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Author Lee Strobel on ‘The Case for Christ,’ now a movie

Tribune reporter Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) continues his investigative report on the claims of Christianity, and examines the Shroud of Turin in “The Case for Christ,” coming to theaters in Spring 2017. Photo courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment
Best-selling author, Lee Strobel, right, and writer, Brian Bird on set of "The Case for Christ," coming to theaters April 7, 2017. Photo courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment

Best-selling author, Lee Strobel, right, and writer, Brian Bird on set of “The Case for Christ,” coming to theaters April 7, 2017. Photo courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment

(RNS) In the early 1980s, Lee Strobel, an atheist and legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, decided to investigate the facts surrounding the case for Christianity — largely to discredit the faith after his wife converted.

He interviewed biblical scholars, medical doctors and psychologists; read history, philosophy and apologetics; studied archeology and ancient literature; and picked apart the Bible.

The result was the popular book, “The Case for Christ.” As he wrote in its introduction, “We can’t have absolute proof about virtually anything in life.” But in the case of Christianity’s claims about Jesus, his investigation persuaded him to believe.

Leslie and Lee Strobel on Sept. 16, 2015. Photo courtesy of Daniel Morrow

Leslie and Lee Strobel on Sept. 16, 2015. Photo courtesy of Daniel Morrow

Now, “The Case for Christ” has been turned into a movie – set for release by the Christian movie studio Pure Flix Entertainment on April 7.

While someone who read the book about Strobel’s investigation might expect a documentary, it is instead “a compelling personal story and a love story” focused on the investigation itself, its impact on his relationships with his wife and other family members, and on how it led him to become a Christian, said the author. He is now a teaching pastor at Woodlands Church in Texas and Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University.

“It has both head and heart,” he said. “I think that’s the magic of this film. It isn’t just about the head and the evidence — it’s the heart, it’s a personal story, it’s the personal relationships involved.”

Strobel talked to RNS about the investigation that launched a series of apologetics books and now this film. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did your training and experience as a journalist apply to investigating the claims of Christianity?

It fit very well. Christianity is unusual among religions: It invites investigation. The apostle Paul said if this isn’t true, then you’re fully justified (in walking away from the faith). Just as you would investigate any historical issues, Christianity makes claims in history – that Jesus lived, that he died, that he returned from the dead – and those things can be checked out historically.

So I found my law background – I have a Master’s degree in Studies in Law from Yale – and my journalism background really helped investigate these issues.

Was there a single most compelling piece of evidence you encountered in your investigation?

It was really a cumulative case. It was two years of looking into the resurrection – the minutiae of historical documents, archaeology, ancient history – and really trying to come to grips with whether this is credible. So it was kind of a journey where each piece of evidence added to the case.

If it was anything, though, it was the resurrection that was the key.

What was it like to see that investigation on film, not as a documentary but as a drama?

Tribune reporter Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) continues his investigative report on the claims of Christianity, and examines the Shroud of Turin in “The Case for Christ,” coming to theaters in Spring 2017. Photo courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment

Tribune reporter Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) continues his investigative report on the claims of Christianity, and examines the Shroud of Turin in “The Case for Christ,” coming to theaters in Spring 2017. Photo courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment

It was difficult in some ways because it’s a very honest film. … It tells the story of an atheist who lives a very immoral and drunken and profane and narcissistic life, and that was uncomfortable to have that side of me portrayed on screen, but because it is ultimately a story about redemption and hope and forgiveness and grace, it makes it all worthwhile. It was hard to see some of those scenes about my early life portrayed, but in the end, I think it’s important that the film be open and honest.

How much of the film is true to life, and how much were creative liberties taken?

There are scenes that are just verbatim from our marriage. There’s one argument that we have in the film that just sends chills down my spine because I remember what a jerk I was in the midst of this whole thing.

In order to tell this story, which takes place over two years, they had to do some time shifting, they had to do some composite characters, so you can tell the story in 90 minutes. So there are some departures from what actually occurred, but it’s all based on the true story, and, I think, very compelling as a result.

Did that drive you nuts as a former journalist? Were you fact checking the script?

I was constantly saying, “Wait a minute, which word did we use back then?” The movie takes place in 1980, so we had to kind of go back in memory to remember what life was like then. Of course, we all dressed bad.

Some of the great scholars (who I had interviewed) like Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Gary Habermas are portrayed in the film by actors. They sure got a kick out of that. These very starched academics wanted to know who was playing them and make sure the script was accurate and so forth – quite understandable.

Actor Mike Vogel portrays Lee Strobel in "The Case for Christ," in theaters April 7, 2017. Photo courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment

Actor Mike Vogel portrays Lee Strobel in “The Case for Christ,” in theaters April 7, 2017. Photo courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment

There’s been a lot of discussion about how much people trust the media and how it portrays Christians. Is this something you’ve seen change since the ‘80s, and if you undertook this investigation now, do you think it would turn out the same?

I think the evidence for the Christian faith is clear and compelling. I found it persuasive, so I don’t think that’s changed.

The media has changed. Christianity – well, the culture has changed. People are more indifferent toward faith than they were back then. There’s more hostility toward faith than there was back then and more conflict as a result, but I think people these days, because of that, are looking for an anchor in their lives. They’re looking for something that transcends the shifting sands of the culture and has a foundation that’s firm and secure, and I think that’s true of Christianity. I think it becomes ever more relevant. The historical data for the life and teachings and death and resurrection of Jesus are all the more relevant today than ever.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

65 Comments

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  • A good and honest interview and ought to be considered thoughtfully by the most ardent skeptic. Strobel and Habermas are among the most incisive and reasoned apologists for the historicity of the declarations of the Gospels. Period.

  • Re “…Lee Strobel, an atheist…, decided to investigate the facts surrounding the case for Christianity — largely to discredit the faith after his wife converted.”:

    Mr. Strobel’s words indicate that, at that time, he did not respect those whose beliefs differed from his.

    Now that he has changed his beliefs, I hope he has also changed his attitude toward other-believers.

  • Did I miss it, or was there a shred of historicity in this article? If one is to say his believe comes more from his heart than his head, is it not just a restatement of faith, not a “case”.

  • Going by what Jesus Christ and His 1st apostles and disciples had taught about living faith by word and deed, I can see how the following can be taken as living proof that Lee Strobel is NOT a man of such faith after all.  And so, there goes Evangelicalism through the window – yet again!  Thanks, Lee Strobel!  Because, I take it that for people like him, poor rich guy, evidence comes 1st, then faith, being secondary to it, follows – and all that upon the initial hearing of the gospel of salvation through the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  That’s not how it works, however, God’s grace-based, living faith, I mean – at least not according to Jesus Christ and His 1st apostles and disciples as per the gospels, epistles and revelation.  No, sir, Lee Strobel.  I won’t recommend “The Case for Christ” to anyone, neither the book nor this movie, because of your profession of evidentiary faith as follows:

    “My definition of faith is a step of trust we take in the same direction the evidence is pointing. It’s important that our trust is based on a rational understanding of what the evidence is in support of what we believe. … the central core of Christianity is well supported by historical data. … So if it is true that Jesus claimed to be the son of God, and I believe there’s good historical evidence that he did, and if it is true that he authenticated that claim by returning from the dead, and again, I think there’s good evidence that he did, then I think he’s qualified as an expert in the area of the afterlife. … everybody agreed in the ancient world that the tomb of Jesus was empty. The question is, how did it get empty? The Christians claimed that Jesus returned from the dead. The counterclaim was presented that the disciples stole the body, even though they lacked motive and an opportunity. I don’t think that’s credible. … I don’t think they … would make the false claim that Jesus returned from the dead because it meant that they would suffer and die for that claim. I don’t think people are generally willing to knowingly and willingly die for a lie. … Also, you have the added feature of the empty tomb being discovered by women. Women in first-century Jewish culture were not given credibility in a court of law; their testimony was not considered reliable. So why [do the gospel writers] say that women discovered the tomb empty, even though it hurts their case in the view of their audience? I believe it’s because they were trying to accurately record what actually took place. … (In 1 Corinthians 15:3 and following) the apostle Paul preserves for us a creed that was recited by the earliest Christians that contains the fundamentals of Christianity-that Jesus died, why? For our sin. That he was buried, that he was resurrected on the third day. This creed has been dated back by scholars from a wide range of theological beliefs to as early as 2-3 years after the life of Jesus.  Here is a creed that emerges so quickly that it couldn’t have been the product of legendary development. [It’s] not the product of people over long periods of time attributing things to Jesus that didn’t really happen.  … I think belief in the resurrection is warranted by the evidence. … I would say if the evidence of history points toward a supernatural event like the resurrection, we ought to be willing to consider that possibility. … I want to spend my life helping other people see the evidence for the resurrection, that they too may experience … a 180-degree life change … to (their) days as a Christian.” (Lee Strobel, Beliefnet, 2005/05)

  • The source for my comment after yours is Beliefnet from their interview with Lee Strobel in 2005. Sorry to disappoint you, but his replies to the kind of queries you’re making are essentially, nope.

  • Whatever for. Yet another sign Evangelicals are bored to tears now by the very gospels, epistles and revelation that once upon a time had turned them into born-again Christians. Return to your 1st love, brothers & sisters in Messiah!

  • Interviewer didn’t take him to his usual comfort zone filled with historicity this, historicity that. Skeptics unconvinced. Strobel is typical apologist, pre-packaging all unquestioned beliefs into research paradigms, hypotheses, methodologies, etc. Subjective, biased, through and through. Skeptics aren’t his target. Evangelicals are. Just as this is not a Hollywood blockbuster or an Indie; it’s just Evangelicals filming Evangelicalism.

  • Respecting each individual and their right to their beliefs is critical in a free society but there is no requirement to respect the beliefs themselves.

  • So then there’s no case for Christ, outside of one’s faith? This is fine with me, I just don’t understand why believers can’t accept that it’s just faith, and continue to try to suggest that there is a factual basis underlying the mythology.

  • I strongly suspect that Strobel, who was already a writer/editor, had an epiphany many years ago whereby he realized that he could convert a claimed conversion to Christianity into a highly lucrative career. He apparently discovered the reality of how Christians crave hearing stories from people claiming to be atheists who have converted to Christianity.

  • The issue is respecting each other’s spiritual/existential boundaries — and soundly and roundly rejecting each other’s violations of those boundaries.

    Mr. Stobel, in his original intent “to discredit the faith”, implicitly asserts, “My belief is right and your belief is wrong”. Though he later changed his belief, the article gives no indication that he changed his implicit assertion.

    The assertion itself is the problem. Whether expressed by an atheist or a theist, it’s nothing but an otherizing demand to “put up your dukes”. It’s a manipulation, specific to unprovable beliefs, that deliberately distracts from the otherwise obvious alternative: Coexistence. Mutual respect. Compassion. Wisdom. The humble, humbling truth that good fences make good neighbors.

    It’s apparently something that few people want to even consider considering these days.

  • Alright, I see where you’re going with this, 24601Ind.  Here’s a straight answer from people like me, who only go by the Messianic gospels, epistles and revelation for being the witnessed confirmations of the fulfillment of the Messianic law, psalms and prophecies.  To your very good question, “So then there’s no case for Christ, outside of one’s faith?” (which, as you seem to appreciate, is what Lee Strobel, copycat-ing past apologeticians, tries to do) – the answer is no.  And I wonder with you, too, when you say, “I just don’t understand why believers can’t accept that it’s just faith” – provided you first take out that word there, “just”.  You see where I’m going with this now, right?  Because, you’ll never appreciate the power of any religion if you’ve pre-decided to treat it as “just faith”, and therefore “just” a “mythology”, and therefore “just” truth-claims without “a factual basis”.  But let’s assume you’re now serious about not “just” any religion but about one faith in particular, whose sole precondition of existence and whose raison d’etre are God and His saving grace toward people and the rest of creation, about Whom and which, respectively, countless testimonies after testimonies have been recorded in the Messianic gospels, epistles and revelation and, before that, in the Messianic law, psalms and prophecies.  Then in that case, I suggest you start with the Origin and Destiny of such faith.  Namely, the God and Father of the Messiah of Israel and savior of the rest of the world, Jesus Christ, who’ve chosen to reveal Himself not by means of historically and scientifically verifiable data, but instead – go figure God! – only to the characters in the Messianic gospels, epistles and revelation and, before that, in the Messianic law, psalms and prophecies.  Please go there, 24601Ind, and I guarantee you He’ll reveal Himself to you, too.  But only there, mind.  Not to where Lee Strobel the blind is leading his blind audience these days, i.e. to the “factual basis” of an evidence-based Christianity – but only there, i.e. the testimonial basis of the God’s-grace-based faith in Jesus Christ.

  • Not a Lee Strobel fan, but trust me, (1) there are genuine atheist-turned-believer conversions and transformations out there, including one friend of mine; (2) even the angels “crave hearing stories from atheists who have converted … to Christ(…).”

  • A la Christopher Hitchens and ilk all over again. Not working. And he too makes loads of cash like Lee Strobel, FYI.

  • Go to World Net Daily or John Hagee’s rallies and they’ll agree with you. Yet I and so many Christians disagree with them. Ironic, isn’t it?

  • I am happy to remove the word “just” from my post. I was raised Catholic, and so I am quite familiar with the Bible. I might call myself a Jeffersonian Catholic now, being someone who can appreciate “love you neighbor” and “judge not lest you be judged” and “whatsoever you do for the least of these….”, but does not accept the divine or miraculous. Thanks for the dialogue.

  • I sense that you won’t change your position. Neither will I. So what do we do now?

    Agree to disagree? Check. Live and let live? Check. Don’t say coexistence? Check. As an all-over-again member of the Ilks Club, I have enjoyed not working with you.

    Now, if I could only make loads of cash…

  • If you want your beliefs to be respected, have respectable beliefs.

    Anti gay Christianity, anti Semitic Christianity. Pro segregation Christianity– none of these are respectable.

  • “Because, you’ll never appreciate the power of any religion if you’ve pre-decided to treat it as “just faith”, and therefore “just” a “mythology”, and therefore “just” truth-claims without “a factual basis”.”

    If you truly understood why you reject every faith but your own, you’d understand why I reject yours as well. The greatest argument against the “truth” of your faith is the “truth” of every other faith out there.

  • Good grief. I read this book back in the day, and even then I thought it was ‘apologetics lite’ written for an audience unlikely to ask too many questions. Any kind of critical analysis reduces it to what it really is – a book about what convinced Mr. Strobel. I was not then impressed, and now…well, let’s just say I think it’s a silly book.

  • I agree with you, 24601Ind – and let no Evangelical like Lee Strobel tell you differently – there’s a super-nice word for scientifically unverifiable supernatural events.  Call them “the … miraculous”, why not.  But here’s the stumbling block to understanding “the … miraculous”; even Lee Strobel, even Catholic mystics, even rationalists, even you fell for it.  It was a manipulative trick (but in a good way), you see, on Jesus’ and His Father’s and His 1st apostles’ parts for resorting to “the … miraculous” in the first place.  All they ever wanted out of “the … miraculous” was for people experiencing “the … miraculous” (healing, mass feeding, resurrection, walking on water, etc.) to come to believe and receive God’s ransoming Fatherly love through the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of His own Son, Jesus Christ.  But most of them didn’t end up as Jesus’ believers and followers.  The thing is that actually was the way Jesus and His Father and His 1st apostles really had wanted it.  Their thinking was, What?  You people expect Us to embrace you into Our fellowship on account of the consumable benefits (health, nutrition, eternal life, constancy) of “the … miraculous” – even though you refuse to believe and receive God’s ransoming Fatherly love through the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of His own Son, Jesus Christ?  No way!  Get outta ‘ere!  So that was the tragedy of the gospel of “the … miraculous”.  At least, though, they had no issue with “the … miraculous” as means but only with its accountable and binding message as ends.  Which makes you most pity-deserving of all.  Because you neither accept “the … miraculous” as the means of the gospel, nor for the intended end-result of the good news of salvation!

  • Which proves the hypothesis that the intended audience is the Evangelical community, “to tickle their ears” and cause them to stumble away from Jesus, who said so Himself that it’d happen to the Elect once comprising Catholics, Orthodoxed, Coptics and Protestants. “Silly”, this? Try “foredoomed”!

  • And you know the proverb on atheists, don’t you? Once you take out the origin (God), there’s nothing left – and that’s a good thing?! C’mon, atheists, that’s not making good use of reasoning! You’re being foolish!

  • Ilk is not PC now? I didn’t mean to pigeon-hole you or put you down. Just that the atheist-vs-theist debate has become stupider and stupider. Classic stupid was between Christopher Hitchens and Progressive Baptist Al Sharpton.

  • “The greatest argument against the ‘truth’ of your faith is the ‘truth’ of every other faith out there.”. Profound. Just so not true or “truth”-ful, sorry. Wash Rinse Repeat.

  • The origin? You assume it’s the christian god, No evidence for that, except faith. Could just as easily be brahma, allah, Zeus, Odin, or Koschei the Deathless, who is my nominee, because He Made Things As They Are.

    Nothing left? Just reality. Do you need more than reality? I’m moral without a god. So I don’t need him for that. My life has meaning without a god. So I don’t need him for that.

  • Sounds like a harrowing portrayal of a man’s descent into madness. Disturbing films of that sort don’t usually perform well at the box office, but maybe this one will be an exception.

  • Yes, it was the pigeonholing to which I reacted, coupled with my personal experience of never having heard “ilk” used for any other purpose (let alone a complimentary one), and now reinforced by your use of “stupid” and “stupider” — weaponized words which disrespect, disparage, and dismiss prior dialog while discouraging further exchanges with the feigned force of a judge’s gavel.

    It happens that I reject presumptuous dismissiveness every bit as much as I advocate mutual respect. Summarily suppressing others’ views merely affirms the hackneyed holeyness of the aforementioned “My belief is right and your belief is wrong”. It reeks of elitist hypocrisy: spiritual/existential beliefs are, by definition, subjective and unprovable. It inevitably leads to engagement in “moral” combat until one side is either subjugated or dead. And, once again, it avoids and distracts from the all-too-obvious alternative: coexistence of beliefs, and of believers.

    Of course, we’re both just recycling our ideas. Enjoy your position, as I do mine.

  • Not sure I understand what you’re getting at here, but I agree that the primary audience was religious and likely ‘Evangelical.’ It’s hard to imagine any non-believer falling for the weak presentation in that book, but I suppose it depends on how credulous they are in general.

  • Well, from a cosmic perspective there’s nothing there to begin with, but from a human perspective there is. It’s called life. Broadly speaking, we can hardly help but assign some measure of value & meaning to it. Does it make us fools to do so? Sure. But no more foolish than the believer who invents a god to fill the space.

  • I put (God) in brackets to emphasize not God but origin. Being foolish here is not that you take out God whom you don’t believe exists anyway but that you take out the origin of everything, not just the theory of everything, but the origin of all there is – and I dare say, whatever that origin is. I call it God, yes, the God and Father of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; and you call it, let’s see, what did you say it is? … “life”. No, no, no, you’ve taken that out too, this “life”, because you’ve taken out the origin, which in this case you call “life”. You’re foolish to take out the origin, whether or not you call it “life”. Foolish because then there’s no God, there’s no life, no nothing! Foolish for living “life” with no origin of “life”. Ergo also foolish to say origin of “life” is “life” itself. Look, I’m not a logician, rationalist, but I know you get my gist, J.C. Samuelson.

  • The origin of what you call “reality” can’t be “reality” itself. It’s like saying the origin of Ben in Oakland is – tada! – Ben in Oakland himself. No can do. Like I said to J.C. Samuelson just now, it’s not so much you’re taking out God but that you’re taking out the origin of everything – of “life” he says, of “reality” you say. The origin of anything and everything is uniquely exclusive, whatever that is, but it has to be pre-anything and pre-everything. Who can conceive, perceive such phenomenon? Who can identify the pre-identifiable? What means of science and philosophy can serve as an instrument for the purposes of identifying the pre-identifiable? None exists, and none will ever exist. Therefore, I know this is getting into crazy talk, the pre-identifiable must identify itself in order to be known by the smartest people like yourself, Ben in Oakland. Has your pre-reality “reality” done that for you? Give me a break! How, pray tell?

  • “The origin of what you call “reality” can’t be “reality” itself.” Who says?
    You want god to be eternal, to have created the universe, because the universe could not create itself. Again, who says? But your god can always have existed, and could not have created itself. You say both statements, but they really just are the same statement.
    Just like your defined god, reality has always existed. See, I can say it, too.
    Neither of us has any proof. The difference is, I’m not insisting I am right, though I think I am more likely to be. But even if your argument actually proved the necessary existence of a god, you cannot prove that it is the Jewish God, allah, the Christian God, or the three in one Christian God. Or any of the other thousands of gods, great and small. To prove it, you would require evidence.
    Cite your holy book? Other people have them, and of greater antiquity. Cite your prophecies? Other people have them, every bit as vague. Cite your visions and miracles? Ditto.
    Moreover, you yourself have claimed that the very need for evidence is the exact opposite of what your faith is about.
    You can’t have it both ways.

  • I ilke you already!

    So: Putting apology into non-dismissive action here, G Key.

    (1) “Mr. Strobel … did not respect those (like his wife) whose beliefs differed from his.”  To which I must say, disrespect was the least of his problem at the time.  He was having a crisis of un-faith as an atheist triggered by his wife’s, let’s just say, new found faith.  That’s good.  So why’s that bad to you, G Key?

    (2) “Mr. Stobel … asserts, ‘My belief is right and your belief is wrong’. … The assertion itself is the problem (which) deliberately distracts from the otherwise obvious alternative: Coexistence. Mutual respect. Compassion. … good fences make good neighbors. … I reject presumptuous dismissiveness every bit as much as I advocate mutual respect … the all-too-obvious alternative: coexistence of beliefs, and of believers.”  To which I must say, philosophy and ethics of coexistence don’t work for the following reasons:

    (2.1) “Coexistence is a myth. Instead, a war for world domination is raging between radical Islam, secularism, and Judeo-Christianity” (Robert Stearns, CBN News, April 21, 2013)  “Coexistence does not allow for a dominant culture. … Coexistence is not what everyone wants. … Coexistence denies a Higher authority.” (Robert Stearns, No We Can’t: Radical Islam, Militant Secularism and the Myth of Coexistence, Baker Publishing Group, 2011)

    (2.2) “Orientalist Róbert Simon has claimed that the coexistence of Islam and democracy is impossible … ‘There is no way Islam and democracy can work together … As contiguous and coherent ideologies, liberalism, democracy and socialism also preclude fundamental characteristics of Islam. … Islam … cannot take democratic shapes and the theocratic community, due to the form of rule, cannot take democratic shapes. This is a vicious circle, behind which is the unique character of Islam’.” (Hungary Today, Aug 11, 2016)

  • Movies made by Religious Right activists are terrible for the same reason North Korean movies are terrible: both are made to enforce political correctness. The two “God’s Not dead” movies were awful and this looks like another one. The best “Christian” movie ever, from about 1969, was “The Gospel According to Matthew” by an Italian communist director, was mostly an abridged verbatim telling of the Bible book. The actor playing Christ was a scraggly hippie and the rest of the actors resembled Mafiosos. Still it was faithful to the original message. Nothing right-wing filmmakers have produced in this era even comes close.

  • To be clear, HpO, I support theism. I recognize that religious beliefs provide significant benefits such as hope, comfort, strength, belonging, and structure to billions of people. The fact that I personally don’t believe in deity is strictly that: my own personal belief.

    (1) If Mr. Strobel respects other-believers and their beliefs (i.e., not disparaging them, not presuming to trump their beliefs, and not attempting to subject them to his own freely chosen beliefs), then I have no problem with him at all. My issue is not his beliefs; I’m only concerned with recognizing and respecting others’ spiritual/existential boundaries — as anyone would have others respect one’s own.

    (2.1) I oppose the opponents of coexistence, and reject claims that coexistence is impossible and/or undesirable. I condemn efforts to dismiss or “disprove” others’ theistic or atheistic beliefs. And I vehemently condemn militant antitheists and antiatheists who presume themselves worthy (if not righteous) to trespass across others’ personal boundaries and hold those strangers to their own beliefs.

    (2.2) Regarding Mr. Simon’s statements, I think he neglects the impact of Islam’s diversity in schools of thought and interpretations of the Qur’an and Hadith, as so well demonstrated by countless Muslim individuals and groups all over the world.

    FYI, I care more about how people treat each other — and their beliefs — than anything else. My principal guiding values are Equality, Respect, Empathy, and their essential corollary, Familiarity (“Getting to Know You”). I focus on cultural, spiritual, and political traditions that teach “Us” to subordinate “Them”. I point out how we get society to take a hard look at them while we do the trespassing. And my personal pet peeve is how we treat others when “We decide their stories” can’t possibly be true.

    I believe that invading other people’s lives and vandalizing their beliefs, etc., is the actual “vicious [emphasis] circle” — humanity’s metaphysical curse, if you will. And I believe that, should an apocalyptic “Armageddon” ever occur, it will be a battle not between These-believers and Those-believers, but rather between Respecters of others’ beliefs and Trespassers against others’ beliefs.

  • Let’s not be equivocal. Life, as I meant it, includes two very simple premises. First, that we are merely a form of life existing on one tiny planet in a vast cosmos. Second, that we are consciously aware of this existence; we have the capacity to perceive ourselves and evaluate our condition. How we came to be and evolved as we did is a question we, using the methods of science, continue to explore. But in no sense does life, for me, mean anything remotely suggestive of any mystical source or life force, which is what you seem to infer from (or project on) what I said. Hence, I’ve neither added nor removed anything.

    Here’s what I think: We are an accident of nature; a contingency. We did not have to be, and one day will cease to be, both on an individual level and species level. We are no more or less valuable to the cosmos than any other object, living or dead. The cosmos is utterly indifferent. We, however, are not, and we are the origin of all values as we know them. Other species on other planets that may exist may have similar or equivalent systems of value. Or they may not. Maybe we’re the only self-conscious species in the universe. We may never know, but whatever the case may be, we are supremely foolish to believe our beliefs have any bearing on what really is (or may be). Waxing equivocal or postmodern may grant temporary feelings of intellectual superiority, but it’s really just another way of tricking ourselves into believing in belief.

  • A beloved relative gave me the book. I read the first couple of chapters, picked randomly here and there through it a bit, then put it on the shelf… while wondering why my relative would insult my intelligence like that.

    Hans Küng’s “Does God Exist? An Answer For Today” (1980) was much more fun and I learned a lot while reading it, though I don’t think either of them would persuade the unbeliever.

  • Look, Ben in Oakland, no “argument” – not even by going back to origins – will ever have it “proved the necessary existence of … the Christian God”. I’ve made that perfectly clear, I thought; which you do remember me saying, “the very need for evidence is the exact opposite of what … faith is about.” My only hope is you won’t ever give up on exploring origins, that’s all.

    And I’m glad you affirm, “I’m not insisting I am right, though I think I am more likely to be.” Which, as I’ve similarly told J.C. Samuelson, is always a good sign that this conversation has come to an end. If Lee Strobel were me, he’d say the opposite, of course, that the conversation is just getting a bit more interesting for you and him, from which point he’d exit the boundaries of the living gospel faith and enter into the Twilight Zone of evidence-based Christianity. Which I’ll never do. With him, with you, with whoever. And so I accept defeat. Congratulations, Ben in Oakland. I welcome your closing statement next, of course.

    Jesus accepted many, many defeats like this one, did you know that? The difference is I’m not a judge of people, whereas He is. And so only He could get away with ending His conversations with fellow Jews who had just defeated Him in one encounter or another, by calling them: “O faithless and perverse generation” (Matthew 17:17 and Luke 9:41). Or just, “O faithless generation” (Mark 9:19). That says it all for Jesus, so figure that one out about Him, please, Ben in Oakland. Like, why? Was He being such a bad loser after having been defeated by fellow Jews in, say, a debate? Then why place such a high premium on faith, instead of, say, evidence? Why “O faithless generation”? Why not “O evidence-suppressing generation”?

  • Highlighting here only ultimate-like statements from you, J.C. Samuelson, if I may:

    “we have the capacity to perceive ourselves and evaluate our condition. … We … one day will cease to be, both on an individual level and species level. … we are the origin of all values as we know them.”

    And that’s what I was looking for from you: “origin” as in “we are the origin of all values as we know them.” And that’s as far as you’re willing to go to get to the “origin”. Nothing beyond it. Impossible, inconceivable. Which, as I’ve similarly told Ben in Oakland, is always a good sign that this conversation has come to an end. If Lee Strobel were me, he’d say the opposite, of course, that the conversation is just getting a bit more interesting for you and him, from which point he’d exit the boundaries of the living gospel faith and enter into the Twilight Zone of evidence-based Christianity. Which I’ll never do. With him, with you, with whoever. And so I accept defeat. Congratulations, J.C. Samuelson. I welcome your closing statement next, of course.

    Jesus accepted many, many defeats like this one, did you know that? The difference is I’m not a judge of people, whereas He is. And so only He could get away with ending His conversations with fellow Jews who had just defeated Him in one encounter or another, by calling them: “O faithless and perverse generation” (Matthew 17:17 and Luke 9:41). Or just, “O faithless generation” (Mark 9:19). That says it all for Jesus, so figure that one out about Him, please, J.C. Samuelson. Like, why? Was He being such a bad loser after having been defeated by fellow Jews in, say, a debate? Then why place such a high premium on faith, instead of, say, evidence? Why “O faithless generation”? Why not “O evidence-suppressing generation”?

  • G Key, I think you already know this. If Jesus’ followers are to be, as you wish, “only concerned with recognizing and respecting others’ personal, spiritual, existential boundaries — as anyone would have others respect one’s own”, then there’ll be no evangelism, no teaching, no admonition, no rebuke, no renewing of the minds unto the mind of Christ – hence no Kingdom of God on earth! Not a very good idea, G Key.

    Curious, though, about this stunning prediction of yours: “I believe that, should an apocalyptic ‘Armageddon’ ever occur, it will be a battle not between these-believers and those-believers, but rather between Respecters of others’ beliefs and Trespassers against others’ beliefs.” So who’s who there? In your view, which scientific, philosophical or religious groups or individuals today are such “Respecters” or “Trespassers”? And how does their clash end up in “an apocalyptic ‘Armageddon'”? What will happen?

  • Regarding “If Jesus’ followers are to be, as you wish, “only concerned with recognizing and respecting others’ personal, spiritual, existential boundaries…”:

    Although you misconstrued my statement — I said, “My issue is not [Mr. Strobel’s] beliefs; I’m only concerned with recognizing and respecting others’ spiritual/existential boundaries…”; and I hardly “wish” that my issue were Christians’ “only” (Wow!!!) concern — I still want to respond to the conclusion you posited, and to your very good questions that followed, so…

    – – – – –

    Regarding “…then there’ll be no evangelism, no teaching, no admonition, no rebuke, no renewing of the minds unto the mind of Christ…”:

    Yes!

    Instead of “evangelizing” to me, you would invite me, unintrusively, via mass media, open houses, multi-faith fairs, etc., to learn about your faith. Better yet, each of us in turn would ask the other — without any motive beyond sincere, openminded curiosity, and without unsolicited critique or comment — what we believe, and why, and how our respective beliefs affect our lives, etc.; and then each of us in turn would respectfully, attentively listen, appreciating each others’ answers, savoring each one for what it is: a rare taste of another soul’s ambrosia.

    Instead of “teaching” me, you would respect my own cherished spiritual/ existential space, as you would have me respect yours — and as you would indeed see me respect yours.

    Instead of “admonishing” me, you would be joyful and relieved in the knowledge that each of us has found our own answers to our most profound questions.

    Instead of “rebuking” me — put that shoe on the other foot, and you will immediately recognize it for what it is: blasphemy, profanity, sacrilege, violation of inviolate beliefs, demanding respect while denying it to the rebuked — instead of doing that, you would celebrate and live by your own beliefs, while delighting in the knowledge that I also celebrate and live by my own beliefs.

    And, instead of presumptuously, dismissively, invasively attempting to “renew” my quite personal, even more proprietary, and equally rightful mind “unto the mind of” your “Christ”, you would respect my privacy, my beliefs, and my space, and you would realize that our respective metaphysical answers don’t compete or even conflict — because each of us would hold only ourselves to our own beliefs; each of us would subject only ourselves to our own belief’s regulations, responsibilities, and restrictions; each of us would confine our own beliefs to our own metaphorical yards inside our own good-neighbor fences; and each of us would understand and appreciate that the streets beyond our yards are neither ours nor one-way.

    – – – – –

    Regarding “this stunning prediction of” mine:

    It’s merely a stunningly obvious prediction, to me.

    Take us, for example: How are you treating me and my beliefs? You’re dismissing them with “…hence no Kingdom of God on earth! Not a very good idea, G Key.” You’re treading on my beliefs and trying to pave them over with your own. You’re using the very assertion I cited as so problematic in my response to Jim Johnson: “My belief is right and your belief is wrong.”

    This same unnecessarily and artificially competitive, immorally subordinating, couldn’t-be-more-dismissive assertion has relentlessly, unwaveringly, inevitably led to conflict, violence, persecution, and war, endlessly throughout history, regardless of who the opposing parties are, and — most salient to your questions — regardless of what their respective beliefs are.

    Again, put the shoe on the other foot: If I arrogantly told you, “My belief is right and your belief is wrong,” would you rather switch than fight?

    – – – – –

    Regarding “So who’s who there? In your view, which scientific, philosophical or religious groups or individuals today are such ‘Respecters’ or ‘Trespassers’? And how does their clash end up in ‘an apocalyptic “Armageddon” ‘?”:

    By “Respecter”, I mean one who respects others’ spiritual/existential boundaries. By “Trespasser”, I mean one who trespasses upon and across those boundaries.

    These definitions inform my belief that the Bible’s Armageddon would be a global escalation of the conflict between those who believe faith is subject to personal boundaries and those who believe personal boundaries are subject not just to faith — but to one’s own specific faith.

    I believe such an Armageddon could occur as a result of one with tremendous authority and power — a self-indulgent, self-righteous, self-serving, self-exalted Trespasser, backed by a world-class military — decreeing whose beliefs are right and whose are wrong, and directing executive, legislative, judicial, military, political, religious, corporate, and cultural actions to enforce that decree.

    Then everyone else on Earth would have to make a moral decision to line up as
    (a) Respecters, choosing equality, compassion, and mercy, defending all other Respecters (regardless of beliefs) against all Trespassers (regardless of beliefs); or
    (b) Trespassers, choosing enmity, contempt, and malice, attacking and killing others (both Respecters and Trespassers) just because they have differing beliefs.

    – – – – –

    Regarding “What will happen?”:

    I have no idea which side would triumph; I only know which side I’d choose. But I like to think that, should the Respecters win, the social unity of their most basic values would bring them together and guide them to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate to such a degree that they would accomplish stunning global achievements, in stunningly brief time frames, in all areas of human concern — achievements far beyond our wildest dreams of accomplishing under our current divisive, otherizing, competitive “Us vs. Them” worldview. This unification of humanity, focused on the common good, the health of our planet, and the exploration of what lies beyond, would be what I’d call “heaven on Earth”.

    – – – – –

    Of course, like everything else I’ve said, this is only what I personally believe. This is how I personally interpret and embrace the Golden Rule. And — stunning or not — this is why I personally would never think of treading on your beliefs and trying to pave them over with my own.

    – – – – –

    FYI, in case you’re interested, there is one kind of God I could imagine believing in (and whose existence would dovetail with my above-described “heaven on Earth”): A God whom humanity’s inhumanity drove away long ago; who nevertheless hopes (knows?) that we will eventually decide to treat each other, our beliefs, and our personal boundaries with mutual respect; who won’t come back until we make that decision as a global people who embrace collaboration among equals and reject competition between “Us” and “Them”; and who naturally, easily, lovingly understands — and would never abandon — the people who don’t believe in this God, who has been absent for ages… with perfectly good reason.

  • Why?

    Without faith, religion would have nothing to sell.

    Without fear, religion would have nothing to sell.

    Without death, religion would have nothing to sell.

    If I told you I was sleeping with your wife or husband, or that I had a unicorn in the garden, you would demand proof. But if I tell you that I understand the secrets of the entire universe, or that the creator of that universe has a message, well, that means that you just have to accept that.

    I’m not trying to “defeat” you, whatever that may mean. I’m really indifferent to faith itself, but not indifferent at all to how it is used as a weapon against other people. I have said many times on these very pages that I have no argument with faith itself; it’s just not something that I share. If your faith makes your life better and you a better person, I’m all for it.

    But the problem is, it doesn’t make many people better; it makes them worse. And those people use their faith to make the lives of other people worse. Whether it’s Muslims killing Christians killing Jews killing Muslims killing buddhists, or Christians attacking gay people, or Christians attacking other Christians for not being the right kind of Christian – it doesn’t make any difference.

  • G Key:

    (a) I should’ve clarified “the rules of engagement” that although evangelism involves believers, seekers and unbelievers, post-evangelism doesn’t. Only believers, mature and beginners, weak and strong, may engage in discipleship (teaching, admonition, rebuke, mind-renewal, fellowship, marriages, eldership). I appreciate your reflection on post-evangelism, but I can’t comment because unknowingly being an outsider and all, you weren’t applying those in-house “rules of engagement”.

    (b) Evangelism: From where you wrote “Instead of ‘evangelizing’ to me …” until “… a rare taste of another soul’s ambrosia”, I say, AGREED. I’ve been telling fellow believers that’s the way to go, but to no avail. Times have changed and this – essentially what you commented – is where it’s at, but to no avail. But here’s the downside for you, because all that still SOMEHOW has to be, from my side, evangelistic, gospel-oriented, Christ-centered in nature – but always germane to, going with the flow of, and in deference to, the ongoing DISCUSSION at hand. Most likely whatever you have to say serves as the starting point of the conversation, but I’ll do my best to bring attention to Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation through His crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

    (c) About what you wrote next – that “unnecessarily and artificially competitive, immorally subordinating, couldn’t-be-more-dismissive assertion has relentlessly, unwaveringly, inevitably led to conflict, violence, persecution, and war, endlessly throughout history, regardless of who the opposing parties are, and — most salient to your questions — regardless of what their respective beliefs are.” I must say, so not true. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt by asking you to prove it, please, in the 3 instances of the 9/11 of 2011, the JFK Assassination of 1963, and the Yugoslavia Civil War of 1999.

    (d) And about your “belief that the Bible’s Armageddon would be a global escalation of the conflict between (‘Respecters’) those who believe faith is subject to personal boundaries and (‘Trespassers’) those who believe personal boundaries are subject not just to faith — but to one’s own specific faith” – let’s go with that, then – “the Bible’s Armageddon”, which is mentioned or assumed in Isaiah 13:9, Joel 3:2, Zechariah 14:2-3, Revelation 16:14-16 and Revelation 20:8-10. Where in those pages in “the Bible” is such “Armageddon” as you’ve described it just now?

    (e) And this God of yours – the “one kind of God I could imagine believing in … A God … who … hopes (knows?) that we will eventually decide to treat each other, our beliefs, and our personal boundaries with mutual respect; who won’t come back until we make that decision as a global people who embrace collaboration among equals and reject competition between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’; and who naturally, easily, lovingly understands — and would never abandon — the people who don’t believe in this God, who has been absent for ages… with perfectly good reason” – how does this God make the God-self known to believers and unbelievers? How has this God been saving them from day to day and for all time? How has this God been forming fellowship among believers and unbelievers? Does this God love you but how do you love this God back?

  • Re (a) and (b): I appreciate your understanding and gracious responses, HpO. And I’ll give you a helpful hint about “…I’ll do my best to bring attention to Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation through His crucifixion, burial and resurrection.”: I believe it would be easier for both parties, and maybe even more successful for you, if you made a point (a necessarily painstaking one, speaking from my own experience) of prefacing those beliefs you want to share with “I believe [that]…” This explicit and respectful acknowledgement serves as a kind of “salve” upon the always tender and sometimes inflamed boundary between what you believe and what the other person believes.

    Re (c): …, Crusades, Inquisition, Salem, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler… I’m not suggesting that religious battles are never targeted toward Christians (or non-Christians), or that religious battles are always initiated by Christians (or non-Christians). On the contrary: I’m saying that, throughout history, both theists and nontheists of practically all metaphysical beliefs have waged war against both theists with differing beliefs and nontheists with differing beliefs. (I know, that’s a mouthful.) The common thread is not the content of the beliefs, whether Christian, other theistic, or nontheistic. Rather, the common thread is the intolerantly and intolerably aggressive premise that “My belief is right and your belief is wrong” — and the limitless permissions, from bullying to apocalyptic, that this premise grants the aggressor.

    Re (d): My bad. Instead of saying “the Bible’s Armageddon” (as well as “Armageddon” without qualification), I should have said, “a beliefs-based battle of the magnitude and finality described by the Bible in its ‘Armageddon’ prophecy.” As a respectful atheist, I would not presume to insert my narrative into Scripture. My intent was simply to answer your questions — in particular, “…how does their clash end up in ‘an apocalyptic “Armageddon” ‘?” — as best as I could, by drawing upon a familiar reference in order to describe my personal belief that an analogous beliefs-based battle, whether biblical or otherwise, could most certainly occur, given the right conditions.

    Re (e): The hypothetical God I describe is very different from the biblical God.

    (e1), “…how does this God make the God-self known to believers and unbelievers?”: This God would not communicate with humanity at all until humanity fixed its own aforementioned problems.

    (e2), “How has this God been saving them from day to day and for all time?”: This God would have nothing to do with humanity until humanity fixed its own problems. This reflects my personal belief that it’s up to humanity to “save” itself by learning to live with each other, work with each other, and care for each other, as if they were family; and in my hypothetical “heaven on Earth”, they would in fact ultimately choose to embrace each other as one family, complete with a family’s commitment to each other (hence my emphasis on coexistence). This commitment, once sealed and seared by time into the human mind and heart, would be the longed-for sign to this God that humanity had finally fixed its own problems. And this God would then return, and share existence with humanity — with familial friendship, and with exposure to this God’s unlimited knowledge, wisdom, and perhaps a “real” eye-opening reality; but without theocentric commands, obedience, rewards, and punishments. Humanity would continue to live together, work together, care together, and grow together, under their own commitment to each other, and in accordance with the shared values by which they had “saved” themselves — but with the additional, joyous knowledge that this God now lived with them; and that their choice to come together as one people, to change their paradigm of existence, and to fix their own problems, had actually opened the door to this God’s return. Human existence with this God obviously would be quite different from human existence with the biblical God. And, in this hypothetical scenario, if for some unfathomable reason humanity ever drove this God away again by reverting to their long-renounced “Us vs. Them” existence, then… Wash, rinse, and repeat, ad infinitum. This God would never permanently “save” them, and would never permanently “forsake” them. But this God would never coexist with a people who would never even coexist with each other.

    (e3), “How has this God been forming fellowship among believers and unbelievers?”: See (e1).

    (e4), “Does this God love you but how do you love this God back?”: Yes. And any way you want. (How do you love your best friend, spouse, children, parents?)

    Remember, I’m by no means saying I believe such a God exists; in fact, I don’t. I’m just saying this kind of God is the only kind that I, personally, could imagine believing in. And sometimes, I do like to imagine that this kind of God could exist.

    There is another major aspect to this hypothetical kind of God that I imagine: although I do imagine this God to be the Creator of our Earth and of all life upon it, I don’t imagine that this God is necessarily a single entity, or even necessarily spiritual, divine, or eternal, in the strictest senses of these terms. The way I see it, if there were to exist a sentient entity that could change reality at will, in whole or in part, for anyone or everyone, anywhere or everywhere, at any time or for all time, I would find that entity to be indistinguishable from “God”. And if other people decided to call that entity “God”, I would not be able to honestly disagree with them. But such an entity could just as easily be an inconceivably more advanced form of life — perhaps an entire civilization of extraordinarily advanced beings. With such complete control over reality, they could easily hide themselves and their astronomically incredible achievements from our perceived reality, including our most sensitive equipment, until, as I imagine, humanity fixed its own problems, at which time they would welcome us into their reality and their family. Meanwhile, our present scientific, philosophical, and metaphysical understanding of our universe (and anything and everything else) would not reflect “real” reality. Our universe might be far older and larger than any of us could imagine — effectively if not actually infinite in space, time, matter, and energy, and teeming with intelligent life. And, since I personally think of infinity as relative — i.e, “just one more than anybody can ever conceive or anything can ever measure” — then, as I imagine it, there really could be an infinite number of other universes, maybe with some forms of multiversal communication and transportation. After all, if these “God”-ly entities were to have existed essentially “forever”, then they would have had all the time they needed to figure out how to create or construct essentially anything. Perhaps this “God”-like population and their infinite progeny, spanning this universe, would have a much better grasp of, comfort with, and philosophy about infinite time, along with a far better wisdom about “what’s important in life”. And I like to imagine that they could have developed this wisdom into a familial custom of creating one new world at a time — maybe as a cyclic “rite of passage” for the now-thoroughly knowledgeable population of their last created world — and their favorite “primetime pastime” might be observing (but never interfering with or intervening in) the new world’s eons-long creation and subsequent evolution and growth of its newly-created life. In my imagination, that pastime would qualify as “the universe’s longest-running soap opera” — but with a much more concerned and much more reality-focused audience. As a final note, my conceptualization of this kind of “God” obviously doesn’t address or define the origin of itself or of the multiverse; instead, I like to imagine that these ultimate answers would be provided as part of this God’s unlimited knowledge, to which we would be exposed once humanity fixed its own problems and this God returned and opened our eyes to the infinite.

    That’s about as far as I’ve taken this imaginary metaphysical meta-reality. I admit it’s more of a mental exercise than anything else, and it probably gives you more insight into my psychology than my existential philosophy. Still, I sincerely hope you didn’t find reading this to be a waste of your time.

  • “I sincerely hope you didn’t find reading this to be a waste of your time”? Believe me, G Key, I didn’t. Thankful for it, actually. But you as well as Ben in Oakland and J.C. Samuelson have put up a formidable challenge for me. Not the challenge of faith, mind. But the challenge of persuasive communication. Very tough, that one. Lee Strobel’s no help there either. And so, I feel I’ve failed yet again. But one day, one day, all ye religious nones out there (and in here), you’ll get a better evangelistic, pure discussion out of me yet! There’s still hope for me, you think? You don’t have to answer that. I know what you’re going to say. Something about spilled ilk or other. OK, my friend, bye for now from me.

  • Lee Strobel’s 1998 best-selling book The Case for Christ became dated last year with the groundbreaking discovery that had been right there in plain sight the last 2,000 years…the Roman garrison’s immobilization in the Temple as Jesus wrestles control of the Temple from the Roman soldiers. The Temple complex was controlled by the Roman legion housed in the adjacent Antonia Fortress. During festival periods, such as Passover Week, Roman soldiers would be placed in the Temple’s cloisters so that they could react quickly for any sign of trouble brewing in the courtyards, but in the case of Jesus who twice cleared the Temple’s courtyards, the Roman garrison could do nothing! This is positive empirical proof that Jesus is who He claimed to be, thanks to the unbiased Romans who were immobilized.

    This discovery fulfills Jesus’ instruction that there were certain items kept out of the Gospels, but that those items could be seen clearly by those with eyes to see…

    “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”

    A movie needs to be produced detailing the Roman immobilization as Jesus TWICE clears the Temple.

  • I consider our conversation to have been very valuable, HpO, resulting in what I see as improving our understanding of, and respect for, each other and our respective beliefs. For me, that’s a big, big deal, a major success for both of us. Unexpectedly for me, you sound like someone I would gladly fight for in the “Armageddon”-like scenario I described. You obviously continue to grow from, with, and in your faith, and to celebrate it even as you share your beliefs with others and learn about their beliefs. All this, and we even share a fondness for puns! Best of wishes for you and your commitment to your God and Savior — I’m glad you have your faith!

  • You can blame the interviewer for that, an interviewee is not compelled to make his case in a casual interview id he is not asked. The books written by Srtobel and Habermas and others make the case for the historicity of the Gospels, much more fully than be considered in a truncated interview.

  • Here’s a hint, what you read in the Bible is not history, it’s fiction with the purpose of creating supporting a religious belief. It’s the same mistake Lee Strobel makes. He assumes the Gospel writers were eyewitnesses and they were accurately reporting. In all likelihood, the Gospels were largely written in the second century by unknown authors and largely plagiarized. The Biblical Jesus likely did not exist in the Biblical context, and the legend may have originated from Yeshu ben Pandera or other legends such as Apollonius of Tyana and other mythical figures.

  • “Here’s a hint, what you read in the Bible is not history, it’s fiction
    with the purpose of creating supporting a religious belief.”

    Sorry, Josephus gave two short and quick references to Jesus as the Christ (Messiah), two short references he believed he could get away with living in the Roman world that didn’t want to draw attention to a Jewish deity that walked the Earth….

    The first reference is in the title to Chapter 3 of Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18…

    ‘Sedition of the Jews against Pontius Pilate. Concerning Christ; and what befel Paulina, and the Jews at Rome.’

    http://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/ant-18.html

    The second reference is found in section 3.3 of the same chapter…

    ‘Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call
    him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men
    as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the
    Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate,
    at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to
    the cross, (9) those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; (10)
    as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other
    wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named
    from him, are not extinct at this day.’

    Tacitus references Jesus…

    ‘Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and
    inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their
    abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the
    name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of
    Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a
    most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke
    out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome,
    where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find
    their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made
    of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense
    multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as
    of hatred against mankind.’

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ

    Everyone knew that Jesus was at least a Jewish deity, since only a deity could walk about with disciples for three years causing what Rome termed insurrection/sedition/agitation. Everyone knew that agitators such as Jesus were immediately arrested and executed by the local Roman governor, but Pilate didn’t want to touch Jesus and disciples. No Roman subject would have bought such a known lie UNLESS the lie was known to be fact.

    “He assumes the Gospel writers were eyewitnesses and they were accurately reporting. In all likelihood, the Gospels were largely written in the second century by unknown authors and largely plagiarized.”

    Josephus’ account was written in either AD 93 or 94…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiquities_of_the_Jews

    And, once again, no Roman subject would have bought the really bad Roman history of the period (where Jesus and disciples are allowed to walk freely committing insurrection in Judea and twice ‘wrestle’ control of the Temple complex from the 500 Roman soldiers stationed in the adjoining Antonia Fortress) UNLESS the history was known to be true!

    What amuses me is when atheists think they have the upper hand and request from believers contemporary documentation for Jesus other than the New Testament. Well, as atheists know, there is none and none exists for a very good reason: It’s a Roman world, so naturally no Roman historian is going to shed light on a Jewish deity that walked the Earth, since to do so would topple the Roman Empire and elevate Jewish civilization.

  • The best non-Christian textual evidence you and most Christians can supply is the Testimonium Flavianum and the Tacitus passage. Given that, and the weakness of the evidence, the passages are almost an argument used against the existence of the Biblical Jesus.
    For example, Josephus wasn’t even born during the time of the Biblical Jesus, so at best it is hearsay. It was never quoted for centuries. Don’t pretend that the Church wouldn’t forge documents. Ever hear of Christians deceiving to support their cause, such as the Planned Parenthood video or the Dover school board trial? Josephus writes pages about criminals, but only a short passage about the savior of humanity. Josephus was not a Christian, so either he was unaware of it or not compelled to convert. He also made no mention of Nazareth. Tacitus comments on Christians, which did exist at the time, and the text may be hearsay or forgery.There were no contemporary historians that wrote about Jesus, or the slaughter of the innocents, or his miraculous birth, or the miraculous events surrounding his death such as the saints walking around Jerusalem. The Apostle Paul (Apollonius of Tyana) only mentions that they slew him and hung him from a tree, just like Yeshu ben Pandera.
    The passages seem more an act of desperation.

  • It seems very telling how hard you work to persuade this audience of your belief that Jesus was less than He claimed to be and the historical proof supporting His claims.
    Please speak to the issue that hundreds of thousands of believers (millions?) died horribly, and chose to do so rather than deny their belief at the hands of mostly Roman authorities. The Sanhedrin’s Saul (Paul) himself was the poster boy for persecution unto death of 1st century Christians before himself coming to know the Truth & eventually losing his head for it.
    It’s one thing to push the button and enter eternity. It’s another to endure days? weeks? months? years of court trial facing the lion’s jaws of justice in the Roman Colosseum, or was it being ripped apart limb from limb, or being sawn in two, or Nero’s favorite dipping these poor believers in oil and lighting them on fire to entertain his fancy of Christian torches to light his garden at night – et cetera?
    Who would face such circumstance if not convinced of its fully empowered capacity for the Truth. Believe what you want, but you have lost the battle on eternal truth and the essence of your argument does not get past the few initial wakes in history that this pivotal point in history is.
    Do tell – history’s calendar is founded on it’s truth. Millions have tried to discredit its place. What’s his name was one of them. Didn’t work out as planned it seems. He discovered something True & Real. You would be fortunate to follow Him too (or is it to?).

  • There is one HUGE difference between faith based “Religious Right” movies and North Korean movies: Religious Right movies are an option, with YOUR choice to agree or disagree. The entire world does not have to share your views.

  • Um, no – North Koreans are free to disagree with the regime’s propaganda. They just have to be circumspect about it. But so do village skeptics in the Bible Belt with Religious Reich propaganda.

  • LOL! Typical of people like yourself is the inability to recognize your own bogus behavior, and the obvious nature of such visible to other. It’s like the owner of Brand “B” leaving a review telling the world how horrible Brand “A” is, and signing it as the owner of Brand “B”. Your bias and hate is so obvious, when you wasted your life energy writing what you did, did you think anyone but your fellow Christ-haters were going to change their view?

    And sorry… “enforce political correctness” … Hunh? Political correctness is a tool of the Left, a tool of the God-haters, not a tool of Christianity. Christianity IS politically incorrect by present vernacular. Perhaps you misspoke?

  • Um, wrong. Let us guess, you support communism, the most murderous regime / ideology in the history of the world. You probably just think it hasn’t had a fair chance to work.

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