Monday, September 17, 2018

Stealing from Sense: Why Frankn Turek needs atheism to sell books

This is my reply to an article by Frank Turek entitled:

Atheist Richard Dawkins has declared, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. . . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”

But Dawkins doesn’t act like he actually believes that. He recently affirmed a woman has the right to choose an abortion and asserted that it would be “immoral” to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome. According to Dawkins, the “right to choose” is a good thing and giving birth to Down syndrome children is a bad thing.

Well, which is it? Is there really good and evil, or are we just moist robots dancing to the music of our DNA?
The latter.  Being mammals, our DNA causes us to instinctively condemn any actions of the members that threaten the survival of the group or otherwise do more to hinder than help survival.   That is, in imperfect fashion, of course.
Atheists like Dawkins are often ardent supporters of rights to abortion, same-sex marriage, taxpayer-provided healthcare, welfare, contraceptives, and several other entitlements. But who says those are rights?
The will of the people after it has been enacted into law.  The "right" doesn't need to be grounded in any objective standard in order to function helpfully in society the way it does.   Curfews are not dictated by any god or natural law, but sometimes the arbitrary imposition of them keeps a damper on things that our authorities believe are counterproductive the survival of the group.
By what objective standard are abortion, same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption, taxpayer-provided healthcare, and the like, moral rights?
None, the standard is the subjective moral opinion that happens to be shared by enough people in the group to become law for the group.  Complaining that morality arises from subjective opinion is about as useful to the debate as complaining that freeways aren't made out of gold.
There isn’t such a standard in the materialistic universe of atheism. So atheists must steal the grounds for objective moral rights from God while arguing that God doesn’t exist.
If the atheist is one of those who believes in 'objective' morals, then, yes.

But for atheists who deny objective morality, then no, you are assuming atheism cannot provide a purely naturalistic explanation for the fact that human beings live in accord with their personal moral opinions.  You are wrong.  Every action that we call moral or immoral ultimate arises from one's personal preferences, which arise from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental conditioning.  That is a reasonable explanation even if it doesn't indicate that science has finally solved every mystery of the universe.
Now, I am not saying that you have to believe in God to be a good person or that atheists are immoral people.
Then you aren't being biblical. The bible makes atheists immoral by saying pleasing god is impossible unless you believe in him:
 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Heb. 11:6 NAU)
 If atheists cannot please god, then under Christian theology, they have no other category to be placed in except "displeasing to God", i.e., immoral.  Turek continues:
Some atheists live more moral lives than many Christians.
Then in light of Hebrews 11, supra, you are classifying as "moral", that conduct which the bible says is immoral.  Since nothing atheists do pleases God, it follows logically that everything they do is displeasing to god, and any human acts that are displeasing to god, Christians are required to define as "immoral".  I've heard plenty of conservative pastors preach that when the unbeliever feeds her children, this is displeasing to God, because the act wasn't done in faith, and under Romans 14:23, whatever is done without faith, is sin, hence, the unbeliever's feeding of her kids is sinful and thus displeasing to god.

That's the stupid shit mess you land in when you try to take biblical theology seriously.  Become a liberal, and these problems disappear like magic. 
I am also not saying that atheists don’t know morality. Everyone knows basic right and wrong whether they believe in God or not.
Because what we call basic right and wrong ends up being those actions that facilitate life, increase the odds of survival, or protect life from danger.  Murder, rape and stealing threaten the survival of the group, thus naturalistically explaining why mammals hate these things.  No transcendent moral law giver necessary.  You can say the atheist cannot explain the origin of life itself, but abiogenesis is a different topic.

Also, our knowing basic right and wrong is a problem for Christians.  God's morality in the bible goes beyond basic right and wrong.  God doesn't just forbid murder and rape.  He also requires rape victims to marry their attacker for life without possibility of divorce:
 28 "If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered,
 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days. (Deut. 22:28-29 NAU)
It doesn't matter if there are allowable exceptions to this, the moral of requiring the victim to marry her rapist is still there, and since it was given by God, it presents a problem for the apologist:  Did god put this law into our hearts too?  If not, how do you know?

What is the reason we cringe at the thought of forcing a victim to marry her rapist?  Is it because God put a law in our hearts that says "it is always wrong to force victims to marry their rapists" (thus God is contradicting the crap he said in the OT)?  Or because modern liberal culture has significantly eroded god's morality from our hearts (i.e., your god actually thinks forcing the victim to marry her attacker is morally good)?

By the way, our knowing basic moral right and wrong also means we also "know" that rape is immoral.  That creates a problem for Turek and his theory that basic right and wrong come from the bible god, because the bible god sometimes admits that He causes men to rape women:
 13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, And the earth will be shaken from its place At the fury of the LORD of hosts In the day of His burning anger.
 14 And it will be that like a hunted gazelle, Or like sheep with none to gather them, They will each turn to his own people, And each one flee to his own land.
 15 Anyone who is found will be thrust through, And anyone who is captured will fall by the sword.
 16 Their little ones also will be dashed to pieces Before their eyes; Their houses will be plundered And their wives ravished.
 17 Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them, Who will not value silver or take pleasure in gold.
 18 And their bows will mow down the young men, They will not even have compassion on the fruit of the womb, Nor will their eye pity children.
 (Isa. 13:13-18 NAU)
In the context, God is the speaker (i.e, speaking through Isaiah).  Unless Turek wishes to stupidly trifle that it was only Isaiah the human being who was threatening to "stir up" the Medes (which then means one biblical author wasn't inspired in what he wrote) then it is clear that the intent of the author was for the reader to conclude the threat is being spoken by God.  In that case, the phrase where god claims to "stir up" the Medes sit in an immediate context describing how the Medes will commit various but typical ANE wartime atrocities against the Babylonians, including rape.

If the immediate context had been "the Medes will give you gifts", Christians would have no trouble admitting what the passage plainly says: that God is the one who stirred up the Medes to give such gifts. But because the context describes rape and killing of children, then suddenly, Christians start hemming and hawing about whether "stir up" necessarily always means 'cause'. 

Turek continues:
In fact, that’s exactly what the Bible teaches (see Romans 2:14-15).
Occam's Razor forbids multiplying entities unnecessarily, which translates out into a general rule of thumb that says if the more simple explanation can also account for all the data, you should assume the more complex explanation is likely false unless and until it has been shown to be true.

I suspect most people don't appreciate that the explanation for morality that says "god put his laws into our hearts" is always going to be more complex than the "being alive necessarily implies we find morally good all actions that facilitate survival without hurting the group, and we find immoral all those actions that tend to decrease the group's ability to survive" explanation.  The more Christians credit the universe to god, the more infinitely complex the Creator must be, and for that reason the more that theory is sliced away by Occam's Razor...unless somebody can show that the god-explanation is actually true.

Occam's Razor, being a general rule of philosophical thumb, is not infallible, but it doesn't need to be, in order for it to be considered a reasonable guide for deciding which explanatory theories deserve priority at the time when the investigator lacks proof that one specific theory is actually true.  Occam's Razor performs the valuable function of giving us a reason to laugh off the "god did it" explanation and concentrate more on the naturalistic explanations.
What I am saying is that atheists can’t justify morality.
Hogwash.  There is no reason whatsoever to say a person's morality goes any deeper than their genetic predispositions and their environmental conditioning.   
Atheists routinely confuse knowing what’s right with justifying what’s right.They say it’s right to love. I agree, but why is it right to love.
Such atheists are confused, since sometimes to love another is to bring about circumstances that make life or survival more difficult, such as the faithful wife who loves her abusive husband and for that reason allows herself to be abused by him more often than she would if she hated him.

And don't forget that whether it is morally "right" to love, is completely subjective.  The most objectivity we have is to say that a mom must love her child to facilitate that child's healthy thriving, a goal all intelligent mammals naturally aspire to for those in their group. If the mother doesn't naturally love her child, there will be no convincing her by argument that she "should".  Her lack of love testifies that she is lacking the brain chemistry that gives rise to mammalian altruism.
Why are we obligated to do so? The issue isn’t how we know what’s Right, but why an authoritative standard of Rightness exists in the first place.
 That cannot be the issue unless you are just preaching the choir, as atheists, or at least myself, do not agree with you that any such authoritative standard exists.  By "authoritative" I am aware that you mean "objective", thus I disagree since no objective standard exists in the first place.
You may come to know about objective morality in many different ways: from parents, teachers, society, your conscience, etc.
That doesn't make sense, as Turek does not believe "parents, teachers, society, your conscience" are a source of objective morality, since many parents raise their kids so they grow up to be criminals, teachers can corrupt youth by sexual molestation, society prioritizes ceaseless material gain and fame, and if you are a pedophile, then your conscience would be something Turek says doesn't help you recognize objective morality.

Also Turek always trades on the fact that his audience are largely born and raised in the USA and thus adopt the same basic moral code.  So his "conscience" argument seems to make sense.  But his blind appeal to conscience would do nothing if his audience were a bunch of remorseless gangsters or child molesters whose conscience tells them to just take whatever they want from whoever they want.  Turek and his typical audience will insist such social misfits don't count in the moral analysis, but it's not very objective to arbitrarily cast aside some of the evidence.  Yes, most of us think rape and stealing are wrong.  But not all of us.  The more objective procedure would be to factor in the moral view of sociopaths and others who act contrary to social norms.  For it could very well be that we'll find there's only a social norm to speak of solely because of historical circumstance, and that if conditions in history were different, the mass of humanity would continue as they did in the ancient past, and believe that as long as raiding the other clan down the street doesn't prevent too much of a risk to one's own clan, prepare for war.
And you can know it while denying God exists. But that’s like saying you can know what a book says while denying there’s an author. Of course you can do that, but there would be no book to know unless there was an author! In other words, atheists can know objective morality while denying God exists, but there would be no objective morality unless God exists.
You are just preaching the choir:  atheists obviously know that morality exists (because opinions obviously exist), but what exists is simply opinion, it is not objective, that is, there is no good evidence that our sense of morality comes from something transcending humanity itself.  We refrain from adultery because we personally don't wish to commit that act, and others commit adultery because they personally desire to do this.
If material nature is all that exists, which is what most atheist’s claim, then there is no such thing as an immaterial moral law. 
Therefore, atheists must smuggle a moral standard into their materialistic system to get it to work, whether it’s “human flourishing,” the Golden Rule, doing what’s “best” for the most, etc.
Correct, but I object to the emotive "smuggle" word:  we are not "smuggling" any moral standard into our system that atheism cannot account for.  Rather, we've shown, many times, that the basis for human morality does not go any deeper than genetic predisposition and environmental conditioning.

By the way, Turek, why do you so blindly assume that objective morality is reflected in what "most people" allow or forbid?  Why are you always premising the immorality of rape upon the fact that "most people" think it is immoral? 

Is there a bible verse that says whatever the human moral consensus happens to be, is surely the will of God?

How difficult would it be for a smart bible critic like myself to argue, from the assumption that the bible is the word of God, that the criminals in the world are doing what god wants them to do?

Turek, do you ever tell your audiences about 5-Point Calvinism, namely, that version of Protestant orthodoxy that says God wants us to, and causes us to, sin exactly the way we do?  I'm guessing no.  If you brought up such a thing, your followers would probably be shocked to know that a system of theology that makes our sins morally good by crediting them to god, could actually be "biblical".
Such standards don’t exist in a materialistic universe where creatures just “dance” to the music of their DNA.
Atheists are caught in a dilemma. If God doesn’t exist, then everything is a matter of human opinion and objective moral rights don’t exist, including all those that atheists support.
I'm not seeing the dilemma here:  characterizing human morality as mere opinion does nothing to handicap moral relativity.  Mere opinions can and do affect and manipulate the world around us no less than physical forces like fire and wind.  

If you ask why one atheist being attacked would repel the other atheist attacking him, in an atheist world where everybody's opinion about life is of ultimately equal worth, the answer is that making efforts to stay alive logically already exist in the territory.  You can no more separate efforts to stay alive from a human being, than you can take away the oxygen from H20 and still have water. 

Turek will blurt out "what gives you the right to defend yourself?"

Well, the same thing that gives the attacker the "right" to personal subjective desires.  If I honestly didn't care about my life, yes, I'd probably just stand there and let him kill me.

The "right" we have to defend our lives from attackers in an atheist universe, isn't really a "right" but more correctly an instinctive reaction. For example, even if the entire world agreed that some murderous serial child raper deserved the death penalty, as an organism his heart would continue to beat, and his kidneys and liver would continue ridding his body of poisons right up to the time that they seat him in the electric chair and flip the switch. The status of being alive logically presupposes desire on the living organism's part to continue staying alive.  No fool backs away from a knife attack solely because he thinks God has given him the right to defend himself, or because he thinks God has condemned deadly attacks on civilians; we react by pure instinct.  You will say "because god created us", but intelligent design and abiogenesis are different topics.
If God does exist, then objective moral rights exist.
The bible prevents that conclusion from following necessarily.  Isaiah 13:16-17, God causes men to rape women, in which case God is causing men to violate something Turek refers to as God's "nature".  Your problems are indeed real and imposing.

The consequence would be that the reason we all "know" that rape is wrong is because God has not caused us to rape anybody yet.

But those rights clearly don’t include cutting up babies in the womb, same-sex marriage, and their other invented absolutes contrary to every major religion and natural law.
Abortion is hardly a black and white issue.  No atheist would say it is morally good to cut a baby to death in the womb after 9 months, when birth is 5 minutes away.  The trouble with the abortion issue arises from our naturalistic tendency to more favor life forms that look like us. Nobody has a problem swatting flies, but we start having problems killing deer, we have more problems with killing kittens, and we have big problems with killing the darling three year old girl asleep in her princess-bed.   That's a good explanation why most people see less wrong in having an abortion one day after the egg is fertilized, and why they see more wrong in abortions done after 9 months of pregnancy.  We cannot really relate to that which is nothing more than an egg that was fertilized 5 seconds ago, but we obviously relate to the baby that is 5 minutes away from being born.

 We would never step on baby ducks, but we always step on spiders.  Life has proven that the advanced life forms care more about the life form the more it looks like themselves, and have less concern the less it looks like themselves.  Naturally then, abortion would be contentious, since it is not easy to say at what exact point during the pregnancy that the developing egg starts looking like us.
Now, an atheist might say, “In our country, we have a constitution that the majority approved. We have no need to appeal to God.” True, you don’t have to appeal to God to write laws, but you do have to appeal to God if you want to ground them in anything other than human opinion.
That falsely assumes that grounding morality in human opinion fails to account for the evidence.  It doesn't.  Once again, rapists rape because they personally wish to, and other men refrain from raping because they don't personally wish to rape.  It also seems clear that if we didn't have a justice system, humanity would evince its barbaric nature more clearly.  If people knew that they could gain from hurting others and never be held accountable, they god-damn sure would.  Most legal authorities recognize the value of jail, often fear of jail is the only reason a person will refrain from crime.   It's hard to envision because our society is modern, democratic and civilized, but you might be surprised at the dirty secrets and opinions a person will divulge in private conversation, opinions they'd never let the rest of the world know about.  I'd say amost of the men who decry pre-marital fornication, are lying about how they truly feel, because condemning that activity will make them sound more attractive to the civilized women they wish to be with.

Otherwise, your “rights” are mere preferences that can be voted out of existence at the ballot box or at the whim of an activist judge or dictator.
And I don't see why that is supposed to be some sort of flaw in the atheist view.  The founding of America is little more than a case of the preferences of people being voted in and out of existence or by decree of dictator/judge for 200 years.  So?

Turek will probably argue from subjective feelings again, and argue that if a dictator decided to take away all of your stuff, you'd feel "wronged", and therefore, this feeling of wrong arises from a standard of morality that transcends humanity.  But there is no reason to think such a conclusion need follow.  Some people also feel wronged when deprived of things that they never owned, such as when the neighbor, after 5 years, stops allowing you to borrow her car anytime you need it.  Does that feeling of being wronged come from god?
That’s why our Declaration of Independence grounds our rights in the Creator.
That's just a case of moral assertions being set forth in a founding document of America written by imperfect theists and deists.  It isn't like the document fell from heaven!
It recognizes the fact that even if someone changes the constitution you still have certain rights because they come from God, not man-made law.
Yeah, that document "recognizes" this, but so what?  Other documents "recognize" less human rights.  So what?
However, my point isn’t about how we should put objective God-given rights into human law. My point is, without God there are no objective human rights.
Correct.  The "right" of the American citizen to life is something that imperfect humans long ago thought to put into a document as part of their effort to become free of England.  So?
There is no right to abortion or same-sex marriage.
There are no objective rights, period, so any rights we can legitimately speak of, derive from sources no deeper than what people personally feel and what their leaders enact into law. 
Of course, without God there is no right to life or natural marriage either!
You are, again, preaching to the choir.  Without god there would be no 'objective' rights, but as I've already proven, rights being 'subjective' doesn't admit they are any less instrumental to getting things done.  
In other words, no matter what side of the political aisle you’re on — no matter how passionate you believe in certain causes or rights — without God they aren’t really rights at all.
Correction, they aren't objective rights.  You are blindly assuming that rights aren't rights if they have only a subjective basis. Not true.  This is just as fallacious as saying "you aren't really a man unless you have a car".  You are just arbitrarily narrowing down the list of things that deserve to be called "man", or "rights".  You can enjoy any 'right' that society's leaders say you have the right to exercise.  The fact that such rights arise from ultimately subjective opinion does not take away the level of significance and importance such rights play in the game of life. 

You may as well say I don't have a subjective favorite color, because there is no ultimate standard by which a "favorite color" can be judged, except my own personal opinion.  That's foolish, that opinion still exists, and I'm not going to pay less attention to it, or ignore it more, merely because it is, in fact, subjective. 
Human rights amount to no more than your subjective preferences.
Correct.  So what? 
So atheists can believe in and fight for rights to abortion, same-sex marriage, and taxpayer-provided entitlements, but they can’t justify them as truly being rights.
Correction, they cannot justify them as objective rights.  You fallaciously assume that if the right is not "objective", then it doesn't exist.  That's stupid, "you have the right to remain silent" doesn't have an objective basis, it was simply invented and enacted through the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona.  But it hardly follows that such subjective right to remain silent isn't "really" a "right". It certainly exists and dramatically impacts the life of the person being arrested, whether you wish to call it an objective right or an orange riddle.  Characterizing subjective rights as "mere opinion" does not stop them from continuing to impact lives as they have been before you were born.

So I don't see the point you have in constantly trivializing rights derived from ultimately subjective origins, as "mere opinion".  It's as if you can get rid of a truth by calling it names.
In fact, to be a consistent atheist — and this is going to sound outrageous, but it’s true — you can’t believe that anyone has ever actually changed the world for the better.
Correction, under atheism, we cannot say that anyone has ever actually changed the world for the objective better.
Objectively good political or moral reform is impossible if atheism is true.
Correct.  Whether raising taxes would be morally good or bad, goes no deeper than the subjective will of the majority.  Did you have a point?
Which means you have to believe that everything Wilberforce, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King did to abolish slavery and racism wasn’t really good; it was just different.
Agreed.  In fact I'd say any reform is ultimately bad because any change in society, short of something like losing half the population, necessarily and always increases its aggregate complexity, slowly but surely moving that society toward inevitable collapse. Moral reform and indeed any reform comes at a long term negative cost, even if it makes life more fun for a few decades.  And reforms usually involve changes in the law, and only a fool denies the reality of the "slippery slope" that materializes thereby.
It means you have to believe that rescuing Jews from the ovens was not objectively better than murdering them.
Correct, it was subjectively better.
It means you have to believe that gay marriage is no better than gay bashing.
Correct, though I could give reasons based on the natural world to show what normative mammalian behavior and human behavior is, and to therefore provide an empirical basis for condemning male homosexuality as a deviation that is counterproductive to our current society.
(Since we’re all just “dancing to our DNA,” the gay basher was just born with the anti-gay gene. You can’t blame him!)
Correction:  holding gay bashers accountable for conduct their genetics caused them to engage in, might not be consonant with science, but is clearly required if we are to have social order (i.e., it just might be that the type of social order we desire to have, it not consistent with scientific truths about human beings).  While the current justice system aspires to the freewill doctrine of criminal and civil accountability, that type of justice system would need to stay in place to prevent society from collapsing even if science conclusively proved that we don't have freewill.  We still lock up insane criminals even if the judicial system finds them "not guilty".
So while we cannot hold people accountable for what they couldn't avoid doing, we'd still have to impose on their freedom to keep order.  Also, motivating criminals to obey the law doesn't require that they have freewill. That's why we have jails.  Fear of jail achieves the social good of preventing the criminal from acting contrary to law, but we also recognize that the fact that the jail changed his behavior, doesn't mean he has freewill.  He is a human being intent on making himself comfortable in life, and so he will naturally obey the law if we put him in a context where he knows his life won't be comfortable should he disobey the law.  That's just a smart insect running away from disaster, that's not freewill.
It means you have to believe that loving people is no better than raping them.
Correction, loving people is not objectively better than raping them...because there are no objective morals that transcend humanity in the first place.  Our emotions tell us different, but read Jeremiah 17:9
You may be thinking, “That’s outrageous! Racism, murder, assault, and rape are objectively wrong, and people do have a right not to be harmed!” I agree. But that’s true only if God exists. In an atheistic universe there is nothing objectively wrong with anything at any time.
No objective moral wrong?  Correct. 
There are no limits. Anything goes.
Not true, there's more to being human than just "made in the image of god'.  We are also physical mammals who instinctively seek group approval, and thus naturally disagree with any behavior that threatens the group's survival.  Guess what?  Racism, murder, assault, and rape generally threaten human survival, while avoiding these activities generally promotes thriving.  The problem-area is how to know when that which facilitates thriving should be viewed as good or bad.  Is having 5 kids good because it makes you happy, or bad because it contributes to overpopulation?

Gee, Turek, why do you suppose bears feel offended when you try to steal their food?  Were bears made in the image of god?  If not, then apparently, one does not need to be made in the image of god, in order to have a basic sense of right and wrong. You will say god created them that way, but again, intelligent design and abiogenesis are different topics.
Which means to be a consistent atheist you have to believe in the outrageous.
It's only outrageous under the objectivist view.  Psychiatrists who regularly deal with those who continually rape and kill, find the behavior unacceptable, of course, but not 'outrageous', just like those who have seen plenty of footage of lions eating gazelles find it less outrageous than the small child who first sees it and cries.  Popular sentiment probably isn't a very wise criteria for deciding what is "outrageous".  You tend to emote about a thing less when you are constantly exposed to it.
If you are mad at me for these comments, then you agree with me in a very important sense. If you don’t like the behaviors and ideas I am advocating here, you are admitting that all behaviors and ideas are not equal — that some are closer to the real objective moral truth than others.
 Already refuted this - no, all behaviors are not equal, but that's because we are mammals with intelligence, and therefore automatically find that actions which threaten survival are to be abhorred more than actions that don't. 
But what is the source of that objective truth?
Objective moral truth constitutes an incoherent concept, as "truth" is what we usually say about conclusions that can be empirically verified apart from personal opinion, while morals are value-judgments arising from our personal subjective preferences.  The concept of "moral truth" is stupid.

Only a fool says "Is it correct to kiss after the 5th date?"  
Only a fool says "should 2+2=4?" 

It can’t be changeable, fallible human beings like you or me. It can only be God whose unchangeable nature is the ground of all moral value.
God does not have an unchangeable nature, he sometimes regrets his own decisions:
 6 The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
 7 The LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them."    (Gen. 6:6-7 NAU)
 Sorry, Turek, but you don't just say "anthropomorphism!" and pretend the debate is over.  You must justify your inteprretation from the immediate context.  That is, if you think the text is speaking non-literally, you must provide the grammatical and contextual reasons why.  Check out Boyd for a primer.

And since the immediate context of that statement is describing what most Christian scholars take to be real literal history, the assumption that v. 6-7 are talking literally about god, is consistent with the context. When concerns of inerrancy aren't present, the literal interpretation looks like the one the author intended.

Since bible inerancy is very controversial even among those who believe some form of it, I'm not doing anything unreasonable in refusing to make sure my interpretation of the passage harmonizes with the rest of the bible.
That’s why atheists are unwittingly stealing from God whenever they claim a right to anything.

Dream on.
But how do we know that’s the Christian God?  Doesn’t he do evil in the Old Testament?
Yes, unless you are willing to contradict everything you stand for and say that whether rape is objectively immoral depends on who is doing it and why (Isaiah 13:16-17).

Friday, September 14, 2018

Thanks, bro! Why James the Lord's brother keeps Jesus in the grave

Christian apologist Bill Pratt from thinks James the brother of the Lord believed Jesus rose from the dead, and uses that alleged belief to support the case for Jesus rising from the dead.

I posted the following reply to him:

What would be wrong with concluding, from your admission that Jesus' immediate family rejected his claims during the earthy ministry, that Jesus likely couldn't work real miracles and likely didn't rise from the dead?

I've done an extensive study of every appearance of the name "James" in the NT.

I find unconvincing the arguments of Christian scholars who say James eventually came to believe his brother Jesus rose from the dead.  The evidence for that proposition is weak and ambiguous and requires far more speculation than the competing hypothesis that says James the Lord's brother likely never believed Jesus rose from the dead, and likely remained an unbeliever for the entirety of his association with the post-crucifixion apostles.

If you feel you can show the theory of James thinking his brother rose from the dead, is more reasonable than my theory that James was more likely a lifetime skeptic of Jesus' resurrection, you know where to contact me.   Or if you wish, I can start the discussion with my critique of your arguments.  Sincerely,
 We'll wait to see if Mr. Pratt wishes to engage a clearly sincere request to challenge him with tough questions on the merits, and more.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Resurrecting a dead Tekton Ticker Link, Holding's lies about the libel lawsuit

James Patrick Holding, the homosexual apologist I sued, twice, took down his legal funding webpage after the lawsuits concluded.  He mentions the lawsuit and link here.

The link to "funded justice" is expired, but still available through wayback here.

I will now answer Holding's statements on that page, and you might discover why Holding allowed it to expire.  No, it wasn't because the lawsuit was concluded.  It was because he said stupid shit that makes him sound dishonest:
Social Sharing will be enabled when the project is launched.
In July 2015, 20 members of the TheologyWeb forum were named as targets of a “libel” lawsuit by a former atheist member.
 False.  I spoke of possibly suing the other 19, but Holding, the Mr. Bigmouth of the group, was the only one ever specifically named in any filed lawsuit (aside from a "John Doe" who was never identified).   But characterizing this as "named as targets" is just a bit misleading.
Two of us are pictured who are public figures among the 20, including myself.
Neither Holding nor Nick Peters are public figures.  Holding never claimed such status or defense in the lawsuits and he isn't a public figure according to the legal standards of his own home state of Florida.  See Porter v. Sanchez, Dist. Court, MD Florida 2017
So far only one (me, James Patrick Holding) has been served with complaint and summons, and litigation is in process. Of the remaining 19 people, many are vulnerable because of their limited incomes, or because of serious health issues for themselves or their family.
 Concerns that could just as easily have been true about me, but which didn't slow down Holding in the least from libeling me.  Nobody wonders why Holding, after the lawsuits, let his 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation be administratively dissolved and suddenly discovered the good of focusing on Indonesian churches.  It is only they that might express any approval of Holding's libels, given their honor/shame approach.  Perhaps Holding will consider moving to some poverty-stricken part of Indonesia where illiteracy reigns, so that he can just publicly cuss anybody who disagrees with him, and REALLY do things the way Jesus did; live and in real-time.  Holding is a pussy, more like the 6 year old doing prank phone calls, than the fearless leader who smears his opponents to their faces in real time the way Jesus allegedly did.  Holding never once talked shit to Dr. Richard Carrier during their live 2009 debate. Holding has proven that while he likes the "call names" part of the bible, he doesn't like the "say it to my face, bitch" part of the bible.
An attorney has been hired, and for the past several months has been working on the case.
Which was a pointless waste of money since Holding boasted in 2015 and 2016 that any libel lawsuit would be frivolous and could be dismissed with nothing more than his mailing in a motion to dismiss.  Stupid assholes sometimes need to be kicked in the head before they discover the obvious, and Holding was never any exception.
A win for me in court will help shield the other 19 targeted defendants.
 That's right, fuck the merits, all you care about is winning at any cost.  Perhaps that's why you begged for donations without offering a link to the Complaints/Lawsuits filed against you.  Perhaps the people that donated money to your legal fund didn't give two shits whether you were guilty under the law or not, seeing as they never so much as even asked to review the merits of my case against you before deciding whether to donate. Their hero was in trouble, and they flocked to you like toddlers flock to a parent.  No thinking or reasoning, just automatic knee-jerk response.
We humbly ask for the assistance of others in defending ourselves from this lawsuit.
 Maybe you should have provided a link to the Complaints.  That would enable a person to more objectively decide whether your infamously foul mouth actually crossed the line into actionable libel or not.
Any funds gathered will be used as follows:
1)      To defray my attorney expenses.  Currently we are working on a motion to dismiss the case based on lack of personal jurisdiction (I do not live in the same state as the Plaintiff).
Because you are a Pharisee, and as such, more worried to exploit trifles of law than argue the merits. Jesus accused the Pharisees of being legalistic hypocrites more worried about technicalities than broader concepts such as justice.  Matthew 23:23.
2)      To prepare a similar defense for any of the others in the group, should they be served with a suit.
Again, because you don't give a shit what the merits are, you merely come running to the aid of your friends as quickly as Nazis rush to the aid of Hitler.
3)      To prepare an alternate defense, should either 1) fail, or should one of us be sued in our own home state.
That's not quite as optimistic as your cocky belligerant bullshit from Tweb in 2015, where you mocked the very concept of you being sued for libel and said how easy it would be to get my lawsuits dismissed.  Well fuck you.
Project FAQ
Has this cost you any legal fees so far?

Hello Jack, So far the toll has been $7700, of which $600 has been covered by other members of the forum. Thank you for contributing! JP
And don't ask about the merits, just rake in that money, never dreaming that even under your own worldview, stupid Christians coming to your undeserved legal rescue could also be something orchestrated by Satan.  Only dipshit undiscerning Christians automatically assume any winning of the Lottery comes solely from God.  But even stupid people know that signs of success can be enjoyed by those whom Satan is using.
Do I have to create an account to give a donation?
I'm told that there is a way to donate as a guest. Look for a button that says "continue as guest."
And don't worry about the merits of the lawsuit.  Once you've said "James Patrick Holding", you've uttered the words of unchangable righteousness.
Can I donate with PayPal?
Yes. Please use my email address at
WTF?  Whatever happened to your normal address
That still seems like a lot of money to spend. Does that mean the Plaintiff has a good case?
How much money is spent has very little to do with the virtues of a case.
False, you boasted in 2015 and 2016, long and loud, at your theologyweb playground that you could get any libel suit against you dismissed by merely mailing in a motion to dismiss.  There's a lot of difference between the cost of a 50-cent stamp and the cost of $21,000 in legal fees you eventually ended up footing.  But it certainly taught your stupid ass a lesson you'll never forget.  I made you kiss goodbye your dogshit non-profit corporation.  No coincidence that you held the tektonics 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation for 15 years, then dropped it like a hot potato after being sued for libel.  Trouble is, you cannot just admit you were defeated morally and biblically.  All you give one holy fuck about is the technicalities.
One of the most obviously frivolous suits in recent times was the so-called "pants" lawsuit, Pearson v. Chung, in which a judge sued a small dry cleaning business for allegedly losing his favorite pair of pants. The plaintiff, sued for $67 million because of alleged mental anguish and inconvenience. He even asked for damages because he would have to drive to a different dry cleaning business from now on. The Chungs spent over $80,000 on their legal defense (which thankfully, they recovered by way of fundraising efforts like this one) before the case was finally dismissed for the fraud it was. The sad fact is that Plaintiffs can make up all kinds of claims of damages and force litigation to occur.
Then how do you explain God being wrong about how easily frivolous lawsuits can be dismissed?  Why don't you use god's posts to Tweb in 2015 as proof that god exists?
What will happen to any unused funds?
The statute of limitations on the claim involved (libel) is up to two years. Once that has passed we'll disburse any remaining funds to charity.
Why has it taken several months for the case to progress to this point? Shouldn't it be dismissed by now?
The sad reality is that our court systems are clogged with cases, and it can take a long time to get to certain types of hearings like summary judgment dismissals.
False:  you were prepared to have a hearing on your motion to dismiss before you ever hired a lawyer.  The truth is that you were afraid, and rightly so, your motion to dismiss would be denied.  Since people like you commit suicide every time they are forced to admit they got something wrong, you thought it better to waste other people's hard earned money hiring a lawyer, despite your cocky belligerent assurances at Tweb in 2015 of how incurably innocent you were of libel, and how any such lawsuit would be shockingly frivolous, you big-mouthed disgraced tail-chasing squealing marmot. 
In this case, we asked for a date for such a hearing in December 2015, and were told that May 6th was the earliest available date for a summary judgment. So there's no way we could have gotten a dismissal hearing any earlier.
You are a lying sack of shit:  You sent in several motions to dismiss and you obtained a hearing date for them before you ever hired a lawyer, and you voluntarily allowed your newly hired lawyer to strike these hearing dates.
Also, although it's been 7 months since my attorney started on the case, he's actually only worked a total of 30 or so hours in it in that period, plus some work by his paralegal. He does have other cases on his docket besides mine, which I appreciate. Either way, 30 hours seems pretty fast to me!
Gee, 30 hours studying a case that you assured everybody on Tweb in 2015 was completely frivolous in every way and could be dismissed with nothing more than your mailing in a motion to dismiss?

Did you get schooled the hard way?  Or does James Patrick Holding lack the requisite genetic hard-wiring necessary to notice when he has been stomped?  I vote for the latter, based on his internet history.  No, Christian Research Institute's keeping you on as a guest writer doesn't prove shit, Hank Hanegraaff is equally notorious as you for failing to notice when alleged Christian leaders have failed their biblical moral duty.  And Hank's apathy toward you not caring whether the bible is the inspired word of God or not...well let's just say its not surprise when hypocritcal evangelicals apostatise to the Greek Orthodox church.. Apparently, not even 20 years of defending Evangelical doctrine as the Bible AnswerMan is enough apologetics to ensure that you've found the actual "truth".
Why are you asking for dismissal based on personal jurisdiction and not the merits of the case?
Why does anyone do that? Attorneys regularly ask for dismissals based on jurisdiction rather the "merits" of a case.
And Pharisees routinely tithe mint and neglect the weighter matters of the law, like justice, Matthew 23:23.  Did you have a point?
A leading analogous case, Burdick vs Superior Court, is one such example, and there are many others. The simple answer though is that it is easier, faster, less expensive, and it discourages plaintiffs who are unlikely to be able to challenge the defendant on their own home turf, for whatever reason (expense, fear, etc.). I'd say all four of those apply here.
That makes no sense:  There is nothing easier, faster or less expensive about hiring a lawyer to represent you.  Once again, you filed your own motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction before you ever hired a lawyer.
Why have you not given out the name of the plaintiff or the details of the lawsuit?
It's pretty much standard that you don't talk about the details of your case publicly.
 Then you were violating "standard" conduct when blathering so uncontrollably like a 3 year old at Tweb in 2015 about how God (i.e., you) is not subject to lawsuit.
To me, that includes not discussing the names and identities of the opposing parties.
 Sure, but only after you publicly disclosed my name and the details of the case against you in your Internet Predator Alert, which your attorney forced you to take down under threat of more liability.  Once again, Mr. Know-it-All got schooled the hard way, and would rather die than admit his mouth fucked up his life's ambition. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Christianity Today: we need to ween ourselves away from the online robot

Once in a great while I'll find something in a Christian publication that I agree with.  Christianity Today for July/August 2018 has an article "The Bible's Slowness" by Sandra McCracken, and "Holy Inefficiency" by Christina Crook.  Here is one of her websites encouraging others to feel the joy of missing out.  Well said.

While the change must be to some extent arbitrary, the adult-kiddies need to start paying attention to the down-side of modern technology, instead of just gobbling it up like starving teenagers at a pizza party. 

Missing out on most of the online buzz would probably do you a lot of good.  How did we ever survive in the world when we weren't able to be connected to each other 24/7?

Cold Case Christianity: Using the law to destroy J. Warner Wallace's case for Mark's reliability

This is my reply to an article by J. Warner Wallace entitled

The authorship of Mark’s Gospel is of great importance to those of us making a case for the reliability of the New Testament. Mark isn’t mentioned as an eyewitness in any of the Gospel accounts. How did Mark get his information about Jesus?
Well Mr. Wallace:  Mark's not being an eyewitness would make his own gospel "hearsay" in any court of law.  Since you are so big on the use-American-court-rules-of-evidence-on-the-gospels gimmick, you might begin by explaining how you figure the jury could ever be allowed to see Mark's gospel:

First, the gospels are 2,000 years old, thus requiring analysis of the "ancient documents" rule, Federal Rule of Evidence 803 (16): (of course, the rule was never meant to apply to documents that are 2,000 years old, but Wallace is stuck with that stupid application of the law since he wants to evaluate the gospels using modern American jurisprudence):
  (16) Statements in Ancient Documents. A statement in a document that was prepared before January 1, 1998, and whose authenticity is established.
 Second, the evidence rules tell us how "authenticity" is to be established, Federal Rule of Evidence 901(b)(8):
(8) Evidence About Ancient Documents or Data Compilations. For a document or data compilation, evidence that it:
(A) is in a condition that creates no suspicion about its authenticity;
(B) was in a place where, if authentic, it would likely be; and
(C) is at least 20 years old when offered.
Third, Mark doesn't pass the "condition that creates no suspicion about its authenticity" criteria.  
 The requirement that the document be free of suspicion relates not to the content of the document, but rather to whether the document is what it purports to be, and the issue falls within the trial court's discretion. United States v. Firishchak, 468 F.3d 1015, 1021 (7th Cir. 2006); United States v. Kairys, 782 F.2d 1374, 1379 (7th Cir.1986); United States v. Kalymon, 541 F.3d 624, 632-33 (6th Cir. 2008). "[T]he mere recitation of the contents of documents does not authenticate them or provide for their admissibility." Firishchak, 468 F.3d at 1021.

From Eusebius, Church History, book 6, ch. 14:
Again, in the same books, Clement gives the tradition of the earliest presbyters, as to the order of the Gospels, in the following manner: The Gospels containing the genealogies, he says, were written first. The  Gospel according to Marks had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it. When  Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it. But, last of all, John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the Gospel, being urged by his friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel. This is the account of Clement.
If the person who is the purported source behind Mark refused to encourage the writing, then it doesn't matter why; from historian's perspective the notion that Peter thought Mark got some of the Petrine preaching wrong must remain forever among the possibilities.  The bar Mark must meet is not "reasonable", but "no suspicion".  Unless fundamentalists suddenly discover that Eusebius isn't as reliable as they wished (a position that itself opens doors to justified gospel authorship skepticism that they wish to remain closed), then Clement's remark here passes the historical criteria of embarrassment, and thus has greater claim to reliable history than any laudatory statement about Mark. 

Fourth, Mark fails the "was in a place where, if authentic, it would likely be" criteria, since provenance of the manuscripts earliest Mark comes from (Vaticanus, Siniaticus) are virtually unknown, and Mark's alleged traveling all over from Rome to Egypt would require the ridiculous result that this criteria is satisfied as long as a copy of Mark was found somewhere within a 3,000 mile radius! 

Furthermore, the tradition is that Mark gave the original to the church in Rome (a city having nothing to do with Siniaticus or Vaticanus).  Siniaticus was found in Saint Catherine's Monastery which is in Egypt, 1,500 miles away from Rome.  Vaticanus obviously comes from the Vatican library, but that only means that's where is was discovered.  But the provenance and early history of the codex is uncertain, see Aland, Kurt; Barbara Aland (1995). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism, trans. Erroll F. Rhodes. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 109 (from wikipedia).  See also same here.

Fifth, even if Mark passed the ancient documents rule, the fact that it is allegedly Mark quoting Peter means it is still classic hearsay, and if no exception allowing it can be found, it remains inadmissible hearsay. Contrary to popular belief, demonstrating the authenticity of the document doesn't end the analysis, the document must still conform with the rules allowing hearsay, or the document must remain inadmissible:
Even if a document qualifies as ancient under Rule 803(16), other hearsay exceptions must be used to render each individual layer of hearsay admissible. This interpretation best reconciles the underlying justifications of Rule 803(16) with the limitations of Rule 805."). See also New England Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Anderson, 888 F.2d 646, 650 (10th Cir. 1989) (upholding exclusion of statements reported in newspaper article as inadmissible hearsay). As previously stated, the newspaper articles fall within the exception for ancient documents. However, as to the statements of other declarants (apart from the author), Ms. Murphy has not shown that any other hearsay exception applies. Accordingly, the Motion in Limine is granted, in part, with regard to portions of the newspaper articles attributable to declarants other than the author.

Worse, Christian scholars generally agree that Mark's gospel content includes more than merely "what Peter preached", which therefore screws up any hope Wallace had to pretend that only Peter is being represented in Mark's gospel. From my prior article:
Without doubt a close examination of Mark’s material will show that the evangelist did not simply write his Gospel based on his notes or memory of Peter’s teachings. The amazing similarity in language, style, and form of the Synoptic tradition between the Markan and non-Markan materials of Matthew and Luke (cf. John’s Gospel) hardly suggests that Mark’s materials were shaped by one man, be he either Peter or Mark.
Guelich, R. A. (2002). Vol. 34A: Word Biblical Commentary : Mark 1-8:26
Word Biblical Commentary (Page xxvii). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
Even if Mark passed the ancient documents rule and all hearsay objections, what exactly in it that goes back to Mark, to Peter, to somebody's idea of a combination of both, or to otherwise unknown sources, is impossible to determine. 

And while I espouse Markan priority, the Christians who think Mark copied from Matthew (Matthean priority) make it even more difficult to pinpoint what in Mark's gospel is from Mark, from Peter, from Matthew, or from other sources.

It is not for nothing that I call Wallace's use of modern rules of evidence on the gospels, a "sales gimmick".   That's truly all that it is.  He is capitalizing on Christians who don't know jack shit about historiography or legal rules of evidence, and upon Christians who are utterly addicted to their computer.

Wallace continues:
Why should we consider his information to be reliable? There are several good reasons to believe Peter is the trustworthy source of information for Mark, beginning with the historical attributions of the early Church Fathers who affirm the relationship Mark and Peter had in the 1st Century.
Trustworthy?  Peter denied Christ several times after having allegedly seen him do real miracles to amazed crowds for three years, then he became a Judaizer (Galatians 2:12-14, " is is that you compel the Gentiles to live as the Jews?")
Beyond this, however, there are additional evidences within Mark’s text supporting the claim Peter (Mark’s mentor in Rome) is the source for Mark’s information.
Doesn't matter, if the argument were that easy, you wouldn't find legitimate Christian scholars like Guelich, supra, scoffing at the notion that Peter is Mark's only source.
I’ve described the evidential case in much more detail in Cold-Case Christianity, but this brief summary may be helpful:
The Writing Style Is Consistent With Mark’s Background
The traditional view recognizes Mark as a Palestinian Jew who wrote his Gospel using Peter as his source. Most scholars believe the Gospel of Mark demonstrates a writing style and literary syntax exposing the author’s first language as something other than Greek. In fact, the writing style seems to indicate the author’s first language was probably a Semitic language such as Aramaic. This would be consistent with the idea Mark, a Palestinian Jew (who most likely spoke Aramaic) was the author of the Gospel. In addition to this, the Gospel of Mark includes a number of vivid and tangential details unnecessary to the narrative, but consistent with observations of an eyewitness to the events. This would indicate the author had access to an eyewitness such as Peter.
But there is also evidence against Peter's being a source is Mark's resurrection appearance narrative. 

First, Acts 1:1-3 has a risen Christ appearing to the apostles IN JERUSALEM over a period of 40 days, teaching things concerning the kingdom of God:
NAU  Acts 1:1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,
 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.
 3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.   (Acts 1:1-3 NAU)
 Second, nothing in Mark's resurrection appearance narrative expresses or implies any such thing as 40 days of resurrection appearances in Jerusalem:

 9 Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.
 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping.
 11 When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.
 12 After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country.
 13 They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.
 14 Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.
 15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
 16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
 17 "These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;
 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
 19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed . [And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. (Mk. 16:9-20 NAU)
Had Peter experienced the 40-day Jerusalem appearances of Christ, we'd expect both that he'd relay the details to Mark, and that Mark would find the risen Christ's teachings on the kingdom of heaven equally as important, if not more so, than the same teachings Christ gave before the crucifixion.
"Impeachment by omission" is a recognized means of challenging a witness's credibility. "A statement from which there has been omitted a material assertion that would normally have been made and which is presently testified to may be considered a prior inconsistent statement." State v. Provet, 133 N.J.Super. 432, 437, 337 A.2d 374 (App.Div.), certif. denied, 68 N.J. 174, 343 A.2d 462 (1975); see also Silva, supra, 131 N.J. at 444-45, 621 A.2d 17; State v. Marks, 201 N.J.Super. 514, 531-32, 493 A.2d 596 (App. Div.1985), certif. denied, 102 N.J. 393, 508 A.2d 253 (1986). This principle is widely accepted. Jenkins v. Anderson, 447 U.S. 231, 239, 100 S.Ct. 2124, 2129, 65 L.Ed.2d 86, 95 (1980) ("Common law traditionally has allowed witnesses to be impeached by their previous failure to state a fact in circumstances in which that fact naturally would have been asserted."); Kenneth S. Broun, McCormick on Evidence § 34 (7th 784*784 ed. 2013) ("[I]f the prior statement omits a material fact presently testified to and it would have been natural to mention that fact in the prior statement, the statement is sufficiently inconsistent."); 3A Wigmore on Evidence § 1042 (Chadbourn rev. 1970) ("A failure to assert a fact, when it would have been natural to assert it, amounts in effect to an assertion of the non-existence of the fact.")

Wallace continues:
The Outline of the Gospel Is Consistent With Peter’s Outline
Papias maintained the Gospel of Mark was simply a collection of Peter’s discourses (or his preaching) as this information was received and recalled by Mark. If we examine the typical preaching style of Peter in the Book of Acts (1:21-22 and Acts 10:37-41 for example) we see Peter always limited his preaching to the public life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Mark’s Gospel omits the private birth narrative and other details of Jesus’ life described in the opening chapters of Luke and Matthew. Mark begins with the preaching of John the Baptist and ends with the resurrection and ascension, paralleling the public preaching of Peter as we see it summarized in the Book of Acts.
Unfortunately, none of the apostles in Acts merely quote Jesus verbatim and recall his specific miracles, strongly suggesting that Peter's preaching in Rome was akin to his preaching in Jerusalem.  He might make general references to to what Jesus said and did, but nothing nearly so verbatim as what we find in Mark's gospel.  You cannot argue that Peter didn't need to be specific about the details with the Jews that he witnessed to in Acts, who knew all about Jesus' public ministry, because Paul's preaching the Gentiles is also recorded in Acts, yet is equally bereft of verbatim quotes of Jesus (Acts 20:35 being merely an exception that proves the rule), consistent with the way he argues his actual points; Paul infamously hardly ever bases his teachings on things Jesus actually said or did, aside from dying for sin and rising from the dead (1st Cor 11:23-25 and 1st Timothy 5:18 are mere exceptions proving the rule).  Mark is at best an embellishment of the more generalized message the apostles originally preached.
The Omissions of the Gospel Are Consistent With Peter’s Influence
There are many details in the Gospel of Mark consistent with Peter’s special input and influence, including omissions related to events involving Peter. How can Mark be a memoir of Peter if, in fact, the book contains so many omissions of events involving Peter specifically? It’s important to evaluate the entire catalogue of omissions pertaining to Peter to understand the answer here. The vast majority of these omissions involve incidents in which Peter did or said something rash or embarrassing. It’s not surprising these details were omitted by the author who wanted to protect Peter’s standing in the Christian community. Mark was quite discreet in his retelling of the narrative (other Gospel writers who were present at the time do, however, provide details of Peters ‘indiscretions’ in their own accounts). Here are some examples of Petrine Omissions grounded in an effort to minimize embarrassment to Peter (see Cold-Case Christianity for a more detailed explanation of the events summarized here):
 Thank you for honestly admitting that the gospel authors sometimes attempted to spin an apostle to be more trustworthy than he was, by selectively omitting the more embarrassing episodes.  Whoever wrote Mark's gospel had more faith in the public's negative reaction, than in the power of the Holy Spirit to move through historical truth.

Since more than enough has been done here to destroy Wallace's bullshit legal case for Mark's authenticity, there is no need to reply to the rest of his article.

There is sufficient cumulative, circumstantial evidence to conclude Mark did, in fact, form his Gospel from the teaching and preaching of the Apostle Peter. If this is the case, Mark’s Gospel was written within the lifetime of Mark (and likely within the lifetime of Peter). If the Gospel of Mark was written this early, it would have undergone the scrutiny of those who were actually present and could have exposed Mark as a liar:

2 Peter 1:16
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty
 We have no idea under what circumstances Mark wrote, so cocky confidence about how Mark would have been subject to criticism and passed with flying colors is overstatement, something Christians apparently need to stay faithful, since the Holy Spirit wouldn't need to overstate the case like that to properly do his job of keeping Christians confident in the gospel.

Regardless, the quotation from Eusebius that Peter knew about, but refused to encourage, Mark's literary effort, is reasonably interpreted as Peter's belief that Mark was not reliable, which destroys Wallace's last point.

No, I do not wake up in the middle of the night in frightened shivers, wondering "what if atheism is wrong and hell is real!?"

Friday, August 24, 2018

Cold Case Christianity: The extent to which Mark relies on Peter's preaching can be reasonably doubted

This is my reply to an article by J. Warner Wallace entitled

The authorship of the New Testament Gospels has become a point of contention for many skeptics who deny the traditional attributions of Mark, Matthew or John.
Read any modern commentary on Mark written by a Christian scholar.  Christians are also having problems with the link between Mark and Peter.  Here's one evangelical Christian scholar who scoffs at the idea that Peter was the primary source of Mark:
Without doubt a close examination of Mark’s material will show that the evangelist did not simply write his Gospel based on his notes or memory of Peter’s teachings. The amazing similarity in language, style, and form of the Synoptic tradition between the Markan and non-Markan materials of Matthew and Luke (cf. John’s Gospel) hardly suggests that Mark’s materials were shaped by one man, be he either Peter or Mark.
Guelich, R. A. (2002). Vol. 34A: Word Biblical Commentary : Mark 1-8:26
Word Biblical Commentary (Page xxvii). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
 With that kind of admission, the extent to which any particular passage in Mark constitutes a quotation from Peter is well-nigh impossible to resolve, thus justifying the skeptic to declare Mark's gospel inadmissible.

That is, if Wallace wishes to continue his farce of evaluating the gospels by the standard of modern American law; a trick he learned from Simon Greenleaf's similar 19th century effort.

Wallace, since you are so hot-to-trot about using American legal principles to evaluate the gospels, your inability to show exactly where Peter's input begins and ends in the Markan material, justifies excluding this "testimony" since we don't know whether something we read therein is from Peter, Mark, or other source Mark used, or something added by a later redactor. 

That later redactors can screw things up sufficiently to make it difficult to figure out what the original said, is clear from the controversy over the "long ending" of Mark.  It is likely a forgery, but it still managed to infect most of the manuscripts in a way sufficiently thorough as to enable a minority of Christian scholars today to make a cause for their authenticity that would sound convincing to somebody not already familiar with the evidence..

If you were being prosecuted for murder on the basis of a written affidavit of a now-dead person, whose various assertions about you and your crime were legitimately subject to the level of authorship and source controversy now plaguing Mark's gospel, you'd be screaming your head off that such affidavit is more prejudicial than probative for its tendency to confuse the jury on who exactly is making the assertions.  You'd be making a motion to have such affidavit rendered inadmissible.
Mark’s Gospel is of particular importance due to its early dating and relationship to the other Gospels. In spite of the fact Mark isn’t mentioned as an eyewitness in any of the Gospel accounts, there are many good reasons to accept his authorship and regard his Gospel as an accurate record of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. The repeated and unanimous testimony of the early Church describes Mark’s Gospel as an accurate record of Peter’s teaching, captured faithfully by Mark acting as Peter’s scribe.
 The early church was also unanimous that Matthew and Luke were written before Mark, a position you and most other Christian scholars now disagree with.  So apparently, "unanimous church tradition" isn't quite as powerful as you'd like the reader to believe.
Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, and Tertullian attribute the Gospel to Mark, and Mark is also described as the author in the Muratorian Fragment and the Anti-Marcionite Prologues.
I don't have a problem with Mark writing the gospel.  I have a problem with the idea that any of his specific statements came from the mouth of Peter.  Here's one reason why:

Assuming, as most Christian scholars do, that Matthew used Mark as a source, why is Matthew's version of Peter's confession and Jesus' answer thereto, far longer than Mark's account?

Mark 8
Matthew 16
27 Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them,

"Who do people say that I am?"
 28 They told Him, saying, "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets."

  29 And He continued by questioning them, "But who do you say that I am?"

 Peter answered and said to Him, "You are the Christ."

  30 And He warned them to tell no one about Him.

 31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples,

"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."

 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ,

the Son of the living God."

 17 And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
 18 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
 19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."

 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

 21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

 What's more likely?

That Peter also said "the son of the living God" part, yet Mark knowingly "chose to exclude" that part?

That Jesus replied with all the commentary seen in Matthew's account, but that Mark, knowing that was Jesus' full reply, knowingly "chose to exclude" this?

Or that Matthew, the later author, is creatively using fiction to embellish the earlier primitive tradition in ways that enhance the theological significance of this conversation between Peter and Jesus? 

Regardless of whether a Christian can show that they themselves can be reasonable to reject this theory, skeptics can be reasonable to conclude that if Mark knew Peter had said "the son of the Living God", Mark would never have "chosen to exclude" this.  So the more you credit Mark to Peter, the more you credit Peter with giving Mark an unbelievably shortened version of events.
Before we begin to look at some of the internal evidences for Peter’s connection to the Gospel of Mark, we ought to recognize Peter and Mark’s relationship as it is described in the New Testament. Mark is traditionally considered to be the “John Mark” mentioned as a companion of Paul in the Book of Acts. If this is true, Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10) and originally fell from favor with Paul when he failed to continue on an evangelistic journey with Paul and Barnabas as a young man. This caused the two older men to separate; Barnabas continued on with Mark and Paul continued with Silas (Acts 15:37-40).
 Correct, and the fact that Paul disqualified Mark from further ministry due to previously abandoning the mission work, continues to stand as legitimate impeachment against Mark's integrity.  That is, Mark may have authored a gospel and become involved in apostolic activities, but he regarded the whole business as something less than exciting or transforming, a bit of apathy we would hardly expect if any apostles he was running around with were doing any of the miracles the book of Acts ascribes to them (Acts 5::15, 8:13, 15:12).  Here's the Acts 15 story on why Paul discredited Mark from future mission work:
36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are."
 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also.
 38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.
 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another
, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.
 40 But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. (Acts 15:36-40 NAU)
Wallace continues:
Mark eventually became a close associate of Peter; this is evident in two pieces of Biblical evidence. First, it appears Peter was part of a Christian group in Jerusalem that met in Mark’s home. When Peter miraculously escaped from jail (assisted by the angel of the Lord), he returned to this group to tell them the good news:

Acts 12:12-14
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
 Which is precisely why Mark's failure to mention the Jerusalem resurrection appearances (Acts 1:1-3) is a silence that screams.  Had Mark been a true convert to the faith and was a close personal friend of Peter, it is highly unlikely that either

a) Peter would keep the Acts 1:3 resurrection appearances from Mark or
b) that Mark would know of them but choose to avoid mentioning them.

Mark's allegedly living in Jerusalem would make it reasonable to suspect that, if Acts 1:3 is telling the truth, Mark would both know about AND desire to mention these Jerusalem resurrection appearances.

Even if we allow everything desired by the minority of scholars who press for the authenticity of Mark's long ending, still, Mark's "long ending" doesn't mention anything about 40 days of resurrection appearances, still less anything about 40-days worth of kingdom-of-God teachings from the risen Christ,  when we'd rather suspect that Mark would think the risen Christ's teachings about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3) were at least equally as important, if not more important, than the teachings on the same subject which Christ gave before dying (Mark 1-15).
Peter appears to have been well known to Mark, and over the course of time, Mark became even closer to Peter as he ministered throughout Asia Minor and Rome. By the time Peter wrote his first epistle, Mark had become like a son to him:

1 Peter 5:13
She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.
Mark was a common name, you don't really know whether the author traditionally associated with the gospel is the exact "Mark" mentioned in that epistle.  Critics can be reasonable to doubt this or call it inconclusive, whether you can conform the evidence to your own theory or not.
In fact, Mark’s relationship with Peter seems to parallel Luke’s relationship to Paul. Every time Paul mentions Luke, he also mentions Mark (see Colossians 4:10-14, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon verse 24). Mark and Luke clearly knew each other, and this relationship as “co-Gospel authors” is consistent with Luke’s opening statement in the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 1:1-4
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
 Except for one small problem:  Most Christian scholars say Luke used Mark's gospel as a textual source to some degree, but Luke gives the false impression in his Preface that he relied ONLY on "eyewitness" testimony, because he doesn't mention any other source except eyewitnesses.
Luke clearly describes himself as a careful investigator rather than a firsthand eyewitness to the life of Jesus. He also said he had access to the eyewitnesses and those who received the testimony of these witnesses.
 No, his preface does not express or imply that he had access to those who received the testimony of the eyewitnesses.  Even if such fact could be shown from other evidence, all that matters is what impression Luke intended to give about his sources.  We need not speculate why so many fundamentalist scholars continually talk about Luke interviewing "eyewitnesses".
This would, of course, have included Mark, a man with whom he obviously had repeated contact (according to Paul’s letters). Luke curiously described his account as being written “in consecutive order,” a meaningful statement when you consider what Papias said about Mark’s Gospel:

“Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord.”
 What you don't tell the reader is that other inerrantist Christian scholars discount the "consecutive order" or "chronological order" interpretation, in favor of one that says Luke was talking about writing in "logical" order:
To write an orderly account. The exact meaning of “orderly” is uncertain. It can refer to a temporal (Acts 3:24), geographical (18:23), or literary-logical sequence (11:4). The fact that Peter in 11:15 stated that the Spirit came upon Cornelius as he began to speak, whereas in 10:44–45 the Spirit came after Peter had spoken for some time, indicates that the “order” Luke was referring to was a logical rather than a chronological one.
Stein, R. H. (2001, c1992). Vol. 24: Luke (electronic ed.). Logos Library System;
The New American Commentary (Page 65). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Wallace continues:
In the opening lines of his Gospel, Luke appears to be acknowledging Mark as a source who had direct contact with the eyewitnesses, distinguishing his Gospel from Mark’s on the basis of its orderly format.
 Sorry, Luke's preface says nothing about his alleged used of secondary sources.  And should you trifle that ancient historians might have viewed second-hand sources as having the same probative value as first-hand sources, your happiness about the "eyewitness" nature of the gospels must wane accordingly.  Or else your continuing to evaluate the gospels via the modern American court system will make it clear how you prioritize marketing Jesus above the less attractive scholarly truth.
In addition, Luke quotes Mark more than any other source, repeating or quoting entire passages offered by Mark (350 verses from Mark appear in Luke’s gospel).
Which is precisely why Luke's admission to using "eyewitnesses" as sources is so problematic.  If you got most of your story from second-hand sources, would you tell others that you relied on "eyewitnesses" and avoid mentioning you also used hearsay?  Hopefully not.
Luke recognized Mark’s relationship with Peter, much like his own with Paul, and considered Mark to be a reliable source.
Not true.  Mark 4:38 says:
 38 Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" (Mk. 4:38 NAU)
When Luke found this in Mark, he changed the disciple's reaction so it was less accusatory than the original:
 24 They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. (Lk. 8:24 NAU)
You say Luke found Mark a reliable source?  Maybe that's why inerrantist Christian scholars admit Luke "toned down" Mark's apparently too-candid assertions:
The disciples’ question strongly rebukes Jesus and is another example of Mark’s candor, which Matt 8:25 and Luke 8:24 tone down.
Brooks, J. A. (2001, c1991). Vol. 23: Mark (electronic e.). Logos Library System;
The New American Commentary (Page 87). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Wallace continues:
On the basis of the relationship between Mark and Peter, it is reasonable to conclude the testimony of history accurately describes Mark’s connection to the Apostle. Mark acted as a scribe for Peter and recorded his teaching and preaching in his Gospel.
 But on the basis of the counter-arguments I've given here, Mark's relationship to Peter would be moot even if all biblical descriptions of it were 100% accurate. 

Finally, that Mark is a record of Peter's preaching is suspicious in light of the fact that none of the apostles in Acts give their audiences even one Christ-saying that appears in the gospels, a matter wholly at odds with the idea that the numerous Christ sayings in Mark show us the content of Peter's preaching.

The same is true for Paul.  Despite the allegedly risen Christ saying the gospel to the Gentiles was the exact same thing he taught the original apostles (Matthew 28:20, the part of the Great Commission that most Christians forget), Paul clearly did not find the actual words of Jesus to be necessary to the gospel, contradicting the viewpoint on the subject held by all 4 gospel authors, who clearly think Jesus' actual words are an essential part of the Gentile gospel.

In conclusion, the hypothesis that Peter stated all of the things recorded in Mark's gospel, is absurd, and yet once it is granted that Mark used otherwise unknown sources beyond Peter, it becomes reasonable for critics to deny that Mark's gospel is "based" on "eyewitness" testimony.  

If you were prosecuted for murder in court on the basis of an affidavit that had as many source and authorship problems as Mark's gospel does, suddenly, you'd find the bible-skeptic's skepticism to be reasonable, and you'd scream your head off that such a problematic document cannot enable a jury to reasonably decide who said what, or to decide the necessary credibility issues.  You'd seek a court order declaring such affidavit inadmissible, and so do we. 

Or you can keep fantasizing that evaluating the gospels with modern American court rules is a fun way to exploit religion for profit.  Cool marketing gimmick?  Yes.  Convincing case?  Not in the least. 

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