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.

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