Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Book Review: Truth in a Culture of Doubt

TruthInCultureDoubt_cover.indd“Truth in a Culture of Doubt: Engaging Skeptical Challenges to the Bible” (B&H Publishing, 2014) is an excellent rebuttal to celebrity skeptic Bart Ehrman.

Ehrman is Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has written several books that question the deity of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of the Bible, including “How Jesus Became God,” “Did Jesus Exist?,” “Jesus Interrupted,” “God’s Problem,” and “Forged.” Ehrman is planning to release a new book in March 2016 titled “Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior.”

Ehrman has a large following within the atheist/agnostic/skeptic communities who are using his arguments in their attacks on the Bible and Christianity. Let’s meet the authors of “Truth in a Culture of Doubt” and see what they recommend for answering Ehrman and his followers.

Andreas J. Kostenberger is Senior Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Darrell L. Bock is Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Josh D. Chatraw is Director of the Center of Apologetics and Cultural Engagement and Associate Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University.

These three men have done a remarkable job in addressing Bart Ehrman’s skepticism. Ehrman’s background in education includes Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College and Princeton University. It was at Princeton that Ehrman concluded the Bible had errors. He said that led him from Christianity to agnosticism.

The authors of “Truth in a Culture of Doubt” explain the purpose for writing this book:

“We haven’t written this book to convince Bart Ehrman or other skeptical scholars of our views. Ehrman, we trust, knows most of the information we set forth in these pages and has chosen to follow his own line of reasoning due to a variety of factors. Instead, we are writing for those of you who have encountered Ehrman’s arguments (or others like them) and need to better understand the other side of the argument.” Truth in a Culture of Doubt, Introduction, p 11

Many Christians may not have heard of Bart Ehrman, but they have certainly heard his arguments against God and the Bible. One of the great benefits of “Truth in a Culture of Doubt” is that it will greatly benefit all Christians.

Each chapter begins with the claims of Bart Ehrman that the authors will address, followed by a brief introduction about the general, then detailed responses to each of the claims. Each chapter also includes discussion questions you could use for a church or small group study. The format is easy to read and follow and also excellent for quick research when you are talking with people who have similar concerns to Ehrman.

I highly recommend “Truth in a Culture of Doubt” for your apologetics library.

Contents

Introduction: From Fundamentalist to Skeptic

Chapter One: Is God Immoral Because He Allows Suffering?

Chapter Two: Is the Bible Full of Irresolvable Contradictions?

Chapter Three: Are the Biblical Manuscripts Corrupt?

Chapter Four: Were There Many Christianities?

Chapter Five: Are Many New Testament Documents Forged?

Conclusion: Reasons to Believe

Videos

B&H has produced several short videos with Dr. Bock that share some of the excellent information available in “Truth in a Culture of Doubt.”

Dr. Darrell Bock on “Truth in a Culture of Doubt,” Part 1

Dr. Darrell Bock on “Truth in a Culture of Doubt,” Part 2

Dr. Darrell Bock on “Truth in a Culture of Doubt,” Part 3

Dr. Darrell Bock on “Truth in a Culture of Doubt,” Part 4

Reviews

“Over the last number of years, Bart Ehrman has proven to be one of Christianity’s most persistent critics. In book after book, he has challenged Christianity’s most cherished beliefs about Jesus and the reliability of the New Testament. I am so thankful that we now have this excellent full-length response to his claims. Kostenberger, Bock, and Chatraw dismantle the attacks of Ehrman one by one, showing not only that the New Testament is historically reliable but also that its teachings are coherent and consistent. In our current cultural climate of doubt and skepticism, this volume is a must read for every Christian.” Michael J. Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina

“Disturbed by the numerous attacks on the historic Christian faith by Bart Ehrman’s revisionist writings? This wonderful book offers a one-stop-shopping refutation of virtually all of them. Never heard of Ehrman but concerned about how the Bible originated, how faithfully it was copied, if it is full of contradictions, how to respond to the problem of evil and related questions? Kostenberger, Bock, and Chatraw demolish the main contentions of skepticism in each of the areas they address–essential reading!” Craig L. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary

“Together Kostenberger, Bock, and Chatraw put up a rigorous rebuttal of celebrity skeptic Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Herman has made many extravagant claims about Scripture as textually corrupted, fraught with contradictions, partly forged, and unable to provide meaningful answers to the question of human suffering. In response, these authors take up Ehrman’s challenge and show that, on closer reflection, Ehrman is telling a very selective and skewed story. Truth matters, and this trio of authors succeed in showing that the truth of the Christian faith can stand up to the most arduous of critics. A great resource for sobering up people who are drunk on new wine from Chapel Hill.” Michael F. Bird, Lecturer in Theology, Ridley Melbourne Mission and Ministry College, Australia

“Jesus said, while praying to the Father, ‘Your word is truth’ (John 17:17). Many are skeptical about this claim, and one of the most famous skeptics is Bart Ehrman. The authors of this useful and accessible book demonstrate that belief in the Scriptures does not represent the sacrifice of one’s intellect. Many will be strengthened in their faith and encouraged in reading this work.” Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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Truth in a Culture of Doubt:Engaging the Skeptical Distortions of the Bible, B&H Publishing, 2014, 224 pages

Faith&SelfDefense

 

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23 thoughts on “Book Review: Truth in a Culture of Doubt

  1. shields3 on said:

    Thanks for your questions and comments faithandselfdefense

    You said: “Both viewpoints are supported by “thousands of highly intelligent scientists,” which makes the discussion about evidence of great importance since there is so much disagreement about the available evidence.”

    I will take issue with this comment because I am quite convinced that there is minor overall disagreement and that well over 90% of scientists understand and agree with most concepts of the evolutionary theory and the age of the earth. I understand many good scientists may believe in a deity and will try to discredit these theories simply because it contradicts their faith.

    You said: “You are correct that scientific evidence can be discarded, changed and adjusted. However, that does not mean “truth” can be discarded, changed or adjusted. Truth is what corresponds to reality. What is the purpose of scientific investigation (scientific method)? Is it not to discover what is true/real about something? Once truth is discovered, what is the next step? Agreement? Acceptance? Further investigation may bring more information and insight concerning truth, but it will not change truth. What is true is true.”

    Nothing in a science sense are seen or described as absolute truth or beyond all doubt. Scientific theory is always dynamic through further investigation or related fields and the theory will only ever be described as “beyond all reasonable doubt”. Science is not a method of deducing laws; it is a method of testing them.

    Stephen Hawking made this compelling observation and statement: “I don’t know of any major theory that has been advanced just on the basis of experiment. The theory always came first, put forward from the desire to have an elegant and consistent mathematical model. The theory then makes predictions, which can then be tested by observation. If the observations agree with the predictions, that doesn’t prove the theory; but the theory survives to make further predictions, which again are tested against observation. If the observations don’t agree with the predictions, one abandons the theory.”

    Religions simply do not allow any such type of process to test the faith and never will. Most religions claim their faith is based on what are believed to be historic facts from an old manuscript and that is the unrelenting position they hold with nothing on this earth that science can provide to be included, adapted or allowed to contradict the faith. Of course the Catholics have been the exception to this rule in some cases.

    You said:” I was taught as an atheist that death ended existence, so no need to be concerned about the way I lived my life. What did it matter if it didn’t matter?” and also “I do believe life matters and that’s because I believe in the existence of God,”

    I will reiterate that atheism is not taught as a belief system it simply does not believe in any gods and is the natural default of humans, however an ex theist may have to deprogram themselves through their own analysis of scientific and secular documentation. Life matters just as much to atheists if not more than religious people because we do not believe we have any other eternal life to fall back on or look forward to. Having said that atheists can believe in life after death from a belief in any other shape or form as they like.

    Hope this makes things clearer for you.

    • Hi, Shields3. A few points about your response.

      “Hope this makes things clearer for you.”

      What seems clear to me is that you have greatly restricted your search for knowledge. Here’s why I say that.

      “Nothing in a science sense are seen or described as absolute truth or beyond all doubt. Scientific theory is always dynamic through further investigation or related fields and the theory will only ever be described as “beyond all reasonable doubt”. Science is not a method of deducing laws; it is a method of testing them.”

      Your comment reminds me of the old saying about people who are always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. It sounds as if you’re saying that science will never come to a knowledge of the truth about anything because it is always investigating theories rather than determining them to be true. Is that what you mean?

      Scientific inquiry has many flaws based on flawed methods operated by flawed people. What method do you use to ensure that the scientific methods used to test various theories are done properly with no possibility of being tainted? What can we trust? Who can we trust? The subjects of many scientific inquiries are truly life and death matters. People’s lives are often in the balance during scientific inquiry and clinical trials. Today’s great scientific discoveries are often tomorrow’s lawsuits.

      “Stephen Hawking made this compelling observation and statement: “I don’t know of any major theory that has been advanced just on the basis of experiment. The theory always came first, put forward from the desire to have an elegant and consistent mathematical model. The theory then makes predictions, which can then be tested by observation. If the observations agree with the predictions, that doesn’t prove the theory; but the theory survives to make further predictions, which again are tested against observation. If the observations don’t agree with the predictions, one abandons the theory.”

      The theory always comes first? What about facts first, followed by theories concerning the facts? Stephen Hawking is also the scientist who, while speaking to the Google Zeitgeist conference in May 2011, said – “Why are we here? Where do we come from? Traditionally, these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.” Interesting theory. Did Hawking test his theory that philosophy is dead? If so, how? How did he observe and test his theory of the death of philosophy?

      Do you believe that science is the best and only trustworthy method to discover truth? or do you believe that truth cannot be discovered? Do you believe science can test emotions? the will? the mind? the heart? love? anger? hate? evil? conscience? intent? loyalty? bravery? cowardice? character? hope? joy? sadness?

      These are some of the issues I struggled with during my investigation into theism and look forward to your reply. Thanks!

    • shields3 on said:

      Thanks for your questions, and I believe to some extent you are correct when you say theories are always open for investigation and even if the position of “beyond all reasonable doubt” is reached it is rarely described as truth. Truth I believe is used in simplistic applications. It is true you may say that we have gravity, however if something scientific is discovered that changes or has some influence on the theory it can be redefined or adjusted. Truth can be a permanent and unmoving position that is difficult to apply to science because it has so many complicated fields that rely on each other and are always being investigated, questioned and retested by various experts.

      The word true I would suggest is something often used in a court of law where it is used as the next step up from “beyond reasonable doubt” such as the meanings of it are accurate, correct, verifiable, faithful, literal, veracious.

      You ask: “What about facts first followed by theories concerning the facts?”

      A fact is something that is supported by unmistakeable evidence and is as close to the absolute truth as anyone could get. My understanding is that science is based on a hypothesis that is the initial building block in the scientific method and eventually develops into a theory. Theories are the ways that we make sense of what we observe in the natural world. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. For example, evolution is a theory because it is a very complex subject and will always have certain issues of contention, however the overall evolutionary concept is “beyond reasonable doubt” because important aspects of it are supported by many facts, such as the fact that many fossils have been found that are intermediate between apes and modern humans.

      You state: “ Scientific inquiry has many flaws based on flawed methods operated by flawed people. What method do you use to ensure that the scientific methods used to test various theories are done properly with no possibility of being tainted? What can we trust? Who can we trust? The subjects of many scientific inquiries are truly life and death matters. People’s lives are often in the balance during scientific inquiry and clinical trials. Today’s great scientific discoveries are often tomorrow’s lawsuits.”

      If you are going to judge all scientists by the dishonest few in the medical fields backed by drug companies who are wanting to line their pockets you have it completely wrong. I have had Christians who have blogged saying all the scientists are evil and are lying and cheating about evolution, the age of the earth and all the other details that conflict with the Bible and accused with the intent of destroying religion. This claim of course is pure fantasy, impossible and unfathomable as to why and how thousands or over 90% of scientists in the world could carry out such a devious plot.

      OK Stephen Hawking has personal opinions and because science has advanced at such a rapid rate it is true that philosophy, astrology and even theology have taken the back seat. How he came to that conclusion about philosophy is the same way we all come to conclusions about anything unscientific.

      I do believe that it will take my lifetime and many more before we discover the scientific explanations for all human or animal emotions but of course they will eventually and I believe science will take the human race into the future of knowledge and technology way beyond our belief where people will live for 200 years or more and we will establish human life on another planet.

      I have always known there has to be a practical and logical answer for everything and science has evolved as a result of our emotions, just as religious belief is emotive and has also evolved from early man. You can see why I remain an atheist. I do not know if you believe what I have written and you may well believe that a god created everything, however I do hope you may understand my position better.

    • Hi, Shields3. I do believe that you believe what you have written. I do believe that God created everything. I do understand your position. It’s one I remember well as having believed it myself years ago. I’ve read through our previous communications and believe we have presented our thoughts and beliefs honestly, fairly and respectfully. I hope we can continue to communicate in days and weeks to come.

      A few more thoughts:

      “It is true you may say that we have gravity, however if something scientific is discovered that changes or has some influence on the theory it can be redefined or adjusted. Truth can be a permanent and unmoving position that is difficult to apply to science because it has so many complicated fields that rely on each other and are always being investigated, questioned and retested by various experts.”

      I view as a ‘fact’ that most things remain on the ground on the planet Earth unless something propels them off the ground, usually for a limited period of time (e.g. birds, planes, flying insects, children jumping). This is a factual observation living things have made every day for a long, long time. There have been many people who theorized about ‘why’ most things remain on the ground on the planet Earth (e.g. Aristotle, Vitruvius, Galileo, Hooke), but Sir Isaac Newton gets much of the credit for his theory about gravity. Cavendish built on Newton’s theory and Einstein developed some of his own ideas about gravity. Other scientists will most likely add their ideas to the theory in the future. However, the ‘fact’ remains that most things remain on the ground on the planet Earth. That is a ‘truth’ about life. The reason for the truth may develop further, but the truth that most things remain on the ground on the planet Earth won’t change unless the truth changes and most things don’t remain on the ground on the planet Earth.

      “If you are going to judge all scientists by the dishonest few in the medical fields backed by drug companies who are wanting to line their pockets you have it completely wrong. I have had Christians who have blogged saying all the scientists are evil and are lying and cheating about evolution, the age of the earth and all the other details that conflict with the Bible and accused with the intent of destroying religion. This claim of course is pure fantasy, impossible and unfathomable as to why and how thousands or over 90% of scientists in the world could carry out such a devious plot.”

      I don’t judge all scientists by those who are dishonest or who make mistakes in their calculations. It is because flawed human beings are involved in science that we need to carefully investigate the claims of those human beings. I do not believe all scientists are evil and are lying and cheating about evolution, age of the earth, etc. I do believe every claim should be investigated – by theist and atheist. Our confidence should be in the evidence.

      “I do believe that it will take my lifetime and many more before we discover the scientific explanations for all human or animal emotions but of course they will eventually and I believe science will take the human race into the future of knowledge and technology way beyond our belief where people will live for 200 years or more and we will establish human life on another planet.”

      I investigated some of these issues for a book I wrote several years ago. The book is titled “A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality” and the section that deals with the future of science is “The Science of Immorality.” I wrote about many scientists who were and are doing research that could lead to knowledge and technology that could extend life by many years. A Christian friend of mine, who I’ve known for 40 years, is a leader in the biology of cellular aging. He and members of his team have been working for decades on ways to extend life beyond the outer limits of what humanity experiences now. As a journalist and member of the human race I find all of this very interesting. However, extending the length of physical life doesn’t change the reasons for living or whether we have a soul that will live beyond our physical existence. We don’t know what science might or might not discover about human or animal emotions in the distant future, but I believe we will one day learn that there is a supernatural, spiritual aspect to human emotions and will.

      None of us know for sure the actual length of our lifetime, so what we have is now. Using our ‘now’ wisely and well, I think, includes working toward the benefit of all people. Most of the scientists I’ve interviewed during an almost 50-year career in journalism were honest and sincere in their desire to benefit the lives of people. Many of those scientists were theists. Some were atheists. I found both, theist and atheist, to be concerned about their fellow human beings. The fact that theists and atheists have differing views about God, origins, etc. and yet both have a deep interest in the present and future wellbeing of the human race is wonderful to behold and, I believe, speaks to something very special that God placed in the hearts of all humans. It is that ‘something’ and how it relates to the creator God that gives me great hope for the future of the human race.

      Thanks again for the excellent conversation.

    • shields3 on said:

      Before you and I finish our interesting debate I would like to point out a couple of things. My gravity description along with other comments was to make the point that if something we may know is true or a fact of life but the scientific conditions change in any way theoretically or otherwise science will not hesitate to accommodate this change.

      This is in stark contrast to religious doctrine that has ridged ideals and behaviours supported through egotistical interpretation of the Bible passages so that they do not infringe on their faith based beliefs.

      Taking it to the next level, can we just pretend the biblical story regarding the flood and Noah’s ark was supported by evidence and the animals did actually survive on his boat to populate the world as religion dictates to the faithful and that hypothesis was tested by the scientific process and moved on to became a scientific theory? The world scientists would then sit up and take notice, however it is nowhere near good enough to get to this level so what do we get?

      Creationists who insist that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old and that the geologic strata were laid down by the Flood. This is the idea that the humans were created within the last 6,000-10,000 years and that all the animals on earth were rescued by Noah including the dinosaurs which according to one strand of the non-scientific theory, were squeezed onto the ark as babies or adolescents, to make room.

      Religion cannot argue against scientific theories, but do try egotistical interpretation when they trot out the handful of religious scientists, authors and apologetics who will distort and bend any creditable scientific evidence to suit their religious positions.

      I expect many people literally believe Noah’s ark and most other Bible stories but because the stories are unbelievable and without scientific evidence this does not create an issue and does not appear to be a problem for them. So be it. Have a happy life on earth.

    • Hi, shields3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. We disagree on many points of evidence, but my hope for you is that you also have a happy life on earth and beyond.

  2. shields3 on said:

    Obviously 3 fanatical religious authors are going to rubbish the writing of an agnostic no matter how creditable his writing is.

    • Hi, Shields3. Several questions come to mind after reading your comment.

      Why do you believe the university professors who wrote the book are fanatical?
      What do you mean by ‘rubbish the writing of an agnostic’?
      Why do you think Ehrman’s writing is ‘creditable’?
      Why is this ‘obvious’ to you?

      Thanks!

    • shields3 on said:

      This is easy. Andreas J. Köstenberger (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is senior research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is a prolific author, distinguished evangelical scholar, and editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. His books include The Heresy of Orthodoxy, God, Marriage, and Family, The Final Days of Jesus (with Justin Taylor), and God’s Design for Man and Woman (with Margaret Köstenberger).
      Something tells me that is the only subject he has any interest in.
      Darrell L. Bock is an evangelical Christian New Testament scholar and research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas, United States. Bock received his PhD from Scotland’s University of Aberdeen. Darrell Bock is on a Mission From God to Change the Way Evangelicals Engage Culture.
      Josh Chatraw (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the pastor of preaching and students at First Baptist Church in Dublin, Georgia as well as adjunct professor at Brewton-Parker College, Zambia International Bible College, and Liberty University.
      Both of these guys have also written at least 3 books each on guess what subject? All three of them are at the very least committed, but as it appears they have devoted their lives to this subject I would go that one step further and say die hard fanatical Christians. I think my case is made.
      On Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I realise even more so now why it took three authors to refute his claims. Ehrman is a celebrity sceptic in the United States and a professor of religion at the University of North Carolina. He was formerly a fundamentalist Christian who de-converted to agnosticism, and now writes books exposing the fallacious claims of traditional Christianity.
      Obviously this man a former fanatic knows what he is writing about as he has the religious education and has decided to think for himself and not blindly follow the sheep. I have not read his books and I am not a bible scholar but as an atheist who does not believe any god has ever existed I say good on the man, here is an agnostic with as much knowledge as his critics and has best seller writing skills who gets up the noses of these 3 fanatical believers.

    • Hi, shields3. I’m interested to know how you define the word “fanatic.” You called three college professors fanatics because they believe in God and you called another college professor a “former fanatic” because he no longer believes in God. It would appear that your definition of “fanatic” is tied to a person’s belief or lack of belief in God. How do you define the word “fanatic” and how does that connect to a belief or lack of belief in God?

      Thanks! Mark

    • shields3 on said:

      http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/fanatic
      A person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause. A person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for a particular activity: a fitness fanatic.

      If you spend most of your time or indeed your life’s work on religious study such as writing books and much of your time as a student studying religion and the time of worship such as Sunday church what other term can you use? Obsessive and excessive it must be at the very least and certain beliefs within Christianity can be called extreme even though that term is mostly used for certain cults that differ drastically from the normal ideologies.

    • The Oxford definition is a good one and similar to many other dictionaries.

      You wrote: “If you spend most of your time or indeed your life’s work on religious study such as writing books and much of your time as a student studying religion and the time of worship such as Sunday church what other term can you use?”

      A couple of thoughts … Christians are “followers” of Jesus Christ. That’s based on Jesus calling His disciples to “follow” Him. In the process of “following” Jesus, His disciples participated in feeding hungry people, providing for the poor, healing the sick, and teaching people how to follow God and be better members of their families, communities and larger society. The disciples who wrote letters included in the New Testament encouraged Christians in the 1st century AD to be good family members, good citizens and good examples for society. Those beliefs and practices do not seem “fanatical” as defined by Oxford and other dictionaries. The “other term” I would use is “follower”, rather than “fanatic.”

      As for your expansion of the definition concerning a person spending their time on something they believe in and enjoy studying and writing, how does that differ from Bart Ehrman spending his time and life studying and writing books about religion? Ehrman is a prolific writer and spends a great portion of his life studying, writing, speaking, and teaching about religion. Does that make him a “fanatic”? It would seem so from your expanded definition. What about other agnostic and atheist authors? Are they also “fanatics” because they spend most of their time and their life’s work on writing books about religion?

      I’m sure you want to be logical and reasonable, so can we agree that being a student of something one believes in and writing about it does not make one a “person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal”?

    • shields3 on said:

      I understand what you say faithandselfdefense. The difference between religious belief systems, political ideologies and atheism is that the former two are based on faith and doctrine often inherent from indoctrination processes and sometimes under duress.

      Atheists who write books such as Richard Dawkins are basing everything they write about religion on evidence from scientific research that our existence has relied on so far and will continue to be based on, not on faith, a deity, a religious book, political doctrine or political leaders.

      Atheism is not a belief system or a political ideology because it does not become a way of life and is orientated around a free thinking environment based mostly on logical deduction, but having said that it has no rules and regulations to follow or promises of certain rewards so you can believe whatever you like.

      Religious belief systems and political ideologies have ruled the world and have always had fanatics and it is no different today. I am not saying they are all dangerous activists, just that their life is directed in every aspect, spiritual, mental, physical and social. Richard Dawkins can be called a fanatic if you like but as he has religious and political freedom it is not quite the same thing is it?

    • Hi, Shields2. A few thoughts:

      “The difference between religious belief systems, political ideologies and atheism is that the former two are based on faith and doctrine often inherent from indoctrination processes and sometimes under duress.”

      Faith (trusting in evidence) and doctrine (teaching the evidence) don’t seem to be a problem for anyone interested in knowing truth. Is not atheism based on trusting in evidence and the teaching of that evidence by people who trust in that evidence? It would seem that Christianity and atheism have that in common. When I was an atheist I trusted that the evidence taught (doctrine of atheism) was correct. When I discovered that the evidence for theism was better and stronger, I became a theist. Can belief in atheism and theism come from an indoctrination process? Of course they can. I was indoctrinated toward atheism as a teenager, but not toward theism as an adult. I came to theism through a self-initiated process of investigation. No indoctrination. No duress.

      “Atheists who write books such as Richard Dawkins are basing everything they write about religion on evidence from scientific research that our existence has relied on so far and will continue to be based on, not on faith, a deity, a religious book, political doctrine or political leaders.”

      You appear to be mixing evidential investigation with presuppositional bias. Theists who write books are basing what they write about belief in God on evidence from scientific research as well. To say that an investigation will not be based on “faith, a deity, a religious book” is to poison the investigation based on presuppositional bias that evidence-based faith cannot result in findings of truth.

      “Atheism is not a belief system or a political ideology because it does not become a way of life and is orientated around a free thinking environment based mostly on logical deduction, but having said that it has no rules and regulations to follow or promises of certain rewards so you can believe whatever you like.”

      Speaking as a former atheist, I must disagree that atheism is not a belief system “because it does not become a way of life.” Atheism is absolutely a “way” of life. The “way” an atheist lives is different than the “way” that a theist lives. A person’s view of the world impacts the way they live in the world. I am all for orienting life around a free thinking environment based on logical deduction. Being free to think and act are important to theists as well as atheists. I personally believe that a Christian is able to think more freely than an atheist based on what happens to a person spiritually when they become a Christian. That is a supernatural claim, so I understand that you would not agree with that. I do agree with you that atheism has “no rules and regulations to follow or promises of certain rewards.” That is a major difference between atheism and theism. God has given the human race rules and regulations to follow and has made promises (temporal and eternal) to those who follow His Son, Jesus Christ. Christians believe what God reveals to them as truth, so we do not believe whatever we like. We believe what God reveals to us as truth is truth indeed.

      “Religious belief systems and political ideologies have ruled the world and have always had fanatics and it is no different today. I am not saying they are all dangerous activists, just that their life is directed in every aspect, spiritual, mental, physical and social. Richard Dawkins can be called a fanatic if you like but as he has religious and political freedom it is not quite the same thing is it?”

      If you are including atheism as a political ideology that has ruled the world at times and has had fanatics in its ranks, then I’ll agree with you. History is filled with all kinds of rulers, some good, some bad, some fanatical. I am not calling Richard Dawkins a fanatic. I don’t call people fanatics just because I disagree with what they believe, say or write. Fanaticism is an attitude that directs behavior. Fanaticism is not specifically content of belief. The idea that atheists have religious and political freedom and theists do not is a conclusion based on presuppositional bias rather than scientific evidence. The evidential argument for theism, and Christianity in particular, is strong and worthy of consideration by all people who view themselves as free thinkers.

      Thanks!

    • shields3 on said:

      Thank you for your interesting reply,

      The first point I want to make is that I am not saying that your belief is untrue because as far as I am concerned it is your belief and not mine. All I am saying is what you believe is not well supported by evidence in comparison to the scientific methods that consist of a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge and a process that is required for all scientific fields that involve thousands of highly intelligent scientists.

      There is confidence in the fact science will eventually prevail on any challenge as it always has done because evidence can be discarded, changed and adjusted as it comes to light. This requires atheists to not require stringent faith or trust unlike religious applications where the basic doctrine has been set in concrete for many thousands of years, unchanged with scant evidence. I acknowledge the lack of integrity and capitalistic motivation can sometimes create an issue with science, however these usually involve large American drug companies.

      It is commonly understood people such as Steven Hawkings, Richard Dawkins and the many NASA scientists are not going to put their credibility on the line and blatantly lie to the public. Theists who write books trying to justify the religious views have quite a limited scope of support in the scientific field and generally have nothing better than the apologetics can offer.

      The second point regarding what atheism is, you said: “When I was an atheist I trusted that the evidence taught (doctrine of atheism) was correct.”

      If you truly had been a real atheist rather than just a non-believer you would know your statement is completely false because there is no such thing as being taught atheism or a “doctrine of atheism” As I have told theists many times an atheist is a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of any gods. Atheism is everything else you would or could want to believe in apart from any gods so there is no directives, book of rules, scientific laws or doctrine etc.

      The third point is the atheist way of life. You said “The “way” an atheist lives is different than the “way” that a theist lives.”

      This I can agree with but as we are atheist we do not spend time to worship anything in the form of a god and therefore we do not live life as defined by any religion.
      Atheism is the default position in life, we are all born atheists and I agree that people can be convinced and even coerced that atheism is more logical or practical than believing in a god, however it is practically impossible to become indoctrinated with atheism in the same way as religion or a political ideology because it has no similar alternative to offer such as a life style, spiritual happiness or rewards.

      The fourth point about ideology, you say: “If you are including atheism as a political ideology”.

      Atheism has often been integrated as part of a Communist regime and turned into an anti-theist role because the leaders did not want any competition and atheism has also played a role in other extreme political ideologies, however atheism does not and cannot stand alone as a political system designed to rule people in every aspect or take on a spiritual role such as religion does because it does not have the scope and has nothing to offer devotees, it simply does not believe in any gods. Granted some atheists insist on trying to make it a belief system to counter religion but you always get fractionated groups and minorities with their own form of politics and they may be classed as some form of organisation.

      The last point is on freedom, you say: “The idea that atheists have religious and political freedom and theists do not is a conclusion based on presuppositional bias rather than scientific evidence.”

      All I know is you are guided in your beliefs; you will not acknowledge facts that are contrary to your religious teaching or the guiding scriptures and as far as I am concerned you are restricted in your freedom to express yourself. As soon as someone does decide to express their views outside of the old traditional ideas they then become an agnostic just as Bart Ehrman who has had his ideas and best-selling book challenged by no less than three religious authors.
      Not quite fanatical? Maybe obsessive, dedicated, fervent, devoted, extreme or passionate but these authors are likely to be motivated in closing Erman’s ideas down just in case they make an impression with the many religious people that helped make his book a best seller. In my mind this tips them over the edge and makes them fanatical in defence of their religious beliefs.

    • Thank you for your reply. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this with you.

      “All I am saying is what you believe is not well supported by evidence in comparison to the scientific methods that consist of a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge and a process that is required for all scientific fields that involve thousands of highly intelligent scientists.”

      The idea of being well supported or not well supported “in comparison to the scientific methods” seems to be a subjective statement. I think an objective statement would include support for both theism and atheism in the area of scientific investigation. Both viewpoints are supported by “thousands of highly intelligent scientists,” which makes the discussion about evidence of great importance since there is so much disagreement about the available evidence.

      “There is confidence in the fact science will eventually prevail on any challenge as it always has done because evidence can be discarded, changed and adjusted as it comes to light.”

      You are correct that scientific evidence can be discarded, changed and adjusted. However, that does not mean “truth” can be discarded, changed or adjusted. Truth is what corresponds to reality. What is the purpose of scientific investigation (scientific method)? Is it not to discover what is true/real about something? Once truth is discovered, what is the next step? Agreement? Acceptance? Further investigation may bring more information and insight concerning truth, but it will not change truth. What is true is true.

      “If you truly had been a real atheist rather than just a non-believer you would know your statement is completely false because there is no such thing as being taught atheism or a “doctrine of atheism.”

      I was raised by Christian parents and knew little about atheism as a child. I spent a lot of time reading science fiction, biographies and other books at the public library as a young teenager and came upon the writings of Bertrand Russell, Aldous Huxley and other atheists. I learned about atheism by reading their writings, which contained their thoughts and experience about being an atheist. I learned more about atheism through a college professor who was an atheist. I learned even more about being an atheist through talking with Madalyn Murray O’Hair (founder of American Atheists) when I was a radio talk show host and producer. I became an atheist through the process of learning what atheists taught me. If there is no “doctrine” of atheism, then what are atheists writing, talking and teaching about when they lay out their ideas and evidence for the lack of belief in God?

      “Atheism is the default position in life, we are all born atheists”

      How is a baby born with a lack of belief in God? Babies are born with an ability to take in information and develop beliefs, but to say babies are “born atheists” doesn’t make sense. Saying that babies are born atheists is like saying they are born with a lack of belief in their parents. Babies don’t know they have parents or siblings or grandparents or that the people tossing them about immediately after birth are doctors and nurses, etc. Babies are not born with a lack of belief. They are born with an ability to learn and believe.

      “… and I agree that people can be convinced and even coerced that atheism is more logical or practical than believing in a god, however it is practically impossible to become indoctrinated with atheism in the same way as religion or a political ideology because it has no similar alternative to offer such as a life style, spiritual happiness or rewards.”

      I do believe that atheism presents itself as a worldview with benefits. The lifestyle, happiness and reward I had as an atheist was that I could do anything I wanted to do believing there was no life after death, no God to answer to, etc. My “reward” was whatever I could get from living each day for myself. I was taught as an atheist that death ended existence, so no need to be concerned about the way I lived my life. What did it matter if it didn’t matter?

      I do believe life matters and that’s because I believe in the existence of God, specifically the God of the Bible. I believe He loved the world so much that He sent His Son to earth to demonstrate perfection, fulfill thousands of years of prophecies concerning His coming to earth, including dying for sin and rising from the dead as our hope for eternal life. My reward is in knowing God and that I will live with Him throughout eternity.

  3. I’d probably be interested in reading this book. thx for the review. I wonder if you’ve read any of Ehrman’s books? If so, which one’s?
    -KIA

    • Hi, Kia. You’re welcome. I have read portions of several of Ehrman’s books, including How Jesus Became God, Jesus Interrupted, Misquoting Jesus and Lost Christianities.

      Thanks!

    • Cool. Thanks. you’ve read more of him than I have. What did you think?

    • Ehrman is a prolific author, so there is much to read to understand how he investigates evidence and reaches a conclusion. I find flaws in both. So do the authors of “Truth in a Culture of Doubt.” It’s definitely a good read to better understand Ehrman and the points he’s making.

    • Thx again. I’ll try to pick up a copy this weekend

  4. Thanks for the review! I need to put this on my wish list!

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