The QuasiChristian

Critical Thinking and Spiritual Reasoning

Book Recommendation: The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin With A Mythical Christ? (Earl Doherty)

From the Back Cover

Why are the events of the Gospel story, and its central character Jesus of Nazareth, not found in the New Testament epistles? Why does Paul’s divine Christ seem to have no connection to the Gospel Jesus, but closely resembles the many pagan savior gods of the time who lived only in myth? Why, given the spread of Christianity across the Roman Empire in the first century, did only one Christian community compose a story of Jesus’ life and death-the Gospel of Mark-while every other Gospel simply copied and reworked the first one? Why is every detail in the Gospel story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion drawn from passages in the Old Testament? The answer to these and other questions surrounding the New Testament will come as a shock to those who imagine that the origins of Christianity and the figure of Jesus are securely represented by Christian tradition and the Gospels. With the arrival of the third millennium, the time has come to face the stunning realization that for the last 1900 years, Christianity has revered a founder and icon of the faith who probably never existed.

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Apologetics, Biblical Criticism, Biblical Scholarship, Books (Recommended) | 1 Comment

New Year. Same Old Story. Or Not.

Sadly, many are attracted to Christianity because it’s presented as a haven from the struggles and strains of everyday life. Browse the shelves of Christian bookstores (brick and mortar or online). Notice the numerous books that target the emotionally needy—individuals who need a quick fix to satisfy their insatiable addiction to having their spiritual ego stroked. Modern Christianity places an enormous emphasis on the special believer. Some go through life attempting to execute steps and techniques to solidify their anticipated place in heaven. We all fall short of the glory of God is a phrase proudly proclaimed in Christian circles. This keeps believers ripe for any new book, conference, or sermon which purports to unveil how to strengthen one’s walk in Christ or gain unlimited favor of the Father.

It’s common for people to profess the faith of their parents. In fact, that’s how most become Christians in America. They are Christian by default. Very few undertake a personal study of Christianity prior to declaring Jesus their Lord and Savior. As a result, they are ignorant of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Decades later, still clueless.

The prevalence of biblical ignorance among black Christians is disturbing. Not surprising, yet disturbing nonetheless. This is a topic I’ll address in a future post. If you’re a Christian and can’t articulate what that means from a historical perspective, then you need to educate yourself. Not with the latest re-packaged Joel Osteen or T.D. Jakes books. Not with evangelical material that offers several steps to fill-in-the-blank. Biblical literacy (memorized Bible verses don’t count) begins with one step: Step outside of your comfort zone and examine your faith critically. Don’t get offended when asked about the Christian faith. Who? What? When? Why? How? You should be able to articulate well-reasoned answers. But you won’t find answers on Wednesday/Thursday nights at your church. Your children aren’t given this information in Awana. Remember the United Negro College Fund slogan “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste”. It applies here as well.

This is the time of year when many embark on resolutions made for the next 12 months. Add this to your list: To read the Bible in its entirety using critical thinking skills. Simply employ logic and reason when analyzing passages.

As a general rule, critical thinking involves developing some emotional and intellectual distance between yourself and ideas — whether your own or others’ — in order to better evaluate their truth, validity, and reasonableness.

Critical thinking is an effort to develop reliable, rational evaluations about what is reasonable for us to believe and disbelieve. Critical thinking makes use of the tools of logic and science because it values skepticism over gullibility or dogmatism, reason over faith, science of pseudoscience, and rationality over wishful thinking. Critical thinking does not guarantee that we will arrive at truth, but it does make it much more likely than any of the alternatives do.

I’ve made one promise for 2012. Stay rational.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Apologetics, Biblical Studies, Christian Education, Spiritual Reasoning | , , , , | 2 Comments

The “Evidence” for Jesus’ Resurrection, Debunked in One Page

Chris Hallquist

Among Evangelical Christians, it’s become popular to claim that Jesus’ resurrection can be proved
with historical evidence. This is nonsense. Here’s why:

1. There is no evidence for the resurrection outside the Bible. Non-Christian historical references
to Jesus don’t occur until about six decades after the time when Biblical scholars think he probably
died. When these non-Christian sources refer to Jesus’ miracles, there’s no reason to see them as
anything more than a report of what Christians of the time believed.

2. There is little evidence that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses, or based directly on
eyewitness accounts. Most of what the Bible says about Jesus’ life and supposed resurrection is in
the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, (a.k.a. the Gospels).
But Biblical scholars now agree these books were originally anonymous, their names added later.
The traditional Christian claims about who wrote them is now widely doubted by scholars.

3. This means that the Gospels can’t be trusted as evidence for miracles. Imagine someone trying
to convert you to another religion based on the “proof” of the miracles worked by the religion’s
founder… in the form of a handful of anonymous tracts recounting his life. Would you accept that
“proof”? Of course not. Among other things, the stories could just be legends.

Link to Text (Continue Reading)

There are counter arguments to this. How would you respond to Chris?

October 14, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Atheism/Agnosticism | , , , | 1 Comment

The Road to Belief: Evangelizing Intellectuals

Excerpt from “Engaging the Closed Mind: Presenting Your Faith to the Confirmed Unbeliever”

Tough-minded people are primarily concerned with objective truth (truth that exists independent of personal beliefs, feelings, and experiences; truth that is verifiable). These people are rationally motivated; that is, things must be logical—make sense—before they’ll believe it. They are the people who want so-called “scientific proof” before they will accept something. Hence, to the tough-minded, belief is bound up with evidence. Like Jack Webb in the 1960s television show Dragnet, they want “Just the facts, ma’am!”

Tough-minded people are the ones who usually raise intellectual objections to Christianity. The road to belief has many obstacles. They need their questions answered and their doubts resolved before they will accept biblical truth-claims. Consequently, tough-minded people are not moved by subjective religious experiences. Personal testimonies or dramatic, life-transforming conversion experiences are usually unconvincing to them.

Tough-minded people tend to look for natural explanations for religious phenomena. They are skeptics of anything with a hint of the supernatural. For example, a religious conversion is merely a psychological phenomenon. A miraculous healing is attributed to the so-called power of suggestion or to positive thinking. Answered prayer is seen as coincidence, a natural occurrence whose timing simply coincided with prayer; it would have happened anyway.

Although we should initiate a witnessing encounter with the gospel, in most cases this approach is ineffective with tough-minded people. They almost always raise objections or shrug us off. We usually have to work our way up to a gospel presentation by removing intellectual obstacles. In a sense, we have to earn the right to give a gospel presentation.

On the brighter side tough-minded people are more likely to listen to the facts and go with them. If they are convinced by the evidence, they are more likely to alter their existing worldview assumptions and go with Christianity. As with all genuine conversions to Christianity, the Holy Spirit is involved in the conversion of tough-minded people. But tough-minded people come to Christ through their heads rather than their hearts, through their intellects rather than their feelings. In other words, rather than law or gospel, the Holy Spirit uses the intellect—often through extra-biblical (apologetic) evidences—to reveal spiritual truth to tough-minded people. Apologetics is the key to evangelizing these individuals.

Story, D. (1999). Engaging the closed minded : Presenting your faith to the confirmed unbeliever (28–29). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

September 2, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Evangelism | , , , | Leave a comment