Dialogue with Willy (re: Jesus and the Bible)

This dialogue centers on Jesus and the Bible – can they be trusted?  I trust that the Bible is telling the truth about Jesus, and that He is all He claims to be.  Willy is questioning me on these points because he does not understand why I take this stance.  It does not seem a reasonable stance to him.

This dialogue with Willy (whom I don’t otherwise know) began as a comment exchange yesterday on another blog.  Willy had actually been observing a comment exchange between Rob (whom I also don’t otherwise know) and me on that blog which I’ve since reproduced as Dialogue with Rob.  Willy then decided to offer a point of his own.

(If you want to see all the initial comments in their original context, see Is Richard Dawkins a Secret Christian? on Scott’s Catholicism Blog on About.com.  [August 15, 2015:  Sorry, but it appears the lined-through links are to pages that are no longer being maintained.]  For a quick background on dialogues that appear on this site, see the post Dialogues.)

I’ve reproduced Willy’s comment here and responded to it.  If he chooses to continue the dialogue it will show up as comments on this post.

Willy:  Mike, a few things. First: historicity. There are several versions of the Christian Bible which include and exclude books from other biblical cannons. Over several centuries, biblical cannons determined what books would and would not be considered part of the Bible. Extensive editing and translating has occurred throughout the history of the Bible by hundreds and thousands of people (most notably monks) as directed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church (King James), Greek Orthodox, and the dozens of Protestant sects. Needless to say, taking the gospels at “face value”–that they are Reports of Christ’s life or something–requires a complete disregard for (or ignorance of) biblical history. You seem to appreciate historicity and verifiability, so if I were you, I would take a look at the history of the Bible.

On top of that, however, to call the gospels and the resurrection of Christ “logical and persuasive” undermines both logic and faith. Between the four gospels (in the King James Bible), there are dozens of events recounted where one gospel fundamentally contradicts the other. That is definitively illogical. But if we talk about the resurrection of Christ as logical, then you undermine faith. Faith requires suspension of reason, and the resurrection of Christ requires just that. It is not just illogical, it is, in fact, impossible. But the resurrection forms a crucial part of Christian faith–that the divinity of Christ was proved by this event because it contradicted the limitations of the natural world and logic.

I like your curiosity and I bookmarked your blog. Would enjoy some more discussion with you because it appears that you are an out-of-the-box thinker with regard to Christianity, and that you appreciate historical background. I would advice you to engage the documented history of the Bible in order to build you understanding and knowledge on the subject.

Mike:  Willy, I have studied the historical background of the Bible but draw a different conclusion than you do.  First of all, the different biblical canons that you mention are notable not for their dissimilarity but rather for their similarity.  While the Catholic canon includes a few books that the Protestant canon doesn’t, and the Greek Orthodox canon a few more, the vast majority of the books are the same in all three.

There has been extensive translating of the Bible over the centuries, not just because there are so many languages but because each language (e.g. English) changes.  However, I am unaware of what you say is “extensive editing” of the text.  On the contrary, Bible translations have always been valued for their faithfulness to, not their divergence from, the original text.  Even paraphrased versions, while trying to communicate in more understandable ways, are doing so in the name of faithfulness to the original meaning.

As for Christ’s resurrection, on what basis do you say that it is illogical?  I could understand if you said that it was uncommon, and I would agree.  But what makes something illogical just because it’s not commonplace?

Faith is not the suspension of reason.  Rather, faith is based on reason.  I trust my wife because my reason (as well as my affection) led me to do so.  I do not have exhaustive knowledge of everything my wife thinks, says, and does – but the subset of knowledge I do have leads me, through the process of reason, to trust her regarding the subset I do not have.

I find the accounts of Christ’s resurrection in the New Testament persuasive because I find more reason to believe them than to disbelieve them.  My reasons for believing them, summarized, are that they are logically coherent and they – unlike anything else I have ever read – adequately address the fundamental question of life: that is, death.  To disbelieve the apostles I would have to see evidence that they had motive, opportunity, and means to lie.  (For more, see Why the Bible Can Be Trusted.)

Your turn, Willy.  Just comment below.

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