Akin, apologetics, Atheism, Catholic, ehrman, gospels, historic jesus
My most popular post by far is this. It’s not even close.
That post is really more about how I look at religion than it is about getting into the weeds about issues that occupy much of current apologetics. In fact it explains why I think many of the debates in apologetics concern minutia, and why that is not all that interesting to me.
I follow Bart Ehrman’s blog and he posted a debate he had with Jimmy Akin.
I don’t follow Akin’s blog, because he does not allow comments, but I have read many articles and listened to him quite a bit. Both men are extremely knowledgeable about church history. I think Jimmy Akin tends to view Bart in the same way I do. I will agree with what much of Bart says in substance (although not everything) but then he will say “therefore the Gospels are unreliable!” When I was thinking “therefore the Gospels are reliable!” It is like I am saying “a mile is a short distance” and he is saying “no a mile is a long distance!” We both understand a mile is 5280 feet so I tend to say ok whatever and still follow his blog for the facts he raises. BTW the same is true about his saying there are a “huge” number of mistakes in all the manuscripts of the bible and I will look at that same number think in terms of the bible being 73 books of such and such a length and think actually that is a pretty “small” number of mistakes.
I think this is due to Ehrman studying at the Moody Bible Institute which is about as “top down” as it gets, versus my own “bottom up” approach to religion after studying philosophy. Anyway one of the comments from “AdamH” in Ehrman’s blog said:
“[Akin] seemed to defend the point of ‘Well, if the Gospels get a good chunk of the small, middle, and big points right, we can call that reliable.’ That latter point is confusing to me… most people are concerned with asking should I base my whole life or not on these texts, not if they are a historically reliable text from an abstract perspective.”
I responded but was limited to 200 words on Ehrman’s blog. So I wanted to fill out my response here a bit. It seems Adam wants to insist on more reliability because of the importance of the issue. I am sympathetic to his desire, but I don’t think the human condition is such that we can make those demands on reality.
Ehrman and others who argue against Christianity will often ask whether saints really rose from the dead as described in Matthew. But this is not an important question from my perspective. For me the question is not whether every single recorded miracle happened. The question is whether even one of the miracles happened. And, for me, it doesn’t even have to be a big one like the resurrection. (C.f., 1 Corinthians 15:17 ) For me, it could just be healing someone’s hand or even turning water into wine. Even if the Gospel authors were mistaken about all the miracles except one then we would have a situation where God gave us a miraculous sign that we should follow Christ’s teaching. How many times does God need to tell us to follow Christ’s teaching before it is reasonable to do it? My answer is he only needs to tell me once. If God tells us even once to follow Christ’s teaching then I think it is reasonable to follow Christ’s teaching.
Would AdamH say, like Russel, “not enough evidence God not enough evidence”…. “One miraculous sign is not enough! I needed at least three miraculous signs before I would follow Christ’s teaching!”
It seems to me that it is people like AdamH that may be putting up arbitrary standards as to whether the texts should be deemed “historically reliable from an abstract perspective.” I am just looking at it and asking what is the best shot at living a moral life. If all the other options I have are a lower probability then Christianity then I am going with Christianity. I am going with whatever that best shot is regardless of whether I think the best shot has a 98% probability or a 2% probability.
My questions to AdamH would be the same ones I asked myself that lead me to be a Christian. In the meantime, as you sort this out, how are you going to live? Do you think the evidence is better that Muhammad or various miracle claims of other religious people are stronger than the Christian ones? Are you just going to do whatever suits you at the time? What basis do you have to believe your own moral intuitions are reliable if there is no God? And then it would seem we get into philosophy, which is where I started, and ended up in Christianity.
Archon's Den said:
One verified miracle would be enough. A thousand unproven claims of miracles by people with a vested interest would not. 😯
Thanks for your comment Archon.
Let’s say you were in a naval battle in the middle of the ocean and your ship was destroyed so you are in very cold water. You know that you need to act now to get on a ship or you will die. Now there are 4 ships that you can swim to. But it looks like all the ships are very badly damaged and unlikely to be seaworthy enough to save you. It’s hard to tell from your position but as best you can tell one ship has a 5% chance but the others have less than a 2% chance of being seaworthy enough to save you.
What do you do? Do you think well no one has “proven” or “verified” that any of these ships will save me so I might as well die in the water? Or do you start swimming to the ship that gives you a five percent chance (the best shot)? I think think that is the obvious choice. You are not in a position to demand “proofs” or “verification.” You just have to make due with the information you have.
I think this is analogous to the situation we are in when it comes to how we should live. We can’t pause our life until someone can prove how we are supposed to live. We choose to act or not act all the time. And we can’t insist on verification or proof beyond what we have. We just have to take our best shot.
For me I think following Christ’s teachings is the “best shot.” I may wish I had better evidence or proofs but reality does not bend to my wishes. The rational person bends his beliefs and actions to reality.
Seems like Pascal’s Wager to me. Still too many unanswered questions to believe any of it.