This is the name of a book by Canon John Young. He is a Canon of York Minster, and a member of the General Synod of the Church of England. He is Diocesan Evangelist for York. He is also a member of the General Synod of the Church of England.
There has been lavish praise for the book by British Christians.
The publisher's notes on the back says that 'John Young acts as counsel for the defense in the case against Christ and invites atheists, agnostics and enquirers to join the lively debate.".
I invited Canon Young to debate with me. He declined.
This chapter outlines six problems briefly. None of them have anything to do with whether or not Christianity is true, but deal mainly with the popular perception of Christianity.
It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere
Canon Young makes the good points that a terrorist who hijacks a plane for sincere reasons is still a terrorist. He writes We are right to value sincerity, but false beliefs - even sincerely held false beliefs - can be disastrous.
We are right to see if people's beliefs are true. However, as can be seen from my Feedback page, people who question whether or not Christianity is true are often questioned as to their motives. Is Christianity not one of the beliefs which should be checked to see if it is a sincerely held belief which is false?
Religion is dull
Did the victims of the Inquisition think religion was dull?
A lot of people find religion dull, because they do not believe in it.
A lot of people who were dragged to church as children do indeed think that religion is dull. If the Canon was dragged to a service praising Zeus and was forced to sing hymns of praise to Zeus and have to listen to a preacher telling him for half an hour of the majesty of Zeus, he might find it a little dull, especially if he does not believe in Zeus.
Listening to people talking earnestly about something that you do not believe in is dull.
Anyway, the real question is not whether or not Christianity is dull, but whether or not it is true.
A bad case of wishful thinking
Canon Young does concede that there may be Christians who desperately want the Christian Faith to be true.
He counters by pointing out that there are atheists who would greatly prefer that it wasn't true and he says that "many" Christians "often" wish that the way of Christ wasn't so demanding.
Are there many atheists who would greatly prefer that it wasn't true? Are there people who really would greatly prefer that they would not live for ever in Paradise?
Is the way of Christ so demanding in Western society? There is a nice satire piece pointing out how American society favours Christianity - Life In Our Anti-Christian America
As Canon Young points out, none of this has anything to do with what is true or not. He is simply trying to paint atheists as people who suspect Christianity is really true, but would prefer that it were not and to paint Christians as people who do not find Jesus's talk of an easy burden to be reality (Matthew 11:30), but cope with the tremendous demands of Christianity because it is true.
You don't need to go to church to be a Christian
Do atheists really say that they would go to church more often, were it not that they believed that they do not have to go to church to be a Christian?
I think that the title of this section gives an idea of who the book is aimed for.
God was an astronaut!
Canon Young brings out his strawman so that he can represent it as a typical atheistic argument. Unable to let his readers know that there is good atheistic scholarship, he presents Von Daniken as a sceptic.
Most of the wilder theories are proposed by people who desperately want the Biblical stories to be true , even if not literally true, and try to find ingenious explanations of them. Velikovsky and Barbara Thiering are two recent exponents of this art.
Canon Young never acknowledges the existence of any sceptical scholars. As can be seen from one of his chapter headings 'What about the South Sea Scrolls?', he much prefers sceptics who are pretty ignorant.
Christianity is humourless
The word 'smile' is not in the Bible. Jesus never smiles or laughs. He does use a whip on people , but it is not recorded that he was laughing while he did so. What laughter there is in the Bible is usually laughing to scorn.
Still, that does not prevent Canon Young saying that the New Testament is a happy book. I don't think he is referring to the part where Paul suggests that his Christian opponents castrate themselves (Galatians 5:12)
I also doubt if he is referring to James 4:7-9 when he says that the New Testament is a 'happy' book. 'Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil , and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.'. So nonbelievers are happy, laughing and joyous while repentant sinners grieve , mourn and wail and are gloomy, when they have come near to God.
Young says that many of Jesus's teachings would have raised a guffaw or two. People must have had a strange sense of humour in those days. Jesus says that the Jews of his day had to share a part of the blood-guilt for the murder of Abel, 2 000 years previously (Matthew 23:35).Is it funny to say that a group of people are partially implicated in a murder that took place 2,000 years before any of them were born?
Young refers to puns and hyperbole. There are indeed many puns throughout the Bible. For example, the name 'Adam' is a play on the word 'adamah'. I don't think the puns are meant to be humorous though.
This chapter defends Christianity against the charge that Christians are hypocritical. Again, this has little to do with whether or not Christianity is true. Personally, I haven't found Christians to be hypocritical. By and large, they behave pretty much as other people believe.
Young writes that he frequently talks with people who say that they don't attend church because they don't like the people who do. I'm sure he does frequently talk with such people, but atheists are not people who don't attend church because they don't like the people who do. Atheists don't attend church or mosque because they don't believe in a god. But then the book is not really aimed at unbelievers.....
Canon Young writes 'Christians are sinners , and they share much of the prejudice and ignorance of the age in which they live.' and 'Christians are not good people.' and 'They know they are not.' 'They know that they are selfish, or that they cannot control their tempers'. (Emphasis in original).
He also quotes 'Being a Christian means ... being people in whom his (Jesus') life and character and power are manifest and energised ... Christian experience is not so much a matter of imitating a leader as accepting and receiving a new quality of life - a life infinitely more profound and dynamic and meaningful than human life without Christ.'.
There is a contradiction between these two view of how Christians behave. On the one hand, Christians manifest the character of Jesus himself and in the other Christians admit that they are no better than nonbelievers.
Canon Young concedes that the history of the Church has not been good. He fails to quote Jesus's words on how we can tell a good tree from a bad tree, although I'm sure he knows them. Matthew 7:18 'A good tree cannot bear bad fruit , and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.... Thus by their fruit you will recognise them.'
How does Canon Young get around the fact that Christianity has borne bad fruit? The usual way is to say that the people who committed those terrible acts were not true Christians. They were 'Men with little regard for the teaching of Christ...'. 'Their concern was not to follow Jesus of Nazareth, but to gain power, prestige or wealth.'.
What is a real Christian? Canon Young quotes the following 'A real Christian is not only a good and well-intentioned person but a man or woman for whom Jesus Christ is ultimately decisive.....'
Imagine a diet whose followers were just as fat and just as slim as people who did not follow the diet. The instructions are that you should try not to eat too much, but if you make a lapse, that is forgivable, if you try to go back on the diet as soon as possible.
How can we respond to claims that the diet just does not work in practice as its practitioners are no slimmer on average than people who don't think the diet is a good one to follow.
The fat people can be written off as people who were not really interested in following the diet , but were more interested in food. The few slim people would be the true dieters.
This specious reasoning is what Canon Young gives in his chapter.
This chapter gives examples of some of the great things Christians have done. Again, this has little to do with whether or not Christianity is true. What does the founding of children's homes by Dr.Barnado have to do with whether or not Jesus really did cure a person of blindness by spitting on his eyes? (Mark 8:23)
Young writes that the early Christians conquered the Roman Empire with love and the example they set by the quality of their lives. Simply reading the New Testament shows that early Christianity was hopelessly riven and split. Paul refers to 'false brethren' who had 'infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have' (Gal. 2:3). 2 Peter 3:16 calls his Christian opponents 'ignorant' (idiotes) and 'unstable'. He spends chapter 2 and 3 vilifying them.
1 John 2:18 says that his church has split and calls those who have left his church 'Antichrists'. 2 John also refers to Christian opponents as 'Antichrists' because they taught docetism (the doctrine that Jesus Christ ,as God, was only in the appearance of a human being)
3 John points out that the leader of a Christian church ,Diotrephes, will have nothing to do with the writer of the letter.
In Romans 16:17 , Paul warns his readers about false Christians. In 1 Cor. 5:11, Paul again warns about early Christians who say that they are brethren, but are drunkards or swindlers. In 1 Cor. 1:12 ,Paul warns that people are in factions, with some saying 'I follow Paul' and others saying 'I follow Apollos' and others saying 'I follow Cephas' and others saying 'I follow Christ'. Just how split was the early Church?
I'm sure Canon Young will tell us that the early Christians who walked out of John's church or refused to have anything with the writer of 3 John, or who used their new found freedom in Christ to engage in immorality (1 Cor. 5:1) were not 'real' Christians.
If the early Church 'conquered' the Roman Empire it did so very slowly. Eusebius gives a count of the number of Christian clergy in Rome in about AD 250. It is in his history of Christianity book. In a city of a million, there were 157 Christian clergy. Assuming each was supported by the contributions of 100 Christians, this makes the population of Rome who were Christian much less than 4 percent - more than 200 years after Jesus was killed.
Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire only after Constantine became convinced that Jesus had helped him to win one of his battles. War, not love, was the deciding factor that swayed him.
How did Christian love manifest itself? We have a report based on a private diary kept by one of the early martyrs - Perpetua, who was martyred together with here slave Felicitas.
Perpetua had an infant son, and a loving family. The report runs as follows 'And then my father came to me, worn out with anxiety. He came up to me, that he might cast me down saying "Have pity my daughter, on my grey hairs. Have pity on your father... Have regard to your brother. Have regard to your mother and your aunt. Have regard to your son, who will not be able to live after you. Lay aside your courage and do not bring us to destruction, for none of us will speak in freedom if you should suffer anything... my father immediately appeared with my boy and withdrew me from the step, and said "Have pity on your baby". And Hilaranius the procurator said "Spare the grey hairs of your father, spare the infancy of your boy, offer sacrifice for the well-being of the emperor" And I replied "I will not do so... I am a Christian.".
Perpetua and her slave Felicitas, who had also just given birth a few days earlier, were then martyred.
Canon Young gives many example of charities set up by Christians. This is all well and good - indeed I have a link to the Samaritans on my main page, but what does this have to do with the evidence for Christianity?
This chapter deals with the clash between science and Christianity. It is quite true that science cannot disprove Christianity. Science deals with the real world, not the imaginary. Science deals with this Universe, and Christians insist that their God inhabits a realm outside space and time.
Young points out that many scientists have had a strong belief in God. He gives the examples of Newton,Faraday,Maxwell, Kelvin etc. There are also scientists of the twentieth century who are Christians.
Young tries to suggest that Darwin was not an atheist. He was, but he kept it quiet as he knew it would be controversial for a public figure in the nineteenth century to declare that he did not believe in God. His autobiography makes clear where he stood, but it was not published in his lifetime.
Where is the clash between science and Christianity?
Canon Young says that the first few chapters of Genesis are to be taken seriously, but not literally. Who told him that they should not be taken literally? Was it the Holy Spirit? Was it the teaching of the Church?
Scientists discovered that Genesis should not be taken literally. Digging up fossils , counting tree-rings and seeing which rocks were laid on top of other rocks have been proven to be more powerful ways of saying which parts of the Bible are to be taken literally than the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, prayer, meditation and the best efforts of leading theologians for almost 2,000 years?
Of course, there have always been Christians who have said that Genesis 1-3 can be interpreted symbolically. Augustine was one such person, although I have yet to meet anybody who agrees with his symbolic interpretation.
However, I have yet to be given quotes by Augustine which suggest that the literal interpretation of Genesis is not true. He may have thought a metaphorical interpretation to be more important, but he also took a literal interpretation as being true.
What is wrong with a symbolic interpretation of Genesis such as Canon Young gives?
There is nothing wrong with it at all. I am quite happy with symbolic stories. Some of the greatest stories are symbolic. Aesop's Fables are full of truth, and nobody interprets them literally.
Is Canon Young willing to admit that Genesis 1-3 have the same truth value as Aesop's Fables?
Another famous tale of antiquity is the story of Pandora's Box. Pandora disobeys an instruction from the gods. Driven by human curiosity, and a desire to learn what the gods know, she releases evils into a world that knew no evil.
Should we take the story of Pandora's Box seriously, but not literally? I think we should. In this day of nuclear weapons and genetic engineering, perhaps we, driven by scientific curiosity, have released the evil of possible human annihilation into a world which knew no such evil.
The story of Pandora's Box holds great resonance for us. Unless Canon Young wants to argue that Adam and Eve really existed, he should admit that the story of Pandora's Box has exactly the same historical value as the story of Adam and Eve.
Even if he does not want to do that, he should at least concede that Genesis 1-3 are the same type of literature as the stories of Pandora's Box, Prometheus, Narcissus etc. They are all myths, explaining how the world came to be the way it is.
This very short chapter makes the point that science cannot explain 'why' questions.
This is perfectly true and Canon Young is quite correct to say so.
Science can explain how the planets move in their orbits and can predict where they will be with great accuracy, but science cannot explain why the angels push them with their wings in such a predictable manner, and in such a way as to ape mathematical formulae so exactly.
Canon Young may not believe that the planets move because angels push them with their wings, but he will be unable to disprove the idea scientifically.
In the same way, he is on very safe ground saying that science cannot disprove God, as science deals only with things which can be observed, or their effects detected. Science cannot disprove vampires, let alone something outside of time and space such as God is supposed to be.
However, Canon Young's preferred explanation of 'God did it' is useless scientifically as it gives no information as to how God did it. You can't do scientific experiments on the mind of God.
Science does not disprove God,so much as show that non-theistic explanations are conceivable, even if we don't have them all yet, and possibly never will. It has not yet proved necessary to include God in a scientific explanation.
This chapter claims that the Christian faith gave birth to modern science.
Canon Young gives four important beliefs about the nature of the world which are necessary for true science to develop.
Is the view that matter is essentially good necessary for true science to develop? I studied physics for three years at the University of Cambridge and in all that time, nobody explained to me that electric charge could be categorised not only as positive and negative, but also as moral and immoral.
I really don't know how to apply the principle that matter is essentially good to science.
The same laws apply everywhere. This is certainly a scientific assumption, if you define laws carefully, but I don't know where you could find such an idea in the Bible. I always thought that the Biblical view was that laws could be broken and that is what is called a miracle.
Human beings are called to be stewards of creation. This is not a concept I learned when I studied science.
Time moves forward in a straight line, rather than round in circles. The question of time is a big scientific question, as all the fundamental laws are time reversible. Still, let's not nitpick.
Did science arise out of the Christian faith?
Science started with the ancient Greeks. Eratosthenes measured the size of the Earth. Aristarchus said that the Sun was the centre of the Solar System. Hipparchus developed trigonometry. And , of course, everybody knows of Archimedes, Aristotle, Euclid, and Pythagoras.
The Babylonians also developed mathematics and astronomy.
After Jesus was born, astronomy was further advanced by Ptolemy (not a Christian) and medicine by Galen (also not a Christian).
The leading Christian intellectuals were Augustine and Jerome but, for all their virtues, they were not scientists.
The Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the fourth century, but it was not until the 12th century that there were universities. So there is eight hundred years of Christian culture where not the slightest progress was made in science.
When universities were founded, Christian intellectual life began to revive. But it did not involve anything that we could call science. What developed was Scholasticism. This tried to show that the ancient works on science and mathematics were compatible with Christian revelation. For the schoolmen, revelation and the Bible came first, human reason came second and experimental science came nowhere.
The authorities who were studied by the schoolmen were, in the main, Aristotle,Euclid, Galen, Cicero, Augustine, Avicenna, and Averroes. Of these, only Augustine was a Christian and he was studied for theology, not science. Avicenna and Averroes were Muslims, even if they were hardly orthodox Muslims.
While not denigrating the achievements of the schoolmen, what they did was not science and did not lead to science.
The four main sciences are physics, chemistry ,biology and geology.
Chemistry grew from alchemy. As Canon Young would not claim that the pursuit of unlimited gold is compatible with the ideals of Christianity, perhaps he would concede that chemistry did not come from the Christian faith.
Biology was hampered for a long time by the churches insistence that corpses could not be dissected after death, as the body was sacred. This meant that it was not until 1543 AD that Vesalius discovered such basic biological facts as the circulation of the human blood. This is 1543 years after Canon Young would have us believe the conditions for the growth of true science were met.
Physics in total grew out of astronomy. I need not repeat the story of how the church resisted the findings of astronomy.
It is quite true that all the scientists of that period were Christians. Non-Christians were not allowed to attend University. However, progress in science followed only when scientists stopped regarding God as taking a direct hands-on approach to everything. Newton developed the idea of a 'clockwork universe'. He regarded God as having set everything in motion and the universe simply ran by itself according to the rules God had made.
This was a big change from the previous idea of God as the 'Prime Mover'. It was observed that nothing moved without a cause. Therefore, angels pushed the planets around in their orbits and God was the 'Prime Mover', who ultimately caused everything else to move. Only when this Christian view of God as 'The Prime Mover' was dropped , could science progress.
The last big science is geology. Again it is true that most of the early geologists were Christians. It was Christian clergy who disproved the Christian notion of a world wide flood in the days of Noah. The main geological museum in Cambridge is names after the Reverend Adam Sedgwick, who did more than most to disprove what Christians had held to be true for almost two millennia.
This chapter asks the question 'Is it an accurate account?'
Apologists have very little evidence that the New Testament is an accurate account of the life and deeds of Jesus, so it will come as no surprise that Canon Young starts examining the evidence for the New Testament by telling us how few manuscripts we have of Tacitus' Histories.
It is revealing that when asked about the evidence for the New Testament, apologists quickly change the subject.
Should we compare the New Testament to other works of ancient history? Is this admitting that the New Testament is just ancient history?
Why doesn't Canon Young compare the New Testament to other religious works? Does anybody dream of saying that the Book of Mormon is reliable because we have millions of copies, all less than 200 years after Joseph Smith 'translated' the Book of Mormon?
Why doesn't he compare the New Testament documents to the Dead Sea Scrolls? Are the Dead Sea Scrolls more reliable than the New Testament because they are originals and the existing NT manuscripts are just copies of copies of copies?
Canon Young writes 'They are based on ancient documents which faithfully record what St.Mark and the others wrote.'.
For more reasonable views see my
Reliability (1) and my Reliability (2) articles
Is Canon Young really going to claim that Mark 16:9-20 'faithfully records' what St.Mark wrote?
Is he going to back up his claim that St.Mark really did write the Gospel attributed to him? He simply asserts that the four Gospels were written by Matthew,Mark, Luke and John without giving any evidence. Remember that the book is supposed to be aimed at nonbelievers, who do not accept that that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the Gospels.
In reality, the book is aimed at believers who are quite happy to accept what Canon Young says because they already believe it.
Canon Young goes on to ask four questions.
It will come as no surprise that Canon Young thinks that miracles are possible, but that legends are impossible.
Like many apologists, he is under the impression that Christians would have given up their faith if they had found that the facts were against them. He gives no evidence that Christians give up their faith when confronted by facts. It is simply another assertion with no evidence to back it up.
He claims that it is likely that large parts of Matthew and Luke - especially those parts which record the teaching of Jesus, were written down by AD 50. The first 'we' passage in Acts in Acts 16, after the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15. This conference can be dated at least after AD 50, so Canon Young is telling us that Luke wrote his Gospel, even before he was converted by Paul.
Perhaps Canon Young is thinking of the hypothetical document 'Q', which some Biblical scholars say was a source of Matthew and Luke's Gospels. As Canon Young does not want to admit that Matthew and Luke used previously written sources, which are now lost, but does want to claim as early a date as possible for a written source, he comes up with the strange assertion that part of Matthew and Luke were written by AD 50.
After appearing to accept the theory that Matthew and Luke used a written source called Q, he then goes on to say that the disciples could well have memorised Jesus's words. Oral or written - which is it?
A glance at any passage which is in all of Mark, Matthew and Luke will show that the recorded words of Jesus differ. Whatever the Gospels record , they do not record the exact words of Jesus, learned by rote by the disciples.
The early manuscripts record some twenty different sayings of Jesus on divorce. Whatever the early Christians did, they did not record and transcribe Jesus's words exactly.
To give another example, Matthew 10:5-22 use material which Mark 6:8-11 and Mark 9:9-13 put in two different settings. Luke 9:1-6 and Luke 10:1-11 also give material from Matthew 10:5-15 in two different settings. This is not what happens when people record teachings by heart.
Canon Young then goes on to say that if the evangelists had altered the facts, the 'thousands' of people who had heard Jesus teach would have protested. Does Canon Young think that nobody did protest that what the early Christians were teaching was not true? Does he think that everybody accepted everything in the Gospels?
Mark's Gospel was written for people who did not know what the currency of Judea was and did not know what 'Bartimaeus' meant in Aramaic? How could they have checked what was being said? This was a world without newspapers or libraries for the public.
So what if a few Christians had checked out the stories and found them to be false? We know of Christians who did not believe that Jesus was a son of David and did not believe in the Virgin Birth. Other Christians just carried on believing them anyway, despite the protests that they were not true.
According to the New Testament, false Gospels about Jesus were being circulated and believed (Galatians 1:6). So if false Gospels were being believed, how can Canon Young be so sure that the Gospel stories were not some of the false ones which people were accepting and believing?
We know that people were preaching a Jesus other than the one Paul preached and that this was accepted 'easily enough' by the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:4), so it is just wrong of Canon Young to say that the early Christians would not have put up with somebody preaching a different Jesus to the one who lived.
Canon Young says there were plenty of eyewitnesses, but he does not name any. My Gospel article shows that the Gospels are not based on eyewitness reports.
Canon Young then goes on to compare Jesus to Winston Churchill and say that if people today said that Churchill had performed miracles, they would quickly be refuted.
The absurdity of this analogy is staggering. We have film, newsreels, recordings, newspapers, books about Churchill. None of those kinds of records were available in the 1st century. Furthermore, Churchill was a world figure, while Jesus was not reported on by any historian except for a brief mention by Tacitus and Josephus.
But let us pursue this analogy of Jesus to Churchill. We can all remember Churchill's speech 'Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few'. Who can remember when Churchill said this? Was it in Parliament? Was it in a newspaper interview? Was it on a newsreel? Was it on radio? Without public records to contradict me, I could invent any story about Churchill saying those words and few people would be able to tell the true version.
A better analogy would be if I said that the judge in the Icelandic Supreme Court in 1941 was called Olafsson. Without any public records, who could contradict me?
Even if the evangelists were contradicted, Christians would still go on believing. Did Mormonism collapse when it was pointed out that the Golden Plates were fake? Are there any Jehovah's Witnesses left after the world did not end in 1914 or 1917 or 1925 or 1931 or 1975? Are there still people who believe that Elvis is still alive?
Let us go back to the Churchill/Jesus analogy. These are some of the historians writing within 100 years of Jesus's death who totally fail to mention the name of Jesus . Imagine if almost every historian of the 20th century left out Churchill. Would we not assume that he did nothing important?
We have the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Peter, the Acts of Paul, the Gospel of the Ebionites, the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Unknown Gospel, 3 Corinthians, the Epistle to the Laodiceans, the Teaching of the 12 Apostles, forged letters by 'Pilate' etc etc . We even have a letter forged by Christians , supposedly written by Jesus.
So we know that early Christians were very , shall we say inventive? Canon Young claims that the four canonical Gospels are exceptions to the norm because he just knows they are, because they seem honest to him.
Canon Young quotes an actor, Alec McCowen , who says that they do. This is just pure personal opinion. Even if we take books containing people walking on water, turning water into wine, raising Lazarus from the dead, virgin births etc as 'ringing true', what does that prove?
War and Peace by Tolstoy rings true. It is still fictional.
Canon Young says 'Don Cupitt suggests that two Aramaic words point to Luke's integrity as an historian!'. Canon Young does not tell us what those Aramaic words are, or why they point to Luke's integrity as an historian. Are there any Aramaic words in Luke's Gospel?
Apparently we have to accept Luke's integrity as an historian because Canon Young says that Don Cupitt says so. Anybody who knows Don Cupitt's views on God will know that Canon Young would not dream of accepting those views just because Don Cupitt says so, so why should we accept an authority that Canon Young rejects?
What does Don Cupitt actually say? He points out that Luke appears to have mistranslated an Aramaic word into Greek and points out that this shows that Luke used an Aramaic written source and 'was determined to struggle with it despite not understanding it fully'.
So Canon Young is telling us that Luke's integrity as an historian has to be accepted because he was working with written sources in a language he did not fully understand and made mistakes.
What happened to all the thousands of eyewitnesses that Luke could have turned to (despite not knowing Aramaic well) and who would have corrected any errors?
Why did Luke have to turn to a written source in a language he did not master to get his words of Jesus?
Canon Young also suggests that we can check the general integrity of Mark by simply reading Mark 13:32 and Mark 15:34. The logic of this baffles me.
Canon Young gives one final proof that I simply cannot resist. He quotes John Robinson as saying that Luke is 'extraordinarily vague' at some points. I never realised that extraordinarily vague accounts were the most reliable, till Canon Young pointed that out to me.
This chapter examines the relevance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for Christianity .
Canon Young makes the point that the Dead Sea Scrolls do not refute Christianity. This is perfectly true. Almost all of them were written before Christianity developed and they never mention Jesus, Paul ,John the Baptist, Peter, Matthew, Thomas, John or any Christian figure.
Canon Young can't help pointing out that of the 38 Old Testament books found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (Esther is not represented) , no less than one (Isaiah) appears to be very close to the current Hebrew text. For some reason, he is very proud of this 1 for 38 average.
This chapter examines archaeological findings.
It will come as no surprise to many people that Jews writing about Jerusalem and Israel will mention places which exist. Naturally, Canon Young can find some archaeological findings which confirm that some places mentioned in the Bible really did exist.
As nobody argues that the New Testament is set in a non-existing place , one wonders why he bothers. To his list I could add many more. Places like Rome, Egypt, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Malta, Crete , Jerusalem really do exist. Not many sceptics deny the existence of Italy.
Now if Canon Young could find archaeological support for any of the miracles........
This chapter examines claims that the Bible is full of violence and full of contradictions.
Canon Young concedes that it cannot be disputed that the Bible is a violent book. He refers to the violence of David and of others and writes 'But their violence is condemned by the very scriptures which describe so honestly these human failings.'.
Offhand, I can't remember any condemnation of the violence of David. David's last words, as recorded in 1 Kings 2:9, were 'Bring his grey head down to the grave in blood.'. The Bible does record that David was stricken with conscience because he had counted the fighting men of Israel ( 2 Sam. 24:10). This counting of people is indeed condemned by the Bible as God then kills 70,000 Jews as punishment for the counting of the people of Israel by David.
As for condemning the violence of David, 1 Kings 3:14 says that David walked in the ways of God and obeyed God's statutes and commands.
There is very little condemnation of the violence in 1 Samuel 15 or in the book of Joshua or in Numbers 31:17-18. Indeed, in 1 Samuel 15 it is Saul who is reluctant to carry out all the killings that God has commanded.
God authorises much of the violence in the Old Testament. Still, I imagine the violence of God is also condemned by the very scriptures which describe so honestly these divine failings.
Canon Young also treats the fact that the Bible has errors and contradictions, although he , of course, refers to them as 'apparent errors and contradictions'.
He praises some Christians who, when faced with errors and contradictions, apparent or not, simply ignored them and carried on believing anyway.
He gives Calvin, who was puzzled that Matthew 27:9 refers to Jeremiah, when the quotation is actually from Zechariah. He praises Calvin for not letting this disturb him. Just in case any of his readers fall for the foolishness of thinking this is a real error and not just an apparent error, and who are disturbed, Canon Young writes 'So perhaps Matthew wasn't quite as wrong as Calvin supposed!'.
Canon Young also deals with the contradiction between Mark 10:46-52 and Matthew 20:29-34. Young does not think this should disturb anybody, but just in case somebody thinks this is a real error, he quotes Professor Howard Marshall, who gives the excuse that Matthew was simply running together more healings than he had space to record as separate incidents. I doubt if Canon Young would be quite as blase about a similar contradiction in the Book of Mormon and remind his readers that it should not let them affect their belief in the overall reliability of The Book of Mormon.
So it seems that Canon Young does not think people should be disturbed by any errors in the Bible, but refuses to give examples of what he considers to be real errors.
This chapter examines the question of why God allows suffering.
Canon Young never considers the problem of why God causes suffering. God kills many people in the Bible. Does this count as evidence? Canon Young does say that we 'have clear and definite evidence. Yes, God does love us.'. Canon Young's evidence is that 'He sent his Son to die for us.'. I love my wife, but have never thought of demonstrating my love for her by sending my son to die for her.
To say that somebody shows his love for us, by sending somebody to be killed for us (even if it was only for three days), is an interesting use of the term 'love'. Human sacrifice is rightly considered abhorrent by Christians.
Canon Young also employs the 'We do not know all the answers' defence. Why he thinks that saying he does not know why God allows suffering should be convincing to atheists is puzzling?
This chapter examines some of the evidence for Jesus's existence.
Canon Young has to explain why Jesus is not mentioned by any historian who lived when he lived. He gives the standard explanation that the Son of God had humble origins.
Canon Young states that Roman historians and politicians were not interested in a young carpenter turned preacher. Actually, Luke 23:8 states that King Herod had been wanting to see Jesus for a long time. The Gospels make plain that Jesus was supposed to have been famous over a wide area and his name had become well known. Was Jesus famous enough to have been known to kings and yet could be ignored by contemporary historians?
Philo quotes a letter by King Herod complaining about the character of Pilate. Pilate was well known and mentioned by Philo and Herod, but the Son of God seemed to make little impact on either of them.
The Gospels also make clear that amazing things happened. When he died, there was a three hour darkness over the land, there were earthquakes and people were resurrected from the dead and walked abroad in Jerusalem. None of this was recorded by any historians.
While historians may not be interested in a 'village carpenter' were they indifferent to miracles, natural phenomena never seen before and crowds of people raised from the dead? Canon Young would have us believe so.
He says it was 'in the nature of the case we would not expect this'.
Canon Young gives the usual, indeed only, non-Christian witnesses.
He gives the famous passage from Antiquities Book 18. Naturally, he has to concede that Christians have invented some of the phrases found in this passage. Does Canon Young consider the fact that Christians can invent things here about Jesus have any relevance to his case that the deeds of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel may be invented? He never addresses this question.
There is an excellent article about the Josephus reference here
Canon Young then turns to early Christian evidence.
He gives his opinion that they were not 'cooked up by clever inventors.' I never doubted that this would be his opinion.
He points out that there are 'a complicated range of difficulties' and 'so many loose ends and unresolved questions.' There are, according to Canon Young, 'notorious differences'. Well, if there are difficulties, loose ends, differences, unresolved questions, then the Gospels must be reliable mustn't they! The logic takes my breath away.
Naturally, Canon Young does not let his readers know what the unresolved questions, differences and difficulties may be.
Then Canon Young quotes a wide range of people convinced that Jesus was a great figure. This is simply argument from authority.
Canon Young does mention people who do not believe in the historicity of Jesus of the Gospels - such as G.A.Wells. Canon Young does not refute Well's arguments - indeed he never mentions them.
Canon Young then goes on to say that the group of writers from the early years of the Christian era were prepared to suffer and die for their 'invention' He gives no evidence that the Evangelists suffered and died. Indeed, not even Christian legends posit a martyrdom for Luke and John.
Finally, Canon Young points out that calendars are based on Jesus. Calendars are also based on Muhammad's emigration to Medina. What does the calendar prove?
This chapter examines the character of Jesus.
Canon Young explains that Jesus taught about God. I wonder why he believes that such teaching should appeal to people who do not believe in God.
Canon Young points out that Jesus calmly assumed that it was he ,Jesus, who would judge the world at the end of time, and quotes Bishop Robinson as saying that Jesus 'went around.... standing in God's place, acting and speaking for him.' Canon Young goes on to point out that Roman Emperors were often arrogant while Jesus taught humility and claimed to be greater than the Temple and great Old Testament characters.
Canon Young points out that Jesus accepted the worship of the disciples and Thomas and sceptics cannot claim that Jesus was merely a great teacher.
Many sceptics do not claim that Jesus was a great teacher.
Jesus taught about God,Heaven,Hell,demons and Satan. Sceptics do not believe in God,Heaven,Hell,demons and Satan so do not claim it is great teaching to teach about them.
Jesus taught about the Flood. There was no Flood. Would not a great teacher not have known that?
Jesus taught that some people were in a 'synagogue of Satan'. Great teachers do not use antisemitisms.
Jesus called his enemies 'hypocrites', 'blind guides', 'whitewashed tombs', 'snakes', 'broods of vipers'.
Jesus promised the people of Capernaum that it would be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for them.
Sceptics prefer the teachings in Paul's letter to the Ephesians 4:29 'Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen... Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice'
This chapter examines the resurrection of Jesus, as related by the Bible.
In the first section, Canon Young explains that the resurrection must be a fact because his followers preached a resurrection.
Canon Young goes on to explain that Jesus died as a young man, yet his followers changed the world. So he must have been resurrected.
Canon Young goes on to say that Paul said people had seen the Risen Lord. Paul mentions 500 brethren whose testimony could easily be checked. The fact that Paul never names any of these 500 doesn't matter.
I deal with what Paul says in The Resurrection
Canon Young points out that the disciples suffered for their faith. Actually, most of the disciples disappear from the pages of Acts with startling rapidity. Acts gives no hint that they suffered. For all we know, they could simply have packed in their Christianity. Matthew 28:17 explains that some of the eleven disciples doubted .
Why should Matthew write that if the disciples did not doubt?
Canon Young points out that liars don't usually write high-calibre moral literature like the New Testament. Is he convinced the Gospels were written by the disciples? Is he convinced that 2 Peter is by Peter?
Canon Young also rules out the swoon theory. Jesus could not have been close to death but survived it. I'm sure though that Canon Young would say that that is exactly what did happen to Paul in Acts 14:19.
Canon Young points out that the Jews did not produce the body. Of course, the Christians did not produce the body either. It had, rather conveniently, gone off to Heaven, just before they started preaching.
In Mark 6, Herod thinks that Jesus is John raised from the dead. Why did Herod not simply dig up John's body to prove to himself that he was wrong? Because the idea of digging up bodies to show that they have not been resurrected is an idea only found in the minds of apologists?
I wonder why the authorities don't dig up the body of Elvis to prove that he really did die?
Does Canon Young think the authorities would dig up a seven week old corpse, especially if the corpse had received the fate given to an executed criminal. According to the Bible itself (Mark 9:47-38), Jesus pointed out that people who came to a bad end in those days were often thrown into Gehenna in the Valley of Hinnom, which was a kind of municipal refuse tip.
Canon Young points out that the resurrected Jesus was not a 'disembodied spirit'. No doubt Jesus was as physical as the angels in Heaven. in Mark 12:25, Jesus explains that when the dead rise they will be like the angels in Heaven. Do angels have physical bodies?
Canon Young points out that there is no record of the tomb being venerated. I wonder how he knows this. There is no record in Paul, or Hebrews, or James or 1 Peter of the tomb being venerated. However,there is no record in Paul, or Hebrews, or James or 1 Peter of the Transfiguration or Jesus cleansing the Temple etc. There is no record in Paul, or Hebrews, or James or 1 Peter of Jesus performing miracles, or being born in Bethlehem, or of Judas, or his entry into Jerusalem.
In fact,there is no record in Paul, or Hebrews, or James or 1 Peter of a tomb at all. Perhaps there wasn't one.
Canon Young points out that a handful of frightened men were transformed. How does Canon Young know this? No doubt, he knows it because the Bible tells him so.
I wonder why they were frightened. According to the Bible, they had spent three years with the Son of God and had watched him perform amazing miracles. They had seen Moses and Elijah resurrected from the dead (unless they were hallucinating?). They were so convinced that they argued over who would get which positions of power in the new Kingdom.
They thought that they could bring down fire from Heaven if Jesus commanded. They had been given the power to heal and cast out demons.
Finally, Jesus had prophesied three times exactly what would happen when they reached Jerusalem. When they reached Jerusalem, what Jesus said would happen really did happen.
Even the betrayal by Judas happened just as Jesus predicted.
Yet, despite three years of solid proof and being eyewitnesses to raisings from the dead and seeing Jesus's words come true, Canon Young would have us believe they were frightened. Does he expect us to believe the Bible when it says that all those things had happened to the disciples, and they would still not believe and were frightened men, when Canon Young himself believes in Jesus on no more evidence that having read an old book? Surely if Canon Young read such a tale in the Book of Mormon or the Qu'ran, he would roll on the floor laughing.
This chapter address the issue of contradictions in the resurrection accounts.
Canon Young points out that honest witnesses usually give different accounts of the same event. This is true - people are human after all, and everybody makes mistakes.
Canon Young makes the point that it is impossible to explain the remarkable growth of the Christian Church if Jesus had not been resurrected. The Mormon Church has grown much faster than the Christian Church, which grew very slowly. According to a count in Eusebius's Church History, the number of Christians was probably no more than 4% of the population even as late as 250 AD. There are no other figures for the numbers of early Christians, but everybody agrees they must have been a small minority.
Canon Young never attempts to explain why more Jews did not convert to Christianity after seeing all the miracles and three hour darknesses and resurrection of the saints that are depicted in the Gospels.
The Gospellers also had this difficulty of why the Jews did not believe. Mark 'solves' it by having only women visit the tomb and naturally , the Jews did not believe what sounded like women's tales. Mark goes further and says that even the women were told not tell anybody, although Luke and Matthew, when they used Mark as a source, realised that this was going too far and had the women disobey the divine instructions and at least tell the disciples.
Following the principle of 'If you can't fix it, flaunt it', Canon Young says nobody would have invented a story of women finding the tomb. In fact, there are very good reasons for the Evangelists having women discover the tomb.
Although Canon Young is certain that nobody would have invented a story of women finding the empty tomb, Young makes the point that we need humility when reconstructing events at a long distance. Does this mean that his claim that Jesus must have been resurrected is only tentative?
However, Canon Young is clearly unhappy with this partial admission that there may be contradictions in the Gospel accounts as Young goes on to quote the well known writer of detective stories , Dorothy Sayers, who wrote '... all of them, without exception, can be made to fall into place in a single orderly and coherent narrative without the smallest contradiction or difficulty....'
Canon Young refrains from carrying out this exercise of putting the five resurrection accounts in a single orderly and coherent narrative without the smallest contradiction or difficulty .
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