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Is the Original New Testament Lost? Ehrman vs Wallace (Debate Transcript)

Is the Original New Testament Lost

Is the Original New Testament Lost?

What: A Debate
Thesis/Resolution: Is the Original New Testament Lost?
Who: Dr. Bart Ehrman, Dr. Dan Wallace
Where: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Memorial Hall Performing Arts Theater
When: February 1st, 2012

Is the Original New Testament Lost
These pictures were taken at different events several years after their debate.

Dr. Ehrman’s Opening Argument

Well thank you very much. Thank you Miles for organizing this event and for flying in Dan Wallace to beat my rear side all over the stage. Appreciate that very much.

So, it seems like there are a lot of students here. Am I right? How many of you have had a class with me before? Ha ha! How many of you never want to take the class with me? Right. Okay. [audience laughter] How many of you in here, students or otherwise, would consider yourselves to be Bible believing Christians? Ha! Right. That would be all of you. [audience laughter] How many of you do want to see me get creamed? Right. [audience laughter]

Let me stress something at the outset. This debate is not a debate about the validity or the importance of the Bible. Nothing that I say will be directed against anybody’s belief. I will not be arguing a view that opposes the Bible in the least.

Quite the contrary. The position I will be staking out is the view held by a very wide range of Bible scholars many of whom are deeply committed Christians as well as a number of deeply committed Christians who are not Bible scholars.

The initial question seems to be missing from our overhead.

Projector?

[audience laughing]

Yes we’re sailing in Greece trying to find our togas.

So far I’m having fun. How about you?

Thank you very much.

[audience applauding]

And with that, let me conclude.

The topic of our discussion is, “Is the original New Testament lost?” There is a very simple and forthright answer to that question and I think Dan Wallace, in fact, will not disagree. The answer is, yes. We do not have the originals of the New Testament. Period.

In order to understand what I mean by that we have realize how books were made in the ancient world.

In the ancient world when the Bible was produced books could not be mass produced. This was before electronic publication, Kinkos, or the printing press. Books were written by hand and they were copied by hand. If you wanted a copy of a book somebody had to copy it for you or you had to copy it yourself.

You copied it one page, one sentence, one word at a time.

What happens when somebody sits down to try to copy a book by hand? Invariably what happens is they make mistakes. Either on purpose or accidentally.

Scribes who copied texts in the ancient world changed their texts.

Let me explain how it worked by giving an example from the New Testament, the Gospel of Mark.

We’re not sure who Mark was, when he lived, where he lived. Whoever he was the wrote a Gospel. If anybody wanted a copy of this Gospel of Mark they had to make a copy by hand and so they did so. But invariably they made a mistake, or two, or three, or twenty.

When someone came along who wanted a copy of that copy they copied the copy and they replicated the mistakes that the first copyist made.

And they made their own mistakes.

And then when a third person came along to copy the copy of the copy they replicated the mistakes of both of their predecessors and made mistakes of their own.

And it went on like this, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, century after century.

The only time mistakes got corrected in the process was when somebody was copying something and realized that there was a mistake and thought that his predecessor had made a mistake and so tried to correct the mistake.

The problem is there’s no telling whether a person who corrected the mistake corrected it correctly.

It’s possible that he corrected the mistake incorrectly. In which case you have three forms of the text, the original text, the text that was changed, and the incorrect correction of the change.

Things like that go on for a very long time.

We don’t have the original copy that Mark made. We don’t have the first copy. We don’t have copies of the copy. We don’t have copies of the copies of the copies of the copies of the copies of the copies. The earliest copy that we have of Mark dates from around the year 200. Probably about a hundred thirty years after the original. That’s the first copy that we have. A hundred and thirty years after the original.

We don’t have the originals of Mark, or of any other book of the New Testament.

The bigger question though is not whether we have the originals; the question is whether we can reconstruct the originals that have been lost.

Can we reconstruct them or not?

For many years I thought that the answer was yes. That’s going to be Dan’s answer.

But scholarship changed and it became widely thought among scholars that we cannot reconstruct the original and that it does not even make sense to talk about the originals.

I started to understand why and now I’m convinced. I can’t give the full argument here, but I can mention three major questions that all point in the same direction. These are 3 problems in dealing with what I’m calling the original text.

Problem one will be, what does it even mean to use the term, “original text”?

Problem two, where are the early manuscripts of the New Testament?

And problem three, why can’t scholars agree?

So these are the three problems that I’ll talk about in my 30 minutes with you.

What Does It Even Mean to Use the Term, “Original Text”?

What does it even mean to use the term, “original text”? I’m going to use one book of the New Testament as a particular example, 2nd Corinthians.

2nd Corinthians is one of the letters written by Paul to his congregation in the city of Corinth. One of the Pauline epistles.

It can illustrate well why scholars are reluctant these days to talk about the original text on theoretical grounds.

The Time Gap

To begin with we’re missing the original. Whatever Paul wrote we no longer have it. Our earliest copy of 2nd Corinthians is a manuscript called P46. It dates from around the year 200.

2nd Corinthians was probably written sometime in the 60’s and so we’re talking about a manuscript that was a hundred forty years after the original, is our first manuscript of it, and it’s not a complete manuscript. Our first complete manuscript of 2nd Corinthians does not come until about the year 350. In other words, nearly 300 years of copying, copying, copying, copying, with mistakes being made everywhere along the line, before we have the first complete copy.

So that’s obviously a problem, but it’s not the big problem I want to talk about.

Written, Dictated and Corrected

There are theoretical problems with even imagining what it might mean to call a text the original text of 2nd Corinthians for several reasons.

First, this first thing might seem a little picayune and sort of trite to you but in fact it’s actually kind of interesting. We have good evidence that Paul dictated his letters to scribes who wrote down what he said. In other words, he didn’t write himself, he dictated. We have solid evidence of this in the New Testament itself. We also have solid evidence from antiquity that when scribes took dictation they often made mistakes. They misheard a word, somebody in the room coughed and they didn’t hear it right, they weren’t paying attention, they wrote something down wrong.

Suppose Paul dictated what we’re calling 2nd Corinthians and the scribe wrote down wrong words. What is the original text? Is it the words that Paul spoke or the words that the scribe wrote down? We don’t have access to what Paul spoke just what was written down but what was written down might have had mistakes in it.

Moreover, suppose what happened was what happened frequently in the ancient world which is that the author looked at the written text once it had been written down and made corrections to it. Then what is the original text? Is the original text what the scribe originally wrote or is it what Paul corrected? If it’s what Paul corrected then we’re in the ironic situation that the later form of the text is being called the original text. And that could have happened a lot. But as I said, you might think that’s kind of a minor matter, and it’s not the biggest problem. It’s just an interesting problem.

The Problem of Splicing

There’s a bigger problem with respect to Paul writing 2nd Corinthians which is that Paul did not write 2nd Corinthians.

Paul did not write the letter of 2nd Corinthians as it has come to us today. Scholars have long recognized for over a century that 2nd Corinthians is made up of at least 2 different letters that have been spliced together. Chapters 10 through 13 do not come from the same letter as chapters 1 through 9. Not only that, there’s a large number of scholars, in both the United States and in Europe, who maintain that 2nd Corinthians, in fact, is made up of 5 separate letters that Paul wrote.

In other words Paul wrote 5 letters and they were put in circulation and were copied. And changed. Five letters. These were circulated and changed until somebody created our 2nd Corinthians by taking parts of these 5 letters and cutting them and pasting them together.

This is a standard view in scholarship. You will find this taught in every major research university in North America, what I’m telling you now. This is not some kind of crazy idea that a particularly liberal professor at Chapel Hill thinks. Although it is that. But it’s not just that. This is standard fare, virtually everybody who’s a critical scholar agrees with what I’ve just told you.

But what does that mean then? Somebody created the letter some years, maybe a couple decades, after Paul wrote, so that Paul didn’t create 2nd Corinthians Paul created up to 5 letters that had been in circulation probably changed that were then combined into 2nd Corinthians with a lot of the stuff cut out and other stuff put together.

Then this letter, this amalgam is put in circulation and it’s changed over time.

The Published Collection Theory of Günther Zuntz

And then something else happens that equally significant, even more significant.

It was argued over 50 years ago by one of the great scholars of the world of textual criticism, a man named Günther Zuntz, that around the year 100 some editor came along and collected the letters of Paul into one manuscript. That there were separate letters that were floating around, being transmitted here, there and the other… and somebody collected them into a collection and this collection was published.

This editor who collected the letters put the letters together and possibly put his own stamp on them. In other words, edited these letters to make them fit together into the collection. And then it was the collection that was put in circulation. Zuntz argued that all of our letters of Paul go back to that collection.

This is not a weird point of view by just one particular scholar. Günther Zuntz’ view has been supported by scholarship ever since. Most recently supported, for example, by a very important book written by Harry Gamble, who I am sorry to say teaches at the University of Virginia. But he’s a nice guy anyway and he’s very smart and he’s one of the most recent people to argue this; that the Pauline letters were not circulated just individually but around the year 100 they’re put into a collection and that all of our manuscripts of the letters of Paul go back to that collection.

Or there may have been even more than one collection. But the Pauline letters were not circulating individually they were circulated in collection and as they circulated in the collection of course they got changed as scribes changed the manuscript. And so this leads us to the very pressing problem, what is the original of 2nd Corinthians? It’s a great question and there’s not an easy answer.

There are a couple obvious options. You could say that 2nd Corinthians was the original letter that Paul wrote. Well apart from the problems of dictation you’ve got the problem that Paul didn’t write a letter. Paul wrote 5 letters, or 3, or 2. He wrote several letters and 2nd Corinthians was not one of them. Second Corinthians was a later amalgam made by a later editor of Paul.

So the original writing of Paul is not the original 2nd Corinthians, so maybe you could say that the copy that was later created by cutting and pasting is the original 2nd Corinthians. Well you could say that but Paul didn’t write that. He wrote the individual letters that were later cut and pasted together.

Moreover we don’t have access to this letter that was made by combining these various letters what we have access to is the collection. Because we don’t have manuscripts that go back to the letters that were circulating independently before the collection. All of the manuscripts that we have go back to the collection. We can’t get behind the collection. And so, what is the original? And who is to say?

We can’t reconstruct anything before the collection was made because we don’t have any manuscripts that go back to those individual letters before that event. But if we try to reconstruct the original form of the collection that’s not the original form of the text that Paul himself wrote. Moreover the one letter we’re interested in in the collection, 2nd Corinthians, was not one letter but 3, or 4, or 5.

This is a very confusing situation but it’s the historical realty which is one of the reasons – one of the reasons – why top scholars throughout the English speaking world have abandoned the idea that we can reconstruct some kind of original text. It’s impossible to know even what it means to speak of an original. And 2nd Corinthians is not the only problem.

The book of Acts in the New Testament, the fifth book of the New Testament, appears in two different forms in our manuscripts. Two major forms of the text. One form of the text of the book of Acts is 8.5% longer than the other. Many scholars think that whoever wrote Acts, call him Luke, published two editions of the work; a shorter one and a longer one that he later edited. If so, what is the original? The shorter or the longer?

The Gospel of John, scholars have long recognized that the epilogue found in John chapter 21 where Jesus has several resurrection appearances before his disciples was not originally part of the Gospel of John but was tacked on later. It wasn’t originally there. Again, this is just a common view among New Testament scholars throughout Europe and North America. But all of our manuscripts have it so what is the original text of John? Is it with 21 or without 21?

And what about the prologue of John? That very famous passage, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This passage, the prologue of John, has numerous themes found nowhere else in the Gospel of John and the writing style is radically different from everywhere else in the Gospel of John so that many scholars [garbled] chapters 1 verses 1 through 18 were added to John after it had originally been published. Yet all the manuscripts have it so which is the original text?

The Gospel of Luke. Luke begins with the story of Jesus’ virgin birth in Bethlehem, chapters 1 and 2. But scholars have long recognized that chapter 3 looks like the original beginning of the book, that it didn’t originally have chapters 1 and 2. But the manuscripts all have chapters 1 and 2. So what is the original text? If it was originally published without chapters 1 and 2 shouldn’t we begin our Bibles with Luke chapter 3?

Or the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s Gospel ends with the women going to the tomb after Jesus has been raised from the dead, seeing a man there who tells them that they’re to go to Galilee, tell the disciples to go to Galilee, where Jesus will meet them. But the women flee from the tomb. They don’t say anything to anyone for they were afraid. Period. End of Gospel.

Many scholars think that the Gospel ends too abruptly. You can’t end a Gospel without the Jesus showing up to the disciples after the resurrection. And many scholars think that a page has been lost. If a page has been lost from the end of the Gospel what’s the original Gospel? If it’s the Gospel with the original page we don’t have any access to it. If you say it’s the Gospel without the original page than you’re saying a later form of the Gospel is the original Gospel and that hardly makes sense.

And so we have it.

A problem with the original. How do we know what the original is? Does it make sense even to talk about the original? This is the theoretical problem we have in even mentioning the original.

So that’s problem one. What does the “original text” even mean.

Where are the Early Manuscripts of the New Testament?

Problem two, where are the early Manuscripts of the New Testament?

The Number of Manuscripts

Let me say something about the surviving copies of the New Testament. Today we have some 5,500 copies of the New Testament. By last week the official count was 5,560 manuscripts that had been catalogued of the Greek New Testament. And the New Testament was originally written in Greek. That is far more than for any other book in the ancient world. Far more than any other. Way more than any book of Homer, or of Plato, or Aeschylus, or Sophocles, or Euripides, or pick your author. We have far, far more manuscripts of the New Testament than any other book in the ancient world by a long shot.

So, just take that as a given.

And the reason’s obvious. Because the people copying books in the Middle Ages were monks in monasteries. They’re the ones who gave us our surviving books. And which books were they interested in? Where they principally interested in Aeschylus or Plato or… not principally. They were principle interested in the Bible. So they copied the Bible. That’s why we have thousands of these manuscripts.

The Age of the Manuscripts

The problem is not the number of manuscripts or the fact that we have more than for any other author of antiquity. The problem is the ages of these manuscripts.

How many manuscripts of the New Testament do we have from the first Christian century? None.

From the decades after the books were written, how many do we have? The years afterwards, the decades… none! Zero.

How many do we have from the early second century, say manuscripts that clearly date up to around the year 150? We have one scrap.

This is it.

This may look big because it’s a big screen. This is the actual size. It’s the size of a credit card. It’s written on both front and back. It’s from John chapter 18. It has several verses on it. You can see this little scrap has parts of seven lines on it. It’s a very important manuscript because it’s the earliest one we have. It’s the early 2nd century. And it is the only manuscript we have from the early 2nd century. That’s it!

How many complete manuscripts do we have from the 2nd and 3rd centuries? We’re not just talking about decades now after these things were originally written and copied, and mistakes made and mistakes replicated, and then more mistakes made and more replicated. We’re not talking about years or decades we’re talking about centuries.

How many complete manuscripts do we have from the 2nd and 3rd centuries? None. Zero.

Well, if we have 5,500 manuscripts where are they from? When are they from? Well, 94% of our surviving manuscripts come from the 9th century and later. 94% come from the 9th century… which is great if you want to know what the Bible looked like when Christians were reading it in the year 890. But if you want to know how they were reading it in the year 70, you’ve got a problem. Because you don’t have manuscripts from that period.

If you wanted to make a stack of the Bibles that are available to scholars today in manuscript form the stack would go up the ceiling. If you want to make a stack of the manuscripts that were made within, say, 60 or 80 years of the production of these books, you wouldn’t be able to see the stack if we put it on the stage.

Cause there’s hardly anything.

The Number of Mistakes in the Manuscripts

Let me say a few more things about the surviving copies of the New Testament and point out some of the problems we have with the surviving manuscripts.

First, number of mistakes. I’ve told you that when scribes copy manuscripts they make mistakes. And maybe you’re thinking, “Yea well says you. Is there like evidence of this or is this just one of your other crazy opinions?” Well again, it is one of my crazy opinions but there turns out to be evidence.

We have 5,500 manuscripts of the New Testament. It is striking that when you compare these with one another in detail no two of them are exactly alike in their wording. They all differ. Well how do they… why do they differ? Because people are changing the text. Well, how many differences are there exactly? So, scholars have wondered about this for over 300 years. In the year 1707 there was a famous scholar named John Mill who was an Oxford scholar (not related to John Stuart Mill whom you may have heard of before). This is a different John Mill.

John Mill spent thirty [garbled] years of his life studying the manuscripts available to him. He had about a hundred Greek manuscripts that he could examine. And he had the quotations of the New Testament in the ancient translations of the New Testament into Coptic, and Syriac, and Latin and so forth and he had some quotations of the New Testament in the writings of the church fathers. And he had a bunch of evidence and he looked this evidence and in 1707 after 30 years of labor he published a book called the Novum Testamentum Graece the Greek New Testament.

In this book he gave a few lines of the text of the New Testament and then below it indicated places where the manuscripts he looked at differed from one another.

So this was an apparatus of readings. The apparatus showed were the manuscripts differed from one another. To the shock and dismay of many readers, John Mill’s Novum Testamentum Graece, in the apparatus, he indicated 30,000 places of difference among the manuscripts that he had examined. 30,000 places where the manuscripts differed from one another. And he was looking at a hundred manuscripts.

We have 5,500 manuscripts today. Well how many differences are there among these manuscripts exactly? No one knows. Because no one’s been able to count them all. Some scholars say 200,000 differences. Some say 300,000 differences. Probably more accurately 400,000 differences. It’s easiest to put it in comparative terms. There are more differences in our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament. That’s a lot of differences. Well, those are the differences we have.

What about difference that were put into the manuscript before our surviving copies started appearing? Our New Testaments today, our Novum Testamentum Graece, are largely based on manuscripts produced in the 4th century. Sometimes manuscripts in the 3rd century are help… sometimes they’re extremely helpful, sometimes they’re relatively full. But for the most part, our Greek New Testaments agree with manuscripts found in the middle of the 4th century. Two manuscripts in particular.

These 4th century manuscripts differ significantly from the manuscripts of the 9th century. The 4th century manuscripts we rely on differ significantly from the ones from the 9th century. If they differ significantly from the 9th century manuscripts why should we think that they are very similar to the manuscripts of the 1st century? We simply can’t tell because we don’t have any 1st century manuscripts to compare them to. But there are several things that we can say.

Our earliest surviving manuscripts, the papyrus manuscripts that are very old, older than the 4th century, differ from one another more than the later manuscripts differ from one another. And the early manuscripts differ more from the later manuscripts than the later manuscripts differ from one another. This shows that the early transmission of the text was not carefully controlled.

Moreover, the scribes who produced these earliest manuscripts, as a rule, appear to be much worse than the later scribes. As a matter of fact, it is generally conceded by textual scholars throughout the world that the most radical changes to the text of the New Testament were made during the first 150 years of its transmission.

During the first hundred fifty years is when most of the changes were made, but those are the centuries for which we have no manuscripts. The later manuscripts that we do have were all based on those earlier ones that were lost that appear to have been quite different from one another.

What possible grounds could we have for assuming that the earliest manuscripts, whose copies we don’t have, produced highly accurate accounts? What evidence could we have? We don’t have evidence.

How important are all these mistakes? 400,000 mistakes. How important are they? Two things to say.

First, most of these mistakes, in fact, are not important at all. Let me stress this point as I think Dan will probably want to stress it as well, most of the mistakes we have in our manuscripts are completely insignificant, immaterial, and matter for nothing more then to show that scribes in the ancient world could spell no better than students can today.

And scribes didn’t have spell check.

I mean. I don’t know about Dallas Theological Seminary, but at UNC it’s a complete mystery. How do students turn in papers with misspelled words? The computer tells you it was misspelled! How smart do you have to be? It’s got a red line under it.

[audience laughter]

Anyway. Scribes didn’t have that luxury. Scribes didn’t even have dictionaries. Scribes often didn’t care how they spelled words. We know that scribes didn’t care how they spelled words cause sometimes you have a scribe writing the same word on 3 lines in 3 different ways. He just didn’t care.

And all 3 would count as a difference.

Lots of differences don’t matter. Sometimes scribes will leave out a word, they’ll leave out a line. Sometimes scribes would leave out a page. I mean that would matter but you can tell when it’s happened and so it’s not a big deal. Most things don’t matter. There are some changes though that matter.

Some of the differences in our manuscripts matter a lot. Not 400,000 of them. But a lot of them do as we’ll see in a minute.

Let me summarize what we have. We have lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of copies of the New Testament as Dan will no doubt stress. We have lots and lots and lots more copies of the New Testament than any other book in the ancient world without any other book even coming close. That’s absolutely true. That’s what we have.

What we don’t have are lots of early copies which are the copies that we want. And we don’t have lots of accurate copies. What we want are early and accurate copies and we don’t have them. So it’s not good enough to say we have lots of manuscripts if you can’t say that we have reliable manuscripts and early manuscripts.

Why Can’t Scholars Agree?

My first problem was… my timer… my second problem… my first problem, what does the “original text” even mean? Second problem, where are the early manuscripts? And my very quick final third point, “Why can’t scholars agree?”

If we can get back to the New Testament reliably, if we can reliably reconstruct the original Greek New Testament, why haven’t we? It’s not for want of effort. Scholars have massive disagreements on this, that, and the other thing up and down the line, year after year, decade after decade. Scholars can’t agree on what the original text is supposed to be.

Over the centuries these disagreement have been very important. They have involved such crucial doctrines as the doctrine of the Trinity—which relates to textual problems. The full divinity of Christ, effected by textual problems. The full humanity of Christ, effected by textual problems. The atoning sacrifice of his death, effected by textual problems. Favorite stories of Jesus’ life, effected by textual problems.

The proof of the pudding is in the tasting.

In the year 2005 there were two scholars who put together an edition of the Greek New Testament which they claimed was the original New Testament, the original Greek. Five years later in the year 2010, another scholar put together an edition of the Greek New Testament. It differed from the 2005 version in nearly 6,000 places.

After all the manuscript discoveries we’ve made, after all the technological developments, after all the methodological developments, after all the research we have two editions that differ in 6,000 places.

And that’s only counting the places that are mentioned in the apparatus. No one knows how many times they differ overall. At least the 2 editors don’t because I asked them yesterday.

Conclusion

Let me draw conclusions very quickly. I have addressed the question whether the original New Testament is lost. And the answer is absolutely, yes. It is lost. I’ve asked can we reconstruct the lost originals and here I have pointed to what I consider to be insurmountable problems.

The three questions I’ve asked are questions that Dan is going to need to answer for us.

It will not be good enough for him to say that we have lots and lots and lots of surviving manuscripts. Or that we have more manuscripts than for any other writing from the ancient world. Both things are true. But they do not address the problems. The problems are that we don’t even agree among ourselves what it means to talk about the original text. That even though we have many thousands of manuscripts from later periods we do not have any manuscripts from the early periods that we’re interested in. And that even though we may want to reconstruct the original text, however we define it, we have shown ourselves unable to do so, time after time after time.

Thank you very much.

Textual Criticism by Dan Wallace

Dr. Wallace’s Opening Argument

Well good evening.

Bart and I have known each other for nearly 30 years.

He’s had a stellar career in New Testament studies especially in the field of textual criticism. I have the highest respect for his scholarship and more than that I’ve come to marvel at his quick wit, impressive rhetoric, and clear communication skills.

Not only that but he’s a really nice guy.

And I want to begin by saying that I’m deeply honored to share the stage with him tonight at the world famous Chapel Hill.

[audience applause]

Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

The topic of this dialogue is “Is the original New Testament lost?”

If the question means are the original New Testament documents lost then yes, of course they are. Only quacks and charlatans, people who got their diplomas from a Cracker Jack box would argue otherwise. Bart and I don’t disagree on that point. But if that was the real topic it would make for a pretty boring dialogue and a good waste of your time and money.

But if the questions is, “Is the wording of the original New Testament lost?” as it certainly must, then Bart and I part ways on the answer.

I believe that we can be relatively certain that we can recover the wording of the original text. The operative words here are relatively, and confident. I believe that the wording of the originals is not lost but can be found somewhere in the existing manuscripts.

But the question of how certain we can be that we have found it really is a different matter which is in a sense a response to his last question, “Why do scholars disagree?”

I will also argue that although scribes changed the wording of the text for all sorts of reasons, they were unsuccessful in eradicating the wording of the original. It was both the orthodox scribes and the unorthodox who tampered with the text.

Two Extreme Attitudes to Avoid

But before we get into the topic directly I should mention two attitudes that rational people will avoid. Total despair or radical skepticism is the first. And absolute certainty is the second.

Absolute Certainty

On the one-side are King-James-Only advocates. They’re absolutely certain that the King James Bible, in every place, exactly represents the original text. I’ve actually heard them say, “If the King James Bible was good enough for Saint Paul it’s good enough for me.” [audience laughter] Usually with a West Virginia twang. [audience laughter increases] But this attitude is also one that many church-going Bible-believing Christians embrace without realizing that their modern translations change with each new edition.

[Tweet “If the King James Bible was good enough for Saint Paul it’s good enough for me.”]

Radical Skepticism

On the other side are a few radical scholars who are so skeptical that no piece of data, no hard fact is safe in their hands. It all turns to putty because all views are created equal. If everything is equally possible than no view is more probable than any other. Their mantra is, “We really don’t know what the New Testament original really said since we no longer possess the originals and since there could have been tremendous tampering with the text before our existing copies were produced.” Such skepticism over recovering the wording of the original text flies in the face of both reason and empirical evidence.

These two attitudes, absolute certainty and radical skepticism are like driving on the mountain roads in Greece. Drive too far to the left and you will have a head on collision with a tourist bus. Drive too far to the right and you will end up flying off the cliff where the guard rail should have been.

Rational people recognize that both extremes result in disaster. And that the only proper course is one of moderation.

Now, there’s four questions that I want to address tonight.

First of all, how many scribal changes are there?

What kinds of textual variants do we have?

What theological beliefs depend on textually suspect passages.

And finally the bottom line, is the original New Testament lost?

The Number of Variants

Well, I want to begin then with the number of the variants.

Let’s begin with a definition of a textual variant. It’s any place among the manuscripts in which there is variation in wording, including word order, omission or addition of words, even spelling differences. The most trivial changes count and even when all the manuscripts except one say the same thing that lone manuscript’s reading counts as a textual variant. And if a thousand manuscripts read “Jesus” in one place and another thousand read, instead, “Christ” that also counts as only one variant.

The best estimate is that there are between 300,000 and 400,000 textual variants among the manuscripts. I’m inclined towards the higher number. And yet there are only about 140,000 words in the New Testament. Now if this were the only piece of data we had it would discourage anyone from attempting to recover the wording of the originals.

[Tweet “The best estimate is that there are between 300,000 and 400,000 textual variants among the NT manuscripts.”]

But that’s not the whole story.

Why So Many Variants

The reason that we have a lot of variants is that we have a lot of manuscripts. It’s simple really. No classical Greek or Latin text has nearly as many variants because they do not have nearly as many manuscripts. If there were only one copy of the New Testament in existence it would have zero variants. Yet several ancient authors have only one copy of their writings still in existence and sometimes that lone copy is not produced for a millennium or more. But a lone, late manuscript would hardly give us confidence that that single manuscript duplicated the wording of the original in every respect.

This was recognized 300 years ago by the brilliant textual scholar Richard Bentley in his work, Remarks Upon A Discourse of Free-Thinking. Now Bentley was commenting on John Mill’s work of 1707 that Bart had mentioned where he discovered the 30,000 variants after collating a hundred New Testament manuscripts and Bentley sees this as a very positive thing for helping us to get back to the original.

If there had been but one manuscript of the Greek Testament, at the restoration of learning about two centuries ago; than we would have had no various readings at all. And would the text be in a better position then, than now that we have 30,000 variant readings? […] It’s good therefore, to have more anchors than one. And another manuscript to join the first would give more authority as well as security.

Bentley penned those comments in 1713 when only a hundred New Testament manuscripts had been examined.

Today, in Greek alone we have more than 5,600 manuscripts. Many of these are fragmentary especially the older ones. But the average Greek New Testament manuscript is over 450 pages long. All together there are more than 2,500,000 pages of text leaving hundreds of witnesses for every book of the New Testament. And Bentley was right. The Greek New Testament of his day has about 5,000 differences from the critically reconstructed Greek New Testament of today. As more and more manuscripts have come to light we are getting closer and closer to the wording of the original.

Because of the early Christians’ desire to spread the good news about Jesus’ death and resurrection, the New Testament was early on translated into a variety of languages: Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Georgian, Gothic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Old Church Slavonic and a host of others. There are about 10,000 Latin manuscripts of the New Testament alone. No one really knows the total number of these ancient translations, but the best estimates are that there are more than 5,000 plus the 10,000 in Latin. All together including Greek we have at least 20,000 manuscripts of the New Testament in various languages.

Now if someone where to destroy all those manuscripts, we would not be left without a witness. And that’s because leaders of the ancient church known as church fathers wrote commentaries on the New Testament and they did not have the gift of brevity.

To date, approximately 1,000,000 quotations of the New Testament by the father have been recorded. If all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed the patristic quotations going back to the second century and in some cases even the first would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament wrote Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman.

Far more important than the number is the date of the manuscripts. How many manuscripts do we have in the first century after the completion of the New Testament? How many in the second, the third?

Although the numbers are significantly lower they’re still rather impressive. Last October when Bart and I have a debate in Dallas I said that we have today as many as a dozen manuscripts from the second century, all fragmentary, 64 from the third and 48 from the fourth. That’s a total of a hundred and twenty-four manuscripts within 300 years of the composition of the New Testament.

Most of these are fragmentary but collectively the whole New Testament is found in these manuscripts and several books are found in them multiple times. That’s what I said last October. But those numbers now need to be revised significantly in light of some recent findings and I’ll come back to these at the end of the lecture.

How does the average classical author stack up? If we’re comparing the same period of time, 300 years after the composition of the book, the average classical author has no literary remains. Not a single manuscript. None! Zero! But if we compare all the manuscripts of a particular classical author, regardless of when they were written the total would still average less than twenty. And usually less than a dozen and they would all be coming much more than three centuries later.

Stack them up and they’re about four feet high. Now how high would the stack of New Testament manuscripts be?

Well, let’s take a look.

I think that’s probably not high enough. Bart, I think said it went to the ceiling of the auditorium. It certainly think it would go that high I believe. It’s getting closer. That’s better. That’s even better. And that’s as much as I could do in Powerpoint.

[audience laughter]

There should be eight times as many New Testament manuscripts as you see here. And you put them in one stack and they’re over a mile high.

[Tweet “If you could stack them all up the manuscripts of the New Testament would be one mile high.”]

Now perhaps this seems a bit abstract. Let’s use money as an analogy. Let’s say the average Duke graduate represents the average classical author. And he earns $20,000 a year. Now, it’s a shame that that’s below the poverty level. [audience laughter] But, he made a choice to go to Duke and he has to live with it. Now if the average Chapel Hill graduate represents the New Testament she is earning $20,000,000 a year. [audience applause]

The skeptic repeatedly note that the vast majority of New Testament manuscripts come from at least 800 years after the completion of the New Testament. The implication they draw from this is that none of these manuscripts are trustworthy and that the New Testament is in no better shape than the other ancient literature.

But what they don’t tell you is that these later manuscripts add only 2% of material to the text. If we could envision the New Testament as a snowball rolling down a hill picking up alien elements through the centuries it is remarkable that it only picks up 2% more material over fourteen centuries.

Imagine a stock broker advising you to invest in a stock that grows only 2% every millennium and a half. Probably got his degree at Duke. [audience laughter]

What skeptics don’t tell you is how this compares to other ancient writers. For many important authors we only have partial works. Livy and Tacitus were two of the most important Roman historians of the first century.

We base most of our understanding of Rome on these two authors. Livy wrote 142 volumes on the history of Rome. Only 25% of them survive today. Only a third of Tacitus’ writings are still with us.

What we have of Pliny the Elders’ writings are 200 copies which is really significant. But we’re waiting 700 years for the first one. Plutarch’s Lives are found in manuscripts no earlier than 800 years after he wrote. Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, a really significant work and vital for us to understand Judaism of the first century, is found in more than 20 copies, none earlier than the ninth century C.E.

The earliest copies of Polybius the historian produced 1,200 years after he wrote. There are massive gaps in Pausanias’ Description of Greece, all of them coming more than 1,400 years later. Herodotus’ Histories has 26 copies, the earliest coming half a millennium after he wrote. That’s the earliest copy. We’re waiting 1,500 years for the first substantial copy. And we’re waiting eighteen centuries for any substantial copies of Xenophon’s Hellenica.

Now these are not obscure authors. They are some of the most important historians and biographers of the Greco-Roman world. Even for some of the better preserved writings there are gaps galore. One scholar complained that the surviving copies of some of these writings are filled with gaps, corrupt, dislocated, and interpolated. He then proceeds to lay out procedures, principles to fill in the gaps with nothing but his own reason because he can’t find the original wording in any manuscript.

Another scholar notes that for manuscripts of his author the chief blemishes are gaps in the text where the manuscripts tradition fails us entirely. The task of filling the gaps without manuscript testimony is absolutely necessary for most of Greco-Roman literature. And almost entirely unknown for the New Testament.

Now let me repeat that, the task of filling the gaps without manuscript testimony is almost entirely necessary, it’s absolutely necessary for most of Greco-Roman literature. And almost entirely unknown for the New Testament.

The very fact that we don’t have these gaps for the New Testament tells us that the manuscripts present a coherent picture. And if it’s coherent even among our earlier manuscripts it means that the text was stable even from the earliest times. That it didn’t radically change from one generation to the next. Did it change? Yes. But radically? I would disagree with that.

Skeptics also don’t tell you how many New Testament manuscripts we have in those earlier centuries. I’ve already mentioned the date or the data for the first three centuries. Here are the statistics through 900 C.E. We have at least three times more New Testament manuscripts today that were written within the first 200 years of the composition of the New Testament than the average Greco-Roman author has in 2,000 years. Three times as many within the first 200 years than the average Greco-Roman author has in 2,000 years.

Although only 10% of the Greek New Testament manuscripts were copied before the year 900, that’s still more than five hundred manuscripts. To argue that we don’t have very many New Testament manuscripts from the early centuries is only true in relation to later New Testament manuscripts. Not to anything else in the ancient world. J.K. Elliot, a meticulous New Testament textual critic, correctly notes, “We have many manuscripts and many manuscripts of an early date.”

Bart is right however that New Testament scholars have a serious problem on their hands. But it’s not the problem that plagues Greco-Roman scholars. New Testament scholars are confronted with an embarrassment of riches. If we have doubts about what the original New Testament said those doubt would have to be multiplied at least a thousand fold for the average classical author.

Now think about that. Are the skeptics really going to say that they have no idea what Plato, or Demosthenes, or Suetonius, wrote? Those of you who are history majors of ancient Greece and Rome, you might as well give up because we have no idea what they said. If these skeptic applied their skepticism of the New Testament text to the rest of Greco-Roman literature then we might as well kiss goodbye all our ancient history books. Because we would know next to nothing about the Caesars, Alexander the Great, Cicero, Plato, the glory that was Rome or millions of other facts that are preserved for us only in our manuscript copies of these authors.

Our modern democracy, medical ethics, mathematics, would all be eradicated. And most importantly Russell Crowe could never have played the lead role in Gladiator. [audience laughter] This kind of skepticism would thrust us right back into the dark ages where ignorance was anything but bliss.

Put simply the New Testament is far and away the best attested work of the ancient world. And precisely because we have hundreds of thousands of variants and hundreds of early manuscripts, we’re in an excellent position for recovering the wording of the original.

What Kinds of Variants Are There in These Manuscripts?

What kinds of variants are there in these manuscripts?

More than 99% make no difference at all. For example, the most common variant involves spelling. And this is a very common and is far and away… oh sorry… I was at Duke earlier today. [audience laughter]

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The most common spelling variant involved a moveable nu. You know when you put “n” on a word in English and the next word starts with a vowel, “an apple”, “a book” that kind of thing. Greek does the same thing. But not all the scribes put that nu on there. And so some of them said “a book, a apple”. But it means the same thing.

The smallest group of variants are those that are both meaningful and viable. What I mean by meaningful is that they change the meaning of the text to some degree. And viable means that they have a good chance of representing the original wording. Less than 1% off all textual variants fit this group as Bart and I would both agree.

For example, I’ll just give a couple of illustrations. Mark chapter 9 verse 29: Jesus’ disciples went out to cast out some demons and they were unsuccessful. And Jesus said, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Some manuscripts—most later manuscripts—have “…and fasting.” So were those demons the kind that needed to be cast out by prayer and fasting, or would prayer do it alone? It’s an important variant, and you can tell just by looking at me that I go with the shorter reading. [audience laughter]

That’s why I’m hiding behind the podium so you really can’t look at me.

Revelation chapter 13 verse 18: “Let the one who has insight calculate the beast’s number for it is the number of a man and his number is six-six-six.” Well everyone knows that the number of the beast, the number of the antichrist is six-six-six. But a hundred and seventy year ago a scholar deciphered an early manuscript that says the number of the best was six-one-six. And that manuscript has proved to be one of the most valuable texts of Revelation. And just fifteen years ago another manuscript with six-one-six was discovered. And it happens to be the oldest manuscript of Revelation chapter 13. Now most scholars think that six-six-six is the number of the beast and six-one-six is the neighbor of the beast. You know he lives just a few doors down. But it’s not a settled matter. And if six-one-six proves to the better reading it will send seven tons of popular Christian literature to the flames.

Although the quantity of textual variants among the New Testament manuscripts numbers in the hundreds of thousands, those that change the meaning pale in comparison. Less than 1% of the differences are both meaningful and viable.

Now there’s still hundreds of texts that are in dispute. I don’t want to give the impression that textual criticism is merely a mopping up job nowadays, that all but a handful of problems have been resolved. That’s not the case. There are hundreds of passages whose interpretation depends to some degree on which reading is followed. And this fact leads us to our third question.

What Theological Beliefs Depend on Textually Suspect Passages?

In the appendix to Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus there’s a Q and A section.

The most telling question asked of Bart is this, “Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on the scribal errors you discovered in Biblical manuscripts?” Bart’s answer might surprise you, “Essential Christians beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” I agree with him. So that question is dealt with pretty quickly I think.

The Bottom Line, Is the Original New Testament Lost?

Finally, the bottom line, in the original New Testament lost? [audience laughter] I offer five arguments that we can be relatively certain that we have the wording of the originals today somewhere among the manuscripts.

Chaos Not Conspiracy

First, Bart speaks of the first to hundred years as uncontrolled, giving the impression that all manuscripts of this era are riddled with mistakes both unintentional and intentional. The scribes, it seems, were undisciplined and wild, freely adding or subtracting words whenever they wanted to.

But if that is the case then scholars are in an excellent position for finding the original. Because there’s no conspiracy only chaos. Early copies were made in Alexandria, Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem. Then copies were made of those copies. And copies were made of those copies. We may not have the earliest copies, but we do have the copies of the copies of the copies. The very fact that they differ from one another shows that there was no conspiracy to produce just one kind of text.

We have Greek manuscripts, early translations and comments on the New Testament by church fathers that span the ancient Mediterranean world as well. The fact that they disagree often, as much as 10% of the time, means that there was no conspiracy and that most likely the original wording can be found in them somewhere. And when they agree we have the highest certainty that they represent the wording of the original text.

But what happens when these witnesses disagree? How can we determine which of them are better than others? Well the standard introduction to New Testament textual criticism by Bruce Metzger, the man who Bart describes as the best textual critic of the twentieth century, puts things in perspective.

It would be a mistake to think that the uncontrolled copying practices that led to the formation of the western textual tradition were followed everywhere the texts were reproduced in the Roman Empire. In particular there’s solid evidence that in at least one major sea of early Christendom, the city of Alexandrea, there was conscious and conscientious control exercised in the copying of the books of the New Testament. Textual witnesses connected to Alexandria attest to high quality of textual transmission from the earliest times. It was there that a very ancient line of text was copied and preserved.

Now we can illustrate this pure Alexandrian stream with three manuscripts that Bart and I would both agree are there of the best manuscripts of the New Testament and he’s already talked about two of them.

Two of these, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, are both from the fourth century. Here’s a picture of Codex Sinaticus to begin with. They were produced by professional scribes. There are thousands of differences between them. The vast majority of these of no consequence and yet together these two manuscripts attest to a very ancient, very pure form of text. The fact that there are so many differences between them shows that neither one was copied from the other and their remarkable similarities between them shows that they share a common ancestor but one that is several generations older than these two manuscripts. It must have been produced in the second century and most likely early in the second century. That’s the conclusion that two British scholars came to a hundred and thirty years ago before any of the early papyri were discovered.

And remarkably their judgement has been vindicated by the discovery, sixty years ago, of a very important manuscript, P75. This manuscript is closer to Vaticanus than it is to any other manuscript. P75 is a hundred to a hundred and fifty years older than Vaticanus and yet it is not its ancestor. Instead Vaticanus copied form an earlier common ancestor that both Vaticanus and P75 were related to. the combination of both of these manuscripts goes back most likely to early in the second century. And in combination with Sinaiticus this is a strong argument for the authenticity of the words in question.

But is P75 an anomaly? Are there any other manuscripts that are like it, that are both early and accurate? Yes. At least 17 of them. And they include portions of 14 New Testament books with nearly 500 verses found among them. Although many of our early papyri were done sloppily not all of them were. These 17 papyri confirm that Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus are excellent manuscripts who’s ancestry reaches back to the earliest times. Even though these two manuscripts are from the fourth century their wording is that of a text that is hundreds of years earlier.

Now, P75 is valuable in another way. The scribe who produced it was not a professional. He wasn’t trained in copying literary documents. His writing was legible but it looks pretty much like chicken scratches. But he was careful. He wrote one letter at a time. And the mistakes that he made are easily detectible.

In fact, almost all of the oldest manuscripts were made by scribes who were not professionally trained. But the kinds of alterations they made are almost always unintentional.

It would be like a scribe who copies out the preamble to the Constitution by writing, “We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect onion.” Mistakes of this sort, as every textual critic knows, are the easiest to detect and the easiest to correct. It’s a simplistic and misleading argument to claim that since the earliest scribes make the most mistakes that these mistakes hide the wording of the original. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to change “onion” back to “union.”

The Original Is In the Manuscripts Tradition

And second, the standard Greek New Testament in use today is known as the Nestle/Aland text. It not only produces what the editors believe is the wording of the original New Testament but it also list tens of thousands of variants.

Here’s a picture of the text.

The editors list a hundred and sixteen places where scholars have thought that none of the Greek manuscripts have the original wording. Of those 116 places the editors accept only one: the addition of a single letter to the end of a word in Acts 16:12. Yet the two senior editors, Kurt Aland and Bruce Metzger, felt that even in that one place the original wording was not lost but was to be found in the manuscripts.

What Aland and Metzger were arguing is that when it comes to the wording of the New Testament it can be found either above the line or below the line in the Nestle/Aland text.

In other words, the original text is found in A, B, or C, but never any of the above, I mean none of the above, sorry.

The Papyri Confirm Later Manuscripts Finds

Third, let’s consider the papyri in another way. In the last one hundred and thirty-five years, one hundred and thirty-four New Testament papyri have been discovered. Some of them have been sensational discoveries. And they are, collectively, our earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. Some of them have very interesting wording in several places. Bart has argued that the earlier we go the worse mistakes the scribes make. The question I have is, how does he know that? What criteria does he use to determine that they made mistakes? Either such errors are patently obvious, like “onion” for “union”, or he is judging these early papyri by later manuscripts that have an excellent pedigree. Later manuscripts who’s wording reaches back to the time before our earliest papyri.

Significantly, not a single new variant found in the papyri has altered what scholars believe the original New Testament said. Not one. The papyri do not point to any variant that scholars have claimed, “Ah ha! We didn’t have that wording before and it must be original.” No the original wording was already found in the manuscripts that they knew about a hundred and thirty-five years ago. So what would happen if we found manuscripts even earlier than our earliest papyri? They will no doubt confirm the wording that we already consider to be original. If all the New Testament papyri that have been discovered have not been able to introduce a single original reading, why should we think that more discoveries would be any different?

An Early Copy of Mark in Matthew and Luke

Fourth, Bart has used the Gospel of Mark to illustrate his skepticism about the original wording. He pointed this out in our previous debate that our earliest manuscript is from the third century. And he said that again tonight. About a hundred and thirty years after Mark wrote his Gospel. Do we really have no idea what Mark’s Gospel originally said? Most scholars believe that Matthew and Luke borrowed heavily from Mark’s Gospel to write their own. In fact, 90% of Mark is found in Matthew. So we actually do have a first century copy of Mark, it’s the one that Matthew used. However, Matthew not only copied Mark he also changed it. Matthew removed Mark’s redundancies, smoothed out his awkward phrases, cleaned up his grammar and portrayed Jesus in a different light. But did Matthew have a perfect copy of Mark’s gospel to work from? Neither Bart nor I think he did.

One of my graduate students is writing his thesis on what this copy of Mark must have looked like. And remarkably he has found only two kinds of changes in just a handful of verses. The use of a word that means “and” in the place of a word that means “and” or “but.” And what’s called a “historical present” for a simple past tense verb. That’s it.

Yes it’s true that the copy of Mark that Matthew used is not identical with the original Mark. But the differences are so trivial that they can’t even be translated.

A First Century Fragment of Mark

Fifth and finally, to take Mark’s Gospel as an illustration again, even if we had no rock solid evidence of what Mark’s Gospel looked like in the first century we have overwhelming evidence that it is hardly different from what scholars have constructed from the available evidence.

Of course to demand a first century copy of Mark goes far beyond what is demanded for any other ancient literature. However, in the last few months several very early fragments of the New Testament have been discovered. These will be published by an international scholarly publishing house in a book one year from now.

By way of background, prior to this book, I mentioned that we knew of as many as a dozen second century manuscripts from the New Testament that were in the second century. Once the book is published the numbers will changes dramatically. As many as 18 New Testament manuscripts from the second century. Among the finds was also a fragment of Luke that is from the early second century; it thus rivals P52, that fragment that Bart showed you, the manuscript traditionally considered to be the oldest New Testament manuscript know to exist. And yet, this new Luke fragment is not the oldest New Testament manuscript. The oldest manuscript of the New Testament is now a fragment from Mark’s Gospel that is from the first century. How accurate is the dating? Well my source is a papyrologist who worked on this manuscript a man who’s reputation is unimpeachable. Many consider him to be the best papyrologist on the planet. His reputation is on the line with this dating and he knows it. But he is certain that this manuscripts was from the first century.

This papyrus fragment, just like the other new discoveries that we are preparing for publication strongly confirms what most scholars have already said is the original text.

Well in conclusion, is the original New Testament lost or is it found somewhere among the manuscripts? The evidence I have presented indicates that we have it in the manuscripts today. To be uber skeptical about this in the face of the mountain of evidence is to take a leap of faith where the guard rail should have been.

Thank you.

Textual Criticism by Dan Wallace

Dr. Ehrman’s First Rebuttal

Okay, thank you very much and thank you Dan for a very lively and interesting presentation.

It’s always enjoyable to have a dialogue with somebody who’s completely competent in the field.

I want to deal with several things in the short time that I’ve got.

First of all, I believe that when Dan kept saying “radical skeptic” I think he was referring to me. [audience laughter] I’m not completely sure about it but I think that’s what he had in mind. The term radical refers to… a radical view is a view that is so extreme that very few people hold it.

The views I laid out for you are not radical in that sense at all. In fact, the are widely held among scholars in this field. Arguably the most erudite scholar in North American in recent decades is the lately deceased William Peterson whose book Collected Essays came out two weeks ago, who argues in essay after essay that it does not make sense for us any longer to talk about the original text.

The senior person in the field of New Testament textual criticism in North America is named Eldon Epp. He teaches the text criticism seminar at Harvard University. He also has written essays arguing that it no longer makes sense to talk about the original text. The chair of the New Testament Textual Criticism section of the national Society of Biblical literature meeting is AnneMarie Luijendijk who is a professor of religion at Princeton University. She also does not think that it makes sense to talk about the original text. Her predecessor was Kim Haines-Eitzen who’s chair of the Department of Religion at Cornell University. She also does not think that we can talk about getting back to the original text. The leading scholar in the field in the English speaking world is David Parker who teaches at the University of Birmingham in England. He’s written an entire book arguing that you cannot get back to the original text and it doesn’t make sense to talk about the original text. These are not extreme views. These are the views of the leading scholars in the English speaking world.

What about Dan’s comments? He made several points that were, in fact, were points that I stressed, he stressed them a little bit more. He wanted to stress that we have lots and lots of New Testament manuscripts that you could stack them up a mile high. That’s absolutely right. He also insisted that we have more texts than we have for the classical authors. That’s absolutely right. I agree with both points. But they are notreally the key point.

Most of these manuscripts date from after the ninth century and they simply don’t help us if we want to know what the text was like 800 years earlier. And the irony is that Dan agrees. Dan has written numerous articles arguing that these late manuscripts are not accurate representations of the original text as he calls it. If we want to know the original text we need early manuscripts.

I don’t know where Dan is getting the figure of twelve manuscripts from the second century. I have in my hand the official listing. Put out by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster Germany. I checked it again last night. They date only four manuscripts defiantly going back to the second century. Four, these four, make up forty-two verses altogether. Forty-two verses out of the nearly 8,000 in the New Testament are what is represented in these second century manuscripts.

Dan has wanted to argue on several occasions that the fact that we have so many variants is a good thing not a bad thing. I don’t buy it. If we wanted to have a copy of the Declaration of Independence and what we had instead were 5,000 copies and these 5,000 copies of the Declaration of Independence differed from one another in 400,000 ways would you seriously think that was better than having 5,000 copies that didn’t disagree at all?

And it’s not necessary for hand written texts to have this many errors. If you know anything about Jewish copying practices through the middle ages, how Jews copied the Hebrew Bible as opposed to Christians copying the New Testament, Jews made sure there were no mistakes. And there were not variant readings. We don’t need these variant readings. We could do with out them. We’re not happy we have them because we have to weed through them.

Dan has argued that in Alexandria, all east, we had an accurate text. That’s true for when we actually had a text that came to Alexandria. My time is virtually up I’m going to leave with three questions for Dan.

First I want him to answer the question that I raised throughout my talk, “What does he mean by the original text?” For example, of 2nd Corinthians.

Second, some of the worst scribes on record were the earliest scribes. Everybody agrees on this. How good then were the scribes copying the text before the worst scribes? That is, what evidence do you have that the earliest scribes were competent at all. It won’t do for you to say that we have a copy of Mark in Matthew and Luke precisely because Matthew and Luke differ in numerous places when they’re citing Mark. I too, as it turns out, have a doctoral student doing a dissertation on this and he’s finding much more than trivia. They in fact were widely different.

My third question, how do we know that our earliest surviving manuscripts were based on highly accurate copies instead of truly awful ones that were full of accidental and intentional changes? What is the evidence?

Thank you very much.

Dr. Wallace’s First Rebuttal

Well I’m at a bit of a disadvantage because Bart got to present first and then got to ask questions of me and now it looks like I am supposed to answer his questions, and I’ll do that. But I’ll also ask him some as well.

What do I mean by the “original texts”?

I mean the text as it left the hand of the author when it was dispatched to his readers. 2nd Corinthians is a particularly difficult problem because it is true that many scholars, probably most scholars, believe that chapters 10 through 13 were added later but were also written by Paul. And that it was seemed together. But by no means do all scholars hold to that. But either way it is a difficult problem and I fully admit that to Bart.

But I don’t think 2nd Corinthians is representative of most of the New Testament books. It’s an exceptional book in that respect. The original text then is the text as it left the hands of the author.

Now, Bart mentioned that sometimes the original scribe who is copying it down for the author may well have made mistakes. And I would agree with that too. I think that the author would have corrected those places because Paul notes, for example, that he signs off on his letters and if he’s signing off on them just like a business man who’s signing off for his administrative assistant who’s typed up a letter, he’s signing that document to say this really is authoritative, it really is from me.

Bart mentioned also Mark 16 as an illustration along these lines, that we don’t have the original text of the end of Mark, Mark’s Gospel anymore. That may be true. However, it’s by no means the only opinion out there and I would say that it’s not even the majority opinion. He suggested that perhaps the last leaf of Mark’s Gospel fell off. That would be true if Mark’s Gospel were originally—or could be true if Mark’s Gospel were originally written as a codex. That’s our modern book that’s bound on one side with pages.

Most of you have not seen a codex because you only know the scroll on your computer screen. That’s older technology. But if Mark’s Gospel was written on a scroll as it almost surely was, than that last leaf would be the most protected. It’s like turning back your scrolls into the Blockbuster Video. You have to rewind the darn thing. That’s before everybody’s age here isn’t it? It goes back to VCR times. But Mark 16 would’ve been written on a scroll and consequently the last leaf, most likely, would not have been lost. But I think Mark intended to end it at 16:8. Nevertheless, that’s a minor point.

Bart also wants to know where the early manuscripts are and I would say that they are still being discovered and Myles I think you said that we’ve discovered 7 manuscript, it’s really 70 that we’ve discovered in the last ten years covering over 18,000 pages of text.

Bart also asked why can’t scholars agree. And he said there’s two texts that came out in 2005 that both presented the text as original, the original New Testament, the disagree in 6,000 places. Well, I think that’s overstated. I think that’s terribly overstated. The vast majority of New Testament textual critics are going to agree on the vast majority of textual problems.

Bart mentioned that when he, in one place, that if he and Dr. Metzger were to sit down and discuss what variants they thought were original, which ones were not, he said there’d be probably no greater difference than maybe a couple dozen places. So most scholars are going to agree with the text that we have today except in, at most, a few hundred places. Not a few thousand places. It’s the kind of a group that follows those ninth century and later manuscripts where they see as many as 6,000 differences from the earlier ones.

Well that’s how I would respond to some of these questions. But I have a few of my own as well.

First of all, I want to know if Bart can offer a convincing scenario in which the wording of the original text disappeared without a trace. Kurt Aland, Germanys best textual critic in the second half of the twentieth century at the University of Münster which is the epicenter for all New Testament text critical studies, whose institute poured thousands of hours looking over manuscripts claimed that no reading had ever made it into the manuscripts that had disappeared.

Bart is claiming that not only did several spurious reading have disappeared but so has the original wording. The very fact that we have a rather large amount of variant readings in the existing manuscripts is evidence that no one group was able to conform all the manuscripts to their own standard. That no one group was able to suppress the original wording.

And I have a second question, if Bart is this skeptical about the New Testament text, how skeptical would he be about the rest of the ancient Greco-Roman literature? I want to know if he thinks that we have no clue what these other authors said.

And just for the record, no I did not think of you when I wrote those notes about radical skeptic. But if you fit that’s okay.

Dr. Ehrman’s Second Rebuttal

Well I don’t know if any of you all have done these debates but let me tell you these rebuttals are not fun.

The one problem is, the five minutes when you’re giving one of these things seems like it lasts for a totality of about 20 seconds. Dan thinks that the original text is the text as it left the hand of the author. So what is the original text of 2nd Corinthians? What is the original text of John? Did it have chapter 21 or not, even though all the manuscripts have it? Did it have the prologue or not? What about the two versions of Acts, one eight-and-a-half times longer than the other? Which is the original version? Did Luke originally have chapters one and two? It’s in all the manuscripts.

Dan wants to point out that textual critics basically all agree on most of the text that they look at. The deal is this, all of these scholars who agree with me that it doesn’t make sense to talk about the original text don’t give up and go home. What they do is, they try to decide what the earliest available form of the text is. That’s the language the scholars use, the earliest available form of the text. And yes, it’s true, based on the surviving evidence we have, we can get back to what looks like the earliest form of the text. That’s not the same thing as what Dan is calling the original text. Even the scholars in Germany that he’s talking about have admitted quite clearly that when they talk about reconstructing the earliest form of the text, what they call the “initial text”, that it might be significantly different from the text that the author produced. So, yes, we agree on attaining the earliest form of the text, what we don’t agree on is the original text.

Dan has asked me two questions. Can I come up with a scenario to explain how a text has disappeared without a trace.

This is a softball. Look, the Gospel of Mark, suppose Mark was done in Rome sometimes around the year 70, somebody wrote something that we call the Gospel of Mark. Suppose it was copied twice, by scribe A and scribe B. Scribe A was obscure and his copy got lost. Unfortunately he was a very accurate copier. Copyist B was not a very accurate copier and he made a lot of mistakes but he was a well liked guy and everybody knew about his copy and his copy got copied five times. And then that… those five copies each got copied ten times. And then those fifty copies each got copied another ten time. You’ve got 500 copies all going back to B which was filled with mistakes and the accurate copy is lost. So it’s completely possible that that copy, copy B, has incorporated a mistake that got transferred to all of the surviving copies. So I mean it’s not hard at all to imagine a scenario where that happened.

Dan secondly wants to know how skeptical am I about the rest of ancient literature. I’m no more or less skeptical than the scholars who work on that literature. Scholars have long recognized that we simply cannot even talk about an original copy of The Iliad and The Odyssey of Homer. The Iliad and The Odyssey like parts of the New Testament, were passed along through the oral tradition. They were passed orally and they came down to different authors, who wrote different accounts at different times. And what we call Homer was a compilation of different forms of the text. There is no original form of Homer. There may be an earliest attainable text of Homer which is what we talk about. We don’t know exactly what Plato wrote in the Republic. We don’t know. How can we know? We don’t have the manuscripts. Am I skeptical about that? No, I don’t actually consider this to be radical skepticism. I consider it to be epistemological humility. There are some things we know and there are some things we don’t know. Epistemology is the science of knowing what we know. And sometimes we should simply be humble enough to admit that we don’t know something. We don’t know the original text of Homer, or Plato, or Aeschylus, or Euripides it’s absolutely right. Though we can reach the earliest attainable form of those texts.

I asked Dan three questions. He answered one of them. Let me ask the other two again.

If some of the worst scribes on record were the earliest scribes how good were the scribes copying the text before them? That is, what evidence do you have that the earliest scribes were competent at all. Dan asked me, well how do I know that they were incompetent? I know because we have the quotations of the church fathers that he talked about, we have church fathers from the second century who quoted the New Testament all over the map and in virtually every instance that they quote, every instance that you have an author quoting the New Testament the author has a different text from the text that’s come down to us in the manuscripts.

He wants to talk about Alexandria. Look at the quotations of the New Testament in Clement of Alexandria in the second century. Radically different from the form of the text that came down to us even in the Alexandrian manuscripts. We know these scribes in the second century were changing the text. And so my question to him is, what is the evidence that he has that the earliest scribes were competent at all. And the second question, how do we know that our earliest surviving manuscripts were based on highly accurate copies instead of truly awful ones that were full of accidental and intentional changes? What is the evidence?

Thank you very much.

Dr. Wallace’s Second Rebuttal

Bart raises some good questions. It’s not going to be easy to cover this in five minutes as he acknowledged. When it comes to things like the ending of John’s Gospel, chapter 21, it seems that for a number of the points that Bart is making, not just for John 21 but Mark 16, 2nd Corinthians, the book of Acts, it’s as if all scholars all critical scholars agree on their opinions. But what he means by a critical scholar is somebody who is defined as agreeing with him on these issues. And I think that’s a bit circular.

Kurt Aland, again as I said the man who is the head of the Institute in Münster, and the most important German textual critic of the last half of the twentieth century, said that, as far as the manuscripts reveal we don’t have any evidence that John 21 was detached from the rest of Gospel or that chapters in the middle of John were transposed in a different direction like Rudolf Bultmann thought. He was saying we have to start with the manuscripts evidence and that’s what we have to do. I think that’s epistemologically humble, I agree with Bart on that. But whether John 21 was added to John’s Gospel or not is a really significant question that has not been settled. We have a student at Dallas Seminary who is doing his doctoral dissertation on this and he’s gone in various directions on it. And we just want him to pursue the evidence as best he can.

Now, Bart has also said he cites authorities as if all over the place everybody’s agreeing with him that we are not trying to recover the wording of the original text. Well, on the one hand, just to cite authorities is not the best kind of an argument, you have to have the evidence for that. And part of the problem we’re facing is that within New Testament textual criticism there is a direction that is going where scholars are moving away from trying to recover the original text while as in classical studies they are not moving in that direction as severely. There are certainly some who are going that direction. But not all. And some of the most recent critically constructed classical works, the author says in the introduction this is the best we can do to try to attain the wording of the original text of this author.

And again, not all authorities agree with him on this. In Germany not all do. Holger Strutwolf, who’s the head of this Institute now in Münster that Kurt Aland was the head of says our goals is to try to recover the wording of the original text. Gerd Mink who’s done a phenomenal job on the text of the New Testament would say the same thing. And at Cambridge University there’s three scholars who would argue this way.

When it comes to these Greco-Roman scholars as I said, they don’t all share Bart’s skepticism about trying to get back to the original. At least the scholars on the Greco-Roman books. Many of them are trying to get back to the original. And yet they are working with material that is simply not nearly as complete as we have for the New Testament.

When he said the way he knows that the text of our later manuscripts, or our earlier manuscripts, the earlier papyri, is inferior because he compares it to the church fathers… I don’t know if that’s all that accurate. I’m sure that’s a part of it. But we have also compared it to those great manuscripts from the fourth century and those manuscripts are the ones that time and time again have a superior reading. And that’s known as internal evidence where scholars try to examine the stuff on the basis of, is it “onion” or “union”? Would onion work in this context or would union be the most likely word. And consequently those manuscripts have a proven pedigree over, and over, and over again. And when these early papyri were discovered they confirmed what Westcott and Hort, two scholars from a hundred and thirty years ago, had been saying about the text of these two great fourth century manuscripts. That they do go back very closely to the original in almost every place.

Thank you very much.

Dr. Ehrman’s Closing Remarks

Well, right, so, ha, wrap up, right, so.

There are a lot of things that Dan and I agree on. We agree that one of the tasks of the discipline of text criticism is to find the earliest available form of the text. And we agree another task is to find out why the text got changed and how it got changed over history.

One of the fundamental disagreements we have is whether the earliest form of the text is rightly called the original text. I understand Dan’s motivation for wanting to think of it as the original text and I respect it. That is a point of view that I also at one time had. But it strikes me that there are serious theoretical problems to even knowing what it means to call a text the original text and our evidence simply is not sufficient to get us back to anything like what the authors originally wrote. And I’m very pleased to announce that my mind has not changed after hearing Dan.

Dr. Wallace’s Closing Remarks

It’s good to see you’re learning.

I’ve enjoyed the time tonight with you all. And the dialogue with Bart. This is always fun to do with him. It seems to me that over the last 2,000 years New Testament scholarship has always assumed that they have had access in broad strokes and in many particulars to the original text of the New Testament.

If we don’t we might as well burn all the rest of our books on the New Testament. Because we talk about an “author” and what his intentions are. We talk about why he writes this way and even what Bart was talking about Luke, whether he, I know he doesn’t think Luke wrote Luke, but that author still has some viewpoint that he’s trying to present. Well, how does he know what that author’s viewpoint is unless he’s talking about the original text of that author?

We may not know in all the particulars but I think in order for us to make any kind of progress, in order for us not to tread backwards into the dark ages we have to assume that at least in broad stokes and in many particulars we do, in fact, have the original text of the New Testament in front of us.

Thank you.

Textual Criticism by Dan Wallace


Editors Note: A special thank you to Jon Winsley for his help with this transcript.

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Is the Transcendental Argument Fair?

The Transcendental Argument - A Common Misunderstanding

In our ever more secular world, arguments for the existence of God are always vital. Christians are called to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us. In a culture that has tried to forget God, that reason begins with simple truth: “God exists!”

Our heritage is rich with proofs of God’s existence. Romans 1 says that God’s invisible attributes can be clearly seen in His Creation. Christian theologians and philosophers alike have found no shortage of them:

  • Objective moral standards point to God’s righteousness;
  • The creation of the universe points to God’s power and eternal nature;
  • The design of the universe points to God’s wisdom;
  • The resurrection of Christ points to His divinity and involvement in the world.

One argument stands out as especially controversial, perhaps second only to the infamous ontological argument: The Transcendental Argument for God, or “TAG” as it’s colloquially known. If valid, TAG is one of the most powerful arguments against atheism. But some Christian philosophers have dismissed it as irrational and “viciously circular.”

[Tweet “If valid, TAG is one of the most powerful arguments against atheism.”]

Let’s summarize TAG in its most basic logical form:

p1. If God does not exist, then the laws of logic do not exist.
p2. The laws of logic do exist.
c. Therefore, God exists.

For a more thorough analysis of TAG, check out the breakdown at CARM.

Now, at first, this sounds like it’s basically a parallel to the Moral Argument. Take a look:

p1. If God does not exist, then objective moral standards do not exist.
p2. Objective moral standards do exist.
c. Therefore, God exists.

But many apologists who champion the Moral Argument dismiss TAG as “viciously circular.” Why?

It’s because of an interesting consequence of the Transcendental Argument.

“God Exists; Therefore, God Exists.”

TAG proposes that the laws of logic hinge upon the existence of God. Let’s think about what that would mean. If TAG is true, then whenever someone appeals to the laws of logic, they are also unwittingly assuming the existence of God.

And we appeal to the laws of logic every time we argue for the existence (or non-existence) of God.

[Tweet “We appeal to the laws of logic every time we argue for the existence (or non-existence) of God.”]

This means you could say that, in a sense, we are assuming that God exists in order to use the laws of logic to prove that God exists. Naturally, that sounds a lot like a circular argument.

That perceived circularity puts off a lot of people who are fine with similar arguments like the Moral Argument, above. Take, for example, William Lane Craig, a prominent classical apologist:

Where presuppositionalism muddies the waters is in its apologetic methodology. As commonly understood, presuppositionalism is guilty of a logical howler: it commits the informal fallacy of petitio principii, or begging the question, for it advocates presupposing the truth of Christian theism in order to prove Christian theism. Frame himself says that we are “forced to say, ‘God exists (presupposition), therefore God exists (conclusion),’” even though such reasoning is “clearly circular”. (“A Classical Apologist’s Response,” Five Views of Apologetics)

The key phrase in Craig’s summary is “As commonly understood.” As it turns out, this “circularity” is merely a popular misconception of the Transcendental Argument.

If TAG was actually circular, it would look like this:

The Transcendental Argument - A Common Misunderstanding

p1. God exists.
p2. If God exists, then the laws of logic exist.
c1. Therefore, the laws of logic exist.

p3. If God does not exist, then the laws of logic do not exist.
p4. (from c1, above) The laws of logic do exist.
c2. Therefore, God exists.

It’s easy to see how this is circular. You go from the premise “God exists” to the conclusion “God exists.” But if you look back up the page, you’ll see that TAG actually doesn’t use the first half of the circle. That’s because we already know that the laws of logic exist. They’re a “properly basic belief.” We don’t need to prove the laws of logic exist in order to use them.

The Transcendental Argument from the Laws of Logic

Now, a complete worldview will have a rationale for properly basic beliefs like the laws of logic. That’s what the “first half of the circle” gives you: an explanation for why the laws of logic exist. Since we know that the laws of logic exist, we now know that God exists. And now that we know that God exists, we can explain why the laws of logic exist.

The Transcendental Argument from the Existence of God

But because the laws of logic are a properly basic belief, the circle is broken. The Transcendental Argument is merely semi-circular: It remains logically valid.

The Transcendental Argument Complements the Moral Argument

Atheism has always been weak on morality. It’s really hard to find a secular basis for ethical commands like “Don’t murder.” That’s one of the reasons the moral argument is so effective: We know that right and wrong exist, and it’s hard to reconcile that with atheism.

But atheism has also always prided itself on its rationality. Reason was the goddess of the secular French Revolution. Contemporary atheists like Richard Dawkins pit “rationality” against the “irrationality” of religion.

[Tweet “Atheists like Richard Dawkins pit “rationality” against the “irrationality” of religion.”]

TAG hits atheism right where it seems to be the strongest.

The reality is, atheism is even worse at giving a rationale for logic than for morality. Most atheists don’t even think about where the laws of logic come from – they want to believe logic just “is.”

Of course, that’s not a rationale. That’s a Rudyard Kipling “just so” story. But being confronted with the truth that atheism can’t account for the laws of logic is a jarring experience. It’s like looking down and realizing there’s nothing below you but empty air.

It’s the kind of moment where God convicts a soul.

TAG sometimes gets a bad rap because it’s been misunderstood in the past. But it’s a valuable tool for every Christian. You never know when it’ll be exactly the argument someone needs to hear.

Free 28-min Vide on Apologetics

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Did Jesus Exist? Non-Christian Sources and Historical Jesus Studies (Video)

Josephus

This blog is a transcript (not verbose) of the first session of Dr. Darrell Bock’s Credo Course, The Historical Jesus. You can buy the digital audio download for this course here.

Did Jesus Exist?

Welcome to this class on the historical Jesus. It’s my pleasure to be with you today and our goal is to walk you through a course on the historical Jesus, explain a little bit of its background where historical jesus studies came from, the roots of it, how it works, because it doesn’t work in a way that particularly many people in the church are used to. Is it born out of a skepticism? And then to deal with a look at particular key events, particularly through the lens of how a historical Jesus discussion might deal with it.

So to start to talk about the historical Jesus you’ve got to begin with asking a very basic question, “Did Jesus exist?”

And we start here because there are some people who claim that Jesus’ story is completely a myth, that he has no historical reality what so ever, and you see this popping up occasionally in the public square particularly around Christmas and Easter when we’re reminded of core Christian events such as the birth, and the death, and the resurrection of Jesus. And so this comes up sometimes as the idea that Jesus is a completely created, theological entity with no roots in history what so ever.

Non-Biblical Sources for the Existence of Jesus

A question I often like to ask my students is (I do this in entrance exams for doctoral studies occasionally), if I were to ask you to show me that Jesus existed and you could use the Bible, you couldn’t use the Old Testament, the New Testament, anything in between the testaments, nothing Christian, you can’t appeal to the Christian fathers, I’m taking away everything all at once, could you make a case for Jesus’ existence using non-biblical material?

[Tweet “Could you prove Jesus existed without using the Bible? #Apologetics”]

And that’s where we’re going to start and that’s where we’re going to begin.

Josephus

The first citation that tends to come up in relationship to Jesus’ existence is a citation from Josephus.

Josephus

Josephus is a first-century Jewish historian who actually, originally was a general in terms of his function. He fought for Israel against Rome initially in a place called Gamla. If you go to Gamla today it’s remains are still there. It was never rebuilt after the Romans overran it in 67 A.D.

The breach in the wall that looks like a kind of cut out cannonball out of the side of the wall is still there. You can march in to the city through that wall, through the breach in the wall. And one of the few remaining evidences of a synagogue in the first-century exists there. It’s an interesting site.

It’s located kind of up on a hill with a plateau area all around it and then hills on the edges so militarily it is a wonderful pearch to see what’s going on in a large area of the region.

Well Josephus was the general who’s job it was to defend Gomla and he was eventually captured by the Romans. He predicted that Vespasian would become emperor. Kind of viewed as a prophecy, the emperor took it as a prophecy when he did become emperor and so he thought very positively of Josephus; if this guy could predict that I’m going to be come emperor then he must be an OK guy. He took him into his house and Josephus wrote various works in defense of Judaism in the face of Gentile skepticism about Jews. And among those works (he wrote four work) one of them is his life his biography which basically the theme was what a great guy I am. The second work is Against Apion. It’s a defense of Judaism in the face of Gentile skepticism. He wrote a work called The War which was a description of the events leading up to the war with Rome. An attempt to explain that this wasn’t the fault of all Jews but a particular sect of Jews that were responsible for the problem. And then Antiquities which is a history of Israel literally starting from Genesis 1 and going up to his own life.

Well in Antiquities book 18 unit 63 and 64 there’s a citation about Jesus and the moment I read it you will understand why it is that this text, even though it exists, has been disputed. Here’s what the text says as we currently have it:

At this time there appeared Jesus a wise man if indeed one should call him a man[…]

That’s the first hint that this text has been played with. Everyone agrees that what we have today is not exactly all that Josephus wrote because of some of these differences. The idea of “if indeed one should call him a man” suggests that he might not be just human.

Josephus was not a Messianic Jew. He was Jewish through and through. He never converted to Jesus. And so, as a result, we know that would be unlikely to write something like that last phrase.

Anyway, picking up the citation:

[…]for he was a doer of startling deeds[…]

We’ll come back to this when we discuss miracles.

[…]a teacher of people who received the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. He was the Messiah.

The second part of the citation we don’t think goes back to Josephus. Because it’s a confession that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel.

And when Pilot because of an accusation made by leading men among us condemned him to the cross those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so[…]

And then the third injection into the citation that we think we have is:

[…]for he appeared to them on the third day living again just as the divine prophets had spoken of these and countless other wondrous things about him.

You can almost hear the Messiah, Handel’s Messiah going off in the background as he cites this portion in fulfillment of the resurrection and a declaration of the resurrection. That doesn’t go back to Josephus.

And up until this very day the tribe of Christians named after him has not died out.

And that’s the end of the citation.

Well what does it tell us? Extracting out those portions, those three portions that are very unlikely to go back to Josephus, we think the citation very much does take the outline of what remains. Namely, that there was a recognition that Jesus was a teacher of wisdom, that he was a doer of unusual deeds that got him attention, that he produced in his wake followers from the Jews and the Gentiles, that Pilot and the leading Jews were responsible for his crucifixion, and finally that Christianity (and those who are called Christians) emerged from his presence in the world as a result.

So this is an extra biblical citation from a first-century Jewish figure from whom we know more about the history of Israel in the first-century than almost any other source that we have, and he in the midst of going through this chapter this book 18 is a discussion of various people who disturbed the peace in Judea during the time of Pilot’s rule among others. And Jesus is one of the people who’s mentioned in this section. So that’s one reason we think Jesus existed.

Tacitus

But the Jewish testimony to this idea is not the only citation that we have. We also have a citation from Tacitus.

Tacitus

Tacitus wrote in a work called The Annals the following description of Christians and in the midst of it eludes to Jesus. Here’s his citation:

They [that is the Christians] got their name from Christ who was executed by sentence of the procreator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. That checked the pernicious superstition for a short time but it broke out afresh not only in Judea where the plague first arose but in Rome itself where all horrible and shameful things in the world collect and find a home.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Christianity or that which Jesus was responsible for founding. He calls Christianity a pernicious superstition. Whenever Romans didn’t like a particular religion they called it a superstition. He talks about it being a plague, he talks about Rome being the, how can I say this, the host of all kinds of horrible and shameful things. But in the midst of it all is the note that Christ was executed by the sentence of Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. This is exactly where the New Testament has Jesus as well.

So this is part of a large discussion about Christians and particularly the great fire of Rome which Nero blamed on the Christians. And he goes on in this citation actually to note the amount of sympathy that was created for Christians as a result of Nero’s blaming the great fire of Rome on them and the kind of persecution that he put them under as a result.

So that’s the second citation from Tacitus that’s a Roman historian of the early second-century.

Suetonius

The third piece of evidence that we have comes from Suetonius. I always liked the way the great pastor W.A. Criswell pronounced the name of this historian. He didn’t say Suetonius he said Sweeeee-tonius. That’s S-w-e-e-e-e-e-t-o-n-i-u-s.

Suetonius

Suetonius also was a Roman historian of the early second-century. This citation is also controversial. It’s debated because he doesn’t refer to Christ but to Crestus. And so the question is has Suetonius erroneously referred to Christ by messing up his name or is this someone else? And so that is discussed among classical scholars. Although many classical scholars do accept that this testimony does talk about Jesus. Here’s what the citation says it’s short:

He expelled the Jews from Rome on account of the riots in which they were constantly indulging at the instigation of Crestus.

Now this is a very indirect allusion. It actually tells us nothing about the life of Jesus if it goes back to him. It simply connects the disturbances in Rome probably between Jews and Christians to the presence of belief in Christ (assuming that Crestus equals Christ) and that’s really all that we get. So there’s not much here. And that’s why whether it actually refers to Christ or not in the end doesn’t matter all that much because it doesn’t tell us all that much other than to point to the origins of the Christian group in Rome going back to Christ.

So those are our three citations.

Why Accept the Entire Josephus Citation?

I want to come back to the Josephus citation because it is an important text and mention one reason why some people do think this is an authentic text as opposed to being a total insertion into the Antiquities. There’s an allusion and a discussion of Jesus being the Christ in the text and later on in the same book, in book 18 (not unit 63 and 64 but unit 200) Josephus again alludes back to the Christ when he discusses the death of James, Jesus’ familial brother (technically half-brother if you’re a member of the Christian faith and believe in the virgin birth).

The point is that Josephus alludes to James and then he talks about the brother of the so-called or alleged Christ. Now this is further on down and the argument is that the allusion to the so-called Christ seems to presuppose a previous discussion where the issue of the Christ was raised in one way or another.

And people think that in the earlier citation (in the one discussing Jesus) rather than Josephus saying something like he was the Christ (as we have it now) he probably said, alluded, to the fact that Jesus claimed to be the Christ or that people believed that he was the Christ, something like that. And it sets up this later citation and is a later allusion back to this text. So the idea is you wouldn’t have this almost throw away line related to the Messiah unless there was an earlier discussion in the book of the Messianic claims associated with Jesus.

So that kind of wraps up our discussion up into a kind of nice bow and suggests why it is that we think Josephus actually said this about Jesus.

So in pulling this all together here’s what we have

  • We have a citation from Josephus a Jewish historian of the early first-century that points to Jesus as a wise teacher, a doer of unusual deeds, executed under Pontius Pilate by pressure that came also from the Jewish leadership and the founder of a movement that became Christianity with Jews and Gentiles participating in it—really a pretty full outline of kind of the most core elements of the story of Jesus.
  • And then we have the citation of Tacitus confirming or corroborating the fact that Jesus died under Pontius Pilate during the time of Tiberius.

So here are our core reasons for thinking that Jesus existed. Most scholars, almost without exception, accept the fact that Jesus existed. You can’t explain, it would be hard to explain where the christian movement came from without some historical catalyst for the origins of that movement. The likelihood that he would be a complete fabrication is not very credible at all. So almost all historians of any stripe whatsoever recognize that Jesus existed and that this testimony testifies to his existence.

Origins of Historical Jesus Studies

Born Out of Skepticism

So with that assumption in place we can now begin to raise the question, “Well what about the historical Jesus?” Where did that come from? So let’s talk a little about where this category comes from and why it exists and what makes it important, because it is a very important questions to raise. In fact, some people who are Christians dismiss the entire discussion of historical Jesus studies with the claim—which is actually quite true—that the historical Jesus study, the entire operation, the entire effort, the complete agenda, was born in skepticism. And that’s absolutely correct.

The reason you discuss the historical Jesus is because people say “How can we know if the real Jesus did ‘x’ even though the Bible says it?” So it’s born in skepticism. It’s designed to ask the question, “How can we know what’s in the Bible is so?” That’s the question it’s designed to deal with. So it deals with doubts about the accounts. It deals with doubts about the sources. It’s born in a complete skepticism.

Now the reason historical Jesus studies is important is because if you have a conversation with someone who doubts the contents of the Bible and you say “The Bible says…” what they will say back to you is “Well that’s the question. The Bible may say it but did it happen?” And in a world of skepticism where the Bible is not viewed as the answer but where the Bible is in fact in question, knowing how to discuss and bring forward rationale and reasons for why you think what the Bible says is true is actually an important conversion to engage in even in the face of skepticism. So this makes moving into this area almost kind of necessary. Particularly if you’re dealing with people who have doubts.

Presuppostionalism vs Evidentialism

Now, a form of apologetics called presuppositionalism will say “No what you do is you continually simply challenge the presuppositions of someone who doubts the scripture and present the Bible as the Word of God being true because it comes from God.” And from one perspective you can see how that very logically follows. If the Bible is the Word of God it has the authority of God who can, you know, adjudicate God? No one can.

So at one level you can see how this would work. But the other reality is that when you’re having a discussion with someone for whom revelation may not being a warrant (it may not be a reason to believe because they don’t believe in a God of they don’t believe that there’s such a thing a revelation) what are the things that you’re going to put on the table for people to discuss and to consider in order that they might open themselves up to consider who Jesus is, what he did and what he said?

This other approach to apologetics, sometimes called evidentialism, has it’s limits (and we’re going to be talking about that) but it also has value it dealing with someone who’s coming from a more skeptical frame of mind by really trying to give them pause and get them to think about the reasons and rationale that anyone would use (in some cases without some presuppositions) to consider the evidence for who it is that Jesus represents, what it is that Jesus represents, and who it is that he is. Those kinds of things.

So the historical Jesus approach is a flawed approach but it’s a necessary approach. It has difficult origins from the standpoint of someone who has faith, but it also has necessary origins because it kind of pushes you to see what you can corroborate about Jesus on standards that anyone might be willing to deal with and accept. And that’s always valuable when you can accomplish that kind of a goal.

Are Historical Jesus Studies Inherently Blasphemous?

So the apologetics question that rotates around historical Jesus studies is the question of, you know, is there evidence that we can put forward, is there a reason or a set of rationales, that we can put forward for at least taking some aspects of what we see in the Bible about Jesus as being corroborated in some other ways and being reflected on in some other ways?

So if we ask the question, perhaps a little more controversially, is the historical Jesus method inherently blasphemous (or an offense to God) in one sense, theologically, we might say, well yes it undercuts the belief in the idea that he speaks, that he exists, that there is word that he has given to people. That certainly is a challenge to the biblical worldview.

But on the flip side God is gracious, he tends to meet us where we are and to approach us in light of who we are and sometimes he meets us in the midst of our doubts, and in the midst of doing that the role of evidence in dealing with the historical Jesus is a very very important kind of conversation to have about Jesus. And the fact is that the kind of fact checking (if you want to think of it that way) that the historical Jesus studies has often done has issued in observations and in some cases corrections of our view of Jesus and where it comes from that sometimes are very healthy as people have made the Bible in some cases overreach what it says about Jesus.

So this kind of study has a very positive spinoff as part of the process that tries to make sense out of Jesus in his historical context and his historical background. And as we move through and turn later on in the course to discussing particular events and looking where it fits culturally, politically, socially in terms of what Jesus did and why he did certain things those elements and observations of background often have come to us through the kind of study that historical Jesus studies has engendered and has resulted in a positive for us.

So Why Study the Historical Jesus?

So the short answer to the question, “Why study the historical Jesus?” you study the historical Jesus, in part, to deal with the skepticism that some people have, their inherit distrust of scripture and to begin to get them to think about maybe that scripture actually is telling us something that we need to know about history. And does it matter? It obviously does matter in that kind of a context because it offers us another way to have conversations about Jesus with people who may have questions about Jesus, may have heard skeptical things said about Jesus that kind of thing. And so we need to be aware of that.

Do Historical Jesus Studies Have Limitations?

Does historical Jesus studies have its limitations? Absolutely.

The process of doing history is about probability it’s not about certainty. And because you’re dealing with events that are so displaced and are unrepeatable (this is not like science where you can do an experiment and repeat things), and because you’re dealing with only a handful of sources of what originally existed, you’re always dealing with limitations when you work historically in trying to determine something. And you’re always making judgments about your sources, about the cultural context, about the conflicts that come up and arise as you study those sources that kind of thing. This is not a slam dunk category of discussion.

I find myself often reacting to some of the things Christians do popularly as a result of thinking about this for example there’s a very famous apologetics book, very well known, it goes back to Josh McDowell, it’s a book I benefited from when I was growing up in the Lord, it still has a lot of usefulness in it, but the title of it is Evidence That Demands A Verdict. And the “demand” part of that does too much with what historical evidence does. It isn’t evidence that demands a verdict it’s evidence that calls for a verdict. It’s evidence that suggests a verdict. It’s evidence that points in a certain direction. But it doesn’t demand a verdict.

There are all kinds of issues and objections that come up that if you answer in a certain kind of way the evidence may not come together in the way in which it’s often presented in the context of Christian apologetics. So we’ve got to recognize the limitations of what it is that historical Jesus studies gives to us. And those limitations are rooted in the historical reconstruction process that anyone goes through writing a history of any period particularly an ancient period where the artifacts or the remains what we have of that history are very piecemeal, we don’t have the recordings like we do today. You’ve got to remember that in the first-century you know there were no computers, there was no printing press, there was no Xerox machine. None of that existed. Everything that was done was either written down on things like papyri or was passed on orally until it was recorded in one form or another. And so our ability to dig back into the past is always piecemeal and has to be reconstructed.

Conclusion

So here’s what we’ve said in this first session. We have said that Jesus existed, that Josephus, Tacitus, and perhaps Suetonius give us evidence for Jesus’ existence in sources that have absolutely nothing to do with the Bible: a Jewish historian, a Roman historian, are the sources for those remarks. They place Jesus in the first century. They place Jesus in a time when Pontius Pilat ruled in Israel. They place Jesus in a time when Tiberius was emperor. They place Jesus in a setting which drew Jew and Gentiles to a message that he gave that was both teaching on the one hand and unusual events on the others. That’s the first thing that we said.

The second thing that we’ve said is this, that historical Jesus studies is necessary in a world that has skeptical questions about the Bible. Yes, it’s a challenge on scripture. Yes, it doesn’t reflect a theological worldview. Yes, it was born in skepticism. But there still is value in trying to get over the bar that skepticism sometimes sets and to make the case for at least the core elements of what is associated with Jesus. In fact, that’s one of the things we’re going to see is that historical Jesus studies has the potential to actually corroborate some of the core things that we see about Jesus from just the standard kinds of ways that people would argue for any kind of event. That’s a helpful thing to be able to do for someone who has questions about the sourcing and the history of the development of the gospels.

And the last thing that we’ve said is that the nature of the historical pursuit itself is a reconstructive exercise that’s rooted in probability not certainty. You’ve got to understand the kind of investigation you’re engaged in and the way in which it works. You’ve got to be aware of what it’s able to give you and what it’s limits are. And we will be talking about this dimension of history as we talk about the historical Jesus all the way through the introductory part of the course as we’re setting up our discussion of how we’re going to look at the events of the life of Jesus.


Notes

You can read the first quote from Josephus here and the second quote here.

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How Can We Use Science and Philosophy to Argue That God Exists? (Video)

How Can We Argue that God Exists from Science is Religion and Science Are Opposed to Each Other?

Christians Can’t Argue That God Exists. Can They?

It’s commonly assumed that to believe in Christianity is to give up science and philosophy. Some Christians go beyond a mere personal belief and seek to convince others of the truth claims of their worldview. They want to argue that God exists. Can this be done? Wouldn’t one have to give up science and philosophy to argue for God?

How Can We Argue that God Exists from Science is Religion and Science Are Opposed to Each Other?

Dr. Doug Groothuis says no. In fact, he maintains that both science and philosophy can be used by the believer to argue for the existence of God. It must be admitted that some Christians debate about the validity of this approach. Some say that belief is purely a matter of faith and that to offer evidence or argument is to go contra-faith. Unbelievers say that Christianity destroys science and philosophy, and so using them to try and prove Christianity is impossible.

Watch this quick video or read the transcript below to get Dr. Groothuis perspective on this question. You can also grab his free video by clicking the graphic at the bottom of this blog post to hear him discuss the use of logic in apologetics.

Video Transcript

We can argue that in a variety of ways. You can argue from big bang cosmology that the universe began to exist a finite time ago and that’s best understood as “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We’ve found that the universe is very carefully fine-tuned for life. The best explanation for that is that it was fine-tuned by a tuner. There’s a mind behind the universe.
At the microscopic level we’ve discovered the existence of molecular machine and the informational natural of DNA and so on. And those entities and processes are best understood, not as the result of unguided causes, but as the result of a designing mind.
So those are several areas that we can appeal to. That doesn’t, certainly, tell us everything we need to know about God. But it does dethrone atheism and pantheism as well. And it sets the table for further investigating Christian truth claims.
Free 28-min Vide on Apologetics

 

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Does God Exist? Bahnsen vs Stein (Debate Transcript)

Does God Exist? Bahnsen vs Stein (Debate Transcript)

Does God Exist?

What: A Debate
Thesis/Resolution: Does God Exist?
Who: Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Dr. Gordon Stein
Where: University of California Irvine
When: 1985

This transcript was made over the course of four or five days using the original and remastered audio of the debate. If you find any errors or tweaks that should be made please contact us. For the most complete collection of materials by Dr. Bahnsen check out Covenant Media Foundation at www.cmfnow.com

This debate has influenced a large number of people. In subsequent recordings Dr. Bahnsen remarked on various portions of this debate. Over time we’d like to supplement this post with asides that contain Dr. Bahnsen’s own comments on this debate. The section headings and various other organization elements have been added to make the material easier to read. Additionally, the audience Q&A has not been included as it was not part of the debate proper.

Does God Exist? Bahnsen vs Stein (Debate Transcript)

Dr. Bahnsen’s First Opening Statement

Thank you David. I want to begin this evening with three opening and introductory remarks about the nature of the debate itself.

First of all, it’s necessary at the outset of our debate to define our terms. That’s always the case. And in particular here I should make it clear what I mean when I use the term “God.” I want to specify that I am arguing particularly in favor of Christian theism. And for it as a unit or system of thought and not for anything like theism in general. And there are reasons for that, three:

3 Reasons Why I’m Not Arguing for “Theism in General”

The various conceptions of deity found in the world’s religions are, in most cases, logically incompatible leaving no unambiguous sense to general theism, whatever that might be.

Secondly, I have not found the non-christian religions to be philosophically defensible each of them being internally incoherent or undermining human reason and experience.

And thirdly, since I am by the grace of God a Christian, I cannot from the heart adequately defend those religious faiths with which I disagree. My commitment is to the triune God and Christian worldview based on God’s revelation in the Old and New Testament. And so first then I’m defending Christian theism.

What this Debate Is and Isn’t About

Secondly, I want to observe and we should indicate just what it is and is not at issue in the debate and on the basis of which we hope you’ll consider the debate. It must be made clear that we are debating about philosophical systems, not the people who adhere to or profess them.

Our concern is with the objective merits of the case which can be made for atheism or Christian theism not related, subjective, or personal matters. And again I have three reasons or illustrations of this.

Personalities Aside

The personalities of those individuals who adhere to different systems of thought are not really relevant to the truth or falsity of the claims made by those systems. Atheists and Christians can equally be found emotional, unlearned, intolerant or rude in their approaches.

Experience Aside

Secondly, subjective claims made about the experience of inner satisfaction or peace, claims that are made interestingly by both Christians and atheists in their literature, and promotional claims made about the superiority of Christianity or atheism—for instance, some atheist literature suggest that greater mental health comes through the independence of the atheist outlook—these sorts of claims are always subject to conflicting interpretations and explanations being I think more autobiographical rather than telling us anything for sure about the truth of the system under consideration.

Actions Aside

Thirdly, the issue is not whether atheists or professing Christians have ever done anything undesirable or morally unacceptable. One need only think respectively of the atheists’ involvement in the reign of terror in the French Revolution, and the professing Christian involvement in the Spanish Inquisition. The question is not whether adherents of these system have lived spotless lives but whether atheism or Christian theism as philosophical systems are objectively true.

And so I’ll be defending Christian theism and I’ll be defending it as a philosophical system.

The Nature of the Debate

My last introductory remark is simply to the effect that I want to concede to my opponent all issues pertaining to the control of ovarian maturation in Japanese quail. Okay, the subject of his doctoral dissertation in 1974 at Ohio State.

Dr. Stein is a man of intelligence and that’s not in question in this debate. I would not pretend to hold my own in a discussion with him of the empirical details of his narrow domain of specialized natural science.

However, our subject tonight is really much different. Calling for intelligent reflection upon issues which are philosophical or theological in character. For some reason Dr. Stein has, over the last decade, left his field of expertise and given his life to a campaign for atheism.

Whatever his perception of the reason for that I do not believe that it is because any genuinely cogent philosophical case which might be made for atheism as a worldview.

And it’s to this subject which I now turn for tonight’s debate.

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Dr. Bahnsen’s Opening Case

My opening case for the existence of God will cover three areas of thought. They are; the nature of evidence, the presuppositional conflict of worldviews, and finally the transcendental argument for God’s existence.

The Nature of Evidence

First of all, the nature of evidence. How should the difference of opinion between the theist and the atheist be rationally resolved? What Dr. Stein has written indicates that he, like many atheists, has not reflected adequately on this question. He writes, and I quote:

”The question of the existence of God if a factual question and should be answered in the same way as any other factual question.”

End of quote. The assumption that all existences claims are questions about matters of fact… the assumption that these are all answered in the very same way is not merely oversimplified and misleading, it is simply mistaken.

The existence, factuality, or reality of different kinds of things is not established or disconfirmed in the same way in every case.

We might ask, “Is there a box of crackers in the pantry?” And we know how we would go about answering that question. But that is a far, far cry from the way we go about answering question or determining the reality of, say, barometric pressure, quasars, gravitational attraction, elasticity, radio activity, natural laws, names, grammar, numbers, the university itself that you’re now at, past events, categories, future contingencies, laws of thought, political obligations, individual identity over time, causation, memories, dreams, or even love or beauty.

In such cases, one does not do anything like walking to the pantry and looking inside for the crackers. There are thousands of existence or factual questions and they are not at all answered in the same way in each case. Just think of the difference in argumentation and types of evidence used by biologists, grammarians, physicists, mathematicians, lawyers, logicians, mechanics, merchants, and artists.

It should be obvious that the types of evidence which one looks for in existence of factual claims will be determined by the field of discussion and especially by the metaphysical nature of the entity mentioned in the claim under question.

Dr. Stein’s remark that the existence of God is answered, the question of the existence of God in answered in the same way as any other factual question mistakenly reduces the theistic question to the same level as a box of crackers in the pantry which we will hereafter call the crackers in the pantry fallacy.

[Tweet “The crackers in the pantry fallacy.”]

The Presuppositional Conflict of Worldviews

Secondly, then I’d like to talk about the presuppositional conflict of worldviews. Dr. Stein has written about the nature of evidence in the theistic debate. And what he has said points to a second philosophical error of significant proportions.

In passing we would note how unclear he is, by the way, in speaking of the evidence which must be used, describing in variously as logic, facts, or reason. Each of these terms is susceptible to a whole host of differing senses not only in philosophy but especially in ordinary usage depending on who’s using the terms.

I take it he wishes to judge hypothesis in the common sense by test of logical coherence and empirical observation. The problem arises when Dr. Stein elsewhere insists that every claim that someone makes must be treated as a hypothesis which must be tested by such evidence before accepting it. There is to be nothing, he says, which smacks of begging the question or circular reasoning. This I think is oversimplified thinking and again misleading, what we might call the pretended neutrality fallacy.

One case see this by considering the following quotation from Dr. Stein and I quote:

“The use of logic or reason is the only valid way to examine the truth of falsity of a statement which claims to be factual.“

That’s the end of the quote.

One must eventually ask Dr. Stein then how he proves this statement itself. That is, how does he prove that logic or reason is the only way to prove factual statements? He is now on the horns of a real epistemological dilemma. If he says that the statement is proven by logic or reason then he’s engaging in circular reasoning and he’s begging the question which he staunchly forbids. If he says that the statement is proven in some other fashion than he refutes the statement itself, that logic or reason is the only way to prove things.

And my point is not to fault Dr. Steins’ commitment to logic or reason but to observe that it actually has the nature of a pre-commitment or a presupposition. It is not something he has proven by empirical experience or logic, but it is rather that by which he proceeds to prove everything else. He is not presuppositionally neutral in his approach to factual questions and disputes. He does not avoid begging crucial questions rather than proving them in what we might call the garden variety ordinary way.

Now this tendency to beg crucial questions is openly exposed by Dr. Stein when the issue becomes the existence of God because he demands that the theist present him with evidence for the existence of God. Now theists like myself will gladly and readily do so.

There is the evidence of the created order itself testifying to the wisdom, power, plan and glory of God. One should not miss the testimony of the solar system, the persuasion of the sea, the amazing intricacies of the human body. There’s the evidence of history, God’s deliverance of his people, the miracles at Passover night and the red sea, the visions of Isaiah, the shekinah glory in the temple, the virgin birth of Jesus, his mighty miracles, his resurrection from the dead. There’s the evidence of special revelation, the wonder of the Bible as God’s word, unsurpassed in its coherence over time and it’s historical accuracy and it’s life renewing power. In short, there is no shortage of empirical indicators or evidences of God’s existence from the thousands of stars in the heavens to the five-hundred witnesses of Christ’s resurrection.

But Dr. Stein precludes the very possibility of any of this empirical evidence counting as proof for God’s existence. He writes ad I quote:

”Supernatural explanations are not allowed in science. The theists is hard put to document his claims to the existence of the supernatural if he is in effect forbidden from invoking the supernatural as a part of his explanation. Of course this is entirely fair as it would be begging the question to use what has to be proved as a part of the explanation.”

End of quote.

In advance, you see, Dr. Stein is committed to disallowing any theistic interpretation of nature, history or experience. What he seems to overlook is that this is just as much begging the question on his own part as it is on the part of the theists who appeal to such evidence. He has not at all proven by empirical observation and logic his pre-commitment to naturalism. He has assumed it in advance, accepting and rejecting all further factual claims in terms of that controlling and unproven assumption.

Now the theists does the very same thing don’t get me wrong. When certain empirical evidence are put forth as allegedly disproving the existence of God the theist regiments his commitments in terms of his presuppositions as well. Just as the naturalist would insist that Christ could not have risen from the dead or that there is a natural explanation yet to be found of how he did rise from the dead, so the supernaturalist insists that the alleged discrepancies in the Bible have an explanation, some yet to be found perhaps, and that the evil of this world has a sufficient reason behind it known at least to God. They both have their governing presuppositions by which the facts of experience are interpreted even as all philosophical systems, all worldviews, do. At the most fundamental level of everyone’s think there are primary convictions about reality, man, the world, knowledge, truth, behavior, and such things. Convictions about which all other experience is organized, interpreted and applied.

Dr. Stein has such presuppositions and so do I and so do all of you. And it is these presuppositions which determine what we accept by ordinary reasoning and evidence for they are assumed in all of our reasoning even about reasoning itself.

The Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence

And so I come thirdly then, to the transcendent proof of God’s existence.

How then should the difference of opinion between the theists and the atheist be rationally resolved? That was my opening question. We’ve seen two of Dr. Stein’s errors regarding it: the crackers in the pantry fallacy and the pretended neutrality fallacy.

In the process of discussing them we’ve observed that belief in the existence of God is not tested in any ordinary way like other factual claims. And the reason for that is metaphysically because of the non-natural character of God and epistemologically because of the presuppositional character of commitment for or against his existence.

Arguments over conflicting presuppositions between vorldveiws therefore must be resolved somewhat differently and yet still rationally than conflicts over factual existence claims within a worldview or system of thought.

When we go to look at the different worldviews that atheists and theists have, I suggest that we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility the contrary. The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. And in that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight.

Dr. Stein’s Opening Statement

Can everybody hear me? I assume so. Well I will grant Dr. Bahnsen his expertise on the conditional resolution on the apparent paradox of self-deception which was his dissertation. I don’t know how much more relevant that is to our discussion tonight than mine is probably not anymore. But, I would like to also thank Dr. Bahnsen for showing us that he really doesn’t understand too much about atheism. I will try to straighten him out.

This is an important question we’re discussing. Perhaps it’s the most important question in the whole field of religion. Because if god does not exist then the Bible can’t be the word of god, Jesus can’t be the Messiah, and Christianity cannot be true as well as other realigns. So we’re dealing with an important issue here.

Now, Dr. Bahnsen repeated for me that the existence of god is a factual question. I don’t think he would dispute that. I think he misinterpreted what I said when I said that we solve factual questions in the same way. I didn’t mean exactly the same way I mean with the use of reason, logic, and evidence. And that is what I am holding.

Defining Atheism

Now, first let me make clear what atheism is and is not. I think this is a very commonly misunderstood subject. Atheists do not say that there, that they can prove that there’s no god. They also, an atheist is not someone who denies that there is a god.

Rather an atheist says that he has examined the proofs that are offered by the theist and he finds them inadequate. Now, if I were to say that this gentleman in the… sitting on the front step could fly by flapping his arms I’d be making a kind of unusual statement. And it would be up to me, or him, to demonstrate that he could fly. If he can’t demonstrate it then we don’t say that he can fly. Now if he doesn’t demonstrate it right now that doesn’t mean he can’t fly. It just means he can’t fly right now. Now, so we do not deny that he could fly because he can’t demonstrate it right now but we say he has not proven his case and therefore we do not believe that he can fly until he does so, proves so. And this is what an atheist says about the existence of god. He says the case is unproven not disproven.

So an atheists is really someone who is without a belief in god or who does not believe in a god. It is not someone who denies the existence of god or who says that one does not exist or can prove that one does not exist.

Defining God

Now, I think I would like to define a god as well. I’m not so sure I like his definition. I’m not going to stick to just Christian god I’m going to stick to all kinds of god. And I’m going to use the definition which both Father Copleston and Bertrand Russell both agreed on in their famous debate. Now this was both sides, the leading exponents of both sides, both managed to agree on the definition of god so I think it must at least be an adequate one if not a great one. And this is the definition:

”A supreme personal being distinct from the world and creator of the world.”

Now before asking for proof of god’s existence we need a satisfactory definition. And I think I’ve given one which I will find at least satisfactory and if Dr. Bahnsen doesn’t agree we can hear from him.

Now nothing can qualify as evidence for the existence of a god unless he have some idea of what we’re searching for. And that’s why we need the definition.

A Review of Proofs for God’s Existence

Okay now, throughout history eleven major kinds of evidence or proof have been offered [unintelligible] for the existence of god. In my campus visits I have heard all kinds of other things offered as proofs but they basically fall into those eleven categories with some juggling. And if these eleven proofs do not work out logically, or lead to logical self-contradictions, then we can only say that god’s existence is not proved, it’s unproven, not disproven, as I mentioned before.

Now if I assert that this gentleman can fly by flapping his arms as I said the burden of proof is on him. Supposing I make a more complicated statement. Supposing I say that my dog can talk in complete sentences. Okay well, again I’m making a kind of unusual statement and it’s up to me to offer the evidence. So I better be prepared to do that or I better be prepared to have people not believe what I say.

And I’d like a demonstration either of this gentleman flying or of my dog talking, if I were the person who was being asked to make a conclusions, before I admitted that such things were possible or existed. Okay now how easy would it be to show that this gentleman cannot fly or that my dog cannot talk in complete sentences. As I mentioned before you get into a real problem when you try to show that something cannot happen or that something does not exist.

For example, if I wanted to prove that unicorns do not exist I can examine this room and we can find out that there’re defiantly no unicorn in this room. A small area. But to prove the general nonexistence of something like unicorns you would have to search the entire universe simultaneously and then we could only say that no unicorns existed at the moment we searched the universe. But you know maybe they were there five minutes before or if we only searched the whole earth maybe they were on another planet at the time. I mean there are all kinds of other possibilities. So you cannot prove that something does not exist and that’s why, as I mentioned before, the definition of an atheist is not someone who thinks he has proven that god does not exist because you cannot.

Okay, now of those eleven major proofs I want to go over some of them very quickly. They been nine-hundred years in the formulation and during this nine-hundred years this is basically what people have come up with.

The Cosmological Argument

The first cause argument also called the cosmological argument, it says that everything must have a cause, therefore the universe had a cause and that cause is god. God was the first, or uncaused, cause. Okay well this leads us to a real logical bind for the theist because if everything must have had a cause than god must have had a cause. If god had a cause than he was not the first or uncaused cause. If god did not have a cause than not everything must have a cause. If not everything needs a cause than perhaps the universe is one of those things which doesn’t needs a cause. So you see that we’ve gotten into a logical bind there. And that proof basically fails. Now I’m giving you a real short synopsis of each of these proofs. They could fill an entire book and have. So you have to understand I’m oversimplifying slightly but I think I’m retaining the logic of it while controlling time.

The Design/Teleological Argument

The second one is the design argument. It’s also called the teleological argument. It says that the universe is wonderful and exhibits evidence of deign or order. Things which show such wonderful design must have had a designer who is even more wonderful and that designer was god. Well, if the universe is wonderfully designed surely god is even more wonderfully designed. He must, therefore, have had a designer even more wonderful than he is. If god did not require a designer than there’s no reason why such a relatively less wonderful thing as the universe needed one. Again we’re into a logical self-contradiction.

The Argument from Life

The argument from life says life cannot originate from the random movement of atoms yet life exists. Therefore, the existence of a god was necessary to create life. Well basically life didn’t originate from the random movements of atoms and no scientist would say so. Because there are limits on the chemical composition and physics of atoms and they don’t move in any possible way chemicals do not combine in any possible way. That’s why when you see these one-billion to one kind of odds that people have said for life originating are all wet. They haven’t considered the possibility that not every reaction can occur. So it’s possible to explain the origins of life without a god using the principles of parsimony, or Occam’s razor, I think we are left with the simpler explanation as of the one without a god. I go into more detail on that later.

The Argument from Revealed Theology

Then we have the argument from revealed theology which seems to be one of Dr. Bahnsen’s favorites. It says that the Bible says that god exists and the Bible is the inspired word of god, therefore what it says must be true, therefore god exists. Well this is obviously a circular argument. It begs the question. We’re trying to show whether god exists. Therefore calling the Bible the word of god is not permitted because it assumes the existence of the very things we’re trying to prove.

Now if the Bible is not the word of god, in this case, then we cannot give any real weight to the fact that is mentions that god exists. It does not become a proof. In fact, to prove god from the Bible is standing things on its head. First you must prove god then you may say, examine whether god wrote the Bible or dictated it or inspired it. But you can’t really use the Bible as Dr. Bahnsen seems to want to do as evidence for the existence of god per se.

The Argument from Miracles

Then we have the argument from miracles. It says that the existence of miracles requires the presence of a supernatural force; that is a god. Miracles do occur therefore there is a supernatural force or god. Again this is begging the question. It requires that you must believe in the existence of a god first, beforehand, and then you say that there are such things as miracles which are the acting of a god to create violations of his own laws.

So it is not evidence per se. It can serve as supplementary once you have good evidence in another kind of a way for the existence of a god then you can use miracles as an additional argument. But in and of itself it doesn’t show the existence of a god because it assumes that which is to be proven.

I just want to quote one little thing from Thomas Payne about miracles:

”If we see an account given of such a miracle by a person who said he saw it, it raises a question in the mind that is very easily decided which is, is it more probable that nature should go out of her course or that a man should tell a lie? We have never seen in our time nature go out of her course but we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time. It is therefore at least millions to one that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie.”

I think those are good odds.

The Ontological Argument

Then we come to the ontological argument one of the most difficult ones to explain to people, but basically it says god is by definition perfect. A necessary quality of any perfect object is that it exists. If it did not exist it would not be perfect. If perfection requires existence than god exists since god is perfect.

Now I don’t know if you followed that but I think this has been pretty well ripped to shreds by philosophers and I think the problem lies with, the trouble is with the word exist. In order for something to be perfect it must first exist. If something did not exist you wouldn’t… the word perfect wouldn’t mean anything. So first you must have existence and then possibly you may have perfection. So this, again, is going backwards and we must have an existing god then we can decide whether he’s perfect if perfectness is a quality of a god then he may be perfect but he first must exist.

The Moral Argument

Then we have the moral argument, all people have moral values. The existence of these values cannot be explained unless they were implanted in people by a god, therefore god exists. Well the answer to this is that there are simpler ways to explain the origin or moral values without requiring the existence of a god to implant them in people. Besides if moral values did come from a god then all people should have the same moral values, and they don’t. People’s moral values are the result of an accommodation which they have made with their particular environment and then taught to their children as a survival mechanism.

The Wish Argument

Okay. Then we have the wish argument. Without the existence of a god people would have no reason to live or be good therefore there has to be a god. Most people believe in a god, therefore there is a god. This really isn’t a proof it’s just a wish. It’s like saying it would be nice to have a god, which it would, but you know that doesn’t have anything to do with whether there is one or not.

The Argument from Faith

Finally, oh I’m missing one here. We have the argument from faith. The existence of a god cannot be proven by the use of reason but only by the use of faith. The use of faith shows that there is a god therefore god exists.

Reason or logic is a proven way of obtaining factual information about the universe. Faith has never been shown to produce true information about the universe because faith is believing something is so because you want it to be so without adequate evidence. Therefore it can’t be used to prove the existence of anything. In addition, the additional fact is that faith often gives you the opposite answers to what is given by reason to the same problem. This also shows that faith does not provide valid answers.

The Argument from Religious Experience

Now the argument from religious experience. Many people have claimed to have had a personal experience or encounter with god therefore he must exist. This is a difficult one to handle because first of all I’ve never had such an experience but I’m sure people have absolutely honestly reported having had such experiences. But the feeling of having meet god must not be confused with the fact of having met him. This is a confusion, a semantic confusion, and also we cannot use our own feelings as if they were valid information about the world. They are feelings that we have inside of us, but you cannot demonstrate them to another person, they cannot be used as evidence. If everyone had that same experience, like, if we all looked around the room and we all agreed that there was a clock over there we might say that the vision of a clock was a consensual one that everyone agreed on. Other than that, if you saw a clock and nobody else did or only two or three people did then we would have a bit of a problem.

Pascal’s Wager

Pascal’s wager is the last of eleven arguments. I hear this a lot on the campuses. It says since we don’t know wether a god exists or not we have no way of finding out in this life we have nothing to lose by believing in god. On the other hand you have a lot to lose if we do not believe in a god and therefore, there later turns out to be one. Well this is only true if number one you are right about a god and secondly if you have picked the right religion. Because you might wind up at the judgment day and be right about god but he says what religion were you and you say I was Islam, a believer in Islam, and he says sorry Catholicism is the right religion down you go. So, in addition we might also, if you have a god who punished people who live virtuous lives, let’s say an atheist who lives a virtuous life, does wonderful deeds in the world but just does not believe in a god, if the god punishes him than we have an irrational god who is just as likely to punish the believer as the unbeliever.

Dr. Bahnsen Cross-Examines Dr. Stein

Question and Answer #1

Dr. Bahnsen: Dr. Stein do you have any sources that you can give to us very briefly that define atheism as one who finds the theists proofs inadequate rather than one who denies the existence of God?

Dr. Stein: Yes sir. George Smith’s book which you will find for sale at the back of the room upstairs later called Atheism A Case Against God which I think is the finest book ever written on the subject makes this quite explicit I happen to have a copy right here I can quote you the exact words if you’d like to see them.

Dr. Bahnsen: No. That won’t be necessary.

Dr. Stein: Okay

Dr. Bahnsen: Do you have any other sources?

Dr. Stein: Do I have any other sources?

Dr. Bahnsen: Do you have any other sources?

Dr. Stein: Sure.

Dr. Bahnsen: What would they be?

Dr. Stein: Charles Bradlaugh who I will give him to you right now. Two hundred, a hundred years ago Charles Bradlaugh made the comment in one of his… in his Plea for Atheism he said…

Dr. Bahnsen: That’ll be fine.

Dr. Stein: Okay.

Question and Answer #2

Dr. Bahnsen: Dr. Stein did you hear Dr. Bahnsen use the following argument, “The Bible says that God exists and the Bible is the inspired word of God therefore what it says must be true, therefore God exists.”

Dr. Stein: You did not use that you just assumed that that was so because you were quoting from the Bible as if it proves the existence…

Dr. Bahnsen: I didn’t ask you what I assumed I asked you if I used that argument.

Dr. Stein: No you did not use the argument but you used the results of the argument.

Question and Answer #3

Dr. Bahnsen: Dr. Stein you mentioned eleven basic proofs for the existence of God did you mention the transcendental proof for the existence of God?

Dr. Stein: No I didn’t mention it by name. I think it is not a proof. I would not call it a proof. As I understand it…

Dr. Bahnsen: I don’t have time for rebuttal on that point. In other words you didn’t deal with that particular one.

Question and Answer #4

Dr. Bahnsen: Are all factual questions answered in the very same way?

Dr. Stein: No they are not. They are answered by the use of certain methods, though, that are the same; reason, logic, and presenting evidence, and facts.

Question and Answer #5

Dr. Bahnsen: I heard you mention logical binds and logical self-contradictions in your speech. You did say that?

Dr. Stein: I said it. I used that phrase yes.

Dr. Bahnsen: Do you believe there are laws of logic then?

Dr. Stein: Absolutely.

Dr. Bahnsen: Are they universal?

Dr. Stein: They are agreed upon by human beings. They aren’t laws that exist out in nature. They are…

Dr. Bahnsen: Are they simply conventions then?

Dr. Stein: They are conventions but they are conventions that are self-verifying.

Dr. Bahnsen: Are they sociological laws or laws of thought?

Dr. Stein: They are laws of thought which are interpreted by men. And promulgated by men.

Dr. Bahnsen: Are they material in nature?

Dr. Stein: How could a law be material?

Dr. Bahnsen: That’s the question that I’m going to ask you.

Dr. Stein: I would say no.

Dr. Stein Cross-Examines Dr. Bahnsen

Question and Answer #1

Dr. Stein: Dr. Bahnsen would you call good material or immaterial?

Dr. Bahnsen: Immaterial.

Dr. Stein: What is something that’s immaterial?

Dr. Bahnsen: Something not extended in space.

Dr. Stein: Can you give me an example of anything other than god that’s immaterial?

Dr. Bahnsen: Laws of logic.

Dr. Stein: Are you putting god in the same, as an equivalent thing to the laws of logic?

Dr. Bahnsen: No. Only if you think all factual questions are answered in the very same way would you even assume that by thinking there are two immaterial things they must be identical.

Dr. Stein: No, I’m not assuming that. I’m just assuming that because the laws of logic are a convention among men are you saying that god is a convention among men?

Dr. Bahnsen: I don’t accept the fact that laws, that claim the laws of logic are conventional.

Dr. Stein: Okay.

Question and Answer #2

Dr. Stein: Is your god omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent?

Dr. Bahnsen: He is.

Dr. Stein: You don’t find this a contradiction at all?

Dr. Bahnsen: I do not.

Dr. Stein: Okay well we’ll show you a little later that it is.

Question and Answer #3

Dr. Stein: If your arguments in favor of the existence of god are shown to be incorrect will you relinquish you’re belief in god?

Dr. Bahnsen: If my arguments are disproven?

Dr. Stein: Yes.

Dr. Bahnsen: Will I relinquish my belief in god? If there are no arguments for the existence of God I wouldn’t believe in God.

Dr. Stein: That’s not quite answering the question. Is someone can show you that there are no arguments would you relinquish your belief. I’m trying to see what the basis is…

Dr. Bahnsen: You’re the one who said that it’s impossible to show a universal negative. No one can show that there are no arguments for the existence of God so we can only deal with those that I know of.

Dr. Stein: Okay. If someone showed that al the ones that you’ve produced were invalid what would be your position.

Dr. Bahnsen: Well, you’d have to describe further the conditions. Rationally speaking, if there is no basis for belief in the existence of God I would relinquish that belief.

Dr. Stein: Okay.

Question and Answer #4

Dr. Stein: Is god good?

Dr. Bahnsen: Yes he is.

Dr. Stein: How do you know that?

Dr. Bahnsen: He saved me. He created me. He made the world and he made it good. He sent his son into the world to die for my sins. Many of these evidences are quite convincing to me but I don’t use them outside of a worldview in which they make sense in which they would be taken as true. If you mean is God good in such a way or can I give you evidence that you would accept that would depend on what your presuppositions are.

Dr. Stein: No, no. I’m asking if god says something, anything, is it right because it, because anything god does is good because god is good? Or does it become good just because god said it? I don’t know if I said that right. I guess did.

Dr. Bahnsen: No, I understand the problem though it’s roughly stated. What God says to be good is good because it reflect his own character. God is good and is the standard of goodness. That’s one of the presuppositions of the Christian worldview.

Dr. Stein: But isn’t it indeed a presupposition which is presupposed before there is any actual data from god?

Dr. Bahnsen: Is this a questions about my first opening statement?

Dr. Stein: In a sense it is because although it isn’t directly mentioned in your opening statement it has to do with the whole idea of wether there are absolutes outside of god which is an important issue in this whole debate and it may come up later.

Dr. Bahnsen: I still think we’re straining at the limits of debate rules here but I will answer your question. There are no absolute outside of God.

Dr. Stein: So, in other words, the fact that god is good is something that god told you and that’s why you accept it rather than knowing it ahead and assuming it as a presupposition which you said a minute ago.

Dr. Bahnsen: No. That’s extremely simplistic. God told it to me and he’s provided evidence of it.

Dr. Stein: You also said it was a presupposition.

Dr. Bahnsen: That’s right.

Dr. Stein: Is that not a contradiction?

Dr. Bahnsen: Oh not at all. There are many things which are presupposed as well as evidenced in this word. For instance the laws of logic.

Dr. Stein: I would disagree with that but… ummm, well I still have some time alright.

Question and Answer #5

Dr. Stein: When we talk about immaterial things are you also saying there’s such a thing as ghosts or the soul which are another example of immaterial things? Would you call them immaterial?

Dr. Bahnsen: I would say…

Dr. Stein: I’m trying…

Dr. Bahnsen: …that man is a living soul and has an immaterial aspect to his being, yes.

Dr. Stein: And how would you prove this?

Dr. Bahnsen: This has to do with the existence of god now?

Dr. Stein: Well it has to do with the existence of immaterial things.

Dr. Bahnsen: Well if there’s an immaterial being, God, and if the Bible is his word than I would say that his revealing the nature of man in the Bible is sufficient proof. And that takes us back logically as you’ll be bound to say to wether God himself exists and that’s what we’re supposed to be debating.

Dr. Stein: Okay, so you’ve given me a circular argument which is…

Dr. Bahnsen: No, I’m telling you what the debate is about.

Dr. Stein: I know what the debate is about.

Dr. Bahnsen: Yea.

Dr. Stein: I’m asking for an answer to a question and I didn’t get one. All I got was…

Dr. Bahnsen: I’m not debating the nature of the soul tonight but the existence of God. Yes, I believe that man has a soul.

Dr. Stein: Okay. The only reason I asked about the soul is because this is a simpler immaterial object that most people would hold is also immaterial.

Dr. Bahnsen: Oh I didn’t say that the soul is similar. That’s your claim.

Dr. Stein: Simpler I said, not similar.

Dr. Bahnsen: Okay.

Dr. Bahnsen’s Rebuttal

Thank you. Dr. Stein is not into this debate yet tonight. We are debating the nature of, I mean the existence of God. I specified that I would be speaking, in order to avoid logical contradiction of one particular view of God, the Christian view of God, which I personally hold. Dr. Stein says that he will not restrict himself to the Christian conception of God. Well that’s fine he may not but all the time he uses on anything that’s not the Christian conception of God will be irrelevant. In fact, I will join him in refuting those other conceptions of God. The existence of God that I’m arguing tonight is the Christian one.

Secondly, when Dr. Stein defines an atheist as one who finds the theistic proof inadequate, that is unproven but not disproven, he is engaging in linguistic revision. He does quote for us, of course, two ath… or he said that he could and I trust that he can, two atheists who likewise define atheism that way. But you see that strikes me as similar to a Christian who defines his position as being true at the outset and therefore it must be true cause it’s true by definition. He has minimized the task that is before him by simply saying, “I’m here to show that the theistic proofs are inadequate.” Well you see even at that though he didn’t do his job even though that is less than what he really should be doing. Because he gave us eleven basic proofs for God attributing one to me that I didn’t use, and do not use, and did not assume. He mentioned eleven basic proofs but did not deal with the one that I gave in my opening presentation and so he has not dealt yet with the argument that is before us this evening.

Dr. Stein has mentioned logical binds and logical self-contradictions, he says that he holds that the laws of logic are universal but however they are conventional in nature. That is not at all acceptable philosophically. If laws of logic are conventional in nature then you might have different societies that use different laws of logic. It might be appropriate in some society to say both my car is in the parking lot and it’s not the case that my car is in the parking lot. That is, certain societies could have a convention that says, go ahead and contradict yourself.

Of course there are, in a sense, subgroups within our own society that might think that way. Thieves have a tendency to say this is not my wallet but it’s not the case that it’s not my wallet. They might engage in contradictions like that but I don’t think any of us would want to accept that.

The laws of logic are not conventional, are not sociological. I would say the laws of logic have a transcendental necessity about them. They are universal, they are invariant and they are not material in nature. And if they are not that than I’d like to know in an atheist universe how it’s possible to have laws in the first place. And secondly, how it’s possible to justify those laws.

The laws of logic you see are abstract. As abstract entities, which is the appropriate philosophical term not spiritual entities as Dr. Stein is speaking of, as abstract entities, that is to say, none individual or universal in character, they are not materialistic. As universal they are not experienced to be true. There may be experiences whereby the laws of logic are used but no one has universal experience. No one has tried every possible instance of the law of logic. As invariant the don’t fit into what most materialists would tell us about the constantly hanging nature of the world. And so you see we have a real problem on our hands. Dr. Stein wants to use the laws of logic tonight. I maintain in so doing he is borrowing my world view. For you see, within the theistic world the laws of logic make sense. For within the theistic worldview there can be abstract, universal, invariant entities such as the laws of logic. Within the theistic worldview you cannot contradict yourself because in so doing you engage in the nature of lying and that’s contrary to the character of God as we perceive it. So the laws of logic are something that Dr. Stein is going to have to explain as an atheist or else relinquish using them.

The transcendental argument for the existence of God then which Dr. Stein has yet to touch, and which I don’t believe he can surmount, is that without the existence of God it’s impossible to prove anything. And that’s because in the atheistic world you cannot justify and you cannot account for laws in general, laws of thought in particular, laws of nature, cannot account for the human mind, and the fact that it’s more than electrochemical complexes and events, and you cannot give us moral absolutes.

That is to say, in the atheist conception of the world there’s really no reason to debate because in the end as Dr. Stein has said all these laws are conventional, all these laws are not really law like in their nature they’re just, well if you’re an atheist and a materialist you’d have to say they’re just something that happens inside the brain.

But you see what happens inside your brain is not the same as what happens inside my brain. And so what happens inside your rain is not a law. It doesn’t necessarily correspond to what happens in mine. In fact, it can’t be identical with what is inside my mind or brain because we don’t have the same brain. If the laws of logic come down to being materialistic entities then they no longer have their law like character. If they are only social conventions then of course what we might do tonight to win the debate is just define a new set of laws and we’ll say all those who want the convention that says atheism must be true or theism must be true and we have the following laws which we conventionally adopt to prove it, you see we’ll be satisfied. But no one is satisfied, that’s not a rational procedure to follow. The laws of logic cannot be avoided. The laws of logic cannot be accounted for in a materialistic universe. Therefore, the laws of logic are one of many evidences that without God you can’t prove anything at all.

Dr. Stein’s Rebuttal

Okay, I’ll now touch on transcendental evidence for the existence for god which is I think the only time I could really do such is in my rebuttal. But first I’d like to do one more important things. Rather than asking what is the cause of the universe we must first ask does the universe require a causal explanation? Rather than asking what is responsible for design in nature we must ask does nature exhibit design? God is given as a solution to a metaphysical problem but no consideration is given to whether such a problem exists in the first place.

But god is not an explanation for anything. For example, if you say, if I ask you, how did the universe come and you say “God created it.” That doesn’t answer the question. The questions is how did god create it. And I defy any theist to explain how god created it. Basically what you’re saying is that an unknowable being is responsible for a given phenomenon which he caused through unknowable means. And that’s not an explanation but rather a concession that the phenomenon is totally inexplicable.

Now about the laws of science. An atheist world, first of all, I don’t think that Dr. Bahnsen understands what a scientific law is. A scientific law is an observation that’s made over and over and over again. The law of gravitation, we drop objects all over the world in different situations and we always observe that they fall to the earth. So eventually we make a statistical statement that objects are likely, almost 100% likely to fall to the earth if they’re not accelerating in the opposite direction. Okay, in other words a rocket does not fall to earth immediately but eventually will if it doesn’t escape the gravity of the earth. So these scientific laws are merrily consensus’s based on thousands and hundreds of thousand of observations. The laws of logic are also consensus’s based on observations. The fact that they can predict something correctly shows us that we’re on the right track, that we’re corresponding to reality in some way. If I can plug in a formula and show exactly where a cannon ball is going to land and predict exactly where it will strike then my mathematics is reflecting something valid about the behavior of cannon balls that are fired on this earth. Otherwise I wouldn’t have picked the exact spot. Mathematics is basically logic, again, used in the same way by consensus of tested things that are self-verifying. I’m not explaining it as well as I could but that’s basically what I’m saying.

An atheist universe then goes on the basis of the fact that matter has certain intrinsic behavior patterns. Electrons repel each other because they’re both negatively charged. Protons repel each other. And electron and a proton attract each other. The opposites poles of a magnet do that. It’s an inherit property of matter. That is what produces the regularity in the universe. If there was no regularity that there would be no science possible because you couldn’t predict anything, matter wouldn’t behave the same the second time as it did the first time, or the third or the fourth. So that the lack of having a god is in no way detrimental to logic and to having laws in an atheist universe. In fact, if we had a god we could very easily have an irrational god who did things capriciously so that if I threw a ball one time I thew it it would go up and the next time down and you know crashed straight down or soar right up. That would be just as much evidence for god as a regularly behaving ball or object dropped. We could have a god who makes the rules and changes things from time to time. Or you could have one that makes things the same or we could have a universe that just behaves that way normally.

Now, to ask what caused the universe although we didn’t get into this exact thing, I’m trying to show you that it’s to ask an absurd question in the first place to give god as the answer, first of all, I mentioned it doesn’t explain anything. But secondly, before something can act as a cause it must first exist. That is, it must be a part of the universe. And the universe sets the foundation for a causal explanation but it can’t not itself require a causal explanation. I don’t know if that’s clear. If I say, every human being had a mother, that’s a valid question. But if I ask, who is the mother of the human race, that is a non-valid question because the human race didn’t have a mother. I can ask what was the cause of this planet exploding but to ask what was the cause of the universe is to ask an invalid question. And to offer the answer as god is to offer an invalid answer to an invalid question.

We haven’t gotten into morality. I think I’m going to leave that for the second half. If Dr. Bahnsen doesn’t raise it I will.

He makes an awful lot of statements that are basically feelings; he felt god entered his life, he felt that this happened, he felt that Jesus was resurrected. If he were held to the historians’ standard especially the standard required when a miracle is done, as David Hume said, when a miraculous or very unlikely event such as the resurrection–although Hume didn’t use that exact analogy, that exact example–occurs we must demand an extraordinary amount of proof. If I say the sun is going to rise tomorrow we don’t need too much proof because the sun it’s been rising every day. If I say the sun is not going to rise tomorrow then we need an extraordinary amount of evidence before someone will take that seriously because that’s an unusual event. Okay. Now he has not held up the historians’ standard to a lot of the things he’s accepting from the Bible as evidence for god. And I think that if he did so he would soon see that those evidences dried up.

Now to get to transcendental evidence, finally. The statement that if god did not exist you couldn’t prove anything, and that logic and scientific laws would be invalid is absolute nonsense and I think I’ve demonstrated part of that. He says that laws of logic are the same everywhere. This is not true although they are mostly the same. And I wonder if he’s ever heard of a zen koan. And the answer to a zen koan is something which like you know, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” is the most famous zen koan. The answer to that kind of question is in a different type of logic in a sense, or it’s extra logical, if you want to call it that. But I do think that most logical is accepted in the western world and most of the eastern world on the basis of agreement on people that reflect something about the universe.

The idea that transcendental evidence exists for god is that the impossibility of the opposite, that the worldview would not be rational if it were atheistic is total nonsense and I’ve demonstrated to you that it depends on the inherit properties of mater. If mater has the properties where it behaves regularly then we have order in the universe, we have a logical rational universe without a god. The god issue is not germane if mater behaves in a regular way. And I would hold that the properties of mater as demonstrated over and over again are regular. I mean it’s an inherit property of mater. So I think that the transcendental evidence statement can be dismissed as mere wishful thinking coupled with misinformation about what scientific laws are and what atheists would hold. In fact, most scientists, in fact science itself is atheistic. Science is not aloud to use a supernatural explanation for anything. There’s a very good reason for that. if your experiment came out one way you could say god did it. If it came out the opposite way you could say god did that. You would never make any progress in explaining anything in science an so the agreed upon consensus or rules in science is that naturalistic explanations only are asked for and allowed.

Dr. Stein’s Second Opening Statement

He will if he can find his notes.

Now it would be logically wrong to say that if all of the proofs fail for the existence of god that one is justified in saying that there isn’t a god. That is a logical fallacy argumentum ad ignorantiam or something like that to say that you accept something just because all of the evidence to the contrary fails.

However, we have two other factors here we must consider. One of them is the fact that nine-hundred years have passed since Anselm first postulated the ontological proof and Thomas Aquinas in 1200 or so, so we have a long period time in which all of these proofs are being professed, fail. That’s some evidence about probability of there being a proof that someone will come up with that will succeed being pretty unlikely.

The Problem of Evil

In addition, we have a number of things which I wouldn’t call proofs but I would call evidence which make the existence of god even more improbable. And one of them is the problem of evil. If an all good god exists why is there evil in the world? We are told with god that all things are possible. If it was possible, it all things are possible it would be possible for him to create a world in which the vast mass of suffering that is moral and pointless such as the pain and misery of animals, the cancer and blindness of little children, the humiliations of senility and insanity were avoided. These are apparently inflictions of the creator himself. Or else you have a god that isn’t omnipotent. If you admit that than you deny his goodness. If you say that he would have done otherwise you deny with him things that are possible, all things that are possible. So the atheist can present several arguments which sort of increase the probability that there isn’t a god. They’re not proofs as I said.

One of them would be the problem of evil. The idea is that the presence of evil is incompatible with an all good, all knowing, and all powerful god as Dr. Bahnsen suggested he believes in. Now he could come up with the statement that injustice in this world may well be corrected in the next world but that would be something that he would be making without any evidence whatsoever. Just, again, wishful thinking. He could also say that, get out of this bind by saying that God is not all powerful that some things, some evil things are done without his permission, so to speak. In which case his statement that he believes in an omnipotent god is falsified. He could also say that, the old argument about free will which is basically a morass into which he may fall if he wishes, will not do. To say that god gave man free will and therefore he can chose between the evil and good is to imply that god was unable to make a man who could examine both sides and always chose good. That, in other words, he is limited and the only way he can do it is to let man completely chose for himself as if that would take something away from man is he could examine both sides and still have the guidance within himself to always chose the good.

No Obvious Physical Evidence of God and the Problem of Evil Continued

Now there’s no obvious physical evidence of a god. If god wanted man to believe in him, man or women, people, he could, all he would have to do is put in an appearance before a group of people, especially a group of atheists. In fact, we invite him to our meetings to put in an appearance. In that way anyone would believe in him except a fool. Well the Christian says that this may sound logical to you but it doesn’t to god. God evidently wants man to believe on faith, without adequate evidence. Well if he did… if he does why does he give man the power of reason? And why did he give man more reason than any other animal has?

If all living things on he earth were created by god, who is a loving god, who made man in his own image, how do you explain the fact that he must have created the tapeworm, the malaria parasite, tetanus germs, polio, ticks, mosquitos, cockroaches, and fleas. Now surely the dog is not suffering from original sin and needs to be infected with fleas so that he can get to doggy heaven which would be better than his present life.

The standard answer of theists to this kind of question is that things have to be better after death. We have these things on earth, it’s a veil of tears, so to speak. It doesn’t make much sense. I mean, any god that would punish a man for what his ancestors did is not a very moral god. I’m talking about original sin now, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. There are many instance on the earth in which no distinctions seems to be made between the innocent and the guilty; between the Christian and nonbeliever. For example, in natural disasters like an earthquake or a fire. It kills Christians, it kills babies, it kills animals, it kills non-christians, you surely can’t say that these people being punished in some way for something that they did. It also demolishes churches and hospitals without distinction. Isn’t this evidence that at the very least that whatever force there is controlling these things doesn’t care if people are Christians or not? Or whether they’re innocent or not?

The Problem of Religious Pluralism

If there’s only one god and he cares at all how he’s worshiped why are there so many different conceptions of god and so many different religions, all claiming to be the one true religion. Does this mean that they’re all mistaken? Does it mean that one is correct and all the others are mistaken?

There’s an old joke about an atheist in which he said to a believer, you know, you believe that ninety-nine of the hundred gods are false. I just go one step further and say that the hundredth one is also false. So I’m sure that Dr. Bahnsen, in fact he even agreed that he would help me refute any other gods but the Christian god.

The Problem of Christian Failure

If Christianity is the one true religion why are so many people who sincerely believe in it found in prisons, slums, and in organized crime? I’m not saying that all people there are Christians. I’m not saying that all people in organized crime are Christians either. But it evidently, if Christianity lead to an elevation of moral standards—which we haven’t gotten into yet, about morality, but I’m gonna jump the gun here a little bit—Christians would be expected to be highly moral, not less moral. In fact studies of the religious beliefs of prisoners have shown that almost all were devote Christians. The number of atheists is less than 1%. And these statistics were, in fact, so disturbing to the people who conducted them that they stopped collecting them recently. Can’t argue with the facts though.

Any system which seems to fail in its application as frequently as Christianity does is not a very good or practical system for mankind to follow. I don’t want to get into a real discussion of Christianity except that Dr. Bahnsen insists that the Christian god and Jesus and the other evidences that come from the Christian god in concomitance with them are true and the others are not.

Where Does This Leave Us?

What are we left with after this exercise? Well we can see that we can’t prove the existence of god by any rational or logical process. And Dr. Bahnsen has not offered us any. We have a factual issue here. Again, as I said, because the proofs fail it doesn’t mean that the existence is disproved. But I think it certainly is unproved.

We can, as I will say in my closing statement, this does not leave us in a bleak and horrible world. There are many, many things that the atheist does with his life which make this world a nice place and enables him to get to the solving of the problems of this world instead of hoping for pie-in-the-sky which does not seem to be very probable.

Dr. Bahnsen’s Second Opening Statement

You’ve heard Dr. Stein refer to the transcendental argument and try to dismiss it simply as wishful thinking. If our debate is going to degenerate to that level than I dismiss everything that he has said as well as wishful thinking and delusion and why don’t we all go home. No, we’re here to argue. We’re here to argue a point and I’m going to see, say just what the argument has been supposed and see if Dr. Stein has any better answer than to just engage in name calling.

The Atheist vs The Christian Theistic Worldview

Dr. Stein proposes an atheist worldview I propose a Christian theistic worldview. There are other proposals out there that may want there evening to debate as well. I’m maintaining that the proof of the Christian worldview is that the denial of it leads to irrationality. That is, without the Christian God you cannot prove anything.

As one illustration of that, although I want to get into more than that in this second speech, I have referred to the laws of logic. An atheist universe cannot account for the laws of logic. Dr. Stein interestingly in responding to that spoke more about scientific law than he did about the laws of logic and I’m going to come back to that in my rebuttal to ask about his understanding of scientific law, however we still hear him saying that laws of logic are a matter of consensus and our just this way. That is to say I don’t have to prove that the laws of logic exist or that they are justified it’s just this way. Now friends how would you like it if I conducted the debate in that fashion this evening? God exists because it’s just that way. You just can’t avoid it. you see that’s not debate, that’s not argument, and it’s not rational, and therefore we have interestingly an illustration in our very debate tonight that atheists cannot sustain a rational approach to this question.

What are the laws of logic Dr. Stein? And how are the justified? We still have to answer that question from a materialist standpoint. From a Christian standpoint we have an answer, obviously, they reflect the thinking of God. They are, if you will, a reflection of the way God thinks and expects us to think.

Justifying Logical Truths: A Prori

But if you don’t take that approach and want to justify the laws of logic in some a priori fashion, that is apart from experience—sometimes that suggests that these things are self verifying—then we can ask why the laws of logic are universal, unchanging, and invariant truths. Why they, in fact, apply repeatedly in the realm of contingent experience. Dr. Stein told you well we use the laws of logic because we can make accurate predictions using them. Well as a matter of fact that doesn’t come anywhere close to discussing the vast majority of the laws of logic. That isn’t the way they are proven. It’s very difficult to conduct experiments on the laws of logic of that sort. They are more conceptual in nature rather than empirical or predicting certain outcomes in empirical experience. But even if you want to try to justify all of it in that way we have to ask why is it that they apply repeatedly in a contingent realm of experience? Why in a world that is random, not subject to personal order as I believe Christian God. Why is it that the laws of logic continue to have that success generating feature about them? Why should they be assumed to have anything to do with the realm of history? Why should reasoning about history or science or empirical experience have these laws of thought imposed upon it? Once again we have to come back to this really unacceptable idea that they’re conventional. If they are conventional than of course there ought to be just numerous approaches to scholarship everywhere, different approaches to history, to science, and so forth, because people just adopt different laws of logic. That just isn’t the way scholarship proceeds and if anybody thinks that is adequate they just need to go to the library and read a bit more. The laws of logic are not treated as conventions. To say that they are merely conventions is simply to say I haven’t got an answer.

Justifying Logical Truths: A Posteriori

Now if you want to justify logical truths along a posteriori lines, that is, rather than arguing that they’re self-evident, rather arguing that there’s evidence for them that we can find in experience or by observation—that approach was used by the way by John Stuart Mill—people will say we gain confidence in the laws of logic through repeated experience and that experience is generalized. In some weaker moments I think Dr. Stein was trying to say that. Of course some of the suggested logical truths, it turns out, are so complex, they’re so unusual, that it’s difficult to believe anyone has perceived their instances in experience. But even if we restrict our attention the other, more simple, laws of logic it should be seen that if their truths cannot be decided independently of experience then they actually become contingent. That is, if people cannot justify laws of logic independent of experience than you can only say they apply as far as I know in the past experience that I’ve had. They are contingent, they lose their necessity, universality, and invariance.

Why should a law of logic which is verified in one domain of experience, by the way, be taken as true for unexperienced domains as well? Why should we universalize or generalize about the laws of logic? Especially in a materialistic universe not subject to the control of a personal God.

Justifying Logical Truths: Linguistic Conventions

Now if it turns out that the a priori and a posteriori lines of justification for logical truths are unconvincing, as I’m suggesting briefly they both are, perhaps we could say they are linguistic conventions about certain symbols. Certain philosophers have suggested that. The laws of logic would not be taken as inexorably dictated but rather we impose them, we impose their necessity, on our language. They become, therefore, somewhat like rules of grammar. And as John Dewey pointed out so, you know so persuasively earlier in the century laws of grammar, you see, are just culturally relative. If the laws of logic are like grammar then the laws of logic are culturally relative, too. Why then are not contradictory systems deemed equally rationally? If the laws of logic can be made culturally relative than we can win the debate by stipulating a law of logic that says anybody who argues in this way has gotten tautology on his hands and therefore it’s true. Why are arbitrary conventions like the logic truths so useful if they’re only conventional? Why are they so useful in dealing with problems in the world of experience?

The Atheist Struggle with Logic

You see we must ask whether the atheist has a rational basis for his claims. Atheists love to talk about laws of science, laws of logic, they speak as though there are certain moral absolutes from which Christians were just a few minutes ago being indicted because they didn’t live up to them. But who is the atheist who would tell us about laws? In a materialist universe there are no laws much less laws of morality that anybody has to live up to. When we consider that the lectures and essays that are written by logicians and others are not likely filled with uninterrupted series of tautologies we can examine those propositions which logicians are most concerned to convey.

For instances, logicians will say things like a proposition has the opposite truth value from it’s negation. Now when we look at those kinds of propositions we have to ask the general question, what type of evidence do people have for that kind of teaching? Is it the same sort of evidence that’s utilized by the biologist, by the mathematician, the lawyer, the mechanic, by your beautician? What is it that justifies a law of logic? Or even belief that there is such a thing?

What is a law of logic after all? There’s no agreement on that question. If we had universal agreement perhaps it would be silly to ask the question. It’s been suggested to you that it’s absurd to ask these sorts of things. Although the analogy that was used by Dr. Stein about the absurdity of asking about the cause of the world is not at all relevant because that isn’t what my argument is—by the way it’s not absurd to as that question, it may be unnecessary to ask it if you’re an atheist but it certainly not absurd to ask it—but it isn’t absurd to as the question that I’m asking about logic.

You see logicians are having a great deal of difficulty deciding on the nature of their claims. Anybody who reads in the philosophy of logic must be impressed with that today.

Some say that the laws of logic are inferences comprised of judgements made up of concepts.

Others say that they are arguments comprised of propositions made up of terms.

Others say they are proofs comprised of sentences made up of names.

Others would simply say they are electrochemical process in the brain.

In the end what you think the laws of logic are will determine the nature of evidence that you will suggest for them. Now in an atheistic universe what are the laws of logic? How can they be universal, abstract, invariant, and how does an atheist justify the use of them? Are they merely conventions imposed on our experience or are they something that reflect absolute truth? Dr. Stein tonight has wanted to use the laws of logic. I want to suggest to you, one more time that Dr. Stein, in so doing, is borrowing my worldview. He’s using the Christian approach to the world so that there can be such laws of logic, scientific inference or what have you but then he wants to deny the very foundation of it.

Dr. Stein Cross-Examines Dr. Bahnsen

Question and Answer #1

Dr. Stein: Is mathematics either atheistic or theists?

Dr. Bahnsen: The foundations of mathematics, yes.

Dr. Stein: Which?

Dr. Bahnsen: Theistic

Dr. Stein: Theistic?

Dr. Bahnsen: Christian theistic.

Dr. Stein: How do you figure that?

Dr. Bahnsen: From the impossibility of the contrary. No other worldview can justify the laws of mathematics or of logic. Because no other worldview can account for universal, invariant, abstract entities such as them.

Question and Answer #2

Dr. Stein: Do you think it’s fair, since you’ve pointed out, that logicians themselves are in great disagreement about the nature of the laws of logic, to ask me to explain them in a way that you would find satisfactory?

Dr. Bahnsen: Yes it’s fair.

Dr. Stein: Why?

Dr. Bahnsen: Because this is a rational debate about worldviews. You have a naturalistic worldview I have a supernaturalistic one. I want something even beginning to be an answer or how a naturalist would justify a universal, abstract, entity. I haven’t heard one yet.

Question and Answer #3

Dr. Stein: Okay. Is logic based upon mathematics?

Dr. Bahnsen: No.

Dr. Stein: Never? Not symbolic logic for example?

Dr. Bahnsen: No.

Dr. Stein: I would disagree with you.

Dr. Bahnsen: Well if we want to get into Russell and Whitehead and debate those issues we’d be glad to do that but if you ask a simple question and I can only give you a simple answer.

Dr. Stein: You said… you said that.

Dr. Bahnsen: Assume the opposite. As far as I’m concerned, as a Christian, I’m not committed one way or another to that. If you want to say mathematical laws, and the permutation laws of math are the same as those used in logic, that’s fine. How do you justify either one of them is my question.

Question and Answer #4

Dr. Stein: Well I would ask you a more fundamental question. That is, you explained that the laws of logic reflect the thinking of god. Number one, how do you know this? And number two, what does it mean?

Dr. Bahnsen: What question, what difficulty are you having understanding what does it mean?

Dr. Stein: I don’t know how you are privy to the thinking of god?

Dr. Bahnsen: He revealed himself through the scriptures of the Old and New Testament.

Dr. Stein: And that explains the logic? That explains logic…

Dr. Bahnsen: That explains why there are universal standards of reasoning, yes.

Dr. Stein: It doesn’t explain them to me. Could you explain them again?

Dr. Bahnsen: Yea. We have Bible studies from time to time where those things can, you know can be dealt with.

Dr. Stein: You mean you spend some time rationalizing the irreconcilable? Or reconciling the irreconcilable?

Dr. Bahnsen: That’s just, I mean…

Dr. Stein: Like the two accounts in Genesis, the two…

Dr. Bahnsen: This is a cross-examination. If you have something other than a rhetorical question I will try to answer it.

Dr. Stein: Well it’s not intended as a rhetorical question. It’s intended as…

Dr. Bahnsen: The previous one was rhetorical only.

Dr. Stein: No it was intended to show that the last statement was disingenuous and…

David Agopian: Please limit your comments to questions.

Dr. Stein: Yes. Okay. Saying that logic reflects the thinking of god is to make a non-statement. How is that an answer to anything that’s relevant in this discussion?

Dr. Bahnsen: It answer the general metaphysical issue of how there can be universal, invariant, abstract entities in a particularists world, in a particular person’s worldview. If you want to know the precise relationships, for instances, if somebody wants to know how did God make a cow, okay. The statement that God made the cow doesn’t, has meaning apart from my being able to explain the mechanics of God making a cow. Likewise, the statement that the laws of logic are intelligible within a Christian theistic universe has meaning because there are things which are, in fact, spiritual, immaterial, and have a universal quality such as God’s thinking and those standards that he imposes on people. And so again, we can at least metaphysically make sense of invariant, abstract entities in one universe whereas we can’t make sense of them at all in the other. Were not asking for the mechanics here or anything precise such as resolving the relationships of logic to math, and that sort of… I’m simply asking a more general question. If you’re an atheist, how is it in this. How in the atheist universe is it possible to have an abstract, universal, law?

Dr. Bahnsen Cross-Examines Dr. Stein

Question and Answer #1

Dr. Bahnsen: Okay, Dr. Stein you made reference to David Hume and his rejection of miracles, have you also read David Hume and his discussion of induction or more popularly the uniformity of nature?

Dr. Stein: A long time ago. I can’t recall the… exactly what he says. I have read David Hume.

Dr. Bahnsen: Okay, were you convinced a long time ago that you had an answer to Hume’s skepticism about induction?

Dr. Stein: I can’t answer that question honestly. I don’t remember what…this was at least fifteen years ago that I read this.

Dr. Bahnsen: Scientific laws were, the validity of scientific laws were undermined by Hume when he contended that we have no rational basis for expecting the future to be like the past. Or, if you will, to be…for there to be types of events so that one event happening can be understood as a type of event so where it’s seen happening somewhere else the same consequence can be expected from similar causation. Hume said we had no rational basis for that…

David Agopian: Excuse me Dr. Bahnsen can we have a question please for Dr. Stein.

Dr. Bahnsen: Yea I’m trying to setup the question.

David Agopian: Okay. Okay.

Dr. Bahnsen: Hume suggested that there was no rational basis for expecting the future to be like the past in which case science is based simply on convention or if you will habits of thought. Do you agree with Hume?

Dr. Stein: Not on this issue I don’t.

Dr. Bahnsen: Do you now have an answer for Hume?

Dr. Stein: I think he was wrong about that one thing. But he was also right about a lot of other things. Nobody’s perfect.

Dr. Bahnsen: What is the basis for the uniformity of nature?

Dr. Stein: I went through this but I’d be glad to reiterate it.

Dr. Bahnsen: Okay.

Dr. Stein: The uniformity of nature comes from the fact that matter has certain properties which it regularly exhibits. It’s part of the nature of matter. Electrons, oppositely charged things attract, the same charges repel. There are certain valances that can fill up the shell of an atom and that’s as far as it can combine.

Dr. Bahnsen: Do all electrons repel each other?

Dr. Stein: If they’re within a certain distance of each other, yes.

Dr. Bahnsen: Have you tested all electrons?

Dr. Stein: All electrons that have ever been tested repel each other. I have not tested all.

Dr. Bahnsen: Have you read all the tests on electrons?

Dr. Stein: Me personally or can I go on the witness of experts?

Dr. Bahnsen: Have you read all of the witnesses about electrons?

Dr. Stein: All it takes is one witness to say “no” and it would be on the front pages of every physics journal and there are none so therefore I would say yes in effect by default.

Dr. Bahnsen: Well, physicists have their presuppositions by which they exclude contrary evidence, too. But in other words you haven’t experienced all electrons but you would generalize that all electrons under certain conditions repeal each other?

Dr. Stein: Just statistically, on the basis of past observation.

Dr. Bahnsen: And we don’t know that it’s going to be that way ten minutes after this debate then?

Dr. Stein: No, but we see no evidence that it’s switched around either?

Question and Answer #2

Dr. Bahnsen: Do you accept the Zen Buddhist logic that allows for koans the different kind of logic that you referred to used by Zen Buddhists?

Dr. Stein: I used the word extra-logical and I think that’s the right word. It is outside of the normal kinds of logic. It is not necessarily a different kind of logic it’s just non-logical, but accepted in the place of logic.

Dr. Bahnsen: Is it also… are extra-logical things absurd?

Dr. Stein: They may seem that way to us. But no, I would say they are not absurd in the grand scheme of things.

Dr. Bahnsen: Can extra-logical things be true? Can claims about extra-logical matters be true?

Dr. Stein: That’s an impossible question to answer because if you’re using logic to answer whether something is true or not than extra-logical things are not subject to the analysis given by logic.

Dr. Bahnsen: Alright, so are claims about extra-logical entities allowed or disallowed in your world view?

Dr. Stein: In my worldview? It depends on what we’re talking about. If we’re talking about things like Zen Buddhists and they confine themselves to these philosophical speculations there then yes. If they’re talking about science, no.

Dr. Bahnsen: It sounds very arbitrary.

Dr. Stein’s Rebuttal

I would first like to make one little factual rebuttal about a statement which was slipped by in the first speech of Dr. Bahnsen that atheists caused the French Revolution. This is a false statement. The leader of the French Revolution, the most important person, was Robespierre who was a Christian. So… I mean there may have been some atheists there but that doesn’t mean that they caused the French Revolution. There are atheists everyone. Okay. Now.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about logic and yet I’d like to know why—and this is not a question which is addressed right now for an answer but just as a put out for a future response—why has Dr. Bahnsen stressed the laws of logic so much when he’s refused to apply them to the existence of god? I’m not so sure that it’s even falsifiable so therefore it isn’t even a statement that’s even testable any way.

He has stressed the laws of logic because he knows that there’s no explanation for the laws of logic that philosophers agree upon. This is a trap, in effect. I may have fallen into it, if so, fine. The point is it’s not really relevant to his position. To say… he doesn’t have an answer to the laws of logic either. To say that they reflect the thinking of a god is to make a non-statement. First of all, he doesn’t know what the thinking of a god is, all he knows is what has been said by men to be what they thought the thinking of a god might have been many many years ago… maybe… if we keep granting all these possible things in his favor.

It’s like a saying, as I said before, that god created the universe. Unless you explain how he created it you have not made a statement that has any intrinsic value to it. He may have made a part of a statement but I want the to hear the other half. What is there in the method that god used that we can learn something from. I mean, why did god do it, if you want to be a little bit more nasty. It’s not valid to ask science why something happened. You can ask how it happened but science doesn’t try to answer the question why. Theologists, theologians I mean, do ask the question why and try an answer it. I have not heard an answer as to why god did anything that he supposedly did nor have I heard how god did it. These are the two most essential, meaningful answers to asking a question. If we don’t supply those you have ducked the whole center of the issue, and just giving you another mumbling which doesn’t go anywhere.

I’ll give you an example, if I said, how did that car that’s parked in the parking lot—that red car right in the front—how did it get here? And you say, General Motors made it. That does not explain how the car got here. Now if you want to go and explain that in Detroit a hundred men worked a certain number of hours to make this car out of steel that they got from Youngstown Ohio from a smelting plant. Then maybe we’re getting somewhere as to how that car got here. I don’t mean how it got on the Irvine campus I mean how did it get here in existence. So, tell me how that kind of an answer you have not said anything. To say that General Motors made it is not answering the question as to how the car got here. Neither is it an answer to say that god made it.

And I would ask Dr. Bahnsen to explain, if he thinks he knows the answer—which none of these philosophers know about the laws of logic—to put his answer in some kind of meaningful language. To say that the laws of logic reflect the thinking of god is a non-meaningful statement. And not just to me, to anyone. I want to know whether god thinks rationally all the time, whether he can be irrational, how do we know when he’s being irrational, is it possible for him to be irrational? I want to know what kind of logic god uses. Does he use the kind of logic that we can demonstrate, that we can test? In the same way that we use the logic that we’re talking about in science? If so, should it be impossible for god to contradict himself in any way? Can he make a stone so big he can’t lift it? Is that a logical impossibility? Is god limited by that kind of a thing? Can god make a square circle? I mean these are little logical games that we play that don’t really ask important questions but they have a reflection on some kind of a problem that he is having with his concept of god. That if god can do anything, if he is omnipotent, and omniscience, and omnibenevolent, can he do those two things I said, or asked. And if he does what kind of logic is he using? The logic of self-contradiction? Until we have some answers to these questions I don’t think we’ve gotten very much meaningful from Dr. Bahnsen in the first place about any issue. He certainly hasn’t applied logic to the proofs for the existence of god that have been offered by philosophers.

Dr. Bahnsen’s Rebuttal

Alright. Dr. Stein has demonstrated it seems to me repeatedly in the course of tonight’s debate the claim that was made very early on in my original statement and that’s that the atheist’s worldview cannot give an account of those things which are necessary for rational discourse or science. When asked about Hume and the skepticism that he generated about induction or the uniformity of nature we don’t hear an answer coming forth.

I don’t think there will be an answer coming forth from the atheist worldview. However, Dr. Stein, who is an atheist, has said—and I think this is close to a quote—if there were no uniformity science would be impossible. Exactly Dr Stein. If there were no uniformity science would be impossible. So on what basis, in an atheist universe, is science possible? Since, in an atheist universe there’s no basis for assuming that there’s going to be uniformity. For someone to say, well it’s been that way in all the cases in the past that we know of, and therefore very probably it’s going to be that way in the future, is to assume—because you’re using probability—that the future is going to be like the past. That is to say it’s to beg the very question that’s being asked.

Now of course if you don’t like the tough philosophical questions that are asked of you about the nature of laws of logic, how they are justified, the nature of natural law, how it is justified, and so forth, and just dismiss it as absurd questions or non-questions than no one understands and does not have meaning seems to me is just to try to give medicine to a dead man. You see it’s to say, I’m not going to reason about that because I haven’t got an answer to it and that’s just uncomfortable. But you see these are philosophical questions which not just Christians by the way but all philosophers have had to ask and face throughout the centuries.

Dr. Stein doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of giving us an answer about how an atheist worldview can account for laws; laws of science, laws of logic, laws of morality. And yet, he does tell us that without them science would be impossible.

As for the transcendental argument not being logical… I mean you can claim that, but I have yet to see Dr. Stein show any self-contradiction or any violation of the laws of logic in it. And of course if he were I would immediately ask him if that law of logic is one of the things that we are necessarily to live according to. We are to reason by this law? Or is that just a convention? Shall I say well that’s your convention but it’s not mine. Or is that law of logic, universal, invariant, and something that must be followed if we’re going to arrive at truth. If it is, then I’m going to ask how it’s possible to have such a thing in his universe. How he can justify it at all. But he hasn’t shown any contradiction he’s simply, again, called it illogical. Whether it’s falsifiable or not, I mean even asking that question, I think, shows that Dr. Stein is not really aware of the philosophical nature of the question in debate before us. No, transcendentals are not falsifiable, that’s right, but they are very meaningful and the very sorts of things that philosophers deal with all the time. If you look at Kant or Aristotle or other philosophers you’ll see they deal with the preconditions of experience. And since they are the preconditions of experience they are not falsifiable, and yet they are meaningful.

He says that I do not have an answer to these questions either. Well I certainly do. It’s just he doesn’t like the answer. The answer is that God created the world. And this world reflects the uniformity that he imposes on it by his governing and our thinking is to reflect the same consistency or logical coherence that is in God’s thinking. How do we learn about those things? He revealed himself to us. Again, these are simple answers. There the sorts of things Sunday school children learn. But you know I have yet to find any reason not to believe them. For Dr. Stein to say, well these aren’t answers, doesn’t convince me at all.

He says they’re not going to be answers unless I include how it took place. What is God’s method and why did he do it? Well I don’t accept those standards. I don’t accept that that’s a requirement for an explanation at all. And he hasn’t given us any good reason except that he’s not going to be satisfied or it’s unhelpful to him.

He says it’s a non-meaningful statement to say that the laws of logic reflect the thinking of God. He wants to know things like can God be irrational. Well, if he’d asked those question during cross-examination I’d have answered them. No, God cannot be irrational. Rationality is measured by the standard of his thinking and his revelation.

The atheists worldview cannot account for the laws of logic, cannot account for any universal or abstract entities for that mater, cannot account of the uniformity of nature, and therefore cannot account for the successes of science. Nor can the atheist universe give us universal and absolute laws of morality, and so on three of the most important issues, philosophically, that men must face, logic, science and morality, the atheist universe is completely at odds with those things.

Well we have one minute left here I want to answer very quickly those few things that Dr. Stein brought up in his second presentation so that I may rebut them. He wants to know about the problem of evil. My answer to the problem of evil is this, there is no problem of evil in an atheist universe because there is no evil in an atheist universe. Since there’s no God, no absolute moral standards, and nothing is wrong. The torture of little children is not wrong in an atheist universe. It may be painful but it is not wrong. It is morally wrong in a theistic universe and therefore there is a problem of evil, of perhaps a psychological or emotional sort. But philosophically the answer to the problem of evil is you don’t have an absolute standard of good by which to measure evil in an atheist universe. You only have that in a theistic universe. And therefore the very posing of the problem presupposes my worldview rather than his own. God has a good reason for the evil that he plans or allows.

Dr. Stein’s Closing Statement

Dr. Bahnsen in his last response and indeed throughout his entire talk has made a number of claims about what’s possible in an atheist universe and what is not possible in an atheist universe. All I can say is that he has a very strange conception of an atheist universe and perhaps of the universe in general.

First of all, evil in an atheist universe, yes indeed there can be evil in an atheist universe. Evil is by definition in an atheist universe that which decreases the happiness of people. The most unhappiness of people. In other words if we have two things that… if you want to make a comparative evil statement which is more evil than than another the thing is more evil which causes more people to be unhappy. Now how do we know this? We don’t know it it’s a consensus just like morality in general in a consensus. It’s a consensus reinforced by the teachings of society, parents to children, teachers to students, the media, literature, the Bible, all of these things reinforce morality through teaching and the socialization process. And also we pass laws to punish people who violate some of the more blatant cases that we have said are “no nos.”

So the idea that there’s no evil in an atheist universe is utter hogwash. There are… evil is at least a rational determinant thing. We don’t say well did god make this evil and then we have to go flipping through the Bible to see if it has covered at all. You know there’s a hundred volumes of commentary, at least a hundred volumes, more, called the Talmud, which is the Jew’s interpretation of the all the places that the Old Testament didn’t give them guidance on for ethical and moral issues. So, I mean, these things are not clearly spelled out in the Bible. We have no guidance on a lot of things as to what’s evil. Is organ transplant evil? I mean, you don’t find that in your Bible. You’ve gotta go and look at the issues and you do an analysis just the way any rational philosopher would do it, or an, what do you call it, an ethicist. Couldn’t think of the word. So, I mean we have standards by which we determine evil and good in an atheistic world.

The atheistic worldview, I think I’ve demonstrated, that the regularity of matter—which is an inherit property of matter—explains the way we are able to make laws that are generalizations in the field of science. To say that, first of all most, many many scientists are atheists, it’s been shown by studies over and over again. So to claim as professor, Dr. Bahnsen claims to claim that science doesn’t give us an atheistic worldview that is in conformity with, I mean, that science is not in conformity with an atheistic worldview is utter nonsense.

Science is in itself atheistic. It doesn’t used god to explain things and it understands that matter behave in a regular and therefore predictable way and that is the way in which scientific research is done.

The same with logic. Logic is a consensus. It has a mathematical and linguistic basis. It has some conformity to the reality of the world. I don’t know how many times we have to repeat that for it to get through to Dr. Bahnsen but it doesn’t seem to be.

And he seems to specialize in what we call the “thinking makes it so” school of logic, if you want to call it that. Because he says something is so, because he knows what god’s thinking was therefore it is so. The omniscient Dr. Bahnsen has answered. Well that doesn’t answer anything if we’re going to apply the tests of reason to what he says. His statements are not only irrational they are unreasonable.

The idea that the future is going to be like the past it’s a statistical probability statement. We have never seen a future, today’s fu… today is the future from yesterday, and yesterday, what is happening today was the future. We have not seen anything in that time period that we have observed, which is several hundred years, to show that the regularity of matter and its behavior is going to change. If it changes scientific experiments will go haywire and we’ll know it right off the bat. And then we’ll have to revise a lot of things. I think the chances of that happening are pretty small.

Now. Let me just finish by saying that atheism is not a belief in negative concepts. It frees man, it sweeps away the theological debris that has prevented man from taking action to correct the problems of this world. We want to feed the hungry. We want to educate the illiterate. We want to cloth the naked. We want to raise the standard of living. We want to spread reason and thinking and progress and science. These are all things which are in and of themselves atheistic. We don’t do them because god tells us to do them. We do them because they are right. They need to be done in this world. And if we do them because they are right and they make people happy we will be made happy ourselves by making other people happy. It’s a very positive world outlook. It’s something which I don’t think Dr. Bahnsen even mentioned but it’s certainly the other side of the coin. I mean what happens when you wipe away the god concept? Are you left with nothing? No, you’re left with responsibility you have to take on yourself. You are responsible for your actions and also you get the credit for the things that you do. I would rather have a realistic worldview that gives up a few things that would be nice to have but just don’t happen to be true. And I’d rather operate on a worldview like that than I would on, making wish fulfillment of things that just are not so.

Dr. Bahnsen’s Closing Statement

I want to begin my closing statement by thanking the debate team for inviting both Dr. Stein and myself here for this interesting evening of interchange. And thank you all for giving up an evening to discuss what I consider a very important question. And I thank Dr. Stein for coming and for his graciousness towards me.

As far as my rebuttal, or excuse me, my closing statement, I need to deal, I think first of all, and perhaps in the entire time analyzing this remark that my statements have been tonight irrational. Well, perhaps they have. But you see saying so doesn’t make it so. That’s something we just heard as well. And so if my statements have been irrational than we’re going to need some standards of reasoning by which these statements have been show to be irrational.

Dr. Stein has yet to explain to us in even the broadest, simplest, Sunday school, child manner that I told you about the laws of logic, laws of science, and laws of morality. He hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface to tell us how, in his worldview, there can be laws of any sort. And if there can’t be laws or standards in his worldview than he can’t worry about my irrationality. My alleged irrationality.

The transcendental argument for the existence of God has not been answered by Dr. Stein. It’s been debated. It’s been made fun of. But it hasn’t been answered. And that’s what we’re here for, rational interchange. The transcendental argument says the proof of the Christian God is that without him you can’t prove anything. Notice, the argument does not say that atheists don’t prove things. The argument doesn’t say that atheists don’t use logic, science, or laws of morality. In fact, they do. The argument is that their worldview cannot account for what they are doing. Their worldview is not consistent with what they are doing.

In their worldview there are no laws, there are no abstract entities, there are no universal things, there are no prescriptions. There’s just the material universe naturalistically explained and the way things happen to be. That’s not law like or universal and therefore their worldview doesn’t account for logic, science or morality. But atheists of course use logic, science, and morality. And in so doing atheists give continual evidence of that fact in their heart of hearts they aren’t atheists. in their heart of hearts they know the God I’m talking about. This God made them, this God reveals himself continually to them through the natural order, through their conscience and through the very…their very use of reason. They know this God and they surprise the truth about him.

One of the way we see that they suppress the truth about him is because they do continue to use laws of logic, science, and morality though their worldview cannot account for them. Dr. Stein has said the laws of logic are merely conventional. If so, then on convention he wins tonight’s debate, on convention I win tonight’s debate. And if you’re satisfied with that you didn’t need to come in the first place. You expected the laws of logic to be applied as universal standards of rationality. Rationality’s not possible in a universe that just sensing them to convention.

Dr. Stein has said the laws of science are law like because of the inherit character of matter. But Dr. Stein doesn’t know the inherit character of matter. Now if he were God he might reveal that to us as I think God has revealed certain things to us about the operation of the universe. But he’s not God he doesn’t even believe there is a God. Since he hasn’t experienced all the instances of matter and all the electron reactions and all the other things scientists look at since he hasn’t experienced all of those he doesn’t know that those things are universal. He doesn’t know that the future is going to be like the past. When he says well it alleyways has been in the past and boy if it changes tomorrow won’t that make the front pages, that’s not an answer. You see we’re asking what justifies your proceeding on the expectation that the future is like the past? To say well it’s always been that way in the past is just to beg the question. We want to know on what basis your worldview allows for the uniformity of nature and laws of science.

Thirdly, we’ve spoken of laws of morality tonight. He’s said they have laws of morality the utilitarian standard of what brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number. Well that doesn’t justify utilitarianism to announce it. He’s announced that it’s his standard but why in an atheist universe should we live by that standard? Marquis de Sade enjoyed torturing women. Now why should he give up torturing women so that he might bring greater happiness to those women that he’s torturing? Now I’ve got an answer for that. It’s not one that Dr. Stein likes and maybe some of you out there don’t like it but at least I can begin philosophically to deal with that. I have an answer; a universal absolute about morality.

Dr. Stein does not. He simply has an announced stipulated standard. And If morality can be stipulated than of course Marquis de Sade can stimulate his own. Even as Dr. Stein has stipulated his own. Why should he fed the poor? He says they want to do that. I’ll grant that. My argument tonight has never been that atheists are the lousiest people in the world. That’s not the point. Some Christians can be pretty lousy too. But why is it that I call atheists or Christians lousy when they act in the ways that we’re thinking of? Because I have absolute standards of morality to judge. Dr. Stein does not.

And therefore, once again, from the transcendental standpoint the atheistic worldview cannot account for this debate tonight because this debate tonight has assumed that we’re going to use the laws of logic as standards of reasoning, or else we’re irrational. That we’re going to use laws of science. We’re going to be intelligent men that way. We’re going to assume induction and causation and all the things scientists do. And it’s assumed moral sense; we’re not going to be dishonest and try to lie or just try to deceive you. I mean If there aren’t laws of morality I could just take out a gun right now and say “Okay Dr. Stein make my day. Is there a God or not?” You see if he argues oh you can’t murder me because there are laws of morality then of course he’s made my day because I win the debate because that shows that the atheist universe is not correct. But if he says, oh no there are no absolute standards it’s all by convention and stipulation and that sort of thing, then I just pull the trigger and it’s all over and I win the debate anyway.

Would you expect me to win the debate in that fashion? Absolutely not. You came here expecting rational interchange. I don’t think you’ve heard much from Dr. Stein. I’ve asked him repeatedly, it’s very simple, I don’t want a lot of details, just begin to scratch the surface, how in a materialistic naturalistic outlook on life man in his place in the world, can you account for laws of logic, laws of science, and laws of morality. The atheist worldview cannot do it and therefore I feel justified in concluding as I did in my opening presentation this evening by saying the proof of the Christian God is the impossibility of the contrary. Without the Christian worldview this debate wouldn’t make sense.

The Bible tells us, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” Don’t misunderstand that. When the Bible uses the term fool it’s not engaging in name calling. It’s trying to describe somebody who is dense in the sense that they will not use his reasoning as God has given him. Anybody who is rebellious who is hardhearted. It’s the fool who says in his heart there is no God.

Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians the first chapter that God has made foolish the wisdom of this world. He calls rhetorically, “Where is the wise, where is the disputer (or the debater) of this age? Hasn’t God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” In a sense, I think what Paul is telling us, if I can amplify and read between the lines, is that the whole history of philosophy is an argument for the existence of God. The whole history of philosophy is an argument for the existence of God because of the impossibility of the contrary. Someone who wants to say contrary to what the Bible says about God let him stand up and answer these questions. Let him show that in his heart he may say there is no God but he can’t live that way. He can’t reason that way. In Romans the first chapter Paul says God is making himself known continually to all men and persuasively so that men do not have an excuse for their rejection of the existence of the Christian God.

That isn’t to say that all men confess this God. Not all will own up to him as their heavenly father. Not all will submit to him. Some continue to rebel. Some continue to devise their fools errands and rationalizations for why don’t have to believe in him. That’s what the Bible teaches. I didn’t come here and make this up. I didn’t come here tonight to say well if you don’t agree you see you’re just being rebellious, that’s what the Bible says.

What I want you to do tonight is to go home and consider whether there isn’t something to that. Why is it that some people continue to use laws of logic, laws of morality, laws of science, and yet they have a worldview that just clashes with that. And they just won’t do anything to resolve contradictions.

Dr. Stein tonight made reference to my doctoral dissertation on self-deception. He wondered how relevant it might be. Well it’s very relevant. Very relevant. Because what I do in that doctoral dissertation is to show that there are some people who know the truth and yet work very hard to convince themselves that it’s not true. Now of course atheists think that’s what Christians are doing. I recognize that. And we have to argue what the evidence for and against self-deception is.

All I want to leave with you tonight is the fact that self-deception is a real phenomenon. It does happen to people. People who know the truth and yet work very hard to rationalize the evidence, convince themselves, as Paul says, “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”, convince themselves that there is no God.

Now you can choose tonight between the Christian worldview, the atheist worldview. We haven’t touched all of the issues that we may want to look into, but in broad strokes we have touched on a very important issue. If you’re going to be a rational man, a moral man, a man of science, can you do so in an atheist universe? I say you can’t.

For the most complete collection of materials by Dr. Bahnsen check out Covenant Media Foundation at www.cmfnow.com

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How to Handle Apathy in Evangelistic Encounters (Video)

World Record Attempt at Apathy

Apathy and Whatever-ism

Apathy is the antipathy of substantive conversation. Deep conversations require at least two interested parties. In evangelism it can be challenging to convince someone that it’s important to have a discussion.This is true of any topic: politics, economics, religion, etc. What if the other person says, “Who cares?” Before a substantive discussion can take place, the illness of “whatever-ism” must be cured.

World Record Attempt at Apathy
World Record Attempt at Apathy

3 Ways to Cure Whatever-ism

Apathy and whatever-ism are manifestations of a “so what?” attitude. Overcoming apathy, therefore, means showing someone why they should care. Dr. Groothuis (professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary) has three ideas for how a lackadaisical attitude can be overcome:

  • Appeal to their sense of shame
  • Appeal to their sense of prudential self-interest
  • Pick the right environment

Video Transcript

Here’s what Dr. Groothuis said when we asked him how to handle someone who’s apathetic about God.

You certainly need to pray for insight, for discernment, for love of the other person. I think sometimes the apologist wants to hit someone over the head and say, “listen to my arguments!”

[Tweet “Sometimes the apologist wants to hit someone over the head and say, “listen to my arguments!””]

But I think you can appeal to people’s shame and say “Shouldn’t you pursue these ultimate questions in life? Why avoid them? Shouldn’t you think about this seriously, use your intelligence in this way?” And I think also you can raise the issue of prudence. If Christianity is true and you don’t come to Christ there are eternal consequences, very unpleasant consequences. If you come to Christ and Christianity is true there is tremendous fulfillment and reward. Now that’s not an argument to become a Christian per se. That is an argument to investigate the possibilities.

[Tweet “That’s not an argument to become a Christian per se. That is an argument to investigate…”]

I think another significant thing is to try to interact with people about apologetics in a calm, intellectually hospitably situation. Because part of the problem of indifference of whatever-ism is that people are over stimulated. Their mind is saturated with all kinds of things. They say, “Oh I don’t want to think about Christianity I’ll think about this and I’ll be involved with this. So an environment that’s quiet, that’s one-on-one, that’s relational, that’s intellectual, I think can help people take things more seriously.

free-28min-video-of-apologetics

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The Ultimate List of Christian Apologetics Podcasts

List of Christian Apologetics Podcasts

The Ultimate List of Christian Apologetics Podcasts

(Updated 2016-06-11)

I’m missing a link to the content for The Narrow Mind. If anyone knows of links to the actual content (XML Feeds, iTunes Link, etc.), please let me know in the comments.

#

59-Second Apologist, The – Randal Rauser

A

A Clear Lens – Alex Aili, Eric Pelletier, Logan Judy, Nate Sala, and Gene Gosewehr
A Glimpse of the Kingdom – David Pendergrass
A Piece of My Mind – Greg Koukl
Absolute Truth, The (Discontinued) – Unknown
African Apologetics Podcast (Discontinued) – The Africa Centre for Apologetics Research
Answers in Genesis Radio – Ken Ham
Apologetic Front –  Mike Felker
Apologetics 101 – Rob Cartledge
Apologetics 105 – Robert Johnson
Apologetics 315 – Brian Auten
Apologetics Camp (Discontinued) – Hopevale Church
Apologetics Canada – Andy Steiger, Jon and Steve Kim

Apologia (Discontinued) – Zachary Moore
Apologia Radio – Jeff Durbin, Luke, Joy
Apologetics Coordination Team Podcast (Discontinued)
Apologetics Live (Discontinued)
Apologetics Research Radio
Apologetics Unplugged – Clint Roberts, Michael Patton, Carrie Hunter
Apologetics.com Radio Show – Harry Edwards

B

Backpack Radio (See Urban Theologian Radio)
Belivin for a Reason (Discontinued) – Daniel Edward
Bible Answer Man, The
– Hank Hanegraaff
Bible Information Brokers, The – Unknown
Bible Thumping Wingnut, The (Old Version of the Podcast) – Tim and Len Pettis
Bible Study Podcasts – Clean Slate Evangelical Ministries
Biblical Pressupositional Apologetics (Limited Run) – Michael Butler (Added 2016/06/11)
Bigger Picture on Creation, The (Limited Run) –  Krista Bontrager
BJJMOSES – Gene Cook
BreakPoint This Week – John Stonestreet
Briefing, The – R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Bulletproof – Brett Kunkle

C

Calvinist Batman & Friends
CARM Radio Show Podcast
– Matt Slick
Terry and Jesse Show, The (Catholic) – Terry and Jesse
Cell’s Design, The (Limited Run)
Christ the Center – Jeff Waddington, Jim Cassidy, and Camden Bucey
Christian Apologetics for the 21st Century (Discontinued) – Jeff Marmaro
Christian Apologetics (Discontinued) – Windmill Ministries
Christian Forum, The (Discontinued) – Unknown
Christian Persuaders – Alex Banfield Hicks
Christian Worldview Thinking – Summit Ministries
Christianity vs Other Worldview (Discontinued) – Don Johnson
City Podcast, The – John Mark Reynolds
Coffee Cup Apologetics – Michael Spencer
Cold-Case Christianity Podcast, The – J. Warner Wallace
Come Let Us Reason – Lenny Esposito
Comfort Zone, The (Discontinued) – Ray Comfort, Emeal (“E.Z.”) Zwayne and Mark Spence
Contenders Radio, The – Kevin Inman
Coram Deo – Kyle J. Howard
Creation Today
Creation Update 2.0 (Discontinued)
Cross Defense – KFUO
Cross Encounters – Tony Miano
Cross Examined – Frank Turek
CSRA Christian Apologetics – Timothy and James

D

Darwin or Design (Discontinued) – Dr. Tom Woodward
Decker Report, The
– Ed Decker
Deeper Waters Podcast – Nick Peters
Defend Your Faith – Richard Haas and Joseph Carlone
Defenders
– Dr. William Lane Craig
Delivered To The Saints: Truth, Christianity, Apologetics – L Russ Bush (This podcast seems to be more theology than apologetics.)
Did God Actually Say (Discontinued) – Theo Meade
Dividing Line, The – Dr. James White
Don Johnson Show, The (Discontinued) – Don Johnson

E

Eavesdropping – Max Andrews
Embrace the Truth – Abdu Murray
Energion (Discontinued) – Henry Neufeld
Everyday Apologetics – Wes Mullins
Evidence 4 Faith (Discontinued) – Keith Kendrex
Ezra Institute, The – Joe Boot

F

Fighting for the Faith – Chris Rosebrough
Fire Away! – Landon Chapman
Fixed Point Podcast, The – Larry Taunton

G

Gary DeMar Show, The (Link Not Located) – Gary DeMar
GenRef – Austin Brown
Gospel Coalition, The – Various
Gospel Focused Apologetics (Discontinued) – Berean Perspective
GROK Radio – Frequently covers issues related to apologetics but focuses on the topic of modern Christian music.

H

Hope’s Reason – Stephen J. Bedard
Hughniverse (Subscription Required) – Hugh Hewitt

I

I Didn’t Know That (Discontinued) – Reasons To Believe Staff
ID the Future – Discovery Institute
Impact 360 Institute – Jonathan Morrow
Institute of Biblical Defense – Phil Fernandes
Intelligent Design The Future – The Discovery Institute
Intelligent Faith Radio Program (Discontinued)
Intelligent Interactions Radio (Discontinued)
Iron Sharpens Iron (Relaunch 2015/06/01) – Chris Arnzen
Is Christianity True? – Apologetics 315
Issues, Etc. – Lutheran Public Radio

J

Janet Mefferd Show, The – Janet Mefferd
John Ankerberg Show, The – Dr. John Ankerberg
JoshRadio (Discontinued) – Josh McDowell
Jude 3 Project – Unknown
Just Think (Link Not Located) – Brett Kunkle
Just Thinking – Ravi Zacharias

L

Let My People Think – Ravi Zacharias
Line of Fire Radio – Dr. Michael Brown
Live Christianly – Dan and Elijiah
Logical Apologetics (Discontinued) – Joel Mabry
Logical Fallacies (Series 1, Series 2)

M

Moral Apologetics – Various
More Than a Theory
(Limited Run)
Mortification of Spin – Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, Aimee Byrd (Added 2016/06/11)

N

Narrow Mind, The (Link Not Located) – Gene Cook Jr.
No Compromise Radio Podcast – Mike Abendroth

O

One Minute Apologist, The – Bobby Conway

P

Peter S Williams (Self Titled AKA The Damaris Project)
Philosophy for Theologians – Reformed Forum
Please Convince Me (See Cold-Case Christianity) – J. Warner Wallace
Point, The – John Stonestreet
Probe Ministries – Kerby Anderson
Provocative Microphone of the Christian Religion, The (Link Not Located)

Q

Ouxano –  Matt Tague
Question Christianity
(Discontinued) – Matt Walker

R

RCM Live (Discontinued) – Sam and Jason
Real Radio (Discontinued) – Jack Hibbs
Reasonable Faith
– William Lane Craig
Reasons to Believe Apologia – Dr Hugh Ross, Dr. Fazale Rana, Dr. Jeff Zweerink
Reconnect – Andy Wrasman
Reformed and Reloaded – Adam and Zeb
Reformed Forum Podcasts – Reformed Forum
Reformed Pubcast, The – Les and Tanner
Remnant X Radio – Various
Renewing Your Mind – Dr. RC Sproul

S

Say Hello to My Little Friend (Discontinued) – Dr. Glenn Peoples
Science News Flash (Discontinued)
Sin Boldly – Pastor Evan McClanahan on KPFT 90.1 FM (Added 2016/06/08)
Skeptical Podcast, The – Kyle
Solid Reasons Morning Show, The
Sound Reasoning – Perseus Poku and Guests
Straight Thinking (Discontinued) – Kenneth Samples
Stand to Reason (Enhanced [Discontinued]) – Greg Koukl

T

Table Podcast, The – Dallas Theological Seminary
Taking Every Thought Captive (Discontinued) – Dustin Crider
TC Apologetics (Unknown) – Unknown
Telugu Christian Apologetics Church (Unknown) – Unknown
Tentative Apologist, The – Randal Rauser
The Apologetic Front Podcast (Discontinued) – Mike Felker
The Point Radio – John Stonestreet
Theology League, The
Theology Matters – Dr. Barcellos
Theology Mom (Discontinued) – Krista Bontrager
Theology Unplugged – Michael Patton, Sam Storms, JJ Seid, Tim Kimberley
Theopologetics – Chris Date
Thinking Christianly
Thinking in Public – R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Thinking Out Loud – Alan Shlemon
TRURadio
Truth Talk (Discontinued) – Unknown
Twisted Apologetics (Discontinued) – Ryan Goding

U

Unapologetic – Brian Seagraves
Unbelievable?
– Justin Brierley and Guests
Uncovering Religion – Rob Cartledge
Up for Debate – Julie Roys
Urban Theologian Radio (Formerly Backpack Radio) – Vermon Pierre, Pastor Bob, and Vocab Malone

V

Veritas Forum, The (Link Not Located) – Various
Voice of Truth (Discontinued) – Norman Geisler

W

Walter Martin
White Horse Inn
– Dr. Michael Horton
Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (Limited Run)
Without a Doubt (Limited Run)

Y

Youth Apologetics Training – Michael Boehm

If you know of a podcast I missed (even if it was a limited run podcast, is discontinued, or you can’t get all the episodes online anymore) please let me know. I’d like this list to remain as complete as possible.

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What’s the Best Apologetic Method? (Video)

Apologetic Method and Five Representative

Apologists love debating about apologetic method. In other words, they love debating about debating. If unbelievers are scarce, apologists turn to each other to sharpen their iron. Some take a casual approach to the discussion. Others see it as a matter of utmost importance.

[Tweet “Apologists love debating about apologetic method. In other words, they love debating about debating.”]

SPOILER ALERT: We won’t be settling the debate between evidentialism and presuppositionalism today.

Who Wants to Do Apologetics the Right Way?

Apologists hear bad argumentation and reasoning all the time. It’s part of the job, but they can get tried of it. Apologists are human too. Most of the time they’re arguing with unbelievers of one stripe or another. However, when the topic is apologetic method, it’s probably other apologists they’re interacting with. Fellow apologists hold each other to a pretty high standard. These are the people who should really care about the how of apologetics, right?

Apologetic Method and Five Representative

When the Argument over Apologetic Method Goes Too Far

It’s possible to get so caught up in the debate about apologetic method that we never actually do apologetics. This may make sense for the aged professor who’s already walked the walk and has the lumps to show for it. But the new apologist should be concerned with actually taking the message of the gospel to the streets as best they can. This allows them to learn from experience what works. Experience combined with theory can create a biblical and practical apologetic method.

Two objections spring to mind when arguing for experience over theoretical precision ad nauseam:

  • Does a person need to know how to do apologetics before they actually get out there and try?
  • Won’t a person do more harm than good if they don’t use the best apologetic method?

Being an Informed Practitioner

You must know how to do something before you can actually do it. This seems reasonable. But sometimes (in the debate over apologetic method), it gets carried too far. How far is too far? If you never get around to engaging in apologetics, you’ve probably gone too far.

Think of it this way. Many people have dreamed about writing a book. They know they don’t have the best grammar, spelling, or plot construction and should study up on these topics; otherwise their book will be a big mess. So they plan, study, wait, and plan some more. After a few years they’ve done a lot of planning and studying but still don’t have a book. They don’t even have a bad book; they have no book at all.

This is an example of taking things too far. Apologetics is both a science and an art. It’s like riding a bike, writing a book, or learning how to cook lasagna. It’s learned best by study and practice. Your first lasagna might not be fit for the family pet to eat, but you’re on your way. That’s what’s important.

[Tweet “Apologetics is both a science and an art. It’s like riding a bike, writing a book, or learning how to cook lasagna.”]

Using a Bad Apologetic Method Is Like Working With a Dull Axe

Do you think an apologist who doesn’t use the best apologetic method will do more harm than good? It all depends right? How wrong are they? Maybe they get the main idea right but are off on some of the details. If that’s the case, most of us will give them leeway (in Christineese this is called “grace”) for their error.

What if they get some of the main points wrong? We certainly don’t want to be so off base that we end up being an apologist for knowledge falsely so called.

Here’s the point though: disagreements over apologetic method do not fall into this category. The content of what we’re arguing for may (e.g. what is the gospel), but not the way in which we do apologetics. This isn’t to deny that there’s a “right” way to do apologetics. There certainly is. It’s more important to do apologetics than endlessly debate how to do apologetics.

[Tweet “It’s more important to *do* apologetics than endlessly debate *how to do* apologetics.”]

Take Your Pick of Evidence and Presuppositions

One of the hottest topics in apologetic method today is between evidentialism and presuppositionalism. Which school of though is right? I don’t think it matters. Good apologists use both.

Dr. William Lane Craig is one of the foremost Christian thinkers today. Dr. Craig presents arguments for God’s existence without talking about presuppositions at all. Of course, Dr. Craig has presuppositions. He just doesn’t start with them.

Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen is on the other end of the spectrum. Dr. Bahnsen was a student of Dr. Cornelius Van Til and popularizer of presuppositionalism. Dr. Bahnsen debated apologetic method with Dr. R.C. Sproul. In that debate Bahnsen admits that the transcendental arguments for God (TAG) is like a reformulation of more traditional arguments for God’s existence. Bahnsen doesn’t dismisses evidence. Far from it. In fact, he lectured extensively on the superiority of Christianity based on the evidence.

So take your pick. Start with evidence and go to presuppositions. Or you can start with your presuppositions and go to the evidence. Either way, you’re doing apologetics to the glory of God.

[Tweet “So take your pick. Start with evidence and go to presuppositions. Or you can start with your presuppositions and go to the evidence.”]

Video Transcript

When Dr. Doug Groothuis was asked what the best apologetic method is he gave the answer that served as the basis for this post.

Well, first of all, the best method is to do it, to get out there and do apologetics. But you do need a good foundation for it, and I’ve found that the best method is hypothesis testing—that is, the Christian worldview is a theory of everything, if you will, and we argue that several lines of evidence converge on Christian truth.

So we have evidence from science, evidence from philosophy, evidence from history for the historicity of the Bible. And you combine those arguments into an overall case that shows that Christianity is true; and it’s rational, very rational, compellingly rational to believe it. And you use those same kinds of tests concerning consistency and livability to other worldviews and try to show the weaknesses of those other worldviews.

Conclusion

I can’t put it any better than Dr. Groothuis: “The best apologetic method is to do it.” Don’t wait until you have all the kinks worked out of your system. Start today, even if that means defending Christianity in an Amazon product comment box. There are apologetic opportunities all around us.

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Mistakes A Brand New Apologist Usually Makes (Video)

Three Behaviors for the New Apologist to Avoid

The Man Who Wrote the Book (Literally)

Dr. Douglas Groothuis invested around eight years writing Christian Apologetics. At 752 pages it is a massive treatment. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]In fact, the good doctor acknowledged that the hardback version could double as a weapon.[/inlinetweet] Both old and new apologists can benefit from reading this volume.

Dr. Groothuis was in campus ministry for many years and holds two degrees:

  • M.A. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin
  • Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Oregon

What Are Some Common Pitfalls a New Apologist Should Avoid?

 

 

Quick Tips for the New Apologist

  • Love: [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Apologetics is about honoring Christ as Lord first.[/inlinetweet] We should also show respect for those we proclaim the gospel to. Newcomers sometimes miss this and come off as only caring about winning arguments.
  • Listen: Dr. Groothuis recommends a calm environment for apologetics. Busy and distraction prone settings make it difficult to listen and communicate. Good listening is like the first step in the phrase: ready, aim, fire.
  • Learn: [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Whether an apologetical encounter is good or bad, there’s always something to learn.[/inlinetweet]

 

Three Behaviors for the New Apologist to Practice
Three Behaviors for the New Apologist to Practice

 

Getting Caught Up in the Apologetical Moment

Discussing ideas that will effect someone’s eternity comes with a lot of responsibility. This is good. Our concern for God’s glory and the souls of others should weigh on us. This responsibility can make us feel excited and even nervous. This is especially common for new apologists. You may recognize some of these physical, emotional, and mental warning signs:

  • Uneven breathing, clammy palms, and a racing heart
  • Nervous laughter
  • An over eagerness to speak and an inability to hear what the other person is saying
  • Facial expressions that don’t match the conversation
  • Shuffling feet, shaking hands, and twitching eyelids
  • Asking questions like a lawyer (e.g. leading the witness)
  • One arm that’s longer than the other from carrying a bullhorn
  • Using Christian terms with a non-christian audience without providing explanations

An experienced apologist is hard to pick out of a crowd (unless they’re addressing the crowd). Their evenness of tone and measured responses don’t stand out. They look just like anyone else engaged in conversation. This isn’t because they’re ambivalent. They’ve simply learned how to be measured in their interactions.

Evangelism With A Loving Heart

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Evangelism should flow from a loving heart. If it isn’t love that motivates us, we’re liable to fall into the trap of pragmatism.[/inlinetweet] Emotion is a powerful way to exert influence on someone. Sometimes it’s the easiest way, but it isn’t loving to focus on just the emotion and leave the will and mind to fend for themselves. The greatest commandment enjoins us all to be well rounded Christians:

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

— Matthew 12:30 (ESV)

Winning arguments is certainly a part of apologetics, but it can’t be the end goal. It’s possible to win every argument by sheer force of will and not glorify God at all. The end goal (as with all things in the Christian life) should be the glory of God. To the extent that winning an argument accomplishes that end, it’s good.

Video Transcript

I think someone who has just gotten the apologetics bug and is interested in arguments and so on can be insensitive to others such that the person doesn’t listen to other people (just dumps apologetics on their head).

And good apologetics, virtuous Christian witness, always involves loving and caring for the other person, listening to the other person, interacting, trying to figure out what the other person’s worldview is and what their life experiences are. And then your knowledge of defending Christianity as true, rational, and pertinent comes out through the dialogue and through a loving exchange.

Apologetics is not about defeating other people’s arguments. Now you want to win arguments. I’m a philosopher. I always want to win arguments. But I don’t want to win arguments on the cheek, on the cheap rather. I don’t want to just intimidate people and browbeat them. I want to give good reasons, make sure the other person understands, be able to take the criticisms that that person has of my worldview.

So what I’m saying is, we want to develop a deep truth seeking dialogue with others that will draw out what we know and furthermore reveal what we kn… we don’t know. So we need to be humble. And humble doesn’t mean, “I don’t really know what I believe or why, but let me tell you my opinion.” That’s ignorance. But we need to be humble in terms of loving others, not putting ourselves first, and to be willing to be corrected. And if we know something that’s significant, and we have some good arguments, be thankful to God, the giver of every good and perfect gift, that He has made those known to us.

Feedback

What about you? What’s your story? Did you go through some of these stages as a new apologist? Did it go well? What did you learn? Comment below and start the conversation.

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Why Should We Trust the Bible? (Video)

Why Should We Trust the Bible?

The Bible

The Bible is the most well attested ancient document of any religion. That’s not just hype. Both Christian and non-Christian scholars agree that [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]the Bible has more manuscript support than any other book of antiquity[/inlinetweet]. However, just because a book was copied a lot in the past doesn’t mean we can trust it. Does it?

Why Should We Trust the Bible?

In September of 2014, Dr. Douglas Groothuis visited Credo House in Edmond OK. Over the course of three days he recorded 30 lectures for his course Christian Apologetics 101.

When we finished filming the course itself, we sat down with Dr. Groothuis to ask him some of the most common questions apologist are asked and are asking.

Video Transcript

Well, the basic point is that the Bible is historically reliable. It’s not full of myths and legends. It gives a unified worldview. It provides meaning for every area of life. And we don’t have to take some blind leap of faith to believe that.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The Bible is well substantiated by the evidence of history and also by the evidence of science and philosophy[/inlinetweet] because there is good independent reason to believe there is a creator/designer, God. The Bible affirms that. And in fact, given the human condition (the fact that we have guilt) the Bible explains that as the result of sin, and Christ provides the answer to that problem. It’s very clearly and systematically laid out in Scripture.

So in the course, I develop a much richer more detailed argument for why we should trust the Bible; but it stands alone with respect to all the other holy books in the world’s religion as very well confirmed/verified, deeply enmeshed in history, and therefore something real that we can relate to and understand.

Feedback

What do you think about what Dr. Groothuis said? Does what he said make sense, or is it flawed? Because the Bible is so central to the Christian religion, it’s veracity is of upmost importance.

Voice your opinion in the comments section below.

free-28min-video-of-apologetics