Friday, November 27, 2009

Home Churches

So, I've been having this idea going through my head lately and I don't want to shake it. Many of my friends probably know that I want to go into pastoral ministries, i.e. pastoring a church.

Here's the thing that's been hitting me... when the church was first established, the believers met in houses. See Acts 8:3, Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Philemon 1:2, Colossians 4:15, etc...

There is no mention in the New Testament of believers raising buildings for their churches. Instead, they met in churches held in believer's homes.

So I guess it's now something of a dream of mine... to restore this practice. I know Xenos Christian Fellowship does it. I've really benefited from their ministry.

I just think this makes more sense for a lot of reasons.
  • It's personal. People get into the ministry when it's so down-to-earth and in-your-face. It's way easier to build strong relationships with other believers when you're meeting in homes instead of in huge, impersonal church buildings.
  • It allows for rapid church growth. It's tough to build the church of Christ when you keep having to build buildings.
  • It's great for times of persecution. You get privacy and can easily go underground if necessary.
  • It's informal. Instead of being en garde to make sure you look good and are acting proper in your social context, you can have simple fellowship with other believers. Instead of being conscious of the social otherliness of church, this way church comes into your own personal life.
  • It's inexpensive. It allows believers to concentrate their funding on expanding the church of Christ and reaching out financially to more people instead of paying to heat a huge building and reupholster the pews.
  • It encourages sacrifice. When the church is right in a house, believers will have to provide to keep it going. They will offer their talents and time (and be taken up on the offer) more readily.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Does God Learn?

I hear a lot of open theists say that God "learns" about what is going on in the universe. In other words, God learns what human beings are doing, He learned about evil when mankind created it, etc.

Although I do think open theism is quite biblical and preserves God's sovereignty quite well, I don't feel comfortable saying that God learns.

You see, learning implies a struggle to gain information. When I learn, I have to study hard and make an effort to retain the information. For God, the process is completely devoid of effort, because He is omnipotent.

When a new fact comes into existence, then, God knows it instantly. Typically with the Platonic model of God, it is believed that when a being changes, it can only change for better or for worse. Since God is perfect, He can never change for the better or for the worse, so He can't change at all. Therefore, God's knowledge can never change at all. I disagree that changes are always from better to worse. In the Bible, God's character is revealed as unchanging, (i.e. I am the Lord, I do not change) but not in a Platonic sense. In fact, in the incarnation, God became man, that is, He changed.

It has to be this way, then. Here's the thing. If God has sequence (which the Incarnation assumes) then He is in 2009 right now with us (although He doesn't experience time in a measurable way). I am alive right now. Therefore, the statement "Cameron Versluis is alive" has a truth value of "true". If I were to die, the statement "Cameron Versluis is alive" would suddenly have a truth value of "false". Therefore, for a creature to have perfect knowledge over a course of time, the content of their knowledge would have to change.

If, however, God were completely immutably outside of time, as Plato affirmed (and as I myself have affirmed in the past) then the statement "Cameron Versluis is alive" would have a truth value of "true" yet "false"!

So, it does make most sense for God to have sequence, even if He doesn't have a measurable sequence. 2 Peter 3:8 makes this clear. God is going to bring judgment on the earth, but He has not yet. Therefore, He is in the "before" the judgment. Yet, you can't say it will be "x years" for God until the judgment, because His sequence is not measurable.

Now, back to what I was talking about. If I were to die, the truth value for "Cameron Versluis is alive" will suddenly negate. If you were to have the idea that I was alive, it would be a mistaken idea. But, if the truth value suddenly changes, then an omniscient being would recognize that it had changed and instantly the content of its knowledge would change.

God, then, does not "discover new facts" or "learn" as if He had to make some sort of careful effort to do it the right way. This is why I have been uncomfortable with open theists using these terms. Instead, God's simply knows. As David said, God knows when he sits and knows when he stands.

Anyway, some thoughts on open theism and God's knowledge...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Faith and Works

So, I just had a few thoughts on faith and works.

Way back when, Martin Luther opposed the Catholic's translation of a phrase of Jesus we now translate "repent". At the time, Catholics translated it "do penance". Martin Luther, on the other hand, called for a new translation, ushering in his new concept of justification by faith alone.

Out of these two, I would side with Luther. But I agree with N.T. Wright, I think Luther took it too far. The word μετανοέω (metanoeó, repent) means to change one's mind and purpose, according to Strong's. As I recently heard a pastor explain it, when you're headed down the wrong way on a one-way street and cars are coming at you in all three lanes, repenting means turning the car around.

Repentence calls for a lifestyle change: living a radically different life, one like Jesus lived. Yet, we often view the "repent" command as a synonym for "believe" or just "feel bad".

I think we've taken it to the point where we've gotten a drive-thru Jesus. Just have a little faith and you're cool. You're going to heaven, be happy.

But I think Jesus called for a lot more than that. He wanted our works to glorify Him. I don't mean to challenge Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone. I agree with that. But here's the thing. As I see it, it's exactly like loving someone. If you tell someone you love them but never do anything to show it, how genuine is your love? You build up love by the things you do for another person. You're not a good friend because you do good stuff for a person, you're a good friend because you love them. At the same time, your love is built up by the things you do for them.

Similarly, we build up our love and our trust for God when we do what He says. As I see it, maybe works shouldn't be thought of as a byproduct of faith and trust, but as simultaneous with faith and trust. Read Hebrews 11. By faith, Abraham uprooted his house and moved. He didn't just sit there with his faith switch on. His faith was lived out in a real, tangible response to God.

Another thing I might like to note is the definition of "works". What exactly constitutes a work? I think the reason people get so up-in-arms about the concept of works is because they associate it with legalism, i.e. the Pharisees trying to be justified by the works of the Law. But what I'm talking about here is real acts of faith before God. Like, daring to help someone who's hurting. Bringing good news to the poor. Answering the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Here's how John Fletcher saw it. Faith and works are like two oars on a boat. You have to push on both of them simultaneously. If you let slack with the left oar, you turn in circles. If you let slack with the right oar, you turn in circles. It doesn't matter how hard you work the left oar if you're not also working the right one.

Thus, I don't see the tension between salvation by works and salvation by faith alone. Sure, faith is what justifies us, but faith without works is dead. Is a dead faith a saving faith? I think not.

Adding works to salvation seems heretical today. We've got antinomian eternal security advocates running around all over the place. It's like, just say the Sinner's Prayer and you're clean. Now do whatever you want. But works was a huge part of what Jesus talked about. Actually, I think Jesus might be labeled a Pelagian heretic if He were to show up today. Live out your faith. As James says, faith without works is dead. Let's ditch the drive-thru model of Jesus and return to the real one.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Implanted Desires and Subtle Denotation-Changing

So I've been reading Calvinism: A Closer Look by Daniel Gracely (older edition titled Hoodwinked and Happy?). Gracely writes a great deal about how Calvinists subtly flip and flop the meanings of words without intending to or realizing that they are doing it. Basically what goes on is Calvinists will change the denotation (dictionary meaning) of a word when they use it in their sentences, but the connotation (how it sounds) remains the same, so the sentence still sounds like it makes sense. Gracely is one of the smartest authors I have read in a long time. You can read the entire book online at

I would just like to quote a portion of Chapter 13, which talks about the Calvinist idea that God will take away our old desires and implant His desires. While I agree that this is a biblical principle, I do not view us as suddenly being implanted with God's desires in a totally passive way. I view this more as a process (called sanctification usually), where we gradually learn to conform our desires to God's desires. It's not like suddenly God sucks out our old desires and sticks new ones in there in a crude heart-surgery operation.

And in case any Calvinists are going to quote Ezekiel 36:26-27, see Ben Henshaw's article, "Is the New Heart of Ezekiel 36:26-27 a Reference to Regeneration Preceding Faith?"

To understand the implications of this Calvinistic view, consider that I am in a chair writing this page. All of the molecules that make up my being (according to Sproul elsewhere in his book) are in sovereign control by God. According to Sproul and Boettner (who follow Edwards) any faith that I have has been a result of God putting a new desire in me apart from my willingness. Indeed, had God not implanted a new desire in me, I would have remained as I was. But the question arises-If Calvinism says that God has placed His desire in Dan against Dan’s desire, then Dan’s desires have been negated in order to receive the construct of God. That is, without God’s forceful and coercive removal of Dan’s own desires, Dan would simply remain as he is. How then, for example, can Sproul or Edwards say that this new desire is Dan’s desire? For if I now say the sentence, “God has changed my desire” there is an illusion of meaning because there is no more ‘my.’ God has overthrown the ‘my.’ He has negated the ‘my’ and replaced the vacuum with His desire. The only way, then, that ‘Dan’ could say that “God has changed my desire” is if we reduce the ‘my’ to particle physics. Thus, in place of Dan’s essence is now a bio-organic automaton that, in effect, calls up a program that God has put within him to give the illusion that when the automaton speaks saying, “I am Dan, and my desire has been changed,” Dan and his desire are still present, when in fact they are not. In reality ‘Dan’ must only be a bio-computer which God has made out of material creation. So the mass of collective molecules in process that sits in a chair, which we call ‘Dan,’ has been the object of God’s construct. ‘Dan,’ for that matter (as previously noted), could be a laundry basket for all the distinction that Calvinism requires. The ‘my’ enacts no final thinking or willing as a separate entity distinct from God. Thus ‘man’ is a non-predicated being, and the uniqueness that distinguishes him from a laundry basket is lost. For God could just as well sustain the being of a laundry basket, a plant, or an automaton in His presence, and cause it to echo back His constructs as willless computers with no consciousness. Either way it is God’s continuation of an object’s being in His presence-and that is all. We see then that under Calvinism the result is a total annihilation of the person, because to say that “God chooses another person’s choice” is the same type of irrationality that would say that “somebody else is me.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More on Statues, Calvin, and Probability of Being Correct

After reading my last post, Sam had more to say.

Though I too would commend the removal of Mary's statues in the church, I think John Calvin was against it because it was someone else's property that was being destroyed. If the whole church had become protestant and removed the figurines, then he would have been for it but he was not for destruction others property.

//"being wrong makes him more suspect to being incorrect in other areas."//
May be true, though I highly doubt that there are too many people in history with whom you agree entirely. I suppose you are going to start listing all the people in which you have found no fault as of yet and that is fine. I would enjoy browsing the list.

No; other than Jesus I don't really know of anyone with whom I would agree with entirely. On some point or another I disagree with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Calvin, Wesley, Augustine, Constantine, Pelagius, Arminius, and pretty much anyone else you could name. However, I think that Pelagius, for instance, was much further in the wrong than Arminius.

In the same way I think Calvin was very wrong on this issue, and many others. His quote of the ideal church being "four bare walls and a sermon" is exactly in character from what I've read of Calvin and fits snugly with a lot of the other things I've heard that he has said.

I do suggest reading about Calvin's rule of Geneva here and here. Calvin was a stringent dictator who despised any sort of merriment and enforced harsh rules. Everyone was examined by his pious police to see whether they were conducting themselves the right way, and questioned if they missed one of Calvin's sermons. A female hairdresser was imprisoned for two days for giving a bad haircut. Calvin got the police to side with him doctrinally and banished anyone who dared question his Institutes. When one man questioned part of Calvin's sermon, Calvin made him march all around the city and beg forgiveness at every street corner. Additionally, at risk of sounding cliche with this oft-repeated sentiment, Calvin was complicit in the murder of Michael Servetus, and executions were common in Geneva.

All in all, although Calvin did have some good exegesis here and there, I think he was quite questionable. Boyd's quote from Calvin reinforced this idea, and I simply think that Calvin's almost paranormal display of wrong-ness certainly renders any of his ideas suspect.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Calvin, Sam, and Boyd on Stained Glass

So I posted a link to a video clip from one of Greg Boyd's sermons on Facebook not too long ago. The video was called "Imagination, John Calvin, and Stained Glass". In the clip Boyd talks about how the Protestant Reformation had as one bad side effect the discouragement of Christian art.

I think it is truth; the Reformation did create a general suspision of art. I've noticed that Protestants tend to be very jittery about pictures, movies, or arts used in religion. Any depictions of Jesus often come with a lot of disclaimers and people are very shaky about things.

However, shortly after I posted the link, Sam messaged me. I think he had some excellent things to say, so I will post his message.

Greg Boyd needs a little help with his history. The reason why the reformers where against the statues and windows was because of who was on them. Go to a church today that still uses these methods and see who it is that is being shown in the windows and statues. While it may be true that John Calvin was totally against these things, the reason for his being totally against it was probably because of its former abuse, as Boyd said. So Calvin may be wrong in this regard, so what? As for the iconoclasts who did the breaking of all the statues in the churches, John Calvin was against this sort of violence. There are Calvinists who still use stain glass windows of Bible characters and statues and the like. One of them is R.C. Sproul, who you know of very well.

I would like to make a few points.

In Boyd's favor:
  • Boyd doesn't talk about Reformers in general; he talks about the "culprits" who threw suspicion onto the arts, one of them being John Calvin.
  • Calvin's being wrong in this area was the point Boyd was making here. He wasn't critiquing anything else Calvin had to say, although Boyd did make it clear that he wasn't a Calvin fan. I would also like to note that Calvin's being clearly in the wrong on this issue makes him more suspect to be incorrect on other issues.
  • The Platonic otherness theory was also clearly a "culprit" here, and I agree with Boyd that as a result of Plato's (and Socrates and Parmenides) musings, we have had our picture of God skewed and corrupted.
In Sam's favor:
  • It's true that the Catholic and Orthodox churches fell into a lot of idolatry and twisted practices involving their statues and pictures. As a result I can see how being suspicious of such images would be beneficial.
  • When you think about it, the statue-smashing rather corresponds to the Old Testament idol smashing. I'm not sure if smashing stuff is quite as acceptable under the new covenant as it was under the old, but it's still a radical way to deal with sin, and I like it.
  • I'm guessing you mean that Virgin Mary is shown on windows from such churches today. And I agree she is a very, very dangerous figure idolatry-wise. In fact, I would guess that during the end times she's going to be one of the main rigs Satan uses, and she has been a favorite of his for a long time.
So in the end, I agree with Sam that at least some Reformers (maybe most) had good motives for destroying the statues and stained glass windows, and I commend those Reformers for doing so. I agree with Boyd that a total suspision of arts is wrong and that the Platonic model of God's otherliness makes God into a big shiny nonpersonal floating gem. So I still think Boyd's sermon is excellent, but best taken with a grain of salt, i.e. a dose of Sam.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Why I'm Leaning Open Theist

All right, I am very seriously considering open theism at this point. A lot of people will think I'm a heretic (what's new?), but I would just like to make a few points as to why I am leaning toward this position.

  • The Bible portrays God as having sequence, i.e. a before and after. As Greg Boyd points out, open theism is the only view that is directly compatible with the incarnation. As Boyd wrote in his letter to me, the Word became flesh, which presupposes that there was a before He became flesh, and an after He became flesh. In short, a sequence. Also, we shouldn't think that a being that has sequence is limited, whereas a being frozen in an eternal now is not. A being capable of true relationship has sequence. That's just how it works.
  • The Bible portrays God as being flexible. He reacts and adapts to the things human beings do. For instance, after saying He would do so He decided not to send fire down on Ninevah after all, on the basis that the people repented. (Jonah 1:2; 3:2, 4–10; 4:2) He states that He will take away people's shares in the holy city if they take away from the book of Revelation (Revelation 22:18). It doesn't make much sense that He would (or could) take away the share He had given them if a) He foreknew that they would take words from Revelation or b) He was timeless (in the sense of not having sequence).
  • Prayer really does change things. The Bible portrays prayer as something that can spur God to action. For instance, God shows the prophet Amos in a vision the destruction He will bring on Israel. Amos prays, begging God to relent from sending the calamity - and God does. If the exhaustive foreknowledge view is correct, God knew Amos would pray to Him, and had already basically decided that He would not bring destruction on Israel, even though He revealed to Amos that that was His plan. (Amos 7:1-6)
  • The Bible does portray God as regretting previous decisions He made. If He foreknew from all time that man would become so horribly sinful just before the Flood, it wouldn't make sense that He would make the decision to create man and then regret it later (even though if He's timeless, there isn't a later). See Genesis 6:5-6. God also states that He regrets making Saul king (1 Samuel 15:10). How could God say, "I have been eternally certain that Saul's actions would be exactly this way" and then turn and say "I regret making Saul king"? Boyd has pointed out that it is possible to regret making a good decision. For instance, if you hire a new employee and he did the best work of anyone, but several months later he totally botched his job, stole company files, etc., you would regret hiring him because of the free actions he committed, even though at the time you made the wisest possible decision.
  • Some consider the above verses to be anthromorphisms. They're embarrassed because they've decided the Platonic view of God (as an unchanging, timeless sort of big gem in the sky) is the right one, and these passages present God as a relational being with real emotions, a being who is flexible and adaptible (though I should note, biblically God's character never changes, even if His plans do). The real problem is, anthromorphisms always point to a reality. For instance, when the Bible says that God has a strong arm (Psalm 89:10), it points to the reality that God is strong (even though He is Spirit and doesn't have arms). But when it says that God regretted making humans, or that God changed His mind or plans - what on earth is the reality that points to?
  • Open theism doesn't really have a problem being compatible with prophecy. There are different types of prophesies. Some are deterministic prophesies. God determines that this is what's going to happen, and He does it. Others are conditional prophesies, i.e. if you do this then I will respond with this. Many are illustrative prophecies. When Jews said that part of the scripture was being fulfilled, for instance, they didn't necessarily mean that something that had been predicted was now coming to pass. A lot of the "prophesies" about Jesus' life were fulfilled in the sense that they qualified and reflected principles from the scriptures. For more information, see this link.

So these are the basic reasons I am now leaning heavily open theist. For more information, I recommend you see the Q & A section on Greg Boyd's website. It's a position worth looking into, and one that is biblical, I think.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Held Up By Molecules - R.C. Sproul's Diety

R.C. Sproul says,

"If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God's sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled. Perhaps that one maverick molecule will lay waste all the grand and glorious plans that God has made and promised to us... Maybe that one molecule will be the thing that prevents Christ from returning."

Besides the fact that Sproul is obviously ignorant of quantum mechanics (as Boyd points out, of course), the implications of this quote are staggering. Sproul likes to think that his view of God, the Calvinist view, gives God the most power. But think about it.

Sproul's God gets held up by molecules.

Think about it. How pathetic is this view of a God? He's one who has to keep stringent control on every single molecule at every single time - because if one does get loose, oh boy, that could be the end of Him! He might not be able to carry out His plan!

Then again, if you think carefully, Sproul's ideas work on a sort of tautology. Assuming that God's plan is 100% perfect down to the movement of the molecules in the air, it makes sense that His plan would be thwarted if a molecule moved out of accord with his plan.

Maybe He doesn't even need to control that molecule in particular. Is He not sovereign enough to work His plans around that obnoxious molecule - or an obnoxious person - or even an obnoxious nation? Last time I checked, He does that. Except, of course, that Sproul and Pink and White and Spurgeon and the whole checklist of Reformed writers would say that that obnoxiousness was also part of God's sovereign plan. Somehow or other.

So, in the end, Sproul essentially chooses to sacrifice God's omnipotence for His meticulous control. Not only that, but I would argue that God's love is sacrificed in such a view. What is love if it is just for molecules you move around with a wave of your hand? That's all people are in Sproul's exhaustive determinist view.

Shocker! 1 Corinthians 15:22 is About Resurrection!

"For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."

I've heard 1 Corinthians 15:22 used to talk about original sin and how in Adam all have spiritually died, but now I'm viewing it in a different light. I'm not much of a stickler for original sin anymore - it seems like a pretty depraved concept. Pardon the pun.

What I've been thinking is that man inherited the knowledge of good and evil and physical death from Adam, and that's it... not a depraved nature. The Greek sarx (translated flesh in the KJV, sinful nature in the NIV) is what I'm thinking is the knowledge of good and evil, that is, the knowledge that sin is pleasurable but wrong, just stuff like that.

Anyway, on 1 Corinthians 15:22 - here is the verse in context. Remember, a text without a context becomes a pretext for a prooftext for doctrines such as original sin and total depravity.

1 Corinthians 15:20-26
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a Man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

I have to say, this passage is awesome. But look at how verse 22 fits into the context. "For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a Man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." It's talking about the resurrection of the dead! We know everyone does die by fault of Adam (otherwise babies wouldn't - but animals die so inheriting physical death from Adam does not necessarily ential depravity), and everyone is going to be raised from the dead by virtue of Christ.

If you go back even further in the context it's still talking about the resurrection. This reading satisfies several doubts I've had about the verse. First, I've been finding the idea of original sin and total depravity weirder and weirder (read Ezekiel 18). Secondly, this reading avoids the unfortunate universalist complications. And third, it sits well with my desire to avoid limiting the range of pas (the word all) unless indicated.

So all in all, I have a better understanding of 1 Corinthians 15:22 now. I recommend reading all of 1 Corinthians 15. It's really good!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thoughts on Ahmed's Introduction - Habermas vs. Ahmed

So after posting about Gary Habermas and the evidence for Jesus' bodily resurrection, I set out to watch more of Habermas' debates. The one I found was between Dr. Habermas and Dr. Arif Ahmed. Dr. Ahmed is an atheist and apparently quite a deep thinker.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

I believe Dr. Ahmed won this debate, simply because an atheist posted the video. Typically debates are posted by individuals supporting the side that won. Thus far, I have only seen the first 20 minutes, during which Dr. Ahmed gives his introduction.

He makes a fairly strong case against the resurrection - or so it seems. Much like a toddler can win an argument with its much more logical and rational mother simply by having a more domineering attitude, I think here Dr. Ahmed does such a good job because his personality is just so electric, warm and commanding.

I have given Dr. Ahmed's points a great deal of thought and I think I have discovered some logical flaws in what he has been saying. I have not seen Dr. Habermas' response to these points yet, but here goes mine.

Dr. Ahmed points out that Christian scholars scoff at the mass-hallucination theory because it is simply too improbable. But he says that once we bring things into the realm of the supernatural, why should we prefer a resurrection to a mass hallucination?

I would like to pick apart his logic using an example of his from earlier in his presentation. He supposed that he had 30 thermometers and a bucket of water and gave several different examples of combinations of error. I would like to build off of this.

Suppose that we have 30 thermometers that we have shipped in from different parts of the country and different manufacturers. We stick all 30 of these thermometers into a boiling bucket of water, putting one in here and there every couple of weeks, yet the thermometers all read zero degrees celsius. We have analyzed every possibility and (somehow) conclusively proven that there is no possibility that this is happening from naturalistic causes. We conclusively prove (again, somehow) that supernatural forces are affecting our experiment.

Essentially, Dr. Ahmed assumes that it is equally reasonable for these 30 thermometers (shipped in from all over the place and tested one at a time over a period of weeks) to all be malfunctioning at once as a result of supernatural tampering, as it is for the single bucket of water to be malfunctioning as a result of supernatural tampering. The fact is, there were many witnesses who testified to the truth of the resurrection very shortly after it happened. They were from various places and they were very different (Thomas was a doubter, while others were not), yet Dr. Ahmed would like us to believe that it is equally probable for supernatural forces to be acting on all of them over a period of many weeks in various different places, than for a supernatural force to be acting in one place, on one man, during one period of time. This is just like assuming all 30 thermometers were corrupt as opposed to the bucket of water being corrupt.

Additionally, though he says that theoretically the hallucination theory should not be considered less preferable to the resurrection theory, the hallucination theory doesn't properly get rid of the body. The Jews of the time admitted that the body had vanished from the tomb, although they said that the disciples had stolen the body. Unless they (and everyone else visiting the tomb) were having hallucinations, too (how many thermometers do we have now?), it would make no sense for the Jews to admit the body's disappearance. The age-old principle applies: what your enemies admit is usually true.

The other idea he offered (although he was just throwing it out there) is that Satan removed the body and placed in a new duplicate. He rationalized that if we're going to accept a supernatural theory, we might as well just throw in any theory. At this point, how believable is Dr. Ahmed? The question is, why would God allow Satan to create such a massive shockwave of deception involving His own Son? Sure, God puts up with Satan's activities, but how realistic is this? I will ask the question why Jesus went willingly, as the Gospels portray Him going, to the cross, if it was really just a ploy of Satan. Sure, Satan has gained control of certain people here and there, but I defy you to find me one biblical example where Satan led someone willingly, in such a sane manner, to the slaughter, while simultaneously convinced that His death would bring salvation for many people.

When Satan's minions took hold of the man living in the tombs, there was a "legion" of demons inside of him. Going by the Roman legion, this was probably about 7000. Yet, the demons only made the man cut himself on the rocks. I don't believe they could take his life, otherwise they might have. When Judas Iscariot died, he was certainly under Satan's influence, and Satan was described at one point as having entered him, directly before he betrayed Jesus. But when Satan led him to hang himself (assuming that Satan was still with him at that point and that Judas' will was not going along with the idea in any way, rather generous assumptions) Judas went in the most insane, haphazardly manner possible, showing clear signs of a demented, tormented mind - nowhere near the calm, focused way Jesus went toward His death.

I must ask - why are these theories equal to the resurrection theory? If we're going to go with a supernatural theory (which I think we should) the resurrection theory is frankly the most sober one out there. If we're going supernatural, let's just go for a nice tame little resurrection. It's better than other wild ideas, like mass hallucinations and Satanic body-swapping. And if you're not accepting the supernatural you've really got to come up with some ridiculous mass conspiracy theory far more complicated than any heist ever pulled off in history.

Another error Dr. Ahmed makes is an a priori assumption that I see among all atheists. Dr. Ahmed first states that we have no documented cases of people rising from the dead except the case in question, that of Jesus of Nazareth. How wrong he is. Usually filed as "near death experiences", there are all sorts of claims of people dying and coming back to life. For instance, the Near Death Experience Research Foundation claims over 1800 such accounts. But, of course, being a secular scholar Dr. Ahmed would never have heard of these cases.

But the meat of Dr. Ahmed's a priori assumption comes when he makes a few statements that are reducible to a tautology. He points out that before it was discovered how the pyramids were built, some assumed that the supernatural was involved. Then, we figured out the naturalistic explanation for how the pyramids were built, and the supernatural aspect was out. Maybe, he reasons, Jesus' resurrection was a case like this, and we just need to humbly wait for the solution.

This is where the crème de la crème of his poor assumptions comes into play. He assumes that once we have figured out how something works, we will have discovered its naturalistic (i.e. materialistic and non-supernatural) explanation. But his other assumption is of course that once we have found a naturalistic explanation for something, we have figured it out. Thus, he makes "figuring it out" and "finding a naturalistic explanation" synonymns. A tautology indeed.

He starts with the assumption that everything has a naturalistic (read: materialistic and non-supernatural) cause, and therefore, even if we don't know the explanation for something right away, we should assume that there is a perfectly natural cause.

He assumes, therefore, that all demon possessions (which are quite well documented, actually) really do have a naturalistic cause, we just haven't "figured it out" yet. And once we "figure it out", we will have found the naturalistic cause.

Do you think that ancient Greek philosopher looking at the sand on the beach (I can't remember his name) really didn't figure out the concept of atomic structure? He had no way to test it whatsoever! But his theory turned out to be correct. Why, then, does Dr. Ahmed assume that those who attribute demon possession to real demons have somehow less valid of a theory than the Greek's? Because his theory involved a naturalistic (read: non-paranormal and much more comforting to scientists in lab coats) explanation.

It's kind of hard to explain what I want to say here. But basically Dr. Ahmed is assuming that we haven't "figured something out" until we have found a naturalistic explanation for it. Until we have a cushy materialistic non-supernatural explanation, it's just a mystery we can dismiss.

Also, I suggest that the line between the supernatural and the naturalistic is much finer than we usually expect. If you've ever watched someone die... it's very natural, yet very supernatural. Something leaves.

Oh, and if you think science is 100% reliable and all we have to go on... think again. Watch William Lane Craig in this video. I'm not sure if he actually humiliates Dr. Atkins as the title says, but it's still hilarious and intriguing.

These are just a few thoughts. If I have more while watching the rest of the debate, I'll try to post them.

In the end, Dr. Ahmed, although claiming to be an objective, non-committed atheist, really starts out with the same assumptions every other atheist does. He did an excellent job presenting his ideas in such a way that they take center stage and look good. But in the end I think he made it a scientific/philosophical debate where he basically says, "look, people don't rise from the dead", instead of saying, "so, what best fits the historical facts?" In which case, you get the resurrection.