Leave a comment if this is "TL;DR" and you'd prefer to hear me read this aloud.
This booklet is 24 pages long, first published in 1986 and reprinted in 1996 and 2003. Reviewing through referenced materials in this booklet I find the most recently published referenced source material to be on the first page, cited as published in 1983. I find it likely that this is the most recent source for the information in this pamphlet, but I don’t assert that assumption. The booklet is not long enough to be separated into chapters, however is instead separated three main sections covering a dozen or so paragraphs at a time.
Section 1: Does God exist?
The very first sentence acknowledges that this subject typically cannot be adequately addressed in such a short space and takes the opportunity to provide the longest list of references in the whole pamphlet, suggesting that the reader examine these additional books as well. The author plans to try to address this anyway and then proceeds to claim that he will try not to go too much in-depth on either side of dogmatism or apologetics. The next paragraph is a disclaimer stating the author's bias and that he believes (in the existence of the traditional Christian God) and admits that there may be sociological causes for his belief but asserts that his personal testing of this faith has proved it to be inescapably conclusive.
As we come to the first logical fallacy, a straw man argument (1), he starts off by asking the reader to imagine a time back a “million billion trillion years” and what the universe was like at that time. Firstly, no serious person claims the cosmos is anywhere near that old and secondly, a hypothetical imagined scenario with no evidence is not how one starts to look for information about anything. Observation should be key here, not imagination, and this leads me to wonder if he is aware of discoveries in this subject, such as the mountains of data corroborated by the Hubble Space Telescope in the span 10-25 years after this pamphlet was originally written. The next logical fallacy, a false dichotomy (2), follows then in the same paragraph, where he asserts to be a “stunning fact,” his idea that the universe at this time was a 50/50 chance to be either full of gas or a person. He then again claims as fact, without reference, that the first thing or person that existed, always existed and that it makes more sense that an eternal existence be a person rather than a gas. He obviously is unaware of the observed actions of the quantum, or extremely small, world, in where it has been experimentally shown that something can come from nothing. (A) On a side note, this reminds me of the Luminiferous aether proposed in the 17th century that turned out to be completely imaginary. The author continues from here assuming you agree with both of these “possibilities” and goes on to assume that this was enough to make the reader more receptive to whatever evidence he has further to provide. He then expresses his own belief that due to the perceived order of the universe (the Teleological argument) and the moral nature of humans (the argument from morality) that he finds it impossible to “believe” that all of human endeavor throughout time was caused by naturalistic means. This is not an argument, just a statement of belief.
To conclude section one, he writes about his search for enduring happiness and references the beliefs that he has asserted to this point as proof that the aforementioned “person” must be the creator of all things and naturally is the only source of true happiness. Finally he chides causal thiests for their lack of attention to this person and warns them of his believed reckoning coming at the end of time.
Section 2. Who is Jesus Christ?
The author begins this section continuing from the previous paragraph by stating that his confident reason for trusting the Christian Bible is what he calls the “authenticity, love, and power” of Jesus. He then references the gospel stories of Jesus’s life and alleged resurrection as his primary source of information. He then goes on to write that the reader does not need to believe in the inspiration of the Bible for honest analysis to reveal the authenticity of his (the author’s) position and proceeds to provide examples from the gospels to create a picture of who he believes Jesus was and who the gospels claim Jesus believed himself to be. This continues for about 4 pages and is not intended to address the factualness of any of the stories or to compare accounts, but is intended only to portrait a general idea of what the gospels contain. After this, the author claims that a critical study of the gospels throughout history will not reveal any other significantly different versions of the story, but fails to define significant difference or any references and does not mention such things as the gospel of Thomas, the apparently added ending to the gospel of Mark etc.
The next argument he puts forward is the idea that the story of Jesus, presented in the Bible, is so outlandish and unnatural that it is unreasonable to think that someone invented such a fantastic story and that it’s more likely that it’s true, especially due to the huge number of believers. He claims that no one would write such a thing unless it was based on “some real event” This same “argument” can be applied to the Book of Mormon, the story of Muhammad in the Koron, Zeus, even Twilight and Star Wars, so it is not in any way helpful to his attempts to prove the reliability of the Bible. This is also another false dichotomy because the only options he provides are that either the accounts are completely accurate or were fabricated entirely in their current form, leaving no room for gradual mythology.
In the next 5 pages of the booklet the author outlines his reasons for believing that Jesus raised from the dead, once again referring to numerous passages from the New Testament forgetting that he has yet to prove their authenticity. He cites many criticisms of the New Testament account such as the stolen body theory, and also brings up the passage that claims over 500 witnesses saw Jesus personally after his resurrection -- but he fails to mention the fact that not only is a 3 hour eclipse impossible astronomically, but that there is not a single extra-biblical record of any of these events. No one wrote about these apparently world shaking events until nearly 80 years after they were to have taken place and the only references are found in the New Testament, written by at least third party sources who never physically met Jesus and who already revered him as a god.
At the end of this section he has a warning for believers and tells them that whenever they are debating the ideas presented so far, to be wary of people demanding proof and advises them to evade the question by reversing it on their opponent. He sets up another straw man by generalizing the idea of secular skepticism and defining it narrowly as the fundamentalist belief that absolute knowledge is impossible when the context of the paragraph implies that he is referring to scientific skepticism, also called rational skepticism (3.)
Section 3. How this relates to the Bible:
The author now assumes that the reader has accepted his circular “proof” and continues to discuss what the gospels claim Jesus said concerning the Old Testament, or Hebrew scriptures. The next 3 pages in a nutshell: The New Testament account claims that Jesus revered the “Law and the Prophets” as the authoritative word of god, so the reader should give it the same respect.
The last section of the pamphlet at page 18 finally mentions the idea of historical extra-biblical verification but then claims that subject is far too detailed to be covered in a booklet of this length and refers to another book “Christ and the Bible by John W Wenham 1972.” After that statement the author he gives 6 “reasons” why he has confidence in its authenticity, which, as before are either directly sourced from the New Testament or are based on appeal to emotion such as “it makes sense,” “it has a ring of truth.” The last reason he gives deserves mention because it’s the Baptist Catechism -- as if that was a source for corroborating the New Testament.
Appendix. Formation of the Canon of Scripture:
The last 3 pages of the booklet have a few notes about the construction of the 66 books into a single set as we know them today. They outline his continued circular use of different sections of of the Bible to support the authenticity of the whole Bible without any corroborating evidence, mentioning Ezra and the “lost” book of the law in the reign of Josiah. (B)
The final section of the book discusses how the church leaders in the centuries following the events portrayed in the the New testament chose which books were inspired but glosses over the fact that they were decided by committee and popular vote.
This pamphlet did not attempt at all to research the history of the formation of the books now combined into the Bible, such as who wrote Genesis (C) or why their are so many discrepancies between the teachings of different books (D) instead it appears to be targeting under informed individuals willing to take what it says at face value without doing any research.
Definitions -- Wikipedia (W) Merriam-Webster, when available (MW):
- Straw Man argument:
(W) A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument which was not advanced by that opponent.
(MW) A weak or imaginary argument or opponent that is set up to be easily defeated
- False dichotomy:
(W) A false dilemma (also called false dichotomy, false binary, black-and-white thinking, bifurcation, denying a conjunct, the either–or fallacy, fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses, the fallacy of false choice, the fallacy of the false alternative, or the fallacy of the excluded middle) is a type of informal fallacy that involves a situation in which only limited alternatives are considered, when in fact there is at least one additional option.
- Scientific skepticism:
(W) The practice of questioning whether claims are supported by empirical research and have reproducibility, as part of a methodological norm pursuing "the extension of certified knowledge”
- Lawrence M. Krauss (2014) "Universe from NOTHING!"
- 3.3.3 Atheism: A History of God (Part 1)
3.3.3 Atheism_ A History of God (Part 2)
- The Evolution of Genesis
- Quiz Show (Bible Contradictions) -- Comedy styled, less serious than the rest
Additional related content:
Why I am no longer a christian
Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism