Friday, 11 September 2009

Dear Atheists. Please update your arguments.

"Kids' author says Jesus is not God: An atheist children's author is to use his latest book to say that Jesus was not God, instead claiming the Apostle Paul imagined the idea."

Read the story and you'll see that atheist campaigner Philip Pullman's idea is to argue that the idea of Jesus as God was a later encrustation on a primitive Christianity, dreamt up by the apostle Paul.

This was a popular idea in liberal academic scholarship in the 20th century up until the 1980s, but is now generally recognised, not just by evangelical scholars, as a huge mistake. It's a mistake that came from the presupposition that the New Testament documents should be read and interpreted against the background of Hellenistic philosophy. This mistake led to many of the Hebraic messages being filtered out - at least for those in the world of academic scholarship. Happily this enormous dead-end in Biblical studies bypassed the ordinary Bible-reading Christian!

The New Testament was written against a Hebraic background, and the above way of doing things is now widely recognised as completely untenable. The gospel writers and Paul and the other apostles alike approach the story of Jesus as a continuation of the Old Testament narrative. And in particular, his deity is clearly endorsed by all of them, because they all uniformally and continually attributes acts, achievements and attributes to Jesus which the Old Testament makes explicit belong exclusively to Jehovah. In both testaments, theological questions are not approach in the Greek manner - as matters of fine philosophical analysis (though of course such analysis is legitimate), but as being revealed progressively in history through God's saving interventions. And the interventions written about by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as well as Paul reveal with crystal clarity that they viewed Jesus of Nazareth as being one and the same in his being as Jehovah. Put simply, their message about the person of Christ is that he achieves everything for his people that Jehovah is meant to achieve. (And this observation eventually gives rise to the whole doctrine of the Trinity when all other Biblical considerations are factored in).

Mr. Pullman, though, is going to try to discredit Christianity with mouldy, rusted, defunct old bunk that has been debunked for decades. Good for pulling the wool over the eyes of the naive and the willingly ignorant, I suppose. But if the "New Atheist" crowd want to convince us that they're dispassionate investigators of facts, serious students of scholarship, coldly and impartially following hard evidence wherever it leads, this sort of thing won't help. Don't expect Pullman to be called out by his fellow "New Atheists" for this slip though, because the problem isn't intellectual - it's moral. They simply latch on to whatever argument seems to support their cause, whatever kind of argument it is, good, bad or ugly. The "New Atheists" have gained a reputation for being intellectually shallow and not widely read in their attempts to establish their position - and this kind of thing will only help that reputation roll on.


Thesauros said...

"But if the "New Atheist crowd want to convince us that they're dispassionate investigators of facts, serious students of scholarship, coldly and impartially following hard evidence"

The atheists that I encounter don't ever pretend anymore. Why do all that work when simply saying "Jesus never existed," works just as well.

Ned Kelly said...

I'm reading a 3 volume set by historian and biblical scholar, Paul Barnett, and it contains every argument one would need to refute the New Atheists, not that they would listen. Volume 1 entitled "The Birth of Christianity - the First Twenty Years" gives a very detailed account of the Jesus tradition, and examines the various arguments regarding the dating and sources of the Epistles and Gospels. A very worthwhile study for those looking to extend their knowledge in the field of apologetics.