This reply is in response (Part 1) to That Atheist Show’s rebuttal of my article Bad Atheist Arguments: Bible Contradictions & 7 Ways To Respond. l took longer than usual to respond since I am on holiday, however I do look forward to being in discussion with That Atheist Show over the next few days/weeks. Just some pointers:
Original Article = my article.
That Atheist Show = his reply to my article.
My Reply = my reply to That Atheist Show’s reply to my original article.
1. Original Article: “The truth is that the Bible does not have to be free of contradictions in order for Christianity to be true. This is not me minimizing the importance of the Bible, or inerrancy, but simply stating what the reality of the situation is. It simply means that even if we grant the atheist his claim to be true, it just doesn’t logically follow that Christianity is false.”
That Atheist Show: “If the only source available to accept the idea of Christianity is the bible itself then how does the bible not contribute to whether Christianity is true or not? Saying “just because there are contradictions doesn’t make it false” does not suddenly make Christianity true. You still are left with the burden of proof of not only Jesus existing, but God himself.”
My Reply: I never argued that the Bible did not contribute to whether Christianity is true or not. In fact, in hindsight this entire reply has absolutely nothing to do with anything that I initially wrote. Further, regarding the “proof” of Jesus existing and being God himself I made a historical case without even referring to the gospels sources (view here). I’d like to challenge That Atheist Show on this point (in regards to the early multiple & independent attention of Jesus’ divine status as a miracle worker, his resurrection and so forth). I would also like to see whether or not he applies historical consistency to Jesus as he would to other figures of antiquity as well as when considering the historical evidence. In my experience atheists almost always never do apply such consistency. What I have come to suspect is that when many atheists fail to provide a sufficient answer to the supernatural aspect of Jesus’ life they then harp on about him not existing (I wonder if this is the line of thought of That Atheist Show, I am sure further discussion will reveal this to me).
2. Original Article: “Secondly, atheists are very uncharitable when reading the Biblical text. They no longer attempt to remain objective as possible, but instead look for contradictions, and often when none even exist.”
That Atheist Show: “False Generalization, you are leaving out the fact that so many have become Atheists after living a life of belief. Many have deconverted as a result of reading the bible as truth. They were not yet introduced to the idea of it being false, so this claim falls flat.”
My Reply: Incorrect my atheist friend. I never said that all atheists are uncharitable in their exegesis of scripture. Rather, I said that most of them are and I stand firmly in that belief. I could refer to any atheist blog or website on this point. Secondly, regarding believers who became atheists I could make the same counter argument thanks to many skeptics who have become believers after reading the Bible. And? That proves nothing in of itself other than that people come to different conclusions after reviewing data. That is not an unimportant fact but when we analyse worldviews we must judge them on other grounds and when done I believe atheism falls sorely short here (see here & here).
3. Original Article: “This is absurd considering my Bible is, give our take, 1200 pages. Are there really 50 to 60 contradictions per page? I don’t think this is probable at all even if the Bible was totally full with errors/contradictions! it’s just more atheist propaganda.”
That Atheist Show: “It is not propaganda to point out something that exists. Contradictions exist. And only using your personal bible as a reference is anti-intellectual as you seem to ignore the many versions and translations out there that also contradict each other.”
My Reply: I fully agree with That Atheist Show that “It is not propaganda to point out something that exists” but when one is entirely uncharitable, as most atheists are when treating the Bible (from ethical questions, to contradictions, to historical data and so on), then I believe it to be propaganda. So, finding “contradictions” and/or errors where there are none is simply propaganda and atheists are good at that. Often times just a little bit of context, exegesis and understanding is needed and an alleged discrepancy can be resolved, however the atheist is almost never willing to consider this. Further, if contradictions exist in the Bible it says nothing about the truth of the Christian worldview but is instead a question of inerrancy.
Secondly, the “many versions and translations” that contradict each other is entirely immaterial, even if we charitably grant That Atheist Show his argument. In fact, what does it matter if these translations differ? In my experience different translations have slightly different wording & sentence structures but their meaning is usually the same and to that end I see no issue. I therefore don’t believe that there’s anything “anti-intellectual” at all about using one translation over another. In fact, it would take some intellectual effort to analyze different versions and come to a final conclusion for oneself.
4. Original Article: “However, at most they are attacking the doctrine of inerrancy, not the truthfulness of Christianity.”
That Atheist Show: “If the source is full of errors why should we assume that your personal interpretation is truth?”
My Reply: My first inclination is to say that one shouldn’t assume anything. One should look into things for himself and come to his own set of conclusions. Further, the truth is that I don’t force my “personal interpretation” on anyone, in fact i would encourage people to come to their own conclusions whether they agree with me or not. I can recommend my personal view to others but at the end it is ultimately up to them to decide for themselves.
5. Original Article: “When we realize this basic fact, which is prevalent throughout all ancient documents/texts and even in detective cases whereby multiple witnesses are interviewed regarding a crime, we can immediately disqualify 80 – 90% of these alleged contradictions.”
That Atheist Show: “Differences and contradictions do not make something More valid. It simply proves that the authors of the modern versions couldn’t agree on what they were producing.”
My Reply: I did not argue that contradictions make something more valid as That Atheist Show seems to suggest (who would even make such an argument?). Neither, in the context of the Christian worldview, do contradictions invalidate Christianity. Again, we can clearly see that That Atheist Show says nothing about what I initially argued in my article that he attempts to discredit. For instance, I made a point in reference to differing eyewitness testimonies of which has been entirely ignored yet is hugely important to consider. So, I believe my point still stands (even though it has been entirely missed).
6. Original Article: “Fourthly, the atheist commits a fallacy. To simply dismiss a text because of errors, and contradictions would fall victim to the fallacy of the excluded middle. This is when one dismisses an entire text because he finds an error in it.”
That Atheist Show: “We dismiss it because there is no reason to believe any of it. There is no recorded history of anything in the bible happening in the real world. Lack of evidence does not advocate existence. When we find errors in any other book we are open to corrections and figuring out what went wrong. Religious deny that there are errors and claim that it’s supposed to be that way… Like this blog. There is nothing historical in the bible. Ask any credible historian.”
My Reply: That Atheist Show writes that “We dismiss it [Bible] because there is no reason to believe any of it” of which says nothing about my argument that the atheist commits an all-or-nothing fallacy. Since it has not been addressed I believe my point still stands. He then writes that “There is no recorded history of anything in the bible happening in the real world. Lack of evidence does not advocate existence.” This is entirely ignorant for a host of reasons. For instance, it simply misunderstands the biographical nature of our gospels and the genres of our other biblical literature. In other words, the biblical texts are grounded in real history & thus carry the weight of historical documents that deserve to be treated as such. This point has also been repeated within my New Testament classes – that the Bible is foremost a compilation of historical documents – this is a fact of scholarship. Secondly, I would refer That Atheist Show to other ancient non-biblical writings that are consistent with our biblical texts which range from Josephus, Tacitus, Mara Serapion, early church fathers & to a host of others. Likewise archaeological finds have corroborated many biblical people & places in both our Old & New Testaments thus heightening our confidence in them. So, the claim that “There is no recorded history of anything in the bible happening in the real world” is simply false and would be easily refuted by even the most skeptical of biblical scholars (even by the likes of Rudolph Bultmann and Bart Ehrman). According to Ehrman: “If historians want to know what Jesus said and did they are more or less constrained to use the New Testament Gospels as their principal sources. Let me emphasize that this is not for religious or theological reasons—for instance, that these and these alone can be trusted. It is for historical reasons, pure and simple” (1).
Or what about the empty tomb? Exegete Gary Habermas explains that: “An intriguing development in recent theological research is that a strong majority of contemporary critical scholars seems to support, at least to some extent, the view that Jesus was buried in a tomb that was subsequently discovered to be empty” (2). Or as scholar Jacob Kremer writes: “By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements concerning the empty tomb” (3).
Nonetheless, he goes on to wrote that “Religious [people?] deny that there are errors and claim that it’s supposed to be that way… Like this blog. There is nothing historical in the bible. Ask any credible historian.” Whoever this atheist is it would appear that he has done no reading of what scholars have written on this subject. To try and urge me to “ask any credible historian” is quite laughable. It would be like trying to make an argument that the Holocaust never happened of which then to be told to ask any credible historian to confirm that alleged fact. No historian doubts the holocaust and likewise no historian doubts that Jesus was crucified, had a popular following because of his miraculous feats and so on. This atheist shouldn’t be doing any recommending at all. That he would miss this point is quite inexcusable in my opinion.
7. Original Article: “Fifthly, as an act of God in history Jesus was still raised from dead even if we never had the Bible with or without its contradictions!”
That Atheist Show: “You just want the story to be real with or without the bible, that doesn’t make it real.”
My Reply: This is a false analysis of my view on Christianity for I believe that the historical evidence is compelling enough to ascertain the resurrection of Jesus as a historical event. I don’t “want the story to be real” rather the story is real because it is well founded upon historical facts. I’d be prepared to challenge That Atheist Show on any of these points, some of which I have gone into great detail on my blog (see Jesus’ Facts). Again, That Atheist Show simply avoids answering my initial point that “Jesus was still raised from dead even if we never had the Bible with or without its contradictions!” Why does he keep avoiding my arguments? My argument still stands.
Having considered these several arguments forwarded against my article it would appear that That Atheist Show is not a very good show by any stretch of the imagination.
To be continued…
1. Ehrman, Bart. 2008. The New Testament. p. 229.
2. Habermas, G. The Empty Tomb of Jesus. Available: http://www.4truth.net/fourtruthpbjesus.aspx?pageid=8589952861
3. Kremer, J. 1977. Osterevangelien. p. 49-50.