Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Enduring Sound Doctrine

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.
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.
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! 

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. 

Secondly, bear in mind that some so-called mentions by secular historians are in truth, acknowledged forgeries. The famous passage by Josephus for example, is a well documented forgery. A Wikipedia entry on this states the following:
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 others
How 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.


  1. I truly appreciate the article....it certainly destroys many "golden calves" I once held dear to...it's humbling and painful all at the same time. But as a seeker of truth....how would somebody go from something like this? I've been trusting in the Scriptures for years now. Not so much as the "bible" translations that are floating around, even the KJV: but being mindful of the Hebrew/ Greek Text...how does someone move on from this? So is "Faith" only something we "make"? Is Jesus as real as we want him to be? I noticed you ended the article with a verse from the writings of the Proverbs (attributed to Solomon) - which finds it's origin from Old Testament - but doesn't this article pretty much lessons the credibility of the bible?? I would love to get your take on this

    Oh, and I am not a follower of IWWB but I am knowledgable of their writings and of Ray Smith from bible-truths -- but most of all - a seeker of the Truth.

    So, back to my primary question - how does someone go on from knowing that there is no secular evidence of Jesus of Nazareth, the unknown sources of the authors of most to all books of the bible, to many things from this article - but feel convicted? Where does one turn to? I would really appreciate any type of advice ~ Gene

    1. BTW Gene, the scripture quote at the tail end of the article was me being cheeky and sarcastic. It was more a case of using a scripture quote to debunk the scriptures.

      This kind of tactic is something that I've come to recognise more and more from within the pages of the bible itself. You do see the authors of various books attacking or making slights against other authors.

      Take for instance Paul's statement re Jesus origins in Galatians 4:4 that he (Jesus) was simply: "born of a woman, born under the law."

      There is nothing in Paul's writings that confirm Jesus had a miraculous birth; that he was visited by 3 wise men, or that his mum was a virgin visited by an angel before the fact.

      So the fact that Paul states this matter of fact, and so simply, alludes to the fact that perhaps, such fanciful notions were floating about orally and Paul was seeking to dispel them as nonsense.

      There are many such instances in the bible of this.

      You may want to check out another post here on the blog titled "Paul - False Apostle?" where I show that Paul and the author of Acts (unknown) relay contradictory events and narrative regarding Paul's submission to the "Apostles" in Jerusalem.

  2. Hi Gene, thanks for the thoughtful reply here, I appreciate you reaching out.

    Yes, it is most definitely "painful" when you realise that the scriptures aren't what they claim to be. When I was shunted out the door of IWWB, I felt extremely lost and alone but consoled myself (for a time, at least) with the scriptures.

    However, the turning point for me came when I was forwarded emails where Vinson lied about me and used the scriptures to assert his points.

    That had a profound effect on me and I realised, perhaps for the first time, that the bible can be used as a weapon to say whatever it is that one wishes to say. At that point, I began to read and research the historicity of the bible and what I found really unsettled me as well but as a seeker of truth, I had to accept the reality and walk into the light, not away from it.

    If what you are asking, is what then becomes your "guiding light" well, the answer is you. You become your own master, your own source of truth. You get to own your own mistakes, own your own enlightenment and take control of your own destiny. This does actually comport with the scriptures "ye are gods."

    Of course, Christians don't like that answer, they want to believe that God makes the moral absolutes but truth is, the god of the bible killed young babies, endorsed slavery and worse.

    For me, letting go of Christianity and the scriptures has literally set me free. I felt as if I was "born again" when I finally cut the ties to the absolutes of the scriptures. I no longer feel I have to provide answers to unbelievers, and that a mysterious man I've never seen is watching my every move.

    I wish you well on your journey Gene. If you can accept the simple facts of scholarship, and historical methods, then you're already well out of the cave of biblical literalism and the light of the sun is shining on your face.

  3. The bigger question is, “does the Bible have to be historically accurate to be true?”. Occam's Razor tells us that the Bible is not historically accurate.

    Then there are the more overt “myth” stories in the old testament, which Paul and Jesus both reference as things that are true. But their reference to their truth doesn't tell us if they literally happened. (I'm still wondering where those flaming swords *guarding* the tree of life are)

    If the Bible is half history and half myth, what makes it more truthful than other world mythologies? Certainly not for historical accuracy. For those who have studied the allegorical (“spiritual”) meaning of the Bible, you will see an enormous amount of intelligence and consistency. Whether this is divine workmanship is to be debated. These attributes can be seen in many religious/mythological texts. This allegorical truth angle is the way all myths work and how myths can be incredibly revelatory about mankind and the universe. The Baghavad-Gita text of the Hindu faith may not have literally happened and could even have historical inaccuracies, but if you read it as allegory (“spiritually”), many would be unable to say it lacks truth. Christians may even see that it mirrors the allegory of Christ.

    If there's an omniscient God, he would have orchestrated this blog. He would have caused all the details that are inconsistent or false to be written down in the Bible writings. He would be causing the very words that I'm writing now. He would have caused the Bible writers to lie, intentionally or unintentionally. But why? To deceive us?

    “And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the LORD, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.” - Ezekiel 14:9

    Christians who believe God is actually that sovereign are definitely a minority. But even these Christians will say that the Bible is true and literally happened (i.e. God's deception does not include deceiving man to believe everything in the Bible literally happened). Skimming this blog post will quickly reveal the insurmountable evidence that the Bible is not only inconsistent in details but outright depicts events that never happened historically. Christian apologists tend to focus on explaining away inconsistencies between Bible writers and “small” details, but rarely explaining away the events that never occurred historically. You could certainly rationalize that an omniscient God would give the Bible a “human touch” so as to not make it too obvious which is the True religious text. Especially because the Bible is all about the Truth being hidden and revealed to just a few. But it becomes harder to rationalize that an omniscient God would create texts posing as history with outright falsehoods, not just “minor” discrepancies on dates/locations/names. Is this deception to cause many to “fall away" from the faith? The Bible itself does not even explicitly tell us that we should read it literally. It does, however, tell us explicitly to read it “spiritually.”

    If the purpose was to deceive us, the entire Christian thrust through history has indicated Biblical infallibility, a text documenting literal and spiritual events. This assumption can be seen in the slow evolution of the Bible Canon (of which we still have about three widely accepted canons today with insertions and omisions of books) as well as the strict adherence to not going “above what is written". All of these inclinations indicate a belief in a literal Bible. When you question the reliability of the Bible (even at the hands of an omniscient God), this is usually where the line is drawn in the sand in a discussion with a Christian. This is an admission that they believe a fallible Bible would be a valid reason for doubt.

    - Nicholas