Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Case For Christ - Examining The Record - Rebuttal (part 3)


It feels like my rebuttal of The Case For Christ is going slowly, especially since I spend a lot of time creating each post – drafting, writing, proofreading, reading, making changes, etc – but I want to be thorough for two reasons:

1 – The Case For Christ is one of the most popular evangelism tools created, thus, a rebuttal should indeed be very thorough.

2 – If anyone is in a debate with Christians and they think that The Case For Christ contains solid arguments, I want this blog to be a reference for arguments that either confirm or refute the book.

So far, all the evidence presented in The Case For Christ makes the case fairly weak.
Granted, I am only in the first chapter – but if Lee Strobel wants to make an argument to convince skeptics like myself, he better hurry.

Also, to clarify, because I believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (as per Carl Sagan), and that the gospels are making extraordinary claims, as a skeptical rationalist I therefore want there to be extraordinary evidence to back up the gospel's extraordinary claims.

Two points that I want to discuss from p32 and 33 of the book:

1 – The gospels being considered eyewitness records.

2 – The uniform belief of the church fathers that the names attached to the authors were indeed of the actual authors.

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1 – The widespread belief that the gospels are eyewitness recording of the life of Jesus Christ.

News flash (as term I'm sure Strobel is familiar with): only two of the four the gospels, at most, can be considered eyewitness documentation.

The familiar tale is that the Matthew was the tax collector who is conveniently mentioned in Matthew, and that John was the disciple John, whom Jesus loved. However, some critics also suggest is was another John who may have authored this gospel.

Then we have Mark and Luke, and this is where the story breaks down.

Mark is thought to have been a disciple of the original disciple Peter, and Luke is thought to have been the personal doctor of Paul the apostle.

a) If Mark is writing a collection of histories handed to him by Peter, then Mark simply cannot be considered an eyewitness, thus his gospel is not an eyewitness record.
Even if Peter was in the thick of the action, so to speak, the fact that he is not the author of the gospel of Mark automatically discounts Mark an being an eyewitness record.
Mark may contain things that were eye-witnessed by Peter, but this isn't the same.

It's comparable to a book called Vietnam: The Australian War by Paul Ham – I have no doubt that Paul Ham interviewed eyewitnesses involve to gain first-hand accounts of the Australian involvement in the Vietnam War – but is Ham's book an eyewitness account of the Vietnam War? No.

Then, neither can the gospels of Luke and Mark be.

b) – Even if Mark made no mistakes or mischaracterisations whatsoever in dictating down what Peter told him, it doesn't mean that the gospel he wrote is most definitely an accurate account.
For instance, how would Mark know Peter isn't slipping in something to pump his own tires up, or how would Mark know Peter isn't slanting a story to make the other disciples/apostles look weaker or foolish?

And this is where it comes down to it - being able to compare the gospel record against actual recorded history.

Does Mark's gospel accurately record history that we can ascertain and verify?



2) – Strobel asks “How uniform was the belief that Matthew, Mark, Luke & John were the authors of the gopels?”, to which Dr. Blomberg replies, “It wasn't in dispute”.

To me, this doesn't prove that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the actual authors – it just proves that there were people who believed that Matthew, Mark, Luke & John were the authors.

But what evidence is there to justify this belief? Unfortunately, in this section of The Case For Christ, none is presented and no scholarship is cited. For someone who is looking for actual evidence, rather than just an assertion, I found this disappointing.

Furthermore, we know that the early church was rife with splits and schisms, and that there was a lot of documentary destruction as well as cross-sect persecution.

Is it possible that the authorship wasn't in dispute because those who had disputed the authorship were rubbed out and/or had their documents destroyed during a heretical purge?

In my estimation, yes. As I like to state when debating Christians on FaceBook:

"When studying the history of the early church, the question we should be asking is not how can we emulate the faith of the church fathers, the question we should be asking is what were they trying to hide?"

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Until next time, stay healthy and happy!


-Damien 


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