Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the tag “Existence of God”

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 13

Moses Parting Red SeaMoses never existed … or if he did, he was only a minor historical character and most of his life was expanded by legend.

When I was an atheist I believed Moses never existed. The Jews made him up to bolster their religion. However, if someone by the name of Moses really did live he wasn’t anything like the stories about him in the Bible. No way he called down the wrath of God on the Egyptians. No way Moses raised his hands in the air and a sea of water split in two. No way.

I used the story of Moses leading Israel out of Egypt as a major proof that the Bible was full of myths and fairy tales. It was a favorite discussion on my radio talk shows in the late 1960s and early 70s. Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Abraham leaving Ur for Canaan, Joseph in Egypt, and Moses leading Israel out of Egypt were stories I threw at Christians whenever they called about the Bible and Christianity being true. There was absolutely no evidence for any of those stories, so why should I believe anything in the Bible. Everything in the Bible was untrue.

That worked pretty well until I met some Christian apologists. They answered my mocking and skepticism with evidence … lots of evidence … so much evidence that I was no longer able to say the Bible was full of myth, fairy tales and lies. I didn’t know where the investigation would lead me, but I knew there was more to the Bible than I thought.

The archaeological finds I had already seen were impressive in supporting some of the historic nature of Genesis. What would I find in archaeology to support the historic nature of  the “Exodus?”

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 12

Baby Moses and Daughter of PharaohDid pharaoh’s daughter find baby Moses in an ark of bulrushes in the reeds by the bank of the river and raise him as her son? Did Moses become the leader of the slave nation of Israel? Did Moses lead Israel out of Egypt in a great exodus after humiliating the pharaoh through miracles of God?

During my investigation into the claims of theism more than 40 years ago, specifically Christianity, I had learned that many archaeological discoveries during the 19th and 20th centuries AD supported a variety of truth claims in the Bible from the 19th and 20th centuries BC. However, no truth claim of the Old Testament may have been more of a challenge than the supposed exodus of Israel from Egypt. Anyone who had any knowledge of ancient civilizations knew there was not a shred of evidence that the story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt was true – including no archaeological discovery.

Or so I thought.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 16)

Church ApologeticsAtheists don’t believe God exists. However, they do think the non-existent God is a bully. In “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins wrote this about God –

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” 

I don’t remember being that angry about God when I was an atheist, but I did think theists were ignorant people. Because I didn’t believe in the existence of God or the credibility of the Bible, the things written about God in the Bible didn’t bother me much. It was just stupid to believe it. However, the God written about in the Old Testament does bother Dawkins and many other atheists today. 

Which leads me to this question: is God an unjust, unforgiving, vindictive, malevolent bully? That’s part of the attack on the Church today, so how do we respond?

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 15)

Church ApologeticsQuestion: In the Garden of Eden, was God truthful with Adam? “… but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) We find the answer in Genesis 5:5 - So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.” God told Adam the “truth.”

What about Satan? Did he tell Eve the truth? “… Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4) 

That would appear to be a violation of the Law (Principle) of Non-Contradiction: something cannot be both true and not true at the same time in the same sense or context. Humans could not “die” and “not die” in the same sense or context. Either humans do die or they don’t die. We know from centuries of human experience that humans do die.

(**Take note of the fact that Satan is willing to contradict logic and reason to get what he wants. As Jesus said about the devil – “When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)) 

These details from the beginning of the human race go to the heart of Evangelistic Apologetics – Truth. The attack on the Church concerns Truth.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 10

Ancient Middle East MapI used to think that Christians were ignorant to believe the “stories” in the Bible. I was taught those stories as a child, but I grew up to “know” they weren’t true. Or did I?

My investigation into the claims of theists about the existence of God and Christians about the existence of God’s Son led me into a study of archaeology in 1971. I was especially interested in archaeological expeditions from the Middle East because much of the Old Testament was written in and about that area of the world. I was a bit surprised to discover that many archaeological findings pointed to the “possibility” that people written about in the Old Testament may have actually lived at the time the writers claimed.

But what about the claim that a small family left Canaan, entered Egypt, grew to great numbers, were forced into slavery, then were freed from slavery by a man who performed great miracles that brought the mighty Egyptian government to its knees?

Here’s what I learned from archaeology.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 9

Sphinx and PyramidAs I mentioned in the last post, the Bible story about Abraham became a “possibility” for me as an atheist based on the archaeological evidence available during my 1971 investigation into theism and Christianity. It seemed from what I was researching that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jacob’s sons “could” have lived during the time frame the Old Testament claimed in the locations it described.

I continued to ask questions about the patriarchs and discovered more evidence from archaeology. Each discovery seemed to lend more support to the credibility of the writings in the Old Testament from an archeological perspective. Archaeologists had found evidence for many of the ancient cities mentioned in the Bible with details about how people lived, worked and worshipped that matched much of what the Old Testament writers included in the process of describing how the Hebrew patriarchs lived and how they interacted with people from other people groups and nationalities.

Rather than the Bible being (as I supposed at the time) a fairy tale filled with legends and myths, I began to see it as history. I had a lot more researching to do to see if the history it presented was credible and believable, but the important point for me was that I was seeing the Old Testament as an historical document that could be tested against other historical documents and against the discoveries of archaeology.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 6)

Church ApologeticsIt’s important to our understanding of why the Church is under attack to understand the “tension” between God and Satan. We saw it first in the Garden of Eden when God said this to the Satan-possessed serpent:

“Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

Satan is a defeated foe, cursed by God, but that does not mean the devil is not active and powerful in this world. Fortunately, we know what Satan does, how he does it and why he does it.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 8

Camels in EgyptAs I investigated the claims of the Bible concerning Abram leaving Ur of the Chaldees, traveling to ancient Haran, then on to Canaan, I came across many archaeological discoveries that supported the dating of the story in Genesis about his life and journey. I had been told for a long time that the stories in the Bible were fairy tales without any possible connection to real people and historical facts, but archaeologists had been finding clues for more than a century that demonstrated the historical nature of Genesis. Real people, living real lives, interacting with other real people.

In the case of Abraham, whether he was real or myth would have a serious impact on billions of people who believe he is the “father” of their religion (e.g. Christianity, Judaism, Islam).

[A reminder that I am including only those archaeological references available for my research during the first half of 1971.]

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 7

Royal Standard of UrThe Hebrew Bible records the history of the world in some detail, but the history of Israel in great detail. Rather than a book of myth and legend, the Hebrew Bible was written as an historical narrative of a people and their God. That means their existence, both people and God, can be investigated according to historical detail.

When I was looking into the claims of Christianity in 1971, I found archaeological discoveries in Palestine of great interest in supporting the historicity of biblical writings. The nation of Israel, beginning with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, interacted with many other tribes, city-states and nations. We’ve already looked at some of the ancient finds from ancient Babylon, Assyria, Philistia and Moab. We turn now to Egypt.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 6

Many atheists have asked me why I converted from strong atheism to Christianity rather than to some other belief system. The simple answer is that Christians had the answers to my questions. I had studied various Eastern religions years earlier and didn’t find truth in any of them. Atheism was the only belief system that made sense, until I met Christians who were well-educated, thoughtful and patient.

This series of articles, Convince Me There’s A God, is for the purpose of answering atheists who have asked me to be specific about what convinced me to become a Christian.

Cyrus CylinderOne of the strongest points of convincing came from Middle East archaeology. I looked at finds from ancient Moab, Assyria, Philistia and Anatolia, then turned to the history of the Medo-Persian Empire and one of its greatest rulers, King Cyrus. I was especially interested in The Cyrus Cylinder because of its connection to ancient Israel.

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Is “Faith” Worth Believing?

Faith in StoneAtheist philosopher Peter Boghossian believes that faith is pretending to know things you don’t know (May 6, 2012 public lecture – richarddawkins.net/). As a former atheist, I find that statement both challenging and strange. Let me explain why.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 5

Mesha SteleAs an atheist I believed in what I could see, not in what I could not see. The “natural” was something I could see – the “supernatural” was not. So, the archaeological finds that supported various aspects of the historicity of the Old Testament impressed me. Even though most of the ancient discoveries were located in museums around the world, being able to see photos of the objects and knowing that I could see them in person if I wanted to helped me in my investigation about whether the Old Testament of the Bible was verifiable on any level. I was especially interested in whether the Old Testament was rooted in myth and legend or in history.

The 19th and 20th centuries AD were a great period of time for archaeological discoveries about some of the oldest civilizations of the world. Oriental studies and research led many explorers and archaeologists into the Middle and Far East looking for ancient treasures. Some of them that we’ve already looked at include the Philistines, Hittites, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Assyrians. Another ancient people recorded in the Old Testament and uncovered by archaeologists are the Moabites.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 4

As any good atheist would have done more than 40 years ago, I ridiculed the history of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible. How could anyone believe what the Jews wrote about their national history when they were just trying to promote their own brand of “religion?” Why should I believe them?

Taylor PrismThe problem with that line of thinking, I discovered, was what to do about the histories of other ancient nations that gave credibility to many of the historical records in the Old Testament? Were the historians of other countries who served other gods somehow joined in the Jewish conspiracy to promote the one God of Israel? That didn’t seem logical to me, so I looked deeper into several archaeological discoveries to see if I could find the truth. Could archaeology have the answer to my challenge to “Convince me there’s a God?”

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 2

Hittite Lion's GateSolid evidence. Something an investigative journalist can sink his teeth into. That’s what I needed to see in 1971. Christians I had invited on my radio talk show to intimidate and make fun of were turning the tables on me. Me! A well-known, hard-core atheist talk show commentator, was actually listening to Christians talk about why they believed in the existence of God. Sound ridiculous? I thought so at the time, but they kept coming back with more and more evidence. For a free-thinking journalist interested in knowing whether something’s true or not, evidence is hard to ignore.

What I was hearing about how archaeology supported many of the claims in the Bible was impressive. One of the most impressive was the discovery of the Hittite nation.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology

Archaeology Israel 1Journalists deal in facts – lots of them. We eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We snack on them at midnight. Facts, facts, and more facts! So, what can possibly convince an atheist journalist about the existence of God? Facts – and lots of them.

I found discussions with Christians about science interesting, but those about morality were a bit disturbing. I couldn’t see, hear or touch morality and there was no way to “test” creation theory in a laboratory. That’s why I liked it when we started talking about archaeology and the Bible. Archaeology was something I could sink my teeth into because it dealt with things I could see, touch and test.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Morality

As an atheist I cared little for “morality.” In fact, how others saw morality was often something I had to overcome to get what I wanted in life. So, when Christians who talked with me about the existence of God brought up the “law of morality,” it wasn’t something I was interested in discussing – at first.

I later learned that the moral argument for the existence of God is based on generally accepted points of morality within societies. It is based on the premise of moral normativity – the awareness of civilized human beings that some actions are right while others are wrong. Here are three ways I’ve heard to state the Moral Argument:

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Convince Me There’s A God – Causality

I’ve been asked so many times how an atheist could possibly become a theist. Atheists cannot believe one of their own would change his or her mind and Christians have a hard time believing an atheist could change. Once they get over the shock of talking to a believer who used to be a dreaded atheist, Christians want to know what they can say to atheist family members or friends to convince them there’s a God. That’s why I’m sharing my personal story – for Christians, atheists and agnostics.

This story begins in 1966 when I determined that God did not exist. It has a second beginning in 1971 when I determined that God did exist.

My path of atheism became stronger and angrier between 1966 and 1970. By 1969 I was using my radio talk show as a powerful platform to preach an anti-Christian style of atheism. I grew up in a Christian environment, so I knew its shortcomings well. I thought I had been duped by the Christian worldview and saw radio as a way to warn people about falling into the traps of Christianity. I ridiculed Christians and what they believed and mocked their God daily on my show.

What I didn’t expect was what happened in early 1971 when I invited a Christian on my program because he believed in a worldwide flood and was leading a search to find Noah’s Ark in Turkey. My purpose in inviting him to the radio program was to ridicule his beliefs and show the audience the absurdity of believing the myths and legends that filled the Bible. My surprise was meeting someone who knew a lot more about science than I did and presented strong, reasonable answers to my questions.

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