Apologetics 102: The Bible

This summer, I’ve spent some time going through an apologetics book called Emails to a Young Seeker: Exchanges in Mere Christianity. The author is a professor at Grove City College, from which I recently graduated and where I encountered this book during an assignment in an English class. Throughout campus, Dr. Hogsette, or “Prof Dave”, as he calls himself in the book, was praised as a gifted author and apologist, but with every page of this book I find myself disagreeing more and more. (Check out my full introduction and Part 1, too!)

This week, I read email exchanges six through nine between the writer and the fictional Christian seeker, an airheaded college student. The questions are as follows:

Exchange 6: I’m having some problems accepting the Cain narrative in Genesis.
Exchange 7: Why are there genealogies in the bible and can they be used to date the Earth?
Exchange 8: Isn’t the bible just a bunch of tales compiled by men to achieve their subjective agenda?
Exchange 9: I don’t know if I can trust the New Testament record.

Upon my first inspection of the table of contents of this book, I was immediately puzzled by Exchange 6. If the seeker is reading through the entire bible as he says he is, and he’s read the entire book of Genesis, I can’t help but ask: why the Cain narrative? That’s really what you had a problem with? Not the fall, or Noah’s Ark, or Moses and the 10 Commandments, or Abraham’s age and God’s command to sacrifice his son? My theory is that this question was included because it was the only hole in Genesis’ plot that Prof Dave had a (very illogical) answer ready for.

The seeker’s main problem with the Cain narrative was, when Cain was out wandering, who was he afraid of if the only other living people were his parents? Prof Dave first rambles on for a while that every human is fallen and sinful and needs Jesus, then he goes through the idea that Genesis’ genealogies don’t list women (which isn’t sexist, it’s just how it is!), before getting to the fact that since Adam lived for 930 years, he probably had time to help a lot of ladies pop out a lot of babies. He explains how people lived that long before defending the fact that most of these ladies would have been Adam’s own daughters:

that's not how any of this works.jpgincest

So there you have it. Fool-proof apologist logic.

I have to admit that Exchange 7 begins with possibly the stupidest question I’ve ever heard. “Can the bible’s genealogies be used to date the earth?” Really? You can’t figure out on your own that that is insanely unreliable? The inane response from Prof Dave matches the stupidity of the question itself. He begins with the excuse that Earth-dating is not an exact science (I suppose it’s not, but using actual science, we’ve gotten pretty close), so he doesn’t know for sure. I’ve said it before about Dave here, as well as about Lee Strobel’s claims in The Case for a Creator, but I don’t know why apologists seem to love the big bang so much and hate evolution. As for the whole old-earth thing, they really go hand-in-hand.

Prof Dave argues for a literal Genesis, a big bang, and strictly microevolution. On top of all that, he claims in this exchange that he “grapples with what amounts to overwhelming evidence that the earth is old.” This is understandable because there is overwhelming evidence that the earth is old. He is held back from the truth only by his religious beliefs. I’ve never heard of anyone who knows the true age of the Earth grapple with any evidence that it is young. Anyone who is compelled to believe that, only does so because of the book of Genesis.

Exchange 8 deals with the biblical canon and how we ended up with the books that we have. I myself think this is a fascinating topic, although I haven’t really started looking into it yet. Prof Dave provides five extremely vague ways that the church fathers determined which books were biblical. They are:

1. “Was the book written by a prophet of God or a person accredited of God?”
2. “Was the writer confirmed by acts of God?”
3. “Did the message tell the truth about God and his nature?”
4. “Does the message come with the power of God?”
5. “Was it accepted by the people of God?”

If I were to structure a holy book myself, I would use much more specific criteria; maybe that way, it would have fewer contradictions, but that’s just me.

Exchange 9 consists of Prof Dave pulling out all the classic stops on why the New Testament isn’t a myth. His strongest argument? The writings don’t feel like myths. It’s written in a nonfictional tone; therefore, it is nonfictional. It seems to me that it would feel like nonfiction because it was meant to be believed. The bible wasn’t written to be a fairytale to read to your kids at bedtime. It was written for an audience of gullible adults so that they would believe every word and become easier to control. If it sounded mythical, it couldn’t have done that.

Dave’s next argument is one that I’ve heard plenty of times, but I must be understanding it wrong because I don’t know how it correlates with whether or not the New Testament is true. He claims that there are many, many copies of New Testament manuscripts from relatively not long after the events are said to have taken place. This is supposed to attest to the writings not being tampered with as they were passed down, but even if they weren’t, who says we should believe anything they said to begin with?

The author predictably compares the New Testament to the writings of Homer and Plato, which have a higher chance of having been tampered with, and he argues that no one questions those writings. It should go without saying, however, that these writings aren’t said to be the only relic on Earth that we have from the one true god, complete with instructions on how to live our lives, how time began, and the secret of the meaning of the universe. So yeah, the bible is going to be scrutinized more thoroughly than other works.

What do you think of Prof Dave’s arguments? Is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

30 Replies to “Apologetics 102: The Bible”

  1. The further we go back in genetic history, the more information-rich and diverse the gene pool ( even though there were fewer people as we go back in history, each person’s DNA was informationally rich and diverse )

    Prof Dave is blatantly wrong here.
    A population bottleneck (and especially one as extreme as a reduction to two individuals) would greatly reduce genetic diversity

    The major factor for genetic diversity among humans is mutation. He has already stated that the level of mutation in the bible “Adam” and “Eve” time would have been low. That’s correct

    They is far more genetic variation and diversity now than could have existed in Adam and Eve time. The level of diversity we have couldn’t come from two individuals in a short period of time

    From Prof Dave answer to Cain, it is clear that he doesn’t know a lot about genetics

    1. “Was the book written by a prophet of God or a person accredited of God?”
    2. “Was the writer confirmed by acts of God?”
    3. “Did the message tell the truth about God and his nature?”
    4. “Does the message come with the power of God?”
    5. “Was it accepted by the people of God?”

    I am mostly talking for the new testament. Early christianity was really diverse ( more than Adam and Eve ).
    (1). Most of the books in the bible were not written by the names, that we know them as. Those names were attached to it to add credibility. If you use “a person accredited of God”, what should we make the Epistle of Barnabas, the gospel of James, the gospel of Thomas, the book of Enoch ( that we know that was once part of the bible )
    (2) How would a writer get confirmed by acts of god?
    (3) If not the books in the bible how then do we know the “nature of god”. Unless, you chose the book you want to use how would you know the “nature of god” and which is right. It is like me saying the greek writers that tell the truth about the nature of the greek gods are the authentic one. How will I know the nature of the greek gods if I don’t first chose the writer that agrees with my bias. So using this method is nonsensical
    (4) See my answer in (3) and just replace nature of god with “power of god”
    (5) This is the only thing he said that is remotely correct. Though I have my reservations for this method but he is correct this was one of the criteria for selecting the gospels canoon

    They were a lot of christian sects. The new testament canon we have was derived by one of those sects. What we ended up having is a book, that agreed theologically with what that sect believed and teached

    The writings don’t feel like myths. It’s written in a nonfictional tone; therefore, it is nonfictional. It seems to me that it would feel like nonfiction because it was meant to be believed

    This is outrageous.I am 99.99% sure that he does not accept this as a basis for the authenticity of the Iliad, Theogony, Quran or the Vedas

    He claims that there are many, many copies of New Testament manuscripts from relatively not long after the events are said to have taken place. This is supposed to attest to the writings not being tampered with as they were passed down, but even if they weren’t, who says we should believe anything they said to begin with?

    Like I said in this my post https://pathofelightenment.wordpress.com/2018/07/25/my-thoughts-on-teacher-we-wish-to-see-a-sign/

    Having a greater number of manuscripts can make you have better textual integrity. But textual integrity tells us ZERO about the validity of the contents of the text.

    Someone in a post-apocalyptic future where Scientology has become the dominant religion could potentially show that the text of their hand-copied manuscript editions of Dianetics had greater textual integrity than their manuscripts of Hawking’s A Complete History of Time. That would say nothing about which one reflected reality.

    OR, in a post-apocalyptic future where more copies of DC comics or the Harry Potter series or the Perseus Jackson series survive, they would have a really good textual integrity. But will that serve as evidence that a alien pod ( that was mistaken for a meteorite ) carried Kal-El ( superman ) to earth or that evidence for New York remains, then superman existed. Or the historical events mentioned in the Perseus Jackson book series make us conclude that Perseus Jackson existed as a historical figure

    An urban legend can be superbly attested (we can collect thousands of primary source documents containing the legend), yet 100% bogus

    So having a large amount of manuscripts does nothing to show the reliability of the manuscripts content

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  2. I’m sorry for commenting when my opinion was not %100 positive. That’s not my priority here. I did appreciate your perspective on apologetics and was really meaning there are better books written on the topic than the one you are going through. Ones written more to the perspective of an inquiring atheist. Instead of one poorly written for a gullible “faith” filled crowd. This book sounds awful and I’m sorry you are slogging through it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ah, yes. The old, “pretend I know what someone is talking about without knowing anything about the subject” interjection. No, that’s not what I meant at all, John. Your “rebuttal” is attacking and offensive. You should try another.

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  4. I have not read a bible for about 60 years now, so I have fogotten most of it. But apparently when god gave the garden to Adam and Eve, he forgot to mention that he made people outside of the garden, so that when Cain was banished to the land of Nod it was likely already populated with other men and women.
    Now if the bible is to be believed in any way at all, it would be my understanding that Cain actually went forth and “spread his seed” among the local families of orangutans, being as they are our closest primate cousins–but such an idea relocates the garden to the Far East, which being the homes of some of the world’s oldest civilisations, makes a lot more sense than Africa.
    But, by mixing human “DNA” with orangutan “DNA,” would probably produce 1 semi-human-like being out of every four beings born of such parentage. Or something like that. And as the semi-humans inter-bred, more close-to-human babies would be born all the time. But that is just one theory, if it even could work, I am just speculating.
    As for how long people “lived” back in those days, a year was more probably measured by the revolutions of the moon around the earth, since at the time it was believed everything in the universe revolved around the earth. It would make sense–if the years were even being measured by celestial objects. But who among us today would measure time by the moon or stars if we had no idea that the stars were anything but pinpricks in the nighttime sky.
    I would be more inclined to measure time by passing seasons. That would make years about three months long or so, and make the age of a humam around 25 or 30 of our present years, which given the life-expectancy of hominids as the time, would be much closer to reality, don’t you think?
    Add to this theory that the female orangutans probably had no names, this could be why they wrre left out of geneologies. But, we all know women were looked upon as chattel as recently as the late 1800s, so, really, they had no importance in the early lives of men…
    I think I have taken up enough of everyone’s time for today, it is time for breakfast. I think I better do the cooking today, lol.

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      1. Why? Being creative is what sparks ideas, and ideas spark more ideas. I’m not saying I’m right, I’m just giving a theory. Whatever you are trying to tell me, I do not appreciate your attempt at censorship.

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        1. There are things we can be creative about, things that from the beginning have a bit of credit. Like if we find a herb that has been used to treat malaria with some success in the past, we can be creative about how it works. And what theories we come up with we go ahead to research. I don’t think there is enough credit to the mythology in the bible for us to work that hard at making sense of it. It instead seems to me that we give up too much in the process by making pseudoscientific claims in the process.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well, Enock, now you are starting to get at my theory. We already know the bible holds no basis in reality, we being you and I. All I am doing is putting absurdity to the test, as far as the orangutan theory goes. Can you imagine the religious uproar if it was somehow proven that Cain committed beastiality on orangutans? Come on, have a sense of humour.

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          2. Sorry, send button got pressed too early. To continue:
            No one at present can read anyone else’s mind, so to “know” another person’s belief or non-belief system is impossible. As for your proscriptions, what makes them reasonable to you, without qualification. Whose word are you taking on that? Someone else’s, or your own? If these are reasonable to you, say they are reasonable “to you.” Don’t try to say they are reasonable to others– they may not be. If something belongs to you, own it. Make it personal. Atheism is a personal matter. Own that it is your brand of atheism. No one cares. You can believe there is no tooth fairy, as long as you claim it as your belief…
            I just realized I am probably answering the wrong comment. Guess I hit another wrong button. I’m clumsy that way. Let me see if I can find the correct comment to answer…

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Re “5. Was it accepted by the people of God?”
    This is clearly the case as there are many duplicates in the NT. For example, the “miracle of the loaves and fishes” occurs twice with only slight differences. In each the disciples are bewildered and astonished at what happened. If you were to take that as Miracle 1 and then Miracle 2, why were the disciples still clueless? They had seen it all before. The reason for the two is the “mark” couldn’t delete one over the other becuase each story had its fans, so he included both. So, they virtually admit that this criterion is not divinely inspired because the people favored one slight variation of a story over the other when there is nothing substantively different between the two.

    Re “He claims that there are many, many copies of New Testament manuscripts from relatively not long after the events are said to have taken place.” WTF? The earliest “copies” of scripture we have date to the fourth century, so we know nothing about earlier copies except what we can infer from scriptural analysis. (Note of the fragments identifies authors, they have all been added from “church tradition,” and we all know how accurate that is. Of the scraps we have, there are more differences in the texts than there are words (in total). The earliest gospel we have (Mark) dates to about 70 CE, which is four decades after the demise of the supposed Jesus. Think about your high school experience. If you graduate at 18, how many of the details will you remember at, say, age 58? Without the prompts of records or yearbooks, etc. How trustworthy will the memories you have be? Obviously the autor “mark” cannot have been at all of the events he describes, so he must have gotten the information from others. Who were these others? Answer: we do not know. Who was “Mark?” Answer we do not know. So much for “1. “Was the book written by a prophet of God or a person accredited of God?” If we do not know who “Mark” was, how can you believe the Church Fathers who decided the Gospel of Mark was the bone fide word of their god?

    Sorry for the length but the quality of apologetics is so poor now that this bilge is what passes for it. More qualified people aren’t bothering any more.

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  6. In the Cain story we hear “And Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and dwelled in the land of Nod east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife and she conceived and bore Enoch. Then he became the builder of a city and he called the name of the city like his son’s name, Enoch.”

    So, they don’t mention the birth of women, but they did note Eve’s. Why was Eve mentioned? Why weren’t women’s births mentioned? There was no culture that was misogynist at the time. (How could there be, there was no culture? If they claim that their god created them that way, why are we not now?) So, Cain wasn’t married at the time of his cursing as neither the marriage nor the wife are mentioned when he went off to the land of Nod. Where did he find his wife? And, Cain built a city? Populated by? Even if Cain and his wife had children and their children had children and … how many generations do you need to have enough to fill a town, let alone a city? This was a cursed and marked man and he lived for, what, many hundreds of years? And his children inherited his long life? And the women kept pumping out babies for centuries?

    There are many holes in this story, these being only a few. And it is clear apologists make stuff up to fill those holes (like the births of women not being noted) willy-nilly with no shame for inventing their own scriptures. They never say “One way this could have happened ….” or “Another way this could have happened …” and rarely say “We can’t say as the Bible isn’t explicit here …” They just tell us what they believe as if that were scriptural. Of course, they can claim divine inspiration, but how would they know that? (Certainly, how would we know that?)

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  7. Shouldn’t it be “cannons?” versions of scripture and parts of books are not the same (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) for all. I am not sure how the Council of ? (forget which) made the definitive decision or what their criteria was, but prior to that things were quite variable. No NT text is by an eye witness or original text and most have been tampered with during copying or translation. These are books of religion, not history or science, and should be seen as such. I’m not saying anyone should drink the cool-aid, but that makes it easier to swallow.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Your assessment doesn’t seem the most open minded, but I appreciated hearing your perspective. Perhaps you would be better off reading a book written for an atheist on the Bible, than one written for a believer. You may understand it better. After all, 1 Cor 1:18. 🙂

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    1. Ah, yes. The old, “You may have head knowledge, but you don’t have ‘heart’ knowledge” argument. The problem is, most Christians have too much heart knowledge and avoid the head knowledge. As Luther said, “reason is the greatest enemy of faith.” Perhaps he could have added “knowledge,” too.

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      1. “Ah, yes. The old, “pretend I know what someone is talking about without knowing anything about the subject” interjection. No, that’s not what I meant at all, John. Your “rebuttal” is attacking and offensive. You should try another.” This is where this one goes. As a response to “John”

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    2. Your assessment doesn’t seem the most open minded, but I appreciated hearing your perspective. Perhaps you would be better off reading a book written for an atheist on the Bible, than one written for a believer. You may understand it better. After all, 1 Cor 1:18. 🙂

      The author’s of the book assessment of Cain, showed a poor understanding of genetics
      I don’t know how you arrived at this

      I don’t know a lot about you but on what basis did you arrive at the conclusion that the bible is true and the Quran, the vedas, theogony and Iliad are false

      Perhaps you would be better off reading a book written for an atheist on the Bible, than one written for a believer. You may understand it better. After all, 1 Cor 1:18. 🙂

      This is the title of the book Emails to a Young Seeker: Exchanges in Mere Christianity. It is for someone seeking knowledge, even if the book was for a believer, the author’s take on the subject matter is that of a close minded individual

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      1. I feel like this response is based on a few assumptions about my beliefs that I may not hold. I’m not sure why my comments are posting everywhere erratically but I am sorry for anything that was confusing.

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        1. When you click “Reply” on a particular comment, your reply shows up under that comment. If you don’t click a “Reply” and just type in the comment box then your comment shows up at either the end or the beginning of comments (depending on blog configuration). Here, I think it shows up at the top of comments.

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