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Christian apologists & microblogging

I have come to realize that Twitter is an ideal medium for Christian apologists. Atheist arguments are often subtle and intellectual, and require more than 140 characters to expound upon. Whereas Christian apologists perfer to paint the world in simple strokes with just one answer: ideal for the microblogging universe. While some atheists make a valient attempt at arguing with young-earth creationists, and others of their ilk, I have found it most frustrating, and usually end up blocking them because they simply won't go away on their own. And when I end up trying to make a complete using a several tweets, they go and take each one as a unique item, take the statement out of context, rather than looking at the big picture, and make more absurd claims that can't be refuted in a single statement. Some of my fellows have gotten the hang of insisting that the Christians simply be required to back up their claims, and put the onus on them where it belongs. Personally, I don't have the time for that much practice.

Case in point, a couple weeks ago, a thought struck me, that I tweeted about. You know all those bumper stickers that warn their cars will be unmanned in event of Rapture (how arrogant a presumption, but leave that for another day). It struck me that these same Christians want Christians (of their type) to be running the country. And so I tweeted, wouldn't it be better if the country was run by people who clearly weren't going to be Raptured? At least then the rest of us left behind would still have a government in place... and wouldn't you prefer that if it turned out you weren't one of the lucky ones?

But no, my amusement couldn't be allowed to stand, and in wanders @comingofchrist. (Let's not go into the psychological reasons why someone would pick such a twitter name.)

Apologist: As soon as the Rapture happens the judgments of God will begin so there won't be much time to worry about that, I'm afraid.

I did my best to sound snarky and drive the irritant away, but you know these people... persistant. Too bad they don't spend more of their persistance on pursuing logic and education.

Me: yeah, you keep waiting for that... you could not be more wrong. it's too bad you can't tell the difference between legend and history.

The problem with relying on the bible as a source for history simply does not go away, any more than relying on the Iliad or the Odyssey for history makes it so. Like the Iliad, the Bible has a kernel of truth at the heart of it: their was a battle for Troy. But to conclude from that there were characters like Achilles & Agamemnon and that the Greek gods are true would be a mistake. The bible is no different. It contains a theology, rooted probably in some historical fact, but you cannot from that conclude that Isiah was even real, never mind that his prophecies came true. And even if one concludes that the man Jesus was real, that does not mean that his life unfolded as it is claimed in the bible. Without independent sources, like the excavation at Troy, it is all myth and legend, and the kernel of truth beneath it is certainly tantalizing, but not demonstrable. And those who see it as entirely factual are right to be seen as loons. Why is that so much easier to see than to see the bible in the same light? We have just as much information.

Apologist: Yes, I know. But just as the predictions of the 1st coming came to pass literally, so will those concerning the 2nd coming. And how does one tell? For materialists, anything they think couldn't have happened did not happen.

The predictions of the first coming came true literally? Which pray tell? And which were just manipulated so that they appeared to have come true? And more to the point, why attack me for being a materialist? Where did that come from? Could Jesus have been a real person, sure. He might also not be. We can't tell. And if extraordinary things are to be believed to be real, I do need more than the say so of some illiterate peasant without a wit of scientific knowledge or skeptical thinking. Does that make me a materialist? Totally off topic, and it is a comment solely designed to put me on the offensive, to try to turn the argument into one about me rather than about the bible and predictions of the Rapture. It's a tactic I find annoying.

I chose to ignore it and return to the question of whether the bible is legend or history.

Me: how does one tell? yes, that is the point! if you can't tell, it's not reliable. *break* yes it is. it's exactly the same as Morte D'Arthur... based in a kernel of truth, and greatly embellished and molded to fit.

Rather than reply directly to my observations, our apologist decided to make an assertion that really isn't warranted in the hope of deflecting the criticism.

Apologist: That's not what I'm asking. What is the definition of a legend? The Bible is not a legend.

Oh, so it's not because he says so, huh? But no, that's not going anywhere he likes, so let's change the subject.

Apologist: How would you explain fulfilled prophecy? Why are Jews the only people of antiquity to have survived antiquity, as Wiesel said?

Fulfilled prophecy? The ones they manipulated to make them look true, or the ones that didn't actually come true, or the fraction of ones that seem, maybe, to have happened after a gigantic length of time. If you wait long enough, and are vague enough in your predictions, they will almost certainly come true eventually.

As for the second claim, I assume he's referring to this Wiesel, though our apologist doesn't specify. The apologist and Wiesel are both wrong, however. The Jews are not the only people from antiquity to survive into the modern era. Many peoples have. The Germans were a distinct group of people even in Roman times. Despite being broken up into tribes, they had a basically unified culture. They don't worship the same gods, anymore, but so what? The cultural identity remains. What about the Basques? They have survived in Europe longer than any Indo-European group, and preceed even the Romans, and the Celts. Their non-Indo-European languages survives to this day. What about the Chinese? Their culture is as old as the Egyptians. The fact that the Basques and the Chinese weren't mentioned in the Bible is beside the point. The chances of a culture surviving intact are indeed small, but in-breeding, close social ties, and luck, also help. Chances may be small, but they are not zero. And chance is still chance. Jews survived, in part, because they assimilated into the cultures in which they lived to some point, but perserved Jewish traditions at home. The Basques used a different technique... they hid themselves in the mountains where they could be largely left alone. And of course, this raises a whole other question: What does it mean to "survive"? Any criteria that applies to the Jews, if it is fair, is liable to apply to other groups as well. Indeed, the Basques did a better job of preserving their language than the Jews did.

Me: fulfilled prophecy? u mean like prophecy running around 4 thousands of years & then someone adjusts their life story 2 fit? as for the Jews, they aren't, if you look at the whole globe. & only explanation necessary is random chance. I bet you never watched Star Trek: Voyager did you? Excellent episode on interpreting prophecy to fit life story.

Do you know the episode I'm referring to here? The one where Voyager encounters a Klingon ship, and they believe that B'Elanna's unborn child is their saviour, and the leader encourages here to fit her life story, embellish it, to fit in with the prophecies of the Kuva Mach, their saviour that they have been searching for for centuries. What is clear about the New Testament, is that the followers of Jesus all but admit that they are using prophecy as a to-do list for how to be seen as the Jewish Messiah.

Apologist: No, I mean prophecy that is fulfilled, i.e. someone predicts something and it happens. Like Isaiah 53. There isn't enough random chance to account for the Jews, or for the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. Tuvok and I go way back but I'm sticking with the prophets of Israel.

Clearly, I think he missed the Star Trek reference, because it had nothing to do with Tuvok.

So, I went back and reread Isiah 53, and it describes the death, beating and suffering, and lashes, and death of a poor, oppressed person. And our apologist would have you believe that this describes Jesus. The problem? Jesus was hardly the first person to die this kind of death, nor the last. Indeed, it was quite common. The innocent pay for the sins of the wicked, and more so in the past when unreliable eyewitnesses were thought to be the best witness to a crime, even if there was malice in their hearts, they were believed if they had power. It was more important to maintain control than to seek real justice, so the innocent who were convenient often paid for the sins of the cleverer and wealthier ones who could escape or pay off the judges. Lashes were certainly common, and burying a criminal alongside the poor and other criminals was also quite routine. Fulfilled? What an easy prophecy to fulfill since it happened routinely. Show me a prophecy what could not be manipulated, nor was a routine occurrence. Predict something really unusual... then you've got something. But if the vast majority of the human race is poor and at the mercy of a cruel system, you have only to wait for the random elements to converge in one person. And they surely will sooner or later. I'm more surprised that it didn't happen sooner.

Me: the prophecies in the old testament aren't "fulfilled". someone filled in jesus' life story to make it look that way. the "random chance" you so deride, is the only reason you exist. respect it a little.

Obviously someone with no knowledge of probabilities.

Apologist: You obviously hold long-discredited ideas re dates of Gospels. Robertson as early as 1950 says Q = before 50 AD You need to read more about the mathematical impossibility of your biological existence owing to chance.

Yeah, we are going to have to let the chance argument go, because again, no knowledge of probabilities. But let's deal with this new claim, that the dates of the Gospels are "long-discredited". Changing the subject again, because nothing about what I said had anything to do with the dates of the bible.

Q, by the way, is a hypothesized second source for the Matthew/Luke similarities not already in common with Mark (see here for background. The apologist describes my hypothetical & totally unstated position that Q appeared later than 50 CE as "long-discredited". Trouble for him is that it isn't so discredited. The apologist only accepts it because he believes it supports his position. As even Wikipedia can make clear, this is not necessarily an accepted viewpoint. And to make matters for the apologist worse, what is clear is that portions of Luke and Matthew, even accepting their close match in places with Mark and each other, have sections that are unique to each. Given the later dates at which these books were written, and knowing that classical writing tradition accepted openly altered and embellished work as still being "historical", they have added their own elements to the story long after they could possibly have known the facts. Nor does the Q document address the differences between Q and Mark and John.

But even accepting the date of 50 CE for the date of the earliest life of Jesus, and even excluding the added embellishment of later gospels (which is indeed giving away a lot), the Q document still suffers from it's own problems. It's not extent, and is only reconstructed from Matthew and Luke. Further, this is still nearly two decades after the death of Jesus. And as I mentioned before, writing in a time when strict observance of the truth in writing was simply unheard of. The writers of the gospels had a clear agenda: to spread the word of god that Jesus was the saviour, and to that end, as was an accepted practice of the time, they mythologized the story, likely making it bigger and grander and more convincing than it actually was. Very likely, they did not even think anything of it. They lived in a time of pagan gods and pagan myths that themselves did not stand up to the scrutiny of consistency, and the Jews have the same problem in the Old Testament (for instance, the two stories of creation). The large number of factual errors, such as the census that didn't happen, or the geographic errors, further testify to the problems with accepting the biblical story as true in every sense. And any books that come later than 50 CE have still more problems of time and distance. Ever played telephone? If you can't get a story around a room, how does it survive in tact for 17 years of oral tradition among an illiterate and superstitious populace?

Me: long discredited? you only believe what you want because it agrees with you. not because the scholarly community thinks so. and if you've ever played a game of telephone, u should know that illiterate society doesn't need long 2 make mess of truth. what is clear is that you don't know a thing about math as well. I do math for a living, so don't tell me about math. since u have nothing intellectually honest/rigorous 2 add 2 this discussion,I suggest u leave me out of ur delusions&go away.

My first attempt to end the converstation and make him go away didn't work. Because he comes back with a doozy.

Apologist: So if the Q document was composed less than 20 yrs after the events in question that's like a game of telephone? I have a biology degree & also know enough math to know that amino acids can't arise from protobiotic soup.

Yeah, I dare this guy to set up a story for his church group, and tell them one at a time. He can record the first and last session, and I bet you even he will embellish the story before the end. And if he has other people repeat it, around the group until they get to the end... it doesn't take 20 years to turn the original story into gibberish, or to exaggerate it.

A biology degree? OMG. Just reading that second sentence makes my head hurt. I seriously hope he's not a high school biology teacher. Amino acids are found in space for crying out load. They form easily in a protobiotic soup. That was proved more than three decades ago in the lab. Ever watch Cosmos, buddy?

Me: 20 years after events doesn't guarantee anything & if you knew anything about classical writing you'd know that. & if u do have bio degree, ur teachers obviously shld beembarrassed now. was proven in the 70s amino acids r easy 2 produce.

He has no answer to his utter factual error, so he moves the goal posts.

Apologist: Yes of course, but how can random collisions make a complex protein? They can't! You should read a little more about the historicity of Luke/Acts. Try F. F. Bruce.

Oh, yeah, F.F. Bruce looks like a winner. Not. Founders of movements are not exactly known for their scholarly objectivity.

Me: random collisions do a fine job of it in space. again, clearly you don't understand chemistry. I should read more? HA! you are the one accepting things because it agrees with you. u need 2 read more biblical criticism.

Apologist: anyway, how much RNA or hemoglobin do you find floating around in space? It's quite the opposite. You won't read anything supporting a conservative viewpoint & your approach is presuppositional. I've been exposed to higher criticism my entire adult life and guess what, the NT is historical.

Yeah, there is that repositioned goalpost again. As for being presuppositinal I beg to differ. He is projecting on that one. I make no presuppositions. I simply say, prove it! And his claim that he's been "exposed" to higher criticism all his life, and then in the same breath claim that the NT is historical is a joke. Exposed does not mean that he paid them any mind at all, or took their arguments seriously. Exposed could mean simply that he was trained to reject them. It occurred to me at this point where he might have gotten his biology degree. My thinking was Liberty University (just putting those two words together makes me want to spit). It was at this point that I finally just blocked him.

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