Part Three – “A Mind-Boggling Proposition” yeah, it’s really called that.
So, in addition to the latest bit of nonsense from Lee Strobel about Christmas, I also got an email from another shilling preacher from biblegateway.com about the Jews. Now, I find Jewish belief just as ridiculous as Christian or any other belief but the desperation of Christians to convert them is rather pathetic. This fellow, Jonathan Bernis, President and CEO, Jewish Voice Ministries International says “You can help share the Gospel with Jewish people who have yet to hear about their Savior.
As followers of Jesus and Bible believers, our faith is deeply connected to Israel and the Jewish people. And as we enter into the Last Days, it’s more important than ever to stand with Israel and help the Jewish people find their promised Messiah.”
Well, the Jews are quite certain JC isn’t their messiah because they didn’t need to make up a repeat performance to make him fit their prophecies. Christians are only concerned for the Jews to keep existing for at least a little longer, since their magical end times won’t happen without the slaughter of the Jews. It’s always a bit hypocritical when you claim you are wanting to “Provide medical assistance to Jewish people and their neighbors” when all you really want to so is make sure that they are in place do die when you want them to. When you praise a pandemic because it’ll make people run to you, that shows you are a sick person: “This pandemic is prompting Jewish people to search for meaning as never before. In fact, when Israel begins to open back up, we anticipate Israelis will be more open to hearing about the love and hope of our Messiah.”
Okay, now back to the Christmas silliness. This is the intro:
“Welcome to week three of The Case for Christmas Online Bible Study with Lee Strobel.
His best gift of all was, of course, Jesus! Who but God himself would have thought of sending the Messiah through a virgin teenager living in a backwater town? Imagine how much trust in God it must have taken for Isaiah to prophesy that out loud (Isaiah 7:14)!
This week, investigative journalist Lee Strobel asks, “Is the virgin birth consistent with reality?” And he explains why it’s so important that Jesus came to us through a virgin.
At the center of Christmas is the fact that this isn’t just an ordinary birth. This was a supernatural occurrence unlike any other birth in history and it’s embedded in our historic statements of faith. ~ Lee Strobel
Given God’s outrageous penchant for creativity in gift-giving, why wouldn’t he do something so extravagant in introducing his Son into the world?
If a God exists who is big enough to create the universe in all its complexity and vastness, why should a mere miracle be such a mental stretch? ~ Tim Keller
In today’s lesson, consider how an unsparing, bountiful, completely openhanded God loves to wow us!”
Now, if you’ve read the bible, the claims here seem to have a bit of a reek to them. A god that has to show off. How human. I’ve been chatting with some Christians and Muslims this week on youtube and they have been telling me how dare I question the existence of their god, I, a speck of dust asking this god to prove itself to me. So, this god has to show off to a speck of dust?
So, before I get into what Lee says, “creative gift giving” is a little strange to say about this god. It gives “gifts” which are answered prayers, but they often require people to die in droves. If this god gives you a win in a battle, he’ll accept your daughter given as a human sacrifice. If this god gives you freedom per Exodus, this god supposedly kills thousands if not millions of people who couldn’t do anything about their pharaoh who was controlled by this god so it could show off.
Lee starts by claiming that if someone, JC in this case, was virgin born, it would change history. I suppose it would, at the least by making a claim of parthenogenesis, but as we know from the prior show, virgin births weren’t that unusual to claim a couple thousand years ago. History wasn’t changed particularly by those claims, it was just a thing to claim about emperors, gods, etc. Just like it was a thing to claim that gods were created from a god penis being thrown into the sea, popping fully formed out of Zeus’ forehead, etc. It’s a supernatural claim, nothing more and again, not unique. As I covered last time, uniqueness in a story doesn’t make it true.
The question is posed, how could anyone prove their conception virginal? Indeed, how can one do that? Doing magic? But the claim is that the virginal conception is the claim that makes JC special, not just doing magic. So we have a nascent circular argument and the fact that belief that even humans could do magic was nothing special a couple of thousand years ago. Now, Lee says that there is evidence of the resurrection by eyewitnesses and the empty tomb but there isn’t evidence for the god on girl action. That there is evidence for neither drives this further into the realm of myth.
Lee wants to show how the virgin birth makes sense “theologically and scientifically”. Really? Scientifically? Oh do try.
Is the virgin birth “consistent with reality”? Lee claims it is because it’s a “fact” since it is mentioned in various Christian statements of faith. This is another circular argument: it’s true since the bible says its true and the bible is true because it says is true. He also tries the appeal to popularity fallacy when he claims it should be impressive that 79% of Americans think that the virgin birth is a fact. That number seems to come from a poll done by Newsweek in 2004. In 2013, Harris did a poll for the same question and got 57%. Pew also did a similar poll that year and got 73%. It’s not looking good for the virgin birth.
But Lee pins his whole argument on the validity of Christianity on the virgin birth. He quotes Dawkins
He considers it condescending of Dawkins. And he’s right. One has to condescend to those who would spread such nonsense as some “truth”, to the point of mistranslating their bible to get the answer they want that their god was extra-special. Yes, it certainly is mentioned in the bible, and no that doesn’t make it true.
Both the GoMt (Gospel of Matthew) and the GoL (Gospel of Luke) do mention this virgin birth. GoMt claims that JC is the “son of David”, which is impossible if Joseph, supposedly descended from David, isn’t his dad. Joseph is the one that gets the angelic visit in a dream, and the angel says that some prophet says that a virgin will have a son and this son will be named Emmanuel (God is with us). No prophet can be shown to have said this. We do have when Isaiah says that a young women will bear a son who will be young when the enemies of King Ahaz will be destroyed. So, we have a supposed prophecy that gets the sexual status of a woman wrong and claims that Jesus aka Joshua e.g. “God is our salvation” will be named Immanuel/Emmanuel.
We also have the problem that this god also shows it doesn’t mind being tested at all in these verses, at odds to the claims of many Christians “11 Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 13 Then Isaiah[d] said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.” Isaiah 7
In the GoL, the author goes in to far more detail, with no mention of the visit to Joseph, but a angel coming right to Mary. He also adds the magic birth of John the Baptist too, as if needing to outdo the author of GoMt, and the ridiculous census that never happened. The GoL also screws up and tries to claim that JC is the descendant of David but that cannot be if there was indeed a virgin birth.
Despite Lee’s claims, they don’t agree “essentially” and they do indeed offer many different details.
Following this, Lee claims that the virgin birth is necessary and it makes is possible for this character to be both human and god. Now, not all Christians agree with this, claiming that the true godhood came on JC when he was baptized and the holy spirit got around to inhabiting the human body. We also already know that this god can create human bodies out of dirt, so a virgin birth isn’t necessary at all. Lee claims that the virgin birth is required so JC doesn’t have “original sin”, which also makes no sense since this god is supposedly omnipotent. It just has to decree someone doesn’t have original sin, no magic of human/god sex needed.
Lee goes onto claim that no one should believe the immaculate conception because there are “problems” with it. Really? And no problems with magical god sex otherwise? He asked how could Mary not get original sin from her mother? I guess this omnipotent god just can’t do that, but magical god sex? Well, of course 😀 Now, Catholics can explain how this works with no problem using the same scripture that Lee claims doesn’t support it. Lee simply claims that his way is the right one, just like Catholics do and again neither have any evidence for their myths other than their opinion of what the bible “really” says.
All in all, there is no theological reason for a virgin birth, other than needing to make JC seem magical like other gods worshipped at the time.
Lee tries to claim that the claims of a virgin birth are “quite early” but does not present any dates or sources other than GoMt and GOL, which were likely written between 80-130 CE. The authors of the gospel of John and the gospel of Mark saw no reason to include it. They were in the “first generation” or so of Christians too. If it was necessary theologically, why would they leave it out? Paul said that JC was born of a woman, so he didn’t think it theologically necessary either. Of course, there are some Christians who are quite sure that Paul was the starter of the virgin birth. Christians are a creative bunch.
Lee goes onto make more baseless claims. He tries to claim that since there were differences in the birth stories, then there must have been an earlier independent sources. There is no logical need for this or evidence for this. He tries to claim that the author of Luke is “essentially” (a common wiggle word for Lee) writing from Mary’s perspective. That may be the case but it still doesn’t make the story true nor that the author interviewed Mary et al. The same holds for Lee’s claim that the GoMt is from Joseph’s perspective. From nowhere, Lee claims that Joseph must have died before JC was famous, to explain why Joseph entire disappears from the story, the only link any relation to David. That certainly seems to ignore a teachable moment. With all of the retconning that Lee is doing, he puts Star Trek and Star Wars fans to shame.
Question 2: is the virgin birth scientifically plausible?
Now, why bother to ask this if you are sure that magic works? Unless you are desperate for evidence to support a faith in very silly stories.
Lee mentions that supposedly William Lane Craig, he of the kalam argument and empty tomb claims, doubted the virgin birth since women didn’t have all of the genetic material to make a baby. So this was the problem, that this god couldn’t fix that? Oy.
Now, for some reason, Lee takes a detour into making claims of special pleading, insisting that since some physicists think that the universe had a beginning, his god has to be the creator of something out of nothing. There is no evidence of this either. He tries to misrepresent what Alexander Vilenkin has said about the universe having a beginning for his own ends. (to see what Vilenkin really says see here.) Lee tries all of the old nonsense about how his god has to be the creator, powerful, smart, timeless, and those all fail since this god fails many thing in the bible, the universe is mostly deadly to its supposedly favorite creation and DNA screws up pretty often for a supposedly product from a perfect being, and if there is no time, there is no way to choose to start something. Hilariously, he runs to occam’s razor to insist that there can only be one creator, when occam’s razor is often simply wrong.
That Lee and WLC agree also doesn’t make anything true either. Genesis is not scientifically accurate.
Finally, we are getting to the end. Lee quotes a couple of Christians. Here’s two quotes:
Hmmm, you mean like a presupposition, Andreas, Alexander and Lee? Like the one you have that there must be a god and therefore there must be miracles like stories claim? Well, considering there is no evidence for these miracles, or gods, it isn’t a presupposition to assume no god since there is no reason assume one must exist. No observation of miracles makes no need for formulating a hypothesis that a god exists. And assuming that since science hasn’t yet explained everything it can never do it is just wishful thinking of a theist who needs gaps for his god. A god that evidently can’t figure out how it is to be a human just by thinking about it, it has to become human for some reason.
We’re back to “God makes miracles which makes him god” another circular argument.
So the Christmas miracle isn’t so much of one. Next time, Lee seems to indicate that it will be an appeal to supposed prophecy, like I’ve already covered here.