This month’s Christianity Today cover story concerns ‘The Search for the Historical Adam’, and includes thoughts from various Christian scientific and biblical camps on the historicity of Adam.
Fuz Rana and Hugh Ross from Reasons to Believe (great scholars we’ve had on The Line of Fire multiple times) gave the following response to the article, which Rana describes as unbalanced, calling it “more of a mouthpiece for theistic evolution”:
[Link to Audio]
In the audio file, Dr. Rana responds to the assertion from BioLogos in the article that “… the human population, … ‘was definitely never as small as two …. Our species diverged as a population. The data are absolutely clear on that.'” with the following statement (the models he mentions are the ones that are used to make the claim that BioLogos is making here):
These models are not that robust, they are prone to error, so … for us to completely abandon the historic Christian faith in light of the evidence from genomics that indicates a recent origin for humanity, from a single location, from a small population of individuals arguably traceable to a single man and single woman, to throw that all out, and the historic Christian faith out the window, based on population size estimates, when we know these estimates are crude, that to me is very short-sighted, and its a defeatist attitude I think, on the part of at least some evangelicals.
The article that Rana mentions on the results of a genetic experiment involving sheep, which shows how models may predict larger original population sizes than there actually were , is below:
In 2007 a research team reported on the genetic diversity of wild mouflon sheep on one of the islands that are part of the Kerguelen sub-Antarctic archipelago. This group of sheep provided researchers with an unprecedented opportunity to study the effects of population dynamics on genetic diversity in small populations.
In 1957 a male and female yearling were placed onto Haute Island (an island in the Kerguelen Archipelago). These two sheep were taken from a captive population in France. By the beginning of the 1970s, the number had grown to 100 individuals and peaked at 700 sheep in 1977. Since that time the population has fluctuated in a cyclical manner between 250 and 700 members.
Given that the population began with only two individuals (the founder effect), has experienced cyclical changes in the population size, and was isolated on an island, the researchers expected very low genetic diversity (measured as heterozygosity).
Using mathematical models, the heterozygosity of a population can be computed at any point in time from the heterozygosity of the ancestral population (which was known for the original mouflon pair) and the original population size.
What the researchers discovered, however, when they measured this quantity directly for the sheep on Haute Island was that it exceeded the predictions made by the models by up to a factor of 4. In other words, the models underestimated the genetic diversity of the actual population.
As we attempt to sift through the various biblical and scientific evidences on the historicity and meaning of the Adam of Genesis, lets keep in mind these words from agnostic mathematician David Berlinski on where evolutionary biology as the exclusive mechanism for the diversity of life we see really stands with regard to testability and coherence:
“Before you can ask ‘Is Darwinian theory correct or not?’, You have to ask the preliminary question ‘Is it clear enough so that it could be correct?’. That’s a very different question. One of my prevailing doctrines about Darwinian theory is ‘Man, that thing is just a mess. It’s like looking into a room full of smoke.’ Nothing in the theory is precisely, clearly, carefully defined or delineated. It lacks all of the rigor one expects from mathematical physics, and mathematical physics lacks all the rigor one expects from mathematics. So we’re talking about a gradual descent down the level of intelligibility until we reach evolutionary biology.”
Below is a great video on the continuing story of how Richard Dawkins, probably the most important militant atheist evangelist in the world, refuses to debate Christian philosopher William Lane Craig in a debate (even fellow atheists are calling Dawkins a coward). Evidently, Craig will be visiting the UK in October of this year, and will leave a chair open for Dawkins to debate him if he chooses to do so.
Having read both Craig’s works, and Dawkin’s The God Delusion, I must say that I understand why Dawkins doesn’t want to debate him. While Dawkins is clearly well versed in biological science, his understanding of even basic theology and Christian thought is extremely poor, resulting in a muddled, extremely simplistic argumentation against belief in God that becomes easy to dismiss when you realize he’s just taken the same questions and difficulties we’ve all dealt with, and proceeded to hurl them at all non-atheist/agnostics with a clearly spiteful, arrogant attitude that shows he has no respect for any of the 92% (or so) of the world’s population that believe there’s more to the Universe than random matter.
Craig has done quite well in previous debates, and it would be wonderful to hear him go toe-to-toe with Dawkins in a format that will reach more people (this would be quite the event), than written reviews traditionally do (here’s a section from what he’s written in response, with more in book form here).
Below is a video from James White broken up into three parts which shows White interacting with a video from Young-Earth Creation Science advocate Kent Hovind on the history of the Bible, and why the King James Version of the Bible is the “real” Bible. Dr. White has interacted extensively with King James Onlyists, writing a book on the subject and engaging in debates, and so he is thoroughly versed in their arguments and mindset.
What I find particularly important about this video, other than serving as a thoroughly amusing debunking of a common KJV-Only line of reasoning, is what Dr. White mentions in part 3 concerning the danger of this sort of simplistic, factually deficient teaching:
The reason i address this… is that a person who believes this, could never defend this against a knowledgeable opponent to Christianity. A Bart Ehrman would feast on this really bad information, as would a Shabir Ally, Muslims and secularists. We can’t be producing this kind of bad apologetic and putting it out there. Can you imagine a young person, and this is all they have, and they go into a secular situation? They are going to be destroyed, because they were not given the right information, and that’s what makes it really important.
Below then is the video from Kent Hovind, with responses from Dr. White interspersed. The purpose in posting this is not to go after Kent Hovind, but rather to show why we need to get our facts straight when presenting our reasons for believing what we do, and be lovers of truth before being defenders of our positions. As we present our positions in the cultural landscape of ideas, we must do our research!
BTW, if after watching part 3, you’re intrigued as to how a Christian book could be described as “the single most error ridden book I’ve ever read in English,” check out this video from a debate between White and Riplinger, for an example of some remarkable KJV-Only “God-given” acrostic algebra from the book Hovind mentions as a recommended resource.
Marcus French is Editor of Voice of Revolution, and also helps produce the daily radio show, The Line of Fire. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com , used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org.
It’s easy to spot militant atheists who attend my presentation called I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. They usually sit with their arms folded and scowls on their faces. During a recent presentation at Michigan State, I knew I’d get push back from one such scowling student sitting to my right. He looked mad and was mad. (He wouldn’t even smile at a hilarious Homer Simpson clip!)
He shot his hand up during the Q&A and yelled out, “You mentioned the problem of evil during your presentation but you didn’t answer it! If there is a good God, then why does evil exist? Why doesn’t God stop it?”
I said, “Sir, that is an excellent question. Sometimes I bluntly answer this way. ‘If God stopped all evil, he might start with you . . . and me because we both do evil every day.’ To end evil on earth God would have to take away our free will. But if he takes away our free will, he takes away our ability to love as well. Allow me to show you a video that beautifully illustrates this in less than two minutes.” I then played this outstanding video (developed by my friend and fellow seminary graduate, Jim Zangmeister), which traces evil back to free will.
Most in the audience appreciated the clip and applauded. But the atheist was unmoved. “Why do babies die, why do tsunamis occur? These aren’t the result of free will!” he protested.
“True, they are not the result of someone’s free will today,” I explained. “But Christianity traces all of our trouble back to a free will choice by Adam. As a result, we live in a fallen world where bad things happen, but God takes the initiative to bring good from evil. In fact, you can sum up the entire Bible in one word—redemption. Paradise lost in Genesis is paradise regained in Revelation. God initiated and achieved this redemption by sending Jesus Christ who suffered and died on our behalf. So we can question God about suffering as the biblical writers did, but God didn’t exempt Himself from it. Jesus was the only completely innocent person in the history of the world, yet he suffered horribly for our redemption. He brought good from evil.”
The atheist didn’t like that either. He interrupted me several times, so I finally asked him, “Are you an atheist?”
He refused to answer but then blurted out, “It doesn’t matter!”
I said, “It does matter because if you are an atheist (I later learned from his blog he is), then you have no grounds by which to judge anything evil. Objective evil doesn’t exist unless objective good exists and objective good doesn’t exist unless God exists. You can have good without evil, but you can’t have evil without good. In other words, the shadows prove the sunshine. You can have sunshine without shadows, but you can’t have shadows without sunshine. So evil doesn’t disprove God—it actually shows there must be a God because it presupposes Good. Evil may prove there’s a devil out there, but it doesn’t disprove God.”
The atheist persisted, “But if God exists, why do some babies die such horrible deaths?”
Well, if the atheist is granting that God exists, then he has a valid question. While he can’t explain evil and suffering from his atheistic worldview, I need to explain it from mine.
My explanation went this way. Although I know why evil in general occurs (see the video), I don’t know why every specific evil occurs. But I know why I don’t know why—because I’m finite and can’t see into the future. Since God is infinite and can see all the way into eternity, he may allow evil events that ultimately work together for good. In other words, he can still bring good from evil even if we can’t see how.
To illustrate, I referred back to the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That’s where George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, falls on hard times, becomes despondent and tries to commit suicide. He’s saved by an angel and is permitted to see how life in his town would have turned out if he had never existed. George sees that everything would have turned out far worse without him, and thus realizes that even though evil infects life, good can prevail in the end. George could only see this with God’s timeless perspective. Only God can see how trillions of free choices and events can interact ultimately for good even if some of them seem hopelessly negative at the time. (In fact, that’s one reason why God told Job to trust him.)
At that point, a man sitting ten feet from the atheist raised his hand.
“Go ahead, sir.”
He first looked over at the atheist, then back at me and said, “I know of a young woman who was raped and became pregnant. The rape nearly destroyed her.” His voice began to crack . . . “But she decided that she would not punish the baby for the sin of the father. She later gave birth to a baby boy.” (By this point he was weeping openly.) “And that boy grew up to be a pastor whom God has used to help bring many people to Christ. He ministers to people to this day. That boy grew up to be me.”
He then looked back at the atheist and said, “My mother turned evil into good, and God can too.”
The atheist left immediately after the event ended, but I did get to meet that brave pastor who spoke up. His name is Gary Bingham, and he’s the pastor of Hillside Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana. Gary told me that his mom had self-confidence issues for many years but is doing much better since becoming a Christian a few years ago. I thanked him and asked him to let his mom know that she touched many for good that night. I hope through this column she has touched many more today.
My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war. (Psalm 120:6-7)
How do we pray concerning the Israel-Egypt peace treaty? Do we pray for it to be protected, upheld and perpetuated? For the majority who wish to see Israel live in peace with her neighbors, this question would seem a no brainer.
And yet, I cannot pray so readily for this.
Let me paint a picture:
A friend has contracted cancer that, unless caught in its early stages, will grow progressively more threatening to his life. On learning of the disease, you urge him to have the tumor removed, but he prefers to continue living as normal a life as possible, taking basic medication to numb him to the pain, and even help him forget he was ill.
The more time passes, the more perilous his condition becomes. He would carry on regardless, but a sudden turn of events forces him to reassess. While the attack on his body is set to intensify, he’s not ready to deal with it.
You have the chance to remind him that, had he agreed to it at the start, he would have undergone a painful but relatively straightforward procedure while his body was strong enough to survive. The passage of time and progression of the cancer has weakened him. Although it is still possible to save his life, he must have the surgery now.
Thing is, it’s no longer a small operation. What he requires at this point will be agonizing; the risks far higher. As his friend, you must choose whether to pressure him to go under the knife by telling him some unpleasant home truths, or allow him to continue in self-delusion as he drifts towards his date with doom.
“Everybody’s” pleading with him to, “for heaven’s sake, leave well enough alone! Anything is better than the alternative.”
But do we really believe this?
Let’s take a closer look at what this Israel-Egypt peace treaty really is: how it was drawn up, what it cost Israel to sign, how it has played out, what its effects have been, and where its perpetuation will lead.
The Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, and the Egyptian military dictator, Anwar Sadat, signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, known as the Camp David Agreement, in 1978.
In other words, it was signed between an elected representative of the Israeli people on the one side, and a military ruler representing no-one on the other.
The details – or more accurately – the parties to the agreement – were hammered together by the American president, Jimmy Carter.
As close advisor to Begin, the late Shmuel Katz, outlined in his book “The Hollow Peace,” (Dvir Publishing; Israel; 1981), Carter held a gun to Israel’s head and, wielding blackmail and deception, mercilessly pressured Begin into agreeing to the treaty terms – the tangible fruits of which were all in Egypt’s – and America’s – favor.
Sadat, who had his forces launch the aggressive wars of 1967 and 1973 with the intent of obliterating the Jewish state, was rewarded for his belligerence by being given the Sinai Peninsula (which was not Egyptian sovereign territory before), and by being universally applauded as a courageous peacemaker.
By relinquishing the Sinai, Israel lost access to sources of oil that supplied upwards of 60 percent of its oil needs. It lost the ultra-modern military airfields it had built in the Sinai, and the billions of dollars it had to spend building substitute airfields in the Negev.
Israel lost the strategic depth that protected it against another Egyptian onslaught. It lost the only way it had of ensuring Israeli ships retain free access to the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea. It lost the Jewish communities it had established in the Sinai – the process of uprooting them leaving deep scars in the Israeli national conscious and sowing seeds for civil disagreement and strife among Israel’s Jews.
And in the agreement Israel forfeited the possibility of annexing Judea, Samaria and Gaza, instead binding itself to negotiate with the Palestinian Arabs to give them self-rule in those areas to which they – the Arabs – had no prior historical claim.
The United States rewarded Egypt richly; over the ensuing years giving the country billions of dollars worth of modern and sophisticated weaponry, and training Egyptian soldiers and security forces. All the while Egypt’s army – twice as large as Israel’s – has been playing yearly war games in which it practices attacking and destroying the Jewish state.
Egypt, first under Sadat and then under Hosni Mubarak, lived up to nothing in return but a pledge not to launch attacks on Israel from Egyptian soil. That did not stop it from pursuing that other, political, war – delegitimizing the Jewish state and fomenting hatred of Israel at home and abroad.
While Israeli leaders frequently visited Egypt for consultations with Mubarak and his officials, the Egyptian ruler absolutely refused to reciprocate. His solo trip to Jerusalem was for the funeral of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Israeli tourists flocked with their money to Egypt, but Egyptians basically never came to tour Israel. The Mubarak-controlled media in Egypt regularly vilified the Jewish state and its Jewish citizens, while Israel’s free media almost always related to their southern neighbor in terms of being a partner in peace.
Meanwhile, included in the Carter-sanctioned agreement, with the American president’s full awareness and in fact collusion, was Egypt’s right to declare war on Israel if Israel should get into another conflict with any other Arab state.
As The Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick told an audience in the Israeli capital last week, what has existed between Israel and Egypt for the last 32 years has been not a state of peace but a readily reversible ceasefire.
Apart from badly compromising Israel’s security at the start, when it was formulated and signed, the agreement led Israel to further weaken itself as the years, then the decades, went by.
Glick pointed out that Israel, lulled into sleepiness by the exciting ‘peace agreement,’ long ago stopped training its forces for desert warfare. It also stopped collecting intelligence on the Egyptian military. All the while, Cairo was building up its war machine – with a billion dollars in aid from the United States every year.
“Egypt received massive military assistance from the United States. Those forces – which are trained by the US military – have been training for war against Israel for the last 32 years… The Egyptian army is twice the size of the IDF. Nearly a million Egyptian boys come of call-up age every year.”
Egypt is not “just” anti-Israel; it is one of the most antisemitic countries in the world, warned the Post reporter.
It must be noted, Glick added, that the new military junta ruling Egypt, despite being under intense pressure from the United States to commit itself to honoring the Israel-Egypt treat, was willing to go no further than make a general commitment to all its international treaties.
This should not be overlooked.
So what do we have? Israel signed a treaty with an Egyptian strongman which, yes, helped keep the southern border quiet for 32 years, and enabled millions of Israeli tourists to visit the Sinai and enjoy its beautiful coastline. But it also led to Israel weakening itself strategically, relaxing its guard and effectively rendering itself less able to deal with a future Egyptian assault.
Meanwhile the Egyptian side massively modernized its military while uninterruptedly fuelling hatred of the Jews and their state. Egypt used its “credentials” (influential Arab state with Western-backing) to keep itself in the center of the “peace process.” From Cairo, Hosni Mubarak edged ahead with his anti-Israel agenda, encouraging American administrations and Israeli leftists to work against Israel’s security interests.
Many, mostly liberal, experts are decrying the “scaremongers” who believe that the Muslim Brotherhood will soon ascend to power in Egypt. The revolution there has been widely described as the birthing of democracy in the Arab world and therefore promising a better future for Israel-Egypt relations. But democracy and Islam are oil and water – they cannot be mixed, and Israel’s presence in the Arab’s Muslim midst can never be tolerated. It must be expunged.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while calling Israel-Egyptian peace a “cornerstone of Mideast stability” and “hoping for the best” has said that Israel must “prepare for the worst” in its relations with its southern neighbor. Leftist Israelis have torn strips off him for doing so, calling instead for an appeasing approach that would not risk heightening tensions between the two countries during this transition period.
What is best for Israel? What should we pray for? The survival of a peace treaty that strengthens Egypt – whose political future is at best uncertain – and keeps Israel weak – making its future survival uncertain?
Or do we pray for Israel to prepare for the possibility that Egypt will tear up the treaty and throw it away – even if Israel’s very act of preparation is used as a justification by Egypt to abrogate Camp David?
Should we pray for God to help Israel prepare for what the Bible foretells and Middle East geo-political reality confirms is on the way – a war the Jewish people don’t want, but which will be unleashed against her? And if, as the IDF is bolstered in the south and Israel moves to make up its deficit in intelligence on Egypt, the Egyptian side reacts by scrapping the treaty, so be it?
Latin scholar Vegetius said: Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you want peace, prepare for war).
With the Israel-Egypt treaty, Israel has prepared for peace, but Egypt has has used it to gear up for war.
Stan Goodenough is a journalist and commentator, and 23-year resident of the State of Israel.
Astronomer Martin Gaskell is suing the University of Kentucky for religious discrimination. Evolution News & Views sums it up well (emphasis mine):
Perhaps the most interesting detail Oppenheimer reports concerns the “smoking gun” in Gaskell’s case: the text of a 2007 email from UK staffer Sally Shafer to two colleagues:
“Clearly this man is complex and likely fascinating to talk with,” Ms. Shafer wrote, “but potentially evangelical. If we hire him, we should expect similar content to be posted on or directly linked from the department Web site.”
To this gem, Gaskell’s attorney, Francis J. Manion, said: “I couldn’t have made up a better quote. ‘We like this guy, but he is potentially Jewish’? ‘Potentially Muslim’?”
Bingo. Apparently committing evangelical Christianity disqualifies a scientist from employment at the University of Kentucky.
Yet again, the popular myth that current scientific authorities are “scientific” and “objective” while followers of Jesus are the ones with a worldview is shown to be false. Even though Dr. Gaskell was not interviewing to teach evolutionary theory, and even though he’s stated that he “accepted standard evolutionary science,” he was (gasp) “potentially evangelical,” and therefore someone to be avoided. Sounds like the scientific authorities are the ones interested in propagating their godless worldview without incident, while Dr. Gaskell just wants to teach Astronomy, doesn’t it?
Be sure to tune in to this lively and informative debate, as Dr. James White and I debate the deity of Jesus and God’s tri-unity with Sir Anthony Buzzard and Mr. Joseph Good on Jonathan Bernis’s Jewish Voice Broadcast, airing on major Christian TV networks from Nov. 1-14 (a different segment of the debate will air each week). You don’t want to miss these lively and highly informative debates! For TV listings, or to watch online once the shows air, go HERE.
You can watch by clicking here and searching for programs labeled “The Deity of Messiah”.
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org
Do the New Testament documents tell the truth about what really happened in the first century? As I wrote in my last column, authors claiming to write history are unlikely to invent embarrassing details about themselves or their heroes. Since the New Testament documents are filled with embarrassing details, we can be reasonably certain that they are telling the truth.
Notice that the disciples frequently depict themselves as dimwits. They fail to understand what Jesus is saying several times, and don’t understand what his mission is about until after the resurrection. Their thick-headedness even earns their leader, Peter, the sternest rebuke from Jesus: “Get behind me Satan!” (What great press the disciples provided for their leader and first Pope! Contrary to popular opinion, it seems the church really didn’t have editorial control of the scriptures after all.)
After Jesus asks them to stay up and pray with him during his greatest hour of need, the disciples fall asleep on Jesus not once, but twice! Then, after pledging to be faithful to the end, Peter denies Christ three times, and all but one of them run away.
The scared, scattered, skeptical disciples make no effort to give Jesus a proper burial. Instead they say a member of the Jewish ruling body that sentenced Jesus to die is the noble one—Joseph of Arimathea buries Jesus in a Jewish tomb (which would have been easy for the Jews to refute if it wasn’t true). Two days later, while the men are still hiding, the women go down and discover the empty tomb and the risen Jesus.
Who wrote all that down? Men—some of the men who were characters in the story. Now if you were part of a group of men trying to pass off a false resurrection story as the truth, would you depict yourselves as dimwitted, bumbling, rebuked, lazy, skeptical sissies, who ran away at the first sign of trouble, while the women were the brave ones who discovered the empty tomb and the risen Jesus?
If men were inventing the resurrection story, it would go more like this:
Jesus came to save the world, and he needed our help. That’s why we were there for him every step of the way. When he was in need, we prayed with him. When he wept, we wept with him (and told him to toughen up!). When he fell, we carried his cross. The gates of Hell could not prevent us from seeing his mission through!
So when that turncoat Judas brought the Romans by (we always suspected Judas), and they began to nail Jesus to the cross, we laughed at them. “He’s God you idiots! The grave will never keep him! You think you’re solving a problem, but you’re really creating a much bigger one!”
While we assured the women that everything would turn out all right, they couldn’t handle the crucifixion. Squeamish and afraid, they ran to their homes screaming and hid behind locked doors.
But we men stood steadfast at the foot of the cross, praying for hours until the very end. When Jesus finally took his last breath and the Roman Centurion confessed that Jesus was God, Peter blasted him, “That’s what we told you before you nailed him up there!” (Through this whole thing, the Romans and the Jews just wouldn’t listen!)
Never doubting that Jesus would rise on the third day, Peter announced to the Centurion, “We’ll bury him and be back on Sunday. Now go tell Pilate to put some of your ‘elite’ Roman guards at the tomb to see if you can prevent him from rising from the dead!” We all laughed and began to dream about Sunday.
That Sunday morning we marched right down to the tomb and tossed those elite Roman guards aside. Then the stone (that took eleven us to roll into place) rolled away by itself. A glowing Jesus emerged from tomb, and said, “I knew you’d come! My mission is accomplished.” He praised Peter for his brave leadership and congratulated us on our great faith. Then we went home and comforted the trembling women.
There are other events in the New Testament documents concerning Jesus that are also unlikely to be made up. For example, Jesus:
• Is considered “out of his mind” by his own family who come to seize him to take him home (Mk 3:21,31).
• Is deserted by many of his followers after he says that followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood. (John 6:66).
• Is not believed by his own brothers (John 7:5). (Disbelief turned to belief after the resurrection—ancient historians reveal that Jesus’ brother James died a martyr as the leader of the church in Jerusalem in A.D. 62).
• Is thought to be a deceiver (John 7:12).
• Turns off Jewish believers to the point that they want to stone him (John 8:30-59).
• Is called a “madman” (John 10:20).
• Is called a “drunkard” (Mt. 11:19).
• Is called “demon-possessed” (Mk 3:22, Jn 7:20, 8:48).
• Has his feet wiped with hair of a prostitute which easily could have been seen as a sexual advance (Lk 7:36-39).
• Is crucified despite the fact that “anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deut 21:23).
If you’re inventing a Messiah to the Jews, you don’t say such things about him. You also don’t admit that some of you “still doubted” Jesus had really risen from the dead, especially while he’s standing right in front of you giving the great commission (Mt. 28:17-19).
Finally, anyone trying to pass off a false resurrection story as the truth would never say the women were the first witnesses at the tomb. In the first century, a woman’s testimony was not considered on par with that of a man. An invented story would say that the men—the brave men—had discovered the empty tomb. Yet all four gospels say the women were the first witnesses – all this while the sissy-pants men had their doors locked for fear of the Jews. (After I made this point during a presentation, a lady told me that she knew why Jesus appeared to the women first. “Why?” I asked. She said, “Because he wanted to get the story out!”)
In light of these embarrassing details—along with the fact that the New Testament documents contain early, eyewitness testimony for which the writers gave their lives—it takes more faith to believe that the New Testament writers were not telling the truth.
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org
What are your most embarrassing moments? You don’t want to admit them. And if you do admit them, you certainly won’t add to your shame by inventing embarrassing moments about yourself to make you look even worse. Who’s going to lie to make himself look bad? People will lie to make themselves look good (especially politicians), but no one will lie to make himself look bad.
That’s why when historical accounts contain events embarrassing to the authors (or heroes of the authors) those events are probably true. Historians call this the principle of embarrassment, and it’s one reason why I think the writers of the Bible are telling the truth. There are far too many embarrassing details about the supposed heroes of the faith to be invented.
Just take a look at the Old Testament storyline. There’s little chance the Jews would have invented it. A story invented by Hebrews would more likely depict the Israelites as a noble and upright people. But the Old Testament writers don’t say this. Instead they depict their own people as sinful and fickle slaves who, time after time, are miraculously rescued by God, but who abandon him every chance they get. For example, after witnessing miracle after miracle that frees them from slavery in Egypt, they can’t resist worshiping the Golden Calf when Moses spends a few extra nights on the mountain. Talk about ungrateful folks with short memories! (We seem to suffer from this in America too).
The Old Testament writers record a Hebrew history filled with bone-headed disobedience, distrust, and selfishness. Their leaders are all world-class sinners, including Moses (a murderer), Saul (a paranoid egomaniac), David (an adulterer, liar, and murderer), and Solomon (a serial polygamist). These are supposed to be the “chosen people”—the ones through which God brings the Savior of the world? Yes, and the Old Testament writers admit that the ancestors of this Messiah include deeply sinful characters such as David and Solomon and even a non-Hebrew prostitute named Rahab. This is clearly not an invented storyline!
While the Old Testament tells of one embarrassing gaffe after another, most other ancient historians avoid even mentioning unflattering historical events. For example, there’s been nothing found in the records of Egypt about the Exodus, leading some critics to suggest the event never occurred. But what do the critics expect? Peter Fineman imagines what a press release from Pharaoh might say:
“A spokesman for Rameses the great, Pharaoh of Pharaohs, supreme ruler of Egypt, son of Ra, before whom all tremble in awe blinded by his brilliance, today announced that the man Moses had kicked his royal butt for all the world to see, thus proving that God is Yahweh and the 2,000-year-old-culture of Egypt is a lie. Film at 11:00.”
Of course no press secretary for Pharaoh would admit such an event if he wanted to keep his head! The Egyptian silence on the Exodus is understandable.
By contrast, when the Egyptians scored a military victory, they went to press and exaggerated greatly. This is apparent from the oldest known reference to Israel outside the Bible. It comes from a granite monument found in the funerary temple of Pharaoh Merneptah in Thebes. The monument boasts about the military victory of the Pharaoh in the highlands of Canaan, claiming that “Israel is laid waste, his seed is not.” Historians date the battle to 1207 B.C., which confirms that Israel was in the land by that time. We know this account is exaggerated because, as history attests, Israel was not laid waste. Its seed lived on and sprouted into a great empire under David 200 years later. And its seed lives on to this day more than 3,200 years later.
How does the New Testament measure up to the principle of embarrassment? While embarrassing testimony is alone not enough to ensure historical reliability—early, eyewitness testimony is also necessary (which the New Testament has)—the principle of embarrassment is even more pronounced in the New Testament. The people who wrote down much of the New Testament are characters (or friends of characters) in the story, and they often depict themselves in an extremely unflattering light. Their claims are not likely to be invented.
Let’s put it this way: If you and your manly friends were concocting a story that you wanted to pass off as the truth, would you make yourselves look like dim-witted, uncaring, rebuked, doubting cowards who ran away at the first sign of trouble while the women were the brave ones who remained faithful? No way! But that’s exactly what we find in the New Testament. That’s one reason why I don’t have enough faith to believe that the New Testament tells an invented story.
I’ll highlight some of the New Testament’s more embarrassing details in the next column—even a few details that some could interpret as embarrassing to Jesus. In the meantime, you can find a cumulative case for God and Christianity in the book from which this column is adapted: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.