The following is from the ComeReason ministries found at www.comereason.org. The exact address of the article can be found at http://www.comereason.org/skeptic-bible.asp
The original post is in plain text, my comments are in itallics.
Answering the Skeptic: Is the Bible a Myth?
Recently, I received some e-mail from an avowed skeptic that repeatedly made the following claims:
"Is not the bible simply a book of parables and mythology, written by men for men? Is not the parable simply a short story, never intended to be taken literally? With the events of September the eleventh behind us, is it not reasonable for humanity to take another look at religion and it's contribution to the chaos in the world?"
Such a sentiment is common. So many people today think that belief in the Bible is for the simple-minded of the past whereas we are now "enlightened" through science and discovery. However, in that view lies some unfounded assumptions - making the position as unreasonable as that which they object to.
Assumes Myth With No Good Reason
When a skeptic asserts that the Bible is merely a collection of myths, he must put forth evidence to bolster his claim. This is a misuse of burden of evidence. It is true that those making the POSITIVE claim must put forth evidence. Thus if I say that there are unicorns living in my shoes, I must provide evidence to that effect. The skeptic's position is a negative. All stories are fiction unless shown to be otherwise. But if we are to compare the Biblical texts against other ancient documents, we find a marked difference. The Bible speaks about real people, places and events and dates many of those events within an historical framework. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens also is about people, events etc. But it is fiction. If you notice, the original author sneaks the world real into his list without explaining how he determined they are real. The New Testament especially reads not like myth at all, but like recorded history. This statement means nothing. How something "reads" has nothing to do with if it is true or not. And, no, I've read the bible several times and it most certainly does not read like a history book. In fact, if we use the rules of textual criticism consistently across all ancient documents, we find the Bible to be some of the most reliable historical documents of antiquity. Again, the author makes a claim that is absolutely false. I'll even give him an out: what rules are you talking about? List them and explain how they apply.
More importantly, it is evident that the authors of the Bible intended for the readers to take them literally. That still has no bearing of whether the stories are true or not. Luke begins his gospel by explicitly stating, that he has carefully investigated the accounts of Jesus from the eyewitnesses and he seeks to write out "the exact truth about the things you have been taught." To claim that this was intended as a parable or myth is wholly without merit. If a freshman in high school were to use book A as proof to the claim that book A is true, the teacher would patiently explain that you cannot use a source to prove that source true. IF that student were a freshman in college, the professor would be less patient, and probably mutter something about the failing of the US educational system. If a senior in college made that mistake, the professor would tell the student that he should look at trade school as an option. Why? It is called begging the question. Begging the question is a fallacy where the truth of a proposition is assumed in its evidence. In layman's terms it means that a piece of evidence you present is only viable if the conclusion (point you're trying to make) is true. Here, the book of Luke is assumed to be true based on the evidence that the book of Luke says it is true.
Assumes The Evil In The World Is Attributable To Religion
The more prevalent assertion today is that religion is at the root of much of the world's evils. Some anti-theists do make this claim. However, it is not a "skeptic" position. A skeptic is someone who demands evidence to accept a proposition, and will hold that proposition until evidence indicates otherwise. Here, the author is mixing terms. Skeptics will argue that a serious belief in Christianity promotes a type of fanaticism that causes more harm than good. History has shown this to be the case. But it is not JUST Christianity, but ANY form of faith based belief. This includes Christianity, Islam, Roman Polytheism, Scientology, Babylonian Polytheism, Mayan Polytheism, and the Cult of Personalities found around such people as Vladimir Lenin, Pol Pot, Jim Jones, Joseph Stalin, Joseph Smith, Charles Manson and the list goes on. Again this assumes much, but provides little support. Where are the facts? The Inquisition, Slavery in the US, the Twin Towers, ISIS, the Salem Witch Trials, Jim Baker. Just to name a few. Exactly what evils are we talking about and from where are they drawing your data?
If faced with having to provide proof for the above claim, most skeptics tend to either reassert their assertion or shrink into anecdotal tales of a particular event (such as the Crusades.) Anecdotal evidence is hearsay of one highly specific incident. For example, Alice tells Bob that smoking is linked to lung cancer. Bob replies that his second cousin on his mother's side smoked all his life and never got lung cancer. Bob is giving an anecdotal account. A skeptic wouldn't offer anecdotal evidence, at least not a good skeptic. The bible is nothing BUT anecdotal evidence. And for the record, the Crusades are most definitely not anecdotal evidence. There is an archeological record, and corroborating accounts of the Crusades. However, it is illogical to argue from a particular to a general. Actually, not at all. There is a whole field of logic that does exactly this: it is called inductive logic. Everything we use today is the result of it. Computers, cars, wine glasses, tracking game through the woods, all owe their existence, as it were, it inductive logic. Therefore, the skeptic's claim dismissed as irrational.
The One Question
The main problem with both these objections is that the skeptic assumes Christianity to be false a priori. Again, it is the Christian making the POSITIVE claim, not the skeptic. The default position is that something isn't. In other words, they are coming from an anti-Christian bias and then trying to muster support for their position. The use of anti-Christian is what is called a weasel word. The author is trying to play on the fears of his intended audience (Christians) to strengthen their resolve against reason. The skeptic is not anti-Christian, just as the skeptic is not anti-Unicorn. But this is neither fair nor rational. It is both actually. If a skeptic were to say there IS NO god, then they would be making a positive claim. But that is not the skeptic position. The skeptic position, is that they will not BELIEVE in a god, until one is proven to exist. A sincere seeker of truth would look for just that - truth. We all have biases and we all start examining truth-claims leaning in one direction or another. But if we're honest, we will study all positions with an open mind until they have proven themselves to be not true. Not at all. It is the reverse. Positive positions must be shown to be true, or at least shown to be the most plausible position. Keeping an open mind does not mean believing, or giving credence to any old idea. Keeping an open mind means to weigh the evidence for claims and give them credence based on that evidence.
The most reasonable stance to take on any position is the one that is true. If the Bible records history accurately and it portrays Jesus' life, death and resurrection as history, then it follows that Christianity is true. If Christianity is true it becomes the only rational position to hold. In rejecting Christianity out of hand, one runs the risk of rejecting the truth - and to reject the truth is the most illogical thing someone could do. Again, the author implies that the bible is true, yet has not provided any evidence to that effect. He is trying to shift the burden of proof to the negative claim of the skeptic, which is unfair. Why is it unfair? Because negatives cannot be proven! Prove that unicorns do not exist. Prove that aliens did not impregnate the Virgin Mary. Prove that George Bush was not responsible for the Twin Towers.
The skeptic position is the same as the Missouri State motto: Show me.