Thursday, October 07, 2010

Sir William Mitchell Ramsay

In my last blog entry, we discovered Simon Greenleaf was not converted from atheism to Christianity despite the numerous claims by Christian apologist after apologist. In fact, if you search “Simon Greenleaf atheist” in Google, you will find reams of pages, all with Christians gleefully stating this. All wrong.

Another claimed conversion is that of Sir William Mitchell Ramsay. While I was at, I decided to confirm this claim, and guess what I found out? Another untruth! I would argue in some situations, a downright lie. Again, google-whack “William Ramsay atheist” and you will again see Christian apologetic sites braying how he was converted from atheism to Christianity by his scholarly attempt to debunk it. A typical example from Lee Strobel:
That’s why I was especially fascinated by the story of Sir William Ramsay of Oxford University in England, one of history’s greatest archaeologists. He was an atheist. He spent 25 years doing archaeological digs to try to disprove the book of Acts which was written by the historian Luke…Instead of discrediting Luke’s account, Ramsay’s work kept supporting it. Finally he concluded that Luke was one of the most accurate historians who had ever written. Influenced by the archaeological evidence, Ramsay became a Christian.
The Case for Christ

Or Josh McDowell:
”He had spent years deliberately preparing himself for the announced task of heading an exploration expedition into Asia Minor and Palestine, the home of the Bible, where he would ‘dig up the evidence’ that the Book was the product of ambitious monks, and not the Book from heaven it claimed to be. He regarded the weakest spot in the whole New Testament to be the story of Paul’s travels. These had never been thoroughly investigated by one on the spot. Equipped as no other man had been, he went to the home of the Bible. Here he spent fifteen years literally ‘digging for the evidence.’ Then in 1896 he published a large volume, Saint Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen.

“The book caused a furor of dismay among the skeptics of the world. Its attitude was utterly unexpected because it was contrary to the announced intention of the author years before…. for twenty years more, book after book from the same author came from the press, each filled with additional evidence of the exact, minute truthfulness of the whole New Testament as tested by the spade on the spot. The evidence was so overwhelming that many infidels announced their repudiation of their former unbelief and accepted Christianity. And these books have stood the test of time, not one having been refuted, nor have I found even any attempt to refute them.”
Evidence that Demands a Verdict. (I don’t have a copy of ETDAV, but this quote is also listed at Conservapedia. If someone can demonstrate this is inaccurate in any way, I will modify it.)

[Edited to add: Although Josh McDowell apparently has removed this quote from later editions of ETDAV. See Comments Below.]

Untrue. Wrong. False.

A brief background on Sir William Ramsay: (Not to be confused with Sir William Ramsay the Nobel Prize winning Chemist as this website does with the wrong picture!)

He was a British archaeologist, born on the 15th of March 1851, with his primary works around the turn of the century (1900.) . Educated at the universities of Aberdeen, Oxford and Göttingen, and a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford (1882; honorary fellow 1898), and Lincoln College (1885; honorary 1899). In 1885 he was elected professor of classical art at Oxford, and in the next year professor of humanity at Aberdeen. From 1880 onwards he travelled widely in Asia Minor and rapidly became the recognized authority on all matters relating to the districts associated with St Paul's missionary journeys and on Christianity in the early Roman Empire. His numerous publications include: The Historical Geography of Asia Minor (1890); The Church in the Roman Empire (1893); The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia (2 vols., 1895, 1897); and St Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (1895; Germ. trans., 1898).

This was taken from his entry in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. [Warning: HUGE pdf] (But See also this entry that quotes the Encyclopedia ) Nothing about his religious beliefs. Nothing about them changing. Nothing about causing a huge scandal, or others being converted due to his writings.

I couldn’t find a single writing of his where he indicated he was an atheist at any time. Nothing about his conversion to Christianity…for any reason, let alone a specific study. More importantly, in all the writings I could find, he listed reasons for his archaeological studies, but never, ever mentions attempting to prove Christianity incorrect.

For example, in his Preface to the First Edition of St. Paul, Sir Ramsay indicates the reason he studied this issue was at the instigation of fellow scholars. Nothing about his wanting to prove Christianity, or Luke or anything whatsoever incorrect!

So where did this idea come from? The closest I could come to the root of this allegation was within I Don’t have enough Faith to be an atheist where Geisler and Turek state:
Classical Scholar and archaeologist William M. Ramsay began his investigation into Acts with great skepticism, but his discoveries helped change his mind. He wrote:

“I began with a mind unfavorable to it [Acts]…. It did not lie, then, in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself more often brought in contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”

The problem with this quote is that it is a lie. Notice the inserted “[Acts]” followed by the ellipses. Do you wonder why “Acts” was added? Do you wonder why words were omitted? Upon reading the WHOLE quote, you will see why. And the reason I call this a lie. Unfortunately, I have to give you a little background.

At this time (late 19th Century), in biblical studies, there was a growing debate as to who Paul was writing to, when writing the Epistle of Galatians. (Gal. 1:2). See, Galatia was not a city, unlike the Epistle of Romans written to Rome, or Corinthians written to Corinth; Galatia was a region. Paul was writing to a number of Churches. The debate and division was between the “North Galatia” theory as compared to the “South Galatia” theory. (See this site for a description of the issue.) Was Paul writing to north Galatia, south Galatia or both?

Bishop Lightfoot had written a treatise on Galatians, wherein he argued for the North Galatia theory. William Ramsay disagreed—he held to a South Galatia theory. In his book, The Church in the Roman Empire Before 170 AD (published 1890) Ramsay says, “I regret to be compelled, in these earlier chapters, to disagree so much with Lightfoot’s views as stated in his edition of Galatians; perhaps therefore I may be allowed to say that the study of that work, sixteen years ago, marks an epoch in my thoughts and the beginning of my admiration for St. Paul and for him.” (page 6)

Ramsay goes on to explain he will be arguing for the South Galatia theory against Lightfoot. For another example of Ramsay’s position, you can read the Expositor article of 1894 where Ramsay again argues the “south Galatia” view is more harmonious with Acts than the “north Galatia” view.

Simple, right? Yet one more (amongst millions) of scholarly disagreements over some biblical topic—Ramsay purported South Galatia, others held to North Galatia.

Having this understanding, let’s look at the Geisler & Turek quote again:

“I began with a mind unfavorable to it [Acts]…. It did not lie, then, in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself more often brought in contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”

But contrast this with the entire quote:
I may fairly claim to have entered on this investigation without any prejudice in favor of the conclusion which I shall now attempt to justify to the reader. On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavorable to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory had, at one time, quite convinced me. It did not lie, then, in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself more often brought in contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth. In fact, beginning with the fixed idea that the work was a second-century composition and never relying upon its evidence as trustworthy for first-century conditions, I gradually came to find it a useful ally in some obscure and difficult investigations. But there remained still one serious objection to accepting it as a first-century work. According to the almost universally accepted view, this history led Paul along a path and through surroundings which seemed to me historically and topographically self-contradictory. It was not possible to bring Paul’s work in Asia Minor into accordance with the facts of history on the supposition that an important part of the work that was devoted to the northern part of the peninsula of Galatia. [emphasis added]
St. Paul, The Traveler and the Roman Citizen, pg 19

Do you see? The “it” that William Ramsay referred to in the second sentence was most certainly NOT Acts, as claimed by Geisler & Turek, if we read the preceding sentence (conveniently left out by Geisler & Turek) we see that “it” is conclusion he will be attempting to justify to the reader. To remove that first sentence (and the first clause in the second) and then insert the word “Acts” when the author is clearly not talking about Acts is a lie.

We might as well claim Nixon said, “I am…[a thief and] a crook.”

Secondly, we would question what the Tubingen theory was, if Ramsay was abandoning it. The Tubingen Theory was that Acts was a second century document, intended to reconcile the differing positions of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul. Again, this is a biblical scholarly debate which Ramsay abandoned a former biblical position—not an abandonment of atheism.

But most importantly, we see the crucial reason Ramsay could not subscribe to the North Galatia theory, was the conflicts it created with Acts. In other words, he held Acts in such high regard, it caused him to disagree with his friend, Lightfoot--because Ramsay felt he must stay true to Acts.

Ramsay, in this paragraph, is indicating why he fell on one particular side in a biblical squabble. NOT that he was against Acts’ historicity (far from it) and in fact, primarily became convinced to the South Galatia theory because of his adherence to Acts’ historicity.

Yet another “atheist turned Christian” story debunked.

Perhaps the most regrettably notion within is the blatant mistruth offered by Geisler & Turek (and [at the least] the complete lack of study by Strobel and McDowell) You would think that would bother some Christians…

Edited to Add:

I have found a kernel of truth to this claim of a “changed skeptic.” According to Ramsay in his The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (1915) he initially subscribed to the theory that Acts was compiled in the later 2nd Century, and addressed the doctrinal issues of that time. For that reason, Ramsay did not utilize Acts as reference material for what happened in the First Century.

However, he came to realize Acts did accurately reflect the geography. This article (pdf) explains:
In his search for information bearing on the geography and history of Asia Minor he at first paid slight attention to the early Christian authorities. He had gained the impression in his studies that these were quite unworthy of consideration for a historian; anything having to do with religion belonged to the realm of the theologians, not that of the historians. When he spent time copying Christian inscriptions in his earliest years of travel, he felt the time to be wasted―even though a sense of duty compelled hint to make copies of them. Finally, in a desperate search for any information of a geographical and antiquarian nature, he began to study the journeys of Paul in this region of the world as described in the Book of Acts. He hardly expected to find any information of value regarding the condition of Asia Minor in the time of Paul; rather, he thought he would find material bearing upon the second half of the second century of the Christian era, i.e. the age (he thought) in which the author of Acts lived.

Ramsay was not trying to disprove Acts. Why would he? He didn’t think it applicable to this period. He simply felt it would not be relevant. Upon discovering one accuracy, he began to rely upon Acts as being historically accurate to the First Century.

This is still very far from Ramsay, the hardened atheist skeptic going out to battle on behalf of his cheering heathen colleagues, all expecting to prove the entire New Testament to be completely false, only to discover the very sandals of Jesus, and subsequently becoming a Christian.

I added this in fairness of complete disclosure.


  1. My guess would be that Geisler didn't personally mangle that quote. He probably assigned some student to go find a quote that showed Ramsay going from skepticism to belief. The student didn't really understand the north/south Galatia so he figured this quote fit the bill. Since it fit Geisler's preconceptions, he didn't question it.

    What I really love is the way these things evolve over time. You start with what may be perfectly legitimate scholarship which some Christian uses to make an apologetic argument. The next apologist relies on the first apologist without ever looking at the original scholarship but exaggerates the claim a bit to make it seem stronger. The next apologist in line relies on the second one and spins it a little more. At the end of the line you get hacks like McDowell and Strobel who have no scruples whatsoever.

    Of course these same apologists argue that oral tradition in the early church would have accurately preserved Jesus' teachings and the accounts of his activities until they were finally recorded in the gospels. It is inconceivable to them that new details might have been added each time a story was retold.

    1. There is nothing wrong with adding new details. I do not think anyone would be upset about that...the gospels have different details. What we can be sure of is that the new details are true. The writers would not have wanted falsities in their writings.

    2. Very unlikely that any of the important features of the story would change whichever approach to oral traditions in this part of the world at that time you favour, Discount their purpose and the Gospelas and Acts are a good source as classical historians have nearly always realised.

    3. Good source of topography, not facts.

  2. Vinny,

    Geisler and /or Turek may have had a student do it, but they are reaping the $$ from such a quote. One can’t get the benefit without taking the blame. (Turek even jokes about how buying his book is a “college fund” for his kids.)

    The thing that impresses upon me is how the story has developed over only 100 years. Christian apologists act like Papias MUST be legitimate—why, he is “only” a 100 years after Christ’s death. They think in such small terms when mashing these dates together. As if by saying it real fast 150 CE can seem really, really close in time to 50 CE.

    Here we are only 100 years after Ramsay—and the story of his “conversion” has grown to monstrous proportions. I could only find one (1) site that talked about how Greenleaf was not an atheist. I couldn’t find any on Ramsay. Yet I can find literally 1000’s of Christian sites repeating these claims.

    And no Christian seems to be doing their “research,” to verify this claim; few skeptics apparently bother. Why would we think 1st Century Mediterranean was any different? Why do Christians think all these people would be investigating eyewitnesses to verify claims, when they don’t bother to do so now, when it is exponentially easier?

    1. First the oral culture was stronger and oral transmission more stuctured. Second, the earliest Gospels are pre 70 AD and some of the Epistles earlier. I write as a historian dismayed at attempts to write off what is an important part of history. No historian has to accept the claims made by Jesus and his followers as true to acknowledge the importance to the course of history that the claims were made and believed. And the underying documentary evidence is a good deal better than that, say, for Nero.

  3. Interesting research. The tells are there in the apologist's quotes that they are being overly-credulous or are just making stuff up, but it is another thing to see the matter actually researched.

    I like your equating the Ramsey phenomena with credence given to reliable oral history, in your last comment. That would make a good article...

  4. In my edition of ETDAV (1972, presumably the first edition), McDowell concludes that Ramsay was attempting to determine if Acts was a first or second century document (pp 72-73). He reproduces Ramsey's quotation without elision from "I may fairly claim to have entered on this investigation without any prejudice..." to "... I gradually came to find it a useful ally in some obscure and difficult investigations."

    In the first edition, McDowell does identify Ramsay as a "Converted Skeptic"; the quotation you have does appear in the book (pp 365-366), but McDowell himself explicitly quotes from and cites Prophecy Speaks by Earle Albert Rowell (1933).

    In The Uniqueness of the Christian Experience (1999), Edward T. Babinski notes that: "Ramsay's 'testimony' appeared in the first edition of ETDAV at the front of the line of 'converted skeptics,' but his testimony was dropped from the second edition. It is possible that McDowell was criticized by fellow hard-line evangelicals for obtaining Ramsay's testimony from an article in a 'Seventh-Day Adventist Church' publication called, Prophecy Speaks."

    I don't have the second edition, so I don't know if Ramsay's quotation regarding Acts and the Tubingen theory appears in that edition.


  5. To be more specific, McDowell says,

    "Sir William Ramsay is regarded as one of the greatest archaeologists ever to have lived. He was trained in the German historical school of the mid-nineteenth century. As a result he was taught that the Book of Acts was a product of the mid-second century A.D. He was firmly convinced of this belief and set out to prove this teaching. However, he was compelled to a complete reversal of his beliefs due to the overwhelming evidence uncovered in his research. He spoke of this when he said "'I may fairly claim... ...a useful ally in some obscure and difficult investigations.'" McDowell uses the double quotation marks to indicate he is quoting Ramsey indirectly from Layman's Answer: An Examination of the New Theology by E.M. Blaiklock, 1968). He is explicit in his citations.

  6. Barefoot Bum,

    There is some truth in what McDowell said about Ramsay initially believing Acts was a Second Century document. Specifically, a compilation of various accounts. In his first book, The Church in the Roman Empire, Ramsay argues Paul himself was the author of some passages—specifically those regarding his journey--due to the accuracy. In the later work, St. Paul the traveler, Ramsay adopts the notion the entire work was written by Paul’s traveling companion, Luke.

    Again, this is an internal biblical debate. I cannot find any indication Ramsay thought Acts was wrong, or that the claims in the New Testament were weak. Not finding that, I obviously did not find any scale whereby Ramsay thought some claims (i.e. Paul’s travels) were “the weakest spot in the whole New Testament.”

    It just happened that Ramsay focused on Asia Minor, in his studies, and specifically Paul’s journey. And (as all biblical scholars do) he disagreed with others in the field.

    Thank you for the reference on Prophecy Speaks. It would appear McDowell did grab his information word for word from this work. What is more interesting (to me) is that it was published in 1933, whereas Sir Ramsay did not die until 1939. Did Ramsay know about this claim?

    Unfortunately, I am at a dead end to discover that.

    As to McDowell taking it out in later versions, I can only hope to give him the benefit of the doubt that he discovered the precarious ground for the claim and removed it.

    What is Geisler & Turek’s excuse?

  7. I'm assuming you're asking the questions rhetorically. I'm competent only to report on what McDowell said (since I have the book sitting in front of me); I'll leave finding interpretations and drawing conclusions to your superior expertise.

  8. Thank you for you comment over on my blog. I am not a scholar, just the run of the mill atheist, so I could not refute the reference to Ramsay that was inserted into the discussion. I can only hope that my disputant reads it.

    When I tried to do some quick research on Google, page after page of Christian apologetic sites came up, so I gave up.

    Thank again.

  9. I think we may be missing something important, that is, Ramsey concluded after careful study that the book of Acts is historically/geographically accurate

  10. I think we may be missing something important, that is, Ramsey concluded after careful study that the book of Acts is historically/geographically accurate

  11. Rod,

    But what parts are accurate? Accurate as to cities—yes. Accurate as to what happened in them? Archeology cannot tell. Accurate as to governmental positions—yes. Accurate as to accusations against Christians? Cannot tell.

    Arguably Gone with the Wind could be called historically and geographically accurate because it describes actual places, events, persons, positions, etc. Yet clearly no would claim there must really be a Scarlett O’Hara or Tara.

    1. Gone with the Wind was not written as historical documentation. Acts was. The writer of Acts wrote to convey actual history. This is the big difference.

  12. Seriously, how difficult is it to understand that mythology (fiction) can be written incorporating real life elements of fact into it? Indeed, it makes the mythology more believable IF it does so.

    But it's still fiction.

  13. I suspect that if Ramsey's actual findings were particularly helpful for the conservative position, apologists wouldn't feel the need to exaggerate his initial skepticism.

  14. It seems your depiction trivializes the Galatia controversy. According to Ramsay, this made the difference between Acts being a first-hand, first century account, or a second century cut and paste job.

    The "Tubingen theory" which Ramsay claimed had "quite convinced me" posited that Acts was a product of the second century. If true, this destroys the veracity of Acts (and most of the NT). It's not far-fetched, then, to say that this was/is a skeptical view. Ramsay claimed that he moved from this skeptic's view of Acts to becoming convinced that Luke was indeed Paul's travel companion, and, as the author of Acts, should be esteemed "among the historians of the first rank."

  15. Phil Owens,

    Oh, I didn’t meant to trivialize the Galatian controversy—frankly I let it trivialize itself.

    I (joining many scholars) do not review the New Testament writings with such dichotomous categorizations; if Acts is a Second Century Document this does not utterly destroy it (and “most of the NT’) historical claims. Nor, on the other hand, if Acts was a first century document written by a person familiar with Roman geography/politics does it make every single event (and “most of the NT”) a historical fact either.

    You are welcome to label the Tubingen Theory as “not far-fetched” from being a skeptical view. It is still a very far cry from Ramsey—the hardened atheist—attempting to prove the Bible incorrect and being convinced by the evidence. It remains an internal biblical controversy where Ramsey became convinced of one view over another.

  16. Dagoods,

    You cite the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica as evidence for lack of a conversion to Christianity. You also point out in a reply to Barefoot Bum that Ramsay did not die until 1939. Could a conversion have taken place between 1911 and 1939?

  17. Replies
    1. So you cannot make the claim that Ramsay never became a christian if it is not known for sure one way or another. It may still be true that christian apologists misinterpret (intentionally or not) Ramsay's "conversion" concerning the historicity of Acts, but I think that you are making the same mistake apologists do by claiming that Ramsay's conversion to Christianity is a debunked myth based on outdated sources.

  18. Anonymous 1:12: So you cannot make the claim that Ramsay never became a christian if it is not known for sure one way or another.

    Ah…I am not claiming Sir William Ramsey was an atheist and always stayed an atheist. Nor am I claiming he was a Christian and always stayed a Christian. The way he writes would lead me to (strongly) suspect he was a Christian prior to his studies and remained a Christian throughout the remainder of his life.

    What I am claiming is that his study of Acts, and eventual agreement in its geographical accuracy did not change Sir William’s mind regarding his theistic belief. He never declared himself an atheist. He never announced his intentions to disprove Acts of the Apostles. He did not begin with a mind unfavorable towards Acts. He simply thought Acts of the Apostles as inapplicable to study regarding the First Century. After archeological excursions—new information—he accepted it as applicable regarding geography and certain political claims.

    You asked if he “could” have converted between 1911 and 1939. Sure—“could” is a pretty low standard. He “could” have converted to Catholicism. He “could” have converted to Taoism. He “could” have converted to Mormonism.

    I am not the one making any claims to conversion—it is the authors (and numerous internet apologists) as indicated in the blog entry. If the best they have is “Gee…well he could have converted and never wrote about it,” then I guess we shall leave it at that.

  19. To paraphrase then, you are claiming that one cannot claim a conversion of theistic belief one way or another based on the facts available. Therefore you are calling out the various apologists that are, rather than contradicting their claim and stating the opposite. Right? I think I understand you better now.

  20. Correct, Anonymous.

    Although I would point out it is a little more, in that some apologists manufacture incorrect quotes to support this claim. That should be troubling to both Christians and non-Christians alike, I would think.

  21. DagoodS,

    I'm impressed. Your research and thought on the subject puts my languid self to shame. You write well - and I sincerely hope you intended the touch of humor or I shall feel very foolish indeed for laughing!

    I realize you wrote the blog years ago and have since moved on to other areas. (Your opinion on the "persecution myth" I'm interested to hear.) But I have a few disjointed thoughts/comments/questions/wonderings on this topic and your recent replies to Anonymous encourage me to hope I will not be viewed with too much disfavor for being so out-dated! In fact, it is your reply to Anonymous that sparks my first question.

    O.K. Here goes. You said, "Perhaps the most regrettably notion within is the blatant mistruth offered by Geisler & Turek" and again, "some apologists manufacture incorrect quotes to support this claim. That should be troubling to both Christians and non-Christians alike". Why?

  22. Andr3ws,

    1. I only have so many hours available for research.
    2. I want to know what is true.

    Those two simple facts necessitate I rely on information provided by others. Which means I will filter out non-credible writers. If I check out Geisler’s quote and find it inaccurate, this means I will have to check the next quote, right? And if I find another error, the next and the next and the next. There is no value in reading a book when one must do all the research verifying what is accurate and what is not within the book itself. Why bother?

    This should be troubling to non-Christians because we would like a valuable, credible source to review as to the best argument Christianity can make. If we have many Christian authors unwilling to be accurate—where can we find what is true? Why must I get a Strobel offered to me, when I already know he is lying?

    Obviously, it should be even more troubling to Christians. I think what surprises me most is how these…charlatans (oh, I am going to pay for using that word!)…are not roundly and immediately rejected by the Christians themselves. Instead, I find Christians more than willing to defend these as innocent errors or even defend the accuracy of the claim! How can a Strobel sell so many books? How can Turek & Geisler feel free to get away with this?

    I should note, there are authors, such as Dr. Licona and Dr. Wallace, who I find ARE accurate (albeit bias) and wouldn’t make such glaring errors. Curiously, they seem to be the exception amongst popular Christian apologists.

  23. Maybe I should have made my question more than one word... But since I didn't, I'll take it both ways - yours and mine.

    Mine: Who is to say I'm wrong if I tell a lie? If you "stretch the truth"? (not saying you did or do, mind!) If Ernst Haeckel's embryonic pictures still in school textbooks shouldn't be there? If Strobel says Ramsey was an atheist turned believer? And if nobody ever finds out, what's the big deal? With your background in law, you understand far better than most who gives the ultimate decision. The public is polled and everyone votes "yes - lying is permissible, even beneficial" or "no - lying causes problems, not the least of which is confusion". Then the votes are tallied and the greater number prevails. Right? (I'm teasing.) I've always understood it to be the judge who gives the ruling. Christians believe in a Judge, yes? So they'd have a reason for living according to that Judge's rules. But atheists... to whom are they required to be accountable? In a world without God, what's the standard for determining if it's a big deal? Surely you're familiar with this type of poorly-worded argument? I'm curious how you handle it.

    Yours: Christians and non-Christians alike should be disturbed by untruths. (It makes research difficult and next to impossible!) Charles Dawson, the supposed perpetrator of the Piltdown Man fraud, should be as equally criticized for his lie as Strobel. No matter the outcome. Truth is what we're after - pure, unadulterated truth! For that reason, no one should lambast you for calling a charlatan a charlatan - if it’s the truth. But if what we want is truth, then what is the next move to determine the accuracy or inaccuracy of the book of Acts? All that’s been presented is how accurate the book was found! Is that wise?

  24. Not accepting "lying is wrong and liars are annoying" as sufficient reasons to call liars liars says more about one's own moral outlook than any metaethical response Dagoods could possibly give.

    1. Dear ghost,

      Shall I admit ignorance? After being thoroughly confused by what in world you are trying to tell me, I've decided it must be that you feel my "slip is showing". A figurative "moral slip", that is. Perhaps you're trying to gauge if I have any (morals, not slips)? The thought makes me smile. But tell me, were my ramblings too nonsensical for you to deign to give an "honest" answer? Or is there honesty? Do "values" evolve? DagoodS is going to kick me off! I may deserve it for being so off topic, but I dare say I shall blame you!

      Another conversation in that infamous graveyard...

  25. Andr3ws,

    Regardless of one’s metaethics (regardless of one’s theistic beliefs) a lie has immediate consequences in the here-and-now. One is a loss of credibility—that being my primary focus regarding the Christian apologists’ inaccuracies as recounted in this blog entry.

    As to your larger question regarding various positions on lying…

    All metaethical positions suffer similar problems and handicaps:

    1) What method do we use? (i.e. What causes the least harm? Or what would the most reasonable person do? Or what does a god declare?)

    2) How do we apply the method? (i.e. How to determine “least harm” or “most reasonable” or “what a god declares”?)

    3) How to enforce our metaethic on those who do not share it? (i.e., if I don’t believe there is a god, how does a theistic metaethic convince me to act according to their metaethic?)

    Alas, we are very good at pointing out these problems in other’s metaethics, but often fail to see the exact same problem within our own. Worse, we often fail to even understand what the other person is actually claiming and have a tendency to create strawpeople in this regard.

  26. DagoodS,

    Thanks for your response. It was, pleasantly, not what I was expecting. Now, I did have a point earlier and in my mind it was very connected to your blog on Ramsay. If I'm to be accused of introducing the strawman (forgive me for stubbornly being politically incorrect), who then mutinies and takes over, at least allow me the chance to do it properly!

    Your quest and dedication to the truth are commendable! It must make you a very good lawyer and, if I were innocent of a crime, I'd want a lawyer like you. The blog about Ramsay hinged on the truth and the question of "what is true". Ironically enough, if I understand your article correctly, Ramsay himself went on a quest to discover truth - those solid, hard facts that are not subjective to our whims and fancies. The thought crossing my mind and starting my question was: if there is nothing after this life and no God to whom to stand before and give an accounting, then surely it doesn't really matter what anyone chooses to believe. It is only if God exists and is who he says he is, that some people are going to be in a hot spot! I suppose that is what makes the search for truth so important?

  27. Andr3ws,

    As I will only have a few decades to enjoy my existence, I would love to do so as comfortable as possible. If another’s belief makes them take actions resulting in discomfort, then yes—it does matter. If there was a god, then determining what that god was like would be an interesting question. I have yet to have a theist provide a reliable method to determine what a god is like.

  28. If there is no "reliable method" to prove the way something is, does that mean that something doesn't exist?

    I can completely understand your desire to be comfortable. Two questions. 1) What is there about the Bible's teachings on God that makes you uncomfortable? 2) If something is found to be uncomfortable, do we then disregard it as invalid?

    1. Beware, Dagoods! If you try to respond using logical arguments, you will doubtless be challenged to "account for the laws of logic from a naturalistic perspective", and, failing to do so, be shown for the hypocrite you are.

      Why, I bet you are so overmatched by the titanic philosophical prowess of presuppositionalism that you don't even realize you need to be able to explain "why there is something instead of nothing" before you are even allowed to open your mouth about what there is and what there isn't!

      Even if you somehow manage these feats, you will still be left trying to explain "why it all matters if life has no objective meaning" to an interlocutor who doesn't accept "liars are annoying" as sufficient reason to be annoyed by liars. Better to concede defeat right away, and admit you are only throwing up an intellectual smokescreen to cover up your decadent homobortionist lifestyle...

    2. Dear ghost,

      Ah, you give me far too much credit! I'm not nearly that intellectual. Nor was that the route I intended to take, but your suggestions have been duly noted!

      And hey, thanks for making me laugh! But in spite of that, I'm getting the impression you are a wee bit aggravated with me. Did I say "liars are annoying"? Is annoyance sufficient reason to desist something that may be benefiting the human race?

      Now, I looked up "homobortionist" but was unable to find a definition. What does this word mean? And how do you know D's lifestyle is whatever that is?

  29. Andr3ws,

    As to your first question, I am comfortable with the Bible’s teachings on God. I am equally comfortable with Lord of the Rings teaching on Gandalf. Neither such entity exists. (I guess that answers your second question as well.)

    1. DagoodS,

      Another reply is begged for here! You said, "If another’s belief makes them take actions resulting in discomfort..." That is where I understood you to be saying Christians make you uncomfortable and, if they are following the Bible's teachings, therefore it is the Bible that causes you discomfort.

      You seem awfully certain of the non-existence of God. Is there a reliable method to prove that?

  30. Andr3ws,

    Ah…you are asking what about the Bible’s teaching on societal ethics I find uncomfortable. Different question. (I realize to Christians this may be one-and-the-same as the Bible’s teaching on God, but to non-believers it is very different.)

    To the extent the moral teachings were (as written) intended to apply to the recipients, I am still quite comfortable with the Bible. In ancient near-east civilizations, slavery was an accepted practice in society. Not surprisingly a writing outlining laws to a society would include parameters regarding slavery. In the First Century, women (with extremely rare exceptions) were not considered leaders. Not surprisingly, a writing establishing Church decorum would limit the role of female leadership.

    Simply put—the documents were written for the morals of their times and are interesting historical studies regarding the same.

    I become uncomfortable when people insist on translating morals from 500 BCE, or 100 CE to our current times. The same way I would be uncomfortable if someone insisted we operate traffic laws by the horse-and-buggy era of the late 19th Century. Doesn’t fit anymore.

    The Bible is outdated…time to relegate it to Emily Post’s Book on etiquette or Farmer’s Almanac’s weather predictions. While all may have some interesting historical analysis, our times have changed and these writings no longer apply to 2013 society.

    As to reliable method God does not exist, I use the same method as the American court system. Given all the evidences, both pro and con, it is more likely than not to a neutral determinate God does not exist.

  31. DagoodS,

    You are right that I do not understand the differences between being comfortable with the teachings of who God is, but being uncomfortable with that God's teachings on the guidelines he wants people to use in determining how to behave.

    I can completely understand that there is much in the Levitical law that is no longer for our society - including slavery. But I thought that's where the teachings on the Law and the Old and New Covenants came in? In spite of that change, there really is no change of MORALS throughout the Bible. To me, laws on cleanliness are not the same as moral teachings! So the question remains, are the morals out-dated? And if so, which of the moral teachings of Jesus is no longer relevant?

    More likely than not... hmm, sounds like there may be a window open! :-) May your commitment to the truth never let you down!

  32. Andr3ws,

    Slavery is in the New Testament, too. By what means do you determine which biblical morals are applicable today, and which ones are not? Note the trap in the question—if you are using a determination OUTSIDE the Bible, then the ultimate moral authority is no longer the Bible itself, it is whatever means you are using to accept/reject biblical morals.

    Making the question about the Bible teaching morals moot.

    Are the morals out-dated? Of course—the society itself is out-dated. Why have eating, planting, working restrictions any longer? Why limit women to subservient roles? How laughable a woman could be President of the United States and have enough power to begin WW3, yet cannot teach Sunday School with a man in the class.

    Or the morals regarding slaves—outdated. Jesus’ teaching regarding sexual fantasy being the equivalent of committing act (i.e., masturbation is immoral)—outdated. I will not bother going through the list. Some we could still apply—it is beneficial for a husband to love his wife, for example. Others…not so much.

  33. DagoodS,

    I hardly know which subject to address first! There is so much to be said about each issue you've raised - from modern-day eating, planting & working restrictions to the question of how women were viewed and treated by Jesus; from slavery and what caused it's abolition to being mastered by fantasy addictions.

    But through it all runs the thread of "morals". Are there moral absolutes? Are some things "wrong" regardless of common opinions? Are some things "right" no matter the century or year? IS it REALLY beneficial for a husband to love his wife and treat her with courtesy? Or would someone who beat his wife be ahead of his time? Perhaps the moral evolution is advanced in his case and not yet caught up with those men who actually want to make their wives happy and satisfied? Or is he reverting to primitive, uncouth behavior? And would that make the Bible outdated... or relevant?

    You see the quandary! If loving your wife is always a good thing, then there are absolutes. If a wife treating her husband with respect is merely appropriate in certain years and inapplicable in others, then a wife despising her husband and humiliating him in front of his friends may be an advancement! What's the truth?

  34. Andr3ws,

    No moral absolutes. We get to traipse through this life doing the best can with what we have.

  35. Oh DagoodS, I admit I'm a little disappointed. Such an answer does not satisfy. Would you accept a statement like that from me?

    What about justice? Is it subjective? And what makes a person's behavior unacceptable?

  36. Andr3ws,

    If you are interested in various positions regarding meta-ethics, I suggest: Likewise numerous other topics within the Dictionary of Philosophy.

  37. " If loving your wife is always a good thing, then there are absolutes"

    If it's an absolute then it must be so with or without a God, otherwise it's contingent.

    Andrew Ryan

  38. Dear Sir,

    As you noted in your edited comment Ramsey was initially skeptical concerning the first century accuracy and authenticity of Acts. If you had gone back to pages 16-18 of the work you provided a link to "St. Paul" you would have found that Ramsey was arguing for Luke as a first rate historian as opposed to Acts being second or third rate history. Lightfoot and his north Galatia theory were simply cited as an example of why Acts was held as second rate history. Therefore the quote on page 19 was dealing with his view of Acts as first rate history and his initial skepticism of the book due to his Tubingen background - so much so that he gave the book little historical attention or regard. His opinion was changed as he discovered the historical accuracy of the work, and that accuracy did not accommodate the north Galatia theory. So Geisler and Turek accurately represented the quote you cited, and you were mistaken because you did not read enough of the context. The honest thing to do would be to go back and read those pages, verify my claim, and then print a retraction and apology.

    James Wooten

  39. Anonymous 1:06,

    I confess, it stuns me this blog entry and the Simon Greenleaf entry still get any attention after all these years. Funny.

    I see (in re-reading this entry after a few years), I was not clear.

    William Ramsay was wedded to the idea Acts was written in the Second Century. Ramsay was interested in the First Century. Therefore, he simply didn’t use Acts in his studies. He was not “unfavorable” to Acts, nor was he favorable—he was indifferent as irrelevant.

    After further information and study, he became convinced Acts was written in the First Century, by a friend of Paul’s, and was a first-rate historian. (He and I will have to disagree—but this blog entry is not addressing that particular issue.)

    Geisler and Turek leave the distinct impression (to me, anyway) Ramsey was antagonistic to Acts—he was not! He was…at best…antagonistic to using Acts to discuss First Century events. For what it was, I did not see where Ramsay hated Acts itself. You are free to point out if he was—I will not be bothered looking for what I do not care.

    In my business using brackets and ellipses together is very, very dangerous. We would only do it when the words are distinctly utilized. Here they are not.

    Perhaps others find this practice acceptable. *shrug* That is their choice.

  40. You are wrong, you are either a liar or your reading comprehension sux. The "it" is the idea that Acts was written in second century,Ramsey proved it was written first century. He did not avoid Acts in his work he confirmed it as historically accurate. inanany ways. it's true he was not an atheisthisbig change was fro 19th century Tubengen style liberal theology to evangelicalism. He spent the end of his life supporting evangelical apologetics.

  41. I just happened to come across your post yesterday. I thought it might be helpful to point out that, while Josh McDowell and Norm Geisler may have somewhat overstated the original skepticism (hardened atheism?) of Ramsay's younger years, the essence of their point is fairly watertight. As you aptly quoted, Ramsay began with the Tubengen scheme--the scheme that became the foundation of modern atheistic skepticism. Tubengen denial of Jesus' miracles, atoning death, and physical resurrection is the precise position of atheism, and Ramsay confesses "the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory had, at one time, quite convinced me." Ramsay's later words, therefore, can only be regarded as a true conversion in the fullest sense of the term: "The conclusion to which all our lines of thought point is that the belief in a Divine Will ruling in and directing the evolution of history logically and inevitably involves the belief that the historical Jesus is the eternal Christ." And again: "Yet not only must this Christ die; He must also live. To be real He must be effective and permanent. A dead Christ . . would be useless to the world. The necessity that the Christ must always be living governs the expression of the Gospels. The saying occurs repeatedly: The Son of Man must suffer, and he killed, but always the completing words are added immediately, and rise again. The half truth in this case would be no truth."

  42. I think you need to take at the evidence that changed Ramsay's mind concerning the accuracy of the book of Acts. Ramsay may have never have been an atheist but he certainly was very skeptical about the accuracy of the Book of Acts.

    Maybe you need to look at the mountain of evidence that indicates that the Bible is accurate or do you have IMPLICIT FAITH that there is no God?

    Francis Schaeffer noted concerning the IMPLICIT FAITH of Bertrand Russell:

    I was lecturing at the University of St. Andrews one night and someone put forth the question, “If Christianity is so clear and reasonable then why doesn’t Bertrand Russell then become a Christian? Is it because he hasn’t discovered theology?”

    It wasn’t a matter of studying theology that was involved but rather that he had too much faith. I was surrounded by humanists and you could hear the gasps. Bertrand Russell and faith; Isn’t this the man of reason? I pointed out that this is a man of high orthodoxy who will hold his IMPLICIT FAITH on the basis of his presuppositions no matter how many times he has to zig and zag because it doesn’t conform to the facts.

    You must understand what the term IMPLICIT FAITH  means. In the old Roman Catholic Church when someone who became a Roman Catholic they had to promise implicit faith. That meant that you not only had to believe everything that Roman Catholic Church taught then but also everything it would teach in the future. It seems to me this is the kind of faith that these people have in the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system and they have accepted it no matter what it leads them into. 

    I think that these men are men of a high level of IMPLICIT FAITH in their own set of presuppositions. Paul said (in Romans Chapter One) they won’t carry it to it’s logical conclusion even though they hold a great deal of the truth and they have revolted and they have set up a series of universals in themselves which they won’t transgress no matter if they conform to the facts or not.

  43. Here below is the Romans passage that Schaeffer is referring to and verse 19 refers to what Schaeffer calls “the mannishness of man” and verse 20 refers to Schaeffer’s other point which is “the universe and it’s form.”

    Romans 1:18-20 Amplified Bible :

    18 For God’s [holy] wrath and indignation are revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who in their wickedness repress and hinder the truth and make it inoperative. 19 For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them. 20 For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification].

    We can actually see the two points makes playing themselves out in Bertrand Russell's own life. 

    [From a letter dated August 11, 1918 to Miss Rinder when Russell was 46]

    It is quite true what you say, that you have never expressed yourself—but who has, that has anything to express? The things one says are all unsuccessful attempts to say something else—something that perhaps by its very nature cannot be said. I know that I have struggled all my life to say something that I never shall learn how to say. And it is the same with you. It is so with all who spend their lives in the quest of something elusive, and yet omnipresent, and at once subtle and infinite. One seeks it in music, and the sea, and sunsets; at times I have seemed very near it in crowds when I have been feeling strongly what they were feeling; one seeks it in love above all. But if one lets oneself imagine one has found it, some cruel irony is sure to come and show one that it is not really found.
    The outcome is that one is a ghost, floating through the world without any real contact. Even when one feels nearest to other people, something in one seems obstinately to belong to God and to refuse to enter into any earthly communion—at least that is how I should express it if I thought there was a God. It is odd isn’t it? I care passionately for this world, and many things and people in it, and yet…what is it all? There must be something more important, one feels, though I don’t believe there is. I am haunted—some ghost, from some extra-mundane region, seems always trying to tell me something that I am to repeat to the world, but I cannot understand the message. But it is from listening to the ghost that one comes to feel oneself a ghost. I feel I shall find the truth on my deathbed and be surrounded by people too stupid to understand—fussing about medicines instead of searching for wisdom. Love and imagination mingled; that seems the main thing so far.

  44. TRUTH AND HISTORY (chapter 5 of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE?, under footnotes #97 and #98) by Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop:
    A common assumption among liberal scholars is that because the Gospels are theologically motivated writings--which they are--they cannot also be historically accurate. In other words, because Luke, say (when he wrote the Book of Luke and the Book of Acts), was convinced of the deity of Christ, this influenced his work to the point where it ceased to be reliable as a historical account. The assumption that a writing cannot be both historical and theological is false.

    The experience of the famous classical archaeologist Sir William Ramsay illustrates this well. When he began his pioneer work of exploration in Asia Minor, he accepted the view then current among the Tubingen scholars of his day that the Book of Acts was written long after the events in Paul's life and was therefore historically inaccurate. However, his travels and discoveries increasingly forced upon his mind a totally different picture, and he became convinced that Acts was minutely accurate in many details which could be checked.

    ...For example, it is now known that Luke's references to the titles of officials encountered along the way are uniformly accurate. This was no mean achievement in those days, for they varied from place to place and from time to time in the same place. They were proconsuls in Corinth and Cyprus, asiarchs at Ephesus, politarches at Thessalonica, and protos or "first man" in Malta. Back in Palestine, Luke was careful to give Herod Antipas the correct title of tetrarch of Galilee. And so one. The details are precise.