I recently posted a message in the introductions section. You can look to see it and the reply from Michael which prompted a number of private messages between us to clarify our positions and to develop a friendly dicourse. The upshot of this is that Michael asked me some qustions and I answered as best I could.
This is my answers posting as sent to Michael recently. I welcome any response but I also appreciate it covers a lot of ground and each section is thesis material on its own. I have not included Micahels questions as they wer part of a private discourse but I am sure you will be able to guess the main points he was after.
Sorry this is a bit verbose. Perhaps if you agree this response could go on to the forum for response from you members as I am aware you have time constraints, though I welcome your comments. If you agree let me know and I will post it as new thread.
Firstly to clarify my position, I consider myself generally agnostic though by default I am also then atheist in that I do not have faith in any God or Spiritual entity, I am not however anti theist and do not rule the concept out completely. I believe in the ability of Humans to strive to do the best they can and progress through natural pathways. As a student of religion, I am fascinated by and fully accept the role religious thought has had on humanity and the fact that much of what we have today is shaped by that. I am, by tradition, Christian and have no problem identifying with that.
I don’t consider the Yahweh or Jesus Gods to be logical impossibilities, I think that the events described are so far away in time that we can only work with probability and in this case my own view is that Yahweh is an ancient mythical Desert God of the very early Jewish people. Jesus was possibly an Apocalyptic Rabbi, who existed and was put to death by the Roman authority for his deeds. Its not impossible that he was the son of God. It is equally plausible he was a legend or mythical figure, though I agree that so far I am persuaded he was a historical figure. For me it comes down to how we know what we know and what the historical probability of this being the case was.
In the case of explaining all the answered prayer and miracles that happen in the name of Jesus I have to say again I don’t know. I have never experienced any myself, neither do I know of anyone who claims to have. But, that does not mean they don’t happen. In some cases a known fact exists that when people are ill they get so bad that they go to the Doctor and he sees them and offers treatment etc., then they get better, fair enough. But in many cases they were going to get better anyway. The logical conclusion is that the anti biotics the doctor gave them made the cold go away. But antibiotics don’t help viral infections. This was a false attribution ( Ben Goldacre covers this topic in great detail in his book Bad Science) . Prayer may be similar.
Also, I think that when we pray we count the hits and not the misses, if our football team is pretty bad then things will look better if we only count the wins they have, they are still a pretty bad team. My conclusion to this is that prayer may work through the placebo effect which I do not dispute is a fact. I don’t accept the old nut that if miracles occur why not heal an amputated limb. As far as I know Jesus never does this in the NT so its not a fair comparison. Miracles may be in the eye of the beholder, its a miracle that a baby prayed for by loving Christian parents survives a horrible nearly incurable problem at birth. But what is the explanation when a different baby born to a couple of Infidels also survives the same condition with no prayers?. Perhaps the body of Christian prayers for sick Babies did the trick. But then why didn’t it do the trick for the majority of baby’s who die with the same condition?. Prayer certainly does work for individuals and there may well be a divine reason for this or it may be a natural caused phenomenon, I just say my Ochams Razor comes out on the side of natural rather than divine causes for prayers effects and miracles.
On the subject of dismissing the reliability of eye-witness accounts, by sticking to examples given such as, the Book of Acts, the gospel of Luke and Paul’s letters?.
I wouldn’t regard the writer of Luke to be an eyewitness for Jesus. But that was not directly stated so I will accept that there was a historical writer of Luke and The acts of the apostles and he had access to earlier material e.g. Mark and the sayings gospel Q and possibly Peter and Paul.
In Acts, Luke only really refers to Peter in any detail as an apostle, he is reluctant to say Paul is an apostle and then it is open to interpretation as to what he means Acts 14;4 and Acts 14:14. Luke doesn’t mention Paul’s letter writing.
Of the the 13 Pauline epistles only 7 are definitely written by the Paul 1 maybe ( Collosians), 2 probably not (2 Thessalonians , Ephesians ) and 3 definitely not (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus ) Source: Professor Bart Ehrman. There are further some hints that Galatians may not have been authored by Paul, though this is not generally accepted by Biblical Scholars. Paul seems to be at odds with the original disciples of Jesus and his writings reflect a major difference of opinion form say Matthew.
In general all these accounts are after Jesus was Crucified by decades, written by unnamed authors from copies of copies copies that have major and minor transcription errors from at best hearsay evidence passed down orally from illiterate followers of the actual Jesus. That does not need to destroy Christian Faith. The Christian apologetics sometimes do some amazing gymnastics to get all of this material knit together, but instead of a nice fitting woolly jumper they come up with a bedraggled woollen blanket full of holes. I just wish for the texts to be understood properly and openly for what they are and not given false attributes. God maybe really has inspired these texts, I don’t know, but in all honesty surely you don’t think you can 100% say you know either. It is a matter of faith, which |I respect.
I hope I have answered your points