Your Common-Sense, Practical Test for the Reliability of the Bible

We are now in the closing hours of 2011.  One of the aspects of life today (and I am sure it will be true in 2012 as well) is that we rely so much on experts to address the various questions we face.  Health issue?  See a doctor, and if (s)he does not know, you can get a referral to a specialist.  Computer problem?  You find either a hardware or a software expert to help you.  In almost any area of life we turn to experts for advice and help Continue reading

Archaeological Discovery of Ancient Temple Announced

The Jerusalem Post, on Christmas Day, announced the discovery of a seal used in the Temple worship in Jerusalem has been discovered.  The article, which includes a video of the artefact Continue reading

Hold the Eggnog Christmas is in trouble: Considering Dawkins’ claims against the Gospel story

One of the ways I assess the robustness of a controversial viewpoint (eg the Gospel) is to hear the informed arguments against it.  In other words, I want to see its weak or vulnerable points.  This gives me a handle on its overall reliability.

Session 4 gave an overview of external evidences in support of the historical reliability of the Bible.  But are there external evidences that are problems for the Biblical account?   Well-known critic of the Gospel, Richard Dawkins, in his best-seller The God Delusion dismisses the historicity of the account of the birth of Jesus.  He brings up an issue that is considered to be one of the most difficult and serious problems in squaring away the Gospel account of the birth of Jesus and what we know from external evidence.

The issue is that the Gospel of Luke places the birth of Jesus at the time when Quirinius was governor of Syria. (“This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” – Luke 2:1)    Josephus places the time of a census while Quirinius was governor of Syria at 6-7 AD.  This places Luke’s time for the census far too late compared with other aspects of the birth narrative.  So this is considered a serious problem and Dawkins chose it as his example par excellence to illustrate errors in the Bible.  Looking at a problem will allow a good overall assessment of the viability of its historicity.  So let us examine this in some more detail in this 7 minute video.

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  • Christopher Hitchens & North Korea’s Kim Jong-il: Is it really religion that poisons everything?

    A few days after the passing of Christopher Hitchens, North Korea’s ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-il also died.  Given that one of the obsessions of the North Korean regime is the suppression and eradication of anything religious, and that Hitchens championed the view world-wide that it was religion that poisons everything, one might expect that Hitchens would be in broad support and agreement with the late North Korean leader.  However, he had the following to say about Kim Jong-il and North Korea”

    “North Korea is a country that still might give us a lot of trouble and it is, believe me, it is exactly like a 1984 state, it is as if it was modelled on 1984, rather than 1984 on it. It is extraordinary, the leader worship, the terror, the uniformity, the misery, the squalor.”

    I sympathize totally with his assessment of North Korea.  Its condition is a modern-day tragedy and (with its nuclear ambitions) a threat to world peace.

    I have a friend who is currently working to bring to trial for crimes against humanity the leaders of the former Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.  The BBC is reporting on this landmark trial.  The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia were estimated to have killed over 2 million people – all in the name of a non-religious (atheistic actually) ideology.

    Hitchens, in his book, used his withering sarcasm to attack religion as the source of all evil, and he argued that emancipation from it would liberate us all.  But it is not difficult to find societies, built in opposition to religion, that have gone terribly wrong – as even he readily admits.  North Korea and the Khmer Rouge being just two in a list that would have to also include Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s Cultural Revolution – which together exterminated more people than World War II did.

    Hitchens and I are in ready agreement that something is wrong.  Across our globe today we regularly inflict tragedy and abuse on each other.  A cursory reading of history will show we have been doing it all through our recorded past.  Looking around at own lives, workplace relationships, family relationships and issues in our own society (eg bullying in schools) reveals steaks of the same trend.  Vastly different societies, like that in India, live with rituals openly acknowledging that something is wrong.

    We are also in agreement that religion is not a solution.  We have plenty of religious societies that display a failure equal to the atheistic ones of North Korea and the Khmer Rouge.   Is education the solution?  I am all for education and have invested heavily in it myself.  But we live in an age of unprecedented opportunities for education yet global tragedy and abuse is arguably at similar unprecedented levels.  Science and technology?  Likewise!

    Jesus lay our root problem, not on any of the systems we develop, be they religious, educational, economic, or political, but deeper than that – in our hearts.  He said,

    “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)

    The verifiable fact that poison has flowed within any and all human institutions, societies, religions, educations – all the way down to even our families – shows that it is not religion that poisons everything.  Kim Jong-il and the track record of the North Korean regime point to something deeper.  Perhaps, unpleasant though the thought may be, Jesus had a point.  Perhaps it is our hearts.

    The paradox of mankind is that we can reason morally, and grasp the ‘good’, but cannot live it – whether our society has religion or not.  Perhaps that hearkens to what the Bible says about us:  that we are made in God’s image but have since fallen.  If there is even a remote chance that the biblical diagnosis is correct then would it not be worthwhile to assess, even in a cursory way, the biblical credentials, as well as the remedy that is offered in the gospel.  After all, what is there to lose in becoming informed?

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  • Christopher Hitchens and the efficacy of Pascal’s Wager

    When I studied philosophy in university I learned about Pascal’s Wager. Simply put, it reasons from the point-of-view of a rational person who does not know for sure if there is a God or not (the position many of us are in).   Continue reading