Gary forwarded to me some more of American Vision’s hate mail. The vituperative personality behind this exhibits, once more, how sadly our “rational” skeptics reason. Our critic’s “observation” follows below with my intermittent comments. He writes,
There is not even one word written, in any language, by anyone who lived at the time, that verifies that the person of Christ even existed…
To which one should only respond, “Pure hogwash.” This well-trodden and thread-bare skeptical claim really means, “There is not one word written that I will countenance,” because nearly all scholars agree that the NT books (even accepting the latest dates for them) record oral tradition that appeared in Christian preaching for years before. More importantly, the letters of Paul would have been written in the 50s and 60s AD, and these have several references to Jesus as an historical person. Apparently, Paul and the Gospel witnesses do not count as “anyone who lived at the time.” I have written an entire book containing a detailed refutation of the awful falsehood that this critic repeats. See my Manifested in the Flesh: How the Historical Evidence for Jesus Refutes Modern Mystics and Skeptics for more.
Yet our critic continues,
Christ as a “Savior,” etc did not appear until about 75 years after his death.
Hogwash again. The title “savior” was used throughout the Old Testament, including to describe the coming Messiah, and the Greek Septuagint version of the OT (ca. 250 BC) uses the same Greek word soter to communicate this as does the NT. It would have been automatic for the early Christians to make this connection and call their Messiah (Christ) the “Savior,” and this would have happened even before any NT was written. According to the history in Acts, this was the context of Peter’s sermon on the very first Christian Pentecost: “Be saved from this perverse generation!” (Acts 2:40). Paul applies the title “savior” to Jesus in Ephesians and Philippians (ca. early AD 60s), and the product, “salvation,” twice in Romans (ca. AD 57). So our critic’s complaint about a 75-year gap does little more than rehash radical liberal skepticism which, worse than being radical, is totally ignorant of the facts. For more on the titles of Christ in early Christianity, the reader can begin with Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (2005). Or, maybe just study the Bible.
All of the literature from “His” time, and about 300 years earlier, was written by persons trained to write in a form of Greek that was used throughout the many nations of that era. Not one word.
I’m not sure exactly who he means by “trained,” at least not in the sense that “all” those who wrote literature during the time belonged to such a group. Granted, some of the Greek from the New Testament does exhibit a polished style characteristic of trained amanuenses—people who took dictation and edited for a living. We strongly suspect that Paul and others did sometimes employ such professional hands. Yet some of the NT books have such “untrained” style that any such trained scribe would be ashamed to claim it. Further, beneath much of the Greek in the NT books scholars can discern very clear Aramaic or Hebrew idioms or patterns of speech, thus testifying to a Judaic origin. So who wrote these texts? Almost certainly not trained Greek literary figures.
The American Vision on Facebook
Extensive archeological work has confirmed this.… Not one shard with a picture, not one tomb or one stone inscribed with the event. Christ did not exist, and remains the Greatest Hoax in History.
In other words, “I will ignore the most commonly found artifacts (5000+ manuscripts of the NT) because the evidence they contain is not written on stone.” How selective we are with what we accept as evidence! And what would our critic say if confronted with such stone evidence? Almost certainly he would point to some liberal scholar’s claim that this stone evidence dates to 75 years later that Jesus, or that there existed so many people with the name Jesus that we can’t be sure if this is the right one, etc., etc. Besides, even if we granted the false premise that “we have no evidence,” this would not warrant the conclusion that therefore “Christ did not exist.” This is an elementary logical fallacy called an Argument from Ignorance. You can’t claim to know something based on what you don’t know—to prove something with nothing.
Then he really lets the fallacies fly:
What a different world we would live in had the truth of the fiction been revealed. Applying Chaos Theory, and the Law of Unintended Consequences, the world’s entire system of nations would look different. There would have been no murderous Crusades or Inquisition, no Holocaust, and none of the wars that had Christianity at their base.
This fallacy is called a Hypothesis Contrary to Fact, the Speculative Fallacy, or the “Big If” Fallacy, the heart of which involves claiming some certain outcome based on changing one thing in history. Chaos Theory (a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan sets off tiny ripples of air that snowball into enormous weather patterns in North America) sounds cute in theory, but in speculative cases like this ignores the vast infinity of other much more weighty “ripples” that counter-effect butterfly wings. Things in history take place in such a complex web of causes that to assert that the absence of any one of them—even important ones—would cause opposite effects is misguided. God will send a bird to eat the butterfly before the ripple becomes a hurricane in California, but the earthquakes may get Cali anyway. If not, the bureaucrats will destroy it soon enough.
Likewise, the so-called Law of Unintended Consequences cuts both ways. If Christianity had never existed, many local peoples might still be practicing cannibalism and human sacrifice. Would there really be no Crusades or Inquisitions in a Christ-less world? What does this guy think the history of atheistic communism was? And don’t let him reply with Harris and Hitchens that atheism was only coincidental with the hundreds of millions slaughtered under atheistic regimes; the Bolshevists consciously opposed religion in the name of atheism, set up a consciously atheist state on an atheistic program, which was based on atheistic philosophy. Furthermore, given that the Crusades and Inquisition represent perversions of what Jesus taught, we may well conclude that those medieval cataclysms would have occurred under any alternative regime with a different name. Had the powers of the state and church been limited as the Bible teaches, these would not have been the legacy of “Christendom.”
Our critic concludes as most of this caliber usually do: with ad hominem and cursing.
How g** d***** odd. I know you folks mean well, but you are only reinforcing the hypocrisy and the lies that propel the world of nations to wars and other hateful actions.
Stripping away the errors in facts and reasoning, this is the foolishness that fallen man is reduced to before God. He knows the truth of God in his heart, because God has revealed it to him. But he suppresses that truth in order to maintain the illusion of autonomy. But it’s like trying to hold a volley-ball underwater: the thing keeps rolling about and finding its way to the surface. Our critic cannot prevent the truth from surfacing through his weak claims.
When apologetics is this easy, the articles almost become entertainment. Unfortunately, the ending to the play is, like the reasoning, sad.