Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is the Bible Really God's Word?

A Bible
A while back, a car full of Jehova's Witnesses pulled into my driveway. They didn't talk to me. They merely handed me a booklet and drove away. I kept it because it's a barrel full of laughs. It's full of gems, like little sections that try to answer questions, such as "Is the Bible Really God's Word?"

Now, this is an official publication - not just some guy with a blog ranting about things. It's professionally done with graphic designers and copy writers. This is a carefully thought-out booklet, and surely they have all their ducks all in a row.

This is one gem that I enjoyed:

Scan of explanation for 'Is the Bible Really God's Word?'

Transcription:

Is the Bible Really God's Word?
Repeatedly, the Bible prophets wrote: "This is what Jehovah has said." (Isaiah 43:14; Jeremiah 2:2) Even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, emphasized that he did not speak on his own originality.' (John 14:10) The Bible itself clearly says: "All Scripture is inspired of God." - 2 Timothy 3:16

No other book is published in as many languages - over 2,200, as reported by the United Bible Societies. No other book has such a large circulation - now more than four billion copies. Is that not what you would expect of a message from God that is for all mankind?

For a fuller discussion of the evidences that the Bible is inspired of God, see the book The Bible - God's Word or Man's? published by Jehovah's Witnesses.

If you read the Bible with appreciation for the fact that it truly is God's Word, you will greatly benefit.
Unless they decided to present their dumbest "evidence" first, and leave the best for last, this is their A-game. This is the best they've got.

Let's look at the first point:
Repeatedly, the Bible prophets wrote: "This is what Jehovah has said." (Isaiah 43:14; Jeremiah 2:2) Even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, emphasized that he did not speak on his own originality.' (John 14:10) The Bible itself clearly says: "All Scripture is inspired of God." - 2 Timothy 3:16
Alright, so their top-of-the-list argument for why Bible is the Word of God is... because the Bible says so. Sometimes, circular reasoning can at least take a few intermediate steps before it comes back around, but not this argument! Nope: A -> B -> A

The Bible is the Word of God because the Bible says the Bible is the Word of God, and we know that's true because the Bible is the Word of God.

Argument 1 - Circular Reasoning
No other book is published in as many languages - over 2,200, as reported by the United Bible Societies. No other book has such a large circulation - now more than four billion copies. Is that not what you would expect of a message from God that is for all mankind?
So basically, the Bible is true because it's the top of the list in number of copies sold, and languages interpreted. This argument fails due to violating the "exclusion" principle of evidence.

Let's put it this way - let's do a "conclusion reversal". If we find that no other has sold more, would we conclude that the contents are true? Doesn't that seem like a very specific conclusion to jump to due to simply selling a lot of copies?

A stack of Nintendo Cartridges - Super Mario Brothers

I collect Nintendo games. Fuck emulators. The above photo shows my copies of Super Mario Bros. As a collector, it's difficult not to get these. I was looking at an eBay auction where I could buy 10 more of these. I couldn't find any statistics, but I'm pretty sure it's the single most common NES game in circulation.

Why was that? What can we conclude from that fact?

It must be an accurate historical document, right? Nope.
It must be the best game ever to grace the Nintendo Entertainment System, right? Nope (it's not bad, but it's hardly the best)

How else could this be the most common game if it isn't true or the best game? Well, each NES unit was sold with a copy. You got it whether you wanted it or not. All other games were sold separately, which meant that not everyone who bought an NES would have any particular other game.

This is how the numbers got bloated.

That's the key to this point - that the numbers of a thing can arise for a wide variety of reasons. Out of the three possibilities above (including the packaging of the game with the unit), any could lead to the copies being #1.

When we reverse the conclusion perspective, their argument for why Bibles are #1 seems like they've prematurely jumped to a conclusion. The three possibilities are basically the same for the Bible as it is for Super Mario Bros.

  1. The contents are true.
  2. It's top quality.
  3. Artificial bloating of numbers.
There's three basic possibilities, with no rhyme or reason, they just merely selected #1 as the conclusion. This is what happens when you start with a conclusion and try to find "evidence" that backs it up. You end up coming up with things like this, that if you view it from the opposite perspective, stops making any sense.

A book has sold many copies, therefore the contents are true? It's not just jumping to a conclusion, it's a straight-up non-sequitur. How does the number of copies indicate that the contents are true?

Do they not consider the idea that fiction might sell really well? The top-ten movies of all time are all fiction. 

The reason why the Bible is the #1 most sold book is not because it's true. It's because they proselytize like crazy. Like the NES comes pre-packaged with a copy of Super Mario Bros, Christian families come with at least one Bible, if not multiple. On top of that, Christians across the lands print out unfathomable amounts of Bibles to pass around, hand out on college campuses, place into hotels, populating and replacing existing ones, giving out as gifts, sending missionaries to Africa to "civilize" the natives, etc. 

The reason it's the most translated book (2200 languages) is not because the people with the other languages demanded it. It's because the Christians translated it in order to try to convert the heathens.


Here's the key (or another key). All this would happen regardless of whether the contents were accurate, or not. All it needs is a bunch of followers who think it's true. This isn't an accuracy-driven production demand.

This argument represents a severe void of critical thinking, and familiarity with the standards of evidence.
If you read the Bible with appreciation for the fact that it truly is God's Word, you will greatly benefit.
Outside of referencing the reader to more bullshit arguments, they wrap up with this.

Basically, you have to believe it before you read it, if you want to unlock it's potential - basically violating the "objectivity" standard of evidence. I'm not sure this was actually meant as an argument, but it smells of "this is how you can really know."


And... tada! That's how we know the Bible is really God's Word.








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