Stephan Law on the non-existence of Jesus of Nazareth

from http://www.apologeticalliance.com/blog/2012/11/30/stephen-law-on-the-non-existence-of-jesus-of-nazareth/

Reprinted with the gracious permission of William Lane Craig.

In his blog, atheist philosopher Stephen Law formulated the following skeptical argument against Jesus’ existence:

1. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In the absence of extraordinary evidence there’s excellent reason to be skeptical about the claims.

2. There is not extraordinary evidence for any of the divine/miraculous stuff in the NT documents.

3. Therefore (from 1 and 2), there’s excellent reason to be skeptical about those extraordinary claims.

4. Where testimony/documents combine both mundane and extraordinary claims, and there’s excellent reason to be skeptical about the extraordinary claims, then there’s pretty good reason to be skeptical even about the mundane claims, at least until we possess some pretty good independent evidence of their truth.

5. The NT docs combine extraordinary and mundane claims about Jesus.

6. There’s no pretty good independent evidence for even the mundane claims about Jesus (such as that he existed).

7. Therefore (from 3, 4, 5, and 6), there’s pretty good reason to be skeptical about whether Jesus existed.

I’d like to know your opinion about this argument. I think a number of premises are problematic, both philosophically and historically. For example, premise 6 seems to be false on pure historical grounds (independent sources, even outside the NT, attest Jesus’ crucifixion, which implies his existence. And certainly the crucifixion is a pretty “mundane” claim, in Jesus’ time).

Best regards,
Mary

Venezuela

Dr. Craig’s Response:

You’ll remember that this issue came up briefly in my debate with Stephen Law in Central Hall, Westminster, last October. In response to my claim that “Dr. Law has recently defended the claim that Jesus of Nazareth never even existed,” Law responded as follows:

Law: I’ve never said, by the way, that I’ve never argued that Jesus doesn’t exist.

Craig: No, I said you defended the claim. I was careful about that.

Law: That Jesus doesn’t exist?

Craig: That—I said you defended the claim that—something to the effect that—Jesus of Nazareth didn’t exist.

Law: No.

Craig: In your argument in your article in Faith and Philosophy,1 you give a seven point argument—

Law: Yeah . . . That’s not my view. My view is—The argument that I gave in that piece in Faith and Philosophy journal was that it looks like there’s a good philosophical case for remaining neutral. I mean, we just can’t be sure one way or the other, and that’s not at all the same thing as defending the view that Jesus wasn’t a historical individual.

Craig: All right! So agnosticism about the reality of Jesus. . . . All right!

Even if Law’s final position is agnosticism about Jesus’ existence—itself an indefensible position—, it’s evident that his agnosticism is based upon the success of the above argument for being sceptical that Jesus ever existed.

When I first encountered this article in my debate preparation, my first thought was that only a philosophy journal would publish such a piece! This article would never have made it past the peer-review process for a journal of New Testament or historical studies. Even a radical sceptic like Bart Ehrman savages the so-called “mythicists” who claim that we have no good evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person:

Few of these mythicists are actually scholars trained in ancient history, religion, biblical studies or any cognate field, let alone in the ancient languages generally thought to matter for those who want to say something with any degree of authority about a Jewish teacher who (allegedly) lived in first-century Palestine. . . . But even taking these into account, there is not a single mythicist who teaches New Testament or Early Christianity or even Classics at any accredited institution of higher learning in the Western world. And it is no wonder why. These views are so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land in a bona fide department of biology.2

Law’s argument for scepticism about Jesus would not be taken seriously by bona fide historical scholars.

No wonder! Almost every premiss in this argument is unjustified or false. Take (1), for example:

1. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

This sounds so commonsensical, doesn’t it? But in fact it is demonstrably false. Probability theorists studying what sort of evidence it would take to establish a highly improbable event came to realize that if you just weigh the improbability of the event against the reliability of the testimony, we’d have to be sceptical of many commonly accepted claims. Rather what’s crucial is the probability that we should have the evidence we do if the extraordinary event had not occurred.3 This can easily offset any improbability of the event itself. In the case of the resurrection of Jesus, for example, this means that we must also ask, “What is the probability of the facts of the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection, if the resurrection had not occurred?” It is highly, highly, highly, improbable that we should have that evidence if the resurrection had not occurred.

And how about (2)? I suppose it depends on what you mean by “extraordinary,” but the evidence for the facts of the empty tomb, Jesus’ post-mortem appearances, and origin of the disciples’ belief is such that the majority of scholars, even radical critics like Ehrman, are convinced of their historicity. Moreover, there is no naturalistic theory proposed as an explanation of these three facts which has garnered the allegiance of a significant number of scholars. So the evidence for the central miracle of the New Testament is pretty extraordinary—even though, as mentioned above, that is not a pre-requisite of the verdict of historicity.

Premise (4) has little to commend it, I suspect. We may be cautious in such cases—but sceptical? Legends blend historical claims with non-historical marvels, and the presence of the marvels doesn’t imply that we should reject the historicity of the mundane claims.

But premiss (6) is the most obviously false premiss in the argument. With respect to extra-biblical evidence Law is just misinformed. Jesus is mentioned in such ancient sources as Tacitus, Josephus, Mara bar Serapion, and Jewish rabbinic sources. If you’re interested in reading these, Robert Van Voorst has collected these sources in his book Jesus outside the New Testament.4There is no reason to think that all of these sources are dependent exclusively on Christian tradition. For example, according to Van Voorst “the wording of almost every element” of Josephus’ original text “indicates that Josephus did not draw it, directly or indirectly, from first-century Christian writings.”5

Worse, what Law doesn’t appreciate is that the sources in the NT itself are often independent of one another, so that we have independent evidence for many of the mundane, not to speak of the miraculous, events of Jesus’ life. It is precisely that multiple, early, independent attestation to many of the events of Jesus’ life that has persuaded historical scholars of the historicity of many of the events in the Gospel narratives. For example, we have references to Jesus’ burial in five independent sources and indications of the discovery of his empty tomb in no less than six independent sources, which is really quite extraordinary.

But there are more reasons for denying (6):

  • *Principle of Sufficient Cause: Law says that Alexander the Great must have existed because of the military dynasties left in his wake. But in the same way, Jesus must have existed because of the first-century Christian movement left in his wake. Attempts to explain this movement away mythologically have failed.
  • *Embarrassment: Jewish Messianic expectations included no idea of a Davidic Messiah who, instead of throwing off Israel’s enemies and establishing David’s throne in Jerusalem, would be shamefully executed by them as a criminal. Jesus’ crucifixion was something the early church struggled to overcome, not something it invented. Jesus’ crucifixion is one datum upon which all historical scholars, even the most radical, agree.
  • *Archaeology: Law accepts the historicity of Alexander the Great partly because of the archaeological evidence for the dynasties he founded. But how about Jesus? The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has a very strong historical claim to be built over the actual tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. In 326-28 the mother of the Emperor Constantine, Helena, undertook a trip to Palestine and enquired where the tomb of Jesus was located. The locals pointed to a spot where a Temple to Aphrodite had stood for over a century. We have here a very old tradition as to the location of Jesus’ tomb which is rendered probable by the facts that (i) the location identified was inside the extant walls of the city, even though the NT says it was outside the city walls. People didn’t realize that the spot was, in fact, outside the original walls because they did not know the original walls’ location. (ii) When Constantine ordered the temple to be razed and the site excavated, lo and behold, they dug down and found a tomb! But if this is the very tomb of Jesus, then we have archaeological evidence for his existence.

In sum, Law’s argument is not a good one. Scepticism or even agnosticism about the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth is groundless. As Ehrman concludes, “Whether we like it or not, Jesus certainly existed.”6
 Notes

1 Stephen Law, “Evidence, Miracles, and the Existence of Jesus,” Faith and Philosophy 28 (2011): 29-51.

2 Bart Ehrman, “Did Jesus Exist?” Huff Post (March 29, 2012); http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bart-d-ehrman/did-jesus-exist_b_1349544.html. Ehrman’s piece prompted an angry reply by Richard Carrier which is noteworthy only for its vitriol: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/667. Carrier commits a number of blunders, which are pointed out soberly by Butler University NT scholar James McGrath: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/03/responding-to-richard-carriers-response-to-bart-ehrman.html.

3 See the very nice account by S. L. Zabell, “The Probabilistic Analysis of Testimony,” Journal of Statistical Planning and Inference 20 (1988): 327-54.

4 Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000.

5 Ibid., p. 102; e.g., use of “Christ” as a title, not a proper name; “wise man,” “tribe.”

6 Ehrman, “Did Jesus Exist?”

***

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He and his wife Jan have two grown children.

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Greg Koukl explains how to be a consistent moral relativist

from

The absolute easiest way to get into a good conversation with someone is to ask them what makes something right or wrong on their view. You have to be careful not to get into a fight about a particular moral issue, though, so you have to choose a clear-case example, not something controversial.

Just ask the person you want to engage two questions:

  1. Is it it wrong to treat people badly just because of their skin color?
  2. What makes it wrong?

Now, as I see it, there are only 3 possible answers to this question.

  1. I personally prefer not to do that – it is wrong for me.
  2. Our culture has evolved a set of customs that apply for us in this time and place, and that set of customs says that members of the society ought not to do that. It is wrong for us, here and now.
  3. Humans are designed to act in a certain way, and part of that design is that we ought not to do that. Acting in line with our design allows us to flourish, (Aristotle’s eudaimonia).

Response #1, is called “moral relativism”. Response #2 is called “cultural relativism”. Response #3 is my view: moral realism. I believe in a hierarchy of moral absolutes that exist objectively, because they are part of God’s design for us and the universe.

I wanted to go over a paper by Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason, in which he critiques moral relativism. His paper is called “Seven Things You Can’t Do as a Moral Relativist”. First, let’s see the list of sevent things.

  1. You can’t make moral judgments about other people’s moral choices
  2. You can’t complain about God allowing evil and suffering
  3. You can’t blame people or praise people for their moral choices
  4. You can’t claim that any situation is unfair or unjust
  5. You can’t improve your morality
  6. You can’t have meaningful discussions about morality
  7. You can’t promote the obligation to be tolerant

You’ll have to read the paper to see how he argues for these, but I wanted to say a brief word about number 1.

Rule #1: Relativists Can’t Accuse Others of Wrong-Doing

Relativism makes it impossible to criticize the behavior of others, because relativism ultimately denies that there is such a thing as wrong- doing. In other words, if you believe that morality is a matter of personal definition, then you can’t ever again judge the actions of others. Relativists can’t even object on moral grounds to racism. After all, what sense can be made of the judgment “apartheid is wrong” when spoken by someone who doesn’t believe in right and wrong? What justification is there to intervene? Certainly not human rights, for there are no such things as rights. Relativism is the ultimate pro-choice position because it accepts every personal choice—even the choice to be racist.

In moral relativism, what you ought to do is totally up to you. Morality is just like a lunch buffet – you pick what you like based on your personal preferences.

I remember one particular discussion I had with a non-Christian co-worker. Both she and her live-in boyfriend were moral relativists. They were fighting because she was angry about his not having (or wanting) a job, and he was angry because when he asked her for space, she immediately ran out and cheated on him.

What’s interesting is that both of these people chose the other in order to escape being judged themselves. I think this happens a lot in relationships today. Both people don’t want to be judged by the other person, but they both want to the other person to treat them well and to honor moral obligations. Isn’t that interesting? I don’t think that you can have something like marriage work when neither person takes moral obligations to the other person seriously.

Deal directly with Christ

by J.C. Ryle:

He that . . . wants relief must come to Christ himself.

He must not be content with coming to His Church and His ordinances or to the assemblies of His people for prayer and praise.  He must not stop short even at His holy table or rest satisfied with privately opening his heart to His ordained ministers.

Oh no! . . . He must go higher, further, much further than this.  He must have personal dealings with Christ Himself.  All else in religion is worthless without Him.  The King’s palace, the attendant servants, the richly furnished banqueting house, the very banquet itself — all are nothing, unless we speak with the King.  His hand alone can take the burden off our backs and make us feel free. . . . We must .

~ Holiness, pp 266-267

A disciple of the kingdom who does not live like a disciple

Ouch, this stings by Craig Keener

A disciple of the kingdom who does not live like a disciple of the kingdom…  is worth about as much as tasteless salt or invisible light.

~ from his comments on Matthew 5:13-16 in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament

From the Shepherd’s Nook: Review of John Ortberg

I don’t often pass along book reviews, but this one sounds like a book I want to read – you might, too.

By  from Jesus Creed blog

Again, the Friday Shepherd’s Nook column is by John Frye.

I am using John Ortberg’s latest book, Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus (Zondervan: 2012) for our adult Sunday School class. The class is a mixture of adult singles and younger and older couples. A reaction I got from an older gentleman one Sunday was, “This is the best book I’ve ever read. Thanks for selecting it for the class.” Not one person in the class finds it boring or burdensome. If someone did, I would question whether he or she was actually reading anything by John Ortberg, Pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Menlo, CA.

The endorsements fairly gush with praise for the book. The front cover has Dallas Willard’s  “This book is a magnificent piece of work.” Comedian Jeff Foxworthy writes, “This is the most compelling and thought-provoking book on Jesus I have ever read!” N.T. Wright, New Testament historian and theologian, affirms, “John Ortberg has nailed one of the Big Lies of Our Time, the assertion that Christianity has been part of the problem rather than the source of the solution.” Max Lucado, pastor and author, counsels, “Make room on your shelf for this book. Make room in your heart for its subject.”  I was glad, too, to read in Ortberg’s “acknowledgements” that Scot McKnight had a part in shaping the book. Yet, for me as a pastor,  the endorsement from the Sunday School attendee ranks right up there. This ordinary guy in my church is fascinated with Jesus in ways he’s never been before. A big “high five” to John Ortberg (and, yes, also to Jesus).

Philip Yancey in his endorsement mentions that over 1500 books a year are published about Jesus. That is a lot of books. I have read many books about Jesus—some popular, some theological, some historical, some devotional. I must confess, though, I’ve not read anything like Who Is This Man? How does a poor man of questionable origins, growing up in a factious, religious culture within the impressive and oppressive Roman Empire, having on power or armies, leaving no personal literature and no following to speak of, end up leaving an undeniable, indelible mark on this planet, especially in the Western world? Consider: “Historian John Dickson wrote that while Christians are a long way from cornering the humility market, ‘it is unlikely that any of us would aspire to this virtue were it not for the historical impact of his crucifixion on art, literature, ethics, law and philosophy. Our culture remains cruciform long after it stopped being Christian’” (85). And this: “This is associated with Jesus that no less a thinker than political theorist Hannah Arendt, the first woman appointed to a full professorship at Princeton University, claimed that forgiveness and love of enemies is a distinctively Christian contribution to the human race: ‘the discoverer of the role of forgiveness in the realm of human affairs was Jesus of Nazareth”’ (89-90).

What John Ortberg does in the book is highlight particular characteristics of Jesus’ character and behavior (as presented in the Gospels) and then shows how those Christ-characteristics took hold in and transformed culture through Jesus’ followers. The elevation of human dignity, especially of the maimed, marginalized and society’s bottom-dwellers, the risk-taking care for the deformed, discarded and diseased, the giftedness and place of women in Christianity and culture, the passion to educate and train others for a significant place in life, the value and influence of “a truly old fashioned marriage,” the deepening of the influence of art in culture, and the courage and creativity-producing power of hope. “Yale professor Jaroslav Pelikan noted: ‘The victory of Jesus Christ over the gods of Greece and Rome in the fourth century did not, as both friend and foe would have expected, bring about the demise of religious art; on the contrary it was responsible over the next fifteen centuries for a massive and magnificent outpouring of creativity that is probably without parallel in the entire history of art’” (156 emphasis Ortberg’s). Think Handel (music), DaVinci, Durer, Victor Hugo, Dante, Michelangelo and so many, many more.

Not only for Jesus, but now, with the outpouring of the Spirit, “an ordinary human being becomes the nexus where heaven is invading earth” (201). That includes you and me, friend.

A Prayer about the Radical Generosity of Grace

I deeply enjoy reading through prayers and thoughtful words by Scotty Smith

     We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 2 Cor. 8:1-5

Heavenly Father, we come before you today challenged by this picture of radical grace; and the timing couldn’t be better, as we enter the Christmas season. This one story alone underscores why we can never emphasize your grace too much. Grace is never to be counterbalanced with law, only multiplied with more grace. Indeed, through Jesus you continue to give us grace upon grace (John 1:16).

What an amazing story—the severely afflicted and extremely poor Christians of Macedonia became a model of radical generosity to the much wealthier believers in Corinth. They had so much joy, they gave sacrificially—beyond their means for the benefit of strangers. Not from guilt, not to get more for themselves, not to impress you or others; rather, they gave freely and joyfully—the quintessential model of cheerful giving (2 Cor. 9:7).

For the glory of Jesus and the advancing of your kingdom, we ask you to give us the same grace you gave the churches of Macedonia. The needs all around us are exponential, but your resources are endless. Indeed, help us to excel in the grace of giving. For you are “able to make all grace abound to [us], so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, [we] can abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8). Enrich us in every way that we might be generous in every way (2 Cor. 9:11)—with our time, talents, and treasures, and with great forbearance and extravagant forgiveness.

Lord Jesus, you are the ultimate cheerful giver. That is what the gospel is all about—this is what this season of Advent is all about. Though you were rich, you gladly became poor for us, that by your poverty we might become joyfully rich through you (2 Cor. 8:9). We give ourselves to you, for you have given yourself for us and to us. Make your gladness ours. Make your generosity ours. So very Amen we pray, in your great and gracious name.

Why I Love Being Wrong

Okay, here is one that makes me pause, evaluate and think by carson at Reasons for God blog. What do you think?

 

One of the most common phrases I hear about research scientists is that they love to be wrong. Why? Because when they are wrong, it means there’s a good chance they have discovered something new. This new data, which does not fit the current paradigms, can lead them to a breakthrough discovery. So being wrong can quite literally lead to fame and fortune.

By contrast, of course, the common perception seems to be that Christians absolutely hate to be wrong. Rather, Christians (especially conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist ones) appear to have a high need for certainty that they are right.

Think about it: don’t these words all seem to go together?

  • Dogmatic
  • Doctrinaire
  • Narrow-minded
  • Absolute truth
  • Bigoted / prejudiced / intolerant

And by contrast, we assume the words skeptical, flexible, open-minded, relative, imperfect, tolerant, liberal, and accepting all fit with one another. (At least, Thesaurus.com suggests this is the case).

Do People Really Think Christians Hate Evidence and Being Wrong?

Yes. Yes they do. For instance, Sam Harris often articulates this perception of Christians and religious people in general.

In The End of Faith, he writes (emphasis added in bold):

Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence what so ever.

He goes on to say that religious moderates are no better, for,

Religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance—and it has no bona fides, in religious terms, to put it on a par with fundamentalism…By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally. Unless the core dogmas of faith are called into question—i.e., that we know there is a God, and that we know what he wants from us—religious moderates will do nothing to lead us out of the wilderness.

But it gets worse:

And so it is that every human being comes to desire genuine knowledge about the world. This has always posed a special problem for religion, because every religion preaches the truth of propositions for which it has no evidence. In fact, every religion preaches the truth of propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable. This put the “leap” in Kierkegaard’s leap of faith.

Certainly there are some religious people who seem to exhibit these characteristics of inflexibility, close-mindedness, and a disdain for evidence. (Before proceeding, let’s briefly note that Dr. Harris confidently uses very absolutist words like “every,” “always” and “no” without reference to any sociological or scientific data that supports his grand hypotheses. In True Reason we go into this kind of problem in more detail).

In any case, I’d like to explain why, precisely because I am a self-identified conservative, evangelical Christian, I absolutely love being wrong as I learn new evidence and information.

The main reason, in every case, is because acknowledging you are wrong is absolutely central to the Christian faith. Christianity is about God’s love for us – a love that enables us to become fully human.

Becoming A Christian Means Admitting That You Are Wrong

Consider: What does it mean to become a Christian in the first place?

For me, I had to confess that I was pursuing my life goals – including religious ones – for the purpose of self-advancement. It was a very simple system: be good, be religious, and, therefore, be blessed. The better I was, the more God would do my bidding. What a deal!

But becoming a Christian meant apologizing to God – and to others – for my proud, selfish, and wrong approach to everything.

When the church started on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a powerful sermon about the sin of his audience. They responded well: they were “cut to the heart” and asked what to do. Peter told them,

Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, ESV).

That is how people get into the kingdom of God – by repentance – that is, admitting they are wrong.

To even be a Christian in the first place means that the greatest experience of my life – starting to know God’s love in a personal way – was possible because I learned that I was truly, terribly wrong.

I am so glad I learned the truth about my sin. That’s one reason that I love being wrong.

Growing As A Christian Means Admitting That You Are Wrong

The Apostle Paul explains how disciples of Jesus are to become mature Christians in Ephesians 4. He writes:

But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24, ESV).

Growing as a Christian means putting off your old self, having your mind renewed, and putting on the new self.

In other words, on a daily basis, acknowledging, I was wrong!

For instance: when I learned that Christianity was rationally defensible, supported by evidence and reason, I had to admit that my old view was wrong. Christians don’t have to “just take it on faith”: we can love truth, skepticism, and rational inquiry as much as anyone else.

So I absolutely love being wrong because, in every sphere of life, it means I am growing to maturity in Jesus.

My Best Friends Tell Me I Am Wrong

When a friend points out a flaw in my life, sometimes I grumble or defend myself. Don’t we all? But at other times, I say “thank you” because to be corrected in love is a gift. As the Proverbs put it (27:5-6, ESV):

Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

When people flatter you, they do so out of self-interest and not because they necessarily believe the compliment.

But when a friend honestly, humbly, and wisely points out a sin in my life, they have strengthened our friendship.

My best friendships are built, in part, upon being told that I am wrong, for my own good. I cherish these friends for all the mistakes – and worse – that they have corrected in my life.

I Love Being Wrong Because I Love To Learn

These religious reasons may not seem very relevant or interesting to those who are not Christians. But look: we are all humans. We share a great deal in common.

  • When I learn there is a better solution for solving a problem – I’m glad to learn that I was wrong and try the new method.
  • When I learn about a new scientific discovery – I’m happy to learn that my old understanding of the world was wrong and embrace the scientific discovery. Though I’m still kind of bummed that Pluto is no longer a planet.
  • When I learn about a new culture or kind of person – I enjoy the experience of understanding how they see and interact with the world.

I’m happy to change my mind about all kinds of things: new technology, new books, new research. All of these changes involve admitting I was wrong about something and embracing progress. As a Christian seeking to become fully human, I’m for that. In other words, I love to be wrong. (And I imagine I’ll have a good laugh when someone tries to use this confession against me).

Summary

There are intolerant, close-minded, dogmatic bigots in every group of people. Given that Christianity is the world’s largest religion, it is no surprise that the movement includes some people who don’t represent the way of Jesus very well. As I said above, this includes me too. But I know that’s wrong! And I am glad to be wrong because it keeps me (a little bit) more humble, growing to maturity, having better friends, and becoming fully human.

If you are not a Christian, the best kind of open-mindedness would mean you fairly examine the evidence for Christianity. And the most honest kind of skepticism would mean that you treat the claims of atheists as skeptically as you look at religious ones. I’d encourage you to even be skeptical of the skepticism itself.

If you are a Christian, join me in admitting that you are very wrong. Let’s make it clear to our friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors that we have gotten it and continue to get it tragically wrong. As the Apostle Paul put it in his letter to the Philippians (3:12-16, ESV):

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.