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An Atheist Reads I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist: Chapter 14 
Thursday, June 13th, 2013 | 09:06 am [i don't have enough faith, video, vlog]
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An Atheist Reads I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist
Chapter 14: What Did Jesus Teach About the Bible?


  • This chapter’s opening quote is worth mentioning, because the authors include it apparently intending for us to take it seriously:

  • “My high school science teacher once told me that much of Genesis is false. But since my high school science teacher did not prove he was God by rising from the dead, I’m going to believe Jesus instead.” (Andy Stanley)

    • Andy Stanley is an evangelical pastor, by the way, and the son of Charles Stanley, a more famous evangelical pastor. Clearly, Andy is someone who should have been more receptive to new information in science class.


  • Using the teachings of Jesus to establish the authority of the Bible — that is the topic of this chapter. Geisler and Turek have quietly abandoned the pretense that they are writing for skeptics at this point, since no one but an already believing Christian could possibly attach any significance to what Jesus taught about the Bible, or regard the words of Jesus on this or any other subject with any degree of authority.

  • Imagine if instead of what I read, the opening quote went something like this: “My high school science teacher once told me that much of The Amazing Spider-Man is false. But since my high school science teacher did not receive super powers from a radioactive spider-bite, I’m going to believe Spider-Man instead.” Does that quote make you want to believe in Spider-Man?


Woe to You, Hypocrites!


  • Geisler and Turek enter the subject of Jesus’s teachings about the Bible by supposing that a modern descendant of George Washington took to the floor of the House of Representatives and addressed a joint session of Congress, berating the legislators on their corruption and hypocrisy.

  • “Who would be so blunt and rude to address the nation’s leaders that way? Certainly no one claiming to be a Christian! Are you sure?” (Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST, p. 356)

    • Clearly written before the Obama administration.


  • “While we’re not sure that Jesus would make such comments to today’s political leaders, he actually did make similar comments to the religious leaders of his day. What!? Sweet and gentle Jesus? Absolutely.” (p. 356)

    • Are incredulous rhetorical questions taught as an effective method of communication at bible college or something? Because I find it a tad obnoxious.


  • “The historically reliable Gospels record Jesus’ teachings on many subjects. But no teaching of Jesus has more far-reaching impact than what he taught about the Bible. If Jesus taught that the Bible is the Word of God, then the Bible is our primary source of divine truth. So what did Jesus teach about the Bible?” (p. 356)

    • I would ask a more relevant question: What is our source for what Jesus taught about the Bible?



What Did Jesus Teach About the Bible?


  • Let’s start with the Old Testament. Geisler and Turek inform us that Jesus taught that the Old Testament was the Word of God in seven ways (pp. 357-359):


  1. It’s divinely authoritative.

  2. It’s imperishable.

  3. It’s infallible.

  4. It’s inerrant.

  5. It’s historically reliable.

  6. It’s scientifically accurate.

  7. It has ultimate supremacy.


  • All seven of these list items are backed up with scripture references showing where Jesus taught these things about the Old Testament. The first four and the last one are what I would call theological. (And infallibility and inerrancy, in this context, are essentially the same thing. I guess seven is a better number than six.) If you believe the Old Testament is divinely authoritative, imperishable, infallible/inerrant, and the ultimate authority, those are tenets of your religion that science and reason can’t do much to refute, at least not directly. Science isn’t much use for theological questions because theology concerns itself with the imaginary and science concerns itself with the actual.

  • Items 5 and 6 of the list, though, that the Old Testament is historically reliable, and scientifically accurate — if Jesus taught and believed those things about the Bible, all it proves is that Jesus was not the infallible, divinely empowered teacher Geisler and Turek believe him to be. Those three claims about the Old Testament are utterly false.

  • On the issue of historical reliability, Geisler and Turek cite Jesus affirming the historicity of two Old Testament events that even many Christians consider to be mythical: Noah’s ark, and Jonah.

  • “And why wouldn’t they be true? The miracles associated with Noah and Jonah are child’s play for the all-powerful God who created the universe. With our limited intelligence, we build great ships and keep people alive for months underwater. Why couldn’t God do the same?” (p. 358)

    • This is another example of how Geisler and Turek abandon the scientific method whenever it suits their purpose. The point isn’t that their God could have done these things. They imagine him to be a being of unlimited power — of course he could have. The point is, there’s no evidence that he did do those things. Or, by the way, that he exists at all.


  • As for the scientific accuracy of the Old Testament, Geisler and Turek have an odd way of approaching that subject. They quote Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew, speaking against divorce. Jesus opposes divorce on the grounds that God created men and women and commanded that the husband be united with the wife. It’s the “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder” passage.

  • “In other words, the nature of marriage is bound up in the scientific fact that Adam and Eve were created for a purpose.” (p. 358)

    • We have very different definitions of “scientific fact,” it seems. Either that, or Geisler and Turek are attempting a very sneaky slide here, trying to pawn off the creation of Adam and Eve in the Bible as a scientific fact by attaching it to the actual scientific fact that the human species has two sexes. There are male humans and female humans, and sex between males and females is how humans produce offspring. These are scientific facts. “Adam and Eve were created for a purpose” is not a scientific fact. It’s a religious belief. And more than that, it’s a religious belief that’s unsupported by the known scientific facts.




  • But could Jesus have been wrong? Geisler and Turek boldly ask. In short, no, according to them. To refute the contention that Jesus was wrong when he taught these things about the Old Testament, Geisler and Turek don’t address problems with any of the seven items on their list, but instead focus on two objections relating to Jesus.

  • First, maybe Jesus wasn’t saying that historically doubtful events like Noah’s flood actually happened, but only that Jews of his day believed that had happened. Nope, say Geisler and Turek, because elsewhere the New Testament establishes that Jesus didn’t tolerate false beliefs (unless he was the one propagating them), and he would certainly have corrected the beliefs in Noah and Jonah, if indeed they were false.

  • Second, maybe Jesus erred in his assessment of the Old Testament because of his human limitations. Geisler and Turek argue that Jesus’s humanity imposed limitations on what he knew, but that didn’t mean he was wrong on things he did claim to know. Jesus knew what he knew because God had told him, so to say Jesus was wrong is to say God was wrong, and God can’t be wrong, so there.

  • Here’s the bottom line for these guys — not just for this chapter, but for this entire book:

  • “If Jesus was God, then whatever he teaches is true. If he teaches that the Old Testament is divinely authoritative, imperishable, infallible, inerrant, historically reliable, scientifically accurate, and has ultimate supremacy, then those things are true.” (p. 362)

    • Those are probably the two most candid sentences in the book. Geisler and Turek admit that they aren’t receptive to any evidence demonstrating that the Bible is wrong, because their faith in the Bible supercedes all such possible evidence.


  • So, that’s the Old Testament. What about the New Testament? Geisler and Turek begin addressing this by acknowledging the obvious problem of how Jesus could have taught anything about the New Testament when it didn’t even exist during his lifetime. They resolve this by saying that, while Jesus confirmed the Old Testament, he promised the New Testament, saying repeatedly that his followers would remember what he had said and done for others to know.

  • Geisler and Turek tell us that the apostles of Jesus did just that — they received inspiration from the Holy Spirit and wrote the New Testament. And they confirmed that their inspiration was truly from God by performing miracles — at least for awhile. Geisler and Turek also acknowledge that, according to the New Testament, the followers of Jesus apparently lost the ability to perform miracles around the year 60 A.D. Why?

  • “Miracles were done for a specific purpose, which was usually to confirm some new messenger or new revelation. This is probably why there is no record of apolostolic miracles in Paul’s letters after about A.D. 62 — the latest date Acts could have been composed. By this time, Paul and the other apostles had been proven as true messengers of God, and there was no need for further confirmation.” (p. 366)

    • Proven as true messengers of God to who? Had they converted the entire world?


  • Geisler and Turek cite Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah coming to preach good news and proclaim freedom to the prisoners, etc., as evidence that Jesus, who they claim did exactly those things, was the Messiah and therefore the revelation pertaining to him, recorded in the New Testament, is reliable.

  • Then they come to the formation of the canon — or, as they put it, the “discovery” of the canon:

  • “What does all of this mean for the New Testament? It means that, according to Jesus, the only books that should be in the New Testament are those that are authorized and/or confirmed by his apostles. Which books specifically are those?” (p. 367)

  • The real answer is, “None of them.” The answer according to Geisler and Turek is “Every book in the New Testament, and nothing else.” How did the early church fathers, who determined — excuse me, who discovered the canon, know which books were authentic? Because they knew the apostles. How did they know the men they knew as apostles were actually apostles? Because they had worked miracles. And how did the early church fathers know about the miracles? Had they witnessed the miracles themselves? No, not exactly.

  • “John, who obviously knew all of the apostles, had a disciple named Polycarp (A.D. 69-155), and Polycarp had a disciple named Irenaeus (130-202). Polycarp and Irenaeus collectively quote 23 of the 27 New Testament books as if they are authentic — and in some cases they specifically say they are authentic.” (p. 368)

    • Remember that Geisler and Turek say the apostles had stopped performing miracles before they say Acts was written in A.D. 62, and note that Polycarp wasn’t born until seven years after that. Geisler and Turek say Polycarp and Irenaeus were relying on miracles to confirm that the testimony of the apostles was reliable, but neither of them could have witnessed these miracles for themselves. They were relying on hearsay. So why does it matter that they affirmed the New Testament as authentic? John told stories to Polycarp, Polycarp believed him, Polycarp told those stories to Irenaeus, Irenaeus believed him — but why should I believe it, or anyone else living today reading about what these people believed 2,000 years ago? This “unbroken chain of testimony,” as Geisler and Turek call it, from the apostles to the early church fathers, means absolutely nothing. It tells us that someone told a story and that other people believed it. That’s it.


  • “Since there are no other authentic apostolic works known to exist — and since it’s unlikely God would allow an authentic work to go undiscovered for so long — we can rest assured that the New Testament canon is complete.” (p. 370)

    • Everything Geisler and Turek know about God, including their understanding of his nature, is based on what they read in the Bible. But, sure, what the hell, why not appeal to that understanding to come to a conclusion about the Bible? Arguing in a circle has gotten us this far! Why stop now?



How Can the Bible Be Inerrant?


  • Lots of skeptics claim the Bible has errors, but actually the Bible has no errors. Nope, not one. How can Geisler and Turek say this? Simple logic:


  1. God cannot err.

  2. The Bible is the word of God.

  3. Therefore, the Bible cannot err. (p. 370)

    • Seems airtight to me!



  • Geisler and Turek list four common errors people make, which lead them to believe that the Bible is in error:

  • Assuming that Divergent Accounts Are Contradictory. Geisler and Turek argue that divergent accounts aren’t necessarily contradictory. And they cite the account of the angel at the tomb of Jesus — was there one or two? Matthew says there was one, but he doesn’t say there was only one.

    • Fair enough. Besides, as I said in a previous video in this series, what truly invites skepticism is the presence of angels, period, not the disagreement over how many angels there were. But can all apparent contradictions be so easily resolved? What about the parentage of Jesus? In the Book of Acts and elsewhere in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the seed of David. But he’s related to David through Joseph, which would make Joseph, not God, his biological father. Elsewhere in the New Testament, it’s stated clearly that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, not Joseph. Or how about contradictions regarding teachings and customs? In Matthew, Jesus tells people to pray in private and to avoid praying in the streets like the hypocrites who just want people to see them praying. Then, in John, Jesus says that he prays in front of other people specifically so that they can see him praying. Is one of these accounts of Jesus’s teaching inaccurate? Is Jesus a hypocrite? Or is he just an idiot with a big mouth who can’t keep track of what he says from one sentence to the next?


  • Failing to Understand the Context of the Passage. Apparent contradictions can result from passages being taken out of context. For example, Geisler and Turek cite a fragment of Psalm 14:1: “there is no God.” Pretty big contradiction with the rest of the Bible, right? But let’s look at the entire verse: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

    • Eh? Checkmate, strawman!


  • Presuming That the Bible Approves of All That It Records. Sure, the Bible records all kinds of terrible shit, but that doesn’t mean it approves of it all. For example, it teaches monogamy, but it still depicts polygamy.

    • As with the divergent accounts, not every contradiction can be resolved by simply explaining it away as depiction but not approval. What about contradictory statements from God about animal sacrifice? Throughout the Old Testament he demands animal sacrifices, including in Deuteronomy 12:27, where the making of burnt offerings is explicitly commanded. But in Isaiah, God says he doesn’t want any more sacrifices and compares the slaying of an ox to the slaying of a man. So did God contradict himself? Or did he just change his mind? But if he changed his mind, how can he be described as unchanging? And wouldn’t that, in itself, be a contradiction, since the Bible does describe God as unchangeable?


  • Forgetting That the Bible Is a Human Book with Human Characteristics. You can’t criticize the Bible for reading like a human book, because it was written by humans.

    • This is the most dishonest, pathetic excuse offered up to defend the supposed divinity of the Bible yet. The humanity of the writers of the Bible caused them to write a book that can be troubling at times, that can be difficult to understand, that can be obsessed for interminable stretches with things that are of absolutely no significance to us today — but the one thing the humanity of the writers of the Bible didn’t cause them to do is make a single mistake or contradict a single thing that any other writer of the Bible wrote. Give me a break. It’s the divine and inerrant Word of God — but come on, what more do you want, it was written by ordinary humans! Quite slippery, but not convincing.



Objections to Inerrancy


  • Returning to that previous point about humans being fallible except when they wrote the Bible, Geisler and Turek say:

  • “True, humans err, but humans don’t always err. Fallible people write books all the time that have no errors. So fallible people who are guided by the Holy Spirit certainly can write a book without any errors.” (p. 372)

    • As with the argument for why we should believe in the historicity of Noah and Jonah, the question isn’t whether or not such a thing could happen, given the conditions Geisler and Turek are insisting upon. The question is, did it happen? Did the people who wrote the Bible write a book without any errors. And the answer to that question is “No.” No matter how clever the rationalizations, no matter how desperate the excuses, if you approach the question critically — that is, without the warping bias of a pre-existing religious conviction — you can’t help but come to the conclusion that the Bible is not divinely inspired. It is the work of human beings — ordinary, flawed human beings who were products of their cultures.


  • But this vigorous defense of Biblical inerrancy doesn’t mean Geisler and Turek have all the answers. No, sir!

  • “This doesn’t mean that we understand how to resolve all the difficulties in the Scriptures, but it means we keep doing research. We are really no different than scientists who can’t resolve all the difficulties or mysteries of the natural world.” (p. 374)

    • Oh, I think you are, though. When a scientist can’t resolve a difficulty, it’s usually because he or she doesn’t know something. When an apologist can’t resolve a difficulty, it’s usually because he or she doesn’t want to admit something. There are easy, obvious solutions to the problems with the Bible. But Geisler and Turek refuse to accept those solutions, because it would mean abandoning their faith in Jesus. That kind of dishonesty and intellectual cowardice is scorned in science, as it ought to be in any field of endeavor where the ultimate goal is not justifying your belief in what you want to be true, but discovering what is true.



Next: Conclusion: The Judge, the Servant King, and the Box Top
Comments 
Friday, June 14th, 2013 | 03:09 am (UTC) - an atheist reads i don't have enough faith to be an atheist chapter 14
Anonymous
you're very much welcome steve and thank you also for doing these videos. chapter fourteen of i don't have enough faith to be an atheist really showed me how smug and arrogant norman geisler and frank turek are it just turns my stomach.corey donaldson
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