August 15, 2018

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 also made a general statement on 6-22-17: “In this blog, I’ve responded to many Christian arguments . . . Christians’ arguments are easy to refute.” He added in the combox: “If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply.

It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that at the end, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his post, “The Ridiculous Argument from Accurate Names” (6-12-18; update of the original, dated 9-22-14), Bob stated: “Archaeology says that the Exodus didn’t happen.” Many archaeologists say there is little or no archaeological evidence, it’s true. There are plenty of biblical skeptics (not just atheists) and those who wrongly think that the Bible is an unreliable document for historiographical purposes. But it’s difficult to make an absolute statement like this in archaeology and other sciences.

Even if someone said, “we have not yet found any archaeological evidence for the Exodus,” that’s not logically the same as claiming that “the Exodus didn’t happen.” The latter is a far stronger, and far more skeptical claim. Seidensticker (an intelligent and educated man) should know better than that, but his strong anti-Christian bias precludes care and precision in his grandiose claims.

I submit that there is at least some evidence from history and archaeology. It’s not totally absent. Of course most if not all of the evidence is for only parts of the biblical story: verifying it, etc. But if it’s consistent with the story, it is some sort of corroborating evidence. I shall now present some of this for your consideration (links with some quotations):

1) Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (James K. Hoffmeier, Oxford University Press, revised edition: 18 March 1999).

Abstract: Scholars of the Hebrew Bible have in the last decade begun to question the historical accuracy of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt, as described in the book of Exodus. The reason for the rejection of the exodus tradition is said to be the lack of historical and archaeological evidence in Egypt. Those advancing these claims, however, are not specialists in the study of Egyptian history, culture, and archaeology. This book examines the most current Egyptological evidence and argues that it supports the biblical record concerning Israel in Egypt.

Reviews: “This is historical research at its best, with constant attention to primary sources…[Hoffmeier] retains a broad perspective and leaves no stone unturned in his quest to have the epigraphic and archeological evidence shed light on the biblical record of Israel’s sojourn in and exodus from Egypt.”–Gary Rendsburg, Cornell University

Israel in Egypt is one of those rare works that one cannot read without taking notes on nearly every page. For biblical scholars, who are seriously interested in the Exodus and the issues revolving around the historicity of the Bible, especially regarding the origins of Israel, Israel in Egypt could not be more highly recommended.”–Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin

“This volume is a bold and important attempt to infuse the current debate with a reasoned appraisal of biblical, archaeological, and philological evidence. Hoffmeier is uniquely qualified to make such an attempt because he is one of the few scholars who can handle both the Egyptian evidence and the biblical materials.”–Asbury Theological Journal

“This volume will become a classic text for a positive and conservative evaluation of the literary and archaeological evidence for the ‘historicity’ of the Israelites in Egypt.”–Walter D. Zorn, Lincoln Christian College and Seminary

“This well-presented case brims with the type of knowledge most never bother to attain.”–J. Julius Scott, Wheaton College

“The best and most good-spirited defense yet of the conservative position that takes the Biblical “Exodus-Conquest” narratives literally as history.”–William G. Dever, University of Arizona

“Hoffmeier’s study represents the fruit of many years of study in Egyptology and the Old Testament. The work is a substantial contribution to the ongoing discussion on the subject of Israel’s presence in Egypt and represents a view that is in harmony with an appreciation of the Bible as a valuable historical source….This is an excellent volume for introducing the subject it covers.”—Denver Journal

“Hoffmeier’s book is an important contribution to the study of the Hebrew experience in Egypt. Its two major strengths are the author’s powerful refutation of hyper-critical views on the narrative and his presentation of the latest Egyptological data.”–Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

James K. Hoffmeier (PhD, University of Toronto),  has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels for more than thirty years, and is  professor of Old Testament and Near Eastern archaeology at Trinity International University. He was born and raised in Egypt.

2) “The Exodus Controversy” (Associates for Biblical Research, 2002):

Limits of Archaeology

Many critics who doubt the historicity of the Exodus share a problem: over-reliance on what archaeology can prove. Archaeology is, in fact, a limited and imperfect area of study in which the interpretation of findings, as archaeologists readily admit, is more of an art than a hard science.

Archaeologist Edwin Yamauchi points out the limits of this science when he explains:

(1) little of what was made or written in antiquity survives to this day;

(2) few of the ancient sites have been surveyed and a number have not even been found;

(3) probably fewer than 2 percent of the known sites have been meaningfully excavated;

(4) few of these have been more than scratched; and

(5) only a fraction of the fraction that have been excavated have been published and data made available to the scholarly world (1972: chapter 4).

Considering not only the limits but also the positive side of archaeology, it is remarkable how many Biblical accounts have been illuminated and confirmed by the relatively small number of sites excavated and finds uncovered to date. Even though, regrettably, some professionals go out of their way to present a distorted picture of what archaeology does reveal, it does provide some of the strongest evidence for the reliability of the Bible as credible and accurate history. . . .

3) “The Exodus Is Not Fiction: An interview with Richard Elliott Friedman” (ReformJudaism.org):

Richard Elliott Friedman, who holds a Th.D from Harvard, is the Ann and Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia and the Katzin Professor of Jewish Civilization Emeritus of the University of California, San Diego, and was a visiting fellow at Cambridge and Oxford and a Senior Fellow of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. He is the author of seven books, including the bestselling Who Wrote the Bible? and Commentary on the Torah. . . .

[Y]our readers may have concluded that scholarship shows that the Exodus is fictional, when, in fact, that is not so. There is archaeological evidence and especially textual evidence for the Exodus. . . .

At a recent international conference entitled “Out of Egypt” on the question of the Exodus’ historicity, one point of agreement, I believe, among most of the 45 participating scholars was that Semitic peoples, or Western Asiatics, were in fact living in Egypt and were traveling to and from there for centuries. And the evidence indicates that the smaller group among them, who were connected with the Exodus, were Levites. The Levites were members of the group associated with Moses, the Exodus, and the Sinai events depicted in the Bible. In the Torah, Moses is identified as a Levite. Also, out of all of Israel only Levites had Egyptian names: Moses, Phinehas, Hophni, and Hur are all Egyptian names. . . .

[T]he architecture of the Tabernacle and its surrounding courtyard matches that of the battle tent of Pharaoh Rameses II, for which we have archaeological evidence, as was shown by Professor Michael Homan in a brilliant combination of archaeology and text (To Your Tents, O Israel, 2005). Professor Sperling had emphasized in the RJ article that, archaeologically, there are no Egyptian elements in Israel’s material culture. But in the Tabernacle we do have those Egyptian elements. . . .

[R]eal evidence exists that the Exodus is historical, with text and archaeology mutually supporting one another. What lies next for us is to give due consideration to this evidence and refine it further in our work.

4) “The Exodus: Fact or Fiction? Evidence of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt” (Biblical Archaeology Society Staff, 3-28-18):

Although Biblical scholars and archaeologists argue about various aspects of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, many of them agree that the Exodus occurred in some form or another.

The question “Did the Exodus happen” then becomes “When did the Exodus happen?” This is another heated question. Although there is much debate, most people settle into two camps: They argue for either a 15th-century B.C.E. or 13th-century B.C.E. date for Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. . . .

A worker’s house from western Thebes also seems to support a 13th-century Exodus. In the 1930s, archaeologists at the University of Chicago were excavating the mortuary Temple of Aya and Horemheb, the last two pharaohs of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, in western Thebes. The temple was first built by Aya in the 14th-century B.C.E., but Horemheb usurped and expanded the temple when he became pharaoh. (He ruled from the late 14th century through the early 13th century B.C.E.) Horemheb chiseled out every place where Aya’s name had been and replaced it with his own. Later—during the reign of Ramses IV (12th century B.C.E.)—the Temple of Aya and Horemheb was demolished.

During their excavations, the University of Chicago uncovered a house and part of another house belonging to the workers who were given the task of demolishing the temple. The plan of the complete house is the same as that of the four-room house characteristic of Israelite dwellings during the Iron Age. However, unlike the Israelite models that were usually constructed of stone, the Theban house was made of wattle and daub. It is significant that this house was built in Egypt at the same time that Israelites were constructing four-room houses in Canaan. The similarities between the two have caused some to speculate that the builders of the Theban house were either proto-Israelites or a group closely related to the Israelites.

A third piece of evidence for the Exodus is the Onomasticon Amenope. The Onomasticon Amenope is a list of categorized words from Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period. Written in hieratic, the papyrus includes the Semitic place name b-r-k.t, which refers to the Lakes of Pithom. Even in Egyptian sources, the Semitic name for the Lakes of Pithom was used instead of the original Egyptian name. It is likely that a Semitic-speaking population lived in the region long enough that their name eventually supplanted the original.

Moreover, I have done a lot of research about an archaeological finding regarding Joshua: “Joshua’s Altar on Mt. Ebal: Findings of Recent Archaeology” (7-22-14: three months before I visited Israel). Dr. Adam Zertal, Professor, Dept. of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, discovered Joshua’s altar, described in the Bible, in April 1980. Various datings of the site put it shortly after the proposed “late” time of the Exodus (13th-12th century B. C. ). Many archaeologists had been in the habit of utterly denying the conquest of Canaan by Joshua and the Israelites. This evidence expressly contradicts them.

Dr. Zertal wrote in November 2004:

The cultic site on Mt. Ebal satisfies the three criteria necessary to identify a biblical site: chronological (beginning of the Israelite settlement), geographical, and the nature of the site (a cultic center with a burnt-offering altar). In view of this analysis, the identity of the biblical story and this site as the first inter-tribal center of the Israelite tribes can hardly be doubted. This is the first time a complete Israelite cultic center, including an altar for burnt offerings, is available for study. . . . The altar on Mt. ‘Ebal is not only the most ancient and complete altar, but also the prototype of the Israelite burnt offering altar of the First and Second Temple periods. The Mesopotamian architectural influence on the structure of the altar is also very interesting, both in its stepped construction and in the orientation of its corners to the north, south, east, and west.
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. . . The varieties of animal bones discovered are evidence that the laws of sacrifice were followed from the very beginnings of the Israelite religion. Despite the presence of wild boars in the region, not a single bone of this animal, not fit for sacrifice, was found on Mt. ‘Ebal.

I visited the fortress city of Khirbet Qeiyafa during our visit to Israel (and even collected several artifacts from it. It has been dated to the time of King David (about 1000 BC), and was discovered in 2007.  We also visited the City of David, just south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Eilat Mazar, an Israeli archaeologist, announced in August 2005 that she had found the palace of King David. Meanwhile, there is archaeological evidence of King David (whose existence and/or kingdom had also been questioned):

The Tel Dan Stele [discovered in 1993-1994], an inscribed stone erected by a king of Damascus in the late 9th/early 8th centuries BCE to commemorate his victory over two enemy kings, contains the phrase ביתדוד‬, bytdwd, which most scholars translate as “House of David”. . . . it is likely that this is a reference to a dynasty of the Kingdom of Judah which traced its ancestry to a founder named David. The Mesha Stele [discovered in August 1868] from Moab, dating from approximately the same period, may also contain the name David in two places, although this is less certain than the mention in the Tel Dan inscription. (Wikipedia: “David”)

Lastly, I’d like to reply to one of Seidensticker’s flawed arguments, about biblical accuracy:

If you only want to say that the Bible makes some verified historical claims and so other as-yet-unverified natural claims should also be considered seriously, that’s fine. But surely these Christians want to go further. Surely they want this to support the Bible’s supernatural claims.

I’m happy to grant that the Bible makes many accurate historical references, but having accurate names of people and places merely gets you to the starting gate. It’s the bare minimum that we demand of a historical document. You haven’t supported the supernatural claims; you’ve simply avoided getting cut from the list of entrants being considered. . . . 

Christian apologists tell us, “The Bible isn’t inaccurate in some of its testable claims!” That this counts as a apologetic says a lot for what passes for compelling argument in some Christian circles.

I’ve been doing Christian apologetics for now 37 years, and have been a full-time professional, published apologist for 16 (with ten “officially” published book to my name). I can testify that no reputable, credentialed apologist would make an argument this silly and insubstantial. Of course, one can always find any Tom, Dick, or Harry online, making a pretense of being an “apologist” and doing it, but the point is that those are the exceptions to the rule, and poor examples.

Seidensticker’s constant methodology in his incessant Christian-bashing is to present the poor argument as the usual, or normative one in Christian circles. He rarely differentiates between the arguments of scholars and that of less educated laymen. That is what is called in logic, the “straw man fallacy.”

The legitimate argument from established biblical accuracy is not that this “proves” either biblical inspiration or the supernatural events recorded in the Bible, but that it simply rules out a common objection (a far less ambitious claim). If the Bible were shown to be massively and systematically inaccurate in details, then this would be a strong argument against its inspiration from God. Our true contention, then, is as follows:

1) The Bible has been shown to be accurate again and again by archaeological and historical research.

2) Such accuracy is consistent with (though not proof of) its biblical inspiration. In other words, if the Bible is in fact inspired, we would expect it to also be accurate in details.

3) Therefore, the argument against the Bible’s inspiration based on its alleged historical inaccuracy is defeated.

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Photo credit: Mohammed Moussa (9-12-13) Mt. Sinai, Egypt: where Moses received the Ten Commandments [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

August 14, 2018

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 also made a general statement on 6-22-17: “In this blog, I’ve responded to many Christian arguments . . . Christians’ arguments are easy to refute.” He added in the combox: “If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply.

It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that at the end, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his post, “25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 2)” (6-22-18; update of a post originally from 10-1-14), Bob stated (the high irony in relation to his post title being almost unbearable to endure): “[T]he evidence for the very existence of Jesus is paltry . . .”

Bob also wrote elsewhere on 6-11-14: “[T]he techniques Christian apologists use to conclude that the Christ story is historical would also lead historians to a similar conclusion about Superman.”

On 12-9-11, Bob opined in his post, “Jesus and Santa: a Parable on How We Dismiss Evidence” (reprinted and modified on 12-14-13, just in time for Christmas):

I can’t prove Santa doesn’t exist. Nor can I disprove leprechauns, Russell’s Flying Teapot, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or God. The thoughtful person goes where the evidence points rather than accepting only the evidence that supports his preconception. [he then cites a bumper sticker for his famous end-quotation: Jesus is Santa Claus for adults.”]

Reiterating on 12-8-17, Bob in his infinite wisdom advises us: “Be careful about dismissing the existence of Santa, because that reasoning may demand that you dismiss Jesus as well.”

And again, on 5-26-14:

Jesus could appear to you, but he doesn’t. He appeared to Paul after he died, so it’s not like he hasn’t done it before. He could appear to give you advice for a tough decision, give you comfort in person like a friend would, or just assure you that he really exists. He doesn’t. . . . 

How do we explain the fact that Jesus has never appeared to you? Jesus is imaginary.

He clarified the above remark on 8-20-18What I meant was, “Jesus as a god who could do magical things, like appear to people, is imaginary.” Since the Christ Myth theory is something I don’t talk about, the nuance of Jesus as a man vs. Jesus as a god isn’t something I usually worry about.

And on 3-5-14“Or maybe Jesus never existed. “

On 8-17-18 Bob made a very revealing comment:

I was concerned about shrillness in the Bart Ehrman camp, the “Of course Jesus existed, and anyone who says otherwise is a dolt!” camp. . . . a reasonable research question should be, “How do you know Jesus isn’t 100% fiction?” I’d put the emphases on the “How do you know?” I’m happy with a Christian scholar saying that Jesus 70% existed or even 90% existed, but the popular attitude seems to be, “Oh, please. Only a hack would even dream to suggest that Jesus didn’t exist as a real person.” That position may be embarrassing 20 years from now, if trends continue.

And on 8-16-18:

Ehrman seems to have made this a big deal such that he’d have an embarrassing time walking back his position, and I don’t know why. Does he just have a thing against Price or Carrier? . . . Your “How do you know it’s not 100% fiction?” is a nice way of focusing the question. Popular Christian apologists try to lampoon the idea, but methinks they doth protest too much.

And yet another on 8-16-18:

The big deal in my mind is that when an atheist says, “Anyway, Jesus didn’t even exist,” they can jump on that with a fairly reasonable argument, citing a broad consensus and Bart Ehrman as an atheist scholar who agrees with them. Avoiding the Jesus myth claim keeps things a little more on track, but if someone wants to jump into that fight, I’ll happily watch. Greg G and others have made a great defense of mythicism, for example.

And another and another and a third on the same day:

The story I’ve heard is that Moses mythicism was in the same camp in the fairly recent past, but it’s held as a very plausible view now, if not the consensus of scholars. The anti-Jesus mythicists might want to focus on the argument and tone down their shrillness just in case posterity turns against them as well.

I’m not a mythicist. But since when did inconvenient facts get in the way of the Armstrong juggernaut?

I don’t deny that Jesus existed.

And on 8-19-18Y’know, if I thought Jesus never existed, I’d probably say something like, oh I dunno, maybe “Jesus never existed.” Or, if you really, really cared so much about what I think, you could just ask me. What a moron. Reading others’ comments have made me consider the Christ Myth theory more favorably, but (as I tried to explain to you) it is not useful to me. So it’s me following the interesting ideas of the commenters, not vice versa.

And on 8-20-18I wonder if some of the strongest evidence for Jesus is just that “well, some dude could easily have been there at the beginning” is the null hypothesis.

And again on 8-20-18And we don’t know when the “events” took place. Yes, the gospels sort of place them in history (Herod vs. Quirinius for the birth and Pilate for the death), but that’s just what they say. If there was a real Jesus, who knows when he was actually born?

Normally, I simply ignore the belief that is called “Jesus mythicism” as intellectual suicide and outlandishly absurd and unworthy of further attention. In my opinion (and not just mine, but the vast majority of historians), anyone who holds to this nonsense is likely to be incapable of rational discussion about theology (or history or philosophy). But since this is a series (and since more and more people believe this hogwash), I’ll make an exception to my rule. I’ve collected a lot of scholarly resources that abundantly refute this historiographically ridiculous position, so I’ll list some and quote from some, too:

Early Historical Documents on Jesus Christ (Catholic Encyclopedia)

“You Can’t Trust the Gospels. They’re Unreliable” (Paul Copan)

The Gospels As Historical Sources For Jesus, The Founder Of Christianity (R. T. France)

Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History? (book by Maurice Goguel, 1926)

A Summary Critique: Questioning the Existence of Jesus [G. A. Wells] (Gary R. Habermas, 2000)

Seldom have recent scholars questioned or denied the historical existence of Jesus.  Of the very few who have done so, G. A. Wells is probably the best known.  In this article, I will outline and then respond to some of his major tenets.

Before turning to this topic, I will first note that the vast majority of scholars, both conservative and liberal alike, generally disdain radical theses that question the very existence of Jesus.  For example, theologian Rudolf Bultmann asserted, “By no means are we at the mercy of those who doubt or deny that Jesus ever lived.” [i]

Historian Michael Grant termed the hypothesis that Jesus never lived an “extreme view.”  He charges that it transgresses the basics of historiography: “if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus’ existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned.”  Grant summarizes, after referring to Wells as an example: “modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory.”  These positions have been “annihilated” by the best scholars because the critics “have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.” [ii]

Digressing to a personal story, a potential publisher once asked me to contact a reviewer.  An influential New Testament scholar at a secular university, he had voted to publish my manuscript, but only if I deleted the section dealing with Well’s hypotheses.  He said that Well’s suppositions were virtually devoid of serious historical content.  He only relented after I convinced him that Wells still had some popular appeal.

Wells is aware of these attitudes towards his works.  He acknowledges that “nearly all commentators who mention the matter at all, [set] aside doubts about Jesus’ historicity as ridiculous.” [iii]  He adds, “the view that there was no historical Jesus, that his earthly existence is a fiction of earliest Christianity . . . is today almost universally rejected.” [iv]  He concludes the matter: “serious students of the New Testament today regard the existence of Jesus as an unassailable fact” (HEJ 223).  Even Michael Martin, one of Wells’ few scholarly supporters, draws the rather restrained conclusion that “Wells’ thesis is controversial and not widely accepted . . . .” [v]

[ . . . ]

Wells’ treatment of the many nonbiblical references to Jesus is also quite problematic.  He downplays those presenting difficulties for his position (Thallus, Tacitus), and suggests late dates for others, again in contrast to the wide majority of scholars (Thallus [perhaps second century AD!], Polycarp [135 AD!], Papias [140 AD]).  Yet, he provides few reasons why these dates should be preferred (DJE, 10-15, 78, 139; HEJ, 15-18).

The most important problem for Wells’ treatment is Josephus’ testimony.  In order to dismiss this important Jewish documentation, Wells resorts to questioning both of Josephus’ references to Jesus.  Not only does he disallow them as interpolated comments, but he asserts that this is also “widely admitted” by scholars (HEJ, 18; DJE, 10-11).  But he is so wide of the mark here that one is tempted to question his research altogether.

While virtually everyone thinks that portions of Josephus’ longer statement in Antiquities 18:3 has been added, the majority also think that a fair amount still came from Josephus.  Princeton Seminary’s James Charlesworth strongly concludes: “We can now be as certain as historical research will presently allow that Josephus did refer to Jesus.” [xi]  John Drane adds that “most scholars have no doubts about the authenticity”of the passage’s nucleus. [xii]  Written about 93-94 AD, Josephus’ statement, among other claims, clearly links Jesus to his disciples and connects his crucifixion to Pilate.  It is independent of the gospels, according to Wells’ dating.

Josephus’ second statement refers to James as the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ (Antiquities 20:9).  This also hurts Well’s thesis significantly, because it likewise links Jesus to a first century person who was known to Paul and other apostles. [xiii]  In spite of Wells’ dismissal (without citing a single scholar who agrees–HEJ, 18), Yamauchi concludes, “Few scholars have questioned the genuineness of this passage.” [xiv]

Thus it is no wonder that Wells would dearly like to squelch Josephus’ two references to Jesus.  Both clearly place Jesus in a specific first century context connected with the apostles and Pilate, cannot be derived from the gospels on Wells’ dating, and come from a non-Christian.  Wells even notes that such independent data would be of “great value” (DJE, 14).  So it is exceptionally instructive, not just that Wells dismisses both, but that he clearly wishes his readers to think that contemporary scholarship is firmly on his side when it very clearly is nowhere close.  Charlesworth specifically refers to Wells’ treatment of Josephus, saying that, “Many solid arguments can be presented against such distortions and polemics.” [xv]

[ . . . ]

Why do scholars reject Wells’ thesis?  Because it cuts out Christianity’s heart and even critics refuse to face this (DJE, 205)?  I have argued that there is another reason.  One does not impress scholars by maintaining a thesis at all costs, consistently resorting to extraordinary means to overlook any bit of data that would disprove one’s view.  Even ally Martin realizes that Wells’ arguments may sometimes seem “ad hoc and arbitrary.” [xviii]

But at several points, this is clearly what Wells does.  He often admits that a natural textual reading devastates his theories.  Then he dismisses every historical reference linking Jesus to the first century, making some bizarre moves in the process.  This most obviously occurs in his treatments of James, Jesus’ disciples, and Josephus.  Along with dating the gospels decades later than almost everyone, these and other factors combine to produce the sense of ad hoc argumentation.  But it all seriously undermines his system, as well as eroding his credibility.

Wells appears to declare virtually anything rather than admitting Jesus’ historicity.  Yet, one by one, his house of cards collapses.  This is precisely why the vast majority of scholars reject Well’s claims: he fails to deal adequately with the historical data.

Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels (Gary R. Habermas, 2005)

[A]pproximately one-and-a-half dozen non-Christian, extrabiblical sources confirm many details from Jesus’ life and teachings as found in the Gospels.8 Early Christians such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp provide even more confirmation, writing just 10 years or less after the completion of the New Testament.9 Archaeological sources do not contribute as much corroboration in New Testament studies as they do in Old Testament studies, but there are a number of indications that, when the details can be checked, the New Testament is often confirmed.10

There are a number of pieces of evidence that, especially when taken together, confirm the traditional picture regarding the life and teachings of Jesus. This is not to say that all the pertinent questions have been answered;11 but the available evidence from a variety of angles confirms the strong foundation on which we can base the general reliability of the New Testament reports of the historical Jesus.

Qumran Evidence for the Reliability of the Gospels (Larry W. Hurtado, 1968)

The Historicity of Jesus Christ (Wayne Jackson)

[T]he Jewish Babylonian Talmud took note of the Lord’s existence. Collected into a final form in the fifth century A.D., it is derived from earlier materials, some of which originated in the first century. Its testimony to Jesus’ existence is all the more valuable, as it is extremely hostile. It charges that Christ (who is called Ben Pandera) was born out of wedlock after his mother had been seduced by a Roman soldier named Pandera or Panthera.

Respected scholar, the late Bruce Metzger of Princeton, has commented upon this appellation:

The defamatory account of his birth seems to reflect a knowledge of the Christian tradition that Jesus was the son of the virgin Mary, the Greek word for virgin, parthenos, being distorted into the name Pandera (1965, 76).

The Talmud also refers to Jesus’ miracles as “magic,” and records that he claimed to be God. It further mentions his execution on the eve of the Passover. Jewish testimony thus supports the New Testament position on the historical existence of Jesus. . . .

Another line of evidence establishing the historicity of Jesus is the fact that the earliest enemies of the Christian faith did not deny that Christ actually lived (see Hurst 1897, 180-189).

Celsus, a pagan philosopher of the second century A.D., produced the oldest extant literary attack against Christianity. His True Discourse (ca. A.D. 178) was a bitter assault upon Christ. Celsus argued that Jesus was born in low circumstances, being the illegitimate son of a soldier named Panthera (see above). As he grew, he announced himself to be God, deceiving many. Celsus charged that Christ’s own people killed him, and that his resurrection was a deception. But Celsus never questioned the historicity of Jesus.

Lucian of Samosata (ca. A.D. 115-200) was called “the Voltaire of Grecian literature.” He wrote against Christianity more with patronizing contempt than volatile hostility. He said Christians worshipped the well-known “sophist” who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced new mysteries. He never denied the existence of Jesus.

Porphyry of Tyre was born about A.D. 233, studied philosophy in Greece, and lived in Sicily where he wrote fifteen books against the Christian faith. In one of his books, Life of Pythagoras, he contended that magicians of the pagan world exhibited greater powers than Christ. His argument was an inadvertent concession of Jesus’ existence and power.

Extrabiblical Witnesses to Jesus before 200 A.D.  (Glenn Miller, 1996)

Did Jesus Exist? Books for Refuting the Jesus Myth (Christopher Price)

Did Josephus Refer to Jesus?: A Thorough Review of the Testimonium Flavianum (Christopher Price, 2003)

Scholarly Opinions on the Jesus Myth (Christopher Price, 2003)

I have often been asked why more academics do not take the time to respond to the Jesus Myth theory. After looking into this question, I discovered that most historians and New Testament scholars relevant to the topic have concluded that Jesus Mythers are beyond reason and therefore decide that they have better things to do with their time.  Here are some examples.

Howard Marshall

In his book, I Believe in the Historical Jesus, Howard Marshall points out that in the early to mid 20th century, one of the few “authorities” to consider Jesus as a myth was a Soviet Encyclopaedia. He then goes on to discuss the work of GA Wells which was then recently published.

There is said to be a Russian encyclopaedia in current use which affirms in a brief entry that Jesus Christ was the mythological founder of Christianity, but it is virtually alone in doing so. The historian will not take its statement very seriously, since … it offers no evidence for its assertion, and mere assertion cannot stand over against historical enquiry.  But more than mere assertion is involved, for an attempt to show that Jesus never existed has been made in recent years by GA Wells, a Professor of German who has ventured into New Testament study and presents a case that the origins Christianity can be explained without assuming that Jesus really lived. Earlier presentations of similar views at the turn of the century failed to make any impression on scholarly opinion, and it is certain that this latest presentation of the case will not fare any better.

Professor Marshall was correct that neither any earlier attempt nor Wells have swayed scholarly opinion. This remains true whether the scholars were Christians, liberals, conservatives, Jewish, atheist, agnostic, or Catholic.  And even GA Wells himself has now conceded that a real figure called Jesus lay behind some of the teaching contained in the synoptic Gospels.

Michael Grant

In his book Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels, Atheist historian Michael Grant completely rejected the idea that Jesus never existed.

This sceptical way of thinking reached its culmination in the argument that Jesus as a human being never existed at all and is a myth…. But above all, if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus’ existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned. Certainly, there are all those discrepancies between one Gospel and another. But we do not deny that an event ever took place just because some pagan historians such as, for example, Livy and Polybius, happen to have described it in differing terms…. To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ myth theory. It has ‘again and again been answered and annihilated by first rank scholars.’ In recent years, ‘no serous scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus’ or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.

[ . . . ]

Rudolf Bultmann

Even the famously liberal Professor Bultmann, who argued against the historicity of much of the gospels, questions the reasonableness of Jesus Mythers themselves in Jesus and the Word.

Of course the doubt as to whether Jesus really existed is unfounded and not worth refutation. No sane person can doubt that Jesus stands as founder behind the historical movement whose first distinct stage is represented by the Palestinian community.

***

Someone informed Bob of this paper. His response was as follows:

I can’t imagine I’m missing much by not reading it. (link)

Why read it? He has no credibility. Posts like that are the equivalent of The National Inquirer or Weekly World News. (link)

I haven’t read enough to have an informed opinion, so no, I’m not a mythicist.

I’m sympathetic to the mythicists’ arguments, and I own the relevant books by Carrier and Price, but I haven’t read them. As a result, I don’t want/need to engage with those arguments.

For my purposes (showing the foolishness of Christianity), mythicism isn’t a useful tool. I’m sure that if I read those books, I’d have yet more information that would be useful, but the main argument is just a tangent. Getting into that morass simply allows the Christian to say, “Well, Bart Ehrman says you’re wrong, so whaddya gotta say about that??” and so on. (link)

Bob appears to want to play it both ways, as to the existence of Jesus. He compares belief in Jesus to that of Santa Claus, and makes a direct comparison to Superman (a mere cartoon character), and also to leprechauns, Russell’s Flying Teapot, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He states flat-out that “Jesus is imaginary.” He talks about Jesus needing to assure usthat he really exists. He doesn’t.” That doesn’t sound like a very robust existence to me, or like existence at all. Does it to anyone else?

Either he is unwittingly contradicting himself (in his overall haze of confusion), or he is cleverly playing it one way to atheists and another to Christians. Or else (to give the most charitable slant possible to this data, which I sincerely hope is in actuality the case), Bob used to deny the existence of Jesus and no longer does, though he remainssympathetic to the mythicists’ arguments.” People change their views over time. I certainly have. If this is the case, then he needs to go revise (and/or retract) the mocking, smart-ass “doesn’t exist”-type statements that I have documented, lest he confuse his readers as to his position.

Bob’s responses under fire to a fellow Catholic, on his blog (on 15-16 August 2018), suggest that he has either forgotten his own statements (the most charitable, “amnesiac” / “I’ve written 1000+ posts” take) or is deliberately misrepresenting them (the cynical, Bill and Hillary Clinton / obfuscation take):

I’ve never argued that Jesus never existed. Pro tip: taking what Armstrong says at face value can embarrass you when it blows up in your face. He has a tenuous grasp on the truth. You need to fact-check whatever he says. (link)

I’ve never argued either way. What’s your reluctance? Are you remembering all those posts where I argued the question? Point them out to me. Oh wait–I have a stalker who hangs on my every word. Maybe you could ask him. But be sure to get links to the quotes because he has a hard time with reality. What’s hard to understand here? “Jesus never existed” is an argument that doesn’t help me. It’s a tangent. I have far more useful arguments if I were to argue against Christian claims. (link)

Getting back to the atheist propensity to ignore solid criticism: “Grimlock”: who was active on my blog for months and claimed to be interested in dialogue, also commented:

Why should I read anything by Armstrong? I see no compelling reason to do so. (link)

Obtaining valuable information and knowledge are certainly things to strive for. But that doesn’t mean I will be getting that from reading the article to which you linked. Why should I think the article will provide valuable information? (link)

And on 8-15-18, Bob reiterated that he has no intention of interacting with my critiques:

I have no interest in visiting his blog anymore, and if it becomes a cesspool of thoughtless yes-men, then that’s Dave’s loss. Every now and then one of his dittoheads might come over here, and we can show them how their logic stands up in the real world.

***

On 27 June 2019, Bob showed that he was still playing the same game: talking out of both sides of his mouth, so that he won’t alienate his more fanatical atheist brethren who (unlike him) outright deny Jesus’ existence. He says just enough to make them believe either that he is “one of them” or close enough to be a would-be ally in the battle against established historical truth and facts:

6. “Bonus: Jesus did not (or probably did not) exist.”

“This is so foolish, I have never met more than one relevantly trained atheist who believed it.”

You need to get out more. I’ve met two, Dr. Richard Carrier (doctorate in history) and Dr. Robert M. Price (two doctorates: one in Systematic Theology and another in New Testament).

I’m not well read on the historical Jesus issue and so don’t make this argument, but I also avoid it because it’s tangential. There are much simpler and more effective attacks on Christianity.

Some religions start with real people who actually lived (Joseph Smith for Mormonism, Mary Baker Eddy for Christian Science, Bahá’u’lláh for Bahá’í), and some may not have (Buddha for Buddhism, Lao Tzu for Taoism, Zoroaster for Zoroastrianism). “Jesus was just a myth” is hardly a radical claim. Said another way, providing overwhelming evidence that Jesus was historical would be a difficult challenge.

And in the combox:

All that supernatural stuff surrounding the Jesus story makes me wonder if that makes it inherently less plausible. There’s nothing supernatural around the Robin Hood story. Or William Tell, or John Henry, or King Arthur (ignoring the Merlin bit). And if there is, the story survives after you remove the supernatural. In the case of Jesus, nothing remains if you remove the supernatural stuff. (6-27-19)

Yeah–Jesus as a real man or not doesn’t change things for me. Nevertheless, some of the more erudite commenters here have studied it (Greg G comes to mind), and I find their comments quite interesting. (6-27-19)

I don’t make the “Jesus was a myth” argument, though that to me is a very plausible possibility. . . . Lots of people, even non-Christians can believe that Jesus existed as a real person. Jesus as a myth or legend remains very plausible. (7-18-19)

***

Photo credit: Head of Jesus (1891), by Enrique Simonet (1866-1927) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

August 14, 2018

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 also made a general statement on 6-22-17: “In this blog, I’ve responded to many Christian arguments . . . Christians’ arguments are easy to refute.” He added in the combox: “If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply.

It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that at the end, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his post, “25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 5)” (7-6-18; update of a post originally from 10-13-14), Bob stated:

The Bible record many instances of God imposing on people’s free will. “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18). He hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12), for example, and he gave ungrateful humans over to “shameful lusts” (Rom. 1:26). “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples” (Psalms 33:10).

Likewise, Bob waxes eloquently on 8-11-14: “Am I an atheist because God hardened my heart? If so, why do I deserve hell when it was God’s doing?”

Let’s take each claim in his first statement above in turn. I’ve already written elsewhere about most of this, so I trust that the reader can forgive me if I provide a link. But I’ll cite key portions of papers I cite, for readers’ convenience.

“God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18).

Romans 9 is perhaps the very favorite Bible passage of Calvinists, because they deny human free will; therefore, they welcome this passage that appears at first glance to support their position. Upon closer inspection, it does no such thing. I wrote about this in my paper: Romans 9: Plausible Non-Calvinist Interpretation. It involves somewhat subtle and complex argumentation, and analysis of the Hebrew way of thought, which was very different from our western, Greek-oriented classical logic thinking, and so will have to be read.

In it, I cite biblical scholar Marvin Wilson, author of Our Father Abraham, (which I have in my own library). He talks about the notion of Hebrew “block logic”:

[C]oncepts were expressed in self-contained units or blocks of thought. These blocks did not necessarily fit together in any obviously rational or harmonious pattern, particularly when one block represented the human perspective on truth and the other represented the divine. This way of thinking created a propensity for paradox, antimony, or apparent contradiction, as one block stood in tension — and often illogical relation — to the other. Hence, polarity of thought or dialectic often characterized block logic. . . .

Consideration of certain forms of block logic may give one the impression that divine sovereignty and human responsibility were incompatible. The Hebrews, however, sense no violation of their freedom as they accomplish God’s purposes.

He hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12),

I’ve dealt with this objection at great length and in great depth; examining the biblical data, and in reply to a Calvinist. The easiest way to explain that this is not a contradiction of human free will is to note not only the passages where God is said to have “hardened” someone’s heart, but also the ones where they hardened themselves:

Exodus 8:15 (RSV) But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, . . . (cf. 8:19)

Exodus 8:32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go.

Exodus 9:34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. (cf. 9:7, 35)

Deuteronomy 15:7 you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother,

1 Samuel 6:6 Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? . . .

2 Chronicles 36:13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnez’zar, who had made him swear by God; he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD, the God of Israel.

Job 9:4 who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?

Psalm 95:8 Harden not your hearts, as at Mer’ibah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

Proverbs 28:14 . . . he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

Hebrews 3:8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,

Hebrews 3:15  while it is said, “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

The two motifs have to be harmonized, and they easily can be, once Hebrew thought is better understood. It may be a biblical paradox (one of many), but that’s not the same as a logical contradiction. Here’s how I explain it in my “biblical” paper above:

God allows such people their freedom to rebel, which in turn entails the devil getting in there and making things worse (just as God allowed the devil to tempt Job: Job 1:12). So in a sense to say that “God did so-and-so” when He simply allowed it to take place, is an assertion of God’s overall Providence. God is asserting that He is in control. . . .

Strictly speaking, that isn’t how God thinks or acts, but it was an anthropomorphism to help practical, concrete, non-philosophical Hebrew man be able to relate to the mysterious, transcendent God.

The bottom line is that men harden themselves in rebellion and God allows it. . . . If people rebel, God will withdraw His grace and protection from them, and so in a sense He did it. But it was always essentially man’s rebellion.

he gave ungrateful humans over to “shameful lusts” (Rom. 1:26).

This is simply a variation of what we saw in the last two examples. Rebels against God hardened their hearts against him, and so it is said in a particular sense that God hardened them (meaning that He allowed it, incorporating their free will into the equation). He didn’t cause it or make it inevitably come about, as if they had no free will. The larger passage shows this clearly. Seidensticker, with his nefarious motivations of always mocking the Bible and God, only shows that par t that seems to support his contention. Here’s the context:

Romans 1:18-26 (RSV)  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. [19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  [20] Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; [21] for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. [24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, [25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. [26] For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.

See how the causal chain works there? Humans with free will decided to not believe in God or follow His will. Then God “gave them up.” In other words, He let human free will take it’s course. It’s as if God were saying, “okay; you don’t want to follow Me and do what is best for you? You know better than do about that? Very well, then, I’ll let you become blind and deluded. See how well off you’ll be then.”

I’ve put the key actions of rebellious human beings in the passage in red, and God’s response in blue, to make it more clear. It’s all in the bolded text. They decided in their free will to sin and not believe in God. “Therefore” and “For this reason” God gave them up: “because” of their sins. It’s quite clear and undeniable that they have free will and that it;s their fault. God caused none of it. He simply decides to let them have their way and withdraw His grace at a certain point. It’s like someone who loves someone else with an unrequited love for twenty years. It’s never returned, so at length they finally decide to give it up and stop desiring the other person, or hoping they will act accordingly.

“The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples” (Psalms 33:10).

This is an instance of God’s judgment, which, I suppose, is an act contrary to man’s will (who wants to be judged?), but it is a perfectly just one, and not at all contrary to God’s will. It’s the same motif again, that we have seen in the above three examples: men reach a point of rebellion that is so determined and :hardened” that God gives up on them and judges them. Sometimes it is entire nations, as in this verse. Hence we have in Scripture, many “if . . . then” conditional prophecies:

Joshua 24:20  If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.”

1 Chronicles 28:9 “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father, and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off for ever.

2 Chronicles 7:17-20 And as for you, if you walk before me, as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances,[18] then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, `There shall not fail you a man to rule Israel.’ [19] “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, [20] then I will pluck you up from the land which I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.

2 Chronicles 15:2 If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.

If a person or nation rebels against God and is intransigent and won’t repent, then God will eventually judge. But it never had to be that way. It wasn’t predestined, or fate, and God didn’t cause it or overcome their free will. They freely chose to reject Him. And this rejection and this judgment can also include entire nations, because responsibility in the Hebrew / biblical worldview is not just individual, but also corporate. I’ve written a lot about the judgment of nations:

Judgment of Nations: A Collection of Biblical Passages

Judgment of Nations: Biblical Commentary and Reflections

God’s Judgment of Humans (Sometimes, Entire Nations)

Israel as God’s Agent of Judgment

Is God an Unjust Judge? Dialogue with an Atheist

God’s “Punishing” of Descendants: Unjust?

Conclusion: As usual with anti-theists, Bob chooses to blame God for things that are clearly man’s fault. He butchers the Bible in order to supposedly use it as a hostile witness against God. I submit that that attempt of his abysmally fails, as just shown.

***

Photo credit: God the Father, by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

August 13, 2018

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 also made a general statement on 6-22-17: “In this blog, I’ve responded to many Christian arguments . . . Christians’ arguments are easy to refute.” He added in the combox: “If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply.

It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that at the end, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his post, “25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 5)” (7-6-18; update of a post originally from 10-13-14), Bob stated: “Atheists have better mental health than religious people.” He linked to one article, that in turn cited one scientific study. Of course, virtually any question or issue that would be the subject of a scientific study won’t yield unanimous results in such studies. One can always find one study that will support just about any conclusion. The task, then, is to look over the literature devoted to a given topic, and find some sort of overall consensus, if there is one to be had. This is how science (including medical and social and psychological science) works. Sometimes the results are very mixed and inconclusive. One must follow the facts one way or the other, and mixed results compel us to conclude, “studies at the present time are inconclusive, so we can’t say that we know for certain about topic x. Further studies are needed, . . .”

I followed the latter procedure, which I submit is both more objective and scientific than Bob’s quick potshot (his almost constant modus operandi), based on one lone study. I shall cite five, and several of those note many other concurring studies in their own reviews of the relevant literature on mental health as related to religion. As is well-known, one of the talking-points of atheism for hundreds of years is to claim that religion is itself a mental illness, and/or that Christians are so gullible and devoid of reality in their beliefs, that it amounts to a scenario whereby the religious person can be said to be mentally afflicted, or at any rate, much more so overall than atheists. Anyone can talk a good game. What does the psychology research actually suggest (I minored in psychology and majored in sociology in college, by the way)? Make up your own mind:

1) “Research on Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health: A Review” (The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, May 2009):

[S]ystematic research published in the mental health literature to date does not support the argument that religious involvement usually has adverse effects on mental health.

**

While some studies report no association between religious involvement and mental health, and a handful of studies have reported negative
associations, the majority (476 of 724 quantitative studies prior to the year 2000, based on a systematic review) reported statistically significant positive associations. [Dave: that’s 65.7%]

**

Prior to 2000, more than 100 quantitative studies had examined the relation between religion and depression. Among 93 observational studies, two-thirds found significantly lower rates of depressive disorder or fewer depressive symptoms among the more religious.

**

Prior to 2000, at least 76 studies had examined the relation between religious involvement and anxiety. Sixty-nine studies were observational and 7 were RCTs. Among the observational studies, 35 found significantly less anxiety or fear among the more religious, 24 found no association, and 10 reported greater anxiety.

**

Unfortunately, there are relatively few studies—particularly from the United States or Canada—that have examined the relation between religion and psychotic symptoms. In an earlier review of the literature, Koenig et al identified 16 studies. Among the 10 cross-sectional studies, 4 found less psychosis or psychotic tendencies among people more religiously involved, 3 found no association, and 2 studies reported mixed results. The final study, conducted in London, England, found religious beliefs and practices significantly more common among depressed (n = 52) and
schizophrenic psychiatric (n = 21) inpatients, compared with orthopedic control subjects (n = 26).

2) “Religion and Mental Health: Current Findings” (Dr Simon Dein, Royal College of Psychiatrists):

In the past twenty years there has been increasing attention given to the relationships between various dimensions of religiosity and mental health. By now several thousand studies have been conducted demonstrating positive associations between the two (Koenig, King and Carson 2012). On balance those who are more religious have better indices of mental health.

**

[O]n balance it appears that being religious improves mental health . . .

3) “A Systematic Review of Recent Research on Adolescent Religiosity/Spirituality and Mental Health” (Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 2006, Issue 2):

Abstract: Twenty articles between 1998 and 2004 were reviewed. Most studies (90%) showed that higher levels of R/S were associated with better mental health in adolescents. Institutional and existential dimensions of R/S had the most robust relationships with mental health.

4) “Explaining the Relationships Between Religious Involvement and Health” (Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 13, 2002, Issue 3)

Abstract: There is increasing research evidence that religious involvement is associated both cross-sectionally and prospectively with better physical health, better mental health, and longer survival. These relationships remain substantial in size and statistically significant with other risk and protective factors for morbidity and mortality statistically controlled.

5) “5 reasons atheists shouldn’t call religion a mental illness” (Chris Stedman [himself an atheist, who consulted atheists in the article] Religion News Service, 2-24-14)

“Religion and mental illness are different psychological processes,” said atheist and mental health advocate Miri Mogilevsky in a recent email exchange. “[Religious beliefs may] stem from cognitive processes that are essentially adaptive, such as looking for patterns and feeling like a part of something larger than oneself.” . . .

“People who cannot leave the house without having a panic attack or who feel a compulsion to wash their hands hundreds of times a day are experiencing symptoms that interfere with their ability to go about their lives,” Mogilevsky said. “Except in extreme cases, religion does not operate this way.”

**

“Religion is many things—a famously indefinable concept—but for our purposes we can use the word to refer to supernatural belief systems and institutions built around them,” said David Yaden, a researcher at The University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center who works in collaboration with UPenn’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, in a recent email exchange. “If that is our definition, religion absolutely cannot be [categorized] as a mental illness.”

“In fact, empirical evidence sometimes points to the opposite conclusion,” Yaden said, citing the work of Dr. Ken Pargament. “When it comes to facilitating mental health, empirical data demonstrates that religious people have more positive emotion, more meaning in life, more life satisfaction, cope better with trauma, are more physically healthy, are more altruistic and socially connected, and are not diagnosed with mental illness more than other people.”

***

Photo credit: Clard (Nov. 2017) Schizophrenic art fantasy [PixabayCC0 Creative Commons license]

August 12, 2018

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 also made a general statement on 6-22-17: “In this blog, I’ve responded to many Christian arguments . . . Christians’ arguments are easy to refute.” He added in the combox: “If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply.

It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that at the end, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his post, “25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 5)” (7-6-18; update of a post originally from 10-13-14), Bob flatly stated: “Christians are not more generous.” He linked to a separate detailed post: “Top Religion Story of 2012” (12-31-12). In that piece, he notes a study described in The Chronicle of Philanthropy (10-3-17). This indicated that Christians gave more to charity, but Bob spun that finding as follows:

Drop religious donations, and the Bible belt drops from the most generous part of the country to the least. . . . But why discard donations to religious organizations? Because, though they’re nonprofits, religious organizations’ charity work (feeding or housing the needy, for example) is negligible.

Okay, that’s an interesting take (I observed several other atheists using it, while researching this post, so it appears to be “playbook”); he contends that charity given to a church is less so because churches have relatively more overhead than groups like the Red Cross. That may very well be (I grant this claim for the sake of argument), but I would submit that that’s irrelevant to determining how generous the giver is. For the giver, the amount they give is what it is, and indicates their heart, regardless of how efficiently their donation is used. Apples and oranges. Thus Bob’s dismissal of the poll findings here appears rather desperate.

By his reasoning if Person A gives $100 to an organization that uses 70% of it for overhead to maintain itself, and Person B gives $50 to an organization that uses 20% of it for overhead, Person B is more generous, even though he or she has given half the amount, because $40 of the $50 goes to the actual work of charity, whereas only $30 of the $100 does. But again, that is no reflection on the generosity of the giver! It may reflect badly on how wise or informed his or her choice of charity was, but not on the generosity exhibited.

Another study in the same magazine (11-25-13), reported:

The more important religion is to a person, the more likely that person is to give to a charity of any kind, according to new research released today.

Among Americans who claim a religious affiliation, the study said, 65 percent give to charity. Among those who do not identify a religious creed, 56 percent make charitable gifts.

About 75 percent of people who frequently attend religious services gave to congregations, and 60 percent gave to religious charities or nonreligious ones. By comparison, fewer than half of people who said they didn’t attend faith services regularly supported any charity, even a even secular one.

Everyone knows that political conservatives as a group are more religious than political liberals. Studies also show that conservatives are significantly more generous than liberals. And again, religion (specifically factored in one portion of the survey) was key. Nicholas Kristof, in an op-ed in The New York Times: “Bleeding Heart Tightwads” (12-20-08) observed:

Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, Who Really Cares, cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.

Other research has reached similar conclusions. The “generosity index” from the Catalogue for Philanthropy typically finds that red states are the most likely to give to nonprofits, while Northeastern states are least likely to do so. . . .

It’s true that religion is the essential reason conservatives give more, and religious liberals are as generous as religious conservatives. Among the stingiest of the stingy are secular conservatives. . . .

[I]f measuring by the percentage of income given, conservatives are more generous than liberals even to secular causes. . . .

Conservatives also appear to be more generous than liberals in nonfinancial ways. People in red states are considerably more likely to volunteer for good causes, and conservatives give blood more often. [book title italicized; in the original it was in quotation marks]

A Barna Research study (6-3-13) shows the same:

A person’s religious identification has a lot to do with whether or not they donate to causes they believe in. Evangelicals were far and away the group most likely to donate money, items or time as a volunteer. More than three-quarters of evangelicals (79%) have donated money in the last year, and 65% and 60% of them have donated items or volunteer time, respectively. Additionally, only 1% of evangelicals say they made no charitable donation in the last 12 months. Comparatively, 27% of those with a faith other than Christianity say they made no charitable donation in the last year—a number more than double the national rate (13%). One-fifth of people who claimed no faith said they made no donation over the last year, still noticeably higher than the number for all Americans.

So does research from the BBC (reported in The Telegraph on 6-9-14):

Research commissioned by the BBC found that people who profess a religious belief are significantly more likely to give to charity than non-believers. . . .

Overall as many as seven in 10 people in England said they had given money to a charity in the past month. But while just over two thirds of those who professed no religious faith claimed to have done so, among believers the figure rose to almost eight out of 10.

John Stossel and Kristina Kendall reported for ABC News (11-28-06):

[T]he single biggest predictor of whether someone will be charitable is their religious participation.

Religious people are more likely to give to charity, and when they give, they give more money: four times as much. And Arthur Brooks told me that giving goes beyond their own religious organization:

“Actually, the truth is that they’re giving to more than their churches,” he says. “The religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly non-religious charities.”

And almost all of the people who gave to our bell ringers in San Francisco and Sioux Falls said they were religious or spiritual.

The Philanthropy Panel Study concurs as well (article of 10-30-17):

David King, director of the Institute on Faith & Giving at the school, said the “Giving USA Special Report on Giving to Religion,” released on Oct. 26 by The Giving Institute, reaffirms what many researchers in the field have long known: that there is a “substantial connection between religion and giving.”

“Religious affiliation really matters,” Mr. King said. “Someone with a religious affiliation was more than two times more generous than someone without a religious affiliation. And among those with a religious affiliation, religious intensity really matters. Those who attend services were much more likely to give, whether it’s monthly or weekly. We really see the connection grow with continued involvement in a religious community.” . . .

[R]eligious people also contribute to other types of charity at similar or higher rates than their secular counterparts.

***

Photo credit: angiechaoticcrooks0 (3-2-15) [PixabayCC0 Creative Commons  license]

***

 

August 7, 2019

This is an installment of my series of replies to an article by Dr. David Madison: a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, who has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. It’s called, “Things We Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said” (Debunking Christianity, 7-21-19). His words will be in blue below. Dr. Madison makes several “generic” digs at Jesus and Christianity, in the written portion (it details a series of 12 podcasts):

A challenge for Christians: If you’re so sure Jesus existed, then you have some explaining to do. A major frustration is that, while believers are indignant at all the talk about Jesus not existing, they don’t know the issues that fuel the skepticism—and are unwilling to inform themselves.

Yes, I’m up to the “challenge.” No problem at all. I’m not threatened or “scared” by this in the slightest. It’s what I do, as an apologist. The question is whether Dr. Madison is up to interacting with counter-critiques? Or will he act like the voluminous anti-theist atheist polemicist Bob Seidensticker?: who directly challenged me in one of his own comboxes to respond to his innumerable attack-pieces against Christianity and the Bible, and then courageously proceeded to utterly ignore my 35 specific critiques of his claims as of this writing. We shall soon see which course Dr. Madison will decide to take. Anyway, he also states in his post and combox:

[S]o many of the words of Jesus are genuinely shocking. These words aren’t proclaimed much from the pulpit, . . . Hence the folks in the pews have absorbed and adored an idealized Jesus. Christian apologists make their livings refiguring so many of the things Jesus supposedly said.

The gospels are riddled with contradictions and bad theology, and Jesus is so frequently depicted as a cult fanatic—because cult fanatics wrote the gospels. We see Jesus only through their theological filters. I just want to grab hold of Christian heads (standing behind them, with a hand on each ear) and force them to look straight ahead, unflinchingly, at the gospels, and then ask “Tell me what you see!” uncoached by apologist specialists, i.e., priests and pastors, who’ve had a lot of practice making bad texts look good. . . . I DO say, “Deal with the really bad stuff in the gospels.” Are you SURE you’ve not make a big mistake endorsing this particular Lord and Savior? That’s the whole point of this series of Flash Podcasts, because a helluva lot of Christians would agree, right away, that these quotes are bad news—if no one told then that they’ve been attributed to Jesus.

Of course, Dr. Madison — good anti-theist atheist that he is — takes the view that we are not at all sure whether Jesus in fact said anything recorded in the Gospels in the first place. I don’t play that game, because there is no end to it. It’s like trying to pin jello to the wall. The atheist always has their convenient out (when refuted in argument about some biblical text) that Jesus never said it anyway [wink wink and sly patronizing grin], and/or that the biblical text in question was simply added later by dishonest ultra-biased Christian partisans and propagandists. It’s a silly and ultimately intellectually dishonest game, and so I always refuse to play it with atheists or anyone else, because there is no way to “win” with such an absurdly stacked, purely subjective deck.

In my defense of biblical texts, I start with the assumption that the manuscripts we have are quite sufficient for us to know what is in the Bible (believe it or not). Going on from there, I simply defend particular [supposedly “difficult”] texts, and note with appropriate argumentation, that “here, the Bible teaches so-and-so,” etc. I deal with the texts as they exist. I don’t get into the endlessly arbitrary, subjective games that atheists and theologically liberal biblical skeptics play with the texts, in their self-serving textual criticism.

Dr. Madison himself (fortunately) grants my outlook in terms of practical “x vs. y” debate purposes: “For the sake of argument, I’m willing to say, okay, Jesus was real and, yes, we have gospels that tell the story.” And in the combox: “So, we can go along with their insistence that he did exist. We’ll play on their field, i.e., the gospels.”

Good! So we shall examine his cherry-picked texts and see whether his interpretations of them can stand up to scrutiny. He is issuing challenges, and I as an apologist will be dishing a bunch of my own right back to him. Two can play this game. I will be dealing honestly with his challenges. Will he return the favor, and engage in serious and substantive dialogue? Again, we’ll soon know what his reaction will be. A true dialogue is of a confident, inquisitive, “nothing to fear and everything to gain” back-and-forth and interactive nature, not merely “ships passing in the night” or what I call “mutual monologue.”

*****

Dr. Madison’s tenth podcast of twelve is entitled: “On Mark 11:22-24, Jesus gets demerits for saying this about prayer.” Here is the latest “outrageous” saying of Jesus (or, oops, the fanatical cultist evangelists who supposedly made up His words):

Mark 11:22-24 (RSV) And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. [23] Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. [24] Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

This is a shallow, silly promise, and Jesus gets major demerits for this. . . . Jesus was wrong. . . . How much damage has this teaching caused? How many very devout people have prayed with all their might for a sick child to be cured, but the child dies? And then — far from blaming God for not delivering — they beat up on themselves for not having (you guessed it) enough faith. This damages people. This is harmful religion. . . . Jesus sounds like countless other cult fanatics that have come and gone in human history. . . . Why aren’t Christians themselves shocked by the cheap gimmickry? . . . baloney that Jesus has taught about prayer . . . 

First of all, of course this — especially the “mountain” reference — is a use of hyperbole (exaggeration to make a point), which we have thoroughly dealt with in installment one of this series of twelve rebuttals, and so need not reiterate here. It’s simply exaggeration, to make the literal point: “you can do some truly extraordinary things through faith and prayer.”

And (equally obvious) we all speak like this today, all the time. We observe people who are rather confident in their abilities in various areas, who will say, “I can do anything!” No one takes it literally. Or one can think of married couples who truly believe that their love can “conquer all”, or a parent telling a child who is now a young man or woman, considering a career: “you can do anything you want with your life. The sky’s the limit!”

These things are common because exaggeration or hyperbole is present in all languages and cultures. The problem is that a double standard is often applied to the Bible and Jesus: as if the ordinary complex aspects of language somehow don’t apply in those cases. They do; and this double standard or miscomprehension is the cause of countless atheist errors and fallacies in their endless polemical attacks.

Ironically, in this very podcast, Dr. Madison was discussing the parable of the fig tree, that occurs earlier in the same chapter, and states: “seeing the story in the context of this chapter, it seems to be Mark’s metaphor for the destruction of the Jerusalem temple . . . it is a literary device.”

Great! This is truly progress, as Dr. Madison has now recognized the perfectly obvious fact that the Bible contains literary devices and various genres, which include things like metaphor, exaggeration, anthropomorphism, and various non-literal poetic specimens. Yet he can’t see this when it comes to the text we are presently examining. And he — more often than not –, misses them altogether.

He does make a good point that there are many Christians (who interpret the passage as he is doing: as if Jesus intended it absolutely literally) who read this and think that God answers absolutely every prayer and heals absolutely everyone, just for the asking, and/or with enough faith in the person praying or the one afflicted.

This is indeed an actual and serious problem among far too many Christians, and a legitimate concern. But it comes from ignorance and stupidity in Bible interpretation (precisely the same error Dr. Madison is committing in every podcast in this series). These folks are taking things literally that were never intended to be so.

Again, I have dealt with both these errors in other papers, and so will cite them here. I addressed the “unanswered prayer ‘problem'” in my article, “No Conditional Prayer in Scripture?”: one of my 35 refutations of atheist Bob Seidensticker, which he has utterly ignored and left unreplied-to. Here are two instances, where the Bible shows that not all prayers are or should be answered:

Prayer is conditional upon being consistent with God’s will. So if we pray (to use an extreme example) for a difficult neighbor to be struck down and not able to talk or walk, that wouldn’t be in God’s will and God wouldn’t answer it.

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Even something not immediately immoral or amoral wouldn’t necessarily be in God’s will, because He knows everything and can see where things might lead; thus may refuse some requests. When Jesus says “ask and you shall receive,” etc., it’s in a familiar Hebrew proverbial sense, which means that it is “generally true, but admits of exceptions.”

Moreover, St. Paul’s petitionary prayer request for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” (thought by many Bible scholars to be an eye disease) was expressly turned down by God (2 Cor 12:7-9). I gave a few other examples in that paper:

The prophet Jonah prayed to God to die (Jonah 4:3): “Therefore now, O LORD, take my life from me, I beseech thee, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (cf. 4:8-9). God obviously didn’t fulfill the request, and chided Jonah or his anger (4:4, 9). The prophet Ezekiel did the same: “O LORD, take away my life” (1 Kgs 19:4). God had other plans, as the entire passage shows. If we pray something stupidly, God won’t answer. He knows better than we do.

Jesus also tells the story (not a parable, which don’t have proper names) in Luke 16 of Lazarus and the rich man, in which two petitionary requests (in effect, prayers: 16:24, 27-28, 30) to Abraham are turned down (16:25-26, 29, 31). Since Jesus is teaching theological principles or truths, by means of the story, then it follows that it’s His own opinion as well: that prayers are not always answered. They have to be according to God’s will.

But wait! Bob says, after all: “The Bible has no qualifiers” and “No limitations or delays are mentioned [for prayer].” Really? It’s sort of obvious, by now, ain’t it?: that Bob often is quite ignorant of what the Bible actually teaches. He displays his biblical illiteracy and ignorance rather spectacularly . . . 

Now, one might say that, “okay, some of these are obvious examples where God wouldn’t answer, because someone would be harmed. But why wouldn’t God answer all prayers for healing, because that is a good thing, and He has the desire and power to do so, if He is an all-loving and omnipotent Being?”

And that leads to the large, complex area of healing, as taught in the Bible and Christianity. The fact is that the Bible does not teach that everyone would or should be healed for the asking, or with enough faith. It’s not nearly that simple. I have already provided the example above of the Apostle Paul, who certainly had enough faith and holiness. It simply wasn’t God’s will to heal him. We don’t know all the ins and outs of why God heals in some instances and not in others.

We don’t know everything and can’t figure out everything God does. We should never logically expect to, given other truths expressed in the inspired revelation that all Christians accept, since He is omniscient and our knowledge is very limited. But I’m here to inform anyone who will listen what the actual biblical teaching about healing is. I documented it at great length in my paper, “Divine Healing: Is It God’s Will to Heal in Every Case?”

Sometimes people are supernaturally healed; most times they are not, or are healed through natural means that came from thinking and brains and medical science, by means of the abilities to learn that God gave us. And sometimes prayers are unanswered, per the reasons above.

There is nothing whatsoever in this passage — correctly understood — that isshallow, silly, wrong, harmful religion, sound[ing] like countless other cult fanatics, cheap gimmickry, baloney . . .” It’s Dr. Madison (in his ludicrous felt superiority to our Lord Jesus) who has been shown to be “silly” and “wrong”: as throughout these ten installments. There are many people who have a hard time properly interpreting the Bible, and he is assuredly one of ’em.

***

Photo credit: Healing of the Blind Man (1871), by Carl Bloch (1834-1890) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

August 5, 2019

This is an installment of my series of replies to an article by Dr. David Madison: a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, who has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. It’s called, “Things We Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said” (Debunking Christianity, 7-21-19). His words will be in blue below. Dr. Madison makes several “generic” digs at Jesus and Christianity, in the written portion (it details a series of 12 podcasts):

A challenge for Christians: If you’re so sure Jesus existed, then you have some explaining to do. A major frustration is that, while believers are indignant at all the talk about Jesus not existing, they don’t know the issues that fuel the skepticism—and are unwilling to inform themselves.

Yes, I’m up to the “challenge.” No problem at all. I’m not threatened or “scared” by this in the slightest. It’s what I do, as an apologist. The question is whether Dr. Madison is up to interacting with counter-critiques? Or will he act like the voluminous anti-theist atheist polemicist Bob Seidensticker?: who directly challenged me in one of his own comboxes to respond to his innumerable attack-pieces against Christianity and the Bible, and then courageously proceeded to utterly ignore my 35 specific critiques of his claims as of this writing. We shall soon see which course Dr. Madison will decide to take. Anyway, he also states in his post and combox:

[S]o many of the words of Jesus are genuinely shocking. These words aren’t proclaimed much from the pulpit, . . . Hence the folks in the pews have absorbed and adored an idealized Jesus. Christian apologists make their livings refiguring so many of the things Jesus supposedly said.

The gospels are riddled with contradictions and bad theology, and Jesus is so frequently depicted as a cult fanatic—because cult fanatics wrote the gospels. We see Jesus only through their theological filters. I just want to grab hold of Christian heads (standing behind them, with a hand on each ear) and force them to look straight ahead, unflinchingly, at the gospels, and then ask “Tell me what you see!” uncoached by apologist specialists, i.e., priests and pastors, who’ve had a lot of practice making bad texts look good. . . . I DO say, “Deal with the really bad stuff in the gospels.” Are you SURE you’ve not make a big mistake endorsing this particular Lord and Savior? That’s the whole point of this series of Flash Podcasts, because a helluva lot of Christians would agree, right away, that these quotes are bad news—if no one told then that they’ve been attributed to Jesus.

Of course, Dr. Madison — good anti-theist atheist that he is — takes the view that we are not at all sure whether Jesus in fact said anything recorded in the Gospels in the first place. I don’t play that game, because there is no end to it. It’s like trying to pin jello to the wall. The atheist always has their convenient out (when refuted in argument about some biblical text) that Jesus never said it anyway [wink wink and sly patronizing grin], and/or that the biblical text in question was simply added later by dishonest ultra-biased Christian partisans and propagandists. It’s a silly and ultimately intellectually dishonest game, and so I always refuse to play it with atheists or anyone else, because there is no way to “win” with such an absurdly stacked, purely subjective deck.

In my defense of biblical texts, I start with the assumption that the manuscripts we have are quite sufficient for us to know what is in the Bible (believe it or not). Going on from there, I simply defend particular [supposedly “difficult”] texts, and note with appropriate argumentation, that “here, the Bible teaches so-and-so,” etc. I deal with the texts as they exist. I don’t get into the endlessly arbitrary, subjective games that atheists and theologically liberal biblical skeptics play with the texts, in their self-serving textual criticism.

Dr. Madison himself (fortunately) grants my outlook in terms of practical “x vs. y” debate purposes: “For the sake of argument, I’m willing to say, okay, Jesus was real and, yes, we have gospels that tell the story.” And in the combox: “So, we can go along with their insistence that he did exist. We’ll play on their field, i.e., the gospels.”

Good! So we shall examine his cherry-picked texts and see whether his interpretations of them can stand up to scrutiny. He is issuing challenges, and I as an apologist will be dishing a bunch of my own right back to him. Two can play this game. I will be dealing honestly with his challenges. Will he return the favor, and engage in serious and substantive dialogue? Again, we’ll soon know what his reaction will be. A true dialogue is of a confident, inquisitive, “nothing to fear and everything to gain” back-and-forth and interactive nature, not merely “ships passing in the night” or what I call “mutual monologue.”

*****

Dr. Madison’s fourth podcast is entitled: “On Mark 10:9, Jesus’ disastrous teaching about divorce.” Here is the “offending” passage:

Mark 10:6-9 (RSV) But from the beginning of creation, `God made them male and female.’ [7] `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, [8] and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. [9] What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” 

He starts out with a dig at evangelicals, who (according to a study he is drawing from) have a higher divorce rate than the general public, and higher than atheists as well. We see where he is going with this. That may be true, but if so, has to be closely examined. I have seen, myself, several social studies (and my major was sociology), indicating that couples who test high on religious piety and observance, have more successful marriages than their colleagues who lack such qualities.

He cites a study from Baylor University, which I located online. It, in turn, cites a more detailed report of the studies undertaken. In its section on marriage, the latter states:

Religion is popularly thought of as a social institution that encourages marriage and family growth, and conservative religious traditions are especially supportive of “traditional” family forms and values. But there are some interesting and not always predictable variations among and within different religious groups. . . . 

Thus the common conservative argument that strong religion leads to strong families does not hold up. Some have argued that evangelical Protestantism (the typical example of “strong religion”) is correlated with low socioeconomic status, and that this explains the increased risk of divorce. However, new research by Jennifer Glass and Philip Levchak suggests that evangelical Protestants’ cultural encouragement of early marriage and discouragement of birth control and higher education attainment explain the higher divorce rate in counties with a larger proportion of evangelical Protestants.

What the same article also states, however, is the following:

Overall, couples who have higher levels of religious service attendance, especially if the couple attends together, have lower rates of divorce.

The “new research” cited in this article, from Glass and Levchak, was published in the American Journal of Sociology (February 2014). But it’s a lot more nuanced than these “triumphant” evangelical-bashing summaries would suggest. Charles E. Stokes explains:

[T]here is more to the story. Below I suggest a few additional considerations that are in order before rushing to declare conservative Protestants unwitting enemies of marriage.

. . . a few intriguing findings in the article are likely to get buried in mass media coverage of the main storyline. Early in the article, Glass and Levchak point out that “the average county would double its divorce rate as its proportion conservative Protestant moved from 0 to 100%,” but then they note “this effect is much smaller than the unaffiliated effect which is almost three times larger [emphasis mine].” The evidence from this article does not suggest that marriages would be better off in non-religious contexts but actually points in the opposite direction.

. . . it is important to note the comparison group throughout this study. Conservative Protestants are compared not to the non-religious (who, as noted earlier, are more divorce prone by comparison) but to all other major Christian groups.

. . . According to the logic of the article, it is the regularly involved conservative Protestants who should be most invested in promoting the “pro-marriage” norms that are paradoxically putting their marriages (and others’) at risk. But new data discussed below suggest just the opposite.

Figure 1 shows the proportion of ever-divorced young adults by religious affiliation and participation. These data are taken from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a nationally representative study of young Americans who were first surveyed as teens in 1994 and most recently surveyed again as young adults in 2008. . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) Waves III and IV.
*Statistically significant difference at the .05 level from Other Christian: Active in logistic regression models.
^Statistically significant difference at the .05 level from Non-Religious in logistic regression models.

The comparison groups in Figure 1 are designed to mirror those of the Glass and Levchak study, but they are divided into active (attending religious services two or more times a month) and nominal (attending less than two times a month) subgroups. As the figure shows, active conservative Protestants are statistically no more likely to have divorced in the first few years of marriage than their active peers from other Christian denominations, and both groups who attend church frequently are significantly less likely to have divorced than their non-religious peers. The group that stands out in Figure 1 is the nominal conservative Protestants, the most likely group to have divorced. Thus, in the exact group (early-marrying conservative Protestants) whose marriages Glass and Levchak would expect to falter, active conservative Protestants are above average in marital stability early in marriage, while nominal conservative Protestants fare worse than the non-religious.

This hardly confirms Dr. Madison’s point. It’s a disconfirmation. One simply had to look deeply enough into the study cited, to see the more specific relevant data.

Dr. Madison then changes his approach and goes directly after Mark 10:9, stating: “Here Jesus seems to imply that every marriage is designed by God.” Well, not exactly. Jesus is saying that marriage is a divinely instituted sacrament, that ought not be broken. That’s far different from claiming that every specific marriage in fact was divinely ordained: as if there is no human free will involved (including the usual range of possible human mistakes, folly, immaturity, haste and lack of preparation and planning, possibly excessive lust, etc.). These human mistakes (and sins, where applicable) are not God’s fault, and it’s beyond silly to blame Him for them. And among the human free will actions or beliefs that can help cause an unsuccessful marriage are religious nominalism and cohabitation.

Dr. Madison stumbles into the truth, by asserting: “it doesn’t follow at all that God has engineered every marriage or put His seal on every marriage.” Exactly right. Lots of people get married who have no business doing so. He continues: “Just think of all the bad marriages that have happened since the beginning. People have been forced to marry for all sorts of wrong reasons: money: family pressures and expectations, political alliances, . . . people miserable in bad marriages.” Bingo again! This sort of human error and bad judgment has caused untold misery, but it’s absurd to blame God for it.

In fact, we have data in the Bible regarding God advising the ancient Jews not to enter into certain unwise marriages: with foreign women who followed contrary religious practices (Ezra 10:2-3; cf. Dt 17:17; Neh 13:23-28). Therefore, it can’t be that “every [particular] marriage is designed by God.” The institution was designed and sanctioned by Him, and as we know, any and every institution can be corrupted and abused. These men were actually commanded to “put away” or “send away” foreign women who worshiped false gods (Ezra 10:4-19, 44; cf. 9:1-2, 14-15). In my own apologetics I have used these examples as biblical analogies for the Catholic practice of annulment, which is the most sensible way to deal with marriages that were “wrong” from the beginning.

Thus, God approved and approves of ending an ostensible marriage: the very opposite of Dr. Madison’s claims that God ordains each and every human marriage forever, no matter how bad the situation is. There are many instances of God not approving of particular marriages:

Leviticus 21:7, 14 They shall not marry a harlot or a woman who has been defiled; neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband . . . [14] A widow, or one divorced, or a woman who has been defiled, or a harlot, these he shall not marry; but he shall take to wife a virgin of his own people, 

Nehemiah 13:27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?

Ezekiel 44:22 They shall not marry a widow, or a divorced woman, but only a virgin of the stock of the house of Israel, or a widow who is the widow of a priest.

Tobit 4:12 . . . First of all take a wife from among the descendants of your fathers and do not marry a foreign woman, who is not of your father’s tribe; for we are the sons of the prophets. Remember, my son, that Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our fathers of old, all took wives from among their brethren. . . . 

Mark 10:11-12 [Jesus] And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; [12] and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” 

Jesus taught that a valid marriage was indissoluble, and that divorce in these circumstances constituted adultery. But of course the key question is what constitutes a valid marriage. Dr. Madison himself notes several factors that would be prime instances of grounds for Catholic annulment: “People have been forced to marry for . . . money: family pressures and expectations, political alliances.” Thus, Catholic theology has a very practical and compassionate way to help people trapped in such circumstances, while not undermining the institution of marriage itself, or promoting an unbiblical divorce, because an annulment is a declaration (one that exists even in secular civil law) that marriage never actually existed from the beginning.

It’s the Protestants and the Orthodox (lacking annulments) who labor under such difficulties: but they do not represent all of Christianity. Catholicism is by far the largest portion. But Dr. Madison continues with unwarranted caricatures and juvenile swipes at God: “But hey, God designed them all, God brought all these folks to the altar, or if they just ended up there against their will, God still added His seal of approval; no escape ever. God did all that joining. . . . How could God be so incompetent?”

No, He does not approve of every ill-advised marriage that people enter into, and it’s ludicrous to assert that He does. But that’s what atheists do: they always want to irrationally and unjustly blame God for the mistakes and sins of human beings. It’s always His fault (whether He exists or not, is the comic element in it all).

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Photo credit: Houkouki (10-26-18) [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license]

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July 20, 2019

[Bob Seidensticker’s words will be in blue]

Former Presbyterian, Bible-Basher Bob’s blog, Cross Examined contains (according to the “About” page) “roughly a million words in more than a thousand posts” and a “quarter-million comments.” He advertises his efforts as “an energetic but civil critique of Christianity.” But the blog  is anything but “civil”: as a glance at any of his endless comboxes will prove. Here (as an altogether typical example) is the feeding frenzy on his site where I was the specific target.

He directly challenged me to answer his arguments, 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 also made a general statement on 6-22-17“Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” 

Again, Bob mocks some brave Christian (who dared show up in his toxic, noxious environment), in his comboxes on 10-27-18“You can’t explain it to us, you can’t defend it, you can’t even defend it to yourself. Defend your position or shut up about it. It’s clear you have nothing.” And again on the same day“If you can’t answer the question, man up and say so.” And on 10-26-18“you refuse to defend it, after being asked over and over again.” And againYou’re the one playing games, equivocating, and being unable to answer the challenges.”  

Bob virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. I was happy to comply, so he came onto my site, but it was clear early on that he had no interest in genuine dialogue, so he was banned as a sophist troll, and I explained exactly why I banned him. Lest his atheists buddies think that this alone proves that I am the coward, he later banned me on his site, simply for disagreeing.

I ban, on the other hand, when people violate my simple rules for civil discussion. It’s a completely different rationale. Bob is still fully able to see all of my posts about him, and to reply on his own site. Banning on Disqus has no effect on any of that.

After Bob challenged me, I decided that enough was enough and that I would reply at great length. I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes if I am able, so I decided to do a series of posts.  Thus, I have now posted 32 critiques of his nonsense: written from August through October 2018, and the last two in April 2019.

And there will be more, if he writes something different about the Bible or Christianity; if he dredges up some semi-semi-semi quasi-“original” chestnut of anti-Christian polemics (many of his posts simply recycle the same old anti-Christian lies).

And guess how many times he has counter-responded to my 32 in-depth critiques, goaded on by he himself? You guessed right: zero, zilch, nada, nuthin’ . . . He hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply. His cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds.

It’s part of my job as a Catholic apologist, to examine the arguments (real or imagined) of atheist anti-theist polemicists, to see whether they can hold water. Not all (probably not even a majority of) apologists deal with atheist polemics or tackle the issues regarding science and its relationship to Christianity, and philosophy of religion. I do.

It’s largely thankless work, and few (on either side) seem to care about it, but someone’s gotta do it. On my site, one can learn how to counter and dismantle atheist arguments. And it is revealed how very weak they are. Don’t let the anti-theist atheist routine of blithely assumed intellectual superiority fool you. Anyone can talk a good game. But backing it up is often another story altogether.

I also specialize in critiques of atheist “deconversion stories.” Atheists and agnostics attempt to give (public) reasons why they should have left Christianity. I (likewise, publicly) show how they are inadequate and insufficient reasons.

And Bible-Basher Bob Seidensticker is Example #1 of this illusory facade of superiority. Imagine an idyllic vision of rational argument, where atheists seriously and amiably engage with Christians (minus all the usual mockery and tribalist cheerleading combox insult-fests, on both sides). Ol’ Bob doesn’t want any part of that. It would shatter the fairy tale of invulnerability that he makes up for his fan club and clones who sop up his every utterance as if they were GOSPEL TRVTH.

Bottom-line: can a person back up what they are arguing, against scrutiny and examination? Bob apparently cannot (he certainly will not), and so I can only conclude that he is an intellectual coward, who lacks the courage of his convictions (which — I freely grant — are sincerely held). Here is the complete list of my 32 posts contra Bible-Basher Bob:

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The usual nonsense and obfuscation in the combox commenced soon after this post went up:

So you’ve banned Bob Seidensticker from your blog, while he hasn’t banned you from his, yet he’s the intellectual coward?

Me: I’m banned on his blog (have been since August 2018; I just confirmed it over there, that it is still in force), and I was for simply disagreeing (as I mentioned in the post). I was in a good discussion with a reasonable and civil atheist there at the very time I was banned. But he was banned because he was being a sophist and a troll (as I carefully explained at length in a post).

1. He challenged me (back when I was still allowed to comment on his site) to refute his anti-Christian bilge (after I banned him).

2. I have now done so 32 times on as many topics.

3. He hasn’t uttered one peep in reply. That’s why he is a coward.

4. He can see my critiques (he can see this very post) and he is free to counter-reply to them on his blog. Being banned for trolling has nothing whatsoever to do with either of those things.

5. But again, he does NOT do so. Why? I have drawn my own conclusion as to the reason . . . If you or anyone have a better one, I’m all ears.

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Photo credit: OpenClipart-Vectors (10-21-13) [PixabayPixabay License]
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April 5, 2019

Atheist “Sporkfighter” was responding underneath my blog article, “The Nature & Function of Prayer: Reply to Two Atheists” (3-22-19). His words will be in blue.

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[Me] He urges us to pray in order to involve us in His actions. That’s how He likes it to be.

How could you possibly know what God wants?

I wouldn’t if He hadn’t revealed it in His revelation (the Bible).

He’s also revealed how we should acquire and treat our slaves, how we should submit if we are taken into slavery, and when to stone our wives and children.

How do you decide which parts of His revealed Truth to live by and which to ignore?

I’ve written about slavery in the Bible at length, too, in one of my 30 critiques that atheist luminary Bob Seidensticker completely ignored:

Seidensticker Folly #10: Slavery in the Old Testament

Seidensticker Folly #11: Slavery & the New Testament

The Old Testament law was very strict at first. But things develop, and that changed. When Jesus ran into the woman caught in adultery, He saved her from being stoned by saying, “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” You must have missed that part of the Bible.

Back then you at least had to do something wrong to be stoned by your own parents. Now you simply have to exist in the womb of your mother, and you can be torn limb from limb and sucked into a vacuum cleaner. And about half the country thinks that is fine and dandy (the Supreme Court agreed in 1973!), and most of those look down their noses at the Old Testament system of law.

You want to bring up Old Testament slavery, when we have the exact same concept believed today: a mother owns her own child (so much so that many absurdly claim that it is part of her own body) and can murder him or her at will, should she so desire. Any reason whatsoever will suffice.

What a strange world we live in. How much moral progress we have made, huh?, since the time of those backward, troglodyte Hebrews in the desert. How much more compassionate we are towards even the most helpless and innocent and vulnerable among us.

Are we gonna play Bible hopscotch now: with you jumping to all sorts of different topics? That’s what Bob loves to do. But it’s a fool’s game and not serious discussion.

[Robert H. Woodman] Prayer is not for God’s benefit. Our prayers do not inform God of anything of which He is unaware, nor do our prayers compel Him to do anything that He would otherwise not do or that He would do only with reluctance. God is not a vending machine or a slot machine, but many people “pray” to God as if that is the purpose of prayer.

Matthew and Luke disagree with you.

Matthew 17:20 And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.

Luke 17:5-6 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.

I answered this objection in one of my replies to atheist Bob Seidensticker. Like the other 29, he left this completely unanswered:

Seidensticker Folly #7: No Conditional Prayer in Scripture?

Excerpts:

Jesus also tells the story (not a parable, which don’t have proper names) in Luke 16 of Lazarus and the rich man, in which two petitionary requests (in effect, prayers: 16:24, 27-28, 30) to Abraham are turned down (16:25-26, 29, 31). Since Jesus is teaching theological principles or truths, by means of the story, then it follows that it’s His own opinion as well: that prayers are not always answered. They have to be according to God’s will.

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Here is the passage (mentioned above) where St. Paul’s petitionary prayer request was expressly turned down by God:

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh [Dave: many Bible scholars believe this to be an eye disease], a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. [8] Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; [9] but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The prophet Jonah prayed to God to die (Jonah 4:3): “Therefore now, O LORD, take my life from me, I beseech thee, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (cf. 4:8-9). God obviously didn’t fulfill the request, and chided Jonah or his anger (4:4, 9). The prophet Ezekiel did the same: “O LORD, take away my life” (1 Kgs 19:4). God had other plans, as the entire passage shows. If we pray something stupidly, God won’t answer. He knows better than we do.

In pointing out that elsewhere the Bible says otherwise, all you have shown is that the Bible is internally inconsistent.

It’s perfectly consistent. What you need to understand is the nature of ancient near eastern Semitic hyperbole. I give an elementary introduction to it in this article of mine: “All Have Sinned” vs. a Sinless, Immaculate Mary?

I see that you wrote elsewhere (in June 2017), in reply to a comment by Carl Sagan: “You can’t convince a believer of anything because their belief isn’t based on evidence but on a deep-seated need to believe”:

It’s been my experience that Carl Sagan is correct. I’ve never known a theist to be convince[d] by evidence presented to him. Those who have left their religion have had to come across reasons on their own and in a way that doesn’t raise their defenses immediately.

I’m 57 and my family is atheist going back at least two generations…I’ve had quite a few discussions about religion and why there’s no evidence to support the idea…probably spoken to five hundred people on the subject. Granted, that’s not the entire human race, but it leads me to say that statistically speaking, the chance of arguing someone out of a religious belief approximates zero. As for the variety of theist, I don’t expect that to matter much.

Why are you here attempting to persuade me, then (and doing a lousy job so far, as I have already dealt with your flimsy, garden-variety objections many times over, with atheists splitting virtually every time I give them a solid answer)? You have your experience; we Christian apologists (I am a professional, published one) have ours with atheists as well.

As I mentioned, Bob Seidensticker is a prominent atheist polemicist on Patheos, who gets a million comments under his articles. He challenged me directly, to answer his endless arguments (real or so-called) against Christianity. So I didthirty times. But alas, he is nowhere to be found. I had to send out a notice to the Missing Persons bureau.

If you ask why I seek to convince atheists, I do because I seek to convince anyone of the truths of Christianity and of Catholic Christianity in particular. It’s called evangelism, and a desire to share the Gospel and truths of Christianity out of love and compassion; to share the joy and peace and fulfillment that we have discovered as followers of Jesus Christ. And we apologists specialize in giving reasons for why we believe as we do, and why alternate worldviews are less plausible and filled with fallacies and shortcomings and internal inconsistencies.

There are atheists who have become Christians. My favorite writer, C. S. Lewis, was one of them. But even short of such a dramatic change of mind, I think it’s important to show atheists that we (on the whole, at least among the properly educated and committed Christians) think and reason and value evidence and science just as they do, and that good, plausible answers can be given to their recycled, tired arguments against Christianity and Jesus and the Bible.

Engaging in these arguments in a public venue is also a way to encourage Christians that atheist objections are by no means invincible; quite the contrary. I have collected scores and scores of my interactions with atheists on my web page devoted to that. I also have a very extensive web page about science and philosophy.

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Photo credit: [Max PixelCreative Commons Zero – CC0 license]

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October 3, 2018

I received notice of a reply to a comment of mine made on Bob Seidensticker’s rabidly anti-theist / anti-Christian blog, Cross Examined. I had written over there on 8-21-18, replying to Bob:  “If you think I’m a troll, then ban me, since you say you have banned dozens of people. What stops you?”
 
So today, “BeeryUSA” replied (link):
 
It’s no wonder that Dave Armstrong, a guy who bans anyone who disagrees with him, thinks that others should do the same. What stops us? Well Dave, unlike religious folks, atheists aren’t afraid of debate. If you show yourself to be a troll, all the better.
 
Ah! So I thought Seidensticker might have changed his mind on banning me, and went to comment, “Am I unbanned?!” Alas, I received the message back from Disqus: “We are unable to post your comment because you have been banned by Cross Examined.”
 
That’s what I thought. Bob banned me back in mid-August, after an extraordinary avalanche of personal attacks had taken place against me: which I was happy to document and expose on my blog, as Example #490,108,011 of the typical “Angry Atheist” verbal diarrhea behavior.
 
This Beery guy seems to be under the illusion that Bob doesn’t ban people. He’s also wildly incorrect about my criteria for banning. It’s when people violate my simple rules for discourse; not because they disagree. I’ve reiterated this a billion times, but some folks are slow.
 
There is a very active atheist on my blog threads right now who has been here for months, named “Anthrotheist.” He regularly pays me compliments for good discussion, and a good environment to have discussions. He refrains from insults and is very courteous, charitable, and insightful. So there is no problem. See the five posted dialogues with him (so far: one / two / three / four / five). Lots and lots of disagreement, but no rancor and hostility and mudslinging. How refreshing that is!
 
Jon Curry is an atheist whom I’ve known in person since at least 2010 (he’s even been at my house giving talks, twice, and I gave a talk at his atheist group). He remains active on my Facebook page (usually talking very far left politics) and hasn’t been banned. I love disagreements. Thats why I have over a thousand dialogues posted on my blog: more than anyone else I’ve ever seen online. I post more words of folks who oppose me on issues than anyone I know.
 
I banned Bob from my blog, and I explained why at length at the time. But of course he is perfectly free to respond to any of my posts about him. He can still read what I wrote and reply on his blog, if he so chooses. I just completed my 23rd in a series called “Seidensticker Folly” last night:  “Seidensticker Folly #23: Atheist ‘Bible Science’ Inanities, Pt. 2.”  Here are the previous 22 installments, in case some atheist (including Bob himself) works up the gumption to rationally reply to any of ’em:
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[one / two / three / four / five / six / seven / eight / nine / ten / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22]
 
I started it because, when I was still allowed on Bob’s blog, he had challenged me, saying (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? . . . If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.
 
So I began my series. It’s been fun and extremely enlightening as to how this one prominent anti-theist atheist argues and tries to lie about and besmirch Christianity and the Bible.
 
Beery claims that “atheists aren’t afraid of debate.” Presumably that includes Bob Seidensticker, who is one of the most well-known and prolific atheists online. I even saw yesterday that he has done formal debates in person with prominent Christian apologists.
 
But for some odd reason, he has not uttered one peep in reply to now 23 posts of mine that directly challenged arguments on his blog. Not.a.single.one. Zero, zip, zilch, nada. Instead, he fires a few potshots occasionally from his perch way up in the hills, such as, for example, opining that my alleged “disinterest in the truth reflects poorly” on me (from 8-24-18). I replied: “What are we to make, then, of his utter ‘disinterest’ in defending his opinions against serious critique?
 
Does that sound to you like he isn’t “afraid of debate” with Christians: i.e., with one who is also a professional, widely published apologist and who has directly challenged and refuted his arguments 23 times and will continue to do so? The scores and scores of debates posted on my Atheism and Agnosticism page hardly suggest that I am scared to debate atheists. Seidensticker is “small fry.” His arguments (if most of them are even worthy of the description) are atrocious, terrible, downright laughable. I’ve debated at least 25 atheists who are far sharper and more honest and accurate about Christianity than he is.
 
Perhaps someone who is still allowed to post at Cross Examined would be kind enough to inform Bob of this post. Thanks beforehand!

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I replied to “Beery” on another blog:

Since I’m banned on Seidensticker’s blog, I couldn’t respond to your comment there, so here is my reply, in a new blog post. Perhaps you could be so kind as to inform Bob of it. Thanks!

If he blesses me with a response, I will be sure to post it here.

Someone else responded (MadScientist1023):

Aren’t you the guy who constantly tries to pick fights with Bob Seidensticker on your blog, but then bans absolutely anyone who makes one post you disagree with? This is kind of a weird place for you to be trolling for your blog, since you would ban most readers here from posting anything.

I replied:

I ban for insults and inability to engage in civil discourse, as I have explained 492,019,836,298 times — well, come to think of it, maybe 492,019,836,299 times (to no avail).  I have more debates with atheists posted on my blog (with multiple thousands of their words hosted on my Catholic site) than anyone I have ever seen. If you find someone with more debates than I have, please let me know.

Meanwhile, Bob still has me banned and has absolutely ignored 23 lengthy critiques of his posts, that he initially challenged me to undertake. That’s pretty rich (and hilarious) stuff! He’s perfectly free to read my critiques and reply on his blog (and then I will certainly counter-reply).

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Photo credit: schlappohr (1-8-12) [PixabayCC0 Creative Commons license]

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