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In June 2006 I received a gift from a secret admirer. It was a box containing four books, sent to me, according to the delivery advice note, as "A gift from Mr Daniel Lindsay". As I don't think I know anyone by this name and a check of my email archives don't turn up anyone with this name ever contacting me, the identity of Mr Lindsay must remain a mystery for the time being. Here are my comments about two of these books. I should like to point out that these two books fell into the very exclusive category of books which I could not force myself to finish reading.
The Case for Christ starts off by saying that it is going to examine the evidence for the existence of Jesus and the authenticity of the Gospels, but it soon turns into a series of statements by scholars who each seem to know a particular truth, who claim to be supported by all other biblical scholars, but who seem paradoxically to be at odds with all other biblical scholars. Statements about the authorship and dating of the gospels seem to contradict what most scholars say, but that doesn't stop the people interviewed in this book from claiming full support from the academic community. There are inconsistencies between what these experts have to say, but these are ignored, and the main form of evidence for the accuracy of the gospel stories is that the stories appear in the gospels. Fundamentalism at its best. One uniting factor is a virulent hatred of the Jesus Seminar, a cooperative project which started about 20 years ago and brought together hundreds of New Testament scholars to examine the stories about Jesus and judge their veracity. The Seminar decided that Jesus existed but that many of the things he is reported to have done or said cannot be confirmed. This was not good enough for the fundamentalists interviewed by Strobel – if it is in the Bible, it must be true. (I wonder how much of their animosity comes from the fact that none of them were invited to take part in the seminars.)
Strobel's style of reporting the interviews is extremely irritating, as he tries to describe all the minutiae of coffee drinking, smiling, raising eyebrows, and other such pieces of irrelevance. This wasn't enough to make me give up reading, however, but I had to stop when one of the interviewees started ranting about atheists, liberals and left-wingers. This was a man whose mind could not be changed with a brain transplant, and the trend of the book suggested that later interviews were going to be even more useless.
The Case for a Creator also starts off by claiming that it is going to chronicle a dispassionate search for facts, and again takes the form of a series of interviews with experts. I didn't get as far into this book because I just simply got sick of the adjective "atheist" being applied to anyone who might have a positive view of evolution, but what made me finally give up was the realisation that all the interviewees were going to be either from the Discovery Institute or fully supportive of its deceptive attempts to disguise creationism as science. One good point, however, is that nobody interviewed for this book can claim in the future that their opposition to evolution is not based on religion.
I cannot see who these books benefit except Strobel and his publishers. There is nothing in them that would cause a non-believer to have any doubt at all, and they must be an embarrassment to any real believer who takes their religion seriously. The amount of deception and sophistry in the defence of God must also be an irritation to Him if He exists. I am glad that I got these books for nothing, but even then I paid many times what they are worth.
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