November 25, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 64 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

Today’s critique is a case study in a person who is utterly unwilling to be instructed (certainly not by one of us lowly, ignorant Christians!). I observed Bob railing about supposed unresolvable contradictions in Ten Commandments accounts in the Bible, in one of his comboxes. In this instance, a Christian (“Scooter”) was there trying to talk sense into Bob, who would have none of it. Undaunted, he simply kept up his pitiable anti-Bible polemics and rhetoric:

Read Exodus 34. This is Moses getting the second set of tablets (remember that he smashed the first set).

Ex. 34:28 says: “Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.”

After you’ve done that, tell us what you’ve found. (11-20-20)

ScooterI note that quite often your responses suffer from the “I’ve got my mind made up, don’t confuse me with the facts” syndrome. So I encourage you to read Deuteronomy 5 again that debunks the idea that there were 2 different sets of Commandments. (11-21-20)

As Greg noted, don’t whine to us about who has his mind made up.

Ex. 20 and 34 have two very different sets of 10 Commandments. Or is God’s holy word something that you don’t bother reading or understanding?

The Documentary Hypothesis very neatly explains this and other conflations of two stories in the Bible (Flood, Creation, and others). (11-21-20)

ScooterThe Documentary Hypothesis and the arguments that support it have been effectively demolished by scholars from many different theological perspectives and areas of expertise. Read Ex.34 verse one very carefully. (11-21-20)

[W]hen you read the 10 Cs in Ex. 34 and compare that with “the words that were on the first tables” in Ex. 20, you find two very different sets of commandments. (11-21-20)

Since you refuse to address my point about the 2 incompatible versions of the 10 Commandments in the same book of the Bible, I’ll assume that you agree that it’s a problem.

As for the Documentary Hypothesis, it has been tweaked, but the core idea is unchanged: the Pentateuch that we have is the mixing of a number of different traditions. If you want to attack this, give me a reference. (11-22-20)

Happy to oblige:

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

Silent Night: A “Progressive” and “Enlightened” Reinterpretation [12-10-04; additionally edited for publication at National Catholic Register: 12-21-17]

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

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

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

The Bible states:

Proverbs 1:22 (RSV) How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?

Proverbs 13:16 In everything a prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.

Proverbs 15:14 The mind of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.

Proverbs 26:11 Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool that repeats his folly.

Sirach 21:18 Like a house that has vanished, so is wisdom to a fool; and the knowledge of the ignorant is unexamined talk.

2 Timothy 3:7 who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

This is Bob’s problem. He won’t accept any instruction or even clarification from Christians. He knows all. He knows better than Christians (even scholars) who have devoted their lives to studying and understanding the Bible. He thinks that he’s virtually infallible (judging by his constant words and actions), when it comes to the Bible and Christian theology, even though he himself at least honestly admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.” How impressive . . . 

I thoroughly refuted his “two contradictory sets of Ten Commandments” schtick over two years ago: Seidensticker Folly #16: Two Sets of Ten Commandments? A person who was confident of his positions and interested in open-minded, interactive dialogue would have welcomed such an opportunity.

But because Bob refuses to learn anything about the Bible (or read or respond to any of my 65 critiques), he simply repeats his same old stupid errors. He has no interest whatsoever in constructive dialogue. This is (to put it very mildly) not an impressive or constructive intellectual “place” to be. The true thinker is always willing to dialogue, be corrected, and learn. It’s the blind leading the blind. Bob offers up yet more slop on almost a daily basis, and his sycophants and cheerleaders sop it up, no matter how noxious or toxic his “stew” is.

All we Christian apologists can do is offer reasonable counter-explanations and refutations and shake our heads at the silliness and sheer impervious irrationality of what goes on on a regular basis at Cross Examined and many other anti-theist “bubble” venues like it (such as John Loftus’ Debunking Christianity site).

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Photo credit: paulbr75 (8-30-18) [PixabayPixabay License]

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November 24, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 63 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

Looking over one of Bible-Basher Bob’s notorious comboxes (cesspools of anti-Christian bigotry and ad hominem blitzes) today, I ran across this statement of his:

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer converted in prison, so when he died (violently, in prison), he went to heaven. Anne Frank (unrepentant Jew) went to hell.

Praise the Lord. (11-23-20)

He had repeated this mantra eight days earlier and then asked: “Do Christians ever stop to think of the Frankenstein of a religion they’ve created?”

And again on the same day:

I listened to a Christian podcast where 3 or 4 pastors were discussion the case of a father whose 20-something son had just died. So problem 1 is the son has died. But problem 2 is that the son hadn’t accepted Jeebus and so, by the father’s own religion, was now broasting in hell. And the pastors were trying to figure out what consoling words they could offer while sticking to the “everlasting torment” line.

Sometimes Christianity makes things a lot worse.

I’ve often noted how lies and falsehoods are easy to spout: often able to be expressed in a tiny soundbite or slogan short enough to be a nice fit for a bumper sticker or t-shirt.

So Bob threw out this insulting “meat” to his echo chamber: knowing that (almost certainly) no one would challenge it, and that all will be united in a blissful unity, in despising the intellectual bankruptcy of what they erroneously think is mainstream Christianity. To refute it, however (as the reader will soon see), I have to go into at least some depth about Catholic and Protestant theology of salvation (soteriology) and document how the view he spews is far out of the mainstream. And in doing it — if history is any guide — I know he will likely never read it, or if he does, he won’t respond or be corrected (if he continues his behavior of the last two years and three months: ignoring 63 of my critiques).

But I plug away because it’s important to refute lies and falsehoods like this, in order to try to prevent as many as possible from believing them. At any rate, it takes far more ink to effectively refute a lie than to state the lie. Another commenter (Michael) in the same combox wrote:

These are echoed by lots of real people. Obviously, the many Jews who died in the Holocaust (who didn’t become Christians). Plus the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoss. He converted to Catholicism and repented prior to being hanged. According to their doctrine, he’ll reach Heaven eventually. Now, at least they are more generous and say that “righteous” non-Catholics can be saved too. Evangelicals like Ray don’t. Young Anne Frank and so many more? Damned. Yet they say atheism is bad…

I’m saved from insanity at least by Michael acknowledging that Catholics teach “that ‘righteous’ non-Catholics can be saved.” Thank you, Michael. I think Bob might actually know that, too. To be as fair as we can be towards him, it is true that this combox was in response to a Protestant evangelical minister, and so that was probably the view he had in mind. Yet atheists have a bad habit of constantly making out that fringe fundamentalist Christian views represent the whole.

I have written about the possibility of atheists being saved, according to pretty clear biblical teaching:

Are Atheists “Evil”? Multiple Causes of Atheist Disbelief and the Possibility of Salvation [2-17-03]

New Testament on God-Rejecters vs. Open-Minded Agnostics [10-9-15]

In a nutshell, the Bible teaches one thing, and denies another:

1) One is judged by what they know and how they act upon it.

2) We don’t (and can’t) know the eternal fate of individuals.

Salvation is brought about by the grace of God and the work of Jesus Christ on the cross for the salvation of the human race (or at least those who believe in Him, having become acquainted with the gospel). This is true whether one is aware of it or not. So nothing I clarify here is to be thought of as a denial of that fact: held in common by all Christians.

There are all sorts of complexities involved in the application of salvation. I address them in many papers on my Ecumenism and Christian Unity page, in the section entitled “Salvation ‘Outside’ the Church / Religious Liberty.” It’s very clear that Catholicism allows for the possible salvation of many many individuals who have either not heard the gospel or have not become members of the Catholic Church. To save space, I simply refer the reader to my papers on that topic.

I’m presently much more interested in showing that mainstream Protestantism doesn’t teach such a crass view as Bob suggests, either. I am already familiar with the expressed view of John Calvin: who is the founder of a large portion of Protestantism, which calls itself Reformed, or Calvinist (including Presbyterians, some Baptists, and some of other denominations as well). He denied that we could know for sure who is of the elect (i.e., would eventually be saved and go to heaven):

[W]e are not bidden to distinguish between reprobate and elect – that is for God alone, not for us, to do . . . (Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV. 1. 3.)

We must thus consider both God’s secret election and his inner call. For he alone “knows who are his” [II Tim. 2:19] . . . except that they bear his insignia by which they may be distinguished from the reprobate. But because a small and contemptible number are hidden in a huge multitude and a few grains of wheat are covered by a pile of chaff, we must leave to God alone the knowledge of his church, whose foundation is his secret election. It is not sufficient, indeed, for us to comprehend in mind and thought the multitude of the elect, unless we consider the unity of the church as that into which we are convinced we have been truly engrafted. (Inst. IV. 1. 2.)

Of those who openly wear his badge, his eyes alone see the ones who are unfeignedly holy and will persevere to the very end [Matt. 24:13] – the ultimate point of salvation. (Inst. IV. 1. 8.)

It is . . . not our task to erase from the number of the elect those who have been expelled from the church, or to despair as if they were already lost. It is lawful to regard them as estranged from the church, and thus, from Christ – but only for such time as they remain separated. However, if they also display more stubbornness than gentleness, we should still commend them to the Lord’s judgment, hoping for better things of them in the future than we see in the present. Nor should we on this account cease to call upon God in their behalf . . . let us not condemn to death the very person who is in the hand and judgment of God alone; rather, let us only judge of the character of each man’s works by the law of the Lord. While we follow this rule, we rather take our stand upon the divine judgment than put forward our own. Let us not claim for ourselves more license in judgment, unless we wish to limit God’s power and confine his mercy by law. For God, whenever it pleases him, changes the worst men into the best, engrafts the alien, and adopts the stranger into the church. And the Lord does this to frustrate men’s opinion and restrain their rashness – which, unless it is checked, ventures to assume for itself a greater right of judgment than it deserves. (Inst. IV. 12. 9.)

The election of God is hidden and secret in itself . . . men are being fantastic or fanatical if they look for their salvation or for the salvation of others in the labyrinth of predestination instead of keeping to the way of the faith which is offered them . . . To each one, his faith is a sufficient witness of the eternal predestination of God, so that it would be a horrible sacrilege to seek higher assurance. (Commentary on John 6:40; in Francis Wendel, Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, translated by Philip Mairet, New York: Harper & Row, 1963, 270)

Let us, then, keep this in view above all other things, that it is no less insane to crave for other knowledge of predestination besides that which is given us in the word of God, than if one wanted to walk over inaccessible rocks or to see in darkness. (Inst. III. 21. 2.; in Wendel, ibid., 270-271)

This is highly significant, and immediately disproves Bob’s characterization of even Calvinists. Calvin’s view is in no way compatible with a notion that Jeff Dahmer definitely was saved and went to heaven because he expressed repentance in jail, while Anne Frank was definitely damned and went to hell because she was a Jew. We simply don’t know.

The website Christianity.com offers the relevant article, “How Can I Know If I am One of the Elect?,” by Dave Jenkins (a Baptist). It offers the same view as Calvin, and is utterly contrary to Bob’s caricature:

In the Gospel of John, the Apostle John teaches that Christ alone perfectly knows the hearts and minds of all people (John 2:24-25). Being the incarnate God, Jesus’ knowledge of all men’s hearts is not limited, like our finite minds. Since Jesus is Lord, He alone perfectly knows all those who have true saving faith. Since we are finite, we cannot know the genuine state of anyone’s heart besides our own.

Some may profess faith and persevere until their deaths. Other professing Christians later fall away, revealing that they never had genuine faith in Christ alone, to begin with (1 John 2:19). However, not all of those who profess faith genuinely possess it and will not be revealed until the Lord Jesus returns in the visible church (Matthew 13:24-30).

Martin Luther (the founder of Protestantism and of Lutheranism) expressed in several ways the lack of an absolute certainty of salvation, of even a serious, professed Christian. It would follow all the more so that we cannot know the ultimate fate of anyone else, either. Luther wrote:

The Christian . . . needs to entertain anxiety as to how he shall endure steadfast to the end. There is where all fear and anxiety are due. For while he assuredly is given to possess full salvation, it may be somewhat doubtful whether or no he will steadfastly retain it. Here we must walk in fear. . . . Should temptation force him to lose his confidence, grace also will fail. (Sermon for the Sunday After Christmas; Galatians 4:1-7, 1522)

Do not be moved by Zwingli’s argument concerning the certitude of faith, for he speaks of faith from hearsay and imagination, and not from any experience. It is possible, nay, it happens every day, that in some of the articles of faith we are strong, in others weak. Moses, the man of great faith, was weak at Meribah, and all the children of Israel were weak in the faith that they would receive food and drink, though by faith they had overcome Pharaoh, with many miracles. (Letter to Gottschalk Crucius, 27 October 1525)

Neither the baptizer nor the baptized can maintain his position, for both are uncertain of their faith, or at least are in constant peril and anxiety. For it happens, indeed it is so in this matter of faith, that often he who claims to believe does not at all believe; and on the other hand, he who doesn’t think he believes, but is in despair, has the greatest faith. So this verse, “Whoever believes,” does not compel us to determine who has faith or not. . . . Who has it, has it. One must believe, but we neither should nor can know it for certain. (Concerning Rebaptism, Jan. 1528)

I was the editor of a collection of John Wesley quotations (The Quotable Wesley). Wesley was a lifelong Anglican, but in effect became the founder of Methodism. And he taught the same thing:

It is an assurance of present salvation only; therefore, not necessarily perpetual, neither irreversible. (Letter to Samuel Wesley; 10 May 1739)

We know not how far invincible ignorance may excuse. ‘Love hopeth all things.’ . . . we allow there may be very many degrees of seeing God; even as many as are between seeing the sun with the eyelids closed and with the eyes open. (Letter to Mr. Richard Tompson; 2 Feb. 1756; citing an earlier Methodist conference from 2 August 1745)

Touching the charity due to those who are in error, I suppose, we both likewise agree, that really invincible ignorance never did, nor ever shall, exclude any man from heaven. And hence, I doubt not, but God will receive thousands of those who differ from me, even where I hold the truth. (Letter to “John Smith” [probably one of the Archbishops of Canterbury, Thomas Herring or Thomas Secker], 25 June 1746)

Do you think these words mean, “he that believes” at this moment “shall” certainly and inevitably “be saved?” If this interpretation be good, then, by all the rules of speech, the other part of the sentence must mean, “He” that does “not believe” at this moment “shall” certainly and inevitably “be damned.” Therefore, that interpretation cannot be good. (The Perseverance of the Saints; c. 1746)

That all Christians have an assurance of future salvation, is no Methodist doctrine: and an assurance of present pardon, is so far from causing negligence, that it is of all others the strongest motive to vigorous endeavours after universal holiness. (Second Letter to the Author [Bishop Lavington] of “The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Compared”, 27 Nov. 1750)

This covers, then, the views of the Calvinist, Lutheran, Baptist, Anglican, and Methodist sectors of Protestantism: from (mostly) the most prominent persons of those traditions. One can readily see that the false “assurance” and “knowledge” entailed in claiming to “know” for “certain” the eternal destiny of another, whether proclaimed (or genuine) Christian or not, is presumptuous folly, no “knowledge” at all, and not taught by mainstream Protestant Christianity; nor is it taught by Catholicism or Orthodoxy.

It’s intellectually dishonest to present a view that might be expressed by a tiny fringe, fanatical portion of a belief-system, and present it as if it is the deliberate and certain conclusion of the greatest theologians of said systems (i.e., supposedly the “mainstream” or broadly what Christianity as a whole asserts). It’s an outrage, and we Christians need to speak out against it and refute it. I have done so. This is just one of hundreds of such scurrilous lies on Bible-Basher Bob’s site, which is why I have responded to and refuted him now 64 times.

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Photo credit: Anne Frank (1929-1945): German-Dutch Jew, author of the famous Diary of a Young Girl and victim of Nazi butchery [public domain / Smithsonian Magazine]

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November 24, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 62 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

I have noted Bob’s bizarre and irrational intellectual cowardice when dealing with my critiques on at least four occasions:

Atheist Bob Seidensticker Ain’t Afraid to Debate, and I Am? Really?! [10-3-18]

Atheist Bob Seidensticker: Intellectual Coward (My 32 Critiques) [7-20-19]

Seidensticker Folly #43: Intellectual Cowardice & Hypocrisy [8-28-20]

Seidensticker Folly #46: Ridiculous 5-Minute Exchange (Atheist Neil Carter Promptly Banned Me During the Discussion on His Blog) [8-30-20]

Today I was struck by his absurd double standards, in repeatedly addressing a Christian apologist that he appears to have an equally low opinion of, compared to yours truly. Yet he replies to him and has utterly ignored my 62 refutations as of this date. There are only so many ways to explain such a discrepancy. I think many readers would conclude the same thing I do.

His four-part series in response to the New Zealand minister and evangelist Ray Comfort was originally posted in July 2016 and has now been posted in installments in November 2020 (one / two / three / four). Note how even the titles immediately express Bob’s opinion that Comfort is flat-out not “honest”: “Fat Chance: Pigs Will Fly Before Ray Comfort Writes an Honest Critique of Atheists.”

So let’s do a quick run-down of Bob’s opinion of Comfort’s intellectual prowess (right or wrong — I’m not addressing that, and it’s not my topic –; I’m merely recording Bob’s view for the record):

In the third installment, he calls Comfort “an obnoxious moron” and refers to “how little he understands the issues he talks about.” He gets more and more scathingly insulting as the article proceeds:

Ray keeps using his simple platitudes, . . . He’s been corrected by the best—Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, and other biologists have pointed out his errors. And yet he pops back up like a Weeble with the same stupid arguments. . . . 

Ray, what do you call someone who makes a mistake, has it corrected by a reliable authority, and then deliberately repeats that mistake? You [call] him a liar. . . .

Does it worry you that you lie? Or maybe you have some rationalization like it’s okay to lie for Jesus or you can lie as long as you ask for forgiveness afterwards.

Bob continues his ranting in part 4, with this preface: “I’ll wrap up with a few more claims from the book that I can’t let stand without rebuttal.” Oh, the pathetic irony! And:

I can understand Ray’s motivation, though—it’s a lot easier to simply make statements like this and ignore that whole evidence-and-good-arguments thing. What a hassle that is. . . . 

As for Ray’s pig book, I’m amazed that he can consider this mindless and insulting tract to be an evangelistic tool.

Okay! Now, the obvious question is: if Ray Comfort’s book is so “mindless and insulting” and he is an “obnoxious moron” who understands “little” regarding what he is writing about, with “stupid arguments” that amount to him being a relentless “liar” and having a leading characteristic of ignoring “evidence-and-good-arguments”, then why does Bob bother responding to him at all: let alone with four lengthy screeds?

And if he responds to a person he has such a rock-bottom opinion of: why does he utterly refuse to reply to my critiques: which now number 62? He seems to hold Ray Comfort in even less regard than he does me. He wrote about me on October 17 and 18, 2020:

Every engagement with him devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. . . . I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. . . . Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.

That’s not too bad, all things considered. You would think, since Bob literally pleaded with me in emails to engage in May 2018 and later specifically challenged me, almost months later, on 8-11-18:

I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?

. . . that he would be delighted to have a golden opportunity to refute my critiques and counter-arguments. He wasn’t forced at gunpoint to say that. He voluntarily did. I started my “Seidensticker Folly” series the very next day: which is a systematic refutation of Bob’s anti-theist and anti-Christian / anti-Bible arguments. The series now numbers 62 installments, and as of this date (after two years and three months), not one peep in reply has been heard from Bob. It’s crickets and ZZZZzzzzz all-around (except for the obligatory personal insults if anyone brings up my name). Yet he will write and repost a four-part response to a guy he thinks is “moron” and “liar” and obviously a clueless idiot on many fronts, who habitually makes (so Bob sez) “stupid arguments.”

I think there is only one reasonable and quite plausible explanation for this. He thinks he can provide a good and convincing reply to Comfort but he must not think so as regards my critiques: or else he would respond to me, too. We can’t be too careful in debate about whom we choose to wrangle with.

I’m  in very good company, as to being a recipient of insults from Bob. Dr. William Lane Craig is widely considered (by theists and atheists alike) one of the very best philosophical defenders of theism. But that doesn’t stop Bob from trashing and bashing him in all sorts of ridiculous ways:

unhealthy relationship with facts and evidence . . . sloppy thinking [in the title] . . . dark and tangled recesses of the thinking . . . bizarre reply . . . He ignores the problem, assumes that he is right, and then shapes the facts to fit. . . . The mental masturbation continues. . . . It’d be a pain to have to, y’know, do all that research and stuff. I mean, who’s got the time? Using reason would be inconvenient, so let’s not. . . . drunken reasoning . . . So much for apologetics to raise the intellectual content of the conversation. (7-21-14 / reposted on 3-23-18)

His potshots sent my way are veritable high praise compared to this! When you discover this masterpiece on Google (I did by simply searching “Craig is” on his site), the little blurb (first one up) reads: “William Lane Craig is the insane gift that keeps on giving, a cornucopia of crazy. Let’s look at more of the nutty thinking . . .” The description for another post dated 7-29-14 is: “World famous Christian apologist William Lane Craig is well known for his hilariously inept defense of the savage excesses of his God . . .” On 5-7-19 he said of Dr. Craig: I suppose if Craig is smart he knows what he is peddling is false. It’s a living for him.”

You get the point. Filthy lucre . . . (which certainly can’t explain away my 39 years of apologetics: the last 19, full-time, as a profession). Yet Bob replies to Dr. Craig over and over and over. Granted, he should, because of Dr. Craig’s academic stature. But we see what he thinks of him. Yet that doesn’t stop him from repeatedly replying to his arguments. I should be short work next to Dr. Craig, right? One would think so. I’m a nobody in the overall scheme of things . . . But Bob has chosen to utterly ignore me. One might say, “well — completely aside from the disputes — , he obviously dislikes you personally.” Yes, I’m sure that’s true. I’m not overly fond of him, either. But doesn’t it seem obvious that he also greatly dislikes likes Ray Comfort and William Lane Craig on a personal level? So that won’t fly (like the pigs), either.

If you, dear reader, have a better explanation of his Utter Silence as regards Yours Truly, please do let me know. I think it’s because I systematically dismantle his arguments in a way that opponents usually don’t do (influenced by my socratic leanings and literally 39 years of debates and apologetics). I believe he simply doesn’t know how to process that, let alone attempt a reply. After all, Christians are never supposed to get the better of atheists in any argument, so he concludes that in fact it hasn’t happened in my case because it’s impossible.

See how the [circular reasoning] mentality works? Thus, he chooses to make out that I have absolutely nothing to say — no arguments whatsoever –, leading to him fleeing for the hills and acting like he has no time at all for someone so supposedly stupid and content-less as I am. Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White: the anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist apologist, has also used precisely this tactic for about ten years with me (as have several other anti-Catholics). It only makes him look like a pompous ass and a coward: just as in Bob’s case. They’re not doing themselves any favors. But Bob wants to lecture others about supposedly lying to themselves and being intellectually dishonest? Spare me.

***

Photo credit: [public domain / Creazilla]

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November 10, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidenstickerwho was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 61 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

The following is a critique of Bob the Bible-Basher’s article, “Abortion: Does the Bible Say When Life Begins?” (11-1-20).

Does the Bible say that life begins at first breath? If so, that strengthens the pro-choice argument. . . . 

[A]ctor and political commentator John Fugelsang, . . . attacked the popular Christian claim that life begins at conception with this tweet:

Well don’t tell God [that life begins at conception], bc the Bible says Life begins at First Breath. . . . 

Fugelsang is probably referring to this verse from the Garden of Eden story: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). . . . 

Breath is central to the Genesis idea of life. In the verse above, “the man became a living being,” is literally translated as, “the man became a breathing creature.” Breath is roughly synonymous with life.

Not only does the Bible say that the “breath of life” is what living things have, it’s what they don’t have when they die. This is what the dying animals during the Flood lost: “Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died” (Gen. 7:22). Another example is from the Canaanite genocide: “But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive” (Deuteronomy 20:16). One commentary says, “Breath is understood to be essential to life; and that when the breathing stops, life ends.” . . . 

“You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). . . . 

First, “knitted” (Strong’s #05526) is more literally “wove,” as would be done with a protective screen or fence woven from branches, and by implication it can mean to fence in, cover, or protect. Yes, it’s important for a fetus to be in a protective womb when it is developing, but this simply acknowledges the gestation process. During that process, you aren’t you, but (with luck) you will be by the end.

The fallacy here is thinking that breath is all there is to a living being — the totality of its “living principle” — , or that the Bible supposedly states that. The Bible simply notes the obvious fact that a living person breathes and that a dead person ceases to breathe. But does this logically deny or preclude other factors such as brain waves and a heartbeat? No.

Breath (logically) cannot be the only criterion of what constitutes a living person, by the simple fact that there are instances of non-dead people not being able to breathe: 

1) a person who has the breath temporarily knocked out of him.

2) a person who temporarily can’t breathe due to an obstruction in their throat.

3) a person who needs a ventilator in order to breathe (or in the old days, a lung machine).

4) a person in the process of drowning, who is not breathing; or afterwards on the shore when they are still not breathing, but are revived.

None of these people cease to become persons during these times when they can’t breath. Therefore, personhood cannot be determined solely by breathing. The Bible is very phenomenological in its language. It observes that living people breathe: as a general proposition, which is true, as far as it goes. But this doesn’t preclude other attributes of a living person.

If I say, for example, “all baseball pitchers are able to throw a baseball,” I state a true and universal statement regarding baseball pitchers. But I have not exhausted all that they have to do to pitch with any success. They also have to 1) control the ball (i.e., throw strikes, and try to throw down and away, inside and outside, etc.), 2) be able to throw fast, 3) be able to throw a curve ball, and 4) be able to combine different pitches, to fool batters.

Likewise, if I say, “all persons who are alive breathe” I haven’t exhausted all that is true about them; most notably, that they must also have brain waves and a heartbeat.

Bob wants to play games with Psalm 139:13, but neglects to see the obvious presupposition that the Bible is obviously equating the preborn person with the person who continues to grow before birth and is eventually born, since the writer, King David, refers to “my inward parts” and “you knitted me” and “my mother’s womb.” 

It’s simple logic: 

1) I am “me.”

2) If I refer to myself before I was born as “me”, it must refer to the same person.

In other words, if a = b and b = c, then a = c. It’s one of the most basic rules of logic (called the transitive law):

1) Preborn baby [A] = “me” [B] (as referred to by a person [C] after they are born, referring to himself as a preborn baby).

2) The same person [C] may refer to himself after he or she is born as “me” [B]

3) Both A and C = “me”; therefore, they are equal to each other. It’s the same person before or after birth.

Bob opines:you aren’t you, but (with luck) you will be by the end.” On what basis can he say this? It has to reduce to a purely arbitrary line, as to when he begins to exist. Pro-lifers make the obvious scientific (genetic) observation that a person’s entire collection of DNA is present at the moment of conception. After that, only time and nutrition are needed for that fetus — from the beginning — to grow into a human adult. It’s the same person all the way through. There is no point other than conception that can objectively and without sheer arbitrariness be called the point at which Person X began.

But that is Bob providing his own philosophy. The argument in his paper, however, ultimately has to do not with his own views, but about what the Bible says about the beginning of human life and human personhood. It’s easy to show that the Bible regards the preborn person as a person, indistinguishable in essence from a born person. I already showed how Psalm 139:13 presupposes this, by very basic logic. But there are more passages along these lines:

Genesis 25:21-22 (RSV) And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. [22] The children struggled together within her; . . .

“Children” in 25:22 is the Hebrew word ben (Strong’s word #1121). This is referring to the twins, Jacob and Esau. The same word is used hundreds of times in the Old Testament to refer to children who are born. Therefore, the Bible regards preborn and born children as the same in essence (“children”). If a = b and c = b, then a = c.

Numbers 5:28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.

“Children” here is the Hebrew word zera (Strong’s #2233). It has the meaning of “descendants” in Genesis 9:9; 12:7; 13:15-16; 15:5, 13, 18; 16:10; 17:7-9 (see all 230 instances). Obviously, then, there is no distinction made between preborn and born persons. The Bible doesn’t play the game that so-called “pro-choicers” do of calling preborn persons a different name, to try to pretend that they aren’t persons (often fetus: which is simply Latin for “little one”). “Descendants” is the translation of zera used in the RSV in Numbers 9:10; 13:22, 28; 14:24; 16:40; 25:13.

Judges 16:17 And he told her all his mind, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head; for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. . . .”

Ruth 1:11 Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?

Job 3:3 . . . “A man-child is conceived.”

Job 31:18 (for from his youth I reared him as a father, and from his mother’s womb I guided him);

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Isaiah 49:1, 5 . . . The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. . . . And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, . . . (cf. 44:2,24)

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

Tobit 4:4 Remember, my son, that she faced many dangers for you while you were yet unborn. . . .

Wisdom 7:1 I also am mortal, like all men, a descendant of the first-formed child of earth; and in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh,

Sirach 49:7 . . . he had been consecrated in the womb as prophet, . . .

2 Maccabees 7:27 . . . I carried you nine months in my womb, . . .

Luke 1:15 . . . he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

Luke 1:36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; . . . 

Luke 2:21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Romans 9:10 And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,

Galatians 1:15 . . . he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace,

The same outlook is present in the above passages.

I rest my case. As usual, Bob doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about, when it comes to the Bible. He ought to leave it to the experts, and shut up about it, for his own good.

***

Photo credit: Esau and Jacob, by Matthias Stom (fl. 1615-1649) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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November 6, 2020

Guest Post by Paul Hoffer

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidenstickerwho was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 60 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

The following is a critique of a portion of Bob’s article, “Yeah, but Christianity Built Hospitals!” (4-22-20; update of 2-6-16). It was written by my friend Paul Hoffer.

Christianity had an uneasy relationship with any ideas that didn’t directly support the Church. The 1559 Index Librorum Prohibitorum listed books by 550 authors that were prohibited by the Roman Catholic Church, though prior lists had prohibited books almost since the beginning of Christianity. The list is a Who’s Who of Western thought and included works by Sartre, Voltaire, Hugo, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Hobbes, Spinoza, Kant, Hume, Descartes, Bacon, Milton, Locke, and Pascal. The List was abolished only in 1966.

Sadly, Mr. Seidensticker does not share with his readers why the works were banned. One has to wonder if he has ever bothered to research why the books were put on the Index. Here is what I could find out:
*
Jean-Paul Sartre was an atheist and an existentialist who believed that hell was other people and that all life was obscene. That is a pretty good reason to argue that his works were injurious to morality. I have read several of his works in a Catholic high school and in college, including No Exit and The Flies: that epitomized his philosophy.
*
By the way, there is such a thing as Christian Existentialism that states the universe is not irrational, but merely paradoxical; said paradox is resolved in the union of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ. This is considered acceptable in terms of the Catholic faith.
*
Francois-Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire, was a French historian and an ardent foe of the Catholic Church. His view that the Church needed to be destroyed was the foundation of both Freemasonry and the French Revolution. Several of his works were banned because they were actually obscene. For example, Candide promoted bestiality and lascivious acts. Not only did the Church ban it, but the US government also did too under its pornography laws in the early 20th century.
*
Two of Victor Hugo’s works were banned: Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. They were banned because they were deemed critical of the Church and promoted Republicanism, which was associated with Voltaire’s ideas. They were removed after that view became politically acceptable. Some of Alexandre Dumas’ works, in contrast, were banned because they portrayed priests doing extremely immoral things.
*
In the case of Copernicus, the Church actually did not ban his book on heliocentric theory until 1616 when Protestants used the Church’s acceptance of it to attack it as being anti-Scriptural. Unfortunately, the Church put it on the list for 200 years to deprive the Protestants of a weapon against the Church.
*
Kepler, a Lutheran, had his books banned, for reasons similar to Copernicus in the 1600s. They were not banned because he believed in heliocentrism, which the Church actually accepted.
*
Galileo’s works were originally banned, but between 1716-1835, the ban was lifted. They were not banned because they taught heliocentrism as a theory. They were banned because he claimed heliocentrism was an infallible fact (he was wrong, of course, as the sun is not the center of the universe). [Dave: see more about Galileo’s faulty views of scientific method and supposed “certainty”]
*
Thomas Hobbes’ works were not banned by the Catholic Church because of any scientific reason. He insisted that the state had the right to subjugate religion and that the state could use religion to control people. He was opposed to the Church’s independence from the state. His books were also burned by the English government and his fellow philosophers.
*
Spinoza, an excommunicated Jew, had his books banned because he claimed that the Law was fake, the human soul dies with the body, and that God only exists as a philosophical concept.
*
Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason was banned because it denied the Holy Trinity and argued that Jesus was not God, but a human being of moral perfection. Teaching heresy is a pretty good reason to ban the faithful from reading a book.
*
David Hume’s works were banned because he also denied the Trinity and argued that one can not know anything of God by studying creation (which is contrary to the doctrine of the Church). [Dave: actually I discovered that Hume — often falsely thought to be an atheist, whereas he was a deist — actually accepted a version of the teleological argument, or argument from design]
*
Rene Descartes’ works were banned because they were thought to smack of deism: the view that God created the universe as a mechanism, and that we are merely extensions of that mechanism (to be fair, he was a faithful Catholic).
*
Francis Bacon was an anti-Catholic Anglican who encouraged laws that persecuted the Catholic adherents in England. He also claimed in the banned writing that we cannot use our reason to know anything about God (which was contrary to the doctrine of the Church).
*
John Milton’s Paradise Lost was banned by the Church for the simple reason that it made Satan the hero of the story and portrayed God as the bad guy who rigged things so make sure Satan could never win. He was also a rabid anti-Catholic and used the book as a vehicle to claim that many of the Church’s teachings actually were Satan’s. Ironically the first time I read the whole book was taking Masterclasses at the Catholic Seminary and School of Theology.
*
John Locke’s works were not banned because of his political philosophy or because he was anti-Catholic (they should be tolerated but should not have equal rights as other citizens), but because the banned works denied the Trinity, and that Christ was fully divine and fully human (Locke expressed Arian-like views), as well as the validity of Scripture as God’s revelation (he believed that God revealed Himself to prophets but when they wrote down what God revealed to them was merely derived and could be in error).
*
Blaise Pascal’s works were banned because they were seen as supporting Jansenism, a Catholic heresy [Dave: many — if not most — historians now believe that Pascal did not actually accept that heresy]. They were not banned because of any scientific or philosophical reasons.
*
To say that the Church was anti-intellectual is false. There are lots of reasons to ban books. Schools and universities do it all the time. Conservative ideas are banned as a matter of course on most college campuses. Are schools like Harvard and Yale anti-intellectual? Or does Mr. Seidensticker only criticize the Church for protecting the faithful from ideas that could lead them astray? Those works were not banned because they didn’t directly support the Church. They were banned because it was perceived they had something in them that denied Church teaching. It is laughable for someone to complain about censoring people’s works when they do not even know why they were censored in the first place.
*
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Photo credit: Voltaire (1694-1778) – French writer, historian, and philosopher, painting (c. 1725) by Nicolas de Largillière (1656-1746) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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November 4, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidenstickerwho was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 59 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

The following is a critique of a portion of Bob’s article, “Yeah, but Christianity Built Hospitals!” (4-22-20; update of 2-6-16).

Christianity’s poor attitude toward learning

Christianity had an uneasy relationship with any ideas that didn’t directly support the Church. The 1559 Index Librorum Prohibitorum listed books by 550 authors that were prohibited by the Roman Catholic Church, though prior lists had prohibited books almost since the beginning of Christianity. The list is a Who’s Who of Western thought and included works by Sartre, Voltaire, Hugo, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Hobbes, Spinoza, Kant, Hume, Descartes, Bacon, Milton, Locke, and Pascal. The List was abolished only in 1966.

Dr. Peter Harrison said, “From the patristic period to the beginning of the seventeen [sic] century curiosity was regarded as an intellectual vice.” . . . 

This aversion to knowledge is ironic because when the Church was motivated, it could accomplish great things. My favorite example is the thirteenth-century explosion of innovative cathedrals that still stand today.

It’s the same old tired saw of “Christianity [especially when it was the dominant cultural force] was [is?] anti-science, anti-intellectual, and opposed to the impulse and ‘curiosity’ of investigative science or any other sort of learning.” In addition to being a slander of historic Christianity (Catholicism and Orthodoxy), this is also an indefensible and reprehensible slander of the entire period of the Middle Ages (generally considered to be the age from about 400 to 1400 or 1500).

I don’t really need to do fresh research to rebut this groundless claim because I have already done so: in my book, Science and Christianity: Close Partners or Mortal Enemies? (2010). I shall simply cite mountains of evidence of eminent Christians and Churchmen and Churchwomen who exhibited quite a bit of “curiosity”: directly and manifestly contrary to Bob’s idiotic and prejudicial sweeping claim.

As for the oft-cited Index Librorum Prohibitorum I shall make two observations (as one who is a big proponent of free inquiry and open discussion amongst all parties of differing worldviews: as is well-evidenced on my blog, with its 1000 or so dialogues). The first is that all schools of thought have tended to censor opposing beliefs, on the grounds that they were subversive or dangerous. Catholics are by no means at all unique in this respect.

Christians of all stripes have done it, and atheists, secularists, and those non-Christian religions have as well. Catholicism itself was illegal (often under the pain of death) for almost 300 years in England. The first thing the Nazis did was burn Christian books and indeed books of any opposing views at all. Communists did likewise. So did the anti-Catholics and anti-traditionalists of the French Revolution. They knew full well who their opponents were.

Secondly, this tendency today is far more in evidence amongst secularists than among Christians. It’s big tech outfits like Facebook and Google and Twitter who are famously, notoriously, and rather openly, censoring or outright banning any views to the right of their own far left ones. This isn’t even arguable. The evidence is overwhelming. It’s largely the same with the liberal-dominated mass media. They won’t even run at all, stories of Democrat corruption and abuses of power that make the Watergate scandal look like a kid stealing a cookie. Watergate was front page news for at least three years (much like the farcical Mueller Investigation was). I know; I lived through it. 

This being the case, it’s equal parts ironic and ridiculous for an atheist like Bob to come around and start blasting the Catholic Church for past policies of censorship (most prominent instances of of them being from the remote and distant past). People in glass houses . . . 

Now onto the actual historical evidence of medieval Christian “curiosity” and the inquiring, investigative, proto-scientific spirit that Bob rarely wants to examine in any depth or seriousness. He’d rather caricature and broad-brush from a distance, and create non-historical myths, fiction, and fantasies. I shall draw first from my paper, “33 Empiricist Christian Thinkers Before 1000 A. D.”: extracted from my book. Further bibliographical information can be found there.

St. Clement of Rome (d. c. 101; pope) He accepted a good deal of Greek mathematics and astronomy, including belief that the earth was spherical. Unlike Aristotle, however, for him the earth was not eternal and it was sharply distinguished from the divine.

St. Gregory Nazianzus (329-389; bishop and Doctor of the Church) wrote: “as we have compounded healthful drugs from certain of the reptiles; so from secular literature we have received principles of enquiry and speculation . . .”

St. Basil the Great (c. 330-379; bishop and Doctor of the Church) In contrast to Aristotle, he believed the heavens and the earth were made up of the same materials: earth, air, fire and water, and also questioned the Aristotelian view that divine spirits in the heavenly bodies must continue imparting motion directly to everything that moves. By analogy with a child’s top, he spoke of the heavenly bodies, “which after the first impulse, continue their revolutions, turning upon themselves when once fixed in their centre; thus nature, receiving the impulse of this first command, follows without interruption the course of the ages”. Basil’s spinning top provides an early formulation of the idea of impetus. His views on creation allow for the principle of the conservation of momentum, or of inertia.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-c. 394; bishop) wrote about the spherical earth:

As, when the sun shines above the earth, the shadow is spread over its lower part, because its spherical shape makes it impossible for it to be clasped all round at one and the same time by the rays, and necessarily, on whatever side the sun’s rays may fall on some particular point of the globe, if we follow a straight diameter, we shall find shadow upon the opposite point, and so, continuously, at the opposite end of the direct line of the rays shadow moves round that globe, keeping pace with the sun, so that equally in their turn both the upper half and the under half of the earth are in light and darkness. 

St. Ambrose (c. 336-397; bishop and Doctor of the Church) believed in a spherical earth. 

[H]is work is full of observation of the facts of the natural world. He has minute descriptions of quails and storks and swallows, of bees and crickets, of trees and their modes of reproduction, of evaporation and the action of rain, of human anatomy and physiology.

St. Augustine (354-430; bishop and Doctor of the Church) was the dominant thinker of the first thousand years of Christian history. For him, the universe, being the creation of God, was not eternal but finite in space and time. Time itself had its created beginning. . . . The Greek notion of cyclic returns was ridiculous, and eliminated the possibility of happiness. He wrote, about science and Scripture:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.

In the same work (The Literal Meaning of Genesis), Augustine refers to the spherical earth:

[T]here was nothing to prevent the massive watery sphere from having day on one side by the presence of light, and on the other side, night by the absence of light. Thus, in the evening, darkness would pass to that side from which light would be turning to the other. (Bk. I, ch. 12, 25)

And he wrote about the moon being illuminated by the sun:

[I]t is not the heavenly body itself that changes but the illumined surface of it. . . . it is always full, though it does not always appear so to the inhabitants of earth. The same explanation holds even if it is illumined by the rays of the sun. . . . It is only when it is opposite the sun that the whole of its illuminated surface is visible to us. (Bk. II, ch. 11, 31, pp. 68-69)

He rejected astrology (something that Galileo and Kepler still had not done 1200 years later), partially on the basis of observation of twins:

[L]et us . . . wholeheartedly reject all subtleties of astrologers and their so-called scientific observations . . . which they fancy established by their theories. . . . with headstrong impiety they treat evil-doing that is justly reprehensible as if God were to blame as the maker of the stars, and not man as the author of his own sins. . . .

What is more absurd and stupid than, after assenting to the foregoing argument, to say that the influence and power of stars is only over the lives of men? Such a theory is refuted by the case of those twins that spend their lives in different circumstances, one prosperous and the other wretched . . . (Bk. II, ch. 17, 35-36, p. 71)

John F. McCarthy elaborates on St. Augustine’s positing of something not unlike theistic evolution:

This theory of primordial packages of forms later to emerge (often referred to by commentators as “seminal reasons”) is certainly developmental, but does not correspond with Darwinian evolution. Essential to Augustine’s theory is the idea that the order later to emerge was instilled by God in the beginning. Augustine also requires subsequent interventions by God to “plant” the forms whose “numbers” had already been instilled. Thus, as St. Thomas [Aquinas] points out, the ability of the earth to produce living forms was visualized by Augustine as a passive potency which disposed the matter to receive the forms but did not create the forms themselves. Augustine’s theory of primordial packages deserves more ample meditation and analysis in another place, especially with reference to theories of the development of living things, . . . Genesis 1:6-8 witnesses in several ways to the creative action of God. As the divine Fashioner of the universe, God guided the energies that He had invested in the primal matter by his creative intervention on the first day to bring the cosmos to its structured state. This is the unfolding of the active potency contained in St. Augustine’s “primordial packages.” But there is also implied in these verses an upward progress in the order of inorganic being which seems to have required additional creative divine interventions.

Anthemius of Tralles (c. 474-before 558) He collaborated with Isidore of Miletus to build the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (what is today Istanbul in Turkey): the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years. He was also a capable mathematician. He described the string construction of the ellipse and he wrote a book on conic sections. Anthemius assumes a property of an ellipse not found in Apollonius work, that the equality of the angles subtended at a focus by two tangents drawn from a point, and having given the focus and a double ordinate he goes on to use the focus and directrix to obtain any number of points on a parabola—the first instance on record of the practical use of the directrix.

Boethius (c. 480-524) He documented several ideas relating science to music, including suggestions of sound waves (comparing sound to the waves made by throwing a stone into the water) and the notion that pitch is related to the physical property of frequency:

[W]hen air is struck and produces a sound, it impels other air next to it and in a certain way sets a rounded wave of air in motion, and is thus dispersed and strikes simultaneously the hearing of all who are standing around.

[T]he same string, if it is tightened further, givers a higher pitched sound; if it is loosened, a sound of lower pitch. For when it is tighter it renders a swifter impulse and returns more quickly, striking the air more frequently and more densely.

John Philoponus (c. 490-c. 570; aka John of Alexandria) [Monophysite, which is a difference in Christology] He was a professor in the school of philosophy in Alexandria, and the first to mount a devastating critique of the deductive method and much of the content of Aristotle’s physics and cosmology. There was no rival to its thoroughness until Galileo. For him, heavenly bodies were not animated beings, but were made of the same stuff as this world. The light from the stars was the same as that of glow-worms and luminescent fish. Astrology was rejected as pagan. Similarly, the heavenly bodies were not perfect. They did not move with regularity in the perfect shape of the circle – a simple matter of observation. The apparent changelessness of the universe did not mean that it is eternal. It had a beginning and will have an end. He rejected Aristotle’s view that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones (a thousand years before Galileo!).

He declared, “Our view may be corroborated by actual observation more effectively than by any sort of verbal argument.” His theories on motion were the forerunner of the later theories of inertia and momentum that are embedded in Newton’s first law of motion. As regards nature, he stated that God, having finished the creation of the universe, “hands over to nature the generation of the elements one out of another, and the generation of the rest out of the elements.” That sounds like a summary of the evolution of the universe from basic materials that modern science would identify with. The relative autonomy of nature, with its own order and laws, is basic to science, and these early Christian thinkers were laying the foundations. . . . Galileo knew the key work of Philoponus, from a thousand years earlier.

He accepted the sphericity of the earth. He understood light as something dynamical and that light and heat may best be explained as consequences of the nature of the sun, which is fire (In Meteor. 49). Heat is generated when the rays emanating from the sun are refracted and warm the air through friction. He concluded, against Aristotle, that there is in fact nothing to prevent one from imagining motion taking place through a void. As regards the natural motion of bodies falling through a medium, Aristotle’s verdict that the speed is proportional to the weight of the moving bodies and indirectly proportional to the density of the medium is disproved by Philoponus through appeal to the same kind of experiment that Galileo was to carry out centuries later (In Phys. 682-84). Philoponus insisted that a clear conception of the void is not only coherent but also necessary if one wants to explain movement in a plenum.

When bodies move and in consequence exchange places, this presupposes that somehow there is empty space available to be filled by them (In Phys. 693f.). Again, there are certain phenomena which clearly exhibit the force of the vacuum, for example handling a pipette (clepsudra), which allows one to raise small quantities of fluids, or the fact that one can suck up water through a pipe (In Phys. 571f). Philoponus’ elaborate defense of the void (In Phys. 675-94) is closely related to his conceptions of place and space (In Phys. 557-85). The De opificio mundi has received some attention from historians of science, because Philoponus suggests at one point (I 12) that the movement of the heavens could be explained by a ‘motive force’ impressed on the celestial bodies by God at the time of creation.

Philoponus compares the rotation implanted in the celestial bodies to the rectilinear movements of the elements as well as to the movements of animals: curiously, these are all understood as natural motions that are due to the creator’s divine impetus. In virtue of this bold suggestion Philoponus is often credited with having envisaged, for the first time, a unified theory of dynamics, since he strove to give the same kind of explanation for phenomena which Aristotle had to explain by different principles, depending upon their different cosmological contexts.

Paul of Aegina (c. 625-c. 690) He is considered by some to be the greatest Byzantine surgeon, developed many novel surgical techniques and authored the medical encyclopedia Medical Compendium in Seven Books. The book on surgery in particular was the definitive treatise in Europe and the Islamic world for hundreds of years, contained the sum of all Western medical knowledge and was unrivaled in its accuracy and completeness. The sixth book on surgery in particular was referenced in Europe and the Arab world throughout the Middle Ages and is of special interest for surgical history. The whole work in the original Greek was published in Venice in 1528, and another edition appeared in Basel in 1538.

Venerable Bede (c. 672-735; monk and Doctor of the Church) He understood that the moon affects tides, and that high water was not simultaneous on all the coasts of Britain (recognition of the progressive wave-like character of tides). On the Reckoning of Time (De temporum ratione) included an introduction to the traditional ancient and medieval view of the cosmos, including an explanation of how the spherical earth influenced the changing length of daylight (“the roundness of the Earth, for not without reason is it called ‘the orb of the world’ on the pages of Holy Scripture and of ordinary literature.” — section 32), of how the seasonal motion of the Sun and Moon influenced the changing appearance of the New Moon at evening twilight, and a quantitative relation between the changes of the Tides at a given place and the daily motion of the moon. Bede was lucid about earth’s sphericity, writing “We call the earth a globe, not as if the shape of a sphere were expressed in the diversity of plains and mountains, but because, if all things are included in the outline, the earth’s circumference will represent the figure of a perfect globe… For truly it is an orb placed in the center of the universe; in its width it is like a circle, and not circular like a shield but rather like a ball, and it extends from its center with perfect roundness on all sides.”

Charlemagne (c. 742-814; Roman emperor)

Charlemagne . . . and his great minister, Alcuin[c. 740-804], not only promoted medical studies n the schools they founded, but also made provision for the establishment of botanic gardens in which those herbs were especially cultivated which were supposed to have healing virtues.

Hunayn ibn Ishaq (also Hunain or Hunein; 809-873) [Nestorian] His monumental developments on the eye can be traced back to his innovative book, Ten Treatises on Ophthalmology: the first systematic book in this field. He explained in minute details about the eye, its diseases and their symptoms and treatments, and its anatomy – all possible by his extensive research and observations. For example, ibn Ishaq taught what cysts and tumors are and the swelling they cause, how to treat various corneal ulcers through surgery, and the therapy involved in repairing cataracts.

Pope Sylvester II (born Gerbert d’Aurillac) (c. 940-1003) As a scientist, was said to be far ahead of his time. Gerbert wrote a series of works dealing with matters of the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music), which he taught using the basis of the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric). He is said to have introduced the use of Arabic figures into Western Europe, and to have invented the pendulum clock. In Rheims, he constructed a hydraulic-powered organ with brass pipes that excelled all previously known instruments, where the air had to be pumped manually. Gerbert reintroduced the astronomicaarmillary sphere to Latin Europe via Al-Andalus in the late 10th century as a visual aid for teaching mathematics and astronomy in the classroom; also the abacus. The polar circle on Gerbert’s sphere was located at 26 degrees, just several degrees off from the actual 23° 28′. His positioning of the Tropic of Cancer was nearly exact, while his positioning of the equator was exactly correct. 

This is just up to 1000 AD. The Middle Ages continues on for another 400-500 years, with continuing expansion of scientific, mathematical, and philosophical knowledge. And so here are more very “curious” Christian thinkers who somehow managed to think despite the “oppressive” Church (so Bob would have us believe). The following is from my book about science: where the fuller bibliographical sources are located:

Blessed Hermann of Reichenau (1013–1054) He wrote several works on geometry and arithmetics and astronomical treatises (including instructions for the construction of an astrolabe, at the time a very novel device in Western Europe). He was disabled, having only limited movement and limited ability to speak. Despite these disabilities he was a key figure in the transmission of Arabic mathematics, astronomy and scientific instruments from Arabic sources into central Europe. He was among the earliest Christian scholars to estimate the circumference of Earth with Eratosthenesmethod. He believed in a spherical earth. 

Adelard of Bath (c. 1080-c. 1152) He was one of the first to introduce the Indian number system to Europe. Adelard also displays original thought of a scientific bent, raising the question of the shape of the Earth (he believed it to be round) and the question of how it remains stationary in space, and also the interesting question of how far a rock would fall if a hole were drilled through the earth and a rock dropped in it, see center of gravity. He theorized that matter could not be destroyed (see Law of conservation of matter) and was also interested in the question of why water experiences difficulty flowing out of a container that has been turned upside down, see atmospheric pressure and vacuum. He contributed the first full Latin translation of Euclid’s Elements and introduced trigonometry to Europe as transmitted through Arabic astronomical tables. The Questions Naturales covers subjects such as plants and animals, the four elements, the hydrological cycle, weather, and astronomy. 

Gerard of Cremona (1114-1187) He translated about 75 books from Arabic into Latin, including works on dialectic, geometry, philosophy, physics, and several other sciences. His activity as a translator helped bring the world of Arabian learning within the reach of the scholars of Latin Christendom and prepared the way for the Scholasticism of the thirteenth century. In this work Gerard was a pioneer. 

Marius (fl. 1160) He composed On the Elements:

It is a most remarkable work, employing experiments in a sophisticated if not quite rigorous way, marking a significant advance in the theory of matter, studying with great subtlety the nature of a compound, utilizing a quantitative table to explain how the great variety of the world could arise from just four elements, eschewing magic, and exhibiting a thoroughgoing naturalism in its attitude towards the physical world. This treatise throws much new light on the nature and quality of twelfth-century science and forces a rethinking of the standard accounts of the history of chemistry in the Middle Ages. . . .

Marius explains the formation of stones and metals. Noting that a goldsmith’s pot becomes transparent and is changed to glass when subjected to great heat, he concludes that all stones are formed this way in nature by heat enclosed in the interior of the earth. . . .

De Elementis . . . is completely naturalistic and materialistic and free of any magical or animistic notions. It therefore represents a kind of early Latin chemistry whose existence has not previously been taken into account in histories of chemistry. . . .

The world of nature obeyed laws, and these laws were accessible to human reason. His presentation of this world does not consist of a string of ad hoc explanations, but rather of a carefully worked out, internally consistent, naturalistic scheme, based on a careful and accurate observation of nature and handled with considerable dialectical skill.

We conclude then that at least a part of twelfth-century science was . . . much more than a revival of Antiquity, important though this was. It was bold, original, imaginative and daring. At its best it was rigorous in its arguments and precise in its observations. (On the Elements [Marius], translation and introduction by Richard C. Dales, Univ. of California Press, 1977,pp. 1, 14, 35-36)

William of Conches (c. 1090-after 1154) His discussion of meteorology includes a description of air becoming less dense and colder as the altitude increases, and he attempts to explain the circulation of the air in connection with the circulation of the oceans.

St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179; Benedictine abbess; Doctor of the Church) She believed in a spherical earth and depicted it several times in her work Liber Divinorum Operum. She wrote botanical and medicinal texts: Physica, on the natural sciences, and Causae et Curae. In both texts Hildegard describes the natural world around her, including the cosmos, animals, plants, stones, and minerals.

Rogerius (c. 1140-c. 1195) He wrote a work on medicine entitled Practica Chirurgiae (“The Practice of Surgery”): the first medieval text on surgery to dominate its field in Europe. It laid the foundation for the species of the occidental surgical manuals, influencing them up to modern times. The work, arranged anatomically and presented according to a pathologictraumatological systematization, includes a brief recommended treatment for each affliction. Rogerius was an independent observer and was the first to use the term lupus to describe the classic malar rash. He recommended a dressing of egg-albumen for wounds of the neck, and did not believe that nerves, when severed, could be regenerated.

Gerald of Wales (1147-1220) He understood the basic parameters of the behavior of tides, based on the influence of the moon. He correctly noted that the Atlantic had larger tides than the Mediterranean Sea because of the free course of the tides in the much larger ocean.

Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175–1253; bishop) From about 1220 to 1235 he wrote a host of scientific treatises including:

  • De sphera. An introductory text on astronomy.
  • De luce. On the “metaphysics of light.” (which is the most original work of cosmogony in the Latin West)
  • De accessu et recessu maris. On tides and tidal movements. (although some scholars dispute his authorship)
  • De lineis, angulis et figuris. Mathematical reasoning in the natural sciences.
  • De iride. On the rainbow. [includes pioneering work on optics]

Grosseteste laid out the framework for the proper methods of science. His work is seen as instrumental in the history of the development of the Western scientific tradition. Grosseteste was the first of the Scholastics to fully understand Aristotle’s vision of the dual path of scientific reasoning: generalizing from particular observations into a universal law, and then back again from universal laws to prediction of particulars. Grosseteste called this “resolution and composition”. So, for example, looking at the particulars of the moon, it is possible to arrive at universal laws about nature. And conversely once these universal laws are understood, it is possible to make predictions and observations about other objects besides the moon. Further, Grosseteste said that both paths should be verified through experimentation in order to verify the principles. . . . Grosseteste gave a “special importance to mathematics in attempting to provide scientific explanations of the physical world” . . . He saw a key role for geometry in the explanation of natural phenomena. “[A]s Grosseteste grew older, he developed increasing reservations about astrology, and in one scientific work after another he gradually abandoned most of its teachings. . . it was bad science, pretending to knowledge it could not have . . .”  “Grosseteste appears to have been the first medieval writer to recognize and deal with the two fundamental methodological problems of induction and experimental verification and falsification which arose when the Greek conception of geometrical demonstration was applied to the world of experience. He appears to have been the first to set out a systematic and coherent theory of experimental investigation and rational explanation by which the Greek geometrical method was turned into modern experimental science.”

St. Albert the Great (or, Albertus Magnus) (c. 1193-1280; bishop and Doctor of the Church) He accepted the sphericity of the earth. Albertus’ writings collected in 1899 went to thirty-eight volumes. These displayed his prolific habits and literally encyclopedic knowledge of topics such as botany, astronomy, mineralogy, chemistry, zoology, physiology and others; all of which were the result of logic and observation. Albertus’ knowledge of physical science was considerable and for the age remarkably accurate. He is credited with the discovery of the element arsenic. He made contributions to logic, psychology, metaphysics, meteorology, mineralogy, and zoology. Albert was an essential figure in introducing Greek and Islamic science into the medieval universities, although not without hesitation with regard to particular Aristotelian theses. In one of his most famous sayings he asserted: “Science does not consist in ratifying what others say, but of searching for the causes of phenomena.”

Bartholomew of England (c. 1203-1272; Franciscan friar and bishop) He studied under Robert Grosseteste and was the author of On the Properties of Things (De proprietatibus rerum), an early forerunner of the encyclopedia. It has sections on physiology, medicine, the universe and celestial bodies, time, form and matter (elements), air and its forms, water and its forms, earth and its forms including geography, gems, minerals and metals, animals, and color, odor, taste and liquids. It was the first to make readily available the views of Greek, Jewish, and Arabic scholars on medical and scientific subjects.

Theodoric Borgognoni (1205-1298; Dominican friar and bishop) His major medical work is the Cyrurgia, a systematic four-volume treatise covering all aspects of surgery. He insisted that the practice of encouraging the development of pus in wounds, handed down from Galen and from Arabic medicine be replaced by a more antiseptic approach, with the wound being cleaned and then sutured to promote healing. Bandages were to be pre-soaked in wine as a form of disinfectant. He also promoted the use of anesthetics in surgery. A sponge soaked in a dissolved solution of opium, mandrake, hemlock, mulberry juice, ivy and other substances was held beneath the patients nose to induce unconsciousness. Borgognoni’s test for the diagnosis of shoulder dislocation, namely the ability to touch the opposite ear or shoulder with the hand of the affected arm, has remained in use into modern times. 

William of Saliceto (1210-1277) In 1275 he wrote Chirurgia which promoted the use of a surgical knife over cauterizing. He also was the author of Summa conservationis et curationis on hygiene and therapy and gave lectures on the importance of regular bathing for infants, and special care for the hygiene of pregnant women. 

Gerard of Brussels (early 13th c.) Known primarily for his Latin book Liber de motu (or On Motion), which was a pioneering study in kinematics. His chief contribution was in moving away from Greek mathematics and closer to the notion of “a ratio of two unlike quantities such as distance and time”, which is how modern physics defines velocity.

Roger Bacon (c. 1214-1294; Franciscan friar) He is sometimes credited as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method and he strongly championed experimental study. He urged theologians to study all sciences closely, and to add them to the normal university curriculum. His Opus Majus contains treatments of mathematics and optics, the manufacture of gunpowder, the positions and sizes of the celestial bodies, and anticipates later inventions such as microscopes, telescopes, spectacles, hydraulics and steam ships. The study of optics in part five of Opus Majus seems to draw on the works of the Muslim scientists, Alkindus (al-Kindi) and Alhazen (Ibn al-Haytham), including a discussion of the physiology of eyesight, the anatomy of the eye and the brain, and considers light, distance, position, and size, direct vision, reflected vision, and refraction, mirrors and lenses. Bacon predicted the invention of the submarine, automobile, and airplane. Bacon’s writings consider Newtonian metrical frameworks for space, then reject these for something which reads remarkably like Einsteinian Relativity. Natural causation occurs “naturally” according to regular processes or laws of nature. For Bacon, universal causation is corporeal and material, and matter itself in not just pure potentiality but is rather something positive in itself. He refers to the “laws of reflection and refraction” as leges communes nature. For Bacon in his account of nature in Communia naturalium and the later works in general, a general law of nature governs universal force. This universal law of nature is imposed on a world of Aristotelian natures. This notion would have a significant future in experimental science. Starting from Aristotle’s account of empeiria (experience), Bacon argues that logical argument alone, even when it originates from experience, is not sufficient for the “verification of things.” Even arguments that have their origins in experience will need to be verified by means of an intuition of the things in the world. He distinguishes “natural scientific argument” from moral and religious mystical intuition. He calculated the measured value of 42 degrees for the maximum elevation of the rainbow. This was probably done with an astrolabe, and in this, Bacon advocates the skillful mathematical use of instruments for an experimental science. There is much evidence that Bacon himself did mathematical work and experiments with visual phenomena such as pinhole images and the measurement of the visual field.

Pierre de Maricourt (or, Petrus Peregrinus) (fl. c. 1269) He was the first to give an account of magnetic Polarity and methods for determining the poles of a magnet. He may also have been the first to apply the term Polus to magnetic pole). He was also aware that Polaris, the pole star, does not rest at the celestial north pole, but revolves around it. From this knowledge Peregrinus concluded that the poles of a magnet, or magnetized needle, always point directly to the celestial poles rather than to the pole star, as commonly believed. His Epistola was the first extant treatise devoted exclusively to magnetism, creating the first science of magnetism. He formulated rules for the enabled him to enunciate rules for attraction and repulsion, all of which would today form the basis of an introductory lesson on magnetism. The permanent magnetization of iron, the properties of the magnetic poles, the direction of the Earth’s action exerted on these poles or of their action on one another, are all found very accurately described in [his] treatise written in 1269: a model of the art of logical sequence between experiment and deduction.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274; Dominican friar) His greatest contribution to the scientific development of the period was having been mostly responsible for the incorporation of Aristotelianism into the Scholastic tradition, and in particular his Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics was responsible for developing one of the most important innovations in the history of physics, namely the notion of the inertial resistant mass of all bodies universally, subsequently further developed by Kepler and Newton in the 17th century. John F. McCarthy explains how St. Thomas, following St. Augustine, arguably espoused something similar to theistic evolution (or at least its possibility):

A final question regards the rise of new forms of corporeal existence. St. Augustine understands the implanting of the forms of the various creatures described in Genesis 1 to have taken place simultaneously with the act of creation in the beginning, although he also distinguishes between the implantation of some forms in the act of existence and the implantation of other forms causally in the potency of the matter. (1) St. Thomas sees no contradiction in this interpretation, but he also points out that forms are not “implanted” in the sense that they first exist outside of their subject and then are instilled within. What actually happens is that both this matter and this form come into existence simultaneously as this individual thing. (2) But the question remains as to how higher forms can exist in the potency of the matter of lower forms. St. Augustine sees plants as having existed originally in the potency of the earth, and he goes on to say that, over the years down to the present, God “plants” living things, as He planted the verdure of Paradise, in His ordinary governance of all things. (3) Nevertheless, what needs to be clarified is the sense in which God “plants” what was already created causally from the beginning. St. Thomas cites Aristotle to the effect that for the generation of some vegetation all that is needed is the power of the physical heaven in place of the father and the power of the earth in place of the mother, (4) . . .

While St. Thomas affirms that new bodily forms arise by the interaction of bodies upon one another, he also requires the intervention of God for the first production of things.

In the first establishment (institutione) of things, the active principle was the Word of God, which from elemental matter produced animals either in act according to some of the Fathers or virtually according to Augustine. Not that water or earth has in itself the power to produce all of the animals, as Avicenna claimed, but the fact that animals can be produced from elemental matter by the power of seed or of the heavenly bodies comes from a power initially given to the elements. (5)

It is easily within the power of God to have caused the mountains and the oceans to take shape in a few hours . . . to have spread out the universe in an equally short time, and to have created streams of light from the most distant galaxies just on the point of reaching the earth. But it is by no means necessary to believe that God did this, and no one should insist that the text of Genesis demands such a reading. St. Augustine (6) and St. Thomas (7) both point out that it would not have been contrary to divine wisdom for God to have performed the work of creation according to a pattern that natural processes would afterwards imitate, and it is known today that natural processes tend to follow a developmental pattern. St. Augustine and St. Thomas also warn against unnecessarily defending readings of the Scripture which go against what natural science and experience seem to indicate, as is taken to be the case with the 24-hour interpretation of the six days of creation. The text of Genesis 1 is open to the interpretation of the six days of creation as six undefined periods of time which are called days because they are sub-divided into a time of darkness followed by a time of light . . .

St. Augustine explains, or rather hypothesizes, that in one sense the entire creation took place in an instant, and, therefore, there was no problem of plant life’s being said to have existed before the sun. But, in affirming this, St. Augustine also distinguishes between what was created in actual being and what was created potentially in the packages of powers (“seminal reasons”) with which God endowed elemental matter in the first instant of creation. In the view of St. Augustine, primal matter developed upward after the first moment of its creation because of the plan of development that God had instilled in it and because of certain formative interventions that God continued to make even after the first six days of creation. We must admit that Augustine does not attempt clearly to determine how much upward “development” was already included in the original instant of creation and how much came after that instant. (8) . . .

. . . the idea of a long period of development does not in itself conflict with either the letter or the spirit of the Scriptures; it simply illustrates the transcendence and the eternity of God, for Whom a thousand million years is not even one instant in our psychological time-experience.

Notes

1) Aquinas, Summa Theologica (S. Th.) I, q. 69, art. 2, corp. Cf. LT 47, pp. 5-7.

2) S. Th. I, q. 65, art. 4, corp.

3) Augustine, De Gen. ad litt., V, 4.

4) Aquinas, II Sent., dist. 14, q. 1, art. 5, ad 6.

5) S. Th. I, q. 71, art. 1, ad 1.

6) Cf. Augustine, De Gen. ad litt., II, 15.

7) Cf. Aquinas, S. Th., I, q. 74, art. 2, ad 4.

8) Cf. Augustine, De Gen. ad litt., V, 4. (“A Neo-Patristic Return to the First Four Days of Creation,” Part VI)

He believed in a spherical Earth; and he even took for granted his readers also knew the Earth is round. In his Summa Theologica, [1st part of the 2nd part, Q. 54] he wrote, “The physicist proves the earth to be round by one means, the astronomer by another: for the latter proves this by means of mathematics, e.g. by the shapes of eclipses, or something of the sort; while the former proves it by means of physics, e.g. by the movement of heavy bodies towards the center, and so forth.” 

Aquinas seems to have left open a distinct possibility of heliocentrism or some explanation other than geocentrism:

Reason may be employed in two ways to establish a point: firstly, for the purpose of furnishing sufficient proof of some principle, as in natural science, where sufficient proof can be brought to show that the movement of the heavens is always of uniform velocity. Reason is employed in another way, not as furnishing a sufficient proof of a principle, but as confirming an already established principle, by showing the congruity of its results, as in astrology the theory of eccentrics and epicycles is considered as established, because thereby the sensible appearances of the heavenly movements can be explained; not, however, as if this proof were sufficient, forasmuch as some other theory might explain them. Summa Theologiae, First Part, Q. 32, Article 1. Whether the trinity of the divine persons can be known by natural reason?, Reply to Objection 2)

He also rejected astrology (something that Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler were still enthralled with some 300 or more years later). Some have argued that he espoused it in his Summa Theologica, in a section called, Whether divination by the stars is unlawful? (Second part of Second part, question 95). It appears, however, that Aquinas was simply accepting aspects of astrology that had some semblance of scientific value in them: aspects of star-watching that were far closer to astronomy than to the occult. Science was not as fully developed in his time, so we would expect to see some such confusion (and partially it was a matter of semantics). For example, if astrologers predicted a solar eclipse, then obviously they had made some observation that was scientific, in that it recognized observable patterns in the sky (“it is evident that those things which happen of necessity can be foreknown by this mean, even so astrologers forecast a future eclipse.”). Note that the three “objections” are not the opinion of St. Thomas. He goes on to dispute the fundamental thesis of astrology: that the stars affect human behavior and decisions, etc.:

In the second place, acts of the free-will, which is the faculty of will and reason, escape the causality of heavenly bodies. For the intellect or reason is not a body, nor the act of a bodily organ, and consequently neither is the will, since it is in the reason, as the Philosopher shows (De Anima iii, 4,9). Now no body can make an impression on an incorporeal body. Wherefore it is impossible for heavenly bodies to make a direct impression on the intellect and will . . .

He denies the false, occultic part of astrology (which is, of course, the great bulk of it):

Accordingly if anyone take observation of the stars in order to foreknow casual or fortuitous future events, or to know with certitude future human actions, his conduct is based on a false and vain opinion; and so the operation of the demon introduces itself therein, wherefore it will be a superstitious and unlawful divination.

But he accepts that which simply operates on the same principles as science:

On the other hand if one were to apply the observation of the stars in order to foreknow those future things that are caused by heavenly bodies, for instance, drought or rain and so forth, it will be neither an unlawful nor a superstitious divination.

All that St. Thomas Aquinas really grants here is some influence of the stars and planets on humans insofar as this is explained in terms of physical causation. That doesn’t involve the occult. We know, for instance, of the influence of the moon on tides. The theory of gravity involves relationships between physical bodies in space. We are pulled to the earth: so the earth itself “influences” our bodies in that way. There seems to be some relationship with lunar cycles and psychologically disturbed people (the etymological background of the word lunatic). He acknowledges that some truth can be found almost anywhere, but when all is said and done, he ends up by citing St. Augustine in strong disagreement with astrology:

Thus a good Christian should beware of astrologers, and of all impious diviners, especially of those who tell the truth, lest his soul become the dupe of the demons and by making a compact of partnership with them enmesh itself in their fellowship.

Theodoric [or Thierry or Dietrich] of Freiberg (c. 1250–c. 1310; Dominican monk) Drawing from his two earlier works on light and colour, he wrote De iride et radialibus impressionibus (On the Rainbow and the impressions created by irradiance, c. 1304-1311), relying on geometry, experiment, falsification and other methods. Among other properties he explained in detail:

  • the colors of the primary and secondary rainbows
  • the positions of the primary and secondary rainbows
  • the path of sunlight within a drop: lightbeams are refracted when entering the atmospheric droplets, then reflected inside the droplets and finally refracted again when leaving them.
  • the formation of the rainbow: he explains the role of the individual drops in creating the rainbow
  • the phenomenon of color reversal in the secondary rainbow

Using spherical flasks and glass globes filled with water, Freiberg was able to simulate the water droplets during rainfall. Still in its early stages, experimental instrumentation would later expand to be used primarily for making measurements, extending the human senses and creating and isolated environment for the experimenter. During his experimentation with these glass globes, Freiberg was correct in asserting that the colors formed in interaction with the water droplets. These studies were models of the art of logically combining experiments. His scientific treatises on light (De luce), on color (De coloribus), and on the rainbow (De iride) contributed greatly to the development of optics.

Guidelines or Condemnations for the University of Paris – 1277 An event of note in the thirteenth century was a promulgation of 219 propositions related to Greek science, primarily as guidelines for the University of Paris. This was initiated by the Pope and dealt with most of the matters that had exercised the Christian thinkers of the previous twelve centuries. The list included the following: rejection of the eternity of the world and of the cyclic recurrence of its life every 36,000 years; the natural world was uniform in its constitution and laws, and stood in a contingent relation to its Creator; rejection of the heavenly bodies being animated and incorruptible, and of the influence of the stars upon human lives; and acceptance of the possibility of linear motion for the heavenly bodies, instead of the circular movement obligatory in Greek science. From at least 1280 onward, many masters at Paris and Oxford admitted that the laws of nature are certainly opposed to the production of empty space, but that the realisation of such a space is not, in itself, contrary to reason. These arguments gave rise to the branch of mechanical science known as dynamics. Historians agree that the condemnations allowed science to consider new possibilities that Aristotle never conceptualized. According to the historian of science Richard Dales, they “seem definitely to have promoted a freer and more imaginative way of doing science” The new philosophy of nature, that emerged from the rise of Skepticism following the Condemnations, contained “the seeds from which modern science could arise in the early seventeenth century.”

Albert of Saxony (or Helmstadt) (mid-14th c.) A principle was formulated which for three centuries was to play a great role in statics, viz. that every heavy body tends to unite its centre of gravity with the centre of the Earth. When writing his “Questions” on Aristotle’s “De Cælo” in 1368, Albert admitted this principle, which he applied to the entire mass of the terrestrial element. The centre of gravity of this mass is constantly inclined to place itself in the centre of the universe, but, within the terrestrial mass, the position of the centre of gravity is incessantly changing. Now, in order to replace this centre of gravity in the centre of the universe, the Earth moves without ceasing; and meanwhile a slow but perpetual exchange is being effected between the continents and the oceans. He ventured so far as to think that these small and incessant motions of the Earth could explain the phenomena of the precession of the equinoxes, and declared that one of his masters, whose name he did not disclose, announced himself in favour of the daily rotation of the Earth, inasmuch as he refuted the arguments that were opposed to this motion. He adopted Buridan’s theory of dynamics in its entirety. His treatises contain, in a clear, precise, and concise form, an explanation of numerous ideas which exercised great influence on the development of modern science. He abandoned the old Peripatetic dynamics which ascribed the movement of projectiles to disturbed air. With Buridan he placed the cause of this movement in an impetus put into the projectile by the person who threw it; the part he assigned to this impetus is very like that which we now attribute to living force. He considered that the heavens were not moved by intelligences, but, like projectiles, by the impetus which God gave them when He created them, and saw in the increase of impetus the reason of the acceleration in the fall of a heavy body. He further taught that the velocity of a falling weight increased in proportion either to the space traversed from the beginning of the fall or to the time elapsed, but he did not decide between these two.

Jean Buridan (1300-1358; priest) anticipated the idea of inertia (the idea an object once in motion continues to move in the same direction until it encounters resistance) through his discussion of impetus:

Also, since the Bible does not state that appropriate intelligences move the celestial bodies, it could be said that it does not appear necessary to posit intelligences of this kind, because it would be answered that God, when He created the world, moved each of the celestial orbs as He pleased, and in moving them He impressed in them impetuses which moved them without His having to move them any more except by the method of general influence whereby He concurs as a co-agent in all things which take place; ‘for thus on the seventh day He rested for all work . . .’ [Gen. 2:2] And these impetuses which He impressed in the celestial bodies were not decreased nor corrupted afterwards, because there was not inclination of the celestial bodies for movements. . . .

But because of the resistance which results from the weight of the [waterwheel of the] mill, the impetus would continually diminish until the mill ceased to turn. And perhaps, if the mill should last forever without any diminution or change, and there were no other resistance to corrupt the impetus, the mill would move forever because of its perpetual impetus. 

He rejected the Aristotelian idea [in De Caelo] of a cosmos existing from all eternity. Following in the footsteps of John Philoponus and Avicenna, proposed that motion was maintained by some property of the body, imparted when it was set in motion. Buridan named the motion-maintaining property impetus. Moreover, he rejected the view that the impetus dissipated spontaneously (this is the big difference between Buridan’s theory of impetus and his predecessors), asserting that a body would be arrested by the forces of air resistance and gravity which might be opposing its impetus. Buridan further held that the impetus of a body increased with the speed with which it was set in motion, and with its quantity of matter. Clearly, Buridan’s impetus is closely related to the modern concept of momentum. Buridan saw impetus as causing the motion of the object. Buridan anticipated Isaac Newton when he wrote:

[A]fter leaving the arm of the thrower, the projectile would be moved by an impetus given to it by the thrower and would continue to be moved as long as the impetus remained stronger than the resistance, and would be of infinite duration were it not diminished and corrupted by a contrary force resisting it or by something inclining it to a contrary motion. 

Buridan’s account of motion is in keeping with his approach to natural science, which is empirical in the sense that it emphasizes the evidentness of appearances, the reliability of a posteriori modes of reasoning, and the application of naturalistic tropes or models of explanation (such as the concept of impetus) to a variety of phenomena. With the assistance of these principles concerning impetus, Buridan accounts for the swinging of the pendulum. He likewise analyses the mechanism of impact and rebound and, in this connexion, puts forth very correct views on the deformations and elastic reactions that arise in the contiguous parts of two bodies coming into collision. Nearly all this doctrine of impetus is transformed into a very correct mechanical theory if one is careful to substitute the expression vis viva for impetus.

Nicholas Oresme (c. 1323-1382; bishop) Oresme conceived the idea of employing what we should now call rectangular co-ordinates . . . and thus forestalls Descartes in the invention of analytical geometry. . . . In opposition to the Aristotelean theory of weight, according to which the natural location of heavy bodies is the centre of the world, and that of light bodies the concavity of the moon’s orb, he proposes the following: The elements tend to dispose themselves in such manner that, from the centre to the periphery their specific weight diminishes by degrees. He thinks that a similar rule may exist in worlds other than this. This is the doctrine later substituted for the Aristotelean by Copernicus and his followers . . . But Oresme had a much stronger claim to be regarded as the precursor of Copernicus when one considers what he says of the diurnal motion of the earth, . . . He begins by establishing that no experiment can decide whether the heavens move form east to west or the earth from west to east; for sensible experience can never establish more than one relative motion. He then shows that the reasons proposed by the physics of Aristotle against the movement of the earth are not valid . . .

He wrote influential works on mathematics, physics, and astronomy. In his Livre du ciel et du monde Oresme discussed a range of evidence for and against the daily rotation of the Earth on its axis. From astronomical considerations, he maintained that if the Earth were moving and not the celestial spheres, all the movements that we see in the heavens that are computed by the astronomers would appear exactly the same as if the spheres were rotating around the Earth. He rejected the physical argument that if the Earth were moving the air would be left behind causing a great wind from east to west. In his view the Earth, Water, and Air would all share the same motion. As to the scriptural passage that speaks of the motion of the sun, he concludes that “this passage conforms to the customary usage of popular speech” and is not to be taken literally. He also noted that it would be more economical for the small Earth to rotate on its axis than the immense sphere of the stars.

His work provided some basis for the development of modern mathematics and science. Oresme brilliantly argues against any proof of the Aristotelian theory of a stationary Earth and a rotating sphere of the fixed stars and showed the possibility of a daily axial rotation of the Earth. He was a determined opponent of astrology, which he attacked on religious and scientific grounds. He states – more than 300 years before Robert Hooke (1635–1703) and Newton – that atmospheric refraction occurs along a curve and proposes to approximate the curved path of a ray of light in a medium of uniformly varying density, in this case the atmosphere, by an infinite series of line segments each representing a single refraction.  

In the whole of his argument in favor of the Earth’s motion Oresme is both more explicit and much clearer than that given two centuries later by Copernicus. He was also the first to assume that color and light are of the same nature. He asserted methodological naturalism: “there is no reason to take recourse to the heavens, the last refuge of the weak, or demons, or to our glorious God as if He would produce these effects directly, more so than those effects whose causes we believe are well known to us.” He also showed how to interpret the difficulties encountered in “the Sacred Scriptures wherein it is stated that the sun turns, etc. It might be supposed that here Holy Writ adapts itself to the common mode of human speech, as also in several places, for instance, where it is written that God repented Himself, and was angry and calmed Himself and so on, all of which is, however, not to be taken in a strictly literal sense”.

Finally, Oresme offered several considerations favourable to the hypothesis of the Earth’s daily motion. In order to refute one of the objections raised by the Peripatetics against this point, Oresme was led to explain how, in spite of this motion, heavy bodies seemed to fall in a vertical line; he admitted their real motion to be composed of a fall in a vertical line and a diurnal rotation identical with that which they would have if bound to the Earth. This is precisely the principle to which Galileo was afterwards to turn. He adopted Buridan’s theory of dynamics in its entirety. “Most of the essential elements in both his [i.e., Copernicus’] criticism of Aristotle and his theory of motion can be found in earlier scholastic writers, particularly in Oresme.”

Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464; cardinal) Nicholas anticipated many later ideas in mathematics, cosmology, astronomy, and experimental science while constructing his own original version of systematic Neoplatonism. In Book II of On Learned Ignorance he holds that the natural universe is characterized by change or motion; it is not static in time and space. But finite change and motion, ontologically speaking, are also matters of more and less and have no fixed maximum or minimum. This “ontological relativity” leads Cusanus to some remarkable conclusions about the earth and the physical universe, based not on empirical observation but on metaphysical grounds. The earth is not fixed in place at some given point because nothing is utterly at rest; nor can it be the exact physical center of the natural universe, even if it seems nearer the center than “the fixed stars.”

Because the universe is in motion without fixed center or boundaries, none of the spheres of the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic world picture are exactly spherical. None of them has an exact center, and the “outermost sphere” is not a boundary. Cusanus thus shifts the typical medieval picture of the created universe toward later views, but on ontological grounds. The natural universe itself, as a contracted image of God, has a physical center that can be anywhere and a circumference that is nowhere. Cusanus said that no perfect circle can exist in the universe (opposing the Aristotelean model, and also Copernicus’ later assumption of circular orbits), thus opening the possibility for Kepler’s model featuring elliptical orbits of the planets around the Sun.

He made important contributions to the field of mathematics by developing the concepts of the infinitesimal and of relative motion. He was the first to use concave lenses to correct myopia. His writings were essential for Leibniz’s discovery of calculus as well as Cantor’s later work on infinity. The astronomical views of the cardinal are scattered through his philosophical treatises. The earth is a star like other stars [spherical], is not the centre of the universe, is not at rest, nor are its poles fixed. The celestial bodies are not strictly spherical, nor are their orbits circular. The difference between theory and appearance is explained by relative motion. “Copernicus . . . had probably at least heard of the very influential treatise in which the fifteenth-century Cardinal, Nicholas of Cusa, derived the motion of the earth from the plurality of worlds in an unbounded Neoplatonic universe. The earth’s motion had never been a popular concept, but by the sixteenth century it was scarcely unprecedented.”

Related Reading:

Galileo: The Myths and the Facts [5-11-06]

16th-17th Century Astronomers Loved Astrology (+ Part Two) [5-25-06]

Did St. Thomas Aquinas Accept Astrology? [5-30-06]

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

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

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

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

Christian Influence on Science: Master List of Scores of Bibliographical and Internet Resources (Links) [8-4-10]

Who Killed Lavoisier: “Father of Chemistry”? [8-13-10]

Christians or Theists Founded 115 Scientific Fields [8-20-10]

St. Augustine: Astrology is Absurd [9-4-15]

Galileo, Bellarmine, & Scientific Method [10-20-15]

Atheist French, Soviet, & Chinese Executions of Scientists [10-22-15]

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

A List of 244 Priest-Scientists [Angelo Stagnaro, National Catholic Register, 11-29-16]

A Short List of [152] Lay Catholic Scientists [Angelo Stagnaro, National Catholic Register, 12-30-16]

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

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

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

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

The ‘Enlightenment’ Inquisition Against Great Scientists [National Catholic Register, 5-13-20]

Embarrassing Errors of Historical Science [National Catholic Register, 5-20-20]

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Photo credit: Armillary sphere, constructed by Antonio Santucci, c. 1582. Wikipedia: “The armillary sphere was introduced to Western Europe via Al-Andalus in the late 10th century with the efforts of Gerbert d’Aurillac, the later Pope Sylvester II (r. 999–1003). Pope Sylvester II applied the use of sighting tubes with his armillary sphere in order to fix the position of the pole star and record measurements for the tropics and equator.” [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

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November 3, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidenstickerwho was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 58 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him [yours truly] devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

The following is a critique of Bob’s article, “Yeah, but Christianity Built Hospitals!” (4-22-20; update of 2-6-16).

Many Christians will point to medieval hospitals to argue that they were pioneers in giving us the medical system that we know today. Let’s consider that claim. . . . 

Health care in the Bible

We can look to the Bible to see where Christian contributions to medical science come from.

We find Old Testament apotropaic medicine (medicine to ward off evil) in Numbers 21:5–9. When God grew tired of the Israelites whining about harsh conditions during the Exodus, he sent poisonous snakes to bite them. As a remedy, God told Moses to make a bronze snake (the Nehushtan). This didn’t get rid of the snakes or the snake bites, but it did mean that anyone who looked at it after being bitten would magically live. So praise the Lord, I guess.

This is a “hair of the dog” type of treatment, akin to modern homeopathic “medicine.” Just as bronze snake statues are useless as medicine today, Jesus and his ideas of disease as a manifestation of demon possession was also useless. 

This is an absurdly simplistic, jaded, and cynically selective (i.e., intellectually dishonest) treatment of the Bible’s approach to medicine and health care (which is far more sophisticated, rightly understood). I have dealt with this (specifically or generally, with regard to larger science) at length, in reply to Bob and a similar Bible-bashing atheist, Dr. David Madison:

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

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

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

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

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

See many many more articles on Christianity and science on my Atheism and Science web pages, as well as my book, Science and Christianity: Close Partners or Mortal Enemies?. And of course, it’s common knowledge (at least among fair-minded, objective thinkers) that when both modern science and modern medicine got off the ground, starting in the 15th or 16th centuries, Christian scientists were in the forefront, and remained so till the massive secularization of science after Darwin in the 19th century. Christianity is the furthest thing from “antithetical” to science: much as thick-skulled atheist anti-theists like Bob vainly wish it were otherwise, for their polemical purposes. 

The Father of Western Medicine was Hippocrates, not Jesus.

This is irrelevant, as Jesus never claimed to be the father of medicine in the first place. But since Hippocrates was brought up, I have written in my treatment of the Bible and germs and infectious disease:

Hippocrates, the pagan Greek “father of medicine” didn’t understand the causes of contagious disease. Nor did medical science until the 19th century. But the hygienic principles that would have prevented the spread of such diseases were in the Bible: in the Laws of Moses. . . . 

Hippocrates, the “father of medicine” (born 460 BC), thought “bad air” from swampy areas was the cause of disease.

Mosaic Law and Hebrew hygienic practices, dating as far back as some 800 years before Hippocrates, were far more advanced:

1. The Bible contained instructions for the Israelites to wash their bodies and clothes in running water if they had a discharge, came in contact with someone else’s discharge, or had touched a dead body. They were also instructed about objects that had come into contact with dead things, and about purifying items with an unknown history with either fire or running water. They were also taught to bury human waste outside the camp, and to burn animal waste (Num 19:3-22;Lev. 11:1-4715:1-33;Deut 23:12).

2. Leviticus 13 and 14 mention leprosy on walls and on garments. Leprosy is a bacterial disease, and can survive for three weeks or longer apart from the human body. Thus, God commanded that the garments of leprosy victims should be burned (Lev 13:52).

3. It was not until 1873 that leprosy was shown to be an infectious disease rather than hereditary. Of course, the laws of Moses already were aware of that (Lev 13, 14, 22; Num 19:20). It contains instructions about quarantine and about quarantined persons needing to thoroughly shave and wash. Priests who cared for them also were instructed to change their clothes and wash thoroughly. The Israelites were the only culture to practice quarantine until the 19th century, when medical advances discovered the biblical medical principles and practices.

Medieval hospitals

Without science, a hospital can do nothing but provide food and comfort. Palliative care is certainly something, and let’s celebrate whatever comfort was provided by church-supported hospitals, but these medieval European institutions were little more than almshouses or places to die—think hospitals without the science.

Christian medicine did not advance past that of Galen, the Greek physician of 2nd century who wrote medical texts and whose theories dominated Western Christian medicine for over 1300 years. Not until the 1530s (during the Renaissance) did the physician Andreas Vesalius surpass Galen in the area of human anatomy.

First of all, I must note the silly outlook of Bob on this issue of medical advancement. If Christianity rejects anything in learning from pagan predecessors, then we catch hell. But as serious historians know, Christianity did not do any such thing. In fact, it was in the forefront in preserving manuscripts from classical Greek and Roman learning, which it revered. Some of it was lost in some places, and for considerable lengths of time, but that was almost solely due to pagan barbarian invasions and antipathy to learning, not Christianity per se. Historians have long since abandoned antiquated, anti-Catholic notions of the “Dark Ages.”

On the other hand, if and when Christianity follows pagan learning and practices (as with medicine and Galen), then we are bashed for simply following precedent and not developing it further. This is downright silly. All knowledge — from whatever source — is good and ought to be gratefully and respectfully accepted and incorporated into any future advances of knowledge.  Galen was followed by Christians because his knowledge was the best for his time and no one surpassed it for a long time after. Even Bob (almost despite himself) notes that “Galen’s] theories dominated Western Christian medicine for over 1300 years.” Okay; then give Christianity credit for following his science! That’s obviously neither “anti-science” nor “anti-pagan learning” is it?

I’d like to give credit where it’s due. If the medieval Church catalyzed human compassion into hospitals that wouldn’t have been there otherwise, that’s great, . . . 

And I sincerely give Bob credit and thank him for giving medieval Christianity at least some credit.

We can get a picture of medieval Christian hospitals by looking at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity hospitals. They have minor comforts, and at best they are comfortable places to die. They’re not meant for treating disease . . . 

Did Christianity retard medical science with its anti-science attitude? We forget how long a road it was to reach our modern medical understanding. The book Bad Medicine argues that “until the invention of antibiotics in the 1930s doctors, in general, did their patients more harm than good.” Christianity might have set modern medical science back centuries.

Here we get to the heart of what I will object to in Bob’s article. I would like to explore how Christians in the Middle Ages, in the hospitals that they spearheaded, did have treatments, and did make positive efforts to cure their patients: contrary to Bob’s cynical caricatures. Surely by today’s standards, whatever science was present was primitive, and was — without question — mixed with well-intentioned errors. But the latter is nothing new. Even the first “modern scientists” had many false views incorporated within their worldviews, such as alchemy and astrology. Nor was subsequent science, even up to the 20th century, immune from foolish errors. Christianity by no means has a lock on (inexcusable?) errors.

But let’s look at what these medieval hospitals were positively doing; what they did know, by way of medicinal and therapeutic treatments. It’s not true that they were “anti-science” or were “not meant for treating disease.” These are lies. Even in the following article that expresses the usual hostile (and ultra-biased) attitudes towards medieval Christianity, the use of various herbal treatments couldn’t be ignored:

Medicinal plants and herbs were an important and major part in the pharmacopeia. Medicines were made from herbs, spices, and resins. Dioscorides, a Greek, wrote his Materia Medica in 65 AD. This was a practical text dealing with the medicinal use of more than 600 plants in the second century. Although the original text of Dioscorides is lost, there are many surviving copies. His texts formed the basis of much of the herbal medicine practiced until 1500 . Some plants were used for specific disorders, while others were credited with curing multiple diseases. In many cases, preparations were made of many different herbs. . . . 

[I]n the Middle Ages, the study of medicinal plants was in the hands of monks who in their monasteries planted and experimented on the species described in classic texts. [Dave: this scenario — let’s not forget — produced Mendel, who discovered genetics] No monastic garden would have been complete without medicinal plants. The sick went to the monastery, local herbalist, or apothecary to obtain healing herbs. Most monasteries developed herb gardens for use in the production of herbal cures, and these remained a part of folk medicine, as well as were being used by some professional physicians. Books of herbal remedies were produced by monks as many monks were skilled at producing books and manuscripts and tending both medicinal gardens and the sick. . . . 

Headache and aching joints were treated with sweet-smelling herbs such as rose, lavender, sage, and hay. A mixture of henbane and hemlock was applied to aching joints. Coriander was used to reduce fever. Stomach pains and sickness were treated with wormwood, mint, and balm. Lung problems were treated with a medicine made of liquorice and comfrey. Cough syrups and drinks were prescribed for chest and head-colds and coughs. Wounds were cleaned and vinegar was widely used as a cleansing agent as it was believed that it would kill disease. Mint was used in treating venom and wounds. Myrrh was used as an antiseptic on wounds. (“The Air of History (Part II) Medicine in the Middle Ages”; Rachel Hajar, MD; . 2012 Oct-Dec; 13(4): 158–162)

That’s far from “not treating disease” at all, isn’t it? Therefore, Bob has presented biased anti-Christian slop once again. He made no effort to actually do research and investigate the issue. It’s not his purpose. He has to run down Christianity. That’s what he lives for.

The Wikipedia article, “Medieval medicine of Western Europe” examines these issues in infinitely more depth than Bob does. No one could read it and come away with Bob’s stunted, warped, prejudiced outlook on the topic. Bob clearly has no idea what he is talking about. He’s like a three-year-old lecturing on quantum mechanics or calculus: clearly over his head. Here are some excerpts:

The practice of medicine in the early Middle Ages was empirical and pragmatic. It focused mainly on curing disease rather than discovering the cause of diseases. Often it was believed the cause of disease was supernatural. Nevertheless, secular approaches to curing diseases existed. . . . 

Folk medicine of the Middle Ages dealt with the use of herbal remedies for ailments. The practice of keeping physic gardens teeming with various herbs with medicinal properties was influenced by the gardens of Roman antiquity. Many early medieval manuscripts have been noted for containing practical descriptions for the use of herbal remedies. These texts, such as the Pseudo-Apuleius, included illustrations of various plants that would have been easily identifiable and familiar to Europeans at the time. Monasteries later became centres of medical practice in the Middle Ages, and carried on the tradition of maintaining medicinal gardens. . . . 

Hildegard of Bingen was an example of a medieval medical practitioner while educated in classical Greek medicine, also utilized folk medicine remedies. Her understanding of the plant based medicines informed her commentary on the humors of the body and the remedies she described in her medical text Causae et curae were influenced by her familiarity with folk treatments of disease. . . . Kitchens were stocked with herbs and other substances required in folk remedies for many ailments. Causae et curae illustrated a view of symbiosis of the body and nature, that the understanding of nature could inform medical treatment of the body. . . . 

Evidence of pagan influence on emerging Christian medical practice was provided by many prominent early Christian thinkers, such as Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and Augustine, who studied natural philosophy and held important aspects of secular Greek philosophy that were in line with Christian thought. . . . 

Herbal remedies, known as Herbals, along with prayer and other religious rituals were used in treatment by the monks and nuns of the monasteries. Herbs were seen by the monks and nuns as one of God’s creations for the natural aid that contributed to the spiritual healing of the sick individual. An herbal textual tradition also developed in the medieval monasteries. Older herbal Latin texts were translated and also expanded in the monasteries. The monks and nuns reorganized older texts so that they could be utilized more efficiently, adding a table of contents for example to help find information quickly. Not only did they reorganize existing texts, but they also added or eliminated information. New herbs that were discovered to be useful or specific herbs that were known in a particular geographic area were added. Herbs that proved to be ineffective were eliminated. Drawings were also added or modified in order for the reader to effectively identify the herb. The Herbals that were being translated and modified in the monasteries were some of the first medical texts produced and used in medical practice in the Middle Ages.

Not only were herbal texts being produced, but also other medieval texts that discussed the importance of the humors. Monasteries in Medieval Europe gained access to Greek medical works by the middle of the 6th century. Monks translated these works into Latin, after which they were gradually disseminated across Europe. Monks such as Arnald of Villanova also translated the works of Galen and other classical Greek scholars from Arabic to Latin during the Medieval ages. By producing these texts and translating them into Latin, Christian monks both preserved classical Greek medical information and allowed for its use by European medical practitioners. By the early 1300s these translated works would become available at medieval universities and form the foundation of the universities medical teaching programs. . . . 

In exchanging the herbal texts among monasteries, monks became aware of herbs that could be very useful but were not found in the surrounding area. The monastic clergy traded with one another or used commercial means to obtain the foreign herbs. Inside most of the monastery grounds there had been a separate garden designated for the plants that were needed for the treatment of the sick. A serving plan of St. Gall depicts a separate garden to be developed for strictly medical herbals. Monks and nuns also devoted a large amount of their time in the cultivation of the herbs they felt were necessary in the care of the sick. Some plants were not native to the local area and needed special care to be kept alive. The monks used a form of science, what we would today consider botany, to cultivate these plants. Foreign herbs and plants determined to be highly valuable were grown in gardens in close proximity to the monastery in order for the monastic clergy to hastily have access to the natural remedies.

Medicine in the monasteries was concentrated on assisting the individual to return to normal health. Being able to identify symptoms and remedies was the primary focus. In some instances identifying the symptoms led the monastic clergy to have to take into consideration the cause of the illness in order to implement a solution. Research and experimental processes were continuously being implemented in monasteries to be able to successfully fulfill their duties to God to take care of all God’s people. . . .

Medieval European medicine became more developed during the Renaissance of the 12th century, when many medical texts both on Ancient Greek medicine and on Islamic medicine were translated from Arabic during the 13th century. The most influential among these texts was Avicenna‘s The Canon of Medicine, a medical encyclopedia written in circa 1030 which summarized the medicine of Greek, Indian and Muslim physicians until that time. The Canon became an authoritative text in European medical education until the early modern period. Other influential texts from Jewish authors include the Liber pantegni by Isaac Israeli ben Solomon, while Arabic authors contributed De Gradibus by Alkindus and Al-Tasrifby Abulcasis.

At Schola Medica Salernitana in Southern Italy, medical texts from Byzantium and the Arab world (see Medicine in medieval Islam) were readily available, translated from the Greek and Arabic at the nearby monastic centre of Monte Cassino. The Salernitan masters gradually established a canon of writings, known as the ars medicinae (art of medicine) or articella (little art), which became the basis of European medical education for several centuries. . . . 

In Paris, in the late thirteenth century, it was deemed that surgical practices were extremely disorganized, and so the Parisian provost decided to enlist six of the most trustworthy and experienced surgeons and have them assess the performance of other surgeons. The emergence of universities allowed for surgery to be a discipline that should be learned and be communicated to others as a uniform practice. The University of Padua was one of the “leading Italian universities in teaching medicine, identification and treating of diseases and ailments, specializing in autopsies and workings of the body.” The most prestigious and famous part of the university is the oldest surviving anatomical theater, in which students studied anatomy by observing their teachers perform public dissections.

Surgery was formally taught in Italy even though it was initially looked down upon as a lower form of medicine. The most important figure of the formal learning of surgery was Guy de Chauliac. [c. 1300-1368]. He insisted that a proper surgeon should have a specific knowledge of the human body such as anatomy, food and diet of the patient, and other ailments that may have affected the patients. . . . 

The Middle Ages contributed a great deal to medical knowledge. This period contained progress in surgery, medical chemistry, dissection, and practical medicine. The Middle Ages laid the ground work for later, more significant discoveries. There was a slow but constant progression in the way that medicine was studied and practiced. It went from apprenticeships to universities and from oral traditions to documenting texts. The most well-known preservers of texts, not only medical, would be the monasteries. The monks were able to copy and revise any medical texts that they were able to obtain. . . . 

Roger Frugardi of Parma composed his treatise on Surgery around about 1180. Between 1250 and 1265 Theodoric Borgognoni produced a systematic four volume treatise on surgery, the Cyrurgia, which promoted important innovations as well as early forms of antiseptic practice in the treatment of injury, and surgical anaesthesia using a mixture of opiates and herbs.

Compendiums like Bald’s Leechbook (circa 900), include citations from a variety of classical works alongside local folk remedies. . . . 

[M]any monastic orders, particularly the Benedictines, were very involved in healing and caring for the sick and dying. In many cases, the Greek philosophy that early Medieval medicine was based upon was compatible with Christianity. Though the widespread Christian tradition of sickness being a divine intervention in reaction to sin was popularly believed throughout the Middle Ages, it did not rule out natural causes. . . . 

The monastic tradition of herbals and botany influenced Medieval medicine as well, not only in their actual medicinal uses but in their textual traditions. Texts on herbal medicine were often copied in monasteries by monks, but there is substantial evidence that these monks were also practicing the texts that they were copying. These texts were progressively modified from one copy to the next, with notes and drawings added into the margins as the monks learned new things and experimented with the remedies and plants that the books supplied. . . . 

The influence of Christianity continued into the later periods of the Middle Ages as medical training and practice moved out of the monasteries and into cathedral schools, though more for the purpose of general knowledge rather than training professional physicians. The study of medicine was eventually institutionalized into the medieval universities. . . . 

Western Europe also experienced economic, population and urban growth in the 12th and 13th centuries leading to the ascent of medieval medical universities. The University of Salerno was considered to be a renowned provenance of medical practitioners in the 9th and 10th centuries, but was not recognized as an official medical university until 1231. The founding of the Universities of Paris (1150), Bologna (1158), Oxford (1167), Montpelier (1181) and Padua (1222), extended the initial work of Salerno across Europe, and by the 13th century, medical leadership had passed to these newer institutions. . . . 

The required number of years to become a licensed physician varied among universities. Montpellier required students without their masters of arts to complete three and a half years of formal study and six months of outside medical practice. In 1309, the curriculum of Montpellier was changed to six years of study and eight months of outside medical practice for those without a masters of arts, whereas those with a masters of arts were only subjected to five years of study with eight months of outside medical practice. The university of Bologna required three years of philosophy, three years of astrology, and four years of attending medical lectures.

I could go on and on, but I’m at almost 4000 words, and I think the point has been established beyond any possibility of refutation. I shall end by citing many of the sources that the Wikipedia article drew upon:

Lawrence Conrad, Michael Neve, Vivian Nutton, Roy Porter, Andrew Wear. The Western Medical Tradition 800 BC to AD 1800. Cambridge University Press, New York, 1995.

Lindberg, David C. The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450. University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 2007.

Sweet, Victoria (1999). “Hildegard of Bingen and the Greening of Medieval Medicine”Bulletin of the History of Medicine73 (3): 381–403. doi:10.1353/bhm.1999.0140PMID 10500336.

Amundsen, Darrel, W. (1982). “Medicine and Faith in Early Christianity”. Bulletin of the History of Medicine56 (3): 326–350. PMID 6753984.

Voigts, Linda. Anglo-Saxon Plant Remedies and the Anglo-Saxons. The University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Maclehose, William (April 22, 2013). “Medieval Practitioners and Medical Biography”. Journal of Medical Biography22 (1): 1–2doi:10.1177/0967772013486233PMID 23610220.

Jacquart, Danielle (2002). Western Medical Thought from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-0674007956.

McVaugh, Michael (January 11, 2000). “Surgical Education in the Middle Ages” (PDF)Dynamis.

Girisai, Nancy. Medieval & Early Renaissance Medicine: An Introduction to Knowledge and Practice. University of Chicago Press, 1990.

Elder, Jean (2005). “Doctors and Medicine in Medieval England 1340-1530”. Canadian Journal of History: 101–102.

Gregg, George (1963). “The State of Medicine at the Time of the Crusades”The Ulster Medical Journal32: 146–148. PMC 2384607PMID 14105941.

Bowers, Barbara S. ed. The Medieval Hospital and Medical Practice (Ashgate, 2007); 258pp; essays by scholars

Getz, Faye. Medicine in the English Middle Ages. (Princeton University Press, 1998). ISBN 0-691-08522-6

Mitchell, Piers D. Medicine in the Crusades: Warfare, Wounds, and the Medieval Surgeon (Cambridge University Press, 2004) 293 pp.

Porter, Roy. The Greatest Benefit to Mankind. A medical history of humanity from antiquity to the present. (HarperCollins 1997).

Siraisi Nancy G (2012). “Medicine, 1450–1620, and the History of Science”. Isis103 (3): 491–514doi:10.1086/667970PMID 23286188.

Wallis, Faith, ed. Medieval Medicine: A Reader (2010) excerpt and text search.

Walsh, James J. Medieval Medicine (1920), A & C Black, Ltd.

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Photo credit: St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179): extraordinary genius, Doctor of the Church, and medical physician. [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license]

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October 7, 2020

with David Palm

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like he himself: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 57 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 10-17-20: “Every engagement with him devolves into pointlessness. I don’t believe I’ve ever learned anything from him. But if you find a compelling argument of his, summarize it for us.” And again the next day: “He has certainly not earned a spot in my heart, so I will pass on funding his evidence-free project. Like you, I also find that he’s frustrating to talk with. Again, I evaluate such conversations as useful if I can learn something–find a mistake in my argument, uncover an error I made in Christians’ worldview, and so on. Dave is good at bluster, and that’s about it.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

Bob writes in his article, “Top 20 Most Damning Bible Contradictions (3 of 4)” (10-24-18):

Jesus should’ve returned already.

Jesus promised to return within the lifetimes of those listening to him. This Apocalyptic message (Apocalypticism claims that the end times are very close) is found in the three synoptic gospels. It takes a passage in Isaiah 13 that predicts calamity for Babylon—that the sun and moon will darken and the stars will fall—and repurposes it as a prediction of the end. It also predicts:

[All people on earth will] see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds. (Matthew 24:30–31)

The prediction ends saying that this will all happen soon.

This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened (Matthew 24:34).

Let me emphasize those two points: “these things” will happen soon (within months or years, not centuries), and “these things” are obvious and world-destroyingly calamitous. The popular Christian response that this referred to the fall of the Temple won’t fly.

Earlier in the same gospel, we find other references to the imminent coming of the Son of Man:

When you are persecuted in one place [as you spread the gospel], flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:23)

Some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom (Matthew 16:28).

It’s been a lot longer than one generation. Jesus made a mistake.

I’ve already covered this general topic at least three times: including twice with other Bible-Bashing atheists or agnostics:

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

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

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

But I was just made aware of an online copy of a master’s thesis on this topic by a friend of mine, David Palm, entitled “The Signs of His Coming”: for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois (1993). He wrote it as an evangelical Protestant, later became a Catholic, and recently noted that he would change nothing in it. I thought it would be very instructive to delve into that to give more thorough and researched answers to Bob’s cynically skeptical assertions above. Palm summarizes (his words in green henceforth):

Our view is that the predictions of Mark 13:5-29 [parallel passage to Matthew 24] depict events leading up to and surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and not some mixture of Jerusalem’s demise and the parousia . 4 Instead of mingling the destruction of the Temple and the parousia in his answer to the disciple’s query, Jesus clearly demarcates the two. Verses 5-29 concern the events leading up to the Jewish War, culminating in the destruction of the Temple. Jesus declares that, “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (v.30). But then, switching topics to discuss the time of his parousia he states, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (v.32). The disciples are told to watch diligently for this event because, unlike the fall of Jerusalem, it may be a long time in coming and will not be accompanied by such remarkable signs. Thus the two events, which were mingled in the disciple’s minds, are separated and expounded individually by Jesus. (pp. 4-6)

Palm finds clues in the text of an interpretation other than the end times:

[W]hy would the elect need to be concerned to flee to the mountains [Mt 24:16; Mk 13:14] if the parousia and the end of time were to occur “immediately” after that tribulation [Mt 24:29-31; Mk 13:24-26]? And why would it matter if their flight was in the winter, if their ultimate deliverance was so close at hand [Mt 24:20; Mk 13:18]? . . . In the same vein, the statement that, “those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning . . . and never to be equaled again,” (v.19) [Mt 24:21] may be somewhat hyperbolic if applied to the Jewish War, but makes little sense if applied to a final catastrophe that precedes the end of the world. If some Great Tribulation at the end of history is portrayed here, then it goes without saying that its severity will not be equaled again. (pp. 14-15)

Another significant change in the text, Palm argues (p. 28), is in the switch from the terminology of “those days” (Mt 24:19, 22 [2], 29; Mk 13:17, 19, 24, RSV) — i.e., plural –or “days” (Mk 13:20 [2]) to “that day” or “day” (Mt 24:36, 42, 50; Mk 13:32): the latter referring to the last day or the final judgment. Palm adds:

Jesus had already spoken of “that day” in connection with the universal day of judgment at the end of all things (Matt 7:22; 11:22). 48 It seems likely that he is speaking of that same event here. This is borne out further by Matthew’s insertion of the parables of the talents (25:14-30) and of the sheep and goats (25:31-46) with their depiction of eternal punishment. (p. 29)

The two separate sections of the discourse differ in how events (or lack thereof) are described:

There is no set time frame, such as one generation, in which this will take place; instead, “not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father knows the time,” (v.32) and, “you do not know when that time will come” (v.33). They need to “stay alert ” (vv.33) and “keep watch” (v.35), presumably because the long delay and lack of signs could cause them to become lackadaisical in their faith. The first section is dominated by signs that the disciples are to look for and act upon, because all will certainly take place very shortly. The second section, on the other hand, assumes that there may be a long delay before the Lord’s coming. The disciples are told that patient watchfulness is paramount, “because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn” (v.35). The parousia will not be preceded by signs as will the destruction of Jerusalem. There is no corollary in this section to the parable of the fig tree. Whereas earlier the disciples are bidden to look around and see the wars, earthquakes, famines, persecution, spread of the gospel and finally the abomination of desolation, which all point to Jerusalem’s imminent downfall, here they are given no signs that will evidence the parousia but are instead told only to “watch” (vv.34-35). The Master can come back at any time and if his servants are not looking for him they will be caught unaware (v.36). Whereas Jesus tells them “everything ahead of time” (v.23) about the fall of Jerusalem he gives them no details at all about what signs might precede his parousia. (pp. 29-30)

Matthew has made all of this even more explicit by including a number of parables to heighten the contrast between the soon-coming destruction of Jerusalem and the potentially distant parousia. The second section depicts an almost tranquil scene. Life continues normally—with people “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (24:38), tending their fields and caring for their households (vv.40-41)—right up to the time when they are “taken”. All of this is in contrast to the time preceding the fall of Jerusalem in which the peace is shattered by calamitous events: wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution and a “great tribulation”. And while there will be ample time for some to flee to the mountains before Jerusalem’s downfall (v.16), the people in the latter section are taken totally by surprise, for the Son of Man comes like a “thief” (v.43), 49 Again, there is no fixing of a time frame such as “this generation” in which the parousia must take place. Rather, the parable of the two servants shows that a long delay is anticipated, for the wicked servant schemes to himself, “My master is staying away a long time” (v.48). The parable of the ten virgins (25:1-13) again highlights the possibility of long delay. Both the “wise” and “foolish” virgins fall asleep because “the bridegroom was a long time coming” (v.5) . The same is true of the parable of the talents (25:14-30); the master returns after a “long time” (v.19). So we find that while a transition between the near and distant future in vv.5-31 does not readily present itself, we find just such a transition in v.32ff. All of the material that follows assumes that the parousia may be far in the future. (pp. 30-32)

Palm cites Old Testament analogies of the mingling of historical, place-bound events and the last day:

[W]e again see imagery of almost cosmic proportions attached to events that occur within history. In an oracle concerning judgment on Nineveh (ca. 615 B.C.), Nahum says:

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him. [Nahum 1:2-6]

Micah says of God’s coming in judgment against Samaria and Jerusalem (ca. 722 and 701 B.C.):

Look! The Lord is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads the high places of the earth. The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope. [Micah 1:3-4]

In both of these passages we have a blend of the universal and the local. Nahum states that “the earth and all who live in it” tremble when the Lord comes in judgment (1:5), and yet the oracle is very specifically confined to Nineveh (cf. 1:1, 8, 11, 14). And Micah calls all the nations of the earth to account (1:2), even though God’s vengeance is relegated in this instance to Judea and Samaria (1: 5-6). (pp. 57-58)

In Ezekiel political upheaval and impending judgment is portrayed as signs among the heavenly bodies:

When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars. I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you; I will bring darkness over your land, declares the Sovereign Lord. [Ezek 32:7-8]

We see in the passages cited above evidence that descriptions of celestial signs are not found exclusively in passages that deal with universal disaster. Rather, it appears that the ancient Hebrew used such phrases idiomatically, much as we might speak of a particularly bad event in our life as a time when “the world came to an end,” or when “my world came crashing down,” or perhaps as “a dark, dark day.” (pp. 58-59)

In several places, a judgment on Israel, and specifically the destruction of Jerusalem, is described as if it were the destruction of the whole world. For instance, Deut 32:22 says, “For a fire has been kindled by my wrath, one that burns to the realm of death below. It will devour the earth and its harvests and set afire the foundations of the mountains.”   Here the judgment that will fall on Israel if she forsakes the Covenant is depicted as engulfing the entire earth. (pp. 59-60)

In Mark 13:24-27, Jesus uses language replete with references to the Old Testament prophets. Although the majority of scholars have concluded that his statements must be taken literally, we believe that the evidence cited above demonstrates that it was common for the Hebrew prophets to speak of calamitous events within history using the language of cosmic doom. Thus, it seems entirely reasonable that Jesus also could speak of an event as monumental as the fall of Jerusalem using the extravagant imagery of the prophets, without intending his words to be interpreted literally. And the context of the Olivet Discourse seems to bear out our conclusion that the parousia is not in view until Mark 13:32. (p. 73)

Palm notes how “cosmic events” were often used symbolically to denote the fall of cities or nations in the Old Testament:

[T]his language in its original Old Testament context refers not to actual astronomical phenomena that signal the end of the world, but to the fall of nations within history. It is probably safe to say that the authors never intended their language to be taken in a strictly literal sense. The sun, moon, and stars symbolize what is immovable and steadfast; when they are darkened or cast down it symbolizes great change and upheaval. In the Old Testament it is the kind of language used first and foremost to refer to the downfall of nations: Babylon (Isa 13:10), Edom (Isa 34:4), Egypt (Ezek 32:7), and Israel (Jer 4:23; Joel 2:10; Mic 3:6). Thus, its application is primarily to the political, not the astronomical, sphere. Luke adds that in addition to, “signs in the sun, moon and stars” the nations of the earth, “will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea” (Luke 21:25). . . . But the background to this verse, Isa 17:12, says, “Oh, the raging of many nations—they rage like the raging sea! Oh the uproar of the peoples—they roar like the roaring of great waters!” It seems clear that here the churning of the ocean is an apocalyptic symbol for national upheaval. . . . 

We contend, then, that the darkening of sun and moon, and falling of the stars have nothing to do with literal disturbances of the heavenly bodies but rather is a metaphorical way of describing the fall of a nation. (pp. 105-106)

Palm tackles a passage that atheists and pother biblical skeptics feel to be an ironclad proof that He made an error:

Jesus solemnly affirms that, “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” We have already responded to the many different ways that exegetes have attempted to evade the force of this verse. But we believe that the intent is clear. Jesus expected the whole of what he had predicted prior to this verse to take place within the lifetimes of his contemporaries. This verse sets the definitive terminus ad queum for the events described, including the coming of the Son of man on the clouds. But it is important to note that our view in no way assumes that there is no future parousia presented in the Olivet Discourse.

As we have argued at length above, Jesus addresses two subjects in the Olivet Discourse; the fall of Jerusalem and his Second Coming. But he does so separately. “But of that day or that hour no one knows” (Mark 13:32; RSV) . With this statement we believe Jesus introduces a new topic, his parousia at the end of history. Matthew expands this material (Matt 24:36ff.) and in doing so makes more clear the contrast. The fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple will be preceded by clearly visible signs and will take place within the lifetimes of the disciples. The parousia, on the other hand, will come like a thief, completely unannounced, and may be a long time in the future. (pp. 131-132)

It’s clear, then, I submit, that the interpretation of these passages is not nearly as simple as Bob the Bible-Basher makes out.

Matthew 10:23 (RSV) When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.

Bob highlights this passage as supposedly referring to the Second Coming of Jesus very soon: in the disciples’ lifetime? But is that necessarily the meaning here? The entire context of the saying (chapter 10) is not about the last days: it is about the present age. There is nothing whatsoever about Jesus coming, nothing about seeing “the sign of the Son of man in heaven” or “the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Mt 24:30).

Moreover, there are different senses of Jesus “coming” to the disciples. Jesus stated at the Last Supper:

John 14:18-19, 28 “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. [19] Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. . . . [28] You heard me say to you, `I go away, and I will come to you.’ . . .

What happened in “a little while” was that Jesus was resurrected and came to, or appeared to the disciples: which was indeed during the time that they were still evangelizing in the towns of Israel. Thus, in the same book, a post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples is recounted (Jn 19:20-23) and the word “came” is used  to describe it: “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came” (Jn 20:24). We see the same terminology again, two verses later:

John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.”

A similar reference appears also in Matthew, referring to another post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus: “And Jesus came . . .” (Mt 28:18).

Matthew 16:28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

This is another alleged “problem verse” that Bob submits as proof that Jesus was wrong, and in error (a thing that Christians believe is not possible). Presbyterian Bible scholar Keith Mathison offers a plausible explanation of it:

In order to come to an understanding of this saying, we must again be reminded that when Jesus speaks of the “coming of the Son of Man,” he is purposefully alluding to Daniel 7:13–14. And again we must recall that the coming of the Son of Man in Daniel 7 is set within a judgment scene before the throne of God (cf. Dan. 7:9–10). Unlike the saying in Matthew 10:23, the saying in 16:28 is found in the immediate context of words regarding judgment (v. 27). The point that Jesus is making when he says that there are some standing here who will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom is that there are some to whom he is speaking who will not die before the prophecy of Daniel 7 is fulfilled, in other words, before Jesus receives the kingdom from his Father.

A comparison of Matthew 16:28 with its parallels in Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:27 lends support to this interpretation. All three sayings are set within the same context immediately before the Transfiguration, yet whereas Matthew speaks of some living long enough to see the coming of the Son of Man, Mark and Luke speak of some living long enough to see the coming of the kingdom of God. The “coming of the Son of Man” then is simply another way of saying “the coming of the kingdom of God.” It is the assumption that the words “coming of the Son of Man” must mean “Second Coming” that has caused much of the confusion. Once we realize that Jesus is simply using a phrase from Daniel 7 to allude to the whole prophecy, texts such as Matthew 16:28 are much more readily understood. Jesus was not predicting that his Second Coming would occur within the lifetime of some of his hearers. He wasn’t speaking of the Second Coming at all.v He was referring to the fulfillment of Daniel 7, his reception of the kingdom from the Father, and this was fulfilled within the lifetime of some of his hearers (cf. Matt. 28:18). (“Some Standing Here Will Not Taste Death — The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology,” Ligonier Ministries, 5-14-12)

Of course, such extensive cross-referencing, exegesis, and systematic theology is far beyond Bible-Bashing Bob’s capacity to grasp: which shortcoming has been glaringly obvious throughout these 58 refutations of his critical assertions.

But that is no skin off of our backs. His ignorance and ridiculous, foolish presumption of “knowledge of the Bible and Christianity” doesn’t change the fact that there are students of the Bible who have an infinitely deeper and more accurate comprehension of the Bible than Bob does.

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Photo credit: Daniel Arrhakis, Jesus – The Second Coming (2018) [Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0 license]

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September 14, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like he himself: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 56 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

Bob writes in his article, “Christians Reveal! How to Defeat Christianity” (5-13-20):

0. What evidence would prove a resurrection?

Koukl wants to establish the ground rules first. To prove a resurrection, he says, you’d need to show that (1) someone was dead and then (2) later alive. With that, you could claim a resurrection.

But read the gospels carefully, and you don’t find that! Matthew and Mark make clear that no men witnessed the death, so they don’t satisfy the first requirement. It’s true that women disciples saw Jesus dead, but conservative scholars like Koukl emphasize that women at that time were unreliable witnesses. (They do this to defend their argument that women finding the empty tomb was surprising and therefore historically accurate. I respond to that here.)

Apologists can clumsily salvage their argument by pointing out that Luke and John don’t have this problem. With these gospels, the male disciples stay to witness the death. But by pointing this out, they’ve created a new problem, that the Bible is contradictory and therefore unreliable.

First of all, the Gospel of John, of course, notes the fact that John the disciple was present at the crucifixion (Jn 19:25-27). That is sufficient in and of itself. The others do not have to mention this for it to be true. From whence comes this notion that they need to do that? It certainly is no requirement of the accepted laws of logic. The other Gospels simply mention (or highlight) the fact that women followers of Jesus — including Jesus’ mother — were present.

Why is that? We don’t know, but in my opinion (speculation), I think it is a sort of tribute to the loyalty and courage of women. I think that’s also why Jesus revealed Himself first to women after He rose from the dead, also to break up the chauvinistic notions prevalent at the time. That’s the kind of thing He habitually did.

Luke 23:47-49 (RSV) notes that a sympathetic Roman centurion and “all the multitudes” and “all his acquaintances” were present. Obviously, “all” is not literal, but this is often the case in Scripture. The ancient Jews did not think in linear rationalistic terms as we do today (influenced by classical Greek thought). Expressions and ways of thinking were often general, non-literal, or examples of hyperbole (as I have written about more than once with regard to the word “all”).

Even if Matthew and Mark had not mentioned that no men witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and/or His dead body, it wouldn’t prove that no men did, or (more specifically) that these authors thought no men did. That would require flat-out assertions to the effect of “no men were present at the crucifixion” or “no man saw Jesus’ dead body.” Or, “only women . . . ” And of course that is not the case.

So it’s the usual wishful thinking of the atheist, hoping for a contradiction where none is in fact demonstrable. Will they ever tire of this silly practice? I certainly tire of reiterating this elementary logical aspect and refuting atheist non-comprehension (or ignorance) of it times without number.

Furthermore, all four Gospels mention Joseph of Arimathea: a Pharisee sympathetic to Jesus, as definitely having seen Jesus dead (implied: also a witness to His crucifixion and death), since He laid Him in his own tomb (see Mt 27:57-60; Mk 15:43-46; Lk 23:50-53; Jn 19:38-40). John also mentions that Nicodemus: another Pharisee who admired Jesus, “came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes” (Jn 19:39), and helped to properly bury Jesus’ body, according to Jewish custom.

That’s an awful lot of men, for Bob to make the asinine claim that men were lacking as witnesses. And these include Joseph of Arimathea, according to Matthew and Mark; yet Bob claimed:Matthew and Mark make clear that no men witnessed the death, . . . the Bible is contradictory and therefore unreliable.” Huh?! It’s as if Bob lives in an alternate universe, where the laws of logic don’t apply.

Bob, however, after making these silly claims, and asserting contradiction in the Bible where there is none, has to (for the sake of ironic comedic relief) contradict himself (as so very often):

There’s another problem. In his description of the burial, Koukl mentioned the application of spices by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus and the wrapping of the body with strips of linen. This comes from John. 

All the Gospels mention Joseph of Arimathea doing this. John adds the additional person of Nicodemus (not in a contradictory fashion, but a logically complimentary one).

But both points conflict with claims that the famous fourteenth-century Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus in that (1) the image on that shroud doesn’t show the enormous quantity of spices, and (2) the Shroud is a single large rectangle rather than strips (which was the Jewish custom  according to John 19:40b).

The Shroud of Turin: marvelous relic though it may be, or is purported to be (one which I believe in), is — first of all — not required belief for Catholics or any other Christians. Secondly, it’s irrelevant to this question, which is dealing with the biblical accounts and historical evidences. Thirdly, as I’ve noted for years myself, the Shroud need not necessarily be the actual burial cloth of Christ. It can simply be a piece of cloth from His time that has a miraculous image of Him on it.

People could (again, logically speaking) simply be mistaken as to whether it was Jesus’ actual burial cloth. There may also very well be other proposed explanations to reconcile the Shroud with the biblical accounts of the burial wrappings of Jesus. None come to mind, but it doesn’t follow that they don’t exist.

In any event, introducing this non sequitur into the discussion doesn’t annihilate the fact that Joseph of Arimathea was mentioned as a male witness (and follower of Jesus) in the two Gospels that Bob claimed mentioned no such witness. That is the only contradiction present in this discussion, and it is because Bob foolishly stated: “Matthew and Mark make clear that no men witnessed the death.” Now, I can see that Bob might quibble that, “Joseph didn’t actually witness Jesus’ moment of death on the cross.”

To which I reply: “the accounts don’t deny that He watched Jesus die, so he may very well have seen that, seeing that he was present when it was time to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.” Secondly, it would seem that this detail doesn’t bother Bob, since he wrote: “women disciples saw Jesus dead.” If that’s all he thinks is required, then Joseph certainly met that criterion.

Conclusion?: Bob is dead-wrong: as he so often is, when he attempts “biblical exegesis.” This is what happens when one approaches the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog.

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Photo credit: A Bearer at the Sepulchre (Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus), by Juan de Valmaseda (1487-1576) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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September 13, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like he himself: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 55 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

*****

Bob tries to outdo even his own rock-bottom standards for Bible “exegesis” [choke] in his article, “Responding to “10 Myths About God” (2 of 3)” (11-26-14):

What you do see in the New Testament is the divinity of Jesus evolving with time. Sort the books chronologically and see the evolution. In Romans, Jesus was “appointed the Son of God” at his resurrection. In Mark, Jesus becomes divine earlier, at his baptism. In Matthew and Luke, it’s at his birth. And in John, since forever. 

This is one of those hyper-ridiculous statements from atheists and Bob in particular, as an extraordinarily ignorant and self-deluded one, that makes a Christian apologist feel like a mosquito in a nudist camp: “where to begin?” But I shall barge ahead.

First, he spews this nonsense that the doctrine of Jesus evolves chronologically as the New Testament books are written. Like all good lies, this has a kernel of truth. All Christian doctrines develop, but that is a self-consistent notion, as opposed to the (not just biological) notion of evolution, where a thing can become a completely other thing. The latter does not occur in the New Testament, as regards the deity of Christ. He is always presented as God incarnate, and nothing in the New Testament denies that He is God in the flesh.

But let’s play Bob’s game for a moment and see what happens. I will deal with the Romans passage shortly. 2nd Thessalonians is one of the earliest New Testament books (estimated 52-53 AD), whereas Romans was written around 57-58. So, according to Bob, who thinks that Paul in Romans didn’t know that Jesus was God from all eternity (as indeed, God must be, by definition), 2 Thessalonians must have an even more primitive notion — and lack of knowledge and comprehension of — Jesus as God. But this is untrue. It teaches that Jesus judges the world in His Second Coming:

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 (RSV) . . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, [8] inflicting vengeance . . . 

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, 8 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, [2] not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. [3] Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, . . . [8] And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming.

Now how does that prove He is necessarily God? Well, for one who (unlike Bible-Basher Bob) actually studies and understands the Bible, it is comprehended that the Old Testament teaches that it is God Who does this at the end of the age:

1 Samuel 2:10 …The LORD will judge the ends of the earth… (cf. Gen 18:25; 1 Chr 16:33; Ps 7:11; 9:8; 96:10; Is 2:4; 33:22)

Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (cf. 3:17; Ezek 18:30; 33:20; Joel 3:12)

Isaiah 11:4 …he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. [referring to the Messiah, Who is God]

Isaiah 40:10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. (cf. 40:5; Ps 96:13; 98:9)

Isaiah 66:15-16 For behold, the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the stormwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. [16] For by fire will the LORD execute judgment, and by his sword, upon all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many. (cf. 59:20; Joel 2:11; Zech 2:10)

Conclusion: Jesus is God, and this is taught in 2 Thessalonians: one of the earliest book in the New Testament. There is no “evolution” in this respect. And that’s not the only evidence. Even more compelling is the fact that Jesus is called kurios (“Lord Jesus Christ”) 12 times in the book. This is, of course, calling Him God, since God the Father is called kurios many times in the New Testament. 1st Thessalonians was written at the same time and it also refers to “Lord Jesus Christ” or “Lord Jesus” another twelve times.

Yet Bob wants to pretend that St. Paul thinks Jesus became God at His Resurrection. He refers to this passage as his supposes “proof”:

Romans 1:4 and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

The key to understanding this passage is the clause “in power.” The Greek scholar A. T. Robertson explains the passage:

Who was declared (tou orisqento). Articular participle (first aorist passive) of orizw for which verb see on Luke 22:22 ; Acts 2:23 . He was the Son of God in his preincarnate state ( 2 Corinthians 8:9 ; Philippians 2:6 ) and still so after his Incarnation (verse Romans 1:3 , “of the seed of David”), but it was the Resurrection of the dead (ex anastasew nekrwn, the general resurrection implied by that of Christ) that definitely marked Jesus off as God’s Son because of his claims about himself as God’s Son and his prophecy that he would rise on the third day. This event (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1 ff.) gave God’s seal “with power” (en dunamei), “in power,” declared so in power ( 2 Corinthians 13:4 ). The Resurrection of Christ is the miracle of miracles. “The resurrection only declared him to be what he truly was” (Denney).

Greek linguist Marvin Vincent adds: “He was declared or instated mightily; in a striking, triumphant manner, through His resurrection.” So as usual, the passage Bob simply mentions as proof of his idiotic interpretations, means nothing of the sort. It basically means, “The resurrection proved that Jesus was Who He claimed to be [God].” And Jesus is again called kurios in the same manner as in the two epistles to the Thessalonians 18 times in this book as well. Both God the Father and God the Son, Jesus, are called kurios in one passage:

Romans 10:9-13 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10] For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. [11] The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” [12] For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. [13] For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:13 cites Joel 2:32: “And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the LORD shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.” Thus, the NT is applying OT passages about God directly to Jesus.

Having disposed of this nonsense, let’s see what Bob thinks about the Gospels and the divinity of Jesus. He claims that in Mark, Jesus “becomes divine . . . at his baptism. Does the text support this? Nope:

Mark 1:9-11 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. [10] And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; [11] and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

How in the world can any rational person think that this proves that Mark thought that Jesus became God at His baptism? God the Father simply calls Jesus His Son. So what! It would be like a new father (which one of my sons will become in less than two months) saying when his son was three months old: “this is my beloved son, who greatly pleases me” and someone interpreting that to mean that the child became his son at three months because he said that. It’s ridiculous; beneath contempt as an “argument.”

Bob claims that in Matthew and Luke Jesus “becomes divine . . . at his birth.” This is equally ludicrous. The texts say no such thing. They simply never do; and if Bob claims otherwise, then let him produce the text, instead of making his typical idiotic summary with no textual argument or serious exegetical effort. What Matthew does state is that Jesus’ birth is a fulfillment of Micah 5:2, which was understood by “all the chief priests and scribes” to refer to the Messiah (Christ in Greek: see Mt 2:1-6).

The New Testament citation of Micah 5:2 here doesn’t include its final portion: “whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” The Hebrew word for “from ancient days” here (KJV: “from everlasting”) is olam; it’s often used to describe God the Father’s eternal existence (e.g., Ps 41:13; 90:2; 93:2; 106:48; Is 40:28). If this word means “eternal and uncreated” when applied to God the Father (YHWH), then it must mean the same thing when it is applied to Jesus. This shows that the Messiah, Who is God, was eternal, as does another famous Old Testament messianic passage:

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

God the Father is also called “Mighty God” (the same phrase in Hebrew: El Gibbor): Dt 10:17; Neh 9:32; Is 10:21; Jer 32:18. The word for “everlasting,” ad, is applied to God the Father in Isaiah 57:15.

Jesus, then, obviously didn’t become God at His birth. Even though the final portion of Micah 5:2 wasn’t cited by Matthew, of course the Jews knew the entire passage, since it was a prominent messianic text. Matthew, like the other Gospels, consistently teaches that Jesus is God (therefore, eternal, since God is that by definition), as I showed at length in my reply yesterday to yet more errors and whoppers from Bob. If He’s eternal (which is made explicit in John, as even Bob admits), then He cannot have “become divine” at His birth.

As for Luke, proof is present showing that the author didn’t think Jesus became God when He was born, since Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist calls him “Lord” (kurios) — which term is massively applied to God the Father also — even before He was born:

Luke 1:43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

As for Bob’s silly, goofy “chronological” view that the Bible only gradually comes to learn that Jesus is God, St. Paul wrote in Colossians: estimated to be written at the same time as Luke: 

Colossians 1:15-17 He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; [16] for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. [17] He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The Greek for “firstborn” is prototokos, which means “preeminence” and “eternal preexistence,” according to Greek lexicons. It does not mean “first-created.” Apart from being untrue linguistically, this heretical interpretation is contradicted in the next two verses, which inform us that Christ “created all things,” and that He “is before all things.” The same book states about Jesus:

Colossians 2:9 For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily,

Case closed. Another pitiful argument from Bob is exposed for the worthless piece of anti-biblical, anti-Christian lying propaganda that it is: ignorant, cynical, and plain old stupid.

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Photo credit: Christ Crowned with Thorns (c. 1633-1639), by Matthias Stom (fl. 1615-1649) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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