Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Epic Hubris

By now, I assume most are familiar with the volunteer who was stepped on by Paul Rand supports. H/T Cynical-C. The man who stomped on her head, Tim Profitt has now come forward regarding an apology.

He wants one from the woman whose head he stomped on.

It is her fault he stepped forward and while she was being held to the ground by two (2) other individuals, he takes the voluntary action to smash his foot on her head.

And people are already buying into this thinking…

Friday, October 22, 2010

How will this end? - A discussion with an Asst. Professor

Dr. Clay Jones is an Assistant Professor at Biola University. (A school that boasts faculty members Dr. William Craig, Dr. J.P. Moreland and Dr. Gary Habermas.) Dr. Jones holds a Doctorate in Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He teaches post-graduate level courses on Apologetics Research and Defense of the Resurrection. And he has a personal blog.

I happened to notice he wrote an entry, giving a defense of the Resurrection in 200 words or less. This is a fellow who teaches on apologetics and the Resurrection (arguably the lynchpin of Christianity) at a post-graduate level. This is no internet hack! (like me.)

And he is going to summarize his defense in just 200 words. One would think it to be a powerful punch; a veritable knock-out delivery of condensed apologetic argument. And he goes with……..”Not willing to die for a lie.”

Really? Well…O.K. As both of my regular readers will know, I have done a bit of study and dialoguing on this particular claim. So I join in and somehow we end up on the subject of Peter’s death. I point out how Peter was condemned to die because he pissed off the local constabulary by convincing their wives and concubines to abstain from sex.

At this point, Dr. Jones asks what my best evidence is for this claim.

I’ll admit some concern over this question. Look, I don’t expect the average layperson to know Second Century Christian writings…but Dr. Jones holds a doctorate. Dr. Jones teaches on two (2) primary topics: Apologetic Research and Defense of the Resurrection. I believe I am somewhat justified in expecting him to know some of the various sects of Christianity during this time—particularly those holding to ascetic lifestyles, decrying sex.

This is prevalent through a number of works.

More importantly, if his defense of the Resurrection--THE defense to use when one is limited to 200 words--involves the death of alleged eyewitnesses…I would be justified in believing he knew the source of those claims. Not to mention, this is a pretty big name; I’m not asking for the source of Thaddeus’ death.

This is Peter. Arguably the biggest name of them all.

And Dr. Jones doesn’t know Acts of Peter?

Perhaps you can understand my consternation.

But I press on, quoting the relevant passage from Acts of Peter.

At this point Dr. Jones asks, why should we rely upon the Gnostic Acts of Peter as compared to “other works.” Having looked, I am uncertain as to what “other works” he could mean; more importantly, what earlier works he could mean.

I want to point out triumphantly, in Perry Mason style, “Precisely, Sir! Why would we trust this claim about Peter being martyred upside down? The defense rests.” Harumph.

This is why the entire field of Christian apologetics is suspect to me. The very teachers themselves, teaching at post-graduate level, appear unfamiliar with the counter-arguments to their own position. Why would a lay person ever know any better?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Sir William Mitchell Ramsay

In my last blog entry, we discovered Simon Greenleaf was not converted from atheism to Christianity despite the numerous claims by Christian apologist after apologist. In fact, if you search “Simon Greenleaf atheist” in Google, you will find reams of pages, all with Christians gleefully stating this. All wrong.

Another claimed conversion is that of Sir William Mitchell Ramsay. While I was at, I decided to confirm this claim, and guess what I found out? Another untruth! I would argue in some situations, a downright lie. Again, google-whack “William Ramsay atheist” and you will again see Christian apologetic sites braying how he was converted from atheism to Christianity by his scholarly attempt to debunk it. A typical example from Lee Strobel:
That’s why I was especially fascinated by the story of Sir William Ramsay of Oxford University in England, one of history’s greatest archaeologists. He was an atheist. He spent 25 years doing archaeological digs to try to disprove the book of Acts which was written by the historian Luke…Instead of discrediting Luke’s account, Ramsay’s work kept supporting it. Finally he concluded that Luke was one of the most accurate historians who had ever written. Influenced by the archaeological evidence, Ramsay became a Christian.
The Case for Christ

Or Josh McDowell:
”He had spent years deliberately preparing himself for the announced task of heading an exploration expedition into Asia Minor and Palestine, the home of the Bible, where he would ‘dig up the evidence’ that the Book was the product of ambitious monks, and not the Book from heaven it claimed to be. He regarded the weakest spot in the whole New Testament to be the story of Paul’s travels. These had never been thoroughly investigated by one on the spot. Equipped as no other man had been, he went to the home of the Bible. Here he spent fifteen years literally ‘digging for the evidence.’ Then in 1896 he published a large volume, Saint Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen.

“The book caused a furor of dismay among the skeptics of the world. Its attitude was utterly unexpected because it was contrary to the announced intention of the author years before…. for twenty years more, book after book from the same author came from the press, each filled with additional evidence of the exact, minute truthfulness of the whole New Testament as tested by the spade on the spot. The evidence was so overwhelming that many infidels announced their repudiation of their former unbelief and accepted Christianity. And these books have stood the test of time, not one having been refuted, nor have I found even any attempt to refute them.”
Evidence that Demands a Verdict. (I don’t have a copy of ETDAV, but this quote is also listed at Conservapedia. If someone can demonstrate this is inaccurate in any way, I will modify it.)

[Edited to add: Although Josh McDowell apparently has removed this quote from later editions of ETDAV. See Comments Below.]

Untrue. Wrong. False.

A brief background on Sir William Ramsay: (Not to be confused with Sir William Ramsay the Nobel Prize winning Chemist as this website does with the wrong picture!)

He was a British archaeologist, born on the 15th of March 1851, with his primary works around the turn of the century (1900.) . Educated at the universities of Aberdeen, Oxford and Göttingen, and a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford (1882; honorary fellow 1898), and Lincoln College (1885; honorary 1899). In 1885 he was elected professor of classical art at Oxford, and in the next year professor of humanity at Aberdeen. From 1880 onwards he travelled widely in Asia Minor and rapidly became the recognized authority on all matters relating to the districts associated with St Paul's missionary journeys and on Christianity in the early Roman Empire. His numerous publications include: The Historical Geography of Asia Minor (1890); The Church in the Roman Empire (1893); The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia (2 vols., 1895, 1897); and St Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (1895; Germ. trans., 1898).

This was taken from his entry in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. [Warning: HUGE pdf] (But See also this entry that quotes the Encyclopedia ) Nothing about his religious beliefs. Nothing about them changing. Nothing about causing a huge scandal, or others being converted due to his writings.

I couldn’t find a single writing of his where he indicated he was an atheist at any time. Nothing about his conversion to Christianity…for any reason, let alone a specific study. More importantly, in all the writings I could find, he listed reasons for his archaeological studies, but never, ever mentions attempting to prove Christianity incorrect.

For example, in his Preface to the First Edition of St. Paul, Sir Ramsay indicates the reason he studied this issue was at the instigation of fellow scholars. Nothing about his wanting to prove Christianity, or Luke or anything whatsoever incorrect!

So where did this idea come from? The closest I could come to the root of this allegation was within I Don’t have enough Faith to be an atheist where Geisler and Turek state:
Classical Scholar and archaeologist William M. Ramsay began his investigation into Acts with great skepticism, but his discoveries helped change his mind. He wrote:

“I began with a mind unfavorable to it [Acts]…. It did not lie, then, in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself more often brought in contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”

The problem with this quote is that it is a lie. Notice the inserted “[Acts]” followed by the ellipses. Do you wonder why “Acts” was added? Do you wonder why words were omitted? Upon reading the WHOLE quote, you will see why. And the reason I call this a lie. Unfortunately, I have to give you a little background.

At this time (late 19th Century), in biblical studies, there was a growing debate as to who Paul was writing to, when writing the Epistle of Galatians. (Gal. 1:2). See, Galatia was not a city, unlike the Epistle of Romans written to Rome, or Corinthians written to Corinth; Galatia was a region. Paul was writing to a number of Churches. The debate and division was between the “North Galatia” theory as compared to the “South Galatia” theory. (See this site for a description of the issue.) Was Paul writing to north Galatia, south Galatia or both?

Bishop Lightfoot had written a treatise on Galatians, wherein he argued for the North Galatia theory. William Ramsay disagreed—he held to a South Galatia theory. In his book, The Church in the Roman Empire Before 170 AD (published 1890) Ramsay says, “I regret to be compelled, in these earlier chapters, to disagree so much with Lightfoot’s views as stated in his edition of Galatians; perhaps therefore I may be allowed to say that the study of that work, sixteen years ago, marks an epoch in my thoughts and the beginning of my admiration for St. Paul and for him.” (page 6)

Ramsay goes on to explain he will be arguing for the South Galatia theory against Lightfoot. For another example of Ramsay’s position, you can read the Expositor article of 1894 where Ramsay again argues the “south Galatia” view is more harmonious with Acts than the “north Galatia” view.

Simple, right? Yet one more (amongst millions) of scholarly disagreements over some biblical topic—Ramsay purported South Galatia, others held to North Galatia.

Having this understanding, let’s look at the Geisler & Turek quote again:

“I began with a mind unfavorable to it [Acts]…. It did not lie, then, in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself more often brought in contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”

But contrast this with the entire quote:
I may fairly claim to have entered on this investigation without any prejudice in favor of the conclusion which I shall now attempt to justify to the reader. On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavorable to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory had, at one time, quite convinced me. It did not lie, then, in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself more often brought in contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth. In fact, beginning with the fixed idea that the work was a second-century composition and never relying upon its evidence as trustworthy for first-century conditions, I gradually came to find it a useful ally in some obscure and difficult investigations. But there remained still one serious objection to accepting it as a first-century work. According to the almost universally accepted view, this history led Paul along a path and through surroundings which seemed to me historically and topographically self-contradictory. It was not possible to bring Paul’s work in Asia Minor into accordance with the facts of history on the supposition that an important part of the work that was devoted to the northern part of the peninsula of Galatia. [emphasis added]
St. Paul, The Traveler and the Roman Citizen, pg 19

Do you see? The “it” that William Ramsay referred to in the second sentence was most certainly NOT Acts, as claimed by Geisler & Turek, if we read the preceding sentence (conveniently left out by Geisler & Turek) we see that “it” is conclusion he will be attempting to justify to the reader. To remove that first sentence (and the first clause in the second) and then insert the word “Acts” when the author is clearly not talking about Acts is a lie.

We might as well claim Nixon said, “I am…[a thief and] a crook.”

Secondly, we would question what the Tubingen theory was, if Ramsay was abandoning it. The Tubingen Theory was that Acts was a second century document, intended to reconcile the differing positions of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul. Again, this is a biblical scholarly debate which Ramsay abandoned a former biblical position—not an abandonment of atheism.

But most importantly, we see the crucial reason Ramsay could not subscribe to the North Galatia theory, was the conflicts it created with Acts. In other words, he held Acts in such high regard, it caused him to disagree with his friend, Lightfoot--because Ramsay felt he must stay true to Acts.

Ramsay, in this paragraph, is indicating why he fell on one particular side in a biblical squabble. NOT that he was against Acts’ historicity (far from it) and in fact, primarily became convinced to the South Galatia theory because of his adherence to Acts’ historicity.

Yet another “atheist turned Christian” story debunked.

Perhaps the most regrettably notion within is the blatant mistruth offered by Geisler & Turek (and [at the least] the complete lack of study by Strobel and McDowell) You would think that would bother some Christians…

Edited to Add:

I have found a kernel of truth to this claim of a “changed skeptic.” According to Ramsay in his The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (1915) he initially subscribed to the theory that Acts was compiled in the later 2nd Century, and addressed the doctrinal issues of that time. For that reason, Ramsay did not utilize Acts as reference material for what happened in the First Century.

However, he came to realize Acts did accurately reflect the geography. This article (pdf) explains:
In his search for information bearing on the geography and history of Asia Minor he at first paid slight attention to the early Christian authorities. He had gained the impression in his studies that these were quite unworthy of consideration for a historian; anything having to do with religion belonged to the realm of the theologians, not that of the historians. When he spent time copying Christian inscriptions in his earliest years of travel, he felt the time to be wasted―even though a sense of duty compelled hint to make copies of them. Finally, in a desperate search for any information of a geographical and antiquarian nature, he began to study the journeys of Paul in this region of the world as described in the Book of Acts. He hardly expected to find any information of value regarding the condition of Asia Minor in the time of Paul; rather, he thought he would find material bearing upon the second half of the second century of the Christian era, i.e. the age (he thought) in which the author of Acts lived.

Ramsay was not trying to disprove Acts. Why would he? He didn’t think it applicable to this period. He simply felt it would not be relevant. Upon discovering one accuracy, he began to rely upon Acts as being historically accurate to the First Century.

This is still very far from Ramsay, the hardened atheist skeptic going out to battle on behalf of his cheering heathen colleagues, all expecting to prove the entire New Testament to be completely false, only to discover the very sandals of Jesus, and subsequently becoming a Christian.

I added this in fairness of complete disclosure.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Simon Greenleaf

In attempts to confirm apologetic claims, I can get caught up in lengthy rabbit trails. Since this is one sure to resurface in the future, I figured I may as well blog the journey.

Simon Greenleaf was a luminary in legal jurisprudence during the early 19th Century. He became a lawyer in 1806, and advanced to become the reporter for the Maine Supreme Court. In 1833 he became a professor at Harvard Law School, retaining the position through the late 40’s. He is famous for writing two (2) works:

1) His Treatise on Evidence, written in 1844-46; and
2) Testimony of the Evangelists in 1847

The second work makes Christian apologists salivate. No less than Drs. Geisler & Turek’s book I don’t have enough Faith to be an Atheist makes the claim:
Simon Greenleaf, the Harvard Law professor who wrote the standard study on what constitutes legal evidence, credited his own conversion to Christianity as having come from his careful examination of the Gospel witnesses.

This is repeated and regurgitated on numerous internet sites:
Dr. Greenleaf is considered by many to have been one of the greatest legal minds we have had in the U.S. He was formerly an outspoken skeptic of Christianity and who set out to disprove the deity of Christ. In the end he concluded that the Resurrection was true “beyond any reasonable doubt.” Greenleaf became a Christian after studying the evidence for himself.
see here

Of course the story grows to his being instigated by a student’s challenge. See Snopes for the common theme of student challenging professor.

Do a google search on Greenleaf being an atheist and you will hit literally 1000’s of sites (including the infamous Wikipedia.) And, this morning in my perusal of blogs, I saw this platitude repeated once more when Wintery Knight indicated, “[S]imon Greenleaf…assessed the evidence as [an] atheist and became [a] Christian.”

Having seen this so many times, I decided to verify.

Was Simon Greenleaf an atheist? Did he attempt to disprove the resurrection and become convinced by the evidence?

Ahh…in short…no. Some apologist seems to have leaped to this conclusion, and the next copied him/her, and the next copied him/her and so on, until each is copying the other, never attempting to verify it in any way. If 40,000 Google hits say its true—it must be, right?

First we should note Mr. Greenleaf’s own words about the subject. There are none. Nowhere that he claims to be an atheist (quite the opposite as we shall see in a minute), nowhere where he claims this started off as an attempt to disprove the Resurrection. Nothing. The testimonials and foreword in the 1874 version, edited by Tischendorf make no mention of Greenleaf’s desire to disprove the Resurrection, nor his theistic belief being changed by the study.

Nothing contemporary indicates he ever was an atheist, or even a theist who disbelieved the resurrection. All the evidence we have demonstrates Simon Greenleaf was a lifelong Episcopalian! He is reached the position of being on the Standing Committee for the Episcopalian diocese of Maine as of 1927. He was at the Maine Episcopalian Convention of 1831 And at the Maine Episcopalian Convention of 1832

Remember, this was all before he became a professor, let alone write his treatise on evidence.

But the nail in the coffin is this Christian who has reviewed Mr. Greenleaf’s writings and agrees this is nothing but a myth.

Simon Greenleaf was an early 19th Century lawyer who wrote a good book on Evidence. We don’t use it anymore. He used information which is now outdated to substantiate his own belief. He wasn’t an atheist; he wasn’t convinced by the evidence. He already believed and looked for support.

Time to let Simon Greenleaf rest in peace.