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 “Archaeological Discovery of Ancient Temple Announced”
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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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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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 “Christopher Hitchens and the efficacy of Pascal’s Wager”
Last week news outlets worldwide reported the passing of noted journalist and author Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens, a preeminent controversialist, was a prominent critic of the Gospel, especially noted for his book: god is not Great – How religion poisons everything. I had read his book quite carefully, hoping to find well-balanced reasons for his hostility to the Gospel. I found that though he had very pithy and witty lines, and that he could deliver with withering sarcasm, his hostility crowded out a sense of balanced reason. He was also poorly informed on the reliability of the Bible. Here are some of things he said about the Bible that the BBC reported in its obituary:
“(The New Testament) is a work of crude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events, and full of improvised attempts to make things come out right.”
“Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did.”
I noted the following statements when I studied his book:
… the case for biblical consistency or authenticity or ‘inspiration’ has been in tatters for some time, and the rents and tears only become more obvious with better research…” (p. 122)
Though he had a reputation as an ‘intellectual’ these statements are simply that – sheer assertions without any supporting reasons – just as dogmatic and religiously held as the assertion ‘God is Great!’ Hitchens obviously never took the time familiarize himself with the information that are covered in Sessions 3, 4 & 5. There are many reasons for a person to reject considering the gospel: atrocities have been committed in the name of Jesus, following the gospel is difficult, and a bewildering array of evil things continue marching on in this world, as if oblivious to the hand of a good God. But the case for the reliability of the Bible is a solid one. It is a pity that so few, Hitchens being a prime example, look into it.
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