Evangelist Ray Comfort recently sensationalized the atheist blogosphere by saying he’d pay $20,000 to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for the opportunity to debate Dawkins.
Comfort’s proposition is that atheists base their skepticism on their supposed intelligence, but in reality they are some of the most thoughtless people in the world. If you believe there is no God, then you believe, without any scientific proof, that the universe could have come into existence from nothing.
I’ve explained the impossibility of this from the pure standpoint of physical science in another blog post.
Even better is Chuck Missler’s succinct explanation from his book, The Creator Beyond Time and Space:
The creationist’s model begins with an infinitely intelligent, omnipotent, transcendent Creator who used intelligent design, expertise or know-how to create everything from the sub-atomic particles to giant redwood trees. Was it a miracle? Absolutely!
In the beginning (time), God created the heavens (space) and the earth (matter)” (Genesis 1:1).
The atheist’s model begins with an even more impressive miracle – the appearance of all matter in the universe from nothing, by no one, and for no reason. A supernatural event. A miracle! However, the atheist does not believe in the outside or transcendent “First Cause” we call God. Therefore, the atheist has no “natural explanation” nor “supernatural explanation” for the origin of space-time and matter. Consequently, the atheistic scenario on the origin of the universe leaves us hanging in a totally dissatisfying position. He begins his model with a supernatural event. This supernatural event, however, is accomplished without a supernatural agent to perform it.
In short, I cannot be an atheist because to believe in the spontaneous appearance of the entire universe out of nothing makes no sense.
As a thinking person, I have to be some type of theist. I’ll reserve for another post why only Christianity among the world’s theistic religions has to be correct.
Here I want simply to point out that much of the postmodern atheist strategy is simple posturing. Dawkins routinely refuses to debate Christians because he wants to put forth the idea that debating theism would give it credibility. He simply wants to ridicule faith and portray any belief in the supernatural as impossible to reconcile with his superior intelligence. I saw an interview with Dawkins and the so-called “Rational Responders” in which they admitted that their entire strategy was riducule and abuse Christians, not giving theism the dignity of a public hearing. It’s much easier to do guerilla tactics, hit-and-run, ridicule — and other forms of diversion — and never face the fact that everything that exists had to have an antecedent. The atheist never faces this existential paradox — that something in the natural world can never come from nothing. The only answer to the existential paradox is a supernatural one.
At the very least, the atheist should admit that his belief in no God is as much a supernatural faith as is Christianity in that no known natural laws can account for an ex nihilo creation of the universe.
I have no doubt Dawkins is intelligent. However, Christians ought to view him as a useful idiot. His books and atheist activism are a good opportunity to expose the soft underbelly of post-modernism — the retreat into pure emotion and subjectivity — that is the entire undergirding for today’s atheism. In fact, this atheist’s refusal to engage in formal debate is the proof of this retreat from rationalism.
To accept God is to accept a supernatural force that created it all. It isn't special pleading because the universe God created always has operated on its own accord by Laws that were set from the beginning. A belief in a Creator doesn't require me to suspend my understanding of how the universe works in order to explain its existence.
By your own definition of why the universe must have evidence to have existed before the big bang, so does your own god. No one has any empirical evidence of anything before the big bang.
No hypothesis is more valid than any other hypothesis without empirical evidence backing it up.
St. Augustine recognized this when debating pagans in Roman times who insisted the world had no beginning. The pagans scoffed and wanted to know what God was doing by himself for all those millions of eons prior to Creation. And what took Him so long to decide to create the universe?
Augustine replies that there was no time, because God created time itself when He created matter. In fact, time is simply a measurement of how matter behaves. There is no "time," there is only time-space.
But as I pointed out in my first article related to this idea, which you read, all the data we have on the physical laws that govern the universe points to a time when the universe was total energy. And since it is a physical impossibility for the universe to exist either "before" this point or "eternally" in this state, then the only logical explanation for the natural universe's existence is a supernatural one.
It's unscientific and illogical to hypothesize that physical laws must have existed differently in the beginning. It's also unscientific to postulate that God must have created the universe. However, the idea of a SUPER-natural Creator (beyond natural) is logical given the limitations of natural laws.
This is why I see using a naturalistic explanation as special pleading, but a supernatural explanation as the only logical alternative.
However, I see where this argument is going. In circles. You will next ask me why I think this "Supernatural Creative Force" has to be the God of the Bible. To avoid that, I have a few other propositions that you may never have considered.
METAPHYSICAL NATURALISM VS. METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM
Metaphysical naturalism is a worldview in which nature is all there is, and all things supernatural, such as spirits and souls, supernatural beings, miracles, and transcendent truth as taught by the Bible, do not exist.
Much of the western world has absorbed the philosophy of Enlightenment thinkers such as Hume, Kant and Hegel, who moved from a belief that the proper role of philosophy and science was to study only natural phenomena, to a presupposition that the supernatural simply does not exist.
The metaphysical naturalist rejects the supernatural from the outset and automatically discounts any belief system that includes God or a supernatural world as primitive superstition.
This view is distinguished from methodological naturalism, which is a worldview that claims that the scientific method is limited to the study of the natural world, but unlike metaphysical naturalism does not deny the possibility of supernatural or paranormal phenomena.
In other words, a methodological naturalist who believes the Bible is God's inerrant Word may do so without violating the principles of science, because the scientific method cannot use natural means to study the supernatural. It is simply not the purpose of science to prove or disprove the supernatural. It's not a proper measuring tool any more than a yard stick can be used to measure barometric pressure. For instance, science can be used to tell us something about the world's geological history and it's possible origin, but it cannot ever tell us how the universe came into existence. Therefore, it cannot negate the possibility of the biblical account of Creation.
BTW - You have a nice looking blog. Did you design the template yourself?
Because we recognize that our understanding of the universe is flawed, scientists also recognize that under our current theories we will not be able to make any judgements about what t=0 or prior was. However, you're turning around and claiming that the lack of knowledge means a supernatural being must have done it. We just don't know enough to make that judgement.
It's unscientific and illogical to hypothesize that physical laws must have existed differently in the beginning. It's also unscientific to postulate that God must have created the universe. However, the idea of a SUPER-natural Creator (beyond natural) is logical given the limitations of natural laws.As I demonstrated above, it's not unscientific or illogical to think that our laws were different at t=0. It is, however, completely illogical to assume that something that has had no measurable or testable role in any other aspect of the formation of our universe, our evolution, or our day-to-day lives created the seed of our big bang.
You were right to assume I would have eventually, if prompted, jumped to the god of the bible. However, I really only wanted to reply to the original point, and not change subjects.
Thanks for the compliment, but sadly I didn't design it. I link to the free templates site that I got it from.
So let me try to re-summarize my original argument taking into account our discussion so far (hopefully to make replying easier and less fragmented):
Because our physical space-time collapses at t=0, scientific theory offers so specific claims to what happened to get us to t=.00000000001. To claim that our physical laws make *any* predictions at t=0 or prior is incorrect. Therefore to claim that our own physical laws show that the universe couldn't have "always existed" is incorrect. Thus, I reiterate that for a supernatural being to have "always existed" but claim that the universe couldn't have also "always existed" is special pleading. Each of these cases I define "always existed" as an illustration of what we would consider infinite time, for lack of a better way to describe time not existing before the big bang.
You are doing what all atheists will do when faced with this paradox.
There is no natural explanation to explain how the natural universe came into being.
The most scientific and logical conclusion we could possibly state is that:
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
The atheist will not accept this conclusion, however.
He instead hypothesizes that either:
1. Some natural law canceling out the Second Law prevailed far back in time.
2. Some natural law canceling out the Second Law prevails far out in space.
3. Some force more powerful that all the energy in the known universe brought our universe into being.
It looks like you are torn between #1 and #2.
But either one of these is special pleading. You are setting up a condition: "In order for my belief in NO CREATOR to be true, there must be some type of unknown or undiscovered natural force or law that we don't know about that explains the paradox."
To avoid special pleading you can do one of two things:
1. Admit AGNOSTICISM. You don't know if there was a Creator God.
2. Admit that there was a Supernatural Creator (using the literal definition of "supernatural" -- beyond our natural laws) but that all the details are unknowable at this time.
We can't know everything about the Creation. We know certain things that God has chosen to reveal (that He created the universe) but the details may be beyond our grasp in our lifetimes.
Believing in a Creator without having to know all the details about the creation is NOT special pleading, because there may be certain unknown natural laws that yet to be discovered. Such undiscovered laws do negate the existence of a Creator God however.
But to propose a "undiscovered" natural explanation for an event that defies a natural eplanation is special pleading. Only a supernatural explanation fits the parameters of what we now know.
However, agnosticism is not an alternative to atheism. You can be an agnostic theist, agnostic atheist, or just simply agnostic.
With that aside, all I'm asserting is this: we all agree that our current physical laws do not hold up at t=0 or prior. What scientists do is they try to come up with explanations that can be tested.
What theists do, is they look at the lack of evidence and say, "Hmm, god must have done this." Likewise, storms used to be caused by god. Likewise, adam and eve used to be taken as truth, until science filled that gap.
My rejection of the definition of a god as being, "Something that created our big bang," is two-fold: First, that definition is too vague, and could actually be used to describe whatever natural process we might eventually come to understand. Secondly, if we suppose it was a god, we have no information about this god from this definition, and thus it doesn't actually impact my life in any way.
You're right that you're not special pleading. Technically it's an argument from ignorance: "a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false, or is false only because it has not been proven true." You claim that a god created the universe because we have no other explanation. A lack of an explanation doesn't mean anything.
I've never claimed to know what happened prior to the universe. I've only offered speculation. To claim you know what happened is avoiding the obvious claim, "where's the evidence?" The evidence that you've put forth is quite simply, "Our natural laws in their current form cannot explain it."
You've sidestepped every time I've pointed out that all scientists agree that our natural laws break down at this point. This reduces your argument to being:
"Scientists have no evidence for anything else."
This matches the argument from ignorance perfectly.
To claim that my argument is invalid for lack of evidence, but not to subject your own claim to the same criticism is either special pleading or an argument from ignorance.
I could also be present a presuppositional by stating: I'm presupposing that we exist here, and that the big bang occurred, so some natural phenomena that is unexplainable by current understanding must have happened to get us here. The position works both ways, and is equally as valid.
Myself, I prefer answering, "I don't know what happened "prior" to the big bang." I'm fine with that.
As I started out saying, I think we probably won't get anywhere if we keep trying to move forward on this particular argument. You've hit the nail on the head -- you are persuaded by presumption, I am persuaded from evidence.
Evidentialism implies that the evidence for God's revelation is superior to God's revelation itself.
If we can prove God or God's Word using evidence, then how do we prove the evidence is reliable?
If all human knowledge is fallible, how can we use human knowledge to prove what is infallible?
And even if we can construct arguments to prove God, then what about the premises or presuppositions that those arguments are based upon?
And on and on we could go.
That is why I am not an evidentialist.
I am instead a presuppositionalist.
Here is my article on this -- presuppositionalism is explained in the first section:
1. It is good that you admit that you don't know. None of us really know.
2. You have a novel definition for an agnostic. The traditional definition is one who does not believe it is possible to know if there is a God. According to your definition, an "agnostic theist" is a believer in God who lacks certain knowledge. According to your definition, we are all agnostics.
It might come as a surprise to you to see that I agree that one cannot know using rational means that there is a God. Certain knowledge of God comes only by special revelation. Since man is innately sinful, and our knowledge is warped to suit the desires for our own immoral cravings, we can never trust our own thinking. Although the revelation of a perfect God is everywhere around us, there will always be the inclination to deny this or to interpret it through the warped lens of our self-centered mind.
(This also raises the question of how it is possible for an atheist to know anything to be true or real for certain.)
This is why special revelation is needed.
3. You also have a novel definition of "special pleading."
"Special pleading is a form of spurious argumentation where a position in a dispute introduces favorable details or excludes unfavorable details by alleging a need to apply additional considerations without proper criticism of these considerations themselves."
When you say, "Scientists agree that natural laws break down at the beginning of the creation of the universe," that is special pleading.
First, not all scientists agree. Stephen Hawking believes that there is a unifying field theory that will eventually make sense out of everything without negating the undeniable results of data we now have.
This is the problem with using science as a measure of truth. Science does not tell us anything beyond giving a temporary model through which to interpret factual data. Data and scientific laws may remain "true," but scientific theory only works until something better is concocted to interpret ever growing amounts of data.
Second, you are introducing a big "what if" into the equation -- a big unknown "X-Factor" -- that would skew the results of all data we now have simply for the purpose of negating the necessity of a Supernatural Creator.
As our knowledge of physics stands now, there is something beyond the natural laws that we know to be true that would be necessary to explian what caused it all the come into being -- a supernatural creative force.
I call this force "God." You can call it whatever you like -- "an undiscovered principle."
I can't argue who is right. I don't pretend to be able to know much about God's nature and character by studying nature. For this, I need supernatural revelation.
At the very least, you should understand that the way things stand know in the world of physics, a metaphysical explanation MIGHT be the only way to solve what seems to be the "eternal paradox of existence."
But you keep mentioning special revelation. I don't really want to get into the details of debating that at the moment, I didn't come here to get into that big of a debate :)
3. To me you're rejecting any natural cause because of a lack of evidence. You then assert a supernatural cause, but try to step around that your own theory lacks all evidence as well. That to me is "introducing favorable details [...] by alleging a need to apply considerations without proper criticism of these considerations themselves."
Stephen Hawking most certainly does agree. You state himself that he expects a *better theory* to emerge. How does this not show that our current laws are imperfect? Additionally, even if this unified theory is perfect for t > 0, it doesn't mean we can't some day understand t = 0 better and be able to actually make claims about what happened.
I don't see the big what-if. There are plenty of what-if theories out there that attempt to explain the origins of our universe. Some of them get disproved, some are still open for debate. They don't change our current laws. If they do, they are rejected. If, however, they exploit an area of our current theories that we don't understand the behavior of, now that's more interesting and potentially useful. It may actually provide the ability to formulate a hypothesis and test it!
To turn the tables, you also have a huge what-if factor. Your entire belief system (formerly my own) relies upon this supernatural being that has no empirical evidence for its existence.
At the very least, you should understand that the way things stand know in the world of physics, a metaphysical explanation MIGHT be the only way to solve what seems to be the "eternal paradox of existence."I agree that it certainly can't be ruled out. But if we rewind the clock and look at your original post, you attempted to make it sound like it was ridiculous to think that anything else was what happened. The reality is that no one knows, and any plausible theory should be accepted as plausible.
There is nothing that exists in the universe EXCEPT empirical evidence for the existence of God.
The problem isn't a lack of empirical evidence, but the ability to see it as you filter everything through a warped grid.
Your problem in seeing the evidence for God's existence is not philosophical in nature, but rather moral.
Let me posit that the flying spaghetti monster created everything. Our existence is proof that it created everything. Case closed. This is exactly the same argument you're making -- when there's lack of any specific evidence pointing to a supernatural entity, we can name infinite numbers of supernatural entities that fit in that gap of knowledge. It doesn't make any of them true.
It's sort of a Catch-22.
There is enough natural revelation all around us to know there is a God. However, our moral imperfection forces us to suppress the truth. Further, our innate sinfulness can only be remedied by Christ himself. For that we need special revelation in the Gospel.
Here is the catch. Without special revelation -- the hearing of the Word of God, there can be no salvation and no moral transformation. Without this moral transformation, our minds will remain in an unrenewed state and even the "obvious" natural revelation that is very close to each one of us will remain obscure.
Most will still see that "there is a God" -- but without special revelation their understanding will remain so darkened that they will "call evil good and good evil; put darkness for light, and light for darkness; put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter."
Knowing there is a God is actually quite useless. Without special revelation, natural revelation becomes all the more ineffectual -- even though natural revelation is the basis on which those who have never heard the Gospel will be judged for rejecting the knowledge of God.
Further, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a fallacious analogy for this very reason. The knowledge of God is a transcendent truth having aspects that are beyond our natural understanding, but a monster is an invented travesty created out of imagination. It's an analogy from a depraved mind and you shouldn't use it. It just clouds the meaning of transcendence for you. It was invented by a person who had access to both natural and special revelation but chose to reject both in order to remain in darkness.
This is the main problem I have with atheism. Rather than admitting, "I don't know," and searching earnestly for the truth, the atheist makes a self-conscious attempt to suppress knowledge of the truth by saying, "I believe there is no God."
Most people are practical agnostics because they don't care to know. I can understand that. It's human nature to suppress truth by ignoring it. I can't understand someone who claims he knows the unknowable and seems fixated on proving it to the world.
Therefore, I have a problem believing that atheists really exist. I think they are people who are convicted of the truth, but reject it because it has not brought them salvation. The idea of God is upsetting to them and it makes them miserable to think about it. In this most atheists are intelligent, sensitive people.
But rather than do the intelligent thing and continue to ponder and search, they embark on a quest to ruin the faith of seekers who are still in the process. Misery loves company.
The more that an atheist pontificates, the more likely it is that he has knowingly accepted what he knows is self-deception.
Your problem in seeing the evidence for God's existence is not philosophical in nature, but rather moral.Atheism is admitting that you don't believe in any gods. Look up the definition -- there are two. One does go to the impossible of saying that you reject the notion that a god *can* exist. The other just simply is disbelief in any gods. I don't believe in any gods, therefore I'm an atheist.
You keep talking about special revelation, but how do you account for nearly every religion having special revelation yet different teachings? All other religions must be wrong since Christianity is correct? What makes you think that just because someone claims to have heard from god that they have *actually* heard from god? Every religion asserts its truth, but without any evidence, you can't actually determine the truth of any religious claim.
The flying spaghetti monster, I admit, is completely made up. However, the only reason you can disprove its existence is because you know the origin of its claims. How do you disprove Mohammed's revelation? How do you disprove Joseph Smith? Krishna?
The problem is that without evidence to the contrary you can't. But if you start applying evidence such as discounting writing for their unreliability when compared against history, you must do the same to the bible. When you start applying evidence of textual criticism, you must do the same to the bible. If you don't apply the same criticisms you do to every other religion to your own, that is the definition of special pleading.
The biggest thing that I just refused to continue to accept is that there is no empirical evidence that any special revelation by any religious leader and associated text was anything more special than any other religious leader and their associated text. You say that it's a lack of searching, I say it's a lack of finding. You say toe-may-toe, I say toe-mah-toe.
There is a distinction between "atheism" and "agnosticism." I am reminded of the story from Lewis Carroll where Alice informs the caterpillar that he can't decide that words mean anything he wants. Words mean things.
As Nietzsche said: "Not to decide is to decide."
You could argue that not believing in God is the same as believing that there is no God. But the literal meaning of atheism is the belief that there is no such thing as any God or gods.
However, if you think it is POSSIBLE God exists, then you don't know -- that is agnosticism, not atheism -- "to believe no knowing" is possible.
Every religion does not have INFALLIBLE "special revelation" in the form of scripture. The Hindu Vedas are spiritual works, but since Hindus are polytheistic (or monistic -- "all is God") their scriptures are not thought to be the one true Word of God. They are spiritual works written by men and no one teaches that they are perfect revelation.
To have an infallible or inerrant Word, first you need a monotheistic faith. The very FIRST words of biblical revelation are: "Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One." (or chronologically, "In the beginning God ...") This excludes the possibility any of other revelation.
This special revelation must be in an unchanging form -- such as writing -- and there can be no competing revelation that contradicts it.
In all of ancient writings, only the Jewish and Christian scriptures claimed to be the revealed word of the one true God. Of course, the Quran, the book of Mormon came along later and they mimicked the biblical idea of inspiration with infallible authority.
The irony is that The Muslims and the Mormons accept the Judeo-Christian Bible as the Word of God -- but their scriptures are "higher revelation." There are two tests to see who is right.
1. Does this position actually make any sense?
I'd argue no. I have a friend who converted to Christ from Islam. This was his main issue with Islam. How can one say that a sovereign God would give an infallible Word and then allow it to fall into corruption? Either the Bible is the Word of God or it is not. Islam teaches that it is, but the more recent revelation is superior where it contradicts the old.
2. Which writings are actually dynamic? That is, which have the supernatural power to change the minds and hearts of their hearers?
Mormons would say that their scriptures change the hearts of their hearers. But there is one major difference between Christianity and all other Monotheistic religions. Only Christianity presents the "good news" that we are justified by faith not by works. This faith is a gift from God. Even though faith in and of itself is a good work, only God can give us the gift of faith. And the scriptures themselves say that this faith comes by hearing the word of God. So the Christian scriptures give us a definition of "special revelation" that is unique and can only be understood in the context of salvation by God's free grace alone through faith alone.
That is the one difference between Christianity and all world religions, including Judaism Islam, Mormonism, the JWs, etc. Religion is about securing our salvation or favor with God or the gods. In all other religions, man must do something to secure eternal life, achieve a state of cosmic consciousness, or appease the gods. Only in Christianity are we chosen and predestined by God to be justified by His grace. Salvation does not depend on good works. That is the good news because otherwise we would all be condemned. No one can ever do enough good works to "earn" a holy and omnipotent God's favor. In all religions, you are required to "do" something. In Christianity, God already did something for us. He chose us before the foundation of the world and He sent Hs one and only Son to pay the penalty for sin in our place. He imputed Christ's righteousness to our account. He also gave the Holy Spirit to enable us to live a righteous life. What other religion teaches anything close to this idea?
Judaism hints at it because it is in the Old Testament. But Jews read the same scriptures and don't see the fulfillment in Christ. Even though the Old Testament teaches that God may never be satisfied with sacrifice, Judaism as a religion teaches that these observances will eventually satisfy God.
This is the reason why only Christianity makes sense after you decide thlat there is a God and then look to the options.
Yes, that's right, we don't have the originals. Let alone, the books we have only date back to post 70 CE and are not from any eye witnesses.
However, even then our earliest manuscript of one of the gospels doesn't date before about 180 CE. This means that not only do we not have the originals, but we don't have the copies of the originals. Not only do we not have the copies of the originals, but we don't have the copies of the copies of the copies of the originals. And further, the manuscript that dates to around 180 CE is only a very small portion of a gospel, not even an entire gospel!
Combine this with the method of copying. Early churchgoers were often illiterate (by our modern definition of both being able to read and write) and poor. Because they could not afford professional scribes, documents were copied by members of the church. Now back in those days, professional scribes themselves weren't perfect, but untrained church members?
As a result, we see vastly differing texts across the early ages up to Constantine. Constantine can be credited for helping slow the errors, but the errors were already present when the official cannon of the bible was voted in. (Ever wonder what happened to those other early Christianities whose books were ignored? Were those Christian's "bibles" inerrant and inspired as well?)
Even post-constantine where the state started funding professional scribed, more changes would creep in. Here's the kicker: while a vast majority of changes were completely unintentional, there are a surprising number of what appear to be intentional changes.
I don't need to go into a ton of detail here -- it's been written about many times by many authors, my favorite being Bart Ehrman.
What Ehrman postulates is: if God took the effort to perform the miracle of inspiring the word of God, why didn't he perform the miracle of preserving the word of God? Granted, it attempts to peer into the unknowable, but you must seriously ask yourself, with the knowledge that we don't have the originals and that history has shown us many *human made* errors both unintentional and intentional, can you really trust that the word of god as we have it today is inerrant?
What about the KJV? Inerrant?
The truth is that we don't have the inerrant word of god. It's full of errors. Growing up I was taught we had the inerrant word of god, and I just assumed that meant we had the originals. But when faced with the evidence that we have more differences between the manuscripts of the new testament than we have actual words in the new testament, I came to realize that the "inerrant" word couldn't apply. Even if we had the audacity to claim our best translations today were inerrant, what about the past 2000 years, especially 1-~1600CE before textual criticism started taking place?
Also, the old testament also suffers from this problem. Just search for "documentary hypothesis" to show how scholars assembled the various sources of the old testament.
Muslims, on the other hand, have something going for them: they force you to learn Arabic and only pass down the Qua'ran in Arabic. They forbid the study of it in any other language, to better preserve the document.
So while you may claim the bible is special revelation, I don't see any evidence to see it as such. I see no inerrancy, and there's a lot of anecdotal evidence to argue against inspiration as well (I didn't even dive into that yet).
I am not an expert on this, so my participation is limited to asking some question. Ehrman, Wallace and all the scholars on the list are very gracious and they keep their arguments on a highly academic level. Every objection you pose here is gone into with scholarly depth on the discussion board -- although we are supposed to be only talking about variants for the purpose of research.
The irony of the inerrancy debate is that Ehrman sees no evidence for reliability, historicity and genuine authorship of the New Testament. However, others see amazing evidence -- so far beyond any other work of antiquity that the preservation of the text to such a minute level and our ability to reconstruct a NT archetype that would be over 99 percent accurate to the original autograph -- that can be explained in no other way except for the Providence of God.
The fact that we have over 100 papyrus manuscript fragments from 115 AD to about 325 (the time when the first great vellum codices survive) is outrageously fortuitous. Some of the stories about how these texts were actually discovered are so unlikely that it seems providential.
It's more amazing though that some people interpret the variants in these recent textual discoveries as a detraction to reliability. Up until the 20th century we were working with manuscripts that were mainly 1000 years old, now we have many fragments that are 1700 to 1900 years old.
There is no passage in the New Testament (that we didn't already kow about from very early centuries) that has been called into dispute by these new finds.
The New Testament has an amazing pedigree that can't be compared to any other work from ancient times.
(Actually Ehrman would claim to be a moderate agnostic on textual issues -- he doesn't see evidence against as much as no evidence for.)
One of the things that skeptics like to say is that scholars don't accept early authorship (prior to AD 70) or authentic authorship. But this is so untrue. Scholars fall along a broad spectrum from liberal to moderate to conservative. I would consider myself a conservative because I generally accept the reliability of the church fathers in providing "bridge testimony" and quotations form the New Testament from the time of writing up until the earliest codex fragments in the second century.
I would need a book to answer each of your objections, but this is a topic I am interested in, so I don't mind giving a brief rebuttal here for each point.
1. You don't know what evangelicals mean by "inerrant." Ehrman too rejected inerrancy based on a false definition. It does not entail being to reconstruct the exact words of the original manuscript without error. Essentially, inerrancy has to do with the main idea of a passage and the doctrine transmitted. The Gospel is given to us in written form so it can't easily be corrupted through human opinion, but the ideas have a dynamic quality that change people spiritually. The words can have minor variations. They can be translated to different languages. They can be paraphrsed. It doesn't affect inerrancy or the dynamism of the test if the sense is the same. My pastor and a friend of mine, Jay Grimstead, worked on a panel of theologians in the 1970s to write the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. If you want to understand what evangelical scholars mean, and more importantly, DON'T MEAN, by "inerrancy" you need to read this statement.
2. I disagree that the books weren't written by the named authors or prior to 70 AD. The liberal or skeptic has only an argument from silence fallacy to prove this. He has no documentary evidence, no testimony, no evidence of any kind. Liberal critics ignore the real evidence and claim to be able to read between the lines of ancient texts. The problem is that they don't read the actual lines. The conservative has the testimony of the church fathers as evidence and very early manuscript witnesses that show an uncorrupted text. The test for an authentic writing takes into consideration:
* How close and how many are the extant manuscripts to the original authograph;
* What internal evidence in the text testifies to the authenticity; IOW: Do the authors claim to be eyewitnesses to the events? They saw these things happen and wrote them down. Examples: Luke1:1-3; 2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:3; Acts 2:22; John 19:35; Luke 3:1; Acts 26:24-26. What internal markers point to the date of writing?
* What external evidence by contemporaries or near contemporaries give to the authenticity of the work?
I started a series on this so far examining mainly what the church fathers said about each Gospel. I plan to eventually make it into an e-book on all the issues you raise:
3. We are all aware that no writing is without some corruptions -- even much modern writing. We don't have the original autographs of Shakespeare, the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, etc. Virtually no one questions their authenticity. But the Bible has so many manuscripts from almost every decade since the mid-second century, that it is the most accurate received text by far from ancient times. If you can't trust the Bible, you can't trust anything prior to about 1600.
I am not a "KJV-only" fanatic. But I personally think that most textual critics undervalue the relaibility of the Byzantine or Western text -- from which the KJV is mainly derived. The surviving manuscripts from the Alexandrian family are mainly older because more of these were located in Egypt in a dry climate. They are considered closer to the originals than the Byzantine and Western because they are older. But I would imagine if we had older copies of the so-called "received text" then this would bear out the greater accuracy of the received text than to the current "majority text, which is a reconstruction based on numerous manuscripts.
Of course, I cannot prove that. But I just doubt that the older texts are always better simply because the cliamte where the texts were found had a lot to do with their preservation. It could be that the Alexandran family is the most corrupt.
Even so, when we talk about corruptions and text familes, few variants are significant and none of these change the sense of the text so much that the doctrines contained in the text could be damaged.
Further, the earliest manuscript fragment is P52 from c.115 AD. It's at least a copy of a copy. Prior to this find liberals liked to say that John was written in the mid to late second century. This was solid evidence that their whole method of criticism was faulty, but liberals still cling to these faulty methods. Why?
4. Textual criticism has been around since ancient times. Scribes and scholars dealt with issues pertaining to corrupt manuscripts. In fact, there is a long running discussion in the church fathers about all the issues you raise. Bart Ehrman isn't saying anything that Irenaeus, Tertullian and Origen were not aware of in the second century. There were some corrupt copies, but they testified to knowledge of archetypes that were faithful copies of the originals.
But the point here is that corruption from the original is true of almost every text.
5. Muslims often like to say they have the original Quran. If so, where is it?
6. The documentary hypothesis was based on pure conjecture. There is no evidence for it whatsoever. In fact, the hypothesis had to be altered several times due to archaeological evidence that completely refuted it. You think that people would get a clue that it was ba
sed on pure fantasy based on what some 19th century German anti-Semitic Higher Critics with an agenda thought they saw in the text.
See here -- and scroll down to see the "Silver Scrolls."