Mailvox: History and Christianity

JF wonders how to handle the historical angle:

I am a new reader to your blog (better late than never!) and I must say I am very impressed. I have your book “The Irrational Atheist” on my wishlist and am looking forward to reading it when the time comes. Quick summary of my worldview: Baptized as a Catholic, bordered on Deism/Agnosticism in my teens/young adulthood and then re-embraced Christianity after reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S Lewis, combined with a personal spiritual experience. I have now decided to return to the ranks of the RCC as I now approach my 30’s. After finding out the horrific crimes of State Atheism in the 20th century, and realizing the absolute bankruptcy of metaphysical naturalism in regards to objective morality and purpose, I lose no opportunity to challenge the few atheists I know and take them to task on their often narrow views. I have been successful when it comes to monotheism vs atheism. No problems there. The one chink in my armour, so to speak, is when discussing Christianity, and that is why I have come to you. While I am a mere amateur at this, you have ten times the intellect that I do and have sent the mightiest New Atheist arguments packing with the tail between their legs. So here is my problem and question for you and the purpose of this email:

How do/can I argue that Jesus Christ is the Son of God/Divine when the historicity, authorship and authenticity of the Gospels are often challenged or even dismissed by some scholars? Another example of this challenge is that many atheists (or non denominational monotheists, like my fiancee) champion the supposed fact that none of the Gospels are actual eyewitness accounts, but second or third-hand re-tellings of past events, often with gross embellishment and fabrication? Many scholars share this opinion and I find it difficult to refute. If one takes the Gospels (especially that of John) as an actual eye witness testimony of Jesus, then of course (thanks to the Lewis Trilema) one is almost forced to admit him to be the Son of God. But if someone does not consider the Gospels historically accurate, I have no way of arguing that Jesus was who he said he was.

First of all, you must recognize that they have just handed you a gigantic sledgehammer with which to smash their feigned rationale for their lack of faith. It is only the historically illiterate and the willfully dishonest who consider the Gospels to be historically inaccurate. There are three things to keep in mind. 1) If it were not for the supernatural claims, not a single historian would cast any aspersions on either the Old or New Testament. 2) As an archeological guide, the Bible has repeatedly proven to be far more accurate than the current state of archeological science. There are a host of examples where scientists thought to have disproved the Biblical history, such as the nonexistent “Assyrian” and “Hittite” empires, only to learn to their chagrin that they were incorrect and the Bible was supported by the archeological evidence. The relatively recent discovery of a Bronze Age kingdom in Israel which corresponds with the Davidic kingdom is another, more recent example of this phenomenon. 3) Rejecting the Bible as a historically reliable document on any of the grounds usually cited requires rejecting most of history’s most famous figures, including Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great.

For example, the primary source on Alexander the Great, Arrian, was writing as a second-hand source more than 400 years after Alexander. All four Gospels, on the other hand, were clearly written within 70 years of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. “The Gospels are dated traditionally as follows: Mark is believed to be the first gospel written around A.D. 60. Matthew and Luke follow and are written between A.D. 60-70; John is the final gospel, written between A.D. 90-100.” And Paul’s letters were written between 48 AD and 60 AD.

The best way of defeating these silly arguments is through brutal mockery. For example, you can ask them if they are asserting that it was the Persian Empire that occupied Judea and not the Roman Empire as the Bible has it. Or you can ask them if it was Julius Caesar who ordered the famous census that led to Mary and Joseph being at Bethlehem, not Octavian. You will be surprised at how most atheists with whom you speak will stick their heads directly into the easiest of historical traps. Once they have done so, you can point out that they have absolutely no grounds for holding an opinion on the historical reliability of the Bible.

The zero-reserve banking system

Unbelievable. They certainly didn’t teach this in our economics textbooks. From Ben Bernanke’s testimony to the House Committee on Financial Services:

Given the very high level of reserve balances currently in the banking system, the Federal Reserve has ample time to consider the best long-run framework for policy implementation. The Federal Reserve believes it is possible that, ultimately, its operating framework will allow the elimination of minimum reserve requirements, which impose costs and distortions on the banking system.

Those who have RGD will note that this elimination of reserve requirements would theoretically permit the former fractional-reserve banks to make an infinite amount of loans regardless of what deposits they hold. This would also theoretically provide a rational basis for the hyperinflation scenario, but as I have pointed out many times before, even an infinite money multiple will require an infinity of borrowers.

If this does not make it clear to you that the financial authorities are getting desperate, I don’t know what will. The ironic thing is that most people still believe that the fractional-reserve system is based on a 10% minimum reserve requirement.

March Madness

This would be your NCAA tournament thread. Unleash the bracket hounds. CBS has kindly provided an online live stream.

And they wonder why we laugh

No woman who is incapable of figuring out that Time always outruns Beauty in the end can reasonably be considered intelligent. Consider Elizabeth Wurtzel’s lament that while beauty fades, loneliness lasts:

When I was still in my twenties, for several years I had this wonderful boyfriend; I’ll call him Gregg—he’s the one we’re all waiting for: tall, blue-eyed, with this thick black hair, all smart and sensitive, an inveterate graduate student who used to rub my feet at the end of the day with a lovely pink peppermint lotion from the Body Shop. It was young and romantic. You’d have thought we were happy. I think really we were happy. He was good for me: People met him and liked me better because I was going out with him; his sweetness redounded to me like a sunny day on a dark sidewalk. I could have and probably should have spent the rest of my life with him…. I became seasick with contentment. It was nauseating daily, and I couldn’t still myself against a funny feeling that there had to be more to life than waking up every day beside the same person. To say I was bored would be to misunderstand boredom: I did not need to take up table tennis or ballroom dancing—I needed a sense that this wasn’t the end of the story. The idea of forever with any single person, even someone great whom I loved so much like Gregg, really did seem like what death actually is: a permanent stop….

Age is a terrible avenger. The lessons of life give you so much to work with, but by the time you’ve got all this great wisdom, you don’t get to be young anymore. And in this world, that’s just about the worst thing that can happen—especially to a woman. Whoever said youth is wasted on the young actually got it wrong; it’s more that maturity is wasted on the old.

The single most amusing thing about the women of modernity is that in their pursuit of finding happiness through imitating masculinity, they have forgotten that most basic of market principle: buy low, sell high. Time is not cruel, but it is both indifferent and inexorable. In almost every circumstance, the women that I have seen turn down good men of suitable quality who wanted to marry them in their early and middle twenties wound up settling for lower quality men in their late twenties and thirties. And they are the fortunate and happy ones; those who are still unmarried and childless in their early forties are nearly all full of regrets for the various opportunities they either rejected or simply allowed to pass them by.

The root problem seems to be that women are horrifically bad at anticipating what they are going to want in the future. The usual female pattern proceeds thusly: In her teens, a woman wants to focus on her education and having fun through a series of practice relationships. Her main concern is actually how much admiration she generates from men and her concomitant status among women. In her early to middle twenties, she wants to focus on her job and having fun through sampling a variety of penises; her main concern is actually not getting tied down to any commitments, professional or personal. In both stages A and B, she will swear up and down that she doesn’t ever want to have children for some nonsensical reason or another, although she is open to getting married someday off in the distant and nebulous future.

Stage C begins when her friends start getting engaged, usually in her late-twenties. Then she decides that she might be “okay” with one or two children and begins a desultory search for a marriageable man. However, this search is usually interrupted by a series of disastrous affairs with various Alphas, bad boys, and marriage-allergic men. She often talks about how confused she is and has no coherent focus; her main concern is to maintain her social equivalency with her female friends. At this point, the smarter women settle down and get married to the best available man since their marriage value is still high enough that they can attract a man of reasonable quality. The more foolish women convince themselves that they are even more attractive than they were in their early twenties due to their educations and careers and decide they have another decade before they “have to settle”.

Stage D is the early to middle thirties. A detectable edge of desperation begins to set in; you will seldom talk to a woman in her thirties who does not bring up science out of the blue and and ramble on about how it will allow her to have children in her forties. She is often in total denial about the decline in her market value and often wastes years dating higher quality men who are not actually on the marriage market. Her focus is now getting married as soon as possible so she can still have children, however, her inability to properly value herself causes her to pass over the sort of men who are actually willing to settle for her.

Elizabeth Wurtzel is in stage E. She is past her prime, she knows she is past it, and she is now regretting the potential husband she foolishly threw away in stage C. Her focus is now on finding a husband, although she knows it is probably too late for children. She appears destined to be a Stage F failure, also known as a Companion to Many Cats. This is not a worthless societal role, or necessarily an undignified one, but it is not one that most young women in their teens dream about.

The basic problem of female self-valuation is compounded by the challenge posed by the male Madonna-Whore division. What is attractive to a man on a short term basis is not necessarily attractive to a man on a long term basis. I would estimate that a woman can expect to regularly attract men who are two points higher in Whore mode than she can in Madonna mode. If you’re a 20 year-old seven who regularly has flings with men you rate as eights and nines, you should actively look for marriage material among the men you would rate as fives to sevens. This will significantly increase your chances of long term success; remember that in 15 years you are going to be a five, not a seven, while that five that you find barely attractive now has the potential to move up to a six or even a seven on the scale due to the way women value financial success and social substance over physical looks.

There are always outliers, of course. And the progression I describe obviously doesn’t apply to all women. There are even a few lucky women who are more attractive in Stage C than in Stage A or B. But in general, a woman will be well served by applying the buy low, sell high principle and marrying a man who is between five and ten years older before she reaches the age of 25. And above all, remember that what you think you will want in ten years is almost surely not what you will actually want in ten years and that drama is much more entertaining on television than it is in real life.

And this comment really says it all: “I was shocked at my visceral response to reading this column. I cried uncontrollably. I’m tearing up as I type this comment. There are so many reasons why Elizabeth’s story had such an effect on me…. I spent my entire life working towards my career and then lost it in the blink of an eye. Meanwhile, men were basically play things coming in and out of my life. (Think Samantha; Sex and the City.) I was never the relationship type. My longest relationship lasted a year during my junior year of college. That was 20 years ago. Now, I’ll be 40 in July.”

Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I laughed, I did.