The following is an extended Facebook conversation I had online. Someone had asked on a community Facebook page “If you could ask God any one question and you knew He’d give you an answer right now, what would you ask?” I answered many of the responses in that thread, but here is an ongoing discussion that I thought I would post here on my blog for the benefit of those who are in similar conversations:
(Him) Why do you punish people for your own incompetent?
(Me) God wants all people to be saved and to reach repentance. That is clear from the Bible. Many people, however, don’t seem to want to be saved for whatever reason… So God will not force them into heaven against their will. C.S. Lewis said “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, Thy will be done, and those to whom God says, in the end, Thy will be done. All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”
(Him) well why should anyone believe what the Bible says? Is it the word of God because it says in it that it is the word of God??? Well that’s circular!! Isn’t it???
(Me) that is a great question! Your initial question was why does God punish people for his own incompetence? Where did you get the idea that God punishes people? Did you get it from the Bible? Maybe you got it from other people who got it from the Bible… By the way, I did not claim that the Bible is the word of God because it says it’s the word of God. Yes, that would be circular reasoning. However the Bible is not one book, but a library of books, 66 books written by 40 different authors over 1,600 years, on three continents, and in three languages, written by people from all walks of life. Christianity is not true because the Bible is the word of God. Christianity stands or falls on these three points: the deity, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth was undoubtedly a historical person. The crucifixion of Jesus on a Roman cross is one of the best attested facts of ancient history. We have a set of facts about Jesus, the historical person, that are best explained by his resurrection. Many other theories exist to explain the facts, but none of them accounts for all the data we have like the resurrection does. The Bible is a reliable set of documents regarding first century events in Palestine. It contains early testimony, eyewitness testimony, enemy testimony, fulfilled prophecy, and embarrassing testimony, which is a sign of historicity. So we have good reason to trust the Bible, it has been corroborated by extra biblical sources and archeology repeatedly. We have more manuscript evidence for the New Testament, by far, than for any other book from ancient history, so those are some of the reasons I can think of off of the top of my head why anyone should believe what the Bible says…
(Him) I’m willing to go over everything and examine your evidence by putting aside all I know about every point that you brought up. But before we get to that, you have to prove and convince me that the God of bible exists, before you can tell me you or anyone else knows what he says or what he wants.Are you up for the challenge? Just couple of points: We absolutely don’t know who the authors of most books are, there is almost no contemporary records of Jesus time, the existence of one individual named Jesus is still questionable to me, and then we get to miracles that can’t be confirmed. I want to know what are your evidence for all that you claim. But first give me your Best argument for existence of God of bible.
(Me) thank you for being open-minded and willing to consider evidence and arguments! Two arguments for God’s existence that are most convincing to me personally. The Kalam Cosmological argument and the argument from design. The Kalam Cosmological argument states that whatever begins to exist has a cause, the universe began to exist, therefore, the universe has a cause. The effect, the universe, tells us something about what the cause must be like. Since there was an absolute beginning to space, time and matter (i.e Big Bang), it’s reasonable to conclude that the cause of the universe must be spaceless, timeless and immaterial. This cause must also be personal in order to choose to create, intelligent to create such a fine-tuned universe, and powerful to create out of nothing. A spaceless, timeless, immaterial, personal, intelligent, powerful Being is exactly what Christians call “God.” Additionally, biological life, and our solar system, show evidence of design. In 2009 Astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross prepared a list of 501 parameters that any planet or comparable site within the universe would have to possess in order to support bacterial life for 90 days or less. The Probability of all 501 parameters being met in a single planet is 1 in 10 to the 311th power! Keep in mind, scientists generally consider anything with a probability of less than 1 in 10 to the 70th power to be operationally impossible. There are only 10 to the 80th atoms in the universe. These statistics give evidence of design. Design requires a designer. Natural selection, however, is blind (has no forethought), and does not actually design anything. I’m not denying that natural selection exists, or is a concept that is operative in our world, rather I’m saying that it doesn’t design anything. It only selects organisms with features that are compatible with our environment, and those features give the organism a survival advantage. Natural selection explains the “survival of the species”, not the “arrival of the species”. There must be a population of organisms to select from in order for natural selection to work. DNA is more complex than any computer programming language that man has devised (per Bill Gates). I am a programmer, and I know that randomness does not generate working programs. If I were to scramble my source code, the program would quickly become non-functional. Software programs come from programmers, from their minds. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that DNA, which is highly ordered and complex, has its origin in a mind, not from unguided processes. With regards to the existence of Jesus, there are plenty of historical records that corroborate his existence. How many non-Christian sources are there that mention Jesus? Including Josephus, there are ten known non-Christian writers who mention Jesus within 150 years of his life. By contrast, over the same 150 years, there are nine non-Christian sources who mention Tiberius Caesar, the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus. So discounting all the Christian sources, Jesus is actually mentioned by one more source than the Roman emperor. If you include the Christian sources, authors mentioning Jesus outnumber those mentioning Tiberius 43 to 10. Even Bart Ehrman, the skeptical New Testament scholar from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says “This is not even an issue for scholars of antiquity…. The reason for thinking Jesus existed is because he is abundantly attested in early sources…. If you want to go where the evidence goes, I think that atheists have done themselves a disservice by jumping on the bandwagon of mythicism, because frankly, it makes you look foolish to the outside world. If that’s what you’re going to believe, you just look foolish.”. Jesus’s crucifixion on a Roman cross in the first century is one of the most best attested facts of ancient history. Again this is corroborated by Bart Ehrman. Those are just a few things I can think of off the top of my head. Thanks for being willing to engage in this important topic! Have a great day!
(Him) Thank you very much for your response. All I ask in return is intellectual honesty. I’m sorry to say that you give me the awful impression that you have never heard Any arguments made against these two arguments that you brought up. I will point out only to a few of many problems with these arguments.
(Me) you’re welcome. I will strive to be intellectually honest! Actually, many of the rebuttals you’ve provided are not new information to me. I will do my best to give reasonable replies to all you’ve brought up.
(Him) While Kalam Successfully modified an earlier version of cosmological argument presented by 13th century philosopher Thomas Aquinas, By arguing that everything that “began” must have a cause, There are still issues with this argument.
(Me) The source of the Kalam Cosmological argument is al-Ghazali, a medieval Muslim theologian from the 12th century who lived in Persia, or modern day Iran.
(Me) However, hopefully you agree that the “form” of the cosmological argument is “air-tight” (i.e. if the premises are true, the conclusion necessarily follows)?
(Him) 1) Has a great special pleading that claims the prime mover is exempt from needing the cause. Because it claims that the prime mover was always there. So if a prime mover can be always there why can’t the universe to have been always there?
(Me) First off, the Kalam Cosmological argument does not actually include God (or a prime mover) in the argument. It just says that that whatever begins to exist must have a cause. (premise 1) Do you agree with premise 1? My understanding of your response is that you don’t take issue with premise 1, but rather with premise 2 (“the universe began to exist”). I would agree with you that the only other alternative to a “prime mover” (uncreated Creator) is that the universe (or the multi-verse) has always existed. However, you yourself are committing the same fallacy you’re accusing me of – the fallacy of special pleading – you cite one more example of something that might “have been always there” (the universe). I don’t believe it is special pleading to conclude that something or someone must’ve always existed. Otherwise nothing would exist. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) posed the question well, “The first question that should rightly be asked is, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?'”
(Him) A mistake that you are making is that you said “there was an Absolute beginning to space, time and matter”
This is not correct.
Our current understanding of big bang theory only points out to our local space time in the matter. I don’t think any scientist would say that this is absolute. We don’t know currently what was there before times zero of our local time. Perhaps another universe ended and our local universe started!
And who’s to say this has not happened millions of times?
All we know is that our local knowledge is limiting to time 0 at the big bang point. Just like every other time, we may gain more knowledge and understand what happened before that.
(Me) Hmmm… “perhaps…”, “who’s to say”. You’re right about one thing, when you start with “perhaps…” or “who’s to say”, you can spin any yarn you want. But then comes the hard part: giving reasons why anyone should take your science fiction story seriously. It’s not my job to disprove your “something from nothing” fair tale. It’s your job to prove it. You haven’t done that. Now, I will give some evidence that the universe in fact began to exist.
- The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics – the First Law of Thermodynamics states that the total amount of energy in the universe is constant. In other words, the universe has only a finite amount of energy. Like gas in a running car’s gas tank or energy stored in the battery in a flashlight, if the car is still running or the flashlight is still giving light, you know that it hasn’t been “on” forever. It must’ve been “turned on” at a point in the finite past. In the same way, the universe still has energy (e.g. our star, the sun, is still shining), so we know that it has not been here eternally. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is also called the law of entropy, which essentially says that in nature, things tend to go from order to disorder. Your car falls apart; your house falls apart; your body falls apart. But if the universe is becoming less ordered, then where did the original order come from? Since we still have some order left—just like we still have some usable energy left—the universe cannot be eternal, because if it were, we would have reached complete disorder (entropy) by now.
- The Universe Is Expanding – General Relativity predicted an expanding universe. In 1929 Edwin Hubble showed that the light from distant galaxies is systematically shifted toward the red end of the spectrum. This red-shift was taken to be a Doppler effect indicating that the light sources were receding in the line of sight. What Hubble had discovered was the expansion of the universe predicted by General Relativity.
- Radiation from the Big Bang – discovered by accident in 1965 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. This turned out to be one of the greatest discoveries of the last century and won them Nobel Prizes. They had discovered the afterglow from the Big Bang fireball explosion, which was predicted by scientists as early as 1948. If the Big Bang actually occurred, scientists believed that we should see slight variations (or ripples) in the temperature of the cosmic background radiation that Penzias and Wilson had discovered. These temperature ripples enabled matter to congregate by gravitational attraction into galaxies. In 1989 NASA launched a satellite named COBE for Cosmic Background Explorer. When the project leader, astronomer George Smoot, announced COBE’s findings in 1992, he said, “If you’re religious, it’s like looking at God.” Cambridge astronomer Stephen Hawking called the findings “the most important discovery of the century, if not of all time.” COBE not only found the ripples, but the ripples show that the explosion and expansion of the universe was precisely tweaked to cause just enough matter to congregate to allow galaxy formation, but not enough to cause the universe to collapse back on itself. (note – this is evidence against your speculation above that “perhaps another universe ended and our local universe started”.) Any slight variation one way or the other, and none of us would be here to tell about it. In fact, the ripples are so exact (down to one part in one hundred thousand) that Smoot called them the “machining marks from the creation of the universe” and the “fingerprints of the maker.”
- Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity – this theory was the beginning of the end for the idea that the universe is eternal. The theory demands an absolute beginning for time, space, and matter. It shows that time, space, and matter are co-relative. That is, they are interdependent—you can’t have one without the others. From General Relativity, scientists predicted and then found the expanding universe, the radiation afterglow, and the great galaxy seeds that were precisely tweaked to allow the universe to form into its present state.
In the book “The Face of Chaos” by Victor J. Stenger, a physicist who taught at the University of Hawaii, writes “the universe exploded out of nothingness.”
I would also like to present philosophical evidence that the universe is not eternal.
- An infinite number of days has no end.
- But today is the end day of history (history being a collection of all days).
- Therefore, there were not an infinite number of days before today (i.e., time had a beginning).
Also, look up the argument/analogy called Hilbert’s Hotel, named for German mathematician David Hilbert.
Finally, I want to address your hinting of the concept of multiple universes. You state “perhaps another universe ended and our local universe started! And who’s to say this has not happened millions of times?”. Additionally in rebuttal against the design/fine tuning argument, you state “just because we exist in this universe doesn’t mean if the parameters were different another universe with another sort of existence couldn’t have been.”. According to the Multiple Universe Theory, there actually are an infinite number of universes in existence, and we just happen to be lucky enough to be in the universe with the right conditions. There are multiple problems with this multiple-universe explanation. First, and most significantly, there’s no evidence for it! The evidence shows that all of finite reality came into existence with the Big Bang. Finite reality is exactly what we call “the universe.” If other finite realities exist, they’re beyond our ability to detect. No one has ever observed any evidence that such universes may exist. That’s why this multiple universe idea is nothing more than a metaphysical concoction—a fairy tale built on blind faith—detached from reality. even if other universes could exist, they would need finetuning to get started just as our universe did (recall the extreme precision of the big bang I presented above). So, positing multiple universes doesn’t eliminate the need for a designer—it multiplies the need for a designer. the Multiple Universe Theory appears to be an attempt to avoid the implications of design.
(Him) 2) I had no point Kalam’s Argument points out to the God of the Bible. Is this another interpretation of the believers to use this argument and inject their preferred God into equation?
(Me) To be fair, I looked back at your original question. You said “give me your Best argument for existence of God of bible”. Strictly speaking, the Kalam argument is not directly an argument for the God of the Bible, it is only one piece of the puzzle. However, if the Kalam argument is valid and the premises are true (beyond a reasonable doubt) then the conclusion necessarily follows and thus evidence has been provided that a “theistic God” exists – a god that is consistent with the monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Islam or Christianity. So, in that case, we’ve narrowed the “possibilities” down to 3. Furthermore, if an uncreated Creator exists, and the existence, deity, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is true, then Christianity is true. Christianity stands on that set of facts: the existence of God, and the deity, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. If any of those can be conclusively proved false, then Christianity is false, and I would be golfing on Sunday mornings rather than going to church!
(Him) 3) Also, if Kalam’s argument was any good, Why is it pointing to one prime mover or one God? Why can’t there be a combination of multiple ever existing group of prime movers who coexisted together? >>> (Me) What you’re raising here is the possibility of polytheism (many gods), like Hinduism teaches. Fair question – so, why does the existence of a theistic God disprove polytheism? It disproves polytheism because, what theists call “God” is an infinite Being, who is not contingent or dependent on anything or anyone else for his existence, and there cannot be more than one infinite Being. To distinguish one being from another, they must differ in some way. If they differ in some way, then one lacks something that the other one has. If one being lacks something that the other one has, then the lacking being is not infinite because an infinite being, by definition, lacks nothing. These other “gods”, if they existed, would still be contingent or dependent on something or someone for their existence. So there can be only one infinite Being. Now one could argue that finite beings (or “gods”) exist that are more powerful than human beings. In fact, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all teach the existence of angels and demons. But that’s not polytheism, which denies that there is a supreme, infinite, eternal Being to whom all creatures owe their existence and to whom all creatures are ultimately accountable. Since theism is true, polytheism must necessarily be false.
(Him) Do you see the problems with Kalam’s argument? >>> (Me) No, I stand just as convinced (beyond a reasonable doubt) as I was prior to reading your rebuttal.
(Him) Find tune universe argument is also flawed.
This is the only University have and we don’t have any other universe to compare to if the variables were slightly different. Just because we exist in this universe doesn’t mean if the parameters were different another universe with another sort of existence couldn’t have been.
It’s very similar to the puddle analogy.
I’m sure you heard of it right?
(Me) Yes, I’m well familiar with it.
(Him) When a puddle wakes up one morning and finds himself perfectly contained in his little universe, he thinks to himself I’m so special, this hole is made perfectly to contain me in it….Please look into the puddle analogy.
(Me) This essentially is a rebuttal to the Anthropic Principle (look it up). The puddle analogy suggests that we are trying to explain why this universe (this puddle) exists. Rather, we’re trying to explain why a “life-permitting” universe exists. The analogy would be asking why puddles exist. Puddles can be any shape or size, so that there is no fine-tuning for puddles to be explained. The analogy collapses.
(Me) I’ve run out of time for today and will continue addressing these issues tomorrow, time permitting.
(Him) – Please remember complexity is not a requirement for a designer.
(Me) complexity (e.g. snowflake) may not be a requirement for a designer, but our experience tells us that specified complexity (e.g. DNA, software code) comes from a mind. For example, when you were a kid, if you walked into your kitchen and a box of Alpha-Bits cereal was knocked over on the table and the Alpha-Bit letters spelled “TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE—MOM”, what would you think? Would you think that message to be the product of mindless natural laws? Of course, not. It would be assumed to be a product of a mind (your Mom). Same thing if you were walking down a beach and saw a heart drawn in the sand with the words “Alice loves Tyler”, would you assume it is the product of wind and erosion? No, you would know with certainty, once again, that a mind drew that message in the sand. Final example, the 4 faces on Mount Rushmore, when you look at those, do you assume they were a product of unguided natural forces (wind, rain, erosion, etc.)? Nope, once again, they find their source in a mind.
Here are several ways that we’re able to use our minds and sense perception to detect something is a product of “intelligent design” rather than unguided natural processes:
- Improbability – odds of occurring by chance are low
- Familiarity/Similarity – think of Mount Rushmore – these are familiar faces to many Americans, also think of the bacterial flagelum’s “outboard motor”, which is similar to outboard motors humans have designed.
- Information Guided – when something is directed and created by way of instructional information, it’s reasonable to conclude an intelligent agent has designed it.
- Goal Direction/Intentionality – We’re able to see the purpose and intentions of the designer.
- Natural Inexplicability – The laws of physics and chemistry do not necessitate its formation nor do they appear to be likely reasons for it.
- Irreducible Complexity – Darwinian evolution requires a gradual and incremental pathway to any finished biological machine. Charles Darwin stated “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down”. We now know that there are organs, systems, and processes in life that fit that description (e.g. the cell, blood clotting). An irreducibly complex system is composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.
- Decision/Choice – Designers make conscious choices between options – their designs often reflect these decisions. The Panda’s thumb – the panda’s thumb works just fine in allowing him to strip bamboo. Maybe pandas don’t need opposable thumbs because they don’t need to write books 🙂
(Him) It is true that natural selection does not deal with the origins of life. >>> (Me) Good to hear that you agree about that 🙂
(Him) For the origins of life you need to look into “abiogenesis” , Please look into that.
(Me) I have looked into abiogenesis, in fact I even referenced it in response (1 week ago) to someone else on this very thread. Here was my response to the questioner who asked “How did life originate?”: “The evidence suggests that abiogenesis (the theory that life originated from non-living material [non-life]) is highly improbable. According to Stephen Meyer, the odds of getting a functional protein of 150 amino acids by chance is no better than 1 in 10 to the 164th power. Now consider that there are 10 to the 80th power elementary particles in the entire universe. So, life could not have originated “on it’s own”. Life shows many evidences of design, therefore the most reasonable conclusion is that life was originated by an intelligent designer, who we call God.”
(Him) I appreciate the fact that you’re trying to validate existence of Jesus (>>> (Me) Thank you), >>> (Him) but I’m waiting for you to tell me who was contemporary to Jesus‘s time who wrote about him? As far as Josephus , most scholars agree that couple of lines he wrote about “the Messiah” could have been a forgery. He talks about multiple different Jesus.
Jesus Ben Ananias “which most likely author of Mark, used to write about the temple story.”
Jesus son of Onias
Jesus the brother of John “who was killed by John”
These two Jesus were priests
Jesus son of Damneus
The most important part of Josephus Writing is the passage in “Testimonium Favianum” Which is the only part perhaps about “ the Jesus “ Is Agreed to be partially or completely a forgery.
Invite you to do more research about this.
(Me) I’d certaintly heard about the accusations that Josephus’s writing about may’ve been altered by Christians later on. Though I’d not heard about him speaking about multiple different persons named Jesus. However, I am very well acquainted with the fact that Jesus was a popular name in first century Palestine. So, that fact seems to corroborate the possibility that Josephus was writing about many persons named Jesus. I’m willing to concede, for the sake of argument, that at least part of the Josephus “Jesus passage” in the Antiquities of the Jews 18:3:3 has been altered later by Christians. For the sake of completeness, let me include it here:
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
Let’s not also forget the later passage from Antiquities of the Jews 20:9:1 (https://sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-20.htm) which speaks about the existence of someone named James, who was brother of Jesus who was called Christ. Here is that passage in part:
“…Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he [Ananus the high priest at the time] assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned…”
Now, as you state, there are many others named Jesus in this very passage. But the passage above, in this passing reference to Jesus, distinguishes the brother of James as “Jesus who was called Christ”. So, Josephus had to distinguish “this Jesus” among the others named Jesus so that his readers would know which of the many people called Jesus he was referring to.
Additionally, Josephus corroborates the account of John the Baptist in Antiquities 18:5:2 (https://sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-18.htm), here is that text: “…John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body…”
So, while the 18:3:3 passage certainly contains later Christian manipulation (possibly by Eusebius, fourth century Bishop of Caesarea who is the first person to quote the passage), I do believe that a case can be made that there is a historical core to the 18:3:3 passage that is more consistent with what a non-Christian, Jewish writer would’ve written, that does corroborate the existence of the Jesus of the New Testament. Additionally, when you include the other 2 passages from Josephus that I cited (18:5:2 and 20:9:1), on the face of it, Josephus corroborates John the Baptist and James the brother of Jesus. Two other Christian accounts also confirm the martyrdom of James, even if they differ over the details. Hegesippus provides a detailed account in Book 5 of his Memoirs (Hypomnemata), which have been preserved in Eusebius. And Clement of Alexandria (c. AD 150-215) also provides an account of the fate of James in the seventh book of his Hypotyposes, as recorded by Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 2.1.4b-5). So these ancient extra-biblical, historical sources do corroborate various aspects of the New Testament narrative. New Testament scholar Dr. Gary Habermas states “The vast majority of scholars who address this issue think that although Josephus’ longer statement about Jesus in Antiquities 18:3 has been altered a bit, the bulk of it was written by Josephus. This view means that Josephus supplies some very important material about Jesus. An even larger percentage of scholars accepts Josephus’ second statement concerning Jesus being the brother of James (Antiquities 20:9). Further, we have to make sense of ancient non-Christian historians like Thallus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Lucian, who reported all sorts of facts about Jesus. Well over 100 items are reported about Jesus, many by non- Christians. So, to argue that Jesus never existed totally ignores a large body of historical data.”
(Him) Also remember even Josephus was not a contemporary writer to Jesus time. But we can get to that later.
(Me) I believe Josephus lived from ~30AD – 93AD. So, he was born around the time Jesus died. That would be roughly similar to me writing about John F. Kennedy, who died a year after I was born. Could I write valid history about John F. Kennedy since I wasn’t his contemporary? I believe I could, since I could interview eyewitnesses who were alive and adult at the time of the events. You have to understand that to have multiple accounts of both the New Testament authors and the extra-biblical authors, which were written within the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses (in antiquity) is historical gold. Now, the apostle Paul was a contemporary of Jesus… He wrote 1 Corinthians (which is considered to be an authentic Pauline epistle) in the first half of 55AD, so that is within 25 years of the crucifixion. Not only that, Paul was a skeptic initially, until he’d seen the risen Christ, then did a 180 and became the most prolific NT author. Galatians 1:23 alludes to this: They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
(Him) It’s interesting that you mention existence of Jesus and his Crucifixion, How about all the miracles?
(Me) I mentioned his crucifixion because it is one of the most well established facts of ancient history. It is well attested (including enemy attestation). You seemed to be suggesting it was doubtful that the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. That is why I focused on the crucifixion, and also why I cited Bart Ehrman, the skeptical NT scholar.
So you ask, “How about all the miracles?” My question is, what do you want to know about them? What we do know is that the miracles are recorded in the same early, historical, ancient biographies of Jesus of Nazareth that report his teachings and other activities. I would like to point out that if the God I’ve described exists, then miracles are possible. In fact the greatest miracle of all has already happened and (I believe) we have good scientific evidence for it – the creation of the universe. Can a God who created the entire universe out of nothing part the Red Sea? Bring fire down from heaven? Keep a man safe in a great fish for three days? Accurately predict future events? Turn water into wine? Heal diseases instantaneously? Raise the dead? Of course. All of those miraculous events are simple tasks for an infinitely powerful Being who created the universe in the first place. As C.S. Lewis, the former atheist said, “If we admit God, must we admit Miracle? Indeed, indeed, you have no security against it. That is the bargain.” So, again, we need to look back at the arguments for God’s existence. If we can infer (beyond a reasonable doubt) based on the scientific evidence and philosophical arguments that God exists, then we should have no problem (in principal) with the possibility of miracles. Once you realize that miracles can be possible for the creator of all matter and all laws that govern physics/chemistry, then the next question may be why do miracles occur? The most reasonable explanation for why miracles occur is that God is trying to authenticate his message. A miracle confirms the messenger. That also explains why we don’t seem to observe miracles in our modern world (although there are accounts of miracles – see Craig Keener’s 2 volume work called Miracles that catalogs worldwide miracle reports up to the present day). God was introducing new revelation so he was authenticating that the revelation was from him. Natural laws describe what happens regularly, by natural causes; miracles, if they occur at all, describe what happens rarely, by supernatural causes. The most famous skeptic of miracles was David Hume. Here is his anti-miracle argument:
- Natural law is by definition a description of a regular occurrence.
- A miracle is by definition a rare occurrence.
- The evidence for the regular is always greater than that for the rare.
- A wise man always bases his belief on the greater evidence.
- Therefore, a wise man should never believe in miracles.
If those four premises are true, then the conclusion necessarily follows—the wise man should never believe in miracles. Unfortunately for Hume, the argument has a false premise—premise 3 is not necessarily true. The evidence for the regular is not always greater than that for the rare. To disprove premise 3 we only need to come up with one counterexample. We actually have a few:
- A hole-in-one (golf) is a rare event, but when we witness one we have no trouble believing it.
- A lottery winner – we don’t tell the person they have to get the winning numbers several times in a row in order to receive the money.
I’m sure many more could be thought of – highly improbable events that don’t have to be repeated in order to be believed. As usual, C. S. Lewis has great insight: “Now of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against miracles, if in other words they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle.”
(Him) Again I’m interested to be convinced of existence of God.
And I’m still waiting for a compelling evidence and not hearsay of anonymous sources of translations and translations of copies of claims that was made with no substantial evidence.
And if I may, I would leave you with this.
While I don’t know where this originated from but “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”
We cannot accept claims of miracles and all powerful deity with on extraordinary attempts to prove…
One last thing. Do you know who wrote the gospels?
(Me) I believe that the most reasonable inference is that Matthew the Tax Collector, John Mark the companion/scribe of Peter, Luke the historian/doctor and companion of Paul and John the “beloved apostle” were the authors of the Gospels. I’m aware that our earliest manuscripts of the Gospels do not cite the author. This is the evidence given by Bart Ehrman and others that the Gospels are anonymous and that we cannot be confident of their authorship. However, many of the earliest Gospel manuscripts have not survived sufficiently intact for us to know whether or not the manuscripts originally included titles. But all the manuscripts that have survived sufficiently intact to include any title, do in fact include the ascription to the author. In every manuscript that has survived sufficiently intact for a title to be present, there is a title, and the title links the text to the same author that’s ascribed to that Gospel in your New Testament today. No “anonymous” copies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John have ever been found. While it is true that the titles of the Gospel manuscripts we have do vary, they vary because of abbreviations (e.g. “Gospel According to” vs. “According to”). It is illegitimate to assume that variation in the titles of the manuscripts automatically indicates it was added later. In the titled manuscripts of the New Testament Gospel, there are no variations in which authors are ascribed to which Gospels. Although the wording of the titles may differ slightly, the ascribed author never changes. This is significant because the accounts spread rapidly over a large area (e.g. Rome, Lyon, Egypt, etc). It would have been very difficult to get everyone, everywhere to assign the same names to the same accounts if they had been added after they were written. Additionally, the early church recognized and attested to the authors (research Tertullian of Carthage, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus of Lyons, Papias of Hierapolis, Muratorian Fragment, Ignatius, Polycarp).
(Him) Obviously I give you A for effort. In this five-step replies you have tried very hard to justify your position . I will respond to all of your points when I get in front of a computer and I can type down my thoughts.
But at the moment I would like to point out couple of things.
You bring up some arguments that even you acknowledge it has nothing to do with existence of God or prime mover. But then you draw your own conclusion and inject God in there. If an argument has nothing to do with God then how could one use it to prove there is a God. Furthermore I asked specifically for your belief in God of the Bible. Your five point responses Is partially acceptable and mostly unsubstantiated assertions.
The fact that you’re writing long responses is just adding up to the quantity of points that I have to break down. But I want you to focus on my main question. Justify existence of “God of the Bible“
Also based on your responses I have concluded that you’re a very smart person person, So I know that you were aware of your attempts to shift the burden of proof And that is not very honest.
Again will respond when I get in front of a computer, but if this takes long I invite you to sit down for a cup of coffee and talk so The conversation goes faster.
(Me) sorry if my responses have been too long. I was just trying to be thorough. I assure you I had no bad intent in piling up all my responses. Don’t rush on your response, it’s ok, we have time. Yes, I think it would be good to sit down for a cup of coffee 🙂. If you have FB messenger, just DM me and we’ll arrange something!