing as to whether he meant merely (i.e., at least) that Nazōraíos meant someone from Nazareth. Brown does at least deal with arguments both for and against a reading of all three, and in this case Nazareth (as discussed above). This is by no means an easy or closed case.

Brown does give a very in-depth analysis of all three options but the largest section (p. 2112-213) is devoted to it meaning “branch” as derived from nēser, such that it holds a lot of scholarly backing, and this fits in with my conclusion later that the prophecy is best explained by “branch”. Either way, Matthew’s use must at least mean someone from Nazareth because that is the causal language used.

I agree with the last sentence. So does the New Testament, it seems clear to me. It can also have other meanings as well (the “dual fulfillment” issue again . . .). It’s pretty tough to botch the interpretation of “he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth” (Mt 2:23). “Jesus of Nazareth” ain’t rocket science, either. If someone says “Dave of Detroit” (birthplace and childhood home) or “Dave of / from Tecumseh” [Michigan]: my current residence, no tremendous insight is needed to figure out what those things mean.  

What’s the conclusion from all of this? Since the scholarly conclusions are not QED on either side, it doesn’t matter; the skeptic will find the ones supporting their conclusion (that Nazōraíos does not mean someone from Nazareth) of more value and Armstrong and other Christians will confirm their own biases by affording the conclusions that it does mean someone from Nazareth more value. It’s how the game works.

Atheists need not give up anything they believe in affirming that Jesus existed (refusing to commit intellectual suicide by denying that) and was born in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth, and also Capernaum for a time. These things are common knowledge. Like I said, it’s not rocket science to see that the plain meaning of Nazarene or Jesus of Nazareth is “someone from Nazareth.” If it has other meanings, it does, but this is the central one and it’s not “contradicted” if there are also secondary meanings. 

Here, though I believe the former, I think I have a better case than the Christian since I am also taking into account the OT prophecy itself

There is no such OT prophecy. That’s the whole point of this debate.

and since Nazareth didn’t appear to exist at the time, you can bet that the OT prophecy was not referring to the place.

There is at least some evidence of its existence then. But it was very small. So was ancient Jerusalem: the city of David. I walked through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which runs the whole length of ancient Jerusalem, underground. It only took about 20 minutes. It was a small town. How much smaller, ancient Nazareth!

If you take into account Salm’s whole thesis (which you don’t have to go that far), it didn’t even exist at the time of Jesus (work that wasn’t available to Brown in his life, and was followed up in 2015 with NazarethGate: Quack Archeology, Holy Hoaxes, and the Invented Town of Jesus).  I also genuinely find some of the arguments more forceful (such as quoted from Brown above).

Take that up with the folks doing the latest “digs” going on in Nazareth now. I go with current science, not desperate atheist myths, made up on the fly (or any fringe Christian conspiracist myths, either).

I almost forgot to talk about what Armstrong believes? It turns out, whatever JP Holding tells him to, or whatever source better confirms his position – in this case, the theological dictionary he uses.

Right. I happened to run across JP Holding critiquing this unknown guru that Jonathan cited as a “scholar” and so “presto!”: that means I believe whatever he tells me! And then I am gullible enough to cite an abridged version of a ten-volume standard work on biblical linguistics and Jonathan acts like this is some novel, outrageous position to take. It’s exactly what anyone who is seeking the meaning of biblical words ought to do: seek out an expert on the meaning of biblical words! DUH! 

And of course, Jonathan shows no bias whatsoever in citing an (as far as we know) uncredentialed guy with regard to biblical language: a person who thinks Jesus, Joseph, and Mary never existed. No bias there at all! Complete objectivity! 

Curious, I searched my blog to see how many times JP Holding was mentioned. It’s five times out of my 3130 articles posted (including my most recent mention). This means I will cite him in one out of every 626 of my papers! Obviously, he’s my main man, that I constantly rely on. Now let’s search Jonathan’s site for a big cheese in the atheist world like, say Bart Ehrman or Richard Carrier. Ehrman came up 44 timesCarrier  a whopping 115 times (though a few of them was the word in its ordinary usage). Oops! I forgot about good ol’ Richard Dawkins. He appears in 134 of Jonathan’s articles. The late eloquent if massively mistaken Christopher Hitchens also shows up in 64.

So with this sort of rapt admiration and dependence going on, Jonathan can spare me the gut-laughter claim about “Armstrong believes . . . whatever JP Holding tells him to.” I am happy to let anyone know who my intellectual heroes are: St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, C. S. Lewis, and G. K. Chesterton. Lewis has been my favorite writer since the late 70s, Chesterton a great favorite since the mid-80s, and Newman my biggest hero and influence from 1990 and my conversion to Catholicism. My personal library reflects this: they are all massively represented (Newman in about 20 books from 1910 or so and some even from the 1800s). But even those three I cite relatively few times because of the nature of the materials I am writing as an apologist in many different areas. 

Out of interest, I doubt there is a single theological dictionary that seriously critically analyses or concludes to positions that cast doubt on the historical claims of the Gospels, but there you go.

That’s not true at all. I sometimes find positions stated in the works I use that I know are not orthodox, according to historic Catholicism or Protestantism. As I noted, these are a bunch of German theologically liberal scholars. It doesn’t mean that an orthodox Christian has to be skeptical of everything they say. Much of it is fine and helpful. One must simply exercise caution. Darrow Miller, who has “pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies” has stated about Kittel and his comrades:

Kittel and his peers were overwhelmed by the evolutionary “spirit of their age.” This affected their theology. Kittel was a liberal German rationalist, as were most of the 100 German scholars who worked on the TDNT. They approached their work from a naturalistic framework. They denied the authority of Scripture as divine revelation and placed their trust in rationalism – man’s reason alone. They saw the Bible through the rationalistic lens of German higher criticism. For them, the Bible was a product of human processes, a collection of books of religious men searching for God. They argued that the Bible may contain revelation, but it was not in its essence the special revelation of God.

And yes, Kittel was wrapped up with the Nazis somehow: before that is thrown in my face. I know that, and so does everyone else who knows enough to use his linguistic work as a source.

But my source is certainly not biased in my favor, by a long shot. He simply has made a study of biblical Greek and of biblical exegesis. He was likely more liberal than Jonathan’s favorite, Fr. Brown. How ironic, huh?

I, at least, have worked hard to look at a religious scholar whom I think is the best in the field and one of the fairest.

Good for him. Of course, Fr. Brown, like virtually every other scholarly exegete, makes use of the ten-volume Kittel source. It’s right there in the list of abbreviations (“TDNT”) in the 199 paperback edition, p. 21 (as a search on Amazon can quickly verify). And he commended on this very question under consideration, a man (Schaeder) who wrote about it in TDNT.

But this is all contingent upon there actually being an OT prophecy that can and does refer to Nazareth and Nazōraíos being used to refer to the place.

There isn’t an “OT prophecy.” But it could have been a lost written source or an oral prophetic tradition.

Or, no, you can’t find it in the OT but people could have said it… I do congratulate him for at least admitting this:

The Catholic Encyclopedia (“Nazarene”: 1911) casually states regarding Matthew 2:23: “No explicit prediction to this effect is found in the recorded Old Testament prophecies, and various theories have been advanced to explain the reference. . . . but these interpretations seem far-fetched, to say nothing of other difficulties.”

Something fairly honest. I’d take that.

Thanks. But it’s no big deal, really. It’s a position widely held by orthodox Christians of all stripes. As we can see: that was a big Catholic source (though not “magisterial”) from 109 years ago. I’ve held the view for many years. Suggested Bible “problems” are “ours” to deal with as Christians. C. S. Lewis observed: “the rules of chess create chess problems.” Likewise, belief (in faith, but in accordance with reason and logic) in biblical inspiration creates “biblical difficulties” that apologists like me and exegetes and theologians and pastors and priests grapple with. I’m happy to do it. I find it enjoyable, and I invariably get a blessing in discovering how much evidence exists and how weak skeptical and atheist positions invariably are. This is the blessing of the apologist.

I am aware [of explanations I provided], I just don’t find it particularly satisfying and nor would I, had I been a Christian. Brown is aware of this, too, but has this to say (p. 208):

…the canon of the Jewish Scriptures had not been completely fixed in NT times…; yet the ambiguity about books was chiefly in relation to the Writings, the third section of the Jewish Scriptures, coming after the Law and the Prophets. Matthew refers to “the prophets,” a relatively fixed part of the canon…. The main objection to this explanation [Armstrong’s] is that all other times Matthew mentions a prophet in his fulfillment formulas, he is citing known OT books.

And we also see a passage like this one in Jude, noting that Enoch “prophesied” a thing not found in the Old Testament:

Jude 1:14-15 (RSV) It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, [15] to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Obviously, cited prophecies in the New Testament are not confined to the canonical OT prophets. John the Baptist is considered a prophet (Mt 11:13). His father Zechariah “prophesied” (Lk 1:67). Even the non-Christian high priest Caiphas did (Jn 11:49-52). Philip the evangelist “had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied” (Acts 21:9). Acts 21:10 mentions “a prophet named Ag’abus.” See more passages on “prophesying”. “Prophets” are referred to in the Church in Acts 13:1; 15:32; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; 14:29, 32, 37; Ephesians 4:11; and 1 Timothy 4:14.

With all this data, obviously a prophecy cited that is not part of the Old Testament is no big deal, and not even particularly controversial, since the prophetic gifts and prophets still exist in the Church age, many years after the Old Testament books were written.

This means, as Brown concludes, “The citation given by Matthew is not a verbatim form or even a clear adaptation of any known OT passage” (p. 208).

Bingo! Welcome to the club.

Whilst the canon wasn’t set, it pretty much was for the prophets, whom Matthew was quoting.

This is assuming what needs to be proven. Circular reasoning . . . 

And, even then, Matthew each and every time he does quote the prophets elsewhere, it is from the OT. Armstrong has a big inductive uphill battle.

So what? There can be exceptions to rules. All I have argued for here are possibilities beyond the “OT canon.” And I have made my case from the Bible itself.

Which leads us right back round to what it could mean since there is no OT prophecy that mentions Nazareth. That much is indisputable. Armstrong goes off-piste here to assert that Matthew must be using an OT prophecy that is noncanonical

That’s not all I argued. I said that was possible, but also that it might have been from a book now lost (Akin’s argument that I cited).

(since it is a real squeeze to even get archaeology that supports it existing in Jesus’ time). 

See the article on this I cited above, and go argue with them.

Most of the rest of Jonathan’s argument is relative minutiae or beating dead horses, and I’m nearing almost 4,500 words. I’ve addressed the heart of it. I do enjoy and greatly appreciate the opportunity to dialogue about these issues, and again highly commend Jonathan for his intellectual courage in defending a position and challenging someone outside it, which is getting rarer and rarer these days among all belief-systems. Jonathan put a lot of effort into it (the old college try), but in my (hopefully humble) opinion it’s a case of “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” He didn’t have much to work with, but did his best.

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Photo credit: Head of Christ on the Cross, anonymous [public domain / Library of Congress]

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November 24, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 62 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

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I have noted Bob’s bizarre and irrational intellectual cowardice when dealing with my critiques on at least four occasions:

Atheist Bob Seidensticker Ain’t Afraid to Debate, and I Am? Really?! [10-3-18]

Atheist Bob Seidensticker: Intellectual Coward (My 32 Critiques) [7-20-19]

Seidensticker Folly #43: Intellectual Cowardice & Hypocrisy [8-28-20]

Seidensticker Folly #46: Ridiculous 5-Minute Exchange (Atheist Neil Carter Promptly Banned Me During the Discussion on His Blog) [8-30-20]

Today I was struck by his absurd double standards, in repeatedly addressing a Christian apologist that he appears to have an equally low opinion of, compared to yours truly. Yet he replies to him and has utterly ignored my 62 refutations as of this date. There are only so many ways to explain such a discrepancy. I think many readers would conclude the same thing I do.

His four-part series in response to the New Zealand minister and evangelist Ray Comfort was originally posted in July 2016 and has now been posted in installments in November 2020 (one / two / three / four). Note how even the titles immediately express Bob’s opinion that Comfort is flat-out not “honest”: “Fat Chance: Pigs Will Fly Before Ray Comfort Writes an Honest Critique of Atheists.”

So let’s do a quick run-down of Bob’s opinion of Comfort’s intellectual prowess (right or wrong — I’m not addressing that, and it’s not my topic –; I’m merely recording Bob’s view for the record):

In the third installment, he calls Comfort “an obnoxious moron” and refers to “how little he understands the issues he talks about.” He gets more and more scathingly insulting as the article proceeds:

Ray keeps using his simple platitudes, . . . He’s been corrected by the best—Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, and other biologists have pointed out his errors. And yet he pops back up like a Weeble with the same stupid arguments. . . . 

Ray, what do you call someone who makes a mistake, has it corrected by a reliable authority, and then deliberately repeats that mistake? You [call] him a liar. . . .

Does it worry you that you lie? Or maybe you have some rationalization like it’s okay to lie for Jesus or you can lie as long as you ask for forgiveness afterwards.

Bob continues his ranting in part 4, with this preface: “I’ll wrap up with a few more claims from the book that I can’t let stand without rebuttal.” Oh, the pathetic irony! And:

I can understand Ray’s motivation, though—it’s a lot easier to simply make statements like this and ignore that whole evidence-and-good-arguments thing. What a hassle that is. . . . 

As for Ray’s pig book, I’m amazed that he can consider this mindless and insulting tract to be an evangelistic tool.

Okay! Now, the obvious question is: if Ray Comfort’s book is so “mindless and insulting” and he is an “obnoxious moron” who understands “little” regarding what he is writing about, with “stupid arguments” that amount to him being a relentless “liar” and having a leading characteristic of ignoring “evidence-and-good-arguments”, then why does Bob bother responding to him at all: let alone with four lengthy screeds?

And if he responds to a person he has such a rock-bottom opinion of: why does he utterly refuse to reply to my critiques: which now number 62? He seems to hold Ray Comfort in even less regard than he does me. He wrote about me on October 17 and 18, 2020:

Every engagement with him devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. . . . I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. . . . Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.

That’s not too bad, all things considered. You would think, since Bob literally pleaded with me in emails to engage in May 2018 and later specifically challenged me, almost months later, on 8-11-18:

I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?

. . . that he would be delighted to have a golden opportunity to refute my critiques and counter-arguments. He wasn’t forced at gunpoint to say that. He voluntarily did. I started my “Seidensticker Folly” series the very next day: which is a systematic refutation of Bob’s anti-theist and anti-Christian / anti-Bible arguments. The series now numbers 62 installments, and as of this date (after two years and three months), not one peep in reply has been heard from Bob. It’s crickets and ZZZZzzzzz all-around (except for the obligatory personal insults if anyone brings up my name). Yet he will write and repost a four-part response to a guy he thinks is “moron” and “liar” and obviously a clueless idiot on many fronts, who habitually makes (so Bob sez) “stupid arguments.”

I think there is only one reasonable and quite plausible explanation for this. He thinks he can provide a good and convincing reply to Comfort but he must not think so as regards my critiques: or else he would respond to me, too. We can’t be too careful in debate about whom we choose to wrangle with.

I’m  in very good company, as to being a recipient of insults from Bob. Dr. William Lane Craig is widely considered (by theists and atheists alike) one of the very best philosophical defenders of theism. But that doesn’t stop Bob from trashing and bashing him in all sorts of ridiculous ways:

unhealthy relationship with facts and evidence . . . sloppy thinking [in the title] . . . dark and tangled recesses of the thinking . . . bizarre reply . . . He ignores the problem, assumes that he is right, and then shapes the facts to fit. . . . The mental masturbation continues. . . . It’d be a pain to have to, y’know, do all that research and stuff. I mean, who’s got the time? Using reason would be inconvenient, so let’s not. . . . drunken reasoning . . . So much for apologetics to raise the intellectual content of the conversation. (7-21-14 / reposted on 3-23-18)

His potshots sent my way are veritable high praise compared to this! When you discover this masterpiece on Google (I did by simply searching “Craig is” on his site), the little blurb (first one up) reads: “William Lane Craig is the insane gift that keeps on giving, a cornucopia of crazy. Let’s look at more of the nutty thinking . . .” The description for another post dated 7-29-14 is: “World famous Christian apologist William Lane Craig is well known for his hilariously inept defense of the savage excesses of his God . . .” On 5-7-19 he said of Dr. Craig: I suppose if Craig is smart he knows what he is peddling is false. It’s a living for him.”

You get the point. Filthy lucre . . . (which certainly can’t explain away my 39 years of apologetics: the last 19, full-time, as a profession). Yet Bob replies to Dr. Craig over and over and over. Granted, he should, because of Dr. Craig’s academic stature. But we see what he thinks of him. Yet that doesn’t stop him from repeatedly replying to his arguments. I should be short work next to Dr. Craig, right? One would think so. I’m a nobody in the overall scheme of things . . . But Bob has chosen to utterly ignore me. One might say, “well — completely aside from the disputes — , he obviously dislikes you personally.” Yes, I’m sure that’s true. I’m not overly fond of him, either. But doesn’t it seem obvious that he also greatly dislikes likes Ray Comfort and William Lane Craig on a personal level? So that won’t fly (like the pigs), either.

If you, dear reader, have a better explanation of his Utter Silence as regards Yours Truly, please do let me know. I think it’s because I systematically dismantle his arguments in a way that opponents usually don’t do (influenced by my socratic leanings and literally 39 years of debates and apologetics). I believe he simply doesn’t know how to process that, let alone attempt a reply. After all, Christians are never supposed to get the better of atheists in any argument, so he concludes that in fact it hasn’t happened in my case because it’s impossible.

See how the [circular reasoning] mentality works? Thus, he chooses to make out that I have absolutely nothing to say — no arguments whatsoever –, leading to him fleeing for the hills and acting like he has no time at all for someone so supposedly stupid and content-less as I am. Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White: the anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist apologist, has also used precisely this tactic for about ten years with me (as have several other anti-Catholics). It only makes him look like a pompous ass and a coward: just as in Bob’s case. They’re not doing themselves any favors. But Bob wants to lecture others about supposedly lying to themselves and being intellectually dishonest? Spare me.

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Photo credit: [public domain / Creazilla]

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