Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Loftus Attacks! Part Uno

I’m getting the feeling that maybe John Loftus feels he didn’t do too well in our debate on Unbelievable.  (The first part of which can be found here, the second part should be posted this coming Saturday.)  How else to explain his multiple posts since then, first complaining that he didn’t get enough time, then attacking Randal Rauser (of all people), and then a series of three posts critiquing my book?

Well, great, after all these years, and many posts on both sides, John finally gets around to actually trying to rebut some of my arguments -- sort of. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Matthew McCormick's Spectral Evidence IV‏

In our last installment, we saw that Matthew McCormick argues that the evidence for genuine witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts was much stronger than the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus.  Oddly, however, he is remarkably coy about citing that evidence in detail, though he offers nebulous claims for reems (thousands of books) of the stuff.  Indeed, like the "evidence" for witchcraft itself, the evidence for that evidence, in McCormick's own telling, appears to be of the kind best described as "spectral," a terms  our anonymous friends at Wiki explain:  

"Spectral evidence is a form of evidence based upon dreams and visions. It was admitted into court during the Salem witch trials by the appointed chief justice, William Stoughton. The booklet A Tryal of Witches taken from a contemporary report of the proceedings of the Bury St. Edmunds witch trial of 1662 became a model for and was referenced in the Trials when the magistrates were looking for proof that such evidence could be used in a court of law.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Matt McCormick, Part III: the Salem Witch Trials

The Gem in the Crown of McCormick's argument against Christianity is probably Chapter 3: "You Already Don't Believe in Jesus: The Salem Witch Trials."   At least that is what I have seen quoted most often, and largely what attracted me to this book.  McCormick also refers to this chapter and the one preceding it, which we have already analyzed later in the book, as if he had in these two chapters convincingly overthrown the Christian faith.

His argument is simple.  McCormick asserts that the evidence for the actual existence of witches in Salem, Massachusetts, between 1692 and 1693, is far stronger and more immediate, than the evidence for the Resurrection.  Since we reject the former, we should therefore also reject the latter. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2. "The History of the Jesus Story"

In the second chapter of his, Matthew McCormick summarizes New Testament scholarship in a particular fashion.  He is not pretending to have done any original research.  But he wants to make the Gospel account of the resurrection seem as incredible as possible, without the bother of looking too much stuff up himself, or refuting such formidable Christian scholars as Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, Larry Hurtado, N. T. Wright, or Ben Witherington

McCormick's goal in this second chapter is thus
to pretend to knowledge he does not possess, that is, the state of the Jesus question.  
He wants us to think that the evidence for the Christian account of Jesus life is late, 
scattered, insignificant, and tenuous, and that that is the consensus of Historical Jesus studies.  
But he doesnt know that, because he seems to have only read a few, and those who agree with him anyway.

McCormick clearly has not, for instance, read Richard BauckhamJesus and the Eyewitnesses.  Who that has, would dare to assert this, without qualification or defense?

But the view now, on the basis of modern work in history and Bible scholarship, is that none of the 
Gospels was written by the apostle to whom it is attributed.  Their authors are unknown. (38)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Matt McCormick: Philosopher, Prosecutor, Card Shark, Tease? Part I

Matthew McCormick is an intelligent, fluid writer, and has taken the time to read a few important Christian thinkers (unlike, say, Peter Boghossian, AC Grayling, or John Paulos) before writing his ambitious refutation of Christianity.  He does not seem to suffer from the (inflated) self-image problems of Richard Carrier, or the intense, reality-warping spite of, say, Annie Gaylor.  This book is therefore readable, coherent, and sane.  McCorkick is, however, relentless in his assault on Christianity, and that assault fails in multiple, fated ways.  Despite negative virtues, McCormick lacks either the knowledge or the objectivity for a serious intellectual critique of Christianity.  As Jesus warned, he ought not to have ventured battle without first scouting the enemy's strength more thoroughly.  

Let's take it chapter by chapter, and allow the omens of forboding to unfold like flowers, each in its season.  

As it happens, I am also reading another book on the resurrection at the same time as this one, by Mike Licona.  That book is all that this one is not: self-critical, fair, judicious, careful, and convincing.  I may refer to that book by way of comparison from time to time.   

(1) "Speaking Ill of Jesus"

Friday, January 09, 2015

The first two non-scholar readers have just posted reviews of my new book, How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story, and they are great!  (Especially the one just posted on Amazon.) 

 The shorter and somewhat more restrained but still very positive review was posted on a closed site, so I'll keep the reader anonymous:
"David's writing is very engaging, creative, and full of historical insight into the universality of the Christian worldview.   I find myself equipped with a new approach to engaging both atheists and people of other religions.  Very nicely done."
Now here's the review by Brad Cooper, a former pastor whom I had the chance to meet in Indiana a year and a half ago at a Subway in southern Michigan:  
"Even if you don't expect to agree with Dr. Marshall, it's hard for me to imagine how you could read Marshall's newest book and not enjoy it. Right from the first page of the Introduction (yes, the Introduction!), I found myself being carried along as if by an incoming hurricane, swept along by David's wit and mastery of metaphor. But unlike a hurricane, David did not leave behind a barren wasteland in his wake.  Instead, fresh insights from the history of religions sprung up page after page, and an original and cogent argument had grown tall and strong as a redwood when the winds finally died down.

"This book begins by noting one of the current fads in skeptical arguments: the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF), which has probably been most clearly and most stubbornly pushed by John Loftus.  Marshall examines Loftus' argument, turns it right side up and proceeds to show what a powerful argument it is for the truth of Christianity.

"This is a rare book. Few people have the broad range of knowledge and understanding that this book's argument requires-even fewer the skill to communicate it in a way that is both clear and enjoyable.  It encompasses such diverse topics as philosophical arguments, Biblical prophecy, the ancient religions that are the backbone of the world's great civilizations, and the history of Christian missions from the time of the apostles to the present day--all told in a way that makes you feel like your reading a fast-paced novel from among Amazon's bestsellers.

"At one point, I was thinking to myself: "I can't remember the last time I enjoyed reading a book this much." (And I read a lot.) Then I remembered that it was when I read Chesterton's Orthodoxy.  Quite honestly, I think this book even surpasses that for me. I very very rarely read a book more than once. I will be reading this one again soon."
Thanks so much!  Any comparison to Chesterton is a great honor: his writing has been an inspiration to me for many years.  And Brad also show talent with metaphors himself in that first paragraph: my Chinese colleague, a former college lecturer, was impressed by the quality of his writing, when I showed her the review. 
Even if Brad is just half right, you should read this book!  I do believe you will almost universally enjoy and benefit from it.  While I most recommend the print version (freshly printed books, not napalm, being the scent I favor in the morning), feel free to compromise with the Spirit of the Age just this once, and get the Kindle version, if you prefer. : - )