Thursday, August 18, 2005

Being a Truth Seeker - Final Installment?

This open discussion was initially agreed to be a dialogue with fellow blogger Jen Koontz (aka JRae) on the question of "Who is Jesus?" If you want to read the whole exchange in order, here are the links:

Exchange 1, Exchange 2, Exchange 3, Jen's Unedited Response

I got sidetracked between April and August, so this is my very belated response. Just to be fair, I posted Jen's Unedited Response from early April in full (see link above). In that message Jen says she's "losing interest in this discussion." However, rather than engaging on the question at hand, she is bringing into the discussion unproven and faulty assumptions that interfere with understanding religion in general and Christianity in particular.

Jen writes:
> Religion in general was made up to explain things 
> But now we have science, a far better method to attempt to explain

There you have it. Jen Koontz likes her religion (Science) because it fits her definition of religion. Science is for Ms. Koontz a religion, because it explains things. That's her definition. This discussion was not intended to be about religion but about a historical person, Jesus.

Other bad assumptions:
> the Gospels were all written 100-250 years after Jesus died!!

Well, if the authors were really Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (and we have no reason to believe otherwise), then that is not just a bad assumption, but it makes no sense. The Gospel writers were contemporaries of Jesus. So are we to believe St. John was 120 to 270 years old when he wrote the Gospel of John? (Adding 20 years assuming this was John's approximate age at the time he met Jesus.)

This late dating of the New Testament is a fairly recent claim that is unsupportable from history and from the science of textual criticism. Late dating the Gospels amounts to what would be hearsay evidence in a court case.

> Political reasons are why they want you to place blind faith

This idea of political motivations for faith is a nice theory, but the Christian documents were all solid and widely disseminated long before the Roman conquerors thought to promote Christianity for political reasons. If Rome adopted Christianity for political reasons, they did it after Christianity -- and its founding documents -- had already survived brutal persecution by those same Romans for 250 years. Additionally, Christianity isn't blind faith. Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. That is why the discussion question is "Who is Jesus?" I don't have blind faith. I've done the research to know in whom my faith is placed. Jen has built up a false dichotomy (which is promoted in our public school systems) that faith and science are mutually exclusive. This simply isn't true. In fact, the scientific method and some of the most prominent scientists of all time were devout Christians. I highly recommend the book "The Soul of Science" to help correct this misperception on the relationship between science and faith.

> Courts don't trust eyewitness accounts

Actually, courts do trust eyewitness accounts. Until the very recent advent of DNA analysis and other forensic techniques, eyewitness accounts were generally the most compelling evidence in any trial. Maybe Jen has been watching too much CSI where her religion of science rules the courts with forensic evidence. Either way, hearsay is not acceptable in court at all, no matter how recent. Late dating the eyewitness (Gospel) accounts of the life of Jesus is just heresay, and Jen provides no forensic evidence to discount the established eyewitness accounts.

Which brings us to her conclusion:

> I'm reading the Bible, but like I said it's all
> "believe that Jesus is the son of God!" and no actual teachings.

She must not be reading very much of the New Testament, because something less than 2% explicitly promotes the idea that you should believe Jesus is the son of God. Other parts contain large chunks of Jesus' teaching,
and even more gives moral instruction by his example. I guess she didn't get to the Sermon on the Mount yet. A much larger part of the Bible deals with the problem of evil and offers a radical solution for it.

If Jen or anyone else is serious about investigating the claims of Jesus, here is a good starting point: Seeking the truth is not for the timid because you have to be willing to put your preconceived notions and deeply held beliefs on the line. I'm willing to do that if someone can show me objectively where I'm mistaken, but it seems to me that Jen is happy with her scientific naturalism worldview. When she is ready to seriously examine the claims of Jesus, I'll be happy to engage in the discussion once again.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Time Flies

I got a reply from Jen Koontz way back in April, but between kid sports, a job search/change, and family commitments, I haven't responded to Ms. Koontz. However, just to be fair, I'm posting her full unedited reply from early April. Maybe that will give me an incentive to post a response. Here is the last communication I received from Ms. Koontz...

From: Jennifer Koontz
Date: Apr 7, 2005 12:04 PM

So I dunno. To be honest I'm losing interest in this discussion.

I'm reading the Bible, but like I said it's all "believe that Jesus is the son of God!" and no actual teachings. Which is very suspicious... if he truly was the son of God and his teachings were valid, then why do they need to prove anything? Why can't they just present the teachings and let them judge for themselves whether they have any validity? But instead it's all "Jesus did miracles, therefore you must believe him."

And why is "faith" so important?? A person can't just follow the other commandments, that's not good enough? So even if a person doesn't lie, cheat, or steal, and in all ways follows the 10 commandments except the "worship no god before me part," somehow they're still a bad person going to hell? That makes no sense... if God truly wanted us to follow these rules to be good people, I think he would value that above being worshipped.

And while there are MANY explanations for why people would make up a God and religion and try to get you to believe that Jesus is the son of God, there aren't any reasons for why people would "make-up" evolution. Why would someone invent that? I suppose you could say to subvert religion, but that's a ridiculous conspiracy theory considering how the entire scientific community has embraced it, and it's not like EVERY scientist is God-hating or something, many still are Christians, they just don't interpret the bible so strictly.

The reasons people would make up religion/God/Jesus as son of God-

-Religion in general was made up to explain things that were unexplainable to people with their limited knowledge. And, an attempt to influence these events through worship and appeal to the gods. Humans have a tendency to personify everything, as this is our best tool for empathizing with others and trying to explain motives to ourselves in order to navigate and predict future results and actions. So it makes sense that we would personify things we don't understand.

-But now we have science, a far better method to attempt to explain the unexplainable, and with reliable results when trying to influence the events too.

-Political reasons are why they want you to place blind faith in Jesus- they saw that Jesus was popular guy, who influenced a lot of people with his common sense. So they took advantage of that and decided to use his popularity to convert his followers to be used for their purposes. The "they" I'm referring to are the Roman conquerors who adapted Christianity in order to not have a religious uprising against them.

You argue that historical knowledge is what we must use as proof about Jesus, and while history can be a good tool, we all know it can also be severely twisted depending upon the teller.

And the Gospels were all written 100-250 years after Jesus died!! Eye-witnesses, huh? Courts don't trust eyewitness accounts after like 1 year, let alone 100... so even if the writer thought they were telling the truth, the events were bound to be twisted by their current motives...

So I don't know, it's just becoming really hard for me to take anything in the Bible seriously. It just MAKES NO SENSE.

But if that's what someone needs to be a good person, then fine, I'm happy they're a good person. But I personally, and many others, can be good people without it. And isn't that the point of religion, making people be good? (and by good I mean not lying, cheating, stealing, harming other people or killing...)

---end Jen's initial reply---

When I got the above reply I was on a business trip and picked it up on a wireless connection in the Tulsa airport via my gmail account. Gmail does threaded discussions, and I just now noticed that Jen also sent this brief addition a few minutes later...

From: Jennifer Koontz
Date: Apr 7, 2005 1:50 PM

However, I MUST thank you for getting me to read the Bible. I have NEVER had more fun with right-wingers than I am now, throwing bible quotes at them that totally refute their points. You're right, the Bible is GREAT as a weapon!!! :)

Hey, so I don't want to cut off contact with you just because I'm losting interest in this one particular discussion. Maybe we can talk politics? You should check out this blog, it's outrageous! I met this other guy there Evan who is so well-spoken and has great arguments (against the blog, of course). I bet your well-thought arguments would be great to add to the mix... if you're interested in heckling such trash, of course. I mean heckle in the most reasonable way possible. ;)

---end Jen's follow up reply---

So, there you have it from Ms. Koontz. She's losing interest in the Jesus question which isn't surprising. For those who are serious about discovering the truth behind the "Who is Jesus" question, check out I hope to put together a reply to get this discussion back on track or at least wrap up this exercise in trying to reason with an atheist.