25 Hot Topics for a New Book

I'm coming up with 25 hot topics for a Christian scholar and I to discuss in a book. I think I'll separate my questions into different categories: science, epistemology, ethics, history, psychology, Bible, theology (soteriology, Jesus, eschatology, hermeneutics), and so forth. This particular scholar is a new breed of evangelical who won't be caught off-guard with your typical fundamentalist stumpers. Thanks for all your suggestions so far. Don't assume if I use what you suggest that I didn't already think of it.


BobCMU76 said...

John -- Among the things that trouble me about my faith, is the death and rebirth of the afterlife.

According to the Biblical narrative, Moses took the people from Egypt and its death cults, and more or less commanded them to live for today.

In Jesus's time, the Jewish leadership had factions arguing over the perpetuity of the soul, whether in paradise or torment. Some believed in extinction of the soul -- the Sadducees.

I find speculation about the afterlife to lead to all kinds of silliness -- I kinda like the silliness portrayed in the movie Beetle Juice. In fact -- Jesus was asked a few silly questions -- like the who is her husband question -- the one that had Norm Geisler thinking we're hung like Barbie and Ken in heaven.

But I'm not asking the myriad of paradoxical and absurd consequences of eternal life. I'm just wondering about the historical abandonment of this archaic belief in the Mosaic age, and it's resurgance in the Hellenic occupation, or perhaps Babylonian exile age.

GearHedEd said...

Under epistemology:

I've been made aware on a few occasions through this blog and others (by b'lievers in all cases) of a lack of ability to "prove" anything scientifically through empiricism.

Now, while it is true that things can't be proved ABSOLUTELY through empiricism (you'd have to investigate ALL instances of a given phenomenon to "prove" that the case in question is solved, and that is impossible in practice), this is not what the practice of empirical research is and does, and is at the root of why things with a huge body of evidence such as evolution are called "theories", even though for all intents and purposes, the matter is resolved.

Empiricism depends on the testing of a sample population of data relating to some phenomenon, and developing a statistical analysis of the results. If the "answer" that pops out has predictive power and can be duplicated, then we have a "theory" as opposed to a "hypothesis" ('hypothesis', incidentally being the correct word to insert in sentences that Christians whine at us with such as "Evolution is just a theory", which is to say, that the intended meaning of 'theory' in the statement is equal to the REAL MEANING of 'hypothesis', i.e., an
educated guess without evidence; and the statement then would read "Evolution is just a hypothesis", or "Evolution is just an educated guess without hard evidence", neither of which is true).

That being said, those who doubt empiricism need to learn some math, and take a class in statistics.

Adrian Cockcroft said...

This sounds a bit like the Skeptical Science blog, which has been collecting individual arguments that debunk climate chain deniers. They have crowdsourced the answers and have short, medium and in depth versions of each answer translated into many languages. They even have an iPhone app. That would be a very useful resource for debunkers.

Ken said...

I think a hot topic would be an examination of what Bible Jesus actually taught about materialism, money and social power. I have never met a single Christian who lives out the radical social implications found in the Gospels.

Perhaps Bishop Eddie Long will give me his Bentley if I ask for it?

TheGodfather said...

How about the literary genre and environment of the Gospels?

This is a great topic which poses numerous problems for those who like to defend the canonical Gospels as entirely, literally true. How can the Gospels be history when their authors had a different concept of historiography? Also, how can one rely on the Gospels when, in the time frame in which they were written, historians like Tacitus reported the miracles of people such as the Emperor Vespasian and other supernatural elements?

The historicity of the Gospels, including their portrayal of the Pharisees, and other topics would be interesting as well.


Papalinton said...

The following is a response I made on BioLogos. I think a decent question could be derived from it:

According to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul's conversion to faith in jesus took place in a profound life-changing experience on the road to Damascus. Paul writes about his conversion experience in his own letters and in Acts of the Apostles. The conversion experience is described to be miraculous or revelatory in nature in both sources. So no substantive evidence other than that from personal incredulity. Also, Paul never met jesus before jesus’s crucifixion and was not a follower of jesus before the crucifixion; instead he persecuted the early christians. Although Paul refers to himself [note -himself] as an “Apostle” of jesus, he makes clear that he was not one of “the twelve” (1 Corinthians 9:1-2). His conversion occurred after jesus’s crucifixion, and the accounts of his conversion describe it as miraculous, supernatural, or otherwise revelatory in nature.

Now, think for a moment, if a charismatic, driven eloquent person came up to you today and announced a similar story to Paul's, you would classify him as a looney, or you would put on your modern skeptic's hat and say, “prove it”. Or would you be swept away with such revelatory euphoria?

Now posit Paul’s claim against that of Joseph Smith about Mormonism. He too had a similar miraculous, revelatory experience and, Pow! , the church [and a christian church to boot] of the latter-day saints was born. Now posit this against the revelatory experiences of L Ron Hubbard, and that of Muhummad.

In applying Ockham’s razor, would you not see there is more evidence for a substantive case for Paul experiencing an epileptic seizure for such a cathartic experience? Simply because it is written in the bible, and largely his own story, does in no shape substantiate its veracity in fact. A prima facie case for christianity being founded on nothing more than a person hearing a voice in his head while subsequently temporarily blinded, is in order.

An appeal to Paul, has as much use as using a feather to dig a hole in establishing the historical veracity of the core of the belief.


Breckmin said...

How about the reality that the specific type of joyful worship mustic (with peace, thankfulness, praise, without fear and not too mechanically religious) only occurs with born-again Christianity?

And millions of worship songs are written specifically to the Infinite Creator and (who is One with) Jesus Christ...


(the soteriological extreme difference of performance based verses helplessness and grace based; the exclusive claims of Christ which are unique to Christianity; the fact that there should be no risk in believing the truth but tremendous (eternal risk) in rejecting such truth; the raw tonage of historical writings from early Christian writings (apochryphal), specific evidences regarding events (that something happened) at the time of Christ's resurrection); that all morality is exposed as circular appeals (ad populum appeals regarding well being of others, etc) to what is good without an objective standard; that no where in your books do you fully address the real reasons for why there is suffering or why sin and judgement of such sin is inevitable)

Breckmin said...

what about discussing the difference between the types of prayers of born-again Christians and all other religions?

The fact that intercessory prayer for another's salvation is unique to Christianity. That God's strength is perfected in weakness. That fasting for the Christian is quite different than fasting for all other religions and WHY. That the Infinite Creator of the born-again Christians is a God of "relationships" but requires moral perfection (Christ's moral perfection, not their own)to have such a relationship because of His Holy and Righteous Nature which can NOT fellowship with moral imperfection.

The role of "weakness" (being infinitely small and weak in comparison to an Infinite Creator) and why!

GearHedEd said...

Those are topics for the other guy, Breckmin.

John is still on our side...

LadyAtheist said...

Breckmin, every religion has its music. You betray your utter ignorance in your statement that only born-agains can experience religious experience through music. That phenomenon is virtually universal among the cultures of the world.

GearHedEd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Breckmin said...

"in your statement that only born-agains can experience religious experience through music. That phenomenon is virtually universal among the cultures of the world."

No where did I say "only born-agains can experience religious experience through music."

I have always specified the type of joy, and peace that surpassess all understanding, and thankfulness that is associated with specific worship music that is clearly DIFFERENT from other religious structures.

The raw tonage of gospel music demonstrates that there is clearly something unique about music written to glorify Christ and the Infinite Creator. If you don't see this point...then you will wrongfully compare it to other religious groups sitting around camp fires singing songs with smiles on their faces... *****and here's the point**** but NOT raising their hands up to a living God whom they have a relationship with and glorifying Him with great thankfulness and joy.

Clarification of specifics is important.

Breckmin said...

"John is still on our side..."

A hopeful statement that he will someday come back to his first love who died for him almost 2000 years ago.

If there is a devil, or a satanic being of deception who wants to influence people to deny Christianity...then who's side is such a being on? since we are declaring that there are sides..

BTW, I'm on your side, GearHedEd and John's side... regardless of how much I disagree with you about the Infinite Creator and about His Only Son Jesus Christ, the Lord, Savior, God and Rightful King of this universe.

B.R. said...

This is sad. Breckmin, there are probably Muslims out there who insist that the joy they feel in worship is somehow different from what other religious folks feel. As for the Resurrection, a better question would be why Christians want us to believe in this earth-shattering historical even of cosmic proportions when there is not even so much as one conclusive event that anything even happened. According to the Gospels, hundreds of people saw Jesus after his reanimation-er-"resurrection", yet not one single person ever gave a testimony and historians record cases of this happening. The bible says that there was an eclipse at the hour of Christ's death, but of the countless millions who would've witnessed this event, no one records or even mentioned it. The bible says that at Jesus' death, the saints reanimated in the graveyard and walked around. Yet, no zombie outbreaks are mentioned and recorded. The Bible says that Jesus performed countless miracles in front of crowds numbering in the thousands, yet none of these people ever recorded their testimonies, and if Jesus was really so famous then why is he mentioned but briefly by one or two historians around a century after his death? And why do Christians say they're saved by grace and not by law in light of Matthew 5;17-20? And does Jesus say Christians must follow every single jot and tittle of the Law when Paul says faith alone is sufficient for salvation? Who should we listen to? Paul or Jesus? Since Jesus is the Son of God, his authority trumps Paul's, but how can anyone be sure of His divinity when the Gospels give conflicting dates for his birth, two clashing genealogies, different accounts of His arrest and trial, different accounts of his last words and death, and conflicting accounts of his resurrection? And why is there no record of his trial apart from the gospels? And how did the disciples know what was going on during the trial when they were hiding? Probably because this is a case of omniscient third person perspective that appears so frequently in fiction novels. Going by the gospels, old, heavily edited and re-translated accounts that contradict one another and make fantastic, unreal claims without a shred of evidence, how can anyone get any coherent, plausible picture of God or Jesus out the mess called "the Bible"?

That would be some good conversation material for this book, I think, although I'm sure lots of other unbelievers have already brought that up.
Also, please demonstrate, Breckmin, how gospel music is so different from religious music in general, and don't forget to explain why many of Christianity's "original" concepts appear in the worship of older gods in preexisting religions like Mithra(divine son(s) of god coming down to earth in human form to save humanity from it's sins, etc.).

GearHedEd said...


Breckmin DID say how the worship music is different:

It's all in the wrist.

"...*****and here's the point**** but NOT raising their hands up to a living God whom they have a relationship with and glorifying Him...".

Apparently, where your hands are makes all the difference.

It's still a ridiculous argument, Breckmin. And I know you think you're on "our side"... but I can't believe in the fractured fairy tale (not unwilling; UNABLE). It makes no sense, and singing while waving your hands around has no more power or significance that singing without waving your hands around.

Breckmin said...

clearly it is in the heart - and the nands are merely the expression of what is in the heart.

the point is with regards to worship songs and gospel music and how these are all over our air waves.

the "here's the point" is the specific peace and not just FEAR!

Question everything!

A Muslim is still praying to the God of Abraham, btw. But they do not understand His Self-Sacrificing love until they recognize that Allah became Isa and died on a cross for their sins.

B.R. said...

So? Do you really think that feeling peace while listening to gospel music means something profound about your religion? Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of psychology can see that the profound peace and joy felt by religious folk praying to their gods is the same thing that humans have always felt in this ritual, and is nothing special or new. As for music, I tend to feel peace when I listen to Pink Floyd, but I doubt that I'll ever see you on the Dark Side of the Moon.