Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Debunking Christianity: How To Be a Biblical Scholar

the_bibleImage by Brent Nelson via FlickrYou know the most interesting thing about John Loftus' blog is that he writes so many assertions that the Atheist supports of John agree with and hardly ever challenge him. In fact the attitude seems to be that everyone already knows the facts and if you don't then you will come to the same conclusions or if you read Loftus' books you will get the evidence and be led to the truth of his conclusions. That's some bitter Kool-aid to swallow. Recently, he posted an article in which he tries to argue that the Bible is not reliable. Here is a quote:
You see, Christians take the biblical texts as if they are a divine history of their faith for the first millennium or more without attempting to discern the context for these documents. There is a discernible development to their intellectual history and it looks completely like the evolution of a faith, not a divinely revealed one.
Here's a meager comparison. It would be like reading a history of the United States that was partially written during the Revolutionary War without referring to why early Americans revolted in the first place (i.e., the context), and partially written during the Stock Market Crash by a rich author, without any context as to what caused the crash in the first place.
There is a complete lack of historical perspective in the periodically written texts of the Bible. Add to that the extraordinary claims or "wonders" we find in it and there simply is no good reason to believe them.
I have to admit that most people have never bothered to study the context of the Bible. He does have some valid points that the Bible is composed from several viewpoints. We are talking about 66 books, over 40 different authors, 3 continents, different cultures, various genres, three different languages, and most of Authors could not have known one another given it took 1500 years for them all to be written. Loftus' meager comparison is indeed meager. If someone from today were to read such a history of United States it would indeed be a confused mess. However the Bible is different. Each book was written with a specific audience in mind and the contemporary readers of those documents would have known and understood the context of those writings. Centuries removed it takes more study to get an understanding of those contexts.
However I disagree with Loftus' conclusion. And I'm not the only one. Many people have studied the contexts of the scriptures - historically and culturally - and come to the conclusion that the Bible is a coherent whole telling the same story - God redeeming His people and glorifying Himself. It's His story. I recognize that there are different opinions. Some people I've spoken to on Loftus' blog (and some scholars) even deny that we can know anything about history conclusively. If they're right then Loftus' comparison is even more meaningless.
I've got to disagree that there is a lack of historical perspective in the Bible itself. The lack of historical perspective is because of those who read the Bible out of its' own context and try to superimpose their own views and prejudices. Loftus makes the suggestion that all the other texts like the intertestamental text indeed gives a equally valid but different views of Christianity. However the intertestamental texts, like the Apocrapha, is not about Christianity but they are in a Jewish context. I do agree with him that one must study early Christian literature to understand what earlier followers of Christ thought and taught. Thing the 27 books of the New Testament all predate the gnostic and Christia n apocraphal texts. I've read many of them and they contradict the New Testament in fundamental ways. Given the New Testament was first and early, it makes sense that it better represents the teachings of Jesus and the first century church. The next point of contention that is raised is that message found in the New Testament is not coherent but contradictory. I disagree.
I invite anyone who disagrees with me and would hold that New Testament contradicts itself to put their evidence on the table in plain sight and let's discuss the texts in question and see if there is a contradiction if viewed from a historical and cultural context.

Debunking Christianity: How To Be a Biblical Scholar
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