jump to navigation

Some Questions For Muslims December 30, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Islam, Religion, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

To the Muslim we must ask:  how did the Bible become corrupt when the Qur’an declares the Bible as the “Word of God,” “the Book of God,” “a decision for all matters,” and the list goes on; when according to Surahs 6:34 and 10:64 the Words of God cannot be altered?  Did the Bible become corrupt before, after or during Muhammad’s life, because in Surah 5:47-50 Christians are told to turn to their own Gospel and we are asked to test the truthfulness of Muhammad’s message with the previous message (the Bible) from God, like in Surah 10:94?

Smithsonian Institution’s Stance on The Book of Mormon December 28, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Joseph Smith, Latter Day Saints, Mormonism, Religion, The Book of Mormon, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , ,
20 comments

Here is a letter written by the Smithsonian Institution in regards to The Book of Mormon and its relation to archeology and the New World. Although this does not lead to 100% proof, it should at least raise concerns on the historicity of The Book of Mormon. Despite the fact that we at The Confessors do not believe one needs physical evidences for every detail of the Bible, or any religious book for that matter, we do believe something should have been uncovered; as the Book of Mormon is claimed to have recorded about 1,000 years of human history somewhere in the Americas. A Mormon response to the letter can be found here; however, it does little to dispel the issue of historical accuracy and the Book of Mormon.

STATEMENT REGARDING THE BOOK OF MORMON

1. The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archaeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.

2. The physical type of the American Indian is basically Mongoloid, being most closely related to that of the peoples of eastern, central, and northeastern Asia. Archaeological evidence indicates that the ancestors of the present Indians came into the New World–probably over a land bridge known to have existed in the Bering Strait region during the last Ice Age–in a continuing series of small migrations beginning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.

3. Present evidence indicates that the first people to reach this continent from the East were the Norsemen who briefly visited the northeastern part of North America around A.D. 1000 and then settled in Greenland. There is nothing to show that they reached Mexico or Central America.

4. One of the main lines of evidence supporting the scientific finding that contacts with Old World civilizations, if indeed they occurred at all, were of very little significance for the development of American Indian civilizations, is the fact that none of the principal Old World domesticated food plants or animals (except the dog) occurred in the New World in pre-Columbian times. American Indians had no wheat, barley, oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, camels before 1492. (Camels and horses were in the Americas, along with the bison, mammoth, and mastodon, but all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C. at the time when the early big game hunters spread across the Americas.)

5. Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occasional use of unsmelted meteoric iron). Native copper was worked in various locations in pre-Columbian times, but true metallurgy was limited to southern Mexico and the Andean region, where its occurrence in late prehistoric times involved gold, silver, copper, and their alloys, but not iron.

6. There is a possibility that the spread of cultural traits across the Pacific to Mesoamerica and the northwestern coast of South America began several hundred years before the Christian era. However, any such inter-hemispheric contacts appear to have been the results of accidental voyages originating in eastern and southern Asia. It is by no means certain that even such contacts occurred; certainly there were no contacts with the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, or other peoples of Western Asian and the Near East.

7. No reputable Egyptologist or other specialist on Old World archeology, and no expert on New World prehistory, has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archaeological remains in Mexico and archaeological remains in Egypt.

8. Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, and other Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have frequently appeared in newspapers, magazines, and sensational books. None of these claims has stood up to examination by reputable scholars. No inscriptions using Old World forms of writing have been shown to hare occurred in any part of the Americas before 1492 except for a few Norse rune stones which have been found in Greenland.

Public Information Officer
Department of Anthropology
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560

PREPARED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY
SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION

A Review of “Misquoting Jesus” December 27, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible, Christianity, Islam, Religion, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , ,
20 comments

Introduction:

 Bart Ehrman’sMisquoting Jesus was promised (and lives up to that promise) to be the first in  textual criticism that any layperson could pick up and understand (pg.15). Ben Witherington also echoes similar words on his BlogSpot review of the book,” this is material I could happily assign to seminary students wanting to understand the basics of text criticism.” The material, for the most part, was a great read and easy to follow. Anyone who truly wants to understand the basics of textual criticism and New Testament manuscript history, without the intensity and length of scholarly textbooks, would do well to read the first four chapters of this book. After those initial four chapters, the book’s point becomes more apparent (not that it was completely hidden from the get go).

Who He Is:

Dr. Bart Ehrman is a scholar in the field of Biblical Studies, chairing the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina. He is also the author of numerous books on the subject of Biblical Studies. He studied at some of the nation’s best known Christian schools, Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, finishing up his studies under Bruce Metzger at Princeton Theological Seminary. As his introduction reveals, it was these studies that enlightened him to the errors that filled the manuscripts of the Bible, thus in his mind, rendering them uninspired by God. Later he rejected Christianity, becoming an agnostic, after wrestling with the problems of suffering.

The Commentary:

In the introduction of the book, one gets a detailed life story of Bart Ehrman. The reader also will find out the sort of angle he is approaching his studies from. The approach is the typical “guilty until proven innocent” slant. Dr. Erhman clearly reveals that because the manuscripts are error ridden, we should not accept the Bible as an inspired book. On the other hand, he seems to shoot himself in the foot, “Most of the differences [between the textual manuscripts] are completely immaterial and insignificant” (pg.10). He highlights some brief examples of the changes and tells the readers there are approximately 400,000 differences between the textual manuscripts and that some of these differences are intentional changes, although not necessarily for the bad. Seeming to forget what he wrote on page ten, he starts to paint a drab outlook for anyone who puts faith in the Bible.

According to Dr. Craig Blomberg the, “substantial majority of this book provides information already well-known and well-accessible in other sources.” So the issues are not some brand new discovery, nor have they been kept hidden. They are now just more accessible to the public in an easier to read format. Dr. Blomberg believes that Dr. Ehrman spins the data by focusing on the more drastic issues concerning the text. Thus, making it as if there are even greater or many more issues like the ones he points out in his book found throughout the various texts. Despite making it seem like this (which he indeed does), he concedes on page sixty-nine that the other textual differences are in no way the magnitude of the others in the book. Dr.Blomberg also takes issue with Ehrman’s hypothesis, that the scribes of the 2nd and 3rd century did not do as vigilant of a job that the “professional” scribes  did after Emperor Constantine. Submiting that not only is it unprovable that the scribes after Constantine were all professional, but also Erhman’s proposition that the scribes after Constantine where more careful in copying than those before hand, because we simply don’t have the amount of manuscripts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries that we have from the later centuries; stating, “Not only are both of these postulates unprovable (though certainly possible), the actual textual evidence of the second and third centuries, though notably sparser than for later centuries, does not demonstrate the sufficiently greater fluidity in the textual tradition that would be necessary to actually support the hypothesis that we cannot reconstruct the most likely originals with an exceedingly high probability of accuracy, even if that probability remains in the high 90s rather than at 100 %” (Dr.Blomberg).   Dr. Erhman also writes as if the Doctrine of the Trinity leans on the “Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7-8).” When in reality there are other verses located throughout the Bible that support the Trinity (note: we at The Confessors have never used 1 John 5:7-8 as a verse to support the Trinity, nor have we seen anyone else use it; most Bibles today do not contain the Johannine Comma).

Dr. Bart Ehrman also never gives any supporting arguments to back up his claim that these errors suggest that the Bible itself can’t possibly be inspired by God. The evidence seems to point the other way, “No central tenet of Christianity hangs on any textually uncertain passage” (Dr. Craig Blomberg). Dan Wallace in his review quotes what Bruce Metzger once taught him, “over 90% of the NT is rather well established in regard to its original text, and none of the remaining 10% provides us with data that could lead to any shocking revisions of the Christian credo or doctrine” (Dan Wallace). Norman Geisler and Willam Nix conclude in their book, “A General Introduction to the Bible”, as quoted by Bruce Metzger in “The Case for Christ”, that the text is “a form that is 99.5% pure.” If Dr. Bart Ehrman’s own mentor and “Doctor-Father,” Bruce Metzger, came to the conclusion that the text is 99.5% pure, we should take the conclusion in “Misquoting Jesus” with a grain of salt (Acknowledgments, Misquoting Jesus).

In Conclusion:

“Misquoting Jesus” is a good read and provides a basic understanding of the field of textual criticism in the first four chapters. The Introduction and chapters five through the conclusion reveal he has an ax to grind. Many of his claims are spun out of historical context and un-provable.

For the links to the reviews used above:

Dr.Craig Blomberg’s Review

Dr.Ben Witherington’s Review, with Dan Wallace

Evangelical Textual Criticism’s Review

We also recommend “Misquoting Truth” by Timothy Paul Jones

In Christ,

The Confessors

Christmas Trees Wrong According to Jeremiah 10:2-4? December 26, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Christmas, Religion, Uncategorized.
Tags:
24 comments

As usual, Christmas time brings an influx of anti-Christmas propaganda emails and blogs. They typically promise to enlighten their fellow believing Christians; or for those who aren’t Christians, use this time to attack the Christian faith. The topical subjects of the various blogs and emails usually range from “December 25th is a Pagan holiday” to “decorating Christmas trees is a Pagan act forbidden in the Bible.” We at The Confessors have never done an in-depth study on the history of Christmas, nor are we here to defend December 25th as the day of Jesus’ birth or the usage of Christmas trees. Rather, the purpose of this specific entry is to address the usage of Jeremiah 10:2-4 in anti-Christmas propaganda. We recently came across a quotation of this verse being used to attack the decoration and use of Christmas trees.

” 2Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest… 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

As the verse above appears, it could make a strong case against the usage of decorated Christmas trees. However, the first thing we noticed was the “…” portion of the quotation and wondered what it had to say. Here is the full section of the quoted Scripture:

“2Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customsa of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

The entire meaning of this quotation changes when one reads what was left out. It isn’t forbidding the decoration of trees, rather, the carving of idols from wood. While we don’t disagree with debating the Christmas celebration origins, we do disagree with creating arguments from bad exegesis of the Scripture and false histories from the imagination rather then the facts (this goes for both sides of any issue).

In Christ,
The Confessors

The Initial Review of Biblerrors.com December 24, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Islam, Religion.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

 Some time ago, we stumbled upon Biblerrors.com through this blog, while exploring the blogosphere. The authors of the webpage do not try to mask what they do, it’s in the name. They also do not try and make themselves out to be more than what they are, as they give their bio’s in the “biblerrors team” section. So for this we can appreciate the honesty; however there are some initial issues I wish to hammer out with the website.

First, they aren’t really finding errors in the Bible per say; rather, they’re finding errors in a translation of the Bible (the KJV). This is in no way discounting the qualities of the KJV of the Bible nor are we skating away from the issues that do exist between texts. What we are trying to make clear, is that a lot has happened in the last 400years of Biblical scholarship that can account for many of the alleged “errors.” In order for this site to be accurate in its title (biblerrors.com), the authors must do one or both of the following (i) know ancient Hebrew, ancient Aramaic, and Koine Greek (other languages like Syriac and Coptic are highly recommended); all while having access to all the thousands of the various textual copies of the Bible.  (ii) Or have academic sources that deal with the various issues and differences found throughout the many manuscripts we possess of both the Old and New Testament. A wide range of scholars are recommended if route (ii) is followed, as you could probably find a “scholar” who’d say just about anything.  Not to mention, when one is properly going to critically analyze a particular subject, looking at both sides of the argument is always needed. If one reads Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus” one should also read the counter books like, “Misquoting Truth” by Timothy Paul Jones. Of course we’re not trying to say the counter arguments for any issue will always be persuasive; but one should at least fully understand both sides of the arguments.

The second issue we wish to bring forth pertains to their willing to listen to the other side. Under a pseudonym, a member of The Confessors tried to open up a dialogue about the topic, but was stifled. He was given two options 1) call a Christian apologist he had never heard of a deceiver or 2) never try to contact this specific author of the website again. After failing to get around the ad hominine mudslinging required to even start a dialogue, he was put on their spam list for emails. The issue with this technique is quite clear, there is no concern with truth or even honest dialogue about the issues; rather, they’re right and everyone else is wrong and if you don’t adhere to what they think is true, you’re nothing less then a liar.

Finally, this leads point three, which is more questions than anything else. Are they willing to listen and correct any issues with their lists if there indeed is no error at all? What sort of proofs would be needed for this to occur? What type of scholarship would they accept if it went against their ideals?

In Christ,

The Confessors

A Critique of Bryan Steeksma’s Ontological Argument Against the Existence of God December 15, 2009

Posted by theconfessors in Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Religion.
Tags: , , , , , ,
2 comments

Bryan Steeksma, in his YouTube video, informs us that there is no conclusive argument for the non-existence of God. We completely agree. He then claims that the burden is on the theist to show that God exists. If there is no argument for the existence of God, then, we think he’s right. The problem is, there are several arguments for the existence of God. He just doesn’t think they work. He gives the common atheist analogy to unicorns: “We don’t walk around trying to disprove the existence of unicorns, we just accept that they don’t exist.” We don’t believe unicorns exist either. Why? Because we’ve heard no valid/sound arguments for the existence of unicorns. This is why Bryan thinks he has an analogous scenario. He thinks there are no valid/sound arguments for the existence of God. So, in this video, he tries to show us how the ontological argument (Alvin Plantinga’s in particular) is fallacious and then tries to use what he believes to be the “fallacious bit,” if allowed, to prove God doesn’t exist. On the other hand, we hope to show why Alvin Plantinga’s argument isn’t fallacious in the way Bryan argues it is and follow that up by examining Bryan’s argument on its own. We’ll show you how his argument actually is fallacious for other reasons.

Please take the time to watch Bryan’s video first:

First, let’s start with Alvin Plantinga’s argument. This is how it is presented in Bryan’s video and we have not verified it with outside sources. So, if this is an unfair representation, we apologize. We are just working with Bryan’s video.

  1. God exists in understanding but not reality.
  2. Existence in reality is greater than existence in understanding alone.
  3. A being having all the properties of God plus existence in reality can be conceived.
  4. A being having all of God’s properties plus existence in reality is greater than God.
  5. A being greater than God can be conceived.
  6. Hence, it is false that God exists in understanding but not reality.
  7. God exists in understanding, therefore, God exists also in reality.

Bryan informs us that he has Kantian influences and it is definitely palpable in his critique. He is essentially trying to argue that existence cannot be a property. That is, Plantinga’s “fallacious bit” (as I referred to it earlier) is where he’s trying to use existence as a property. Why is this fallacious? It has been argued that “existence” cannot be a property because it is itself a prerequisite for further properties; that is, in order for God to be all-powerful, He must first exist. So, existence cannot itself be a property.

But, we ask, why should something’s being a prerequisite for further properties be any reason to believe it cannot be a property? For example, consider the properties “taking up space” and “being red.” Certainly, we must agree that in order for something to be red it must take up space. So, if we allow Bryan’s interpretation, taking up space can no longer be a property ascribed to objects. For this reason, we completely disagree. We, on the other hand, would allow for any kind of property so long as no paradox follows.

Now that we know what the “fallacious bit” is suppose to be we’ll see that Bryan tries to use this in his own argument to show that God cannot exist. Since we have shown how this is not actually fallacious, we will ignore it in Bryan’s argument and show why his argument fails on completely different logical grounds. His argument is as follows:

  1. God is the greatest of all possible beings.
  2. The absolute greatest of all imaginable achievements are accrdited to the greatest imaginable being necessarily. (Because no one else could have done it.)
  3. The creation of everything is the greatest imaginable achievement. (Said achievement is qualified by a) its intrinsic quality and b) the ability of its achiever.)
  4. The greater the disability of the achiever, the greater the achievement.
  5. The greatest and most formidable disability for an achiever is non-existence.
  6. Therefore, if we posit that everything is a part of an existent being we can then conceive of a necessarily greater being (i.e. one that created everything while not existing).
  7. Therefore, God does not exist.

He defines “absolute greatest of all imaginable achievements” as “the creation of everything.” So, where we found the former, in premise (3), we replaced it with the latter. “God” is defined as “the greatest of all possible beings,” so, we replaced “the greatest imaginable being” with “God,” in premise (2). We also added, in parenthesis, what we take “everything” to mean, in terms of the context of the argument. We get the following:

2. The creation of everything (everything that exists) is accredited to God.
3. The creation of everything (everything that could exist) is the greatest imaginable achievement. (The creation of everything is qualified by a) it’s intrinsic quality and b) the ability of its achiever.)

As you can see, the argument falls victim to the fallacy of equivocation. If he means “everything” in (2) in the same way that he uses it in (3), to avoid the fallacy, we don’t think that anyone would agree that premise (2) is true. It would then look like this:

2. The creation of everything (everything that could exist) is accredited to God.

There is simply no reason to believe that God has created everything that could exist. If you use “everything” in (3), in the same way you use it in (2), then we don’t think anyone would agree that premise (3) is true. It would look like this:

3. The creation of everything (everything that exists) is the greatest imaginable achievement…

Surely, we can all imagine an achievement far greater than the creation of what already exists. So, it seems premise (3) would be false, on this account.

We forwarded these concerns to Bryan on YouTube and he sent us the following revised argument:

  1. God is the greatest of all possible beings.
  2. The absolute greatest of all imaginable achievements are accredited to the greatest imaginable being necessarily. (Because no one else could have done it.)
  3. The greater the disability of the achiever, the greater the achievement.
  4. The greatest and most formidable disability for an achiever is non-existence.
  5. Therefore, if we posit that everything is a part of an existent being we can then conceive of a necessarily greater being (i.e. one that created everything while not existing).
  6. Therefore, God does not exist.

We have issues with premise (2) and (4). First, regarding premise (2), why would we accredit an achievement to a being that has not yet achieved the achievement? For example, the absolute greatest of all imaginable achievements is, to our understanding, the creation of all things possible. To our knowledge, it is not believed that God has created everything possible. It’s possible that He could, but, given what we know, it’s not probable that He has. So, we couldn’t accept premise (2).

As for premise (4), we can’t conceive of a non-existent being achieving anything; that is, we can’t conceive of nothing achieving something. We accept that properties can be ascribed to things as long as they do not create paradoxes, as previously stated. But, if “nothing does something” is true, then it’s false because, in order for a being to do something, it must be something.