Sometime ago, Mike Vinson took a stab at schooling his acolytes on apologetics, and more to the point, he attempted to shore up the notion that the bible was not just a book of inspired spiritual revelation, but also a history book; containing factual, informative and historically accurate information that the Christian disciple could "take to the bank" in terms of its accuracy and reliability.
This position of Mike's is one of the 5 core tenets of Christian Fundamentalism, and is known as "biblical inerrancy." The other 4 are also generally subscribed to by Mike Vinson's IWWB cult and include the literal nature of the biblical account, the virgin birth of Christ, the bodily resurrection and 2nd coming of Christ and lastly, the substitutionary atonement of the death of Christ.
I've covered this before, but the basic premise of inerrancy and biblical literalism is that the bible, in its original form, is without error and can be trusted for not only spiritual and moral guidance, but also historical accuracy.
To listen to Mike's study on this topic, hit this page and click on the "Warwickshire October 6th, 2012" link. The study was titled "Enduring Sound Doctrine" and is in 2 parts, which can be either downloaded, or streamed from the IWWB website.
Essentially, the study boils down to Vinson lamenting the fact that many people have left the IWWB-faith after putting the bible on the chopping block, and testing the internal claims that it makes. These "6 brother" who left he says, all claimed that the bible was a parable, and not actual history, something Vinson cannot accept.
He also reads emails from a brother called "Frank" who says he no longer takes seriously the claims of the bible, and who likens Jesus to a myth of the same substance as Hercules. Vinson of course, discredits all of this, and says that all of this supposed "falling away" is in truth, evidence of evil spirits sent by God to accomplish this very work!
Anybody who doesn't hold to the Vinson-approved version of Christianity is of course, according to Mike and his elders, under strong delusion and just another weak and lukewarm babe in Christ with itching ears.
All the same, I know who "Frank" is, and so I emailed him (at the time) regarding this matter, letting him know that Vinson was reading his personal email to the IWWB congregants and using his present position to grandstand upon. Here is a snippet of what Frank said to me in reply:
The old group thing; you're either with the group or against it. Them and us, but if you see things differently, Satan has got you - LOL! Except I realise it ain't so funny when someone is psychologically dependant on being accepted and feels that god must be angry with them because they think differently from the others.
It really is a mess of dreadful painful confusion and I'm glad through Joseph Campbell and various others (ironically including Mike himself) that I was able to get out of the cave of literalism into the light of a better day.Frank seemed unperturbed by Vinson's rhetoric and not at all surprised by the mention of Vinson using his emails to warn others of the dangers of straying from the IWWB faith! Good heavens above, they may even begin to think for themselves!
It's heartening to hear that some people are still thinking for themselves and daring to question and daring to find answers; taking active authority in matters of their own understanding.
All the same, Vinson's attempt at apologetics, and his overt confirmation-bias is evident when listening in to his talk on the historical authenticity of the Jesus character.
As an example, Vinson says at one point, that: "nobody would die for a lie!"
Vinson then mentions the early Christian martyrs, and concludes that therefore, the bible is the indisputable truth. Using that logic, we ought to conclude that an Islamic extremist is likewise not "dying for a lie" and that Mohammed and Allah are equally historically true characters that we ought to consider in our search for the truth.
This "nobody would die for a lie" line is an argument many Christian apologists desperately cling to, in an attempt to convince their followers that Christianity has the truth of the matter. It's been debunked though, and is clearly a logical fallacy.
Vinson also quotes Tacitus, Pliny the younger, Josephus and many more, all in a vain attempt to convince himself and his disciples that there really was a Jesus of Nazareth who did, and said, everything as described in the biblical account - miracles and all.
If this topic is new to you, and you are unsure about the research on this matter, here are some basic facts to consider:
Firstly, no secular historian EVER MENTIONS a "Jesus of Nazareth." The honorific or title "Chrestus," (meaning: just, or righteous) or "Christ" (meaning: anointed) is what is referred to, and Christians of course, interpret this to mean Jesus of Nazareth.
But of course, JON (Jesus of Nazareth) is NEVER MENTIONED by name, merely the honorific of either Chrestus, or Christ. Whatever the case, bear in mind this honorific of Chrestus, or Christ, was also attributed to Caesars, other gods, or messiahs, and the like.
The general scholarly view is that while the Testimonium Flavianum is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it is broadly agreed upon that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus, which was then subject to Christian interpolation or forgery by fourth-century apologist Eusebius or by othersHow can this be known? Is it really a forgery?
As an example of how research is conducted into this area, scholars look at the writings of early Christian apologists, and see whether they reference texts such as the TF (Testimonium Flavianum). These "sounds of silence" tend to incriminate entries such as the TF as forgeries, being that if they were genuine, early apologists would have eagerly swooped in upon them. This isn't the only way to determine forgeries, but it does say a lot when an early apologist, such as Justin Martyr for example, says nothing of the infamous Josephus passage, even though he was well acquainted with his work.
Techniques such as this are referred to as "textual criticism" and are carried out on many historical accounts, not just the biblical record. If you're interested in reading more about the TF, and whether or not the passage is authentic, or a forgery click here for an in-depth expose.
Moving on, Vinson (in his apologetic rant), fails to mention several other historical notes regarding Christian, namely the words of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who says that Christians are also worshippers of the god Serapis:
The worshippers of Serapis are Christians, and those are devoted to the God Serapis, who call themselves the bishops of Christ…Obviously, Vinson wouldn't want his running-dog disciples getting the idea that history isn't as crystal clear and as black and white on the origins of the god-man Jesus, as he wants them to think! So that particular piece of information, like many others, has been edited out for the (supposed) edification of the body.
If this topic interests you, take note of the following images, sourced from the aptly titled "Jesus Birther Movement" which demonstrate the grasping and shaky foundation of history upon which the Christian apologist bases his or her faith.
Note: click images to enlarge them.
You can see from the above images that despite the claims of the Christian apologist, the supposed "evidence" is not only separated by decades of silence, but is also riddled with 2nd hand sources (called "hearsay"), and in some cases, authors works have disappeared completely, leaving researchers with no way to verify anything.
This same page lists 66 prolific and well-known secular authors of the 1st and 2nd century who say not a single word regarding Jesus. How is it then, that as the gospels allege, "his fame spread abroad," when he (Jesus) fails to rate a specific mention within the pages of secular history?
No secular historian, or an independent source confirms anything regarding Jesus miracles, or the resurrection narrative. Our only source for these, is within the pages of the bible itself. Hmm. Can you say, "how convenient?"
I could go on about the textual claims of historians but I'd like to move on and consider the findings of the sciences - geology, palaeontology, biology and the like. Do these sciences confirm the bible as a reliable, accurate and historically verifiable source?
In a word, NO.
A prominent Jewish archaeologist, Israel FInkelstein has written on this topic extensively in his work "The Bible Unearthed" where he contrasts findings in his field with the Old Testament claims. There is also a History Channel documentary about the book, which you can view here.
In a nutshell, there's zero evidence for a mass exodus out of Egypt, zero evidence for an Israelite dynasty and military kingdom as described in the scriptures, and zero evidence for an Joshua-led military invasion of the promised land.
You can of course, believe the claims of one Ron Wyatt, an archeology amateur who claimed to find Noah's ark, chariot wheels at the bottom of the ocean, the ark of the covenant and, if you can believe it, Jesus blood.
The Wikipedia entry on Wyatt states the following:
While Wyatt won a devoted following from some fundamentalist Christians, he was not considered credible by professional archaeologists and biblical scholars.
Archaeologist Joe Zias of Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has stated that "Ron Wyatt is neither an archaeologist nor has he ever carried out a legally licensed excavation in Israel or Jerusalem. In order to excavate one must have at least a BA in archaeology which he does not possess despite his claims to the contrary. ... [His claims] fall into the category of trash which one finds in tabloids such as the National Enquirer, Sun etc."Even "Answers in Genesis" has a page debunking Wyatt's crackpot claims. Well, there goes that one.
YouTube user "Baud Bits" covers the topic of the bible versus the sciences very well in his video "Solo Scriptura - Not So Much," where at the tail end, he makes this tongue in cheek statement:
[To the Christian literalist] the overwhelming consensus of the modern scientific community across all disciplines are wrong and the book written by a man archaeology can find no evidence for, who had never stepped outside the middle east; was unaware of the existence of the Americas, the Far East or Australia; who could only observe the cosmos with the naked eye; who could see nothing smaller than a grain of sand, who could climb no higher than the nearest mountain; nor dive deeper than their breath allowed; who thought the mind was in the heart and the emotions in the liver; this man had written down everything we need to know about the history of the earth.Here is the video in question, well worth a moment of your time:
Also, you may wish to consider looking at how the canon of scripture was formed.
A great starting point is the website earlychristianwritings.com
How is it that all of these works can exist, and yet only 27 made the cut into the New Testament? Who decided which were in, and which were out? Which of these books were quoted by early Bishops, or apologists?
If you believe Mike Vinson and IWWB's explanation, there is no such thing as pseudepigrapha (a fancy word for forgery) and all of the respective names of the biblical books bear the ACTUAL NAMES of those who wrote them. More black and white, open and shut thinking that demonstrates no critical thought or independence. Would a Christian author ever lie? No, that would never happen. Not now and not in the ancient world!
Matt Dilahunty from the Atheist Experience covers the topic of biblical canonisation extremely well in the series "The History of the Biblical Canon."
Here are parts 1 and 2 (embedded below), but I suggest you listen to all 6 parts, as they are extremely factual and moreover, they represent the common knowledge and understanding among biblical scholars, and researchers on this topic.
Like many former believers, Matt's path to unbelief began when he sought to educate himself about the foundations of his faith, in a seminary of all places!
Of course, when you begin to look critically at the bible itself, you may start to see the threads of unbelief sprouting from the corner of your security blanket. You can tuck them away, and pretend everything is OK, or, you can give the thread a pull, and see how far the rabbit hole goes.
There are many authors who have written about all of this. Three of the most popular on this particular topic would be Bart Ehrman, Richard Carrier and Robert M. Price.
Both Price and Ehrman are former believers who left the Christian faith when they too examined the underbelly of the biblical claims, and found them wanting.
To conclude this post, I'll let Mike Vinson's words make my points.
Here is a quick audio grab of the study mentioned at the start of this post:
Did you note Mike's underhanded insult? "He didn't want to find him." Apparently, brother Frank went into his quest for the historical Jesus with his mind already made up?
Unless Mike is privy to information that historians and biblical researchers are not, there is simply nowhere to find the miracle working, death defying Jesus of the gospels, within the pages of secular history.
Here are two more audio snippets of Vinson's fundamentalist rhetoric, taken from the same study:
In the first snippet above, IWWB deputy dog Kuhn chimes in at approx. 0:14 and says "where was he looking?" Again, I am unsure of exactly what specialist information Kuhn possesses! As Vinson reads out, Frank says he found evidence for the general movement of Christians and the early church, but not the god-man Jesus of Nazareth.
Vinson then rants and says "This is a history book!" It really goes without saying, but this kind of hyperbole is reserved for charlatan fundamentalists, almost exclusively!
You may also note that Vinson shows his ignorance by assuming that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the authors of the gospels, as the titles of these works imply, when in-fact, they are anonymous, as are many other works in the bible. Again, this just demonstrates Vinson's lack of education about these matters and his over confirmation bias.
The second clip is Vinson vainly and desperately clutching at straws, where he attempts to defend the legend of Icarus, as well as various figures of speech. SMH: I truly have no words for the witless and vapid pretension of Mike Vinson in this instance.
Proverbs 18:17 - The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.