“Mom” follows up in Life on the Hill: Interesting Response to My Book Suggestions:
Last week I wrote about three books I recommend for skeptical kids. Apparently Dan Porter didn’t particularly care for my inclusion of The Magic Detectives, because he believes it incorrectly portrays the mystery behind the Shroud of Turin. I think his blog speaks for itself, but I just want to address a few things he mentioned. Here’s one thing he said:
[The book was written in] 1989. One of the things I wanted my kids to learn was the value of fact checking. Much has happened since 1989.
First, I find it somewhat comical for a man whose faith is based on the Bible to criticize me for giving my kids a thirteen year old book. Much has happened in the past two thousand years, Mr. Porter.
I do pay attention to what has happened in those 2000 years. I’m not a biblical literalist. For one thing, I fully accept evolution (others here do not). When is comes to history, I fully realize that the Bible is not a very good history book, just as it is not a good science book.
And “Mom” wrote:
The burden of proof must always be with those asserting the claim, and not with those seeking to disprove it. Why is this often a difficult concept for people of faith to grasp?
Philosophically, I don’t have a problem with that. I tend to agree, mostly. From Socrates to Hume to Nietzsche, and more recently, very famously, Antony Flew (pictured above), this has been considered axiomatic. Atheist Flew, at frequent meetings of theist C. S. Lewis’ Socratic Club, regularly argued that the "onus of proof must lie upon the theist."
But should it? Why? For the claim that God exists? For every claim? Every historical object?
When it comes to the existence of God (by extension we can imagine this applying to miracles and the authenticity of the shroud), Paul Copan, president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and a member of the Catholic Philosophical Society, as argued, better than most, that that is presumptuous and unjustified. Interestingly, Atheist Jeffery Jay Lowder, best known for his websites The Secular Web and Internet Infidels (infidels.org), wrote an article entitled, “Is Atheism Presumptuous?" In it, he writes:
I agree [with Paul Copan] that anyone who claims, "God does not exist," must shoulder a burden of proof just as much as anyone who claims, "God exists."
Flew later wrote: There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (2007) with Roy Abraham Varghese (ISBN 978-0-06-133529-7). And he changed his mind about the burden of proof belonging to one asserting a religious claim.
A lot has happened since 1989. Why is this often a difficult concept for skeptics to grasp?
“I fully realize that the Bible is not a very good history book, just as it is not a good science book.”
That’s an interesting statement. I like it. What kind of book do you think the Bible is?
It’s not a really good handbook for religion either because it swaps focus in midstream which is kinda bizarre when you think about it. First God teaches to observe religion one way, then God changes his mind and teaches how to do it another, better way. Pretty funny when you think about it.
I think of the Bible as a biography, the story of Jesus Christ as told by Himself to others. But that’s not entirely it either. Maybe it’s the Story of Faith… the thread of Faith, the heroes of Faith… starting with Faithful Noah, then Abraham and ending with the Faithful Apostles, especially John who encouraged the Believers in the 7 Churches to be more Faithful than they already were.
The Bible skips around so much, from one topic to another, that’s it’s very hard to classify. Mainly, the Bible is what it is. This is what God gave us to work with and He expects us to use it. That’s the main thing: ARE WE USING IT? READING IT? MEMORIZING IT? Jump in and make it PART of our lives, that’s what we’re supposed to do with it.
Well, I’m just thinking out loud. Your statement got me to thinking…. :)
Annie, excellent observations. I’ve come to see the bible as a collection of testaments or testimonials from people and/or their chroniclers of how they had direct interaction with the living God. I come to regard those testimonials as highly reflective of each person’s expectations of God and what He represents to them at that time. Even though these testimonials are inspired by the Holy Ghost they are not dictated by Him. He will not abrogate our free will and that includes our core expressiveness. The Old Testament came from a time of survival and nation forging. Imagine the chaos of those times and all the abhorrent behavior that was rampant throughout human living conditions. Obedience in such times seems more valuable to a lawgiver than understanding and so the perspective of those who wrote many of books of the Old Testament was of a God who required obedience. They expected Him to impose order through obedience. And Faith undergirds obedience, like from the womb a child has Faith in it’s parents to take care of it. Where understanding is not possible, Faith bridges the gap.
It seems to me God works within the human condition, knowing us better than we know ourselves. God would probably have not gotten anyone to follow His Will had he not worked within the human expectation that a society must be made obedient first before it can be made to understand the basis of that obedience (simply because man is ignorant of his own nature). The New Testament represents the next and eternal phase – understanding. We have Christ’s positive affirmation of the law and Heaven. He encourages us to understand the law through his explanations of it, He gives us it’s meaning.
Now step back a moment and look at the overarching narrative of the Old and New Testaments. They are indelible marks on history and enormously unforgettable events. God works, I think, in broad undeniable strokes and recurrent themes. What’s the best way to get your message across not only now but through all history? Make a broad undeniable movement within history; it’s got to be big enough that people will remember it for all time. Think of the indelible mark the Exodus has left on the Israelites. Think of the indelible mark that Jesus’ Resurrection made on all human history. The Resurrection itself is extremely extraordinary and represents the ultimate mark of His benevolence and message. It’s pretty darn hard to ignore someone who gets up out of His own tomb under His own power. Nothing less than this will make men turn their attention away from themselves and provide a basis for conversion throughout human history. What is also unique about the whole narrative is that Christ doesn’t conquer or vanquish those who put Him to death, on the contrary He saves them from death itself. He demonstrates through His Resurrection what He meant when He said God is a God of the living not the dead. Anyone that has the power to raise His own body after death certainly has the power to raise anyone from the dead.
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