The Historical Unreliability of Jesus: A Review of Robert VanVoorst’s Jesus Outside The New Testament
by Sarah Schoonmaker
Robert VanVoorst’s Jesus Outside the New Testament claims to provide evidence for Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection from non-Christian historians and Jewish writings. Jesus Outside the New Testament refers to the following classical writers in order to defend the historical reliability of Jesus: Thallos, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus. The purpose of this review is to address the historical writers that remain lauded as evidence for the historical Jesus and demonstrate how they all fail to bolster any historical support for Christianity.
VanVoorst points to Thallos as the earliest reference to Jesus set in the middle of the first century 55 C.E. Most of Thallos’ works perished, but was quoted by Sextus Julius Africanus, a Christian writer in his History of the World. This book was eventually lost, but the quote originating with Thallos was also mentioned by Byzantine historian, Georgius Syncellus. According to Syncellus, when Julius Africanus writes about the darkness of the death of Jesus, he mentions that, “Thallos calls this an eclipse of the sun, which seems to be wrong.”[i] Julius claims that the darkness was miraculous, “a darkness induced by God.” Even though Thallos could have mentioned the eclipse with no reference to Jesus, VanVoorst claims that it is more likely that Julius who had access to the context of Thallos’ quotation was correcting Thallos as a “hostile reference to Jesus’ death.”[ii] For instance, VanVoorst concludes, “if Thallos was simply writing about an eclipse, Julius Africanus would not have cared to say that Thallos was mistaken.”[iii]
In logic, when an argument against a particular view is offered, one mentions the claim under refutation, followed by premises and a conclusion. If Thallos were arguing against the claim that the eclipse was associated with the death of Jesus, he would have mentioned this event. However, there is no reference to Jesus, so therefore, one cannot conclude that it is even likely that Thallos was responding to a Christian claim about the “darkness induced by God” surrounding Jesus’ death. VanVoorst’s conclusion is a straw man fallacy because he creates an argument that Thallos does not claim to make. At best one may only infer that Thallos wrote about Jesus in his lost writings, but this is a massive assumption.
Pliny the Younger
As a prominent lawyer and senator in Rome, Pliny published nine books of letters between 100 and 109.[iv] He writes about punishment of Christians specifically by the Roman governor Trajan. Pliny also records that Christians would “sing hymns to Christ before dawn on a determined day and took oaths to refrain from theft, robbery, and adultery, not to break any promises, and not to withhold a deposit when reclaimed.”[v]
Pliny also tells Trajan that, “many people of all classes, ages, and regions of his province are infected by this contagious superstition.”[vi] VanVoorst credits this source fairly by claiming that Pliny’s writings do not bear independent witness to Jesus independent of Christianity. “What is related about Christ confirms two points made in the New Testament: first, Christians worship Christ in their songs (Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:15-20; Rev. 5:11,13), and second, no Christian reviles or curses Christ (1 Cor. 12:3). Pliny, however, shows no knowledge of Christian writings in his letter.”[vii]
Pliny bears witness to the practices of Christianity and the persecution from the government. However, he offers no contribution to the historical Jesus. As a result, he is equivalent to any other historian writing about Greek mythology. Just because a historian writes about a certain group worshipping a god or gods, this does not validate the existence of their god or gods.
The Roman writer Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (ca. 70-ca. 140) practiced law in Rome and was a friend of Pliny the Younger. He published a book Lives of the Caesars, which covers the lives and careers of the first twelve emperors, from Julius Caesar to Domitian.[viii] In the fifth section of Lives of the Caesars, Suetonius reports how emperor Claudius treated several people during his reign. The quote claimed to support Jesus Christ is as follows, “He (Claudius) expelled the Jews from Rome, since they were always making disturbances because of the instigator Chrestus.”[ix]
VanVoorst claims that “Christus” often found confusion with “Chrestus,” by non-Christians. Furthermore, the Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century) spells Christian with an -“eta” in all three New Testament occurrences of the word (Acts 11:26, 26:8; 1 Pet 4:16).[x] In particular, “Christians” were also referred to as “Chrestians.” I find VanVoorst most convincing for the possibility of the connection to Jesus Christ when he claims that ‘Chrestus’ “does not appear among the hundreds of names of Jews recorded by the Roman catacomb inscriptions and other sources, yet was a familiar Gentile name. He concludes that this opens the door to the possibility that Suetonius may have confused Christus for Chrestus.”[xi] On the contrary, Bart Ehrman notes that Suetonius is probably referencing an individual “Chrestus” and Jesus’ followers, since Jesus of the Gospels was executed twenty years prior to the riots.[xii] My conclusion rests on the possibility of a reference to Jesus Christ here, however advances no farther than speculative evidence.
As a Roman historian, Tacitus is most famously known for the Annals, which covers the Roman Empire from 14-68 C.E. and includes information about the reign of Nero. He records Nero’s probable arson of Rome in order to implement his own architectural designs and how he passed the blame to Christians as a ready scapegoat. As a result of this blame, Nero heatedly persecuted Christians and Tacitus wrote the following about this, “But neither human effort nor the emperor’s generosity nor the placating of the gods ended the scandalous belief that the fire had been ordered. Therefore, to put down the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits and punished in the most unusual ways those hated for their shameful acts, whom the crowd called “Chrestians.” The founder of this name, Christ, had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate.”[xiii]
Indeed, emperor Nero used Christians as a scapegoat to explain the fire, which broke out in Rome (64 A.D.). Tacitus mentions that the Christians were likely not the cause of the fire, but used the fire as an excuse to persecute Christians. The Annals do not prove that Jesus Christ existed but merely that Christians existed in the First Century A.D., which no scholar has ever disputed. Since Tacitus recorded The Annals one hundred years after Jesus’ proposed existence, this lacks historical reliability. It is important to remember that the negative evidence cited above is not “absence of evidence,” but rather “evidence of absence.” In science, negative evidence is often as important as positive evidence.
As a Jewish historian, Josephus briefly mentions Jesus two times in the Antiquities. Josephus mentions James “the brother of Jesus who is called Messiah” (Ant. 20.9.1). While Josephus does discuss many individuals with the name Jesus in the Antiquities, he does not refer to any of them as “Messiah.” I believe this is a reference to the Jesus of the Gospels since no other Jesus was associated with “Messiah” or called by its definition, “the anointed one.” While I grant this as a reference to Jesus of the Gospels, the credibility of this reference remains highly contestable.
For instance, Josephus’ other reference has him professing faith in Jesus, calling him Messiah when Josephus never became a Christian in the first place. “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
Since Christian scribes copied Josephus’ writings through the Middle Ages, it is controversial whether his references to Jesus were altered or not. While Christians quote this passage as reliable evidence to Jesus’ existence, teachings, and resurrection, these references did not show up in the writings of Josephus until centuries after his death, at the beginning of the fourth century. Thoroughly dishonest church historian Eusebius is credited as the real author. The passage is out of context, which points to text alteration. All scholars agree that Josephus, a Jew who never converted to Christianity, would not have called Jesus “the Christ” or “the truth,” so the passage must have been doctored by a later Christian–evidence, by the way, that some early believers were in the habit of altering texts to the advantage of their theological agenda. The phrase “to this day” reveals it was written at a later time. Everyone agrees there was no “tribe of Christians” during the time of Josephus–Christianity did not get off the ground until the second century.
If Jesus were truly important to history, then Josephus should have told us something about him. Yet he is completely silent about the supposed miracles and deeds of Jesus. He adds nothing to the Gospel narratives and tells us nothing that would not have been known by Christians in either the first or fourth centuries. The paragraph mentions that the divine prophets foretold Jesus, but Josephus does not tell what they said or us who those prophets were. If Jesus had truly been the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, then Josephus would have been the exact person to confirm it.
VanVoorst, Robert. 2000. Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence,
(Grand Rapids, MI: Erdmans), 20
[ii] Ilbid, 21
[iii] Ilbid, 21
[iv] Ilbid, 23
[v] Ilbid, 25
[vi] Ilbid, 26
[vii] Ilbid, 29
[viii] Ilbid, 29
[ix] Ilbid, 30
[x] Ilbid, 31
[xi] Ilbid, 33
[xii] Ehrman, Bart. 2001. Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 58
[xiii] VanVoorst, Robert. 2000. Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Grand Rapids, MI: Erdmans, 41
(Sarah Schoonmaker is completing her second BA in philosophy at the University of Colorado–Denver after receiving a BSBA in Finance from the University of Denver and an M.Div from Denver Seminary. She plans to begin a Ph.D program in the fall of 2010 to study philosophy of science, philosophy of language, logic, and epistemology. In the meantime, she researches and writes on a variety of topics covering religion, science, culture, and philosophy. For more information see: www.schoonmaker.wordpress.com.)
What Would that Carpenter Do?
by Noah Mann-Engel
Have you ever had an argument with a Christian?
Don’t worry! This essay is not about specific opinions held by believers and nonbelievers, but an examination of how believers choose to view and argue matters with the latter. I, unfortunately, have and let me tell you it is not a fun experience. First of all one needs to understand that for the Christian (or Jew, or Muslim, or Hindu or Satanist, etc.) an argument with a nonbeliever is in actuality not an argument at all, but a TEACHING opportunity. Their thought process is as follows; if, a nonbeliever, [you] have the temerity to approach [me] a Christian then you must be seeking the truth of [our] Lord. Why would they want anything else from [me]? This is the first, or, “Jesus be praised a soul to save!” stage.
They have already disregarded and ignored your actually intentions and views before you even share them. They now move on to the “sharing the truth of our Lord” stage where they let you talk for a bit while they stare, smile, and nod pleasantly. This is the second, or, “I am your Christian friend and I listen” stage of the argument. This is where you quote Nietzsche, talk about the logical loopholes in Pascal’s Wager, wield Occam’s Razor like a katana, and just generally use your reasoning skills. You start to feel a little good yourself for holding up so well against this Christian fellow. I mean come one! The guy is even smiling in response to your argument! Little do you know that you are now entering the third stage of the Christian argument process: the “that is nice, but why are you so deluded?” stage.
You see, while he/she was standing there nodding like a hula dancer bobble-head doll, your Christian was actually puzzling over the strange noises you were making about something or another… Why isn’t the nonbeliever shutting up and getting excited about hearing the word of our Lord? Your Christian friend begins his/her argument by praising your intellect.. Example, he/she might try to disarm you with kindness by saying something like this: “Wow! You sure are a smart fellow. I wasn’t quite prepared for THAT (chuckles in a self deprecating way). But (and THIS is where the fun really begins), why don’t you believe in god?” This is where you sit in stunned silence for a moment or two. Did this whack-job really just ask you that? YOU JUST TOLD HIM WHY you didn’t believe, you think to yourself. You politely remind the Christian of this fact, and he/she chuckles again before suddenly entering the fourth stage, the “I would be a hooker/drug addict/homeless person without Christ” stage.
This stage is rather boring, and consists of the Christian telling you how he thinks his belief in a dead carpenter saved him from his raging meth addiction. After relating this riveting story to you the Christian poses a question that he/she thinks will really get you in a bind! He/she asks “So, how would I get over all of these terrible problems if their wasn’t a god? eh, eh, EH?” This is when you smile and say to yourself “oh I’ve got him/her now”. But, sadly, your optimism is grossly misplaced. You begin by saying that all the good things that happened to the Christian could also be explained by personal strength, the help of friends and family, and perseverance. God need not enter the equation at all! Now feeling very good about yourself you unwittingly enter the deadly fifth stage of the Christian’s argument: the “But the Love and the Heart” stage.
It starts when you ask your Christian friend “isn’t it true what I said? You DID get through your troubles by yourself. You only added god because you WANTED him to be involved”. But alas, you have just sprung the trap. Your Christian friend grins and replies with a question of his/her own; “But, what about the Love and the Heart?” You pause. You think that maybe you misheard your Christian friend. So ask them to repeat him/herself. He/she gladly complies. “All I meant was there has to be a god because of the Love, and the HEART! (chuckles)” This is the point where you realized that you just wasted 15 minutes of your precious time. You feign a smile and say “we just have to agree to disagree” and that it was nice talking. Your Christian friend thus enters the sixth and final stage of the argument: the “That’s great! Hey! I have an idea! Why don’t you come down to our church sometime?” stage. The Christian gives you some colorful literature on their church, their beliefs, and of course an anti-abortion pamphlet. The Christian then shakes your hand, and walks away to find his/her next soul to save. You are left feeling a little used, a little amused, and very hungry. You get up, and head over to the vending machine to get a Milky Way bar.
(this essay is based on a real conversation I had with a evangelical Christian in my sophomore year at Northern Illinois University)
(Noah Mann-Engel is a poet and writer from Dekalb Illinois. He is a life long atheist who with aspergers, an autistic spectrum disorder. You can see some of his writing in the upcoming summer editions of Fighting Chance magazine, Love’s Chance magazine, and in the American Scholastic Press Association honored spring 2007 edition of The Prairie Light Review. He is also in the process of writing his first novel.)
AN ATHEIST’S GUIDE TO BECOMING RELIGIOUS
by Troy Conrad
Lately, I’ve had many atheists write to me, asking if now is a good time to become religious again. It seems that the departure of the Bush Administration has awoken the vast majority of the atheist community to the simple fact that theocracy is no longer a threat here or abroad. It is high time to embrace what we once called superstition, dust off that Bible lifted in protest from the Holiday Inn, and delve once more into the church, dear friends.
For some, a conversion or reconversion to reverence seems a daunting task. As freethinkers, we’ve gotten a bit rusty in the worship department. When working out the faith muscle, we must start slowly so it doesn’t get overtaxed. Start out at the Joel Osteen level, before you consider going full Falwell. If you’re one of the 5% still on the fence about taking this sacred surge, ponder the inarguable, massive benefit of taking the faith train to Godville.
Huge time savings. Take into account how much time you spend thinking. Now cut that in half. Now cut that in half, and repeat until you reach zero, because you now have a handy-dandy book that makes your decisions for you. As Ted Haggard said: “We don’t have to have a debate about what we should think about homosexuality. It’s written in the Bible.” Add up the time it would have taken you to mentally debate this, and use it to go golfing. It is estimated that by eliminating thinking by 95%, the average American would save 14 hours per week. Based on the new U.S. minimum wage increase, that translates to $5,278 per American each year. That’s almost enough to purchase a Smart Car.
It should be quite clear that there has never been a better time to stop and smell the rosary. Though there are obstacles ahead for the skeptical mind, here are some simple, tested guidelines to help you go from “infidel” to just plain “fidel” in just a few short weeks.
Make meaning out of small things, so that you can be trusted to make meaning out of large things. Before you can calm your inquisitive mind and embrace the idea of a loving, caring, and jealous God, you’ll need to start with baby steps. Reading tea leaves and taking fortune cookies literally is a good start toward making meaning out of everyday situations. Is a tearful image of God’s only Son right there in your bag of Funyons? Has an outline of the savior shown up on your shower curtain? Did your lawnmower leak lubricant, only to leave a loving image of God’s only Son on the garage floor? Course through all snack foods, pre-made burger patties, tortillas (both corn and flour), breakfast flakes, nut mixes, or hastily topped frozen pizzas. If the image of Christ or Mary appears, remind yourself that it is not simply coincidence.
Re-read The God Delusion with a more critical eye. Maybe Richard Dawkins himself was sent to test your faith. Have you considered that maybe the only reason Dawkins even writes books is because he thinks he’s better than you?
Develop your ability to follow orders. For freethinkers who have not been in the military, you have a problem with obedience to authority. This can be remedied by wearing a rubber band around your wrist. Simply snap it against your flesh each time you become inquisitive. Do this every day for 21 days, and obedience will become your second best friend. The virtue of obedience will also prepare you quite well for the workforce should something open up.
Watch The Flintstones. Seeing humans and dinosaurs co-exist again will help free the mind from any previous knowledge of anthropology, paleontology, or history. Likewise, shows like Two and a Half Men will leave you with no compulsion to watch documentaries and other shows that contain information.
Be stingy with your new virginity. Since virginity is restored when you become a Christian, don’t just go and give it away now. You need to save it for marriage or Senior Prom. Post a pledge to Bristol Palin’s abstinence organization, and join Promise Keepers right away to build a solid, iron-clad moral and ethical foundation. Additionally, the purchase of a Smart Car is a great way to keep from losing your virginity in the backseat this time around.
Invent a new controversy. If it’s possible to revive a formerly settled debate such as creation vs. evolution, surely there are scores of other settled controversies to renew. These new debates will bring more validity to your newfound belief system, and balance out all the science that’s stuck in your head. Next time you hear people arguing about abortion, say something like: “Whoa! This is almost as heated as the ‘prayer vs. single payer health care’ debate!”
Use the “caps lock” on your keyboard. Many atheists are prone to using a lower case “g” when typing the word “God.” This habit, left unchecked, is an embarrassing mistake for the newly anointed. Using the caps lock is a foolproof solution, making it impossible to mess up a phrase such as: “MAY GOD BLESS E. E. CUMMINGS.”
White-out the violent parts of the Bible. Let’s be honest. Any book that condones rape, murder, genocide, and incest can be a real bummer. Just memorize the parts with the word “love” if you want to really make a difference.
Put “under God” back in the Pledge. You may have loudly objected to the addition of those two words added to the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy era. Noble at the time, but you’re a believer now. Besides, why not prepare yourself for a visit to Ireland? They’ve just passed a bold new Anti-blasphemy Law. It would be rude and illegal to omit “under God” when saying the Pledge in the Emerald Isle.
Write down what you would like your City of Gold to look like. You’re going to get one when you die (Revelation 21:18), so sit down and design your city intelligently. Gold is currently near an all-time high, so guess who just picked a great time to be a Christian?
Purchase a firearm. God loves you now, and you’ve taken an oath to “treat your body as a temple.” If someone is loitering near your temple, you better have the stopping power to keep it looking good. A .50 caliber Smith & Wesson will clear out anyone’s temple. Though Christianity is a religion of peace, there’s a nugget of wisdom in the phrase: “Kill ‘em all, and let God sort ‘em out.”
Try a night of gay sex. If you end up liking it, you will meet more people to share your faith with. If you end up disliking it, then your repentance and faith will just get stronger. Either way, God wins.
(Note: Though it’s our responsibility to vote against same-sex marriage, same sex-one-night-hookups are not specifically forbidden by name in the Book of Leviticus.)
It is my hope that these steps to religiosity can help spark a return to the peacefulness of the Middle Ages. I am currently compiling some tips for nonbelievers with a background in Islam, so that they, too, can enjoy the massive benefits of a religious society. So, my fellow former-faithless friends… I am glad that we can all be a part of this new “beginning of faith” together, and I look forward to seeing you all at the Sunday meetups. I’ll be the guy in the Smart Car.
Troy Conrad is a comic, writer, and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He is the creator of The Comedy Jesus Show, which toured internationally, and has just received distribution on DVD. He is featured in the upcoming Paul Provenza book “Satiristas” with Janeane Garafalo, Stephen Colbert, and George Carlin. To see videos from The Comedy Jesus Show, go to www.atheistcomedy.com or subscribe to “comedyjesus” on Youtube.
Below is a conversation I had with several people (who’s names have been concealed for privacy) on Facebook. Watch and see why it is almost impossible to joke with committed Christians. I didn’t edit this convo too much, besides concealing the names, only those comments that weren’t invloved in talking to me have been removed, other than that…it’s all there. Enjoy
Evangelical Friend (EF)- I got my license (FB Status)
Just one more driver-less car come the Rapture…oh wait…we don’t have to worry about something that isn’t going to happen…whew…I was scared there for a second
Friend of EF #1
You put a lot of effort into things that aren’t true.
Prove me wrong Stephen.
Friend of EF #1
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
Stephen. The bible isn’t proof. You’re using circular reasoning. Please try again.
Friend of EF
Pearls before swine, love. Pearls before swine.
That doesn’t make sense. If you’re calling me a pig, that is quite the intelligent, thoughtful, Christian thing to do…ad hominim.
Friend of EF #2
LOL! It’s an expression. Google it or something. 😉 Goodnight!
Or…don’t be 7 years old.
Friend of EF #2
Oh ho ho… Ad hominim, much? Joel….
To stick with the animal metaphors: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. But I really was talking about your conduct rather than you, so it really doesn’t qualify as ad hominim, please look up the definition of words before you use them.
Friend of EF #3
Joel, if you don’t like Christians, why do you like to start arguments with them?
I didn’t start an argument. I said something clever, you guys got pissed. Grow a sense of humor, please.
And for the record, I do like Christians.
Friend of EF #3
That does suck how quickly arguments get started on here…And sounds fair enough to me Joel.
Thank you, Chris. I like you for this very reason.
Friend of EF #3
And I do have to apologize, you didn’t start an argument, one just kind of…appeared…The only reason people got upset was because you were mocking our beliefs, same as you would feel if we mocked yours about something =/
I see and I understand. But in all seriousness I was only kidding around, as I usually am. Beliefs that are held to sacred make people crazy, stuffy and not fun to be around.
Friend of EF #4 (The Angry, Irrational One)
joel you’re seriously retarded. grow up. stop starting ridiculous arguments on something that has nothing to do with Christians at all. she got her license.. leave her alone.
good job EF! congrats! 🙂 do you have a car?
Sara, please see Chris’ comments and my responses to them. Get over yourself and get a sense of humor. I also appreciate the very Christian, thoughtful and intelligent ad hominim attack, great stuff. It’s original to call someone “retarded”. If your beliefs aren’t strong enough to stand up to a little ribbing now and again, get some new beliefs.
Friend of EF #4 (The Angry, Irrational One)
haha. you are a retard. thats why i called you that. you have no idea what you are talking about. leave danae alone. my beliefs are never threatened by your silly little jabs filled with words you find in a thesaurus. grow up. leave young girls you don’t know alone. i will NEVER understand why danae still has you as a friend.. or puts up with the drama you start. DANAE: you can’t help anyone who doesn’t want to be helped. delete him.
Quite judgmental for a Christian. Funny how you don’t know me at all and yet can claim all these things. I don’t use a thesaurus for my vocabulary, thank you, but I digress. For someone like you who resorts to childish ad hominim to tell me to grow up is the beginning of a good joke. Ya know, you could understand if you asked her…but since you’re a Christian I guess you’ve been discouraged from asking questions your whole life, just a guess though. I have more knowledge about your silly religion, called Chrsitianity, in my pinky, that you do in your whole body. Have a good night and be safe.
Friend of EF #4 (The Angry, Irrational One)
Christians are judgmental. they should be. there’s even a book called “Judges” in the Bible. next time do your research before claiming to know so much. And for someone so anti-judgement, you are pretty quick to say since i am a Christian, i have been discouraged to ask questions about life. man, you really are dumber than i thought…
Friend of EF # 5
Way to go! That is awesome! And I am saying that to both EF and Friend of EF #4 (The Angry, Irrational One)
Abortion is one of the most controversial issues of our time. Like most controversies, there exist two main sides that seem diametrically opposed to each other. However, I believe that in this conflict there is a way for both sides to work together towards a common goal that will benefit both human life and society for the long term. Before continuing it is important to clarify where each side stands. Those on the “pro-life” side assert that abortion is morally wrong. This is usually, but not always, based on the assertion that God (usually the Christian god) has a purpose for all human beings and that the soul enters the zygote at the moment of conception. If one holds these assertions as truth it isn’t difficult to feel some sympathy to for their position. For those who stand on the side of being “pro-choice”, abortion is seen as primarily a medical procedure. Further, most “pro-choicers” would say that it should be a last resort only after all other options and factors such as personal socioeconomic situation and health have been carefully considered. This is because abortion, by its very nature, is intrusive, can lead to irreparable damage to the reproductive abilities of the woman and can have severe emotional side-effects (similar to those of women who have miscarried, ie. natural abortion). Therefore, they see abortion as a choice but one that should be used sparingly.
One side feels it is absolutely wrong while the other sees it as treatment and thus not completely wrong. Most of the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” individuals I have known through the years would generally agree with this summary of their general views on the subject. However, there are extremists on both sides. Carl Sagan[i] said of them, “doubtful arguments are trotted out as certitudes”. Thus, it would appear that there is little possibility of reconciliation between the sides. One side feels it is absolutely wrong while the other sees it as treatment and thus not completely wrong. How then could they be convinced to work together? To what common goal could they possibly work towards? To begin, I point out that both sides can agree that abortion is at minimum, undesirable. With this minor agreement as a foundation let us consider other procedures past and present that have either been eradicated from medical practice or are presently being phased out due to current medical therapies/treatments/advances.
For simplicity, let us consider another undesirable medical practice that is less controversial, at least ethically; amputation. Surgical amputations “date back at least to the time of Hippocrates (c.460-375 B.C.), amputating limbs to save lives did not become widespread until the sixteenth century.”(Source) Obviously, amputations “were performed mainly to remove tissue that was already dead. The reason for this limitation is that early surgical techniques could not control the blood loss.” (Source) Advances were made in surgical practices to prevent this hemorrhaging such as tying off the arteries. (Source) Amputation is an extreme medical practice which, over time given medical advances, decreases in use relative to the population. In a 1998 article in the journal “Diabetes Care”, Andrew D. Morris, MD et.al. found that “rates in the U.S. Amputation rates appear to have decreased significantly since 1980–1982.”(Source) The reason given for the decrease was education about diabetes and advances in care. Another study found that “[t]he frequency of major amputations in the country in 1986-87 of 40.9 per 100,000 per year declined by 25% to 30.9 per 100,000 per year in 1989-90.”(Source), stating further that “vascular surgery reduces the number of major lower limb amputations.”(Source) Given these and many other examples, it is clear that medical advances both in practice and education are responsible for a great deal of the reduction in the use of such an invasive, life-altering, and extreme medical procedure.
How does this relate to abortion? Not only is abortion undesirable, it is also invasive, life-altering and extreme. Thus, just as with the case of amputation; where instead of targeting the practice itself the causes were targeted, we should strive to eliminate the causes of abortions as much as possible. Abortion is obviously necessary in certain cases such as fallopian-tube babies, that if left to go to term, would kill the mother. Furthermore, just as education about diabetes helped in the reduction of amputations, so too can better sex education and the elimination of “abstinence-only” education reduce the need for abortions among ignorant or accident-prone young people. The following quote from Carl Sagani drives this point home: “Shouldn’t opponents of abortion be handing out contraceptives and teaching school children how to use them? That would be an effective way to reduce the number of abortions.” Though it is true that you can’t prevent or solve all amputations, so too will we not be able to end all abortions. That is where technology and research is vital. However, we can, if we work together instead of fighting about who believes what, we can end most abortions by using sound judgment and trusted preventative practices to treat the causes rather than the treatment.
At this point I anticipate some resistance from those extreme pro-lifers who view contraception as evil and won’t have anything to do with it citing that it is God’s will that we end abortion. This argument seems fraught with logical problems. 1) If God chooses when we are born and when we die, then why couldn’t abortion be a tool of God? 2) If it’s God’s will that abortions end then shouldn’t he be offering a solution to us without us asking? 3) If it’s God’s will that we end abortion, could it be that his will includes research as described above and through His divine grace provide us an answer via data collected in such studies? In any case, it would seem to be in the best interest of even the most hardcore pro-lifer to work together with pro-choicers and to utilize sound and moral science to reduce the number of abortions. Instead of killing abortion doctors why not try putting them out of business in a more constructive and less violent way, and donate to an organization or research project that is attacking one of the many causes of abortions. That will accomplish far more than squabbling amongst each other about who’s right and who’s wrong. The truth is, neither group is right by themselves, they are only right together.
In summary, my hope is that I’ve made it clear to pro-choicers that pro-lifers are not all a bunch of scripture-spouting nut-bars that are out to turn the country into a theocracy. Also, pro-lifers are truly concerned about human life, just as much as any pro-choicer. The problem lies in the question of when “human” life begins. This question is not as clear-cut as both sides would like it to be, therefore the concerns of the pro-lifers about ending human life is a painful decision that is not completely baseless from a scientific point of view. Also, I’ve hope I’ve made it clear to pro-lifers that not all pro-choicers are malicious baby killers that care only for the reproductive rights of women and care nothing of potential human beings. There isn’t a single person that is truly for abortion, but one way to rid ourselves of it as much as possible is embracing science and giving medical research a chance to find the cure for the causes of abortion in an effort to greatly reduce the practice.
ANDREW D. MORRIS, MD; RITCHIE MCALPINE, BSC; DOUGLAS STEINKE, BSC; DOUGLAS I.R. BOYLE, BSC; ABDUL-RAHIM EBRAHIM; NAVEEN VASUDEV; COLIN P.U. STEWART, MD; ROLAND T. JUNG, MD; GRAHAM P. LEESE, MD; THOMAS M. MACDONALD, MD ; RAY W. NEWTON, FRCP.
[i] In an article that first appeared in Parade magazine on April 22, 1990 entitled “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers”, quoted here from his book Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death the Brink of the Millennium (1997). The article appears as Chapter 15 entitled “Abortion: Is it Possible to be both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice?”
This is straight from Answers in Genesis
Where Darwin Got It Right
While creationist organizations like Answers in Genesis strongly disagree with Charles Darwin’s ideas about all of life evolving from a single organism (macro-evolution), his theory of natural selection actually meets with more widespread acceptance as it relates to how species adapt and change over time—but, as we observe in nature, only within their own kind. Such changes, however, and as we point out frequently on this website, are not evolution in the “molecules-to-man” sense. The Creation Museum here in our Cincinnati area (in northern Kentucky) will open a new exhibit this Sunday, March 15, to help explain what natural selection can and cannot do, and how this is supported biblically and scientifically. “Evolutionists use natural selection as evidence for evolution, believing that given enough time (millions of years), natural selection could account for the larger changes required for molecules-to-man evolution,” museum founder and president Ken Ham explains. “Our new exhibit will clear up the differences between natural selection and what would be required for evolution to occur in the molecules-to-man sense—for example, reptiles to birds—as one kind of animal turns into a totally different kind.” The exhibit, entitled “Natural Selection is Not Evolution,” includes an aquarium that resembles a real cave. This cave aquarium will feature live blind cavefish, showing how natural selection allows organisms to possess characteristics most favorable for a given environment—but again, it is not an example of evolution in the molecules-to-man sense. There is also a series of wall displays with professionally produced models that examine, among other things, antibiotic-resistant bacteria (which are commonly cited as an example of “evolution in action”). Instead, the Creation Museum exhibit will point out how antibiotic resistance in bacteria points away from macro-evolution, rather than toward it. The new display also contrasts evolution’s “tree of life,” showing that all organisms have descended from one single-celled creature, with the “Creation Orchard,” which illustrates the family tree of each original kind of created plant or animal life of Genesis chapter 1. A display entitled “Three Blind Mice” will show the devastating effects of mutation and how natural selection works to preserve animal kinds. A dog skull display will demonstrate how natural and artificial selection has led to variation within the dog kind. The exhibit will also include a mounted display of Darwin’s finches based on Darwin’s own studies and observations from the Galápagos Islands. The new exhibit is located near the museum’s popular presentation regarding the geologic evidence for a global Flood. Its proximity to the Flood geology room in the museum was deliberate, as this exhibit also lays the groundwork to understand how Noah could fit representatives of all the animal kinds (not species) on the Ark. “I think one of the reasons evolutionists give creationists such a hard time is that they don’t think we believe in good science, which we absolutely do. In fact, we have several full-time staff with earned doctorates. I’ve read and heard many news reports and columns stating that creationists don’t believe in natural selection, and that is simply not true,” Ham said. “Our new exhibit will help to explain these valid theories and show that we agree with the proven science of these processes. Most people don’t realize that speciation is not evolution—it has nothing to do with changing one kind of animal (e.g., fish) into a totally different kind of animal (e.g., amphibian).” Ham continued: “Our area of disagreement with the evolutionists comes when they start using bad science to state that natural selection could eventually lead from one plant or animal kind changing into another, finally making the leap to humanity.” Not only is this in direct contradiction with the Bible, which states that God created all the various kinds of plant and animal life, including humans, but it also has no scientific validity. “Many Christians are surprised when they learn that valid observational science confirms the biblical accounts of creation and Noah’s Flood,” Ham added. “Our mission at Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum is to spread that message
in order to uphold all of Scripture and therefore reach non-believers with the gospel, which is based in this history in Genesis.” The exhibit opens as the secular science world has been celebrating Darwin’s 200th birthday this year, plus the 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous book On the Origin of Species. Go to http://www.CreationMuseum.org for more information on the exhibit, and then plan to visit this new, fascinating addition to our Bible-affirming center.
Bishop blasts 9-year-old rape victim’s abortion
POSTED: 03/06/2009 12:30:00 AM MST
UPDATED: 03/06/2009 12:54:53 AM MST
RIO DE JANEIRO — A Roman Catholic archbishop says the abortion of twins carried by a 9-year-old girl who allegedly was raped by her stepfather means excommunication for the girl’s mother and her doctors.
Despite the nature of the case, the church had to hold its line against abortion, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho said in a TV interview.
“The law of God is higher than any human laws,” he said.
Abortion is generally illegal in Brazil. But the procedure is allowed when the mother’s life is in danger, when the fetus has no chance of survival or in rape cases where the woman has not passed her 20th week of pregnancy.
Doctors said the girl was 15 weeks pregnant and that the life of the girl — who weighs 80 pounds — was in danger. The pregnancy was discovered last week when the girl fell ill and her mother took her to a clinic. The child then told officials she had been abused by her stepfather, who is in police custody.
This question has been answered many times over by a great many people; most more scholarly than I. However, it is my goal to show that one need not be a scholar in the subjects of common sense, reason and basic history to know that The United State of America is not a Christian nation. This is of course in the sense of our foundation, not the population. If going by population, we might as well call America a white nation as well, which we most certainly; to the dismay of the bigoted. There are those that assert that say we are a Christian nation because of some recent inclinations of our supposedly secular government to thrust god into the faces and the ears of the public by alluding to “him” on our money and in our Pledge of Allegiance, respectively. This should concern atheist and Christian alike. But I digress; why are these recent occurrences cited as evidence for something that long predates there happening? Simply put, it is because these poor misguided and self-diluted people have absolutely no evidence to go on other than that. Any sufficiently competent individual who knows even the most elementary workings of the Internet and Google searching can find the evidence necessary to thoroughly disprove nearly every claim dealt by these wish-thinkers. One need only point to the Treaty of Tripoli- “Authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796, the following treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, having seen the treaty, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.…Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”(Source, Emphasis added) Furthermore, evidence shows that religion forced its way into the places it is now, it wasn’t inherent to the founding of the country. For instance, “In God We Trust” wasn’t put on the money nor did it become the nation motto until the 1950s; 180 years after the founding of the country. (Source) There isn’t much more to say on this. It is clear that we are not a Christian nation by founding, only by population.