5/25/2007

Richard Dawkins 3

As promised in the last post, I will discuss Richard Dawkins’ treatment of the argument from Scripture from his book The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006, p. 92-97):

The historical evidence that Jesus claimed any sort of divine status is minimal … there is no good historical evidence that he ever thought he was divine. (p. 92)

A wealth of textual evidence is used to validate the New Testament as an historical record. This historical record was written by eve-witnesses who had firsthand knowledge of the events they recorded or close companions of those eyewitnesses. This testimony can not be shrugged off with a sentence or two. Gary Habermas, who holds a Ph. D. in the History and Philosophy of Religion, puts it succinctly, “We have in the New Testament essentially what the authors originally penned, and the texts have been confirmed time and again by various means.”

Dawkins goes on, “Moreover, Luke screws up his dating by tactlessly mentioning events that historians are capable of independently checking…” (p. 94) Luke’s accuracy as an historian has been well established by William Ramsey. In fact, Norman Geisler cites over eighty facts that Luke shared in The Book of Acts and his gospel that have been verified by archaeological and historical research in his book, Systematic Theology (Volume One: Introduction: Bible, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House, 2002, p. 466-473). It is not smart to discount someone who has bee right about some many things so matter-of-factly.

Alleged errors in Luke’s gospel have proven many times to be less than advertised. Dawkins does cite Luke’s comment on the census that required Jesus’ parents to go to Bethlehem. This “issue” has been dealt with at length.

As to Dawkins’ charge that Christianity is based on ancient myths on page 94, the New Testament books predate most of the material that they were allegedly based on, and have better historical attestation. It is hard to be based on something that did not yet exist. As for the rest, the similarities are not as obvious as they are claimed to be. Find some good articles here and here.

Dawkins also shows a major kink in his armor when he says that the gospels were written “after the epistles of Paul, which mention nothing about the alleged facts of Jesus’ life” (p. 93). Even a cursory reading of Paul’s letters shows many of the facts of Jesus life to be mentioned, including that Jesus was God (Philippians 2: 5-7), his sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21), crucifixion (Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20) and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-6). Norman Geisler cites 31 specific details of Christ’s life mentioned in Systematic Theology (p. 49). Let’s look at more detail at 1 Corinthians 15: 1-8:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he
appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five
hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (ESV)

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was written in about 55 AD. That’s less than 27 years after Christ’s crucifixion. It mentions over 500 eyewitnesses to the resurrection. This would be easy for someone to verify just by looking up some of these people.

Dawkins also mentions several books that he feels were arbitrarily left out of the New Testament (p. 95). I’ve discussed issues like that in another post.

The treatment of the argument from Scripture by Dawkins is superficial. He makes no serious attempt to sate Christians’ position. It seems that once you have dismissed God’s existence, you feel that you don’t have to take the Bible seriously. Once you have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, you think you can get away with it.

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