That Problem No Skeptic Can Explain

I was going to put this into words, but Wayne Jackson has already done it in a far better fashion than I can. His article is short and sweet.

Referring to the historical records of Jesus’ life and the New Testament accounts of the Gospel in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; Wayne Jackson presents the question,

“How do skeptics address these historical records? Generally speaking, they assert that the New Testament writers fabricated the accounts. The writers knew that Jesus did not do these things; they simply invented the stories.

Will this charge stand up in the light of logical inquiry? Let us think about it for a moment.

Logically speaking, either there is existence after death or there is not…”

This is an exert from the middle of this article “A Problem No Skeptic Can Explain”. Click here to read this concise article.

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
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32 Responses to That Problem No Skeptic Can Explain

  1. jens says:

    Can you explain to me how you see religion filling the hole that you talked about earlier? I’m not sure I understand what changes between belief and non-belief to fill that void you speak of. Isn’t that lack of lasting remembrance the same either way since you can’t go back?

    I would say that it isn’t that I don’t want anything to do with God as you say, rather it is that all physical evidence points away from his existence and I feel my senses are too flawed to make an assumption that he exists without proof. Were he revealed I would believe without question, although I would need a reason to worship (belief being much different in my eyes to subjugation).

    I have often wondered how a God can be considered loving when he would be willing to cast you into eternal torment for being unwilling to trust the very flawed body he gave us and the cryptic evidence of his existence he presents. After all eternity is an awfully long time. I think though, that I’m too stubborn to take the “safe” bet. I also realize that insincere belief is probably worse than sincere disbelief. Does anyone know of theological study of this topic? If you are unable to sincerely believe is it better in Gods eyes to be honest or not? I would suspect honesty is morally superior in nearly any religious context.

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  2. Rachael says:

    That is a very good answer and I thank you. I have thought about that question before too: what if I am wrong? If I am, I have still lived a life that is fulfilling and tried to love others and be a kind, compassionate person. But, I will just go into oblivion like everyone else, losing nothing. But, I also think, what if I weren’t a follower of God and I was wrong? I would spend an eternity away from Him. When I look at the chances and consequences, I feel safe living the way I do. I agree with you, though, in the idea that if you didn’t want anything to do with God here on earth, it may not bother you to make the choice to not spend eternity with Him. That is why there is freewill. Thank you for answering.

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  3. jens says:

    Well, here I am again. I’ll try to elaborate on what I think about the meaning of life.

    I’m struck from your comment that you mention needing to be remembered or needing a lasting impression on the world to feel purpose. I would be interested to know why it is that religion helps you in this regard? Is the hole filled in by the knowledge that God, at least, will remember you or is it bypassed by the fact that your life will essentially continue forever in a different form? It doesn’t seem to matter here on earth what we believe, we still get forgotten eventually, but I am curious how this need for recognition is filled by belief. To me it seems to just bypass the question by assuming everlasting life. The hole is never filled, the road just goes around it.

    I take comfort in the fact that I am small in the grand scheme of things. I’m a part of possibly one of the greatest things in the universe, Life. Although statistically there are probably other places which contain life they are still the vast minority in the universe. I find the process amazing, the ability of life to recycle everything, the ability to colonize nearly every environment. On the grand scale I’m in awe, and somewhat humbled, that this process includes me, and in some ways I will always be here. I will always be here in the same way that the cereal I ate this morning is part of me by the end of the day. The cycle is incredible. I can think of nothing more humbling than realizing that I am not quite as important as I think I am.

    And what is religion for anyway, it is either there to mollify this feeling and make us feel bigger, or it is there to awe us into feeling small enough to feel we must love others. I’m at peace with feeling small, I feel like I’m doing my part. Being small makes you realize how much we need others, how much we need to love and help others. If we don’t there is noone else out there to love or help us. Our lives only matter to one another, so we’d better make them last and weave ourselves together as tightly as possible. The universe certainly won’t groan if an asteroid boils the ocean and extinguishes our species, but if we stick together with some love and tenacity that doesn’t have to happen. We are lucky enough with our intellect not to be bound by the whims of fate quite as much as other animals, but we need each other to make it work.

    This grand need to come together informs me on the micro scale as well. Of course I would like recognition and to have my name mentioned through the eons, but I’d rather it were mentioned like Buddha, as a unifier of people, rather than like Attila the Hun or Julius Ceasar as conquerers and dividers. I want my children and friends to have a wonderful future. I want to see what we can acheive and hope that they will continue the effort when I’m gone. I am genuinely excited by our technological advances and hopeful that we won’t be blinded by our sucess in other areas to our dire failures in others. Sure, I’d like to be able to see it like a fly on the wall after I’m gone, but just like moving to a new home you leave some things behind that you can’t come back to. In the same way that you grieve that, you grieve the moment that you have to die. But, it doesn’t scare me, or worry me. The world will go on without me just fine. Even if heaven exists there is no coming back to catch up, so you must be at peace with what you’ve done at the end anyway.

    I hope that my contribution will be a good one. I hope that I can use my skills and my mind to further our knowledge and solve some of the pressing problems of our time. I also hope that the bricks I lay will be a good foundation for those that follow me. In order to best do this I must learn to work with people, to love them despite their faults and my own. I must do my best to enable people rather than bring them down. I must be a teacher and bring out the best in people by making them think. I must expect the same of myself and challenge myself to do the best I can at learning and challenging my beliefs. I cannot rest easy since my time is finite. I must find enough time to be happy and make others happy since I don’t have an eternity of bliss ahead of me to look forward too.

    In coming to grips with my mortality and deciding what it is I want to accomplish in my life I have begun to fill in the hole that I mentioned above. I haven’t gone around it, I’ve just decided that the meaning of my life is implicit in my actions and depends on future generations for fullfillment. I must trust that my accomplishments will help future generations, but I have an entire lifetime to be sure I’m on the right path.

    This isn’t to say that religious people can’t, or don’t, fill in that hole. The values I stated above are universal to nearly every religion and culture there is. People love, share, heal, teach, and comfort each other all over the world. What religion promises is eternal life (or nearly perpetual life in the case of eastern religions). The pitfall in that, for me, is that this does not equate to filling the hole. You still die, you still can’t come back, and you might be wrong. In fact, I might be wrong.

    There is always a chance that your belief is wrong, that you’ve misjudged your senses and believe an untruth. After all, according to the top two religions in the world a majority of the world has misjudged and will not be granted everlasting life. Such is the nature of exclusivity I guess. But if you misjudged, if your senses failed you here on earth as they so often do, would you plead forgiveness to a God that didn’t want you to begin with, or would you be at peace knowing that you did all you could using the best tools you had at your disposal. That you tried to understand and better your world without relying too heavily on your own flawed senses and psychology? Would it be worth it to prostrate yourself to a God you never believed in on earth, simply to fill the hole you didn’t fill while you were there.

    After all, faith is just faith. I have faith that my ball glove will catch the fly ball before it hits my face, but I might be wrong, and have been once before. I’d rather spend my time studying the ball and making sure my mitt lacing is secure than focus on what I can’t control.

    The point to me is that you fill your life to the best of your ability with doing good for others and yourself. If you can do that, you’ve succeeded and you will be remembered for a while. You can die knowing that you’ve done your part in the biggest game we know of. What more could you really ask for aside from a chance to succeed and feel you’ve helped someone else. Anything else is just a gift to be accepted in good faith if it comes to that.

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  4. jens says:

    Racheal,

    Excellent question. I will elaborate some tomorrow I hope. I’m just heading home to my 2 year old and, as you may know, 2 year olds don’t allow dallying to post on a blog. I do not take offense, I think it is an excellent question. If you’d like you can look at some of my recent blog posts, I deal with that issue a bit in one or two if I remember correctly. Just click on my name above.

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  5. Matt says:

    That’s a rather self centred view of life. Our lives, in the grand scheme of things, don’t mean a great deal at all. Yes, I could die right now and I’d be remembered for a while and then forgotten … just as has happened to every single human being that has died before us.

    But why should we be remembered? It does the species no good but what we do during our lives, remembered or not, that is what is important. Make the world a better place for future generations, for your children and grand children, for complete strangers. That’s the real legacy someone can leave behind and it does not matter one jot if you’re remembered for it or not.

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  6. Rachael says:

    Jens: I have to ask, what motivates you in life? Some may point to things they have accomplished, some may point to all those they they have helped, maybe they would even point to making the world a better place because they were here. But, when life, specifically your life, is said and done, what will matter then? Does it ever make you wonder, what if this is really it? I go into oblivion, people may remember me for awhile but will eventually forget me. And, no matter what I accomplished in life, whether good or evil (or maybe you don’t believe in good and evil), it won’t matter because I will cease to exist. It just seems like a depressing way to live. I mean, some would say that since they only get this life, live it up. But, after awhile, it seems that no matter what you do there will be this empty feeling, like something still missing from the purpose of your life. I am not an atheist nor a skeptic, but I have wanted to honsetly ask this of someone who is. Please do not take offense.
    Rachael

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  7. jens says:

    “I question creationists, to be honest, because I hold reason to be superior to superstition.”

    I hope you didn’t quote this as proof of questioning the honesty of Creationists. You do understand the use of commas to seperate ideas in a sentence, correct? ‘to be honest’ refers to me, the speaker, and noone else.

    “Everyone of the negative questions were to prove that you did have evidence against them, and therefore to say that the Christian is not true you would have to have evidence against it,”

    You really don’t understand how logic works do you? Read this about negative proof and mabye you will begin to understand how using this retorical trick goes completely against rational argument. http://tinyurl.com/awm4n

    It relates directly to our differences I think. You believe the burden of proof is in the hands of the others to disprove God, while logic would dictate that you cannot believe something without first proving it’s existance empiricaly. You could appeal to a reversed burden of proof, as the article states, based upon having two competing explanations which cannot be confirmed by observation. However, you realize that an empirical link must be made before you can do this. However, there is no empirical evidence to base this upon. Even if that reversed burden of proof were accepted the best way to make an inference is to use Occams Razor. Since atheism makes no assumptions while religion makes assumptions of how God acts Occams razor would fall on the side of atheism. Still nothing is proven.

    I don’t mind that you believe what you do, what I mind is that you represent it as logical, scientific fact while appealing to negative proof. You can either prove your beliefs using positive proof and consider it scientiically proven, or you can call it belief. You can’t have it both ways.

    I buy your argument that if the world was created then science is of the world. It is a tautological truth. However, do you then abondon scientific questioning and resort to belief in scripture when the scientific evidence goes against that? That is the question that you didn’t answer. You sidestepped it with a tautology. Do you think that Creationism of any stripe holds up to the laws of scientific inquiry and should thus be taught in science class? It is a seperate question whether or not it should be taught on it’s own merits, but being taught in science class means you accept it as legitimate science on sciences terms. Do you?

    I look forward to you showing corroborative evidence of the scriptures. In particular I am interested in coroboration of a historical Jesus and corroboration of his miracles. I have not come across any.

    “Can you prove that order comes from no order apart from the order of created living things?” was to be rhetorical, but I mistyped, so exclude “living”. This was to point back to everything you see in the Universe and its order, is either order by chance or order by the mind that set these laws in order.”

    Now you’ve really got me confused. First, removing living then creates the tautology you made above, that all created things are created. By extension they must be ordered or creation wouldn’t make sense as a method to create humans. You again create the preposition of negative proof that I must prove that created things were not created. Remember, if you appeal to logic you must attempt positive proof to extend your hypothesis. Second, the burden of proof is on you to show that creation is more logical than “accident” as you call it.

    Then you talk about “order by chance”? Doesn’t that preclude your entire argument if order can be by “chance”. Mabye your language is just unclear and I’m misunderstanding what you mean.

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  8. Scott says:

    You misunderstood most of what I wrote before. A little was my fault. I don’t think I clarified it enough for you.

    Much of the Bible’s history is corroborated by other sources that would be consider hostile especially the existence of Jesus and that there is the corroborative evidence of the Bible in 20,700+ of NT manuscripts and other sources from the 1st century to the 15th. This is far surpassing all other historical written sources. This is mostly base information, so I won’t have to keep backtracking.

    When you speak of nature, you do realize that we believe it was created by God and the science thereof is of God. Science is essential to God since He created it and also authored the Scriptures. Pointing out the order life only aids the Creationist. The major separation between the evolutionist and the creationist is the origin of life in which evolution and creation are theories in science and both deserve equal presentation outside of religion. Belief in God is not belief in religion just ask a Deist.

    Everyone of the negative questions were to prove that you did have evidence against them, and therefore to say that the Christian is not true you would have to have evidence against it, which could be the proof of something contradicting Scripture like proving the natural origin of life.

    I did not know that you were ignorant of factual corroborative evidence outside of the Bible. I assumed since you’ve studied Christianity a little that you would have been familiar. That’s my mistake. I’ll have to go to a more basic level.

    I appreciate your examples of natural order for which the Creationists would claim were created by God. None of your laws are excluded, but the origin of life from evolution. I understand that the theory of evolution is a made up many chances whether you want to call them that or not. So, prions can develop, so what? There’s has still been no scientist to have created life in the lab.

    My question of “Can you prove that order comes from no order apart from the order of created living things?” was to be rhetorical, but I mistyped, so exclude “living”. This was to point back to everything you see in the Universe and its order, is either order by chance or order by the mind that set these laws in order.

    You’re absolutely wrong about the empty tomb and Jesus’ existence. I’m working on a post regarding the predictions of Christ that are affirmed historically by hostile witnesses. I think it a shame that many Creationists will present predictions that may or not be written after the fact.

    You do know that the Bible is made up of 66 separate books and it is in itself corroborative. The New Testament consists of 27 books written by 7 different people. Yeah, I certainly don’t agree with your dismissal of the Scriptural foreknowledge though I don’t remember you showing any of them to be false though the seed one was questionable. This is still a great evidence in proving God and His revelation that contradicts the origin of life according to evolutionists.

    You may have the last words.

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