Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

How to falsify a religion using scientific or historical evidence

I thought I would just explain how you can use the findings of science and history to narrow down the list of religions.

Falsifying a religion using science

Consider this argument:

  1. Hindu cosmology teaches that the universe cycles between creation and destruction, through infinite time.
  2. The closest cosmological model conforming to Hindu Scriptures is the eternally “oscillating” model of the universe.
  3. The “oscillating” model requires that the universe exist eternally into the past.
  4. But the evidence today shows the the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang.
  5. The “oscillating” model requires that the expansion of the universe reverse into a collapse, (= crunch).
  6. In 1998, the discovery of the year was that the universe would expand forever. There will be no crunch.
  7. Therefore, the oscillating model is disconfirmed by observations.
  8. The oscillating model also faces theoretical problems with the “bounce” mechanism.

Notice how I falsified the oscillating model with theoretical and experimental reasons.

The absolute origin of the universe out of nothing is also incompatible with atheism, Buddhism, Mormonism, etc. because they also require an eternally existing universe.

Falsifying a religion using history

Consider this argument:

  1. To be a Muslim, you must believe that the Koran is without error.
  2. The Koran claims that Jesus did not die on a cross. (Qur’an, 4: 157-158)
  3. The crucifixion of Jesus is undisputed among non-Muslim historians, including atheist historians.
  4. Therefore, it is not rational for me to become a Muslim.

I’m going to support the premise that Jesus was crucified by citing historians from all backgrounds.

Consider some quotes from the (mostly) non-Christian scholars below:

“Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.” Gert Lüdemann

“That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”  J.D. Crossan

“The passion of Jesus is part of history.” Geza Vermes

Jesus’ death by crucifixion is “historically certain”. Pinchas Lapide

“The single most solid fact about Jesus’ life is his death: he was executed by the Roman prefect Pilate, on or around Passover, in the manner Rome reserved particularly for political insurrectionists, namely, crucifixion.” Paula Fredriksen

“The support for the mode of his death, its agents, and perhaps its co-agents, is overwhelming: Jesus faced a trial before his death, was condemned, and was executed by crucifixion.” L.T. Johnson

“One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Ponitus Pilate.” Bart Ehrman

That’s 7 famous historians: 3 atheists, 3 Jews and 1 moderate Catholic. The atheists, Ludemann, Crossan and Ehrman, have all debated against the resurrection of Jesus with William Lane Craig. Johnson is the moderate Catholic, the rest are Jewish historians. The Koran was written in the 7th century. That is why no professional historian accepts the Koran as more authoritative than the many earlier Christian and non-Christian sources for the crucifixion story. Many of the sources for the crucifixion are dated to the 1st century. It’s not faith. It’s history.

I have seen debates with Muslim scholars, and I have never once heard them cite a non-Muslim historian to the effect that Jesus was not crucified. To my knowledge, there is no historian who denies the crucifixion of Jesus in his published work.

Can Christianity be falsified by science or history?

Yes. If you prove that the universe is eternal than would falsify the Bible’s claim that God created the universe out of nothing. That would be a scientific disproof. If you could find the body of Jesus still inside a tomb, that would falsify the Bible’s claim about a resurrection. That would be a historical disproof. The nice thing about Christianity is that we make lots of testable claims. This is not make believe, this is knowledge. You can test this. And you should.

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20 Responses

  1. Mary says:

    Excellent post, WK. Bravo.

  2. timmah says:

    Good post!

  3. Stephen Notman says:

    What do we say to non-Christians who say that the Bible says the earth was created in 7 days and the ordering of Creation is wrong. Therefore science has disproved the Bible as crippling as the Big bang disproves Hindu cosmology.

    Or what do you say when they declare that science has shown us that human beings evolved gradually from lower primates and therefore the story of Adam and Eve, not to mention talking snakes, has been falsifed by science?

    • Well, these are difficult questions, but I think this would be a good start.

      http://www.origins.org/articles/bradley_trustworthiness.html

      Frankly, I have no problem with a talking snake once God creates the universe out of nothing. So if that’s what happened, I am OK with that. I would NOT make that argument in a debate, because I have no way of knowing if that really happened apart from trust based on the reliability of the other parts of the Bible. I am not sure if a talking snake belief is REQUIRED to be a Christian either. I don’t think people have to believe in the Matthew earthquake either. It’s a question of genre of literature.

      But I do think that the talking snake could be a metaphor for the way that Eve was tempted. Snakes are not well-respected creatures because they slither about in a sneaky way.

  4. Matt says:

    I believe that, according to Islam, God disguised Judas as Jesus and he was crucified instead. So this would explain why secular history holds that Jesus was crucified.

    I think another scientific disproof would be an account for the anthropic coincidences that shows they are not arbitrary.

  5. Jamie B says:

    ‘To my knowledge, there is no historian who denies the crucifixion of Jesus in his published work’

    Richard Carrier defends the view that Jesus never existed, doesn’t he? So I guess that means he denies Jesus’ crucifixion.

    Otherwise great post.

    • Yes, but he would not defend that view in his debate with William Lane Craig. And even with a more moderate thesis, he admitted on his blog that he lost.

      • But anyway, even if what Carrier believes is true (and he is very much a fringe theorist here) then that would still falsify Islam because the Qur’an holds that Jesus existed, was born of a virgin etc etc. So Carrier definitely ain’t holding to Jesus existing and then NOT being crucified and with Judas taking his place!

  6. Aaron says:

    Very helpful. Thank you for posting. I’ve also found the following quote by George Elton Ladd most helpful on this topic:

    “The uniqueness and scandal of the Christian religion rests in the mediation of revelation through historical events. The Hebrew-Christian faith stands apart from the religions of its environment because it is an historical faith, whereas they were religions rooted in mythology or the cycle of nature. The God of Israel was the God of history, or the geschichtsgott, as German theologians so vividly put it. The Hebrew-Christian faith did not grow out of lofty philosophical speculation or profound mystical experiences. It arose out of the historical experiences of Israel, old and new, in which God made Himself known. This fact imparts to the Christian faith a specific content and objectivity which set it apart from others…. The Bible is not primarily a collection of the religious ideas of a series of great thinkers. It is not first of all a system of theological concepts, much less of philosophical speculations….The recital of God’s historical acts is the substance of Christian proclamation” (“The Knowledge of God: The Saving Acts of God” in ed., Carl F. H. Henry, Basic Christian Doctrines [New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962], 7-13).

  7. Yes, good post, WK.
    I especially like the statement about Christians making testable claims. However, aren’t there *some* claims that cannot be tested?

  8. Stephen Notman says:

    Out of interest, due you know of any Hindu scholars that have tried to reconcile Hindu cosmology with the Big Bang, as you have attempted to reconcile Genesis 1 with science, by referring me to Bradley? This is about all I found by asking Dr. Google:
    (wikipedia) HinduismHindu apologetics was an inevitable consequence of the confrontation with Christianity during the British colonial period. A number of Indian intellectuals had become critical of the British tendency to devalue the Hindu religious tradition. As a result these Indian intellectuals, as well as a handful of British Indologists, were galvanized to examine the roots of the religion as well as to study its vast arcana and corpus in an analytical fashion. A desirable repercussion of this endeavor was the drive to decipher as well as to preserve Sanskrit. Many translations of Hindu texts were produced which made them accessible to a broader reading audience.

    A range of Indian philosophers, including Swami Vivekananda and Aurobindo Ghose, have written rational explanations regarding the values of the Hindu religious tradition. More modern proponents such as the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi have also tried to correlate recent developments from quantum physics and consciousness research with Hindu concepts. The late Reverend Pandurang Shastri Athavale has given a plethora of discourses regarding the symbolism and rational basis for many principles in the Vedic tradition. In his book The Cradle of Civilization, David Frawley, an American who has embraced the Vedic tradition, has characterized the ancient texts of the Hindu heritage as being like “pyramids of the spirit”. Such individuals have tried to construct an intellectual defense of Hinduism during a phase when the fundamentalistic elements of other faiths have sought to denigrate the ancient religion in an effort to gain converts.

    The publication, Hinduism Today, was founded on January 5, 1979, by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. It is a nonprofit educational activity of the Himalayan Academy. Based on its website, one of its chief aims is to dispel the misinformation and misrepresentation of Hinduism and to preserve the true essence of its teachings. It also endeavors to nurture the renaissance which appears to be transpiring within Hindus worldwide. As a publication written in English, it has also served to unify the disparate branches of the Hindu diaspora. The archives of the Hinduism Today publication appear to be a solid and faithful storehouse of Hindu theory and practice; they seem to be an ideal starting point for those interested in this ancient religious tradition. Moreover, the publication also seems to be energetically carrying the torch of Hindu apologetics in the field of comparative religion.”

    • Hindu cosmology is cyclical according to their own Scriptures, and all the Hindus I have spoken to insisted on an eternally oscillating universe. They even specify the number of years in each oscillation! There is no eay to get around that prediction of an oscillating universe. The only Hindu debater I have ever seen was in the debate with Ravi Zacharias and Bernard Leikind. His name was Jitendra Mohanty. He did not attempt to make any reconciliation of his view with science.

      Here’s a Hindu source on Hindu cosmology:

      http://www.hinduwisdom.info/Hindu_Cosmology.htm

      This is a core belief! Not like talking snakes.

  9. Cornelius says:

    Dear Stephen

    If I may, let me attempt a reply to your earlier post. You said, and I quote…

    “What do we say to non-Christians who say that the Bible says the earth was created in 7 days and the ordering of Creation is wrong. Therefore science has disproved the Bible as crippling as the Big bang disproves Hindu cosmology.

    Or what do you say when they declare that science has shown us that human beings evolved gradually from lower primates and therefore the story of Adam and Eve, not to mention talking snakes, has been falsifed by science?”

    The concept of a literal seven day creation event arose from the King James translation. The reason why I say this is that in Judaism the concept of a very old universe is firmly entrenched and was interpreted as such by some of its earliest Sages like Onkelos, Maimonides and Nachmanides. Hence the existence of Kabbalah in ancient Judaism as one of modes (PARDES)of Torah interpretation! (See Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s Kabbalah and the age of the Universe.) Furthermore, the creation of Adam and Eve is not interpreted in Judaism as a physical event. The creation of Adam and Eve represents the beginning of God’s covenantal relationship with man, not the first creation of humans. This event also joins the biblical calendar with the universe’s calendar and marks the inception of an ordered relationship in time between God and man, the basis of which is the seven day week as expressed in Judaism. This is a firmly accepted and attested concept. I urge you to go and ask these questions to a Rabbi at one of these sites…

    http://www.aish.com/

    http://www.chabad.org/

    Much has been written about how to interpret the creation narrative, but when the Hebrew root meanings and their use in the creation narrative are properly understood, a narrative congruent with science’s story of creation emerges. Who says scripture is straight forward? How can it be? I mean even in Judaism, prior to the advent of the science versus religion debate the concept of interpreting the actual wording of the texts were already in practise and well established in Kabbalah. So the argument that “believers tweak scripture to suit religious outcomes’ congruence with science” is nonsense!
    I recommend these resources as well.
    Gerald Schroeder’s – Genesis and the Big Bang
    Aryeh Kaplan’s – Kabbalah and the age of the Universe
    And you will do well to listen to Hugh Ross’ interpretations as they are in line with Judaism, the root of the Christian faith!

    http://www.reasons.org/

    Regards

  10. Cornelius says:

    Hi

    Please also see this fascinating piece with regards to the age of the universe as interpreted by Judaism.

    http://www.believersweb.org/view.cfm?ID=933

    Greetings.

  11. Cornelius says:

    And thanks for your post WK. Very usefull!!!

  12. Yoonus says:

    As a Muslim I agree that Jesus was real…… but I dont believe that he was crucified…. if God can create Jesus from virgin mary, sure he could also save Jesus from enemies.
    In bible there are so many scientific errors.. I dont think that God has give those statements to us to our knowledge…. so I respect Jesus as a great prophet from god… and also I believe bible is not the real holy book which has given to the Jesus…
    Ian not satisfied with your article…
    Congrates for attempting……

    • Paradox says:

      Yoonus, in my personal studies, these errors tend to be easily resolved by studying the original text.
      “The Bible says the Earth is flat,” is a common argument, and is easily resolved: the word for `earth` in Hebrew tends to refer to the _people_, not the land mass itself. In many places, the geopolitical land mass is what is being referenced.
      If you have some errors you think are worth mentioning, I’ll be willing to research them, and report them back here.

    • Observer says:

      Yoonus, there is an extensive website called Answering Islam which deals with many questions raised by Muslims: http://www.answering-islam.org/index.html.
      There are many accusations made about the Bible that are rooted in misinformation and a lack of understanding. I don’t have the time right now to enter into a discussion regarding Islam versus Christianity, so I hope you find the above-mentioned website helpful.

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