Friday, January 30, 2015

Yes, Virginia, there really was a Jesus of Nazareth

23 Historical Things We Know For Certain About Jesus. | Historical Jesus studies

It is not trivial that many of the historians cited here are not Christians, and in some cases claim no religion at all.

The neo-atheists' claim (not all of them say it) that Jesus is an invented character just doesn't hold up. "Explanations must explain," and denial of one explanation does not itself constitute another explanation. And the thing to be explained is why the Church came into being when it it did, on the basis that it did. For the Church has claimed since the mid-first century that it was founded by the shock and awe of Jesus of Nazareth having been executed then raised from the dead. The skeptics promoting the theory that all of that is a "later legend" invention are still faced with the incontrovertible fact that (a) the Church had a definite beginning in time and place that is not disputed, and (b) that the Church has always claimed its founding was due to one specific thing: the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So the later skeptics do not persuade when they offer no historically rooted explanation of why, absent the resurrection, the Church even started. But I have not seen any such explanation except, perhaps, his disciples tried gamely to carry on with Jesus' ethical and religious work but soon found that there was some extra "oomph" needed to keep it going. And even that lacks historical evidence.

I was talking to a US Marine Corps veteran one time and we briefly discussed the story of the founding of the Marine Corps. Marine lore has it that the Corps was founded in a bar, Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, to be exact. It was there that the first Marine Corps recruitment drive was held.

Now here is the question: Let us suppose that I, playing the part of a skeptic, say that the USMC was not actually founded at Tun Tavern, and that Tun Tavern probably never actually existed in the first place. Yet the USMC undeniably exists.

If I expect anyone to believe me, then wouldn't I also have to explain why would the USMC later make it up, and why? The Corps already would still exist if it had been founded elsewhere, elsewhen. What is gained by suppressing the true founding and inventing Tun Tavern?

And critically, would I not have to provide actual historical evidence of the USMC's real-though-suppressed founding? Otherwise, there's nothing but the smokescreen of an argument clinic.

The same question applies to the stories about the resurrection of Jesus. Later-legend theorists can't just present us with their own counter claim that the resurrection is a later invention. They need to provide what the suppressed reasons were for the founding of the Church, why they were suppressed and why this particular legend was substituted.

And they have to do it all by presenting compelling, historically-rooted proofs. But they don't because they can't.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Out: Islamophobia. In: Christianophobia!

Sociologists: 'Christianophobia,' Anti-Christian Hostility Infects Powerful Elite Subculture
A small, but elite group of Americans demonstrate signs of anti-Christian hostility, sociologists David Williamson and George Yancey claim in their new book, So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States? ... In the minds of many of the respondents Christians are ignorant, intolerant and stupid individuals who are unable to think for themselves. The general image they have of Christians is that they are a backward, non-critical thinking, child-like people who do not like science and want to interfere with the lives of everyone else. But even worse, they see ordinary Christians as having been manipulated by evil Christian leaders and will vote in whatever way those leaders want. They believe that those leaders are trying to set up a theocracy to force everybody to accept their Christian beliefs. So, for some with Christianophobia, this is a struggle for our society and our ability to move toward a progressive society. Christians are often seen as the great evil force that blocks our society from achieving this progressive paradise.
In other words, they are completely typical progressives (that is, Leftists) who, in their characterization of Christians described above, perfectly summarize how progressive orthodoxy enforces on its own side (see Chait, Jonathan). Moreover,
...unlike other types of intolerances, those who exhibited Christianophobia do not tend to think that they are intolerant. Usually those who do not like blacks or Muslims admit that they are intolerant but simply try to justify their intolerance. Those with Christianophobia tend to deny that they are intolerant but rather that they are fairly interpreting social reality. Envisioning themselves as fair and free of intolerance allows them to blame those they detest rather than recognize how their emotions have distorted their intellectual judgments.
And yet they call themselves the "reality-based community."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Prominent Atheist Professor says Intelligent Design is Plausible

Prominent Atheist Professor of Law and Philosophy Thomas Nagel Calls Intelligent Design Scientific and Constitutional to "Mention" in Science Classes
Prof. Thomas Nagel has published an important essay entitled, "Public Education and Intelligent Design", in the Wiley InterScience Journal Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 36, issue 2, on-line at <>  His paper is a significant because it encourages all intelligent, educated, informed individuals to consider that intelligent design may be a valid scientific approach to understanding how DNA and the complex chemical systems of life came to attain their present form. Prof. Nagel's article is well worth the price (fee for access US $29.95).  He is a self-declared atheist who earned his PhD. in philosophy at Harvard, has been a professor at U.C. Berkeley, Princeton, and for the last 28 years at New York University, and has published ten books and more than 60 articles.

Prof. Nagel tells us that he "has for a long time been skeptical of the claims of traditional evolutionary theory to be the whole story about the history of life" (p. 202). He reports that it is "difficult to find in the accessible literature the grounds" for these claims.

Moreover, he goes farther. He reports that the "presently available evidence" comes "nothing close" to establishing "the sufficiency of standard evolutionary mechanisms to account for the entire evolution of life" (p. 199).

He notes that his judgment is supported by two prominent scientists (Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart, writing in the Oct. 2005 book Plausibility of Life), who also recognized that (prior to offering their own theory, at least) the "available evidence" did not "decisively settle[]" whether mutations in DNA "are entirely due to chance" (p. 191). And he cites one Stuart Kauffman, a "complexity theorist who defends a naturalistic theory of emergence," that random mutation "is not sufficient" to explain DNA (p. 192).
This is basically the same rationale that the 20th century's leading philosophical atheist, Antony Flew, used finally to reject atheism and declare he was a deist. He said,
There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself—which is far more complex than the physical Universe—can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a "lucky chance." If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Why "moderate" Muslims do not persuade

Tenn. Muslims condemn Paris massacre, stand for freedom
Paul Galloway is executive director for the American Center for Outreach, based in Nashville, which was established to bring the Muslim voice to the Tennessee political stage.
An open latter in response:

 Fine words, but what, Mr. Galloway, are you and your fellow Muslims in Tennessee going to do about the ongoing violence of Islamists? It's abundantly clear that verbal renunciations mean nothing to Daesh, al Qaeda, the Taliban and their ideological-religious allies. So you may shout your disapprovals from the tallest tower and they do not care. And because Muslims who want to kill me don't care what you say, why should I? You wrote,
In reality, the [Charlie Hebdo] attack itself insulted the honor of Prophet Muhammad more than any speech or image attempting to mock or insult him ever could.
How, exactly, did it insult Mohammed? Muslim writer Tarek Fatah, writing in the Toronto Sun, wrote of his own imam who said in Friday'a assembly,
... that in reacting to insults we should take the example of Prophet Muhammad himself and follow in his footsteps. 
The problem with that suggestion is that while there were indeed times when Prophet Muhammad forgave those who mocked him, there were others when he ordered them killed.
So did the Kouachi brother embarrass Mohammed, or did they emulate him? What do you base your answer on? Don't answer, "The Quran," because the Quran can be used to justify either answer - and according to the classical Muslim Quran exegete, Ismail ibn Kathir, the verses of the Quran that permit or command violence abrogate and supersede those that exhort forgiveness or mercy. In this he is joined by scholars Abu Al-`Aliyah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Qatadah and As-Suddi and countless others, in fact, by every Muslim scholar and imam and ayatollah alive today.

This is the reason you are losing the argument with Muslims murderers: you and they alike know that the "verses of the sword" abrogate the verses of forgiveness or mercy. On this there has been universal Muslim agreement going all the way back to Mohammed himself. So when "moderate" Muslims write of follow Mohammed's example of peaceableness or cite Sura 2.256, "Let there be no compulsion in religion . . .," they are engaging frankly in propaganda because all of those verses are superseded according to the Muslim doctrine of abrogation, followed by all Muslims everywhere, including yourself, which simply states that when verses in the Quran seem to contradict one another, the chronologically-later verses win.

The verses of the sword are later than the verses of peace. The terrorists know this. And so do moderates. And that's one reason terrorists win the argument - 1,400 years of Muslim exegesis is on their side, not yours. The other reason they win, of course, is that they simply kill anyone who opposes them, including moderates.

Then you wrote,
I'm also deeply frustrated that despite well over a decade of American Muslims, along with Islamic scholars around the world, publicly and consistently condemning all forms of terrorism, that people still don't seem to know where we stand.
We do know where you stand: NATO = No Action, Talk Only. After your decade of condemning terrorism, terrorists are stronger than ever. I do not blame you or your fellow Tennessee Muslims for the Paris attacks. Rather, I consider you and them irrelevant to the entire discussion.

As I said, Muslim terrorists do not care what you think or say and in fact, they will kill you just as readily as anyone else. So why exactly should I pay attention to your denunciations at all? Your disclaimers do not matter. And now to your most ridiculous claim:
It is becoming increasingly clear that anti-Muslim bigots are the mirror image of Muslim terrorists.
This is where your op-ed revealed your voice as a decidedly unserious one. Tens of thousands of people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, have been murdered at the hands of Muslim extremists. Since 1950 millions of Arab Muslims have died at the hands of other Arab Muslims, though most of them for political reasons rather than religious. But Daesh, al Qaeda et. al. are doing their best to catch up.

Please, Mr. Galloway, identify the "anti-Muslim bigot" terrorist organizations that are killing Muslims as a matter of religious devotion. Please tell me how many Muslims and non-Muslims have died at their hands.

You wrote of the need to "undermine the forces that seek to divide us," then said,
America, by virtue of our Constitution, our nation's legacy of religious freedom and our unique and inherent pluralism, all make us particularly well suited to this task.
Do you therefore agree that Islam should be subordinated to the secular nature of Constitutional government? Do you agree that sharia law can never be the supreme law of the land in the United States? Do you agree therefore that Islam in America does and shall always enjoy exactly the same rights, no more no less, than Methodism, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism or Judaism?

Words are cheap, Mr. Galloway, and another decade of bemoaning disclaimers will only cheapen them further still.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Islam, jihad and you and me

I am starting an evening series this Wednesday, Jan. 15, on the subject of jihad in Islam, what it is, what it means, and what are its implications. I am using almost exclusively Muslim sources.

I came across this series by Methodist pastor David Trawick called, "Islam: It's History, Theology & Today," which is of broader scope than the series I am writing, so everyone should give it a look, to. It is audio only, however.

Click here.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Peeling back atheism's veil

Contrary to popular belief, atheism is not primarily an intellectual revolt; it is a moral revolt. Atheists don’t find God invisible so much as objectionable. They aren’t adjusting their desires to the truth, but rather the truth to fit their desires…It is a temptation even for believers. We want to be saved, as long as we are not saved from our sins. We are quite willing to be saved from a whole host of social evils, from poverty to disease to war. But we want to leave untouched the personal evils, such as selfishness and lechery and pride. We need spiritual healing, but we do not want it. Like a supervisory parent, God gets in our way. This is the perennial appeal of atheism: it gets rid of the stern fellow with the long beard and liberates us for the pleasures of sin and depravity. The atheist seeks to get rid of moral judgment by getting rid of the judge.
Dinesh D'Souza in What's So Great About Christianity

I have had a number of occasions to have long conversations with self-described atheists. I can tell you that every single one of them fit D'Souza's quote to a tee. They were really rejectionists more than atheists, for they certainly believed in God. They just hated him.

By far in this era, the primary reason - so far out in front that it leaves the rest so far behind there's no point on even figuring what's second - is the rejection in America today of any sort of connection between morality and sexuality. "If it feels good, do it" is the overwhelming mantra of the modern age.

The easiest way to justify sin is to deny that there is a creator to provide reality with a nature, thereby denying that there is any inherent order and purpose in the universe. Aldous Huxley admitted that this is a common reason for skepticism:  
I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption…. Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless. …  
For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was …liberation from … a certain system of morality.  We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom…. There was one admirably simple method in our political and erotic revolt: We could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever. Similar tactics had been adopted during the eighteenth century and for the same reasons. (Ends and Means, 270-273)
Thomas Nagel, American philosopher, currently University Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University:
I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.  It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief.  It's that I hope there is no God!  I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.  My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time.  One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind… This is a somewhat ridiculous situation… [I]t is just as irrational to be influenced in one’s beliefs by the hope that God does not exist as by the hope that God does exist. (The Last Word, pp. 130-131)
Quoted by fellow philosopher Edward Feser.

Perhaps Werner Heisenberg, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for creating quantum mechanics, explained the divergence between biology and physics (with regard to God) best when he wrote:
“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
With the phrase “the bottom of the glass,” Heisenberg is referring to the study of the most fundamental aspects of reality…which are investigated by physics.

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Jesus is served

John 6.5-14 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people t...