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Is the Bible Inspired by God? Guest Post by Evangelical Apologist Mike Licona

This particular post is free and open to the public.  If you belonged to the blog, you would get five posts a week, for about what it costs to send a letter.  And every penny goes to charity!  So why not join?

Mike Licona has burst on the scene as one of the leading spokespersons for evangelical Christianity and its theological claims, especially that Jesus was physically raised from the dead, that purely historical research can actually demonstrate that it happened, and that the Bible is literally inspired by God himself and to be accepted as inerrant.

As many of you know, I have had three public debates with Mike (on the question of whether historians can proved that Jesus was raised from the dead; the debates were not about whether Jesus was raised from the dead – they were about whether this kind of claim can be proved by historians using historical methods, or, instead, is a theological claim that cannot be demonstrated historically); and recently we shared a stage at an evangelical Christian “apologetics” conference that focused on whether there are contradictions in the Gospels, and if so, how/if they affect whether we can consider the Gospels historically reliable.

Mike and I take different positions on these and many other issues.   A few weeks ago I on the blog I summarized his views about contradictions and the inspiration of the Bible – he agrees that there are some passages that in fact can *not* be reconciled with others  but at the same time he affirms that the Bible is “inerrant.”  I wasn’t sure I was summarizing his views accurately, and so I asked him if he would be willing to write some blog posts for us explaining what he actually thinks.  He has graciously done so, and here is his first of three posts.   (Please note — it took me a minute to realize this — his argument below is cumulative.  That is, he is not making three separate arguments that the Bible is inspired [if you look at it this way, the first two arguments may seem to be non-sequiturs]; instead, the third argument is premised on the truth/validity of the first two argument; if they are true, then the third has probative force).

Feel free to ask him questions or to make some observations!

Mike Licona is author of Why Are There Differences in the Gospels and Evidence for God: 50 Arguments For Faith From The Bible, History, Philosophy, And Science

********************************************

The Case for the Divine Inspiration of the Bible

I would like to thank my friend Bart for inviting me to contribute three posts to his blog. Yes, we are friends, despite our disagreements. Strangely, we became friends through public debates. Those interested in learning how that happened, I describe it in this article: https://bit.ly/32LkMaY. Now, onto my three posts.

Historians do not possess the tools to verify theological claims. Take, for example, the statement “Jesus died for our sins.” While historians can verify that Jesus died, they cannot verify that his death has atoning qualities. As a historian, I do not possess the tools to verify the theological claim that the Bible is divinely inspired. However, I do think it’s rational for a Christian to believe that it is. And I’m going to provide reasons that ground my belief.

To begin, it’s important to ask what it means to say the Bible is divinely inspired. The answer may seem intuitive: To say the Bible is divinely inspired would appear to suggest that it’s the product of divine dictation. However, it’s actually not so simple. In fact, Christians disagree on the matter. And it’s rare to find a Christian who holds this view if she has even a smidge of theological sophistication.

I reject divine dictation as the method of inscripturation, because the human element in Scripture is clear. The human element goes far beyond recognizing the biblical authors’ different personalities, writing styles, vocabularies, and education levels. The human element also includes Mark’s poor grammar that Matthew and Luke often improve. Surely, we are not to imagine God reviewing Mark later and thinking, “I can do better than that. Let’s say it this way in Matthew.” The human element also includes a couple instances of Luke’s editorial fatigue when using sources. Surely, we are not to imagine God catching this at a later time and thinking, “How in heaven did I miss those?” Then there’s Paul’s memory lapse in 1 Corinthians 1:16 pertaining to whether he had baptized anyone outside the household of Stephanus. Surely, we are not to imagine God prompting Paul to take a writing break while he checked heaven’s records! These observations clearly reveal a human element in Scripture; an element that includes imperfections and rules out divine dictation. Accordingly, although the process of divine inspiration is not described in the Bible, our interpretation of what it means to say the Bible is “divinely inspired” must allow for human imperfections in Scripture.

Twenty years ago, Christian philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig argued, in essence, that God, knowing all circumstances that could possibly occur, generated those whereby the biblical authors would write what they did at an appropriate time. In that sense, the biblical literature is divinely inspired, because God approved it. For example, in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, the words are Paul’s. The logic and arguments belong to Paul. If God were to dictate the letter, he may have said things differently. But he approved the letter. (The article was originally published in Philosophia Christi, 1.1, 1999, 45-82 and may now be viewed at https://bit.ly/32u8Rya). Although the scenario Craig posits cannot be confirmed, I think it’s perhaps the best way for understanding what it means to say the Bible is divinely inspired, since it takes into serious consideration what the Bible says about itself as well as the character of Scripture. You can see that this view has implications pertaining to how the doctrine of biblical inerrancy can and perhaps should be understood. This will be the topic of my next post.

So, why think the Bible is divinely inspired? In what follows, I’ll provide 3 key reasons.

 

 #1 Jesus rose from the dead.

I’m fully aware that most readers of this blog do not think Jesus rose from the dead. However, I’m sharing my reasons for thinking the Bible is divinely inspired. Although I cannot devote any space to the topic here, I have argued in great depth elsewhere that there are good historical reasons for thinking the resurrection of Jesus actually occurred. And a historian can arrive at this conclusion apart from any belief that the Bible is divinely inspired. Those interested may consult my book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010).

If Jesus rose from the dead, we would have a good reason for giving our serious consideration to his teachings. Of course, one could reply that Jesus could have been an alien from another planet with powers beyond our comprehension and who decided to deceive us. Although such a scenario cannot be disproved, it’s terribly ad hoc. Every worldview, including atheism, requires a bit of faith. Given Jesus’s resurrection, Christians’ believing Jesus’s teachings about himself would require faith. But it would be a reasonable faith.

 

#2 The New Testament preserves significant information pertaining to Jesus’s claims.

Historians of Jesus do not have the luxury of assuming the divine inspiration or inerrancy of the Bible. Historians acting responsibly will consider the data apart from such assumptions and seek to conclude what the data suggest. Using common-sense criteria, such as multiple independent sources, embarrassing sources, unsympathetic sources, and eyewitness sources, we can render a number of conclusions possessing various degrees of confidence. For example, it’s granted by nearly every historian of Jesus, regardless of their theological and philosophical persuasion, that Jesus believed he had a special relationship with God who had chosen him to usher in his kingdom and that he performed numerous deeds that astonished crowds and that he and others claimed were divine miracles and exorcisms. Moreover, a growing number of historians hold that Jesus claimed to be divine in some sense and that he predicted his imminent death and subsequent resurrection. If Jesus rose from the dead, it becomes quite probable that he actually had a special relationship with God, that his astonishing deeds were actually divine in their nature, and that his claims of divinity were correct.

 

#3 Jesus believed the Scriptures are divinely inspired.

Jesus’s belief that the Old Testament is authoritative is a clear motif throughout all four Gospels. Jesus appealed to the Scriptures to settle theological disputes. He saw his ministry as fulfilling prophecy. Then there are statements where Jesus says, “David himself said in the Holy Spirit . . .” (Mark 12:36) and “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35); “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail” (Luke 16:17). But why are the Scriptures authoritative? It’s because their authority comes from God. Thus, to disobey Scripture is to disobey God. This was also the understanding of the Jewish leaders who confronted Jesus when he healed on the Sabbath, which they claimed was to break God’s law (see Mark 2:24; 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6; John 5:2-16; 9:1-38).

What about the New Testament? If Jesus was the Son of God in a divine sense, his teachings are authoritative. Although it’s unlikely that the Gospels preserve precise transcripts of Jesus’s teachings – and it’s clear that they often redact them, I’m persuaded by a number of reasons that the Gospels preserve the gist of what Jesus taught. And some occasions may be close to the actual words. Word limitations prohibit my elaborating further.

Outside the Gospels, Paul believed he had received authority from Jesus to teach (e.g., 1 Cor. 7:17; 14:37; 2 Cor. 13:10). And his essential teachings were confirmed by the apostolic leadership (Gal. 2:1-10; cf. Pol. Phil. 3:2). John taught that those who are not from God do not listen to apostolic teaching (1 John 4:6).

Of course, merely claiming to have received authority from God to teach does not give one that authority. However, if Jesus is divine, his teachings are authoritative and we would expect for him to have commissioned his disciples to pass them along. And this he does (Matt. 28:19; John 14:26; 15:25-16:3). That commissioning would bestow authority on them. Accordingly, to the extent that the apostolic teachings are preserved in the New Testament literature, we may say that literature is not only authoritative but also divinely inspired as defined above.

Of course, only a little can be said in such a small space. In my next post, I will discuss the matter of biblical inerrancy.

 

 


Maybe Jesus DOES Talk about “Homosexuality”?
Jesus and “Homosexuality”

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    AndrewB  November 18, 2019

    Greetings, Dr. Licona,

    I don’t know if your three posts will encapsulate this so I’m putting it out there now. I understand that you view the bible as inspired and that the book as scripture is a form of inerrancy (as you noted, human influence is present). From this, I wonder if you put the following categories into human influence or divine inspiration and on what grounds would you categorize them as one or another (or a different category)?

    1. Paul’s views on homosexuality
    2. Paul’s view that slaves should accept their condition and not seek freedom (only taking it if opportunity arises)
    3. Deutero-Pauline negative views on women
    4. Gospel of John’s hostility towards Jews who do not believe (children not of Abraham)

    Basically, I’m very curious to hear what your rationale and evidence are on the more difficult (to me) passages of the bible whenever the term ‘inerrancy’ is defended.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 18, 2019

      That’s a fair question, Andrew. I’d have to give it some serious thought before answering.

      • Avatar
        AndrewB  November 19, 2019

        I’m not sure if you can see my original question when you reply, but do you think your upcoming posts will answer perhaps in part how you might evaluate these different parts of the bible? (Paul’s stance on homosexuality = inerrancy or human influence; his stance on slavery – don’t seek freedom = inerrancy or human influence, etc.). Or outside the scope of this 3-post engagement? Regardless, thanks for your consideration on the topic.

        • Mike Licona
          Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

          Andrew: I did see your original question. I admit that I am limited in the amount of time I can devote to interacting on this blog (although I am enjoying my time with you all!). I did acknowledge that these are touchy matters you have raised that would require serious and deeper thought on my part. I’m not hopeful that I’ll have the time this week or next to do that. I hope you understand. Thanks!

          • Avatar
            AndrewB  November 19, 2019

            Hello, Dr. Licona,

            My apologies: I hadn’t meant to imply you hadn’t seen my earlier question. I notice in some of Dr. Ehrman’s responses to people that he may not be able to see the comment thread and will ask about info that’s there for us to see. In my response I was concerned my previous question may not be visible to you, hence my phrasing.

            Anyway, your response covered it – that it’s not in the scope of what you’re currently addressing (that’s fine). I appreciate the consideration regardless, and I look forward to reading your upcoming posts.

  2. Avatar
    kentvw  November 18, 2019

    seems to me that Christians can be separated into two, very different camps. In one camp are folks like my Grandmother who “believed”. She spent her entire life following Jesus’ example. She loved and gave with every ounce of herself.
    In the other camp there seem to be Christians who exude, “I believe, therefore I am right!” (And YOU are going to burn in Hell for all eternity if you don’t.)
    What is amazing to me seems to be the “god” given ability to be able to see past all the smoke and mirrors. To see most of it as nothing more and nothing less than the story of what it means to be human. To just sit back and marvel rather than be enmeshed with the conflict.
    Thanks for the post Mike. It’s a great reminder.

  3. Avatar
    rburos  November 18, 2019

    Dr Licona,

    Thank-you so much for agreeing to these posts. Like Dr Ehrman going into a church for a debate, you are now walking into our own little lion’s den, and that intellectual courage speaks highly to your character. There are, however, many of us “churched” in here in order to receive a true expert’s insights into our faith. It speaks equally highly of Dr Ehrman’s character that he maintains friendships with people like you and Dr Dale Martin and Dr Joel Marcus.
    I would like to ask from your second argument about Christ predicting his own death. Wouldn’t it be fair to maintain that it doesn’t take divine connections or even a particularly high intellect to know that if you go into Jerusalem on that particular holiday and ridicule Pilate with the entrance into the town on a donkey, as well as making some commotion inside the temple, that the Romans would in fact want to put you down?

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 18, 2019

      Thanks much, rburos. Most of you have made me feel quite welcome. And for that, I’m thankful.

      You are quite correct that, had Jesus planned to do something like ridiculing Pilate and making a commotion in the temple during Passover, he would not have required divinely predictive powers to know the Romans were going to execute him. To my knowledge, I don’t recall anywhere in which I have argued that Jesus predicted his death from divine foreknowledge. However, I have contended that the historical evidence suggest Jesus predicted his imminent death and subsequent resurrection. However, I’ll add that he probably had divine predictive powers if he knew he was going to rise from the dead then proceeded to do so.

      • Avatar
        rburos  November 18, 2019

        Agreed. Looking forward to reading all your responses and your following posts. Home run again Dr Ehrman!

  4. Avatar
    littlegeo  November 18, 2019

    Mike, thank you for your post – and robustly engaging Bart’s community. I have a strange comment, bear with me, I mean no disrespect. I feel like the Bible, especially the New Testament., is a large trick on all of us for one main reason: the writers of the books of the Bible were not trying to write TO ME, or to any of us here in our point in history. They clearly, respectively, had particular audiences in particular timeframes.

    If I found a letter in a cave tonight in my city, clearly written from a fisherman to a doctor, noting metaphysical experiences and observations on human nature, oh and it was dated from 80 A.D., why would I come to a conclusion that it was meant to be empirical knowledge for *my life here in November 2019?* Obviously, I am being rhetorical; I hope you can see my point. I feel like there is no such thing as The Bible. The joke is on us. We are a meaning-making species, and this curious set of books fills a void for meaning. Religion makes a container for our lives to fit into (and it is not all bad). But is it possible we humans have made a strange turn with all of this “Bible” stuff? Any response welcome.

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 18, 2019

      Thanks littlegeo. I don’t think your argument leads to the conclusion that the Bible “is a large trick on all of us.” Granted, the matter of the canon came to be accepted as we have it today is by no means a clear one, especially when one takes into consideration that some churches have a slightly different canon.

      Of course, these are matters of non-essential importance. For me, much comes down to the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus rose, game-set-match: Christianity is true!

  5. Avatar
    Phil  November 18, 2019

    Thanks for writing for the blog in this way, I have found your debates with Bart Ehrmann (and other similar debates) very useful and instructive in helping me make sense of christianity and the Bible.
    Your argument could be summarised (hopefully accurately) as:
    -You believe (for extra biblical reasons as well) that Jesus wrote from the dead. Therefore what he says must be authoritative.
    -he believed the Old Testament to be inspired
    – we therefore can assume that the same applied to the New Testament – “his teachings are authoritative and we would expect for him to have commissioned his disciples to pass them along.” (a quote from what you wrote here)

    The two massive problems I see here are:
    1- It is speculative. Jesus actually says nothing about any New Testament. If the NT was to be so important, ‘we would expect for him’ to have mentioned it….
    2- It is non specific. There is no indication whether 1, 2 or even 3 Corinthians (which I believe exists?) should be in, whether Matthew and Luke but not Thomas should be in the Gospels, whether 1 Clement should be out, but James and Revelation in….all areas of canonical debate and uncertainty, as far as I understand.

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 18, 2019

      Phil: I admit that the matter of canonicity was not nearly as clean as many have been previously taught in seminary. It’s a somewhat fuzzy matter. In my article, I do not claim to have an airtight argument for the divine inspiration of the Bible. However, I provide some reasons for why I think the Bible is divinely inspired and what it means to say it’s “divinely inspired.”

  6. Avatar
    Boltonian  November 18, 2019

    Dr Licona

    Thank you for this. You obviously had a predisposition towards religious belief without, as you say, any evidence at the age of 10 when you were first aware of your Christian faith. Had you been born and raised in, say, Pakistan, would you now be a devout Muslim; or in Thailand, a Therevada Buddhist?

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 18, 2019

      That’s a fair question, Boltonian. I suppose I will never know the answer to that. What I can say is that I was predisposed toward Christian belief. However, in my 40s, I made a sustained effort of 5 years to examine the data and assess it with as open a mind as was possible for me. My wife and a handful of my closest friends know how much I truly wrestled with my own biases and my willingness to go where there evidence pointed. In my thinking, I could have left my Christian faith behind and would have, if I thought the evidence pointed against it. Had I been raised as a Muslim or Buddhist, would I have embarked on a similar journey? Heaven knows! (Literally!)

  7. Avatar
    tadmania  November 18, 2019

    For everyone, regardless of any mitigating experiences or biases, there are only two available sources of evidence subject to examination vis-a-vis Christianity: the written texts and the events in history preceding, during, and pursuant to those texts. As to the texts themselves, one can argue for the integrity of their content (which is where all the commentary that has ever existed comes from), but not whether the characters and events described are historical. It may be arguable that the NT is comprised of reliable testimonies of direct witnesses, but not that the stories are true. Yes, Paul and the other writers do seem to believe in the same things you do, Dr Licona, but concurrence does not suffice for evidence. This is especially true in ancient writings that describe supernatural characters or events. All the education and belief in the world cannot change that fact.

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 18, 2019

      tadmania: If what you wrote is true, you cannot conclude that Jesus died by crucifixion, since you think “concurrence does not suffice for evidence.”

      • Avatar
        tadmania  November 18, 2019

        There are innumerable crucifixions described in history, and it is a wholly physical act, so crucifixion is already light years ahead of any miracle. That said, I don’t believe there is sufficient evidence to support the existence of a human Jesus, let alone one who was crucified according to the NT.

        At your convenience and pleasure, sir, try again.

        • Mike Licona
          Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

          tadmania: You wrote, “I don’t believe there is sufficient evidence to support the existence of a human Jesus, let alone one who was crucified according to the NT.” I suggest that you read Bart’s book on the topic: “Did Jesus Exist?” If that doesn’t change your mind, I’m not going to try.

          • Avatar
            tadmania  November 20, 2019

            Dr Ehrman relies heavily on the writings of Paul, who in turn claims knowledge via revelation. Thus, I am unconvinced. Using his research is a bit disingenuous on your part, is it not? No need to respond, of course,. I understand your dilemma. Peace and love, sir. Thanks for entering the viper pit!

  8. Avatar
    Apocryphile  November 18, 2019

    It’s good to hear a different argument – thank you for contributing to the blog Dr. Licona! While I myself don’t believe that Jesus was divine (or no more divine than any of the rest of us), it is hard to read his parables and sermons and not acknowledge that he was at the very least extremely wise for his age (30-ish?) So, if there is a (good) God, it’s hard not to arrive at the conclusion that Jesus was very close to this source. For me, the problem comes in with the Christian need to believe that Jesus *was* God and that he was raised from the dead.

    Apparently, just living a life in accordance with Jesus’ teachings isn’t enough for salvation(?) If your view is something along these lines – that’s it’s vitally important to believe in Jesus’ divinity/resurrection – then I think your argument is destined for oblivion among thinking persons in our diverse and pluralistic 21st century world.

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 18, 2019

      Thanks, Apocryphile. However, as long as the world remains diverse and pluralistic, I think the apostolic claim that one must hold to Jesus’s deity and resurrection in order to belong to him will likewise remain among thinking persons. There are certainly enough serious scientists and scholars today who hold it.

      • Avatar
        Apocryphile  November 19, 2019

        I can see how these two articles of the Christian faith are perhaps necessary to maintain its status as a distinct religion, but is it necessary to believe in the divinity and resurrection of Jesus first in order to live according to his words and example? For some (most?) Christians, apparently so.

        • Mike Licona
          Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

          Apocryphile: In answer to your question, I don’t think one must believe Jesus is divine and that he rose from the dead “in order to live according to his words and example.” However, it’s another matter if one wants to follow him and have eternal life.

          • Avatar
            dankoh  November 20, 2019

            You write: “However, it’s another matter if one wants to follow him and have eternal life.” I have never understood how this can be reconciled with Jesus’s parable of the sheep and the goats, according to which the only requirement for an eternal reward is to do good to your fellow human beings.

            I also wonder what is your position regarding the fate who never had an opportunity to hear Jesus’s message. It seems to me that this creates an insoluble theological difficulty.

            (I realize this is getting away from the original point of this thread, but your response to Apocryphile caught my eye.)

          • Mike Licona
            Mike Licona  November 20, 2019

            Thanks, dankoh. I think we have to take the entirety of Jesus’ teachings rather than only what he said on one occasion. Regarding the fate of those who never heard, I wrestle with that question in this video that I cued to the relevant spot: https://youtu.be/5m3w0gtKYo8?t=1350

          • Avatar
            Apocryphile  November 21, 2019

            Great responses to my post! Thanks all. I sometimes wonder how it would affect (or not) the world’s religions if we ever received a confirmation of a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization. The interstellar distances involved are perhaps indicative of the probabilities against such contact, but who knows? We’ve only been actively “listening” for about the past 50 years, and we’re not even sure what form such a signal might take. Regardless, I think the main point is that the Christian religion, along with every other religion on earth, is constantly evolving and changing, however slowly. Like everything else on earth, if it isn’t changing, it’s dead. If some version or interpretation of Christianity still claims exclusive (or preferential) access to God, Jesus, or a pleasant afterlife, I don’t give it much hope of surviving in an increasingly educated and urbane 21st century. If we’re operating in the modern world, but still have a 1st century worldview, that creates more than a few problems, not the least of which is inevitable conflict with other cultures and religions.

            I will, however, also say that I perhaps have a more “generous” viewpoint on the apparent “post-resurrection” appearances than Bart does. Where Bart I think would chalk them up to hallucinations, I like to keep an open mind toward them. There are many anecdotal stories of such phenomena that happen the world over. There is still far more in the universe that we can’t explain than what we can. However, the claim that Jesus was himself God cannot be borne out through employing historical research methods (nor, indeed, can the resurrection itself be).

  9. Avatar
    joemccarron  November 18, 2019

    For what it is worth about half of Christians are Catholic and the Second Vatican council framed biblical innerrancy this way:

    “The books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.”

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

    This definition I believe correctly limits the innerrancy to the aim of the church and scripture. In other words God is not concerned with correcting whether the mustard seed is the smallest seed.

    Of course there are Catholics who disagree with my view of this passage. Some would say the inerrancy goes further and would say the truth goes beyond that which is for the sake of salvation.

  10. Avatar
    Chrishuntley  November 18, 2019

    Hi Mike,
    I applaud your efforts as a defender of the Christian faith. I’ve followed you for a long time and read your book on the resurrection, along with many other apologetic books such as those of J Warner Wallace, Gary Habermas, Gregory Boyd (Loved his “Letters from a Skeptic” book), and all the way back to Josh McDowell’s books. I’ve had a thousand doubts over the years and for many years, books like yours and other apologists sustained me. But after 20 years of trying to hammer the pieces together to make them fit, I finally stumbled upon Bart’s work. I hate to say it but for the first time in my life, every piece fit… (no hammering needed). I don’t feel like that’s because Bart is so persuasive (although he is). I think it’s because what he says is simply true. I would now consider myself a non-Christian and wonder what your thoughts are on people like me and our eternal destiny. Isn’t this supposed to be so easy that a child can understand it? It would be the shock of my life if I died and woke up in hell and found out the whole Jesus thing was real, but for argument’s sake, if I end up being wrong, do you think God’s judgment will be even more severe for me, since I *supposedly* knew the truth? How can God judge me when I’ve tried SOOO hard to save my faith over the years? Why couldn’t he make the pieces fit just a little better?

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 18, 2019

      Thanks for your comments, Chris. I don’t know about your statement that faith in what Scripture says is supposed to be so easy that a child can understand. 2 Peter 3:16 mentions some things in Paul’s letters being difficult to understand. Moreover, even the Jerusalem apostles and Paul had some matters on which there was disagreement and had to be fleshed out in a council.

      I love Bart and I appreciate his invitation for me to contribute 3 articles. So, I’m not wanting to offer criticisms here. But you can see in our debates, including the written one, that he and I have some sharp disagreements. Therefore, I wouldn’t agree with you that his approach makes every piece fit. Although there are many questions I have that remain, I think what is knowable with reasonable certainty is quite sufficient.

      So, do I think if you were to die today that you would wake up in hell? Whew! That’s putting me on the spot! In short, my answer is yes. It’s not at all that I want for it to be that way, because I certainly don’t. There are things Jesus said that trouble me, such as being willing to die a brutal death as one of his followers and that salvation is found only through him. From the perspective of being a follower of Jesus, I think there are some things in Scripture for which I will be surprised in heaven to discover I was mistaken. And I am certain there are some things I presently believe that are wrong. That said, if Christianity is true, I don’t have the luxury of choosing to believe what I find appealing while rejecting what I don’t. I have to go with how I interpret Jesus as best as I can. And from where I’m sitting, you have acknowledged that you have abandoned faith in Christ. From what I read in the New Testament, you have walked away from God’s gift of eternal life. Now I also believe you can return to Him (Luke 15:4-24).

      • Avatar
        Chrishuntley  November 18, 2019

        I really appreciate that, Mike. I’m just saying it shouldn’t be this hard. I’ve spent years and hundreds of hours reading books and listening to podcasts (My favorite is Cold Case Christianity) trying to put the pieces together. Maybe it’s a predestination thing. I mean, someone who tries THIS hard to work out his faith should have found it. I guess I’m just a vessel created for destruction. Too bad for me.

        • Avatar
          aar8818  November 20, 2019

          I find it hard to believe that a good God would sentence someone to eternal torture for not believing that a person rose from the dead 2000 years ago.

          • Mike Licona
            Mike Licona  November 20, 2019

            aar8818: There are numerous Christian views on the actual nature of hell. The Dante sort of literal fire is not embraced by most Christian theologians today. This is not because they reject the biblical teaching. It’s because they seek to understand it within its cultural milieu. Conservative biblical scholars such as F F Bruce and John Stott held to annihilation. Here are two excellent books on the topic: https://smile.amazon.com/Four-Views-Hell-Counterpoints-Theology-ebook/dp/B010R9L4BC/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=views+on+hell&qid=1574262001&smid=AVQNC09JOZHDS&sr=8-1

            https://smile.amazon.com/Whats-Truth-About-Heaven-Hell/dp/0736951725/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=Douglas+jacoby&qid=1574262061&sr=8-2

          • Avatar
            Gary  November 20, 2019

            Are you saying that you are an annihilationist, Dr. Licona? Is this a new position for you? Most Christian “annihilationists” do not believe that sinners are immediately annihilated upon their death, but rather they are sent to Hell to suffer some form of “unspeakable” torment until the Second Coming and Judgment Day, the date of which has been revised multiple times over the last 2,000 years. In other words, non-believers may very well suffer in Hell for many, many years before they are finally terminated (annihilated). That is certainly much better than suffering “eternally”, but it is a small comfort. Do you understand how this concept can be very fear-provoking, Dr. Licona?

            Yet, conservative Christian leaders such as yourself preach/teach the reality of this place of torment not only to adults but also to children…ten year old children…who do not have the maturity and knowledge base to make a rational decision as to its reality? Is it moral for you to be using fear to motivate conversions to your belief system, in particular, conversions of young children, if you don’t even know where this place called Hell is located?

          • Mike Licona
            Mike Licona  November 21, 2019

            I am not an annihiationist. However, I hope annihiationism is true and I’m open to it. I’m just not convinced at this time. The concept of hell is “fear-provoking” as you say. It’s meant to be. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that, if it keeps you from sinning, it’s better to take such drastic actions such as plucking out your right eye or cutting off your right hand than it is to be thrown into hell. Of course, that’s rhetoric similar to what Seneca used. But Jesus’ message is clear: You want to avoid hell at all costs.

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            Gary  November 22, 2019

            Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. –Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 7

            Gary: Experts estimate that 100 billion humans have existed since the first human to the present time. If we subtract the number of humans alive today, which is approximately 8 billion, we arrive at the number of humans who have died throughout history: 92 billion. That is: 92,000,000,000 If Jesus was correct, very few of these 92 billion people have made it to heaven. But how many is “few”. Let’s be generous. Let’s say that 10% of the human population has made it to heaven. That means that 82.8 billion human beings have not made it to heaven and are, at this very moment, writhing in agony in Hell. Here is my question: How large of a dungeon would you need to hold 83 billion people? Is it really possible, Dr. Licona, that 83 billion people are imprisoned in a dark dungeon at the center of our earth, as Christians for two thousand years have believed? Is there any scientific evidence that supports the idea that there is a massive cavity or cavern at the center of our planet that could hold so many people? I don’t think so.

            So where is Hell, Dr. Licona?? If like some clever, modern day apologists, you tell us that Hell is in another dimension, please provide the book, chapter, and verse from the Bible which suggests this to be the case. You can’t, at least not without twisting the words of Jesus into a pretzel to do so.

            The truth is, I don’t think you have any idea where Hell is, Dr. Licona. And if you don’t have any idea where this place is, why are you scaring little children and gullible adults with this ancient tall tale? Isn’t it immoral to scare children with tales about a place for which you have zero good evidence for its existence? Please present good evidence for the existence of this horrible place or please stop using this ancient tale to scare people into converting to your supernatural belief system (religion).

          • Mike Licona
            Mike Licona  November 22, 2019

            Gary: You’re correct. I don’t have any idea of where hell is. I can’t even tell you the nature of hell. That says nothing pertaining to whether hell exists. You can’t tell me how the universe in which you live came into existence. But you believe it exists.

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            Gary  November 22, 2019

            I am not asking you to tell me HOW Hell came into existence, Dr. Licona. I am asking you to tell me WHERE Hell is.

            It is true that I have no idea how the universe came into existence. However, unlike you and Hell, I have excellent evidence for the existence and location of the universe.

            You have no idea where Hell is yet you believe it exists. Why? What evidence do you have to believe that this horrible place exists?

      • Avatar
        Gary  November 18, 2019

        Where is Hell, Dr. Licona?

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          Gary  November 23, 2019

          Until Dr. Licona tells us where Hell is and provides good evidence in support, we should consider his threats of eternal torture in his invisible deity’s dungeon of doom just another ignorant, ancient superstition. Modern, educated people should not believe this silliness.

          Shame on Dr. Licona for frightening innocent little children and gullible adults with this ancient horror story when he has ZERO good evidence of its veracity. The truth is, Dr. Licona believes this Dungeon of Doom exists because he believes that the spirit of a dead man lives inside his body, whispering secret truths in his ear. How can we trust this (good) man’s objectivity on any issue related to the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth??

  11. Avatar
    mb71314  November 18, 2019

    If you don’t consider every word of the Bible “divinely dictated,” and you further specify that the Bible is essentially “gist-inspired,” (my quotes) then what is your mechanism, or method, for determining which words get put together to form the gist of each book’s God-approved messages, and which words are superfluous or worse?

    To give an example of what I am driving at: if two dozen of my friends write 66 books about my beliefs and about advice I have given to people throughout my lifetime, I’m probably not going to agree with every single word, but I might agree with the gist of the books; however, unless I give to the world an algorithm to decipher what I would have exactly said, or I provide an accompanying commentary on each book explaining what I agree/disagree with and what I would have said, then there doesn’t seem to be any rational justification for any reader’s belief of which gists I agree with and which I don’t. One needs a method and a legend, so to speak.

    And on a tangent, why can’t Christianity take the stance that the Bible is totally human, but Jesus was still resurrected?

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 18, 2019

      Hi, Michael. I suppose if, in your example, you are seeking the precise wording, you’re not going to get it, although you can know the gist of what was said. Although I’d like to know the exact wording, in most cases, it’s not necessary. I can still get a pretty good idea of what occurred. And, of course, there is a wide range of what one can mean by “the gist.” Scholars sometimes mention the ipsissima verba (the very words) and the ipsissima vox (the very voice). I think in many cases we are getting the very voice of Jesus. That’s an example of “the gist.” Of course, there are plenty more examples.

      • Avatar
        mb71314  November 18, 2019

        Dr. Licona, I appreciate the quick reply. I apologize for not being specific in what I was mainly driving at, which is, how does one know that God approved the “gist” of scripture if there isn’t something written/dictated exactly by God outside of scripture that states approval of certain “gists” that are contained in scripture?

        You stated that you disagree with divine dictation, i.e. word for word dictated by God. But then you cite William Lane Craig’s argument of God generating the exact circumstances for the biblical authors to write their own words, yet God approved them. If I set up a logical deductive argument that necessarily leads to the conclusion that I approve of, didn’t I essentially dictate the exact outcome?

        • Mike Licona
          Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

          Michael: You wrote, “If I set up a logical deductive argument that necessarily leads to the conclusion that I approve of, didn’t I essentially dictate the exact outcome?” Not necessarily. It would be saying one is satisfied with what was written. Lets say you manage Employee A. You complete an annual evaluation of that employee. He may not have produced perfect results. But you are satisfied with them enough to allow him to continue as an employee.

          • Avatar
            mb71314  November 19, 2019

            But your citation of William Lane Craig’s circumstance-generating argument as a good idea of what you agree is meant by “divine inspiration” of scripture in your blog post is what I am refuting.

            You using the example of me managing “Employee A” is not, I believe, an accurate (not even rough) analogy of WLC’s argument. The strictest analogy would be that, the manager, knowing all logically possible circumstances, generates the exact circumstances of Employee A’s results that the manager goes over in employee A’s annual evaluation. If he or she didn’t produce “perfect results,” (note, by our and your WLC analogy, are the exact results the manager generated) then the manager should be not completely satisfied with his/her own output, which is a paradox if you substitute God for the manager.

            Remember, in WLC’s argument, God generated the exact circumstances, down to the word, of which the biblical authors wrote; God could have either A) logically chosen the circumstances whereas the biblical authors wrote exactly what God would have said, or B) not. A1) would be God didn’t choose to have them write what he would say, or A2) he did have them say it. You seem to be claiming A1 or B for your definition of divine inspiration.

            However, you still aren’t addressing the matter of by what method you are using to derive the God-approved portions or gists of scripture. Or, to put in the Employee A analogy:

            1) if all I have to use in order to find out which results the manager approves of in Employee A’s annual evaluation is 66 books written by Employee A, and none by the manager, then I have no way of knowing what the manager actually approves of. I would need some sort of known, verified statement from the manager that lists or codifies what they approve of.

            2) you mention no consistent method to infer from employee A’s books that clearly shows that what is written is generally approved of by the manager; even if you had one, it seems that nobody would be justified in claiming they knew what the manager approves of since 1) above.

          • Mike Licona
            Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

            I don’t see it that way, because I’m not a determinist. So, I think free will exists. If it does, God may not be capable of having every word as preferred, aside from dictation, which is obviously not the course He took.

            Craig does not contend that things came out to the very word. Here’s what he says,

            “God’s causally determining Paul to write his Epistle to the Romans is incompatible with Paul’s freely writing that epistle, on any plausible account of freedom. . . . Paul’s full range of emotions, his memory lapses (I Cor. 1.14-16), his personal asides (Gal. 6.11) are all authentic products of human consciousness. God knew what Paul would freely write in the various circumstances in which he found himself and weakly actualized the writing of the Pauline corpus. Perhaps some features of Paul’s letters are a matter of indifference to God: maybe it would not have mattered to God whether Paul greeted Phlegon or not; perhaps God would have been just as pleased had Paul worded some things differently; perhaps the Scripture need not have been just as it is to accomplish God’s purposes. We cannot know. But we can confess that Scripture as it does stand is Godbreathed and therefore authoritative. The Bible says what God wanted to say and communicates His message of salvation to mankind.”

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            mb71314  November 19, 2019

            Dr. Licona, I really do appreciate your responses and I thank you for your time.

            I stand corrected on WLC’s argument. You are right.

            I just truthfully cannot communicate it well enough to you of what I am trying to get at so I will try one last time. I understand that this conversation is not just between you and me so If you reply, great, if not, I understand!:

            My last shot:
            I am trying to get approval from a specific book critic that I admire. Therefore, I write a book in the hopes that this book critic will give me the stamp of approval. I decide to write the book about the book critic himself and I claim in the book that the book was breathed out by the critic himself. Separate from my book, the critic never puts out a critique or commentary of his own, or even a newspaper clipping that states his approval of my book (or at least none have been found).

            Fast forward 2,000 years. Someone finds my book.

            How can this someone be justified in claiming that the book critic actually approved my book?

          • Mike Licona
            Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

            Thanks, Michael. I may be the problem. My time is limited and I admit to reading comments somewhat rapidly. So, I may simply be missing your point.

            Your analogy is interesting! However, I’m not seeing where it fits. Wouldn’t the analogy require that the biblical authors were writing to elicit God’s approval of their writing? If so, I don’t think that’s what they were doing. With the exception of some Old Testament literature, I don’t have any strong reasons to think that most of the biblical authors were writing with a sense that their literature would later be regarded as Scripture. Please forgive me, Michael, if I’m still not understanding you correctly.

          • Avatar
            mb71314  November 20, 2019

            You first define “divinely inspired,” which I think a fair characterization of what you define it as is, generally speaking, scripture is human produced but God approved. Is that fair?

            My point is that I don’t see how you can rationally justify your actual definition of “divinely inspired,” which would be necessary before you could provide reasons why the Bible is divinely inspired. You wouldn’t allow me, nor should you, to claim that I can be rational for calling myself a husband if I preface my claim with my definition of husband as “a married bachelor.”

            If I offered you a multivitamin and claim it is FDA approved, you would have some reservations. But, after research, you consulted with the FDA and found that they did approve it, then your reservations could be eliminated.

            Or, through exhaustive research you can’t find evidence of FDA approval. You ask what my evidence for approval is, and I show you marketing material that talks about how the benefits outweigh the risks, and letters from the CEO and CFO claiming its benefits outweigh the risks as well as their support for the FDA and the FDA’s beneficial effects on society.

            You pause…and say,”But that is all stuff from the company and not from the FDA. My friend, your definition of ‘FDA Approved’ is nonsense. You can’t claim FDA approval from your own evidence. You would need to show evidence separate from the company itself, namely something from the actual FDA, that states approval.”

            Well then I provide you from the vitamin company, multiple historical accounts of someone who supported the FDA, took the multivitamin, and was supernaturally transformed by taking it, and the best explanation from many experts, out of all known explanations is that he was transformed. Would you say that I was justified in stating the multivitamin is FDA approved?

            So to tie it all in, defining “divinely inspired,” as human produced yet God approved, implies that the words of the scriptures are the authors’ words, not God’s, but He approves them. But, under that definition, you would need to show something else, outside of scriptures, that God authors himself and that states that he approves the words of scripture.

            Thanks much for the back and forth. This helps when scholars are willing to discuss these things with the little guys!

  12. Christopher
    Christopher  November 18, 2019

    Mike,
    I’m a little surprised (but not completely) that you don’t appeal to an “inner witness” of the Holy Spirit, for belief in the authority of the Bible. Do you have one? Or perhaps does your “inner witness” testify to only Jesus’ promised spiritual relationship with mankind, and not claims of authority of scripture?

    • Avatar
      Gary  November 29, 2019

      Christopher: I have found that most evangelical Christian apologists go out of their way to avoid discussing the ” inner witness of the Holy Spirit” when they are in a discussion with skeptics. They know that using an “inner voice” as evidence for their beliefs comes off as “looney” to skeptics. Yet if you look at their websites or their sermons, when talking among themselves, their perceived communications with the spirit of an executed first century prophet are the PRIMARY evidence for their supernatural beliefs. Dr. Licona is working very hard to avoid discussing this subject even though you, I, and others have repeatedly raised this issue.

  13. Avatar
    veritas  November 18, 2019

    Hello Dr.Licona, I really appreciate your courage in posting a blog on “Ehrman’s Lake of Fire”.One thing that lunged out at me,you answered all the posts.A dinner with Bart may teach you discernment.I have recently joined this blog and quickly realized how bright and learned these bloggers are.They have incredible knowledge an array of resources at their disposal. They are teaching me quite a bit and the reason for this site is for an even better cause.Nonetheless,I have recently become an agnostic,as some other bloggers have done as well, mainly due to some of the clarity and understanding of Scriptures through Prof.Ehrman’s books I have read.For me,saying I don’t know,has become easier to live with than saying, I know the Gospel is true.I still maintain that the Bible has given a lot of people,including Bart,a sort of guiding principle to live by.It is ,by far,the greatest story and event ever told and that in itself stands for something.Matthew 5;39 is often mentioned as a teaching to not react or retaliate.A wise man once said in reference to that parable,”If we all turned to him the other(cheek) also,there would be no one left to hit”.I think that a universal dialogue would be sufficient to have,I say this hesitantly,peace in a world very much needed.The theological Jesus teachings may very well be the best we have.It may take a miracle to implement though.As I hear positions from both sides of the fence,we are left to decide and take a stance.Think about the recent attack on Iraq.Was there weapons of mass destruction or not?Why did America invade?And most importantly,how many people died?None of these answers surfaced to give us a satisfying closure on this recent major event.Someone said,this is with 21st century written and video records and millions of living witnesses.How then,a story of nearly 2000 years ago ever come to a conclusion?.One thing for sure,whoever wrote this Bible has caused a constant and relentless pursuit of answers and debates.My point,I don’t discredit anyone who spends the time to research and come up with plausible explanations without claiming absolute truth.This is philosophy of men/women and that’s all.Mike and Bart,you have both done a wealth of good to many people,and I personally thank the two of you for enriching my understanding.

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

      Thanks, veritas. There are a ton of questions all of us have about a lot of matters. I have no ambition of answering them all when it comes to Jesus and religious matters. Once I did the research and concluded Jesus actually rose from the dead, it was a small step to conclude Christianity is true and I can have peace with God. Although I have many other questions, I can live with them.

      • Avatar
        Gary  November 19, 2019

        The fact remains, however, Dr. Licona that you first believed in dead body reanimations (resurrections) at the age of 10. How much evidence did you research before you came to this belief at the age of 10? Did you research the evidence from both sides; from Christian sources and from skeptic sources? I doubt it. I will bet that you did not do ANY research prior to believing this fantastical tale.

        The truth seems to be that you believed a fantastical, laws-of-science-defying supernatural claim at the tender age of 10 and only years later did you search for evidence to support your belief. Is that rational thinking, Dr. Licona?

        Above you told one of my atheist colleagues that you believe that when he dies he will go to Hell (and suffer eternal torment, according to your holy book). What evidence do you have for the existence of this eternal torture chamber—or is this yet another supernatural tale which you accepted as fact at the age of 10?

        • Mike Licona
          Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

          Gary: Of course, I was not thinking about whether my decision was rational when I was 10. But that’s irrelevant to whether my more recent assessment was made using reason.

          The resurrection of Jesus is not a “laws-of-science-defying” event. The laws of science describe what goes on in our universe when left to itself. If God exists and raised Jesus, the universe was not left to itself. And if God exists and wanted to raise Jesus, he could do so.

          • Avatar
            Gary  November 19, 2019

            I am a physician. I can assure you that the reanimation of a brain-dead body defies the laws of science.

            But you are correct, Dr. Licona, if a being with unlimited supernatural powers exists, then supernatural events such as dead body reanimations, flying horses, and talking water buffalo are all possible, just as Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism claim. However, just because a being with unlimited supernatural powers exists, does not necessarily mean that this supernatural being has ordained that the supernatural can operate within OUR universe. There is no good evidence that the supernatural has ever intervened in human history—other than anecdotal claims by highly superstitious, often poorly educated, non-scientists. Just because a lot of mostly under-educated people believe something fantastical has occurred, does not mean it did. I know that Christians, such as Dr. Keener, can give long lists of anecdotal claims of “miracles” but anecdotal claims are not sufficient to overrule the apparent inviolability of the laws of science.

            Back to your conversion: You believed in dead body reanimations at age 10. You also state that you believe that the majority of humanity (including the atheists in this discussion) will writhe in agony in an eternal torture chamber for all eternity—but I will bet that you cannot tell us where this massive dungeon is. You say that you investigated your beliefs years later after your conversion, when you were an adult. But I have a question for you: At age 10 did you start believing that a back-from-the-dead first century person named Jesus started to communicate with you in some fashion? At age 10, did you believe that you had a “personal relationship” with this back-from-the-dead person? If so, how objective can one really be in investigating the reality of the reanimation (resurrection) of this first century corpse if you believe that he communicates with you each and every day??

          • Mike Licona
            Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

            Gary: The laws of science inform us what occurs in our universe when left to itself. If God raises someone from the dead, the laws of science are not infringed upon in any way, since the universe would not have been left to itself.

            You wrote: “There is no good evidence that the supernatural has ever intervened in human history—other than anecdotal claims by highly superstitious, often poorly educated, non-scientists.” That’s a demonstrably false statement. You’re a physician. Here’s a physician who testifies of his own miraculous healing. I’ve met this guy. https://youtu.be/ztHa5h12ZsU. This is one of many. Moreover, Keener can hardly be said to be “poorly educated”! Nor is he superstitious. Thus, to say only poor plebs speak of miracles is incorrect.

          • Avatar
            Gary  November 19, 2019

            The keyword in my statement is “often”.

            If you read Dr. Keener’s two volume work, “Miracles”, as I have, you will see that the overwhelming majority of fantastical miracles claims in this work come from Pentecostal Christians in the Third World. Some of the claims in Dr. Keener’s books are so preposterous it is embarrassing that such a kind, intelligent man as Dr. Keener allowed them to be included in his work. An example: A woman without a uterus, prays to Jesus for a baby, and nine months later gives birth to a child! Outrageous. Educated Christians should be ashamed of promoting such silliness. Dr. Keener admits in the forward of his book that he spent not one DIME in researching these claims.

            Yes, some very intelligent, very educated people do believe in miracles. There are many very intelligent Muslim doctors and lawyers who sincerely believe that their prophet flew on a winged horse. There are many very educated, very intelligent Buddhist doctors and lawyers who believe that the Buddha caused a cow to speak in a human language. Intelligent, educated people certainly can and do believe some pretty fantastical, supernatural claims. However, when it comes to the really fantastical healing miracles such as the one listed above, they typically involve the under-educated, very often in a Third World country. In addition, almost all “miracle” claims involve conditions for which a natural recovery is possible. Jesus never seems capable of reattaching severed arms or legs, bringing back to life someone blown to bits by a bomb, or reattaching the head of someone who has been beheaded. No, Jesus only seems to do the easy stuff—the stuff that can, maybe if only rarely, recover by natural causes.

            Please comment on the fact that (in your mind) you were already in a “personal relationship” with the spirit of an executed first century man when you began “investigating” the truth claims of Christianity. I think Dr. Erhman’s skeptic/atheist audience would find your answer very interesting…and telling…about your ability to be objective on this issue.

          • Mike Licona
            Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

            You wrote, “Jesus never seems capable of reattaching severed arms or legs, bringing back to life someone blown to bits by a bomb, or reattaching the head of someone who has been beheaded. No, Jesus only semi to do the easy stuff–the stuff that can, maybe if only rarely recover by natural causes.”

            If John is correct, not all of what Jesus did is reported. I may not have a report of him reattaching a severed arm. However, I do have reports of his rising from the dead, walking on water, etc.

            Yes, I was already a Christian believer when engaged in my investigation. Now, if you want to move away from committing the ad hominem fallacy and deal with the data, I think you’ll get much further with your own investigation.

            That said, I have enjoyed our exchange, Gary. But I’m moving on given my limited time.

          • Avatar
            Gary  November 19, 2019

            Imagine if I were to claim that at age ten I came to believe that Elvis Presley had been raised from the dead. Imagine that from the age of ten, until this very day, I believe that Elvis Presley communicates with me on a daily basis. Would you trust my objectivity in evaluating the evidence for the claim that Elvis Presley had been raised from the dead? I don’t think you would, Dr. Licona. Do you see why many of us are skeptical of your ability to objectively evaluate the evidence for the alleged resurrection of Jesus and the alleged divine inspiration of the Bible?

            If you do not believe that the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth communicates with you, then I apologize for making an ad hominem statement. But if you *do* believe that the spirit of this first century dead man communicates with you, then my statement was not an ad hominem, and I think you should answer the question.

          • Avatar
            Iskander Robertson  November 20, 2019

            Dr licona. the reason why the jews believe that jesus is of the devil is because they say that thousands heard yhwh speak and he told them not to worship him as celestial body, human, animal and idol. if the jewish interpretation of deuteronomy is correct, then the jewish god has greater public testimony than jesus’ private appearances. the jews are told to STONE to death miracle workers who CONTRADICT the public unphysical appearance of yhwh at sinai. do you agree then that testimony of public appearance of yhwh and his jewish laws and rituals (you dont like reading yhwhs righteous laws) means jesus is of the devil ?

          • Avatar
            Gary  November 29, 2019

            While [Craig] Keener [the evangelical Christian author of “Miracles”] acknowledges that a non-supernatural explanation can account for many contemporary “miracle” claims, he also freely admits that he has a vested interest in demonstrating the authenticity of the New Testament. Of course, establishing that miracles are still reported today proves very little other than the fact that miracles are still reported, but so are ghost sightings, hauntings, and witch doctor healings just like they were in the ancient world.

            …[Keener] never once conducted a thorough fact-finding investigation to corroborate modern miracle reports. His catalogue of miracles is often tantamount to accepting the word of his friends and acquaintances without any follow-up, though he admits that true believers routinely embellish or concoct self-validating miracle stories. Accepting people’s claims simply because they are otherwise good, honest, and sincere people ultimately borders on pure naivete.

            –Darren Slade, The Case Against Miracles, pp. 144-145

  14. Avatar
    mikezamjara  November 19, 2019

    Dr. Licona.

    First, let me say that it is very inspiring that Christian and atheists can be friends and recognize each other merits. It is a good sign and one of the reasons I admire Bart (and now you). but, with all respect, I don’t believe what you say. The argument is flawed in a lot of places but let’s talk only about premise 1. I think Bart has shown that it can’t be demonstrated historically the resurrection of Jesus, but for the sake of the argument, let’s suppose it is the truth that Jesus rose from the dead.

    The problem is that in premise 1 there is no reason to assume that someone who rises from the dead is divine or his teachings are to be considered worthy. A person who rises from the death can say lies, by rising from the death he only shows that he can rise from the dead, not that he is wise. You chose alien as a possible alternative but there are a lot of other possibilities you left out, He could be a magician, a time traveler, an immortal man, a devil, a twin brother, a reincarnation, a new species of man, maybe he didn’t die really, maybe Romans were just acting that killed him. Some other god like Zeus could have risen Jesus somehow and still be a normal person (and the authority of his teachings would be unaffected). All those could explain Seem ad hoc? well, as ad hoc as the possibility of being divine. Once you accept the supernatural you can’t close the door to those possibilities without criteria to do it. And still, his teaching can’t just be trustworthy only for coming from a person who rose from the dead. The other steps have huge problems but premise 1 seems to be the base for everything.

    Thank you for the time to post in the forum, I believe that you are one of the most reasonable apologists I have heard and although I disagree with your argument I have learned a lot by listening to your talks.

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

      Thanks for your kind comments, Mike.

      You write, “The problem is that in premise 1 there is no reason to assume that someone who rises from the dead is divine or his teachings are to be considered worthy. A person who rises from the death can say lies, by rising from the death he only shows that he can rise from the dead, not that he is wise. You chose alien as a possible alternative but there are a lot of other possibilities you left out, He could be a magician, a time traveler, an immortal man, a devil, a twin brother, a reincarnation, a new species of man, maybe he didn’t die really, maybe Romans were just acting that killed him. Some other god like Zeus could have risen Jesus somehow and still be a normal person (and the authority of his teachings would be unaffected). All those could explain Seem ad hoc?”

      Some of the options you provided are naturalistic explanations (e.g., magician, twin brother, apparent death, Romans faked his death). For these hypotheses, one simply subjects them to the same scrutiny as any other hypothesis by applying the criteria of inference to the best explanation. They all come out wanting.

      But lets consider some of the other options you mentioned, e.g., Zeus deceived humans by raising Jesus. Of course, this does not dispute whether Jesus rose. It disputes the cause of his resurrection. Nevertheless, you are still correct that it doesn’t prove Jesus is divine. But notice what I wrote in my post: “Every worldview, including atheism, requires a bit of faith. Given Jesus’s resurrection, Christians’ believing Jesus’s teachings about himself would require faith. But it would be a reasonable faith.” I doubt you would dispute that.

      All of us make judgments based on reasoning that’s less than certain. The prominent atheist philosopher of science Michael Ruse at Florida State University has said that atheism requires a metaphysical commitment and an act of faith. I happen to think that Christianity requires the shortest leap!

      • Avatar
        mikezamjara  November 19, 2019

        Thank you for your clear and kind response. It is amazing to talk to people of your intelectual size and learn from you.

        But, I still disagree in many points you brought in your response. Let’s talk about the last claim where you say ” I happen to think that Christianity requires the shortest leap!”. I don’t know how do you measure the size of the leap of faith, one way is with the quantity and size of the claims you have to believe in the leap. I think the leap of faith in Christianity is huge since you have to believe not only that the supernatural exists but that the specifics of the supernatural claims of christianity are true (which are a lot), that the millions of supernatural claims of other religions are false (christianity is an exclusive religion). All of those are intestable, and probably will never be tested. I don’t identify myself as an atheist and agree there is to be a leap of faith to say “there is no god” but by now It seem shorter than christianity. Even deísm (the idea of a creator god but not intervening) is a much shorter leap of faith. I don’t use labels but suspect that truth is somewhere between atheism and deísm. Maybe something like Stuart Kauffman (a theorical biology researcher) proposes in his book “Reinventing the sacred” which I recommend you.

        Again, thank you for your response, openess and I’ll be expecting your next posts.

        • Mike Licona
          Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

          Thanks, Mike Z. In a small nutshell, for which this is not the place to unpack, here’s why I think Christianity requires a smaller leap, in fact, a much smaller one:

          1. I look at the same data scientists observe. Even atheist scientists admit the existence of a significant amount of data from cosmology and molecular biology that suggest there was a Designer of the universe and intelligent life. Now, non believing scientists explain that data in other terms. However, many, e.g., Francis Crick, and others, acknowledge the canny appearance of these being the product of a Designer.

          2. I look at the data supporting a finite universe. It had a beginning. Yet, if the universe is all there is, at least materially speaking, how did it get here if it had a beginning? It couldn’t bring itself into existence, since that would presuppose its existence. If it was not created, then it would have had to come into being out of nothing. That takes an enormous amount of faith to believe! I think it requires far less faith to posit an eternal cause that brought the universe into being. Given my first point, this would mean an eternal being who is immensely intelligent.

          3. I look at the data supporting a supernatural dimension of reality, such as well-evidenced NDEs, veridical apparitions, extreme answered prayer, and paranormal phenomena. These so strongly point to the existence of a supernatural dimension of reality that I don’t think a genuine realist can look at the data seriously and walk away as a naturalist. For a very small sampling of what I’m referring to, see this 10-minute video: https://youtu.be/WRYIr2aBkLk. So, I do believe the supernatural exists. But I don’t think it requires any faith to arrive at that conclusion. On the contrary, I think one must ignore the data to reject its existence.

          4. I look at the data supporting Jesus’s radical claims about himself and for his resurrection from the dead. I’m persuaded that, among other things, Jesus claimed to be divine in some sense and that he rose from the dead. I’ve written extensively on Jesus’ resurrection. I lay out my robust historical case for it in my book: https://amzn.to/34eSaZ6.

          In my opinion, these four reasons strongly suggest Christianity is true. Now lets consider atheism, which you do not avow.

          1. Atheism must account for each of the four points above in a manner that’s superior to the conclusion that Christianity is true.

          2. Atheism must account for human consciousness. To date, it cannot. In fact, prominent atheist philosophers such as Colin McGinn and Thomas Nagel have both said the problem of human consciousness is insoluble given a naturalistic universe.

          3. If atheism is true, there are no moral absolutes. Given atheism, all morals are merely for an aid in survival or for quality of life. That’s fine. But one could not say that what Hitler did to the Jews, et al. was intrinsically evil. Rather it would merely be a different ethic, a way in which some creatures of nature treat another. In his book “River Out of Heaven: A Darwinian View of Life,” Richard Dawkins writes, “if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes . . . [it] would be neither evil nor good in intention. . . . The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. . . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music” (132-33). Of course, this does nothing to prove that morals are objective rather than subjective. However, deep down I think we all know that things such as rape, torturing babies, and slavery are intrinsically evil. They would be evil, even if a large majority of the world’s population thought otherwise. However, if atheism is true, Dawkins is correct that there is neither evil nor good.

          4. Then there are emotional reasons why I hope Christianity is true and atheism is false.
          a. If atheism is true, injustices ultimately go unpunished. I think of the black man who was framed for a crime he did not commit and spent his entire adult life in prison so that the perpetrator who framed him could enjoy his life. If atheism is true, there’s no one to hear his cries. The same is true of the women and children who are abducted and sold into a life of sex slavery.
          b. If atheism is true, goodness goes unrewarded. Living a life of sacrifice for the benefits of others is a matter of personal choice. Although laudable, if God does not exist, why spend one’s only life in sacrifice instead of enjoying it to its fullest?
          c. If atheism is true, death is final. We will never see our loved ones again. They lived, died, and are forgotten.

          However, if Christianity is true, injustices will be answered. Goodness will be rewarded. And death is not final. These do not at all make Christianity true and atheism false. But if Christianity is true, it is a very good thing. And since, in my opinion, the reasons I have mentioned above strongly suggest that Christianity is true, I can rejoice in that fact, because injustices will be answered, goodness will be rewarded, and death is not final.

          That said, I’m sure you have things you will want to say in reply. Of course, feel very free to say them. But please understand that the time I have to interact on this blog is limited. So, I will be able to reply to only a very few comments you may offer.

          • Avatar
            flcombs  November 20, 2019

            Thanks for your posts and responses. I think the biggest issue today across so many areas is the lack of friendly discourse on controversial issues. It’s the best way to learn and get along. Somehow “assume good will and intentions” has disappeared.

            (ref your first numbered items)

            1. I see a lot showing ways life could happen without divine intervention, so that argument isn’t strong. No one was there, so obviously it can’t be “proven”. But then again, so many explanations as to who wrote this or that bible book or answering a contradiction aren’t “proven” solutions either but speculation that conservative Christians heartily endorse.

            2. The universe is still argued whether it is eternal: could have existed before the “big bang” in a different form, etc. But your argument falls back to the “who created God then?” problem. Saying there is an eternal creator god is a self-definition. It is just as valid to say god had to have been created too, since nothing that complex, etc. can exist without being created. If a god could have existed without being created, then so could the universe.

            3. Would have to go though each one, but for example NDEs. A lot of that is wishful since a “medical” determination of death isn’t necessarily really dead (of course it’s only NEAR death experience!). For example, recent studies point out they are rarely probing the inside of the brain for activity in those cases and there is a lot even today not known about the brain. NDEs are very self culture based. When a non-Christian has a religious NDE and its another god or not Christian, which god is the true one? Many supernatural things have likely explanations: infrasound effects, etc. Not being able to explain something doesn’t prove it is supernatural, although humans have always believed so. After all, people used to think the Sun was a god.

            Must cut short, but as to morality: Through history religious and atheist believers have done horrible things. Many were killed in the name of one or another god, even Jesus. The Bible god even ordered atrocities, including executing women and children (unborn too – pregnant women!). The Christian moral argument is weak, at least if the Bible is to be believed.

          • Mike Licona
            Mike Licona  November 21, 2019

            Thanks, flcombs. In reply to your specific points . . .

            1. To date, no one has come up with a plausible scenario whereby life formed by natural causes.
            2. Cosmology is not my field. So, I may be mistaken here but I’m not aware of those who say our universe is eternal. The universe began with the Big Bang, prior to which was nothing at all.
            3. Although a number of NDEs can certainly be explained by natural phenomena, I’m interested in those where a person has an out of body experience during which s/he obtains accurate information they could not have otherwise known. There are a number of these. And they suggest the existence of a soul.
            4. I agree with you that religious people and atheists alike have done horrible things. However, we shouldn’t judge a philosophy or religion by its abuse. Jesus would certainly not condone much of the atrocities done to others by those who claim to do it in his name. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said there will be many on the final day who say to him, “Lord! Lord! Did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?” Jesus says, “And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me you who practice lawlessness!'” Regarding God ordering atrocities in the Old Testament, Paul Copan and Matthew Flanagan have written an excellent book addressing that topic: https://amzn.to/2KF75V2
            3.

          • Avatar
            RICHWEN90  November 20, 2019

            There is no reason to believe that matter and energy in some form have not always existed. Once you posit that something can “always have existed”, you are free to decide what that something is. Much simpler to suppose that it was the universe, in some form, and dispense with the need for a creator. Given quantum mechanics, that
            strict Scholastic logic is much less convincing.

          • Avatar
            mikezamjara  November 21, 2019

            Thank you for your response Dr Licona and for your kindness of interacting in this blog.

            1. I think data don’t suggest anything, people create theories to explain data. The data that could demonstrate a designer is showing the designer itself. We have millions of cases of physical designers and none of an immaterial, invisible one, that is a big problem. In the past, many phenomena were attributed to spiritual causes and now have naturalistic explanations. Atheists just need to believe that the unexplained will be explained in the future as has happened in the past.

            2. The current theory for origins says that universe had a beginning but time also started there. If that is true there was no a time when the universe didn’t existed so it didn’t jumped to existence from non existence. check it.

            3. In the video, all the cases depend on testimony of few people in private places with no physical evidence like video or can’t repeat the cases to find a regular pattern of how apparitions work or prayers are answered. That weakens a lot the argument. I don’t reject the data, I think there are better explanations for them. I prefer to say “I don’t know”. I hope you don’t consider me as a non-genuine realist. I really tried.

            4. Jesus would take more than 410 words, so let’s move.

            The alternative to your emotional reasons is not so bad. If there is no justice, we need to create it, It is very difficult to agree on how to do it, we have failed a lot, but we have achieved a lot also. I think morals are tested by trial and error and are selected by the number of individuals that accept them by choice more based in results (i.e. peace, prosperity) than “good” or “evil”. Maybe we will find a moral system that can give the best results to the larger number of humans and that can be accepted by the larger number of humans as possible. We would not know if it is “good” of “evil”, but could work. Game theory science studies this. I know I will die before it happens. However, the best I can do is contribute (although little) to find it. About death, if it is final, we have to love now and sacrificing for others is occasionally one of the biggest joys. that could work.

            Thank you for your time and kind responses.

          • Avatar
            flcombs  November 21, 2019

            Mr Licona,

            1: There is plenty of information already on the internet under “abiogenesis” with plausible explanations and processes that do not require a god to intervene for life to happen.

            2: There are also claims of “we just don’t know what was there before the big bang” (can’t “see” past a singularity), or due to multiple universes, etc. Point is that we can’t just assume there was nothing before as proof of god. If we can just assume that there is a god and declare him “eternal”, we can easier declare the universe eternal, and no god needed. The simplest answer is just the universe being eternal instead of having to create a god to answer (and which one anyway?).

            3: Could debate about the NDEs and causes but would think people seeing different gods would mean Christianity shouldn’t be accepted as valid if NDEs are valid experiences. Plus many of those experiences are counter to what I hear claimed in church about death and so on. But I’m not sure why even the existence of a soul would be any proof of a god. For example, why couldn’t that just be a part of life existence on another plane or dimension? Not trying to make anything up, but since physics and cosmology has many current theories with more than 4 dimensions, then obviously life could likely exist on more than 4. Even if true, it could just be another unknown part of life.

            4: Yes I have the book. The bible clearly says on many occasions that God ordered what we consider to be atrocities. The book just tries to justify, but so do ISIS and the Nazis. Claims of “exaggerations” just counter conservative claims of literally believing the Bible and the bible is just a typical ancient book. PLUS it means the “bad” people weren’t as bad due to exaggerating their “evil” and shouldn’t be exterminated.

            General: I’m fine with “we just don’t know for certain” in some of these areas now, but reject the assumption that only the existence of a god can explain them. I can’t accept assuming that things we don’t currently understand somehow prove a god. Humans have a long history of doing that and being wrong, including worshiping the sun and other things they didn’t understand, so what’s new?

          • Avatar
            Gary  November 22, 2019

            William Lane Craig, a fellow evangelical, once said: “The simplest Christian, who is oblivious to any historical evidence, can know that Jesus was resurrected from the dead (the core belief of Christianity) by the testimony of the Holy Spirit in his heart.”

            Isn’t it true that the PRIMARY reason that you believe in the truth claims of Christianity, Dr. Licona, is that you believe that the spirit of this dead man lives in your body and has been secretly communicating with you since you were TEN years old?

          • Mike Licona
            Mike Licona  November 22, 2019

            No. That’s not true, Gary.

          • Avatar
            Gary  November 25, 2019

            Really, Dr. Licona? So you do *not* believe that the spirit of Jesus lives within you and has been communicating with you in a “still, small voice” since you were born again at age 10?

  15. Avatar
    ShonaG  November 19, 2019

    Why would divinely inspired mean God sets up a horrible event in which I’m raped or you’re mauled so somebody can write about it? Wouldn’t it be more honest to say the Bible like ALL holy work is divinely inspired because it is man searching for the divine and the sacred in life not just in the natural world of creation but in how we treat each other, what is the best way for us to live together what is the ideal even if we cannot achieve it.
    I’m a Christian Anarchist so Tolstoy is important to me most importantly the idea that all religions are true because all religions are searching for the same thing it is just in his and my opinion Jesus fulfills a definition of love beyond others and the crucifixion offers freedom not by Jesus dying for us but by us willing to die for others and for our ideals. People ask why do we always kill the Good people like Jesus, Gandhi & MLK but the truth is to be good people like them we have to lay down our lives and be free from the fear of even death itself. Divine isn’t God setting me up to be mauled, divine is me choosing to be mauled or raped for an ideal of what humanity could be.

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 19, 2019

      Thanks for your comment, Shona. All religions cannot be true, because they contradict one another in numerous fundamental areas. Check out this new 5-minute video I just viewed this morning. At one point it mentions differences between Islam and Buddhism: https://youtu.be/RRyq6RwzlEM

      • Avatar
        ShonaG  November 20, 2019

        All religions can be true, they may not be incorporated into one religion is what you mean but they can be and are all true reflection of humanity’s relationship with the divine as they are. Otherwise in your words you have a Jesus that b elieves God kills children to test their parents’ faith – not only have you Got a God I will not worship whether he’s true or real you now create a Jesus I can only despise whether or not he’s real or true. PS I know the differences between Islam and Buddhism My son was fast tracked through Higher and advanced higher RMPS. I never suggesting adding the 5 pillars of Islam to the eightfold path though I doubt you know much about Islam or Buddhism yourself.

      • Avatar
        ShonaG  November 20, 2019

        Also ask if your reply was inspired by the divine or my genitals before telling me other religions can’t be divinely inspired as much and at times if not more than the Bible?

      • Avatar
        ShonaG  November 20, 2019

        Will ask one last time was the arrogant and demeaning reply, divine inspiration or based on my gender? Or do you presume everybody is completely ignorant and doesn’t know what they’re talking about except you. Given your comment and how you seem unable to connect to divine inspiration do you think you are in a place to judge whether the writers of other Holy works can’t be divinely inspired because they’re not the same religion as you. Because your religion doesn’t appear to be helping your divine inspiration.

      • Avatar
        ShonaG  November 21, 2019

        Are you capable of behaving ethically? It was deeply immoral to imply I did not know the differences between eightfold path of Buddhism and the five pillars of Islam, it was a downright lie to claim that because you can’t create one massive religion that all religions are not true. 1. They are all inspired by divine, they are all a search for how we should treat each other, they are all about us reaching our highest potential as humans which includes behaving ethically. 2. They are all capable of bringing people to the divine in their lives and they are all worthwhile for all their practitioners 3. They are all true and lead people to try and be more ethical, more compassionate and more respectful of what it is to be human something you could take a lesson from!.

  16. Avatar
    michael51  November 19, 2019

    Dr. Licona, it’s remarkably gracious of you to take the time and effort to respond to all these questions. My comment is going to be different. I went on a quest similar to yours. Having been in the church from youth, there came a time when I had to come to grips with the “problems” in/with the Bible. I refused to ignore them, and set out to find where truth would lead. The struggle took years, and for me, apologetics did not provide the answer, but it finally resolved on the same side of the issue with you. I relate to a lot of what you say and why you say it and why you have accepted this challenge. I think you would agree with me that enduring the struggles of intellectual challenges to faith produces a special patience, strength, and depth of understanding. As I will say to people, I have an “eyes-wide-open faith.” I’ve enjoyed Dr. Ehrman’s books for quite some time and just recently joined here, and I’m always interested in what skeptics and critics have to say. I feel the issues and objections are reasonable and should be acknowledged and respectfully addressed as you have done.

    A couple of brief comments in response to posts…(1) If there really is a God of the Bible, science is only going to find out about him what he allows. (2) Trauma and tragedy also occurred in and around the lives of people who wrote down the Bible books and it didn’t deter them.

    Keep up the good work. I think I’ll have something to write when you get to inspiration and inerrancy.

  17. Avatar
    Hngerhman  November 20, 2019

    [not for posting, a message to Dr Licona: Dr Licona, I just wanted to make sure you saw my posting from the other day in reply to your response. I know you are super busy and thus have to pick and choose where to apply your time. Please feel more than welcome to not respond to it, I just wanted to make sure that wasn’t because it got lost in the shuffle. Your work on its own and in the context of your tangling with Dr Ehrman is important stuff for many – not matter where on the belief/unbelief spectrum they fall, because it is wrestling with the hard questions wherein one finds truth. Thanks again for participating here on the blog. Both for the intellectual interchange as well as helping to raise awareness for the charities supported by the blog. I look forward to your future posts.]

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 20, 2019

      Nathan: Thanks for reposting. I did not see your original comment. And thanks for your kind remarks!

  18. Avatar
    Silver  November 20, 2019

    Dear Dr Licona.
    Please may I ask where you stand with respect to the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy? Have you ever during your faith journey subscribed to this? I have read (risenjesus.com) that you now favour the Lausanne Covenant. Are you able to identify for me the key differences re Inerrancy between this and CSBI, please, and indicate where you feel this Covenant best fits your definition of Inerrancy?

  19. Avatar
    Pattylt  November 20, 2019

    Reading through the comments, I was struck by a commenters question on how one can truly be unbiased if they believed in the resurrection of Jesus from age ten. I was raised Jewish and I can state that no matter how hard I tried to believe in Jesus when I was in my seeking phase, I could accept that God would raise a righteous man to life but the threshold I couldn’t cross was man as God. At ten, I was a firm believer in my Judaism…as much as a ten year old can be and man is not God and God is never man. It was a bias that I still hold today even though I no longer believe in God. There are certain beliefs we can accept and cannot due to our childhood indoctrination. I realize some DO overcome it and convert (both directions) but for most, it’s a bridge they can’t cross. You, of course, could accept a man/God resurrected for our sins at 40yo as the idea had long been implanted.

    I do thank you for your posting here! I find you and your arguments fascinating and intelligent. I also find it fascinating how strongly you believe that you have found a truth that you feel confident in. I feel the same about mine, as well, even though it’s the opposite of yours! May we still live together in peace.

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 21, 2019

      Pattylt: Thanks for your comments. Yes, I definitely think we can disagree and live together in peace. And I agree with you that one can believe something since childhood and change that belief later on. Bart did because he went with where he believed the evidence pointed. I was willing to abandon my Christian faith but did not because I went with where I believed the evidence pointed.

      • Avatar
        cristianp  November 22, 2019

        Still do not you think it is possible that sometimes we make a confirmation bias of our “beliefs” and do not give up on the arguments?

  20. Avatar
    sjhicks21  November 20, 2019

    Mr. Licona I am very grateful that you have consented to provide your arguments on this blog. I have listened to many of your podcasts, read many works by conservative theologians and read extensively in the Bible. Also I have been very impressed with the sincerity, thoughtfulness and apparently deep self reflection you bring to your task of examining the case for the resurrected Jesus.

    Your basic argument seems to rest on your conclusions concerning the historicity of the resurrection. Thus, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then all of his claims about himself, the role of the apostles in informing the Gospels and the validity of the theological arguments in Paul’s letters are thrown into question. it seems to me that it is reasonable for me given my intellectual capabilities and above average effort that my conclusion that the resurrection did not occur is justified for me. It also seems to me that these conclusions are justified based on just the simple fact that we are human and regardless of the unknowable truth (from a historical perspective) of the matter they used their abilities to the best they could and yet came up with a different conclusion from yours.

    Based on this basic nature of us as humans and the sincere self perceived openness of mind with which we have approached the task, which your god should understand, it seems impossible to me that a god who is as loving and compassionate and forgiving as you/Paul claim, could condemn people who conclude there was no resurrection of Jesus nor the theological and scriptural conclusions that follow to eternal damnation in any significant way different from Christians. There reward its seems should be the knowledge that they got it right. In addition yours/Paul’s complicated, dense reasoning for concluding that a God would do such a thing is also extremely difficult to comprehend based on the reasoning and observational powers you claim he has given us. Thus it seems to me completely rational and not at all unforgivable, condemnable, etc. based on a non acceptance of the resurrection as historical, to conclude that the god you worship can’t exist, Jesus was not divine and that scripture is not in fact inerrant or even divinely inspired.

    • Mike Licona
      Mike Licona  November 21, 2019

      Thanks for your kind remarks, sjhicks21. I think of Matthew 19:16-24. A rich man comes to Jesus and asks what is necessary to be saved. Jesus tells him to sell everything he has, give the proceeds to the poor, then come follow him. The man walked away grieving because he owned much. The man apparently believed but was unwilling to commit to following Jesus and his demands. Thus, salvation is not a matter of merely believing ABC. It’s following Jesus who is not merely looking for people to believe the right things. He’s looking for disciples. That’s what changes the world.

      • Avatar
        sjhicks21  November 22, 2019

        I do not understand how your response answers my discussion. My discussion was that reason can reasonably lead to non belief, because it is reasonable to conclude that the resurrection could not have happened. If reason lead me to conclude the resurrection happened then I would have no problem giving up my wealth in order to follow Christ. In fact even though I don’t follow Christ I don’t think that having wealth is that big a deal. Giving it up for something that agrees with my conclusion about Christ would not trouble me at all. Not sure why the rich man in the parable was so troubled. Sounds to me like someone who thought having a lot of wealth was important made up the story.

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