The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism – A critique (Chapter Six: Science Has Disproved Christianity)Posted: October 4, 2013
Chapter Six: Science Has Disproved Christianity
Skeptics Assertion: “…scientific training makes it difficult if not impossible to accept the teachings of Christianity” (referencing the origin of life story differing from evolution).
“And the Bible is full of miracles, they simply couldn’t have happened.”
“Aren’t Miracles Scientifically Impossible?”
Keller admits at the beginning “the miraculous is particularly important for Christian belief.” citing the miracle of incarnation, the miracle birth of Christ, and his resurrection. (P. 85) He goes on accurately saying science is equipped to look for natural explanations only, however he loses it shortly thereafter saying “There is no experimental model for testing ‘No supernatural cause for any phenomenon is possible. ”
Now to be clear, I am not saying there are no such things as miracles (def: An event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of a god), however, from that definition we need to look closely at what is required for a miracle to be genuine.
True, there is no model as the one Keller laid out, however for something to be miraculous every other experimental model must be applied and come up empty. Even then you could say we simply don’t have the science to explain it as of yet. I fully admit this could be considered a cop-out, but if you look at how much was considered miraculous and later explained by science, it warrants mention.
Keller goes on to misrepresent scientists being suspicious of any miraculous claims as “miracles cannot happen”. He takes this misrepresentation a step further, “the hidden premise of this statement, there can’t be God who does miracles” (P. 86)
This is another example of Keller not addressing what the issue is. The question is, can things happen against every natural explanation, not whether or not there is a super-being who is at work in the natural world. Clearly if a scientist believes in a super-being he/she is much more likely to accept the miracles Keller is arguing.
Keller quotes the philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s analogy of the drunk insisting to look for his car keys under the street light because the light was better.
This is a very condescending view of people who spend their lives looking to be beyond reproach by their contemporaries. Science is less like the drunk in the street light and more like a group of individuals working on all sorts of key finding lights, tools, tests, and options under the street light. If science found god just past a nebula or brown dwarf they would be the first to shout it from the roof tops. Can you say “Nobel”?
“Isn’t Science in Conflict with Christianity”
Keller accurately points out this idea is played on by media by showing the two sides and “protagonists and antagonists”. (P. 87) He also points out many Christians find no conflict in evolution apart from “philosophical naturalism” – the view evolution is guided by no particular being. This smacks of having your cake and eating it too.
I am relieved when Christians do not take the orthodox view of 6,000 year old universe, but Intelligent Design, even if it was a superior theory to evolution, wouldn’t necessarily point to the Trinity. Given all the creation stories of religion and myth anyone could take credit… if Intelligent Design proved superior.
Keller goes on to attack Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennet‘s assertion scientists are less likely to believe in god. He artfully uses statistics to void Dawkins and Dennet’s statistics. We are all aware you can make statistics prove almost anything, and even if scientists are split down the middle as Keller seems to say, it is fair to say believing scientists use science in the lab and faith in their personal life. If a believing scientist prays for his/her grandma to recover from cancer and she does, is it more or less likely the scientist will attribute it to medical science and say the prayers couldn’t have hurt?
Lastly, if we put aside what scientist believe personally as evidence for or against Christianity conflicting with science, what is left. Miracle stories of water to wine, the blind seeing, demons possessing pigs, and mass resurrections. These are in conflict with science. The scientific community would and does view fundamentalists, such as the staff of Answers in Genesis (AiG), as intellectual bigots and practicers of pseudo-science.
“Doesn’t Evolution Disprove The Bible?”
Keller basically says Christians read the Bible in two ways. Some passages are poetic (metaphors) and others are eye-witness accounts. While he admits there are passages when it is hard to tell which way to read it and there will aways be debates on interpretation (p. 93-94), he very conveniently puts the creation story in the “metaphor” category and Christ’s divinity in the “eye-witness” category.
Both of these examples are incredibly miraculous and require a high degree of faith. Should this book have be written pre-evolution would Keller have stated the Genesis story was poetic myth? More importantly if the Q document (the gospel, coupled with Mark, the other three are theoretically based on) was found and shown to be unequivocally fraudulent, would Pastor Keller close his ministry and renounce his faith? I realize neither of these questions are likely to be answered, but it is important to look at the mind-set of this argument.
After stating the Bible is open to interpretation and the creation story is not taken literally by him (P. 93), he abandons the initial question saying it isn’t really important and the skeptic inquirer “should concentrate and weigh the central claims of Christianity.” So let’s do that briefly.
Jesus Christ resided with God the Father in Heaven. He was immaculately conceived through the virgin Mary. He ministered to the middle east, performing miracles and teaching for 3 years. He is convicted of blasphemy, beaten and crucified to death. Rises from the dead three days later showing himself to many people.
First off, even if the authors of the Gospels had been writing everything down as they went along these events were not witnessed (Luke 1:1-2) by them. Mary’s pregnancy claim is difficulty to accept even with a scribe there from the beginning. Secondly the gospels (Matthew and Luke) which tell the story vary wildly and are often in outright conflict.
1. Issue: journey to Bethlehem
Luke states Joseph and Mary are in Nazareth and required to go to Bethlehem for a census. The reality of this census is considered dubious by most historians since there is no contemporary evidence for it and it would have thrown that region into chaos.
Matthew says nothing about Nazareth or a census and strongly implies Joseph and Mary are living in or around Bethlehem. (Matt 1:24)
Matthew doesn’t have a manger (Matt 2:1) and doesn’t make mention of Nazareth until after King Herod’s death. (Matt 2:23)
2 Issue – Problems surrounding the visit of the Magi to see Jesus.
Luke makes no mention of the wise men coming to see Jesus and according to Matthew (Matt 2:1-16) it was the visit of the “Magi” that set off events culminating with Herod ordering a massacre of male children under the age of 2 years old. Again there is no historian of the time who recorded this large scale infanticide. Luke also fails to mention it.
The Magi are lead by a star to Jesus but they have to stop and ask Herod for directions which is how the King hears of this newly born monarch. We are lead to believe two things which don’t make sense at this point. First Herod is jealous enough to later commit wide scale infanticide, but doesn’t send one assassin with the Maji to Bethlehem where he sends them. Secondly, the star can guide the maji to a specific house in Bethlehem (Matt 2:9), but they had to ask Herod what town to look in…?
According to Luke (Luke 2:21-22), Joseph and Mary only stayed in Bethlehem long enough to meet the requirements of the law which pertained to women that had given birth.
This law (Lev 12:1-8) states that a woman that gives birth to a male child must wait approximately 40 days to purify herself before a sacrifice is made and the child is consecrated to the Lord.
In order for the Matthew’s Magi to find Jesus, they would have had to visit him within a narrow window of about 40 days, while Joseph and Mary were still in Bethlehem, and that opens the door for yet another problem. Matthew leads us to believe Jesus was around two when they left Bethlehem.
Issue – The shepherds come to see Jesus and announce him to the world.
The Gospel of Matthew states that upon seeing the young child Jesus and Mary in a house (not a manger). Of course, the Magi and their gifts don’t exist in the Gospel of Luke, but when the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are combined, as they must be in order for all of this to be accurate and irrefutable history, this serious problem becomes evident.
3. Issue – The shepherds come to see Jesus and announce him to the world.
Luke tells this story: An angel appears and tells some shepherds in a field there is a new king, they need to go and see him, then tell everyone else about the virgin birthed savior which they do.
Again Matthew doesn’t tell this story and conflicts with Luke’s. Shepherds are telling everyone there has been a savior king born in the region and yet Herod doesn’t know until the pagan star gazers show up. Mind you this is a prophecy fulfilled and would have been very important to the Hebrews of the region including Herod and his court. If the locals did view it as nonsense, why would god bother sending an angel?
4. Issue – fleeing to Egypt
Matthew says after residing in Bethlehem for over year Joseph get’s an angelic warning about Herod’s death decree and that he should flee to Egypt which he does. They reside their until Herod’s death.
“When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son”
This is also some clear chicanery for the divinity of Christ since it is a very forced fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. There are many more which are less blatant but that’s for another time.
Luke says nothing about any of this. He states they were there for about 40 days after which they go to Jerusalem and then Nazareth. (Luke 2:39)
Ministry Of Christ
1. Issue – Miracles and evidence.
37 Miracles of Jesus
# Miracle Matthew Mark Luke John
1 Jesus Turns Water into Wine 2:1-11
2 Jesus Heals an Official’s Son 4:43-54
3 Jesus Drives Out an Evil Spirit 1:21-27 4:31-36
4 Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law 8:14-15 1:29-31 4:38-39
5 Jesus Heals Many Sick at Evening 8:16-17 1:32-34 4:40-41
6 First Miraculous Catch of Fish 5:1-11
7 Jesus Cleanses a Man With Leprosy 8:1-4 1:40-45 5:12-14
8 Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant 8:5-13 7:1-10
9 Jesus Heals a Paralytic 9:1-8 2:1-12 5:17-26
10 Jesus Heals a Man’s Withered Hand 12:9-14 3:1-6 6:6-11
11 Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son in Nain 7:11-17
12 Jesus Calms a Storm 8:23-27 4:35-41 8:22-25
13 Jesus Casts Demons into a Herd of Pigs 8:28-33 5:1-20 8:26-39
14 Jesus Heals a Woman in the Crowd 9:20-22 5:25-34 8:42-48
15 Jesus Raises Jairus’ Daughter to Life 9:18,
16 Jesus Heals Two Blind Men 9:27-31
17 Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak 9:32-34
18 Jesus Heals an Invalid at Bethesda 5:1-15
19 Jesus Feeds 5,000 14:13-21 6:30-44 9:10-17 6:1-15
20 Jesus Walks on Water 14:22-33 6:45-52 6:16-21
21 Jesus Heals Many Sick in Gennesaret 14:34-36 6:53-56
22 Jesus Heals a Gentile Woman’s Demon-Possessed Daughter 5:21-28 7:24-30
23 Jesus Heals a Deaf and Dumb Man 7:31-37
24 Jesus Feeds 4,000 15:32-39 8:1-13
25 Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida 8:22-26
26 Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind 9:1-12
27 Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon 17:14-20 9:14-29 9:37-43
28 Miraculous Temple Tax in a Fish’s Mouth 17:24-27
29 Jesus Heals a Blind, Mute Demoniac 12:22-23 11:14-23
30 Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman 13:10-17
31 Jesus Heals a Man With Dropsy on the Sabbath 14:1-6
32 Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers 17:11-19
33 Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead 11:1-45
34 Jesus Restores Sight to Bartimaeus 20:29-34 10:46-52 18:35-43
35 Jesus Withers the Fig Tree 21:18:22 11:12-14
36 Jesus Heals a Servant’s Severed Ear 22:50-51
37 Second Miraculous Catch of Fish 21:4-11
To date there are no contemporary reports of any of these events. No greek, Hebrew, or Roman records of these events or of Jesus the Nazarene. This was not a large region and all these event purportedly took place inside three years.
Historians question the physical existence of Socrates, Alexander the Great, and William Shakespeare and Keller is asking for belief not only did Jesus exist and did these amazing things, but no one besides his followers took note?
Death and Resurrection
Issues (Bare with me, I’ll keep it as concise as possible)
A. THE TRIALS
Before listing the contradictions regarding the trials of Jesus, it should be stated that the whole episode is quite obviously a fabrication. Anyone familiar with Jewish law recognizes the impossibility of the chief priests and scribes arresting Jesus and assembling to question him during one of the most holy of Jewish festivals.
1. Where was Jesus taken immediately after his arrest?
a. Matthew, Mark and Luke say that Jesus was taken directly to the high priest (Matthew 26:57, Mark 14:53 and Luke 22:54).
b. John says that Jesus was taken first to Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest (John 18:13) who, after an indeterminate period of time, sent Jesus to the high priest (John 18:24).
2. When did the priests and scribes gather together to question Jesus?
a. Matthew 26:57 says that on the night Jesus was arrested the priests and scribes were gathered together prior to Jesus being brought to the high priest.
b. Mark 14:53 says the priests and scribes gathered together on the night of Jesus’ arrest after Jesus was brought to the high priest.
c. Luke 22:66 says the priests and scribes assembled the day after Jesus was arrested.
d. John mentions only the high priest – no other priests or scribes play a role in questioning Jesus.
3. Was Jesus questioned by Herod?
a. Luke says that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod who questioned Jesus at length and then returned Jesus to Pilate (Luke 23:7-11).
b. Matthew, Mark and John make no mention of Herod. This, in itself, means nothing, but it brings about another contradiction later.
4. Who was responsible for Jesus’ death, Pilate or the Jews?
The Biblical account of Pilate’s offer to release Jesus but the Jews demanding the release of Barabbas is pure fiction, containing both contradictions and historical inaccuracies.
a. What had Barabbas done?
1. Mark 15:7 and Luke 23:19 say that Barabbas was guilty of insurrection and murder.
2. John 18:40 says that Barabbas was a robber.
b. Pilate’s “custom” of releasing a prisoner at Passover.
This is pure invention – the only authority given by Rome to a Roman governor in situations like this was postponement of execution until after the religious festival. Release was out of the question. It is included in the gospels for the sole purpose of further removing blame for Jesus’ death from Pilate and placing it on the Jews.
c. Pilate gives in to the mob.
The gospels have Pilate giving in to an unruly mob. This is ridiculous in light of Pilate’s previous and subsequent history. Josephus tells us that Pilate’s method of crowd control was to send his soldiers into the mob and beat them (often killing them) into submission. Pilate was eventually recalled to Rome because of his brutality.
5. Who put the robe on Jesus?
a. Matthew 27:28, Mark 15:17 and John 19:2 say that after Pilate had Jesus scourged and turned over to his soldiers to be crucified, the soldiers placed a scarlet or purple robe on Jesus as well as a crown of thorns.
b. Luke 23:11, in contradiction to Matthew, Mark and John, says that the robe was placed on Jesus much earlier by Herod and his soldiers. Luke mentions no crown of thorns.
B. THE CRUCIFIXION
1. Crucified between two robbers
Matthew 27:38 and Mark 15:27 say that Jesus was crucified between two robbers (Luke just calls them criminals; John simply calls them men). It is a historical fact that the Romans did not crucify robbers. Crucifixion was reserved for insurrectionists and rebellious slaves.
2. Peter and Mary near the cross
When the gospel writers mention Jesus talking to his mother and to Peter from the cross, they run afoul of another historical fact – the Roman soldiers closely guarded the places of execution, and nobody was allowed near (least of all friends and family who might attempt to help the condemned person) since death by crucifixion often took days.
3. The opened tombs
According to Matthew 27:51-53, at the moment Jesus died there was an earthquake that opened tombs and many people were raised from the dead. For some reason they stayed in their tombs until after Jesus was resurrected, at which time they went into Jerusalem and were seen by many people.
Here Matthew gets too dramatic for his own good. If many people came back to life and were seen by many people, it must have created quite a stir (even if the corpses were in pretty good shape!). Yet Matthew seems to be the only person aware of this happening – historians of that time certainly know nothing of it – neither do the other gospel writers.
C. THE RESURRECTION
1. Who found the empty tomb?
a. According to Matthew 28:1, only “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.”
b. According to Mark 16:1, “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome.”
c. According to Luke 23:55, 24:1 and 24:10, “the women who had come with him out of Galilee.” Among these women were “Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James.” Luke indicates in verse 24:10 that there were at least two others.
d. According to John 20:1-4, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb alone, saw the stone removed, ran to find Peter, and returned to the tomb with Peter and another disciple.
2. Who did they find at the tomb?
a. According to Matthew 28:2-4, an angel of the Lord with an appearance like lightning was sitting on the stone that had been rolled away. Also present were the guards that Pilate had contributed. On the way back from the tomb the women meet Jesus (Matthew 28:9).
b. According to Mark 16:5, a young man in a white robe was sitting inside the tomb.
c. According to Luke 24:4, two men in dazzling apparel. It is not clear if the men were inside the tomb or outside of it.
d. According to John 20:4-14, Mary and Peter and the other disciple initially find just an empty tomb. Peter and the other disciple enter the tomb and find only the wrappings. Then Peter and the other disciple leave and Mary looks in the tomb to find two angels in white. After a short conversation with the angels, Mary turns around to find Jesus.
3. Who did the women tell about the empty tomb?
a. According to Mark 16:8, “they said nothing to anyone.”
b. According to Matthew 28:8, they “ran to report it to His disciples.”
c. According to Luke 24:9, “they reported these things to the eleven and to all the rest.”
d. According to John 20:18, Mary Magdalene announces to the disciples that she has seen the Lord.
V. THE ASCENSION
According to Luke 24:51, Jesus’ ascension took place in Bethany, on the same day as his resurrection.
According to Acts 1:9-12, Jesus’ ascension took place at Mount Olivet, forty days after his resurrection.
There are many, many more incongruities throughout the New Testament, but I felt this sufficient to show the Biblical recounting of events is errant, uncorroborated by contemporary texts, and archaeology to date.
Keller is perfectly willing to accept second-hand contradictory dictations put through a 1,000 year political game of telephone as “eyewitness” accounts proving the historicity Jesus and his divinity. Evolution may or may not disprove the Bible, but it is clear the Bible is not accurate or sufficient evidence to prove its incredible claims.
“Healing the Wound”
Pastor Keller attempts one last time to use the Bible as evidence for its claims citing the apostles doubt in Matt 28:17 saying these people are just as we are despite the era. They doubted the impossible as much as we do. Fair enough, although I feel the information posted above show’s the Bible is less than empirical evidence for the happenings of the day.
Keller ends here making a case for Christ’s miracles as restoration rather a wooing or coercive action. I agree. The Jesus of the Bible is a brave, intelligent, and kind individual. If he and his power did exist he wielded it incredibly responsibly and coolly. This is all for naught if you haven’t already decided all his previous arguments hold water.
While its fair to say science hasn’t disproved the Bible, it is clear it has not proven it and in light of the amazing claims it makes any rational person has to at the very least suspend judgement.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.